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Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aguinas

7:1–10

1. Now when he had ended all his sayings in the audience of the people, he entered into Capernaum.

2. And a certain centurion’s servant, who was dear unto him, was sick, and ready to die.

3. And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant.

4. And when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying, That he was worthy for whom he should do this:

5. For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue.

6. Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof:

7. Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

8. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.

9. When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled at him, and turned him about, and said unto the people that followed him, I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

10. And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. When He had strengthened His disciples by more perfect teaching, He goes to Capernaum to work miracles there; as it is said, When he had ended all his sayings, he entered into Capernaum.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. l. ii. c. 20.) Here we must understand that He did not enter before He had ended these sayings, but it is not mentioned what space of time intervened between the termination of His discourse, and His entering into Capernaum. For in that interval the leper was cleansed whom Matthew introduced in his proper place.

AMBROSE. But having finished His teaching, He rightly instructs them to follow the example of His precepts. For straightway the servant of a Gentile centurion is presented to the Lord to be healed. Now the Evangelist, when he said that the servant was about to die, did not err, because he would have died had he not been healed by Christ.

EUSEBIUS. Although that centurion was strong in battle, and the prefect of the Roman soldiers, yet because his particular attendant lay sick at his house, considering what wonderful things the Saviour had done in healing the sick, and judging that these miracles were performed by no human power, he sends to Him, as unto God, not looking to the visible instrument by which He had intercourse with men; as it follows, And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him, &c.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) How then will that be true which Matthew relates, A certain centurion came to him, seeing that he himself did not come? unless upon careful consideration we suppose that Matthew made use of a general mode of expression. For if the actual arrival is frequently said to be through the means of others, much more may the coming be by others. Not then without reason, (the centurion having gained access to our Lord through others,) did Matthew, wishing to speak briefly, say that this man himself came to Christ, rather than those by whom he sent his message, for the more he believed the nearer he came.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 26. in Matt.) How again does Matthew tell us that the centurion said, I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof, while Luke says here, that he beseeches Him that He would come. Now it seems to me that Luke sets before us the flatteries of the Jews. For we may believe that when the centurion wished to depart, the Jews drew him back, enticing him, saying, We will go and bring him. Hence also their prayers are full of flattery, for it follows, But when they came to Jesus, they besought him instantly, saying that he was worthy. Although it became them to have said, He himself was willing to come and supplicate Thee, but we detained him, seeing the affliction, and the body which was lying in the house, and so to have drawn out the greatness of his faith; but they would not for envy reveal the faith of the man, lest He should seem some great one to whom the prayers were addressed. But wherein Matthew represents the centurion to be not an Israelite, while Luke says, he has built us a synagogue, there is no contradiction, for he might not have been a Jew, and yet built a synagogue.

BEDE. But herein they shew, that as by a church, so also by a synagogue, they were wont to mean not only the assembly of the faithful, but also the place where they assembled.

EUSEBIUS. And the elders of the Jews indeed demand favours for a small sum spent in the service of the synagogue, but the Lord not for this, but a higher reason, manifested Himself, wishing in truth to beget a belief in all men by His own power, as it follows, Then Jesus went with them.

AMBROSE. Which certainly He did not do, because He was unable to heal when absent, but that He might set them an example of imitating His humility. He would not go to the son of the nobleman, lest He should seem thereby to have respected his riches; He went immediately here, that He might not seem to have despised the low estate of a centurion’s servant. But the centurion laying aside his military pride puts on humility, being both willing to believe and eager to honour; as it follows, And when he was not far off, he sent unto him, saying, Trouble not, thyself: for I am not worthy, &c. For by the power not of man, but of God, he supposed that health was given to man. The Jews indeed alleged his worthiness; but he confessed himself unworthy not only of the benefit, but even of receiving the Lord under his roof, For I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) For as soon as he was freed from the annoyance of the Jews, he then sends, saying, Think not that it was from negligence I came not unto Thee, but I counted myself unworthy to receive Thee in my house.

AMBROSE. But Luke well says, that friends were sent by the centurion to meet our Lord, lest by his own coming he might seem both to embarrass our Lord, and to have called for a requital of good offices. Hence it follows, Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee, but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Here observe that the centurion held a right opinion concerning the Lord; he said not, pray, but, command; and in doubt lest He should from humility refuse him, he adds, For I also am a man set under authority, &c.

BEDE. He says that he though a man subject to the power of the tribune or governor, yet has command over his inferiors, that it might be implied that much more is He who is God, able not only by the presence of His body, but by the services of His angels, to fulfil whatever He wishes. For the weakness of the flesh or the hostile powers were to be subdued both by the word of the Lord and the ministry of the angels. And to my servant, Do this, &c.

CHRYSOSTOM. (contra Anom. Hom. 17.) We must here remark, that this word, Fac, signifies a command given to a servant. So God when He wished to create man, said not to the Only-begotten, “Make man,” but, Let us make man, that by the form of unity in the words he might make manifest the equality of the agents. Because then the centurion considered in Christ the greatness of His dominion, therefore saith He, say in a word. For I also say to my servant. But Christ blames him not, but confirmed his wishes, as it follows, When Jesus heard these things, he marvelled.

BEDE. But who had wrought this very faith in him, save He who marvelled? But supposing another had done it, why should He marvel who foreknew it? Because then the Lord marvels, it signifies that we must marvel. For all such feelings when they are spoken of God, are the tokens not of a wonder-struck mind, but of a teaching master.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 27. in Matt.) But that you might see plainly that the Lord said this for the instruction of others, the Evangelist wisely explains it, adding, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.

AMBROSE. And indeed if you read it thus, “In none in Israel have I found so great faith,” the meaning is simple and easy. But if according to the Greek, “Not even in Israel have I found so great faith,” faith of this kind is preferred even to that of the more elect, and those that see God.

