The Divine Lamp

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Posts Tagged ‘Patristics’

Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 92

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 12, 2018

TITLE
A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath Day.
Chaldee Targum: A Praise and Song which the first man spake for the Sabbath Day.

ARGUEMENT

Arg. Thomas. That Christ hath caused the conquerors to flourish as though with the gift of the heavenly palm. The Voice of the Church. The Voice of the Church to God concerning her enemies. The Doctrine of Confession, and concerning the glory of the righteous in the world to come.

Ven. Bede. A Psalm denotes spiritual works, which tend upwards towards the Lord; in these all ought always to sing, that is, give thanks to the Lord our Helper. The Sabbath Day is interpreted Rest, whereby we are warned to cease from every evil deed, and likewise to hope with most sure devotion for the rest to come. Arnobius saith thus: On the Sabbath Day the Lord’s enemies perish, that on the Sunday the Lord’s friends may be glad; for on the Sabbath Day the Lord lieth dead in the grave, and on the Sunday is worshipped living among the Angels. In this matter His thoughts are very deep, which an unwise man doth not well consider. At the first outset, the Church speaks, declaring that it is a good thing to utter praises to the Lord; which it asserts to be a thing whereof the unwise and ungodly are ignorant. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord. In the second part she asserts that sinners will perish quickly like the grass. When the ungodly are green, &c. Thirdly; she saith that the righteous flourish like a palm-tree, and spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus; to the end that fear may correct the obstinate, and the blessed promise sustain the devout. The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree.

Syriac Psalter. Anonymous; Concerning the ministry of the Priests, and their Morning Sacrifices. It also foretells rest in the Lord.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. Concerning that rest which is according unto God.

COMMENTARY

1 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord: and to sing praises unto thy Name, O most Highest;

A good thing for these reasons: (Bellarmine) because it is just, and due from us to God our King; it is useful, as being one of those works which are profitable to the soul; it is delightful, for it is pleasant for one that loves, to praise the object of his affection; it is ennobling, giving man a share in the office of the heavenly spirits. (Cassiodorus) The LXX. and Vulgate, according to their wont, put the term confess instead of give thanks, and the commentators note that such confession, to be adequate, (Euthymius Zigabenus) must be two-fold; acknowledgment of our own weakness and guilt, as the first step, on the one hand, and of God’s might and holiness on the other, after we have fitted ourselves, by this preliminary cleansing of the heart, to celebrate His praises. Unto Thy Name. (Honorius): They tell us that this title especially applies to Christ, the Only-Begotten Son, by Whom God is fully revealed to us, so that we know Him, while the name Lord denotes the Holy Spirit, and Most Highest the Father Himself. The word here translated sing is by LXX. and Vulgate rendered play (ψάλλειν, psallere), (Cassiodorus) and is mystically explained as the activity of devotion in good works, whereby the notes of our souls, as of a psaltery when struck, ascend to the ears of God. And we may fitly apply here the old Leonine saw as to the recitation of the Divine office:

Rite canis horas, si Biblia evolvis et oras,
Tuneque placent horæ, cum corde canuntur et ore.

Thou singest the Hours aright, if in Scripture and prayer thou delight,
The Hours are accepted when sung by the heart in accord with the tongue.

2 To tell of thy loving-kindness early in the morning: and of thy truth in the night-season.

There is a singular Rabbinical legend that this Psalm was the song of praise uttered by Adam as the first Sabbath dawned upon the world (Genebrardus), and that it descended by tradition as the special hymn for that day (Talmud). More consonant with actual history is the fact that it was sung in the Temple on the Sabbath at the offering of the first lamb in the morning (Kiddushim) when the wine was poured out (Num 28:4, 7), and continues still in use as a Sabbatical psalm in the rites of the Synagogue, and that the Roman Church, amongst other tokens of the powerful Jewish influence which affected its earliest days, retains it as part of the Saturday Lauds in the Breviary. Further, there is a distinct reference in this second verse to the morning and evening sacrifice (Rabbi Shelomo); while more than one Rabbi is careful to point out that the happy Sabbath of which the Psalmist sings is not one of the present time (Rabbi Ataia), but belongs to the future revelation of Messiah in His glory (Cardinal Hugo). Observe, then, how fitly it succeeds Psalm 91, wherein we hear of the victory over temptation, (Remegius of St Germainus) now followed by restful peace of mind, figured by the Lord’s repose in the grave when He, as at the beginning of creation, rested from all His work that He had done; and figuring in its turn the Sabbath of eternity (Augustine). And as the clear morning denotes the sunshine of prosperity, we thank God, while it lasts, for His mercy and bountifulness towards us. But we do not on that account charge Him with harshness and cruelty when the night-season of adversity arrives; rather we praise His truth, that is, the justice with which He weighs our faults and metes out His fatherly chastisements. And as the night always precedes the morning (Pseudo-Jerome) so it is not till we have been tried by suffering and darkened by sin and trouble, that we thoroughly realize and can fittingly praise the mercy of God in that glad morning when the Sun of Righteousness begins to arise in our hearts. We tell of His truth in the night-season, because our eyes are unable to bear the dazzling glory of His full revelation, for it is written, “He made darkness His secret place” (Ps 18:11). Therefore the Law was given amidst clouds and darkness on Mount Sinai, therefore the Prophets spake in enigmas, therefore too the Lord Himself hid the mysteries of His kingdom in parables, therefore we too, here in the night-time of the world, “see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face” (1 Cor 13:12); then, in the morning of the everlasting Sabbath, when all secrets shall be revealed:

For when the Sole-Begotten
Shall render up once more
The kingdom to the Father,
Whose own it was before,—
Then glory yet unheard of
Shall shed abroad its ray,
Resolving all enigmas,
An endless Sabbath Day.

3 Upon an instrument of ten strings (decachord), and upon the lute: upon a loud instrument, and upon the harp.

There is some variation of opinion as to whether we have two, three, or four musical instruments named in this verse. The first is the view taken by the Syriac and Arabic versions, which make the lute to be the decachord, and the harp the mere accompaniment to a song. The second view is that of the Chaldee, LXX., Vulgate, and A. V.; as well as of most modern critics, who are divided as to the precise mode of rendering the second clause, some taking it to be “a song to the harp,” and others, “a loud (or a solemn) strain upon the harp” itself. The third opinion, which makes the word Higgaion, here occurring, that of a separate musical instrument, is supported by Aben-Ezra, and does, no doubt, preserve more fully the balance of parallelism in the two strophes of the verse. As to the mystical meaning of the decachord, it is only necessary to add a little to what has been already said under Psalm 33:2, namely, that one ancient Father (St Clement of Alexandria) tells us that it means the Lord Jesus Himself, seemingly because the initial letter of that holy Name stands for the number ten both in Hebrew and Greek, (Lorinus) while, as the Latin X marks the Cross, and is also the Egyptian sign of life to come, it may well denote Him too. Nay more, our modern way of writing it, with the figure 1 followed by a cipher, itself nothing, tells of the One sole sufficient godhead united by the Incarnation to the nothingness of man. Again, the decachord’s ten strings denote the ten precepts of the moral law; by compliance with which our lives make music to God (St Bruno the Carthusian), while they take the song and harp (Vulg.) to be the cheerful acceptance of bodily mortification, and the readiness of almsgiving. And that because, as was noted before, a mystical distinction is always drawn between the psaltery, whose strings are struck from above, and which is therefore taken to denote divine contemplation, and the harp, played from below, and therefore typical of humility, (Augustine) and the active service of the body. And S. Augustine here observes: Our business here is not merely to carry the psaltery but to sing to it. Even the Jews have the Law; they carry it, but they do not play upon it. Who then do play? They who put it into action. That is not enough. They who act with dejection are not yet playing. Who are they that play? They who do well with cheerfulness. For there is cheerfulness in playing. And what saith the Apostle? “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). And the same Apostle, in counting up the afflictions of mind and body which habitually befell himself in the course of his ministry (1 Cor 4:11-13), puts another decachord of suffering into our hands, wherewith we, by striking its strings boldly and cheerfully (St Clement of Alexandria), can make melody well-pleasing to the Lord. For, as one has well said, God speaks to man, saying, Thou art My harp, and flute, and temple; a harp, by reason of harmony; a flute, because of breath; a temple, because of the Word. (Note: the decachord of suffering mentioned in reference to 1 Cor 4:11-13 is a reference to the ten (deca) types of affliction mentioned there).

4 For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy works: and I will rejoice in giving praise for the operations of thy hands.
5 O Lord, how glorious are thy works: thy thoughts are very deep!

These verses appear to have suggested the Rabbinical legend already cited; that this was Adam’s morning hymn on the day after his creation (St Robert Bellarmine). And we may observe that the phrase in the first verse does not run, Thy works have made me glad, for if there be no more than that, then the beauties and marvels of creation are snares to draw us from the thought of God. But here it runs Thou hast made me glad, and that through Thy works as an instrument to declare Thy love and power. And thus John Milton, in Paradise Lost, in the hymn he puts into Adam’s mouth in Eden writes:

These are Thy glorious works, Parent of good,
Almighty, Thine this universal frame,
Thus wondrous fair; Thyself how wondrous then!
Unspeakable, Who sittest above these heavens,
To us invisible, or dimly seen
In these Thy lowest works, yet these declare
Thy goodness beyond thought, and power divine.

And that because, as the Apostle says, “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and godhead” (Rom 1:20). Wherefore S. Basil the Great aptly calls creation the “school and lecture-room of souls.” But there are some marvels which lessen by experience and knowledge, and therefore the Psalmist adds here that such is not the case with God’s works, because their wonderful character, in greatest and least alike, and the whole mystery of creation is very deep, lying far below the longest plummet with which man would fain sound the abysses. But if the creation of nature be wonderful, far exceeding it in beauty and marvels is the creation of grace; and they tell us truly that the way God made us most glad through the work of His hands was when He stretched forth those hands upon the Cross, there to work out our redemption, when His thoughts were very deep, looking forward to the whole constitution and history of His Church, and the coming of the nations into the fold.

6 An unwise man doth not well consider this: and a fool doth not understand it.

They give several explanations of the distinction between the two classes of persons here named (St Bruno the Carthusian), some telling us that the first denotes unbelievers, who know nothing of the wisdom of God, and the second evil Christians, who, knowing the outer facts of His truth, are unable to comprehend them by reason of perversity. Others see, not dissimilarly, the man who is incurious of heavenly things (Cardinal Hugo), and him who is eager about earthly matters. Or again, the Jew who rejects, and the Gentile who has never learnt the Gospel. Once more, it is explained to denote the man endowed with worldly wisdom, but who is destitute of spiritual knowledge (Haymo) and the man who has neither wisdom of this world nor of the next. But the most satisfactory account seems to be that by the first are meant simply those who are deficient in understanding, and dull in observation (Pieter Titelman), as a mere mental deficiency; and by the second those who have blunted all their powers by perversity and wickedness. And we may draw one lesson from this verse, that the so-called “sacrifice of intellect” is not an oblation well-pleasing to God, for it stunts our faculty of admiration for His glory, and folds in a napkin of specious purity of intention the talent He gives us to put out at interest for Him. Wherefore Lactantius says very well: “Religion cannot be separated from Wisdom, nor Wisdom from Religion, for it is one and the same God Who ought to be understood, which is Wisdom, and honoured, which is Religion.

7 When the ungodly are green as the grass., and when all the workers of wickedness do flourish: then shall they he destroyed for ever; 8 but thou, Lord, art the most Highest for evermore.
9 (8) For lo, thine enemies, O Lord, lo, thine enemies shall perish: and all the workers of wickedness shall he destroyed.

This is one of the deep thoughts of God which are not considered nor understood by the unwise and foolish (Agellius, Michael Ayguan), namely, that there is no Sabbath rest of mind or of future happiness awaiting the wicked. It is the consolation given to the servants of God, that their enemies, who are His enemies too, will fade and disappear in the very moment of their apparent strength and triumph; while He, Who is His people’s stay, is untouched by any change, is not as the grass of the field, lying low or rank, but Most Highest, (Cassiodorus) is not one that can perish, but is for evermore. And thus, though His enemies counted Him a mere man, who could be slain, and His memory blotted out, yet His very death itself was the overthrow of both His ghostly and human foes. They give several explanations of the repetition of the words Thine enemies; (Dionysius the Carthusian) for the most part taking it as denoting some special emphasis, either as increasing the terror of the threat (St Bruno the Carthusian), or fixing the certainty of retribution; (Remigius of St Germainus) but others prefer to see a reference to the great variety of sinners (Cardinal Hugo), and one will have it that two classes of offenders are here distinguished, those who break the positive law, specially enjoined by God, and those who transgress the natural law, familiar even to heathens. Shall be destroyed. Rather, with LXX., Vulgate, and A. V., scattered. And so the Chaldee takes it, shall be separated from the congregation of the righteous; a meaning which most of the Christian expositors transfer to the division between the sheep and goats at the Day of Judgment (Haymo, St Bruno the Carthusian). There is, however, a gentler reading of the verses, which deserves citation. The sinners, observes a Greek Father (Dorotheus Abbas), who spring up like the grass, are impure thoughts, for grass is a weak and frail thing, possessing no vigour. When the evil thoughts arise in the mind, then all the workers of wickedness appear (LXX.) which mean actual sins, that they may perish for ever. For when sins appear before warriors and athletes, they are at once slain by them. Note then the order of the language; first evil thoughts spring up; then sins appear, thereupon all of them perish. All this has to do with athletes. We, who carry sin into action, and always fulfil our vices, are unable to know when bad thoughts spring up, or when sins appear, but we are still in Lower Egypt, making bricks under Pharaoh.

10 (9) But mine horn shall be exalted like the horn of an unicorn: for I am anointed with fresh oil.

Whether Christ be here the speaker, or one of His members, the horn is the same, that mighty horn of salvation raised up in the House of David, the Lord strong in His own power, or His disciple strong in His co-operation. He is a horn (Lorinus), for springing from flesh, He hath nothing of the passions of flesh, but grows out beyond the carnal nature from which He derives Himself, (Euthymius Zigabenas), and rises up on high, in strength and honour, a terror to all His foes, specially in the Judgment. He is anointed, with fresh oil, not with that old traditional oil of the decrepit Mosaic dispensation, wherewith the Aaronic Priesthood was set apart, wherewith in former days kings and prophets had been consecrated. His unction was fresh, a new thing in creation, the direct anointing of the Holy Ghost Himself, of which that elder rite was but a faint symbol, fresh, as knowing no corruption, as ever new and young, though eternal before and after all worlds; a new anointing which He sent on the Apostles in the fiery tongues of Pentecost. (Augustine) Of an unicorn (see note below). Those who take this whole speech to be that of the Church (Cassiodorus), see here in the unicorn the type of Catholic unity (St Basil, Theodoret, Jansenius, Gandolph) or as the Greek Fathers take it, the worship of One God; while a third view is that the singleness of future glory, in which no foreign elements can mingle, is denoted (Remigius of St Germainus); and a fourth sees here those who rejoice in the one hope of reaching that one glory.

Note: Of an unicorn. This rendering follows the LXX. μονοκέρως. But there is nothing to suggest the idea of one horn in the Hebrew רְאֵים, which is probably the now extinct Aurochs, urus, or wild bull.

In the latter strophe of the verse, the LXX. and Vulgate read, (Augustine) And my old age in rich mercy And this they take of the old age of the Church, (Cassiodorus) in the late evening of the world, when her beauty will be as snowy as the hair of an aged man: or again, of the future life itself (St Bruno the Carthusian), an old age in the sense of its late arrival and its tranquillity, although in itself a perpetual youth; or yet again, the gravity and calmness of life and demeanour to be observed in Saints, even in their early years, all which are blessed with the rich mercy of God. And the Carmelite, citing Aristotle, (Michael Ayguan) urges that there are five good qualities of old men which make them apt types of the Church in the time of wisdom, as of individual Saints also; namely, that their passions have cooled, they have more pity for suffering than the young, they are not given to such strong assertion of doubtful matters, and they are discreet and temperate in action.

11 (10) Mine eye also shall see his lust of mine enemies: and mine ear shall hear his desire of the wicked that rise up against me.

They take it in a threefold sense (Parez), first, of the victory of the Church, by no physical act of her own, over the Jews and the Pagans who oppressed her in the earliest days of Christianity; next, (Dionysius the Carthusian) of the inner eye of the soul beholding the victory of faith over temptation; and lastly, of the final overthrow of sinners in the Judgment.

12 (11) The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree: and shall spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.

Here is the forcible contrast to the lowly and fading grass of a previous verse, taken from the stateliest and most valuable trees of Palestine. There are many reasons given for the comparison of a Saint to a palm-tree, which have no lack of aptness. The palm grows in a barren soil, as the Saint in this world’s desert, and yet needs constant moisture, as he needs the fountains of the Word. It grows to a great height, and perfectly straight, denoting aspiration to heavenly things and uprightness of life; it grows as long as it lives, is an evergreen, and always fruitful, denoting spiritual improvement and continuous vitality of holiness; its leaves spread out above as high as possible from the ground, and its fruit is amongst those leaves, denoting loftiness of aim and action; it is slender and without bark, denoting the absence of all grossness of habit, or superfluity of possessions; it has wonderful elasticity of fibre, rising up from under heavy weights, a type of that buoyancy of confidence in God which makes His Saints cheerfully cast off troubles, and every part of it is good for some purpose, showing that in a holy life no faculty, talent, or opportunity is suffered to go to waste; and in its symbolical use, both amongst Jews and Pagans, because it never bends before the storm, it is the emblem of victory. The cedar, again, in its mountainous abode, in its vast spreading bulk and majesty, in its deep roots, its sweet perfume, its incorruptible wood, and its great longevity, serves as a type of other endowments of the Saints. They are cedars of Libanus, the “white” mountain, because washed clean from their sins in the waters of Baptism (Cardinal Hugo, Balthazar Corderius), and the precious Blood of Christ, and they also denote the Gentile Martyrs, because Lebanon was outside the actual limits of the Holy Land.

13 (12) Such as are planted in the house of the Lord: shall flourish in the courts of the house of our God.

As the cedar and palm both played their part in Solomon’s temple (Pseudo-Jerome) the one in actual timbers and beams, the other carved everywhere as an ornament; so the Saints of God, likened to these trees, can flourish only when planted within His Church, not merely inside its visible limits, but rooted in its doctrine. St Robert Bellarmine: They have been transplanted thither out of Jewish unbelief, out of Gentile idolatry, out of worldly carelessness, by the agency of God’s servants, for it is written, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God giveth the increase” (1 Cor 3:6). Only there, and only so, can they flourish, for it is written, “Every plant which My Heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up (Mt 13:15, Cardinal Hugo). We may take this house and courts of the Lord to be either the Church Militant (St Albert the Great), especially in the Religious Life, or the Church Triumphant after the Resurrection, in both of which the righteous flourish, though in different fashion. And one who prefers the former interpretation remarks that the courts are in front of the house (Hugo of St Victor), and outside it, and that they denote in this place renunciation of secular things, so that he who gives up the world, plants his palm in the courts of God’s house. It is curious to find it said that they who are planted in the house shall flourish in the courts; (Michael Ayguan), but it is well answered that the righteous are planted by their inner faith in heaven itself, while the outward token of that holy rooting in love is visible in the Church below by their good works and devout conversation, or, as another tells us, (Dionysius the Carthusian) their own hearts are those outer courts of God’s house which are blooming with the trees and flowers of His inner dwelling (Roman Breviary) This verse is in use as a . and . in the Breviary Office for Martyrs.

14 (13) They also shall bring forth more fruit in their age: and shall be fat and well-liking.

Here reference is made to that distinguishing property of the palm-tree, already mentioned, that it never ceases to bear fruit, however old it may be, till its actual death, nay, that its produce is more abundant in its latter years; while the cedar, though not a fruit-bearing tree, continues to spread in bulk and foliage to a vast age (Agellius), thus signifying the undying vitality and productiveness of the Church Universal and of the holy soul to the end of their earthly time (Dionysius the Carthusian). And so the Wise Man, after telling us how “the multiplying brood of the ungodly shall not thrive, nor take deep rooting,” adds that “honourable age is not that which standeth in length of time, nor that which is measured by number of years; but wisdom is the grey hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age” (Wis 4:3, 8; St Bruno of Aste). The Vulgate reading in the latter clause is, They shall be right patient; that is, not merely holding out sternly against suffering, as criminals often do when being punished, but with that patience which is born of love and faith (Michael Ayguan), the endurance of the Martyrs; right patient, because while they preach of heavenly things they bear adversity bravely and cheerfully (Pope St Gregory the Great), that by such endurance they may obtain yet more blessings for their souls. And this notion brings us back to the well-liking, for Tertullian says of patience, that it is “beautiful in every sex and every age.”

