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 ‘Notes on Matthew’

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 28:16-20

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2019

Mt 28:16. And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 

“And the eleven disciples,” that is, Apostles, who were His chief disciples. He says, “the eleven,” since the twelfth, Judas, having already flung down to the Chief Priests the price of his treason, in despair, hanged himself (Mt 27:5).

“Went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” This apparition to the Apostles in Galilee did not take place till at least eight days after Easter day, as St. Augustine shows from the history of the Gospel (Lib. 3 de Consen. Evang., c. 25), and is clear from John (Jn 20:26, &c.) St. Matthew makes no mention of what occurred to the Apostles at Jerusalem, during the eight days following Easter day.

It is not mentioned by any of the Evangelists, when or where “Jesus had appointed” to meet His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Probably, it was in one of His previous apparitions. Neither is it said, what the mountain is. It is quite certain it was not the mountain from which He ascended, as this was in Judea, near Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). Hence, it is commonly supposed to be Thabor, which St. Peter, from the several manifestations and operations of our Lord that occurred there, calls, “the holy mount” (2 Pet. 1:18). It is commonly supposed, that this was the remarkable apparition referred to by St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:6), when our Lord appeared to “more than five hundred brethren at once.” Probably, our Lord instructed His Apostles to gather together His followers in Galilee, to enjoy His presence on this occasion; although this is not mentioned by the Evangelists, any more than is His appointment regarding the mountain. St. Matthew makes no mention of any other apparition of our Lord to His disciples. This He mentions as being the most remarkable of all.

Mt 28:17. And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. 

“And seeing Him they adored,” prostrated themselves before Him, confessing Him to be the eternal Son of God, now risen triumphant from the tomb. “But, some doubted.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of these words. It is not easy to see how, on this occasion, any of the Apostles doubted our Redeemer’s resurrection; for, even Thomas had already been convinced of it (John 20:28). Hence, many expositors refer the word, “doubted,” not to this occasion of His appearing on the mount; but, to the former occasion, when Thomas and, probably, others had entertained doubts when at Jerusalem; hence, they interpret the words to mean, “but some had doubted,” as if the words meant: They all now openly confess Him to be God, and adore Him, although heretofore, on some occasions, some of them had doubted (but now doubted no longer) the truth of His resurrection. And, as St. Matthew mentioned this as the first and only apparition of our Lord to His disciples, he probably, recorded, at the same time, what occurred at some of His preceding apparitions, viz., the doubts entertained by some of His Apostles regarding the reality of His resurrection. Others, who refer the words, “some doubted,” to the present occasion, understand them of some of the other disciples, and the five hundred followers of our Lord. It may also mean, that among the Apostles themselves, some doubted on this occasion, not the truth of His resurrection; but the reality or identity of His person, whether He was the Lord who had truly risen, just as the Apostles, seeing Him walk upon the sea, doubted if it were He, and not rather a ghost. Hence, our Redeemer, in order to dissipate their doubts—

Mt 28:18. And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. 

“Coming” nearer, “spoke to them,” addressed them familiarly in His usual, well-known tone of voice, in order to remove every feeling of doubt and uneasiness. Many things were spoken by our Lord to His Apostles, during the forty days’ interval between His Resurrection and Ascension, respecting the future government of His Church—“speaking of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). But St. Matthew records, out of the many things He treated of, only these which it was most important for us to know, and, particularly, the precept and power given to the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the entire earth, which was the summary of all He then said. In order, however, to inspire them with greater confidence in undertaking a work so arduous, and, humanly speaking (taking into account their former character and position, together with the perversity and intellectual powers of the world) to them impossible, He refers to the plenitude of power given Him in heaven and on earth, from which fulness of power their commission was derived.

“All power in given to Me in heaven,” &c. As God, He had all power from eternity; as man, He had, from His Incarnation, in virtue of the hypostatic union of the Divine Person with human nature, received all power, or, the power of excellence, as it is called. Besides, all power was given Him in a more eminent degree, which He merited by a special title, through His Passion and Cross, His humiliation and sufferings. While He might have referred to this triple power, it is to the latter He, most likely, refers here in particular. He merited, by His humiliations, to be exalted (Phil. 2:8-9).

His humanity, after His resurrection, being endowed with immortality, became, in a new form, sharer of the Divine glory and power; and, having despoiled the devil of his usurped dominion, obtained full power over the entire redeemed human race. It is, then, because He died and rose again triumphant from the tomb, that “all power was given to Him,” by His Father, “in heaven,” placing Him at His right hand, and proclaiming Him as the King of Angels; “and in earth,” to establish His Church, and gather her from all nations, to unite in one body all His members, and reign supremely over all creation. This universal dominion of Christ is referred to (Dan. 7:14; Eph. 1:20, &c.; Phil. 2:10, &c.; Acts 10:36, 42).

“All power,” means, perfect, absolute, full, unrestricted dominion “in heaven and earth” (Rev 17:14), that is, over all creatures, both in heaven and earth. As He had been humbled beneath all creatures; so, now, He is exalted beyond them all, and receives “all power,” that, is, dominion and right to govern them.

Mt 28:19. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. 

“Going, therefore,” since all power is given to Me, and, “therefore,” I have full authority to send you. Hence, as I am about to leave this world, and return to My Father, I send you, as I have a right to do, as My legates and visible representatives, to exercise power in My behalf.

“Teach all nations,” without distinction of Jew or Gentile. St. Mark (Mk 16:15) says, “going into the entire world.” What are they commissioned “to teach all nations?” St. Mark tells us, “preach the Gospel to every creature,” the tidings of salvation through Christ, the Gospel in which is contained “the science of salvation” (Luke 1:77), a knowledge of the necessary truths of faith, relative to the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, remission of sins, &c. This is unlike His former mandate addressed to His Apostles, when they were first sent to the lost ones of the house of Israel—“in viam gentium ne abieritis.” The former mandate is now withdrawn; and He now tells them not to confine their ministrations to the narrow precincts of Judea; but, as He has ransomed the entire world, and received all nations as His inheritance, they were to instruct all nations, without exception or distinction, in the necessary truths of faith.

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father,” &c. After having instructed mankind, including Jew and Gentile, in the Faith, the Apostles were next to “baptize them.” Those whom you shall have discipled (which is the force of the Greek word, μαθητευσατε), and who shall have embraced My faith, you will next “baptize.” The necessity of baptism, as also its matter, had been already clearly expressed by our Redeemer (John 3:5). Although the matter of baptism is not clearly expressed here, the Church has, from the beginning, declared it to be natural water, and condemned all such as held the contrary, v.g., Hermias, &c., who held, that as the baptism of John was in water, and Christ’s “in the Holy Ghost and in fire,” Christian baptism was not to be administered in water. Baptism was instituted by our Redeemer in place of circumcision, as a sign for distinguishing and recognizing His followers, and as a proof of their incorporation with the body of His Church. It was, however, not a mere barren sign, but a sign operative of grace, cleansing from sin, and conferring the Holy Ghost. “He saved us by the lover of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

“In the name of the Father,” &c. The form of baptism is here assigned, which consists in the express invocation of the three Persons of the adorable Trinity, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Hence, the Church has, at all times, taught, that the essential form of baptism requires, besides expressing the act or baptizing, “Ego te baptize” (or, baptizetur servus Christi, which latter form—allowed only in the Greek Church—was declared valid by Eugene IV., ad Armenos), the express and distinct invocation of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. And, although, according to some, this might not, strictly speaking, be proved from these words; still, the Apostles understood the words in this sense, and transmitted it so to the Church, which, from tradition, has pronounced the distinct invocation of the Trinity to be essential, and condemned all who asserted the contrary, such as the Marcionites and Priscillianists, whose baptism was condemned in the Council of Nice, because they did not employ the above form. The words, “in the name,” besides expressing the invocation of the name of the Blessed Trinity, expresses, also, invoking the virtue, power, Divinity of the Trinity, from which baptism derives all its efficacy. It was usual with the Jews to baptize, in their own form, all who were converted from the worship of false gods. Even with Pagan nations, it was customary to wash the entire bodies of such as wished to be initiated into their religious rites. Our Redeemer wished that no one should be introduced into His Church, unless, after profession of faith, through the mystical laver, whereby they are regenerated into spiritual life, and adopted into the Sonship of God. In the word, “name” (not, names), is expressed the unity of nature—nomen Trinitatis unus Deus (St. Jerome); and the distinct terms, “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” separated by the copulative conjunction, express the Trinity of Persons in God. In a word, they express the adorable mystery of the Unity and Trinity of God, the foundation of Christian faith.

St. Mark (Mk 16:15,) expresses this commission in almost similar words. “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The “whole world,” embraces “all nations,” the Jews included; “every creature,” embraces all rational beings who were capable of profiting of the preaching of the Gospel. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but, he that believeth not, shall be condemned.” The promise and threat contained in these words, involve a precept to confer and receive baptism. Hence, they are similar to the words of St. Matthew, “baptizing them in the name of the Father,” &c. The error of the Anabaptists, founded on the words, “he that believeth,” &c., is refuted by the universal practice and tradition of the Church conferring infant baptism. St. Augustine also refutes this error by saying, that infants do profess their faith through the sponsors and the Church, so that those who have sinned by the perverse will and act of another (viz., Adam), also believe they are justified and saved through the will and acts of others, viz., the Church and their sponsors. At all events, it is quite clear, the words here only regard adults; to them alone could the Gospel be preached. To them alone, could the words, “believe not,” which refers to positive rejection of the Gospel after it was preached to them, apply. From other sources, viz., tradition and the practice of the Church from the beginning, is derived a certain argument in favour of infant baptism.

The argument derived from this passage, in favour of the sufficiency of faith alone, is hardly worth noticing. The form, “he who believes,” &c., like every other affirmative proposition, always implies, provided there be no other obstacle; provided everything else be fulfilled. He speaks of faith, animated by charity and good works. Thus, v.g., we read, “he who shall invoke the name of the Lord, shall be saved,” which means: provided he do everything else required. For, we read elsewhere, “Not every one who says, Lord, Lord,” &c. (Mt 7:21.) Moreover, in these very words, more than faith is required, “he that believes and is baptized.” And in the words of St. Matthew, “Teaching them to observe,” &c., it is conveyed, that the observance of God’s Commandments is no less necessary for salvation than is faith.

Mt 28:20. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world. 

“Teaching them to observe,” &c. This refers to the practical precepts and commandments which they should “observe,” by the performance of good works, after receiving faith and baptism. Besides faith, the observance of the Commandments, and the assiduous persevering practice of virtue, are indispensable for salvation.

Our Redeemer enjoins three things on His Apostles, intimately connected with one another, which they should perform on their mission, as His vicegerents throughout the whole world—1st. Preaching the doctrines of faith, “teach all nations.” The Greek word for “teach” (μαθητευσατε), is clearly expressive of dogmatic teaching. Hence, for it, St. Mark has, “preach the Gospel.” 2nd. The conferring of baptism, to introduce the nations into His Church. 3rd. The inculcation of a practical observance of His Commandments, and of the precepts of a holy life, “teaching them to observe,” &c. The Greek word for “teaching” (διδασκοντες), is well suited to express moral teaching.

Before baptism, they were to be instructed in what appertains to Christian faith; after it, in those things which appertain to morals and a holy Christian life, manifested by good works.

“And behold, I am with you,” &c. This glorious and magnificent promise, so consoling to all the children of the Church, was very opportunely subjoined by our Redeemer to the preceding command given to the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth. He enjoined on them a most arduous work, humanly speaking, impossible of accomplishment, considering, on the one hand, the position and character of the Apostles—weak, humble, illiterate, ignorant fishermen; and on the other, the intellectual pride and power of the world—the nature of the doctrines they were to propound, their opposition to the hitherto received maxims of the world, and their opposition to the corrupt and cherished passions of mankind. He was sending them, as lambs to conquer wolves. He was, moreover, Himself shortly to withdraw from them, and return in triumph to His Father. Any wonder, then, that they should be dispirited and desponding at the arduous work of converting the world, which lay before them? But, our Redeemer, at once, dispels all grounds for despondency. He tells them, that He will protect, assist, and strengthen them, as He had hitherto done, and promises that His never failing assistance, while they are engaged in His sacred work, shall be ready at hand when needed.

“And behold.” Ever bear in mind, what I am about communicating to you. It is this: “I am with you.” “I”—“to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth”—I, the Omnipotent God, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father—the Word, from the beginning, by whom all things were made; I—who “have conquered the world”—“in whom the prince of the world has nothing—to whom My Father has promised to place all My enemies as a footstool under My feet—in whom all the fulness of the Divinity dwelleth corporally”—I, the Infallible Truth, who shall ever perform My promises. “Am,” unchangeably, unceasingly. (The present tense, “am,” is employed to convey His Immutability. It embraces all times, the future no less than the present.)

“With you,” not merely by My Omnipresence, as I am with all creation; not merely by the ordinary assistance of My grace, which is given to all men rightly disposed; but, in a singular way, granting you a special, extraordinary assistance, aiding assisting, protecting, guarding you from error or failure; so that you shall securely and infallibly succeed, as My representatives, in the heavenly work of preaching to the nations of the earth, converting them to My faith and Church.

“All days,” without a moment’s intermission, interruption, or interval. That this was the kind of assistance promised, is clear from the importance of the mission here confided to them—from the solemn manner in which our Redeemer previously invokes and appeals to the Divine and Supreme Power conferred on Him—also, from the form, “I am with you,” which implies, something singular and uncommon (Murray, de Ecclesia). It may also include, though not directly intended here, His abiding presence in the adorable Eucharist.

“Even to the consummation of the world.” Thus “showing,” as St. Jerome expresses it, “that they would always live (in their successors), and that He would never depart from the faithful.” “Qui usque ad consummationem sæculi se cum discipulis, futurum esse promittit et illos ostendit semper, esse victuros et se nunquam a credentibus recessurum” (St. Jerome).

That the words, “consummation of the world,” mean the end of time, and not the end of the age of the Apostles, or first age of the Christian era, as some Protestants pretend, is clear from this, that the assistance here promised is given for the mission of converting, baptizing, and teaching. The mission referred to and the assistance promised, are inseparably united, and connected with one another, “Go, teach,” &c., “And behold, I am,” &c. The words clearly show, that the assistance promised, was to ever accompany the work of the mission prescribed, and to cease only with its termination. Now, the mission of converting, &c., has not ceased with the Apostles, but, is to last in full force to the end of time. Hence, also, the assistance promised, is to continue in the Church till the end of ages. Moreover, it was promised for the conversion of “all nations.”

And hence, as this work of universal conversion could not be performed by the Apostles themselves in person, both it and the assistance annexed to it, were to continue in their successors, to the end of time.

From this text, is proved the indefectibility of the Church to the end of ages. 2ndly. Her unfailing sanctity, “vobiscum sum.” 3rdly. Her Catholicity, embracing “all nations,” which the efficacious promise of our Redeemer conveys. 4thly. Her Apostolicity. 5thly. Her Infallibility.

Similar is the promise, “And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever” (John 15:16). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, shall come, He will teach you all truth” (John 16:13). Christ’s remaining with His Church, being with them all days to the end of time, is the same as the Holy Ghost remaining. For, such assistance and permanent continuance with the Church, being an actus ad extra, are, like all operations, ad extra, ascribed to one. Person, common to the two other Persons of the adorable Trinity.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 10:16-22

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 25, 2018

Matt. 10:16

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves; be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Having made them feel confident about their necessary food, and opened unto them all men’s houses, and having invested their entrance with an appearance to attract veneration, charging them not to come in as wanderers, and beggars, but as much more venerable than those who received them (for this He signifies by His saying, “the workman is worthy of his hire;” and by His commanding them to inquire, who was worthy, and there to remain, and enjoining them to salute such as receive them; and by His threatening such as receive them not with those incurable evils): having I say, in this way cast out their anxiety, and armed them with the display of miracles, and made them as it were all iron and adamant, by delivering them from all worldly things, and enfranchising them from all temporal care: He speaks in what follows of the evils also that were to befall them; not only those that were to happen soon after, but those too that were to be in long course of time; from the first, even long beforehand, preparing them for the war against the devil. Yea, and many advantages were hence secured; and first, that they learnt the power of His foreknowledge; secondly, that no one should suspect, that through weakness of their Master came these evils upon them; thirdly, that such as undergo these things should not be dismayed by their falling out unexpectedly, and against hope; fourthly, that they might not at the very time of the cross be troubled on hearing these things. For indeed, they were just so affected at that time; when also He upbraided them, saying, “Because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your hearts; and none of you asketh me, whither goest Thou?”3 And yet He had said nothing as yet touching Himself, as that He should be bound, and scourged, and put to death, that He might not hereby also confound their minds; but for the present He announces before what should happen to themselves.

Then, that they might learn that this system of war is new, and the manner of the array unwonted; as He sends them bare, and with one coat, and unshod, and without staff, and without girdle or scrip, and bids them be maintained by such as receive them; so neither here did He stay His speech, but to signify His unspeakable power, He saith, “Even thus setting out, exhibit the gentleness of “sheep,” and this, though ye are to go unto “wolves;” and not simply unto wolves, but “into the midst of wolves.”

And He bids them have not only gentleness as sheep, but also the harmlessness of the dove. “For thus shall I best show forth my might, when sheep get the better of wolves, and being in the midst of wolves, and receiving a thousand bites, so far from being consumed, do even work a change on them: a thing far greater and more marvellous than killing them, to alter their spirit, and to reform their mind; and this, being only twelve, while the whole world is filled with the wolves.”

Let us then be ashamed, who do the contrary, who set like wolves upon our enemies. For so long as we are sheep, we conquer: though ten thousand wolves prowl around, we overcome and prevail. But if we become wolves, we are worsted, for the help of our Shepherd departs from us: for He feeds not wolves, but sheep: and He forsakes thee, and retires, for neither dost thou allow His might to be shown. Because, as He accounts the whole triumph His own, if thou being ill used, show forth gentleness; so if thou follow it up and give blows, thou obscurest His victory.

2. But do thou consider, I pray thee, who they are that hear these injunctions, so hard and laborious: the timid and ignorant; the unlettered and uninstructed; such as are in every respect obscure, who have never been trained up in the Gentile laws, who do not readily present themselves in the public, places; the fishermen, the publicans, men full of innumerable deficiencies. For if these things were enough to confound even the lofty and great, how were they not enough to cast down and dismay them that were in all respects untried, and had never entertained any noble imagination? But they did not cast them down.

“And very naturally,” some one may perhaps say; “because He gave them power to cleanse lepers, to drive out devils.” I would answer as follows: Nay, this very thing was enough especially to perplex them, that for all their raising the dead, they were to undergo these intolerable evils, both judgments, and executions, and the wars which all would wage on them, and the common hatred of the world; and that such terrors await them, while themselves are working miracles.

3. What then is their consolation for all these things? The power of Him that sends them. Wherefore also He puts this before all, saying, “Behold, I send you.” This suffices for your encouragement, this for confidence, and fearing none of your assailants.

Seest thou authority? seest thou prerogative? seest thou invincible might? Now His meaning is like this: “Be not troubled” (so He speaks), “that sending you among wolves, I command you to be like sheep and like doves. For I might indeed have done the contrary, and have suffered you to undergo nothing terrible, nor as sheep to be exposed to wolves; I might have rendered you more formidable than lions; but it is expedient that so it should be. This makes you also more glorious; this proclaims also my power.”

This He said also unto Paul: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”1 “It is I, now mark it, who have caused you so to be.” For in saying, “I send you forth as sheep,” He intimates this. “Do not therefore despond, for I know, I know certainly, that in this way more than any other ye will be invincible to all.”

After this, that they may contribute something on their own part also, and that all might not seem to be of His grace, nor they supposed to be crowned at random, and vainly, He saith, “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” “But what,” it might be said, “will our wisdom avail in so great dangers? nay, how shall we be able to have wisdom at all, when so many waves are drenching us all over? For let a sheep be ever so wise, when it is in the midst of wolves, and so many wolves, what will it be able to do? Let the dove be ever so harmless, what will it profit, when so many hawks are assailing it?” In the brutes indeed, not at all: but in you as much as possible.

But let us see what manner of wisdom He here requires. That of the serpent, He saith. For even as that animal gives up everything, and if its very body must be cut off, doth not very earnestly defend it, so that it may save its head; in like manner do thou also, saith He, give up every thing but the faith; though goods, body, life itself, must be yielded. For that is the head and the root; and if that be preserved, though thou lose all, thou wilt recover all with so much the more splendor.2

On this account then He neither commanded to be merely a simple and single-hearted sort of person, nor merely wise; but hath mixed up both these, so that they may become virtue; taking in the wisdom of the serpent that we may not be wounded in our vitals; and the harmlessness of the dove, that we may not retaliate on our wrongdoers, nor avenge ourselves on them that lay snares; since wisdom again is useless, except this be added. Now what, I ask, could be more strict-than these injunctions? Why, was it not enough to suffer wrong? Nay, saith He, but I do not permit thee so much as to be indignant. For this is “the dove.” As though one should cast a reed into fire, and command it not to be burnt by the fire, but to quench it.

However, let us not be troubled; nay, for these things have come to pass, and have had an accomplishment, and have been shown in very deed, and men became wise as serpents, and harmless as doves; not being of another nature, but of the same with us.

Let not then any one account His injunctions impracticable. For He beyond all others knows the nature of things; He knows that fierceness is not quenched by fierceness, but by gentleness. And if in men’s actual deeds too thou wouldest see this result, read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and thou wilt see how often, when the people of the Jews had risen up against them and were sharpening their teeth, these men, imitating the dove, and answering with suitable meekness, did away with their wrath, quenched their madness, broke their impetuosity. As when they said, “Did not we straitly command you, that ye should not speak in this name?”1 although able to work any number of miracles, they neither said nor did anything harsh, but answered for themselves with all meekness, saying, “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.”2

Hast thou seen the harmlessness of the dove? Behold the wisdom of the serpent. “For we cannot but speak the things, which we know and have heard.”3 Seest thou how we must be perfect on all points, so as neither to be abased by dangers, nor provoked by anger?

4. Therefore He said also,4

“Beware of men, for they shall deliver you up to councils, and they shall scourge you in their synagogues: and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and the Gentiles.”

Thus again is He preparing them to be vigilant, in every case assigning to them the sufferance of wrong, and permitting the infliction of it to others; to teach thee that the victory is in suffering evil, and that His glorious trophies are thereby set up. For He said not at all, “Fight ye also, and resist them that would vex you,” but only, “Ye shall suffer the utmost ills.”

O how great is the power of Him that speaks! How great the self-command of them that hear! For indeed we have great cause to marvel, how they did not straightway dart away from Him on hearing these things, apt as they were to be startled at every sound, and such as had never gone further than that lake, around which they used to fish; and how they did not reflect, and say to themselves, “And whither after all this are we to flee? The courts of justice against us, the kings against us, the governors, the synagogues of the Jews, the nations of the Gentiles, the rulers, and the ruled.” (For hereby He not only forewarned them of Palestine, and the ills therein, but discovered also the wars throughout the world, saying, “Ye shall be brought before kings and governors;” signifying that to the Gentiles also He was afterwards to send them as heralds.) “Thou hast made the world our enemy, Thou hast armed against us all them that dwell on the earth, peoples, tyrants, kings.”

And what follows again is much more fearful, since men are to become on our account murderers of brothers, of children, of fathers.

“How, then,” one might say, “will the rest of men believe, when they see on our account, children slain by their fathers, and brethren by brethren, and all things filled with abominations?” What? will not men, as though we were destructive demons, will they not, as though we were devoted, and pests of the world, drive us out from every quarter, seeing the earth filled with blood of kinsmen, and with so many murderers? Surely fair is the peace (is it not?) which we are to bring into men’s houses and give them, while we are filling those houses with so many slaughters. Why, had we been some great number of us, instead of twelve; had we been, instead of “unlearned and ignorant,” wise, and skilled in rhetoric, and mighty in speech; nay more, had we been even kings, and in possession of armies and abundance of wealth; how could we have persuaded any, while kindling up civil wars, yea, and other wars far worse than they? Why, though we were to despise our own safety, which of all other men will give heed to us?”

But none of these things did they either think or say, neither did they require any account of His injunctions, but simply yielded and obeyed. And this came not from their own virtue only, but also of the wisdom of their Teacher. For see how to each of the fearful things He annexed an encouragement; as in the case of such as received them not, He said, “It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city;” so here again, when He had said, “Ye shall be brought before governors and kings,” He added, “for my sake, for a testimony to them, and the Gentiles.” And this is no small consolation, that they are suffering these things both for Christ, and for the Gentiles’ conviction. Thus God, though no one regard, is found to be everywhere doing His own works. Now these things were a comfort to them, not that they desired the punishment of other men, but that they might have ground of confidence, as sure to have Him everywhere present with them, who had both foretold and foreknown these things; and because not as wicked men, and as pests, were they to suffer all this.

And together with these, He adds another, and that no small consolation for them, saying,

“But when they deliver you up, take no thought1 how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.”2

For lest they should say, “How shall we be able to persuade men, when such things are taking place?” He bids them be confident as to their defense also. And elsewhere indeed He saith, “I will give you a mouth and wisdom;”3 but here, “It is the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you,” advancing them unto the dignity of the prophets. Therefore, when He had spoken of the power that was given, then He added also the terrors, the murders, and the slaughters.

“For the brother shall deliver up the brother,” saith He, “to death, and the father the child, and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death.”4

And not even at this did He stop, but added also what was greatly more fearful, and enough to shiver a rock to pieces: “And ye shall be hated of all men.” And here again the consolation is at the doors, for, “For my name’s sake,” saith He, “ye shall suffer these things.” And with this again another, “But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”5

And these things in another point of view likewise were sufficient to rouse up their spirits; since at any rate the power of their gospel was to blaze up so high, as that nature should be despised, and kindred rejected, and the Word preferred to all, chasing all mightily away. For if no tyranny of nature is strong enough to withstand your sayings, but it is dissolved and trodden under foot, what else shall be able to get the better of you? Not, however, that your life will be in security, because these things shall be; but rather ye will have for your common enemies and foes them that dwell in the whole world.

5. Where now is Plato? Where Pythagoras? Where the long chain6 of the Stoics? For the first, after having enjoyed great honor, was so practically refuted, as even to be sold out of the country,7 and to succeed in none of his objects, no, not go much as in respect of one tyrant: yea, he betrayed his disciples, and ended his life miserably. And the Cynics, mere pollutions as they were, have all passed by like a dream and a shadow. And yet assuredly no such thing ever befell them, but rather they were accounted glorious for their heathen philosophy, and the Athenians made a public monument of the epistles of Plato, sent them by Dion; and they passed all their time at ease, and abounded in wealth not a little. Thus, for instance, Aristippus was used to purchase costly harlots; and another made a will, leaving no common inheritance; and another, when his disciples had laid themselves down like a bridge, walked on them; and he of Sinope, they say, even behaved himself unseemly in the market place.

Yea, these are their honorable things. But there is no such thing here, but a strict temperance, and a perfect decency, and a war against the whole world in behalf of truth and godliness, and to be slain every day, and not until hereafter their glorious trophies.

But there are some also, one may say, skilled in war amongst them; as Themistocles, Pericles. But these things too are children’s toys, compared with the acts of the fishermen. For what canst thou say? That he persuaded the Athenians to embark in their ships, when Xerxes was marching upon Greece? Why in this case, when it is not Xerxes marching, but the devil with the whole world, and his evil spirits innumerable assailing these twelve men, not at one crisis only, but throughout their whole life, they prevailed and vanquished; and what was truly marvellous, not by slaying their adversaries, but by converting and reforming them.

For this especially you should observe throughout, that they slew not, nor destroyed such as were plotting against them, but having found them as bad as devils, they made them rivals of angels, enfranchising human nature from this evil tyranny, while as to those execrable demons that were confounding all things, they drave them out of the midst of markets, and houses, or rather even from the very wilderness. And to this the choirs of the monks bear witness, whom they have planted everywhere, clearing out not the habitable only, but even the uninhabitable land. And what is yet more marvellous, they did not this in fair conflict, but in the enduring of evil they accomplished it all. Since men actually had them in the midst, twelve unlearned persons, binding, scourging, dragging them about, and were not able to stop their mouths; but as it is impossible to bind the sunbeam, so also their tongue. And the reason was, “it was not they” themselves “that spake,” but the power of the Spirit. Thus for instance did Paul overcome Agrippa, and Nero, who surpassed all men in wickedness. “For the Lord,” saith he, “stood with me, and strengthened me, and delivered me out of the mouth of the lion.”1

But do thou also admire them, how when it was said to them, “Take no thought,” they yet believed, and accepted it, and none of the terrors amazed them. And if thou say, He gave them encouragement enough, by saying, “It shall be the Spirit of your Father that shall speak;” even for this am I most amazed at them, that they doubted not, nor sought deliverance from their perils; and this, when not for two or three years were they to suffer these things, but all their life long. For the saying, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,” is an intimation of this.

For His will is, that not His part only should be contributed, but that the good deeds should be also done of them. Mark, for instance, how from the first, part is His, part His disciples’. Thus, to do miracles is His, but to provide nothing is theirs. Again, to open all men’s houses, was of the grace from above; but to require no more than was needful, of their own self-denial. “For the workman is worthy of his hire.” Their bestowing peace was of the gift of God, their inquiring for the worthy, and not entering in without distinction unto all, of their own self command. Again, to punish such as received them not was His, but to retire with gentleness from them, without reviling or insulting them, was of the apostles’ meekness. To give the Spirit, and cause them not to take thought, was of Him that sent them, but to become like sheep and doves, and to bear all things nobly, was of their calmness and prudence. To be hated and not to despond, and to endure, was their own; to save them that endured, was of Him who sent them.

Wherefore also He said, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” That is, because the more part are wont at the beginning indeed to be vehement, but afterwards to faint, therefore saith He, “I require the end.” For what is the use of seeds, flourishing indeed at first, but a little after fading away? Therefore it is continued patience that He requires of them. I mean, lest any say, He wrought the whole Himself, and it was no wonder that they should prove such, suffering as they did nothing intolerable; therefore He saith unto them, “There is need also of patience on your part. For though I should rescue you from the first dangers, I am reserving you for others more grievous, and after these again others will succeed; and ye shall not cease to have snares laid for you, so long as ye have breath. For this He intimated in saying, “But he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”

For this cause then, though He said, “Take no thought what ye shall speak;” yet elsewhere He saith, “Be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.”2 That is, as long as the contest is among friends, He commands us also to take thought; but when there is a terrible tribunal, and frantic assemblies, and terrors on all sides, He bestows the influence from Himself, that they may take courage and speak out, and not be discouraged, nor betray the righteous cause.

For in truth it was a very great thing, for a man occupied about lakes, and skins, and receipt of custom, when tyrants were on their thrones and satraps, and guards standing by them, and the swords drawn, and all standing on their side; to enter in alone, bound, hanging down his head, and yet be able to open his mouth. For indeed they allowed them neither speech nor defense with respect to their doctrines, but set about torturing them to death, as common pests of the world. For “They,” it is said, “that have turned the world upside down, are come hither also;” and again, “They preach things contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, saying that Jesus Christ is king.”1 And everywhere the courts of justice were preoccupied by such suspicions, and much influence from above was needed, for their showing both the truth of the doctrine they preached, and that they are not violating the common laws; so that they should neither, while earnest to speak of the doctrine, fall under suspicion of overturning the laws; nor again, while earnest to show that they were not overturning the common government, corrupt the perfection of their doctrines: all which thou wilt see accomplished with all due consideration, both in Peter and in Paul, and in all the rest. Yea, and as rebels and innovators, and revolutionists, they were accused all over the world; yet nevertheless they both repelled this impression, and invested themselves with the contrary, all men celebrating them as saviors, and guardians, and benefactors. And all this they achieved by their much patience. Wherefore also Paul said, “I die daily;”2 and he continued to “stand in jeopardy” unto the end.

6. What then must we deserve, having such high patterns, and in peace giving way to effeminacy, and remissness? With none to make war (it is too evident) we are slain; we faint when no man pursues, in peace we are required to be saved, and even for this we are not sufficient. And they indeed, when the world was on fire, and the pile was being kindled over the whole earth, entering, snatched from within, out of the midst of the flame, such as were burning; but thou art not able so much as to preserve thyself.

What confidence then will there be for us? What favor? There are no stripes, no prisons, no rulers, no synagogues, nor aught else of that kind to set upon us; yea, quite on the contrary we rule and prevail. For both kings are godly, and there are many honors for Christians, and precedences, and distinctions, and immunities, and not even so do we prevail. And whereas they being daily led to execution, both teachers and disciples, and bearing innumerable stripes, and continual brandings, were in greater luxury than such as abide in Paradise; we who have endured no such thing, not even in a dream, are softer than any wax. “But they,” it will be said, “wrought miracles.” Did this then keep them from the scourge? did it free them from persecution? Nay, for this is the strange thing, that they suffered such things often even at the hands of them whom they benefited, and not even so were they confounded, receiving only evil for good. But thou if thou bestow on any one any little benefit, and then be requited with anything unpleasant, art confounded, art troubled, and repentest of that which thou hast done.

If now it should happen, as I pray it may not happen nor at any time fall out, that there be a war against churches, and a persecution, imagine how great will be the ridicule, how sore the reproaches. And very naturally; for when no one exercises himself in the wrestling school, how shall he be distinguished in the contests? What champion, not being used to the trainer, will be able, when summoned by the Olympic contests, to show forth anything great and noble against his antagonist? Ought we not every day to wrestle and fight and run? See ye not them that are called Pentathli, when they have no antagonists, how they fill a sack with much sand, and hanging it up try their full strength thereupon? And they that are still younger, practise the fight against their enemies upon the persons of their companions.

These do thou also emulate, and practise the wrestlings of self denial. For indeed there are many that provoke to anger, and incite to lust, and kindle a great flame. Stand therefore against thy passions, bear nobly the mental pangs, that thou mayest endure also those of the body.

7. For so the blessed Job, if he had not exercised himself well before his conflicts, would not have shone so brightly in the same. Unless he had practised freedom from all despondency, he would have uttered some rash word, when his children died. But as it was he stood against all the assaults, against ruin of fortune, and destruction of so great affluence: against loss of children, against his wife’s commiseration, against plagues in body, against reproaches of friends, against revilings of servants.

And if thou wouldest see his ways of exercise also, hear him saying, how he used to despise wealth: “If I did but rejoice,” saith he. “because my wealth was great: if I set gold up for a heap, if I put my trust in a precious stone.”3 Therefore neither was he confounded at their being taken away, since he desired them not when present.

Hear how he also managed what related to his children, not giving way to undue softness, as we do, but requiring of them all circumspection. For he who offered sacrifice even for their secret sins, imagine how strict a judge he was of such as were manifest.1

And if thou wouldest also hear of his strivings after continence, hearken to him when he saith, “I made a covenant with mine eyes, that I should not think upon a maid.”2 For this cause his wife did not break his spirit, for he loved her even before this, not however immoderately, but as is due to a wife.

Wherefore I am led even to marvel, whence it came into the devil’s thought to stir up the contest, knowing as he did of his previous training. Whence then did it occur to him? The monster is wicked, and never despairs: and this turns out to us a very great condemnation, that he indeed never gives up the hope of our destruction, but we despair of our own salvation.

But for bodily mutilation and indignity, mark how he practised himself. Why, inasmuch as he himself had never undergone any such thing, but had continued to live in wealth and luxury, and in all other splendor, he used to divine other men’s calamities, one by one. And this he declared, d, when he said, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me; and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.”3 And again, “But I wept for every helpless man, and groaned when I saw a man in distress.”4

So because of this, nothing of what happened confounded him, none of those great and intolerable ills. For I bid thee not look at the ruin of his substance, nor at the loss of his children, nor at that incurable plague, nor at his wife’s device against him; but at those things which are far more grievous than these.

“And what,” saith one, “did Job suffer more grievous than these? for from his history there is nothing more than these for us to learn.” Because we are asleep, we do not learn, since he surely that is anxious, and searches well for the pearl, will know of many more particulars than these. For the more grievous, and apt to infuse greater perplexity, were different.

And first, his knowing nothing certain about the kingdom of heaven, and the resurrection; which indeed he also spoke of, lamenting. “For I shall not live alway, that I should suffer long.”5 Next, his being conscious to himself of many good works. Thirdly, his being conscious of no evil thing. Fourthly, his supposing that at God’s hands he was undergoing it; or if at the devil’s, this again was enough to offend him. Fifthly, his hearing his friends accusing him of wickedness, “For thou hast not been scourged,” say they, “according to what thy sins deserve.”6 Sixthly, his seeing such as lived in wickedness prospering, and exulting over him. Seventhly, not having any other to whom he might look as even having ever suffered such things.

8. And if thou wouldest learn how great these things are, consider our present state. For if now, when we are looking for a kingdom, and hoping for a resurrection, and for the unutterable blessings, and are conscious to ourselves of countless evil deeds, and when we have so many examples, and are partakers of so high a philosophy; should any persons lose a little gold, and this often, after having taken it by violence, they deem life not to be lived in, having no wife to lay sore on them, nor bereaved of children, nor reproached by friends, nor insulted by servants, but rather having many to comfort them, some by words, some by deeds; of how noble crowns must not he be worthy, who seeing what he had gotten together by honest labor, snatched away from him for nought and at random, and after all that, undergoing temptations without number, like sleet, yet throughout all abides unmoved, and offers to the Lord his due thanksgiving for it all?

Why, though no one had spoken any of the other taunts, yet his wife’s words alone were sufficient utterly to shake a very rock. Look, for example, at her craft. No mention of money, none of camels, and flocks, and herds, (for she was conscious of her husband’s self command with regard to these), but of what was harder to bear than all these, I mean, their children; and she deepens the tragedy, and adds to it her own influence.

Now if when men were in wealth, and suffering no distress, in many things and oft have women prevailed on them: imagine how courageous was that soul, which repulsed her, assaulting him with such powerful weapons, and which trod under foot the two most tyrannical passions, desire and pity. And yet many having conquered desire, have yielded to pity. That noble Joseph, for instance, held in subjection the most tyrannical of pleasures, and repulsed that strange woman, plying him as she did with innumerable devices; but his tears he contained not, but when he saw his brethren that had wronged him, he was all on fire with that passion, and quickly cast off the mask, and discovered the part he had been playing.7 But when first of all she is his wife, and when her words are piteous, and the moment favorable for her, as well as his wounds and his stripes, and those countless waves of calamities; how can one otherwise than rightly pronounce the soul impassive to so great a storm to be firmer than any adamant?

Allow me freely to say, that the very apostles, if not inferior to this blessed man, are at least not greater than he was. For they indeed were comforted by the suffering for Christ; and this medicine was so sufficient daily to relieve them, that the Lord puts it everywhere, saying, “for me, for my sake,” and, “If they call me, the master of the house, Beelzebub.”1 But he was destitute of this encouragement, and of that from miracles, and of that from grace; for neither had he so great power of the Spirit.

And what is yet greater, nourished in much delicacy, not from amongst fishermen, and publicans, and such as lived frugally, but after enjoyment of so much honor, he suffered all that he did suffer. And what seemed hardest to bear in the case of the apostles, this same he also underwent, being hated of friends, of servants, of enemies, of them who had received kindness of him: and the sacred anchor, the harbor without waves, namely, that which was said to the apostles, “for my sake,” of this he had no sight.

I admire again the three children, for that they dared the furnace, that they stood up against a tyrant. But hear what they say, “We serve not thy Gods, nor worship the image which thou hast set up.”2 A thing which was the greatest encouragement to them, to know of a certainty that for God they are suffering all whatsoever they suffer. But this man knew not that it was all conflicts, and a wrestling; for had he known it, he would not have felt what was happening. At any rate, when he heard, “Thinkest thou that I have uttered to thee mine oracles for nought, or that thou mightest be proved righteous?”3 consider how straightway, at a bare word, he breathed again, how he made himself of no account, how he accounted himself not so much as to have suffered what he had suffered, thus saying, “Why do I plead any more, being admonished and reproved of the Lord, hearing such things, I being nothing?”4 And again, “I have heard of Thee before, as far as hearing of the ear; but now mine eye hath seen Thee; wherefore I have made myself vile, and have melted away; and I accounted myself earth and ashes.”5

This fortitude then, this moderation, of him that was before law and grace, let us also emulate, who are after law and grace; that we may also be able to share with him the eternal tabernacles; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the victory forever and ever. Amen.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 28

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 23, 2018


In this chapter, the Evangelist gives an account of our Lord’s resurrection, on Easter morning, and of the wonderful occurrences that took place in connexion with it—the earthquake, the appearance of angels at the tomb, the terror and stupefaction that seized on the guards (Mt 28:1–4). The consoling assurances on this head, given to the pious women, who came early to the sepulchre, by the angel who also instructed them to go at once and inform His disciples of the fact. On their way home, our Lord Himself meets them, and dispels all their fears (Mt 28:5–10). The obstinate impenitence of the Chief Priests, and their determined resistance to the known truth, in bribing the soldiers, with a large sum of money, to tell an unmeaning lie, viz., that the disciples came while they were asleep, and stole away our Lord’s body (Mt 28:11–15). The apparition of our Lord to His Apostles on a mountain of Galilee, where He communicates to them the plenitude of His authority, armed with which they are commanded to go forth, as His legates, to preach the glad tidings of Redemption, to the end of time, to the entire world. He further promises them and their successors, to the end of the world, His never-ceasing, uninterrupted protection, to guard them against error and tenure them against failure, while engaged in their glorious work, of saving the world.


Mt 28:1. “And in the end of the Sabbath, when it began to dawn,” &c. Commentators labour under some difficulty in reconciling the apparent discrepancy between St. Matthew’s own assertions here, viz., 1st., that the event took place “in the end of the Sabbath,” which was evening, as the words are rendered here by the Vulgate interpreter, “Vespere autem Salbbati;” and, 2ndly, that it occurred, “when it began to dawn,” early in the morning; and also between St. Matthew and the three other Evangelists, who expressly say, it occurred “very early in the morning, the sun being now risen” (Mark 16:2; Luke 24:1); “on the first day of the week, it being yet dark” (John 20:1). These apparent difficulties and contradictions will disappear by recurring to the original, in which the words rendered by the Vulgate, “Vespere Sabbati,” “in the end of the Sabbath” (οψὲ δὲ σαββὰτων), literally and strictly mean, late, or long, after the Sabbath days, or week had terminated. “When”—the entire night having intervened—“it began to dawn towards the first day of the week,” that is, when the early dawn of the day, which was the first of the week, began. The Greek is, εις μιαν των σαββατων, unto one (or, first) of the Sabbaths. The cardinal one is put, by Hebrew usage, for the ordinal, first. “Sabbaths,” in the plural, merely designates the week, or seven days of the week. Called Sabbath, according to Hebrew usage, in honour of the great day of rest, “jejuno bis in Sabbato,” says the Pharisee in the Gospel. The days were called first, second, &c., of the Sabbath, according to the order they held in reference to the Sabbath-day.

Then, the event here referred to, occurred long after the Sabbath had ended (οψε τῶν σαββατῶν). For, an entire night had intervened. The Evangelist next specifies at what precise hour it occurred, viz., at that time of the morning following the Sabbath, when it began to dawn, towards the first of the Sabbath-days (εις μιαν των σαββατῶν). This explanation fully removes any apparent discrepancy between St. Matthew’s own assertions, as referred to above; and also between him and the other Evangelists. The only point to be still cleared up is, how the words of St. Mark, “the sun be now risen,” can be reconciled with the words of the others, who say, “it was only beginning to dawn; that it was very early;” and St. John says, “it was yet dark.” Without recurring to the hypothesis, that there is question of different visits, or of different persons, in the words of the Evangelists—an hypothesis which is now generally rejected, as it is universally, held that there is but question of the same visit and the same persons in the narrative of the four Evangelists—the words are commonly reconciled in this way. The other Evangelists speak of the time the pious women left home for the sepulchre, which was before the sun had risen, darkness being still over the earth; whereas, St. Mark speaks of the time they had actually arrived, the sun having risen above the horizon, in the interval between their leaving home and their arrival at the monument. And while the words of the other Evangelists convey to us an idea of the anxious care and pious sedulity of the holy women who left home in the darkness, immediately preceding day, the words of St. Mark clearly express what we should naturally expect, viz., that these pious women would hardly have ventured to come to the monument before daybreak. Others, with St. Augustine, who give the Greek aorist for “risen,” a present signification, say, the words of St. Mark mean, “sole oriente,” when the sun was rising, and the shades of darkness were still brooding over the earth. Any further apparent difference observable in the narrative of the Evangelists may be accounted for, if we bear in mind that no one of them describes all the circumstances of the resurrection. One describes circumstances omitted by the other. “Vespere Sabbati,” is taken for the entire night succeeding the Sabbath. Vespere is sometimes used in this sense, in Scripture, “evening and morning was one day.” Should the Greek word, οψε, rendered vespere, be taken for night; then, the words, “when it began to dawn.” &c., show at what particular time of the night the occurrence in question took place, viz., at its close, when morning was breaking upon them.

“Came Mary Magdalen”—referred to (Mt 27:61)—“and the other Mary,” viz., Mary of Cleophas, the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15:40–47). Although there were other women with them (Luke 23:55); still, these are specially mentioned, as being the leaders, distinguished beyond the rest, for their pious sedulity and the manifestation of ardent and intense love for our Blessed Redeemer. St. Mark (Mk 16:1), mentions, “Mary, the mother of James and Salome.” St. Luke adds, “Joanna” (24:10), “and the other women that were with them.” This Joanna, he tells us elsewhere (Lk 8:3), was the wife of Chusa, Herod’s steward.

These pious women “came to see the sepulchre,” with the ulterior object of embalming the body with the spices they had previously purchased (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1). These spices they purchased on the evening of Friday, before the Sabbath commenced, and in the meantime they rested (Luke 23:56). St. Mark (16:1), insinuates, that it was on the evening after the Sabbath, they bought these spices. Hence, some interpreters say, that St. Luke describes this buying of the spices, by anticipation; while others say, both accounts are literally true. They bought some on Friday evening; and finding the quantity insufficient, they purchased more after the Sabbath was over, on Saturday evening. Most likely, these women were ignorant of the precaution taken by the Chief Priests, in placing a guard of soldiers, and sealing the mouth of the holy sepulchre, having returned home on Friday evening, before these occurrences took place. Had the Blessed Virgin been with them, she, surely, would have been mentioned. Her faith and her knowledge of His approaching resurrection, prevented her from taking any part in this pious preparation for embalming Him, as she knew it to be quite useless.

It is not mentioned at what precise hour our Redeemer had arisen, nor can we know for certain, as St. Jerome informs us. It occurred some time before the holy women had arrived, early in the morning. Some holy Fathers (Cyril of Alexandria, &c.), say, it was the hour before midnight. Others, early in the morning. Hence, St. Mark says (Mk 16:9), He arose “early the first day of the week,” before the sun rose. His resurrection, or rather His glorious Nativity in His resurrection, is referred to no less than His first birth of the Virgin, in the words of the Royal Psalmist, “ex utero ante luciferum genui te.” For, St. Paul tells us (Acts 13:33), that in His resurrection are verified the words “Filius meus es tu, ego hodie genui te.” St. Augustine (apud Prosperum senten. 203), observes, that He was born at midnight; died at noon; rose at morning; and ascended at mid-day.

Mt 28:2. “And behold there was a great earthquake.” “Behold,” conveys that this earthquake occurred immediately in connexion with the approach of the women, on their way, just before arriving at the sepulchre. Hence, it was different from that which occurred at His death. As an earthquake occurred at Christ’s death, so did it also at His resurrection, and that “a great” one. It was not for the purpose of displacing the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre and opening it for our Redeemer to come forth, that the earthquake occurred. For, as the holy Fathers tell us, our Redeemer came forth in virtue of the glorious gift of subtilty, without displacing the stone, or, breaking the seal, or causing any separation of their component parts, just as He came forth from His mother’s womb, or entered the chamber where His Apostles were assembled, after His resurrection, the door being shut. Moreover, we know when the earthquake occurred; but no one could say when precisely the resurrection took place, although it is quite certain, it took place before the earthquake in question. But, it took place for the purpose of displaying the majesty of God, in the person of His Angels. For, in SS. Scriptures, an earthquake denotes the presence and power of God (Psa. 68:8-9; 98; 104:7)—and here the power of Christ, who, having broken the gates of death and taken away the spoils of hell, arose powerfully, thus giving an idea of the commotion which the preaching of His resurrection would cause throughout the earth; also, for the purpose of rousing the guards to a full consciousness of the presence of the Angels, and the event of the resurrection.

“For an Angel of the Lord descended from heaven.” Here is assigned the cause of the earthquake. It was caused by the descent and power of the Angel.

“And coming, rolled back the stone.” The Greek reading is: For, the Angel of the Lord having descended (καταβας), from heaven, and having come (προσελθων), rolled, &c. These words show by whose agency the stone was rolled back. The Angel had thus shown to the women, that the sepulchre was empty, Christ having already risen.

“And sat upon it.” This he did, in order to show that it was he rolled it back, and also, that he was the guard of his Lord’s sepulehre, as St. Jerome expresses it. For, some persons might introduce another body, and endeavour to show that our Lord had not risen. Most likely, there is question of the same Angel referred to by St. Mark (Mk 16:5), whom, he tells us, the women saw, “on entering the sepulchre.” How to reconcile this with St. Matthew’s account, who insinuates that it was outside the sepulchre he sat on the stone (see next verse).

Mt 28:3. “And his countenance was as lightning,” &c. Besides wishing to show His heavenly origin, and the glory of the resurrection of the Divine Master whom they served, the Angels had also exhibited themselves in this brilliant, glorious form, with the view principally, of terrifying the guards, and deterring them from throwing any obstacle in the way of the pious women. And that this consequence resulted, appears from the following verse.

Commentators are somewhat perplexed in endeavouring to reconcile the apparently conflicting statements made by the four Evangelists with reference to the number, position, and apparition of the Angels on this occasion.

(a). Matthew and Mark speak of only one Angel; Luke and John, of two. The answer commonly given is, that two Angels appeared on the occasion. But, as Matthew and Mark had chiefly in view, to mention what the Angels said to the women, and as only one of them, most likely, addressed them; hence, they make no mention of the second. While, on the other hand, Luke and John, having chiefly in view, to show that the resurrection of our Lord was proved by the apparition of the Angels, speak of the two witnesses—the number required in every case of proof. Two are also mentioned at His ascension, as witnesses, that He was to return in the same manner from heaven. Or, it may be said, that the women saw one Angel, at one time; and two, at another; one, outside, sitting on the stone, who terrified the guards; and on coming nearer, and looking in, they saw two Angels, when the one that was on the right said, “Why seek you Him that is living,” &c.

(b). Matthew insinuates that the Angel sat on the stone outside the monument. For, it was rolled back from the mouth of the monument, and thus outside it; while St. Mark, who speaks of only one, and St. John, who speaks of two Angels, say it was inside the tomb the holy women saw them. The most probable answer is, that when St. Mark speaks of their “entering into the sepulchre” (Mk 16:5), he speaks of their preparing to enter. They saw the Angel inside the monument, inasmuch as the stone was placed within the enclosure which divided the monument from the rest of the garden.

(c). Matthew and Mark say, he sat; Luke, that he was standing. But, the word, standing, in Scriptural usage, indicates more the presence than the position of an object, “de his stantibus, non gustabunt mortem,” that is, who are present. Also Luke (Lk 7:37, 38; 18:11); John (Jn 1:26), or they might have sat at one time; and stood at another.

(d). St. John speaks of Magdalen only, as having seen the Angels (Jn 20:12). The other Evangelists speak of others besides, having seen them. But, this was owing to the fact, that the Evangelists omitted severally to mention all the circumstances of the resurrection. There is no contradiction between the Evangelists, one of whom mentions one circumstance which was merely omitted, but not denied, by the other. One Evangelist speaks of Mary Magdalen only, as the principal among those that came, but does not deny that others also came. In like manner, when St. John (Jn 20:2), says, she came to Peter and John, he does not contradict St. Luke, who says (Lk 24:10), that she and others announced the resurrection to the eleven. St. John does not deny this. For, as she did not come alone, although St. John makes express mention of her only, being the principal among the women that came, most remarkable for her ardent love and anxiety for our Lord; so, in like manner, she did not go to the two Apostles only, although they alone are mentioned by St. John; because, it was to those principally among the eleven, Magdalen spoke, as being the Apostles who most ardently loved our Lord. There is no contradiction between two writers, one of whom says less, the other more, by supplementing the former. The apparent contradiction between St. Luke (Lk 24:9), who says, they told the eleven the things they saw and heard; and St. John, who says, Magdalen said, in doubt, “they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him,” which doubt could hardly be consistent with the vision and words of the Angels, may be thus explained: The women, even after the vision of the Angels, could hardly be induced to believe firmly in our Lord’s resurrection, and therefore, while announcing the vision and words of the Angels, they also expressed their doubts and fears; and as St. John said nothing of the account given to the eleven, respecting the Angels, he supplies what the other Evangelists omit, regarding the expression of her doubts and fears. It is observed, regarding the Evangelists, in the several narratives, that each so continues and connects his own account, as if none of the particular circumstances supplied by the others were omitted. That St. Luke makes mention of the same announcement made to the Apostles, recorded by St. John, appears plain, from the words (Lk 24:24), “And some of our people went to the sepulchre,” &c. Hence, more than Peter (Mt 28:12) went, as St. John declares (Jn 20:3).

(e). Magdalen, according to St. John (Jn 20:2), announces the removal of the stone, and says nothing of the Angels. But, it can be answered in a general way, that each Evangelist does not relate all the circumstances. It may be also said, in a special way, that, as the three other Evangelists agree in stating that Mary Magdalen and the women saw the Angels at their first approach, we must take their united and uniform testimony as clearly proving the fact. Then, most likely, St. John, out of anxiety to prove the resurrection, from his own testimony, and that of St. Peter, who went with him to the tomb, passes over the occurrences prior to this, relating to the vision of the Angels, and thus inverts the order in which things occurred. He mentions the apparition of the Angels, in the second place (Jn 20:12).—Maldonatus.

St. Luke says (Lk 24:9), the women mentioned to the eleven all that occurred. But, this might apply to the other Apostles, after Peter and John left for the sepulchre.

Mt 28:4. “And for fear of Him the guards were struck with terror.” Not a fear of human punishment, which the absence of our Lord’s body might entail; but, a sudden panic, with which they were preternaturally struck at the presence of the Angel—a fear, lest lightning from heaven might consume them; or, the earth swallow them.

“And became like dead men.” owing to the paleness of their countenances, and the stupor which seized on them, not, however to the extent of rendering them perfectly senseless; for, God had providentially so arranged, that they were capable of giving testimony in proof of our Lord’s resurrection (Mt 28:11).

Mt 28:5. “Answering,” by a Hebrew usage, signifies, commencing to speak. “Said to the women,” Magdalen among the rest; for, she was present, though this is denied by some. “Fear not you,” as if to say: Let the guards and enemies of our Lord fear, who put Him to a cruel death, and endeavour still to impede the glory of His resurrection. As for you, who have come on an errand of charity and devout affection, there is no ground for fear, but rather for joy. “For I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.” I am fully aware of your object in coming here; you are engaged in the service of Him of whom I am but the minister. “Crucified,” to convey, that from the Cross of Christ have flown all blessings, salvation to men, glory to God, and perseverance to the Angels St. Mark adds, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified” (Mk 16:6).

Mt 28:6. “He is not here”—not, that He is taken away; but, rather by His own omnipotent power—“He is risen, as He said.” He has fully verified His promise of rising on the third day, and thus furnished the most undoubted grounds for your faith, so that if you believe not me, believe His own sacred words, whom you have followed as a great Prophet, incapable of deceiving or telling you a lie. “Come,” have a proof of it yourselves, enter the monument, “and see the place where the Lord was laid,” the common Lord of all, Angels and men; no other than the everlasting God Himself.

St. Luke quotes different words, as spoken by the Angels: “Why seek you the living among the dead?” (Lk 24:5). St. John: “Woman, why weepest thou?” (Jn 20:13). All the words recorded by the Evangelists were spoken by the Angels. First, the women, on approaching and seeing the stone removed, began to weep—Magdalen alone is said to have wept. “Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping” (John 20:11). But although the others also wept; still, she alone is mentioned as being the chief among them. Next, entering the sepulchre, the Angels said to them, “Why weep ye?” Then, Magdalen answering on behalf of all, said, “Because they have taken away my Lord,” &c. (Jn 20:13). Then, the Angel speaking for himself and the other Angel, said, “Be not affrighted; you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified” (Mark 16:6). “Why seek you the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5), as if rebuking them for their want of faith. “He is risen; He is not here;” and then he ordered them to announce the joyous tidings to the disciples (as in following verse).

Mt 28:7. “Going quickly, tell His disciples”—who are now sorrowing for the death of their Master, the joyous news—“that He is risen.” St. Mark adds (Mk 16:7), “and Peter,” to show his singular regard for him who was at all times most ardent in his love for his Master; whom He made the head of His Church, His own vicar on earth. He probably wished to encourage Peter, lest a recollection of his fall might cause him to hesitate about coming with the rest (St. Gregory.)

“And behold He will go before you.” &c. The Greek (προαγει), is in the present tense: “He goeth before you.” But the present tense here has a future signification, He will go. It might also mean, He is resolved, prepared, to go before you; and no matter what haste you may make, He shall be before you, as in virtue of the glorious gift of subtilty, His glorified body would be transported there in an instant. “There you shall see Him.” No doubt, our Blessed Lord had manifested Himself to the women and disciples in Jerusalem and at Emmaus; but He did so in a transient and private way, to confirm their wavering faith. It was only in Galilee where He had most followers, having performed there most of His wonders, and devoted most of His time to preaching, and where His followers would be farthest away from those that would molest them, that He was determined to manifest Himself publicly to His assembled Apostles, and to great numbers at once (1 Cor. 15:6). It was there He conversed familiarly with them for forty days, and “showed Himself alive after His Passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking to them of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). In Judea, where He had been often persecuted, and where His disciples could not well assemble, from fear of the Jews, He did not show Himself in this public manner.

“There you shall see Him.” The women, too, are not excluded from the privilege of seeing Him in Galilee.

“Lo, I have foretold it to you,” as if to say, when it shall have come to pass, you will derive fresh grounds of belief from the fact of My having told you of it beforehand; or, as if he said, I have now discharged my office, by announcing to you, on the part of God, what is to happen. St. Mark has (Mk 16:7), “as he told you,” as if the Angel was only quoting our Lord’s own prediction and promise on the subject, in order to gain credit for his words.

(For Moral Reflections, see Mark 16:6).

Mt 28:8. “With fear,” or rather, awe, produced by the appearance of the Angels at the sepulchre, and the announcement of the resurrection of their Lord, and anxiety lest these things might be spectral appearances, rather than realities. “And great joy,” caused by the joyous tidings they heard. They felt mingled sensations of awe and joy.

“Running to tell His disciples,” viz., “to the eleven, and to all the rest” (Luke 24:9). What they announced to the eleven, St. Matthew does not say, but St. Luke tells us, “they told all these things,” viz., the apparition of the Angels, and the taking away of our Lord’s body (John 20:2).

The apparent discrepancy between the account of what the women announced, as recorded in St. Luke 24, and St. John 20:2, is easily cleared up. The women being timid, and in doubt whether the whole thing was a reality or not, said nothing of it on their way back (Mark 16:8), and when they reached the Apostles, they informed them alternately of what they saw and heard, and of their own doubts and fears on the subject, which made them imagine our Lord’s body was taken away. This latter point, regarding their doubts, is recorded by St. John only (Jn 20:2), and omitted by the other Evangelists. The Apostles, too, in the first instance, regarded the women’s account “as an idle tale, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11).

Here, we must insert what is described by St. John (Jn 20:2–19), in order to fill up the Gospel narrative, and remove the apparent discrepancies in the narratives of the Evangelists. Magdalen and her companions, in obedience to the Angels injunctions, hasten to Jerusalem from the sepulchre, to announce to the Apostles what they saw and heard (Luke 24:9). While doing this, they give expression to their own fears and doubts (John 20:2). (Some expositors hold that at her first visit Magdalen did not wait for the vision of Angels seen by the other women, she at once, on seeing the stone removed, hastened back to tell the Apostles. This opinion is not easily reconciled with Luke 24:9-10.) Immediately, Peter and John hasten to the sepulchre, followed by Magdalen and her companions. Peter and John enter the sepulchre, and return home, wondering at what they saw. The companions of Magdalen also return, leaving Magdalen behind them, weeping from fear, and a desire to find the body of our Lord. While stooping down and looking into the sepulchre, she saw two Angels, who were exhibiting reverence to our Lord, who was standing behind Magdalen. On looking behind her, to see who it was that the Angels were reverencing, she saw our Lord, and mistook Him for the gardener in charge of the garden where the sepulchre was. But immediately after recognizing Him, from His usual tone of voice, when pronouncing her name, she would lay hold of His feet (Jn 20:9), which in Scripture denotes a species of adoration; but this He would not allow. Magdalen was, then, the first to whom, according to the Gospel History, our Lord showed Himself after His resurrection (Mark 16:9). She merited this favour by her love and affection, owing to which she clung to the sepulchre where His sacred body had been deposited. After this, overtaking the other women on their way (verse 9), she had the privilege of seeing Him a second time, in company with these others. It is supposed by many, as a matter of congruity—although the Gospel makes no mention of it—that He appeared first of all to His Blessed Mother, on the day of His resurrection.

Mt 28:9. “And Jesus met them saying,” &c. This occurred on their second return from the sepulchre, after the Apostles had left, Mary Magdalen remaining alone after them at the tomb. That it could not refer to the first time they ran back in haste to inform the Apostles of what they saw and heard, expressing at the same time their anxious doubts about His sacred body, appears clear from the fact, that from SS. Mark and John, it is certain that our Lord appeared to Magdalen first, early on the morning of His resurrection, and that at the tomb, not on the road. Moreover, the women said nothing of our Lord appearing to them, when first they announced these things to the Apostles (John 20:2; Luke 24:9, Lk 23, 24). It was on their return, after the Apostles had examined the tomb, that this apparition occurred to the women, and to Mary Magdalen, who had overtaken them, after having seen Him already alone at the sepulchre.

Maldonatus, quoting the authority of St. Athanasius, holds, that the apparition referred to is the same as that in Mark (Mk 16:9; John 20:16), which was made to Magdalen only; and that Magdalen alone is mentioned by St. Mark as having been first favoured with the apparition of our Lord, not in opposition to the other women, but to the Apostles; or, that she was the first among them who saw Him, and to her alone did He speak; and that she is spoken of alone out of the rest, because she was the most prominent among them for her love and deep affection for Him.

“All hail”—χαιρετε—is a common Hebrew form of salutation, expressive of peace, and embracing all blessings. It means, rejoice at the glad event, which has thrown open the gates of heaven, after the triumph over death and hell, and has reversed the malediction entailed by the first woman. Hence, as death commenced with the female sex, it was congruous, that the message of the resurrection—the triumph over death—should be first announced to the same (St. Hilary).

“They came up,” after recognizing Him, “and took hold of His feet,” out of modesty and reverence; they decline embracing His person. Among the Jews, it was a kind of reverence and adoration, particularly on the part of women towards men, to touch their feet (Exod. 4:25); also the case of the woman of Sunamis (2 Kings 4:27; also Luke 7:38; John 11:32). The women here touch His feet, with the view of adoring Him, which is afterwards explained. “And adored Him.” It is said, that He forbade Magdalen on the occasion of His first apparition (John 20:17) to touch Him. Whether He did so here, and that the women, in the excess of their love, still touched Him, thinking they were doing Him honour, as in the case of the blind men in the Gospel, who proclaimed His goodness, nowithstanding His prohibition (Jn 9:30-31), is not mentioned by the Evangelist. Neither does St. John say whether Magdalen touched Him or not. St. John tells us, He told Magdalen not to touch Him; whether she actually did so or not, he does not say. St. Matthew tells us here, that the other women actually took hold of His feet; whether they were prohibited from doing so or not, is not mentioned by him.

Mt 28:10. Whilst they were engaged in reverently and affectionately adoring their Lord with mingled feelings of awe and affection, “Jesus said to them: Fear not.” The presence of spiritual and supernatural beings is calculated to inspire mortal man with awe and terror. Hence, the awe and fear which the women felt at the presence of their Lord risen from the tomb. Most likely, also, their fears arose from the apprehension, as in the case of the Angels, lest what they saw might be a phantom rather than a reality. Our Redeemer, addressing them, dispels their fears, from whatever cause proceeding, and tells them:

“Go, tell My brethren that they go into Galilee,” &c. By “His brethren,” are meant all His Apostles, including those who were nearly allied to Him by kindred. Our Redeemer is supposed here to allude to the words of the Psalm 22:23, “Narrabo nomen tuum fratribus meis,” quoted by St. Paul (Heb. 2:12). During His mortal life, He called them His disciples and friends; now, risen glorious and immortal from the dead, He designates them by the tender and endearing appellation of “brethren,” to assuage their grief for His death, strengthen their minds, and inspire them with confidence; to show, that, although He is now glorious, still He participates in the same human nature; and also to suggest to them, that while He is the natural Son of God, the first-born among many brethren, they are the adoptive sons of God, heirs of God, and co-heirs of Christ. He transmits the same message, that had been already given by the Angels (verse 7) to confirm the testimony of the Angels, and to show that His words and theirs perfectly agreed.

“There they shall see Me” (Mt 28:7). He manifested Himself to them shortly after this in Jerusalem, but it was only in a passing, transient way: whereas, in Galilee He remained many days, freely conversing with them on all matters pertaining to the future government of His Church, &c.

Our Redeemer manifested Himself several times in Judea. On the day of His resurrection, He showed Himself five different times—1st, to Magdalen (Mark 16:9; John 20:16)—most probably, before all, He appeared to His Virgin Mother; 2nd, to the women (verse 9); 3rd, to Peter (Luke 24:34); 4th, to the disciples going to Emmaus (Luke 24:36); 5th, to the ten assembled disciples, after the return of the two from Emmaus (Luke 24:36), Thomas being absent.

After the day of His resurrection, He appeared five other times before His ascension—1st. After eight days, when Thomas was present (John 20:26). 2nd. When the seven disciples were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:2). 3rd. To the eleven on a mountain of Galilee, generally supposed to be Thabor (Matt. 28:16). Most likely, this is the apparition referred to by St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:6), where “He was seen by more than five hundred brethren at once.” The Evangelist only makes mention of the eleven, who saw Him by appointment; he does not, however, say by how many more He was seen, on that occasion. 4th. He appeared to St. James (1 Cor. 15:7); this is not mentioned in the Gospel. 5th. To all the Apostles and others, on Mount Olivet, at His Ascension (Acts 1:9). He appeared to St. Paul afterwards (Acts 9:3; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8).

The apparition of our Lord at the Sea of Tiberias, is called by St. John (Jn 21:14), the “third;” but, this probably means, the third public appearance, in an assembly of His disciples, or, it may refer to the number of the days He appeared. He appeared, first, on the day of His resurrection, to several persons; secondly, eight days afterwards; and then on a third day, referred to here by St. John.

Mt 28:11. “Now when they were departed.” This, according to some (Jansenius, &c.) refers to the first departure of the women to announce to Peter and the Apostles the vision of Angels, the absence of the body, &c., although recorded after the second departure of the women, when the Apostles had returned home, on seeing the truth of the accounts given by the women.

