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’

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 16:28-17:9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2017

HOMILY LVI

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, There are some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

Thus, inasmuch as He had discoursed much of dangers and death, and of His own passion, and of the slaughter of the disciples, and had laid on them those severe injunctions; and these were in the present life and at hand, but the good things in hope and expectation:—for example, “They save their life who lose it;” “He is coming in the glory of His Father;” “He renders His rewards:”—He willing to assure their very sight, and to show what kind of glory that is wherewith He is to come, so far as it was possible for them to learn it; even in their present life He shows and reveals this; that they should not grieve any more, either over their own death, or over that of their Lord, and especially Peter in His sorrow.

And see what He doth. Having discoursed of hell,1 and of the kingdom (for as well by saying, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose it for my sake, shall find it;”2 as by saying, “He shall reward every man according to his works,”3 He had manifested both of these): having, I say, spoken of both, the kingdom indeed He shows in the vision, but hell not yet.

Why so? Because had they been another kind of people, of a grosser sort, this too would have been necessary; but since they are approved and considerate, He leads them on the gentler way. But not therefore only doth He make this disclosure, but because to Himself also it was far more suitable.

Not however that He passes over this subject either, but in some places He almost brings even before our eyes the very realities of hell; as when He introduces the picture of Lazarus, and mentions him that exacted the hundred pence, and him that was clad in the filthy garments, and others not a few.

2. “And after six days He taketh with Him Peter and James and John.4

Now another says, “after eight,”5 not contradicting this writer, but most fully agreeing with him. For the one expressed both the very day on which He spake, and that on which He led them up; but the other, the days between them only.

But mark thou, I pray thee, the severe goodness of Matthew, not concealing those who were preferred to himself. This John also often doth, recording the peculiar praises of Peter with great sincerity. For the choir of these holy men was everywhere pure from envy and vainglory.

Having taken therefore the leaders, “He bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was6 white as the light. And there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with Him.7

Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his answer which he answered with his brother, saying, “We are able to drink the cup;8 nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him.

But wherefore doth He not lead them up straightway? To spare the other disciples any feeling of human weakness: for which cause He omits also the names of them that are to go up. And this, because the rest would have desired exceedingly to have followed, being to see a pattern of that glory; and would have been pained, as overlooked. For though it was somewhat in a corporeal way that He made the disclosure, yet nevertheless the thing had much in it to be desired.

Wherefore then doth He at all foretell it? That they might be readier to seize the high meaning, by His foretelling it; and being filled with the more vehement desire in that round of days, might so be present with their mind quite awake and full of care.

3. But wherefore doth He also bring forward Moses and Elias? One might mention many reasons. And first of all this: because the multitudes said He was, some Elias, some Jeremias, some one of the old prophets, He brings the leaders of His choir, that they might see the difference even hereby between the servants and the Lord; and that Peter was rightly commended for confessing Him Son of God.

But besides that, one may mention another reason also: that because men were continually accusing Him of transgressing the law, and accounting Him to be a blasphemer, as appropriating to Himself a glory which belonged not to Him, even the Father’s, and were saying, “This Man is not of God, because He keepeth not the Sabbath day;”1 and again, “For a good work we stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God:”2 that both the charges might be shown to spring from envy, and He be proved not liable to either; and that neither is His conduct a transgression of the law, nor His calling Himself equal to the Father an appropriation of glory not His own; He brings forward them who had shone out in each of these respects: Moses, because he gave the law, and the Jews might infer that he would not have overlooked its being trampled on, as they supposed, nor have shown respect to the transgressor of it, and the enemy of its founder: Elias too for his part was jealous for the glory of God, and were any man an adversary of God, and calling himself God, making himself equal to the Father, while he was not what he said, and had no right to do so; he was not the person to stand by, and hearken unto him.

And one may mention another reason also, with those which have been spoken of. Of what kind then is it? To inform them that He hath power both of death and life, is ruler both above and beneath. For this cause He brings forward both him that had died, and him that never yet suffered this.

But the fifth motive, (for it is a fifth, besides those that have been mentioned), even the evangelist himself hath revealed. Now what was this? To show the glory of the cross, and to console Peter and the others in their dread of the passion, and to raise up their minds. Since having come, they by no means held their peace, but “spake,” it is said, “of the glory3 which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem;4 “that is, of the passion, and the cross; for so they call it always.

And not thus only did He cheer them, but also by the excellency itself of the men, being such as He was especially requiring from themselves. I mean, that having said, “If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross, and follow me;” them that had died ten thousand times for God’s decrees, and the people entrusted to them, these persons He sets before them. Because each of these, having lost his life, found it. For each of them both spake boldly unto tyrants, the one to the Egyptian, the other to Ahab; and in behalf of heartless and disobedient men; and by the very persons who were saved by them, they were brought into extreme danger; and each of them wishing to withdraw men from idolatry; and each being unlearned; for the one was of a “slow tongue,”5 and dull of speech, and the other for his part also somewhat of the rudest in his bearing: and of voluntary poverty both were very strict observers; for neither had Moses made any gain, nor had Elias aught more than his sheepskin; and this under the old law, and when they had not received so great a gift of miracles. For what if Moses clave a sea? yet Peter walked on the water, and was able to remove mountains, and used to work cures of all manner of bodily diseases, and to drive away savage demons, and by the shadow of his body to work those wonderful and great prodigies; and changed the whole world. And if Elias too raised a dead man, yet these raised ten thousand; and this before the spirit was as yet vouchsafed to them. He brings them forward accordingly for this cause also. For He would have them emulate their winning ways toward the people, and their presence of mind and inflexibility; and that they should be meek like Moses, and jealous for God like Elias, and full of tender care, as they were. For the one endured a famine of three years for the Jewish people; and the other said, “If thou wilt forgive them their sin, forgive; else blot me too out of the book, which thou hast written.”6 Now of all this He was reminding them by the vision.

For He brought those in glory too, not that these should stay where they were, but that they might even surpass their limitary lines. For example, when they said, “Should we command fire to come down from heaven,” and made mention of Elias as having done so, He saith, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of;”7 training them to forbearance by the superiority in their gift.

And let none suppose us to condemn Elias as imperfect; we say not this; for indeed he was exceedingly perfect, but in his own times, when the mind of men was in some degree childish, and they needed this kind of schooling. Since Moses too was in this respect perfect; nevertheless these have more required of them than he. For “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no ease enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1 For not into Egypt did they enter, but into the whole world, worse disposed than the Egyptians; neither were they to speak with Pharaoh, but to fight hand to hand with the devil, the very prince of wickedness. Yea, and their appointed struggle was, both to bind him, and to spoil all his goods; and this they did cleaving not the sea, but an abyss of ungodliness, through the rod of Jesse,—an abyss having waves far more grievous. See at any rate how many things there were to put the men in fear; death, poverty, dishonor, their innumerable sufferings; and at these things they trembled more than the Jews of old at that sea. But nevertheless against all these things He persuaded them boldly to venture, and to pass as along dry ground with all security.

To train them therefore for all this, He brought forward those who shone forth under the old law.

4. What then saith the ardent Peter? “It is good for us to be here.”2 For because he had heard that Christ was to go to Jerusalem and to suffer, being in fear still and trembling for Him, even after His reproof, he durst not indeed approach and say the same thing again, “Be it far from thee;3 but from that fear obscurely intimates the same again in other words. That is, when he saw a mountain, and so great retirement and solitude, his thought was, “He hath great security here, even from the place; and not only from the place, but also from His going away no more unto Jerusalem.” For he would have Him be there continually: wherefore also he speaks of “tabernacles.” For “if this may be,” saith he, “we shall not go up to Jerusalem; and if we go not up, He will not die, for there He said the scribes would set upon Him.”

But thus indeed he durst not speak; but desiring however to order things so, he said undoubtingly, “It is good for us to be here,” where Moses also is present, and Elias; Elias who brought down fire on the mountain, and Moses who entered into the thick darkness, and talked with God; and no one will even know where we are.”

Seest thou the ardent lover of Christ? For look not now at this, that the manner of his exhortation was not well weighed, but see how ardent he was, how burning his affection to Christ. For in proof that not so much out of fear for himself he said these things, hear what he saith, when Christ was declaring beforehand His future death, and the assault upon Him: “I will lay down my life for Thy sake.4 Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.5

And see how even in the very midst of the actual dangers he counselled amiss6 for himself. We know that when so great a multitude encompassed them, so far from flying, he even drew the sword, and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. To such a degree did he disregard his own interest, and fear for his Master. Then because he had spoken as affirming a fact, he checks himself, and thinking, what if he should be again reproved, he saith, “If Thou wilt, let us make7 here three tabernacles, one for Thee and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”

What sayest thou, O Peter? didst thou not a little while since distinguish Him from the servants? Art thou again numbering Him with the servants? Seest thou how exceedingly imperfect they were before the crucifixion? For although the Father had revealed it to him, yet he did not always retain the revelation, but was troubled by his alarm; not this only, which I have mentioned, but another also, arising from that sight. In fact, the other evangelists, to declare this, and to indicate that the confusion of his mind, with which he spake these things, arose from that alarm, said as follows; mark, “He wist not what to say, for they were sore afraid;”8 but Luke after his saying, “Let us make three tabernacles,” added, “not knowing what he said.”9 Then to show that he was holden with great fear, both he and the rest, he saith, “They were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake they saw His glory;”10 meaning by deep sleep here, the deep stupor engendered in them by that vision. For as eyes are darkened by an excessive splendor, so at that time also did they feel. For it was not, I suppose, night, but day; and the exceeding greatness of the light weighed down the infirmity of their eyes.

5. What then? He Himself speaks nothing, nor Moses, nor Elias, but He that is greater than all, and more worthy of belief, the Father, uttereth a voice out of the cloud.

Wherefore out of the cloud? Thus doth God ever appear. “For a cloud and darkness are round about Him;”1 and, “He sitteth on a light cloud;”2 and again, “Who maketh clouds His chariot;”3 and, “A cloud received Him out of their sight;”4 and, “As the Son of Man coming in the clouds.”5

In order then that they might believe that the voice proceeds from God, it comes from thence.

And the cloud was bright. For “while he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”6

For as, when He threatens, He shows a dark cloud;—as on Mount Sinai; for “Moses,” it is said, “entered into the cloud, and into the thick darkness; and as a vapor, so went up the smoke;”7 and the prophet said, when speaking of His threatening, “Dark water in clouds of the air;”8—so here, because it was His desire not to alarm, but to teach, it is a bright cloud.

And whereas Peter had said “Let us make three tabernacles,” He showed a tabernacle not made with hands. Wherefore in that case it was smoke, and vapor of a furnace; but in this, light unspeakable and a voice.

Then, to signify that not merely concerning some one of the three was it spoken, but; concerning Christ only; when the voice was uttered, they were taken away. For by no means, had it been spoken merely concerning any one of them, would this man have remained alone, the two being severed from Him.

Why then did not the cloud likewise receive Christ alone, but all of them together? If it had received Christ alone, He would have been thought to have Himself uttered the voice. Wherefore also the evangelist, making sure this same point, saith, that the voice was from the cloud, that is, from God.

And what saith the voice? “This is my beloved Son.” Now if He is beloved, fear not thou, O Peter. For thou oughtest indeed to know His power already, and to be fully assured touching His resurrection; but since; thou knowest not, at least from the voice of the Father take courage. For if God be mighty, as surely He is mighty, very evidently the Son is so likewise. Be not afraid then of those fearful things.

But if as yet thou receive it not, consider at least that other fact, that He is both a Son, and is beloved. For “This,” it is said, “is My beloved Son.” Now if He is beloved, fear not. For no one gives up one whom he loves. Be not thou therefore confounded; though thou lovest Him beyond measure, thou lovest Him not as much as He that begat Him.

“In whom I am well pleased.” For not because He begat Him only, doth He love Him, but because He is also equal to Him in all respects, and of one mind with Him. So that the charm of love is twofold, or rather even threefold, because He is the Son, because He is beloved, because in Him He is well pleased.

But what means, “In whom I am well pleased?” As though He had said,” In whom I am refreshed, in whom I take delight;” because He is in all respects perfectly equal with Himself, and there is but one will in Him and in the Father, and though He continue a Son, He is in all respects one with the Father.

“Hear ye Him.” So that although He choose to be crucified, you are not to oppose Him.

6. “And when they heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”9

How was it that, when they heard these words, they were dismayed? And yet before this also a like voice was uttered at Jordan, and a multitude was present, and no one felt anything of the kind; and afterwards again, when also they said, “It thundered,10 yet neither at that time did they experience anything like this. How then did they fall down in the mount? Because there was solitude, and height, and great quietness, and a transfiguration full of awe, and a pure light, and a cloud stretched out; all which things put them in great alarm. And the amazement came thick on every side, and they fell down both in fear at once and in adoration.

But that the fear abiding so long might not drive out their recollection, presently He puts an end to their alarm, and is seen Himself alone, and commands them to tell no man this, until He is risen from the dead.

For “as they came down from the mount, He charged them to tell the vision to no man, until He were risen from the dead.”11

For the greater the things spoken of Him, the harder to be received by the generality at that time; and the offense also from the cross was the more increased thereby.

Therefore He bids them hold their peace; and not merely so, but He again reminds them of the passion, and all but tells them also the cause, for which indeed He requires them to keep silence. For He did not, you see, command them never to tell any man, but “until He were risen from the dead.” And saying nothing of the painful part, He expresses the good only.

What then? Would they not afterwards be offended? By no means. For the point required was the time before the crucifixion. Since afterwards they both had the spirit vouchsafed them, and the voice that proceeded from the miracles pleading with them, and whatsoever they said was thenceforth easy to be received, the course of events proclaiming His might more clearly than a trumpet, and no offense of that sort interrupting1 what they were about.

7. Nothing then is more blessed than the apostles, and especially the three, who even in the cloud were counted worthy to be under the same roof with the Lord.

But if we will, we also shall behold Christ, not as they then on the mount, but in far greater brightness. For not thus shall He come hereafter. For whereas then, to spare His disciples, He discovered so much only of His brightness as they were able to bear; hereafter He shall come in the very glory of the Father, not with Moses and Elias only, but with the infinite host of the angels, with the archangels, with the cherubim, with those infinite tribes, not having a cloud over His head, but even heaven itself being folded up.

For as it is with the judges; when they judge publicly, the attendants drawing back the curtains show them to all; even so then likewise all men shall see Him sitting, and all the human race shall stand by, and He will make answers to them by Himself; and to some He will say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat;”2 to others, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things.3

And again passing an opposite sentence, to some He will answer, “Depart into the everlasting fire, that is prepared for the devil and his angels,”4 and to others, “O thou wicked and slothful servants.”5 And some He will “cut asunder,” and “deliver to the tormentors;” but others He will command to “be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness.6 And after the axe the furnace will follow; and all out of the net, that is east away, will fall therein.

“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun;”7 or rather more than the sun. But so much is said, not because their light is to be so much and no more, but since we know no other star brighter than this, He chose by the known example to set forth the future brightness of the saints.

Since on the mount too, when He says, “He did shine as the sun,” for the same cause did He so speak. For that the comparison did not come up to His light, the apostles showed by falling down. For had the brightness not been unalloyed, but comparable to the sun; they would not have fallen, but would easily have borne it.

The righteous therefore will shine as the sun, and more than the sun in that time; but the sinners shall suffer all extremities. Then will there be no need of records, proofs, witnesses. For He who judges is Himself all, both witness, and proof, and judge. For He knows all things exactly; “For all things are naked and opened unto His eyes.”8

No man will there appear rich or poor, mighty or weak, wise or unwise, bond or free; but these masks will be dashed in pieces, and the inquiry will be into their works only. For if in our courts, when any one is tried for usurpation, or murder, whatever he may be, whether governor, or consul, or what you will, all these dignities fleet away, and he that is convicted suffers the utmost penalty; much more will it be so there.

8. Therefore that this may not be so, let us lay aside our filthy garments, let us put on the armor of light, and the glory of God will wrap us around. For what is even grievous in the injunctions? or what is there not easy? Hear, for instance, the prophet speaking, and then thou shalt know the easiness thereof. “Neither though thou bow as a collar thy neck, and strew beneath thee sackcloth and ashes, not even so shalt thou call a fast acceptable; but loose every bond of iniquity, unloose the twisted knots of oppressive bargains.”9

See a prophet’s wisdom, how stating first whatever was irksome, and removing it, he exhorts them to obtain salvation by the duties that are easy; signifying, that God needs not toils, but obedience.

Then implying that virtue is easy, but vice grievous and galling, he makes it out by the bare names; “For,” saith he, “vice is a bond,” and “a twisted knot,” but virtue is a disengagement and release from all these.

“Tear in sunder every unjust compact;” thus calling men’s bills about the interest due to them, and the sums they have lent.

“Set at liberty them that are bruised;” them that are afflicted. For such a being is the debtor; when he sees his creditor, his mind is broken, and he fears him more than a wild beast.

“Bring in the poor that are cast out to thy house; if thou seest one naked, clothe him, and them that belong to thy seed thou shalt not overlook.”1

Now in our late discourse which we made unto you when declaring the rewards, we showed the wealth arising from these acts; but now let us see if any of the injunctions be grievous, and transcending our nature. Nay, nothing of the kind shall we discover, but quite the contrary; that while these courses are very easy, those of vice are full of labor. For what is more vexatious than to be lending, and taking thought about usuries and bargains, and demanding sureties, and fearing and trembling about securities, about the principal, about the writings, about the interest, about the bondsmen?

For such is the nature of worldly things; yea, nothing is so unsound and suspicious as that which is accounted security, and contrived for that purpose; but to show mercy is easy, and delivers from all anxiety.

Let us not then traffic in other men’s calamities, nor make a trade of our benevolence. And I know indeed that many hear these words with displeasure; but what is the profit of silence? For though I should hold my peace, and give no trouble by my words, I could not by this silence deliver you from your punishment; rather it has altogether the opposite result; the penalty is enhanced, and not to you only, but to me also, doth such a silence procure punishment. What then signify our gracious words, when in our works they help us not, but rather do harm? What is the good of delighting men in word, while we vex them in deed, bringing pleasure to the ears, and punishment to the soul? Wherefore I must needs make you sorry here, that we may not suffer punishment there.

9. For indeed a dreadful disease, beloved, dreadful and needing much attendance, hath fallen on the church. Those, namely, who are enjoined not even by honest labors to lay up treasures, but to open their houses to the needy, make a profit of other men’s poverty, devising a specious robbery, a plausible covetousness.

For tell me not of the laws that are without; since even the publican fulfills the law that is without, but nevertheless is punished: which will be the case with us also, unless we refrain from oppressing the poor, and from using their need and necessity as an occasion for shameless trafficking.

For to this intent thou hast wealth, to relieve poverty, not to make a gain of poverty; but thou with show of relief makest the calamity greater, and sellest benevolence for money.

Sell it, I forbid thee not, but for a heavenly kingdom. Receive not a small price for so good a deed, thy monthly one in the hundred,2 but that immortal life. Why art thou beggarly, and poor, and mean, selling thy great things for a little, even for goods that perish, when it should be for an everlasting kingdom? Why dost thou leave God, and get human gains? Why dost thou pass by the wealthy one, and trouble him that hath not? and leaving the sure paymaster make thy bargain with the unthankful? The other longs to repay, but this even grudges in the act of repaying. This hardly repays a hundredth part, but the other “an hundredfold and eternal life.” This with insults and revilings, but the other with praises and auspicious words. This stirs up envy against thee, but the other even weaves for thee crowns. This hardly here, but the other both there and here.

Surely then is it not the utmost senselessness, not so much as to know how to gain? How many have lost their very principal for the interest’s sake? How many have fallen into perils for usurious gains. How many have involved both themselves and others in extreme poverty through their unspeakable covetousness!

For tell me not this, that he is pleased to receive, and is thankful for the loan. Why, this is a result of thy cruelty. Since Abraham too,3 contriving how his plan might take with the barbarians, did himself give up his wife to them; not however willingly, but through fear of Pharaoh. So also the poor man, because thou countest him not even worth so much money, is actually compelled to be thankful for cruelty.

And it seems to me as though, shouldest thou deliver him from dangers, thou wouldest exact of him a payment for this deliverance. “Away,” saith he; “let it not be.” What sayest thou? Delivering him from the greater evil, thou art unwilling to exact money, and for the lesser dost thou display so much inhumanity?

Seest thou not how great a punishment is appointed for the deed? hearest thou not that even in the old law this is forbidden?1 But what is the plea of the many? “When I have received the interest, I give to the poor;” one tells me. Speak reverently, O man; God desires not such sacrifices. Deal not subtilly with the law. Better not give to a poor man, than give from that source; for the money that hath been collected by honest labors, thou often makest to become unlawful because of that wicked increase; as if one should compel a fair womb to give birth to scorpions.

And why do I speak of God’s law? Do not even ye call it “filth”? But if ye, the gainers, give your voice so, consider what suffrage God will pass upon you.

And if thou wilt ask the Gentile lawgivers too, thou wilt be told that even by them this thing is deemed a proof of the most utter shamelessness. Those, for example, who are in offices of honor, and belong to the great council, which they call the senate, may not legally disgrace themselves with such gains; there being a law among them which prohibits the same.2

How then is it not a horrible thing, if thou ascribe not even so much honor to the polity of Heaven, as the legislators to the council of the Romans; but Heaven is to obtain less than earth, and thou art not ashamed even of the very folly of the thing? For what could be more foolish than this, unless one without land, rain, or plough, were to insist upon sowing?3 Tares therefore, to be committed to the fire, do they reap, who have devised this evil husbandry.

Why, are there not many honest trades? in the fields, the flocks, the herds, the breeding of cattle, in handicrafts, in care of property? Why rave and be frantic, cultivating thorns for no good? What if the fruits of the earth are subject to mischance; hail, and blight, and excessive rain? yet not to such an extent as are money dealings. For in whatsoever cases of that sort occur, the damage of course concerns the produce, but the principal remains, I mean, the land. But herein many often have suffered shipwreck in their principal; and before the loss too they are in continual dejection. For never cloth the money-lender enjoy his possessions, nor find pleasure in them; but when the interest is brought, he rejoices not that he hath received gain, but is grieved that the interest hath not yet come up to the principal. And before this evil offspring is brought forth complete, he compels it also to bring forth,4 making the interest principal, and forcing it to bring forth its untimely and abortive brood of vipers. For of this nature are the gains of usury; more than those wild creatures do they devour and tear the souls of the wretched.5 This “is the bond of iniquity:” this “the twisted knot of oppressive bargains.”

Yea, “I give,” he seems to say, “not for thee to receive, but that thou mayest repay more.” And whereas God commands not even to receive what is given (for “give,” saith He, “to them from whom ye look not to receive”),6 thou requirest even more than is given, and what thou gavest not, this as a debt, thou constrainest the receiver to pay.