15 (14) That they may show how true the Lord my strength is: and that there is no unrighteousness in him.

That is (Honorius), that here in all troubles, and especially when the persecution of Antichrist falls upon the Church, they may continue steadfastly to profess their unshaken faith in the justice and promises of God, their belief that He causes them to suffer only that patience may bring forth her perfect work, and increase the glory of that crown which He, the righteous Judge, our firm Rock, hath promised to bestow upon them, when He brings them into the Sabbath which remaineth for the people of God (St Bruno the Carthusian, Euthymius Zigabenus. See Heb 4:9).

Wherefore: Glory be to the Father, the Most Highest; glory be to the Son, the Lord our Rock; glory be to the Holy Ghost, the fresh Anointing of the Lord. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

VARIOUS USES

Gregorian. Saturday: Lauds.

Monastic. Friday: Lauds. [Comm. of One Martyr: II. Nocturn.]

Ambrosian. Thursday of Second Week: I. Nocturn.

Parisian. Monday: Lauds.

Lyons. Saturday: Lauds.

Quignon. Thursday: Terce.

Eastern Church. Mesorion of Prime.

ANTIPHONS

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord.

Monastic. [Comm. of One Martyr: The righteous shall flourish as a palm-tree, and spread abroad like a cedar in Libanus.]

COLLECTS

Ludolphus of Saxony: O God, the eternal rejoicing of the Saints, Who makest the righteous, strengthened with divers gifts of good things, to flourish unfadingly in the palm-bearing courts; we beseech Thee, that putting away the weight of our sins, Thou mayest vouchsafe to bestow upon us fellowship with them. (Note: If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen).

Mozabaric Liturgy: It is a good thing for us to give thanks unto Thee, O Lord: and to sing unto Thy most high Name; that our confession may deliver us from peril, and our zeal in singing make us more acceptable in Thy sight. (Note: The Mozarabic ending is—at the conclusion of the prayer, without any other termination: Amen. Through Thy mercy, O our God, Who art blessed, and livest and governest all things, to ages of ages. Amen.)

Mozabaric Liturgy for the Memorial of St Juliian: Thy Saints, O Lord, flourish as a palm-tree in Thy sight, and stand planted and rooted in Thy holy courts, who, when set in the conflict of martyrdom, won from their torture the palm of victory, and for death everlasting glory in Thine house. We therefore beseech Thee, O glorious God, that for their great merits Thou mayest grant us pardon for the wickedness of our sins. (see previous note)

Pseudo-Jerome: We beseech Thee, O Lord, that we may fulfil in deed that which we have heard, and turn our words into works, that we who are planted here in Thy house may flourish in the court of Christ. (Note: If the prayer be addressed to God the Son: Who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.)

Dionysius the Carthusian: Plant us in Thine house, O Lord, with virtues, and make us as good seed bear fruit in all loveliness of religion, that growing up like a palm-tree in the flower of righteousness, and perfected therein by Thee, we may flourish in joy in Thy sight for evermore. (Note: If the Collect be addressed to God the Father, the proper ending is: Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, One God, world without end. Amen.)

 

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on John 19:24b-37

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 31, 2018

Ver 24b. These things therefore the soldiers did.25. Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.26. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he says to his mother, Woman, behold your son!27. Then says he to the disciple, Behold your mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.

THEOPHYL. While the soldiers were doing their cruel work, He was thinking anxiously of His mother: These things therefore the soldiers did.  Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.

AMBROSE. Mary the mother of our Lord stood before the cross of her Son. None of the Evangelists hath told me this except John. The others have related how that at our Lord’s Passion the earth quaked, the heaven was overspread with darkness, the sun fled, the thief was taken into paradise after confession. John hath told us, what the others have not, how that from the cross whereon He hung, He called to His mother. He thought it a greater thing to show Him victorious over punishment, fulfilling the offices of piety to His mother, than giving the kingdom of heaven and eternal life to the thief. For if it was religious to give life to the thief, a much richer work of piety it is for a son to honor his mother with such affection. Behold, He says, your son; behold your mother. Christ made His Testament from the cross, and divided the offices of piety between the Mother and the disciples. Our Lord made not only a public, but also a domestic Testament. And this His Testament John sealed a witness worthy of such a Testator. A good testament it was, not of money, but of eternal life, which was not written with ink, but with tile spirit of the living God: My tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Mary, as became the mother of our Lord, stood before the cross, when the Apostles fled and With pitiful eyes beheld the wounds of her Son. For she looked not on the death of the Hostage, but on the salvation of the world; end perhaps knowing that her Son’s death would bring this salvation, she who had been the habitation of the King, thought that by her death she might add to that universal gift.

But Jesus did not need any help for saving the v world, as you read in the Psalm, I have been even as a man with no help, free among the dead. He received indeed the affection of a parent, but He did not seek another’s help. Imitate her, you holy matrons, who, as towards here only most beloved Son, has set you an example of such virtue: for you have not sweeter sons, nor did the Virgin seek consolation in again becoming a mother.

JEROME. The Mary which in Mark and Matthew is called the mother of James and Joses was the wife of Alpheus, and sister of Mary the mother of our Lord: which Mary John here designates of Cleophas, either from her father, or family, or for some other reason. She need not be thought a different person, because she is called in one place Mary the mother of James the less, and here Mary of Cleophas, for it is customary in Scripture to give different names to the same person.

CHRYS. Observe how the weaker sex is the stronger; standing by the cross when the disciples fly.

AUG. If Matthew and Mark had not mentioned by name Mary Magdalene, we should have thought that there were two parties, one of which stood far off, and the other near. But how must we account for the same Mary Magdalene and the other women standing afar off, as Matthew and Mark say, and being near the cross, as John says? By supposing that they were within such a distance as to be within sight of our Lord, and yet sufficiently far off to be out of the way of the crowd and Centurion, and soldiers who were immediately about Him. Or, we e may suppose that after our Lord had commended His mother to the disciple, they retired to be out of the way of the crowd, and saw what took place afterwards at a distance: so that those Evangelists who do not mention them till after our Lord’s death, describe them as standing afar off. That some women are mentioned by all alike, others not, makes no matter.

CHRYS. Though there were other women by, He makes no mention of any of them, but only of His mother, to show us that v, e should specially honor our mothers. Our parents indeed, if they actually oppose the truth, are not even to be known: but otherwise we should pay them all attention, and honor them above all the world beside: When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, He says to His mother, Woman, behold your son!

BEDE. By the disciple whom Jesus loved, the Evangelist means himself; not that the others were not loved, but he was loved more intimately on account of his estate of chastity; for a Virgin our Lord called him, and a Virgin he ever remained.

CHRYS. Heavens! what honor does He pay to the disciple; who however conceals his name from modesty. For had he wished to boast, he would have added the reason why he was loved, for there must have been something great and wonderful to have caused that love. This is all He says to John; He does not console his grief, for this was a time for giving consolation. Yet was it no small one to be honored with such a charge, to have the mother of our Lord, in her affliction, committed to his care by Himself on His departure: Then says He to the disciple, Behold your mother!

AUG. This truly is that hour of the which Jesus, when about to change the water into wine, said, Mother, what have I to do with you? Mine hour is not yet come. Then, about to act divinely, He repelled the mother of His humanity, of His infirmity, as if He knew her not: now, suffering humanly, He commends with human affection her of whom He was made man. Here is a moral lesson. The good Teacher shows us by His example how that pious sons should take care of their parents. The cross of the sufferer, is the chair of the Master.

CHRYS. The shameless doctrine of Marcion is refuted here. For if our Lord were not born according to the flesh, and had not a mother, why did He make such provision for her? Observe how imperturbable He is during His crucifixion, talking to the disciple of His mother, fulfilling prophecies, airing good hope to the thief; whereas before His crucifixion, He seemed in fear. The weakness of His nature was strewn there, the exceeding greatness of His power here. He teaches us too herein, not to turn back, because we may feel disturbed at the difficulties before us for when we are once actually under the trial, all will be; light and easy for us.

AUG. He does this to provide as it were another son for His mother in his place; And from that hour that disciple took her to his own. To his own what? Was not John one of those who said, Lo, we have left all, and followed You? He took her then to his own, i. e not to his farm, for he had none, but to his care, for of this he was master.

BEDE. Another reading is, Accepy eam disciplus in suam, his own mother some understand, but to his own care seems better.

Ver 28. After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst.29. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.30. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

AUG. He who appeared man, suffered all these things, He who was God, ordered them: After this Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished; i.e. knowing the prophecy in the Psalms, And when I was thirsty, they gave me vinegar to drink, said, I thirst: As if to say, you have not done all give me yourselves: for the Jews were themselves vinegar having degenerated from the wine of the Patriarchs and the Prophets.

Now there was a vessel full of vinegar: they had drunk from the wickedness of the world, as from a full vessel, and their heart was deceitful, as it were a sponge full of caves and crooked hiding places: And they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth.

CHRYS. They were not softened at all by what they saw, but were the more enraged, and gave Him the cup to drink, as they did to criminals, i.e. with a hyssop.

AUG. The hyssop around which they put the sponge full of vinegar, being a mean herb, taken to purge the breast, represents the humility of Christ, which they hemmed in and thought they had circumvented. For we are made clean by Christ s humility. Nor let it perplex you that they were able to reach His mouth when He was such a height above the ground: for we read in the other Evangelists, what John omits to mention, that the sponge was put upon a reed.

THEOPHYL. Some say that the hyssop is put here for reed, its leaves being like a reed.  When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished.

AUG. viz. what prophecy had foretold so long before.

BEDE. It may be asked here, why it is said, When Jesus had received the vinegar, when another Evangelists says, He would not drink. But this is easily settled. He did not receive the vinegar, to drink it, but fulfill the prophecy.

AUG. Then as there was nothing left Him to do before He died, it follows, And He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost, only dying when He had nothing more to do, like Him who had to lay down His life, and to take it up again.

GREG. Ghost is put here for soul: for had the Evangelist meant any thing else by it, though the ghost departed, in the soul might still have remained.

CHRYS. He did not bow His head because He gave up the ghost, but He gave up the ghost because at that moment He bowed His head. Whereby the Evangelist intimates that He was Lord of all.

AUG. For whoever had such power to sleep when he wished, as our Lord had to die when He wished? What power must He have, for our good or evil, Who had such power dying?

THEOPHYL. Our Lord gave up His ghost to God the Father, showing that the souls of the saints do not remain in the tomb, but go into the hand of the Father of all while sinners are reserved – for the place of punishment, i.e. hell.

Ver  31. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath clay, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.32. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him,33. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they broke not his legs:34. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water.35. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knows that he says true, that you might believe.36. For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.37. And again another Scripture says, They shall look on him whom they pierced.

CHRYS. The Jews who strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel after their audacious wickedness, reason scrupulously about the day: The Jews therefore because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath.

BEDE. Parasceue, i. e. preparation: the sixth day was so called because the children of Israel prepared twice the number of loaves on that day. For that Sabbath day was an high day, i. e. on account of the feast of the passover.  Besought Pilate that their legs might be broken.

AUG. Not in order to take away the legs, but to cause death, that they might be taken down from the cross, and the feast day not be defiled by the sight of such horrid torments.

THEOPHYL. For it was commanded in the Law that the sun should not set on the punishment of anyone; or they were unwilling to appear tormentors and homicides on a feast day.

CHRYS. How forcible is truth: their own devices it is that accomplish the fulfillment of prophecy: Then came the soldiers and broke the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with Him.

But when they came to Jesus, an saw that He was dead already, they broke not His legs:  but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side.

THEOPHYL. To please the Jews, they pierce Christ, thus insulting even His lifeless body. But the insult issues in a miracle: for a miracle it is that blood should flow from a dead body.

AUG. The Evangelist has expressed himself cautiously; not struck, or wounded, but opened His side: whereby was opened the gate of life, from whence the sacraments of the Church flowed, without which we cannot enter into that life which is the true life: And forthwith came thereout blood and water. That blood was shed for the remission of sins, that water tempers the cup of salvation. This it was which was prefigured when Noah was commanded to make a door in the side of the ark, by which the animals that were not to perish by the deluge entered; which animals prefigured the Church. To shadow forth this, the woman was made out of the side of the sleeping man; for this second Adam bowed His head, and slept on the cross, that out of that which came therefrom, there might be formed a wife for Him. O death, by which the dead are quickened, what can be purer than that blood, what more salutary than that wound!

CHRYS. This being the source whence the holy mysteries are derived, when you approach the awful cup, approach it as if you were about to drink out of Christ’s side.

THEOPHYL. Shame then upon them who mix not water with the wine in the holy mysteries: they seem as if they believed not that the water flowed from the side. Had blood flowed only, a man might have said that there was some life left in the body, and that that was as why the blood flowed. But the water flowing is an irresistible miracle, and therefore the Evangelist adds, And he that saw it bare record.

CHRYS. As if to say, I did not hear it from others, but saw it with mine own eyes. And his record is true, he adds, not as if he had mentioned something so wonderful that his account would be suspected, but to stop the mouths of heretics, and in contemplation of the deep value of those mysteries which he announces.  And he knows that he says true, the you might believe.

AUG. He that saw it knows; let him that saw not believe his testimony. He gives testimonies from the Scriptures to each of these two things he relates. After, they brake not His legs, He adds, For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of Him shall not be broken, a commandment which applied to the sacrifice of the paschal lamb under the old law, which sacrifice foreshadowed our Lord’s. Also after, One of the soldiers with a spear opened His side, then follows another Scripture testimony; And again another Scripture said, They shall look on Him whom they pierced, a prophecy which implies that Christ will come in the very flesh in which He was crucified.

JEROME. This testimony is taken from Zacharias.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Mark 3:19-35

Posted by Dim Bulb on March 17, 2018

19. —— And they went into an house.

20. And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.

21. And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

22. And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

Bede. (ubi sup.) The Lord leads the Apostles, when they were elected, into a house, as if admonishing them, that after having received the Apostleship, they should retire to look on their own consciences. Wherefore it is said, And they came into a house, and the multitude came together again, so that they could not eat bread.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) Ungrateful indeed were the multitudes of princes, whom their pride hinders from knowledge, but the grateful multitude of the people came to Jesus.

Bede. (ubi sup.) And blessed indeed the concourse of the crowd, flocking together, whose anxiety to obtain salvation was so great, that they left not the Author of salvation even an hour free to take food. But Him, whom a crowd of strangers loves to follow, his relations hold in little esteem: for it goes on: And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold upon him. For since they could not take in the depth of wisdom, which they heard, they thought that He was speaking in a senseless way, wherefore it continues, for they said, He is beside himself.

Theophylact. That is, He has a devil and is mad, and therefore they wished to lay hold upon Him, that they might shut Him up as one who had a devil. And even His friends wished to do this, that is, His relations, perchance His countrymen, or His brethren.1But it was a silly insanity in them, to conceive that the Worker of such great miracles of Divine Wisdom had become mad.

Bede. (ubi sup.) Now there is a great difference between those who do not understand the word of God from slowness of intellect, such as those, who are here spoken of, and those who purposely blaspheme, of whom it is added, And the Scribes which came down from Jerusalem, &c. For what they could not deny, they endeavour to pervert by a malicious interpretation, as if they were not the works of God, but of a most unclean spirit, that is, of Beelzebub, who was the God of Ekron. For ‘Beel’ means Baal himself, and ‘zebub’ a fly; the meaning of Beelzebub therefore is the man of flies, on account of the filth of the blood which was offered, from which most unclean rite, they call him prince of the devils, adding, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

Pseudo-Jerome. But mystically, the house to which they came, is the early Church. The crowds which prevent their eating bread are sins and vices; for he who eateth unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself. (1 Cor. 11:29)

Bede. (ubi sup.) The Scribes also coming down from Jerusalem blaspheme. But the multitude from Jerusalem, and from other regions of Judæa, or of the Gentiles, followed the Lord, because so it was to be at the time of His Passion, that a crowd of the people of the Jews should lead Him to Jerusalem with palms and praises, and the Gentiles should desire to see Him; but the Scribes and Pharisees should plot together for His death.

23. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?

24. And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

25. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

26. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.

27. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

28. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:

29. But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

30. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) The blasphemy of the Scribes having been detailed, our Lord shews that what they said was impossible, confirming His proof by an example. Wherefore it says, And having called them together unto him, he said unto them in parables. How can Satan cast out Satan? As if He had said, A kingdom divided against itself by civil war must be desolated, which is exemplified both in a house and in a city. Wherefore also if Satan’s kingdom be divided against itself, so that Satan expels Satan from men, the desolation of the kingdom of the devils is at hand. But their kingdom consists in keeping men under their dominion. If therefore they are driven away from men, it amounts to nothing less than the dissolution of their kingdom. But if they still hold their power over men, it is manifest that the kingdom of evil is still standing, and Satan is not divided against himself.

Gloss. (non occ.) And because He has already shewn by an example that a devil cannot cast out a devil, He shews how he can be expelled, saying, No man can enter into a strong man’s house, &c.

Theophylact. The meaning of the example is this: The devil is the strong man; his goods are the men into whom he is received; unless therefore a man first conquers the devil, how can he deprive him of his goods, that is, of the men whom he has possessed? So also I who spoil his goods, that is, free men from suffering by his possession, first spoil the devils and vanquish them, and am their enemy. How then can ye say that I have Beelzebub, and that being the friend of the devils, I cast them out?

Bede. (in Marc. i. 17) The Lord has also bound the strong man, that is, the devil: which means, He has restrained him from seducing the elect, and entering into his house, the world; He has spoiled his house, and his goods, that is men, because He has snatched them from the snares of the devil, and has united them to His Church. Or, He has spoiled his house, because the four parts of the world, over which the old enemy had sway, He has distributed to the Apostles and their successors, that they may convert the people to the way of life. But the Lord shews that they committed a great sin, in crying out that that which they knew to be of God, was of the devil, when He subjoins, Verily I say unto you, All sins are forgiven, &c. All sins and blasphemies are not indeed remitted to all men, but to those who have gone through a repentance in this life sufficient for their sins; thus neither is Novatusm right, who denied that any pardon should be granted to penitents, who had lapsed in time of martyrdom; nor Origen, who asserts that after the general judgment, after the revolution of ages, all sinners will receive pardon for their sins, which error the following words of the Lord condemn, when He adds, But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, &c.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) He says indeed, that blasphemy concerning Himself was pardonable, because He then seemed to be a man despised and of the most lowly birth, but, that contumely against God has no remission. Now blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is against God, for the operation of the Holy Ghost is the kingdom of God; and for this reason, He says, that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost cannot be remitted. Instead, however, of what is here added, But will be in danger of eternal damnation, another Evangelist says, Neither in this world, nor in the world to come. By which is understood, the judgment which is according to the law, and that which is to come. For the law orders one who blasphemes God to be slain, and in the judgment of the second law he has no remission.nHowever, he who is baptized is taken out of this world; but the Jews were ignorant of the remission which takes place in baptism. He therefore who refers to the devil miracles, and the casting out of devils which belong to the Holy Ghost alone, has no room left him for remission of his blasphemy. Neither does it appear that such a blasphemy as this is remitted, since it is against the Holy Ghost. Wherefore he adds, explaining it, Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

Theophylact. We must however understand, that they will not obtain pardon unless they repent. But since it was at the flesh of Christ that they were offended, even though they did not repent, some excuse was allowed them, and they obtained some remission.

Pseudo-Jerome. Or this is meant; that he will not deserve to work out repentance, so as to be accepted, who, understanding who Christ was, declared that He was the prince of the devils.

Bede. (ubi sup.) Neither however are those, who do not believe the Holy Spirit to be God, guilty of an unpardonable blasphemy, because they were persuaded to do this by human ignorance, not by devilish malice.

