The Divine Lamp

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

Posts Tagged ‘liturgy’

St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 115

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2019

1 Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory.

Having recorded the wonderful things that God did for his people on their departure from Egypt In the previous psalm), he now, in the name of the whole people, prays to him not to regard their shortcomings, but his own glory, and to continue to protect his servants. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us.” We ask not for praise or glory on our own merits, which are none; “but to thy name give glory;” protect us for the glory of your name, and not for our own merits.

2 For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the Gentiles should say: Where is their God?

He, in a very short space, assigns three reasons why God ought to seek the glory of his name in preserving his people. First, because he is merciful; secondly, because he is true and faithful in observing his promise; thirdly, that the gentiles, seeing God’s people in a state of destitution, may have no cause for blaspheming him and them. He, therefore, says, “For thy mercy and for thy truth’s sake,” show your glory, or give glory to thy name, for it is then your glory will be exhibited when you show mercy to your people; and then you will have carried out the truth of the promises you made our fathers, “Lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?” lest the incredulous gentiles should get an occasion of detracting from your power, and, perhaps, of ignoring your very existence.

3 But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.
4 The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men.
5 They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not.
6 They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not.
7 They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.

He now, on account of his having said, “Lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?” gives expression to a most beautiful antithesis between the true and false gods; as much as to say, The gentiles should get no opportunity of reproaching us; but if they should do so, saying, “Where is their God?” we will answer, “Our God is in heaven;” and the wonderful things he has done bear testimony to it; for “he hath done all things whatsoever he wished;” while, on the contrary, their gods are on the earth; and thus hitherto are so unable to do anything that they cannot even make use of the members they appear to be endowed with; for, though they have the shape and figure of man, and appear to have all his members and senses, they neither see, nor hear, nor smell, nor touch, nor walk, nor speak; they do not emit anything in the shape of the voice of man, nor even of beasts.

8 Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.

This is a prophecy in the shape of an imprecation, as is usual with the prophets; for the makers of, and the worshippers of idols, will actually become similar to the idols after the resurrection; for, though they will be possessed of feeling and members, the case will be with them as if they had none; they will even desire to have none; for they will see, hear, smell, touch nothing but what will be hateful and disagreeable; and, with their hands and feet tied, they will be cast into exterior darkness, without being able in any way to help themselves. Even in this life they are like idols, because, though they hear and see, it is more in appearance than reality; for they neither see nor hear the things that pertain to salvation, the things that only are worth seeing, so that they may be said more to dream than to see or hear; as St. Mark has it, “Having eyes ye see not, having ears ye hear not.”

9 The house of Israel hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
10 The house of Aaron hath hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.
11 They that fear the Lord have hoped in the Lord: he is their helper and their protector.

Having said, Let them that make them become like “unto them, and all such as trust in them,” he adds, by way of antithesis, that the children of Israel trusted in the Lord, and that they had him, therefore, as a protector, naming the house of Israel first, which includes the whole Jewish nation; then the house of Aaron, which means the priests and Levites, the elite of God’s people, and who should, therefore, have special trust in God; and, finally, all those that fear the Lord; for at all times there were pious souls, however few they may have been, not belonging to the children of Israel who feared and worshipped God in all sincerity; such were Job and his friends, and afterwards Naaman, the Syrian, and others.

12 The Lord hath been mindful of us, and hath blessed us. He hath blessed the house of Israel: he hath blessed the house of Aaron.
13 He hath blessed all that fear the Lord, both little and great.

He now confirms what he had asserted, viz., that God would be the helper and the protector of those that trust in him. He ranks himself among the number as having got special help and protection from God. He then, in the same order, confirms his assertions of God having blessed the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and all who fear him, great or small, without any reference to greatness or littleness, whether of age, power, wisdom, or riches. When God is said to be “mindful,” it means that he regards with a singular providence; “and blessed us,” by assisting and protecting us—“us” meaning the house of Israel, the house of Aaron, and all that fear him.

14 May the Lord add blessings upon you: upon you, and upon your children.
15 Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh,” as we read in Lk. 6; and as the heart of the holy prophet was burning with desire for the glory of God and the salvation of his neighbor, he turns over the same subject, prophesying at one time, then exhorting, and then by praying all manner of happiness on mankind, in the hope of bringing them to have a holy fear of God, and to repose all their hope in him. Turning, then, to those who fear God, whose blessing he had assured them of, he says to them, “May the Lord add blessings upon you,” and not only on you, but “upon your children.” And thus may you be blessed with a full and entire benediction from the Lord, “who made heaven and earth;” that is, by him in whose hand is the dew of heaven and the fatness of the earth. The saints of the Old Testament were very much in the habit of praying to the Lord for the dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth for their people; for all the fruits of the earth depend on them. In a more spiritual meaning, God blesses with the dews of heaven and the fatness of the earth those to whom he gives spiritual and temporal blessings in abundance; as he did to Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, and David, and such others.

16 The heaven of heaven is the Lord’s: but the earth he has given to the children of men.
17 The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord: nor any of them that go down to hell.
18 But we that live bless the Lord: from this time now and for ever.

These three verses may be differently interpreted, applying them to the Jews under the Old Testament, or to the Christians in the New. If we apply them to the Jews, the meaning is, Having said, “Blessed be you of the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” he now asserts that it is only fair that they who have been blessed by the Lord should, in return, bless him while they live upon this earth, which he gave them for a habitation, leaving to the Angels the duty of blessing him in heaven, that being his habitation and that of his servants who minister unto him. “The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s;” that is, the supreme heaven belongs peculiarly to God and to the Angels who minister unto him; “but the earth,” with the elements that surround it, “he has given to the children of men” for their habitation, and for such a splendid portion of the universe man should constantly return thanks to God as long as they live and enjoy the fruits of that earth. Because “the dead shall not praise thee, O Lord;” for the dead, being devoid of sense, and no longer in possession of the goods of this world, and being even bereft of life, cannot praise God or return him thanks for his benefits. “For any of them that go down into hell.” Not only will the dead lying in their sepulchres not praise the Lord, but also “they that go down to hell;” the spirits who have gone down to the infernal regions; they, too, will not praise God for temporal blessings they cannot now possibly enjoy. “But we that live,” and are in the enjoyment of such blessings, “bless the Lord from this time now and forever,” through all succeeding ages. Applying the passage to the Christians under the New Testament, we are to bear in mind that “the heaven of heaven” means that supreme part of heaven where the children of God reside; of which the Apostle says, “For we know that if our earthly house of this habitation be dissolved, that we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heaven;” that house God chose for himself, “but the earth,” this visible world, “he has given to the children of men,” as distinguished from the children of God; and, therefore, he adds, “The dead shall not praise thee, O Lord;” that is, they who, though living bodily, are spiritually dead, they will not praise you; “nor any of them that go down to hell;” who have died in their sins, and have gone to eternal punishment; “but we that live” the life of grace, adhering to thee through faith and charity, citizens of our heavenly country, though we are detained here for awhile below upon earth, we, I repeat, “bless the Lord,” and we “bless him forever.”

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 26

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 29, 2019

Psalm 26
David’s prayer to God in his distress, to be delivered, that he may come to worship him in his tabernacle

1 Judge me, O Lord, for I have walked in my innocence: and I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.

David, having a misunderstanding with the king, appeals to the King of kings, there being none other to whom he could appeal. “Judge me, O Lord.” Be you, O Lord, my judge; let not Saul take it on him, but do it yourself. “For I have walked in my innocence,” with confidence I challenge God’s judgment, because my conscience which God alone beholds, does not reprove me, “For I have walked in my innocence.” I have led an innocent life. “I have put my trust in the Lord, and shall not be weakened.” Trusting in God’s justice, I will not fail, but will conquer.

2 Prove me, O Lord, and try me; burn my reins and my heart.

Having stated that he led an innocent life, he proves it by the testimony of God himself, who neither can deceive nor be deceived; for he does not tell God to “prove and try him,” in order to come at truth of which he was ignorant, but that he may make known to others what he in secret sees. David then, on the strength of a good conscience, and in the sincerity of his heart, speaks to the Lord, saying. “Prove me and try me;” search with the greatest diligence, examine the inmost and deepest recesses of my heart; nay more, “burn my reins and my heart,” examine my thoughts and desires as carefully as gold, when tested by the fire. I do not think David asks here to be proved and tried by adversity, or that “his reins and heart” should be scorched by the fire of tribulation, when he seems to be asking for the very contrary; but he asks, as I stated before, to be “proved and tried” by a most minute examination and inspection; and God having the most minute and exact knowledge of everything, that he may declare to the world the innocence of his servant, and thus silence the calumny of his enemies.

3 For thy mercy is before my eyes; and I am well pleased with thy truth.

He assigns a reason for wishing to be “proved and tried,” inasmuch as his conscience encouraged him therein, as if he said, I beg of you to prove me, for I have trod thy paths, for “all thy ways are mercy and truth,” Psalm 24; and “thy mercy is before my eyes,” which I always look upon and consider, in the hope of being able to imitate it, and to act by my neighbors in conformity with it; “And I am well pleased with thy truth.” It has pleased me, and I have therefore lived according to it.

4 I have not sat with the council of vanity: neither will I go in with the doers of unjust things.
5 I have hated the assembly of the malignant; and with the wicked I will not sit.

Theodoret, in my opinion, most properly says, that these words apply to the idolatrous assemblies of the gentiles in their temples, of which David had the greatest abhorrence, and which he witnessed while in exile with the king of the Philistines. Everything, he says, here appears to be put in opposition to what he says in other parts of the Psalm, for instance, “I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house;” and a little before that, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord;” and herein after, “In the churches will I bless thee, O Lord.” He calls the assembly of the idolaters the “council of vanity,” for what can be more vain? What, more vain than idols, false images? As the apostle says, “We know that an idol is nothing in the world,” 1 Cor. 7. Throughout the Scriptures idols are called vain, or vanities, Deut. 32, “They have provoked me with that which was no God and have angered me with their vanities;” and 1 Kings 12, “And turned not aside after vain things, which shall never profit you, nor deliver you, because they are vain.” See also 3 Kings 16; Jeremias 2, and various other passages. The same idolaters are styled, “Doers of unjust things,” because the height of injustice is to give to creatures the worship due to God alone. “The council of vanity,” in one verse is called the “Assembly of the malignant” in the next; “Doers of unjust things” in the same verse are called the “Wicked,” a name peculiarly appropriate to idolaters, in the following verse.

6 I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord:

Having expressed his hatred of the conventicles of the idolatrous infidels, among whom he was then living, he adds, that he has, on the contrary, the most intense love for the tabernacle of the Lord and the assembly of the saints; and briefly states what he means to do when, through God’s assistance, he shall have been called from exile to his own country. “I will wash my hands among the innocent; and will compass thy altar, O Lord.” Before I go into thy temple, I will do what all pious people are wont to do: “I will wash my hands,” and go about your altar joining those in the act of it, in hymns of praise. For the meaning. Some will have it, that David alludes to the washing of hands, as a proof or sign of one’s innocence, as Pilate washed his hands before the Jews, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man;” as if he said, See, I have washed my hands, do not pollute them with the blood of this just man; and I, therefore, dare not condemn him. We often use a similar expression when we wish to get out of a thing. We say, “I wash my hands out of it.” I consider, however, the sense more likely to be, and more in keeping with the rest of the chapter, to consider David alluding to a custom of the Jews, who, previous to their entering into the tabernacle, purified both themselves and the victims they offered, which purifications or lotions, are called by the apostle Heb. 9, “Divers washings and justifications of the flesh;” and, as those external lotions ought to be the sign of internal purity, David, therefore, says, “I will wash my hands among the innocent,” as a sign of my real internal purity, as an innocent person would wash them; and not with the hypocrites, who do so with clean hands and unclean heart. The expression, “I will compass thy altar,” some understand of the number of victims; but I rather think it refers to those who in hymns of praise will go about the altar, as the following Psalm has it, “I have gone round, and have offered up a sacrifice of jubilation;” and in the very next verse to this we have, “That I may hear the voice of thy praise; and tell of all thy wondrous works.”

7 That I may hear the voice of thy praise: and tell of all thy wondrous works.

An explanation of the expression, “I will compass thy altar, O Lord,” that with the choir of worshipers I may hear, and join in singing the praises of the Lord. St. Augustine, arguing against the Pelagians, proves, with great accuracy and piety, from this passage, that they only hear the voice of God’s praise who refer all their actions, and all they possess, to God’s free gift. For the hearts of the just, “who have ears to hear,” are always devoted to God’s praise, thanking him for all their own merits and virtues; whereas, on the contrary, those who presume on their own justice, and are swollen with the idea of their own perfections, as if they had them by their own exertions, and not from God, do not hear “the voice of thy praise,” but the voice of their own praise.

8 I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house; and the place where thy glory dwelleth.

Nothing gave him more trouble in his exile than the being unable to see the tabernacle of the Lord. His mind, deeply inflamed with the love of God, looked upon no spot on the earth more beautiful than that where God was wont to show himself visibly. The tabernacle that contained the ark of the covenant was called, “The house of God,” “the place of the habitation of his glory,” because a bright cloud would frequently descend thereon, to signify God’s presence there; the God “who inhabiteth light inaccessible,” Jam. 1:6, and because there, too, was the oracle from which God gave his responses.

9 Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked: nor my life with bloody men:

Having appealed to God, at first, as a judge, and having exposed his innocence, of which God was witness, he concludes by a prayer, that judgment may be delivered in his favor, “Take not away my soul, O God, with the wicked.” Do not condemn me as you do the wicked; “My soul” means me, as it does frequently through the Scriptures; and by “Bloody men,” he means those who, like so many homicides, were persecuting him.

10 In whose hands are iniquities: their right hand is filled with gifts.

He tells us who are the wicked and the bloody men of whom he spoke in the foregoing verse; they are those who receive bribes for unfair judgments, glancing at the sins of those in power, the judges. With much point he says, “In whose hands are iniquities;” attributing the iniquity to that part of the body that touches the bribe, to show the bribe was the cause of the iniquity.

11 But as for me, I have walked in my innocence: redeem me, and have mercy on me.

He repeats his reason for not being condemned with the wicked, namely, because “He walked in his innocence;” that is, led an innocent life. “Redeem me, and have mercy on me.” Deliver me from my present troubles, and then have mercy on me, that I may not fall into them again. The words “redeem” and “deliver,” most frequently have the same meaning in the Scriptures, unless, perhaps, the Holy Ghost may insinuate that any deliverance of the elect from tribulation may be called redemption, inasmuch as such is effected through the blood of Christ our Redeemer.

12 My foot hath stood in the direct way: in the churches I will bless thee, O Lord.

These words have reference to the concluding expression in the last verse, “have mercy on me.” I have asked to be delivered from my present trouble by reason of the rectitude of my life; I ask for future mercy, because “My foot hath stood;” that is to say, is firmly fixed and planted in the direct, honest road, and, therefore, I cannot easily leave the straight path of thy law; and, in thanksgiving for it, “I will bless thee” and praise thee “in the churches,” the assemblies of the pious.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Isaiah 7:1-17

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 24, 2016

Note: Fr. Maas employs the old English spelling of names as based on the Greek Septuagint (e.g., Achaz = Ahaz).



1. History and Occasion of the Prophecy.—We learn from  2 Kings 16:1–4 that Achaz despised the traditions of his fathers, and openly professed idolatry. Hence he was given over by God into the hands of the Syrian king, who carried off immense booty to his royal capital, Damascus. But the king of Israel too afflicted the kingdom of Juda with exceeding bitter afflictions (2 Chron. 28:5)—so much so that he slew of Juda a hundred and twenty thousand on a single day. But this war, which was a real chastisement of Achaz on the part of God, had also its special natural causes.

It appears that an alliance had been concluded between Phacee, king of Israel, and Rasin, king of Damascus, for the purpose of opposing a barrier to the Assyrian aggressions. Cherishing Assyrian proclivities as Achaz did, he did not join the coalition; the allies therefore invaded his territories, intending to dethrone Achaz and substitute for him a more subservient ruler, a certain son of Tabeel. The invasion caused great alarm in Jerusalem, though Phacee alone appears at first to have gone against the capital, while Rasin was occupied in reconquering the maritime city, Elath. After this victory he must have joined his ally in his assault on Jerusalem. Achaz meditated casting himself on Assyria for help—a policy of which the prophet Isaias strongly disapproved. He was divinely instructed to assure Achaz that his fears were groundless, and that the two kingdoms were doomed to destruction. To overcome the king’s distrust, the prophet offers to give him a sign; but through the king’s diffidence the sign becomes an omen of ruin for Juda: the land will indeed be saved from the two kings according to God’s promise, but the land of Juda will become the battle-ground in the conflict between the Egyptian and the Assyrian armies.

Achaz, however, sent his messengers to the Assyrian king Theglathphalasar, asking for his help in present distress (2 Chron. 28:16 2 Kings 16:7). The Assyrian monarch complied with Achaz’ request and invaded Damascus; the allied kings had therefore to abandon their warlike designs on Juda and provide for their own safety ( 2 Kings 16:5, 6). Theglathphalasar transported the inhabitants of Damascus to Cyrene, and killed its king, Rasin (2 Kings 16:9). Then he invaded also the kingdom of Israel, and transported a number of its inhabitants into Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). Phacee, the Israelite king, was slain by conspirators in the seventeenth year of his reign, and in the third year of Achaz’ rule, i.e., in the same year in which the two allied kings had invaded the kingdom of Juda (2 Kings 15:30). But after subduing the Syrian and the Samaritan kings, the Assyrian conqueror invaded also the kingdom of Juda and devastated it without resistance, so that only few inhabitants with their herds and cattle remained (2 Chron. 28:20; cf. Is. 8:7, 8).

2. Erroneous Explanations of the Prophecy.—a. Several of the ancient Jewish writers maintain that the Emmanuel promised to be born of the virgin is Achaz’ son and successor, Ezechias. But it must be remembered that Ezechias was about eight or nine years old at the time of the prophecy, for he was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, i.e., about 15 or 16 years after the prophecy was given (4 Kings 18:2).

b. Several rationalistic authors and the Catholic writer Isenbiehl regard Emmanuel as the son of a virgin who will lose her virginity in the conception and birth of the boy. The name Emmanuel is nothing but a symbol, just as the names Schear-Iashub and Maher—Shalal—Chash—Baz are symbolic. The sign consists in Isaias’ predicting that the virgin will conceive in her first intercourse, and that she will bring forth a boy. The foreknowledge of both of these circumstances requires a special divine assistance, and is therefore rightly represented as a sign. This opinion will be refuted in the course of our treatment of the prophecy.

c. Delitzsch has a rather curious explanation of the prophecy. According to him God had revealed two future facts to Isaias—the virginal conception of the Messias and the immediate liberation of Juda from its oppressors. The time of the Messias’ coming had, however, not been made known to the prophet. Isaias, therefore, trying to combine the two prophecies, was of the opinion that the birth of the Messias would precede the liberation of the theocratic kingdom. The result is that the prophecy represents the Messias as being about to be born, and describes the land of Juda as about to be freed before the Messias will have attained the use of reason, i.e., before he will have reached the years of discretion. It may be of interest to know that Rosenmüller too gives a similar explanation.

If it be observed that according to this view there would be an error in the prophecy, both authors deny such an inference on the plea that the time of the Messias’ birth was not revealed to the prophet, but that the erroneous inference must be ascribed to his own private judgment. But if this be admitted as a true solution of the difficulty, it follows that in any prophecy we can hardly know what has been revealed by God to the prophet and what must be ascribed to his own private view on the subject.

