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Father Callan’s Introduction to the Epistle to the Ephesians

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 15, 2017


1. Captivity Epistles. Four letters of St. Paul—those to the Ephesians, to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon— are known as the Captivity Epistles, because the Apostle was a prisoner when he wrote them, most probably at Rome (61-63 a.d.), as mentioned in Acts 28:30. This opinion is according to a very ancient tradition which the contents of those Epistles support. First of all, there is a similarity of vocabulary and style in these four
letters, and Philippians seems to point directly to Rome when St. Paul speaks of himself as a prisoner, of the number of local preachers, and of Caesar’s household (Phil. 1:7-17, 4: 22). Moreover, that these four letters emanated from the Eternal City and were written about the same time is further made very likely from the following: (a) Timothy is associated with St. Paul in writing to the Philippians, to the Colossians, and to Philemon; (b) Rome, the capital of the Empire, was the natural resort of the runaway slave from Colossse, Onesimus, whose meeting with St. Paul occasioned the letter to Philemon (Phlm. 10-12, 18); (c) in Ephesians 6:20, the Apostle calls himself an ambassador in chains, that is, a representative of Christ the King in the imperial city, but without honor; (d) he is free to preach and to receive all who come to him (Phlm. 7 ff., 24; Eph. 3:12, 6:19, 20; Phil. 1:12, 20 ff.; Acts 28:30, 31); (e) he expects an early release, and asks Philemon to make ready a lodging for him (Phil. 2:24; Phlm, 22); (f) Tychicus and Onesimus are together in bearing these three letters to Asia (Eph. 6:21 ; Col. 4:7-9; Phlm. 12, 22).

In view of these considerations there is nothing of moment to be said in favor of the opinion that the three letters last named were written during the Caesarean captivity (58-60 a.d.). The arguments just given favoring Rome would not fit Caesarea. Still less can be said in support of the opinion which makes Ephesus the place whence St. Paul wrote the Captivity Epistles (see Pope, Aids to the Study of the Bible, vol. III., p. 160).

As to the order of these four Epistles, it is evident from what has been said above that those to the Ephesians, the Colossians, and Philemon are not to be separated; but whether the Colossian Epistle preceded or followed the composition of that to the Ephesians cannot be determined with any degree of certainty, though it is clear that both were carried from Rome at the same time by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7). Nor can it be decided whether the letter to the Philippians was the first or the last of these four Captivity Epistles.

With regard to their general contents Dr. Voste, O.P., very appropriately remarks that “there is nothing in the whole New Testament which so nearly approaches the doctrinal and mystical sublimity of the Fourth Gospel as do these Epistles. There is the same loftiness of dogmatic and ethical teaching, the same marvelous boldness of expressions, the same divine revelation of the union of the faithful with Christ or of the branches with the vine, and finally the same glorification of the love and person of Christ. John, the beloved disciple, has revealed to us the glory of the Word made flesh; Paul, rapt to the third heaven, has made known to us the glory of Christ exalted on high. And then, also, it was that the Apostle described this sublimity when, like the exile of Patmos, he was an ambassador in chains for Christ; when, like Stephen the First Martyr when being stoned to death, he saw the heavens opened and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God” (Ep. ad Eph., Introd., pp. 6, 7).

The style and manner of treatment in these Captivity Epistles is very different from that in St. Paul’s previous letters—Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. In those great Epistles the Apostle was at the height of his career; he was founding Churches; he was unfolding his great revelations; he was defending his authority and his teachings; he was in the thick of the battle. In these letters his work is mostly done; he is quietly surveying the fruits of his many labors, and is only anxious that they may be preserved. He is now reflective, meditative, and on the whole at peace in his mind.

His surroundings are also very different here. Formerly he was writing from Greek cities, with their individualistic outlook and cultured environment; but now he is writing from Rome, the centre of the great empire, with its worldwide outlook and its emphasis upon the family, the community, the state, and the race. Hence, Paul’s vision assumes a wider range here—especially in Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians—taking in the whole world and uniting all men of all time under the universal sovereignty of Christ. Christ, the King, and His universal Church are uppermost in the Apostle’s mind in these letters.

2. Ephesus. Situated on the great highway of trade between the East and the West, and under Roman rule the capital of Proconsular Asia, Ephesus was one of the most important cities of ancient times. It was to the province of Asia what Corinth was to Greece, what Antioch was to Syria, and what Alexandria was to Egypt. It was built on the Cayster River only about three miles inland from the Ægean Sea, and was the sea terminal of the great trade route which extended eastward, up the valley of the Maeander to that of the Lycus, and thence to central Asiatic and far eastern points. Miletus was indeed the natural terminus and seaport of the road which, from central Asia Minor and eastern lands, led down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander to the West, but the journey was shortened some thirty miles by a pass only six hundred feet high over the mountains from the Maeander to Ephesus. Moreover, during later centuries, and especially under the Romans, the silt carried down by the Maeander seems to have been permitted to spoil the harbor of Miletus, thus giving Ephesus undisputed supremacy as the seaport of Proconsular Asia until, in course of time, a similar fate befell the port of Ephesus through the alluvium which the Cayster deposited at its mouth. Even in St. Paul’s age the channel between Ephesus and the sea had to be cleaned out repeatedly, but later, after the sway of Rome had passed away, it was allowed to fill up and become a mere marsh, and the glory of Ephesus as a port and the great coastal terminal of trade from Central Asia and eastern countries ceased to exist and became a mere matter of the past.

In the days of its prosperity the trade and wealth of Ephesus were augmented also by the coast-line ships from north and south, and by the vast numbers of visitors who were passing from Rome to the East or from the Orient to the West, as well as those who came to the city to worship at the shrine of Diana, to enjoy the Roman festivals, and to assist at the public games and shows. For, as already said, Ephesus was the principal seaport of the Roman province
of Asia and the roads from the interior all converged there, thus making it most easily accessible for land travelers. Just outside the city stood the marvelous Temple of Diana (Artemis), one of the seven wonders of the world, and on the western side of Mt. Coressus was the largest theatre of the Hellenic world, open to the sky, and capable of accommodating 50,000 spectators; while a little to the north was situated the Stadium or Race Course where the public games and fights were exhibited.

The road from Ephesus to the east up the valley of the Cayster was too steep and precipitous for commercial purposes, but, as it was considerably shorter than the lower and more level route down the valleys of the Lycus and the Masander, foot-passengers, like St. Paul, naturally preferred it. Hence, the Apostle going on foot from Pisidian Antioch to Ephesus would follow the higher, though steeper, Cayster route; and this is why he seems never to have
visited Colossse and Laodicea, which were on the main highway of trade down the valleys of the Lycus and the Maeander.

3. The Church of Ephesus. Being so situated, the terminal of trade and travel from Asia and the East westward, and as the Asiatic port for commerce and travelers from the West to the East, Ephesus was naturally sought by St. Paul as a centre from which his preaching and missionary activities should radiate. Already at the outset of his second great journey (51 a.d.) he seems to have had Ephesus in mind as his goal, but being “forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6), he passed through Mysia over to Troas, and from there to Neapolis and Philippi, and then down through Macedonia and Greece (Acts 16:11-18:18). But at the close of that missionary journey, on his way
from Greece to Syria, he paid a brief visit to Ephesus, leaving there, as he proceeded back to the East, Aquila and Priscilla whom he had brought thither, and promising to return later himself (Acts 18:18-21).

Accordingly, on his third missionary journey (55-58 A.D.), St. Paul, after visiting the Churches previously founded in Galatia, came directly to Ephesus by way of the “upper coasts,” that is, following the Cayster valley route (Acts 19:1). The seed planted there on his first brief visit and nourished to some extent by the efforts of Aquila and Priscilla, aided for a time by Apollo, had already produced a little fruit in the establishment of a small group of catechumens
who had received only the baptism of John (Acts 19:1-3). These St. Paul at once instructed and baptised, imposing hands upon them and thus endowing them with the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 19:4-7). Then entering the synagogue where he had preached on his first visit to Ephesus, “he spoke boldly for the space of three months, disputing and exhorting concerning the Kingdom of God,” until, forced by the opposition of some of his Jewish hearers, he made “the school of one Tyrannus” his place of worship and instruction (Acts 19:8-9). In this new abode he continued his
spiritual labors for two whole years, discoursing every day and proving by miracles the divinity of his doctrine and claims, with the grand result that great numbers embraced the faith in Ephesus, the magical practices in honor of Diana were exposed as frauds, and the Gospel was heard by both Jews and Greeks throughout the whole province of Asia (Acts x19:10-26). It seems that St. Paul himself remained in Ephesus all the time (Acts 20:18), but his influence and efforts were extended by co-workers, like Epaphras and Tychicus of Colossse, and by the multitudes who came to Ephesus for various purposes, and, having heard the glad tidings of the new religion, carried them back to their homes. Although his personal work in Ephesus was nearly finished and he was contemplating an early visit to Macedonia and Corinth (1 Cor 16:5 ff.), the Apostle’s stay was somewhat shortened by the tumult raised by the silversmith Demetrius and his craftsmen; whereas he had intended to prolong his labors in that fruitful field until Pentecost, and then go to Macedonia and Achaia (Acts 19:21 ff.; 1 Cor 16:8-9).

On his way from Corinth back to Syria at the close of his third missionary journey (58 a.d.), St. Paul, unable to spare the time for a visit to Ephesus itself, halted at Miletus on the coast of Caria (Acts 20:15), some thirty miles southwest of Ephesus, and called thither the ancients of the Church of Ephesus, and addressed to them the solemn discourse of which St. Luke has given us the substance in Acts 20:18-35—which discourse is at once an indication of the strong and flourishing condition of the Ephesian Christian community and of St. Paul’s abiding interest in and affection for the Church there.

The next mention of Ephesus in connection with St. Paul is in the Pastoral Epistles, written towards the end of the Apostle’s life. In 1 Tim. 1:3 ff., we read that Paul exhorted Timothy to remain at Ephesus as head of that Church to teach and to correct, while he himself went to Macedonia; and in the Second Epistle to Timothy, written during the Apostle’s last imprisonment in Rome and shortly before his death, ‘he recalls the kindness of the Ephesian Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 2:18), and says he has sent Tychicus to Ephesus (2 Tim. 4:12).

Ephesus is mentioned twice in later Apostolic history, namely, in Rev 1:11; 2:1. There it was, after Timothy had passed, that St. John the Evangelist, as Bishop of that see, spent his declining years and wrote his Gospel and Epistles; there he was heard by Polycarp, Ignatius Martyr, and Papias; and there he died and was buried about the close of the first century of our era.

The Church of Ephesus continued to exercise a great influence for many centuries. It was the scene of the Ecumenical Council of 431 and of the “Robber Synod” of 449, and at the end of the fourth century its Bishop bore the title of Exarch or Grand Metropolitan of Asia. Ultimately, however, the primacy of Asia was taken over by the Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Christian community of Ephesus gradually declined with the rest of the city
its present desolate state of a small Turkish village.

4. To Whom Ephesians Was Addressed. It is extremely difficult to decide for whom this letter was destined. A great variety of opinions have been advanced, the merits of all of which it is neither possible nor useful to discuss here. Hence we shall confine ourselves to those which seem most likely, and which are or have been most generally held.

