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Father Boylan’s Commentary on Hebrews 1:1-14

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 20, 2012

Contrast between the revelation given by, Christ and that given in the old dispensation; the superiority of Christ to the angels
Hebrews 1:1—4

(1) God having spoken of olden time to the fathers througb
the prophets by many partial revelations, and. various methods of
revelation, (2) hath spoken to us in this End-period by one who
is Son, whom He hath set up as heir of all things; by whom also
He created the worlds (or, ‘ages’). (3) He being the flashing-forth of His glory,, and the very expression of His being, sustaineth all things by His (God’s), word of power: and having achieved purification from sin, hath taken His seat at the right hand of Majesty on high, (4) having attained a rank as much superior to the angels as the name whjch He hath inherited surpasseth them.

1—4.  The revelation of the old dispensation was given fragmentarily, piecemeal, by many different kinds of messengers-prophets,, seers, legislators, etc. — and by a great variety of manifestations – words, dreams, visions, symbolical actions, etc. — but the new revelation has been given all at once, and completely, by a single Messenger, who was not a mere prophet, poet, or lawgiver,, but the very Son of God Himself. This complete revelation forms a turning point in the history of the. world:, it brings to, a close the period of the prophets, and begins the Messianic age.

As Demiurgos the Son has been made sovereign disposer and dispenser of all things. He is more than a messenger of God, for He is the the very copy, the
manifest expression of God’s substance, the irradiation of God’s glory. He did not merely preach against sin, like the prophets, but effected its removal; and having; performed this divine act,’ He was entitled to take His place at the right hand of God as the equal in divinity of His Father.

The revelation of Christ has been so complete because He is a complete and all-sided showing forth of the Father. Christ is not a mere link, or Mediator
between God and men. He is Creator of the world, and conserves it. He can purify from sin. Hence He is, in the fullest sense, divine, and, therefore, rightly takes His place at His Father’s side. The servants and messengers of God stand before Him, but the Son sits at the right hand of God. (Cf. Ps 110.) The revelation on Sinai was given, according, to Jewish belief, by angels; but Christ, with His, name of Son is far above the angels, and, therefore, His revelation must be greater than theirs. (Cf. Acts 7:38. 53; Gal 3:19.)

Scriptural proof of Christ’s superiority to the angels
Hebrews 1:5—14
(Cf. Col 1:16, 2:8; Heb 13:8).

(5) For to which of the angels hath He ever said: ‘Thou art my Son; this day I have begotten Thee’; and again; ‘I will be to him Father, and he will be to Me Son’; (6) and again, when He bringeth the Firstborn into the world, He saith: ‘All the angels of God shall worship him.’ (7) And of the angels He saith: ‘Who maketh His angels winds, and His servants flames of fire.’ (8) But of the Son (He saith): ‘Thy throne, o God, is forever; a sceptre of justice is the sceptre of thy sovereignty. Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity; hence hath God, thy God, anointed thee more than thy fellows with the oil of gladness.’

5—8. The glory of Christ as the bearer of the new revelation is the chief thought of this section; We have here again the same succession of ideas as in
verses 1-4, the Sonship of Christ, His glory, and His rewards of royal splendour in heaven.

The arguments for the superiority of Christ to the Angels are:

(a). Though the angels are at times called sons of God, they are never so called in the same way in which Psalm 2 gives the title of ‘Son’ to Christ.

The second psalm is taken Messianically throughout the , New Testament.
See Acts 4:25, 28; 13:33; Rev 2:27 ff; 12:5; 19:15. The quotation, ‘I will
be to him father, etc’ is taken from 2 Sam 7:14. The words are the divine promise given to David by the prophet Nathan. The ‘him’ refers primarily to the successors of David, but indirectly to the Messias.

(b). The second argument is that God commands the angels to worship
Christ. The text referred to is, probably, Ps. 97:7 — Adorate emn omnes angeli ejus (Adore him, all you his angels). The bringing of the Firstborn into the world may refer to the description of the coming of the Lord to Judgment which is contained in Ps. 96. (Cf. also Deut 32:43 in Septuagint.)

(c). The angels are put on the same level as the inanimate things of nature; they are mere instruments of God, like lightning and wind, and the other blind powers of nature, ready for all kinds of service, essentially changeable in character. (Ps 104:4.) But of the Son it is said (Ps. 45:7) that His throne abides for ever; and He Himself is called God. He is an eternal ruler like God Himself. God has anointed him with the oil of gladness, an oil of coronation that will bring more gladness than it usually brings to kings anointed.

(1o) And, ‘Thou didst in the beginning make firm the earth, o Lord, on the waters; and the works of Thy hands are the heavens. (11) They shall pass away; but Thou abidest for, ever; and they shall grow old like a garment, (12) and like a mantle Thou wilt roll them up, and they shall be replaced. But Thou art ever the same, and Thy years shall never run out’.

(13) But to which of the angels hath He ever said: ‘Be seated thou at my right hand until I make thy foes a foot-stool beneath thy feet.’

(14) Are they not all ministering spirits, sent unto ministration for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

10-14. (d). The fourth argument is that Christ is the omnipotent God who has created all things, and whose being and power can never diminish. He is beyond and above all time and change. The heavens shall pass away and be replaced like an old and worn-out garment, but the Son of God remains for ever
the same. (Ps 102:26—28.) He sits for ever by the Father’s side. The enemies
He has defeated are the foot-stool of his feet. (Ps 110:1). No angel has ever had,
or ever can have, glory like this. Christ is God: the angels are but creatures.

(e). The final argument is the determination of the true place of the angels. Christ has achieved purification from sin, and salvation for men. The chief function of the angels is to give help to those who are called to share in that salvation. They are not authors of salvation, but mere instruments of Christ in bringing men to share in salvation’.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Ephesians 4:7-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 25, 2012

This post opens with Father Callan’s brief overview of Ephesians 4:1-6:20, followed by his summary of Ephesians 4:1-16. His notes on Eph 4:7-16 follows.

THE MORAL PART OF THE EPISTLE

A Overview of Ephesians 4:1-6:20~The precepts of Christ follow from the doctrine of Christ as conclusions from premises, so that rightly lived the Christian life is nothing more than a vivid reflection of Christ’s teachings. So far in this Epistle the Apostle has spoken of Christians as predestined members of Christ’s mystical body, as living stones in God’s temple, and as units in the divine household, destined to a glory beyond all our imaginings. High, therefore, is their calling; and he would have them walk worthy of it. To this end he describes first in this Moral Part the general character of the Christian life as lived in mutual charity and holiness (Eph 4:1-24); then he treats of particular duties, whether pertinent to all or to individual members of the Christian family (Eph 4:25-5:9) ; and finally he illustrates the life of Christians as a warfare (Eph 6:10-20).

CHRISTIANS MUST WALK WORTHY OF THEIR VOCATION IN ALL UNITY

A Summary of Ephesians 4:1-16~The Christian life imposes on its members the obligation of preserving, by means of humility and loving forbearance, the spirit of unity which has been given them in the Holy Ghost. All have the same hope; all acknowledge one and the same Lord as their head; the same faith is common to all, expressed in one and the same Sacrament of Baptism; and finally, all have the same heavenly Father. There is a great diversity of gifts and functions in the Christian society, but the Ascended Christ is the Source of them all; and all have the one purpose, which is growth into perfect corporate unity, so that the Church will come to express in its own life and maturity the life of Christ its divine Head.

Eph 4:7. But to every one of us was given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ.

So far the Apostle has considered the unity of the Church as to its common elements; and now he will consider that which is proper and special to individual members of the same mystical body, namely, their different gifts and functions, all of which should tend to the good of the whole (Eph 4:7-16).

To every one of us (i.e., to each one of the faithful who make up the unity of the Church, and not to the ministers only) was given grace (i.e., the special divine help to discharge certain duties and offices in the Church, and this was done, not haphazardly confusedly, but) according to the measure, etc. (i.e., according to the work each one was to do in the Church in fulfillment of the purpose of Christ, the Giver of that grace).

Eph 4:8. Wherefore he saith: Ascending on high, he led captivity captive; he gave gifts to men.

In this and in the two following verses the Apostle shows that our Lord is indeed the distributer of the gifts spoken of in verse 7; and to prove it he quotes in the present verse Psalm 68:19, which, in its literal sense, refers to a temporal victory of the Jews over their enemies through the help of Jehovah, but in its spiritual meaning refers to the triumphal Ascension of our Lord into heaven after achieving our redemption by His victory over sin and Satan. The Psalmist is picturing Jehovah as ascending to His Sanctuary on Mt. Sion after the victory of His people, and there accepting spoil from His vanquished foes; and this is a figure of the Ascension of Christ into heaven, following the completion of the work of our redemption, and thence distributing His gifts to the faithful on the Day of Pentecost. The munificence of Jehovah to Israel prefigured the bounty of Christ bestowing His gifts on men. The Apostle is probably quoting the Psalm from memory, and so does not give the exact words either of the Hebrew or of the LXX of the Psalm.

He saith. Better, “It saith” (i.e., the Scripture says).

Captivity means “captives,” the Hebrew abstract standing for the concrete. But who are the captives in the application? If we need to seek an application for this phrase, they are (a) mankind wrested from the captivity of the evil one, Satan, or (b) the conquered evil spirits who had enslaved man until the coming of Christ.

He gave. In the Psalm we have “Thou didst receive,” a different person and a different verb; but St. Paul, speaking in the third person of our Lord, is using the words which the Psalmist addressed to Jehovah in the second person. As Jehovah received spoil from Israel’s enemies, so did our Lord receive gifts to be distributed “to men” (i.e., to the faithful).

Eph 4:9. Now that he ascended, what is it, but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?

The Apostle means to say here that the Ascension of Christ into heaven presupposes His descent from heaven to this earth at the time of His Incarnation; or to the lower parts of the earth, to the Limbo of the dead, after His crucifixion; or, if we take the ascent to be previous to the descent, the meaning is that after our Lord ascended into heaven. He later descended at Pentecost through the Holy Spirit with His special gifts of grace to the faithful, or in general to take up His dwelling in the souls of the just. But St. Paul is saying that the descent was previous to the ascent, and hence we must reject opinions that suppose the contrary. We should hold, then, that the descent in question was either at the time of the Incarnation when our Lord first came to this earth (so Knabenbauer, Cajetan, and many non-Catholics), or when He visited the abode of the dead between His own death and glorious Resurrection (so St. John Chrysostom, St. Jerome, Estius, Voste, etc.). The latter opinion is thought to be more in harmony with: (a) Pss. 62:10; 138:15; Rom 10:7; Acts 2:27; 1 Peter 3:19, 1 Peter 4:6; (b) the context of St. Paul, for in the following verse it is said that our Lord “ascended above all the heavens,” the contrary of which would be to descend to the lowest parts of the earth: He ranged from the lowest to the highest, thus visiting all, “that he might fill all things” (ver. 10).