BEDE. But he speaks not of Patriarchs and Prophets in times far back, but of the men of the present age to whom the faith of the centurion is preferred, because they were instructed in the precepts of the Law and the Prophets, but he with no one to teach him of his own accord believed.

AMBROSE. The faith of the master is proved, and the health of the servant established, as it follows, And they that were sent returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick. It is possible then that the good deed of a master may advantage his servants, not only through the merit of faith, but the practice of discipline.

BEDE. Matthew explains these things more fully, saying, that when our Lord said to the centurion, Go thy way, and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee, the servant was healed in the self-same hour. But it is the manner of the blessed Luke, to abridge or even purposely to pass by whatever he sees plainly set forth by the other Evangelists, but what he knows to be omitted by them, or briefly touched upon, to more carefully explain.

AMBROSE. Mystically, by the centurion’s servant is signified that the Gentile people who were enthralled by the chain of worldly bondage, and diseased with deadly passions, are to be healed by the mercy of the Lord.

BEDE. But the centurion, whose faith is preferred to Israel, represents the elect from the Gentiles, who as it were attended by their hundred soldiers, are exalted by their perfection of spiritual virtues. For the number hundred, which is transferred from the left to the righta, is frequently put to signify the celestial life. These then must pray to the Lord for those who are still oppressed with fear, in the spirit of bondage. But we of the Gentiles who believe can not ourselves come to the Lord, whom we are unable to see in the flesh, but ought to approach by faith; we must send the elders of the Jews, that is, we must by our suppliant entreaties gain as patrons the greatest men of the Church, who have gone before us to the Lord, who bearing us witness that we have a care to build up the Church, may intercede for our sins. It is well said that Jesus was not far from the house, for his salvation is nigh unto them that fear him, and he who rightly uses the law of nature, in that he does the things which he knows to be good, approaches nigh unto Him who is good.

AMBROSE. But the centurion wished not to trouble Jesus, for Whom the Jewish people crucified, the Gentiles desire to keep inviolate from injury, and (as touching a mystery) he saw that Christ was not yet able to pierce the hearts of the Gentiles.

BEDE. The soldiers and servants who obey the centurion, are the natural virtues which many who come to the Lord will bring with them in great numbers.

THEOPHYLACT. Or in another way. The centurion must be understood as one who stood foremost among many in wickedness, as long as he possesses many things in this life, i. e. is occupied with many affairs or concerns. But he has a servant, the irrational part of the soul, that is, the irascible and concupiscent part. And he speaks to Jesus, the Jews acting as mediators, that is, the thoughts and words of confession, and immediately he received his servant whole.

7:11–17

11. And it came to pass the day after, that he went into a city called Nain; and many of his disciples went with him, and much people.

12. Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her.

13. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not.

14. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.

15. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.

16. And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.

17. And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judæa, and throughout all the region round about.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. The Lord joins one miracle upon another. In the Former instance He came indeed when called for, but in this He came self-invited; as it is said, And it came to pass the day after that he went into a city called Nain.

BEDE. Nain is a city of Galilee, within two miles of mount Tabor. But by the divine counsel there were large multitudes accompanying the Lord, that there might be many witnesses of so great a miracle. Hence it follows, And his disciples went with him, and much people.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Tract. de Anima et Res. Post med.) Now the proof of the resurrection we learn not so much from the words as from the works of our Saviour, who, beginning His miracles with the less wonderful, reconciled our faith to far greater. First indeed in the grievous sickness of the centurion’s servant, He verged upon the power of resurrection; afterwards with a higher power he led men to the belief in a resurrection, when He raised the widow’s son, who was carried out to be buried; as it is said, Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But some one will say of the centurion’s servant, that he was not going to die. That such an one might restrain his rash tongue, the Evangelist explains that the young man whom Christ came upon was already dead, the only son of a widow. For it follows, And she was a widow, and much people of the city was. with her.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (de hom. Opif. c. 25.) He has told us the sum of misery in a few words. The mother was a widow, and had no further hope of having children, she had no one upon whom she might look in the place of him that was dead. To him alone she had given suck, he alone made her home cheerful. All that is sweet and precious to a mother, was he alone to her.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. These were sufferings to excite compassion, and which might well affect to mourning and tears, as it follows, And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, saying, Weep not.

BEDE. As if He said, Cease to weep for one as dead, whom you shall soon see rise again alive.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Tit. Bost.) But when He bids us cease from weeping Who consoles the sorrowful, He tells us to receive consolation from those who are now dead, hoping for their resurrection. But life meeting death stops the bier, as it follows, And he came.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. He performs the miracle not only in word, but also touches the bier, to the end that you might know that the sacred body of Christ is powerful to the saving of man. For it is the body of Life and the flesh of the Omnipotent Word, whose power it possesses. For as iron applied to fire does the work of fire, so the flesh, when it is united to the Word, which quickens all things, becomes itself also quickening, and the banisher of death.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. (non occ.) But the Saviour is not like to Elias mourning over the son of the widow of Sarepta, (1 Kings 17) nor as Elisha who laid his own body upon the body of the dead, (2 Kings 4) nor as Peter who prayed for Tabitha, (Acts 9:40) but is none other than He who calls those things which be not, as though they were, who can speak to the dead as to the living, (Rom. 4:17) as it follows, And he said, Young man

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) When He said, Young man, He signified that he was in the flower of his age, just ripening into manhood, who but a little while before was the sight of his mother’s eyes, just entering upon the time of marriage, the scion of her race, the branch of succession, the staff of her old age.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But straightway he arose to whom the command was made. For the Divine power is irresistible; there is no delay, no urgency of prayer, as it follows, And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak, and he gave him to his mother. These are the signs. of a true resurrection, for the lifeless body cannot speak, nor would the mother have carried back to her house her dead and lifeless son.