3. Messianic Nature of the Prophecy.—a. The Messianic character of the present prophecy appears first of all from the testimony of St. Matthew, 1:18–25: “… Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Behold a virgin shall be with child …” There are two exceptions to this argument: 1. It is said that the first two chapters of St. Matthew’s gospel are spurious. But this can hardly be asserted without the greatest temerity, not to say without heresy. For the Tridentine and the Vatican councils (Trid. sess. iv., decret. de can. Script.; Vatic. sess. iii. c. 2) openly declare that the whole Bible, with all its parts, as it is contained in the old Vulgate edition, is sacred, canonical, and divinely inspired (Vat.); on the other hand, there is in our days no critic worthy of the name who rejects the first two chapters of St. Matthew’s gospel without rejecting all the rest.

2. The second exception against our inference that Isaias’ prophecy is Messianic because St. Matthew viewed it as such may be found in Isenbiehl (Neuer Versuch über die Weissagung vom Emmanuel, 1778). The author assures us that the evangelist’s words, “that it might be fulfilled,” may indicate a mere accommodation of the prophecy to Christ’s conception. In support of this he appeals to St. Jerome’s saying (Ep. 103 ad Paulin., c. 7), that Socrates’ words were “fulfilled” in him: “I only know that I do not know.” Again, Isenbiehl endeavors to prove that St. Matthew repeatedly uses the formula “that it might be fulfilled” where he applies an Old Testament prophecy to our Lord by mere accommodation. Thus Matt. 2:15 applies to Christ what Hos. 11:1 applies to the people of Israel; Matt. 2:18 applies to the infants slain at Bethlehem what Jer. 31:15 applies to the lamentations over the national misfortune in the Babylonian reverses; Matt. 2:23 applies the words “he shall be called a Nazarite” as if they were prophetic of Jesus Christ, though they are nowhere to be found in the prophets; Matt. 13:13–15 applies to the following of Christ what Is. 6:9, 10 had said of his own contemporaries.

Plausible as this exception may appear at first sight, it does not rest on solid ground. a. First of all, the author who urges it does not distinguish between the typical and the literal meaning of the prophecies, and consequently he does not keep in mind that as the literal meaning of a prophecy is properly and not by mere accommodation applied to the people of Israel or to Old Testament occurrences, so may its typical sense be applied to Christ and to events of the Christian dispensation without on that account becoming a mere accommodation. In this manner St. Matthew (2:15, 18) applies the prophecies of Hos. 11:1 and Jer. 31:15 to Christ’s flight into Egypt and to the slaughter of the holy Innocents. β. Again, Isenbiehl is not aware that St. Matthew 2:23 most probably reads “flower,” and thus alludes to Isaias’ prediction, 11:1, where the future Messias is called a flower from the root of Jesse. γ. In the third place, the author disregards the fact that a number of prophecies apply properly, not by mere accommodation, to a series of events rather than to any single fact of history. An instance of such a prediction we find, e.g., in 2 Sam  7:14, where the divine promises regard the whole line of David’s descendants. They are not all fulfilled in every member of the series, but they are fully accomplished in the whole series taken collectively. Hence they may be properly and literally applied to any Davidic king. In the same manner St. Matthew applies Is. 6:9, 10 to the unbelieving Jews in 13:13–15.

b. The second proof for the Messianic character of the prophecy is taken from the unanimous testimony of the Fathers on this point. A list of the patristic testimonies may be seen in Kilber’s Analysis Biblica (editio altera, t. i. pp. 354 f.). There are again two main exceptions to this argument from the Fathers: 1. The Fathers speak on the false supposition that Isaias’ prophecy rests on divine authority; 2. The Fathers express in their opinions on the present passage, not the doctrine of the Church, but their own private conviction. α. As to the first exception, it suffices for our purpose to recall the decree of the Vatican Council (iii. 2), according to which the agreement of the Fathers on a doctrinal point is in itself sufficient to command our assent, or at least to force us not to contradict the patristic testimony. β. As to the second exception, we must insist that the Fathers do not express their interpretation of the prophecy as a private opinion, but they represent it as the doctrine of the Church on a matter of Scripture interpretation, so that according to the council we are bound not to differ from it in substance. For though the Fathers may differ among themselves in details, they surely agree as to the main drift of the prophecy, giving it a Messianic signification.

c. The third argument for the Messianic character of Isaias’ prophecy may be taken from the general agreement of this prediction with other evidently Messianic prophecies.

α. First of all, the very context of the prophecy bears witness to its Messianic nature. The child who is to be born, according to the seventh chapter, as a sign unto Achaz must naturally be expected to surpass in its nature any other sign that Achaz himself could have asked of God. Then in the next chapter it is announced in verse 8 that “the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Emmanuel.” If we compare the ninth chapter with this statement, it appears that Emmanuel shall be the Lord of the land of Juda. Since then at the time of the prophet none other than Achaz and Ezechiel were the lords of the land of Juda, to neither of whom the prediction could apply, we must suppose it applies to some one much above either of them—to the Messias himself. Again, in the ninth chapter, the prophet predicts salvation to the land of Juda through the child that is to be born. Now if this be not Emmanuel, of whom there is question in the seventh chapter, it must be Maher-Shalal, of the eighth chapter. But the latter was never king in Juda, nor did he ever perform any act that would be worthy of attention. Hence it is clear that the child who will save Juda is the Emmanuel of chapter seven. But the liberator of Juda is evidently identical with the Messias. Consequently, the Emmanuel of our prophecy is the Messias. In the eleventh chapter the prophet again returns to the rod that is to spring from the root of Jesse, to the most renowned offspring of David, whose reign will cause universal peace, under whose reign the Lord will possess the remnant of his chosen people. Now this one can be no other than the hero described in the ninth chapter, and the Emmanuel promised in the seventh chapter, i.e., the very Messias (cf. 9:2–4, and 10:20–22; Rom. 9:27).

β. The Messianic reference of the present prophecy appears also when we compare it with the well-known prophecy of Micheas (5:2 ff.) The similitude between the two predictions is so striking that we must admit either that Isaias reproduced the prophecy of Micheas, or that the latter repeated the prophetic promise of the former. Micheas says that God will give “them up even till the time wherein she that travaileth shall bring forth and the remnant of his brethren shall be converted to the children of Israel … and this man shall be our peace.” How beautifully all this illustrates the prophecy of Isaias, if we suppose the latter prophet had about the same time uttered the prediction of the virgin’s conception and her virginal child-birth! And, on the other hand, how clear the prophecy concerning the virgin and her son Emmanuel becomes if we suppose that Isaias alludes to the prophecy of Micheas which had recently been uttered (cf. Is. 10:20–22; 11:11; 4:3). But if Isaias speaks about a virgin concerning whom nothing else was known to the people of Israel, all becomes a riddle and an enigma. These five prophecies therefore form, as it were, one single whole; so much so that they have been regarded as constituting a single book—the book of Emmanuel. And if they be considered from this point of view, their Messianic character can hardly be called in question even by the most exacting of critics.

d. Three other arguments for the Messianic nature of Isaias’ prophecy are better omitted, since they are not altogether convincing.

α. For if it be urged that the child which is to be born will be the offspring of a virgin, and that this is a distinctly Messianic note, it must be remembered, on the other hand, that, prescinding from the New Testament, it is not clear from the text of the prophecy whether the promised child will be the offspring of a virgin in any other sense than any first-born child is the offspring of a virgin. The virgin may be said by the prophet to conceive and to bring forth, as the blind are said to see, the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. Nor can it be maintained that the virgin must remain a virgin in her conception and delivery, because otherwise there would be no sign which the prophet had promised to give. For the sign may consist in the wonderful nature of the child, or in several other particulars connected with the prediction, as will be seen in the course of the commentary.

β. Another argument for the Messianic character of the prediction is based on the fact that in the prophecy there is question of “the virgin;” the definite article, it is claimed, indicates that the virgin spoken of is virgin by excellence, and not merely as the mother of any first-born child is a virgin. But this consideration has not much weight, since the definite article in Hebrew has not necessarily that meaning, even when it is used with a noun that does not occur beforehand. For even in that case the noun is at times considered sufficiently known to require or, at least, to admit the definite article. This is seen in Gen. 3:24: “and (he) placed before the paradise of pleasure Cherubim (Heb., the Cherubim)”; Ex. 15:20: “So Mary the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel (Heb., the timbrel) in her hand;” Gen. 14:13: “and behold one that had escaped (Heb., the one that had escaped) told Abram the Hebrew.”

γ. Other authors, again, have urged the following argument in favor of the Messianic character of Isaias’ prophecy: according to the Hebrew text it is the mother who will name the child Emmanuel; for we must either render “thou shalt call his name” (the phrase being a direct address to the mother), or “she shall call his name.” Therefore, they say, Emmanuel has no human father who can perform this duty. But, on the other hand, we see in the Old Testament that the mother in several instances named her child, although its father was actually present (cf. Gen. 4:1, 25; 19:37; 21:32; 30:18 f.; 30:24; 1 Sam 1:20, etc., exemplifying this statement).

e. But there is another proof for the Messianic reference of Isaias’ prediction which cannot be omitted here; Jewish tradition considered the passage as referring to the promised Messias. In the first place, we may draw attention to the fact that St. Matthew applied the prophecy to Jesus Christ without any one contradicting him. And this is the more remarkable, since the Evangelist wrote his gospel for the Jews, proving to them the Messiasship of Jesus from the fulfilment of all the prophecies in his sacred person. Besides, we have the implicit avowal of the LXX. translators, who rendered the Hebrew word “virgin” in this prophecy, though in four other passages they had translated it by “woman.” Then again the Hebrew as well as the other national traditions, according to which virginity is worthy of special honor, and which make their divine heroes sons of virgins, without the intercourse of man, show that Isaias’ prophecy must have been understood by the ancients as referring to the birth of the future Redeemer.

The text of Is. 7:1–17

Red numbers indicate footnotes. These follow the quotation.

And it came to pass in the days of Achaz the son of Joathan, the son of Ozias king of Juda, that Rasin king of Syria, and Phacee the son of Romelia king of Israel, came up to Jerusalem, to fight against it; but they could not prevail over it. And they told the house of David, saying: “Syria hath rested upon Ephraim;” and his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. And the Lord said to Isaias: (1) “Go forth to meet Achaz, thou and Jasub thy son that is left, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, in the way of the fuller’s field.” (2) And thou shalt say to him: “See thou be quiet; fear not, and let not thy heart be afraid of the two tails of these firebrands, smoking with the wrath of the fury of Rasin king of Syria and of the son of Romelia. Because Syria with the son of Romelia hath taken counsel against thee, unto the evil of Ephraim, saying: Let us go up to Juda, and rouse it up, and draw it away to us and make the son of Tabeel king in the midst thereof:” thus saith the Lord God: “It shall not stand, and this shall not be! But the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rasin, and within threescore and five years Ephraim shall cease to be a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria the son of Romelia. If you will not believe, you shall not continue.”

And the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying: “Ask thee  a sign (3) of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell or unto the height above.” And Achaz said: “I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.” And he said: “Hear ye therefore, O house of David: Is it a small thing for you to be grievous to men, that you are grievous to my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. (4) Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel. He shall eat butter and honey, that he may know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good. For before the child know to refuse the evil, and to choose the good, the land which thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of the face of her two kings. The Lord shall bring upon thee and upon thy people, and upon the house of thy father, days that have not come since the time of the separation of Ephraim from Juda, with the king of the Assyrians.”


1). Go forth to meet Achaz. The first sentences of Isaias’ account are clear from the historical paragraphs that have been premised to this prophecy. While Rasin besieged Elath, Phacee had endeavored to deal with the capital; “but they could not prevail.” After Elath had fallen into Rasin’s hands, the latter joined his troops with those of Phacee, “Syria hath rested upon Ephraim,” whereupon Achaz’ heart was moved and the heart of his people, as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. Preparations for a serious and protracted siege must now be made at Jerusalem; hence Achaz is occupied near the upper pool from which the city had to receive the greatest part of its water supply. The fuller’s field, i.e., their washing or bleaching-place, lay either on the western side of the city (Robinson, Schultz, van Raumer, Thenius, Unruh, Schick, etc.), or, according to a less probable opinion, to the northeast (Williams, Kraft, Meier, Hitzig, etc.). To this place, then, the prophet was told to repair, together with Jasub, or Shear-Jasub, his son. The very names of the two visitors were real symbols of their divine mission. Isaias, meaning “salvation of the Lord,” announces the hopeful character of the visitation, while “Shear-Jasub,” meaning “the remnant shall return,” or “the remnant is converted,” is in itself a commentary on Is. 6:11–13, and combines in a brief summary God’s threats and promises. There will be final safety for Israel, but only for its remnant, so that the divine curse in a manner precedes the divine blessing.

2). And thou shalt say to him. The divine message to Achaz may be divided into three parts: 1. God warns the king to “be quiet,” i.e., not to act precipitately, and not to be afraid of the two tails of these fire-brands, i.e., the two fag-ends of wood-pokers, half burned off and wholly burned out, so that they do not burn, but keep on smoking. 2. In the second place God gives Achaz a prophecy in order to show him that his advice indicates the proper course to follow. In the introduction to this prediction the prophet summarizes the whole situation of the three kings; then he assures Achaz in general terms that the intentions of the king of Syria and of Samaria will not be put into practice: “It shall not stand, and this shall not be!” After this general prediction, Isaias adds three more prophecies regarding the special fate of the three kingdoms concerned. a. Syria is to gain nothing by the undertaking. It will be in future, as it has been in the past: “the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rasin.” b. Regarding Samaria the prophet utters a double prediction: the first has reference to the far-off future, “within threescore and five years Ephraim shall cease to be a people;” the second is concerned with the immediate future of the northern kingdom, “the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria the son of Romelia.”

It may be noted in passing that the sixty-five years assigned to the time of Samaria’s final destruction do not end with the beginning of the Assyrian captivity, which began in 722 B.C., but terminate at the time when Assyrian settlers were colonizing Samaria under the reign of Asarhaddon. For since the present prophecy was uttered in the beginning of Achaz’ reign, the 14 years of that king, together with the 29 years of his successor Ezechias and the 22 years which his successor Manasses ruled before he was carried off to the land of his exile, will give about the required number of 65 years. We know that this explanation of the 65 years rests on several suppositions that are not absolutely certain; they are, however, sufficiently probable to justify our conjecture. For though the year in which Samaria was thus colonized is not certain, it seems very natural that this should have taken place after the defeat of Manasses, which the Talmud in the tract “Seder Olam” places in the 22d year of Manasses’ reign.

This explanation, in itself very probable, becomes still more so when compared with other attempts of interpretation that have been given concerning the passage. α. For some contend that the term from which the 65 years must be reckoned is the time when Amos (7:11, 17) gave utterance to his prophecy, i.e., the 25th year of Ozias. The term at which the 65 years end is the 6th year of Ezechias, when Samaria was subdued in war and ceased to be a kingdom. The 65 years are, then: 27 under Ozias, 16 under Joathan, 16 under Achaz, and 6 under Ezechias (Euseb., Procop., Barh., Haimo, St. Thom., Malv., Pint., Mald., Lap., Mar., Gordon, Schegg, and certain Jewish commentators). It is plain that this exposition of the text hardly agrees with the words of Isaias. β. Another way of interpreting the 65 years is found in Sanchez, Rohling, Oppert, etc.; according to this view the years refer to the past, so that the term to which they bring us is the 27th year of Jeroboam II., when Samaria was for 10 years deprived of its independence by Syria. The sense of the passage is then that, as in the past Samaria has suffered reverses in war, so it will in the future be entirely destroyed. But the Hebrew particle that precedes the number 65 points to the future rather than to the past (be‘od). γ. There is still another class of interpreters who explain the difficulty by endeavoring to remove it entirely; the second part of verse 8 is, according to these authors, to be expunged from the text as an interpolation. The principal reasons for this opinion are reduced to the following: the prophecy becomes too definite by the number 65, and the second member of verse 8 destroys the metrical harmony and poetic parallelism of the passage (Eichhorn, Gesenius, Maurer, Hitzig, Ewald, Umbreit, Dietrich). On the other hand, the exact number of years stated by the prophet cannot seem objectionable to any one who admits the supernatural character of the prediction. The phraseology of 8b. is in strict accord with that of Isaias in other passages (cf. 21:16; 17:1; 25:2). The parallelism rather demands than excludes the second part of verse 8, since it will be seen that concerning Juda too the prophet predicts both the immediate and the far-off state of affairs (cf. Delitzsch, i. pp. 199 ff.; Knabenb., i. p. 156).

c. The third prophecy which the seer utters concerns Juda, indicating the general method which the Lord will follow in his future dealings with that state; it is both threatening and conditional in its nature. “If you do not believe, you shall not continue.” The only condition, then, on which Juda can retain its political independence is full trust in God; Assyrian help will be no safeguard against political destruction.

3. The third part of Isaias’ prophetic mission to Achaz consists in trying whether Juda does trust the Lord. Juda is represented by the actual head of David’s royal house,—by Achaz,—so that on Achaz’ faith or unfaith depends the safety of the theocracy. God’s decree is: If Juda does not believe, it shall not continue. But does Juda believe? The trial will show it. “Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God.” If the sign is asked, this will prove a sufficient token of Juda’s trust in the Lord God. But Juda answers in its representative: “I will not ask, and I will not tempt the Lord.” The king’s hypocritical answer decides the fate of Juda for more than two thousand years, as far as our experience goes. Alluding to Deut. 6:16, where presumption is forbidden, Achaz seeks in that passage a cloak for his continuance in his Assyrian policy. Deliverance he desires, but does not expect or wish it through God’s help.

Juda’s trial over, the prophet announces more in particular the future fate of the kingdom. More in particular, we say, because it has been announced already in general terms. “If you do not believe, you shall not continue.” But you do not believe. Therefore you shall not continue. The detailed description of Juda’s future regards first its far-off future; secondly, its nearer future. a. As to the far-off future of Juda, the child Emmanuel, who shall be born of the well-known virgin, the stay, the hope, the crowning glory of David’s royal house, “shall eat butter and honey,” i.e., he shall live in the country of butter and honey, outside of Juda, and consequently in exile; and he shall eat butter and honey, the food of the poor and the lowly, so that at his time the royal house of David will be reduced to poverty and exile. b. In the immediate future the fate of Juda will be varied: before the child that is appealed too would attain the use of reason, if it were born here and now, the two hostile kings will have disappeared from the confines of Juda; but since Achaz has been found wanting in faith, the Assyrian, in whom he trusts, will invade Juda and make it the battle-ground between his and the Egyptian armies.

3). A sign. The prophecy speaks of a double sign: 1. Achaz is invited to ask for a sign; 2. the prophet himself gives a sign. Both signs call for a word of explanation. 1. Isaias invites Achaz to ask for a sign. a. Hitzig maintains that the prophet here “played a dangerous game,” in which the Lord would surely have “left him in the lurch,” if the king had chosen to ask for a sign. Meier observes that it cannot have entered the prophet’s mind to wish for a miracle. De Lagarde says that the failure of his sign would have subjected the prophet to punishment for lying. But all these are mere a priori arguments, resting on the supposition that miracles do not happen. b. Omitting the question whether we ought to render the prophet’s words “ask it either in the depth or in the height above” or “make it deep unto Sheol or heighten it to on high,” it must suffice to enumerate a few opinions regarding the nature of the offered sign. α. Choose between seeing the earth split down to the abyss of hell, and beholding the heavens opened to the throne of the Most High (Haimo, Pint., Sasb., Lap., Men.). β. The sign in the heavens might be similar to that granted to Josue (Jos. 10:12), or to the thunder, the storm, and the fire which occurred in the days of Samuel and Elias (1 Sam 12:17; 2 Kings 1:10), while the sign in the deep might resemble the destruction of Core, Dathan and Abiron, or the death of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, or again the miraculous deliverance of Jonas from the belly of the great fish (Basil, Procop., Thom., Sanch., Calmet).

