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Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae on the Transfiguration of Christ

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 19, 2013

Question 45
Of Christ’s Transfiguration in Four Articles

We now consider Christ’s transfiguration; and here there are four points of inquiry:

(1) Whether it was fitting that Christ should be transfigured?

(2) Whether the clarity of the transfiguration was the clarity of glory?

(3) Of the witnesses of the transfiguration;

(4)  Of the testimony of the Father’s voice.

Article 1: Whether it was fitting that Christ should be transfigured?

Objection 1: It would seem that it was not fitting that Christ should be transfigured. For it is not fitting for a true body to be changed into various shapes [figuras], but only for an imaginary body. Now Christ’s body was not imaginary, but real, as stated above (Q[5], A[1]). Therefore it seems that it should not have been transfigured.

Objection 2: Further, figure is in the fourth species of quality, whereas clarity is in the third, since it is a sensible quality. Therefore Christ’s assuming clarity should not be called a transfiguration.

Objection 3: Further, a glorified body has four gifts, as we shall state farther on (XP, Q[82]), viz. impassibility, agility, subtlety, and clarity. Therefore His transfiguration should not have consisted in an assumption of clarity rather than of the other gifts.

On the contrary, It is written (Matthew 17:2) that Jesus “was transfigured” in the presence of three of His disciples.

I answer that Our Lord, after foretelling His Passion to His disciples, had exhorted them to follow the path of His sufferings (Matthew 16:21,24). Now in order that anyone go straight along a road, he must have some knowledge of the end: thus an archer will not shoot the arrow straight unless he first see the target. Hence Thomas said (John 14:5): “Lord, we know not whither Thou goest; and how can we know the way?” Above all is this necessary when hard and rough is the road, heavy the going, but delightful the end. Now by His Passion Christ achieved glory, not only of His soul, not only of His soul, which He had from the first moment of His conception, but also of His body; according to Luke (24:26): “Christ ought [Vulgate: `ought not Christ’] to have suffered these things, and so to enter into His glory (?).” To which glory He brings those who follow the footsteps of His Passion, according to Acts 14:21: “Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God.” Therefore it was fitting that He should show His disciples the glory of His clarity (which is to be transfigured), to which He will configure those who are His; according to Philippians 3:21: “(Who) will reform the body of our lowness configured [Douay: `made like’] to the body of His glory.” Hence Bede says on Mark 8:39: “By His loving foresight He allowed them to taste for a short time the contemplation of eternal joy, so that they might bear persecution bravely.”

Reply to Objection 1: As Jerome says on Matthew 17:2: “Let no one suppose that Christ,” through being said to be transfigured, “laid aside His natural shape and countenance, or substituted an imaginary or aerial body for His real body. The Evangelist describes the manner of His transfiguration when he says: `His face did shine as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.’ Brightness of face and whiteness of garments argue not a change of substance, but a putting on of glory.”

Reply to Objection 2: Figure is seen in the outline of a body, for it is “that which is enclosed by one or more boundaries” [Euclid, bk i, def. xiv]. Therefore whatever has to do with the outline of a body seems to pertain to the figure. Now the clarity, just as the color, of a non-transparent body is seen on its surface, and consequently the assumption of clarity is called transfiguration.

Reply to Objection 3: Of those four gifts, clarity alone is a quality of the very person in himself; whereas the other three are not perceptible, save in some action or movement, or in some passion. Christ, then, did show in Himself certain indications of those three gifts — of agility, for instance, when He walked on the waves of the sea; of subtlety, when He came forth from the closed womb of the Virgin; of impassibility, when He escaped unhurt from the hands of the Jews who wished to hurl Him down or to stone Him. And yet He is not said, on account of this, to be transfigured, but only on account of clarity, which pertains to the aspect of His Person.

Article 2: Whether this clarity was the clarity of glory?

Objection 1: It would seem that this clarity was not the clarity of glory. For a gloss of Bede on Matthew 17:2, “He was transfigured before them,” says: “In His mortal body He shows forth, not the state of immortality, but clarity like to that of future immortality.” But the clarity of glory is the clarity of immortality. Therefore the clarity which Christ showed to His disciples was not the clarity of glory.

Objection 2: Further, on Luke 9:27 “(That) shall not taste death unless [Vulgate: `till’] they see the kingdom of God,” Bede’s gloss says: “That is, the glorification of the body in an imaginary vision of future beatitude.” But the image of a thing is not the thing itself. Therefore this was not the clarity of beatitude.

Objection 3: Further, the clarity of glory is only in a human body. But this clarity of the transfiguration was seen not only in Christ’s body, but also in His garments, and in “the bright cloud” which “overshaded” the disciples. Therefore it seems that this was not the clarity of glory.

On the contrary, Jerome says on the words “He was transfigured before them” (Matthew 17:2): “He appeared to the Apostles such as He will appear on the day of judgment.” And on Matthew 16:28, “Till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” Chrysostom says: “Wishing to show with what kind of glory He is afterwards to come, so far as it was possible for them to learn it, He showed it to them in their present life, that they might not grieve even over the death of their Lord.”

I answer that The clarity which Christ assumed in His transfiguration was the clarity of glory as to its essence, but not as to its mode of being. For the clarity of the glorified body is derived from that of the soul, as Augustine says (Epistula ad Dioscorus (“Letter to Dioscorus”) cxviii). And in like manner the clarity of Christ’s body in His transfiguration was derived from His God. head, as Damascene says (Orat. de Transfig.) and from the glory of His soul. That the glory of His soul did not overflow into His body from the first moment of Christ’s conception was due to a certain Divine dispensation, that, as stated above (Q[14], A[1], ad 2), He might fulfil the mysteries of our redemption in a passible body. This did not, however, deprive Christ of His power of outpouring the glory of His soul into His body. And this He did, as to clarity, in His transfiguration, but otherwise than in a glorified body. For the clarity of the soul overflows into a glorified body, by way of a permanent quality affecting the body. Hence bodily refulgence is not miraculous in a glorified body. But in Christ’s transfiguration clarity overflowed from His Godhead and from His soul into His body, not as an immanent quality affecting His very body, but rather after the manner of a transient passion, as when the air is lit up by the sun. Consequently the refulgence, which appeared in Christ’s body then, was miraculous: just as was the fact of His walking on the waves of the sea. Hence Dionysius says (Epistula ad Caium Monachorum (“Letter to Caius, Monk”) iv): “Christ excelled man in doing that which is proper to man: this is shown in His supernatural conception of a virgin and in the unstable waters bearing the weight of material and earthly feet.” Wherefore we must not say, as Hugh of St. Victor [Innocent III, De Myst. Miss. iv] said, that Christ assumed the gift of clarity in the transfiguration, of agility in walking on the sea, and of subtlety in coming forth from the Virgin’s closed womb: because the gifts are immanent qualities of a glorified body. On the contrary, whatever pertained to the gifts, that He had miraculously. The same is to be said, as to the soul, of the vision in which Paul saw God in a rapture, as we have stated in the SS, Q[175], A[3], ad 2.

Reply to Objection 1: The words quoted prove, not that the clarity of Christ was not that of glory, but that it was not the clarity of a glorified body, since Christ’s body was not as yet immortal. And just as it was by dispensation that in Christ the glory of the soul should not overflow into the body so was it possible that by dispensation it might overflow as to the gift of clarity and not as to that of impassibility.

Reply to Objection 2: This clarity is said to have been imaginary, not as though it were not really the clarity of glory, but because it was a kind of image representing that perfection of glory, in virtue of which the body will be glorious.

Reply to Objection 3: Just as the clarity which was in Christ’s body was a representation of His body’s future clarity, so the clarity which was in His garments signified the future clarity of the saints, which will be surpassed by that of Christ, just as the brightness of the snow is surpassed by that of the sun. Hence Gregory says (Moralia xxxii) that Christ’s garments became resplendent, “because in the height of heavenly clarity all the saints will cling to Him in the refulgence of righteousness. For His garments signify the righteous, because He will unite them to Himself,” according to Isaiah 49:18: “Thou shalt be clothed with all these as with an ornament.”

The bright cloud signifies the glory of the Holy Ghost or the “power of the Father,” as Origen says (Tract. iii in Matthew), by which in the glory to come the saints will be covered. Or, again, it may be said fittingly that it signifies the clarity of the world redeemed, which clarity will cover the saints as a tent. Hence when Peter proposed to make tents, “a bright cloud overshaded” the disciples.

Article 3: Whether the witnesses of the transfiguration were fittingly chosen?

Objection 1: It would seem that the witnesses of the transfiguration were unfittingly chosen. For everyone is a better witness of things that he knows. But at the time of Christ’s transfiguration no one but the angels had as yet any knowledge from experience of the glory to come. Therefore the witnesses of the transfiguration should have been angels rather than men.

Objection 2: Further, truth, not fiction, is becoming in a witness of the truth. Now, Moses and Elias were there, not really, but only in appearance; for a gloss on Luke 9:30, “They were Moses and Elias,” says: “It must be observed that Moses and Elias were there neither in body nor in soul”; but that those bodies were formed “of some available matter. It is also credible that this was the result of the angelic ministries, through the angels impersonating them.” Therefore it seems that they were unsuitable witnesses.

Objection 3: Further, it is said (Acts 10:43) that “all the prophets give testimony” to Christ. Therefore not only Moses and Elias, but also all the prophets, should have been present as witnesses.

Objection 4: Further, Christ’s glory is promised as a reward to all the faithful (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21), in whom He wished by His transfiguration to enkindle a desire of that glory. Therefore He should have taken not only Peter, James, and John, but all His disciples, to be witnesses of His transfiguration.

On the contrary is the authority of the Gospel.

I answer that Christ wished to be transfigured in order to show men His glory, and to arouse men to a desire of it, as stated above (A[1]). Now men are brought to the glory of eternal beatitude by Christ — not only those who lived after Him, but also those who preceded Him; therefore, when He was approaching His Passion, both “the multitude that followed” and that “which went before, cried saying: `Hosanna,'” as related Matthew 21:9, beseeching Him, as it were, to save them. Consequently it was fitting that witnesses should be present from among those who preceded Him — namely, Moses and Elias — and from those who followed after Him — namely, Peter, James, and John — that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses” this word might stand.

Reply to Objection 1: By His transfiguration Christ manifested to His disciples the glory of His body, which belongs to men only. It was therefore fitting that He should choose men and not angels as witnesses.

Reply to Objection 2: This gloss is said to be taken from a book entitled On the Marvels of Holy Scripture. It is not an authentic work, but is wrongly ascribed to St. Augustine; consequently we need not stand by it. For Jerome says on Matthew 17:3: “Observe that when the Scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign from heaven, He refused to give one; whereas here in order to increase the apostles’ faith, He gives a sign from heaven, Elias coming down thence, whither he had ascended, and Moses arising from the nether world.” This is not to be understood as though the soul of Moses was reunited to his body, but that his soul appeared through some assumed body, just as the angels do. But Elias appeared in his own body, not that he was brought down from the empyrean heaven, but from some place on high whither he was taken up in the fiery chariot.

Reply to Objection 3: As Chrysostom says on Matthew 17:3: “Moses and Elias are brought forward for many reasons.” And, first of all, “because the multitude said He was Elias or Jeremias or one of the prophets, He brings the leaders of the prophets with Him; that hereby at least they might see the difference between the servants and their Lord.” Another reason was ” … that Moses gave the Law … while Elias … was jealous for the glory of God.” Therefore by appearing together with Christ, they show how falsely the Jews “accused Him of transgressing the Law, and of blasphemously appropriating to Himself the glory of God.” A third reason was “to show that He has power of death and life, and that He is the judge of the dead and the living; by bringing with Him Moses who had died, and Elias who still lived.” A fourth reason was because, as Luke says (9:31), “they spoke” with Him “of His decease that He should accomplish in Jerusalem,” i.e. of His Passion and death. Therefore, “in order to strengthen the hearts of His disciples with a view to this,” He sets before them those who had exposed themselves to death for God’s sake: since Moses braved death in opposing Pharaoh, and Elias in opposing Achab. A fifth reason was that “He wished His disciples to imitate the meekness of Moses and the zeal of Elias.” Hilary adds a sixth reason — namely, in order to signify that He had been foretold by the Law, which Moses gave them, and by the prophets, of whom Elias was the principal.

Reply to Objection 4: Lofty mysteries should not be immediately explained to everyone, but should be handed down through superiors to others in their proper turn. Consequently, as Chrysostom says (on Matthew 17:3), “He took these three as being superior to the rest.” For “Peter excelled in the love” he bore to Christ and in the power bestowed on him; John in the privilege of Christ’s love for him on account of his virginity, and, again, on account of his being privileged to be an Evangelist; James on account of the privilege of martyrdom. Nevertheless He did not wish them to tell others what they had seen before His Resurrection; “lest,” as Jerome says on Matthew 17:19, “such a wonderful thing should seem incredible to them; and lest, after hearing of so great glory, they should be scandalized at the Cross” that followed; or, again, “lest [the Cross] should be entirely hindered by the people” [Bede, Hom. xviii; cf. Catena Aurea]; and “in order that they might then be witnesses of spiritual things when they should be filled with the Holy Ghost” [Hilary, in Matthew xvii].

Article 4: Whether the testimony of the Father’s voice, saying, “This is My beloved Son,” was fittingly added?

Objection 1: It would seem that the testimony of the Father’s voice, saying, “This is My beloved Son,” was not fittingly added; for, as it is written (Job 33:14), “God speaketh once, and repeateth not the selfsame thing the second time.” But the Father’s voice had testified to this at the time of (Christ’s) baptism. Therefore it was not fitting that He should bear witness to it a second time.

Objection 2: Further, at the baptism the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove at the same time as the Father’s voice was heard. But this did not happen at the transfiguration. Therefore it seems that the testimony of the Father was made in an unfitting manner.

Objection 3: Further, Christ began to teach after His baptism. Nevertheless, the Father’s voice did not then command men to hear him. Therefore neither should it have so commanded at the transfiguration.

Objection 4: Further, things should not be said to those who cannot bear them, according to John 16:12: “I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” But the disciples could not bear the Father’s voice; for it is written (Matthew 17:6) that “the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid.” Therefore the Father’s voice should not have been addressed to them.

On the contrary is the authority of the Gospel.

I answer that The adoption of the sons of God is through a certain conformity of image to the natural Son of God. Now this takes place in two ways: first, by the grace of the wayfarer, which is imperfect conformity; secondly, by glory, which is perfect conformity, according to 1 John 3:2: “We are now the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be: we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like to Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” Since, therefore, it is in baptism that we acquire grace, while the clarity of the glory to come was foreshadowed in the transfiguration, therefore both in His baptism and in His transfiguration the natural sonship of Christ was fittingly made known by the testimony of the Father: because He alone with the Son and Holy Ghost is perfectly conscious of that perfect generation.

Reply to Objection 1: The words quoted are to be understood of God’s eternal speaking, by which God the Father uttered the only-begotten and co-eternal Word. Nevertheless, it can be said that God uttered the same thing twice in a bodily voice, yet not for the same purpose, but in order to show the divers modes in which men can be partakers of the likeness of the eternal Sonship.

Reply to Objection 2: Just as in the Baptism, where the mystery of the first regeneration was proclaimed, the operation of the whole Trinity was made manifest, because the Son Incarnate was there, the Holy Ghost appeared under the form of a dove, and the Father made Himself known in the voice; so also in the transfiguration, which is the mystery of the second regeneration, the whole Trinity appears — the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud; for just as in baptism He confers innocence, signified by the simplicity of the dove, so in the resurrection will He give His elect the clarity of glory and refreshment from all sorts of evil, which are signified by the bright cloud.

Reply to Objection 3: Christ came to give grace actually, and to promise glory by His words. Therefore it was fitting at the time of His transfiguration, and not at the time of His baptism, that men should be commanded to hear Him.

Reply to Objection 4: It was fitting that the disciples should be afraid and fall down on hearing the voice of the Father, to show that the glory which was then being revealed surpasses in excellence the sense and faculty of all mortal beings; according to Exodus 33:20: “Man shall not see Me and live.” This is what Jerome says on Matthew 17:6: “Such is human frailty that it cannot bear to gaze on such great glory.” But men are healed of this frailty by Christ when He brings them into glory. And this is signified by what He says to them: “Arise, and fear not.”

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Aquinas’ Summa Theologica on Wisdom 7:7-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 9, 2012

The following post contains those articles from the Summa which employ any part of the text of Wisdom 7:7-11.

ST. I-II Q.2, Art. 6: Whether Man’s Happiness Consists in Pleasure. (Wisdom 7:9).

Objection: 1. It would seem that man’s happiness consists in pleasure. For since happiness is the last end, it is not desired for something else, but other things for it. But this answers to pleasure more than to anything else: “for it is absurd to ask anyone what is his motive in wishing to be pleased” (Ethic. x, 2). Therefore happiness consists principally in pleasure and delight.

2. Further, “the first cause goes more deeply into the effect than the second cause” (De Causis i). Now the causality of the end consists in its attracting the appetite. Therefore, seemingly that which moves most the appetite, answers to the notion of the last end. Now this is pleasure: and a sign of this is that delight so far absorbs man’s will and reason, that it causes him to despise other goods. Therefore it seems that man’s last end, which is happiness, consists principally in pleasure.

3. Further, since desire is for good, it seems that what all desire is best. But all desire delight; both wise and foolish, and even irrational creatures. Therefore delight is the best of all. Therefore happiness, which is the supreme good, consists in pleasure.

On the contrary Boethius says (De Consol. iii): “Any one that chooses to look back on his past excesses, will perceive that pleasures had a sad ending: and if they can render a man happy, there is no reason why we should not say that the very beasts are happy too.”