BEDE. But well does the Evangelist testify that the Lord is first moved with compassion for the mother, and then raises her son, that in the one case He might set before us for our imitation an example of piety, in the other He might build up our belief in His wonderful power. Hence it follows. And there came a fear upon all, and they glorified God, &c.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. This was a great thing in an insensible and ungrateful people. For in a short time afterward they would neither esteem Him as a prophet, nor allow that He did aught for the public good. But none of those that dwelt in Judæa were ignorant of this miracle, as it follows, And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judæa.

MAXIMUS. (non occ.) But it is worthy of remark, that seven resurrections are related before our Lord’s, of which the first was that of the son of the widow of Sarepta, (1 Kings 17) the second of the Shunamite’s son, (2 Kings 4) the third which was caused by the remains of Elisha, (2 Kings 13) the fourth which took place at Nain, as is here related, the fifth of the ruler of the Synagogue’s daughter, (Mark 5) the sixth of Lazarus, (John 11) the seventh at Christ’s passion, for many bodies of the saints arose. (Mat. 27.) The eighth is that of Christ, who being free from death remained beyond for a sign that the general resurrection which is to come in the eighth age shall not be dissolved by death, but shall abide never to pass away.

BEDE. But the dead man who was carried without the gate of the city in the sight of many, signifies a man rendered senseless by the deadening power of mortal sin, and no longer concealing his soul’s death within the folds of his heart, but proclaiming it to the knowledge of the world, through the evidence of words or deeds as through the gate of the city. For the gate of the city, I suppose, is some one of the bodily senses. And he is well said to be the only son of his mother, for there is one mother composed of many individuals, the Church, but every soul that remembers that it is redeemed by the death of the Lord, knows the Church to be a widow.

AMBROSE. For this widow surrounded by a great multitude of people seems to be more than the woman who was thought worthy by her tears to obtain the resurrection of her only son, because the Church recalls the younger people from the funeral procession to life by the contemplation of her tears, who is forbid to weep for him to whom resurrection was promised.

BEDE. Or the dogma of Novatus is crushedb, who endeavouring to do away with the purifying of the penitent, denies that the mother Church, weeping for the spiritual extinction of her sons, ought to be consoled by the hope of their restoration to life.

AMBROSE. This dead man was borne on the bier by the four material elements to the grave, but there was a hope of his rising again because he was borne on wood, which though before it did not benefit us, yet after Christ had touched it, began to profit unto life, that it might be a sign that salvation was to be extended to the people by the wood of the cross. For we lie lifeless on the bier when either the fire of immoderate desire bursts forth, or the cold moisture breaks out, and through the sluggish state of our earthly body the vigour of our minds waxes dull.

BEDE. Or the coffin on which the dead is carried is the ill at ease conscience of a desperate sinner. But they who carry him to be buried are either unclean desires, or the allurements of companions, who stood when our Lord touched the bier, because the conscience, when touched by dread of the judgment from on high, often checking its carnal lusts, and those who unjustly praise, returns to itself, and answers its Saviour’s call to life.

AMBROSE. If then thy sin is so heavy that by thy penitential tears thou canst not thyself wash it out, let the mother Church weep for thee, the multitude standing by; soon shalt thou rise from the dead and begin to speak the words of life; they all shall fear, (for by the example of one all are corrected;) they shall also praise God who has given us such great remedies for escaping death.

BEDE. But God has visited His people not only by the one incarnation of His Word, but by ever sending It into our hearts.

THEOPHYLACT. By the widow also you may understand a soul that has lost her husband in the divine word. Her son is the understanding, which is carried out beyond the city of the living. Its coffin is the body, which some indeed have called the tomb. But the Lord touching him raises him up, causing him to become young, and rising from sin he begins to speak and teach others. For before he would not have been believed.

7:18–23

18. And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

19. And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

20. When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?

21. And in the same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.

22. Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the Gospel is preached.

23. And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Certain of His disciples relate to the holy Baptist the miracle which was known to all the inhabitants of Judæa and Galilee, as it follows, And they told John, &c.

BEDE. Not, as it seems to me, in simpleness of heart, but provoked by envy. For in another place also they complain, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, behold the same baptizeth, and all men come unto him. (John 3:26.)

CHRYSOSTOM. But we are then most raised up to Him when we are fallen into straits. John therefore, being cast into prison, takes the opportunity, when his disciples were most in need of Jesus, to send them to Christ. For it follows, And John calling two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come, &c.

BEDE. He says not, Art thou He that hast come, but, Art thou he that should come. The sense is, Tell me who am to be slain by Herod, and about to descend into hell, (ad inferna) whether I should announce Thee to the souls below as I have announced Thee to those above? or is this not befitting the Son of God, and Thou art going to send another for these sacraments?

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But we must altogether disallow such an opinion. For no where do we find the Holy Scriptures stating that John the Baptist foretold to those souls in hell the coming of our Saviour. It is also true to say, that the Baptist was not ignorant of the wonderful mystery of the incarnation of the Only-Begotten, and so also along with the other things had known this, that our Lord was about to preach the Gospel to those who were in hell, after He had tasted death for all living as well as dead. But since the word of holy Scripture indeed declared that Christ would come as the Lord and Chief, but the others were sent as servants before Him, therefore was the Lord and Saviour of all called by the prophets, He who cometh, or Who is to come; according to that, Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord; (Ps. 118:26.) and, A little while, and he who is to come shall come, and will not tarry. (Hab. 2:3.) The blessed Baptist therefore, receiving as it were this name from Holy Scripture, sent certain of his disciples to seek whether it was indeed He who cometh, or, Who is to come.

AMBROSE. But how could it come to pass, that Him of whom he said, Behold him who taketh away the sins of the world, he should still not believe to be the Son of God? For either it is presumption to attribute to Christ a divine action ignorantly, or it is unbelief to have doubted concerning the Son of God. But some suppose of John himself that he was indeed so great a prophet as to acknowledge Christ, but still as not a doubting, but pious, prophet disbelieved that He would die, whom he believed was about to come. Not therefore in his faith but in his piety, he doubted; as Peter also, when he said, Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee. (Mat 16:22.)