And thou indeed supposest thy substance to be increased hereby, but instead of substance thou art kindling the unquenchable fire.

That this therefore may not be, let us cut out the evil womb of usurious gains, let us deaden these lawless travailings, let us dry up this place of pernicious teeming, and let us pursue the true and great gains only. “But what are these?” Hear Paul saying “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”7

Therefore in this wealth alone let us be rich, that we may both here enjoy security, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and world without end. Amen.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 23, 2017

Comments on Matthew 17:1-4

Mt 17:1. And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
Mt 17:2. And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
Mt 17:3. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
Mt 17:4. Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Remigius. In this Transfiguration undergone on the mount, the Lord fulfilled within six days the promise made to His disciples, that they should have a sight of His glory; as it is said, And after six days he took Peter, and James, and John his brother.

Jerome. It is made a question how it could be after six days that He took them, when Luke says eight. (Luke 9:28.) The answer is easy, that here one reckoned only the intervening days, there the first and the last are also added.

Chrysostom. He does not take them up immediately upon the promise being made, but six days after, for this reason, that the other disciples might not be touched with any human passion, as a feeling of jealousy; or else that during these days’ space, those disciples who were to be taken up might become kindled with a more eager desire.

Rabanus. (e Bed.) Justly was it after six days that He shewed His glory, because after six ages is to be the resurrectiond.

Origen. Or because in six days this whole visible world was made; so he who is above all the things of this world, may ascend into the high mountain, and there see the glory of the Word of God.

Chrysostom. He took these three because He set them before others. But observe how Matthew does not conceal who were preferred to himself; the like does John also when he records the preeminent praise given to Peter. For the company of Apostles was free from jealousy and vain glory.

Hilary. In the three thus taken up with Him, the election of people out of the three stocks of Sem, Cam, and Japhet is figured.

Rabanus. (e Bed.) Or; He took only three disciples with Him, because many are called but few chosen. Or because they who now hold in incorrupt mind the faith of the Holy Trinity, shall then joy in the everlasting beholding of it.

Remigius. When the Lord was about to shew His disciples the glory of His brightness, He led them into the mountain, as it follows, And he took them up into a high mountain apart. Herein teaching, that it is necessary for all who seek to contemplate God, that they should not grovel in weak pleasures, but by love of things above should be ever raising themselves towards heavenly things; and to shew His disciples that they should not look for the glory of the divine brightness in the gulph of the present world, but in the kingdom of the heavenly blessedness. He leads them apart, because the saints are separated from the wicked by their whole soul and devotion of their faith, and shall be utterly separated in the future; or because many are called, but few chosen, It follows, And he was transfigured before them.

Jerome. Such as He is to be in the time of the Judgment, such was He now seen of the Apostles. Let none suppose that He lost His former form and lineaments, or laid aside His bodily reality, taking upon Him a spiritual or ethereal Body. How His transfiguration was accomplished, the Evangelist shews, saying, And his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment became white as snow, For that His face is said to shine, and His raiment described to become white, does not take away substance, but confer glory. In truth, the Lord was transformed into that glory in which He shall hereafter come in His Kingdom. The transformation enhanced the brightness, but did not destroy the countenance, although the body were spiritual; whence also His raiment was changed and became white to such a degree, as in the expression of another Evangelist, no fuller on earth can whiten them. But all this is the property of matter, and is the subject of the touch, not of spirit and ethereal, an illusion upon the sight only beheld in phantasm.

Remigius. If then the face of the Lord shone as the sun, and the saints shall shine as the sun, are then the brightness of the Lord and the brightness of His servants to be equal? By no means. But forasmuch as nothing is known more bright than the sun, therefore to give some illustration of the future resurrection, it is expressed to us that the brightness of the Lord’s countenance, and the brightness of the righteous, shall be as the sun.

Origen. Mystically; When any one has passed the six days according as we have said, he beholds Jesus transfigured before the eyes of his heart. For the Word of God has various forms, appearing to each man according as He knows that it will be expedient for him; and He shews Himself to none in a manner beyond his capacity; whence he says not simply, He was transfigured, but, before them. For Jesus, in the Gospels, is merely understood by those who do not mount by means of exalting works and words upon the high mountain of wisdom; but to them that do mount up thus, He is no longer known according to the flesh, but is understood to be God the Word. Before these then Jesus is transfigured, and not before those who live sunk in worldly conversation. But these, before whom He is transfigured, have been made sons of God, and He is shewn to them as the Sun of righteousness. His raiment is made white as the light, that is, the words and sayings of the Gospels with which Jesus is clothed according to those things which were spoken of Him by the Apostles.

Gloss. (e Bed. in Luc.) Or; the raiment of Christ shadows out the saints, of whom Esaias says, With all these shalt than clothe thee as with a garment; (Isa. 49:18.) and they are likened to snow because they shall be white with virtues, and all the heat of vices shall be put far away from them. It follows, And there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with them.

Chrysostom. There are many reasons why these should appear. The first it, this; because the multitudes said He was Elias, or Jeremias, or one of the Prophets, He here brings with Him the chief of the Prophets, that hence at least may be seen the difference between the servants and their Lord. Another reason is this; because the Jews were ever charging Jesus with being a transgressor of the Law and blasphemer, and usurping to Himself the glory of the Father, that He might prove Himself guiltless of both charges, He brings forward those who were eminent in both particulars; Moses, who gave the Law, and Elias, who was jealous for the glory of God. Another reason is, that they might learn that He has the power of life and death; by producing Moses, who was dead, and Elias, who had not yet experienced death. A further reason also the Evangelist discovers, that He might shew the glory of His cross, and thus soothe Peter, and the other disciples, who were fearing His death; for they talked, as another Evangelist declares, of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. Wherefore He brings forward those who had exposed themselves to death for God’s pleasure, and for the people that believed; for both had willingly stood before tyrants, Moses before Pharaoh, Elias before Ahab. Lastly, also, He brings them forward, that the disciples should emulate their privileges, and be meek as Moses, and zealous as Elias.

Hilary. Also that Moses and Elias only out of the whole number of the saints stood with Christ, means, that Christ, in His kingdom, is between the Law and the Prophets; for He shall judge Israel in the presence of the same by whom He was preached to them.

Origen. However, if any man discerns a spiritual sense in the Law agreeing with the teaching of Jesus, and in the Prophets finds the hidden wisdom of Christ, (1 Cor. 2:7.) he beholds Moses and Elias in the same glory with Jesus.

Jerome. It is to be remembered also, that when the Scribes and Pharisees asked signs from heaven, He would not give any; but now, to increase the Apostles’ faith, He gives a sign; Elias descends from heaven, whither he was gone up, and Moses arises from hell; (Is. 7:10.) as Ahaz is bidden by Esaias to ask him a sign in the heaven above, or in the depth beneath.

Chrysostom. Hereupon follows what the warm Peter spake, Peter answered and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here. Because he had heard that He must go up to Jerusalem, he yet fears for Christ; but after his rebuke he dares not again say, Be propitious to thyself, Lord, but suggests the same covertly under other guise. For seeing in this place great quietness and solitude, he thought that this would be a fit place to take up their abode in, saying, Lord, it is good for us to be here. And he sought to remain here ever, therefore he proposes the tabernacles, If thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles. For he concluded if he should, do this, Christ would not go up to Jerusalem, and if He should not go up to Jerusalem, He should not die, for he knew that there the Scribes laid wait for Him.

Remigius. Otherwise; At this view of the majesty of the Lord, and His two servants, Peter was so delighted, that, forgetting every thing else in the world, he would abide here for ever. But if Peter was then so fired with admiration, what ravishment will it not be to behold the King in His proper beauty, and to mingle in the choir of the Angels, and of all the saints? In that Peter says, Lord, if thou wilt, he shews the submission of a dutiful and obedient servant.

Jerome. Yet art thou wrong, Peter, and as another Evangelist says, knowest not what thou sayest. (Luke 9:33.) Think not. of three tabernacles, when there is but one tabernacle of the Gospel in which both Law and Prophets are to be repeated. But if thou wilt have three tabernacles, set not the servants equal with their Lord, but make three tabernacles, yea make one for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that They whose divinity is one, may have but one tabernacle, in thy bosom.

Remigius. He was wrong moreover, in desiring that the kingdom of the elect should be set up on earth, when the Lord had promised to give it in heaven. He was wrong also in forgetting that himself and his fellow were mortal, and in desiring to come to eternal felicity without taste of death.

Rabanus. Also in supposing that tabernacles were to be built for conversation in heaven, in which houses are not needed, as it is written in the Apocalypse, I saw not any temple therein. (Rev. 21:22.)

Comments on Matthew 17:5–9

Mt 17:5. While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
Mt 17:6. And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
Mt 17:7. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
Mt 17:8. And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
Mt 17:9. And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

Jerome. While they thought only of an earthly tabernacle of boughs or tents, they are overshadowed by the covering of a bright cloud; While he yet spake, there came a bright cloud and overshadowed them. (Exod. 19:9, 16.)

Chrysostom. When the Lord threatens, He shews a dark cloud, as on Sinai; but here where He sought not to terrify but to teach, there appeared a bright cloud.

Origen. The bright cloud overshadowing the Saints is the Power of the Father, or perhaps the Holy Spirit; or I may also venture to call the Saviour that bright cloud which overshadows the Gospel, the Law, and the Prophets, as they understand who can behold His light in all these three.

Jerome. Forasmuch as Peter had asked unwisely, he deserves not any answer; but the Father makes answer for the Son, that the Lord’s word might be fulfilled, He that sent me, he beareth witness of me. (John 5:37.)

Chrysostom. Neither Moses, nor Elias speak, but the Father greater than all sends a voice out of the cloud, that the disciples might believe that this voice was from God. For God has ordinarily shewn Himself in a cloud, as it is written, Clouds and darkness are round about Him; (Ps. 97:2.) and this is what is said, Behold, a voice out of the cloud.

Jerome. The voice of the Father is heard speaking from heaven, giving testimony to the Son, and teaching Peter the truth, taking away his error, and through Peter the other disciples also; whence he proceeds, This is my beloved Son. For Him make the tabernacle, Him obey; this is the Son, they are but servants; and they also ought as you to make ready a tabernacle for the Lord in the inmost parts of their heart.

Chrysostom. Fear not then, Peter; for if God is mighty, it is manifest that the Son is also mighty; wherefore if He is loved, fear not thou; for none forsakes Him whom He loves; nor dost thou love Him equally with the Father. Neither does He love Him merely because He begot Him, but because He is of one will with Himself; as it follows, In whom I am well pleased; which is to say, in whom I rest content, whom I accept, for all things of the Father He performs with care, and His will is one with the Father; so if He will to be crucified, do not then speak against it.

Hilary. This is the Son, this the Beloved, this the Accepted; and He it is who is to be heard, as the voice out of the cloud signifies, saying, Hear ye Him. For He is a fit teacher of doing the things He has done, who has given the weight of His own example to the loss of the world, the joy of the cross, the death of the body, and after that the glory of the heavenly kingdom.

Remigius. He says therefore, Hear ye Him, as much as to say, Let the shadow of the Law be past, and the types of the Prophets, and follow ye the one shining light of the Gospel. Or He says, Hear ye Him, to shew that it was He whom Moses had foretold, The Lord your God shall raise up a Prophet unto you of your brethren like unto me, Him shall ye hear. (Deut. 18:18.) Thus the Lord had witnesses on all sides; from heaven the voice of the Father, Elias out of Paradise, Moses out of Hades, the Apostles from among men, that at the name of Jesus every thing should bow the knee, of things in heaven, things on earth, and things beneath.

Origen. The voice out of the cloud speaks either to Moses or Elias, who desired to see the Son of God, and to hear Him; or it is for the teaching of the Apostles.

Gloss. (ap. Anselm.) It is to be observed, that the mystery of the second regeneration, that, to wit, which shall be in the resurrection, when the flesh shall be raised again, agrees well with the mystery of the first which is in baptism, when the soul is raised again. For in the baptism of Christ is shewn the working of the whole Trinity; there was the Son incarnate, the Holy Ghost appealing in the figure of a dove, and the Father made known by the voice. In like manner in the transfiguration, which is the sacrament of the second regeneration, the whole Trinity appeared; the Father in the voice, the Son in the man, and the Holy Spirit in the cloud. It is made a question how the Holy Spirit was shewn there in the dove, here in the cloud. Because it is His manner to mark His gifts by specific outward forms. And the gift of baptism is innocence, which is denoted by the bird of purity. But as in the resurrection, He is to give splendour and refreshment, therefore in the cloud are denoted both the refreshment and the brightness of the rising bodies. It follows, And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and feared greatly.

Jerome. Their cause of terror is threefold. Because they knew that they had done amiss; or because the bright cloud had covered them; or because they had heard the voice of God the Father speaking; for human frailty cannot endure to look upon so great glory, and falls to the earth trembling through both soul and body. And by how much higher any one has aimed, by so much lower will be his fall, if he shall be ignorant of his own measure.

Remigius. Whereas the holy Apostles fell upon their faces, that was a proof of their sanctity, for the saints are always described to fall upon their faces, but the wicked to fall backwardsa.

Chrysostom. But when before in Christ’s baptism, such a voice came from heaven, yet none of the multitude then present suffered any thing of this kind, how is it that the disciples on the mount fell prostrate? Because in sooth their solicitude was much, the height and loneliness of the spot great, and the transfiguration itself attended with terrors, the clear light and the spreading cloud; all these things together wrought to terrify them.

Jerome. And whereas they were laid down, and could not raise themselves again, He approaches them, touches them gently, that by His touch their fear might be banished, and their unnerved limbs gain strength; And Jesus drew near, and touched them. But He further added His word to His hand, And said unto them, Arise, fear not. He first banishes their fear, that He may after impart teaching. It follows, And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only; which was done with good reason; for had Moses and Elias continued with the Lord, it might have seemed uncertain to which in particular the witness of the Father was borne. Also they see Jesus standing after the cloud has been removed, and Moses and Elias disappeared, because after the shadow of the Law and Prophets has departed, both are found in the Gospel. It follows; And as they came down from the mount, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell no man this vision, until the Son of Man shall rise from the dead. He will not be preached among the people, lest the marvel of the thing should seem incredible, and lest the cross following after so great glory should cause offence.

Remigius. Or, because if His majesty should be published among the people, they should hinder the dispensation of His passion, by resistance to the chief Priests; and thus the redemption of the human race should suffer impediment.

Hilary. He enjoins silence respecting what they had seen, for this reason, that when they should be filled with the Holy Spirit, they should then become witnesses of these spiritual deeds.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2017

Mt 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:

And after six days.] 3. Peter’s presence at the transfiguration. In this section we consider first the transfiguration proper, vv. 1–3; secondly, the words spoken during the transfiguration, vv. 4–6; thirdly, the occurrences after the transfiguration, vv. 7–13. a. The transfiguration proper. The connection of this event with the preceding passage consists in the manifestation of the glory that will follow the suffering of Jesus, and the self-denial and cross of the disciples. “After six days” according to the first and the second gospel [Mk. 9:1] is parallel to “about eight days” of the third [Lk. 9:28]; St. Matthew and St. Mark count only the intermediate days, while St. Luke adds the first and last also [cf. Augustine, de cons. ev. ii. 56, 113; Chrysostom, Euthymius, Hilary, Thomas Aquinas etc.]; or St. Luke gives “about” the number; or again counts parts of days as whole days [Jansenius]. “Jesus taketh unto him Peter,” the head of the apostles, “and James,” the first martyr among the apostles, “and John his brother,” the virgin among his brethren; we find these same disciples privileged at the resuscitation of the dead child [Mk. 5:37; Lk. 8:51] and in the garden of Gethsemani [Mt. 26:37]. “And bringeth them up into a high mountain apart,” in order to pray [Lk. 9:28]; since they descended the following day [Lk. 9:37], the transfiguration must have happened during the night, so that the disciples are naturally represented as overcome with sleep [Lk. 9:32]. The mountain was Hermon or Thabor [Origen in cat. ad. Ps. 88:13; Euseb. cæsar. ibid.], or Hermon [Stanley, Sin. and Palest, p. 399; Thomson, The Land and the Book, p. 231], or one of the mountains bordering the lake [Alford], or Thabor [Cyril of Jerusal. cat. xii. 16; Jerome, ep. xlvi. 12; cviii. 13; Damasc. de transfig.; Bede, Maldonado, Barradas Lapide, Arnoldi Holzammer, Mislin, Sepp. das. heil. Land, ii. 114; Grimm, etc.].

Reasons for the last opinion: First, Josephus [B. J. II. xx. 6; VI. i. 8; Vit. n. 37] shows that the top of Thabor was bare at the time of Christ, whatever may have stood upon it at the time of Antiochus the Great [b. c. 218; cf. Polybius. v. 70, 6]; secondly, Thabor is about a journey of twenty hours away from Cesarea Philippi, so that it could be easily reached in six days by Jesus and the disciples; thirdly, on descending from the mountain Jesus encounters the multitudes and the scribes, together with his nine disciples, who had attempted an exorcism [cf. Mk. 9:13], all of which would have been impossible in the vicinity of Cesarea, where the scribes were very few, and where the disciples had been forbidden to exercise their miraculous powers [Mt. 10:6]; fourthly, immediately after the transfiguration Jesus and his disciples journey in Galilee [5:21; Mk. 9:29]; fifthly, Thabor is a “high” mountain, measuring 1, 748 or 1, 755 or 1, 868 feet in height; it is also repeatedly mentioned in the Old Testament [cf. Judg. 4:6; 8:18; Ps. 89:13; Jer 46:18; Hos. 5:1].

Mt 17:2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.
Mt 17:3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.

“And he was transfigured,” not in the figure or form of his body [cf. Cyril Euthymius], but “his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as snow,” so that he manifested a few dim rays of the glory connaturally due to his. body on account of the hypostatic union [cf. Hilary, St Bruno, Cajetan, Paschasius, Gregory the Great, moral, xxxii. 6]. The impression produced on the apostles may be inferred from the words of Peter and John written many years after the event [2 Pet. 1:16–18; Jn. 1:14; 1 Jn. 1:1 f.]. “And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias”: the latter had never died, and appeared therefore in his own body, while Moses either rose from the dead [cf. Jerome, auct. de mirabil. S. Script, iii. 10; Barradas, Sylveira Suarez, in 3am. qu. 45, disp. 32, sect. 2, n. 7; Tol. in c. ix. Luc. annot. 61], or his soul assumed an apparent body as happens in apparitions of angels [cf. Thomas Aquinas, 3 p. qu. 45, a. 3, ad 2; Tost. in c. xvii. qu. 54]. The disciples recognized the two Old Testament persons by revelation [Maldonado], or from the words in which Jesus addressed them [Theophylact, Jansenius, Suarez l. c. n. 10; Sylveira], or again from their description in the Old Testament [Grimm, iv. p. 39; Schanz], or finally from the traditional Jewish description of their persons [Euthymius]. Moses and Elias appeared at the transfiguration, first, because that event was to prefigure the future coming of Jesus in his glory, and this latter will be preceded [Apoc. 11:3–6] by the advent of Moses and Elias [Jansenius Maldonado; but the two witnesses of Apoc. 11:3–6 are more commonly identified with Enoch and Elias; cf. Suarez, l. c. disp. 55, sect. 3, n. 2]; secondly, Moses and Elias represent the law and the prophets of the Old Testament, as well as the living and the dead, so that they testify to Christ’s power over life and death [cf. Jerome, Hilary, Rabbanus Paschasius, Dionysius Jansenius, Maldonado], and to the fulfilment of law and prophecy in his person [Chrysostom]. Luke [9:31] tells us the subject of the patriarchs’ conversation with our Lord; it was a new confirmation for the apostles of the coming suffering and death of the Master.

Mt 17:4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Mt 17:5 And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.
Mt 17:6 And the disciples hearing fell upon their face, and were very much afraid.

And Peter answering, said.] b. Words at the transfiguration. Lk. 9:32 renders it clear that Peter began to speak [“answering,” cf. 9:25] when Moses and Elias were about to withdraw. Chrysostom thinks that the apostle invited Jesus to remain forever on Thabor, being overcome with heavenly delight [Orig.], and not fully realizing his own words [Lk. 9:33; Mk. 9:5]; Rabbanus infers from Peter’s words the delight awaiting us in our future life, when we shall see Jesus in his full glory. God himself furnished a better tabernacle than Peter’s could have been, by “a great cloud” overshading them [cf. Origen, Theophylact]. The manifestation of God’s presence in a cloud is too well known to need comment [cf. Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:15; 33:9; 1 Kings 8:10; Ps. 104:3; etc. Maldonado, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact St Bruno, Jansenius, etc.]. “Overshaded them,” not the disciples, but Jesus and his two visitors [Jansenius, Knabenbauer], because the “voice” came “out of the cloud.” The testimony “this is my beloved Son” confirms Peter’s testimony [16:16]; the words have been considered in 3:17. The clause “hear ye him,” alluding to Deut. 18:15, confirms our Lord’s previous prediction of his own suffering as well as his instruction on the self-denial of his disciples. “The disciples … were very much afraid,” an incident fully agreeing with the feeling of several saints of the Old and New Testament in the presence of God’s special manifestation [cf. Is. 6:5; Ez. 2:1; Dan. 7:15; 10:8; Apoc. 1:13, 17; etc.].

Mt 17:7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and fear not.
Mt 17:8 And they lifting up their eyes, saw no one, but only Jesus.
Mt 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.

7. And Jesus came and touched them.] c. After the transfiguration. The touch of Jesus brought about the fearlessness enjoined by his words [cf. Jerome]. “Tell the vision [cf. Acts 7:31; Sir 43:1] to no man,” a prohibition given not for fear of scandal at the following suffering and death [cf. Jerome, Chryssostom, Euthymius, Bede, etc.], nor on account of the apostles’ weakness, who needed the special infusion of the Holy Ghost in order to preach Christ’s glory [cf. Hilary, Thoma Aquinas], nor to avoid offence on the part of those disciples that had not been present on Thabor [Damasc. Corder. cat. Luc. p. 257], nor finally to teach humility [cf. Alb. Dionusius]; but the prohibition was based on the same necessity of not arousing the people’s expectations of a glorious Messias which we found in 16:20 [Schanz, Knabenbauer. etc.]. The question “why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first” does not show doubt on the part of the questioners concerning the truth of the Pharisaic doctrine [cf. Meyer]; nor does it prove that the apostles had come to the knowledge of our Lord’s Messiasship only on Thabor [cf. Origen, Chrysostom, Euthymius, Jansenius]; nor does it show that the disciples identified the apparition of Elias during the transfiguration with his promised coming before the advent of the Messias [cf. Weiss; Mal. 4:5, 6]; nor did the questioners believe that Christ had already come in his glory [cf. Jerome]; nor were they in doubt whether John the Baptist [cf. 11:14] was the promised Elias, since they must have understood the words of the scribes in their literal sense [cf. 16:6 ff.]; but since Jesus had just then mentioned his resurrection [“till the Son of man be risen from the dead”], the disciples thought that his advent in glory was near at hand, and therefore inquired about the coming of Elias according to the teaching of the scribes [cf. Jansenius, Knabenbauer, Lightfoot, Wünsche, Weber, System der altsynag. paläst. Theol. p. 337 f.].