I answer that Because bodily delights are more generally known, “the name of pleasure has been appropriated to them” (Ethic. vii, 13), although other delights excel them: and yet happiness does not consist in them. Because in every thing, that which pertains to its essence is distinct from its proper accident: thus in man it is one thing that he is a mortal rational animal, and another that he is a risible animal. We must therefore consider that every delight is a proper accident resulting from happiness, or from some part of happiness; since the reason that a man is delighted is that he has some fitting good, either in reality, or in hope, or at least in memory. Now a fitting good, if indeed it be the perfect good, is precisely man’s happiness: and if it is imperfect, it is a share of happiness, either proximate, or remote, or at least apparent. Therefore it is evident that neither is delight, which results from the perfect good, the very essence of happiness, but something resulting therefrom as its proper accident.But bodily pleasure cannot result from the perfect good even in that way. For it results from a good apprehended by sense, which is a power of the soul, which power makes use of the body. Now good pertaining to the body, and apprehended by sense, cannot be man’s perfect good. For since the rational soul excels the capacity of corporeal matter, that part of the soul which is independent of a corporeal organ, has a certain infinity in regard to the body and those parts of the soul which are tied down to the body: just as immaterial things are in a way infinite as compared to material things, since a form is, after a fashion, contracted and bounded by matter, so that a form which is independent of matter is, in a way, infinite. Therefore sense, which is a power of the body, knows the singular, which is determinate through matter: whereas the intellect, which is a power independent of matter, knows the universal, which is abstracted from matter, and contains an infinite number of singulars. Consequently it is evident that good which is fitting to the body, and which causes bodily delight through being apprehended by sense, is not man’s perfect good, but is quite a trifle as compared with the good of the soul. Hence it is written (Sg 7,9) that “all gold in comparison of her, is as a little sand.” And therefore bodily pleasure is neither happiness itself, nor a proper accident of happiness.

Reply to Objection: 1. It comes to the same whether we desire good, or desire delight, which is nothing else than the appetite’s rest in good: thus it is owing to the same natural force that a weighty body is borne downwards and that it rests there. Consequently just as good is desired for itself, so delight is desired for itself and not for anything else, if the preposition “for” denote the final cause. But if it denote the formal or rather the motive cause, thus delight is desirable for something else, i.e. for the good, which is the object of that delight, and consequently is its principle, and gives it its form: for the reason that delight is desired is that it is rest in the thing desired.

2. The vehemence of desire for sensible delight arises from the fact that operations of the senses, through being the principles of our knowledge, are more perceptible. And so it is that sensible pleasures are desired by the majority.

3. All desire delight in the same way as they desire good: and yet they desire delight by reason of the good and not conversely, as stated above (ad 1). Consequently it does not follow that delight is the supreme and essential good, but that every delight results from some good, and that some delight results from that which is the essential and supreme good.

ST. I-II, Q. 4, art 8: Whether the Fellowship of a Friend is Necessary for Happiness? (Wisdom 7:11).

Objection: 1. It would seem that friends are necessary for Happiness. For future Happiness is frequently designated by Scripture under the name of “glory.” But glory consists in man’s good being brought to the notice of many. Therefore the fellowship of friends is necessary for Happiness.
2. Further, Boethius [*Seneca, Ep. 6] says that “there is no delight in possessing any good whatever, without someone to share it with us.” But delight is necessary for Happiness. Therefore fellowship of friends is also necessary.

3. Further, charity is perfected in Happiness. But charity includes the love of God and of our neighbor. Therefore it seems that fellowship of friends is necessary for Happiness.

On the contrary It is written (Song 7:11): “All good things came to me together with her,” i.e. with divine wisdom, which consists in contemplating God. Consequently nothing else is necessary for Happiness.

I answer that If we speak of the happiness of this life, the happy man needs friends, as the Philosopher says (Ethic. ix, 9), not, indeed, to make use of them, since he suffices himself; nor to delight in them, since he possesses perfect delight in the operation of virtue; but for the purpose of a good operation, viz. that he may do good to them; that he may delight in seeing them do good; and again that he may be helped by them in his good work. For in order that man may do well, whether in the works of the active life, or in those of the contemplative life, he needs the fellowship of friends.But if we speak of perfect Happiness which will be in our heavenly Fatherland, the fellowship of friends is not essential to Happiness; since man has the entire fulness of his perfection in God. But the fellowship of friends conduces to the well-being of Happiness. Hence Augustine says (Gn ad lit. viii, 25) that “the spiritual creatures receive no other interior aid to happiness than the eternity, truth, and charity of the Creator. But if they can be said to be helped from without, perhaps it is only by this that they see one another and rejoice in God, at their fellowship.”

Reply to Objection: 1. That glory which is essential to Happiness, is that which man has, not with man but with God.

2. This saying is to be understood of the possession of good that does not fully satisfy. This does not apply to the question under consideration; because man possesses in God a sufficiency of every good.
3. Perfection of charity is essential to Happiness, as to the love of God, but not as to the love of our neighbor. Wherefore if there were but one soul enjoying God, it would be happy, though having no neighbor to love. But supposing one neighbor to be there, love of him results from perfect love of God. Consequently, friendship is, as it were, concomitant with perfect Happiness.

ST. I-II, Q. 5, art. 4: Whether Happiness Once Had Can be Lost? (Wisdom 7:11).

Objection: 1. It would seem that Happiness can be lost. For Happiness is a perfection. But every perfection is in the thing perfected according to the mode of the latter. Since then man is, by his nature, changeable, it seems that Happiness is participated by man in a changeable manner. And consequently it seems that man can lose Happiness.

2. Further, Happiness consists in an act of the intellect; and the intellect is subject to the will. But the will can be directed to opposites. Therefore it seems that it can desist from the operation whereby man is made happy: and thus man will cease to be happy.

3. Further, the end corresponds to the beginning. But man’s Happiness has a beginning, since man was not always happy. Therefore it seems that it has an end.

On the contrary It is written (Mt 25:46) of the righteous that “they shall god . . . into life everlasting,” which, as above stated (Article [2]), is the Happiness of the saints. Now what is eternal ceases not. Therefore Happiness cannot be lost.

I answer that If we speak of imperfect happiness, such as can be had in this life, in this sense it can be lost. This is clear of contemplative happiness, which is lost either by forgetfulness, for instance, when knowledge is lost through sickness; or again by certain occupations, whereby a man is altogether withdrawn from contemplation.This is also clear of active happiness: since man’s will can be changed so as to fall to vice from the virtue, in whose act that happiness principally consists. If, however, the virtue remain unimpaired, outward changes can indeed disturb such like happiness, in so far as they hinder many acts of virtue; but they cannot take it away altogether because there still remains an act of virtue, whereby man bears these trials in a praiseworthy manner. And since the happiness of this life can be lost, a circumstance that appears to be contrary to the nature of happiness, therefore did the Philosopher state (Ethic. i, 10) that some are happy in this life, not simply, but “as men,” whose nature is subject to change.But if we speak of that perfect Happiness which we await after this life, it must be observed that Origen (Peri Archon. ii, 3), following the error of certain Platonists, held that man can become unhappy after the final Happiness.This, however, is evidently false, for two reasons. First, from the general notion of happiness. For since happiness is the “perfect and sufficient good,” it must needs set man’s desire at rest and exclude every evil. Now man naturally desires to hold to the good that he has, and to have the surety of his holding: else he must of necessity be troubled with the fear of losing it, or with the sorrow of knowing that he will lose it. Therefore it is necessary for true Happiness that man have the assured opinion of never losing the good that he possesses. If this opinion be true, it follows that he never will lose happiness: but if it be false, it is in itself an evil that he should have a false opinion: because the false is the evil of the intellect, just as the true is its good, as stated in Ethic. vi, 2. Consequently he will no longer be truly happy, if evil be in him.Secondly, it is again evident if we consider the specific nature of Happiness. For it has been shown above (Question [3], Article [8]) that man’s perfect Happiness consists in the vision of the Divine Essence. Now it is impossible for anyone seeing the Divine Essence, to wish not to see It. Because every good that one possesses and yet wishes to be without, is either insufficient, something more sufficing being desired in its stead; or else has some inconvenience attached to it, by reason of which it becomes wearisome. But the vision of the Divine Essence fills the soul with all good things, since it unites it to the source of all goodness; hence it is written (Ps 16,15): “I shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear”; and (Sg 7,11): “All good things came to me together with her,” i.e. with the contemplation of wisdom. In like manner neither has it any inconvenience attached to it; because it is written of the contemplation of wisdom (Sg 8,16): “Her conversation hath no bitterness, nor her company any tediousness.” It is thus evident that the happy man cannot forsake Happiness of his own accord. Moreover, neither can he lose Happiness, through God taking it away from him. Because, since the withdrawal of Happiness is a punishment, it cannot be enforced by God, the just Judge, except for some fault; and he that sees God cannot fall into a fault, since rectitude of the will, of necessity, results from that vision as was shown above (Question [4], Article [4]). Nor again can it be withdrawn by any other agent. Because the mind that is united to God is raised above all other things: and consequently no other agent can sever the mind from that union. Therefore it seems unreasonable that as time goes on, man should pass from happiness to misery, and vice versa; because such like vicissitudes of time can only be for such things as are subject to time and movement.

Reply to Objection: 1. Happiness is consummate perfection, which excludes every defect from the happy. And therefore whoever has happiness has it altogether unchangeably: this is done by the Divine power, which raises man to the participation of eternity which transcends all change.

2. The will can be directed to opposites, in things which are ordained to the end; but it is ordained, of natural necessity, to the last end. This is evident from the fact that man is unable not to wish to be happy.

3. Happiness has a beginning owing to the condition of the participator: but it has no end by reason of the condition of the good, the participation of which makes man happy. Hence the beginning of happiness is from one cause, its endlessness is from another.

ST. I-II, Q. 113, art. 3: Whether for the Justification of the Ungodly There is Required a Movement of the Free Will? (Wisdom 7:7).

Objection: 1. It would seem that no movement of the free-will is required for the justification of the ungodly. For we see that by the sacrament of Baptism, infants and sometimes adults are justified without a movement of their free-will: hence Augustine says (Confess. iv) that when one of his friends was taken with a fever, “he lay for a long time senseless and in a deadly sweat, and when he was despaired of, he was baptized without his knowing, and was regenerated”; which is effected by sanctifying grace. Now God does not confine His power to the sacraments. Hence He can justify a man without the sacraments, and without any movement of the free-will.

2. Further, a man has not the use of reason when asleep, and without it there can be no movement of the free-will. But Solomon received from God the gift of wisdom when asleep, as related in 1Kings 3 and Ch 1. Hence with equal reason the gift of sanctifying grace is sometimes bestowed by God on man without the movement of his free-will.

3. Further, grace is preserved by the same cause as brings it into being, for Augustine says (Gn ad lit. viii, 12) that “so ought man to turn to God as he is ever made just by Him.” Now grace is preserved in man without a movement of his free-will. Hence it can be infused in the beginning without a movement of the free-will.

On the contrary It is written (Jn 6,45): “Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to Me.” Now to learn cannot be without a movement of the free-will, since the learner assents to the teacher. Hence, no one comes to the Father by justifying grace without a movement of the free-will.

I answer that The justification of the ungodly is brought about by God moving man to justice. For He it is “that justifieth the ungodly” according to Rom 4,5. Now God moves everything in its own manner, just as we see that in natural things, what is heavy and what is light are moved differently, on account of their diverse natures. Hence He moves man to justice according to the condition of his human nature. But it is man’s proper nature to have free-will. Hence in him who has the use of reason, God’s motion to justice does not take place without a movement of the free-will; but He so infuses the gift of justifying grace that at the same time He moves the free-will to accept the gift of grace, in such as are capable of being moved thus.

Reply to Objection: 1. Infants are not capable of the movement of their free-will; hence it is by the mere infusion of their souls that God moves them to justice. Now this cannot be brought about without a sacrament; because as original sin, from which they are justified, does not come to them from their own will, but by carnal generation, so also is grace given them by Christ through spiritual regeneration. And the same reason holds good with madmen and idiots that have never had the use of their free-will. But in the case of one who has had the use of his free-will and afterwards has lost it either through sickness or sleep, he does not obtain justifying grace by the exterior rite of Baptism, or of any other sacrament, unless he intended to make use of this sacrament, and this can only be by the use of his free-will. And it was in this way that he of whom Augustine speaks was regenerated, because both previously and afterwards he assented to the Baptism.

2. Solomon neither merited nor received wisdom whilst asleep; but it was declared to him in his sleep that on account of his previous desire wisdom would be infused into him by God. Hence it is said in his person (Song 7,7): “I wished, and understanding was given unto me.”Or it may be said that his sleep was not natural, but was the sleep of prophecy, according to Num 12,6: “If there be among you a prophet of the Lord, I will appear to him in a vision, or I will speak to him in a dream.” In such cases the use of free-will remains.And yet it must be observed that the comparison between the gift of wisdom and the gift of justifying grace does not hold. For the gift of justifying grace especially ordains a man to good, which is the object of the will; and hence a man is moved to it by a movement of the will which is a movement of free-will. But wisdom perfects the intellect which precedes the will; hence without any complete movement of the free-will, the intellect can be enlightened with the gift of wisdom, even as we see that things are revealed to men in sleep, according to Job 33,15-16: “When deep sleep falleth upon men and they are sleeping in their beds, then He openeth the ears of men, and teaching, instructeth them in what they are to learn.”

ST. I-II, Q. 123, art 2: Whether Fortitude is a Special Virtue? (Wisdom 7:7).

Objection: 1. It seems that fortitude is not a special virtue. For it is written (Sg 7,7): “She teacheth temperance, and prudence, and justice, and fortitude,” where the text has “virtue” for “fortitude.” Since then the term “virtue” is common to all virtues, it seems that fortitude is a general virtue.

2. Further, Ambrose says (De Offic. i): “Fortitude is not lacking in courage, for alone she defends the honor of the virtues and guards their behests. She it is that wages an inexorable war on all vice, undeterred by toil, brave in face of dangers, steeled against pleasures, unyielding to lusts, avoiding covetousness as a deformity that weakens virtue”; and he says the same further on in connection with other vices. Now this cannot apply to any special virtue. Therefore fortitude is not a special virtue.

3. Further, fortitude would seem to derive its name from firmness. But it belongs to every virtue to stand firm, as stated in Ethic. ii. Therefore fortitude is a general virtue.

On the contrary Gregory (Moral. xxii) numbers it among the other virtues.

I answer that As stated above (FS, Question [61], Articles [3],4), the term “fortitude” can be taken in two ways. First, as simply denoting a certain firmness of mind, and in this sense it is a general virtue, or rather a condition of every virtue, since as the Philosopher states (Ethic. ii), it is requisite for every virtue to act firmly and immovably. Secondly, fortitude may be taken to denote firmness only in bearing and withstanding those things wherein it is most difficult to be firm, namely in certain grave dangers. Therefore Tully says (Rhet. ii), that “fortitude is deliberate facing of dangers and bearing of toils.” In this sense fortitude is reckoned a special virtue, because it has a special matter.

Reply to Objection: 1. According to the Philosopher (De Coelo i, 116) the word virtue refers to the extreme limit of a power. Now a natural power is, in one sense, the power of resisting corruptions, and in another sense is a principle of action, as stated in Metaph. v, 17. And since this latter meaning is the more common, the term “virtue,” as denoting the extreme limit of such a power, is a common term, for virtue taken in a general sense is nothing else than a habit whereby one acts well. But as denoting the extreme limit of power in the first sense, which sense is more specific, it is applied to a special virtue, namely fortitude, to which it belongs to stand firm against all kinds of assaults.

2. Ambrose takes fortitude in a broad sense, as denoting firmness of mind in face of assaults of all kinds. Nevertheless even as a special virtue with a determinate matter, it helps to resist the assaults of all vices. For he that can stand firm in things that are most difficult to bear, is prepared, in consequence, to resist those which are less difficult.

3. This objection takes fortitude in the first sense.

St I-II. Q. 180, art. 2: whether There Are Various Actions Pertaining to the Contemplative Life? (Wisdom 7:7).

Objection: 1. It would seem that there are various actions pertaining to the contemplative life. For Richard of St. Victor [*De Grat. Contempl. i, 3,4] distinguishes between “contemplation,” “meditation,” and “cogitation.” Yet all these apparently pertain to contemplation. Therefore it would seem that there are various actions pertaining to the contemplative life.

2. Further, the Apostle says (2Co 3,18): “But we . . . beholding [speculantes] the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same clarity [*Vulg.: ‘into the same image from glory to glory.’].” Now this belongs to the contemplative life. Therefore in addition to the three aforesaid, vision [speculatio] belongs to the contemplative life.

3. Further, Bernard says (De Consid. v, 14) that “the first and greatest contemplation is admiration of the Majesty.” Now according to Damascene (De Fide Orth. ii, 15) admiration is a kind of fear. Therefore it would seem that several acts are requisite for the contemplative life.

4. Further, “Prayer,” “reading,” and “meditation” [*Hugh of St. Victor, Alleg. in N.T. iii, 4] are said to belong to the contemplative life. Again, “hearing” belongs to the contemplative life: since it is stated that Mary (by whom the contemplative life is signified) “sitting . . . at the Lord’s feet, heard His word” (Lc 10,39). Therefore it would seem that several acts are requisite for the contemplative life.

On the contrary Life signifies here the operation on which a man is chiefly intent. Wherefore if there are several operations of the contemplative life, there will be, not one, but several contemplative lives.

I answer that We are now speaking of the contemplative life as applicable to man. Now according to Dionysius (Div. Nom. vii) between man and angel there is this difference, that an angel perceives the truth by simple apprehension, whereas man arrives at the perception of a simple truth by a process from several premises. Accordingly, then, the contemplative life has one act wherein it is finally completed, namely the contemplation of truth, and from this act it derives its unity. Yet it has many acts whereby it arrives at this final act. Some of these pertain to the reception of principles, from which it proceeds to the contemplation of truth; others are concerned with deducing from the principles, the truth, the knowledge of which is sought; and the last and crowning act is the contemplation itself of the truth.

Reply to Objection: 1. According to Richard of St. Victor “cogitation” would seem to regard the consideration of the many things from which a person intends to gather one simple truth. Hence cogitation may comprise not only the perceptions of the senses in taking cognizance of certain effects, but also the imaginations. and again the reason’s discussion of the various signs or of anything that conduces to the truth in view: although, according to Augustine (De Trin. xiv, 7), cogitation may signify any actual operation of the intellect. “Meditation” would seem to be the process of reason from certain principles that lead to the contemplation of some truth: and “consideration” has the same meaning, according to Bernard (De Consid. ii, 2), although, according to the Philosopher (De Anima ii, 1), every operation of the intellect may be called “consideration.” But “contemplation” regards the simple act of gazing on the truth; wherefore Richard says again (De Grat. Contempl. i, 4) that “contemplation is the soul’s clear and free dwelling upon the object of its gaze; meditation is the survey of the mind while occupied in searching for the truth: and cogitation is the mind’s glance which is prone to wander.”