What is it? That is, “What does it imply?” The word “first” agrees with the context, but is of doubtful authenticity.

Eph 4:10. He that descended is the same also that ascended above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

He that descended (from heaven to earth, and even to the lower parts of the earth, though His Incarnation) is the same also that ascended, etc. (on Ascension Day, and took His seat on the right hand of the Father), that he might fill all things (by the exercise of His power and rule, and the influence of His grace, especially in His Church). The person that ascended is the same as the person that descended. The Son of God descended from heaven, taking upon Himself our human nature; and the Son of man ascended according to His human nature to the sublimity of immortal life (St. Thomas, h. l.).

Above all the heavens. These words contain no approval by St. Paul of the opinion of the Rabbins that there were seven heavens; the Apostle is merely emphasizing the supreme exaltation of the Lord. It is true that in 2 Cor 12:2, St. Paul himself speaks of the “third heaven,” but there he is most likely only referring to the immediate presence of God.

Eph 4:11. And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and other some evangelists, and other some pastors and doctors,

Returning to the thought of ver. 7, after the parenthesis of ver. 8-10, the Apostle is now going to speak about the various gifts bestowed by our Lord on certain ones among the faithful, and the end to which these gifts are ordained (cf. also Rom 12:4-6; 1 Cor 12:4 ff.). It is to be noted that the various names here designate offices or functions rather than persons. Therefore, “apostles” are those who had the gift of the apostolate, and most likely included others besides the Twelve, like Paul, Barnabas, etc. (Rom 16:7).

Prophets are those who taught, instructed, and exhorted others (1 Cor 14:1-5), as well as foretellers of future events, like Agabus (Acts 11:27-28, Acts 21:10-11).

Evangelists are not necessarily those only who wrote the Gospels, but missionaries and preachers of the word among strangers and infidels (John 21:15 ff.; Acts 21:8; 2 Tim 4:5; 1 Peter 2:25).

Pastors and doctors. Before these two names in Greek there is but one article; whereas the article precedes each of the names given before in this list. From this fact St. Jerome, St. Thomas, and others have concluded that the care of souls and the office of teacher go together, that he who is a pastor ought also to be a teacher. But other commentators hold that there is question of separate functions here not necessarily to be found in the same person, just as there was above, and that St. Paul omitted the article before the last word here in his hurry to close the list (so Voste).

Eph 4:12. For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ;

Here the Apostle points out the end or purpose of the ministry just detailed. All those gifts and offices were “for the perfecting of the saints” (i.e., for the purpose of equipping or fitting out those on whom they were bestowed) “for the work of the ministry” (i.e., for the fulfillment of the duties they were to discharge among the faithful), thus enabling all the members of the Church to do each his full share by word, work and example towards “the edifying of the body of Christ” (i.e., towards building up and perfecting the Church, and spreading its work and influence over the world). The word rendered “perfecting” occurs here only in the New Testament, and most probably means “equipment,” “preparation.” Those who translate it in the sense of “perfection” reverse the order of the words in the verse and make “the perfecting of the saints” the end and purpose of “the work of the ministry” and “the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Eph 4:13. Until we all meet into the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ;

Until does not here refer so much to time as to the ultimate purpose or end to which all the charisms in question are ordained, which end or purpose is “unity of faith” and a supernatural “knowledge of the Son of God”; so that by individual and corporate spiritual growth, effort and influence the Church may come to realize and express in her own life that mature and full-grown perfection which is in Christ her divine Head. Christ is the standard or “measure” of perfection toward which the individual Christian and the Church as a whole must tend, and which, individually and collectively, the faithful must, in so far as possible, endeavor to express here on earth. Hence “age” here refers not to the years but to the perfection of Christ.

Eph 4:14. That henceforth we would be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the wickedness of men, by cunning craftiness, by which they lie in wait to deceive;

The Apostle here states negatively what he said in a positive manner in the preceding verse; there he showed how the Church was to attain its perfection, and now he shows how it should avoid what is opposed to its perfection. We must not henceforth exhibit the mental weakness and ignorance of children, who are fickle and inconstant, subject to the influence of all the false opinions and changing novelties by which wicked, cunning, and crafty men try to lead the unwary astray.

Tossed to and fro, etc. Better, “tossed about on the waves, and carried round and round by every wind of doctrine,” as so many outside the Church are, which is not a very safe way to reach the port of salvation. “What St. Paul deprecated as the waywardness of an undisciplined child, is now glorified as free thought” (Rickaby). The Vulgate, fluctuantes et circumferamur, should read fluctuantes et circumlati, to agree with the best Greek; and in nequitia should be in fradulentia (the Greek word being a metaphor from cheating at dice).

Eph 4:15. But doing the truth in charity, we may in all things grow up in him who is the head, even Christ:

Instead of being deceived and led into error by evil and cunning men, we must be followers of “the truth,” i.e., we must confess, love, and practise the truths made known to us by our faith; and not only so, but our faith and works must be vivified by “charity,” or the love of God, so that “in all things,” or better, “as to all things” (i.e., as to our whole being, our entire Christian perfection), we may “grow up in him, etc.,” i.e., increase and solidify our union with Christ, our divine Head. The more we grow in perfection, the more we come to resemble in all things Jesus Christ who is the Head of the mystical body of which we are the members.

Eph 4:16. From whom the whole body, being compacted and fitly conjoined together, by what every joint supplieth, according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself in charity.

Having just spoken of Christ, the Head of the mystical body which is the Church, the Apostle now goes on to describe the growth and increase of that mystical body as it is united in charity to Christ its Head.

The words “being compacted” down to “every part” inclusive should be regarded as parenthetical, so that the main sentence reads: “From whom the whole body maketh increase, etc.” This verse affords a typical example of St. Paul’s compressed and pregnant style, where in a few words a multitude of ideas are contained. It is extremely obscure, as St. Chrysostom says, because the Apostle wants to say everything at once. We find a parallel in Col 2:19.

From whom, i.e., from Christ, the fountain whence flows the whole spiritual life of “the whole body,” which is the Church, the members of which “being compacted, etc.,” i.e., being closely and harmoniously connected, one with the other, and vitally conjoined so as to form one organic whole and act as a unit. The words “compacted” and “conjoined” are expressed by present participles in Greek, and therefore convey the idea of a living, progressive process of growth by which the Church is ever moving on in development, strength, and perfection to its final consummation in heaven.

By what every joint supplieth. Passing over several different and less likely opinions about the exact meaning of the Greek word αφης (here rendered “joint”) and επιχορηγιας (rendered “supplieth”), we may hold the most probable meaning of the Apostle to be that help descends from Christ the Head into the whole mystical body through the joints by which the various members are connected one with the other. As in the physical organism help comes from the head to the different members through the joints or connecting physical links, so in the mystical body of Christ, the Church, help is communicated from Christ the Head to the various members (to the faithful) through the joints, i.e., through the various ministries, gifts and functions spoken of above in verse 7; but the help thus supplied is not the same for each member, but is “according to the operation, etc.”-that is, it is in proportion to the power or supply of help given it by the Head, which supply or power is itself proportioned to the capacity of each member and to the work each particular member is given to perform. And all the members being thus assisted and thus operating, it happens that the whole body “maketh increase, etc.” (i.e., grows in unity, strength, and effectiveness), and all this through the vitalizing principle and power of “charity.”

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 11:1-2a, 11-12, 25-29

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 29, 2011

This post, in order to help provide context, includes Fr. Callan’s Summaries of verses 1-10, 11-24, and 25-32.

THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL IS AFTER ALL ONLY PARTIAL

A Summary of Romans 11:1-10~Having shown in the preceding chapter that the rejection of the Jews was due to their own persistent disobedience and obstinacy to the will of God and the divine overtures, St. Paul now is at pains to observe that God, notwithstanding, has by no means ceased to be merciful to His chosen people. For their rejection is not complete; a good number have been converted, although the others have been hardened.

1. I say then: Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

After all the Apostle has said about the culpability and responsibility of the Jews (9:30-10:21), one would be inclined to think that Israel had been entirely rejected and had ceased to be the people of God. But even before this, when speaking of the absolute right of God to choose or to reject whom He will (9:6-26), the Apostle had insinuated, in a passing way, that there was still, as in former times of apostasy, a faithful remnant in whom the mercy of God was manifest. Here, borrowing the words of Psalm 94:14, he asks the question plainly whether God hath cast away his people. The answer must be negative, first because the Apostle’s teaching cannot be contrary to the promise of the inspired Psalmist. In the second place, he refers to himself, who was an Israelite of the seed of Abraham, i.e., a carnal descendant of the father of the Jewish race, and a member of the tribe of Benjamin which, with the tribes of Juda and Levi, had, in the past, remained faithful to the Lord (2 Cor 11:22; Philip, 3:5). Finally, if God had entirely rejected the Jews, He would not have selected from among them “the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of his mysteries” (1 Cor 4:1), and sent them out to preach the faith to the Gentiles (1:5). So much for an indirect reply to the question proposed.

2. God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew. Know you not what the scripture saith of Elias; how he calleth on God against Israel?

St. Paul now responds directly to the above question. It is impossible that God should reject entirely and definitely all the Jews, because God does not thus change His eternal decrees (see verses 28-29).

Which he foreknew, i.e., which he formerly recognized and willingly approved as His own people. There is no question here of those who God foreknew would be faithful to Him, or of the predestined (Cornely), but of the Jewish people as a whole, who would not be finally cast off by God.

Know you not, etc. The Apostle draws an example from the history of Elias (1 Kings 19:10) to illustrate the designs of God in the present instance. It seemed to Elias that the whole people had fallen into idolatry and had been rejected by God; but God revealed to the Prophet that a remnant had been preserved. So it is now. While it seems that all Israel has been rejected, there is no doubt that some will be saved.

The scripture, i.e., that section of the Old Testament which deals with Elias (cf. Mark 12:26; Luke 22:37).

Against Israel, i.e., accusing Israel.