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Thes. lib. 11. c. 4.) Or he asks the question by economy. For as the forerunner he knew the mystery of Christ’s passion, but that his disciples might be convinced how great was the excellence of the Saviour, he sent the more understanding of them, instructing them to enquire and learn from the very words of the Saviour, whether it was He who was expected; as it is added, But when the men were come unto him, they said, John the Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou He, &c. But He knowing as God with what intention John had sent them, and the cause of their coming, was at the time performing many miracles, as it follows, And in the same hour he healed many of their infirmities, &c. He said not positively to them I am he, but rather leads them to the certainty of the fact, in order that receiving their faith in Him, with their reason agreeing thereto, they might return to him who sent them. Hence He made not answer to the words, but to the intention of him who sent them; as it follows, And Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things you have seen and heard: as if He said, Go and tell John the things which ye have heard indeed through the Prophets, but have seen accomplished by Me. For He was then performing those things which the Prophets prophesied He would do; that is of which it is added, For the blind see, the lame walk.

AMBROSE. An ample testimony surely by which the Prophet might recognise the Lord. For of the, Lord Himself it was prophesied, that the Lord giveth food to the hungry, raiseth up them that are bowed down, looseth the prisoners, openeth the eyes of the blind, and that he who doeth these things shall reign for ever. (Ps. 146:7–10.) Such then are not the tokens of human, but divine power. But these are found seldom or not at all before the Gospel. Tobias alone received sight, and this was the cure of an Angel, not of a man. (Tob. 11.) Elias raised the dead, but he prayed and wept, our Lord commanded. (1 Kings 17) Elisha caused the cleansing of a leper: yet then the cause was not so much in the authority of the command as in the figure of the mystery. (2 Kings 5.)

THEOPHYLACT. These are also the words of Elias, saying, The Lord himself shall come and save us. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart. (Isa. 35:4–6.)

BEDE. And what is not less than these, the poor have the Gospel preached to them, that is, the poor are enlightened by the Spirit, or hidden treasures, that there might be no difference between the rich and the poor. These things prove the faith of the Master, when all who can be saved by Him are equal.

AMBROSE. But still these are but slight examples of the testimony to the Lord. The full assurance of faith is the cross of the Lord, His death and burial. Hence He adds, And blessed is he who shall not be offended in me. For the cross may cause offence, even to the elect. But there is no greater testimony than this of a divine person. For there is nothing which seems to be more surpassing the nature of man than that one should offer Himself for the whole world.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Or else, He wished by this to shew that whatever was passing in their hearts, could not be hid from His sight. For they were those who were offended at Him.

AMBROSE. But we have before said, that mystically John was the type of the Law, which was the forerunner of Christ. John then sends his disciples to Christ, that they might obtain the filling up of their knowledge, for Christ is the fulfilling of the Law. And perhaps those disciples are the two nations, of whom the one of the Jews believed, the other of the Gentiles believed because they heard. They wished then to see, because blessed are the eyes that see. But when they shall have come to the Gospel, and found that the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, then shall they say, “We have seen with our eyes,” for we seem to ourselves to see Him whom we read of. Or perhaps through the instrumentality (operatrice) of a certain part of our Body a we all seem to have traced out the course of our Lord’s passion; for faith comes through the few to the many. The Law then announces that Christ will come, the writings of the Gospel prove that He has come.

7:24–28

24. And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?

25. But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.

26. But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.

27. This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

28. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) The Lord, knowing the secrets of men, foresaw that some would say, If until now John is ignorant of Jesus, how did lie shew Him to us, saying, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world? To quench therefore this feeling which had taken possession of them, He prevented the injury which might arise from the offence, as it follows, And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, what went ye out for to see? A reed shaken in the wind? As if He said, Ye marvelled at John the Baptist, and oftentimes came to see him, passing over long journeys in the desert; surely in vain, if you think him so fickle as to be like a reed bending down whichever way the wind moves it. For such he appeal’s to be, who lightly avows his ignorance of the things which he knows.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. (non occ.) But you went not out into the desert, (where there is no pleasantness,) leaving your cities, except as caring for this man.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Simeon) Now these things were spoken by our Lord after the departure of John’s disciples, for He would not utter the praises of the Baptist while they were present, lest His words should be counted as those of a flatterer.

AMBROSE. Not unmeaningly then is the character of John praised there, who preferred the way of righteousness to the love of life, and swerved not through fear of death. For this world seems to be compared to a desert, into which, as yet barren and uncultivated, the Lord says we must not so enter as to regard men puffed up with a fleshly mind, and devoid of inward virtue, and vaunting themselves in the heights of frail worldly glory, as a kind of example and model for our imitation. And such being exposed to the storms of this world, and tossed to and fro by a restless life, are rightly compared to a reed.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) We have also an infallible testimony to John’s way of life in his manner of clothing, and his imprisonment, into which he never would have been cast had he known how to court princes; as it follows, But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed with soft raiment? Behold they who are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ houses. By being clothed with soft raiment, he signifies men who live luxuriously.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 29. in ep. ad Heb.) But a soft garment relaxes the austerity of the soul; and if worn by a hard and rigorous body, soon, by such effeminacy, makes it frail and delicate. But when the body becomes softer, the soul must also share the injury; for generally its workings correspond with the conditions of the body.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) How then could a religious strictness, so great that it subdued to itself all fleshly lusts, sink down to such ignorance, except from a frivolity of mind, which is not fostered by austerities, but by worldly delights. If then ye imitate John, as one who cared not for pleasure, award him also the strength of mind, which befits his continence. But if strictness no more tends to this than a life of luxury, why do you, not respecting those who live delicately, admire the inhabitant of the desert, and his wretched garment of camel’s hair.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 37. in Matt.) By each of these sayings He shews John to be neither naturally nor easily shaken or diverted from any purpose.

