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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 17, 2018

 

To thee, O Lord, have I lifted up my soul.

Having found no rest in creatures, but on the contrary, “briers and thorns” everywhere; disgusted with my former mode of life, and having torn my soul from the affections that tied it down to the earth, “I lifted it up” to thee. Through constant reflection, and love inspired by you, to you I began to cling, hoping for help from you in my temptations; and since “I put my trust in you, let me not be ashamed;” that is, I will not go from you in confusion, without having obtained the help I need, and thus be made “to blush” before my enemies.

2 In thee, O my God, I put my trust; let me not be ashamed (blush before my enemies).
3 Neither let my enemies laugh at me: for none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded.

Verse 3 provides an explanation of the words, “To blush before my enemies,” in the preceding verse, for he should blush if his “enemies were to laugh at him” for having vainly trusted in God. By “my enemies,” may be understood, both the wicked in this world, and the evil spirits, whose rejoicing and scoffing would produce intolerable confusion, were we seriously to reflect on it. He then gives a reason for his hope “of not being confounded,” because “none of them that wait on thee shall be confounded;” that means, because we have learned by long experience, from the examples of our ancestors, and from your own promises, that those who put their trust in you, and patiently expect your help, were never disappointed in their “waiting on you.” To “wait on the Lord” is a very common expression in the Scriptures, and means to expect him in the certain hope of assistance.

4 Let all them be confounded that act unjust things without cause. Shew, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.

This verse may be interpreted in two ways; first, to signify that those who sin without cause, meaning those who sin through malice, and not through infirmity or ignorance, “would he confounded.” Such persons think neither of doing penance, nor of abandoning sin, and if they hope for anything from God, their hope is presumption. Another more literal meaning may be offered, viz., that both the visible and invisible enemies of the just would be confounded, for their persecutions of the just will be all in vain, because they will not accomplish the end they propose to themselves, the ruin of the just, and the bringing them to hell; whereas, on the contrary, such persecution becomes only an occasion to the just of exercising their virtue, and a source of everlasting merit. The prophet then throws back the confusion on his enemies, saying, Lord, do not allow me to be confounded, as I will, if my enemies laugh at me, and exult in my ruin; but, on the contrary, let them be confounded, when they see they have been persecuting me, and provoking me to impatience, without effecting their object, and in vain.

“Show, O Lord, thy ways to me, and teach me thy paths.” By “thy ways,” we understand his law, which is really the way to God. “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” and the prophet having asked the Lord’s help against temptations, explains what help he specially wishes for, and says, “Show, O Lord, thy ways to me,” make me tread in the way of your commandments—“and teach me thy paths;” that is, show me that most narrow road of thy most just law, for thus will I escape the mocking of all my enemies, and instead of being confounded, all they who, by their temptations, sought to harass me, will be confounded. He asks to be taught the paths of the Lord, not speculatively, but practically; that is to say, he asks for such grace as may move his will to observe the commandments cheerfully.

5 Direct me in thy truth, and teach me; for thou art God my Saviour; and on thee have I waited all the day long.

A repetition of the foregoing, and a reason assigned for it. “Direct me in thy truth.” If left to myself, I will at once turn aside to the right or to the left, deserting the path of your commandments, on account of the prosperity or the adversity of this world: do you, therefore, take me by the hand, and direct me by the help of thy grace in the right path, “in thy truth;” namely, in thy law, which is the truest of all paths. “For all thy commands are truth,” Psalm 118.—“For thou art God my Savior;” of thee I ask this help, because you alone, being God, can save my soul; for there is no other physician that understands the diseases of the soul; and, therefore, there is no one able to cure them but God alone, much less is there one able to restore them to perfect health; and I specially ask this favor, which I hope, too, to obtain, because “On thee have I waited all the day long;” that is, with perseverance and patience I have waited for thy medicine, and look for relief from nobody else. It is a source of great merit with God never to give up the hope of his help in temptations, or to look to human consolation.

6 Remember, O Lord, thy bowels of compassion; and thy mercies that are from the beginning of the world.

When God allows the soul to be harassed by temptation, or to wallow in sin, he seems to have forgotten his mercy; and thus the just man, after a long struggle with temptation, and seeing that, however he may desire it, he cannot guard against relapsing into sin, cries out to God to remember his former compassion and mercies. Between compassion and mercy there is this difference only, that the former seems to be the actual exercise or practice of mercy, the latter the habit of the virtue in the mind; and the same difference is observable in the Hebrew, though the words are much more dissimilar. The meaning then is—Remember, O Lord, that you were compassionate “from eternity,” and not only compassionate, but in the habit of showing mercy, and the most paternal tenderness to thy children; and, therefore, mercy is thy distinguishing, as well as thy natural, tendency.

7 The sins of my youth and my ignorances do not remember. According to thy mercy remember thou me: for thy goodness’ sake, O Lord.

He places forgetfulness in beautiful opposition to remembrance. Remember thy mercy, but forget my sins; for one is the cause of the other, for God then remembers his mercy when he does not wish to remember our sins any longer, but so remits and blots them out, as if they were consigned to eternal oblivion. He remembers, however, the sins and ignorance of youth; that is, the sins committed through human infirmity and ignorance, because to those more than any others does his mercy lend itself, according to the apostle, 1 Tim. 1, “But l obtained the mercy of God, because I did it ignorantly;” and, perhaps, David had no other sins to account for; and this certainly is the prayer of a just man, who seems to have had to contend with such sins only; and with that, sins committed through malice are not forgiven through prayer alone, but need “Fruits worthy of penance.” “According to thy mercy, remember thou me.” He declares what he said in the words, Remember thy bowels of compassion;” and forget my sins; for all this takes place when “God remembers the sinner according to his mercy.”

8 The Lord is sweet and righteous: therefore he will give a law to sinners in the way.

He assures himself of the certainty of obtaining the object of his hope, by reason of God’s goodness and justice; and thus, that he is wont to correct delinquents freely, because thereby he exercises his mercy towards man, and his justice towards sin; and the meaning is, “The Lord is sweet and righteous;” and, therefore, loves man, and hates sin; and, therefore, “gives a law;” that is, declares and points it out “to sinners in the way,” to persuade them to abandon the old path, and, from being bad and wicked, to become good and just.

9 He will guide the mild in judgment: he will teach the meek his ways.

A qualification of the expression in the last verse, “He will give a law to sinners;” which he says here does not apply to all sinners, but only to the mild and the meek, who do not resist God’s teachings, but rather covet instruction. “We will guide the mild in judgment;” that means, he will lead the humble and the mild through the straight path of his law, (for law and judgment appear to be synonymous, as we explained in Psalm 18,) which he then explains in other words, “He will teach the meek his ways,” that is, to the meek he will give the grace of knowing and loving, and thus fulfilling his law. Observe that the proud are not altogether excluded from the grace of God, but have their place assigned them. The proud, to be sure, are incapable of perfection, of which this Psalm principally treats, until, from the influence of fear, they do penance, and then, having shaken off the fear, become mild and humble. The grace of God, then, first softens and subdues the proud and the obstinate, and when thus humbled and contrite, “It guides them in judgment,” and “teaches them his ways.”

10 All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth, to them that seek after his covenant and his testimonies.

 Having stated that not only were the meek guided by God, but that all God’s dealings with such souls were acts of mercy and justice, justice meaning the honor and truth that oblige men to perform their promises. “The ways of the Lord,” mean here his works, they being, in some respect, the “way” in which he comes to us; unless we prefer to understand the expression as meaning the Lord’s rules or customs, and, as it were, the law he uses. Thus, the “Ways of the Lord;” the law he gives us, by means of which, as by a straight road, we ascend direct to God, is sometimes intended by the expression; at other times, it signifies the law he uses himself, when, through his works, he descends to us. And as David had previously spoken at great length on the former, he now speaks of the latter, that is, of the law he made for himself, and which he observes towards us; and he, therefore, lays down, “All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth;” that is, his law, his custom, his mode of dealing with us, are all in mercy and truth; so that whatever he promises in his mercy, he invariably carries out in his truth. Who doth God so deal with? “With those that seek after his covenant and his testimonies.” He gives the name of testament, or “covenant,” to that bargain he made with man, when he gave him the law, that they should be his people, and he should be their God; which bargain is called a testament in the Scripture, because it contains a promise of inheritance, and require to be confirmed by the death of the testator, as it really was by the death of Christ, as a sign of which Moses sprinkled the whole people with blood, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you,” Exod. 24, and Heb. 9. He calls the law that God gave us “His testimonies,” because, as we have already stated, through the law God testifies his will to us. With those, then, who seek for the compact entered into by God with man to observe it, and, in like manner, seek for the law of God to carry it out, that is, with men of good will, fearing and loving God, he deals with such in the law of mercy and truth.

11 For thy name’s sake, O Lord, thou wilt pardon my sin: for it is great.

From the general law in which God deals with those that fear him, the prophet infers that he has a fair hope of his sins being forgiven. “For thy name’s sake, O Lord,” to make known thy mercy and thy truth, “Thou wilt pardon my sin, for it is great.” The word great may signify numerous, as a great people, in which sense St. James uses it, when he says, “We all offend in many things:” or, on account of the magnitude and the grievousness of the sins, for holy souls look upon trifles as grievous, which trifles are really grievous, if we consider the greatness of the person offended.

12 Who is the man that feareth the Lord? He hath appointed him a law in the way he hath chosen.

The prophet is now like one in love, now sighing for what he loves, now praising it, again sighing and longing for it. The just man was in love with the grace of God, ardently longed for the forgiveness of his sins, for the grace of living well, and pleasing God, and, therefore, now asks God’s grace thereto; at one time he praises the grace, and declares the happiness of those that fear God, that is, of those who have got such a grace; and again he returns to desire and to ask for it. Thus, in this verse and the two following, he declares the advantages those who fear God enjoy. “Who is the man that feareth the Lord?” Let such a man come forward and learn from me what a fortunate man he is. The next sentence, “He hath appointed him a law in the way he hath chosen.” Many think this a part of the happiness hereinbefore alluded to; that is to say, that man, fearing the Lord, will, in the first place, have the privilege of being instructed by God “in the way he hath chosen;” that is, in the state of life he may select. Not a bad interpretation, but I prefer another. The prophets are very much in the habit of repeating the same idea twice in the same verse, sometimes for explanation; and I imagine the meaning of the passage, “Who is the man that feareth the Lord?” to be, who, I say, is the man that God has instructed in his law, in the way that man has selected; that is, in the direct path of living a holy life, and moving to God, which he has already chosen of his free will. One part of the verse thus explains the other, for that is he who fears God, who, by his grace, chooses the road to him, which road is none other than the observance of the commandments.

13 His soul shall dwell in good things: and his seed shall inherit the land.

The happiness of the man fearing God consists in this, that “his soul,” the man fearing the Lord, “shall dwell in good things,” shall enjoy those good things, not for a while, or in a transitory way, but forever, permanently. Nothing can be more true, for “To them that love God, all things work together unto good,” as the apostle, in his Epistle to the Romans, has it. Therefore, he that fears God must be always happy. In prosperity he will know how to enjoy it; in adversity, patience and the hope of a great reward in the kingdom of heaven will come to his help. Thus, he will always be glad, and rejoice. And himself will not only dwell in good things, but even his children; “His seed shall inherit the land;” inheritance and possession signifying the same thing, as we have already explained in Psalm 15. The children of those who fear God will possess the land, because they will live in peace therein, without any one to injure them, in the sense we have alluded to; because to the good “All things work together unto good;” and their very tribulations become a source of joy and merit.

14 The Lord is a firmament to them that fear him: and his covenant shall be made manifest to them.

The reason why those who fear God shall always “Dwell in good things,” is, because they do not depend on perishable and transitory things, but God himself is “their firmament;” that is, their hope is based on the friendship and help of God. Firmament means foundation, on which they rest, that foundation being God himself; and their reason for depending on him is, because “his covenant” makes it “manifest to them.” They who fear God know right well, and often call to mind, the treaty he entered into with man, to be their God, and to be a most loving parent to them, on the condition of their observing his laws; and they can, therefore, understand how, by reason of this compact, they can depend upon God, as upon a most solid foundation.

