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Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas
1. And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchæus, which was the chief among the Publicans, and he was rich.
3. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
4. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
7. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
8. And Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
9. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
AMBROSE. Zacchæus in the sycamore, the blind man by the way side: upon the one our Lord waits to shew mercy, upon the other He confers the great glory of abiding in his house. The chief among the Publicans is here fitly introduced. For who will hereafter despair of himself, now that he attains to grace who gained his living by fraud. And he too moreover a rich man, that we may know that not all rich men are covetous.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But Zacchæus made no delay in what he did, and so was accounted worthy of the favour of God, which gives sight to the blind, and calls them who are afar off.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. The seed of salvation had begun to spring up in him, for he desired to see Jesus, having never seen Him. For if he had seen Him, he would long since have given up the Publican’s wicked life. No one that sees Jesus can remain any longer in wickedness. But there were two obstacles to his seeing Him. The multitude not so much of men as of his sins prevented him, for he was little of stature.
AMBROSE. What means the Evangelist by describing his stature, and that of none other? It is perhaps because he was young in wickedness, or as yet weak in the faith. For he was not yet prostrate in sin who could climb up. He had not yet seen Christ.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. But he discovered a good device; running before he climbed up into a sycamore, and saw Him whom he had long wished for, i. e. Jesus, passing by. Now Zacchæus desired no more than to see, but He who is able to do more than we ask for, granted to Him far above what he expected; as it follows, And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him. He saw the soul of the man striving earnestly to live a holy life, and converts him to godliness.
AMBROSE. Uninvited he invites Himself to his house; as it follows, Zacchæus, make haste, and come down, & c. for He knew how richly He would reward his hospitality. And though He had not yet heard the word of invitation, He had already seen the will.
BEDE. See here, the camel disencumbered of his hunch passes through the eye of a needle, that is, the rich man and the publican abandoning his love of riches, and loathing his dishonest gains, receives the blessing of his Lord’s company. It follows, And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
AMBROSE. Let the rich learn that guilt attaches not to the goods themselves, but to those who know not how to use them. For riches, as they are hindrances to virtue in the unworthy, so are they means of advancing it in the good.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. de cæc. et Zacc.) Observe the gracious kindness of the Saviour. The innocent associates with the guilty, the fountain of justice with covetousness, which is the source of injustice. Having entered the publican’s house, He suffers no stain from the mists of avarice, but disperses them by the bright beam of His righteousness. But those who deal with biting words and reproaches, try to cast a slur upon the things which were done by Him; for it follows, And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. But He, though accused of being a wine-bibber and a friend of publicans, regarded it not, so long as He could accomplish His end. As a physician sometimes can not save his patients from their diseases without the defilement of blood. And so it happened here, for the publican was converted, and lived a better life. Zacchæus stood, and said unto the Lord, Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any man, I restore him fourfold. Behold here is a marvel: without learning he obeys. And as the sun pouring its rays into a house enlightens it not by word, but by work, so the Saviour by the rays of righteousness put to flight the darkness of sin; for the light shineth in darkness. Now every thing united is strong, but divided, weak; therefore Zacchæus divides into two parts his substance. But we must be careful to observe, that his wealth was not made up from unjust gains, but from his patrimony, else how could he restore fourfold what he had unjustly extorted. He knew that the law ordered what was wrongly taken away to be restored fourfold, that if the law deterred not, a man’s losses might soften him. Zacchæus waits not for the judgment of the law, but makes himself his own judge.
THEOPHYLACT. If we examine more closely, we shall see that nothing was left of his own property. For having given half of his goods to the poor, out of the remainder he restored fourfold to those whom he had injured. He not only promised this, but did it. For he says not, “I will give the half, and I will restore fourfold, but, I give, and I restore. To such Christ announces salvation; Jesus saith unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, signifying that Zacchæus had attained to salvation, meaning by the house the inhabitant thereof. And it follows, forasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For He would not have given the name of a son of Abraham to a lifeless building.
BEDE. Zacchæus is called the son of Abraham, not because he was born of Abraham’s seed, but because he imitates his faith, that as Abraham left his country and his father’s house, so he abandoned all his goods in giving them to the poor. And He well says, “He also,” to declare that not only those who had lived justly, but those who are raised up from a life of injustice, belong to the sons of promise.
THEOPHYLACT. He said not that he “was” a son of Abraham, but that he now is. For before when he was the chief among the publicans, and bore no likeness to the righteous Abraham, he was not his son. But because some murmured that he tarried with a man who was a sinner, he adds in order to restrain them, For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Why do ye accuse me if I bring sinners to righteousness? So far am I from hating them, that for their sakes I came. For I came to heal, not to judge, therefore am I the constant guest of those that are sick, and I suffer their noisomeness that I may supply remedies. But some one may ask, how does Paul bid us, If we have a brother that is a fornicator or covetous man, with such not even to take food; (1 Cor. 5:11.) whereas Christ was the guest of publicans? They were not as yet so far advanced as to be brethren, and besides, St. Paul bids us avoid our brethren only when they persist in evil, but these were converted.