According to tradition this Epistle was intended for the faithful of the city of Ephesus, which St. Paul visited at the close of his second missionary journey and where he spent over two years on his third journey. In favor of this opinion we have: (a) the testimony of all extant Manuscripts containing St. Paul’s Epistles, which—with the exception of the Vatican (B), the Sinaitic (S), the cursive 67, and that of Mt. Athos recently found—read ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ
(at Ephesus) in Eph 1:1; (b) the title given this Epistle by every known MS., which has “To the Ephesians”; (c) the most ancient versions, going back to the middle of the second century, which follow the MSS. in reading “at Ephesus” in 1:1, and which therefore seem to indicate that this reading was already old when they were made; (d) the Muratorian Fragment in Rome, St. Irenaeus in Gaul, Tertullian in Africa, and Clement in Alexandria. These Fathers appear to have held the Ephesian destination of this letter on the authority of tradition, and not on the evidence of the MSS. before them. Thus it seems that, at the end of the second century, tradition was wellnigh unanimous in affirming that this letter was written for the faithful of Ephesus. Internal evidence, however, in support of this ancient opinion is, practically speaking, entirely lacking.

Against the Ephesian destination we have: (a) the indirect and negative testimony of the four MSS. referred to above, two of which are the oldest and best in existence, going back to about the middle of the fourth century; (b) Marcion, about the middle of the second century, who said this letter was addressed to the Laodiceans, and who, since he could have had no dogmatic reason for saying so, may have been guided by some ancient codex which read this way;
(c) Tertullian, who, arguing against Marcion for the Ephesian destination, was influenced only by tradition, making no reference to the words “at Ephesus” in 1:1, which must therefore have been absent from the MSS. known to him; (d) Origen, St. Basil, and St. Jerome, from whose writings we see that the phrase “at Ephesus” in 1:1 was lacking in the MSS. they made use of. With regard to the argument from Marcion, just given above, we are not obliged to believe that he had before him a codex which read “to the Laodiceans,” for his opinion may have been based only on the reference in Colossians to a letter at Laodicea (Col. 4:16). However, all this external evidence seems to show, at least, that the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ of verse 1 of this Epistle are not authentic, and consequently do not prove anything for the Ephesian destination of the letter.

Internal evidence is strongly opposed to an Ephesian destination. For example, (a) this Epistle has no personal greetings of any kind, which is nearly impossible to understand if Paul was writing to Ephesus where he had lived and labored so long and so successfully; (b) the tone of the letter is formal and distant, terms of familiarity and endearment (like “beloved” and “brethren”), being entirely absent; (c) there is no allusion to the Apostle’s previous
relations with his readers (as in Thess., Gal., Corinth., etc.), but, on the contrary, he seems to be unknown to the recipients of this Epistle, he has only heard of their faith (Eph 1:15), they have perhaps heard of the ministry committed to him (Eph 3:2 ff.), and he hopes they have been taught aright regarding Christ (Eph 4:20-21). We cannot imagine St. Paul addressing the Ephesians, either exclusively or inclusively, in this manner; and hence it seems to us that not only was this letter not addressed solely to the faithful of Ephesus, but it also could not have been written to any group of Churches which would include Ephesus.

If, therefore, we are to follow the theory commonly accepted nowadays (namely, that this was a Circular Epistle addressed to a number of Christian communities in Asia Minor), we ought to exclude the Church at Ephesus, and perhaps confine ourselves to the faithful of Laodicea and Hierapolis. But here again we encounter difficulties. Since these cities were only a few miles from Colossae, and must therefore have been affected by the same errors as endangered the faithful to whom Colossians was sent, it is hard to see why two letters so different in tone and object should have been directed to readers so near together and so similarly circumstanced. We admit, of course, that this objection has weight only in the supposition that Ephesians was addressed exclusively to the Churches at Laodicea and Hierapolis, and not to a group of Churches of which those two were only a part. If then we hold that we have here a Circular Epistle, and yet exclude the Church at Ephesus for the reasons given at the end of the preceding paragraph, and also the Churches at Laodicea and HierapoHs because of their nearness to Colossae, what group of Churches unknown to St. Paul shall we designate as readers of this letter? In reply it must be observed, first of all, that it seems next to certain that the readers addressed by this Epistle were living in Asia Minor somewhere and not too far from Colossae, since Tychicus was the bearer of this Epistle and of that to the Colossians at one and the same time. Arguing thus, some scholars have concluded that this letter was written for that rather isolated group of Churches in northeastern Asia Minor, near the Black Sea, to which St. Peter addressed his first letter (1 Pet. 1:1). The Ephesian designation given the letter, we are told, was due to the fact that, when the official collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was prepared some time in the second century, the copy which had been made at Ephesus when Tychicus first arrived there with the original from Rome, and which naturally bore the inserted reference to that central Church of Asia, was the one that was chosen for the Canon and that was copied generally in subsequent codices (cf. Ladeuze, Cath, EncycL, vol. V, pp. 487, 488; Revue Bihliquc, 1902, pp. 573-580.) This conjecture is worth some reflection, but one may well ask why St. Paul sent the crown of all his Epistles only to such a comparatively insignificant body of the faithful.

In view of the unsatisfactory character of the conclusions so far arrived at touching the destination of this letter, perhaps it is best after all to hold with the majority of modern scholars that we have in Ephesians a circular letter written to the various Churches of Asia Minor, including Ephesus, Laodicea and Hierapolis, and that the impersonal tone and distant, formal character of the Epistle are to be explained by the very fact that so many of the faithful were addressed, not a few of whom were strange and unknown to the Apostle. Along with this opinion the words ἐν ᾿Εφέσῳ (at Ephesus) which are found in so many MSS., can be explained quite reasonably as in the preceding paragraph.

The opinion of Harnack, however, which Fr. Knabenbauer regarded as not improbable and which Dr. J, M. Voste, O.P., adopts in his learned work on Ephesians, deserves our serious consideration. The opinion goes back to Marcion’s view that our Epistle was addressed to the Laodiceans. We give here a summary of Dr. Voste’s reasoning on this theory.

In the first place, the best text of verse i of this Epistle seems to be defective, as if the name of a city which ought to be in it had dropped out or had been purposely omitted. After the words τοῖς οὖσιν (who are) we should expect a noun, as in Rom. 1:7 τοις ουσιν εν ρωμη (to all in Rome), and in Phil. 1:1 τοις ουσιν εν φιλιπποις (to all in Philippi); (cf. also 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:2; Col. 1:2). Therefore, it is concluded that verse 1 of Ephesians ought to read: τοις ουσιν εν λαοδικεια (to those that are at Laodicea, etc.). The phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea), we are told, was in time suppressed because of the unworthiness which later crept into the Church of Laodicea, and to which St. John refers in Rev 3:14-19; but that it belongs there and that this Epistle was consequently directed to the Laodiceans is further made probable by the following references to the Church at Laodicea in the Epistle to the Colossians:

1. “For I would have you know what manner of care I have for you and for them that are at Laodicea, and whosoever have not seen my face in the flesh” (Col. 2:1). Here we observe that, while speaking to the Colossians, only the Laodiceans are expressly named.

2. St. Paul says of Epaphras: “For I bear him testimony that he hath much labor for you, and for them that are at Laodicea, and them at Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). These three cities—Colossae, Laodicea and Hierapolis—were not far apart in the valley of the Lycus River.

3. The Apostle says to the Colossians: “Salute the brethren who are at Laodicea, and Nymphas, and the church that is in his house” (Col. 4:15). Here Hierapolis is not included.

4. Finally, the Apostle says: “And when this Epistle shall have been read with you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans: and that you read that which is of the Laodiceans” (Col. 4:16). Here again there is question only of the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea, and both have received a letter from St. Paul.

As Dr. Voste goes on to observe here, it is manifest from the foregoing texts that the Churches at Colossae and Laodicea were intimately connected one with the other and in the heart of the Apostle. And hence it would a priori be very strange if, while the Epistle to the Colossians has been preserved, that to the Laodiceans should have been lost—all the more so, since, having been read at Colossae, most likely a copy of it would have been made by the Colossians That no copy of a letter so important as this one seems to have been should have come down to us, while that to the Church of Colossae and even the little personal letter to Philemon written at the same time have been preserved, borders on the incredible. But, on the other hand, if among the Epistles of St. Paul that we have there is one which, as regards time of composition and contents, is like our Epistle to the Colossians, though its traditional
inscription gives rise to various hypotheses, there results great probability that this is the Epistle to the Laodiceans.

Now, we have an Epistle to the Ephesians, written at the same time as the Epistle to the Colossians and in many ways very much like it, which seems certainly not to have been written to the Ephesians but to some other Church. The suspicion, therefore, naturally arises that this letter which now bears the title “to the Ephesians,” but which in the best MSS. and in ancient tradition appeared without any special inscription, is that lost Epistle of St. Paul’s which was sent to the Laodiceans. With this admission, we shall find no difficulty in the absence of salutations and of particular characteristics, because, as a matter of fact, the Laodiceans had never seen St. Paul, and, moreover, certain things in the Epistle to the Colossians, which was also to be sent to the Laodiceans, would pertain to the latter.

Hence, it seems very probable that our Epistle to the Ephesians in the beginning carried in its salutation the phrase εν λαοδικεια (at Laodicea) and that Marcion in the middle of the second century still read these authentic words in his text. We can account for the early suppression of the Laodicean designation, as said above, by the great corruption which invaded the Church of Laodicea towards the end of the first century (Rev 3:14-19), and which rendered it no longer worthy of so great a privilege and special distinction. This suppression would naturally be soon forgotten at large, and in course of time, when the collection of St. Paul’s Epistles was made, the illustrious name of Ephesus, the capital city of Roman Asia where St. Paul had lived so long, was substituted for the omission, in order to satisfy the grammatical construction ot the first verse of the letter, as well as to give to this glorious Epistle a complete and specific inscription, like those of St. Paul’s other letters. The fact that not all MSS. adopted the Ephesian inscription only proves that the Epistle had for long been known to lack the name of any special city or place.

The foregoing explanation is in substance the theory of Harnack as given by Dr. Voste in his work on Ephesians (Introduction, pp. 18 ff.) . As said above, this opinion was also accepted by Fr. Knabenbauer, S.J., as not improbable, and it has been followed by a number of non-Catholic exegetes. To us it seems very plausible, though not entirely free from difficulties. Perhaps it is open to fewer objections than any of the other explanations.

5. Authorship of Ephesians. This letter was circulated in the Church to some extent by the end of the first century, at the close of the second century it was in common use and widely known and it was always ascribed to St. Paul as its author. In fact, the authenticity of this Epistle was admitted without question by every ancient authority that can now be cited. Thus, the Muratorian Canon includes Ephesus among the Churches to which St. Paul wrote letters. St. Irenseus quotes Eph 5:30 as the words of “the blessed Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians.” Tertullian argues against
Marcion for the Ephesian destination of this letter. Clement of Alexandria, Origen and St. Basil are equally explicit; and Eusebius includes this Epistle among the sacred writings which were admitted by the whole Church without hesitation.

