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Catena Aurea by St. Thomas Aquinas
1. And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
2. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
3. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all:
4. For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.
GLOSS. (non occ.) Our Lord having rebuked the covetousness of the Scribes who devoured widows’ houses, commends the almsgiving of a widow; as it is said, And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting into the treasury, & c.
BEDE. In the Greek language, φυλάξαι signifies to keep, and gaza in Persian means riches, hence gazophylacium is used for the name of the place in which money is kept. Now there was a chest with an opening at the top placed near the altar, on the right hand of those entering the house of God, into which the Priests cast all the money, which was given for the Lord’s temple. But our Lord as He overthrows those who trade in His house, so also He remarks those who bring gifts, giving praise to the deserving, but condemning the bad. Hence it follows, And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. She offered two oboli, which with the sweat of her brow she had earned for her daily living, or what she daily begs for at the hands of others she gives to God, shewing that her poverty is fruitful to her. Therefore does she surpass the others, and by a just award receives a crown from God; as it follows, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more, &c.
BEDE. For whatever we offer with an honest heart is well pleasing to God, who hath respect unto the heart, not the substance, nor does He weigh the amount of that which is given in sacrifice, but of that from which it is taken; as it follows, For all these have cast in of their abundance, but she all that she had.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 1. in Ep. ad Heb., Hom. 28.) For God regarded not the scantiness of the offering, but the overflowing of the affection. Almsgiving is not the bestowing a few things out of many, but it is that of the widow emptying, herself of her whole substance. But if you cannot offer as much as the widow, at least give all that remains over.
BEDE. Now mystically, the rich men who cast their gifts into the treasury signify the Jews puffed up with the righteousness of the law; the poor widow, the simplicity of the Church which is called poor, because it has either cast away the spirit of pride, or its sins, as if they were worldly riches. But the Church is a widow, because her Husband endured death for her. She cast two mites into the treasury, because in God’s sight, in whose keeping are all the offerings of our works, she presents her gifts, whether of love to God and her neighbour, or of faith and prayer. And these excel all the works of the proud Jews, for they of their abundance cast into the offerings of God, in that they presume on their righteousness, but the Church casts in all her living, for every thing that hath life she believes to be the gift of God.
THEOPHYLACT. Or the widow may be taken to mean any soul bereft as it were of her first husband, the ancient law, and not worthy to be united to the Word of God. Who brings to God instead of a dowry faith and a good conscience, and so seems to offer more than those who are rich in words, and abound in the moral virtues of the Gentiles.
5. And as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,
6. As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
7. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?
8. And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
EUSEBIUS. How beautiful was every thing relating to the structure of the temple, history informs us, and there are yet preserved remains of it, enough to instruct us in what was once the character of the buildings. But our Lord proclaimed to those that were wondering at the building of the temple, that there should not be left in it one stone upon another. For it was meet that that place, because of the presumption of its worshippers, should suffer every kind of desolation.
BEDE. For it was ordained by the dispensation of God that the city itself and the temple should be overthrown, lest perhaps some one yet a child in the faith, while wrapt in astonishment at the rites of the sacrifices, should be carried away by the mere sight of the various beauties.
AMBROSE. It was spoken then of the temple made with hands, that it should be overthrown. For there is nothing made with hands which age does not impair, or violence throw down, or fire burn. Yet there is also another temple, that is, the synagogue, whose ancient building falls to pieces as the Church rises. There is also a temple in every one, which falls when faith is lacking, and above all when any one falsely shields himself under the name of Christ, that so he may rebel against his inward inclinations.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now His disciples did not at all perceive the force of His words, but supposed they were spoken of the end of the world. Therefore asked they Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign, &c.
AMBROSE. Matthew adds a third question, that both the time of the destruction of the temple, and the sign of His coming, and the end of the world, might be inquired into by the disciples. But our Lord being asked when the destruction of the temple should be, and what the sign of His coming, instructs them as to the signs, but does not mind to inform them as to the time. It follows, Take heed that ye be not deceived.