BEDE. Mystically, Zacchæus, which is by interpretation “justified,” signifies the Gentile believers, who were depressed and brought very low by their worldly occupations, but sanctified by God. And he was desirous to see our Saviour entering Jericho, inasmuch as he sought to share in that faith which Christ brought into the world.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. The crowd is the tumultuous state of an ignorant multitude, which cannot see the lofty top of wisdom. Zacchæus therefore, while he was in the crowd, saw not Christ, but having advanced beyond the vulgar ignorance, was thought worthy to entertain Him, whom he desired to look upon.
BEDE. Or the crowd, that is, the general habit of vice, which rebuked the blind man crying out, lest he should seek the light, also impedes Zacchæus looking up, that he might not see Jesus; that as by crying out the more the blind man overcame the crowd, so the man weak in the faith by forsaking earthly things, and climbing the tree of the Cross, surmounts the opposing multitude. The sycamore, which is a tree resembling the mulberry in foliage, but exceeding it in height, whence by the Latins it is called “lofty,” is called the “foolish fig-tree;” and so the Cross of our Lord sustains believers, as the fig-tree figs, and is mocked by unbelievers as foolishness. This tree Zacchæus, who was little in stature, climbed up, that he might be raised together with Christ; for every one who is humble, and conscious of his own weakness, cries out, God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. 6:14.)
AMBROSE. He has well added, that our Lord was to pass that way, either where the sycamore-tree was, or where he was who was about to believe, that so He might preserve the mystery, and sow the seeds of grace. For He had so come as that through the Jews He came to the Gentiles. He sees then Zacchæus above, for already the excellence of his faith shone forth amidst the fruits of good works, and the loftiness of the fruitful tree; but Zacchæus stands out above the tree, as one who is above the law.
BEDE. The Lord as He journeyed came to the place where Zacchæus had climbed the sycamore, for having sent His preachers throughout the world in whom He Himself spoke and went, He comes to the Gentile people, who were already raised up on high through faith in His Passion, and whom when He looked up He saw, for He chose them through grace. Now our Lord once abode in the house of the chief of the Pharisees, but when He did works such as none but God could do, they railed at Him. Wherefore hating their deeds He departed, saying, Your house shall be left unto you desolate; (Matt. 23:38.) but now He must needs stay at the house of the weak Zacchæus, that is, by the grace of the new law brightly shining, He must take rest in the hearts of the lowly nations. But that Zacchæus is bid to come down from the sycamore tree, and prepare an abode for Christ, this is what the Apostle says, Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. (2 Cor. 5:16.) And again elsewhere, For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. (2 Cor. 13:4.) It is plain that the Jews always hated the salvation of the Gentiles; but salvation, which formerly filled the houses of the Jews, has this day shone upon the Gentiles, forasmuch as this people also by believing on God is a son of Abraham.
THEOPHYLACT. It is easy to turn this to a moral use. For whoever surpasses many in wickedness is small in spiritual growth, and cannot see Jesus for the crowd. For disturbed by passion and worldly things, he beholds not Jesus walking, that is, working in us, not recognising His operation. But he climbs up to the top of a sycamore-tree, in that he rises above the sweetness of pleasure, which is signified by a fig, and subduing it, and so becoming more exalted, he sees and is seen by Christ.
GREGORY. (Mor. 27. c. 46.) Or because the sycamore is from its name called the foolish fig, the little Zacchæus gets up into the sycamore and sees the Lord, for they who humbly choose the foolish things of this world are those who contemplate most closely the wisdom of God. For what is more foolish in this world than not to seek for what is lost, to give our possessions to robbers, to return not injury for injury? However, by this wise foolishness, the wisdom of God is seen, not yet really as it is, but by the light of contemplation.
THEOPHYLACT. The Lord said to him, Make haste and come down, that is, “Thou hast ascended by penitence to a place too high for thee, come down by humility, lest thy exaltation cause thee to slip. I must abide in the house of a humble man. We have two kinds of goods in us, bodily, and spiritual; the just man gives up all his bodily goods to the poor, but he forsakes not his spiritual goods, but if he has extorted any thing from any one, he restores to him fourfold; signifying thereby that if a man by repentance walks in the opposite path to his former perverseness, he by the manifold practice of virtue heals all his old offences, and so merits salvation, and is called the son of Abraham, because he went out from his own kindred, that is, from his ancient wickedness.
11. And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear.
12. He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
13. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.
14. But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us.
15. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
16. Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
17. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities.
18. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds.
19. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities.
20. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
21. For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
22. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
23. Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
24. And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
25. (And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
26. For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
27. But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me.
EUSEBIUS. There were some who thought that our Saviour’s kingdom would commence at His first coming, and they were expecting it shortly to appear when He was preparing to go up to Jerusalem; so astonished were they by the divine miracles which He did. He therefore informs them, that He should not receive the kingdom from His Father until He had left mankind to go to His Father.
THEOPHYLACT. The Lord points out the vanity of their imaginations, for the senses cannot embrace the kingdom of God; He also plainly shews to them, that as God He knew their thoughts, putting to them the following parable, A certain nobleman, &c.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. This parable is intended to set before us the mysteries of Christ from the first to the last. For God was made man, who was the Word from the beginning; and though He became a servant, yet was He noble because of His unspeakable birth from the Father.