It is even probable that we have an allusion to this Epistle in Col. 4:16, and a number of references to it in the First Epistle of St. Peter. For the latter compare Eph. 1:3-14 with 1 Pet. 1:2; Eph. 1:20 with 1 Pet. 3:22; Eph. 2:18-22 with 1 Pet. 2:4-6; Eph. 3:10 with 1 Pet. 1:12; Eph. 4:9 with 1 Pet. 3:19; Eph. 5:22-6:9 with 1 Pet. 2:18-3:7. There are also quotations from and allusions to this Epistle, or echoes of it, in the writings of St. Ignatius Martyr, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tatian, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, and the Epistle of Barnabas.

Moreover, the heretics of the second century not only admitted that St. Paul was the author of this letter, but they even cited it as Sacred Scripture. Marcion, for example, included it in his Canon (cf. St. Epiphanius, Haer., xlii. 9), Valentine made use of it to justify his own doctrine (cf. St. Iren., Adv. Haer., i. 3, 8), Basilides did likewise (Philosoph., vii. 26), and other heretics likewise had recourse to it when they thought it served their purpose.

Among modern Rationalists and non-Catholic writers there are some who have doubted or denied the authenticity of our letter, but there is an equal if not a greater number who admit its genuineness, or incline towards it. In the former group are Schleiermacher, De Wette, Weizacher, Ewald, Baur, Holtzmann, Renan, Schwegler, Davidson, Cone, Moffatt, Dobschutz, Pfleiderer, Clemen, Scott, von Soden, etc.; whereas in the latter group we find such names as Weiss, Zahn, Shaw, Knowling, Lunemann, Lock, Robertson, Bacon, Schenkel, Salmon, Godet, Harnack, McGiffert, Howson, etc. Dr. Hort says he is sure that Ephesians bears “the impress of Paul’s wonderful mind.” Julicher appears to be uncertain.

One of the main reasons for suspecting the authenticity of this Epistle is based upon its similarity to Colossians, from which it is concluded that one or the other or both are the work of some falsifier, living perhaps early in the second century.

We may reply, in the first place, by freely conceding that the resemblances between these two letters are many and striking. For example, (a) the salutations are practically the same; (b) both have the same general structure; (c) in both the principal subjects and leading thoughts are much the same, the relations of Christ to His Church and to the Universe being the dominant thoughts in Ephesians and Colossians respectively; (d) there are many parallel passages, the same words, phrases and similitudes, and, in the practical part, the same counsels and exhortations. But are not these similarities just what we should expect in two letters written by the same author at about the same time to two Churches in practically the same spiritual condition and general environment? They are both Captivity Epistles (Eph. 6: 20; Col. 4:10), and Tychicus is the bearer of them both (Eph. 6:21-22; Col. 4:7-9), very probably
to neighboring Churches known to him. Is it surprising, then, that both letters should discuss similar themes in a similar style?

In the second place, let it be observed that, while there are notable resemblances between Ephesians and Colossians, there are also marked differences. Thus, (a) Colossians is personal and concrete, Ephesians impersonal and general in application, (b) The former inclines to the controversial and polemical; the latter is poetical and mystical, and more Johannine than any other of the Pauline writings. “In Colossians Paul is the soldier, in Ephesians the builder”
(Farrar). “Colossians is a letter of discussion, Ephesians of reflection. In the former we behold Paul in spiritual conflict, in the latter his soul is at rest” (Findlay). (c) The former is Christological, dealing with Christ’s relation to the universe; the latter is the ecclesiastical Epistle, treating of the relation between Christ and the Church. Under this last heading there are five passages in Ephesians which have no parallel in Colossians, namely, Eph 1:3-14, 4:4-16, 5:8-14, 5:22-33, 6:10-17. (d) There are twelve references to the Holy Ghost in Ephesians, and only one in Colossians; there are nine quotations from the Old Testament in the former Epistle, and none in the latter.

In view of the foregoing, it seems to us that no valid argument against the Pauline authorship of Ephesians can be drawn from the resemblances between that Epistle and Colossians. But our objectors find another difficulty in the style and diction of this letter, where, we are told, there are some forty strange words or expressions (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον = hapax legomenon) that do not occur elsewhere, either in the writings of St. Paul or in the whole New Testament; and some forty more which, while they are found elsewhere in the New Testament, are not to be found in St. Paul. Moreover, it is objected that the style here is dull and sluggish; that it is overtaxed with phrases, clauses, synonyms and qualifying epithets; and that it is lacking in the sharpness, vigor, and overpowering eloquence so characteristic of
St. Paul. Hapax legomenon is a term employed by scholars to refer to words and phrases that appear only once or very rarely in a book or an author’s body of work.

In reply to the first difficulty it need only be said that peculiarities of expression may be found more or less in all the letters of St. Paul, and as frequently in those whose authenticity the Rationalists admit as in the others. Thus, for example, we find ninety-six ἅπαξ λεγόμενον (hapax legomenon) in the Epistle to the Romans; ninety-one in 1 Cor.; ninety-two in 2 Cor.; thirty-three in Gal.; thirty-six in Philippians, etc. On the other hand, it should be noted that this letter contains many words not found in the New Testament except in the writings of St. Paul, which is an additional, positive proof of its authenticity.

As regards peculiarities of style and composition, we can say that these are easily and satisfactorily explained by a consideration of the time, place, and conditions in which Paul wrote this letter, as well as the circumstances of the faithful to whom he addressed it. The Apostle was nearing the end of his eventful life; he was a prisoner in Rome, the central city of a vast empire, and he had leisure for meditation on the great mysteries that had been revealed to him. He was writing to Churches unknown to him, at least for the most part, with which he had no reason for discussion or controversy, but which he wished to remind of the spiritual treasures that were theirs. In language, therefore, which often takes on the qualities and proportions of a hymn of adoration he unfolds to his readers in this letter the wealth of sublime thoughts and reasonings that flooded his soul. It is not wonderful, then, that his language here becomes rich and overflowing, soaring up like a cloud of incense to the very throne of God. Paul was writing from his prison cell in Rome, but his heart and soul were with Christ in heaven; he was enchained to a Roman soldier, but his mind swept over the vast Roman domains and took in the conditions of all the Churches scattered throughout the Christian world; he was still bound to his earthly tabernacle, but his thoughts penetrated to the “heavenly places” and pondered the mystery, the plenitude, the light, the love, the peace and glory of the Godhead as revealed in Christ and made known to the Church.

There are few advocates today of the argument against the authenticity of this letter which Baur, Schwegler and other Rationalists based on the Epistle’s relation to the Gnosticism of the second century. First of all, it is well known now that the Gnosticism which was a developed system in the second century had its beginning and early growth in the time of St. Paul. On this point we need only consult Irenaeus (Adv. Har., i. 23), Clement of Alexandria (Strom.,
vii. 18), and Eusebius (Hist. EccL, ii. 13 ; iv. 7).

In the second place, it is altogether doubtful whether there is any allusion in the Epistle to the Ephesians to Gnosticism, as it appeared in the second century. It is far more likely, on the contrary, that the propagators of this heresy made deliberate use of some of the expressions of St. Paul in this letter to help the spread and acceptance
of their own doctrines.

6. Date and Place of Composition. At the close of Paul’s third missionary journey, while he was fulfilling a vow in the Temple at Jerusalem, he was arrested by the Jewish authorities on a false charge (Acts 21:26 ff.) and carried away as a captive to Csesarea, where he was kept in prison for two years (Acts 23:23-24:27). At the end of this period, when the Roman Governor Festus was about to bring him to trial, the Apostle asserted his Roman citizenship and appealed to the tribunal of Cassar; and Festus, having heard Paul’s story and found him guilty of no crime, decided to send him to Rome (Acts 25:1-27). After making the long and perilous journey Paul with Luke finally arrived in the Eternal City and was there kept in prison two more years (Acts 27:1-28:31).

Now we shall assume that the Csesarean imprisonment occurred 58-60 A.D., that St. Paul set out from Caesarea for Rome in the autumn of 60 a.d., arriving in the latter city in the spring of 61 a.d., and that consequently the Apostle’s ensuing Roman captivity was from 61 to 63 A.D. We accept these years, not because they are certain or the only ones, but because they are just as probable as (if not a little more so than) any others that may be given. With these data premised, we ought not to find it difficult to fix the date and place of composition, not only of Ephesians, but also of the three other Captivity Epistles—Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon— on account of the very close relationship between these four letters.

As in the case of the three last-named Epistles, the Apostle was a prisoner on behalf of the Gentiles when he wrote our letter (Eph. 3:1; 4:1; 6:20), and his imprisonment had lasted a considerable time (Eph. 3:1; 6:22). Our letter was carried to its destination by a certain Tychicus (Eph. 6:21), who was at the same time entrusted with a similar letter to be delivered to the faithful at Colossae (Col. 4:6), and who therefore was recommended to both these Churches in almost the same words. On this mission Tychicus was accompanied by Onesimus, a fugitive slave from Colossas, whom the Apostle was sending back with a letter of commendation to his master, Philemon, a well-to-do Christian of that city (Col. 4:7-9). From these clear indications it seems evident that Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon were all written from the same place, during the same imprisonment, and therefore about the same time. But whether Rome or Csesarea was the place of Paul’s captivity at this time is still a disputed question, with the great weight of evidence pointing to Rome. For, if we examine the letter to the Philippians, we shall find that that Epistle was written either shortly before or shortly after these other three, while the Apostle was in the same imprisonment (Phil. 1:12 ff.), and that the indications are all Romeward. Thus the reference to the prsetorium in Phil. 1:13, the relations
between Jewish and Gentile Christians as reflected in Phil 1:15-20, the mention of Caesar’s household in Phil. 4:22, the freedom to preach and teach which St. Paul enjoyed (Phil. 1:12; Eph. 6:23; cf. Acts 24:32 ff., 28:31 ff.), are all much more applicable to Rome than to Caesarea. Again, it must have been when St. Paul was in Rome that he was expecting a speedy release ( Phlm. 22), for surely he was not expecting a release from Caesarea that would soon enable him to visit Philemon in Colossae. Finally, the points of contact between these four Epistles and the Pastoral
Epistles in phraseology, in Christology, in the stress laid on an organized Church and family life, etc., all indicate the later date, and so favor Rome, during the Apostle’s first captivity there between 61 and 64 A.D. (cf. Hastings, Dict, of The Bible, vol. I, p. 718).

In conclusion, then, we hold with the traditional opinion that not only Ephesians, but also Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon, were written by St. Paul in the Eternal City, during his first Roman captivity (61-63 a.d.).

7. Occasion and Purpose. We have just seen that the Apostle was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote this letter. Epaphras had brought him news of the dogmatic and moral errors that were springing up in the Church at Colossae and the neighboring cities. Perhaps the Apostle had been accused of a lack of interest In those Churches which he had not personally evangelized, and which had not seen his face (Col. 2:1-5). He had heard of the faith and charity of the “Ephesians,” and he was greatly pleased at this (Eph. 1:15-16); they also had heard of him and of his work among the Gentiles (Eph. 3:2 ff.).

