The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Archive for the ‘Notes on the Gospel of Matthew’ Category

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 10:26-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 28, 2017

Ver 26. “Fear them not therefore: for there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; and hid, that shall not be known.27. What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.28. And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Remig.: To the foregoing consolation He adds another no less, saying, “Fear ye not them,” namely, the persecutors. And why they were not to fear, He adds, “For there is nothing hid which shall not be revealed, nothing secret which shall not be known.”

Jerome: How is it then that in the present world, the sins of so many are unknown? It is of the time to come that this is said; the time when God shall judge the hidden things of men, shall enlighten the hidden places of darkness, and shall make manifest the secrets of hearts. The sense is, Fear not the cruelty of the persecutor, or the rage of the blasphemer, for there shall come a day of judgment in which your virtue and their wickedness will be made known.

Hilary: Therefore neither threatening, nor evil speaking, nor power of their enemies should move them, seeing the judgment-day will disclose how empty, how nought all these were.

Chrys.: Otherwise; It might seem that what is here said should be applied generally; but it is by no means intended as a general maxim, but is spoken solely with reference to what had gone before with this meaning; If you are grieved when men revile you, think that in a little time you will be delivered from this evil. They call you indeed impostors, sorcerers, seducers, but have a little patience, and all men shall call you the saviours of the world, when in the course of things you shall be found to have been their benefactors, for men will not judge by their words but by the truth of things.

Remig.: Some indeed think that these words convey a promise from our Lord to His disciples, that through them all hidden mysteries should be revealed, which lay beneath the veil of the letter of the Law; whence the Apostle speaks, “When they have turned to Christ, then the veil shall be taken away.” [2Co_3:16] So the sense would be, Ought you to fear your persecutors, when you are thought worthy that by you the hidden mysteries of the Law and the Prophets should be made manifest?

Chrys.: Then having delivered them from all fear, and set them above all calumny, He follows this up appropriately with commanding that their preaching should be free and unreserved; “What I say to you in darkness, that speak ye in the light; what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.”

Jerome: We do not read that the Lord was wont to discourse to them by night, or to deliver his doctrine in the dark; but He said this because all His discourse is dark to the carnal, and His word night to the unbelieving. What had been spoken by Him they were to deliver again with the confidence of faith and confession.

Remig.: The meaning therefore is, “What I say to you in darkness,” that is, among the unbelieving Jews, “that speak ye in the light,” that is, preach it to the believing; “what ye hear in the ear,” that is, what I say unto you secretly, “that preach ye upon the housetops,” that is, openly before all men. It is a common phrase, To speak in one’s ear, that is, to speak to him privately.

Rabanus: And what He says, “Preach ye upon the housetops,” is spoken after the manner of the province of Palestine, where they use to sit upon the roofs of the houses, which are not pointed but flat. That then may be said to be preached upon the housetops which is spoken in the hearing of all men.

Gloss. ord.: Otherwise; What I say unto you while you are yet held under carnal fear, that speak ye in the confidence of truth, after ye shall be enlightened by the Holy Spirit; what you have only heard, that preach by doing the same, being raised above you bodies, which are the dwellings of your souls.

Jerome: Otherwise; What you hear in mystery, that teach in plainness of speech; what I have taught you in a corner of Judaea, that proclaim boldly in all quarters of the world.

Chrys.: As He said, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do he shall do also, and greater things than these shall he do;” [Joh_14:12] so here He shews that He works all things through them more than through Himself; as though He had said, I have made a beginning, but what is beyond, that I will to complete through your means. So that this is not a command but a prediction, shewing them that they shall overcome all things.

Hilary: Therefore they ought to inculcate constantly the knowledge of God, and the profound secret of evangelic doctrine, to be revealed by the light of preaching; having no fear of those who have power only over the body, but cannot reach the soul; “Fear not those that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”

Chrys.: Observe how He sets them above all others, encouraging them to set at nought cares, reproaches, perils, yea even the most terrible of all things, death itself, in comparison of the fear of God.”But rather fear him, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jerome: This word is not found in the Old Scriptures, but it is first used by the Saviour. Let us enquire then into its origin. We read in more than one place that the idol Baal was near Jerusalem, at the foot of Mount Moriah, by which the brook Siloe flows. This valley and a small level plain was watered and woody, a delightful spot, and a grove in it was consecrated to the idol. To so great folly and madness had the people of Israel come, that, forsaking the neighbourhood of the Temple, they offered their sacrifices there, and concealing an austere ritual under a voluptuous life, they burned their sons in honour of a daemon.

This place was called, Gehennom, that is, The valley of the children of Hinnom. These things are fully described in Kings and Chronicles, and the Prophet Jeremiah. [2Ki_23:10, 2Ch_26:3, Jer_7:32; Jer_32:35] God threatens that He will fill the place with the carcasses of the dead, that it be no more called Tophet and Baal, but Polyandrion, i.e. The tomb of the dead. Hence the torments and eternal pains with which sinners shall be punished are signified by this word.

Aug., City of God, book xiii, ch. 2: This cannot be before the soul is so joined to the body, that nothing may sever them. Yet it is rightly called the death of the soul, because it does not live of God; and the death of the body, because though man does not cease to feel, yet because this his feeling has neither pleasure nor health, but is a pain and a punishment, it is better named death than life.

Chrys.: Note also, that He does not hold out to them deliverance from death, but encourages them to despise it; which is a much greater thing than to be rescued from death; also this discourse aids in fixing in their minds the doctrine of immortality.

Ver 29. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.30. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.31. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”

Chrys.: Having set aside fear of death, that the Apostles should not think that if they were put to death they were deserted by God, He passes to discourse of God’s providence, saying, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing, and one of them does not fall to the ground without your Father?”

Jerome: If these little creations fall not without God’s superintendence and providence, and if things made to perish, perish not without God’s will, you who are immortal ought not to fear that you live without His providence.

Hilary: Figuratively; That which is sold is our soul and body, and that to which it is sold, is sin. They then who sell two sparrows for a farthing, are they who sell themselves for the smallest sin, born for flight, and for reaching heaven with spiritual wings. [margin note: see Psa_124:7] Caught by the bait of present pleasures, and sold to the enjoyment of the world, they barter away their whole selves in such a market. It is of the will of God that one of them rather soar aloft; but the law proceeding according to God’s appointment decrees that one of them should fall. In like manner as, if they soared aloft they would become one spiritual body; so, when sold under sin, the soul gathers earthly matter from the pollution of vice, and there is made of them one body which is committed to earth.

Jerome: That He says, “The hairs of your head are all numbered,” shews the boundless providence of God towards man, and a care unspeakable that nothing of ours is hid from God.

Hilary: For when any thing is numbered it is carefully watched over.

Chrys.: Not that God reckons our hairs, but to shew His diligent knowledge, and great carefulness over us.

Jerome: Those who deny the resurrection of the flesh ridicule the sense of the Church on this place, as if we affirmed that every hair that has ever been cut off by the razor rises again, when the Saviour says, “Every hair of your head” – not is saved, but – “is numbered.” Where there is number, knowledge of that number is implied, but not preservation of the same hairs.

Aug., City of God, book xxii, ch. 19: Though we may fairly enquire concerning our hair, whether all that has ever been shorn from us will return; for who would not dread such disfigurement. When it is once understood that nothing of our body shall be lost, so as that the form and perfectness of all the parts should be preserved, we at the same time understand that all that would have disfigured our body is to be united or taken up by the whole mass, not affixed to particular parts so as to destroy the frame of the limbs; just as a vessel made of clay, and again reduced to clay, is once more reformed into a vessel, it needs not that that portion of clay which had formed the handle should again form it, or that which had composed the bottom, should again go to the bottom, so long as the whole was remoulded into the whole, the whole clay into the whole vessel, no part being lost.

Wherefore if the hair so often shorn away would be a deformity if restored to the place it had been taken from, it will not be restored to that place, but all the materials of the old body will be revived in the new, whatever place they may occupy so as to preserve the mutual fitness of parts. Though what is said in Luke, “Not a hair of your head shall fall to the ground,” [Luk_21:18] may be taken of the number, not the length of the hairs, as here also it is said, “The hairs of your head are all numbered.”

Hilary: For it is an unworthy task to number things that are to perish. Therefore that we should know that nothing of us should perish, we are told that our very hairs are numbered. No accident then that can befal our bodies is to be feared.

Thus He adds, “Fear not, ye are better than many sparrows.”

Jerome: This expresses still more clearly the sense as it was above explained, that they should not fear those who can kill the body, for if the least animal falls not without God’s knowledge, how much less a man who is dignified with the Apostolic rank?

Hilary: Or this, “ye are better than many sparrows,” teaches that the elect faithful are better than the multitude of the unbelieving, for the one fall to earth, the other fly to heaven.

Remig.: Figuratively; Christ is the head, the Apostles the hairs, who are well said to be numbered, because the names of the saints are written in heaven.

Ver 32. “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.33. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Chrys.: The Lord having banished that fear which haunted the minds of His disciples, adds further comfort in what follows, not only casting out fear, but by hope of greater rewards encouraging them to a free proclamation of the truth, saying, “Every man who shall confess me before men, I also will confess him before my Father which is in heaven.” And it is not properly “shall confess me,” but as it is in the Greek, “shall confess in me,” shewing that it is not by your own strength but by grace from above, that you confess Him whom you do confess.

Hilary: This He says in conclusion, because it behoves them after being confirmed by such teaching, to have a confident freedom in confessing God.

Remig.: Here is to be understood that confession of which the Apostle speaks, “With the heart men believe unto justification, with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” [Rom_10:10] That none therefore might suppose that he could be saved without confession of the mouth, He says not only, “He that shall confess me,” but adds, “before me;” and again, “He that shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Hilary: This teaches us, that in what measure we have borne witness to Him upon earth, in the same shall we have Him to bear witness to us in heaven before the face of God the Father.

Chrys.: Here observe that the punishment is manifold more than the evil done, and the reward more than the good done. As much as to say, your deed was more abundant in confessing or denying Me here; so shall My deed to you be more abundant in confessing or denying you there. Wherefore if you have done any good thing, and have not received retribution, be not troubled, for a manifold reward awaits you in the time to come. And if you have done any evil, and have not paid the punishment thereof, do not think that you have escaped, for punishment will overtake you, unless you are changed and become better.

Raban.: It should be known that not even Pagans can deny the existence of God, but the infidels may deny that the Son as well as the Father is God. The Son confesses men before the Father, because by the Son we have access to the Father, and because the Son saith, “Come, ye blessed of my Father.” [Mat_25:34]

Remig.: And thus He will deny the man that hath denied Him, in that he shall not have access to the Father through Him, and shall be banished from seeing either the Son of the Father in their divine nature.

Chrys.: He not only requires faith which is of the mind, but confession which is by the mouth, that He may exalt us higher, and raise us to a more open utterance, and a larger measure of love. For this is spoken not to the Apostles only, but to all; He gives strength not to them only, but to their disciples. And he that observes this precept will not only teach with free utterance, but will easily convince all; for the observance of this command drew many to the Apostles.

Raban.: Or, He confesses Jesus who by that faith that worketh by love, obediently fulfils His commands; he denies Him who is disobedient.

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Haydock Bible Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2017

Mat 28:1  And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.

And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week. According to the letter, in the evening of the sabbath, which began to dawn on the first of the sabbath; (or of the sabbaths in the common Greek copies.) This latter translation, which is that of the Rheims Testament, is certainly more according to the letter, and more obscure than it need to be. First, by translating, on the first of the sabbath, where sabbath is taken for a week, as in other places, Luke 18:12. Acts 20:7 and 1 Cor. 16:2. It may therefore here be literally translated, on the first day of the week. Secondly, By the evening, is here meant the night: for in the Scriptures, both the Latin and Greek word, which we find in this place, not only signifies that time which we commonly call the evening, but is also put for the whole night itself, and for the time from sunset to sunrise next morning. Thus it is taken in the first chapter of Genesis, where, in the computation of natural days of 24 hours, all the hours in which it was dark, are called vespere, in the Sept. And all the hours in which it was light, are called mane, πρωι. et factum est vespere & mane dies unus, i.e. primus. And from the fourth day, on which were created sun and moon, by vespere was understood all the time from the sun setting on such parts of the earth, to its rising to them again: and mane signified all the day, or the hours that the sun appeared to the like parts of the earth. Therefore, the literal and proper sense of the verse is: in the night, i.e. in the latter part of the night of the sabbath, or after the sabbath, towards the morning of the first day of the week. And that in this place is signified the latter part of the night, and not what is commonly called the evening, appears first by the following words, when it began to dawn, or to be light. Secondly, It appears by the other evangelists. S. Mark (16:1) says, when the sabbath was past … very early in the morning. S. Luke says, (24:1,) very early in the morning. S. John (20:1) says of Mary Magdalene, that she came in the morning, when it was yet dark. From all which it is plain, that Mary Magdalene, and the other pious women, came to the sepulchre at the end of the night after the sabbath-day, or when it began to be light, and about sunrise on the first day of the week, on our Sunday.—There may indeed be some doubt whether the Latin word vesperè be not an adverb, corresponding to the Greek οψε, serò. And then it may be translated with Dr. Wells: late in the night after the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week. But this makes no difference at all as to the sense. And the other Mary, &c. S. Mark says, Mary, the mother of James and Salome. S. Luke also names Joanna, who was wife to Chusa, Herod’s steward. These women had rested the sabbath, and as soon as it was over, i.e. after sunset, they bought spices, and prepared them in the night, in order to embalm the body next morning. Wi.

Mat 28:2  And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and coming rolled back the stone and sat upon it.

Behold … an angel. The angel did not remove the stone to afford a passage to Christ when he arose; for Christ most certainly arose before the angel appeared; but he removed the stone to prepare the way for the women, and to shew the soldiers that Christ was arisen. He sat on the stone, that the women might know he had removed it; and, in the second place, that they might not be terrified at the appearance of the soldiers; for he exhorted them not to fear, but to come and see; and lastly, to prevent the soldiers from putting in another body, had they been so disposed. The holy women seem not to have known that there were guards placed near the sepulchre; otherwise they would not have been so solicitous who should roll away the stone for them, as how they should deceive the guards and break the seal. Tirinus.—For an angel of the Lord. This angel, who came to testify Christ’s resurrection, removed the great stone; but Christ was risen before, who according to all the fathers, says Estius, rose, the sepulchre being yet shut.[2]—S. Matthew and S. Mark name but one angel; S. Luke and S. John name two. It may be answered, that the women saw one at one time, and two at another: one upon the stone, out of the monument; (which also frightened the guards) afterwards this angel disappeared, and the women coming near, and looking into the vault, saw two angels, when he that was on the right side said, why seek you him that is living, among the dead?—Another difference to be observed, is, that S. Matthew, Mark and John tell us, that the angel, or angels, sat; and S. Luke, that they stood: they might sit at one time, and stand at another. Besides that in the style of the Scriptures, standing, or sitting, many times imply no more than that they were present there.—In the third place, we take notice that Mary Magdalene seems to have come running to S. Peter, and S. John, as soon as she saw the stone removed, with these words, They have taken away the Lord … and we know not where they have laid him: John 20:2, we do not there read that she said any thing of the angels. Or perhaps S. Peter and S. John ran away before they heard all that Magdalene had to say. In all these there is no contradiction; and the difficulties rise only from this, that each evangelist does not relate all the circumstances. Wi.

Mat 28:3  And his countenance was as lightning and his raiment as snow. 

Haydock provides no commentary on this verse. The reference to the angel’s countenance recalls Daniel’s vision of the heavenly being in Dan 10:6 (the angel Gabriel? cf. Dan 9:21).

His raiment as snow. Associated with God (“the Ancient of Days” in Dan 9:7); the Son of Man (Rev 1:14-15); Jesus at the Transfiguration (Matt 17:2); angels at the Ascension (Acts 1:10); the Twenty-four Elders in Heaven (Rev 4:4); those who will be resurrected to heavenly glory (Rev 3:4-5; 6:11; 7:9, 13). 

Mat 28:4  And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror and became as dead men.

The guards were struck, &c. Fear and astonishment seized upon them, because they had not that charity for our Redeemer, of which he is so deserving; and they became petrified, like statues, at the thought that the crucified Jesus was arisen from the sepulchre. For these men guarded the sacred tomb, actuated more by passion and cruelty than by any sentiment of love and duty. Rabanus.

Mat 28:5  And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.

It is not yours to fear, who love Jesus Christ: let those rather fear, who through hatred have crucified Jesus. All such, if they do not repent of their wickedness, must have to undergo the greatest extremities of pain. S. Chrys. hom. xc.—Those miscreants fear, because they have not charity, but fear not you; for I know you seek him that was crucified, who is risen, as he promised you. These affectionate women sought Jesus among the dead, who was then among the living. The recent storm of calamities had nearly overwhelmed their faith, and the weight of temptations had so enfeebled their understanding, that they came to seek the Lord of heaven as one dead among the dead. S. Jerom.—The angel blushes not to style Jesus the crucified; for this is now the height and perfection of all good. By these glad tidings he endeavoured to expel their fears, speaking with a smiling countenance, as the messenger of the most joyful news. S. Chrys. hom. xc.

Mat 28:6  He is not here. For he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid.

He is risen, as he said. This is to put them in mind of what they ought to have remembered, and believed.—S. Luke is more particular; and tells us the angel said: remember how he spoke to you, when he was yet in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again. Wi.—By this the angel give them to understand, that if they would not believe him upon his own testimony, they should at least on the testimony of their Redeemer’s promises, who had frequently assured them that on the third day he should rise again. S. Chrys. hom. xc.

Mat 28:7  And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen. And behold he will go before you into Galilee. There you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.

Into Galilee. It is not without reason that the angel informs the women that he will go before them into Galilee; for Galilee is interpreted a transmigration, or a passage. O happy women, who merited the glorious ministry of announcing to a sunk and distressed world the triumphant resurrection of our Redeemer. But thrice happy those souls, who in the day of judgment shall deserve to sing in everlasting canticles, the joy you now conceive in your breasts at the happy resurrection of Jesus. Ven. Bede.—Moreover, the disciples being Galileans, it was natural for them to return to Galilee, after the festival week of the Passover. V.