THE REJECTION OF ISRAEL IS NOT FINAL, AND SERVES MEANWHILE FOR THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES

A Summary of Romans 11:11-24~The rejection of the majority of the Jews is a source of great mystery and profound sorrow. And yet there is reason for consolation, because, in the first place, a few have been saved already, and then, the rejection of the nation as a whole is only a temporary evil which, in the designs of God, is made to serve for the conversion of the Gentiles.

11. I say then, have they so stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid. But by their offence, salvation is come to the Gentiles, that they may be emulous of them.

Have they so stumbled, that, etc. Comely and others give to “that” (ινα) the sense of finality, as if St. Paul wished to ask if God, by justly withdrawing His graces from the Jews, blinded their greater number and permitted them to stumble for the purpose of making them fall without any hope of reparation. In this opinion, there is question here, not of the gravity, but of the purpose or end of the Jews’ fall. But St. Chrysostom,  Lagrange, etc., hold that ινα has not a final meaning here, and that the sense is rather, whether the fall of the Jews is so great as to admit of no cure or remedy. At any rate, the stumbling of the Jews was not just that they might fall, nor that their fall should be irremediable, as the Apostle’s reply, vigorously negative, plainly shows, and as is clear from what follows in the verse. St. Paul then goes on to explain the designs of God in permitting the Jews to go astray.

By their offence, etc., i.e., through the blindness of the Jews in not recognizing the Messiah and their unwillingness to accept the Apostle’s preaching (Acts 13:45-48) the Gospel was carried to the Gentiles, and the error of the Jews became the occasion of the salvation of the pagans. This is the first and immediate result of the fall of the Jews. The second result is the salvation of the Jews themselves; for the salvation given to the Gentiles will finally rouse Israel to competition and emulation (παραζηλωσαι αυτους). The Jews will at length understand that their God has become the God of the Gentiles, that the Scriptures given to them have passed to others, and that God has withdrawn His blessings from His chosen people and bestowed them upon their pagan neighbors. When this takes place, the anger and jealousy of the Jews will have reached their climax and will be the occasion of a reaction against past errors, and a consequent return to the God of their forefathers. Thus, the hardening of Israel permitted by God was ordained to the salvation of the Gentiles, and the salvation of the Gentiles is ordained in turn to that of the Jews themselves (cf.
Lagrange, h. 1.).

12. Now if the offence of them be the riches of the world, and the
diminution of them, the riches of the Gentiles; how much more the fulness of them?

If the failure of Israel has brought such great benefits to the world, how enormous will be the benefit of the final conversion of all the Jews!

If the offence (παραπτωμα) of them (αυτων), i.e., of those hardened, be the riches of the world, i.e., be the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith, and the diminution (ηττημα) of them (αυτων), i.e., the defeat, the loss of those hardened, be the means of inestimable blessings to the pagans, how much more the fulness (πληρωμα) of them(αυτων), i.e., how much greater blessings will come to the world from the total conversion to the faith of all the Jews!

In this interpretation, following Lagrange, we have given to the first and second αυτων (“them”) the meaning of those hardened, and to the third, the meaning of all the Jews. We have understood ηττημα (“diminution”) here to mean, not the remnant, a small number; but defeat, loss.  πληρωμα (“fulness”) means the completing of Israel, i.e., the adding of the hardened (who will cease to be such) to the faithful Jews.

THE CONVERSION OF THE GENTILES WILL BE FOLLOWED BY THAT OF THE JEWS

A Summary of Romans 11:25-32~God’s final purpose is to save both Gentiles and Jews. They both have sinned and have been made to feel the wrath of God (1:18-2:29), but infinite mercy outstretches man’s wickedness and in the end will triumph over all; God’s designs do not change, nor does His will go unfulfilled. The salvation of all Israel is closely connected with the conversion of the Gentiles, as was foretold by the Prophets. It is according to the divine plan that Israel and the pagans should mutually help each other, and that both in the end should be objects of the divine mercy.

25. For I would not have you ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you should be wise in your own conceits), that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles should come in.

I would not have you ignorant, brethren. This is a favorite phrase of St. Paul’s when he wishes to speak confidentially and announce some matter of great importance (Rom 1:13; 1 Cor 10:1; 12:1; 2 Cor 1:8; 1 Thess 4:13). He is speaking to the Gentile Christians, and he wishes to remind them of doctrines already familiar to the Church in general, namely, that the Jews were to be hardened (Matt 12:38-48; 13:11-16; 23:29-36), that the failure of Israel would bring in the Gentiles (Matt 20:1-16; 24:14), and that the Jews themselves would at last turn to Christ (Matt 23:39; Luke 13:35).

This mystery, i.e., the final conversion of Israel to Christianity, which will take place after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world. St. Paul calls this great truth a mystery, because it could not be known short of revelation, and was in fact revealed to him by God along with the other truths of the Gospel of Christ (Gal 1:12, 16; Eph 2:11-22; 3:1-13).

Lest you be wise, etc. The quotation is from Prov 3:7. The Apostle is admonishing the Gentiles to guard against self-conceit, as if they had merited their call to the faith, and also against despising the rejected Jews.

Blindness in part, etc. While the Jews as a people had failed to accept the Gospel, a number of them had been converted. And the blindness or obduracy of the majority is not to last forever; but until the fulness of the Gentiles shall come in, i.e., until the other nations of the world have accepted the Gospel and entered the Church of Christ. It is to be noted that this fulness of the Gentiles relates to peoples, not to individuals: all the nations or peoples of the earth will be converted to Christ before the end of the world, but not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas, Cornely, Lagrange, etc.).

God, therefore, in His all-wise designs has called a few of the Jews to the faith already. He has made the incredulity of the majority the occasion of the conversion of the Gentiles, and this latter He will make in turn the occasion for the final call to the faith of all the Jews. We have no sign, however, that this general conversion of the world will be soon. Here it may be useful to recall what Origen said on this subject: “God only knows, and His Only-begotten Son, and any friends that may be privy to His secrets, what is all Israel that is to be saved, and what is the fulness of the Gentiles that is to come in.”

26. And so all Israel should be saved, as it is written: There shall come out of Sion, he that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

All Israel does not mean the predestined (St. Augustine), nor all the Jews taken individually (St. Thomas), but the mass of the people, as opposed to individuals who are converted during the time that intervenes before the last days come. Israel then as a nation, like the other nations of the world, will finally embrace the faith; but it will not be until after all those others have been gathered in that she shall enter the fold of Christ. What fate has overtaken or awaits those Jews who have been hardened meanwhile, St. Paul does not anywhere tell us.

As it is written. The Apostle has been speaking of a mystery which he has learned through revelation, and he confirms the truth of it by showing that it was already more or less clearly foretold in the Old Test. (Isa 59:20). The citation is fairly literal from the LXX, which faithfully follows the Hebrew with the exception that where the latter has “out of Sion,” the LXX has “for Sion’s sake.” In the best MSS. the quotation is read as follows: “There shall come out of Sion the deliverer: he shall turn away impieties from Jacob.” St. Paul seems to make the citation refer in a general way to the Second Coming of Christ, although the conversion of the Jews will just precede that Second Coming, and will be a consequence of the first advent of the Saviour.

27. And this is to them my covenant: when I shall take away their sins.

The first part of this verse is from chapter 59:21, and the second from chapter 27:9 of the Prophet Isaias. God promises to make a new alliance with the people of Israel, when He will take away their sins and confer upon them forever His spirit and His doctrine.

In verses 25-27 we have the following unfulfilled prophecies: (a) Before the end of the world all Gentile nations shall be converted to Christianity, that is, the greater part of all nations, not all the individuals of each nation (St. Thomas); (b) after the conversion of the Gentiles, but before the end of the world, the Jews as a people will embrace Christianity. The fulfillment of these prophecies, and therefore the end of all things seem yet far off.

28. As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sake: but as touching the election, they are most dear for the sake of the fathers.

The present incredulity of the Jews will not hinder the final realization of God’s promises to them. God still loves them in their faithful ancestors.

As concerning the gospel, i.e., inasmuch as they have wilfully rejected the Gospel, the only means of salvation, they are enemies (εχθροι, odiosi), i.e., hateful to God (St. Thomas, Lagrange, etc.), and so have been excluded by God from their Messianic inheritance. This has happened to them, in the designs of God, for your sake, i.e., for the benefit of you Gentiles, because their unfaithfulness has been the occasion of your call to the Gospel (verses 11, 12, 15).

But as touching the election, i.e., as regards their election from among all other peoples, by which they were made God’s chosen people and the depositories and custodians of God’s special revelation and divine promises, they are most dear to God for the sake of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob— God’s special friends and faithful servants.

29. For the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.

God will not forsake His people forever, because His special gifts and calling are without repentance, and are consequently not subject to change (cf. 2 Cor 7:10). The Apostle is not speaking here of an invariable rule of Providence as regards creatures, but only of the great designs of God, such as respected the gifts and privileges of Israel and the latter’s call to be the adopted people of the Most High. As regards these privileges God will never change, or repent of having conceded them, because He pledged them to the Patriarchs with an oath
(Deut 7:6-11). Despite, therefore, the unfaithfulness of the Jews, God will be true to His promises and will one day convert them as a whole to the faith. The call still holds if Israel will hear.

We read in 1 Kings 15:11 that God repented that He had chosen Saul; but the rejection of this king was only an episode, comparable to the temporary hardening of the Jews (Lagrange).

 

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 13:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 15, 2011

Ver  1. There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.2. And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things?3. I tell you, Nay: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.4. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?5. I tell you, Nay: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.

GLOSS. As He had been speaking of the punishments of sinners, the story is fitly told Him of the punishment of certain particular sinners, from which He takes occasion to denounce vengeance also against other sinners: as it is said, There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

CYRIL; For these were followers of the opinions of Judas of Galilee, of whom Luke makes mention in the Acts of the Apostles, who said, that we ought to call no man master. Great numbers of them refusing to acknowledge Caesar as their master, were therefore punished by Pilate. They said also that men ought not to offer God any sacrifices that were not ordained in the law of Moses, and so forbade to offer the sacrifices appointed by the people for the safety of the Emperor and the Roman people. Pilate then, being enraged against the Galileans, ordered them to be slain in the midst of the very victims which they thought they might offer according to the custom of their law; so that the blood of the offerers was mingled with that of the victims offered. Now it being generally believed that these Galileans were most justly punished, as sowing offences among the people, the rulers, eager to excite against Him the hatred of the people, relate these things to the Savior, wishing to discover what He thought about them. But He, admitting them to be sinners, does not however judge them to have suffered such things, as though they were worse than those who suffered not. Whence it follows, And he answered an said to them, Suppose you that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, &c.

