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Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas
1. In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
2. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
3. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
THEOPHYLACT. The Pharisees sought indeed to catch Jesus in His talk, that they might lead away the people from Him. But this design of theirs is reversed. For the people came all the more unto Him gathered together by thousands, and so desirous to attach themselves to Christ, that they pressed one upon another. So mighty a thing is truth, so feeble every where deceit. Whence it is said, And when there were gathered together a great multitude, insomuch that they trode upon one another, he began to sag unto his disciples, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For they were false accusers; therefore Christ warned His disciples against them.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. When leaven is praised it is as composing the bread of life, but when blamed it signifies a lasting and bitter maliciousness.
THEOPHYLACT. He calls their hypocrisy leaven, as perverting and corrupting the intentions of the men in whom it has sprung up. For nothing so changes the characters of men as hypocrisy.
BEDE. For as a little leaven leaveneth a whole lump of meal, (1 Cor. 5:6.) so hypocrisy will rob the mind of all the purity and integrity of its virtues.
AMBROSE. Our Lord has introduced a most forcible argument for preserving simplicity, and being zealous for the faith, that we should not after the manner of faithless Jews put one thing in practice, while in words we pretend another, namely, that at the last day the hidden thoughts accusing or else excusing one another, shall be seen to reveal the secrets of our mind. Whence it is added, There is nothing hid which shall not be revealed.
ORIGEN. He either then says this concerning that time when God shall judge the secrets of men, or He says it because however much a man may endeavour to hide the good deeds of another by discredit, good of its own nature cannot be concealed.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 34. in Matt.) As if He says to His disciples, Although now some call you deceivers and wizards, time shall reveal all things and convict them of calumny, while it makes known your virtue. Therefore whatsoever things I have spoken to you in the small corner of Palestine, these boldly and with open brow, casting away all fear, proclaim to the whole world. And therefore He adds, Whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in light.
BEDE. Or He says this, because all the things which the Apostles of old spoke and suffered amid the darkness of oppression and the gloom of the prison, arc now that the Church is made known through the world and their acts are read, publicly proclaimed. The words, shall be proclaimed on the housetops, are spoken according to the manner of the country of Palestine, where they are accustomed to live on the housetops. For their roofs were not after our way raised to a point, but flat shaped, and level at the top. Therefore He says, proclaimed on the housetops; that is, spoken openly in the hearing of all men.
THEOPHYLACT. Or this is addressed to the Pharisees; as if He said, O Pharisees, what you have spoken in darkness, that is, all your endeavours to tempt me in the secrets of your hearts, shall be heard in the light, for I am the light, and in My light shall be known whatsoever your darkness devises. And what you have spoken in the ear and in closets, that is, whatsoever in whispers you have poured into one another’s ears, shall be proclaimed on the housetops, that is, was as audible to me as if it had been cried aloud on the housetops. Herein also you may understand that the light is the Gospel, but the housetop the lofty souls of the Apostles. But whatever things the Pharisees plotted together, were afterwards divulged and heard in the light of the Gospel, the great Herald, the Holy Spirit, presiding over the souls of the Apostles.
4. And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
5. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
6. Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7. But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.
AMBROSE. Since unbelief springs from two causes, either from a deeply-seated malice or a sudden fear; lest any one from terror should be compelled to deny the God whom he acknowledges in his heart, He well adds, And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, &c.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For it is not absolutely to every one that this discourse seems to apply, but to those who love God with their whole heart to whom it belongs to say, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom. 8:3.) But they who are not such, are tottering, and ready to fall down. Moreover our Lord says, Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13.) How then is it not most ungrateful to Christ not to repay Him what we receive?
AMBROSE. He tells us also, that that death is not terrible for which at a far more costly rate of interest immortality is to be purchased.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. We must then consider that crowns and honours are prepared for the labours of those upon whom men are continually venting forth their indignation, and to them the death of the body is the end of their persecutions. Whence He adds, And after this have nothing more that they can do.
BEDE. Their rage then is but useless raving, who cast the lifeless limbs of martyrs to be torn in pieces by wild beasts and birds, seeing that they can in no wise prevent the omnipotence of God from quickening and bringing them to life again.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 22. in Matt.) Observe how our Lord makes His disciples superior to all, by exhorting them to despise that very death which is terrible to all. At the same time also he brings them proofs of the immortality of the soul: adding, I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell.
AMBROSE. For our natural death is not the end of punishment: and therefore He concludes that death is the cessation of bodily punishment, but the punishment of the soul is everlasting. And God alone is to be feared, to whose power nature prescribes not, but is herself subject; adding, Yea, I say unto you, Fear him.
THEOPHYLACT. Here observe, that upon sinners death is sent as a punishment, since they are here tormented by destruction, and afterwards thrust down into hell. But if you will sift the words you will understand something farther. For He says not, “Who casts into hell,” but has power to cast. For not every one dying in sin is forthwith thrust down into hell, but there is sometimes pardon given for the sake of the offerings and prayers which are made for the deada.
AMBROSE. Our Lord then had instilled the virtue of simplicity, had awakened a courageous spirit. Their faith alone was wavering, and well did He strengthen it by adding with respect to things of less value, Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? and not one of them is forgotten before God. As if He said, If God forgets not the sparrows, how can He man?
BEDE. The dipondius is a coin of the lightest weight, and equal to two asses.
GLOSS. (ordin.) Now that which in number is one is in weight an ass, but that which is two is a dipondius.
AMBROSE. But perhaps some one will say, How is it that the Apostle says, Does the Lord care for oxen? (1 Cor. 9:9.) whereas an ox is of more value than a sparrow; but to care for is one thing, to have knowledge another.
ORIGEN. Literally, hereby is signified the quickness of the Divine foresight, which reaches even to the least things. But mystically, the five sparrows justly represent the spiritual senses, which have perception of high and heavenly things: beholding God, hearing the Divine voice, tasting of the bread of life, smelling the perfume of Christ’s anointing, handling the Word of Life. And these being sold for two farthings, that is, being lightly esteemed by those who count as perishing whatever is of the Spirit, are not forgotten before God. But God is said to be forgetful of some because of their iniquities.
THEOPHYLACT. Or these five senses are sold for two farthings, that is, the New and Old Testament, and are therefore not forgotten by God. Of those whose senses are given up to the word of life that they may be fit for the spiritual food, the Lord is ever mindful.
AMBROSE. Or else; A good sparrow is one which nature has furnished with the power of flying; for nature has given us the grace of flying, pleasure has taken it away, which loads with meats the soul of the wicked, and moulds it towards the nature of a fleshly mass. The five senses of the body then, if they seek the food of earthly alloy, cannot fly back to the fruits of higher actions. A bad sparrow therefore is one which has lost its habit of flying through the fault of earthly grovelling; such are those sparrows which are sold for two farthings, namely, at the price of worldly luxury. For the enemy sets up his, as it were, captive slaves, at the very lowest price. But the Lord, being the fit judge of His own work, has redeemed at a great price us, His noble servants, whom He hath made in His own image.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. It is His care then diligently to know the life of the saints. Whence it follows, But the hairs of your heads are all numbered; by which He means, that of all things which relate to them He has most accurate knowledge, for the numbering manifests the minuteness of the care exercised.
AMBROSE. Lastly, the numbering of the hairs is not to be taken with reference to the act of reckoning, but to the capability of knowing. Yet they are well said to be numbered, because those things which we wish to preserve we number.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now mystically, indeed, the head of a man is his understanding, but his hairs the thoughts, which are open to the eye of God.
THEOPHYLACT. Or, by the head of each of the faithful, you must understand a conversation meet for Christ, but by his hair, the works of bodily mortification which are numbered by God, and are worthy of the Divine regard.
AMBROSE. If then such is the majesty of God, that a single sparrow or the number of our hair is not beside His knowledge, how unworthy is it to suppose that the Lord is either ignorant of the hearts of the faithful, or despises them so as to account them of less value. Hence He proceeds to conclude, Fear not then, ye are of more value than many sparrows.
BEDE. We must not read, Ye are more, which relates to the comparison of number, but ye are of more value, that is, of greater estimation in the sight of God.
ATHANASIUS. (pluris estis) Now I ask the Arians, if God, as if disdaining to make all other things, made only His Son, but deputed all things to His Son; how is it that He extends His providence even to such trifling things as our hair, and the sparrows? For upon whatever things He exercises His providence, of these is He the Creator by His own word.
8. Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God:
9. But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.
10. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
11. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
12. For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.
BEDE. It was said above, that every hidden work and word is to be revealed, but He now declares that this revelation is to take place in the presence of the heavenly city and the eternal Judge and King; saying, But I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me, &c.
AMBROSE. He has also well introduced faith, stimulating us to its confession, and to faith itself He has placed virtue as a foundation. For as faith is the incentive to fortitude, so is fortitude the strong support of faith.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 34. in Matt.) The Lord is not then content with an inward faith, but requires an outward confession, urging us to confidence and greater love. And since this is useful for all, He speaks generally, saying, Whosoever shall confess me, &c.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now Paul says, If thou wilt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Rom. 10:9.) The whole mystery of Christ is conveyed in these words. For we must first confess that the Word born of God the Father, that is, the only-begotten Son of His substance, is Lord of all, not as one who had gained His Lordship from without and by stealth, but who is in truth by His nature Lord, as well as the Father. Next we must confess that God raised Him from the dead, who was Himself truly made man, and suffered in the flesh for us; for such He rose from the dead. Whoever then will so confess Christ before men, namely, as God and the Lord, Christ will confess him before the angels of God at that time when He shall descend with the holy angels in the glory of His Father at the end of the world.
