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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 3:13-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 13, 2013

Text in red are my additions.

Mat 3:13  Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to the Jordan, unto John, to be baptized by him.

Then cometh Jesus. In this section the evangelist relates two principal events: A. the forerunner’s testimony to Jesus, and B. that of God himself. A. In his account of the Baptist’s testimony, the evangelist distinguishes 1. its occasion, 2. the verbal testimony, and 3. its confirmation. 1. The occasion is given in detail: The time is, according to St. Matthew, that of John’s ministry; according to St. Luke [Lk 3:23], when “Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years.” According to the first gospel, the place is situated near the Jordan, or in Bethania beyond the Jordan, according to the fourth [Jn 1:28]. Jesus comes from his hidden life in Nazareth, where the Holy Family settled by command of the angel when returning from Egypt.

Then cometh Jesus. These introductory words should be seen as establishing a contrast between the purpose of Jesus’ coming for baptism (“to fulfill all righteousness,” verse 15) and the unrighteous motives of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt 3:7-12).

From Galilee unto the Jordan, to be baptized... The next time Jesus is portrayed in Matthew as traveling from Galilee to the Jordan (to be more exact, “the area of Judea beyond the Jordan”) is in Mt 19:1. That is the journey in which he goes “up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed to the chief priests and the scribes: and they shall condemn him to death” (Mt 20:18). A death he describes as a baptism in Mark 10:35-40~ “And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come to him, saying: Master, we desire that whatsoever we shall ask, thou wouldst do it for us. But he said to them: What would you that I should do for you? And they said: Grant to us that we may sit, one on thy right hand and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. And Jesus said to them: You know not what you ask. Can you drink of the chalice that I drink of or be baptized with the baptism wherewith I am baptized? But they said to him: We can. And Jesus saith to them: You shall indeed drink of the chalice that I drink of; and with the baptism wherewith I am baptized you shall be baptized. But to sit on my right hand or on my left is not mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared.

Mat 3:14  But John stayed him, saying: I ought to be baptized by thee, and comest thou to me?

But John stayed him. 2. The Baptist’s testimony. Before considering the testimony in itself, we must answer a difficulty that arises here on account of the seeming discrepancy between the report of the first and that of the fourth gospel. St. Matthew represents John as acquainted with Jesus, for else he would not deem himself unworthy of baptizing him; according to the fourth gospel, John testifies, “I knew him not” [Jn 1:31, 33]. α. Certain authors contend that John knew Jesus beforehand, but not officially, so as to be able to bear witness to him; or not as the principal minister of all future baptisms, which mystery he learned by the descent of the Holy Ghost on Jesus [Augustine tract. 5 in Jo. n. 9; De cons, evangg. ii. 25, 32]; or not so perfectly as after baptism [Bede]; or not as all-powerful [Alb.]; or not by sight, though he had heard many accurate descriptions of him [Tol. annot. 72 in Jo. patr.]. β. We cannot agree with the opinion of those who contend that Mt 3:14-15 have been interpolated in Matthew; though St. Justin omits this passage in his writings, we cannot conclude that it is therefore not genuine. c. We think we must assume the literal truthfulness of the fourth gospel, according to which the Baptist did not know Jesus before his baptism. Not as if we believed that John knew the Messias by the descent of the Holy Ghost before the baptism [Cajetan], or recognized obscurely and by a prophetic presentiment, as it were, the sacred and Messianic character in Jesus [Keil, Mansel]; but the Holy Ghost who taught John in his mother’s womb to recognize the presence of Jesus intervened also on the present occasion, revealing Jesus not only as a most holy man [Faber Stapulensis, Tostatus, Schegg], but also as the Messias and the incarnate God [cf. Jansenius, Maldonado, Lapide Knabenbauer].

The Greek text shows that the Baptist strove earnestly and with some vigor to prevent Jesus from entering into the water for baptism, α. Those Protestant controversialists who blame St. John for thus hindering Jesus contradict the opinion of all the Fathers, who find in this behavior of the Baptist not a sign of self-will, but of faith, modesty, and humility. β. Since John knew only the baptism of the Messias and his own, and since he cannot have wished to be baptized with his own baptism, he must have supposed that Jesus, by whom he wished to be baptized, could confer the Messianic baptism in the Holy Ghost and fire, and consequently that he was the Messias. c. This is confirmed by the very words of the Baptist: he professes that he ought to be baptized by Jesus, not asking Jesus: “and thou comest to my baptism?” but “and comest thou to me?” In the opinion of John, there can be no comparison between his and the Messianic baptism administered by Jesus.

Mat 3:15  And Jesus answering, said to him: Suffer it to be so now. For so it becometh us to fulfil all justice. Then he suffered him.

And Jesus answering, said. The confirmation of John’s answer. Here we have to distinguish between the direct answer of our Lord and the reason he gives for the answer, a. In his direct answer, Jesus does not say that the Baptist is wrong in his manner of acting; he rather approves of it, saying that his humility must be borne with for the present: “Suffer it to be so now.” b. The reason Jesus gives is contained in the words “for so it becometh us to fulfil all justice.”

α. All justice. It is generally acknowledged that “justice” in this passage means what is right and holy, what falls, in some way, under the intentive will of God. Commentators differ concerning the kind of divine will with which we have to do in the present case: (1) Chrysostom, Euthymius, Tostatius, Cajetan, appear to assume a preceptive will of God; but if Jesus had been commanded by his Father to receive the baptism of John, he could not have said “it becometh us,” but he should have said “we must,” since in that case both himself and the Baptist would have been bound to obey. (2) Most writers maintain, therefore, that the source of the “justice” is a divine counsel: (a) generically considered, this counsel may spring from God’s will that Jesus should make himself like his brethren—sin alone excepted—who were at that time advised to have recourse to John’s baptism [cf. Gal. 4:4; circumcision, presentation in the temple, etc.]; (b) specifically considered, the counsel agrees with the divine will that Jesus should freely embrace those practices which might show that he had come to satisfy for the sins of men [cf. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Jansenius, Salmeron, Maldonado, Lapide Barradas Coleridge, Fillion, Grimm ii. 124]; (c) individually considered, the counsel urges Jesus to receive John’s baptism as the figure of death by which alone he could satisfy for the sins of the world [Salmeron, Fillion Grimm], and as a means of manifesting himself to the world [cf. Jn. 1:31; Euthymius, Paschasius, Maldonado]; (d) considered in its subordinate scope, the counsel coincides with the will of God that Jesus should solemnly approve the ministry and baptism of John [Opus Imperfectum, Jerome, Bede, Glossa Ordinaria, Rabanus Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius the Carthusian, Jansenius. etc.], that he should sanctify the waters for the Christian baptism [Amb. Bede, Rabanus, Glossa Ordinaria, Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Dionysius the Carthusian, Jansenius, Lapide, etc.], that he should prefigure the adoptive sonship of God which his followers were to receive through baptism [Hilary, Bede, Euthymius].

β. It becometh us. The words “it becometh us” are grounded on the fitness that Jesus should repair the disobedience of Adam by his perfect obedience [Euth.], that he should give us an example of humility [Jerome, Jansenius], that he should incite us to receive the Christian sacrament of baptism [Ambrose, Bede, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas, Jansenius etc.]. St. John was convinced by the argument of Jesus, and “suffered him” to enter the water; that “suffered him” is the right translation of the Latin “dimisit” follows from the Greek text as compared with Mk. 5:19; 11:6; 14:6; Lk. 13:8 and as explained by St. Thomas. It may be noted that this is the second sentence spoken by Jesus, which has been preserved in the gospels.

Mat 3:16  And Jesus being baptized, forthwith came out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him: and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove, and coming upon him.

 And Jesus, being baptized. The divine testimony. It consists in the three miraculous events narrated by St. Matthew: 1. the heavens are opened; 2. the Holy Ghost descends in a visible form; 3. the voice from heaven is heard.

1. The heavens are opened. The evangelist first determines the time more closely, and then relates the opening of the heavens. a. The time is defined in the words “and Jesus, being baptized, forthwith came out of the water.” The baptism was administered by immersion, not by infusion or aspersion. The “forthwith” before “came out of the water” does not qualify the following sentence “the heavens were opened” [Arnoldi, Schegg, Keil, Weiss against Jansenius, Maldonado, Lapide, Lam.]; nor can it be said that Jesus ascended immediately out of the water, because he had no confession to make as the others had to do [Knabenbauer etc. against Fillion, Schanz]; but we may safely maintain that the “forthwith” is either a mere expletive [cf. Knabenbauer], or that it signifies the eagerness with which Jesus performed the actions that belonged to his Messianic mission. This is illustrated by his words spoken at the last supper, his words concerning the baptism with which he had to be baptized, and finally the report of St. Luke 3:21, according to which Jesus prayed on the bank of the Jordan after his baptism, b. The opening of the heavens cannot be regarded as a sudden clearing up after a cloudy day, nor as the sudden bursting forth of a storm [Paulus, Kuinoel], but signifies either a luminous cleft in the atmosphere [Lapide, Salmeron, Cajetan, etc.], or a sudden, brilliant light which apparently proceeds from the uppermost clouds [Calmet, Fillion], or any other heavenly sign indicating that the Holy Ghost and the voice came from the heavens themselves [Suarez]. The opinion that the evangelist uses here a merely rhetorical manner of speaking, or that the opening of the heavens was only a subjective perception without a corresponding objective reality [Origen, Jerome, Thomas Aquinas, Opus Imperfectum] is no longer supported by the reasons advanced on the part of the foregoing authorities [Maldonado], since we regard the firmament no longer as a solid vault after the manner of the ancients [cf. Schanz]. The words “to him,” in the passage “the heavens were opened to him,” indicate the scope of the event, or the dative of interest. St. Mark 1:10 relates the occurrence thus: “he saw the heavens opened.”

and he saw the Spirit of God. 2. The coming of the Holy Ghost. a. Who witnessed the event? According to St. Matthew, Jesus himself saw the descent of the Holy Ghost; according to Jn. 1:32 the Baptist also perceives the same phenomenon: “And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him.” Now the question arises: did others see the same event? α. Paschasius, Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Patrizi, are of opinion that Jesus and John alone saw the miraculous phenomena; the voice, however, was according to Cajetan heard by others also. Reasons: (1) The gospels mention only Jesus and John as witnesses; (2) besides, they attest that John was to give testimony of this to the people, which would have been useless if the people had witnessed the events. β. All those present at the Jordan perceived the miraculous phenomena. Reasons: (1) This is the more common opinion: Chrysostom, Jerome, Theophylact, Euthymius, Hilary, Opus Imperfectum, Rabanus, Tostatus, Jans Maldonado,  Salmeron, Sylveira, Suarez, Lapide, Est. Men. Calmet, Reischl, Coleridge, Grimm, Knabenbauer etc. (2) The gospels implicitly state that the events were witnessed by all, since they represent them as perceptible by the senses, so that a new miracle would have been required to render them imperceptible to some of those present. (3) Again, they were given for our good, not for that of Jesus only; hence a greater number of witnesses rendered them more fit for their purpose. (4) Finally, since not the whole people was present at the Jordan, the Baptist could give testimony of the events, though they had been seen by part of the people.

b. How did the Holy Ghost descend? α. The passage of St. Matthew answers “as a dove”; St. Luke 3:22 adds “in a bodily shape, as a dove.” But commentators vary in their explanations. β. We have already rejected the opinion of Origen, who regards all these events as merely internal perceptions. The language of the third evangelist is decisive on this point [c. Cels. i. 10]. γ. The same evangelist excludes the opinion according to which the point of comparison in the present passage lies not in the form of the Holy Ghost and of the dove, but in the manner of movement, so that the Holy Ghost descended rapidly as a dove flies [Fritzsche], or gradually as a dove descends Rosenmüller]. δ. St. Thomas is very explicit on the present question: The dove was no mere fancy, because she was seen; nor a mere sign, because a sign must exist before it can signify; nor was a real dove hypostatically united with the Holy Ghost, because the evangelist says “as a dove”; hence the relation between dove and Holy Ghost must be conceived after a fourth manner, i. e., the appearance of a dove was produced miraculously, in order to signify a divine effect [cf. Ex. 3:2]. Chrysostom,Augustine, etc. agree with this explanation.

c. Why as a dove? α. The dove had in the East the symbolic meaning of meekness, innocence, piety, love, purity, holiness [cf. Cant. cant, and the law regarding clean and unclean animals]. It was the symbol of divine communication with men, and among the Syrians it was honored as a god [cf. Clement of Alexandria Cohort, c. 2; P. i. 34; Recogn. x. 27]. The Fathers are endless in their praises of the good qualities of the dove: Tertullian, De bapt. 8; Cyprian, De un. 9; Euthymius; etc. In general, it may be maintained that the dove held among birds the place assigned to the lamb among animals [cf. Bernard Serm. i. de Epiph.]. It was therefore fitting that the dove of God should bear testimony to the lamb of God. β. This natural fitness is still more emphasized by the place the dove holds in the Old Testament. In the ark of Noe it was the dove that brought the olive branch and announced the end of God’s wrath; in Gen. 1:2 the Spirit of God moved [or brooded] over the waters after the manner of a dove. Owing to these occurrences the Rabbis considered the dove as a sign of the Spirit of God: cf. Targ. Cant. 2:12; Bemidb. Rabb. 250; Bereshith Rabb. 2 f. 4, 4; Rabbi Ephraim ad Gen. i. 2; etc.

d. Why did the Holy Ghost descend on Jesus? α. This event was foretold in Is. 11:1; 41:1; it is also to this event that St. Paul alludes in Col. 2:9. Besides, the coming of the dove upon Jesus pointed out the person to whom the words of the heavenly voice were directed. β. We must not imagine that Jesus at this moment received either an increase of grace, or that he received a consecration which he did not possess before. The soul of Jesus, even as man, was endowed with the plenitude of grace from the first moment of his life, a plenitude that could not be increased by the ordinary power of God. The descent of the Holy Ghost was therefore nothing else than a visible manifestation of the presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul of Jesus; as the heavenly voice did not constitute Jesus Son of God, but only declared his divine sonship, so did the coming of the Holy Ghost manifest the holiness and consecration of Jesus, without affecting or augmenting the same [Rabanus, Thomas Aquinas, Suarez, Jansenius, etc.].

Mat 3:17  And behold a voice from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

 And behold, a voice from heaven3. The third miraculous event. a. Literal meaning of the passage. (1) The voice from heaven is not merely the murmuring of the multitude accompanying the storm and the wind [Wetstein, Kuinoel], nor is it a fabulous event truthfully related by the evangelist according to what lie had heard from others [Fritzsche,], nor again is it a mere symbol of a dogmatic truth [Olshausen, Neander, Ullman]; but it is a miraculous voice of the heavenly Father like that which occurred at the transfiguration of Jesus [Mt. 17:5], and again, after his solemn entrance into Jerusalem, in the temple court [Jn. 12:28]. (2) Instead of “this is,” the second and third gospel have “thou art”; in the first gospel the person to whom the words are addressed is determined by the descent of the Holy Ghost. (3) The expression “beloved son” does not mean “son by adoption,” but natural son as in Ps. 2:7; this is evident from Mt. 1:20 and Lk. 1:35. Had the voice signified merely adoptive sonship, as the Arians and Socinians misinterpret it, the words might have been addressed to the Baptist, who was a most holy and just person. (4) The expression “beloved son” may be considered as equivalent to “only begotten” or “most favored son” [cf. Hesychius, ap. Suicer; Pollux, l. iii. c. 11, ibid.; Il. z. 400]. The lxx. repeatedly render the Hebrew word for “only begotten” [יָהִיך] by “beloved” [ἀγαπητός], as we see in Gen. 22:2–12; 6:26; Am. 8:10; Zach. 12:10; etc. Further confirmation of our statement may be seen in Suicer s. v. ἀγαπητός. (5) The words “in whom I am well pleased” render the Hebrew רָצָה or חָפֵץ בְּ [cf. Gen. 34:19; 2 Kings 20:11]. This seems to be an allusion to Is. 42:1, so that it means “in whom I found my pleasure”; and since God cannot be pleased except by what participates his own goodness, Jesus must participate the divine goodness more than mere creatures do [cf. Epiphanius, h. xxx. 13; Justin, c. Tr. c. 88; c. 103; Clement of Alexandria, Pædag. i. c. 6; Lactanius, Instit. div. iv. 15; Augustine, De cons. ii. 14, 31; Hilary, ad l.].

b. Symbolic meaning of the passage. Jesus assumes in his baptism the vicarious satisfaction for the sins of the world to be effected by means of his death; the heavenly Father declares that he is pleased with his Son thus become the victim for men, and thereby formally accepts the satisfaction offered; the Holy Ghost appears in order to consecrate solemnly the salvific action of Jesus; men are restored to the sonship of God which they had lost by sin; the just become again the living temples of the Holy Ghost; heaven is opened for men after being shut through the transgression of Adam.

c. Dogmatic meaning of the baptism. Thomas Aquinas [3 p. qu. 66, a. 2], Vasquez [in h. l.], Lapide, Coleridge [p. 42], etc. maintain that Jesus instituted the sacrament of baptism when he himself was baptized by John. This is an additional reason why on that occasion the mystery of the Holy Trinity was revealed so plainly; for we know that according to the words of Jesus [Mt. 28:19] Christian baptism must be conferred in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [cf. Thomas Aquinas p. 3. qu. 39. a. 8].

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Colossians 1:21-2:5

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 16, 2013

HOMILY IV
On Colossians 1:21–25.

1:21-22 “And you, being in time past, enemies and alienated in your mind, in your evil works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him.”

HERE he goes to show that He reconciled those even who were unworthy of reconciliation. For by the saying that they were under the power of darkness, he shows the calamity in which they were. (v. 13.) But lest, on hearing of “the power of darkness,” thou shouldest consider it Necessity, he adds, “And you that were alienated,” so that though it appear to be the same thing that he says, yet it is not so; for it is not the same thing to deliver out of the evils him that through necessity came to suffer, and him that of his own will endures. For the former indeed is worthy to be pitied, but the latter hated. But nevertheless, he saith, you that are not against your wills, nor from compulsion, but with your wills, and wishes, sprang away from Him, and are unworthy of it, He hath reconciled. And seeing he had made mention of the “things in the heavens,” he shows, that all the enmity had its origin from hence, not thence. For they indeed were long ago desirous, and God also, but ye were not willing.

And throughout he is showing that the Angels had no power in the successive times, forasmuch as men continued enemies; they could neither persuade them, nor, if persuaded, could they deliver them from the devil. For neither would persuading them be any gain, except he that held them were bound; nor would binding him have been of any service, except they whom he detained were willing to return. But both of these were needed, and they could do neither of them, but Christ did both. So that even more marvelous than loosing death, is the persuading them. For the former was wholly of Himself, and the power lay wholly in Himself, but of the latter, not in Himself alone, but in us also; but we accomplish those things more easily of which the power lies in ourselves. Therefore, as being the greater, he puts it last. And he said not simply “were at enmity,” but “were alienated,” which denotes great enmity, nor yet “alienated” [only], but without any expectation even of returning. “And enemies in your mind,” he says; then the alienation had not proceeded so far as purpose only—but what? “in your wicked works” also. Ye were both enemies, he saith, and ye did the works of enemies.

“Yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him.” Again he lays down also the manner of the reconciliation, that it was “in the Body,” not by being merely beaten, nor scourged, nor sold, but even by dying a death the most shameful. Again he makes mention of the Cross, and again lays down another benefit. For He did not only “deliver,” but, as be says above, “Who made us meet” (ver. 12), to the same he alludes here also. “Through” His “death,” he says, “to present you holy and without blemish and unreprovable before Him.” For truly, He hath not only delivered from sins, but hath also placed amongst the approved. For, not that He might deliver us from evils only, did He suffer so great things, but that also we might obtain the first rewards; as if one should not only free a condemned criminal from his punishment, but also advance him to honor. And he hath ranked you with those who have not sinned, yea rather not with those who have done no sin only, but even with those who have wrought the greatest righteousness; and, what is truly a great thing, hath given the holiness which is before Him, and the being unreprovable. Now an advance upon unblamable is unreprovable, when we have done nothing either to be condemned for, or charged with. But, since he ascribed the whole to Him, because through His death He achieved these things; “what then, says one, is it to us? we need nothing.” Therefore he added,

Ver. 23. “If so be that ye continue in the faith grounded and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.”

Here he strikes a blow at their listlessness. And he said not simply “continue,” for it is possible to continue wavering, and vacillating; it is possible to stand, and continue, though turned this way and that. “If so be that ye continue,” he saith, “grounded and steadfast, and not moved away.” Wonderful! What a forcible metaphor he uses; he says not only not tossed to and fro, but not even moved. And observe, he lays down so far nothing burdensome, nor toilsome, but faith and hope; that is, if ye continue believing, that the hope of the things to come is true. For this indeed is possible; but, as regards virtuous living, it is not possible to avoid being shaken about, though it be but a little; so (what he enjoins) is not grievous.

“From the hope,” he saith, “of the Gospel, which ye heard, which was preached in all creation under heaven.” But what is the hope of the Gospel, except Christ? For He Himself is our peace, that hath wrought all these things: so that he who ascribes them to others is “moved away”: for he has lost all, unless he believe in Christ. “Which ye heard,” he saith. And again he brings themselves as witnesses, then the whole world. He saith not, “which is being preached,” but hath already been believed and preached. As he did also at the outset (ver. 6), being desirous by the witness of the many to establish these also. “Whereof I Paul was made a minister.” This also contributes to make it credible; “I,” saith he, “Paul a minister.” For great was his authority, as being now everywhere celebrated, and the teacher of the world.

Ver. 24. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His Body’s sake, which is the Church.”

And what is the connection of this? It seems indeed not to be connected, but it is even closely so. And “minister,” he says, that is, bringing in nothing from myself, but announcing what is from another. I so believe, that I suffer even for His sake, and not suffer only, but even rejoice in suffering, looking unto the hope which is to come, and I suffer not for myself, but for you. “And fill up,” he saith, “that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh.” It seems indeed to be a great thing he has said; but it is not of arrogancy, far be it, but even of much tender love towards Christ; for he will not have the sufferings to be his own, but His, through desire of conciliating these persons to Him. And what things I suffer, I suffer, he saith, on His account: not to me, therefore, express your gratitude, but to him, for it is He Himself who suffers. Just as if one, when sent to a person, should make request to another, saying, I beseech thee, go for me to this person, then the other should say, “it is on his account I am doing it.” So that He is not ashamed to call these sufferings also his own (as Acts 9:5). For He did not only die for us, but even after His death He is ready to be afflicted for your sakes. He is eagerly and vehemently set upon showing that He is even now exposed to peril in His own Body for the Church’s sake, and he aims at this point, namely, ye are not brought unto God by us, but by Him, even though we do these things, for we have not undertaken a work of our own, but His. And it is the same as if there were a band which had its allotted leader to protect it, and it should stand in battle, and then when he was gone, his lieutenant should succeed to his wounds until the battle were brought to a close.

Next, that for His sake also he doeth these things, hearken: “For His Body’s sake,” he saith, assuredly meaning to say this: “I pleasure not you, but Christ: for what things He should have suffered, I suffer instead of Him.” See how many things he establishes. Great, he shows, is the claim upon their love. As in his second Epistle to the Corinthians, he wrote, saying, “he committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:20); and again, “We are ambassadors on behalf of Christ; as though God were entreating by us.” So also here he saith, “For his sake I suffer,” that he may the more draw them to Him. That is, though He who is your debtor is gone away, yet I repay. For, on this account he also said, “that which is lacking,” to show that not even yet does he consider Him to have suffered all. “For your sake,” he saith, and even after His death He suffers; seeing that still there remains a deficiency. The same thing he doeth in another way in the Epistle to the Romans, saying, “Who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:34), showing that He was not satisfied with His death alone, but even afterwards He doeth countless things.

He does not then say this to exalt himself, but through a desire to show that Christ is even yet caring for them. And he shows what he says to be credible, by adding, “for His Body’s sake.” For that so it is, and that there is no unlikelihood in it, is plain from these things being done for His body’s sake. Look how He hath knitted us unto Himself. Why then introduce Angels between? “Whereof I was made,” he saith, “a minister.” Why introduce Angels besides? “I am a minister.” Then he shows that he had himself done nothing, albeit he is a minister. “Of which I was made,” saith he, “a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given me to youward, to fulfill the word of God.” “The dispensation.” Either he means, He so willed that after His own departure we should succeed to the dispensation, in order that ye might not feel as deserted, (for it is Himself that suffers, Himself that is ambassador;) or he means this, namely, me who was more than all a persecutor, for this end He permitted to persecute, that in my preaching I might gain belief; or by “dispensation” he means, that He required not deeds, nor actions, nor good works, but faith and baptism. For ye would not otherwise have received the word. “For you,” he saith, “to fulfill the word of God.” He speaks of the Gentiles, showing that they were yet wavering, by the expression, “fulfill.” For that the cast-away Gentiles should have been able to receive such lofty doctrines was not of Paul, but of the dispensation of God; “for I never could have had the power,” he saith. Having shown that which is greater, that his sufferings are Christ’s, he next subjoins what is more evident, that this also is of God, “to fulfill His word in you.” And he shows here covertly, that this too is of dispensation, that it is spoken to you now, when ye are able to hear it, and cometh not of neglect, but to the end ye may receive it. For God doeth not all things on a sudden, but useth condescension because of His plenteous love toward man. And this is the reason why Christ came at this time, and not of old. And He shows in the Gospel, that for this reason He sent the servants first, that they might not proceed to kill the Son. For if they did not reverence the Son, even when He came after the servants, much less would they had He come sooner; if they gave no heed to the lesser commandments, how would they to the greater? What then, doth one object? Are there not Jews even now, and Greeks who are in a very imperfect condition? This, however, is an excess of listlessness. For after so long a time, after such great instructions, still to continue imperfect, is a proof of great stupidity.

When then the Greeks say, why did Christ come at this time? let us not allow them so to speak, but let us ask them, whether He did not succeed? For as, if He had come at the very first, and had not succeeded, the time would not have been for us a sufficient excusation, so, seeing He hath succeeded, we cannot with justice be brought to account on the score of “the time.” For neither does any one demand of a physician, who has removed the disease, and restored one to health, to give an account of his treatment, nor yet does any examine closely a general who has gained a victory, why at this time, and why in this place. For these things it were in place to ask, had he not been successful; but when he has been successful, they must even be taken for granted. For, tell me, whether is more worthy of credit, thy reasoning and calumny, or the perfection of the thing? Conquered He, or conquered He not? show this. Prevailed He, or prevailed He not? Accomplished He what He said, or no? These are the articles of enquiry. Tell me, I pray. Thou fully grantest that God is, even though not Christ? I ask thee then; Is God without beginning? Thou wilt say, Certainly. Tell me then, why made He not men myriads of years before? For they would have lived through a longer time. They were now losers by that time during which they were not. Nay, they were not losers; but how, He who made them alone knows. Again, I ask thee, why did He not make all men at once? But his soul, whoever was first made, hath so many years of existence, of which that one is deprived which is not yet created. Wherefore made He the one to be brought first into this world, and the other afterwards?

Although these things are really fit subjects for enquiry: yet not for a meddling curiosity: for this is not for enquiry at all. For I will tell you the reason I spoke of. For suppose human nature as being some one continued life, and that in the first times our race was in the position of boyhood; in those that succeeded, of manhood; and in these that are near extreme age, of an old man. Now when the soul is at its perfection, when the limbs of the body are unstrung, and our war is over, we are then brought to philosophy. On the contrary, one may say, we teach boys whilst young. Yes, but not the great doctrines, but rhetoric, and expertness with language; and the other when they are come to ripeness of age. See God also doing the same with the Jews. For just as though the Jews had been little children, he placed Moses over them as a schoolmaster, and like little children he managed these things for them through shadowy representations, as we teach letters. “For the law had a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things.” (Heb. 10:1.) As we both buy cakes for children and give them pieces of money, requiring of them one thing only, that for the present they would go to school; so also God at that time gave them both wealth and luxury, purchasing from them by this His great indulgence one only thing, that they would listen to Moses. Therefore He delivered them over to a schoolmaster, that they might not despise Himself as a tender, loving Father. See then that they feared him only; for they said not, Where is God? but, Where is Moses? and his very presence was fearful. So when they did amiss, observe how he punished them. For God indeed was desirous of casting them off; but he would not permit Him. Or rather the whole was of God; just as when a Father threatens whilst a schoolmaster entreats Him, and says, “Forgive them, I pray, on my account, and henceforward I undertake for them.” In this way was the wilderness a school. And as children who have been a long while at school are desirous of quitting it, so also were they at that time continually desiring Egypt, and weeping, saying, “We are lost, we are wholly consumed, we are utterly undone.” (Ex. 16:3.) And Moses broke their tablet, having written for them, as it were, certain words (Ex. 32:19); just as a schoolmaster would do, who having taken up the writing tablet, and found it badly written, throws away the tablet itself, desiring to show great anger; and if he have broken it, the father is not angry. For he indeed was busy writing, but they not attending to him, but turning themselves other ways, were committing disorder. And as in school, they strike each other, so also, on that occasion, he bade them strike and slay each other. And again, having given them as it were lessons to learn, then asking for them, and finding they had not learnt them, he would punish them. For instance. What writings were those that denoted the power of God? The events in Egypt? Yes, saith one, but these writings represented the plagues, that He punishes His enemies. And to them it was a school. For what else was the punishment of your enemies but your benefit? And in other respects too, He benefited you. And it was the same as if one should say he knew his letters, but when asked up and down, should be at fault, and be beaten. So they also said indeed that they knew the power of God, but when asked their knowledge up and down, they could not give it, and therefore were beaten. Hast thou seen water? Thou oughtest to be reminded of the water in Egypt. For He that of water made blood, will be also of power to do this.1 As we also say often to the children, “when in a book thou seest the letter A, remember that thou hadst it in thy tablet.” Hast thou seen famine? Remember that it was He that destroyed the crops! Hast thou seen wars? Remember the drowning! Hast thou seen that they are mighty who inhabit the land? But not mightier than the Egyptians. He who took thee out of the midst of them, will He not much more save thee when out? But they knew not how to answer their letters out of order, and therefore they were beaten. “They ate,” and drank, “and kicked.” (Deut. 32:15.) When fed with their manna they ought not to have asked for luxury, seeing they had known the evils which proceed from it. And they acted precisely as if a free child, when sent to school, should ask to be reckoned with the slaves, and to wait on them,—so did these also in seeking Egypt—and when receiving all needful sustenance, and such as becomes a free person, and sitting at his father’s table, should have a longing for the ill-savored and noisy one of the servants. And they said to Moses, “Yea, Lord, all that thou hast spoken will we do, and be obedient.” (Ex. 24:7.) And as it happens in the case of desperately bad children, that when the father would put them to death (Perhaps he means no more than to renounce or disinherit, as he said above), the schoolmaster perseveringly entreats for them, the same was the case at that time also.