15 My eyes are ever towards the Lord: for he shall pluck my feet out of the snare.

Having enlarged for a while on the happiness of those that fear the Lord, he now returns to wish and to pray for it: “My eyes are ever towards the Lord.” My mind’s eye has God ever before it, as being entirely dependent on him. The most effectual mode of prayer is, for one to place themselves in a most abject position, before the one from whom help is expected, and to propitiate the benignity of the great, rather by modestly, silently, and quietly pointing to our poverty, than by stunning them with our clamor. As we have in Psalm 122, “As the eyes of the handmaid are on the hands of her mistress; so are our eyes unto the Lord our God until he have mercy on us.” “For he shall pluck thy feet out of the snare.” I have my eyes so intently fixed on God, because he will, as I trust, deliver me from all danger of temptations, which, like snares, beset us on all sides while here below. The expression may also mean, that I always keep up the intention of pleasing God, and of doing nothing opposed to his will. It may also mean the contemplation of the divine beauty, which is always before the mind’s eye of those that seriously love God; but, I consider the first explanation the most literal.

16 Look thou upon me, and have mercy on me; for I am alone and poor.

As he is always looking to God, he justly asks to be looked upon by him. Such was his silent prayer when he had his “eyes ever toward the Lord,” hoping he may regard with mercy his loneliness and his poverty. He says he is “alone,” lonely and desolate, or (which is better) because he had in spirit detached himself from the whole world, and attached himself to God alone. He calls himself “poor,” because in his humility he looked upon himself as destitute of all virtues and merits.

17 The troubles of my heart are multiplied: deliver me from my necessities.

I am more inclined to think the temptations of sin are referred to here, rather than temporal troubles. David was one of those who, with the apostle, Rom. 7, groaned and said, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death.” “The necessities,” from which he seeks to be delivered, seem to be those most troublesome motions of concupiscence, which, in spite of us, will sometimes torment us, and even lead us to sin.

18 See my abjection and my labour; and forgive me all my sins.

He follows up the prayer, and asks forgiveness for the sins into which he may have fallen by the force of temptation. For, though a soul fearing God may be grievously afflicted, and take great pains in resisting concupiscence, still the just man falls seven times; and yet, from his fall, he may be proved to be just; because, at once, by his tears, his prayers, and his contrition, he quickly wipes away the filth and dirt into which he had incautiously fallen. By “abjection,” we are not to understand the virtue of humility; but his abjection, properly speaking, his meanness. For the just man, when he means to become quite perfect, looks down thoroughly on himself, and still does not escape sin. Instead of “Forgive me my sins,” the Hebrew has “bear my sins,” expressive of the trouble of the true child of God, for fear God may be displeased by the great number of them; and he, therefore, exclaims, “bear them.” Do not be fatigued in carrying them, and supporting my weakness.

19 Consider my enemies for they are multiplied, and have hated me with an unjust hatred.

He argues now from the number and the cruelty of his enemies. Lord, says he, you have seen “My abjection and my labor;” behold, now, the multitude, the cruelty, and the iniquity of my spiritual enemies. The enemies who seek to draw us to sin, and incessantly inflame our concupiscence with red hot weapons, are the demons whom St. Paul calls “The spirits of wickedness;” that they are innumerable is well known; and that they burn with the worst sort of hatred, with “An unjust hatred” against us, is equally well known. Hatred is said to be unjust, or most unjust, when one hates another without cause, without any provocation. The hatred may also be said to be unjust, when one seeks to harm another; not for any lucre or benefit, to be derived therefrom, but, from the mere spirit of mischief. Such is the hatred of the devil towards the human race, especially towards the elect; for mankind never did any harm to the devil, but he, blinded by envy, was the ruin of man. “By the envy of the devil, death came into the world,” Wisd. 2. The same evil one now harasses the faithful by temptations, not for the purpose of deriving any benefit therefrom, but to gratify his delight in the ruin of the just.

20 Deep thou my soul, and deliver me: I shall not be ashamed, for I have hoped in thee.

Surrounded as I am by so many enemies, especially invisible ones, to resist whom I feel my own strength unequal, I have, therefore, recourse to you “to keep my soul,” and by your care of it, to free and deliver me from them. For freeing and delivering from the enemy does not suppose that a capture has been made, it equally applies when a capture is prevented. “Thou hast delivered my soul out of the lower hell,” Psalm 85, which means, as it does here, you have prevented my falling into it. The meaning may be also, Keep my soul in the prison of this body, in which I am detained a captive, “For the law of my members holds me a captive in the law of sin,” and afterwards, in the fitting time, deliver me.

21 The innocent and the upright have adhered to me: because I have waited on thee.

Having said, in the preceding verse, that “I shall not be ashamed, for I have hoped in thee,” he gives a reason why he would fear to be ashamed at being deserted by God, and the reason is, that “many innocent and upright,” through the force of his example, especially from seeing him hope in God alone, “adhered to thee,” who certainly would cause him to blush and to be confounded were they to see him disappointed. “I shall not be ashamed,” then, has quite a different meaning in the end of the Psalm from what it had in the beginning of it. In the beginning the meaning was, “I will not be ashamed” before my enemies in their insolence; here it is, “I will not be ashamed” before my friends in their kind condolence.

22 Deliver Israel, O God, from all his tribulations.

David, being not only one of God’s people, but also the prince and head of others, having prayed at sufficient length for himself, he now adds a prayer for his people; a general one, as being unable to enter into the peculiar wants and difficulties of each individual.

 

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 10, 2018

Practices of the New Kingdom, 6:1–7:12

After describing the character of the citizens of the Messianic Kingdom and their influence on others, after stating the perfection of the Christian law both in general and in particular obligations, our Lord proceeds to develop the practice of the New Testament virtues. This practice concerns first our acts of devotion [6:1–18], secondly, our private life [6:19–34], and thirdly, our relation to our neighbor [7:1–12].

1 Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven.

Take heed that you do not do your justice.] 1. Acts of devotion, 6:1–18. This section considers first, alms-deeds, 1–4; secondly, prayer, 5–15; thirdly, fasting, 16–18. That these works were considered in the Old Testament as belonging to the substance of perfection is plain from Tob. 12:8, 9; besides, there is a number of passages in which the three works are recommended singly: the giving of alms is spoken of Deut. 15:7; Pss. 40:2; 111:5; Prov. 11:25; 19:17; Is. 58:7, 8; prayer was practiced both publicly and privately, Gen. 18:23; 20:17; 1 Sam 1:10; 2:1; 8:6; Deut. 26:3 14; 1 Kings 8:56 ff.; Ps. 54:18; fasting, too, was well known, and at certain times even prescribed, Jud. 20:26; 1 Sam 7:6; 2 Sam 12:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Est. 4:1; Ps. 34:13; Dan. 9:3; Joel 2:13; Lev. 16:29; 23:27; Zach. 7:3, 5; 8:19. It is also to be kept in mind that at the time of the exile, prayer was often recurred to instead of the legal sacrifices; but no certain posture of the body was determined as obligatory. Our Lord therefore does not introduce new practices of devotion in the following discourse, but teaches the proper method of performing the customary ones. He comprises them under the name of “justice” and warns in general that they are not to be performed through vainglory. It is true that Maldonado, etc. regard “justice” as synonymous with the following “alms-deed,” but Tob. 4:10 and Prov. 10:2; 11:4 show that it had also the wider meaning. It is not the mere publicity of the good works that robs them of their merit, but the intention of the doer to gain human praise thereby. Whatever may have been the views of the Jews concerning future retribution, our Lord here speaks of the “reward of your Father who is in heaven.”

2 Therefore when thou dost an alms-deed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.

 Therefore, when thou dost an alms-deed.] a. Alms-deeds. Here Jesus teaches first, what to avoid, then, how to give alms, and thirdly, he adds the motive. a. We must avoid the way of the hypocrites in the synagogues and the streets. In classical language “hypocrites” were those that acted the part of another person, the beginning of their performance being announced by the sound of a trumpet. Owing to this custom, gl. ord. Bruno of Segni, Tostatus, Cajetan, Jansenius [cf. Euthymius, Maldonado Lapide] contend that our Lord warns here literally against having one’s alms-deeds announced by trumpet-sound in streets and synagogues, thus merely acting the part of a friend to the poor. But Lightfoot, Schöttgen, etc. maintain that there is no vestige of any such custom among the ancient Hebrews. Since our Lord must have alluded to an evil that was then well known, Edersheim [i. pp. 196, 539] believes that he borrows his language from the trumpet-shaped collection boxes in which the alms were received in both temple and synagogues; but Thomas Aquinas, Faber Stapulensis, Barradas, Sylveira, Calmet, Arnoldi, Schegg, Schanz, Fillion Knabenbauer, etc. rightly see in the language of our Lord a merely figurative expression, in which he warns against ostentation and external show in our works of mercy [cf. Cicero, ep. ad divers, vi. 21]. The use of trumpets in the temple service was sufficiently well known to render our Lord’s words fully intelligible [cf. Joel 2:15].

3 But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth.
4 That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.

But when thou dost alms.] β. How to give alms. We need not notice the view of Paulus and de Wette who think that Jesus warns against first counting the money, or the alms we give, in the left hand; Chrysostom and Augustine, have rejected the explanation that the “left hand” means the wicked and the unbelieving; Augustine qualifies the view that the “left hand” signifies the wife, as absurd and ridiculous, because our Lord cannot be supposed to allude to the parsimoniousness of the wife, and the domestic struggles that would follow, if the wife were to know the generous acts of mercy done by the husband; nor can it be maintained that the “left hand” signifies either pleasure or our lower appetite, because this interpretation does not fit into the context; the view of Maldonado, who considers the language of Jesus as a rhetorical exaggeration, deserves more commendation than any of the foregoing, though the “left hand” may also signify those most closely connected with us [cf. Mt. 5:29, 30]. At any rate, our alms-deeds must be done with as little ostentation as possible.

γ. The motive. The secret charity we thus exercise becomes more precious [cf. Sirach. 29:15], and our reward will be not that of this earth, but that of heaven [cf. Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 1:12, 18; 4:8]. But even in this life, we thus spare the feelings of the poor, and have God “who seeth in secret” for the witness of our charity. The foregoing doctrine is of precept, in so far as it teaches that our intention in doing good must always be pure; it is of counsel, in so far as it warns us to avoid all occasion of vanity in which our corrupt human nature might be conquered [Jansenius, Knabenbauer].

5 And when ye pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, that love to stand and pray in the synagogues and corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.
6 But thou when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret, and thy father who seeth in secret will repay thee.

And when you pray.] b. Prayer. In this section our Lord first warns against the vice of the Pharisees [5, 6], then against the misconception of the heathens [7, 8], and finally he gives a formula of a perfect prayer [9–15]. a. The Old Testament passages referring to prayer have been given above [v. 1]. It may be supposed that public prayer was not only joined with the two daily sacrifices [cf. Ps. 72:20; 136], but also that it took place about the third, the sixth, and the ninth hour [cf. Ps. 54:18]. Acts 3:1; 10:9 seems to confirm the latter supposition. Though a kneeling and prostrate posture was not unknown among the Jews [1 Kings 8:54; 19:18; Dan. 6:10; Lk. 22:41; Acts 9:40; 20:36; 21:5], they commonly stood erect during prayer [1 Kings 1:26; Dan. 9:20; Mk. 11:25; Lk. 18:11, 13; Philo, Vit. contempl. opp. ii. 481; Light. f.], so that “to stand” was almost synonymous with “to pray.” At the stated times of prayer there was naturally a greater concourse on the streets leading to the temple, and especially at the corners where two or three streets crossed each other. The warning of our Lord against standing and praying in the synagogues or at the corners of the streets is therefore a warning against ostentation in our prayer. The retirement in which we ought to pray is described by the chamber and the shut doors [Mt. 24:26; Lk. 12:3; Tob. 7:15]; Jesus does not necessarily speak of the upper chamber, though the prayer was often performed in it [Dan. 6:11; Judith 8:5; Tob. 3:12; Acts 1:13]. Whether the passage be explained literally as a rhetorical exaggeration, or metaphorically, the spiritual lesson contained in it is the same. The manner in which Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Opus Imperfectum, apply the passage to spiritual recollection during time of prayer is rather pious than accurate. That public and common prayer was not prohibited by these words of Jesus is seen from Acts 1:24; 3:1; 4:24; 6:6; 12:12; 1 Tim. 2:8. The precept contained in these words may be complied with in public, and may be transgressed in secret, since it is only the intention, and not the outward circumstances, that Jesus regulates. The counsel contained in the words is again calculated to remove us from all occasion of vainglory.