EUSEBIUS. But what will be more glorious than to have the only-begotten Word of God Himself to bear witness in our behalf at the divine judgment, and by His own love to draw forth as a recompense for confession, a declaration upon that soul to whom He bears witness, For not as abiding without him to whom He bears witness, but as dwelling in him and filling him with light, He will give His testimony. But having confirmed them with good hope by so great promises, He again rouses them by more alarming threats, saying, But he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the Angels of God.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Both in condemnation a greater punishment is announced, and in blessing a greater reward; as if He said, Now you confess and deny, but I then, for a far greater recompense of good and evil awaits them in the world to come.
EUSEBIUS. He rightly declares this threatening, in order that none should refuse to confess Him by reason of the punishment, which is to be denied by the Son of God, to be disowned by Wisdom, to fall away from life, to be deprived of light, and to lose every blessing; but all these things to suffer before God the Father who is in heaven, and the Angels of God.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now they who deny are first indeed those who in time of persecution renounce the faith. Besides these, there are heretical teachers also, and their disciples.
CHRYSOSTOM. There are other modes also of denying which St. Paul describes, saying, They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him. (Tit. 1:16.) And again, If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. (1 Tim. 5:8.) Also, Flee from covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col. 3:5.) Since then there are so many modes of denial, it is plain that there are many likewise of confession, which whosoever has practised, shall hear that most blessed voice with which Christ greets all who have confessed Him. But mark the precaution of the words. For in the Greek he says, Whosoever shall confess in Me, shewing that not by his own strength, but by the aid of grace from above, a man confesses Christ. But of him who denies, He said not “in Me,” but me. For though being destitute of grace he denies, he is nevertheless condemned, because the destitution is owing to him who is forsaken, or he is forsaken for his own fault.
BEDE. But lest from what He says, that those who have denied Him are to be denied, it should be supposed that the condition of all was alike, that is, both of those who deny deliberately, and those who deny from infirmity or ignorance, He immediately added, And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But if our Saviour means to imply, that if any injurious word is spoken by us against a common man, we shall obtain pardon if we repent, there is no difficulty in the passage, for since God is by nature merciful, He restores those who are willing to repent. But if the words are referred to Christ how is he not to be condemned who speaks a word against Him?
AMBROSE. Truly by the Son of Man we understand Christ, Who by the Holy Spirit was born of a virgin, seeing that His only parent on earth is the Virgin. What then, is the Holy Spirit greater than Christ, that they who sin against Christ should obtain pardon, while they who offend against the Holy Spirit are not thought worthy to obtain it? But where there is unity of power there is no question of comparison.
ATHANASIUS. (Ep. 4. ad Serap.) The ancients indeed, the learned Origen and the great Theognostus, describe this to be the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, when they who have been counted worthy of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, fall back into sin. For they say that for this reason they can not obtain pardon; as Paul says, It is impossible for those who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost to renew them again, &c. (Heb. 6:4.)
But each adds his own explanation. For Origen gives this as his reason; God the Father indeed penetrates and contains all things, but the power of the Son extends to rational things only; the Holy Spirit is only in those who partake of Him in the gift of Baptism. When then catechumens and heathens sin, they sin against the Son who abideth in them, yet they may obtain pardon when they become worthy of the gift of regeneration. But when the baptized commit sin, he says that their offence touches the Spirit, after coming to whom they have sinned, and therefore their condemnation must be irrevocable.
But Theognostus says, that he who has gone beyond both the first and second threshold deserves less punishment, but he who has also passed the third, shall no more receive pardon. By the first and second threshold, he speaks of the doctrine of the Father and the Son, but by the third the partaking of the Holy Spirit. According to St. John, When the Spirit of truth is come, he will lead you into all truth. (John 16:13.) Not as though the doctrine of the Spirit was above that of the Son, but because the Son condescends to those who are imperfect, but the Spirit is the seal of those who are perfect. If then not because the Spirit is above the Son, blasphemy against the Spirit is unpardonable; but because remission of sin is indeed to the imperfect, but no excuse remains to the perfect, therefore since the Son is in the Father, He is in those in whom the Father and the Spirit are not absent, for the Holy Trinity cannot be divided. Besides this, if all things were made by the Son, and all things consist in Him, He will Himself be truly in all; so that it must needs be, that he who sinneth against the Son, sinneth against the Father also, and against the Holy Spirit. But holy Baptism is given in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And so they that sin after baptism commit blasphemy against the holy Trinity. But if the Pharisees had not received baptism, how did He condemn them as if they had spoken blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, of which they were not yet partakers, especially since He did not accuse them simply of sin, but of blasphemy? But these differ, for he who sins transgresses the Law, but he who blasphemes offends against the Deity Himself. But again, if to those who sin after baptism there is no remission of the punishment of their offences, how does the Apostle pardon the penitent at Corinth; (2 Cor. 11:10) but he travails in birth of the backsliding Galatians until Christ be formed again in them. (Gal. 4:19.)
And why also do we oppose Novatus, who does away with repentance after baptism? The Apostle to the Hebrews does not thus reject the repentance of sinners, but lest they should suppose that as according to the rites of the Law, under the veil of repentance there could be many and daily baptisms, he therefore warns them indeed to repent, but tells them that there could be only one renewal, namely, by Baptism. But with such considerations I return to the dispensation (οἰκονομίαν) which is in Christ, who being God was made man; as very God raised the dead; as clothed with the flesh, thirsted, laboured, suffered. When any then, looking to human things, see the Lord athirst or in suffering, and speak against the Saviour as if against a man, they sin indeed, yet may speedily on repentance receive pardon, alleging as excuse the weakness of His body. And again when any, beholding the works of Deity, doubt concerning the nature of our Lord’s body, they also sin grievously. But these too if they repent may be quickly pardoned, seeing that they have an excuse in the greatness of the works. But when they refer the works of God to the Devil, justly do they undergo the irrevocable sentence, because they have judged God to be the Devil, and the true God to have nothing more in His works than the evil spirits. To this unbelief then the Pharisees had come. For when the Saviour manifested the works of the Father, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, and such like deeds, they said that these were the works of Beelzebub. As well might they say, looking at the order of the world and the providence exercised over it, that the world was created by Beelzebub. As long then as regarding human things they erred in knowledge, saying, Is not this the carpenter’s son, and how knoweth this man things which he never learnt? He suffered them as sinning against the Son of man; but when they wax more furious, saying that the works of God are the works of Beelzebub, He no longer endured them. For thus also He endured their fathers so long as their murmurings were for bread and water; but when having found a calf, they impute to it the divine mercies they had received, they were punished. At first indeed multitudes of them were slain, afterwards He said indeed, Nevertheless, in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. (Exod. 32:34.) Such then is the sentence passed upon the Pharisees, that in the flame prepared for the devil they shall be together with him everlastingly consumed. Not then to make comparison between a blasphemy spoken against Himself and the Holy Spirit said He these things, as if the Spirit were the greater, but each blasphemy being uttered against Him, He shews the one to be greater, the other less. For looking at Him as man they reviled Him, and said that His works were those of Beelzebub.
AMBROSE. Thus it is thought by some that we should believe both the Son and the Holy Spirit to be the same Christ, preserving the distinction of Persons with the unity of the substance, since Christ both God and man is one Spirit, as it is written, The Spirit before our face, Christ the Lord; (Lam. 4:20.) the same Spirit is holy, for both the Father is holy, and the Son holy, and the Spirit holy. If then Christ is each, what difference is there except we know that it is not lawful for us to deny the divinay of Christ?
BEDE. Or else; Whoso saith that the works of the Holy Spirit are those of Beelzebub, it shall not be forgiven him either in the present world, or in that which is to come. Not that we deny that if he could come to repentance he could be forgiven by God, but that we believe that such a blasphemer as by the necessity of his deserts he would never come to forgiveness, so neither to the fruits themselves of a worthy repentance; according to that, He hath blinded their eyes, so that they should not be converted, and I should heal them. (Isa. 6:10.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But if the Holy Spirit were a creature, and not of the divine substance of the Father and the Son, how does an injury committed against Him entail upon it so great a punishment as is denounced against those that blaspheme against God?
BEDE. Nor however are all they who say that the Spirit is not holy, or is not God, but is inferior to the Father and the Son, involved in the crime of unpardonable blasphemy, because they are led to do it through human ignorance, not a demoniacal hatred, as the rulers of the Jews were.
AUGUSTINE. (Serm. 71.) Or if it were here said, “Who hath spoken any blasphemy whatever against the Holy Spirit,” we ought then to understand thereby “all blasphemy;” but because it was said, who blasphemeth against the Holy Spirit, let it be understood of him that blasphemed not in any way, but in such a manner that it can never be pardoned him. For so when it was said, The Lord tempteth no man, (James 1:13.) that is not spoken of every, but only of a certain kind of temptation. Now what that kind of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, let us sec. The first blessing of believers is forgiveness of sins in the Holy Spirit. Against this free gift the impenitent heart speaks. Impenitence itself therefore is blasphemy against the Spirit, which is neither forgiven in this world, nor in that which is to come; for repentance gains that forgiveness in this world which is to avail in the world to come.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But the Lord after having inspired such great fear, and prepared men to resist those who depart from a right confession, commanded them for the rest to take no care what they should answer, because for those who are faithfully disposed, the Holy Spirit frames fit words, as their teacher, and dwelling within them. Whence it follows, And when they shall bring you into synagogues, take no thought how or what ye shall answer.