Why have we said these things? Because we differ in nothing from children. Wilt thou hear their doctrines also, that they are those of children? “Eye for eye,” it is said, “and tooth for tooth.” (Lev. 24:20.) For nothing is so eager to revenge as a childish mind. For seeing it is a passion of irrationality, and there is much irrationality, and great lack of consideration in that age, no wonder the child is tyrannized over by anger; and so great is the tyranny, that ofttimes after stumbling and getting up again, they will smite their knee for passion, or overturn the footstool, and so will allay their pain, and quench their rage. In some such way as this did God also deal with them, when He allowed them to strike out “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,” and destroyed the Egyptians and the Amalekites that had grieved them. And He promised such things; as if to one who said, “Father, such and such an one has beaten me,” the father should then reply, “Such and such an one is a bad man, and let us hate him.” So also doth God say, “I will be their enemy that are thine enemies, and I will hate them that hate thee.” (Ex. 23:22.) And again, when Balaam prayed, the condescension which was used towards them was childish. For as with children, when having been frightened at anything not frightful, such as either a lock of wool, or any other thing of like sort, they are suddenly alarmed; that their fear may not continue in them, we bring the thing up to their hands, and make their nurses show it them: so also did God; seeing that the Prophet was a terror to them, he turned the terror of him into confidence. And as children who are under weaning have all manner of things in little baskets, so also did He give them everything, and dainties in abundance. Still the child longs for the breast; so did these also for Egypt and the flesh that was there.

So that one would not be wrong in calling Moses both a teacher, and a nursing-father, and a conductor (Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:4, 5); the man’s wisdom was great. Howbeit it is not the same thing to guide men who are already philosophers, and to rule unreasoning children. And, if you are inclined to hear yet another particular; as the nurse says to the child, When thou easest thyself, take up thy garments, and for as long as thou sittest, so also did Moses. (Deut. 23:13.) For all the passions are tyrannous in children (for as yet they have not that which is to bridle them), vainglory, desire, irrationality, anger, envy; just as in children, so they prevailed; they spat upon, they beat, Moses. And as a child takes up a stone, and we all exclaim, O do not throw it; so did they also take up stones against their father; and he fled from them. And as, if a father have any ornament, the child, being fond of ornament, asks him for it, in like manner, truly, did the party of Dathan and Abiram act, when they rebelled for the priesthood. (Num. 16.) And besides, they were of all people the most envious, and little-minded, and in all respects imperfect.

Ought then Christ, tell me, to have appeared at that time, at that time to have given them these teachings of true wisdom, when they were raging with lust, when they were as horses mad for the mare, when they were the slaves of money, of the belly? Nay, He would but have wasted his lessons of wisdom in discoursing with those of no understanding; and they would have neither learnt one thing nor the other. And as he who teaches to read before he has taught the alphabet, will never teach even so much as the alphabet; so indeed would it then have been also. But not so now, for by the grace of God much forbearance, much virtue, hath been planted everywhere. Let us give thanks then for all things, and not be over curious. For it is not we that know the due time, but He, The Maker of the time, and The Creator of the ages.

In everything then yield we to Him: for this is to glorify God, not to demand of Him an account of what He doeth. In this way too did Abraham give glory to God; “And being fully persuade,” we read, “that what He had promised, He was able to perform.” (Rom. 4:21.) He did not ask about the future even; but we scrutinize the account even of the past. See how great folly, how great ingratitude, is here. But let us for the future have done, for no gain comes of it, but much harm even; and let our minds be gratefully disposed towards our Master, and let us send up glory to God, that making for all things an offering of thanksgiving, we may be counted worthy of His lovingkindness, through the grace and love toward man of His Only-begotten, with whom, &c.

HOMILY V
On Colossians 1:26-2:5

1:26-28  “Even the mystery which hath been hid from all ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to His saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we proclaim, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ.”

HAVING said what we have come to, and showed the lovingkindness of God and the honor, by the greatness of the things given, he introduces yet another consideration that heightens them, namely, that neither before us did any one know Him.1 As he doth also in the Epistle to the Ephesians, saying, neither Angels, nor principalities, nor any other created power, but only the Son of God knew. (Eph. 3:5, 9, 10.) And he said, not simply hid, but “quite hid,” and that even if it hath but now come to pass, yet it is of old, and from the beginning God willed these things, and they were so planned out; but why, he saith not yet. “From the ages,” from the beginning, as one might say. And with reason he calleth that a mystery, which none knew, save God. And where hid? In Christ; as he saith in the Epistle to the Ephesians (Eph. 3:9), or as when the Prophet saith, “From everlasting even to everlasting Thou art.” (Ps. 90:2.) But now hath been manifested, he saith, “to His saints.” So that it is altogether of the dispensation of God. “But now hath been manifested,” he saith. He saith not, “is come to pass,” but, “hath been manifested to His saints.” So that it is even now still hid, since it hath been manifested to His saints alone.

Let not others therefore deceive you, for they know not. Why to them alone? “To whom He was pleased,” he saith. See how everywhere He stops the mouth of their questions. “To whom God was pleased to make known,” he saith. Yet His will is not without reason. By way of making them accountable for grace, rather than allowing them to have high thoughts, as though it were of their own achieving, he said, “To whom he was pleased to make known.” “What is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.” He hath spoken loftily, and accumulated emphasis, seeking, out of his great earnestness, for amplification upon amplification. For this also is an amplification, the saying indefinitely, “The riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles.” For it is most of all apparent among the Gentiles, as he also says elsewhere, “And that the Gentiles might glorify God for His mercy.” (Rom. 15:9.) For the great glory of this mystery is apparent among others also, but much more among these. For, on a sudden, to have brought men more senseless than stones to the dignity of Angels, simply through bare words, and faith alone, without any laboriousness, is indeed glory and riches of mystery: just as if one were to take a dog, quite consumed with hunger and the mange, foul, and loathsome to see, and not so much as able to move, but lying cast out, and make him all at once into a man, and to display him upon the royal throne. They were wont to worship stones and the earth; but they learned that themselves are better both than the heaven and the sun, and that the whole world serveth them; they were captives and prisoners of the devil: on a sudden they are placed above his head, and lay commands on him and scourge him: from being captives and slaves to demons, they are become the body of The Master of the Angels and the Archangels; from not knowing even what God is, they are become all at once sharers even in God’s throne. Wouldest thou see the countless steps they overleaped? First, they had to learn that stones are not gods; secondly, that they not only are not gods, but inferior even to men; thirdly, to brutes even; fourthly, to plants even; fifthly, they brought together the extremes: that not only stones but not earth even, nor animals, nor plants, nor man, nor heaven; or, to begin again, that not stones, not animals, not plants, not elements, pot things above, not things below, not man, not demons, not Angels, not Archangels, not any of those Powers above, ought to be worshiped by the nature of man. Being drawn up, as it were, from some deep, they had to learn that the Lord of all, He is God, that Him alone is it right to worship; that the virtuous life (virginity) is a good thing; that this present death is not death, nor this life, life; that the body is raised, that it becomes incorruptible, that it will ascend into heaven, that it obtains even immortality, that it standeth with Angels, that it is removed thither. But Him who was there below, having cleared at a bound all these steps, He has placed on high upon the throne, having made Him that was lower than the stones, higher in dominion than the Angels, and the Archangels, and the thrones, and the dominions. Truly “What is the riches of the glory of this mystery?” Just as if one should show a fool to be all at once made a philosopher; yea rather, whatsoever one should say, it would be as nothing: for even the words of Paul are undefined. “What is the riches,” he saith, “of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you?” Again, they had to learn that He who is above, and who ruleth Angels and dominions, and all the other Powers, came down below, and was made Man, and suffered countless things, and rose again, and was received up.

All these things were of the mystery; and he sets them down together with lofty praise, saying, “Which is Christ in you?” But if He be in you, why seek ye Angels? “Of this mystery.” For there are other mysteries besides. But this is really a mystery, which no one knew, which is marvelous, which is beside the common expectation, which was hid. “Which is Christ in you,” he saith, “the hope of glory, whom we proclaim,” bringing Him from above. “Whom we,” not Angels: “teaching” and “admonishing”: not imperiously nor using constraint, for this too is of God’s lovingkindness to men, not to bring them to Him after the manner of a tyrant. Seeing it was a great thing he had said, “teaching,” he added, “admonishing,” which is rather like a father than an instructor. “Whom,” saith he, “we proclaim, admonishing every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom.” So that all wisdom is needed. That is, saying all things in wisdom. For the ability to learn such things exists not in every one. “That we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” What sayest thou, “every man”? Yea; this is what we are earnestly desirous of doing, he saith. For what, if this do not come to pass? the blessed Paul endeavored. “Perfect.” This then is perfection, the other is imperfect: so that if one have not even the whole of wisdom, he is imperfect. “Perfect in Christ Jesus,” not in the Law, nor in Angels, for that is not perfection. “In Christ,” that is, in the knowledge of Christ. For he that knows what Christ has done, will have higher thoughts than to be satisfied with Angels.

“In Christ Jesus”; Ver. 29. “Whereunto I labor also, striving.” And he said not, “I am desirous” merely, nor in any indifferent way, but “I labor, striving,” with great earnestness, with much watching. If I, for your good, thus watch, much more ought ye. Then again, showing that it is of God, he saith, “according to His working which worketh in me mightily.” He shows that this is the work of God. He, now, that makes me strong for this, evidently wills it. Wherefore also when beginning he saith, “Through the will of God.” (Ver. 1.) So that it is not only out of modesty he so expresses himself, but insisting on the truth of the Word as well. “And striving.” In saying this, he shows that many are fighting against him. Then great is his tender affection.

Chap. 2:1. “For I would have you know how greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea.”

Then lest this should seem owing to their peculiar weakness, he joined others also with them, and as yet condemned them not. But why does he say, “And as many as have not seen my face in the flesh”? He shows here after a divine manner, that they saw him constantly in the Spirit. And he bears witness to their great love.

Ver. 2, 3. “That their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God the Father, and of Christ: in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.”

Now henceforward he is hastening and in pangs to enter upon the doctrine, neither accusing them, nor clearing them of accusation. “I strive,” he saith. To what end? That they may be knit together. What he means is something like this; that they may stand firm in the faith. He doth not however so express himself; but extenuates the matter of accusation. That is, that they may be united with love, not with necessity nor with force. For as I have said, he always avoids offending, by leaving it to themselves;2 and therefore “striving,” because I wish it to be with love, and willingly. For I do not wish it to be with the lips merely, nor merely that they shall be brought together, but “that their hearts may be comforted.”

“Being knit together in love unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding.” That is, that they may doubt about nothing, that they may be fully assured in all things. But I meant full assurance which is by faith, for there is a full assurance which cometh by arguments, but that is worthy of no consideration. I know, he saith, that ye believe, but I would have you fully assured: not “unto riches” only, but “unto all riches”; that your full assurance may be intense, as well as in all things. And observe the wisdom of this blessed one. He said not, “Ye do ill that ye are not fully assured,” nor accused them; but, ye know not how desirous I am that ye may be fully assured, and not merely so, but with understanding. For seeing he spoke of faith; suppose not, he saith, that I meant barely and unprofitably, but with understanding and love. “That they may know the mystery of God the Father and of Christ.” So that this is the mystery of God, the being brought unto Him by the Son. “And of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” But if they are in Him, then wisely also no doubt He came at this time. Wherefore then do some foolish persons object to Him, “See how He discourseth with the simpler sort.” “In whom are all the treasures.” He himself knows all things. “Hid,” for think not in truth that ye already have all; they are hidden also even from Angels, not from you only; so that you ought to ask all things from Him. He himself giveth wisdom and knowledge. Now by saying, “treasures,” he shows their largeness, by “All,” that He is ignorant of nothing, by “hid,” that He alone knoweth.

Ver. 4. “This I say, that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech.”

Seest thou that he saith, I have therefore said this, that ye may not seek it from men. “Delude you,” he saith, “with persuasiveness of speech.” For what if any doth speak, and speak persuasively?

Ver. 5. “For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit.”

The direct thing to have said here was, “even though I be absent in the flesh, yet, nevertheless, I know the deceivers”; but instead he has ended with praise, “Joying and beholding your order, and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” “Your order,” he means, your good order. “And the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.” This is still more in the way of encomium. And he said not “faith,” but steadfastness, as to soldiers standing in good order and firmly. Now that which is steadfast, neither deceit nor trial can shake asunder. Not only, he saith, have ye not fallen, but no one hath so much as thrown you into disorder. He hath set himself over them, that they may fear him as though present; for thus is order preserved. From solidity follows compactedness, for you will then produce solidity, when having brought many things together, you shall cement them compactedly and inseparably; thus a solidity is produced, as in the case of a wall. But this is the peculiar work of love; for those who were by themselves, when it hath closely cemented and knit them together, it renders solid. And faith, again, doeth the same thing; when it allows not reasonings to intrude themselves. For as reasonings divide, and shake loose, so faith causes solidity and compactness.

For seeing God hath bestowed upon us benefits surpassing man’s reasoning, suitably enough He hath brought in faith. It is not possible to be steadfast, when demanding reasons. For behold all our lofty doctrines, how destitute they are of reasonings, and dependent upon faith alone. God is not anywhere, and is everywhere. What hath less reason in it than this? Each by itself is full of difficulty. For, indeed, He is not in place; nor is there any place in which He is. He was not made, He made not Himself, He never began to be. What reasoning will receive this, if there be not faith? Does it not seem to be utterly ridiculous, and more endless than a riddle?

Now that He hath no beginning, and is uncreate, and uncircumscribed, and infinite, is, as we have said, a manifest difficulty; but let us consider His incorporealness, whether we can search out this by reasoning. God is incorporeal. What is incorporeal? A bare word, and no more, for the apprehension has received nothing, has impressed nothing upon itself; for if it does so impress, it comes to nature, and what constitutes body. So that the mouth speaks indeed, but the understanding knows not what it speaks, save one thing only, that it is not body, this is all it knows. And why do I speak of God? In the case of the soul, which is created, inclosed, circumscribed, what is incorporealness? say! show! Thou canst not. Is it air? But air is body, even though it be not compact, and it is plain from many proofs that it is a yielding body. Fire is body, whilst the energy of the soul is bodiless. Wherefore? Since it penetrateth everywhere. If it is not itself body, then that which is incorporeal exists in place, therefore it is circumscribed; and that which is circumscribed has figure; and figures are linear, and lines belong to bodies. Again, that which is without figure, what conception does it admit? It has no figure, no form, no outline. Seest thou how the understanding becomes dizzy?

Again, That Nature [viz. God’s] is not susceptible of evil. But He is also good of His own will; it is therefore susceptible. But one may not so say, far be it! Again, was He brought into being, willing it, or not willing it? But neither may one say this. Again, circumscribes He the world, or no? If He circumscribes it not, He is Himself circumscribed, but if He circumscribes it, He is infinite in His nature. Again, circumscribes He Himself? If He circumscribes Himself, then He is not without beginning to Himself, but to us; therefore He is not in His nature with Out beginning. Everywhere one must grant contradictories.

Seest thou how great the darkness is; and how everywhere there is need of faith. This it is, that is solid. But, if you will, let us come to things which are less than these. That Substance hath an operation. And what in His case is operation? Is it a certain motion? Then He is not immutable: for that which is moved, is not immutable: for, from being motionless it becomes in motion. But nevertheless He is in motion, and never stands still. But what kind of motion, tell me; for amongst us there are seven kinds; down, up, in, out, right, left, circular, or, if not this, increase, decrease, generation, destruction, alteration. But is His motion none of these, but such as the mind is moved with? No, nor this either. Far be it! for in many things the mind is even absurdly moved. Is to will, to operate, or not? If to will is to operate, and He wills all men to be good, and to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), how comes it not to pass? But to will is one thing, to operate, another. To will then is not sufficient for operation. How then saith the Scripture, “He hath done whatsoever He willed”? (Ps. 115:3.) And again, the leper saith unto Christ, “If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.” (Matt. 8:2.) For if this follows in company with the will, what is to be said? Will ye that I mention yet another thing? How were the things that are, made out of things that are not? How will they be resolved into nothing? What is above the heaven? And again, what above that? and what above that? and beyond that? and so on to infinity. What is below the earth? Sea, and beyond this, what? and beyond that again? Nay; to the right, and to the left, is there not the same difficulty?

But these indeed are things unseen. Will ye that I lead the discourse to those which are seen; those which have already happened? Tell me, how did the beast contain Jonah in its belly, without his perishing? Is it not void of reason, and its motions without control? How spared it the righteous man? How was it that the heat did not suffocate him? How was it that it putrefied him not? For if to be in the deep only, is past contriving, to be both in the creature’s bowels, and in that heat, is very far more unaccountable. If from within we breathe1 the air, how did the respiration suffice for two animals? And how did it also vomit him forth unharmed? And how too did he speak? And how too was he self-possessed, and prayed? Are not these things incredible? If we test them by reasonings, they are incredible, if by faith, they are exceeding credible.

Shall I say something more than this? The wheat in the earth’s bosom decays, and rises again. Behold marvels, opposite, and each surpassing the other; marvelous is the not becoming corrupted, marvelous, after becoming so, is the rising again. Where are they that make sport of such things, and disbelieve the Resurrection and say, This bone how shall it be cemented to that? and introduce such like silly tales. Tell me, how did Elias ascend in a chariot of fire? Fire is wont to burn, not to carry aloft. How lives he so long a time? In what place is he? Why was this done? Whither was Enoch translated? Lives he on like food with us? and what is it hinders him from being here? Nay, but does he not eat? And wherefore was he translated? Behold how God schooleth us by little and little. He translated Enoch; no very great thing that. This instructed us for the taking up of Elias. He shut in Noe into the ark (Gen. 7:7); nor is this either any very great thing. This instructed us for the shutting up of the prophet within the whale. Thus even the things of old stood in need of forerunners and types. For as in a ladder the first step sends on to the second, and from the first it is not possible to step to the fourth, and this sends one on to that, that that may be the way to the next; and as it is not possible either to get to the second before the first; so also is it here.

And observe the signs of signs, and thou wilt discern this in the ladder which Jacob saw. “Above,” it is said, “the Lord stood fast, and underneath Angels were ascending and descending.” (Gen. 28:13.) It was prophesied that the Father hath a Son; it was necessary this should be believed. Whence wouldest thou that I show thee the signs of this? From above, downward? From beneath, upward? Because He begetteth without passion (i.e., without being changed), for this reason did she that was barren first bear. Let us rather go higher. It was necessary to be believed, that He begat of Himself. What then? The thing happens obscurely indeed, as in type and shadow, but still it doth happen, and as it goes on it becomes somehow clearer. A woman is formed out of man alone, and he remains whole and entire. Again, it was necessary there should be some sure sign of the Conception of a Virgin. So the barren beareth, not once only, but a second time and a third, and many times. Of His birth then of a Virgin, the barren is a type, and she sends the mind forward to faith. Again, this was a type of God being able to beget alone. For if man is the chief agent, and birth takes place without him, in a more excellent way, much rather, is One begotten of the Chiefest Agent. There is still another generation, which is a type of the Truth. I mean, ours by the Spirit. Of this again the barren a type, the fact that it is not of blood (John 1:13); this pertains to the generation above. The one—as also the types—shows that the generation is to be without passion; the other, that it could proceed from one above.

Christ is above, ruling over all things: it was necessary this should be believed. The same takes place in the earth with respect to man. “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness” (Gen. 1:26), for dominion of all the brutes. Thus He instructed us, not by words, but by actions. Paradise showed the separateness of his nature, and that man was the best thing of all. Christ was to rise again; see now how many sure signs there were; Enoch, Elias, Jonas, the fiery furnace, the case of Noah, baptism, the seeds, the plants, our own generation, that of all animals. For since on this everything was at stake, it, more than any other, had abundance of types.

That the Universe is not without a Providence we may conjecture from things amongst ourselves, for nothing will continue to exist, if not provided for; but even herds, and all other things stand in need of governance. And that the Universe was not made by chance, Hell is a proof, and so was the deluge in Noah’s day, the fire (i.e., Sodom and Gomorrah), the overwhelming of the Egyptians in the sea, the things which happened in the wilderness.

It was necessary too that many things should prepare the way for Baptism; yea, thousands of things; those, for instance, in the Old Testament, those in the Pool (Jn 5:2), the cleansing of him that was not sound in health, the deluge itself, and all the things that have been done in water, the baptism of John.

It was necessary to be believed that God giveth up His Son; a man did this by anticipation, Abraham the Patriarch. Types then of all these things, if we are so inclined, we shall find by searching in the Scriptures. But let us not be weary, but attune ourselves by these things. Let us hold the faith steadfastly, and show forth strictness of life: that having through all things returned thanks to God, we may be counted worthy of the good things promised to them that love Him, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, &c.

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A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 91

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 5, 2013

At present this post has been edited only through verse 12.

TITLE. Septuagint and Vulgate: A Praise of a Song of David.

ARGUMENT

ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST, returning as Conqueror from hell, trod under foot the head of the lion and of the perverse dragon. The Voice of CHRIST to the believing people, or the Voice of the Church to CHRIST. This Psalm is therefore to be read with the Gospel of Matthew, where CHRIST is tempted. The Voice of the Church to CHRIST. To be read after the Gospel of Mark, where CHRIST is tempted. To be read with the Gospel of John, concerning the Victory of Christ. The Voice of the Church to the Lord. A Prayer in the night-season.

VEN. BEDE. A praise of a song is the praising of GOD, David should be understood as the Prophet himself. We always oppose this hymn, with pious confidence, to the evil spirits, that they may be overcome by us preferably with that very weapon wherewith they craftily made certain attempts against their Creator.

In the first part the Psalmist declares that every one who is very faithful is fenced with Divine protection. Whoso dwelleth in the help. In the second part, he chants praise to CHRIST, A thousand shall fall beside Thee. Thirdly, they are the words of the FATHER to every faithful one, whom He knows to put most devout trust in Him; promising him defence in this world, and rewards in that which is to come. I will deliver him and bring him to honour.

SYRIAC PSALTER. Of David, concerning Hezekiah the king, that he should be called the Son of David. Spiritually it is said to be touching the victory of CHRIST, and of every one who is perfected by Him.

S. ATHANASICS. A Psalm for meditation.

COMMENTARY

If you desire, writes S. Athanasius to Marcellinus, to stablish yourself and others in devotion, to know what confidence is to be reposed in GOD, and what makes the mind fearless, you will praise GOD by reciting the ninetieth (ninety-first) Psalm.* Accordingly, (Dinysius) we most fitly employ it at Compline as a defence against the snares of the night and the manifold temptations of the evil spirits. And when we do sing it devoutly at that time, we shall often taste its power and sweetness, wherewith it so wondrously and pleasantly abounds. The immediate occasion of the Psalm is not so easily ascertained as its spiritual meaning. (Parez) Some Rabbinical authorities treat it as a part of the preceding one, while others, more numerous, agreeing with several modern critics, take it as a post-Captivity Psalm, referring to the return under Ezra, and the perils which beset the exiles from the human and animal foes which had taken possession of their old dwelling-places, while a few are found to accept the view of the Syriac Psalter, (Lorinus) and to explain the poem as a thanksgiving for the deliverance of Hezekiah from the army of Sennacherib. It is the ninetieth Psalm in the LXX. and Vulgate,* and the mystical import of the number which they give is that ninety, being the product of ten and nine, signifies the number of the faithful who suffer tribulation here, and who shall be made equal to the angels in blessedness, on receiving the crown of life, because ten signifies the denarius, or penny given by the LORD of the vineyard to the labourers, and nine is the sum of the grades in the angelic hierarchy.

1 Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High: shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Whoso. This first word denotes that the promise is a universal one (Bellarmine); as though the Prophet were saying, Whosoever he be, rich or poor, learned or ignorant, noble or churl, young or old, it matters not, for GOD accepteth no man’s person, but is rich unto all them that call upon Him. And whereas we may dwell in a place, and yet be restless and unquiet there, the Hebrew here is sitteth, implying tranquillity and perseverance. Further, the word here translated defence, and in LXX. and Vulgate help, is more exactly, as in A. V., the secret place, a phrase not only denoting its perfect security, but also that it is no visible earthly tower, but an invisible fortress, which faith alone can find and enter. Yet the word help is not without its lesson, for it teaches us that devout and firm trust in GOD does not make man’s thought and labour superfluous, but rather stimulates them, in the hope of success through such mighty co-operation. Fitly, too, is the title Most High here applied to GOD our defence, because from His lofty throne He beholdeth all the dwellers upon earth, so that no peril of ours escapes His sight, and also because being supreme in majestic power, He is able to deliver us from them all. Shall abide, or, with A. V.* margin, shall lodge, that is, shall pass the night, the whole season of darkness and peril, of trouble and doubt, safely under the shadow of the clouds of the glory of God, as the Chaldee paraphrase expands the latter clause (i.e., the Babylonian Targum). The Almighty, שַׁדַּי, is translated by LXX. and Vulgate the God of heaven. It is He who thus receives, as it were under the shelter of His roof (LeBlanc), to lodge there, the suppliant who ventures to sit down at the door of His secret place as a temporary shelter, but who is soon taught that a FATHER’S home is open to him. We may learn, remarks S. Bernard, in the beginning of his commentary on this Psalm,* who he is who dwelleth under the help of the Most High, by noting who they are that do not dwell there. You will find three sorts of them: those who do not hope, those who despair, and those who hope in vain. The first are such as either trust in their own strength and possessions, or as have cooled in their early zeal, and think that GOD has no more good things to bestow; the second those who think only of their own weakness, not of GOD’S might, and therefore make no resistance against temptation; and the third are those who forget GOD’S justice, and relying on His mercy, continue in sin. The first of these dwells in his own merits, the second in his chastisements, the third in his vices. (Cardinal Hugo) The dwelling of the first is sordid, that of the second disquieted, that of the third foolish and perilous. With these we may contrast all holy souls, but especially her whom GOD chose as the helpmeet for Himself, the Most High, in working out the salvation of mankind by His Incarnation, to whom it was said by the Angel, “The HOLY GHOST shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee” (Lk 1:35). Note, too (Honorius), that the Holy Trinity is declared to us in this verse: the FATHER, Who is the Most High; the SON, His help in the work of redemption, as it is said in another Psalm (Ps 89:19), “I have laid help upon one that is mighty;” the HOLY GHOST, Who is that shadow of the Almighty which brooded over Blessed Mary.

2 I will say unto the LORD, Thou art my hope, and my stronghold: my GOD, in him will I trust.

The sudden change of persons here (not the only one in the Psalm) may be accounted for in two ways,* neither of which excludes the other. The Psalmist begins with a general reflection on the blessedness of trust in GOD; and kindled by the thought, applies it personally to his own spiritual needs, and bursts out with a direct address;* and, further, the whole composition may very probably have been designed as an anthem for two or three voices in public worship, the solo parts being all in the first person.* In fact the Chaldee does make the Psalm a dialogue between David and Solomon with a chorus. But the LXX., Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate tide over the difficulty by reading the first word of the verse in the third person. He will say, which is not very unlike S. Jerome’s saying. This he will say as a thanksgiving, making acknowledgment to the LORD and His mercy for His twofold help (St Bernard). For every one who is still dwelling in GOD’S help, is not yet in the kingdom, often needs to flee, and sometimes falls, but he is not dashed down, because the LORD is his taker-up (Vulg.) so that he rises stronger when he falls. Let the faithful soul, then, say unto the LORD, Thou art my taker-up. All things can say, Thou art my Creator; the very beasts can say, “Thou art my Shepherd;” all men may say, “Thou art my Redeemer,” but only he who dwells under the help of the Most High can say, Thou art my taker-up, or my hope, or again, my refuge (A. V.) Observe, too, that the Psalmist continues, my refuge (Vulg.) and my GOD. We have herein three blessings bestowed by GOD, past, present, and future, for which thanksgiving is made unto Him (Cardinal Bellarmine). First, is His unspeakable mercy, whereby He lifts up man fallen into sin, and sinking further to hell; next, that when GOD justifies a sinner, He does not at once transfer him to heaven, where are no perils, but places him in the array of His warrior soldiers, yet, if he trust in the LORD, the LORD in turn will be a sure bulwark for him in all temptations. Thirdly, comes the greatest of all the blessings, And My God. For GOD is the Supreme Good (St Bernard), and He will be our GOD when we see Him as He is. And why, seeing that it is so, do we not find our GOD, but my GOD written here? Because in creation, in redemption, and other general bounties, He is GOD of all; but His elect, each one of them, have Him for their very own in all their temptations, for so ready is He to lift up the falling, and deliver the fugitive, that it seems as though He quitted all the others to help that one alone. Note, too, that it is said, I will trust, not, I have trusted, or, I do trust; because here the speaker makes a vow, a resolve, and fixes his intention to persevere.