As Mal. 3:1; 4:5, 6 distinguishes two advents of the Messias and two precursors, so does Jesus in his answer distinguish the two precursors; first, he speaks about Elias: “Elias indeed shall come,” before the second advent, “and restore all things,” preparing all hearts for the coming of the Lord [cf. Rom. 11:25 ff.; Justin, Origen, Victorinus, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, and all later Catholic writers of weight]; secondly, “Elias is already come,” before my first advent, in the person of the Baptist [cf. 11:14 ff.], “and they knew him not” cf. 11:16 ff.], “but have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind” [cf. 4:12; 11:18; Jn. 4:1]. The Baptist’s sufferings prefigure those of the Lord, for “so also the Son of man shall suffer from them” [cf. 14:1 ff.], so that the Baptist was the precursor of the Messias in death as well as in life. “Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them of John the Baptist,” identifying him with the Elias that had already come, not with the Elias that was to come before the second advent.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 17:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2017

Mt 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:

And after six days,” St. Mark reckons the same number (9:1); St. Luke (9:28) says, “about eight days after these words,” Both Evangelists are thus reconciled, if reconciled they need be; St. Matthew, in his narrative, does not include the the day on which the preceding words were spoken, nor the last day on which the occurrence he is about narrating took place. Whereas, St. Luke includes not only the six intermediate days referred to by St. Matthew, but also two partial days besides, viz., the first and last. However, in any case, there is no contradiction; for, St. Luke says, “about eight days,” not mentioning the precise number.

Taketh unto Him Peter, James, and John,” whom, as His most attached and confidential friends, and most highly favoured among the twelve, He frequently admitted to more familiar intercourse—Peter, the head of the Apostolic College; James, the greater, put to death by Herod, and the first to seal his testimony with his blood; and John, the beloved disciple, who was to outlive all the rest. These three He took with Him as the number of witnesses required for legal proof, according to the Jewish law, “in ore duorum vel trium testiam stet omne verbum,” and also to correspond with the threefold witnesses on earth, “tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra,” as the Heavenly Father, Moses, and Elias, corresponded with the three witnesses in heaven, “tres sunt qui testimonium dant in cœlo,” &c. He confined the manifestation of His glory to these three; because, He desired that the glory of His Transfiguration should not be divulged till after His resurrection.

Into a high mountain apart.” This is commonly supposed to be Mount Thabor, situated in the centre of Galilee, not far from Nazareth. It is in favour of this opinion, that this event would seem to have occurred in Galilee (v. 21), in the centre of which Thabor is situated. Others say, it was Mount Libanus. This opinion derives some probability from the fact, that it was at Cæsarea Philippi, situated at the foot of Mount Libanus, our Redeemer conferred the Primacy on St. Peter; and it would not seem He departed as yet from that district. St. Luke says, He ascended the mountain (9:28) “to pray,” which was quite in accordance with His custom, and that it was “whilst He prayed,” (v. 29) His Transfiguration took place.

Mt 17:2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow.

And He was transfigured before them.” This word here does not imply any change of substance, but only a change in His external appearance. He did not assume an ærial spiritual body, but only changed the appearance of, and added brightness to, the body He really had. This is clearly conveyed by St. Luke, “the appearance of His is countenance was altered,” &c. (9:29); and St. Matthew here explains it, “His face did shine as the sun: and His garments,” &c. He superadded splendour and glory to His former appearance, the substance remaining the same. He exhibited that glory with which He shall appear in His heavenly kingdom, and when He shall come one day to judge the world. He did not show His Divinity as He shows Himself to the saints in heaven. This, mortal eyes could not endure. He only showed the external glory of His body, which represented, in a certain way, the glory of the Divine Majesty.

And His face,” over which external splendour was diffused. Most probably, this extended to His entire body. “Did shine as the sun;” in this way was the gift of clarity, arising from the glory of the Divinity and the beatitude of the soul of Christ, shown to the Apostles. The other gifts of impassibility, agility, spirituality, were not exhibited. And, although from the moment of His Incarnation, these gifts of a glorified body, were due to the body of Christ, owing to its union with the Divinity; still, by Divine dispensation, and by a continuous miracle, they were concealed; their manifestation was repressed in His body, and prevented from taking effect. Even this gift of clarity showed itself only in a passing way, for the present occasion, but not to be perpetually manifested, as it is now manifested, in His glorified state; and shall be in the glorified bodies of the just after the General Resurrection. It was by a continuous miracle and Divine dispensation, that the body of our Lord did not exhibit the qualities of glorification from His Incarnation; and that He enjoyed the beatitude of the soul without showing itself in the glory of His body; and it was equally a miracle, that it was gifted with clarity only in a transient way, not manifested as a perpetual gift. Others say, our Lord’s glorious Transfiguration, and the passing manifestation of the gift of clarity, far from being a miracle—for, this clarity naturally arose from the beatified soul of Christ—was rather a cessation of the perpetual miracle by which were repressed the qualities of glorification.

And His garments became white as snow.” Most of the Greek readings have, “white as light.” But, the Vulgate reading is the more probable, and the comparison more natural. Moreover, all copies of St. Mark (9:2) have, “exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can make white.” Whether this snowy whiteness and shining brightness were so really impressed on the garments of our Lord, that they assumed these qualities, really and supernaturally on the occasion; and then after the Transfiguration, reassumed their former colour; or, were merely reflected on the garments from the glorified and bright Body of our Redeemer, reflecting its brightness on everything around it, is not easily determined, and forms the subject of dispute among commentators.

There can be no question whatever of the reality of this glorious Transfiguration, no grounds for regarding it as an imaginary scene. For, although the Apostles were before, “heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32), it was after awaking, they were favoured with the sight of His glory.

Our Redeemer’s object in this glorious manifestation would seem to be, by exhibiting His glory, and by adducing the testimony of Moses and Elias, to prepare His disciples for the scandal of the cross, and to animate them to undergo torments and death, by the prospects of the glory which awaited them in the Resurrection, similar to that witnessed by them on this occasion. The difference between the glory of our Redeemer and that of Moses is, that the glorious effulgence was imparted to Moses from without, from his converse with God; it was, moreover, confined to His face, the effulgence of which, owing to its being veiled, was concealed; whereas, that of our Redeemer was from within, from the glory of the Divinity and the beatitude of His soul, which, by a kind of continuous miracle, was kept from imparting the properties of glorification to His body. And, moreover, it extended to the entire body, to the entire sacred person, of our Redeemer.

Mt 17:3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him.

And behold,” &c. “And,” denotes, that immediately on His being transfigured, they saw “Moses and Elias talking with Him.” St. Luke (9:32) says, they “stood with Him.” Hence, it was in a standing posture, and not while elevated from the earth, this Transfiguration took place. St. Luke (9:31) tells us, the subject on which they were speaking was, concerning “His death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Our Redeemer wished to have Moses and Elias as witnesses of His Transfiguration; the former, the promulgator and representative of the Law; the latter, the representative of all the Prophets, of whom he was the greatest; to show, that far from being opposed to the Law and the Prophets, as the Jews calumniously charged Him, the Law and the Prophets bore testimony to Him, and to His death, the great source of scandal to His followers, about which they were conversing. He, moreover, wished to show, He was the Lord of Moses and all the Prophets; and not himself either Elias or any other of the Prophets, as the multitude falsely imagined. St. Luke says, “Moses and Elias appeared in majesty.” Our Lord, by thus wishing that His attendants on this glorious occasion should be robed like Himself, in glorious apparel, meant to show, that He will one day communicate His glory to His chosen servants in heaven. The presence of these glorified witnesses would servo to heighten His glory; and their testimony would add still greater force to His words in the minds of His Apostles.

Talking with Him.” The subject of their conversation, as we are informed by St. Luke (9:31), regarded His “decease, which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem.” The Greek word (εξοδον) shows, there is question of His exit or departure out of this world, which is rendered “excessum ejus,” by the Vulgate. It regards His future Passion. Some spiritual writers dwell on the words, “excessum ejus,” to point out the excessive love for man manifested by our Blessed Lord in His Passion and unparalleled sufferings. This is, no doubt, a pious and edifying exposition, and is included in the words; but the other, as the Greek clearly shows, is the literal meaning.

St. Luke informs us, that whilst our Redeemer was praying, Peter and his companions, “were heavy with sleep.” While they were thus asleep, it would seem our Redeemer was transfigured; and awaking, they saw Him in this state of majesty, and Moses and Elias speaking with Him regarding His future Passion. It was not before they fell asleep, but after awaking, they witnessed His Transfiguration, as St. Luke informs us. From this, it is inferred by some, that the Transfiguration occurred in the night time. In corroboration of this it is said (Luke 9:37), that our Redeemer came down from the mountain on the following day. Others, with St. Chrysostom, say, it took place in the day time. The fact, that a bright cloud overshadowed them, which most likely occurred in the day, favours this opinion, although this might occur on a calm, bright night also.

Mt 17:4 And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

Then Peter, answering, said.” “Answering,” by a Hebrew idiom, signifies, to commence speaking, without supposing any previous question asked. “Then.” St. Luke tells us, that St. Peter spoke when Moses and Elias were about to depart. Then Peter, transported with joy and almost inebriated with delight, mingled at the same time, with a kind of fear, or rather reverential awe, at the presence of such an unusual exhibition of glory—“For, they were struck with fear” (Mark 9:5)—anxious that this felicity should be perpetual and unalterable, exclaimed,Lord, it is good (καλον, delightful, very pleasing) for us to be here.” Therefore, do not permit Moses and Elias to depart. “If Thou wilt”—if Thou allow it, with your permission—“let us make here three tabernacles,” i.e., three tents, composed of branches of trees, such as were hastily raised, by travellers, for temporary purposes, and such as were raised on the Feast of Tabernacles. St. Peter wished to raise these as places where our Lord, Moses, and Elias might dwell. St. Mark (9:5), says, “he knew not what he said,” or, as the Greek has it, “he knew not what to say;” and St. Luke (9:34), not knowing what he said.” Like the sons of Zebedee, who know not the consequences nor conditions of what they asked, “nescitis quid petatis.” Peter spoke inconsiderately, not actually attending to the import of his words, nor how inconsistent and irreconcilable what he desired was, with what he saw and witnessed. Our Redeemer had sharply rebuked him, for trying to dissuade Him from suffering death. He heard two glorious witnesses speaking of His future death, in Jerusalem; and yet, Peter tries to detain them on the mountain, and leave the work of redemption unaccomplished. Moreover, it showed inconsiderateness in Peter, to imagine that glorified saints needed tents to protect them. It was thoughtless in him, to wish to have that glory confined to a few, on the mountain, which was destined for countless numbers, by the sovereign liberality of God; and to prefer the glimpse of glory, which He saw emanating from the glorified humanity and divinity of Jesus, to that effulgent, overwhelming, and dazzling glory, which from the sight of the Divinity, “face to face,” shall be exhibited to the saints for all eternity. “Satiabor cum apparuerit gloria tua” (Psa. 16:15).

Mt 17:5 And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him.

While Peter was speaking thus incoherently, the Heavenly Father interrupted his discourse. “Behold”—to call attention to it as a matter of wonder—“a bright cloud overshadowed them,” that is, enveloped them, diffusing itself around our Redeemer, Moses, Elias, and the Apostles who were near to where our Redeemer was conversing with Moses and Elias. “A bright cloud.” The Almighty is said, frequently in Scripture, to display His Majesty in a cloud (Exodus 16:10; 19:9; 24:15). Hence, the Psalmist says, “qui ponis nubem ascensum tuum,” &c. (Psa. 103) This cloud, which was an indication of the Divine presence, a visible type of the “excellent glory,” as St. Peter terms it (2 Ep. 1:17), showed that our Redeemer needed no tabernacle, made with hands. It served to temper the brightness of the majesty which struck the Apostles with fear. By it, God partly fulfilled the desires of Peter, by showing, He was Himself the pavilion, under whose shade the blessed shall repose for ever; and by it, He was pleased to sanction the public confession of Peter, regarding the Divinity of His eternal Son, by such a public and explicit declaration, and by a command to others, to hear Him. It is said to be a bright cloud, while that in which He appeared, when giving the Law to Moses, was a “very thick one” (Exod. 19:16), to show the difference between the New Law—the covenant of love—and the Old—the covenant of terror. St. Luke (9:34), says, “they were afraid, when they entered the cloud.” Who entered the cloud is disputed. The most common opinion is, that all entered the cloud, and that the cloud became more dense around Moses and Elias. Seeing them, as if vanishing from their sight, the disciples feared much. The very appearance of the cloud, together with the voice, which immediately after issued from it, was calculated to terrify them. Others say, the cloud enveloped only Moses and Elias, when they were on the point of departing. This bright cloud indicated the presence of the Divine Majesty.

And, behold,” as a thing still more strange and wonderful, “a voice out of the cloud.” Not only were the eyes of the Apostles favoured with the most convincing proof of the Divinity of our Blessed Lord, but through the organ of hearing, a most conclusive proof was afforded them. “This is My beloved Son,” &c. These words are the same in the Greek, as those uttered on the occasion of our Blessed Lord’s baptism. The article is prefixed to “Son” (ὅ νιος), and to “beloved” (ὅ αγαπητος), to show that He was His natural, only begotten Son, to distinguish Him from His adopted sons, who are many in number, angels and men. The words, literally rendered from the Greek, would run thus: hic est ille filius meus, ille dilectus—this is the Son of mine, the beloved. The word “beloved” (αγαπητος), is frequently used for (μονογενης), only-begotten, because an only-begotten son is singularly beloved. Thus it is used in Genesis (22:2). The Septuagint interpreters render the Hebrew word, αγαπητος and μονογενης (Jer. 6:26, &c.; Amos 8:10, &c.), and it is used in this sense by Pagan authors also. Homer (II. vi. 401); Hesiod, referred to by Pollux (Lib. iii. c. 2). The word, αγαπητος, used in connexion with ὕιος, is, in every part of the New Testament, used to designate the eternal Son of God, and used to distinguish Him from those, who are sons by the several titles of creation, redemption, adoption, viz., men and angels.

In whom I am well pleased.” The beloved object of My eternal complacency and love, “in whom,” and on account of whom, created objects please Me; “in whom,” I am reconciled to a sinful world; who, alone, singularly pleases Me, and in whom nothing else displeases Me. The Aorist form (ευδοκησα), conveys the idea of continuous pleasure, past, present, and future. These words point to our Lord, as the reconciler of God with a sinful world.

Hear ye Him.” St. Chrysostom observes, that it was only after the departure of Moses and Elias (Luke 9:36), this voice was heard, that it might appear beyond all cavil or doubt, that it was to Christ, and Him only, the words referred. “Hear ye Him”—that is, believe in Him, obey His precepts, embrace His law, no longer hear Moses and the Prophets. They have discharged the duty of bearing witness to Him, the Divine Legate. He is now come, the Legislator of the New Law. Their office has now ceased. Their departure need not be regretted. He, alone, is sufficient for you. By obeying Him, you will merit and secure, for yourselves, a share in the heavenly glory, a glimpse of which has been exhibited to you on the mountain. The words, “Hear ye Him,” are, probably, allusive to the prophecy of Moses, regarding Christ (Deut. 18:15), “A Prophet of thy nation … Him thou shalt hear” (see 3:17).

Mt 17:6 And the disciples hearing fell upon their face, and were very much afraid.

And the disciples hearing,” the terrible voice of God, which some of the holy Fathers say, resembled loud peals of thunder, “Vox Domini in virtute. Vox Domini in magnificentia.” (Psa. 28)

Fell upon their face,” probably, for the purpose of adoring the Divine Majesty, and of imploring Him to spare them. “And (that is, ‘for’), they were very much afraid.” For, “what is all flesh, that it should hear the voice of the living God?” (Deut. 5:26.) As they were seized with fear on beholding the glory of the Transfiguration, and on entering into the cloud, so they were terrified still more on hearing the tremendous voice of God. “Human weakness could not bear such refulgent beams of glory, and trembling in every limb, they fell prostrate on the ground” (St. Jerome). It may be, they feared that Moses, on departing, would send forth from the clouds, thunder and lightning, as happened at the giving of the Law (Exod. 19:16), and that Elias would send forth fires from the clouds as formerly (4 Kings 1:10). The Apostles, however, were not so terrified, as not to clearly perceive what occurred (2 Peter 1:18).

Mt 17:7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and fear not.

The heavenly benignity of our Redeemer, raises them up. With a gentle touch He dispels the fear with which the thundering voice and majesty of God had prostrated them to the earth. As Mediator, He interposes between the tremendous majesty of God and human infirmity. “Arise, and fear not,” intimating to them that this was the voice, not of an angry God, but of a Father, who meant to confirm them in the faith, and to point out the glory in store for His adopted sons, destined to be co-heirs of His well-beloved Son, to whom they were hereafter to bear testimony.

Mt 17:8 And they lifting up their eyes, saw no one, but only Jesus.

Moses and Elias had disappeared, so had the cloud, and Jesus Himself had laid aside the glory which had dazzled them. He, alone, was visible, in His former humble state of mortality. This shows that it was to Him, and to Him only, the voice of His Father was addressed. The disappearance of Moses and Elias pointed out the temporary and transient glory of the Law and the Prophets, and showed that the Gospel alone was permanent, and destined to continue to the end of ages. The history of the Transfiguration, although differently narrated by the Evangelists, may be thus briefly summed up. While our Redeemer prayed on the mountain, the Apostles, probably, tired by the ascent, and owing to the prolonged prayer, fell asleep, during which sleep our Lord was transfigured. Next, Moses and Elias came, and discoursed with our Redeemer, regarding His death in Jerusalem. The Apostles, roused from sleep by this conversation, and by the glory which surrounded them, saw our Lord thus transfigured, and heard Moses and Elias conversing with Him. When these gave signs of departing, Peter, overwhelmed with joy, wished to detain them, and to construct three tabernacles. Next, came the cloud, enveloping Moses and Elias, and the voice, “hic est filius,” &c., which terrified the Apostles, and cast them on the ground. Afterwards, comforted by our Redeemer, they rose up, and saw only our Lord, Moses having returned to Limbo, and Elias to where he is sojourning, till the Day of Judgment.

Mt 17:9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.

Tell the vision,” that is, what they had been after witnessing, the glory of the Transfiguration, “to no one,” including, probably, their fellow Apostles, and all others, “until the Son of man be risen again,” &c. St. Luke says (9:36), “they told no man in those days any of these things which they had seen.” The time subsequent to the Resurrection was deemed to be the only fit time for divulging this vision. Several conjectural reasons are assigned for this. Among the rest, it might be, our Redeemer feared, as regarded the other Apostles, that they might be saddened at their not being favoured with this vision, as well as Peter, James, and John; and, as regards the people, He might have feared, they would regard the event as incredible, and seeing afterwards His weakness in His Passion, those who would be induced to believe in Him, might altogether abandon the faith, and thus it would be more difficult to bring them back again. It was only after His resurrection; it was only after He displayed, not only his omniscience, in its prediction, with all its circumstances, but also His Divine power displayed in His own resuscitation—the great proof of His Divinity furnished everywhere in the New Testament—that this vision would not be questioned, and the minds of men would be prepared to believe it. Then it would seem as a confirmatory proof of His Divinity. No danger of scandal from any subsequent manifestation of weakness, and the Apostles would be better able to proclaim it after the descent of the Holy Ghost upon them (see 16:20).

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:27-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time,5 Thou shalt not commit adultery; but I say unto you, that every one who looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Having now finished the former commandment, and having extended it unto the height of self-denial, He, advancing in course and order, proceeds accordingly unto the second, herein too obeying the law.

“And yet,” it may be said, “this is not the second, but the third; for neither is the first, “Thou shalt not kill.” but “The Lord thy God is one Lord.”6

Wherefore it is worth inquiring too, why He did not begin with that. Why was it then? Because, had He begun from thence, He must have enlarged it also, and have brought in Himself together with His Father.7 But it was not as yet time to teach any such thing about Himself.

And besides, He was for a while practising His moral doctrine only, being minded from this first, and from His miracles, to convince the hearers that He was the Son of God. Now, if He had said at once, before He had spoken or done anything, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, “I am the Lord thy God, and there is none other but me,” but I say unto you, Worship me even as Him; this would have made all regard Him as a madman. For if, even after His teaching, and His so great miracles, while not even yet was He saying this openly, they called Him possessed with a devil;1 had He before all these attempted to say any such thing, what would they not have said? what would they not have thought?

But by keeping back at the proper season His teaching on these subjects, He was causing that the doctrine should be acceptable to the many. Wherefore now He passed it by quickly, but when He had everywhere established it by His miracles, and by His most excellent teaching, He afterwards unveiled it in words also.

For the present, however, by the manifestation of His miracles, and by the very manner of His teaching, He unfolds it on occasion, gradually and quietly. For His enacting such laws, and such corrections of laws, with authority, would lead on the attentive and understanding hearer, by little and little, unto the word of His doctrine. For it is said, “they were astonished at Him, because He taught not as their Scribes.”2

2. For beginning from those passions, which most belong to our whole race, anger, I mean, and desire (for it is these chiefly that bear absolute sway within us, and are more natural than the rest); He with great authority, even such as became a legislator, both corrected them, and reduced them to order with all strictness. For He said not that the adulterer merely is punished; but what He had done with respect to the murderer, this He doth here also, punishing even the unchaste look: to teach thee wherein lies what He had more than the scribes. Accordingly, He saith, “He that looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her:” that is, he who makes it his business to be curious about bright forms, and to hunt for elegant features, and to feast his soul with the sight, and to fasten his eyes on fair countenances.

For He came to set free from all evil deeds not the body only, but the soul too before the body. Thus, because in the heart we receive the grace of the Spirit, He cleanses it out first.

“And how,” one may say, “is it possible to be freed from desire?” I answer, first, if we were willing, even this might be deadened, and remain inactive.

In the next place, He doth not here take away desire absolutely, but that desire which springs up in men from sight. For he that is curious to behold fair countenances, is himself chiefly the enkindler of the furnace of that passion, and makes his own soul a captive, and soon proceeds also to the act.