Mat 28:8  And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples.

Haydock offers no comments on this verse.

They went out quickly. Having been bidden to go quickly to the disciples (verse 7) the women obey.

With fear and great joy. Matthew downplays the harsher description of the women found in Mark 16:8. This is in keeping with his overall treatment of the disciples.

Mat 28:9  And behold, Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet and adored him.

Jesus met them. According to S. Mark, Christ appeared first to Mary Magdalene; and the particulars are related by S. John. She at first did not know him, but took him for the gardener: then he called her by her name Mary, and she knew him: he said to her, touch me not, for I have not yet ascended to my Father; i.e. according to the common exposition, I have not ascended, nor am yet going to ascend; thou mayest see me again before I ascend: this is not the last time.—We also read here, (v. 9,) that he appeared to some of the other women, as they were returning to Jerusalem from the sepulchre, and that they laid hold on his feet, and adored him; nor is it said that he hindered them. Wi.—They were then returning to carry the news to the disciples, when they laid hold of his feet. To touch the feet, was in the Scripture a species of veneration; (see Exod. 4:25. 4 Kings 4:27) as among the Greeks, the touching of the knees. Thus Homer’s Illiad, b. i.,

Και ρα παροιθ αυτοιο Καθεζετο, Και λαβε γουνων. v 500. And again, v. 512; ως ηψατο γουνων.

Mat 28:10  Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee. There they shall see me.

There they shall see me. Our Saviour, on the day of his resurrection, shewed himself alive five different times: 1. to Mary Magdalene; 2. to the women leaving the sepulchre; 3. to S. Peter; 4. to the two disciples going to Emmaus; 5. to the disciples assembled together, when the two returned from Emmaus. And after the day of his resurrection, before he ascended into heaven, he appeared other five times: 1. after eight days, when Thomas was present; 2. when the seven disciples were fishing on the sea of Tiberias; (S. John c. 21) 3. to the eleven on Mount Thabor; 4. in Jerusalem, on the day of his ascension; and 5. on the same day on Mount Olivet, when he was taken from them. Dion. Carth.—The seventh apparition of Jesus, which was by the sea or lake of Tiberias, S. John calls the third, which may mean in any numerous assembly of his disciples; the first being on the day of his resurrection, and the second the Sunday following. This may also be referred to the number of days. He first appeared to different persons on the very day of his resurrection; secondly, eight days afterwards, and then a third time. S. Aug.—The history of our Lord’s different apparitions in not very clear, and it is necessary to have recourse to the first chapter of the Acts, and to the 15th chapter of S. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians. S. Austin says, (l. iii. de cons. Evang. c. xxv,) that there are ten apparitions of our Lord recorded in the four evangelists, which he specifies; but Maldonatus, on the 28th chap. of S. Mat. enumerates 13 different apparitions.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 28:1-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 19, 2017

Mat 28:1  And in the end of the sabbath, when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre.

And in the end of the sabbath.] This section may be divided into two parts: the first [vv. 1–10] proves the fact of Christ’s resurrection; the second [vv. 11–15] states the unbelief of the Jews. We need not show again that the evangelist is true to his purpose to the very end, proving the Messiasship of Jesus, and explaining to the Jewish Christians the rejection of Israel and the conversion of the nations.

1.] Proof of resurrection. This section contains four parts: a. Introduction, v. 1; b. the fright of the guard, vv. 2–4; c. the angel and the women, vv. 5–8; d. Jesus himself appears, vv. 8–10.

a. Introduction. The gospel first gives us the names of certain holy women, tells us what they did, and when they did it.

α. According to the first gospel the holy women were Mary Magdalen and the other Mary, the mother of James the less and Joseph. Mark [16:1] adds the name of Salome, the mother of James and John, to the preceding; Luke increases their number by adding Joanna and the others that were with them [Lk. 24:10]; John [20:1] mentions only Mary Magdalen. That the fourth gospel does not exclude the companions of Mary Magdalen is clear from 22:2, where the latter says to Peter and John: “… we know not where they have laid him.” None of the evangelists professes to give a full list of the holy women, so that they rather supplement than contradict one another.

β. All the gospels agree in telling that the holy women went to the sepulchre of our Lord. Mark [16:1] adds that they bought spices after the sabbath was ended, in order to anoint the body of their Master; Lk. 23:56, too, mentions the preparation of the spices, and in 24:1 he expressly states that they carried the spices with them to the sepulchre. Though it is implied by Luke that the preparation of the spices began on Friday afternoon, it follows from Mark that it was resumed Saturday evening after the sabbath had ended.

γ. There is more difficulty about the time of the preceding action as given in the four gospels: Matthew places it “in the end of the sabbath when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week”; Mark [16:2] states that it occurred “very early in the morning the first day of the week”; Luke [24:1] agrees almost with Mark “on the first day of the week very early in the morning”; John [20:1] reads “on the first day of the week … early, when it was yet dark.” The four evangelists agree, therefore, in assigning the first day of the week as the time of the women’s visit. The discrepancy between the fourth gospel, “when it was yet dark,” and the second, “the sun being now risen,” is of little account. For as the dawn and the twilight are short in Palestine, the women may well be said to have left their house “when it was yet dark” [Jn.], if they came to the sepulchre after sunrise [Mk.]. But how are we to explain the words of the first gospel? How can the end of the sabbath coincide with the dawn of the first day of the week? The Greek word rendered by “end” has two principal meanings: “late” and “long after” [cf. Liddell and Scott, Greek Lexicon, s. v. ὀψέ]. Hence Lamy, Fil. P. etc. explain the words of Matthew thus: “And after the sabbath, when it began to dawn,” etc. [cf. Mald. Fritzsche, Kuin. Steenkiste, etc.]. But Euth. Schegg, Schanz, Keil, Weiss, etc. understand the Greek adverb in its meaning of “late,” so that they agree more closely with the Vulgate version of the word. The foregoing writers differ, however, again in the precise explanation of the passage: Patrizi is of opinion that the two Marys paid a visit to the sepulchre “late on the sabbath, when the evening star [the morning star of Sunday] had risen” [cf. Ewald, Keim]. This view has not been commonly adopted by commentators, but it has the advantage that it reckons the day according to the legal way of the Jews. Most commentators observe that Matthew reckons according to the natural day, i. e. from sunrise to sunset; why else bring the dawn of Sunday in immediate contact with the end of Saturday? The passage means, therefore, “late on the sabbath [i. e. early on Sunday morning] when it began to dawn towards the first day of the week” [cf. Theoph. Lap. Nat. Alex. Alf. Bloomf. Knab. etc.].

Mat 28:2  And behold there was a great earthquake. For an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and coming rolled back the stone and sat upon it. 
Mat 28:3  And his countenance was as lightning and his raiment as snow. 
Mat 28:4  And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror and became as dead men.

And behold there was.] b. The fright of the guard. The expression “and behold” does not necessarily imply that the following events occurred at the approach of the holy women [Caj. Mald.] or before their very eyes [Weiss], but points out that something wonderful took place. That the events had taken place before the arrival of the women may be inferred from the fact that they saw the stone rolled back when they arrived at the sepulchre, and again from the implied statement that they did not find a Roman guard near the place. The divine presence and power are repeatedly manifested by an earthquake [Pss. 67:8, 9; 97:7 f.; 98:1; 113:6, 7; Joel 3:16; etc.]. The ministry of an angel cannot astonish us under the circumstances, since angels announce Christ’s incarnation, birth, and ascension into heaven; angels, too, minister to him in the desert and in the garden of Gethsemani. The stone was rolled back not to give Jesus an exit, for he rose before the stone was rolled away, even as he was born without violating the virginity of his Blessed Mother [Thom.], but in order to convince the holy women and the disciples of his absence from the sepulchre. Writers vary concerning the exact time of our Lord’s resurrection: some contend that it cannot be determined with certainty; others place it at about an hour after midnight or the first cock-crow; others again place it at the dawn of Sunday, a little after the light of the day had begun to appear [cf. Suar. Bened. XIV. Greg. Euth.]. The point of comparison between the angel’s countenance and lightning is its brightness; and similarly the angel’s raiment is compared to snow on account of its spotless brilliancy [cf. Mald.]. Since even holy persons are frightened by witnessing divine apparitions [cf. Is. 6:5 (hebr.); Ezech. 2:1; Dan. 7:15; Lk. 1:30], the terror of the Roman soldiers at seeing the angel cannot astonish us.

Mat 28:5  And the angel answering, said to the women: Fear not you: for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 
Mat 28:6  He is not here. For he is risen, as he said. Come, and see the place where the Lord was laid. 
Mat 28:7  And going quickly, tell ye his disciples that he is risen. And behold he will go before you into Galilee. There you shall see him. Lo, I have foretold it to you.

And the angel answering, said.] c. The angel and the holy women. [1] Apparition of the angel. The holy women must first have been struck by the removal of the stone [Mk. 16:4; Lk. 24:2; Jn. 20:1], on seeing which Magdalen hastened back to announce the fact to Peter and John [Jn. 20:2]. The other women entered the sepulchre [Mk. 16:5; Lk. 24:3], as we see from verse 8, where the evangelist states: “They went out quickly from the sepulchre”; from the same passage it is clear that the angel addressed them inside the sepulchre, whither he must have retired after the Roman soldiers had fled away. Here the evangelists seem to disagree entirely in their accounts: the women are addressed by one angel according to Matthew and Mark [16:5], by two angels according to Luke [24:4, 5]; again, the angel is sitting to the right according to Mark, the angels are standing by the women according to Luke; the evangelists agree, however, regarding the dress of the angels: “clothed with a white robe” [Mk.] and “in shining apparel” [Lk.]. If one remembers the Jewish style of sepulchres, which had a vestibule and from this an entrance into one or more chambers actually used as graves, one understands why the holy women saw only one angel [Mk.], though two were present in the grave-chamber proper. This is the more natural if the angels occupied the place they did when Magdalen saw them [Jn. 20:12], “sitting one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid.” It is also clear why the angels who were first seated [Mk.] should rise and stand by the women in order to reassure them [Lk.].

—Fear not you.] [2] Words of the angel. The “you” is emphatic; it is not a mere address [Fritzsche, Schegg], nor does it signify the contrast between the women and the Roman soldiers [Theoph. Enth. Jans. Mald. Meyer, Berlepsch, Weiss, Keil, etc.], but it contrasts the women with the Jews, for whom the news of the resurrection must prove the cause of the greatest fear [Chrys. Jer. Greg. Schanz, etc.]. This follows from the reason advanced by the angel. The words “fear not” are characteristic of almost all favorable apparitions of angels [cf. Lk. 1:12, 13, 29; 2:9; etc.]. The parallel passage of Luke [24:5] shows that the words of the angel contained a gentle reproof for the incredulity of the women, or their want of attention to the prediction of Jesus. Then they are bidden to announce the good news to the disciples “and to Peter” [Mk.], in order to make them depart for Galilee, where the risen Redeemer will appear to them. Thus the holy women become the first apostles of Christ’s resurrection, as they had been his most faithful companions during the passion, and as the first woman had been the occasion of the fall. Galilee is chosen as the scene of the apparition, because Jesus himself had predicted this most clearly [Mt. 20:32; 26:32], because in Galilee was the apostles’ home where they would be free from the enmities of the Jews, again because in Galilee Jesus had most disciples [1 Cor. 15:6], and finally because Jesus wished to appear solemnly before the assembled Church, to authenticate himself [so to speak] as risen, and to inaugurate his kingdom by pronouncing the apostolical commission in the presence of the congregated faithful [cf. Dublin Review, Oct. 1876, “Gospel Narrative of the Resurrection”; Knab. Schanz, etc.]. Since the disciples did not believe the holy women implicitly, the first apparitions occurred in Jerusalem. The last words of the angel show the unexceptional truthfulness of his information.

Mat 28:8  And they went out quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy, running to tell his disciples.

And they went out quickly.] [3] The action of the holy women. This passage supposes that the holy women had entered the sepulchre. Here we meet another apparent contradiction between the reports of the evangelists: Mk. 16:8 says: “But they going out fled from the sepulchre; for trembling and fear had seized them; and they said nothing to any man, for they were afraid.” Luke [24:9] agrees with the gospel of Matthew: “And going back from the sepulchre, they told all these things to the eleven and to the rest.” Various endeavors have been made to reconcile these apparent discrepancies: Enth. Caj. Salm. Tirin. Lam. Calm. patr. Fil. Grot. Hammond, Kuinoel, etc. think that the holy women said nothing of the angel’s message to any of those they met on their way to the apostles; but this explanation appears forced and unnatural. We must also reject the explanation that the holy women said nothing to the two angels that had spoken to them [Aug. De cons, evang. iii. 24; Bed. Fab.], or that they said nothing to the Roman soldiers whom they saw lying prostrate on the ground [Aug. Dion.]. It seems most natural that the holy women should have kept silent about their experience till they heard the report of Peter, John, and Magdalen, so that the second gospel tells us what happened immediately on their return to the city, while the first and the third gospel relate in general what happened during the day. Peter is informed by a woman of the resurrection, as he had been led by a woman to deny his Master.

Mat 28:9  And behold, Jesus met them, saying: All hail. But they came up and took hold of his feet and adored him. 
Mat 28:10  Then Jesus said to them: Fear not. Go, tell my brethren that they go into Galilee. There they shall see me.

And behold Jesus met them.] d. Jesus appears to the holy women. It is not likely that our Lord appeared to the women immediately on their leaving the sepulchre after the apparition of the angel. If this had been the case, the two disciples on their way to Emmaus would have known of it, as they knew of the apparition of an angel [Lk. 24:23]; again, it would be hard to explain the words of Mark [16:8], according to which the women did not tell the disciples immediately on returning to Jerusalem. Most probably, then, it was when the holy women went out again to the sepulchre at a later period, or when they were together on another errand, that Jesus manifested himself to them. The love of the women recognizes the Master at once, just as happened in the case of St. John [Jn. 21:7]. Our Lord, on his part, bids them to fear not, but deliver the angel’s message to the disciples, whom he now calls his “brethren,” in spite of their desertion in his last hour [cf. Heb. 2:11 f.; Rom. 8:29]. In his mortal life he had called them only friends. According to Hil. Bed. Jer. Euth. Jesus here shows that the curse brought on us through the instrumentality of the first woman has been broken, and at the same time he royally rewards those that had sorrowed for him most bitterly [cf. Zach. 12:10].

It may not be out of place to add here a general survey of our Lord’s apparitions: The first gospel mentions only the apparition to the holy women and that in Galilee; the second gospel mentions the apparition to Mary Magdalen, to the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, and to the disciples on Sunday evening; the third gospel mentions an apparition to Peter, to the disciples on their way to Emmaus, to the disciples on Sunday evening, and implies another immediately before the ascension; the fourth gospel mentions the apparition to Mary Magdalen, to the disciples on Sunday evening, to the disciples together with Thomas, to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee; finally, 1 Cor. 15:5–7 mentions the apparition to Peter, to the eleven on Sunday evening, to the disciples on the mountain of Galilee, to James, to the apostles, and finally to Paul. Besides, there is an almost uniform tradition that our Lord appeared also to his Blessed Mother [cf. Ambr. Sedul. Anselm. Rup. Bonav. Baron. Bened. XIV. etc.]; however, Est. Jans, do not admit this.

The following seems to us the most probable order of apparitions: 1. to his Blessed Mother; 2. to Mary Magdalen; 3. to the holy women; 4. to Peter; 5. to the disciples going to Emmaus; 6. to the apostles except Thomas; 7. to the apostles including Thomas; 8. to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee; 9. to the five hundred on the mountain in Galilee; 10. to the disciples in Jerusalem; 11. to the disciples on Mount Olivet; 12. to the apostle Paul; 13. the time of the apparition to James certainly preceded that to Paul, but its place among the other apparitions cannot be determined.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 21:33-44

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

“Hear another parable. There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.2 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to receive the fruits. And the husbandmen took the servants, and beat some, and killed some, and stoned some. Again he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last he sent unto them his son, saying, It may be they will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir, come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do to those husbandmen? They say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The Stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?”3

Many things doth He intimate by this parable, God’s providence, which had been exercised towards them from the first; their murderous disposition from the beginning; that nothing had been omitted of whatever pertained to a heedful care of them; that even when prophets had been slain, He had not turned away from them, but had sent His very Son; that the God both of the New and of the Old Testament was one and the same; that His death should effect great blessings; that they were to endure extreme punishment for the crucifixion, and their crime; the calling of the Gentiles, the casting out of the Jews.

Therefore He putteth it after the former parable, that He may show even hereby the charge to be greater, and highly unpardonable. How, and in what way? That although they met with so much care, they were worse than harlots and publicans, and by so much.

And observe also both His great care, and the excessive idleness of these men. For what pertained to the husbandmen, He Himself did, the hedging it round about, the planting the vineyard, and all the rest, and He left little for them to do; to take care of what was there, and to preserve what was given to them. For nothing was left undone, but all accomplished; and not even so did they gain, and this, when they had enjoyed such great blessings from Him. For when they had come forth out of Egypt, He gave a law, and set up a city, and built a temple, and prepared an altar.

“And went into a far country;” that is, He bore long with them, not always bringing the punishments close upon their sins; for by His going into a far country,1 He means His great long-suffering.

And “He sent His servants,” that is, the prophets, “to receive the fruit;” that is, their obedience, the proof of it by their works. But they even here showed their wickedness, not only by failing to give the fruit, after having enjoyed so much care, which was the sign of idleness, but also by showing anger towards them that came. For they that had not to give when they owed, should not have been indignant, nor angry, but should have entreated. But they not only were indignant, but even filled their hands with blood, and while deserving punishment, themselves inflicted punishment.

Therefore He sent both a second, and a third company, both that the wickedness of these might be shown, and the love towards man of Him who sent them.

And wherefore sent He not His Son immediately? In order that they might condemn themselves for the things done to the others, and leave off their wrath, and reverence Him when He came. There are also other reasons, but for the present let us go on to what is next.