Augustine. (Serm. 71, 12, 21) Or else impenitence itself is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost which hath no remission. For either in his thought or by his tongue, he speaks a word against the Holy Ghost the forgiver of sins, who treasures up for himself an impenitent heart. But he subjoins, Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit, that he might shew that His reason for saying it, was their declaring that He cast out a devil by Beelzebub, not because there is a blasphemy, which cannot be remitted since even this might be remitted through a right repentance: but the cause why this sentence was put forth by the Lord, after mentioning the unclean spirit, (who as our Lord shews was divided against himself,) was, that the Holy Ghost even makes those whom He brings together undivided, by His remitting those sins, which divided them from Himself, which gift of remission is resisted by no one, but him who has the hardness of an impenitent heart. For in another place, the Jews said of the Lord, that He had a devil, (John 7:20.) without however His saying any thing there about the blasphemy against the Spirit; and the reason is, that they did not there cast in His teeth the unclean spirit, in such a way, that that spirit could by their own words be shewn to be divided against Himself, as Beelzebub was here shewn to be, by their saying, that it might be he who cast out devilso.

31. There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

32. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee.

33. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

34. And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

35. For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

Theophylact. Because the relations of the Lord had come to seize upon Him, as if beside Himself, His mother, urged by the sympathy of her love, came to Him; wherefore it is said, And there came unto him his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

Chrysostom. (non occ.) From this it is manifest that His brethren and His mother were not always with Him; but because He was beloved by them, they come from reverence and affection, waiting without. Wherefore it goes on, And the multitude sat about him, &c.

Bede. (ubi sup.) The brothers of the Lord must not be thought to be the sons of the ever-virgin Mary, as Helvidius sayp, nor the sons of Joseph by a former marriage, as some think, but rather they must be understood to be His relations.

Pseudo-Chrysostom. (Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.) But another Evangelist says, that His brethren did not believe on Him. With which this agrees, which says, that they sought Him, waiting without, and with this meaning the Lord does not mention them as relations. Wherefore it follows, And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother or my brethren? (John 7:5) But He does not here mention His mother and His brethren altogether with reproof, but to shew that a man must honour his own soul above all earthly kindred; wherefore this is fitly said to those who called Him to speak with His mother and relations, as if it were a more useful task than the teaching of salvation.

Bede. (Ambr in Luc. 6, 36. Bede ubi sup.) Being asked therefore by a message to go out, He declines, not as though He refused the dutiful service of His mother, but to shew that He owes more to His Father’s mysteries than to His mother’s feelings. Nor does He rudely despise His brothers, but, preferring His spiritual work to fleshly relationship, He teaches us that religion is the bond of the heart rather than that of the body. Wherefore it goes on, And looking round about on them which sat about him, he said, Behold my mother and my brethren.

Chrysostom. (non occ.) By this, the Lord shews that we should honour those who are relations by faith rather than those who are relations by blood. A man indeed is made the mother of Jesus by preaching Himq; for He, as it were, brings forth the Lord, when he pours Him into the heart of his hearers.

Pseudo-Jerome. But let us be assured that we are His brethren and His sisters, if we do the will of the Father; that we may be joint-heirs with Him, for He discerns us not by sex but by our deeds. Wherefore it goes on: Whosoever shall do the will of God, &c.

Theophylact. He does not therefore say this, as denying His mother, but as shewing that He is worthy of honour, not only because she bore Christ, but on account of her possessing every other virtue.

Bede. (ubi sup.) But mystically, the mother and brother of Jesus means the synagogue, (from which according to the flesh He sprung,) and the Jewish people who, while the Saviour is teaching within, come to Him, and are not able to enter, because they cannot understand spiritual things. But the crowd eagerly enter, because when the Jews delayed, the Gentiles flocked to Christ; but His kindred, who stand without wishing to see the Lord, are the Jews who obstinately remained without, guarding the letter, and would rather compel the Lord to go forth to them to teach carnal things, than consent to enter in to learn spiritual things of Him. (Ambr in Luc. 6, 37.). If therefore not even His parents when standing without are acknowledged, how shall we be acknowledged, if we stand without? For the word is within and the light within.

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St Augustine’s Tractates on John 1:6-8, 19-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 27, 2017

TRACTATE TWO
Jn 1:6-8

It is fitting, brethren, that as far as possible we should treat of the text of Holy Scripture, and especially of the Holy Gospel, without omitting any portion, that both we ourselves may derive nourishment according to our capacity, and may minister to you from that source from which we have been nourished. Last Lord’s day, we remember, we treated of the first section; that is, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was nothing made. That which was made, in Him is life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” So far, I believe, had I advanced in the treatment of the passage: let all who were present recall what was then said; and those of you who were not present, believe me and those who chose to be present. Now therefore,—because we cannot always be repeating everything, out of justice to those who desire to hear what follows, and because repetition of the former thought is a burden to them and deprives them of what succeeds,—let those who were absent on the former occasion refrain from demanding repetition, but, together with those who were here, listen to the present exposition.

2. It goes on, “There was a man sent from God whose name was John.” Truly, brethren beloved, those things which were said before, were said regarding the ineffable divinity of Christ, and almost ineffably. For who shall comprehend “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God”? And do not allow the name word to appear mean to you, through the habit of daily words, for it is added, “and the Word was God.” This Word is He of whom yesterday we spoke much; and I trust that God was present, and that even from only thus much speaking something reached your hearts. “In the beginning was the Word.” He is the same, and is in the same manner; as He is, so He is always; He cannot be changed; that is, He is. This His name He spoke to His servant Moses: “I am that I am; and He that is hath sent me.”1 Who then shall comprehend this when you see that all mortal things are variable; when you see that not only do bodies vary as to their qualities, by being born, by increasing, by becoming less, by dying, but that even souls themselves through the effect of divers volitions are distended and divided; when you see that men can obtain wisdom if they apply themselves to its light and heat, and also lose wisdom if they remove themselves from it through some evil influence? When, therefore, you see that all those things are variable, what is that which is, unless that which transcends all things which are so that they are not? Who then can receive this? Or who, in what manner soever he may have applied the strength of his mind to touch that which is, is, can reach to that which he may in any way have touched with his mind? It is as if one were to see his native land at a distance, and the sea intervening; he sees whither he would go, but he has not the means of going. So we desire to arrive at that our stability where that which is, because this alone always is as it is: the sea of this world interrupts our course, even although already we see whither we go; for many do not even see whither they go. That there might be a way by which we could go, He has come from Him to whom we wished to go. And what has He done? He has appointed a tree by which we may cross the sea. For no one is able to cross the sea of this world, unless borne by the cross of Christ. Even he who is of weak eyesight sometimes embraces this cross; and he who does not see from afar whither he goes, let him not depart from it, and it will carry him over.

3. Therefore, my brethren, I would desire to have impressed this upon your hearts: if you wish to live in a pious and Christian manner, cling to Christ according to that which He became for us, that you may arrive at Him according to that which is, and according to that which was. He approached, that for us He might become this; because He became that for us, on which the weak may be borne, and cross the sea of this world and reach their native country; where there will be no need of a ship, for no sea is crossed. It is better then not to see with the mind that which is, and yet not to depart from the cross of Christ, than to see it with the mind, and despise the cross of Christ. It is good beyond this, and best of all, if it be possible, that we both see whither we ought to go, and hold fast that which carries us as we go. This they were able to do, the great minds of the mountains, who have been called mountains, whom the light of divine justice pre-eminently illuminates; they were able to do this, and saw that which is. For John seeing said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” They saw this, and in order that they might arrive at that which they saw from afar, they did not depart from the cross of Christ, and did not despise Christ’s lowliness. But little ones who cannot understand this, who do not depart from the cross and passion and resurrection of Christ, are conducted in that same ship to that which they do not see, in which they also arrive who do see.

4. But truly there have been some philosophers of this world who have sought for the Creator by means of the creature; for He can be found by means of the creature, as the apostle plainly says, “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and glory; so they are without excuse.” And it follows, “Because that, when they knew God;” he did not say, Because they did not know, but “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” How darkened? It follows, when he says more plainly: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”2 They saw whither they must come; but ungrateful to Him who afforded them what they saw, they wished to ascribe to themselves what they saw; and having become proud, they lost what they saw, and were turned from it to idols and images, and to the worship of demons, to adore the creature and to despise the Creator. But these having been blinded did those things, and became proud, that they might be blinded: when they were proud they said that they were wise. Those, therefore, concerning whom he said, “Who, when they had known God,” saw this which John says, that by the Word of God all things were made. For these things are also found in the books of the philosophers: and that God has an only-begotten Son, by whom are all things. They were able to see that which is, but they saw it from afar: they were unwilling to hold the lowliness of Christ, in which ship they might have arrived in safety at that which they were able to see from afar; and the cross of Christ appeared vile to them. The sea has to be crossed, and dost thou despise the wood? Oh, proud wisdom! thou laughest to scorn the crucified Christ; it is He whom thou dost see from afar: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But wherefore was He crucified? Because the wood of His humiliation was needful to thee. For thou hadst become swollen with pride, and hadst been cast out far from that fatherland; and by the waves of this world has the way been intercepted, and there is no means of passing to the fatherland unless borne by the wood. Ungrateful one! thou laughest Him to scorn who has come to thee that thou mayest return: He has become the way, and that through the sea:1 thence He walked in the sea to show that there is a way in the sea. But thou who art not able in any way thyself to walk in the sea, be carried in a ship, be carried by the wood: believe in the crucified One, and thou shalt arrive thither. On account of thee He was crucified, to teach thee humility; and because if He should come as God, He would not be recognized. For if He should come as God, He would not come to those who were not able to see God. For not according to His Godhead does He either come or depart; since He is everywhere present, and is contained in no place. But, according to what did He come? He appeared as a man.

5. Therefore, because He was so man, that the God lay hid in Him, there was sent before Him a great man, by whose testimony He might be found to be more than man. And who is this? “He was a man.” And how could that man speak the truth concerning God? “He was sent by God.” What was he called? “Whose name was John.” Wherefore did he come? “He came for a witness, that he might bear witness concerning the light, that all might believe through him.” What sort of man was he who was to bear witness concerning the light? Something great was that John, vast merit, great grace, great loftiness! Admire, by all means, admire; but as it were a mountain. But a mountain is in darkness unless it be clothed with light. Therefore only admire John that you may hear what follows, “He was not that light;” lest if, when thou thinkest the mountain to be the light, thou make shipwreck on the mountain, and find not consolation. But what oughtest thou to admire? The mountain as a mountain. But lift thyself up to Him who illuminates the mountain, which for this end was elevated that it might be the first to receive the rays, and make them known to your eyes. Therefore, “he was not that light.”

6. Wherefore then did he come? “But that he might bear witness concerning the light.” Why so? “That all might believe through him.” And concerning what light was he to bear witness? “That was the true light.” Wherefore is it added true? Because an enlightened man is also called a light; but the true light is that which enlightens. For even our eyes are called lights; and nevertheless, unless either during the night a lamp is lighted, or during the day the sun goes forth, these lights are open in vain. Thus, therefore, John was a light, but not the true light; because, if not enlightened, he would have been darkness; but, by enlightenment, he became a light. For unless he had been enlightened he would have been darkness, as all those once impious men, to whom, as believers, the apostle said, “Ye were sometimes darkness.” But now, because they had believed, what?—“but now are ye light,” he says, “in the Lord.”2 Unless he had added “in the Lord,” we should not have understood. “Light,” he says, “in the Lord:” darkness you were not in the Lord. “For ye were sometimes darkness,” where he did not add in the Lord. Therefore, darkness in you, light in the Lord. And thus “he was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of the light.”

TRACTATE FOUR
Jn 1:19-28

You have very often heard, holy brethren, and you know well, that John the Baptist, in proportion as he was greater than those born of women, and was more humble in his acknowledgment of the Lord, obtained the grace of being the friend of the Bridegroom; zealous for the Bridegroom, not for himself; not seeking his own honor, but that of his Judge, whom as a herald he preceded. Therefore, to the prophets who went before, it was granted to predict concerning Christ; but to this man, to point Him out with the finger. For as Christ was unknown by those who did not believe the prophets before He came, He remained unknown to them even when present. For He had come humbly and concealed from the first; the more concealed in proportion as He was more humble: but the people, despising in their pride the humility of God, crucified their Saviour, and made Him their condemner.

2. But will not He who at first came concealed, because humble, come again manifested, because exalted? You have just listened to the Psalm: “God shall come manifestly, and our God shall not keep silence.”1 He was silent that He might be judged, He will not be silent when He begins to judge.2 It would not have been said, “He will come manifestly,” unless at first He had come concealed; nor would it have been said, “He shall not keep silence,” unless He had first kept silence. How was He silent? Interrogate Isaiah: “He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before his shearer was dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” “But He shall come manifestly, and shall not keep silence.” In what manner “manifestly”? “A fire shall go before Him, and round about Him a strong tempest.”3 That tempest has to carry away all the chaff from the floor, which is now being threshed; and the fire has to burn what the tempest carries away. But now He is silent; silent in judgment, but not silent in precept. For if Christ is silent, what is the purpose of these Gospels? what the purpose of the voices of the apostles, what of the canticles of the Psalms, what of the declarations of the prophets? In all these Christ is not silent. But now He is silent in not taking vengeance: He is not silent in not giving warning. But He will come in glory to take vengeance, and will manifest Himself even to all who do not believe on Him. But now, because when present He was concealed, it behoved that He should be despised. For unless He had been despised, He would not have been crucified; if He had not been crucified, He would not have shed His blood—the price by which He redeemed us. But that He might give a price for us, He was crucified; that He might be crucified, He was despised; that He might be despised, He appeared in humility.

3. Yet because He appeared as it were in the night, in a mortal body, He lighted for Himself a lamp by which He might be seen. That lamp was John,4 concerning whom you lately heard many things: and the present passage of the evangelist contains the words of John; in the first place, and it is the chief point, his confession that he was not the Christ. But so great was the excellence of John, that men might have believed him to be the Christ: and in this he gave a proof of his humility, that he said he was not when he might have been believed to have been the Christ; therefore, “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to him from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?” But they would not have sent unless they had been moved by the excellence of his authority who ventured to baptize. “And he confessed, and denied not.” What did he confess? “And he confessed, I am not the Christ.”

4. ‘And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias?” For they knew that Elias was to precede Christ. For to no Jew was the name of Christ unknown. They did not think that he was the Christ; but they did not think that Christ would not come at all. When they were hoping that He would come, they were offended at Him when He was present, and stumbled at Him as on a low stone. For He was as yet a small stone, already indeed cut out of the mountain without hands; as saith Daniel the prophet, that he saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands. But what follows? “And that stone,” saith he “grew and became a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth.”5 Mark then, my beloved brethren, what I say: Christ, before the Jews, was already cut out from the mountain. The prophet wishes that by the mountain should be understood the Jewish kingdom. But the kingdom of the Jews had not filled the whole face of the earth. The stone was cut out from thence, because from thence was the Lord born on His advent among men. And wherefore without hands? Because without the cooperation of man did the Virgin bear Christ. Now then was that stone cut out without hands before the eyes of the Jews; but it was humble. Not without reason; because not yet had that stone increased and filled the whole earth: that He showed in His kingdom, which is the Church, with which He has filled the whole face of the earth. Because then it had not yet increased, they stumbled at Him as at a stone: and that happened in them which is written, “Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever that stone shall fall, it will grind them to powder.”6 At first they fell upon Him lowly: as the lofty One He shall come upon them; but that He may grind them to powder when He comes in His exaltation, He first broke them in His lowliness. They stumbled at Him, and were broken; they were not ground, but broken: He will come exalted and will grind them. But the Jews were to be pardoned because they stumbled at a stone which had not yet increased. What sort of persons are those who stumble at the mountain itself? Already you know who they are of whom I speak. Those who deny the Church diffused through the whole world, do not stumble at the lowly stone, but at the mountain itself: because this the stone became as it grew. The blind Jews did not see the lowly stone: but how great blindness not to see the mountain!

5. They saw Him then lowly, and did not know Him. He was pointed out to them by a lamp. For in the first place he, than whom no greater had arisen of those born of women, said, “I am not the Christ.” It was said to him, “Art thou Elias? He answered, I am not.” For Christ sends Elias before Him: and he said, “I am not,” and occasioned a question for us. For it is to be feared lest men, insufficiently understanding, think that John contradicted what Christ said. For in a certain place, when the Lord Jesus Christ said certain things in the Gospel regarding Himself, His disciples answered Him: “How then say the scribes,” that is, those skilled in the law, “that Elias must first come?” And the Lord said, “Elias is already come, and they have done unto him what they listed;” and, if you wish to know, John the Baptist is he.1 The Lord Jesus Christ said, “Elias is already come, and John the Baptist” is he; but John, being interrogated, confessed that he was not Elias, in the same manner that he confessed that he was not Christ. And as his confession that he was not Christ was true, so was his confession that he was not Elias. How then shall we compare the words of the herald with the words of the Judge? Away with the thought that the herald speaks falsehood; for that which he speaks he hears from the Judge. Wherefore then did he say, “I am not Elias;” and the Lord, “He is Elias”? Because the Lord Jesus Christ wished in him to prefigure His own advent, and to say that John was in the spirit of Elias. And what John was to the first advent, that will Elias be to the second advent. As there are two advents of the Judge, so are there two heralds. The Judge indeed was the same, but the heralds two, but not two judges. It was needful that in the first instance the Judge should come to be judged. He sent before Him His first herald; He called him Elias, because Elias will be in the second advent what John was in the first.

6. For mark, beloved brethren, how true it is what I say. When John was conceived, or rather when he was born, the Holy Spirit prophesied that this would be fulfilled in him: “And he shall be,” he said, “the forerunner of the Highest, in the spirit and power of Elias.”2 What signifieth “in the spirit and power of Elias”? In the same Holy Spirit in the room of Elias. Wherefore in room of Elias? Because what Elias will be to the second, that John was to the first advent. Rightly therefore, speaking literally, did John reply. For the Lord spoke figuratively, “Elias, the same is John:” but he, as I have said, spoke literally when he said, “I am not Elias.” Neither did John speak falsely, nor did the Lord speak falsely; neither was the word of the herald nor of the Judge false, if only thou understand. But who shall understand? He who shall have imitated the lowliness of the herald, and shall have acknowledged the loftiness of the Judge. For nothing was more lowly than the herald. My brethren, in nothing had John greater merit than in this humility, inasmuch as when he was able to deceive men, and to be thought Christ, and to have been received in the place of Christ (for so great were his grace and his excellency), nevertheless he openly confessed and said, “I am not the Christ.” “Art thou Elias?” If he had said I am Elias, it would have been as if Christ were already coming in His second advent to judge, not in His first to be judged. As if saying. Elias is yet to come, “I am not,” said he, “Elias.” But give heed to the lowly One before whom John came, that you may not feel the lofty One before whom Elias came. For thus also did the Lord complete the saying: “John the Baptist is he which is to come.” He came as a figure of that in which Elias is to come in his own person. Then Elias will in his own proper person be Elias, now in similitude he was John. Now John in his own proper person is John, in similitude Elias. The two heralds gave to each other their similitudes, and kept their own proper persons; but the Judge is one Lord, whether preceded by this herald or by that.

7. “And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he said, No. And they said unto him, Art thou a prophet? and he answered, No! They said therefore unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He saith, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.”3 That said Isaiah. This prophecy was fulfilled in John, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Crying what? “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.” Would it not have seemed to you that a herald would have cried, “Go away, make room.” Instead of the herald’s cry “Go away,” John says “Come.” The herald makes men stand back from the judge; to the Judge John calls. Yes, indeed, John calls men to the lowly One, that they may not experience what He will be as the exalted Judge. “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah.” He did not say, I am John, I am Elias, I am a prophet. But what did he say? This I am called, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way for the Lord: I am the prophecy itself.”