GLOSS. (inter.) Now he says, how, with respect to the manner of speaking, what, with respect to the manner of intention. How ye shall answer to those who ask, or what ye shall say to those who wish to learn.
BEDE. For when we are led for Christ’s sake before judges, we ought to offer only our will for Christ, but in answering, the Holy Spirit will supply His grace, as it is added, For the Holy Spirit will leach you, &c.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 33. in Matt.) But elsewhere it is said, Be ready to answer every one who shall ask you for a reason of the hope that is in you. When indeed a contest or strife arises among friends, He bids us take thought, but when there are the terrors of a court of justice and fear on every side, He gives His own strength so as to inspire boldness and utterance, but not dismay.
THEOPHYLACT. Since then our weakness is twofold, and either from fear of punishment we shun martyrdom, or because we are ignorant and can not give a reason of our faith, he has excluded both; the fear of punishment in that He said, Fear not them which kill the body, but the fear of ignorance, when He said, Take no thought how or what ye shall answer, &c.
13. And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
14. And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
15. And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.
AMBROSE. The whole of the former passage is given to prepare us for undergoing suffering for confessing the Lord, or for contempt of death, or for the hope of reward, or for denunciation of the punishment that will await him to whom pardon will never be granted. And since covetousness is generally wont to try virtue, for destroying this also, a precept and example is added, as it is said, And one of the company said to him, Speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
THEOPHYLACT. As these two brothers were contending concerning the division of their paternal inheritance, it follows, that one meant to defraud the other; but our Lord teaches us that we ought not to be set on earthly things, and rebukes him that called Him to the division of inheritance; as it follows, And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
BEDE. He who wills to impose the trouble of division of lands upon the Master who is commending the joys of heavenly peace, is rightly called man, according to that, whereas there is envying, strife, and divisions among you, are ye not men? (1 Cor. 3:3.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now the Son of God, when He was made like unto us, was appointed by God the Father to be King and Prince upon his holy Mount of Sion, to make known the Divine command.
AMBROSE. Well then does He avoid earthly things who had descended for the sake of divine things, and deigns not to be a judge of strifes and arbiter of laws, having the judgment of the quick and dead and the recompensing of works. You should consider then, not what you seek, but from whom you ask it; and you should not eagerly suppose that the greater are to be disturbed by the less. Therefore is this brother deservedly disappointed who desired to occupy the steward of heavenly things with corruptible, seeing that between brothers no judge should intervene, but natural affection should be the umpire to divide the patrimony, although immortality not riches should be the patrimony which men should wait for.
BEDE. He takes occasion from this foolish petitioner to fortify both the multitudes and His disciples alike by precept and example against the plague of covetousness. Whence it follows, He said to them, Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; and he says, of all, because some things seem to be honestly done, but the internal judge decides with what intention they are done.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Or he says, of all covetousness, that is, great and little. For covetousness is unprofitable, as the Lord says, Ye shall build houses of hewn stone, and shall not dwell in them. (Amos 5:11, Isa. 5:10.) And elsewhere, Yea ten acres of vineyards shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah. But also in another way it is unprofitable, as he shews, adding, For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. This our Lord says to rebuke the motives of the covetous, who seem to heap up riches as if they were going to live for a long time. But will wealth ever make thee long lived? Why then dost thou manifestly undergo evils for the sake of an uncertain rest? For it is doubtful whether thou oughtest to attain to an old age, for the sake of which thou art collecting treasures.
16. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:
17. And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?
18. And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.
19. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
20. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
21. So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
THEOPHYLACT. Having said that the life of man is not extended by abundance of wealth, he adds a parable to induce belief in this, as it follows, And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.
BASIL. (in Hom. de Avar.) Not indeed about to reap any good from his plenty of fruits, but that the mercy of God might the more appear, which extends its goodness even to the bad; sending down His rain upon the just and the unjust. But what are the things wherewith this man repays his Benefactor? He remembered not his fellow-creatures, nor deemed that he ought to give of his superfluities to the needy. His barns indeed bursting from the abundance of his stores, yet was his greedy mind by no means satisfied. He was unwilling to put up with his old ones because of his covetousness, and not able to undertake new ones because of the number, for his counsels were imperfect, and his care barren. Hence it follows, And he thought. His complaint is like that of the poor. Does not the man oppressed with want say, What shall I do, whence can I get food, whence clothing? Such things also the rich man utters. For his mind is distressed on account of his fruits pouring out from his storehouse, lest perchance when they have come forth they should profit the poor; like the glutton who had rather burst from eating, than give any thing of what remains to the starving.
GREGORY. (Mor. 15. c. 13.) O adversity, the child of plenty. For saying, What shall I do, he surely betokens, that, oppressed by the success of his wishes, he labours as it were under a load of goods.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) It was easy for him to say, I will open my barn, I will call together the needy, but he has no thought of want, only of amassing; for it follows, And he said, This will I do, I will pull down my barns. Thou doest well, for the storehouses of iniquity are worthy of destruction. Pull down thy barns, from which no one receives comfort. He adds, I will build greater. But thou shalt complete these, wilt thou again destroy them? What more foolish than labouring on for ever. Thy barns, if thou wilt, are the home of the poor. But thou wilt say, Whom do I wrong by keeping what is my own? For it follows also, And there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. Tell me what is thine, from whence didst thou get it and bring it into life? As he who anticipates the public games, injures those who are coming by appropriating to himself what is appointed for the common use, so likewise the rich who regard as their own the common things which they have forestalled. For if every one receiving what is sufficient for his own necessity would leave what remains to the needy, there would be no rich or poor.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Observe also in another respect the folly of his words, when he says, I will gather all my fruits, as if he thought that he had not obtained them from God, but that they were the fruits of his own labours.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) But if thou confessest that those things have come to thee from God, is God then unjust in distributing to us unequally. Why dost thou abound while another begs? unless that thou shouldest gain the rewards of a good stewardship, and be honoured with the meed of patience. Art not thou then a robber, for counting as thine own what thou hast received to distribute? It is the bread of the famished which thou receivest, the garment of the naked which rots in thy possession, the money of the pennyless which thou hast buried in the earth. Wherefore then dost thou injure so many to whom thou mightest be a benefactor.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 8. in 2 ad Tim.) But in this he errs, that he thinks those things good which are indifferent. For there are some things good, some evil, some between the two. The good are chastity, and humility, and the like, which when a man chooses he becomes good. But opposed to these are the evil, which when a man chooses he becomes bad; and there are the neutral, as riches, which at one time indeed are directed to good, as to almsgiving, at other times to evil, as to covetousness. And in like manner poverty at one time leads to blasphemy, at another to wisdom, according to the disposition of the user.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. The rich man then builds barns which last not, but decay, and what is still more foolish, reckons for himself upon a long life; for it follows, And I will say unto my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years. But, O rich man, thou hast indeed fruits in thy barns, but as for many years whence canst thou obtain them?
ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) Now if any one lives so as to die daily, seeing that our life is naturally uncertain, he will not sin, for the greater fear destroys very much pleasure, but the rich man on the contrary, promising to himself length of life, secks after pleasures, for he says, Rest, that is, from toil, eat, drink, and be merry, that is, with great luxury.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) Thou art so careless with respect to the goods of the soul, that thou ascribest the meats of the body to the soul. If indeed it has virtue, if it is fruitful in good works, if it clings to God, it possesses many goods, and rejoices with a worthy joy. But because thou art altogether carnal and subject to the passions, thou speakest from thy belly, not from thy soul.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 39, 8. in 1 ad Cor.) Now it behoves us not to indulge in delights which fattening the body make lean the soul, and bring a heavy burden upon it, and spread darkness over it, and a thick covering, because in pleasure our governing part which is the soul becomes the slave, but the subject part, namely the body, rules. But the body is in need not of luxuries but of food, that it may be nourished, not that it may be racked and melt away. For not to the soul alone are pleasures hurtful, but to the body itself, because from being a strong body it becomes weak, from being healthy diseased, from being active slothful, from being beautiful unshapely, and from youthful old.
BASIL. (Hom. in loc.) But he was permitted to deliberate in every thing, and to manifest his purpose, that he might receive a sentence such as his inclinations deserved. But while he speaks in secret, his words are weighed in heaven, from whence the answers come to him. For it follows, But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall they require of thee. Hear the name of folly, which most properly belongs to thee which not man has imposed, but God Himself.