BASIL. (in Esai. c. 13. 13.) Noble, not only in respect of His Godhead, but of His manhood, being sprung from the seed of David according to the flesh. He went into a far country, separated not so much by distance of place as by actual condition. For God Himself is nigh to every one of us, when our good works bind us to Him. And He is afar off, as often as by cleaving to destruction, we remove ourselves away from Him. To this earthly country then He came at a distance from God, that He might receive the kingdom of the Gentiles, according to the Psalm, Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance. (Ps. 2:8.)
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. lib. ii. qu. 40.) Or the far country is the Gentile Church, extending to the uttermost parts of the earth. For He went that the fulness of the Gentiles might come in; He will return that all Israel may be saved.
EUSEBIUS. Or by His setting out into a far country, He denotes His own ascension from earth to heaven. But when He adds, To receive for himself a kingdom, and to return; He points out His second appearance, when He shall come as a King and in great glory. He first of all calls Himself a man, because of His nativity in the flesh, then noble; not yet a King, because as yet at His first appearance He exercised no kingly power. It is also well said to obtain for Himself a kingdom, according to Daniel, Behold one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and a kingdom was given to him. (Dan. 7:13.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For ascending up to heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Heb. 1:3.) But being ascended, He hath dispensed to those that believe on Him different divine graces, as unto the servants were committed their Lord’s goods, that gaining something they might bring him token of their service. As it follows, And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds.
CHRYSOSTOM. Holy Scripture is accustomed to use the number ten as a sign of perfection, for if any one wishes to count beyond it, he has again to begin from unity, having in ten as it were arrived at a goal. And so in the giving of the talents, the one who reaches the goal of divine obedience is said to have received ten pounds.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) Or by the ten pounds he signifies the law, because of the ten commandments, and by the ten servants, those to whom while under the law grace was preached. For so we must interpret the ten pounds given them for trading, seeing that they understood the law, when its veil was removed, to belong to the Gospel.
BEDE. A pound which the Greeks call μνᾶ is equal in weight to a hundred drachmas, and every word of Scripture, as suggesting to us the perfection of the heavenly life, shines as it were with the greatness of the hundredth number.
EUSEBIUS. By those then who receive the pounds, He means His disciples, giving a pound to each, since He entrusts to all an equal stewardship; He bade them put it out to use, as it follows, Occupy till I come. Now there was no other employment but to preach the doctrine of His kingdom to those who would hear it. But there is one and the same doctrine for all, one faith, one baptism. And therefore is one pound given to each.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But greatly indeed do these differ from those who denied the kingdom of God, of whom it is added, But his citizens hated him. And this it is for which Christ upbraided the Jews, when He said, But now have they both seen and hated me and my Father. (John 15:24.) But they rejected His kingdom, saying to Pilate, We have no king but Cæsar. (John 19:15.)
EUSEBIUS. By citizens He signifies the Jews, who were sprung from the same lineage according to the flesh, and with whom He joined in the customs of the law.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. ut sup.) And they sent a message after Him, because after His resurrection also, they persecuted His Apostles, and refused the preaching of the Gospel.
EUSEBIUS. After our Saviour had instructed them in the things belonging to His first coming, He proceeds to set forth His second coming with majesty and great glory, saying, And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 39. in 1. ad Cor.) Holy Scripture notes two kingdoms of God, one indeed by creation, since by right of creation He is King over all men; the other by justification, since He reigns over the just, of their own will made subject to Him. And this is the kingdom which He is here said to have received.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. ut sup.) He also returns after having received His kingdom, because in all glory will He come who appeared lowly to them to whom He said, My kingdom is not of this world. (John 18:36.)
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But when Christ returns, having taken unto Himself His kingdom, the ministers of the word will receive their deserved praises and delight in heavenly rewards, because they multiplied their talent by acquiring more talents, as it is added, Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound has gained ten pounds.
BEDE. The first servant is the order of teachers sent to the circumcision, who received one pound to put out to use, inasmuch as it was ordered to preach one faith. But this one pound gained ten pounds, because by its teaching it united to itself the people who were subject to the law. It follows, And he said unto him, Well done, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, &c. The servant is faithful in a very little who does not adulterate the word of God. For all the gifts we receive now are but small in comparison of what we shall have.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Evagrius.) Because he receives the reward of his own good works, he is said to be set over ten cities. And some conceiving unworthily of these promises imagine that they themselves are preferred to magistracies and chief places in the earthly Jerusalem, which is built with precious stones, because they have had their conversation honest in Christ; so little do they purge their soul of all hankering after power and authority among men.
AMBROSE. But the ten cities are the souls over whom he is rightly placed who has deposited in the minds of men his Lord’s money and the holy words, which are tried as silver is tried in the fire. For as Jerusalem is said to be built as a city, (Ps. 121:3.) so are peace-making souls. And as angels have rule, so have they who have acquired the life of angels.
It follows, And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound has gained five pounds.
BEDE. That servant is the assembly of those who were sent to preach the Gospel to the uncircumcision, whose pound, that is the faith of the Gospel, gained five pounds, because it converted to the grace of Evangelical faith, the nations before enslaved to the five senses of the body. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities; that is, be exalted to shine through the faith and conversation of those souls which thou hast enlightened.