8. “And they which were sent were of the Pharisees,” that is, of the chief men among the Jews; “and they asked him and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet?” As if it seemed to them audacity to baptize, as if they meant to inquire, in what character baptizest thou? We ask whether thou art the Christ; thou sayest that thou art not. We ask whether thou perchance art His precursor, for we know that before the advent of Christ, Elias will come; thou answerest that thou art not. We ask, if perchance thou art some herald come long before, that is, a prophet, and hast received that power, and thou sayest that thou art not a prophet. And John was not a prophet; he was greater than a prophet. The Lord gave such testimony concerning him: “What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the wind?” Of course implying that he was not shaken by the wind; because John was not such an one as is moved by the wind; for he who is moved by the wind is blown upon by every seductive blast. “But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment?” For John was clothed in rough garments; that is, his tunic was of camel’s hair. “Behold, they who are clothed in soft raiment are in kings’ houses.” You did not then go out to see a man clothed in soft raiment. “But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, one greater than a prophet is here;”1 for the prophets prophesied of Christ a long time before, John pointed Him out as present.

9. “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not the Christ, nor Elias, nor a prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water; but there standeth One among you whom ye know not.” For, very truly, He was not seen, being humble, and therefore was the lamp lighted. Observe how John gives place, who might have been accounted other than he was. “He it is who cometh after me, who is made before me” (that is, as we have already said, is “preferred before me”), whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” How greatly did he humble himself! And therefore he was greatly lifted up; for he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.2 Hence, holy brethren, you ought to note that if John so humbled himself as to say, “I am not worthy to unloose His shoe-latchet,” what need they have to be humbled who say, “We baptize; what we give is ours, and what is ours is holy.” He said, Not I, but He; they say, We. John is not worthy to unloose His shoe’s latchet; and if he had said he was worthy, how humble would he still have been! And if he had said he was worthy, and had spoken thus, “He came after me who is made before me, the latchet of whose shoe I am only worthy to unloose,” he would have greatly humbled himself. But when he says that he is not worthy even to do this, truly was he full of the Holy Spirit, who in such fashion as a servant acknowledged his Lord, and merited to be made a friend instead of a servant.

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Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 12

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 11, 2017

Psalm 12

Title. To the chief musician upon Sheminith: a Psalm of David.

Argument

Arg. Thomas. That Christ rose for our miseries and necessities. Spoken by Christ concerning the Passion of His Saints.

Eusebius. The insurrection of the ungodly, and the expectation of Christ.

Ven. Bede: To the end: for the eighth. The eighth pertains to eternal rest; for there is no eighth day in the week of this world, but when the seventh is over, the first comes round again. The prophet, therefore, asks that the iniquity of this world may be destroyed, and that the reality of good things to come may be made manifest. Rightly, therefore, is this Psalm appropriated to the eighth day, since it speaks of leaving the evil customs of this, and of aspiring to the innocence of the next, world. In the first part, the Prophet makes supplication that he may be delivered from the perversity of this world, since the crafty and the proud denied the power of the Lord by their wicked speeches. In the second, he foretells that the promise of the Father is to be accomplished by the Omnipotent Son, briefly praising the words of God, as he had before rebuked the words of the wicked.

Eusebius of Cæsarea. An accusation of the wicked, and a prophecy concerning the Advent of Christ.

Arabic Psalter. Concerning the end of the world, which will happen in the Eighth Age, and a prophecy of the Advent of Christ.

S. Jerome. This Psalm is sung concerning the Passion of Christ.

1 Help me, Lord, for there is not one godly man left: for the faithful are minished from among the children of men.

There is not one godly man left. Rather, The righteous hath failed. He, the only Righteous, hath failed,—not in making good His promises, not in loving His own to the end, not in humbling Himself for us unto death, even the death of the Cross; but hath failed in the weakness of death; those blessed Hands, nailed to the Cross, and no more able to cast out devils, (G.) to heal the sick, to raise the dead: those dear Feet, in like manner fastened to the same tree, now no more able to go forth on their missions of love. The faithful are minished. They are indeed. Of the twelve that had so vehemently said, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee,”* but one only, and he at a distance, remains faithful: one betrays, and one denies with an oath. And well may the Church, therefore, pray, Help, Lord. “We trusted, that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel.”* The Prince of Life dying the death of a malefactor: the King of Ages suffering the punishment of a slave: the One Star of a dark night, as S. Chrysostom beautifully says, blotted out by the wintry clouds. Help, Lord: for human help is here indeed vain. “If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? Out of the barn floor, or out of the wine-press?”*

[The faithful. The LXX. and Vulgate render the Hebrew literally, truths. The Uncreated Truth is One, but created truth is threefold,* that of life, of doctrine, and of righteousness, and may be minished by error, which makes light darkness, and sweet to be bitter. It is true also of heretics, explaining away one Christian tenet after another, and thus minishing the truths of the Creed.]

2 They talk of vanity every one with his neighbour: they do but flatter with their lips, and dissemble in their double heart.

So they talked on that first Easter Eve. “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, After three days will I rise again.”* “Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can.” Miserable flattery indeed, whereby they brought themselves to think that the Omnipotent God could be “made sure” by a little wax; (Ay.) that the four soldiers could avail against the mission, if need were, of more than twelve legions of Angels! And dissemble in their double heart. And well they fulfilled this prophecy, when they gave large money to the soldiers, and sent them forth with the tale that that precious Body had been stolen while they slept. And the wise man may well say, “Woe be to the sinner that goeth two ways:”* the Apostle may well teach us, “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”* For it follows,

3 The Lord shall root out all deceitful lips: and the tongue that speaketh proud things.

All deceitful lips. And oh, how many they were! that spake concerning the Passion, “I am innocent of the blood of this Just Person;”* and the Catholic Creed replies, from one end of the world to the other, (Ay.)—replies by the baptismal font, in the village school, in the assembly of the faithful, by the bed of the dying, “Suffered under Pontius Pilate:”* “Himself He cannot save:” “I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of death and hell.”* Yes: Pilate, Herod, Pharisees, Elders, Scribes, people, deceitful lips have they all; and of all of them long since has it been said,* “So let all Thine enemies perish, O Lord.” “Let the Jews say,” exclaims the exulting office of the Oriental Easter, “let the Jews say how the soldiers lost the King Whom they were appointed to guard. Either let them exhibit the Body that was interred, or worship the Monarch that has arisen.”1 And the tongue that speaketh proud things. For what prouder saying than that spoken in the hall of most unrighteous judgment, “Knowest Thou not that I have power to crucify Thee, and have power to release Thee?”* What more arrogant decree than that, the dogmatic decree of the whole Jewish Sanhedrim, “Give God the praise, we know that this man is a sinner!”* Truly they have been rooted out. Disperdet: that is, as Cardinal Hugo, with a mediæval play upon words, observes, Bis perdet: with the double destruction of body and soul.

4 Which have said, With our tongue will we prevail: we are they that ought to speak; who is lord over us?

So it was: twelve poor and unlearned men on the one side, all the eloquence of Greece and Rome arrayed on the other. From the time of Tertullus to that of Julian the Apostate, every species of oratory, learning, wit, lavished against the Church of God: and the result like the well-known story of that dispute between the Christian peasant and the heathen philosopher, when the latter, having challenged the assembled Fathers of a synod to silence him, was put to shame by the simple faith of the former, “In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I command thee to be dumb.” Who is lord over us? “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?”* “What is the Almighty, that we should serve Him?”* “Who is that God that shall deliver you?”*

5a (5) Now for the comfortless troubles’ sake of the needy: and because of the deep sighing of the poor,

5b (6) I will up, saith the Lord: and will help every one from him that swelleth against him, and will set him at rest.

Comfortless! Yes, they were indeed comfortless, those poor trembling ones, when they were waiting for the departure of that long, weary Sabbath; when their one poor longing was to anoint for its burial the Body that they had fondly hoped to see exalted upon the throne of Israel. Comfortless indeed, when Peter was despairing of pardon; (Ay.) when James had bound himself by a great oath that he would neither eat nor drink till he had seen the Lord; when, go which way they might, everywhere was there the exultation of the Pharisees over their fallen enemy, everywhere taunts and jeers at “that Deceiver!” Deep sighing: for they dared not openly to lament; the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews. And poor they were, if ever any one could be called poor. They had lost Him That was altogether lovely: (G.) they had lost that one Pearl of countless value; and what had they left but the faint remembrance of His Words, and the shaken and shattered faith, that was yet not wholly destroyed?

And therefore, I will up, saith the Lord. “Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”* Easter has come at last: “destruction,” as the Eastern Church joyfully exclaims, “has been exiled, immortality has blossomed forth: the long galling chain has been broken in sunder: let the heavens rejoice: let the earth and the things under the earth be glad: for Christ hath arisen, and death is spoiled.”1 From him that swelleth against him. For as the serpent had no sooner triumphed over the woman than the promise of salvation was given to the human race; so Satan no sooner seemed to have completed his victory, (C.) on the Cross, than his power was crushed for ever, and they over whom he had tyrannized set at rest, by the sure and certain support of a Risen Lord in this world, and the hope of a perfect and unending rest in the next. Notice that the reading of the Vulgate gives quite a different sense: I will place him in My salvation, I will act faithfully (or as the Septuagint has it, παῤῥησιάσομαι) in him. And set in God’s salvation we are, when, as doves, we take refuge in the “Great Rock:” faithfully He has dealt with us in accomplishing all the promises, all the types, all the sayings “that He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began.”*

6 (7) The words of the Lord are pure words: even as the silver, which from the earth is tried, and purified seven times in the fire.

Pure. They fail not to remind us that they are pure in three ways: (L.) as cleansing us from impurity, properly so called, from pride, from avarice. And no sooner had the Lord risen from the tomb, than His words were spoken and written by His servants for the support of the Church to the end of time: no sooner had this true Naphtali, this stricken and persecuted Hind, been “let loose” from the chains of death, than He gave goodly words to His Apostles and Evangelists. And notice how in this very first sermon, His words were emphatically pure words, when He proclaimed the blessedness of the pure in heart, and restored marriage to its first and original purity. Well says S. Ambrose,* “Let us beware not to mingle anything earthly, anything secular, anything corporeal, anything light and mutable, in these celestial sentences. For the words of the Lord are chaste words: that in these, the immaculate and modest sincerity of celestial mysteries may shine forth by a spiritual interpretation. Let us not mingle earthly with Divine things, and injure that inviolable Sacrament of the prophetic vision, or the everlasting oracles by the false estimation of our nature. Therefore he adds, Even as silver, &c., to the end that we, like good money-changers, may examine the coin of prophetic writings, separating the Lord’s money, and purging it from every earthly pollution.” Seven times. As infusing in us the sevenfold graces of the Spirit; set forth both in the words of Isaiah, and in those of the Sermon on the Mount.

[From the earth. Because all the prophecies and types of the Old Testament are now purged from the earthly and carnal surroundings of the ceremonial Law, (P.) and set in their true light and beauty. Modern critics agree in turning the words thus,* in the earth; that is, in a crucible or furnace of clay;* not very dissimilarly from S. Chrysostom, who explains it of running the molten ore into clay moulds.* And then we are reminded, taking the words still of Holy Writ, of that passage, “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, Take these evidences, this evidence of the purchase, both which is sealed, and this evidence which is open; and put them in an earthen vessel, that they may continue many days.”* The oracles of God, prophecy fulfilled and unfulfilled, evidence of our ransom, that we may be our Master’s “purchased possession,”* confided first to the Jews and then to the Church Militant, were indeed in a vessel of earth. And as regards each of us, the Apostle warns us that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels,”* so that we must undergo stern probation that “the Word of God may have free course”* within our hearts, which it cannot till the fire of Divine love frees it from all dross. Seven times in the fire. So, in the Beatitudes, after seven blessings have been pronounced on the poor, the mournful, the meek, the righteous, the merciful, the pure, and the peacemakers, the eighth, summing up all these into one, pronounces a blessing on those who are persecuted, and have thus reached the final stage of purification from things of the earth, (A.) because the eighth Beatitude, as the octave of eternal life, does but repeat the first note in a higher interval.]

7 (8) Thou shalt keep them, O Lord: thou shalt preserve him from this generation for ever.

Keep them: that is, not as the passage is generally taken, (Ay.) Keep or guard Thy people, but Thou shalt keep, or make good, Thy words: and by so doing, shalt preserve him—him, the needy, him, the poor—from this generation. Thou shalt keep Thy word,*—“Cast Thy burden upon the Lord, and He shall nourish thee;” Thy word,—“I will inform thee, and teach thee in the way wherein thou shalt go;”* Thy word,—“Fear not, little flock; it is My Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom;”* and so, preserving him from this generation, shall hereafter give him a portion with that happier generation, the general assembly of the First-born which are written in heaven.

8 (9) The ungodly walk on every side: when they are exalted, the children of men are put to rebuke.

And we are reminded of the Lord’s own words, “I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;”* and of the Apostle’s warning, “That ye may be blameless and harmless in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.”* But starting from the literal sense of the Vulgate, The ungodly walk in a circuit, it is a favourite idea of S. Bernard’s to contrast their crooked ways with the straight-going path of the servant of God; their turning aside from the right straight road, with the “I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed”* of the follower of Christ.1 Walk on every side. Compare it with S. Peter’s warning, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour;”* and say with S. Cyril, in his extreme peril before the Council of Ephesus, “That wicked one, the sleepless beast, walketh about, plotting against the glory of Christ; from whom He only can deliver us, from whom we know that He will deliver us.” When they are exalted. The ten persecutions may witness to the truth of this saying. When the children of men, fearing man rather than God; dreading them that killed the body, rather than Him that hath power to destroy the soul; fell away from the faith, and denied the Lord that bought them: while the children of God, standing firm against seductions and threats, obtained the glory of martyrs as their reward. Notice that here again the Vulgate widely differs from our translation,—According to Thy loftiness, Thou hast multiplied the sons of men: or as it is better in the LXX.,—Thou hast made much of the children of men. And they remind us how the human race has been indeed made much of, in that it has been exalted in the Person of our Lord, to a height far above all height, and to a participation in the very Throne of God.

[The sons of men were minished,* observes Arnobius, when the Lord descended to the grave, for His disciples forsook Him and fled, but they were multiplied by His Ascension, because He sent down the Holy Spirit, through Whom three thousand souls were in a moment added to the Church.]

And therefore:

Glory be to the Father, Who is our help when godly men fail; and to the Son, of Whom it is written, “I will up, saith the Lord;” and to the Holy Ghost, Whose words are pure words.

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

Various Uses

Gregorian. Sunday: I. Nocturn.

Monastic. Wednesday: Prime.

Parisian. Thursday: Compline.

Lyons. Tuesday: Prime.

Ambrosian. Monday in the First Week: II. Nocturn.

Quignon. Friday: Prime.

Antiphons

Gregorian. Thou shalt keep * us, O Lord, Thou shalt preserve us.

Parisian. Help me, Lord, * for the faithful are minished from among the children of men.

Mozarabic. For the comfortless troubles of the needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor, I will up, saith the Lord.

Collects

Have mercy,* most holy Father, on our infirmity, and grant to us to receive and to hold fast Thy words in a pure heart, that we may be able to turn away from the guileful speeches of Thine enemies. Through (1.)

Deliver us,* O Lord, from lying lips and from a deceitful tongue, Thou, Who wast Thyself weighed on the balance of the Cross; and grant that neither the accuser may have any inlet to our accusation, nor Thy people acquiesce in the deceit of his words. Overthrow him that lies in ambush against us by Thine Almighty spear, and rise up for the comfortless troubles’ sake of the needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor. (11.)

[O Lord, Keeper of the faithful, ever preserve and keep us from the generation of the ungodly, (D. C.) and unite us to the generation of the righteous who keep Thy pure words, that we may alway abide in Thy love, and by the help of Thine aid, rejoice in everlasting salvation. Through (1.)]

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 25:1-30

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 4, 2017

These parables are like the former parable of the faithful servant, and of him that was ungrateful and devoured his Lord’s goods. For there are four in all, in different ways admonishing us about the same things, I mean about diligence in almsgiving, and about helping our neighbor by all means which we are able to use, since it is not possible to be saved in another way. But there He speaks more generally of all assistance which should he rendered to one’s neighbor; but as to the virgins, he speaketh particularly of mercifulness in alms, and more strongly than in the former parable. For there He punishes him that beats, and is drunken, and scatters and wastes his lord’s goods, but here even him that doth not help, nor spends abundantly his goods upon the needy. For they had oil indeed, but not in abundance, wherefore also they are punished.

But wherefore doth He set forth this parable in the person of the virgins, and doth not merely suppose any person whatever? Great things had He spoken of virginity, saying, “There are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake;” and, “He that is able to receive, let him receive it.”1 He knew also that the generality of men would have a great opinion of it. For indeed the work is by nature great, and is shown so by this, that neither under the old dispensation was it fulfilled by these ancient and holy men, nor under the new was it brought under the compulsion of the law. For He did not command this, but left it to the choice of his hearers. Wherefore Paul also said “Now, concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord.”2 “For though I praise him that attains thereto, yet I constrain not him that is not willing, neither do I make the thing an injunction.” Since then the thing is both great in itself and hath great honor with the multitude, lest any one attaining to this should feel as though he had attained to all, and should be careless about the rest, He putteth forth this parable sufficient to persuade them, that virginity, though it should have everything else, if destitute of the good things arising out of almsgiving, is cast out with the harlots, and He sets the inhuman and merciless with them. And most reasonably, for the one was overcome by the love of carnal pleasure, but these3 of money. But the Jove of carnal pleasure and of money are not equal, but that of carnal pleasure is far keener and more tyrannical. And the weaker the antagonist, the less excusable are these4 that are overcome thereby. Therefore also He calls them foolish, for that having undergone the greater labor, they have betrayed all for want of the less. But by lamps here, He meaneth the gift itself of virginity, the purity of holiness; and by oil, humanity, almsgiving, succor to them that are in need.

“Then, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” He shows that the time intervening will not be short, leading His disciples away from the expectation that His kingdom was quite immediately to appear. For this indeed they hoped, therefore He is continually holding them back from this hope. And at the same time He intimates this too, that death is a sleep. For they slept, He saith.

“And about midnight there was a cry made.” Either He was continuing the parable, or again He shows that the resurrection will be at night. But the cry Paul also indicates, saying, “With a shout, with a voice of an archangel, with the last trump, He shall come down from Heaven.”5 And what mean the trumpets, and what saith the cry? “The bridegroom cometh.” When therefore they had trimmed their lamps, the foolish say unto the wise, “Give us of your oil.” Again He calls them foolish, showing that nothing can be more foolish than they who are wealthy here, and depart naked thither, where most of all we have need of humanity, where we want much oil. But not in this respect only were they foolish, but also because they looked to receive it there, and sought it out of season; and yet nothing could be more humane than those virgins, who for this especially were approved. Neither do they seek for it all, for, “Give us,” they say, “of your oil;” and the urgency of their need is indicated; “for our lamps,” they say, “are going out.” But even so they failed, and neither the humanity of those whom they asked, nor the easiness of their request, nor their necessity and want, made them obtain.

But what now do we learn from hence? That no man can protect us there, if we are betrayed by our works, not because he will not, but because he cannot. For these too take refuge in the impossibility. This the blessed Abraham also indicated, saying, “Between us and you there is a great gulf,”1 so that not even when willing is it permitted them to pass it.

“But go to them that sell, and buy.” And who are they that sell? The poor. And where are these? Here, and then should they have sought them, not at that time.

2. Seest thou what great profit arises to us from the poor? shouldest thou take them away, thou wouldest take away the great hope of our salvation. Wherefore here must we get together the oil, that it may be useful to us there, when the time calls us. For that is not the time of collecting it, but this. Spend not then your goods for nought in luxury and vainglory. For thou wilt have need of much oil there.