3 For he shall deliver thee from the snare of the hunter: and from the noisome pestilence.

The hunter. Are we then beasts? Truly so, for “man will not abide in honour (St Bernard), seeing he may be compared unto the beasts that perish” (Ps 49:12). Men are beasts, straying sheep, having no shepherd. And who are the hunters? Evil and wicked ones, most crafty and cruel, hunters who do not sound a horn, lest they should be heard, but “privily shoot at him that is perfect” (Ps 64:4). They are the rulers of the darkness of this world. Now that we know the hunters and the beasts, we must inquire what is the snare. The Apostle will show it to us, for he knoweth the thoughts of these hunters, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare” (1 Tim 6:9). Are the riches of this world, then, the devil’s snare? Alas! how few we find, who rejoice in being delivered from such a snare, how many that grieve because they think themselves too little enmeshed, (Augustine) and strive with all their might to involve and entangle themselves therein! The devil and his angels set their snares, but men who walk in CHRIST walk far from such snares. For Satan does not lay a snare in CHRIST, he sets it all around the way, but not on the way. Let CHRIST be thy way, and thou shalt not fall into the snare of the devil. Go not to left or right, but keep in the straight road, and thou shalt avoid the traps on either side. There are many snares which the hunters lay for us besides riches. The reward of honours, says a Saint, the height of power (St Ambrose), the delicacy of diet, and the beauty of an harlot, are the devil’s snares:

The close pursuers’ busy hands do plant
Snares in thy substance; snares attend thy want;*
Snares in thy credit, snares in thy disgrace;
Snares in thy high estate, snares in thy base;
Snares tuck thy bed, and snares surround thy board;
Snares watch thy thoughts, and snares attack thy word;
Snares in thy quiet, snares in thy commotion;
Snares in thy diet, snares in thy devotion;
Snares lurk in thy resolves, snares in thy doubt;
Snares lurk within thy heart, and snares without;
Snares are above thy head, and snares beneath;
Snares in thy sickness, snares are in thy death.
Oh! if these purlieus be so full of danger,
Great GOD of hearts, the world’s sole sovereign ranger,
Preserve Thy deer; and let my soul be blest
In Thy safe forest, where I seek for rest:
Then let the hell-hounds roar. I fear no ill,
Rouse me they may, but have no power to kill.

And so they tell of a favourite stag which belonged to an emperor (Cardinal Bellarmine), that it ranged safely about, because it bore on its neck a collar with the inscription, “I am Cæsar’s, touch me not” (Pseudo-Jerome?). They bid us observe how the word hunter is nearly always used in a bad sense in Scripture, citing as special examples Nimrod (St Bonaventure), Ishmael, and Esau, while fisher is mostly in a good sense. (Ayguan) And we are seasonably reminded of those hunters who sought after the life of CHRIST (Cardinal Hugo), endeavouring to entangle Him in His speech, but vainly, because Eternal Wisdom delivered Him out of their snares. Cardinal Hugo sums up the points in which evil spirits and wicked men resemble hunters, as follows:

Ars, cornu, virus, equus, arcus, pallida vestis,
Decipulæ, laqueus, retia, tela, canes.

Skill, bugle, poison, steed, bow, raiment pale,
Decoys, snare, nets, shafts, dogs, make up the tale.

That is, they are crafty, they summon their companions to help them: whisperers, and panderers, and evil advisers of men are the bugle round the devil’s neck, wherewith he sends out his voice: they poison their arrows with evil suggestions: the horse denotes the pride of the flesh; the bow denotes legal subtilty; the pale dress, worn to avoid scaring the prey, signifies the way in which the devil adapts himself so as not to startle his intended booty too soon; the decoys, snares, and nets, are his various artifices; the shafts and darts are temptations; and the dogs, slanderers. And if we bear in mind that hunters lay snares for wild beasts, not for tame and domesticated ones, we shall know that it is only when we follow our own way, and are not GOD’S servants, that we are in any peril from them. And from the noisome pestilence. That pestilence is the epidemic of sin, not personal and individual only, but the general frailty of mankind, and the vices which at any given time are current and lightly regarded (De Muis). It has been taken literally of the plague sent when David numbered the people, and by those who date the Psalm in the time of Hezekiah, as referring to the destruction of Sennacherib’s army. But the Vulgate rendering, nearly identical with that of LXX., is from the harsh word. This they explain diversely (Augustine). Many take it of the threats and jeers (St Bruno), or flatteries, used to force or tempt innocent persons into sin; others of the blasphemies of heretics and infidels. S. Bernard, explaining it of the cry of hell for more prey, reminds us of that harsh word, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him” (jn 19:15), which the LORD bore for us, that He might save us from a yet harsher word, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Mt 25:42), an explanation which brings us back to the deepest meaning of noisome pestilence.

4 He shall defend thee under his wings, and thou shalt be safe under his feathers: his faithfulness and truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

The verse tells us of the continuance of the divine protection (Cardinal Bellarmine), for it does as it were say, Whilst thou art young, and no match for thine enemies, He will cherish thee under His wings, as the eagle or the hen cherishes her young; but when thou art grown, and able for combat, He will give thee a strong shield that will keep thee unwounded. In Holy Writ GOD is compared to two birds, the eagle and the hen. We read in Deuteronomy, “As an eagle fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the LORD alone did lead him” (Deut 32:11): and this denotes CHRIST the LORD in His strength and terrors before the Incarnation. But under the milder Gospel dispensation, where He appears as Man, we find Him saying, “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Mt 23:37). Under these wings we are safe from sun and storm, and from the wheeling hawk. (Augustine) When we see swallows, sparrows, and storks flying in the air, away from their nests, we cannot tell whether they have young, but we know the parent hen by the weak anxious cry, by the lowering of her plumage; she is wholly changed through her love for her chickens, because they are weak, she makes herself weak also. And because we are weak, the Wisdom of GOD became weak, for “the WORD was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14), that we might trust under His wings (Honorius). They explain these wings in several ways, as the two Testaments, the two precepts of the Gospel, the mercy and justice of GOD; but better than all is that lovely thought which sees in them the arms of CHRIST extended on the Cross (Cardinal Hugo), to shelter the nations from the heat and glare of sin, from the foul birds of prey that are ever hovering in the air. These are the wings in which there is healing, whereof the Prophet speaks (Mal 3:20, or 4:2 in some versions). With this accords that wonderful vision of S. Francis,* when he beheld a great figure as of a Seraph, with extended arms and conjoined feet, as though fixed to a Cross, and with six wings, two elevated above the head, two extended for flight, and two veiling the body; or, as the form of the vision given by S. Bonaventura runs, the form of the Crucified Himself appeared borne within the wings of the Seraph, and the stigmata of the Passion there beheld made themselves visible in the body of the Saint. The feathers will in this case denote the separate details (Honorius), the single sorrows, which in their aggregate made up the Passion of CHRIST; while if we look only at His Divine aspect, they may signify the Angel guard ever hovering around Him, and employed by Him as ministers for the protection of mankind.

His truth shall be thy shield and buckler. The LXX. and Vulgate differ a little from this, reading, His truth shall encircle thee. The word translated encircle is, however, a noun from a root סָחַר having that meaning, and probably here stands for a coat of mail, a rendering which avoids the mere repetition of the clause in English (see St Athanasius). The truth of Him Who never lies, observes a great Saint, is a mighty shield. That Truth is CHRIST, and His shield is the Cross (Cardinal Bellarmine), circled with which we are bold in every combat, and put every enemy to flight (1 Macc 6:39-41). This is the shield of Faith, which the Apostle bids us take (Eph 6:16), that we may therewith quench all the fiery darts of the enemy. This is that shield of gold which, when the sun shines upon it, makes the mountains glisten, and shine like lamps of fire (St Bernard). “And the grace of divine protection is not inaptly compared to a shield, because it is large and wide in the upper part, so as to guard the head and shoulders, but below it is narrower, so as to lessen its weight, and because the legs are more slender than the body, and less easily wounded, so that there is not so much danger of a wound there. In this wise CHRIST gives His soldiers for the protection of their lower part, that is, their flesh, narrowness and scantiness of temporal things, nor would have them weighed down by the abundance of such matters, but that having food and raiment, as saith the Apostle,* we should be content therewith; but in higher things He gives greater breadth, and abundance of spiritual grace.” (L.) This is the shield which is better than that one of the warrior Myrtilus, which saved him from such dissimilar perils:

εἰν ἑνί κινδύνους ἔφυγον δύω Μύρτιλος ὅπλῳ,*
τὸν μὲν ἀριστεύσας, τὸν δʼ ἐπινηξάμενος•
ἀργεστὴς ὅτʼ ἔδυσε νεὼς τρόπιν, ἀσπίδα δʼ εἶχον
σωθεὶς κεκριμένην ὕδατι καὶ πολέμῳ.

One weapon in two perils rescued me,
Once as I fought, once as I swam the sea,
When the white squall the ship’s keel sank, my shield
Delivered me; thus proved by flood and field.

5 Thou shalt not be afraid for any terror by night: nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 For the pestilence that walketh in darkness: nor for the sickness that destroyeth in the noon-day.

Under these four heads all the perils of mortal life,* at every time, are included. For the Hebrew division of the day and night was into four parts; the evening, midnight, morning, and mid-day (Theodoret). And perils themselves are classed under two main heads, secret ones, denoted by the dangers of the night; and open ones, which assail us as it were by day. And they are yet again classed in a different fashion by the commentators, according as they treat them as external to the soul, or arising within it. (Augustine) Thus the sins in the night are those of ignorance, those in the day are conscious and wilful, and are therefore spoken of in more forcible terms. The lesser sins of ignorance, the terrors by night, match with the lesser sins of knowledge, the arrow that flieth by day, while the grosser ones pair off likewise, the pestilence that only walketh in the darkness being thus contrasted with the sickness that actually slayeth in the noon-day. So the four phrases may also be taken of the varying methods of persecution employed against the Church by Pagan tyrants, from the threats and blandishments employed against imperfect Christians, easily diverted from the Faith by hope or fear, and not thoroughly knowing the gravity of such a fall, to the actual violence used against fully-matured converts. The original law of persecution, which simply ordained the penalty of death against such as confessed themselves Christians, was the arrow by day. But when the craft and cruelty of the heathen waxed greater, then was fulfilled the LORD’S parable touching those who received the seed of the Word in stony places, “and when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root they withered away” (Mt 13:6, 21), lacking the firm root of Charity. And this heat of persecution blazed out when the new rule was ordained that any one confessing Christianity should no longer be put to death at once, but tortured till he recanted and denied CHRIST. This was the demon of the noonday (LXX., Vulg.) which was so especially successful in the Decian persecution, wherein, unlike those which preceded and followed it, care was taken to have altars, images and incense ready at hand in the court, that the accused might be seduced or tempted into sudden apostasy, without having time to fortify their resolution. There is much more force in the LXX. and Vulgate rendering of the first clause of the sixth verse than in the English, by reason of the very vagueness of the word they use, the THING (πράγματος, negotio) that walketh in darkness, a term suggestive of formless dread, more terrible than anything which takes definite shape. (Cassiodorus) But the majority of both Greek and Latin expositors read it as meaning business, as something done with forethought and diligence, whence several take it to be the dogmas of heresy (St Bonaventure), or the deliberate fraud of hypocrites, while the demon of the noonday is either any audacious aggressor who does not condescend to cloak his violence, or Satan when he transforms himself into an Angel of light (2 Cor 11:14), as he did when tempting the Redeemer under the pretext of enabling Him to prove His mission. And in this sense, one who reminds us of the light and heat of noonday observes: Light pertains to discretion, and warmth to devotion. The demons, then, come to us with light and splendour, when they assure us, and strive to persuade us, that what we do at their crafty suggestion will be not merely wise (st Nilus, Eusebius) but pious. Again, whereas in hot countries the noontide is a period of repose and cessation from labour, the demon of the noonday is sloth, which goes on to ruin (LXX., Vulg.) by its temptations to lust, the true child of languid self-indulgence after the mid-day meal (st John Chrysostom).  A further exposition of S. John Chrysostom, who follows the usual typology of night and day as denoting adversity and prosperity. The terrors of the night of trouble are those things which have no real power to hurt, such as slander and reviling, more dangerous to him that utters than to him who is assailed, unless he by fearing and magnifying them gives them power against himself. The arrow by day is the far more perilous flattery, which begets pride and self-conceit. The thing which walketh in darkness signifies the real calamities and persecutions deliberately planned by evil men against the righteous, while the demon of the noonday means any great crime into which wealth and power tempt men to fall.* S. Bernard’s gloss is not very remarkable. He takes the terror of the night to be cowardice; the arrow, vain glory; the thing in darkness, ambition or avarice; the demon of the noon-day, as above, temptation to evil under the pretext of good. (Parez) Better than this is the view which sees here the four stages of sin; first, the secret thought, in the night of the heart; secondly, the resolve to sin, a walking in the twilight, drawing men on to the day of action; then the arrow, hastily and secretly shot,* the first rapid commission of the sin, not yet deadly, but capable of being drawn out in time; and then the demon of the noonday, when the hardened offender makes no attempt to disguise his guilt, but openly glories in it. Again,* the terrors of the night may well denote evil demons, and the fear of death; while the perils of the day refer to more tangible objects of dread. Finally, (Bruno of Aste) applying the whole passage to the sufferings of our Blessed LORD, they remind us how He was taken by night, and shot at by day (Gen 49:23). For the Jews shot at Him with their arrows, and sorely grieved Him, when they cried “Crucify Him, crucify Him;” the thing in darkness was the secret council of the Pharisees held by night against Him; and the demon of the noon-day was when the mad populace, instigated by Satan, dragged Him to Calvary, for it was the sixth hour when they crucified Him.

7 A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.

There are three different views put forward as to the noun to be supplied after a thousand. (Cardinal Bellarmine)  It may be the arrows, (Euthymius Zigabenus) shot in vain against the shield of GOD, or the enemies (Theodoret), routed with heavy loss, (Augustine) or the fellow soldiers of the heaven-guarded warrior. All three will hold, and yield a satisfactory meaning, although the last seems to have the most weight on its side. They raise the question why we find in the first clause only beside thee, and not at thy left hand, which is the obvious sense, and is supplied by the Chaldee. Some will have it that the left (Arnobius), as denoting the mere human power of resistance, the free-will of man, is unworthy to be specially named, when we are speaking of the grace of GOD, which guards us on the right, so that the just man has, mystically,* two right sides, and none given over to evil, which the left or sinister term denotes. And this notion is enforced by Eusebius,* who explains the Psalm of CHRIST, and says that the word left is purposely omitted, lest we should suppose any defect to exist in Him. The most ancient gloss on the verse now extant is found in the Apostolical Constitutions,* where it is cited as referring to the conversion of the Gentiles, but this does not seem to have commended itself to later expositors. (Augustine) That which S. Augustine and Cassiodorus adopt is to see here two classes of persons who will be disappointed in the Day of Judgment in their hopes of salvation, the thousand being those who hoped to be assessors at CHRIST’S side in His tribunal, the ten thousand those who looked for a place at His right hand in reward for alms-deeds, but who shall not come nigh to Him at all. But there is no clear contrast in this exposition, nor any adequate account of the difference of numbers. (St Bruno the Carthusian) Far better than this is the explanation that ten thousand temptations come in time of prosperity, denoted by the right hand, while but a tenth of the number assail us in adversity; but neither can come near him who trusts in GOD, near enough to win his consent and prevail against him. This explanation agrees with the first of the three views named above, for temptations are the arrows, but S. Bernard applies the same notion of the greater peril of prosperity to the third interpretation,* saying that many more persons fall into sin and ruin by means of wealth and power than do so in time of adversity; though in his commentary on this Psalm he gives a completely different exposition, taking the thousand on the left to be men jealous of the temporal wealth of the righteous, and the ten thousand on the right,* evil spirits warring against all spiritual well-being. Hence he takes occasion to remind us that CHRIST’S spear-wound was on the right side, to teach us that thence alone should we drink, there only seek a refuge; while men have their heart on the left side, denoting their preference for earthly things, and bear their shields on the left arm, in token of their anxiety to protect their temporal belongings, whereas the true soldier of CHRIST will be more anxious to guard the right hand side.  Parez brings us back to the notion cited from the Apostolical Constitutions, and takes the passage of the victory of the Apostles in effecting conversions, a thousand on the left denoting the temporal ruin of the unbelieving Jews, close at CHRIST’S side in kindred and country, but who shall not come nigh Him in His true Country; ten thousand, the far greater company of the Gentiles, smitten down from their idolatry, and placed first as captives and then as conquerors at the right hand of the SAVIOUR. And of such differences as these, between the temporal things denoted by the left hand, and the spiritual by the right, there was a type of old in the songs of the Hebrew maidens after the great battle in which Goliath fell, when they cried “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam 18:7).

8 Yea, with thine eyes shalt thou behold: and see the reward of the ungodly.

That is,* not only will no single one of all those hosts of enemies be able to reach thee, but thou shalt see their total overthrow, as a mere spectator from a place of safety (Agellius), while GOD Himself fights for thee, suffering them to come only just so near as to afford a distinct sight of their ruinous defeat. So Moses spake of old to the children of Israel: “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will show you to-day; for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Ex 14:13). And again, when the confederate hosts of Ammon and Moab came up against Jehoshaphat, almost the same words were used by the prophet Jahaziel:* “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD with you, O Judah and Jerusalem, and fear not, nor be dismayed; to-morrow go ye out against them; for the LORD will be with you” (2 Chron 20:17). In like manner the Christian Church beheld the ruin of her Jewish and Pagan enemies without any effort of her own, (Parez) and those who abide patiently shall see at the Last Day the overthrow of all forms of evil which seemed too strong for them in this world; (Augustine) while, if we apply the words to the Head rather than to the members, we shall explain them as meaning that He will behold with His eyes the secrets of all hearts (St Albert Magnus), and cause the universe to see the reward which He brings upon the ungodly.

9 For thou, LORD, art my hope: thou hast set thine house of defence very high.

There is a difficulty raised by most of the expositors as to the connection between the clauses of this verse (Cardinal Bellarmine, Agellius), because of the word thine in the last hemistich, which seems to them inappropriate to GOD or to CHRIST even as Man, Who cannot need a defence in the highest, seeing He is Highest already, albeit the Arians cited this text against the Catholics. But there seems no absolute necessity for any such distribution of the verse as makes the second thou refer to the righteous man who dwelleth under the defence of the Most High. For a refuge which GOD provides is His (St Bruno the Carthusian), not ours, except in so far as it is a gift to us, and the meaning may thus be that He has planted His city of refuge (which some take to be the Cross of CHRIST) so high on the Rock that all may see it, (Dionysius) and strive upwards towards it, but none come near to attack its citizens. And as the word art is not in the Hebrew, we may translate with Aquila and Symmachus, Thou, Lord, my Hope, hast set Thine house most high, which is also the sense of the Chaldee and Syriac. But the A. V., LXX., and most modern critics, who take the word עֶלְיו̇ן as the title of GOD Himself, the Most High, (τὸν ὕψιστον) and not as a mere epithet of His dwelling place, do require the verse to be read in two independent clauses, as addressed to different persons; and this is the sense followed by most expounders of the Vulgate, although its rendering, Altissimum, is ambiguous. The first strophe of the verse is thus sung by a solo voice, and the second is the response of the choir to the singer, congratulating him on his choice of GOD as his hope, and narrating some of the benefits of it. Some few, however, though accepting Most High as the title of GOD, make no break in the verse, but address it all to Him, saying: Thou hast made Thy Refuge, that SAVIOUR Who is the one hope of sinners, that Man in Whom the Godhead dwelt, (Remigius) Most High (Honorius), being a Name above every name, being Co-equal with the FATHER (St Albert Magnus). This comes to nearly the same as the most exact rendering, and fits in with that saying of S. Bernard on the passage;* that the soul whose hope is GOD, and not merely in GOD, can be satisfied with nothing save Himself, and does not want, like Peter, to make Him a tabernacle on earth, nor like Mary Magdalene, merely to touch His feet here, but to clasp Himself for ever.* The Acts of S. Afra tell us how she hoped for Him, how she set her house of defence in the Most High. “Gaius the Judge said, ‘Go up to the Capitol, and sacrifice.’ Afra answered: ‘CHRIST is my Capitol, Whom I have before mine eyes: to Him I daily confess my sins and wickedness. And because I am unworthy to offer sacrifice to Him, I desire to sacrifice myself for His Name, that the body wherein I have sinned may be cleansed as it suffers punishment.’ Gaius the Judge said, ‘As I hear thou art a harlot, sacrifice, because thou hast nought to do with the GOD of Christians.’ Afra answered: ‘My LORD JESUS CHRIST hath said that He came down from heaven for sinners. For His Gospels bear witness that a harlot washed His feet with her tears, and received pardon; and He never despised harlots and publicans, for He even suffered them to eat with Him.’ ”

10 There shall no evil happen unto thee: neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Herein we have a twofold promise, first that sin (Cardinal Bellarmine), the one evil thing, shall not touch the Saint of GOD; and next that the plague (LXX. and Vulg. scourge,) or chastisement for sin, shall not come nigh his tabernacle, (LXX. and Vulg.) But as in the case of David we know that the evil of sin did happen to him in most grievous fashion, and that heavy scourges were inflicted on him and his house because of it, they ask how this promise can have been fulfilled in his case, or in that of the countless other servants of GOD who have fallen into the mire of pollution. The answer is twofold: that the promise belongs to the next world, not to this; but has regard only to the “blessed necessity of sinlessness” in heaven; or, as this is hardly comfort enough for those who are sorely beset here, they tell us, that although Saints are not promised absolute immunity from sin, yet by Divine Providence their very sins are turned into agencies for their good, to make them humbler, more watchful, more penetrated with the love of GOD, as confessing that they owe so very much to His grace and mercy, and that the scourge of temporal punishment which He may be pleased to send upon them is scarcely felt by them, because they dwell in the tabernacle of devout and penitent contemplation, and accept His fatherly chastisement as the earnest of future glory, saying with the Apostle: “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation” (2 Cor 7:4). So, too, in the sufferings of the martyrs, (Parez) the scourges and tortures of the persecutors could neither avail to overthrow that tabernacle of the Church Militant whereof they were the valiant and faithful guards, nor yet, while destroying their bodies, could they reach or harm those pure souls in which the HOLY GHOST was pleased to tabernacle.

Applying this verse to the LORD JESUS, the King of Martyrs, they remind us that though no evil, no taint of sin could by any possibility touch Him, (Ayguan) yet He was scourged, and crucified, and done to death for us, and nevertheless, by rising again from the dead, He reassumed His Divine properties of impassibility and immortality, so that no temporal evil could touch Him any more.

11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee: to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee in their hands: that thou hurt not thy foot against a stone.

This is the passage, famous for evermore in the spiritual history of man, as that wherewith the Tempter vainly essayed to delude the Redeemer of mankind. And yet, as S. Thomas Aquinas points out (Summa. 1, cxiii. 4), he showed his ignorance even more than his craft, since the LORD JESUS hath no need of the guardianship of Angels, seeing that He is Himself their strength and stay, “upholding all things by the Word of His power” (Heb 1:3); and that even in His mortal condition, He was not tended by any guardian Angel, but supported by the union of the Eternal Wisdom with His human nature in one Person. Wherefore, by the almost general consent of the greatest Christian saints and doctors, we may not interpret this passage directly of the LORD JESUS Himself, but only of those members whose Head He is. But to us, as to the Jewish Church, the passage speaks of that special Providence of GOD whereby He entrusts each one of us to the care of a particular guardian angel (Dan 10:13) while He sets yet mightier spirits over whole nations of the earth. Each one of us, observes Origen, even the least in the Church of GOD (Origen), has beside him a good angel, an angel of the LORD, to rule, to move, to direct him, and who, to amend our doings (St Hieronymous), and to ask for mercies on our behalf, daily seeth the face of our FATHER which is in heaven. Great is the dignity of souls (St Bernard), comments another Father, in that each has from the beginning of its nativity an angel appointed for its guard. O wonderful condescension, exclaims S. Bernard, and truly great tenderness of love! who is it that hath given charge, to whom is the charge given, concerning what person, and what is the charge itself? It is the Supreme Majesty Who hath given charge to His own angels, those exalted and happy beings ever abiding closest to Himself, as His peculiar servants, and that charge concerning thee. Who art thou? “What is man that Thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that Thou visitest him?” (Ps 8:4) Just as though man were not corruption, and the son of man a worm. What thinkest thou is His charge concerning thee? to keep thee. What reverence ought this phrase to inspire in thee, what devotion ought it to bring thee, what confidence bestow on thee! Reverence for the angel’s presence, devoutness for his good-will, confidence for his safeguard. Walk heedfully, as one with whom the angels are present, as is commanded thee, in all thy ways. In every lodging, in every corner, show reverence for thine angel (St Bernard). Dare not aught when he is present, which thou wouldest not dare in my sight. What then means in all thy ways? There are many ways, many kinds of ways, great peril to the wayfarer. How readily may he who lacks knowledge of the ways err in his road where many ways meet! For GOD hath not given His angels charge to keep us in all ways, but in all our ways. Let us imagine then what are our ways, what are the ways of evil spirits, what those of blessed spirits, and what are the ways of the LORD. The ways of the sons of Adam are occupied in need and longing, the one driving, the other dragging us on. The ways of the evil ones are presumption and obstinacy, and the four steps of descent by which we may fall into these ways are self-flattery, self-ignorance, self-excuse, and contempt of rebuke. The ways of the holy angels are simply told, and that by the Only-Begotten, saying, “Ye shall see the angels of GOD ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (Jn 1:51). They ascend for their own sakes, in contemplation; they descend for our sakes, in compassion. And of His own ways we read, “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth” (Ps 25:10). To these ways the angels conform themselves, to mercy when they help us, to truth when they seek to know more of Him. And we can imitate them too, making them our own, showing mercy on our own souls by penitence, and our regard for truth by confession of sin. Here our need and longing will find their satisfaction, and the angels will not remove us out of our ways, but keep us in them, making those ways to become first their own, and then GOD’S. And that is the meaning for us of that Eucharistic bidding, “Lift up your hearts.” And note that the word ways is emphatic, for the road of sin, or any place where no duty brings us, is not a way, but a precipice, where the angels are not charged to keep us at all. It is no way, but a ruin; and even if a way, it is thine, not His. They compass us about, unseen, though mighty, with horses and chariots of fire, as they did Elisha in Dothan (2 kings 6:17), they act as our deputies in prayer, as the suggestors of holy thoughts to our waking, and even our sleeping minds. So a devout servant of GOD says in a hymn endeared to countless thousands:

O may my Guardian, while I sleep,
Close to my bed his vigils keep;*
His love angelical instil;
Stop all the avenues of ill.

May he celestial joys rehearse,
And thought to thought with me converse,
Or in my stead, all the night long
Sing to my GOD a grateful song.

They discharge other duties besides these towards us. First (Dionysius), they remove obstacles out of our path: “I will send an angel before thee, and will drive out the Canaanite” (Ex 33:2). Secondly, they allay our trials: “The angel of the LORD came down into the oven together with Azarias and his fellows, and smote the flame of the fire out of the oven” (Dan 3:49). Thirdly, they help us against visible foes: “The Angel of the LORD smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred and fourscore and five thousand” (Isa 37:36). Fourthly, they present our prayers and alms before GOD, and pray in their turn for us: “I did bring the remembrance of your prayers before the Holy One” (2 Kings 19:35). Fifthly, they guide us in the way: “The good angel will keep him company, and his journey shall be prosperous, and he shall return safe” (Tobit 12:12, 5:21). Sixthly, they teach us our duty, and that at times by chastisement, as Gabriel dealt with Zacharias (Lk 1:19, 20, 28). Seventhly, they reveal themselves and GOD’S secrets, as the same Gabriel did for S. Mary, and Raphael for Tobit. Eighthly (Tobit 12:15), they ward us from sin: “Then the angels hastened Lot, saying, Arise, lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city” (Gen 19:15). Ninthly, they urge us to zeal in GOD’S service: “And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, saying, Arise, and eat” (1 Kings 19:7 Tenthly, they rebuke us for sin: “And an angel of the LORD said, Ye have not obeyed my voice; why have ye done this?” (judges 2:1-2)

That there is a special angel entrusted with the guardianship of each person (Ps 34:7), over and above that camping of the heavenly hosts around the righteous of which we read in another Psalm, is a conclusion which Origen draws from the words of those who said, when S. Peter, loosed from prison, knocked at their door, “It is his angel” (Acts 12:15): whence he argues that S. Paul must have had another angel, and so the remaining apostles and brethren. And a similar conclusion is drawn from the words of Jacob, “The angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads” (Gen 48:16). S. Basil the Great alleges that guardian angels attend only the righteous, and can be driven away from their post by the sins of their charge. “The angel of the LORD,” says he, “will encamp round about each believer in the LORD, unless we put him to flight by our evil deeds. For as smoke drives bees away, and a fetid smell banishes doves, so lamentable and fetid sin repels the angel of our life.” And he enforces this statement in another place by citing the words of the prophet, “I will take away her hedge,” which he interprets as a threat to remove the angel-guard. And S. Peter Damiani inclines to the view that the commencement of this watch over us dates not from our birth, but from our baptism. But the more general opinion is that already given, that every human soul has its particular angel, if not two angels, a good and an evil one, in continual attendance on it. Both these views are found in heathen writers, and a few examples may not be out of place. In the Orphic verses we read:

δαίμονά τʼ ἠγάθεον, καὶ δαίμονα πήμονα θνητῶν.*

The dæmon good, the dæmon ill of men.