AMBROSE. Or perhaps differently; he who gained five pounds has all the moral virtues, for there are five senses of the body. He who gained ten has so much more, that is to say, the mysteries of the law as well as the moral virtues. The ten pounds may also here be taken to mean the ten words, that is, the teaching of the law; the five pounds, the ordering of discipline. But the scribe must be perfect in all things. And rightly, since He is speaking of the Jews, are there two only who bring their pounds multiplied, not indeed by a gainful interest of money, but a profitable stewardship of the Gospel. For there is one kind of usury in money lent on interest, another in heavenly teaching.
CHRYSOSTOM. For in earthly wealth it does not belong to one man to be made rich without another being made poor, but in spiritual riches, without his making another rich also. For in earthly matters participation lessens, in spiritual it increases wealth.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Evan. lib. ii. qu. 46.) Or else; That one of those who well employed their money gained ten pounds, another five, signifies that they acquired them for the flock of God, by whom the law was now understood through grace, either because of the ten commandments of the law, or because he, through whom the law was given, wrote five books; and to this belong the ten and five cities over which He appoints them to preside. For the manifold meanings or interpretations which spring up concerning some individual precept or book, when reduced and brought together in one, make as it were a city of living eternal reasons. Hence a city is not a multitude of living creatures, but of reasonable beings bound together by the fellowship of one law. The servants then who bring an account of that which they had received, and are praised for having gained more, represent those giving in their account who have well employed what they had received, to increase their Lord’s riches by those who believe on Him, while they who are unwilling to do this are signified by that servant who kept his pound laid up in a napkin; of whom it follows, And the third came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin, &c. For there are some who flatter themselves with this delusion, saying, It is enough for each individual to answer concerning himself, what need then of others to preach and minister, in order that every one should be compelled also to give an account of himself, seeing that in the Lord’s sight even they are without excuse to whom the law was not given, and who were not asleep at the time of the preaching of the Gospel, for they might have known the Creator through the creature; and then it follows, For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man, &c. For this is, as it were, to reap when he did not sow, that is, to hold those guilty of ungodliness to whom this word of the law or the Gospel was not preached, and avoiding as it were this peril of judgment, with slothful toil they rest from the ministration of the word. And this it is to tie up in a napkin what they had received.
THEOPHYLACT. For with a napkin the face of the dead is covered; well then is this idler said to have wrapped up his pound in a napkin, because leaving it dead and unprofitable he neitheir touched nor increased it.
BEDE. Or to tie up money in a napkin is to hide the gifts we have received under the indolence of a sluggish body. But that which he thought to have used as an excuse is turned to his own blame, as it follows, He says unto him, Out of thy own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. He is called a wicked servant, as being slothful in business, and proud in questioning his Lord’s judgment. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: wherefore then gavest thou not my money into the bank? As though he said, If thou knewest me to be a hard man, and a seeker of what is not mine own, why did not the thought of this strike thee with terror, that thou mightest be sure that I would require mine own with strictness?
But money or silver is the preaching of the Gospel and the word of God, for the words of the Lord are pure words as silver tried in the fire. (Ps. 12:6.) And this word of the Lord ought to be given to the bank, that is, put into hearts meet and ready to receive it.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. ubi sup.) Or the bank into which the money was to be given, we take to be the very profession of religion which is publicly put forth as a means necessary to salvation.
CHRYSOSTOM. In the payment of earthly riches the debtors are obliged only to strictness. Whatever they receive, so much must they return, nothing more is required of them. But with regard to the words of God, we are not only bound diligently to keep, but we are commanded to increase; and hence it follows, that at my coming I might have required the same with usury.
BEDE. For they who by faith receive the riches of the word from a teacher, must by their works pay it back with usury, or be earnestly desirous to know something more than what they have as yet learnt from the mouth of their preachers.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. It is the work of teachers to engraft in their hearers’ minds wholesome and profitable words, but of divine power to win the hearers to obedience, and render their understanding fruitful. Now this servant, so far from being commended or thought worthy of honour, was condemned as slothful, as it follows, And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give to him that hath ten pounds.
AUGUSTINE. (de Quæst. Ev. l. ii. qu. 46.) Signifying thereby that both he will lose the gift of God, who having, hath not, that is, useth it not, and that he will have it increased, who having, hath, that is, rightly useth it.
BEDE. The mystical meaning I suppose is this, that at the coming in of the Gentiles all Israel shall be saved, (Rom. 11:26.) and that then the abundant grace of the Spirit will be poured out upon the teachers.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 43. in Act.) He says then to them that stood by, Take from him the pound, because it is not the part of a wise man to punish, but he needs some one else as the minister of the judge in executing punishment. For even God does not Himself inflict punishment, but through the ministry of His angels.
AMBROSE. Nothing is said of the other servants, who like wasteful debtors lost all that they had received. By those two servants who gained by trading, are signified that small number, who in two companies were sent as dressers of the vineyard; by the remainder all the Jews. It follows, And they said unto him, Lord, he has ten pounds. And lest this should seem unjust, it is added, For to every one that hath, it shall be given.