GREGORY. (22. Mor. c. 2.) The same night he was taken away, who had expected many years, that he indeed who had in gathering stores for himself looked a long time forward, should not see even the next day.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Concio. 2. de Lazar.) They shall require of thee, for perhaps certain dread powers were sent to require it, since if when going from city to city we want a guide, much more will the soul when released from the body, and passing to a future life, need direction. On this account many times the soul rises and sinks into the deep again, when it ought to depart from the body. For the consciousness of our sins is ever pricking us, but most of all when we are going to be dragged before the awful tribunal. For when the whole accumulation of crimes is brought up again, and placed before the eyes, it astounds the mind. And as prisoners are always indeed sorrowful, but particularly at the time when they are going to be brought before the judge; so also the soul at this time is greatly tormented by sin and afflicted, but much more after it has been removed.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But in the night the soul was taken away which had gone forth in the darkness of its heart, being unwilling to have the light of consideration, so as to foresee what it might suffer. But He adds, Then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 23. in Gen.) For here shalt thou leave those things, and not only reap no advantage from them, but carry a load of sins upon thy own shoulders. And these things which thou hast laid up will for the most part come into the hands of enemies, but of thee shall an account of them be required. It follows, So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
BEDE. For such a one is a fool, and will be taken off in the night. He then who wishes to be rich toward God, will not lay up treasures for himself, but distribute his possessions to the poor.
AMBROSE. For in vain he amasses wealth who knows not how to use it. Neither are these things ours which we cannot take away with us. Virtue alone is the companion of the dead, mercy alone follows us, which gains for the dead an everlasting habitation.
22. And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat: neither for the body, what ye shall put on.
23. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.
THEOPHYLACT. The Lord carries us onward by degrees to a more perfect teaching. For He taught us above to beware of covetousness, and He added the parable of the rich man, intimating thereby that the fool is he who desires more than is enough. Then as His discourse goes on, He forbids us to be anxious even about necessary things, plucking out the very root of covetousness; whence he says, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought. As if He said, Since he is a fool, who awards to himself a longer measure of life, and is thereby rendered more covetous; be not ye careful for your soul, what ye shall eat, not that the intellectual soul eats, but because there seems no other way for the soul to dwell united to the body except by being nourished. Or because it is a part of the animate body to receive nourishment, he fitly ascribes nourishment to the soul. For the soul is called also a nutritive power, as it is so understood. Be not then anxious for the nourishing part of the soul, what ye shall eat. But a dead body may also be clothed, therefore he adds, Nor for your body, what ye shall put on.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 21. in Matt.) Now the words, Take no thought, are not the same as do no work, but, “Have not your minds fixed on earthly things.” For it so happens, that the man who is working takes no thought.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now the soul is more excellent than food, and the body than clothing. Therefore He adds, The life is more than meat, &c. As if He said, “God who has implanted that which is greater, how will He not give that which is less?” Let not our attention then be stayed upon trifling things, nor our understanding serve to seek for food and raiment, but rather think on whatever saves the soul, and raises it to the kingdom of heaven.
AMBROSE. Now nothing is more likely to produce conviction in believers that God can give us all things, than the fact, that the ethereal spirit perpetuates the vital union of the soul and body in close fellowship, without our exertion, and the healthgiving use of food does not fail until the last day of death has arrived. Since then the soul is clothed with the body as with a garment, and the body is kept alive by the vigour of the soul, it is absurd to suppose that a supply of food will be wanting to us, who are in possession of the everlasting substance of life.
24. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?
25. And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit?
26. If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest?
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. As before in raising our minds to spiritual boldness, He assured us by the example of the birds, which are counted of little worth, saying, Ye are of more value than many sparrows; so now also from the instance of birds, He conveys to us a firm and undoubting trust, saying, Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which neither have storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them; how much more are ye better than fowls?
BEDE. That is, ye are more precious, because a rational animal like man is of a higher order in the nature of things than irrational things, as the birds are.
AMBROSE.: But it is a great thing to follow up this example in faith. For to the birds of the air who have no labour of tilling, no produce from the fruitfulness of crops, Divine Providence grants an unfailing sustenance. It is true then that the cause of our poverty seems to be covetousness. For they have for this reason a toilless and abundant use of food, because they think not of claiming to themselves by any special right fruits given for common food. We have lost what things were common by claiming them as our own. For neither is any thing a man’s own, where nothing is perpetual, nor is supply certain when the end is uncertain.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now whereas our Lord might have taken an example from the men who have cared least about earthly things, such as Elias, Moses, and John, and the like, He made mention of the birds, following the Old Testament, which sends us to the bee and the ant, and others of the same kind, in whom the Creator has implanted certain natural dispositions.
THEOPHYLACT. Now the reason that he omits mention of the other birds, and speaks only of the ravens, is, that the young of the ravens are by an especial providence fed by God. For the ravens produce indeed, but do not feed, but neglect their young, to whom in a marvellous manner from the air their food comes, brought as it were by the wind, which they receive having their mouths open, and so are nourished. Perhaps also such things were spoken by synecdoche, i. e. the whole signified by a part. Hence in Matthew our Lord refers to the birds of the air, (Matt. 6:26.) but here more particularly to the ravens, as being more greedy and ravenous than others.
EUSEBIUS. By the ravens also he signifies something else, for the birds which pick up seeds have a ready source of food, but those that feed on flesh as the ravens do have more difficulty in getting it. Yet birds of this kind suffer from no lack of food, because the providence of God extends every where; but he brings to the same purpose also a third argument, saying, And which of you by taking thought can add to his stature?
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 21. in Matt.) Observe, that when God has once given a soul, it abides the same, but the body is taking growth daily. Passing over then the soul as not receiving increase, he makes mention only of the body, giving us to understand that it is not increased by food alone, but by the Divine Providence, from the fact that no one by receiving nourishment can add any thing to his stature. It is therefore concluded, If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, take no thought for the rest.
EUSEBIUS. If no one has by his own skill contrived a bodily stature for himself, but can not add even the shortest delay to the prefixed limit of his time of life, why should we be vainly anxious about the necessaries of life?
BEDE. To Him then leave the care of directing the body, by whose aid you see it to come to pass that you have a body of such a stature.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. l. ii. qu. 28.) But in speaking concerning increasing the stature of the body, He refers to that which is least, that is, to God, to make bodies.
27. Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
28. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?
29. And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind.
30. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
31. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 22. in Matt.) As our Lord had before given instruction about food, so now also about raiment, saying, Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin, that is, to make themselves clothing. Now as above when our Lord said, the birds sow not, He did not reprove sowing, but all superfluous trouble; so when He said, They toil not, neither do they spin, He does not put an end to work, but to all anxiety about it.
EUSEBIUS. But if a man wishes to be adorned with precious raiment, let him observe closely how even down to the flowers which spring from the earth God extends His manifold wisdom, adorning them with divers colours, so adapting to the delicate membranes of the flowers dyes far superior to gold and purple, that under no luxurious king, not even Solomon himself, who was renowned among the ancients for his riches as for his wisdom and pleasures, has so exquisite a work been devised; and hence it follows, But I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 22. in Matt.) He does not here employ the example of the birds, making mention of a swan or a peacock, but the lilies, for he wishes to give force to the argument on both sides, that is to say, both from the meanness of the things which have obtained such honour, and from the excellence of the honour conferred upon them; and hence a little after He does not call them lilies, but grass, as it is added, If then God so clothe the grass, which to-day is, He says not, which to-morrow is not, but to-morrow is cast into the oven; nor does He say simply, God clothe, but He says, God so clothe, which has much meaning, and adds, how much more you, which expresses His estimation and care of the human race. Lastly, when it behoves Him to find fault, He deals here also with mildness, reproving them not for unbelief, but for littleness of faith, adding, O ye of little faith, that He may so the more rouse us up to believe in His words, that we should not only take no thought about our apparel, but not even admire elegance in dress.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For it is sufficient to the prudent for the sake of necessity only, to have a suitable garment, and moderate food, not exceeding what is enough. To the saints it is sufficient even to have those spiritual delights which are in Christ, and the glory that comes after.
AMBROSE. Nor does it seem of light moment, that a flower is either compared to man, or even almost more than to man is preferred to Solomon, to make us conceive the glory expressed, from the brightness of the colour to be that of the heavenly angels; who are truly the flowers of the other world, since by their brightness the world is adorned, and they breathe forth the pure odour of sanctification, who shackled by no cares, employed in no toilsome task, cherish the grace of the Divine bounty towards them, and the gifts of their heavenly nature. Therefore well also is Solomon hero described to be clothed in his own glory, and in another place to he veiled, because the frailty of his bodily nature be clothed as it were by the powers of his mind to the glory of his works. But the Angels, whose diviner nature remains free from bodily injury, are rightly preferred, although he be the greatest man. We should not however despair of God’s mercy to us, to whom by the grace of His resurrection He promises the likeness of angels.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. it were strange for the disciples, who ought to set before others the rule and pattern of life, to fall into those things, which it was their duty to advise men to renounce; and therefore our Lord adds, And seek not what, ye shall eat, &c. Herein also our Lord strongly recommends the study of holy preaching, bidding His disciples to cast away all human cares.
BEDE. It must however be observed, that He says not, Do not seek or take thought about meat, or drink, or raiment, but what ye shall eat or drink, in which He seems to me to reprove those who, despising the common food and clothing, seek for themselves either more delicate or coarser food and clothing than theirs with whom they live.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (in Orat. Dom. Serm. 1.) Some have obtained dominion and honours and riches by praying for them, how then dost thou forbid us to seek such things in prayer? And indeed that all these things belong to the Divine counsel is plain to every one, yet are they conferred by God upon those that seek them, in order that by learning that God listens to our lower petitions, we may be raised to the desire of higher things; just as we see in children, who as soon as they are born cling to their mother’s breasts, but when the child grows up it despises the milk, and seeks after a necklace or some such thing with which the eye is delighted; and again when the mind has advanced together with the body, giving up all childish desires, he seeks from his parents those things which are adapted to a perfect life.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu Ev. l. ii. qu. 29.) Now having forbidden all thought about food, he next goes on to warn men not to be puffed up, saying, Neither be ye lifted up, (nolite in sublime tolli μὴ μετεωρίζισθε.) for man first seeks these things to satisfy his wants, but when he is filled, he begins to be puffed up concerning them. This is just as if a wounded man should boast that he had many plasters in his house, whereas it were well for him that he had no wounds, and needed not even one plaster.