But what means, “It may be they will reverence?” It is not the language of one ignorant, away with the thought! but of one desiring to show the sin to be great; and without any excuse. Since Himself knowing that they would slay Him, He sent Him. But He saith, “They will reverence,” declaring what ought to have been done, that it was their duty to have reverenced Him. Since elsewhere also He saith, “if perchance they will hear;”2 not in this case either being ignorant, but lest any of the obstinate should say, that His prediction was the thing that necessitated their disobedience, therefore He frames His expressions in this way, saying, “Whether they will,” and, “It may be.” For though they had been obstinate towards His servants, yet ought they to have reverenced the dignity of the Son.

What then do these? When they ought to have run unto Him, when they ought to have asked pardon for their offenses, they even persist more strongly in their former sins, they proceed to add unto their pollutions, forever throwing into the shade their former offenses by their later; as also He Himself declared when He said, “Fill ye up the measure of your fathers.”3 For from the first the prophets used to charge them with these things, saying, “Your hands are full of blood;”4 and, “They mingle blood with blood;”5 and, “They build up Sion with blood.”6

But they did not learn self-restraint, albeit they received this commandment first, “Thou shalt not kill;” and had been commanded to abstain from countless other things because of this, and by many and various means urged to the keeping of this commandment.

Yet, for all that, they put not away that evil custom; but what say they, when they saw Him? Come, let us kill Him. With what motive, and for what reason? what of any kind had they to lay to His charge, either small or great? Is it that He honored you, and being God became man for your sakes, and wrought His countless miracles? or that He pardoned your sins? or that He called you unto a kingdom?

But see together with their impiety great was their folly, and the reason of His murder was full of much madness. “For let us kill Him,” it is said, “and the inheritance shall be ours.”

And where do they take counsel to kill Him? “Out of the vineyard.”

2. Seest thou how He prophesies even the place where He was to be slain. “And they cast Him out, and slew Him.”

And Luke indeed saith, that He declared what these men should suffer; and they said, “God forbid;” and He added the testimony [of Scripture]. For “He beheld them, and said, What is it then that is written? The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; and every; one that falleth upon it shall be broken.”1 But Matthew, that they themselves delivered the sentence. But this is not a contradiction. For indeed both things were done, both themselves passed the sentence against themselves; and again, when they perceived what they had said, they added, “God forbid;” and He set up the prophet against them, persuading them that certainly this would be.

Nevertheless, not even so did He plainly reveal the Gentiles, that He might afford them no handle, but signified it darkly by saying, “He will give the vineyard to others.” For this purpose then did He speak by a parable, that themselves might pass the sentence, which was done in the case of David also, when He passed judgment on the parable of Nathan. But do thou mark, I pray thee, even hereby how just is the sentence, when the very persons that are to be punished condemn themselves.

Then that they might learn that not only the nature of justice requires these things, but even from the beginning the grace of the Spirit had foretold them, and God had so decreed, He both added a prophecy, and reproves them in a way to put them to shame, saying, “Did ye never read, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes;” by all things showing, that they should be cast out for unbelief, and the Gentiles brought in. This He darkly intimated by the Canaanitish woman also; this again by the ass, and by the centurion, and by many other parables; this also now.

Wherefore He added too, “This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes,” declaring beforehand that the believing Gentiles, and as many of the Jews as should also themselves believe, shall be one, although the difference between them had been so great before.

Then, that they might learn that nothing was opposed to God’s will of the things doing, but that the event was even highly acceptable, and beyond expectation, and amazing every one of the beholders (for indeed the miracle was far beyond words), He added and said, “It is the Lord’s doing.” And by the stone He means Himself, and by builders the teachers of the Jews; as Ezekiel also saith, “They that build the wall, and daub it with untempered mortar.”2 But how did they reject Him? By saying, “This man is not of God;3 This man deceiveth the people;”4 and again, “Thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil.”5

Then, that they might know that the penalty is not limited to their being cast out, He added the punishments also, saying, “Every one that falleth on this stone, shall be broken; but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.”6 He speaks here of two ways of destruction, one from stumbling and being offended; for this is, “Whosoever falleth on this stone:” but another from their capture, and calamity, and utter destruction, which also He clearly foretold, saying, “It will grind him to powder.” By these words He darkly intimated His own resurrection also.

Now the Prophet Isaiah saith, that He blames the vineyard, but here He accuses in particular the rulers of the people. And there indeed He saith, “What ought I to have done to my vineyard, that I did not;”7 and elsewhere again, “What transgression have your fathers found in me?”8 And again, “O my people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I grieved thee?”9 showing their thankless disposition, and that when in the enjoyment of all things, they requited it by the contraries; but here He expresses it with yet greater force. For He cloth not plead, Himself, saying, “What ought I to have done that I have not done?” but brings in themselves to judge, that nothing hath been wanting, and to condemn themselves. For when they say, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out the vineyard to other husbandmen,” they say nothing else than this, publishing their sentence with much greater force.

With this Stephen also upbraids them, which thing most of all stung them, that having enjoyed always much providential care, they requited their benefactor with the contraries, which very thing itself was a very great sign, that not the punisher, but the punished, were the cause of the vengeance brought upon them.

This here likewise is shown, by the parable, by the prophecy. For neither was He satisfied with a parable only, but added also a twofold prophecy, one David’s, the others from Himself.

What then ought they to have done on hearing these things? ought they not to have adored, to have marvelled at the tender care, that shown before, that afterwards? But if by none of these things they were made better, by the fear of punishment at any rate ought they not to have been rendered more temperate?

But they did not become so, but what do they after these things? “When they had heard it,” it is said, “they perceived that He spake of them. And when they sought to lay hands on Him, they were afraid because of the multitudes, for they took Him for a prophet.”1 For they felt afterwards that they themselves were intimated. Sometimes indeed, when being seized, He withdraws through the midst of them, and is not seen; and sometimes while appearing to them He lays a check upon their laboring eagerness; at which indeed men marveled, and said, “Is not this Jesus? Lo, He speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto Him.”2 But in this instance, forasmuch as they were held in restraint by the fear of the multitude, He is satisfied with this, and doth not work miracles, as before, withdrawing through the midst, and not appearing. For it was not His desire to do all things in a superhuman way, in order that the Dispensation3 might be believed.

But they, neither by the multitude, nor by what had been said, were brought to a sound mind; they regarded not the prophet’s testimony, nor their own sentence, nor the disposition of the people; so entirely had the love of power and the lust of vainglory blinded them, together with the pursuit of things temporal.

3. For nothing so urges men headlong and drives them down precipices, nothing so makes them fail of the things to come, as their being riveted to these decaying things. Nothing so surely makes them enjoy both the one and the other, as their esteeming the things to come above all. For, “Seek ye,” saith Christ, “the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”4 And indeed, even if this were not joined, not even in that case ought we to aim at them. But now in obtaining the others, we may obtain these two; and not even so are some persuaded, but are like senseless stones, and pursue shadows of pleasure. For what is pleasant of the things in this present life? what is delightful? For with greater freedom do I desire to discourse with you to-day; but suffer it, that ye may learn that this life which seems to you to be a galling and wearisome life, I mean that of the monks and of them that are crucified, is far sweeter, and more to be desired than that which seems to be easy, and more delicate.

And of this ye are witnesses, who often have asked for death, in the reverses and despondencies that have overtaken you, and have accounted happy them that are in mountains, them that are in caves, them that have not married, them that live the unworldly life; ye that are engaged in crafts, ye that are in military services, ye that live without object or rules, and pass your days at the theatres and orchestras. For of these, although numberless fountains of pleasures and mirth seem to spring up, yet are countless darts still more bitter brought forth.

For if any one be seized with a passion for one of the damsels that dance there, beyond ten thousand marches, beyond ten thousand journeys from home, will he undergo a torture more grievous, being in a more miserable state than any besieged city.

However, not to inquire into those things for the present, having left them to the conscience of those that have been taken captive, come let us discourse of the life of the common sort of men, and we shall find the difference between either of these kinds of life as great as between a harbor, and a sea continually beaten about with winds.

And observe from their retreats at once the first signs of their tranquillity. For they have fled from market places, and cities, and the tumults amidst men, and have chosen the life in mountains, that which hath nothing in common with the things present, that which undergoes none of the ills of man, no worldly sorrows, no grief, no care so great, no dangers, no plots, no envy, no jealousy, no lawless lusts, nor any other thing of this kind.

Here already they meditate upon the things of the kingdom, holding converse with groves, and mountains, and springs, and with great quietness, and solitude, and before all these, with God. And from all turmoil is their cell pure, and from every passion and disease is their soul free, refined and light, and far purer than the finest air.

And their work is what was Adam’s also at the beginning and before his sin, when he was clothed with the glory, and conversed freely with God, and dwelt in that place that was full of great blessedness. For in what respect are they in a worse state than he, when before his disobedience he was set to till the garden? Had he no worldly care? But neither have these. Did he talk to God with a pure conscience? this also do these; or rather they have a greater confidence than he, inasmuch as they enjoy even greater grace by the supply of the Spirit.

Now ye ought indeed by the sight to take in these things; but forasmuch as ye are not willing, but pass your time in turmoils and in markets, by word at least let us teach you, taking one part of their way of living (for it is not possible to go over their whole life). These that are the lights of the world, as soon as the sun is up, or rather even long before its rise, rise up from their bed, healthy, and wakeful, and sober (for neither cloth any sorrow and care, nor headache, and toil, and multitude of business, nor any other such thing trouble them, but as angels live they in Heaven); having risen then straightway from their bed cheerful and glad, and having made one choir, with their conscience bright, with one voice all, like as out of one mouth, they sing hymns unto the God of all, honoring Him and thanking Him for all His benefits, both particular, and common.1

So that if it seem good, let us leave Adam, and inquire what is the difference between the angels and this company of them who on earth sing and say, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”2

And their dress is suitable to their manliness. For not indeed, like those with trailing garments, the enervated and mincing, are they dressed, but like those blessed angels, Elijah, Elisha, John, like the apostles; their garments being made for them, for some of goat’s hair, for some of camel’s hair, and there are some for whom skins suffice alone, and these long worn.

Then, after they have said those songs, they bow their knees, and entreat the God who was the object of their hymns for things, to the very thought of which some do not easily arrive. For they ask nothing of things present, for they have no regard for these, but that they may stand with boldness before the fearful judgment-seat, when the Only-Begotten Son of God is come to judge quick and dead, and that no one may hear the tearful voice that saith, “I know you not,” and that with a pure conscience and many good deeds they may pass through this toilsome life, and sail over the angry sea with a favorable wind. And he leads them in their prayers, who is their Father, and their ruler.

After this, when they have risen up and finished those holy and continual prayers, the sun being risen, they depart each one to their work, gathering thence a large supply for the needy.

4. Where now are they who give themselves to devilish choirs, and harlot’s songs, and sit in theatres? For I am indeed ashamed to make mention of them; nevertheless, because of your infirmity it is needful to do even this. For Paul too saith, “Like as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness, even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.3

Come let us also therefore compare the company that is made up of harlot women, and prostituted youths on the stage, and this same that consists of these blessed ones in regard of pleasure, for which most of all, many of the careless youths are taken in their snares. For we shall find the difference as great as if any one heard angels singing above that all-harmonious melody of theirs, and dogs and swine howling and grunting on the dunghill. For by the mouths of these Christ speaketh, by their tongues4 the devil.

But is the sound of pipes joined to them with unmeaning noise, and unpleasing show, when cheeks are puffed out, and their strings stretched to breaking? But here the grace of the Spirit pours forth a sound, using, instead of flute or lyre or pipes, the lips of the saints.

Or rather, whatever we may say, it is not possible to set forth the pleasure thereof, because of them that are riveted to their clay, and their brick-making? Therefore I would even wish to take one of those who are mad about these matters, and to lead him off there, and to show him the choir of those saints, and I should have no more need for these words. Nevertheless, though we speak unto miry ones, we will try, though by word, still by little and little, to draw them out of the slime and the fens. For there the hearer receives straightway the fire of illicit love; for as though the sight of the harlot were not enough to set the mind on fire, they add the mischief also from the voice; but here even should the soul have any such thing, it lays it aside straightway. But not their voice only, nor their countenance, but even their clothes do more than these confound the beholders. And should it be some poor man of the grosser and heedless sort, from the sight he will cry out ten thousand times in bitter despair, and will say to himself, “The harlot, and the prostituted boy, children of cooks and cobblers, and often even of slaves live in such delicacy, and I a freeman, and born of freemen, choosing honest labor, am not able so much as to imagine these things in a dream;” and thus he will go his way inflamed with discontent.

But in the case of the monks there is no such result, but rather the contrary altogether. For when he shall see children of rich men and descendants of illustrious ancestors clothed in such garments as not even the lowest of the poor, and rejoicing in this, consider how great a consolation against poverty he will receive as he goes away. And should he be rich, he returns sobered, become a better man. Again in the theatre, when they see the harlot clothed with golden ornaments, while the poor man will lament, and bemoan, seeing his own wife having nothing of the kind, the rich will in consequence of this spectacle contemn and despise the partners of their home. For when the harlot present to the beholders garb and look, and voice and step, all luxurious, they depart set on fire, and enter into their own houses, thenceforth captives.

Hence the insults, and the affronts, hence the enmities, the wars, the daily deaths; hence to them that are taken captive, life is insupportable, and the partner of their home thenceforth unpleasing, and their children not as much objects of affection, and all things in their houses turned upside down, and after that they seem to be thrown into disorder by the very sunbeam.

But not from these choirs does any such dissatisfaction arise, but the wife will receive her husband quiet and meek, freed from all unlawful lust, and will find him more gentle to her than before this. Such evil things doth that choir bring forth, but this good things the one making wolves of sheep, this lamb: of wolves. But as yet we have perhaps said nothing hitherto touching the pleasure.

And what could be more pleasant than not to be troubled or grieved in mind, neither to despond and groan? Nevertheless, let us carry on our discourse still further, and examine the enjoyment of either kind of song and spectacle; and we shall see the one indeed continuing until evening, so long as the spectator sits in the theatre, but after this paining him more grievously than any sting; but in the other case forever vigorous in the souls of them that have beheld it. For as well the fashion of the men, and the delightfulness of the place, and the sweetness of their manner of life, and the purity, of their rule, and the grace of that most beautiful and spiritual song they have for ever infixed in them. They at least who are in continual enjoyment of those havens, thenceforth flee as from a tempest, from the tumults of the multitude.

But not when singing only, and praying, but also when riveted to their books, they are a pleasing spectacle to the beholders. For after they have ended the choir, one takes Isaiah and discourses with him, another converses with the apostles, and another goes over the labors of other men, and seeks wisdom concerning God, concerning this universe, concerning the things that are seen, concerning the things that are not seen, concerning the objects of sense, and the objects of intellect, concerning the vileness of this present life, and the greatness of that to come.

5. And they are fed on a food most excellent, not setting before themselves cooked flesh of beasts; but oracles of God, beyond honey and the honey comb, a honey marvellous, and far superior to that whereon John fed of old in the wilderness. For this honey no wild bees collect, settling on the flowers, neither do lay it up in hives digesting the dew, but the grace of the Spirit forming it, layeth it up in the souls of the saints, in the place of honeycombs, and hives, and pipes, so that he that will may eat thereof continually in security. These bees then they also imitate, and hover around the honeycombs of those holy books, reaping therefrom great pleasure.

And if thou desirest to learn about their table, be near it, and thou shalt see them bursting forth1 with such things, all gentle and sweet, and full of a spiritual fragrance. No foul word can those spiritual mouths bring forth, nothing of foolish jesting, nothing harsh, but all worthy of Heaven. One would not be wrong in comparing the mouths of them that crawl about in the market places, and are mad after worldly things, to ditches of some mire; but the lips of these to fountains flowing with honey, and pouring forth pure streams.

But if any felt displeased that I have called the mouths of the multitude ditches of some mire, let him know that I have said it, sparing them very much. For Scripture hath not used this measure, but a comparison far stronger. “For adder’s poison,” it is said, “is under their lips,2 and their throat is an open sepulchre.” But theirs are not so, but full of much fragrance.

And their state here is like this, but that hereafter what speech can set before us? what thought shall conceive? the portion of angels, the blessedness unspeakable, the good things untold?

Perchance some are warmed now, and have been moved to a longing after this good rule of life. But what is the profit, when whilst ye are here only, ye have this fire; but when ye have gone forth, ye extinguish the flame, and this desire fades. How then, in order that this may not be? While this desire is warm in you, go your way unto those angels, kindle it more. For the account that we give will not be able to set thee on fire, like as the sight of the things. Say not, I will speak with my wife, and I will settle my affairs first. This delay is the beginning of remissness. Hear, how one desired to bid farewell to them at his house,1 and the prophet suffered him not. And why do I say, to bid farewell? The disciple desired to bury his father,2 and Christ allowed not so much as this. And yet what thing seems to thee to be so necessary as the funeral of a father? but not even this did He permit.

Why could this have been? Because the devil is at hand fierce, desiring to find some secret approach; and though it be but a little hindrance or delay he takes hold of, he works a great remissness.

Therefore one adviseth, “Put not off from day to day.”3 For thus shalt thou be able to succeed in most things, thus also shall the things in thine house be well ordered for thee. “For seek ye,” it is said, “the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”4 For if we establish in great security them that overlook their own interests, and prefer the care of ours, much more doth God, who even without these things hath a care for us, and provides for us.

Be not thoughtful then about thine interests, but leave them to God. For if thou art thoughtful about them, thou art thoughtful as a man; but if God provide, He provides as God. Be not so thoughtful about them as to let go the greater things, since then He will not much provide for them. In order therefore that He may fully provide for them, leave them to Him alone. For if thou also thyself takest them in hand, having let go the things spiritual, He will not make much provision for them.

In order then that both these things may be well disposed for thee, and that thou mayest be freed from all anxiety, cleave to the things spiritual, overlook the things of the world; for in this way thou shalt have earth also with heaven, and shalt attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 20:17-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the Scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall be raised.”