2. According to a gloss [*Cf. De Trin. xv, 8] of Augustine on this passage, “beholding” [speculatio] denotes “seeing in a mirror [speculo], not from a watch-tower [specula].” Now to see a thing in a mirror is to see a cause in its effect wherein its likeness is reflected. Hence “beholding” would seem to be reducible to meditation.

3. Admiration is a kind of fear resulting from the apprehension of a thing that surpasses our faculties: hence it results from the contemplation of the sublime truth. For it was stated above (Article [1]) that contemplation terminates in the affections.

4. Man reaches the knowledge of truth in two ways. First, by means of things received from another. In this way, as regards the things he receives from God, he needs “prayer,” according to Sg 7,7, “I called upon” God, “and the spirit of wisdom came upon me”: while as regards the things he receives from man, he needs “hearing,” in so far as he receives from the spoken word, and “reading,” in so far as he receives from the tradition of Holy Writ. Secondly, he needs to apply himself by his personal study, and thus he requires “meditation.”

St. I-II, Q. 188, art. 5: Whether a Religious Order Should Be Established for the Purpose of Study? (Wisdom 7:8).

Objection: 1. It would seem that a religious order should not be established for the purpose of study. For it is written (Ps 70,15-16): “Because I have not known letters [Douay: ‘learning’], I will enter into the powers of the Lord,” i.e. “Christian virtue,” according to a gloss. Now the perfection of Christian virtue, seemingly, pertains especially to religious. Therefore it is not for them to apply themselves to the study of letters.

2. Further, that which is a source of dissent is unbecoming to religious, who are gathered together in the unity of peace. Now study leads to dissent: wherefore different schools of thought arose among the philosophers. Hence Jerome (Super Epist. ad Tt 1,5) says: “Before a diabolical instinct brought study into religion, and people said: I am of Paul, I of Apollo, I of Cephas,” etc. Therefore it would seem that no religious order should be established for the purpose of study.

3. Further, those who profess the Christian religion should profess nothing in common with the Gentiles. Now among the Gentiles were some who professed philosophy, and even now some secular persons are known as professors of certain sciences. Therefore the study of letters does not become religious.

On the contrary Jerome (Ep. liii ad Paulin.) urges him to acquire learning in the monastic state, saying: “Let us learn on earth those things the knowledge of which will remain in heaven,” and further on: “Whatever you seek to know, I will endeavor to know with you.”

I answer that I answer that As stated above (Article [2]), religion may be ordained to the active and to the contemplative life. Now chief among the works of the active life are those which are directly ordained to the salvation of souls, such as preaching and the like. Accordingly the study of letters is becoming to the religious life in three ways.First, as regards that which is proper to the contemplative life, to which the study of letters helps in a twofold manner. In one way by helping directly to contemplate, namely by enlightening the intellect. For the contemplative life of which we are now speaking is directed chiefly to the consideration of divine things, as stated above (Question [180], Article [4]), to which consideration man is directed by study; for which reason it is said in praise of the righteous (Ps 1,2) that “he shall meditate day and night” on the law of the Lord, and (Si 39,1): “The wise man will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients, and will be occupied in the prophets.” In another way the study of letters is a help to the contemplative life indirectly, by removing the obstacles to contemplation, namely the errors which in the contemplation of divine things frequently beset those who are ignorant of the scriptures. Thus we read in the Conferences of the Fathers (Coll. x, 3) that the Abbot Serapion through simplicity fell into the error of the Anthropomorphites, who thought that God had a human shape. Hence Gregory says (Moral. vi) that “some through seeking in contemplation more than they are able to grasp, fall away into perverse doctrines, and by failing to be the humble disciples of truth become the masters of error.” Hence it is written (Qo 2,3): “I thought in my heart to withdraw my flesh from wine, that I might turn my mind to wisdom and might avoid folly.”Secondly, the study of letters is necessary in those religious orders that are founded for preaching and other like works; wherefore the Apostle (Titus 1:9), speaking of bishops to whose office these acts belong, says: “Embracing that faithful word which is according to doctrine, that he may be able to exhort in sound doctrine and to convince the gainsayers.” Nor does it matter that the apostles were sent to preach without having studied letters, because, as Jerome says (Ep. liii ad Paulin.), “whatever others acquire by exercise and daily meditation in God’s law, was taught them by the Holy Ghost.”Thirdly, the study of letters is becoming to religious as regards that which is common to all religious orders. For it helps us to avoid the lusts of the flesh; wherefore Jerome says (Ep. cxxv ad Rust. Monach.): “Love the science of the Scriptures and thou shalt have no love for carnal vice.” For it turns the mind away from lustful thoughts, and tames the flesh on account of the toil that study entails according to Si 31,1, “Watching for riches* consumeth the flesh.” [*Vigilia honestatis St. Thomas would seem to have taken ‘honestas’ in the sense of virtue]. It also helps to remove the desire of riches, wherefore it is written (Sg 7,8): “I . . . esteemed riches nothing in comparison with her,” and (1M  12,9): “We needed none of these things,” namely assistance from without, “having for our comfort the holy books that are in our hands.” It also helps to teach obedience, wherefore Augustine says (De oper. Monach. xvii): “What sort of perverseness is this, to wish to read, but not to obey what one reads?” Hence it is clearly fitting that a religious order be established for the study of letters.

Reply to Objection: 1. This commentary of the gloss is an exposition of the Old Law of which the Apostle says (2Co 3,6): “The letter killeth.” Hence not to know letters is to disapprove of the circumcision of the “letter” and other carnal observances.

2. Study is directed to knowledge which, without charity, “puffeth up,” and consequently leads to dissent, according to Pr 13,10, “Among the proud there are always dissensions”: whereas, with charity, it “edifieth and begets concord.” Hence the Apostle after saying (1Co 1,5): “You are made rich . . . in all utterance and in all knowledge,” adds (1Co 1,10): “That you all speak the same thing, and that there be no schisms among you.” But Jerome is not speaking here of the study of letters, but of the study of dissensions which heretics and schismatics have brought into the Christian religion.

3. The philosophers professed the study of letters in the matter of secular learning: whereas it becomes religious to devote themselves chiefly to the study of letters in reference to the doctrine that is “according to godliness” (Titus 1:1). It becomes not religious, whose whole life is devoted to the service of God, to seek for other learning, save in so far as it is referred to the sacred doctrine. Hence Augustine says at the end of De Musica vi, 17: “Whilst we think that we should not overlook those whom heretics delude by the deceitful assurance of reason and knowledge, we are slow to advance in the consideration of their methods. Yet we should not be praised for doing this, were it not that many holy sons of their most loving mother the Catholic Church had done the same under the necessity of confounding heretics.”

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March 16: Meditation for the Wednesday of the First Week of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 16, 2011

HOW GREAT WAS THE SORROW OF OUR LORD IN His PASSION?
Attend and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow. Lam 1:12

Our Lord as He suffered felt really, and in his senses, that pain which is caused by some harmful bodily thing. He also felt that interior pain which is caused by the fear of something harmful and which we call sadness. In both these respects the pain suffered by Our Lord was the greatest pain possible in this present life. There are four reasons why this was so.

1. The causes of the pain:

The cause of the pain in the senses was the breaking up of the body, a pain whose bitterness derived partly from the fact that the sufferings attacked every part of His body, and partly from the fact that of all species of torture death by crucifixion is undoubtedly the most bitter. The nails are driven through the most sensitive of all places, the hands and the feet, the weight of the body itself increases the pain every moment. Add to this the long drawn-out agony, for the crucified do not die immediately as do those who are beheaded.

The cause of the internal pain was:

(A) All the sins of all mankind for which, by suffering, he was making satisfaction, so that, in a sense, he took them to him as though they were his own. The words of my sins, it says in the Psalms (Ps 22:2 LXX).

(B) The special case of the Jews and the others who had had a share in the sin of his death, and especially the case of his disciples for whom his death had been a thing to be ashamed of.

(C) The loss of his bodily life, which, by the nature of things, is something from which human nature turns away in horror.

2.  We may consider the greatness of the pain according to the capacity, bodily and spiritual, for suffering of Him who suffered. In his body He was most admirably formed, for it was formed by the miraculous operation of the Holy Ghost, and therefore its sense of touch that sense through which we experience pain-was of the keenest. His soul likewise, from its interior powers, had a knowledge as from experience of all the causes of sorrow.

3. The greatness of Our Lord’s suffering can be considered in regard to this that the pain and sadness were without any alleviation. For in the case of no matter what other sufferer the sadness of mind, and even the bodily pain, is lessened through a certain kind of reasoning, by means of which there is brought about a distraction of the sorrow from the higher powers to the lower. But when Our Lord suffered this did not happen, for he allowed each of his powers to act and suffer to the fullness of its special capacity.

4. We may consider the greatness of the suffering of Christ in the Passion in relation to this fact that the Passion and the pain it brought with it were deliberately undertaken by Christ with the object of freeing man from sin. And therefore he undertook to suffer an amount of pain proportionately equal to the extent of the fruit that was to follow from the Passion.

From all these causes, if we consider them together, it will be evident that the pain suffered by Christ was the greatest pain ever suffered.

By Fr. Philip Hughes, based upon the Summa Theologiæ, Tertia Pars, Q. 46, Art. 6.

 

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March 15: Meditation for the First Tuesday of Lent

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 15, 2011

CHRIST UNDERWENT EVERY KIND OF SUFFERING

“Every kind of suffering.” The things men suffer may be understood in two ways. By “kind” we may mean a particular, individual suffering, and in this sense there was no reason why Christ should suffer every kind of suffering, for many kinds of suffering are contrary the one to the other, as for example, to be burnt and to be drowned. We are of course speaking of Our Lord as suffering from causes outside himself, for to suffer the suffering effected by internal causes, such as bodily sickness, would not have become him. But if
by “kind” we mean the class, then Our Lord did suffer by every kind of suffering, as we can show in three ways:

1. By considering the men through whom he suffered. For he suffered something at the hands of Gentiles and of Jews, of men and even of women as the story of the servant girl who accused St. Peter goes to show. He suffered, again, at the hands of rulers, of their ministers, and of the people, as was prophesied, Why have the Gentiles raged; and the people devised vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the princes met together against the Lord and against his Christ (Ps 2:1-2).

He suffered, too, from his friends, the men he knew best, for Peter denied him and Judas betrayed him.

2. If we consider the things through which suffering is possible. Christ suffered in the friends who deserted him, and in his good name through the blasphemies uttered against him. Lie suffered in the respect, in the glory, due to him through the derision and contempt bestowed upon him. He suffered in things, for he was stripped even of his clothing; in his soul, through sadness, through weariness and through fear; in his body through
wounds and the scourging.

3. If we consider what he underwent in his various parts. His head suffered through the crown of piercing thorns, his hands and feet through the nails driven through them, his face from the blows and the defiling spittle, and his whole body through the scourging.

He suffered in every sense of his body. Touch was afflicted by the scourging and the nailing, taste by the vinegar and gall, smell by the stench of corpses as he hung on the cross in that place of the dead which is called Calvary. His hearing was torn with the voices of mockers and blasphemers, and he saw the tears of his mother and of the disciple whom he loved. If we only consider the
amount of suffering required, it is true that one suffering alone, the least indeed of all, would have sufficed to redeem the human race from all its sins. But if we look at the fitness of the matter, it had to be that Christ should suffer in all the kinds of sufferings.

Summa Theologiæ, Tertia Pars, Q. 46, art. 5.

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Meditation for the Thursday After Ash Wednesday

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 10, 2011

FASTING

1. We fast for three reasons.

(A) To check the desires of the flesh. So St. Paul says in fastings, in chastity (2 Cor 6:5), meaning that fasting is a safeguard for chastity. As St. Jerome says, “Without Ceres, and Bacchus, Venus would freeze,” as much as to say that lust loses its heat through spareness of food and drink.

(B) That the mind may more freely raise itself to contemplation of the heights. We read in the book of Daniel that it was after a fast of three weeks that he received the revelation from God (Dan 10:2-4).

(C) To make satisfaction for sin. This is the reason given by the prophet Joel, Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and in weeping and in mourning (Joel 2:12). And here is what St. Augustine writes on the matter. “Fasting purifies the soul. It lifts up the mind, and it brings the body into subjection to the spirit. It makes the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of desire, puts out the flames of lust and the true light of chastity.

2. There is commandment laid on us to fast. For fasting helps to destroy sin, and to raise the mind to thoughts of the spiritual world. Each man is then bound, by the natural law of the matter, to fast just as much as is necessary to help him in these matters. Which is to say that fasting in general is a matter of natural law. To determine, however, when we shall fast and how, according
to what suits and is of use to the Catholic body, is a matter of positive law. To state the positive law is the business of the bishops, and what is thus stated by them is called ecclesiastical fasting, in contradistinction with the natural fasting previously mentioned.

3 . The times fixed for fasting by the Church are well chosen. Fasting has two objects in view:

(A) The destruction of sin, and

(B) the lifting of the mind to higher things. The times self-indicated for fasting are then those in which men are especially bound to free themselves from sin and to raise their minds to God in devotion. Such a time especially is that which precedes that solemnity of Easter in which
baptism is administered and sin thereby destroyed, and when the burial of Our Lord is recalled, for we are buried together with Christ by baptism into death (Rom 6:4). Then, too, at Easter most of all, men’s minds should be lifted, through devotion to the glory of that eternity which Christ in his resurrection inaugurated.

Wherefore the Church has decreed that immediately before the solemnity of Easter we must fast, and, for a similar reason, that we must fast on the eves of the principal feasts, setting apart those days as opportune to prepare ourselves for the devout celebration of the feasts themselves.

Note: The above text was taken from the Summa Theologiæ of St Thomas Aquinas, II-II, 147, Articles 1, 3, & 5. The text was chosen and translated by Fr. Philip Hughes and is in the public domain.

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Ash Wednesday Meditation from St Thomas Aquinas

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 9, 2011

DEATH
By one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death~Rom 5:12.

1. If for some wrongdoing a man is deprived of some benefit once given to him, that he should lack that benefit is the punishment of his sin.

Now in man’s first creation he was divinely endowed with this advantage that, so long as his mind remained subject to God, the lower powers of his soul were subjected to the reason and the body was subjected to the soul.

But because by sin man’s mind moved away from its subjection to God, it followed that the lower parts of his mind ceased to be wholly subjected to the reason. From this there followed such a rebellion of the bodily inclination against the reason, that the body was no longer wholly subject to the soul.

Whence followed death and all the bodily defects. For life and wholeness of body are bound up with this, that the body is wholly subject to the soul, as a thing which can be made peRfect is subject to that which makes it perfect. So it comes about that, conversely, there are such things as death, sickness and every other bodily defect, for such misfortunes are bound up with an in complete subjection of body to soul.

2. The rational soul is of its nature immortal, and therefore death is not natural to man in so far as man has a soul. It is natural to his body, for the body, since it is formed of things contrary to each other in nature, is necessarily liable to corruption, and it is in this respect that death is natural to man.

3. Sin original sin and actual sin is taken away by Christ, that is to say, by Him who is also the remover of all bodily defects. He shall quicken also your mortal bodies, because of his Spirit that dwelleth in you (Rom 8:11).

But, according to the order appointed by a wisdom that is divine, it is at the time which best suits that Christ takes away both the one and the other, i.e., both sin and bodily defects.

Now it is only right that, before we arrive at that glory of impassibility and immortality which began in Christ, and which was acquired for us through Christ, we should be shaped after the pattern of Christ s sufferings. It is then only right that Christ s liability to suffer should remain in us too for a time, as a means of our coming to the impassibility of glory in the way He himself came to it.

Note: #1 and 2 above were taken from the Summa Theologiæ, II-II, 164, 1. #3 was taken from I-II 85, 5. The translation and selection of these passages was done by Fr. Philip Hughes. The text is in the public domain.

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March 7: Meditation for the Monday Before Lent by St Thomas Aquinas

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 6, 2011

HOLINESS
The gospel says (Luke 1:75) That we may serve him in holiness and justice. But to serve God is an act of religion. Therefore religion is the same thing as holiness.

The word  holiness seems to imply two things:

1. Cleanness, and in this it accords with the Greek word agios which means free of earth. (See note 1)

2.  Firmness, whence, of old, those things were called holy which were protected by the law and thereby rendered inviolable. Whence also things are said to be sanctioned, because they are defended by law. Things which belong to the worship of God may be said to be holy in both of the senses just described. Not only men, therefore, but the temple and the vessels and so forth are said to be made holy from the fact that they are used in the service of God.

1.  Cleanness is essential if the human mind is to be applied to God, because what stains the human mind is its being joined to lower things: as all kinds of things are cheapened by mixture with things less valuable, for example, silver when it is mixed with lead. Now if the mind is to be united to the highest thing of all, i.e., to God, it must be altogether taken away from the things that are lower. And that is why a mind that is lacking in purity cannot be applied to God. Follow peace with all men and holiness: without which no man shall see God (Heb 12:14). (see note 2)

Firmness, too, is required in whoever would set his mind to God. The mind must be set to God as to one’s last end and first beginning. But ends and beginnings are the kinds of things which above all others need to be immovable. Whence St. Paul says, I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor wight, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creatures, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus, Our Lord (Rom 13:38, 39). (See note 3)

Holiness is then the quality whereby men apply themselves and their actions to God. Hence it does not differ from religion as though it had a
different essence, but only according to the way these two things exist. For religion gives God the service due to him in what particularly concerns divine worship in sacrifices, for example, in offerings and in other things of that kind. Holiness, however, gives to God not only these things but the acts of the other virtues too, or again, it ensures that by good works a man makes
himself fit for the service of God in worship. (See note 4).

Notes:

Aquinas writes: “Cleanness, and in this it accords with the Greek word agios which means free of earth. See Col 3:1-2~Therefore if you be risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God.  Mind the things that are above, not the things that are upon the earth.

2.  In the ancient Near East the concept of cleanness (an its opposite, uncleanness) were primarily cultic, ritual categories rather than moral categories, this is why, for example, childbirth or the touching of a corpse was something that made one “unclean.” It should however be understood in what sense the words “rather than moral categories” are to be understood.

The fact that one could be rendered “unclean” by touching a corpse (even inadvertently! see Lev 19:14) shows that the ritual or cultic categories in themselves are not moral ones.  The fact that one is rendered “unclean” by touching a corpse was no excuse for avoiding one’s moral obligation to bury the dead (Lev 21:1-3; Tobit 1:18; 2:9; 12:12).