16 And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad. For they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Amen I say to you, they have received their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not to men to fast, but to thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father who seeth in secret, will repay thee.

And when you fast.] c. Fasting. The law ordained only one yearly fast-day, the Day of Atonement [Lev. 16:29; 23:27]. Zach. 7:3, 5; 8:19 knows of four national fast-days. About the time of the exile private fasts became quite numerous, so that many fasted every Friday, and the Pharisees every Monday and Thursday. The Essenes and the Therapeutæ especially distinguished themselves by their rigorous fasts [cf. Josephus, Jewish Wars. II. viii. 2–14; Philo, De vit. cont. ii. 471 f.]. The one-day’s fast consisted in the total abstinence from food and drink; its penitential character was emphasized by additional austerities, by rending of the garments, wearing of haircloth, or sprinkling of ashes. Our Lord tells his hearers first, how not to fast, secondly, how to fast.

α. How not to fast. Jesus here returns to the principal theme of this part of his discourse, warning us against all vain ostentation in the performance of our good works. We are not to fast like the hypocrites, who merely act, as it were, the part of devout men; we must not neglect our hair or our face, or put on other signs of mourning, thus betraying our practice of fasting; if we do this, we have received our reward.

β. How to fast. The positive precept of our Lord concerning the manner of fasting tends to make us avoid the notice and praise of men. The anointing of the head may be regarded as a hyperbolical expression based on Oriental manners [cf. Ruth 3:3; 2 Kings 12:20; etc.]; it signifies that when we fast, we must appear outwardly the same as usual. Augustine, Chrysostom, Opus Imperfectum, refer the anointing of the head and the washing of the face to the inner man, so that our Lord, according to these writers, recommended a special care of purity of soul during the days of fasting. If Keil were right in inferring a prohibition of fasting itself from the words of our Lord, one might also infer a general prohibition of alms-deeds and prayer from the warning of Jesus not to perform these actions through vainglory.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 12:20-33

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 10, 2018

20 Now there were certain Gentiles among them, who came up to adore on the festival day.

Certain Gentiles.” In Greek, “certain Hellenists, or Greeks.” The Greek language was the most extensively used among the Gentiles. Hence, the word “Greeks,” was commonly used by the Jews to designate all the Pagan nations; as most of the Pagans, whom they knew, spoke the Greek language. The Apostle (St. Paul), commonly uses the word, when speaking of the Gentile or Pagan world, as contra-distinguished from the Jews. (Rom. 1:16; 11:9), etc. The Evangelist appropriately introduces this, when describing the rage and envy of the Pharisees, to signify, that both Jews and Gentiles were to join in receiving and believing in our Lord.

Who these Gentiles were, cannot be easily determined. Some say, they were Jews who spoke the Greek language, and dwelt in some of the Greek cities of Asia Minor, Greece, Egypt, where they had their Synagogues. Others say, they were Proselytes, from among the Gentiles. Others, Gentiles and idolaters, who came to bring offerings to the God of Israel and worship Him. These holding, that there was one God, and seeing Him adored, with such majesty, by the Jews in the glorious Temple of Jerusalem, came to join in his worship, and present their gifts. The Temple was greatly venerated by Pagan Monarchs, who bestowed on it the richest gifts. Cyrus (1 Esdras; Darius Hystaspes, c. 6), and other Kings of Asia. (2 Machabees 3.) The neighbouring Pagans frequently attended the great feasts of the Jews. Hence, the outer Court of the Temple was called, the Court of the Gentiles.

21 These therefore came to Philip, who was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying: Sir, we would see Jesus.

They came to Philip, either because he was the first of our Lord’s disciples they met: or, because they knew him before. Some say, the mention of his native place, “Bethsaida of Galilee,” would show that these dwelt in the neighbourhood of Galilee; and hence, knew Philip, who was a Galilean. This is not likely; as among the disciples, there were other Galileans also.

Besides, knowing that the Jews would not wish to hold converse with Gentiles, the Gentiles in question had the deepest feelings of reverence for our Lord, and would not presume to approach Him in person. Hence, they employ Philip as an intermediary. “We wish to see,” that is, converse with “Jesus,” For, as regards “seeing,” all could see Him, as He was preaching. It means, therefore, to converse with Him.

22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew. Again Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

Philip declined the task of introducing them, and had recourse to Andrew, his countryman, for the purpose. Andrew, it seems, enjoyed greater influence with our Lord, being His oldest disciple. It was he introduced Peter, his brother (1:40). Likely, Philip’s hesitation may have resulted from our Lord’s command, “in viam Gentium, ne abieritis.” Before exposing themselves to transgress, in any way, our Lord’s wish in this matter, they both lay the matter before our Lord.

23 But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.

Jesus answered them.” Likely, the Gentiles, too, were near, and within hearing, as we find no other answer made to Philip’s appeal, which would seem not to be unacceptable to our Lord. Whether He admitted them to conversation with Him is not stated. He, however, granted them more than was asked (v. 23–28).

The hour is come,” the appointed time for His death, which was to be followed by His Resurrection, Ascension, “is come,” so near at hand, that it may be said to have come, “that the Son of Man,” whose name the Pharisees would fain blot out from the minds of mankind and utterly obliterate.

Should be glorified,” made known to the Gentile world, of whom these are the first fruits; and after His Glorious Resurrection, Ascension, and sending down of the Holy Ghost, joined with the preaching of the Gospel, throughout the world, he would be acknowledged, adored and proclaimed by the entire earth, Jew and Gentile, as the Eternal Son of God. Our Lord frequently employs this epithet, “the Son of Man,” rather than the “Son of God,” as denoting His union with human nature, which He so honoured, denoting also His humble lowliness, in which through His humiliation, He was to receive the honours due to the Messiah; glory being exchanged, as its reward, for humiliation. (Philip. 2.)

Some Expositors (among whom Patrizzi), say, the “hour,” refers to the present day, on which He was so honoured, by the multitude, and on which a glorious testimony was soon to be borne to Him by His Father (v. 28), in the hearing of so many; the day whereon He was approaching Jerusalem, to enter on that course of suffering so often predicted by Him (Matthew 20:17–19; Mark 10:32; Luke 18:31–34), as the prelude to His glory.

Most likely, it refers to the testimony rendered to Him by His Father, in His Resurrection, Ascension, preaching of the Gospel, which would make known to all, the economy of Redemption, founded chiefly on His humiliation and death.

24 Amen, amen, I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die,

As His glorification was the fruit and reward of His humiliation and death (Philip. 2), which was now at hand, He illustrates the subject by a familiar similitude, and thus removes any grounds of offence or scandal which it might create in their minds. This being an important and solemn utterance, He prefaces it, with “Amen, amen,” usual with Him in such cases. His death would purchase a vast harvest of worshippers from all nations and peoples and tongues, etc. (Apoc. 7). For this, His death was necessary, just as it was necessary, in order that from a grain of corn, a crop or harvest would proceed, that the grain should first die and be dissolved, after being committed to the bosom of the earth. Unless it dies, it produces no fruit. It remains sterile and alone. But, if it dies, it produces much fruit When, after I die, I am committed to the earth, an uncommon harvest of faithful followers shall rise up, who are, in some limited sense, to partake of My nature, by a communication of My choicest graces, as the harvest is of the same nature with the seed. These shall proclaim My glory throughout the world.

25 Itself remaineth alone. But if it die it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it and he that hateth his life in this world keepeth it unto life eternal.

He wishes to fortify them against the sufferings and persecutions in store for His followers who are destined to tread the same path that He has trodden. Sufferings and trials and mortification are the only means of securing eternal happiness.

He that loveth his life,” with an inordinate, sensual love, at the expense of the law of God, which he hesitates not to violate in order to save His life, “shall lose it,” shall lose his soul in the world to come. It is clear from the following clause, that to this clause, “he that loveth his life” should be added (in this world) shall lose it in the world to come.

And he that hateth,” etc. (See Matthew 10:39; 16:25, Commentary on.) This was a favourite principle or kind of axiom with our Lord. It is the compendium of a Christian life.

26 If any man minister to me, let him follow me: and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.

Our Lord insinuates, that He Himself would lose His life in this world; that the triumphs He was now enjoying would not last; that sufferings and death were near; and, then, He exhorts His followers to follow His example and walk in His footsteps.

If any man minister to Me,” etc., or, would wish to show himself My minister and true disciple, “let him follow Me,” imitate Me, in My disregard for temporal life, in order to secure life eternal (Matthew 10:38). By following Me, he shall not lose His life in the world to come. He shall be sharer with Me in everlasting happiness. “Where I am,” being now, as to My Divinity, in heaven; and sure to ascend there shortly, in My human nature, “there also shall My minister be,” sharing with Me, the ineffable joys of heaven.

This true minister and faithful persevering follower in humiliation, sorrows and death, here, shall be exalted and honoured hereafter by My Father in heaven, before the angels and the blessed, by rendering him a partaker of the glory, which shall be the reward of My humiliation, sufferings and death.

I am,” clearly shows our Lord was then in heaven. This, of course, refers to His Divine nature; at a future day, He will ascend there, in His glorified humanity.

27 Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause I came unto this hour.

Now is My soul troubled,” etc. The reference to the grain, which dies in the earth, to which He compared Himself, brought before our Lord’s mind, the horrors of His approaching death, its tortures and gloomy accompaniments. Thus, in order to show that He Himself endured what He encouraged others to endure after Him; and also, to prove His human nature, and point out what we are to do, when terrified by death, impending evils, viz., to have recourse to God; He voluntarily permits His human nature and inferior faculties to be disturbed; to shrink from the contemplation of His impending Passion, and to endure in some measure beforehand, the agony He endured in the garden. (See Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:42–44, Commentary on.)

Likely this “man of sorrows,” often during life, voluntarily permitted the inferior faculties of His human nature to be troubled at the foresight and anticipation of His Passion and final suffering on earth

And what shall I say?” Expresses His doubts, fears and perplexity, as if deliberating within Himself, if He could endure this torture; or, if the work of Redemption should be given up, and He should call on God to rescue Him (Luke 22:42).

Father, save Me from this hour.” These words, in this Indicative form, contain a petition to save Him (Matthew 26:39), in which He at once checks Himself. Some read them, as the Greek admits, interrogatively, “Shall I say, Father, save Me?” Shall I ask of God to rescue Me? Or, shall I submit to these tortures? The former reading is preferable, as it better expresses the parallelism between these words and His prayer in the garden.

From this hour,” from this agony which awaits Me, at the time fixed in the Divine decrees.

But, for this cause,” as if correcting His inferior appetite, which naturally shrank from death, He, at once, absolutely wishes, in His superior faculties, will and intellect, that the desires of His inferior appetite should not be complied with; and that He would go forward to certain death. Similar are His words and feelings (Matthew 26.)—“Non mea, sed tua voluntas fiat.” “Transeat a me calix iste.” Here it is, “Nunc turbata est anima mea.” In the garden, He prayed, “transfer calicem istum.” Here, “Pater, Salvifica me ex hac hora.” In the garden, He subjected His natural desire of life to His Father’s will, “Non sicut ego volo, sed sicut tu.” Here, “clarifica nomen tuum.”

But for this cause,” for the purpose of dying to save mankind, have I reached this hour of agony and suffering.

28 Father, glorify thy name. A voice therefore came from heaven: I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.

. “Father, glorify Thy name,” by My death, which is to be cheerfully undergone in obedience to Thy will. By it, Thy name shall be celebrated all over the earth. The words convey the same signification as, “Nevertheless, not My will; but, Thine be done.”

Then came a voice from heaven: I have both glorified it,” by My testimony at your Baptism. “This is My beloved Son,” etc., by the stupendous miracles wrought through you, by your preaching, doctrines, etc.