He goeth not up at once to Jerusalem when He is come out of Galilee, but having first wrought miracles, and having stopped the mouths of Pharisees, and having discoursed with His disciples of renouncing possessions: for, “if thou wilt be perfect,” saith He, “sell that thou hast:”4 and of virginity, “He that is able to receive, let him receive it:”5 and of humility, “For except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven:”6 and of a recompense of the things here, “For whoso hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, shall receive an hundredfold in this world:”7 and of rewards there, “For he shall also inherit,” it is said, “eternal life:” then He assails the city next, and being on the point of going up, discourses again of His passion. For since it was likely that they, because they were not willing this should come to pass, would forget it, He is continually putting them in remembrance, exercising their mind by the frequency with which He reminded them, and diminishing their pain.

But He speaks with them “apart,” necessarily; for it was not meet that His discourse about these things should be published to the many; neither that it should be spoken plainly, for no advantage arose from this. For if the disciples were confounded at hearing these things, much more the multitude of the people.

What then? was it not told to the people? you may say. It was indeed told to the people also, but not so plainly. For, “Destroy,” saith He, “this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up;”8 and, “This generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas;”9 and again, “Yet a little while am I with you, and ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.”1

But to the disciples not so, but as the other things He spake unto them more plainly, so also spake He this too. And for what purpose, if the multitude understood not the force of His sayings, were they spoken at all? That they might learn after these things, that fore-knowing it, He came to His passion, and willing it; not in ignorance, nor by constraint But to the disciples not for this cause only did He foretell it; but, as I have said, in order that having been exercised by the expectation, they might more easily endure the passion, and that it might not confound them by coming upon them without preparation. So for this cause, while at the beginning He spake of His death only, when they were practised and trained to hear of it, He adds the other circumstances also; as, for instance, that they should deliver Him to the Gentiles, that they should mock and scourge Him; as well on this account, as in order that when they saw the mournful events come to pass, they might expect from this the resurrection also. For He who had not cloaked from them what would give pain, and what seemed to be matter of reproach, would reasonably be believed about good things too.

But mark, I pray thee, how with regard to the time also He orders the thing wisely. For neither at the beginning did He tell them, lest He should disquiet them, neither at the time itself, lest by this again He should confound them; but when they had received sufficient proof of His power, when He had given them promises that were very great concerning life everlasting, then He introduces also what He had to say concerning these things, once and twice and often interweaving it with His miracles and His instructions.

But another evangelist saith, that He brought in the prophets also as witnesses;2 and another again saith, that even they themselves understood not His words, but the saying was hid from them, and that they were amazed as they followed Him.3

Surely then, one may say, the benefit of the prediction is taken away. For if they knew not what they were hearing, neither could they look for the event, and not looking for it, neither could they be exercised by their expectations.

But I say another thing also more perplexing than this: If they did not know, how were they sorry. For another saith, they were sorry. If therefore they knew it not, how were they sorry? How did Peter say. “Be it far from Thee this shall not be unto Thee?”4

What then may we say? That He should die indeed they knew, albeit they knew not clearly the mystery of the Incarnation.5 Neither did they know clearly about the resurrection, neither what He was to achieve; and this was hid from them.

For this cause also they felt pain. For some they had known to have been raised again by other persons, but for any one to have raised up himself again, and in such wise to have raised himself as not to die any more, they had never known.

This then they understood not, though often said; nay nor of this self-same death did they clearly know what it was, and how it should come on Him. Wherefore also they were amazed as they followed Him, but not for this cause only; but to me at least He seems even to amaze them by discoursing of His passion.

2. Yet none of these things made them take courage, and this when they were continually hearing about His resurrection. For together with His death this also especially troubled them, to hear that men should “mock and scourge Him,” and the like. For when they considered His miracles, the possessed persons whom He had delivered, the dead whom He had raised, all the other marvellous works which He was doing, and then heard these things, they were amazed, if He who doeth these works is thus to suffer. Therefore they fell even into perplexity, and now believed, now disbelieved, and could not understand His sayings. So far at least were they from understanding clearly what He said, that the sons of Zebedee at the same time came to Him, and spake to Him of precedence. “We desire,” it is said, “that one should sit on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left”6 How then doth this evangelist say, that their mother came to Him? It is probable both things were done. I mean, that they took their mother with them, with the purpose of making their entreaty stronger, and in this way to prevail with Christ.

For in proof that this is true, as I say, and the request was rather theirs, and that being ashamed they put forward their mother, mark how Christ directs His words to them.

But rather let us learn, first, what do they ask, and with what disposition, and whence they were moved to this? Whence then were they moved to this? They saw themselves honored above the rest, and expected from that they should obtain this request also. But what can it be they ask? Hear another evangelist plainly declaring this. For, “Because He was nigh,” it is said, “to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear,”1 they asked these things. For they supposed that this was at the doors, and visible, and that having obtained what they asked, they would undergo none of the painful things. For neither for its own sake only did they seek it, but as though they would also escape the hardships.

Wherefore also Christ in the first place leads them off from these thoughts, commanding them to await slaughter and dangers, and the utmost terrors. For, “Are ye able,” saith He, “to drink of the cup that I drink of?”2

But let no man be troubled at the apostles being in such an imperfect state. For not yet was the cross accomplished, not yet the grace of the Spirit given. But if thou wouldest learn their virtue, notice them after these things, and thou wilt see them superior to every passion. For with this object He reveals their deficiencies, that after these things thou mightest know what manner of men they became by grace.

That then they were asking, in fact, for nothing spiritual, neither had a thought of the kingdom above, is manifest from hence. But let us see also, how they come unto Him, and what they say. “We would,” it is said, “that whatsoever we shall desire of Thee, Thou shouldest do it for us.”3

And Christ saith to them, “What would ye?”4 not being ignorant, but that He may compel them to answer, and lay open the wound, and so apply the medicine. But they out of shame and confusion of face, because under the influence of a human passion they were come to do this, took Him privately apart from the disciples, and asked Him. For they went before, it is said, so that it might not be observable to them, and so said what they wished. For it was their desire, as I suppose, because they heard, “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, to have the first place of these seats. And that they had an advantage over the others, they knew, but they were afraid of Peter, and say, “Command, that one sit on Thy right hand, one on Thy left;” and they urge Him, saying, “Command.”

What then saith He? Showing, that they asked nothing spiritual, neither, if they had known again what they were asking, would they have ventured to ask for so much, He saith, “Ye know not what ye ask,” how great, how marvellous, how surpassing even the powers above. After that He adds, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”5 Seest thou, how He straightway drew them off from their suspicion, by framing His discourse from the contrary topics? For ye, He saith, talk to me of honor and crowns, but I to you of conflicts and labors. For this is not the season for rewards, neither shall that glory of mine appear now, but the present time is one of slaughter, and wars, and dangers.

And see how by the form of His question, He both urges and attracts them. For He said not, “Are ye able to be slain?” “Are ye able to pour forth your blood?” but how? “Are ye able to drink of the cup?” Then to attract them to it, He saith, “Which I shall drink of,” that by their fellowship with Him in it they might be made more ready.

And a baptism again calls He it; showing that great was the cleansing the world was to have from the things that were being done.

“They say unto Him, We are able.”6 Out of their forwardness they straightway undertook it, not knowing even this which they were saying, but looking to hear what they had asked.

What then saith He? “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.”7 Great blessings did He foretell to them. His meaning is, ye shall be counted worthy of martyrdom, and shall suffer these things which I suffer; ye shall close your life by a violent death, and in these things ye shall be partakers with me; “But to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.”

3. Having first elevated their souls, and made them of a higher character, and having rendered them such as sorrow could not subdue, then He reproves their request.

But what can be this present saying? For indeed there are two points that are subjects of inquiry to many: one, if it be prepared for any to sit on His right hand; and then, if the Lord of all hath not power to bestow it on them for whom it is prepared.

What then is the saying? If we solve the former point, then the second also will be clear to the inquirers. What then is this? No one shall sit on His right hand nor on His left. For that throne is inaccessible to all, I do not say to men only, and saints, and apostles, but even to angels, and archangels, and to all the powers that are on high.

At least Paul puts it as a peculiar privilege of the Only-Begotten, saying, “To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on my right hand?1 And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits;” but unto the Son, “Thy throne, O God.”2

How then saith He, “To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give,” as though there are some that should sit there? Not as though there are; far from it; but He makes answer to the thoughts of them who ask the favor, condescending to their understanding. For neither did they know that lofty throne, and His sitting at the right hand of the Father; how should they, when even the things that were much lower than these, and were daily instilled into them, they understood not? but they sought one thing only, to enjoy the first honors, and to stand before the rest, and that no one should stand before them with Him; even as I have already said before, that, since they heard of twelve thrones, in ignorance what the saying could mean, they asked for the first place.

What therefore Christ saith is this: “Ye shall die indeed for me, and shall be slain for the sake of the gospel, and shall be partakers with me, as far as regards the passion: but this is not sufficient to secure you the enjoyment of the first seat, and to cause that ye should occupy the first place. For if any one else should come, together with the martyrdom, possessed of all the other parts of virtue far more fully than you, not because I love you now, and prefer you to the rest, therefore shall I set aside him that is distinguished by his good works, and give the first honors to you.”

But thus indeed He did not say it, so as not to pain them, but darkly He intimates the self-same thing, saying, “Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on my right hand and on my left, this is not mine to give, but it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared.”

But for whom is it prepared? For them who could become distinguished by their works. Therefore He said not, It is not mine to give, but my Father’s, lest any should say that He was too weak, or wanting in vigor for their recompense; but how? It is not mine, but of those for whom it is prepared.

And in order that what I say may be more explain, let us work it on an illustration, and let us suppose there was some master of the games, then that many excellent combatants went down to the contest, and that some two of the combatants that were most nearly connected with the master of the games were to come to him and say, “Cause us to be crowned and proclaimed,” confiding in their good-will and friendship with him; and that he were to say to them, “This is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared, by their labors, and their toils;” should we indeed condemn him as powerless? By no means, but we should approve him for his justice, and for having no respect of persons. Like then as we should not say that he did not give the crown from want of vigor, but as not wishing to corrupt the law of the games, nor to disturb the order of justice; in like manner now should I say Christ said this, from every motive to compel them, after the grace of God, to set their hopes of salvation and approval on the proof of their own good works.

Therefore He saith, “For whom it is prepared.” For what, saith He, if others should appear better than you? What, if they should do greater things? For shall ye, because ye have become my disciples, therefore enjoy the first honors, if ye yourselves should not appear worthy of the choice?

For that He Himself hath power over the whole, is manifest from His having the entire judgment. For to Peter too He speaks thus, “I will give thee the keys of the Heavens.”3 And Paul also makes this clear where he saith, “Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me in that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also which have loved His appearing.”4 But the appearing was of Christ. But that no one will stand before Paul, is surely clear to every one.

And if He hath expressed these things somewhat obscurely, marvel not. For to lead them on by hidden instruction.5 not to be rudely pressing Him without object or cause for the first honors (for from a human passion they felt this), and not wishing to give them pain, by the obscurity He effects both these objects.

“Then were the ten moved with indignation with respect to the two.” Then. When? When He had reproved them. So long as the judgment was Christ’s, they were not moved with indignation; but seeing them preferred, they were contented, and held their peace, out of reverence and honor to their Master.

And if they were vexed in mind, yet they dared not utter this. And when they had some feeling of human weakness towards Peter, at the time that He gave the didrachmas, they did not give way to anger, but asked only, “Who then is greatest?” But since here the request was the disciples’, they are moved with indignation. And not even here are they straightway moved with indignation, when they asked, but when Christ had reproved them, and had said they should not enjoy the first honors, unless they showed themselves worthy of these.

4. Seest thou how they were all in an imperfect state, when both these were lifting themselves up above the ten, and those envying the two? But, as I said, show me them after these things, and thou wilt see them delivered from all these passions. Hear at least how this same John, he who now came to Him for these things, everywhere gives up the first place to Peter, both in addressing the people, and in working miracles, in the Acts of the Apostles.

And he conceals not Peter’s good deeds, but relates both the confession, which he openly made when all were silent,1 and his entering into the tomb,2 and puts the apostle before himself. For, because both continued with Him at His crucifixion, taking away the ground of his own commendation, he saith, “That disciple was known unto the high priest.”3

But James survived not a long time, but from the beginning he was so greatly filled with warmth, and so forsook all the things of men, and mounted up to an height unutterable, as straightway to be slain. Thus, in all respects, they after these things became excellent.4

But then, “they were moved with indignation.” What then saith Christ? “He called them unto Him, and said, The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them.”5 For, as they were disturbed and troubled, He soothes them by His call before His word, and by drawing them near Him. For the two having separated themselves from the company of the ten, had stood nearer Him, pleading their own interests. Therefore He brings near Him these also, by this very act, and by exposing and revealing it before the rest, soothing the passion both of the one and of the other.

And not as before, so now also doth He check them. For whereas before He brings little children into the midst, and commands to imitate their simplicity and lowliness; here He reproves them in a sharper way from the contrary side, saying, “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion6 over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so among you;7 but he that will be great among you, let this man be minister to all; and he that will be first, let him be last of all;”8 showing that such a feeling as this is that of heathens, I mean, to love the first place. For the passion is tyrannical, and is continually hindering even great men; therefore also it needs a severer stripe. Whence He too strikes deeper into them, by comparison with the Gentiles shaming their inflamed soul, and removes the envy of the one and the arrogance of the other, all but saying, “Be not moved with indignation, as insulted. For they harm and disgrace themselves most, who on this wise seek the first places, for they are amongst the last. For matters with us are not like matters without. ‘For the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,’ but with me the last, even he is first.”

“And in proof that I say not these things without cause, by the things which I do and suffer, receive the proof of my sayings. For I have myself done something even more. For being King of the powers above, I was willing to become man, and I submitted to be despised, and despitefully entreated. And not even with these things was I satisfied, but even unto death did I come. Therefore,” He saith,

“Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.”9 “For not even at this did I stop,” saith He, “but even my life did I give a ransom; and for whom? For enemies. But thou if thou art abused, it is for thyself, but I for thee.”

Be not then afraid, as though thine honor were plucked down. For how much soever thou humblest thyself, thou canst not descend so much as thy Lord. And yet His descent hath become the ascent of all, and hath made His own glory shine forth. For before He was made man, He was known amongst angels only; but after He was made man and was crucified, so far from lessening that glory, He acquired other besides, even that from the knowledge of the world.

Fear not then, as though thine honor were put down, if thou shouldest abase thyself, for in this way is thy glory more exalted, in this way it becomes greater. This is the door of the kingdom. Let us not then go the opposite way, neither let us war against ourselves. For if we desire to appear great, we shall not be great, but even the most dishonored of all.

Seest thou how everywhere He urges them by the opposite things, giving them what they desire? For in the preceding parts also we have shown this in many instances, and in the cases of the covetous, and of the vainglorious, He did thus. For wherefore, He saith, dost thou give alms before men? That thou mayest enjoy glory? Thou must then not do so, and thou shall surely enjoy it. Wherefore dost thou lay up treasures? That thou mayest be rich? Thou must then not lay up treasures, and thou shalt be rich. Even so here too, wherefore dost thou set thy heart on the first places? That thou mayest be before others? Choose then the last place, and then thou wilt enjoy the first. So that if it be thy will to become great, seek not to become great, and then thou wilt be great. For the other is to be little.

5. Seest thou how He drew them off from the disease, by showing them both from thence failing of their object, and from hence gaining, that they might flee the one, and follow after the other.

And of the Gentiles, too, He for this cause reminded them, that in this way again He might show the thing to be disgraceful and to be abhorred.

For the arrogant is of necessity base, and, on the contrary, the lowly-minded is high. For this is the height that is true and genuine, and exists not in name only, nor in manner of address. And that which is from without is of necessity and fear, but this is like to God’s. Such a one, though he be admired by no one, continues high; even as again the other, though he be courted by all, is of all men the basest. And the one is an honor rendered of necessity, whence also it easily passes away; but the other is of principle, whence also it continues steadfast. Since for this we admire the saints also, that being greater than all, they humbled themselves more than all. Wherefore even to this day they continue to be high, and not even death hath brought down that height.

And if ye be minded, let us by reasonings also inquire into this very thing. Any one is said to be high, either when he is so by greatness of stature, or when he hath chanted to be set on a high place, and low in like manner, from the opposite things.

Let us see then who is like this, the boaster, or he that keeps within measure, that thou mayest perceive that nothing is higher than lowliness of mind, and nothing lower than boastfulness.

The boaster then desires to be greater than all, and affirms no one to be equal in worth with him; and how much soever honor he may obtain, he sets his heart on more and claims it, and accounts himself to have obtained none, and treats men with utter contempt, and yet seeks after the honor that comes from them; than which what can be more unreasonable? For this surely is like an enigma. By those, whom he holds in no esteem, he desires to be glorified.

Seest thou how he who desires to be exalted falls down and is set on the ground? For that he accounts all men to be nothing compared with himself, he himself declares, for this is boasting. Why then dost cast thyself upon him who is nothing? why dost thou seek honor of him? Why dost thou lead about a with thee such great multitudes?

Seest thou one low, and set on a low place. Come then, let us inquire about the high man. This one knows what man is, and that man is a great thing, and that he himself is last of all, and therefore whatever honor he may enjoy, he reckons this great, so that this one is consistent with himself and is high, and shifts not his judgment; for whom he accounts great, the honors that come from them he esteems great also, though they should chance to be small, because he accounts those who bestow them to be great. But the boastful man accounts them that give the honors to be nothing, yet the honors bestowed by them he reckons to be great.

Again, the lowly man is seized by no passion, no anger can much trouble this man, no love of glory, no envy, no jealousy: and what can be higher than the soul that is delivered from these things? But the boastful man is held in subjection by all these things, like any worm crawling in the mire, for jealousy and envy and anger are forever troubling his soul.

Which then is high? He that is superior to his passions, or he that is their slave? He that trembles at them and is afraid of them, or he that is unsubdued, and never taken by them? Which kind of bird should we say flies higher? that which is higher than the hands and the arrows of the hunter, or that which does not even suffer the hunters to need an arrow, from his flying along the ground, and from not being able ever to elevate himself? Is not then the arrogant man like this? for indeed every net readily catches him as crawling on the ground.