THEOPHYLACT. For seeing that he gained ten, by multiplying his pound tenfold, it is plain that by having more to multiply, he would be an occasion of greater gain to his Lord. But from the slothful and idle, who stirs not himself to increase what he has received, shall be taken away even that which he possesses, that there may be no gap in the Lord’s account when it is given to others and multiplied. But this is not to be applied only to the words of God and teaching, but also to the moral virtues; for in respect of these also, God sends us His gracious gifts, endowing one man with fasting, another with prayer, another with mildness or humility; but all these so long as we watch strictly over ourselves we shall multiply, but if we grow cold we shall extinguish. He adds of His adversaries, But those mine enemies who would not that I should reign over them, bring them hither, and slay them before me.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Whereby He describes the ungodliness of the Jews who refused to be converted to Him.
THEOPHYLACT. Whom he will deliver to death, casting them into the outer fire. But even in this world they were most miserably slain by the Roman army.
CHRYSOSTOM. These things are of force against the Marcionists. For Christ also says, Bring hither my enemies, and slay them before me. (Mat. 21:41). Whereas they say Christ indeed is good, but the God of the Old Testament evil. Now it is plain that both the Father and the Son do the same things. For the Father sends His army to the vineyard, and the Son causes His enemies to be slain before Him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 78. in Matt. Mat. 25.) This parable as it is related in Luke is different from that given in Matthew concerning the talents. For in the former indeed out of one and the same principal there were different sums produced, seeing that from the profits of one pound received, one servant brought five, another ten pounds. But with Matthew it is very different. For he who received two pounds, thereto added two more. He who received five, gained as much again. So the rewards given are unlike also.
28. And when he had thus spoken, he went before, ascending up to Jerusalem.
29. And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples,
30. Saying, Go ye into the village over against you; in the which at your entering ye shall find a colt tied, whereon yet never man sat: loose him, and bring him hither.
31. And if any man ask you, Why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him.
32. And they that were sent went their way, and found even as he had said unto them.
33. And as they were loosing the colt, the owners thereof said unto them, Why loose ye the colt?
34. And they said, The Lord hath need of him.
35. And they brought him to Jesus: and they cast their garments upon the colt, and they set Jesus thereon.
36. And as he went, they spread their clothes in the way.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Because the Lord had said, The kingdom of heaven is at hand, they that saw Him going up to Jerusalem thought that He was going then to commence the kingdom of God. When then the parable was finished in which He reproved the error above mentioned, and shewed plainly that He had not yet vanquished that death which was plotting against him, he proceeded forth to His passion, going up to Jerusalem.
BEDE. Proving at the same time that the parable had been pronounced concerning the end of that city which was about both to slay Him, and to perish itself by the scourge of the enemy. It follows, And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage, &c. Bethphage was a small village belonging to the priests on Mount Olivet. Bethany was also a little town or hamlet on the side of the same mountain, about fifteen stades from Jerusalem.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 66. in Matt.) At the beginning of His ministry our Lord shewed Himself indifferent to the Jews, but when He had given sufficient token of His power, He transacts every thing with the highest authority. Many are the miracles which then took place. He foretold to them, ye shall find an unbroken colt. He foretels also that no one should hinder them, but as soon as they heard it, should hold their peace.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Here it was evident that there would be a divine summons. For no one can resist God calling for what is His own. But the disciples when ordered to fetch the colt refused not the office as a slight one, but went to bring him.
BASIL. So likewise should we set about even the lowest works with the greatest zeal and affection, knowing that whatever is done with God before our eyes is not slight, but meet for the kingdom of heaven.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. They who had tied the ass are struck dumb, because of the greatness of His mighty power, and are unable to resist the words of the Saviour; for “the Lord” is a name of majesty, and as a King was He about to come in the sight of all the people.
AUGUSTINE. (de con. Ev. lib. ii. cap. 66.) Nor matters it that Matthew speaks of an ass and its foal, while the others say nothing of the ass; for when both may be conceived, there is no variance even though one relate one thing, and another another, much less where one relates one thing, another both.
GLOSS. (non occ.) The disciples waited upon Christ not only in bringing the colt of another, but also with their own garments, some of which they placed upon the ass, others they strewed in the way.
BEDE. According to the other Evangelists, not the disciples only, but very many also out of the crowds scattered their garments in the way.
AMBROSE. Mystically, our Lord came to Mount Olivet, that he might plant new olive trees on the heights of virtue. And perhaps the mountain itself is Christ, for who else could bear such fruit of olives abounding in the fulness of the Spirit?
BEDE. Rightly are the towns described as placed on Mount Olivet, that is, on the Lord Himself, who rekindles the unction of spiritual graces with the light of knowledge and piety.
ORIGEN. Bethany is interpreted, the house of obedience, but Bethphage the house of cheek bones, being a place belonging to the priests, for cheek bones in the sacrifices were the right of the priests, as it is commanded in the law. To that place then where obedience is, and where the priests have the possession, our Saviour sends His disciples to loose the ass’s colt.
AMBROSE. For they were in the village, and the colt was tied with its mother, nor could it be loosed except by the command of the Lord. The apostle’s hand looses it. Such was the act, such the life, such the grace. Be such, that thou mayest be able to loose those that are bound. In the ass indeed Matthew represented the mother of error, but in the colt Luke has described the general character of the Gentile people. And rightly, whereon yet never man sat, for none before Christ called the nations of the Gentiles into the Church. But this people was tied and bound by the chains of iniquity, being subject to an unjust master, the servant of error, and could not claim to itself authority whom not nature but crime had made guilty. Since the Lord is spoken of, one master is recognised. O wretched bondage under a doubtful mastery! For he has many masters who has not one. Others bind that they may possess, Christ looses that he may keep, for He knew that gifts are more powerful than chains.