2. The prophet promises a sign in spite of, or rather because of, Achaz’ refusal to ask for one. Explanations: a. Delitzsch (p. 210) is of opinion that the sign consists in the mystery which surrounds the prediction about the pregnant virgin bringing forth a son—a mystery which threatens the house of David, and which affords comfort to the prophet and to all believers. It hardly needs proof that such a mystery is, at best, a very unsatisfactory explanation of the promised sign. b. The sign consists in the prophet’s prediction that a certain virgin would conceive in her first intercourse with man, that she would give birth to a son rather than a daughter, and that this son would be called Emmanuel—a name which resembled in its symbolic meaning the names of Isaias’ two sons. α. But, according to this explanation, Emmanuel is entirely distinct from the Messias, which contradicts the above proofs for the Messianic character of the prophecy. β. Again, history knows nothing of a son called Emmanuel whose age of discretion was accompanied by the liberation of Juda from the kings of Syria and Samaria. c. The sign consists in the prediction of Juda’s liberation from the oppression of its enemies. α. But the whole context would in this manner become extremely insipid and meaningless. β. Besides, the sign is intended to strengthen the king’s faith in the divine promise of Juda’s future liberation, and can therefore be hardly identified with this prophetic promise. d. The sign consists wholly in the fact that a virgin, remaining virgin, will conceive and give birth to a son—the very Emmanuel, or the promised Messias. α. This explanation supposes that the sign that God gives to Achaz is a wholly favorable sign. Now it appears from the context that this cannot be the case. Juda has not believed; therefore it will not continue; therefore “the Lord himself shall give a sign” to Juda. β. The sign must represent the double character of God’s dealing with David’s royal house: he will chastise it with the rod of men, but will not take away his mercy from it. Now the fact that the Messias will be born of a virgin, remaining a virgin in his conception and birth illustrates only God’s mercy to the house of David, but does not exhibit his justice. e. The sign consists partially in the virginal birth of the Messias, but partially also in his having to eat butter and honey, i.e., in his having to live far away from the capital of his ancestors in poverty and exile. The composite character of this sign satisfies the two essential conditions which it requires: α. God’s mercy will not depart from David’s royal house, since the Messias will be born indeed. β. God will, however, chastise the royal house of Juda, since its worldly glory will be humbled to the dust of the earth. γ. The phrase “he shall eat butter and honey” implies such a state of humiliation as is required by the context. For “butter and honey” means either the thickened milk and honey, which are the usual food of the tenderest age of childhood (Gesenius, Hengstenberg, etc.), or the food that is usually taken in the desert (Delitzsch). Now the former of these two meanings is excluded by the sentences that follow the phrase “he shall eat butter and honey.” For in them the child is, on the one hand, represented as eating the assigned food up to the years of discretion, and, on the other, the land before whose two kings Achaz is in terror will before the same period of time be laid waste, so that only the food of the desert will remain (cf. Delitzsch, pp. 210 f.).

There are, however, two main difficulties against this explanation of the prophecy: 1. The Messias will be born more than 700 years after the date of the prediction. His virginal conception and birth, and his poverty and humility cannot then be given as a sign to the contemporaries of Isaias. 2. According to the text Rasin and Phacee will leave Judea before the child shall attain his years of discretion; now this happened within two years after the prediction. Again, according to verse 22, Judea itself shall be devastated, so that “butter and honey shall every one eat that shall be left in the midst of the land.” Emmanuel too shall share this fate, as appears from the connection of the prophecy. Now Judea’s devastation by the Assyrians happened after they had laid waste the kingdoms of Syria and Samaria. Hence it seems that the promised Emmanuel must have been born immediately after the time of the prophecy.

Different answers have been given to both difficulties. Answers to the first exception: a. The sign must precede the event in confirmation of which it is given when there is question of a common miraculous sign; but in the case of a prophecy, when the one who utters the prediction is generally acknowledged as a prophet, it is not necessary that the fulfilment precede the event in confirmation of which it is given. Similar instances we find in 1 Sam 10:2–8; Ex. 3:12; 2 Kings 19:29; Is. 37:30. In the case of Isaias we may add the following consideration: It might well be that the king and the people generally acknowledged the prophetic character of Isaias in religious matters, and in matters connected with the future Redeemer, but did not acknowledge the divine character of his political mission to Achaz. Since he, therefore, did not find faith in the latter among his contemporaries, he confirmed his divine mission by a Messianic prophecy. It is clear that such a sign needed not to be seen or verified by experience in order to have its full effect with those whom the prophet addressed, still, there are authors who refer us to the experience which the prophet’s hearers were to have in limbo of the prophecy’s fulfilment (Jo. 8:56).

b. Drach follows St. Chrysostom (Lettres d’un Rabbin converti, 3e. lettre, pp. 30, 31) and Theodoret in explaining the sign as one that necessarily implies the thing signified. The two hostile kings, they say, were about to exterminate the house of David (Is. 7:6), in order to make Tabeel king instead of Achaz. The prophet comes with the assurance that the enemies will so poorly succeed in their attempt that the house of David will even after seven hundred years give birth to the promised Messias. But it may be observed: α. that the two hostile kings did not necessarily wish to exterminate the whole house of David in order to accomplish their design; β. that the salvation of the house of David does not necessarily imply Achaz’ deliverance from his two enemies at the juncture for which the prophet predicted it; γ. according to this explanation the prophet would have had to foretell in clear language the Messias’ descent from David’s royal house. Though this may be gathered from Is. 9 and 11, it is not clearly stated in Is. 7.

c. A third answer to the difficulty has been offered by Hengstenberg. According to this author, with whom Corluy appears to agree (Spicil. i. p. 409), the prophet’s argument is a fortiori, so that we may propose it in this manner: God will give to the house of David the very Emmanuel, the son of the virgin; therefore, he will not refuse it what is much less—liberation from its present enemies. A similar manner of reasoning we find in Rom. 8:32; in point of fact, the prophet’s inference was truly logical: the future Messias was the source of all blessings for the whole human race, and therefore we find that both Isaias and Ezechiel console the people with similar reasonings under the most trying circumstances. But on the other hand, this explanation by far exceeds the obvious meaning of the passage, and should not be accepted without necessity. The first answer seems to be, after all, the most satisfactory.

The second difficulty finds a contradiction between the context of the prediction and its Messianic interpretation, because according to the latter the virgin’s son must be born after seven centuries, while according to the former the virgin’s son must be born in the immediate future. There is no need of repeating here the divers explanations of this difficulty which deny the Messianic character of the prediction, since they have been duly considered in the preceding paragraphs. We shall limit ourselves to a few explanations that may be admitted by Catholic theologians:

a. Rich. Simon, B. Lamy, Huetius, Moldenhauer, Tirinus, etc., distinguish here, as in other prophecies, between the literal and the typical sense of the prediction. In the literal sense, Emmanuel is Isaias’ son who was called Mahershalal-chashbaz (Is. 8:3); the virgin is the prophetess whom Isaias had married when she was a virgin (Is. 8:3). This explanation is based on the following reasons: α. Almost immediately after the prediction of the boy’s conception and birth, the prophet describes the conception and birth of Maher-Shalal, before whose attaining the years of discretion the land was freed from its two oppressors, as Isaias has foretold about Emmanuel (Is. 8:1–3). β. In Is. 8:18 the prophet explicitly appeals to his two sons, whom God had given him as a sign for Israel. γ. The fact that Isaias’ son of whom he speaks 8:1–3 is not called Emmanuel does not contradict the explanation, since Emmanuel signified rather the present help of God than the actual name of the child to be born; this must occasion so much the less difficulty, since not even Jesus received actually all the names that had been given him in Is. 9:6. According to this view the words “he shall eat butter and honey” mean only that Emmanuel will be nourished with the food usually given to children, until he will know how to refuse the evil and to choose the good. δ. In accordance with the same view Emmanuel typically signifies the Messias, as the virgin mother is a type of the Blessed Virgin, conceiving and giving birth to her son without detriment to her virginity. The liberation of Judea is the type of the Messianic salvation from the yoke of sin and satan.

Still, there are various considerations apt to make us dissatisfied with this explanation. α. In the first place, the type must properly represent its antitype, in that wherein it is a type. Now, a married woman, conceiving in the ordinary, natural manner, does not properly represent a virginal conception and a virginal motherhood. Nevertheless, St. Matthew testifies that Isaias’ prophecy was fulfilled precisely in the virginal conception of Jesus Christ. Consequently, the prophetic passage cannot literally apply to a married woman, such as the wife of Isaias was. Nor can it be said that St. Matthew had no intention of insisting in his gospel on the virginal conception of Jesus, but that he merely insists on his being conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that he thus argued from the conception of Emmanuel, who too was conceived through the special mediatorship of God. For this exception is against the whole context of the Evangelist. St. Matthew tells us how the angel solved St. Joseph’s doubt concerning the mysterious pregnancy of the Blessed Virgin. The revelation of her virginal conception alone could fully allay St. Joseph’s anxiety regarding this matter. Besides all this, the Fathers insist repeatedly that Isaias’ prophecy has been fulfilled by the virginal conception of the Son of God.

β. Then, again, the son of Isaias by the prophetess cannot be the Emmanuel mentioned in Isaias 7. For it is highly improbable that one and the same child should have received, at the express wish of God, two entirely different symbolical names. Nor can the prophetess be the virgin mentioned in the prophecy; for the view that Isaias married after the present prophecy a virgin with whom he had intercourse rests on nothing but a mere conjecture, which in itself is most improbable. And if Emmanuel’s mother was identical with Maher-Shalal’s mother, why should not Isaias have said: “Behold, the prophetess shall conceive …”? or what could have prevented his saying: “and I went to the virgin …”? Besides, there seems to be no point of resemblance between Maher-Shalal, the son of Isaias, and Emmanuel, born of the root of Jesse, inheriting the throne of David forever. Nor can Calmet maintain that Jesus’ not being called Emmanuel favors his manner of interpretation. For Jesus does not on that account become equal to the son of Isaias. Emmanuel, applied to the Messias, shows what the Messias is, while the same name applied to the son of the prophet only indicates the symbolical meaning of the child.

b. Drach (l. c.) and Marani (De divinitate Christi, p. 36) have therefore endeavored to solve the difficulty in a manner different from Calmet’s answer. According to them the 15th verse alone is Messianic, while the boy of whom there is question in the following verse is Shear-Jasub, the son of the prophet. These authors admit that the prophet, after announcing the virginal conception and birth of Emmanuel, after predicting his eating butter and honey in order to show that he is a man like ourselves, suddenly changed his attitude, and pointing with his hand to Shear-Jasub uttered the prediction: Before that boy shall attain to the years of discretion, the land whose two kings thou fearest shall be vacated by its inhabitants.

They urge a number of reasons for their interpretation, which are answered without much difficulty: α. Unless this explanation is admitted, there is no reason why Isaias should have been commanded to take Shear-Jasub with him to Achaz. But the very name of the boy was a sufficient reason for this command, since the name of both father and son served as a symbolic prophecy to the unhappy king.

β. As to the assertion that the prophet should have used the word “child” and not “boy,” had he referred in the 16th verse to the Emmanuel, it can claim only an apparent probability. Its fallacy becomes clear as soon as one reflects that Emmanuel at the age at which the prophet refers to him is no more a child. γ. The circumstance that Shear-Jasub too had been given to the prophet for a sign serves only to confirm what we said above; the child’s mere presence was a sign to the king. δ. The last reason urged by these authors in favor of their explanation only shows the weakness of their position. For though prophets may and do make sudden transitions from subject to subject, still this peculiarity of theirs is limited to type and antitype. And even when they treat of matters so intimately related to each other as type and antitype are, the context commonly shows, at least, signs of the transition. In the present passage of Isaias there is not only no sign of such a transition, but there is not even question of connected subjects; for it would be difficult to prove that Shear-Jasub is a type of Emmanuel.

ε. Besides all this, the connection of the 16th verse with what precedes and follows is so close that it hardly admits such a sudden transition from Emmanuel to Shear-Jasub. In fact the 16th verse begins with the causal particle “ki” (כִּי); so that it must contain the reason of the preceding statement. The language used by the prophet forbids the belief that he pointed out the boy of whom he spoke; for had he done so, he should have said: “hanna’ar hazzeh,” and not merely “hanna’ar.” Finally, in the 22d verse it appears that Emmanuel himself is in some way supposed to be present in the desolated territory, and to be among those who will have to eat butter and honey after the destruction of Achaz’ kingdom. The suggested explanation would therefore leave the difficulty unanswered.

c. Vitringa (Comment. in Is. in h. l.; Observat. sacræ, l. v.) and Patrizi have suggested another solution of the difficulty. According to them there is no connection between vv. 15 and 22; the former tells us that Emmanuel will indeed eat butter and honey as a sign of his true humanity, but that his years of discretion constitute only an ideal term before which the predicted liberation will take place, since the terminus from which the years must be reckoned is not the real but the ideal birth of Emmanuel, i.e., the moment at which the prophecy is uttered. It is true that the prophet clearly distinguishes the stated two periods both in the life of Achaz and in that of Emmanuel. The difficulty of the prophecy consists precisely in the prophet’s referring the distance between the two terms in both cases to the same period of time, so that the term from which the time up to Achaz’ delivery must be reckoned coincides with the conception and birth of Emmanuel, while the time of the actual delivery of Achaz precedes Emmanuel’s age of discretion. Now this point is not sufficiently kept in view in the solution offered by the authors mentioned before. Besides, their assumption that vv. 15 and 22 are not connected contradicts the testimony of the text itself.

d. Bossuet (Explication de la prophétie d’Isaie, 7:14) proposes another solution of the question. According to him the prophet mingles type with antitype in the passage, or rather he mixes the part which refers literally to the Messias with that which refers to him only typically. Literally, the Messias is referred to only in the words: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” Everything else refers literally to Isaias’ son Maher-Shalal, who is the type of the Messias. The transition from antitype to type is evident from the divine attributes which are predicated of the former, and the human characteristics attributed to the latter. But there are certain considerations which render Bossuet’s explanation very improbable. α. First, it is hard to find out any similitude between Maher-Shalal and Emmanuel in those precise points with regard to which the former must be the type of the latter. We need not repeat what we have said about the impossibility of the virginal conception and birth of Emmanuel being typically represented by the conception and birth of Maher-Shalal. β. Besides, it seems highly improbable that Isaias’ son should be called by two different names in the same passage; the one applying to him in his historical bearing, the other representing him in his typical capacity.

e. Hengstenberg in his Christology, Knabenbauer in his Commentary on the present passage, and Corluy (Spicil. i. p. 418) prefer another solution of the difficulty. α. According to these authors, the prophet uses in the present passage the figure of vision; he sees in his prophetic vision Emmanuel’s conception and birth as happening there and then. The years of Achaz’ delivery from his enemies are, therefore, rightly reckoned from the moment at which the prediction is uttered or from the birth of Emmanuel; Emmanuel is rightly represented as eating butter and honey with his afflicted fellow-citizens; the delivery, finally, takes place before Emmanuel attains to the use of his reason. β. Such a vivid description we meet in Is. 9:6, where the prophet represents the Emmanuel as already born; the manner of thus identifying the Messias with the actual condition of his people is perfectly legitimate, since all the salvation of Israel was derived from the merits of the Messias. γ. As to the exception which may be urged against this explanation, that such a figure could not have been understood by Achaz and his contemporaries, it must be remembered that the Israelites were by other prophecies, uttered about the same time and by the same prophet, clearly forewarned that the Messianic salvation would come only after a very long space of time. In chapter 11, e.g., there is question of the root giving birth to the promised Redeemer, and in the same chapter (5:12) the prophet distinctly announces that Israel and Juda will have to suffer dispersion and national ruin before the period of the Messias.

4). Behold a virgin. Explanations: 1. The virgin is no definite person at all: according to Duhm, mother and son are merely representative ideas; according to Reuss the virgin is “la femme comme telle;” according to Henry Hammond (1653), pregnancy, birth, and maturity are in their primary sense only parabolical facts, subservient to the chronological measurement of time, while Lowth, Koppe, Gratz, I. D. Michaelis, Eichhorn, Paulus, Staehelin, Hensler, Ammon, etc., maintain that the prophet’s words are merely conditional, meaning that if a virgin were to conceive now, and bring forth a child, he would attain the use of reason only after the land would be freed from its two powerful enemies. But all this contradicts the positive statement of the prophet, which admits no condition. It is also opposed to Is. 8:8, which demands that the virgin applies to a definite person.

2. The house of David is the virgin, and her son is a future new Israel as it is represented in Is. 54:4–7 (Hofmann, Ebrard, Köhler, Weir); or the congregation of the pious and of the God-fearing in Israel at the time of Achaz is the virgin who will bring about a future reformation of the nation (Schultz), or the Church is the virgin who will bring forth a countless number of children to God and his Redeemer (Herveus; the author proposes this only as a secondary and mystical meaning of the prophecy, after he has explained it literally of the Messias). But not to mention other inconveniences, this explanation is opposed to Is. 8:8, 10; 9:6, and also to the common figurative manner of the prophet’s address to the people, which he never calls simply “virgin.”

3. The prophet must, therefore, speak of a definite physical person in the present passage. Some of the ancient Jewish commentators who are mentioned by the Fathers (Justin. cont. Tryph. nn. 66, 68, 71, 77; Cyr., Proc., Jerome) understood the word “virgin” as applying to Achaz’ wife, the mother of Ezechias, whom they identified with Emmanuel. This view is clearly refuted by Driver (Isaias, p. 40). According to 2 Kings 16:2, Achaz on ascending the throne was twenty years old, and according to 2 Kings 18:2, Ezechias was twenty-five years old on his ascending the throne. Now, according to 1 Kings 16:2, Achaz reigned sixteen years, and the present prophecy was uttered in the beginning of his reign. Ezechias was, therefore, nine years old at the time when Isaias uttered the prophecy. If it be said that according to this calculation Achaz died at the age of thirty-six, and that he therefore was only eleven years older than Ezechias, who ascended the throne at the age of twenty-five, we answer that according to the LXX. and the Pesh., Achaz was twenty-five on ascending the throne, so that he died at the age of forty-one, and became father of Ezechias at the age of sixteen. But this does not affect the fact that Ezechias was several years old when Isaias announced the divine sign to the godless Achaz.

4. Some of the later Jewish commentators, as Abarbanel and Kimchi, are of opinion that the virgin refers to another wife of Achaz, not to the mother of Ezechias, and that Emmanuel is a son of Achaz who is unknown in history. But since this view is gratuitously asserted, it may be denied without an express statement of the reasons for the denial. Besides, it is extremely improbable that a common child, who was to have no special natural or supernatural prerogatives, should be the subject of Is. 8:8, 10; 9:6, etc.

5. Another class of authors holds that the virgin of the prophecy is the wife of Isaias, either the mother of Shear-Jasub, or a younger wife, newly married to the prophet, who became the mother of Maher-Shalal. The latter is, according to this view, the Emmanuel of the prophecy (Aben-Ezra, Jarchi, Faustus Socinus, Crell, Grotius, von Wolzogen, Faber, Pflüschke, Gesenius, Hitzig, Hendewerk, Knobel, Maurer, Olshausen, Diestel, etc.). It may be noted that certain Catholic authors have given assent to this opinion, applying, however, only the literal sense of virgin and Emmanuel to the prophet’s wife and son, while they understand both in their typical meaning of the Messias and his virgin mother (cf. St. Jerome’s opinion about those who adhere to this view). α. But how can we conceive Isaias addressing his own son as the Lord of the land of Juda, and how can he represent his son as the cause of Israel’s liberation from its enemies (Is. 8:8, 10).? β. Again, the hypothesis that the prophecy refers to a wife of Isaias recently married to him is nothing but a makeshift, resting on no single positive argument, while the assumption that Isaias indicated by “virgin” the mother of Shear-Jasub contradicts the very name given to her. For whatever meaning may be assigned to the Hebrew word “ ‘almah,” it can surely not be applied to a married woman who has had children.