“Some of the guards came into the city,” &c. These, most likely, proceeded in the name of the entire, to announce what they witnessed about the vision of Angels, the earthquake, &c. It is most likely, however, that it refers to the second return, or departure of the women after the Apostles had been at the tomb. It was only after the Apostles had departed, and the women followed them, that the terror which the soldiers conceived from the appearance of the Angels had left them, God so arranging it, that they were, as it were, kept spell-bound, during the entire time, so that they would not interfere with the Apostles, any more than they had done with the women, on their first approach, at early dawn, and would be in a position to give unquestionable testimony regarding all the circumstances, which placed beyond doubt, the truth of the resurrection. It was when the women and the Apostles departed, and the terror of the soldiers was removed, that “some of the guards” went to announce all they saw to the Chief Priests, by whom they were appointed, with Pilate’s sanction, to guard the sepulchre. “Some of them,” but not all, as otherwise they would have violated the duty of watching the sepulchre till the end of the third day, the morning of which had then arrived. They “told, the Chief Priests all the things that had been done,” already narrated by the Evangelists, regarding the vision of Angels, the earthquake, the removal of the stone, the absence of the body, &c., all which, very likely, they themselves, before leaving, most closely examined and ascertained. This they did, for two reasons—1st, to render an account of their own duty, lest they might be accused of neglect, or perfidy, or corruption before the Governor; and, 2ndly, to give the Chief Priests, &c., an opportunity of devising by what means they could prevent the rumour, relative to the resurrection, from being circulated among the people.

Mt 28:12. “Together with the ancients.” The Scribes also were there assembled, as one of the three orders which composed the Chief Council among the Jews. They adopted the wicked design of bribing the soldiers into falsehood. “A great sum of money,” such a sum as would exceed that promised for guarding the sepulchre, and would tell on the avaricious minds of the soldiery. “To the soldiers,” all the soldiers who were stationed at the tomb, were witnesses of the truth of the things related by those who came to the High Priests. These princes of the Jewish nation, persisting in their malice, refused to turn to God, and wished to persuade the world that Jesus was not risen; and sacrificed to the purposes of falsehood, the money given for the use of the temple. As they gave Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray his Master, so they now offer a large sum of money to suppress a truth so useful and so necessary for man (St. Jerome).

Mt 28:13. Nothing can more clearly demonstrate the blind and inexcusable perversity of the Jewish princes, than their conduct in reference to the soldiers; whose testimony was irrefragable, and beyond all suspicion; and, yet, far from yielding, they oppose the known truth, and wilfully endeavour to corrupt the minds of the soldiery, to testify to what they knew to be false. Moreover, they exhibit, in the clearest light, their own stupid folly. They prevail on the soldiers to testify to what, according to their own admission, they were in a condition to know nothing of, “Testes dormientes adhibes?” jeeringly exclaims St. Augustine, in a tone of merited scorn, “vere tu ipse obdormisti, qui scrutando talia defecisti,” in Psalm 64. The whole story of the soldiers was most absurd, and carried with it its own refutation, and, in truth, furnished an additional argument of our Redeemer’s resurrection. It shows the utter desperation the Jewish princes must have been reduced to, when they had recourse to so ridiculous a device. If the Priests themselves were not convinced of the fact, would they not, instead of bribing the soldiers to dissemble, have accused them before Pilate of a breach of military duty? It is preposterous to suppose, that weak, timid men, who dared not defend their Master, nay, who deserted Him while alive, would come, in defiance of an armed soldiery, to steal away His body, and remove the stone, which it required a good many hands to remove; and this with the foolish view of causelessly perpetuating an impudent fraud of which themselves would have been, in the supposition made, the deluded victims. Why not steal away His body on Friday night, before the guards were set to watch it on Saturday? The mouth of the sepulchre was also sealed. Why not take away the clothes which St. Peter saw lying in the sepulchre, and avoid the delay of taking off His clothes and the napkin that bound His head? The removal of these clothes, particularly as they must have adhered to His body, which was anointed, would cause much delay and danger to themselves.

The story of the soldiers, so clumsily invented, only rendered the fact of the resurrection the more certain; for, it admitted the body was not in the tomb. Hence, the fears and doubts of the disciples, joined to the foolish story of the soldiers, demonstrate most clearly, that the whole affair of the stealing of the body was a clumsy, unmeaning invention. Moreover, how could it be possible that Roman soldiers would all have slept, when their lives were in danger? and even, had they slept, that they would not be roused by the noise which the removal of the stone must have caused? Avarice blinded the soldiers to give circulation to this absurd story, as it had blinded the unhappy Judas, “avaritia illa quæ captivavit discipulum, comitem Christi, captivavit et militem custodem sepulchri” (St. Augustine).

It is likely, the princes of the Jews persuaded them, that, although our Lord had risen, still it was to a spiritual mode of living; that He would no more appear in His natural form; and, hence, there was no fear of their story being contradicted by His future appearance among the people.

Mt 28:14. They promised them security, in case of any investigation as to their dereliction of duty. Most likely, the Governor who had shown such weakness in condemning Jesus, whom he knew to be innocent, would be easily prevailed upon by the same influences to pardon the soldiers, in case any question were raised on the subject. But, that the soldiers secretly told the entire truth to Pilate, and testified to the truth of our Lord’s resurrection, and that Pilate informed Tiberius of the whole affair, who, therefore, wished to have Christ enrolled among the gods, is expressly stated by Hegesippus, in Anaceph. It is also stated by Tertullian (in Apologet. c. 5), and by Eusebius (in Chronico A. Christi. 38, Histor. Liber. ii., c. 2), that Pilate informed Tiberius of the matter, who threatened the accusers of the Christians with death, although, by a decree of the Fathers, it was fixed that the Christians should be driven from the city.

Mt 28:15. The soldiers, taking the money, did as the High Priests told them, viz., they declared that the body was stolen while they were asleep.

“And this word,” this ridiculous story about the stealing of the body of our Lord by His disciples, while the guard were asleep, which was put into the mouths of the soldiers, “was spread abroad among the Jews,” believed by most of them. He opposes “the Jews,” the unbelieving mass of the Jewish people, to the Christians converted from Judaism, and who were comparatively few. “Even unto this day,” nearly eight years after our Lord’s resurrection, when St. Matthew’s Gospel was written. The Jews, blinded by their passions, continued still in their obstinacy. Having refused to acknowledge the Divinity of our Lord, they denied the truth of His resurrection; and this blindness and hardness of heart shall continue among that accursed race, until the end of the world, when, according to the general belief, the veil shall be removed from their eyes, and the remnant of Israel shall be saved—“There shall come out of Sion He that shall deliver, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.” (Rom. 11:26).

Others, by “this word,” understand, not the foolish tale regarding the stealing of our Lord’s body, but, the rumour about the bribing of the soldiers with money, to induce them to tell a lie regarding the stealing of our Redeemer’s body (Maldonatus).

Mt 28:16. And the eleven disciples,” that is, Apostles, who were His chief disciples. He says, “the eleven,” since the twelfth, Judas, having already flung down to the Chief Priests the price of his treason, in despair, hanged himself (Mt 27:5).

“Went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” This apparition to the Apostles in Galilee did not take place till at least eight days after Easter day, as St. Augustine shows from the history of the Gospel (Lib. 3 de Consen. Evang., c. 25), and is clear from John (Jn 20:26, &c.) St. Matthew makes no mention of what occurred to the Apostles at Jerusalem, during the eight days following Easter day.

It is not mentioned by any of the Evangelists, when or where “Jesus had appointed” to meet His disciples on a mountain in Galilee. Probably, it was in one of His previous apparitions. Neither is it said, what the mountain is. It is quite certain it was not the mountain from which He ascended, as this was in Judea, near Jerusalem (Acts 1:12). Hence, it is commonly supposed to be Thabor, which St. Peter, from the several manifestations and operations of our Lord that occurred there, calls, “the holy mount” (2 Pet. 1:18). It is commonly supposed, that this was the remarkable apparition referred to by St. Paul (1 Cor. 15:6), when our Lord appeared to “more than five hundred brethren at once.” Probably, our Lord instructed His Apostles to gather together His followers in Galilee, to enjoy His presence on this occasion; although this is not mentioned by the Evangelists, any more than is His appointment regarding the mountain. St. Matthew makes no mention of any other apparition of our Lord to His disciples. This He mentions as being the most remarkable of all.

Mt 28:17. “And seeing Him they adored,” prostrated themselves before Him, confessing Him to be the eternal Son of God, now risen triumphant from the tomb. “But, some doubted.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the meaning of these words. It is not easy to see how, on this occasion, any of the Apostles doubted our Redeemer’s resurrection; for, even Thomas had already been convinced of it (John 20:28). Hence, many expositors refer the word, “doubted,” not to this occasion of His appearing on the mount; but, to the former occasion, when Thomas and, probably, others had entertained doubts when at Jerusalem; hence, they interpret the words to mean, “but some had doubted,” as if the words meant: They all now openly confess Him to be God, and adore Him, although heretofore, on some occasions, some of them had doubted (but now doubted no longer) the truth of His resurrection. And, as St. Matthew mentioned this as the first and only apparition of our Lord to His disciples, he probably, recorded, at the same time, what occurred at some of His preceding apparitions, viz., the doubts entertained by some of His Apostles regarding the reality of His resurrection. Others, who refer the words, “some doubted,” to the present occasion, understand them of some of the other disciples, and the five hundred followers of our Lord. It may also mean, that among the Apostles themselves, some doubted on this occasion, not the truth of His resurrection; but the reality or identity of His person, whether He was the Lord who had truly risen, just as the Apostles, seeing Him walk upon the sea, doubted if it were He, and not rather a ghost. Hence, our Redeemer, in order to dissipate their doubts—

Mt 28:18. “Coming” nearer, “spoke to them,” addressed them familiarly in His usual, well-known tone of voice, in order to remove every feeling of doubt and uneasiness. Many things were spoken by our Lord to His Apostles, during the forty days’ interval between His Resurrection and Ascension, respecting the future government of His Church—“speaking of the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). But St. Matthew records, out of the many things He treated of, only these which it was most important for us to know, and, particularly, the precept and power given to the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the entire earth, which was the summary of all He then said. In order, however, to inspire them with greater confidence in undertaking a work so arduous, and, humanly speaking (taking into account their former character and position, together with the perversity and intellectual powers of the world) to them impossible, He refers to the plenitude of power given Him in heaven and on earth, from which fulness of power their commission was derived.

“All power in given to Me in heaven,” &c. As God, He had all power from eternity; as man, He had, from His Incarnation, in virtue of the hypostatic union of the Divine Person with human nature, received all power, or, the power of excellence, as it is called. Besides, all power was given Him in a more eminent degree, which He merited by a special title, through His Passion and Cross, His humiliation and sufferings. While He might have referred to this triple power, it is to the latter He, most likely, refers here in particular. He merited, by His humiliations, to be exalted (Phil. 2:8-9).

His humanity, after His resurrection, being endowed with immortality, became, in a new form, sharer of the Divine glory and power; and, having despoiled the devil of his usurped dominion, obtained full power over the entire redeemed human race. It is, then, because He died and rose again triumphant from the tomb, that “all power was given to Him,” by His Father, “in heaven,” placing Him at His right hand, and proclaiming Him as the King of Angels; “and in earth,” to establish His Church, and gather her from all nations, to unite in one body all His members, and reign supremely over all creation. This universal dominion of Christ is referred to (Dan. 7:14; Eph. 1:20, &c.; Phil. 2:10, &c.; Acts 10:36, 42).

“All power,” means, perfect, absolute, full, unrestricted dominion “in heaven and earth” (Rev 17:14), that is, over all creatures, both in heaven and earth. As He had been humbled beneath all creatures; so, now, He is exalted beyond them all, and receives “all power,” that, is, dominion and right to govern them.

Mt 28:19. “Going, therefore,” since all power is given to Me, and, “therefore,” I have full authority to send you. Hence, as I am about to leave this world, and return to My Father, I send you, as I have a right to do, as My legates and visible representatives, to exercise power in My behalf.

“Teach all nations,” without distinction of Jew or Gentile. St. Mark (Mk 16:15) says, “going into the entire world.” What are they commissioned “to teach all nations?” St. Mark tells us, “preach the Gospel to every creature,” the tidings of salvation through Christ, the Gospel in which is contained “the science of salvation” (Luke 1:77), a knowledge of the necessary truths of faith, relative to the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption, remission of sins, &c. This is unlike His former mandate addressed to His Apostles, when they were first sent to the lost ones of the house of Israel—“in viam gentium ne abieritis.” The former mandate is now withdrawn; and He now tells them not to confine their ministrations to the narrow precincts of Judea; but, as He has ransomed the entire world, and received all nations as His inheritance, they were to instruct all nations, without exception or distinction, in the necessary truths of faith.

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father,” &c. After having instructed mankind, including Jew and Gentile, in the Faith, the Apostles were next to “baptize them.” Those whom you shall have discipled (which is the force of the Greek word, μαθητευσατε), and who shall have embraced My faith, you will next “baptize.” The necessity of baptism, as also its matter, had been already clearly expressed by our Redeemer (John 3:5). Although the matter of baptism is not clearly expressed here, the Church has, from the beginning, declared it to be natural water, and condemned all such as held the contrary, v.g., Hermias, &c., who held, that as the baptism of John was in water, and Christ’s “in the Holy Ghost and in fire,” Christian baptism was not to be administered in water. Baptism was instituted by our Redeemer in place of circumcision, as a sign for distinguishing and recognizing His followers, and as a proof of their incorporation with the body of His Church. It was, however, not a mere barren sign, but a sign operative of grace, cleansing from sin, and conferring the Holy Ghost. “He saved us by the lover of regeneration and renovation of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).

“In the name of the Father,” &c. The form of baptism is here assigned, which consists in the express invocation of the three Persons of the adorable Trinity, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Hence, the Church has, at all times, taught, that the essential form of baptism requires, besides expressing the act or baptizing, “Ego te baptize” (or, baptizetur servus Christi, which latter form—allowed only in the Greek Church—was declared valid by Eugene IV., ad Armenos), the express and distinct invocation of the Persons of the Blessed Trinity. And, although, according to some, this might not, strictly speaking, be proved from these words; still, the Apostles understood the words in this sense, and transmitted it so to the Church, which, from tradition, has pronounced the distinct invocation of the Trinity to be essential, and condemned all who asserted the contrary, such as the Marcionites and Priscillianists, whose baptism was condemned in the Council of Nice, because they did not employ the above form. The words, “in the name,” besides expressing the invocation of the name of the Blessed Trinity, expresses, also, invoking the virtue, power, Divinity of the Trinity, from which baptism derives all its efficacy. It was usual with the Jews to baptize, in their own form, all who were converted from the worship of false gods. Even with Pagan nations, it was customary to wash the entire bodies of such as wished to be initiated into their religious rites. Our Redeemer wished that no one should be introduced into His Church, unless, after profession of faith, through the mystical laver, whereby they are regenerated into spiritual life, and adopted into the Sonship of God. In the word, “name” (not, names), is expressed the unity of nature—nomen Trinitatis unus Deus (St. Jerome); and the distinct terms, “of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” separated by the copulative conjunction, express the Trinity of Persons in God. In a word, they express the adorable mystery of the Unity and Trinity of God, the foundation of Christian faith.

St. Mark (Mk 16:15,) expresses this commission in almost similar words. “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.” The “whole world,” embraces “all nations,” the Jews included; “every creature,” embraces all rational beings who were capable of profiting of the preaching of the Gospel. “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but, he that believeth not, shall be condemned.” The promise and threat contained in these words, involve a precept to confer and receive baptism. Hence, they are similar to the words of St. Matthew, “baptizing them in the name of the Father,” &c. The error of the Anabaptists, founded on the words, “he that believeth,” &c., is refuted by the universal practice and tradition of the Church conferring infant baptism. St. Augustine also refutes this error by saying, that infants do profess their faith through the sponsors and the Church, so that those who have sinned by the perverse will and act of another (viz., Adam), also believe they are justified and saved through the will and acts of others, viz., the Church and their sponsors. At all events, it is quite clear, the words here only regard adults; to them alone could the Gospel be preached. To them alone, could the words, “believe not,” which refers to positive rejection of the Gospel after it was preached to them, apply. From other sources, viz., tradition and the practice of the Church from the beginning, is derived a certain argument in favour of infant baptism.

The argument derived from this passage, in favour of the sufficiency of faith alone, is hardly worth noticing. The form, “he who believes,” &c., like every other affirmative proposition, always implies, provided there be no other obstacle; provided everything else be fulfilled. He speaks of faith, animated by charity and good works. Thus, v.g., we read, “he who shall invoke the name of the Lord, shall be saved,” which means: provided he do everything else required. For, we read elsewhere, “Not every one who says, Lord, Lord,” &c. (Mt 7:21.) Moreover, in these very words, more than faith is required, “he that believes and is baptized.” And in the words of St. Matthew, “Teaching them to observe,” &c., it is conveyed, that the observance of God’s Commandments is no less necessary for salvation than is faith.

Mt 28:20. “Teaching them to observe,” &c. This refers to the practical precepts and commandments which they should “observe,” by the performance of good works, after receiving faith and baptism. Besides faith, the observance of the Commandments, and the assiduous persevering practice of virtue, are indispensable for salvation.

Our Redeemer enjoins three things on His Apostles, intimately connected with one another, which they should perform on their mission, as His vicegerents throughout the whole world—1st. Preaching the doctrines of faith, “teach all nations.” The Greek word for “teach” (μαθητευσατε), is clearly expressive of dogmatic teaching. Hence, for it, St. Mark has, “preach the Gospel.” 2nd. The conferring of baptism, to introduce the nations into His Church. 3rd. The inculcation of a practical observance of His Commandments, and of the precepts of a holy life, “teaching them to observe,” &c. The Greek word for “teaching” (διδασκοντες), is well suited to express moral teaching.

Before baptism, they were to be instructed in what appertains to Christian faith; after it, in those things which appertain to morals and a holy Christian life, manifested by good works.

“And behold, I am with you,” &c. This glorious and magnificent promise, so consoling to all the children of the Church, was very opportunely subjoined by our Redeemer to the preceding command given to the Apostles to preach the Gospel to the nations of the earth. He enjoined on them a most arduous work, humanly speaking, impossible of accomplishment, considering, on the one hand, the position and character of the Apostles—weak, humble, illiterate, ignorant fishermen; and on the other, the intellectual pride and power of the world—the nature of the doctrines they were to propound, their opposition to the hitherto received maxims of the world, and their opposition to the corrupt and cherished passions of mankind. He was sending them, as lambs to conquer wolves. He was, moreover, Himself shortly to withdraw from them, and return in triumph to His Father. Any wonder, then, that they should be dispirited and desponding at the arduous work of converting the world, which lay before them? But, our Redeemer, at once, dispels all grounds for despondency. He tells them, that He will protect, assist, and strengthen them, as He had hitherto done, and promises that His never failing assistance, while they are engaged in His sacred work, shall be ready at hand when needed.

“And behold.” Ever bear in mind, what I am about communicating to you. It is this: “I am with you.” “I”—“to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth”—I, the Omnipotent God, the Eternal Son of the Eternal Father—the Word, from the beginning, by whom all things were made; I—who “have conquered the world”—“in whom the prince of the world has nothing—to whom My Father has promised to place all My enemies as a footstool under My feet—in whom all the fulness of the Divinity dwelleth corporally”—I, the Infallible Truth, who shall ever perform My promises. “Am,” unchangeably, unceasingly. (The present tense, “am,” is employed to convey His Immutability. It embraces all times, the future no less than the present.)

“With you,” not merely by My Omnipresence, as I am with all creation; not merely by the ordinary assistance of My grace, which is given to all men rightly disposed; but, in a singular way, granting you a special, extraordinary assistance, aiding assisting, protecting, guarding you from error or failure; so that you shall securely and infallibly succeed, as My representatives, in the heavenly work of preaching to the nations of the earth, converting them to My faith and Church.

“All days,” without a moment’s intermission, interruption, or interval. That this was the kind of assistance promised, is clear from the importance of the mission here confided to them—from the solemn manner in which our Redeemer previously invokes and appeals to the Divine and Supreme Power conferred on Him—also, from the form, “I am with you,” which implies, something singular and uncommon (Murray, de Ecclesia). It may also include, though not directly intended here, His abiding presence in the adorable Eucharist.

“Even to the consummation of the world.” Thus “showing,” as St. Jerome expresses it, “that they would always live (in their successors), and that He would never depart from the faithful.” “Qui usque ad consummationem sæculi se cum discipulis, futurum esse promittit et illos ostendit semper, esse victuros et se nunquam a credentibus recessurum” (St. Jerome).

That the words, “consummation of the world,” mean the end of time, and not the end of the age of the Apostles, or first age of the Christian era, as some Protestants pretend, is clear from this, that the assistance here promised is given for the mission of converting, baptizing, and teaching. The mission referred to and the assistance promised, are inseparably united, and connected with one another, “Go, teach,” &c., “And behold, I am,” &c. The words clearly show, that the assistance promised, was to ever accompany the work of the mission prescribed, and to cease only with its termination. Now, the mission of converting, &c., has not ceased with the Apostles, but, is to last in full force to the end of time. Hence, also, the assistance promised, is to continue in the Church till the end of ages. Moreover, it was promised for the conversion of “all nations.”

And hence, as this work of universal conversion could not be performed by the Apostles themselves in person, both it and the assistance annexed to it, were to continue in their successors, to the end of time.

From this text, is proved the indefectibility of the Church to the end of ages. 2ndly. Her unfailing sanctity, “vobiscum sum.” 3rdly. Her Catholicity, embracing “all nations,” which the efficacious promise of our Redeemer conveys. 4thly. Her Apostolicity. 5thly. Her Infallibility.

Similar is the promise, “And I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Paraclete, that He may abide with you for ever” (John 15:16). “But when He, the Spirit of truth, shall come, He will teach you all truth” (John 16:13). Christ’s remaining with His Church, being with them all days to the end of time, is the same as the Holy Ghost remaining. For, such assistance and permanent continuance with the Church, being an actus ad extra, are, like all operations, ad extra, ascribed to one. Person, common to the two other Persons of the adorable Trinity.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 27

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 23, 2018


In this chapter, the Evangelist records the second meeting of the Sanhedrin, early next morning, when they decided on having our Lord sent before the Governor, in order to obtain his sanction for the ignominious death they desired to inflict on Him (Mt 27:1–2). The fruitless repentance and sad end of the traitor, Judas (Mt 27:3–5). The hypocritical affectation of religious scruples on the part of the High Priests, who would not have the price of blood devoted to any other than charitable purposes, viz., the purchase of a burying-place for strangers, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zacharias relating to this very subject (Mt 27:6–10). The questioning of our Lord by Pontius Pilate, the Governor, who himself seemed to attach no weight to the clamours and false charges on the part of the Jews—the great wonder which our Redeemer’s silence, under the circumstances, caused him (Mt 27:11–14). Pilate’s idea of rescuing our Lord out of their hands, by proposing Him or Barabbas, as equally the object of the people’s choice. The testimony borne in favour of our Lord by Pilate’s wife. The preference given to Barabbas, the robber and murderer—the loud call for our Lord’s crucifixion. The release of Barabbas, and the sentence of the death of the cross passed on our Lord by Pilate, though this weak, temporizing judge, who had recourse to the most humiliating, painful expedients to have Him released, was manifestly convinced of His innocence. The insulting treatment received by our Lord at the hands of the soldiers in Pilate’s hall, who afterwards lead Him out for crucifixion (Mt 27:15–31). His bitter crucifixion, rendered still more bitter by the circumstances that accompanied it. The bitter potion given Him to drink. His associates in suffering, two thieves, one placed each side of Him. The division of His garments. The sneers and taunts of His enemies, reproaching Him in the midst of His torments (Mt 27:32–44). The darkness that brooded over the earth from the sixth till the ninth hour. His death, which occurred in a preternatural manner (Mt 27:45–50). The wonderful events that occurred in connexion with it. The testimony of the centurion on witnessing them, in favour of His Divinity (Mt 27:51–54). The taking down of His sacred body from the cross, by Joseph of Arimathea, who also bestowed on it the rites of decent sepulture in his own now tomb, hewed out of a rock (Mt 27:55–61). The application to Pilate by the Chief Priest and Pharisees for a band of soldiers to guard the sepulchre, which, being granted, they also adopt the additional precaution of affixing the public seal to it (Mt 27:62–66).


Mt 27:1. “And when morning was come.” The time is more precisely determined by the other Evangelists: “And straightway in the morning” (Mark 15:1); “And as soon as it was day” (Luke 22:66). “All the chief priests and ancients of the people”—SS. Mark and Luke add, “and the Scribes.” These three orders constituted the Jewish Sanhedrin or Supreme Council of seventy-two Judges or Senators. “Held a council against Jesus.” St. Mark (Mk 15:1), speaks of “the whole council.” Most likely, the Council that condemned our Lord on the previous evening, having been dissolved, Caiphas took care to summon all the members of the Sanhedrin against the following morning, so that the increased number of assessors, and the day time alone suited for judicial proceedings, would add greater solemnity and weight to the judgment of the preceding night, which condemned Jesus to death, and thus Pilate could hardly resist their united authority, “to put Him to death.” St. Matthew, who omits giving a full account of the gross indignities to which our Redeemer was subjected on the preceding night in the hall of Caiphas, omits all account of what occurred at this second, or morning meeting, probably, because it might be only a repetition of what he before described as having occurred before the judges on the preceding occasion. We are, however, informed by St. Luke (Lk 22:66, &c.), that they questioned Him, “If thou be the Christ, tell us.” Although some expositors, with Maldonatus, are of opinion, that St. Matthew (Mt 26:63, &c.), anticipates what should be described here; the general opinion, however, is, that all that St. Matthew there describes occurred at night, and that the same was again repeated in the morning, as recorded. (St. Luke 22:66, &c.) The three Evangelists describe the mocking of our Lord as occurring at night, and alter He declared Himself to be the Christ (Matt. 26:67). “Then they spat in His face,” &c., when He was condemned to death for blasphemy. The same captious question, proposed the preceding night by the High Priest (Mt 26:63), was next morning repeated in presence of all the Council (Luke 22:66). So that whether He denied or asserted it—and He did mildly, but firmly, assert it (Luke 22:66)—it would prove equally a subject of accusation before Pilate.

Mt 27:2. Having then elicited from Him a confession, which they regarded as a grave charge, both on religious grounds, viz., blasphemy against God; and civil grounds, viz., affectation of supreme temporal power, and sedition against Rome, “they brought Him—St. John (Jn 18:28), says, ‘from Caiphas’—bound.” Most likely, they had removed the cords which bound Him, when questioned before the Sanhodrin, and then, again, they bind Him before leading Him forth. St. Mark (Mk 15:1), says, they “bound Jesus.” “And delivered Him to Pontius Pilate, the governor.” This they did, because, most likely, now that Judea was reduced to a Roman province, and ruled, like other provinces, by a Roman Governor, the power of life and death was vested in him alone (John 18:31), and the instances in which they put men to death, were only tumultuous, riotous proceedings, in which the multitude exceeded their legitimate power, as in the case of Stephen and others; but such proceedings were not legal. Or, if we suppose the Jews to have still the power of life and death in certain cases, they had not the power of inflicting death by crucifixion, on our Redeemer. Hence, they required Pilate’s sanction to inflict on Him this kind of death, introduced by the Romans. They also wished to make it appear, that parties no way concerned with our Redeemer, judicially put Him to death, and had Him crucified, as infamous, between two robbers. Stoning was the death marked out in the law for Him, as a blasphemer. But crucifixion could be inflicted by Pilate. They also wished to remove from themselves the stigma of having acted against Christ, from envy. The chief reason, however, is that assigned by St. John (Jn 18:31). They had no power themselves to put Him to death. But God permitted all this, to verify His predictions, that His Son should be tortured even by the Gentiles. So that as He redeemed all, Jew and Gentile, all should be accessory to His death. By a just judgment of God, as they delivered up the Son of God to the Romans, to be crucified; they were, in turn, delivered over to the iron legions of Vespasian and Titus, to be butchered and banished, and their city levelled to the dust.

Mt 27:3. Judas, now seeing that our Redeemer was condemned by the Jews, and declared worthy of death; and knowing, from their determined hostility towards Him, that they would insist on Pilate’s acceding to their wicked desires, “repenting himself,” was sorry for what he did. Most likely, he hoped that our Redeemer would either confute their silly charges; or, whether miraculously, or, in some other way, would extricate Himself out of their hands. Now, seeing that it was otherwise; as His death was most certainly determined on, he repented of what he did, not, however, with that repentance which involved hope in the Divine mercy, but, from a feeling of remorse and torturing pain. The devil, who entered into him, and instigated him, now opens his eyes to the magnitude of his guilt, in order to drive him to despair. Hoping to rescind the wicked contract which he made with them, and that by giving up the price of his Master, they might, in turn, set Him free, he “brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the Chief Priests,” &c.

Mt 27:4. “Saying: I have sinned in betraying innocent blood,” that is, an innocent man. He did not leave the Jews the extenuating excuse, that in crucifying our Redeemer, they had the testimony of one of His own bosom friends, who was best acquainted with His manner of life. His very traitor bears testimony in His favour, so that, besides the testimony of His doctrine, and good works, and miracles, even this last testimony borne Him by Judas and Pilate’s wife, renders them inexcusable.

“But, they said: What is that to us? look thou to it.” This shows the obstinate malice of the Jews. They insinuate, that they cared not whether Jesus was innocent or guilty; having Him now in their power, they are determined, at all hazards, to wreak vengeance on Him. “What is that to us?” They make light of co-operating in the death of a man, declared by His very betrayer to be innocent.

Mt 27:5. “And casting down the pieces of silver in the temple.” Most likely, while some of the priests had proceeded to Pilate’s house to accuse Jesus, others proceeded to the temple for the discharge of their priestly functions, on this solemn festival; and when Judas had confessed his guilt, and brought back the money to the Chief Priests, &c., at either the house of Caiphas or Pilate, and they paying no heed to him, refused accepting the money, or rescinding the contract, he, at once proceeded to the temple, and threw the money there at the feet of the ministering priests, so as to rescind the contract, as far as he was concerned; so that the money—which, if thrown away in the house of Pilate or Caiphas, would be gathered up by the servants, and never restored—would be gathered up by the priests, and given back to those who gave it to him; and being flung into the temple, it would be sacred, the price of innocent blood unfit for profane use.

“And went and hanged himself with a halter.” St. Peter (Acts 1:18), describes his death rather differently, and still more circumstantially, “and being hanged, he burst asunder in the midst, and all his bowels gushed out,” the result of which was (Acts 1:25), “that he might go to his own place,” that is, to his destined place in hell’s torments. The Greek in Acts 1–18 for, “being hanged” (πρηνης γενομενος), should rather be translated, “being precipitated headlong.” Hence, some expositors find a difficulty in reconciling St. Peter’s account of Judas’ death, with that of St. Matthew, απελθων απηγξατο, which is commonly rendered, “going, he hanged himself.” Both accounts are perfectly consistent; and taken conjointly, both, most probably, give a full account of the manner of Judas’ death. Going, he hanged himself, as did Achitophel before him, who was a typo of him as to his crime and fate, (2 Sam 17:23); and while hanging for some time, the rope either breaking, or giving way, he was precipitated headlong, and falling on a hard protruding substance, he burst asunder, and his bowels gushed forth; or, it may be, that being suspended, his head downwards, owing to the exertion, he became swollen, and his bowels burst forth. Either supposition will reconcile the narrative of St. Matthew here, and of St. Peter (Acts 1–18). St. Matthew records the kind of death, whereby Judas sought to put an end to his miserable life; St. Peter, the mode in which he actually did die, the latter resulting directly from the former.

It is to be observed, that although Judas, apparently had the different ingredients of penance, he had it not, however, in reality. His sorrow did not contain the hope of pardon. It was rather dark despair. Neither was his confession, “I have sinned,” &c., made to those to whom alone was granted the power of absolving him: “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven.” The Jewish priests had no such power.

Mt 27:6. These consummate hypocrites, who “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matt. 23:24), scruple to employ for sacred purposes the price of blood, and make no scruple to unjustly shed that blood. The word, “corbona,” is a Syriac term, signifying a gift, and most commonly, a gift presented to the sacred treasury. Again it denotes the treasury itself, or place set apart in the temple for pious offering, which was in the Court of the women. There was no prohibition in the law against receiving such money. There was a prohibition against receiving the wages of a strumpet, or the price of a dog (Deut. 23:18), and by analogy, they inferred that the price of blood should be equally objectionable and prohibited.

Mt 27:7. After due deliberation, these hypocrites, affecting a charitable disposition for the poor, their object in reality being to perpetuate the infamous end of our Redeemer, delivered over to death by one of His own disciples, of which the purchased burying ground would serve as a lasting monument, “bought with them (the thirty pieces of silver), the potter’s field,” so called, either because it belonged to some potter; or, because the soil was employed for pottery purposes, and being now exhausted, and consequently, of scarcely any value, was sold for the trifling sum of thirty pieces of silver, “To be a burying place for strangers,” whether foreign Jews who resorted to Jerusalem, and had no burial place of their own, as the inhabitants of Jerusalem had, who deemed it a great solace to be buried in the tombs of their fathers; or, more probably, to Gentile foreigners, who came in crowds to Jerusalem, and being regarded as impious, were not allowed to be buried with the faithful Jews. The application of the price of our Saviour’s blood to the purchase of a cemetery for strangers, signified, that true rest is in store for those who, being strangers to the people of God, have obtained the rights of citizenship in the heavenly Jerusalem, “cives sanctorum,” &c. (Ephes. 2:19), by sharing in the merits of the Cross of Christ, and by being buried with Him in baptism unto death (Rom. 6:3-4).

Mt 27:8. “Wherefore, that field was called haceldama,” &c. The providence of God so ordained it, that what the Chief Priests meant to be a lasting monument of reproach to our Redeemer, would serve as an eternal monument of their crime, and especially of the treason of Judas; and tend to the glory of Jesus, as is insinuated by St. Peter (Acts 1:19). “Haceldama” is a Chaldaic term, signifying, “the field of blood,” or, the field purchased for the blood money received for the betrayal of Jesus by His own apostate disciple, who, after declaring the innocence of his Master, in a lit of despair hanged himself with a halter.

Mt 27:9. The same was ordained by God for me verification and fulfilment of the ancient prophecies. “By Jeremias the prophet saying: And they took the thirty pieces of silver,” &c. These words are not found in any part of Jeremias; but, they are found substantially, and in sense, in the Prophet Zacharias, not according to the Septuagint; but, according to St. Jerome’s version (Zech 11:12-13). Hence, different commentators have differently recourse to several ways for accounting for the introduction of the name of Jeremias here, instead of Zacharias. Some say, with Origen, that it arose from a mistake of copyists, who, owing to manuscript abbreviations, mistook, Ιριοδ, that is, Ιερεμιου for Ζριοδ, or, Ζαχαριου. Others, that the Evangelist only quoted the prophet in a general way; “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet, saying,” &c., without mentioning any particular prophet, a thing quite common in the Gospel of St. Matthew (Mt 1:22; 2:5, 15; 13:35, &c.); and that afterwards some one, wishing to particularize the prophet, wrote in the margin, “Jeremias,” because Jeremias “bought a yield” (Jer 32:9). This marginal addition, in course of time, made its way into the text of all the Latin and most of the Greek copies. “Jeremias” was not found in the Syriac, nor in some Latin MSS. in the time of St. Augustine. The error of those who wrote Jeremias instead of Zacharias in the margin, might be easily accounted for, inasmuch as the passage from Zacharias, according to the Septuagint, which alone was used by the Greek and Latin Churches before the time of St. Jerome, had hardly anything in common with the quotation here given by St. Matthew. Others say, that this prophecy might have been found in some of the prophecies of Jeremias now lost. For, he wrote more books than we have now extant (2 Macc 2:1). Others, in some apocryphal writings of Jeremias. The sacred writers quote from such occasionally. St. Paul is supposed to have done so (2 Tim. 3:8), in reference to the names of the Egyptian magicians, Jannes and Mambres. St. Jerome assures us, he was shown by a Nazarene, a writing of Jeremias, in which this quotation was found. The writing, however, was not canonical. Others suppose, that this prophecy of Jeremias was not written; but handed down, by the tradition of the Jews. Similar in that quoted by our Redeemer in reference to the Tower of Siloe (Luke 13:4).

Others, among whom is St. Augustine, &c., quoted by Benedict XIV. (de Festis, &c.), are of opinion, that the quotation is made up of two different members, one from Jeremias (Jer 32:9), relating to a field Jeremias purchased from his uncle’s son, for “seven staters and ten pieces of silver,” a sum different from that mentioned here; the other from Zacharias (Zech 11:12, &c.), having reference to the thirty pieces offered by the High Priest to Zacharias. The quotations, according to these interpreters, are not verbally taken from either prophet, but only the sense of them; and these also maintain, that St. Matthew quotes only one prophet, Jeremias, passing over Zacharias—a thing not unusual with the Evangelists, when giving a quotation from different prophets, as may be seen (Mark 1:2, 3), where, quoting a text, the first part of which is from Malachias, the other from Isaias, the Evangelist only mentions Isaias, without at all mentioning Malachias—however, the more common opinion is, in whatever way the introduction of the name of Jeremias may be accounted for, that the quotation of St. Matthew is substantially the same as the words of Zacharias (Zech 11:12-13). In that passage of Zacharias, the Lord seeks for His wages—“bring hither My wages” (v. 12)—from the Jewish people, through the prophet, in return for the several benefits conferred on them; and He complains, at finding it so insignificant, as not to exceed in value thirty pieces of silver, &c. (See Zech. 11:12, &c.) The command of God that the prophet would cast these thirty pieces to the statuary or potter, and its execution (Zech. 11:13), looking to prophetical usage, are but a prediction of what was to happen at a future day, when the Chief Priests, instead of a suitable reward for the benefits conferred on their nation by Christ, gave Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray Him. These pieces Judas cast into the temple, and they were afterwards given to a poor potter as the price of his field. The words then mean: “And they”—the Chief Priests—“took the thirty pieces of silver”—which were cast into the temple—“the price of Him that was prized,” viz., the Messiah, “whom they prized of the children of Israel,” that is, whom those who were of the children of Israel, to whom He was sent, prized at so low a sum, the price of a common slave, “and they gave them unto the potter’s field, as the Lord had appointed to me,” that is, had commanded the Prophet Zacharias to do.

“They took.” In the Hebrew it is, “I took.” The prophet spoke in the first person to show, that he did what the Lord commanded him; the Evangelist, in the third person, to show that the priests had fulfilled, what the prophet practically prophesied in this matter. However, the Greek word, ελαβον, might be rendered in the first person, “I took,” &c. “The price of Him that was valued,” is ironically termed by the prophet (Zech. 11:13), “a handsome price.” “Of the children of Israel,” that is, those who were of the children of Israel. Some expositors join these latter words with, “the price of Him that was valued,” thus: “They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued of the children of Israel, whom they prized,” at so low a price, “pretium appretiati a filiis Israel quem appretiaverunt.”

Mt 27:10. “They gave them unto the potter’s field.” St. Matthew more clearly expresses the object of the prophet, who speaks in the first person: “I cast them into the house of the Lord to the statuary” (Zech. 11:13). “As the Lord appointed to me.” These words are not found expressly in the prophet; but, they are found virtually there, inasmuch as it was by the command of God the prophet threw the thirty pieces of silver in the temple to the statuary or potter; hence, he did as the Lord appointed. St. Matthew adds these words, to show, that all this did not happen by chance; but, by the express command and deliberate will of God, wishing beforehand to foreshadow and prophesy by act, what was to happen our Lord in the fulness of time.

Mt 27:11. “And Jesus stood before the Governor.” He “stood,” as one arraigned for trial, before Pilate, who governed Judea as President, in the name of the Emperor Tiberius. After having described the tragical end of the unhappy Judas, the Evangelist now returns to the subject of our Redeemer’s Passion. As each of the Evangelists has only recorded a part of the circumstances of the Life and Passion of our Lord, several, circumstances are described by St. John (Jn 19:28–32), which are here omitted by St. Matthew, and which should be prefixed to this verse (Mt 27:11), as having taken place before what is recorded here. Pilate being no way moved by their general charges against our Lord, and their clamorous demands for His punishment, they thon proceed to more specific charges, which are recorded by St. Luke (Lk 23:2). These are threefold, and all, so many gross calumnies. In Pilate’s letter to Tiberius, in this cause of Christ, still extant (Hegesippus, Lib. 5), he states, that the Jews brought a fourth charge against our Lord, viz., that He practised magic, in virtue of which, He performed some miraculous wonders: “In Beelzebub, the prince of devils,” &c. (Matt. 12:24.) The accusation relating to His having affected sovereign power, was most calculated to affect Pilate, who was charged with maintaining the cause and sovereignty of the Romans. It was only after hearing these specific charges from the Jews, whom Pilate addressed outside his house, as they would not enter, lest they might be defiled and prevented from partaking of the Pasch (John 19:28), he returns to the Governor’s hall, within the house, where our Lord had been left, and, passing over the other charges as perhaps frivolous, and no way concerning him, as Governor, asks Him, “Art Thou the King of the Jews?”—this being the only charge that concerned him as representative of Cæsar, whose authority it might prejudice, as it involved, in some sense, the grave and practical charge of preaching up the refusal to pay tribute to Cæsar. For, it followed, naturally, that whoever aimed at sovereign power, as here imputed to our Lord, would interdict the giving of tribute to any other claimant to the same supreme power. Origen remarks, that the way in which Pilate put this question, showed clearly he gave no credit to it, as if he said: Is it possible that you, who are so lowly and contemptible among your fellow-countrymen, could pretend to be the king so long and anxiously expected by them?

“Jesus saith to him: Thou sayest it,” a modest form of asserting a thing; “thou sayest what is true.” Before these words should be placed, in the order of narration, those recorded by St. John (Jn 18:34–37), “sayest thou this thing of thyself, or have others told it to thee of Me?” Was it from his own knowledge, or the suggestion of others, he asked such a question? Our Redeemer thus insinuated, that Pilate was only reciting the charges of His enemies; and that Pilate himself, although bound in duty to see that no one should usurp the authority of Cæsar, had no reason, although so long Governor of Judea, to suspect Him of the offence imputed to Him. Pilate being somewhat irritated by this question, at once tells Him, that He, as a stranger, could know nothing about the king, or the characteristics of the king, whom the Jewish nation was so anxiously expecting; and that it was His own nation, and its chiefs, that delivered Him over for judgment. “Am I a Jew?” “Thy own nation, and the Chief Priests … what hast Thou done?” (John 18:35). Seeing that Pilate had questioned Him, not captiously, but with a view of eliciting the truth, our Redeemer replies, that His kingdom is not of such a nature as would cause Pilate any uneasiness; that His kingdom “was not of this world,” &c. (John 19:36.) Then Pilate asks Him, “Art Thou then a king?” (Jn 19:37), be your kingdom of whatever description it may. Our Redeemer answers, as in this verse (Mt 27:11), “thou sayest that I am a king;” and He further states the object of His mission, which was “to give testimony to the truth” (John 18:37).

Pilate then asks, “what is truth?” and, as if he cared not for an answer, felt no way concerned or interested in the whole affair, he at once, abruptly, without awaiting a reply, goes out to the Jews and tells them, “I find no cause in Him” (John 18:38).

Mt 27:12. “When He was accused by the Chief Priests,” &c. St. Mark says (Mk 15:3), “they accused Him in many things,” confiding more in the multitude of their charges and in their violent clamour, than in the truth of what they advanced against Him.

“He answered nothing” Our Redeemer was silent for several reasons—1st. Because the charges brought against Him were manifestly false and undeserving of a reply. 2nd. Because a reply would irritate the Jews still more. 3rd. Lest He might be discharged by Pilate, and thus the decree of God, wishing Him to make atonement for the sins of man by the death of the cross, would be frustrated; and, finally, to make atonement by His silence for all the sins of evil speech of which mankind were guilty; and to leave us an example of suffering patiently in similar circumstances. He also wished to fulfil the prophecies (Isa 53:7), “like a sheep brought to the slaughter … and shall not open His mouth.”

Mt 27:13. The words of this verse evidently insinuate, that Pilate brought our Redeemer outside to hear the crimes laid to His charge by the Jews, and then asked, what He would reply to the accusations.

Mt 27:14. “And He answered not … so that the Governor wondered exceedingly.” He admired His meekness, contempt of death, and elevation of soul in such perilous circumstances, and became convinced of His innocence; so that he endeavoured, by all means, to set Him free, saying, “he could find no cause in Him” (Luke 23:4). He wondered greatly to see a man, who could so easily justify Himself, observe silence in such circumstances; for, it was evident His enemies were actuated by rage, and could prove nothing against Him.

But they, seeing this, became more earnest in their accusations, “saying: He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee to this place” (Luke 23:5). By alluding to Galilee, they wished to inspire Pilate with terror, lest sedition might be excited by this man, Pilate himself being aware that Galilee had given birth to many seditious and rebellious characters, such as Judas, and those whose blood Pilate himself had mingled with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1), Theodas, &c. (Acts 5:36, 37.) The mention of Galilee suggested to Pilate a means of extricating himself from his embarrassment. He asked if He were a Galilean; and on being answered in the affirmative, he sends Him to Herod, to whose jurisdiction He belonged; and who, on the occasion of the solemn festival, came to Jerusalem.

St. Luke minutely details all that occurred in connexion with our Redeemer’s being sent to Herod, the contumelious treatment He was subjected to in Herod’s presence, and the ignominious manner in which He was again sent back to Pilate (Lk 23:7–13). When Pilate saw that He was sent back by Herod; he, in order to set our Redeemer free, said to the Chief Priests, whom he called together, “You have brought this man to me as one that perverteth the people”—this was the principal charge for Pilate and Herod to take cognizance of—“and behold … I find no cause in this man … No, nor yet Herod,” &c. (Luke 23:14.) Then, this weak, temporizing judge bethought himself of a means of satisfying the fury of the Jews, without involving himself in the crime of condemning an innocent man. He orders Him to be scourged. “I will chastise”—that is, scourge Him—“therefore, and release Him,” hoping that their fury would relent on beholding the pitiable condition to which the cruel flagellation would have reduced Him. Hence, after it, he brought Him forth, and exclaimed, “Behold the Man” (John 19:5). This expedient failing, he adopted another means of securing His release. It is recorded as follows, by St. Matthew:—

Mt 27:15-16. “Now upon the solemn day” (St. John 18:39, expressly mentions the Pasch, as if by excellence, “the solemn day”) “the Governor was accustomed to release,” &c. This custom was, most likely, introduced originally among the Jews, in commemoration of their liberation from the Egyptian bondage. And the Romans on obtaining the sovereignty of Judea, continued it, as they did several other usages, as a privilege granted to the people, the Governor himself being the party to carry it into effect, at the instance of the people, on the anniversary recurrence of each Paschal solemnity. Pilate now hoped that, by proposing to them a notorious prisoner, named Barabbas, “a murderer” (Luke 23:19); “a robber” (John 19:4, &c.), and leaving them to choose between him and Jesus, they could not for an instant, hesitate in their choice of Him, who had done so many acts of mercy in their favour, before a notorious murderer and robber. What humiliation to the Son of God, the author of life, to be put in competition with a notorious robber and murderer, and made equally the object of the people’s choice.

Mt 27:17. It would seem from St. Mark (Mk 15:8), that it was the people who first called on Pilate to grant them the usual privilege of having a criminal pardoned at their request, and that Pilate seized on this opportunity thus presented to him, for extricating himself from his embarrassment. He then proposed to them, to choose between Jesus and Barabbas, not doubting but they would call for the release of Jesus. The usage would seem to be, that the Governor would propose a certain number of criminals, from among whom the people might make a choice; but, that the people had not the privilege of choosing indiscriminately any criminal, whom they pleased, for release. For, if this were the case, the people might have said: We do not choose either Jesus or Barabbas; but somebody else, perhaps, some less obnoxious member of the gang of seditious robbers, of whom Barabbas was the notorious leader.

Mt 27:18. Pilate well knew, that they were actuated in the whole case by feelings of jealousy and envy. Although many interpreters question Pilate’s sincerity in his expressed desire to release our Lord; still, it seems more probable, he sincerely desired to set Him free. St. Luke expressly says so (Lk 23:20), and so does St. Peter (Acts 3:13).

Mt 27:19. While waiting for the answer of the people, regarding the choice of a criminal to be released to them, a fresh testimony of our Redeemer’s innocence was furnished to Pilate. His wife had been troubled with some startling dreams relative to our Lord. She calls Him a “just man,” as did Pilate himself (Mt 27:24), an epithet long before applied to Him by Isaiah 53, “justificabit ipse Justus servus meus multos.” What the nature or subject of her dream was, cannot be known. All the Evangelist records of it is, that it had the effect of causing her much suffering. Most likely, it revealed to her the grievous evils in store for her husband, in case he condemned “this just man,” the innocent Jesus. Some say, this dream was caused by the devil, who now recognising Christ for the Son of God, saw the consequences of His death. But this is not likely. Most probably, the devil already knew Him to be the Son of God. But, we have the testimony of St. Paul (1 Cor. 2:8), that the devils, “the princes of this world,” did not know the economy involved in the death of Christ, otherwise, they would not have crucified Him. And if they wished to prevent His death, they would have acted rather on the Jews, whom they instigated to murder the Son of God. Hence, most likely, the dream came from God, in order that every sex would bear testimony to Christ, as well as the very elements that eloquently testified to His Divinity at His death. And the dream was sent to his wife rather than to Pilate himself, in order that her message would be publicly delivered, in the presence of His enemies. Besides, Pilate’s testimony might be liable to suspicion. For, many would say: he merely wished for some pretext for extricating himself out of the embarrassment, in which the condemnation of Christ, whom he knew to be innocent, would involve him.

Mt 27:20. The same is recorded by St. Mark (Mk 15:11). Pilate gave them time to deliberate about the answer, as to which of the two they would have released to them; and, in the meantime, the Chief Priests brought every influence to bear on them, to ask for Barabbas.

Mt 27:21. After due time for deliberation, he now again proposes the question, “Which of the two would they have released to them?” Their answer, calling for Barabbas, naturally disappointed and embarrassed Pilate. Hence, he cries out:

Mt 27:22. “What shall I do with Jesus, that is called Christ?” Their answer discloses their obstinate cruelty: “Let Him be crucified.” In St. Luke, the words are twice repeated, “Crucify Him, crucify Him” (Lk 23:21), which revealed their determination to put Him to a cruel death.

Mt 27:23. Pilate then said to them, “Why,” crucify Him? “What evil hath He done?” St. Luke (Lk 23:22), informs us that, for the third time, Pilate said, he “found no cause in Him,” that is, he could discover no crime committed by Him to warrant His death. Thus, Pilate, three times, bore testimony to His innocence. Pilate could, doubtless, find no cause in Him. But, not so with His Heavenly Father, who saw in Him the bail, the surety for sin, of which He took upon Himself the full imputability. For, “the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Their only answer was, “Let Him be crucified.”

Mt 27:24-26. Here Pilate devises another and most cruel expedient for satisfying the fury of the people, without involving himself in the crime of condemning Him. He orders Him to be scourged, hoping, that the fury of the people would relent on beholding the pitiable condition to which the cruel flagellation would reduce Him. Hence, he afterwards presented Him to the multitude, “Behold the Man” (John 19:5). The washing of his hands by Pilate, &c. ( Mt 27::24-25), occurred after our Lord was scourged (Luke 23:22), and is given here by anticipation. The circumstances and order of this flagellation are recorded more fully by SS. Luke and John. St. Luke mentions (Lk 23:18–22), that Pilate, after our Lord’s return from Herod, calling together the Chief Priests, &c., said, “I shall chastise Him,” that is, scourge Him, “and release Him.” He does not, however, tell us afterwards, what this chastisement was, how or when it took place. He ends his narrative of Pilate’s conversation with the Jews, by simply informing us, that overcome by their clamorous importunity, after releasing Barabbas, “he delivered Jesus up to their will” (Lk 23:25). But, St. John, who wrote after St. Luke, distinctly informs us (Jn 19:1, &c.), that this chastisement was scourging; and that its object was to cause the people to relent at the sight of the man presented to them in such a pitiable state after his flagellation. St. Matthew and St. Mark, however, refer to the scourging of our Lord in such a way, as if it would seem to have taken place, not so much for the purpose of appeasing the multitude, as preparatory for crucifixion. For, as we are informed by St. Jerome, the custom with the Romans was to scourge first, those who were doomed to the ignominious death of the cross. And as St. John insinuates, that the scourging had for object to appease the multitude; hence, some expositors hold, that our Redeemer was scourged twice, and mocked twice by the soldiers; once, before the sentence of death was pronounced upon Him, in order to appease the fury of the Jews;—to this, St. John refers (Jn 19:1, &c.)—and a second time after the sentence, in compliance with the law or custom of the Romans, in such cases. This latter scourging, they say, is referred to by Matthew and Mark. The more probable and more common opinion, however, is, that He was scourged, &c., but once; and that, before the sentence was pronounced, as in St. John. To the same scourging, St. Matthew refers, when he says (Mt 27:26), “having scourged Jesus,” already. This one flagellation answered the requirement of the Roman law quoted from St. Jerome, and the Greek word for, “having scourged” (φραγελλωσας), which refers to a past action, will fully bear out the meaning. Hence, in referring after the sentence of death was pronounced by Pilate, to the scourging and the insulting treatment of our Redeemer in Pilate’s hall by the soldiers, both St. Matthew and St. Mark repeat, out of the proper order of narration, what took place before the sentence of death was pronounced, as we are informed by St. John. (Jn 19:1, &c.)

How painful this cruel flagellation was, may be inferred from the character of the executioners—heartless Pagan soldiers, dead to every feeling of pity—and from the object Pilate had in view, viz., by the shocking appearance He would present, to satisfy the rage of His enemies. According to the Jewish law, no criminal could receive forty stripes; but, as our shameful and sinful excesses, which He was expiating, outraged every law of reason and religion, so, these barbarous executioners are regulated by no law in His regard. They discharged on Him a shower of blows. It is said, that it was revealed to St. Bridget, that the number of stripes He received was above 5000. Hence, the excessive cruelty of His executioners, and the number of stripes they inflicted, coupled with the exquisite sensibility of His sacred body (for by its perfect organization it was framed for punishment), place the tortures of our Blessed Lord beyond the power of conception. He was scourged at a pillar, which, or, at least a portion of it according to some, is to be seen in a little chapel of the Church of Saint Praxedes, at Rome. This pillar was formerly kept at Jerusalem in Mount Sion, as we are informed by St. Gregory Naz. (Orat. 1, in Julian); St. Paulinus (Epis. 34); Ven. Bede (de locis Sanctis), St. Jerome, &c. It was brought to Rome in the year 1223, by John Cardinal Columna, Apostolic Legate in the East, under Pope Honorius III., as we are informed by the inscription over the little chapel in the Church of St. Praxedes.

The scourges are said to be made of leather thongs or cords. Others say, He was scourged, after the Roman manner, with rods. The Roman fasces were composed of rods, with an axe, for the scourging and execution of criminals.

“Delivered Him to them to be crucified.” Pilate did this by a judicial sentence, condemning Him to the death of the cross. But this occurred only after He was mocked by the soldiers, crowned with thorns, &c., as is very accurately and minutely described by St. John. (19 Hence, in St. Matthew’s description, the order of events is not observed.

Mt 27:27. “Then,” does not mean, that the following occurrences took place immediately after He was delivered by Pilate to be crucified, as in preceding verse. It only means, that they happened at the time of, or, during His Passion. We are informed by St. John (Jn 19:2, &c.), that this mocking of our Redeemer, &c., took place immediately in connexion with the cruel scourging. Hence, “then,” refers not to “delivered Him to be crucified,” but to the words, “having scourged Jesus.”

“The soldiers of the Governor,” his body-guard. Most likely, they constituted the Prætorian cohort, who were always at the service of the Prætor or Governor in his province. This band was stationed in the Citadel Antonia, midway between the palace of Pilate and the temple.

“Taking Jesus into the hall,” or, as St. Mark more clearly expresses it (Mk 15:16), “into the court of the palace,” where the Governor resided. It would seem, that this was done by four soldiers, who acted the part of Lictors (John 19:23). In this hall, very probably, was the Prætor’s tribunal, and they made our Redeemer ascend this, in derision of His Royal dignity.

“Gathered together unto Him the entire band.” “The band,” or cohort, being the tenth part of a Roman legion, would vary in number according to the number in the legion, which was sometimes more, sometimes loss. The ordinary number constituting a legion, was 6000. Hence, “the band,” or cohort, probably contained 600. These were gathered together for the purpose of mocking and insolently deriding our Divine Redeemer.

Mt 27:28. “And stripping Him” of His clothes, which had been put on Him after He was scourged, or stripping Him for the purpose of scourging Him. Then, after this cruel deed, when He was yet naked, “they put a scarlet cloak about Him,” in derision of His Royal dignity, such being worn by kings and emperors. It is doubtful, whether our Lord, after being scourged, had been clothed again with His own garments, and then again stripped of them, when the soldiers mocked Him; or, whether the words, “stripping Him,” do not refer to the act preparatory to His flagellation. St. Mark (Mk 15:20), calls it “purple.” But as “purple” is sometimes taken to denote a bright red, hence the words, purple and scarlet, are interchanged; and the two Evangelists, as well as many other writers, make no distinction between both words.

Mt 27:29. “And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon His head,” in derision of His kingly dignity. “And a reed in His right hand,” to serve as a sceptre for this mock King of the Jews. There is some diversity of opinion regarding the nature and materials of this crown. The thorns from it, which are exhibited in the Holy Chapel, built by St. Louis, for the reception of this pious relic of the Crown of Thorns at Paris, are very large and sharp. The pain caused our Divine Redeemer, by the pressure of these sharp thorns into His sacred head and temples, must have been excessive. From it we can learn the excessive enormity of our wicked thoughts of consent, which it was intended to expiate.

“And bowing down … Hail, King of the Jews.” This also was done in derision of His Royal dignity.

Mt 27:30. “And spitting on Him, they took the reed and struck His head,” thereby pressing the crown of thorns more deeply and more firmly on Him, which was to our Blessed Lord, a source of the deepest humiliation and torture. We see from the foregoing, how our Lord was derisively clothed with all the ensigns of Royalty, and insultingly treated by the soldiers as the mock King of the Jews—1st They gather around Him the entire cohort to wait on Him. They place Him on some lofty stone or bench, as on a sort of tribunal, as St. Clement, of Alexandria, informs us. They give Him for a Royal crown, that of thorns. For a Royal vestment, they throw a scarlet cloak around Him (probably, this was a cast-off cloak of some Roman officer). They gave Him a reed for a Royal sceptre, and the acclamations with which He was greeted were the derisive genuflexions of the soldiers, spittle, blows, and stripes, all of which our amiable Saviour bore with astonishing humility and meekness, and they merited for Him, that “every knee, whether in heaven, on earth, or in hell, should bend,” at a future day, before Him.

Here, in the order of narrative, should be inserted, what is recorded by St. John (Jn 19:4–16). Pilate had either instructed or permitted the soldiers to treat our Lord in the contumelious manner just now described by St. Matthew; and also to torture Him with the crown of thorns, in order that the pitiable appearance He would present, might cause the Jews to relent. Going forth, he said to the Jews (John 19:4), “I bring Him forth to you, that you may know, that I find no cause in Him.” And immediately after, Jesus came forth from the Governor’s hall, bearing the crown of thorns and the purple garment; and then, Pilate pointing to His miserable condition, with a view to exciting their commiseration, said, “Behold the Man;” see the wretched being, whom you have charged with aspiring to Royal dignity, and with meditating the overthrow of Cæsar’s power. Think you now is there anything to be dreaded from Him on this score? Instead of relenting, the people, instigated by the Chief Priests, cried out, “Crucify Him,” &c. Pilate, being irritated at this, replied, “Take Him you and crucify Him, for I find no cause in Him.” They replied: Although, He may not have transgressed against the majesty or laws of Rome, He has violated a law of ours, which entails death, by making Himself the Son of God; and, as Governor, you should punish the violation of our laws. Pilate was seized with religious awe on hearing this. Yielding to the absurd notions conveyed in the Pagan Fables, respecting the progeny of the gods, he feared that Jesus might be son of Jupiter, or of Hercules, &c., and that he would incur the anger of the gods, if he punished Him. The character of the wonders performed by our Lord, the fame of which must have reached Pilate, together with the magnanimity displayed by Him, were calculated to strengthen the belief in the mind of Pilate. Hence, entering the hall again, he asked our Lord, without receiving a reply, “Whence art Thou?” (John 19:10), as if he said, of what father or mother or stock art Thou descended? from heaven or earth? Our Redeemer saw, that the Pagan mind of Pilate was incapable of comprehending the truth of the answer respecting the eternal generation of the Son of God; He, moreover, knew that Pilate was ready to deliver Him up to the Jews; He was, therefore, silent, it being useless to give any reply. Pilate, thinking his authority was slighted, boasts at once of his authority, telling Him he had power to crucify Him, and power to release Him. Our Redeemer, hitherto silent, could not permit this arrogance of Pilate, which detracted from the glory of His Passion, that depended altogether on the dispositions of His Heavenly Father, to pass unreproved.

Pilate boasted of having authority over our Redeemer, who shows him that any authority he may have had, must come from a higher power, and “begiven him from above,” and that it depended altogether on the adorable dispositions of that higher power, whether He was to be released or crucified, whether He would voluntarily undergo or escape death. But, that it did not depend on Pilate. Similar is the reproach conveyed to the Jews in the Garden of Gethsemani, “you are come out, as against a robber” (Mt 26:55); “but this is your hour, and the power of darkness” (Luke 22:53). Our Redeemer adds (John 19:11), “Therefore, he that delivered Me to thee, hath the greater sin,” as if He said, because thou hast permissive power from God against Me, and art about to exercise it, however unjustly, and art about to condemn Me unjustly to death in virtue of that permissive power; hence, those who, from malignity and envy, have delivered Me to thee have sinned more than thou hast. For, although thou dost act unjustly, and out of regard for human respect, and thus dost sin grievously against justice and the duty of thy office; still, thou doest so, in a certain sense, unwillingly; and hence, those, who from envy and malice, have thus forced thee to this course of injustice, have committed a greater sin. Pilate, whose conscience was thus indirectly taxed with injustice, and whom the reply of our Redeemer left in still greater doubt, as to His Divine origin, sought with greater earnestness to release Him. He had done so already four different times (Luke 23:4–15, 20–22; John 19:4–12). He did it now with greater earnestness, for the reason already assigned, “from thenceforward.” But the Jews seeing that their charge of blasphemy had no effect on Pilate, revert to their original charge of seditious conduct; and knowing Pilate’s weakness, and the terror with which the jealous disposition of Tiberius had inspired all his Governors, when there was even an approach to the crime, læsæ majestatis, they, at once, threaten to accuse him to his imperial master of the charge of disaffection, and of protecting his enemies. This moved Pilate very much (John 19:13–16). Here, then, in the order of narrative, is inserted, what is recorded and supplemented by St. John (Jn 19:4–16), viz., how our Redeemer was shown to the Jews in a pitiable state by Pilate, with the view of exciting their compassion, and inducing them to relent; how the Jews being nowise appeased by this sad spectacle which Jesus presented, our Redeemer was again questioned by Pilate, on the charge of claiming to be the Son of God; and after various efforts on the part of Pilate to release Him, how the Jews clamorously calling for His death, and charging Pilate himself with disaffection to Cæsar, Pilate at length yielded to their desires, and mounting his tribunal, gave Jesus over to them to be crucified. After this, the soldiers taking off the purple cloak from Him, led Him forth to be crucified, as in following verse.

Mt 27:31. After the soldiers had mocked our Blessed Lord, and subjected Him to treatment the most ignominious and humiliating, “they took off the (purple) cloak from Him,” this cast-off worn garment which was quite worthless. (Here, St. Matthew reverts to the subject treated of in 27:26, “he delivered Him,” &c., after inserting some circumstances which occurred in connexion with the cruel flagellation.) “And put on His own garments.” This was done, very probably, to make Him more remarkable, and thus humble Him the more in presence of the crowded city. They might also have in view, to establish a claim to His clothes (of greater value than the worthless scarlet cloak), which, according to the usages of the time, belonged to His crucifiers. We find that they afterwards divided His garments among them. There is no mention made of their having taken the crown of thorns off Him. Most likely, this was left on Him to add to His ignominy. Moreover, it was, probably so deeply inserted into His head, that it could not conveniently be removed.

“And led Him away (from the Prætorium) to crucify Him.” Most likely, a crier or trumpeter preceded them, summoning the people to witness the sad, ignominious spectacle, in accordance with the usage prevailing among the Romans on such occasions. It is not easy to conceive the insults and injurious treatment inflicted on our innocent Saviour on this His last journey to Calvary. Very probably, He was goaded on by the soldiers, a subject of diversion to the people, who from their houses and in the midst of their repast, beheld Him, advancing under the heavy weight of His cross. He thus verified the words of the Prophet, “in me psallebant, qui bibebant vinum” (Psa. 69:13).

We can form some idea of the fatigue our Redeemer must have endured in this last journey while bearing His cross, if we consider the several journeys He was obliged to undergo during the day and the preceding night. From the Supper Hall, He went on the preceding night to Mount Olivet and the Garden of Gethsemani, more that a mile from Jerusalem; thence, He was brought back to the house of Annas, an equal distance; thence, to the house of Caiphas; thence, to the house of Pilate; thence, to the palace of Herod; and thence again to the Hall of Pilate; and, finally, He was obliged to set out on this His last journey, “bearing His own cross” (John 19:17). It was customary for those condemned to the death of the cross to carry their cross to the place of execution. This cross, which was considerably longer than the body of the culprit to be nailed to it, our Redeemer was obliged partly to carry, and partly to drag after Him; which, owing to the roughness of the road, and the bruised and wounded state of His body, must have caused Him excessive pain.

Mt 27:32. “And going out” of the gate of the city, of the road leading to the place of execution, seeing our Redeemer exhausted, and fearing He might not survive, so as to he made die the ignominious death of the cross, meeting “a man of Cyrene, namea Simon, they forced him to take up His (our Redeemer’s) cross.” This Simon, supposed by some to have been a Jew, or at least a Jewish proselyte, was father of Alexander and Rufus, well-known disciples of our Lord. It may be that St. Mark (Mk 15:21) mentions this circumstance, because it was a great honour to them that their father had carried our Lord’s cross. Others say, he was a Gentile, and from this circumstance, they would have us infer, that the true, obedient disciples, who were to carry His cross after Him, were to be chiefly found among the Gentiles. It is disputed, which “Cyrene” is here referred to, whether that of Lybia, in Africa, where a Jewish colony had settled in the time of Ptolomeus Lagus, or that of Syria or Cyprus, founded by Cyrus, whence the name Cyrene.

“They forced Him.” In the original, it means, impressed. The original term (αγγαρος), is derived from the Persian, and signifies, a courier, sent to carry public intelligence. The king’s couriers had a right to press horses and vehicles, either for the post, or the public service generally, and, when necessary, could compel the personal attendance of the owners. Hence, the word is generally employed to denote impressment, or forcing one to do a thing against his will (see Mt 5:41). Some modern writers assert, that this Simon was a Jew, from Cyrene, in Lybia; and, being a well-known disciple of our Redeemer, was forced by the soldiers, at the instigation of the Jews, to carry our Redeemer’s cross. Some say, he helped our Redeemer to carry the cross, both carrying it at the same time. But, the most common and best founded opinion is, that after our Redeemer had been unable to carry His cross, it was laid on Simon, who carried it alone to the place of execution, Luke (23:26), says, “they laid the cross on him, to carry after Jesus.” Here, it is said, “they forced him to take up His cross.” Our Redeemer Himself, as was the custom with men condemned to be crucified, had carried the cross, that is, the transverse part of it, the oblong portion trailing after Him on the ground. This caused Him great pain, considering the ulcerations caused by the cruel scourging. It was only when He was fainting, they placed it on Simon, after they passed the gate of the city that led to Calvary.