It is not difficult to see how this could degenerate into a mere ritualistic formalism; and that it did so can be seen from the fact that the Prophets of God often inveighed against it, demanding interior purity of mind and heart: For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice: and the knowledge of God more than holocausts (Hos 6:6).  “Hear this word, you cows of Bashan, who are in the mountain of Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, `Bring, that we may drink!’ The Lord GOD has sworn by his holiness that, behold, the days are coming upon you, when they shall take you away with hooks, even the last of you with fishhooks. And you shall go out through the breaches, every one straight before her; and you shall be cast forth into Harmon,” says the LORD. “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” says the Lord GOD (Amos 4:1-5 RSV). See also Amos 5:21-25; Isa 1:10-17; 6:5; Jer 13:27; Ps 15; Ps 40:7-9, etc.).

3.  Aquinas writes: “The mind must be set to God as to one’s last end and first beginning.”  For a good, simple explanation of Aquinas’ understanding of God as man’s ultimate or last end and first beginning see the following in the order listed: 1. GOD AS THE UNCAUSED CAUSE: THE ALPHA; 2. GOD AS THE ULTIMATE END: THE OMEGA; 3. GOD AS ALPHA AND OMEGA.

4. This meditation comes from-or is rather based upon-Aquinas Summa Theologiæ, Secunda Secundæ, 81, 8. It was translated by Fr. Philip Hughes and is in the public domain. A different translation of the full Summa article can be read here.

 

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Cornelius a Lapide on 2 Cor 11:19-33, 12:1-9 for Sexagesima Sunday

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 21, 2011

2Co 11:19  For you gladly suffer the foolish: whereas yourselves are wise.

Irony. You have foolishly suffered the boastings of these vain-glorious false apostles; I hope that you will suffer me to glory wisely and usefully among them that are wise. Theophylact, however, and Anselm think that this is said seriously, in the way of exaggerated rebuke. Since you are wise in Christ, you ought to have exploded the folly of the false apostles. Why, then, do you gladly suffer them?

2Co 11:20  For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take from you, if a man be lifted up, if a man strike you on the face.

For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage.  This is aimed at the insatiable arrogance, avarice, and tyranny of the false apostles. You suffer false apostles, who imperiously treat you as slaves, who devour you by extorting from you your goods, who are exalted by their self-praise, who smite you in the face, not with the palms of their hands, but with insults. Hence he adds: “I speak as concerning reproach.” These words, therefore, contain a sharp rebuke. These men squander your money, take away your freedom and honour, load you with taunts, as though you were slaves; but 1 have borne myself humbly, have lived at my own expense, have wished to put upon you the easy yoke of Christ. Yet you prefer them to me, as though, when compared with these, your imperious lords, nay, tyrants, I was not sufficiently well-born, or powerful, or eloquent. S. Bernard (de Consid. lib. i. c. 3) says: “When you may be free there is no virtue in the patience which lets you become a slave. Do not conceal the slavery into which you are being daily led, while you know it not. It is the mark of a dull and heavy heart not to feel its own continual trouble. Trouble gives to the hearing understanding, provided it be not excessive. If it is, it gives not understanding, but carelessness.”

Let superiors and prelates console themselves by the example of S. Paul, when they duly do their duty, and are despised by those under them, and see others preferred before them. It has ever been the custom of the world, and ever will be till the end, as Salmeron notices here, to obstinately resist the servants of God, to murmur, and, meeting rebuke, on the least occasion, to complain of even moderate severity; to spurn all discipline; to submit servilely to impostors, libertines, and false apostles; to entrust everything to them; to bear patiently whatever burden they may choose to impose. The Israelites, e.g., despised the holy and gentle Samuel, and preferred to bear the yoke of a self-willed and tyrannical king (1 Sam 8).

2Co 11:21  I seek according to dishonour, as if we had been weak in this part. Wherein if any man dare (I speak foolishly), I dare also.

This belongs to the preceding. The “striking on the face” spoken of (in verse 20) is here explained to be mental, not physical—consisting in the ignominy and revilings cast, as it were, in their faces by the false apostles. This “smiting” is no less wrong than if they had been beaten like slaves. Others, however, interpret these words to mean: “I say this to your shame.” This, however, would require πρὸς instead of κατὰ

As if we had been weak.  Refer this to the words, you suffer (verse 20). You suffer these bold and imperious false apostles; me you do not, but rather despise me as weak and timid, as though I could not have acted more imperiously than I have done, I could, indeed, have done so, but I would not, through humility, modesty, and abounding charity (Chrysostom).

Wherein if any man dare.  If any one ventures to boast foolishly, I too can do the same.

2Co 11:22  They are Hebrews: so am I. They are Israelites: so am I. They are the seed of Abraham: so am I.

They are Hebrews? so am I. The word Hebrew is derived either (1.) from a Hebrew word denoting “across the stream,” in allusion to their descent from Abraham, who crossed the Euphrates from Chaldæa to dwell in Palestine. Hebrews in this sense would mean (to coin a word) transamnine, as we speak of transmarine or transalpine. Abraham, after crossing the Euphrates, is the first to be called Hebrew (Gen 14:13). The LXX and Aquila render the word here “crosser;” S. Augustine (qu. 29 in Gen.) renders it “transfluvial.” So Chrysostom, Origen, Theodoret understand the word. (2.) Or the Jews were called Hebrews as being descended from Heber, Abraham’s forefather, the only man who with his family, after the confusion of tongues at Babel, retained the primeval Hebrew tongue, together with true faith, religion, and piety. (Cf. Gen 10:21, and Gen 11:1, et seq.) Those, then, are wrong who suppose that Hebræi is derived from Abrahæi. S. Augustine, it is true, at one time held this opinion (de Consens. Evang. lib. 1. c. 14), but in his Retractations (lib. ii. c. 14) he gave it up. The meaning of the Apostle, at all events, is this: These false apostles glory in their birth—in their being, as Hebrews, descendants of Heber, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in their possession of the holy religion of their ancestors, and the primeval tongue. But I also am a Hebrew and descendant of Abraham—like him in stock, tongue, faith, and religion.

2Co 11:23  They are the ministers of Christ (I speak as one less wise): I am more; in many more labours, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often.

Ver. 23.—They are ministers of Christ? The Latin version takes this in the indicative, and supposes S. Paul to concede, for the sake of argument, that the false apostles were ministers of Christ. Be it so, but I am much more truly such than they.

In many more labors. Let prelates and doctors take notice from this, that they should base their influence, as S. Paul did, not on external show, but on labours and mode of life. The Fourth Council of Carthage (c. 5) says: “Let a bishop have a sordid dress, a scanty table, and poor living, and let him seek to have his high office revered through his faith and the merits of his life.”

S. Bernard, quoting this passage in his work, De Consideratione, addressed to Pope Eugenius, says, (lib. ii. c. 6): “How excellent a ministry is this! What king holds a more glorious office? If you must needs glory, the life of the Saints is put before your eyes, the glorying of the Apostles is set forth. Seems that to you a little matter? Would that one would give to me to be like the Saints in their glorying! The Apostle exclaims God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Recognise thy heritage in the cross of Christ, in abundant labours. Happy the man who would say: “I have laboured more than they all.’ This is glorying indeed, but there is nothing in it empty, slothful, or effeminate. If labour terrifies, the reward beckons us onward. Though he laboured more than all, yet he did not elaborate the whole work, and yet there is room. Go into the field of the Lord, and notice carefully how the ancient curse holds sway in an abundant crop of thorns and thistles. Go forth, I say, into the world; for the field is the world, and it has been entrusted to you. Go into it, not as a lord but as a steward, who will one day be called on to give an account.”

In stripes above measure. More than can be told or believed. Stripes is a reference to whippings, lashings or, beating with rods (see 2 Cor 4:7-9; 2 Cor 6:5; Acts 16:22-23).

In deaths oft. In dangers of death, when my companions, or others, were wounded or slain, as, e.g., by robbers, or in popular out-breaks. Cf. 2 2 Cor 1:10, and 1 Cor 15:31. See also Rom 8:35-39.

2Co 11:24  Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one.

The Lord had ordered, in Deut. xxv. 3, that the number of stripes should not exceed forty. The Jews, to make sure of obedience to this precept, used to inflict on criminals one less.

2Co 11:25  Thrice was I beaten with rods: once I was stoned: thrice I suffered shipwreck: a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea.

I was in the depth of the sea. The Greek word for the depth may refer to a well or a prison, as well as the sea. Hence (1.) some think, says Theophylact, that that well is meant in which Paul is said to have lain concealed after escaping from the attack made on him by the people of Lystra (Acts 14:18). (2.) Baronius (Annals, A.D. 58), following Bede and Theodoret, thinks that the Cyzicenum, that deep and loathsome dungeon, like the Barathrum at Athens and the Tullianum at Rome, into which Paul was thrown, is here meant. (3.) It is better to understand the deep to be the sea, and to be an explanation of the hardships of his shipwreck: ” A night and a day I have been in the deep.” In other words, he says: I was tossed about by so violent a tempest that I seemed to be days and nights in the depths of the sea (Maldonatus Not. Manusc.). Or it may be that he means to say that after his shipwreck he spent a day and a night tossed by the waves, not in a boat or on a raft, but swimming in the deep, i.e., on the open sea (Theophylact, Ambrose, S. Thomas). Haymo says that this latter explanation of S. Paul’s rescue alive from the belly of the deep, like another Jonah, is the tradition of the Fathers.

Of these scourgings and this shipwreck there is no record in the Acts of the Apostles. The shipwreck at Melita, narrated in Acts xxvii., happened long after this, when Paul was sent a prisoner to Rome. Only one scourging is mentioned, that in Acts xvi., and only one stoning, that in Acts xiv.  S. Luke, it is evident, therefore, is silent on many details of S. Paul’s life.

2Co 11:26  In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren:

In perils from my own nation. Through the plots that the Jews often entered into against him (Anselm).

2Co 11:27  In labour and painfulness, in much watchings, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness:

In painfulness. Ærumna (Latin version), which, says Cicero, is laborious toil, as, e.g., when one that is tired out is forced, for the sake of rest, to undertake fresh toils.

The things in which the Apostle glories are those that not only many Christians now-a-days but many clergy would be ashamed of, as S. Bernard laments when commenting on the words, “Lo, we have left all.” Whither have we drifted? Where has the apostolic Spirit gone? Whither are fled the humility, labours, sufferings, and zeal of the primitive Church? The Apostles, the princes of the Church, Christ’s lieutenants, do not rejoice in their palaces, their carriages, their silken robes, in an attending crowd of noblemen, domestics, soldiers, horses, and hounds; in banquets and dinners; in fat benefices, in an effeminate, luxurious, and sumptuous life; but they exult and glory in hunger, thirst, painfulness, and weariness; cold and nakedness; in continual journeying to barbarous nations; in persecution, preaching, scourgings, beatings, stonings, death, martyrdom, fatigues by day and night; they are made all things to all men; they scorn no one; they are fathers of the poor and the afflicted; those that are barbarous, ignorant, and poor they teach: they preach to them the Gospel, comfort them, give them alms. This was the calling of the Apostles; this was the high dignity of the princes of the Church, of which Paul here boasts; this was the spirit of the early Christians, both clergy and people. Nor has this spirit, God be thanked, died out in this age. Our age has had, and still has its Borroméo, Pius, Xavier, Menesius, Gaspar, Hosius, and others like minded.

Be not ashamed then, 0 Bishop, or prior, or doctor, or pastor, to imitate these men—to visit the poor after their example, to enter hospitals and prisons, to bear the confessions of peasants, to give counsel to the unhappy, to instruct the simple and ignorant, to be made all things to all men, to zealously seek the salvation of all. In these works do not shrink from toil, fatigue, and sorrow, even unto death; in this cause be pleased and delighted to suffer scoffs and even blows. So Christ did and suffered, so did S. Paul, so did the Apostles in general. In this consisted their virtue, holiness, and apostleship. In that last day of the world, when the Chief Shepherd and great Doctor shall sit as judge, to examine the deeds of each one and to pass on each one sentence of an eternity of bliss or an eternity of woe, He will not ask you how many benefices, what wealth, or servants, or knowledge you had, but how you used them—how many by them you converted, how many poor you fed or gave drink to, how many you visited in prison, how far you spread His Gospel and extended His glory; what labours, dangers, ridicule, and persecutions you bore for Him; what hunger, and thirst, and weariness. These things God has done; and, while we have time, let us think on these things, let us do these things, that we may stir up in ourselves and in all men the spirit of the primitive Church and of the Apostles, that we may follow Christ our Leader, and the Apostles His princes, and so by our zeal and burning charity, set on fire a world now growing old and stiffening with cold. Then shall we in due time hear with the Apostles: “Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, then shall ye also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Listen to what S. Chrysostom has to say of these sufferings and victories, and the courage of S. Paul (Hom. 25, 26): “Paul, as a champion athlete, against the world contends in every kind of contest, and conquers in all. This was his apostolic character, and by these contests he spread the Gospel. Just as a flame of inextinguishable fire, if it falls into the ocean and is swallowed by the waves, emerges again as bright as ever—so too S. Paul, though pressed on all sides, was not oppressed; not knowing how to yield. Suffering but left him the more glorious victor and martyr a thousand times over.”

S. Chrysostom (Hom. 2) says again: “Paul, through the abundance of his devotion, somehow did not feel the sufferings that he underwent in the cause of virtue; nay, he thought virtue itself its own reward. Daily he rose higher and more ardent; in every attack he rejoiced and gained the victory; when suffering under blows and injuries he counted it triumph. He sought death before life, poverty before riches; he longed for toil more than others rest; he counted cities, nations, provinces, and power as of as little account as the sand. He regarded nothing bitter and nothing sweet, as men commonly regard things. He looked on tyrants as moths; on death, tortures, a thousand sufferings as mere child’s play, provided that he might endure something for Christ. He was as adamant, nay, harder and stronger than adamant. Like a bird he flew over the whole world to teach it, and, as though hampered by no body, he despised all sufferings and dangers. So thoroughly did he despise all earthly things that heaven might seem already his.”

2Co 11:28  Besides those things which are without: my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches.

Beside those things that are without: my daily instance. The weight of business that daily presses upon me. The Greek word here used denotes, says Budæus, to collect a band, to call together a meeting, as, e.g., when the mob assembles and makes an attack on the aristocracy and the magistrates. So the Apostle here uses the word to denote those manifold cares which, as it were, formed a band and rushed upon him from every side, and almost overwhelmed him, and this not once only but continuously. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Ephrem understand it to mean that factious conspiracies, seditions, tumults, popular outbreaks, and plots were being always set in motion against him. This is, indeed, the literal meaning of the Greek; but S. Paul has already mentioned those troubles in ver. 26. The former meaning is, therefore, the better. Then next clause, “the care of all the churches,” is explanatory of this. Anselm and Theophylact say beautifully: “Everywhere Paul teaches, but he also suffers greatly. He endures his own sufferings, and at the same time bears the sufferings of others. He bears the infirmities of individuals, and at the same time is anxious about the salvation of all.”

S. Chrysostom here (Hom. 18) teaches us beautifully, by his example, that nothing is sweeter than this anxiety, thought, labour, and grief of a good pastor for the Church. “A mother too,” he says, “in the in midst of deep grief for her child has pleasure; in the midst of anxiety she has joy. Though her anxiety be a source of bitterness, yet her devotion gives her great happiness.” Let great men, and those that are ministers of Christ, desire to be ever in motion as the heart is, or like the heavens, and, as Suetonius says of Vespasian, to die standing. Pacatus says, in his Panegyric of Theodosius: “Divine things delight in continual motion, and at the same time eternity feeds itself on movement, and your nature delights too in what we men call labour. As the heavens revolve with unfailing rotation, and the waves of the sea are ever in motion, and the sun never stands still, so are you, 0 Emperor, always engaged in matters of business that seem to return in a regular cycle.”

2Co 11:29  Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire?

Who is weak and I am not weak? Who is weak, or grieves, or is afflicted, and I am not with him weak, grieved, or afflicted? Who is offended and I am not on fire, both with grief, because the evil that my neighbour suffers when he is scandalised is mine, and with zeal also, to remedy his trouble and remove the cause of offence?

S. Gregory (Hom. 12 in Ezek 4:3), on the words, “Take thou unto thee an iron pan,” thinks that by the pan is meant the mind of Ezekiel, who, on seeing the overthrow of Jerusalem, was, as it were, roasted in a pan with compassion. Of this God puts him in mind by ordering him to place a pan between himself and the city. Such, too, was S. Paul when he said: “Who is offended and I burn not?” “Paul had set on fire his heart,” says S. Gregory, “with zeal for souls, and so had made it a pan in which, from love of virtue, he flamed against vice.”

2Co 11:30  If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity.
2Co 11:31  The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not.

Of the things that concern my infirmities. I will glory of the afflictions, blows, persecutions, and sufferings that I have borne for Christ. Through them I seem weak, i.e., despicable, mean, and worthless (Chrysostom). Observe that Paul glories not in his miracles but his infirmities, because in them there shines forth the effectual power of God’s grace, and also because in these he surpassed the false apostles, and thirdly, because they are the tokens of real virtue and of an Apostle.

2Co 11:32  At Damascus, the governor of the nation under Aretas the king, guarded the city of the Damascenes, to apprehend me.

This satrap of King Aretas was, says Theophylact, the father-in-law of Herod. Josephus says that Herod Antipas, who put to death John the Baptist, married the daughter of Aretas.

2Co 11:33  And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall: and so escaped his hands.

This escape of S. Paul from Damascus happened in the year 39 (Acts 9:25), when, as Josephus says, Aretas, King of Arabia and of the country near Damascus, waged war against Herod, because Herod had repudiated his wife, the daughter of Aretas, for the purpose of marrying Herodias. In this war Herod was worsted, and slain by Aretas. This brought on Aretas the vengeance of Tiberius Cæsar, who sent Vitellius, governor of Syria, to take or slay Aretas (Josephus, Ant. lib. x. c. 7). Using the opportunity, the Jews, enraged with S. Paul, seem to have accused him before the prefect of Aretas of disturbing the people under a pretext of preaching the Gospel, and so drawing them away from heathenism, and consequently from Aretas. They wished to show that this would end in his betraying Damascus to the Jews and to Vitellius. Hence the prefect sought to take Paul, but he, being warned, escaped by being let down by the wall in a basket. Cf. Baronius (Annals, vol. i. p. 304).