6. But if thou wilt, even from that wicked demon prove thou this. For what can be baser than the devil, because he had exalted himself; what higher than the man who is willing to abase himself? For the former crawls on the ground under our heel (For, “ye tread,” He saith,1 “upon serpents and scorpions”), but the latter is set with the angels on high.

But if thou desirest to learn this from the example of haughty men also, consider that barbarian king, that led so great an army, who knew not so much as the things that are manifest to all; as, for instance, that stone was stone, and the images, images; wherefore he was inferior even to these. But the godly and faithful are raised even above the sun; than whom what can be higher, who rise above even the vaults of heaven, and passing beyond angels, stand by the very throne of the king.

And that thou mayest learn in another way their vileness; who will be abased? He who has God for his ally, or he with whom God is at war? It is quite plain that it is he with whom He is at war. Hear then touching either of these what saith the Scripture. “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”2

Again, I will ask you another thing also. Which is higher? He who acts as a priest to God and offers sacrifice? or he who is somewhere far removed from confidence towards Him? And what manner of sacrifice doth the lowly man offer? one may say. Hear David saying, “The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise.”3

Seest thou the purity of this man? Behold also the uncleanness of the other; for “every one that is proud in heart is unclean before God.”4 Besides, the one hath God resting upon him, (“For unto whom will I look,” saith He, “but to him that is meek and quiet, and trembleth at my words”),5 but the other crawls with the devil, for he that is lifted up with pride shall suffer the devil’s punishment. Wherefore Paul also said, “Lest, being lifted up with pride, he should fall into the condemnation of the devil.”6

And the thing opposite to what he wishes, befalls him. For his wish is to be arrogant, that he may be honored; but the most contemned of all is this character. For these most of all are laughing stocks, foes and enemies to all men, the most easy to be subdued by their enemies, the men that easily fall into anger, the unclean before God.

What then can be worse than this, for this is the extremity of evils? And what is sweeter than the lowly, what more blessed, since, they are longed after, and beloved of God? And the glory too that cometh of men, these do most of all enjoy, and all honor them as fathers, embrace them as brothers, receive them as their own members.

Let us then become lowly, that we may be high. For most utterly doth arrogance abase. This abased Pharaoh. For, “I know not,” he saith, “the Lord,”7 and he became inferior to flies and frogs, and the locusts, and after that with his very arms and horses was he drowned in the sea. In direct opposition to him, Abraham saith, “I am dust and ashes,”8 and prevailed over countless barbarians, and having fallen into the midst of Egyptians, returned, bearing a trophy more glorious than the former, and, cleaving to this virtue, grew ever more high. Therefore he is celebrated everywhere, therefore he is crowned and proclaimed; but Pharaoh is both earth and ashes, and if there is anything else more vile than these. For nothing cloth God so abhor as arrogance. For this object hath He done all things from the beginning, in order that He might root out this passion. Because of this are we become mortal, and are in sorrows, and wailings. Because of this are we in toil, and sweat, and in labor continual, and mingled with affliction. For indeed out of arrogance did the first man sin, looking for an equality with God. Therefore, not even what things he had, did he continue to possess, but lost even these.

For arrogance is like this, so far from adding to us any improvement of our life, it subtracts even what we have; as, on the contrary, humility, so far from subtracting from what we have, adds to us also what we have not.

This virtue then let us emulate, this let us pursue, that we may both enjoy present honor, and attain unto the glory to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father glory and might, together with the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world without end. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 23:1-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

“Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you do, that do;1 but do not after their works.”

Then. When? When He had said these things, when He had stopped their mouths; when He had brought them that they should no more dare to tempt Him; when He had shown their state incurable.

And since He had made mention of “the Lord” and “my Lord,”2 He recurs again to the law. And yet the law said nothing of this kind, but, “The Lord thy God is one Lord.”3 But Scripture calls the whole Old Testament the law.

But these things He saith, showing by all things His full agreement with Him that begat Him. For if He were opposed, He would have said the opposite about the law; but now He commands so great reverence to be shown towards it, that, even when they that teach it are depraved, He charges them to hold to it.

But here He is discoursing about their life and morals, since this was chiefly the cause of their unbelief, their depraved life, and the love of glory. To amend therefore His hearers; that which in the first place most contributes to salvation, not to despise our teachers, neither to rise up against our priests, this doth He command with superabundant earnestness. But He does not only command it, but also Himself doth it. For though they were depraved, He doth not depose them from their dignity; to them rendering their condemnation heavier, and to His disciples leaving no cloke for disobedience.

I mean, that lest any one should say, that because my teacher is bad, therefore am I become more remiss, He takes away even this pretext. So much at any rate did He establish their authority, although they were wicked men, as even after so heavy an accusation to say, “All whatsoever they command you to do, do.” For they speak not their own words, but God’s, what He appointed for laws by Moses. And mark how much honor He showed towards Moses, again showing His agreement with the Old Testament; since indeed even by this doth He make them objects of reverence. “For they sit,” He saith, “on Moses’ seat.” For because He was not able to make them out worthy of credit by their life, He doth it from the grounds that were open to Him, from their seat, and their succession from him. But when thou hearest all, do not understand all the law, as, for instance, the ordinances about meats, those about sacrifices, and the like for how was He to say so of these things, which He had taken away beforehand? but He meant all things that correct the moral principle, and amend the disposition, and agree with the laws of the New Testament, and suffer them not any more to be under the yoke of the law.

Wherefore then doth He give these things divine authority, not from the law of grace, but from Moses? Because it was not yet time, before the crucifixion, for these things to be plainly declared.

But to me He seems, in addition to what has been said, to be providing for another object, in saying these things. For since He was on the point of accusing them, that He might not seem in the sight of the foolish to set His heart on this authority of theirs, or for enmity to be doing these things, first He removed this thought, and having set himself clear from suspicion, then begins His accusation. And for what intent doth He convict them, and run out into a long discourse against them? To set the multitude on their guard, so that they might not fall into the same sins. For neither is dissuading like pointing out those that have offended; much as recommending what is right, is not like bringing forward those that have done well. For this cause also He is beforehand in saying, “Do not after their works.” For, lest they should suppose, because of their listening to them, they ought also to imitate them, He uses this means of correction, and makes what seems to be their dignity a charge against them. For what can be more wretched than a teacher, when the preservation of his disciples is, not to give heed to his life? So that what seemeth to be their dignity is a most heavy charge against them, when they are shown to live such a life, as they that imitate are ruined.

For this cause He also falls upon His accusations against them, but not for this only, but that He might show, that both their former unbelief wherewith they had not believed, and the crucifixion after this, which they dared to perpetrate, were not a charge against Him who was crucified and disbelieved, but against their perverseness.

But see whence He begins, and whence He aggravates His blame of them. “For they say,” He saith, and do not.” For every one is worthy of blame in transgressing the law, but especially he that bears the authority of teaching, for doubly and triply doth he deserve to be condemned. For one cause, because he transgresses; for another, that as he ought to amend others, and then halteth, he is worthy of a double punishment, because of his dignity; and in the third place, that he even corrupts the more, as committing such transgression in a teacher’s place.

And together with these He mentions also another charge against them, that they are harsh to those accountable to them.

“For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they will not move them with their finger.”1 He mentions here a twofold wickedness, their requiring great and extreme strictness of life, without any indulgence, from those over whom they rule, and their allowing to themselves great security; the opposite to which the truly good ruler ought to hold; in what concerns himself, to be an unpardoning and severe judge, but in the matters of those whom he rules, to be gentle and ready to make allowances; the contrary to which was the conduct of these men.

2. For such are all they who practise self restraint in mere words, unpardoning and grievous to bear as having no experience of the difficulty in actions. And this itself too is no small fault, and in no ordinary way increases the former charge.

But do thou mark, I pray thee, how He aggravates this accusation also. For He did not say, “they cannot,” but, “they will not.” And He did not say, “to bear,” but, “to move with a finger,” that is, not even to come near them, nor to touch them.

But wherein are they earnest, and vigorous? In the things forbidden. For, “all their works they do,” He saith, “to be seen of men.”1 These things He saith, accusing them in respect of vainglory, which kind of thing was their ruin. For the things before were signs of harshness and remissness, but these of the mad desire of glory. This drew them off from God, this caused them to strive before other spectators, and ruined them. For whatever kind of spectators any one may have, since it hath become his study to please these, such also are the contests he exhibits And he that wrestles among the noble, such also are the conflicts he takes in hand, but he among the cold and supine, himself also becomes more remiss. For instance, hath any one a beholder that delights in ridicule? he himself too becomes a mover of ridicule, that he may delight the spectator: hath another one who is earnest minded, and practises self-government? he endeavors himself to be such as he is, since such is the disposition of him who praises him.

But see again that here too the charge is with aggravation. For neither is it that they do some things in this way, some in another way, but all things absolutely this way.

Then, having blamed them for vainglory, He shows that it is not even about great and necessary things they are vainglorious (for neither had they these, but were destitute of good works), but for things without warmth or worth, and such as were certain proofs of their baseness, the phylacteries, the borders of their garments. “For they make broad their phylacteries,” He saith, “and enlarge the borders of their garments.”2

And what are these phylacteries, and these borders? Since they were continually forgetting God’s benefits, He commanded His marvellous works to be inscribed on little tablets, and that these should be suspended from their hands (wherefore also He said, “They shall be immoveable in thine eyes”),3 which they called phylacteries; as many of our women now wear Gospels hung from their necks.

And in order that by another thing again they may be reminded, like as many often do, binding round their finger with a piece of linen or a thread, as being likely to forget, this God enjoined them as children to do, “to sew a ribbon of blue on their garments, upon the fringe that hung round their feet, that they might look at it, and remember the commandments;”4 and they were called “borders.”

In these things then they were diligent, making wide the strips of the tablets, and enlarging the borders of their garments; which was a sign of the most extreme vanity. For wherefore art thou vainglorious, and dost make these wide? what, is this thy good work? what cloth it profit thee at all, if thou gain not the good results from them. For God seeks not the enlarging of these and making them wide, but our remembering His benefits. But if for almsgiving and prayer, although they be attended with labor, and be good deeds on our parts, we must not seek vainglory, how dost thou, O Jew, pride thyself in these things, which most of all convict thy remissness.

But they not in these only, but in other little things, suffered from this disease.

For, “they love,” He saith, “the uppermost rooms5 at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi.”6 For these things, although one may think them small, yet are they a cause of great evils. These things have overthrown both cities and churches.

And it comes upon me now even to weep, when I hear of the first seats, and the greetings, and consider how many ills were hence engendered to the churches of God, which it is not necessary to publish to you now; nay rather as many as are aged men do not even need to learn these things from us.7

But mark thou, I pray thee, how vainglory prevailed; when they were commanded not to be vainglorious, even in the synagogues, where they had entered to discipline others.

For to have this feeling at feasts, to howsoever great a degree, doth not seem to be so dreadful a thing; although even there the teachers ought to be held in reverence, and not in the church only, but everywhere. And like as a man, wherever he may appear, is manifestly distinguished from the brutes; so also ought the teacher, both speaking and holding his peace, and dining, and doing whatever it may be, to be distinguished as well by his gait, as by his look, and by his garb, and by all things generally. But they were on every account objects of ridicule, and in every respect disgraced themselves, making it their study to follow what they ought to flee. For they love them, it is said; but if the loving them be a matter of blame, what a thing must the doing them be; and to hunt and strive after them, how great an evil.

3. The other things then He carried no further than to accuse them, as being small and trifling, and as though His disciples needed not at all to be corrected about these matters; but what was a cause of all the evils, even ambition, and the violent seizing of the teacher’s chair, this He brings forward, and corrects with diligence, touching this vehemently and earnestly charging them.

For what saith He? “But be not ye called Rabbi.” Then follows the cause also; “For one is your master, and all ye are brethren;”1 and one hath nothing more than another, in respect of his knowing nothing from himself. Wherefore Paul also saith, “For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers?”2 He said not masters. And again, “Call not, father,”3 not that they should not call, but they may know whom they ought to call Father, in the highest sense. For like as the master is not a master principally; so neither is the father. For He is cause of all, both of the masters, and of the fathers.

And again He adds, “Neither be ye called guides, for one is your guide, even Christ;”4 and He said not, I. For like as above He said, “What think ye of Christ?”5 and He said not, “of me,” so here too.

But I should be glad to ask here, what they would say, who are repeatedly applying the term one, one, to the Father alone, to the rejection of the Only-begotten. Is the Father guide? All would declare it, and none would gainsay it. And yet “one,” He saith, “is your guide, even Christ.” For like as Christ, being called the one guide, casts not out the Father from being guide; even so the Father, being called Master, doth not cast out the Son from being Master. For the expression, one, one, is spoken in contradistinction to men, and the rest of the creation.

Having warned them therefore against this grievous pest, and amended them, He instructs also how they may escape it; by humility. Wherefore He adds also, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. For whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and whosoever shall abase himself shall be exalted.”6

For nothing is equal to the practice of modesty, wherefore He is continually reminding them of this virtue, both when He brought the children into the midst, and now. And, when on the mount, beginning the beatitudes, He began from hence. And in this place, He plucks it up by the roots hereby, saying, “He that abaseth himself shall be exalted.”

Seest thou how He draws off the hearer right over to the contrary thing. For not only doth He forbid him to set his heart upon the first place, but requires him to follow after the last. For so shalt thou obtain thy desire, He saith. Wherefore he that pursues his desire for the first, must follow after the last place. “For he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.”

And where shall we find this humility? Will ye that we go again to the city of virtue, the tents of the holy men, the mountains. I mean, and the groves? For there too shall we see this height of humility.

For men, some illustrious from their rank in the world, some from their wealth, in every way put themselves down, by their vesture, by their dwelling, by those to whom they minister; and, as in written characters, they throughout all things inscribe humility.

And the things that are incentives of arrogance, as to dress well, and to build houses splendidly, and to have many servants, things which often drive men even against their will to arrogance; these are all taken away. For they themselves light their fire, they themselves cleave the logs, themselves cook, themselves minister to those that come there.

No one can be heard insulting there, nor seen insulted, nor commanded, nor giving commands; but all are devoted to those that are waited on, and every one washes the strangers’ feet, and there is much contention about this. And he doeth it, not inquiring who it is, neither if he be a slave, nor if he be free; but in the case of every one fulfills this service. No man there is great nor mean. What then? Is there confusion? Far from it, but the highest order. For if any one be mean, he that is great seeth not this, but hath accounted himself again to be inferior even to him, and so becomes great.

There is one table for all, both for them that are served, and for them that serve; the same food, the same clothes, the same dwellings, the same manner of life. He is great there, who eagerly seizes the mean task. There is not mine and thine, but this expression is exterminated, that is a cause of countless wars.

4. And why dost thou marvel, if there be one manner of life and table and dress for all, since indeed there is even one soul to all, not in substance only (for this is with all men also), but in love? how then should it ever be lifted up itself against itself? There is no wealth and poverty there, honor and dishonor; how then should haughtiness and arrogance find an entrance? For they are indeed little and great in respect of their virtue; but, as I have said, no one seeth this. He that is little, feels not pain, as despised; for neither is there any one to despise him; and should any one spurn him, this above all are they taught, to be despised, to be spurned, to be set at nought, in word and in deed. And with the poor and maimed do they associate, and their tables are full of these guests; so that for this are they worthy of the heavens. And one tends the wounds of the mutilated, another leads the blind by the hand, a third bears him that is lamed of his leg.

There is no multitude of flatterers or parasites there; or rather they know not even what flattery is; whence then could they be lifted up at any time? For there is great equality amongst them, wherefore also there is much facility for virtue.

For by these are they of an inferior sort better instructed, than if they were compelled to give up the first place to them.

For like as the impetuous man derives instruction from him that is smitten, and submits to it; so the ambitious from him that claims not glory, but despises it. This they do there abundantly, and as the strife is great with us to obtain the first place, so great is it with them not to obtain it, but utterly to refuse it; and great is their earnest desire who shall have the advantage in honoring, not in being honored.

And besides, even their very employments persuade them to practise moderation, and not to be high-swollen. For who, I pray thee, digging in the earth, and watering, and planting, or making baskets, or weaving sackcloth, or practising any other handy works, will ever be proud? Who dwelling in poverty and wrestling with hunger, will ever be sick of this disease? There is not one. Therefore humility is easy to them. And like as here, it is a hard thing to be lowly minded, for the multitude of them who applaud and admire us, so there it is exceedingly easy.

And that man gives heed only to the wilderness, and sees birds flying, and trees waving, and a breeze blowing, and streams rushing through glens. Whence then should he be lifted up who dwells in solitude so great?

Not however that therefore we have from this an excuse, in that we are proud when living in the midst of men. For surely Abraham, when amidst Canaanites, said, “I am but dust and ashes;”1 and David, when in the midst of camps,2 “I am a worm, and no man;”3 and the apostle, in the midst of the world, “I am not meet to be called an apostle.”4 What comfort shall we have then; what plea, when even, having such great examples, we do not practise moderation? For even as they are worthy of countless crowns, having been the first that went the way of virtue, even so are we deserving of countless punishments, who not even after those that are departed, and are set before us in books, no nor even after these that are living, and held in admiration through their deeds, are drawn on to the like emulation.

For what couldest thou say, for not being amended? Art thou ignorant of letters, and hast not looked into the Scriptures that thou mightest learn the virtues of them of old? To say the truth, this is itself blameworthy, when the church is constantly standing open, not to enter in, and partake of those sacred streams.

However, although thou know not the departed by the Scriptures, these living men thou oughtest to see. But is there no one to lead thee? Come to me, and I will show thee the places of refuge of these holy men; come and learn thou of them something useful. Shining lamps are these in every part of the earth; as walls are they set about the cities. For this cause have they occupied the deserts, that they may instruct thee to despise the tumults in the midst of the world.

For they, as being strong, are able even in the midst of the raging of the waters to enjoy a calm; but thou, who art leaky on every side, hast need of tranquility, and to take breath a little, after the successive waves. Go then there continually, that, having purged away the abiding stain by their prayers and admonitions, thou mayest both pass in the best manner the present life, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS, St John Chrysostom | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pope St Leo the Great’s Homily on Matthew 17:1-13 (The Transfiguration)

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

I. S. Peter’s confession shown to lead up to the Transfiguration

The Gospel lesson, dearly-beloved, which has reached the inner hearing of our minds through our bodily ears, calls us to the understanding of a great mystery, to which we shall by the help of God’s grace the better attain, if we turn our attention to what is narrated just before.

The Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ, in founding that faith, which recalls the wicked to righteousness and the dead to life, used to instruct His disciples by admonitory teaching and by miraculous acts to the end that He, the Christ, might be believed to be at once the Only-begotten of God and the Son of Man. For the one without the other was of no avail to salvation, and it was equally dangerous to have believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be either only God without manhood, or only man without Godhead4, since both had equally to be confessed, because just as true manhood existed in His Godhead, so true Godhead existed in His Manhood. To strengthen, therefore, their most wholesome knowledge of this belief, the Lord had asked His disciples, among the various opinions of others, what they themselves believed, or thought about Him: whereat the Apostle Peter, by the revelation of the most High Father passing beyond things corporeal and surmounting things human by the eyes of his mind, saw Him to be Son of the living God, and acknowledged the glory of the Godhead, because he looked not at the substance of His flesh and blood alone; and with this lofty faith Christ was so well pleased that he received the fulness of blessing, and was endued with the holy firmness of the inviolable Rock on which the Church should be built and conquer the gates of hell and the laws of death, so that, in loosing or binding the petitions of any whatsoever, only that should be ratified in heaven which had been settled by the judgment of Peter.

II. The same continued

But this exalted and highly-praised understanding, dearly-beloved, had also to be instructed on the mystery of Christ’s lower substance, lest the Apostle’s faith, being raised to the glory of confessing the Deity in Christ, should deem the reception of our weakness unworthy of the impassible God, and incongruous, and should believe the human nature to be so glorified in Him as to be incapable of suffering punishment, or being dissolved in death. And, therefore, when the Lord said that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and scribes and chief of the priests, and the third day rise again, the blessed Peter who, being illumined with light from above, was burning with the heat of his confession, rejected their mocking insults and the disgrace of the most cruel death, with, as he thought, a loyal and outspoken contempt, but was checked by a kindly rebuke from Jesus and animated with the desire to share His suffering. For the Saviour’s exhortation that followed, instilled and taught this, that they who wished to follow Him should deny themselves, and count the loss of temporal things as light in the hope of things eternal; because he alone could save his soul that did not fear to lose it for Christ. In order, therefore, that the Apostles might entertain this happy, constant courage with their whole heart, and have no tremblings about the harshness of taking up the cross, and that they might not be ashamed of the punishment of Christ, nor think what He endured disgraceful for themselves (for the bitterness of suffering was to be displayed without despite to His glorious power), Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and ascending a very high1 mountain with them apart, showed them the brightness of His glory; because, although they had recognised the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know. And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom2,” that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself, which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun’s brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow.

III. The object and the meaning of the Transfiguration

And in this Transfiguration the foremost object was to remove the offence of the cross from the disciple’s heart, and to prevent their faith being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity. But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone forth in their Head. About which the Lord had Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom3,” whilst the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says: “for I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us4:” and again, “for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory5.” But to confirm the Apostles and assist them to all knowledge, still further instruction was conveyed by that miracle.

IV. The significance of the appearance of Moses and Elias

For Moses and Elias, that is the Law and the Prophets, appeared talking with the Lord; that in the presence of those five men might most truly be fulfilled what was said: “In two or three witnesses stands every word6.” What more stable, what more steadfast than this word, in the proclamation of which the trumpet of the Old and of the New Testament joins, and the documentary evidence of the ancient witnesses7 combine with the teaching of the Gospel? For the pages of both covenants8 corroborate each other, and He Whom under the veil of mysteries the types that went before had promised, is displayed clearly and conspicuously by the splendour of the present glory. Because, as says the blessed John, “the law was given through Moses: but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ9,” in Whom is fulfilled both the promise of prophetic figures and the purpose of the legal ordinances: for He both teaches the truth of prophecy by His presence, and renders the commands possible through grace.

V. S. Peter’s suggestion contrary to the Divine order

The Apostle Peter, therefore, being excited by the revelation of these mysteries, despising things mundane and scorning things earthly, was seized with a sort of frenzied craving for the things eternal, and being filled with rapture at the whole vision, desired to make his abode with Jesus in the place where he had been blessed with the manifestation of His glory. Whence also he says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make three tabernacles1, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” But to this proposal the Lord made no answer, signifying that what he wanted was not indeed wicked, but contrary to the Divine order: since the world could not be saved, except by Christ’s death, and by the Lord’s example the faithful were called upon to believe that, although there ought not to be any doubt about the promises of happiness, yet we should understand that amidst the trials of this life we must ask for the power of endurance rather than the glory, because the joyousness of reigning cannot precede the times of suffering.

VI. The import of the Father’s voice from the cloud

And so “while He was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” The Father was indeed present in the Son, and in the Lord’s brightness, which He had tempered to the disciples’ sight, the Father’s Essence was not separated from the Only-begotten: but, in order to emphasize the two-fold personality, as the effulgence of the Son’s body displayed the Son to their sight, so the Father’s voice from out the cloud announced the Father to their hearing. And when this voice was heard, “the disciples fell upon their faces, and were sore afraid,” trembling at the majesty, not only of the Father, but also of the Son: for they now had a deeper insight into the undivided Deity of Both: and in their fear they did not separate the One from the Other, because they doubted not in their faith2. That was a wide and manifold testimony, therefore, and contained a fuller meaning than struck the ear. For when the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom, &c.,” was it not clearly meant, “This is My Son,” Whose it is to be eternally from Me and with Me? because the Begetter is not anterior to the Begotten, nor the Begotten posterior to the Begetter. “This is My Son,” Who is separated from Me, neither by Godhead, nor by power, nor by eternity. “This is My Son,” not adopted, but true-born, not created from another source, but begotten of Me: nor yet made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature. “This is My Son,” “through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made3,” because all things that I do He doth in like manner: and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son4, and Our Unity is never divided: and though I am One Who begat, and He the Other Whom I begat, yet is it wrong for you to think anything of Him which is not possible of Me. “This is My Son,” Who sought not by grasping, and seized not in greediness5, that equality with Me which He has, but remaining in the form of My glory, that He might carry out Our common plan for the restoration of mankind, He lowered the unchangeable Godhead even to the form of a slave.

VII. Who it is we have to hear

“Here ye Him,” therefore, unhesitatingly, in Whom I am throughout well pleased, and by Whose preaching I am manifested, by Whose humiliation I am glorified; because He is “the Truth and the Life6,” He is My “Power and Wisdom7.” “Hear ye Him,” Whom the mysteries of the Law have foretold, Whom the mouths of prophets have sung. “Hear ye Him,” Who redeems the world by His blood, Who binds the devil, and carries off his chattels, Who destroys the bond of sin, and the compact of the transgression. Hear ye Him, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the punishment of the cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom? Why tremble ye at being redeemed? why fear ye to be healed of your wounds? Let that happen which Christ wills and I will. Cast away all fleshly fear, and arm yourselves with faithful constancy; for it is unworthy that ye should fear in the Saviour’s Passion what by His good gift ye shall not have to fear even at your own end.

VIII. The Father’s words have a universal application to the whole Church

These things, dearly-beloved, were said not for their profit only, who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learnt all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith then be established, according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross, through which the world was redeemed. And let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness’ sake, or doubt of the fulfilment of the promises, for this reason, that through toil we pass to rest and through death to life; since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered, and receive what he promised, because, whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities, the Father’s fore-announcing voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him:” Who liveth and reigneth, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 16:28-17:9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2017

HOMILY LVI

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, There are some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Thus, inasmuch as He had discoursed much of dangers and death, and of His own passion, and of the slaughter of the disciples, and had laid on them those severe injunctions; and these were in the present life and at hand, but the good things in hope and expectation:—for example, “They save their life who lose it;” “He is coming in the glory of His Father;” “He renders His rewards:”—He willing to assure their very sight, and to show what kind of glory that is wherewith He is to come, so far as it was possible for them to learn it; even in their present life He shows and reveals this; that they should not grieve any more, either over their own death, or over that of their Lord, and especially Peter in His sorrow.

And see what He doth. Having discoursed of hell,1 and of the kingdom (for as well by saying, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose it for my sake, shall find it;”2 as by saying, “He shall reward every man according to his works,”3 He had manifested both of these): having, I say, spoken of both, the kingdom indeed He shows in the vision, but hell not yet.

Why so? Because had they been another kind of people, of a grosser sort, this too would have been necessary; but since they are approved and considerate, He leads them on the gentler way. But not therefore only doth He make this disclosure, but because to Himself also it was far more suitable.

Not however that He passes over this subject either, but in some places He almost brings even before our eyes the very realities of hell; as when He introduces the picture of Lazarus, and mentions him that exacted the hundred pence, and him that was clad in the filthy garments, and others not a few.

2. “And after six days He taketh with Him Peter and James and John.4

Now another says, “after eight,”5 not contradicting this writer, but most fully agreeing with him. For the one expressed both the very day on which He spake, and that on which He led them up; but the other, the days between them only.

But mark thou, I pray thee, the severe goodness of Matthew, not concealing those who were preferred to himself. This John also often doth, recording the peculiar praises of Peter with great sincerity. For the choir of these holy men was everywhere pure from envy and vainglory.

Having taken therefore the leaders, “He bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was6 white as the light. And there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him.7

Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his answer which he answered with his brother, saying, “We are able to drink the cup;8 nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him.

But wherefore doth He not lead them up straightway? To spare the other disciples any feeling of human weakness: for which cause He omits also the names of them that are to go up. And this, because the rest would have desired exceedingly to have followed, being to see a pattern of that glory; and would have been pained, as overlooked. For though it was somewhat in a corporeal way that He made the disclosure, yet nevertheless the thing had much in it to be desired.

Wherefore then doth He at all foretell it? That they might be readier to seize the high meaning, by His foretelling it; and being filled with the more vehement desire in that round of days, might so be present with their mind quite awake and full of care.

3. But wherefore doth He also bring forward Moses and Elias? One might mention many reasons. And first of all this: because the multitudes said He was, some Elias, some Jeremias, some one of the old prophets, He brings the leaders of His choir, that they might see the difference even hereby between the servants and the Lord; and that Peter was rightly commended for confessing Him Son of God.

But besides that, one may mention another reason also: that because men were continually accusing Him of transgressing the law, and accounting Him to be a blasphemer, as appropriating to Himself a glory which belonged not to Him, even the Father’s, and were saying, “This Man is not of God, because He keepeth not the Sabbath day;”1 and again, “For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God:”2 that both the charges might be shown to spring from envy, and He be proved not liable to either; and that neither is His conduct a transgression of the law, nor His calling Himself equal to the Father an appropriation of glory not His own; He brings forward them who had shone out in each of these respects: Moses, because he gave the law, and the Jews might infer that he would not have overlooked its being trampled on, as they supposed, nor have shown respect to the transgressor of it, and the enemy of its founder: Elias too for his part was jealous for the glory of God, and were any man an adversary of God, and calling himself God, making himself equal to the Father, while he was not what he said, and had no right to do so; he was not the person to stand by, and hearken unto him.

And one may mention another reason also, with those which have been spoken of. Of what kind then is it? To inform them that He hath power both of death and life, is ruler both above and beneath. For this cause He brings forward both him that had died, and him that never yet suffered this.

But the fifth motive, (for it is a fifth, besides those that have been mentioned), even the evangelist himself hath revealed. Now what was this? To show the glory of the cross, and to console Peter and the others in their dread of the passion, and to raise up their minds. Since having come, they by no means held their peace, but “spake,” it is said, “of the glory3 which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem;4 “that is, of the passion, and the cross; for so they call it always.

And not thus only did He cheer them, but also by the excellency itself of the men, being such as He was especially requiring from themselves. I mean, that having said, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me;” them that had died ten thousand times for God’s decrees, and the people entrusted to them, these persons He sets before them. Because each of these, having lost his life, found it. For each of them both spake boldly unto tyrants, the one to the Egyptian, the other to Ahab; and in behalf of heartless and disobedient men; and by the very persons who were saved by them, they were brought into extreme danger; and each of them wishing to withdraw men from idolatry; and each being unlearned; for the one was of a “slow tongue,”5 and dull of speech, and the other for his part also somewhat of the rudest in his bearing: and of voluntary poverty both were very strict observers; for neither had Moses made any gain, nor had Elias aught more than his sheepskin; and this under the old law, and when they had not received so great a gift of miracles. For what if Moses clave a sea? yet Peter walked on the water, and was able to remove mountains, and used to work cures of all manner of bodily diseases, and to drive away savage demons, and by the shadow of his body to work those wonderful and great prodigies; and changed the whole world. And if Elias too raised a dead man, yet these raised ten thousand; and this before the spirit was as yet vouchsafed to them. He brings them forward accordingly for this cause also. For He would have them emulate their winning ways toward the people, and their presence of mind and inflexibility; and that they should be meek like Moses, and jealous for God like Elias, and full of tender care, as they were. For the one endured a famine of three years for the Jewish people; and the other said, “If thou wilt forgive them their sin, forgive; else blot me too out of the book, which thou hast written.”6 Now of all this He was reminding them by the vision.

For He brought those in glory too, not that these should stay where they were, but that they might even surpass their limitary lines. For example, when they said, “Should we command fire to come down from heaven,” and made mention of Elias as having done so, He saith, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of;”7 training them to forbearance by the superiority in their gift.

And let none suppose us to condemn Elias as imperfect; we say not this; for indeed he was exceedingly perfect, but in his own times, when the mind of men was in some degree childish, and they needed this kind of schooling. Since Moses too was in this respect perfect; nevertheless these have more required of them than he. For “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no ease enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1 For not into Egypt did they enter, but into the whole world, worse disposed than the Egyptians; neither were they to speak with Pharaoh, but to fight hand to hand with the devil, the very prince of wickedness. Yea, and their appointed struggle was, both to bind him, and to spoil all his goods; and this they did cleaving not the sea, but an abyss of ungodliness, through the rod of Jesse,—an abyss having waves far more grievous. See at any rate how many things there were to put the men in fear; death, poverty, dishonor, their innumerable sufferings; and at these things they trembled more than the Jews of old at that sea. But nevertheless against all these things He persuaded them boldly to venture, and to pass as along dry ground with all security.

To train them therefore for all this, He brought forward those who shone forth under the old law.

4. What then saith the ardent Peter? “It is good for us to be here.”2 For because he had heard that Christ was to go to Jerusalem and to suffer, being in fear still and trembling for Him, even after His reproof, he durst not indeed approach and say the same thing again, “Be it far from thee;3 but from that fear obscurely intimates the same again in other words. That is, when he saw a mountain, and so great retirement and solitude, his thought was, “He hath great security here, even from the place; and not only from the place, but also from His going away no more unto Jerusalem.” For he would have Him be there continually: wherefore also he speaks of “tabernacles.” For “if this may be,” saith he, “we shall not go up to Jerusalem; and if we go not up, He will not die, for there He said the scribes would set upon Him.”

But thus indeed he durst not speak; but desiring however to order things so, he said undoubtingly, “It is good for us to be here,” where Moses also is present, and Elias; Elias who brought down fire on the mountain, and Moses who entered into the thick darkness, and talked with God; and no one will even know where we are.”

Seest thou the ardent lover of Christ? For look not now at this, that the manner of his exhortation was not well weighed, but see how ardent he was, how burning his affection to Christ. For in proof that not so much out of fear for himself he said these things, hear what he saith, when Christ was declaring beforehand His future death, and the assault upon Him: “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.4 Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.5

And see how even in the very midst of the actual dangers he counselled amiss6 for himself. We know that when so great a multitude encompassed them, so far from flying, he even drew the sword, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. To such a degree did he disregard his own interest, and fear for his Master. Then because he had spoken as affirming a fact, he checks himself, and thinking, what if he should be again reproved, he saith, “If Thou wilt, let us make7 here three tabernacles, one for Thee and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

What sayest thou, O Peter? didst thou not a little while since distinguish Him from the servants? Art thou again numbering Him with the servants? Seest thou how exceedingly imperfect they were before the crucifixion? For although the Father had revealed it to him, yet he did not always retain the revelation, but was troubled by his alarm; not this only, which I have mentioned, but another also, arising from that sight. In fact, the other evangelists, to declare this, and to indicate that the confusion of his mind, with which he spake these things, arose from that alarm, said as follows; mark, “He wist not what to say, for they were sore afraid;”8 but Luke after his saying, “Let us make three tabernacles,” added, “not knowing what he said.”9 Then to show that he was holden with great fear, both he and the rest, he saith, “They were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake they saw His glory;”10 meaning by deep sleep here, the deep stupor engendered in them by that vision. For as eyes are darkened by an excessive splendor, so at that time also did they feel. For it was not, I suppose, night, but day; and the exceeding greatness of the light weighed down the infirmity of their eyes.

5. What then? He Himself speaks nothing, nor Moses, nor Elias, but He that is greater than all, and more worthy of belief, the Father, uttereth a voice out of the cloud.

Wherefore out of the cloud? Thus doth God ever appear. “For a cloud and darkness are round about Him;”1 and, “He sitteth on a light cloud;”2 and again, “Who maketh clouds His chariot;”3 and, “A cloud received Him out of their sight;”4 and, “As the Son of Man coming in the clouds.”5

In order then that they might believe that the voice proceeds from God, it comes from thence.

And the cloud was bright. For “while he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”6

For as, when He threatens, He shows a dark cloud;—as on Mount Sinai; for “Moses,” it is said, “entered into the cloud, and into the thick darkness; and as a vapor, so went up the smoke;”7 and the prophet said, when speaking of His threatening, “Dark water in clouds of the air;”8—so here, because it was His desire not to alarm, but to teach, it is a bright cloud.

And whereas Peter had said “Let us make three tabernacles,” He showed a tabernacle not made with hands. Wherefore in that case it was smoke, and vapor of a furnace; but in this, light unspeakable and a voice.