6. Castalio, Isenbiehl (formerly), Bauer, Cube, Steudel, Umbreit (formerly), and H. Schultz maintain that the prophet addressed his words to a virgin who happened to be present at the time of the prophecy. Pointing to her, Isaias predicted that she should conceive and bear a son, and that the country should be freed from its enemies before her son would reach the age of discretion. α. It has already been shown that the sign thus offered can in no way satisfy the context of the prophecy. β. Not to mention that the authors who hold this view do not give any proof, they contradict what the prophet says concerning the Emmanuel in 8:8, 10; for it is incredible that the lord of Judea and the liberator of his native country should have remained as unknown to history as is the virgin’s son of whom Isaias is supposed to prophesy in the present passage.

7. If this be true of the explanation according to which any immaculate virgin and her son are the subjects of the prophet’s prediction, what are we to think of Nägelsbach’s opinion, which contends that a sinful woman and a child born of sinful intercourse are the virgin and the Emmanuel of whom Isaias speaks? The virgin is a daughter of Achaz, who has conceived secretly, and whose sin is as yet unknown to her father. Isaias reveals her shame to her father, and thus offers him a divine sign of his supernatural mission and of God’s faithfulness to his promises. The incongruity of this explanation is so clear that it needs no further refutation.

8. Finally, the commonly received opinion of Catholics maintains that the “virgin” in Isaias’ prophecy refers to the Blessed Virgin in its literal sense, and that Emmanuel refers in its literal meaning to Jesus Christ. The text of the prophecy, its context, and its traditional interpretation render this explanation certain beyond dispute.
a. The text of the passage: In the text we shall first consider the word “virgin,” Heb. “ ‘almah”; secondly, we shall say a word about the clause in which the word “virgin” occurs. 1. As to “ ‘almah,” whatever etymological derivation we give for the word (עָלַם, עָלַם עוּל in any case it may signify a chaste virgin, so far as its derivation is concerned. Now the Scriptural usage of the word determines that, in point of fact, “ ‘almah” does mean “virgin.” For it occurs only six times in the Old Testament outside of the present passage; in Gen. 24:43 it is applied to Rebecca, who is expressly called a virgin who had not known man (Gen. 24:16); Ex. 2:8 applies ‘almah to the sister of Moses, who was only a little girl; Ps. 67 (68):26 reads “princes went before joined with singers, in the midst of young damsels playing on timbrels.” Now we infer from Jer. 31:4; Judges 11:34; Ex. 15:20 that the damsels employed in this office were commonly virgins. Cant. 1:3 uses the word of virgins who love their royal spouse where no meaning but that of pure virgins can be thought of. Cant. 6:8 (Vugl. 7) has the passage: “There are three score queens, and four score concubines, and young maidens without number.” Here again, it is clear that the young maidens indicated in the Hebrew text by the plural of ‘almah must be pure virgins, since they are distinguished from queens on the one hand, and from concubines on the other. The sixth passage in which “ ‘almah” occurs offers greater difficulties. It reads: “Three things are hard to me, and the fourth I am utterly ignorant of: the way of an eagle in the air, the way of a serpent upon a rock, the way of a ship in the midst of the sea, and the way of a man in youth” (Prov. 30:18, 19). The word rendered “youth” reads in the Hebrew text “ ‘almah,” so that we should read “the way of a man in a virgin.” Only one Hebrew codex has the reading “ ‘almuth” that is required by the present English, Latin, Septuagint, and Syriac rendering “youth;” all the other codices and old versions require the rendering “virgin.”

A number of explanations of this difficult passage have been offered, which we can only enumerate without fully investigating any one of them.

α. The “virgin” spoken of is a prostitute, so that the whole passage means: as there is no sign left of the eagle’s way in the air, of the serpent’s path on the rock, and of the ship’s course in the waters of the sea, so there is no certain sign of a man’s intercourse with a prostitute. 1. But in the first place, the subsequent pregnancy would serve as such a sign. 2. Again, this meaning does not agree with the verse which immediately follows the passage: “Such is also the way of an adulterous woman, who eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith: I have done no evil.” For what imaginable “way” of the adulterous woman can thus be compared with the way of the eagle, the serpent, the ship, and the man?

β. A second explanation admits that “ ‘almah” in the passage may mean a “virgin” who is immaculate before her intercourse with man. This view supposes that man’s way in the virgin is hidden because it cannot be discovered on the man himself. 1. But in the first place, this explanation is against the analogy of the preceding three unknown ways: they are called unknown, not because they cannot be detected on the eagle, or the ship, or the serpent, but because they cannot be discovered in the air, in the sea, and on the rock. In the same manner, then, must the fourth way be undiscoverable on the virgin. 2. Besides, the same argument may be urged against this explanation which we urged against the first solution, and which was taken from the impossibility of finding an analogous “way” of the adulterous woman.

γ. Others again have thought of explaining the passage in a metaphorical sense; the Wise Man says, according to this view: I do not know how the mighty eagle can sail through the thin air; I do not know how the serpent without feet can glide over the solid rock; I do not know how the bulky ship can be upheld in the liquid waters of the ocean; I do not know how the libertine can be impelled by his impure passion to corrupt the immaculate virgin: and in the same manner the deceitful way of the adulterous woman is a mystery to me. It is clear that according to this explanation all the necessary conditions of both text and context are fully satisfied.

δ. There is another explanation which seems more satisfactory to some scholars, because it does not appeal to a metaphorical meaning of the word “way.” The ‘almah is supposed to be a chaste virgin,—at least in the estimation of men,—and the writer insists on the fact that even in a virgin there is no certain sign of her intercourse with man. As, therefore, an adulterous woman may eat and wipe her month and say, “I have done no evil,” so may a reputed virgin, even after her sin, be without any outward signs of her violated virginity (cf. Knab. p. 170).

ε. We hardly need to state all the other explanations that have been attempted by divers authors: Rohling, e.g., proffers the view that the writer merely warns virgins against illicit intercourse, since they alone have to bear the punishment and the shame, while their accomplices retain no trace of the sin; Hengstenberg explains the “way” of man in the virgin as meaning the curious manner in which a virgin often conceives a passion for a man without any assignable reasonable cause; Lapide mentions the opinion of some that the writer addresses a warning to parents to keep their daughters well guarded from all attempts against their virginity, since there is no external sign to show them whether a fault has been committed.

It follows from these explanations that in order to satisfy both text and context of the difficult passage, “ ‘almah” must signify a pure virgin—a virgin who is pure, at least, in the opinion of men. And combining this result with the result of our investigation of the other passages in which “ ‘almah” occurs, we must conclude that the word commonly means a pure and undefiled virgin.

This conclusion is confirmed by the LXX. version, in which ‘almah is four times rendered νεᾶνις, or maid (Ex. 2:8; Ps. 67 (68):26; Cant. 1:3; 6:7), once νεότης (Prov. 30:19), but in the present passage παρθένος, or virgin. There must, then, have been a special reason, be it tradition or the current explanation of the text, which induced those writers to adopt this version. It is not surprising that Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion relinquished the rendering παρθένος, because at their time the Christians already began to use the text in their controversial writings (cf. Iren. iii. 24; Justin, Tryph. 71).

2. It must further be noted that ‘almah in the Hebrew text has the definite article, and that it is followed by two participles, so that we must render literally: “Behold, the virgin is pregnant, and is bringing forth a son, and his name she shall call Emmanuel.” If we then insist on the literal meaning of the prophecy, the virgin, though she is virgin, is pregnant and bringing forth her son, so that she is both virgin and mother. It appears from the following verb that the prophet intended his words to be explained in this literal sense; for he does not say “and she is calling his name Emmanuel,” but he continues, “and she shall call his name.” The prophecy in its literal meaning has, therefore, not been verified in any one except in the Blessed Virgin, so that she alone is literally spoken of by Isaias. Drach (De l’harmonie entre l’Église et la Synagogue, Paris, 1844, t. ii. pp. 237 ff.) has shown that it is probably owing to Isaias’ prophecy concerning the virgin-mother that virginity has been held in such high esteem among most nations of even pagan antiquity.

b. The context of this passage too requires that it be applied to the Blessed Virgin in its literal sense. For, according to the context, the virgin of whom the prophet speaks is the mother of Emmanuel. Now, Emmanuel must from the whole setting of the prediction be literally applied to Jesus Christ. Hence the virgin-mother too must be the Messias’ mother in the literal meaning of the word.

c. Nearly all the patristic testimonies to which we referred above, as applying Isaias’ prophecy to the Messias, bear also witness to its literal Messianic application.


1. The prophet’s prediction that the Messias will be conceived and born of a virgin who has not known man, that his name will be Emmanuel, and that he will be the Redeemer of his people, is for Christians certain from the text of St. Matthew.

2. Against Rationalists the Messianic character of the prophecy may be proved from the connection of chapters 7, 8, 9, 11, and Mich. 5. The unanimous Jewish tradition regarding Is. 8:8 and Mich. 5:5, and the fact that St. Matthew used the prophecy against the Jews in a Messianic sense without finding any contradiction on the part of his opponents, are as many confirmations of the first argument for the Messianic reference of Is. 7.

The virginal conception and birth of the Emmanuel can be rendered probable to a Rationalist even from Isaias’ prophecy: a. Because the LXX. rendered the word “ ‘almah” by “παρθένοζ;b. because St. Matthew found no difficulty when he saw a fulfilment of this prophecy in Christ’s virginal conception; c. because it has been the universal tradition among the nations that many of their divine heroes and many of their extraordinary men were born of virgin-mothers.

3. As to the Jews, they could infer the Messianic character of Isaias’ prophecy by comparing it with other clearly Messianic predictions. From the latter they knew that the Messias would free the house of David from its enemies, though they might not believe him so far distant as he really proved to be. It is hardly probable that they should have understood from the words of the prophecy the virginal conception and birth of the Messias, though they must have perceived that the Messias’ mother would be a most extraordinary virgin, and perhaps even that she must be especially privileged in her conceiving and giving birth to the Messias. The Alexandrian translators seem to have had a further developed doctrine on the virginity of Emmanuel’s mother. And we may reasonably suppose that about the time of Christ’s birth the Messianic expectation had attained such a state of perfection that the Evangelist’s doctrine was for the new converts nothing else than a clear exposition of what they had known implicitly and obscurely.

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My Notes on 1 Kings 17:1-6

Posted by Dim Bulb on June 8, 2014


I tend to agree with those scholars who see the Elijah-Elisha narrative as consisting of 1 Kings 16:292 Kings 13:25,  rather than with the more common view that it consists of 1 Kings 17:12 Kings 8:15.  In the common view Elisha’s appearances in 2 Kings 9:1-3 and 2 Kings 13:14-21 are often treated as parts of other narratives. In the other view, chapters 9-13 of 2 Kings describes the aftermath of what was set in motion by the rest of the Elijah-Elisha narrative and are therefore integral to it.

1 Kings 16:29-34, which immediately precedes today’s reading, introduces us to two primary characters in the Elijah-Elisha stories; namely, Ahab, King of Israel, and Jezebel, his Pagan wife. Ahab is portrayed as exceeding the sins of predecessors by adopting the worship of Baal, the preferred god of his wife Jezebel, with the result that: Achab [i.e., Ahab] did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:33, Douay-Rheims). In a brief snippet we are also informed that a certain man named Hiel: “In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16:34 RSVCE).

To anyone who reads through the Elijah-Elisha narrative it is plainly obvious why Ahab and Jezebel are the focus in the introduction-they are integral to the story. But why is Hiel and his rebuilding of Jericho-resulting in the death of his sons-mentioned? The key is to be found in Joshua 6:26 which details “the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua, the son of Nun.” There we read these words of Joshua: “Cursed be the man before the Lord, that shall raise up and build the city of Jericho. In his firstborn may he lay the foundation thereof, and in the last of his children set up its gates.” God’s commands, God’s promises, and his power to fulfill them are major themes in the narrative. That obeying God’s word leads to the preservation of life for one’s self or one’s children is also a major theme which, of course, contrasts with Hiel’s actions resulting in the death of his two sons.


1 Kings 17:1  AND Elias [Elijah] the Thesbite [Tishbite], of the inhabitants of Galaad [Gilead], said to Achab [Ahab]: As the Lord liveth, the God of Israel, in whose sight I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but [except] according to the words of my mouth.

Elijah the Tishbite. Elijah is introduced suddenly, suggesting that by the time of the writing of First Kings he was quite well known in the tradition as a prophet of God. His name is a kind of confession, meaning: “YHWH (the LORD) is my God.” His very name introduces a theme into the narrative, namely who is Israel’s God? Is it Baal, or YHWH? The people appear to have been undecided, caught up in their syncretism; a fact that didn’t sit well with God or Elijah: “How long do you halt between two sides? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people did not answer him a word” (1 Kings 18:21).

As the Lord liveth, the God of Israel. As opposed to Baal who is not Israel’s God, does not live, and cannot give life. Ultimately, this is the whole point of chapters 17-18.

In whose sight I stand. I stand ready to hear his counsel, obey his word, embrace his will.

There shall be no dew or rain these years, but [except] according to the words of my mouth. Baal was a fertility God and the rain was  conceived of as his seed whereby he impregnated the earth and made it fertile. God, by giving his prophet-a human being-control of the rain, he shows forth his own power and existence at the expense of the god of Ahab, Baal.

1 Kings 17:2 And the word of the Lord came to him, saying:
1 Kings 17:3 Get thee hence, and go towards the east, and hide thyself by the torrent of Carith
[Cherith], which is over against the Jordan;
1 Kings 17:4 And there thou shalt drink of the torrent: and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.
1 Kings 17:5 So he went, and did according to the word of the Lord: and going, he dwelt by the torrent Carith
[Cherith], which is over against the Jordan.
1 Kings 17:6 And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the torrent

These verses are in two parts. The first part consist of God issuing a command (2-3), coupled with a promise (4). The second part consists of the prophet’s fulfillment of God’s command (5), and God’s fulfillment of his promise (6). Tomorrow’s first reading (1 Kings 17:7-16) will have the same basic format but with some added nuance.

Many scholars insist that the reason for the command to hide is due to the fact that the prophet’s life is in danger as a result of the word he spoke to Ahab in verse 1, but nothing is said about Ahab’s response to these words, and the prophet’s life is not here said to be in danger. Other scholars see in the command a preparation of the prophet to trust in God’s providential, protective care, for the time will come when his life is in danger and he flees (1 Kings 19:1-3), becoming dependent on God’s care to maintain his life (1 Kings 19:4-8). This second interpretation makes better sense to me.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Notes on 1 Kings, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

This week’s Commentaries and Posts: Sunday, May 18–Sunday, May 25, 2014

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 17, 2014

SUNDAY, MAY 18, 2014


Last Week’s Commentaries and Posts.

MONDAY, MAY 19, 2014

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 14:5-18.

St John Chrysostom’ Commentaries Acts 14:5-18:

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 114 & 115. Why the two are combined is explained in a brief note.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 115.

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 115.

My Notes on Psalm 115.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 14:21-26.

Fathers Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 14:21-26.

St John Chrysostom’S Homiletic Commentary on John 14:21-26.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 14:21-26.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lectures John 14:21-26Scroll down and read lectures 5 & 6.

St Cyril of Alexandria Homiletic Commentary on John 14:21-26.

TUESDAY, MAY 20, 2014

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 14:19-28.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Acts 14:19-28.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 145.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm145.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 145.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 14:27-31a.

St Thomas Aquinas’ Lectures on John 14:27-31a. Read lectures 7 & 8.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 14:27-31a.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 14:27-31a.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 14:27-31a.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 15:1-6.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 122.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 122.

A Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 122.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 122.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 15:1-8.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 15:1-8.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 15:1-8.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 15:1-8.

THURSDAY, MAY 22, 2014

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 15:7-21.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 96. Previously posted.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 15:9-11.

St Cyril of Alexandria’S Homiletic Commentary on John 15:9-11.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on John 15:9-11.

St Augustine’s Tractate on John 15:9-11.

FRIDAY, MAY 23, 2014

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 15:22-31.

Pending: Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 57.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 57.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 57.

Fathers Nolan and Brown’s Commentary on John 15:12-17.

St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on John 15:12-17.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 15:12-17.

St Augustine’s Tractates on John 15:12-17. On 11-19.

SATURDAY, MAY 24, 2014

Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Acts 16:1-10.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 100.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 100.

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 100.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 100.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 15:18-21.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary John 15:18-21.

Fathers Nolan’s and Brown’s Commentary on John 15:18-21.

SUNDAY, MAY 25, 2014


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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 4:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 7, 2014

1 THEN Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.

“Then,” immediately after His baptism and the descent of the dove (c. 3:17). St. Mark says (1:12), “And immediately the Spirit drove Him,” &c.

“Jesus was led.” The Greek, ἀνηχθη means, led apart. St. Mark has (1:12), “the Spirit drove Him out.” The words “drive,” &c., denote the active energy of the Holy Ghost, and the alacrity with which our Redeemer freely yielded to His impulses, by whom He was guided from His infancy, and who now more and more manifests Himself in Him, making Him appear a new man.

“By the Spirit,” the holy Fathers (among them, Jerome, Chrysostom, Hilary, Gregory, &c.), commonly understood the Holy Ghost, the Spirit immediately spoken of, in the foregoing (3:16). This is the invariable meaning of “Spirit” in SS. Scriptures, when used absolutely and emphatically with the article. Here, we have τοῦ. πνεύματος. St. Luke says of Him, “plenus Spiritu sancto” (4:1). If “Spirit” referred to the devil, then, in the following words, the Evangelist should have written, not as he has done, “to be tempted by the devil,” which would be a mere repetition, but, “to be tempted BY HIM.”

“Into the desert.” The interior of the desert that lay close by, where John was baptizing. It was afterwards called “Quarantania,” from our Saviour’s fast of forty days there. It is said by writers on the Holy Land to be situated convenient to where the Jordan disembogues itself into the Dead Sea, a mountainous range north of the road between Jerusalem and Jericho St. Mark gives an idea of its desolateness (1:13), “He was with the beasts,” having no human habitation.

“To be tempted by the devil.” This is the chief reason of our Lord being impelled by the Holy Ghost to go into the desert, that as a consequence of it, the devil finding Him there would tempt Him, and entering into single combat, would receive a signal overthrow from our Lord, which, like all His public acts, was intended for our instruction, when placed in circumstances of temptation. There are several other reasons and motives besides, assignable for His having gone into the desert, encountering the devil, in solitude, while engaged in fasting and praying, intended for the instruction and guidance of the Church in general, and of each individual in particular, and also for the period of forty days’ fast which He had undergone before He was tempted. He, the Captain of our warfare, wished to show us the effectual means of overcoming our enemy, viz., fasting, solitude, prayer. He also wished to inspire us with courage for the combat, since He, our Head, had, unlike Eve, by these means manfully resisted the tempter’s suggestions and signally discomfited him.

“That He might be tempted,” &c. “That” signifies the consequence, or result, not the direct end. For there is question here not of temptation of trial merely, whereby the devil would find out if our Lord were the Son of God (although he had this also in view), but also of temptation of deceit, whereby the devil sought to induce Him to commit sin. It might be admitted, that our Lord meant to be tempted by the devil, whom He came to overthrow, knowing His own power and invincibility. This, however, would not warrant us, who are so weak and liable to sin, to expose ourselves unnecessarily to temptation. For, “he who loves the danger, shall perish in it.” Our Lord might have been privately tempted by the devil during His education at Nazareth. But whether tempted publicly (as here), or privately, all temptations must be external, from without, either from the devil or men, that is, the world. But, He could, by no means, be tempted inwardly, from His own flesh, any more than Adam could while in a state of innocence before he lost sanctifying grace. “All this diabolical temptation was from without; not, from within” (St. Greg. Hom. 16).