2Co 12:1  If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed) but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
2Co 12:2  I know a man in Christ: above fourteen years ago (whether in the body, I know not, or out of the body, I know not: God knoweth), such a one caught up to the third heaven.

I know a man in Christ.  A Christian. He thus describes himself, says Theophylact, that it may be clear that Paul was taken up by the grace of Christ, and not, like Simon Magus, by the power of the devil.

Above fourteen years ago. Hence we conclude that this rapture of S. Paul took place about nine years after his conversion, which took place A.D. 36; Paul, therefore, was taken up A.D. 44, which was the ninth year from his conversion. It was in this year that, by the direction of the Holy Spirit, he was ordained, with Barnabas, Apostle and Doctor of the Gentiles (Acts 13:2), that is to say, a little before he began this apostleship. This is evident, because, as I said at the beginning of this Epistle, S. Paul wrote this A.D. 58, in the second year of Nero. This rapture of S. Paul did not take place, therefore, in the year of his conversion (Acts 9:12), i.e., A.D. 36, though some join S. Thomas in assigning it to that year.

Theophylact remarks on the modesty of the Apostle in having kept this silent for fourteen years. Secondly, he points out that Paul, fourteen years before, was privileged to contemplate such deep things, how much more did he merit it now, after the labours of so many years?

Whether in the body…I know not. Although the Apostle says that he knows nothing for certain about this rapture, yet S. Thomas (ii. ii. qu. 175, art. 5), and others think it probable that his soul remained united to his body as its form, otherwise Paul would have died and then risen again. Moreover, it does not beseem God, when He throws men into an ecstasy, to kill them; nay, such a process would not be one of rapture and ecstasy, but a putting to death. This, too, would involve the multiplication of many miracles. But it is a principle that we should not multiply miracles; therefore it is easier and more natural to suppose that, like other Saints, Paul was carried up while remaining in the body.

Caught up. “To be caught up is,” says S. Thomas, “to be raised from what is natural to what is supernatural by the power of the higher nature.” Hence angels and the Blessed are not caught up when they see God. Although they are raised above nature, yet they are not cut off from nature, i.e., from the power man has of naturally having consciousness of objects by means of his bodily senses and his representative powers. But when “caught up,” the soul is deprived of the use of its senses and imagination, and Paul, therefore, was so deprived, or he would have known that he was in the body. Moreover, such abstraction, as S. Thomas says, may take place under the influence of disease, as when a man is delirious, or even by the power of devils, as when they carry off a man. It is not, however, called rapture or ecstasy, unless wrought by Divine power, which withdraws the mind from the senses, and lifts it up to the contemplation of things supernatural.

To the third heaven. What is this heaven? 1.  S. Basil (Hom. i. in Hexem.) infers from this that there is not merely one heaven, as Chrysostom thought, nor two, as Theophylact held, but at least three. Some add that there are three only, and that the third is the highest. But all the astronomers of olden times will dispute this, for they reckoned eight at least, as will moderns, who count at least eleven.

2. S. Thomas says (ii. ii. qu. 175, art. 3, ad. 4): “By the third heaven may be understood any supernatural vision, and in three ways it may be called the third heaven. First, with relation to man’s cognitive powers. Then the first heaven will be any supernatural, corporal vision, seen by the bodily eye, such as that of the handwriting on the wall, described in Daniel v. The second heaven will be any vision presented to the imagination, such as that of Isaiah, and of S. John in the Apocalypse. The third heaven will be any intellectual vision, such as is explained by S. Augustine (super Gen. ad Litt. 12).

“Secondly, the distinction may be made according to the different orders of the objects of consciousness. Then the first heaven will be the knowledge of celestial bodies; the second, the knowledge of celestial spirits; the third, the knowledge of God Himself.

“Thirdly, the three heavens may be the different steps of the knowledge by which God is seen. The first will then belong to the angels of the lowest hierarchy; the second to the angels of the middle hierarchy; the third to the angels of the highest.” According to this test, S. Paul would have been caught up to the third and highest hierarchy of angels, and standing there with the seraphim, have seen most clearly the essence of God, and from thence have been enkindled with that burning fire of charity with which he afterwards set on fire the whole world.

But I should say that the third heaven is the highest, or the empyrean, where the Blessed dwell. Hence, in ver. 4, it is called Paradise. It is called the third by a Hebraism. The number three denotes completion, being the first number to which the word all may be applied. We do not speak of “all two,” but we may and do say “all three.” Hence the poet says: “Oh, thrice and four times blessed they,” &c., i.e., completely blessed. Again (in Amos 1:3) we read, “for three transgressions of Damascus,” meaning, for all. In ver. 8 of this chapter again, we have, “I besought the Lord thrice,” or, very often, till I could ask no more, until the answer came. “My grace is sufficient for thee.”

3. It is simplest of all to say with S. Thomas, in the passage above quoted, that “the first heaven is the sidereal, the second the crystalline, the third the empyrean;” or, rather, that “the first is the aerial, the second the sidereal, the third the empyrean,” as Theophylact gives them. With him agree Julian Pomerius, and Damascene (de Fide, lib. ii. c. 6), and many others. “The air” in Scripture is commonly called “the heaven;” hence we get “the birds of heaven.” The air, therefore, is the first heaven, and is called the aerial one. All the heavenly orbs are the second heaven, or the etherial, and the third is the empyrean. Hence Cajetan is wrong in rejecting the empyrean, in which the Blessed dwell, and supposing that the third is the crystalline. In this latter are the waters which, in Gen. i. and elsewhere, are said to be above the firmament.

Mystically, S. Bernard says that the three heavens are the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity, and also the three virtues and gifts by which we ascend to them and to the highest pinnacle of grace and glory, viz., humility, charity, and perfect union. He says (Tract. de Grad. Humil.): “Those whom, by His word and example the Son has first taught humility, on whom the Holy Spirit has then poured the gift of charity, these the Father at length receives in glory. The Son makes them disciples, the Paraclete comforts them as friends, the Father exalts them as sons. Firstly, He instructs them as a Master; secondly, He comforts them as a Friend or a Brother; thirdly, He embraces them as sons. From the first union of the Word and reason is born humility; from the second union of the Spirit of God with the will of man comes charity; then at last the Father unites to Himself His glorious bride. And thus reason is not suffered to think of itself or of the will of its neighbour, but the beatified soul delights to say this alone: ‘The King hath brought me into His chamber.’ These steps were not surpassed by S. Paul, who declares that he was caught up to the third heaven.”

A second question arises: Was Paul truly and really caught up into the empyrean, so as to be in it as in a place, or was he there only by way of imagination or of understanding, so that he seemed to himself in his imagination to be in heaven, and saw what was being done there, while his body and soul remained on earth? Some think with probability that he was not caught up actually and truly, but only imaginarily, because he includes this rapture in vers. 1 and 7, under the head of visions and revelations of the Lord. God can bring it to pass that I in Belgium can see what is going on in India, and even what is passing in heaven. This may be brought about either through the imagination or the understanding, or even by the eyes of the body; for God can so raise these above themselves, so co-operate with them above nature, so strengthen and extend the visual powers as to make them reach even to heaven. If that power may be increased beyond what is natural by spectacles or medicaments, why may not God extend this power yet further and further? Thus it happened to S. Anselm, that he was able to see through a wall what was going on on the other side, by God imprinting the proper images on his retina. So Bede says that S. Diethelmus and others saw in imagination the pains of purgatory. Why, then, should not Paul have seen in the same way the empyrean, and what was passing in it?

Others, with perhaps greater probability on their side, think that he was actually and truly caught up into the empyrean. They give as their reasons: (1.) That the Greek verb used is not the technical term for casting into an ecstasy, but a word which denotes an actual rapture. (2.) That Paul is doubtful whether his soul was caught up with his body or without his body; therefore he presupposes that his soul was truly and really caught up; for in a vision that is merely imaginary there is no doubt that the soul alone and not the body is caught up by the imagination. (3.) That there be actually heard mysterious words, so that, as the destined teacher of the world, he seemed to go forth from heaven, and to communicate to men what he had there seen and heard as God willed him, and so brought to men as from heaven heavenly wisdom. Cf. ver. 4, note.

Now if the soul was really caught up, and yet remained united to the body (as I said in the opening note on this verse), then the body of Paul seems to have been caught tip into paradise; and indeed this is as easy with God as taking up the soul only. This would be fitting to S. Paul’s office, who was to be the teacher and Apostle, not, like Moses, of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, and so should wholly come forth, like another Moses, from intercourse with God in heaven.

2Co 12:3  And I know such a man (whether in the body, or out of the body, I know not: God knoweth):

Whether in the body or out of the body, I know not. S. Athanasius (Serm. 4 contra Arian.) thinks that Paul knew the mode in which he was caught up, yet says: “I do not know,” or, “I cannot tell;” because he could not reveal it to others, in the same way that Christ, in S. Mark 13:32, says that He did not know the day of judgment. For though in himself he knew, yet as far as others were concerned he did not know, for he could not explain it. But others do better in understanding him simply to mean. “I do not know,” and his simple recital of the event seems to require this.

2Co 12:4  That he was caught up into paradise and heard secret words which it is not granted to man to utter.

Into paradise. Ambrose, Œcumenius, Haymo, Anselm, and Theophylact think that Paul was twice caught up: (1.) into the third heaven, and (2.) then higher still into paradise. If so, the third heaven would be the heaven of sun, moon, and stars; but what would Paul have done there? Hence others hold that the events are one and the same, and that the third heaven and paradise are identical.

It may be asked. Why, after saying that he was caught up into the third heaven, does Paul say that he was caught up into paradise, as though it were a place higher still? I reply that of the vast empyrean paradise is one particular part where the Blessed are, and a more glorious part than the rest. S. Paul would imply that not only did he see deepest mysteries by his understanding, but also in his will drank in ineffable happiness. He signifies this by the term paradise, which, both in Greek and Latin, denotes a place of happiness.

Paradise is not a Greek word meaning, as Suidas thinks, a well-watered garden, nor yet a herb-garden, as others suppose, but, as Pollux says, it is a Persian word, or rather Hebrew, denoting a garden planted with pleasant trees and fruits. Cf. Ecc_2:5; Neh_2:8; Son_4:11. It is derived from two Hebrew words, denoting to bring forth myrtles. Then, because myrtle is of a pleasant smell, and does best in gardens, the name has been transferred to pleasure-gardens, plantations, and glades, and then again to any pleasant place. Here the third heaven is called paradise.

Did Paul see there the Divine Essence? S. Augustine (Ep. 112, c. 13), Clement (Stromata, c. 5), Anselm, and S. Thomas (ii. ii. qu. 175, art. 5) say that he did, and their opinion is probable; for he was for this purpose caught up into paradise, or the place where the Blessed see God. Again, he heard secret things of which it is not lawful for man to speak: but men may speak of everything except the Divine Essence.

It may be objected that in that case he ought to have said that he saw things, not heard words. I reply that, by a common Hebraism, “to hear words” means “to see things” (Theodoret); as, e.g., with the prophets vision and hearing are the same, so is it in the minds of the Blessed.

But the contrary seems more probable (1.) For even with a separated soul, to hear does not mean to behold a thing clearly, but to take in the words of God, or of an angel, or of man; otherwise he would have said without ambiguity, I saw ineffable things, even God Himself. (2.) S. Paul says, in 1 Tim 6:16, speaking of God, “Whom no man hath seen.” (3.) If he saw God he must have seen also his own state, whether he was in the body or not. But he says that he did not. (4.) But he gives a scanty account of his visions here, and says that, out of humility, he passes over greater things. Cf. Gregory (Morals, lib. xviii. c. 5), Jerome, Cyril, Chrysostom, and the Fathers and Schoolmen in general, and also Lud. Molina (pt. i. qu. xii. art. 11, dips 2). (5.) Scripture says more plainly of Moses that he saw the Essence of God, and yet I have shown clearly enough, in the notes to Exodus 33., that Moses did not seek to see the Essence of God, and would not have obtained such a request if he had made it. In Ex 33:20 the Lord distinctly replies to him in the negative: “Thou canst not see My face, for no man shall see Me and live.” It was only conceded to him that he should see the back parts of God, that is, the back of the body assumed by the Angel who represented God. Moses, however, sought that God, or the angel, who behind a cloud stood in the place of God, and spoke with him from the cloud, should unfold Himself, that he might see Him clearly and converse with Him face to face. The angel answered him that the eyes of man cannot see His face, but only His back; because the face assumed by the angel was so shining and so gloriously bright and majestic that it shone to a certain extent with the glory of God. It surpassed, therefore, the splendour of the sun, which man cannot look on directly with unveiled eyes, nay, rather man is blinded by the splendour. If follows from this that much less could this far more splendid face of the angel be seen by Moses; nay, he would have been blinded by it. But in the back of the body that the angel had assumed the light was so toned down that Moses could look upon it. Moses looking upon this was so covered as it were with light that his face shone, and seemed to emit two horns of rays of light. This vision of Moses was a bodily vision, for with the eyes of his body he saw the back of the angel’s body. He was, therefore, far from seeing the Divine Essence; and if he did not see it, much less did S. Paul, who speaks more obscurely and more humbly of his vision.

And heard secret words which it is not granted to man to utter. What were these mysteries that Paul heard or saw in paradise? They are related indeed in the book which is styled “the Apocalypse of S. Paul,” but this book is not genuine, and is full of mythical stories, and is scouted by S. Augustine (Tract. 98 in Johan.), Bede, Theophylact. Epiphanius attributes it to the sect of Cainites. I should reply that no certain answer can be given where Paul kept silence. Still it is natural to suppose that Paul saw and heard wonderful things of the nature, gifts, grace, glory, and orders of the angels, as S. Gregory says (in Ezech., Hom. 4). Hence S. Dionysius, in his “Celestial Hierarchy,” so describes the orders of the angels from what he heard from S. Paul, that you might think he saw them with his eyes. Again, he may have heard wondrous things about some Divine attributes not known to us here; he may have seen too the glory of Christ, for he was taught the Gospel by Christ (Gal 1:12). He was caught up that he might receive authority, and not be inferior to the other Apostles, who had seen Christ in the flesh and been taught thoroughly by Him (Chrysostom). Theodoret adds that he saw the beauty of paradise, the choirs and joys of the Saints, and heard the tuneful harmony of the heavenly hymns. This caused his exclamation of admiration: “Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”

Secondly, it is better to suppose that he heard the mysteries of the reason, mode, and order of the Divine reprobation and predestination, and the call of men, especially of the heathen provinces to be converted by himself. Of this mystery Paul frequently expresses his admiration, as in Rom 11:33, and it had special reference to his mission (Baronius).

Thirdly, he may have heard mysteries concerning the Gospel of our redemption by Christ; for he says (Gal 1:12) that he had received this Gospel by revelation, viz., when he was caught up. Lastly, he heard, as it might seem, mysteries of the government and progress of the Church in his time and afterwards. This, too, would affect his office, as he had already been singled out as the Church’s teacher and guide. He calls them “unspeakable words,” both because he was forbidden to utter them, and also because we are unable either to speak of them or to understand them.

2Co 12:5  For such an one I will glory: but for myself I will glory nothing but in my infirmities.

For such an one I will glory: but for myself I will glory nothing. He speaks of himself when caught up and in his ordinary state as two different persons, so as not to be thought vain-glorious (Œcumenius).

But in my infirmities. My calamities, my sufferings. By a common Hebrew metonymy “infirmity” is here put for “grief.” They are related as cause and effect or effect and cause. Cf. ver. 9; Mic 4:10. In Isa 53:3, we read of Christ that He should be “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity” (Vulg.). Cf. also Ps 16:4 (Vulg.)

2Co 12:6  For though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish: for I will say the truth. But I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or any thing he heareth from me.

But I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me.  Lest he should think me an angel or some god, as the Lycaonians did (Acts 14:10). He could have related more wonderful things about himself, but modesty and humility cause him to conceal them. “All the Saints,” says Anselm, “not only do not seek at all for glory above their measure, but they even shrink from that which they have merited.”  S. Bernard says beautifully (Ep. 18 ad Pet.): “We praise others hypocritically, and delight in vanity ourselves; and thus they who are praised are vain, and those who praise are false. Some flatter and are crafty; others praise as they think and are false; others glory in the words of both and are vain. He alone is wise who says with the Apostle, ‘I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.'”

2Co 12:7  And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me.

And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me. From this it appears that Paul, as the heavenly teacher of the world, had many great revelations, and was accustomed to them, and, as it were, at home among them. Some of these are narrated by S. Luke. Cf. Acts 9:3; Acts 18:9; Acts 22:17;  Acts 27:23.  S. Augustine (Enarr. in Ps. lxxviii. 69, Vulg.), on the words, “Benjamin in the excess of his mind,” understands S. Paul to be referred to as being of the tribe of Benjamin.

There was given me a sting in the flesh. Not by the devil, but by God. Not that God is the author of temptation, but He allowed the devil, who was ready beforehand, to tempt Paul, and that only in appearance, and in the matter of lust to humble him. Cf. Augustine (de Nat. et Grat. c. 21). “This monitor,” says Jerome (Ep. 25 ad Paulam, on the death of Blesilla), “was given to Paul to repress pride, just as in the car of the victor, as he enjoys his triumph, there stands a monitor whispering to him, ‘Recollect that you are a man.'” So, too, at the installation of a Pontiff, tow is lighted and extinguished, while the words are sung: “Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world.” Hence the best preservative against the temptations of the flesh is humility. If you are rooted and grounded so deeply in that as God exalts you by His gifts and graces, there will be no need for Him to apply this thorn to keep you humble. Cf. Rom 1:24, note.

What was this thorn, and how did it buffet S. Paul? How was it a messenger of Satan? Augustine (de Nat. et Grat. c.16) replies that he does not know what it was. But two things are certain: (1.) that he was vexed by Satan, and (2.) that this vexation was like a thorn fixed in his flesh, and continually paining him.

But it is not certain what its particular nature was. Anselm, Bede, Sedulius, and Jerome (in Gal. iv. 13) think it was bodily illness, as constant headache (S. Jerome), or colic (S. Thomas), or costiveness, or gout (Nicetas, commenting on Orat. 30 of S. Gregory Nazianzen), or some internal disorder.  S. Basil (in Reg. cap. ult.) and S. Augustine (in Ps. cxxxi.) think that this goad was some disease sent upon Paul, just as on job, by the devil. The Apostle, however, nowhere else complains of any diseases. Moreover, they would have been a great hindrance to him in the preaching of the Gospel.