Here should be inserted what is described by St. Luke (Lk 23:27–32), regarding the “multitude of people and of women, who bewailed and lamented Him.” Far from sharing in the feelings of His enemies, they rather shed tears of sympathy in His sorrows. Turning to them, He told them to weep not so much for His sufferings—although, this He did not prevent—as for the dreadful evils which were soon to come upon them, when they would bless “the barren,” &c., as happened at the taking of Jerusalem, soon after, when, not only were their children slain, and those under seventeen sold, as bond slaves, but even unhappy mothers, in some instances, from extreme pressure of famine, devoured their own children (Josephus, de Bel. Jud. Lib. vii. c. 8). “And they shall call upon the mountains,” &c., a proverbial form of expression, denoting utter despair, in presence of unavoidable calamities (Hos 10:8). Many of the Jews, at the taking of Jerusalem, hid themselves in the vaults and sepulchres, sooner than surrender to the Romans (Josephus). Very probably, among those pious followers, were the Galilean women, who ministered to His wants, Martha and Mary also included, whom the dread of His enemies did not prevent from giving full expression to their affection for our Lord, on this, his last road to Calvary.

St. Luke adds here (Lk 23:32), “And there were also two other malefactors led with Him to be put to death.”

Mt 27:33. “And they came to the place which is called Golgotha.” The Chaldaic, or Syriac form, is, Gol-Goltha, second I being omitted for euphony’ sake, as Babcl is used for Bal-bel. “Which is the place of Calvary,” or, the place of skulls. Calvary was a sort of knoll, called so, most likely, in consequence of the skulls of persons executed or buried there being scattered about, according to the opinion of St, Jerome, Bede, &c. Some ancient writers, Origen, Theophylact, &c., say, it was called so, from the skull of Adam, which, they conjecture, was buried there. But if this were the case, it is not likely, the Jews would have made it the place for the execution of malefactors, &c. The Evangelist, in interpreting Golgotha, which means, skulls, used the words, “place of Calvary,” to show that the word, Golgotha, that is, skulls, had reference to place. St. Paul (Heb. 13:11), assigns the fourfold reasons—literal, allegorical, anagogical, tropological—why our Lord was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem (see Commentary on). St. Jerome, St. Augustine, &c., say, it was on the same mountain Abraham was about to offer up Isaac—a distinguished typo of Christ—for, Mount Moria is in the vicinity of Calvary.

Mt 27:34. “And they gave Him wine,” &c. In some Greek copies, for wine we read ὄξος, vinegar. However, St. Jerome and St. Hilary read, wine, as in our Vulgate. St. Mark (Mk 15:23), has, “wine mixed with myrrh.” The most probable mode of reconciling this discrepancy is, that the Greek word, ὄξος, vinegar, sometimes denotes a poor sort of wine, and the Greek word for “gall,” χολῆ, sometimes means, a bitter drug. It is used by the LXX. to signify, absinthium, so that it denotes the same thing with the myrrh, referred to by St. Mark. It may be, that both ingredients, “myrrh” and “gall,” were added, to render it more bitter. It was customary, before crucifixion, to give persons, about to be executed, a potion, out of pity and humanity, in order to give them some consolation and refreshment, and also to strengthen them to bear their torments with greater fortitude. But, such was the malice of the Jews, that this potion was converted into a nauseous, bitter draught, not to be endured. The drink here given is different from that referred to (Mt 27:48), and by St. Luke (Lk 23:36), St. John (Jn 19:29). In the former are verified the words of the Psalmist, “dederunt in escam meam fel;” in the latter, “et in siti mea potaverunt me aceto.” The former was given before His crucifixion, and it was wine; the latter, in the crucifixion, and it was vinegar.

“And when He had tasted, He would not drink.” He “tasted” it, lest He might seem, from indignation, to despise it. “He would not drink,” that is, swallow it, being determined to submit to the painful death of the cross, without any mitigation or alleviation of His sufferings. He refused to partake of the draught usually presented to criminals on the point of crucifixion, out of feelings of humanity, to mitigate their sufferings. Others, who do not admit that the Jews would present this drink to our Lord, from such a benevolent motive, say, His object in refusing was, to show His horror of the inhuman malice of His enemies.

Mt 27:35. “After they had crucified Him.” It is observed by some commentators (A. Lapide, &c.), that St. Matthew, in referring to the crucifixion of his Divine Master, not only indulges in his usual brevity in narrative; but, that he also, from a feeling of horror, at the indignity and atrocity of this punishment being inflicted on the Son of God, represents it, not so much as present—it being a thing too much to bear—but as past, “after they had crucified Him.” It is a point of faith, that it was with nails, which pierced His hands and feet, our Redeemer was fastened to the cross (John 20:25, &c.; Psa. 22), “foderunt manus meas,” &c. It may be that cords were also used to fasten His body to the cross. Some say, that a sort of prop was fastened to the cross, on which His feet could rest. But, this is unlikely, as our Redeemer did not stand, but was suspended from the cross (Acts 5:30; Gal. 3:13). The number of nails employed is also disputed. Some say, there were four. Others, only three; one through each hand; and one through both His feet, placed one over the other. One of these nails may be at present seen at the Church S. Crucis, at Rome. I myself, had the happiness of reverently touching it with my beads and pectoral cross. Very likely, the two thieves were also hung on the cross with nails; as, otherwise, St. Helena could have no difficulty in recognising our Redeemer’s cross, from the track of the nails; whereas, it was only by a miracle it could be ascertained which was the true cross. It is most likely, that these rough nails were driven through the palms of the hands, where the sense of touch is most acute. This opinion derives great probability from the words of the Prophet Zacharias, “quid sunt plagæ istæ in medio manuum tuarum?” (Zech 13:6). Others say, the nails were driven through His wrists, where the touch is most acutely sensitive, and, obliquely passing through the wood, came out at the surface of His hand, thus rendering the wound larger, and the pain more intense.

The intensity of our Redeemer’s tortures may be estimated from the nature of the wounds inflicted—the boring of His hands, &c.—from the weight of His body hanging from His perforated hands and feet—from their continuance for three hours—from the dislocation of His limbs, “foderunt … dinumeraverunt omnia ossa mea.” (Psa. 22)

Tertullian (Lib. contra Judeos, c. 13), asserts, that He wore the crown of thorns on the cross. This is rejected by others, who say, that after having mocked Him, the soldiers took away the mock ensigns of royalty, and led Him forth to Calvary in His own clothes.

It would occupy, and perhaps, needlessly, too much space to enumerate the causes, literal and moral, which made our Redeemer submit to the ignominious death of the cross, in preference to any other, both on the part of the Jews, and of His eternal Father. The Jews had chosen it for the ignominy it entailed, and thus to abolish the name of Christ for ever. The Heavenly Father had chosen it, as most suitable to confound the folly of human pride; as the most suitable means of reparation, viz., by means of wood, our ruin having been brought about by means of the wood of the tree in Paradise; as most suitable, to show forth the excessive charity of God for us, in submitting to so ignominious and painful a death, and the severity of His justice, which demanded such reparation for sin, &c. Some commentators say that our Redeemer was crucified with His face towards the west, with His back to Jerusalem, to show the election of the Gentiles and reprobation of the Jews. Thus were also verified the words of Jeremias (Jer 18:17), “I shall show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their destruction.” “Oculi ejus super Gentes respiciunt” (Psa. 66:7).

The day of our Redeemer’s crucifixion was the 25th of March; the hour, about midday. St. John says, it was “the sixth hour” (Jn 19:14), from sunrise, which was midday. “It was the third hour,” according to St. Mark (Mk 15:25). But, he means “the third hour,” now closing, which was the commencement of the sixth hour. For, each hour in the computation of their four watches contained three hours among the Jews and Romans. Tertullian (Lib. contra Marcion), and others, say, that our Lord was crucified on the same day, in the vernal equinox, on which Adam was created, and was crucified at the same hour, at which he ate the forbidden fruit.

“They divided His garments,” &c. The four Evangelists describe the division of the garments, the inscription of the title, and the crucifixion of the two robbers, not in the same order. St. Mark (Mk 15:24, &c.), follows the same order of narrative with St. Matthew. St. Luke (Lk 23:33, &c.), describes the crucifixion of the robbers first; then, the division of the garments, and finally, the inscription of the title. St. John, whose order of narrative is deemed the most accurate, as he wrote after the others (Jn 19:18, &c.), places the crucifixion of the robbers first, the title next, and the division of the garments in the last place.

The words of our Redeemer on the cross, described by St. Luke (Lk 23:34), “Father, forgive them,” &c., should be inserted before these words, in the order of narrative. Then, “they divided His garments, casting lots.” This is more circumstantially and more distinctly narrated by St. John. (Jn 19:23, &c.) He informs us, that the soldiers divided His garments into four parts, so that the soldiers, who were four in number, received a part, each. From the words of the soldiers, in reference to the seamless (inner) garment, “Let us not cut it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be,” it is clearly inferred, that they cut up into four parts our Lord’s outer garment, according to the form after which the Jewish outer garments should be made (Deut. 22:12). These outer garments had four seams, and four corners, to which strings or fringes should be attached. Some imagine that our Lord wore four outside garments, besides the seamless coat, which was an inside garment, and that the soldiers took one each. But this is improbable. They divided the one outer garment into four parts. In the account of St. John, the words of Scripture are clearly fulfilled, “They divided My garments,” which is implied in the words, “Let us not cut it,” as had been done to the other. “And upon My vesture they cast lots,” which is clearly expressed in the words, “Let us cast lots for it.” From St. Mark, however (Mk 15:24), it would seem, that they cast lots for the four parts into which the vestment was divided. “The coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout.” The weaving of it began at the top, or upper part, and it was woven without any seam to the bottom. This “coat,” most probably, worn next His person, Euthymius tells us, was, according to the opinion of the ancients, woven by the hands of His Immaculate Mother. It is now preserved at Treves, and an object of religious worship to the faithful. The same author, after rejecting, as improbable, the opinion of those who assert that our Redeemer had five garments, one for each of the four soldiers, besides the seamless coat, regards it as a probable conjecture, that our Lord had three garments; that, besides the seamless coat, He had a flowing robe, and outside that, one corresponding to a cloak, covering all. For, St. John speaks of our Lord’s garments in the plural: “They took His garments” (Jn 19:23). Nor is this opposed to the mandate He gave His Apostles on the eve of going on their mission. For, there He speaks of two coats of the same kind.

The division of our Lord’s garments into four parts, denoted the extension of the Church to the four corners of the world; while the seamless coat denoted the indivisible unity which heretics alone attempt to rend and cut asunder. As the division of the garments of the two robbers did not contain any mystery, and did not directly belong to the history of our Redeemer’s Passion, the Evangelist says nothing of it, although, it is very probable a like division and distribution took place in their case also, in accordance with the prevailing usage of the time, regarding the destination of the garments of criminals subjected to execution.

What a source of humiliation to our Redeemer to hang naked on a cross, subjected to the derisive gaze of a scoffing multitude, “operuit confusio faciem meam.” (Psa. 59) It must have added to His painful humiliation to see His garments thus divided, as if He were given over to death, and no hopes entertained regarding Him. Probably, in this division of His garments, the soldiers added insulting, jeering taunts, injuriously, and wantonly mocking Him, as if they were dividing among themselves the precious robes of Royalty. This however, added to our Redeemer’s glory, as thus the Scripture of the prophet was fulfilled (Psa. 22:19).

“That the word might he fulfilled,” &c. These words are wanting in many of the ancient Fathers and versions, including many Greek and Latin codices. Hence, many learned critics supposed they were inserted here from St. John (Jn 19:24) by transcribers. However, the authority of the Vulgate outweighs all these, the more so, in this instance, if it be borne in mind, that of all the Evangelists, St. Matthew is most careful and desirous to show everywhere, that the ancient prophecies were accomplished in our Divine Redeemer.

Mt 27:36. “Watched Him.” The Greek adds, ἐκεῖ, there, on Mount Calvary. The soldiers who acted as Lictors, and the Jews also kept watch, lest any of His disciples should come and take Him down, or He Himself might miraculously descend from the cross. But, contrary to their designs, this only tended to the glory of Christ, in removing any grounds for doubting the truth of His resurrection. Had they themselves not watched Him, they might have charged His disciples with having taken Him down alive from the cross. It also shows their fears, arising from remorse of conscience.

Mt 27:37. “And they,” that is, the soldiers, His executioners, by the command of Pilate (John 19:19), “put over His head,” that is, on the portion of the cross, which was above His head, “His cause written,” that is, the alleged crime for which He was condemned to death. Mark (Mk 15:26) calls it, “the inscription of His cause;” Luke (Lk 23:38), “a superscription;” John (Jn 19:19), “a title.” They all mean the same thing, viz., the words written, or, rather, legibly cut on a board or tablet placed over His head, and indicating to all the charge on which He was condemned to death. It is not likely, that the words were inscribed on the arm of the cross, placed above His head, as it would hardly contain space enough to have the words inscribed in large, legible characters, in three languages. It is a very ancient Oriental custom to have these titles either attached to every malefactor condemned to death, or borne before him. This title of our Redeemer was written in three languages, which were consecrated on the cross of Christ; the Hebrew, the vernacular of the country; the Greek, then most extensively diffused; and the Latin, on account of the majesty of the Roman Empire. It is given differently by the four Evangelists, who agree, however, in substance. That given by St. John, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” is generally considered to be the most exact title, because St. John saw it at the crucifixion, and wrote after the other Evangelists; and also, this corresponds with the title, which, as a most precious relic, is preserved at Rome, in the Church of the Holy Cross. In this relic, the only word perfectly legible is “Nazarenus.” As the Hebrew form, like all Hebrew writings, was written from right to left; so, in the Greek and Latin inscriptions, the same order, contrary to the usual custom, was observed. The writing of the title in three languages, the language of the Jews, and the principal languages among the Gentiles, showed that Christ had suffered for all mankind, and broke down the middle wall of partition between the Jewish and Gentile peoples.

The title showed forth the name of the culprit—“Jesus;” His country, “of Nazareth;” His crime, “King of the Jews.” Although Pilate meant these words to signify (who affected to be) “King of the Jews,” still, by a Divine instinct guiding his hand, he was directed to write, in a still more exalted sense, the real cause of Christ’s crucifixion, viz., that He was crucified because He was really the “King of the Jews,” the long expected Messiah, the eternal Son of God, whom it was meet, according to the ancient prophecies and the decrees of His Heavenly Father, that the Jews would put to death, in order to redeem the human race, and rescue it from the slavery of sin, by the effusion of His most precious blood.

And although the Jews eagerly desired that Pilate would change this “title” (John 19:21)—it may be, they returned from Calvary to Pilate’s house; or Pilate himself might have been at Mount Calvary—still, Pilate obstinately resisted all their solicitations, the providence of God so guiding him, and, very probably, Pilate had in view, now that his fears of being accused before Cæsar were removed by the crucifixion of Christ, to restore to Jesus the honour of which he unjustly deprived Him, by sanctioning the high titles with which He was greeted by His followers. Moreover, he may have wished to take vengeance on the Jews for forcing him to condemn an innocent man, by branding the whole nation with the indelible stigma and the infamy of having crucified their own King. But, whatever might have been Pilate’s intention, God, who had suggested to Pilate the very words of the title, did not allow him to alter it for the reason already referred to, viz., to show that, as according to the prophecies, the King of the Jews was to suffer on a cross; therefore, the true cause on the part of God, why Jesus was crucified, was, that He was really King of the Jews.

Mt 27:38. “Two thieves”—highway robbers and brigands, with whom, owing to the shameful corruption of successive Roman Governors, Judea was then infested—“were crucified with Him.” This was, probably, done by Pilate, as a cloak for his iniquity, lest he should seem to be so influenced by others, as to punish the innocent and spare the guilty. It was also done at the suggestion of the Jews, for the greater humiliation of our Lord, to render Him more infamous, as associated with such wicked characters, well known to be such by all the people. “On the right,” &c. He was suspended in the midst, as the most infamous of the three. But this only tended to the glory of Christ, by verifying the prophecies regarding Him. “Et cum iniquis reputatus fuit” (Isa. 53:12; Mark 15:28).

It also denoted, that all mankind were called to a participation in the fruits of His Passion, who came in the midst of guilty, sinful men, to sanctify all by His innocence; that He would, however, make a distinction between the faithful, represented by the penitent thief, who implored the Divine mercy, and the unbelievers, represented by the impenitent thief, who blasphemed Him, and that the day would come when He would place the former on His right hand, and the latter on His left.

Mt 27:39. “They that passed by,” including those who were accidentally passing, as also those who went out expressly, “and stood beholding Him” (Luke 23:35), “blasphemed Him,” by their jeers and scornful scoffs, reproaching Him with His imputed crimes, so ignominiously punished, and by moving their heads in an insulting, scornful manner. This was predicted (Psa. 109:25). These jeers and reproachful scoffs, addressed to the Son of God—the Holy of Holies—were so many “blasphemies.” Such conduct showed the heartless cruelty and barbarous inhumanity of the Jews. For, the greatest criminals, while enduring torments, claim our commiseration. Hence, they added considerably to the sufferings of our Divine Redeemer. “Whom thou hast smitten, they have persecuted” (Psa. 69:27).

Mt 27:40. “And saying: Vah,” &c. “Vah,” an interjection, denoting derision and scorn, similar to “fie” with us; as much as to say, Thou impious, shameless braggart. It is not found now in the Greek versions. The Greek of it in other places of SS. Scripture is, ναὶ, corresponding with the Hebrew, Heah. It has reference to Psalm 35:21, the same as Euge, Euge, for which the Hebrew is Heah.

“Thou, that destroyest,” &c. The Greek means, Thou destroyer of the temple, &c., and builder of it … save Thyself, &c., that is, show now that Thou canst carry out Thy foolish boasting by saving Thyself from an ignominious death. “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.” Similar was the suggestion of the devil, “si filius Dei es, mitte te deorsum” (Mt 4:6), equally foolish and perverse. For, it is because He is Son of God, He should remain and die the death of the cross, to vanquish death itself, “ero mors tua, O mors;” and it is rather by His rising from the tomb, than by His descent from the cross, He should prove Himself to be the Son of God.

Mt 27:41. “In like manner also, the Chief Priests,” &c. Another class, who insulted our Lord on the cross.

Mt 27:42. “He saved others,” &c. The reproaches of the Chief Priests, &c., against our Lord, speaking to one another, were still more malignant than those of the people. They scoff at His miracles, whereby He saved others from death, and insinuate that they came not from God, but from Beelzebub. If His miracles were performed by the power of God, God would now save Him from an ignominious death; and hence, they insinuate, that He was an impostor and false prophet. They next reproach Him with the assumption of Royal dignity: “If He be the King of Israel”—in allusion to the “title” placed on His cross by Pilate—“let Him descend from the cross.” In this they show themselves deserving of censure, inasmuch as they had no reason for thinking that His descending from the cross would prove Him to be “the King of Israel,” and the promised Messiah. On the contrary, it was because He was the King of Israel and the promised Messiah, He would remain on the cross to redeem the world. They also state an untruth, that in the event of His descending from the cross, they would believe in Him, as is proved by their not believing in Him after a still greater miracle of His power displayed, in His resurrection. They would have rather ascribed His coming down from the cross to magic and diabolical agency, to which they often before attributed His other miracles.

Mt 27:43. They add a third subject of reproach, viz., His vain and presumptuous confidence in God. But this confidence in God on the part of a man in great straits, should be rather a subject of praise than of reproach; and these men falsely judge, that a release from suffering should result from confidence in God; whereas, the contrary frequently happens in the case of the greatest saints; God, for their greater good, thus testing their virtue. In these jeering scoffs of the High Priests, &c., are literally fulfilled the prophecy regarding Christ, in whose Person the Royal Psalmist speaks (Psa. 22:8). The Passion of our Lord is the subject of that Psalm. To the same, reference is made (Wisdom 2:16-17), where, in the person of the Jews, the Wise man says, “He glorieth that He hath God for His Father. Let us see then if His words are true,” &c.; (Wis 2:21), “These things they thought and were deceived, for their own malice blinded them.”

“Let Him deliver Him, if He will have Him,” that is, if He loves Him. But the very reverse would be the result. It is because God loved Him, as His well-beloved Son, He subjected Him to the death of the cross.

Mt 27:44. St. Luke (Lk 23:36) mentions a third class, who mocked and scoffed at our Lord on the cross, viz., the soldiers, who acted as His executioners. He was finally mocked by the robbers who were crucified along with Him, as SS. Matthew and Mark testify. The Evangelists use the word, “thieves,” in the plural number, by a figure quite common in Scripture, by which the plural is employed for the singular. Thus it is said (Luke 23:36), “the soldiers offered Him vinegar,” whereas only one soldier did so. Only one of the thieves reviled our Lord (Luke 23:40). Whether the penitent thief, in the first instance, joined his associate in reviling our Lord, and became afterwards converted, is disputed; but the most common opinion among the Latin Fathers is, that he did not, from first to last, revile our Blessed Lord. St. Luke circumstantially relates what is only expressed here in general words by St. Matthew. He also describes the conversion of the penitent thief, and the promise of salvation made to him by our Redeemer. (Lk 23:39, &c.)

Mt 27:45. Before this, should be inserted in historical order the words addressed by our Blessed Lord to St. John and His own Blessed Virgin Mother (John 19:25–27).

“From the sixth hour there was darkness,” &c. As the crucifixion of our Lord occurred at the vernal equinoxes, when the days and nights are equal, “the sixth hour” corresponded with our twelve o’clock, the sun having risen at six in the morning, and set at six in the evening. The darkness occurred at the time the sun occupies the highest place in the heavens, and his light is brightest, which sets forth in the clearest manner, the preternatural quality of the darkness referred to.

Eusebius, in his Chronicle, and other ecclesiastical writers, quote a passage from Phlegon, in his History of the Olympiads, in which he says that “in the fourth year of the 202 Olympiad, there occurred the greatest eclipse ever known. It was night at the sixth hour, that is, twelve o’clock at mid-day, and the stars were visible.” He also speaks of an earthquake, at the same time, at Bithynia. These authors entertain no doubt whatever of the identity of this eclipse and the earthquake with those which occurred at the death of Christ. Their date is the same. The fourth year of the 202 Olympiad commenced in the summer of the 32nd year of our era, and closed at the summer solstice of the 33rd year—the year in which it is almost universally agreed our Redeemer was crucified—the hour of the day the same, mid-day—the earthquake and darkness simultaneous in both cases. The eclipse must have been preternatural, as it could not take place, in the natural course, at full moon. Moreover, according to the Astronomical Tables, there had not been an eclipse of the sun in the 33rd year of our era—the year referred to by Phlegon. But there had been one in the 29th year of our era, on the 24th of November, at nine o’clock in the morning, which could have no connexion with that mentioned by Phlegon (Bergier, Dict. Theol. Eclipse).

Owing to the mention of “the sixth hour,” by St. Matthew, a question is here raised about reconciling St. Mark and St. John, regarding the precise hour of the crucifixion. There is no even apparent discrepancy between the other Evangelists. St. Mark (Mk 15:25) says, “It was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” St. John (Jn 19:14–16) says, “It was about the sixth hour,” when Pilate condemned Him to the death of the cross. To reconcile these apparently conflicting statements—for, it is quite certain from the Evangelists, that our Lord was crucified after He was condemned—has caused interpreters no small perplexity. Some would have it, that there was an error of copyists, who transcribed third for sixth, or sixth for third, in either of the Evangelists, the Greek letter which designates three (γ) being mistaken for (ς) which designates the number six. In which—Mark or John—the mistake occurred, is also a matter of dispute. The greater extrinsic authority is in favour of the correctness of the reading of St. Mark, in regard to which there is no variety of codices; whereas, in some codices, there is a variety, as regards St. John. For instance, the Codex of Cambridge, and one of the Royal codices, dated the eighth century, have the third hour instead of the sixth in St. John. Some of the ancient writers quoted by Griesbach (Novum. Testam. Græce in Joan 19:14), are in favour of the reading of these codices. Among those writers is the author of the Paschal Chronicle, who says, “that in the copy of the Gospel written by St. John’s own hand, and preserved in the Church of the Ephesians,” the third hour is found instead of the sixth. Patrizzi (Annot. c. xcv.) seems to lean to this opinion. The mode of reconcoiling both Evangelists, commonly adopted by those who maintain the accuracy of the reading in both is as follows: By hour, they understand, not common hours of sixty minutes each, but great hours, containing each, three common hours. According to the division of time, introduced by the Romans, and adopted by the Jews (see Mt 20:1), the day was divided into four equal parts, each part containing three common hours, and the night, into four equal parts, or watches, of three hours each. Following this computation of time, these interpreters say, both accounts are perfectly consistent, as our Lord was crucified towards the close of the great hour, termed the third, which commenced at nine o’clock, and terminated at twelve. And “about the sixth hour,” viz., some time before twelve o’clock, when the great hour termed the sixth, commenced. For, the four great hours were termed—first, commencing at six, and terminating at nine o’clock; third, commencing at nine, and terminating at twelve; sixth, commencing at twelve, and ending at three p.m.; and ninth, commencing at three, and ending with six, or sunset. Mauduit undertakes to refute this opinion in a Dissertation (xxxvi), in which the reasoning is more specious than solid.

For, the first great hour commenced at sunrise, corresponding at the equinoxes with our six o’clock, and ending at nine. The next great hour, termed “third,” from the common hour immediately preceding, commenced at nine, and ended at twelve o’clock, or mid-day. The next, termed sixth, commenced at twelve o’clock, and ended at three p.m., and the next, or last great hour, termed ninth, commenced at three o’clock, and terminated at six, or sunset.

As regards the darkness which took place at the crucifixion of our Lord, there is a great diversity of opinion as to its nature and extent. That the darkness was preternatural, can hardly be questioned by any Christian. If produced by a total eclipse of the sun, it must be preternatural; for, it occurred when it was full moon, and the sun in the opposite side of the heavens, it being Jewish Paschal time, which always took place on the fourteenth of the moon. Moreover, a total eclipse can naturally last only a quarter of an hour at most; whereas, this lasted three hours. Some interpreters suppose the darkness to be caused by the preternatural accumulation of the densest clouds, similar to that preternaturally brought on the land of Egypt, by the stretching forth of the hand of Moses. At all events, from whatever cause proceeding, it would seem, from what is recorded as happening near the cross, that the darkness was not so dense as that the bystanders could not see one another, or see what was passing.

As to the extent of this darkness, those who have recourse to the hypothesis of a thick mist, arising from sulphureous vapours, such as precede and accompany earthquakes, limit it, as a matter of course, to the vicinity of Jerusalem. Origen and some others confine it to the land of Judea, a signification which the words, the “entire earth,” sometimes bear in SS. Scripture. These say, if we confine it to the land of Judea, it would more forcibly point out the heavy anger of God, forcibly shadowed forth, as about to fall on the Jewish nation in particular, in punishment of the horrible crime of Deicide, the guilt and consequences of which they invoked “on themselves, and on their children.” Most of the ancient Fathers and writers, and many eminent modern interpreters, understand it to extend to the entire earth. In proof of this universal extension of the darkness, they quote the positive declaration of three Evangelists; also, the authority of Thallus, in his Syriac Histories, from which, though now lost, passages are quoted by Tertullian, Eusebius, &c., with whom Phlegon, already quoted, is perfectly in accord. We are told by Suidas, that Dionysius, the Areopagite, who was at Hieropolis, in Egypt, at this time, on observing this eclipse of the sun, said to his friend, Apollophanus, “aut Deus naturæ patitur, aut mundi machina dissolvitur.” These events were recorded in the annals of the Roman Empire. Tertullian, in his apology, refers the unbelievers of his day to these archives, in proof of the phenomena which occurred at the death of Christ, “Eum mundi casum”—referring to the eclipse—“relatum in Archivis vestris habetis.” Some writers, however, attach no great weight to these latter testimonies. They question whether Thallus lived before Christ, and they endeavour to show that the writings, ascribed to Dionysius, are spurious. In their objections to the universal extension of the darkness, they go too far, judging of what was clearly preternatural, as they would of the occurrence of merely natural phenomena.

The Fathers, all of whom (except Origen, who is followed by Maldonatus), hold the universal extension of the darkness, say, the sun withheld his light, out of sympathy with his Lord, so as not to witness such a horrid act of parricide as the Jews committed, in crucifying the Author of life, the great Creator of the universe. “It appears to me,” says St. Jerome, “that the great luminary of the world hid his rays, not to witness the Lord hanging on the cross, and not to afford light to the impious blasphemers.” Most likely, the Almighty had in view, in the phenomena which occurred at the crucifixion, to prove the Divinity of His Son, and confute those who challenged Him, “si filius Dei est, descendat de cruce,” &c.

Mt 27:46. “And about the ninth hour,” &c., corresponding with our three o’clock in the afternoon. St. Mark says, “At the ninth hour.” But, there is no contradiction, as men usually say a thing happened at the ninth, which happened about that hour, whether shortly before or shortly after it. It would seem that nothing occurred, and that silence prevailed from the sixth till the ninth hour; that, during the darkness, the Jews were seized with awe. Similar silence prevailed during the Egyptian darkness, which was a type of that occurring at the death of our Lord.

“Jesus cried with a loud voice.” This loud cry was manifestly preternatural, as always, when men are either dying or in dread of death, the voice first fails, and becomes weak. “Eli, Eli, lamma Sabacthani.” These words commence the twenty-first Psalm, and our Redeemer, by using them, wishes to convey to the Jews, that He was the subject of this Psalm; that David spoke in His person, and that the entire Psalm, which minutely describes, beforehand, His Passion, was literally fulfilled in Him. In this Psalm, according to the Septuagint rendering, the pronoun, “My,” is expressed but once, “O God, My God,” and the words, “look upon Me,” are inserted. But, the Hebrew has it, as spoken here by our Lord, according to the narrative of the Evangelists. Instead of “Sabacthani,” the Hebrew in the Psalm is Azabtani; but, it is to be borne in mind, that after their return from the Babylonish captivity, the Jews spoke not the pure Hebrew, but the Syro-Chaldaic, in which language our Redeemer on the cross said, “Sabacthani,” the Chaldaic, for “Azabtani.” St. Mark (Mk 15:34), has, “Eloi, Eloi.” This signifies the same as “Eli, Eli.” But, most likely, it was the latter form our Redeemer used, as this would give clearer grounds for the mistake on the part of those who overheard Him, that He called for Elias.

“Why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Our Redeemer made use of this vehement appeal not as a question having for object to ascertain what He did not know; for, He knew all things. It is merely a complaint, uttered for the purpose of awakening our attention to the cause of His mysterious abandonment by His Father, for the purpose of conveying to us, that He was abandoned, because He became a vicarious offering in our place, to atone for the sins of the world, and to cause us to inquire, why He was abandoned, and thus to increase our love and gratitude. These words are said by some of the holy Fathers, to have been uttered in the person of sinners, for whom He suffered. This, they say, the following words would show: “Longe a salute mea verba delictorum mcorum” (Psa. 22). They may be also a prayer, entreating His Heavenly Father to put an end to His sufferings, and to allow them to continue no longer, “exauditus est pro sua reverentia” (Heb. 10:7). The word, “forsaken,” merely signifies, that He was left to suffer fearful torments without being rescued from them; or, it may mean, that His Divinity withdrew from His human nature every, even the slightest, consolation.

Our Lord thus conveys to us, that, although He bore all this meekly and uncomplainingly, in the course of His Passion; that, while His great patience, His praying for His persecutors, His tender solicitude for His Blessed Mother, &c., might lead men to suppose He suffered but little; still, He suffered most intensely on the cross, as He did in the garden, when He prayed that, “this bitter chalice might pass away,” &c. From the words our Lord uttered after this, it would seem He had been alive on the cross after “the ninth hour,” as He had been affixed to the same cross before the sixth. Hence, He hung on the cross more than three hours, which shows us the extent of His suffering, and is calculated to challenge our deepest gratitude and love. It is to the loud cry, “My God,” &c., St. Paul refers, when he says, “qui, cum clamore magno,” &c. (Heb. 5:7).

The shocking blasphemy of Calvin, who says, this loud cry proceeded from despair, on the part of our Lord, is sufficiently refuted by His dying words, so full of sweetness and calm resignation, “in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.”

The seven last words of our Redeemer on the cross are—1. “Father, forgive them,” &c. (Luke 23:34). 2. “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). 3. “Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother” (John 19:26, 27). 4. “Eli, Eli,” &c., here. 5. “I thirst” (John 19:28). 6. “It is consummated.” 7. “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Mt 27:47. St. Jerome understands this of the Roman soldiers, who, having heard from the Jews that Elias was to return at the coming of the Messiah, ignorant of the Syro-Chaldaic idiom, imagined our Redeemer was calling on Elias, when He exclaimed, “Eli, Eli,” &c.; and this derives probability from the fact, that it was the Roman soldiers that gave Him the vinegar (Luke 23:36). Should it refer to the Jews, St. Jerome is of opinion, that they, intentionally perverting our Lord’s words, in derision of His claims to be the Messiah, affected to think He called on Elias, for the purpose of attributing weakness to Him, in calling on Elias to come to His aid.

Mt 27:48. St. John (Jn 19:28) gives the connexion between this and the foregoing. He says, that our Redeemer, in order “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” viz., the words of the Psalmist, “in siti mea aceto me potaverunt” (Psa. 69:22), said, “I thirst.” Such thirst was the natural effect of the exquisite tortures He had been enduring—of the almost entire effusion of His sacred blood. He had, morever, tasted nothing from the preceding evening, and He was parched from continual journeyings, watching, and afflictions. The words convey to us His ardent thirst for the salvation of souls. A vessel of vinegar was usually at hand on occasion of crucifixion, according to some, for the purpose, in case of fainting, of reviving the exhausted vital spirits of the sufferers. In the present instance, it is maintained that the vinegar was given by the Roman soldiers, not only for the purpose of deriding Him (Luke 23:36), as mock King of the Jews, but also, for the purpose of torturing Him with the bitter draught which caused still greater thirst, and of prolonging His tortures. Others maintain, that it was rather for the purpose of accelerating His death the vinegar was given, as vinegar has the effect of penetrating and instilling its virulence into all the wounds and members of the body, and thus accelerating death. The Roman soldiers were anxious for this, as the day was far gone, and the hour for dinner long past.

“One of them,” the soldiers (Luke 23:36), “took a sponge, and filed it with vinegar.” There was a vessel of vinegar placed there (John 19:29). The “sponge,” which absorbed the fluid, was more convenient for ministering a drink than a vessel would be, to one raised aloft. He could suck out of the sponge the fluid it absorbed. “And put it on a reed.” St. John (Jn 19:29) tells us, the “reed” was a stalk of hyssop, around which they fastened the sponge. A certain kind of “hyssop” grows longer in the East than with us. This was sufficiently long to reach, with the outstretched hand of a man, the mouth of our Redeemer, suspended on the cross.

Mt 27:49. “And the others said: Let be, let us see,” &c. The meaning of “let be” is, hold, be easy, disregarding everything else, “let us see,” &c. The words, “let be,” is read in the singular here, “sine,” as if addressed by the bystanders and soldiers to the man who gave him the bitter potion, as if to say, cease from giving Him vinegar, which may accelerate His death before Elias comes, who may find Him dead on his arrival; or, in the opinion of those who hold, that the vinegar had rather the effect of prolonging life, stay, do not prevent Him from being refreshed with vinegar, in order that, by prolonging His life, we may “see whether Elias will come,” &c. In consequence of the phenomena which accompanied our Redeemer’s death, they doubt whether He was not the Messias, whose precursor, both Jews and Christians believed Elias to be; and this the Roman soldiers, most likely, heard from the Jews. St. Mark (Mk 15:36) employs the words, “stay ye,” in the plural, sinite, as if addressed to the bystanders by the soldier who administered the vinegar. Likely, both versions are true. The soldier addressed the bystanders, and they, in turn, addressed him, according to the meaning already assigned. Some even understand the words to mean, “stay,” that is, keep aloof, leave Him alone, as it is only when alone, Elias who would not come in a crowd, will approach Him. This potion was different from that in verse 34; both were given in different circumstances.

Mt 27:50. “With a loud voice,” which was preternatural; since, a man’s voice on the point of expiring, fails and becomes weak. But, in the case of our Lord, His voice was preternaturally and miraculously restored. And He cried out “with a loud voice,” to show the perfect voluntariness of His death; and that it took place, not through any failure of the powers of nature. “He had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again” (John 10:18); and also to show, that He was God, which the centurion inferred from this fact (Mark 15:39). St. Luke (Lk 23:46) tells us, He uttered, with a loud voice, the words, “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit,” as if to say, He deposited His soul with Him, because He was to resume it again. St. John (Jn 19:30) tells us, “And bowing down His head, He gave up the ghost.” He bowed down His head before giving up the ghost, which is done by all other men after expiring, to show He did so voluntarily, and not from any infirmity. “He commends His spirit,” as a deposit, into the hands of His Heavenly Father, from whom He is shortly to receive it back, to be united to His body at the Resurrection.

Mt 27:51. “And behold.” St. Augustine observes, that “behold” shows these things to have happened, in consequence of and after the death of Christ; hence, what St. Luke states (Lk 23:45) is mentioned by anticipation. “The veil of the temple.” Josephus tells us (Lib. 5 de Bel. Jud., c. 5), that there were two veils in the temple—the one, before the Holy place or Sanctum; the other, before the Sanctum Sanctorum. It is not agreed among the ancients which of these two veils was rent in two. The words of St. Paul to the Hebrews 10, would add weight to the opinion which understand it of the inner veil; and this was properly, “the veil.” Various reasons are assigned for this. Besides the general reason affecting all these prodigies that occurred at the death of Christ, viz., that they had for object to show His power and Divinity, and to show forth the detestation of Jewish barbarity towards the Son of God, there are special reasons assigned also, and among these, as regards the rending of the veil, is, that it was meant to show, by a very bold figure of speech, that the temple could not stand the shocking impiety practised towards its Lord and Master, and that it manifested its horror by rending its garments, in imitation of the Jewish people on occasions of impiety, and especially of blasphemy. It was also mystically meant, to teach us that the mysteries of the law, hitherto concealed before the coming of Christ, were now clearly made known to us, by the faith secured to us through the death of Christ; and also to show us, that the road to heaven, the true sanctuary, typified by the Sanctum Sanctorum, was now opened to mankind, by His death (Heb. 9:8).

“And the earth quaked.” This was meant to show the Divinity of our Redeemer, the Lord of heaven and earth. He it was that caused this quaking of the earth, in virtue of His Divine power, of which the earthquake is a striking indication. It also meant, as did the splitting of the rocks, to mark the natural horror which all creatures felt at the shocking crime of the Jews, and their sympathy with the Lord of creation in His barbarous sufferings. The quaking of the earth is sometimes employed in Scripture, to denote the anger of the Almighty. (Psa. 18, &c.) It is the opinion of some, that this was the same as the earthquake which happened in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, the greatest on record. It is mentioned by Pliny and Macrobius. The latter tells us, it destroyed no less than twelve cities in Asia. Origen and others, however, maintain, that the present earthquake went no farther than the Temple of Jerusalem, and the portions mentioned in SS. Scriptures, viz., the veil, the rocks, the tombs, &c.; and they seem to think the confining of the earthquake to Jerusalem and the temple, &c., would more clearly indicate, beforehand, the destruction of the Jewish temple and worship, in punishment of Jewish impiety, in crucifying the Lord of glory.

“And the rods were rent.” St. Cyril (Catechesi 13) tells us, traces of this are visible in Calvary to the present day. Shaw, the Oriental traveller, tells us, after minutely examining everything on Calvary, that the aperture in the rock on Calvary is a miracle, which must inspire one with feelings of religious awe and wonder. Millar, in his history of the Propagation of Christianity, states, that a Deist was converted on seeing that the fissures in the rock were contrary to what takes place in ordinary earthquakes, as these immense fissures were not according to the veins and weakest parts of the rock. These extraordinary events, which could not be considered fortuitous, indicate the atrocity of Jewish impiety, the anger of God, the Divinity of our Lord, the hard, stony hearts of His crucifiers, who stood unmoved, while the very rocks were melted unto pity.

Mt 27:52. “And the graves were opened,” in virtue of the efficacy of the death of Christ, who, though crucified, was the Lord of life and death, who conquered death, and restored life to man. Whether the graves were opened immediately on the death of Christ, or only after His resurrection, is disputed. Some maintain, that the graves were now opened, in order to show that it was done, in virtue of Christ’s Passion; but, that it was only after our Lord’s resurrection, the dead arose; because it was meet, that He who was the first-born among the dead, “the first-fruits of them that sleep” (1 Cor. 15:20), should be the first to rise, and then others after Him. Others, who cannot see the meaning of graves opening, without the dead arising, maintain, that it was only after the resurrection the graves were opened. So that the entire of these two verses (Mt 27:52–53), are affected by the words (v. 53), “after His resurrection.” But, that St. Matthew records the events mentioned in this verse by anticipation, in connexion with the death of Christ; because, it was in virtue of the merits of His death, they occurred.

“Many bodies of the saints”—reanimated and reunited to their souls—“arose,” from the slumbers of the tomb, to enter on an immortal life. It is most likely, that these never again returned to the tomb; but, that they were brought by our Lord into heaven, as so many trophies to grace the triumph of His ascension. This is the common opinion of modern commentators. Nor are the words of St. Paul (Heb. 11:40) opposed to this, as there reference is made to the laws affecting the General Resurrection of all; here, to a special and exceptional privilege.

Mt 27:53. The Evangelist mentions, by anticipation, the events of this verse and the preceding; because, they belong to the prodigies having immediate connexion with the death of Christ.

“The Holy City,” Jerusalem, so long consecrated to the true worship of God, where stood His holy Temple; and although now polluted by the crimes of the Jews, still, it was, hitherto, the seat of His religion, consecrated by the presence and miracles of the Son of God, and the mysteries of His life, death, and resurrection. In it, was accomplished the work of Redemption; and from it, the Gospel of Salvation was sent forth into the entire earth.

“They came into the Holy City”—the graves being outside the walls—“and appeared to many,” to those witnesses alone pre-ordained by God; to those whose faith it was important to have confirmed, as our Lord Himself appeared not to all the people, but to His Apostles, &c. Who these “saints,” thus raised to life, were, cannot be known for certain. It is most likely, they belonged to that class who had some peculiar relation to Christ, either of descent, or promise, or type, or hope, or faith, or chastity, or sanctity, such as Adam, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Melchisedech, David, Job, Jonas, Moses, Josue, Samuel, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechial, and the other prophets; and, most likely, some of them belonged to those, who lately died in sanctity and in the faith, such as Simeon, &c. The fact of their having been recognized by their contemporaries, would prove that they were not long dead. However, the ancient Fathers and Prophets might, from certain peculiar qualities, be recognized by the Jews existing at this time, and especially, by the favoured persons, those “many” to whom they appeared. The object of their resurrection was, doubtless, to show that the power of the grave was destroyed by the life and immortality purchased for us by Christ; and thus to serve as a pledge of the General Resurrection; and also to be the associates, witnesses, and heralds of His resurrection.

Mt 27:54. “The centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus.” St. Mark (Mk 15:39) says, “The centurion who stood over against Him, having seen the earthquake and the things that were done,” viz., the darkness, splitting of the rocks, &c.; but especially seeing that He gave up the ghost, loudly crying out in this manner (Mark, ibidem), “were greatly afraid,” lest the vengeance which they felt assured, God would inflict for the murder of His Son, would, in the first instance, fall on themselves, as His executioners. St. Luke says (Lk 23:47), “The centurion … glorified God,” by his faith and confession of the truth, “saying: Indeed this was a just man.” St. Mark (Mk 15:39), “Indeed this man was the Son of God.” It is very likely, the centurion and the soldiers said both, viz., that He was a “just man,” unjustly punished; nay, what He proclaimed Himself to be, “truly the Son of God,” whose Divinity these wonderful events proclaimed.

They heard the Jews say, our Lord was crucified for proclaiming Himself the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah, the Son of God. Hence, seeing the wonders wrought in attestation of it, they at once proclaim Him to be what He said He was, viz., the natural Son of God. These may be regarded as the earliest among the Gentiles, whom the merits of Christ’s Passion and His grace reached, and also the first-fruits of Christ’s prayer on the cross for His persecutors. St. Luke (Lk 23:48) assures us, that not only the Roman centurion and his associates, but also that “all the multitude who came together to that sight and saw the things that were done, returned striking their breasts,” partly from feelings of sorrow and detestation of the horrid deed now perpetrated, in which they had concurred; and partly, from fear of the vengeance it would entail. These might be regarded, as shadowing forth the conversion of the Jews, which took place especially at the following Pentecost. There is no mention made of the Chief Priests becoming converted, or being any way affected by the death of Christ.

Mt 27:55. “And there were many women afar off,” that is, viewing our Redeemer’s sufferings from a distance, as the Greek words (ἀπὸ μακρόθεν) signify. That the Blessed Virgin was among those present and near the cross, we learn from St. John (Jn 19:25); so near that our Redeemer could address her. Very likely, the women referred to here, may have been sometimes near the cross, and at other times, farther away from it, owing to the soldiers and crowds who came to see the spectacle. These women are here commended for their constancy and love, for having followed Him, and having after the Apostles deserted Him, stood by His cross, witnesses of His patience and meekness, and death—for having followed Him far away from their own country, and for having administered to Him and His, by their personal services and kind offices, and for having out of their own means supplied His wants.

Mt 27:56. “Among whom was Mary Magdalen,” commonly supposed to be the same, of whom mention is made as the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Out of her, our Lord had cast seven devils, and, now, from gratitude for the recovery of health of mind and body, she follows Him unto death. “And Mary, the mother of James and Joseph.” She is called, “Mary of Cleophas,” from her husband, Cleophas. She was the sister of the Blessed Virgin (John 19:25).

“And the mother of the sons of Zebedee,” called Salome (Mark 15:40). There were others besides. But these are specially mentioned as being the most remarkable in their pious offices to our Blessed Lord. Moreover, these remained for His sepulture, when the others went away. It is very probable, that St. John took the Blessed Virgin away from the scene of sorrow immediately after the death of her beloved Son. St. Luke says (Lk 23:49), “And all His acquaintance, and the women … stood afar off.” From this it appears, that some men also were there, as contradistinguished from the “women.” Thus were verified the words of the Psalmist, “amici mei et proximi mei … et qui juxta me erant, de lunge steterunt.”

The words, “all His acquaintance,” are not meant to convey, that all His acquaintance were there even at a distance, but only that such as were recognizable there—and St. John is the only one of whom express mention is made in the Gospel—were at a distance, and this latter is to be understood in a comparative sense. They were at a distance, compared with the soldiers and the crowd that were insulting Him; but, still near enough to witness His sufferings and hear His voice whenever He spoke. Here in due order of narrative should be inserted some occurrences mentioned by St. John only, in the history of our Lord’s Passion (John 19:31–37).

Mt 27:57. “When it was evening,” when evening approached, shortly before sunset; for, as the Sabbath commenced at sunset, they could, then, take no active steps towards taking down from the cross, or burying the body of Jesus.

“There came a certain rich man,” &c. This is mentioned, because, no poor or humble man could approach the Roman Governor on such a business. “Of Arimathea.” He was a native of this place, or sprung from it, although it is thought he resided at Jerusalem, as appears from his having hewed “his own monument out of rock,” &c. (Mt 27:60.) Arimathea was a town of Judea which St. Jerome tells us was the same as “Ramathaim Sophim” (1 Sam 1), eighteen or twenty miles north-west of Jerusalem. “Named Joseph.” This minute description gains greater credit for the narrative. It was a name celebrated in the history of the people of God, rendered specially illustrious by the Patriarch, Joseph, the son of Jacob; and another Joseph, still more illustrious, the foster-father of the Son of God. “Who also himself was a disciple of Jesus.” This accounts for the pious solicitude manifested by him to have the honour of sepulture paid our Redeemer, and to have Him rescued from the ignominy of having His sacred remains cast into the common receptacle of malefactors and criminals. St. John (Jn 19:38) tells us, “he was a disciple, but in private for fear of the Jews;” he was “a noble counsellor” (St. Mark 15:43); “a senator, a just and good man” (Luke 23:50, 51), “who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.” Being a “counsellor,” βουλευτης, or, decurio, which in the Provinces of Rome, designated a municipal honour equal to that of Senator at Rome. He belonged to the Sanhedrin, and, most likely, attended the Council that sat in judgment on our Blessed Lord, but he “did not consent to their counsel and doings” (Luke 23:51). To him may be applied, in a special manner, the words of the Psalmist, “beatus vir qui non abiit in consilio impiorum”—“he had been expecting the kingdom of God,” which means, that he firmly believed Jesus to be the Messiah, whose coming he had ardently longed for.

Mt 27:58. “He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus.” St. Mark (Mk 15:43) observes, that he did this courageously, or “boldly,” to convey to us the spirit of fortitude with which God, on this occasion, endowed him who hitherto was only “in private a disciple of Jesus,” from feelings of fear. He begged our Redeemer’s body, for the purpose of honourable interment, and to have it removed from the bodies of the common herd of malefactors, thus fulfilling the words of Scripture, “erit sepulchrum ejus gloriosum.” St. Mark informs us, that Pilate wondered that He should be dead so soon (for sometimes persons crucified lived for some time, nay, for two days, on the cross); and that he sent for the centurion, to know if it were so, and having been assured of it by the centurion, who guarded Him, he gave the body to Joseph, or, as it is here, “he commanded the body to be delivered.” All this was brought about by God’s overruling providence, in order that there would be no room for questioning or cavilling about the truth of our Redeemer’s death, or the reality of His resurrection from the dead. Pilate wished, by this, to make some atonement for the crime of condemning to death an innocent person; and, most likely, Joseph pleaded his well-known innocence as a reason for obtaining His body, in order to secure for it the rights of decent sepulture. “To be delivered,” that is, given back. For, Pilate himself gave Him to His executioners, and now he demands Him back.

Mt 27:59-60. “Taking His body” (“down,” from the cross, Mark, Luke), “wrapt it up in a clean linen cloth,” which he bought for the purpose (Mark 15:46), which was, therefore, not only clean, but quite new.

“And laid it in his own new monument, which he had hewed out in a rock.” St. John adds, “wherein no man had been yet laid” (John 19:41). The piety of Joseph towards our Blessed Lord, is manifested—1st. By his having taken Him down from the cross; thus, regardless of the censure of his countrymen, who regarded the touch of such a body as a pollution. 2ndly. By his having wrapped it up in fine linen, which he bought for the purpose, and, aided by Nicodemus (John 19:39), perfuming it with spices, composed of “a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound,” thus sparing no expense to bestow on Him the honours of a costly burial, bestowed on the rich and noble alone among the Jews. 3rdly. By placing Him, who had not whereon to lay His head during life, and no burial-place at death, in His own new sepulchre, hewn in a rock, in his garden, which was nigh at hand. All this, although intended by Joseph solely to honour his Lord, was, still, arranged by God’s providence, to ensure the faith in His resurrection. For, as no other was laid in the tomb, so, no other could be said to have risen; and, as it was hewed in a solid rock, it could not be said, the disciples took away the body, through any opening in the walls, or by undermining the foundation, or raising the roof of the monument. If such was the piety of these holy men towards the dead body of our Redeemer, how great should not be our respect, reverence, and devotion towards His living, immortal body, which we daily receive in the Blessed and Adorable Eucharist?

“And he rolled a great stone to the mouth of the monument, and went his way,” to prevent any violation of the place, or of His body, and to secure the linen and the spices. This was intended by Providence, to insure more firmly the faith of the Resurrection.

Mt 27:61. “The other Mary,” refers to Mary, the mother of James and Joseph (Mark 15:47). “Sitting over against the sepulchre.” That there were more than these two present, is clear from St. Luke (Lk 23:55); but these two are specified, because, they were more remarkable, and showed the most sedulous anxiety. These pious women could not be torn from the cross while our Redeemer hung upon it, and, without mingling with the men, who were engaged in depositing His sacred body in the tomb, they remained close enough to the sepulchre to see “how His body was laid” (Luke 23:55), in order, that, after the Sabbath was over, on which no work could be done, they might come back and embalm His body with spices and ointment, which they purchased for the purpose, immediately after He was committed to the tomb (Luke 23:56). From the next chapter, it will be seen that they came back for the purpose of executing their pious intention.

Mt 27:62. “The next day, which followed the day of preparation,” viz., the Sabbath-day. However, the Evangelist does not call it by that name, since, as regarded the Jews, it was anything but a Sabbath, or a day of religious rest. Here, the Chief Priests are silently taxed with inconsistence. Those who heretofore had so often calumniously charged our Lord with a violation of the Sabbath, while performing works of charity and benevolence, make no scruple whatever in going to a Pagan judge, and demanding an armed guard to place them at the tomb, or, in sealing up the tomb and closing it—all operations involving much labour, and not permitted, either by law or tradition. Friday is called “preparation,” or Parasceve, because, on that day, the Jews prepared all things appertaining to food, &c., required on the following day—the Sabbath—on which day, they were not allowed to dress food, kindle a fire, &c. (Exod. 16:23–29).

“The Chief Priests,” &c., maddened with rage against Jesus, are not content with persecuting Him even unto death; but, they must follow Him, beyond the grave, destroy His fame, and blot out His name for ever. How admirably these wicked men illustrate the description given of the impious (Isa. 57:20-21; Job 15:21). The very attempt at guarding against imposture in the case of our Redeemer, not only argues their disregard for the Sabbath, and convicts them of trying, deliberately and knowingly, to stifle the truth of His resurrection, while it deprives them of all pretext for saying, His body was stolen; but, it furnishes the strongest confirmation of the resurrection, “iniquity has lied to itself,” and the words of Scripture illustrated. “There is no wisdom … against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30); “He destroys the wisdom of the wise,” &c. In other cases, they might plead innocence; here, they sin inexcusably, against the known truth, and against the Holy Ghost.

Mt 27:63. “We have remembered, that this seducer said,” &c. Lest Pilate should wonder they did not ask for an armed guard before this, they affect forgetfulness of what they had before been aware of; now, affecting to remember it, they wish to adopt precautionary measures. Although our Redeemer referred to His resurrection, on some occasions, in addressing the Jews (Matt. 12:39; John 2:19), still, they did not clearly understand Him; since, He spoke clearly to His Apostles alone on this subject. Hence, it must be from Judas, who betrayed his Master’s secrets, as well as His person, they heard it, or from the general rumour regarding it, which prevailed among the people. Their chief object in this proceeding was to foil, as far as possible, the prediction of Christ, which they feared would be verified on this subject, and the prodigies which occurred at His death served to awaken their apprehensions still more.

“That seducer,” the opprobrious epithet they bestowed on the Author of life, and God of all truth.

“After three days I will rise again,” that is, three days commenced, or partially accomplished, or, within three days, or, after the third day shall have arrived.

Mt 27:64. The Chief Priests, therefore, ask Pilate to have “the sepulchre guarded until the third day,” that is, the close of the third day. Our Redeemer did not say at what hour He would arise. This explains what they understood by the words, “after three days.” For, if the words meant that He would not rise till after three days, there would be no meaning in placing a guard till the term of three days had passed, as His disciples would not think of removing Him till the term specified by Himself had expired. Moreover, the guard should be continued, not until the third day, but after the third day; since, it was only then, in the supposed interpretation, He was to arise.

“Lest His disciples come,” &c. This was sheer hypocrisy and pretence. Their object in asking for a guard was, that they would prevent His rising, and, if necessary, to apprehend, or kill Him. For, in reality, they had no fears of His frightened, scattered, timorous disciples, who, if themselves imposed upon, could have no motive in perpetuating the deception, but, rather, every motive in exposing it, and confessing their own error, nor any hopes of succeeding in such an attempt, considering their position among their countrymen. They lacked all the human means of successfully propagating the deception. They had neither eloquence, nor wealth, nor family influence, nor numbers. This the High Priests well knew. Their fear about the disciples was a mere frivolous pretence. Their real motive in asking for a guard, was to prevent our Redeemer’s prediction being verified.

“So”—in case they succeeded in persuading the people of the fact of His having risen in accordance with His own prediction on the subject—“the last error shall be worse than the first.” The first error, or imposture, was the teaching of Christ, and particularly His claiming to be the Son of God. This error would be included in that regarding His resurrection; and, moreover, would derive further confirmation from it. Since, His raising Himself from the dead by His own power, in accordance with His prediction, would surely prove His Divinity.

The truth of this would involve Jews and Romans in the odium of having put to death the Author of life, and might serve as an incentive to wars and rebellions; and hence, the “last error” would be worse, in itself, because, it not only contained the former error, but also the most demonstrative proof of it, worse and more pernicious in its consequences, both in regard to Jews and Romans, and in regard to the numbers it would infect, and the difficulty of eradicating it; “worse,” in its extent, as it would extend, not alone to Judea, but to the uttermost bounds of the earth. Thus, these wicked men became prophets of their own disgrace, and of the glory of our Blessed Lord.

Mt 27:65. “You have a guard,” a company of soldiers, already placed at your service, for the crucifixion of this man. You are hereby allowed to use it, for the purpose of watching the sepulchre. The Greek, εχετε, may be rendered in the indicative or imperative, but the Vulgate version—habetis—in the indicative, is the most common, and the best sustained rendering of it. Some expositors (Calmet, &c.), by “guard,” understand a company of soldiers, appointed to guard the temple. But there is no evidence that these could be used for any other purpose. Others understand it, of the band stationed in the Castle of Antonia, for the purpose of quelling any tumult in the city.

“Go, guard it as you know,” adopt whatever means you may think prudent and effectual. Pilate thus insinuates, he had no wish to mix himself up any longer in their local and religious concerns.

Mt 27:66. “And they departing,” going to the sepulchre, and bringing with them the appointed guard of soldiers, “made sure the sepulchre with guards,” by placing the necessary guard of soldiers around it. They probably communicated to these soldiers their real or pretended fears, regarding the resurrection of our Blessed Lord. Most likely, they threatened them with the consequences, on the part of the Governor, in case of unfaithfulness; and promised great rewards, in case they proved faithful, until after the allotted time had passed. They, probably, had also instructed them, in case our Redeemer were really to arise, to put Him to death, as they may have formed the same notions of His renewed and immortal life, that they entertained regarding Lazarus, whom they thought to kill, after he was resuscitated from the grave (John 12:10).

“Sealing the stone” (σφραγισαντες) with the public seal—“the stone” referred to (v. 60). They thus secured the sepulchre, in two ways, with the public seal, and with a guard of soldiers. Whether this was Pilate’s seal, or that of the High Priests, is disputed. The latter is the more common opinion. St. Chrysostom, however, holds the former. They took these extraordinary precautions against the guard, in case they should be tampered with, and against the disciples also. Darius acted similarly, in regard to Daniel (Dan. 6:17). All these extraordinary precautions, to guard against imposition, only served to render the truth of our Lord’s glorious resurrection more certain and indisputable. Thus, the Almighty turned the devices of His enemies against themselves, “destroying the wisdom of the wise, and rejecting the prudence of the prudent,” and He thus demonstrated that, “there is no wisdom, no prudence, no counsel, against the Lord” (Prov. 21:30).

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 26

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018


In this chapter, the Evangelist narrates our Redeemer’s prediction of His death, just now at hand. The meeting of the Jewish Sanhedrim for the purpose of devising measures to insure His death (Mt 26;1–5). The anointing of His feet at Bethania with precious ointment by Magdalen, which made the avaricious Judas murmur, and furnished him with a pretext for betraying his Lord (Mt 26:6–9). Our Lord’s defence of the woman, whose act, He declares to be praiseworthy, considering the religious end she had in view; He predicts, that her act would be regarded in this light at a future day, throughout the entire world (Mt 26:10–13). The treasonable bargain entered into by Judas to betray Him for thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:14–16). The commission given to Peter and John to go into Jerusalem and prepare the Pasch, with which they strictly complied (Mt 26:17–19). His prediction that one of His Apostles present would betray Him; and mild means having failed to reclaim the traitor, whom He refrains from mentioning by name, He employs the threats, unhappily, in vain, of eternal woe to effect this Mt 26:(17–25). The institution of the adorable Eucharist, both as a Sacrament and Sacrifice at the Last Supper. Our Redeemer’s valedictory address, pointing to the joys in store for His faithful servants in the kingdom of His Father (Mt 26:26–30). We have next an account of our Lord’s prediction of the cowardly desertion of Him by His Apostles. Peter’s confident declaration, that he would die first, in which the other Apostles joined him. Our Lord’s prediction of Peter’s denial of Him before cockcrow Mt 26:31–35). Our Lord’s agony in the garden, and His fervent, protracted prayer (Mt 26:36–46). We have, next, the treason of Judas; the apprehension of our Lord; His rebuke to His followers, who meant to defend Him. His rebuke to His enemies, who came to treat Him as a midnight robber (Mt 26:47–56). The examination of our Lord before the assembled Sanhedrin; the false testimony suborned for the purpose. The dignified silence of our Lord, with reference to the false testimony adduced against Him. His solemn declaration of His Divinity, when officially questioned in the name of the living God, by the High Priest. The blasphemous conduct of the High Priest. His iniquitous judgment, in which the other members of the court joined (Mt 26:57–66). The contumelious treatment of our Lord by the servants and underlings in the Hall of Caiphas, during the night, after the assembly broke up (Mt 26:67–68). The triple denial of our Lord by Peter, his sorrow and repentance (Mt 26:69–75).

Mt 26:1. “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended all these words.” “All these words,” most probably, refer to the preceding discourse (chapters 24-25), relative to the Day of Judgment, the destruction of Jerusalem, the necessity of vigilance, and good works, as illustrated in the several foregoing parables. St. Thomas (in hunc locum) observes, that “all these words,” comprise the entire of our Redeemer’s teaching, as contained in the Gospel, so that the Evangelist wishes, according to Him, to convey, that, after our Redeemer had acquitted Himself of the office of teacher, He now prepares for His office of Saviour, and wishes to apprise His disciples, beforehand, of it, in order to secure them against being scandalized at His Passion, by showing them, He foresaw it all beforehand, and endured it, because He willed it. Having heretofore predicted the manner, and the place, of His death, He here predicts the exact time of it.

Mt 26:2. “You know,” as a matter of course, well known to the entire people; or, it might mean, that He Himself had previously informed them of it; “that”—according to the strict disposition of the law itself, which He meant to follow—“the Pasch shall be after two days.” (In the Greek, it is in the present tense, γινεται, “the Pasch is,” to denote the certainty of the future event, and the fixed time for celebrating it). This passage furnishes a subject of great doubt and disputation, as to the time when these words were spoken. It is almost universally agreed upon, that they were spoken on the evening of the twelfth moon of the month, Nisan, corresponding with our March. For, as the Pasch was to be eaten on the evening of the 14th of that month, according to the Jewish law (Exod. 12:6–18), and the festival which commenced on that evening, was to be celebrated also during the following day, the 15th (for all the Jewish festivals were celebrated from evening till evening), then, as “two days” intervened between the time our Redeemer spoke these words, and the evening of the 14th, it follows, clearly, that that evening was the 12th of the month.

But on what day of the week did He say those things, is another question. That it was on Tuesday evening, is clearly inferred, from the fact, that our Redeemer’s Passion took place on Friday. For, St. Luke (Lk 23:54–56); St. John (Jn 19:31), inform us, that the day following His Passion was the Sabbath. Moreover, such has been, at all times, the teaching of the Christian Church. Then, as our Redeemer, as is clear from the Gospel history, celebrated the Paschal feast on the preceding evening, of the 14th Nisan, at the time the Paschal festival of the following day (the 15th Nisan) commenced, on which day He was crucified, it follows, that the words were spoken on Tuesday evening, between which and the evening of Thursday, two days intervened. The same is inferred, from the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, which happened on Sunday, as the Catholic Church has always taught. Now, as the Paschal solemnity was to be on Friday, commencing, as all Jewish festivals did, on the preceding evening, it follows, as the words were spoken, two days” before, that it must have occurred on Tuesday.

St. John says, our Redeemer came to Bethania “six days before the Pasch.” The Pasch commenced on Thursday evening, the 14th Nisan. On that evening, the Pasch lamb was immolated and consumed. Hence, our Lord, most probably, came to Bethania on the previous Friday, where great multitudes came to see Him, after having raised Lazarus from the dead (John 12:9), and rested there, on account of the Sabbath, on which day the people could not cut down branches, or make the intended public demonstration. On the evening of Saturday, after the feast of the Pasch was over He was entertained at supper, at “the house of Simon the leper,” on which occasion, His feet were anointed (John 12:3, &c.; Matt. 26:6). “The next day,” that is, the day after the supper, which, indisputably, was Sunday (John 12:12), He entered Jerusalem in triumph.

The series of events, in which our Lord was engaged, from Friday, the day of His arrival in Bethania, till Thursday evening, on which commenced the Paschal festival of the following day, whereon He died, was as follows:—On Friday, 8th Nisan, He came to Bethania, and rested there, on account of the Sabbath. 9th Nisan, which terminated on Saturday evening, He supped at “the house of Simon the leper,” late on that evening, after the close of the Sabbath. The day after this supper—Palm Sunday—10th Nisan, He entered Jerusalem in triumph (John 12:12), and retired to Bethania, for the night. On Monday morning, 11th Nisan, He cursed the barren fig-tree, on His way back to Jerusalem, where He cast the profane traffickers out of the temple, and returned for the night to Bethania. On Tuesday morning, 12th Nisan, on His way back to Jerusalem, the disciples express their surprise at seeing the barren fig-tree utterly withered, which, probably, escaped them the evening before, on account of the darkness. After delivering lengthened discourses in the temple, on that day, our Lord, leaving the temple, predicts the ruin of the city; and, sitting on Mount Olivet, He answers the questions of the Apostles, regarding the threatened destruction of Jerusalem, and the final end of all things. The two days before the Pasch, commence on this evening of Tuesday. After spending the night on Mount Olivet (Luke 21:37, 38), as was His wont, He goes to Jerusalem the next day, Wednesday, 13th Nisan. The Council is held there, for the purpose of destroying Him. Judas covenants with the Chief Priests, to betray Him for a fixed price. Our Lord repairs that evening, as usual, to Bethania, and spends the night there. It is not likely, that He came to Jerusalem early the following day, 14th Nisan, as, in the afternoon, He sent in two of His disciples to prepare the Pasch, whom He Himself soon followed, with the other Apostles, in order to celebrate it at the evening hour, appointed by the Jewish law, for eating the Paschal lamb (Ex. 12:6). At sunset of this 14th day of the month Nisan, commenced the first day of Azymes. The festival of the following day always commenced, according to the Jewish computation of festivals, on the preceding evening. On that night, our Lord celebrates the Pasch; institutes the Blessed Eucharist; goes to Gethsemani; is apprehended, and brought before the assembled Sanhedrin. The following morning, the 15th Nisan—the Paschal solemnity—He is brought again before the Sanhedrin, who send Him to Pilate, by whom He is condemned to the death of the cross, crucified at mid-day, and buried before sunset. If we bear in mind the Jewish calculation of their festivals, viz., from the sunset of the day preceding the festival, till the sunset of the festival day itself, we can easily reconcile the apparent discrepancy between Matthew (Mt 5:17), Mark (Mk 14:22), Luke (Lk 22:7), who all concur in saying, that our Lord celebrated the Pasch on the first day of Azyms, and St. John (Jn 13:1), who says, it was celebrated the day before. Both accounts are true. It was the evening before, according to the civil computation of time, which St. John, who wrote sixty years after this, when the Jewish law and Jewish usages had passed away, most likely adopted. But, according to the sacred, or festival computation, which alone the throe other Evangelists attended to, the evening before formed a part of the following festival day. The Pasch was celebrated “between the two evenings” of Thursday and Friday (Mt 26:20). Hence, as our Lord, who was observant of “all justice,” could not be supposed to have anticipated the usual and prescribed time for celebrating the Pasch, the error of the Greeks, who maintained He did not celebrate it in unleavened bread, is clearly refuted.