ORIGEN. There were then many masters of this colt, before that the Saviour had need of him. But as soon as He began to be the master, there ceased to be any other. For no one can serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:24.) When we are the servants of wickedness we are subject to many vices and passions, but the Lord has need of the colt, because He would have us loosed from the chain of our sins.
ORIGEN. (sup. Joan. tom. ii.) Now I think this place is not without reason said to be a small village. For as if it were a village without any further name, in comparison of the whole earth the whole heavenly country is despised.
AMBROSE. Nor is it for nothing that two disciples are directed thither; Peter to Cornelius, Paul to the rest. And therefore He did not mark out the persons, but determined the number. Still should any one require the persons, he may believe it to be spoken of Philip, whom the Holy Spirit sent to Gaza, when he baptized the eunuch of Queen Candace. (Acts 8:38.)
THEOPHYLACT. Or the two sent imply this, that the Prophets and Apostles make up the two steps to the bringing in of the Gentiles, and their subjection to Christ. But they bring the colt from a certain village, that it may be known to us that this people was rude and unlearned.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Those men who were directed, when they were loosing the colt, did not use their own words, but spoke as Jesus had told them, that you may know that not by their own words, but the word of God, not in their own name but in Christ’s, they implanted the faith among the Gentile nations; and by the command of God the hostile powers ceased, which claimed to themselves the obedience of the Gentiles.
ORIGEN. (in Luc. 37.) The disciples next place their garments upon the ass, and cause the Saviour to sit thereon, inasmuch as they take upon themselves the word of God, and make it to rest upon the souls of their hearers. They divest themselves of their garments, and strew them in the way, for the clothing of the Apostles is their good works. And truly does the ass loosened by the disciples and carrying Jesus, walk upon the garments of the Apostles, when it imitates their doctrine. Which of us is so blessed, that Jesus should rest upon him?
AMBROSE. For it pleased not the Lord of the world to be borne upon the ass’s back, save that in a hidden mystery by a more inward sitting, the mystical Ruler might take His seat in the secret depths of men’s souls, guiding the footsteps of the mind, bridling the wantonness of the heart. His word is a rein, His word is a goad.
37. And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen;
38. Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest.
39. And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
40. And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out
ORIGEN. As long as our Lord was in the mount His Apostles only were with Him, but when He began to be near the descent, then there came to Him a multitude of the people.
THEOPHYLACT. He calls by the name of disciples not only the twelve, or the seventy-two, but all who followed Christ, whether for the sake of the miracles, or from a certain charm in His teaching, and to them may be added the children, as the other Evangelists relate. Hence it follows, For all the mighty works which they had seen.
BEDE. They beheld indeed many of our Lord’s miracles, but marvelled most at the resurrection of Lazarus. For as John says, For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. For it must be observed that this was not the first time of our Lord’s coming to Jerusalem, but He came often before, as John relates.
AMBROSE. The multitude then acknowledging God, proclaims Him King, repeats the prophecy, and declares that the expected Son of David according to the flesh had come, saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.
BEDE. That is, in the name of God the Father, although it might be taken “in His own name,” since He Himself is the Lord. But His own words are better guides to the meaning when He says, I am come in my Father’s name. For Christ is the Master of humility. Christ is not called King as one who exacts tribute, or arms His forces with the sword, or visibly crushes His enemies, but because He rules men’s minds, and brings them believing, hoping, and loving into the kingdom of heaven. For Ho was willing to be King of Israel, to shew His compassion, not to increase His power. But because Christ appeared in the flesh, as the redemption and light of the whole world, well do both the heaven and earth, each in their turn, chaunt His praises. When He is born into the world, the heavenly hosts sing; when He is about to return to heaven, men send back their note of praise. As it follows, Peace in heaven.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, the ancient warfare, wherein we were at enmity against God, has ceased. And glory in the highest, inasmuch as Angels are glorifying God for such a reconciliation. For this very thing, that God visibly walks in the land of His enemies, shews that He has peace with us. But the Pharisees when they heard that the crowd called Him King, and praised Him as God, murmured, imputing the name of King to sedition, the name of God to blasphemy. And some of the Pharisees said, Master, rebuke thy disciples.
BEDE. O the strange folly of the envious; they scruple not to call Him Master, because they knew He taught the truth, but His disciples, as though themselves were better taught, they deem worthy of rebuke.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But the Lord forbade not them that glorified Him as God, but rather forbade those that blamed them, so bearing witness to Himself concerning the glory of the Godhead. Hence it follows, He answered and said unto them, I tell you, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.
THEOPHYLACT. As if He said, Not without cause do men praise me thus, but being constrained by the mighty works which they have seen.
BEDE. And so at the crucifixion of our Lord, when His kinsfolk were silent from fear, the stones and rocks sang forth, while after that He gave up the ghost, the earth was moved, and the rocks were rent, and the graves opened.