THEOPHYLACT. Or by being lifted up he means nothing else but an unsteady motion of the mind, meditating first one thing, then another, and jumping from this to that, and imagining lofty things.
BASIL. And that you may understand an elation of this kind, remember the vanity of your own youth; if at any time while by yourself you have thought about life and promotions, passing rapidly from one dignity to another, have grasped riches, have built palaces, benefitted friends, been revenged upon enemies. Now such abstraction is sin, for to have our delights fixed upon useless things, leads away from the truth. Hence He goes on to add, For all these things do the nations of the world seek after, &c.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) For to be careful about visible things is the part of those who possess no hope of a future life, no fear of judgment to come.
BASIL. But with respect to the necessaries of life, He adds, And your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 22. in Matt.) He said not “God,” but your Father, to incite them to greater confidence. For who is a father, and would not allow the want of his children to be supplied? But He adds another thing also; for you could not say that He is indeed a father, yet knoweth not that we are in need of these things. For He who has created our nature, knoweth its wants.
AMBROSE. But He goes on to shew, that neither at the present time, nor hereafter, will grace be lacking to the faithful, if only they who desire heavenly things seek not earthly; for it is unworthy for men to care for meats, who fight for a kingdom. The king knoweth wherewithal he shall support and clothe his own family. Therefore it follows, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Now Christ promises not only a kingdom, but also riches with it; for if we rescue from cares those who neglecting their own concerns are diligent about ours, much more will God.
BEDE. For He declares that there is one thing which is primarily given, another which is superadded; that we ought to make eternity our aim, the present life our business.
32. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.
33. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.
34. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
GLOSS. (non occ.) Our Lord having removed the care of temporal things from the hearts of His disciples, now banishes fear from them, from which superfluous cares proceed, saying, Fear not, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. By the little flock, our Lord signifies those who are willing to become His disciples, or because in this world the Saints seem little because of their voluntary poverty, or because they are outnumbered by the multitude of Angels, who incomparably exceed all that we can boast of. The name little our Lord gives to the company of the elect, either from comparison with the greater number of the reprobate, or rather because of their devout humility.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But why they ought not to fear, He shews, adding, for it is your Father’s good pleasure; as if He says, How shall He who gives such precious things be wearied in shewing mercy towards you? For although His flock is little both in nature and number and renown, yet the goodness of the Father has granted even to this little flock the lot of heavenly spirits, that is, the kingdom of heaven. Therefore that you may possess the kingdom of heaven, despise this world’s wealth. Hence it is added, Sell that ye have, &c.
BEDE. As if He says, Fear not lest they who warfare for the kingdom of God, should be in want of the necessaries of this life. But sell that ye have for alms’ sake, which then is done worthily, when a man having once for his Lord’s sake forsaken all that he hath, nevertheless afterwards labours with his hands that he may be able both to gain his living, and give alms.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 25. in Act.) For there is no sin which almsgiving does not avail to blot out. It is a salve adapted to ever wound. But almsgiving has to do not only with money, but with all matters also wherein man succours man, as when the physician heals, and the wise man gives counsel.
GREGORY NAZIANZEN. (Orat. 14.) Now I fear lest you should think deeds of mercy to be not necessary to you, but voluntary. I also thought so, but was alarmed at the goats placed on the left hand, not because they robbed, but did not minister unto Christ among the poor.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) For without alms it is impossible to see the kingdom. For as a fountain if it keeps its waters within itself grows foul, so also rich men when they retain every thing in their possession.
BASIL. (reg. brev. ad int. 92.) But some one will ask, upon what grounds ought we to sell that which we have? Is it that these things are by nature hurtful, or because of the temptation to our souls? To this we must answer, first, that every thing existing in the world if it were in itself evil, would be no creation of God, for every creation of God is good. (1 Tim. 4:4.) And next, that our Lord’s command teaches us not to cast away as evil what we possess, but to distribute, saying, and give alms.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now perhaps this command is irksome to the rich, yet to those who are of a sound mind, it is not unprofitable, for their treasure is the kingdom of heaven. Hence it follows, Provide for yourselves bags which wax not old, &c.
BEDE. That is, by doing alms, the reward of which abideth for ever; which must not be taken as a command that no money be kept by the saints either for their own, or the use of the poor, since we read that our Lord Himself, to whom the angels ministered, (Matt. 4:11) had a bag in which he kept the offerings of the faithful; (John 12:6.) but that God should not be obeyed for the sake of such things, and righteousness be not forsaken from fear of poverty.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. But He bids us lay up our visible and earthly treasures where the power of corruption does not reach, and hence He adds, a treasure that faileth not, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. As if He said, “Here the moth corrupts, but there is no corruption in heaven.” Then because there are some things which the moth does not corrupt, He goes on to speak of the thief. For gold the moth corrupts not, but the thief takes away.
BEDE. Whether then should it be simply understood, that money kept faileth, but given away to our neighbour bears everlasting fruit in heaven; or, that the treasure of good works, if it be stored up for the sake of earthly advantage, is soon corrupted and perishes; but if it be laid up solely from heavenly motives, neither outwardly by the favour of men, as by the thief which steals from without, nor inwardly by vainglory, as by the moth which devours within, can it be defiled.
GLOSS. Or, the thieves are heretics and evil spirits, who are bent upon depriving us of spiritual things. The moth which secretly frets the garments is envy, which mars good desires, and bursts the bonds of charity.
THEOPHYLACT. Moreover, because all things are not taken away by theft, He adds a more excellent reason, and one which admits of no objection whatever, saying, For where your treasure is, there will your hearts be also; as if He says, “Suppose that neither moth corrupts nor thief takes away, yet this very thing, namely, to have the heart fixed in a buried treasure, and to sink to the earth a divine work, that is, the soul, how great a punishment it deserves.”
EUSEBIUS. For every man naturally dwells upon that which is the object of his desire, and thither he directs all his thoughts, where he supposes his whole interest to rest. If any one then has his whole mind and affections, which he calls the heart, set on things of this present life, he lives in earthly things. But if he has given his mind to heavenly things, there will his mind be; so that he seems with his body only to live with men, but with his mind to have already reached the heavenly mansion.
BEDE. Now this must not only be felt concerning love of money, but all the passions. Luxurious feasts are treasures; also the sports of the gay and the desires of the lover,
35. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning;
36. And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately.
37. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.
38. And if he shall come in the second watch, or in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants.
39. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.
40. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
THEOPHYLACT. Our Lord having taught His disciples moderation, taking from them all care and conceit of this life, now leads them on to serve and obey, saying, Let your loins be girded, that is, always ready to do the work of your Lord, and your lamps burning, that is, do not lead a life in darkness, but have with you the light of reason, shewing you what to do and what to avoid. For this world is the night, but they have their loins girded, who follow a practical or active life. For such is the condition of servants who must have with them also lamps burning; that is, the gift of discernment, that the active man may be able to distinguish not only what he ought to do, but in what way; otherwise men rush down the precipice of pride. But we must observe, that He first orders our loins to be girded, secondly, our lamps to be burning. For first indeed comes action, then reflection, which is an enlightening of the mind. Let us then strive to exercise the virtues, that we may have two lamps burning, that is, the conception of the mind ever shining forth in the soul, by which we are ourselves enlightened, and learning, whereby we enlighten others.
MAXIMUS. Or, he teaches us to keep our lamps burning, by prayer and contemplation and spiritual love.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Or, to be girded, signifies activity and readiness to undergo evils from regard to Divine love. But the burning of the lamp signifies that we should not suffer any to live in the darkness of ignorance.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Evang.) Or else, we gird our loins when by continence we control the lusts of the flesh. For the lust of men is in their loins, and of women in their womb; by the name of loins, therefore, from the principal sex, lust is signified. But because it is a small thing not to do evil, unless also men strive to labour in good works, it is added, And your lamps burning in your hands; for we hold burning lamps in our hands, when by good works we shew forth bright examples to our neighbours.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. lib. ii. q. 25.) Or, He teaches us also to gird our loins for the sake of keeping ourselves from the love of the things of this world, and to have our lamps burning, that this thing may be done with a true end and right intention.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But if a man has both of these, whosoever he be, nothing remains for him but that he should place his whole expectation on the coming of the Redeemer. Therefore it is added, And be ye like to men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding, &c. For our Lord went to the wedding, when ascending up into heaven as the Bridegroom He joined to Himself the heavenly multitude of angels.