And I shall glorify it again,” by Thy death and the wonders that shall take place thereat; by thy subsequent glory and exaltation, in thy Resurrection and Ascension. By our Lord’s death and exaltation, the faith and worship of God was propagated among Jews and Gentiles, and His name thus glorified. As an angel from heaven was sent by the Heavenly Father to strengthen our Lord in His agony in the garden; so here too, was a voice sent from above to sustain Him, in His troubles.

29 The multitude therefore that stood and heard said that it thundered. Others said: An angel spoke to him.

Very likely this trumpet voice from heaven was distinctly heard by all, uttering an articulate sound. For, “it was for their sakes it came” (v. 30). Some of them, on account of its loudness, pronounced it to be thunder; and possibly, said so out of envy, not wishing to attend to the testimony it bore. Hence, they would wish to regard it, as a natural phenomenon. Others, better disposed, regarded it as uttered by the trumpet voice of an angel. The Evangelist conveys, that all heard it, as it sounded so loud and clear.

30 Jesus answered and said: This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.

Not for Me,” as if I needed to be assured that My Father hears Me. For, I know that He always hears me (11:42).

But for your sakes,” that you may learn from it and believe, that I am sent from God the Father, and that the same glory is common to us both.

31 Now is the judgment of the world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

He points out the mode in which His Father is to glorify Him.

Now is the judgment of the world.” “Now,” at My approaching death, a judgment of condemnation shall be passed on those obstinate unbelievers, who reject Me, and after so many splendid proofs, refuse to believe in Me; nay, go so far as to put Me unjustly to death. The signal vengeance of God, shall, therefore, be justly visited on them.

Now shall the Prince of this world,” that is, Satan, who exercised unbounded sway over mankind, by holding them captive in the chains of sin, shall now be dislodged, by the powerful grace merited by My death, from the hearts of men, as from a citadel in which he ruled. Others, understand it of a judgment or sentence of remission or absolution, thus: now shall a sentence of remission be pronounced in favour of men who hitherto were kept bound in the chains of sin. This remission shall be obtained by My death; whereby, I ransom them, pay their debt, and set them free from the tyranny of sin and Satan, who shall himself be dethroned and dislodged from the citadel and stronghold he possessed in the souls of men. Thus shall the name of God be glorified; His Attributes, Mercy, Power, etc., proclaimed throughout the world. The devil is often called in SS. Scripture, “the Prince of the Power of this air,” etc., on account of the dominion he exercises over the children of unbelief. His dominion was destroyed by the death of Christ, on whom, though innocent, the punishment of sin was inflicted (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14), and although Satan still exercises power over men; still, it is owing to their own fault. So far as the liberation through Christ is concerned, it embraces all, who do not obstinately resist the influences of Divine grace. Now, that the Liberator and Saviour of the human race has appeared, the effusion of grace is universal.

Formerly, in regard to the just of old, it was only partial; and that, in virtue of the future merits of Christ now purchased by the blood of the cross.

And,” the same as, for, “if,” (whereas),—“I be lifted up from the earth,” raised aloft on the tree of the cross (John 3:14; 8:28), which is clearly referred to, next verse. He shows how the devil is to be cast out and stripped of his power, viz., by His death.

I shall draw all things to Myself.” “All things,” all men, of every description, from every clime and country, Jews and Gentiles. The neuter form, “all things,” “omnia,” is a more emphatic way of expressing universal subjection to Christ. “Shall draw,” voluntarily, as regards man; forcibly, as regards the demon snatching forcibly his prey from His hands. “Draw,” expresses the resistance of the devil and the superior power of the grace of Christ, forcibly wresting men from the tyrannical grasp and dominion of Satan.

33 (Now this he said, signifying what death he should die.)

The word of this verse are not the words of our Lord; but, of the Evangelist, and should be enclosed in a parenthesis, and interpreted as such

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Catholic Scripture Manual on Mark 1:12-13~The Testing of the Son of God

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 1, 2018

Mar 1:12  And immediately the Spirit drove him out into the desert. 

The Spirit drove him. The Holy Ghost who dwelt in all His fulness in our Lord, influenced Him to act energetically but at the same time freely. Cf. Led by the Spirit (St Matt. 4:1., St Luke 4:1).

out into the desert, A local tradition points to Quarantania, a district north-west of Jericho, as the scene of our Lord s fasting and temptation.

Mar 1:13  And he was in the desert forty days and forty nights, and was tempted by Satan. And he was with beasts: and the angels ministered to him.

forty days, etc. Satan ( = adversary) perhaps tempted our Lord the whole forty days, but with greater violence at the end.

with beasts. A detail peculiar to St Mark. The district of Quarantania was infested with wild-boars, foxes, leopards, wolves, etc. This closes St Mark s brief mention of the Temptation.

Angels ministered. They supplied our Lord s bodily wants. St Mark defers the account of St John s imprisonment, which is related with his martyrdom in Mk 6:17-29.

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Father macEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 16, 2017

This post opens with a brief analysis of all of 1 Thess chapter 5, followed by notes on verses 15-24. Text in purple indicate Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF 1 THESSALONIANS CHAPTER 5

After having pointed out in the foregoing chapter, the order and several other circumstances of the Resurrection, the Apostle tells the Thessalonians in this, that there is one circumstance of the General Resurrection, which it is neither necessary nor possible for them to know at present; that circumstance is, the precise time at which it will occur (1). They know from faith, that it will come unexpectedly, and will bring sudden destruction on the wicked; but it will not surprise, nor will it come unawares upon, the just, so as to find them unprepared, since, as children of light, they are always on the alert, always employed in the works of light, in hopes of the Lord’s coming (2–8). He exhorts them to correspond with the designs of God in their regard, putting on the breast-plate of faith and charity, and the helmet of hope—to live in the expectation of salvation from the goodness of God, who gave us his Son for Saviour (9, 10, 11).

He inculcates, with regard to the people, the necessity of discharging certain duties towards their Pastors; while, to the latter, he points out the duties which they in turn owe their people (12–15).

He enjoins on all the faithful to cultivate and exhibit spiritual joy—to practise assiduous prayer—to employ the gifts of the Holy Ghost with profit and discernment, and to abstain from all appearance of evil (16–22).

Finally, he beseeches God to grant them the gift of perfect sanctity both of soul and body, and recommends himself to their prayers; he salutes them all, and adjures them to have this Epistle read to all the brethren. He concludes with the usual form of Apostolical benediction.

1 Th 5:16 Always rejoice.
1 Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing.

Under all circumstances spiritually rejoice. Pray without ceasing.

“Pray without ceasing.” This, of course, is to be understood in this sense, that we should frequently and at certain times pray, and that the intervals of labour should be consecrated to God by prayer, and that our actions should be of such a nature as to be referable to his glory.

1 Th 5:18 In all things give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all.

Give thanks to God in all things (whether in prosperity or adversity), for, this is the will of God, that you should all do so, through Jesus Christ.

“This is the will of God;” is referred by some to the three preceding precepts of spiritual joy, prayer, and thanksgiving; by others, it is confined to the precept of thanksgiving.

1 Th 5:19 Extinguish not the spirit.

Do not extinguish the Holy Ghost in his gifts, by altogether prohibiting the exercise of spiritual gifts.

It appears that many pretended to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, prophecy, miracles, &c., who had them not, and that to prevent altogether, any such practices of imposition, the heads of the Church wished to prohibit the exercise of these gifts, in every instance. Of this the Apostle disapproves. Others interpret the verse, do not expel from you the Holy Ghost; thus, as far as you are concerned, destroying him. The word “extinguish” has reference to the form in which the Holy Ghost is frequently exhibited in SS. Scripture—viz., that of fire.

1 Th 5:20 Despise not prophecies.

But especially do not despise the useful gifts of prophecy.

For the meaning of “prophecies,” see chapter 16, 1st Epistle to Corinthians.

1 Th 5:21 But prove all things: hold fast that which is good.
But examine all matters proposed to you by those who have the gift of prophecy, and retain what is good.
1 Th 5:22 From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.
Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

There is question here of private prophecies, and of doubtful matters, which had not been defined by competent authority,—and the Apostle is addressing the rulers, whom he authorizes to judge of such matters, and reject or retain them, as they may think fit. Hence, this passage contains no argument against the Dogmatic Decrees of Councils; for, in them, there is question of quite a different matter altogether, a matter defined by a competent authority.

1 Th 5:22 From all appearance of evil refrain yourselves.

Fly everything that has even the appearance of evil.

1 Th 5:23 And may the God of peace himself sanctify you in all things: that your whole spirit and soul and body may be preserved blameless in the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May God, the author of peace, perfectly sanctify you, so that your entire being, your soul, considered both as to its sensitive and rational part, and your body, may be preserved without reproach, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, when he shall render to every one, according to his works.
1 Th 5:24 He is faithful who hath called you, who also will do it.
God, who called you to sanctity, is faithful, and he will perfect what he has begun, by giving you the grace of perseverance.

“Your whole spirit and soul.” He considers the human soul under two different respects, and as exercising different faculties. “Spirit,” is the rational soul guided in its judgment by reason, and exercising the higher faculties of intellect and will. “Soul,” the sensitive, concupiscible part, guided by sensation, common to us with the beasts. So that your mind, your will, and all your senses, external and internal, be preserved from the stain of sin.

The Greek subscriptions add: The First to the Thessalonians was written from Athens.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

There was,” etc. The object of the Evangelist here may be to correct an error which seemed to prevail, that the Baptist was the Messiah (Luke 3:15; John 1:19). While correcting this error, the Evangelist adduces John, who was commonly supposed to be a Prophet (Matthew 21:26), as an important witness to prove that Jesus was the Christ, “the Son of God,” which was the chief design of this gospel (John 20:31).

The Evangelist may also have in view to show that, while obstinate unbelievers rejected our Lord, God had employed, on His part, the most effectual means to dispose men to receive Him; among the rest, He employed the ministry and testimony of the Baptist, so much prized and valued by the Jews. The Evangelist commends his ministry and testimony by saying he “was sent from God” divinely commissioned.

7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

He came for a witness,” etc. In preceding verse, he points out John’s Divine mission; in this, the object of that Divine mission, which was to give testimony regarding our Lord (“of the light”) as the long expected Messiah, thus to prepare the people to receive Him (Matthew 3). He also pointed Him out after He had come. “Ecce agnus Dei,” etc. (John 1:31). He extols John’s character and Divine mission, beyond others who were not selected by God for so high an office.

Light” refers to the person of our Lord, “through Him,” through John’s testimony and preaching.

While extolling John in the preceding verse, he here lowers him in comparison with the Word, whose herald he was.

8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

He was not the light.” Although, in some finite respect, a light, the Baptist was not the immense, increated light of which we speak, but the herald and witness of the light, not the sun, but the precursor of the Sun of Justice, “a burning and shining light,” enkindled by the great increated light and true lamp of creation. The Evangelist thus removes any false opinions which the people or the disciples might entertain regarding John as the long expected promised Messiah.

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou?

And this is the testimony,” etc. Some Commentators hold that the testimony spoken of Him was given after the Baptism of our Lord by the Baptist. The testimony given before His Baptism, is, according to them, recorded by the other Evangelists: and hence, not referred to by St. John, in this Gospel.

The words of this verse are connected by some Expositors with vv. 7 and 15, where there is made a general allusion to John’s testimony regarding our Lord’s Divinity. These say, we have here a more definite and specific description of John’s testimony borne by him on the occasion of the deputation referred to.

Others connect the words with the foregoing verse, thus: He alone who was in the bosom of the Father, could disclose all regarding Him. For, as regards John, He disclaimed all pretensions to superior excellence on this occasion.

Others say, there is question of a new testimony borne by John.