Censorinus quotes Euclid, the Socratic philosopher,* and Lucilius, as both holding this view, and it will also be found in the notes of Servius on the Æneid.

The more common pagan view, however, is the same as the usual Christian one, that there is but one genius to each person, and that one favourable.

ἅπαντι δαίμων ἀνδρὶ συμπαρίσταται
εὐθὺς γενομένῳ,* μυσταγωγὸς τοῦ βιοῦ
ἀγαθός.

By every man, as he is born, there stands
A spirit good, a holy guide of life.

And Epictetus, rivalling, as is usual with him, the tone of Christian thought, observes in language which might almost be that of a Chrysostom or an Ambrose, “GOD has assigned to each individual man a dæmon, as his guardian, and entrusted him to this charge, who never sleeps, and cannot be deceived. For to what stronger or more careful protector could He commit each one of us? Therefore, when you shut the doors, and produce darkness within, remember that you can never say that you are alone, for GOD is within, and is your dæmon.” As regards the two rival angels, it is worthy of mention that this view is as old as the Shepherd of Hermas,* in which it is distinctly laid down.

And an old writer ((Opus Imperfectum) meeting the possible objection that there is thus an absolute equilibrium of force, leaving the human will practically unaffected,* teaches us that the bad angel cannot draw near so long as the good one is present to his sight, but that by GOD’S providence the good one is permitted to become sometimes invisible, in order to allow the other to challenge us to battle, and give us an opportunity of combat and victory, but ready to strike in if we begin to faint.

There is a very curious speculation of Origen as to this matter,* which deserves mention. It is that an evil spirit, when once fairly beaten by any man in a struggle, is not allowed to act as a tempter to him or others any longer, but is compelled to go into the abyss, and therefore that every spiritual victory lessens the number of our ghostly foes, and so far hastens the total overthrow of evil, by thinning the ranks of Satan’s army.

It is unnecessary to do more than refer to the beautiful legend of S. Frances of Rome, who is alleged to have been favoured with actual vision of her guardian angel, seeing him withdraw when she fell into voluntary sin, and return on her repentance; and on one occasion, when she had been called away several times from her prayers, and had resumed them only to meet with fresh interruptions, to have found the petition she had again and again commenced, written in her office-book with letters of gold, by no human hand.

They shall bear thee in their hands.* It ought rather to be on their hands, as the LXX. rightly translates it (Num 11:12), as nurses carry infants (St Bernard). And these hands are the twofold thought they suggest to our minds, the shortness of our trouble here, the eternity of recompense hereafter; or are their understanding and will (Bellarmine). This they do lest men should dash their foot, that is, their affective qualities, and especially love or fear, those two feet of the soul, against any stumbling-block whatsoever, by sinning through either of these. (Cassiodorus) And there are two especial meanings of the stone, on which they lay stress; first, that it denotes the Law, written on tables of stone, a constant stumbling-block to sinners; and next, that it is CHRIST Himself, the chief Corner-stone, for there were and are many who “stumbled at that stumbling-stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumbling-stone and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed” (Rom 9:33). We stumble against this stone whenever we sin against His precepts (St Bernard), or whenever we murmur at Him or are ashamed of Him and of His Cross. But if we be not so, happy are we in our journey, carried by such hands, whether here in our ways, or lifted up at the end of our mortal journey by the same holy guardians into our place of rest. Both these ideas are prominent in the old hymn to the guardian angel:

In each place and time of need
From the foe protect me,
And in thought, and word, and deed,
Evermore direct me.*

Teach, assist me, and incite
To endure temptation,
Guide me in life’s path aright
Till I reach salvation.
When I die, to soothe me speed,
Sweetest comfort giving,
And from every peril freed,
Bring me with the living
Heavenward to the courts of day,
Where, without cessation,
GOD is praised, and where for aye
Is true consolation.
(Salve mi angelice)

Of the LORD Himself, (Augustine) S. Augustine tells us He was borne at His Ascension into Heaven by the ministering of angels, yet that His feet, to wit, His Apostles, by whom He travelled into many lands, were still on earth, liable to stumble against the stony tables of the Law, until such time as they were filled with the HOLY GHOST, to give His grace and love, and to cast out the fear which was the one sanction of the elder code.

13 Thou shalt go upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet.

There is a tradition of great antiquity in the Christian Church that a particular evil spirit is appointed by Satan to make war against the soul of each human being,* and to thwart, as far as may be, the influence of the guardian angel. It is of victory over demons such as these that the verse especially tells us,* for, as a Saint observes,* the good angel is more ready to keep us in the right way than the evil one to cast us headlong into evil. Strength and violence are denoted by the lion, craft and venom by the adder and dragon.* And then comes in CHRIST’S promise to His disciples, “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions,* and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”* Closely allied to this meaning is that which sees in the creatures here named various forms of sin, which men overcome with the help of the angels; (Z.) and a third interpretation, more literally, sees a promise of such protection as was given to Daniel in the den of lions; for CHRIST, the Child who played on the hole of the asp, and put His hand on the cockatrice’* den, can give power like His own to the Saints, as He saith Himself: “In that day will I make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven, and with the creeping things of the ground,”* so that will come to pass which Eliphaz the Temanite spake,* “the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.”* The LXX. and Vulgate read as the four names, the asp and basilisk, the lion and dragon.* There is much variety of explanation, beginning with that of S. Irenæus, which is that the asp, erecting and swelling itself, and making men cold with its bite, is sin; the basilisk, or king-serpent, is death, once sovereign over the world; the lion is Antichrist, and the dragon Satan himself.* S. Bernard takes the asp or adder to be obstinacy, stopping its ears against wholesome counsel; the basilisk to be envy, or the evil eye, (referring to the basilisk’s fabled power of fascination;) the lion to be idle fear, excited by mere roaring; the dragon, with its pestilential breath, to be anger. The beasts also signify the four chief persecutions of the Church; first, that of those deaf adders or asps, the unbelieving Jews; secondly, that of heretics, signified by the basilisk; thirdly, the lion-rage of Pagan hostility; fourth, and worst of all, that of Antichrist. But the most usual interpretation is to see here one and the same enemy of souls,* described in fourfold manner,* according to the arts he employs for the injury of mankind, (Cd.) but in each and all, confronted and dismayed by that promise made to the Saints by the voice of the Apostle:* “The GOD of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.”

14 Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him up, because he hath known my Name.

Here GOD Himself begins to speak,* and counts up the blessings He hath in store for His faithful servants who love Him. The love of GOD, says a holy servant of His, gives liberty, drives fear away, feels no toil, looks to no merit, asks for no reward, refreshes the weary, strengthens the weak, rejoices the sad, nourishes the hungry, makes the fainting cheerful. And such love has its recompense from Him, for He is not loved without reward,* albeit He ought to be loved without looking for it,* for true affection, though no hireling, can never go away empty-handed. And the reward here promised is deliverance, and that, as the lowest grade in an ascending scale, (C.) from temptations and sorrows here in earth, and from the tyrannous bondage of sin, because just as selfish desire chains us,* so true love sets us free, and when our love is purest, and directed to the highest good, then we attain “the glorious liberty of the children of GOD.”* He does not stop short there, but sets on high (A. V.) out of the reach of enemies, so that no fresh captivity is possible to him that hath known His Name; that is, not its mere syllables, but its saving power, its wisdom, its loving-kindness, with close personal intimacy, knowing GOD as shepherd, friend, and Father; a knowledge whereof the Gospel speaks, “I am the Good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.”* That Name of JESUS was hallowed from all eternity, prefigured by them of old time, desired by the Prophets, foretold by the holy Fathers,* named by GOD, announced by the Angel, declared by the Blessed Virgin, witnessed to by the Martyrs, praised by the Confessors, foretasted by the Virgins, exalted by all Saints.

If thou but think upon this Name,*
Warlike array is put to shame,*
And thou shalt conqueror be:
Unto this Name be honour paid,
Which evil spirits, sore afraid,
Dread, and before it quail;
This is the Name which brings salvation,
The only certain consolation
To aid when sad hearts fail.

And that we may be assured hereof,* the LORD JESUS Himself, Who alone perfectly loveth and knoweth the FATHER, was delivered by Him from the power of the grave, and set up in the glory of the Resurrection.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: yea, I am with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and bring him to honour.

The fruit of the knowledge of GOD is a call in prayer,* and the fruit of that call is that the SAVIOUR will hear. How could any be heard that did not call, or how could he call, if he knew not the Name of GOD? Thanks be to Him Who revealed the FATHER’S Name to men, bestowing the fruit of salvation in the act of calling on Him, as it is written, “Whosoever shall call upon the Name of the LORD shall be delivered.”* He shall call upon Me, and I will hear him. This is the covenant of peace, this is the league of loving-kindness, this is the pact of mercy and compassion. GOD doth not say: He was worthy, righteous, and good, innocent of hand and pure of heart, and I will therefore deliver, protect, and hear him. Had He said this, or aught like it, who would not be afraid? O blessed law, which hath ordained that the mere cry of praying shall have the merit of being heard.* And now let us see what are the results of this hearing on GOD’S part, either as He heard His well-beloved SON, when “in the days of His flesh He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death,* and was heard,” or as He hears us now when the first loud cry of the prayer that SON taught us,* Our FATHER, pierces through the heavens and reaches His mercy-seat: I am with him in trouble; next, I will deliver him; thirdly, I will bring him to honour. These promises correspond to the history of those three most solemn days, Good Friday, when the LORD hung upon the Cross in grievous trouble; Holy Saturday, when He rested peacefully, delivered out of all His pain; and Easter Day, when He arose in glorious honour and strength from the dead. These three days are types of the experience of His elect, in the brief sorrowful life of this world, in the middle state of expectation, in the resurrection of glory with CHRIST. Observe too, that while all the other verbs in these promises are future, one alone is the present tense, I am with him in trouble, teaching us at once that He makes no delay when we are in need, and also that our sorrow is so brief as to be merely passing and instantaneous, having no future.* And how, asks S. Bernard, are we to know that He is with us in trouble? By the very fact that we are in trouble, for we could not bear it if He were not with us to be our stay and consolation. And therefore it is a very true sense of these words to see here, as some do,* a promise of CHRIST’S Incarnation, for “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”* And then, as Thomas à Kempis beautifully says:* “When any trouble comes upon thee, then CHRIST meets thee with His Cross, and shows thee the road to the kingdom of heaven, whither thou shouldest go.” And it may be noted that GOD does not speak to Job till after all his sufferings, and then comes to him to speak familiarly as friend with friend.* I will deliver him is not spoken now, as it was in the earlier verse, of mere temporal rescue, but of deliverance out of all the troubles of the world, and of salvation from the second death, even though the path of deliverance may be that of martyrdom, (A.) whereof one who attained the palm himself saith,* “As ye do battle, and fight in the combat of faith, GOD Himself looks on, the Angels too, and CHRIST is a spectator also. What lofty glory,* what happiness, to struggle in GOD’S presence, and to be crowned by CHRIST as Judge!” Not martyrs alone, but all His servants, even the humblest and most obscure, brought by Him to honour as kings and priests, shining as the sun in the kingdom of the FATHER, and that for no brief time nor with any imperfect splendour, for the closing promises are—

16 With long life will I satisfy him: and show him my salvation.

That is, as even the Rabbins saw,* with the unending days of eternity, with the full revelation of the face of CHRIST in glory, that Beatific Vision which is the everlasting gladness of ransomed souls.* Show us then Thy salvation, O LORD, and it sufficeth us. For he who sees it, sees Thee, since it is in Thee and Thou in it, and this is life eternal, that we may know Thee the only true GOD, and JESUS CHRIST Whom Thou hast sent.* Thou wilt therefore, O LORD, let Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word, when mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, Thy JESUS, our LORD.

Wherefore:
Glory be to the FATHER, the Most High; glory be to the SON, His salvation; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, the shadow of the Almighty.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

COLLECTS

Grant us,* O LORD, by invocation of Thy Name, to tread under foot the deadly poison of the asp and basilisk, that Thou mayest show us Thy salvation, and we be protected under the shadow of Thy shield against the snares of the spiritual enemy. (1.)
O GOD Most High, (D. C.) grant us, we beseech Thee, to dwell under Thy defence, and to abide in Thy protection, that Thy right hand may put away evil that it come not nigh us, and that the scourge of sin touch us not, but that at Thy command, we may be kept by the Angels in all our ways. (1.)
O GOD,* Who in Thine unspeakable providence dost vouchsafe to send Thy holy Angels to be our guard, grant that we, Thy humble servants, may alway be defended by their aid and rejoice in their everlasting fellowship. (1.)
O LORD,* Who hast delivered us from every arrow that flieth by day, deliver us also from every thing that walketh in darkness; vouchsafe also that we may pass the course of this night without sin or temptation of evil, and deliver us from all terror and dread which cometh to us from the devil. Through the mercy and compassion of Thine Only-begotten SON, with whom, &c.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 91

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 5, 2013

1. This Psalm is that from which the Devil dared to tempt our Lord Jesus Christ: let us therefore attend to it, that thus armed, we may be enabled to resist the tempter, not presuming in ourselves, but in Him who before us was tempted, that we might not be overcome when tempted. Temptation to Him was not necessary: the temptation of Christ is our learning, but if we listen to His answers to the devil, in order that, when ourselves are tempted, we may answer in like manner, we are then entering through the gate, as ye have heard it read in the Gospel. For what is to enter by the gate? To enter by Christ, who Himself said, “I am the door” (Jn 10:7): and to enter through Christ, is to imitate His ways.… He urges us to imitate Him in those works which He could not have done had He not been made Man; for how could He endure sufferings, unless He had become a Man? How could He otherwise have died, been crucified, been humbled? Thus then do thou, when thou sufferest the troubles of this world, which the devil, openly by men, or secretly, as in Job’s case, inflicts; be courageous, be of long suffering; “thou shall dwell under the defence of the Most High,” as this Psalm expresses it: for if thou depart from the help of the Most High, without strength to aid thyself, thou wilt fall.

2. For many men are brave, when they are enduring persecution from men, and see them openly rage against themselves: imagining they are then imitating the sufferings of Christ, in case men openly persecute them; but if assailed by the hidden attack of the devil, they believe they are not being crowned by Christ. Never fear when thou dost imitate Christ. For when the devil tempted our Lord, there was no man in the wilderness; he tempted Him secretly; but he was conquered, and conquered too when openly attacking Him. This do thou, if thou wishest to enter by the door, when the enemy secretly assails thee, when he asks for a man that he may do him some hurt by bodily troubles, by fever, by sickness, or any other bodily sufferings, like those of Job. He saw not the devil, yet he acknowledged the power of God. He knew that the devil had no power against him, unless from the Almighty Ruler of all things he received that power: the whole glory he gave to God, power to the devil he gave not.…

3. He then who so imitates Christ as to endure all the troubles of this world, with his hopes set upon God, that he falls into no snare, is broken down by no panic fears, he it is “who dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, who shall abide under the protection of God” (ver. 1), in the words with which the Psalm, which you have heard and sung, begins. You will recognise the words, so well known, in which the devil tempted our Lord, when we come to them. “He shall say unto the Lord, Thou art my taker up, and my refuge: my God” (ver. 2). Who speaks thus to the Lord? “He who dwelleth under the defence of the Most High:” not under his own defence. Who is this? He dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, who is not proud, like those who ate, that they might become as Gods, and lost the immortality in which they were made. For they chose to dwell under a defence of their own, not under that of the Most High: thus they listened to the suggestions of the serpent (Gen 3:5), and despised the precept of God: and discovered at last that what God threatened, not what the devil promised, had come to pass in them.

4. Thus then do thou say also, “In Him will I trust. For He Himself shall deliver me” (ver. 3), not I myself. Observe whether he teaches anything but this, that all our trust be in God, none in man. Whence shall he deliver thee? “From the snare of the hunter, and from a harsh word.” Deliverance from the hunter’s net is indeed a great blessing: but how is deliverance from a harsh word so? Many have fallen into the hunter’s net through a harsh word. What is it that I say? The devil and his angels spread their snares, as hunters do: and those who walk in Christ tread afar from those snares: for he dares not spread his net in Christ: he sets it on the verge of the way, not in the way. Let then thy way be Christ, and thou shall not fall into the snares of the devil.…

But what is, “from a harsh word”? The devil has entrapped many by a harsh word: for instance, those who profess Christianity among Pagans suffer insult from the heathen: they blush when they hear reproach, and shrinking out of their path in consequence, fall into the hunter’s snares. And yet what will a harsh word do to you? Nothing. Can the snares with which the enemy entraps you by means of reproaches, do nothing to you? Nets are usually spread for birds at the end of a hedge, and stones are thrown into the hedge: those stones will not harm the birds. When did any one ever hit a bird by throwing a stone into a hedge? But the bird, frightened at the harmless noise, falls into the nets; and thus men who fear the vain reproaches of their calumniators, and who blush at unprovoked insults, fall into the snares of the hunters, and are taken captive by the devil.… Just as among the heathen, the Christian who fears their reproaches falls into the snare of the hunter: so among the Christians, those who endeavour to be more diligent and better than the rest, are doomed to bear insults from Christians themselves. What then doth it profit, my brother, if thou occasionally find a city in which there is no heathen? No one there insults a man because he is a Christian, for this reason, that there is no Pagan therein: but there are many Christians who lead a bad life, among whom those who are resolved to live righteously, and to be sober among the drunken, and chaste among the unchaste, and amid the consulters of astrologers sincerely to worship God, and to ask after no such things, and among spectators of frivolous shows will go only to church, suffer from those very Christians reproaches, and harsh words, when they address such a one, “Thou art the mighty, the righteous, thou art Elias thou art Peter: thou hast come from heaven.” They insult him: whichever way he turns, he hears harsh sayings on each side: and if he fears, and abandons the way of Christ, he falls into the snares of the hunters. But what is it, when he hears such words, not to swerve from the way? On hearing them, what comfort has he, which prevents his heeding them, and enables him to enter by the door? Let him say; What words am I called, who am a servant and a sinner? To my Lord Jesus they said, “Thou hast a devil” (Jn 8:48). You have just heard the harsh words spoken against our Lord: it was not necessary for our Lord to suffer this, but in doing so He has warned thee against harsh words, lest thou fall into the snares of the hunters.

5. “He shall defend thee between His shoulders, and thou shall hope under His wings” (ver. 4). He says this, that thy protection may not be to thee from thyself, that thou mayest not imagine that thou canst defend thyself; He will defend thee, to deliver thee from the hunter’s snare, and from an harsh word. The expression, “between His shoulders,” may be understood both in front and behind: for the shoulders are about the head; but in the words, “thou shalt hope under His wings,” it is clear that the protection of the wings of God expanded places thee between His shoulders, so that God’s wings on this side and that have thee in the midst, where thou shalt not fear lest any one hurt thee: only be thou careful never to leave that spot, where no foe dares approach. If the hen defends her chickens beneath her wings; how much more shalt thou be safe beneath the wings of God, even against the devil and his angels, the powers who fly about in mid air like hawks, to carry off the weak young one? For the comparison of the hen to the very Wisdom of God is not without ground; for Christ Himself, our Lord and Saviour, speaks of Himself as likened to a hen; “how often would I have gathered thy children,” etc (Matt 23:27). That Jerusalem would not: let us be willing.… If you consider other birds, brethren, you will find many that hatch their eggs, and keep their young warm: but none that weakens herself in sympathy with her chickens, as the hen does. We see swallows, sparrows, and storks outside their nests, without being able to decide whether they have young or no: but we know the hen to be a mother by the weakness of her voice, and the loosening of her feathers: she changes altogether from love for her chickens: she weakens herself because they are weak. Thus since we were weak, the Wisdom of God made Itself weak, when the Word was made flesh, and dwelt in us (Jn 1:14), that we might hope under His wings.

6. “His truth shall surround thee with a shield” (ver. 5). What are “the wings,” the same is “the shield:” since there are neither wings nor shield. If either were literally, how could the one be the same as the other? can wings be a shield or a shield wings? But all these expressions, indeed, are figuratively used through likenesses. If Christ were really a Stone (Acts 4:10-11), He could not be a Lion; if a Lion (Rev 5:5), He could not be a Lamb (Jn 1:29): but He is called both Lion, and Lamb, and Stone, and Calf, and anything else of the sort, metaphorically, because He is neither Stone, nor Lion, nor Lamb, nor Calf, but Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all of us, for these are likenesses, not literal names. “His truth shall be thy shield,” it is said: a shield to assure us that He will not confound those whose trust is in themselves with those who hope in God. One is a sinner, and the other a sinner: but suppose one that presumes upon himself is a despiser, confesses not his sins, and he will say, if my sins displeased God, He would not suffer me to live. But another dared not even raise his eyes, but beat upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Lk 18:13). Both this was a sinner, and that: but the one mocked, the other mourned: the one was a despiser, the other a confessor, of his sins. But the truth of God, which respects not persons, discerns the penitent from him who denies his sin, the humble from the proud, him who presumes upon himself from him who presumes on God. “Thou shall not be afraid for any terror by night.”

7. “Nor for the arrow that flieth by day, for the matter that walketh in darkness, nor for the ruin and the devil that is in the noonday” (ver. 6). These two clauses above correspond to the two below; “Thou shall not fear” for “the terror by night, from the arrow that flieth by day:” both because of “the terror by night,” from “the matter that walketh in darkness:” and because of “the arrow that flieth by day,” from “the ruin of the devil of the noon-day.” What ought to be feared by night, and what by day? When any man sins in ignorance, he sins, as it were, by night: when he sins in full knowledge, by day. The two former sins then are the lighter: the second are much heavier; but this is obscure, and will repay your attention, if, by God’s blessing, I can explain it so that you may understand it. He calls the light temptation, which the ignorant yield to, “terror by night:” the light temptation, which assails men who well know, “the arrow that flieth by day.” What are light temptations? Those which do not press upon us so urgently, as to overcome us, but may pass by quickly if declined. Suppose these, again, heavy ones. If the persecutor threatens, and frightens the ignorant grievously, I mean those whose faith is as yet unstable, and know not that they are Christians that they may hope for a life to come; as soon as they are alarmed with temporal ills, they imagine that Christ has forsaken them, and that they are Christians to no purpose; they are not aware that they are Christians for this reason, that they may conquer the present, and hope for the future: the matter that walketh in darkness has found and seized them. But some there are who know that they are called to a future hope; that what God has promised is not of this life, or this earth; that all these temptations must be endured, that we may receive what God hath promised us for evermore; all this they know: when however the persecutor urges them more strenuously, and plies them with threats, penalties, tortures, at length they yield, and although they are well aware of their sin, yet they fall as it were by day.

8. But why does he say, “at noon-day”? The persecution is very hot; and thus the noon signifies the excessive heat.… The demon that is “in the noon-day,” represents the heat of a furious persecution: for these are our Lord’s words, “The sun was up; and because they had no root, they withered away:” and when explaining it, He applies it to those who are offended when persecution ariseth, “Because they have not root in themselves.” We are therefore right in understanding by the demon that destroyeth in the noon-day, a violent persecution. Listen, beloved, while I describe the persecution, from which the Lord hath rescued His Church. At first, when the emperors and kings of the world imagined that they could extirpate from the earth the Christian name by persecution, they proclaimed, that any one who confessed himself a Christian, should be smitten. He who did not choose to be smitten, denied that he was a Christian, knowing the sin he was committing: the arrow that flieth by day reached him. But whoever regarded not the present life, but had a sure trust in a future one, avoided the arrow, by confessing himself a Christian; smitten in the flesh, he was liberated in the spirit: resting with God, he began peacefully to await the redemption of his body in the resurrection of the dead: he escaped from that temptation, from the arrow that flieth by day. “Whoever professes himself a Christian, let him be beheaded;” was as the arrow that flieth by day. The “devil that is in the noon-day” was not yet abroad, burning with a terrible persecution, and afflicting with great heat even the strong. For hear what followed; when the enemy saw that many were hastening to martyrdom, and that the number of fresh converts increased in proportion to that of the sufferers, they said among themselves, We shall annihilate the human race, so many thousands are there who believe in His Name; if we kill all of them, there will hardly be a survivor on earth. The sun then began to blaze, and to glow with a terrible heat. Their first edict had been, Whoever shall confess himself a Christian, let him be smitten. Their second edict was, Whoever shall have confessed himself a Christian, let him be tortured, and tortured even until he deny himself a Christian.… Many therefore who denied not, failed amid the tortures; for they were tortured until they denied. But to those who persevered in professing Christ, what could the sword do, by killing the body at one stroke, and sending the soul to God? This was the result of protracted tortures also: yet who could be found able to resist such cruel and continued torments? Many failed: those, I believe, who presumed upon themselves, who dwelt not under the defence of the Most High, and under the shadow of the God of Heaven; who said not to the Lord, “Thou art my lifter up:” who trusted not beneath the shadow of His wings, but reposed much confidence in their own strength. They are thrown down by God, to show them that it is He that protects them, He overrules their temptations, He allows so much only to befall them, as each person can sustain.

9. Many then fell before the demon of the noon-day. Would ye know how many? He goes on, and says, “A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee” (ver. 7). To whom, brethren, but to Christ Jesus, is this said.… For the members, the body, and the head, are not separate from one another: the body and the head are the Church and her Saviour. How then is it said, “A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand by thy right hand”? Because they shall fall before the devil, that destroyeth at noon. It is a terrible thing, my brethren, to fall from beside Christ, from His right hand but how shall they fall from beside Him? Why the one beside Him, the other at His right hand? Why a thousand beside Him, ten thousand at His right hand? Why a thousand beside Him? Because a thousand are fewer than the ten thousand who shall fall at His right hand. Who these are will soon be clear in Christ’s name; for to some He promised that they should judge with Him, namely, to the Apostles, who left all things, and followed Him.… Those judges then are the heads of the Church, the perfect. To such He said, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor” (Matt 19:21). What means the expression, “if thou wilt be perfect”? it means, if thou wilt judge with Me, and not be judged.… Many such at that period, who had distributed their all to the poor, and already promised themselves a seat beside Christ in judgment of the nations, failed amid their torments under the blazing fire of persecution, as before the demon of the noon-day, and denied Christ. These are they who have fallen “beside” Him: when about to sit with Christ for the judgment of the world, they fell.

10. I will now explain who are they who fall on the right hand of Christ.… And because many have fallen from that hope of being judges, but yet many, many more from that of being on His right hand, the Psalmist thus addresses Christ, “A thousand shall fall beside Thee, and ten thousand at Thy right hand.” And since there shall be many, who regarded not all these things, with whom, as it were with His own limbs, Christ is one, he adds, “But it shall not come nigh Thee.” Were these words addressed to the Head alone? Surely not; surely neither (doth it come nigh) to Paul, nor Peter, nor all the Apostles, nor all the Martyrs, who failed not in their torments. What then do the words, “it shall not come nigh,” mean? Why were they thus tortured? The torture came nigh the flesh, but it did not reach the region of faith. Their faith then was far beyond the reach of the terrors threatened by their torturers. Let them torture, terror will not come nigh; let them torture, but they will mock the torture, putting their trust in Him who conquered before them, that the rest might conquer. And who conquer, except they who trust not in themselves?… Who will not fear? He who trusts not in himself, but in Christ. But those who trust in themselves, although they even hope to judge at the side of Christ, although they hoped they should be at His right hand, as if He said to them, “Come, ye blessed of My Father,” etc.; yet the devil that is at noon overtook them, the raging heat of persecution, terrifying with violence; and many fell from the hope of the seat of judgment; of whom it is said, “A thousand shall fall beside thee;” many too fell from the hope of reward for their duties, of whom it was said, “And ten thousand at thy right hand.” But this downfall and devil that is at noon-day “shall not come nigh thee,” that is, the Head and the body; for the Lord knows who are His (2 Tim 2:19).

11. “Nevertheless, with thine eyes shalt thou behold, and see the reward of the ungodly” (ver. 8). What is this? Why “nevertheless”? Because the wicked were allowed to tyrannize over Thy servants, and to persecute them. Will they then have been allowed to persecute Thy servants with impunity? Not with impunity, for although Thou hast permitted them, and Thine own have thence received a brighter crown, “nevertheless,” etc. For the evil which they willed, not the good they unconsciously were the agents of, will be recompensed them. All that is wanting is the eye of faith, by which we may see that they are raised for a time only, while they shall mourn for evermore; and to those into whose hands is given temporal power over the servants of God, it shall be said, “Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). But if every man have but eyes in the sense in which it is said, “With thine eyes shalt thou behold,” it is no unimportant thing to look upon the wicked flourishing in this life, and to have an eye to him, to consider what will become of him in the end, if he fail to reform his ways: for those who now would thunder upon others, will afterwards feel the thunderbolt themselves.

12. “For Thou, Lord, art my hope” (ver. 9). He has now come to the power Which rescues him from falling by the “downfall and the devil of the noon-day.” “For Thou, Lord, art my hope: Thou hast set Thy house of defence very high.” What do the words “very high” mean? For many make their house of defence in God a mere refuge from temporal persecution; but the defence of God is on high, and very secret, whither thou mayest fly from the wrath to come. Within “Thou hast set thine house of defence very high. There shall no evil happen unto Thee: neither shall any plague come nigh Thy dwelling” (ver. 10).