Then, to signify that not merely concerning some one of the three was it spoken, but; concerning Christ only; when the voice was uttered, they were taken away. For by no means, had it been spoken merely concerning any one of them, would this man have remained alone, the two being severed from Him.

Why then did not the cloud likewise receive Christ alone, but all of them together? If it had received Christ alone, He would have been thought to have Himself uttered the voice. Wherefore also the evangelist, making sure this same point, saith, that the voice was from the cloud, that is, from God.

And what saith the voice? “This is my beloved Son.” Now if He is beloved, fear not thou, O Peter. For thou oughtest indeed to know His power already, and to be fully assured touching His resurrection; but since; thou knowest not, at least from the voice of the Father take courage. For if God be mighty, as surely He is mighty, very evidently the Son is so likewise. Be not afraid then of those fearful things.

But if as yet thou receive it not, consider at least that other fact, that He is both a Son, and is beloved. For “This,” it is said, “is My beloved Son.” Now if He is beloved, fear not. For no one gives up one whom he loves. Be not thou therefore confounded; though thou lovest Him beyond measure, thou lovest Him not as much as He that begat Him.

“In whom I am well pleased.” For not because He begat Him only, doth He love Him, but because He is also equal to Him in all respects, and of one mind with Him. So that the charm of love is twofold, or rather even threefold, because He is the Son, because He is beloved, because in Him He is well pleased.

But what means, “In whom I am well pleased?” As though He had said,” In whom I am refreshed, in whom I take delight;” because He is in all respects perfectly equal with Himself, and there is but one will in Him and in the Father, and though He continue a Son, He is in all respects one with the Father.

“Hear ye Him.” So that although He choose to be crucified, you are not to oppose Him.

6. “And when they heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”9

How was it that, when they heard these words, they were dismayed? And yet before this also a like voice was uttered at Jordan, and a multitude was present, and no one felt anything of the kind; and afterwards again, when also they said, “It thundered,10 yet neither at that time did they experience anything like this. How then did they fall down in the mount? Because there was solitude, and height, and great quietness, and a transfiguration full of awe, and a pure light, and a cloud stretched out; all which things put them in great alarm. And the amazement came thick on every side, and they fell down both in fear at once and in adoration.

But that the fear abiding so long might not drive out their recollection, presently He puts an end to their alarm, and is seen Himself alone, and commands them to tell no man this, until He is risen from the dead.

For “as they came down from the mount, He charged them to tell the vision to no man, until He were risen from the dead.”11

For the greater the things spoken of Him, the harder to be received by the generality at that time; and the offense also from the cross was the more increased thereby.

Therefore He bids them hold their peace; and not merely so, but He again reminds them of the passion, and all but tells them also the cause, for which indeed He requires them to keep silence. For He did not, you see, command them never to tell any man, but “until He were risen from the dead.” And saying nothing of the painful part, He expresses the good only.

What then? Would they not afterwards be offended? By no means. For the point required was the time before the crucifixion. Since afterwards they both had the spirit vouchsafed them, and the voice that proceeded from the miracles pleading with them, and whatsoever they said was thenceforth easy to be received, the course of events proclaiming His might more clearly than a trumpet, and no offense of that sort interrupting1 what they were about.

7. Nothing then is more blessed than the apostles, and especially the three, who even in the cloud were counted worthy to be under the same roof with the Lord.

But if we will, we also shall behold Christ, not as they then on the mount, but in far greater brightness. For not thus shall He come hereafter. For whereas then, to spare His disciples, He discovered so much only of His brightness as they were able to bear; hereafter He shall come in the very glory of the Father, not with Moses and Elias only, but with the infinite host of the angels, with the archangels, with the cherubim, with those infinite tribes, not having a cloud over His head, but even heaven itself being folded up.

For as it is with the judges; when they judge publicly, the attendants drawing back the curtains show them to all; even so then likewise all men shall see Him sitting, and all the human race shall stand by, and He will make answers to them by Himself; and to some He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat;”2 to others, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things.3

And again passing an opposite sentence, to some He will answer, “Depart into the everlasting fire, that is prepared for the devil and his angels,”4 and to others, “O thou wicked and slothful servants.”5 And some He will “cut asunder,” and “deliver to the tormentors;” but others He will command to “be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness.6 And after the axe the furnace will follow; and all out of the net, that is east away, will fall therein.

“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun;”7 or rather more than the sun. But so much is said, not because their light is to be so much and no more, but since we know no other star brighter than this, He chose by the known example to set forth the future brightness of the saints.

Since on the mount too, when He says, “He did shine as the sun,” for the same cause did He so speak. For that the comparison did not come up to His light, the apostles showed by falling down. For had the brightness not been unalloyed, but comparable to the sun; they would not have fallen, but would easily have borne it.

The righteous therefore will shine as the sun, and more than the sun in that time; but the sinners shall suffer all extremities. Then will there be no need of records, proofs, witnesses. For He who judges is Himself all, both witness, and proof, and judge. For He knows all things exactly; “For all things are naked and opened unto His eyes.”8

No man will there appear rich or poor, mighty or weak, wise or unwise, bond or free; but these masks will be dashed in pieces, and the inquiry will be into their works only. For if in our courts, when any one is tried for usurpation, or murder, whatever he may be, whether governor, or consul, or what you will, all these dignities fleet away, and he that is convicted suffers the utmost penalty; much more will it be so there.

8. Therefore that this may not be so, let us lay aside our filthy garments, let us put on the armor of light, and the glory of God will wrap us around. For what is even grievous in the injunctions? or what is there not easy? Hear, for instance, the prophet speaking, and then thou shalt know the easiness thereof. “Neither though thou bow as a collar thy neck, and strew beneath thee sackcloth and ashes, not even so shalt thou call a fast acceptable; but loose every bond of iniquity, unloose the twisted knots of oppressive bargains.”9

See a prophet’s wisdom, how stating first whatever was irksome, and removing it, he exhorts them to obtain salvation by the duties that are easy; signifying, that God needs not toils, but obedience.

Then implying that virtue is easy, but vice grievous and galling, he makes it out by the bare names; “For,” saith he, “vice is a bond,” and “a twisted knot,” but virtue is a disengagement and release from all these.

“Tear in sunder every unjust compact;” thus calling men’s bills about the interest due to them, and the sums they have lent.

“Set at liberty them that are bruised;” them that are afflicted. For such a being is the debtor; when he sees his creditor, his mind is broken, and he fears him more than a wild beast.

“Bring in the poor that are cast out to thy house; if thou seest one naked, clothe him, and them that belong to thy seed thou shalt not overlook.”1

Now in our late discourse which we made unto you when declaring the rewards, we showed the wealth arising from these acts; but now let us see if any of the injunctions be grievous, and transcending our nature. Nay, nothing of the kind shall we discover, but quite the contrary; that while these courses are very easy, those of vice are full of labor. For what is more vexatious than to be lending, and taking thought about usuries and bargains, and demanding sureties, and fearing and trembling about securities, about the principal, about the writings, about the interest, about the bondsmen?

For such is the nature of worldly things; yea, nothing is so unsound and suspicious as that which is accounted security, and contrived for that purpose; but to show mercy is easy, and delivers from all anxiety.

Let us not then traffic in other men’s calamities, nor make a trade of our benevolence. And I know indeed that many hear these words with displeasure; but what is the profit of silence? For though I should hold my peace, and give no trouble by my words, I could not by this silence deliver you from your punishment; rather it has altogether the opposite result; the penalty is enhanced, and not to you only, but to me also, doth such a silence procure punishment. What then signify our gracious words, when in our works they help us not, but rather do harm? What is the good of delighting men in word, while we vex them in deed, bringing pleasure to the ears, and punishment to the soul? Wherefore I must needs make you sorry here, that we may not suffer punishment there.

9. For indeed a dreadful disease, beloved, dreadful and needing much attendance, hath fallen on the church. Those, namely, who are enjoined not even by honest labors to lay up treasures, but to open their houses to the needy, make a profit of other men’s poverty, devising a specious robbery, a plausible covetousness.

For tell me not of the laws that are without; since even the publican fulfills the law that is without, but nevertheless is punished: which will be the case with us also, unless we refrain from oppressing the poor, and from using their need and necessity as an occasion for shameless trafficking.

For to this intent thou hast wealth, to relieve poverty, not to make a gain of poverty; but thou with show of relief makest the calamity greater, and sellest benevolence for money.

Sell it, I forbid thee not, but for a heavenly kingdom. Receive not a small price for so good a deed, thy monthly one in the hundred,2 but that immortal life. Why art thou beggarly, and poor, and mean, selling thy great things for a little, even for goods that perish, when it should be for an everlasting kingdom? Why dost thou leave God, and get human gains? Why dost thou pass by the wealthy one, and trouble him that hath not? and leaving the sure paymaster make thy bargain with the unthankful? The other longs to repay, but this even grudges in the act of repaying. This hardly repays a hundredth part, but the other “an hundredfold and eternal life.” This with insults and revilings, but the other with praises and auspicious words. This stirs up envy against thee, but the other even weaves for thee crowns. This hardly here, but the other both there and here.

Surely then is it not the utmost senselessness, not so much as to know how to gain? How many have lost their very principal for the interest’s sake? How many have fallen into perils for usurious gains. How many have involved both themselves and others in extreme poverty through their unspeakable covetousness!

For tell me not this, that he is pleased to receive, and is thankful for the loan. Why, this is a result of thy cruelty. Since Abraham too,3 contriving how his plan might take with the barbarians, did himself give up his wife to them; not however willingly, but through fear of Pharaoh. So also the poor man, because thou countest him not even worth so much money, is actually compelled to be thankful for cruelty.

And it seems to me as though, shouldest thou deliver him from dangers, thou wouldest exact of him a payment for this deliverance. “Away,” saith he; “let it not be.” What sayest thou? Delivering him from the greater evil, thou art unwilling to exact money, and for the lesser dost thou display so much inhumanity?

Seest thou not how great a punishment is appointed for the deed? hearest thou not that even in the old law this is forbidden?1 But what is the plea of the many? “When I have received the interest, I give to the poor;” one tells me. Speak reverently, O man; God desires not such sacrifices. Deal not subtilly with the law. Better not give to a poor man, than give from that source; for the money that hath been collected by honest labors, thou often makest to become unlawful because of that wicked increase; as if one should compel a fair womb to give birth to scorpions.

And why do I speak of God’s law? Do not even ye call it “filth”? But if ye, the gainers, give your voice so, consider what suffrage God will pass upon you.

And if thou wilt ask the Gentile lawgivers too, thou wilt be told that even by them this thing is deemed a proof of the most utter shamelessness. Those, for example, who are in offices of honor, and belong to the great council, which they call the senate, may not legally disgrace themselves with such gains; there being a law among them which prohibits the same.2

How then is it not a horrible thing, if thou ascribe not even so much honor to the polity of Heaven, as the legislators to the council of the Romans; but Heaven is to obtain less than earth, and thou art not ashamed even of the very folly of the thing? For what could be more foolish than this, unless one without land, rain, or plough, were to insist upon sowing?3 Tares therefore, to be committed to the fire, do they reap, who have devised this evil husbandry.

Why, are there not many honest trades? in the fields, the flocks, the herds, the breeding of cattle, in handicrafts, in care of property? Why rave and be frantic, cultivating thorns for no good? What if the fruits of the earth are subject to mischance; hail, and blight, and excessive rain? yet not to such an extent as are money dealings. For in whatsoever cases of that sort occur, the damage of course concerns the produce, but the principal remains, I mean, the land. But herein many often have suffered shipwreck in their principal; and before the loss too they are in continual dejection. For never cloth the money-lender enjoy his possessions, nor find pleasure in them; but when the interest is brought, he rejoices not that he hath received gain, but is grieved that the interest hath not yet come up to the principal. And before this evil offspring is brought forth complete, he compels it also to bring forth,4 making the interest principal, and forcing it to bring forth its untimely and abortive brood of vipers. For of this nature are the gains of usury; more than those wild creatures do they devour and tear the souls of the wretched.5 This “is the bond of iniquity:” this “the twisted knot of oppressive bargains.”

Yea, “I give,” he seems to say, “not for thee to receive, but that thou mayest repay more.” And whereas God commands not even to receive what is given (for “give,” saith He, “to them from whom ye look not to receive”),6 thou requirest even more than is given, and what thou gavest not, this as a debt, thou constrainest the receiver to pay.

And thou indeed supposest thy substance to be increased hereby, but instead of substance thou art kindling the unquenchable fire.

That this therefore may not be, let us cut out the evil womb of usurious gains, let us deaden these lawless travailings, let us dry up this place of pernicious teeming, and let us pursue the true and great gains only. “But what are these?” Hear Paul saying “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”7

Therefore in this wealth alone let us be rich, that we may both here enjoy security, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and world without end. Amen.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2017

Comments on Matthew 17:1-4

Mt 17:1. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
Mt 17:2. And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Mt 17:3. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
Mt 17:4. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Remigius. In this Transfiguration undergone on the mount, the Lord fulfilled within six days the promise made to His disciples, that they should have a sight of His glory; as it is said, And after six days he took Peter, and James, and John his brother.

Jerome. It is made a question how it could be after six days that He took them, when Luke says eight. (Luke 9:28.) The answer is easy, that here one reckoned only the intervening days, there the first and the last are also added.

Chrysostom. He does not take them up immediately upon the promise being made, but six days after, for this reason, that the other disciples might not be touched with any human passion, as a feeling of jealousy; or else that during these days’ space, those disciples who were to be taken up might become kindled with a more eager desire.

Rabanus. (e Bed.) Justly was it after six days that He shewed His glory, because after six ages is to be the resurrectiond.

Origen. Or because in six days this whole visible world was made; so he who is above all the things of this world, may ascend into the high mountain, and there see the glory of the Word of God.

Chrysostom. He took these three because He set them before others. But observe how Matthew does not conceal who were preferred to himself; the like does John also when he records the preeminent praise given to Peter. For the company of Apostles was free from jealousy and vain glory.

Hilary. In the three thus taken up with Him, the election of people out of the three stocks of Sem, Cam, and Japhet is figured.

Rabanus. (e Bed.) Or; He took only three disciples with Him, because many are called but few chosen. Or because they who now hold in incorrupt mind the faith of the Holy Trinity, shall then joy in the everlasting beholding of it.

Remigius. When the Lord was about to shew His disciples the glory of His brightness, He led them into the mountain, as it follows, And he took them up into a high mountain apart. Herein teaching, that it is necessary for all who seek to contemplate God, that they should not grovel in weak pleasures, but by love of things above should be ever raising themselves towards heavenly things; and to shew His disciples that they should not look for the glory of the divine brightness in the gulph of the present world, but in the kingdom of the heavenly blessedness. He leads them apart, because the saints are separated from the wicked by their whole soul and devotion of their faith, and shall be utterly separated in the future; or because many are called, but few chosen, It follows, And he was transfigured before them.

Jerome. Such as He is to be in the time of the Judgment, such was He now seen of the Apostles. Let none suppose that He lost His former form and lineaments, or laid aside His bodily reality, taking upon Him a spiritual or ethereal Body. How His transfiguration was accomplished, the Evangelist shews, saying, And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment became white as snow, For that His face is said to shine, and His raiment described to become white, does not take away substance, but confer glory. In truth, the Lord was transformed into that glory in which He shall hereafter come in His Kingdom. The transformation enhanced the brightness, but did not destroy the countenance, although the body were spiritual; whence also His raiment was changed and became white to such a degree, as in the expression of another Evangelist, no fuller on earth can whiten them. But all this is the property of matter, and is the subject of the touch, not of spirit and ethereal, an illusion upon the sight only beheld in phantasm.

Remigius. If then the face of the Lord shone as the sun, and the saints shall shine as the sun, are then the brightness of the Lord and the brightness of His servants to be equal? By no means. But forasmuch as nothing is known more bright than the sun, therefore to give some illustration of the future resurrection, it is expressed to us that the brightness of the Lord’s countenance, and the brightness of the righteous, shall be as the sun.

Origen. Mystically; When any one has passed the six days according as we have said, he beholds Jesus transfigured before the eyes of his heart. For the Word of God has various forms, appearing to each man according as He knows that it will be expedient for him; and He shews Himself to none in a manner beyond his capacity; whence he says not simply, He was transfigured, but, before them. For Jesus, in the Gospels, is merely understood by those who do not mount by means of exalting works and words upon the high mountain of wisdom; but to them that do mount up thus, He is no longer known according to the flesh, but is understood to be God the Word. Before these then Jesus is transfigured, and not before those who live sunk in worldly conversation. But these, before whom He is transfigured, have been made sons of God, and He is shewn to them as the Sun of righteousness. His raiment is made white as the light, that is, the words and sayings of the Gospels with which Jesus is clothed according to those things which were spoken of Him by the Apostles.

Gloss. (e Bed. in Luc.) Or; the raiment of Christ shadows out the saints, of whom Esaias says, With all these shalt than clothe thee as with a garment; (Isa. 49:18.) and they are likened to snow because they shall be white with virtues, and all the heat of vices shall be put far away from them. It follows, And there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with them.

Chrysostom. There are many reasons why these should appear. The first it, this; because the multitudes said He was Elias, or Jeremias, or one of the Prophets, He here brings with Him the chief of the Prophets, that hence at least may be seen the difference between the servants and their Lord. Another reason is this; because the Jews were ever charging Jesus with being a transgressor of the Law and blasphemer, and usurping to Himself the glory of the Father, that He might prove Himself guiltless of both charges, He brings forward those who were eminent in both particulars; Moses, who gave the Law, and Elias, who was jealous for the glory of God. Another reason is, that they might learn that He has the power of life and death; by producing Moses, who was dead, and Elias, who had not yet experienced death. A further reason also the Evangelist discovers, that He might shew the glory of His cross, and thus soothe Peter, and the other disciples, who were fearing His death; for they talked, as another Evangelist declares, of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. Wherefore He brings forward those who had exposed themselves to death for God’s pleasure, and for the people that believed; for both had willingly stood before tyrants, Moses before Pharaoh, Elias before Ahab. Lastly, also, He brings them forward, that the disciples should emulate their privileges, and be meek as Moses, and zealous as Elias.