CHRYS. For God punishes some sinners by cutting off their iniquities, and appointing to them hereafter a lighter punishment, or perhaps even entirely releasing them, and correcting those who are living in wickedness by their punishment. Again, he does not punish others, that if they take heed to themselves by repentance they may escape both the present penalty and future punishment, but if they continue in their sins, suffer still greater torment.

TIT. BOST. And he here plainly shows, that whatever judgments are passed for the punishment of the guilty, happen not only by the authority of the judges, but the will of God. Whether therefore the judge punishes upon the strict grounds of conscience, or has some other object in his condemnation, we must ascribe the work to the Divine appointment.

CYRIL; To save therefore the multitudes, from the intestine seditions, which were excited for the sake of religion, He adds, but unless you repent, and unless you cease to conspire against your rulers, for which you have no divine guidance, You shall all likewise perish, and your blood shall be united to that of your sacrifices.

CHRYS. And herein he shows that He permitted them to suffer such things, that the heirs of the kingdom yet living might be dismayed by the dangers of others. “What then,” you will say, “is this man punished, that I might become better?” Nay, but he is punished for his own crimes, and hence arises an opportunity of salvation to those who see it.

BEDE; But because they repented not in the fortieth year of our Lord’s Passion, the Romans coming, (whom Pilate represented, as belonging to their nation,) and beginning from Galilee, (whence our Lord’s preaching had begun,) utterly destroyed that wicked nation, and defiled with human blood not only the courts of the temples, where they were wont to offer sacrifices, but also the inner parts of the doors, (where there was no entrance to the Galileans.)

CHRYS. Again, there had been eighteen others crushed to death by the falling of a tower, of whom He adds the same things, as it follows, Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay, For he does not punish all in this life, giving them a time meet for repentance. Nor however does he reserve all for future punishment, lest men should deny His providence.

TIT. BOST. Now one tower is compared to the whole city, that the destruction of a part may alarm the whole. Hence it is added, But, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish; as if He said, The whole city shall shortly be smitten if the inhabitants continue in impenitence.

AMBROSE; In those whose blood Pilate mingled with the sacrifices, there seems to be a certain mystical type, which concerns all who by the compulsion of the Devil offer not a pure sacrifice, whose prayer is for a sin, as it was written of Judas, who when he was amongst the sacrifices devised the betrayal of our Lord’s blood.

BEDE; For Pilate, who is interpreted, “The mouth of the hammerer,” signifies the devil ever ready to strike. The blood expresses sin, the sacrifices good actions. Pilate then mingles the blood of the Galileans with their sacrifices when the devil stains the alms and other good works of the faithful either by carnal indulgence, or by courting the praise of men, or any other defilement. Those men of Jerusalem also who were crushed by the falling of the tower, signify that the Jews who refuse to repent will perish within their own walls. Nor without meaning is the number eighteen given, (which number among the Greeks is made up of I and H, that is, of the same letters with which the name of Jesus begins.) And it signifies that the Jews were chiefly to perish, because they would not receive the name of the Savior. That tower represents Him who is the tower of strength. And this is rightly in Siloam, which is interpreted, “sent;” for it signifies Him who, sent by the Father, came into the world, and who shall grind to powder all on whom He falls.

Ver  6. He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.7. Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none; cut it down: why cumbers it the ground?8. And he answering; said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:9. And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down.

TIT. BOST. The Jews were boasting, that while the eighteen had perished, they all remained unhurt. He therefore sets before them the parable of the fig tree, for it follows, He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard.

AMBROSE; There was a vineyard of the Lord of hosts, which He gave for a spoil to the Gentiles. And the comparison of the fig tree to the synagogue is well chosen, because as that tree abounds with wide and spreading foliage, and deceives the hopes of its possessor with the vain expectation of promised fruit, so also in the synagogue, while its teachers are unfruitful in good works, yet magnify themselves with words as with abundant leaves, the empty shadow of the law stretches far and wide. This tree also is the only one which puts forth fruit in place of flowers. And the fruit falls, that other fruit may succeed; yet some few of the former remain, and do not fall. For the first people of the synagogue fell off as a useless fruit, in order that out of the fruitfulness of the old religion might arise the new people of the Church; yet they who were the first out of Israel whom a branch of a stronger nature bore, under the shadow of the law and the cross, in the bosom of both, stained with a double juice after the example of a ripening fig, surpassed all others in the grace of most excellent fruits; to whom it is said, You shall sit upon twelve thrones. Some however think the fig tree to be a figure not of the synagogue, but of wickedness and treachery; y et these differ in nothing from what has gone before, except that they choose the genus instead of the species.

BEDE; The Lord Himself who established the synagogue by Moses, came born in the flesh, and frequently teaching in the synagogue, sought for the fruits of faith, but in the hearts of the Pharisees found none; therefore it follows, And came seeking fruit on it, and found none.

AMBROSE; But our Lord sought, not because He was ignorant that the fig tree had no fruit, but that He might show in a figure that the synagogue ought by this time to have fruit. Lastly, from what follows, He teaches that He Himself came not before the time who came after three years. For so it is said, Then said he to the dresser of the vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none. He came to Abraham, He came to Moses, He came to Mary, that is, He came in the seal of the covenant, He came in the law, He came in the body. We recognise His coming by His gifts; at one time purification, at another sanctification, at another justification. Circumcision purified, the law sanctified, grace justified. The Jewish people then could not be purified because they had not the circumcision of the heart, but of the body; nor be sanctified, because ignorant of the meaning of the law, they followed carnal things rather than spiritual; nor justified, because not working repentance for the their offences, they knew nothing of grace. Rightly then was there no fruit found in the synagogue, and consequently it is ordered to be cut down; for it follows, Cut it down, why cumbers it the ground? But the merciful dresser, perhaps meaning him on whom the Church is founded, foreseeing that another would be sent to the Gentiles, but he himself to them who were of the circumcision, piously intercedes that it may not be cut off; trusting to his calling, that the Jewish people also might be saved through the Church.

Hence it follows, And he answering said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also. He soon perceived hardness of bears and pride to be the causes of the barrenness of the Jews. He knew therefore how to discipline, who knew how to censure faults. Therefore adds He, till I shall dig about it. He promises that the hardness of their hearts shall be dug about by the Apostles’ spades, lest a heap of earth cover up and obscure the root of wisdom. And He adds, and dung it, that is, by the grace of humility, by which even the fig is thought to become fruitful toward the Gospel of Christ. Hence He adds, And if it bear fruit, well, that is, it shall be well, but if not, then after that you shall cut it down.

BEDE; Which indeed came to pass under the Romans, by whom the Jewish nation was cut off, and thrust out from the land of promise.

AUG. Or, in another sense, the fig tree is the race of mankind. For the first man after he had sinned concealed with fig leaves his nakedness, that is, the members from which we derive our birth.

THEOPHYL. But each one of us also is a fig tree planted in the vineyard of God, that is, in the Church, or in the world.

GREG. But our Lord came three times to the fig tree, because He sought after man’s nature before the law, under the law, and under grace, by waiting, admonishing, visiting; but yet He complains that for three years he found no fruit, for there are some wicked men whose hearts are neither corrected by the law of nature breathed into them, nor instructed by precepts, nor converted by the miracles of His incarnation.

THEOPHYL. Our nature yields no fruit though three times sought for; once indeed when we transgressed the commandment in paradise; the second time, when they made the molten calf under the law; thirdly, when they rejected the Savior. But that three years’ time must be understood to mean also the three ages of life, boyhood, manhood, and old age.

GREG. But with great fear and trembling should we hear the word which follows, Cut it down, why cumbers it the ground. For every one according to his measure, in whatsoever station of life he is, except he show forth the fruits of good works, like an unfruitful tree, cumbers the ground; for wherever he is himself placed, he there denies to another the opportunity of working.

PSEUDO-BASIL; For it is the part of God’s mercy not silently to inflict punishment, but to send forth threatenings to recall the sinner to repentance, as He did to the men of Nineveh, and now to the dresser of the vineyard, saying, Cut it down, exciting him indeed to the care of it, and stirring up the barren soil to bring forth the proper fruits.

GREG. NAZ. Let us not then strike suddenly, but overcome by gentleness, lest we cut down the fig tree still able to bear fruit, which the care perhaps of a skillful dresser will restore. Hence it is also here added, And he answering said to him, Lord, let alone, &c.

GREG. By the dresser of the vineyard is represented the order of Bishops, who, by ruling over the Church, take care of our Lord’s vineyard.

THEOPHYL. Or the master of the household is God the Father, the dresser is Christ, who will not have the fig tree cut down as barren, as if saying to the Father, Although through the Law and the Prophets they gave no fruit of repentance, I will water them with My sufferings and teaching, and perhaps they will yield us fruits of obedience.

AUG. Or, the husbandmen who intercedes is every holy man who ho within the Church prays for them that are without the Church, saying, O Lord, O Lord, let it alone this year, that is, for that time vouchsafed under grace, until I dig about it. To dig about it, is to teach humility and patience, for the ground which has been dug is lowly. The dung signifies the soiled garments, but they bring forth fruit. The soiled garment of the dresser, is the grief and mourning of sinners; for they who do penance and do it truly are in soiled garments.

GREG. Or, the sins of the flesh are called the dung. From this then the tree revives to bear fruit again, for from the remembrance of sin the soul quickens itself to good works. But there are very many who hear reproof, and yet despise the return to repentance; wherefore it is added, And if it bear fruit, well.

AUG. That is, it will be well, but if not, then after that you shall cut it down; namely, when you shall come to judge the quick and the dead. In the mean time it is now spared.

GREG. But he who will not by correction grow rich to fruitfulness, falls to that place from whence he is no more able to rise again by repentance.

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 12:9-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 28, 2011

Text in red are my additions.

9. Let love be without dissimulation. Hating that which is evil, cleaving to that which is good.

Love (η αγαπη), i.e., charity toward God and the neighbor.

Without dissimulation, i.e., without hypocrisy (ανυποκριτος), sincere, and not from the lips only (2 Cor 6:6; 1 John 3:18).

Hating that which is evil, etc. Our love for our neighbor should be regulated according to a stern and uncompromising moral standard, and so should detest evil and seek good wherever they are found.