“The devil” (διαβολος), strictly means, a slanderer—the great enemy of the human race—“the accuser of his brethren” (Apoc. 12:10), whom he wishes to make hateful to God, by impelling them to sin. Probably, allusion is made to Lucifer; “the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41; Apoc. 12:9).

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.

“And when He had fasted forty days,” &c. In imitation of Moses before giving the Old Law, and of Elias before repairing or reforming it, our Redeemer wishes before explaining the New Law, to retire for forty days, and after fasting and prayer, to come forth to preach. The number, FORTY, in SS. Scripture, from the earliest history of the world, marks several events of the utmost importance to man, from the forty days of the deluge to the forty days’ fast of our Divine Redeemer. To His fast of “forty days” is also added, “and forty nights,” to distinguish it, from the Jewish fasts which were confined to the day only. At night, they could use food. His fast did not exceed forty natural days, including days and nights, lest He might not be be regarded as human; since no other human being, not even Moses or Elias, exceeded that term in fasting. In this forty days’ fast, our Lord left us an example of how we ought to prepare to overcome the devil, who, in some instances, is overcome only by “prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:28). He also wished to leave the Church an example of that Lent, which she was to institute, of forty days of Lent, as we are told by the holy Fathers. (St. Jerome Ep. ad Marcellum; St. Augustine ad Januarium; St. Ambrose Serm. 39, de Quadriges., &c.) It cannot be doubted that this fast of Lent was always regarded to be of Apostolical origin. Our Lord, no doubt, devoted those forty days to prayer and constant communing with His Heavenly Father.

“He was afterwards hungry.” Although the soul of Jesus enjoyed, without intermission, the beatific vision, and was supremely happy; still, He allowed the inferior faculties to suffer. As He voluntarily submitted to the other feelings and sensations of human nature, so He now allowed Himself to feel the pangs of hunger, to prove His humanity, and give the devil an opportunity of tempting Him, as he formerly tempted Eve. During these forty days His Divinity sustained His humanity against the consequences of this long fast. Possibly, our Lord may have Himself communicated to the devil, His state of suffering from the pangs of hunger, by some external act, such as seeking for food, or in some other way. St. Chrysostom says, it was the Son of God Himself that made known His hunger to the devil, to entice Him to the combat, and thus receive a signal overthrow. St. Jerome, in almost the same words, says (in hunc locum), Permittitur esurire corpus, ut Diabolo tentandi occasio prœbeatur.

3 And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

“The tempter coming said to Him.” The same who is called the “devil”—the chief of the infernal hosts, Lucifer—is here, as well as 1 Thess. 3, called “the tempter,” by excellence, being the principal and chief enemy of salvation, who solicits man to evil. The world and the flesh also tempt us; but the devil ever uses these to solicit us to evil. Temptation has different meanings in SS. Scripture. 1st. Temptation of trial, which has for object, to try and find out a thing, and prove us. In this sense, God often tempts man, not that He wants to know anything; but, He wishes to let us see what we are. In this way, He tempted Abraham, &c. There is also temptation of deceit, which has for object, to induce us to commit sin. In this sense, “God tempts no one.” (St. James 1) In this latter sense, the devil is called “the tempter” (see 6:13) “coming,” most likely, in the shape of a man. This is the common opinion. He wishes to be adored, and if he came in any other form, the Evangelists would probably have said so. The word “coming” implies, in a sensible, visible form. Hence, like that of our first parents, who, being in original justice, could not be interiorly tempted, this temptation was exterior.

“Said to Him.” Many think that the devil had blandly addressed our Redeemer and spoke of His being so long in that frightful desert; of the sufferings He was now enduring; of the testimony lately rendered to Him, that He was the Son of God, &c.; and, then, proceeded to tempt Him, and try if He was really such as is here recorded by St. Matthew. From St. Mark (1) and St. Luke (4:2), it would seem, that the devil had frequently tempted Him during the forty days’ fast. But now, seeing Him suffer from hunger, and show the effects of human weakness, he makes his grand assault, “If Thou be the Son of God, command,” &c. It is the opinion of some theologians, that Lucifer’s fall arose from his jealousy at the dignity of the human nature, which was to be assumed in time by the eternal Word. Hence, aspiring after it himself, he refused to obey Christ and God. Hearing, then, the testimony borne lately to Christ by John the Baptist, and also the testimony from heaven, he may have suspected He was the Son of God, whose time for assuming human nature, according to the prophecies, had now arrived. On the other hand, seeing Him, like others among the crowd, poor, of humble, plebeian rank, and now suffering the pangs of hunger, he doubts if He be the natural Son of God, consubstantial and co-eternal with the Father. Hence, he is anxious to find it out, in order to mar as far as possible, His beneficent designs of redemption.

“If Thou be the Son of God.” as was lately testified regarding you, “command,” by the same Omnipotent Power, which “spoke and all things were made.” No need to have recourse to God by prayer—“command,” immediately, without the intervention of any other power (he does not say, do it; but, “command it”), that these stones which lie scattered about, be converted into bread, so as to appease your hunger, which you have no other means of relieving in this frightful solitude. St. Ambrose, commenting on the cunning of the devil, says, “He so tempts, as to explore; he so explores, as to tempt. While our Redeemer deludes him, so as to conquer; He so conquers, as to delude him.” The tempter assails our Redeemer in what he conceives to be His weak point, under the circumstances, viz., gluttony; not that it would be gluttony for a hungry man to appease his hunger by means of bread lawfully procured; but, it would be gluttony in our Divine Redeemer to appease His hunger by means of bread procured through illicit means; and He surely would have employed illicit means, were He to exert His Divine power, in procuring bread at the suggestion of Satan. He would commit a sin against religion, by holding communication with the fiend; and so He would procure bread by illicit means. He would, moreover, be partly guilty of a sin of vain glory, by a vain ostentation of His power, and distrust in God’s paternal providence. Similar was the successful temptation of our first parents. It would have boon an undoubted proof of Divine power to change the stones instantly into bread, by His more word; “dic ut hi lapides panes fiant.” “Thou art caught in thy own words, O haughty tempter,” cries St. Jerome. “For, if He have power to change the stones, in vain wouldst thou tempt such power; and if He have not the power, vain would it be for you to suspect and flatter Him, as Son of God.” Some understand “if” to mean since, whereas, Thou art the Son of God. Then, the devil would have attempted to flatter Him, and so induce Him to commit sin. Probably, his pride so blinded Lucifer, that he thought he could succeed in this. It seems, most likely, that Lucifer knew our Redeemer to be God. This would seem probable from many parts of the Gospel. Whether he knew it at this time for certain, before this temptation, may be doubted. That the issue of the temptation may have removed his doubts seems probable. But from other parts of the Gospel, subsequent to this, it seems most likely he afterwards knew our Lord to be the Son of God. “Art Thou come hither before the time to torment us?” (8:29). Nor are the words of St. Paul (1 Cor. 2:8) opposed to this. St. Paul does not say, the devil did not know Him to be “the Lord of Glory.” He only says, he did not know the wisdom of the mystery of Christ’s death. For, had he known it, he would never have instigated the Jews to crucify Him, because he was thus bringing about what he wished to prevent, viz., the redemption of man, through the death of Christ. It is to be borne in mind, that our Saviour could not be internally tempted, nor even externally, except under the control of His own will.

4 Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

“It is written,” in the Holy Scriptures, which are, by excellence, called the writing; and with the learned Jews the usual form of referring to the inspired Scriptures was to say, “It was written.” Here, our Redeemer opposes to the human prudence, which suggested the temptation of the devil, the Word of God, “the sword of the Spirit,” which, at once, without having recourse to subtle reasonings, helps us to dispel the attacks of our spiritual enemies. Our Lord so answers, that He neither asserts nor denies His Divinity; and, although He might, by the exercise of His Divine power, have at once put to flight His tempter, He prefers to do so, for our instruction in circumstances of temptation, by the power of His human nature, by meekness, humility, and constancy; and this also renders the humiliation of the demon the greater, when vanquished by weak man, rather than by an effort of Divine omnipotence.

“Not in bread alone,” &c. And if this be true of man in general, how much more so of the Son of God. Our Redeemer deludes the demon, who addressed Him as “Son of God,” by merely placing Himself on a level with other men, and quoting, in justification of His own mode of acting, and of His reliance on God’s providence, what is meant for man in general. “Bread” is used in Scripture to signify all kinds of aliment, which nourishes and sustains human life. The Greek for, “doth live” (ζησεται, shall live), is a Hebrew form of potential, denoting what is confined to no definite time, but is permanently such—will be able to live. Hence, lives, in the present tense, better expresses the meaning intended.

“But in every word that proceedeth,” &c. “Word” is not in the original Hebrew (of Deut. 8:3). But the Septuagint interpreters and the Vulgate translators have added it, as explanatory. The Hebrew is, “by every thing that proceeds from the mouth of God,” “omni egrediente de ore Dei.” The meaning is, that man’s corporal life is sustained, not merely by these elements in common use, denoted by “bread;” but, by whatever means God’s holy will and providence may appoint. He may, if He chooses, support them without any food, for any period He pleases, as He did Moses, &c., or He may render stones, iron, or any other substance nutritious for man’s support; and hence, it was sheer folly in the demon to ask of Him to work a useless miracle, when God’s providence, on which He placed such unhesitating reliance, had other means at its disposal to appease His hunger and prolong His life. The words, “not in bread alone doth man live,” are taken from Deut. 8:3, where Moses, recounting the benefits conferred by God on the Jews, tells them that when they were straitened from want, God sent them manna from heaven for their support, to teach them, that it was not on bread alone (which failed them in the desert) man’s life depended; but that God may adopt any means He may think proper to support man (as in the case of the manna), “sed, in omni egrediente de ore Dei.” Every thing proceeding from His mouth, means every thing God may wish or please to do, or command, for any purpose. Here, our Lord opposes the word of truth, to the seductive words and suggestions of the father of lies.

5 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

“Took Him.” Most probably, carried Him in the air. It could be no more unbecoming in our Lord (as St. Gregory observes, Hom. 16), to submit to this, than it was to allow Himself voluntarily to be crucified by the members of the devil, viz., the Jews, and their instigators, “the world and the princes of this world.” (1 Cor. 2, &c.) Some (with Maldonatus), think the devil “led” Him (St. Luke 4:5). But the distance between the desert near Jericho and Jerusalem was too long a journey to be performed on foot in less than eight or nine hours. In that case, our Lord’s fast would exceed “forty days.” For, it was after He had fasted forty days, the devil came to tempt Him (v. 2), and He gave over fasting only after the threefold temptation, which must occupy, therefore, only a very small space of time. St. Thomas and St. Chrysostom observe, that although our Lord was taken bodily and visibly, still, He so baffled the devil, that without the latter knowing it, He was invisible in His passage, as He was on other occasions (Luke 4:30; John 8:59). The reasons given by Maldonatus against this opinion, viz., that by such an exercise of power, the devil would have discovered himself, when he should rather, on the occasion, have transformed himself “into an Angel of light,” proves nothing; as the carrying of a man through the air, would not exceed the powers of “an Angel of light,” any more than it did those of the angel of darkness.

“Then the devil took Him,” &c. Hence, most likely, the order of the temptations is given more accurately here than in St. Luke (4), who gives a different order; but, does not use “then,” “afterwards,” indicating order of time or occurrence. St. Luke, most probably, gives the substance, not the order of the temptations.

“Up into the Holy City,” Jerusalem (as is expressly said by St. Luke), called “holy,” on account of the holy temple, and its being the seat of true religion of God at the time.

“The pinnacle of the temple.” Some commentators say this referred to the part in front of the temple, over the Sanctum and Sanctum Sanctorum, which alone was covered—the rest of the temple had no covering or roof—and that this part culminated in a “pinnacle” which, however, had at its very summit a pretty large square or plain place, where workmen could stand for repairs and for cleaning the adjoining elevations. Others (among them Maldonatus), say that all the houses in Judea had flat roofs, where one could walk, sleep, &c., on which account it was prescribed (Deut. 22:8), there should be a bulwark of a certain height. Here, then, the word, “pinnacle,” refers to a lofty part of this protecting wall, more elevated, probably, than the adjoining parts. On this, the devil placed our Lord, so that He might precipitate Himself into the hall below, where the priests and pious worshippers there assembled could see Him, and have ocular demonstration of the Divine protection granted Him.

6 And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.

“If thou be the Son of God,” &c. Seeing himself baffled in the preceding temptation to gluttony, by our Lord’s unshaken reliance on God’s providence, which he proves from Holy Scripture, the devil has now recourse to the same Holy Scripture to tempt Him to presumption, to vain and excessive confidence, of which the sacred text here quoted would seem to be suggestive. The temptation to gluttony failing, he now tries vain glory. This temptation of ambition and vain glory often succeeds with those who have mastered the grosser passions; and although the preceding temptation involves vain glory indirectly, it is primarily and directly suggested here. If He be the Son of God, the promised Messiah of the Jews, lot Him now show it by precipitating Himself; and thus secure the homage of the assembled priests and people. It is observed by commentators that the words, “cast Thyself down,” are worthy of the devil, who, having by pride, cast himself down from his heavenly eminence, now wishes to cast men down from grace and God’s friendship, to the very depths of sin. “For it is written” (Psa. 91:11, 12). The devil here misquotes Scripture—a thing not unusual with his children, the heretics, in their attacks on the Church, which is His body. The words of the Psalmist had reference to those just men, who are, from necessity, thrown into circumstances of danger, out of which God’s providence, in His own good time, is pledged, if expedient, for their salvation, to rescue them. But the words were never intended to apply to the case of those who voluntarily throw themselves into manifest and certain danger, whether moral or physical, out of which it would require a miracle from God to rescue them. Such would have been the condition in which our Lord would have placed Himself, had He yielded to the temptation of the devil, in this instance.

“He hath given His Angels charge over Thee.” St. Luke adds, “that they keep Thee.” Even according to St. Luke’s account, the devil does not quote the whole text of the Psalm, which has, “that they may keep Thee in all Thy ways.” Probably, he omitted these latter words designedly; because, they indicate that it was to men who, acting prudently in the discharge of their ordinary duties, are cast into circumstances of danger, and not to the rash and presumptuous, who voluntarily cast themselves into the precipice, the Divine promise of protection, referred to by the Psalmist, is made. And hence, these words would in no way serve his purpose and designs against our Divine Redeemer.

“His Angels,” probably has reference to the Angel guardian whom God has placed to watch over and guard each of His faithful servants.

“In their hands,” &c., expresses great care and solicitude.

7 Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

“It is written again.” “Again” may mean, on the contrary, on the other hand, as if in opposition to what the misquoted text of the devil suggested; or, it may mean, also, in the sense just given. SS. Scripture best explains itself, and our Lord points out to His Church, when assailed with corrupted and perverted quotations of Scripture by heretics, the course to be pursued, viz., to oppose true Scripture, properly applied, to Scripture perverted and misapplied.

“Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Without giving the devil any insight into His Divinity, our Lord baffling him, quotes SS. Scripture, as any just man might do. These words are taken from Deuteronomy (6:16). “Thou shall not,” &c. is written in the plural number in the Hebrew, “non tentabitis,” &c., “ye shall not tempt,” &c. However, the singular is included in the plural. Hence, the Septuagint and Vulgate versions have the singular. The words, “to tempt God,” have different significations in the SS. Scripture. Among the rest, it signifies to provoke to anger (Psa. 77:56; Acts 15:10). But, it more generally signifies, to make an unnecessary, useless trial of any of God’s attributes; to put, unnecessarily, to the test, His power, wisdom, mercy, &c.; to place oneself in such circumstances unnecessarily, either in the moral or physical order, as would require a miracle from God to rescue him from corporal or spiritual ruin. This forbidden trial of God’s attributes may arise from excessive vain confidence, as, in the natural order, in the case of a man who would, unnecessarily east himself down a precipice (as here) in the hope that God would work a miracle to deliver him; or, of a man who, neglecting study, would expect that God would extraordinarily endow him with knowledge, to be acquired only with care and labour; or, of a man who would neglect to sow, in the hope that crops would miraculously spring up. In the spiritual order, in the case of a man who would live in the immediate and certain external occasion, of sin, hoping to receive extraordinary grace from God.

It may also arise from diffidence, as in the case of those who, in their straits and necessities, would murmur against God’s will, and would expect an untimely manifestation of His providence, when such might neither contribute to His glory, nor to our ultimate good (Exod. 17; Psa. 77:17, 18). Such temptation of God is always a grievous sin, always prohibited. But, to hope that God would wonderfully exert His power and goodness in our favour, when we are involuntarily, through no fault of ours, placed in desperate circumstances, and to pray to Him to do so, if it be agreeable to His holy will, is no sin. Neither is it a sin to throw oneself into a lesser precipice to avoid a greater, as choosing the lesser of two necessary evils. Thus, some holy virgins, to avoid the greater evil of loss of chastity, precipitated themselves into the water. They regarded the loss of virginity a greater evil than the loss of life. Our Lord, by throwing Himself down, as suggested, would be doing what in other men would be a tempting of God; He would be making an unnecessary trial of His power and providence; and He did not choose to tell the tempter that He was God. He only answered according to the dictates of human prudence; and in reply to the text which the tempter applied to Him only as a just man, when He said, “Angelis suis mandavit de Te,” &c., He defeats him with his own weapons.

8 Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,

“Again the devil took Him up.” By our Lord’s permission, the devil carried Him bodily through the air, from the pinnacle of the temple (as v. 5). The particles, “again,” “then” (v. 5), would show that St. Matthew gives the order of the temptations, which is neglected by St. Luke, who uses no such particles, denoting order or succession. The words, “Begone, Satan” (v. 10), also would indicate this to be the closing or last temptation.

“Into a very high mountain.” What this “mountain” was, the Gospel does not say; nor can we know for certain. Probably, it was some mountain not far from Jerusalem. Some say it was the mountain in the desert, Quarautania, where our Lord had fasted. It was afterwards called, Mons Diaboli.

“And showed Him all the kingdoms of the world,” &c. St. Luke adds (4:5), “in a moment of time.” There is a diversity of opinion as to how the tempter did this. It does not seem likely that our Lord permitted the demon to act on His imagination. Hence, it must be done externally. Neither does it seem likely that it was merely on a painted chart it was done, as this could be done, in the plain or desert, without the demon taking Him to “a high mountain,” which the Evangelists carefully record. Hence, it is paid, with great probability, by many expositors, that the tempter, “in a moment” (St. Luke), that is, in the shortest space of time, from the height of the mountain, pointed with his finger in the direction where most of the kingdoms of the world were situated. “There, lies Asia; there, Europe; there, Syria; there, Rome;” &c.

“All the kingdoms of the world,” most likely, refers to the greater part, or chief kingdoms among them.

“And the glory of them.” While with his finger he pointed to the situation of the thief kingdoms of the world, he, most likely, by word of mouth, described “their glory,” that is, their wealth, population, military powers, the attractive and seductive splendours of the palaces and retinue of their kings. As St. Luke pointedly states, that, he did this “in a moment of time;” hence, he probably refers to the exercise of some peculiar diabolical agency or power. It may be, that the devil painted in the surrounding air the several kingdoms, and exhibited a panoramic view of all their worldly splendour and resources.