AMBROSE. Nor is it wonderful that the stones against their nature should chaunt forth the praises of the Lord, whom His murderers, harder than the rocks, proclaim aloud, that is, the multitude, in a little while about to crucify their God, denying Him in their hearts, whom with their mouths they confess. Or perhaps it is said, because, when the Jews were struck silent after the Lord’s Passion, the living stones, as Peter calls them, (1 Pet. 2:5.) were about to cry out.
ORIGEN. When we also are silent, (that is, when the love of many waxeth cold,) the stones cry out, for God can from stones raise up children to Abraham.
AMBROSE. Rightly we read that the crowds praising God met Him at the descent of the mountain, that they might signify that the works of the heavenly mystery had come to them from heaven.
BEDE. Again, when our Lord descends from the mount of Olives, the multitude descend also, because since the Author of mercy has suffered humiliation, it is necessary that all those who need His mercy should follow His footsteps.
41. And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it,
42. Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
43. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side,
44. And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
ORIGEN. All the blessings which Jesus pronounced in His Gospel He confirms by His own example, as having declared, Blessed are the meek; He afterwards sanctions it by saying, Learn of me, for I am meek; and because He had said, Blessed are they that weep, He Himself also wept over the city.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For Christ had compassion upon the Jews, who wills that all men should be saved. Which had not been plain to us, were it not revealed by a certain mark of His humanity. For tears poured forth are the tokens of sorrow.
GREGORY. (Hom. 39. in Ev.) The merciful Redeemer wept then over the fall of the false city, which that city itself knew not was about to come upon it. As it is added, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou (we may here understand) wouldest weep. Thou who now rejoicest, for thou knowest not what is at hand. It follows, at least in this thy day. For when she gave herself up to carnal pleasures, she had the things which in her day might be her peace. But why she had present goods for her peace, is explained by what follows, But now they are hidden from thy eyes. For if the eyes of her heart had not been hidden from the future evils which were hanging over her, she would not have been joyful in the prosperity of the present. Therefore He shortly added the punishment which was near at hand, saying, For the days shall come upon thee.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. If thou hadst known, even thou. The Jews were not worthy to receive the divinely inspired Scriptures, which relate the mystery of Christ. For as often as Moses is read, a veil overshadows their heart that they should not see what has been accomplished in Christ, who being the truth puts to flight the shadow. And because they regarded not the truth, they rendered themselves unworthy of the salvation which flows from Christ.
EUSEBIUS. He here declares that His coming was to bring peace to the whole world. For unto this He came, that He should preach both to them that were near, and those that were afar off. But as they did not wish to receive the peace that was announced to them, it was hid from them. And therefore the siege which was shortly to come upon them He most expressly foretells, adding, For the days shall come upon thee, &c.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) By these words the Roman leaders are pointed out. For that overthrow of Jerusalem is described, which was made by the Roman emperors Vespasian and Titus.
EUSEBIUS. But how these things were fulfilled we may gather from what is delivered to us by Josephus, who though he was a Jew, related each event as it toot place, in exact accordance with Christ’s prophecies.
GREGORY. This too which is added, namely, They shall not leave in thee one stone upon another, is now witnessed in the altered situation of the same city, which is now built in that place where Christ was crucified without the gate, whereas the former Jerusalem, as it is called, was rooted up from the very foundation. And the crime for which this punishment of overthrow was inflicted is added, Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, of my coming. For I came to visit and to save thee, which if thou hadst known and believed on Me, thou mightest have been reconciled to the Romans, and exempted from all danger, as did those who believed on Christ.
ORIGEN. I do not deny then that the former Jerusalem was destroyed because of the wickedness of its inhabitants, but I ask whether the weeping might not perhaps concern this your spiritual Jerusalem. For if a man has sinned after receiving the mysteries of truth, he will be wept over. Moreover, no Gentile is wept over, but he only who was of Jerusalem, and has ceased to be.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) For our Redeemer does not cease to weep through His elect whenever he perceives any to have departed from a good life to follow evil ways. Who if they had known their own damnation, hanging over them, would together with the elect shed tears over themselves. But the corrupt soul here has its day, rejoicing in the passing time; to whom things present are its peace, seeing that it takes delight in that which is temporal. It shuns the foresight of the future which may disturb its present mirth; and hence it follows, But now are they hid from thine eyes.
ORIGEN. But our Jerusalem is also wept over, because after sin enemies surround it, (that is, wicked spirits,) and cast a trench round it to besiege it, and leave not a stone behind; especially when a man after long continency, after years of chastity, is overcome, and enticed by the blandishments of the flesh, has lost his fortitude and his modesty, and has committed fornication, they will not leave on him one stone upon another, according to Ezekiel, His former righteousness I will not remember. (Ezek 18:24.)