10. Loving one another with the charity of brotherhood, with honour preventing one another.

In verses 10-21 there is a remarkable series of coordinated participles, adjectives, infinitives (verse 15) and imperatives,—all of which have an imperative sense. The participles are expressive of habits which manifest themselves in daily life.

With the charity of brotherhood. The Christians, being all of one faith and of one family, whose head is Christ, should have a fraternal love for one another. And this brotherly love among the Christians should prompt them to be eager to exhibit mutual signs of respect, one trying to get a start on the other, in external
manifestations of honor and esteem (Cornely). Fr. Lagrange and others think St. Paul is speaking here of interior sentiments, rather than of external demonstrations. Naturally, however, the internal habit would show itself in external actions.

The fraternitatis of the Vulgate would better be fraterna.

11. In carefulness not slothful. In spirit fervent. Serving the Lord.

In carefulness, etc., i.e., in regard to solicitude we should be active and diligent in helping others and in executing our private duties.

In spirit fervent, i.e., acting with great fervor of mind under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Serving the Lord. We should be animated with a spirit of great fervor, because we are serving our Lord Jesus Christ, to whose service we are entirely dedicated. The reading of the Vulgate, Domino servientes, is according to the best Greek reading, τω κυριω δουλευοντες; rather than serving the time, i.e., making good use of one’s time and opportunities.

12. Rejoicing in hope. Patient in tribulation. Instant in prayer.

Rejoicing in hope, i.e., be joyous in the hope of heavenly rewards which wait upon the fervent Christian; be patient in tribulation, i.e., be constant and persevering (υπομενοντες) in trials, which lead to hope (v. 4) and increase your merits for future blessedness; be instant in prayer, i.e., be habitually devoted to prayer by which you obtain from God the grace necessary to observe all the other precepts of the law.

13. Communicating to the necessities of the saints. Pursuing hospitality.

Communicating, etc., i.e., imparting aid, when necessary, to your fellow-Christians, the saints, regarding their need as your own.

Pursuing hospitality. The practice of hospitality is often inculcated in the New Testament (Heb 13:3; Titus 1:8; 1 Tim 3:2; 1 Pet 4:9), and was most necessary, because many of the Christians had been forced to leave all things to follow Christ.

14. Bless them that persecute you: bless, and curse not.

Bless, etc. Although the Christians were subject to more or less constant persecution for their faith, still it was their duty to return good for evil, to love those that hated them, etc., as our Lord had commanded (Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27, etc.). The Apostle admonishes the Christians to wish their enemies well, and not to curse them. This was a vastly different spirit from that of the Jews who introduced into their official prayers maledictions against the Christians (cf. Lagrange, Le Messianisme, etc., p. 294).

15. Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep.

Rejoice . . . weep. The infinitives here in Greek have an imperative meaning. Since the Christians are all members of one body, each one should share in the joy or sorrow of each other one. The Apostle says first, rejoice with them that rejoice, because, as St. Chrys. observes, “it requires a very generous soul, when your neighbor prospers, not only not to envy him, but even to rejoice with him; whereas only a stony heart is unmoved by the distress of another.”

16. Being of one mind one towards another. Not minding high things,
but consenting to the humble. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Being of one mind, etc. The Apostle again counsels the Christians to cultivate modesty and humility—virtues which will promote mutual agreement among them, causing each one to feel and act towards his neighbor as towards himself. No one should on account of birth, riches or the like, consider himself better than his neighbor, because all are one with Christ (Gal 3:28), and there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, rich nor poor.

Not minding high things, etc., i.e., in the social order, not in the intellectual and moral orders.

Consenting to the humble, i.e., condescending to humble offices, being contented with humble gifts, not refusing to do anything, however lowly, provided it be good. Another interpretation understands the Apostle to mean that the Christians should condescend to live on a level and associate with those of lower condition of life and of lower culture. This interpretation makes τοις ταπεινοις (“but consenting to the humble”)  masculine here, as it is everywhere else in the Old and New Testaments, with the possible exception of Psalm 136:6; whereas the other understands it to be neuter, to refer to things and not to persons. Those who make the phrase neuter are influenced by the antithesis to τα υψηλα (“not minding higher things”).

Be not wise, etc., i.e., do not entertain so high an opinion of your own judgment as to despise and refuse the counsel of others; avoid self-conceit.

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Bernardin de Piconio on 1 Cor 4:1-5 for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Extraordinary Form)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 13, 2010

1. Thus let man esteem us, as ministers of Christ, and dispensers of the mysteries of God.
2. Now here it is required among dispensers, that one be found faithful.
3. But to me it is of very little moment to be judged
by you, or by a human day: but neither do I judge myself.
4. For I am conscious of nothing to myself: but not in this am I justified: but he who judges me, is the Lord.
5. Therefore do not judge before the time, until the Lord come: who both will illuminate what is hidden in darkness, and manifest the counsels of hearts: and then shall be praise to everyone from God.

Chapter 4. In this chapter the Apostle severely censures the conceited and presumptuous teachers who had undertaken the instruction of the Christians of Corinth, and threatens them with the Divine displeasure.

1. Do not glory in men (3:21), but when you pay us honour, honour us only as the ministers of Christ, not for any eloquence or attainments of our own. Let man esteem us, is a Hebraism: Let everyone so esteem us. As ministers serving: and representing Christ : as dispensers, in the Greek stewards, of his mysteries, the doctrine of the Gospel, and the sacraments of the Church. The admonition is addressed to both sides. Prelates to remember that they are Christ’s servants; the faithful, not to glorify them for their personal merits, but not despise them, for the honour of him whose ministry they bear.

2. Now here. The Greek has, for the rest. The Syriac version reads as the Vulgate. What is required of a steward is not eloquent language, rhetoric, or philosophy; but fidelity. This is certainly his principal recommendation. How do your teachers stand this test? Are they faithful to the ministry they exercise?

3. It is of very little moment to be judged by you. For the Corinthians were always discussing their teachers, and comparing them. They ridiculed men who were good and holy, for their simplicity; but they thought a great deal of others, who were evil and full of faults, on account of their power of speaking. Saint Chrysostom. To me, your judgment is a matter I cannot seriously regard; compared with God’s, it is nothing, a very little thing. Or by a human day. A trial before an earthly tribunal, from the day fixed for the hearing.

Jer 17:6. The day of man I have not desired. I have had no solicitude about earthly judgment and human opinion. I do not even judge myself, for I am often ignorant from what end I act, with what motive, with what degree of knowledge. I am not indeed conscious of having neglected the ministry entrusted to me. I am conscious of nothing to myself; but it does not follow from this that I am free from fault in the sight of God. Who understands his faults? Ps 18:13. He finds error in his angels, Job 4:18. Of the greater part of our offences against God we are absolutely ignorant. St. Basil, in const, monach. 1. It is God who will judge me; and he knows not only what I do, but all my thoughts, intentions, objects, and motives, of which I am very imperfectly cognizant myself, and of which others know nothing.

5. Therefore do not judge before the time. Suspend your judgment upon your teachers, until you learn what the judj:3fment of God will be at the last day. Until the Lord comes. Wait for the arrival of Christ, the Judge of all. He will throw the full light of day upon all the actions of men, whether good or evil; and bring into that light not actions only, but the counsels of hearts, the will, latent in the heart, the design and intention with which all was done. Then shall it appear what degree of praise is really due to each of us, whose merits you so eagerly and busily compare. That praise will be real and true, as coming from him who searches the hearts of all men. That which comes from man is vain and worthless.

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Bernardine de Picquigny: Notes on Romans 1:13-19.

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 5, 2010

Notes in red are my additions.  To see more notes on Romans you can click on the Notes on Romans link in the link field under my blog’s header.

1:13.  But I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that I have often proposed to come to you, though hitherto prevented, that I man have some fruit among you also, as among other nations.

It is not my fault that I have not visited you, for I have often intended it, but have been hindered by other more urgent Apostolic labors, in countries where Christ is not yet known.

St Paul’s primary concern was to preach where Christ “is not named” (i.e., known and believed in).  This was at least part of the reason for his unfulfilled desire: “And I have so preached this gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man a foundation.   But as it is written: They to whom he was not spoken of shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.  For which cause also, I was hindered very much from coming to you and have been kept away till now (Rom 15:20-22).

1:14.  I am debtor to Greeks and Barbarians, wise and unwise.

The Greeks distinguished the human race into Greeks and Barbarians, including in this name all nations who did not speak Greek.  In this sense the Romans themselves would be Barbarians.  But St Paul doubtless understands here by Greeks the nations who were civilized, as the Romans were, by the wisdom of the Greeks, and by Barbarians, those who were uncultivated and savage.  Wise and unwise; clever and stupid; learned and illiterate.  It is impossible not to admire St Paul’s grandeur of soul, which takes in the whole world in its embrace, accepts the entire human race and all nations of the earth, as his disciples, to whom he owes a debt of obligation.  “Generous soul!” exclaims St Chrysostom.  Thou, in thy measure, consider thyself all men’s debtor; instruct all, as thou canst.  The Pastor especially owes himself wholly to his flock, and cannot without guile neglect a single sheep.

St Paul is in debt to all men because it was for their sake that he himself received mercy from God: “A faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief.  But for this cause have I obtained mercy: that in me first Christ Jesus might shew forth all patience, for the information of them that shall believe in him unto life everlasting” (1 Tim 1:15-16).

See 1Co 9:19  For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.
1Co 9:20  And I became to the Jews a Jew, that I might gain the Jews: To them that are under the law, as if I were under the law, (whereas myself was not under the law,) that I might gain them that were under the law.
1Co 9:21  To them that were without the law, as if I were without the law, (whereas I was not without the law of God, but was in the law of Christ,) that I might gain them that were without the law.
1Co 9:22  To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.
1Co 9:23  And I do all things for the gospel’s sake, that I may be made partaker thereof (see also Romans 15:7-13).


1:15.  Thus I am ready, as far as lies in me, to preach the Gospel to you also, who are in Rome. 1:16a. For I do not blush for the Gospel.

To you, in your imperial City, as at Antioch, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, and elsewhere, I am ready to preach the Gospel, though Christ crucified is to the Jews a scandal, and folly to the Greeks (1 Cor 1:23).


1:16b.  ….It is the power of God to salvation to every believer, the Jew first, and the Greek.

It is the power of God to salvation. The incarnation, passion, and death of the Son of God are powerful and effectual means of conferring eternal salvation on all who believe; who believe fully, and do what this Gospel teaches.