9 And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.

“All these will I give Thee” &c. It is remarked by commentators, that the devil does not, in this third temptation, say, “If Thou he the Son of God,” because, in the two preceding temptations, he suggested, under the pretext of benevolence, what “the Son of God” might not feel it repugnant to do. Whereas, here, he proposes what “the Son of God” could not possibly do. In the first temptation, “the concupiscence of the flesh” had failed; so had “the pride of life,” in the second. The devil now tries “the concupiscence of the eyes,” that is, avarice, ambition, which prevail over many who are victorious over the two other principles which domineer in the world (1 John 2:16); he primarily and directly sought, in the two preceding temptations, to find out if He was “the Son of God,” and wished to obtain this knowledge, by inducing our Redeemer to do what was sinful; and hence, the Demon indirectly tempted Him to commit sin; in this, he primarily and directly wished Him to commit a most heinous crime, utterly opposed to the character of the Son of God, and thus indirectly wished to find out if He were “the Son of God.” He calculated, that, by making such a proposition to Him, if he were the Son of God, He would at once indignantly repel the temptation by a declaration of His Divine rights, so arrogantly invaded. As in the first temptation to gluttony, was included a temptation to vain glory; and in the second, with vain glory was united the tempting of God; so, in this third temptation to avarice and ambition is included that of idolatry.

“All these will I give Thee.” St. Luke (4:6), adds, “for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them.” The demon now once more arrogates these Divine rights which occasioned his original fall, when he aspired “to be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14). As he could not elicit from our Lord whether He was the Son of God, now being rendered more insolent and haughty from our Saviour’s modesty and humility, he imagines Him to be a mere man, and feigns himself to be the Son of God, the view of whose glory in time to come was the source of envy and of his fall—that Son to whom “were given the nations for inheritance,” and the possession of “all power in heaven and on earth,” and as such, he claims supreme adoration.

The tempter lied in saying, “to me they are delivered,” &c. (Luke). For, to God alone, does it belong to bestow kingdoms on whom He wills—“Per me reges regnant,” &c. (Prov. 21); “Non est potestas nisi a Deo” (Rom. 13)—not to the demon, whose power is restricted in this world, as appears from the history of Job, and his asking permission to enter the herd of swine (c. 8:31). He is termed “the god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and “the prince of this world;” because, of the power which, by Divine permission, he is allowed to exercise over the children of unbelief and sin, who are his slaves. But, he has no power to bestow kingdoms, as he falsely asserts here. He does not even mention the name of God. “They are given to me,” he don’t say, by God, this name being so hateful to him. It is remarked by Toletus, that this promise was mendacious, as he did not intend giving them; false, he could not; arrogant, they were not his; deceitful, he promises to give in future; “dabo,” for a present service which he could not repay. Similar are his delusions practised on youth, to indulge present pleasure with a prospect of penance in old age, which is uncertain and cannot be insured. Neither can he give or take away temporal goods save by Divine permission.

“If falling down,” in the attitude of adoration, “Thou wilt adore me,” as God, and pay me Divine honours, as the bestower of these kingdoms and honours. It is remarked by commentators that our Redeemer was tried with all kinds of temptations which influence men to abandon God. All are reduced to “the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (1 John 2 &c.) Hence, St. Luke says of the close, “And when all the temptation was ended” (4:13). Our Redeemer by His example, teaches us that the first temptation—of the flesh and of hunger—is to be overcome by hope in God’s providence; the second—of pride and presumption—by the fear of God; the third—of avarice and ambition—by magnanimity and contempt of the world, its riches and honours. This triple temptation exhibited the three fountains of all vice—“the concupiscence of the flesh,” perfected in the flesh and its five senses; “of the eyes,” curiosity, perfected in the intellect; “pride of life,” in the will. Here we have an example what to do: “Resist the devil, and he will fly from you” (James 4:7).

10 Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

Our Lord had borne with patient meekness the contumely offered Himself in the preceding temptations, but now, on seeing His Father sacrilegiously and impiously assailed, He indignantly repels the offers and seductive promises of the tempter.

“Begone, Satan.” The evil one is, in this chapter, designated by a threefold epithet. “The tempter” (v. 1), whose whole wicked occupation is to tempt men. He is indefatigable; he never sleeps or rests in waging a fiendish war against them.

“The devil,” the accuser of his brethren. “Satan,” a Hebrew word, to mean adversary, hater, enemy. (1 Peter 5) He is the sworn enemy of the human race, whom, like a roaring lion, he is ever going about seeking to devour, and precipitate with himself into hell.

“It is written;” with the same weapons, “the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God,” which He had so successfully wielded in the preceding temptations, our Redeemer now finally put His enemy to flight.

“The Lord thy God thou shalt adore” (Deut. 6:13). For “adore,” the Hebrew has “fear.” But, with the Hebrews, “fear” denoted reverence, adoration, and every kind of worship due to God. From the context in Deuteronomy, it is clear that “fear” involved Divine worship. For, adoration is but the external sign of reverence and fear, and in SS. Scripture, under the fear of God, is contained all worship due to Him.

“And Him only shall thou serve.” “Only,” is not in the Hebrew, but it is implied. Hence, our Redeemer quoted the words according to their meaning, which the arrogant assumption of Satan suggested. From the prohibition contained in the verse (14), immediately following (Deut. 6:14), “You shall not go after strange gods,” it is clear “only” is implied in the words of the preceding verse (13), “and Him (only) shalt thou serve.”

The word, “serve” (λατρευσεις) although, according to etymology, applicable to all kinds of service and respect, as well that paid to men, princes, &c., as that paid to God, and employed in reference to creatures by the Septuagint and St. Paul—a servile work is called λατρεια (Lev. 23:7)—still, both the Septuagint and St. Paul commonly apply it to the service rendered to God; and we are informed by St. Augustine (Lib. x. de Civitate Dei, c. 1), that λατρεια is used by the holy Fathers to denote the service and worship due to God alone. Hence, the distinction commonly made by divines between the worship due to God alone, Latria, and that paid the saints, Dulia, and that paid the Queen of the saints, Hyperdulia.

In like manner the word, “adore,” (προσκυνησεις) although, of itself, only signifying veneration, accompanied with external prostration of the body, and hence applied in SS. Scripture to creatures (3 Kings 1:16. 23, 31), still, from usage, it is employed to denote interior veneration, accompanied with its exterior expression, due to God alone—the Supreme, the highest Majesty.

In the words, “Begone, Satan, thou shalt adore the Lord thy God,” our Lord still keeps the knowledge of His Divinity a secret from Satan. He does not say, thou shalt adore Me. But, like any other just man quoting Scripture, He says, “Adore God alone.” Neither does it seem that He banished him by His Divine power. Satan left Him freely, after being discomfited in the contest. Now, seeing, from his having been addressed as “Satan,” adversary, that he was discovered, he felt himself fully vanquished, and left more and more in perplexity and doubt as to the nature and Divinity of our Lord.

11 Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.

St. Luke says, he left Him (“for a time”), with the intention of returning at some befitting opportunity. He did return again at His Passion, “hæc est hora vestra et potestas tenebarum,” and by his instruments sought to destroy Him.

“And behold, Angels came;” not only one Angel, but many. This shows the superior dignity of Christ, “to whom the Angels ministered,” as servants to their Master; creatures to their Creator; messengers to Him, that commissioned them. They came visibly and supplied Him with food to appease His hunger. When we are engaged in the manly struggle with the devil, and gain the victory over him, aided by God’s grace, then, we cause to rejoice the Angels of God and the whole court, who will minister to our spiritual strength and aid us in our victory. But, as the devil only retires “for a time” from our Lord to return again, as he did, particularly at His Passion, which he instigated the world, i.e., wicked men, and “the princes of the world,” his own satellites, the devils, to inflict; so, we, too, must be always on the alert, and prepared to our last gasp for temptation, so as to be warranted with our Divine Redeemer in saying in the end, “The prince of this world has come, and in me he has found nothing” that he might call his own, deserving of reprehension. We must never cease praying each day fervently and perseveringly for the great and special gift of final perseverance, “magnum donum perseverantiæ usque in finem” (Council of Trent, §§ vi. Canon xvi.), so as finally to overcome the temptations of the devil. If we obtain this gift, our salvation is secure. If we fail to obtain it, our perdition is inevitable. This is a point of faith defined by the Council of Trent. (§§ vi. Can. xxii.) This great gift cannot be strictly merited. It can be obtained only by humble prayer, “suppliciter emereri potest” (St. Augustine). We should never cease to pray, “Lord, grant us the great gift of final perseverance.”

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 55

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2014

1. Of this Psalm the title is: “At the end, in hymns, understanding to David himself.” What the “end” is, we will briefly call to your recollection, because ye have known it. “For the end of the Law is Christ, for righteousness unto every man believing.”6 Be the attention therefore directed unto the End, directed unto Christ. Wherefore is He called the end? Because whatever we do, to Him we refer it, and when to Him we shall have come home, more to ask we shall not have. For there is an end spoken of which doth consume, there is an end spoken of which doth make perfect. In one sense, for instance, we understand it, when we hear, there is ended the food which was in eating; and in another sense we understand it when we hear, there is ended the vesture which was in weaving: in each case we hear, there is ended; but the food so that it no longer is, the vesture so that it is perfected. Our end therefore ought to be our perfection, our perfection Christ. For in Him we are made perfect, because of Himself the Head, the Members are we. And he hath been spoken of as “the End of the Law,” because without Him no one doth make perfect the Law. When therefore ye hear in the Psalms, “At the end,”—for many Psalms are thus superscribed,—be not your thought upon consuming, but upon consummation.

2. “In hymns:” in praises. For whether we are troubled and are straitened, or whether we rejoice and exult, He is to be praised, who both in tribulations doth instruct, and in gladness doth comfort. For the praise of God from the heart and mouth of a Christian man ought not to depart; not that he may be praising in prosperity, and speaking evil in adversity; but after the manner that this Psalm doth prescribe, “I will speak good of the Lord in every time, alway the praise of Him is in my mouth.” Thou dost rejoice; acknowledge a Father indulging: thou art troubled; acknowledge a Father chastening. Whether He indulge, or whether He chasten, He is instructing one for whom He is preparing an inheritance.

3. What then is, “Understanding to David himself”? David indeed was, as we know, a holy prophet, king of Israel, son of Jesse:7 but because out of his seed there came for our salvation after the flesh the Lord Jesus Christ,8 often under that name He is figured, and David instead of Christ is in a figure set down, because of the origin of the Flesh of the Same. For after some sort He is Son of David, after some sort He is the Lord of David; Son of David after the flesh, Lord of David after the divinity. For if by Him have been made all things,9 by Him also David himself hath been made, out of whose seed He came to men. Moreover, when the Lord had questioned the Jews, whose Son they affirmed Christ to be, they made answer, “David’s:” where the Lord chides the Jews, when they said that He was the Son of David.10 He saw that they had stayed at the flesh, and had lost sight of the divinity; and He reproveth them by propounding a question: “How then doth David himself in spirit call Him Lord, ‘The Lord hath said unto my Lord, … If then He in spirit calleth Him Lord, how is He is Son?”11 A question He propounded; His being Son He denied not. Ye have heard “Lord;” say ye how He is his “Son:” ye have heard “Son;” say how He is “Lord.” This question the Catholic Faith solveth. How “Lord”? Because “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”1 How “Son”? Because “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”2 Because then David in a figure is Christ, but Christ, as we have often reminded your Love, is both Head and Body; neither ought we to speak of ourselves as alien from Christ, of whom we are members, nor to count ourselves as if we were any other thing: because “The two shall be in one flesh.”3 “This is a great Sacrament,” saith the Apostle, “but I speak in regard of Christ and the Church.”4 Because then whole Christ is “Head and Body;” when we hear, “Understanding to David himself,” understand we ourselves also in David. Let the members of Christ understand, and Christ in His members understand, and the members of Christ in Christ understand: because Head and Members are one Christ. The Head was in heaven, and was saying, “Why dost thou persecute Me?”5 We with Him are in heaven through hope, Himself is with us on earth through love. Therefore “understanding to David himself.” Be we admonished when we hear, and let the Church understand: for there belongeth to us great diligence to understand in what evil we now are, and from what evil we desire to be delivered, remembering the Prayer of the Lord, where at the end we say, “Deliver us from evil.”6 Therefore amid many tribulations of this world, this Psalm complaineth somewhat of understanding. He lamenteth not with it, who hath not understanding. But furthermore, dearly beloved, we ought to remember, that after the image of God we have been made, and that not in any other part than in the understanding itself. For in many things by beasts we are surpassed: but when a man knoweth himself to have been made after the image of God,7 therein something in himself he acknowledgeth to be more than hath been given to dumb animals. But on consideration of all those things which a man hath, he findeth himself in this thing peculiarly distinguished from a dumb animal, in that he hath himself an understanding. Whence certain men despising in themselves that peculiar and especial thing which from their Maker they had received, the Maker Himself reproveth, saying, “Do not become like horse and mule, in which there is no understanding.”8 …

4. “Hear Thou, O God, my entreaty, and despise not my prayer: give heed unto me, and hearken unto me” (ver. 1). Of one earnest, anxious, of one set in tribulation, are these words. He is praying, suffering many things, from evil yearning to be delivered: it remaineth that we hear in what evil he is, and when he beginneth to speak, let us acknowledge there ourselves to be; in order that the tribulation being shared, we may conjoin prayer. “I have been made sad in my exercise, and have been troubled” (ver. 2). Where made sad, where troubled? “In my exercise,” he saith. Of evil men, whom he suffereth, he hath made mention, and the same suffering of evil men he hath called his “exercise.” Think ye not that without profit there are evil men in this world, and that no good God maketh of them. Every evil man either on this account liveth that he may be corrected, or on this account liveth that through him a good man may be exercised. O that therefore they that do now exercise us would be converted, and together with us be exercised! Nevertheless, so long as they are such as to exercise, let us not hate them: because in that wherein any one of them is evil, whether unto the end he is to persevere, we know not; and ofttimes when to thyself thou seemest to have been hating an enemy, thou hast been hating a brother, and knowest not. The devil and his angels in the holy Scriptures have been manifested to us, that for fire everlasting they have been destined. Of them only must amendment be despaired of.… Therefore since this rule of Love for thee is fixed, that imitating the Father thou shouldest love an enemy: for, He saith, “love your enemies:”9 in this precept how wouldest thou be exercised, if thou hadst no enemy to suffer? Thou seest then that he profiteth thee somewhat: and let God sparing evil men profit thee, so that thou show mercy: because perchance thou too, if thou art a good man, out of an evil man hast been made a good man: and if God spared not evil men, not even thou wouldest be found to return thanks. May He therefore spare others, that hath spared thee also. For it were not right, when thou hadst passed through, to close up the way of godliness.

5. Whence then doth this man pray, set among evil men, with whose enmities he was being exercised? Why saith he, “I have been made sad in my exercise, and have been troubled”? While he is extending his love so as to love enemies, he hath been affected with disgust, being bayed at all around by the enmities of many men, by the frenzy of many, and under a sort of human infirmity he hath sunk. He hath seen himself now begin to be pierced through with an evil suggestion of the devil, to bring on hatred against his enemies: wrestling against hatred in order to perfect love herself, in the very fight, and in the wrestling, he hath been troubled. For there is his voice in another Psalm, “Mine eye hath been troubled, because of anger.” And what followeth there? “I have waxen old among all mine enemies.”10 As if in storm and waves he were beginning to sink, like Peter.1 For he doth trample the waves of this world, that loveth enemies. Christ on the sea was walking fearless, from whose heart there could not by any means be taken away the love of an enemy, who hanging on the Cross did say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”2 Peter too would walk. He as Head, Peter as Body: because, “Upon this rock,” He saith, “I will build My Church.”3 He was bidden to walk, and he was walking by the Grace of Him bidding, not by his own strength. But when he saw the wind mighty, he feared; and then he began to sink, being troubled in his exercise. By what mighty wind? “By the voice of the enemy, and by the tribulation of the sinner” (ver. 3). Therefore, in the same manner as he cried out on the waves, “Lord, I perish, save me,”4 a similar voice from this man hath preceded, “Hearken unto me.” Wherefore? For what sufferest thou? Of what dost thou groan? “I have been made sad in my exercise.” To be exercised indeed among evil men Thou hast set me, but too much they have risen up, beyond my powers: calm Thou one troubled, stretch forth a hand to one sinking. “For they have brought down upon me iniquity, and in anger they were shadowing me.” Ye have heard of waves and winds: one as it were humbled they were insulting, and he was praying: on every side against him with the roar of insult they were raging, but he within was calling upon Him whom they did not see.…

6. But this man being troubled and made sad was praying, his eye being disturbed as it were on account of anger.5 But the anger of a brother if it shall have been inveterate is then hatred. Anger doth trouble the eye, hatred doth quench it: anger is a straw, hatred is a beam. Sometimes thou hatest and chidest an angry man: in thee is hatred, in him whom thou chidest anger: with reason to thee is said, “Cast out first the beam from thine own eye, and so thou shall see to cast out the straw from thy brother’s eye.”6 For that ye may know how much difference there is between anger and hatred: day by day men are angry with their sons, show me them that hate their7 sons! This man being troubled was praying even when made sad, wrestling against all revilings of all revilers; not in order that he might conquer any one of them by giving back reviling, but that he might not hate any one of them. Hence he prayeth, hence asketh: “From the voice of the enemy and from the tribulation of the sinner.” “My heart hath been troubled in me” (ver. 4). This is the same as elsewhere hath been said, “Mine eye because of anger hath been troubled.”8 And if eye hath been troubled, what followeth? “And fear of death hath fallen upon me.” Our life is love: if life is love, death is hatred. When a man hath begun to fear lest he should hate him that he was loving, it is death he is fearing; and a sharper death, and a more inward death, whereby soul is killed, not body. Thou didst mind a man raging against thee; what was he to do, against whom thine own Lord had given thee security, saying, “Fear not them that kill the body”?9 He by raging killeth body, thou by keeping hatred hast killed soul; and he the body of another, thou thine own soul. “Fear,” therefore, “of death hath fallen upon me.”