Secondly, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Theodoret, Œcumenius, Ambrose, Erasmus think that this thorn refers to the persecutions Paul endured from his adversaries, and of which he speaks in ver. 10. But these were external goads, not thorns in the flesh, and of these he is wont to boast, not complain.

Thirdly, others, with more probability, think that this thorn in the flesh consisted in blows and beatings, often given to Paul by Satan, as to Antony and others, so that pain remained in his body, as a thorn, from the blows he had received. This is the literal meaning of the words used no doubt; but if this be so, Paul would surely have said more plainly: “There was given me the messenger of Satan to buffet me.” Nor would the generous mind of S. Paul have complained of this: he was but raised higher by the attacks of devils and men, and found in them matter for glorying.

Secondly, it is proved, from Rom. vii., that this concupiscence was in S. Paul, for there he bewails it more than he does here. Hence, too, as he said (1 Cor 9:27), he was in the habit of castigating his body.

Thirdly, had it been anything else he would have said so clearly; but as it is, modesty and shame bid him conceal it, and call it metaphorically a thorn.

Fourthly, this thorn was given him to humiliate him. But nothing so humiliates those who are chaste and lovers of virtue, as this temptation of the flesh, and nothing is so great a check on them, and makes them so work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Through the frailty of their flesh they are always in fear of lapsing in the midst of temptations so dangerous and well calculated to make them yield consent. And, therefore, they rather glory in illness, blows, persecutions, and other evils, especially if, like S. Paul, they suffer for Christ and His faith.

Fifthly, these temptations of the flesh, properly speaking, do not hurt the Saints, but buffet them, that is strike them with shame and sorrow. A man, when struck by his friend, is suffused with shame rather than overcome with pain.

Sixthly, Paul prays repeatedly and earnestly to be set free from this thorn; in other things he would have sought not liberation, but fortitude and constancy. But concupiscence is overcome, not so much by courageous endurance as by instant flight. He asks, therefore, to be set free from it, and hears, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” It is this grace which in this case is especially necessary, and should be always sought for by those that are tempted, that they may resist and overcome this civil foe lurking within and always striving to stir up war.

Lastly, this is the opinion of S. Augustine (Enarr. 2 in Ps. lix.), S. Jerome (ad Eustoch. de Custod. Virgin.), Salvianus (Serm. de Circumcis., wrongly attributed to Cyprian), Haymo, Theophylact, Anselm, Bede, S. Thomas, Lyranus, and others. It seems, too, the common belief of the faithful, who from this passage speak of the temptation of lust as a thorn in the flesh. The voice of the people is the voice of God.

But, what Cardinal Hugo adds, viz., that this temptation found a place in Paul, owing to his familiar converse with a beautiful virgin, S. Thecla, whom he had baptized, and afterwards kept with him in his journeyings, is false, and merely conjecture. Paul took no woman about with him, as he says in 1 Cor 9:5. And even if he had, he would have been bound, under penalty of incurring guilt, to send her away if he found her to be an occasion of so much troublous temptation. Moreover, what need would there have been for S. Paul to pray to God so instantly that this thorn might be taken from him, when he might easily have got rid of it himself? Add to this that this story is taken from a book entitled, “The journeys of Paul and Thecla,” which is rejected as apocryphal by S. Jerome, Tertullian, and Gelasius.

Erasmus and Faber object to this, firstly, that the thorn of lust was unbecoming and unworthy of so great an Apostle, and he now an old man. I answer that in our lapsed state it is not only not unworthy, but is also beneficial. See S. Gregory (Moral. lib. xix., c. 5 and 6) and Anselm, who point out how useful it is to the Elect to be now caught up into ecstasy, and now depressed by weakness, so that they may never be puffed up with pride or cast down into despair, but may always keep the narrow way that lies midway between the two, and which leads to heaven. Rom_7:23 shows that this concupiscence existed in S. Paul, and experience tells us that it has been, and now is, in the Saints, even when they are old men.  S. Gregory Nazianzen, for instance, often complains of the evils of his flesh, as in Ep. 96, and in his hymn on his flesh and the burden of his soul. Moreover, Paul was not an old man, for he was a young man when converted—perhaps twenty-five or twenty-seven (Act_7:58). This Epistle was written twenty-two years after his conversion, when he would, therefore, be about fifty years old.

Secondly, the objection is raised that the Apostle immediately adds. “Most gladly, therefore, will I rather glory in my infirmities.” But we may not glory in concupiscence, and therefore he must mean some other infirmity and thorn. To this I reply that the Apostle is not referring in these words to the thorn in the flesh that he had just mentioned, but also, and more properly, to all the sufferings that he had borne for the faith, and which he had recounted in the last chapter. In them, he says, he glories always. He uses the word infirmity in its widest meaning, and plays on it, as I will point out at ver. 10. Moreover, it is lawful to glory in this temptation of the flesh, not in itself, so far as it excites to evil, but as it is an affliction put upon us by the devil, and as in it the strength of Christ is made perfect. In this way Julius Cæsar used to glory, and desire most powerful foes, that he might show against them his power and warlike courage. So, too, many Saints have prayed to God, and asked to have temptations, and have gloried in them. Hence, S. James says (1:2): “My brethren, count it all joy ,when ye fall into divers temptations.” Cf. also S. James 1:12.

Morally, it should be observed that temptation is not to the righteous a cause of falling, but a spur to virtue. For, as high-spirited horses, when urged by the spur, quicken their pace, and show their spirit more, so are Saints spurred on by temptation to walk more diligently in virtue, lest they give way and perish. Hence, some of the Saints of great earnestness were not saddened, but gladdened, by temptations. In the “Lives of the Fathers” (lib. iii. c. 8) we read of an aged man who, on seeing one of his disciples grievously tempted to commit fornication, said to him: “If you wish it, my son, I will pray the Lord to remove this attack from you.” The disciple replied: “I see, my father, that I am undergoing a laborious task, yet I feel that it will bring forth in me good fruit; because, through this temptation I fast the more, and spend more time in vigils and prayers. But I beseech you to pray God of His mercy to give me strength, that I may be able to bear it, and fight lawfully.” Then the old man rejoined: “Now I perceive, my son, that you faithfully understand that this spiritual struggle may, through patience, help on your soul towards eternal salvation. For so said the Apostle, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.'”

Fourthly, others think, therefore, that this thorn in the flesh was the motions of concupiscence and the temptations of lust. This concupiscence, like a thorn or a dart, is so deeply fixed in the flesh that while life lasts it cannot be taken out. Hence it is called in Greek, σκόλοψ, a stake, a sharpened stick, a thorn, a javelin, or sting.

It may be asked: “Why, then, does he call this thorn ‘the messenger of Satan,’ or the minister of Lucifer?” I reply that he means by the messenger of Satan, Satan himself, as the exciting cause of this thorn of concupiscence; or even he calls the thorn sent by Satan, the adversary of his chastity, by the name of Satan. This would be a metonymy, where the cause is put for the effect, the agent for his work. For the devil, by stirring up the humours, by kindling the blood, by inflaming the feelings that subserve generation, by putting foul images before S. Paul’s mind, gave life to that concupiscence which had been as it were put to sleep, and mortified by his numerous labours, fastings, and troubles. Thus he stirred up S. Paul to obey the foul motions of lust.

S. Dorotheus relates of a certain holy monk that he grieved at being freed from temptation, and exclaimed: “Am I not then worthy, 0 Lord, of suffering, and being a little afflicted for Thy love?” Climacus (Grad. 29) relates of S. Ephrem, that seeing himself possessed of deep peace and tranquillity, which he himself calls impassibility, and an earthly heaven, he besought God to restore to him his former temptations and struggles, so that he might not lose the material for meriting and adding to his crown. Palladius relates that Abbot Pastor, on some one saying to him, “I have prayed to God, and He has set me free from all temptation,” replied “Pray God to restore you your temptations, lest you become slothful and careless.”

2Co 12:8  For which thing, thrice I besought the Lord that it might depart from me.

Three is the number symbolic of multitude and universality. The answer meant that though he was weak in himself, yet in God he might be strong enough to overcome this temptation. It, hence appears that Paul was not heard, and was not freed from his thorn.  S. Augustine gives the reason (Enarr. in Ps. cxxxi.). He says: “As when some disagreeable medicine is brought to one that is sick, and he asks the physician to take it away; whereupon the physician comforts him and urges him to have patience, because he knows that the medicine is good for him, so does God here deal with Paul.” As a physician from vipers’ flesh makes a conserve against vipers’ poison, so does God, out of our weakness, form a medicine against weakness, and makes one lust of the flesh a remedy against another, as, e.g., this thorn of the flesh was a preservative against pride.

2Co 12:9  And he said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee: for power is made perfect in infirmity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

For power is made perfect in infirmities. This is a general proposition, a moral axiom applying to any weakness, but properly and primarily to that thorn of concupiscence just mentioned. These are the words of God in answer to the prayers of S. Paul. The greater the temptation of the flesh is, the greater is the strength supplied by Christ. This explains the paradox that follows: “When I am weak then am I strong.”

The strength is both Paul’s and God’s—Paul’s as the receiver, God’s as the Giver. Therefore, the Divine power is best manifested in weakness when, (1.) in those that are weak it works fortitude, patience, and other superhuman works. (2.) When he by whom anything is done, conscious of his own weakness, claims nothing for himself, but gives all the praise to God. Observe here the difference between the power of God and the power of the world. One is seen in force and violence, the other in endurance. (3.) Infirmity is the object of patience, fortitude, and temperance, in the same way that those who are infirm are more sober when they are ill. (4.) Infirm people keep the most careful watch over themselves, and prudently refuse whatever is noxious, and so become more self-controlled by habit (S. Thomas). Certainly, virtue feeds on opposition, and, therefore, by temptation, chastity becomes constant, and every virtue more robust, as we see in the lives of Joseph, Susannah, Paul, and others. (5.) S. Augustine says mystically (de Gratia Christ. c. 12), as does Anselm: “Fortitude is a true knowledge and humble confession of our infirmity.” And S. Jerome says, writing, to Ctesiphon: “The one perfection to be found in this life is to recognise our imperfection.” By this you learn not to trust to your own strength, but to cast yourself wholly with perfect confidence on the power of God, who strengthens the humble and those that hope in Him, and makes them as it were almighty, as S. Bernard says (Serm. 85 in Cantic.), able to pass unscathed through all temptations, labours, and dangers.

S. Augustine gives us an instance of this in his own life (cf. lib. viii. c. 11). He says. “When habit that seemed to me irresistible said to me, ‘Can you live without them?'” (the concubines that he had been accustomed to have), “there appeared to me in the direction to which I had turned my face, while shrinking from setting out that way, the pure dignity of continence, with dignified mien, inviting me to come without hesitation, holding out, to welcome and embrace me, holy hands filled with hosts of good examples. There were multitudes of boys and girls, and many a youth; all ages were there, sober widows and aged virgins. She smiled encouragingly upon me, as much as to say, ‘Can you not do what these men and women have done? They did it not in their own strength, but in the Lord their God. He gave me to them. Why do you stand in yourself and fall? Cast yourself upon Him; fear not. He will not withdraw and cause you to fall. Boldly trust yourself to Him . He will receive you and will heal you.'”

Lastly, virtue is made perfect in weakness, because, as S. Bernard (Ep. 254) says, in a robust and vigorous body the mind lies effeminate and lukewarm, and again in a weak and sickly body the spirit grows stronger and more vigilant. As one to whom nature has denied strength excels in intellect, so where God withholds health He gives robustness and vigour of mind, so that the mind afflicted with a feeble body sighs after its resurrection and after heaven; spurns whatever is transient, troubled, and exposed to decay; lives for the future life, not the present; thinks with Plato that this life is death’s mediator; in short, gives itself wholly to God and heavenly things. “The mind that is allied to disease is close to God,” says Nazianzen. Listen to what a famous old man said to one of his disciples who enjoyed bad health (Vita. Patrum, lib. iii. n. 157). “Be not sad, my son, at your sickness and bodily ills. It is the highest duty of religion to give God thanks in weakness. If you are iron you lose your rust by fire; if you are gold you are tried by the fire and, proceed from great to greater. Be not distressed, then, my brother. If God wishes you to be tormented in the body, who are you that you should be angry with Him? Bear up then, and ask Him to give you what He sees fit.”

S. Theophanes, Abbot of Sigrianum, a man who never had good health, A.D. 816, gave the following answer to the iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Armenian, who threatened him with dreadful tortures if he did not condemn the veneration of images: “If you hope to terrify me with your threatenings, a man already worn out with disease and old age, as teachers threaten with a beating boys of no generous spirit, then let the pyre be kindled, let the instruments of torture be got ready, together with every engine of malicious cruelty, that you may know most clearly that the strength of Christ is made perfect in my weaknesses. I, who cannot walk on the ground, shall find my weakness changed into strength, and will leap upon the fire.” And he was as good as his word; for after many temptations he was shut up in prison, and all access to him was forbidden; and so, being gradually weakened by hunger, filth, and disease, he offered up his soul in two years’ time to God, as a sweet-smelling sacrifice, and after his death became illustrious for his miracles. The Church commemorates him on March 12th Cf. Baronius (Annals, A.D. 816). Cf. also S. Thomas and S. Chrysostom (Hom. 26), on the benefit of infirmities and tribulations.

Lastly, S. Bernard (Tract. de Grad. Humil.) says: “‘Virtue is made perfect in weakness.’ What virtue? Let the Apostle tell us: ‘Gladly will I glory in my infirmities, that the virtue of Christ may rest upon me.’ But perhaps you do not yet understand what special virtue he meant, since Christ had all virtues. But though all were found in Him, yet one in particular shone above all, viz., humility. This He commended to us in the words, ‘Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.’ Gladly, then, 0 Lord Jesu, will I glory if I can in my infirmity, in my bodies illness, that Thy virtue, humility, may be made perfect in me; for when any virtue fails, Thy grace avails.”

Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Humility makes him glory not in his strength but in his infirmity; and so he calls upon Christ to give him strength, and tacitly says that he throws himself upon Him. Hence, by infirmity he means every kind of suffering, tribulation, temptation, humiliation, as is explained in the next verse. Infirmity, then, is a generic term, including anything that causes pain to mind or body. Hence (1.) it may embrace sicknesses, which, S. Basil says, formed Paul’s thorn in the flesh; (2.) labours, such as are described in the preceding chapter; (3.) temptations of the flesh (ver. 7), or any other temptations; (4.) watchings, fastings, and other acts of mortification of the body, by which the body is weakened and made subject to the spirit; (5.) insults, persecutions, dangers, blows, and all afflictions borne for the sake of the faith of the Gospel.

Let them that are infirm console themselves amidst their infirmities by the thought that the power of Christ tabernacles in them as in its proper home. The power of God shows itself most where there is most need for it, and gives the greatest help when necessity is greatest. “To Thee,” says the prophet “the poor is left: Thou wilt be a helper of the fatherless.” For although naturally “bodily weakness involves also mental,” as S. Jerome says (Pref. lib. ii. Comment. in Amos), and “the body which is corrupted weighs down the soul” (Wis 9:15), yet supernaturally it is otherwise; for the soul that is strengthened with grace strengthens also the body. S. Francis, for instance, increased in mental vigour as his body grew more feeble, so much so that in giving thanks to God he prayed that his sicknesses might be increased a hundredfold. “To fulfil Thy will, 0 Lord,” he said, “is my exceeding comfort.” See his Life by S. Bonaventura.

S. Bernard (Serm. 34 in Cantic.) says: “He does not say that he bears his infirmities patiently, but that he glories in them, and glories in them most gladly, proving that it was good for him to be humbled; for God loveth a cheerful giver. Humility alone which is joyous and unconstrained merits the grace which it receives.” Again, in Sermon 25, he says: “We should wish for infirmity, which is supplemented by the power of Christ. Would that I might be not only weak, but destitute, and wholly wanting in anything of my own, that I might be strengthened by the might of the Lord of might; for strength is made perfect in weakness. And since this is the case, the bride beautifully turns it to her glory that she is held up to scorn by her rivals, and she glories, not only that she is comely but also that she is black. She thinks nothing more glorious than to bear the reproach of Christ. The ignominy of the Cross is pleasing to him who is not unpleasing to the Crucified.”

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Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matt 1:18-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 16, 2010

Mat 1:18  Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost.

Now the generation of Christ was in this wise. The Birth of Christ happened in this manner. For Birth, the Greek has not דםוףיע, i.e., generation, properly so called, but דםםחףיע, i.e., rise, conception, generation, nativity. When any one arises he is conceived, is begotten, is born.

When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Syriac, “of the Spirit of holiness”—that is, the Spirit who is holy, and the Author and Fountain of all holiness.

God willed the Blessed Virgin to be betrothed to Joseph—1. Because Joseph appears to have been the nearest heir of David’s kingdom, that it might devolve from him upon Christ, as from a father to a son, by due order and right of succession, as I have said, ver. 16. 2. Because Joseph was a most holy man, like unto the patriarch Joseph, of whose chastity and virtue he partook, as well as of his name. He was called Joseph—i.e., increased—for he was enriched with great gifts and graces from God. Thus S. Bernard, Hom. 2 super Missus est.

You may ask whether it be here meant that the Blessed Virgin was espoused to Joseph only by betrothal, or by an actual marriage contract and celebration of nuptials; and so, whether Christ was incarnate, and conceived of a virgin who was betrothed only, or of one who was actually married? For to a virgin thus betrothed Gabriel was sent to announce the Incarnation of Christ. (Luke 1:38.) And the Virgin, consenting to his message, and saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done to me according to thy word,” immediately, in that very instant, conceived Christ. Many are of opinion that the Blessed Virgin was only espoused by betrothal, or per verba de futuro, by which only a promise of marriage takes place. So S. Hilary, in loc.; S. Basil, Hom. on the Human Generation of Christ; Origen, Hom. I, on divers passages of the Gospels. But others think, with better reason, that the Virgin was espoused not merely by betrothal, but by marriage, per verba de prזsenti—by an actual nuptial contract. This is proved:—1. Because Joseph is called in the verse following, and in ver. 16, the husband of Mary. This must mean that he had married her. 2. Joseph wished to put her away, as being with child, as it is said in the verse following. He had therefore taken her to him to wife; for no one puts away what he has not. 3. Because “betrothed” (Luke 2:5) is interpreted to mean married. Yea, Joseph called her his wife. She was therefore already married, and introduced into the house of her husband, Joseph, as his wife, that, by this means, Joseph might be the attesting witness of her virginity, and the guardian and nourisher both of herself and her Child Jesus. Consider, also, that the Blessed Virgin, as soon as she had received Gabriel’s message, being now full of the WORD, visited Elizabeth, and abode with her three months. From whence it does not seem that she there celebrated her marriage with Joseph, nor yet after her return to Nazareth, for there exists no trace of such an event. So that she must have celebrated this marriage before Gabriel’s message, and the Incarnation of the WORD. Neither would it have been becoming that an unmarried virgin should undertake so great a journey into a mountainous country, without a husband, or companion, or without her guardian sending a maid, or some female relation with her. 4. Because it was plainly befitting that Christ should be born of a woman who was actually married, in order that he might not be despised by the Jews as illegitimate, but might be received as a legitimate son. And this is why Joseph is called Christ’s father. Finally, offspring is the proper fruit of wedlock. Thus Jerome, Haymo, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ambrose, Jansenius, Suarez, and others, passim.