To the Jew first.  Because to the Jews the Messiah was promised.  Hence Christ himself first preached to the Jews, and to the Jews first sent the Apostles.

To the Greeks.  The Gentile, because, as observed above, from the time of Alexander the nations commonly spoke Greek.

The need of both Jew and Gentile (Greek) for the Gospel is a major theme of this letter; for both are under sin and need God’s merciful grace.

1:17.  For the justice of God is therein revealed from faith to faith, as it is written: But the just liveth of faith.

The description of the Gospel in verse 16, as the power of God to salvation, to all believers, leads the Apostle, after this introduction, to that which is the principle subject matter of this Epistle; the nature of the justice which this Gospel proclaims, and the condition on which it is granted, namely, Faith.

In the Gospel of the justice of God is revealed; proceeding, not from the law, as the Jews suppose; or from the powers of nature, as the Gentiles maintain; but from faith in Christ.  And to faith; for faith grows and increases, and is made perfect by charity, as the Prophet Habacuc (Habakkuk) says: The just man liveth of faith (2:4).  The Greek has shall live, liveth the life of grace here, shall live the life of glory hereafter, for this also is, in a sense, of faith, because by faith it is won.

The justice of God, in this Epistle, does not signify that by which God is just, but that by which he makes man just.  This justice is the spiritual life of the just.  As the animal man lives of things sensible, and the philosophical man lives of reason, so the Christian lives of justice.  The root of justice is faith, and therefore, as the Council of Trent says (Sess. vi. 8) faith is absolutely necessary to justification.  But it does not follow, as the heretics maintain, that faith alone is necessary.  The foundation is necessary to the building, but not all that is required.  The heart is necessary for animal life, but so are the lungs and the head.  Faith alone is dead; and how can the soul live by what is dead?

1:18.  For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven upon all ungodliness and injustice of those men who detain the truth of God in injustice.

The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven, because Christ will come from Heaven to judgment.  The revelation of the wrath of God is intended to bring sinners to salvation, so that here also the Gospel is the power of God to Salvation.

Who detain the truth of God in injustice.  Who know the truth, but by their evil lives oppress and crush it, like a prisoner in the depth of a gloomy dungeon.

1:19.  Because what is known of God is manifest in them; for God hath manifested it to them.

What is known of God, or capable of being known by reason and the light of nature, is perfectly known to the Gentiles, God having revealed it by that intellectual light which he has imparted to all his intelligent creatures.

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A Practical Commentary on Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 8, 2010

For more commentaries relating to Luke 15:1-3, 11-32 and the other readings for the 4th Sunday of Lent go here.

The following consists of the text of the Prodigal Son, interspersed with brief note, there then follows at the end a commentary

Luk 15:11  And he said: A certain man had two sons.
Luk 15:12  And the younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his substance.

Falleth to me.  According to the Jewish law of inheritance the younger son received only half as much as the eldest, but as long as his father was alive he could count on nothing.  The father was therefore in no way bound to give his son his future inheritance during his own life-time; but rather than force him to stay at home against his will, he gave it to him, though he knew very well that his son would soon squander away his fortune.

Luk 15:13  And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country: and there wasted his substance, living riotously.

A far country.  He hoped to have more liberty away from his father’s house.  he chafed under the discipline of his home-life, and his father’s supervision.  he considered the restraints unnecessary and undignified, and felt sure that he would be happier, if he were his own master and could do just as he liked.  The calm happiness of his father’s house no longer satisfied him.  He thought it monotonous and wearisome, and pined for the license of noisy pleasures, picturing to himself a happy life in the vortex of the world.  His father warned him, but he cast his warnings to the four winds, and defiantly left his home.

Living riotously. Joining himself to flatterers and lewd companions, and indulging in drinking, banqueting and unworthy pleasures.

Luk 15:14  And after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country: and he began to be in want.

In want.  For his “friends” quickly forsook him, when they could get nothing more out of him.

Luk 15:15  And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine.
Luk 15:16  And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

Feed swine.  He had to accept the most degrading situation to save himself from dying of starvation.  His labors, however, were so badly paid that often he had not enough to eat, suffered bitter hunger, and even envied the swine their food.  Poor, unhappy man, how miserable he was!  Once the proud and headstrong son of a rich father, he was now clothed in rags, despised, emaciated, and hungry!

Luk 15:17  And returning to himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father’s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger!

Returning to himself.  What a deep and striking expression!  In the same sense it may be said that he had hitherto been out of himself, or beside himself.  he had never thought seriously either of himself or of his future; he had been given over to pleasure, and had lived carelessly from day to day.  Now bitter necessity forced him to enter into himself, and to ask himself why he was reduced to such a miserable condition, and what was to become of him.  He called to mind his happy life in his father’s house, and sorrowfully reminded himself that even his father’s hired day-laborers were better off than he was now.  He recognized that he had only himself to thank for his state of misery, and while repenting of having ever left his home, he made the resolution to return at once to his father, to confess his sin, and humbly beg to be received by him once more.

Luk 15:18  I will arise and will go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee.

I have sinned.  He took all the blame upon himself, and did not try to excuse himself on the score of his youth, or the influence of bad companions.

Against heaven.  Against God, my heavenly Father.

Before thee.  Against thee, my earthly father.

Luk 15:19  I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

I am not worthy.  How humble had he become who was once so proud!  he was not willing to serve his father in the lowest position, and to do any work, if only he would forgive him.

Luk 15:20  And rising up, he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and was moved with compassion and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him.

And rising up.  He carried out his resolution at once.  No doubt he said to himself: “What will people say when they see me returning home in such a wretched state!” but he overcame all false shame and was bravely resolved to accept every consequence of his sin-if only he could obtain his father’s forgiveness.

His father saw him.  Every day he went to look out, in the hope that he might see his son returning.

Luk 15:21  And the son said to him: Father: I have sinned against heaven and before thee I am not now worthy to be called thy son.
Luk 15:22  And the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe and put it on him: and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet
.

The first robe, ring and shoes.  The father, seeing his wretched condition, was moved to intense pity, and at once ordered the servants to restore to him all the garments and ornaments befitting a son of the family.

Luk 15:23  And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it: and let us eat and make merry:
Luk 15:24  Because this my son was dead and is come to life again, was lost and is found. And they began to be merry.

Make merry…And they began to be merry.  Picture to yourselves the emotion of the son, the heartfelt joy of the father, and the rejoicing of all the servants that their master, whom they all loved and honored, should no longer have to grieve over his lost child.

Dead. Meaning “dead to me.”

Luk 15:25  Now his elder son was in the field and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing.
Luk 15:26  And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.
Luk 15:27  And he said to him: Thy brother is come and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe.
Luk 15:28  And he was angry and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him
.

Entreat him. To come and take part in the rejoicings.

Luk 15:29  And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve thee and I have never transgressed thy commandment: and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends.
Luk 15:30  But as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf
.

And answering.  The elder son could not understand his father’s treatment of the returned prodigal, and in his vexation made out to himself that his father loved his brother better than himself.

Luk 15:31  But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me; and all I have is thine.
Luk 15:32  But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found
.

Thou art always with me.  “You therefore, have far more than your brother.  Are you not aware of your happiness in never having left me?”

Commentary:

By this beautiful parable our Blessed Lord teaches us how willing Almighty God is to receive the penitent sinner, and how rejoiced He is at his return.  Our Lord describes: 1. the falling away of a sinner from God; 2. the return of the sinner to God; and 3. God’s reception of the penitent sinner.

The father in the parable signifies god; the elder son, the just; and the younger son, the sinner.

A.  Man begins to fall away from God by allowing unlawful desires to take possession of his heart.  In consequence, he will soon come to regard God’s commandments as so many fetters, and to long for greater license.  He loses all taste for prayer and the word of God, and imagines that he would be a happier man if he could live according to his passions.  Having thus separated himself inwardly from God, an outward separation speedily follows.  he renounces the friendship of good men, neglects the services of the Church and the frequenting of the Sacraments, follows his own way, and shamelessly transgresses God’s commandments.  He then goes into a strange and distant land, namely further and further from God: the “far country”, says St Augustine, “signifies the forgetfulness of God.”

Almighty God lets the sinner go his own way, for He has given to man free-will, and does not want a forced obedience, but an obedience springing from love.

In his forgetfulness of God, the sinner squanders his fortune, i.e., the natural and supernatural gifts which he has received, using his natural gifts, his health, his physical powers, and his reason, to offend God.  He acts most unjustly and ungratefully towards his Creator and Benefactor, and loses the grace of God, merit, and the heirship to heaven.

The sinner, having forsaken the service of his God, falls into the servitude of Satan, and becomes the slave of his lowest passions, which are signified by the swine which the prodigal was constrained to feed.  But the more he obeys his passions, the more dissatisfied does he become.  No pleasure of the senses can give him happiness, and he feels a void and spiritual hunger in his heart which he is powerless to appease.  He knows no rest; he only knows that he is miserable, and hateful to himself, and he bitterly tastes the truth of the words of Scripture: “Know thou, and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God” (Jer 2:19).

B.  The sinner’s conversion or return to God begins by a sincere examination of his own heart.  Like the prodigal, he must enter into himself, and face the grievousness and number of his sins.  He must, by the help of God’s grace, confess that his conduct has been wrong, ungrateful, and foolish, and that he is miserable simply because he has forsaken God.  He must try to recall the joy and peace which were his, before he fell into sin; and he must gaze into the future, at death, judgment and eternity.  Then there will rise within him a longing desire to be at peace with god, and orrow and repentance for having ever separated himself from Him.

The prodigal son lost a great deal, but he did not lose faith in his father’s mercy, and therefore did not despair.  Thus a sinner must fan the flame of his faith in God’s mercy, and the hope of forgiveness; and this faith and hope will move him to form resolutions of amendment.  “I will arise and go to my father,” was the resolution made by the prodigal.  This resolution was a sincere one, for he determined (a) to return home and thus avoid sin and the occasions of sin; (b) to humble himself, confess his sin, and obey his father; and (c) to do penance by hard, servile work and self-abasement.

The prodigal’s contrition was real, interior and supernatural; therefore he hastened to cast himself humbly at his father’s feet, confess his sin, and implore his pardon.  The confession of sins is the obvious and necessary expression of contrition, and is the indispensable condition of forgiveness.