Hilary. Also that Moses and Elias only out of the whole number of the saints stood with Christ, means, that Christ, in His kingdom, is between the Law and the Prophets; for He shall judge Israel in the presence of the same by whom He was preached to them.

Origen. However, if any man discerns a spiritual sense in the Law agreeing with the teaching of Jesus, and in the Prophets finds the hidden wisdom of Christ, (1 Cor. 2:7.) he beholds Moses and Elias in the same glory with Jesus.

Jerome. It is to be remembered also, that when the Scribes and Pharisees asked signs from heaven, He would not give any; but now, to increase the Apostles’ faith, He gives a sign; Elias descends from heaven, whither he was gone up, and Moses arises from hell; (Is. 7:10.) as Ahaz is bidden by Esaias to ask him a sign in the heaven above, or in the depth beneath.

Chrysostom. Hereupon follows what the warm Peter spake, Peter answered and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Because he had heard that He must go up to Jerusalem, he yet fears for Christ; but after his rebuke he dares not again say, Be propitious to thyself, Lord, but suggests the same covertly under other guise. For seeing in this place great quietness and solitude, he thought that this would be a fit place to take up their abode in, saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here. And he sought to remain here ever, therefore he proposes the tabernacles, If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles. For he concluded if he should, do this, Christ would not go up to Jerusalem, and if He should not go up to Jerusalem, He should not die, for he knew that there the Scribes laid wait for Him.

Remigius. Otherwise; At this view of the majesty of the Lord, and His two servants, Peter was so delighted, that, forgetting every thing else in the world, he would abide here for ever. But if Peter was then so fired with admiration, what ravishment will it not be to behold the King in His proper beauty, and to mingle in the choir of the Angels, and of all the saints? In that Peter says, Lord, if thou wilt, he shews the submission of a dutiful and obedient servant.

Jerome. Yet art thou wrong, Peter, and as another Evangelist says, knowest not what thou sayest. (Luke 9:33.) Think not. of three tabernacles, when there is but one tabernacle of the Gospel in which both Law and Prophets are to be repeated. But if thou wilt have three tabernacles, set not the servants equal with their Lord, but make three tabernacles, yea make one for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that They whose divinity is one, may have but one tabernacle, in thy bosom.

Remigius. He was wrong moreover, in desiring that the kingdom of the elect should be set up on earth, when the Lord had promised to give it in heaven. He was wrong also in forgetting that himself and his fellow were mortal, and in desiring to come to eternal felicity without taste of death.

Rabanus. Also in supposing that tabernacles were to be built for conversation in heaven, in which houses are not needed, as it is written in the Apocalypse, I saw not any temple therein. (Rev. 21:22.)

Comments on Matthew 17:5–9

Mt 17:5. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
Mt 17:6. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
Mt 17:7. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
Mt 17:8. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
Mt 17:9. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

Jerome. While they thought only of an earthly tabernacle of boughs or tents, they are overshadowed by the covering of a bright cloud; While he yet spake, there came a bright cloud and overshadowed them. (Exod. 19:9, 16.)

Chrysostom. When the Lord threatens, He shews a dark cloud, as on Sinai; but here where He sought not to terrify but to teach, there appeared a bright cloud.

Origen. The bright cloud overshadowing the Saints is the Power of the Father, or perhaps the Holy Spirit; or I may also venture to call the Saviour that bright cloud which overshadows the Gospel, the Law, and the Prophets, as they understand who can behold His light in all these three.

Jerome. Forasmuch as Peter had asked unwisely, he deserves not any answer; but the Father makes answer for the Son, that the Lord’s word might be fulfilled, He that sent me, he beareth witness of me. (John 5:37.)

Chrysostom. Neither Moses, nor Elias speak, but the Father greater than all sends a voice out of the cloud, that the disciples might believe that this voice was from God. For God has ordinarily shewn Himself in a cloud, as it is written, Clouds and darkness are round about Him; (Ps. 97:2.) and this is what is said, Behold, a voice out of the cloud.

Jerome. The voice of the Father is heard speaking from heaven, giving testimony to the Son, and teaching Peter the truth, taking away his error, and through Peter the other disciples also; whence he proceeds, This is my beloved Son. For Him make the tabernacle, Him obey; this is the Son, they are but servants; and they also ought as you to make ready a tabernacle for the Lord in the inmost parts of their heart.

Chrysostom. Fear not then, Peter; for if God is mighty, it is manifest that the Son is also mighty; wherefore if He is loved, fear not thou; for none forsakes Him whom He loves; nor dost thou love Him equally with the Father. Neither does He love Him merely because He begot Him, but because He is of one will with Himself; as it follows, In whom I am well pleased; which is to say, in whom I rest content, whom I accept, for all things of the Father He performs with care, and His will is one with the Father; so if He will to be crucified, do not then speak against it.

Hilary. This is the Son, this the Beloved, this the Accepted; and He it is who is to be heard, as the voice out of the cloud signifies, saying, Hear ye Him. For He is a fit teacher of doing the things He has done, who has given the weight of His own example to the loss of the world, the joy of the cross, the death of the body, and after that the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

Remigius. He says therefore, Hear ye Him, as much as to say, Let the shadow of the Law be past, and the types of the Prophets, and follow ye the one shining light of the Gospel. Or He says, Hear ye Him, to shew that it was He whom Moses had foretold, The Lord your God shall raise up a Prophet unto you of your brethren like unto me, Him shall ye hear. (Deut. 18:18.) Thus the Lord had witnesses on all sides; from heaven the voice of the Father, Elias out of Paradise, Moses out of Hades, the Apostles from among men, that at the name of Jesus every thing should bow the knee, of things in heaven, things on earth, and things beneath.

Origen. The voice out of the cloud speaks either to Moses or Elias, who desired to see the Son of God, and to hear Him; or it is for the teaching of the Apostles.

Gloss. (ap. Anselm.) It is to be observed, that the mystery of the second regeneration, that, to wit, which shall be in the resurrection, when the flesh shall be raised again, agrees well with the mystery of the first which is in baptism, when the soul is raised again. For in the baptism of Christ is shewn the working of the whole Trinity; there was the Son incarnate, the Holy Ghost appealing in the figure of a dove, and the Father made known by the voice. In like manner in the transfiguration, which is the sacrament of the second regeneration, the whole Trinity appeared; the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, and the Holy Spirit in the cloud. It is made a question how the Holy Spirit was shewn there in the dove, here in the cloud. Because it is His manner to mark His gifts by specific outward forms. And the gift of baptism is innocence, which is denoted by the bird of purity. But as in the resurrection, He is to give splendour and refreshment, therefore in the cloud are denoted both the refreshment and the brightness of the rising bodies. It follows, And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and feared greatly.

Jerome. Their cause of terror is threefold. Because they knew that they had done amiss; or because the bright cloud had covered them; or because they had heard the voice of God the Father speaking; for human frailty cannot endure to look upon so great glory, and falls to the earth trembling through both soul and body. And by how much higher any one has aimed, by so much lower will be his fall, if he shall be ignorant of his own measure.

Remigius. Whereas the holy Apostles fell upon their faces, that was a proof of their sanctity, for the saints are always described to fall upon their faces, but the wicked to fall backwardsa.

Chrysostom. But when before in Christ’s baptism, such a voice came from heaven, yet none of the multitude then present suffered any thing of this kind, how is it that the disciples on the mount fell prostrate? Because in sooth their solicitude was much, the height and loneliness of the spot great, and the transfiguration itself attended with terrors, the clear light and the spreading cloud; all these things together wrought to terrify them.

Jerome. And whereas they were laid down, and could not raise themselves again, He approaches them, touches them gently, that by His touch their fear might be banished, and their unnerved limbs gain strength; And Jesus drew near, and touched them. But He further added His word to His hand, And said unto them, Arise, fear not. He first banishes their fear, that He may after impart teaching. It follows, And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only; which was done with good reason; for had Moses and Elias continued with the Lord, it might have seemed uncertain to which in particular the witness of the Father was borne. Also they see Jesus standing after the cloud has been removed, and Moses and Elias disappeared, because after the shadow of the Law and Prophets has departed, both are found in the Gospel. It follows; And as they came down from the mount, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell no man this vision, until the Son of Man shall rise from the dead. He will not be preached among the people, lest the marvel of the thing should seem incredible, and lest the cross following after so great glory should cause offence.

Remigius. Or, because if His majesty should be published among the people, they should hinder the dispensation of His passion, by resistance to the chief Priests; and thus the redemption of the human race should suffer impediment.

Hilary. He enjoins silence respecting what they had seen, for this reason, that when they should be filled with the Holy Spirit, they should then become witnesses of these spiritual deeds.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2017

Mt 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:

And after six days.] 3. Peter’s presence at the transfiguration. In this section we consider first the transfiguration proper, vv. 1–3; secondly, the words spoken during the transfiguration, vv. 4–6; thirdly, the occurrences after the transfiguration, vv. 7–13. a. The transfiguration proper. The connection of this event with the preceding passage consists in the manifestation of the glory that will follow the suffering of Jesus, and the self-denial and cross of the disciples. “After six days” according to the first and the second gospel [Mk. 9:1] is parallel to “about eight days” of the third [Lk. 9:28]; St. Matthew and St. Mark count only the intermediate days, while St. Luke adds the first and last also [cf. Augustine, de cons. ev. ii. 56, 113; Chrysostom, Euthymius, Hilary, Thomas Aquinas etc.]; or St. Luke gives “about” the number; or again counts parts of days as whole days [Jansenius]. “Jesus taketh unto him Peter,” the head of the apostles, “and James,” the first martyr among the apostles, “and John his brother,” the virgin among his brethren; we find these same disciples privileged at the resuscitation of the dead child [Mk. 5:37; Lk. 8:51] and in the garden of Gethsemani [Mt. 26:37]. “And bringeth them up into a high mountain apart,” in order to pray [Lk. 9:28]; since they descended the following day [Lk. 9:37], the transfiguration must have happened during the night, so that the disciples are naturally represented as overcome with sleep [Lk. 9:32]. The mountain was Hermon or Thabor [Origen in cat. ad. Ps. 88:13; Euseb. cæsar. ibid.], or Hermon [Stanley, Sin. and Palest, p. 399; Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 231], or one of the mountains bordering the lake [Alford], or Thabor [Cyril of Jerusal. cat. xii. 16; Jerome, ep. xlvi. 12; cviii. 13; Damasc. de transfig.; Bede, Maldonado, Barradas Lapide, Arnoldi Holzammer, Mislin, Sepp. das. heil. Land, ii. 114; Grimm, etc.].

Reasons for the last opinion: First, Josephus [B. J. II. xx. 6; VI. i. 8; Vit. n. 37] shows that the top of Thabor was bare at the time of Christ, whatever may have stood upon it at the time of Antiochus the Great [b. c. 218; cf. Polybius. v. 70, 6]; secondly, Thabor is about a journey of twenty hours away from Cesarea Philippi, so that it could be easily reached in six days by Jesus and the disciples; thirdly, on descending from the mountain Jesus encounters the multitudes and the scribes, together with his nine disciples, who had attempted an exorcism [cf. Mk. 9:13], all of which would have been impossible in the vicinity of Cesarea, where the scribes were very few, and where the disciples had been forbidden to exercise their miraculous powers [Mt. 10:6]; fourthly, immediately after the transfiguration Jesus and his disciples journey in Galilee [5:21; Mk. 9:29]; fifthly, Thabor is a “high” mountain, measuring 1, 748 or 1, 755 or 1, 868 feet in height; it is also repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament [cf. Judg. 4:6; 8:18; Ps. 89:13; Jer 46:18; Hos. 5:1].

Mt 17:2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.
Mt 17:3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.

“And he was transfigured,” not in the figure or form of his body [cf. Cyril Euthymius], but “his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as snow,” so that he manifested a few dim rays of the glory connaturally due to his. body on account of the hypostatic union [cf. Hilary, St Bruno, Cajetan, Paschasius, Gregory the Great, moral, xxxii. 6]. The impression produced on the apostles may be inferred from the words of Peter and John written many years after the event [2 Pet. 1:16–18; Jn. 1:14; 1 Jn. 1:1 f.]. “And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias”: the latter had never died, and appeared therefore in his own body, while Moses either rose from the dead [cf. Jerome, auct. de mirabil. S. Script, iii. 10; Barradas, Sylveira Suarez, in 3am. qu. 45, disp. 32, sect. 2, n. 7; Tol. in c. ix. Luc. annot. 61], or his soul assumed an apparent body as happens in apparitions of angels [cf. Thomas Aquinas, 3 p. qu. 45, a. 3, ad 2; Tost. in c. xvii. qu. 54]. The disciples recognized the two Old Testament persons by revelation [Maldonado], or from the words in which Jesus addressed them [Theophylact, Jansenius, Suarez l. c. n. 10; Sylveira], or again from their description in the Old Testament [Grimm, iv. p. 39; Schanz], or finally from the traditional Jewish description of their persons [Euthymius]. Moses and Elias appeared at the transfiguration, first, because that event was to prefigure the future coming of Jesus in his glory, and this latter will be preceded [Apoc. 11:3–6] by the advent of Moses and Elias [Jansenius Maldonado; but the two witnesses of Apoc. 11:3–6 are more commonly identified with Enoch and Elias; cf. Suarez, l. c. disp. 55, sect. 3, n. 2]; secondly, Moses and Elias represent the law and the prophets of the Old Testament, as well as the living and the dead, so that they testify to Christ’s power over life and death [cf. Jerome, Hilary, Rabbanus Paschasius, Dionysius Jansenius, Maldonado], and to the fulfilment of law and prophecy in his person [Chrysostom]. Luke [9:31] tells us the subject of the patriarchs’ conversation with our Lord; it was a new confirmation for the apostles of the coming suffering and death of the Master.

Mt 17:4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Mt 17:5 And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.
Mt 17:6 And the disciples hearing fell upon their face, and were very much afraid.

And Peter answering, said.] b. Words at the transfiguration. Lk. 9:32 renders it clear that Peter began to speak [“answering,” cf. 9:25] when Moses and Elias were about to withdraw. Chrysostom thinks that the apostle invited Jesus to remain forever on Thabor, being overcome with heavenly delight [Orig.], and not fully realizing his own words [Lk. 9:33; Mk. 9:5]; Rabbanus infers from Peter’s words the delight awaiting us in our future life, when we shall see Jesus in his full glory. God himself furnished a better tabernacle than Peter’s could have been, by “a great cloud” overshading them [cf. Origen, Theophylact]. The manifestation of God’s presence in a cloud is too well known to need comment [cf. Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:15; 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10; Ps. 104:3; etc. Maldonado, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact St Bruno, Jansenius, etc.]. “Overshaded them,” not the disciples, but Jesus and his two visitors [Jansenius, Knabenbauer], because the “voice” came “out of the cloud.” The testimony “this is my beloved Son” confirms Peter’s testimony [16:16]; the words have been considered in 3:17. The clause “hear ye him,” alluding to Deut. 18:15, confirms our Lord’s previous prediction of his own suffering as well as his instruction on the self-denial of his disciples. “The disciples … were very much afraid,” an incident fully agreeing with the feeling of several saints of the Old and New Testament in the presence of God’s special manifestation [cf. Is. 6:5; Ez. 2:1; Dan. 7:15; 10:8; Apoc. 1:13, 17; etc.].

Mt 17:7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and fear not.
Mt 17:8 And they lifting up their eyes, saw no one, but only Jesus.
Mt 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.

7. And Jesus came and touched them.] c. After the transfiguration. The touch of Jesus brought about the fearlessness enjoined by his words [cf. Jerome]. “Tell the vision [cf. Acts 7:31; Sir 43:1] to no man,” a prohibition given not for fear of scandal at the following suffering and death [cf. Jerome, Chryssostom, Euthymius, Bede, etc.], nor on account of the apostles’ weakness, who needed the special infusion of the Holy Ghost in order to preach Christ’s glory [cf. Hilary, Thoma Aquinas], nor to avoid offence on the part of those disciples that had not been present on Thabor [Damasc. Corder. cat. Luc. p. 257], nor finally to teach humility [cf. Alb. Dionusius]; but the prohibition was based on the same necessity of not arousing the people’s expectations of a glorious Messias which we found in 16:20 [Schanz, Knabenbauer. etc.]. The question “why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first” does not show doubt on the part of the questioners concerning the truth of the Pharisaic doctrine [cf. Meyer]; nor does it prove that the apostles had come to the knowledge of our Lord’s Messiasship only on Thabor [cf. Origen, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Jansenius]; nor does it show that the disciples identified the apparition of Elias during the transfiguration with his promised coming before the advent of the Messias [cf. Weiss; Mal. 4:5, 6]; nor did the questioners believe that Christ had already come in his glory [cf. Jerome]; nor were they in doubt whether John the Baptist [cf. 11:14] was the promised Elias, since they must have understood the words of the scribes in their literal sense [cf. 16:6 ff.]; but since Jesus had just then mentioned his resurrection [“till the Son of man be risen from the dead”], the disciples thought that his advent in glory was near at hand, and therefore inquired about the coming of Elias according to the teaching of the scribes [cf. Jansenius, Knabenbauer, Lightfoot, Wünsche, Weber, System der altsynag. paläst. Theol. p. 337 f.].

As Mal. 3:1; 4:5, 6 distinguishes two advents of the Messias and two precursors, so does Jesus in his answer distinguish the two precursors; first, he speaks about Elias: “Elias indeed shall come,” before the second advent, “and restore all things,” preparing all hearts for the coming of the Lord [cf. Rom. 11:25 ff.; Justin, Origen, Victorinus, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, and all later Catholic writers of weight]; secondly, “Elias is already come,” before my first advent, in the person of the Baptist [cf. 11:14 ff.], “and they knew him not” cf. 11:16 ff.], “but have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind” [cf. 4:12; 11:18; Jn. 4:1]. The Baptist’s sufferings prefigure those of the Lord, for “so also the Son of man shall suffer from them” [cf. 14:1 ff.], so that the Baptist was the precursor of the Messias in death as well as in life. “Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them of John the Baptist,” identifying him with the Elias that had already come, not with the Elias that was to come before the second advent.

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