AMBROSE. And although very many become effeminate by the use of softer garments, yet here other garments seem to be meant, namely, our mortal bodies, by which our souls are clothed. Again, luxurious acts and habits are soft garments, but those whose languid limbs are wasted away in luxuries are shut out of the kingdom of heaven, whom the rulers of this world and of darkness have taken captive. For these are the kings who exercise tyranny over those who are their fellows in their own works.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But perhaps it does not concern us to excuse John upon this ground, for you confess that he is worthy of imitation, hence He adds, But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Verily I say unto you, more than a prophet. For the prophets foretold that Christ would come, but John not only foretold that He would come, but also declared Him to be present, saying, Behold the Lamb of God.

AMBROSE. Indeed, greater than a prophet (or more than a prophet) was he in whom the prophets terminate; for many desired to see Him whom he saw, whom he baptized.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) Having then described his character by the place where he dwelt, by his clothing, and from the crowds who went to see him, He introduces the testimony of the prophet, saying, This is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my angel. (Mal. 3:1.)

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. He calls a man an angel, not because he was by nature an angel, for he was by nature a man, but because he exercised the office of an angel, in heralding the advent of Christ.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) But by the words which follow, Before thy face, he signifies nearness of time, for John appeared to men close to the coming of Christ. Wherefore must he indeed be considered more than a prophet, for those also who in battle fight close to the sides of kings, are their most distinguished and greatest friends.

AMBROSE. But he prepared the way of the Lord not only in the order of birth according to the flesh, and as the messenger of faith, but also as the forerunner of His glorious passion. Hence it follows, Who shall prepare thy way before thee.

AMBROSE. But if Christ also is a prophet, how is this man greater than all. But it is said, among those born of woman, not of a virgin. For He was greater than those, whose equal he might be in way of birth, as it follows, For I say unto you, of those that are born of woman, there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) The voice of the Lord is indeed sufficient to bear testimony to John’s pre-eminence among men. But any one will find the real facts of the case confirming the same, by considering his food, his manner of life, the loftiness of his mind. For he dwelt on earth as one who had come down from heaven, casting no care upon his body, his mind raised up to heaven, and united to God alone, taking no thought for worldly things; his conversation grave and gentle, for with the Jewish people he dealt honestly and zealously, with the king boldly, with his own disciples mildly. He did nothing idle or trifling, but all things becomingly.

ISIDORE OF PELEUSIUM. (lib. l. Ep. 33.) John was also greatest among those that are born of women, because he prophesied from the very womb of his mother, and though in darkness, was not ignorant of the light which had already come.

AMBROSE. Lastly, so impossible is it that there should be any comparison between John and the Son of God, that he is counted even below the angels; as it follows, But he that is least in the kingdom of God, is greater than he.

BEDE. These words may be understood in two ways. For either he called that the kingdom of God, which we have not yet received, (in which are the Angels,) and the very least among them is greater than any righteous man, who bears about a body, which weighs down the soul. Or if by the kingdom of God be meant to be understood the Church of this time, the Lord referred to Himself, who in the time of His birth came after John, but was greater in divine authority, and the power of the Lord. Moreover, according to the first explanation, the distinction is as follows, But he who is least in the kingdom of God, and then it is added, is greater than he. According to the latter, But he who is least, and then added, is greater in the kingdom of God than he.

CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) For He adds this, that the abundant praise of John might not give the Jews a pretext to prefer John to Christ. But do not suppose that he spoke comparatively of His being greater than John.

AMBROSE. For He is of another nature, which bears not comparison with human kind. For there can be no comparing of God with men.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But in a mystery, when shewing the superiority of John among those that are born of women, he places in opposition something greater, namely, Himself who was born by the holy Spirit the Son of God. For the kingdom of the Lord is the Spirit of God. Although then as respects works and holiness, we may be inferior to those who attained unto the mystery of the law, whom John represents, yet through Christ we have greater things, being made partakers of the Divine nature.

7:29–35

29. And all the people that heard him, and the Publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John.

30. But the Pharisees and Lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him.

31. And the Lord said, Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and to what are they like?

32. They are like unto children sitting in the marketplace, and calling one to another, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

33. For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine; and ye say, He hath a devil.

34. The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of Publicans and sinners!

35. But wisdom is justified of all her children.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 37. in Matt.) Having declared the praises of John, he next exposes the great fault of the Pharisees and lawyers, who would not after the publicans receive the baptism of John. Hence it is said, And all the people that heard him, and the Publicans, justified God.

AMBROSE. God is justified by baptism, wherein men justify themselves confessing their sins. For he that sins and confesses his sin unto God, justifies God, submitting himself to Him who overcometh, and hoping for grace from Him; God therefore is justified by baptism, in which there is confession and pardon of sin.

EUSEBIUS. Because also they believed, they justified God, for He appeared just to them in all that He did. But the disobedient conduct of the Pharisees in not receiving John, accorded not with the words of the prophet, That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest. (Ps. 51:4.) Hence it follows, But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God, &c.

BEDE. These words were spoken either in the person of the Evangelist, or, as some think, of the Saviour; but when he says, against themselves, he means that he who rejects the grace of God, does it against himself. Or, they are blamed as foolish and ungrateful for being unwilling to receive the counsel of God, sent to themselves. The counsel then is of God, because He ordained salvation by the passion and death of Christ, which the Pharisees and lawyers despised.

AMBROSE. Let us not then despise (as the Pharisees did) the counsel of God, which is in the baptism of John, that is, the counsel which the Angel of great counsel searches out. (Is. 9:6. LXX.) No one despises the counsel of man. Who then shall reject the counsel of God?

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. There was a certain play among the Jewish children of this kind. A company of boys were collected together, who, mocking the sudden changes in the affairs of this life, some of them sang, some mourned, but the mourners did not rejoice with those that rejoiced, nor did those who rejoiced fall in with those that wept. They then rebuked each other in turn with the charge of want of sympathy. That such were the feelings of the Jewish people and their rulers, Christ implied in the following words, spoken in the person of Christ; Whereunto then shall I liken the men of this generation, and to what are they like? They are like to children sitting in the market-place.