ATHANASIUS. (Orat. 1. cont. Arian.) For since we have received, delivered unto us by God, graces and doctrines which are above man, (as, for example, the rule of a heavenly life, power against evil spirits, the adoption and the knowledge of the Father and the Word, the gift of the Holy Spirit,) our adversary the devil goeth about seeking to steal from us the seed of the word which has been sown. But the Lord, shutting up in us His teaching as His own precious gift, warns us, lest we be deceived. And one very great gift He gives us, the word of God, that not only we be not led away by what appears, but even if there is ought lying concealed, by the grace of God we may discern it. For seeing that the devil is the hateful inventor of evil, what he himself is he conceals, but craftily assumes a name desirable to all; just as if a man wishing to get into his power some children not His own, should in the absence of the parents counterfeit their looks, and lead away the children who were longing for them. In every heresy then the devil says in disguise, “I am Christ, and with me there is truth.” And so it follows, For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. For before His descent from heaven, there shall come some to whom we must not give place. For the Only-begotten Son of God, when He came to save the world, wished to be in secret, that He might bear the cross for us. But His second coming shall not be in secret, but terrible and open. For He shall descend in the glory of God the Father, with the Angels attending Him, to judge the world in righteousness. Therefore He concludes, Go ye not therefore after them.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Or perhaps He docs not speak of false Christs coming before the end of the world, but of those who existed in the Apostles’ time.
BEDE. For there were many leaders when the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand, who declared themselves to be Christ, and that the time of deliverance was drawing nigh. Many heresiarchs also in the Church have preached that the day of the Lord is at hand, whom the Apostles condemn. (2 Thess. 2:2.) Many Antichrists also came in Christ’s name, of whom the first was Simon Magus, who said, This man is the great power of God. (Acts 8:10.)
9. But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.
10. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:
11. And great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.
GREGORY. (in Hom. 35. in Evang.) God denounces the woes that shall forerun the destruction of the world, that so they may the less disturb when they come, as having been foreknown. For darts strike the less which are foreseen. And so He says, But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, &c. Wars refer to the enemy, commotions to citizens. To shew us then that we shall be troubled from within and without, He asserts that the one we suffer from the enemy, the other from our own brethren.
AMBROSE. But of the heavenly words none are greater witnesses than we, upon whom the ends of the world have come. What wars and what rumours of wars have we received!
GREGORY. But that the end will not immediately follow these evils which come first, it is added, These things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet, &c. For the last tribulation is preceded by many tribulations, because many evils must come first, that they may await that evil which has no end. It follows, Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, &c. For it must needs be that we should suffer some things from heaven, some from earth, some from the elements, and some from men. Here then are signified the confusions of men. It follows, And great earthquakes shall be in divers places. This relates to the wrath from above.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. 11. in Acta.) For an earthquake is at one time a sign of wrath, as when our Lord was crucified the earth shook; but at another time it is a token of God’s providence, as when the Apostles were praying, the place was moved where they were assembled. It follows, and pestilence.
GREGORY. (in Hom. 35.) Look at the vicissitudes of bodies. And famine. Observe the barrenness of the ground. And fearful sights and great signs there shall be from heaven. Behold the variableness of the climate, which must be ascribed to those storms which by no means regard the order of the seasons. For the things which come in fixed order are not signs. For every thing that we receive for the use of life we pervert to the service of sin, but all those things which we have bent to a wicked use, are turned to the instruments of our punishment.
AMBROSE. The ruin of the world then is preceded by certain of the world’s calamities, such as famine, pestilence, and persecution.
THEOPHYLACT. Now some have wished to place the fulfilment of these things not only at the future consummation of all things, but at the time also of the taking of Jerusalem. For when the Author of peace was killed, then justly arose among the Jews wars and sedition, But from wars proceed pestilence and famine, the former indeed produced by the air infected with dead bodies, the latter through the lands remaining uncultivated. Josephus also relates the most intolerable distresses to have occurred from famine; and at the time of Claudius Cæsar there was a severe famine, as we read in the Acts, (Acts 11:28.) and many terrible events happened, forboding, as Josephus says, the destruction of Jerusalem.
CHRYSOSTOM. But He says, that the end of the city shall not come immediately, that is, the taking of Jerusalem, but there shall be many battles first.
BEDE. The Apostles are also exhorted not to be alarmed by these forerunners, nor to desert Jerusalem and Judæa. But the kingdom against kingdom, and the pestilence of those whose word creepeth as a cancer, and the famine of hearing the word of God, and the shaking of the whole earth, and the separation from the true faith, may be explained also in the heretics, who contending one with another bring victory to the Church.
AMBROSE. There are also other wars which the Christian wages, the struggles of different lusts, and the conflicts of the will; and domestic foes are far more dangerous than foreign.
12. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.
13. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.
14. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
15. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
16. And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
17. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.
18. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
19. In your patience possess ye your souls.
GREGORY. (Hom. 35. in Evang.) Because the things which have been prophesied of arise not from the injustice of the inflictor of them, but from the deserts of the world which suffers them, the deeds or wicked men are foretold; as it is said, But before all these things, they shall lay their hands upon you: as if He says, First the hearts of men, afterwards the elements, shall be disturbed, that when the order of things is thrown into confusion, it may be plain from what retribution it arises. For although the end of the world depends upon its own appointed course, yet finding some more corrupt than others who shall rightly be overwhelmed in its fall, our Lord makes them known.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Or He says this, because before that Jerusalem should be taken by the Romans, the disciples, having suffered persecution from the Jews, were imprisoned and brought before rulers; Paul was sent to Rome to Cæsar, and stood before Festus and Agrippa.
It follows, And it shall turn to you for a testimony. In the Greek it is εἰς μαρτύριον, that is, for the glory of martyrdom.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) Or, for a testimony, that is, against those who by persecuting you bring death upon themselves, or living do not imitate you, or themselves becoming hardened perish without excuse, from whom the elect take example that they may live. But as hearing so many terrible things the hearts of men may be troubled, He therefore adds for their consolation, Settle it therefore in your hearts, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. For because they were foolish and inexperienced, the Lord tells them this, that they might not be confounded when about to give account to the wise. And He adds the cause, For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. As if He said, Ye shall forthwith receive of me eloquence and wisdom, so that all your adversaries, were they gathered together in one, shall not be able to resist you, neither in wisdom, that is, the power of the understanding, nor in eloquence, that is, excellence of speech, for many men have often wisdom in their mind, but being easily provoked to their great disturbance, mar the whole when their time of speaking comes, But not such were the Apostles, for in both these gifts they were highly favoured.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) As if the Lord said to His disciples, “Be not afraid, go forward to the battle, it is I that fight; you utter the words, I am He that speaketh.”
AMBROSE. Now in one place Christ speaks in His disciples, as here; in another, the Father; (Mat. 16:17) in another the Spirit of the Father speaketh. (Mat. 10:20.) These do not differ but agree together, In that one speaketh, three speak, for the voice of the Trinity is one.
THEOPHYLACT. Having in what has gone before dispelled the fear of inexperience, He goes on to warn them of another very certain event, which might agitate their minds, lest falling suddenly upon them, it should dismay them; for it follows, And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) We are the more galled by the persecutions we suffer from those of whose dispositions we made sure, because together with the bodily pain, we are tormented by the bitter pangs of lost affection.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. But let us consider the state of things at that time. While all men were suspected, kinsfolk were divided against one another, each differing from the other in religion; the gentile son stood up the betrayer of his believing parents, and of his believing son the unbelieving father became the determined accuser; no age was spared in the persecution of the faith; women were unprotected even by the natural weakness of their sex.
THEOPHYLACT. To all this He adds the hatred which they shall meet with from all men.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) But because of the hard things foretold concerning the affliction of death, there immediately follows a consolation, concerning the joy of the resurrection, when it is said, But there shall not an hair of your head perish. As though He said to the martyrs, Why fear ye for the perishing of that which when cut, pains, when that can not perish in you, which when cut gives no pain?
BEDE. Or else, There shall not perish a hair of the head of our Lord’s Apostles, because not only the noble deeds and words of the Saints, but even the slightest thought shall meet with its deserving reward.
GREGORY. (Mor. 5. c. 16.) He who preserves patience in adversity, is thereby rendered proof against all affliction, and so by conquering himself, he gains the government of himself; as it follows, In your patience shall ye possess your souls. For what is it to possess your souls, but to live perfectly in all things, and sitting as it were upon the citadel of virtue to hold in subjection every motion of the mind?
GREGORY. (Hom. 35. in Ev.) By patience then we possess our souls, because when we are said to govern ourselves, we begin to possess that very thing which we are. But for this reason, the possession of the soul is laid in the virtue of patience, because patience is the root and guardian of all virtues. Now patience is to endure calmly the evils which are inflicted by others, and also to have no feeling of indignation against him who inflicts them.
20. And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.
21. Then let them which are in Judæa flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
22. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
BEDE. Hitherto our Lord had been speaking of those things which were to come to pass for forty years, the end not yet coming. He now describes the very end itself of the desolation, which was accomplished by the Roman army; as it is said, And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed, &c.
EUSEBIUS. By the desolation of Jerusalem, He means that it was never again to be set up, or its legal rites to be reestablished, so that no one should expect, after the coming siege and desolation, any restoration to take place, as there was in the time of the Persian king, Antiochus the Great, and Pompey.
AUGUSTINE. (ad Hesych. Ep. 199.) These words of our Lord, Luke has here related to shew, that the abomination of desolation which was prophesied by Daniel, and of which Matthew and Mark had spoken, (Mat. 24, Mark 13.) was fulfilled at the siege of Jerusalem.