A question, much debated, is raised here, viz., whether our Lord celebrated the Pasch on the same day with the Jews. That He celebrated it at the time, and in the manner, marked out in the law of Moses (Ex 12:6), seems quite clear, from the words of the Evangelists, Matthew (Mt 26:2–17, 18); Luke (Lk 22:7–13), where our Lord speaks of “the Pasch,” manifestly in the ordinary acceptation of the term, embracing the prescribed time, and all the ceremonies connected with it. But, whether the Jews also celebrated it, on this occasion, on the day appointed by law, the evening of the 14th Nisan, is disputed. Some distinguished commentators hold, that they postponed it one day; that, instead of celebrating it on the evening of Thursday, they put it off till the evening of Friday, and that Saturday, the 16th Nisan, was, in this year, the day on which they kept the Paschal solemnity. These writers say, that the Jews were warranted, by a tradition handed down from their lathers, since the Babylonish captivity, in transferring the celebration of the Pasch, whenever it fell on Friday, to the following day, Saturday, in order to avoid the great inconveniences resulting from the celebration of two festivals, in immediate succession. Rupertus, Paulus Brugensis, Petavius, &c., quote the tradition referred to. But, they have failed to prove its existence, and it is stated by others, that the custom referred to was of a date subsequent to the death of our Divine Redeemer. It seems, however, to be the far more probable opinion, that the Jews celebrated the Pasch on the day marked out by law, the same with that on which it was kept by our Divine Redeemer. This is expressly stated by St. Mark (Mk 14:12). For, he tells us, our Redeemer sent His disciples to prepare the Pasch, “on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the Pasch.” A further proof that our Lord and the Jews celebrated the Pasch on the same day, is derived from the account given by the four Evangelists of the liberation of Barabbas, shortly before our Lord was condemned to death by Pilate. The Governor was wont to release, at the request of the people, a prisoner, whomsoever they demanded. This always happened on the festival day (Matt. 27:15). St. Mark says, the people demanded this, as a matter of course, on the festival; and St. John expressly states (Jn 18:39), that the feast day on which the custom of having a prisoner released, was “the Pasch.” They, therefore, celebrated the Pasch on the day of our Lord’s crucifixion; and hence, they must have partaken of the Paschal supper on the preceding evening, as did our Blessed Lord.

The objections against this opinion are—1st. St. John, who must clearly refer to the Last Supper (see Patrizzi, Lib. iii. Diss. 1.), says, it took place “before the festival day of the Pasch” (Jn 13:1). This has been already answered. St. John, who wrote sixty years after this, followed, not the Jewish computation of festival days, from sunset till sunset; but, the Greek or Roman computation of days, from midnight to midnight. The same Apostle gives proof that in his Gospel he sometimes follows the Roman computation of time (Jn 12:12; 20:19). 2ndly. It is supposed in the account given by St. John (Jn 18:28), of the accusation preferred by the Jews against our Lord, on the day of His death, before the tribunal of Pilate, that they had not then eaten the Pasch, and that, therefore, they had put it off till the evening of that day, whereas our Redeemer had eaten it the evening before. “They went not into the Hall, that they might not he defiled, but that they might eat the Pasch.” Answer. This supposes what is not exactly correct, viz., that the word, Pasch, exclusively refers to the Paschal lamb, eaten on the first day of Azymes. Moses himself (Deut. 16:2, 3), applies the term to victims of sheep and oxen, “sacrificabis Phase Domino Deo tuo ores et loves.” From the pages of the Talmud, it appears, that the word, Pasch, in the usual language of the Jews, applied, besides the Paschal lamb, to the other victims, which were eaten on the 15th of Nisan, the first day of Azymes, and the night following (Patrizzi, ibidem). That it did not apply to the Paschal lamb, in the passage quoted from St. John, is clear from this, that the slight uncleanness the Jews would contract by entering Pilate’s Hall (they seemed to have no scruple whatever regarding the grievous crime of co-operating in the death of a just man), could be easily removed by an evening purification. Hence, there must be reference to some other victims, of which they were to partake before the time of evening lustrations (Patrizzi). 3rdly. We find several acts performed on the day of our Lord’s crucifixion, in connexion with our Lord’s death, which could not be performed on a festival day, such as His arrest, His trial, His crucifixion. Again, we find Joseph of Arimathea and the holy women, after our Lord’s body was taken down from the cross, buying fine linen, and making other preparations for His burial, which would not be allowed on a festival day. Answer. There is no proof that the acts performed preparatory to our Lord’s death, were against the letter of the law, at least, as regards a festival day. The heads of the Jewish Church themselves, who were very anxious to carry out the provisions of the law, at least externally, did not scorn to think these acts were prohibited. All they were concerned about was, not the violation of the law, but, lest His arrest should cause “a tumult among the people” (Matt. 26:5). The same answer applies to the acts performed by Joseph of Arimathea, and the holy women. The Sabbatical rest was more strictly enforced than that on festivals. In reference to the latter, servile work, necessary for the preparation of food, was allowed. (Ex. 12:14–20; 23:14, &c.; Lev. 23:6; Num. 28:16, &c.) But, no such exception extended to the ordinary Sabbath rest. However, even on the Sabbath, the bodies of those who suffered the penalty of death should be buried (Deut. 21:23), and this injunction or concession must include everything necessary for this purpose, such as the act of buying spices, referred to in the Gospel. 4thly. St. John calls the Sabbath immediately following our Lord’s crucifixion, “a great Sabbath day,” “erat enim magnus dies ille Sabbati” (Jn 19:31), which supposes the solemnity of the Pasch to be added to the ordinary Sabbath. Answer. The very fact of its falling within the octave of the Pasch, would warrant the Evangelist in calling is a great Sabbath (see Jn 12:1). 5thly, St. John (Jn 19:14), says, the day of our Lord’s crucifixion was “the parasceve of the Pasch,” which looking to the strict meaning of the word, “parasceve,” preparation, means, “it was the preparation of the Pasch.” Hence, the Pasch was observed on the following day. Answer, The word “parasceve,” if we look to etymology, signified preparation; if we look to usage, commonly signified, the sixth day of the week; this St. Mark expressly says of it (Mk 15:42), “because it was the Parasceve, that is, the day before the Sabbath.” The same meaning of the word is insinuated by St. John (Jn 19:31), “that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day.” Hence, the phrase means, it was “the Parascere,” or sixth day of the week, within which week was celebrated the Pasch, just as we term the Friday after Easter, Feria 6ta Paschatis, that is to say, Friday within Easter week; and in the three passages of St. John’s Gospel, where the word, parasceve (παρασκυη), is employed, viz. (Jn 19:14, 31, 42), the article is omitted in the two first, to show, it was meant to express, not preparation, but to express the day of the week; whereas, in Jn 19:42, the article shows it means, preparation; not, however, the preparation of the Pasch; but, of the succeeding Sabbath, the common acceptation of the term. It is needless to dwell on any other objections against the opinion we advocate. The arguments in proof of it are far stronger than the objections against it.

“After two days shall be the Pasch.” The word, “Pasch,” signifies, a passing over, and contains an allusion commemorative of the occasion, when the destroying angel in Egypt smote the Egyptians, and passed over the houses of the Hebrews, the jambs of whose doors were sprinkled with the blood of the lamb, slain on the occasion (Ex 12:1)—hence, the term, Passover. It is frequently employed to denote—1st. The Paschal lamb, slain according to law (Ex 12:6), on the evening of the 14th of the month, Nisan, the first month with the Jews, corresponding with our March (Ex 12:21; Deut. 16:2; Luke 22:7; Matt. 26:17; Mark 14:12; 1 Cor. 5:7). 2ndly. The solemnity itself, as here, and Mark 14:1; Luke 22:1. 3rdly. Other victims, which were offered up with the Paschal lamb, but after a different rite, as peace offerings (Deut. 16:2; 2 Chron 35:7–9, 13).

“And the Son of man shall be delivered,” &c. “The Son of man.” It is quite usual with our Lord to speak of Himself in the third person, and call Himself “the Son of man;” as if to convey to us, that, although the Son of God from eternity, He has still humbled Himself for us, by taking upon Himself the true nature of man, in which alone He could have become a Redeemer for us; and that He has taken upon Himself, for our sakes, all the infirmities and ills of weak human nature, sin excepted.

“Shall be delivered,” most likely, refers to the treason of Judas, as He refers to a particular time—“after two days,” &c.—in the foregoing. St. Thomas and Origen observe, that our Redeemer was delivered by His Father, and by Himself, in order to redeem mankind; by the devil, in order to incite men to sin, and prevent the work of man’s redemption; by Judas, through avarice; by the Jews, through envy; and by Pilate, through fear of losing the friendship of Cæsar.

“To be crucified.” If the preceding words refer to Judas, then, in these words is expressed merely the consequence of His betrayal. If to the Jews, they express the the end or motive; for, they cried out, “Crucifige, crucifige eum.” Our Redeemer conveys, in these words, that the immolation of the true Paschal Lamb is to take place in such a way that the antitype shall fully correspond with its type, by being sacrificed on the same day, freely and voluntarily selected by Himself for that object.

Mt 26:3. “Then,” may refer to the time our Redeemer uttered these words regarding His Passion, or about the time, viz., early on the following (Wednesday) morning, to show the infallible efficacy of the Divine decree, ordaining that our Lord should suffer at the time of the Pasch. The very fact of our Redeemer uttering the prophecy at this time shows, He could not have learned the circumstance from the hostile meeting of the Sanhedrin, which took place afterwards, and whose deliberations were opposed to His being put to death on the day He had fixed upon. “Then,” may refer to the Pasch, which was to occur “after two days,” and for which, as a joyous and solemn festival, the chief men among the Jews should be preparing, rather than be engaged in plotting against the life of an innocent man. It was in consequence of this Jewish Council, held on Wednesday, to compass our Redeemer’s death, that Wednesday was a fast day in the early Christian Church (St. Augustine, Epist. 36; Theophylact and Victor Antiochenus, in Marcum xvi. 1, 2).

“The Chief Priests.” By these are generally understood, the heads or chiefs of the twenty-four sacerdotal families (1 Chron. 15:6, 7; 2 Chron. 24:6), according to the arrangements of David, which continued to our Redeemer’s time; or, those who had been High Priests already. For, from the time of Herod, this dignity was not perpetual, as formerly, but annual; and formed the subject of the most iniquitous traffic, and of the basest venality (see Mt 2:4).

“And ancients of the people.” By these were meant, those whom St. Luke (Lk 22:4) calls “magistrates,” who ruled in civil matters—a signification in which the Greek word, στρατηγοι, is often employed in SS. Scripture. (Acts 4; Acts 16:20, &c.) These were generally Pharisees (Josephus, Lib. 18 Antiq.) The Greek text has here, “and the Scribes.” So also have Mark and Luke, as if to convey to us, that in this assemblage, the different orders in the State—Chief Priests, Doctors of the Law, and Judges, were represented. The words mean: that the Sanhedrim, composed of the different orders, which, presided over by the High Priest, was the supreme tribunal among the Jews, appointed to judge doctrinal questions, and sit in judgment on false prophets, had been assembled on this occasion.

“Into the Court of the High Priest,” that is, the Court or Hall of the High Priest’s house, where such assemblies usually took place. It may be used by synedoche for the house itself, denoting a mansion or palace. While there were several chiefs of Priestly families, there was but one High Priest. His name was “Caiphas,” whom Josephus represents as infamous for his avarice and bad qualities, by which he worked his way to the office of High Priest (Lib. 18, Antiq. c. 3, 6). It is most likely, that this assembly was convoked by him, who, from his office, far from stimulating men to the perpetration of injustice, should be the first to warn them against it.

Mt 26:4. “They consulted together,” not what preparation they should make for the coming solemn festival; but, “that by subtilty,” that is, how they could privately, without the knowledge of the people, who, they feared, would rescue Him; or, without any anticipation on the part of Jesus Himself, who might escape from them, and elude their grasp, as He did on former occasions. “They might apprehend Jesus, and,” after having seized Him, “put Him to death.” They had already determined on His death; nay, the Pontiff of that year had declared this to be a just measure of necessary precaution and public safety. But, the question now deliberated among them was, how this could be safely and effectually brought about. “They feared the people,” as we are informed by St. Luke (22:2), if they were to attempt anything publicly against Him. Hence, their deliberation, regarding the mode of apprehending and putting Him to death; and their resolve that it should not occur on the festival day.

Mt 26:5. “Not on the festival day,” that is, either on the first day of the Pasch, or the following days; but, that His arrest should be either anticipated, as is held by some or, postponed, as the words are interpreted by others, till after the seven days of the Paschal solemnity had expired. “Lest there should be a tumult among the people,” who assembled from every part of Judea, on the occasion of the Paschal solemnity. Among this assembled multitude, there were many of our Redeemer’s own countrymen from Galilee—many who received benefits at His hands, cures of their bodily distempers, many, whose hunger He miraculously appeased in the desert—many, who regarded Him as a holy man and a prophet. The enemies of our Divine Redeemer, therefore, calculated, that if any violence were resorted to against Him on this public occasion, when it was usual to release and pardon malefactors, the multitude, who, as we learn from Josephus (Lib. Antiq. 20), were prone to tumults, which caused the Roman Governor to station a body of soldiers near the temple, would resent it, and rescue Him out of their hands, and, perhaps, maltreat themselves. Hence, they resolve that the apprehension and death of our Redeemer should either precede the Paschal solemnity, or be postponed till alter it. But, the designs of God are not to be frustrated by human machinations. The true Paschal Lamb was to have suffered on the Paschal solemnity, according to the decrees of God. Hence, it came to pass, that the High Priests, &c., changing their minds, availed themselves of the unexpected opportunity presented to them, by the treason of Judas, for His apprehension; and, forgetful of the sacredness of the Paschal solemnity, imbrue their hands in His blood; while the multitude, whom they dreaded, seconding their efforts, called for His crucifixion, and invoked His innocent blood on their own heads, and those of their children; so, that the designs of God, and the consequent predictions of our Redeemer, regarding the day, the hour, the place, and manner of His death were fulfilled to the letter.

Mt 26:6. “And when Jesus was in Bethania,” &c. The anointing of our Saviour, described here, occurred some days before the above words were spoken. It occurred, as we are informed by St. John (Jn 12:1), “six days before the Patch,” and before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But, as SS. Matthew and Mark had omitted referring to it in its proper place and order, they introduce it here after the description of our Lord’s public entry, because the anointing of our Redeemer, and the profusion and expense incurred, served as the occasion of suggesting to the avaricious Judas, the idea of betraying Him for money. Our Lord frequently stopped at Bethania, the native village of Martha and Mary, at the foot of Mount Olivet. On the present occasion, He was entertained by “Simon,” called “the leper,” either from having been himself infected with leprosy, of which he was now cured; or, it may have been a cognomen of his family.

Mt 26:7. “There came to Him a woman, having an alabaster box,” &c. This box was made of alabaster, or rather, of some fragile substance like it. St. Mark (Mk 14:3) says, she poured out the ointment, “breaking the alabaster box,” which might be understood, of breaking the narrow neck of the fragile flask, in which such perfumes were usually kept. It was “precious,” of great value, both in regard to the quality, and, also, the quantity, which, St. John tells us, was “a pound.” A pound weight of this ointment was worth “three hundred pence,” or denarii, which amounted to a large sum. St. Mark (Mk 14:3) and St. John (Jn 12:3) tell us, it was the ointment “of spikenard.” The valuable extract or perfume of the roots of this aromatic Eastern plant, was highly prized by the ancients, and much used at feasts and baths. Both St. John and St. Mark call it, νάρδου πιστικῆς. The meaning of the latter term is much controverted. Some understand pistici, to mean, genuine, unadulteratea, the sense attached to the word in our English version (John 12:3), “right spikenard.” Others, more probably, deriving it from a different root, give the meaning of, potable, liquid, to distinguish it from the spikenard ointment, which is of a more solid description.

But, who the “woman” was, is a subject of much controversy. It seems, the more probable opinion, that, although the anointing described by St. Luke (Lk 7:37, &c.), is different from that described here by St. Matthew, and by Mark (14), John (12);—for, the former occurred two years before our Redeemer’s death; the latter, only a few days before it—still, the female referred to on both occasions is Mary Magdalen, the sister of Lazarus and Martha (John 11) For, in speaking of Mary, the sister of Lazarus, St. John (Jn 11:2) describes her as the person “who anointed the Lord with ointment,” &c., which could hardly be assigned, as a peculiar designation of Mary Magdalen, had any other woman done the same; and, although she is described by St. Luke (Lk 7:37) as a “sinner,” and would seem to be represented by the other Evangelists as a saint; still, as they refer to different periods, it only shows she gave up her previous sinful life, and returned to God by penance. The difference in the mode of anointing—she having been represented on one occasion as anointing His feet; on another, His head—proves nothing; as, on the occasion when she is described as anointing His feet, it is to be presumed, she also did what was usual on such occasions, viz., anointed His head. This our Redeemer insinuates, when addressing Simon (Luke 7:46), He says, “My head with oil thou didst not anoint, but she with ointment hath anointed”—not only My head, but, also—“My feet.” That Matthew, Mark, and John refer to the same anointing, although there may be some apparent trivial discrepancy as regards the days, is clear, from the perfect concurrence of almost all the circumstances—the place (Bethania); the kind of oil; the murmuring of Judas—our Redeemer’s approbation of the act. For, how could the same charge be so soon repeated by the traitor, within four days after the severe rebuke of our Saviour on the same subject? St. John particularizes the female, viz., Mary, the sister of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead; because, his object was, as he follows the order of time, to describe more particularly this occurrence; whereas, Matthew and Mark merely call her “a woman,” because they merely incidentally refer to this unction as introductory to the treason of Judas, of which it was the occasion. St. John does not say, that this supper took place in the house of Lazarus; he only says (Jn 12:2), “they made Him a supper there,” viz., Bethania, in what house, he does not say. He rather insinuates, that it was not at the house of Lazarus; for, he says, “Lazarus was one of them that sat at table,” which would be hardly a matter to be recorded, if the supper was given at his own house; nor would it be deserving of special record, that Martha and Mary served, if it was at their own house. The other Evangelists say expressly, it was “at the house of Simon the leper.”

Mt 26:8-9. “The disciples seeing it” (St. Mark 14:4) has, “some” of them, which is perfectly reconcilable with St. Matthew; St. John 12:4, says, “one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot”), which may be easily explained, by a figure quite common in SS. Scripture, which employs the plural for the singular; thus, it is said, the thieves on the cross blasphemed Him, while only one did so. Or, it may be more probable, as St. Augustine explains it (Lib. 2 de Consensu. Evangel.), that Judas, having first expressed his indignation, the other Apostles, who knew our Redeemer’s austere manner of life, and His unbounded charity to the poor, then joined in expressing feelings of indignation, but from different motives—Judas from avarice (John 12:6); they, from charity. This mode of explaining the passage, derives probability from the words which St. John subjoins: “Now he said this, not because he cared for the poor; but, because he was a thief,” &c. Our Redeemer’s rebuke is addressed, not to one, but to all. St. Mark and St. John say, it was worth “more than three hundred pence,” which shows the ungrudging liberality of the woman towards Him. The value of a penny, or denarius, among the ancients, was considerable. We are informed by Tacitus (Annal. i. 17), it was more than the daily pay of a Roman soldier.

Mt 26:10. “Jesus knowing it.” In virtue of His Divine knowledge, He knew their private murmurings, addressed directly to the woman; but indirectly, levelled at Himself, for having permitted such waste, although these murmurings did not reach His ear. “Said to them.” He does not harshly rebuke their indiscreet murmuring; nor does He expose the avarice of Judas, nor his affected concern for the poor; but, mildly, wishing to teach them to bear with those who err not from malice, He undertakes the defence of the woman. “Why do you trouble this woman?” by your rash and unfounded accusations. “For, she hath wrought a good work upon Me,” a work dictated by humanity, gratitude, the firmest faith, the most ardent love towards the Son of God. “Upon Me,” towards Me, whom it must be far more praiseworthy and meritorious to serve than the poor. He next answers their objections or grounds of murmuring.

Mt 26:11. For, as regards the poor, for whom you seem so much concerned, the world shall always abound with them, so that you shall never want an opportunity of relieving them; but, as I am to be put to death in a few days, and although I shall be always with My Church, and My immensity ever fills the heavens and the earth; still, I shall not be amongst you in a visible, corporal appearance, and in mortal flesh, so as to be an object of bodily relief. Those, therefore, that are disposed to show Me kindness, during the short period of my visible stay here below, should not be interfered with.

Mt 26:12. “For she in pouring this ointment,” &c. This, He adds, to convey to them the near approach of His death; and He assigns this, also, as an excuse for her anointing Him. He might have excused her, or praised her act, on several grounds—on the ground of the excellence of His Divine Person—as this act of honour was exhibited to His own Divine Person, which it was more meritorious to serve and honour than the poor, however numerous or indigent—also, on the ground of her strong devoted affection and the praiseworthy motives of gratitude, humility, piety, &c., from which this act had proceeded. Passing over these, He confined Himself to this, viz., that by anticipation, she had shown that devotion and respect to Him, still alive, but, however, on the point of death, which it would be regarded as praiseworthy in her to have shown Him when dead. The Jews usually embalmed and anointed the bodies of their dead (John 19:40), to show their affection, to preserve them from corruption, and in testimony of their faith in the future resurrection. Our Redeemer, then, wishes to convey, it was not from motives of pleasure or luxury, to which He was so averse during life, that either He was influenced in permitting the anointing, or she in performing it. But, that it was simply meant to be an anticipated act of funereal respect, which she would not be permitted to show when He was dead. He knew well, she could not anoint Him alter His death; because, owing to circumstances, she could not approach Him, and Joseph and Nicodemus would have anticipated her. His resurrection, also, was to have occurred so soon, that she would hardly have time. Hence, He permitted her to do beforehand, not as a matter of luxury, but as a duty of piety, what she would, but could not, have done after His death. This is conveyed (Mark 14:8), when He says, she, as it were, by anticipation, anointed His body for burial. This is also conveyed by St. John, when He says, “Let her alone, that she may keep it against the day of My burial,” that is, allow her to use the ointment for the purpose for which she has kept it, viz., against the day of My burial, which, knowing to be nigh at hand, she has anticipated. Our Redeemer here tacitly contrasts her anxiety, to preserve His body, with that of the murmuring Judas, who contemplated and projected in his mind, to destroy Him. It is disputed, whether Mary Magdalen had really intended in her mind, from a full knowledge and belief in our Saviour’s approaching death, and the difficulty of anointing Him, to do so by anticipation; or, whether she merely acted from feelings of love and gratitude, without any reference to His death, the Holy Ghost impelling her to do so, unconsciously on her part, but intended by Him to have reference to our Lord’s death, after which she could not anoint Him. Just as Caiphas uttered a prophecy, unconsciously; so, she acted a prophetic part, without being conscious of it.

By some, it is held that she fully intended this anointing in anticipation of His death, and the honour, then, due to Him, which she knew she could not show; and that our Redeemer had communicated to her the knowledge of His approaching death—to her, whose faith was, doubtless, as strong as that of her sister, Martha, who proclaimed Him to be the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 11:27). And this derives confirmation from the words of the Angel to the holy women, among whom was Magdalen (Luke 24:6, 7).

Others say, it is most likely, that Magdalen merely acted from feelings of love and gratitude; but, that the Holy Ghost intended it to be an act of anointing His body beforehand, and from this intention of the Holy Ghost, our Redeemer derives an argument to excuse or commend her act.

Mt 26:13. Our Redeemer opposes to the censure of Judas, the praise and commendation of the entire world. He insinuates, that “this Gospel,” the message of salvation through Christ, and the history of His life and Passion on earth, shall be preached throughout the entire world, embracing Gentile as well as Jew. What she did, shall be also spoken of, or proclaimed, “for a memory of her,” that is, in commemoration of her having done this thing, viz., out of love and affection for Me, meant also by the Holy Ghost to be a prophetic anticipation of My approaching death. Hence, the praiseworthy excellence of this act, which caused the avaricious Judas to murmur.

Mt 26:14. “Then,” may have no reference whatever to time, and may simply mean, that on account of this tacit reproach, addressed to him by our Redeemer, while defending the act of the woman, and seeing all hopes of securing the price of the precious ointment baffled, Judas, out of a spirit of revenge, and blinded by avarice, resolved to betray Him. Or, if “then” refers to time, it has reference to what is recorded (Mt 26:3), the intermediate account of the anointing of our Saviour’s feet, being merely parenthetically introduced.

“One of the twelve,” shows the magnitude of his guilt and ingratitude, since it was not even one of the seventy-two disciples; but, one of His constant companions, a member of His own family, whom He destined to be one of the future pillars of His Church. This circumstance, however, rendered him a fit instrument for betraying our Lord, as being well acquainted with His domestic habits, His going out and coming in.

“Who was called Judas Iscariot.” He mentions his name, “Judas,” to save the character of the other Apostles. “Iscariot,” to distinguish him from Jude, the author of the Catholic Epistle (John 14:22).

“Went,” spontaneously, of his own accord; “the devil having entered into him” (Luke 22:3), instigating him, and acting on his blind passions and perverted will, urged him on to this mad act. St. John more clearly expresses it (Jn 13:2), “the devil put it into the heart of Judas … to betray Him.”

“To the Chief Priests,” to which St. Luke adds, “and to the magistrates” (Lk 22:4). This refers to the meeting mentioned (Mt 26:3). Very likely, he went into Jerusalem, on Wednesday morning, under pretext of some business, and hearing of the assembly of the High Priests, &c. (Mt 26:3), he conjectured what the cause of their meeting was, for, he knew that “the Pharisees and High Priests gave a command, that if any one knew where our Lord was, he should tell, in order that they might apprehend Him” (John 11:56).

Mt 26:15. “And he said to them,” &c. It is most likely, that Judas, before making the base offer of betraying his Master, made some charge against Him, in order to palliate his own treachery, and to make it appear that he was himself trustworthy, such as allowing Himself the luxury of having His head and feet anointed, to which he may have added other charges, not recorded by the Evangelists.

“What will you give me?” &c. These words are interpreted by some (among the rest, St. Jerome), to convey, that Judas regarded our Redeemer of such little value, as to leave it to themselves to give what they pleased; that he would receive any price for Him. Others understand the words to mean, that Judas wished to know, if they meant to give a suitable, a sufficiently large price for Him; and, that he would betray Him, if they meant to compensate him as was fit for them to do. “The wretch,” says St. Jerome, “wished to indemnify himself for the loss of the price of the ointment, by the price of his Master.” He is so blinded by avarice, that he merely bargains for the money, regardless of how they would afterwards treat his Master. So blinded, that he forgets every feeling of humanity, gratitude, friendship; nay, the omniscience and omnipotence of Jesus, of which he had already witnessed so many proofs. “They appointed him,” which some understand to mean, measured out to him, actually gave him. Others, more probably; they promised to give, they covenanted with him for, “thirty pieces of silver.” There is a diversity of opinion as to the precise value of this sum. It is, however, generally maintained, that whenever there is mention of αργυριον (argenteus, Vulgate) in the New Testament, it means, the Jewish silver sicle, which was equivalent to the Greek stater, and was equal to two didrachmas, or four Attic drachmas. Hence (Exodus 21:32), for “thirty sicles of silver,” according to the Hebrew reading, the Septuagint have, “thirty didrachmas of silver,” the price of a slave among the Jews (Exodus 21:32). The value of a “silver piece,” or sicle, was something about 2s. 6d. of our money. Hence, the price set on our Redeemer was something under £3, 15s, of our money, the price of n common slave. This sum, though small, was still, considering the increased value of money in these early days, sufficient to purchase the potter’s field (Mt 27:7). It is probable, this field was in a most wretched condition, the best part of the soil having been taken away from it. Moreover, its extent is not stated in SS. Scripture, nor is it said, that this sum was exclusively appropriated to the purchase.

Mt 26:16. “From thenceforth”—this happened on Wednesday morning—“he sought an opportunity,” both as to time and place, “to betray Him” into the hands of His enemies. Instigated by the spirit of avarice, he watched our Redeemer, when, on the following (Thursday) night, he proceeded to the garden of Gethsemani, and there found the desired opportunity of privately betraying Him, and thus securing the price of innocent blood. Base ingratitude of Judas; yet, how often may not we have sold the Son of God, not once, but hundreds of times, and handed Him over to the devil, not for even thirty crowns, but for a base, brutal passion. Hence, when contemplating the perfidy of Judas, and viewing with horror all its circumstances, we may justly apply to ourselves the words of Nathan to David, “Thou art the man” (2 Sam 12:7). For, we are assured by the Holy Ghost, that as often as we commit mortal sin, which does not so much as gain us thirty pieces of silver, “we crucify again the Son of God, and make a mockery of Him.” (Heb. 6) How frequently should we not exclaim from the bottom of our hearts, and in a truly penitential spirit, “Miserere mei Deus,” &c. “Tibi soli peccavi … peccatum meum contra me est semper.”

Mt 26:17. “And on the first day of Azymes,” that is, of unleavened bread, which commenced with the Paschal solemnity, viz., on the evening of the 14th Nisan. On that evening, they should eat the Paschal lamb with unleavened bread (Ex. 12:8). On that evening commenced the feast of unleavened bread, called also the Feast of the Pasch, which continued seven days. The 14th Nisan is called the first day of Azymes, because the Feast of Azymes, or the Pasch, which was celebrated on the 15th Nisan, commenced, according to the Jewish computation of festivals, from sunset to sunset, on the previous evening of the 14th. Hence, the first day of the Feast of Azymes, or Pasch, may be said to be the 14th or 15th Nisan; for, it commenced at sunset of the 14th, and ended at the sunset of the 15th. The feast continued for seven days.

But, as our Lord sent His two disciples into Jerusalem, to prepare the Pasch at an earlier date than that on which the festival of the following day commenced, a question may arise, how could it be said that, at the hour they were sent in, it was the first day of Azymes? The answer commonly given is, that the Jews, as may be seen from their records, were wont to clear their houses of all leaven, early on the 14th, in preparation for the festival; the 14th was, therefore, popularly termed the first day of Azymes, as all leaven was entirely removed from their houses, from an early part of the day.

“The disciples came to Jesus, saying: Where,” &c. There is some difference between the narration of St. Luke and that of St. Matthew. The most probable way of reconciling both is, that our Redeemer first, put His disciples in mind, as St. Luke relates (Lk 22:8), of preparing for the coming Pasch; and that they, then, asked Him, as is given by the three Evangelists. “Where wilt Thou, that we prepare for Thee to eat the Pasch?”

“The disciples came to Jesus,” after having been sent for. St. Mark (Mk 14:13) says, “two of His disciples;” and these, St. Luke (Lk 22:8) says, were “Peter and John.”

“Where,” that is, in what house; for, Jerusalem alone was appointed by law (Deut. 16:5-7), to be the place to which all the Jews should resort for celebrating the Paschal solemnity.

“Wilt Thou we prepare for Thee the Pasch?” According to some writers, not the Priests alone, but those also who were deputed by the heads of a family, as Peter and John were deputed here (Luke 22:8) by our Lord, were allowed to sacrifice the Paschal lamb at home, to roast it and prepare it for consumption. For this, these writers quote the authority of Philo. Others, more probably, maintain, with Patrizzi (de Evangeliis) that the Priests alone could receive the blood of the victims, and, with it, sprinkle the rim of the altar.

Mt 26:18. “Go ye into the city”—hence, He was by this time at Bethania—“to a certain man.” He points out the man without naming him, on account of the presence of Judas, lest he might prematurely, or in any unseemly way, interrupt the solemnity of the Last Supper. Both St. Mark (14) and St. Luke (22) give a more particular account of the man in question, or rather, of the circumstances, that distinguished him from any other. On entering the city, they were to meet a man carrying a pitcher of water; they should follow him into the house he was to enter, and there addressing the master of the house, who was clearly different from the man carrying the water, they were to address him in these words: “The Master saith, My time is at hand,” My time for leaving this world, and, after redeeming mankind, and leaving them the most affecting proof of My love, to return to My Father.

“I will keep the Pasch,” &c. This He adds, to let him know the number, thirteen, for whom he was to provide suitable accommodation. It is generally supposed, that this man was one of our Saviour’s followers. The word “Master,” a common designation of our Lord among His followers, would seem to confirm this opinion. There is a tradition, that this was the house of John Mark, the companion of St. Paul and Barnabas, in preaching the Gospel. There, the Apostles lay concealed after our Redeemer’s death. There, He appeared to them on the evening of His resurrection. There, they received the Holy Ghost on Pentecost Sunday. Thither, St. Peter repaired after his liberation by the Angel. Some are of opinion, that our Redeemer had previously arranged with him, to celebrate the Pasch in his house. Others seem to think, that there was no such previous arrangement, but that, as our Lord had exerted His power, and shown His dominion in the case of the owner of the ass and the colt, who at once gave them up; so, here also, without any previous concert, and, in order to confirm the faith of His Apostles, He wishes to show His power and authority in influencing the mind of the householder to comply with His wishes.

It seems, that this man made becoming preparation for them, for, “he had a large dining-room furnished.” The Greek—ανωγεων—would imply, in the upper part of the house. This was prepared, either in consequence of a previous understanding with our Redeemer; or, having it prepared already, for some other party, he placed it at once at the service of our Lord.

Mt 26:19. The disciples, viz., Peter and John—his most confidential and intimate friends among the Apostles—went “and prepared the Pasch,” that is, got ready everything necessary for eating the Paschal lamb. They had the lamb itself, a male of one year, without blemish, duly sacrificed and prepared, through the intervention of the Priests, who received the blood of the lamb between the two evenings, sprinkled the altar with it, and placed the victim on the altar, and then returned it to the families who offered it. That this was the rite of sacrifice, we are informed by Josephus (De Bello, Lib. 6, c. 1), who tells us, that, in reply to the question of Cestius, regarding the number of Jews who assembled at Jerusalem, the Priests, in order to determine this exactly, as ten persons should partake of each lamb, told precisely the number of lambs sacrificed, which they could not do, unless the lambs were prepared, and the sacerdotal services performed at the stated hour. The Apostles also got ready unleavened bread, and wild lettuces. After the sacrificing of the Paschal lamb, the Jews could not have leaven in their houses for seven days. The use of unleavened bread continued from the evening of the 14th Nisan till the evening of the 21st of the same month (Ex. 12:18).

Mt 26:20. “Now when it was evening,” after sunset. The lamb was immolated between the third hour of the day and sunset, but not eaten till after sunset. The Hebrew in Exodus (Ex 12:6) Ben-arbaiim, which St. Jerome translates, “ad vesperam,” “in the evening,” or rather, “towards evening,” signifies, between the two evenings, that is, between the ninth hour, or three o’clock of our day, when the sun begins to decline, and sunset. This time was set apart for sacrificing the Paschal lamb, which corresponds with the hour at which the true Paschal Lamb was sacrificed (Matt. 27:46). After sunset, “when it was evening;” or, as St. Luke has it (Lk 22:14), “when the hour was come, He sat down to eat it with His twelve disciples.” They constituted His family, who were to eat the Paschal lamb with Him. It is insinuated, that all were present, not excepting the traitor, Judas. We are informed by Philo (Lib. de Sacrif. Cain and Abel), that the Jewish Pasch was partaken of by men in a standing posture. The law, however, does not command this, although it implies it (Ex. 12:11). The words of St. Matthew, “He sat down,” merely convey, that He partook of food, without determining the posture, in which He did so, whether standing or reclining.

Possibly, our Redeemer might have partaken of the Paschal lamb in a standing posture. Others maintain, that He had partaken of the Jewish supper, and other viands, served up on that occasion, in a reclining posture. This is held by St. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others (John 13:4).

In describing banquets in our day, we commonly say, a man sat down to dinner, accommodating ourselves to the ordinary forms of expression, although, in that particular instance, He might have been standing, while partaking of it. Calmet (in hunc locum) says, the Jews of his day, eat the Pasch in a sitting posture; perhaps, because they regarded a standing posture commanded in Exodus (Ex 12:1) as appertaining only to the first occasion of the institution of the Pasch by Moses. St. Hilary is the only one among the Fathers, who denies that Judas was present. That he was, is clear from Matthew 26:21; Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21; John 13:11, 26, 30.

Mt 26:21. St. Luke (Lk 22:21), says, these words were used by our Redeemer, not before, as here, but after, the institution of the adorable Eucharist. And this seems more likely, as our Redeemer would hardly have disturbed the minds of His Apostles before preparing for this solemn supper, by the announcement recorded here. Hence, St. Matthew records the matter here by anticipation. Others, however (St. Augustine, &c.), say, that our Redeemer twice alluded to His betrayal, before the Last Supper, and after it. He alluded to it in a very general way before the Last Supper, not naming the traitor. Then the Apostles, having asked who it was, He, still in a very indefinite way, describes him to be the party who dipped his hand in the dish with Him (Mt 26:23). This, however, is intended more to show the close intimacy existing, and the consequent aggravated guilt of the traitor, than to determine the person. After that, He institutes the Eucharist, and then declares, the traitor was with Him at the table (Luke 22:21; John 13:21). Then, St. Peter beckoned to St. John, who was reclining on our Redeemer’s breast, to ask who it was; and it was told him in reply, that it was the person to whom He would give bread dipped (John 13:26); after which, Judas left to consummate his wickedness.

“Amen I say to you.” He premises a solemn asseveration, as the matter seemed so incredible. “One of you,” My chosen friends, whom I have thus honoured and exalted, “will betray Me.” He often before predicted, that He would be delivered to the Gentiles, &c.; but, it is only now He predicts by whom this was to be done. And this He does, to show them, that He was fully conscious of all that was to happen, and that He was freely to undergo death. He did not expressly name Judas, in order, by this consideration for his feelings, to incline him to repent for the wicked deed he meditated—to teach us, how to act towards occult sinners—and, also, lest the Apostles might lay violent hands on him, in vindicating the honour of their Master.

Mt 26:22. They were very much terrified, from a consciousness of their own weakness, however, and a dread of the secret judgments of God, although not conscious to themselves of any wicked design against their Divine Master, whose assurance, they could not call in question.

Mt 26:23. The same is given (Mark 14:20). Our Redeemer still refrains from naming him; and He mentions the circumstance of great intimacy and familiarity, to aggravate the guilt and ingratitude of the party. The mention of “his hand” is very significant, as if to say, the hand that is in the dish with Me, the same it is, that shall betray Me. It may be, that in the word, “dish,” we have the container for the thing contained, so that the words would mean: the man who uses the same food and table with Me, he it is that is to betray Me. This is conformable to the words of the Psalmist 41:10, “qui edebat panes meos,” &c. (Mark 14:18; Luke 22:21.) Hence, in this answer, our Redeemer does not say, who is, or who is not to betray Him. He only repeats His former assertion, adding a circumstance implying great familiarity, calculated to aggravate and heighten the guilt of the traitor.

Mt 26:24. Meekness having failed, He now has recourse to threats of punishment, in order to incline him to repentance. “The Son of man goeth,” that is, leaving the world, He “goeth” to death, of His own free will, and returns to His Father, in accordance with the predictions of the Prophets and the determined decree of Heaven (Luke 22:22). But, although immense advantage shall accrue to the human race from My death, and great glory to My Father, still, “woe,” eternal torture shall be the fate of the wretch “by whom the Son of man shall be betrayed.” He is not, on that account, to be reputed guiltless. Although the human race may profit by it; still, it were better for him, that he were never born, than be tortured for all eternity.

Mt 26:25. The traitor, fearing discovery from his silence, also asked, with the others, and in terms of greater respect, “Is it I, Rabbi?” while the others addressed Him, as “Lord.” The holy Fathers here express their amazement at the cool effrontery of Judas. It does not seem likely, that he asked our Redeemer separately from the others, after He said (Mt 26:23), “he that dippeth his hand,” &c., as the account given here by St. Matthew would seem to indicate; for, otherwise, the Apostles could have clearly seen he was the party alluded to, but, that he asked the question with the others (Mt 26:22). Others, however, are of opinion that Judas asked this question, after our Redeemer intimated to St. John, who it was, by giving him the morsel of bread.

“He saith: Thou hast said it”—a mild form of saying: Yes, thou art the man. This is also the signification the words bear when addressed to Caiphas (verse 64), whilst St. Mark says, “I am He” (Mk 14:62). It is most likely, that our Lord said this, in so low a tone of voice, as to escape the notice of the other Apostles, who were thrown into confusion by the announcement (Mt 26:21). For, we find, that even after our Lord had given a definite sign to St. John, and told Judas, “quod facis, fac citius” (John 13:27); still, they did not understand what was meant (Mt 26:28-29).

Mt 26:26. Our loving Saviour, now on the point of leaving this world and returning to His father, institutes the adorable Eucharist, in which “He, as it were, pours forth the riches of His Divine love towards men, making a memorial of His wonders.” (Concil. Trid. SS. xiii. c. ii.) Speaking of the adorable Eucharist, St. Augustine says: “Although God be omnipotent, He can do no more; although infinitely wise, He can contrive nothing greater; although infinitely rich, He can bestow nothing greater.” Every circumstance connected with this adorable institution is calculated to awaken our love and heighten our gratitude towards our loving Saviour in this Divine mystery. When did He institute it? The night before His cruel Passion; while men were bent on putting Him to an ignominious death, He was bent on leaving them an antidote of immortality. For how long? “Till He come” to judgment, that is to say, till the end of the world. On whom? “His delight is to be with the children of men.” And oh! “What is man, that He should be (thus) mindful of him, or the Son of man that He should (thus) visit him?” Ungrateful man, at all times unmindful of Him, nay, often insulting Him and outraging Him in this Divine institution.

What is the gift bestowed? Himself, on whom the Angels love to look, the joy of the elect for eternity, when they shall behold Him face to face, who now conceals Himself under the sacramental veils, lest we should be oppressed with the Majesty of Glory—Himself, who fills heaven and earth, than whom heaven or earth can contain nothing greater.

At what sacrifice does He give Himself? Let the history of the neglect, the profanation, the impiety, shown the adorable Eucharist from its first institution, to the end of time, answer. Should not, therefore, the consideration of these and other circumstances, stimulate us to love with our whole hearts our Blessed Lord in the adorable Sacrament, to make reparation to His loving heart for all He endured for our sakes, and to proclaim and extol for ever, the boundless dimensions, that is to say, the height, length, breadth, and depth, of that excessive love which made Him annihilate Himself even more than He has done in the mystery of His Incarnation, for our sakes.

“Whilst they were at supper.” The Greek, εσθιόντων αὐτῶν means, whilst they were eating (as in Mt 26:21). But, as the repast, of which they were partaking at that late hour of the evening, was supper, the Vulgate interpreter conveyed the sense, “cœnantibus illis.” From St. Paul, who relates the circumstances, as he was taught by our Lord (1 Cor. 11), and from St. Luke also, we learn, that it was after supper—“after He had supped”—that is to say, after both the Jewish Paschal supper and the common supper which succeeded it, He distributed the Blessed Eucharist, in the form or under the species of wine; and as it is by no means likely, that He allowed any interruption in the institution of the Holy Eucharist under both species, as a Sacrament and a Sacrifice; but rather by continuous, uninterrupted acts, instituted it at once; it is, therefore, inferred, that it was after supper, this institution, under both species, occurred. But, as the bread and wine employed in the Paschal supper, and common Jewish supper which succeeded it were not removed, and as the Eucharist was instituted while they were sitting at table; hence, St. Matthew says, “whilst they were at supper,” or, at the close of the twofold supper referred to, and before the food was removed from the table, the bread and wine which remained being necessary for the new mystery of love which our Lord was about to institute. As the Paschal lamb, eaten according to the prescribed rite, in a standing posture, with wild lettuces, having staves in their hands, &c. (Ex 12:8–11), would not satisfy the number of persons, ten at least, who should assemble to partake of it; hence, a common Jewish supper usually succeeded the Paschal, and it was after this common supper, of which our Lord and His Apostles partook, He instituted the adorable Eucharist.

“Jesus took bread.” “Jesus,” the eternal, consubstantial Son of the Omnipotent God, with whom no word is impossible, “took bread,” the unleavened bread, which alone could be in the houses of the Jews, on that and the following days. He made bread and wine, the matter of the Eucharist, to convey to us its effects; for, as bread is the ordinary food of man, and most easily procured; so, is this Divine food intended to nourish our souls; “for, His flesh is meat indeed,” &c. (John 6:56); also, to point out the union of heart and charity which should subsist among His followers, signified by the different grains united in the bread, and the different grapes pressed into the wine (1 Cor. 10:17). He appointed both species, to signify more clearly His Passion, in which His flesh was tortured, and His blood had profusely flowed for us. He also, by sacrificing in bread and wine, showed Himself a Priest, according to the order of Melchisedech, as had been declared, regarding Him, by the Psalmist (Psa. 110), and He had chosen this matter to prevent our conceiving horror at the idea of our partaking of His flesh and blood. Finally, He had chosen unleavened bread, as a symbol of the purity and simplicity which should distinguish His people; leaven signifying hypocrisy and deceit (1 Cor. 5:8; Luke 12:1). It may be also intended to denote the purity of dispositions we should carry with us, in approaching the adorable Eucharist.

“And blessed,” viz., the bread, by invoking over it the Divine power and beneficence, so that it would be rendered fit to be converted into His body. This is clear from the Greek, where it runs thus: “Taking bread and blessing, He broke,” &c. The several actions recited here have reference to the bread. Why not, then, the act of benediction, which is nothing more than invoking the power and beneficence of God upon it, so as to be fitted for the change about to be wrought on it? Our Redeemer did so in regard to the loaves He multiplied, “benedixit cis” (Luke 9:16). St. Paul refers the benediction to the subject matter, “the chalice of benediction, which we bless,” &c. (1 Cor. 10) He also tells us, that every creature is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. (1 Tim. 4) The Church, in her Liturgy, refers the word, “benedixit,” to the bread. In pronouncing this word, the Priest is enjoined to make the sign of the cross, over the bread and the chalice.

St. Luke and St. Paul (1 Cor. 11), has for “blessed,” “gave thanks.” The Greek for both words is sometimes employed to signify the same thing (1 Cor. 14:16). The more probable mode, however, of reconciling both accounts is this: Our Redeemer, first lifting up His eyes to heaven, which He most probably did on this as on the solemn occasion of other miracles, gave thanks to His Father, as St. Paul and St. Luke relate; and then, blessed the bread, as is fully and circumstantially recorded by the Church in the Canon of the Mass. As there can be no doubt that our Redeemer had given thanks, and pronounced a blessing before the Jewish supper, the circumstance of His doing so now again shows, He is entering on a new supper, and instituting a rite of great importance. “He gave His Father thanks” for the great gift He was about to bestow on mankind; and also, because the New Pasch and the consummation of the Old Law were at hand.

It is disputed whether this act of benediction is the same as the consecration. But, the most probable opinion is, that this benediction preceded the consecration. The Council of Trent says, “post benedictionem panis et vini, suum ipsius corpus illis præbere testatus est.” (SS. xiii. c. 1.) The consecration was effected by the efficacious words, “Hoc est corpus meum,” “Hic est Calix,” &c., which took place after the benediction in question.

He then, “broke,” by dividing the one bread into as many parts as there were disciples present; and this, before consecration, as is evident from the narrative of the Evangelists. Some commentators, among the rest, Maldonatus, infer from the fact of all the Evangelists describing this circumstance, as also from the disciples at Emmaus recognizing our Redeemer “in the breaking of bread” (Luke 24:35), that He must have employed some peculiar method of doing so. However, this does not necessarily follow. The very reception of the Eucharist might have opened the eyes of the disciples at Emmaus (Luke 24:35). The Church does not follow any such method. The Eucharist, from this circumstance, is termed, “the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42). From this ceremony, the faithful could understand what was meant, without provoking the blasphemies of unbelievers.

“And He gave to His disciples,” the twelve Apostles, not excepting Judas, as almost all the ancient Fathers affirm, his crime being occult, and our Redeemer did not wish to furnish him with any grounds for imbittered or exasperated feelings. Others, however, are of the contrary opinion. They hold that Judas left before our Redeemer instituted the adorable Eucharist. St. Jerome (Ep. 150 ad Hedibiam), tells us our Saviour Himself first received a portion, “ipse conviva et convivium, ipse comedens et qui comeditur.” This He did, in order to complete the sacrifice, and also to remove any feelings of horror which the Apostles might conceive, on being invited to partake of His body. It is most likely, He gave His body into the hands of His Apostles, as He did in regard to the chalice, “take and divide it amongst you” (Luke 22:17), which was the mode of originally administering the body of our Lord. (Tertullian, de Spectaculis; St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechesi; St. Augustine, Sermo 244, &c.) Afterwards, this discipline was changed, for greater reverence’ sake, just as the discipline of administering the Eucharist to those only who were fasting, was observed, for reverence’ sake, from the very Apostolic times, although our Redeemer gave it to His Apostles after supper.

“Take ye and eat,” shows the use of the gift He was about bestowing on them. It was, that, by partaking of it, they would become one body, and one spirit with Him, altogether identified with Him, “non tu me mutabis in te, sed tu mutaberis in me” (St. Augustine).

“This is My body.” The causal particle, “for, this is My,” &c., which is used in the words of consecration, in the Mass, is understood here, as it is expressed, in reference to His blood (Mt 26:28). “For, this is My blood,” &c. His reason for telling them to eat of it is, because, it is His body, regarding which, He told them already (John 6:54), “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man … you shall not have life in you,” and, “he that eateth My flesh … hath everlasting life” (Jn 6:55).


The Council of Trent (SS. xiii. c. 1), has declared, that these words, “This is My body,” &c., used by our Redeemer at the Last Supper, demonstrate the Real Presence of our Lord in the adorable Eucharist. Taken in their literal signification, they clearly prove the Catholic doctrine regarding the real, true, and substantial presence of our Lord in this Divine Institution. Truly, if we suppose that our Lord meant to give His body and blood, as defined by Catholic doctrine, He could not have employed any clearer terms, to convey His meaning, than He has used in the words of institution, as recorded by the three Evangelists, and by St. Paul to the Corinthians. For, taken in the literal sense, they are nothing else than the very expression of Catholic doctrine. This, the Sacramentarians themselves admit; and hence, they resort to all sorts of artful ingenuity to wrest the words to a forced and figurative signification.

They are constrained, by the very usages of language, to admit the proof of Catholic doctrine, contained in the words taken literally. In the ordinary concerns of life, all propositions of this nature, “this is bread,” “this is a man,” and the like, are understood, of the reality and substance of the object referred to, as clearly as if the words, “really, substantially,” were added. Nay, more, a person would expose himself to ridicule, who, in pointing to a man, or a loaf of bread, would say, “this is really and substantially a man,” &c., because, there is no difference between any object and the reality and substance of that object. By announcing it, one announces its reality and substance. Hence, the words of our Lord, taken literally, declare the reality and substance of His body and blood in the Blessed Eucharist. Now, such being the case, we have a right, without further reasoning, to regard our doctrine as satisfactorily proved. For, we have a right to assume, that our Redeemer meant to be understood, according to the literal meaning of His words, until the contrary is satisfactorily proved. The very announcement of the words, by our Redeemer, “This is My body,” establishes the Catholic doctrine. For, we cannot recur to a clearer medium of demonstration, than the fact, that a God of infinite power and veracity has said so. In adopting this line of argument, we are only applying the canon of interpretation of SS. Scripture, handed down in the Church, from the days of St. Augustine, founded, indeed, on common sense, viz., that, in the interpretation of Scripture—the same applies to every other law—we are to understand the words in their plain, obvious signification, unless there be some satisfactory reason to the contrary. Acting on this principle, adopted by Protestants themselves, we have a strict right to insist on interpreting the words of our Lord literally, until they, on whom the onus of proof, or, rather, of disproof devolves, show the contrary. In a word, the bare enunciation of the words of our Lord, proves the Catholic doctrine; and, until our religious opponents show that His words are to be understood in a sense different from what they naturally convey, we are to look on our doctrine as proved.

Suppose, there were question of the interpretation of an important law case. One party quotes the very words of the law, as expressing his view. Would he not be justified in regarding his opinion proved, by a reference to the very terms of the law, which were identical with his opinion, until the opposite party adduced some satisfactory reason for departing from the natural and received meaning of the words of the law, the more so, if it were well known that a prudent legislator attached vast importance to the point, and was, therefore, extremely careful in wording it? Now, our Redeemer, at the Last Supper, was instituting a sacred rite, the most august Sacrament of the New Law. He was bequeathing His last testament to His Church, with a strict precept to have its provisions continued to the end of time. Are we not, therefore, warranted in regarding His words as spoken literally, and our doctrine, consequently, established, by the bare announcement of the terms, until the contrary is satisfactorily proved?

But, going beyond mere defensive grounds, to which we might confine ourselves, as possessors and inheritors of the dogma of the Real Presence, for 1500 years, until our religious opponents satisfactorily prove that the words of our Divine Redeemer are not to be understood literally; it can be clearly shown, by a positive proof, which shall serve, at the same time, as a principle of solution to all the reasoning of our religious opponents, that the words of our Redeemer must be understood literally, and cannot be understood figuratively, at least in the sense given them by Protestants, to imply, that the sign is put for the thing signified. The words must be understood literally, and cannot bear the interpretation put upon them our religious opponents, provided the Apostles, at the time our Lord took bread, blessed it, and giving it to them, said, “This is My body,” were not prepared to regard bread—to which He only vaguely and indistinctly referred by saying, “this”—as the sign of His body of which He spoke, but, rather, as really converted into the body by the words of consecration, when the sentence, “This is My body,” was fully enunciated. The truth of this proposition is clear from the ordinary rules of human language, according to which one is guilty of a falsehood, by saying of the sign, that it is the thing signified, when he is well aware that his hearers regard it, not in quality of sign, but absolutely, without any reference whatever to signification. This can be further illustrated, by the language employed, when there is question of portraits, maps, &c. Why are they called, without any departure from truth, by the names of the men, or the country they represent? Is it not because mankind are prepared to regard them as signs of things? But, if we could imagine a case, in which those whom we addressed regarded them as the reality referred to, we could not, without being guilty of a falsehood, use the same language, in reference to them, v.g., we could not say of the portrait of St. Paul, that it was St. Paul, if we knew that our hearers, from ignorance, or from any cause whatever, were prepared to regard it as St. Paul in reality, and not as his representation, or figure. And, if this be true in cases where Nature herself has established a connexion, as in the example adduced, it is still more so, in reference to those signs that are strictly arbitrary and conventional. Our Redeemer was well aware of the feelings of His Apostles, at the Last Supper, and of the extent of their knowledge. Hence, if they were not prepared to regard bread, in His hands, as the sign of His body, He could not, with a knowledge of their ideas and feelings, say, as He did say, that it was His body. Now, the Apostles were not so prepared. They could not be prepared to see the connexion of sign and thing signified, where no such connexion or relation ever existed. No such connexion existed between bread and the body of Christ. There was, certainly, no natural connexion. Nature never made bread the sign of any body, much less of a determinate body, as was the body of Christ. Nor was it such by the conventional agreement of mankind. Bread was never classed by mankind among the things which existed only in quality of signs. Nor was this connexion instituted by our Redeemer Himself. In order to be warranted, at the time He enunciated the proposition, “This is My body,” in saying so, He should have instituted this connexion beforehand, and apprised His Apostles of the same, unless it really was His body. We have no evidence in SS. Scripture, that He did so. Had He done so, the Scriptures would not have passed over such a circumstance, which was indispensable, as a key to arrive at a just knowledge of one of the most important passages of Divine revelation. Hence, as bread was neither a natural nor a conventional sign of the body of Christ, the Apostles could not regard it as such; and our Redeemer could not, therefore, call it His body, unless it were such in substance and reality.

Furthermore, the Apostles were not only unprepared to regard bread, in the hands of Christ, as the sign of His body; but they were positively prepared for the very contrary. For, on the authority of the Son of God Himself, they believed Him “as having the words of eternal life” (John 6:69), when, twelve months before this date, He promised them that, one day, He would give them His real flesh, as food: “The bread I will give, is My flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:52). They were, therefore, every day in expectation of the fulfilment of this promise. When, therefore, our Redeemer, on the eve of His Passion, after partaking of the Paschal supper—the last He was to take with them, till they partook of it, after a new rite, in the kingdom of His Father—took bread into His venerable and creative hands, and told them to eat, because it was His body, which was to be delivered for them, must they not, at once, have regarded it as that flesh which He promised them, and which, while others went away incredulous, they believed to be His true flesh? (John 6:67–71.) Hence, the Apostles, far from being prepared to regard bread, in the hands of Christ, as the sign of His body, were, on the contrary, prepared to regard it as His real body, to be rendered such by His omnipotent word. Our Redeemer could not, therefore (unless we impute to Him what would be blasphemous), with His knowledge of the Apostles’ ideas and feelings, say of the bread, “This is My body,” unless it were really rendered such, by His Almighty power, in the words of consecration. The words must, therefore, be taken literally, and so taken, prove the Catholic doctrine.

The principle now explained will fully answer all the objections of Protestants against the proof adduced. In truth, all their objections leave the chief point of the proof untouched. Their whole process of reasoning is founded on the fact, that, in many parts of SS. Scripture, we find it said of the sign, that it is the thing signified. Therefore, our Redeemer could have said of the bread, although a mere sign of His body, “This is My body.” Now, the conclusion is quite unfounded and illogical, unless to the first proposition be added: In many parts of SS. Scripture, it is said of the sign, that it is the thing signified—in circumstances where neither the hearers nor the readers were prepared to regard it as a sign—(as has been shown, in reference to the Apostles, at the Last Supper); and, then, the proposition is utterly false; because, not a single instance is alleged by our adversaries, in which the readers or hearers were not aware, either from the nature of the subject, or the context, or the expressed declaration of the sacred writer or speaker, that there was question of figurative language; whereas, it is quite otherwise, as has been shown, as regards the words of institution.

Their objection may be fully set at rest for ever, by the following disjunctive, or, rather, dilemma: The Apostles, on the occasion of the Last Supper, were either well versed in the SS. Scriptures of the Old Testament (the New was yet unwritten), having the examples adduced by our religious opponents before their eyes, and able to reason from them; or, they were not. If we suppose them not versed in SS. Scripture (and this is their real character before the descent of the Holy Ghost—poor, ignorant, illiterate fishermen, who paid implicit belief to everything uttered by our Divine Redeemer); then, the passages alleged in objection were utterly unknown to them, and could, therefore, afford them no key for understanding the words of our Lord figuratively. If we suppose them well versed in Scriptural texts, and able to reason from them; then the objected passages would only serve to have them understand the words of our Lord literally; because, in the supposition made, they were fully cognizant that, in the passages alluded to, the language was known to the readers, or hearers, to be figurative. They also saw, that no such intimation was given themselves by our Lord, at the Last Supper, not to speak of His promise, which they believed that He would give them, one day, His real flesh. The conclusion, therefore, they should arrive at, if they had a particle of reflection, was, that His words must be understood literally. In all examples adduced by our religious opponents, the figure, or metaphor, is quite apparent; as may be seen from several instances, “I am a vine,” “I am the door,” “Christ is a lion,” &c. But, in the words, “This is My body,” no figurative meaning could be allowed. For if so, they would present an example of what is called, “an inverted metaphor,” which according to the laws of human language, is never allowable. Although, one might say, without impropriety, Christ is a lion; Christ is a door; Christ is a vine; no one could invert the words with any degree of propriety, and say, a vine is Christ, much less say, this vine is Christ; this lion is Christ. And, in order to be like the words, “This is My body,” they should be so inverted. It should be borne in mind, in reference to the sacred words, “This is My body,” that the word, “this,” like every other demonstrative pronoun, refers, in a general, indistinct way, to the object present. (“This is my brother,” this is a good man, &c.; the pronoun, in a general way, points out what is more distinctly expressed by the attribute.) In the first instance, it denotes bread, but this being a practical proposition, it is only when the entire proposition is expressed, that it is verified. So that the words really mean: “this (which now is bread) is (in the next instance, in virtue of the change effected) My body.” The change of the water into wine at Cana, could be quoted as an illustration. Our Redeemer, taking the water, could say, “This is wine,” rendered such by the change effected. And although, in the first instance, “this,” designated water; still, when the proposition was concluded, owing to the change effected, it designated wine. In like manner, God could have said, taking the rib out of which He made the woman, “this (rib) is a woman,” having been converted into a woman by His omnipotent word.

It is also to be observed, that there is no figure in any of the words of institution. Surely, none in “this,” nor in the verb “is,” which, being a most simple verb, into which all other verbs are resolvable, never has a figurative meaning in any language; since it merely denotes existence and a connexion between the subject and attribute of a proposition. Nor in the words, “My body,” since the words are added, “which is given for you” (Luke 22:19); “which shall be delivered for you” (1 Cor. 11:24); this was His real body. It is to be observed, as regards the form recorded by St. Paul, that the words, “which shall be delivered for you,” are used in the present tense in most Greek copies, κλωμενον, “which is broken,” having reference, in a certain sense, to His death on the cross. Hence, on account of the certainty and proximity of His death, the present may be regarded as having a future signification; and it is so rendered, “shall be delivered for you” (1 Cor. 11:24). However, although this is to a certain extent true, if it be borne in mind, that the body given and delivered at the Last Supper, was identical with that delivered on the cross; still, the present signification is most likely to be the one primarily intended by our Lord. For, He speaks of His body, broken for them, which could not refer to the cross, on which it was predicted His body was not to be broken. It is said to be broken in the Eucharist, under the Sacramental veils, or, ratione specierum. This shall appear more clear when the words having reference to His sacred blood are examined. For, speaking of the chalice, He says, “This chalice is the New Testament in My blood (the chalice I say), which shall be shed for you,” τουτο το ποτηριον … το υπερ υμων εκχυνομενον which manifestly refer to the present pouring out of His blood, “which is poured out,” &c. Our Redeemer employs the present tense, “My body which is given,” not to you, for the purpose of manducation, which was expressed in the words “take, cat,” but, “for you,” to convey, that He was then not only instituting a Sacrament, but also instituting and offering up the Sacrifice of His body and blood, under the appearance of bread and wine, thus discharging the duty devolving on Him, as “Priest according to the order of Melchisedech.”


From the doctrine of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist, follows, as a necessary consectary, the doctrine of Transubstantiation. For, if it be once proved that our Saviour said of the bread which He took in His hands, that it was really and substantially His body, it follows, that He must have made it such, by changing it, in virtue of His omnipotent power. For, no one thing in nature can become really and substantially another thing of a different kind, unless it be changed into it. If, taking water into His hands at Cana, our Redeemer said, this is wine, the assertion would be false, unless He changed the water into wine. In like manner, were Moses to say of the rod in his hand, on flinging it on the ground, this is a serpent, it would not be true, unless it were changed into a serpent. Hence, when our Redeemer said, of what He held in His hands, viz., bread and wine, that they were really and substantially His body and blood, they should be changed into His body and blood, in order that His assertion would be true. “This wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the body, and of the whole substance of the wine into the blood of Christ, by the consecration of the bread and wine, is properly called by the Holy Catholic Church, Transubstantiation.” (Conc. Trid. SS. xiii. cap. iv. can. ii.) She employs similar phraseology, distinctly expressive of her doctrines, in reference to the mysteries of the Godhead, such as Trinity, Incarnation, &c.; and Protestants employ these terms, although not found in SS. Scripture. But, like the term, Transubstantiation, they express, in the clearest form, the doctrines found in SS. Scripture.

It is deserving of remark, that the three Evangelists and St. Paul give the same precise words, when treating of the consecration of the bread, “This is My body,” to which St. Luke adds, “which is given for you;” St. Paul, “which shall be delivered (or, as the Greek has it, which is broken) for you.” Both St. Luke and St. Paul add, “Do this in commemoration of Me.” The Greek for “commemoration” (αναμνησιν), means, remembrance, as it is used in the Canon of the Mass, “in mei memoriam facietis,” in remembrance of His death and Passion.

“Do this.” “This,” refers to the entire action of our Redeemer, taking bread, giving thanks, blessing, and transubstantiating it into His body and blood. By commanding them to do so, He gave them the power to obey His mandate. Hence, the Council of Trent (SS. xxii. c. 1, de Mis. Sac.), tells us, that—“At the Last Supper, on the night on which He was betrayed, our Lord … declaring Himself to be constituted a Priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech, offered His body and blood, under the appearances of bread and wine, to God the Father; and under the symbols of the same things, delivered it to His Apostles, whom He constituted Priests of the New Testament, to partake of it, and commanded them and their successors in the Priesthood to offer it, by these words, ‘Do this in commemoration of Me.’ ” It is also defined (Can. 2), that by the words, “do this,” &c., He constituted His Apostles Priests, and enjoined on them and other Priests to offer up His body and blood.

There were some things, however, done by our Redeemer on that occasion, which were not necessarily to be done by the Apostles and their successors afterwards, such as giving the Eucharist after supper, or giving it under both kinds, or giving it at all on some occasions. There were other things which should necessarily be always done. But what things should be done as necessary for the Sacrifice, and what things might be omitted, cannot be better ascertained than from the doctrine and practice of the Catholic Church, which, ever guided by the Spirit of God, teaches us, that for the validity of the Sacrifice, the words of our Lord should be employed of necessity, as the form of consecration of the bread and wine; that both species should necessarily be consecrated for the Sacrifice; that both should be consumed by the celebrant, to carry out our Lord’s ordinance. In other points, her discipline has varied, as she has not regarded them of Divine precept, in which it would be beyond her power to dispense.

Mt 26:27. “And taking the chalice, He gave thanks.” St. Luke (Lk 22:20), and St. Paul (1 Cor. 11), say, “In like manner the chalice also, after He had supped.” “In like manner,” that is, He acted in reference to the chalice, as He did with regard to the bread, He took it into His hands, He blessed, gave thanks, and gave it to them to be divided among them. “After He had supped,” conveys to us, that this sacred banquet did not appertain to the Paschal and common Jewish suppers, of which He and His disciples had partaken already.

That it was only after the Paschal supper, and the Jewish common supper, which immediately succeeded the Paschal supper—for, the Paschal lamb could not satiate the cravings of the number, ten at least, who should join in partaking of it—the bread, too, was transubstantiated, is certain; for, our Redeemer would not have divided this mystery, so that a part would be instituted before the Paschal supper, and the other part after it. By one continuous action, both parts, that is, the entire Sacrament, was instituted (see Mt 26:26).

“Drink ye all of this.” By “all,” are meant, me twelve Apostles, who were present. The term, “all,” applies to the same, of whom St. Mark, who by anticipation describes this circumstance, before the consecration took place (Mk 14:23) says, “and they all drank of it.” Our Redeemer does not say, in reference to His body, “eat ye all of this;” because, having broken the bread, He divided it into is many parts as there were persons present to partake of it; and hence no fear of mistake. But, to avoid mistake, since He could not separate the contents of the chalice, as He did the bread, and lest those who received it first, might consume the entire, He conveys to them, that it should be so used as that all would partake of a portion of it. This is more clearly expressed in reference to the Paschal cup, by St. Luke (Lk 22:17), “Take, and divide it among you.”