While, therefore, dispatching Tychicus with a letter to the Colossians, St. Paul seized the opportunity to send this letter to those other Churches which he addressed in this Epistle, to remind them of their dignity as Christians and of the glorious life in Christ; to assure them that, though not evangelized by him, they were nevertheless members of the one vast Catholic Church which had been predestined before the ages to unite all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in one common brotherhood living the life of God ; to exhort them, consequently, to a higher activity and a greater unity in accordance with God’s eternal decrees and purposes for His Church; to warn them against the dangers of sin and possible errors which would imperil their divine life here on earth and their sublime prospects in the eternal life hereafter; and to stimulate them to ever greater efforts in the pursuit of virtue and in the fulfillment of their various
duties. That such were the occasion and purpose of the letter to the “Ephesians” an analysis of its contents seems to show, as well as the hints that we can gather from the Epistle to the Colossians.

8. Argument and Division. In general, this Epistle consists of a brief introduction, in which St. Paul greets his readers
in his usual manner (Eph 1:1-2); a dogmatic part, in which he discusses God’s eternal purpose, realized in Christ, of uniting all mankind, Jews and Gentiles, in the one Church of Christ (Eph 1:3-3:21); a moral part, in which are outlined the duties incumbent upon the members of the Church in the Christian life (Eph 4:1-6:20); and a conclusion, containing some personal matters and a benediction (Eph 6:21-24). A more detailed analysis of the dogmatic and moral parts will help to a better understanding of the Epistle.

A. Dogmatic Part (Eph 1:3—3:21).—(a) A solemn act of thanksgiving to God for our union with Christ (Eph 1:3-14). In lyric fashion, the Apostle begins by recalling the divine benefits for which Almighty God from eternity has chosen and predestined us, that, namely, through the grace of Christ we should be His holy and adopted children (Eph 1:3-6). It was Christ, he says, who in time carried out the divine decree, redeeming us from our sins by His blood, and revealing to us the supreme mystery of God, which was to reconcile to Himself all things in Christ (Eph 1:7-10); for in Christ we have become God’s portion, both we Jews, who had the Messianic promises, and you Gentiles, who by faith have also received the Holy Ghost, the pledge of our eternal inheritance (Eph 1:11-14).

(b) A prayer that the Ephesians may understand the glories of being united to Christ in His Church (Eph 1:13-23). In a special manner the Apostle first thanks God for the faith and love which are already characteristic of the “Ephesians” (Eph 1:15-16). He then prays for a still greater outpouring of the Spirit upon them that they may realize their Christian dignity and their future glory, as well as the greatness of the divine power exerted in our behalf (Eph 1:17-19), and pre-eminently manifested in raising Jesus from the dead, and in making Him Lord of the universe and head of the Church, which is His mystical body (Eph 1:20-23).

(c) The Gentiles’ former heathen life and condition are contrasted with their present privileges in the Church of Christ (Eph 2:1-22). Formerly the “Ephesians” were dead in their sins, walking according to the course of this world and obeying the lusts of the flesh; but God out of pure mercy raised them from their miserable state to a participation in the resurrection and glorification of Christ, by whose grace we are saved (Eph 2:1-10). In order that the “Ephesians” may understand the greatness of the grace they have received, St. Paul bids them recall the state in which they were living before their conversion, and to contrast that with the exalted benefits they now enjoy through their union with Christ (Eph 2:11-13), who has broken down the wall that separated Jews and Gentiles and has
reconciled both the one and the other with the Father (Eph 2:14-18). Henceforth the “Ephesians” are admitted to full membership in the household of God and are made parts of His spiritual edifice (Eph 2:19-22).

(d) A renewed prayer that the “Ephesians” may know and appreciate the greatness of their Christian vocation (Eph 3:1-19). At the thought of the call of the Gentiles into the Church of Christ, St. Paul breaks forth in an act of thanksgiving (Eph 3:1); but the very mention of the Gentiles causes him to interrupt his prayer and to digress upon the part his preaching and ministry have had in their admission into the Church (Eph 3:2-13). Resuming his prayer
(Eph 3:14), the Apostle asks God out of the riches of His glory to give the “Ephesians” spiritual strength and the grace necessary to become perfect Christians (Eph 3:14-19).

(e) Doxology, which concludes the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle: Glory to God in the Church, and in Christ Jesus, the head of the Church, throughout all coming generations, to all eternity (Eph 3:20-21).

B. Moral Part (Eph 4:1-6:20).—(a) The general character of the Christian Ufe, as manifested in the diversity of gifts and functions  of the members of the Church within the one Church (Eph 4:1-16). The Apostle, bound a prisoner in the Lord, exhorts his readers to live a life worthy of their vocation in all charity, being careful to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-6). The diversity of the gifts of the Holy Ghost should not be an obstacle to unity, but rather a means of greater solidarity, because all the faithful are members of the one mystical body of Christ
(Eph 4:7-16).

(b) The contrast between the old life of paganism and the new life of Christianity (Eph 4:17-24). The “Ephesians” must live no longer as they did as pagans, in ignorance and impurity (Eph 4:17-19); but, putting away the old man according to the flesh, they must put on the new man according to God (Eph 4:20-24).

(c) Virtues required of all Christians (Eph 4:25-5:21). Our life and unity in Christ require that we refrain from the vices of lying, anger, etc., and practice the contrary virtues (Eph 4:25-32), that we be followers of God and imitators of Christ in our lives, avoiding the works of darkness and walking as children of light (Eph 5:1-14). Let us be truly wise, using well our time, fulfilling the will of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, etc. (Eph 5:15-21).

(d) Admonitions for special classes in the Church (Eph 5:22-6:9). After a general exhortation to obedience (Eph 5:21), the Apostle now takes up the duties of special classes in the Church, namely, those of wives and husbands (Eph 5:22-33), of children and parents (Eph 6:1-4), and of slaves and masters (Eph 6:5-9)—all of which duties are to be
faithfully discharged for the sake of Christ and in Christ.

(e) The warfare of the Church (Eph 6:10-20). From a consideration of things pertaining to the internal welfare of the Church, St. Paul now turns to external needs and reminds his readers of the battles that must be fought against spiritual forces without. Each member of the Church must be prepared to do his part in this warfare, and his weapons must be those of God Himself.

So much for the Dogmatic and Moral Parts. The Conclusion, like the Introduction, has been noticed at the beginning of this section.

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God: His Knowability~Chapter One, Section One, Article One

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

The Knowability of God
Chapter I

human reason can know God

Human reason is able to know God by a contemplation of His creatures, and to deduce His existence from certain facts of the supernatural order.

Our primary and proper medium of cognition is the created universe, i. e., the material and the spiritual world.

In defining both the created universe and the supernatural order as sources of our knowledge of God, the Church has barred Traditionalism and at the same time eliminated the possibility of Atheism, though the latter no doubt constitutes a splendid refutation of the theory that the idea of God is innate.

Section 1
man can gain a knowledge of god from the physical universe
Article 1

the positive teaching of revelation

In entering upon this division of our treatise, we assume that the reader has a sufficient acquaintance with the philosophic proofs for the existence of God, as furnished by theodicy and apologetics. As against the attempt of atheists and traditionalists to deny the valor and stringency of these proofs, Catholic theology staunchly upholds the ability of unaided human reason to know God. Witness this definition of the Vatican Council: (Sess. III, de Revel., can. 1) “Si quis dixerit, Deum unum et verum, creatorem et Dominum nostrum, per ea quae facta sunt, naturali rationis humanae lumine certo cognosci non posse, anathema sit—If any one shall say that the one true God, our Creator and Lord, cannot be certainly known by the natural light of human reason through created things; let him be anathema.” Let us see how this dogma can be proved from Holy Scripture and Tradition.

1. The Argument from Sacred Scripture.—a) Indirectly the possibility of knowing God by means of His creatures can be shown from Rom. 2:14 sqq.: “Cum enim gentes, quae legem non habent, naturaliter ea quae legis sunt faciunt, eiusmodi legem non habentes ipsi sibi sunt lex: qui ostendunt opus legis, scriptum in cordibus suis, testimonium reddente illis conscientia ipsorum et inter se invicem cogitationibus, accusantibus aut etiam defendentibus, in die cum iudicabit Deus occulta hominum secundum Evangelium meum, per Iesum Christum—For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these having not the law are a law to themselves: who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts between themselves accusing, or also defending one another, in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”

The “law” (lex, νόμος) of which St. Paul here speaks, is identical in content with the moral law of nature (Cfr. Rom. 2:21 sqq) the same which constituted the formal subject-matter of supernatural Revelation in the Decalogue. Hence, considering the mode of Revelation, there is a well-defined distinction, not to say opposition, between the moral law as perceived by unaided human reason, and the revealed Decalogue. Whence it follows, against the teaching of Estius, that “gentes,” in the above-quoted passage of St. Paul, must refer to the heathen, in the strict sense of the word, not to Christian converts from Paganism. For, one who has the material content of the Decalogue “written in his heart,” so that, without having any knowledge of the positive Mosaic legislation, he is “a law unto himself,” being able, consequently, to comply “naturally” with the demands of the Decalogue, and having to look forward on Judgment Day to a trial conducted merely on the basis of his own conscience,—such a one, I say, is outside the sphere of supernatural Revelation.

From this passage of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans we argue as follows: There can be no knowledge of the natural moral law derived from unaided human reason, unless parallel with it, and derived from the same source, there runs a natural knowledge of God as the supreme lawgiver revealing Himself in the conscience of man. Now, St. Paul expressly teaches that the Gentiles were able to observe the natural law “naturaliter”—“by nature”—i. e., without the aid of supernatural revelation. Since no one can observe a law unless he knows it, St. Paul’s supposition obviously is that the existence of God, qua author and avenger of the natural law, can likewise be known “naturaliter,” that is to say, by unaided human reason.

b) A direct and stringent proof for our thesis can be drawn from Wisdom 13:1 sqq., and Rom. 1:18 sqq.

α) After denouncing the folly of those “in whom there is not the knowledge of God,” the Book of Wisdom continues (13:5 sq.): “A magnitudine enim speciei et creaturae cognoscibiliter poterit creator horum videri. … Iterum autem nec his debet ignosci; si enim tantum potuerunt scire, ut possent aestimare saeculum, quomodo huius Dominum non facilius invenerunt?—For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.… But then again they are not to be pardoned; for if they were able to know so much as to make a judgment of the world, how did they not more easily find out the Lord thereof?” A careful analysis of this passage reveals the following line of thought: The existence of God is an object of the same cognitive faculty that explores the visible world,—i. e., human reason. Hence the medium of our knowledge of God can be none other than that same material world, the magnitude and beauty of which leads us to infer that there must be a Creator who brought it forth. Such a knowledge of God is more easily acquired than a deeper knowledge of the creatural world; in fact, absence of it would argue unpardonable carelessness. As viewed by the Old Testament writer, therefore, nature furnishes sufficient data to enable the mind of man to attain to a knowledge of the existence of God, without any extraneous aid on the part of Revelation or any special illumination by supernatural grace.