BEDE. The Jewish generation is compared to children, because formerly they had prophets for their teachers, of whom it is said, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise.

AMBROSE. But the prophets sung, repeating in spiritual strains their oracles of the common salvation; they wept, soothing with mournful dirges the hard hearts of the Jews. The songs were not sung in the market-place, nor in the streets, but in Jerusalem. For that is the Lord’s forum, in which the laws of His heavenly precepts are framed.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Hom. 6. in Eccl.) But singing and lamentation are nothing else but the breaking forth, the one indeed of joy, the other of sorrow. Now at the sound of a tune played upon a musical instrument, man by the concordant beating of his feet, and motion of his body, pourtrays his inward feelings. Hence he says, We have sung, and ye have not danced; we have mourned to you, and ye have not wept.

AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. l. ii. q. 11.) Now these words have reference to John and Christ. For when he says, We have mourned, and ye have not wept, it is in allusion to John, whose abstinence from meat and drink signified penitential sorrow; and hence he adds in explanation, For John came neither eating bread, nor drinking wine, and ye say he hath a devil.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. They take upon themselves to slander a man worthy of all admiration. They say that he who mortifies the law of sin which is in his members hath a devil.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) But his words, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced, refer to the Lord Himself, who by using meats and drinks as others did, represented the joy of His kingdom. Hence it follows, The Son of man came eating and drinking, &c.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. For Christ would not abstain from this food, lest He should give a handle to heretics, who say that the creatures of God are bad, and blame flesh and wine.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But where could they point out the Lord as gluttonous? For Christ is found every where repressing excess, and leading men to temperance. But He associated with publicans and sinners. Hence they said against Him, He is a friend of Publicans and sinners, though He could in no wise fall into sin, but on the contrary was to them the cause of salvation. For the sun is not polluted though sending its rays over all the earth, and frequently falling upon unclean bodies. Neither will the Sun of righteousness be hurt by associating with the bad. But let no one attempt to place his own condition on a level with Christ’s greatness, but let each considering his own infirmity avoid having dealing with such men, for “evil communications corrupt good manners.” It follows, And wisdom is justified of all her children.

AMBROSE. The Son of God is wisdom, by nature, not by growth, which is justified by baptism, when it is not rejected through obstinacy, but through righteousness is acknowledged the gift of God. Herein then is the justification of God, if he seems to transfer His gifts not to the unworthy and guilty, but to those who are through baptism holy and just.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in Ps. 108.) But by the children of wisdom, He means the wise. For Scripture is accustomed to indicate the bad rather by their sin than their name, but to call the good the children of the virtue which characterizes them.

AMBROSE. He well says, of all, for justice is reserved for all, that the faithful may be taken up, the unbelievers cast out.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, when he says, wisdom is justified of all her children, he shews that the children of wisdom understand that righteousness consists neither in abstaining from nor eating food, but in patiently enduring want. For not the use of such things, but the coveting after them, must be blamed; only let a man adapt himself to the kind of food of those with whom he lives.

7:36–50

36. And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.

37. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

38. And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

39. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

40. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

41. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

42. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

43. Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

44. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

45. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

46. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

47. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

48. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

49. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?

50. And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee: go in peace.

BEDE. Having said just before, And the people that heard him justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John, the same Evangelist builds up in deed what he had proposed in word, namely, wisdom justified by the righteous and the penitent, saying, And one of the Pharisees desired him, &c.

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Hom. de Mul. Peccat.) This account is full of precious instruction. For there are very many who justify themselves, being puffed up with the dreamings of an idle fancy, who before the time of judgment comes, separate themselves as lambs from the herds, not willing even to join in eating with the many, and hardly with those who go not to extremes, but keep the middle path in life. St. Luke, the physician of souls rather than of bodies, represents therefore our Lord and Saviour most mercifully visiting others, as it follows, And he went into the Pharisees’ house, and sat down to meat. Not that He should share any of his faults, but might impart somewhat of His own righteousness.

CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. A woman of corrupt life, but testifying her faithful affection, comes to Christ, as having power to release her from every fault, and to grant her pardon for the crimes she had committed. For it follows, And behold a woman in the city, which was a sinner, brought an alabaster box of ointment.

BEDE. Alabaster is a kind of white marble tinged with various colours, which is generally used for vessels holding ointment, because it is said to be the best sort for preserving the ointment sweet.

GREGORY. (in Hom. 33. in Ev.) For this woman, beholding the spots of her shame, ran to wash them at the fountain of mercy, and blushed not at seeing the guests, for since she was courageously ashamed of herself within, she thought there was nothing which could shame her from without. Observe with what sorrow she is wrung who is not ashamed to weep even in the midst of a feast!

GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) But to mark her own unworthiness, she stands behind with downcast eyes, and with her hair thrown about embraces His feet, and washing them with her tears, betokened a mind distressed at her state, and imploring pardon. For it follows, And standing behind, she began to wash his feet with her tears.