Thus we see why He said not, “whosoever shall lust to commit adultery,” but, “whosoever shall look to lust.” And in the case of anger He laid down a certain distinction, saying, “without a cause,” and “for nought;” but here not so; rather once for all He took away the desire. Yet surely both are naturally implanted, and both are set in us for our profit; both anger, and desire: the one that we may chastise the evil, and correct those who walk disorderly; the other that we may have children, and that our race may be recruited by such successions.

Why then did He not make a distinction here also? Nay, very great is the distinction which, if thou attend, thou wilt see here also included. For He said not simply, “whosoever shall desire,” since it is possible for one to desire even when sitting in the mountains; but, “Whosoever shall look to lust;” that is to say, he who gathers in lust unto himself; he who, when nothing compels him, brings in the wild beast upon his thoughts when they are calm. For this comes no longer of nature, but of self-indulgence. This even the ancient Scripture corrects from the first, saying, “Contemplate not beauty which is another’s.”3 And then, lest any one should say, “what then, if I contemplate, and be not taken captive,” He punishes the look, lest confiding in this security thou shouldest some time fall into sin. “What then,” one may say, “if I should look, and desire indeed, but do no evil?” Even so thou art set among the adulterers. For the Lawgiver hath pronounced it, and thou must not ask any more questions. For thus looking once, twice, or thrice, thou wilt perhaps have power to refrain; but if thou art continually doing this, and kindling the furnace, thou wilt assuredly be taken; for thy station is not beyond that nature which is common to men. As we then, if we see a child holding a knife, though we do not see him hurt, beat him, and forbid his ever holding it; so God likewise takes away the unchaste look even before the act, lest at any time thou shouldest fall in act also. For he who hath once kindled the flame, even when the woman whom he hath beheld is absent, is forming by himself continually images of shameful things, and from them often goes on even to the deed. For this cause Christ takes away even that embrace which is in the heart only.

What now can they say, who have those virgin inmates?1 Why, by the tenor of this law they must be guilty of ten thousand adulteries, daily beholding them with desire. For this cause the blessed Job2 also laid down this law from the beginning, blocking out from himself on all sides this kind of gazing.

For in truth greater is the struggle on beholding, and not possessing the object of fondness: nor is the pleasure so great which we reap from the sight, as the mischief we undergo from increasing this desire; thus making our opponent strong, and giving more scope to the devil, and no longer3 able to repulse him, now that we have brought him into our inmost parts, and have thrown our mind open unto him. Therefore He saith, “commit no adultery with thine eyes, and thou wilt commit none with thy mind.”

For one may indeed behold in another way, such as are the looks of the chaste; wherefore he did not altogether prohibit our seeing, but that seeing which is accompanied with desire. And if He had not meant this, He would have said simply, “He who looketh on a woman.” But now He said not thus, but, “He who looketh to lust,” “he who looketh to please his sight.”

For not at all to this end did God make thee eyes, that thou shouldest thereby introduce adultery, but that, beholding His creatures, thou shouldest admire the Artificer.

Just then as one may feel wrath at random, so may one cast looks at random; that is, when thou doest it for lust. Rather, if thou desirest to look and find pleasure, look at thine own wife, and love her continually; no law forbids that. But if thou art to be curious about the beauties that belong to another, thou art injuring both thy wife by letting thine eyes wander elsewhere, and her on whom thou hast looked, by touching her unlawfully. Since, although thou hast not touched her with the hand, yet hast thou caressed her with thine eyes; for which cause this also is accounted adultery, and before that great penalty draws after it no slight one of its own. For then all within him is filled with disquiet and turmoil, and great is the tempest, and most grievous the pain, and no captive nor person in chains can be worse off than a man in this state of mind. And oftentimes she who hath shot the dart is flown away, while the wound even so remains. Or rather, it is not she who hath shot the dart, but thou gavest thyself the fatal wound, by thine unchaste look. And this I say to free modest women from the charge: since assuredly, should one deck herself out, and invite towards herself the eyes of such as fall in her way; even though she smite not him that meets with her, she incurs the utmost penalty: for she mixed the poison, she prepared the hemlock, even though she did not offer the cup. Or rather, she did also offer the cup, though no one were found to drink it.

3. “Why then doth He not discourse with them also?” it may be said. Because the laws which He appoints are in every case common, although He seem to address Himself unto men only. For in discoursing with the head, He makes His admonition common to the whole body also. For woman and man He knows as one living creature, and nowhere distinguishes their kind.

But if thou desirest to hear also His rebuke for them in particular, listen to Isaiah,4 in many words inveighing against them, and deriding their habit, their aspect, their gait, their trailing garments, their tripping feet, their drooping necks. Hear with him the blessed Paul5 also, setting many laws for them; and both about garments, and ornaments of gold,6 and plaiting of hair, and luxurious7 living, and all other such things, vehemently rebuking this sex. And Christ too, by what follows next, obscurely intimated this very same; for when He saith, “pluck out and cut off the eye that offendeth thee,”8 He speaks as indicating His anger against them.

3. Wherefore also He subjoins,

“If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee.”1

Thus, lest thou shouldest say, “But what if she be akin to me? what if in any other way she belong to me?” therefore He hath given these injunctions; not discoursing about our limbs;—far from it,—for nowhere doth He say that our flesh is to be blamed for things, but everywhere it is the evil mind that is accused. For it is not the eye that sees, but the mind and the thought. Often, for instance, we being wholly turned elsewhere, our eye sees not those who are present. So that the matter does not entirely depend upon its working. Again, had He been speaking of members of the body, He would not have said it of one eye, nor of the right eye only, but of both. For he who is offended by his right eye, most evidently will incur the same evil by his left also. Why then did He mention the right eye, and add the hand? To show thee that not of limbs is He speaking, but of them who are near unto us. Thus, “If,” saith He, “thou so lovest any one, as though he were in stead of a right eye; if thou thinkest him so profitable to thee as to esteem him in the place of a hand, and he hurts thy soul; even these do thou cut off.” And see the emphasis; for He saith not, “Withdraw from him,” but to show the fullness of the separation, “pluck it out,” saith He, “and cast it from thee.”

Then, forasmuch as His injunction was sharp, He shows also the gain on either hand, both from the benefits and from the evils, continuing in the metaphor.

“For it is profitable for thee,” saith He, “that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.”2

For while he neither saves himself, nor fails to destroy thee too, what kindness is it for both to sink, whereas if they were separated, one at least might have been preserved?

But why did Paul then, it may be said, choose to become accursed?3 Not on condition of gaining nothing, but with a view to the salvation of others. But in this case the mischief pertains to both. And therefore He said not, “pluck out” only, but also “cast from thee:” to receive him again no more, if he continue as he is. For so shalt thou both deliver him from a heavier charge, and free thyself from ruin.

But that thou mayest see yet more clearly the profit of this law; let us, if you please, try what hath been said, in the case of the body itself, by way of supposition. I mean, if choice were given, and thou must either, keeping thine eye, be cast into a pit and perish, or plucking it out, preserve the rest of thy body; wouldest thou not of course accept the latter? It is plain to everyone. For this were not to act as one hating the eye, but as one loving the rest of the body. This same reckoning do thou make with regard to men also and women: that if he who harms thee by his friendship should continue incurable, his being thus cut off will both free thee from all mischief, and he also will himself be delivered from the heavier charges, not having to answer for thy destruction along with his own evil deeds.

Seest thou how full the law is of gentleness and tender care, and that which seems to men in general to be severity, how much love towards man it discloses?

Let them hearken to these things, who hasten to the theatres, and make themselves adulterers every day. For if the law commands to cut off him, whose connexion with us tends to our hurt; what plea can they have, who, by their haunting those places, attract towards them daily those even that have not yet become known to them, and procure to themselves occasions of ruin without number?

For henceforth, He not only forbids us to look unchastely, but having signified the mischief thence ensuing, He even straitens the law as He goes on, commanding to cut off, and dissever, and cast somewhere far away. And all this He ordains, who hath uttered4 words beyond number about love, that in either way thou mightest learn His providence, and how from every source He seeks thy profit.

4. “Now it hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.5 But I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery; and whosoever marrieth her that is put away, committeth adultery.”6

He goes not on to what lies before Him, until He have well cleared out the former topics. For, lo, He shows us yet another kind of adultery. And what is this? There was an ancient law made,7 that he who hated his wife, for whatever kind of cause, should not be forbidden to cast her out, and to bring home another instead of her. The law however did not command him simply to do this, but after giving the woman a writing of divorcement, that it might not be in her power to return to him again; that so at least the figure of the marriage might remain.

For if He had not enjoined this, but it were lawful first to cast her out, and take another, then afterwards to take back the former, the confusion was sure to be great, all men continually taking each others’ wives; and the matter thenceforth would have been direct adultery. With a view to this, He devised, as no small mitigation, the writing of divorcement.

But these things were done by reason of another, a far greater wickedness; I mean, had He made it necessary to keep in the house her even that was hated, the husband, hating, would have killed her. For such was the race of the Jews. For they who did not spare children, who slew prophets, and “shed blood as water,”1 much more would they have showed no mercy to women. For this cause He allowed the less, to remove the greater evil. For that this was not a primary2 law, hear Him saying, “Moses wrote these things according to the hardness of your hearts,”3 that ye might not slay them in the house, but rather put them out. But forasmuch as He had taken away all wrath, having forbidden not murder only, but even the mere feeling of anger, He with ease introduces this law likewise. With this view also He is ever bringing to mind the former words, to signify that His sayings are not contrary to them, but in agreement: that He is enforcing, not overthrowing them; perfecting, not doing them away.

And observe Him everywhere addressing His discourse to the man. Thus, “He that putteth away his wife,” saith He, “causeth her to commit adultery, and he that marrieth a woman put away, committeth adultery.” That is, the former, though he take not another wife, by that act alone hath made himself liable to blame, having made the first an adulteress; the latter again is become an adulterer by taking her who is another’s. For tell me not this, “the other hath cast her out;” nay, for when cast out she continues to be the wife of him that expelled her. Then lest He should render the wife more self-willed, by throwing it all upon him who cast her out, He hath shut against her also the doors of him who was afterwards receiving her; in that He saith, “He who marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery;” and so makes the woman chaste even though unwilling, and blocks up altogether her access to all, and suffers her not to give an occasion for jealousy.4 For she who hath been made aware that she positively must either keep the husband, who was originally allotted to her, or being cast out of that house, not have any other refuge;—she even against her will was compelled to make the best of her consort.

And if He discourse not at all unto her concerning these things, marvel not; for the woman is rather a weak creature.5 For this cause letting her go, in his threatening against the men He fully corrects her remissness. Just as if any one who had a prodigal child, leaving him, should rebuke those who make him such, and forbid them to have intercourse, or to approach him. And if that be galling, call to mind, I pray thee, His former sayings, on what terms He had blessed His hearers; and thou wilt see that it is very possible and easy. For he that is meek, and a peacemaker, and poor in spirit, and merciful, how shall he cast out his wife? He that is used to reconcile others, how shall he be at variance with her that is his own?

And not thus only, but in another way also He hath lightened the enactment: forasmuch as even for him He leaves one manner of dismissal, when He saith, “Except for the cause of fornication;” since the matter had else come round again to the same issue. For if He had commanded to keep her in the house, though defiling herself with many, He would have made the matter end again in adultery.

Seest thou how these sayings agree with what had gone before? For he who looks not with unchaste eyes upon another woman, will not commit whoredom; and not committing whoredom, he will give no occasion to the husband to cast out his wife.

Therefore, you see, after this He presses the point without reserve, and builds up this fear as a bulwark, urging on the husband the great danger, if he do cast her out, in that he makes himself accountable for her adultery. Thus, lest thou being told, “pluck out the eye,” shouldest suppose this to be said even of a wife: He added in good time this corrective, in one way only giving leave to cast her out, but no otherwise.

5. “Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths. But I say unto you, swear not at all.”1

Why did He go straightway not to theft, but to false witness, passing over that commandment? Because he that steals, doth upon occasion swear also; but he that knows not either swearing or speaking falsehood, much less will he choose to steal. So that by this He hath overthrown the other sin likewise: since falsehood comes of stealing.

But what means, “Thou shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths?”2 It is this, “thou shalt be true in swearing.” “But I say unto you, swear not at all.”

Next, to lead them farther away from swearing by God, He saith, “Neither by Heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King:”3 still speaking out of the prophetical writings, and signifying Himself not to be opposed to the ancients. This was because they had a custom of swearing by these objects, and he intimates this custom near the end of his Gospel.4

But mark, I pray thee, on what ground He magnifies the elements; not from their own nature, but from God’s relation to them, such as it had been in condescension declared. For because the tyranny of idolatry was great, that the elements might not be thought worthy of honor for their own sake, He hath assigned this cause, which we have mentioned, which again would pass on to the glory of God. For He neither said, “because Heaven is beautiful and great,” nor, “because earth is profitable;” but “because the one is God’s throne, the other His footstool;” on every side urging them on towards their Lord.

“Neither by thy head,” saith He, “because thou canst not make one hair white or black.”5

Here again, not as wondering at man, hath He withdrawn him from swearing by his head (for so man himself would be worshipped), but as referring the glory to God, and signifying that thou art not master even of thyself, and of course therefore not of the oaths made by thy head. For if no one would give up his own child to another, much more will not God give up His own work to thee. For though it be thy head, yet is it the property of another; and so far from being master thereof, thou shalt not be able to do with it, no not the least thing of all. For He said not, “Thou canst not make one hair grow;” but, “Not so much as change its quality.”

“But what,” it may be said, “if any one should require an oath, and apply constraint?” Let the fear of God be more powerful than the constraint: since, if thou art to bring forward such excuses, thou wilt keep none of the things which are enjoined.

Yea, for first with respect to thy wife thou wilt say, “what if she be contentious and extravagant;” and then as to the right eye, “what if I love it, and am quite on fire?” and of the unchaste look, “what then, if I cannot help seeing?” and of our anger against a brother, “what if I be hasty, and not able to govern my tongue?” and in general, all His sayings thou mayest on this wise trample under foot. Yet surely with regard to human laws thou darest not in any case use this allegation, nor say, “what then if this or that be the case,” but, willing or unwilling, thou receivest what is written.

And besides, thou wilt never have compulsion to undergo at all. For he that hath hearkened unto those former blessings, and hath framed himself to be such as Christ enjoined, will have no such constraint to endure from any, being held in reverence and veneration by all.

“But let your yea, be yea; and your nay, nay: for that which exceedeth these cometh of the evil one.”6

What is it then that “exceeds yea” and “nay”? it is the oath, not the perjury. For this latter is quite acknowledged, and no man needs to learn that it is of the evil one; and it is not an excess, but an opposite: whereas an excess means something more, and added over and above: which kind of thing swearing is.

“What then,” saith one, “was it of the evil one? and if it was of the evil one, how was it a law?” Well, this same thing thou wilt say concerning the wife also; how is that now accounted adultery, which was before permitted?

What now may one reply to this? That the precepts then uttered had reference to the weakness of them who were receiving the laws; since also to be worshipped with the vapor of sacrifice is very unworthy of God, just as to lisp is unworthy of a philosopher. That kind of thing accordingly was now laid down to be adultery, and swearing to be of the evil one, now that the principles of virtue have advanced. But if these things had been, from the first, laws of the devil, they would not have attained to so great goodness. Yea, for had those not been forerunners in the first place, these which we now have would not have been so easily received. Do not thou then require their excellency now, when their use is past: but then, when the time was calling for them. Or rather, if thou wilt, even now: yea, for now also is their virtue shown: and most of all for the very cause, by reason of which we find fault with them. For their appearing such now, is the greatest commendation of them. For had they not brought us up well, and made us meet for the reception of the greater precepts, they would not have appeared such.

Therefore as the breast, when it hath fulfilled all its part, and is dismissing the child to the more manly diet, after that appears useless; and the parents who before thought it necessary for the babe, now abuse it with ten thousand mockeries (and many even not content with words of abuse, anoint it also with bitter drugs; that when their words have not power to remove the child’s unseasonable propensity towards it, the real things may quench their longing): so also Christ saith, that they are of the evil one, not to indicate that the old law is of the devil, but in order that with most exceeding earnestness He might lead them away from their ancient poverty. And to them He saith these things; but with regard to the Jews, who were insensible and persevered in the same ways, He hath anointed their city all round with the terror of captivity, as with some bitter drug, and made it inaccessible. But since not even this had power to restrain them, but they desired to see it again, running to it, just as a child to the breast, He hid it from them altogether; both pulling it down, and leading away the more part of them far from it: as it is with our cattle; many, by shutting out the calves, in time induce them to forego their old familiar use of the milk.

But if the old law had belonged to the devil, it would not have led people away from idolatry, but rather would have drawn them on and cast them into it; for this did the devil desire. But now we see the opposite effect produced by the old law. And indeed this very thing, the oath, was ordained of old for this cause, that they might not swear by the idols. For “ye shall swear,” saith He, “by the true God.”1 They were then no small advantages which the law effected, but rather very great. For that they came unto the “strong meat,” was the work of its care.

“What then,” it may be said, “is not swearing of the evil one?” Yes, indeed it is altogether of the evil one; that is, now, after so high a rule of self-restraint; but then not so.

“But how,” one may say, “should the same thing become at one time good, at another time not good?” Nay, I say the very contrary: how could it help becoming good and not good, while all things are crying aloud, that they are so: the arts, the fruits of the earth, and all things else?

See it, for example, taking place first in our own kind. Thus, to be carried, in the earliest age of life, is good, but afterwards pernicious; to eat food that hath been softened in the mouth, in the first scene of our life, is good, but afterwards it is full of disgust; to be fed upon milk and to fly to the breast, is at first profitable and healthful, but tends afterwards to decay and harm. Seest thou how the same actions, by reason of the times, appear good, and again not so? Yea, and to wear the robe of a child is well as long as you are a boy, but contrariwise, when you are become a man, it is disgraceful. Wouldest thou learn of the contrary case too, how to the child again the things of the man are unsuited? Give the boy a man’s robe, and great will be the laughter; and greater the danger, he being often upset in walking after that fashion. Allow him to handle public affairs, and to traffic, and sow, and reap, and great again will be the laughter.

And why do I mention these things? when killing, which among all is acknowledged to be an invention of the evil one, killing, I say, having found its proper occasion, caused Phinehas, who committed it, to be honored with the priesthood.2 For that killing is a work of him whom I just now mentioned, hear what Christ saith; “Ye will do the works of your Father; he was a manslayer from the beginning.”3 But Phinehas became a manslayer, and “it was counted unto him” (so He speaks) “for righteousness:”4 and Abraham again on becoming not a manslayer only, but (which was far worse) the slayer of his child, won more and more approbation. And Peter too wrought a twofold slaughter, nevertheless what he did was of the Spirit.5

Let us not then examine simply the acts, but the season too, and the causes, and the mind, and the difference of persons, and whatsoever else may accompany them, these let us search out with all exactness: for there is no arriving at the truth otherwise.

And let us be diligent, if we would attain unto the kingdom, to show forth something more than the old commandments; since we cannot otherwise lay hold of the things of Heaven. For if we arrive but at the same measure, that of the ancients, we shall stand without that threshold; for “except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1

6. Yet, although so heavy a threat is set down, there are some who so far from over-passing this righteousness, even come short of it; so far from shunning oaths, they even swear falsely; so far from avoiding an unchaste gaze, they even fall into the very act of wickedness. And all the rest of the things which are forbidden, they dare to do, as though past feeling: waiting for one thing only, the day of punishment, and the time when they are to pay the most extreme penalty for their misdoings. And this is the portion of those only who have ended their lives in wickedness. For these have reason to despair, and thenceforth to expect nothing else but punishment; whereas they who are yet here, may have power both to renew the fight and to conquer and be crowned with ease.

Despond not therefore, O man, neither put away thy noble earnestness; for in truth the things are not grievous, which are enjoined. What trouble is it, I pray thee, to shun an oath? What, does it cost any money? Is it sweat and hardship? It is enough to have willed only, and the whole is done.

But if you allege to me thine habit; for this very reason most of all do I say, that thy doing right is easy. For if thou bring thyself to another habit, thou hadst effected all.

Consider, for example, how among the Greeks, in many instances, persons lisping have entirely cured by much practice their halting tongue; while others, who were used to shrug up their shoulders in an unseemly way, and to be continually moving them, by putting a sword over them, have broken themselves of it.2

For since you are not persuaded out of the Scriptures, I am compelled to shame you by them that are without. This God also did unto the Jews, when He said, “Go ye forth unto the Isles of Chittim, and send unto Kedar, and know if nations will change their gods; which yet are no gods.”3 And to the brutes likewise He sends us oftentimes, saying on this wise, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard, and emulate her ways:” and “go forth to the bee.”4

This therefore I also now say unto you; consider the philosophers of the Greeks; and then ye will know of how great punishment we are worthy, who disobey the laws of God: in that they for seemliness before men have taken exceeding pains, and you bestow not the same diligence, no, not for the things of Heaven.

But if thou shouldest reply, “Habit has a wonderful power to beguile even those who are very much in earnest:” this I likewise acknowledge; however, there is another thing which I say with it; that as it is powerful to beguile, so also is it easy to be corrected. For if thou wilt set over thyself at home many to watch thee, such as thy servant, thy wife, thy friend, thou wilt easily break off from the bad habits, being hard pressed and closely restrained by all. If thou succeed in doing this for ten days only, thou wilt after that no longer need any further time, but all will be secured to thee, rooted anew in the firmness of the most excellent habit.

When therefore thou art beginning to correct this, though thou shouldest transgress thy law a first, a second, a third, a twentieth time, do not despair, but rise up again, and resume the same diligence, and thou wilt surely prevail.

For perjury surely is no trifling mischief, If to swear is of the evil one, how great the penalty which false swearing will bring! Did ye give praise to what hath been said?5 Nay, I want not applause, nor tumults, nor noise. One thing only do I wish, that quietly and intelligently listening, you should do what is said. This is the applause, this the panegyric for me. But if thou praisest what I say, but doest not what thou applaudest, greater is the punishment, more aggravated the accusation: and to us it is shame and ridicule. For the things here present are no dramatic spectacle; neither do ye now sit gazing on actors, that ye may merely applaud. This place is a spiritual school. Wherefore also there is but one thing aimed at, duly to perform the things that have been spoken, and to show forth our obedience by our works. For then only shall we have obtained all. Since as things are, to say the truth, we have fairly given up in despair. For I have not ceased giving these admonitions either to those whom I meet in private, or in discourse with you all in common. Yet I see no advantage at all gained, but you are still clinging to the former rude beginnings, which thing is enough to fill the teacher with weariness.