From the words of this verse, the enemies of the Church endeavour to derive an argument against the practice of the Catholic Church, relative to administering the Eucharist under one kind, in the form of bread only to the laity. This practice universally existed in the Church at the time of the Council of Constance; and this discipline was there enacted (SS. xiii.) as a law. The giving the Holy Eucharist under both or either species is a matter of discipline which may vary according to the will of the Church. If it were a Divine precept to administer the Holy Eucharist under both species; then, no individual or body of men could, without sacrilege, administer one portion without the other. For, the power of the Church, in any arrangement regarding the dispensation of the Sacraments must be always exercised, salva illorum substantia (Cone. Trid. SS. xxi. c. 2). Hence, the Church of Christ, while administering the Eucharist in the early ages, not unfrequently under both kinds, allowed it to be given, in certain cases, under one kind only. She never regarded it as a Divine mandate to give it under both kinds. She allowed Communion under one kind—1st. To infants, under the form of wine only, without the consecrated Host (Cyprian, de lapsis 2). 2ndly. In domestic Communions, the faithful, on account of the persecution, were permitted to carry consecrated Hosts, but not consecrated wine, to their own houses for private Communion (Tertul., Lib. ii., ad uxorem, c. 5; Cyprian, do lapsis). 3rd. In the manner of administering the Sacrament to the sick (Eusebius de His. Lib. 6, c. 44). Hence, the early Church regarded, as a point of discipline only, which she has full power to change, at any time for just reasons the giving of Communion under both kinds, or, one kind only.

The doctrine of the Church, as well as her practice on this point (Council of Constance, SS. xiii.; Trent, SS. xxi., c. i.–ii., Can. i.–ii. de Com.) is grounded:—

1st. On the words of our Redeemer, who, while He says, “unless you eat … and drink His blood,” &c., also declares, “if any man eat of this bread he shall live for ever;” “the bread which I will give is My flesh, for the life of the world;” also “he that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.”

2ndly. On the principle of faith, that under each species, the entire body and blood, together with the soul and Divinity of Christ, are contained. For, since Christ arose from the dead to die no more, wherever His (living) body is, there must His blood and His soul also be, by a natural concomitance; and so also must His Divinity, which, since the Hypostatic union, was never separated from either His body or soul. Whoever, therefore, receives one species, receives Christ whole, God and man, without any separation or mutilation whatsoever; he receives body and blood together, which can never be separated; and we contend, from the texts already adduced, and the interpretation by the Church of the other texts, which would seem to require the separate reception of each, that this is all that is required by the Divine precept.

“Now in order to reconcile the three texts already adduced, where there is question only of partaking of the heavenly ‘bread,’ with those in which the cup and drinking are mentioned, we must of necessity say, that by eating and drinking is meant, the action of receiving the body and blood of Christ, and not precisely the manner of receiving; and, hence, the precept regarded not the manner of receiving, but only the thing received. This interpretation is in perfect accordance with the scope of our Redeemer’s discourse (John 6), which was to convince His hearers, that unless their souls were nourished with the real flesh and blood of the Son of man, they would forfeit everlasting life; and that by partaking of His body and blood, they would have life everlasting. So that, provided the real body and blood of Christ be received, whether it be by the action of eating or of drinking only, or by both together, the worthy communicants, by receiving Christ whole, the fountain of grace and eternal life, fully satisfy the end of Christ’s institution, and perform all that is obligatory in the precept of Communion.” (Manning’s reply to Leslie, Case Stated, sec. xxxix.)

The external form of drinking is neither excluded by the texts, which mention eating alone, nor commanded by the texts, which mention them both. Our Redeemer, by attributing, at one time, the whole efficacy and virtue of the Sacrament to eating alone; and, at other times, to eating and drinking conjointly, shows, that it is not the external form or manner of receiving under one or both kinds, but the thing received, that bestows grace and eternal life on the worthy receiver; and His attributing the whole virtue and efficacy of the Sacrament to eating alone, proves clearly, that when He mentions eating and drinking, this does not convey a precept, obliging all to receive the Sacrament under both kinds, but only to receive His body and blood, which, owing to the natural concomitance between Christ’s body and blood, that must now, since His Resurrection, always exist united, is done by a communion under one, as well as under both kinds. And truly, as regards the meaning of the words of Christ, and the proper method of faithfully dispensing His Sacraments, that Church, which He commanded all to hear, with which He promised to be to the end of time—the pillar and ground of truth—which was taught all truth by the ever-abiding Spirit of God, which He appointed to feed and govern His flock, and dispense His mysteries, ought to be a better judge, and a more authorized interpreter, than a few factious individuals, without mission or authority, or any pretensions to Divine superintendence of any kind.

The disjunctive form employed by the Apostle (1 Cor. 11:27), in which he says, “that by eating or drinking unworthily, one is guilty of the body and of the blood of our Lord,” confirms the doctrine of the Church, and supposes, that one part could be received worthily without the other. For, the unworthiness, of which the Apostle speaks, does not consist in disjoining what, our adversaries maintain, should be taken by all conjointly, according to the institution of our Lord; but in the previous unworthy dispositions of the receivers, arising from sins against morals, committed before they approached Holy Communion (1 Cor. 11:21-22).

But, does not this charge against the Catholic Church, of mutilating the Sacrament of Christ’s body, come well from those who utterly deny, that He is really present at all, either as to flesh or blood, soul or body? For the more perfect representation of our Lord’s Passion, in which His blood flowed from His body, the Priests are bound, in offering Sacrifice, to consecrate and receive under both kinds, viz., of bread, which represents His flesh; and of wine, which aptly represents His blood. Should it be said, that when addressed by Christ, at the Last Supper, the Apostles represented the entire Church, it may be also said in reply, that they still continue to represent her, and that they carry out the commands of Christ, in this respect, as often as they offer Sacrifice and consecrate and receive under both kinds. It is His Priests our Redeemer directly addresses at the Last Supper, and commands to offer Sacrifice and distribute the Eucharist, in memory of His Passion. The only precept which indirectly, or by correlative obligation, binds the faithful, is to receive the Eucharist from the hands of their pastors, and by receiving it, to commemorate the death of Christ, which embraces also all the other mysteries of His life, &c.

Hence, in the Canon of the Mass the Church says, “unde et memores … necnon et ab inferis resurrectionis, et gloriosæ Ascensionis,” &c. But His death is specially commemorated, as in it, His charity towards mankind is specially manifested. The Church might, to-morrow, if she pleased, enjoin the administration of the Eucharist under the form of wine alone, or under both species; and she would actually do so, if graver reasons than those which influence her present discipline, on this head, were to present themselves.

Mt 26:28. “This is My blood,” &c. These words prove the Real Presence, taken literally, as they must be taken; for, it was by His real blood, “the New Testament” was sanctioned, ratified, and confirmed. “Of the New Testament.” The Greek article prefixed (τὸ τῆς καινῆς διαθήκης), that of the New Testament, would imply, that there was a reference to a Testament long before foretold by the Prophets, promised and preached by Christ Himself. The words of our Lord are evidently allusive to those employed by Moses, in sanctioning the old Testament: “This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you” (Ex 24:8; Heb. 9:18, &c.), as if He said: Formerly, Moses solemnized the old covenant of God with your fathers, by sprinkling them with the blood of animals; but, I establish the new alliance with you, not by shedding upon your clothes the blood of animals; but, by refreshing your bodies and souls with My own blood. The comparison is clearly expressed between the blood, used by Moses (Ex 24:6), and the chalice of the Lord; between the interior and exterior effusion; between the blood of animals and the blood of Jesus Christ; and, consequently, between the sacrifice of Moses and that of Christ. It was with real blood, Moses sanctioned his Testament, and it would be absurd to say, it was with unreal blood a more perfect covenant was established and sanctioned by Christ.

“Testament.” He terms the covenant, which He had established with men, of granting, on His part, grace, remission of sin here, and the inheritance of life eternal hereafter, on the condition of their observing His Law and Commandments—and to observe these He promises His assistance—a “Testament;” because, it conveyed an inheritance bequeathed by a dying testator. This is the special meaning attached by St. Paul (Heb. 9:16), to the word, διαθηκη.

“New,” in opposition to the old, entered into with the Jewish people (Exod. 19–24; Jer. 31:31). Moreover, it conveys blessings of a newer and still more exalted spiritual character, than those guaranteed by the old.

“Which shall be shed.” The Greek (εκχυνομενον), has a present signification, and, doubtless, has reference to the present pouring out of His blood. This means, the same as offering it in sacrifice to God the Father; and this is very significantly conveyed by the Evangelists and St. Paul, when they use a word of the present tense, in reference to this effusion of Christ’s blood, as St. Luke and St. Paul do in reference to His sacred body: “which is delivered;” “which is broken.” They meant to convey, that there is reference, primarily, to the Sacrament and Sacrifice He was then instituting; although, no doubt, it had reference to the blood shed on the cross, with which that poured forth and offered up, at the Last Sapper, was identical, and from which it borrowed all its efficacy; and, also, to the further continuance of the rite to the end of time. On this account, most likely it was, that the Vulgate interpreter rendered the Greek word, εκχυνομενον, in the future tense, “effundetur.” According to St. Luke (Lk 22:20), the effusion which took place must regard the Last Supper, “the chalice … which (chalice) shall be shed for you (το ποτηριον … το υπερ υμων ετχυνομενον), the chalice poured out for you.”

“For many.” Some say, that by “many,” are meant the entire human race; for, they are many. Others say, our Redeemer only refers to the most of those present; for, Judas could not derive any profit ultimately from the innocent blood which he betrayed. In St. Luke and St. Paul, in reference to His body, it is, “given for you” and the same is the reading in St. Luke, in reference to the blood, “shed for you.” It may be, that our Redeemer employed both forms, as is adopted by the Church ii the words of consecration, “qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem,” &c. Others, however, say, that our Redeemer used only one form or the other; but, that the Church, without deciding which were the precise words, whether pro vobis, or, pro multis, both being identical in sense, adopted both in the canon, neither being regarded, according to the more probable opinion, as an essential part of the words of consecration.

“For the remission of sins.” This remission is the source and fountain of all the other blessings promised and conveyed in the New Testament. It precedes their attainment. In this, His blood differs from that of the Old Testament, which availed only for “the cleansing of the flesh” (Heb. 9:13).

The fruit or effects of this blood poured forth on the cross, is obtained when it is poured out in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and also, when it is applied to our souls, through the Sacraments, the channels divinely instituted for communicating to us the abundant graces purchased for us on the cross. The very fact of our Redeemer saying, that this blood was poured out in the Eucharist, “for the remission of sins,” shows it to be a Sacrifice, this being the direct end and effect of a Propitiatory Sacrifice; for, as a Sacrament, it supposes, in order to be worthily received, that the receiver has proved himself, and approached with a conscience free from sin. And, also, as a Sacrament, its primary end and effect is, not “the remission of sins,” but the preservation and increase of spiritual life. Our Redeemer could have also added, “for the remission of sins,” when speaking of His body, since it was delivered for the remission of sins; but, it is only when speaking of His blood He says so, because, it is to the effusion of blood, the effects of sacrifice are attributed in the Old Law. Moreover, blood is a more expressive symbol of His death, by which He atoned for our sins, than was His flesh.

The form of consecration of the chalice recorded by St. Luke (Lk 22:20), and by St. Paul (1 Cor. 11:25), who both agree, is quite different from that given by St. Matthew here, and by St. Mark (Mk 14:24). St. Luke has it, “This is the chalice, the New Testament in My blood;” St. Paul, “This chalice is the New Testament in My blood.” From the Greek of St. Luke, in which is omitted the substantive verb, is—τοῦτο τὁ ποτήριον ἡ καινἠ διαθήκη έν τῶ αἴματί μου—it cannot be determined for certain, whether it should be rendered, “This is the chalice, the New Testament in My blood,” or, “This chalice is the New Testament in My blood,” as in St. Paul. He alludes to the New Testament only when speaking of His blood, not when referring to His body; because, it was with blood that covenants were ratified among all nations. The word, chalice, is not expressed in the form employed either by St. Matthew here, or by St. Mark (Mk 14:24); and, as it is not probable that our Redeemer used both forms, it is most likely, that St. Matthew, who was present, records the identical words used by our Redeemer on the occasion. The words of St. Luke and St. Paul, although substantially the same with St. Matthew, ought to be explained by the clearer form recorded by St. Matthew, who more clearly expresses what our Redeemer chiefly intended, viz., to give them His body and blood. The allusion to the New Testament, recorded by all, was merely explanatory and incidental, and introduced subordinately to His leading assertion, that He was giving them His blood. But, were we to adopt the form of St. Luke, it will come to the same as St. Matthew’s, viz., This is the chalice, whereby is ratified and confirmed the New Testament, and that through My blood, which it contains.

Maldonatus holds, that the words, “in My blood” (in sanguine meo), are, by a Hebrew idiom, put for, “of My blood” (sanguinis mei), and that they should be connected with chalice, thus: “This is the chalice of My blood, which (chalice) is the New Testament.” In this construction, there is no figure whatever in the form of St. Luke. The chalice, containing the blood, is the authentic instrument whereby the New Testament was sanctioned and ratified. By a usage, common to all language, the word, “Testament,” not only means the thing bequeathed in one’s will, but the written, authentic instrument, as also, the copy of that will. In this latter sense, the word, Testament, is used by St. Luke and St. Paul. By St. Matthew, in the former sense, viz., the very thing bequeathed; since it was in virtue, or, through the merits of the blood of Christ, the blessings bequeathed, of grace here and of glory hereafter, were secured. On the cross, Christ published, as it were, by letters patent to all men, His dying covenant or testament with the human race. At the Last Supper, and all future repetitions of it, were contained authentic copies of the same, availing in such a way, that the right secured to all men by that original deed on the cross, would be applied to certain individuals; to the party for whom it is offered, as well as to the worthy receiver, who shall ultimately secure the actual possession and fruition of the promised blessings, secured on the cross, unless it be their own fault.

Should it be objected, that a copy should not precede the original, it may be said in reply, that our Redeemer, owing to the certain proximity of His Passion, upon which He was just entering, regarded it as past and accomplished. So that it was operative in its effects in regard to the Last Supper, as, indeed, it had been from the beginning of time. Hence, He was said to be, “agnus occisus ab origine mundi” (Rev 13:8).

Mt 26:29. “This fruit of the vine”—a more elegant phrase for wine, which is in another part of SS. Scripture called, “the blood of the grape” (Gen. 49:11)—some commentators, adhering to the order described by St. Matthew, who places these words, as spoken after the consecration, understand by them, the sacred blood of our Redeemer contained in the chalice, which is called wine, on account of the pre-existing matter from which it was changed; we find His sacred body called “bread” (John 6:52, &c.; 1 Cor. 11:27), for the same reason. Nothing is more common in SS. Scripture than to call things by the name of the substance out of which they were formed. Thus, the serpent is called, the rod of Moses; Adam, called, dust. The words will, then, mean: we shall not again drink together of this wine used at supper, under the appearance of which you drank My blood, until we drink it again in a far more excellent manner, “in the kingdom of My Father.” According, however, to the more common, as well as the more general opinion of commentators, the words refer to the wine used at the Paschal or the common Jewish supper, both of which preceded the institution of the Blessed Eucharist. According to these, St. Matthew, for brevity’ sake, describes as occurring at the Eucharistic institution, what took place at the suppers which preceded it. Hence, he does not strictly follow the order of events observed by our Divine Redeemer, which is so fully and so accurately described by St. Luke. Both Matthew and Mark place after the consecration of the chalice, what occurred before it, as recorded by St. Luke (Lk 22:15–18), who informs us, that our Redeemer expressed Himself in the same terms in regard to the Jewish Paschal lamb. Hence, most likely, the words of this verse were employed by our Redeemer in reference to the chalice whereof the Jewish householder, after partaking of the Paschal lamb, first tasted, and then sent it round to be tasted by all present, as we have from the traditions of the Jews. The words constitute, as it were, the valedictory address of our Redeemer to His Apostles, at parting. They, at the same time, convey the consoling assurance of the supreme felicity in reserve for them in the kingdom of heaven, which He represents under the figure of a banquet, in which enjoyment of the most exquisite kind, metaphorically represented by wine, is in store for God’s faithful servants. Of course, our Lord does not say, that, in any sense, whether literally or metaphorically, they were to drink of His blood in the kingdom of heaven.

“Until that day,” refers to some distant time, when the just shall be inebriated with the plenty of God’s house, and shall drink of the torrents of His delights.

The wine is called “new,” of a different and more excellent kind, according to a Hebrew idiom, calling whatever was most excellent, “new.” “Cantate Domine Canticum novum.”

“Kingdom of My Father,” the kingdom of God’s glory in heaven. St. Luke refers to the same: “And I appoint to you, as My Father appointed to Me, a kingdom … at My table in My kingdom” (Lk 22:29-30). Although these words were uttered by our Redeemer before He gave His body and blood, nor does St. Matthew say anything to the contrary; still, they are fitly recorded by St. Matthew after the Last Supper, as they contain our Redeemer’s valedictory and consoling address to His Apostles.

But did not our Redeemer eat and drink with His Apostles, after His resurrection? Yes; He did so, however, not for the sustenance of mortal life, but only (Acts 10:41), in a passing way, and to prove the truth of His resurrection. Hence, it might be regarded as not happening, just as He regards His conversation with them after His resurrection as not happening at all: “These are the words I spoke to you, while I was yet with you” (Luke 24:44). Moreover, might not the words regarding His “kingdom” be understood of His glorious state, after His resurrection?

But, how could our Redeemer have used the word, wine, in a different sense in the same sentence—real wine, “this fruit of the vine;” and wine, in a metaphorical sense, “new in the kingdom,” &c.? The words, “this fruit of the vine,” refer to wine in general, whether in a literal or metaphorical sense. So does the word “it.” “Drink it new.” From circumstances it must be determined, when it is used literally; when metaphorically. In the former case, it is used literally; in the latter, metaphorically. Thus, He says in the same breath, “suffer the dead to bury their dead;” also, “every one who shall drink of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever shall drink of the water which I shall give him,” &c. (John 4:13.) In both these quotations, the same words, “dead,” and “water,” have different meanings, in the same sentence, viz., literal and metaphorical.

Some commentators, with Mauduit (Disser. 23), maintain, that the words of St. Luke (Lk 22:18), are different from those of St. Matthew in this verse, and uttered at different times. In St. Luke it is, “of the fruit of the vine;” here, “of this fruit of the vine.” Mauduit contends, that our Redeemer employed the words recorded by St. Luke before the institution of the Eucharist; those of St. Matthew, when giving the Apostles His adorable body and blood.

Mt 26:30. “And a hymn being said.” The Greek word, ὑμνήσαντες, would show, that they sung the hymn. Some commentators think, that our Redeemer composed a hymn for the occasion. However, as we have no record of this, others are of opinion, that they all joined in singing the Eucharistic song, contained in the Jewish ritual for thanksgiving after the Paschal supper. It commenced with Psalm 113, “Laudate, pueri,” &c., and embraced the five following Psalms, as far as, “Confitemini Domino,” &c., inclusive.

“They went out to Mount Olivet,” distant from the city about one mile, or, “a Sabbath-day’s journey” (Acts 1:12). Hitherto our Redeemer, during the last days of His life, after having spent the day-time in preaching in the temple, was wont, each evening, to return to Bethania to supper; and thence, He went to Mount Olivet, where He spent the night, no doubt in prayer, according to His usual custom. On this occasion, He did not go to Bethania, having supped at Jerusalem, whence He proceeded directly to Mount Olivet, at the foot of which was the Garden of Gethsemani, to be apprehended by Judas, and handed over to the Jews.

St. John records a lengthened discourse delivered by our Redeemer, immediately after giving communion to His Apostles. From the words at the end of c. 15 of St. John, “Arise, let us go hence,” some commentators infer, that our Redeemer, after having delivered the discourse contained in John (chapters 13, 14), had joined His Apostles in singing a hymn of thanksgiving, as recorded by the three other Evangelists, and, then, on His way to Mount Olivet, delivered the remainder of the discourse contained in chapters 15, 16, 17 of St. John. When He told them, to “arise,” suiting the action to the word, He went forth—they in obedience accompanying Him—to meet His enemies, and prove the sincerity of His love for His Heavenly Father (John 14:31). Others, however, maintain, that, the whole discourse of our Redeemer recorded (John 13–17.), was delivered by our Redeemer before leaving the supper hall. It would be inconvenient to deliver it, on His way to so large a number as His eleven Apostles, who, probably, could hardly hear Him conveniently. Besides, St. John does not say, He left immediately on saying the words, “arise,” &c. He insinuates, on the contrary (Jn 18:1), “When Jesus had said these things, He went forth,” &c., that it was after delivering the entire discourse, He left. The words (Jn 14:31), “arise,” &c., would only convey, at most, that they all arose, and that while standing, anxiously wishing Him to prolong His parting words, He delivered the portion of His discourse contained in chapters 15, 16, 17, in a standing posture, before finally departing from the supper hall for the scene of His Passion. St. Luke (Lk 22:21–39) records other matters spoken by Him on that occasion, which are omitted by St. John.

Mt 26:31. “Then,” on His way to the Garden of Gethsemani (Jn 26:36).

“All you,” My Apostles, who have hitherto faithfully adhered to Me.

“Shall be scandalized in Me this night.” The word, “scandal,” which literally means, a stumbling-block that causes us a fall, transferred to the spiritual order, means, whatever is the occasion of our falling into sin, or proves a rock of spiritual offence (Mt 11:6). Our Redeemer means here, that He shall prove a stumbling-block to His Apostles; that they shall take occasion, from what they shall see happening Him, that night, to fall into sin. This He predicts, to prove His divine insight into future contingent things; and God permitted this, for several reasons, among the rest, to afford matter for greater sufferings and sorrow for our Redeemer, seeing that His very chosen friends would desert Him; also to convince the Apostles of their weakness, and to teach them to commiserate the fallen. Commentators are not agreed, as to what the sin referred to here, was. It is the more common opinion, that their sin consisted, not precisely in their deserting their Master, and leaving Him as they did, in the hands of His enemies; since, they might have known, He willingly presented Himself for death; but, in the principle of this desertion, arising from weakness and vacillation in their faith, owing to which they imagined He was forcibly overpowered by His enemies, and that, He could not fulfil the promise He made, as Son of God, to rise again. It is to this our Redeemer refers (John 16:31-32). Some commentators extend this not alone to the Apostles, but to the whole of His followers. This, as St. Augustine remarks, was clearly the case with Cleophas (Luke 24); “but, we hoped that He would redeem Israel,” as if they had not this hope any longer. The words of this verse are placed by Concordances of the Gospel, immediately after the words addressed by our Redeemer to St. Peter (Luke 22:31). After reminding St. Peter, of the trial He should undergo, He next addressed the entire body, and predicted their fall. As regards St. Peter himself, some say, he actually lost faith in Christ; he was not yet constituted head of the Church. Others maintain, he did not sin against faith, which he always retained in his heart; for, our Lord prayed, that “his faith would not fail” (Luke 22:32), but, against the external profession, or, confession of faith, and thus lost charity.

“For, it is written” (Zech. 13:7), “I will strike the shepherd,” &c. In the original Hebrew and in the Septuagint, it is, “strike the shepherd,” as if addressed by God to the “sword.” But the Evangelist gives the sense. The words of Zacharias, in the imperative form, convey, that God Himself will strike the shepherd, or suffer him to be struck by the Jews. “He delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32). The words of the Prophet are applied by our Lord to Himself; and, although they regarded the Priests of the Old Law, in the first place; still, the context shows, they applied, in a special way, to Christ, the Shepherd of shepherds, “and Bishop of our souls” (1 Peter 2:25).

“And the sheep of the flock,” &c. The Apostles and the followers of Christ, whom He gathered together again after His resurrection. The word, “flock,” is not in the passage from the Prophet; it is added by the Evangelist, for clearness’ sake.

Mt 26:32. He arms them against despair or excessive diffidence, by this consoling prediction, that before they would have returned to their native district of Galilee, He would be there before them, to collect them together again and care them. Some expositors think the pastoral metaphor is here kept up, and that it is allusive to the custom with shepherds in the East, of not following, but of going before and leading their sheep.

Commentators here direct attention to the wonderful mildness of our Redeemer, who, although about to die for His Apostles, and while predicting their desertion of Him; still, far from showing imbittered feelings or upbraiding them, on the contrary, promises to console and protect them.

Mt 26:33. St. Peter, whose vehement, burning zeal for his Divine Master, made him always take a more prominent part than the rest in all things tending to defend His interests, from an impulse of love and fervour, not measuring his own strength, and not considering his natural infirmity, exclaims at once, “though all men shall be scandalized,” he never would be scandalized or desert Him. In this, he committed a threefold sin. 1st. By contradicting his Divine Redeemer, and not acquiescing in His words. 2ndly. By preferring himself to others. 3rdly. By presuming too much on his natural strength, and arrogating to himself what should proceed only from the Divine mercy.

Mt 26:34. But as this proceeded from love, our Redeemer treats him mildly; and merely tells him, that as he presumed more than others, he would be scandalized still more than they. The others would fly; he would even abjure his Divine Master.

“This very night,” on which you seem so confident, “before the cock crow”—thus defining precisely the time of the night it would occur, viz., before the time of night, or early morning, specially termed cock-crowing—“thou shalt deny Me,” not merely by flying, or deserting Me, like the other Apostles; but, thou shalt abjure and deny Me, and swear thou knowest nothing of Me, and this, not once, but “thrice.” All these words of our Redeemer are very emphatic.

St. Mark has, “before the cock crow twice” (Mk 14:30), whereas the other three Evangelists simply speak of “cock crow.” Both assertions are easily reconciled. The cock crows twice in the night, at midnight, and at daybreak in the morning, and the latter is principally regarded as the hour of cock-crowing. It is to this latter, the other Evangelists refer; and St. Mark mentions it more circumstantially, because he, probably learned from St. Peter, whose disciple he was, that our Lord distinctly mentioned these words. All the Evangelists (Matt. 26:72–74; Luke 22:60; Mark 14:72; John 18:27) concur in narrating the fulfilment of this prophecy, and Peter’s repentance.

Mt 26:35. Far from being inspired with sentiments of diffidence in himself, and distrust in his present strength and future resolves, after the declaration of our Divine Redeemer, Peter, on the contrary, “spoke the more vehemently” (Mark 14:31), saying, “though I should die with Thee,” &c. So did all the rest, lest they should seem to be inferior to Peter in courage and fidelity to their Divine Master. In the hour of trial, they all proved equally weak and cowardly. They, as well as Peter, sinned by presumption, and by not perfectly acquiescing in the words of their Divine Master. Not that they disbelieved Him; but, they regarded His words rather as a menace than as a prediction; and in speaking thus, they considered their own present resolve and love for their Master, which they wished thus openly to profess and declare, rather than His words, which they regarded more as expressing distrust in themselves, than as conveying a prophecy. This prediction did not, in the least, interfere with their liberty or freedom of action; our Redeemer predicted it as He foresaw it; and He foresaw it in the way it happened, viz., freely and voluntarily. The announcement of this knowledge or foresight did not, in any way, interfere with the freedom of their act at any particular time or moment. Just as the announcement, that an act is now freely and voluntarily taking place would not interfere with the freedom of the agent concerned. All things are present with God. He foresees things, because they are to happen, and how they are to happen, viz., freely, if there be question of contingent free acts.

Mt 26:36. “A country place, called Gethsemam,” which word signifies, oil presses, as the garden probably contained presses for manufacturing oil from the olives of the neighbouring Mount Olivet. St. John says, it had attached to it, “a garden beyond the Torrent Cedron,” which was to the east of Jerusalem, and flowed by this place and Jerusalem. Our Redeemer and His disciples were in the habit of resorting to this place (John 18:2); and hence, it was well known to the traitor. He now enters it, to show, that He voluntarily underwent death, as He wished to go to the place where the traitor might easily apprehend Him. His passing over the brook Cedron, may have been meant to recall the sufferings of David, flying before his unnatural son, Absalom—a fit type of our Lord, who suffered at the hands of ungrateful children—moreover, it recalls the words of the Psalmist, “de torrente in via bibet.” He drank there deeply of the cup of tribulation. The garden—the first theatre of our Saviour’s bitter Passion—was calculated to remind us forcibly—and it may have been so intended—of another Garden, where sin commenced, which He is now about to atone for.

“Sit you here, till I go yonder and pray.” He went apart from His disciples, to teach us to retire, as far as possible, from all occasions of distraction in prayer, and “pray to our Father in secret.” He, moreover, did not wish them all to be witnesses of His sufferings, lost it might be an occasion of scandal, and weaken their faith. Whether He told the eleven, “Pray, lest ye enter into temptation,” as is insinuated by St. Luke (Lk 22:40), or merely said so to the three whom He selected as witnesses of His Passion (Lk 22:41), is uncertain. Most likely, He addressed the words to the eleven, before leaving them, and a second time to those whom He had chosen to accompany Him (v. 41).

Mt 26:37. He selected as witnesses of His Passion, as most likely to be less scandalized by it, those whom He had chosen as witnesses of His glory on Thabor.

“Began to grow sorrowful,” shows He had not been sorrowful in presence of the other Apostles, and that now this sorrow commences, which was consequently voluntary, and freely endured, when and where, and to whatever extent He desired.

“To be sorrowful and sad.” The word, “sad,” implies a kind of stupor, and insensibility; a weariness of life, caused by the grief and fear with which He was overwhelmed. For “sorrowful,” St. Mark has, εκθαμβεῖσθαι, seized wih terror. Most likely, both Evangelists convey the different sensations then felt in an excessive degree by our Divine Redeemer, viz., fear, sadness, and sorrow, together with a stupor and insensibility, accompanied with a loathing weariness of life. All these feelings, at the same time, agitated Him. They constituted what St. Luke (Lk 22:43) expresses in one word, His “agony.” “And being in an agony, He prayed the longer.”

Mt 26:38. “Then He saith to them,” viz., the three Apostles, whom He wished to be witnesses of His agony in the garden.

“My soul is sorrowful.” The Greek word, “περὶλυπος,” means, sorely grieved, excessively afflicted. Not My body, but “My soul,” is, as it were, rent in two by the excess and multitude of the sorrows that overwhelm Me, “intraverunt aquæ usque ad animam meam.” (Ps 69)

“Even unto death,” intensifies the above. As if He said: I experience such sorrow, as would be capable of producing death; such sorrow, as those endure, who are on the point of dissolution, struggling, in the last agonies of death. Hence, St. Luke tells us, He was “in an agony” (Lk 22:43).

Our Redeemer, as the victim of atonement for sin, was resolved to endure all its punishment. Hence, He voluntarily endured all those feelings of excessive sadness, fear, and weariness in His soul, to experience what our sins merited, viz., “What a dreadful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). Hence, it is also, that as His body was to be tortured by men; so is his soul, the more noble part of His humanity, to be delivered over, in the Garden, to the more dire execution of His Heavenly Father, and of His own outraged Divinity.

He endures all this punishment in His soul; to atone for our sinful pleasures of interior sense. He fears death, to atone for our reckless insensibility to eternal death. He is sad and sorrowful; because we rejoiced in the thoughts and recollections of our past iniquity. His Passion commences with interior sorrow; because, our sins commence with acts of the will drawn to sensible pleasures. These sorrows had also the effect of proving to after ages, the reality of His tortures, and the excess of His love for man.

These feelings of sorrow, fear, &c., in our Redeemer were voluntary, and the natural consequence of the human nature which He assumed. For, He became like to us in all things, sin excepted. As He was subject to hunger, cold, nay, death itself, so was He also subject to sadness, &c. It is not easy to determine whether He was of necessity subject to them, or whether, by dispensation, He assumed them for a time. Any necessity arising from His human nature could be impeded in its effects by His Divinity. Hence, His human nature, did not endure these things necessarily; but only so far as His Divine nature permitted them. It may, therefore, be said, that He assumed these by dispensation for a time. But, in Him, unlike us, these passions did not anticipate or affect the rational part of His soul, nor impel Him to evil, any more than they did in Adam, as long as He retained the original justice in which He was created.

It is most likely, that it was the certain approach of death and the concomitant tortures present before His mind, that affected His human nature and His human will, inasmuch as human nature naturally recoils from suffering. However, in Him this was over subject to the will of God. “Not My will,” which, in His human nature, would avoid death and suffering; “but Thine”—the superior will of God—“be done.”

The sorrow was, likely, produced by the clear knowledge of the multiplied sins of men, from the first disobedience of Adam to the last sin that was to be ever committed. He became the bail and surety with God for the payment of the heavy debt, which these entailed. “On Him God laid the iniquities of us all.” He, then, was cast into excessive sorrow, at the sight of this dark mass of iniquity—this unbearable weight, of sin.

His sadness, most likely, arose from the prevision of the inefficacy of His tortures for millions of His creatures, who would ungratefully forget God’s benefits, outrage His goodness, and precipitate themselves into hell.

Oh! how instructive to us is not the agony of this Godlike model of true penitents. How forcibly does He remind us of the excessive enormity of mortal sin and the sorrow which it merits. Jesus, though innocent, is so affected at the sight of our sins, as to shed drops of blood; and we, who are guilty, cannot be induced to look back on the follies and ignorances of our youth with a feeling of penitential regret, or bestow on them a thought of sorrow. Jesus wails in spirit at the sight of our deplorable condition, standing over the pit of hell; and we, with the most reckless insensibility, pass along, although, perhaps, for a series of years, during which we unconcernedly reposed at night on our pillows, had death suddenly surprised us, as it did thousands of others, before the morning sun arose, we would be found opening our eyes in hell. A God is sorrowful, even unto death, for the sins of His guilty creature. And the guilty creature, with the example of a weeping God, feels neither compunction nor sorrow. Let us beware, lest one day, we may in vain call upon the mountains to fall upon us, and upon the hills to cover us, and lest, trampling on the blood of propitiation, we were only invoking on our own heads, the dreadful terrors of judgment.

“Stay you here, and watch with Me;” in order that, besides being witnesses of His grief, they would learn, in all tribulation, to have recourse to prayer; and by watching and sympathizing, they would in some measure console Him. He also told thorn to “pray” (Luke 22:40). He permitted Himself, however, to be deprived of the consolation arising from the sympathy of His friends. They are fast asleep, while His soul is sorrowing even unto death. “He looked for one that would grieve together with Him; one that would comfort Him, and He finds none” (Psa. 69:21).

Mt 26:39. “A little farther,” from the chosen three. St. Luke says, “a stone’s cast” (Lk 22:41). Whether the distance spoken of by St. Luke be the same as that referred to here by St. Matthew, or rather, the distance in regard to the eight other Apostles, as the reading in St. Luke would seem to imply, is uncertain. Possibly, however, as St. Luke makes no reference to the selection of Peter, James, and John, it may have reference to them, as here. Our Lord withdrew from them a short distance—which however, was such, that they could witness His sorrow—in order to enjoy, without interruption, the communication with Heaven, and to conceal from them, in some measure, the severity of His conflict, and pour forth the excess of His sorrows more fully in presence of His Heavenly Father.

“He fell upon His face, praying.” Most likely, He first prayed in a kneeling posture; and, then, redoubling His prayer, prostrated Himself, His face touching the ground. By this prostration, He testified His deep affliction, His great humiliation, His reverence for His Father. He bore witness to the immense magnitude of the guilt of sin, which thus prostrated Him, as a penitent, before the outraged justice of Heaven. Being destitute of human consolation, in His unspeakable anguish, He turns towards Heaven, and says:

“My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice,” &c. St. Mark (Mk 14:36) says, He commenced with proclaiming the omnipotence of God, “all things are possible to Thee;” and to mark His earnestness, He repeats the words, “Abba, Father.” By the words, “if it be possible,” He does not mean, absolute possibility, within the range of God’s omnipotence; but only, if it be God’s will.

There is a great diversity of opinion about the meaning of, “this chalice.” The most probable opinion understands it, of His approaching torments and death, from which the humanity of Christ naturally recoiled. The word, “chalice,” is frequently used in Scripture, to denote the lot marked out by God for each one, whether good or evil (Psa. 16), “Dominus pars … et calicis mei;” “Calix meus inebrians,” &c. (Psa. 23) It is more commonly used in an evil sense, denoting death and misery—“ignis, sulphur … pars calicis corum” (Psa. 11); “Calix … plenus misto” (Psa. 75), &c. This figurative signification of the word was not confined to the Jews; it was quite common among the Gentiles. It, probably, had reference originally to the custom, quite prevalent amongst the ancients, on the part of the host, to assign to each guest a particular cup, as well as a dish; and, from the quantity ana quality of the liquor it contained, it marked the degree of respect the host had for each guest. Hence, the word, “cup,” came to signify the portion assigned to each man in life, good or evil. It is more frequently, however, used to designate the latter, in which sense, it may, probably, be allusive to the custom among the ancients, of giving to men condemned to death, as in the case of Socrates, a cup of poison to end their life. Most likely, our Redeemer here refers to His bitter Passion and death.

Our Redeemer well knew, that while, absolutely speaking, it was possible that the chalice might pass away, and He might escape death; still, consistently with the decrees of God, it was not possible. Hence, while the conditional form, “if it be,” &c., expresses the natural desire of His human nature, or the desire of His natural appetite, and of His will, viewed under that respect, to escape death, He, at once, absolutely expresses the perfect conformity of His human, rational will to God’s will, for the accomplishment of which He prays unconditionally; “nevertheless, not as I will.” &c. This, St. Luke expresses more clearly (Lk 22:42), “not My will, but Thine be done.” He was heard for His reverence, when, with strong cry and tears, He then prayed. For, His human nature, by a conditional wish, prayed, that if it were possible, the chalice would pass; but, by an absolute wish, “not My will, but Thine,” it prayed that God’s will would be done, in which “He was heard” (Heb. 5:7).

From this passage is proved against the Monothelites, that there are two wills in Christ, as declared by the Sixth Synod, viz., the Divine and the Human. By this latter one, He merited our redemption; and this latter will, although one, is virtually twofold, viz., the natural human will, by which He recoiled from death, and the rational and free, whereby, subjecting Himself to the Divine will, He wished for death, “not my will, but Thine,” &c. The former is conditional and inefficacious; the latter, absolute and efficacious; and both are materially and formally subject to God’s will. And, although the natural will would seem to be materially opposed to the Divine, it was not so, in reality it was perfectly conformable to it; for, it was ruled by the rational, and, through it, subjected to the Divine will. And both the will of God and the rational will of Christ wished, that the natural will would, for the reasons already assigned, show this horror of death. Hence, it was, in reality, subject and conformable, in all things, to the supreme will of God (A. Lapide).

Mt 26:40. In the midst of His anguish, He is not unmindful of His disciples, in order to leave an example to all, who are charged with the care of others, of how they should look after their flock. While they are overwhelmed with sorrow for the sins of their flock, and fervently praying for them, they should not, at the same time, neglect to look after them.

He “findeth asleep.” St. Luke says (Lk 22:45), “He found them sleeping for sorrow.” He shows, at the same time, His meekness and paternal consideration, although He finds them asleep, contrary to His injunctions; and, addressing Peter in particular, who always signalized himself, in his profession of love and zeal, for the interests of his Divine Master, He says, “What?” as if to say, is this the result of your boastful promises of dying for Me, so courageously uttered but a few moments ago? This exclamation is more clearly expressed by St. Mark (Mk 14:37), “Simon, sleepest thou?”

“Could you not watch one hour with Me?” In St. Mark (Mk 14:37) it is in the singular, as if addressed to Peter, “couldst thou not watch?” &c. Most likely, our Redeemer used the singular form, as in St. Mark; but, while addressing Peter, and reminding him of his promise of fidelity, which was uttered by all the others (Mk 14:35), He addressed the other Apostles also. Hence, St. Mark gives the sense of what our Redeemer intended.

“One hour,” a short time, while He was praying in extreme straits, and struggling in the agonies of death. Others, however, take the word in its literal meaning; and of this they understand the words of St. Luke (Lk 22:43), “He prayed the longer.”

Mt 26:41. He exhorts them to vigilance a second time (Mt 26:38), and also to prayer, not on His own account, but for their sakes. Vigilance is a necessary accompaniment of efficacious prayer; vigilance will cause us to be on our guard against the wiles of our enemy. Prayer will procure from God the necessary strength to overcome him.

“That ye enter not into temptation.” By this it is by no means meant, that they would not have to encounter temptations (for, in this life, no one can hope to be exempt from them; and, they are sent by God as an occasion of merit), but, that they would not yield or succumb to temptation, and be overcome by it, so as to fall into sin. Our Redeemer, most likely, warns them of the trial of their faith and fidelity to Him, which was just at hand. In this, they yielded to temptation, for want of prayer and vigilance, notwithstanding His repeated warnings. However, they soon repented, and were restored to grace, as was predicted of St. Peter (Luke 22:32).

“The spirit, indeed, is willing,” that is, the rational will of the Apostles was willing to obey the commands of God, and the call of duty to their Divine Master. Their promptitude in crying out, “although we should die,” &c. (Mt 26:35), showed that.

“But, the flesh is weak.” The sensitive and carnal appetite, ever inclined to embrace whatever gratifies corrupt nature, “is weak” and indolent in carrying out the desires of the will, bent on obeying the commands of God, opposed to the gratification of corrupt nature. Hence, they should pray for help from God, to strengthen their weak nature, and enable it to obey the dictates of their rational will, which desires the fulfilment of the law of God.

Mt 26:42. In addressing His Father a second time, He insinuates, that, while it would be agreeable to nature to escape the bitter death awaiting Him, it would, still, be more agreeable to Him to accomplish the Divine will. Hence, His second prayer is identical with the first, which is clearly intimated by St. Mark (Mk 14:35), “and going away again, He prayed, saying the same words.” In this repetition, our Redeemer leaves us an example of perseverance in prayer; and au example, also, of resignation and acquiescence in God’s arrangements, under all crosses and contradictions.

Mt 26:43. “Their eyes were heavy.” It was far gone in the night. St. Luke ascribes this heavy somnolency to the sorrow and sadness they were in. On this occasion, our Redeemer went away in silence.

Mt 26:44. “And He prayed a third time, saying the self same words.” It is likely, it was on the occasion of His praying a “third time” that what St. Luke records (Lk 22:43) took place, viz., “an Angel from heaven (visibly) appeared, strengthening Him.” Some commentators are of opinion, that this occurred on each of the three occasions, in order to show us, that although Christ’s prayer, for the passing away of the chalice, was not granted, still, it was not without fruit; it merited for Him to be strengthened by the Angel. However, it is most probable, that it was only on the occasion of His praying a third time, when He protracted His prayer somewhat longer, that this occurred, to teach us the good effect of perseverance in prayer.

While destitute of all human and Divine consolation, the human nature of our Lord was “strengthened by an Angel from heaven,” corporally; so, that while His human nature was dissolving in the bloody sweat, and tending to the last extremity, His sufferings were not allowed to terminate His life; spiritually, owing to the proposing to the intellect of the Man-God, of the motives which increased the resolution of His will to suffer, such as the decree of God to save the world by the death and torments of His Son; the glory that would redound to Him, and the salvation that would come to men from these tortures; the fulfilment of the several prophecies on this subject, &c. But, the proposing of these motives still left the inferior man absorbed in grief and sorrow. Hence, it is observed, that it was not consolation; but, strength, the Angel came to bring him.

St. Luke (ibidem) tells us, that He was “in an agony,” by which is meant, the anguish of mind He suffered, arising from the struggle between His inferior and superior faculties. This word, “agony,” expresses what SS. Matthew and Mark term, “to be sorrowful and sad,” &c. “He prayed the longer.” St. Luke thus briefly expresses what the other Evangelists describe more minutely, as praying three different times. Most likely, on the third occasion, when He permitted the struggle to be fiercest, His prayer was more fervent and prolonged.

St. Luke (ibidem) describes His sweat, the result of this “agony” and struggle, which “became as drops of blood trickling down to the ground.” It was then that the “Angel appeared, strengthening Him.” This is commonly understood of real blood. So great was the united effect of this fear, sadness, and sorrow, which constituted our Redeemer’s “agony,” that it naturally forced the blood to the heart; whilst the vehemence of His love, and the determined resolution of His will to suffer the death of the cross, drew, by an astonishing effect of His great soul, the blood from thence, with such force that, bursting through the veins, it flowed so profusely through every pore that, after saturating His garments, it ran in streams along the ground, on which He lay prostrate.

Mt 26:45. “Then He cometh to His disciples.” After having been strengthened by the Angel, and laying aside the sorrow, sadness, fear, and all the traces of the bloody sweat and agony which He voluntarily assumed; and having now resumed His former courage and firm resolve to suffer the death of the cross, “He cometh to His disciples, and saith to them: Sleep ye now, and take your rest.”

Some expositors of SS. Scripture, with St. Augustine (de Comm. Evan. Lib. 3, c. 4), say, the words are permissive, on the part of our Redeemer, condescending to the weakness of the Apostles, and now considerately permitting what He before had forbidden, when He wished them to watch during His agony. In favour of this view, they quote the words of St. Mark (Mk 14:41), “it is enough,” as if, in the words of St. Matthew, He granted them an interval for sleep: “Sleep … and take your rest,” and after that roused them from sleep, saying, in the words of St. Mark, “it is enough.” Others, with St. Chrysostom, maintain, that the words are spoken ironically, as if He said: Having already slept, when you should have watched, you may as well sleep now during the remainder of the time that is left you, before a sense of personal danger, just at hand, shall compel you to be on the alert, which My words failed to effect. The following words: “Behold, the hour is at hand,” are strongly confirmatory of this view, as if He said: Sleep now, if you can; but, you cannot—the precise moment fixed and determined by God, “and” (that is, in which) “the Son of man shall be betrayed, is at hand”—the traitor and his employers are at the very door. These interpreters say, the words of St. Mark, “it is enough,” are strongly confirmatory of the irony, as if He said: You have indulged long enough in sleep; the danger at hand prevents you from doing so any longer.

“Shall he betrayed”—(the Greek, παραδιδοται, is betrayed)—into the hands of sinners,” Judas and the Jewish High Priests, representing the entire Jewish nation—or, the Gentiles; for Judas got a cohort of Roman soldiers to accompany him. The Greek for, “it is enough” (ἀπέχει), causes some embarrassment to critics. Some understand by the word, “he receives,” that is, the devil receives power over Me. Others, “they have an end,” corresponding with the words of St. Luke (Lk 22:37), “for, the things concerning Me have an end.” The rendering of the Vulgate is, “sufficit” (corresponding with the words of St. Luke 22:38), “it is enough.”

Mt 26:46. “Arise.” The Apostles were in a sitting or reclining posture, whilst asleep. “Go hence,” not fly, but courageously go forth to meet their enemies. “Behold, he is at hand,” &c. Strengthened by the Angel, our Redeemer resumes His wonted courage and contempt of personal danger. As in His agony, He exhibited the infirmity of assumed human nature, so now, He exhibits the majesty of His Divinity, by predicting the near approach of the traitor, which His Providence arranged, and by displaying Godlike courage and promptitude in going forth to meet death and confront His enemies.

Mt 26:47. “As He yet spoke.” Mark and Luke note the same circumstance, to show the truth of His prediction regarding the near approach of the traitor. “Behold,” a matter of wonder, a crime unheard of, that “Judas, one of the twelve”—one of His chosen friends—raised to the highest dignity—destined to be one of the pillars of the future edifice of His Church—on whom He had bestowed so many marks of favour and friendship, should be the party to betray Him.

“And with him a great multitude.” This multitude was composed of “a band of men, and servants from the chief priests and the Pharisees” (John 18:3). Among them was a “Tribune” (John 18:12), and “chief priests, and magistrates of the temple and ancients” (Luke 22:52). St. Luke says. “Judas went before them” (Lk 22:47). He knew the place well (John 18:2), as our Lord was in the habit of resorting to it. Hence, probably, after searching the hall where our Redeemer had celebrated the Last Supper, he repaired thither, at once.

They came “with swords and clubs,” and also, “with torches and lanterns” (John 18:3). Can any thing so clearly demonstrate the folly of the enemies of our Redeemer, or the blindness with which the demon of avarice inflicted on Judas, as their imagining that these weapons would prove of any avail against Him, who, by a single act of His power, prostrated them on the ground? (John 18:6).

Mt 26:48. Not only does the traitor have recourse to violent measures to secure the apprehension of his Divine Master; but, he has also recourse to the basest treachery and dissimulation. He gave those who accompanied him, most of them Roman soldiers and Pagans, to whom our Redeemer was personally unknown, a sign whereby to distinguish Him from the others, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is He,” for whose betrayal I have stipulated; “hold Him fast.” This he adds, lest our Redeemer should slip from their hands, as often happened before, when His life was menaced; and the traitor would miss the promised thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:15; Mark 14:11). He had not yet received the money; it was only promised.

Mark adds (Mk 14:44), that the traitor also said, “lead Him away carefully,” lest our Redeemer might, by any means escape them; or, lest any tumult being created by His apprehension, the people might rescue Him out of their hands; and thus, he might fail to secure the promised blood money.

Most likely, our Redeemer, in accordance with the usage of the time, saluted His Apostles with a kiss when He met them, or when they returned after any absence; and Judas employed this sign of friendship and salute of peace, as a covert means of concealing from the Apostles, who surrounded our Redeemer, his treacherous designs.

Mt 26:49. Going before the crowd, he came up to our Redeemer, saying: “Hail, Rabbi”—words expressive of respect—“Rabbi,” that is, Master; “and he kissed Him.” Both by his feigned language of respect and his conduct, he wished to conceal his wicked design.

But our Redeemer showed, that violent as well as treacherous measures were equally unavailing against Him. He showed the one, by prostrating His enemies (John 18:6); and He showed how clearly He saw through the treachery of Judas, by the following question.

Mt 26:50. Friend, whereto art thou come?” He calls him “friend”—although, now, His deadliest enemy—on account of their former friendship; and because, he now exhibits the sign of friendship as usual. He also thus addresses him, in order to show His compassionate feelings for him, and His grief for his fall; thus, if possible, to reclaim him.

“Whereto art thou come?” which is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 22:48), “Judas, dost thou betray the Son of man with a kiss?” “Whereto art thou come?” If your design be hostile, why salute Me with the sign of friendship? If friendly, what means this armed band that accompanies thee? After having thus kissed Him, Judas retired back among those who came with him, “and stood with them” (John 18:6). Oh! how pathetically had the Royal Psalmist (Psa. 55:13), described the anguish caused our Redeemer by the treason of His chosen disciple, “si inimicus meus maledixisset mihi, sustinuissem utique,” &c. We are told by Moses (Gen. 6:7), that the sins of God’s enemies—the giant sinners of old—so affected Him, that He cried out, “It repenteth Me that I made them.” And still, the Psalmist assures us, that the outrage offered God, which made Him sorry for creating man, was tolerable, compared with the anguish caused Him by the treason of His apostate disciple, “tu, vero, homo unanimis, dux meus et notus meus; qui simul mecum dulces capiebas eibos” (Psa. 55:14). Doubtless, we must regard it as one of the circumstances most painful to the Sacred Heart of our loving Redeemer, in the betrayal of Judas, that neither the affectionate appeal of his Divine Master—“Friend, why comest thou hither?” nor the fears of judgment, had any effect in overcoming his obstinate impenitence, until, in despair, “he hanged himself with a halter” (Mt 27:5), and his bowels bursting asunder, his soul descended to its destined place in hell (Acts 1:25).

“Then they came up, and laid hands on Jesus,” &c. Here may be inserted what is recorded by St. John (18:4–9), viz., after Judas had kissed his Divine Master, he retreated towards the armed band that accompanied them. Our Redeemer, then, came forward to meet them, and inquired, whom were they in search of; and then, He at once, declares Himself to be the party they sought, in reply to their answer, that it was “Jesus of Nazareth.” From this form of words, many infer that they did not know our Redeemer, and that they might have been struck with a kind of blindness similar to that inflicted on the sinful men of Sodom (Gen. 19:11). On saying, “I am He,” they were at once, by an act of the Divine power, which showed them what little harm they could do Him, save in as far as He would permit it, thrown backwards on the ground.

After restoring to them their former strength, and again asking, “Whom seek ye?” and answering them, “I am He,” He cautions them not to molest His Apostles, showing greater solicitude for them than for Himself (John 18:8). After this, the soldiers and servants “took Jesus and bound Him” (John 18:12). The words mean, they were about laying hands on Him and binding Him. For, what is recorded in the following verse regarding Peter’s attempt to defend Him, took place before He was actually apprehended by the Tribune and the whole band (John 18:10–12).

Mt 26:51. We are told by St. Luke (Lk 22:49), that His disciples, seeing what was to happen, asked our Lord, whether they would use the swords in His defence which they had with them (Lk 22:38). Remembering that He told them to purchase swords (Lk 22:36,) they probably imagined the time was now come to use them in defending Him, and in showing their fidelity; and most likely, “one of them,” whom St. John (Jn 18:10) tells us, was “Simon Peter,” without waiting for our Redeemer’s reply, out of a sudden impulse of fervent zeal, at once, cut off the right ear of the servant of the High Priest, who, probably, was the most forward and ferocious of the band in attacking our Redeemer. This “servant’s name was Malchus” (John, ibidem). He is supposed to be one of those who smote our Redeemer upon the face, even after the miraculous cure performed in his favour. Then, our Redeemer, answering their question (Luke 22:51), said, “suffer ye thus far,” which is differently interpreted: Permit My enemies to exert their power over Me “thus far,” so as to apprehend Me; or, “thus far,” unto this hour, which is their hour, and the power of darkness; or, permit My defence to proceed “thus far,” that is, so far as the cutting of the ear off Malchus is concerned; but, proceed no farther. He, then, at once touching the ear of Malchus, which, from the word, “touched,” would seem not to have altogether fallen off, but to be merely hanging from him, perfectly restored it. From the foregoing, we can see the number of miracles our Redeemer performed on this occasion—1st. The blindness and stupor inflicted on those sent to apprehend Him. 2nd. The prostrating of them on the ground. 3rd. His protecting His followers from any harm 4th. The restoring of the ear of Malchus.

Mt 26:52. “Then Jesus said to him: Put up thy sword in its place” (St. John 18:11), “the scabbard.” He censures the conduct of Peter on threefold grounds—1st. On the general ground of the Divine prohibition to use the sword and shed blood without a justifying cause (Gen. 9:6). To this improper use of the sword, appropriate and severe penalty is justly due. “All that take the sword, shall perish by the sword.” This only expresses the punishment due to such; or, if it refer to what actually occurs, it merely expresses what, commonly speaking, happens, as we know from sad experience. There may be exceptional cases, where those who imbrue their hands in the blood of their fellow-men, escape punishment; but these are exceptional cases. The general law, prohibiting the unjust effusion of human blood, to which the punishment here referred to is annexed, is promulgated (Gen. 9:6), “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed.” There is, of course, question both in these and in the words of our Redeemer in this verse, of the shedding of blood by private authority, and without some justifying cause. Hence, St. Peter, although seemingly justified, as acting in self-defence, still transgressed; because, he acted without waiting for the permission, and against the wishes of his Divine Master. Again, because his act bore the character of vindictiveness rather than of defence, which, humanly speaking, would be useless against such a multitude.

2ndly. He censures his mode of acting on the ground, that it was quite useless and uncalled for. Had He wished to be defended, He might “have asked His Father,” and the whole hosts of the heavenly armies, one of whom, in one night, slew 185,000 Assyrians (4 Kings, 19:35), would be ready to defend Him.

Mt 26:53. “Twelve legions of Angels,” denote an immense number of the heavenly armies. The word, “legion,” is allusive to the Roman military system of computation. God is called, “the Lord of Sabaoth,” or, of hosts. “Thousands of thousands ministered to Him, and ten thousand times a hundred thousand stood before Him” (Dan. 7:10).

Mt 26:54. He censures Peter’s conduct, 3rdly, on the ground that it was opposed to the decrees of His Heavenly Father, already foretold in the Scriptures, regarding the different circumstances of His death and Passion. Under this, may be included the reason assigned in St. John (Jn 18:11), having reference to the special ordination of His Heavenly Father: “The chalice which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?”

Mt 26:55. After having censured the act of Peter, our Redeemer now severely reproaches His enemies, and conveys to them, that all the power they are about exerting against Him, was owing to His having voluntarily and freely submitted to it Himself.

You are come out with swords and clubs to apprehend me, and you avail yourselves of the darkness of night, coming furnished with lanterns and torches to apprehend Me, as if I were a nightly robber. I have not acted any such part. The robber always seeks the darkness to conceal himself, whereas, “I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple.” Our Redeemer makes no mention of the miracles He wrought in their favour. He merely refers to the doctrines of salvation He dealt out to them. He did so in the day, in the very temple, where they had jurisdiction; where, if they wished, they could apprehend Him; however, they did nothing of the sort.

Mt 26:56. But their having refrained from apprehending Him in the temple, and their seizing on Him in the darkness of the night, headed by His own traitorous Apostle, and the other circumstances of His arrest (“all this was done”), were permitted by God, in order that the several prophecies regarding them in SS. Scripture might be accomplished. These words, which St. Matthew records here historically, were spoken by our Redeemer Himself, as we learn from St. Mark (Mk 14:49). They have partly the same meaning as those recorded by St. Luke (Lk 22:53), “but this is your hour, and the power of darkness;” as if it were meant to convey, that if they abstained from laying violent hands upon Him heretofore, it was because He did not permit them; but that now, in accordance with the pre-arranged decrees of God, recorded and predicted in the ancient Scriptures, He submitted, and permitted them and the demons by whom they were instigated, to vent all their rage and malice against Him. After having thus addressed them, He permitted them to apprehend Him, although His apprehension is, by anticipation, recorded in Mt 26:50. The circumstance of His having touched the ear of Malchus, afterwards, shows He was not then apprehended or bound.

The painful anguish, which the mode of His apprehension must have caused our Redeemer, may be estimated from various circumstances—1st. He, who was Infinite Sanctity, was apprehended as a robber. 2ndly. He was apprehended by the most wicked characters, who bound, mocked, blasphemed Him, dragged Him to and fro, treating Him worse than a beast of burden. 3rdly. He was deserted by all His friends. 4thly. He was bound by heavy chains, whereby He wished to loose the chains of our sins. Whence Jeremias (Lam. 4:20) says, “The breath of our mouth, Christ the Lord, is taken in our sins.”

“Then the disciples, all leaving Him, fled.” Here is fulfilled His prophecy, regarding them (verse 31). The entire eleven leaving Him, both in mind and body, giving up all trust and hope in Him, fled, and left Him alone in the hands of His enemies. Some say, they did not sin in this flight; or, at best, that they only sinned venially, since, they adhered to Him interiorly, and in their hearts. They fled, seeing they could be of no service to Him. But, however, having fled without consulting Him, whom they should have confidence in, after seing Him prostrate His enemies, and having done this from the impulse of sudden fear and timidity; they therefore sinned lightly. These maintain, that the Apostles lost neither faith nor charity by so doing. Peter, however, and John returned (John 18:15-16). The former followed Him, but only at a distance (verse 58).

St. Mark relates (Mk 14:51), that a young man followed Him, and was obliged to fly from the fury of His enemies. Most likely, he records this to show, what treatment was in store for the Apostles, had they not consulted for their safety by flight, and also to give us an idea of the fury of His enemies, and the general trepidation caused by them. Who this “young man” was, cannot be determined for certain. That he was not one of the Apostles, seems very likely from his age, his dress, in which, probably, none of the Apostles appeared at the Last Supper, and besides, it is said, “they all fled.” That he was a follower of our Redeemer, seems most likely, from the words of St. Mark, “he followed Him,” that is, Christ, and not the crowd. Moreover, he was about being apprehended, and maltreated, as one of His followers. Most likely, he was a servant of the villa, or country house, at Gethsemani. He must have conceived a very high idea of the sanctity of our Redeemer, whom he saw come there often to pray; and hearing the noise and concourse, he, probably, leaped out of bed, and went out, half dressed, to see what was the matter, and to ascertain what these midnight assailants meant to do with our Lord.

Mt 26:57. Having been permitted by our Redeemer to apprehend Him, after He had restored the ear of Malchus, and had reproached them, as in preceding verse, “they led Him to Caiphas the High Priest” (St. Luke 22:54, “to the High Priest’s house”), where the entire Sanhedrin were assembled, for the purpose of sitting in judgment on Jesus. It was the province of the Sanhedrin to judge questions of doctrine, and condemn false teachers, such as our Redeemer was alleged to be.

“The Synedrium, or great Council of the Jews, called by the Talmudists, Sanhedrin, consisted of seventy-two judges. Its president was always the High Priest … The assessors were—1st. The Chief Priests, that is, those who enjoyed the dignity of High Priest, as well as the heads of the twenty-four classes, into which the Priests were distributed. This class is referred to (Mt 26:3, 59). 2nd. The Elders, that is, the chiefs of the tribes, and heads of families. 3rd. The Scribes, or Doctors of the Law. However, not all the Scribes, nor all the Elders were members of the Sanhedrin; but, only those who obtained this dignity by election, or by the nomination of the Prince, or chief Governor of the State” (see Dixon’s General Introduction, &c., vol. ii., p. 51). Those several members of the Supreme Council “were assembled” together at the house of Caiphas, the High Priest, for the purpose of sitting in judgment on Jesus.

St. John states (Jn 18:13), that they led Him to Annas, first. This they did, in order to gratify the High Priest, whose father-in-law Annas was. The High Priest greatly regarded Him, on account of their close connexion; and respected, on account of his age. Most likely, he was guided by his advice in the apprehension of our Redeemer. It may be that the house of Annas was on the way to that of Caiphas. Some even suppose that it was there Judas received the price of his treason, and that it was Annas stipulated with him to betray our Redeemer, for the promised sum. St. Cyril says so expressly. The traitor received the price of blood that very night, as appears from his coming back the following morning and throwing it to them (Mt 27:5). And it seems most probable, it was not at the house of Caiphas he received it; for, had he been there, he would have betrayed Peter.

Mt 58. It is disputed whether the first denial of Peter occurred at the house of Annas or of Caiphas. For, St. John (Jn 18:24), after describing the first denial of Peter, says, “And Annas sent Him bound to Caiphas the High Priest,” whence, some infer, that the events recorded (John 18:13–24), all took place at the house of Annas. But, the aorist form for sent (απεστειλεν), has a pluperfect sense, had sent (Beelen); and taking into account the narrative of the three other Evangelists, it is all but certain, that all Peter’s denials occurred at the house of Caiphas.

St. John says this, at least virtually. For, he says (Jn 18:16), that Simon Peter was admitted into the hall of the High Priest. It was the High Priest’s maid first questioned him (Jn 18:17). It was the High Priest first questioned our Lord concerning His doctrines and disciples (Jn 18:19); and it is expressly stated before (Jn 18:13), that Caiphas “was the High Priest of that year.” It is quite certain there could be only one actual High Priest among the Jews, whose duties, in case of any impediment which might prevent his officiating, were deputed, for a definite time, to another. Hence, Josephus tells us (Antiq. Lib. 27, c. 8), that, on that account, the duty of offering sacrifice was deputed, on a certain occasion, to Joseph, the son of Ellenus, on the part of Matthias, the High Priest, who could not himself officiate. The words of St. Luke (Lk 3:2), “under the High Priests, Annas and Caiphas,” contain no proof to the contrary. The words may mean, that Annas was High Priest the year before, as Josephus informs us: and as John the Baptist, of whose preaching there is an account given by St. Luke, continued to preach penance for two years, he is, therefore, said to have preached “under Annas and Caiphas, the High Priests.” Or, it may be, that having been the most venerable among those who held the office of High Priest, and enjoying the greatest authority among his countrymen, Annas was mentioned with the actual Pontiff, who, very likely, was much guided by his counsel, as being always respected as High Priest, even after the actual discharge of the High Priest’s functions were transferred to another. Hence, the words of St. John (Jn 18:24), are but an express repetition of what he had virtually conveyed already; and he wishes to guard against any mistake, as to who the High Priest was, of whom there is question in the following verses, from Jn 18:13-24. St. Cyril places verse 24 before verse 15 in that 18th chapter of St. John. The other Evangelists make no mention of Annas, because nothing worth recording occurred at his house.

“But Peter followed Him afar off.” Recovering from his first panic, Peter, from a feeling of love, followed Him, while the other Apostles were scattered abroad, like sheep without a shepherd. His love was not unmixed with fear. For, he followed “from afar,” lest he might be apprehended, as one of His disciples. Love impels him forward; fear keeps him at a distance.

“Even to the court of the High Priest.” How he obtained admittance there is recorded by St. John (Jn 18:15-16). He was introduced by one of our Redeemer’s disciples, who was known to the High Priest. Who this disciple was is disputed. Some say, it was John the Evangelist; others, some one of our Redeemer’s secret followers, who privately heard Him and believed in Him. “The court” was within the house, where the servants were awaiting their masters, who were sitting in council, in the innermost part of the house.

“He sat with the servants.” St. John (Jn 18:18), tells us, they were warming themselves by a fire in the hall, because the weather was cold.

“That he might see the end,” that is, the issue of our Redeemer’s trial and examination by the Sanhedrin, whether He would be condemned or absolved, and shape his conduct accordingly. From the result of such communication, we can see the danger of frequenting the occasions of sin, against truth or morals. Had St. Peter not associated with the servants of the members of the Sanhedrin, he might have escaped the humiliating crime, which he afterwards committed, of denying his Divine Master. So, if we love the danger, we shall surely perish. There are certain circumstances and moments of passion, in which the strength of Samson, or the sanctity of the Baptist, would not save us in the presence of occasions. David, the man according to God’s heart, Solomon, endowed with wisdom from Heaven, Peter, the rock of God’s Church, fell, and fell shamefully; because they did not avoid the occasions. All moments are not seasons of grace; and, if under ordinary temptation, grace is necessary to secure the victory, is not more than ordinary grace necessary to triumph in the circumstances now contemplated? And are we to expect that God will come to our rescue, by granting extraordinary graces, when we are voluntarily throwing ourselves into the very jaws of destruction? It would be tempting God to expect such miracles of His supernatural Providence, who created us without our help, but will not save us without our own co-operation. “Qui creavit te sine te, non salvabit te sine te” (St. Augustine).

Mt 26:59. The High Priest had interrogated our Lord concerning His doctrine (John 18:19), and failed to elicit anything from Him on this head whereon to found a plausible charge. Hence, the enemies of our Lord, anxious to preserve a show of justice, and desirous of some ostensible grounds for charging Him before Pilate, with some crime that would warrant a sentence of death, have now recourse to another artifice. In the absence of truthful witnesses, whom they despaired of finding, owing to our Redeemer’s prudence and sanctity, known to the entire people, they “sought false witnesses;” they wished that these would appear as credible witnesses, in order to compass His death. They should have had some well grounded evidence of His guilt before arresting Him at all. Hence, their utter disregard for the very commonest forms of justice, in their mode of proceeding.

Mt 26:60. And, although many false witnesses presented themselves, they were of no use for the purpose of a conviction. “And they found not,” their evidence, besides other defects, being of a contradictory nature, as we learn from St. Mark (Mk 14:55–59). How clearly was this declared beforehand, by the Psalmist, “scrutati sunt iniquitates; defecerunt scrutantes,” &c. (Ps. 64); and also, “insurrexerunt in me testes iniqui et mentita est iniquitas sibi.” (Psa. 26)

“And last of all there came two false witnesses.” Two witnesses, at least, were required by the Jewish law for evidence of any importance, “in ore duorum vel trium testium stet omne verbum” (Deut. 19:15). Their evidence is specially mentioned, either because, it had reference to the mystery of the death of Christ, which was now being compassed, or, on account of its open and ridiculous falsity, so that we may infer from their evidence what sort of witnesses the others were.