GREGORY. (in Hom. 33. in Evang.) For her eyes which once coveted after earthly things, she was now wearing out with penitential weeping. She once displayed her hair for the setting off of her face, she now wiped her tears with her hair. As it follows, And she wiped them with the hairs of her head. She once uttered proud things with her mouth, but kissing the feet of the Lord, she impressed her lips on the footsteps of her Redeemer. She once used ointment for the perfume of her body; what she had unworthily applied to herself, she now laudably offered to God. As it follows, And she anointed with ointment. As many enjoyments as she had in herself, so many offerings did she devise out of herself. She converts the number of her faults into the same number of virtues, that as much of her might wholly serve God in her penitence, as had despised God in her sin.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 6. in Matt.) Thus the harlot became then more honourable than the virgins. For no sooner was she inflamed with penitence, than she burst forth in love for Christ. And these things indeed which have been spoken of were done outwardly, but those which her mind pondered within itself, were much more fervent. God alone beheld them.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But the Pharisee beholding these things despises them, and finds fault, not only with the woman who was a sinner, but with the Lord who received her, as it follows, Now when the Pharisee who had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is which toucheth him. We see the Pharisee really proud in himself, and hypocritically righteous, blaming the sick woman for her sickness, the physician for his aid. The woman surely if she had come to the feet of the Pharisee would have departed with the heel lifted up against her. For he would have thought that he was polluted by another’s sin, not having sufficient of his own real righteousness to fill him. So also some gifted with the priests’ office, if perchance they have done any just thing outwardly or slightly, forthwith despise those who are put under them, and look with disdain on sinners who are of the people. But when we behold sinners, we must first bewail ourselves for their calamity, since we perhaps have had and are certainly liable to a similar fall. But it is necessary that we should carefully distinguish, for we are bound to make distinction in vices, but to have compassion on nature. For if we must punish the sinner, we must cherish a brother. But when by penance he has himself punished his own deed, our brother is no more a sinner, for he punished in himself what Divine justice condemned. The Physician was between two sick persons, but the one preserved her faculties in the fever, the other lost his mental perception. For she wept at what she had done; but the Pharisee, elated with a false sense of righteousness, overrated the vigour of his own health.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But the Lord not hearing his words, but perceiving his thoughts, shewed Himself to be the Lord of Prophets, as it follows, And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have something to say unto thee.

GLOSS. (non occ. v. Lyra in loc.) And this indeed He spake in answer to his thoughts; and the Pharisee was made more attentive by these words of our Lord, as it is said, And he saith, Master, say on.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) A parable concerning two debtors is opposed to him, of whom the one owed more, the other less; as it follows, There was a certain creditor which had two debtors, &c.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. As if He said, Nor art thou without debts. What then! If thou art involved in fewer debts, boast not thyself, for thou art still in need of pardon. Then He goes on to speak of pardon, And when they had nothing to pay, he freely forgave them both.

GLOSS. (non occ.) For no one can of himself escape the debt of sin, but only by obtaining pardon through the grace of God.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But both debtors being forgiven, the Pharisee is asked which most loved the forgiver of the debts. For it follows, Who then will love him most? To which he at once answers, I suppose, that he to whom he forgave most. And here we must remark, that while the Pharisee is convicted upon his own grounds, the madman carries the rope by which he will be bound; as it follows, But he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. The good deeds of the sinful woman are enumerated to him, and the evils of the pretended righteous; as it follows, And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thy house, thou gavest me no water for my feet, but she hath washed my feet with her tears.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. As if He said, To provide water is easy, to pour forth tears is not easy. Thou hast not provided even what was at hand, she hath poured forth what was not at hand; for washing my feet with her tears, she washed away her own stains. She wiped them with her hair, that so she might draw to herself the sacred moisture, and by that by which she once enticed youth to sin, might now attract to herself holiness.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 6. in Matt.) But as after the breaking of a violent storm there comes a calm, so when tears have burst forth, there is peace, and gloomy thoughts vanish; and as by water and the Spirit, so by tears and confession we are again made clean. Hence it follows, Wherefore I say unto you, Her sins which are many are forgiven, for she loveth much. For those who have violently plunged into evil, will in time also eagerly follow after good, being conscious to what debts they have made themselves responsible.

GREGORY. (Hom. 33. in Evan.) The more then the heart of the sinner is burnt up by the great fire of charity, so much the more is the rust of sin consumed.

TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But it more frequently happens that he who has sinned much is purified by confession, but he who has sinned little, refuses from pride to come to be healed thereby. Hence it follows, But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 67. in Matt.) We have need then of a fervent spirit, for nothing hinders a man from becoming great. Let then no sinner despair, no virtuous man fall asleep; neither let the one be self-confident, for often the harlot shall go before him, nor the other distrustful, for he may even surpass the foremost. Hence it is also here added, But he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven thee.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) Behold she who had come sick to the Physician was healed, but because of her safety others are still sick; for it follows, And they that sat at meat began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also. But the heavenly Physician regards not those sick, whom He sees to be made still worse by His remedy, but her whom He had healed He encourages by making mention of her own piety; as it follows, But he said unto the woman, Thy faith hath made thee whole; for in truth she doubted not that she would receive what she sought for.

THEOPHYLACT. But after having forgiven her sins, He stops not at the forgiveness of sins, but adds good works, as it follows, Go in peace, i. e. in righteousness, for righteousness is the reconciliation of man to God, as sin is the enmity between God and man; as if He said, Do all things which lead you to the peace of God.

AMBROSE. Now in this place many seem to be perplexed with the question, whether the Evangelists do not appear to have differed concerning the faith.

GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus Antiochenus.) For since the four Evangelists relate that Christ was anointed with ointment by a woman, I think that there were three women, differing according to the quality of each, their mode of action, and the difference of times. John, for example, relates that Mary, the sister of Lazarus, six days before the Passover, anointed the feet of Jesus in her own house; but Matthew, after that the Lord had said, You know that after two days will be the Passover, adds, that in Bethany, at the house of Simon the leper, a woman poured ointment upon the head of our Lord, but did not anoint His feet as Mary. Mark also says the same as Matthew; but Luke gives the account not near the time of the Passover, but in the middle of the Gospel. Chrysostom explains it that there were two different women, one indeed who is described in John, another who is mentioned by the three.

AMBROSE. Matthew has introduced this woman as pouring ointment upon the head of Christ, and was therefore unwilling to call her a sinner, for the sinner, according to Luke, poured ointment upon the feet of Christ. She cannot then be the same, lest the Evangelists should seem to be at variance with one another. The difficulty may be also solved by the difference of merit and of time, so that the former woman may have been yet a sinner, the latter now more perfect.