C.  God’s reception of the penitent sinner.  The prodigal son carried out his good resolutions at once.  Thus must it be with the sinner: he must not put off his conversion, but must be reconciled to God as soon as possible.  And then, even as the father in the parable went to meet his son and received him lovingly, so will God meet the sinner by His merciful grace, forgive him his sins, and give him the kiss of peace.  Then, by the hands of  his servants (i.e., the priests), He re-clothes him with robes of innocence, i.e., sanctifying grace, and adorns him again with supernatural virtues befitting the state of a divine sonship (symbolized by the ring), and enabling him to walk justly before God (symbolized by the shoes).  Finally, God prepares a feast for the converted sinner, giving to him the Lamb of God, for the nourishment of the soul, in Holy Communion.  The Lord God rejoices and calls on all His Angels and Saints to rejoice with Him, because a man who was dead, who had lost the supernatural life of grace, and who was under the sentence of eternal death, is alive again, and is once more a child of God and an heir of heaven.

Mortal Sin.  Our Lord Himself in this parable describes a sinner as one who is dead: therefore we are right in using the term “mortal” sin.

God’s incomprehensible love of penitent sinners. Though the sinner has offended Him so grievously and so often, yet He reproaches him not, but forgives him everything, and restores him to his former rights and dignity of sonship.  God alone can love in this way, and to us this sort of love is inconceivable.  Our Lord portrays this narrow-mindedness of ours in the conclusion of the parable.  The elder son cannot understand his father’s joy; he murmurs at it, and refuses to take part in it; and even professes to believe that his father prefers the returned prodigal to himself, the faithful, obedient and industrious son.  By this behavior of the elder son our Lord signifies the jealousy of the Pharisees, who considered themselves  to be just, and murmured at the deep interest which Jesus took in sinners.  By the father’s answer in the parable our Lord shows how very unjustifiable any such jealousy would be.  The just man ought to think of the great happiness which he has had of being always in the love and grace of God: and if he will try to realize what the infinite love of God is for every soul which He has made, he will rejoice with God as often as a soul which had been lost is found or saved.  As the angels rejoice over the return of the prodigal, so ought we to rejoice over the conversion of sinners!

Application:  You too have offended God, though perhaps not so grievously as did the sinner in the parable; and God has forgiven you your sins in the holy Sacrament of Penance.  Have you thanked Him for this?  You ought to make a devout thanksgiving each time you have been to confession.  Do not repay the love of your god with fresh ingratitude.

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Preparing for Pentecost, Post #7: The Holy Spirit and the Era of the Church

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 28, 2009

The Holy Spirit and the Era of the Church

25. “Having accomplished the work that the Father had entrusted to the Son on earth (cf. Jn 17:4), on the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was sent to sanctify the Church forever, so that believers might have access to the Father through Christ in one Spirit (cf. Eph 2:18). He is the Spirit of life, the fountain of water springing up to eternal life (cf. Jn 4:14; 7:38ff.), the One through whom the Father restores life to those who are dead through sin, until one day he will raise in Christ their mortal bodies” (cf. Rom 8:10f.).92

In this way the Second Vatican Council speaks of the Church’s birth on the day of Pentecost. This event constitutes the definitive manifestation of what had already been accomplished in the same Upper Room on Easter Sunday. The Risen Christ came and “brought” to the Apostles the Holy Spirit. He gave him to them, saying “Receive the Holy Spirit.” What had then taken place inside the Upper Room, “the doors being shut,” later, on the day of Pentecost is manifested also outside, in public. The doors of the Upper Room are opened and the Apostles go to the inhabitants and the pilgrims who had gathered in Jerusalem on the occasion of the feast, in order to bear witness to Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way the prediction is fulfilled: “He will bear witness to me: and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”93

We read in another document of the Second Vatican Council: “Doubtless, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the world before Christ was glorified. Yet on the day of Pentecost, he came down upon the disciples to remain with them for ever. On that day the Church was publicly revealed to the multitude, and the Gospel began to spread among the nations by means of preaching.”94

The era of the Church began with the “coming,” that is to say with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, together with Mary, the Lord’s Mother.95 The time of the Church began at the moment when the promises and predictions that so explicitly referred to the Counselor, the Spirit of truth, began to be fulfilled in complete power and clarity upon the Apostles, thus determining the birth of the Church. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this at length and in many passages, which state that in the mind of the first community, whose convictions Luke expresses, the Holy Spirit assumed the invisible-but in a certain way “perceptible”-guidance of those who after the departure of the Lord Jesus felt profoundly that they had been left orphans. With the coming of the Spirit they felt capable of fulfilling the mission entrusted to them. They felt full of strength. It is precisely this that the Holy Spirit worked in them and this is continually at work in the Church, through their successors. For the grace of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles gave to their collaborators through the imposition of hands continues to be transmitted in Episcopal Ordination. The bishops in turn by the Sacrament of Orders render the sacred ministers sharers in this spiritual gift and, through the Sacrament of Confirmation, ensure that all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit are strengthened by this gift. And thus, in a certain way, the grace of Pentecost is perpetuated in the Church.

As the Council writes, “the Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). In them he prays and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15-16:26). The Spirit guides the Church into the fullness of truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and gives her a unity of fellowship and service. He furnishes and directs her with various gifts, both hierarchical and charismatic, and adorns her with the fruits of his grace (cf Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22). By the power of the Gospel he makes the Church grow, perpetually renews her and leads her to perfect union with her Spouse.”96

26. These passages quoted from the Conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium tell us that the era of the Church began with the coming of the Holy Spirit. They also tell us that this era, the era of the Church, continues. It continues down the centuries and generations. In our own century, when humanity is already close to the end of the second Millennium after Christ, this era of the Church expressed itself in a special way through the Second Vatican Council, as the Council of our century. For we know that it was in a special way an “ecclesiological” Council: a Council on the theme of the Church. At the same time, the teaching of this Council is essentially “pneumatological”: it is permeated by the truth about the Holy Spirit, as the soul of the Church. We can say that in its rich variety of teaching the Second Vatican Council contains precisely all that “the Spirit says to the Churches”97 with regard to the present phase of the history of salvation.

Following the guidance of the Spirit of truth and bearing witness together with him, the Council has given a special confirmation of the presence of the Holy Spirit-the Counselor. In a certain sense, the Council has made the Spirit newly “present” in our difficult age. In the light of this conviction one grasps more clearly the great importance of all the initiatives aimed at implementing the Second Vatican Council, its teaching and its pastoral and ecumenical thrust. In this sense also the subsequent Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops are to be carefully studied and evaluated, aiming as they do to ensure that the fruits of truth and love-the authentic fruits of the Holy Spirit-become a lasting treasure for the People of God in its earthly pilgrimage down the centuries. This work being done by the Church for the testing and bringing together of the salvific fruits of the Spirit bestowed in the Council is something indispensable. For this purpose one must learn how to “discern” them carefully from everything that may instead come originally from the “prince of this world.”98 This discernment in implementing the Council’s work is especially necessary in view of the fact that the Council opened itself widely to the contemporary world, as is clearly seen from the important Conciliar Constitutions Gaudium et Spes and Lumen Gentium.

We read in the Pastoral Constitution: “For theirs (i.e., of the disciples of Christ) is a community composed of men. United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly and intimately linked with mankind and its history.”99 “The Church truly knows that only God, whom she serves, meets the deepest longings of the human heart, which is never fully satisfied by what the world has to offer.”100 “God ‘s Spirit. . . with a marvelous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth.”101~Pope John Paul II, ON THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH AND THE WORLD

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 113 (A Christological Interpretation)

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 17, 2009

This was originally posted in relation to the Ascension.

The following is taken (mostly) from A COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS: FROM PRIMITIVE AND MEDIEVAL WRITERS, by J.M. Neale.  Some changes, additions, and omission have been made by me.  Neale’s work is in the public domain.  I also posted a meditation for the Ascension  HERE.  I had hoped to post some notes on the Scripture readings for the Ascension Mass but I was under the weather the last couple of day, and this afternoon I got tangled up arguing with a Jesuit.  I have several posts up in preparation for Pentecost and, God willing, I will stay healthy enough to post a few more.

Introduction:
St Thomas Aquinas gives the following indications of how he viewed this Psalm.

This is a Psalm about Christ who turned the once barren Church (i.e., Israel, see Isa 54:1; Gal 4:21-31) into the fruitfulness of holiness.  In this Psalm it is the voice of the Church which is heard giving praise. It is the voice of the Church to God.   Likewise, it is the voice of the Church which she utters to her faithful children, who are born again in the holy font, whatever be their flesh or age.

St Bede the Venerable gives his view, stating that the Psalm explains the words of its title: “For as it is Alleluia, Praise ye the Lord, so the Psalm itself begins.  The Prophet David in the first part exhorts the devout always to offer praise to God, and to proclaim Him in all the world: Prase the Lord, ye servants.  Secondly, he does himself what he exhorts others to do: Who is like unto the Lord our God?

According to the Syriac Psalter “It is spoken as an earnest warning touching the ministry of the Lord to be performed by the priests at the morning season.  It urges us, a new people, born again of water and the Spirit, that we should be ready to minister, with hearts sprinkled and washed by the Holy Ghost, and with pure minds.

In Gregorian and Monastic usage the Psalm was employed for Vespers on Sundays and Festivals, including Feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Common of Apostles.  The Ambrosian, Parisian, and Lyons Offices or Psalters used it for Vespers on Sundays, and the Quignon for Tuesday Vespers.

The most common Antiphon used with this Psalm in the various ancient Offices was: “Let the Name of the Lord be blessed forever more.”  In light of how the Philippians Canticle ends, this is an thoroughly appropriate antiphon for use on Ascension Thursday.  The Antiphon used in the current Office is based upon John 16:28, “I came forth from the Father and am come into the world: again I leave the world and I go to the Father.”

With this Psalm begins the Hallel, or “Great Alleluia of the Jews,” namely, the group of Psalms 113-118 inclusive, which was sung at the Passover, Pentecost, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Dedication, and on all the New Moons.  At the Passover it was divided into two parts, the first consisting of Psalms 113-114, sung before the second Cup at the Paschal Supper was passed around, and thus consequently before the meal itself, which began immediately after that ceremony.  The second part consisted of Psalms 115-118, sung after the filling of the fourth Cup, and supposed to be “the hymn” which Christ and the Apostles are stated to have sung after the Last Supper, before they went out to Gethsemane (Matt 26:30; Mark 14:26).  It is interesting in another aspect, from forming the intermediate link in Hebrew poetry between the Son of Hannah and the Magnificat, with each of which it has something in common.