See, for example, Paul himself, hardly bearing it, because his scholars were delaying a long time in their earlier lessons: “For when for the time,” saith he, “ye ought to be teachers, ye have need to be taught again which be the first principles of the oracles of God.1”

Wherefore we too mourn and lament. And if I see you persisting, I will forbid you for the future to set foot on this sacred threshold, and partake of the immortal mysteries; as we do fornicators and adulterers, and persons charged with murder. Yea, for it is better to offer our accustomed prayers, with two or three, who keep the laws of God, than to sweep together2 a multitude of trangressors and corrupters of others.

Let me have no rich man, no potentate, puffing at me here, and drawing up his eyebrows; all these things are to me a fable, a shade, a dream. For no one of those who are now rich, will stand up for me there, when I am called to account and accused, as not having thoroughly vindicated the laws of God, with all due earnestness. For this, this ruined even that admirable old man,3 though in his own life giving no handle for blame; yet for all that, because he overlooked the treading under foot of God’s laws, he was chastised with his children, and paid that grievous penalty. And if, where the absolute authority of nature was so great, he who failed to treat his own children with due firmness endured so grievous a punishment; what indulgence shall we have, freed as we are from that dominion, and yet ruining all by flattery?

In order therefore that ye may not destroy both us and your own selves with us, be persuaded, I entreat you; set very many to watch over you, and call you to account, and so free yourselves from the habit of oaths; that going on orderly from thence, ye may both with all facility succeed in attaining unto all other virtue, and may enjoy the good things to come; which God grant that we may all win, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might now and always, even for ever and ever. Amen.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 5:17

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

“Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the Prophets.”

Why, who suspected this? or who accused Him, that He should make a defense against this charge? Since surely from what had gone before1 no such suspicion was generated. For to command men to be meek, and gentle, and merciful, and pure in heart, and to strive for righteousness, indicated no such design, but rather altogether the contrary.

Wherefore then can He have said this? Not at random, nor vainly: but inasmuch as He was proceeding to ordain commandments greater than those of old, saying, “It was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill;2 but I say unto you, Be not even angry;” and to mark out a way for a kind of divine and heavenly conversation;3 in order that the strangeness thereof might not disturb the souls of the hearers, nor dispose them quite to mutiny against what He said, He used this means of setting them right beforehand.

For although they fulfilled not the law, yet nevertheless they were possessed with much conscientious regard to it; and whilst they were annulling it every day by their deeds, the letters thereof they would have remain unmoved, and that no one should add anything more to them. Or rather, they bore with their rulers adding thereto, not however for the better, but for the worse. For so they used to set aside the honor due to our parents by additions of their own, and very many others also of the matters enjoined them, they would free themselves of4 by these unseasonable additions.

Therefore, since Christ in the first place was not of the sacredotal tribe, and next, the things which He was about to introduce were a sort of addition, not however lessening, but enhancing virtue; He knowing beforehand that both these circumstances would trouble them, before He wrote in their mind those wondrous laws, casts out that which was sure to be harboring there. And what was it that was harboring there, and making an obstacle?

2. They thought that He, thus speaking, did so with a view to the abrogation of the ancient institutions. This suspicion therefore He heals; nor here only doth He so, but elsewhere also again. Thus, since they accounted Him no less than an adversary of God, from this sort of reason, namely, His not keeping the sabbath; He, to heal such their suspicion, there also again sets forth His pleas, of which some indeed were proper to Himself; as when He saith, “My Father worketh, and I work;”5 but some had in them much condescension, as when He brings forward the sheep lost on the sabbath day,6 and points out that the law is disturbed for its preservation, and makes mention again of circumcision, as having this same effect.7

Wherefore we see also that He often speaks words somewhat beneath Him, to remove the semblance of His being an adversary of God.

For this cause He who had raised thousands of the dead with a word only, when He was calling Lazarus, added also a prayer; and then, lest this should make Him appear less than Him that begat Him, He, to correct this suspicion, added, “I said these things, because of the people which standeth by, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”8 And neither doth He work all things as one who acted by His own power, that He might thoroughly correct their weakness; nor doth He all things with prayer, lest He should leave matter of evil suspicion to them that should follow, as though He were without strength or power: but He mingles the latter with the former, and those again with these. Neither doth He this indiscriminately, but with His own proper wisdom. For while He doeth the greater works authoritatively, in the less He looks up unto Heaven. Thus, when absolving sins, and revealing His secrets, and opening Paradise, and driving away devils, and cleansing lepers, and bridling death, and raising the dead by thousands, He did all by way of command: but when, what was much less than these, He was causing many loaves to spring forth out of few, then He looked up to Heaven: signifying that not through weakness He doth this. For He who could do the greater with authority, how in the lesser could He need prayer? But as I was saying, He doeth this to silence their shamelessness. The same reckoning, then, I bid thee make of His words also, when thou hearest Him speak lowly things. For many in truth are the causes both for words and for actions of that cast: as, for instance, that He might not be supposed alien from God; His instructing and waiting on all men; His teaching humility; His being encompassed with flesh; the Jews’ inability to hear all at once; His teaching us to utter no high word of ourselves. For this cause many times, having in His own person said much that is lowly of Himself, the great things He leaves to be said by others. Thus He Himself indeed, reasoning with the Jews, said, “Before Abraham was, i am:”1 but His disciple not thus, but, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”2

Again, that He Himself made Heaven, and earth, and sea, and all things visible and invisible, in His own person He nowhere expressly said: but His disciple, speaking plainly out, and suppressing nothing, affirms this once, twice, yea often: writing that “all things were made by Him;” and, “without Him was not one thing made;” and, He was in the world, and the world was made by Him.”3

And why marvel, if others have said greater things of Him than He of Himself; since (what is more) in many cases, what He showed forth by His deeds, by His words He uttered not openly? Thus that it was Himself who made mankind He showed clearly even by that blind man; but when He was speaking of our formation at the beginning, He said not, “I made,” but “He who made them, made them male and female.”4 Again, that He created the world and all things therein, He demonstrated by the fishes, by the wine, by the loaves, by the calm in the sea, by the sunbeam which He averted on the Cross; and by very many things besides: but in words He hath nowhere said this plainly, though His disciples are continually declaring it, both John, and Paul, and Peter.

For if they who night and day hear Him discourse, and see Him work marvels; to whom He explained many things in private, and gave so great power as even to raise the dead; whom He made so perfect, as to forsake all things for Him: if even they, after so great virtue and self-denial, had not strength to bear it all, before the supply of the Spirit; how could the people of the Jews, being both void of understanding, and far behind such excellency, and only by hazard present when He did or said anything, how could they have been persuaded but that He was alien from the God of all, unless he had practised such great condescension throughout?

For on this account we see that even when He was abrogating the sabbath, He did not as of set purpose bring in such His legislation, but He puts together many and various pleas of defense. Now if, when He was about to cause one commandment to cease, He used so much reserve in His language,5 that He might not startle the hearers; much more, when adding to the law, entire as it was, another entire code of laws, did He require much management and attention, not to alarm those who were then hearing Him.

For this same cause, neither do we find Him teaching everywhere clearly concerning His own Godhead. For if His adding to the law was sure to perplex them so greatly, much more His declaring Himself God.

3. Wherefore many things are uttered by Him, far below His proper dignity, and here when He is about to proceed upon His addition to the law, He hath used abundance for correction beforehand. For neither was it once only that He said, “I do not abrogate the law,” but He both repeated it again, and added another and a greater thing; in that, to the words, “Think not that I am come to destroy,” He subjoined, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

Now this not only obstructs the obstinacy of the Jews, but stops also the mouths of those heretics,6 who say that the old covenant is of the devil. For if Christ came to destroy his tyranny, how is this covenant not only not destroyed, but even fulfilled by Him? For He said not only, “I do not destroy it;” though this had been enough; but “I even fulfill it:” which are the words of one so far from opposing himself, as to be even establishing it.

And how, one may ask, did He not destroy it? in what way did He rather fulfill either the law or the prophets? The prophets He fulfilled, inasmuch as He confirmed by His actions all that had been said concerning Him; wherefore also the evangelist used to say in each case, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet.” Both when He was born,1 and when the children sung that wondrous hymn to Him, and when He sat on the ass,2 and in very many more instances He worked this same fulfillment: all which things must have been unfulfilled, if He had not come.

But the law He fulfilled, not in one way only, but in a second and third also. In one way, by transgressing none of the precepts of the law. For that He did fulfill it all, hear what He saith to John, “For thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.”3 And to the Jews also He said, “Which of you convinceth me of sin.”4 And to His disciples again, “The prince of this world cometh, and findeth nothing in me.”5 And the prophet too from the first had said that “He did no sin.”6

This then was one sense in which He fulfilled it. Another, that He did the same through us also; for this is the marvel, that He not only Himself fulfilled it, but He granted this to us likewise. Which thing Paul also declaring said, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.”7 And he said also, that “He judged sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh.”8 And again, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid! yea, we establish the law.”9 For since the law was laboring at this, to make man righteous, but had not power, He came and brought in the way of righteousness by faith, and so established that which the law desired: and what the law could not by letters, this He accomplished by faith. On this account He saith, “I am not come to destroy the law.”

4. But if any one will inquire accurately, he will find also another, a third sense, in which this hath been done. Of what sort is it then? In the sense of that future code of laws, which He was about to deliver to them.

For His sayings were no repeal of the former, but a drawing out, and filling up of them. Thus, “not to kill,” is not annulled by the saying, Be not angry, but rather is filled up and put in greater security: and so of all the others.

Wherefore, you see, as He had before unsuspectedly cast the seeds of this teaching; so at the time when from His comparison of the old and new commandments, He would be more distinctly suspected of placing them in opposition, He used His corrective beforehand. For in a covert way He had indeed already scattered those seeds, by what He had said. Thus, “Blessed are the poor,” is the same as that we are not to be angry; and, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” as not to “look upon a woman for lust;” and the “not laying up treasures on earth,” harmonizes with, “Blessed are the merciful;” and “to mourn” also, “to be persecuted” and “reviled,” coincide with “entering in at the strait gate;” and, “to hunger and thirst after righteousness,” is nothing else than that which He saith afterwards, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them.” And having declared “the peace-maker blessed,” He again almost said the same, when He gave command “to leave the gift,” and hasten to reconciliation with him that was grieved, and about “agreeing with our adversary.”

But there He set down the rewards of them that do right, here rather the punishments of them who neglect practice.10 Wherefore as in that place He said, “The meek shall inherit earth;” so here, “He who calleth his brother fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire;” and there, “The pure in heart shall see God;” here, he is a complete adulterer who looks unchastely. And having there called “the peace-makers, sons of God;” here He alarms us from another quarter, saying, “Lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge.” Thus also, whereas in the former part He blesses them that mourn, and them that are persecuted; in the following, establishing the very same point, He threatens destruction to them that go not that way; for, “They that walk ‘in the broad way,’ saith He, ‘make their end there.’ ” And, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon,” seems to me the same with, “Blessed are the merciful,” and, “those that hunger after righteousness.”

But as I said, since He is going to say these things more clearly, and not only more clearly, but also to add again more than had been already said (for He no longer merely seeks a merciful man, but bids us give up even our coat; not simply a meek person, but to turn also the other cheek to him that would smite us): therefore He first takes away the apparent contradiction.

On this account, then, as I have already stated, He said this not once only, but once and again; in that to the words, “Think not that I am come to destroy,” He added, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

“For verily I say unto you, Till Heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all come to pass.”1

Now what He saith is like this: it cannot be that it should remain unaccomplished, but the very least thing therein must needs be fulfilled. Which thing He Himself performed, in that He completed2 it with all exactness.

And here He signifies to us obscurely that the fashion of the whole world is also being changed. Nor did He set it down without purpose, but in order to arouse the hearer, and indicate, that He was with just cause introducing another discipline; if at least the very works of the creation are all to be transformed, and mankind is to be called to another country, and to a higher way of practising how to live.3

5. “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven.”4

Thus, having rid Himself of the evil suspicion, and having stopped the mouths of them who would fain gainsay, then at length He proceeds to alarm, and sets down a heavy, denunciation in support of the enactments He was entering on.

For as to His having said this in behalf not of the ancient laws, but of those which He was proceeding to enact, listen to what follows, “For I say unto you,” saith he, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”5

For if He were threatening with regard to the ancient laws, how said He, “except it shall exceed?” since they who did just the same as those ancients, could not exceed them on the score of righteousness.

But of what kind was the required excess? Not to be angry, not even to look upon a woman unchastely.

For what cause then doth He call these commandments “least,” though they were so great and high? Because He Himself was about to introduce the enactment of them; for as He humbled Himself, and speaks of Himself frequently with measure, so likewise of His own enactments, hereby again teaching us to be modest in everything. And besides, since there seemed to be some suspicion of novelty, He ordered His discourse for a while with reserve.6

But when thou hearest, “least in the kingdom of Heaven,” surmise thou nothing but hell and torments. For He was used to mean by “the kingdom,” not merely the enjoyment thereof, but also the time of the resurrection, and that awful coming. And how could it be reasonable, that while he who called his brother fool, and trangressed but one commandment, falls into hell; the breaker of them all, and instigator of others to the same, should be within the kingdom. This therefore is not what He means, but that such a one will be at that time least, that is, cast out, last. And he that is last will surely then fall into hell. For, being God, He foreknew the laxity of the many, He foreknew that some would think these sayings were merely hyperbolical, and would argue about the laws, and say, What, if any one call another a fool, is he punished? If one merely look on a woman, doth he become an adulterer? For this very cause He, destroying such insolence beforehand, hath set down the strongest denunciation against either sort, as well them who transgress, as them who lead on others so to do.

Knowing then His threat as we do, let us neither ourselves transgress, nor discourage such as are disposed to keep these things.

“But whosoever shall do and teach,” saith He, “shall be called great.”

For not to ourselves alone, should we be profitable, but to others also; since neither is the reward as great for him who guides himself aright, as for one who with himself adds also another. For as teaching without doing condemns the teacher (for “thou which teachest another,” it is said, “teachest thou not thyself”7?) so doing but not guiding others, lessens our reward. One ought therefore to be chief in either work, and having first set one’s self right, thus to proceed also to the care of the rest. For on this account He Himself hath set the doing before the teaching; to intimate that so most of all may one be able to teach, but in no other way. For one will be told, “Physician, heal thyself.”8 Since he who cannot teach himself, yet attempts to set others right, will have many to ridicule him. Or rather such a one will have no power to teach at all, his actions uttering their voice against him. But if he be complete in both respects, “he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven.”

6. “For I say unto you, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of Heaven.”1

Here by righteousness He means the whole of virtue; even as also discoursing of Job, He said, “He was a blameless man, righteous.”2 According to the same signification of the word, Paul also called that man “righteous” for whom, as he said, no law is even set. “For,” saith he, “a law is not made for a righteous man.”3 And in many other places too one might find this name standing for virtue in general.

But observe, I pray thee, the increase of grace; in that He will have His newly-come disciples better than the teachers in the old covenant. For by “Scribes and Pharisees” here, He meant not merely the lawless, but the well-doers. For, were they not doing well, He would not have said they have a righteousness; neither would He have compared the unreal to the real.

And observe also here, how He commends the old law, by making a comparison between it and the other; which kind of thing implies it to be of the same tribe and kindred. For more and less, is in the same kind. He doth not, you see, find fault with the old law, but will have it made stricter. Whereas, had it been evil,4 He would not have required more of it; He would not have made it more perfect, but would have cast it out.

And how one may say, if it be such, doth it not bring us into the Kingdom? It doth not now bring in them who live after the coming of Christ, favored as they are with more strength, and bound to strive for greater things: since as to its own foster-children, them it doth bring in one and all. Yea, for “many shall come,” saith He, “from east and west, and shall lie down in the bosoms of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”5 And Lazarus also receiving the great prize, is shown dwelling in Abraham’s bosom. And all, as many as have shone forth with excellency in the old dispensation shone by it, every one of them. And Christ Himself, had it been in anything evil or alien from Him, would not have fulfilled it all when He came. For if only to attract the Jews He was doing this, and not in order to prove it akin to the new law, and concurrent therewith; wherefore did He not also fulfill the laws and customs of the Gentiles, that He might attract the Gentiles also?

So that from all considerations it is clear, that not from any badness in itself doth it fail to bring us in, but because it is now the season of higher precepts.

And if it be more imperfect than the new, neither doth this imply it to be evil: since upon this principle the new law itself will be in the very same case. Because in truth our knowledge of this, when compared with that which is to come, is a sort of partial and imperfect thing, and is done away on the coming of that other. “For when,” saith He, “that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away:”6 even as it befell the old law through the new. Yet we are not to blame the new law for this, though that also gives place on our attaining unto the Kingdom: for “then,” saith He, “that which is in part shall be done away:” but for all this we call it great.

Since then both the rewards thereof are greater, and the power given by the Spirit more abundant, in reason it requires our graces to be greater also. For it is no longer “a land that floweth with milk and honey,” nor a comfortable7 old age, nor many children, nor corn and wine, and flocks and herds: but Heaven, and the good things in the Heavens, and adoption and brotherhood with the Only-Begotten, and to partake of the inheritance and to be glorified and to reign with Him, and those unnumbered rewards. And as to our having received more abundant help, hear thou Paul, when he saith, “There is therefore no condemnation now to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit:8 for the law of the Spirit of life hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”9

7. And now after threatening the transgressors, and setting great rewards for them that do right, and signifying that He justly requires of us something beyond the former measures; He from this point begins to legislate, not simply, but by way of comparison with the ancient ordinances, desiring to intimate these two things: first, that not as contending with the former, but rather in great harmony with them, He is making these enactments; next, that it was meet and very seasonable for Him to add thereto these second precepts.

And that this may be made yet clearer, let us hearken to the words of the Legislator.

What then doth He Himself say?

“Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shall not kill.”10

And yet it was Himself who gave those laws also, but so far He states them impersonally. For if on the one hand He had said, “Ye have heard that I said to them of old,” the saying would have been hard to receive, and would have stood in the way of all the hearers. If again, on the other hand, after having said, “Ye have heard that it was said to them of old by my Father,” He had added, “But I say,” He would have seemed to be taking yet more on Himself.

Wherefore He hath simply stated it, making out thereby one point only; the proof that in fitting season He had come saying these things. For by the words, “It was said to them of old,” He pointed out the length of the time, since they received this commandment. And this He did to shame the hearer, shrinking from the advance to the higher class of His commandments; as though a teacher should say to a child that was indolent, “Knowest thou not how long a time thou hast consumed in learning syllables?” This then He also covertly intimates by the expression, “them of old time,” and thus for the future summons them on to the higher order of His instructions: as if He had said, “Ye are learning these lessons long enough, and you must henceforth press on to such as are higher than these.”

And it is well that He doth not disturb the order of the commandments, but begins first with that which comes earlier, with which the law also began. Yea, for this too suits with one showing the harmony between them.

“But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.”1

Seest thou authority in perfection? Seest thou a bearing suited to a legislator? Why, which among prophets ever spake on this wise? which among righteous men? which among patriarchs? None; but, “Thus saith the Lord.” But the Son not so. Because they were publishing their Master’s commands, He His Father’s. And when I say, “His Father’s,” I mean His own. “For mine,” saith He, “are thine, and thine are mine.”2 And they had their fellow-servants to legislate for, He His own servants.

Let us now ask those who reject the law, “is, ‘Be not angry’ contrary to ‘Do no murder’? or is not the one commandment the completion and the development of the other?” Clearly the one is the fulfilling of the other, and that is greater on this very account. Since he who is not stirred up to anger, will much more refrain from murder; and he who bridles wrath will much more keep his hands to himself. For wrath is the root of murder. And you see that He who cuts up the root will much more remove the branches; or rather, will not permit them so much as to shoot out at all. Not therefore to abolish the law did He make these enactments, but for the more complete observation of it. For with what design did the law enjoin these things? Was it not, that no one might slay his neighbor? It follows, that he who was opposing the law would have to enjoin murder. For to murder, were the contrary to doing no murder. But if He doth not suffer one even to be angry, the mind of the law is established by Him more completely. For he that studies to avoid murder will not refrain from it equally with him that hath put away even anger; this latter being further removed from the crime.

8. But that we may convict them in another way also, let us bring forward all their allegations. What then do they affirm? They assert that the God who made the world, who “makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, who sends the rain on the just and on the unjust,” is in some sense an evil being.3 But the more moderate (forsooth) among them, though declining this, yet while they affirm Him to be just, they deprive Him of being good. And some other one, who is not, nor made any of the things that are, they assign for a Father to Christ. And they say that he, who is not good, abides in his own, and preserves what are his own; but that He, that is good, seeks what are another’s, and desires of a sudden to become a Saviour to them whose Creator He was not.4 Seest thou the children of the devil, how they speak out of the fountain of their father, alienating the work of creation from God: while John cries out, “He came unto His own,” and, “The world was made by Him?”1

In the next place, they criticise the law in the old covenant, which bids put out “an eye for an eye,” and “a tooth for a tooth;”2 and straightway they insult and say, “Why, how can He be good who speaks so?”

What then do we say in answer to this? That it is the highest kind of philanthropy. For He made this law, not that we might strike out one another’s eyes, but that fear of suffering by others might restrain us from doing any such thing to them. As therefore He threatened the Ninevites with overthrow, not that He might destroy them. (for had that been His will, He ought to have been silent), but that He might by fear make them better, and so quiet His wrath: so also hath He appointed a punishment for those who wantonly assail the eyes of others, that if good principle dispose them not to refrain from such cruelty, fear may restrain them from injuring their neighbors’ sight.

And if this be cruelty, it is cruelty also for the murderer to be restrained, and the adulterer checked. But these are the sayings of senseless men, and of those that are mad to the extreme of madness. For I, so far from saying that this comes of cruelty, should say, that the contrary to this would be unlawful, according to men’s reckoning. And whereas, thou sayest, “Because He commanded to pluck out “an eye for an eye,” therefore He is cruel;” I say, that if He had not given this commandment, then He would have seemed, in the judgment of most men, to be that which thou sayest He is.

For let us suppose that this law had been altogether done away, and that no one feared the punishment ensuing thereupon, but that license had been given to all the wicked to follow their own disposition in all security, to adulterers, and to murderers,3 to perjured persons, and to parricides; would not all things have been turned upside down? would not cities, market-places, and houses, sea and land, and the whole world, have been filled with unnumbered pollutions and murders? Every one sees it. For if, when there are laws, and fear, and threatening, our evil dispositions are hardly checked; were even this security taken away, what is there to prevent men’s choosing vice? and what degree of mischief would not then come revelling upon the whole of human life?

The rather, since cruelty lies not only in allowing the bad to do what they will, but in another thing too quite as much; to overlook, and leave uncared for, him who hath done no wrong, but who is without cause or reason suffering ill. For tell me; were any one to gather together wicked men from all quarters, and arm them with swords, and bid them go about the whole city, and massacre all that came in their way, could there be anything more like a wild beast than he? And what if some other should bind, and confine with the utmost strictness those whom that man had armed, and should snatch from those lawless hands them, who were on the point of being butchered; could anything be greater humanity than this?