Having heard these things, those virgins went their way; but they profiled nothing. And this He saith, either pursuing the parable, and working it up; or also by these things showing, that though we should become humane after our departure, we shall gain nothing from thence towards our escape. Therefore neither did their forwardness avail these virgins, because they went to them that sell not here, but there; nor the rich man, when he became so charitable, as even to be anxious about his relations. For he that was passing by him that was laid at the gate, is eager to rescue from perils and from hell them whom he did not so much as see, and entreats that some be sent to tell them these things. But nevertheless, he derived no benefit from thence, as neither did these virgins. For when they having heard these things went their way, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with Him, but the others were shut out. After their many labors, after their innumerable toils, and that intolerable fight, and those trophies which they had set up over the madness of natural appetite, disgraced, and with their lamps gone out, they withdrew, bending down their faces to the earth. For nothing is more sullied than virginity not having mercy; so that even the multitude are wont to call the unmerciful dark. Where then was the profit of virginity, when they saw not the bridegroom? and not even when they had knocked did they obtain, but they heard that fearful saying, “Depart, I know you not.”2 And when He hath said this, nothing else but hell is left, and that intolerable punishment; or rather, this word is more grievous even than hell. This word He speaks to them also that work iniquity.3

“Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.”4 Seest thou how continually He adds this, showing how awful our ignorance concerning our departure hence? Where now are they, who throughout all their life are remiss, but when they are blamed by us, are saying, At the time of my death, I shall leave money to the poor. Let them listen to these words, and be amended. For indeed at that time many have failed of this, having been snatched away at once, and not permitted so much as to give charge to their relations touching what they wished to be done.

This parable was spoken with respect to mercy in alms; but the one that comes after this, to them that neither in money, nor in word, nor in protection, nor in any other things whatever, are willing to assist their neighbors, but withhold all.

And wherefore can it be that this parable brings forward a king, but that a bridegroom? That thou mightest learn how close Christ is joined unto the virgins that strip themselves of their possessions; for this indeed is virginity. Wherefore Paul also makes this as a definition of the thing. “The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord;”5 such are his words: and, “For that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. These things we advise,” he saith.

And if in Luke the parable of the talents is otherwise put, this is to be said, that the one is really different from the other. For in that, from the one capital different degrees of increase were made, for from one pound one brought five, another ten; wherefore neither did they obtain the same recompense; but here, it is the contrary, and the crown is accordingly equal. For he that received two gave two, and he that had received the five again in like manner; but there since from the same beginning one made the greater, one the less, increase; as might be expected, in the rewards also, they do not enjoy the same.

But see Him everywhere, not requiring it again immediately. For in the case of the vineyard, He let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country; and here He committed to them the talents, and took His journey, that thou mightest learn His long-suffering. And to me He seems to say these things, to intimate the resurrection. But here it is no more a vineyard and husbandmen, but all servants. For not to rulers only, nor to Jews, but to all, doth He address His discourse. And they who bring a return unto Him confess frankly, both what is their own, and what their Master’s. And the one saith, Lord, “Thou gavest me five talents;” and the other saith, “two,” indicating that from Him they received the source of their gain, and they are very thankful, and reckon all to Him.

What then saith the Master? “Well done, thou good” (for this is goodness to look to one’s neighbor) “and faithful servant; thou wast faithful over few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,”1 meaning by this expression all blessedness.

But not so that other one, but how? “I knew that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou sowedst not, and gathering where thou strawedst not: and I was afraid, and hid thy talent: lo, there thou hast that is thine.”2 What then the Master? “Thou oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers,”3 that is, “that oughtest to have spoken, to have admonished, to have advised.” But are they disobedient? Yet this is nought to thee.

What could be more gentle than this? For men indeed do not so, but him that hath put out the money at usury, even him do they make also responsible to require it again. But He not so; but, Thou oughtest, He saith, to have put it out, and to have committed the requiring of it again to me. And I should have required it with increase; by increase upon the hearing, meaning the showing forth of the works. Thou oughtest to have done that which is easier, and to have left to me what is more difficult. Forasmuch then as he did not this, “Take,” saith He, “the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents?4 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”5 What then is this? He that hath a gift of word and teaching to profit thereby, and useth it not, will lose the gift also; but he that giveth diligence, will gain to himself the gift in more abundance; even as the other loseth what he had received. But not to this is the penalty limited for him that is slothful, but even intolerable is the punishment, and with the punishment the sentence, which is full of a heavy accusation. For “cast ye,” saith He, “the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”6 Seest thou how not only the spoiler, and the covetous, nor only the doer of evil things, but also he that doeth not good things, is punished with extreme punishment.

Let us hearken then to these words. As we have opportunity, let us help on our salvation, let us get oil for our lamps, let us labor to add to our talent. For if we be backward, and spend our time in sloth here, no one will pity us any more hereafter, though we should wail ten thousand times. He also that had on the filthy garments condemned himself, and profited nothing. He also that had the one talent restored that which was committed to his charge, and yet was condemned. The virgins again entreated, and came unto Him and knocked, and all in vain, and without effect.

Knowing then these things, let us contribute alike wealth, and diligence, and protection,7 and all things for our neighbor’s advantage. For the talents here are each person’s ability, whether in the way of protection, or in money, or in teaching, or in what thing soever of the kind. Let no man say, I have but one talent, and can do nothing; for thou canal even by one approve thyself. For thou art not poorer than that widow; thou art not more uninstructed than Peter and John, who were both “unlearned and ignorant men;”8 but nevertheless, since they showed forth a zeal, and did all things for the common good, they attained to Heaven. For nothing is so pleasing to God, as to live for the common advantage.

For this end God gave us speech, and hands, and feet, and strength of body, and mind, and understanding, that we might use all these things, both for our own salvation, and for our neighbor’s advantage. For not for hymns only and thanksgivings is our speech serviceable to us, but it is profitable also for instruction and admonition. And if indeed we used it to this end, we should be imitating our Master; but if for the opposite ends, the devil. Since Peter also, when he confessed the Christ, was blessed, as having spoken the words of the Father; but when he refused the cross, and dissuaded it, he was severely reproved, as savoring the things of the devil. But if where the saying was of ignorance, so heavy is the blame, when we of our own will commit many sins, what favor shall we have?

Such things then let us speak, that of themselves they may be evidently the words of Christ. For not only if I should say, “Arise, and walk;”1 neither if I should say, “Tabitha, arise,”2 then only do I speak Christ’s words, but much more if being reviled I bless, if being despitefully used I pray for him that doeth despite to me. Lately indeed I said, that our tongue is a hand laying hold on the feet of God; but now much more do I say, that our tongue is a tongue imitating the tongue of Christ, if it show forth the strictness that becometh us, if we speak those things which He wills. But what are the things which He wills us to speak? Words full of gentleness and meekness, even as also He Himself used to speak, saying to them that were insulting Him, “I have not a devil;”3 and again, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil.”4 If thou also speak in this way; if thou speak for thy neighbor’s amendment, thou wilt obtain a tongue like that tongue. And these things God Himself saith; “For he that bringeth out the precious from the vile, shall be as my mouth;”5 such are His words.

When therefore thy tongue is as Christ’s tongue, and thy mouth is become the mouth of the Father, and thou art a temple of the Holy Ghost, then what kind of honor could be equal to this? For not even if thy mouth were made of gold, no nor even of precious stones, would it shine like as now, when lit up with the ornament of meekness. For what is more lovely than a mouth that knoweth not how to insult, but is used to bless and give good words? But if thou canst not bear to bless him that curses thee, hold thy peace, and accomplish but this for the time; and proceeding in order, and striving as thou oughtest, thou wilt attain to that other point also, and wilt acquire such a mouth, as we have spoken of.

4. And do not account the saying to be rash. For the Lord is loving to man, and the gift cometh of His goodness. It is rash to have a mouth like the devil, to have a tongue resembling that of an evil demon, especially for him that partakes of such mysteries, and communicates of the very flesh of the Lord. Reflecting then on these things, become like Him, to the utmost of thy power. No longer then will the devil be able so much as to look thee in the face, when thou art become such a one as this. For indeed he recognizes the image of the King, he knows the weapons of Christ, whereby he was worsted. And what are these? Gentleness and meekness. For when on the mountain Christ overthrew and laid low the devil who was assaulting him, it was not by making it known that He was Christ, but He entrapped him by these sayings, He took him by gentleness, he turned him to flight by meekness. Thou also must do this; shouldest thou see a man become a devil, and coming against thee, even so do thou likewise overcome. Christ gave thee also power to become like Him, so far as thy ability extends. Be not afraid at hearing this. The fear is not to be like Him. Speak then after His manner, and thou art become in this respect such as He, so far as it is possible for one who is a man to become so.

Wherefore greater is he that thus speaks, than he that prophecies. For this is entirely a gift, but in the other is also thy labor and toil. Teach thy soul to frame thee a mouth like to Christ’s mouth. For it can create such things, if it will; it knows the art, if it be not remiss. And how is such a mouth made? one may ask. By what kind of colorings? by what kind of material? By no colorings, indeed, or material; but by virtue only, and meekness, and humility.

Let us see also how a devil’s mouth is made; that we may never frame that. How then is it made? By curses, by insults, by envy, by perjury. For when any one speaks his words, he takes his tongue. What kind of excuse then shall we have; or rather, what manner of punishment shall we not undergo; when this our tongue, wherewith we are allowed to taste of the Lord’s flesh, when this, I say, we overlook, speaking the devil’s words?

Let us not overlook it, but let us use all diligence, in order to train it to imitate its Lord. For if we train it to this, it will place us with great confidence at Christ’s judgment seat. Unless any one know how to speak thus, the judge will not so much as hear him. For like as when the judge chances to be a Roman, he will not hear the defense of one who knows not how to speak thus; so likewise Christ, unless thou speak after His fashion, will not hear thee, nor give heed.

Let us learn therefore to speak in such wise as our Judge is wont to hear; let it be our endeavor to imitate that tongue. And shouldest thou fall into grief, take heed lest the tyranny of despondency pervert thy tongue, but that thou speak like Christ. For He too mourned for Lazarus and Judas. Shouldest thou fall into fear, seek again to speak even as He. For He Himself fell into fear for thy sake, with regard to His manhood.1 Do thou also say, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”2

And if thou shouldest lament, weep calmly as He. Shouldest thou fall into plots and sorrows, treat these too as Christ. For indeed He had plots laid against Him, and was in sorrow, and saith, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.”3 And all the examples He presented to thee, in order that thou shouldest continually observe the same measures, and not destroy the rules that have been given thee. So shalt thou be able to have a mouth like His mouth, so while treading on the earth, thou wilt show forth a tongue like to that of Him who sits on high; thou wilt maintain the limits He observed in despondency, in anger, in suffering, in agony.

How many are they of you that desire to see His form? Behold, it is possible, not to see Him only, but also to become like Him; if we are in earnest.

Let us not delay then. He doth not so readily accept prophets’ lips, as those of meek and forbearing men. “For many will say unto me,” He saith, “Have we not prophesied in Thy name? And I will say unto them, I know you not.”4

But the lips of Moses, because he was exceeding gentle and meek (“for Moses,” it is said, “was a meek man above all the men which were upon the face of the earth”5), He so accepted and loved, as to say, “Face to face, mouth to mouth, did He speak, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”6

Thou wilt not command devils now, but thou shalt then command the fire of hell, if thou keep thy mouth like to Christ’s mouth. Thou shalt command the abyss of fire, and shalt say unto it, “Peace, be still,”7 and with great confidence shalt set foot in the Heavens, and enjoy the kingdom; unto which God grant all of us to attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.

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St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 6:17, 20-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 21, 2017

The following has been compiled from sermons by St Cyril. They are somewhat fragmented and contain nothing on verses 25 & 26.

6:17. He stood upon level ground, and a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of the people.

But observe, I pray, the manner of the election. For the most wise Evangelist says that it was not done in a corner and secretly, but rather when many disciples were gathered together, and a vast crowd from all the country of the Jews, and from the sea-coast of Tyre and Sidon. These latter were |100 idolaters, lame in the hollow of both knees,26 in part observing the customs of the Jews, but yet not altogether abandoning their idolatrous practices. The election, therefore, was held in the presence of all these spectators, and teachers appointed for all beneath the heaven: and this duty they also fulfilled, summoning the Jews from their legal worship, and those who served demons, from Grecian 27 error to the acknowledgment of the truth.

And when He had appointed the holy Apostles, He performed very many wonderful miracles, rebuking demons, delivering from incurable diseases whosoever drew near unto Him, and displaying His own most godlike power: that both the Jews, who had run together unto Him, and those from the country of the Greeks, might know, that Christ, by Whom they were honoured with the dignity of the Apostolate, was not some ordinary man of those in our degree, but, on the contrary, God, as being the Word That was made man, but retained, nevertheless, His own glory. For “power went forth from Him, and healed all.” For Christ did not borrow strength from some other person, but being Himself God by nature, even though He had become flesh, He healed them all, by the putting forth of power over the sick.

If further you wish to learn the interpretation of the Apostles’ names, know that Peter is explained as meaning “loosing,” or “knowing:” Andrew as “comely strength,” or “answering:” James as “one who takes labour by the heel:” John, “the grace of the Lord:” Matthew, “given:” Philip, “the opening of the hands,” or “the mouth of a lamp:” Bartholomew, “the son suspending water:” Thomas, an “abyss,” or “a twin:” James, the son of Alphaeus, “the supplanting |101 “of the passage of life:” Judas, “thanksgiving:” and Simon, “obedience.” 28

6:20. Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

[From the Syriac] Those are the Saviour’s words, when directing His disciples into the newness of the Gospel life after their appointment to the apostolate. But we must see of what poor it is that He speaks such great things: for in the Gospel according to Matthew it is written, “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:” wishing us to understand by the poor in spirit the man who entertains lowly thoughts of himself, and whoso mind, so to speak, is closely reefed, and hi3 heart gentle, and ready to yield, and entirely free from the guilt of pride.

[From Mai.] Such a one is worthy of admiration, and the friend of God; yea, He even said by one of the holy prophets; “Upon whom will I look but upon the humble and peaceable, and that trembleth at my words?” And the prophet David also said, that “a contrite and humbled heart God will not set at nought.” Moreover, the Saviour Himself also says, “Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble in heart.” In the lessons, however, now set before us, He says, that the poor shall be blessed, without the addition of its being in spirit. But the Evangelists so speak, not as contradicting one another, but as dividing oftentimes the narrative among them: and at one time they recapitulate the same particulars, and at another that which has been omitted by one, another includes in his narrative, that nothing essential for their benefit may be hidden from those who believe on Christ.—-[From the Syriac.] It seems likely, therefore, that He here means by the poor, whom He pronounces blessed, such as care not for wealth, and are superior to covetousness, and despisers of base gifts, and of a disposition free from the love of money, and who set no value upon the ostentatious display of riches. |103

And so the most wise Paul manifestly guides us into the best doctrines, where he says, “Let your disposition be free from the love of money, being contented with what it has:” and to this he has added, that “having nourishment and the means of shelter, we will be therewith content.” For it was necessary, absolutely necessary, for those whose business it would be to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel to have a mind careless about wealth, and occupied solely with the desire of better things. The argument, however, does not affect all whose means are abundant, but those only whose desire is set upon riches: and who are these? All to whom our Saviour’s words apply: “Store not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth.”

6:21. Blessed are ye that hunger now; for ye shall be filled.

In Matthew, however, again He says; “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled:” but here He simply says, that “those that hunger shall be filled.” We say, therefore, that it is a great and noble thing to hunger and thirst after righteousness: that is, habitually to take part in earnest endeavours after piety:—-for such is the meaning of righteousness:—-as if it were our meat and drink. And inasmuch as we ought to give to this passage also a meaning, in accordance with the foregoing explanations, we say again as follows: The Saviour pronounced those blessed who love a voluntary poverty, to enable them honourably, and without distraction, to practise the apostolic course of life. For it is in plain keeping with the having neither gold nor silver in their purses, nor two coats, to endure also very great hardness in their way of life, and scarcely obtain food for their need. But this is a burdensome thing for those who are suffering poverty and persecutions, and therefore He That knoweth hearts, very suitably does not permit us to be dispirited because of the results of poverty: for He says, that those who hunger now for their piety’s sake towards Him shall be filled: that is, they shall enjoy the intellectual and spiritual blessings that are in store. |104

6:21. Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh.

[From the Syriac.] He pronounces them that weep blessed, and says that they shall laugh. But by those who weep, we say that those are not meant who simply shed tears from their eyes: for this is a thing common to all without exception, whether believers or unbelievers, if ought happen of a painful nature; but those rather who shun a life of merriment and vanity, and carnal pleasures. —-[From Mai.] For of the one we say, that they live in enjoyment and laughter; whereas believers abandoning luxury and the careless life of carnal pleasures, and all but weeping because of their abhorrence of worldly things, are, our Saviour declares, blessed; and for this reason, as having commanded us to choose poverty, He also crowns with honours the things which necessarily accompany poverty: such, for instance, as the want of things necessary for enjoyment, and the lowness of spirits caused by privation: for it is written, that “many are the privations of the just, and the Lord shall deliver them out of them all.”

6:22. Blessed are ye when men shall hate you.

Already did the Lord mention persecution, even before the Apostles had been sent on their mission. The Gospel anticipated what would happen. For it was altogether to be expected that those who proclaimed the Gospel message, and made the Jews abandon their legal mode of worship to learn the Gospel way of virtuous living, while too they won over idolaters to the acknowledgment of the truth, would come in contact with many impious and unholy men. For such are they who, in their enmity against piety, excite wars and persecutions against those who preach Jesus. To prevent them, therefore, from falling into unreasonable distress whenever the time should arrive at which such events were sure to befal them from some quarter or other, He forewarns them for their benefit, that even the assault of things grievous to bear will bring its reward and advantage to them. For they shall reproach you, He says, as deceivers, and as trying to mislead: they shall separate you from them, even from their friendship and society: but let none of these things trouble you, He says: |105 for what harm will their intemperate tongue do a well-established mind? For the patient suffering of these things, will not be without fruit. He says, to those who know how to endure 1 piously, but is the pledge of the highest happiness. And besides, He points out to them for their benefit, that nothing strange will happen unto them, even when suffering these things: but that, on the contrary, they will resemble those who before their time were the bearers to the Israelites of the words that came from God above. They were persecuted, they were sawn asunder, they perished slain by the sword, they endured reproaches unjustly cast upon them. He would therefore have them also understand that they shall be partakers with those whose deeds they have imitated; nor shall they fail in winning the prophet’s crown, after having travelled by the same road. |106

(6:24) [From the Syriac. 2 MS.14,551.] *         *          *          *          *          *          *          *          receive those things that will lead you unto life eternal. For it is written, that “man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that goeth forth from the mouth of God.” All Scripture, indeed, is inspired of God; but this is especially true of the proclamations in the Gospels: for He Who in old time delivered unto the Israelites by the ministry of Moses the law that consisted in types and shadows, the very same having become man spake unto us, as the wise Paul testifies, writing; “God, Who in divers manners spake in old time to the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son:” and “we are taught of God:” for Christ is in truth God and the Son of God. Let us therefore fix our careful attention upon what He says: and scrupulously examine the very depth of His meaning. For “Woe, He says, unto you rich, in that ye have received your consolation.”

Very fitly is this added to His previous discourse: for having already shewn that poverty for God’s sake is the mother of every blessing, and said that the hungering and weeping of the saints would not be without a reward, He proceeds to speak of the opposite class of things, and says of them, that they are productive of grief and condemnation. For He blames indeed the rich, and those who indulge immoderately in pleasures, and are ever in merriment, in order that He may leave no means untried of benefitting those who draw near unto Him, and chief of all the holy Apostles. For if the endurance of poverty for God’s sake, together with hunger and tears:—-by which is meant the being exposed to pain and afflictions in the cause of piety:—-be profitable before God, and He pronounce a threefold 3 blessedness on those who embrace them; as a necessary consequence, those are liable to the utmost blame, |107 who have prized the vices, that are the opposites of these virtues.

In order therefore that men may be won by the desire of the crowns of reward unto willingness to labour, and voluntary poverty for God’s sake; and, on the other hand, by fear of the threatened punishment, may flee from riches, and from living in luxury and merriment, that is to say, in worldly amusements, He says that the one are heirs of the kingdom of heaven, but that the others will be involved in the utmost misery: “for ye have received, He says, your consolation.”

And this truth we are permitted to behold beautifully delineated in the Gospel parables like as in a painting. For we have heard read that there was a rich man decked in purple and fine linen 4, at whose gate Lazarus was cast, racked with poverty and pain; and the rich man felt no pity for him.—-But Lazarus, it says, was carried to Abraham’s bosom; while he was in torments and in flame. And when he saw Lazarus at rest and in happiness in Abraham’s bosom, he besought saying, “Father Abraham have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger 5 in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” But what was blessed Abraham’s reply? “Son, thou hast received thy good things in thy life, and Lazarus evil things; but now he is here in happiness, and thou art tormented.” True therefore is what is here said by Christ of those who live in wealth and luxury and merriment, that “ye have received your consolation:” and of those who now are full, that they shall |108 hunger, and that those who laugh now shall weep and lament.