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. lib. ii. c. 79.) For I think we must understand that the same Mary did this twice, once indeed as Luke has related, when at first coming with humility and weeping, she was thought worthy to receive forgiveness of sins. Hence John, when he began to speak of the resurrection of Lazarus, before he came to Bethany, says, But it was Mary who anointed our Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. (John 11:2.) Mary therefore had already done this; but what she again did in Bethany is another occurrence, which belongs not to the relation of Luke, but is equally told by the other three.

GREGORY. (in Hom. 33. in Evang.) Now in a mystical sense the Pharisee, presuming upon his pretended righteousness, is the Jewish people; the woman who was a sinner, but who came and wept at our Lord’s feet, represents the conversion of the Gentiles.

AMBROSE. Or, the leper, is the prince of this world; the house of Simon the leper, is the earth. The Lord therefore descended from the higher parts to this earth; for this woman could not have been healed, who bears the figure of a soul or the Church, had not Christ come upon earth. But rightly does she receive the figure of a sinner, for Christ also took the form of a sinner. If then thou makest thy soul approach in faith to God, it not with foul and shameful sins, but piously obeying the word of God, and in the confidence of unspotted purity, ascends to the very head of Christ. But the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor. 11:3.) But let him who holds not the head of Christ, hold the feet, the sinner at the feet, the just at the head; nevertheless she also who sinned, has ointment.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) What else is expressed by the ointment, but the sweet savour of a good report? If then we do good works by which we may sprinkle the Church with the sweet odour of a good report, what else do we but pour ointment upon the body of our Lord? But the woman stood by His feet, for we stood over against the feet of the Lord, when yet in our sins we resisted His ways. But if we are converted from our sins to true repentance, we now again stand by His feet, for we follow His footsteps whom we before opposed.

AMBROSE. Bring thou also repentance after sin. Wherever thou hearest the name of Christ, speed thither; into whatever house thou knowest that Jesus has entered, thither hasten; when thou findest wisdom, when thou findest justice sitting in any inner chamber, run to its feet, that is, seek even the lowest part of wisdom; confess thy sins with tears. Perhaps Christ washed not His own feet, that we might wash them with our tears. Blessed tears, which can not only wash away our own sin, but also water the footsteps of the heavenly Word, that His goings may abound in us. Blessed tears, in which there is not only the redemption of sinners, but the refreshing of the righteous.

GREGORY. (Hom. 33. in Evan.) For we water the feet of our Lord with tears if we are moved with compassion to any even the lowest members of our Lord. We wipe our Lord’s feet with our hair, when we shew pity to His saints (with whom we suffer in love) by the sacrifice of those things with which we abound.

AMBROSE. Throw about thy hair, scatter before Him all the graces of thy body. The hair is not to be despised which can wash the feet of Christ.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The woman kisses the feet which she has wiped. This also we fully do when we ardently love those whom we maintain by our bounty. By the feet also may be understood the mystery itself of the Incarnation. We then kiss the feet of the Redeemer when we love with our whole heart the mystery of the Incarnation. We anoint the feet with ointment, when we proclaim the power of His humanity with the good tidings of holy eloquence. But this also the Pharisee sees and grudges, for when the Jewish people perceives that the Gentiles preach God, it consumes away by its own malice. But the Pharisee is thus repulsed, that as it were through Him that false people might be made manifest, for in truth that unbelieving people never offered to the Lord even those things which were without them; but the Gentiles being converted, poured forth not only their substance but their blood. Hence He says to the Pharisee, Thou gavest me no water for my feet, but she hath washed my feet with her tears; for water is without us, the moisture of tears is within us. That unfaithful people also gave no kiss to the Lord, for it was unwilling to embrace Him from love whom it obeyed from fear, (for the kiss is the sign of love,) but the Gentiles being called cease not to kiss the feet of their Redeemer, for they ever breathe in His love.

AMBROSE. But she is of no slight merit of whom it is said, From the time that she entered has not ceased to kiss my feet, so that she knew not to speak aught but wisdom, to love aught but justice, to touch aught but chastity, to kiss aught but modesty.

GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But it is said to the Pharisee, My head with oil thou didst not anoint, for the very power even of Divinity on which the Jewish people professed to believe, he neglects to celebrate with due praise. But she hath anointed my feet with ointment. For while the Gentile people believed the mystery of His incarnation, it proclaimed also His lowest powers with the highest praise.

AMBROSE. Blessed is he even who can anoint with oil the feet of Christ, but more blessed is he who anoints with ointment, for the essence of many flowers blended into one, scatters the sweets of various odours. And perhaps no other than the Church alone can bring that ointment which has innumerable flowers of different perfumes, and therefore no one can love so much as she who loves in many individuals. But in the Pharisee’s house, that is, in the house of the Law and the Prophets, not the Pharisee, but the Church is justified. For the Pharisee believed not, the Church believed. The Law has no mystery by which secret faults are cleansed, and therefore that which is wanting in the Law is made up in the Gospel. But the two debtors are the two nations who are responsible for payment to the usurer of the heavenly treasury. But we do not owe to this usurer material money, but the balance of our good deeds, the coin of our virtues, the merits of which are estimated by the weight of sorrow, the stamp of righteousness, the sound of confession. But that denarius is of no slight value on which the image of the king is found. Woe to me if I shall not have what I received. Or because there is hardly any one who can pay the whole debt to the usurer, woe to me if I shall not seek the debt to be forgiven me. But what nation is it that owes most, if not we to whom most is lent? To them were entrusted the oracles of God, to us is entrusted the Virgin’s offspring, Immanuel, i. e. God with us, the cross of our Lord, His death, His resurrection. It cannot then be doubted that he owes most who receives most. Among men he perhaps offends most who is most in debt. By the mercy of the Lord the case is reversed, so that he loves most who owes most, if so be that he obtains grace. And therefore since there is nothing which we can worthily return to the Lord, woe be to me also if I shall not have loved. Let us then offer our love for the debt, for he loves most to whom most is given.








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