It may be objected—1. That the angel says to Joseph, “Fear not to take Mary thy wife.” Therefore, he had not taken her to wife, but only espoused her by betrothal. I reply—to take, here means the same thing as to keep, and retain: for the angel calls her his wife. They were therefore married. The Hebrew verbs often signify not only inchoate, but continuous action. The meaning, therefore, is—”Dismiss not, O Joseph, thy wife Mary, but keep and retain her.” For nothing is put away save what has been received and possessed.

2. The Virgin is here called betrothed, before they came together, therefore before marriage. In reply, I deny the consequence. To come together does not here signify to contract marriage, nor yet to cohabit, but to make use of marriage already contracted.

3. Why is she here spoken of, not as married, but as espoused? I reply, she is called espoused or betrothed, because her husband had not known her; and therefore she was as a bride, not yet married to her husband, but only promised. So S. Chrysostom. Hence Peter Chrysologus (Serm. 175) says, Joseph was a husband in name only, by consent of his spouse; that is, he was accounted her husband by the bond, not the consummation of marriage.

That there was, however, a real marriage between Joseph and the Blessed Virgin is certain from the words of the Gospel, and the common agreement of theologians; and the axiom of lawyers, that—”Consent, not consummation, validates marriage.” Whence S. Augustine (lib. 1, de Nuptus, c. 11) says—”The good of marriage was fulfilled in those parents of Christ. There was offspring, fidelity, a sacrament (for these are the three goods of marriage). We recognize the offspring, the Lord Jesus Himself; the fidelity, for there was no adultery; the sacrament, for there was no divorce.” He teaches the same more at large against Julian the Pelagian (lib. 5), who denied the marriage of Joseph and Mary. In chap. 9, he maintains that the jus matrimonii is not repugnant to a vow of chastity. By marriage, I possess a right over my wife, but because of my vow, I cannot use that right lawfully. If I do use it, I sin against my vow, not my marriage. That is, I do what is, technically, an irreligious, not an unjust act. For there is not adultery, as it would be, if the wife were joined in marriage. Joseph, therefore, had by matrimony, a power over the Blessed Virgin, but by his purpose, and as it would seem by his vow of chastity, he would not use this power. To have a right or power to do a thing, and to use that power, are wholly different things. The first is necessary for valid matrimony, but not the second.

This right of cohabitation, and quasi dominion over a wife, in the case of married virgins, has several true and real, not fictitious consequences. The first is, that a virgin bride cannot marry another husband. The second is, that although the vow be broken by cohabitation, it is not fornication. The third, that offspring divinely granted and born (as Christ in the present instance was conceived of the Holy Ghost) is accounted legitimate as being born in wedlock.

From all this, it may be gathered that the marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary with Joseph was not only real matrimony, but lawful, yea, holy—real, because the essence of wedlock consists in the mutual delivery of power over each other’s body, even though this power be never exercised. And a vow of virginity takes away this power and right from no one, but only renders its exercise unlawful. It is after a similar manner that the power is separated from the use of a thing, in the case of certain religious, who remain owners of their paternal inheritance, but who, on account of their vow of poverty, are not able to make use of it. It was lawful marriage, because, although the Blessed Virgin had made a vow of virginity, yet she lawfully, and without peril of a breach of her vow, engaged in marriage, because she knew by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph would never use his power and marital rights to the detriment of her vow. So S. Augustine, de S. Virgin., c. 4, and theologians, passim. It is, moreover, probable that the Blessed Virgin Mary had revealed this, her vow, to Joseph before marriage, and that he had consented to it. Some add, that he had promised to be the guardian of her vow. It was holy marriage, because by means of it Joseph protected the good repute and the virginity of Blessed Mary; and became the guardian, nourisher, and educator of the Child Jesus. What were more holy than this?

See S. Thomas, 3 part 29. 2. 1. in corpore, where he assigns many reasons why Christ was born of an espoused virgin. And he adds that there might be a fifth reason why the Mother of the Lord was espoused and a virgin, in order that in her person both virginity and matrimony might be honoured against the heretics, who attack either one or the other. The holy martyr Ignatius, cited by S. Jerome, gives yet another reason—in order that her child-bearing might be concealed from the devil, so that he thought that Christ was not born of a virgin, but of a wife.

Observe here, tropologically, in the Blessed Virgin and Joseph the utmost height of angelic purity and virginity. And thus, the Blessed Virgin has communicated this gift of conjugal chastity to several eminent persons, specially devoted to her, as to S. Pulcheria, and Martian, to SS. Julian and Basilissa, to whom, in the first night after their vow of chastity, Christ appeared, accompanied by a vast throng of men in white robes, on the one hand, and the Blessed Virgin, girt about with a virgin throng, on the other hand. They who were with Christ chanted forth—”Thou hast conquered Julian, thou hast conquered.” And they who were with the Blessed Virgin replied—”Blessed art thou, Basilissa, who hast despised earthly marriage, and prepared thyself for eternal glory.” Wherefore Julian was the spiritual ancestor of innumerable believers in Christ and martyrs, and Basilissa, by word and example, was the mother of innumerable virgins of Christ.

Also S. Henry I., or as some say, II., Emperor of Germany led such a life with his wife Cunegundes, of whom, when he was dying, he said to her parents—”Lo! a virgin I received her from you, a virgin I restore her to you.” Such, too, were S. Cזcilia, with her spouse Valerian, to whom the Blessed Virgin sent by the hands of angels crowns of roses and lilies.

Symbolically, in this marriage and family union of Joseph with Mary there was an image of the Sacred Trinity. For Joseph represented the Eternal Father, the Blessed Virgin the Holy Ghost, both because she was most holy, and because she had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Christ represented Himself, even the Son of God. Whence, 1. As there is in the Sacred Trinity an essence of Deity in Three Persons, so here was there one marriage and one perfect family, consisting of three persons, namely, Joseph, Mary, and Christ.

2. As in the Holy Trinity the Father spiritually begets the Son, and breathes the Holy Ghost, so here the Blessed Virgin spiritually—not carnally, but by the power of the Holy Ghost—conceived and brought forth Christ. 3. In the Holy Trinity, the Father begets the Son, as light emits light: whence we sing in the Creed, “Light of Light, very God of very God;” so the Blessed Virgin, as the Star of the Sea, brought forth Christ, who is “the Brightness of Eternal Light,” and the “Mirror without a spot.” (Wis 7:26) Whence, like as a star, without any diminution of itself, sends forth its rays, so did the Blessed Virgin, without any derogation to herself, bring forth Christ the Light of the world. “Neither do the star’s rays diminish its lustre, nor did the Son of the Virgin take away her maiden purity and integrity,” says S. Bernard. (Hom. 2 super Missus est) Whence also those words of Simeon concerning Christ, “A Light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel.”

This family was then, as it were, a heaven upon earth—a family, not so much of three human persons as of three embodied angels—yea, symbolically, as it were, of three Divine Persons. Therefore it is not doubtful that it was thronged with angels, ministering to the Virgin, as Queen of Heaven, and to Christ, as their Lord and their God. Yea, they were amazed, and had the utmost desire to behold the WORD Incarnate. Therefore, that house, as it were heaven, was concealing an admirable mystery. Black without, but fair within, “as the tents of Cedar, as the curtains of Solomon” (Song 1:5), says Rupert. Whence John Gerson (Sermon on the Nativity) exclaims in wonder—”O, how delectable to the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, was that house’s Trinity, Christ, Mary, Joseph. Nothing dearer, nothing better, nothing on earth more excellent. Heaven envied earth such inhabitants—inhabitants more befitting heaven than earth.”

Tropologically, Let husbands and wives imitate the Blessed Virgin and Joseph in purity, in sanctity, in patience, and charity, bearing one another’s burdens. There was in this family of Joseph, Mary, and Christ, the utmost concord amongst all, the utmost love, the utmost reverence, humility, piety, help, and mutual compliance. From it, not only all bickering was absent, but even the very lightest suspicion of any evil thing. Hence such a family deserved to have Christ, the Holy of Holies, for its offspring. In our day, there are often in families depraved, disobedient, proud, quarrelsome, impure children, because their parents are such. Like father, like child. What he sees and hears his father and mother do, that he also imitates and imbibes. Children ever ape their parents.

Before they came together. Understand this not as though they afterwards came together for the marital debt, as the impure Helvidius maintained, who denied that the Blessed Virgin was always a virgin, and asserted that she afterwards became by Joseph the mother of those who, in the Gospel, are called the Lord’s brethren. S. Jerome confutes him at length, and shows that nothing is meant here except the miraculous conception of Christ by a pure virgin. Thus we say in common speech, “Such a one had grey hairs before he was an old man,” meaning that it was remarkable that he was early grey-headed, even though he never became an old man, but died before he came to old age. Similarly also we say, “His boy was wise before he came to man’s estate,” meaning that he was of precocious intellect, even though he died before he was of mature age; as those who are precocious do thus often die. Moreover, the brethren of the Lord are called His kinsmen. For, as S. Jerome says (Cont. Helvid.), brethren are so called in four ways: by nature, race, relationship, affection. People are brethren by nature, who are born of the same parents, by race, who belong to the same nation, as S. Paul calls the Jews his brethren (Rom 9:1), by kinship, as cousins are called brethren in Scripture, by affection, as when Christians love one another with mutual fraternal love. For this is the love of the brotherhood, which S. Paul so often commands.

She was found with child, of the Holy Ghost. Observe that Joseph understood by her appearance, that his wife, the Blessed Virgin, had conceived. But whether he knew that she was with child by the Holy Ghost, or not, is doubtful. S. Basil, Origen, Theophylact, and others, hold the affirmative. But the contrary is more probable, because Joseph wished to put her away, but is forbidden by the angel, who removes his scruple, adding, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” Therefore, before the revelation of the angel, he did not know this, because had he known it, he would not have wished to put her away.

It is said, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin was found with child of the Holy Ghost, because she had verily conceived by Him. The expression, of the Holy Ghost, must be referred to the words with child, not to was found. So the rest of the Fathers and Interpreters, passim. Origen adds that, “She was found by the angels, for they knew that she had conceived by the Holy Ghost.”

Of the Holy Ghost. Not as though Christ were framed of the substance of the Holy Spirit, as is the case with other offspring, nor of the Holy Ghost as a father; because Christ, quא man, was not like to the Holy Ghost, who in His nature is God; but of the Holy Ghost as an agent and artificer. Thus S. Ambrose, in Luc. i. 35. Of the Holy Ghost, not, therefore, as of the Father, but, as it were, supplying the concourse of the father. For the Holy Ghost supplied the place of a father to Christ, through His power and operation. So S. Ambrose c. 2, de Spiritu Sancto, c. 5 (i.e., On the Holy Spirit, Bk. 2, ch. 5), and S. Augustine, Enchiridion, c. 39 (i.e., Handbook on Fatih, Hope and Love). For the substance of our Lord’s body was supplied by the Blessed Virgin, as His only human parent. Strictly speaking, by denotes the efficient cause, of the material cause—as we say in the Creed: “Conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.”

You may ask—why does not Matthew say also, “With child by the Eternal Father, and by the Son. as well as by the Holy Ghost?” It is replied that he might have said this with equal truth. For it is an axiom among Theologians, that the operations of the Holy Trinity, ad extra—that is, with reference to the universe of created things—are common to all the Three Divine Persons. But he preferred to say, “By the Holy Ghost,” because, as power is appropriated to the Father, and wisdom to the Son, so love, goodness, and grace, which especially shine forth in this work of the Incarnation, are attributed to the Holy Ghost. For the Holy Ghost proceeds from the Father and the Son by spiration, being, as it were, the term of the ideal love of the Father and the Son.

Moreover S. Thomas (3 part, quזst. 32, art. 1 et seq) teaches that the words “by the Holy Ghost” signify three things: 1. That of the pure love of God and the Holy Spirit, without any human merits, the Incarnation of the Lord was accomplished. 2. Of the same Grace of God and the Holy Spirit, without previous merits, He was conceived. Whence S. Augustine, c. de Prזdest. Sanct. c. 15, proposes Christ, as it were, the ideal of election and the elect. “Whatsoever man is a Christian, he becomes such from the beginning of his faith by that self-same grace by which, at the first, Christ was made man: by the same Spirit a Christian is born again, by whom Christ was born; remission of sins is effected in us by the self-same Spirit by whom it was brought about that Christ should have no sin.” 3. Christ was holy, by virtue of his conception. For, like as a man, who, by ordinary generation, is propagated from Adam, a sinner, is by virtue of his conception born a sinner, so Christ, who was conceived, and, as it were, propagated by the Holy Ghost, was conceived holy by virtue of his conception. For that which the Holy Ghost worketh can be nothing else save warmth and fire. 4. By the Holy Ghost, signifies that He, in the formation of the Humanity of Christ, transposed all His sanctity into It (so far as a creature’s capacity would allow of such a thing, and so far as a creature can become like the Creator), and, as it were, transformed It into Himself: so that, next to Himself, He made It to be a pattern and prototype of holiness, that from It and according to It He might, as it were, express and depict all other holiness, both of all angels, and all men. Therefore the humanity of Christ was the most perfect, special, and most holy work of the Holy Ghost, in which He Himself constituted a fount of all sanctity, which, by its own purity, might wash away the filth of all sins, and, so far as it is concerned, sanctify all sinners.

Moreover, S. Thomas in the same question (quזst. 32, art. 2) teaches that the preposition “by,” in the expression by the Holy Ghost, signifies that Christ is consubstantial with the Holy Ghost, as touching his Godhead, not as touching his manhood, which He wrought in Christ. This, however, S. Augustine denies.

Mat 1:19  Whereupon Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, was minded to put her away privately.

1. S. Chrysostom (Homily 4 on Matthew, #7), S. Augustine (Epist. 52, ad Macedon.), Justin M. (contra Tryphon.), are of opinion, that Joseph suspected evil of the Blessed Virgin, as though she had conceived by another man. They think that this is hinted at in the expression, not willing publicly to expose her. But we say, far be any such suspicions concerning a virgin so holy, or a man so just. How, indeed, could Joseph have suspected adultery in such a wife, or uncleanness in her parents’ house?

2. Others think that Joseph wished to put away the Blessed Virgin out of extreme reverence, because he thought himself unworthy to have to wife one who was with child by the Holy Ghost. Whence they are also of opinion that S. Joseph accompanied the Blessed Virgin when she visited Elizabeth, and heard her saluted as Mother of God, and therefore thought himself unworthy of her. This is the opinion of Origen, S. Basil, Theophylact, S. Bernard (Hom. 2 super Missus est). S. Brigit asserts that the same was revealed to her (lib. 7, Revelat. c. 25). Whence Salmeron (lib. 3, c. 30) supports the same opinion by thirteen reasons.

But, 3, plainly and surely, Joseph, seeing the Blessed Virgin with child, was astonished at the novelty of the thing, and his mind was agitated by contending and fluctuating emotions, and he reasoned somewhat in this way: “I know that this Virgin is most holy, wherefore I do not believe that she has been false to her troth, plighted to me. Still, she is with child, and I know not by me. But by whom I know not. Can it be by a former husband? Or can she have suffered violence on her journey, when she went to visit Elizabeth? Can she have suffered illusion from some spirit during sleep? Or, what would be more consonant with her sanctity, is she with child by an angel, or by the Deity Himself? Well, however the case may be, I am unwilling to retain her, if an angel, or God Himself, desires to have her. Wherefore I will resign her, and put her away from me.”

God permitted this to take place in order that the conception of the Blessed Virgin by the Holy Ghost might be attested unto all, both by Joseph and by the Angel. Thus God permitted S. Thomas to doubt concerning Christ’s Resurrection, that he, touching Christ’s very wounds, might bear an irrefragable testimony to the same Resurrection.

Joseph, who was a righteous man, teaches husbands and believers not to suspect evil concerning just and holy persons upon slight grounds, but to wait for proofs. They should not be too ready to infer guilt, but should put the most favourable construction they can upon everything.

You may ask, why did not Joseph interrogate the Blessed Virgin, wherefore, and by whom she was with child? I reply, that it is merely the first thought which arose in Joseph’s mind, which is referred to, and which, out of modesty, he kept to himself. And he was shortly afterwards anticipated by the Angel, who answered in behalf of the Virgin, and exonerated him by saying that she had conceived by the Holy Ghost.

The Blessed Virgin was unwilling, of her own accord, to make known this divine secret to Joseph, in order that she might not seem to boast of her own gifts, so wonderful and so divine; but she confided all to God, and God’s providential care, most certainly trusting that God would defend her good repute and her innocence, and either in His own time open out the whole matter, as she had seen that He had lately done in the case of her cousin Elizabeth, or else would order all things to His own greater glory, and therefore to the greater honour and reverence of this, her conception. From whence, see here and admire the greatness of soul, and the lofty resignation and confidence of the Blessed Virgin in God, whereby she put away from her all this peril and fear of dark suspicion and infamy. And herein she has given a singular example of equanimity and confidence to wives who have jealous husbands, that they, too, should put their trust in God, that God will make clear their innocence and chastity, will protect them, and make them a praise, as he did in this case of the Blessed Virgin. Thus S. Jerome says: “This is the testimony to Mary’s purity, that Joseph, knowing her chastity, and wondering at what had happened, hides in silence the mystery of which he was ignorant.” And S. Ambrose (in Luc. i.) says: “The Lord preferred that some should rather doubt concerning His own generation, than concerning His Mother’s purity.”