The Jews … from Jerusalem”—the most distinguished men of the nation—“sent Priests and Levites.” The highest ecclesiastical representatives. The object of this embassy was “to ask Him who art thou?” “Who,” what quality or character dost thou bear or assume? This deputation, no doubt, represented, or were sent by, the Sanhedrim, the Supreme Jewish Council, to whom it belonged to judge of true or false prophets, and in general, of all things appertaining to religion. Some say, they were influenced by jealousy towards John, whose sanctity of life and preaching seemed to lower them in public estimation. Others say, the jealousy was towards our Redeemer, to whose superiority John had so openly testified. It was a subject of doubt, all things considered, if John were not the Messiah, at least, in the minds of the people (Luke 3:15), whether reasonably or not, whether in accordance with the ancient prophecies or not, is another question. But, the fact is recorded by St. Luke, as above; and in this state of doubt, they send forward this solemn embassy to inquire into John’s claims to be considered their long-expected Messiah, the term of whose coming was now accomplished. John’s manner of life and preaching created this doubt, and, likely, it was to clear it up—all feelings of jealousy apart—they deputed these men to make inquiry. This was a very solemn embassy considering all its circumstances. The persons sent, Priests and Levites. The authority by whom sent, the Sanhedrim, from Jerusalem. The grave subject of inquiry, John’s office and authority.

John’s evidence was given publicly and openly to this embassy, of select ecclesiastical personages, who were well able to judge, and not before the crowd, who might misunderstand it. Hence, the Evangelist minutely details every circumstance of it.

The Priests and Levites were taken from the Tribe of Juda. The Priests, from the family of Aaron alone.

These latter were consecrated by a more solemn rite, and exercised more exalted functions in connexion with the service of the Temple and the offering of sacrifice. The Levites were taken from the other families of the Tribe of Juda, consecrated in a less solemn manner, and told off for the inferior functions in the Temple.

20 And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.

The question which they were deputed to ask him was, “Who art thou?” From the first reply which he gave them, “I am not the Christ,” it seemsclear, that after asking him, in a general way who he was, they at once ask him, “Art thou the Christ?” For, otherwise, the Baptist could not, with any sense of propriety say, unasked, “I am not the Christ,” as if the people could have so exalted an idea of him, or he could himself have imagined it.

And he confessed and denied not,” a Hebrew form of conveying most empathically, as well positively as negatively, a full explicit reply to a question, and of conveying a full, open declaration. “He confessed” the truth, “and denied not,” that he was not the Christ.

21 And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No.

Art thou Elias?” In the Prophecy of Malachias (c. 4:5, 6), it is stated that Elias, who had been taken up into heaven, is to precede the coming of our Redeemer. In this passage of Malachias, there is question of his coming at the end of time in glory and majesty. But, he was also to come before this last coming in meekness and humility (Malachias 3:1; Zacharias 9:9). The Jews made no distinction between his first and second coming. They ignored this first coming; and hence, they supposed, that Elias, who was taken up into heaven (4 Kings 2:11), would precede our Redeemer whenever He came. This gave rise to the question, “Art thou Elias?”

I am not.” True, he was not Elias, the Thesbite, in person, to whom their question had reference, although, he came in the spirit and power of Elias (Luke 1:17), to discharge the same office of precursor at our Lord’s first coming, that Elias is to discharge at His second (see Matthew 17:2; Mark 10:9, Commentary on).

The Prophet (ὅ προφητης) whom the Jews, from an erroneous interpretation of Deuteronomy (18:15), supposed to precede as well as Elias, the coming of our Lord, or rather accompany Him. The passage in Deuteronomy referred, no doubt, to our Lord Himself (Acts 3:23; 7:37). But, the Jews understood it otherwise; and hence, John though a Prophet, and more than a Prophet, denies that he was “the Prophet” they referred to, or the Prophet in the sense of their question (see Matthew 11:9, Commentary on).

22 They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?

Their opinion of the Baptist was so exalted as to make them fancy that if he were not the Messiah, he must be one of the two great Prophets who were expected about the time of the Messiah’s coming. Finding he was neither, they content themselves with a general question, as to who he was. With what authority or power was he invested? What mission did he receive, to be exercised? This they want to know, in order to bring back word or return a satisfactory answer to the Sanhedrim, by whom they were deputed to wait on the Baptist.

23 He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias.

See Matthew 3:3, Commentary on. Having already declared what he was not, he now declares in very distinct terms, what he was, thus meaning to show the nothingness of his origin, compared with the Messiah.

24 And they that were sent were of the Pharisees.

Those sent were of the sect of the Pharisees, while in dignity Priests and Levites. Who the Pharisees were (see Matthew 3:7). The reason why the Evangelist makes special mention of them here was, that besides being the most powerful party in the Sanhedrim, they were overbearing and haughty; glorying in their knowledge of the law and affected sanctity of life, which will account for their captious questioning, recorded in next verse. Likely, they were not commissioned by those who sent them to question the Baptist further than was necessary to know who he was, by what authority he acted; or if he was the Christ, as the people generally thought in their hearts regarding him (Luke 3:15).

25 And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?

Why therefore,” etc.? By what authority, then, dost thou baptize publicly and with a show of authority, the people flocking to you in crowds, whom you wish to subject to the Baptism of Penance? This they regard as audacious on the part of John, after the declarations elicited from him. The Prophets foretold that at the coming of Christ, Baptism was to be administered to the people (Ezech. 36:25; Zach. 13:1). The Pharisees learned in the law knew this. They thought, however, that it was only by the Messiah or His accompanying Prophet this could lawfully be done.

26 John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.

I baptize in water.” I am commissioned and sent by God—the Jews themselves would not deny that John’s Baptism was from heaven—to “baptize in water” only, as a preparation for the Baptism of the Messiah. Hence, I don’t assume the office which He is to discharge. For, His Baptism will be quite different both in itself and in its effects. Most likely, the Baptist added, “He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire.” The Evangelist omits this part as it was fully given by the other Evangelists. The effects and the end of both Baptisms are quite different.

He is not far off from you, whose precursor I am, whose Baptism will perfect mine, He is “in your midst, whom you know not,” whose exalted dignity you are ignorant of. Hence, their culpability in not finding Him and not believing in Him.

27 The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.

(See v. 15, also Matthew 3:2). “He shall come after me” in his public manifestation, when I shall have discharged the office of precursor. But, “He is preferred before Me” in dignity, a dignity so great, that “I,”—whom you seem to esteem so much—“am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe,” unworthy to discharge in His regard the most menial and servile offices, the distance between us being infinite. He, true God; I, a creature.

28 These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

For “Bethania,” several writers, Origen, Chrysostom, etc., read “Bethabara.” But “Bethania” is the more common reading of MSS. Both words, probably, refer to the same place. Bethabara signifying the house or place of passage, as it was there, the Hebrews first crossed the Jordan on coming up from Egypt, and it was a place for crossing the Jordan from Perea into Judea. “Bethania” signifies a ferry passage, or house of boats, which were always kept in readiness there, for ferrying passengers across the Jordan. If the words do not denote the same place, the places were quite close to one another on the banks of the Jordan. This “Bethania” is by no means to be confounded with the dwelling-place of Mary and Martha, near Jerusalem. John selected this place for his Baptism, as crowds used to resort to it, when crossing the Jordan. The Evangelist refers to this place of public resort to show, that the testimony of John was publicly given so as to leave no room for afterwards questioning it.

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Father Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

There was a man sent from God, &c. He was sent, as Luke says, (3:1), “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Cæsar: and the Word of God came to him in the wilderness.” “Thou, then,” says Chrysostom, “when thou understandest that he was sent from God, do not think that anything merely human is being announced, but that all is Divine. He does not declare anything of his own, but the secrets of Him who sends him. Therefore he, John, is called an angel, that is, a messenger. It is the office of a messenger to know nothing of himself.”

7 This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him.

The man came for a witness, &c. Namely, that he might bear witness that Jesus is the true Light of the world, and that we must look for, and ask of Him all the light of faith, and all the knowledge of salvation.

Observe that in Greek the article is prefixed to light, as it were that light meaning the spiritual and Divine light, that which shineth of itself, and is essentially light, and the source of all enlightenment, which is as it were a Divine Sun, in respect of which John the Baptist was but as the moon, or the day-star. For as the morning star goes before the sun, so did John precede Christ the Sun of righteousness. The meaning is as follows—Inasmuch as the light of the Godhead was hidden in the humanity of Christ, as in a lantern dark and shaded, so that men discerned it not, therefore did God send John, that he might uncover and make this light manifest, and testify that Jesus was the very Son of God, the Teacher and Redeemer of the world. For, as Paul saith (1 Tim. 6:16), God “inhabiteth the unapproachable light, whom no man hath seen, nor can see.” And again, the Son “is the splendour of His glory, and the form of the substance” of God the Father (Heb. 1:3, Vulg.)

And again, the same is “the brightness of eternal light, and the spotless mirror of the majesty of God, and the image of His goodness” (Wisd. 7:26).

That all men might believe through him: that is, believe in the Light, and so be justified and saved. Through him, namely, John, who as it were with his finger pointed out Christ, saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world.”

8 He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light.

He was not the Light, &c. The Jews and the Scribes thought, because of the preaching and heavenly life of John in the wilderness, that he was himself the Light, i.e., Christ. John the Evangelist by these words destroys such an idea. He was not the Light. That is, he was not the Saviour of the world, but only His witness, who received all his own light of knowledge and prophecy and grace from Christ. Wherefore in Jn 5:35, he is called “a burning and a shining lamp.” “But,” says Origen. “he did not burn by his own fire, nor shine by his own light.”

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou?

Ver. 19.—And this is the witness of John, &c. John the Baptist often bare witness to Jesus, that He was the Messias, or the Christ, both before and after His baptism. John the Evangelist therefore, omitting in this place the testimony which the Baptist bore to Jesus before His baptism, which had been related by the three other Evangelists, gives his testimony concerning Him after he had baptized Him. For this testimony was public, judicial, and most celebrated. It had been judicially demanded by the chief priests and magistrates, and had been received by them through the ambassadors whom they sent to John. The reason of this embassy was because the chief priests saw John leading in the desert an angelic life, preaching with great power, baptizing, and moving men to repentance, as none of the other prophets had done. The chief priests thought therefore that it was their duty to ask him who he was, especially because they knew that the sceptre had passed from Judah to Herod, and the seventy weeks of Daniel being completed, the coming of Messias must be nigh at hand. Wherefore, suspecting that John was the Messias, they ask him, Who art thou?

S. Chrysostom gives another reason—that they asked out of envy and hatred of Jesus, in order that they might show that Jesus was not the Messiah. They would have preferred to bestow the title upon John. They disliked John’s preferring Jesus to himself, and calling Him the Messias or Christ. But although there might be some envy mingled with it, the true reason was, as I have said, that it was the counsel of God so to exalt John, that the chief priests might be driven to ask him whether he were the Christ or not, that being asked he might authoritatively answer that which was the truth, namely, that not he, but Jesus, was the Messias, and that, being convicted by this testimony of John, they might be compelled either to receive Jesus as the Messias or to be without excuse.

Who art thou? The chief priests appear tacitly at least to have inquired of John, whether he were the Christ or not; for John replies, I am not the Christ.

Moreover, they were aware that John was the son of the priest Zacharias, and therefore a priest himself. When therefore they say, Who art thou? they ask virtually. What office hast thou received from God? With what object has God sent thee to preach and baptize? For God was wont to commit greater offices to priests.

Tropologically, let every one often ask himself, Who art thou? Firstly, as regards our substance. Listen to thy conscience making answer to thyself—the name of God my Creator is, I Am that I Am (Exod. 3). My name therefore as a creature is “I am that am not,” because I am nothing of myself, but out of my nothingness have been brought forth by God, and made a man. Wherefore my body and soul are not my own, but God’s, who has given them, or rather lent them, to me. As S. Francis was wont to say, “Who art Thou, Lord? Who am I? Thou art an abyss of wisdom and long-suffering, and all goodness. I am an abyss of ignorance, weakness, of all evil and wretchedness. Thou art an abyss of being, I of nothingness.” So when Christ appeared to S. Catherine of Sienna, He said, “Blessed art thou if thou knowest who I am, and who thou art. I am He who is, thou art she who is not.”

Secondly, as to quality. Who? that is, of what sort art thou? Answer, As regards my body, I am weak, miserable, and wretched. As to my soul, as regards my reason, I am like unto the angels. As regards my sensual appetite, and concupiscence, I am like the brutes. Therefore I will follow my reason, and so become assimilated to the angels.