13. The Holy City is not the Church of this country only, but of the whole world as well: not that of this age only, but from Abel himself down to those who shall to the end be born and believe in Christ, the whole assembly of the Saints, belonging to one city; which city is Christ’s body, of which Christ is the Head. There, too, dwell the Angels, who are our fellow-citizens: we toil, because we are as yet pilgrims: while they within that city are awaiting our arrival. Letters have reached us too from that city, apart from which we are wandering: those letters are the Scriptures, which exhort us to live well. Why do I speak of letters only? The King himself descended, and became a path to us in our wanderings: that walking in Him, we may neither stray, nor faint nor fall among robbers, nor be caught in the snares that are set near our path. This character, then, we recognise in the whole Person of Christ, together with the Church.… He Himself is our Head, He is God, co-equal with the Father, the Word of God, by whom all things were made (Jn 1:13): but God to create, Man to renew; God to make, Man to restore. Looking upon Him, then, let us hear the Psalm. Listen, beloved. This is the teaching and doctrine of this school, which may enable you to understand, not this Psalm only, but many, if ye keep in mind this rule. Sometimes a Psalm, and all prophecy as well, in speaking of Christ, praises the Head alone, and sometimes from the Head goes to the Body, that is, the Church, and without apparently changing the Person spoken of: because the Head is not separate from the Body, and both are spoken of as one …

14. What then, my brethren, what is said of our Head? “For Thou, Lord, art my hope,” etc. Of this we have spoken, “for He hath given His angels charge over Thee, to keep Thee in all Thy ways” (ver. 11). You heard these words but now, when the Gospel was being read; attend therefore. Our Lord, after He was baptized, fasted. Why was He baptized? That we might not scorn to be baptized. For when John said to our Lord, “Comest Thou to me to be baptized? I ought to be baptized by Thee;” and our Lord replied, “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness” (Matt 3:14-15); He wished to fulfil all humility, so that He should be washed, who had no defilement.… Our Lord, then, was baptized, and after baptism He was tempted; He fasted forty days, a number which has, as I have often mentioned, a deep meaning. All things cannot be explained at once, lest needful time be too much taken up. After forty days He was an hungred. He could have fasted without ever feeling hunger; but then how could He be tempted? or had He not overcome the tempter, how couldest thou learn to struggle with him? He was hungry; and then the tempter said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.” Was it a great thing for our Lord Jesus Christ to make bread out of stones, when He satisfied so many thousands with five loaves? He made bread out of nothing. For whence came that quantity of food, which could satisfy so many thousands? (Matt 14:17, 21) The sources of that bread are in the Lord’s hands. This is nothing wonderful; for He Himself made out of five loaves bread enough for so many thousands,3 who also every day out of a few seeds raises up on earth immense harvests. These are the miracles of our Lord: but from their constant operation they are disregarded. What then, my brethren, was it impossible for the Lord to create bread out of stones? He made men even out of stones, in the words of John the Baptist himself, “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Matt 3:9). Why then did He not so? That he might teach thee how to answer the tempter, so that if thou wast reduced to any straits and the tempter suggested, if thou wast a Christian and belongedst to Christ, would He desert thee now?… Listen to our Lord: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Dost thou think the word of God bread? If the Word of God, through which all things were made, was not bread, He would not say, “I am the bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:41).  Thou hast therefore learnt to answer the tempter, when pressed with hunger.

15. What if he tempt thee in these words: If thou wast a Christian, thou wouldest do miracles, as many Christians have done? Thou, deceived by a wicked suggestion, wouldest tempt the Lord thy God, so as to say to Him, If I am a Christian, and am before Thine eyes, and Thou dost account me at all in the number of Thine own, let me also do something like the many works which Thy Saints have done. Thou hast tempted God, as if thou weft not a Christian, unless thou didst this. Many who desired such things have fallen. For that Simon the sorcerer desired such gifts of the Apostles, when he wished to buy the Holy Spirit for money (Acts 8:18). He loved the power of working miracles, but loved not the imitation of humility.… What then, if he tempt thee thus, “work miracles”? that thou mayest not tempt God, what shouldest thou answer? What our Lord answered. The devil said to Him, “Cast Thyself down; for it is written, He shall give His Angels charge concerning Thee,” etc. If Thou shalt cast Thyself down, Angels shall receive Thee. And it might indeed, my brethren, happen, if our Lord had cast Himself down, the attending Angels would receive our Lord’s flesh; but what does He say to him? “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Thou thinkest Me a man. For the devil came to Him with this view, that he might try whether He were the Son of God. He saw His Flesh; but His might appeared in His works: the Angels had borne witness. He saw that He was mortal, so that he might tempt Him, that by Christ’s temptation the Christian might be taught. What then is written? “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Deut 6:16). Let us not then tempt the Lord, so as to say, If we belong to Thee, let us work a miracle.

16. Let us return to the words of the Psalm. “They shall bear Thee in their hands, lest at any time Thou hurt Thy foot against a stone” (ver. 12). Christ was raised up in the hands of Angels, when He was taken up into heaven: not that, if Angels had not sustained Him, He would have fallen: but because they were attending on their King. Say not, Those who sustained Him are better than He who was sustained. Are then cattle better than men, because they sustain the weakness of men? And we ought not to speak thus either; for if the cattle withdraw their support, their riders fall. But how ought we to speak of it? For it is said even of God, “Heaven is My throne” (Isa 66:1, Acts 7:49). Because then heaven supports Him, and God sits thereon, is therefore heaven the better? Thus also in this Psalm we may understand it of the service of the Angels: it does not pertain to any infirmity in our Lord, but to the honour they pay, and to their service.… What the finger of God is, the Gospel explaineth to us; for the finger of God is the Holy Ghost. How do we prove this? Our Lord, when answering those who accused Him of casting out devils in the name of Beelzebub, saith, “If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God” (Matt 12:28); and another Evangelist, in relating the same saying, saith, “If I with the finger of God cast out devils” (Lk 11:20). What therefore is in one stated clearly, is darkly expressed in another. Thou didst not know what was the finger of God, but another Evangelist explains it by terming it the Spirit of God. The Law then written by the finger of God was given on the fiftieth day after the slaughter of the lamb, and the Holy Ghost descended on the fiftieth day after the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lamb was slain, the Passover was celebrated, the fifty days were completed, and the Law was given. But that Law was to cause fear, not love: but that fear might be changed into love, He who was truly righteous was slain: of whom that lamb whom the Jews were slaying was the type. He arose from the dead: and from the day of our Lord’s Passover, as from that of the slaying of the Paschal lamb, fifty days are counted; and the Holy Ghost descended, now in the fulness of love, not in the punishment of fear (Acts 2:1-4). Why have I said this? For this then our Lord arose, and was glorified, that He might send His Holy Spirit. And I said long ago that this was so, because His head is in heaven, His feet on earth. If His head is in heaven, His feet on earth; what means our Lord’s feet on earth? Our Lord’s saints on earth. Who are our Lord’s feet? The Apostles sent throughout the whole world. Who are our Lord’s feet? All the Evangelists, in whom our Lord travelleth over all nations.… We need not therefore wonder that our Lord was raised up to heaven by the hands of Angels, that His foot might not dash against a stone: lest those who on earth toiled in His body, while they were travelling over the whole world might become guilty of the Law, He took from them fear, and filled them with love. Through fear Peter thrice denied Him (Matt 26:69-75), for he had not yet received the Holy Ghost: afterwards, when he had received the Holy Spirit, he began to preach with confidence.… Our Lord so dealt with him, as if He said, thrice thou hast denied Me through fear: thrice confess Me through love. With that love and that charity He filled His disciples. Why? Because He hath set His house of defence very high: because when glorified He sent the Holy Ghost, He released the faithful from the guilt of the Law, that His feet might not dash against a stone.

17. “Thou shalt go upon the asp and the basilisk; the lion and the dragon shalt thou tread under thy feet” (ver. 13). Ye know who the serpent is, and how the Church, treadeth upon him, as she is not conquered, because she is on her guard against his cunning. And after what manner he is a lion and a dragon, I believe you know also, beloved. The lion openly rages, the dragon lies secretly in covert: the devil hath each of these forces and powers. When the Martyrs were being slain, it was the raging lion: when heretics are plotting, it is the dragon creeping beneath us. Thou hast conquered the lion; conquer also the dragon: the lion hath not crushed thee, let not the dragon deceive thee.… A few women in the Church have bodily virginity: but the virginity of the heart all the faithful have. In the very matter of faith he feared that the heart’s virginity would be corrupted by the devil: and those who have lost it, are uselessly virgins in their bodies. What does a woman who is corrupt in heart preserve in her body? Thus a Catholic married woman is before a virgin heretic. For the first is not indeed a virgin in her body, but the second has become married in her heart; and married not unto God as her husband, but unto the dragon. But what shall the Church do? The basilisk is the king of serpents, as the devil is the king of wicked spirits.

18. These are the words of God to the Church. “Because he hath set his love in me, therefore will I deliver him” (ver. 14). Not only therefore the Head, which now sits in heaven, because He hath set His house of defence very high, to which no evil shall happen, neither shall any plague come nigh His dwelling; but we also, who are toiling on earth, and are still living in temptations, whose steps are feared for, lest they fall into snares, may hear the voice of the Lord our God consoling us, and saying to us, “Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him up, because he hath known my name.”

19. “He shall call upon me, and I will hear him: yea, I am with him in trouble” (ver. 15). Fear not when thou art in trouble, as if the Lord were not with thee. Let faith be with thee, and God is with thee in thy trouble. There are waves on the sea, and thou art tossed in thy bark, because Christ sleepeth. Christ slept in the ship, while the men were perishing (Matt 8:24-25). If thy faith sleep in thy heart, Christ is as it were sleeping in thy ship: because Christ dwelleth in thee through faith, when thou beginnest to be tossed, awake Christ sleeping: rouse up thy faith, and thou shalt be assured that He deserts thee not. But thou thinkest thou art forsaken, because He rescueth thee not when thou thyself dost wish. He delivered the Three Children from the fire? (Dan 3:29-30) Did He, who did this, desert the Maccabees? (2 Macc 7) God forbid! He delivered both of these: the first bodily, that the faithless might be confounded; the last spiritually, that the faithful might imitate them. “I will deliver him, and bring him to honour.”

20. “With length of days will I satisfy him” (ver. 16). What is length of days? Eternal life. Brethren, imagine not that length of days is spoken of in the same sense as days are said to be long in summer, short in winter. Hath he such days to give us? That length is one that hath no end, eternal life, that is promised us in long days. And truly, since this sufficeth, with reason he saith, “will I satisfy him.” What is long in time, if it hath an end, satisfieth us not: for that reason it should not be even called long. And if we are covetous, we ought to be covetous of eternal life: long for such a life, as hath no end. Lo, a line in which our covetousness may be extended. Dost thou wish money without limit? Long for eternal life without limit. Dost thou wish that thy possession may have no end? Seek for eternal life. “I will show him my salvation.” Nor is this, my brethren, to be briefly passed over. “I will show him my salvation:” He means, I will show him Christ Himself. Why? Was He not seen on earth? What great thing hath He to show us? But He did not appear such as we shall see Him. He appeared in that shape in which those who saw Him crucified Him: behold, those who saw Him, crucified Him: we have not seen Him, yet we have believed. They had eyes, have not we? yea, we too have the eyes of the heart: but, as yet we see through faith, not by sight. When will it be sight? When shall we, as the Apostle saith, see Him “face to face”? (1 Cor 13:12) which God promiseth us as the high reward of all our toils. Whatever thou toilest in, thou toilest for this purpose, that thou mayest see Him. Some great thing it is we are to see, since all our reward is seeing; and our Lord Jesus Christ is that very great sight. He who appeared humble, will Himself appear great, and will rejoice us, as He is even now seen of His Angels.… Let us love and imitate Him: let us run after his ointments, as is said in the Song of Solomon: “Because of the savour of thy good ointments, we will run after thee” (Song 1:3) For He came, and gave forth a savour that filled the world. Whence was that fragrance? From heaven. Follow then towards heaven, if thou do not answer falsely when it is said, “Lift up your hearts,” lift up your thoughts, your love, your hope: that it may not rot upon the earth.… “For wherever thy treasure is, there will be thy heart also” (Matt 6:21).

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2013

This post consists of several sermons: number 60 on Lk 10:1-3; number 61 on Lk 10:3, used for a feast commemorating the Apostles; number 62 on Lk 10:4-7, also for the commemoration of the Apostles; and number 64 on Lk 10:17-20.

SERMON 60
On 10:1-3

10:1-3. After these things the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them two and two before His face, unto every city and place, whither He was about to enter. And He said unto them, The harvest indeed is great, but the labourers few. Pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into the harvest.

THE Holy Ghost by the mouth of the holy prophets commanded the ministers of the saving word of the gospel, saying, “Sound the trumpet on the new moon: on the solemn day of your feast.” And to the new moon we may compare the time of our Saviour’s coming. For a new world arose for us, in which all things have become new, as the very wise Paul assures us in his writings. For he says, “The former things have passed away: behold, all things have become new.” By the new moon therefore, and solemn feast, we understand the time of the incarnation of the Only-begotten, when a trumpet sounded loudly and clearly, even that which proclaimed the saving message of the gospel. For is not that a time which invites us to keep festival, when we were justified by faith, and washed from the pollutions of sin, and death abolished, which had tyrannized over us, and Satan ejected from his mastery over us all; and in which by sanctification and justification we have been united to our common Saviour Christ, and enriched with the hope of unending life and glory. These are the loud trumpet’s sounds, and they run not only through Judaea, like that law which was of old, but throughout the whole earth.

And this is pictured for thee in the writings of Moses. For the God of all came down in the likeness of fire on Mount Sinai, and there was a cloud, and darkness, and gloom, and the voice of the trumpet with a loud ringing sound, according to the Scripture. But the notes of the trumpet were, it says, few at first, but afterwards they waxed longer, and became louder and louder continually. What then was it which the shadow of the law signified to us by these things? Was it not this: that |273 at first there were but few to publish the Gospel tidings; but afterwards they became many? And Christ began the work: and having first chosen the twelve apostles, He afterwards appointed, it says, seventy others. And that, not as though those who had been already called to the honour of the apostleship had been guilty of any neglect, or been led into anything unbecoming, but because a great multitude was about to believe in Him. For not Israel only was caught in the net, but also the crowds of the Gentiles. For that the message of salvation would take possession of the whole world, the God of all declared by one of the holy prophets, saying of it, “Judgment springeth up like couch-grass in the furrows of the |274 field.” For like as the couch-grass springs up in the furrows that are left without cultivation, and takes possession of them, and spreads everywhere, constantly advancing onwards, so in an exactly similar manner has judgment, that is to say, the grace that justifieth the world as declared in the saving tidings of the Gospel, taken possession of every city and place.

Besides these twelve therefore, there were also seventy others appointed by Christ. And again a type of this was prefigured in the words of Moses. For at God’s command he also chose seventy, and God sent the Spirit upon those who had been chosen. And yet again, we find the twelve disciples, and these seventy also, indicated to us by the shadow of the law. For it is thus written in the Exodus concerning the children of Israel; “And they came to Marah 2: and the people could not drink the waters of Marah; for they were bitter. And Moses cried unto the Lord, and the Lord shewed him a tree; and he cast it into the waters, and the waters were made sweet.” Now Marah, when translated, means bitterness; and. is taken by us as a type of the law. For the law was bitter, in that it punished with death. And of this Paul is witness, saying, “He that hath despised Moses’ law is put to death without mercy at the mouth of two or three witnesses.” It was bitter therefore, and unendurable to those of old time, and was unacceptable on this account, just as were also those bitter waters. But it also was sweetened by the precious cross, of which that tree there shewn by God to the blessed Moses was a type. For now that the shadow has changed to the spiritual contemplation, we behold with the eyes of the mind the mystery of Christ, that lay hid in the types of the law. Although therefore the law was bitter, it has now ceased to be so any longer.

“And after Marah, they came, it says, to Elim.” And Elim again when translated means an ascent or increase. And what again was there at Elim? “Twelve wells of water, it says, and seventy palm trees.” For as we ascend to more perfect knowledge, and hasten onward to spiritual increase, we |275 find twelve wells, that is, the holy Apostles: and seventy palm trees, those, namely, who were appointed by Christ. And very excellently the disciples 3 are compared to wells, and the seventy, who were subsequently chosen, to palm trees. For as from holy wells we draw from the disciples of our Saviour the knowledge of all good: while we praise the seventy also, and, so to speak, call them palms; for this tree is strong-hearted, and firm of root, and very fruitful, and constantly grows besides the waters. And such we affirm the saints to be: for their mind is pure, and steadfast, and fruitful, and habitually delights itself in the waters of knowledge.

Therefore, to return again to what we were at first saying, the Lord “appointed other seventy.” But some may perchance imagine that the former had been dismissed, and deprived of the honours of the apostleship; and that these were promoted in their stead, as being better able to teach than they were. To remove therefore such thoughts from our minds, He Who knoweth hearts, and is acquainted with things to come, even as it were apologized, saying, “The harvest indeed is great; but the labourers are few: pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into His harvest.” For just as lands covered thick with produce, and broad and long, require numerous and able labourers; so the whole earth, or rather the company of those about to believe in Christ, being great and innumerable, required not a few teachers, but as many as would suffice for the work. And for this reason Christ appointed those who were to be the allies, so to speak, and assistants of the twelve disciples. They went therefore on their mission, being sent two and two to every city and village, crying, as it were, in the words of John, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

But observe this: that while He said, “Pray ye the Lord of the harvest to send forth labourers into His harvest,” He did it Himself. And yet Who besides is Lord of the harvest, that is, of the dwellers on earth, but He Who by nature and truly is God. “For to Him belongs the whole earth and its fulness,” as Scripture says: and He is the Creator of all, and its Fashioner. But inasmuch as it belongs to the supreme God |276 alone to send forth labourers, how was it that Christ appointed them? Is He not therefore the Lord of the harvest, and God the Father, by Him and with Him, the Lord of all? All things therefore are His, and there is nothing of all things which are named that belongs to the Father, which is not also the Son’s. For He also said to the Father, “Those whom Thou gavest Me out of the world, Thine they were, and Thou gavest them unto Me.” For, as I said, all those things that belong to the Father are declared to be, and are, the property of the Son, and He is radiant with His Father’s dignities. And the glory of the Godhead belongs to Him, not as a thing conferred and given Him by another; but rather He subsists in honours which are His by nature, as He also doth Who begat Him. And the wise John also affirms that we all are His, thus saying of Him: “I indeed baptize you in water: but after me cometh He Who is mightier than I: He [Who] shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost, and in fire. Whose fan is in His hand, and He will cleanse His floor, and will gather the wheat into His garner, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

May it be our lot then as rational wheat, to be carried into God’s treasure house, oven into the mansions that are above: that there, in company with the rest of the saints, we may enjoy the blessings which God bestows in Christ: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen 4. |277

SERMON 61 TO BE READ AT THE COMMEMORATION OF THE APOSTLES
On 10:3

10:3. Go: behold, I send you as sheep among wolves.

ALL those who praise the divine and sacred Word correctly, and without error, are, we affirm, the allies of the doctrines of truth, and its host teachers; well knowing how to guide whosoever wish to advance in Christ, rightly unto every good work, and to the life incorruptible, and to participation in the blessings bestowed upon us. Of these most wise Paul also declares, that they are “the lights of the world, holding the word of life.”

Now of these illustrious and famous men the divine disciples were the commencement, and stand foremost in order: for they had as a schoolmaster Him Who is the Giver of all understanding; and Who richly bestoweth His light upon those who love Him. For He is the true light Who illumineth the heavens, even the powers who are above; and delivereth from ignorance and darkness those also upon earth. And observe how He made the appointed teachers of all beneath the sun to be ready workmen, conspicuous for their earnest zeal, and able to win the glory of apostolic victories; preferring none of this world’s affairs to the duty of proclaiming their sacred message, and so bravely disposed in their manly mind as to be superior to all fear, and no whit terrified at hardships, nor alarmed at death itself, when brought upon them for Christ’s sake. For “go,” He says: and in this word “go,” He encourages them to be courageous; makes them eagerly desirous of saintly victories; establishes them in the steadfast resistance of all temptation; and permits them not to shrink from the violence of persecutions. For just as valiant generals, when the battle begins, and the enemy discharge their shafts, encourage those under their command bravely to resist the attacking foe, and to bear themselves manfully against the enemy; using such words as these; ‘Fellow soldiers, let none of these things that |278 ye see trouble your mind; we are not weak and inexperienced in warfare, but know well the ways of battle: we have coats of mail strongly made; armour and swords; bows too and darts: by exertion we shall purchase the victory; stoutheartedness will win for us a right glorious renown:’ so does the Saviour of all, if we may so speak, send forth the disciples against the hosts of unbelievers, saying, “Go; behold, I send you as sheep among wolves.”

What sayest Thou O Lord? How can sheep converse with wolves? When was a wild beast ever at peace with the sheep? Scarcely can the shepherds protect their flocks by gathering them into folds, and shutting them up in enclosures, and frightening the beasts of prey by the barking of dogs, yea, and even themselves fighting in their defence, and running risks to protect the more weakly members of their flock. How then does He command the holy Apostles, who are guileless men, and if we may so speak, sheep, to seek the company of wolves, and go to them of their own accord? Is not the danger manifest? Are they not set as a ready prey for their attacks? How can a sheep prevail over a wolf? How can one so peaceful vanquish the savageness of beasts of prey? Yes, He says, for they all have Me as their Shepherd: small and great; people and princes; teachers and taught. I will be with you and aid you, and deliver you from all evil. I will tame the savage beasts; I will change wolves into sheep; I will make the persecutors become the helpers of the persecuted: and those who wrong My ministers I will make to be sharers in their pious designs. For I make and unmake all things, and there is nothing that can resist My will.

And that this was the actual result, we may see in instances which really occurred. For the divine Paul was a blasphemer, and persecutor, more injurious and cruel than any wolf against those who believed in Christ. Did he then persist in this conduct? Did he continue to be a wolf even unto the end? Far from it: for he was called by Christ, and experienced an unlooked for change. He who in old time was a wolf became more gentle than a lamb; and preached the faith which once he persecuted. And a change so unexpected in its manner was the wonder of all men, and Christ was glorified, Who had changed him from a beast of prey into a lamb. And this the |279 divine Jacob had in his blessings before announced concerning him: “Benjamin is a ravening wolf: in the morning he shall eat flesh: and in the evening divide victual.” For the wise Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and, at first, he resisted those who believed in Christ like a ravening wolf; but when a short time had elapsed, a space, so to speak, as from morning to evening, he divided victual. For he taught and preached Jesus: and to those that as yet were babes in intellect he offered milk; but set before the full grown strong meat. In the morning therefore he eats flesh, and in the evening divides victual.

And thus much then briefly respecting the blessed Paul: but let us next discuss from a similar point of view the calling of nations. Let us see whether they too also were not at one time beasts of prey, and fiercer than wolves against the ministers of the gospel message of salvation, but were transformed unto the gentleness and guilelessness which are by Christ’s help. They too persecuted the holy apostles, not so much like men struggling with wolves, as like beasts of prey, raging savagely against sheep. And though they wronged them not, but rather called them to salvation, they stoned them, they imprisoned them, they persecuted them from city to city. And yet those, who thus acted at first, afterwards became gentle and guileless, and like the sheep which once they persecuted.

And who else accomplisheth all these things but Jesus Christ our Lord? For He also it is “Who hath broken down the fence wall that was in the middle, abolishing the law of commandments contained in doctrines; Who hath made the two nations into one new man; Who hath made peace, and reconciled both in one body unto the Father.” For that there have been joined unto the faith in concord and unity of mind and will, the savage in company with the gentle; the impure and sin-stained with the saints; those, that is, of the herds of the Gentiles with those of Israel who believed; the prophet Isaiah shews, thus speaking in the Spirit: “And the wolf shall graze with the lamb; and the leopard rest with the kid; and the bear and the cow shall graze together; and the ox and the lion eat provender together, and their young ones shall be with one another.” Consider, my beloved, and understand that those who were sanctified by faith did not |280 conform to the habits of the heathen, but on the contrary those who were called of the heathen conformed to them. For such beasts as the wolf and lion, the bear and leopard, are eaters of flesh; but those animals which are of a gentle nature, kids and lambs, and steers, feed upon grass. But those beasts of prey, he says, shall graze with these gentle ones, and eat their food. It is not therefore the gentle ones who have conformed to the habits of the savage: but, on the contrary, as I said, the savage who have imitated them. For they have abandoned their cruel disposition for the gentleness that becometh saints, and been changed by Christ, so that the wolves have become lambs; for He it is Who hath made them gentle, and united, as I said, the two nations unto a mind full of the love of God. And this of old the hierophant Moses cried out, saying, “Rejoice, ye nations, with His people; ascribe majesty unto God.” Let us therefore exalt Him and honour Him with praises because of the Saviour and Lord of all: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |281

SERMON 62 FIT FOR READING ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE APOSTLES
On 10:4-7

10:4-7. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes; and ask not the peace of any one by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace to this house. And if there be there one5 worthy of peace, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you. And in that house remain, eating and drinking of their things: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Change not from house to house.

THE prudent and skilful bee visits the flowers in every field and meadow, and gathering the dew that has settled upon them, so makes sweet honey. And Solomon leads us to imitate her conduct, saying, “Draw near to the bee, and learn how industrious she is, and how excellent is her workmanship. She is beloved, therefore, and praised by every man, and her labours kings and private persons employ for their health.” Come, therefore, and let us also, wandering, as it were, around some intellectual meadow, gather the dew let fall by the Holy Ghost upon the divine message of the Gospel, that so being enriched in mind we may bring forth the spiritual honey, even the word profitable and useful to all who thirst after the communication of the divine doctrines, whether they be noble and illustrious, or obscure and private persons in a humble rank of life. For it is written, “Good words are as honeycomb; and their sweetness is healing to the soul.” |282

Now these fair and good words, what else are they than those certainly which Christ spake unto us, making those who love Him skilful by repeated teaching in virtuous pursuits? For take here also as a proof of what I have said the sense of the passage just read to us. “Carry,” it says, “neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes.” Consider, I pray you, here again the nature of the pathway of apostolic virtue set before them. For it was right that they who were to be the lights and teachers of all beneath the heaven, should learn it from no other than from Him Who is the Word that came down from above—-from heaven: the fountain of wisdom and intellectual light; from whom cometh all understanding, and the knowledge of every thing that is good. What, then, He requires of them is, that in preaching to men everywhere the Word that He spake, and in calling the inhabitants of the whole earth to salvation, they should travel about without purse, or scrip, or shoes; and journey rapidly from city to city, and from place to place. And let no man on any account say that the object of His teaching was to make the holy Apostles refuse the use of the ordinary articles of equipment. For what good would it do them, or what harm, to have shoes on their feet, or go without them? But what He does wish them to learn by this command, and to endeavour to practice is certainly this, that they must lay all thought of their sustenance upon Him, and call to remembrance the saint who said, “Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall feed thee.” For He giveth the saints what is needful for life, nor speaketh He falsely where He saith, “Be ye not anxious for yourselves as to what ye shall eat, and what drink: nor for your body, what clothing ye shall wear: for your Father knoweth that ye have need of all those things. But seek first His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

For verily it was fitting and necessary that those who were adorned with apostolic honours, should have a mind free from covetousness, and altogether averse from the receiving of gifts, and content, on the contrary, with what God provides. “For the love of money is the root of all evils” as Scripture declares. They, therefore, in every way must be free and exempt from that which is the root and nourisher of all evils, and must expend, so to say, all their zeal upon their necessary |283 duties, not being exposed to Satan’s attack, us taking with them no worldly wealth, but despising the things of the flesh, and desiring only what God wills.

For just as brave soldiers when they go out to battle carry nothing with them but such equipments only as are suitable for war, so also it was right that those who were sent out by Christ to carry aid to the world, and wage war in behalf of all who were in danger against the “world-rulers of this darkness,” yea, and against Satan himself, should be free from the distractions of this world, and from all worldly anxiety; that being tightly girt, and clad in spiritual armour, they might contend mightily with those who resisted the glory of Christ, and had made all beneath the heaven their prey. For they had caused its inhabitants to worship the creature instead of the Creator, and to offer religious service to the elements of the world. Armed, therefore, with the shield of faith, and the breastplate of righteousness, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, they must prove themselves invincible antagonists to their enemies; and not drag after them a heavy load of things worthy of blame and condemnation: such as are the love of wealth and hoards of base gains, and eagerness after them: for these things turn aside the mind of man from that behaviour which pleaseth God, and permit it not to mount upward to Him, but humble it rather to feelings set upon dust, and earthly things.

In enjoining them, therefore, to take neither scrip nor purse, nor, moreover, to trouble themselves about shoes, He clearly teaches them that his commandment requires them to abandon all carnal wealth, and that His wish is that they should be free from every impediment in entering upon the duty to which they were especially called, of preaching, namely, His mystery to men everywhere, and of winning unto salvation those who were entangled in the nets of destruction.

And to this He adds that “they 6 were not to ask of the |284 peace of any one by the way.” But what harm would this have done the holy apostles? Come, therefore, come, and let us see the reason why it was not right for them to offer greeting to those that met them. Thou doubtless wilt say that it was because it might sometimes happen that those who met them were not believers: and that therefore it would not have been right for those who were ignorant of Him Who by nature and verily is God to be blessed by them. What, therefore, do we say to this? Does it not then seem an incredible supposition that this was the reason why they were commanded not to ask of the peace of any one by the way? For they were sent forth “not so much to call the righteous as sinners to repentance.” And how, therefore, was it not fitting that they who were about to enlighten all who were in darkness, and to bring them unto the acknowledgment of the truth, should rather use gentleness and great kindliness instead of roughly withdrawing themselves from associating with them, and even refusing to ask of their health? For certainly with other good qualities, gentleness of address becometh the saints, and greetings, provided they are made in a fitting manner. And, moreover, those who met them would, of course, sometimes not be unbelievers, but men of their own persuasion, or 7 who had already been enlightened, and to whom it would even be their duty to offer an acknowledgment of love by a kindly greeting.