It appears from all this that Joseph did not accompany the Blessed Virgin when she, very shortly after her Conception of Christ, visited S. Elizabeth. For if he had been in her company, and had seen and heard the great and wonderful things which befell her, they would have removed all his scruples, and he would not have thought of putting her away. And especially when S. Elizabeth said to the Blessed Virgin: “Whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? He would have known from thence, that not only had she conceived of God, but that she had conceived God Himself, and that she was carrying Him in her womb.

Observe that Joseph is here called just—that is, a man of probity—forasmuch as he was one who wished, out of charity, to consult for the good fame, yea, even for the dignity of his spouse, when he thinks of putting away privily one whom he thought himself unworthy of. S. Jerome and Theophylact think that husbands were commanded by the old law to traduce and accuse before the judges their wives, if they were guilty of adultery. But they adduce no place in which such a precept is given. For the passage in Numbers 5:2 only permits such a thing to be done, but does not order it.

Not willing publicly to expose her. Not, to send her away to her own house, as Abul. thinks. For the Greek is,απολυσαι—that is, to disgrace, to defame, or, as S. Augustine (Epist. 59, ad Paulinum) says, rendering literally, “to make an example of.” It was the custom in Crete to lead adulteresses through the midst of the streets, as they did captives at Rome, that they might be gazed at and derided. Whence that ancient punishment by law against bawds: “Let bawds and adulterers be caned through the public streets of the city, that they may be reviled and derided.” And the line of Propertius: “Not even if the infamous one should traverse the whole city.”

(He) was minded to put her away privately. By the way of secret divorce, giving her privily a bill of divorcement, as Abul. says on the passage, quזst. 39; or rather, and in a more honourable way for her, by leaving her on the plea of travel, as going away into a far country. So Maldonatus (i.e., Juan de Maldonado). Whence the Syriac translates: “And he thought of leaving her secretly:” and the Arabic, “Since he did not wish to put her to public shame, he thought upon a private dismissal.”

Mat 1:20  But while he thought on these things, behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.

But while he thought on these things. He had evidently not resolved upon them. For this was his first thought, and, as it were, the first motive of his mind. Behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying: Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife, for that which is conceived in her, is of the Holy Ghost.

Conceived: that is at one and the same time, conceived, formed, and animated, for this is the proper meaning of γεννηθεν—that is, begotten, born. See Abul., quזst. 52, and S. Thomas, 3 part. quזst. 33 & 34, where he teaches that the Body of Christ was in the very instant of its Conception, as regarded all its members, 1, perfectly formed and organized by the Holy Ghost; 2, animated with a reasonable soul; 3, assumed by the WORD. 4. That the soul of Christ was filled with all wisdom, and the grace of that Headship which flows from thence into all the members—i.e., to all the faithful. 5. That the same soul saw God through the Beatific Vision. 6. That the same had the use of reason, even apart from the Beatific Vision, by means of infused knowledge, and that, in this way, It knew that It was hypostatically united to the Word, and therefore gave God highest thanks because of this vision and exaltation: and that God revealed to the soul of Christ His own will, concerning His death upon the Cross, that He might thereby redeem and save mankind; and that the soul of Christ forthwith accepted this, and offered himself to God as a whole burnt-offering, a victim for sin for the salvation of the world, with the utmost humility, obedience, reverence, love, exultation, and joyfulness of mind, saying—”Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me, that I should do thy will. Yea, O my God, I am content to do it: Thy law is written in my heart.” (Ps 40:8, and Heb 10:7.)

Mat 1:21  And she shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus. For he shall save his people from their sins.

She shall bring forth a son: and thou shalt call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. If Jesus, as follows from this, is Emmanuel, that is, God with us; if He is the offspring and the Son of Blessed Mary, as is here said, then she is not only Mother of Christ but Mother of God, as defined by the Council of Ephesus against Nestorius. For Mother and Son are relative terms. Moreover, Valentinus is condemned by this passage, who taught that Christ brought down a celestial body from heaven, and passed through the Blessed Virgin as through a conduit-pipe. But she who bears a son is really the mother of the son; and furnishes, and indeed provides his body and all his limbs.

Jesus, that is, Saviour. This was Christ’s proper name, here foretold by the Angel, but given Him at circumcision, a name which signifies and represents His office and dignity—yea, compendiously His whole life.

Mat 1:22-23  Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Emmanuel…God with us.  The Syriac is: And they shall call his name Amanuil, which is explained, God with us. The Persian has, Immanuil, that is, because God dwelleth in us. The Egyptian version—And they shall give him the name Emmanuel, the interpretation of which is, for God is with us. S. Matthew to the reader, or, as some think, the Angel to Joseph, here brings forward the prophecy in Isa 7:14, to signify that it was now being fulfilled in this Conception of the Blessed Virgin, his wife, and would be perfectly fulfilled when she brought forth. And therefore he called Joseph the son of David, because the same thing was promised by God to David. I have fully expounded this prophecy in my commentary on Isa. vii., which see.

Behold. A word exacting attention, consideration, and admiration. As it were, “Behold, O ye angels, and all mankind, see and admire a new and wonderful thing, a thing unheard of in all ages. For a virgin shall conceive and bring forth Emmanuel, that is, God made man.” Whence Jeremiah, overcome with astonishment at the same event, exclaims (xxxi. 22), “The Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth: a woman shall compass a man.”
Cyrus, the first king of Persia, according to the testimony of Xenophon, never admired, and taught his friends to admire nothing on earth. For this is the mark of a great and a regal mind, to despise all things as being beneath him, as being of less importance than himself. And Seneca said that a wise man admired nothing, because, being above the earth, he despised all things lower than himself. But in Divine matters all things are worthy of admiration; because they are great, yea, the greatest things, especially the mystery of Emmanuel, because it is the great mystery of Divine Godliness, as the Apostle says, 1 Tim. iii. 10. Therefore, the goodness of the great God is a thing to be astonished at and admired. “Who through the bowels of his mercy visited us, the day-spring from on high.” “Behold, therefore, the infant Word, the wise Child, the God-Man,” says S. Bernard. Theologians and contemplative writers teach that we can consider and meditate upon this mystery in various ways, as by the method of compassion, of joy, of thanksgiving, of love, of imitation, but most loftily by wonder, as though we were always stumbling, amazed and astounded at this so great condescension of our God, whereby He deigned to descend to us worms of the earth so as to become a worm with us; and this, not for His own sake, but for ours, that He might unite men as worms to Himself, and make them gods. Thus the Blessed Virgin was amazed, and thus, too, S. Paul, S. Bernard, and Francis, and other especially saintly persons, who plainly and entirely despised the world, and all the things which are in the world, as being petty, brief, and transitory, and fixed their whole love, thought, and amazement on the Word Incarnate, and had their conversation always with Jesus, despising all other things.

Emmanuel. The Syriac has Amman Elohan—i.e., our God with us; but the word our is not in the Hebrew Emmanuel. From the Syriac it appears possible that S. Matthew, if he wrote in Syriac (as, many think, because the Jews for whom he was writing, in the time of Christ spoke in Syriac), interpreted the Hebrew Emmanuel by the Syriac Emman Eloha, or God with us. Munster, and others who have translated the Gospel of S. Matthew out of Latin into Hebrew, render the single Hebrew word Emmanuel by two, Immanu Elohim.

Some think that this interpretation was made by the Greek translator, who was followed by the Latin. The French shorten Emmanuel into Noel, which they duplicate and sing at Christmastide. Now, the name Emmanuel signifies the Incarnation of the WORD, and His whole Economy in the Flesh, because by It He was properly and physically God with us, by means of His flesh and His conversation, and ethically by reconciliation and grace. So S. Chrysostom.

You may say: How is the name Jesus the same as Emmanuel, as S. Matthew here intimates? Tertullian (lib. contra Judזos) answers that it is the same in sense if not in sound. For that God should be with us is the same thing as that a Saviour—i.e., Jesus—should be with us. For none other than God could be our Saviour.

Observe the Hebraism by which called is put for be. He shall be called Emmanuel, that is, He shall be Emmanuel. This is by the figure of speech metonymy, to which the following passages are clearly similar: Jer 23:6, Zechariah 8:3, and Is 9:6—”And his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God: the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of peace.” For all these things are signified, either explicitly or implicitly by the name of Jesus.

Note, also, that Christ is not called by Matthew and Isaiah Emmanu Jehovah, or Emmanu Adonai or Elohim, though all these are names of God, because Jehovah connotes the essence of God, or signifies God as He is the first, chief, and uncircumscribable Entity, from whom all other entities derive their existence. Adonai connotes the dominion of God, and signifies God as He is the Ruler, the Judge, and the Avenger of all things. But El connotes the might and omnipotence of God, and signifies God as He is strong and omnipotent, because God manifested His utmost might and power in the Incarnation, and in Christ, for through Christ He hath vanquished His strongest enemies, even the devils, hell, death, and sin, yea, and all sins and vices, however many and however great. Whence, also, the Angel who announced this mystery, was called Gabriel—i.e., the strength of God.

Hence, also, tropologically, observe: God is with us, not only in essence, presence, and power, as He is in all and every creature; but by the Incarnation He is also with us truly, properly, and really, as a Brother, living, speaking with us in the human nature assumed by Him, Therefore—2, He is with us, as a Head with its members. For Christ, as the Head of the faithful, causes to flow into them spiritual sense and motion, together with direction and government. 3. The Same, being Incarnate, is with us in the Eucharist, as it were our Food, feeding us with his own Flesh, and giving us to drink of His own Blood. So far, physically. 4. Christ, ethically, is with the Church as a bridegroom with a bride, assisting, protecting, sustaining, adorning, making her fruitful. Whence the Psalmist: “For though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” (Ps23 :4). Therefore the believer, in every difficulty, labour, or tribulation, invokes Emmanuel, that is, God with us, conversant in our flesh. And joyfully he cries, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing. He shall lead me in a green pasture, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.” And, Ps 27:1, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom, then, shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear; if a battle should rise up against me, in this will I be confident.” And with Paul, “If God be for us, who is against us?” so now, to any believer, but especially to a saint or a martyr, it is lawful to say what the Angel said to Gideon, “The Lord is with thee, O most valiant man.” (Judges 6:12).

Mat 1:24  And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.

And took unto him his wife, that is, did not put her away, but retained her with him, for this was what the Angel commanded him.

Mat 1:25  And he knew her not till she brought forth her first born son: and he called his name Jesus.

1. S. Hilary, in loc., cited by S. Thomas in Catena, Dionys. Carthus., and Gagneius expound as follows: As the Jews were not able to look upon and recognize the face of Moses on account of the rays of light which God had, as it were, breathed into him when He talked with him on Mount Sinai, so neither was Joseph able to look upon and to know the Blessed Virgin, forasmuch as she had God in her womb, and therefore her face was most radiant. But after Christ was born, this glory and effulgence left her face, and then she could be seen and known by Joseph.

2. On the contrary S. Epiphanius, Hæresi 30—that is, his treatise against the Ebionites—expounds thus: Joseph knew her not in mind. He did not discover the sanctity and the dignity of the Blessed Virgin, his wife, until she brought forth Christ. But these expositions are either incorrect or else symbolical and mystical.

3. According, therefore, to the true literal meaning, to know one’s wife signifies in Scripture the conjugal act. This, therefore, is excluded with reference to Christ, so as to signify that He was not conceived of Joseph, but by the Holy Ghost.

Until. From hence the heretics have taken occasion to say that Joseph knew her after she had brought forth her Son. Whence they deny that the Blessed Virgin always remained a Virgin, and that after bearing her Child she lost her virginity. Thus Helvidius, Jovinian, the Ebionites, and the rest of the Antidicomariani, who are confuted by S. Epiphanius, S. Jerome, S. Augustine and others, who teach that the word until, in this place, only signifies what took place up to the time of the birth, not what happened after the birth, which is not here referred to. For by this word until, Matthew wished to assert a wonderful thing—a thing hitherto unheard of, and, according to nature, incredible—even the Conception of Christ, without a father, by a virgin mother. Similarly, until is used, Ps 110:1., “Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool,” not because Thou shalt not after that sit any longer, but because Thou shalt then sit far more gloriously, as victor and triumphant at my right hand. And in Matt 5:26, “Thou shalt not go out from thence until thou shalt pay the last farthing;” that is, thou shalt never come out from the fire of hell. And 2 Sam 6:23, “Therefore Michal, the daughter of Saul, had no child unto the day of her death,” i.e., never. And, Gen 8:7, concerning the raven, which Noah sent forth out of the ark: “Which went forth and did not return until the waters were dried up;” i.e., it never returned. Thus, too, we say, “S. Agnes continued a virgin until death;” i.e., she always remained a virgin, for she could not lose her virginity after she was dead.

You may urge, S. Matthew says, until she brought forth her firstborn son; therefore she had other sons, by Joseph, namely those who in the Gospel are called the Lord’s brethren. I reply by denying the conclusion. For, in Scripture, any one is called a first-born son, who has no elder brothers, even though he be an only son. This is plain from Exodus 4:22, and Exodus 14:2. The word “first” denies the existence of any previous sons, but does not require, or presuppose, that there were any subsequent. Thus, an only son is even now called the first-born.

Therefore it is a doctrine of the faith that the Blessed Virgin always remained a virgin, as is plain from S. Luke 1:34, Ezekiel44:2, and by the universal consent of the Fathers, and the common consent, and perpetual tradition of the Church. (See S. Jerome, Againt Helvidius, init. tom. 2.)

Posted in Bible, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, liturgy, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Quotes, Scripture, ST THOMAS AND THE SUMMA, St Thomas Aquinas | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Resources for Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent (Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms)

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 11, 2010

This was originally posted on Wednesday, Dec 8. I have moved it to the top of my blog where it will stay until late Saturday night/early Sunday morning.

This post contains resources (mostly biblical) for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite. The readings for the two forms often differ, such is the case this week. It is generally my practice to post these “Resources for Sunday Mass” on the preceding Wednesdays and, when possible, update them during the remainder of the week.

ORDINARY FORM
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Sunday, Dec 12 2010.

Please note that the Gospel reading this week in the Ordinary Form is identical to the Gospel reading used last week in the Extraordinary Form.

Readings.

UPDATE: Father Maas on Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10.

Pope John Paul II on Psalm 146.

Bishop MacEvily on James 5:7-10.

Bishop MaEvily’s Commentary on Matt 11:2-11.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matt 11:2-11.

Maldonado’s Commentary on Matt 11:2-11.

St John Chrysostom’s exegetical Homily on Matt 11:2-11.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matt 11:2-11.

UPDATE: St Jerome’s Homily on the Gospel.

Franciscan Sisters Bible Study Podcast. They post the link on Thursday.

Dr Scott Hahn Podcast. Brief, does a good job of highlighting theme(s) of readings.

Word Sunday:

  • MP3 PODCAST In this week’s audio podcast, we dare to ask the question, “Has God ever disappointed us?” Of course, we’re looking at our expectations, not God’s.
  • FIRST READING Isaiah 35 predicted a time of peace, when eve creation will praise God and every broken spirit will be made whole.
  • PSALM Psalm 146 proclaimed the faithful will possess happiness, for they will see greater activity of the divine in life.
  • SECOND READING James 5 used an agricultural analogy to urge patience. Just wait. Christ is coming.
  • GOSPEL In Matthew 11, messengers from the Baptist asked Jesus, “Are you the One or should we wait for another?” Jesus answered with the messengers’ own witness. What they saw and heard proved Jesus was the Messiah.
  • CATECHISM LINK In this week’s Catechsim Link, we explore the subject of free will and responsibility.

    CHILDREN’S READINGS In the story for the first reading, Jade had to look hard to see the beauty of the desert flowers. The blooms of the desert were a sign of God’s presence in book of Isaiah. In the story for the gospel, John the Baptist mused if his second cousin, Jesus, was the Messiah. When his messengers returned with the answer, he again saw the truth about Jesus.

    FAMILY ACTIVITY When Jesus was asked about his identity, he answered “See what I do.” Put your faith into action with a family based holiday outreach. Match words with deeds, just like Jesus did.

Navarre Bible Commentary:

Lector Notes. Brief historical & theological notes can be printed out for bulletin insert.

Historical Cultural Context.

Thoughts from the Early Church. Excerpt of a commentary by Thomas of Villanova.

The Scripture in Depth.

Gospel Summary. St Vincent Archabbey. Audio available (bottom of page).

The Bible Workshop.

A Lectio Divina Reading. Prayer, meditation, reflection on the Gospel in the Carmelite tradition.

Bible Study Lessons. St Charles Borromeo Parish.

EXTRAORDINARY FORM
THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Dec 12, 2010

Please note that many of the links below are to online books which will take you to the exact page. You can use the book’s zoom feature to increase text size if necessary. Depending on the text size you may also have to scroll down the page slightly to find the beginning of the section being linked to.

Goffine’s devout Instruction on the Epistle and Gospel. Includes the readings.

Bernardin de Piconio on Philippians 4:4-7.

Nolan and Brown on John 1:19-28.

My Notes on John 1:19-28. Actually, the post includes and outline followed by notes on verses 19-39.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 1:19-28.

Sermon Plans: Can be used for sermon ideas, meditation, reflection.

Homily on the Epistle. Bishop Bonomelli.

Homily on the Gospel. Bishop Bonomelli.

UPDATE: Christ The Son of God Made Man. St John Henry Newman.

UPDATE: The True Picture of a Christian: Continual joy in the Lord; gentleness towards all men; filial confidence in God; preservation of the peace with God.

UPDATE: John on Himself, on His Baptism, and on Christ.

UPDATE: Jesus Christ, Redeemer of the World Foretold in the Old Testament.

UPDATE: The Ecclesiastical Celebration of Advent.

UPDATE: Many Act In Confession As If They Were Prophets.

UPDATE: Conscience.

UPDATE: Why We Should Always Speak the Truth.

UPDATE: Dogmatic Resources:

 

 

 

 

More Updates Coming.


 

 

Posted in Audio/Video Lectures, Bible, Books, Catechetical Resources, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, John Paul II Catechesis, Latin Mass Notes, liturgy, Meditations, NOTES ON ISAIAH, Notes on Philippians, Notes on St James, Notes on the Gospel of John, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, PAPAL COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS, Quotes, Scripture, SERMONS, ST THOMAS AND THE SUMMA, St Thomas Aquinas | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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