Thirdly, as regards relation. Who? that is, whose son art thou? Reply, I am the son of Adam, the first sinner, and therefore being born in sin, I am living in sin, and must die in sin, unless the grace of Christ rescue me from my sins, and sanctify and save me.

Fourthly, as regards employment. Who art thou? what trade or profession art thou? I am a carpenter, a baker, a governor, a shepherd, a lawyer. See then that thou exercise thyself in thy calling, whatsoever it be, as the law of God requires, namely, in such wise that thou live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope, and the coming of the glory of the great God, that thou mayest so pass through things temporal, that thou lose not, but gain the things eternal. Work, study, live for eternity. As S. Bernard was wont often to say to himself, “Bernard, tell me, wherefore art thou here?” And with this goad, as it were, he stirred himself up to zeal for all virtues.

Fifthly, as regards suffering. Who art thou? that is to say, what dost thou suffer? Reply, In the body I suffer hunger, thirst, disease, continual afflictions, so that there is scarcely the smallest space of time in which I have not many things to bear. As regards my soul, I have far greater and more bitter afflictions, griefs, and anguish, anxieties, sorrows, angers, indignation, darkness, fear, &c., so that I seem to be, as it were, a mark at which all afflictions hurl their darts, and thrust me through with their arrows. Be thou therefore a very adamant of patience, that thou mayest patiently and generously endure all things, and win the everlasting crown of patience in heaven.

Sixthly, as regards place. Who? that is, where art thou? Answer, I am on earth, placed between heaven and hell, in such wise, that if I live holily, I may pass to heaven, if wickedly, to hell. Live therefore carefully, warily, and holily, that not hell, but heaven may receive thee, when this short mortal life is over.

Seventhly, as regards time. Who art thou? When wast thou born? How long hast thou lived? When shalt thou die? Answer, Born yesterday, to-day I live, to-morrow I die. “For we are of yesterday, and know nothing; all our days upon the earth are but a shadow” (Job 8:9). Therefore despise all things temporal, which fly past as a bird doth. Love and covet heavenly things, which endure for ever with God and the angels. So shalt thou, being eternal, be happy eternally, and abide in everlasting delights. For as S. Gregory says, “That we may be eternal, and happy eternally, let us imitate eternity. And this is to us a great eternity, even the imitation of eternity.”

Lastly, as regards posture and clothing. Who art thou? that is, what posture, or clothing hast thou? Reply, I stand, I sit, I lie, I wear the habit of a Christian, a priest, a bishop, a religious. Take heed then that thou live conformably to thy habit. For it is not the habit which makes the Christian, or the monk, but purity of life, humility, charity.

20 And he confessed and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ.

And he confessed, &c. That is, publicly, plainly, and fully that he was not the Christ. For when the Hebrews wished very strongly to assert anything, they doubled the affirmative, and trebled the negative. Observe the great humility of S. John: how firmly he refused the name of Christ when it was offered to him. For he loved the truth, and Jesus, to whom this name belonged. Men of the world love to boast, and say, I am a nobleman, a governor, a canon, a bishop. But John teaches us to say, “I am nothing,” because if I am anything, I have it from God.

21 And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No.

And they asked him, &c. When John denied that he was the Christ, the messengers asked him if he were Elias. For him God took away, that he might be the forerunner of Christ. And of him they were then in expectation, according to the words of Malachi (4:5), “Behold, I send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord come,” meaning the day of judgment, when Christ shall return to be the Judge of all. But the Scribes did not understand this. They thought that there would be but one advent of Christ, and that a glorious one, the precursor of which would be Elias. Thus the Jews think even now that Christ has not yet come, but is about to come with Elias. And yet they ought to have known from the same Malachi (3:1) that there would be another precursor of Christ’s first coming in the flesh, even John the Baptist. “For I,” saith the Lord, “do send My messenger, and he shall prepare My way before My face.”

Art thou the prophet? Greek, ὁ προφήτης, the prophet par excellence. “Art thou a new and great prophet, such an one as we think will come with Messiah, to be His herald?” So SS. Chrysostom and Cyril. But they (the Jews) were in error. For Christ needed not a prophet, as Moses, who was not eloquent, needed Aaron. But Christ was His own prophet, herald, priest, and lawgiver. Moreover John was not a prophet in the sense that he foretold things to come. But he pointed out with his finger, as it were, Christ present. Therefore was he more than a prophet, as Christ says in the 11th of Matthew.

22 They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself?
23 He said: I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias.

I am the Voice, &c. (Isa. 40:3), where I have expounded the meaning. Listen to what the Fathers say about it. “I am a servant, and prepare paths, your hearts, for the Lord,” says Theophylact. “I come, he says, to say that He is at the doors who is expected, that you may be prepared to go whithersoever He may bid you,” says Cyril.

24 And they that were sent were of the Pharisees.

And they that were sent, &c. John adds this, to suggest the occasion why they examined John the Baptist concerning baptism. These messengers who were sent to John were Pharisees, and therefore were well versed in the Scriptures. Consequently they knew that Messiah would baptize for the remission of sins, because Ezekiel (36:25) and Zechariah (13:1) had predicted that He would do so. But concerning other prophets and saints they had not read in Scripture that they would baptize. They ask John therefore to tell them by what authority he baptized, especially since he not only asserted that he was not Christ, but not even a prophet.

25 And they asked him and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet?

And they asked him, &c. “These Pharisees,” says S. Cyril, “in their arrogancy insult John, as though they said, Neither Elias, nor Eliseus, nor any of the other prophets dared to take upon themselves the office of baptizing. With what face then, or boldness, dost thou, who art not a prophet, arrogate this office to thyself?”

26 John answered them, saying: I baptize with water: but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not.

John answered them, &c. As though he had said, “God hath sent me to baptize with water, that I might stir you up to repentance and tears, so as to fit you for Christ’s baptism. For He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, for the remission of sins,” as the remaining three Evangelists declare. Therefore John is silent about this.

There hath stood one, &c. That is, Christ is living in the midst of you, and yet ye know Him not. That is, you do not recognise Him as Messiah, but look upon Him as a mere man, as vile and abject.

27 The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose.

The same is he that shall come after me, &c. After me Christ shall come to baptize you, that by His baptism He may perfect mine, and may wash and justify them that are penitent. As S. Cyril paraphrases, “I in preparation wash with water those who are polluted with sins as a beginning of repentance, and by this means leading you from what is lower I prepare you for more lofty things. For He who is the giver of greater things, and of the highest perfection, is about to come after me.” Or, as S. Chrysostom says, “My baptism is only a disposition and preparation for the baptism of Christ. Mine is of water and corporeal, Christ’s is of fire and spiritual.”

The latchet of whose shoe, &c. As though he said, “I am not worthy to be reckoned amongst the last of the servants of Christ, on account of the greatness of the Deity which is in Him.”

28 These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

These things were done in, &c. Bethany is the reading of the Latin, Syriac, Arabic versions, of many codices, including the Vatican, of Bede, Alcuin, the Gloss, &c. But instead of Bethany, Origen, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, S. Epiphanius, and S. Jerome (in loc. Heb.) read Bethabara, where Gideon slew the Midianites. I observe with Toletus that Bethany and Bethabara were one and the same place, or at least that one was nigh the other, or on opposite banks of the Jordan. This was the place in which the Hebrews, when they came out of Egypt, first crossed the Jordan under the leadership of Joshua, to enter the promised land. For Bethabara means in Hebrew a house of passage; Bethany, a house of ships. For vessels were waiting here to carry passengers over Jordan. This Bethany is derived from Beth, a house, and any, spelt with alpha, a ship. The Bethany of Martha and Lazarus was a different place, and spelt differently in Hebrew. That Bethany means the house of humility, from Beth, a house, and any, spelt with ain, humility.

John, then, chose this place wherein to baptize for several reasons, because of the abundance of water, also in memory of the ancient passage of the Israelites. S. Jerome says (loc. Hebrœis), “Even at this present time many of our brethren who believe, desiring there to be born again, are baptized in the life-giving flood.” They did this in memory of Christ, who was there baptized by John. This place is distant about four leagues from the Dead Sea.

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

TRACTATE TWO
Jn 1:6-8

It is fitting, brethren, that as far as possible we should treat of the text of Holy Scripture, and especially of the Holy Gospel, without omitting any portion, that both we ourselves may derive nourishment according to our capacity, and may minister to you from that source from which we have been nourished. Last Lord’s day, we remember, we treated of the first section; that is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made. That which was made, in Him is life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” So far, I believe, had I advanced in the treatment of the passage: let all who were present recall what was then said; and those of you who were not present, believe me and those who chose to be present. Now therefore,—because we cannot always be repeating everything, out of justice to those who desire to hear what follows, and because repetition of the former thought is a burden to them and deprives them of what succeeds,—let those who were absent on the former occasion refrain from demanding repetition, but, together with those who were here, listen to the present exposition.

2. It goes on, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” Truly, brethren beloved, those things which were said before, were said regarding the ineffable divinity of Christ, and almost ineffably. For who shall comprehend “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”? And do not allow the name word to appear mean to you, through the habit of daily words, for it is added, “and the Word was God.” This Word is He of whom yesterday we spoke much; and I trust that God was present, and that even from only thus much speaking something reached your hearts. “In the beginning was the Word.” He is the same, and is in the same manner; as He is, so He is always; He cannot be changed; that is, He is. This His name He spoke to His servant Moses: “I am that I am; and He that is hath sent me.”1 Who then shall comprehend this when you see that all mortal things are variable; when you see that not only do bodies vary as to their qualities, by being born, by increasing, by becoming less, by dying, but that even souls themselves through the effect of divers volitions are distended and divided; when you see that men can obtain wisdom if they apply themselves to its light and heat, and also lose wisdom if they remove themselves from it through some evil influence? When, therefore, you see that all those things are variable, what is that which is, unless that which transcends all things which are so that they are not? Who then can receive this? Or who, in what manner soever he may have applied the strength of his mind to touch that which is, is, can reach to that which he may in any way have touched with his mind? It is as if one were to see his native land at a distance, and the sea intervening; he sees whither he would go, but he has not the means of going. So we desire to arrive at that our stability where that which is, because this alone always is as it is: the sea of this world interrupts our course, even although already we see whither we go; for many do not even see whither they go. That there might be a way by which we could go, He has come from Him to whom we wished to go. And what has He done? He has appointed a tree by which we may cross the sea. For no one is able to cross the sea of this world, unless borne by the cross of Christ. Even he who is of weak eyesight sometimes embraces this cross; and he who does not see from afar whither he goes, let him not depart from it, and it will carry him over.

3. Therefore, my brethren, I would desire to have impressed this upon your hearts: if you wish to live in a pious and Christian manner, cling to Christ according to that which He became for us, that you may arrive at Him according to that which is, and according to that which was. He approached, that for us He might become this; because He became that for us, on which the weak may be borne, and cross the sea of this world and reach their native country; where there will be no need of a ship, for no sea is crossed. It is better then not to see with the mind that which is, and yet not to depart from the cross of Christ, than to see it with the mind, and despise the cross of Christ. It is good beyond this, and best of all, if it be possible, that we both see whither we ought to go, and hold fast that which carries us as we go. This they were able to do, the great minds of the mountains, who have been called mountains, whom the light of divine justice pre-eminently illuminates; they were able to do this, and saw that which is. For John seeing said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw this, and in order that they might arrive at that which they saw from afar, they did not depart from the cross of Christ, and did not despise Christ’s lowliness. But little ones who cannot understand this, who do not depart from the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ, are conducted in that same ship to that which they do not see, in which they also arrive who do see.