β) We have a parallel passage in the New Testament,—Rom. 1:18 sqq., which reaches its climax in verse 20:Invisibilia enim ipsius [scil. Dei] a creatura mundi per ea, quae facta sunt, intellecta conspiciuntur sempiterna quoque eius virtus et divinitas, ita ut sint inexcusabiles—For the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable.” In other words:—God, Who is per se invisible, after some fashion becomes visible to human reason (νοούμενα καθορᾶται). But how? Not by positive revelation, nor yet by the interior grace of faith; but solely by means of a natural revelation imbedded in the created world (τοῖς ποιήμασιν). To know God from nature appears to be such an easy and matter-of-fact process (even to man in his fallen state), that the heathen are called “inexcusable” in their ignorance and are in punishment therefor “given up to the desires of their heart unto uncleanness.” (Rom. 1:18, 24 sqq)

c) By way of supplementing this argument from Holy Scripture we will briefly advert to the important distinction which the Bible makes, or at least intimates as existing, between popular and scientific knowledge of God. The former comes spontaneously and without effort, while the latter demands earnest research and conscientious study, and, where there is guilty ignorance, involves the risk of a man’s falling into the errors of polytheism, pantheism, etc. We find this same distinction made by St. Paul in his sermons at Lystra and Athens, and we meet it again in the writings of the Fathers, coupled with the consideration that, to realize the existence of a Supreme Being men have but to advert to the fact that nations, like individuals, are plainly guided and directed by God’s Providence. In his sermon at Lystra, after noting that God had allowed the Gentiles “to walk in their own ways,” that is to say, to become the prey of false religions, the Apostle declares that He nevertheless “left not Himself without testimony, doing good from heaven, giving rains and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.”(Acts 14:16) Before the Areopagus at Athens, the great Apostle of the Gentiles, pointing to the altar dedicated “To the Unknown God,” said: “God, who made the world, … and hath made of one [Adam] all mankind, to dwell upon the whole face of the earth, determining appointed times and the limits of their habitation, that they should seek God, if happily they may feel after him or find him, although he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and are.”(Acts 17:24-28) In the following verse (Acts 17:29) he calls attention to the unworthy notion that the Divinity is “like unto gold, or silver, or stone, the graving of art, and device of man.” Both sermons assume that there is a twofold knowledge of God: the one direct, the other reflex. The direct knowledge of God arises spontaneously in the mind of every thinking man who contemplates the visible universe and ponders the favors continually lavished by Providence. In the reflexive or metaphysical stage of his knowledge of God, on the other hand, man is exposed to the temptation wrongly to transfer the concept of God to objects not divine, and thus to fall into gross polytheism or idolatry.(Cfr. Wisdom 13:6 sqq.) We have, therefore, Scriptural warrant for holding that the idea of God is entirely spontaneous in its origin, but may easily (though, it is true, only by an abuse of reason), be perverted in the course of its scientific development.

2. The Patristic argument may be reduced to three main propositions.

a) In the first place, the Fathers teach that God manifests Himself in His visible creation, and may be perceived there by man without the aid of supernatural revelation.

Athenagoras calls the existing order of the material world, its magnitude and beauty, “pledges of divine worship” and adds: “For the visible is the medium by which we perceive the invisible.” Clement of Alexandria, too, insists that we gain our knowledge of Divine Providence from the contemplation of God’s works in nature, so much so that it is unnecessary to resort to elaborate arguments to prove the existence of God. “All men,” he says, “Greeks and barbarians, discern God, the Father and Creator of all things, unaided and without instruction.” St. Basil calls the visible creation “a school and institution of divine knowledge.” St. Chrysostom, in his third homily on the Epistle to the Romans (n. 2), apostrophizes St. Paul thus: “Did God call the Gentiles with his voice? Certainly not. But He has created something which is apt to draw their attention more forcibly than words. He has put in the midst of them the created world and thereby from the mere aspect of visible things, the learned and the unlearned, the Scythian and the barbarian, can all ascend to God.” Similarly St. Gregory the Great teaches: “Omnis homo eo ipso quod rationalis est conditus, debet ex ratione colligere, eum qui se condidit Deum esse—By the use of his reason every man must come to the conclusion that the very fact that he is a rational creature proves that his Creator is God.”

b) The Fathers further teach: From even a superficial contemplation of finite things there must arise spontaneously, in every thinking man, at least a popular knowledge of God.

To explain how natural it is to rise from a contemplation of the physical universe to the existence of God, some of the Fathers call the idea of God “an innate conviction, planted by nature in the mind of man,” a knowledge which is “not acquired,” but “a dowry of reason,” and which, precisely because it is so easy of acquisition, is quite common among men. Tertullian calls upon “the soul of the Gentiles” to give testimony to God,—not the soul which “has learned in the school of wisdom,” but that which is “simplex, rudis, impolita et idiotica.”—“Magistra natura” he says, “anima discipula—Nature is the teacher, the soul a pupil.” St. Augustine says that the consciousness we have of God blends with the very essence of human reason: “Haec est vis verae divinitatis, ut creaturae rationali ratione iam utenti non omnino ac penitus possit abscondi; exceptis enim paucis [sc. atheis] in quibus natura nimium depravata est, universum genus hominum Deum mundi huius fatetur auctorem—For such is the energy of true Godhead, that it cannot be altogether and utterly hidden from any rational creature. For with the exception of a few in whom nature has become outrageously depraved, the whole race of man acknowledges God as the maker of this world.” Seeking a deeper explanation, several Fathers (e. g., Justin Martyr and St. Basil) have raised the rational soul to the rank of an essential image of the Eternal Logos, calling it a λόγος σπερματικός, which irresistibly seeks out and finds God in the universe.

c) The Fathers finally teach that human reason possesses, both in the visible world of exterior objects, and in its own depths, sufficient means to develop the popular notion of God into a philosophical concept.

The Greek Fathers, who had to combat paganism and the heresy of the Eunomians, generally relied on two arguments as sufficient to enable any man to form a philosophical concept of God; viz., the cosmological and the teleological. Augustine’s profounder mind turned to the purely metaphysical order of the true, the good, and the beautiful, to deduce therefrom the existence of Substantial Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. This trend of mind did not, however, prevent him from acknowledging the validity of the teleological and cosmological argument. “Interroga mundum, ornatum coeli, fulgorem dispositionemque siderum, … interroga omnia et vide, si non sensu suo tamquam tibi respondent: Deus nos fecit. Haec et philosophi nobiles quaesierunt et ex arte artificem cognoverunt.… Quod curiositate invenerunt, superbia perdiderunt. Translation of the passage in full: Ask the world, the beauty of the heaven, the brilliancy and ordering of the stars, the sun, that sufficeth for the day, the moon, the solace of the night; ask the earth fruitful in herbs, and trees, full of animals, adorned with men; ask the sea, with how great and what kind of fishes filled; ask the air, with how great birds stocked; ask all things, and see if they do not as if it were by a language of their own make answer to thee, “God made us.” These things have illustrious philosophers sought out, and by the art have come to know the Artificer. What then? Why is the wrath of God revealed against this ungodliness? “Because they detain the truth in unrighteousness?” Let him come, let him show how. For how they came to know Him, he hath said already. “The invisible things of Him,” that is God, “are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; His eternal Power also and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” They are the Apostle’s words, not mine: “And their foolish heart was darkened; for professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” What by curious search they found, by pride they lost. 

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Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: Prayer for Penitents with the Imposition of Hands

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

Almighty, eternal God, Lord of the whole world, the Creator and Governor of all things, who hast exhibited man as the ornament of the world through Christ, and didst give him a law both naturally implanted and written, that he might live according to law, as a rational creature; and when he had sinned, Thou gavest him Thy goodness as a pledge in order to his repentance: Look down upon these persons who have bended the neck of their soul and body to Thee; for Thou desirest not the death of a sinner, but his repentance, that he turn from his wicked way, and live (Ezek 18, 33). Thou who didst accept the repentance of the Ninevites, who willest that all men be saved, and come to the acknowledgment of the truth (Jonah 3; 1 Tim 2:4); who didst accept of that son who had consumed his substance in riotous living (Lk 15), with the bowels of a father, on account of his repentance; do Thou now accept of the repentance of Thy supplicants: for there is no man that will not sin; for “if Thou, O Lord, markest iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? For with Thee there is propitiation” (Ps 130:3-4). And do Thou restore them to Thy holy Church, into their former dignity and honour, through Christ our God and Saviour, by whom glory and adoration be to Thee, in the Holy Ghost, for ever. Amen. Then let the deacon say, Depart, ye penitents; and let him add, Let none of those who ought not to come draw near. All we of the faithful, let us bend our knee: let us all entreat God through His Christ; let us earnestly beseech God through His Christ.

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Rufinus on the Foreshadowing of the Resurrection

Posted by Dim Bulb on April 1, 2017

But that you may not suppose this to be a novel doctrine peculiar to Paul, I will adduce also what the Prophet Ezekiel foretold by the Holy Ghost. “Behold,” saith he, “I will open your graves and bring you forth out of your graves.”166 Let me recall, further, how Job, who abounds in mystical language, plainly predicts the resurrection of the dead. “There is hope for a tree; for if it be cut down it will sprout again, and its shoot shall never fail. But if its root have waxed old in the earth, and the stock thereof be dead in the dust, yet through the scent of water it will flourish again, and put forth shoots as a young plant. But man, if he be dead, is he departed and gone? And mortal man, if he have fallen, shall he be no more?”167 Dost thou not see, that in these words he is appealing to men’s sense of shame, as it were, and saying, “Is mankind so foolish, that when they see the stock of a tree which has been cut down shooting forth again from the ground, and dead wood again restored to life, they imagine their own case to have no likeness to that of wood or trees?” But convince you that Job’s words are to be read as a question, when he says, “But mortal man when he hath fallen shall he not rise again?” take this proof from what follows; for he adds immediately, “But if a man be dead, shall he live?”168 And presently afterwards he says, “I will wait till I be made again;”169 and afterwards he repeats the same: “Who shall raise again upon the earth my skin, which is now draining this cup of suffering?”170

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A Brief Sermon on the Transfiguration by St Augustine

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 11, 2017

WE heard when the Holy Gospel was being read of the great vision on the mount, in which Jesus showed Himself to the three disciples, Peter, James, and John. “His face did shine as the sun:” this is a figure of the shining of the Gospel. “His raiment was white as the snow:”1 this is a figure of the purity of the Church, to which it was said by the Prophet, “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow.”2 Elias and Moses were talking with Him; because the grace of the Gospel receives witness from the Law and the Prophets. The Law is represented in Moses, the Prophets in Elias; to speak briefly. For there are the mercies of God vouchsafed through a holy Martyr to be rehearsed. Let us give ear Peter desired three tabernacles to be made, one for Moses, one for Elias, and one for Christ. The solitude of the mountain had charms for him; he had been wearied with the tumult of the world’s business. But why sought be three tabernacles, but because he knew not as yet the unity of the Law, and of Prophecy, and of the Gospel? Lastly, he was corrected by the cloud, “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them.” Lo, the cloud hath made one tabernacle; wherefore didst thou seek for three? “And a voice came out of the cloud, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye Him.”3 Elias speaketh; but “hear Him;” Moses speaketh; but “hear Him.” The Prophets speak, the Law speaketh; but “hear Him,” who is the voice of the Law, and the tongue of the Prophets. He spake in them, and when He vouchsafed so to do, He appeared in His own person. “Hear ye Him:” let us then hear Him. When the Gospel spake, think it was the cloud: from thence hath the voice sounded out to us. Let us hear Him; that is, let us do what He saith, let us hope for what He hath promised.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on John 9:1-42

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 26, 2017


This chapter commences with an account of the miraculous cure, performed by our Lord in restoring sight to a man who was born blind. The questions proposed by the disciples, as to the cause of his blindness. Our Redeemer’s reply. At the same time, He declares Himself to be the light of the world (1–5). The manner in which the cure was effected (6–13). The bitter animadversion of the Pharisees, as usual, denouncing the violation of the Sabbath. The discussion among them, as to our Lord’s character. The appeal to the man who was cured, as to his opinion respecting our Lord. The appeal to the man’s parents, as to his identity (15–24) Their vile abuse of the man for showing an inclination to respect and speak in terms of praise of our Lord (24–29). His courageous reply, and his expulsion from the place of meeting, in consequence (30–34). The gift of faith or spiritual enlightenment, bestowed on him by our Lord (34–39). Our Lord’s denunciation of the Pharisees for their perversity and resistance to God’s heavenly light, thereby entailing on themselves the more grievous sin (39–41).