Mt 26:61. “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and in three days” &c. Their evidence was false—1st. Because they attributed to our Lord words He had not used. He did not say, “I am able to destroy,” &c., He only said, “destroy this temple,” that is, if you should destroy this temple, &c. Again, in Mark (Mk 14:58), are inserted the words, “made with hands,” which words He did not use. Nor did He say, “I will rebuild;” but, “I will raise it up” (John 2:19). 2ndly. It was false, inasmuch as they gave the words of our Redeemer a false construction. They interpreted of the temple of Jerusalem, what He meant to be understood of His own body (John 2:21), the temple in which “all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth corporally” (Col. 2:9). He gave them, when asking for a sign of His power, the greatest proof of Divine omnipotence, viz., His resurrection from the grave, after having been there for three days. But, He did this in an enigmatical manner, as He was addressing cavillers, who were only bent on catching Him in His words; and He did not wish to speak more plainly, lest it might interfere with His death, which, by the decree of God, the Jews were permitted to inflict on Him. St. Mark (Mk 14:59), says, “these witnesses did not agree,” which, very probably, means, looking to the Greek, καὶ ἶσαι ἅι μυρτυρἱαι ουκ ἦσαν, their evidence was not equal to securing a conviction. All that could be said, at most, of His words was, that they contained a harmless boast, doing injury to no one.

Mt 26:62. “The High Pried rising up,” as if to convey, that a subject of the vastest importance was under consideration. He rose up also, according to the opinion of St. Jerome, from rage at seeing the insufficiency of the evidence, and also at seeing that our Redeemer, by His silence, as if He regarded such evidence as undeserving of a reply, gave no pretext for strengthening, from the distortion of His words in self defence, the evidence already adduced, which was utterly insufficient to secure a conviction. He utterly forgot the calm composure of the judge, in thus rising up to question our Divine Redeemer. Judges usually occupy a sitting posture. It is held by some that here the High Priest acted in the capacity of a Priest of the synagogue, where men spoke in a standing posture (Luke 4:16).

“Answerest Thou nothing?” &c. In proposing this question, this wicked judge affected to believe that the absurd evidence given was important, and deserving of a reply. Hence, in a state of irritation at the course things were taking, he wishes to elicit some answer from our Redeemer, on which to ground some charge. If there be any miscreant on this earth greater than another, it is the corrupt, partisan judge, who, forgetful of God—the just Judge of all who shall judge him justly in turn—dead to every feeling of moral sense, blinded by sectarian bigotry, or a hatred of all religion, shows, by his very manner in passing an unjust sentence—at times, furiously impetuous; at times, deliberately slow—the bent of his wicked and perverse mind. Caiphas, in the present instance, furnishes a fair specimen of such. Would to God, that our day also had not to witness similar samples of judicial impartiality. Thank God, they are the exceptions.

Mt 26:63. “But, Jesus held His peace,” because He knew the charges preferred against Him involved nothing deserving of death, and the evidence in support of them to be unmeaning; and He did not wish to evade death, now that His hour had arrived. How cearly had the Psalmist long before described our Redeemer’s mode of acting on the occasion (Ps. 38:13-14), “They that sought evils to me spoke vain things … but, I, as a deaf man, heard not; and as a dumb man, not opening his mouth.” Also (Psa 39), “I set a guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me.” Our Redeemer teaches us by His silence, that we too ought silently to endure the calumnies of men, nor deign an answer to such as charge us with palpably false crimes, since our defence would only provoke them the more.

“I adjure thee by the living God.” Maddened at seeing that our Redeemer’s continued silence had baffled all their efforts to insnare Him in His words, and to found some accusation, even on the distorted interpretation of His language, the High Priest now comes to the chief point of accusation against Him, and in virtue of his pontifical authority, as representative of the power of God, he rashly employs, by an excess of shocking impiety, what is most sacred in religion, the holy name of “the living God,” to force our Redeemer to speak and say if He was not the Son of God.

He “adjures” Him, that is, he solemnly and publicly commands Him, in the presence of God, the witness as well as the judge of what was to be said, to say, if He were not “the Christ” &c. The word “adjure,” has manifold meanings in SS. Scripture—1st. To make one swear. Thus, Abraham adjures his servant (Gen. 24:2); Jacob adjures Joseph (Gen. 50:5). 2ndly. To devote one to Divine vengeance and malediction (1 Sam 14:27-28). 3rdly. To bind one under some religious obligation, such as the fear of outraging religion, or of incurring the Divine vengeance, to do something commanded (1 Kings 22:16; Son 2:7; 3:8; 5:8; Acts 19:13). Here, it is taken in this latter sense. The High Priest publicly and solemnly commands our Redeemer, in virtue of the obedience due to him, as Pontiff, and of the reverence and respect due to the name of God, to answer him. His object was not to discover the truth; but, to find matter for condemnation against Him, in any event. If He were still to maintain silence, it would be construed into disrespect to the High Priest, and irreverence towards God. If He answered, and did so affirmatirely, He would be charged with disaffection to the Romans in affecting sovereign authority; and with blasphemous sacrilege in usurping the Divine dignity. If in the negative. He would be charged with falsely usurping these titles on former occasions, and lately allowing the people to greet Him with loud hosannas, and welcome Him as the Son and rightful heir of David.

“If Thou be the Christ,” &c. By “the Christ,” the High Priest understood, the long expected Messiah, the promised deliverer and King of Israel. By “the Son of God,” he meant the natural, co-eternal, not merely the adopted, Son of God. The High Priest understood our Redeemer to have called Himself such, from His public teaching: “I and the Father are one,” whence the Jews charged Him with making “Himself equal to God” (John 10:30–33), and from the confession of His followers (Matt. 16; John 11:27). The question of the High Priest was twofold: one regarding “the Christ,” which would involve the charge of disaffection to the Romans; the other regarding His Divinity, which would involve the guilt of blasphemy, and so He would be accused under both heads.

Mt 26:64. Our Redeemer, although He knew the High Priest had acted from malice, and not to secure the ends of justice, and also knew that His public profession of the truth, would be made the occasion of His condemnation; still, to show us, that when interrogated by public authority respecting our faith, we must not fail to confess it; and also to show that the name of God is to be honoured; and still more, to give us an example of obedience to authority, even when it is abused, so long as it only prescribes what is good, and proposes nothing wrong—at once answers, “thou hast said it,” a mild way of asserting a thing without giving offence. Hence, in St. Mark it is, “I am” (Mk 13:6).

“Nevertheless I say to you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God,” &c. Our Redeemer after asserting, in obedience to the command of the High Priest, and out of reverence for the name of God, and for the sake of publicly professing the truth, which He came on earth to proclaim to the world, that He was the Son of God, now intrepidly advances a most convincing proof in support of the same. “Hereafter,” that is, when the hour of the power of darkness shall have passed, after His resurrection and ascension, “they shall see,” that is, know and experience from the effects and wonderful proofs of His power. For, the reprobate Jews shall not be blessed with the sight of the glory of God. They can only judge from the effects of His power, that He sits at the right hand of God.

“The Son of man,” whom they now despise us a weak man. “Sitting on the right hand of the power of God,” at the powerful right hand of God, equal to God in power and majesty. Then especially shall they conclude that He “sits at the right hand,” &c., that He is Himself God, the Son of God, when they shall see His glorious majesty “coming in the clouds of heaven,” surrounded with the entire host of the heavenly armies. Even His executioners shall see this (Rev 1:7). There is here a direct antithesis between “the Son of man,” in his present, lowly condition of accused, standing before an earthly judge; and “the power of God,” the majesty of Sovereign Judge, which He shall display at His second coming.

Who can fail here to admire the intrepid magnanimity of our Blessed Lord, when, in the midst of His enemies, He menaces them, who are now sitting in judgment on Him, and bent on condemning Him unjustly to death, with the terrors of the dreadful judgment He shall one day pronounce on the impious, in the Valley of Josaphat.

The adversative particle, “nevertheless,” has nothing here expressed to correspond with it. The corresponding member is implied. It is expressed by St. Luke (Lk 22:67), “If I shall tell you, you will not believe me; but you shall see,” &c. By some it is maintained, that the corresponding Greek word (πλῆν), is not adversative at all here, that it only signifies, nay more, or some such.

Mt 26:65. The High Priest, desirous of such confession from the lips of our Divine Redeemer, as the grounds of a sentence of condemnation against Him, rising from his seat, “rent his garments,” to testify the intensity of his grief. The Jewish garments were so made that the upper part was loose, and whenever they rent their garments, they tore them asunder as far as the girdle, but no farther, for modesty’s sake. It was quite usual with the ancients to express the strong emotions, particularly of grief or indignation, by thus rending their garments. The Jews, particularly, were in the habit of doing so when any terrible evil occurred—Jacob (Gen. 37:30–34); Josue (Num 14:6), &c. This they did, particularly on the occasion of the greatest of evils, viz., blasphemy; Ezechias (2 Kings 19:1); Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:13). Here, the High Priest rends his garments, not precisely out of grief for the outrage offered to God, which he hypocritically feigned to deplore, but for the purpose of inciting those present against Jesus. His conduct seemed to point out still more strongly the occurrence of some unheard of calamity, since it was forbidden to the High Priest to rend his garments (Lev. 21:10). Hence, the fact of his doing so here in violation of the law, shows that some uncommon calamity must have occurred. By some (Benedict XIV., Calmet, &c.), it is maintained that the prohibition in Leviticus had reference only to private grief, and when the Pontiff was clad in his sacerdotal garments, and in the temple; but that, on occasions of public sorrow, the High Priest might rend his garments (1 Macc. 11:71).

“He hath blasphemed.” Without waiting for a calm discussion, regarding the nature of our Redeemer’s offence, this corrupt judge, forgetting his office, as judge, at once charges Him with the guilt of blasphemy, for asserting that He was the Son of God, and the long expected Messiah, thus claiming the honour due to God and to Christ, and He calls on the other judges to act the part of accusers.

“What further need have we of witnesses?” This shows the impiety of Caiphas, who acts not as judge, but as accuser. “Behold now you have heard the blasphemy,” as if to say, the case is too evident to admit of any discussion whatever. These words betray the inward joy Caiphas felt at having secured a pretext for condemning our Redeemer.

Mt 26:66. “What think you?” The question regards not His guilt, which the High Priest asserted to be beyond discussion, but, the punishment; to what punishment do you sentence Him for this manifest crime of blasphemy?

“They answering,” with one voice, said, “He is guilty of death,” that is, deserving of death, which was the punishment awarded by the law to blasphemers (Lev. 24:16). The special kind of death marked out in the law was stoning; but, as they were determined on subjecting Him to the most cruel and ignominious death of the cross, they refrain from saying, “He deserves, that all the multitude would stone Him” (Lev. 24:16).

Mt 26:67. “Then.” According to the more probable opinion, after our Redeemer was condemned at night, the Council broke up, as it was to be assembled again the following morning (Mt 27:1). In the meantime, and during the night, what is here recorded, occurred. St. Matthew records all things fully, and in their proper order. There are, however, commentators who hold that what is recorded here, from Mt 26:59, to this, regarding the interrogation by the High Priest, the cruel treatment of our Blessed Lord, in the hall of Caiphas, occurred only after the Council was assembled on the following morning (Mt 27:1); that St. Matthew, therefore, records this by anticipation and out of order; and that all from Mt 26:59 to this should be placed in order after Mt 27:1. But there was a twofold Council held, at each of which our Redeemer was interrogated—one at night, after our Lord’s apprehension, when He was interrogated, in the first instance, by the High Priest; and another in the morning (Luke 22:66), at which all the Chief Priests and ancients of the people attended. To this, most likely, the High Priest summoned all, even those who might be absent from the meeting of the previous evening. After the first meeting, when our Lord was interrogated, as recorded here, the events here mentioned about our Lord’s contumelious treatment, occurred during the night. After the second (Luke 22:66, &c.), at which He was also questioned, condemned as a blasphemer and rebel, He was delivered up to Pilate to be condemned to the death of the cross.

“They spit in His face,” a great mark of disrespect, and the grossest of insults. (Num. 12; Deut. 25) St. Luke says (Lk 22:63), it was “the men that held Him,” that did so. St. Mark insinuates, that some of the Council did so; for, he pointedly says, “some began to spit on Him … and the servants struck Him,” thereby implying, that others, besides servants, offered Him other indignities.

“And buffeted Him,” that means, that they struck Him with clenched hands, or, with fists, in every part of His body.

“And others struck His face with the palms of their hands.” The former indignity caused Him severe pain. This slapping of Him in the face, besides being, probably, very painful, from the violence with which it was inflicted, contained also the greatest indignity and insult that could be offered a man.

Mt 26:68. “Saying: Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck thee.” In order fully to understand this, it should be borne in mind, as we have it recorded in St. Mark (Mk 15:19). Luke (Lk 22:64), that they blindfolded Him, and, treating Him as a laughing stock, and, as a fool, they began to question Him, to prophesy, who was it that struck Him, at different times. These words contain a sneering taunt at His pretensions to be a Prophet. The word, “prophesy,” signifies, not merely to predict future events but also to disclose secret and hidden things, in which latter sense the word is employed here. They also added other blasphemous taunts, deriding and insulting Him. “And many other things, blaspheming, they said against Him” (Luke 22:65). Oh! who can conceive all that our innocent Redeemer suffered during that dismal night, when He was abandoned, or rather, for our sakes, abandoned Himself, to the vile crew of miscreants, in the hall of Caiphas, who employed all the devices which their rage and refined malice could invent, to abuse, vilify, and torment Him. Who is it, that was thus treated? Wherefore, and by whom? How graphically was His condition described beforehand, by the Prophet Isaias (Isa 50:6), “I have given My body to the strikers, and My cheeks to them that plucked Me.”

Mt 26:69. “But Peter sat without in the court.” After describing consecutively, the examination and condemnation of our Saviour, and the cruel mockery He was subjected to in the hall of Caiphas, the Evangelist now returns to the history of the denial of Peter to whom He referred (v. 58), and, without interruption, describes the triple denial, although occurring at three distinct periods, and at different intervals.

“Peter sat.” St. John assures us, “he stood” (Jn 18:18), but, both accounts are true; he sat and stood alternately, “without in the court,” that is, in the hall within the house, which, although within the house, was “without,” relative to those who were in an inner chamber, sitting in judgment on Jesus Christ. How St. Peter was introduced, is described (John 18:15-16): “A servant maid.” She was “portress” (Jn 18:17), and observed all who went in and came out, and from the confused, frightened appearance of Peter, which was so strongly reflected from the fire at which the servants sat and stood, warming themselves, she conjectured that he was one of our Redeemer’s followers, and said, first to the bystanders, “This man was also with Him” (Luke 22:56). She, next, petulantly addressing Peter himself, asked him, as St. John has it, “Art not thou also one of this man’s disciples?” (Jn 18:17); or, as we have it here recorded by St. Matthew, “thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean.” He is called, “the Galilean,” being from Nazareth, the place of His education, which was in Galilee; it was also a term of reproach, Galilee being a most contemptible province (John 7:52). Hence, they speak of Him as “the Galilean,” out of contempt, for His pretending to be a prophet, since no prophet comes from Galilee (John 7:52), and, by it, they imply also, that He was a seditious favourer and follower of Judas the Galilean.

Mt 26:70. “I know not what thou sayest.” The words used by the other Evangelists convey the same meaning—(Luke), “I know Him not;” (John), “I am not.” Peter might have employed these several forms of expression. Here, St. Peter grievously sinned against the confession of faith, being terrified by the empty taunts of a silly maid. St. Mark, who alone records the prediction of our Redeemer, regarding the second crowing of the cock, also alone informs us, that, after Peter’s first denial, when he went out of the hall, “the cock crew” (Mk 14:68), in order to show that the prediction of our Lord, regarding the second crowing of the cock, was verified; and he refers to Peter’s having gone out, “before the Court,” to convey to us, that Peter could have thus more easily heard the crowing of the cock there, than amidst the tumult and noise in the hall.

Mt 26:71. “And as he went out of the gate,” or, the door, which led from the hall to the porch, to which egress St. Mark refers (Mk 14:68). From the Greek, εις τον πυλωνα, it appears, that there is question of the door leading from the hall to the porch. “Another maid saw him,” &c.

Mt 26:72. “And he again denied with an oath, I do not know the man.” This denial did not take place immediately, in reply to the observation of the maid servant; but, as we learn from St. John (Jn 18:25), this denial occurred at the fire, after Peter had returned, and after one of the bystanders (Luke 22:58), or more than one of them (John 18:25), taking up the observation made by the maid, joined her in charging him with being one of the disciples. He, on this second occasion, in order to free himself from suspicion, denied, on oath, that he knew the man. As the second fall of a man is ordinarily greater than the first, so, Peter’s second denial was more heinous than the first, since to it he added perjury. The extenuation of Peter’s guilt, put forward by some holy Fathers, St. Hilary, &c., viz., that he only said, he knew not the man, but knew Him as God, cannot be admitted. For, as St. Jerome well remarks, this would be defending Peter at the expense of his Divine Master, who would, if this defence, were admitted, be guilty of a lie, when He said, “thrice shalt thou deny Me.”

Mt 26:73. “And after a little while,” that is, “about the space of an hour after” (Luke 22:59)—there was an interval of an hour between the first and second crowing of the cock—“they that stood by came, and said to Peter: Surely … for even thy speech doth discover thee.” He spoke with the accent of a Galilean.

Mt 26:74. Peter, seeing himself pressed on every side, and terrified at the allusion to the outrage committed in the garden, which was calculated to bring upon him vengeance, and provoke retaliation, at once begins to curse and swear, i.e., to invoke upon his head all sorts of malediction, if he knew the man. It is deserving of remark, that, as Peter’s confident declarations of fidelity to his Divine Master increased in strength and intensity (Mt 26:33-34), so do his denials increase in intensity. He first simply denies. 2ndly. He denies, on oath. 3rdly. He does so, with oaths and imprecations of all sorts. In the first denial, he said. “I am not” (John 18:17); “I know Him not” (Luke 22:57); “I know not what thou sayest” here, and Mark 14:68. In the second denial, he employed an oath. In the third, he added repeated execrations.

“And immediately.” Luke says, “while he was yet speaking” (Lk 22:60) “the cock crew,” thus verifying the prediction of our Redeemer, that before the cook would crow twice, he would have thrice denied Him.

Mt 26:75. “And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which He said,” &c. St. Luke (Lk 22:61), says, “The Lord, turning, looked on Peter, and Peter remembered the word,” &c. Our Lord looked on him interiorly, with the eye of mercy, reminding him of the magnitude of his crime, and of His own prediction, and inspiring him with true sorrow and compunction. It may be, that He looked on him corporally; since it was likely, after the assembly broke up at night, in the interior of the house, that Jesus was left in the hall, to be abused and mocked by the servants; or, we may also suppose that, if He were left inside, the door being open, our Lord looked at Peter in such a way as to remind him of his fall, and urge him to repentance. “And going forth, he wept bitterly.” He did not wish, nor did he doom it congruous, to weep in presence of the enemies of our Redeemer, because this would betray him, or, rather, because he could weep more freely in solitude, which is best suited for penance. Moreover, their presence was the cause of his denial of his Divine Master. Hence, at once he tied the occasion of his former sin. “He wept bitterly,” at the thought of his sins, particularly his pride, his foolish boasting and presumption, when his Divine Master forewarned him of his fall, and still more, at the recollection of his shameful denial of his Divine Master. The ancient historians of the life of St. Peter, assure us, that his penance and bitter tears were not of a passing kind; that every day, during his entire life, he bitterly wept and deplored his fall.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 25

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018


In this chapter, our Lord exhorts all the faithful to the constant and vigilant performance of good works, and stimulates them thereto by the parable of the ten virgins, of whom five were wife, and five more unwise (Mt 25:1–13). He next points out the necessity of good works, corresponding with the graces and talents God bestows on us, by proposing the example of the worthless servant, who was condemned for having neglected to do good, and turn to profitable account the talent confided to him (Mt 25:14–30). He next describes the last Judgment, the sentence to be passed on the elect and reprobate, the reasons assigned in both cases, which point out the necessity of performing works of mercy, in order to gain heaven and escape hell. Finally, He describes the execution of this irrevocable sentence (Mt 25:31–46).

Mt 25:1. “Then,” at the final coming of the Son of man, when He shall appear unexpectedly, to judge the living and the dead—for, it is of this subject our Lord is treating in the foregoing—“shall the kingdom of heaven,” that is, His Church, gathered from all portions of this world, “be like to ten virgins,” &c., that is to say, something shall take place in His Church, on the occasion of His last coming, similar to what is about being stated in the following parable of the ten virgins, “who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.” “Went out,” may refer to their preparation to go forth; for, it was only afterwards they did so (Mt 25:6), “go ye forth to meet him.” Or, it might be said, that our Redeemer here mentions, by anticipation, and in a general way, the fact which is afterwards more particularly detailed. “To meet the bridegroom and the bride.” The Greek copies have only, “to meet the bridegroom.” And this would seem to accord better with the usage then prevailing, to which there is reference here, of young virgins remaining at the house of the bride, expecting the coming of the bridegroom, who, on his part, was also accompanied by his male attendants, to fetch her from her father’s house to his own, or some other place, where the marriage feast was celebrated. Hence, the phrase, ducere uxorem, to signify, marrying a wife. On this occasion, the young maidens went forth to meet the bridegroom on his approach to the house of the bride, and accompanied him thither. Moreover, we have only the bridegroom mentioned (Mt 25:6), “Behold the bridegroom cometh … meet him.” However, the Vulgate has the words, “bride and bridegroom.” They are also quoted by the most distinguished of the holy Fathers (St. Hilary, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, &c.); and the words may be explained, of the bride and bridegroom leaving the bride’s house for that of the bridegroom, accompanied by these virgins. It might be also said, that the words, in the application of the parable, may refer to the same person, viz., our Divine Redeemer, who, since His Incarnation, may be regarded both as Bridegroom and Bride, under different relations, as St. Hilary expresses it. For, he says, as the Spirit is bridegroom to the flesh, so is the flesh bride to the Spirit. The number, “ten” is used in SS. Scripture, to denote or symbolize an indefinite multitude. It would appear, too, that “ten” was the usual number of bridal attendants in Judea. The “five wise virgins,” are termed such, because they made prudent provision for the future. The others are termed, “foolish,” for the opposite reason. It is not meant, that the number of reprobate and elect is equal. It is only meant to convey, that even among those having an exterior of piety, who observe purity, and practise certain external acts of piety, nay, even of mercy, adds St. Augustine, symbolized by the burning lamps, there shall be found some excluded from the heavenly banquet.

The literal meaning of the parable hardly needs any explanation. Torches were generally carried on the occasion of nuptial celebrations, which took place at night. A bundle of rags, wound round the end of an iron rod, is said to have served as a torch, the oil being, from time to time, replenished, by dipping the rod in a vessel (Kenrick). The chief matter for explanation is, the scope and application of the several parts of the parable. Regarding the scope of the parable, there can be but very little difficulty. It manifestly is—as appears from Mt 25:13, “Watch you therefore,” &c.; as also from the preceding chapter (Mt 24:44)—to stimulate us to continued vigilance, and preparation against the coming of our Lord to judgment. It is to this the foregoing examples of the householder, of the faithful servant, &c., manifestly tend. And, although it directly refers to the General Judgment, it also includes the particular judgment, of which the general shall be but a public ratification. Hence, it refers to the coming of our Lord, at the hour of death, which is included under coming at the last day. As to the application of the parable—by “the kingdom of heaven,” is meant the Church, composed of good and bad. Now, we cannot distinguish between both. But then, the parable of the ten virgins shall be clearly illustrated; and although the reprobate, who shall then have been condemned to hell, could not be called the members of the Church; still, they are termed such, having been members during life, before God’s judgment was made manifest and executed upon them.

The “ten virgins” are understood by some (Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.), of those who really were virgins; but some were virgins only in body, their souls not being replenished with sanctifying grace and charity. The others, designated “wise,” were virgins in soul and body. These expositors say, that the object of the parable is to show, that however exalted the virtue of virginity may be, still, it will not suffice, without the works of mercy and charity. But the most generally received opinion is that of St. Jerome, who holds, that, while the word includes virgins as a particular in a general, and hence applied to them by the Church in the Gospel of the Mass for Virgins, it refers generally to all the faithful who are called “virgins,” on account of the integrity and sincere purity of their faith, whose hearts are not sullied with the prostitution of idolatry, nor their bodies with the sinful pleasures of lust. On the other hand, the Scripture is wont to call heretics and infidels by the name of harlots and adulterers.

The “spouse,” denotes our Lord, who shall come at judgment to espouse His glorious Church, and with her celebrate the eternal nuptials in His heavenly kingdom.

By the “lamps,” is commonly understood, the light of faith which all these are supposed to be gifted with, probably accompanied with external good works; for, as to those who had lived immoral lives, they can hardly be said to be in expectation of, or care for, the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom. The difference, however, between the wise and unwise virgins in this interpretation, arises from the difference of intention with which their works were performed. The works of the one class were done purely for God, and from motives of charity; whereas, those of the other, were done from motives of gaining human applause and through empty vanity, like the Pharisees of old, for which they already “received their reward.”

By “the oil,” wherewith the “wise virgins trimmed their lamps,” are commonly understood, good works, without which the “lamp is extinguished,” or “faith is dead.” All had “lamps,” that is, faith; but only those who had the oil of charity, or good works, were admitted to the nuptial feast—faith, without good works, being insufficient for salvation.

The vessels for containing the oil, mean, the souls or consciences of the faithful. To take oil in their vessels, means, to treasure up an abundance of good works against the coming of our Lord, to “lay up treasures to themselves in heaven, where neither the rust nor moth doth consume,” &c. (Mt 6:20).

“The delay of the spouse,” refers to the time between our Lord’s Ascension and the General Judgment. And St. Chrysostom remarks, that our Redeemer wishes to convey to His disciples, that He would not come immediately, as some of them erroneously imagined. The word has reference also to the impatience of the virgins who were awaiting Him. For, although the longest time, relative to eternity, is but very short; still, the ardour of His disciples seemed not to be satisfied with anything short of His immediate approach. At the same time, our Redeemer did not wish to convey to them expressly that His coming would be deferred, for fear of rendering them secure or remiss. However, His coming at the death of each was necessarily speedy, as well as uncertain; and thus, they should not fail to prepare themselves. “They slumbered and slept.” “Slumbering,” which precedes perfect sleep, denotes, the infirmities and sickness, which usher in men’s death, which is expressed by, “they slept.” Between the final coming of our Lord and His first coming, the faithful, yielding to the necessities of nature, shall “have slept.” Death is frequently represented in SS. Scripture, as a state of sleep; since, men are to be once more roused and resuscitated at the General Resurrection. Others, understand, slumbering and slept, to express, that men shall have ceased to think of our Lord’s coming, so that He will come when they are not expecting Him.

Mt 25:6. “At midnight … a cry,” &c. By “cry,” is meant, the Archangel’s trumpet, which St. John (Jn 5:28), calls, “the voice of the Son of God.” “Midnight,” denotes, that His coming shall be concealed from men, and that the summons shall be sent forth when least expected, or, this may be an ornamental part of the parable. (SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, &c.) Others infer from this, that Christ will come to judge the world, at the hour of midnight. St. Jerome tells us, that this was an Apostolical tradition. Hence, formerly at the vigil of the Pasch, the people were not allowed to leave the church till after midnight, from an impression, that Christ would come to judgment, at that hour, as He came at the same hour formerly to slay the first-born of the Egyptians, and liberate the Hebrew people. However, all this regarding the hour of Christ’s coming is very uncertain; for, our Redeemer Himself says, “You know not the day nor the hour.”

Mt 25:7. The trimming of their lamps, by all these virgins, after being roused from sleep, denotes, that after all the faithful shall have been resuscitated by the trumpet of the Archangel, they shall proceed to meet their Judge, and, consulting memory, to examine their consciences, regarding the account they are to give for the actions of their entire lives.

Mt 25:8. This is one of the ornamental parts of the parable, having no further significance or illustration; for, on the last day, the reprobate will know well, that the just cannot impart to them any portion of their merits; that each one shall be judged according to his own works, whether good or evil. The words, however, convey to us, the straits and despair to which the wicked shall be reduced on beholding the inevitable damnation to which they are doomed, without any prospect of alleviation or reprieve, from the intercession of friends, or the merits of God’s saints, and the unavailing regrets in which they shall indulge at that hour, for not having availed themselves, during life, of the means of securing their salvation.

The words, “our lamps are gone out,” show, that without the oil of good works, charity, which is the flame that emanates from the lamps, is lost; inasmuch as, without performing good works, which are prescribed by God’s Commandments, we forfeit God’s grace and friendship. Hence, we must be ever employed in good works, if we wish to preserve and keep alive the holy flame of Divine charity.

Mt 25:9. This, also, is ornamental, and merely intended to complete the literal narrative. If it has any meaning at all, it conveys to us, that at that hour, the just, however they might assist sinners during life, can give no assistance to them, now that the time of mercy and merit is past; that even the just shall tremble for their own salvation. The words may also convey, the reproaches which the reprobate shall meet with on that day, for having, during life, performed their actions to please men who “sell” the oil of flattery, and adulation, and foolish passing applause, which are of no avail, but rather a subject of regret at judgment. “But, let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head” (Psa. 141:5). In the literal reading of this verse there is supposed to be an ellipsis, and the words, “we fear” (φοβουμεθα), understood thus—“(we fear) lest there be not enough,” &c. (Beelen.)

Mt 25:10. This is, like the preceding, ornamental. At the same time, it conveys to us, the fruitless regrets of the reprobate, when, too late, and the time of merit is passed, for not having performed the good works, whereby they might have earned the kingdom of heaven. The coming of the bridegroom represents, the coming of Christ to judgment. The entrance of those who were ready, denotes, the admission of the elect to the joys of heaven, “the nuptials of the Lamb” (Rev 19:7). “The door was shut,” expresses, that the time of doing good is past, and “the night come when no one can work.”

Mt 25:11. In this verse is conveyed, the despair and anguish of spirit of the reprobate on seeing themselves for ever banished from the glory and beatific vision of God. This anguish is most pathetically described by the Wise man. (Wis 5:1, &c.)

Mt 25:12. “I know you not,” signifies, the knowledge of love, benevolence, and approbation, as if He said: Although well known to Me, still, I do not wish to have any intercourse with you. I disown yon, as My children and friends. I reprobate and reject you from the pure joys of My eternal kingdom (Mt 7:23).

Mt 25:13. This is the great lesson, which the entire parable is primarily intended to inculcate, and to which the preceding parables of the preceding chapter (Mt 24:42), as also the following parable, and the several parts of each parable have reference. To the words of this verse, is added, in the Protestant versions, “Wherein the Son of man cometh.” But, these words are rejected by the best critics, and omitted in the chief MSS. They were, most likely, introduced from the margin, as more clearly completing and expressing the sense. For, the words, even in our version, mean: You know not that last day, nor that last hour, when the Lord shall come unexpectedly, like the midnight thief—the hour upon which depends an eternity of happiness or misery. According to the preparation we shall have made, and the vigilance we shall have employed to be always ready and to have the oil of charity and good works always burning in our hearts, with our consciences always pure before God, shall our doom be determined.

But, it may be asked, how can the inference, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., be deduced from the example of the ten virgins, since, all are supposed to have slept, the “wise,” as well as the unwise? Resp. The example of the wise virgins is not proposed to us in this sense: that as they kept a bodily watch, we should watch spiritually; but only in this sense, that as they prudently provided against the uncertain coming of the spouse, so, we should prudently provide against the uncertain coming of our Lord, in such a way as not to be caught unprepared; this we shall escape, by constantly watching in the performance of good works. Hence, our Lord in this sense, infers, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., as if He said: In order that no such misfortune as befell the unwise virgins may befall you, so that that day should find you unprepared, and thus subject you to exclusion from My kingdom, prepare against that uncertain day. In other words, watch continually in good works, and be not remiss, as you must be persuaded, that any preparation you may make on that day, shall come too late. It is, of course, to be observed, that although our Redeemer directly refers to His coming at the General Judgment, He also includes His coming at the death of each, when the final doom of every man is to be decided, and the sentence to be solemnly and publicly repeated at the General Judgment, already irrevocably pronounced.

We are admonished, therefore, not to live negligently, content merely with the light of faith; but, that we should provide ourselves with the oil of charity and good works, before the arrival of the hour of death; so that, when the Spouse shall have arrived, and demanded an account of our actions, we may have sufficient oil to trim our lamps which shall light us into the banquet-hall of the heavenly kingdom.

Mt 25:14. “For even,” &c. The object of the following is the same as that of the preceding parable, viz., to impress us all with the necessity of constantly watching in the performance of good works, tending to our own and our neighbour’s sanctification, and God’s glory, by the good use and employment of the means placed at our disposal, for which we must one day render an exact account. The particle, “for,” shows this parable to have reference to the foregoing moral conclusion, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c.

“Even as a man going into a strange,” &c. There is nothing expressed in the following part to complete the sense, corresponding with the particle, “as.” Hence, commentators supply it thus, “for the kingdom of God,” or, “the Son of man,” coming to exact an account of us in judgment, is the same as, or God acts, as “a man going into a strange,” &c. Others say, it is not an elliptical, but rather, an unfinished construction, or an anacoluthon. This parable is similar to that recorded by St. Luke (Lk 19:12), regarding the pounds, referred to a different time and occasion. But, whether it be same with it, is disputed among commentators. Some, with SS. Ambrose and Jerome, assert, that it is; that, although there may be some immaterial differences, both as to the time and place to which both narrations refer the event; still, it is substantially the same, and tends to the same object and purpose. Others, with St. Chrysostom, maintain, they are different, uttered on two different occasions. That in St. Luke, was delivered before our Redeemer’s final approach to Jerusalem. This, in St. Matthew, after it, in the week following Palm Sunday. They note several other points of difference, in the parable itself, which may be seen on examining both passages. In St. Luke, there is mention made of men who refused to be subject to their king, and on his return, were ordered to be slain. This suited the passage in St. Luke, where he taxes the infidelity of the Jews; but not this passage, where in all the parables adduced, our Lord only desires to stimulate all the faithful to vigilance. In St. Luke, the same amount of money (a pound, mna), is given to all; here, a different, sum is given to different persons. Doubtless, however, the scope and object of both parables are the same.

By “the man who went into a strange country,” it is agreed by all, is meant, our Divine Redeemer, whom St. Luke designates, “a certain nobleman” (Lk 19:12).

By His “going into a strange country,” which, St. Luke says, was for the purpose of “receiving for Himself a kingdom, and returning,” is commonly meant, His ascending into heaven, to receive royal honours, the homage of angels and saints, at the right hand of His Father, whence He is to come, at a future day, to judgment.

By “His servants,” whom He called together, are, most probably, meant, all Christians. For, to all of them, He confided His goods in a lesser or greater degree, and of all of them, shall an exact account be demanded. To them, He refers in the foregoing parable of the “ten virgins.” It refers, most likely, in a special way, to the pastors of His Church, whom He has placed there, and gifted in different degrees, as is recorded by St. Paul (1 Cor. 12:4–30; Eph. 4:11–14). By the goods He gave his servants, are meant, the gifts, both in the order of nature and of grace, given us by God, to advance His glory, and our own and our neighbour’s salvation. The giving of these goods conveys, that all that we have comes not from ourselves; but, from the bountiful hand of God. The same is expressed by the talents in next verse, the unequal number of which marks the unequal distribution of God’s gifts, which He dispenses at will.

Mt 25:15. “To one five talents,” &c. St. Luke says, he gave his ten servants, ten pounds, or, ten definite sums of money. For, this is the original meaning of the word mna, from the Hebrew root, mana—he numbered—a piece to each. By the talents are meant, the several gifts of God, without which we can do nothing, embracing—1st. Grace, properly so called, with faith, hope, charity, and the other virtues. 2nd. The graces called, gratis datæ, such as the power of working miracles, episcopacy, priesthood, prophecy, &c., given for the benefit of others. 3rd. External gifts and goods of fortune, such as wealth, station, &c. All those, God distributes unequally to different persons, according to His good will and pleasure. All these gifts, are by His ordination, to be employed for the ends they are intended to advance, viz., God’s glory and the salvation of souls. As regards the literal meaning of the parable, it is to be observed, that in the East, it was customary to intrust even slaves with the management of some money or goods, to stimulate their industry.

“To every one according to his proper ability.” How can this be, since the very ability or capacity for employing those gifts profitably, must come from God, and be His gift? Some commentators say, these words are merely ornamental, and without any direct meaning in the parable; that they merely convey, what men ordinarily do in the distribution of their property. They distribute it, having a due regard to the capacity of their servants, their industry and ability to derive profit from it. For, it is a point of faith, that, so far as grace, properly so-called, is concerned, it is not given, in the first instance, according to or in consideration of one’s natural capacity or merits; and that nature, however good, is no disposition for grace. This is a point of faith defined against the Pelagians; others say, it has an application in the parable, and applies to what are called gratiæ, gratis datæ, and to conditions of life, such as Magistracy, Episcopacy, Priesthood, &c., the blessings of the second and third order already referred to. For, these states of life are frequently arranged by God, in accordance with the previous dispositions and capacity of those whom He selects for them, and before bestowing any permanent gift or office on any individual, the Almighty bestows on him a capacity or disposition, whether natural or supernatural, to render him fit for the duties annexed to it. This He does frequently, but not always, as the example of Jeremiah alone proves. The words also convey, that in exacting an account of the gifts bestowed on us. He does not ask an account for anything beyond what we can do. He requires nothing impossible, but only what is within our reach, whether in the natural or supernatural order. It also conveys, that, in the unequal distribution of His gifts and vocations, God confers none beyond our strength; but, that He regards each one’s power and capacity, so that no one can complain, that more was imposed on him than he could bear.

“And immediately he took his journey,” refers to our Saviour’s ascension into heaven. St. Luke (19) tells us, that before leaving, he enjoined on his servants, “trade till I come,” viz., by labouring zealously during life to increase, by good works, the fruit of the talents confided to them, and to present this fruit to him on his return. St. Luke also adds, that the citizens of this man refused to have him reign over them, which refers to the obstinate rejection of our Redeemer by the Jews, who would have no king but Cæsar; their persecution of Himself and His Apostles after His Ascension. And that he ordered them (Lk 19:27) to be slain in his presence, which refers to the total ruin of the Jews by Titus, which was but a type of the eternal ruin of those who continued in their obstinate unbelief.

Mt 25:16. “And he that had received the five talents … gained other five.” As regards the servant himself, the gaining of five talents means, that by the proper use of the gifts and graces bestowed on him by God, he gained, in the proportion of the gifts bestowed on him, an increase of grace, which is the seed of glory, and the measure of the rewards whch he afterwards received. As regards the Master or Almighty God, the “five talents” mean, that this servant laboured strenuously to promote God’s glory, in the work of self-sanctification, and the salvation of his brethren.

Mt 25:17. The observations made in the foregoing, apply equally to the present verse. The man who “received the two talents,” gained an increase proportioned to the amount of goods confided to his management. In St. Luke, the master is represented as giving the same amount to each of his ten servants, who are commanded to traffic upon it till his return, some of whom gained in the proportion of ten talents; others, five, &c. Here, the amount given is said to be unequal.

Some commentators understand, by the “servant,” who, after receiving “five talents,” gained “other five,” the Apostles, including St. Paul, whose gifts were so great and whose labours so very successful and remarkable: and by those, who received two and gained other two talents, the other ministers of Christ, who received less than the Apostles, and were faithful in discharging their ministry, and serving the Church according to the measure of their gifts and graces. It is, at the same time, to be remarked, that the test of our fidelity in the discharge of our duties, is not the success that may attend us, but our labours. Hence, St. Paul in stating that God’s grace was not vain, in him, says, the proof of it is, that he had laboured more than all the others (1 Cor. 15); and in reference to other Evangelical workmen, each of whom acts according to the gift he received from God, the Apostle only regards them, as labouring in planting and watering; the increase must come from God, and the reward of each is not according to his success, but, “according to his labour” (1 Cor. 3:8).

Mt 25:18. The idea expressed by “digging in the earth, and hiding his lord’s money there,” is conveyed by St. Luke (19:20), thus: “kept it laid up in a napkin.” The meaning of both phrases is the same, viz., that he kept it unemployed and laid by unprofitably, without securing the expected gain. It may happen, and oftentimes does happen, that those who are blessed with “five talents,” gifts of the highest order, leave them unemployed, nay, abuse them, as often as those do, who receive but “one,” or gifts of lesser value. But, our Redeemer instances the abuse or neglect of grace in the man who received but “one talent,” in order to convey to us, more forcibly, the greater guilt, and, consequently, the heavier punishment of him who neglects or abuses greater gifts, from which greater profit would be expected, when the man who received but lesser gifts is represented as very criminal, and deserving of the severest punishments. Our Lord also wishes to show, how inexcusable the servant is, since he did not require extraordinary exertions to produce the gain proportioned to the talents he received. Hence, his indolence had no palliation.

If such be the guilt and punishment of the unprofitable, idle servant, what shall be the guilt of those who not only neglect God’s graces, but positively abuse them, squander them extravagantly, and turn them against the master himself, by converting them to the worst purposes, to promote the reign of the enemy of God, and of souls, turning against Him the very arms with which He supplied them.

Mt 25:19. “And after a long time,” which is expressed by St. Luke (Lk 19:15), “he returned, having received the kingdom.” The words refer to the account to be rendered by each one in judgment, of the mode in which he employed the several gifts of God, both general and particular. The “long time” refers to the long interval between Christ’s Ascension and the General Judgment, although the sentence passed at the General Judgment, is but a more solemn and public ratification of that which occurs immediately after the death of each one; hence, it refers to the period of each man’s life. The words also convey, that God gives every one ample time to employ the gifts bestowed on him profitably, before exacting an account; and that, unlike certain severe, exacting masters, He will not exact the fruit of His gifts before the proper time. It also refers to the patience and long-suffering of God, in His dealings with His creatures.

Mt 25:20–23. The servant who received “five,” as well as he who received “two talents,” acknowledge that it was owing to the gifts of their master they gained anything whence it is inferred, that the chief principle in the performance of good works is the grace of God, “Not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10); and this is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 19:16), “thy pound hath gained ten pounds.”

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things.” The goods and graces confided to us during life, however great in themselves, as the seeds of future glory, are still but trifling, in a comparative sense, compared with the great bliss, and ineffable happiness in store for God’s elect, the exceeding great magnitude of which is expressed in the words. “over many things,” and is more fully conveyed in the words, “enter into the joy of thy Lord,” which shows, the ineffable delights and eternal enjoyment of the saints, when they shall become, as far as their finite capacity will permit, sharers in God’s own beatitude, heirs of His kingdom, and co-heirs with His eternal Son Jesus Christ, the predestined model of His elect, and the first-born among many brethren, sharers with Him in “the joy of their Lord,” which neither “eye hath seen nor ear heard,” &c. The words, “place thee over many things,” are differently expressed by St. Luke (19), “have power over ten … five cities,” in allusion to the mode of acting often resorted to by kings, in rewarding their faithful servants with governments, more or less important, according to their merits and capacity. It is deserving of remark, that the same praises, the same reward, are liberally bestowed on the servant who gained only two talents, as on him who gained five. “Well done … enter into the joy,” &c., because, as St. Jerome remarks, “the Lord does not so much regard the amount of gain, as the fulness of desire”—“non tam considerat Dominus lucri magnitudinem quam studii voluntatem”—and our reward is proportioned, not to the fruit of our labours, but to the labour itself.

Mt 25:24. The servant who received but “one talent,” and left it unprofitably idle, wishes to excuse himself for his neglect, and casts the blame on his master, and thus adds the sin of pride to that of sloth, when he should have humbly acknowledged his fault, and craved pardon and forgiveness. “A hard man,” that is, a man of a severe, harsh, grinding disposition, bent on acquiring lucre by every means, no matter how iniquitous or oppressive. Interpreters generally regard these words as ornamental, or introduced for the purpose of completing the full literal sense of the parable, rather than as having any particular meaning in its application; for, it is not likely the damned will thus address our Redeemer in judgment, their own conscience, and knowledge of their crimes, bearing testimony against them. It may, however, be said, on the other hand, that, not unlikely, the damned will, on that day, in a fit of madness and despair, rise against their Judge, and, with blasphemous impiety, upbraid Him as the cause of their miseries, and, in hell, shall eternally blaspheme Christ and His saints. Perhaps, in this sense, the words of this verse may not be without application in the parable. The words, also, convey, that the reprobate shall be without excuse on the Day of Judgment. “Reapest where thou hast not sown,” is a sort of common adage, expressive of cruel exaction, and grinding injustice.

Mt 25:25. Being afraid, in consequence of the reputed unrelenting harshness of his master, lest, if in trading, he either lost the principal, or secured not the expected amount of gain, he should doubly exasperate him, this foolish servant deemed it the safer course to remain idle, and not endanger the talent intrusted to him.

Mt 25:26. “Wicked and slothful servant.” “Wicked,” that is, malicious in imputing his own guilty and slothful conduct to his master. “Thou knowest,” &c., that is, taking you at your word, admitting what you say to be true. It is an argumentum ad hominem, founded on the servant’s own expressed admission or confession, which is more clearly conveyed by St. Luke (Lk 19:22), “Out of thy own, mouth I judge thee, thou wicked,” &c. The words are an illustration of what is termed a rhetorical synchoresis, involving no real admission; but, an argument scoffingly conceded, for the purpose of retorting more pointedly. If thou knewest that I reaped where I sowed not, thou shouldst know that I would strictly exact fruit where I sowed, as I have done in committing to you my money.

Mt 25:27. On the supposition which you make, you ought, at least, to have adopted the easiest, least laborious, and least dangerous means of acquiring interest, by confiding it to “the bankers,” &c. These words are no argument, either in favour of usury or against it, even if we speak of usury in the worst sense of the word, since the whole passage is spoken by synchoresis, in the sense already explained. At all events, they would convey no approbation of usury, since, what our Redeemer really wished to convey is, that the servant should have exerted himself, in some of the ordinary ways, for procuring gain from the talent of his master. Our Lord no more approves of illicit usury here, than He does of the dishonesty of the unjust steward (Luke 16), or the lies of the Egyptian midwives (Ex 1:19). What is commended in the former case, is the industry and wisdom exhibited by the unjust steward; and in the latter, the humanity manifested in the rescuing of the Hebrew children. So it is, also, in the present instance, even supposing synchoresis out of the question in the passage.

Mt 25:28. “Take ye away, therefore,” &c. The master tells his attendant servants to take this talent, and give it to the man who had “ten talents.” He thus shows, the injustice of the charge of griping avarice preferred against him by his wicked servant, since, far from appropriating to himself the talent taken from the unprofitable servant, he hands it over to the servant, who turned to the best account the ten talents confided to him. The words are partly ornamental, and partly applicable to the subject of the parable. They are applicable, so far as the taking away of the talent is concerned, since, Almighty God oftentimes, in this life, deprives men both of the gifts of grace and of nature, which they abuse. He always deprives the man of sanctifying grace who abuses His graces, by the commission of mortal sin; and, on the Day of Judgment, He shall take away from the reprobate the gifts they neglected or abused.

But, “the giving of it to the man who had ten talents,” is merely ornamental, and has no particular application in the parable, save that it may convey, that the saints in heaven shall derive additional joy from considering the good use they made of their talents, compared with the reprobate, and shall be filled with happiness, so complete, as if all the gifts of the reprobate were transferred to them. Should the words have reference to this life, and to the private judgments of God, on His faithful servants, and His idle servants, the words may have application in this sense, that, while God deprives the wicked of His graces, in punishment of their sins and negligences, He increases the gifts and graces of His faithful servants, which, if not specifically, shall be generically the same as the gifts withdrawn from sinners. St. Luke relates, that the attendant ministers of the Master seemed to wonder at this arrangement. Hence, they said, “Lord, he hath ten pounds?” as if to say, is it not more natural to give it to him who hath only “five pounds?” Hence, our Lord concludes the parable, in the following verse, with the general saying, which applies to the subject matter.

Mt 25:29. “For, to every one that hath,” &c. (see Mt 13:12), that is, to every one that, by co-operation, with grace, acquires further graces and talents, “it shall be given,” that is, grace and glory, shall be given as a reward. Or, “hath,” may mean, who properly uses the talents given him; for, strictly speaking, he who uses and employs his talent, has it; while as regards the sluggard, who uses it not, it is the same as if he had it not, at all.

“That hath not,” may mean, as above, hath not increased or derived any gain from it, or who uses it not, suffering it to he useless and idle. “That which he hath not,” viz., the talent, the graces he gained nothing from, or which he did not properly use.

“That also which he seemeth to have,” that is, which although he actually possessed, yet acted in relation to it, as if he had it not, or made no good use whatever of it, so as to advance the interests of Him who gave it.

“Shall be taken away,” the very lights, whether natural or supernatural, with which he was favoured, shall be taken away from him, on the Day of Judgment, and sometimes this happens even in this life.

Mt 15:30. And by God’s just judgment, this useless servant, shall be, for ever, cast into darkness, and condemned to the fire of hell.

If such be the rigours of God’s judgment upon the merely unprofitable servant, who, so far as the parable goes, is not charged with any positive crime, but only with criminal apathy and neglect in not employing profitably the talents confided to him, what shall be the rigours of Divine judgment on those, who squander God’s favours, and by positive crime, and a sinful course of scandalous life, turn against Him the gifts He gave them, and employ them in the service of His enemy.

The three preceding parables, employed one after another, by St. Matthew, denote three distinct classes among the faithful, who shall be condemned. The first, relative to the servant, who maltreated his fellow-servants, and dilapidated his master’s goods (Mt 24:48), refers to those who openly lead impious lives.

The second, regarding the ten virgins, denotes, those who, apparently religious, are still not sufficiently watchful to provide for themselves, and fail to refer their good actions to God’s glory, such as hypocrites.

The third, regarding the parable of the talents, denotes these idle, indolent Christians, who, by a kind of impious prudence, become negligent, and charge their criminal torpor on Almighty God Himself, whom they pretend to fear. In the first parable is taxed open impiety and immoral conduct; in the second, imprudent negligence; in the third, negligence, seemingly prudent. If we join together the foregoing four parables, we shall find matter for special instruction. In that of the householder (Mt 24:43), we are reminded of observing diligence, which, however, being insufficient, we are warned in that of the unfaithful servant, of the necessity of fidelity; in that of the virgins, of the necessity of prudent provision for the future; and in that of the talents, of the necessity of labouring advantageously for the interests of our heavenly Master. We should, therefore, be vigilant, faithful, prudent, and profitable, while preparing for the coming of our Lord to judgment (Jansenius Gaudavensis).

Mt 25:31. In the preceding parables of the talents, ten virgins, &c., our Redeemer wished to inculcate vigilance in preparing for His coming judgment. Now, laying aside all figurative language, He clearly and graphically describes the mode in which He is to exercise judgment.

“When the Son of man.” As man, Christ will judge the world, “and He hath given Him power to do judgment, because He is the Son of man” (John 5:27). It is in His human form, now regarded with contempt, that the just and the impious shall behold Christ clothed “in the majesty and glory,” which is due to Him, as the true Son of God.

“Shall come,” that is, make His appearance visibly. There is a tacit contrast here between His first coming, in lowliness, and His second, in power and majesty.

He shall not come alone. He shall be accompanied by “all the Angels.” So that, heaven being, for a moment, vacated, all the Angels shall descend with the Judge, as attendants, to add to the solemnity of the scene, and to act as messengers of His will, and to execute His decrees (Zech. 14:5).

“Then He shall sit on the seat of His majesty,” that is, shall appear as a glorious Judge in the exercise of His judiciary power. He already sits on the right hand of Majesty on high. That glory is now concealed from the world. But then, it shall be visibly seen by all mankind. The imagery is borrowed partly from the custom of kings, who come, accompanied by the princes of their court, to enact laws, or solemnly dispense justice; and partly from Eastern usage, in keeping the sheep and the goats asunder.

The word, “sit,” is allusive to the posture of kings and judges in dispensing justice. Hence, the words are more expressive of His judicial power than of His bodily posture. What “the throne of His majesty” is, is not easily ascertained. Some understand it, of the bright cloud on which He shall appear seated. Others, of the choirs of Angels, upon whose shoulders, He shall be borne in triumph. Hence, some of them are called “thrones,” their functions, or office, being, to uphold the majesty of God.

Mt 25:32. “And all the nations shall be gathered”—by the ministry of Angels—“together before Him.” “All nations,” embracing all men, of every age and nation, without exception. The words, “all nations,” carry more weight than, all men. It adds to our ideas of the majesty of the Judge, to proclaim Him as the Judge of all nations, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, Christian or unbeliever. “He is appointed by God judge of the living and of the dead” (Acts 10:42).

They “shall be gathered together,” in some determinate place, which is generally supposed to be the Valley of Josaphat, and the surrounding districts (Joel 3:2), sanctified by the laborious life, preaching, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord. We are informed by St. Paul, that the just shall be snatched into the air to meet the Judge, when, doubtless, they shall receive, at His right hand, the sentence of approval. The wicked shall remain at His left, on the earth.

“And He shall separate them,” &c. This He shall do by the ministry of Angels, as the shepherd returning home at evening, separates the sheep and the goats, that were, during the day, allowed to roam through the same pastures, just as the wicked are, during life, undistinguished, even in God’s Church, from the elect.

Mt 25:33. He compares the elect to “sheep,” on account of their innocence, simplicity, meekness, and beneficence; the wicked to “goats,” because of the offensive smell, the lascivious, impure nature, the quarrelsome dispositions of these animals.

“He shall place the sheep,” that is, the elect, “on His right,” as the more honourable place, viz., in the air, whence they shall ascend to heaven. The “right hand,” is the symbol of happiness, glory, and triumph. “The goats,” or reprobate, “He shall set on His left,” the symbol of misery, servitude, and opprobrium. They shall also occupy a lower position on the earth, whence they shall be swallowed down to hell, that shall open wide its jaws to receive them for ever. This sitting at the right hand and at the left, denotes the election of the one, and the reprobation of the other. This division was typified by the ordinance of Moses, commanding the Israelites, after entering the land of promise (Deut. 27), that these six tribes, whose fathers were born of the freedwomen, wives of Jacob, viz., Lia and Rachel, would stand upon Mount Garazim to bless the people; and the other six, whose fathers were born of handmaids, except Reuben, whose crime with his father’s wife, caused him to be numbered with those descended from handmaids, would stand towards, or, near Mount Hebal, to curse, that is, to answer, Amen, as it is commonly understood, to the maledictions, to be pronounced by the Levites. This was done, as we read (Jos 8:33).

Mt 25:34. “Then shall the king say,” &c. Having called Himself, “the Son of man,” and exhibited Himself, under the figure of a “shepherd,” He now assumes the title of “King,” it being the part of a king to dispense rewards and punishment, and exercise judiciary power, and also to invite others to a participation of His kingly state and power.

“Come, you blessed of My Father,” &c. He commences the general judgment with His elect, as the most honourable; and, moreover, to show that God is more prone to dispense blessings, than to utter maledictions; more disposed to reward than to punish.

“Come,” from darkness to light; from servitude to the liberty of the sons of God; from labour to rest; from war to peace; from death to life; from the society of the wicked to the company of angels. “Come,” and be eternally united with Me; inebriated with the plenty of My house, and ingulphed in the torrents of My delights.

“Ye blessed of My Father.” “Blessed,” by Him to whom, by appropriation, belong power and predestination, “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Ephes. 1), through the merits of My blood. This blessedness includes their predestination, in the first place; and next, the spiritual blessings of justification actually conferred on them, together with the future blessings of glorification and happiness, now about to be conferred on them; “whom God loved and predestined, before the world; called from the world; cleansed and sanctified in the world: and now shall exalt and magnify after the world” (St. Augustine, Soliloquies).

“Possess.” (The Greek word, κληρονομησατε, signifies, to possess, by hereditary right, as Sons of God, His heirs and co-heirs of His Son.)

“The kingdom,” of heaven, the empyreal heaven, with all its ineffable delights, the society of the Blessed and Angels, possessing for ever, the qualities of glorified bodies and beatified souls.

“Prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” In this, is conveyed more than is expressed. It means, prepared for them from all eternity, in the predestinating decrees of God, which is clearly expressed by St. Paul in other words, “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world” (Ephes. 1:4). Hence, this preparation of the kingdom means, the predestination of men for that kingdom. It also may mean, actually prepared at creation. For, God created the empyreal heaven, to be the eternal abode of the Saints. The Sonship of God, conferring a right to His inheritance, is merited by adults. Hence, they receive the crown of glory in heaven, not only by right of inheritance, generously granted by God; but, also as the reward of merit. While infants can only have the title of inheritance, as sons of God, adults must also have the twofold title of inheritance and merit.

Mt 25:35-36. In these two verses are recited six corporal works of Mercy, to which is likewise added a seventh from Tobias (Tob 12:12), viz., burying the dead. Hence, we commonly reckon seven corporal works of Mercy. Our Redeemer selects out of the entire catalogue of good works, whereby the elect merited heaven, these works of Mercy, to show, how much He values the exercise of mercy, and to impress upon His followers, that, whatever else they may do, however heroic their other actions may be, if they omit showing mercy, they can never be united with Him, who is Mercy itself; nor can they, otherwise, obtain admission into the kingdom of His mercy.

If we do not love our neighbour whom we see, “how can we love God whom we see not?” (1 John 4:20). It is true, that among the elect, there shall be many on whom this duty cannot devolve, having been themselves poor and miserable; themselves the objects of corporal mercy and compassion. But, our Redeemer instances this among the many other examples of virtue and good works, to show its great importance; and because, it is the virtue most necessary for upholding society, and binding its several members more closely together.

He says, “I was hungry,” &c., to convey to us, that, as head of His mystical body, He was sharer in the sufferings of all the other members, and alleviated in their exemption from suffering; and He shows the merit of succouring the poor, when it is Christ Himself we are succouring. St. Paul beautifully explains this union of the members of Christ’s mystic body. (1 Cor. 12:12, &c.) “I was hungry,” &c. I, who am your Creator, your God, your Redeemer. I, the great source, from which proceed all blessings, as well in the natural as in the supernatural order. I, who endured so much to save you from the eternal torments of the damned. “And you gave Me to eat,” shows, the great merit of exercising the works of mercy; since, it is not man, but God, we are relieving. That wretched, ragged—nay, sinful beggar, is the representative of Jesus Christ, and whatever we do for him, our Lord will regard as done for Himself. These seven corporal works of Mercy, expressed by the words, visito, poto, cibo, redimo, tego, colligo, condo, include the spiritual works of Mercy, also, which are so clearly marked out, and so strongly commended in SS. Scripture, viz., to correct the sinner, to give counsel to those in doubt, to instruct the ignorant, to console the sorrowful; to bear the imperfections and injuries of our neighbour; to pardon our offenders; to pray for the salvation of our neighbours. These are expressed in the words, consule, castiga, solare, remitte, fer, ora.

Whether our Redeemer is to utter those words, sensibly, in presence of the elect and reprobate, it is hard to ascertain. The Judgment shall not take place, like the Resurrection, in the twinkling of an eye, ictu oculi. For, it is described in such a way as would imply some delay. “The judgment sat, and the books were opened.” (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 10.) Most likely, this opening of the Books, refers to the particular knowledge disclosed through the conscience of each one, in displaying his actions (Rom. 2:16). It is most likely, that, while the power of God shall make known to each one, by a sort of particular judgment, through the medium of his own conscience, what are his particular deeds, his merits or demerits; and, shall have this made known in particular to all the rest of mankind, He shall sensibly utter the sentence of approbation and condemnation, and address it in general terms, to the assembled human race. It also seems to be most generally agreed upon, that, while our Redeemer shall utter, in a loud voice, the sentence of the elect and of the reprobate, He will not utter, in a similar voice, the motives of His sentence, “I was hungry,” &c., but that these shall be made known privately, by a sort of spiritual instinct or revelation.

That the infants who died without baptism shall appear, on this occasion, and see the glory of the Judge, seems to be generally agreed upon; but what their judgment or amount of privation is a matter not generally agreed upon; nor, indeed, can it be determined. That they shall not be admitted to the kingdom of heaven, is quite certain. It is commonly held they shall enjoy, for ever, the greatest natural felicity, ever enjoyed on this earth, united to God by natural love and knowledge of Him. (St. Thomas Q.D. 33. Q. 2 art. 2 ad. 5.)

As regards infidels, it is commonly supposed, that, as “he who doth not believe is already judged” (John 3:18), the infidels shall appear to receive the sentence of eternal damnation, without any particular investigation into their lives, however wicked in other respects. The form of judgment, recorded by St. Matthew, regards the faithful, of whom some shall be rewarded for their good works; others condemned for their wicked works, or omission of good works. Ven. Bede reckons four classes of men at the last judgment. 1. Those who shall exercise judgment, and not themselves be judged, viz., the Apostles. 2. Those who shall neither exercise nor undergo judgment, their sentence of condemnation having been already pronounced, viz., the impious and unbelievers. 3. Those who shall undergo, and shall pass judgment—viz., the multitude of the faithful who obeyed the Gospel. 4. Those who shall not themselves judge, but shall undergo judgment, and be condemned, viz., the wicked Jews, who lived before the Gospel law, and the wicked Christians, who disobeyed the Gospel.

Mt 25:37–39. This is expressive of the astonishment of the elect, on seeing themselves so munificently rewarded for their comparatively trifling deeds of charity; and of their humility, in seeming to be unconscious of having done anything good, referring all to His grace. It is not likely, that the just shall utter such words on the occasion; but, the words are introduced to give our Lord an opportunity of subjoining the following important declaration.

Mt 25:40. “As long as you did it,” &c. “As long.” Inasmuch as you did it; so far, as you did it “to one of these least ones,” among Christians, who, from their lowliness and wretched condition, whether voluntarily undertaken, as in the case of the voluntary poor; or, whose lot was cast in humble and distressful circumstances, whom He now calls His “brethren,” deigning to exalt them to a brotherhood with Himself. From the very beginning He was pleased to address them, as such: “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father … he is My brother,” &c. (Mt 12:50); also, “I will declare My name to My brethen” (Heb. 2:12).

Mt 25:41. “Depart from Me,” you, who are so unlike Me, and never studied to become assimilated to Me in your lives. “Depart,” far away, so as never to see My face. “From Me,” who am Justice, Sanctity, Life, the Supreme Good, the Sovereign Beatitude. I can no longer endure your presence. “You cursed,” hateful to God, and execrated by Him. He does not say, “cursed” of My Father, as He said of the just, “blessed of my Father,” to show, that God is not the author of their misery, as He is of the happiness of His elect. They themselves were the authors, the cause of their own misfortunes, owing to the wicked lives which they led. The words, “Depart from Me,” refer to the pain of loss, which is reputed by many to be the greatest torment of the damned.

But, where are they to go from Him? “Into everlasting fire.” These words denote, the pain of sense. “Fire,” to last, not merely for a time; but, for ever. “Prepared for the devil and his angels.” Although the antithesis is very marked in the other parts of the sentence, “Come, ye blessed;” “begone, ye cursed;” “possess the kingdom;” “depart into everlasting fire;” still, it is not fully carried out in these words. For, in reference to His elect, He says, “prepared for you,” in order to show, the beneficent designs of God in their regard; and to convey, that if they obtain heaven, as the reward of merit, this is attributable to the predestinating mercy and grace of God. But here, He says not, “prepared for you;” but, “for the devil and his angels,” to show, that, so far as He is concerned, God did not wish for their damnation, but rather for the salvation of all; and that they brought it upon themselves to be involved in the fate of the demons. It was not God prepared this torture for them. It was they themselves that did so. The words, “Depart from Me,” express the pain of loss, “into everlasting fire,” the pain of sense, and the eternity of both. The words also convey the unspeakable severity of the pains of the damned; since, they are to be sharers in the inconceivable tortures, which these fiends of hell have earned for themselves. The fire of hell was “prepared for the devil and his (associate) angels,” antecedently, to the sin or creation of man.

Mt 25:42-43. Here is assigned the cause of their condemnation, viz., their omission to succour Him. The words, as regards the reprobate, are very striking. “I was hungry.” I, who gave you all you had, or hoped to have. I, to whom you were indebted for everything. “I was hungry,” and suffering in every way; and with the means of relieving Me within your reach, you refused to do so. You refused to pay Me back even the tithes of what was my own. In the words which express the cause of the condemnation of the reprobate, two things are to be observed:—

Firstly. That they are represented as condemned for mere sins of omission; and if such be the severity of the sentence against those who omitted doing good, what shall be the punishment of those who never ceased to do evil? If he be condemned, who neglected to solace the afflicted, what shall be his punishment who added affliction to affliction, who persecuted the poor and the needy?

Secondly. The comparatively trifling things required of the reprobate, in order to escape damnation. Even though they might have committed other grievous sins beyond number, still, if they had shown a merciful, beneficent disposition to relieve those in distress, they would, most probably, have inclined God to forgive them, to grant them, in consideration of their merciful deeds, grace and mercy in turn, full time and grace for repentance. Having shown no mercy, they dried up the fountain of mercy, and received a judgment without mercy, in consequence.

It may be laid down as a general truth, founded on experience, that, in the end, a good death awaits those who show mercy to the poor. Indeed, the experience of God’s dealing with His creatures would show this to be generally true. So that we may say, that the final conversion of great sinners, the grace of true repentance accorded to them, was owing to their having themselves shown mercy; that although God had reason to condemn them, considering their many outrages, which provoked His anger, yet even in His anger He remembered their deeds of mercy, and spared them accordingly.

Let us hear St. Augustine on this subject: “Scriptum est, ‘Sicut aqua extinguit ignem, ita eleemosyna extinguit peccatum,’ proinde illis, quos coronaturus est, solas eleemosynas imputabit. Tanquam dicens; difficile est, si examincm vos, et appendam vos, et scruter diligentissime peccata vestra, non inveniam unde vos damnem. Sed ite in regnum. ‘Esurivi enim et dedistis mihi manducare.’ Non, ergo, itis in regnum, quia non peccastis; sed quia peccata vestra eleemosynis redemistis” (St. Augustine, Ser. 33, de diversis). So that the words of our Lord are literally fulfilled. It is because, they ministered to His wants, in His suffering members, that those, who were wicked before, are now saved, and crowned with glory. The same may apply to all the just, who received the grace of final perseverance, on account of their deeds of mercy, which they would forfeit had they neglected to show mercy.

Hence, whether we consider those among God’s elect, who were once sinners, or those who preserved their innocence, it may be said, that, while their salvation was the immediate result of God’s infinite mercy; it was remotely, in every case, the result of their mercy to the poor, which influenced God to favour them with a judgment of mercy.

It is, unfortunately, equally true of those who are hard-hearted towards the poor, however observant in other respects, that, in almost every case, they die a bad death, and receive “a judgment without mercy, as they themselves did not show mercy.”

Mt 25:44-45. They shall thus arrogantly question Him, in a fit of despair, charging our Lord with being an unjust judge, condemning them unjustly. This they shall not do in words, but in their thoughts, their conscience bearing testimony against them. For, our Redeemer would not permit them thus to gainsay His just judgment. The just and the reprobate shall both utter these words, but from quite different feelings; the former, from feelings of humility, which made them seem unconscious of the good they did, and of gratitude to God, for all His mercies, to which they ascribe their salvation; the latter, out of feelings of pride and despair, endeavouring to make excuses for their sins, “ad excusandas excusationes in peceatis.” Had they the smallest feelings of charity; had they the bowels of commiseration, they would not have failed to see, in the afflicted poor, the image of Him, who Himself became poor to make us rich, nor would they have refused Him any assistance, in the persons of the poor, who gave even the last drop of His precious blood for them.