Commentary:
Psa 113:1  Alleluia! Praise the Lord, ye children: praise ye the name of the Lord
.   The name of God is used three times in this verse, and we are called upon to praise it three times (The word “Alleluia” means “praise the Lord’).  The LXX and the Latin Vulgate, which the Douay Rheims Translation I am using follows, has the word “children”, whereas the Hebrew has the word “servants.”  Scholars suggest that the word children was inserted by the translators of the LXX (i.e, the Greek Septuagint Translation) under the influence of the Psalm’s ending: “Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children.”  However, the Greek words Paides, and Pais (children and child) are sometimes used for servant(s).

The term “children” denotes purity, innocence, and docility rather than a specific age in life, though the Church has used the Psalm in an accomodated sense in Masses of Christian Burial of Children.  The passage calls to mind several Scripture passages: “Brethren, be not children in understanding, but in regard to malice be ye as children, but in understanding be ye men” (1 Cor 14:20).  “But as we have to enter in at the narrow gate, it behooves us to be like children, who can readily pass through a naroow entrance; and therefore the Lord says, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.  It is out of the mouths of such babes and sucklings as these, that He has perfected praise, as He accepted that of the children in the Temple, when the voices of men were silent.

Scholars are not agreed as to what group the word children/servants applies.  Some hold it is a reference to the priests and levites; others to the angels; others to all the faithful.  In relation to the Ascension however the argument becomes somewhat moot, for at “the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:10-11).

Psa 113:2  Blessed be the name of the Lord, from henceforth now and for ever
. A fitting statement for the Ascension.  “Now and forever” call to mind the vision of Daniel (7:14) and also the words of the Nicene Creed that the Kingdom “will have no end” as the CCC states: 664 Being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the inauguration
of the Messiah’s kingdom, the fulfilment of the prophet Daniel’s vision
concerning the Son of man: “To him was given dominion and glory and
kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his
dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his
kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” 546 After this event the apostles became witnesses of the “kingdom [that] will have no end”. 547 (source)

Psa 113:3  From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is worthy of praise
.  God’s praise is not merely to be ceaseless, but universal; not restricted by the limits of Judea, but extending to the utmost bounds of the earth.  And so He speaks by the mouth of the Propjet: “From the rising up of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My Name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto My Name, and a pure offering; for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord of Hosts” (Mal 1:11).  In which prophecy note that there is the same threefold proclaimation of the Holy Name as in the Psalm, pointing to the same sacred mystery.  And we too, in life and in death, in the morning and the evening of our mortal career, praise the Name of the Lord Jesus for His arsing as the Sun of Righteousness in His Nativity, His setting in the ruddy glow of His Passion, and His rising again as the right morning star of salvation (Cardinal Hugo).

Psa 113:4  The Lord is high above all nations; and his glory above the heavens
. This points without doubt, say the Greek Fathers, to the preaching of the Kingdom of Christ, for the obvious sense here of the Lord being high above the nations (Gentiles) is, not merely that He is of course so in His essence, which would be a bare truism, but that He is the object of love and adoration among the Gentiles, which did not begin to hold good till the Gospel brought the nations to the knowledge of God.  Up to that time, His worship was practically confined to Palestine, and to those scattered synagogues of Jews who looked to jerusalem as their center of worship, but effected very little in bringing proselytes to knell before the Lord.  And in adding His glory is above the heavens, we may see a reference to the Angel carols at the Nativity, and again to the renewed song of triumph at the Ascesion, as well as to His mission of the Paraclete, and thereupon to the Apostles who brought the Gentiles to confess His Name.

Psa 113:5  Who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high:
Psa 113:6  And looketh down on the low things in heaven and in earth?  Once again, in refereence to the Ascension, the verses recall the thought of the ending of Canticle of Philippians.  The “low things in heaven” are the Angels who, in comparison to God their creator are rightly termed low, though some scholars think the term refers to their humility as opposed to that of the fallen Angels.  God looking down also recalls the irony of the Tower of Babel, of which the Ascesnion is a reversal (along with the giving of the Spirit on Pentecost).

In Genesis 11:1-10 we read of man’s attempt to make a name for himself by ascending into heaven via a tower, but with biting comedy the author of the text notes that God had to “go down” to look at what man was attempting.  What man could not do, the God-man has done, ascending into heaven and receiving a name above all others, so that at that name the low things in heaven and in earth must bend the knee.

We on the other hand will receive an name and be taken into heaven only in virtue of a right relationship with Christ, which demands humility: “For thus says the High and Lofty One that inhabits eternity, Whose Name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones: (Isa 57:15).  And the Saint of God, having his conversation in heaven, while here on earth in the body, dwells with God in both places, and is alike lowly and contrite, alike looked on by Him with favor in his spiritual and temporal capacity.  Much more are the words true of Him Who as God ceased not to be in heaven, while as Man He was sorrowful and rejected on earth; and therefore it was most fitting that His Blessed Mother should adapt this Psalm to herself, saying, “He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaiden;’ as He has done ever since to His humble Saints, whether engaged in the heaven of contemplation, or the earth of active life.

Psa 113:7  Raising up the needy from the earth, and lifting up the poor out of the dunghill:
Psa 113:8  That he may place him with princes, with the princes of his people
.
These words are taken with but little variation from the Song of Hannah (1 Sam 2:8), and are recalled, though not exactly cited, in the Magnificat (Lk 1:52).  There are several mystical ideas brought out by the expositors, who understand the simple or needy of the first clause, as Christ Himself, taken up first into mortal existence from the pure earth of His Virgin Mother, taken up again in the Ascension from earth to heaven; while we may read the words also, together with those that follow, ad denoting His deliverance of mankind from the dust earthliness and the mire, or rather, with the LXX, Vulgate, and AV, the dunghill, of pollution.  Some take the dust or earth, as the LXX and Vulgate read, to be the Jews, and they take the Gentiles as being referred to as the dunghill, due to their coarser vices, and they tell us that Christ chooses His elect from both of these indiscriminately, to set them with His Angels and Saints in heaven.  Or we may apply both epithets to the Gentiles alone, the first denoting the meaness and poverty of their notions about God; the second, the foulness of their idolatrous rites, and then we are taught that God puts them on a level with the Jews, truly the princes of His people, for Israel denotes a “Prince with God.”

In reference to Christ, more than one saint (e.g., Chrysostom) reminds us that by His birth in the manger-stable, He was literally brought down in His humiliation to the dunghill, whence He was exalted again to riches and honor (resurrection/Ascension), whereof holy Job was a type.  And as regards His members, they tell us that voluntary self-abasement and penitence, typified by the dunghill, is the first step towards being lifted up by the Lord, and set with His princes; not taking honor to ourselves (as the men of Babel tried to do), till He calls us, lest He should say: “They have set up kings, but not by me: they have made princes, and I knew it not” (Hos 8:4).

Psa 113:9  Who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children
. To dwell in a house.  That is, not merely to have a setled position and dwelling, as possessing a family, but also in the colloquial sense in which we use the phrase.  For a barren wife was often divorced, or made inferior in the household to another who had borne children, aleit brought in at a later date, and it is not improbable that a claim to hold the position of domestic authority as the mother of Abraham’s firstborn son is implied in the words of Hagar, that “her mistress was despised in her eyes.”  There is a threefold interpretation of this verse in a mystical sense.  The first, and that most followed, takes it of the Gentile Church, raised to a position of superiority over the Jewish, according to the words of isaiah, adopted later and republished by St Paul: “Sing, O barren, thou that did not ear; break forth into song an d cry aloud, thou that did not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, says the Lord.  Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine dwellings: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes: for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and thy seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.  Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, an dshalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood anymore.  For thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of Hosts is His Name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall He be called.  For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken, and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, says thy God” (Isa 54:1; Gal 4:27).  Next, they take the verse of a soul heretofore unfruitful in good works, but wedded to Christ by repentance and love, and bringing forth abundant progeny to Him; and finally, it is understood of the great company of the Virgin Saints of the Church in the Religious Life, having many more spiritual descendants, many more children of Paula, Scholastica, and Clara, and Teresa, than can be numbered by the most fruitful progenetrix of secular races, even as the Blessed Mary herself, though ever-Virgin, is, by her Son, the Mother of all Christians.  So runs the hymn in honor of St Clare, dwelling on her house and her children alike:

A virgin mother daughters bears,
Who know her true maternal cares,
Christ’s brides, and partners of His reign,
Who know not foul pollution’s stain.

Now far and wide through many a land
The rising convent building stand,
And clearly shines the mother’s fame,
As throngs of sisters bear her name.

Glory be to the Father, Who is high aove all the nations; glory be to the Son, Who humbled Himself to behold us on earth, and lifted us up from the dunghill; glory be to the Holy Ghost, Who makes the barren woman to dwell in a house.

Collects:
Almighty God, we who praise Thy holy Name, beseech Thee that as Thou hast placed us in the osom of our Mother, the Church, so Thou wouldst unite us in steadfastness of love (Ludolph).

O Lord, Who dwellest on hing, and beholdest the things in heaven and on earth; graciously bow Thyself down to us, and as Thou hast promised men the bliss of Angels, vouchsafe to mould us to angelic obedience (Mozarabic)

O Lord Most High, Who beholdest the lowly, grant us lowliness that we might please Thee, nor suffer pride to remain with us, which Thou throwest afar off and destroyest when near; that, of Thy mercy, the haughtiness which casteth down may depart from our mind, and contrition which bringeth glory may abide in our heart (Mozarabic).

O God, Whose Name is blessed from the rising up of the sun unto the going down of the same; fill our heart with knowledge, and commit the serive of Thy praise to our mouth, that as Thou art blessed with due homage thoughout the ages, so Thou mayest be praised from sunrise to sunset  with the harmonious voice of all men (Mozarabic).

O Lord, Who art high above all the nations, and dwellest gloriously in the heavens, look down mercifully from Thy lofty place on our humility, and as Thy Church, which was once afflicted with barreness, now believing in Thee is full of the merits of holiness and fruitful in sons; so our soul, barren by reason of unfruitfulness in works, may of Thy bounty both receive the seed of the Word, and abound in plentious fruits, and zealously strive to love Thy mighty Name with unanimity of heart from the sun-rising to the sun-seting, and to praise it with agreement in faith.(Mozarabic).

O our God, Whose dwelling is on high, and Who liftest the poor up from the dunghill, mercifully look upon us Thy humble servants on earth, and raise us to the heights of holiness, that we may advance therein daily, and persevere without fainting (Dionysius the Carthusian)

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