1 And Jesus passing by, saw a man who was blind from his birth.

And Jesus passing by,” etc. The common opinion is, that the occurrences here referred to took place in connexion with the foregoing, immediately after our Lord left the Temple. This is, however, questioned by others, who hold that some interval elapsed. These say, it may refer to some other time, when the Pharisees sought an occasion for assailing our Redeemer, on which account, the Evangelist now records it, and they ground their opinion, chiefly on our Lord’s disappearance, coupled with the fact, that His disciples were present. There is nothing, however, to prevent one from holding, that His disciples may have met Him outside, as, most likely, on His disappearing, they, too, left the Temple.

A man blind from his birth,” which rendered his case the more difficult, and the miracle wrought more remarkable.

2 And his disciples asked him: Rabbi, who hath sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?

Who hath sinned,” etc. This question probably took its rise from the prevailing popular opinion, that diseases and corporal ailments were the punishment of sin. This may be true; but, not always, as may be seen from the case of Job, as well as of Tobias, etc. Great calamities, sudden deaths, by no means argue any particular commission of sin (Luke 13:1–4). Others hold, that the question was suggested by our Lord’s admonition to the man sick of the palsy. “Go, sin no more, lest anything worse,” etc. (5:14).

The question as regards the man himself committing sin, so as to induce the curse of blindness, is quite unmeaning, as if he could commit actual sin, before he was born. It is intelligible, so far as it may concern his parents, since God often punishes children, on account of the sins of their fathers. “A jealous God visiting the iniquity of the Fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation” (Exodus 20:5).

St. Chrysostom and Theophylact say the disciples speak thus, not by way of interrogation, as if they suspected that either child or parents were in fault, but by way of doubting, as much as to say; neither of them could give rise to it.

3 Jesus answered: Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

Neither this man sinned,” etc. The question requires the words to be added, “that he should be born blind.” Our Lord does not deny that this man or his parents had been guilty of sin, besides original sin—(the source of all our misfortunes)—in which we were all born. What He denies is that this blindness was the result or effect of any particular sin of theirs, on account of which it was inflicted.

That the works of God,” etc. It happened, in order that an occasion would be afforded, for having the works of God’s power and goodness manifested in his miraculous cure by our Lord; and that thus, it would be proved that our Lord was sent by God, and men would be stimulated to believe in Him and follow Him.

4 I must work the works of him that sent me, whilst it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

I must”—considering My Father’s decree—“work the works of Him that sent Me,” which My Father, commissioned Me, as His legate to perform, so as to bring men to the faith and to eternal salvation, “whilst it is day,” during the course of My mortal life and during my corporal presence among men. “The night cometh”—the time of My death and of My absence from among men, is fast drawing to a close. “When no man can work.” I can no more work among men, after My departure out of this world, than any one else can. After death, men can perform no work, neither can I. “Neither work, nor reason, nor wisdom in hell (Ecclesiastes 9:10). Our Lord wishes to convey that after death, He cannot work by His own visible personal operation, as He did in life. He can neither suffer, nor die, nor teach men, nor perform miracles for man’s salvation; though, indeed, after death, He works through His holy Spirit, and by means of Apostolic men.

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

As long,” etc. Therefore, must I work while it is day. I must not hide my light under a bushel. I must not be idle. I must enlighten the world. Not that He ceased to enlighten the world after His departure. For, even now, it is He, “that enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” But, He would not enlighten it, as He did during His life time, by personally working miracles, and instructing men in person.

These words are also allusive to the miracle of restoring sight to the blind man, and enlightening him, which our Lord is about to effect.

6 When he had said these things, he spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and spread the clay upon his eyes,

. “When He had said,” etc., as if to show practically, in a partial way, that He was the light of the world, destined to enlighten those who sat in darkness, whether spiritually or corporally, He, at once, proceeds to effect the cure of the blind man. He might have accomplished this by His sole word of command, but He employs the instrumentality of His creatures, in a way, that conveys some mystery, and contains some recondite, hidden meaning. “He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and spread it on the eyes” of the blind man.

Various conjectures are hazarded, as to why He did this. Some say, He wished to show, that as He originally formed man out of the slime of the earth; so, He employed the same material for the repairing of human nature, that He used in its formation. He makes use, in restoring sight, of the very thing, which if applied to the eyes of a sound man, would render him perfectly blind, to convey that the restoration of his sight would appear from the contrary and inadequate means employed, attributable, not to human natural agency, but solely as the effect of Divine power. Sometimes, in the Old Testament, did the Prophets employ such means and instrumentality. For instance, see Miracles of Eliseus (4 Kings 20:21; 6:5, 6), thereby showing that the wonderful results are the effects of God’s power, owing to the inadequacy of the human means employed

Similar is the economy of God’s Providence in carrying out His greatest work, the work of man’s redemption (see 1 Cor. 1. Commentary on).

Our Lord mixed with the clay, spittle, the foam of His own mouth, to show how salutary was every thing emanating from Him.

Those, who impiously jeer at the use of ceremonies, and material elements in connexion with spiritual effects, which they symbolize, have a clear refutation in this action, and several similar actions on the part of our Divine Redeemer for similar effects (Mark 7:33; 8:23).

To try his obedience, our Lord, who might have cured the blind man on the spot, tells him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloe.” He might have also in view, to have the miracle, which He wrought on the Sabbath, more generally known, when the people saw this man passing a long way through the midst of the city, towards the pool, with the clay on his eyes, thus taking away from the unbelievers all excuse for rejecting Him. The Prophet Elizeus acted similarly with Naaman, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:10).

7 And said to him: Go, wash in the pool of Siloe, which is interpreted, Sent. He went therefore and washed: and he came seeing.

Wash in the pool of Siloe.” Siloe or Siloam, had its origin in a fountain at the foot of Mount Sion, which, as we are told by St. Jerome (in Isaias 8), sent forth its waters, not continuously, but, only intermittently, at certain seasons and certain days, discharging them with great noise through subterranean passages and the fissures of the hardest rocks, till they formed the pool now spoken of, called the pool of Siloam.

St. Epiphanius (in vita Prophetarum c. 7) tells us, the waters gushed from the rock at the prayer of Isaias. The waters having passed through the cavities of the rocks with great noise, formed the pool here referred to, in the western side of the valley of Josaphat, outside, but quite close to Jerusalem; and from the pool, the waters glided gently (Isaias 8) into the little brook of Cedron, of which mention is made in the history of our Lord’s Passion (John 18:1). Allusion is made to the pool of Siloam in Nehemias (2:15).

Which is interpreted, sent,” being derived from the Hebrew Shalach, to send. It is not without some latent cause, the Evangelist gives the meaning and interpretation of “Siloe” to signify “sent.” It was a type of our Lord who was sent from the bosom of His Father to save and enlighten mankind, and of His mysteries and ordinances; especially of the rite of Baptism, instituted by Him to cleanse and wash us from our spiritual defects, and enlighten us spiritually by the light of Divine grace, of which St. Augustine tells us the waters of Siloe were a type.

He went therefore,” asking no questions, raising no doubts as to our Lord’s meaning, believing in His miraculous curative powers. “Washed,” as he was ordered, in reward of which “He came, seeing,” his sight being perfectly restored.

8 The neighbours, therefore, and they who had seen him before that he was a beggar, said: Is not this he that sat and begged? Some said: This is he.

The neighbours,” etc. This blind man was well known, and the remarks of his neighbours served to place the reality of His miraculous cure in the clearest light.

9 But others said: No, but he is like him. But he said: I am he.
10 They said therefore to him: How were thy eyes opened?
11 He answered: That man that is called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes and said to me: Go to the pool of Siloe and wash. And I went: I washed: and I see.

The man called Jesus,” etc. This he did not say out of disrespect; but merely to show that he was yet a stranger to Him. He heard of Him, he knew Him only by report.

12 And they said to him: Where is he? He saith: I know not.
13 They bring him that had been blind to the Pharisees.
14 Now it was the sabbath, when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes.

As this miracle and the entire operation occurred on the Sabbath, the people doubt as to whether it could come from God. Hence, they bring the blind man before the Pharisees—members of the Sanhedrim—as judges in such cases. God’s Providence so arranged it, that the Pharisees themselves could not deny the fact of the miracle. “Cæcus confitebatur et cor impiorum frangebatur.” (St. Augustine.)

Our Lord, in order to refute the false notions of the Pharisees regarding Sabbatical observances, frequently fixed on the Sabbath, as the time for performing miracles.

15 Again therefore the Pharisees asked him how he had received his sight. But he said to them: He put clay upon my eyes: and I washed: and I see.
16 Some therefore of the Pharisees said: This man is not of God, who keepeth not the sabbath. But others said: How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

They had their own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, to which they wished all others to conform. The reality of the miracle they could not deny. Indeed, the reality of all our Lord’s miracles were undeniable. The facts were patent. So undeniable were they, that even in the Synagogue, they secured followers for our Lord, timid followers, however, on account of the violent persecution from the Jews.

A sinner,” an impostor or deceiver. Could God possibly grant the power of such miracles, performed in such a way, in proof of His own sanctity and Divine mission, to an impostor? Unable to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, His enemies, then, as also happened at all future periods, ascribed them to other than Divine agency.

There was a division,” etc. A schism. They were divided into two separate parties.

17 They say therefore to the blind man again: What sayest thou of him that hath opened thy eyes? And he said: He is a prophet.

They had their own ideas about keeping the Sabbath, to which they wished all others to conform. The reality of the miracle they could not deny. Indeed, the reality of all our Lord’s miracles were undeniable. The facts were patent. So undeniable were they, that even in the Synagogue, they secured followers for our Lord, timid followers, however, on account of the violent persecution from the Jews.

A sinner,” an impostor or deceiver. Could God possibly grant the power of such miracles, performed in such a way, in proof of His own sanctity and Divine mission, to an impostor? Unable to deny the reality of our Lord’s miracles, His enemies, then, as also happened at all future periods, ascribed them to other than Divine agency.