THEOPHYLACT. Daily also in the heavens He betroths the souls of the Saints, whom Paul or another offers to Him, as a chaste virgin. (2 Cor 11:2.) But He returns from the celebration of the heavenly marriage, perhaps to all at the end of the whole world, when He shall come from heaven in the glory of the Father; perhaps also every hour standing suddenly present at the death of each individual.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now consider that He comes from the wedding as from a festival, which God is ever keeping; for nothing can cause sadness to the Incorruptible Nature.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Hom. 11. in Cant..) Or else, when the wedding was celebrated and the Church received into the secret bridal chamber, the angels were expecting the return of the King to His own natural blessedness. And after their example we order our life, that as they living together without evil, are prepared to welcome their Lord’s return, so we also, keeping watch at the door, should make ourselves ready to obey Him when He comes knocking; for it follows, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) For He comes when He hastens to judgment, but He knocks, when already by the pain of sickness He denotes that death is at hand; to whom we immediately open if we receive Him with love. For he who trembles to depart from the body, has no wish to open to the Judge knocking, and dreads to see that Judge whom he remembers to have despised. But he who rests secure concerning his hope and works, immediately opens to Him that knocks; for when he is aware of the time of death drawing near, he grows joyful, because of the glory of his reward; and hence it is added, Blessed are the servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching. He watches who keeps the eyes of his mind open to behold the true light; who by his works maintains that which he beholds, who drives from himself the darkness of sloth and carelessness.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) For the sake then of keeping watch, our Lord advised above that our loins should be girded, and our lamps burning, for light when placed before the eyes drives away sleep. The loins also when tied with a girdle, make the body incapable of sleep. For he who is girt about with chastity, and illuminated by a pure conscience, continues wakeful.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. When then our Lord coming shall find us awake and girded, having our hearts enlightened, He will then pronounce us blessed, for it follows, Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself; from which we perceive that He will recompense us in like manner, seeing that He will gird Himself with those that are girded. (Isa. 11:5.)
ORIGEN. For He will be girded about His loins with righteousness.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Ev.) By which He girds Himself, that is, prepares for judgment.
THEOPHYLACT. Or, He will gird Himself, in that He imparts not the whole fulness of blessings, but confines it within a certain measure. For who can comprehend God how great He is? Therefore are the Seraphims said to veil their countenance, because of the excellence of the Divine brightness. It follows, and will make them to sit down; for as a man sitting down causes his whole body to rest, so in the future coming the Saints will have complete rest; for here they have not rest for the body, but there together with their souls their spiritual bodies partaking of immortality will rejoice in perfect rest.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. He will then make them to sit down as a refreshment to the weary, setting before them spiritual enjoyments, and ordering a sumptuous table of His gifts.
PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS. (Dion. in Ep. ad Tit.) The “sitting down” is taken to be the repose from many labours, a life without annoyance, the divine conversation of those that dwell in the region of light enriched with all holy affections, and an abundant pouring forth of all gifts, whereby they are filled with joy. For the reason why Jesus makes them to sit down, is that He might give them perpetual rest, and distribute to them blessings without number. Therefore it follows, And will pass over (transiens) and serve them.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, Give back to them, as it were, an equal return, that as they served Him, so also He will serve them.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Ev.) But He is said to be passing over, when He returns from the judgment to His kingdom. Or the Lord passes to us after the judgment, and raises us from the form of His humanity to a contemplation of His divinity.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Our Lord knew the proneness of human infirmity to sin, but because He is merciful, He docs not allow us to despair, but rather has compassion, and gives us repentance as a saving remedy. And therefore He adds, And if he shall come in the second watch, &c. For they who keep watch on the walls of cities, or observe the attacks of the enemy, divide the night into three or four watches.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The first watch then is the earliest time of our life, that is, childhood, the second youth and manhood, but the third represents old age. He then who is unwilling to watch in the first, let him keep even the second. And he who is unwilling in the second, let him not lose the remedies of the third watch, that he who has neglected conversion in childhood, may at least in the time of youth or old age recover himself.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Of the first watch, however, he makes no mention, for childhood is not punished by God, but obtains pardon; but the second and third age owe obedience to God, and the leading of an honest life according to His will.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus.) Or, to the first watch belong those who live more carefully, as having gained the first step, but to the second, those who keep the measure of a moderate conversation, but to the third, those who are below these. And the same must be supposed of the fourth, and if it should so happen also of the fifth. For there are different measures of life, and a good rewarder metes out to every man according to his deserts.
THEOPHYLACT. Or since the watches are the hours of the night which lull men to sleep, you must understand that there are also in our life certain hours which make us happy if we are found awake. Does any one seize your goods? Are your children dead? Are you accused? But if at these times you have done nothing against the commandments of God, He will find you watching in the second and third watch, that is, at the evil time, which brings destructive sleep to idle souls.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But to shake off the sloth of our minds, even our external losses are by a similitude set before us. For it is added, And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come.
THEOPHYLACT. Some understand this thief to be the devil, the house, the soul, the goodman of the house, man. This interpretation, however, does not seem to agree with what follows. For the Lord’s coming is compared to the thief as suddenly at hand, according to the word of the Apostle, The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:2.) And hence also it is here added, Be ye also ready, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Ev.) Or else; unknown to the master the thief breaks into the house, because while the spirit sleeps instead of guarding itself, death comes unexpectedly, and breaks into the dwelling place of our flesh. But he would resist the thief if he were watching, because being on his guard against the coming of the Judge, who secretly seizes his soul, he would by repentance go to meet Him, lest he should perish impenitent. But the last hour our Lord wishes to be unknown to us, in order as we cannot foresee it, we may be unceasingly preparing for it.
41. Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even to all?
42. And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?
43. Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
44. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
45. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
46. The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.
THEOPHYLACT. Peter, to whom the Church had already been committed, as having the care of all things, inquires whether our Lord put forth this parable to all. As it follows, Then Peter said unto him, Lord, speakest thou this parable unto us, or even unto all?
BEDE. Our Lord had taught two things in the preceding parable unto all, even that He would come suddenly, and that they ought to be ready and waiting for Him. But it is not very plain concerning which of these, or whether both, Peter asked the question, or whom he compared to himself and his companions, when he said, Speakest thou to us, or to all? Yet in truth by these words, us and all, he must be supposed to mean none other than the Apostles, and those like to the Apostles, and all other faithful men; or Christians, and unbelievers; or those who dying separately, that is, singly, both unwillingly indeed and willingly, receive the coming of their Judge, and those who when the universal judgment comes are to be found alive in the flesh. Now it is marvellous if Peter doubted that all must live soberly, piously, and justly, who wait for a blessed hope, or that the judgment will to each and all be unexpected. It therefore remains to be supposed, that knowing these two things, he asked about that which he might not know, namely, whether those sublime commands of a heavenly life in which He bade us sell what we have and provide bags which wax not old, and watch with our loins girded, and lamps burning, belonged to the Apostles only, and those like unto them, or to all who were to be saved.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now to the courageous rightly belong the great and difficult of God’s holy commandments, but to those who have not yet attained to such virtue, belong those things from which all difficulty is excluded. Our Lord therefore uses a very obvious example, to shew that the above-mentioned command is suited to those who have been admitted into the rank of disciples, for it follows, And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful steward?
AMBROSE. Or else, the form of the first command is a general one adapted to all, but the following example seems to be proposed to the stewards, that is, the priests; and therefore it follows, And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give, them their portion of meat in due season?
THEOPHYLACT. The above-mentioned parable relates to all the faithful in common, but now hear what suits the Apostles and teachers. For I ask, where will be found the steward, that possesses in himself faithfulness and wisdom? for as in the management of goods, whether a man be careless yet faithful to his master, or else wise yet unfaithful, the things of the master perish; so also in the things of God there is need of faithfulness and wisdom. For I have known many servants of God, and faithful men, who because they were unable to manage ecclesiastical affairs, have destroyed not only possessions, but souls, exercising towards sinners indiscreet virtue by extravagant rules of penance or unseasonable indulgence.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 77. in Matt.) But our Lord here asks the question not as ignorant, who was a faithful and wise steward, but wishing to imply the rareness of such, and the greatness of this kind of chief government.
THEOPHYLACT. Whosoever then has been found a faithful and wise steward, let him bear rule over the Lord’s household, that he may give them their portion of meat in due season, either the word of doctrine by which their souls are fed, or the example of works by which their life is fashioned.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. l. ii. c. 26.) Now he says portion, because of suiting His measure to the capacity of his several hearers.
ISIDORE OF PELEUSIUM. (l. 3. Ep. 170.) It was added also in their due season, because a benefit not conferred at its proper time is rendered vain, and loses the name of a benefit. The same bread is not equally coveted by the hungry man, and him that is satisfied. But with respect to this servant’s reward for his stewardship, He adds, Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
BASIL. (in Proœm. in reg. fus.) He says not, ‘doing,’ as if by chance, but so doing. For not only conquest is honourable, but to contend lawfully, which is to perform each thing as we have been commanded.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Thus the faithful and wise servant prudently giving out in due season the servants’ food, that is, their spiritual meat, will be blessed according to the Saviour’s word, in that he will obtain still greater things, and will be thought worthy of the rewards which are duo to friends. Hence it follows, Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.
BEDE. For whatever difference there is in the merits of good hearers and good teachers, such also there is in their rewards; for the one whom when He cometh He finds watching, He will make to sit down; but the others whom He finds faithful and wise stewards, He will place over all that He hath, that is, over all the joys of the kingdom of heaven, not certainly that they alone shall have power over them, but that they shall more abundantly than the other saints enjoy eternal possession of them.