But come and let us examine the matter among ourselves. Our Saviour in His parables has thus spoken: “Two men went up unto the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. And the Pharisee forsooth prayed saying, God I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of mankind, extortioners, unjust, adulterers; or like this publican. I fast twice in the week: and I pay tithes of all that I possess. But the publican, He says, did not venture to lift up his eyes unto heaven, but stood smiting his breast and saying, God be merciful to me, a sinner. Verily I say unto you, that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other.” For the proud Pharisee was boasting over the publican, and indecently assuming the rank of a lawgiver, would have condemned one, on whom it was rather his duty to have shewn pity: but the other was the accuser of his own infirmity, and thereby aided in his own justification; for it is written, “Declare thou thy sins first, that thou mayest be justified.” Let us therefore unloose, that is, set free those who are suffering sicknesses from having been condemned by us, in order that God may also unloose us from our faults: for He condemneth not, but rather sheweth mercy.

Closely neighbouring, so to speak, upon the virtues which we have just mentioned is compassion, of which He next makes mention. For it is a most excelling thing, and very pleasing to God, and in the highest degree becoming to pious souls: and concerning which it may suffice for us to imprint upon our mind that it is an attribute of the divine nature. “For be ye, He says, merciful, as also your heavenly Father is merciful.” But that we shall be recompensed with bountiful hand by God, Who giveth all things abundantly to them that love Him, He has given us full assurance by saying, that “good measure, and squeezed down, and running over shall they give into your bosom:” adding this too, “for with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.” There is however an apparent incompatibility between the two declarations: for if we are to receive “good measure, and squeezed down, and running over,” how “shall we be paid back the same measure wherewith we mete?” for this implies an equal recompense, and not one of |109 far-surpassing abundance. What say we then? The all wise Paul frees us from our difficulties, by bringing us the solution of the matters in question. For he says, that “he that soweth sparingly, meaning thereby, that he who distributeth the necessaries of life to those who are in penury and affliction moderately, and so to speak, with contracted hand, and not plentifully and largely,” shall also reap sparingly: and he “that soweth in blessings, in blessings shall also reap.” By which is meant, he who bountifully * * * * * [From Mai] So that if anyone hath not, he has not sinned by not giving it; for a man is acceptable according to that which he hath, and not according to that which he hath not. [From the Syriac.] And this the law of the very wise Moses has taught us in type: for those that were under the law brought sacrifices to God according to what they severally possessed, and were able to afford: some for instance bullocks, and some rams, or sheep, or doves, or pigeons, or meal mingled with oil, but even he who offered this * *, because he had no calf to offer, though so little and to be procured so cheaply, was equal to the other as regards his intention.

6:24. Woe unto you rich; For ye have received your consolation.

This too we must discuss among ourselves: For is it the case, that every one who is rich, and possesses abundant wealth, |110 is determinately cut off from the expectation of God’s grace? Is he entirely shut out from the hope of the saints? Has he neither inheritance nor part with them that are crowned? Not so, we say, hut rather on the contrary, that the rich man might have shewn mercy on Lazarus, and so have been made partaker of his consolation. For the Saviour pointed out a way of salvation to those who possess earthly wealth, saying, “Make unto yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon, that when ye depart this life they may receive you into their tents.” (source)

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 6:17-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 21, 2017

Ver 17. And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea, and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases,18. And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed.19. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.

CYRIL; When the ordination of the Apostles was accomplished, and great numbers were collected together from the country of Judea, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, (who were idolaters,) he gave the Apostles their commission to be the teachers of the whole world, that they might recall the Jews from the bondage of the law, but the worshipers of devils from their Gentile errors to the knowledge of the truth. Hence it is said, And he came down with them, and stood in the plain, and a great multitude from Judea, and the sea coast, &c.

THEOPHYL; By the sea coast he does not refer to the neighboring sea of Galilee, because this would not be accounted wonderful, but it is so called from the great sea, and therein also Tyre and Sidon may be comprehended, of which it follows, Both of Tyre and Sidon. And these states being Gentile, are purposely named here, to indicate how great was the fame and power of the Savior which had brought even the citizens of the coast to receive His healing and teaching. Hence it follows, Which came to hear him.

THEOPHYL. That is, for the cure of their souls; and that they might be healed of their diseases, that is, for the cure of their bodies.

CYRIL; But after that the High Priest had made publicly known His choice of Apostles, He did many and great miracles, that the Jews and Gentiles who had assembled might know that these were ere invested by Christ with the dignity of the Apostleship, and that He Himself was not as another man, but rather was God, as being the Incarnate Word. Hence it follows , And, the whole multitude sought to touch him, for there went virtue out of him. For Christ did not receive virtue from others, but since He was as by nature God oaf, sending out His own virtue upon the sick, He healed them all.

AMBROSE; But observe all things carefully, how He both ascends with His Apostles and descends to the multitude; for how could the multitude see Christ but in a lowly place. It follows him not to the lofty places, it ascends not the heights. Lastly, when He descends, He finds the sick, for in the high places there can be no sick.

THEOPHYL; You will scarcely find any where that the multitudes follow our Lord to the higher places, or that a sick person is healed on a mountain; but having quenched the fever of lust and lit the torch of knowledge each man approaches by degrees to the height of the virtues. But the multitudes which were able to touch the Lord are healed by the virtue of that touch, as formerly the leper is cleansed when our Lord touched him. The touch of the Savior then is the work of salvation, whom to touch is to believe on Him, to be touched is to be healed by His precious gifts.

Ver 20. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be you poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.21. Blessed are you that hunger now: for you shall be filled. Blessed are you that weep now: for you shall laugh.22. Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.23. Rejoice you in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers to the prophets.

CYRIL; After the ordination of the Apostles, the Savior directed His disciples to the newness of the evangelical life.

AMBROSE; But being about to utter His divine oracles, He begins to rise higher; although He stood in a low place, yet as it is said, He lifted up his eyes. What is lifting up the eyes, but to disclose a more hidden light?

THEOPHYL; And although He speaks in a general way to all, yet more especially He lifts up His eyes on His disciples; for it follows, on his disciples, that to those who receive the word listening attentively with the heart, He might reveal more fully the light of its deep meaning.

AMBROSE; Now Luke mentions only four blessings, but Matthew eight; but in those eight are contained these four, and in these four those eight. For the one has embraced as it were the four cardinal virtues, the other has revealed in those eight the mystical number. For as the eighth is the accomplishment of our hope, so is the eighth also the completion of the virtues. But each Evangelist has placed the blessings of poverty first, for it is the first in order, and the purest, as it were, of the virtues; for he who has despised the world shall reap an eternal reward. Now can any one obtain the reward of the heavenly kingdom who, overcome by the desires of the world, has no power of escape from them? Hence it follows, He said, Blessed are the poor.

CYRIL; In the Gospel according to St. Matthew it is said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, that we should understand the poor in spirit to be one of a modest and somewhat depressed mind. Hence our Savior says, Learn from me, for I am meek and lowly of heart. But Luke says, Blessed are the poor, without the addition of spirit, calling those poor who despise riches. For it became those who were to preach the doctrines of the saving Gospel to have no covetousness, but their affections set upon higher things.

BASIL; But not every one oppressed with poverty is blessed, but he who has preferred the commandment of Christ to worldly riches. For many are poor in their possessions, yet most covetous in their disposition; these poverty does not save, but their affections condemn. For nothing involuntary deserves a blessing, because all virtue is characterized by the freedom of the will. Blessed then is the poor man as being the disciple of Christ, Who endured poverty for us. For the Lord Himself has fulfilled every work which leads to happiness, leaving Himself an example for us to follow.

EUSEB. But when the celestial kingdom is considered in the many gradations of its blessings, the first step in the scale belongs to those who by divine instinct embrace poverty. Such did He make those who first became His disciples; therefore He says in their person, For yours is the kingdom of heaven, as pointedly addressing Himself to those present, upon whom also He lifted up His eyes.

CYRIL; After having commanded them to embrace poverty, He then crowns with honor those things which follow from poverty. It is the lot of those who embrace poverty to be in want of the necessaries of life, and scarcely to be able to get food. He does not then permit His disciples to be fainthearted on this account, but says, Blessed are you who hunger now.

THEOPHYL; That is, blessed are you who chasten your body and subject it to bondage, who in hunger and thirst give heed to the word, for then shall you receive the fullness of heavenly joys.

GREG. NAZ. But in a deeper sense, as they who partake of bodily food vary their appetites according to the nature of the things to be eaten; so also in the food of the soul, by some indeed that is desired which depends upon the opinion of men, by others, that which is essentially and of its own nature good. Hence, according to Matthew, men are blessed who account righteousness in the place of food and drink; by righteousness I mean not a particular but an universal virtue, which he who hungers after is said to be blessed.

THEOPHYL; Plainly instructing us, that we ought never to account ourselves sufficiently righteous, but always desire a daily increase in righteousness, to the perfect fullness of which the Psalmist shows us that we can not arrive in this world, but in the world to come. I shall be satisfied when your glory shall be made manifest. Hence it follows, For you shall be filled.

GREG. NYSS. For to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness He promises abundance of the things they desire. For none of the pleasures which are sought in this life can satisfy those who pursue them. But the pursuit of virtue alone is followed by that reward, which implants a joy in the soul that never fails.

CYRIL; But poverty is followed not only by a want of those things which bring delight, but also by a dejected look, because of sorrow. Hence it follows, Blessed are you that weep. He blesses those who weep, not those who merely drop tears from their eyes, (for this is common to the believing and unbelieving, when sorrow befalls them,) but rather He calls those blessed, who shun a careless life, mixed up with sin, and devoted to carnal pleasures, and refuse enjoyments almost weeping from their hatred of all worldly things.

CHRYS. But godly sorrow is a great thing, and it works repentance to salvation. Hence St. Paul when he had no failings of his own to weep for, mourned for those of others. Such grief is the source of gladness, as it follows, For you shall laugh. For if we do no good to those for whom we weep, we do good to ourselves. For he who thus weeps for the sins of others, will not let his own go unwept for; but the rather he will not easily fall into sin. Let us not be ever relaxing ourselves in this short life, lest we sigh in that which is eternal. Let us not seek delights from which flow lamentation, and much sorrow, but let us be saddened with sorrow which brings forth pardon. We often find the Lord sorrowing, never laughing.

BASIL; But He promises laughing to those who weep; not indeed the noise of laughter from the mouth, but a gladness pure and unmixed with aught of sorrow.

THEOPHYL; He then who on account of the riches of the inheritance of Christ, for the bread of eternal life, for the hope of heavenly joys, desires to suffer weeping, hunger, and poverty, is blessed. But much more blessed is he who does not shrink to maintain these virtues in adversity. Hence it follows, Blessed are you when men shall hate you. For although men hate, with their wicked hearts they can not injure the heart that is beloved by Christ, It follows, And when they shall separate you. Let them separate and expel you from the synagogue. Christ finds you out, and strengthens you. It follows; And shall reproach you. Let them reproach the name of the Crucified, He Himself raises together with Him those that have died with Him, and makes them sit in heavenly places. It follows, And cast out your name as evil. Here he means the name of Christian, which by Jews and Gentiles as far as they were able was frequently erased from the memory, and cast out by men, when there was as no cause for hatred, but the Son of man; for in truth they who believed on the name of Christ, wished to be called after His name. Therefore He teaches that they are to be persecuted by men, but are to be blessed beyond men.

As it follows, Rejoice you in that day, and weep for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven.

CHRYS. Great and little are measured by the dignity of the speaker. Let us inquire then who promised the great reward. If indeed a prophet or an apostle, little had been in his estimation great; but now it is the Lord in whose hands are eternal treasures and riches surpassing man’s conception, who has promised great reward.

BASIL; Again, great has sometimes a positive signification, as the heaven is great, and the earth is great; but sometimes it has relation to something else, as a great ox or great horse, on comparing two things of like nature. I think then that great reward will be laid up for those who suffer reproach for Christ’s sake, not as in comparison with those things in our power, but as being in itself great because given by God.

DAMASC. Those things which may be measured or numbered are used definitely, but that which from a certain excellence surpasses all measure and number we call great and much indefinitely; as when we say that great is the long suffering of God.

EUSEB. He then fortifies His disciples against the attacks of their adversaries, which they were about to suffer as they preached through the whole world; adding, For in like manner did their fathers to the prophets.

AMBROSE; For the Jews persecuted the prophets even to death.

THEOPHYL; They who speak the truth commonly suffer persecution, yet the ancient prophets did not therefore from fear of persecution turn away from preaching the truth.

AMBROSE; In that He says, Blessed are the poor, you have temperance; which abstains from sin, tramples upon the world, seeks not vain delights. In Blessed are they that hunger you have righteousness; for he who hungers suffers together with the hungry, and by suffering together with him gives to him, by giving becomes righteous, and his righteousness abides for ever. In Blessed are they that weep now, you have prudence; which is to weep for the things of time, and to seek those which are eternal. In Blessed are you when men hate you, you have fortitude; not that which deserves hatred for crime, but which suffers persecution for faith. For so you wilt attain to the crown of suffering if you slightest the favor of men, and seek that which is from God.

Temperance therefore brings with it a pure heart; righteousness, mercy; prudence, peace; fortitude, meekness. The virtues are so joined and linked to one another, that he who has one seems to have many; and the Saints have each one especial virtue, but the more abundant virtue has the richer reward. What hospitality in Abraham, what hat humility, but because he excelled in faith, he gained the preeminence above all others. To every one there are many rewards because many incentives to virtue, but that which is most abundant in a good action, has the most exceeding reward.

Ver 24. But woe to you that are rich! for you have received your consolation.25. Woe to you that are full! for you shall hunger. Woe to you that laugh now! for you shall mourn and weep.26. Woe to you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

CYRIL; Having said before that poverty for God’s sake is the cause of every good thing, and that hunger and weeping will not be without the reward of the saints, he goes on to denounce the opposite to these as the source of condemnation and punishment. But woe to you rich, for you have your consolation.

CHRYS. For this expression, woe, is always said in the Scriptures to those who cannot escape from future punishment.

AMBROSE; But although in the abundance of wealth many are the allurements to crime, yet many also are the incitements to virtue. Although virtue requires no support, and the offering of the poor man is more commendable than the liberality of the rich, still it is not those who possess riches, but those who know not how to use them, that are condemned by the authority of the heavenly sentence. For as that poor man is more praiseworthy who gives without grudging, so is the rich man more guilty, who ought to return thanks for what he has received, and not to hide without using it the sum which was given him for the common good. It is not therefore the money, but the heart of the possessor which is in fault. And though there be no heavier punishment than to be preserving with anxious fear what is to serve for the advantage of successors, yet since the covetous desires are fed by a certain pleasure of amassing, they who have had their consolation in the present life, have lost an eternal reward. We may here however understand by the rich man the Jewish people, or the heretics, or at least the Pharisees, who, rejoicing in an abundance of words, and a kind of hereditary pride of eloquence, have overstepped the simplicity of true faith, and gained to themselves useless treasures.

THEOPHYL; Woe to you that are full, for you shall be hungry. That rich man clothed in purple was full, feasting sumptuously every day, but endured in hunger that dreadful “woe,” when from the finger of Lazarus, whom he had despised, he begged a drop of water.

BASIL; Now it is plain that the rule of abstinence is necessary, because the Apostle mentions it among the fruits of the Spirit. For the subjection of the body is by nothing so obtained as by abstinence, whereby, as it were a bridle, it becomes us to keep in check the fervor of youth. Abstinence then is the putting to death of sin, the extirpation of passions, the beginning of the spiritual life, blunting in itself the sting of temptations. But lest there should be any agreement with the enemies of God, we must accept every thing as the occasion requires, to show, that to the pure all things are pure, by coming indeed to the necessaries of life, but abstaining altogether from those which conduce to pleasure. But since it is not possible that all should keep the same hours, or the same manner, or the same proportion, still let there be one purpose, never to wait to be filled, for fullness of stomach makes the body itself also unfit for its proper functions, sleepy, and inclined to what is hurtful.

THEOPHYL; In another way. If those are happy who always hunger after the works of righteousness, they on the other hand are counted to be unhappy, who, pleasing themselves in their own desires, suffer no hunger after the true good. It follows, Woe to you who laugh, &c.

BASIL; Whereas the Lord reproves those who laugh now, it is plain that there will never be a house of laughter to the faithful, especially since there is so great a multitude of those who die in sin for whom we must mourn. Excessive laughter is a sign of want of moderation, and the motion of an unrestrained spirit; but ever to express the feelings of our heart with a pleasantness of countenance is not unseemly.

CHRYS. But tell me, why are you distracting and wasting yourself away with pleasures, who must stand before the awful judgment, and give account of all things done here?

THEOPHYL; But because flattery being the very nurse of sin, like oil to the flames, is wont to minister fuel to those who are on fire with sin, he adds, Woe to you when all men shall speak well of you.

CHRYS. What is said here is not opposed to what our Lord says elsewhere, Let your light shine before men; that is, that we should be eager to do good for the glory of God, not our own. For vain-glory is a baneful thing, and from hence springs iniquity, and despair, and avarice, the mother of evil. But if you seek to turn away from this, ever raise your eyes to God, and be content with that glory which is from Him. For if in all things we must choose the more learned for judges, how do you trust to the many the decision of virtue, and not rather to Him, who before all others know it, and can give and reward it, whose glory therefore if you desire, avoid the praise of men. For no one more excites our admiration than he who rejects glory. And if we do this, much more does the God of all. Be mindful then, that the glory of men quickly fails, seeing in the course of time it is past into oblivion. It follows, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

THEOPHYL; By the false prophets are meant those, who to gain the favor of the multitude attempt to predict future events. The Lord on the mountain pronounces only the blessings of the good, but on the plain he describes also the “woe” of the wicked, because the yet uninstructed hearers must first be brought by terrors to good works, but the perfect need but be invited by rewards.

AMBROSE; And mark, that Matthew by rewards called the people to virtue and faith, but Luke also frightened them from their sins and iniquities by the denunciation of future punishment.

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Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 1:18-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 23, 2017

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

Now the generation of Christ.] The following paragraph of the gospel gives first the reason why Jesus is said to be born of Mary; secondly, it tells of Joseph’s doubt and its solution; in the third place, it shows the fulfilment of a prophecy in the birth, or rather in the conception, of Jesus.

a. Why is Jesus said to be born of Mary? In verse 16 the evangelist breaks his genealogical chain; for instead of saying “and Joseph begot Jesus,” he continues, “Joseph the husband of Mary of whom [Mary] was born Jesus who is called Christ.” That the evangelist is going to give the reason for this special expression, he indicates in the words: “Now (for) the generation of Christ was in this wise.” This phrase must not, therefore, be understood as referring merely to the genealogy [Jer. Orig.], or as referring cither to the genealogy or the description of the conception that follows [Rab. Bed.], but it refers wholly to the manner of the conception of Jesus [Chrys. Knab.]. The words constitute, as it were, a new heading of the following paragraph, in which we must consider: (1) the name Mary; (2) the verb “was espoused”; (3) the phrase “before they came together”; (4) the expression “she was found with child”; (5) the words “of the Holy Ghost.”

(1) Mary has been variously interpreted by different authors: my illuminatrix, illuminating them, myrrh of the sea, star of the sea, enlightened, enlightening, bitter sea, drop of the sea, mistress, bitter one, fat or strong one, afflicted one, exalted one, contumacy, are some of the explanations of the name [cf. Bardenhewer, Der Name Maria, Freiburg, 1895; de Lagarde, Onomast. s. xiv. 7; lxx. 1; lxxiv. 21; cciii. 14; xiv. 8; Zeitschr. d. d. m. Gesellsch. 1877, p. 183; Linzer Quartalsch. 1880, pp. 58–64; Innsbrucker Zeitsch. 1880, p. 387; Isidor. Hispal. etymol. vii. 10; Jer. in Exod.; in Mt.; etc.]. Knabenbauer is of opinion that the explanations of the name which regard it as compound with the Hebrew word meaning “sea” should be abandoned; he eliminates also the renderings “contumacy,” “afflicted one,” “bitter one,” as being unlikely to be given to a newly born child; the meanings “exalted one,” “mistress,” “myrrh,” he admits as probable, since names of this meaning might be given to a child. It is clear that absolute certainty as to the meaning of the name cannot with our present data be expected.