4. But truly there have been some philosophers of this world who have sought for the Creator by means of the creature; for He can be found by means of the creature, as the apostle plainly says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory; so they are without excuse.” And it follows, “Because that, when they knew God;” he did not say, Because they did not know, but “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” How darkened? It follows, when he says more plainly: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”2 They saw whither they must come; but ungrateful to Him who afforded them what they saw, they wished to ascribe to themselves what they saw; and having become proud, they lost what they saw, and were turned from it to idols and images, and to the worship of demons, to adore the creature and to despise the Creator. But these having been blinded did those things, and became proud, that they might be blinded: when they were proud they said that they were wise. Those, therefore, concerning whom he said, “Who, when they had known God,” saw this which John says, that by the Word of God all things were made. For these things are also found in the books of the philosophers: and that God has an only-begotten Son, by whom are all things. They were able to see that which is, but they saw it from afar: they were unwilling to hold the lowliness of Christ, in which ship they might have arrived in safety at that which they were able to see from afar; and the cross of Christ appeared vile to them. The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood? Oh, proud wisdom! thou laughest to scorn the crucified Christ; it is He whom thou dost see from afar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But wherefore was He crucified? Because the wood of His humiliation was needful to thee. For thou hadst become swollen with pride, and hadst been cast out far from that fatherland; and by the waves of this world has the way been intercepted, and there is no means of passing to the fatherland unless borne by the wood. Ungrateful one! thou laughest Him to scorn who has come to thee that thou mayest return: He has become the way, and that through the sea:1 thence He walked in the sea to show that there is a way in the sea. But thou who art not able in any way thyself to walk in the sea, be carried in a ship, be carried by the wood: believe in the crucified One, and thou shalt arrive thither. On account of thee He was crucified, to teach thee humility; and because if He should come as God, He would not be recognized. For if He should come as God, He would not come to those who were not able to see God. For not according to His Godhead does He either come or depart; since He is everywhere present, and is contained in no place. But, according to what did He come? He appeared as a man.

5. Therefore, because He was so man, that the God lay hid in Him, there was sent before Him a great man, by whose testimony He might be found to be more than man. And who is this? “He was a man.” And how could that man speak the truth concerning God? “He was sent by God.” What was he called? “Whose name was John.” Wherefore did he come? “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.” What sort of man was he who was to bear witness concerning the light? Something great was that John, vast merit, great grace, great loftiness! Admire, by all means, admire; but as it were a mountain. But a mountain is in darkness unless it be clothed with light. Therefore only admire John that you may hear what follows, “He was not that light;” lest if, when thou thinkest the mountain to be the light, thou make shipwreck on the mountain, and find not consolation. But what oughtest thou to admire? The mountain as a mountain. But lift thyself up to Him who illuminates the mountain, which for this end was elevated that it might be the first to receive the rays, and make them known to your eyes. Therefore, “he was not that light.”

6. Wherefore then did he come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.” Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.” Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens. For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain. Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light. For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord.”2 Unless he had added “in the Lord,” we should not have understood. “Light,” he says, “in the Lord:” darkness you were not in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness,” where he did not add in the Lord. Therefore, darkness in you, light in the Lord. And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.”

TRACTATE FOUR
Jn 1:19-28

You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that John the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner.

2. But will not He who at first came concealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just listened to the Psalm: “God shall come manifestly, and our God shall not keep silence.”1 He was silent that He might be judged, He will not be silent when He begins to judge.2 It would not have been said, “He will come manifestly,” unless at first He had come concealed; nor would it have been said, “He shall not keep silence,” unless He had first kept silence. How was He silent? Interrogate Isaiah: “He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer was dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” “But He shall come manifestly, and shall not keep silence.” In what manner “manifestly”? “A fire shall go before Him, and round about Him a strong tempest.”3 That tempest has to carry away all the chaff from the floor, which is now being threshed; and the fire has to burn what the tempest carries away. But now He is silent; silent in judgment, but not silent in precept. For if Christ is silent, what is the purpose of these Gospels? what the purpose of the voices of the apostles, what of the canticles of the Psalms, what of the declarations of the prophets? In all these Christ is not silent. But now He is silent in not taking vengeance: He is not silent in not giving warning. But He will come in glory to take vengeance, and will manifest Himself even to all who do not believe on Him. But now, because when present He was concealed, it behoved that He should be despised. For unless He had been despised, He would not have been crucified; if He had not been crucified, He would not have shed His blood—the price by which He redeemed us. But that He might give a price for us, He was crucified; that He might be crucified, He was despised; that He might be despised, He appeared in humility.

3. Yet because He appeared as it were in the night, in a mortal body, He lighted for Himself a lamp by which He might be seen. That lamp was John,4 concerning whom you lately heard many things: and the present passage of the evangelist contains the words of John; in the first place, and it is the chief point, his confession that he was not the Christ. But so great was the excellence of John, that men might have believed him to be the Christ: and in this he gave a proof of his humility, that he said he was not when he might have been believed to have been the Christ; therefore, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?” But they would not have sent unless they had been moved by the excellence of his authority who ventured to baptize. “And he confessed, and denied not.” What did he confess? “And he confessed, I am not the Christ.”

4. ‘And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?” For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth.”5 Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.”6 At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!

5. They saw Him then lowly, and did not know Him. He was pointed out to them by a lamp. For in the first place he, than whom no greater had arisen of those born of women, said, “I am not the Christ.” It was said to him, “Art thou Elias? He answered, I am not.” For Christ sends Elias before Him: and he said, “I am not,” and occasioned a question for us. For it is to be feared lest men, insufficiently understanding, think that John contradicted what Christ said. For in a certain place, when the Lord Jesus Christ said certain things in the Gospel regarding Himself, His disciples answered Him: “How then say the scribes,” that is, those skilled in the law, “that Elias must first come?” And the Lord said, “Elias is already come, and they have done unto him what they listed;” and, if you wish to know, John the Baptist is he.1 The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Elias is already come, and John the Baptist” is he; but John, being interrogated, confessed that he was not Elias, in the same manner that he confessed that he was not Christ. And as his confession that he was not Christ was true, so was his confession that he was not Elias. How then shall we compare the words of the herald with the words of the Judge? Away with the thought that the herald speaks falsehood; for that which he speaks he hears from the Judge. Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that John was in the spirit of Elias. And what John was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two, but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come to be judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what John was in the first.

6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.”2 What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that John was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did John reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did John speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. But who shall understand? He who shall have imitated the lowliness of the herald, and shall have acknowledged the loftiness of the Judge. For nothing was more lowly than the herald. My brethren, in nothing had John greater merit than in this humility, inasmuch as when he was able to deceive men, and to be thought Christ, and to have been received in the place of Christ (for so great were his grace and his excellency), nevertheless he openly confessed and said, “I am not the Christ.” “Art thou Elias?” If he had said I am Elias, it would have been as if Christ were already coming in His second advent to judge, not in His first to be judged. As if saying. Elias is yet to come, “I am not,” said he, “Elias.” But give heed to the lowly One before whom John came, that you may not feel the lofty One before whom Elias came. For thus also did the Lord complete the saying: “John the Baptist is he which is to come.” He came as a figure of that in which Elias is to come in his own person. Then Elias will in his own proper person be Elias, now in similitude he was John. Now John in his own proper person is John, in similitude Elias. The two heralds gave to each other their similitudes, and kept their own proper persons; but the Judge is one Lord, whether preceded by this herald or by that.

7. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, No. And they said unto him, Art thou a prophet? and he answered, No! They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He saith, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”3 That said Isaiah. This prophecy was fulfilled in John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Crying what? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” Would it not have seemed to you that a herald would have cried, “Go away, make room.” Instead of the herald’s cry “Go away,” John says “Come.” The herald makes men stand back from the judge; to the Judge John calls. Yes, indeed, John calls men to the lowly One, that they may not experience what He will be as the exalted Judge. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.” He did not say, I am John, I am Elias, I am a prophet. But what did he say? This I am called, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord: I am the prophecy itself.”

8. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees,” that is, of the chief men among the Jews; “and they asked him and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet?” As if it seemed to them audacity to baptize, as if they meant to inquire, in what character baptizest thou? We ask whether thou art the Christ; thou sayest that thou art not. We ask whether thou perchance art His precursor, for we know that before the advent of Christ, Elias will come; thou answerest that thou art not. We ask, if perchance thou art some herald come long before, that is, a prophet, and hast received that power, and thou sayest that thou art not a prophet. And John was not a prophet; he was greater than a prophet. The Lord gave such testimony concerning him: “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Of course implying that he was not shaken by the wind; because John was not such an one as is moved by the wind; for he who is moved by the wind is blown upon by every seductive blast. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” For John was clothed in rough garments; that is, his tunic was of camel’s hair. “Behold, they who are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” You did not then go out to see a man clothed in soft raiment. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, one greater than a prophet is here;”1 for the prophets prophesied of Christ a long time before, John pointed Him out as present.

9. “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth One among you whom ye know not.” For, very truly, He was not seen, being humble, and therefore was the lamp lighted. Observe how John gives place, who might have been accounted other than he was. “He it is who cometh after me, who is made before me” (that is, as we have already said, is “preferred before me”), whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” How greatly did he humble himself! And therefore he was greatly lifted up; for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.2 Hence, holy brethren, you ought to note that if John so humbled himself as to say, “I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,” what need they have to be humbled who say, “We baptize; what we give is ours, and what is ours is holy.” He said, Not I, but He; they say, We. John is not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet; and if he had said he was worthy, how humble would he still have been! And if he had said he was worthy, and had spoken thus, “He came after me who is made before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am only worthy to unloose,” he would have greatly humbled himself. But when he says that he is not worthy even to do this, truly was he full of the Holy Spirit, who in such fashion as a servant acknowledged his Lord, and merited to be made a friend instead of a servant.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 1:6-8, 19-28.

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

6, 7 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

Having before Explained about God the Word, and most accurately gone through the things whereby He is shewn to be by Nature Son of God the Father, he fortifies their faith in what they had already heard by his words. And since (according to what was said by God through Moses), At |70 the mouth of two and three witnesses shall every word be established, wisely does he bring in addition to himself the blessed Baptist, and introduces him along with himself a most noteworthy witness. For he did not suppose that he ought, even if of gravest weight, to demand of the readers in his book concerning our Saviour credence above that of the law, and that they should believe him by himself when declaring things above our understanding and sense.

Therefore the blessed Evangelist himself testifies that The Word was in the beginning and the Word was God and was in the beginning with God and that all things were made by Him, and He was in the things made as Life, and that the Life was the Light of men, that by all these he might shew that the Son is by Nature God. And the Divine Baptist too testifies in addition to him, crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God. For soothly one will say that He is Very God, in Whom is by Nature inherent the dignity of lordship and it accrues not to any other rightly and truly, since to us there is one God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ, as Paul saith; and though there be many called gods by grace and lords both in heaven and earth, yet the Son is One with the Father Very God.

Therefore, most noteworthy is the pair of holy witnesses, and credence no longer capable of blame is due to the things said, both as having received the fulness of the law, and supported by the notability of the persons. For the blessed Evangelist then to say ought concerning himself, and to take hold of his own praises, were in truth burdensome and moreover ill-instructed. For he would rightly have heard, Thou bearest record of thyself, thy record is not true. Therefore he commits to those who know him to form their opinion of him, and goes to his namesake, doing well in this too, and says that he was sent by God. For it behoved him to shew that not of his own accord nor with self-invited zeal does the holy Baptist come to his testimony respecting our Saviour, but yielding to the commands from above, and ministering to the Divine Will of the Father. Wherefore he |71 says, There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

But we must notice how unerringly and fitly he expressed himself as to each, and correspondently to the nature of the things indicated. For in the case of God the Word, was is fitly introduced indicating every way His Eternity, and His being more ancient than all beginning that is in time, and removing the idea of His having been created. For that which always is, how can it be conceived of as originate? But of the blessed Baptist, befittingly does he say, There was a man sent from God, as of a man having an originate nature. And very unerringly does the Evangelist herein seem to me not merely to say that There was, but by adding the word a man, to overthrow the most unadvised surmise of some.