Now then, I bid thee transfer these examples to the law likewise; for He that commands to pluck out “an eye for an eye,” hath laid the fear as a kind of strong chain upon the souls of the bad, and so resembles him, who detains those assassins in prison; whereas he who appoints no punishment for them, doth all but arm them by such security, and acts the part of that other, who was putting the swords in their hands, and letting them loose over the whole city.

Seest thou not, how the commandments, so far from coming of cruelty, come rather of abounding mercy? And if on account of these thou callest the Lawgiver grievous, and hard to bear with; tell me which sort of command is the more toilsome and grievous, “Do no murder,” or, “Be not even angry”? Which is more in extreme, he who exacts a penalty for murder, or for mere anger? He who subjects the adulterer to vengeance after the fact, or he who enjoins a penalty even for the very desire, and that penalty everlasting? See ye not how their reasoning comes round to the very contrary? how the God of the old covenant, whom they call cruel, will be found mild and meek: and He of the new, whom they acknowledged to be good, will be hard and grievous, according to their madness? Whereas we say, that there is but one and the same Legislator of either covenant, who dispensed all meetly, and adapted to the difference of the times the difference between the two systems of law. Therefore neither are the first commandments cruel, nor the second hard and grievous, but all of one and the same providential care.

For that He Himself gave the old covenant also, hear the affirmation of the prophet, or rather (so we must speak), of Him who is both the one and the other: “I will make a covenant with you, not according to the covenant which I made with your fathers.”1

But if he receive not this, who is diseased with the Manichæan doctrines,2 let him hear Paul saying the very same in another place, “For Abraham had two sons, one by the bondmaid, and another by the freewoman; and these are two covenants.”3 As therefore in that case the wives are different, the husband the same; so here too the covenants are two, the Lawgiver one.

And to prove to thee that it was of one and the same mildness; in the one He saith, “An eye for an eye,” but in this other,

“If one smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”4

For as in that case He checks him that doth the wrong with the fear of this suffering, even so also in this. “How so,” it may be said, “when He bids turn to him the other cheek also?” Nay, what of that? Since not to take away his fear did He enjoin this, but as charging yourself to allow him to take his fill entirely. Neither did He say, that the other continues unpunished, but, “do not thou punish;” at once both enhancing the fear of him that smiteth, if he persist, and comforting him who is smitten.

9. But these things we have said, as one might say them incidentally, concerning all the commandments. Now we must go on to that which is before us, and keep to the thread of what had been affirmed. “He that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment:” so He speaks. Thus He hath not altogether taken the thing away: first, because it is not possible, being a man, to be freed from passions: we may indeed get the dominion over them, but to be altogether without them is out of the question.

Next, because this passion is even useful, if we know how to use it at the suitable time.5 See, for instance, what great good was wrought by that anger of Paul, which he felt against the Corinthians, on that well-known occasion; and how, as it delivered them from a grievous pest, so by the same means again he recovered the people of the Galatians likewise, which had fallen aside; and others too beside these.

What then is the proper time for anger? When we are not avenging ourselves, but checking others in their lawless freaks, or forcing them to attend in their negligence.

And what is the unsuitable time? When we do so as avenging ourselves: which Paul also forbidding, said “Avenge not yourselves, dearly beloved, but rather give place unto wrath.”6 When we are contending for riches: yea, for this hath he also taken away, where he saith, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”7 For as this last sort is superfluous, so is the first necessary and profitable. But most men do the contrary; becoming like wild beasts when they are injured themselves, but remiss and cowardly when they see despite done to another: both which are just opposite to the laws of the Gospel.

Being angry then is not a transgression, but being so unseasonably. For this cause the prophet also said, “Be ye angry, and sin not.”8

10. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council.”

By the council in this place He means the tribunal of the Hebrews: and He hath mentioned this now, on purpose that He might not seem everywhere to play the stranger and innovator.

But this word, “Raca,” is not an expression of a great insolence, but rather of some contempt and slight on the part of the speaker. For as we, giving orders either to our servants, or to any very inferior person, say, “Away with thee; you here, tell such an one:”9 so they who make use of the Syrians’ language say, “Raca,” putting that word in stead of “thou.” But God, the lover of man, roots up even the least faults, commanding us to behave to one another in seemly manner, and with due respect; and this with a view of destroying hereby also the greater.

“But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”10

To many this commandment hath appeared grievous and galling, if for a mere word we are really to pay so great a penalty. And some even say that it was spoken rather hyperbolically. But I fear lest, when we have deceived ourselves with words here, we may in deeds there suffer that extreme punishment.

For wherefore, tell me, doth the commandment seem overburdensome? Knowest thou not that most punishments and most sins have their beginning from words? Yea, for by words are blasphemies, and denials are by words, and revilings, and reproaches, and perjuries, and bearing false witness.1 Regard not then its being a mere word, but whether it have not much danger, this do thou inquire. Art thou ignorant that in the season of enmity, when wrath is inflamed, and the soul kindled, even the least thing appears great, and what is not very reproachful is counted intolerable? And often these little things have given birth even to murder, and overthrown whole cities. For just as where friendship is, even grievous things are light, so where enmity lies beneath, very trifles appear intolerable. And however simply a word be spoken, it is surmised to have been spoken with an evil meaning. And as in fire: if there be but a small spark, though thousands of planks lie by, it doth not easily lay hold of them; but if the flame have waxed strong and high, it readily seizes not planks only, but stones, and all materials that fall in its way; and by what things it is usually quenched, by the same it is kindled the more (for some say that at such a time not only wood and tow, and the other combustibles, but even water darted forth upon it doth but fan its power the more); so is it also with anger; whatever any one may say, becomes food in a moment for this evil conflagration. All which kind of evils Christ checking beforehand, had condemned first him that is angry without a cause to the judgment, (this being the very reason why He said, “He that is angry shall be in danger of the judgment”); then him that saith “Raca,” to the council. But as yet these are no great things; for the punishments are here. Therefore for him who calleth “fool” He hath added the fire of hell, now for the first time mentioning the name of hell. For having before discoursed much of the kingdom, not until then did He mention this; implying, that the former comes of His own love and indulgence towards man, this latter of our negligence.

11. And see how He proceeds by little and little in His punishments, all but excusing Himself unto thee, and signifying that His desire indeed is to threaten nothing of the kind, but that we drag Him on to such denunciations. For observe: “I bade thee,” saith He, “not be angry for nought, because thou art in danger of the judgment. Thou hast despised the former commandment: see what anger hath produced; it hath led thee on straightway to insult, for thou hast called thy brother ‘Raca.’ Again, I set another punishment, ‘the council.’ If thou overlook even this, and proceed to that which is more grievous, I visit thee no longer with these finite punishments, but with the undying penalty of hell, lest after this thou shouldest break forth2 even to murder.” For there is nothing, nothing in the world more intolerable than insolence; it is what hath very great power3 to sting a man’s soul. But when the word too which is spoken is in itself more wounding than the insolence, the blaze becomes twice as great. Think it not then a light thing to call another “fool.” For when of that which separates us from the brutes, and by which especially we are human beings, namely, the mind and the understanding,—when of this thou hast robbed thy brother, thou hast deprived him of all his nobleness.

Let us not then regard the words merely, but realizing the things themselves, and his feeling, let us consider how great a wound is made by this word, and unto how much evil it proceeds. For this cause Paul likewise cast out of the kingdom not only “the adulterous” and “the effeminate,” but “the revilers”4 also. And with great reason: for the insolent man mars all the beauty of charity, and casts upon his neighbor unnumbered ills, and works up lasting enmities, and tears asunder the members of Christ, and is daily driving away that peace which God so desires: giving much vantage ground unto the devil by his injurious ways, and making him the stronger. Therefore Christ Himself, cutting out the sinews of the devil’s power, brought in this law.

For indeed He makes much account of love: this being above all things the mother of every good, and the badge of His disciples, and the bond which holds together our whole condition. With reason therefore doth He remove with great earnestness the roots and the sources of that hatred which utterly spoils it.

Think not therefore that these sayings are in any wise hyperbolical, but consider the good done by them, and admire the mildness of these laws. For there is nothing for which God takes so much pains, as this; that we should be united and knit together one with another. Therefore both in His own person, and by His disciples, as well those in the Old, as in the New Testament, He makes so much account of this commandment; and is a severe avenger and punisher of those who despise the duty. For in truth nothing so effectually gives entrance and root to all wickedness, as the taking away of love. Wherefore He also said, “When iniquity abounds, the love of the many shall wax cold.”1 Thus Cain became his brother’s murderer; thus Esau; thus Joseph’s brethren; thus our unnumbered crimes have come revelling in, this bond being dissevered. You see why He Himself also roots out whatever things injure this, on every side, with great exactness.

12. Neither doth He stop at those precepts only which have been mentioned, but adds also others more than those: whereby He signifies how much account He makes thereof. Namely, having threatened by “the council,” by “the judgment,” and by “hell,” He added other sayings again in harmony with the former, saying thus:

“If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go away;2 first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.”3

O goodness! O exceeding love to man! He makes no account of the honor due unto Himself, for the sake of our love towards our neighbor; implying that not at all from any enmity, nor out of any desire to punish, had He uttered those former threatenings, but out of very tender affection. For what can be milder than these sayings? “Let my service,” saith he, “be interrupted, that thy love may continue; since this also is a sacrifice, thy being reconciled to thy brother.” Yea, for this cause He said not, “after the offering,” or “before the offering;” but, while the very gift lies there, and when the sacrifice is already beginning, He sends thee to be reconciled to thy brother; and neither after removing that which lies before us,4 nor before presenting the gift, but while it lies in the midst, He bids thee hasten thither.

With what motive then doth He command so to do, and wherefore? These two ends, as it appears to me, He is hereby shadowing out and providing for. First, as I have said, His will is to point out that He highly values charity,5 and considers it to be the greatest sacrifice: and that without it He doth not receive even that other; next, He is imposing such a necessity of reconciliation; as admits of no excuse. For whoso hath been charged not to offer before he be reconciled, will hasten, if not for love of his neighbor, yet, that this may not lie unconsecrated,6 to run unto him who hath been grieved, and do away the enmity. For this cause He hath also expressed it all most significantly, to alarm and thoroughly to awaken him. Thus, when He had said, “Leave thy gift,” He stayed not at this, but added, “before the altar” (by the very place again causing him to shudder); “and go away.” And He said not merely, “Go away,” but He added, “first, and then come and offer thy gift.” By all these things making it manifest, that this table receives not them that are at enmity with each other.

Let the initiated hear this, as many as draw nigh in enmity: and let the uninitiated hear too: yea, for the saying hath some relation to them also. For they too offer a gift and a sacrifice: prayer, I mean, and alms-giving. For as to this also being a sacrifice, hear what the prophet saith: “A sacrifice of praise will glorify me;”7 and again, “Sacrifice to God a sacrifice of praise;”8 and, “The lifting up of mine hands is an evening sacrifice.”9 So that if it be but a prayer, which thou art offering in such a frame of mind, it were better to leave thy prayer, and become reconciled to thy brother, and then to offer thy prayer.

For to this end were all things done: to this end even God became man, and took order for all those works, that He might set us at one.

And whereas in this place He is sending the wrong doer to the sufferer, in His prayer He leads the sufferer to the wrong doer, and reconciles them. For as there He saith, “Forgive men their debts;” so here, “If he hath ought against thee, go thy way unto him.”

Or rather, even here too He seems to me to be sending the injured person: and for some such reason He said not, “Reconcile thyself to thy brother,” but, “Be thou reconciled.” And while the saying seems to pertain to the aggressor, the whole of it really pertains to him that is aggrieved. Thus, “If thou art reconciled to him,” saith Christ, “through thy love to him thou wilt have me also propitious, and wilt be able to offer thy sacrifice with great confidence. But if thou art still irritated, consider that even I readily command that which is mine to be lightly esteemed, that ye may become friends; and let these thoughts be soothing to thine anger.”

And He said not, “When thou hast suffered any of the greater wrongs, then be reconciled; but, “Though it be some trifle that he hath against thee.” And He added not, “Whether justly or unjustly; but merely, “If he hath ought against thee.” For though it be justly, not even in that case oughtest thou to protract the enmity; since Christ also was justly angered with us, yet nevertheless He gave Himself for us to be slain, “not imputing those trespasses.”1

For this cause Paul also, when urging us in another way to reconciliation, said, “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”2 For much as Christ by this argument of the sacrifice, so there Paul by that of the day, is urging us on to the self-same point. Because in truth he fears the night, lest it overtake him that is smitten alone, and make the wound greater. For whereas in the day there are many to distract, and draw him off; in the night, when he is alone, and is thinking it over by himself, the waves swell, and the storm becomes greater. Therefore Paul, you see, to prevent this, would fain commit him to the night already reconciled, that the devil may after that have no opportunity, from his solitude, to rekindle the furnace of his wrath, and make it fiercer. Thus also Christ permits not, though it be ever so little delay, lest, the sacrifice being accomplished, such an one become more remiss, procrastinating from day to day: for He knows that the case requires very speedy treatment. And as a skillful physician exhibits not only the preventives of our diseases, but their correctives also, even so doth He likewise. Thus, to forbid our calling “fool,” is a preventive of enmity; but to command reconciliation is a means of removing the diseases that ensue on the enmity.

And mark how both commands are set forth with earnestness. For as in the former case He threatened hell, so here He receives not the gift before the reconciliation, indicating great displeasure, and by all these methods destroying both the root and the produce.

And first of all He saith, “Be not angry;” and after that, “revile not.” For indeed both these are augmented, the one by the other: from enmity is reviling, from reviling enmity. On this account then He heals now the root, and now the fruit; hindering indeed the evil from ever springing up in the first instance: but if perchance it may have sprouted up and borne its most evil fruit, then by all means He burns it down the more.

13. Therefore, you see, having mentioned, first the judgment, then the council, then hell, and having spoken of His own sacrifice, He adds other topics again, thus speaking:

“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him.”3

That is, that thou mayest not say, “What then, if I am injured;” “what if I am plundered, and dragged too before the tribunal?” even this occasion and excuse He hath taken away: for He commands us not even so to be at enmity. Then, since this injunction was great, He draws His advice from the things present, which are wont to restrain the grosser sort more than the future. “Why, what sayest thou?” saith He. “That thine adversary is stronger, and doeth thee wrong? Of course then he will wrong thee more, if thou do not make it up, but art forced to go into court. For in the former case, by giving up some money, thou wilt keep thy person free; but when thou art come under the sentence of the judge, thou wilt both be bound, and pay the utmost penalty. But if thou avoid the contest there, thou wilt reap two good results: first, not having to suffer anything painful; and secondly, that the good done will be thereafter thine own doing, and no longer the effect of compulsion on his part. But if thou wilt not be ruled by these sayings, thou wrongest not him, so much as thyself.”

And see here also how He hastens him; for having said, “Agree with thine adversary,” He added, “quickly;” and He was not satisfied with this, but even of this quickness He hath required a further increase, saying, “Whilst thou art in the way with him;” pressing and hastening him hereby with great earnestness. For nothing doth so much turn our life upside down, as delay and procrastination in the performance of our good works. Nay, this hath often caused us to lose all. Therefore, as Paul for his part saith, “Before the sun set, do away the enmity;” and as He Himself had said above, “Before the offering is completed, be reconciled;” so He saith in this place also, “Quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him,” before thou art come to the doors of the court; before thou standest at the bar, and art come to be thenceforth under the sway of him that judgeth. Since, before entering in, thou hast all in thine own control; but if thou set thy foot on that threshold, thou wilt not by ever so earnest efforts be able to arrange thy matters at thy will, having come under the constraint of another.

But what is it “to agree?” He means either, consent rather to suffer wrong?” or, “so plead the cause, as if thou wert in the place of the other;” that thou mayest not corrupt justice by self-love, but rather, deliberating on another’s cause as thine own, mayest so proceed to deliver thy vote in this matter. And if this be a great thing, marvel not; since with this view did He set forth all those His blessings, that having beforehand smoothed and prepared the hearer’s soul, he might render it apter to receive all His enactments.

Now some say that He obscurely signifies the devil himself, under the name of the adversary; and bids us have nothing of his, (for this, they say, is to “agree” with him): no compromise being possible after our departure hence, nor anything awaiting us, but that punishment, from which no prayers can deliver. But to me He seems to be speaking of the judges in this world, and of the way to the court of justice, and of this prison.

For after he had abashed men by higher things, and things future, he alarms them also by such as are in this life. Which thing Paul also doth, using both the future and the present to sway his hearer: as when, deterring from wickedness, he points out to him that is inclined to evil, the ruler armed: thus saying, “But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain; for he is a minister of God.”1 And again, enjoining us to be subject unto him, he sets forth not the fear of God only, but the threatening also of the other party, and his watchful care. “For ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”2 Because the more irrational, as I have already said, are wont to be sooner corrected by these things, things which appear and are at hand. Wherefore Christ also made mention, not of hell only, but also of a court of justice, and of being dragged thither, and of the prison, and of all the suffering there; by all these means destroying the roots of murder. For he who neither reviles, nor goes to law, nor prolongs enmity, how will he ever commit murder? So that from hence also it is evident, that in the advantage of our neighbor stands our own advantage. For he that agrees with his adversary, will benefit himself much more; becoming free, by his own act, from courts of law, and prisons, and the wretchedness that is there.

14. Let us then be obedient to His sayings; let us not oppose ourselves, nor be contentious; for first of all, even antecedently to their rewards, these injunctions have their pleasure and profit in themselves. And if to the more part they seem to be burdensome, and the trouble which they cause, great; have it in thy mind that thou art doing it for Christ’s sake, and the pain will be pleasant. For if we maintain this way of reckoning at all times, we shall experience nothing burdensome, but great will be the pleasure we reap from every quarter; for our toil will no longer seem toil, but by how much it is enhanced, so much the sweeter and pleasanter doth it grow.

When therefore the custom of evil things, and the desire of wealth, keep on bewitching thee; do thou war against them with that mode of thinking which tells us, “Great is the reward we shall receive, for despising the pleasure which is but for a season;” and say to thy soul; “Art thou quite dejected because I defraud thee of pleasure? Nay, be of good cheer, for I am introducing thee into Heaven. Thou doest it not for man’s sake, but for God’s. Be patient therefore a little while, and thou shalt see how great is the gain. Endure for the present life, and thou shalt receive an unspeakable confidence.” For if we would thus discourse with our own soul, and not only consider that which is burdensome in virtue, but take account also of the crown that comes thereof, we shall quickly withdraw it from all wickedness.

For if the devil, holding out pleasure for a season, but pain for ever, is yet strong, and prevails; seeing our case is just the reverse in these matters, the labor temporary, the pleasure and profit immortal, what plea shall we have, if we follow not virtue after so great encouragement? Why, the object of our labors is enough to set against all, and our clear persuasion that for God’s sake we are enduring all this. For if one having the king his debtor, thinks he hath sufficient security for all his life; consider how great will he be, who hath made the Gracious and Everlasting God a debtor to himself, for good deeds both small and great. Do not then allege to me labors and sweats; for not by the hope only of the things to come, but in another way also, God hath made virtue easy, assisting us everywhere, and putting His hand to our work. And if thou wilt only contribute a little zeal, everything else follows. For to this end He will have thee too to labor a little, even that the victory may be thine also. And just as a king would have his own son present indeed in the array; he would have him shoot with the bow,1 and show himself, that the trophy may be reckoned his, while he achieves it all Himself: even so doth God in our war against the devil: He requires of thee one thing alone, that thou show forth a sincere hatred against that foe. And if thou contribute this to Him, He by Himself brings all the war to an end. Though thou burn with anger, with desire of riches, with any tyrannical passion whatever; if He see thee only stripping thyself and prepared against it, He comes quickly to thee, and makes all things easy, and sets thee above the flame, as He did those children of old in the Babylonian furnace: for they too carried in with them nought but their good will.

In order then that we also may extinguish all the furnace of disordered pleasure here, and so escape the hell that is there, let these each day be our counsels, our cares, and our practice, drawing towards us the favor of God, both by our full purpose concerning good works, and by our frequent prayers. For thus even those things which appear insupportable now, will be most easy, and light, and lovely. Because, so long as we are in our passions, we think virtue rugged and morose and arduous, vice desirable and most pleasing; but if we would stand off from these but a little, then both vice will appear abominable and unsightly, and virtue easy, mild, and much to be desired. And this you may learn plainly from those who have done well. Hear, for instance, how of those passions Paul is ashamed, even after his deliverance from them, saying, “For what fruit had ye then in those things, whereof ye are now ashamed?”2 But virtue, even after his labor, he affirms to be light, calling3 the laboriousness of our affliction momentary and “light,” and rejoicing in his sufferings, and glorying in his tribulations, and taking a pride in the marks wherewith he had been branded for Christ’s sake.

In order then that we too may establish ourselves in this habit, let us order ourselves each day by what hath been said, and “forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, let us press on towards the prize of the high calling:”4 unto which God grant that we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.

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St Augustine’s Sermon on Matthew 5:22

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

On the words of the gospel, Matt. 5:22, “whosoever shall say to his brother, thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.”

[I] 1. The section of the Holy Gospel which we just now heard when it was read, must have sorely alarmed us, if we have faith; but those who have not faith, it alarmed not. And because it does not alarm them, they are minded to continue in their false security, as knowing not how to divide and distinguish the proper times of security and fear. Let him then who is leading now that life which has an end, fear, that in that life which is without end, he may have security. Therefore were we alarmed. For who would not fear Him who speaketh the truth, and saith, “Whosoever shall say to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”1 Yet “the tongue can no man tame.”2 Man tames the wild beast, yet he tames not his tongue; he tames the lion, yet he bridles not his own speech; he tames all else, yet he tames not himself; he tames what he was afraid of, and what he ought to be afraid of, in order that he may tame himself, that he does not fear. But how is this? It is a true sentence, and came forth from an oracle of truth, “But the tongue can no man tame.”

[II] 2. What shall we do then, my brethren? I see that I am speaking indeed to a large assembly, yet, seeing that we are one in Christ, let us take counsel as it were in secret. No stranger heareth us, we are all one, because we are all united in one.3 What shall we do then? “Whosoever saith to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire: But the tongue can no man tame.” Shall all men go into hell fire? God forbid! “Lord, Thou art our refuge from generation to generation:”4 Thy wrath is just: Thou sendest no man into hell unjustly. “Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit?”5 and whither shall I flee from Thee, but to Thee? Let us then understand, Dearly beloved, that if no man can tame the tongue, we must have recourse to God, that He may tame it. For if thou shouldest wish to tame it, thou canst not, because thou art a man. “The tongue can no man tame.” Observe a like instance to this in the case of those beasts which we do tame. The horse does not tame himself; the camel does not tame himself; the elephant does not tame himself; the viper does not tame himself; the lion does not tame himself; and so also man does not tame himself. But that the horse, and ox, and camel, and elephant, and lion, and viper, may be tamed, man is sought for. Therefore let God be sought to, that man may be tamed.