One is touched, says St. Chrysostom (Hom. 80 in Mattheum), with compassion on beholding a beast die of hunger, and we are borne naturally to relieve him; and yet, without emotion, we hear our Lord and Master calling for bread, in the person of His starving poor, and are insensible to the pressing wants of our brother, purchased by the blood of Christ. We are deaf to the voice of God, who demands of us, to succour His poor members, only for the purpose of bestowing His treasures on us. We appear indifferent to the praises and crowns which the Son of God will bestow in the midst of the assembled nations: and to the ineffable glory with which the just shall be clad as their recompense. What tears should suffice to deplore such blindness and insensibility? What excuse for these miserable wretches, upon whom, neither the fear of punishment, nor the hopes of eternal goods, can make any impression?

This dialogue between our Lord and the damned, although it shall not take place in words, is introduced to give us an idea of the heinous nature of the crime of inhumanity to the poor.

Mt 25:46. The sentence of the Judge shall not be in vain. It shall be executed without delay, without appeal, without any diminution or remission of punishment.

“And these”—the last-named class, the reprobate—“shall go into everlasting punishment.” The earth shall open, and hell swallow them down into its seething furnaces of lurid fire and burning brimstone for ever, before the just ascend into heaven. (This is implied in the order of narrative given here), in order to increase the felicity of the just, by the contrast of their happiness with the misery of the reprobate, and by the consideration of their escape from these dreadful torments, owing to the gratuitous mercy of God, which they shall unceasingly magnify and extol for all eternity.

In this verse, is contained a clear refutation of the errors of Origen, and of the Anabaptists, regarding the eternity of the pains of hell. For, it is said here, the damned will go into eternal punishment, as the just into life everlasting. The Greek word for “everlasting” is the same in both (αἰώνιον).

The eternal duration of punishment for a sin committed in an instant may seem strange, but, even human laws visit certain crimes committed in an instant with exile, or death, which is a sort of eternal exclusion from society (St. Augustine, Lib. 21, c. 11); and in reference to the eternity of God’s punishment, we should bear in mind—1. That the will of the sinner is such, that he would sin eternally, if he could. 2. That the offence is offered to an eternal God, a God of infinite majesty. 3. That sin deserves punishment as long as its guilt remains unexpiated; and, as in hell there is no redemption, no grace, no expiation, the guilt of sin remains for ever. Hence, God, who must hate sin, must punish it as long as it remains, that is to say, for eternity.

This applies as well to believers, as to unbelievers. For, it is to believers, the sentence, or rather, the cause of the sentence, applies; since, it is not to the want of faith, but of good works, the damnation of the reprobate is ascribed in this passage.

Thus shall have ended the terrible “day of the Lord,” this last of days, after which there shall be no longer days, nor years, nor times, nor seasons, nor ages. Time is now closed for ever. An awful eternal silence shall reign over what was once the face of Nature. All that shall remain of this immense creation shall be a boundless chaos. Man shall have entered the house of his eternity. We should all provide against this dreadful moment, which awaits all, not by mere wishes, not by mere barren desires of conversion; but, by labouring to perform the good works which the Sovereign Judge shall, on that day, demand at our hands—good works of charity and beneficence, towards “these least ones”—His afflicted poor, we should “make sure our vocation and election” (2 Peter 1:10).

At present, in regard to every one, may be repeated the words of Moses to the Jewish people, “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, benediction and malediction” (Deut. 30:19). To us in this life is proposed to choose between the joys of heaven and the pains of hell; the broad and the narrow way. Upon the choice we shall make now while we have time, while the day for working lasts, must depend, the term of either eternal happiness or eternal woe we shall arrive at in eternity, “Janua cœli, ora pro nobis.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 24

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018


In this chapter, our Redeemer, leaving the temple, probably for the last time, after having denounced the Scribes and Pharisees, predicts the utter ruin of that magnificent structure (Mt 24:1–2). His Apostles propose a twofold question—1st. Regarding the time of the menaced ruin of Jerusalem, and the final end of all things, which was to precede His glorious coming; and, 2ndly, regarding the precursory signs of these events. Replying to the second question first, regarding the precursory signs. He gives, as far as verse Mt 24:14, the signs that would apply equally to the ruin of Jerusalem, and the end of the world (Mt 24:3–14). He next gives the signs which apply, directly, to the ruin of Jerusalem, and, in a secondary way, to the final end of all things; the former being a type of the latter (Mt 24:15–28). He, then, gives the precursory signs of the final end of all things, when the Sovereign Judge shall come to judge all mankind (Mt 24:29–35). Replying to the first question, regarding the time of His second coming, He tells them, they must be ever kept in uncertainty on this point; and He, therefore, concludes, they should he always prepared for it, always on the watch, and not to be taken by surprise—ever engaged in the performance of good works (Mt 24:36–51).

Mt 24:1. “And Jesus being come out of the temple, went away.” After having been engaged during the day in preaching in the temple, He left it, probably, for the last time, as we read nowhere that He returned there again, and proceeded, as was His wont, to Mount Olivet (Luke 21:37), and lodged with Magdalen and Martha (A. Lapide). This occurred on the Wednesday before His Passion; and thus He closes His public ministry with the awful reproofs and predictions contained in the preceding chapter.

In the Greek, the word, “temple,” is not joined with “came out,” but with “went away” (ἐπορύετο εκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ).

“And His disciples,” who heard Him menace the temple with utter ruin (Mt 23:38), in the hope of moving Him to commiseration, so as to revoke His sentence, and spare the doomed city, “came to show Him the buildings of the temple”—the quality of the stones, and its magnificent proportions (Mark 13)—the splendid gifts with which it was enriched (Luke 21:5). The Zorobabelic Temple was rebuilt by Herod; and viewed, either in regard to its strength of structure, its magnificence, its costly materials, its rare beauty and ornamentation, it was an object of wonder and admiration (see Josephus de Antiq. Jud., Lib. 15, c. 11, where he gives a full description of the materials employed by Herod in rebuilding the temple). In directing the attention of our Lord to the magnificence of the temple, which was the glory of the Jewish people, the disciples wished to convey, what a pity it would be, if such a noble monument of piety were utterly destroyed, as had been menaced. Could such a thing be possible? In the minds of the Jews, the destruction of the temple and the end of the world were coeval, or, at least, some change in the constitution of the world should take place at the destruction of the temple (Bloomfield). The magnificence of earthly buildings can never appease the anger of God, provoked by sin. It availed the Jews but little of old to say, “the temple of the Lord,” &c. (Jer. 7:4) St. Mark (Mk 13:1) says, only one of His disciples addressed our Lord on this occasion. But there is no contradiction between him and St. Matthew. It may be, that the disciples had previously spoken among themselves on the subject; and that one, on the part of the others, addressed Him. Hence, they addressed Him through their spokesman; or, it may be that, after one had spoken, the others also spoke out, as is mentioned here by St. Matthew.

Mt 24:2. “Do you see all these things?” that is, consider again and again, this magnificent temple. This He says, in order to direct their attention the more to the judgment of God, and to show the deliberation with which He announces the following solemn threat, to which He prefixes the usual form of asseveration. “Amen, I say,” &c.; I assert it as a thing that shall unquestionably take place.

“There shall not be a stone,” &c. These words denote, utter destruction and ruin They were verified in the destruction of the temple by the Romans. They were however, verified afterwards more literally still; and the Jews themselves were made the instruments of this literal fulfilment, when, at the instance of Julian the apostate, they undertook to rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. They came together from all quarters of the globe. They lavishly contributed their choicest gifts towards the expenses of the work, aided by the State support and encouragement of the Imperial apostate, who thus sought to falsify the prediction of our Redeemer. They set about vigorously to work; and, in clearing the foundations, they did not leave a single stone upon another, of those left untouched by the Romans, in their work of destruction, so that the prophecy of our Redeemer was fully verified. The work was put a stop to, as we learn from Ammianus Marcellinus (Lib. 23), Socrates (Lib. 3, c. 20), and Sozomen (Lib. 5, c. ult.), by the Divine interposition. Horrible balls of fire issued from the foundations, rendering them inaccessible to the scorched workmen; and owing to repeated earthquakes, whatever was cleared away during the day, was thrown back, the next night, into the trenches, so that they were reluctantly obliged to discontinue the work altogether (see Alban. Butler, Lives of SS., March 18).

Mt 24:3. “And when He was sitting on Mount Olivet.” Our Redeemer, after preaching in the temple during the day, went out each evening to Bethania, whence, after refection, He retired to Mount Olivet, which was just nigh, where He “spent the night” (Luke 21:37), most likely, in prayer and preparation for His approaching Passion. It may be, on this occasion, that on His way to Bethania, and wearied from His labours, and weak from fasting during the day, He sat on Mount Olivet; or that, after partaking of supper, He returned to spend the night, and then sat down, “over against the temple” (Mark 13:3), of which He had a full view from Mount Olivet. This happened, according to some (Maldonatus), on the fourth day (viz., Wednesday) after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. According to others (Jansenius, &c.), on the third. The view of the temple, recalled to the minds of His disciples His prophecy relating to its destruction. Possibly, also, our Redeemer, in viewing the temple, may have again spoken of its coming destruction. “The disciples came to Him privately.” Mark (Mk 13:3) says, only four of them did so. It may be, that these four alone spoke and questioned Him, with the concurrence of the rest. This they did “privately,” away from the multitude. Others interpret, “privately” (A. Lapide), apart from the other disciples. These four referred to, who were most intimate with Him, question Him on this very delicate subject, which it was most dangerous to speak of publicly, lest it should reach the Scribes. St. Stephen’s death is owing to a charge of his having spoken on this subject (Acts 6:14).

“Tell us,” to whom you are accustomed to disclose what you do not wish to make known to all, “when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign?” &c. Mark (Mk 13:5) and Luke (Lk 21:7) have only—1st. “When shall these things be?” which have been so often prophesied by Thee, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem; and 2ndly. “The sign when all these things shall be begin to be fulfilled,” regarding Thy glorious coming; whereas, St. Matthew has, for the second question, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the consummation of the world?” Hence, some commentators, with St. Jerome, divide this latter question in St. Matthew into two, and say, the question of the disciples was threefold—1. The time of this menaced ruin of the temple; 2. Its sign; 3. The sign of the end of the world. It seems most probable, that the second question in St. Matthew is the same as that in Mark and Luke. The disciples imagined, from the parables of our Lord (Matt. 22:1, &c.; Luke 19:12), that the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the temple, would take place simultaneously with the destruction of the world; after which, they supposed our Redeemer’s glorious reign would commence. On the latter point, their ideas were of a very carnal character. Hence, they proposed two questions: the first regarded the destruction of Jerusalem, which they supposed would take place at His glorious coming; the second, the signs of those events, which they supposed to be near at hand. Our Redeemer first answers the second question, regarding the signs of His coming; and the question of the time in the next place.

Mt 24:4. There is a great diversity of opinion among commentators, regarding the meaning of the several parts of this chapter, and the events to which they refer. Some refer them to the destruction of Jerusalem; others, to the destruction of all things at the end of the world. St. Chrysostom, whose opinion is adopted by Jansenius Gandav. (Concord, c. cxxii.), understands the chapter, as far as verse Mt 24:23 exclusively, to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem; and all that preceded that event, as recorded by Josephus and Eusebius, perfectly squares with what our Redeemer says here, as far as verse 23, not even excepting the preaching of the Gospel (Mt 24:14), to the entire world, which, St. Chrysostom asserts, took place before the year 70, the period of the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. Others, with St. Jerome, St. Augustine, and Ven. Bede, whose opinion is preferred by Maldonatus, hold, that our Redeemer treats, as far as Mt 24:23, of both the destruction of Jerusalem and that of the world, without distinguishing one from the other; and that, from the text, we must see to which He may specially refer in any particular verse. For, as the questions of the Apostles confusedly referred to both, our Redeemer answers their questions as they proposed them, not wishing to separate His allusion to the end of the world distinctly from His allusion to the end of Jerusalem, lest, after the destruction of the temple, the Apostles and His followers might rest too secure, in respect to the distant approach of the Day of Judgment. It may be, that our Redeemer connects the description of the Day of Judgment with the destruction of Jerusalem, and speaks indifferently of both, in order to convey to us, that the woes and dreadful sufferings of the Jews, at the taking of Jerusalem, were a type and the prelude of the evils which shall fall upon the wicked, the enemies of God, during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, at the approach of the final destruction of the earth. In truth, the precursory signs regarding “false prophets,” &c., which indicated the near approach of the ruin of Jerusalem, shall also usher in the Day of Judgment. (Rev. 10, &c.) This latter opinion seems very likely. The predictions regarding the two events are so closely interwoven in some passages, and the expressions and imagery employed, in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, so applicable to the Day of Judgment, that we may fairly hold, that in the passage where He may primarily and directly refer to the former event, He, in a secondary sense, alludes to the latter. This secondary, or implied sense, is, by no means, unusual in prophetical writings, in which two subjects, a primary and subordinate one, are treated of simultaneously, the same words being applied to both.

“Take heed,” are words of earnest caution. “That no one seduce you,” from My faith from the law of God, from the Gospel. Before giving the precursory signs which His disciples were desirous of ascertaining, probably, out of curiosity, and from a desire of knowing how soon they were to be made sharers in His glorious kingdom, of which they still conceived carnal notions, our Redeemer forewarns them of the evils and dangers they should expect to occur, that thus they might not be moved when they saw them come to pass, as He had predicted. These are, the appearance of false teachers and impostors—wars and other calamities—persecution and several temptations, as well from false brethren as from impostors; finally, the dreadful carnage and misery which would be suffered in the actual ruin of the city, to avoid which, those who are in Judea should fly and betake themselves elsewhere.

Mt 24:5. “Many will come in My name, saying I am Christ.” Such were Theodas, to whom Gamaliel refers (Acts 5:36). Such was the Egyptian impostor mentioned by Josephus (Lib. 2, Bel. c. 12; Acts 21:38); Simon Magus (Acts 8), called “the power of God,” who gave himself out as the Blessed Trinity, and by his incantations, succeeded at Rome in having a statue erected for himself on the Tiber, with the inscription, “Simoni, Deo Magno.” Such, in fine, were the entire swarm of heretics who then appeared, and are called by St. John, “many Antichrists.” These gave themselves out for Christs, because they pretended to have in view to free the people from the yoke of tyranny, to become their saviours and liberators, which was the office of Christ. Instead of this, they only brought on them speedy destruction and utter ruin.

“And shall seduce many,” particularly from among the Jews, who, having rejected Christ, who came in the name of His Father, will receive and adhere to the impostors who came of themselves, unsent. History testifies how this was verified at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem; and to it St. Luke refers, when he says (Lk 21:8), “And the time is at hand; go ye not, therefore, after them.” No doubt, the same shall be true of the period of the end of the world. Then, shall Antichrist work wonders, to seduce them that perish. (2 Thess. 2:9, 10, &c.)

Mt 24:6. “And you shall hear of wars,” &c. For “and,” the Vulgate has “enim,” “for,” and the Greek, δε, “but.” If the Vulgate reading be adopted, “for,” has reference to what follows; as if He said: See that you be not troubled, because of your “hearing of wars,” &c. In the Greek, it is a digression to another precursory sign. Our Redeemer having warned them against being seduced from the path of justice by the blandishments of false teachers, now cautions them against being turned aside by the fear of evil. “Wars,” tumults, seditions, &c., and what is more embarrassing and terrifying, “rumours of wars.” This was literally verified at the destruction of Jerusalem. The history of the wars and bloodshed among the Jews, which preceded the final destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, as well in Jerusalem itself, as in the provinces, is given by Josephus (Lib. 2 de Bello, Jud. to the end of Lib. 7). The same shall happen, no doubt, at the end of the world (Apocalypse). So that this second sign applies to the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world.

“For, these things must come to pass,” not from absolute necessity; but, as a matter of consequent necessity, like scandals, heresies, &c., considering the malice of man, on the one hand; and the decrees of God, drawing good out of the evil, which He permits, on the other. “These things,” wars, and rumours of wars. Why, then, should men be disturbed or turned aside from the straight path, by events which cannot be avoided, that must come to pass by a just judgment of God?

“But the end is not yet,” that is, the end of the evils, which are to fall on Jerusalem. Greater ones still are to follow, or, “the end” of the world, which is to be preceded by the wars of Antichrist. (St. Jerome, Theophylact, &c.) The word, “end,” may, probably, refer to both, one being the type and precursor of the other.

Mt 24:7. “For, nation shall rise against nation.” This shall occur at the end of the world. History testifies how it did happen previous to the ruin of Jerusalem (Josephus de Bello, Lib. 2, de Bello, cc. 11–25; Hegesippus Lib. 2, cc. 11–17). St. Jerome, Ven. Bede, St. Augustine, &c., say, that as our Redeemer had been asked by His Apostles in an indistinct sort of way about the end of Jerusalem and the end of the world, so, He replies to both indistinctly, mixing up one with the other. This He does as far as Mt 24:15, in order that the Apostles and the faithful would be kept in a state of suspense, and be always prepared for both events. Then, from Mr 24:15 to Mt 24:29, He treats exclusively of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the signs that shall precede it. From that, to the close of the chapter, He treats of the phenomena that shall precede and usher in the end of the world.

“And there shall be pestilences, and famines,” &c. That the Jews suffered famine before the final destruction of Jerusalem, is attested by Josephus (Lib. 20, Antiq. c. 2, 3); the same also appears from Acts 11:28, &c. “Pestilences” are a concomitant of famine. Although Josephus says nothing of it; still, it is what commonly happens. “Earthquakes in places,” that is, in different places. The only record we have of any earthquakes before the destruction of Jerusalem, is that left by Eusebius in Chronicon, relative to an earthquake which, in the reign of Nero, occurred at Rome, whereby three cities in Asia were destroyed. Josephus, who makes mention of famine in Judea, which, pestilence usually accompanies, is silent regarding the occurrence of any earthquake there, probably, being intent on recording more signal calamities.

We have all these signs repeated in latter times, pointing out, that the world is now growing old, and approaching its end, as the repeated attacks of illness warns the patient, who grows weaker after each, that he is to expect his end to be arriving.

St. Luke (Lk 21:11), adds—“and terrors from heaven, and there shall be great signs.” These are to precede the end of the world (Rev. 8 and 9; see also Mt 24:29). They also preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. For instance, a terrible comet, in the form of a sword, hung over Jerusalem for twelve months before its destruction. During the assemblage of the people at the Pasch, a bright mid-day light shone for half an hour at night, in the temple, and voices were heard in the temple, crying out, “Let us remove hence.” The Oriental gate of the temple, which twenty men could hardly move, opened of its own accord, during the dead hour of night. In the air were seen armed bands, chariots, and fighting. Four years before the commencement of the Jewish war, while Jerusalem yet enjoyed profound peace and abundance, a poor plebeian husbandman, named Jesus, the son of Ananias, at the Feast of Tabernacles, began suddenly to cry out, “A voice from the east; a voice from the west; a voice from the four winds; a voice against Jerusalem and against the temple; a voice against the bridegroom, and against the bride; a voice against all the people.” This was his unceasing cry day and night, as he passed through the lanes and streets of the city. Some persons of rank, unable to endure words of such bad omen, caused him to be apprehended and scourged. At every stroke, he repeated, in a plaintive and doleful tone, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem When Jerusalem was besieged by Titus,” his predictions were found to be verified. He then went round the walls of the city and began to cry, “Woe, woe to the city; woe to the people; woe to the temple;” on which, having added, “Woe to myself,” he was killed by a stone discharged from one of the engines of the enemy (Josephus, Lib. vi. c. 5, de Bel. Jud.; Eusebius, Lib. 3, Histor c. 8)

Mt 24:8. Greater evils still shall succeed, of which the preceding are but the premonitory symptoms. The Greek word for sorrow (ωδινων), means, the throes of childbirth. The idea is, that the calamities spoken of, compared with those which are to follow, are just like the premonitory symptoms of approaching childbirth, compared with the acute throes of parturition. This is an illustration quite familiar, and frequently to be met with in SS. Scripture. And, in truth, whosoever reads the account of the calamities which occurred in the actual sacking of Jerusalem, when on it fell “all the just blood shed since that of Abel.” &c. (Mt 23:35), see Josephus, Lib. 6 and 7, de Belle can see how this was verified. The same applies also to the precursory signs that shall precede, and the dreadful evils that shall take place at the destruction of the world, when a just God shall discharge the full vial of His wrath on the devoted heads of His guilty enemies.

Mt 24:9. Having cautioned them against being disturbed by the evils that shall happen others, our Redeemer now forewarns them against the evils that may happen themselves, lest they might imagine that they themselves would be free from calamities, so that when these things would happen, they might not be disturbed. For, hitherto, they were only thinking of the joys of His glorious kingdom.

“Then they shall deliver you up to be afflicted,” that is, men shall so afflict you in divers ways, that you would seem to be given over to tribulation.

“Shall put you to death,” &c. The history of the infant Church, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, informs us how the Apostles and the faithful were persecuted, and put to death, and hated, for the name of Christ, both by Jews and Gentiles. These things happened even before the menaced evils had fallen on Jerusalem. For, St. John was the only one of the Apostles who survived its destruction. Hence, St. Luke says (Lk 21:12), “but, before all things, they will lay their hands on you,” &c. It is observed, that St. Matthew does not so minutely or circumstantially detail the evils which were to befall the Apostles, as is done by St. Luke and St. Mark; but this is accounted for, as St. Matthew had done so already, (Mt 10:17. &c.)

The same shall happen before the end of the world, in the persecuting reign of Antichrist, whose persecution, preceded by those remarkable ones commenced under Nero, shall be the last and the most dreadful that the Church had ever encountered.

Mt 24:10. “Many shall be scandalized,” &c. From fear of death or persecution, they shall apostatize from the faith. Many Christians, in the early period referred to, had abandoned the faith, and from faithful brethren, became enemies and false brethren, betraying their nearest friends, to gain the favour of the great, and hated one another. This intestine war is referred to by St. Paul (2 Cor. 11), a falsis fratribus. Others understand it of Pagans, who, seeing the persecution endured by the Christians, “shall be scandalized,” alienated from the faith, so that “a brother shall betray a brother unto death … and children shall rise up against their parents” (Mark 13:12). “Hate one another,” has reference, probably, to the hatred of apostates for their former associates, even when they did not go the length of betraying them.

11. “False prophets.” By these are meant the heretics, who sprang up in the very midst of the persecutions of the Church. These, while they confess the true Christ, and pretend to be teachers sent by God, shall, pretending to act in His name, disseminate error. Of such St. Paul complains. (2 Cor. 11; Philip. 3; Gal. 4, &c.) So does St. Peter (2 Peter 2); and St. John terms them Antichrists. St. Paul predicts their coming (Acts 20:30). Among these false prophets, might be counted Ebion, Cerinthus, the Nicolaites, and the whole swarm of the early Gnostics. In latter times, Luther, Calvin, and last of all, Antichrist.

Mt 24:12. This is another great evil. In consequence of the prevalence, and superior force of iniquity, that is, of the persecutions of tyrants, of infidelity, of heresy, of the hatred borne the faithful, of the seduction by “false prophets,” &c., “the charity of many shall grow bold.” By “charity,” is commonly understood, Christian charity, the love of God, in the first place, from whom they will revolt, having begun before to love Him by faith. To such, St. Paul refers, “erunt homines seipsos amantes,” &c. (2 Tim. 2) To this charity he refers, “quis nos separabit a charitate Christi?” (Rom. 8) It also embraces the love of our neighbour. Those who had hitherto the charity to relieve their Christian brethren will, owing to the pressure of persecution, refuse all assistance, lest they might appear as Christians themselves. Of this we have an example (2 Tim. 4:16), where St. Paul says, he was forsaken by all his former friends. Our Redeemer forewarns His Apostles of all this, in order to strengthen them against these trials, whenever they might occur. The words of this verse seem to be the conclusion, or rather, the brief repetition, of what was asserted in verses Mt 24:10-11.

Mt 13. “Shall persevere.” The Greek, υπομεινας, means, enduring, bearing up against trials; which is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (Lk 21:19), “in patientia vestra,” &c. (ὑπομονῆ). “Shall persevere” in the faith and charity of Christ, “unto the end” of the persecution, or rather end of his life, so as to endure patiently these trials, shall obtain eternal salvation. From this it appears, that “the charity” in the preceding refers to the charity of God, the loss of which entails eternal death; whosoever shall not persevere in it, “shall not be saved.” The words of this verse also show, that by “charity growing cold,” is meant the entire loss of charity, since it is contrasted with that perseverance which alone insures eternal life. Our Redeemer having, in the preceding, fortified them against the evils from without, on the part of infidels (Mt 24:9), and from within, on the part of the false brethren (Mt 24:10-11), now conseles them with the assurance, that their patient endurance and perseverance to the end in these trials shall insure their salvation, which is expressed by St. Luke in another form, “in patientia vestra possidebitis animas vestras,” that is, shall save your souls. The word for “patience,” (υπομονη), in St. Luke (Lk 21:19), is the same as that for “persevere,” here (ὕπομεινας).

Mt 24:14. The Redeemer gives the fifth sign, to meet an objection which might tacitly present itself on the part of the Apostles, as if they said: If the world be thus confused, and the obstacles to our preaching the Gospel so great, why then send us forward to preach? Our Redeemer tells them, that, notwithstanding these obstacles, the Gospel shall be preached, and that successfully, before the end shall come. Hence, relying on the Divine promise, they should vigorously persevere—undervaluing all obstacles—in preaching “this Gospel of the kingdom,” which announces the opening of “the kingdom of heaven,” by the blood and redemption of Christ, so long shut against men.

“For a testimony,” &c. So that this preaching of the Gospel shall serve as a testimony to all the Gentile nations, of the paternal providence, love, and solicitude of God for their salvation, through Christ, who omitted no means of insuring it. The universal preaching of it, notwithstanding the opposing obstacles, shall confirm their faith in God’s power, and thus be a “testimony,” and shall render them inexcusable, if they reject it; or, it may mean, that it will serve as a testimony of the love of God for the Jews, to whom salvation was offered in the first instance by Christ, which they, having obstinately and perfidiously rejected, the Gospel was, in consequence, transferred to the nations who were substituted for them in the favour of God. It would be made clearly known to the entire world, that the Jews wore justly abandoned on account of their multiplied crimes, which culminated in the murder of His eternal Son, and the persecution of His servants. The former seems to be the more probable opinion, which understands “testimony,” of the clear proof, which the preaching of the Gospel, in the midst of insuperable obstacles, among the Gentiles, would give them of God’s power, and of the Divine origin of the Gospel thus preached. This would confirm and strengthen their faith.

It is disputed whether reference is here made to the destruction of Jerusalem, or to the end of the world. It most likely refers to both. Our Redeemer conseles His Apostles with the assurance, that before the menaced evils shall fall on the unhappy Jerusalem, the Gospel shall be preached throughout the world. That this was done, we are assured by St. Paul (Rom. 1:8; 10:18; Col. 1:5, 6, 23). In all these passages, the Apostle says the Gospel was preached throughout the world, in the sense that it reached the principal portions of the then known world; and if we bear in mind how much St. Paul himself did, to how many countries he preached the Gospel (Rom. 15:19), it is not to be wondered at that the Apostles, who were animated with the same spirit, should, after parcelling out the world for the theatre of their labours, have preached the faith through all the parts of the then known world. This happened before the ruin of Jerusalem, when the Apostles wore all dead except St. John. Hence, the words can apply to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the same shall be true of the end of the world. The evils which preceded the ruin of Jerusalem, the carnage, bloodshed, and dreadful calamities which occurred at it, are but a type of another end; of the still greater calamities and evils of every kind, which shall precede the Day of Judgment, and shall occur on it. The word “end,” then, refers to the end of Jerusalem, and the end of the world, of which the former, with all its circumstances, was a very expressive type.

“Then the end.” How soon after the preaching of the Gospel throughout the world, in a limited sense, the end of Jerusalem was to come, or after it is preached in a more perfect and extended sense, the end of the world was to take place, our Redeemer does not say; but, neither event was to occur until the Gospel was preached throughout the world, in a limited sense, as regarded the end of Jerusalem, and in a more extended and perfect sense, embracing all parts of the world successively, as regards the end of all things. God wished to have the Gospel preached throughout the nations, before the utter destruction of Jerusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews; because, He did not wish utterly to abandon one people till He had adopted to Himself another, through the preaching of the Gospel. And, moreover, He wished, by this means, to make known to the entire world the impiety and ingratitude of the Jews, which drew down upon them the signal chastisements of heaven; and this event would be calculated to confirm the faith of the Gentile world. He wished it to be preached in a most extended and Catholic sense, to all the nations, before the end of the world, out of His infinitely merciful desire to reject no nation, however barbarous, but to offer to all the means of salvation. It is, then, better to understand our Redeemer as referring, in the first fourteen verses of this chapter, both to the end of the world and to the end of Jerusalem indifferently, as well as to the events which were to occur at both. Hardly any event or circumstance recorded in the first fourteen verses that will not apply to both, the one being intended to be a type and forerunner of the other.

Mt 24:15. “When, therefore you shall see,” &c. “Therefore,” would seem not so much to express a conclusion, as a continuation of the discourse, and to indicate that our Redeemer was passing on to another topic, or to another sign of the “end,” concerning which they questioned Him. Having described or pointed out the signs, common to the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the world, indifferently, in the foregoing, He now proceeds to give the distinctive signs of the destruction of Jerusalem, in reply to the first question, “When shall these things be?” as far as verse 29; and then, He commences to give the distinctive marks of the approaching destruction of the world, to the close of the chapter. In giving the signs of both indifferently in the foregoing, our Redeemer wishes to impress upon us the dreadful nature of the evils and woes that shall befall the wicked at the end of the world; since, of these, the shocking evils inflicted on Jerusalem, the bare recital of which, even at this remote period, makes us shudder, were but a mere figure—evils, the very sight of which, forced Titus, this hardened man of blood, at the head of the iron legions of Rome, stretching forth his hands, to invoke Heaven as witness, that he was in no way responsible for these unutterable woes. (Josephus de Bel. Jud. Lib. v. c. 10, &c.)

“The abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the Prophet.” In these words, there is allusion to Daniel (Dan 9:27), “there shall be in the temple abomination of desolation: and the desolation shall continue even to the consummation, and to the end,” because, the temple, no matter what efforts may be made, never can be rebuilt. In Dan 12:11, “the abomination unto desolation shall be set up,” &c., Daniel speaks of the end of the world, whereas in Dan 9:27, he speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, to which our Redeemer distinctly refers here. Commentators are greatly divided as to what “the abomination of desolation,” means. Those who say, there is allusion here to the end of the world, (Irenæus, &c.), mean by it, Antichrist, who “shall sit in the temple of God … as if he were God” (2 Thess. 2:4). But, it is clear from St. Luke (Lk 21:20), where, for “abomination of desolation,” we read, “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about with an army, then know that the desolation thereof is at hand,” that our Redeemer distinctly refers to the destruction of Jerusalem, of which He here gives a premonitory sign in reply to the question of the disciples; and, moreover, in the passage quoted from Daniel, there is no allusion to the reign of Antichrist, but only to the desolation of Jerusalem; hence, various interpretations of the words, in connexion with this event, are given. By it, some understand, the statue of Cæsar, placed by Pilate, in the temple; or, the equestrian statue of Adrian, which, St. Jerome tells us, was placed in the sanctum sanctorum. But, although a statue or idol was an abomination with the Jews (see 1 Macc. 1:57, where the Greek for, “abominable idol of desolation,” is the same as here, βδέλυγμα τῆς έρημώσεως), and the words, “standing in the holy place,” would suit this interpretation; still, neither statue could be referred to, as a sign of the devastation of Jerusalem. For, the placing of Cæsar’s statue happened before our Redeemer spoke these words (if it was placed there at all by Pilate, which is questioned by some, as Josephus says nothing about it), and that of Adrian was placed there after the destruction of Jerusalem, and could not, therefore, serve as a warning, to leave a city that was to be destroyed. Hence, some commentators understand by it, the army of the Romans, who, in approaching and entering Jerusalem, in a hostile spirit, would not hesitate to display their idols on their banners, and offer sacrifice to their gods. These things were an abomination to the Jews, and this abomination portended desolation and utter ruin. And they would “stand on the holy place,” that is, Jerusalem, which the Evangelist calls, the holy city (Mt 4:5). It was such as yet, not having been yet wholly abandoned by God. This refers to the time of Cœstius Gallus, prefect of Syria, who surrounded Jerusalem with an army; but afterwards, raised the siege, and retired inglorious from before the walls of Jerusalem. It could not refer to the final destruction, under Titus, as then, there was no opportunity for escaping. Others, by “abomination of desolation,” understand, the occupation of the temple by seditious Jews and turbulent malefactors (the Zealots), who got possession of the temple at the time of Cœstius, and held it for three years and a half, in spite of the Jews themselves, until its final destruction by Titus. These made the sacred enclosures of the holy house, a place of carnage and a citadel of defence. They were guilty of the greatest atrocities within its walls, and filled the different halls with pools of innocent blood, sparing neither priests nor people. (Josephus de Bel. Jud., Lib. iv. c. 3, 5, 6, &c.) This seems to be the most probable interpretation, because these really stood in the temple, as Daniel predicted. They profaned it, and committed atrocities there, and this was both the sign and immediate cause of its destruction. For, had they given it up, the Romans would have spared it. Perhaps, however, it might be better to understand the words, of the Roman invading army, and of the Jewish Zealots, who defended the temple. For, the besiegers and defenders of Jerusalem were an abomination. The Romans, on account of their idols; the Zealots, on account of their crimes, and the carnage they were guilty of. Both stood in the holy place, where they “ought not” (Mark 13:14). (The Hebrew for holy place means, “super alam”—“above the wing,” or extremity of Jerusalem and the temple, “there shall be desolating abominations.”) Both stood at the extremity of Jerusalem and the temple; nay, in the very temple. The Zealots, who made it a citadel, and its halls, places of carnage; the Romans, by undermining, burning, consuming it, and slaughtering the Jews there like cattle, and introducing their standards, adorned with, images, of their false gods. The union of both the former interpretations in this one, will fully explain the entire passage; particularly, if we understand it, of the attack of Cœstius, which preceded that of Titus, and of the defence made against him by the Zealots. The Hebrew of the Prophet Daniel, which has “abominations” in the plural, would seem to refer to the abomination on the part of the Romans, and that on the part of the Jews themselves. It was in consequence “of an old tradition among the Jews, that the city would be destroyed, whenever the hands of the Jews themselves would profane their temple” (Josephus, Lib. v. c. 2), that many of the better classes among the Jews fled from Jerusalem, as from a sinking vessel, after the withdrawal of Cœstius; and relying on the same tradition, but particularly on the prophetic warning of our Lord, the Christians, and among them, St. Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, who lived till the time of Trajan, fled to the territories of king Agrippa, and to the city of Pella in particular, beyond the Jordan.

Maldonatus understands by, “the abomination of desolation,” or, “the abominable or horrid desolation,” the desolation itself; and he says it was not given as a sign, by any means, of the desolation, since it could not be a sign of itself. Our Redeemer gave, as a sign, the surrounding of Jerusalem by an army. For, Maldonatus holds, that our Redeemer used both phrases, “when you shall see Jerusalem compassed about by an army” (Luke 21:20)—which was a sign of impending destruction—and, “when you shall see the abomination of desolation,” &c. When you witness these two events, then you are to conclude, that the prophecy of Daniel, regarding the utter ruin of Jerusalem, is fulfilled. According to him, the words of this verse, “when you see the abomination,” &c., are not connected with the words of next verse, “then, they that are in Judea,” &c., nor is their sense any way suspensive or dependent on them. The sentence concludes fully with the words of this verse, “he that readeth, let him understand.” The interpretation, however, which makes them dependent on the following verse, is the one more commonly adopted. Hence, the words mean: “When you shall see Jerusalem surrounded with an army,” viz., of Cœstius, and immediately after, or in connexion with it, an abominable band of brigands establish themselves in the temple, or, “the holy place,” “where they should not” (Mark 13:14). Then, “he that reads, let him understand,” that is, whoever has sense, let him understand that the words of Daniel (Dan 9:27), “and there shall be in the temple the abomination of desolation,” &c., are fulfilled. Some interpreters (Patrizzi, Lib. 1, cap. 1, de Ev. M., §§ 2, &c.), understand these to be the words, not of our Lord, but of the Evangelist, encouraging the faithful to understand the verification of the words of Daniel. In this interpretation, the words are parenthetical, containing an allusion to the words of Daniel (Dan 9:25), and the sense of the foregoing suspended until the sentence is completed in the next verse, thus: “When you shall see,” &c., verse 15 (he that heareth let him understand), “then, they that are in Judea,” &c., verse 16.

Mt 24:16. “Then,” when you shall see all this happening, it shall be a signal for you to escape, with all haste, for your lives. “Those who are in Judea,” where Jerusalem is situated. It includes all the land of Israel and Galilee, which were first destroyed by Vespasian. “Fly to the mountains,” places difficult of access, and a safe retreat from an enemy. St. Luke (Lk 21:21) adds, “and those who are in the midst thereof depart out; and let those who are in other countries not enter into it.” Maldonatus refers, “then,” to all the preceding signs, viz., when you shall hear of wars, &c., and see the other signs of the devastation of Jerusalem, “then,” fly with as much speed as possible.

Mt 24:17. “House-top,” is allusive to the flat roofs of the houses in Judea, where the people used to walk, &c. The houses were provided with two staircases—one inside; the other, outside on the street. By the latter, or, as some suppose, over the flat roofs of the other houses, to the city walls, they are recommended to fly. “Let him not come down,” &c. Descending in the most expeditious way possible, let him make no delay, by entering the house, to take anything out of it for his approaching flight. Let him busy himself only about the most expeditious way of accomplishing his escape.

Mt 24:18. “He that is in the field,” whether walking or labouring, “let him not go back to take his coat,” however necessary for his journey; but, let him fly as quickly as possible, in whatever costume he may chance to be at the time. In southern countries, husbandmen, when at work, used to leave their upper garments, the cloak and coat, at home.

The words of this, and of the preceding verses (Mt 24:16-17), are proverbial or hyperbolical forms of expression, conveying the imminent nature of the danger, and the necessity of immediate and speedy flight, as well as the magnitude of the evils that were approaching, since men should sacrifice everything sooner than encounter or endure them. Although six months elapsed between the raising of the siege, by Cœstius, and the march of Vespasian into Galilee, and a still longer period between it and the siege of Jerusalem, by Titus; still, this would be very short, when we consider the lingering delays that oftentimes embarrass those who are leaving their beloved country for ever. Hence, our Redeemer urges them to the greatest expedition and haste in their flight, on their beholding the signs He gives them of the ruin and unutterable woes that were to befall the unhappy Jerusalem.

St. Luke (Lk 21:22) adds, as the cause of all this urgent admonition—“For, these are the days of vengeance, that all things may be fulfilled, that are written,” in the book of Daniel, and the other prophets, concerning the ruin of Jerusalem, and the vengeance to be inflicted on the Jews, for all the just blood they shed, from that of Abel downwards.

Mt 24:19. “Those who are with child, or that give suck,” cannot fly with sufficient speed; nor can they leave their charge behind, as easily as those can, who leave their money, &c., on account of the strong natural affection of a mother for her offspring. They shall be, therefore, caught and butchered by the Romans. Our Redeemer selects them, in preference to the aged and decrepit; both, because, of the happiness and ease they are wont to enjoy, and which shall now be converted into the greatest tribulation; and also to show the fearful havoc and indiscriminate slaughter that shall take place, since the pregnant and nursing women, who are ordinarily spared in war, shall meet with no mercy from the Romans. Perhaps, also, he alludes to the straits to which some unhappy mothers were to be reduced in the siege of Jerusalem, when, as we learn from Josephus, they devoured their own children, to appease hunger.

Mt 24:20. As in the preceding, He refers to two classes of persons; so here he refers to two periods of time, unsuited for flight. “In winter,” the state of the weather, and of the roads, render flight very troublesome and inconvenient. “Or on the Sabbath,” when the converted Jews, although the Mosaic ceremonies were then abolished, would still observe the law, regarding a Sabbath-day’s journey, and would, under no circumstances, transgress it, although, in cases of necessity, or danger of life, this did not oblige; still, some Jews did not admit even this exception. At this time, the converted Jews were permitted, though not bound, to observe the Mosaic ceremonies, and our Redeemer here speaks in accommodation to their well-known feelings on the matter. The words of this verse mean: Pray to God, that you may escape these dreadful evils, and that nothing may obstruct your flight; and they also convey to us, by a familiar illustration, an idea of the menaced calamities, which would be such, that they should fervently pray for any circumstances that might mitigate their severity. St. Luke tells us the reason (Lk 21:23), “For, there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon the people.” History fully testifies to the fearful fulfilment of this sad prediction (Josephus, de Bel. Jnd., Lib. 3–7).

Mt 24:21. “For there shall be great tribulation,” &c. St. Augustine says (Epistle 8), that while it would be difficult to determine, from St. Matthew or St. Mark, whether there was reference here to the Day of Judgment or to the siege of Jerusalem, St. Luke determines it as referring to the latter, just as he clearly points out what “the abomination of desolation” refers to. He explains in what these dreadful evils shall consist: “they shall fall by the edge of the sword … Jerusalem shall be trodden down,” &c. (Lk 21:24.) The word, “for,” shows it refers to the foregoing. It is assigned as a reason for their rapid flight.

“Great tribulation, such was not from the beginning of the world, nor shall be.” Any one who reads the account, given by Josephus, of the dreadful and almost incredible calamities which befell the unhappy Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, may clearly see how this was fulfilled. And although, it may be, that during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, the sufferings may be more general; yet, hardly shall any fall so heavily, in point of horror and intensity, on any particular race or people, as those are said to be which were inflicted on the Jews. Moreover, the tribulation of the faithful, under Antichrist, shall not be such a tribulation of vengeance as that of the Jews. For, as their crime of Deicide, coupled with their obstinate resistance to grace, and their monstrous ingratitude, far exceeded the guilt of any other nation; so, was the vengeance more severe. Hence, even the punishment inflicted on Sodom, in this life, which was but a type of that inflicted on it, in the other, was not so severe as the protracted misfortunes inflicted on the Jews, in the siege of Jerusalem, which were only a feeble type of the eternal misfortunes in store for these miserable and ungrateful Deicides, who invoked the blood of the Son of God “on themselves, and on their children.”

Mt 24:22. “Unless these days,” employed in the siege of Jerusalem, “had been shortened,” and rendered fewer, than the anger of the Romans called for, and the iniquities of the Jews merited, for which no punishment, however protracted or intense, was too severe, “no flesh,” no person from out the Jewish nation, “should be saved,” from utter ruin and destruction. Had the Romans met with greater resistance and delay, and had they endured more hardships and sufferings, for any protracted time, as the natural strength and powerful fortifications of Jerusalem would give grounds to apprehend, the likelihood is, that, not only would every living soul within the precincts of Jerusalem be put to the sword; but, by a general edict, which would be carried out cheerfully by all other peoples throughout the earth, by whom the Jews were held in hatred, the Romans, then all-powerful, would decree the utter extirpation of the Jews, and abolish for ever the name of Jew, throughout the entire earth, almost all then subject to the dominion of Rome. Hence, there would be no Jews from whom “the elect” would be descended. The words, “no flesh,” refer to the Jews exclusively. From this we see, how God ordains everything for the good of His elect.

“But for the sake of the elect,” those whom God had, by His eternal decree, elected to grace and glory among the Jews, whether these living and converted, or those to be afterwards converted, or to be born in course of time of the Jews then existing. “But for the sake of the elect,” lest the merciful decrees and designs of God on them should be frustrated, “those days shall be shortened.” St. Mark says (Mk 13:20), “But, for the sake of the elect, which He (the Lord) hath chosen, He hath shortened these days.” In truth, such was the strength of Jerusalem, that, were it not, that the Zealots were blinded by Divine justice, to destroy the stores of provisions, which would have served for years (Josephus, Lib. 6, c. 1), and were also seized with unusual fear to abandon their strong fortifications, and weaken, by their cruel carnage and bloodshed, the strength of the city, Jerusalem might have held out for years against the Romans. Hence, Josephus (Lib. 3, c. 11), and elsewhere, attributes the success of the Romans to the interposition of God. And the same historian informs us (Lib. 7, c. 16), that Titus, on entering the stronghold of Sion, and beholding the strength of the place, declared, it was God that assisted the Romans, who could not otherwise succeed; and going round, and, seeing the ramparts filled with corpses, raising his hands, he called God to witness, that this was none of his doing. Hence, he refused a golden crown, presented to him by the neighbouring nations, stating, that not he, but God, who was angry with the Jews, was the cause of these wonderful successes (Baronius, a.d. 72, ex Philostrate).

St. Chrysostom (in Matth. 77), extols the Providence of God, who makes the three other Evangelists, who did not live till the siege of Jerusalem, the narrators of these events. St. John, who survived it, says nothing of it, in order to strengthen our faith in the predictions of our Redeemer. And, doubtless, it was with the same providential design, God employed Josephus, himself a Jew, and no Christian, to chronicle the fulfilment of these predictions, so minute in details. The words of this verse, although directly and immediately meant for the time preceding the destruction of Jerusalem, apply also to the persecution of Antichrist, who shall be allowed to “tread under foot the holy city” (Rev 11:2), that is, the Church of Christ, “two and forty months,” that is, three years and a half; “and, to make war with the saints, and to overcome them” (Rev 13:7). His persecuting reign, which would destroy the whole human race, and would seduce almost all, shall be shortened to the above period of three and one-half years, “for the sake of the elect.”

Mt 24:23. Some commentators say, that our Redeemer here pauses to treat distinctly of the events, that are to occur after the ruin of Jerusalem, and between that period and the end of the world; and that He refers, in a particular way, to what shall take place before the end of the world, of which the ruin of Jerusalem was a type and figure. (Maldonatus, Jansenius, &c.) Others hold, that He continues to treat of the events, that are to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, and of those which are to precede the Day of Judgment, indifferently—the former being a type of the latter—as far as Mt 24:29, where He directly and specially treats of the events connected with the Day of Judgment.

It would seem, that the words of our Redeemer, as far as Mt 24:29, apply to the time preceding the siege of Jerusalem, and may be easily explained regarding it. They can be also explained of the events that are to take place, before the final end of all things, prefigured by what preceded the ruin of Jerusalem. Hence, it could be maintained, that, in the following six verses, our Redeemer treats of both events.

“Then,” that is, during the wars of the Romans, preceding the siege of Jerusalem. It may also refer to the period intervening between the taking of Jerusalem and the end of the world; and particularly to the time approaching the last end of all things; and, although thousands of years may elapse between both events, still, it may be said to have happened “then;” taking into account the measure of time with God, with whom “a thousand years are as one day” (2 Peter 3:8); “a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday,” &c. (Psa. 90) And our Redeemer, when addressing the Apostles, and, through them, the faithful of all succeeding ages (for, St. John, alone, among them, lived till even the time of the destruction of Jerusalem), speaks in such a way, as to leave them uncertain as to the near approach of the Day of Judgment, thus to keep them always in readiness for its approach. Hence, although “then,” were referred to the period of the general judgment, it could be explained as above; in the same way as the advocates of the other opinion are forced to explain the words, “immediately after the tribulation of those days” (Mt 24:29). But, in this verse, I would take “then” to refer immediately and directly to the times preceding the capture of Jerusalem, without excluding the other in a secondary and subordinate sense. “If any man shall say to you,” My faithful followers, who shall be alive then; for, the Apostles shall be dead, “Lo! here is Christ,” who is come to save and liberate His people from all their evils; “or there, do not believe Him.” The Jews were aware that the time of the Messiah was at hand, from the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jacob, regarding the passing of the sceptre from the tribe of Juda. Hence, some flattering Vespasian said, that he, as the conqueror of Judea, was the Messiah. (Suetonius in Vespas.) Others, flattered Herod in the same way. Each of the three leaders of the Jewish factions then at Jerusalem, Eleazar, son of Simon; John, son of Levi; and Simon, son of Goria, gave himself out for the Messiah. So did a certain impostor, in the reign of Adrian, who wished to be called Barchochabas. Son of the Star, as if he were the star referred to in the words, “orietur stella in Jacob.”

This shall most clearly take place in the days of Antichrist also. “Do not believe him,” that is, do not hearken to any such false rumours, so injurious to the true Messiah, whom you believe Me to be. These are words of warning, addressed to such of the faithful as might have been slow in attending to the admonitions of our Redeemer, about leaving Judea, and might have lingered at Jerusalem, or the neighbouring places, until it would be too late to betake themselves to flight.

Mt 24:24. He tells them not to believe such false statements, and that such statements shall be circulated, our Redeemer assures us. “For, there shall arise false Christs,” men who shall pretend to be Christ, the Saviour of their people; “and false prophets,” who shall aid these impostors, by proclaiming among the people, as their agents and instruments of seduction, that they are the true Christ. As Christ had His true prophets to prepare the people for His coming, so shall these false Christs have their false prophets too.

“And shall work great signs,” &c. By the aid of magic, they shall perform great prodigies, as the seal of their mission and teaching. They shall perform these false miracles, by the aid of the demon, the father of lies, “insomuch as to deceive,” by their plausibility, “(if possible) even the elect.” By “elect,” are meant, those elected to final and eternal happiness. Although the “elect” are not impeccable, and may (as they sometimes freely do) fall away from faith and grace during life; still, considering the infallible purpose of God’s decree, predestinating them to final glory, to be attained by the free exercise of good works, and the free co-operation with His efficacious graces, it is not possible, they would continue in sin, or die in sin. God’s infallible purpose of Divine election shall so guard, guide, protect, and assist their free will by His efficacious graces, that, though they may be and are free to sin, and to persevere in sin to the end (for “not to be able to sin, is not a gift of this life, but the reward of the other,” says St. Augustine, (de corruptione et gratia, c. 11), still, they will not sin always unto the end; but, they will freely repent, if in sin, and dio in God’s grace and favour. Hence, the perseverance of the elect is necessary, not by an absolute necessity, or in sensu diviso; but, by a kind of moral necessity, in sensu composito; and, supposing the Divine decree predestinating them, necessitate, as logicians say, non consequentis; sed consequentiæ. None of God’s elect shall perish; “no one can snatch them out of His hand” (John 10:28).

The words, “to deceive (if possible) the elect,” show the magnitude of the temptation; and how it shall tell upon others. This shall be particularly true of the times of Antichrist. (2 Thess. 2:9; Rev 13:13, &c.)

Mt 24:25. “I have foretold it to you,” that is, to such of My followers as shall be then alive, in order to guard against them, and to stimulate His followers to flight, so far as the ruin of Jerusalem was in question; and by good works, to make sure their election, since, it is only on the prevision of good works is founded God’s predestinating decree; and should anyone grow remiss, on account of supposing, that he was of the elect (of which no one can be absolutely certain in this life, without a revelation), such a person would give good grounds for supposing, that he is not of the elect. Moreover, if one were certain he was elected, this should be no reason for sinning; on the contrary, he should, by obeying God’s Commandments, manifest his gratitude, and increase the treasure of merit and degree of happiness in store for him.

Mt 24:26. He more fully explains the words of Mt 24:23, “here, or there.” By mentioning two places, the most opposite—the open desert, and the inmost recesses of a house—he wishes to convey, that, no matter in what place, or in what character, any such pretender should appear, he is not to be heeded. Some say, the word, “desert,” where this false Messiah was supposed to gather his forces, to free his people, has reference to Simon, the son of Goria, who, after collecting immense multitudes of every class, in deserted and mountainous places, after reducing Idumea to subjection, was admitted into Jerusalem, and tyrannically oppressed the citizens. The word, “closets,” is thought to have reference to Eleazar and John, the leaders of the Zealots, who, before the destruction of Jerusalem, successively got possession of the interior of the temple. (Josephus de Bel. Lib. vi. &c.)

Mt 24:27. In order to guard you against the deceitful wiles of these impostors, take this for a certain sign of My second coming, which alone the faithful can expect—since, they believe in My first coming already—it shall not be confined to any one place, or obscure locality; it shall not be, like My first coming, in humility, confined to an hidden corner of Judea, and the obscurity of night; but, like the lightning of heaven, which at once appears brilliant, effulgent, and dazzling, at the same moment, in the opposite parts of the heavens; so shall My coming be sudden, glorious, and seen from afar, visible to the entire earth, dazzling all mankind by its splendour and brilliancy, when it shall make itself known, not merely in one part of the earth, but throughout the vast expanse of the heavens, so that it shall convince the world at once, of the truth of My appearance. Whosoever, therefore, shall appear in any one place, or corner, and pretend to be the Messiah, is convicted, from this sign, of being an impostor. Perhaps, these words are also intended to correct the carnal notions, which the Apostles formed of the glorious coming of our Redeemer, whose kingdom, they imagined, would commence in Judea. Our Redeemer, on the contrary, conveys to them, that it would be heavenly, and all celestial, different altogether from what they imagined it would be.

Mt 24:28. The words of this verse are supposed by many to be allusive to the passage of (Job 39:30), where, treating of the eagle, God says, “wheresoever the carcass shall be, she is immediately there.” By some the words are supposed to be a Hebrew proverb, conveying, that no very great exertion or labour is needed for uniting those that are naturally united, and have a natural and irresistible tendency towards each other. He compares Himself to the carcass (the Greek for body is, πτωμα, a dead body), on account of His death, endured for our sakes, to procure glory for us, like that of His own glorified body. He compares His elect to “eagles,” because, as the eagle, this noble and royal bird, harmlessly escapes the lightning, so shall the elect escape unhurt, and stand in great constancy amidst the woes and lightnings of the last day. Moreover, as the eagles scent from an incredible distance, a dead body, and are carried aloft through space in quest of it, so, shall the elect be borne aloft in the air to meet Christ (1 Thess. 4:16), the great centre of attraction. To this St. Luke alludes (L 17:36).

The words of this verse would seem to be an answer to an implied complaint which might arise in the minds of His Apostles, viz., if Thy reign be thus brilliant, heavenly and passing, like the lightning, how can we enjoy it? He says, that His elect shall be permanently gathered to Him, so as to remain with Him, to enjoy Him. As the eagle, which is instinctively attracted to a carcass, floats aloft in air, crossing seas to enjoy it; so, shall they, after the resurrection from the tomb, renovated in youth like the eagle, be drawn to Him to enjoy Him, to feast with Him, and continue with Him for ever. The words, according to the Greek, ὅπου γαρ το πτωμα, &c., “for, where the body is,” &c., may be also regarded as illustrative, in a certain sense, of the preceding. They are a proverbial form of expression, showing, that a thing cannot be concealed. For, as the eagles scent their prey from afar, and make towards it; so, My glorious coming into the world shall not be hidden, but known to all. Wherefore, the faithful, like eagles of acutest sense, shall perceive My Divine presence, shall be attracted towards Me, and refreshed by My glory for ever. Hence, then, there shall be no need to inquire where is Christ; since, His coming shall be conspicuous and known to the entire world. Our Lord compares His elect to “eagles;” because, the reprobate shall not be borne aloft to meet the Judge, nor attracted to Him. They shall be reluctantly forced to appear at judgment.

St. Hilary infers from this verse, that our Redeemer will judge mankind in the place where His sacred body was raised on the cross, buried, and rose again. Thither shall all mankind proceed to be judged, near Jerusalem, in the valley of Josaphat, as the Prophet Joel teaches (Joel 3:2).

Mt 24:29. “Immediately after the tribulation of these days.” This refers, according to those who hold, that in the preceding verses our Redeemer is treating of the time preceding the end of the world, to the persecutions by “false Christs and false prophets,” especially Antichrist. According even to those, who hold, that in the preceding, He is treating of the incredible woes, that, from several sources, are to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, the word, “immediately,” is to be explained in the sense given already to “then,” in Mt 24:23, that the interval between the taking of Jerusalem and the end of the world, of which there is question in this verse, however long, in a human point of view, and according to human calculations, is, according to God’s view and measure, but an instant. (2 Peter 3:8; Ps. 90). Hence, in the New Testament, the whole term of the New Law is termed, “the last hour.” St. Peter says, the end of all “is at hand” (1 pet. 4:7). Even in human calculations it is very short for each individual, since it virtually takes place for each one at death, when his eternal doom is sealed. Moreover, by “immediately,” our Redeemer means to convey, that no other remarkable change in religion, which would concern the faithful, is to occur between the ruin of Jerusalem and the end of all things. Hence, in the early ages, many imagined the Day of Judgment to be at hand, which forced St. Paul to correct this error. (2 Thess. 2 &c.)

“The sun shall be darkened,” &c. This shall occur before the coming of the Judge (Luke 21:25–27; Joel 2:21). Many understand those words, in a metaphorical and spiritual sense, to refer to the Church and her condition, to the events that shall take place in her, and the persecutions she shall endure, at the end of the world. But, by comparing St. Luke (Lk 21:25–27) with St. Matthew, it is quite clear, the words are to be understood literally, of the physical and stupendous phenomena, which shall take place both in the skies and on the earth, previous to the glorious coming of Christ to judgment. The sun shall withhold its light, as happened at the death of Christ. It shall become “black as sackcloth of hair” (Rev. 11:12). As its first light pointed out a newly created world; so, shall its darkness indicate the final end of the same. “The signs in the sun and the moon and the stars” (Luke 21:25), are what is here referred to by St. Matthew, about the darkening of the sun, &c. “The moon shall not give her light.” She shall have none to give, on account of the darkness of the sun, from which she borrows her light; “she shall be as blood” (Rev. 6:12).

“The stars shall fall from heaven;” that is, they shall be so obscured from the sight of men, that they would seem to fall from heaven (Isa 13:10). Besides, this may be understood literally; because comets and other stars generated in the air shall fall (Joel 2:30; Rev. 6:13). St. Augustine (de Civit. Dei, c. 24), says: “Ignited exhalations, like to stars, shall be discharged from sky to earth, more wonderfully than happens now.”

“And the powers of heaven shall be moved.” By these, are commonly understood, the heavenly bodies or stars, which are frequently termed in SS. Scripture, “militia cœli, the army or host of heaven.” (Deut. 17:3; 2 Kings 17:16; 21:3–5; Isa. 24:21, &c.; Jer. 8:2, &c.) These “shall be moved,” from their place, and shall cease to perform their usual courses and functions, of giving light, heat, &c. According to this class of interpreters, these words express, in a general way, what is expressed in a particular way, in the preceding words, “the sun shall be darkened, the moon refuse her light,” &c. The same idea is repeated in this verse, in a general way, for greater emphasis’ sake. On seeing these different signs and changes, which shall precede the coming of the Judge, men shall be seized with fear and consternation, at the prospect of the evils that are about to fall upon the world. Others, by “the moving of the powers of heaven,” understand, an extraordinary movement and agitation of the entire machine of the heavens, a shaking of their very foundations and hinges, as it were, which, by their disorderly movement, shall exhibit symptoms of an expiring world. It is the idea conveyed by Job, when he says, “the pillars of heaven tremble at His nod” (Job 26:11). These “powers” are called “the poles of the world” (Prov. 8:26). The same idea is conveyed by St. Peter (2 Peter 3:10), “the heavens shall pass away with great violence.” Estius understands, by the “moving of the powers of the heavens,” the ceasing of the heavens to exert any influence on the earth, so that on the earth, and in the condition of the seasons, we shall witness the most strange changes; we shall see the summer, cold; and the winter, hot. The signs in the heavens shall be accompanied with corresponding signs in the sea, on the earth, and in the elements—all calculated to inspire men with dread and terror. The opinion, which understands, by “powers,” the Angels, meaning the same as the words, cœli cœlorumque virtutes, is now commonly rejected as utterly improbable.

Mt 24:30. “And then,” immediately after the preceding signs. “The sign of the Son of man.” The most commonly received interpretation, understands this of the cross of our Redeemer, which alone could be termed, “the sign” (τὸ σημεῖον), His certain, well-known standard, whereby He achieved the victory over death and hell, and merited glory for Himself and us. Hence, the Church chaunts, in the Office of the Holy Cross, “hoc signum crucis erit in cœlo, cum Dominus ad judicandum venerit.” It was by the cross He was known, and rendered celebrated throughout the world. This standard of the cross shall be borne aloft by angels before the Judge descending to pass judgment, as a trophy of victory, as the royal ensign of power and authority. Thus shall it be shown, that by His cross, Christ merited glory and judiciary power, that those are ungrateful and inexcusable, who spurned the charity which He displayed when He submitted to be crucified for the salvation of all; now, the humble followers of the cross shall be seated with Him; and its enemies hurled to the abyss of hell. Whether the real cross, on which Christ died, shall appear, after its several parts have been collected and united by the power of God; or, merely an image or resplendent figure of it, formed in the air, is disputed. The latter opinion seems, to some, the more likely, as thus we shall avoid the useless multiplication of miracles, in the collection of the scattered particles of the wood of the true cross. Besides, the word, “sign,” favours this latter view. Some commentators hold the opinion, which, however, does not exceed the bounds of probability, as the SS. Scripture and the Church are silent upon it, that the other instruments of our Saviour’s Passion—the nails, the scourges, the thorns, &c., shall also appear with the cross on that day, shining resplendent in the heavens.

“And then shall all the tribes,” that is, all the impious and infidels, who refused to receive our Lord, or obey His Commandments, and the Jews particularly, of whom it is said, “videbunt in quem transfixerunt” (John 19:37). The elect cannot be referred, to. Far from mourning, those who conformed their lives to the model of Christ suffering on the cross, shall be filled with ineffable joy and consolation. “They shall, then, stand in great constancy,” viz., the just, “who love His coming” (1 Tim. 4:8). When, then, it is said, “all the tribes of the earth shall mourn,” there is an example of what logicians term, distributio pro generibus singulorum, and not pro singulis generum. The Greek word for “mourn” (κοψονται), conveys the idea of striking their breasts. The words of this verse are allusive to Zacharias (Zech 12:10 ff.), as appears from Apocalypse (Rev 1:7). The passage from Zacharias, most likely, referred to the wailing of the faithful Jews over the death of Christ, to which their sins gave occasion, according to St. Jerome. Still, it is, by accommodation, applied by our Redeemer to the unavailing wailings of the infidels, on beholding Christ, whom they slew and rejected; just as the words which St. John (Jn 19:37), quotes from Zacharias (Zech 12:10), “and they shall look upon Him whom they have pierced,” although originally referring to the faithful Jews, who were to regard our Redeemer in a spirit of faith, and upon whom was poured out “the spirit of grace and of prayer” (Zech 12:10), are, by accommodation, applied to the unbelieving Jews, who shall, on the last day, behold Him exhibiting His wounds; so, that having before refused voluntarily to believe in Him and bewail His death, they shall then be forced to look on Him involuntarily, and indulge in unavailing regrets.

“And they shall see,” immediately after the preceding signs, “the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven.” These words are allusive to Daniel (Dan 7:13), “ecce in nubibus quasi filius hominus veniebat.” After our Lord had ascended, and had been taken up by the Angels in a cloud into heaven, it was said by them, “sic veniet, quemadmodum vidistis rum,” &c. (Acts 1:11.) He shall come now, a second time, clothed with human nature, not, however, retaining its mortality or infirmities; but, “in the clouds of heaven,” which shall symbolize His glory, by their brightness, and serve as a triumphal car, on which He shall appear seated. No longer shall He appear in lowliness, or poverty, or debasement, as at His first coming; but, “with much power and majesty.” The Greek is, with “much power and glory.” His power will be seen from the resuscitation of all the dead, at His sole word of command; from their suddenly assembling in one place; from His irrevocably passing sentence on all, according to their deserts; from His receiving the homage of every creature, in heaven, earth, and hell, including angels, men, and devils, who shall acknowledge Him as their Lord and Judge. His “glory,” or “majesty,” shall appear from the glorious brightness of His body; from the hosts of Angels accompanying Him, and heralding in His approach; from His appearing seated on the clouds of heaven; and from the sounds of trumpets; from the thunders, lightning, and earthquakes which shall precede His coming (Rev. 6:15, 16).

Mt 24:31. “Send His Angels,” &c. Similar is the description (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:15, 16). He says, “His Angels,” to convey, that He is their Lord and Master; they, His messengers.

“With a trumpet and a great voice.” Whether this shall be a real trumpet or not is disputed. The most commonly received opinion is, that it refers to a noise, louder than thunder, which, by the instrumentality of Michael and the other Angels, the Son of God shall cause to reverberate throughout creation. Its effect shall be, to rouse the dead from their long slumber, owing to the efficacious power of God. The word, “and,” means, that is, “a great voice,” the latter words being explanatory of the former. In the Greek it is, “with a trumpet of great voice.” What words shall be uttered by it, is uncertain. It is commonly supposed, that it shall distinctly announce the words, “Arise, ye dead, and come to judgment,” or the words, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet Him” (Mt 26:6). Others suppose the passage to simply mean, that by the efficacious power and will of God, the dead shall rise from their tombs, and be awakened from their long sleep, as those who are asleep are roused by the noise of a loud trumpet. The former is most likely. This trumpet, which shall proclaim the descent of the Son of God to final judgment, had been prefigured in the Old Testament; in the first place, by that which proclaimed the majesty of God when promulgating His law on Mount Sinai; again, by the trumpets with which the people were wont to be summoned by the Priests to the Tabernacle of the Covenant. (Num. 10, &c.) The sound of trumpets is usually employed to usher in the approach of kings and great princes. The metaphor is borrowed from war, where a trumpet is employed to gather the soldiers, and terrify the enemy; here, it is conveyed, that the sound of trumpets shall be employed to announce the approach and majesty of the Sovereign Judge, to gather the human race, and inspire the enemies of God with terror and alarm.

“And they shall gather together His elect from the four winds,” that is, from the four quarters of the earth, east, west, north, and south, the principal points from which the winds blow. The words, “from the four winds,” are a Hebrew form, denoting, all quarters of the globe. The “winds,” according to the Hebrew notions, denoted not only the cardinal points of the heavens; but, they also marked the regions, in the direction from which any of them blew.

“From the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost boundaries,” &c. The Greek word for “farthest parts,” and “utmost boundaries,” is the same, ακρων; απʼ ἄκρων οὐρανων ἕως ἄκρων, &c. It denotes, from the utmost part of the earth, to the utmost part of heaven (απʼ ἄκρου γης ἕως ακρου ουρανου), as St. Mark has it (Mk 13:27). The phrase is but a fuller and more explanatory repetition of the preceding. It signifies, the extreme points of the heavens farthest asunder, such as east and west, right and left, including all the intermediate space—not so fully expressed in the preceding words—where the earth and sky would seem to meet. From all parts under heaven shall the elect be gathered; not carried by Angels, as was the Prophet Habacuc (Dan. 14:35); but, in virtue of the glorious gift of agility, they shall be, at once, transported into the air to meet the Judge. Similar are the phrases (Deut. 4:32), “From one end of heaven to the other end thereof.” Also in the Psalm (19:7), “His going out is from the end of heaven; and His circuit even unto the end thereof” that is, from the extreme cast to the extreme point of the west. The reprobate, being devoid of this gift of agility, shall be carried by Angels, like Habacue. “And He shall send His Angels, and they shall gather all scandals from His kingdom.” But, having addressed Himself to his disciples, in order to console them, He makes mention only of “the elect.” Some commentators think the words contain an allusion to the souls of the just, which shall be transferred from the highest heavens, to reanimate their resuscitated bodies, and shall proceed to the place of judgment. The former interpretation is, however, the more probable, as it accords better with the words of St. Mark, and the allusion to “the four winds.”

Mt 24:32. “And from the fig-tree learn a parable.” “Parable,” here means, an illustration. The fig-tree was very common in Judea; and hence, any allusion to it, or illustration borrowed from it, was quite intelligible. Whenever it put forth its leaves, it was a sign that summer was nigh. This is accounted for on physical grounds, and is known from experience. St. Luke (Lk 21:30), says, “when they now shoot forth their fruit.” But, by “fruit,” he means, the young shoots and leaves, the same as is here expressed by St. Matthew.