What, therefore, does Christ teach by this? He does not enjoin them to be rude, nor command them to lay stress upon the not making salutation: such conduct He rather teaches them to avoid. But it is not a thing unbefitting to suppose that when |285 the disciples were travelling about among the cities and villages, to instruct men everywhere in the sacred doctrines, they might wish to do this, perhaps, not with haste, but, so to speak, in a loitering manner, making deviations from the road, and permitting themselves to pay visits, because they wished to see some one or other as being an acquaintance or friend, and so would waste prodigally in unnecessary matters the fitting time for preaching. With great industry, therefore, says He, be zealous in delivering your sacred message; grant not to friendship an unprofitable delay, but let that which is well pleasing to God be preferred by you to all other things: and so practising an irresistible and unhampered diligence, hold fast to your apostolic cares.

Besides this He further commanded them “not to give holiness to dogs, nor again to cast the pearls before swine,” by bestowing upon unbelievers their society in lodging with them: they were rather to grant it to such as were worthy of having it deigned them, by being sons of peace, and yielding obedience to their message. For it would have been a most disgraceful act for them to wish to be intimate with any who were still resisting Christ’s glory, and guilty of the charge of ungodliness. “For what part hath the believer with the unbeliever?” For how could those who had not as yet even listened to their words, but made their instruction, however worthy it was of being embraced, an occasion sometimes even of ridicule, receive them as meriting their admiration? So too at Athens some once ridiculed the divine Paul. For he indeed taught them “that God dwelleth not in temples made with hands,” being incorporeal and infinite, and That Which filleth all, but is contained by none: and declared that he preached unto them “Him Whom though they knew Him not, they imagined they rightly worshipped.” But they being given up to superciliousness, and greatly priding themselves on their fluent tongue, said in their folly, “What would this seed-picker 8 say? For he seemeth to be a setter forth of |286 foreign gods.” Seed-picker was the name they gave to a worthless bird, whose habit it was to pick up the seeds scattered on the roads: and in comparing to it the divine Paul, these foolish men were ridiculing the word of salvation then offered them.

Christ therefore commanded them to lodge with the sons of peace, and to eat at their cost, affirming that this was by a just decree; “for a labourer, He says, is worthy of his hire.” And therefore, let not any of those who acknowledge the truth, disregard or be careless of the duty of honouring the saints: for they bless us, when “sowing to us things spiritual, they reap of us things carnal:” and “the Lord also commanded that those who preach the gospel shall live of the gospel:” since also according to the law of Moses, “those who offered sacrifices shared with the altar.” And let those who are careless of honouring the saints, and illiberally close the hand, be assured that they are deprived of their blessing. But may it be our lot to be partakers of the blessing prepared for them with God, by offering to them as fruit whatever we possess; and by feeling pleasure in so doing; “for Christ loveth a cheerful giver:” by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen 9. |287

SERMON 64
On 10:17-20

10:17-20. And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us in Thy Name. And He said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. But in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

IT is somewhere said by one of the holy prophets, “Will the Lord God do anything without revealing the teaching thereof to His servants the prophets?” For the God of all made known to the holy prophets those things which were hereafter to take place, in order that they might previously declare them, that so they might not be disbelieved, when in due time what had been foretold arrived at its fulfilment. And those who will may see that what we have now affirmed is true, even from the present lessons. “For the seventy” it says, “returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us in Thy Name.” For first of all the twelve disciples had been appointed, holy and elect men, and worthy of all admiration. But inasmuch as, according to Christ’s declaration, “the harvest indeed was great, but the labourers few,” He further, in addition to those first chosen, “appointed seventy others, and sent them to every village and city of Judea before His face,” to be, that is to say, His forerunners, and to preach the things that belonged to Him.

And in sending them, He ennobled them with the grace of the Holy Ghost, and crowned them with the power of working miracles, that they might not be disbelieved by men, nor be supposed to be self-called to the apostleship: just as of old there were some who prophesied, “though they spake not out of the mouth of the Lord,” as Scripture saith, but rather vomited forth lies from their own heart. For God by the voice of Jeremiah somewhere also said, at one time, “I have not sent the prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken unto |292 them, yet they prophesied:” and again at another; “The prophets prophesied lies in My name: I sent them not, neither spake I unto them; neither had I commanded them.” In order, therefore, that men might not subject to such a suspicion those who were commissioned by Christ, He gave them power over unclean spirits, and the ability to perform signs. For when the divine miracle followed close upon their word, no form, either of calumny or of Jewish false-speaking, could find a place against them. For they were convicted of accusing them without reason, or rather of choosing to fight against God. For to be able to work miracles is possible for no man, unless God give him the power and authority thereunto. The grace of the Spirit therefore witnessed of those who had been sent, that they were not persons who ran of themselves, nor self-called to the duty of speaking concerning Christ; but that, on the contrary, they had been appointed to be the ministers of His message.

The authority, however, which they bore to reprove evil spirits, and the power of crushing Satan, was not given them that they might themselves so much be regarded with admiration, as that Christ might be glorified by their means, and be believed on by those whom they taught, as by nature God, and the Son of God; and invested with so great glory and supremacy and might, as to be even able to bestow upon others the power of trampling Satan under their feet.

But they, it says, in that they were counted worthy of so great grace, “returned rejoicing, and saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us in Thy name.” For they confess the authority of Him Who honoured them, and wonder at the supremacy and greatness of His power. But they seem to have rejoiced, not so much because they were ministers of His message, and had been counted worthy of apostolic honours, as because they had wrought miracles: but it would have been better for them to have reflected, that He gave them the power to work miracles, not that they might be regarded by men with admiration on this account, but rather that what they preached might be believed, the Holy Ghost bearing them witness by divine signs. It would have been better, therefore, had they manifestly rejoiced on account of those rather who had been won by their means, and had made this |293 a cause of exultation. Just as also the very wise Paul gloried in those who had been called by his means, saying, “My joy and my crown.” But they said nothing at all of this kind, but rejoiced only in that they had been able to crush Satan.

And what is Christ’s reply? “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” That is, ‘I am not unaware of this: for inasmuch as ye set out upon this journey, so to speak, by My will, ye have vanquished Satan. “I saw him fall like lightning from heaven.”‘ And this means that he was cast down from on high to earth: from overweening pride to humiliation: from glory to contempt: from great power to utter weakness. And the saying is true: for before the coming of the Saviour, he possessed the world: all was subject to him, and there was no man able to escape the meshes of his overwhelming might: he was worshipped by every one: everywhere he had temples and altars for sacrifice, and an innumerable multitude of worshippers. But because the Only-begotten Word of God has come down from heaven, he has fallen like lightning: for he who of old was bold and supercilious, and who vied with the glory of Deity; he who had as his worshippers all that were in error, is put under the feet of those that worshipped him. Is it not then true, that he has fallen from heaven to earth, by having suffered so great and terrible an overthrow?

Who then is He That hath destroyed his might, and humbled him to this misery? Plainly it was Christ. And this He announced to us in the words, “Behold, I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you.” ‘But, O Lord, some one may reply, behold already we rejoice in the glory and grace bestowed upon us by Thee: for we have acknowledged that even the devils are subject to us in Thy name. And how then dost Thou proclaim to those who know it, and have openly acknowledged it, “Behold I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions?”‘ Yes, He saith, I have carefully on purpose called you to the remembrance of those things which lo! already ye know, that ye may not be carried away with the ignorance of the Jews, who, not understanding the mystery of My incarnation, approach Me as a mere man, and persecute Me, saying, “Why dost Thou, being a man, make Thyself God? And yet it was |294 rather their duty, He says, to have known, that not “as being a man,” to use their words, I affirm of Myself that I am God; but rather that being by nature God, I have put on the form of a slave, and appear on earth as a man like unto you. And what is the proof of these things? “Behold, I have given you the authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions.” But it was not the act of a mere man, nor of one such as we are, to bestow on others an authority so glorious and admirable, as for them to be able to tread upon all the power of the enemy: rather it was a deed suitable to God alone, Who is supreme over all, and crowned with surpassing honours.

it is capable also of being explained in another way. For thus He leaves them no excuse for giving way to cowardice, but rather requires of them to be very hearty and courageous. For such ought those to be who are ministers of the divine word: not subject to timidity, nor overpowered by sloth, but preaching “with great power,” as Scripture saith, and bold in pursuing after those who are drawn up in array against them, and bravely struggling against the enemy; as having Christ to help them, Who will also humble the impure powers of evil under their feet, and with them even Satan himself. What man is there more powerful than “the world-rulers of darkness,” or than that wicked serpent and prince of evil? He therefore who “brake the heads of the dragons,” how can He be too weak to save them from the attacks of any of this world’s inhabitants “Not without benefit, therefore, did Christ proclaim to His disciples: “Behold I have granted you to tread on serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.”

But He also further benefits them by immediately adding; “But in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”: ‘Dost Thou not, O Lord, permit those who have been honoured by Thee to rejoice in their honours? And yet it is written of those who were appointed to the apostleship: “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance, and in Thy name shall they exult all the day, and in Thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For Thou art the glory of their strength, and in Thy good pleasure shall our horn be exalted.” How then didst Thou command them not to rejoice in the honour and glory which Thou didst Thyself bestow?’ |295 What can we say to this? I answer, that Christ raises them to something greater, and commands them to account it their glory that their names were written in heaven. For it is of the saints that God is thus addressed, “And in Thy book they are all written.”

But besides, to rejoice solely in the fact that they were able to work miracles, and crush the herds of demons, was likely to produce in them possibly the desire also of vainglory:—-and the neighbour, so to speak, and kinsfellow of this passion constantly is pride. Most usefully, therefore, does the Saviour of all rebuke the first boasting, and quickly cuts away the root, so to speak, that had sprung up in them of the base love of glory, imitating good husbandmen, who, immediately that they see a thorn springing up in their pleasure 12 grounds or gardens, tear it up with the teeth of the mattock, before it strike its root deep.

Even though, therefore, we receive some gift from Christ not unworthy of admiration, we must not think too highly of it, but rather make the hope prepared for us our cause of rejoicing, and that our names are written in the companies of the saints, by Christ’s gift, the Saviour of us all, Who, from His love to man bestows, with all besides that we have, this also upon us: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen. |296  (source)

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2013

Ver 1. After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come.2. Therefore said he to them, The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.

CYRIL; God had made known by the Prophets that the preaching of the Gospel of salvation was to embrace not only Israel, but also the Gentile nations; and therefore after the twelve Apostles, there were other seventy-two also appointed by Christ, as it is said, After these things the Lord appointed other seventy-two also.

THEOPHYL; Rightly are seventy-two sent, for to so many nations of the world was the Gospel to be preached, that as at first twelve were appointed because of the twelve tribes of Israel, so, these also were ordained as teachers for the instruction of the foreign nations.

AUG. As also in twenty-four hours the whole world moves round and receives light, so the mystery of enlightening the world by the Gospel of the Trinity, is hinted at in the seventy-two disciples. For three times twenty-four makes seventy-two. Now as no one doubts that the twelve Apostles foreshadowed the order of Bishops, so also we must know that these seventy-two represented the presbytery, (that is, the second order of priests.) Nevertheless, in the earliest times of the Church, as the Apostolical writings bear witness, both were called presbyters, troth also c ailed bishops, the former of these signifying “ripeness of wisdom,” the latter, “diligence in the pastoral care.”

CYRIL; An outline of this ordinance also was set forth in the words of Moses, who at the command of God chose out seventy, upon whom God poured out His Spirit. In the book of Numbers also it was written of the children of Israel, that they came to Elim, which is by interpretation “ascent,” and there were there twelve fountains of water, and seventy palm trees. For when we fly to spiritual refreshment, we shall find twelve fountains, namely, the holy Apostles, from whom we imbibe the knowledge of salvation as from the well-springs of the Savior; and seventy palms, that is, those who were now appointed by Christ. For the palm is a tree of sound core, striking deep root and fruitful, always growing by the water side, yet at the same time putting forth its leaves upwards.  It follows, And he sent them two and two.

GREG. He sends the disciples to preach two and two, because there are two command; of charity, the love of God, and love of our neighbor; (and charity cannot exist without at least two;) thereby silently suggesting to us, that he who has not love to another, ought not to undertake the office of preaching.

ORIGEN; Likewise also the twelve were reckoned by two and two, as Matthew shows in his enumeration of them. For that two should be joined in service, seems from the word of God to be an ancient custom. For God led Israel out of Egypt by the hands of Moses and Aaron. Joshua and Caleb also, united together, appeased the people who had been provoked by the twelve spies. Hence it is said, A brother assisted by a brother is as a fortified city.

BASIL; At the same time it is implied by this, that if any are equal in spiritual gifts, they should not suffer a fondness for their own opinion to get the better of them.

GREG. It is rightly added, before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come. For the Lord follows His preachers, since the preaching comes first, and then the Lord enters into the tabernacle of our heart; seeing, that through the words of exhortation going before, truth is received into the mind. Hence Esaias says to the preachers, Prepare you the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God.

THEOPHYL. The Lord had appointed the disciples for the sake of the multitude, who were in want of teachers. For as our corn fields require many reapers, so the innumerable company of those who are to believe need many teachers, as it follows, The harvest truly is great.

CHRYS. But how does He give the name of harvest to a work only just now at its beginning? the plough not yet put down, nor the furrows turned, He yet speaks of harvests, for His disciples might waver and say, how can we so small a number convert the whole world how can foolish men reform the wise, naked men those that are armed, subjects their rulers? Lest they should be disturbed then by such thoughts, He calls the Gospel a harvest; as if He says, All things are ready, I send you to a gathering of fruits already prepared. You can sow and reap the same day. As then the husbandmen goes out to harvest rejoicing, much more also and with greater cheerfulness must you go out into the world. For this is the true harvest, which shows the fields all prepared for you.

GREG. But not without deep sorrow can we add, but the laborers are few. For although there are who would hear good things they are wanting who should spread them. Behold the world is full of priests, but seldom is there found a laborer in God’s harvest, because we undertake indeed the priestly office, but we perform not its works.

THEOPHYL; Now as the great harvest is this whole multitude of believers, so the few laborers are the Apostles, and their followers who are sent to this harvest.

CYRIL; As the large fields require many reapers, so also do the multitude of believers in Christ. Hence He adds, Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest. Now mark that when He said, Pray you therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into the harvest, He afterwards Himself performed it. He then is the Lord of the harvest, and by Him, and together with Him, God the Father rules over all.

CHRYS. But he afterwards increased them greatly, not by adding to their number, but awarding to them power. He implies that it is a great gift to send laborers into the divine harvest, by His saving that the Lord of the harvest must be prayed to upon this account.

GREG. Hereby also the people must be induced to pray for their pastors, that they may be able to work what is good for them, and that their tongue grow not lifeless in exhortation. For often for their own wickedness their tongue is tied. But often for the fault of the people it comes to pass that the word of preaching is withdrawn from their rulers.

Ver  3. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. 4. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way.

CYRIL; Luke next relates, that the seventy disciples obtained for themselves from Christ apostolical learning, lowliness, innocency, justice, and to prefer no worldly things to holy preachings, but to aspire to such fortitude of mind as to be afraid of no terrors, not even death itself. He adds therefore, Go.

CHRYS. For their comfort amid every danger was the power of Him who sent them. And therefore said He, Behold, I send you; as if he said, This will suffice for your consolation, this will be enough to make you hope, instead of fearing the coming evils which He signifies, adding, as lambs among wolves.

ISIDORE; Denoting the simplicity and innocence in His disciples. For those who were riotous, and by their enormities did despite to their nature, He calls not lambs, but goats.

AMBROSE; Now these animals are at variance among themselves, so that the one is devoured by the other, the lambs by the wolves; but the good Shepherd has no fear of wolves for His flock. And therefore the disciples are appointed not to make prey, but to impart grace. For the watchfulness of the good Shepherd causes the wolves to attempt nothing against the lambs; He sends them as lambs amid wolves that that prophecy might be fulfilled, The wolf and the I lamb shall feed together.

CHRYS. For this was a clear announcement of glorious triumph, that the disciples of Christ, when surrounded by their enemies as lambs among wolves, should still convert them.

THEOPHYL; Or He especially gives the name of wolves to the Scribes and Pharisees, who are the Jewish clergy.

AMBROSE; Or the heretics are compared to wolves. For wolves are beasts who lay in wait near the sheep folds, and prowl about the shepherds’ cottages. They dare not enter the abodes of men, they pry out sleeping dogs, absent or slothful shepherds; they seize the sheep by the throat, that they may quickly strangle them; ravenous beasts, with bodies so stiff that they cannot easily turn themselves, but are carried along by their own impetus, and so are often deceived. If they are the first to see a man, it is said, they by a certain natural impulse, tear out his voice; but if a man first sees them, they quake with fear. In like manner the heretics lurk about Christ’s sheep folds, howl near the cottages at night time.

For night is the time for the treacherous who obscure the light of Christ with the mists of false interpretation. The inns of Christ, however, they dare not enter, and therefore are not healed, as he was as in an inn who fell among thieves. They look out for the shepherds’ absence, for they can not attack the sheep when the shepherds are by. Owing also to the inflexibility of a hard and obstinate mind, they seldom if ever turn from their error, while Christ the true interpreter of Scripture mocks them, so that they went forth their violence in vain, and are not able to hurt; and if they overtake any one by the subtle trickery of their disputations, they make him dumb.

For he is dumb who confesses not the word of God with the glory which belongs to it. Beware then lest the heretic deprive you of your voice, and lest you detect him not first. For he is creeping on while his treachery is disguised. But if you have discovered his unholy desires, you can not fear the loss of a holy voice. They attack the throat, they wound the vitals while they seek the soul. If also you hear any one called a priest, and you know his robberies, outwardly he is a sheep, inwardly a wolf, who is longing to gratify his rage with the insatiable cruelty of human murder.

GREG. For many when they receive the right of rule, are vehement in persecuting their subjects, and manifesting the terrors of their power. And since they have no bowels of mercy, their desire is to seem to be masters, forgetting altogether that they are fathers, changing an occasion for humility, into an exaltation of power. We must on the other hand consider, that as lambs are sent among wolves because they preserve the feeling of innocence, so we should make no malicious attacks. For he who undertakes the office of preacher ought not to bring evils upon others, but to endure them; who although at times an upright zeal demands that he should deal harshly with his subjects, should still inwardly in his heart love with a fatherly feeling those whom outwardly he visits with censure.

And that ruler gives a good example of this, who never submits the neck of his soul to the yoke of earthly desire. Hence it is added, Carry neither purse nor scrip.

GREG. NAZ. The sum of which is, that men ought to be so virtuous that the Gospel should make no less progress through their way of life than their preaching.

GREG. For the preacher (of the Gospel) ought to have such trust in God, that although he has provided not for the expenses of this present life, he should still be most certainly convinced that these will not fail him; lest while his mind is engaged in His temporal things, he should be less careful for the spiritual things of others.

CYRIL; Thus He had already commanded them to have no care for these persons, when He said, I send you as lambs among wolves. And He also forbade all care about what is external to the body, by saying, Take neither purse nor scrip. Nor did He allow men to take with them any of those things which were not attached to the body. Hence He adds, Nor shoes. He not only forbade them to take purse and scrip, but He did not allow them to receive any distraction in their work, such as interruption by greetings on their way. Hence He adds, Salute no one by the way. Which had long ago been said by Elisha. As if He said, Proceed straight on to your work without exchanging blessings with others. For it is a loss to waste the time which is fitter for preaching, in unnecessary things.

AMBROSE; Our Lord did not then forbid these things because the exercise of benevolence was displeasing to Him, but because the motive of following after devotedness was more pleasing.

GREG. NAZ. The Lord gave them these commands also for the glory of the word, lest it should seem that enticements could more prevail over them. He wished them also not to be anxious to speak to others.

GREG. If any one would have these words taken also allegorically, the money shut up in a purse is the hidden wisdom. He then who has the word of wisdom, and neglects to employ it for his neighbor, is like one who keeps his money tied up in his purse. But by the scrip is meant the troubles of the world, by the shoes (made of the skins of dead animals) are signified the examples of dead works. He then who undertakes the office of preacher ought not to bear the burden of business, lest while this presses down his neck he should not rise to the preaching of heavenly things; nor ought he to behold the example of foolish works, lest he think to shield his own works as by dead skins, that is, lest because he observes that others have done these things, he imagine that he also is at liberty to do the same.

AMBROSE; Our Lord also would have nothing human in us. For Moses is bid to loose off the human and earthly shoe when he was sent to deliver the people. But if any one is perplexed why in Egypt we are ordered to eat the lamb with shoes on, but the Apostles are appointed to preach the Gospel without shoes: he must consider, that one in Egypt ought still to beware of the serpent’s bite, for there were many poisonous creatures in Egypt. And he who celebrates the Passover in figure may be exposed to the wound, but the minister of truth fears no poison.

GREG. Now every one who salutes on the way does so from the accident of the journey, not for the sake of wishing health. He then who not from love of a heavenly country, but from seeking reward, preaches salvation to his hearers, does as it were salute on the journey, since accidentally, not from any fixed intention, he desires the salvation of his hearers.

Ver  5. And into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house.6. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again.7. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give; for the laborer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.8. And into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you:9. And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come nigh to you.10. But into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say,11. Even the very dust of your city, which cleaves on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh to you.12. But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.

CHRYS. Peace is the mother of all good things, without it all other things are vain. Our Lord therefore commanded His is disciples on entering a house first to pronounce peace as a sign of good things, saying, Into whatever house you enter, first say, Peace be to this house.

AMBROSE; That in truth we should convey the message of peace, and that our very first entrance be attended with the blessing of peace.

CHRYS. And hence he who presides in the Church gives it, saying, Peace to all. Now holy men ask for peace, not only that which dwells among men in mutual intercourse, but that which belongs to ourselves. For oftentimes we wage war in our hearts, and are disturbed even when no one troubles us; bad desires also frequently rise up against us.

TIT. BOS. But it is said, Peace be to this house, that is, to them that dwell in the house. As if he says, I speak to all, both the greater and the less, yet should not your salutation be addressed to them that are unworthy of it. Hence it is added, And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it. As if he says, You indeed shall utter the word, but the blessing of peace shall be applied wherever I shall deem men worthy of it. But if any one is not worthy, you are not mocked, the grace of your word has not perished, but is returned to you. And this is what is added, But if not, it shall return to you again.

GREG. For the peace which is offered by the mouth of the preacher shall either rest on the house, if there be any one in it predestined to life, who follows the heavenly word which he hears; or if no one be willing indeed to hear, the preacher himself shall not be without fruit, for the peace returns to him, while the Lord gives him the recompense of reward for the labor of his work. But if our peace is received, it is meet that we should obtain earthly supplies from those to whom we offer the rewards of a heavenly country.

Hence it follows: And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give. Mark, that He who forbade them to carry purse and scrip, allows them to be an expense to others, and to receive sustenance from preaching.

CHRYS. But lest any one should say, I am spending my own property in preparing a table for strangers, He first makes them offer the gift of peace, to which nothing is equal, that you may know that you receive greater things than you give.

TIT. BOST. Or else; Since you are not appointed Judges as to who are worthy and who are unworthy, eat and drink what things they offer to you. But leave to me the trial of those who receive you, unless you happen also to know that the son of peace is not there, for perhaps in that case you ought to depart.

THEOPHYL. See then how He taught His disciples to beg, and wished them to receive their nourishment as a reward. For it is added, For the laborer is worthy of his hire.

GREG. For now the very food which supports him is part of the wages of the laborer, as in this life the hire commences with the labor of preaching, which in the next is completed with the sight of truth. And here we must consider that two rewards are due to one work of ours, one on the Journey, which supports us in labor, the other in our country, which recompenses us at the resurrection. Therefore the reward which we receive now ought so to work in us, that we the more vigorously strive to gain the succeeding reward. Every true preacher then ought not so to preach, that he may receive a reward at the present time, but so to receive a reward that he may have strength to preach. For whoever so preaches that here he may receive the reward of praise, or riches, deprives himself of an eternal reward.

AMBROSE; Another virtue is added, that we should not go about easily, changing from house to house. For it follows, Go not from house to house; that is, that we should preserve a consistency in our love towards our hosts, nor lightly loose any bond of friendship.

THEOPHYL; Now having described the reception from different houses, he teaches them what they ought to do in the cities; namely, to have intercourse with the good in all, but to keep from the society of the wicked in every thing; as it follows, But into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.

THEOPHYL. Although they be few and poor, ask for nothing more; He also tells them to work miracles, and their word shall draw men to their preaching. Hence he adds, And heal the sick that are therein, and say to them, The kingdom of God is come nigh to you. For if you first heal and then teach, the word will prosper, and men believe that the kingdom of God is come nigh. For they would not be cured unless by the working of some divine power. But also when they are healed in their soul, the kingdom of God comes nigh to them, for it is far off from him over whom sin has the dominion.

CHRYS. Now mark the excellence of the Apostles. They are bid to utter nothing relating to sensible things, such as Moses and the Prophets spoke of, namely, earthly goods, but certain new and marvelous things, namely, the kingdom of God.

MAX. Which it is said is come nigh, not to show the shortness of time, for the kingdom of God comes not with observation, but to mark the disposition of men towards the kingdom of God, which is indeed potentially in all believers, but actually in those who reject the life of the body, and choose only the spiritual life; who are able to say, Now I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me.

AMBROSE; He next teaches them to shake off the dust from their feet when the men of a city have refused to entertain them, saying, Into whatsoever city you enter, and they receive you not, shake off the dust.

THEOPHYL; Either as a testimony to the earthly toil which they had in vain undergone for them, or to show that so far from seeking any thing earthly from them, they suffer not even the dust from their land to cleave to them. Or by the feet is meant the very labor and walking to and fro of preaching; but the dust with which they are sprinkled is the lightness of worldly thoughts, from which even the greatest teachers cannot be free. Those then who have despised the teaching, turn the labors and dangers of the teachers into a testimony of their condemnation.

ORIGEN; By wiping off the dust of their feet against them, they in some sort say, The dust of your sins shall deservedly come upon you. And mark that the cities which receive not the Apostles and sound doctrine have streets, according to Matthew, Broad is the way which leads to destruction.

THEOPHYL. And as they who receive the Apostles are said to have the kingdom of God come nigh to them as a blessing, so those who do not receive them are said to have it nigh to them as a curse. Hence He adds, Notwithstanding, be you sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh to you, as the coming of a king is to some for punishment, but to some for honor.

Hence it is added respecting their punishment, But I say to you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom, &c.

EUSEB. For in the city of Sodom, Angels were not without entertainment, but Lot was found worthy to receive them into his house. If then at the coming of the disciples into a city there shall not be found one to receive them, will not that city be worse than Sodom? These words persuaded them to attempt boldly the rule of poverty. For there could not be a city or village without some inhabitants acceptable to God. For Sodom could not exist without a Lot found in it, at whose departure the whole was suddenly destroyed.

THEOPHYL; The men of Sodom, although they were hospitable in the midst of all their wickedness of soul and body, yet were there no such guests found among them as the Apostles. Lot indeed was righteous both in seeing and hearing, yet he is not said to have taught or worked miracles.

Ver 17. And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us through your name.18. And he said to them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.19. Behold, I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.20. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.

CYRIL; It was said above that our Lord sent forth His disciples sealed with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and that being made ministers of preaching, they received power over the unclean spirits. But now when they returned, they confess the power of Him who honored them, as it is said, And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject to us, &c. They seemed indeed to rejoice rather that they were made workers of miracles, than that they had become ministers of preaching. But they had better have rejoiced in those whom they had taken, as St. Paul says to them that were called by him, My joy and my crown.

GREG. Now our Lord, in a remarkable manner, in order to put down high thoughts in the hearts of His disciples, Himself related the account of the fall which the teacher of pride suffered; that they might learn by the example of the author of pride, what they would have to dread from the sin of pride. Hence it follows, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.

BASIL; He is called Satan, because he is an enemy to God, (for this the Hebrew word signifies,) but he is called the Devil, because he assists us in doing evil, and is an accuser. His nature is incorporeal, his abode in the air.

THEOPHYL; He says not, ‘I see now,’ but referring to past time, I saw, when he fell. But by the words as lightning, He signifies either a fall headlong from the high places to the lowest, or that now cast down, he transforms himself into an angel of light.

TIT. BOST. Now He says that He saw it, as being Judge, for He knew the sufferings of the spirits Or He says, as lightning, because by nature Satan shone as lightning, but became darkness through his affections, since what God made good he changed in himself to evil.

BASIL; For the heavenly Powers are not naturally holy, but according to the analogy of divine love they receive their measure of sanctification. And as iron placed in the fire does not cease to be iron, though by the violent application of the flame both in effect and appearance, it passes into fire; so also the Powers on high, from their participation in that which is naturally holy, have a holiness implanted in them. For Satan had not fallen, if by nature he had been unsusceptible of evil.

CYRIL; Or else, I saw Satan as lightning fall from heaven, that is, from the highest power to the lowest impotence. For before the coming of our Savior, he had subdued the world to him, and was worshipped by all men. But when the only-begotten Word of God came down from heaven, he fell as lightning, seeing that he is trodden under foot by those who worship Christ. As it follows, And, behold, I give those you power to tread upon serpents, &c.

TIT. BOST. Serpents indeed at one time under a figure were made to bite the Jews, and kill them because of their unbelief. But there came One who should destroy those serpents; even the Brazen Serpent, the Crucified, so that if any one should look on Him believing, he might be healed from his wounds and saved.

CHRYS. Then lest we should suppose this was spoken of beasts, He added, And over all the power of the enemy.