THEOPHYLACT. Or, he will make him ruler over all that he hath, not only over His own household, but that earthly things as well as heavenly shall obey him. As it was with Joshua the son of Nun, and Elias, the one commanding the sun, the other the clouds; and all the Saints as God’s friends use the things of God. Whosoever also passes his life virtuously, and has kept in due submission his servants, that is, anger and desire, supplies to them their portion of food in due season; to anger indeed that he may feel it against those who hate God, but to desire that he may exercise the necessary provision for the flesh, ordering it unto God. Such an one, I say, will be set over all things which the Lord hath, being thought worthy to look into all things by the light of contemplation.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 77. in Matt.) But our Lord not only by the honours kept in store for the good, but by threats of punishment upon the bad, leads the hearer to correction, as it follows, But if that servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming.
BEDE. Observe that it is counted among the vices of a bad servant that he thought the coming of his Lord slow, yet it is not numbered among the virtues of the good that he hoped it would come quickly, but only that he ministered faithfully. There is nothing then better than to submit patiently to be ignorant of that which can not be known, but to strive only that we be found worthy.
THEOPHYLACT. Now from not considering the time of our departure, there proceed many evils. For surely if we thought that our Lord was coming, and that the end of our life was at hand, we should sin the less. Hence it follows, And shall begin to strike the man servants and maidens, and to eat and drink and be drunken.
BEDE. In this servant is declared the condemnation of all evil rulers, who, forsaking the fear of the Lord, not only give themselves up to pleasures, but also provoke with injuries those who are put under them. Although these words may be also understood figuratively, meaning to corrupt the hearts of the weak by an evil example; and to eat, drink, and be drunken, to be absorbed in the vices and allurements of the world, which overthrow the mind of man. But concerning his punishment it is added, The Lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, that is, the day of his judgment or death, and will cut him in sunder.
BASIL. (in lib. de Sp. San. c. 16.) The body indeed is not divided, so that one part indeed should be exposed to torments, the other escape. For this is a fable, nor is it a part of just judgment when the whole has offended that half only should suffer punishment; nor is the soul cut in sunder, seeing that the whole possesses a guilty consciousness, and cooperates with the body to work evil; but its division is the eternal severing of the soul from the Spirit. For now although the grace of the Spirit is not in the unworthy, yet it seems ever to be at hand expecting their turning to salvation, but at that time it will be altogether cut off from the soul. The Holy Spirit then is the prize of the just, and the chief condemnation of sinners, since they who are unworthy will lose Him.
BEDE. Or He will cut him in sunder, by separating him from the communion of the faithful, and dismissing him to those who have never attained unto the faith. Hence it follows, And will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers; (1 Tim. 5:8.) for he who has no care for his own, and those of his own house, has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
THEOPHYLACT. Rightly also shall the unbelieving steward receive his portion with the unbelievers, because he was without true faith.
47. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
48. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
THEOPHYLACT. Our Lord here points to something still greater and more terrible, for the unfaithful steward shall not only be deprived of the grace he had, so that it should profit him nothing in escaping punishment, but the greatness of his dignity shall the rather become a cause of his condemnation. Hence it is said, And that servant who knew his lord’s will and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 26. in Matt.) For all things are not judged alike in all, but greater knowledge is an occasion of greater punishment. Therefore shall the Priest, committing the same sin with the people, suffer a far heavier penalty.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For the man of understanding who has given up his will to baser things will shamelessly implore pardon, because he has committed an inexcusable sin, departing as it were maliciously from the will of God, but the rude or unlearned man will more reasonably ask for pardon of the avenger. Hence it is added, But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.
THEOPHYLACT. Here some object, saying, He is deservedly punished who, knowing the will of His Lord, pursues it not; but why is the ignorant punished? Because when he might have known, be would not, but being himself slothful, was the cause of his own ignorance.
BASIL. (in reg. brev. 267.) But you will say, If the one indeed received many stripes, and the other few, how do some say He assigns no end to punishments? But we must know, that what is here said assigns neither measure nor end of punishments, but their differences. For a man may deserve unquenchable fire, to either a slight or more intense degree of heat, and the worm that dieth not with greater or more violent gnawings.
THEOPHYLACT. But he goes on to shew why teachers and learned men deserve a severer punishment, as it is said, For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. Teachers indeed are given the grace to perform miracles, but entrusted the grace of speech and learning. But not in that which is given, He says, is any thing more to be sought, but in that which is entrusted or deposited; for the grace of the word needs increase. But from a teacher more is required, for he should not lie idle, but improve the talent of the word.
BEDE. Or else, much is often given also to certain individuals, upon whom is bestowed the knowledge of God’s will, and the means of performing what they know; much also is given to him to whom, together with his own salvation, is committed the care also of feeding our Lord’s flock. Upon those then who are gifted with more abundant grace a heavier penalty falls; but the mildest punishment of all will be theirs, who, beyond the guilt they originally contracted, have added none besides; and in all who have added, theirs will be the more tolerable who have committed fewest iniquities.
49. I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?
50. But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!
51. Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division:
52. For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three.
53. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
AMBROSE. To stewards, that is, to Priests, the preceding words seem to have been addressed, that they may thereby know that hereafter a heavier punishment awaits them, if, intent upon the world’s pleasures, they have neglected the charge of their Lord’s household, and the people entrusted to their care. But as it profiteth little to be recalled from error by the fear of punishment, and far greater is the privilege of charity and love, our Lord therefore kindles in men the desire of acquiring the divine nature, saying, I came to send fire on earth, not indeed that He is the Consumer of good men, but the Author of good will, who purifies the golden vessels of the Lord’s house, but burns up the straw and stubble.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now it is the way of holy Scripture to use sometimes the term fire, of holy and divine words. For as they who know how to purify gold and silver, destroy the dross by fire, so the Saviour by the teaching of the Gospel in the power of the Spirit cleanses the minds of those who believe in Him. This then is that wholesome and useful fire by which the inhabitants of earth, in a manner cold and dead through sin, revive to a life of piety.
CHRYSOSTOM. For by the earth He now means not that which we tread under our feet, but that which was fashioned by His hands, namely, man, upon whom the Lord pours out fire for the consuming of sins, and the renewing of souls.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. And we must here believe that Christ came down from heaven. For if He had come from earth to earth, He would not say, I came to send fire upon the earth.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But our Lord was hastening the kindling of the fire, and hence it follows, And what will I, save that it be kindleda? (nisi ut accendatur) For already some of the Jews believed, of whom the first were the holy Apostles, but the fire once lighted in Judæa was about to take possession of the whole world, yet not till after the dispensation of His Passion had been accomplished. Hence it follows, But I have a baptism to be baptized with. For before the holy cross and His resurrection from the dead, in Judæa only was the news told of His preaching and miracles; but after that the Jews in their rage had slain the Prince of life, then commanded He His Apostles, saying, Go and teach all nations. (Matt. 28:19.)
GREGORY. (in Ezech. lib. i. Hom. 2.) Or else, fire is sent upon the earth, when by the fiery breath of the Holy Spirit, the earthly mind has all its carnal desires burnt up, but inflamed with spiritual love, bewails the evil it has done; and so the earth is burnt, when the conscience accusing itself, the heart of the sinner is consumed in the sorrow of repentance.
BEDE. But He adds, I have a baptism to be baptized with, that is, I have first to be sprinkled with the drops of My own Blood, and then to inflame the hearts of believers by the fire of the Spirit.
AMBROSE. But so great was our Lord’s condescension, that He tells us He has a desire of inspiring us with devotion, of accomplishing perfection in us, and of hastening His passion for us; as it follows, And how am I straitened till it be accomplished?
BEDE. Some manuscripts have, “And how am I anguished,” (coangor) that is, grieved. For though He had in Himself nothing to grieve Him, yet was He afflicted by our woes, and at the time of death He betrayed the anguish which He underwent not from the fear of His death, but from the delay of our redemption. For he who is troubled until he reaches perfection, is secure of perfection, for the condition of bodily affections not the dread of death offends him. For ho who has put on the body must suffer all things which are of the body, hunger, thirst, vexation, sorrow; but the Divine nature knows no change from such feelings. At the same time He also shews, that in the conflict of suffering consists the death of the body, peace of mind has no struggle with grief.
BEDE. But the manner in which after the baptism of His passion and the coming of the spiritual fire the earth will be burnt, He declares as follows, Suppose ye that I am to give peace, &c.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. What sayest thou, O Lord? Didst thou not come to give peace, Who art made peace for us? (Eph. 2:14.) making peace by Thy cross with things in earth and things in heaven; (Col. 1:20.) Who saidst, My peace I give unto you. (John 14:27.) But it is plain that peace is indeed a good, but sometimes hurtful, and separating us from the love of God, that is, when by it we unite with those who keep away from God. And for this reason we teach the faithful to avoid earthly bonds. Hence it follows, For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, &c.
AMBROSE. Though the connexion would seem to be of six persons, father and son, mother and daughter, mother in law and daughter in law, yet are they five, for the mother and the mother in law may be taken as the same, since she who is the mother of the son, is the mother in law of his wife.
CHRYSOSTOM. (non occ.) Now hereby He declared a future event, for it so happened in the same house that there have been believers whose fathers wished to bring them to unbelief; but the power of Christ’s doctrines has so prevailed, that fathers were left by sons, mothers by daughters, and children by parents. For the faithful in Christ were content not only to despise their own, but at the same time also to suffer all things as long as they were not without the worship of their faith. But if He were mere man, how would it have occurred to Him to conceive it possible that He should be more loved by fathers than their children were, by children than their fathers, by husbands than their wives, and they too not in one house or a hundred, but throughout the world? And not only did he predict this, but accomplish it in deed.