For already was there a report bruited of many, commonly saying that the holy Baptist was not really a man by nature but one of the holy angels in heaven, making use of human body and sent by God to preach. And the plea for this surmise they found in its being said by God, Behold I send, My messenger before Thy Face, which shall prepare Thy way; before Thee. But they err from the truth who imagine thus, not considering that the name of Angel is indicative of ministry rather than of essence, even as in the history of the blessed Job messengers 6 one after the other run to announce . his manifold sufferings and ministering to those incurable afflictions. Something like this does the most wise Paul himself define respecting the holy angels, writing thus: Are l they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

John the blessed Baptist then is called an angel by the mouth of the Lord, not as being actually by nature an angel, but as sent to announce and crying aloud, Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Very profitably does he declare moreover that the angel was sent by God, shewing that his witness is most sure. For he that was sent by God to preach, would not |72 utter anything in his teaching that was not wholly according to the will of Him Who put the mission on him. True therefore is the witness as being God-taught. For the most wise Paul also telling us that he was sent by Jesus Christ, affirmed that he learned the power of the mystery not of any other, but by revelation of Him Who sent him, signifying the revelation in sum so to say and briefly, in saying that he was sent by Jesus Christ. Hence the being God-taught wholly follows on being sent by God. And that freedom from lying is wholly the aim of the ministers of the truth is undoubted.

The man’s name he says was John. It needed that he who was sent should be recognized by the mark of the name, which introduces, as I suppose, great authenticity to what is said. For an angel (namely Gabriel that stand in the presence of God, as himself says) when he declared to Zacharias the good tidings of his birth of Elizabeth, added this to what he said, namely that his name shall be John. It is I suppose clear and confessed by all that he was so named of the angel according to the Divine purpose and appointment. How then will not he who was crowned by God with so great honour be conceived of as above all praise? Wherefore the mention of his name is profitably and necessarily brought in.

But since the Evangelist has added that the holy Baptist was sent by God for a witness that all men through him might believe, we will further say when our opponents fall foul and say, “Why did not all believe the God-sent? how came he who was fore-appointed by the decree from above to be powerless to persuade any?”—-It is meet, sirs, that we should not blame John for want of zeal herein, but should exclaim against the obstinacy of those who disbelieved. For so far as pertains to the aim of the herald, and the mode of his apostolate from above, none would have been found imparticipate in the teaching, nor would have remained in unbelief: but since there was diversity of disposition in the hearers and each has power over his own free-choice, some receiving not the faith missed what was profitable. Wherefore we must say to them (as it is in the prophet), He that heareth, let him hear; and he that forbeareth, let him forbear. |73

This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light.

The word This is full of declaration of virtue and praise of person. For he that was sent, he says, from God, he that with reason struck with astonishment the whole of Judaea, by the gravity of his life and its marvellous exercise in virtue, he that is fore-announced by the voice of the holy Prophets: called by Isaiah, The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, and by the blessed David, a lamp fore-ordained for Christ 7; This man came for a witness to hear witness of the Light. He here calls God the Word Light, and shews that He is One and strictly the very actual Light, with Whom there is by nature nought else that has the property of illumining, and that is not lacking light. Therefore foreign and, so to say, of other nature than the creature is the Word of God, since verily and truly is He strictly Light, the creature participate of light. He then that is unclassed with things made, and conceived of therefore as being of other nature than they, how will He be originate, rather how will He not be within the limits of Deity and replete with the Good Nature of Him who begat Him?

8 He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.

The Baptist having esteemed desert-abodes above the haunts of the cities, and having shewn forth an unwonted persistence in exercise of virtue, and having mounted to the very summit of the righteousness attainable by man, was most rightly wondered at, and even by some imagined to be Christ Himself. And indeed the rulers of the Jews led by his achievements in virtue to some such notion, send some to him bidding them to inquire if he be the Christ. The blessed Evangelist then not ignorant of the things that were by many bruited of him, of necessity puts, He was not the Light, that he might both uproot the error as to this, and again build up some weight of credence to him who was sent from God for a witness. For how is he not eminent exceedingly, how is he not every way worthy of marvel, who is so clad with great virtue and so illustrious in righteousness as to imitate |74 Christ Himself, and by the choice beauty of his piety, to be even imagined to be the Light Itself?

He was not then, says he, the Light, but sent to bear witness of the Light. In saying the Light, with the addition of the article, he shews that it is really one: for so it is in truth. For that both the blessed Baptist and each of the other saints, may be rightly called light we will not deny, seeing that it is said of them by our Saviour, Ye are the light of the world. And again it is said of the holy Baptist, I have ordained a lamp for My Christ, and, He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light. But even though the saints be light, and the Baptist a lamp, we are not ignorant of the grace that was given them and of their supply from the Light. For neither is the light in the lamp its own, nor the illumination in the saints, but they are rendered bright and lightsome by the enlightening of the Truth and are lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. And what is the Life, whose word they holding forth are called light, save surely the Only-Begotten, Who saith, I am the Life? Therefore, One of a truth is That Which is verily Light, lighting, not enlightened: and by participation of the One, whatever is called light, will be so deemed of by imitation of It. |75

19, 20  And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

The Evangelist recalls his own words and endeavours to explain to us more fully (doing exceeding well) what he had already told us told us briefly as in summary. For having said There was a man sent from God, whose name was John: the same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, needs does he bring in the mode also of the witness given by him. For when, he says, the chiefs of the Jewish divisions after the Law, sent priests and Levites to him, bidding them ask him, what he would say of himself, then very clearly did he confess, spurning all shame for the truth’s sake. For he said, I am not the Christ. Therefore neither do I, says he, the compiler of this Book, lie saying of him, He was not the Light but to bear witness of the Light.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? and he saith, I am not. Art thou that Prophet? And he answered, No.

Having said by way of explanation, he confessed, I am not the Christ; he tries to shew how or in what manner the confession was made; and he appears to me to wish thereby to lay bare the ill-instructedness of the Jews. For professing themselves to be wise they became fools, and puffed up at their knowledge of the Law, and ever putting forward the commandments of Moses and asserting that they were perfectly instructed in the words of the holy Prophets, by their foolish questions they are convicted of being wholly uninstructed. For the hierophant Moses saying that the Lord should be revealed as a Prophet foretold to the children of Israel, The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me, unto Him shall ye hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb. The blessed Isaiah, introducing to us the forerunner and fore-messenger, says, The voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight: and in addition to these the Prophet Joel 13 says of |127 the Tishbite (he was Elias) Behold, I send you Elijah the Tishbite 14 who shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

There being then three, who were promised should come, Christ and John and Elias, the Jews expect that more will come, that they may rightly hear, Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures. For when they enquired of the blessed Baptist and learned that he was not the Christ, they answer, What then? art thou Elias? and on his saying I am not, when they ought to have asked respecting the fore-runner (for he it was that remained) they ignorantly return to Christ Himself, Who was revealed through the Law as a Prophet. For see what they say, not knowing what was told them through Moses, Art thou the Prophet? and he answered, No. For he was not the Christ, as he had already before declared.

22, 23 What sayest thou of thyself? I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.

He accuses them sharply as knowing nothing, and accredits the design or purpose entrusted to him by Prophetic testimony. For I come, he says, to say nothing else than that He, The Looked for, is at length at the doors, yea rather the Lord within the doors. Be ye ready to go whatsoever way He bids you, ye have gone the way given you through Moses, take up that by Christ: for this the choir of the holy Prophets foretold you.

A setting forth of sayings concerning the way that is after Christ.

Isaiah. Come ye and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us of His ways and we will walk in His paths.

The same. And an highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; no lion shall be there nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, but the redeemed shall walk there. |128

The same. I will give beginning 15 to Sign, and will exhort Jerusalem unto the way.

The same. And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not: I will lead them in paths that they have not known.

Jeremiah. Stand ye in the ways and see and ask for the old paths, where is the good way and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for you souls.

What then is the good way and that purifies those who walk in it, let Christ Himself say: I am the Way.

24 And they had been sent from the Pharisees. 16 

They who were sent from the Jews (they were Levites and certain of those who belonged to the priesthood) were convicted of asking foolish questions. For supposing that Christ was one person, the Prophet declared by the Law another, they said, after the holy Baptist had said, I am not the Christ, Art thou the Prophet? But lo, the multitude of the Pharisees also is caught in conceit of wisdom rather than having really an accurate knowledge of the Divine oracles. For why, it says, baptizest thou at all, if thou be not the Christ nor Elias neither the Prophet? and they are shewn again to be full of no small senselessness against the Baptist. For they do not, it seems, vouchsafe to put him in the number of those expected, but sick with the haughtiness that was their foster-sister 17, they deem that he is nought, albeit he be fore-announced by the Prophet’s voice. For though they heard, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness Prepare ye the way of the Lord: receiving not his word, they rebuke him without restraint saying after this sort: There is nought in thee, Sir, worthy of credit, nor wondrous nor great: why baptizest thou even at all? why dost thou, who art absolutely nothing, take in hand so great a thing? It was the habit of the ungodly Pharisees to act thus, to disparage one who was already |129 come, to pretend to honour one who was to come. For in order that they might always procure for themselves honours at the hand of the Jews, and might procure to themselves incomes of money, they desire that none save themselves should appear illustrious. For thus slew they the heir Himself also, saying Come let us kill Him and let us seize on His inheritance.

26 I baptize with water.

Much enduringly does the blessed Baptist bear with the fault finders: and very seasonably does he make the declaration regarding himself a basis of saving preaching: and teaches those who were sent from the Pharisees now even against their will that Christ was within the doors. For I, he says, am bringing in an introductory Baptism, washing those defiled by sin with water for a beginning of penitence and teaching them to go up from the lower unto the more perfect. For this were to accomplish in act, what I was sent to preach, Prepare ye, I mean, the way of the Lord. For the Giver of the greater and most notable gifts and Supplier of all perfection of good things, standeth among you, unknown as yet by reason of the veil of flesh, but so much surpassing me the Baptist, that I must deem myself not to have the measure even of a servant’s place in His Presence. For this I deem is the meaning of, I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet.

And in saying what is true, he works something else that is useful, for he persuades the haughty Pharisee to think lowlily, and brings himself in as an example of this.

But he says that these things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, putting this too as a sign of accurate and careful narration. For we are all accustomed, so to speak, in our accounts of things that require it to mention also the places where they happened. (source)

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

Commentaries and Resources for the Fist Week of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 25, 2017

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT, Years A, B, C
Note: we are in Year B.

Year A: Commentaries for the First Sunday of Lent.

Year B: Commentaries for the First Sunday of Lent.

Year C: Commentaries for the First Sunday of Lent.

MONDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK IN LENT

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

My Notes on Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 19.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 19.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 19.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 19.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 25:31-46.

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 25:31-46.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 25:31-46.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 25:31-46.

TUESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

My Notes on Isaiah 55:10-11. On 6-11.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Isaiah 55:10-11.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 34.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 34.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 34.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 34.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 6:7-15.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 6:7-15.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 6:7-15.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 6:7-15.

WEDNESDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK IN LENT

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

My Notes on Jonah 3:1-10.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Jonah 3:1-10.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 51.

St John Fisher’s Sermons on Psalm 51. Psalm 50 in Fisher’s translation. The Fourth Penitential Psalm. He treated of the Psalm in two parts, and at some length.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 51.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lecture on Psalm 51.

St Albert the Great’s Commentary on Psalm 51.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 51.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 51.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 11:29-32.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 11:29-32.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Luke 11:29-32.

THURSDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Esther c:12, 14-16, 23-25.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 138.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 138.

Pseudo-St Albert the Great’s Commentary on Psalm 138.

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 138.

Father Ronald Knox’s Meditation on Psalm 138.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary on Psalm 138.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 7:7-12.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 7:7-12.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 7:7-12.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 7:7-12.

FRIDAY OF THE FIRST WEEK OF LENT

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Ezekiel 18:21-28.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 130.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 130.

Pseudo-Albert the Great’s Commentary on Psalm 130.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary on Psalm 130.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 5:20-26.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 5:20-26.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 5:20-26.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 5:20-26.

SATURDAY OF THE FIST WEEK OF LENT

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Deuteronomy 26:16-19.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 119.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 119:1-8.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Catechesis on Psalm 119.

Psallam Domino on Psalm 119:1-8. Follows the Greek/Vulgate numbering thus designating this Psalm as 118.

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 5:43-48.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48. On 38-48.

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48.

SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT, YEARS A, B, C
Note: We are in Year B

Year A: Commentaries for the Second Sunday of Lent.

Year B: Commentaries for the Second Sunday of Lent.

Year C: Commentaries for the Second Sunday of Lent.

Next Week’s Posts.

Posted in Catholic, Daily Catholic Lectionary, Lent, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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