7. “Fearfulness and trembling have come upon me, and darkness hath covered me” (ver. 5). “And I have said,” “He that hateth his brother, is in darkness until now.”10 If love is light, hatred is darkness. And what saith to himself one set in that weakness and troubled in that exercise? “Who shall give me wings as to a dove, and I shall fly and shall rest?” (ver. 6). Either for death he was wishing, or for solitude he was longing. So long, he saith, as this is the work with me, as this command is given me, that I should love enemies, the revilings of these men, increasing and shadowing me, do derange mine eye, perturb my sight, penetrate my heart, slay my soul. I could wish to depart, but11 weak I am, lest by abiding I should add sins to sins: or at least may I be separated for a little space from mankind, lest my wound suffer from frequent blows, in order that when it hath been made whole it may be brought back to the exercise. This is what takes place, brethren, and there ariseth ofttimes in the mind of the servant of God a longing for solitude, for no other reason than because of the multitude of tribulations and scandals, and he saith, “Who shall give me wings?” Doth he find himself without wings, or rather with bound wings? If they are wanting, be they given; if bound, be they loosed; because even he that looseth a bird’s wings, either giveth, or giveth back to it its wings. For it had not as though its own them, wherewith it could not fly. Bound wings make a burden. “Who,” he saith, “shall give me wings as to a dove, and I shall fly and shall rest?” Shall rest, where? I have said there are two senses here: either, as saith the Apostle, “To be dissolved and to be with Christ, for it is by far the best thing.”12 … Even he that amended cannot be, is thine, either by the fellowship of the human race, or ofttimes by Church Communion; he is within, what wilt thou do? whither wilt go? whither separate thyself, in order that these things thou mayest not suffer? But go to him, speak, exhort, coax, threaten, reprove. I have done all things, whatever powers I had I have expended and have drained, nothing I see have I prevailed; all my labour hath been spent out, sorrow hath remained. How then shall my heart rest from such men, except I say, “Who shall give me wings?” “As to a dove,” however, not as to a raven. A dove seeketh a flying away from troubles, but she loseth not love. For a dove as a type of love is set forth, and in her the plaint is loved. Nothing is so fond of plaints as a dove: day and night she complaineth, as though she were set here where she ought to complain. What then saith this lover? Revilings of men to bear I am unable, they roar, with frenzy are carried away, are inflamed with indignation, in anger they shadow1 me; to do good to them I am unable; O that I might rest somewhere, being separated from them in body, not in love; lest in me there should be troubled love itself: with my words and my speech no good can I do them, by praying for them perchance I shall do good. These words men say, but ofttimes they are so bound, that to fly they are not able. For perchance they are not bound with any birdlime, but are bound by duty. But if they are bound with care and duty, and to leave it are unable, let them say, “I was wishing to be dissolved and to be with Christ, for it is by far the best thing: to abide in the flesh is necessary because of you.”2 A dove bound back by affection, not by cupidity, was not able to fly away because of duty to be fulfilled, not because of little merit. Nevertheless a longing in heart must needs be; nor doth any man suffer this longing, but he that hath begun to walk in that narrow way:3 in order that he may know that there are not wanting to the Church persecutions, even in this time, when a calm is seen in the Church, at least with respect to those persecutions which our Martyrs have suffered. But there are not wanting persecutions, because a true saying is this, “All that will godly to live in Christ, shall suffer persecution.”4 …

8. “Behold I have gone afar fleeing, and have abode in the desert” (ver. 7). In what desert? Wherever thou shalt be, there will gather them together other men, the desert with thee they will seek, will attach themselves to thy life, thou canst not thrust back the society of brethren: there are mingled with thee also evil men; still exercise is thy due portion, “Behold I have gone afar, and have abode in the desert.” In what desert? It is perchance in the conscience, whither no man entereth, where no one is with thee, where thou art and God. For if in the desert, in any place, what wilt thou do with men gathering themselves together? For thou wilt not be able to be separated from mankind, so long as among men thou livest.5 …

9. “I was looking for him that should save me from weakness of mind and tempest” (ver. 8). Sea there is, tempest there is: nothing for thee remaineth but to cry out, “Lord, I perish.”6 Let Him stretch forth hand, who doth the waves tread fearlessly, let Him relieve thy dread, let Him confirm in Himself thy security, let Him speak to thee within, and say to thee, “Give heed to Me, what I have borne:” an evil brother perchance thou art suffering, or an enemy without art suffering; which of these have I not suffered? There roared without Jews, within a disciple was betraying. There rageth therefore tempest, but He doth save men from weakness of mind, and tempest. Perchance thy ship is being troubled, because He in thee is sleeping. The sea was raging, the bark wherein the disciples were sailing was being tossed; but Christ was sleeping: at length it was seen by them that among them was sleeping the Ruler7 and Creator of winds; they drew near and awoke Christ;8 He commanded9 the winds, and there was a great calm. With reason then perchance thy heart is troubled, because thou hast forgotten Him on whom thou hast believed: beyond endurance thou art suffering, because it hath not come into thy mind what for thee Christ hath borne. If unto thy mind cometh not Christ, He sleepeth: awake Christ, recall faith. For then in thee Christ is sleeping, if thou hast forgotten the sufferings of Christ: then in thee Christ is watching, if thou hast remembered the sufferings of Christ. But when with full heart thou shalt have considered what He hath suffered, wilt not thou too with equanimity endure? and perchance rejoicing, because thou hast been found in some likeness of the sufferings of thy King. When therefore on these things thinking thou hast begun to be comforted and to rejoice, He hath arisen, He hath commanded the winds; therefore there is a great calm. “I was looking for Him that should save me from weakness of mind and tempest.”

10. “Sink, O Lord, and divide the tongues of them” (ver. 9). He is referring to men troubling him and shadowing him, and he hath wished this thing not of anger, brethren. They that have wickedly lifted up themselves, for them it is expedient that they be sunk. They that have wickedly conspired, it is expedient for them that their tongues should be divided: to good let them consent, and let their tongues agree together. But if to one purpose10 there were a whispering against me,11 he saith, all mine enemies, let them lose their “one purpose” in evil, divided be the tongues of them, let them not with themselves agree together. “Sink, O Lord, and divide the tongues of them.” Wherefore “sink”? Because themselves they have lifted up. Wherefore “divide”? Because for an evil thing they have united. Recollect that tower of proud men made after the deluge: what said the proud men? Lest we perish in a deluge, let us make a lofty tower.1 In pride they were thinking themselves to be fortified, they builded up a lofty tower, and the Lord divided the tongues of them. Then they began not to understand one another; hence arose the beginning of many tongues. For before, one tongue there was: but one tongue for men agreeing was good, one tongue for humble men was good: but when that gathering together did into a union of pride fall headlong, God spared them; even though He divided the tongues, lest by understanding one another they should make a destructive unity. Through proud men, divided were the tongues; through humble Apostles, united were the tongues. Spirit of pride dispersed tongues, Spirit Holy united tongues. For when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, with the tongues of all men they spake,2 by all men they were understood: tongues dispersed, into one were united. Therefore if still they rage and are Gentiles, it is expedient for them divided to have their tongues. They would have one tongue; let them come to the Church; because even among the diversity of tongues of flesh, one is the tongue in faith of heart.

11. “For I have seen iniquity and contradiction in the city.” With reason this man was seeking the desert, for he saw iniquity and contradiction in the city. There is a certain city turbulent: the same it was that was building a tower, the same was confounded and called Babylon, the same through innumerable nations dispersed:3 thence is gathered the Church into the desert of a good conscience. For he saw contradiction in the city. “Christ cometh.”—“What Christ?” thou contradictest.—“Son of God.”—“And hath God a Son?” thou contradictest.—“He was born of a virgin, suffered, rose again.”—“And whence is it possible for this to be done?” thou contradictest.—Give heed at least to the glory of the Cross itself. Now on the brow of kings that Cross hath been fixed, over which enemies insulted. The effect hath proved the virtue.4 It hath subdued the world, not with steel, but with wood. The wood of the Cross deserving of insults hath seemed to enemies, and before the wood itself standing they were wagging the head, and saying, “If Son of God He is, let Him come down from the Cross.”5 He was stretching forth His hands to a people unbelieving and contradicting. For if just he is that of faith liveth,6 unjust he is that hath not faith. By that which here he saith “iniquity,” I understand unbelief. The Lord therefore was seeing in the city iniquity and contradiction, and was stretching forth His hands to a people unbelieving and contradicting: and nevertheless waiting for these same, He was saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”7 Even now indeed there rage the remnant of that city, even now they contradict. From the brows of all men now He is stretching forth hands to the remnant unbelieving and contradicting.

12. “Day and night there will compass it upon the walls thereof iniquity, and labour.”8 “Upon the walls thereof;” upon the fortifications thereof, holding as it were the heads thereof, the noble men thereof. If that noble man were a Christian, not one would remain a pagan! Oft-times men say, “no one would remain a pagan, if he were a Christian.” Ofttimes men say, “If he too were made a Christian, who would remain a pagan?” Because therefore not yet they are made Christians, as if walls they are of that city unbelieving and contradicting. How long shall these walls stand? Not always shall they stand. The Ark is going around the walls of Jericho: there shall come a time at the seventh going round of the Ark, when all the walls of the city unbelieving and contradicting shall fall.9 Until it come to pass, this man is being troubled in his exercise; and enduring the remains of men contradicting, he would choose wings for flying away, would choose the rest of the desert. Yea let him continue amid men contradicting, let him endure menaces, drink revilings, and look for Him that will save him from weakness of mind and tempest: let him look upon the Head, the pattern for his life,10 let him be made calm in hope, even if he is troubled in fact. “Day and night there will compass it upon the walls thereof iniquity; and labour in the midst thereof and injustice.” And for this reason labour is there, because iniquity is there: because injustice is there, therefore also labour is there. But let them hear him stretching forth hands. “Come unto Me, all ye that labour.”11 Ye cry, ye contradict, ye revile: He on the contrary, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour,” in your pride, and ye shall rest in My humility. “Learn of Me,” He saith, “for meek I am and humble in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”12 For whence do they labour, but because they are not meek and humble in heart? God humble was made, let man blush to be proud.

13. “There hath not failed from the streets thereof usury and deceit” (ver. 11). Usury and deceit are not hidden at least, because they are evil things, but in public they rage. For he that in his house doth any evil thing, however for his evil thing doth blush: “In the streets thereof usury and deceit.” Money-lending1 even hath a profession, Money-lending also is called a science; a corporation is spoken of, a corporation as if necessary to the state, and of its profession it payeth revenue; so entirely indeed in the streets is that which should have been hidden. There is also another usury worse, when thou forgivest not that which to thee is owed; and the eye is disturbed in that verse of the prayer, “Forgive us our debts—as we too forgive our debtors.”2 For what there wilt thou do, when thou art going to pray, and coming to that same verse? An insulting word thou hast heard: thou wouldest exact the punishment of condemnation. Do but consent to exact just so much as thou hast given, thou usurer of injuries! With the fist thou hast been smitten, slaying thou seekest. Evil usury! How wilt thou go to prayer? If thou shall have left praying, which way wilt thou come round unto the Lord? Behold thou wilt say: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, as in heaven so on earth.” Thou wilt say, “Our daily bread give us to-day.” Thou wilt come to, “Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.”3 Even in that evil city let there abound these usuries; let them not enter the walls where the breast is smitten! What wilt thou do? because there thou and that verse are4 in the midst? Petitions for thee hath a heavenly Lawyer composed.5 He that knew what used there to be done, said to thee, “Otherwise thou shall not obtain.” “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that if ye shall have forgiven men sins, they shall be forgiven you; but if ye shall not have forgiven sins unto men, neither will your Father forgive you.”6 Who saith this? He that knoweth what there is being done, in the place whereat thou art standing to make request. See how Himself hath willed to be thy Advocate; Himself thy Counsellor,7 Himself the Assessor of the Father Himself thy Judge hath said, “Otherwise thou shalt not receive.” What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not receive, unless thou shall speak; wilt not receive if falsely thou shall speak. Therefore either thou must do and speak, or else what thou askest thou wilt not earn; because they that this do not do, are in the midst of those evil usuries. Be they engaged therein, that yet do idols either adore or desire: do not thou, O people of God, do not thou, O people of Christ, do not thou the Body of Him the Head! Give heed to the bond8 of thy peace, give heed to the promise of thy life. For what doth it profit thee, that thou exactest for injuries which thou hast endured? doth vengeance refresh thee? Therefore, over the evil of another shalt thou rejoice? Thou hast suffered evil; pardon thou; be not ye two.9 …

14. “For if an enemy had upbraided me” (ver. 12). And indeed above he was “troubled in his exercise” by the voice of the enemy and by the tribulation of the sinner, perhaps being placed in that city, that proud city that was building a tower, which was “sunk,”10 that divided might be the tongues: give heed to his inward groaning because of perils from false brethren. “For if an enemy had upbraided me, I would have undergone it assuredly, and if he that did hate me had over me spoken great words,” that is, through pride had on me trampled, did magnify himself above me, did threaten me all in his power: “I would hide myself assuredly from him.” From him that is abroad, thou wouldest hide thyself where? Amid those that are within. But now see whether anything else remaineth, but that thou seek solitude. “But thou,” he saith, “man of one mind, my guide and my friend” (ver. 13). Perchance sometimes good counsel thou hast given, perchance sometimes thou hast gone before me, and some wholesome advice thou hast given me: in the Church of God together we have been. “But thou.… that together with me didst take sweet morsels” (ver. 14). What are the sweet morsels? Not all they that are present know: but let them not be soured that do know, in order that they may be able to say to them that as yet know not: “Taste ye and see, how sweet is the Lord.”11 “In the House of God we have walked with consent.”12 Whence then dissension? Thou that wast within, hast become one without. He hath walked with me in the House of God with consent: another house hath he set up against the House of God. Wherefore hath that been forsaken, wherein we have walked with consent? wherefore hath that been deserted, wherein together we did take sweet morsels?

15. “Let there come death upon them, and let them go down unto Hell living” (ver. 15). How hath he cited and hath made us call to mind that first beginning of schism, when in that first people of the Jews certain proud men separated themselves, and would without have sacrificed? A new death upon them came: the earth opened herself, and swallowed them up alive.1 “Let there come,” he saith, “death upon them, and let them go down into Hell living.” What is “living”? knowing that they are perishing, and yet perishing. Hear of living men perishing and being swallowed up in a gulf of the earth, that is, being swallowed up in the voraciousness of earthly desires.2 Thou sayest to a man, What aileth thee, brother? Brethren we are, one God we invoke, in one Christ we believe, one Gospel we hear, one Psalm we sing, one Amen we respond, one Hallelujah we sound, one Easter we celebrate: why art thou without and I am within? Ofttimes one straitened, and perceiving how true are the charges which are made, saith, May God requite our ancestors! Therefore alive he perisheth. In the next place thou continuest and thus givest warning. At least let the evil of separation stand alone, why dost thou adjoin thereto that of rebaptism? Acknowledge in me what thou hast; and if thou hatest me, spare thou Christ in me. And this evil thing doth frequently and very greatly displease them.… Because they themselves have the Scriptures in their hands, and know well by daily reading how the Church Catholic through the whole world is so spread, that in a word all contradiction is void; and that there cannot be found any support for their schism they know well: therefore unto the lower places living they go down, because the evil which they do, they know evil to be. But the former a fire of divine indignation consumed. For being inflamed with desire of strife, from their evil leaders they would not depart. There came upon fire a fire, upon the heat of dissension the heat of consuming. “For naughtiness is in their lodgings, in the midst of them.” “In their lodgings,”3 wherein they tarry and pass away. For here they are not alway to be: and nevertheless in defence of a temporal animosity they are fighting so fiercely. “In their lodgings is iniquity; in the midst of them is iniquity:” no part of them is so near the middle of them as their heart.

16. “Therefore to the Lord I have cried out” (ver. 16). The Body of Christ and the oneness of Christ in anguish, in weariness, in uneasiness, in the tribulation of its exercise, that One Man, Oneness in One Body set, when He was wearying His soul in crying out from the ends of the earth; saith, “From the ends of the earth to Thee I have cried out, when My heart was being vexed.”4 Himself one, but a oneness5 that One! and Himself one, not in one place one, but from the ends of the earth is crying as one. How from the ends of the earth should there cry one, except there were one? “I to the Lord have cried out.” Rightly do thou cry out to the Lord, cry not to Donatus: lest for thee he be instead of the Lord a lord, that under the Lord would not be a fellow-servant.

17. “In evening, in morning, at noon-day I will recount and will tell forth, and He shall hearken to my voice”6 (ver. 18). Do thou proclaim glad tidings, keep not secret that which thou hast received, “in evening” of things gone by, “in morning” of things to be, at “noonday” of things ever to be. Therefore, to that which he saith “in evening” belongeth that which he recounteth: to that which he saith, “in morning,” belongeth that which he telleth forth: to that which he saith “at noon-day,” belongeth that wherein his voice is hearkened to. For the end is at noon-day; that is to say, whence there is no going down unto setting. For at noon-day there is light full high, the splendour of wisdom, the fervour of love. “In evening and in morning and at noon-day.” “In evening,” the Lord on the Cross; “in morning,” in Resurrection; “at noon-day,” in Ascension. I will recount in evening the patience of Him dying, I will tell forth in morning the life of Him rising, I will pray that He hearken at noon-day sitting at the right hand of the Father. He shall hearken to my voice, That intercedeth for us.7 How great is the security of this man. How great the consolation, how great the refuge “from weakness of mind and tempest,” against evil men, against ungodly men both without and within, and in the case of those that are without though they had been within.

18. Therefore, my Brethren, those that in the very congregation of these walls ye see to be rebellious men, proud, seeking their own, lifted up; not having a zeal for God that is chaste, sound, quiet, but ascribing to themselves much; ready for dissension, but not finding opportunity; are the very chaff of the Lord’s floor.8 From hence these few men the wind of pride hath dislodged: the whole floor will not fly, save when He at the last shall winnow. But what shall we do, save with this man sing, with this man pray, with this man mourn and say securely, “He shall redeem in peace my soul” (ver. 18). Against them that love not peace: “in peace He shall redeem my soul.” “Because with those that hated peace I was peace-making.”9 “He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me.” For from those that are afar from me, it is an easy case: not so soon doth he deceive me that saith, Come, pray to an idol: he is very far from me. Art thou a Christian? A Christian, he saith. Out of a neighbouring place he is my adversary, he is at hand. “He shall redeem in peace my soul, from those that draw near to me: for in many things they were with me.” Wherefore have I said, “draw near to me”? Because “in many things they were with me.” In this verse two propositions occur. “In many things they were with me.” Baptism we had both of us, in that they were with me: the Gospel we both read, they were in that with me: the festivals of martyrs we celebrated, they were there with me: Easter’s solemnity we attended, they were there with me. But not entirely with me: in schism not with me, in heresy not with me. In many things with me, in few things not with me. But in these few things wherein not with me, there is no profit to them of the many things wherein they were with me. For see, brethren, how many things hath recounted the Apostle Paul: one thing, he hath said, if it shall have been wanting, in vain are those things. “If with the tongues of men and of angels I shall speak,” he saith, “if I have all prophecy, and all faith, and all knowledge; if mountains I shall remove, if I shall bestow all my goods upon the poor, if I shall deliver my body even so that it be burned.”1 How many things he hath enumerated! To all these many things let there be wanting one thing, charity; the former in number are more, the latter in weight is greater. Therefore in all Sacraments they are with me, in one charity not with me: “In many things they were with me.” Again, by a different expression: “For in many things they were with me.” They that themselves have separated from me, with me they were, not in few things, but in many things. For throughout the whole world few are the grains, many are the chaffs. Therefore he saith what? In chaff with me they were, in wheat with me they were not. And the chaff is nearly related to the wheat, from one seed it goeth forth, in one field is rooted, with one rain is nourished, the same reaper it suffereth, the same threshing sustaineth, the same winnowing awaiteth, but not into one barn entereth.