AMBROSE. Now in a mystical sense the one house is one man, but by two we often mean the soul and the body. But if two things meet together, each one has its part; there is one which obeys, another which rules. But there are three conditions of the soul, one concerned with reason, another with desire, the third with anger. Two then are divided against three, and three against two. For by the coming of Christ, man who was material became rational. We were carnal and earthly, God sent His Spirit into our hearts, and we became spiritual children. (Gal. 4:6.) We may also say, that in the house there are five others, that is, smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing. If then with respect to those things which we hear or see, separating the sense of sight and hearing, we shut out the worthless pleasures of the body which we take in by our taste, touch, and smell, we divide two against three, because the mind is not carried away by the allurements of vice. Or if we understand the five bodily senses, already are the vices and sins of the body divided among themselves. The flesh and the soul may also seem separated from the smell, touch, and taste of pleasure, for while the stronger sex of reason is impelled, as it were, to manly affections, the flesh strives to keep the reason more effeminate. Out of these then there spring up the motions of different desires, but when the soul returns to itself it renounces the degenerate offspring. The flesh also bewails that it is fastened down by its desires (which it has borne to itself,) as by the thorns of the world. But pleasure is a kind of daughter in law of the body and soul, and is wedded to the motions of foul desire. As long then as there remained in one house the vices conspiring together with one consent, there seemed to be no division; but when Christ sent fire upon the earth which should burn out the offences of the heart, or the sword which should pierce the very secrets of the heart, then the flesh and the soul renewed by the mysteries of regeneration cast off the bond of connection with their offspring. So that parents are divided against their children, while the intemperate man gets rid of his intemperate desires, and the soul has no more fellowship with crime. Children also are divided against parents when men having become regenerate renounce their old vices, and younger pleasure flies from the rule of piety, as from the discipline of a strict house.
BEDE. Or in another way. By three are signified those who have faith in the Trinity, by two the unbelievers who depart from the unity of the faith. But the father is the devil, whose children we were by following him, but when that heavenly fire came down, it separated us from one another, and shewed us another Father who is in heaven. The mother is the Synagogue, the daughter is the Primitive Church, who had to bear the persecution of that same synagogue, from whom she derived her birth, and whom she did herself in the truth of the faith contradict. The mother in law is the Synagogue, the daughter in law the Gentile Church, for Christ the husband of the Church is the son of the Synagogue, according to the flesh. The Synagogue then was divided both against its daughter in law, and its daughter, persecuting believers of each people. But they also were divided against their mother in law and mother, because they wished to abolish the circumcision of the flesh.
54. And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
55. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
56. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
57. Yea, and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?
THEOPHYLACT. When He spoke about preaching, and called it a sword, His hearers may have been troubled, not knowing what He meant. And therefore our Lord adds, that as men determine the state of the weather by certain signs, so ought they to know His coming. And this is what he means by saying, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower. And when ye see the south wind blowing, ye say, There will be heat, &c. As if He says, Your words and works shew me to be opposed to you. Ye may therefore suppose that I came not to give peace, but the storm and whirlwind. For I am a cloud, and I come out of the west, that is, from human nature; which has been long since clothed with the thick darkness of sin. I came also to send fire, that is, to stir up heat. For I am the strong south wind, opposed to the northern coldness.
BEDE. Or, they who from the change of the elements can easily when they like predetermine the state of the weather, might if they wished also understand the time of our Lord’s coming from the words of the Prophets.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For the prophets have in many ways foretold the mystery of Christ; it became them therefore, if they were wise, to stretch their prospect beyond to the future, nor will ignorance of the time to come avail them after the present life. For there will be wind and rain, and a future punishment by fire; and this is signified when it is said, A shower cometh. It became them also not to be ignorant of the time of salvation, that is, the coming of the Saviour, through whom perfect piety entered into the world. And this is meant when it is said, Ye say that there will be heat. Whence it follows in censure of them, Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and the earth, but how is it that ye do not discern this time?
BASIL. (in Hexam. Hom. 6, 4.) Now we must observe, that conjectures concerning the stars are necessary to the life of man, as long as we do lot push our searches into their signs beyond due limits. For it is possible to discover some things with respect to coming rain, still more concerning heat and the force of the winds, whether partial or universal, stormy or gentle. But the great advantage that is rendered to life by these conjectures is known to every one. For it is of importance to the sailor to prognosticate the dangers of storms, to the traveller the changes of the weather, to the husbandman the abundant supply of his fruits.
BEDE. But lest any of the people should allege their ignorance of the prophetical books as a reason why they could not discern the courses of the times, He carefully adds, And why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right, shewing them that although unlearned they might still by their natural ability discern Him, who did works such as none other man did, to be above man, and to be God, and that therefore after the injustice of this world, the just judgment of the creation would come.
ORIGEN. But had it not been implanted in our nature to judge what is right, our Lord would never have said this.
58. When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
59. I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite.
THEOPHYLACT. Our Lord having described a rightful difference, next teaches us a rightful reconciliation, saying, When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him, &c. As if He says, When thine adversary is bringing thee to judgment, give diligence, that is, try every method, to be released from him. Or give diligence, that is, although thou hast nothing, borrow in order that thou may be released from him, lest he summon thee before the judge, as it follows, Lest he hale thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer cast thee into prison.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Where thou wilt suffer want until thou payest the last farthing; and this is what He adds, I say unto you, thou shalt not depart hence.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 16. in Matt.) It seems to me that He is speaking of the present judges, and of the way to the present judgment, and of the prison of this world. For by these things which are visible and at hand, ignorant men are wont to gain improvement. For often He gives a lesson, not only from future good and evil but from present, for the sake of His ruder hearers.
AMBROSE. Or our adversary is the devil, who lays his baits for sin, that he may have those his partners in punishment who were his accomplices in crime; our adversary is also every vicious practice. Lastly, our adversary is an evil conscience, which affects us both in this world, and will accuse and betray us in the next. Let us then give heed, while we are in this life’s course, that we may be delivered from every bad act as from an evil enemy. Nay, while we are going with our adversary to the magistrate, as we are in the way, we should condemn our fault. But who is the magistrate, but He in whose hands is all power? But the Magistrate delivers the guilty to the Judge, that is, to Him, to whom He gives the power over the quick and dead, namely, Jesus Christ, through Whom the secrets are made manifest, and the punishment of wicked works awarded. He delivers to the officer, and the officer casts into prison, for He says, Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into outer darkness. (Matt. 22:12.) And he shews that His officers are the angels, of whom he says, The angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; (Matt. 13:49.) but it is added, I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence till thou hast paid the very last mite. For as they who pay money on interest do not get rid of the debt of interest before that the amount of the whole principal is paid even up to the least sum in every kind of payment, so by the compensation of love and the other acts, or by each particular kind of satisfaction the punishment of sin is cancelled.
ORIGEN. Or else, He here introduces four characters, the adversary, the magistrate, the officer, and the judge. But with Matthew the character of the magistrate is left out, and instead of the officer a servant is introduced. They differ also in that the one has written a farthing, the other a mite, but each has called it the last. Now we say that all men have present with them two angels, a bad one who encourages them to wicked deeds, a good one who persuades all that is best. Now the former, our adversary whenever we sin rejoices, knowing that he has an occasion for exultations and boasting with the prince of the world, who sent him. But in the Greek, “the adversary” is written with the article, to signify that he is one out of many, seeing that each individual is under the ruler of his nation. Give diligence then that you may be delivered from your adversary, or from the ruler to whom the adversary drags you, by having wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance. But if you have given diligence, let it be in Him who says, I am the life, (John 14:6.) otherwise the adversary will hale thee to the judge. Now he says, hale, to point out that they are forced unwillingly to condemnation. But I know no other judge but our Lord Jesus Christ who delivers to the officer. Each of us have our own officers; the officers exercise rule over us, if we owe any thing. If I paid every man every thing, I come to the officers and answer with a fearless heart, “I owe them nothing.” But if I am a debtor, the officer will cast me into prison, nor will he suffer me to go out from thence until I have paid every debt. For the officer has no power to let me off even a farthing. He who forgave one debtor five hundred pence and another fifty, (Luke 7:41.) was the Lord, but the exactor is not the master, but one appointed by the master to demand the debts. But the last mite he calls slight and small, for our sins are either heavy or slight. Happy then is he who sinneth not, and next in happiness he who has sinned slightly. Even among slight sins there is diversity, otherwise he would not say until he has paid the last mite. For if he owes a little, he shall not come out till he pays the last mite. But he who has been guilty of a great debt, will have endless ages for his payment.
BEDE. Or else, our adversary in the way is the word of God, which opposes our carnal desires in this life; from which he is delivered who is subject to its precepts. Else he will be delivered to the judge, for of contempt of God’s word the sinner will be accounted guilty in the judgment of the judge. The judge will deliver him to the officer, that is, the evil spirit for punishment. He will then be cast into prison, that is, to hell, where because he will ever have to pay the penalty by suffering, but never by paying it obtain pardon, he will never come out from thence, but with that most terrible serpent the devil, will expiate everlasting punishment.
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