(2) The word “espoused” [μνηστευθείσης] signifies properly “to be promised in marriage,” “to be betrothed”; but the meaning of betrothment according to the Hebrew law differs essentially from the idea usually connected with that term in our day. It is not a mere promise to marry, but it is the very initiation of marriage. The betrothed parties are really married, though by custom they are not yet entitled to the marital rights, nor bound to fulfil any of the mutual duties of conjugal life. The betrothment is dissolved only by death or a bill of divorce; faithlessness on the part of the betrothed female is treated as adultery. Without obtaining a formal divorce, she cannot enter a marriage contract with another person, and if she does so, it is void. The betrothed parties are called “Arus” and “Arusa” respectively, the state of being betrothed is called “Arusin,” and the act of betrothing, “Kiddushin.” The mode of betrothal is either by money [Kaseph], or by a written document [Sh’tar]. Between the betrothal and the nuptials an interval elapses, varying from a month for widows to a year for virgins. The nuptials are termed Chuppa [bridal chamber] or Nissuin [taking]. The essence of the nuptial ceremonies consists in conducting the bride from her home to that of the bridegroom, or a place representing his home. After this they are considered in all respects as husband and wife, though no conjugal intercourse has actually taken place [cf. Mielziner, The Jewish Law of Marriage and Divorce, pp. 76 ff.; Patrizi, De Prima Angeli ad Josephum Mariæ Sponsum Legatione, nn. 4, 5, 17; Deut. 22:23, 26; 1 Kings 18:25; Gen. 34:12; 29:18, 20, 25, 27; 31:4; Deut. 20:7; 2 Kings 3:14; etc.].

To distinguish, therefore, between marriage and the use of marriage: Christians have after betrothment a “jus ad rem” with regard to marriage, and after the nuptials a “jus in re,” while the Jews had no “jus ad rem,” but only a “jus in re”; with regard to the use of marriage, the Jews had a “jus ad rem” after the betrothment, and after the nuptials a “jus in re,” but Christians have a “jus in re” only, after the nuptials.

Still, as now we apply the terms “bride” and “bridegroom” to newly married persons, so does St. Luke [2:5] use the word “espoused” of Mary even after her nuptials with St. Joseph. The question to be decided here is whether “espoused” in the present passage of St. Matthew must be taken in the Christian meaning of the term, or in its legal Jewish meaning, or again in its metaphorical meaning in which the third evangelist employs it. The first signification is excluded by the nationality of the author and by the nature of the case. The third signification is excluded by the context, according to which St. Joseph had not yet “taken” Mary unto him, so that the nuptials had not yet taken place [verses 20, 24]. St. Matthew uses the term, therefore, in its second, strictly literal, meaning.

The only difficulty is to explain how God, according to this opinion, attained the four ends for which he wished Mary to be joined in marriage to St. Joseph. He intended a. to conceal for a time the mystery of the incarnation which could not then be understood; b. to shield the honor of Mary; c. to give Mary a helper and consoler, and a guardian of her virginity; d. to conceal the miraculous conception of Jesus from the devil. This last reason was first stated by Ign., and has been repeated by Ambr. [lib. ii. n. 3], Thom. [p. iii. qu. 29 a. 1], Sylv. and Suar. [in p. iii.]; but Scot, [in 4, sent. dist. 30, qu. 2], Tost. [in Mt. i. qu. 31], Salm. and Mald, appear to be right in rejecting it. Even though Mary was espoused to St. Joseph, the devil, if not impeded by God’s special intervention, could naturally know whether Jesus was conceived and born in the ordinary way or not. Besides, commentators do not tell us that God prevented the devil from perceiving other signs that proved the Messiasship of our Lord more clearly than his virginal conception and birth do; why, then, assert such a preventive action of God in this latter case? Thom. [l. c] assigns also a fifth reason for the marriage of Mary: God wished to honor in her both the state of virginity and of matrimony against the false teaching of future heretics.

To return to the foregoing difficulty, the first, the third, and the fifth purpose of God in causing Mary to enter the married state do not require that “espoused” in the passage of St. Matthew should refer to the Virgin’s state after her nuptials; but the second end, or the inconvenience that would follow if the Virgin Mary appeared pregnant before her nuptials, seems at first sight to demand the metaphorical meaning of “espoused,” found in Luke 2:5. Still, even if “espoused” be taken in its Hebrew signification as explained above, Mary did not become pregnant before her marriage, but only before her solemn passage into the house of her husband. The exercise of the marriage rights before this period was not forbidden by the law of Moses, but only by tradition; an offence against the latter was not considered as adultery or fornication, though it was punished, if it had taken place in the house of the bride’s father, and was denounced to the judges; the offspring was considered illegitimate only when the husband testified that there had not been any marital intercourse. We may suppose that Mary went to visit Elisabeth almost immediately after conceiving of the Holy Ghost; and it is not improbable that the mystery was made known supernaturally to her parents after her return, as it had been made known to Zachary and Elisabeth, and to St. Joseph. The marriage festivities might take place almost immediately after her return to the parental home, and it does not seem difficult to conceal at such an early period the state of pregnancy, especially in the case of a person so retiring as Our Blessed Lady. The circumstance that she gave birth to Our Lord when away from home, and that she probably did not return to Nazareth until after her flight to Egypt, would shield her against any suspicions and obloquies of her neighbors [cf. patr., De Prima Angeli ad Josephum Mariæ? Sponsum Legatione Commentation. 2 sqq. 17, 39]. This opinion is held by Bas. Epiph. Baronius, Salm. Calm. Lam. patr. Bisp. Curci, Knab. and others.

—before they came together.] (3) This phrase may, according to the meaning of the verb συνέρχεσθαι refer either to marital intercourse or to the solemn introduction of the bride into the house of the bridegroom. In the former sense the Greek verb is used by Xenophon [Mem. II. ii. 4] and Origen [c. Celsum, i. 17], but never either in the Septuagint or the New Testament, except 1 Cor. 7:5, where, however, the Vatican Cod. has ῆτε, which reading is approved by Griesbach, Lachmann, and Tischendorf. Helvidius argued from this meaning of the word against the perpetual virginity of Our Lady, and St. Jerome in his answer did not deny the sense Helvidius had given to the passage [Adv. Helvid. 4]. But this argumentative concession of the Saint does not prove that he adhered to his adversary’s interpretation, though he refutes the heretic’s argument thoroughly.

Verses 20, 24 show plainly that the “coming together” refers to the solemn introduction of Mary into the house of Joseph. This is confirmed by the fact that the evangelist expresses marital intercourse by the verb “to know” in verse 25, and also by the list of the most illustrious commentators who favor the foregoing interpretation: Hil. Cat. Aur. Br. Salm. Mar. Calm. Lam. patr. Schegg, Bisp. Arn. Meyer, Grimm, Reischl, Schanz, Fil. Keil, Weiss, Knab.; it is true that the meaning “conjugal intercourse” was more commonly admitted by the older commentators: Chrys. Ambr. Jer. Pasch. Euth. Mald. Bar. Tost. Jans. Lap. Sylv. Sa, Est. and Men. But then they had to solve the above mentioned difficulty against the perpetual virginity of Our Blessed Lady, without gaining any additional argument for the virginal conception of Our Lord. This dogma is as clearly implied in the statement that Jesus Christ was conceived before the solemn passing over of Mary into the house of Joseph, as in the statement that Jesus was conceived before any marital intercourse took place; for Joseph being a just man, such intercourse was out of the question while Mary still lived in the house of her parents.

—she was found with child.] (4) After her return from Zachary’s house, where she had spent three months, the signs of Mary’s condition became apparent. Br. remarks that the members of her family noticed her pregnancy, but did not consider it strange, since they knew her to be espoused to Joseph; only the latter was surprised at the fact which he could not help noticing. “To find out accidentally,” “to notice without scrutiny,” is said to be the true meaning of the Greek verb by Chrys. Theoph. Thom. Mald., who differ in this point from Jer.

—of the Holy Ghost.] (5) There are two ways of construing these words: a.] They must be taken together with the preceding, so that the object of Joseph’s discovery was Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Ghost. The principal reasons for this view are the following: α. The extrinsic authority of its defenders: Ps. Bas. Eus. Ps. Orig. Rab. Theoph. Salm. Richard of Saint-Victor, Gerson, Eckius, Catharinus, St. Brigitta, Turrecremata, Major, Soto, Rossignol, Paludanus, Druthm. Busto, Isolani, Natalis, Canisius, Morales, Grimm, etc.; β. the wording of the text which does not allow a separation of the clause “she was found with child” from the words “of the Holy Ghost”; γ. St. Joseph cannot have remained in ignorance of the mystery after the occurrences in the house of Zachary; δ. the Blessed Virgin cannot have concealed from her husband what she had publicly acknowledged in her solemn hymn of thanksgiving, the “Magnificat”; ε. St. Joseph thought of separating from Mary through motives of humility, as St. Peter afterwards asked Our Lord to go away from him.

b.] According to the second view, the words “of the Holy Ghost” are an addition of the evangelist declaring a matter of fact, and do not belong to the object of the discovery. The following are the main reasons for this view: α. It is the more common view of the Fathers and commentators, so that even Orig. Bas. and Hil., who were quoted by Grimm in support of his interpretation, have had to be abandoned by the learned writer, while Pasch. Thom. Alb. Bar. Jans. Mald. and the majority of commentators follow the lead of the Fathers in believing that Joseph did not discover the pregnancy of Mary and its divine origin at the same time. β. The context almost forces us to this interpretation, since in verse 20 the angel admonishes Joseph to take unto him Mary his wife, alleging as a reason that “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” or the very fact on account of which Joseph wished to send Mary away, if we believe the interpretation of our opponents. γ. Mary’s fear that she could not easily convince Joseph of the mystery, or her humility, or her complete self-surrender into the hands of divine providence, or all three motives together, sufficiently explain the difference between her behavior towards her husband and that towards Zachary and Elisabeth, in whose society the Spirit of God had inspired her with that most sublime canticle of thanksgiving; δ. St. Matthew adds the words “of the Holy Ghost,” either by way of prolepsis or, more probably, in order to prevent in the reader a doubt which in the case of Joseph had to be removed by the ministry of an angel. These reasons serve also to refute those for the preceding view.

As to the meaning of the phrase “of the Holy Ghost,” it does not differ from what is said in Lk. 1:35; the Holy Ghost supplied by his creative power and virtue what was needed for the conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary, and God taught us by the words of the angel and the evangelist the proper mode of expressing this divine action. But was not this an external act of God, and are not all of God’s external acts common to the three divine persons? why then attribute it to the Holy Ghost? The following are the principal reasons for this manner of expression: 1.] On the part of God, the incarnating action was the height of divine love for man, and the Holy Ghost is the substantial love of God; 2.] on the part of man, human nature was assumed into hypostatic union with the divine word, and grace is attributed to the Holy Ghost; 3.] on the part of Jesus Christ, his sanctity is rightly ascribed to the action of the Holy Ghost, to whom all sanctification is attributed; 4.] on the part of the Holy Ghost, he is the substantial divine love completing and perfecting the eternal divine processions, and therefore God’s chief work of love is fitly attributed to him; 5.] with regard to the world, the Holy Ghost is regarded as its breath and vivifying principle [Gen. 1:2; 2:7; Ps. 103:30; Jn. 6:63], and therefore, again, the incarnation which is the principle of all supernatural life and fecundity is aptly ascribed to the Holy Ghost; 6.] finally, since to the third person the work of grace is commonly attributed, he is rightly represented as the author of the incarnation too, because this is the source and fountain of all grace [Thom. p. iii. q. 32, a. 1; Suar. in h. l.; Rab. Bed. Salm. Mald.].

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

Whereupon Joseph.] b. The second part of the present section considers 1. the doubt of Joseph; 2. the manner in which God delivered him from his doubt.

1. The doubt of Joseph. In order to understand the first of these points, we shall explain: 1.] the expression “her husband”; 2.] the phrase “being a just man”; 3.] Joseph’s intended private separation from Mary.

1.] Though the expression “her husband” may be fairly urged to show that Mary and Joseph were married before this period, it does not necessarily imply that Mary had been solemnly taken into Joseph’s house [cf. Gen. 29:21; Deut. 22:24]. At any rate, the word implies the vital interest Joseph took in Mary’s condition, α. We have had occasion already to mention one view of Joseph’s attitude under the present circumstances, defended by all those who maintain that Joseph learned at the same time Mary’s pregnancy and its real cause. We have rejected this view as improbable. β. A second view of Joseph’s attitude under the present circumstances makes him suspect Mary of adultery [Just. Ambr. Aug. Chrys. Euth. Pet. Chrysol. Br. Tost. Caj. Jans. Bar. Sa, Est. Mald. Schanz, Fil.]. But this opinion strikes us as harsh, injurious to Mary, unworthy of Joseph, offensive to Jesus Christ, and as not required by the context. γ. The third view regards Joseph as thrown into and overwhelmed by the pains of doubt: on the one side he feels certain of Mary’s innocence and blameless conduct; on the other he cannot deny the fact of her pregnancy, of which he himself is surely not the cause [Jer. op. imp. Pasch. Haym. Alb. Bernardin. Bonavent. Sylv. Lap. Tir. Men. Calm. Schegg, Meschl. Keppler, Knab. etc.]. This opinion satisfies the requirements of the context, and at the same time avoids the extremes of the two preceding views.

—being a just man.]. 2.] The meaning given by commentators to the phrase “being a just man” depends to some extent on their interpretation of the attitude of St. Joseph during the period of his trial, α. Those who think that he knew already the whole truth place his justice in his humility which prompted him to consider himself unworthy of Mary’s society. β. Chrys. and patr. are of opinion that Joseph is called a just man because he patiently bore the injustice that might have been done him, and he complied with the law in putting away his wife. This last reason is not wholly valid, because the husband was not bound to bring a charge of infidelity against his spouse or wife, no matter how clear her guilt, nor to give a bill of divorce, except when the wife or spouse was seduced before her espousals; in that case the seducer was bound to marry her [Ex. 22:16; Deut. 22:28]. It had, however, become customary (perhaps on account of Prov. 18:22, Lev. 5) to regard it as strict duty to put away the faithless wife or spouse in every case, though no such obligation can be proved from the law. The wording of the Greek text is also appealed to in favor of this meaning of “just.” It may be rendered “being a just man, and [yet] not willing to expose her,” so that the second part of the sentence forms a contrast with, and is no mere explanation of, the first part. γ. Mald. and Jans. are of opinion that Joseph’s justice consisted in his meekness and charity, so that according to them the phrase “being a just man” is further explained by the subsequent words “and not willing publicly to expose her.” Pasch. Euth. Eus. Salm. appear to favor this view; the Greek text does not exclude it, whatever may be said to the contrary by the patrons of the foregoing opinion.

—to put her away privately.] 3.] α. Tost. Mald. Lap. Tir. Men. Calm. Grimm believe that Joseph intended to leave Mary privately, by retiring to a foreign and unknown country; they deny that before the spouse had been solemnly led into the house of the husband, a bill of divorce was needed to effect the separation. It is true that in the Rabbinic writers the law of Deut. 24:1 is so explained as to comprise the case of merely betrothed persons; but the foregoing writers contend that we cannot infer from this that the same interpretation of the law was given at the time of Jesus Christ. β. Salm. Bar. Jans. Lam. patr. Schegg, Bisp. Fil. Wuensche, think that the separation had to be effected by a bill of divorce even before the spouse had been solemnly transferred into the house of the husband, but they maintain at the same time that this ceremony might take place either before judges or before two witnesses. In the specimen of a bill of divorce, found in Surenhusius [Mischn. iii. 323, 325, Tract. Git.], no cause for the separation is mentioned. It appears, therefore, that even according to this opinion strict privacy might be secured as to the real motive of the separating parties.

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

But while he thought.] 2. The anxiety of Joseph is allayed: 1.] by the ministry of an angel; 2.] by the promised companionship of Mary; 3.] by the honor God conferred on his wife; 4.] by the promised paternity of Mary’s and God’s son; 5.] by the Messianic office of his son.

—behold the angel.] 1.] An angel. α. Chrys. Tost. Moral. Knab. believe that the angel appeared almost immediately after the doubt began to afflict Joseph, probably in the first night after Mary’s return. This seems to agree best with God’s merciful providence, and also with the words of the evangelist: “but while he thought on those things, behold.” β. It is not improbable that Br. Thom. Salm. Knab. are right in supposing that the angel appearing to Joseph was Gabriel, the angel of the incarnation; he appeared to Daniel, Zachary, and Mary. γ. The translation “in his sleep” renders the meaning of the Greek text [κατʼ ὄναρ; cf. ὄναρ καὶ ὕπαρ] faithfully; the view of Bisp. Meyer, Sevin that we ought to translate “after the manner of a dream” is inadmissible [cf. Gen. 20:3, 6; 31:10, etc.; Mt. 2:12, 19, 22; 27:19; Deut. 22:4; 23:32; 29:8]. δ. Tost. Jans. Bar. are of opinion that the angel did not appear in visible form, nor in person, but only in pictures of Joseph’s imagination. The wording of the gospel “the angel of the Lord appeared” seems to exclude this view.

—Joseph, son of David.] 2.] Companionship of Mary. α. The consolation of the angel is prefaced by the title he gives to Joseph; according to the common interpretation, Joseph was thus reminded of the promises made to David and his royal house, and this the more vividly since the fulfilment of the Messianic promises was then most eagerly expected. β. The angel claims authority for his mission and his words by the fact that he is fully acquainted with the interior of Joseph’s soul, with his doubts and perplexities; and he confirms this sign by the prophecy he utters, γ. Instead of giving way to doubt and fear, Joseph is bidden to follow the inclination of his heart, and complete his engagement with Mary by solemn nuptials, taking her into his own house. This passage shows both that Mary was really married to Joseph before this period, and that she had not yet been solemnly introduced into his house: the former fact follows from the word “thy wife” which the evangelist applies to Mary both according to the Greek text and its English translation; the latter is necessarily implied in the words “fear not to take unto thee.” The various subterfuges suggested by the writers who believe that Mary had been before solemnly wedded to Joseph show this more plainly than any positive proof could do. According to them, the phrase “take unto thee” means “receive into thy house [after her three months’ absence],” or “keep with thee,” or “take unto thee [anew after being separated from her in thought].” And after all their labor, they have not been able to explain the text without doing violence to its plain meaning. We believe, therefore, that the opinion of Thom. Salm. patr. Schegg, Schanz, Knab. Fil. on this point is preferable to that of Chrys. Euth. Mald. Jans. Bar. Sylv.

3.] Mary’s exalted dignity. α. Joseph’s doubt or ignorance concerning the cause of Mary’s pregnancy had been more painful to him than the thought of his coming separation from her; and as the angel changed the pain of separation into the joy of union, so he changed the pain of ignorance or doubt into the most sincere exultation over Mary’s innocence and ineffable dignity: “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost,” or as the Greek text more properly reads: “that which is begotten in her.” β. Besides all this, the angel shows that the Holy Ghost and Mary have not been causes in the same way: it is begotten IN Mary, but OF the Holy Ghost, γ. Had Joseph known the whole truth before, he might have answered the angel: “It is for this very reason that I intend to separate from Mary.” But the text plainly demands that the reason which the angel gives Joseph for taking Mary unto him must be one that he had not considered before.