There was a division,” etc. A schism. They were divided into two separate parties.

18 The Jews then did not believe concerning him, that he had been blind and had received his sight, until they called the parents of him that had received his sight,

Seeing their views were not strengthened by the opinion of the blind man, to whom they appealed; the enemies of our Lord unable to deny the miraculous fact, now question the man’s identity, and have recourse to his parents to know if he were their son; thus, hoping in case of any difference of testimony, to discredit the miracle.

19 And asked them, saying: Is this your son, who you say was born blind? How then doth he now see?
20 His parents answered them and said: We know that this is our son and that he was born blind:
21 But how he now seeth, we know not: or who hath opened his eyes, we know not. Ask himself: he is of age: Let him speak for himself.

The Pharisees propose three questions. The man’s parents answer two of them. For prudential reasons, they decline answering the third, viz., how he was cured, as they did not wish to run the risk of excommunication. He is no longer an infant; he is of age to answer for himself and give testimony. The age for giving testimony among the Jews was the age of thirteen.

22 These things his parents said, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had already agreed among themselves that if any man should confess him to be Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.

Put out of the Synagogue,” was a kind of excommunication among the Jews entailing the heaviest religious and social penalties. The excommunicated were deprived of all religious intercourse; excluded from religious worship and sacrifice. They were deprived of all social intercourse also, even with their nearest and dearest friends. The very necessaries of life could not be sold to them.

23 Therefore did his parents say: He is of age. Ask himself.
24 They therefore called the man again that had been blind and said to him: Give glory to God. We know that this man is a sinner.

Give glory to God.” This was a form of adjuration or obtestation; or of administering an oath in use among the Jews (Josue 7:19; 1 Kings 6:5; Jeremiah 12:16). They did not mean, give glory to God for thy cure. This they scornfully denied. Tell the truth, as in the presence of God, for the glory of God, whose sovereign veracity is thus honoured, as essentially loving the truth. Admit that there is an imposition in this case, that thou hast told us a lie, and endeavoured to impose on us; and thus thou wilt give glory to God, who hates and condemns all imposture, as He is the essential and eternal truth. To induce Him to make this acknowledgment, they say, “we”—who are the proper authority to decide such matters—“know,” we declare “this man,” this violator of the Sabbath, far from being a “Prophet” commissioned by God, to be “a sinner,” a blasphemous seducer.

25 He said therefore to them: If he be a sinner, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind. now I see.

I know not.” I have no opinion to offer. Facts speak for themselves. “One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see,” owing to His having opened my eyes.

26 They said then to him: What did he to thee? How did he open thy eyes?

They want to confound Him by their questions, and to elicit from Him some contradiction, in order to injure the credibility of the miraculous cure.

27 He answered them: I have told you already, and you have heard. Why would you hear it again? Will you also become his disciples?

Justly indignant at their conduct and factious persistency, he loses patience on clearly seeing the wicked passions that prompted this unmeaning cavilling, and asks, “will you also,” as well as His other followers, become His disciples? What other object can you have in thus sifting my case, unless after discovering the truth, to become, like others among them, myself included, “His disciples?” This stinging, reproachful irony was calculated to annoy them. He saw well their determined malice, and their incurable hatred of our Lord.

28 They reviled him therefore and said: Be thou his disciple; but we are the disciples of Moses.

They reviled Him,” heaping imprecations on Him, especially by saying, what they considered the most insulting and ignominious charge. You are His disciple, “or, be you His disciple,” the follower of an impostor—a fate which your seeming attachment to Him merits for you. Or, “You are His disciple.” You show yourself so degraded, as to be a fit follower of such a blasphemous impostor.

As for us, “we are disciples of Moses.” We follow his law regarding Sabbatical and other observances, unlike the man, who impiously prides himself in trampling on them.

29 We know that God spoke to Moses: but as to this man, we know not from whence he is.

We know that God spoke to Moses.” Therefore, in following his law, we obey God’s law. “As for this man”—they speak contemptuously—“we know not from whence He is.” Whatever His country or descent may be, we know not whether He derives His commission or doctrine from God or from the devil. Of this we are totally ignorant.

30 The man answered and said to them: why, herein is a wonderful thing, that you know not from whence he is, and he hath opened my eyes.

Herein is a wonderful thing.” It is a matter to be greatly wondered at, viz., “that you,” who are the teachers of the people, you, who boast of being so learned in the law—“know not whence He is,” cannot see, whence He derives His mission and authority. “And—yet—He hath opened my eyes.” Whence could He derive His mission, but from God, who, in proof of His Divine mission, has performed such stupendous miracles, among the rest, opening my eyes, who was born blind—a miracle that you cannot, in any way, question?

31 Now we know that God doth not hear sinners: but if a man be a server of God and doth his will, him he heareth.

Now we know,” as a matter commonly and generally believed. In this, the blind man gives expression to the opinion commonly entertained. Hence, he says, “we know.”

That God doth not hear sinners.” This, taken in a general or universal sense, is not true; for, God does hear sinners and lends an ear to their petitions when they approach Him with proper dispositions of penance and sorrow. But, the words have here a restricted meaning, from the context, which has reference to the working of miracles, and then the words mean: God does not hear sinners, who persevere in a sinful course, so as to give them the power of working miracles, in proof of their Divine mission and personal sanctity, as in the case of miracles wrought by our Divine Lord. God never gives the seal of His power in the operation of miracles, to prove men to be holy who are not so, or to be sent by Him, who were not sent, but ran of themselves.

These are the words of the blind man. We are not bound to defend their accuracy. All the Scriptures are committed to is, that he uttered the words, which is no doubt true.

But if a man be a server of God,” a true sincere worshipper, announcing true, sound doctrine, and in addition, “doth His will,” observes His commandments, “him He heareth,” whenever He calls upon him, when necessary, for power to work wonders. Then, God grants Him this power. In this, it is implied, that whenever men work miracles, they do so, not by their own innate power, but by the power of God.

32 From the beginning of the world it hath not been heard, that any man hath opened the eyes of one born blind.

From the beginning of the world.” In the whole history of miracles wrought from the beginning of the world, whether by Moses or the Prophets, or any one else, there is no instance of restoring sight to a man born blind in so extraordinary a way, by rubbing and wiping off clay. Hence the superiority of this man, whom you spurn and reject, over Moses or the Prophets who have gone before us.

33 Unless this man were of God, he could not do anything.

. The conclusion is, that this, being so rare and stupendous a miracle, could only come from the power of God, especially as it had for object, like all the other miracles of our Redeemer, to prove His sanctity and mission from God. “Unless this man were from God, He could not do any thing,” like the miracle just wrought by Him.

34 They answered and said to him: Thou wast wholly born in sins; and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out.

Finding they could neither shake the confidence nor impugn the veracity, nor answer the arguments of this man, now laying aside their affected mildness, assumed in order to elicit inconvenient replies, they show themselves in their true colours, and indulge in abuse of the grossest kind.

Thou”—a wretched ignorant mendicant—“wast born wholly in sins,” defiled with sin, soul and body, from your birth to this day; and in punishment of these sins hast been cursed with blindness from your very birth. Likely, these men entertained the notions regarding the infliction of bodily maladies in punishment of sin, expressed by our Lord’s disciples (v. 2).

And dost thou teach us?” “Thou” and “us” are emphatic. “Teach us,” so famed for sanctity of life, and a profound knowledge of the law.

And they cast him out,” from the place of meeting, whatever it was. Some say, the Synagogue, thus excommunicating Him. This latter opinion is hardly likely, as the man did not yet explicitly declare that our Lord was the Messiah.

35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out. And when he had found him, he said to him: Dost thou believe in the Son of God?

Our Lord arranged to find out this man, so dishonoured for his intrepid defence of his heavenly deliverer and the avowal of his miraculous cure. In order to compensate him for this injury, He now bestows on him the priceless spiritual enlightenment of faith, for which the restoration of his bodily sight had gradually disposed him.

He asked him, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” Our Lord asked him this, when there was question of his spiritual enlightenment, or the gift of faith about to be bestowed on him, to secure his co-operation; while in regard to corporal enlightenment, no co-operation was needed, according to the teaching of St. Augustine. “Qui fecit te sine te, non justificat te sine te; fecit nescientem, justificat volentem.” (Sermo. 15, de verbis Apostoli.)

He uses the words, “Dost thou believe in the Son of God?” rather than, “Dost thou believe in Me?” as He gradually wished to reveal Himself to him, and cause him no sudden surprise, by declaring Himself at once the Son of God. Likely, the man cured, did not know it was our Lord cured him, since he was sent to the Pool of Siloe to be healed, and had not seen our Lord up to this. He believed our Lord to be a Prophet, and proclaimed Him as such. He did not, however, as yet fully believe, though, no doubt, well disposed, to do so, in His Divinity. It may be, the man knew from His voice, that it was our Lord cured him; but, in any case, he did not believe in His Divinity. He knew in case he recognised Him as his benefactor, that He would not deceive him; and hence, he cried out.

36 He answered, and said: Who is he, Lord, that I may believe in him?

Who is He, Lord?” etc. The word, “Lord,” is a term of respect, and might be rendered, “Sir.” From his heart, he was ready to believe, but he did not precisely know who the person was, in whom he was to believe. Hence, the question.

37 And Jesus said to him: Thou hast both seen him; and it is he that talketh with thee.

Our Lord then manifests Himself to him. “Thou hast seen Him,” reminding him of the blessing of sight conferred on him, “and it is He that talketh with thee.”

38 And he said: I believe, Lord. And falling down, he adored him.

By words—“I believe, Lord”—by acts, “and falling down, he adored Him,” the man who was blind proclaimed his faith in our Lord’s Divinity, whom hitherto he regarded, on account of the great miracle, in the light of a holy man sent by God; but, in that light only.

39 And Jesus said: For judgment I am come into this world: that they who see not may see; and they who see may become blind.

And Jesus said”—as is clear from verse 40—to the Pharisees. “For judgment,” in order to exercise a judgment of discernment, to separate the humble believers from the haughty unbelievers—or, “judgment” may mean, to execute the high and mysterious decree of God, giving the faith to the blind unbelieving Gentiles, who, like this blind man, are disposed humbly to embrace the faith; and rejecting the haughty Jews, wise and enlightened in their own opinion.

That”—so that, as a consequence. For, their own perversity was the cause of the rejection of the Jews and of the haughty.

They who see not,” who are in ignorance and error of the true faith and spiritually blind, but disposed to lay aside their errors and embrace the truth.

May see,” and be enlightened.

And they who see,” who fancy they are rich in faith and gifts of sanctity, may, in punishment of their pride and haughty resistance to grace, “see not,” become obdurate and impenitent. Like the Pagan philosophers referred to by St. Paul (Rom. 1), “Dicentes se esse sapientes, stulti facti sunt.” Our Lord did not come for the purpose of blinding the Jews; but He permitted them to continue blind, as a punishment of their resistance to grace.