Mt 24:33. “Know that it is nigh even at the doors.” What “it” refers to, what it is that is, “at their doors,” would not be so clear were it not that St. Luke clearly expresses it. It is, their redemption, their perfect exemption from all evils and fears, when in the full enjoyment of God’s glorious and heavenly “kingdom” (Luke 21:28–31). “It” does not refer to the coming of the Son of man. For, among “all these things,” already described, “the sign of the Son of man appearing in heaven,” is mentioned. Hence, it refers to the near or immediate approach of their redemption, when, after the reprobate shall be in great terror and alarm, and shall weep, His elect may “look up and lift up their heads” (Luke 21:28), at the prospect of hearing the consoling invitation, to “come and take possession of the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world,” which is to succeed these precursory signs, already described. This is the perfect redemption of the glorified sons of God, after which inanimate creation itself sighs and groans, like a mother longing to be delivered from the painful throes of childbirth (Rom. 8:19–22).

Mt 24:34. “Amen I say to you, that this generation shall not pass,” &c. What, “this generation,” refers to, is not easily seen. Some understand by it, with St. Jerome, the human race, and particularly, the Jewish people, whom our Redeemer frequently calls, “this generation” (Luke 17:25; Matt. 23:36). And our Redeemer’s object would be, if we limit the word to the Jewish people, to convey, that while other nations and tribes and peoples would pass away, before the Day of Judgment, without a vestige of them being left, the Jewish people would be preserved, as a testimony of their foolish expectation of their Messiah, according to the false conceptions they had regarding Him; and also, as an argument of God’s mercy, in calling them at the end of the world, to the faith, by sending one “from Sion, who would turn away iniquity from Jacob” (Rom. 11:26). His object in saying it, if we understand the words of the human race, would be, to assure us, that the world would not end till all these things would happen, so certain was His assertion; and this is conveyed in words of the following verse: “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” &c. Others, with St. Chrysostom, understood, “this generation,” of the new generation of faithful believers, begotten by Christ; as if He said: that, no matter what evils would arise, what persecutions it had to encounter, the Christian religion would continue for ever to flourish on earth, until the Church militant would exchange her state for that of the Church triumphant. Others say, that it refers to the generation of men whom He was addressing; and, then, these give “all these things” a restricted meaning. As in the preceding, our Redeemer had been referring to the precursory signs and accompanying events, both of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the Day of Judgment—the former being a type and figure of the latter—these expositors confine “all these things” to the signs and events relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened, before all the generation He then addressed, had passed away, that is, they happened in the lifetime of some of them. The chief objection to this interpretation is, that it restricts, without any seeming justification, the words, “all these things,” to only a part of the things referred to, viz., those relating to the destruction of Jerusalem. It might, perhaps, be said, that as the signs and events relating to the destruction of Jerusalem, were types of those which shall precede, and take place on, the Day of Judgment, all shall take place on the former occasion, viz., the events relating to Jerusalem, literally; and those having reference to the Day of Judgment, typically, during the lifetime of some men, who were living at the time our Redeemer uttered those words.

Others, by generation (γενεαν) understand age, or period of time, thereby meaning, the period of time which was to elapse between Christ’s first and second coming, which is termed the last age of the world, and hence, termed by St. John, “the last hour,” and by St. Paul, “the ends of the world” (1 Cor. 10:11), being the last period of time within which any remarkable change in religion shall take place, until the end of all shall arrive. Hence, the words may mean, all these things shall happen, before the final end of this age on which we have entered shall have arrived. The coming of the Son of man shall put an end to the age on which we have entered. No other remarkable religious change shall take place until His final coming.

Mt 24:35. “Heaven and earth shall pass away” as to their present external form, “transit figura hujus mundi” (1 Cor. 7:31); but, not as to substance; for, they shall be transformed into a “new heaven and a new earth.” “But My words shall not pass,” without being fully accomplished. The words may also moan, sooner shall the heavens—which, “He hath established for ever, and for ages of ages” (Psa. 148:6)—and the earth, “which standeth for ever” (Sir. 1:4); sooner shall these things, which the Scripture itself describes as eternal and immoveable, pass away, than My words be unaccomplished. This meaning is fully warranted by the words of St. Luke (Lk 16:17), “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than for one tittle of the law to fail.”

Mt 24:36. He says, “of that day and hour,” meaning, thereby, a defined fixed period—rather than, “of that year, month, or age;” because, from the foregoing premonitory signs, men could know the year or period of the year, within which it would take place, just as no one knows the precise day or hour of his death, although, from certain premonitory symptoms, it could be easily seen within what time he would die. Having given the general signs of His coming, as far as was expedient to be made known to us, our Redeemer, in order to repress any further undue curiosity, which might be inconsistent with that state of uncertainty regarding our future condition in which His providence desires us all to be kept, tells His Apostles, that no being on earth or heaven, except God, knows the precise moment or hour of His coming. Hence, His Apostles should not take it amiss, if that was not communicated to them, which was hidden from the very Angels of heaven. In St. Mark (Mk 13:32), it is said, “neither the Angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father knows of that hour or day,” the meaning of which, as regards “the Son,” is, that although Christ had the fulness of all knowledge as God; and all knowledge was communicated to Him as man, at the Incarnation; for, “all things were delivered to Him by the Father” (Mt 11:27), still, He did not know the hour nor the day of the end of all things, as Legate sent by God, so as to communicate the knowledge of it to others. Christ knew it, for whenever any essential attribute is attributed to any Person of the Trinity, creatures alone are excluded; that is to say, those alone are excluded who possess not the same nature. It is different when there is question of what are termed Notional Attributes, such as, begetting and being begotten, each peculiar to the Persons of the Trinity. But, as creation and the knowledge of it, although, as an act of Providence, by appropriation, attributed to the Father, is still common to the Blessed Trinity; so also is the destruction of the world, and the knowledge regarding it common to the Trinity. However, Christ knows it not as Legate; because, in virtue of His office, He is not to communicate it to us. Just as St. Paul, who discovered wisdom among the perfect, still, among the Corinthians, “knew only Christ, and Him crucified,” this being the only knowledge He deemed fit to communicate to them. In a similar sense, He says of the sons of Zebedee (Mt 20:23): “It is not Mine to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by My Father.” But that He had the full knowledge of all things, we know. For, “in Him were concealed all the treasures of knowledge, and of wisdom” (Col. 2:3). God has wisely concealed this from us, in order to keep us always prepared, while daily expecting His coming. And our Redeemer represses any undue feeling of curiosity regarding further or more precise knowledge, by telling them, that no created being, either in heaven, or on earth, can know anything more definite. Nay that He Himself did not know it as Legate, so us to communicate it to others.

Mt 24:37. “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall the coming of the Son of man be.” As the deluge came suddenly upon an incredulous world, wholly unprepared for it, and unconsciously and listlessly involved in the pursuit of pleasure, and their ordinary worldly business; so, shall the coming of the Son of man find worldlings indulging in good cheer, in pleasure, and engrossed in their ordinary worldly business.

St. Luke (Lk 17:28) introduces the destruction of Sodom in the days of Lot, as a further illustration.

Mt 24:38. “Eating and drinking.” It may be, He taxes them with excessive indulgence in these things. “Marrying and giving”—their daughters—“in marriage.” Most likely, our Redeemer does not here charge them with the crimes which provoked the fearful chastisement of the Deluge. The foregoing words are merely intended to show the supine security they enjoyed, their state of unconcern, and absorption in worldly business, and indulgence in pleasure, while on the eve of dreadful destruction.

Mt 24:39. “And they knew not,” that is, although Noe, the preacher of justice, had warned them of their impending danger; still, “they knew not,” they did not care to know; they culpably and incredulously closed their ears and eyes against all they saw and heard.

“Till the flood came and swept them all away,” destroying every living creature under heaven, save Noe, and those that were with him in the ark.

“So shall the coming of the Son of man be,” sudden and unexpected. This has reference to the wicked and unbelieving, as it is to them alone, the above allusion to the Deluge also applies. This is clearly expressed by St. Paul (1 Thess. 5), where, referring to the sudden approach of the day of the Lord, he tells us, “The day of the Lord shall come as a thief in the night. For, when they shall say, peace and security; then shall sudden destruction come upon them,” &c.

A question here naturally presents itself: How could men indulge in pleasures in the midst of the evils, wars, pestilences, earthquakes, &c., and the several other phenomena, such as the darkening of the sun, the roaring of the sea, &c., that shall precede the final end of all things, the consideration of which shall make men “wither away for fear?” &c. (Luke 21:26.) The reply generally given is, that after the wars of Antichrist and the other evils, which shall take place in his time, a respite and, as it were, a short period of peace and rest, shall be given to the earth, as is supposed by St. Jerome. During that period, the wicked shall proceed with their ordinary temporal occupations, and indulge in their ordinary pleasures in perfect and fancied security; and then the immediate premonitory signs, through which commences the destruction of the earth, shall suddenly come upon them. Besides, even during the persecuting reign of Antichrist, the wicked shall prosper in the ruin and destruction of the good; while the latter shall be in sorrow, the former shall rejoice. On them, the destruction of the world shall come unexpectedly. “The coming of the Son of man,” involves the precursory signs that are immediately to usher in the final destruction of all things.

Mt 24:40-41. “Then, two shall be in the field,” &c. As St. Matthew refers to the coming of our Lord in the day time, he instances classes of persons placed in circumstances suited to the day time, such as labouring in the field, and grinding at the mill. And as St. Luke (Lk 17:34), refers to the event as happening in the night time; so, he instances circumstances suited to night, such as sleeping in bed, and working at the mill—the ordinary occupation of female slaves (Ex. 11:5)—at night, as well as in day time. Our Redeemer wishes to convey, that His coming shall be not only sudden and unexpected; but, that it shall make an eternal separation between the good and the bad, out of every order, whether slave or free, even from amongst those who are most intimately connected. Of these on the day of Christ’s coming, “one shall be taken,” and carried to meet the Judge in the air; “the other shall be left,” for reprobation, to be the prey of demons, and eternal fire. Others, give these words an opposite signification, to mean, “one shall be taken” by the demons for destruction and reprobation, on account of his wicked life; the other shall be spared, left unhurt, in reward for his good works and holy life. It is difficult to determine which is the true meaning. Mauduit has a short dissertation on the words of St. Luke (Lk 17:37): “Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles also be gathered together,” which he interprets in a sense quite the reverse of the common one, according to which, the words are understood as having reference to the elect (“the eagles”) gathered, or rather attracted, to meet Christ, whose glorious body shall, on that day, bear the marks of the wounds inflicted on Him for our sakes. In the dissertation referred to, Mauduit adopts the latter interpretation of the words, “left, and taken.” “Left,” safe, unhurt, according to him; “taken,” destroyed, become the prey of merciless demons, which are represented in SS. Scripture as “birds of prey,” that come down to destroy the good seed planted in the heart of man; and the eagles or vultures viewed as birds of prey, aptly represent the unclean spirits, who dwell in the air, whence they descend to wage their fiendish war with mankind.

But, at what precise time, the circumstances here referred to by our Redeemer, shall take place, is not easily seen, particularly as all men shall have been dead at the time our Redeemer will make His appearance. And, even admitting that some might survive till the very Day of Judgment, it is not easy to see how they can be unconcerned, either in the field, or in bed, or at the mill, after the fearful precursory signs that shall usher in the Day of Judgment. The most probable answer is, that our Redeemer refers to the time that shall precede the signs which immediately usher in the Day of Judgment, as if He said, the darkening of the sun, and the other horrible appearances, shall come on you unexpectedly. “On that night,” or darksome time, “two shall be in one bed: the one shall be taken,” &c. (Luke 17:34) Some commentators, with Cajetan, say, that the men of those days shall pay no heed to the signs of coming judgment, and, like the men in the days of Noe, will attend to their ordinary concerns, and not do penance. But this is not very likely, as regards Christians; and, moreover, the precursory signs shall inspire men with such terror—“men withering away for fear”—that it would be impossible for them to attend to their ordinary occupations in life. (Luke 21:26)

St. Augustine understands the words in a spiritual sense, as referring to the different classes of men. Those “in one bed” (Luke 17:34), refer to men free from all concern. Those “grinding at the mill,” to those actively engaged in worldly business. Those “in the field,” to the prelates of the Church, labouring in the field of the Lord.

This entire discourse of our Redeemer has for object, to inspire His Apostles, and all His followers, with sentiments of humility and salutary fear, arising from the terrible and mysterious separation He shall make; and of vigilance, owing to the uncertainty of the time of His coming. The words of these verses convey to us, that from every position in life, from the highest to the lowest, this dreadful and mysterious selection shall be made.

In the interpretation of those commentators, who understand the foregoing of the coming of our Lord to preach the Gospel, the words are quite intelligible; at the preaching of the New Law, some will embrace it, others reject it. “One will be taken” to embrace the Gospel, others left and reprobated from the same (Pere Lallemont).

Mt 24:42. This is the conclusion which our Redeemer derives from the foregoing; and in it is insinuated, that His reason for leaving us in a state of uncertainty, in regard to the time of His coming, is, in order to keep us always vigilant in expectation of it. He illustrates this in the following example. St. Mark (Mk 13:33, &c.), adds, “and pray ye,” in order to show us, that our vigilance and personal exertions, of themselves, shall avail nothing; they must be sustained by God’s grace and providence. St. Luke, after warning men against the obstacles to vigilance (Lk 21:34), adds, “praying at all times” (Lk 21:36). St. Augustine (Epist. 80) observes, that these words apply to all men, even those who shall have died before the Day of Judgment; because, the Son of God comes at death, when the Day of Judgment virtually takes place for each one. For, the condition of all, on the last day, shall depend on the state they may be found in at death, “quod in die Judicii futurum est omnibus, hoc in singulis, die mortis impletur” (St. Jerome).

“Because you know not at what hour,” &c., contains an allusion to the conduct of servants, who are always on the watch for the arrival of their master, about the time of whose coming they may be uncertain. The sentence, in order to convey its meaning accurately, should be arranged as follows: “Because, therefore, you know not … watch.” Our Redeemer does not speak of bodily watching, but of mental vigilance, ever keeping the coming of the Lord in mind, and acting accordingly, which is conveyed in Mt 24:44. “Be ready,” or prepared, on that day, by being in a state in which we would wish the Lord to find us, viz., a state of grace.

Mt 24:43. This illustration shows the vigilance we should employ, while expecting the coming of our Lord. In it, our Redeemer, at the same time, conveys a tacit censure on the indifference of men, in regard to the paramount concern of eternal salvation compared with their vigilant care and solicitude, when there is question of temporal and passing interests.

“At what hour.” The Greek, φυλακῆ, means, watch, or, hour of the night, in allusion to the military divisions of the night, into four watches, or principal hours, for relieving guard (Luke 12:38). In this verse, our Redeemer compares the unexpected suddenness of His approach to that of a thief breaking into the house of one off his guard.

By “thief,” some understand, the devil, who always endeavours to break into our house, that is, our bodies. By his wicked inspirations, and criminal pleasures, he desires to deprive them of the costly and precious ornaments of sanctifying grace.

St. Mark (Mk 13:35), expresses this more circumstantially. “Watch ye, therefore,” for you know not when the Lord of the house cometh; at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning,” which may be understood, of the several stages of man’s life. In several passages of SS. Scripture, the coming of our Lord is compared to the unexpected approach of the midnight thief. (Luke 12:39; 1 Thess. 5:4; 2 Peter 3:10, &c.)

In the Greek, instead of, “he knew,” “would watch,” “would not suffer,” it is in the past, “if he had known,” “would have watched,” “would not have suffered,” according to which reading, the example proposed refers to a householder, who, for want of due vigilance, had actually been robbed, and his house broken into, by the nightly robber, whose slothful example, therefore, we should be careful not to imitate; but, rather, be always on the watch, for fear of incurring the like misfortune, in reference to our eternal salvation.

Mt 24:44. “Therefore.” In order to complete the connexion of this with the preceding verse, and see the force of our Redeemer’s conclusion, the following sentence, which is implied, must be expressed: “But because no householder can know the precise time of the robber’s stealthy approach, he must, therefore, be always on the watch, if he wish to guard his house.” Therefore, as your condition of uncertainty is somewhat similar to that of the householder referred to, as regards “the coming of the Son of man,” you must be always ready, if you wish to secure the salvation of your souls, and escape the ruin symbolized by that of the householder in question.

Mt 24:45. “Who thinkest thou,” &c. The order of the sentence should be this: “What servant, whom his lord hath set over his family, to give them meat, in due season, is faithful and wise?” This question was asked, on the occasion of St. Peter questioning our Redeemer (Luke 12:40), if the foregoing parable, regarding vigilance, was intended for the Apostles, as well as for the rest of the faithful. For, it would seem, the Apostles fancied they had privileges and exemptions, which would not permit certain things, addressed to the multitude, to apply to them.

Our Redeemer’s reply, which is put in an interrogative form, for greater emphasis’ sake, corrects this error and conveys, that, as regards the Apostles, and all placed in charge of others, they have need of greater vigilance still, than others, and of greater prudence and fidelity, in the interests of their master; this interrogative form, as St. Chrysostom remarks, conveys, that such faithful servants are very rarely met with. Those placed in charge of others, should bear in mind, that they are “servants” of another, and not themselves masters. “Faithful,” so as not to deceive; “prudent,” so as not to be deceived. “Faithful,” in seeking the interests of their master, and the good of their fellow-servants, not their own; “prudent,” in employing the most efficacious means for this end. “Faithful,” in not refusing their fellow-servants their due measure of food; “prudent,” in distributing it properly, according to each one’s wants and requirements. “Faithful,” in not converting to their own use, what belongs to their fellow-servants; “prudent,” in disposing of these means in due time.

Both qualities are absolutely required in those placed in authority, especially in those charged with the spiritual care of souls. Without “prudence,” “fidelity” may prove injurious; and without “fidelity,” “prudence” would degenerate into cunning selfishness. Hence, they should unite the cunning of the serpent with the simplicity of the dove. This applies, as St. Chrysostom remarks, to temporal rulers also. It applies to the rich of this world, no less than to the doctors and pastors of the Church. To both is confided the stewardship of treasures of different kinds, which they should dispense with fidelity and prudence. And, as if to remind them, that they are mere stewards (Luke 12:42), our Lord calls the servant in question, “a steward.”

“Meat in season,” which is expressed by St. Luke (Lk 12:42), “measure of wheat in due season,” is allusive to the custom among masters, of appointing a head slave, or steward, to give out monthly rations, the allotted portions of food, to their fellow-slaves.

In the foregoing, our Redeemer refers, not to the prudence of the flesh, which is death; but, to the prudence of the Spirit, which is life (Rom. 8:6).

Mt 24:46-47. He pronounces, “Blessed,” that servant whom, at His coming, He shall find persevering in the faithful and prudent discharge of the stewardship confided to him. He is “blessed,” because, his master will not only place him over his fellow-servants, but, “over all his goods,” as if to share with him His own supreme power, dominion, and happiness, and make him a partner and associate, as Pharaoh did in regard to the faithful Joseph. These latter words convey the idea, of the sovereign felicity and happiness of the saints, and their never-ending remuneration in glory. They point out the more abundant honour and glory, which Christ will bestow on His faithful ministers, beyond the rest of the elect, when returning to judge the world, He shall make them His assessors, in judging the rest of mankind.

Mt 24:48. Having pointed out the office and rewards of the good steward, our Redeemer proceeds to describe the vices and punishment of the faithless and wicked servant. He particularizes two leading vices, viz., the oppression of his fellow-servants, given in charge to him; and the abuse of his master’s goods, in extravagance and in the indulgence of illicit pleasures. Against these vices, St. Peter cautions the prelates of the Church (1 Pet. 5:2).

“If that evil servant,” that is, that servant whom his master shall have placed over his fellow-servants, forgetful of his duty, having become “evil” and wicked.

“Shall say in his heart,” that is, shall think within himself, “My lord is long a coming,” that is, has deferred his coming.

Mt 24:49. “And shall begin to strike his fellow-servants,” for whom, as servants of the same household and occupation, having the same relation to their common master, he should entertain feelings of humanity.

“And shall eat and drink,” &c., that is, squander in luxurious living, in society, where he should but seldom appear, the goods which should be expended in works of mercy to the poor, vying with the worldly rich in pomp and worldly show. This is very applicable to worldly-minded ministers of religion.

Mt 24:50. At a day and hour, when he may not expect it, shall come the master of that wicked servant, who forgot that he had a master to whom he was, one day, to be accountable, whose goods he dissipated, whose servants he maltreated, acting more as a cruel, oppressive master himself, than as a kind, humane fellow-servant.

Mt 24:51. “Shall separate him.” The Greek word, διχοτομήσει—literally, shall cut in two—may either mean, that He will have him literally slain, and cut in two, the just punishment of faithless slaves; or, have him separated from the rest of his household, and confined to prison, with other wicked servants.

“And appoint his portion with the hypocrites”—(St. Luke 12:46, “with unbelievers”)—may either refer to unfaithful servants; and this is expressed here by “hypocrites,” these faithless slaves, who serve to the eye of their master, and pretend fidelity in his presence, but, loiter and misspend their time in his absence. This is the meaning of the word, if we adhere to the parable throughout. Or, the words, “unbeliever” and “hypocrite,” may express, those whom the wicked servant represents, viz., the unbeliever, who is condemned to hell for unbelief; and the wicked Christian, who is condemned for his hypocrisy and wicked life. It is not unusual for our Redeemer, at the close of a parable, to use expressions which are only applicable to the subject which the parable is introduced to illustrate, just as the punishment of “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” is that of the persons whom the wicked servant only figuratively represents.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew Chapter 23

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 21, 2018


After silencing the Scribes and Pharisees, and seeing them still incorrigible and obdurate, our Lord, in order to guard His disciples and the people against being seduced by them, publicly denounces them for their vices. Before doing so, however, He distinguishes their public official teaching from their private vices, and tells the people to attend to their teaching in their official capacity, but by no means to imitate them in their wicked conduct, which He describes (Mt 23:1–7). He takes occasion, from the pride of the Pharisees, for which He severely reprehends them, to inculcate humility, both interior and exterior (Mt 23:8–12). He next pronounces woes and maledictions against the Scribes and Pharisees, which He repeats eight times, on account of their detestable lives, and the vices, which they shamelessly indulged in (Mt 23:13–33). After predicting their maltreatment of the Apostles, and the preachers of the Gospel, He foretells the utter ruin of themselves and their city, notwithstanding His special love, repeatedly manifested to, but as often spurned and undervalued by, the unhappy Jerusalem (Mt 23:34–39).

Mt 23:1. “Then,” after He had reduced to silence His adversaries, and had employed all possible remedies in vain, to effect the conversion of the Scribes and Pharisees; after He had adduced the most cogent reasons to prove the truth of His doctrine, and had sealed the Divinity of His Heavenly mission by incontestable miracles; after He had privately reprehended them for their wickedness; seeing them still incorrigible, and become more hardened and obdurate, “then,” in order to guard the multitude and His disciples against being seduced by their wicked example, He publicly upbraids them for their vices.

Mt 23:2. Before doing so, however, He distinguishes between their public teaching, when interpreting the law of Moses, or their public authority, and their private errors, and personal vices; and guards against the charge of being the enemy of the law of Moses, and a subverter of constituted authority. In the former character, He wishes the people to respect and follow them, since they were the legitimate representatives of the authority Divinely constituted by Moses; and, as the New Law, which was to succeed the Old, and the Gospel ministry, which was to be substituted for that of Aaron and his sons, were not yet established, the people were still bound to obey the existing spiritual authority.

“Have sitten upon the chair of Moses.” By this “chair of Moses,” is meant, the authority Divinely instituted, and exercised by Moses, of teaching the people and expounding to them the law of God, and of ruling them in all things appertaining to the Divine worship; just as by the chair of Peter, cathedra Petri, is meant, the authority Divinely granted him to teach and rule the entire Church. To sit in the chair of Peter is to succeed to the fulness of his authority, that is, to “the full power of feeding, ruling, and governing the universal Church.” Hence, to “sit in the chair of Moses,” means, to exercise, by legitimate succession, the teaching and authority of Moses, in expounding the doctrine of God. The words are allusive to the posture which teachers were generally in the habit of assuming in authoritatively delivering instruction to their hearers; the custom, however, among the Jews in delivering instructions, or expounding the SS. Scripture, in their synagogues, was to do so in a standing posture (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:16). So also Esdras read the law in a standing posture (Neh 8:4). The Greek for “sit” (εκαθισαν), means, have sitten, and do still sit (Beelen).

“The Scribes and the Pharisees.” The Scribes were the doctors and interpreters of the law. It was their duty to propound and explain the law of Moses to the people (Mt 2:4). The Pharisees ruled the people, and filled the office of magistrates and rulers. The same person often filled the office of Scribe, and belonged to the sect of Pharisees. And, most likely, all the Scribes, most of whom were Pharisees, were Priests or Levites, whose duty it was to explain the law to the people (Mal. 2:7), “labia sacerdotis,” &c. But, although the Scribes and Pharisees were priests; still, our Redeemer, out of reverence for the Priestly character, refrains from referring to them, as such, to show us the respect due to the Priestly office, even where some of its occupants act in a way not befitting their exalted character. What an example to the modern Pharisees, whose entire occupation it would seem to be, to indulge in unnecessary censures on the action and motives of the Priests of God, even in presence of children, whose minds they thus corrupt. Would that some Priests, themselves the followers of Judas, who, thank God, are very few, were not the first to criticise the best actions, and endeavour to blacken the character, and impair the influence of, God’s zealous ministers, whose edifying lives are a reproach to these false brethren.

Mt 23:3. “All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, do,” &c. The word, “therefore,” shows the source of the obligation here imposed by our Divine Redeemer. It is in virtue of their public ministerial character, as successors to the authority of Moses.

“All things whatsoever.” Some interpreters give these words a wide extension, so as to embrace not only the commandments and precepts contained in the law of Moses, and expounded by them from it; but also, all the ordinances and precepts, even of an indifferent nature, imposed by the Scribes and Pharisees, not opposed to the law of Moses, as those would be regarding the honour due to parents (Mt 15:4), and those regarding perjury (v. 16); also, their teaching, regarding our Redeemer, which was manifestly opposed to Moses. These, and all such, are clearly excepted from the words, “all things whatsoever,” Thus, when the Apostle commands children to obey their parents, “in all things,” he manifestly, from the very nature of things, excepts obedience when they command evil. The universal form of the words, “all things whatsoever,” with the limitation already assigned, is in favour of this interpretation. (Jansenius, &c.) Others, with Maldonatus, restrict the words to the precepts contained in the law of Moses, and taught from it, or to the doctrine of Moses; and this would seem to be implied in the words, “sit in the chair of Moses,” as if he said, all things, then, that they command, while expounding the law of Moses, or, rather, all things which the law of Moses prescribes, the Pharisees being its expounders, do and observe. In this interpretation, there is not even the appearance of contradiction between the commands of our Redeemer here, and the caution He gives (c. 16), “cavete a fermento Pharisærum,” as in this latter place, He means to guard them against the errors which the Pharisees taught, opposed to the law of Moses. In such circumstances, they did “not sit on the chair of Moses.”

Whether the Jewish Church was gifted with infallibility, or not, is a point not quite agreed upon. At all events, it seems to have never, as such, whatever might have been the perverse teachings of individuals, erred in faith, until the time it rejected and condemned Christ. Then, however, it had ceased; it was of merely temporary duration, and any promises made to it could only regard the time of its existence. But, in reference to the Christian Church, the gift of infallibility has been secured to it until the end of time, until the consummation of ages. (See Luke 22:32).

“But, according to their works do ye not.” Our Redeemer here carefully distinguishes their private doctrines, personal conduct, and, likely, also their private teaching, from their utterances in their public ministerial capacity. It was the more necessary to caution the people against being imitators of their wicked conduct, as men are apt to attend to, and imitate the practice, rather than the doctrine, of their teachers.

“For they say, and do not.” This is the first subject of reproach, on the part of our Lord, against the Scribes and Pharisees. Their conduct is not in accordance with their teaching. The man who delivers precepts, binding on all, and himself violates them, commits a threefold sin—1st. By transgressing the law, which he is bound to observe. 2ndly. By not correcting others, as he should. 3rdly. By rendering his teaching odious, thus injuring his hearers.

Mt 23:4. “For, they bind,” i.e., collect into bundles, “heavy … burdens”—the second subject of reproach. These words are allusive to the practice, resorted to sometimes, of tying and binding up heavy loads, to be carried by beasts of burden. “Insupportable.” The Greek, δυσβάστακτα, means, hard to be carried. This has reference to the multiplied ceremonial precepts, which constituted a heavy burden, “which neither they, nor their fathers, have been able to bear” (Acts 15:10). To this, add the traditions of the ancients, and their own. St. Chrysostom, however, remarks, that, in this, our Redeemer does not refer to the Jewish Ceremonial Law, which Christ had not, as yet, abrogated; but, to the traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, and the laws they imposed, contrary to Scripture. It may be, He refers, both to the heavy load of the Ceremonial Law, to which they superadded a great multiplicity of human traditions. To this, add their rigid interpretation of the letter of the Divine Law, the stern severity with which they enforced it. All this rendered their precepts “insupportable.” The rigour with which they enforced the observance of the Sabbath may serve as an example of the latter. The words, “lay them on men’s shoulders,” conveys an idea of the haughty, authoritative tone, assumed by these men.

“But with a finger of their own,” &c. A proverbial form of expression, common to both Greek and Latin writers, conveying, that one has no inclination or disposition whatever to take part in any labour one imposes on others. The word, “finger,” is opposed to “shoulder,” and the whole phrase conveys, that these men did not use the least exertion to render, by their own example, the observance of these ordinances light for those upon whom they imposed them.

Whether He refers here to the peculiar traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, or to the multitude of the precepts of the Old Law, which they rendered still more intolerable by the excessive rigour with which they enforced their strict observance—and this latter seems more likely, as the Pharisees were most observant of their own traditions, while they neglected the law—St. Chrysostom observes, that our Redeemer prefers a twofold charge against the Pharisees: 1st. That of being too exacting, as regards others. 2ndly. Of being too indulgent in regard to themselves.

Mt 23:5. In the foregoing, our Redeemer cautions His followers against imitating the Pharisees, &c., in their violations of God’s law; here, He cautions them against imitating them, in the good they seem to do; since, even in this, their motives are corrupt. They perform all their external good works, such as prayer, fasting, alms-deeds, &c., from a vicious motive, for the purpose of gaining human applause, rather than of promoting the glory of God. In this, they are not to be imitated.

“For, they make their phylacteries broad.” These “phylacteries,” literally, preservatives, to remind them to keep the law; safeguards or charms against evil, were strips or scrolls of parchment, on which were written the Ten Commandments, or some sentences from the law. These the Jews bound round their foreheads, their left wrist, or arm, while at prayer (Josephus Antiq. iv. 8–13), to remind them of their duty. St. Jerome assures us, that, up to his own time, the Jews wore them in India, and among the Persians and Babylonians. This custom took its rise from a too literal, instead of a spiritual, interpretation of the text (Deut. 6:8), “Thou shalt bind them as a sign on thy hand, and they shall be, and shall move as a sign between thy eyes.” What was commanded here, was, that the Jews should be always mindful of God’s Commandments, that they should make them the rule of their conduct, and meditate on them day and night. But the Jews took the words literally, and acted accordingly. It is not the use of them our Redeemer here condemns; but, the ostentatious display of them by the Pharisees, in order to appear more religious than others.

“And enlarge their fringes.” We read Numbers 15:38; Deut. 22:12), that Moses commanded the Jews “to make to themselves fringes,” or, to make strings in the them, at the four corners of their cloaks. These fringes, or tassels, which hung from the four corners of their cloaks, which were square in front and behind, had each a distinguishing thread of deep blue—the colour of the heavens—to remind them, of their obligation to observe God’s Commandments, and also to keep before their minds, that they were segregated from all other nations. St. Jerome informs us, that, in his time, some Jews inserted sharp-pointed thorns, whose puncture, when they either walked or sat down, would remind them of their duty. What our Redeemer here censures is, the ostentatious display of the Pharisees, who enlarged these tassels, in order to appear more religious than others. They affected all this external show of piety in their garments, while they denied its spirit, and despised its ordinances, in the regulation of their own lives.

Mt 23:6. “They love,” that is, inordinately and eagerly ambition. “The first places at feasts.” Among the Jews, the first place was at the top of the table; among the Greeks and Romans, the middle of the triclinium. Our Redeemer does not so much censure them for actually obtaining these places—since those placed in exalted station should get a preference; and God, whose representatives they are, is honoured in them—as for their ambitious and vainglorious anxiety in regard to such distinctions; and it was with a view of receiving those marks of honour and distinction, they affected the exterior sanctity of manners referred to in the preceding words.

“And the first chairs in the synagogues.” The most honourable seats in these places of public meeting, assigned to the seniors and the learned, with their backs to the desk of the reader, and their faces to the people. They would thus be in a position to exhibit the most profound humility and simplicity.

Mt 23:7. “And salutations,” profound marks of reverence and respect due to them, as pre-eminently holy, and observant of the law, in places of public resort. This reverence, so much coveted by the Scribes, &c., was, probably, rendered by the people with uncovered head, and bended knee.

“And to be called by men, Rabbi.” The word, “Rabbi,” signifies, “my master.” It is repeated in the ordinary Greek, “Rabbi, Rabbi” (but not repeated so in the Vatican MS.) This was an epithet applied by Judas to our Lord (Matt. 26:49), and also to John the Baptist, by his disciples (John 3:26). It is not the title itself that our Redeemer censures, but the vainglorious assumption and pride of the Pharisees, who were delighted with the frequent repetition of the term.

Mt 23:8. “Be you,” My followers and disciples, whom I wish to be altogether free from the vices and passions of these Scribes and Pharisees—“you”—whose morals I wish to be, in every respect, the opposite of theirs.

“Be not called Rabbi,” &c., that is, neither vaingloriously affect nor desire such titles of pre-eminence and distinction, nor take foolish complacency in them, should they be bestowed on you, nor on this account prefer yourselves to others. It is quite clear, that our Redeemer does not here condemn the use and bestowal of these titles; since, St. Paul calls himself the doctor of the Gentiles, and the father of the Galatians, in the faith; and we are all obliged to show honour and respect to our fathers and superiors, on earth. In order to see what our Redeemer here censures, we must look to the scope or end of His observations, and this clearly is, to inculcate humility and simplicity of life, on the part of His followers, so opposed to the pride and vain, ostentatious assumption of these titles by the Scribes, &c., thus despising all others.

“For one is your Master.” His disciples should acknowledge that there is but “One,” who is strictly entitled to the appellation of “Master;” that, although others may be “masters,” in an inferior degree, they are still but the ministers and instruments employed by that “one Master,” who alone can, by excellence be termed such. He alone, of Himself, possesses all knowledge; He alone can impart fruit to the teaching of others; He alone can speak to the heart, and interiorly communicate light and knowledge; compared with Him, none others can strictly be termed “masters.” From Him, they borrow all their knowledge. All they have, “is received” from Him, and all the glory of their labour should be referred to Him alone. Hence, those who affect to glory in this, or similar titles, assume what is not theirs, and derogate from what is due to Him. In this sense, our Redeemer tells us not to wish to be called “Rabbi,” as compared with God; as implying superiority in a prohibited sense, over others; “and, all you are brethren,” all, whether in an humble or exalted station, learned or unlearned, all, are one in Christ, all children of the same Heavenly Father, members of the same Christian family. No one should, therefore, assume superiority over others, in the sense that anyone has anything from himself, since all our gifts are received. This, however, does not interfere with due subordination, or with the relations which should exist between the governed and governing parties (1 Cor. 4:15), or with the gradation established by God, in His mystic body, so absolutely necessary for its well-being and existence (1 Cor. 12:14–27).

The words, then, mean: Do not vaingloriously aspire to the title of doctor or teacher, as if you had, of yourselves, any claim to this title; as if you were entitled to derive honour therefrom, as is done by the Pharisees. For, there is only One who can strictly be termed such, viz., Christ; or, as if you could, therefore, despise others, who may not be thus privileged; for, they are become your equals in Christianity. “You are all brethren.”

Mt 23:9. “And call none your father upon earth,” in the sense, of referring all we possess to them, as the principal cause, viz., our existence, our possessions; or, all we hope for, by way of inheritance. In this sense, we have but “one Father, who is in heaven.” To Him alone are we are indebted for everything—our life, our persons, all our faculties and senses, our corporal and spiritual privileges, our claims to eternal happiness. It is the vainglorious affectation of this and the other titles, on the part of the Scribes, for the purpose of pride and ostentation, that our Redeemer here condemns, as opposed to the glory and honour of God, the great source of all good, “of whom is named all paternity, in heaven and earth” (Eph. 3:15). He, by no means, however, censures or prohibits Christians from bearing and bestowing, in a dependent and subordinate sense, these titles, which superiority of office, station, or talent, may confer, and which may contribute to the subordination due by others. “As there is, by nature, but one God, and one Son, yet others are called sons of God, by adoption; so, there is but one Father and Master; yet, others, in a less strict sense, are styled fathers and masters” (St. Jerome).

Mt 23:10. Most likely, our Redeemer here repeats what He inculcated (v. 8), to show His detestation of pride, and to eradicate it the more effectually from the minds of His Apostles, whom He had appointed to be teachers and doctors of the entire earth; or, it may be, that a different idea is conveyed here, tending, however, to the same end. “Rabbi”—derived from Rab, signifying, the multitude—may refer to the multiplied variety of learning one possesses for teaching others. “Master” (καθηγητης), may refer to the same, under a different relation, as “leader, guide, director;” and Christ is to be called so pre-eminently, as being alone, “the way, the truth, and the life.”

Mt 23:11. This shows the scope of the preceding. Our Redeemer supposes that there is to be pre-eminence and superiority enjoyed in His Church, and authority exercised by some over others. This order and subordination is required in every well-regulated body, for its very continuance in existence. But, supposing this, our Redeemer points out the true and proper way of exercising this superiority. (See Mt 20:27, &c.)

Mt 23:12. “Whosoever,” no matter who, “shall exalt himself,” through pride, and shall attribute to himself what he has not, or, shall glory in what he may have, as if it were not received, and shall thus usurp the glory of God’s gifts, and despise others, such a man shall be humbled, debased, and degraded, for all eternity. Man has a natural aversion to whatever debases him, and since he sinned, he only merits humiliation and debasement. But, God, who is goodness itself, and knows man’s weakness, obliges him to humble himself, only with a promise of solid and enduring elevation; and, in prohibiting him to exalt himself, it is with a threat of eternal humiliation. In thus addressing His disciples, our Lord traces an image of the folly of the Pharisees, who exalted themselves above others; since, the measure of their humiliation, at a future day, shall be that of their self-elevation at present. For this reason, He hurls against them the following woes and maledictions, to inspire others with a horror of their criminal conduct, and thus deter them from imitating their vicious example.

Mt 23:13. It is observed by commentators, that as our Redeemer pronounces eight beatitudes on His followers, so here He pronounces eight woes against His enemies. In this, the Legislator of the New Law, imitates Moses, the Legislator of the Old, who proposes to those who keep his law, many benedictions; and threatens its violaters with as many maledictions (Deut. 27:12–26).

“You shut the kingdom of heaven.” Christ came to preach the near approach of “the kingdom of heaven,” shut for 4000 years; and to open it to mankind by His death and Passion. The immediate portal or doorway leading to this kingdom (whether we understand by it, the Church of Christ, or the kingdom of bliss, to which latter it more probably refers), is faith in Christ. For, He is the door; only through faith in Him, can one enter. The Scribes and Pharisees, who, not only themselves, refused to believe in Christ, but did their utmost to prevent others from believing in Him, or becoming His followers, closed it, or kept it closed “against men,” or, in the face of many who were about to enter (εμπροσθεν ανθρωπων). By denouncing the doctrine of Christ, by representing Him as an impostor, and His miracles as performed from the influence of Satan, they prevented men who were about to enter the Church, and embrace the faith of Christ, from doing so.

While as priests and pastors, it was their duty to save from ruin those who were on the brink of the abyss, these acted as poisoners and corrupters of souls. They not only refused themselves to embrace the faith; but, by all means, in their power, nay, even by threats among the rest, to cast out of the synagogue any one who would believe in Christ, they deterred many from entering the Church, which is alone the entrance to the kingdom of bliss. When the shepherd turns wolf, the state of things becomes desperate. It may be, that, in this verse, our Redeemer charges them with keeping concealed from the people, the true import of the prophecies that regarded Christ, from the clear fulfilment of which, both as regards doctrine and miracles, they would see He was the promised Messiah; and by the false interpretation of those prophecies of which they were the legally appointed expositors, and by their calumnious and blasphemous accounts of His Divine miracles, they kept others from embracing the faith. It is in this sense, most likely, He says of the lawyers (Luke 11:52), where the allusion is the same as here, “they have taken away the key of knowledge,” &c.

The metaphor is clearly allusive to those who, having the key of a house, take it away, so that others cannot enter. They concealed from the people the true knowledge of the prophecies regarding Christ, and perverted them, out of jealousy towards Him, and a vain desire to uphold their own authority, to their own ruin and that of others. Similar is the reproach of Osee (c. 4), against the Prophets and Priests of his day, who did not announce, but rather, concealed from the people, the knowledge and ways of the Lord.

Mt 23:14. “Because you devour the houses.” “Houses,” signifies, the substance and means “of widows”—a class of whom you should rather be the protectors and defenders, as is prescribed in the law. The circumstances of their circumventing poor, defenceless widows, who are more liable to be deceived by the external appearance of sanctimony, and have no husbands or protectors to guard them, aggravated their crime, and showed more clearly, the inhuman heartlessness of the Scribes and Pharisees.

“Making long prayers.” The Greek has, και προφασει μακρά προσευχομενοι. “And praying long under pretence,” as if He said, under pretence of offering up long prayers, which was only an hypocritical pretext for gratifying their avarice, by taking advantage of the piety and weakness of these women, who, having the disposal of their property, reduced themselves to want, in order to enrich these heartless traffickers in religion. For, it was not prayer these hypocrites had in view; but, the gratification of avarice. Hence, they prevailed on these artless, unprotected women, who easily became the prey of such canting hypocrites, to give them, or what came to the same, to make over in vows or offerings to the temple in whose wealth they participated, large sums of money, in order to be recommended to the Divine protection, in these long prayers, the real object of which was avarice and ostentation. It may be, too, that there is allusion here, to the avaricious practices of the Pharisees, in regard to praying for the dead. It was customary, from the remotest antiquity, to pray in the synagogue for the souls of the departed. (2 Macc. 12) This is rendered probable, from the fact, of our Redeemer mentioning “widows,” as the parties whom they robbed, under pretence of long prayers, most likely offered up for their deceased husbands. It might be said, however, that they are specially mentioned, in order to aggravate the heartlessness of the Pharisees. Others, understand the words to mean, that their prayers and religious exercises, protracted by them to a great length, served as a pretext for visiting the houses of widows, who easily shared their wealth with their guests. Our Redeemer does not condemn long prayers, since He, Himself, devoted whole nights to prayer; and so did many of the Saints. He only condemns the hypocritical affectation and abuse of them.

“For this, you shall receive the greater judgment,” or, a heavier condemnation. They were guilty of a threefold sin, viz., avarice; perversion of sacred things to bad purposes; oppression of those, whom they should specially protect.

This verse has not been interpreted by St. Jerome, nor by Origen and others. Hence, it is omitted in some Latin versions. But, it is found in all Greek versions, with the order somewhat inverted in some, this being placed before verse 13. Its genuineness is generally admitted. It is found in Mark 12:40; Luke 20:47.

Mt 23:15. “You go around about sea and land,” traverse the entire earth; a proverbial form of expression common among the Greeks and Romans, implying the greatest activity and exertions. Even the Heathen writers allude to the zeal of the Jews for making proselytes (Hor. Sat. i. 4), so much so, that it was interdicted by the “constitutions of the Emperors.” “Proselyte,” immediately derived from the Greek, the same as the Latin term, advena, or, adventitius, denotes a person who, having belonged before to one form of religion, leaves it, and comes to join another. It signifies here, the opposite of one who was born of Jewish parents. The Scribes and Pharisees left nothing undone to make as many converts to Judaism as possible; and, thus, endeavoured to gain a character for extraordinary religious zeal. But, in reality, these “hypocrites” had in view, to advance their own ambitious and avaricious ends, by sharing in the profits accruing from the sacrifices, or victims which these converts would present in the temple. Some understand the word to mean, not so much a convert to Judaism, as a convert to the peculiar sect of the Pharisees. “A child of hell,” deserving hell, “twofold more than yourselves,” worse than the Pharisees themselves, even in the proportion of two to one. How this happens our Redeemer does not say; but, it is supposed to occur in one of two ways: either, that the converts, scandalized at the hypocrisy and wicked lives of the Pharisees, or, disgusted with the yoke of the law, to which were superadded Pharisaical traditions, again returned in disgust to the worship of idols, and thus sinned more grievously than before; since, they sinned with greater light and knowledge, and added the crime of apostasy to their other sins, thus selling their souls doubly to the devil. Or, it may be, that seeing the wicked lives of their instructors, they wished to outstrip them in wickedness. For, as St. Chrysostom remarks (in Matth. Hom. 74), with difficulty do we follow good teachers; and, as regards wicked instructors, not only do we follow their perverse example; but, we also endeavour to surpass them in wickedness, owing to our strong natural tendency to evil. It is not the zeal of the Pharisees our Redeemer here censures; but, the end to which they conducted their proselytes, the bad example and instruction they gave them. How applicable are not these words of our Redeemer to these modern Pharisees, these unprincipled traffickers in human souls, who infest this country, seeking some unhappy victims of misery and wretchedness, not to console them, like the good Samaritan, with the wine and oil of gladness, irrespective of religion, but, to corrupt them first with bribes, and then seduce them to abjure, against conscience, all they hold most sacred, in order to join their sect, not caring what they become, if, after the voice of conscience is stifled, they can be brought to blaspheme God’s Holy Church, the Angels and Saints of heaven; and above all, the Glorious and Immaculate Queen of the Saints, so dear to every Christian heart. Thus, they render their wretched dupes children of hell, worse, if possible, than themselves.

Mt 23:16. “Blind guides.” The following is one of the false traditions introduced by the Pharisees, contrary to God’s law, and in promulgating which, they did not sit on the chair of Moses. “Blind.” The crimes which provoked the preceding woes proceeded from hypocrisy. But, the crimes now denounced, proceeded from blindness of heart, resulting from avarice, from a desire to stimulate the people to offer gifts, of which they themselves were sharers.

“Guides,” teachers and instructors, pointing out to the people the way in which they should walk. “It was not the fear of God, but the love of gold,” says St. Jerome, that influenced them. They impressed the people with greater respect for the sanctity of the oblations in which they had an interest, than for the sanctity of the place in which they were presented, or of the altar consecrated for victims.

“Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing.” The Pharisees, seeing that it was commanded in the Old Law, to swear by the name of God, regarded all oaths by the name of creatures, as not binding. But, in consequence of the immediate connexion existing between God and the gifts offered to Him, they excepted oaths made by these gifts. They held, that one was bound to fulfil such oaths. This blindness, on their part, was caused by avarice, as they were enriched by the gifts presented to the treasury of the temple. It was the same motive that made them regard the fulfilment of a vow, to give a gift to the sanctuary (Corban), more binding than the precept of “honouring one’s parents.” Our Redeemer first refutes their error regarding the superior sanctity of the gifts offered in the temple, or on the altar, beyond that of the altar or temple itself. He shows, the temple to be holier than the gift offered on it; and He next draws a conclusion, diametrically opposite to that deduced by them from these false premises, viz., that, as the gifts, &c., wore more holy than the places where they were presented, the oaths, by these gifts, were more binding than those by the places where they were offered. Our Redeemer first shows, that the altar and temple are holier than the gifts. In truth, as these gifts, viewed in themselves materially, are profane, without any sacredness, it is solely from the circumstances of their being presented in the temple, or, on the altar, that any sacredness or extrinsic sanctity, consisting in their being separated from profane uses, and set apart to be dedicated to Divine purposes, is imparted to them; and therefore, the altar and the temple, “which sanctify them,” by imparting a kind of extrinsic sanctity to them, are greater than these gifts, which are sanctified.

Mt 23:20. Having refuted their error, He now draws an opposite conclusion. “Therefore”—as the altar and the temple are holier and greater than the gifts offered in them—“he that sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things that are upon it.” He swears by all the gifts presented on the altar, and, therefore, the oath by the altar, is as binding as that by the gifts on it.

Mt 23:21. Such a man swears openly by God Himself, who, in a special manner, dwells in the temple. Such an oath is directly referred to God Himself, from whom these things cannot be considered to be separated.

Mt 23:22. The same is equally true of an oath by heaven, since God dwells there in a still more special manner. Hence, the oaths by creatures are binding; since in them, whether common or sacred, God is present; and they are His creatures, either by the title of creation or consecration. For, when we swear by mute creatures, as they cannot be invoked as witnesses of the truth, unless we suppose some divinity inherent in them, which no believer ever imagines, we must swear by God, and invoke Him as witness, as He exists, and is acknowledged in them. For, to swear, is to call God to witness. Whosoever, therefore, swears, is convicted of calling on God as witness of the truth. How many among Christians follow the false teaching of the Pharisees? How many among them make light of swearing by God Himself, of calling Him directly to witness, while they regard, with the greatest reverence, an oath on the Gospels, which are sanctified by God’s name; nay, even hold in higher reverence an oath or assertion by false human honour? This preposterous conduct is, unfortunately, to be met with every day among Christians.

Mt 23:23. “You tithe” (αποδεκατουτε, decimatis), may mean, either to pay or receive tithes. He here taxes them with another instance of hypocrisy. The Pharisees wished to appear so exact in the observance of the law, that they paid the tithes of the smallest herbs, which were either not enforced by the law; or, at best, were not binding under grievous sin. “Mint, anise, and cummin,” herbs growing in the land of Judea. The law prescribed, that “all tithes of the land, whether of corn, or of the fruits of trees, are the Lord’s” (Lev. 27:30). In Hebrew, for “corn,” it is, “the seed of the earth.” Hence, rigorously speaking, it might be, that tithes should be exacted from the herbs, which might be classed among the seeds of the earth. But, by a mild interpretation, they were regarded as not obligatory, nor was the payment of tithes from them observed or enforced among the Jews. Hence, the Pharisee in the Gospel says, that he, as contrasted with the publican and the other classes among the Jews, “gave tithes of all he possessed.” Our Redeemer does not censure the Pharisees for paying tithes from these herbs; since, if not prescribed, it was, at least, conformable to the law. What He does censure them for is, that while they attended to small things with the utmost punctuality, in order thus to acquire a character for greater exactitude and more perfect observance of the law, they, with consummate hypocrisy, neglected the most important precepts, viz., “judgment,” which may mean, in a general way, their neglect to render to their neighbour what was his due, or, their neglect, in their capacity of judges of the people, to pass a just sentence, according to the merits of each case. For, this office of judges was exercised by the Pharisees. They favoured their friends and those who gave them bribes. There is hardly any crime which the SS. Scripture so strongly condemns as the passing of unjust judgments. “Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow” (Isa. 1:17).

“And mercy.” They rigorously exact their dues from the poor, victims from widows, &c., and neglect, at the same time, to succour the indigent, and to show charity to their neighbours. Whereas, God “prefers mercy to sacrifice” (Hos 6:6).

“And faith,” that is, fidelity, truth in their dealings, promises, and compacts. It may also refer to their rejection of the faith of Christ—the root and foundation of all true justice, of which they wished to be accounted most zealous.

“These things you ought to have done,” that is, to have observed, viz., “the weightier things,” the more important precepts of the law, judgment, &c., “and not to leave those,” viz., the paying of tithes, “undone.” From these latter words, it is inferred by some, that the payment of tithes, out of the herbs above-mentioned, was prescribed by law. However, it may be said, that “those” refers, not to tithes out of “mint, anise,” &c., but to the precepts of paying tithes in general, and this our Redeemer prescribes, lest He might pass for an enemy of the law; or, the word, “ought,” in reference to the latter phrase, may simply mean, it was convenient and right, as being conformable to the law, though not necessary.

Some expositors, with St. Jerome, interpret the words, “you tithe” (decimatis), to mean, you exact tithes. The Greek, as well as the Latin word, will mean, either to pay, or, to receive tithes. In this latter interpretation, He taxes the avarice of the Pharisees, and it would refer to such of the Pharisees as were of the Levitical Tribe. The eleven other Tribes paid tithes to the Tribe of Levi; and those of the inferior families of Levi paid tithes of their tithes to the Pontiff and the Priests. (St. Jerome, in Ezek. 45; see Numbers 18).

However, as it is to the Pharisees our Redeemer addresses Himself, and not to the Priests, it is most likely, that the word means, to pay tithes. These hypocrites affected the greatest exactitude, and such zeal for the law, as to pay tithes even out of the most trifling things—hence, the Pharisee in the Gospel says: “I pay tithes out of all I possess”—while they neglected the most important ordinances.

“Blind guides.” It is a great misery, when men, who are themselves “blind.” far from seeking a guide, presume to guide others. “Strain out a gnat,” &c., is a proverbial form of expression, more strongly conveying the preceding idea, that they were very exact about small things, and negligent in regard to great and important matters. The words, “straining out a gnat,” contain an allusion to the custom among the Jews, as well as the Greeks and Romans, of passing through a strainer, wines which in southern countries, and Palestine particularly, bred a certain species of gnats or insects peculiar to wine (Amos 6:6). The opposition is rendered more clear and forcible by comparing the smallest insect with the largest animal. The Pharisees, in their excessive punctuality regarding trifles and their neglect of most important matters, resembled those men who strained their wines for fear of swallowing small insects, but opened wide their throats to swallow down a camel.

Mt 23:25. He here instances another case of hypocrisy. In their anxiety to present a good exterior before men, while neglecting to cleanse and purify their souls, the Pharisees, &c., resembled men, who wash the outside of their cups and dishes, but mind not their contents, or what is placed in them; and, as exterior cleanliness of cups, &c., cannot serve the body, if the contents be impure; so, neither can their bodily ablutions serve their souls. “You make clean the outside of the cup,” out of which you drink—“and of the dish,” from which you take your food. In this is contained the comparison above alluded to. “But within you are full of rapine,” &c. Here, passing from the language of metaphor, he applies the comparison. “Within,” in your souls and consciences, while your exterior is specious and showy before men. “You are full of rapine,” the guilt of extortion practised on the poor, whom you plunder, pollutes your souls. “And uncleanness,” all sorts of crime arising from your repeated violations of God’s law (αδικιας). Some MSS. have (ακρασιας), intemperance, as if He referred to their intemperance in the use of meat and drink. There is a difference of reading in MSS. In some MSS., the comparison, or figure, is observed throughout, thus: “but within they (viz., the cups and dishes), are full of rapine and intemperance,” that is, the contents of the cups are the fruit of rapine and excess of every sort. It may be, that our Lord alludes to their great anxiety to observe the Pharisaical ordinances, regarding the repeated washing of cups, &c., among the Jews, while they cared not for the interior purity, of which these exterior ablutions were but mere symbols.

Mt 23:26. This would seem to be an application of the foregoing comparison. “Blind Pharisee.” Thou, who presumest to guide others, and art blind thyself. “First make clean the inside of the cup.” First, purify thy conscience, which is represented by the interior of the cup and of the dish. “That the outside may become clean,” that, in the sight of God, and, in truth, what appears clean outside, or your whole exterior, may be really edifying and blameless; since, it is from the interior virtues and purity, our exterior appearance derives any value; and without interior purity, exterior decorum or appearance of virtue is only a practical lie.

Mt 23:27. This is another similitude, tending to the same end, having for object, to show the hypocrisy and exterior affectation of sanctity, on the part of the Pharisees, while they were devoid of all sanctity and virtue before God, who sees the heart. The comparison hardly needs any explanation.

“Whitened sepulchres.” The Jews whitened the exterior of their sepulchres annually, in order that they might be known, and clearly seen, and the pollution caused by touching, or walking over them, avoided.

Mt 23:28. “Inwardly you are full of hypocrisy,” owing to their lying affectation of sanctity, which they did not possess; “and iniquity,” total disregard of God’s law.

Mt 23:29. “Build the sepulchres of the prophets,” that is, restored them, and raised them from a state of dilapidation. “And adorn the monuments of the just,” conveys the same idea as the former, in a different form of words. “The just,” are the same as “the prophets;” and “sepulchres,” the same as “monuments.” The Jews, in order to show their veneration for the persecuted just of old, and to testify their abhorrence of the cruelty they underwent for justice’ sake, ornamented and rebuilt their sepulchres. This was, in itself, praiseworthy, and deserving of commendation, nor does our Redeemer pronounce woe upon them on this account. But what He censures in them is, their hypocrisy, in affecting a horror of the crimes of their fathers, who persecuted the prophets, when, at the same time, they proved themselves to be “sons,” faithful imitators, not of the virtuous Abraham, but of these same fathers, who killed the prophets, while harbouring the wicked design of persecuting unto death the Lord of the prophets, to whom the prophets all bore testimony.

Mt 23:30. Our Redeemer shows, that He sees into the secrets of their hearts, their wicked designs against Himself, to cover which they pretended to honour the memory of the prophets, and to abhor the wicked deeds of those who persecuted them. They pretended that far from sharing in these wicked deeds, had they lived in the days of their fathers, they would rather have been faithful imitators of the prophets, acting a part quite different from that acted by their fathers.

They affected this external respect and veneration for the prophets, solely with a view of concealing their malice, in regard to Jesus Christ, whom, by this pretended reverence for the prophets of old, they wished to make the people regard neither as a just man, nor as a prophet.

Mt 23:31. “Wherefore,” by the very fact of their admitting that they would not have joined their “fathers,” had they lived in their day, in the persecution of the prophets, they bore testimony “against themselves,” or, as the Greek has it, εαυτοις, unto, or regarding themselves, that they were the “sons of them that killed the prophets.” The force of the inference contained in “wherefore,” is founded on the relation of “sons,” conveyed by the word, “fathers.” No doubt, the Scribes and Pharisees did not erect or adorn the monuments, for the purpose of expressing their approval of the deeds of their fathers, who killed the prophets, as appears (v. 30)—although St. Chrysostom, very improbably, however, thinks they erected those monuments as trophies, commemorative of the courage of their fathers, who would not permit themselves to be rebuked by the prophets—quite the contrary; they wished to show, externally, their reverence for the “prophets,” and their abhorrence of their murderers. But, as the act of raising monuments was susceptible of being construed into a testimony of respect for either those who slew others, or those who were slain, our Redeemer, who knew the hearts of the Pharisees, construes their act in the very opposite sense of what they intended it to bear, as if it were an approval of their fathers’ misdeeds, since they were, in reality, not merely children, by nature, of these selfsame parents, but true followers of them, by the imitation of then vices.

“You are witnesses against yourselves.” St. Luke has (Lk 11:48), “Truly you bear witness that you consent to the doings of your fathers: for, they killed them (the prophets), and, you build their sepulchres.” It is not so much on their external conduct, in building the monuments of the prophets, and their professions, that our Redeemer’s inference is founded. It is rather upon the knowledge which He had, as God, of their inward feelings in regard to Himself and His Apostles; and God sometimes interprets men’s actions, not according to the meaning they would have attached to thorn, but according to the true sense that accords with their interior dispositions, which the infallible light of His omniscience penetrates. Thus, the Prophet Amos (Am 5:25-26), charges the Jews, during the forty years’ sojourn in the desert, with having offered up sacrifices only to Moloch and the stars; because, no matter what were their external professions during that time, their heart was borne towards the false worship of idols. In like manner, whatever might have been the external professions of the Pharisees, in the erection of monuments to those slain by their fathers, our Redeemer takes their act in a sense quite different from what they wished—a sense, however, quite in accordance with truth and their interior feelings and dispositions. Their act, no matter how accompanied with professions of respect for the prophets, was also susceptible of being construed into an approval of those who slew them. For, men never wished to perpetuate the deeds of their fathers, except such as they deemed worthy of commendation, and this construction of their act being in accordance with their internal feelings, as known to our Redeemer, He draws the conclusion, founded on truth, the very opposite, however, of what they hypocritically meant to be deduced from it. The conclusion is not derived from their external act, and their professions regarding the intention they had in raising the monuments, which were really praiseworthy; but, from the knowledge our Redeemer had of their feelings towards Himself, and the just of the New Law, quite the same as those of their fathers, whose worthy descendants they proved themselves to be.

Mt 23:32. “Fill ye up, then,” &c. “Then,” since your dispositions as regards the just are the same as those of your fathers, perfect their work, of killing the prophets of the Lord, by putting to death, as you are resolved on, the Lord of the prophets; as if He said: Complete what is wanting of impiety, to move God, in His indignation, utterly to ruin you.

The word, “measure,” contains an allusion to things sold by certain measure. It is only after the full measure is given, the full price is paid. So, there is a measure of guilt and iniquity, as well in the case of individuals as of entire nations, after which God pouring out the full vial of His wrath, utterly and inexorably ruins them. Thus, He waited for the murder of His eternal Son, before He utterly ruined Jerusalem. For, although He often chastised the Jews from time to time, for their ingratitude, their continual murmurings, their frequent relapses into idolatry, the murder of His prophets, still, these chastisements were tempered with mercy; and it was only when they had consummated the iniquity of their race, by putting to death His eternal Son, that God utterly abandoned and destroyed His people. In like manner (Gen. 15:16), God says of the Amorrhites, that “their iniquities were not yet the full.” Four hundred years more elapsed before their iniquities were completed, and the whole race utterly destroyed by Moses and Josue. Similar was the treatment of the Amalecites, on account of the crimes of their fathers, and their unceasing hostility to the Jews (1 Sam 15:16). The children and their ancestors are, in civil estimation, regarded as one. Hence, the merits or demerits of the parents redound to the children, when they imitate their example; and then, when the measure of iniquity is filled up, they suffer the full punishment of the mass of iniquity which had been accumulating for ages. Not that the children are punished more severely than their sins deserve; but, the circumstance of their having completed the measure of iniquity, pre-ordained by God for punishment, of their having accumulated crime upon crime, so as to reach a certain height, causes God to regard them and their parents as one moral person, and to inflict on them, in the rigours of His justice, the punishment justly due, which He might have otherwise paternally withheld, “that may come on you the blood shed” (Mt 23:35), as if the children morally participated in the crimes of the parents, whom they imitated.

From this verse, theologians deduce, that, in God’s decrees, a certain measure and number of sins, a certain height of iniquity, is permitted, both to kingdoms, cities, and private individuals, before He fully and completely punishes them. But, after this is reached, then will He fully punish them. His vengeance, if slow, is always sure, and when long-deferred, it is fully compensated by the severity of the stroke. Who, then, should not tremble at the commission of sin, lest, by tilling up the defined measure of guilt, he should set bounds, as it were, to the Divine mercy, and force God, by the consummation of guilt—and this applies as well to entire nations as to individual sinners—to abandon him, and give him over to a reprobate sense. In case of relapse, after former forgiveness, the same may apply. “De propitiato peccato noli esse sine metu.”

The words, “fill up,” do not convey a precept. They are an instance of what might be termed an ironical permission, frequently met with in SS. Scripture. They convey a prediction of what is most certainly to happen the Pharisees, &c., owing to their hardened malice. A like example is found in the case of Judas, “quod facis, fae citius” (John 13:27).

Mt 23:33. Our Redeemer here boldly denounces against these wicked men, with the view of deterring others from following their perverse example, the eternal torments of hell, which they had been earning for themselves, by their misdeeds, of which they had no idea of repenting.

“Serpents, generation of vipers.” The “viper” was the most venomous of serpents. Here, our Redeemer taxes the fiendish cunning—allusive to the old serpent—the deadly malignity and wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. This malignity was especially evinced in their calumniating, and persecuting unto death, good and holy men; nay, the Redeemer of the world Himself, as the old serpent calumniated God. (Gen. 3)

“How will you escape the judgment of hell?” Not, but they could do so, by doing penance for their sins; but in this our Redeemer predicts their final impenitence and obduracy in sin, as if He said: You may here escape, for a time, the judgment of men; but, you shall not be able to escape the judgment of hell, since you are determined to continue incorrigible and impenitent, notwithstanding all My miracles, teaching, threats, and promises.

Mt 23:34. “Therefore.” Some regard this as merely denoting transition, having no reference to what preceded; others say, it has reference to the words, “generation of vipers,” and to the following words, “and some of them you will put to death,” &c., as if He said: Because, then, you are the “generation of vipers,” the bad offspring of the worst parents, and are determined on filling up the measure of your fathers; you, as the faithful imitators of the murderers of the ancient prophets, notwithstanding your ostentatious display of justice, will persecute and put to death the Apostles, &c., whom I shall send to you; as your fathers, whom you surpass in wickedness, treated the saints and prophets of their day.

The word, “therefore,” according to this connexion, does not assign the cause of his sending the “prophets” &c.; but, rather, it assigns the cause why the Jews were to persecute them.

“I send you.” I, who am God, to whom alone it belongs to send the prophets, shall “send,” &c., after My Resurrection and glorious Ascension, when sitting at the glorious right hand of My Father. In St. Luke (Lk 11:49), the form of expression is different. “Therefore, also the Wisdom of God, said, I will send to them prophets,” &c. By “the Wisdom of God,” is meant, Christ, the Wisdom, or Word of the Father. It is the same as, “I send.” Most likely, however, that the form recorded by St. Luke, of which St. Matthew gives the sense, was that used by our Redeemer. And He employed that ambiguous form to escape the odium of making Himself God. Following the form adopted by the ancient prophets, “hæc dicit Dominus,” our Redeemer uses the phrase, “dixit (that is, decrevit), Dei sapientia,” without, however, quoting from any of the ancient prophets, since He Himself was the Divine Interpreter of God’s will, and saw into the secrets of futurity.

“Prophets, and wise men, and Scribes.” These different titles are given by our Redeemer to His Apostles and their successors, in accommodation to the titles with which the Jews designated their teachers, whose places were pre-eminently filled by His Apostles, and the preachers of the Gospel. Our Redeemer sometimes applied the Jewish titles to His followers (Mt 13:52); St. Paul (1 Cor. 1:20). He bestowed on His Church the several gifts here referred to. Some of the Apostles were gifted with “prophecy,” properly so called (see Apocalypse of St. John, and several predictions of SS. Peter and Paul). The word might also bear the meaning often attached to it, viz., the gift of extraordinary interpretation of the Divine will, although this is contained in the following: “Wise men,” endowed not with human, but heavenly wisdom, which none of their adversaries could resist or gainsay (Luke 21:15).

“Scribes,” profoundly versed in the law of God, able to bring forth the treasure of the new and the old (Mt 13:52). St. Luke (Lk 11:49), for, “wise men and Scribes,” has simply, “Apostles,” because the Apostles were all at once “prophets,” from their predicting future things; “wise men,” owing to the knowledge God gave them of His only Son; and “Scribes,” or doctors, owing to their intimate acquaintance with the SS. Scriptures, and the Divine law.

“Some of them you will put to death,” &c. Herod Agrippa put to death James the Greater, with the approbation of the Jews (Acts 12:2). They stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58); precipitated James the Lesser from the temple (Eusebius, Lib. 2, Hist. c. 23). They crucified Simeon, son of Cleophas, second Bishop of Jerusalem (Hegesippus apud Euseb. Lib. 3, c. 16). They scourged St. Peter and the Apostles (Acts 5:40); St. Paul (2 Cor. 11:24). They “persecuted from city to city,” Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 13; 14).

Although, by the murder of the Son of God, the Jews would seem to have filled up the