19. “God will hear me, and He shall humble them That is before ages” (ver. 19). For they rely on some leader or other of theirs that hath begun but yesterday. “He shall humble them That is before ages.” For even if with reference to time Christ is of Mary the Virgin, nevertheless before ages: “In the beginning He is the Word and the Word with God, and the Word God.”2 “He shall humble them That is before ages. For to them is no changing:” of them I “speak to whom is no changing.” He knew of some to persevere, and in the perseverance of their own wickedness to die. For we see them, and to them is no changing: they that die in that same perverseness, in that same schism, to them is no changing. God shall humble them, shall humble them in damnation, because they are exalted in dissension. To them is no changing, because they are not changed for the better, but for the worse: neither while they are here, nor in the resurrection. For all we shall rise again, but3 not all shall be changed. Wherefore? Because “To them is no changing: and they have not feared God.” …

20. “He stretcheth forth His hand in requiting” (ver. 20). “They have polluted His Testament.” Read the testament which they have polluted: “In thy seed shall be blessed all nations.”4 Thou against these words of the Testator sayest what? The Africa of holy Donatus hath alone deserved this grace, in him hath remained the Church of Christ. Say at least the Church of Donatus. Wherefore addest thou, of Christ? Of whom it is said, “In thy seed shall be blessed all nations.” After Donatus wilt thou go? Set aside Christ, and then secede. See therefore what followeth: “They have polluted His Testament.” What Testament? To Abraham have been spoken the promises, and to his seed. The Apostle saith, “Nevertheless, a man’s testament confirmed no one maketh void, or superaddeth to: to Abraham have been spoken the promises, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as if in many; but as if in one, And to thy Seed, which is Christ.”5 In this Christ, therefore, what Testament hath been promised? “In thy seed shall be blessed all nations.” Thou that hast given up the unity of all nations, and in a part hast remained, hast polluted His Testament.…

21. “And His heart hath drawn near” (ver. 22). Of whom do we understand it, except of Him, by the anger of whom they have been divided? How “hath his heart drawn near”? In such sort, that we may understand His will. For by heretics hath been vindicated the Catholic Church, and by those that think evil have been proved those that think well. For many things lay hid in the Scriptures: and when heretics had been cut off, with questions they troubled the Church of God: then those things were opened which lay hid, and the will of God was understood.6 Thence is said in another Psalm, “In order that they might be excluded that have been proved with silver.”7 For let them be excluded, He hath said, let them come forth, let them appear. Whence even in silver-working men are called “excluders,” that is, pressers out of form from the sort of confusion of the lump. Therefore many men that could understand and expound the Scriptures very excellently, were hidden among the people of God: but they did not declare the solution of difficult questions, when no reviler again urged them. For was the Trinity perfectly treated of before the Arians snarled thereat? Was repentance perfectly treated of before the Novatians opposed? So not perfectly of Baptism was it treated, before rebaptizers removed outside1 contradicted; nor of the very oneness of Christ were the doctrines clearly stated which have been stated, save after that this separation began to press upon the weak: in order that they that knew how to treat of and solve these questions (lest the weak should perish vexed with the questions of the ungodly), by their discourses and disputations should bring out unto open day the dark things of the Law.2 … This obscure sense see in what manner the Apostle bringeth out into light; “It is needful,” he saith, “that also heresies there be, in order that men proved may be made manifest among you.”3 What is “men proved”? Proved with silver, proved with the word. What is “may be made manifest”? May be brought out.4 Wherefore this? Because of heretics. So therefore these also “have been divided because of the anger of His countenance, and His heart hath drawn near.”
22. “His discourses have been softened above oil, and themselves are darts” (ver. 21). For certain things in the Scriptures were seeming hard, while they were obscure; when explained, they have been softened. For even the first heresy in the disciples of Christ, as it were from the hardness of His discourse arose. For when He said, “Except a man shall have eaten My flesh and shall have drunk My blood, he shall not have life in himself:” they, not understanding, said to one another, “Hard is this discourse, who can hear it?” Saying that, “Hard is this discourse,” they separated from Him: He remained with the others, the twelve. When they had intimated to Him, that by His discourse they had been scandalized, “Will ye also,” He saith, “choose to go?” Then Peter: “Thou hast the Word of life eternal: to whom shall we go?”5 Attend, we beseech you, and ye little ones learn godliness. Did Peter by any means at that time understand the secret of that discourse of the Lord? Not yet he understood: but that good were the words which he understood not, godly he believed. Therefore if hard is a discourse, and not yet is understood, be it hard to an ungodly man, but to thee be it by godliness softened: for whenever it is solved, it both will become for thee oil, and even unto the bones it will penetrate.

23. Furthermore, just as Peter, after their having been scandalized by the hardness, as they thought, of the discourse of the Lord, even then said, “to whom shall we go?” so he hath added, “Cast upon the Lord thy care, and He shall Himself nourish thee up” (ver. 22). A little one thou art, not yet thou understandest the secret things of words: perchance from thee the bread is hidden, and as yet with milk thou must be fed:6 be not angry with the breasts: they will make thee fit for the table, for which now little fitted thou art. Behold by the division of heretics many hard things have been softened: His discourses that were hard have been softened above oil, and they are themselves darts. They have armed men preaching the Gospel: and the very discourses are aimed at the breast of every one that heareth, by men instant in season and out of season: by those discourses, by those words, as though by arrows, hearts of men unto the love of peace are smitten. Hard they were, and soft they have been made. Being softened they have not lost their virtue, but into darts have been converted.… Upon the Lord cast thyself. Behold thou wilt cast thyself upon the Lord, let no one put himself in the place of the Lord. “Cast upon the Lord thy care.” …

24. But to the others what? “But Thou, O God, shalt bring them down unto the pit of corruption” (ver. 23). The pit of corruption is the darkness of sinking under. When blind leadeth blind, they both fall into a ditch.7 God bringeth them down into the pit of corruption, not because He is the author of their own guilt, but because He is Himself the judge of their iniquities. “For God hath delivered them unto the desires of their heart.”8 For they have loved darkness, and not light; they have loved blindness, and not seeing. For behold the Lord Jesus hath shone out to the whole world, let them sing in unity with the whole world: “For there is not one that can hide himself from the heat of Him.”9 But they passing over from the whole to a part, from the body to a wound, from life to a limb cut off, shall meet with what, but going into the pit of corruption?

25. “Men of bloods and of deceitfulness.” Men of bloods, because of slayings he calleth them: and O that they were corporal and not spiritual slayings. For blood from the flesh going forth, is seen and shuddered at: who seeth the blood of the heart in a man rebaptized? Those deaths require other eyes. Although even about these visible deaths Circumcelliones armed everywhere remain not quiet. And if we think of these visible deaths, there are men of bloods. Give heed to the armed man, whether he is a man of peace and not of blood. If at least a club only he were to carry, well; but he carrieth a sling, carrieth an axe, carrieth stones, carrieth lances; and carrying these weapons, wherever they may they scour, for the blood of innocent men they thirst.1 Therefore even with regard to these visible deaths there are men of bloods. But even of them let us say, O that such deaths alone they perpetrated, and souls they slew not. These that are men of bloods and of deceit, let them not suppose that we thus wrongly understand men of bloods, of them that kill souls: they themselves of their Maximianists2 have so understood it. For when they condemned them, in the very sentence of their Council they have set down these words: “Swift are the feet of them to shed the blood” (of the proclaimers3), “tribulation and calamity are in the ways of them, and the way of peace they have not known.”4 This of the Maximianists they have said. But I ask of them, when have the Maximianists shed the body’s blood; not because they too would not shed, if there were so great a multitude as could shed, but because of the fear in their minority rather they have suffered somewhat from others, than have themselves at any time done any such thing. Therefore I question the Donatist and say: In thy Council thou hast set down of the Maximianists, “Swift are the feet of them to shed blood.” Show me one of whom the Maximianists have hurt so much as a finger! What other thing to me is he to answer, than that which I say? They that have separated themselves from unity,5 and who slay souls by leading astray, spiritually, not carnally, do shed blood. Very well thou hast expounded, but in thy exposition acknowledge their own deeds. “Men of bloods and of deceitfulness.” In guile is deceitfulness, in dissimulation, in seduction. What therefore of those very men that have been divided because of the anger of His countenance? They are themselves men of bloods and of deceit.

26. But of them he saith what? “They shall not halve their days.” What is, “They shall not halve their days”? They shall not make progress as much as they think: within the time which they expect, they shall perish. For he is that partridge, whereof hath been said, “In the half of his days they shall leave him, and in his last days he shall be an unwise one.”6 They make progress, but for a time. For what saith the Apostle? “But evil men and seducers shall make progress for the worse, themselves erring, and other men into error driving.”7 But “a blind man leading a blind man, together into a ditch they fall.”8 Deservedly they fall “into the pit of corruption.” What therefore saith he? They shall make progress for the worse: not however for long. For a little before he hath said, “But further they shall not make progress:”9 that is, “shall not halve their days.” Let the Apostle proceed and tell wherefore: “For the madness of them shall be manifest to all men, as also was that of the others.” “But I in Thee will hope, O Lord.” But deservedly they shall not halve their days, because in man they have hoped. But I from days temporal have reached unto day eternal. Wherefore? Because in Thee I have hoped, O Lord.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Devotional Resources, fathers of the church, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 44

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 15, 2014


THIS is a national poem composed at a time when the Hebrews had been defeated in battle, and were somehow enslaved politically by their foes. For the psalmist the shame of his nation is unworthy of its glorious history; and unworthy, too, of the God who fought its victorious battles long ago. It was God s power, and not the strength of Israel s arm, that vanquished the heathen peoples of Palestine in the time of the Conquest. Has He forgotten the people He used to love?–Even now the psalmist will trust in the help of the Lord even now, when Israel, that crushed the heathen in the great days of old, is in bondage to the heathens of the present: and with bitterness, the singer adds: “It is the Lord who has sold us into bondage, and poor is the price He has received.” Yet why has the Lord abandoned us? We have not turned aside from His Covenant, nor chosen other gods. It is indeed for the very name and sake of the Lord that Israel has been brought to defeat and disgrace. “Arise, then, O Lord,” pleads the psalmist passionately; awake from this sleep of forgetfulness. Thine own honour is at stake. Turn Thy face on us, for we are humbled to the dust!

An ancient theory assigned this psalm to the Maccabean period, and this is the theory now most widely accepted. The poem emphasises the absence of all idolatry from among the people, and describes the sufferings of the nation as a veritable martyrdom as endured for the sake of the Lord and His covenant.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Devotional Resources, Notes on the Lectionary, NOTES ON THE PSALMS, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

This Week’s Commentaries and Posts: Sunday, January 5-Sunday, January 12, 2014

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 4, 2014


Commentaries and Resources for Today’s Mass.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 3:22-4:6).

Update: Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 3:22-4:6).

Father Maas’ Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 2).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 2).

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 2).

My Notes on Psalm 2.

Aquinas Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Matt 4:12-17, 23-25). On 12-25.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s Gospel (Matt 4:12-17, 23-25). On 12-25.

My Notes on Today’s Gospel (Matt 4:12-17, 23-25). On 12-25.


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

St Augustine’s Exegetical Homily on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:7-10).

Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:7-10).

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:7-10).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

St Albert the Great’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:34-44).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

St Augustine’s Homiletic Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:11-18).

Update: Bishop MacEvilly’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:11-18).

Update: Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:11-18).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Mark 6:45-52).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

St Augustine’s Exegetical Homily on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 4:19-5:4).

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

St Augustine’s Notes on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 72).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 4:14-22).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 5:5-13).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial in Two Parts:

Part 1 of Ps 147. On verses 1-11.

Part 2 of Ps 147. On verses 12-20.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (Luke 5:12-16).

St Cyril of Alexandria on Today’s Gospel (Luke 5:12-16).


Today’s Mass Readings.

Today’s Divine Office.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Today’s 1st Reading (1 Jn 5:14-21).

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Today’s Responsorial (Ps 149).

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Today’s Gospel (John 3:22-30).

Nolan and Brown on Today’s Gospel (John 3:22-30).

Navarre Bible Commentary on Today’s Gospel (John 3:22-30).



Next week’s Posts.

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St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 118

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 30, 2013

1. … We are taught in this Psalm, when we chaunt Allelujah, which meaneth, Praise the Lord, that we should, when we hear the words, “Confess unto the Lord” (ver. 1), praise the Lord. The praise of God could not be expressed in fewer words than these, “For He is good.” I see not what can be more solemn than this brevity, since goodness is so peculiarly the quality of God, that the Son of God Himself when addressed by some one as “Good Master,” by one, namely, who beholding His flesh, and comprehending not the fulness of His divine nature, considered Him as man only, replied, “Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.”3 And what is this but to say, If thou wishest to call Me good, recognise Me as God? But since it is addressed, in revelation of things to come, to a people freed from all toil and wandering in pilgrimage, and from all admixture with the wicked, which freedom was given it through the grace of God, who not only doth not evil for evil, but even returneth good for evil; it is most appropriately added, “Because His mercy endureth for ever.”

2. “Let Israel now confess that He is good, and that His mercy endureth for ever” (ver. 2). “Let the house of Aaron now confess that His mercy endureth for ever” (ver. 3). “Yea, let all now that fear the Lord confess that His mercy endureth for ever” (ver. 4). Ye remember, I suppose, most beloved, what is the house of Israel, what is the house of Aaron, and that both are those that fear the Lord. For they are “the little and the great,”4 who have already in another Psalm been happily introduced into your hearts: in the number of whom all of us should rejoice that we are joined together, in His grace who is good, and whose mercy endureth for ever; since they were listened to who said, “May the Lord increase you more and more, you and your children;”5 that the host of the Gentiles might be added to the Israelites who believed in Christ, of the number of whom are the Apostles our fathers, for the exaltation of the perfect and the obedience of the little children; that all of us when made one in Christ, made one flock under one Shepherd, and the body of that Head, like one man, may say, “I called upon the Lord in trouble, and the Lord heard me at large” (ver. 5). The narrow straits of our tribulation are limited: but the large way whereby we pass along hath no end. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”6

3. “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear what man doeth unto me” (ver. 6). But are men, then, the only enemies that the Church hath? What is a man devoted to flesh and blood, save flesh and blood? But the Apostle saith, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against,” … he saith, “spiritual wickedness in high places;”7 that is, the devil and his angels; that devil whom elsewhere he calleth “the prince of the power of the air.”8 Hear therefore what followeth: “The Lord is my helper: therefore shall I despise mine enemies” (ver. 7). From what class soever my enemies may arise, whether from the number of evil men, or from the number of evil angels; in the Lord’s help, unto whom we chant the confession of praise, unto whom we sing Allelujah, they shall be despised.

4. But, when my enemies have been brought to contempt, let not my friend present himself unto me as a good man, so as to bid me repose my hope in himself: for “It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put any confidence in man” (ver. 8). Nor let any one, who may in a certain sense be styled a good angel, be regarded by myself as one in whom I ought to put my trust: for “no one is good, save God alone;”9 and when a man or an angel appear to aid us, when they do this of sincere affection, He doth it through them, who made them good after their measure. “It is” therefore “better to trust in the Lord, than to put any confidence in princes” (ver. 9). For angels also are called princes, even as we read in Daniel, “Michael, your prince.”10

5. “All nations compassed me round about, but in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them” (ver. 10). “They kept me in on every site, they kept me in, I say, on every side; but in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them” (ver. 11). He signifieth the toils and the victory of the Church; but, as if the question were asked how she could have overcome so great evils, he looketh back to the example, and declareth what she had first suffered in her Head, by adding what followeth, “They kept me in on every side:” and the words, “All nations,” are with reason not repeated here, because this was the act of the Jews alone. There that very religious nation (which is the body of Christ, and in behalf of which was done all that was done in mortal form with immortal power, by that inward divinity, through the outward flesh), suffered from persecutors, of whose race that flesh was assumed and hung upon the cross.

6. “They came about me as bees do a hive, and burned up even as the fire among the thorns: and in the Name of the Lord have I taken vengeance on them” (ver. 12). Here then the order of the words corresponds with the order of events. For we rightly understand that our Lord Himself, the Head of the Church, was surrounded by persecutors, even as bees surround a hive. For the Holy Spirit is speaking with mystic subtlety of what was done by those who knew not what they did. For bees make honey in the hives: while our Lord’s persecutors, unconscious as they were, rendered Him sweeter unto us even by His very Passion; so that we may taste and see how sweet is the Lord,1 “Who died for our sins, and arose for our justification.”2 But what followeth, “and burned up even as the fire among the thorns,” is better understood of His Body, that is, of a people spread abroad, whom all nations compassed about, since it was gathered together from all nations. They consumed this sinful flesh, and the grievous piercings of this mortal life, in the flame of persecution. “Taken vengeance on them:” either because they themselves, that wickedness, which in them persecuted the righteous, having been extinguished, were joined with the people of Christ; or because the rest of them, who have at this time scorned the mercy of Him who calleth them, will at the end feel the truth of Him who judgeth them.

7. “I have been driven on like a heap of sand, so that I was falling, but the Lord upheld me” (ver. 13). For though there were a great multitude of believers, that might be compared to the countless sand, and brought into one communion as into one heap; yet “what is man, save Thou be mindful of Him?”3 He said not, the multitude of the Gentiles could not surpass the abundance of my host, but, “the Lord,” he saith, “hath upheld me.” The persecution of the Gentiles succeeded not in pushing forward, to its overthrow, the host of the faithful dwelling together in the unity of the faith.

8. “The Lord is my strength and my praise, and is become my salvation” (ver. 14). Who then fall, when they are pushed, save they who choose to be their own strength and their own praise? For no man falleth in the contest, except he whose strength and praise faileth. He therefore whose strength and praise is the Lord, falleth no more than the Lord falleth. And for this reason He hath become their salvation; not that He hath become anything which He was not before, but because they, when they believed on Him, became what they were not before, and then He began to be salvation unto them when turned towards Him, which He was not to them when turned away from Himself.

9. “The voice of joy and health is in the dwellings of the righteous” (ver. 15); where they who raged against their bodies thought there was the voice of sorrow and destruction. For they did not know the inward joy of the saints in their future hope. Whence the Apostle also saith, “As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing;”4 and again, “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also.”5

10. “The right hand of the Lord hath brought mighty things to pass” (ver. 16). What mighty things? saith he. “The right hand of the Lord,” he saith, “hath exalted me.” It is a mighty thing to exalt the humble, to deify the mortal, to bring perfection out of infirmity, glory from subjection, victory from suffering, to give help, to raise from trouble; that the true salvation of God might be laid open to the afflicted, and the salvation of men might remain of no avail to the persecutors. These are great things: but what art thou surprised at? hear what he repeateth: “The right hand of the Lord hath brought mighty things to pass.”

11. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (ver. 17). But they, while they were dealing havoc and death on every side, thought that the Church of Christ was dying. Behold, he now declareth the works of the Lord. Everywhere Christ is the glory of the blessed Martyrs. By being beaten He conquered those who struck Him; by being patient of torments, the tormentors;6 by loving, those who raged against Him.

12. Nevertheless, let him point out to us, why the body of Christ, the holy Church, the people of adoption, suffered such indignities. “The Lord,” he saith, “hast chastened and corrected me, but He hath not given me over unto death” (ver. 18). Let not then the boastful wicked imagine that aught hath been permitted to their power: they would not have that power, were it not given them from above. Oft doth the father of a family command his sons to be corrected by the most worthless slaves; though he designeth the heritage for the former, fetters for the latter. What is that heritage? Is it of gold, or silver, or jewels, or farms, or pleasant estates? Consider how we enter into it: and learn what it is.

13. “Open me,” he saith, “the gates of righteousness” (ver 19). Behold, we have heard of the gates. What is within? “That I may,” he saith, “go into them, and give thanks unto the Lord.” This is the confession of praise full of wonder, “even unto the house of God, in the voice of joy and confession of praise, among such as keep holiday:”1 this is the everlasting bliss of the righteous, whereby they are blessed who dwell in the Lord’s house, praising Him for evermore.2

14. But consider how the gates of righteousness are entered into. “These are the gates of the Lord” he saith, “the righteous shall enter into them” (ver. 20). At least let no wicked man enter there, that Jerusalem which receiveth not one uncircumcised, where it is said, “Without are dogs.”3 Be it enough, that in my long pilgrimage “I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar:”4 I endured even unto the end the intercourse of the wicked, but “these are the gates of the Lord: the righteous shall enter into them.”

15. “I will confess unto Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation” (ver. 21). How often is that confession proved to be one of praise, that doth not point out wounds to the physician, but giveth thanks for the health it hath received. But the Physician Himself is the Salvation.

16. But who is this whom we speak of? “The Stone which the builders rejected” (ver. 22); for “It hath become the head Stone of the corner;” to “make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body;”5 circumcision, to wit, and uncircumcision.

17. “By the Lord was it made unto it” (ver. 23): that is, it is made into the head stone of the corner by the Lord. For although He would not have become this, had He not suffered: yet He became not this through those from whom He suffered. For they who were building, refused Him: but in the edifice which the Lord was secretly raising, that was made the head stone of the corner which they rejected. “And it is marvellous in our eyes:” in the eyes of the inner man, in the eyes of those that believe, those that hope, those that love; not in the carnal eyes of those who, through scorning Him as if He were a man, rejected Him.

18. “This is the day which the Lord hath made” (ver. 24). This man remembereth that he had said in former Psalms, “Since He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live;”6 making mention of his old days; when

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