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

And she shall bring forth a son.] 4.] Joseph shall be father of Mary’s son. α. There is a new cause of joy in the promise of a son; but this son is not promised to Joseph in particular as John the Baptist had been promised to Zachary, for according to Is. 9:5, Mary’s son must be born for the whole world [Thom. Salm. Jans. Bar.]. β. Joseph is, however, to be considered as the real father of Mary’s son, since he is to name the child [cf. Gen. 4:1; 5:29; 19:37; 21:3; 29:32–35; 30:6 f.; Ex. 2:22; etc.]. Another title to Joseph’s real fatherhood of Mary’s son is implicitly indicated by the angel: Joseph’s wife has lawfully conceived of the Holy Ghost; but the lawful fruit of the wife’s womb belongs to the husband. γ. The name of the child is no matter of indifference; since Jesus as God has a proper name [Word], so he must have a proper name as man. It must not be a mere appellative as is the name “Christ”; nor a metaphorical name, such as Pastor or Door; but it must express his essence as closely as it can be expressed. That the holy name Jesus has these requirements follows from the fact that it was given by God himself, who knew his Son perfectly, and loved him with an infinite love. This “a priori” reason is confirmed by the meaning of the word Jesus, “salvation of the Lord” or “Saviour.” As the nature of a mechanical instrument is fully determined by the work it has to do, so is the essence of Mary’s child fully manifested by the mission for which God has fitted him; if the mission of “Saviour” requires a God-man, a natural son of God, endowed with substantial sanctity, then the child that is named by God “Saviour” infallibly possesses all these qualities. Others had borne the name Jesus before [Eccli. 46:1; 1 Mach. 2:55; 2 Mach. 12:15; Acts 7:45; Heb. 4:8; Agg. 1:1, 12; Zach. 3:1; 6:11; Esd. 2:2, 30; 3:2; 8:33; 2 Esd. 7:7, 39; 8:17; 12:1, 10, 26; 1 Par. 24:11; 2 Par. 31:15; etc.], but they had been intended as saviours only in some one respect or another, while Jesus is the Saviour of all men in the full meaning of the word.

—for he shall save his people.] 5.] The mission of Jesus. α. The next consolation offered by the angel to Joseph is derived from the office of the son of Mary. He shall be a Saviour not in a partial sense of the word, but he shall deliver us from sin, which is the root and the cause of all evil. After sin has been taken away, that peace and abundance of all blessings shall come which the prophets predicted for the Messianic age [Is. 9:7; 11:5; etc.]. β. Chrys. and Pasch. remark that in the case of the Messias “his people” comprises all men, as may be inferred from the words of the prophets: Ps. 2:8; 21:2–8; 71:8–11; 86:4, 6; Is. 11:9, 10; 42:4; 49:6; 52:15; 60:6; etc. Chrys. Jans. Bar. Sylv. infer the divinity of Jesus from the two facts that he is to save us from sin, and that his people is God’s people. γ. Chrys. and Mald. draw also attention to the circumstance that whereas the God-man might have assumed a name indicative of his divine majesty, he preferred a title that breathes nothing but mercy and love.

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

Now all this was done.] c. The third part of the present section contains (1) an introductory statement; (2) a prophecy; (3) Joseph’s action subsequent to the solution of his doubt.

(1) In the introductory statement the following points deserve our attention: a. Iren. Chrys. Euth. Theoph. patr. Arn. Weiss, Mor. Grimm, and others arc of opinion that the words introducing the fulfilment of the prophecy were uttered by the angel. Not all the evangelist has said, they argue, was done to fulfil the prophecy, but all the angel has said; as if the evangelist might not sum up all the angel said, in the words “all this.” Rab. Haym. Salm. Sylv. and most of the recent commentators maintain that the evangelist adds the words, “now all this.” They appeal to the usual formula in which St. Matthew shows the fulfilment of prophecy, to the unsuitableness of the words in the mouth of the angel, and to their agreement with the whole scope of the first gospel. β. Chrys. Theoph. Tost. Dion. Mald. Calm. Kuinoel, Berlepsch, and others are inclined to render here “and so was fulfilled the saying of the Lord by the prophet,” arguing that God predicted the future event because he had predetermined its futurity rather than predetermined its futurity because he had predicted it. But Pasch. Thom. Salm. Bar. patr. Haym. Knab. and many other commentators render the passage “that it might be fulfilled”; while these writers grant to their opponents that God predicted the event because he had predetermined it, they at the same time insist on the fact that the event with all its circumstances came to pass in order that God’s prediction might be sensibly verified, and his divine foreknowledge proved. γ. Again, we may remind the reader that the evangelist here suggests the true idea of Scriptural inspiration; “the Lord spoke by the prophet,” as he speaks through all inspired authors.

(2) As to the prophecy itself, α. the evangelist follows the text of the Alexandrian version, differing from it in three points: (a) he substitutes “a virgin shall have in her womb” for “a virgin shall receive in her womb”; (b) he writes “they shall call his name” instead of “thou shalt call his name”; (c) he adds “which being interpreted is God with us.” β. The explanation of the prophecy may be seen in any commentary on Is. 7:14. Here it must suffice to prove its literal reference to the Messias. This may be established from the fact that Emmanuel refers literally to Jesus Christ; for the Emmanuel of Is. 7:14 is identical with the person described in Is. 8:8, 10; 9:6, 7; 11:1–10, and the latter can be no other than the Messias. We are then warranted in maintaining with nearly all Catholic commentators and several Protestant writers the literal Messianic sense of the prophecy to which St. Matthew refers. γ. The passage shows also that the Virgin in the prophecy was to be Virgin “in sensu composito,” both Virgin and mother. δ. Theoph. and Chrys. have explained the name Emmanuel or “God with us” as signifying Christ’s divine nature: Theoph. maintains that Sacred Scripture takes its names of persons from their works, and the works of Jesus showed his divinity; Chrys. places the names of persons in Scripture on a level with their being, so that the name “God with us,” applied to Jesus, implies that Jesus is God.

24 And Joseph rising up from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and took unto him his wife.
25 And he knew her not till she brought forth her first born son: and he called his name Jesus.

And Joseph rising up from sleep.] (3) In the concluding part of the section, the evangelist insists on the obedience of Joseph, on his continency, and on the accomplishment of the angel’s words. α. Theoph. and Alb. call Joseph’s obedience prompt; Pasch. and Thom. further explain it as fulfilling the angel’s injunction both with regard to its matter and manner. Joseph solemnly introduced Mary to his own home as soon as circumstances would permit. This passage is another proof that Joseph not merely kept Mary as his wife, nor took her back after her stay with Zachary, nor gave her back his affection. β. In order to emphasize the virginal conception and birth of Jesus, the evangelist asserts that there was no intercourse between Joseph and Mary; for we need not mention the interpretation of op. imp. and gl. ord. according to which “to know” means “to know intellectually” or “to see”; Mary was therefore a virgin not only when conceiving, but also when bringing forth Jesus Christ. The words “till she brought forth” have been added, (a) because the evangelist had the birth of Jesus principally in view; (b) again, there was no need of adding anything of this nature regarding the period after Christ’s birth, since it was well known among the Jews that Mary did not conceive or bring forth a second time; (c) from this limitation in the evangelist’s words we cannot infer that Joseph knew Mary after the time of Jesus’ birth, just as we cannot conclude from Gen. 8:7 that the raven returned to Noe’s ark after the earth was dry, or from 2 Kings 6:23 that Michol brought forth after her death. The word “until” neither affirms nor denies anything after the limit of time to which it refers. (d) Even prescinding from the strict meaning of the words, it is not at all probable that Joseph should have known his spouse after witnessing all the miraculous signs at the time of Christ’s birth, if he had observed continency till then on account of the angel’s words. (e) That Mary observed perpetual virginity follows from her words in Luke 1:34, which have no meaning at all, if they are limited to the time before Christ’s birth. (f) Nor is the phrase Mary’s “first-horn son” conclusive against her perpetual virginity; for that term only denies that she gave birth to other sons before Jesus, without affirming that others were born after Jesus [cf. Ex 34:19, 20; Num. 18:15, where God himself defines the “first-born” as signifying him that opens his mother’s womb—Br. Pasch. Haym. Alb. Thom. etc.]. (g) Bed. Rah. Haym. Pasch. Alb. Sylv. Grimm, explain the word “first-born” as meaning what is meant by the predicate of Wisdom in Eccli. 24:5 [cf. Col. 1:15], while others interpret it as referring to Jesus’ brethren by adoption, or to his resurrection from the dead, or to similar relations. Though all these considerations are worthy of regard, they do not answer the difficulty of the present passage. γ. Finally the evangelist states the accomplishment of the angel’s words: Mary brought forth her first-born, and Joseph named the child according to the angel’s command.

d. St. Matthew then proves the Messiasship of Jesus from his virginal conception, and this he establishes by three arguments: 1. Christ’s virginal conception is revealed by the angel; 2. it had been predicted by the prophet; 3. it is confirmed by Joseph’s obedience to the angel; for Joseph would not have taken Mary to his house, had he not believed the angel’s testimony concerning her manner of conception. As the doubt of St. Thomas confirms us in our faith of the resurrection, so the doubt of Joseph confirms us in our faith of the virginal conception of Jesus.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Philippians 2:1-4

Posted by Dim Bulb on August 5, 2017

But Paul does not so; he calls to our remembrance no carnal, but all of them spiritual benefits. That is, if ye wish to give me any comfort in my temptations, and encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if ye wish to show any communion in the Spirit, if ye have any tender mercies and compassions, fulfil ye my joy. “If any tender mercies and compassions.” Paul speaks of the concord of his disciples as compassion towards himself, thus showing that the danger was extreme, if they were not of one mind. If I can obtain comfort from you, if I can obtain any consolation from our love, if I can communicate with you in the Spirit, if I can have fellowship with you in the Lord, if I can find mercy and compassion at your hands, show by your love the return of all this. All this have I gained, if ye love one another.

Ver. 2. “Fulfil ye my joy.”

That the exhortation might not seem to be made to people who were still deficient, see how he says not, “do me joy,” but “fulfil my joy”; that is, Ye have begun to plant it in me, ye have already given me some portion of peacefulness, but I desire to arrive at its fulness? Say, what wouldest thou? that we deliver thee from dangers? that we supply somewhat to thy need? Not so, but “that ye be of the same mind, having the same love,” in which ye have begun, “being of one accord, of one mind.” Just see, how often he repeats the same thing by reason of his great affection! “That ye be of the same mind,” or rather, “that ye be of one mind.” For this is more than “the same.”

“Having the same love.” That is, let it not be simply about faith alone, but also in all other things; for there is such a thing as to be of the same mind, and yet not to have love. “Having the same love,” that is, love and be loved alike; do not thou enjoy much love, and show less love, so as to be covetous even in this matter; but do not suffer it in thyself. “Of one accord,” he adds, that is, appropriating with one soul, the bodies of all, not in substance, for that is impossible, but in purpose and intention. Let all things proceed as from one soul. What means “of one accord”? He shows when he says “of one mind.” Let your mind be one, as if from one soul.

Ver. 3. “Doing nothing through faction.”

He finally demands this of them, and tells1 them the way how this may be. “Doing nothing through faction or vainglory.” This, as I always say, is the cause of all evil. Hence come fightings and contentions. Hence come envyings and strifes. Hence it is that love waxes cold, when we love the praise of men, when we are slaves to the honor which is paid by the many, for it is not possible for a man to be the slave of praise, and also a true servant of God. How then shall we flee vainglory? for thou hast not yet told us the way. Listen then to what follows.

“But in lowliness of mind, each counting other better than himself.” Oh how full of true wisdom, how universal a gathering-word2 of our salvation is the lesson he has put forth! If thou deemest, he means, that another is greater than thyself, and persuadest thyself so, yea more, if thou not only sayest it, but art fully assured of it, then thou assignest him the honor, and if thou assignest him the honor, thou wilt not be displeased at seeing him honored by another. Do not then think him simply greater than thyself, but “better,” which is a very great superiority, and thou dost not think it strange nor be pained thereby, if thou seest him honored. Yea, though he treat thee with scorn, thou dost bear it nobly, for thou hast esteemed him greater than thyself. Though he revile thee, thou dost submit. Though he treat thee ill, thou bearest it in silence. For when once the soul is fully assured that he is greater, it falls not into anger when it is ill-treated by him, nor yet into envy, for no one would envy those who are very far above himself, for all things belong to his superiority.

Here then he instructs the one party to be thus minded. But when he too, who enjoys such honor from thee, is thus affected toward thee, consider what a double wall there is erected of gentle forbearance [comp. Phil. 4:5]; for when thou esteemest him thus worthy of honor, and he thee likewise, no painful thing can possibly arise; for if this conduct when shown by one is sufficient to destroy all strife, who shall break down the safeguard, when it is shown by both? Not even the Devil himself. The defense is threefold, and fourfold, yea manifold, for humanity is the cause of all good; and that you may learn this, listen to the prophet, saying, “Hadst thou desired sacrifice, I would have given it: Thou wilt not delight in burnt offerings. The sacrifice for God is a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart God will not despise.”1 (Ps. 51:16, 17.) Not simply humility, but intense humility. As in the case of bodily substances, that which is “broken” will not rise against that which is “solid,” but, how many ills soever it may suffer, will perish itself rather than attack the other, so too the soul, even if constantly suffering ill, will choose rather to die, than to avenge itself by attack.

How long shall we be puffed up thus ridiculously? For as we laugh, when we see children drawing themselves up, and looking haughty, or when we see them picking up stones and throwing them, thus too the haughtiness2 of men belongs to a puerile intellect, and an unformed mind. “Why are earth and ashes proud?” (Ecclus. 10:9.) Art thou highminded, O man? and why? tell me what is the gain? Whence art thou highminded against those of thine own kind? Dost not thou share the same nature? the same life? Hast not thou received like honor from God? But thou art wise? Thou oughtest to be thankful, not to be puffed up. Haughtiness is the first act of ingratitude, for it denies3 the gift of grace. He that is puffed up, is puffed up as if he had excelled by his own strength, and he who thinks he has thus excelled is ungrateful toward Him who bestowed that honor. Hast thou any good? Be thankful to Him who gave it. Listen to what Joseph said, and what Daniel. For when the king of Egypt sent for him, and in the presence of all his host asked him concerning that matter in which the Egyptians, who were most learned in these things, had forsaken the field, when he was on the point of carrying off everything from them, and of appearing wiser than the astrologers, the enchanters, the magicians, and all the wise men of those times, and that from captivity and servitude, and he but a youth (and his glory was thus greater, for it is not the same thing to shine when known, and contrary to expectation, so that its being unlooked for rendered him the more admirable); what then, when he came before Pharaoh? Was it “Yea, I know”? But what? When no one urged it on him, he said from his own excellent spirit, “Do not interpretations belong to God?”4 Behold he straightway glorified his Master, therefore he was glorified. And this also is no small thing. For that God had revealed it to him was a far greater thing than if he had himself excelled. For he showed that his words were worthy of credit, and it was a very great proof of his intimacy with God. There is no one thing so good as to be the intimate friend of God. “For if,” says the Scripture, “he [Abraham] was justified by works, he hath whereof to glory, but not toward God.” (Rom. 4:2.) For if he who has been vouchsafed grace maketh his boast in God, that he is loved of Him, because his sins are forgiven, he too that worketh hath whereof to boast, but not before God, as the other (for it5 is a proof of our excessive weakness); he who has received wisdom of God, how much more admirable is he? He glorifies God and is glorified of Him, for He says, “Them that honor Me, I will honor.” (1 Sam. 2:30.)

Again, listen to him who descended from Joseph, than whom no one was wiser. “Art thou wiser,”6 says he, “than Daniel?” (Ezek. 28:3.) This Daniel then, when all the wise men that were in Babylon, and the astrologers moreover, the prophets, the magicians, the enchanters, yea when the whole of their wisdom was not only coming to be convicted, but to be wholly destroyed (for their being destroyed was a clear proof that they had deceived before), this Daniel coming forward, and preparing to solve the king’s question, does not take the honor to himself, but first ascribes the whole to God, and says, “But as for me, O king, it is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have beyond all men.” (Dan. 2:30.) And “the king worshiped him, and commanded that they should offer an oblation.” (Dan. 2:46.) Seest thou his humility? seest thou his excellent spirit? seest thou this habit of lowliness? Listen also to the Apostles, saying at one time, “Why fasten ye your eyes on us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man to walk? (Acts 3:12.) And again, “We are men of like passions with you.” (Acts 14:15.) Now if they thus refused the honors paid them, men who by reason of the humility and power of Christ wrought greater deeds than Christ (for He says, “He that believeth in Me shall do greater works than those that I do” (John 14:12, abr.)), shall not we wretched and miserable men do so, who cannot even beat away gnats,1 much less devils? who have not power to benefit a single man, much less the whole world, and yet think so much of ourselves that the Devil himself is not like us?

There is nothing so foreign to a Christian soul as haughtiness. Haughtiness, I say, not boldness nor courage, for these are congenial. But these are one thing, and that another; so too humility is one thing, and meanness, flattery, and adulation another.

I will now, if you wish, give you examples of all these qualities. For these things which are contraries, seem in some way to be placed near together, as the tares to the wheat, and the thorns to the rose. But while babes might easily be deceived, they who are men in truth, and are skilled in spiritual husbandry, know how to separate what is really good from the bad. Let me then lay before you examples of these qualities from the Scriptures. What is flattery, and meanness, and adulation? Ziba flattered2 David out of season, and falsely slandered his master. (2 Sam. 16:1–3.) Much more did Ahitophel flatter Absalom. (2 Sam. 17:1–4.) But David was not so, but he was humble. For the deceitful are flatterers, as when they say, “O king, live for ever.” (Dan. 2:4.) Again, what flatterers the magicians are.

We shall find much to exemplify this in the case of Paul in the Acts. When he disputed with the Jews he did not flatter them, but was humble-minded (for he knew how to speak boldly), as when he says, “I, brethren, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, yet was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem.” (Acts 28:17.)

That these were the words of humility, listen how he rebukes them in what follows, “Well spake the Holy Ghost, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in nowise understand, and seeing ye shall see, and in nowise perceive.” (Acts 28:25; ib. 26.)

Seest thou his courage? Behold also the courage of John the Baptist, which he used before Herod; when he said, “It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip’s wife.” (Mark 6:18) This was boldness, this was courage. Not so the words of Shimei, when he said, “Begone, thou man of blood” (2 Sam. 16:7), and yet he too spake with boldness; but this is not courage, but audacity, and insolence, and an unbridled tongue. Jezebel too reproached Jehu, when she said, “The slayer of his master” (2 Kings 9:31), but this was audacity, not boldness. Elias too reproached, but this was boldness and courage; “I do not trouble Israel, but thou and thy father’s house.” (1 Kings 18:18.) Again, Elias spake with boldness to the whole people, saying, “How long will ye go lame on both your thighs?” (1 Kings 18:21, LXX.) Thus to rebuke was boldness and courage. This too the prophets did, but that other was audacity.

Would you see words both of humility and not of flattery,3 listen to Paul, saying, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing against myself, yet am I not hereby justified.” (1 Cor. 4:3, 4.) This is of a spirit that becomes a Christian; and again, “Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbor, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints”? (1 Cor. 6:1.)

Would you see the flattery of the foolish Jews? listen to them, saying, “We have no king but Cæsar.” (John 19:15.) Would you see humility? listen to Paul again, when he says, “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5.) Would you see both flattery and audacity? “Audacity” (1 Sam. 25:10) in the case of Nabal, and “flattery” (1 Sam. 23:20.) in that of the Ziphites? For in their purpose they betrayed David. Would you see “wisdom” (1 Sam. 26:5–12) and not flattery, that of David, how he got Saul into his power, and yet spared him? Would you see the flattery of those who murdered Mephibosheth,1 whom also David slew? In fine, and as it were in outline, to sum up all, audacity is shown when one is enraged, and insults another for no just cause, either to avenge himself, or in some unjust way is audacious; but boldness and courage are when we dare to face perils and deaths, and despise friendships and enmities for the sake of what is pleasing to God. Again, flattery and meanness are when one courts another not for any right end, but hunting after some of the things of this life; but humility, when one does this for the sake of things pleasing to God, and descends from his own proper station that he may perform something great and admirable. If we know these things, happy are we if we do them. For to know them is not enough. For Scripture says, “Not the hearers of a law, but the doers of a law shall be justified.” (Rom. 2:13.) Yea, knowledge itself condemneth, when it is without action and deeds of virtue. Wherefore that we may escape the condemnation, let us follow after the practice, that we may obtain those good things that are promised to us, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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