GREGORY. (Hom. 39. in Ev.) Or else; The evil spirits lay siege to the soul, as it goes forth from the body, for being seized with the love of the flesh, they caress it with delusive pleasures. They surround it with a trench, because bringing all its wickedness which it has committed before the eyes of its mind, they close confine it to the company of its own damnation, that being caught in the very extremity of life, it may see by what enemies it is blockaded, yet be unable to find any way of escape, because it can no longer do good works, since those which it might once have done it despised. On every side also they inclose the soul when its iniquities rise up before it, not only in deed but also in word and thought, that she who before in many ways greatly enlarged herself in wickedness, should now at the end be straitened every way in judgment. Then indeed the soul by the very condition of its guilt is laid prostrate on the ground, while its flesh which it believed to be its life is bid to return to dust. Then its children fall in death, when all unlawful thoughts which only proceed from it, are in the last punishment of life scattered abroad. These may also be signified by the stones. For the corrupt mind when to a corrupt thought it adds one more corrupt, places one stone upon another. But when the soul is led to its doom, the whole structure of its thoughts is rent asunder. But the wicked soul God ceases not to visit with His teaching, sometimes with the scourge and sometimes with a miracle; that the truth which it knew not it may hear, and though still despising it, may return pricked to the heart in sorrow, or overcome with mercies may be ashamed at the evil which it has done. But because it knows not the time of its visitation, at the end of life it is given over to its enemies, that with them it may be joined together in the bond of everlasting damnation.
45. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;
46. Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves.
47. And he taught daily in the temple. But the Chief Priests and the Scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him,
48. And could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentive to hear him.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) When He had related the evils that were to come upon the city, He straightway entered the temple, that He might cast out them that bought and sold in it. Shewing that the destruction of the people arose chiefly from the guilt of the priests.
AMBROSE. For God wishes not His temple to be a house of traffic, but the dwelling-place of holiness, nor does He fix the priestly service in a saleable performance of religion, but in a free and willing obedience.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now there were in the temple a number of sellers who sold animals, by the custom of the law, for the sacrificial victims, but the time was now come for the shadows to pass away, and the truth of Christ to shine forth. Therefore Christ, who together with the Father was worshipped in the temple, commanded the customs of the law to be reformed, but the temple to become a house of prayer; as it is added, My house, &c.
GREGORY. For they who sat in the temple to receive money would doubtless sometimes make exaction to the injury of those who gave them none.
THEOPHYLACT. The same thing our Lord did also at the beginning of His preaching, as John relates; and now He did it a second time, because the crime of the Jews was much increased by their not having been chastened by the former warning.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. lib. ii. qu. 48.) Now mystically, you must understand by the temple Christ Himself, as man in His human nature, or with His body united to Him, that is, the Church. But inasmuch as He is the Head of the Church, it was said, Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days. (John 2:19.) Inasmuch as the Church is joined to Him, is the temple so interpreted, of which He seems to have spoken in the same place, Take these away from hence; signifying that there would be those in the Church who would rather be pursuing their own interest, or find a shelter therein to conceal their wickedness, than follow after the love of Christ, and by confession of their sins receiving pardon be restored.
GREGORY. (Hom. 39. ut sup.) But our Redeemer does not withdraw His word of preaching even from the unworthy and ungrateful. Accordingly after having by the ejection of the corrupt maintained the strictness of discipline, He now pours forth the gifts of grace. For it follows, And he was teaching daily in the temple.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now from what Christ had said and done it was meet that men should worship Him as God, but far from doing this, they sought to slay Him; as it follows, But the chief priests and scribes and the chief of the people sought to destroy him.
BEDE. Either because He daily taught in the temple, or because He had cast the thieves therefrom, or that coming thereto as King and Lord, He was greeted with the honour of a heavenly hymn of praise.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But the people held Christ in far higher estimation than the Scribes and Pharisees, and chiefs of the Jews, who not receiving the faith of Christ themselves, rebuked others. Hence it follows, And they could not find what they might do: for all the people were very attentire to hear him.
BEDE. This may be taken in two ways; either that fearing a tumult of the people they knew not what they should do with Jesus, whom they had settled to destroy; or they sought to destroy Him because they perceived their own authority set aside, and multitudes flocking to hear Him.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) Mystically, such as the temple of God is in a city, such is the life of the religious in a faithful people. And there are frequently some who take upon themselves the religious habit, and while they are receiving the privilege of Holy Orders, are sinking the sacred office of religion into a bargain of worldly traffic. For the sellers in the temple are those who give at a certain price that which is the rightful possession of others. For to sell justice is to observe it on condition of receiving a reward. But the buyers in the temple are those, who whilst unwilling to discharge what is just to their neighbour, and disdaining to do what they are in duty bound to, by paying a price to their patrons, purchase sin.
ORIGEN. If any then sells, let him be cast out, and especially if he sells doves. For of those things which have been revealed and committed to me by the Holy Spirit, I either sell for money to the people, or do not teach without hire, what else do I but sell a dove, that is, the Holy Spirit?
AMBROSE. Therefore our Lord teaches generally that all worldly bargains should be far removed from the temple of God; but spiritually He drove away the money-changers, who seek gain from the Lord’s money, that is, the divine Scripture, lest they should discern good and evil.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) And these make the house of God a den of thieves, because when corrupt men hold religious offices, they slay with the sword of their wickedness their neighbours, whom they ought to raise to life by the intercession of their prayers. The temple also is the soul of the faithful, which if it put forth corrupt thoughts to the injury of a neighbour, then is it become as it were a lurking place of thieves. But when the soul of the faithful is wisely instructed to shun evil, truth teaches daily in the temple.
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