[III] 3. Therefore, “O Lord, art Thou become our refuge.” To Thee do we betake ourselves, and with Thy help it will be well with us. For ill is it with us by ourselves. Because we have left Thee, Thou hast left us to ourselves. Be we then found in Thee, for in ourselves were we lost. “Lord, Thou art become our refuge.” Why then, brethren, should we doubt that the Lord will make us gentle, if we give up ourselves to be tamed by him? Thou hast tamed the lion which thou madest not; shall not He tame thee, who made thee? For from whence didst thou get the power to tame such savage beasts? Art thou their equal in bodily strength? By what power then hast thou been able to tame great beasts? The very beasts of burden, as they are called, are by their nature wild. For in their untamed state they are unserviceable. But because custom has never known them except as in the hands and under the bridle and power of men, dost thou imagine that they could have been born in this tame state? But now at all events mark the beasts which are unquestionably of savage kind. “The lion roareth, who doth not fear?”6 And yet wherein is it that thou dost find thyself to be stronger than he? Not in strength of body, but in the interior reason of the mind. Thou art stronger than the lion, in that wherein thou wast made after the image of God. What! Shall the image of God tame a wild beast; and shall not God tame His own image?

[IV] 4. In Him is our hope; let us submit ourselves to Him, and entreat His mercy. In Him let us place our hope, and until we are tamed, and tamed thoroughly, that is, are perfected, let us bear our Tamer. For oftentimes does our Tamer bring forth His scourge too. For if thou dost bring forth the whip to tame thy beasts, shall not God do so to tame His beasts (which we are), who of His beasts will make us His sons? Thou tamest thine horse; and what wilt thou give thy horse, when he shall have begun to carry thee gently, to bear thy discipline, to obey thy rule, to be thy faithful, useful7 beast? How dost thou repay him, who wilt not so much as bury him when he is dead, but cast him forth to be torn by the birds of prey? Whereas when thou art tamed, God reserveth for thee an inheritance, which is God Himself, and though dead for a little time, He will raise thee to life again. He will restore to thee thy body, even to the full number of thy hairs; and will set thee with the Angels for ever, where thou wilt need no more His taming hand, but only to be possessed by His exceeding8 mercy. For God will then be “all in all;”9 neither will there be any unhappiness to exercise us, but happiness alone to feed us. Our God will be Himself our Shepherd; our God will be Himself our Cup;10 our God will be Himself our glory; our God will be Himself our wealth. What multiplicity of things soever thou seekest here, He alone will be Himself all these things to thee.

[V] 5. Unto this hope is man tamed, and shall his Tamer then be deemed intolerable? Unto this hope is man tamed, and shall he murmur against his beneficent Tamer, if He chance to use the scourge? Ye have heard the exhortation of the Apostle, “If ye are without chastening, ye are bastards, and not sons;1 for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? Furthermore,” he says, “we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?”2 For what could thy father do for thee, that he corrected and chastised thee, brought out the scourge and beat thee? Could he make thee live for ever? What he could not do for himself, how should he do for thee? For some paltry sum of money which he had gathered together by usury and travail, did he discipline thee by the scourge, that the fruit of his labour when left to thee might not be squandered by thy evil living. Yes, he beats his son, as fearing lest his labours should be lost; forasmuch as he left to thee what he could neither retain here, nor carry away. For he did not leave thee anything here which could be his own; he went off, that so thou mightest come on. But thy God, thy Redeemer, thy Tamer, thy Chastiser, thy Father, instructeth thee. To what end? That thou mayest receive an inheritance, when thou shalt not have to carry thy father to his grave, but shall have thy Father Himself for thine inheritance. Unto this hope art thou instructed, and dost thou murmur? and if any sad chance befall thee, dost thou (it may be) blaspheme? Whither wilt thou go from His Spirit? But now He letteth thee alone, and doth not scourge thee; or He abandoneth thee in thy blaspheming; shalt thou not experience His judgment? Is it not better that He should scourge thee and receive thee, than that He should spare thee and abandon thee?

[VI] 6. Let us say then to the Lord our God, “Lord, Thou art become our refuge from generation to generation.” In the first and second generations Thou art become our refuge. Thou wast our refuge, that we might be born, who before were not. Thou wast our refuge, that we might be born anew, who were evil. Thou wast a refuge to feed those that forsake Thee. Thou art a refuge to raise up and direct Thy children. “Thou art become our refuge.” We will not go back from Thee, when Thou hast delivered us from all our evils, and filled us with Thine own good things. Thou givest good things now, Thou3 dealest softly with us, that we be not wearied in the way; Thou dost correct, and chastise, and smite, and direct us, that we may not wander from the way. Whether therefore Thou dealest softly with us, that we be not wearied in the way, or chastisest us, that we wander not from the way, “Thou art become our refuge, O Lord.”

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 4:1-11

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 7, 2017

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

Then Jesus was led.] In his baptism Jesus has been declared to be the Messias [Is. 42:1; Ps. 2:7]; now the Messias was regarded as the founder of a new dispensation [31:32; Mal. 3:1], and as the conqueror of the serpent [Gen. 3:15]. Moses, the founder of the Jewish dispensation, and Elias, its restorer, had fasted forty days before beginning their work; the first Adam had been vanquished by Satan in temptation. It is then fit that Jesus should begin his Messianic work by a similar fast, and foreshadow his triumph over Satan by overcoming him in temptation.

1. The fast. a. When? The evangelist indicates the time by the general particle “then”; according to Mk. 1:12, this happened immediately after the baptism, and Lk. 4:1 suggests the same time. Iren. [adv. hær. II. xxii. 5] contends that Jesus retired after receiving baptism at the age of thirty, and began his public life only in the “senior ætas”; the text of the synoptic gospels, and the fact that among the Jews one could begin to teach at the age of thirty, demand no interruption between the baptism and the public life of Jesus. Iren. claims for his view the report of the gospel—probably Jn. 8:57, which does not support Iren.—and of the “Elders of Asia.”

b. Why? (1) Jesus was led [or driven, according to Mk. 1:12], without being rapt through the air [cf. ev. Heb.; Jer. in Mich, 7:5–7], by the Spirit who had come visibly upon him [cf. Bed.], into the desert, that he might return from the desert into paradise from which the first Adam had been cast out into the desert. The Greek expression shows that the Spirit led Jesus upwards from the Jordan valley. The gospel does not specify the desert that was the scene of the following events; Mald0nado. Schegg, Meyer, Schanz conclude, therefore, that the evangelist speaks of the same desert as in 3:1 [the desert of Judea]. There is no reason for identifying the desert with that of Sinai [Alf.], though we grant a scripture parallelism between Moses, Elias, and our Lord. Tradition points to the desert of Jericho, and more in particular, to the highest part of the mountain range near Jericho, on the road to Jerusalem, named Quarantania [Kuruntel or Karantel] from the Forty Days’ Fast.

(2) That solitude is well fitted for communion with God is manifest from many passages in Sacred Scripture: Ex. 34:28; 3 Kings 19:8, 9; Lk. 3:2; 5:16; Jn. 11:54; 18:2; Mt. 26:36; etc. But the evangelist adds another purpose for which the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, viz., “to be tempted by the devil.” The agent who was to tempt Jesus does not permit us to understand the word in the sense of “provoking to anger,” or of “trying to make known some secret or hidden quality in his sacred person”; and still, it seems to be a fearful thing that either God directly intended Jesus to be tempted to evil, or that the sacred humanity of Jesus should have been subjected to this awful humiliation.

(3) St. Paul has anticipated the answer to this second exception where he explains to the Hebrews the mystery of Christ’s abasement [Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 5:8]. The apostle shows that, excepting sin, Jesus must become like unto us; that he must be tried like ourselves, and that he must learn obedience by what he suffers.

(4) Nor is it unworthy of God to have intended the temptation of Jesus; for as in any attack one has to bear from one’s enemy, one may distinguish between the trial and the advantage of the enemy, so in the present case, God intended Jesus to be tried in the conflict with Satan without giving any advantage to the latter.

(5) This intention on the part of God creates the less difficulty, because on the part of Jesus sin was physically impossible. Hence it was that the temptation must come from outside; for Jesus was free from concupiscence, and could not therefore suffer any temptation arising from within.

(6) Moreover, it was fitting that the restorer of the human race should meet in single combat, as it were, the old serpent who had ruined Adam and his offspring in the garden of paradise; no wonder, then, that the Spirit of God, whom the evangelist contrasts so emphatically with the evil spirit, impelled our Lord to meet his enemy in the desert [Thomas Aquinas. Alb. Maldonado. Jansenius. Barradas. Sylveira. Lap. Lamy, Coleridge, Grimm].

c. The tempter. The desert is repeatedly represented as the dwelling place of evil spirits: Mt. 12:43; Lk. 11:24; Is. 13:21; 34:14; Lev. 16:10; Tob. 8:3; Bar. 4:33; etc. In the present case, the evangelist mentions “the devil” as the intended tempter. This word is derived from the Greek noun διάβολος, or the verb διαβάλλειν, to calumniate; this is the usual term in lxx. for the Hebrew שָׂטָן, which is σατανᾶς in the New Testament, and also σατᾶν in the lxx. The Hebrew word properly means “adversary,” and is used originally of men [3 Kings 5:18; 11:14; etc.] or angels [2 Kings 19:23; Num. 22:22]; but with the article, it means the adversary by excellence, the enemy of God, and the tempter of men [1 Par. 21:1; 2 Kings 24:1], and the accuser of men before the throne of God [Zach. 3:1, 2; Job 1:7]. In this sense the word has become almost a proper name of the prince of darkness. This excludes the rationalistic opinion that the tempter of Jesus was the chief of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish high priest, or another remarkable and influential member of the Synagogue [cf. Rosenm. Kuinoel, Schütz]. Need we add that Paulus makes the whole history a dream, Eichhorn, Dereser, etc., a fancy, Schmidt, Döderlein, Schleiermacher, Usteri, Baumgarten, a parable, Strauss, De Wette, Meyer, a myth?

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

And when he had fasted.] d. The fast. α. That the fast of Jesus was not merely what is meant in ecclesiastical language by fasting, nor what the Jews understood by the term,—the Jewish fast ended with the day, at sunset,—is clear from the words of St. Matthew, “forty days and forty nights,” from the fast of Moses related in terms similar to those of the present passage [Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 18], and from the express statement of St. Luke [4:2], “and he ate nothing in those days” [cf. Euthymius. Paschasius. Alb. Salmeron. Maldonado. Jansenius. Lam. Calmet.].

β. It may be of interest to draw attention to the preferential use of the number forty in both the Old and New Testament: Moses and Elias fasted forty days [Ex. 24:18; 3 Kings 19:9]; it rained forty days and nights on the earth [Gen. 7:11]; the forty usual days passed after the embalming of Jacob’s body [Gen. 1:3]; the explorers of the land of Chanaan returned after forty days [Num. 13:26]; Goliath presented himself for forty days to the hosts of Israel [1 Kings 17:16]; the Jews passed forty years in the desert [Ex. 16:35]; Ezechiel did penance for forty days for the sins of the house of Israel [Ez. 4:6]; the land of Egypt was made desolate for forty years [Ez. 29:12]; Jesus was presented in the temple after forty days, he fasted forty days, and for forty days he conversed with his disciples after his resurrection; we need not add the forty days’ penance of the Ninivites, the forty days’ legal impurity after child-birth [cf. Hilary. Ambrose. Salmeron. Jansenius. Maldonado. Sylveira. Arnoldi. Schanz, Knabenbauer.].

γ. In the New Testament we find no fixed time for fasting [cf. Augustine. ep. 36, al. 38; ad Casul. xi. 25], though this holy exercise is frequently commended: Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:20; Lk. 5:35; Acts 13:2, 3; 14:22; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 11:27. As to the time of lent, it is of ecclesiastical institution, but of apostolic tradition; cf. Jer. ep. 41, 3 [al. 51 or 54]; in Mt. ix. 15; ep. 18 ad Eustoch. [al. 22]; ep. 57 ad Lætam [al. 7]; Apostol. Const. c. 68; Counc. of Laodicea, can. 15; Leo the Great, serm. xliv. 1 [edit. Ballerini, t. i. p. 168]; xlvii. 1 [ibid. p. 177]; Ignat. ad Phil. xiii; Augustine. lib. ii. ad inquis. Januarii seu ep. 55 [al. 119]; 14:27; 15:28; Daille, de jejun. x.; Bellarm. De bonis oper. 1. ii. c. xiv.; Kirchenlexicon, ed. Kaulen, t. iv. s. v. Fastenzeiten. Bellarm. has collected a number of reasons for the institution of lent: in it we practise public penance for the sins of the year, we prepare for the paschal communion, we fulfil the prediction of our Lord [Mt. 9:15], we commemorate with greater fervor our Lord’s passion and death, we pray for the catechumens to be admitted to baptism about this time of the year, we pay tithes, as it were, of our whole lives to God by consecrating to him the tenth part of each year, and finally we imitate Jesus Christ, who fasted for forty days in the desert.

δ. St. Matthew adds “afterwards he was hungry”; St. Luke [4:2] agrees with this statement, saying “and when they [the forty days] were ended, he was hungry.” Commentators are unanimous in inferring from these words that Jesus did not feel hunger during his forty days’ stay in the desert, which may have been spent in ecstatic prayer [opus. imperfectum. Hilary. Ambrose. Alb. Faber. Dionysius the Carthusian. Salmeron. Jansenius. Maldonado. Barradas. Sylveira. Lapide. etc.]. Suarez [in 3 p. disp. 29 s. 2 n. 5] is of opinion that the interpretation defended by Caj. and proposed as probable by Medina, according to which Jesus felt hunger all through his stay in the desert, is rash, because it contradicts the obvious and plain sense of Sacred Scripture, and the common teaching of the Fathers and Catholic theologians.

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

And the tempter coming.] 2. The temptation. This section naturally falls into three parts, each considering one of the three temptations. a. First temptation, α. Manner of temptation. The narrative leads us to believe that the tempter assumed the form of a man, because he approached our Lord, asked to be adored by him, took him up into the Holy City, and again into a high mountain, and finally left him, when the angels in human form came and ministered to him [vv. 3, 9, 5, 8, 11]. That the whole event occurred outwardly, and has been literally described by St. Matthew, is the common and traditional opinion of the Fathers and the commentators, against which the view of Origen. Cyprin. Theodore of Mopseustia., who regard the temptation as a merely internal suggestion of the devil, cannot claim any authority.

β. Length of the temptation. Mk. 1:13 reads: “and he was in the desert forty days, and forty nights, tempted by Satan”; Lk. 4:2, 3 adds: “and was led by the Spirit into the desert for the space of forty days, and was tempted by the devil.” It is especially on account of these texts that Justin the Martyr [c. Tr. 103, 125] Clement [hom. 19, 2] Origen, Bede Euthymius Jansenius, Lapide, Coleridge, Alford extend the temptation of our Lord throughout the forty days, only admitting a greater intensity at the end; Thomas Aquinas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 2, ad 2] speaks of visible and invisible temptations of Jesus in the desert. Though St. Matthew does not say that the devil approached after the forty days for the first time, the whole tenor of the context implies this; the language of Mk. and Lk. may be reconciled with this, since it appears to indicate the place rather than the time of the temptation: “and he was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, [and there] tempted by Satan.” Besides, the hunger of Jesus is commonly regarded as the occasion of the temptation; low our Lord did not feel hungry till after forty days.

γ. Nature of the temptation. (1) The outward act to which the devil tempts Jesus is a miraculous change of the loaf-like stones found in the place where Jesus dwelt, into nourishment.

(2) The motives suggested for this act are two: the first is implied in the words “command that these stones be made bread [loaves],” seeing thon feelest the pangs of hunger; the second motive is suggested by the words “if thou be the son of God,” if indeed thou art able to do this, or if this condition is unworthy of thee as the Son of God. The motives are therefore sensuality under the pretence of necessity [cf. Gen. 3:6; Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:33; Ps. 77:30], and pride under the appearance of defending the honor of the Son of God.

(3) The end of the devil in thus tempting Jesus is twofold: first, he instigates our Lord to help himself independently of the will of God by whom he had been led into the desert, and placed in his present condition; secondly, the devil wishes to ascertain whether Jesus be truly the Son of God [Thomas Aquinas p. 3, qu. 41, a. 1; Chrysostom Amb. Theophylact, Alb. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan Sylveira Lam. Coleridge, Grimm].

(4) It is true that some commentators [Mald. Ypr.] believe that the devil knew the divinity of Jesus at the time of the temptation: (a) he had witnessed the hymn of the angels, the praises of the Magi, the testimony of John, the signs at the baptism, and the heavenly life of Jesus. (b) According to this view, the words “if thou be the Son of God” do not imply doubt, but they rather assume the fact [cf. Heb. 9:13], or they provoke more effectually by questioning that which is unquestionable. (c) That the devils knew the divinity of Jesus follows also from all those passages in which they bear testimony to it: Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34, 41; Mt. 8:29; Lk. 8:28; etc. (d) Again, it is urged that, had the devil been ignorant of the divinity of Jesus, he could not have learned it from the temptations, because the miracles could not have been wrought at the devil’s suggestion, and the last temptation is not connected with the sonship of God.

(5) But we have already given a stately array of Fathers and commentators who have not been convinced by these arguments; they must therefore not be insuperable. (a) It is St. Augustin [De civ. Dei, l. ix. 2] who says that the devils could learn only so much from the miracles of Jesus as God wished them to know; we cannot therefore “a priori” conclude that the evil spirits knew all that could be known from this source. (b) As to their testimony to Jesus, they often testify only to his Messiasship or his personal holiness, without implying his divinity; where they imply the divinity of Jesus, they may have intended to flatter him, or to deceive the multitude. (c) It is true that 1 Cor. 2:8 does not necessarily mean: if the princes of this world had known the divinity of Jesus, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, but may signify: if the princes of this world [either the earthly princes or the devils] had known the mystery of the cross, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory [cf. Thomas Aquinas in loc.; Suar. De myster. disp. xxxi.]; but from the possibility that the demons may have known the divinity of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion, it does not follow that they did know it at the time of the temptation. (d) If it be finally asked how the temptations could have testified to the divinity of Jesus, we may answer with Suar. [l. c.]: in the case of the first and second temptation, Satan knew that no one but the Son of God could have worked such mighty signs, especially in confirmation of such a truth as the devil had called in question. The third temptation was calculated to provoke our Lord, to claim for himself the honor of the Son of God, who had every right to a divine adoration.

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

Who answered and said.] δ. The victory. (1) Jesus has recourse to Scripture, because the devil cannot question its veracity. His answer is not an admonition that God nourishes spiritually all those that keep his word [commandments] [Fritzsche], but is an allusion to Deut. 8:3, where Moses points back to the miraculous sustenance of the people in the desert, showing that bread is not the only support of life, but that man lives “in all that proceedeth from the mouth of God,” i. e. that God can sustain him in any way he pleases. The explanatory “word” has been added to the Hebrew text by the lxx. and the Vulgate. The means suggested by the enemy is therefore not necessary. (2) We must also admire the consummate wisdom of the answer: it restores to the heavenly Father the honor that was implicitly attacked by the suggestion of the devil [Coleridge, i.]; it says absolutely nothing concerning the divinity of Jesus [opus imperfectum, Jer. Rabbanus Alb. Dionysius the Cathusian, Cajetan, Jansenius, Sylveira etc.]; it overcomes the devil not by almighty power, such as God alone could exert, but by the aid of the law that had been given to men as a means of salvation [Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, Alb. Cajetan]; not by the show of pomp and majesty, but by humility [Leo, Jerome, Greg. Jansenius,]. While Jesus therefore teaches us the power of the inspired word, he also foreshows his future teaching [Mt. 6:33]: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.”

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

Then the devil took him up.] 2. Second temptation. a. Order of events. St. Luke [4:5 ff.] inverts the order of the second and third temptation found in the first gospel. Hence a number of authorities believe that the third gospel gives the true chronological order of temptations. Reasons: The external evidence is represented by the names of gloss. ord. Paschasius Alb. Reischl, Coleridge, Grimm, Knabenbauer, etc.; the internal grounds are the fact that St. Luke promises to write “in order” [1:3], and the gradation found in the order of the third gospel. For there the devil proceeds from the concupiscence of the flesh to that of the eyes, coming in the third place to the pride of life. St. Thomas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4] proves too that the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes tempt carnal men, while the pride of life is a temptation of spiritual men. Not to mention those that hesitate as to the true order of temptations [Augustine, e. g.], or those that believe the order in the two gospels differs, because the order of temptations varies in various persons, the concupiscence of the eyes preceding in some cases the pride of life, while in other cases the inverse order obtains [cf. Tostatus qu. 31, Sylveira]; we cannot omit the opinion which regards the order of the first gospel as the true one. Reasons: External evidence: Dionysius the Carthusian, Suarez, [p. 3, disp. 29, s. 4, n. 4], Maldonado, Sylveira, Barrdas, Schanz, Arnoldi, Fillion, Keil, Meschler [i. p. 191]. Internal evidence: the first gospel employs throughout the particles of succession, v. 1 “then,” v. 5 “then,” v. 8 “again”; besides, the answer of v. 10, following the third temptation related by St. Matthew, must have been the final one. It is well known that while St. Luke’s order is accurate in regard to the greater events, the first gospel often supplies a more accurate order of detail. Even the gradation of the temptations is not lost in the order of the first gospel: the first temptation appeals to the motives of sensuality and pride; the second, to vainglory; the third presents motives of avarice and pride in the highest degree, or, as Meschler [l. c.] points out, it combines all the allurements of the concupiscence of the flesh, of the concupiscence of the eyes, and of the pride of life. Other authors represent the gradation of the temptations thus: temptation to independence and want of confidence in God, to presumption, to blasphemy [Schanz]; Jesus tempted as man, as Jewish prophet, as Messias [Lutter. ii. 34]; manifestation before the tempter, before the Jewish community, before the Gentile world; Jesus tempted as man, as Messias, and as Son of God [Godet]; etc.

b. Manner of the temptation. α. The evangelist describes it in three preparatory clauses: “the devil took him up”—“into the holy city”—“and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple.” In general, it may be noted that these expressions do not favor the hypothesis of a merely internal temptation by suggestion.