40 And some of the Pharisees, who were with him, heard: and they said unto him: Are we also blind?

Some of the Pharisees who were with Him,” tracking His footsteps, wherever He went, in order to catch Him in His words, “heard,” and understanding that they were pointedly alluded to as spiritually blind, “said”—in an arrogant and malignant spirit—“Are we also blind?” “We also,” as well as the man whom You pretend to have enlightened. “Are we,” the rulers and teachers of the people, pronounced by you to be struck with spiritual blindness?

41 Jesus said to them: If you were blind, you should not have sin: but now you say: We see. Your sin remaineth.

If you were blind,” in your own estimation and judgment—it is opposed to “but now you say we see”—and humbly acknowledged yourselves blind and ignorant and foolish in the affairs of your salvation, “You should not have sin.” You would cease to be overwhelmed with the weight of sin in which you are; because, you would humbly have had recourse to Me for your spiritual cure, owing to the consciousness of your miseries. “But now you say we see.” Now, you, arrogantly regard yourselves as having light and sanctity, you scorn any exhortation to have recourse to Me—the true Son of justice—“the true light, that enlightens every man that cometh into this world.” Hence, “your sin remaineth.” You continue, on account of your self-esteem, pride and arrogance, in your infidelity and sinful state.

It may also mean, “If you were blind,” and had not the knowledge of SS. Scriptures proclaiming Me to be the Son of God, and of the many miracles wrought by Me, which should convince you that I am come from God; then, indeed, you might have some excuse. I would have treated you leniently and have attracted you to Myself by My grace. Your sin would be comparatively trifling. But, now, you sin in the face of the light, and “your sin remains” unremitted, and, so you persevere in your infidelity.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 2 Timothy 1:8-10

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2017

This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of chapter 1, followed by his comments on today’s reading. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.


In this chapter, the Apostle, after the usual Apostolical salutation, expresses his great affection for Timothy of which he gives a proof in his unceasing remembrance of him (1–3); and he shows how deserving Timothy was of this affection (4, 5). He, next, exhorts him to re-enkindle within him the grace which he received at his ordination. To preach the gospel with fortitude, and not to be ashamed of Christ crucified (8).

After having adduced several engaging motives for enduring sufferings and labour in the cause of the Gospel, he points out the manner of preaching, and the doctrine to be preached (9–14). He notes the defection of certain parties from the faith, and commends the charity of Onesiphorus towards himself in chains, for which he prays that he may be amply remunerated by God (15–18).

2 Tim 1:8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but labour with the gospel, according to the power of God.

Be not, therefore, ashamed to bear testimony to our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, by preaching his Gospel; nor be ashamed of me, a prisoner on his account; but labour along with me in bearing the afflictions to which all the ministers of the Gospel are subjected, according to the strength given thee by God.

The “testimony of Christ,” may mean the gospel, which means a testimony handed down by witnesses, or rather the preaching of Christ crucified. “But labour with the gospel.” The Greek, συγκακοπαθησον = synkakopatheson, means, suffer together with the gospel. This he ought to do, in virtue of that spirit of love and equanimity which he received. “According to the power of God;” distrusting himself, he should repose all his hopes in God.

2 Tim 1:9 Who hath delivered us and called us by his holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the times of the world:

Who has saved us from sin and eternal death and has, for this end, called us to a state of sanctity, not certainly in consideration of our works; (for, they were evil), but out of his own liberal bounty, and gratuitous mercy, which was decreed from eternity to be given to us, in consideration of the merits of Jesus Christ.

“Who has delivered us.” (In the Greek, τοῦ σώσαντος ἡμᾶς, = tou sosantos hemas =  saved us), from sin and its consequences, temporal and eternal, “and called us by his holy calling.” He saved us, by calling us to a state of sanctification. “According to his own purpose and grace, which was given,” i.e., given from eternity on the part of God, in virtue of his unchangeable decree, though it is only in time we could enjoy its effects.

2 Tim 1:10 But is now made manifest by the illumination of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath destroyed death and hath brought to light life and incorruption by the gospel.

But this gratuitous and merciful will of God in our regard, though hidden from eternity in God, has now been manifested by the advent and apparition of Jesus Christ our Saviour, who, indeed, by his passion destroyed the dominion of death, and brought into open light, immortal and incorruptible life, and afforded us a sure hope of enjoying it, by the preaching of his Gospel throughout the world.

“By the illumination,” i.e., the apparition and coming, as appears from the Greek, which literally is, Epiphany. “Who hath destroyed death,” or, according to the Greek, καταργῆσαντος μεν τὸν θάνατον = katargesantos men ton thnaton = rendered void death, by depriving it of its dominion over man, “and hath brought to light, life and incorruption, by the gospel.” Christ did this in two ways—first, he showed incorruptible life in himself, for forty days after his Resurrection; secondly, by the preaching of the gospel, throughout the world, he gave us a certain hope of one day enjoying the same incorruptible life.



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January 31: St Marcella

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 31, 2017



ST. MARCELLA, whom St. Jerome called the glory of the Roman women, became a widow in the seventh month after her marriage. Having determined to consecrate the remainder of her days to the service of God, she rejected the hand of Cerealis, the consul, uncle of Gallus Cæsar, and resolved to imitate the lives of the ascetics of the East. She abstained from wine and flesh-meat, employed all her time in pious reading, prayer, and visiting the churches, and never spoke with any man alone. Her example was followed by many who put themselves under her direction, and Rome was in a short time filled with monasteries. When the Goths under Alaric plundered Rome in 410, our Saint suffered severely at the hands of the barbarian, who cruelly scourged her in order to make her reveal the treasures which she had long before distributed in charity. She trembled only however for the innocence of her dear spiritual daughter, Principia, and falling at the feet of the cruel soldiers, she begged with many tears, that they would offer no insult to that pure virgin. God moved them to compassion, and they conducted our Saint and her pupil to the church of St. Paul, to which Alaric had granted the right of sanctuary, with that of St Peter. St. Marcella, who survived this but a short time, closed her eyes by a happy death, in the arms of St. Principia, about the end of August, 410.


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Preaching Guidelines from the Catechism of the Council of Trent Concerning Almsgiving

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

What is to he thought concerning Alms, an Obligation implied by this Commandment

In this commandment is also implied pity towards the poor and the necessitous, and an effort on our part for the relief of their difficulties and distresses from our means, and by our offices. On this subject—which is to be treated very frequently and copiously—pastors, to enable themselves, to fulfil this duty, will borrow matter from the works of those very holy men, St. Cyprian (see here) John Chrysostom(here, here,) Gregory Nazianzen, and other eminent writers on alms-deeds (St Gregory of Nyssa: Two Homilies on Almsgiving, begins pg. 8). For the faithful are to be inflamed with a desire and with alacrity to succour those who depend on the compassion of others for subsistence. They are also to be taught the great necessity of alms-deeds, that with our means and by our co-operation we may be liberal to the poor, and this by the very true argument that, on the day of the last judgment, God will abhor those who shall have omitted or neglected the offices of charity, and hurl against them the sentence of condemnation to everlasting flames; but will invite, in the language of praise, and introduce into their heavenly country, those who have acted kindly towards the poor. Their respective sentences have already been pronounced by the lips of Christ our Lord: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you; and: Depart from, me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (see Mt 35:35, 41).

By what Means the People are to be incited to Alms-Deeds

Pastors will also employ those texts of Scripture most calculated to persuade to this duty: Give and it shall be given unto you (Lk 6:38) they will cite the promise of God, than which even imagination can picture no remuneration more abundant, none more magnificent: There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, &c., but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, and in the world to come eternal life (Mk 10:29, sq); and he will add these words of our Lord: Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations (Lk 16:9). But they will explain the different heads of this necessary duty, to wit, that whoever are unable to give, may at least lend to the necessitous wherewithal to sustain life, according to the injunction of Christ our Lord: Lend, hoping for nothing again (Lk 6:35). The happiness attendant on such an exercise of mercy, holy David attests: A good man showeth favour and lendeth (Ps 112:5).

We must labour to bestow Alms and to avoid Idleness

But it is an act of Christian piety, should it not be in our power otherwise to deserve well of those who stand in need of the pity of others for sustenance, to seek by the labour of our hands to procure means of relieving the wants of the indigent, and also thus to avoid idleness. To this the apostle exhorts all by his own example: For yourselves, saith he, writing to the Thessalonians, know how ye ought to follow us;i and again, to the same: And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;j and to the Ephesians: Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.k

We must live sparingly in order to aid the Wants of Others

We should also practise frugality, and draw sparingly on the means of others, that we may not be a burden or a trouble to them. This exercise of temperance shines conspicuous in all the apostles, but pre-eminently so in St. Paul, who, writing to the Thessalonians, says: Ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail, for labouring night and day because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the Gospel of God;l and in another place: But wrought with labour and travail, night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you.m

By what Arguments the Christian People are to be induced to the Detestation of Rapine and the Practice of Benevolence

But to the end that the faithful people may abhor all such infamous crimes, pastors will recur to the prophets and other sacred writings, to show the detestation in which God holds the crimes of theft and rapine, and the awful threats which he sets forth against their perpetrators: Hear this, exclaims the prophet Amos, O ye that swallow tip the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn, and the Sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit.n There are also many passages in Jeremiah,o Proverbs,p and Ecclesiasticus,q to the same effect; and these, without doubt, are the seeds from which have sprung great part of the evils, with which in our times society is oppressed. But that Christian men may accustom themselves to every office of liberality and kindness towards the poor and the mendicant, an exercise of benevolence appertaining to the second part of this commandment, pastors will place before them those most ample rewards, which God promises to bestow in this life and in the next, upon the beneficent and the bountiful.

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Some Points to Consider Concerning Compassion and Benevolence

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 30, 2017

God shows us his love, compassion and benevolence:

  • In creating man: CCC 315.
  • In making Himself known to our first parents: CCC 54. See also CCC 51-53; 214.
  • Even after their sin (and ours): CCC 55; 410.
    • Catechism of the Council of Trent: Here the pastor will exalt and proclaim aloud the riches of the goodness of God towards the human race, [of that God,] who, although since the first parent of our race and sin, we have never ceased to offend him by innumerable crimes and enormities even up to the present day, yet retains his love for us, and never lays aside his especial care over us. To imagine that he is unmindful of man were insanity, and nothing less than to hurl against the Deity the most blasphemous insult. God is wrath with Israel, because of the blasphemy of that nation, who supposed themselves deserted by the aid of heaven; for we read in Exodus: They tempted the Lord, saying, Is the Lord among us or not? (Ex 17:7) And in Ezekiel, the Lord is angry with the same people for having said: The Lord seeth us not: the Lord hath forsaken the earth (Ezek 8:12). By these authorities the faithful are therefore to be deterred from the impious supposition, that God can possibly be forgetful of man. This complaint the Israelites, as we read in Isaiah, make against God; and its folly God repels by a similitude, which breathes nought but kindness; Zion said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me: to which God answers; Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee. Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands (Is 49:14-15, sq).

God has thus provided an example to us:

  • But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Mt 5:44-48).
  •  But as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy (1 Pet 1:15-16).
  • be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children (Eph 4:32-5:1).

As has our Blessed Lord:

  •  I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich (2 Cor 8:8-9).
  • (Jesus) who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14).


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