THEOPHYL; That is, I give you the power of casting out every kind of unclean spirit, from the bodies possessed. And as far as regards themselves, He adds, And nothing shall hurt you. Although it might also be taken literally. For Paul when attacked by a viper suffered no injury. John having drunk poison is not harmed by it. But I think there is this difference between serpents who bite with the teeth, and scorpions who sting with the tail, that the serpents signify men or spirits raging openly, scorpions signify them plotting in secret. Or serpents are those which cast the poison of evil persuasion upon virtues just beginning, scorpions which go about to corrupt at last virtues which have been brought to perfection.

THEOPHYL. Or serpents are those which visibly hurt, as the evil spirit of adultery and murder. But those are called scorpions which invisibly injure, as in the sins of the spirit.

GREG. NYSS. For pleasure is called in Scripture a serpent, which by nature is such that if its head has reached a wall so as to press upon it, it drags its whole body after it. So nature has given man the habitation which was necessary for him. But by means of this necessity, pleasure assaults the heart, and perverts it to the indulgence of immoderate ornament; in addition to this it brings in its train covetousness, which is followed by lust, that is, the last member or tail of the beast. But as it is not possible to draw back the serpent by its tail, so to remove pleasure we must not begin with the last, unless one has closed the first entrance to evil.

ATHAN. But now through the power of Christ boys make a mock at pleasure, which formerly led away the aged, and virgins steadfastly trample upon the desires of serpentine pleasure. Some also tread upon the very sting of the scorpion, that is, of the devil, namely death, and fearing not destruction become witnesses of the word. But many giving up earthly things walk with a free step in heaven, dreading not the prince of the air.

TIT. BOST. But because the joy with which He saw them rejoice savored of vain-glory, for they rejoiced that they were as it were exalted, and were a terror to men and evil spirits, our Lord therefore adds, Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject to you, &c.

THEOPHYL; They are forbidden to rejoice in the subjection of the spirits to God, since they were flesh; for to cast out spirits and to exercise other powers is sometimes not on account of his merit who works, but is wrought through the invocation of Christ’s name to the condemnation of those who mock it, or to the advantage of those who see and hear

CYRIL; Why, O Lord, cost not you permit men to rejoice in the honors which are conferred by You, since it is written, In your name shall they rejoice all the day? But the Lord raises them up by greater joys. Hence He adds, But rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

THEOPHYL; As if he said, It becomes you to rejoice not in the putting down of the evil spirits, but in your own exaltation. But it would be well for us to understand, that whether a man has done heavenly or earthly works, he is thereby, as if marked down by letter, for ever fixed in the memory of God.

THEOPHYL. For the names of the saints are written in the book of life not in ink, but in the memory and grace of God. And the devil indeed fell from above; but men being below have their names inscribed above in heaven.

BASIL; There are some who are written indeed not in life, but according to Jeremiah in the earth, that in this way there might be a kind of double enrollment, of the one indeed to life, but of the other to destruction. But since it is said, Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, this is spoken of those who were thought worthy to be written in the book of God. And in this way a name is said to be put down in writing or blotted out, when we turn aside from virtue to sin, or the contrary.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2013

This post opens with a brief summary of Gal 6:11-18 followed by notes on verses 14-18. Text in red are my additions.

CONCLUSION OF THE EPISTLE

A Summary of Galatians 6:11-18~Taking the pen of his secretary into his own hand St. Paul gives some final and solemn counsels to the Galatians, summing up the polemical and doctrinal parts of the Epistle (verses 11-15), auguring peace to those who will follow his rule (verse 16), uttering a prayer of confidence in the final triumph of his labors (verse 17), and wishing the Galatians an affectionate farewell (verse 18).

11. See what a letter I have written to you with my own hand.

See what a letter. Better, “See with what large letters.” This is the usual sense of πηλικοις (= pelikois = large). The word γραμμασιν (= grammasin = letters) in the dative plural cannot signify anything but the character or dimensions of the letters; the reference is not to the Epistle or letter he has written (Lagr.). St. Paul writes this autograph himself with large letters because of the importance of these final words, and to set out in relief again his authority.

I have written to you. Literally, “I have written to you with large letters.” See the arrangement of the words in the Greek text. εγραψα (= egrapsa) is doubtless the epistolary aorist, since it refers only to the autograph.

12. For as many as desire to please in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer the persecution of the cross of Christ.

As many as. These words refer to the false teachers.
In the flesh, i.e., among men (St. Chrys.), or in a worldly way, or according to the flesh and an earthly standard.

They constrain, i.e., they are putting pressure on you.

Only that. The motive behind the actions of the Judaizers was to avoid being persecuted as believers in a crucified Messiah whose death meant the redemption of mankind and the abrogation of the Law. The uncircumcised Christians were exposed to the hate and persecution not only of the pagans, but especially of the Jews.

13. For neither they themselves who are circumcised, keep the law; but they will have you to be circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

A proof that the false teachers are not sincere is that they themselves do not keep the Law.

They themselves, etc., i.e., the Judaizers, did not observe the whole Law, but only as much of it as seemed to their advantage. The reason these false Christians wanted others to be circumcised was on account of their preference for Judaism and for their own nation, and also in order to be esteemed by the Jewish chiefs; they wanted to insist that circumcision, the distinctive mark of Judaism, was necessary for salvation, and hence something very much to their credit.

14. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

St. Paul aspires to something far higher than the fleshy mark of circumcision wherein to glory; this is mere human glory. He will glory in nothing, save the cross of his crucified Saviour, the one true source of justification and salvation. To the Jews the cross was a sign of ignominy and malediction, but to the Christians it was the cause of salvation and the chief object of the preaching of St. Paul and the other Apostles (Acts 2:22, 26, 38; 1 Cor 2:2; 2 Cor 4:8, etc.).

By whom. Better, “Whereby” (δι ου). The Greek Fathers make δι ου refer to cross rather than to Christ, and this seems to agree better with the context (see NAB, RSV. The LEB retains the reference to Christ, i.e., by whom, instead of by or through which). The cross is the means, the instrument of redemption, through which, by reason of his union with Christ crucified, the Apostle is dead to the world, that is, to the reign of sin (1 Cor 1:20; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2), and the world is dead to him (Gal 2:20); in other words, all ties between him and the wicked world are broken.

The per quem of the Vulgate supposes Christ as the antecedent of δι ου.

15. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

This verse contains the same thought as v. 6. In the new order of things, which has been established by means of the cross of Christ, circumcision or uncircumcision, as pertaining to this carnal world, avails nothing; the only thing that counts is a new creature (cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Rom 1:25; Heb 4:13), i.e., elevation to the supernatural state of grace by which we become adopted sons of God and heirs of heaven.

In Christ Jesus (Vulg., in Christo Jesu), though well supported, is doubtless to be omitted here, as coming from verse 6.

Euthalius in the fifth century, Syncellus in the eighth century, and Photius in the ninth century said that this verse was quoted from the apocryphal work called, The Assumption of Moses; but in the only portion of this latter work which has come down to us, and which appeared around A.D. 7 , this passage does not occur. The apocryphal work in which it is found is of a later date, and doubtless borrowed the passage from our Epistle.

16. And whosoever shall follow this rule, peace on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

This rule, i.e., of glorying only in the cross of Christ (verse 14), and of being a new creature (verse 15). Those who follow such a rule will enjoy peace in union with Christ, and will experience God’s mercy as the source of their present peace and of their ultimate salvation.

The Israel of God, i.e., the real Israel, all true Christians, whether of Jewish or Gentile origin, as opposed to the merely carnal descendants of Abraham.

17. From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me; for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.

From henceforth, i.e., for the future (του λοιπου), let no one trouble the Apostle about his doctrine, his Apostolate or the like. If anyone say that he is not a true servant of Christ, the refutation of such a calumny is found in the sufferings and marks of persecution which he bears on his body as a proof of his dependence on and of his fidelity to his Master (2 Cor 11:23-25; Acts 14:18). The allusion in  στιγματα (“stigmata”) is to the marks with which masters used to brand their slaves as an indication of proprietorship, or to the sacred signs that were set on persons or things under the protection of a god or goddess as a mark of their consecration to the deity. St. Paul is the property of his divine Master, he is consecrated to Him, and therefore is above all the troubles and molestations of a lower order. There is no question here of such stigmata as were imprinted on St. Francis of Assisi.

18. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

The Apostle terminates his letter with an affectionate salutation. He calls the Galatians by the tender term of brethren to show that notwithstanding their mistakes and unfaithfulness, he loves them and wishes them well. The mention of spirit seems to be a last reminder of the great theme of the whole letter, namely, that true life lies not in the flesh, or fleshy practices, but in the spirit, that is, in the life of grace.

All personal greetings are absent from the close of this Epistle, perhaps because, like the Epistle to the Ephesians, it was intended to be a circular letter to several towns. The letter is addressed to the churches (plural) of Galatia. Karl Schelkle suggests that the absence of personal greetings is the result of the tensions between St Paul and the Galatians. He notes the absence of St Paul’s usual thanksgiving at the opening of this letter, its being replaced  with and exasperated statement of amazement that the Galatians are deserting the gospel (see Gal 1:6-9).

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A Patrsitic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 66

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2013

Come and see the works of God; who is terrible in his counsels over the sons of men. Who turneth the sea into dry land, in the river they shall pass on foot: there shall we rejoice in him-Psalm 66:5-6

Come and see the works of God; who is terrible in his counsels over the sons of men. Who turneth the sea into dry land, in the river they shall pass on foot: there shall we rejoice in him-Psalm 66:5-6

At the end of this post you will find a list of some traditional liturgical usage made of Psalm 66, along with traditional antiphons and collects. Text in red are my additions.

PSALM 66

TITLE: To the Chief Musician; A Song or Psalm. LXX. and Vulgate: To the end; a Song of a Psalm of Resurrection.

ARGUMENT

ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST is to be adored by all nations. The Voice of the Apostles. The Voice of Paul and of all Apostles for the edification of the people. Then, the Voice of the Martyrs. The Voice of the Apostles to the People. The Voice of the Church praising GOD.

VEN. BEDE. The title is distinct, implying the joy of the LORD’S Resurrection, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles. Contrary to the persuasion of the Jews, who alleged that they alone of all belonged to the life of blessedness; our Mother, the Church, joyously chants her hope of the General Resurrection, interposing three pauses. In the first portion she exhorts all men to rejoice together in the LORD’S Resurrection, which should bring eternal rewards to all the faithful. O be joyful in God, all ye lands. In the second place, she invites all to come to the contemplation of GOD’S works, that one belief may unite those whom one reward awaits. O come hither, and behold the works of God. Thirdly, she again warns the Gentiles to bless the LORD, Who, though He try us with divers troubles, will yet bring us to the rest of His mercy. O praise our God, ye people. In the fourth part, she again invites all, that advised by the example of her deliverance, they may trust the LORD more fully, blessing Him because He has vouchsafed to hear her prayer. O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you.

SYRIAC PSALTER. Uncertain. Of Sacrifice, and burnt-offering, and incense of rams. Spiritually, the calling of the Gentiles, and preaching.

EUSEBIUS OF CÆSAREA. The calling of the Gentiles, and the preaching of the Apostles.

S. ATHANASIUS. A Psalm of rejoicing and of the Resurrection.

COMMENTARY

The occasion of this Psalm, as of the preceding one, is the subject of much doubt. A few commentators ascribe it to the later years of David; the Greek Fathers generally to the return from Babylon, perhaps at the dedication of the Second Temple; others count it as a Maccabee thanksgiving; and others again, followed by some modern critics, assume it to speak of the deliverance of Jerusalem from Sennacherib. The words of the LXX. and Vulgate title, Of the Resurrection, are not in the Hebrew or Chaldee, and Leo Castro charges the Jews with erasing them. But although they are cited by various early Fathers, yet their absence from S. Hilary’s Psalter and from the Hexapla seems to mark them as a late addition. They are, however, much commented on by the ancient and mediæval expositors, who interpret the whole Psalm by them as a key.

1–2 O be joyful in GOD, all ye lands: sing praises unto the honour of his Name, make his praise to be glorious.

S. Hilary, commenting on the word ἀλαλάξατε, (H.) with which the LXX. opens this Psalm, reminds us that it is a battle-cry, and calls on all the Christian world to do its duty manfully in the fight, that it may chant the song of victory at the end. (Michael Ayguan)-And because it is CHRIST’S Resurrection which hath put the enemy to flight, let His Name be praised, and give the glory to His praise alone, and not to any works of man. But the praise must be the active praise of holy works, (Dionysius)-not merely the recitation of holy words.

3 Say unto GOD, O how wonderful art thou in thy works: through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies be found liars unto thee.

For wonderful, the early versions read terrible. And fitly, however we regard those works. Terrible in the expulsion from Eden, terrible in the Flood, (Dionysius) terrible in the overthrow of the Egyptians. More terrible still in the stupendous mystery of the Incarnation (Pope St Leo), whereby the Creator of Angels endured to become a mortal, invisible in Himself, visible in our nature; Incomprehensible, Who willed to be comprehended; before all time, yet beginning to be in time. (Parez) Terrible in the eclipse of the sun at His crucifixion, the three hours’ darkness, and the rent rocks; terrible in the broken gates and bars of hell; (Augustine) terrible in His Resurrection. Not less so in the judgment by which He broke off the branches of His own olive-tree, that the wild Gentile boughs might be graffed in, an awful warning to us not to be high-minded, but to fear, and not to boast ourselves either against Jews, broken off of old, or against heretics, fallen later. We pray you to beware, says S. Augustine, whosoever ye are in the Church, do not revile them that are not within; but pray ye rather, that they too may be within; for GOD is able to graff them in again. Thine enemies shall be found liars. (Dionysius) As when they ascribed the greatness of CHRIST’S power to diabolic agency, saying “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, (Ayguan) the prince of the devils” (Matt 12:24). And yet again when they bribed the soldiers to spread a false report of the stealing of His Body from the sepulchre (Matt 28:12). Still more in our own day, when the very existence of CHRIST as a personage belonging to history has been denied, on the express ground of the miraculous acts ascribed to Him.

4 For all the world shall worship thee: sing of thee, and praise thy Name.
5 O come hither, and behold the works of GOD: how wonderful he is in his doing toward the children of men.

At the end of the third verse some copies of the LXX. and the Roman Psalter add, O most Highest. (Augustine)-Vain have been the lies of the Jews; He Whom they branded as a deceiver is worshipped and praised over all the Gentile world, and not only there, but in the courts of heaven, because His Name is above every name. A little before, most lowly, now Most Highest; most lowly in the hands of lying enemies, Most Highest above the heads of praising Angels. Come hither, (Dionysius) then, to hear the word of GOD: come to His Church, and behold, by truer contemplation, by the light of Faith, by the irradiation of the HOLY GHOST, (Cassiodorus) how wonderful He is in His doing towards those Apostles whom He made the channels of His miracles; wonderful in His election to grace; wonderful in His judgment of sinners in the rejection of the Jews, (Augustine) in the call of the Gentiles.

6 He turned the sea into dry land: so that they went through the water on foot; there did we rejoice thereof.

Spoken first of the Red Sea triumph, (Augustine) it tells of a greater triumph of GOD’S power and grace. The world, notes S. Augustine, was a sea, bitter with saltness, troubled with tempest, raging with waves of persecution. Truly, the sea hath been turned into dry land, and now, the world that was filled with salt water thirsteth for water that is sweet, so that now the Gentile world cries: “My soul gaspeth unto Thee as a thirsty land” (Ps 143:6). What He did for all the world He does for every soul flooded with the salt sea of penitential tears, drying it up, (Ayguan) and making it able to bear fruit for Him. Next, the Vulgate reads, They shall go through the river on foot. And it is spoken of the courage with which the faithful shall pass through this life, (Augustine) not affected by the flood of worldliness, and yet on foot, because lowly, and not lifted up with pride, thus following more safely Him of Whom it is written in mystery: “With my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands” (Gen 32:10). He went with His Cross alone, and returned LORD of Jews and Gentiles, of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, of men and angels. We did rejoice at the exodus from Egypt, at the entrance into Canaan; (Dionysius) we shall rejoice, as the Vulgate reads, far more truly in passing from the way to our Country, from the waters of sin to the haven of quiet and safety. (Augustine) For even if we are joyous now, in hope we are joyous, but then in Him shall we be joyous. Even now in Him, yet through hope, but then “face to face” (1 Cor 13:12).

7 He ruleth with his power for ever; his eyes behold the people: and such as will not believe shall not be able to exalt themselves.

So He joins the two ideas Himself, (Hilary) “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the FATHER, and of the SON, and of the HOLY GHOST (Matt 28:18). And thus His beholding is the look of compassion which He turns on His suffering people. Such as will not believe. (Dionysius). The LXX. and Vulgate have, They that embitter, or that exasperate, the A. V. more exactly, the rebellious. They cannot exalt themselves, because a “haughty spirit goeth before a fall” (Prov 16:18), and “the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, the same reproacheth the LORD, and shall be cut off from among His people” (Num 15:30). But they may be exalted by Him Who beareth His people on His wings (Deut 32:12).

8 O praise our GOD, ye people: and make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Make it heard, by declaring it to others, that he who loves GOD may show his love to his neighbour also (Peter Lombard), by bringing him profitable tidings. Wherefore the priests bless GOD in the churches with a loud voice. For which reason it is said, “Behold now, praise the LORD, all ye servants of the LORD ye that by night stand in the house of the LORD” (Ps 134:1) S. Augustine reads, Hear ye the voice of His praise, listen to the glad news of His Gospel.

9 Who holdeth our soul in life: and suffereth not our feet to slip.

The Vulgate runs, Who hath set my soul unto life. And that not only by breathing into man the breath of life (Theodore of Mopsuestia) but by giving him the natural law, which, had Adam kept it, would have preserved him alive. (Parez) More than this, He set our soul unto the higher life of grace and glory, by means of faith. Nay, more than all, He has made us look to Himself, Who is emphatically the Life (St Albert Magnus). And suffereth not our feet to slip, because He hath set those feet upon a Rock, firm and unshaken, and ordered our goings thereon. Not like Cain (Origen), who “went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod” (Gen 4:16), which means wandering, but like Moses, to whom was said, “Stand thou here by Me” (Deut 5:31), and of whom those words were then true, “His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold” Song of Songs 5:15).

10 For thou, O GOD, hast proved us: thou also hast tried us, like as silver is tried.

With fire, first of persecutions and sufferings, and then with the more searching fire of heavenly love. For the odour of a saintly life needs the divine fire to make its perfume known (St Cyril of Alexandria), as incense requires glowing coals to quicken its properties. As silver, which is purified by heat, not as stubble, which is burnt up by it. (Augustine) And note, that the precise moment when silver is truly refined, is that in which the finer can see his face exactly mirrored in the molten surface. Whereby we know that our purification is complete, when CHRIST can see His Image reflected in our hearts. And as earthen vessels continue porous and friable till they are baked, (Remigius) so we, who are earth in the hand of the potter, need fire to make us fit to be the receptacles of grace. The early Fathers, holding the doctrine of a purgatorial fire through which the very Saints (St Ambrose), and even the Mother of GOD herself, must pass at the Last Day, dwell on this verse, and compare it with that saying of S. Paul, “The fire shall try every man’s work” (1 Cor 3:13).

11 Thou broughtest us into the snare: and laidest trouble upon our loins.

Being crafty, He caught us with guile, and when He had so taken us, He put His yoke on our shoulders, and His burden on our backs, that in this world we might have tribulation. And literally, (H.),. (C.) His martyrs were brought into the snare of dungeons, chains, and strangulation, and had scourges, heavy weights, and even plates of red-hot metal, laid upon their sides as they were extended upon the rack St Hilary and Cassiodorus).

12 Thou sufferedst men to ride over our heads: we went through fire and water, and thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.

It is spoken of the persecuting Emperors, and of evil rulers, temporal and spiritual, (Lorinus) in all ages. Lorinus, writing at a time when the Turkish corsairs ravaged the Mediterranean coasts, and even at times the shores of Northern Europe, applies the text to the hard lot of the Christian captives in Algiers and Morocco. Through fire and water. Again we are told of the sufferings of the martyrs, some winning their crown in fire, like S. Polycarp; some in water, as S. Clement of Rome. Or you may take it, as S. Ambrose does, of the first purification of the soul in Baptism,* and the second cleansing by the fire of purgatory. Or it may be explained, with S. Augustine, (A.) of the mingled sorrows and pleasures of this life. S. Bernard expands this idea,* and observes of a Saint lately departed, “He passed over right manfully, yea, and happily; he passed over through fire and water, he whom sorrow could not break, nor ease delay. The knowledge of good and evil lies in this mean, and this is to make trial here of pleasure and of trouble. Happy is that soul, which passes through both alike, neither clinging to pleasure, nor failing in trouble.” Once more, the water of penitential tears, and the fire of divine love, are the fit preparation for entrance into the wealthy place of unity with GOD. A wealthy place. The Vulgate reads, a cool place (see note).  And it will then tell us of that shelter with Him Who is a refuge from the heat, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land, of those cool waters and green pastures which wait for the Saints who have followed their Shepherd in this life. But if we take our English reading, a wealthy place, it will tell of that field of the Church wherein the treasure of grace is hidden, and of that more glorious Church where the treasure is no more hid, but open to all gazing eyes. Note: the Hebrew רויה is derived from רוה which refers to the slaking of thirst. The word implies an abundance of anything that alleviates. Modern translations read “freedom” (NAB), “a spacious place” (RSV), “a place of abundance” (LEB). The Vulgate’s a cool place relates nicely as a contrast to the image of testing by fire in verse 10, along with the fire mentioned in this current verse. Modern translations implying freedom and spaciousness contrast with the captivity and oppression mentioned in the first part of verse 12: Thou hast set men over our heads.

About the Holy City rolls a flood
Of molten crystal,* like a sea of glass;
On which bright stream a strong foundation stood,
Of living diamonds the building was;
That all things else it wholly did surpass,
Her streets, the stars, instead of stones, did pave,
And little pearls for dust it seemed to have,
On which soft streaming manna like pure snow did wave
(“Christ’s Victorie and Triumph,” Giles Fletcher, Protestant poet).

The two preceding verses of the Psalm have been applied with much ingenuity to the vocation for the claustral life. Thou hast brought us into the snare of the cloister, binding us with the threefold cord of the monastic vow (Alvarez), and laidest trouble, the regular tasks and enforced duties of the convent, upon our loins. Thou hast set men, abbots and prelates, over our heads, whom we must obey: we go through fire and water in the various trials of that obedience, and then Thou hast brought us into a cool place, where we are free from the heat and anxiety of this world, and look forward to the coolness of the life to come.

13–14 I will go into thine house with burnt-offerings: and will pay thee my vows, which I promised with my lips, and spake with my mouth, when I was in trouble.

Into Thine house, (Dionysius) either by withdrawing into myself for secret communion with Thee, remembering that my body is the temple of the HOLY GHOST, or into the place of Thy public worship, (Augustine) or at last into the heavenly City. With burnt-offerings, having consumed all that is mine, by victory over self, and leaving only what is GOD’S. So the Paris Breviary, singing of Confessors:

Corpus subegit castitas,*
Et liberam mentem fides;
Amor supernis ignibus
Totam litavit hostiam.
(Hymn. in Comm. Just.)

It is true of the Martyrs also, (St Hilary) and chiefly of Him, their King, (Parez) Who ascended into the Holy of holies with the whole burnt-offering of Himself. My vows, whether of baptism, of the religious or priestly life, or of self-dedication of any kind. And the word pay marks that such vows are debts (Genebrardus), not mere voluntary offerings which need not be made. Which I promised with my lips. The Vulgate reads, which my lips distinguished (i.e. articulated.) Where note, says Ayguan, that he distinguishes his vows, who vows discreetly, but he who vows indiscreetly, does not distinguish, because distinguishing belongs to discretion, and he distinguishes his vows of GOD’S praise, who says in his heart that he is nothing, and GOD is all, that he needs GOD, not GOD him. And spake with my mouth, implying a distinct contract made with GOD, not a mere passing resolution of the mind, but a positive action of the will, binding itself to future performance. When I was in trouble. So the Patriarch, “And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If GOD will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my GOD” (Gen 28:2). And to all this He answers, to the first request, “When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee” (Isa 43:2); to the second, “Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way” (Ex 23:20); to the third He replies, “The bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51). For raiment, He declares, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment” (Zech 3:4), and will say to His servants, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him” Lk 15:22); and last of all, that we may come to our FATHER’S House in peace, He says, “In My FATHER’S house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you” (Jn 14:2).  Wherefore let us keep the vow, and have the LORD for our GOD.

15 I will offer unto thee fat burnt-sacrifices, with the incense of rams: I will offer bullocks and goats.

The LXX. and Vulgate read here marrowy burnt-offerings. Within may I keep Thy love, comments S. Augustine, it shall not be on the surface, in my marrow it shall be that I love Thee. For there is nothing more inward than our marrow; the bones are more inward than the flesh, the marrow is more inward than those same bones. Whosoever therefore on the surface loveth GOD, desireth rather to please men, but having some other affection within, he offereth not holocausts of marrow (Theodore of Mopsuestia). The fat burnt-offerings are also explained of the Martyrs, as strong and resolute under torture. With the incense of rams. The rams are the rulers of the Church; the whole Body of CHRIST is speaking, this is what it offereth to GOD. (Ayguan) The incense of rams is therefore the prayer offered as incense before GOD by the rulers of the Church. Bullocks, which labour in the LORD’S field, signify doctors and preachers; while the goats are repentant sinners. Sinners, because of the LORD’S own distinction between sheep and goats; repentant ones (Origen), because goats were the victims used in sin-offerings.

16 O come hither, and hearken, all ye that fear GOD: and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul.

He calls not only the living (Theodore of Mopsuestia), but the Patriarchs and Prophets of old time, who longed to see these things, to hearken to the Gospel tidings, (Lorinus) and to rejoice with us. The Gentiles who serve GOD by the law of nature, are also summoned in these words to join the Church, that the law of grace may be explained to them. The soul which has been healed is eager to point out the Great Physician to those which are still suffering from disease.

17 I called unto him with my mouth: and gave him praises with my tongue.

I, a man, was crying to a stone, I was crying to a deaf stock, (Augustine) to idols deaf and dumb I was speaking; now, the image of GOD hath turned to the Creator thereof; I that was “saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth” (Jer 2:27), now say, “Our FATHER, “Which art in heaven” (Mt 6:9).  I called unto Him with my mouth. With my mouth now, not with the mouth of another. When I was crying to stones in the “vain conversation received by tradition from the fathers” (1 Pet 1:18), with the mouth of others I was crying; when I have cried unto the LORD with that cry which Himself hath given, which Himself hath inspired, I called unto Him with my own mouth. And gave Him praises with my tongue. The LXX. and Vulgate read, And have exalted Him under my tongue. That is, notes S. Augustine, confessed Him secretly in my heart, as well as preached Him openly. Many Psalters, and the majority of mediæval expositors read, I have exulted under my tongue. And they explain it of spiritual joy within the heart. (Gerhohus) It is like the Bride, says one, “Honey and milk are under thy tongue;” so that my tongue may be busied with the praise of GOD and with holy prayers, and my spirit within rejoice in GOD my SAVIOUR. I exulted under my tongue, while that tongue was the pen of a ready writer uttering good words without (see Ps 45:2), and within my heart was inditing a good word wholly in harmony with those outer words. The Hebrew would be more closely rendered, A song of praise was under my tongue, and it will then imply the absolute certainty of GOD’S answer to prayer, and that the believer has his thanksgiving ready even while he is uttering his cry of supplication.

18 If I incline unto wickedness with mine heart: the LORD will not hear me.

Not merely, notes S. Hilary, if I have actually done an evil deed, but if I have thought on it with pleasure, and given the assent of my will. And the Vulgate puts this very forcibly, If I have beheld iniquity in my heart.

19 But GOD hath heard me: and considered the voice of my prayer.
20 Praised be GOD who hath not cast out my prayer: nor turned his mercy from me.

Because I have not inclined to wickedness with my heart, for thus speaks the Apostle, (Ludolphus) “Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards GOD. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him” (1 Jn 3:21); and it therefore urges us to perseverance. Not to vain confidence, for GOD, notes Lorinus, sometimes does cast out prayer. Moses was not heard for his sister, nor Samuel for Saul, nor Antiochus for himself, and there is a sin unto death, for which it is not said that we are to pray (1 Jn 5:16). Praised be God. Let all His Angels and Saints praise Him; (Gerhohus) heaven and earth, the sea and all that is therein. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, for He hath given me perseverance in crying unto Him, and turned not His mercy far from my prayer, and I have found it true, that, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt 7:7).

Wherefore: Glory be to the FATHER, Who hath heard my prayer; and to the SON, my Resurrection and Life, through Whose mediation my prayer hath reached the FATHER; and to the HOLY GHOST, the Mercy of FATHER and SON, which hath not been turned from me as I prayed. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Wednesday. Matins.

Monastic. Wednesday. Matins. [Transfiguration. I. Nocturn.]

Parisian. Sunday. Matins. III. Nocturn.

Lyons. Thursday. Terce.

Ambrosian. Monday of Second Week. Matins. II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Sunday. Lauds.

Eastern Church. Saturday. Nocturns.

ANTIPHONS

Gregorian. O bless * our GOD, ye people.

Monastic. [Transfiguration. The disciples, coming to the LORD JESUS, fearing the Voice of the FATHER, fell on their faces.]

Parisian. O come * hearken, and I will tell you what He hath done for my soul.

Ambrosian. First verse of the Psalm.

Mozarabic. Sing a Psalm to His Name, give glory to His praise, say unto GOD, O how terrible are Thy works.