β. If it be asked whether the devil carried our Lord bodily through the air, we find different answers in the best commentaries: Euthymius, Maldonado, chiefly through reverential feelings for the sacred person of Jesus, contend that he did not permit himself to be carried by the devil, but that he accompanied his tempter on foot to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain [Berlepsch]; Fritzsche believes the devil merely impelled Jesus to go to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain; but Greg. Lapide, Jerome Yp. Knabenbauer, Fillion, and most commentators adhere to the bodily transportation of Jesus by the agency of the devil. Suarez, [De angel, disp. xvi. s. iii.] infers from this passage that Satan has power to move bodies from place to place. Greg. [hom. xvi. in Mt.] explains how Jesus could allow himself to be carried by the evil spirit: “We need not be surprised if he permitted himself to be carried up into a mountain by Satan, since he permitted himself to be crucified by the members of Satan.” The wording of St. Matthew’s text together with the expression “set him upon the pinnacle of the temple” favors the third view.

γ. The “holy city” is Jerusalem, because it had been chosen by God as the site of the temple [Euth.], and as the centre of the theocracy, and therefore as the residence of God among his people [cf. Is. 48:2; 52:1; Dan. 9:24; 2 Esd. 11:1, 18].

δ. The “pinnacle of the temple” has been variously identified by commentators. The word rendered “pinnacle” occurs also in Lk. 4:9; in the lxx. version it stands regularly for the Hebrew כָּנָף [wing], though the Greek word presents the diminutive form [winglet]. Gesen. [Lexic. ed. 8, s. v.] states that the Hebrew word is never used of the “summit” or the “highest point” of anything, but only of the extremity or the border of a plain [e.g. the hem of a garment]. It must also be noted that the Greek text does not read ναός [temple proper], but τοῦ ἱεροῦ [sanctuary], so that the edge on which the devil placed our Lord may have belonged to any part of the temple structures. It is on account of these considerations that many writers reject the opinion of Or. and Hilary according to which Jesus was placed by Satan on the topmost height of the temple, preferring either the Royal Porch or the Porch of Solomon [cf. Scholz, Alterth. p. 238; Keil, Archæol. p. 151; Comment. p. 113], the height of which was considerable [Josephus Antiq. XV. xi. 5; XX. ix. 7], or the southeastern corner, at which these porches met [cf. Schæf. Alterth. p. 41], or the projecting part of the temple-roof [Maldonado, Calmet, Jansenius, Lapide], or the edge of an elevated part of the roof, or the enclosing wall [Grimm, ii. 192].

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

And said to him.] c. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which Satan impels Jesus is clearly mentioned in the gospels. β. The motives by which the devil endeavors to move Jesus are various: the motive of pride is implied in the words “if thou be the Son of God,” for they suggest, it is unworthy of thee to descend from this dazzling height in the common way; again, there was the necessity of manifesting himself as the Messias promised to appear in the temple [Mal. 3:1] in such a manner that no one should know whence he came [John 7:27], both of which prophecies would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, if he were to descend through the air among the multitudes in the temple court; finally, there was the express promise of God concerning the guardianship of the angels, which was surely due to one whom God himself had called his Son at the time of the baptism.

γ. The purpose of the devil in the second temptation is quite comprehensive: since Jesus had conquered in the first temptation through confidence in God and the use of Sacred Scripture, the devil now endeavors to gain the victory by quoting Sacred Scripture, and by appealing to our Lord’s confidence in God; as in the first temptation Jesus had postponed the preservation of his life to the will of God, the devil now incites him to jeopardize his life in order to show his trust in the help of his Father; as in the first temptation Jesus had shown his entire dependence on his Father, the devil endeavors to push the exercise of this dependence beyond the bounds of prudence. But this pretended dependence on God was a cloak of proud independence, choosing its own ways and means of Messianic manifestation; the pretended trust in God was a real distrust in the veracity of God’s words spoken at the baptism, putting them now really to the test; the seeming surrender of the earthly life to the good will of God was a real act of sovereign self-will in the choice of the time and the occasion at which God’s promises were to be verified [cf. Jerome Chrysostom, Alb. Cajetan, Jansenius, Grimm, Bede, opus imperfectum Schanz, Knab.]. It may be added that Satan either purposely misquotes [Schanz] or abbreviates [Anger] the passage of Ps. 91:11 f., omitting “to keep thee in all thy ways.” In Lk. 4:10 “to keep thee” is added, but “in all thy ways” omitted, because this clause would have shown the fallacy of the devil’s argument [Schanz]. We need not add the rationalistic gloss [Kuin.] which identifies angels with the means provided for men’s well-being and eliminates every spiritual element from the inspired record; in v. 11 Kuin. himself admits the common belief among the Jews that every child had a guardian angel.

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

Jesus said to him.] d. Victory. α. The “again” in the words of Jesus does not imply opposition to what has been quoted as Scripture before, but it merely adds a new passage of Scripture to the preceding; [cf. Jn. 12:39; 19:37; Rom. 15:10–12; 1 Cor. 3:20 al.]. β. The addition does not allude to the passage our Lord himself had quoted, but to the proof which the enemy had adduced from the Bible. The help of God which is there represented indefinitely is properly defined by this text from Deut. 6:10 [lxx.]. At Raphidim the Hebrews murmured against God on account of a want of water [Ex. 17:7], and Moses upbraided them in the words quoted by our Lord. γ. The change to the second person singular from the plural in the Hebrew text renders the passage more crushing to the enemy. Jesus implicitly tells him that the limits of our confidence in God are his implicit or express promises: not to trust these, or to expect more than this, is tempting God. δ. While these words reject the suggestion of the devil, they do not answer his question concerning the sonship of Jesus [cf. Hilary, Ambrose], but leave this point wholly indeterminate [Chrysostom, opus imperfectum], so that the enemy is driven to a third temptation. ε. Some authors point out that in this victory the second Adam is the counterpart of the first: our parents succumbed to sensuality, expecting that by compliance with the tempter’s words “their eyes” should be opened, and they should become like gods; Jesus overcomes the temptation of sensuality and vain display of his power in spite of the fame among his countrymen which a compliance with the enemy’s suggestion would have brought him.

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

Again the devil took him up.] 3. The third temptation. a. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which the tempter impelled Jesus was a formal acknowledgment of the devil’s superiority over Jesus, himself; our Lord was to adore Satan, and thereby recognize him as his lord and master. β. The motives proposed to Jesus include all the world can give: wealth, pleasure, honor. (1) Though it is uncertain on which high mountain Jesus was carried by Satan [Moria, Olivet, Thabor, Horeb, Nebo, Quarantania, etc.], it is certain that our Lord’s vision of all the kingdoms of the world was not merely internal; for such a vision might be had in a valley, and it would imply power of the enemy over the inner faculties of Jesus. (2) On the other hand, there can be no question of a mere natural vision of the whole world from the top of a high mountain; the addition of Lk. 4:5 implies that there was some magical effect produced by Satan “in a moment of time.” (3) The opinion of Theophylact, opus imperfectum. Alb. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Maldonado, Calmet, who maintain that the devil only pointed in the direction of the various kingdoms of the world without actually showing them, does not satisfy the text of the gospel saying that the devil showed Jesus not only all the kingdoms of the world, but also the glory thereof. (4) It seems that the devil preternaturally formed the species of all the kingdoms of the world before the eyes of Jesus “in a moment of time” [Lk. 4:5]; to make this deception more real, the devil places Jesus on the top of a mountain [Sa, Barradas, Lapide, Tir. Coleridge, Knab.]. (5) On the part of Jesus, the devil expected to find besides the triple concupiscence also the Messianic character aiding his purpose: the dominion over the whole earth had been promised to the Messias by the prophets [cf. Pss. 2:8; 71:8–11]; but it had also been foretold that he was to acquire this dominion by means of suffering [cf. Is. 49:4; 50:4–8; 53:2–12]. Satan then promises to give Jesus without labor and suffering what he otherwise must acquire at the sacrifice of his life.

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

And said to him.] b. Purpose of the devil. (1) St. Luke [5:6] adds that the evil spirit claimed authority to dispose of all he showed Jesus: “To thee will I give all this power and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them.” Though the world had not been given to Satan, nor the power of giving it to any one else, the words of the tempter had a semblance of truth, as appears from Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. (2) Seeing that he cannot overcome Jesus under the species of good, the devil throws off his mask, and proposes his principal scope plainly: Jesus is to become the master of the world, as God had promised him, but under the suzerainty of Satan. There is no more question of “the Son of God,” no more use of Scripture language: the alternative between God’s and the devil’s service is plainly stated. (3) Need we say that this is the real and final object in all temptations of the devil? It is not always put so clearly before us, because most of us are carried away by the temptations coming under the pretence of necessity and of propriety, i. e. by temptations concerning the means; hence there is no need of making us repeat the election of our last end.

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

. Then Jesus saith to him.] c. Victory. The account of the victory brings before us three persons: Jesus, the devil, and the angels. α. The words of Jesus are taken from Deut. 6:13, but present two variations from the original: the word “only” is wanting in the Hebrew, and the expression “shalt thou adore” reads in the Hebrew “shalt thou fear”; since the former variation is in accord with the context, and since “fear” often implies religious worship in the language of Scripture, our Lord cannot be accused of having falsified Scripture. In the lxx. this meaning is indicated by the construction of the verb; for in the present passage it is followed by the accusative instead of the dative [cf. Ex. 20:5]. That the expression “serve” often implies religious worship is clear from Deut. 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Rom. 9:4; 12:1; Heb. 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10. The expression “Begone, Satan” does not imply that Jesus recognized the devil only at the third temptation, but it shows that while he had borne patiently the former trials, he utters this harsh word when the honor of God is attacked. Again, it must be noted that Jesus overcomes Satan in a way in which any man might have overcome; he does, therefore, give no answer to the devil’s eager inquiry whether he be the Son of God.

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

Then the devil left him.] β. Lk. 4:13 adds “for a time”; without discussing the question whether the conflict was renewed in secret, we may point to Gethsemani [cf. Lk. 22:53; Jn. 14:30], where the hour of Jesus’ enemies and the power of darkness made a renewed attack.

—and behold angels came.] γ. According to 1 Kings 19:6–8 an angel came to Elias and gave him bread to eat and water to drink. (1) It is therefore most probable that in the present case, also, the angels ministered to the bodily wants of Jesus. One angel would have been sufficient for this; but to emphasize the defeat of the devil more strongly, to show the parallelism between the victory of Jesus and the fall of Adam who was kept by angels out of paradise, to shame Satan more thoroughly, it was proper that a host of angels should present themselves. (2) Whether Jesus was carried back to his former abode by the angels, or returned thither by his own miraculous power, or again walked back, cannot be determined. But we certainly must deny the supposition that Satan should have been permitted to carry our Lord back, after the word of reprobation had been spoken. (3) St. Luke [4:13] adds “when the devil had ended all the temptation” or “all the temptation being ended.” We have seen already that the encounters between Jesus and Satan were frequent throughout the public life of our Lord; “all the temptation” cannot therefore mean that no temptation followed the present one; in other words, “all” is not used of individual, but of specific temptations. It implies, therefore, that the second Adam was tempted with all the temptations of the first, with sensuality, vainglory, and avarice [Greg. Rabbanus, gl. ord. Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas (p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4) Salmeron, Barrdas, Lapide]. (4) Again, the antitype was tempted with all the temptations of his type, the people of Israel in the desert: in the case of Israel, the want of food is supplied by the manna [Ex. 16:2], and this event is recorded in the words used by Jesus in his first temptation; the lack of water forms the second trial of Israel [Ex. 17:7], and it is with reference to this that Moses speaks the words used by Jesus in his second temptation [Deut. 6:16]; the lengthy journey and the continued labor form the third trial of the Israelites [Num. 21:4 f.; 1 Cor. 10:9], and occasion indirectly the utterance of the words employed by Jesus in his third temptation [Deut. 6:13, 14; cf. 8:2]. (5) Finally, Jesus overcame the devil in all the temptations with which he besets ourselves, i. e. in the concupiscence of the flesh, in the concupiscence of the eyes, and in the pride of life [1 Jn. 2:16]; he thus shows us that all manner of temptation can be overcome, even as death was overcome by his death; he warns us that we cannot be safe against temptation at any time, since he himself was tempted after his baptism [Greg. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Hilary, Ambrose Alb. etc.]; he teaches us how to overcome temptation; he encourages us by his own resistance, and not less by the fact that he has learned by experience how to compassionate us in our trials [Jansenius, Salmeron, Barradas, Augustine, Coleridge, etc.]. (6) The vivid contrast of Mark [1:13] must also be noted in connection with the present passage: “and he was with beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Matthew 5:1-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2017

Text in red are my additions.

By way of introduction here is what the Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say concerning the Beatitudes: BEATITUDES: The teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount on the meaning and way to true happiness (cf. Mt 5:1–12; Lk 6:20–23). These teachings reflect the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham; they portray the countenance of Christ and describe his charity. Moreover, by shedding light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life, they describe the vocation of all the faithful (1716) [Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2nd Ed. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000.] For more on the beatitudes one can profitably consult the CCC 1716-1729.

Mt 5:1. And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain, and when he was set down, his disciples came unto him.

It is a question whether St. Matthew here and St. Luke 6:20-49 are giving the same identical discourse. It is possible that our Lord may have repeated the same discourse more than once, but it is probable that St. Matthew is only giving with more detail and greater development that of which St. Luke has preserved for us only an abridgment. The differences may all be explained by

saying that one omits what he knows the other has. Our Lord spent the night in prayer and on the morrow chose His twelve Apostles. To them and to the multitude that had gathered a little further down the hill. He immediately delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Cf. Mt 6:12-17.

A mountain, which was probably that called the Horns of Hattin, about two hours’ distance from Tiberias (This is most likely a reference to the city of Tiberias, located on the west side of the Galilee, or to the Galilee itself, which was sometimes called Tiberias see Jn 21:1).

Mt 5:2. And opening his mouth, he taught them, saying:

And opening his mouth. Hitherto our Lord had spoken by the mouth of His prophets and by the silent voice of His own miracles; but now He has determined to give personal utterance to His teachings. The Sermon on the Mount is an exposition of our Lord’s ideas of happiness, wisdom and justice. Its aim throughout is to show the contrast between the principles of His kingdom and the principles which prevail in the world and in an imperfect Judaism, It may be divided in three parts: (a) Jesus promises happiness to those whom He calls; (b) He prescribes justice to those who come; (c) and He recommends wisdom to those who remain with Him (Le Camus).

Mt 5:3. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed; i.e., happy.

Poor in spirit; i.e., those who are not attached to riches or to the goods of this world, either by desire or by actual possession. It is, in particular, detachment from earthly goods that makes one blessed. See Ps 69:32-33; Is 61:1, Mt 23:12; k 18:9-14. See also CCC 2544-2549.

Mt 5:4. Blessed are the meek : for they shall possess the land.

Meek; i.e., those who for Christ’s sake willingly and patiently endure the evils and hardships of life. By ” the meek ” we are not to understand lifeless and colorless characters; but those who, possessed of real character and vigor, meekly control themselves for the sake of Christ, and out of imitation of Him. See Ps 37:11; Zeph 3:11-12; Mt 11:29.

Shall possess the land. This is commonly understood, after St. Jerome, to refer to the new heaven and the new earth, which the meek shall possess.

Mt 5:5. Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted.

Mourn; i.e., those who grieve for their own and for others’ offenses, out of love of God. are blessed, happy. See Ps 51:17; Isa 57:18-21; 61:1-3; Jer 31:13; Rev 7:17; 21:4.

Mt 5:6. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice : for they shall have their fill.

Hunger and thirst, etc. ; i.e., happy are those who are subjected to real hunger and thirst, because justice is not done them, but who nevertheless patiently bear the wrong done them for God’s sake. See Isa 55:1-2; Mt 6:33; 2 Tim 2:22; 1 Pet 3:12.

Mt 5:7. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Merciful; i.e., happy are those who try to alleviate the miseries of others, who charitably overlook and forgive the sins and mistakes of others; as they really forgive others, so shall they be forgiven. See Ex 34:6-7; Dan 9:9; Mt 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Lk 6:36; Jam 2:13.

Mt 5:8. Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.

Clean of heart; i.e., happy are those who observe not only purity and chastity of body, but general purity and simplicity of conscience. It is certain that chastity of life will not only have an unspeakable reward hereafter, but that it leads to clearness of vision here below, in things purely natural, and especially in things supernatural. See Ps 24:3-5; 51:10; 73:1; 1 Jn 3:2-3.

Mt 5:9. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of
God.

Peacemakers; i.e., those who strive to reconcile the differences between others. See Ps 34:14; Matt 5:44-45; Rom 12:18; 14:19; 2 Tim 2:22; Jam 3:1-18.

Mt 5:10. Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

For justice’ sake; i.e., happy are those who are persecuted on account of their faithfulness to the law of God and to their own duty. It is to be noted that throughout the beatitudes our Lord is continually raising our minds to the things of Heaven; we are not to expect temporal rewards for doing what He has enjoined; we are to look for our recompense hereafter. For this and the remaining two verses see See Jn 15:18-21; 2 Tim 3:10-12; Jam 1:12; 1 Pet 3:14, 17; 4:12-16.

Mt 5:11. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake:

Untruly. Our Lord promises no blessedness, no beatitude to those who deserve persecution and reviling; it is only to those who are unjustly so treated.

Mt 5:12. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you.

Be glad. Those who suffer for the sake of Christ have every reason to rejoice because of the reward awaiting them hereafter.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

St Augustine’s sermon on Matthew 5:16

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2017

ON THAT THAT IS WRITTEN IN THE GOSPEL, MATT. 5:16, “EVEN SO LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BEFORE MEN, THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS, AND GLORIFY YOUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN:” AND CONTRARIWISE, CHAP 6., “TAKE HEED THAT YE DO NOT YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS BEFORE MEN, TO BE SEEN OF THEM.”

[I] 1. IT is wont to perplex many persons, Dearly beloved, that our Lord Jesus Christ in His Evangelical Sermon, after He had first said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;”3 said afterwards, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness4 before men to be seen of them.”5 For so the mind of him who is weak in understanding is disturbed, is desirous to obey both precepts, and distracted by diverse, and contradictory commandments. For a man can as little obey but one master, if he give contradictory orders, as he can serve two masters,6 which the Saviour Himself hath testified in the same Sermon to be impossible. What then must the mind that is in this hesitation do, when it thinks that it cannot, and yet is afraid not to obey? For if he set his good works in the light to be seen of men, that he may fulfil the command, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;” he will think himself involved in guilt because he has done contrary to the other precept which says, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men to be seen of them.” And again, if fearing and avoiding this, he conceal his good works, he will think that he is not obeying Him who commands, saying, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works.”

[II] 2. But he who is of a right understanding, fulfils both, and will obey in both the Universal Lord of all, who would not condemn the slothful servant, if he commanded those things which could by no means be done. For give ear to “Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an Apostle, separated unto the Gospel of God,”7 both doing and teaching both duties. See how his “light shineth before men, that they may see his good works. We commend ourselves,” saith he, “to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”8 And again, “For we provide things honest, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men.”9 And again, “Please all men in all things, even as I please all men in all things.”10 See, on the other hand, how he takes heed, that he “do not his righteousness before men to be seen of them. Let every man,” saith he, “prove his own work, and then shall he have glorying in himself, and not in another.”11 And again, “For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience.”12 And that, than which nothing is plainer, “If,” saith he, “I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”13 But lest any of those who are perplexed about the precepts of our Lord Himself as contradictory, should much more raise a question against His Apostle and say, How sayest thou, “Please all men in all things, even as I also please all men in all things:” and yet also sayest, “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ”? May the Lord Himself be with us, who spake also in His servant and Apostle, and open to us His will, and give us the means of obeying it.

3. The very words of the Gospel carry with them their own explanation; nor do they shut the mouths of those who hunger, seeing they feed the hearts of them that knock. The intention of a man’s heart, its direction and its aim, is what is to be regarded. For if he who wishes his good works to be seen of men, sets before men his own glory and advantage, and seeks for this in the sight of men, he does not fulfil either of those precepts which the Lord has given as touching this matter; because He has at once looked to “doing his righteousness before men to be seen of them;” and his light has not so shined before men that they should see his good works, and glorify His Father which is in heaven. It was himself he wished to be glorified, not God; he sought his own advantage, and loved not the Lord’s will. Of such the Apostle says, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.1 Accordingly, the sentence was not finished at the words, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works;” but there was immediately subjoined why this was to be done; “that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven;” that when a man who does good works is seen of men, he may have only the intention of the good work in his own conscience, but may have no intention of being known, save for the praise of God, for their advantage-sake to whom he is thus made known; for to them this advantage comes, that God who has given this power to man begins to be well-pleasing to them; and so they do not despair, but that the same power might be vouchsafed to themselves also if they would. And so He did not conclude the other precept, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men,” otherwise than in the words, “to be seen of them;” nor did He add in this case, “that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven,” but rather, “otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.” For by this He shows us, that they who are such, as He will not have His faithful ones to be, seek a reward in this very thing, that they are seen of men—that it is in this they place their good—in this that they delight the vanity of their heart—in this is their emptiness, and inflation, their swelling, and wasting away. For why was it not sufficient to say, “Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men,” but that he added, “that ye may be seen of them,” except because there are some who do their “righteousness before men;” not that they may be seen of them, but that the works themselves may be seen; and the Father which is in heaven, who hath vouchsafed to endow with these gifts the ungodly whom He had justified, may be glorified?

[III] 4. They who are such, neither do they account their righteousness as their own, but His, by the faith of whom they live (whence also the Apostle says, “That I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness which is of the law, but that which is of the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;”2 and in another place, “That we may be the righteousness of God in Him.”3 Whence also he finds fault with the Jews in these words, “Being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and wishing to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God”4). Whosoever then wish their good works to be so seen of men, that He may be glorified from whom they have received those things which are seen in them, and that thereby those very persons who see them, may through the dutifulness5 of faith be provoked to imitate the good, their light shines truly before men, because there beams forth from them the light of charity; theirs is no mere empty fume of pride; and in the very act they take precautions, that they do not their righteousness before men to be seen of them, in that they do not reckon that righteousness as their own, nor do they therefore do it that they may be seen; but that He may be made known, who is praised in them that are justified, that so He may bring to pass in him that praises that which is praised in others, that is, that He may make him that praises to be himself the object of praise. Observe the Apostle too, how that when he had said, “Please all men in all things, as I also please all men in all things;”6 he did not stop there, as if he had placed in that, namely, the pleasing men, the end of his intention; for else he would have said falsely, “If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ;” but he subjoined immediately why it was that he pleased men; “Not seeking,” saith he, “mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”7 So he at once did not please men for his own profit, lest he should not be “the servant of Christ;” and he did please men for their salvation’s sake, that he might be a faithful Minister of Christ; because for him his own conscience in the sight of God was enough, and from him there shined forth in the sight of men something which they might imitate.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, fathers of the church, Notes on the Gospel of Matthew, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture, SERMONS | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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