COLLECTS

Instil into my mind,* O LORD, the glory of Thy praise, that while we shun the burnings of this world, we may, under Thy guidance, be carried into eternal refreshment. (If the Collect be addressed to GOD the FATHER, the proper ending is: Through JESUS CHRIST our LORD, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the HOLY GHOST, One GOD, world without end. Amen)

Grant,* O LORD, that we who, believing in Thee, go into Thine house with burnt-offerings, may serve Thee with dedication of our works and sanctification of the body, that so Thou mayest not cast out our prayers, nor turn Thy mercy from us, whilst Thou dost inspire us to seek that which Thou knowest to be good for us. (The Mozarabic ending is—at the conclusion of the prayer, without any other termination: Amen. Through Thy mercy, O our GOD, Who art blessed, and livest and governest all things, to ages of ages. Amen)

Let all the earth worship Thee,* O LORD, and sing to Thee, being made partaker of incorrupt life; that as all things are framed by Thy handiwork, they may likewise be submitted to Thy sway. (The Mozarabic ending same as above)

O GOD,* Who hast willed that Thy Saints should be tried on earth by Thy wonted loving probation, but not that they should be tempted above the gift of endurance which Thou seest to be in them by Thy bounty, deliver us from all temptation, lest it overcome our mind; that serving Thee faithfully in well-pleasing obedience, Thou wouldst suffer us to be so tried, that temptation lead us not into the confusion of error, but bind us firmly in the embrace of truth. (The Mozarabic ending same as above)

O GOD,* to Whom all the earth sings loud praise in rejoicing, and Whose glory it proclaims with the tuneful voice of a psalm, Whose awful might in Thy works it confesses, grant that our voices may yield Thee acceptable praise, and our prayers give Thee a perfect psalm, and celebrate Thee, the Maker of all powers; and inasmuch as Thine eyes behold the nations, and invisibly search the inmost parts of all things; we beseech Thee so to look on us graciously with Thine eyes, and to correct us so in mercy, that Thou mayest not pour Thy wrath upon us, angered by our misdeeds, nor restrain Thy mercy when Thou art intreated. And grant, that our very fear of Thee for our sins may be our chastisement, and our belief and confession of Thy Godhead, the reward of our pardon. Set our souls then, O LORD, unto life, that we may weep here for our doings, and win that grace which we have lost through sin. (The Mozarabic ending same as above)

We humbly beseech Thee,* O LORD, open Thine ears to our prayers, and, granting us pardon of our sins, deliver us from our present troubles, and making us, by the death of our vices, a pure burnt-offering to Thee, unite us to the company of the Saints. (If the Collect be addressed to GOD the FATHER, the proper ending is: Through JESUS CHRIST our LORD, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the HOLY GHOST, One GOD, world without end. Amen)

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Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 66

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 4, 2013

A THANKSGIVING

THIS psalm consists of two clearly distinguished parts. The first (verses 1-12) is an invitation, addressed by different bodies of singers to all peoples, to sing the praises of the God of Israel. The first group of singers calls on the peoples (verses 1-4) to join in the chorus of God’s praise because of the greatness of His deeds. A second group of singers summons the nations (verses 5-7) to behold the special deeds of wonder which God has wrought for Israel; and a third group calls on the peoples (verses 8-12) to thank the God of Israel for His mercies towards His people. The second part of the psalm (verses 13-20) is the song of an individual who tells the pious of Israel of God’s favours and mercies towards himself, and of his vow to offer to the Lord a service of thanksgiving. There is no need to suppose that we have in the psalm the fusion of two originally distinct poems. The first part, dealing with God’s goodness to the nation of Israel, serves as a fitting introduction to the second which describes God’s mercy towards the individual singer. The psalm was apparently composed for liturgical use. It formed a portion of the thanksgiving service which the psalmist (and possibly his friends) had vowed to the Lord for help in some time of need. The date of the psalm cannot be determined. The Vulgate superscription Canticum psalmi resurrectionis is useless for purposes of dating. Psalm of uprising conveys no definite reference. Theodoret regarded it as implying that the psalm was composed to celebrate the safe return of the exiles from Babylon the return being a sort of resurrection (cf. Rom 11:15). But probably, the idea of a resurrection is due entirely to verse 9 of the psalm. The title in the Massoretic text does not contain anything corresponding to resurrectionis. It may be inferred from the psalm that the ritual of the Temple is still being carried on, so that the poem may be assigned to the monarchical period.

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A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 103

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2013

ARGUMENT

ARG. THOMAS. That CHRIST, sitting in the heavens, extends His kingdom and dominion over all nations. The Voice of the Church to her people, that the creature should praise the Creator.

VEN. BEDE. After those most lowly prayers of the happy poor man, and the utterance of his sighs of penitence, the whole of this Psalm overflows with the praise of the LORD, and the gladness of laudation follows the previous tears, for to David always means CHRIST, to Whom praise is given.

Throughout the whole Psalm the Prophet is speaking. In the first part he enjoins his soul to bless the LORD and to remember His benefits. Bless the Lord, O my soul. In the second place, he tells what things He did for Moses and His other faithful ones, that He may be understood to have been ever bountiful from all ages. He showed His ways unto Moses. Thirdly, he directs his words to the Angels and heavenly powers, and summons the other rational creatures to busy themselves constantly in the praise of the LORD. Bless the Lord, all ye angels of His.

SYRIAC PSALTER. Of David, concerning the coldness which mastered him in the time of his old age. Also an acknowledgment and thanksgiving offered by men of GOD.

EUSEBIUS OF CÆSAREA. The doctrine of thanksgiving.

S. ATHANASIUS. A Psalm of counsel, and, as it were, of command.

COMMENTARY

1 Praise the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me praise his holy Name.

The notes of confession and lamentation in the previous Psalm change into those of praise and thanksgiving found in this and the five succeeding ones; whence the Greek Fathers suggest that this may very well be a Temple-Psalm of acknowledgment of the merciful restoration of Sion prayed for just before.* And we may take it as the thanksgiving of the pardoned sinner, who has made his acknowledgment of guilt and has received absolution,* breaking out thereupon into a song of thanksgiving, like Moses after the overthrow of the Egyptians. Praise the Lord, O my soul. There is no special occasion of thanksgiving mentioned, no particular time for it prescribed here, whence we may gather that every event of our life gives us sufficient reason, every moment of it a fitting opportunity, to praise the LORD. In the hymns of the Church during public worship, in the conduct of business, in taking food, in slumber itself, innocent and free from all evil thoughts and dreams which the memory of past sins may excite, praise the LORD, O my soul.* All that is within me, my secret plans, my thoughts, desires, inclinations, whatever goes on within and appears not externally, for it is not enough to praise with the voice alone, unless all that is within praise too, unless desires, thoughts, and reason combine in one act of earnest thanksgiving to the holy Name of GOD as He is in heaven, FATHER, SON, and HOLY GHOST,* to the holy Name JESUS,* by which He is revealed to us on earth.

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul: and forget not all his benefits;

He repeats his opening words, for the more effect of kindling the ardour of his soul, (A.) to show that the praise of GOD should never cease,* and that both the active and passive faculties of the soul should join in praise.* If thou forget,  thou wilt be silent. Thou canst not have the LORD’S benefits before thine eyes, unless thine own sins are there too, not pleasure in past sin, but condemnation of it, condemnation by thyself, remission from GOD. Several of the commentators, dwelling on the Vulgate word here for benefits, retributions,* dwell on its meaning as teaching us how GOD repays us good for evil, how He has given us back, over and over again, all the gifts of grace which we lost by our first parents’ fall; how He bestows on us afresh, with large and accumulated interest,  any benefit for which we have yielded Him hearty thanks,* how all His bounties are double, first in withholding the punishment which is our due, and then in conferring the prize we could never win.

3 Who forgiveth all thy sin: and healeth all thine infirmities;
4 Who saveth thy life from destruction: and crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness;
5 Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things: making thee young and lusty as an eagle.

The Psalmist counts up six benefits which we have received from CHRIST in redemption. First, that He has remitted our guilt, making satisfaction by His own death. Secondly, He hath healed our infirmities, by allaying the heat of our carnal passions, and by doing away in Baptism with the imputation of original sin. Thirdly, He has delivered us from the ruin and death of wickedness by the teaching of the Gospel. Fourthly, He bestows on us reward for the faithful observance of the Gospel precepts. Fifthly, He has purchased for us the kingdom of heaven and all its happiness, with His own Blood. Sixthly, He has obtained for us, by His own Resurrection, the immortality of the body, when our forms shall be renewed in youth and vigour, and soar upward to the celestial heights.* Who forgiveth all thy sin: that is, both original and actual. And healeth all thine infirmities: that is, all the weakness and tendency towards sin engendered partly by original guilt, and partly by former evil habit and all outward occasions, such as ignorance, forgetfulness, and other frailties, which make it easy for us to err.* And the fulness of the claim made here by the Psalmist for that great Physician Who “hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,”* teaches us that no sin is unpardonable, that no trace of the sickness of the soul will finally remain in the forgiven penitents who are to swell the ranks of heaven. They take occasion to remind us, too, of the bodily cures wrought by the LORD JESUS during His earthly sojourn, and of His being still the one source of all healing wrought for us still by human agency. Who saveth thy life. The A. V. more exactly, with LXX. and Vulgate, redeemeth thy life, teaching us that we, who were sold under sin, have been bought back by the Blood of CHRIST, and that our life, the principle of grace,* is not given over to destruction, that is, to the evil one,* nor our soul to the second death. Who crowneth thee.* And that either by encircling us for a defence,* as though with armour or a ring of soldiery; or in the more usual acceptance, with the royal diadem of the kingdom,* or the wreath of a victorious struggle here and in the world to come. Cardinal Hugo enumerates many crowns named in Holy Writ, first of which is the LORD JESUS Himself, of Whom is written, “In that day shall the LORD of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people.”* And He is thus Himself the chief reward and glory conferred upon His Saints.* There are, besides this chief and imperial diadem, various others; as the Church, of which the Prophet saith, “Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy GOD.”* There is the Manhood of CHRIST, that “crown wherewith His Mother crowned Him in the day of His espousals”* to the human race. There are the converts made by the preachers of righteousness, “for what is our life, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye?”* There is everlasting blessedness, “Thou hast crowned him with glory and worship.”* There is wisdom, for “much experience is the crown of old men.”* And “the fear of the LORD is honour, and glory, and gladness, and a crown of rejoicing.”* With these, and others like them, the LORD crowns us in His mercy and loving-kindness, crowning His own gifts, not our merits.

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, and especially that good thing of the Holy Eucharist, the rich food of His own Body and Blood, as well as with the blessedness of heaven and the crowning felicity of the Beatific Vision,* satiating and surpassing all our desire (Vulg.) And a Jewish commentator wisely adverts here to the proof of GOD’S preeminent skill as a Physician, in that He not only heals us, and snatches us out of the very jaws of death, but that when we are faint, and loathe not only medicine, but even food, He, instead of exhibiting nauseous drugs, offers such pleasant and dainty remedies, that they are eagerly swallowed, and bring back appetite, health, and vigour to the patient,* so that his youth is renewed as an eagle’s (A. V., LXX., Vulg.) This renovation of the eagle is correctly referred by S. Jerome to the moulting of that bird, after which all feathered creatures seem to obtain fresh strength and activity, which is of course more noteworthy in the large and powerful eagle than in smaller birds.* But a wild Rabbinical legend that the eagle, once in every ten years,* till it reaches a century of life, flies so high in air that its wings are scorched to cinders in the blaze of the sun, and that it then falls headlong into the sea,* whence it emerges with new plumage and renewed strength,* has been eagerly caught up by some of the mediæval commentators, who allegorize it of man, having his old sins scorched up by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness, and then, plunging into the waters of Baptism, coming forth born again to GOD. S. Augustine recounts another piece of natural history, only less wonderful, to the effect that the upper beak of the eagle gradually enlarges with time, till it completely overgrows and as it were locks the under one by curving round it, so that the bird is on the point of starvation, till instinct urges it to break the upper beak away by dashing it violently against a rock, whereupon it resumes its feeding and recovers its strength; which the Saint explains of the sinner’s recourse to that Rock which is CHRIST, and of the food which He bestows on the famished soul.  The interpretations of the renewal here as that of regeneration, of repentance, or of resurrection, are common to all the expositors;* as also the notion of the lofty and rapid ascent in holiness and glory of the soul which has thus obtained new vigour, “for they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary: they shall walk, and not faint.”

6 The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment: for all them that are oppressed with wrong.

This He did for us men,* when we were oppressed by the wrong-doing of the enemy that held us in bondage, for He executed righteousness,* or, as LXX. and Vulgate read, mercies, for man in redeeming him with His own Blood,* while at the same time executing judgment in overthrowing the dominion of our spiritual foes, triumphing over them openly on the Cross; of which twofold operation the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt,* accompanied by the plagues and destruction of their oppressors,* was a type. And the verse teaches us that lesson inculcated in another place, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, saith the LORD,”* warning us therefore not to take the office of revenging our wrongs with our own hands, but to imitate the patience of the Saints in leaving it in His, for, as the Wise Man has written, “He that revengeth shall find vengeance of the LORD, and He will surely retain his sins.”*

7 He showed his ways unto Moses: his works unto the children of Israel.

Those ways of GOD were the precepts He delivered to Moses,* and they are so named, partly because they were designed for the Israelites to walk in, and partly because the Law itself was but a transition to the Gospel, a road to the fuller dispensation of grace. And in that it is said in another place, “All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth,”* He showed His ways unto Moses when the Prophet besought Him,* saying, “Show me now Thy way, that I may know Thee,”* and He made that proclamation before him as He passed by, “The LORD, the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”* He made known His works unto the children of Israel,* in permitting them to behold the miracles He wrought in the deliverance out of Egypt, and for their sustenance or their chastisement in the wilderness. The LXX. and Vulgate for works read wills, and they explain that though the will of GOD is one and indivisible, yet in its multiplicity of effects it may be spoken of as manifold. Some will have it that there is a marked distinction to be drawn here between the knowledge communicated to Moses, as GOD’S faithful servant and interpreter, who was suffered to know His ways, and that given to the rebellious people, who were told His will, which they did not obey, and therefore never attained to true knowledge of His ways, so as to walk in them.* And as He literally taught Moses the road by which the Israelites were to journey towards Canaan, while enjoining on them simply obedience to the leader He had set over them, so in the Church He makes known His ways to His Saints, teaching them the inner secrets of the spiritual life and of the path to heaven, while instructing the general mass of believers simply as to what His will is, which is plainly set before us, “for this is the will of GOD; even your sanctification.”*

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, and of great goodness.

These four titles denote all the bounties of GOD,* from the first to the last. The first is the grace of predestination,* or the eternal love of GOD; then follow the gift of justification and the remission of our various sins, and finally there is added the crown of glory, which He bestows on penitent sinners.

9 He will not alway be chiding: neither keepeth he his anger for ever.

He does chide us in this world, from the cradle to the grave, in chastising us for our sins, and in purifying us with trials and afflictions; but He reserves His mercies for us in the perfect happiness of His kingdom. We have a pledge of this in that, while we were yet in our sins, He justified us, and gave us blessings instead of parental punishments. And, spoken especially of His chosen people, the words tell us of the final restoration and conversion of Israel, so long suffering under the wrath of GOD.* They are careful to warn us that the verse does not prove the Universalist theory, as it is dealing only with the promises of GOD to His elect and to all penitent souls,* not to such as harden themselves in sin, who must look for wrath and fiery indignation.

10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins: nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses.

That is as some will have it, He has not punished our original guilt,* but has rather shown us how we may be cleansed from it,* nor has He straightway taken vengeance on our actual transgressions, but has given us time and means of repentance. And others remind us that when He does punish,* it is with far greater leniency than our guilt merits. So Ezra makes his confession: “And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that Thou our GOD hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given such deliverance as this, should we again break Thy commandments?”*

11 For look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth: so great is his mercy also towards them that fear him.
12 Look how wide also the east is from the west: so far hath he set our sins from us.

Lorinus, writing at a time when Galileo was but on the track of his astronomical discoveries, and when the almost total lack of instruments narrowed the range of observation and even of conjecture, endeavours to exhibit the forcible nature of these similes by setting before his readers some calculations as to the vast distances of the heavenly bodies from us, the extent of the firmament which is penetrable to our gaze. It is enough to say, in briefly substituting some of the incomparably greater results of modern science for those which the learned Jesuit offered his readers two centuries and a half ago, that there are nebula? visible to the telescope now, but too distant to be resolvable into separate stars, whence light, travelling at the rate of twelve millions of miles in a minute, must have required seven hundred thousand years to reach our earth; that at the very least one hundred millions of stars believed to be suns, the centres of planetary systems like our own, are countable, each of which systems revolves in a minimum orbit of six thousand millions of miles, and is probably distant from its next neighbour nineteen billions of miles; while all this inconceivable vastness is merely one tiny point in space which our feeble organs and imperfect instruments have enabled us to observe and map out. So great is His mercy, so far hath He set our sins from us. For He hath caused our sins to set in the grave of Baptism, and made the Man,* Whose Name is the East, the Sun of Righteousness, the Day-star,* to arise in our hearts, so that we, who were sometimes darkness, are now light in the LORD,* Who ascended to the height of heaven from the earth, shows His mercy thence to those that fear Him, by His perpetual mediation on behalf of His tried and suffering Church. In the mention of the East and West there may be very possibly a reference to the restoration of the Jewish exiles from Babylon to their own land.* And a Rabbinical commentator observes that we do not find the North and South named, because much of the space lying between their extreme points is uninhabitable by man, owing to the bitter cold, whereas life can be supported in every part of East and West, which therefore serve as better types of the fostering love of GOD.

13 Yea, like as a father pitieth his own children: even so is the LORD merciful unto them that fear him.
14 For he knoweth whereof we are made: he remembereth that we are but dust.

Let Him be as stern as He will, He is our FATHER. He hath scourged us, hath afflicted us, hath crushed us; He is our FATHER. Son, if thou weepest, weep under a FATHER’S hand, be not angered nor violent in pride. What thou sufferest, what thou lamentest, is not punishment, but medicine, it is chastisement, not condemnation. Refuse not the scourge, if thou wouldst not be ousted from thine heritage. Think not of the pain of the scourge, but of thy place in the testament;* for He knoweth whereof we are made, He knoweth our weakness, our proneness to sin, the fuel of evil that abides within us. He knows what He made, how it fell, how it may be restored, adopted, enriched. Behold, we were made out of clay. “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the LORD from heaven.”* Observe, too, that a father’s affection for his children is of much earlier date than theirs for him. He cares for them even before their birth, bears with their childish faults, provides them with all necessaries, and rules them, usually, with more justice and firmness than their mother;* while, on the other hand, children need to emerge out of infancy before they begin to have any intelligent love for their fathers, and it rarely becomes their task to contribute to their support. Whence we are here taught the lesson that GOD’s love and care for us does not depend on our goodness, but on His own, and that we are not less His children, nor less the objects of His tenderness when we rebel against Him,* for He remembereth that we are but dust, and making full allowance for our frailty, is more ready to forgive than we to sin.

15 The days of man are but as grass: for he flourisheth as a flower of the field.
16 For as soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone: and the place thereof shall know it no more.

The simile of man’s frailty which occurs in Ps. 110:5, 6, is here presented afresh, with two additional circumstances to heighten it; the comparison with the flower of the field, and the mention of the wind as sufficient to destroy it, instead of the scythe implied in the former passage.* The commentators dwell on the contrast between a flower of the field, left to itself, untended, and therefore withering for lack of moisture when the heats come, and the flower of a garden, sheltered from the too scorching rays of the sun, and carefully watered.* And, further, as a field is designed for the plough, unlike a wood or a meadow, a field-flower has little prospect of being allowed to live out its span, as it is uprooted or cut down in the act of making the furrows, if it be not even sooner cropped by cattle as they graze. As soon as the wind goeth over it, it is gone.* This is the true sense of the text, confirmed by the parallel passage in Isaiah: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it;”* and the reference is to the hot wind of the desert,* parching up the herbage suddenly. But the LXX. And Vulgate, taking a different sense of the Hebrew רוּחַ, translate it as spirit, and most of the commentators then explain it as meaning either the breath, the vital principle, or the soul of man, thus: For the spirit will pass (hath passed, LXX.) through him, and he will not abide, meaning either that he will cease to draw his breath, and will therefore die; or that vital power will forsake him;* or, again, that the soul will be parted from the body.* And this meaning can be fairly defended by a similar passage in another Psalm, “For He considered that they were but flesh: and that they were even a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.”* There are one or two mystical senses proposed also,* of which the most noteworthy are, that the words refer to the unseen passage of the Angel of Death, as he comes to take the soul away; or else to the loss of the principle of grace and strength on the part of our first parents, so that they could not abide, but fell from Paradise, so that their place knew them no more. The last clause is slightly changed in construction by LXX. and Vulgate, He shall know his place no more. That is, the dead cannot return to animate their bodies,* nor to resume their former state and employment; and we may gather also from the words a presage of the fuller teaching of S. Paul on the Resurrection, that our revived bodies will not be numerically and physically identical with those which died, nor will the revival itself be according to natural laws. Others deduce from the words an argument for the unconsciousness of the dead as to what takes place in this world, save in the case of special revelation. Cardinal Bellarmine suggests a more profitable lesson,* by bidding us observe how the heavenly bodies, albeit constantly moving, revolve in vast orbits, and do return, unchanged, to their former place, whereas things sprung from earth are in constant process of change and decay, and can never retain, much less recover, the vigour of their prime, an allegory which needs no explanatory gloss.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear him: and his righteousness upon children’s children;
18 Even upon such as keep his covenant: and think upon his commandments to do them.

The LXX. and Vulgate mode of rendering for ever and ever here is from eternity to eternity,* whence the commentators explain the sense as denoting the everlasting predestination of GOD* to save mankind by the sacrifice of the immaculate Lamb,* and the everlasting duration of the blessedness thereby obtained for us. And we may notice the contrast between His mercy and ours, for it is written, “Your goodness (mercy, marg.) is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it goeth away.”* Upon them that fear Him. This holds not only under the Law, but under the Gospel, for the same condition is expressed by the Blessed Virgin in the Magnificat;* and we may obtain the merciful goodness of the LORD by penitence, as He will grant us justification in return for contrition, sanctification for confession, and the grace of obedience when we make satisfaction.

And His righteousness upon children’s children.* Hence we may gather the continuance of mercy for Israel, whatever time it may repent and believe, for, as S. Peter declared to the Jews in his Pentecostal sermon, “the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, as many as the LORD our GOD shall call.”* And S. Augustine bids us remember that this does not exclude the barren,* for men’s works are, in a sense, their offspring, so that the promise here is first that GOD’S mercy,* in approval and co-operation, is upon these works,* and then upon the children of all such works,* namely, the rewards which follow them. And with this interpretation we shall do well in understanding the eighteenth verse as referring not to the children, as it seems at the first glance, (which, however, would be mere iteration of the first clause) but to the parents, for whose sake, and because of whose faithfulness and obedience, blessing is bestowed on their descendants, though not necessarily on all without distinction. So we read that when the dying patriarch Jacob was laying his hands in benediction on Ephraim and Manasseh, it is not said that he blessed them, but “he blessed Joseph,”* that is, he knew that the most precious benediction to Joseph would be one which descended to his children. There is a difference between keeping the covenant of GOD,* and thinking upon His commanaments to do them. The first need not necessarily imply more than observance of the prohibitory laws, while the second denotes fulfilment of the positive ones; or yet more fully, keeping is storing the seed carefully in a granary; doing is planting it in the ground, that it may bring forth abundant fruit; a notion well brought out by the Talmudic parable of the man who left a bag of corn in charge of a friend; and on his return from a journey, asked for his deposit, and was shown a field of waving wheat instead of the small parcel which he expected.* We are all bound to GOD in the covenant made with Him in Baptism, and have His Scriptures to teach us what are the commandments thereby made binding upon us. But Holy Writ, to those who merely think upon it, and admire its beauties, but do not put its precepts in action, is as the voice of Ezekiel to the rebellious Jews, “They hear thy words, but they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness. And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument: for they hear thy words, but do them not.”* Accordingly, the Fathers use many similes to describe the uselessness of mere reading of Scripture apart from living it.* It is like, says one, having a table spread with meat and drink,* but taking no food from it.* It is like an armoury, whence you borrow no weapon,* observes a second. It is a well whence you draw no water, a dispensary whence you take no medicine, a garden whence you gather no flowers, a treasury whence you extract no wealth, as the Golden-mouthed preacher forcibly urges.

19 The LORD hath prepared his seat in heaven: and his kingdom ruleth over all.

Not on earth,* in the sanctuary of the Temple, ruling over the Jews alone, as aforetime; but now ascended, the LORD, the SON,* assumes the throne which the LORD, the FATHER, hath prepared for Him and rules all creation, Jews, Gentiles, angels, and spirits alike. And therefore we, if we wish to stand by that throne, if we would gain the merciful goodness of the former verse, must have “our conversation in heaven,”* “where CHRIST sitteth on the right hand of GOD.”* The LORD hath prepared His seat not merely as a throne,* but as the place of judgment, and it is added that His Kingdom ruleth over all,* to teach us that He is not a Judge under a king, but is Himself at once supreme Judge and King, Whose citation none can resist, against Whose sentence none may appeal.* Mystically, they remind us that the Church, the practice of holiness,* and the devout soul, are all seats of the LORD, and true heavens, as well as that celestial home of the Angels, where He is lifted above the Thrones. And as the word seat may be used in three senses, for the chair of a teacher, the tribunal of a judge,* and the throne of a king, be CHRIST the LORD dwells in this threefold fashion in the righteous soul, as Teacher of its reasoning faculties, as Judge over its passions, as King over its will and desires.

20 O praise the LORD, ye angels of his, ye that excel in strength: ye that fulfil his commandment, and hearken unto the voice of his words.
21 O praise the LORD, all ye his hosts: ye servants of his that do his pleasure.

Conscious of his own infirmity, the Psalmist desires that not only his weak powers,* his soul and all within him, should praise the LORD, but that a worthier homage may be done to Him, and therefore invokes the Angels to take up the strain in clearer and more fitting accents.* He calls not only on the Angels,* as a special order of celestial beings, but upon all those that excel in strength, all GOD’S hosts, the whole chivalry of heaven throughout the nine ranks of its hierarchy, to swell the song. And we may observe the apparent inversion in the latter clause of the twentieth verse, where fulfil stands before hearken, contrary to the natural order. There are three explanations of it. First, that the sentence should run,* “fulfil … that ye may hearken;” implying that the Angels are not like men, who do GOD’S will in hope of reward, but that obedience itself is the reward, pleasure, and glory of the heavenly spirits,* who look for nothing further. The second is, that the phrase denotes the swiftness of their obedience and execution, in that their task is accomplished at the instant when the command is uttered. Thirdly, and best; they not only obey such orders as are given them,* but stand waiting and listening intently, to catch the first intimation of the Divine will.

Who best
Bear His mild yoke,* they serve Him best: His state
Is kingly, thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest,
They also serve who only stand and wait.

The frequent use of the word Angel to denote a messenger,* has led some of the commentators to apply these verses in a secondary sense to the preachers of the Gospel or to the priests of the Church,* alike bound to serve and praise GOD in voice and acts. Ye servants of His. In this epithet the majesty of GOD is set before us, in that they who just before are described as excelling in strength, are now declared to be but ministers to do His pleasure. And that pleasure that they should minister to the heirs of salvation.* In Holy Writ, before the coming of CHRIST, we find that the Angels who appeared to men accepted their reverence and homage, as when David and the elders fell down before the destroying angel,* and Daniel before Gabriel; but after the Ascension of CHRIST, the Angels refuse all such marks of respect,* saying, as twice to the Beloved Disciple, “See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant,”* for now they see that human nature, once so far below them, is exalted above them in supreme dominion.

The Angels tremble as they see
The lot of mortals altering,*
Flesh sins, but flesh again sets free,
And GOD, the Flesh of GOD, is King.

22 O speak good of the LORD, all ye works of his, in all places of his dominion: praise thou the LORD, O my soul.

It is possible for all the works of GOD to praise Him,* though not in the same fashion. His intellectual creatures praise Him consciously and audibly, as witnesses of His might and glory, His irrational and inanimate works praise Him silently, by fulfilling exactly the end of their creation, and by teaching men somewhat of His power and goodness, so that they are quickened to praise Him anew,

And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun,*
Earth, with ten thousand voices, praises GOD.

In all places of His dominion.* Where GOD has no dominion, there is no need to praise Him; but wherever He hath dominion, He is to be praised,* and as that is everywhere, no one can be excused from paying this homage. They are no words for the Jews, observes a Greek Father, for they, tied to one spot for their worship, asked “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?”* But we have been taught by the LORD Himself in His words to the woman of Samaria, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet in Jerusalem, worship the FATHER;.… but the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the FATHER in spirit and in truth;”* in that Holy Catholic Church which is made up of all nations, and spread through all lands, so that from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same,* in every place incense is offered unto the Name of GOD,* and a pure offering, because all the earth has been purged with the Blood of CHRIST, and men may now “pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands.”* Praise the Lord, O my soul. The last verse is the same as the first, praise at the outset, praise at the close; we have set out with praise, may it be our lot to return thither, and reign where it is everlasting, where the heavenly hosts praise the FATHER, where all the works of creation praise the WORD by Whom all things were made, where the souls of ransomed men praise the SPIRIT, Who hath sanctified them.

Wherefore: Glory be to the FATHER, Who pitieth His own children; glory be to the SON, Who hath prepared His seat for judgment in heaven; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who healeth all our infirmities. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

 

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