AMBROSE. For the Jews thought that the abomination of desolation took place when the Romans, in mockery of a Jewish observance, cast a pig’s head into the temple.
EUSEBIUS. Now our Lord, foreseeing that there would be a famine in the city, warned His disciples in the siege that was coming, not to betake themselves to the city as a place of refuge, and under God’s protection, but rather to depart from thence, and flee to the mountains.
BEDE. (Ecc. Hist. lib. iii. c. 5.) The ecclesiastical history relates, that all the Christians who were in Judæa, when the destruction of Jerusalem was approaching, being warned of the Lord, departed from that place, and dwelt beyond the Jordan in a city called Pella, until the desolation of Judæa was ended.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) And before this, Matthew and Mark said, And let him that is on the housetop not come down into his house; and Mark added, neither enter therein to take any thing out of his house; in place of which Luke subjoins, And let them which are in the midst of it depart out.
BEDE. But how, while the city was already compassed with an army, were they to depart out? except that the preceding word “then” is to be referred, not to the actual time of the siege, but the period just before, when first the armed soldiers began to disperse themselves through the parts of Galilee and Samaria.
AUGUSTINE. (uti sup.) But where Matthew and Mark have written, Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes, Luke adds more clearly, And let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto, for these be the days of vengeance, that all the things which are written may be fulfilled.
BEDE. And these are the days of vengeance, that is, the days exacting vengeance for our Lord’s blood.
AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Then Luke follows in words similar to those of the other two; But woe to them that are with child, and them that give suck in those days; and thus has made plain what might otherwise have been doubtful, namely, that what was said of the abomination of desolation belonged not to the end of the world, but the taking of Jerusalem.
BEDE. He says then, Woe to them that nurse, or give suck, as some interpret it, whose womb or arms now heavy with the burden of children, cause no slight obstacle to the speed of flight.
THEOPHYLACT. But some say that the Lord hereby signified the devouring of children, which Josephus also relates.
CHRYSOSTOM. (adv. oppug. mon. vit.) He next assigns the cause of what he had just now said, For there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. For the miseries that took hold of them were such as, in the words of Josephus, no calamity can henceforth compare to them.
EUSEBIUS. For so in truth it was, that when the Romans came and were taking the city, many multitudes of the Jewish people perished in the mouth of the sword; as it follows, And they shall fall by the edge of the sword. But still more were cut off by famine. And these things happened at first indeed under Titus and Vespasian, but after them in the time of Hadrian the Roman general, when the land of their birth was forbidden to the Jews. Hence it follows, And they shall be led away captive into all nations. For the Jews filled the whole land, reaching even to the ends of the earth, and when their land was inhabited by strangers, they alone could not enter it; as it follows, And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
BEDE. Which indeed the Apostle makes mention of when he says, Blindness in part is happened to Israel, and so all Israel shall be saved. (Rom. 11:25.) Which when it shall have gained the promised salvation, hopes not rashly to return to the land of its fathers.
AMBROSE. Now mystically, the abomination of desolation is the coming of Antichrist, for with ill-omened sacrilege he pollutes the innermost recesses of the heart, sitting as it is literally in the temple, that he may claim to himself the throne of divine power. But according to the spiritual meaning, he is well brought in, because he desires to impress firmly on the affections the footstep of his unbelief, disputing from the Scriptures that he is Christ. Then shall come desolation, for very many falling away shall depart from the true religion. Then shall be the day of the Lord, since as His first coming was to redeem sin, so also His second shall be to subdue iniquity, lest more should be carried away by the error of unbelief. There is also another Antichrist, that is, the Devil, who is trying to besiege Jerusalem, i. e. the peaceful soul, with the hosts of his law. When then the Devil is in the midst of the temple, there is the desolation of abomination. But when upon any one in trouble the spiritual presence of Christ has shone, the unjust one is cast out, and righteousness begins her reign. There is also a third Antichrist, as Arius and Sabellius and all who with evil purpose lead us astray. But these are they who are with child, to whom woe is denounced, who enlarge the size of their flesh, and the step of whose inmost soul waxes slow, as those who are worn out in virtue, pregnant with vice. But neither do those with child escape condemnation, who though firm in the resolution of good acts, have not yet yielded any fruits of the work undertaken. These are those which conceive from fear of God, but do not all bring forth. For there are some which thrust forth the word abortive before their delivery. There are others too which have Christ in the womb, but have not yet formed Him. Therefore she who brings forth righteousness, brings forth Christ. Let us also hasten to nourish our children, lest the day of judgment or death find us as it were the parents of an imperfect offspring. And this you will do if you keep all the words of righteousness in your heart, and wait not the time of old age, but in your earliest years, without corruption of your body, quickly conceive wisdom, quickly nourish it. But at the end shall all Judæa be made subject to the nations which shall believe, by the mouth of the spiritual sword, which is the two-edged word. (Rev. 1:16; 19:15.)
25. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;
26. Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
27. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
BEDE. The events which were to follow the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles He explains in regular order, saying, There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars
AMBROSE. All which signs are more clearly described in Matthew, Then shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven.
EUSEBIUS. For at that time when the end of this perishing life shall be accomplished, and, as the Apostle says, The fashion of this world passeth away, (1 Cor. 7:13.) then shall succeed a new world, in which instead of sensible light, Christ Himself shall shine as a sunbeam, and as the King of the new world, and so mighty and glorious will be His light, that the sun which now dazzles so brightly, and the moon and all the stars, shall be hidden by the coming of a far greater light.
CHRYSOSTOM. For as in this world the moon and the stars are soon dimmed by the rising of the sun, so at the glorious appearance of Christ shall the sun become dark, and the moon not shed her ray, and the stars shall fall from heaven, stripped of their former attire, that they may put on the robe of a better light.
EUSEBIUS. What things shall befall the world after the darkening of the orbs of light, and whence shall arise the straitening of nations, He next explains as follows, And on the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea. Wherein He seems to teach, that the beginning of the universal change will be owing to the failing of the watery substance. For this being first absorbed or congealed, so that no longer is heard the roaring of the sea, nor do the waves reach the shore because of the exceeding drought, the other parts of the world, ceasing to obtain the usual vapour which came forth from the watery matter, shall undergo a revolution. Accordingly since the appearance of Christ must put down the prodigies which resist God, namely, those of Antichrist, the beginnings of wrath shall take their rise from droughts, such as that neither storm nor roaring of the sea be any more heard. And this event shall be succeeded by the distress of the men who survive; as it follows, Men’s hearts being dried up for fear, and looking after those things which shall come upon the whole world. But the things that shall then come upon the world He proceeds to declare, adding, For the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
THEOPHYLACT. Or else, When the higher world shall be changed, then also the lower elements shall suffer loss; whence it follows, And on the earth distress of nations, &c. As if He said, the sea shall roar terribly, and its shores shall be shaken with the tempest, so that of the people and nations of the earth there shall be distress, that is, a universal misery, so that they shall pine away from fear and expectation of the evils which are coming upon the world.
AUGUSTINE. (ad Hes. Ep. 199.) But you will say, your punishment compels you to confess that the end is now approaching, seeing the fulfilment of that which was foretold. For it is certain there is no country, no place in our time, which is not affected or troubled. But if those evils which mankind now suffer are sure signs that our Lord is now about to come, what meaneth that which the Apostle says, For when they shall say peace and safety. (1 Thess. 5:3.) Let us see then if it be not perhaps better to understand the words of prophecy to be not so fulfilled, but rather that they will come to pass when the tribulation of the whole world shall be such that it shall belong to the Church, which shall be troubled by the whole world, not to those who shall trouble it. For they are those who shall say, Peace and safety. But now these evils which are counted the greatest and most immoderate, we see to be common to both the kingdoms of Christ and the Devil. For the good and the evil are alike afflicted with them, and among these great evils is the yet universal resort to licentious feasts. Is not this the being dried up from fear, or rather the being burnt up from lust?
THEOPHYLACT. But not only shall men be tossed about when the world shall be changed, but angels even shall stand amazed at the terrible revolutions of the universe. Hence it follows, And the powers of heaven shall be shaken.
GREGORY. (Hom. 1. in Ev.) For whom does He call the powers of heaven, but the angels, dominions, principalities, and powers? which at the coming of the strict Judge shall then appear visibly to our eyes, that they may strictly exact judgment of us, seeing that now our invisible Creator patiently bears with us.
EUSEBIUS. When also the Son of God shall come in glory, and shall crush the proud empire of the son of sin, the angels of heaven attending Him, the doors of heaven which have been shut from the foundation of the world shall be opened, that the things that are on high may be witnessed.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ad Olymp. Ep. 2.) Or the heavenly powers shall be shaken, although themselves know it not. For when they see the innumerable multitudes condemned, they shall not stand there without trembling.
BEDE. Thus it is said in Job, the pillars of heaven tremble and are afraid at his reproof. (Job 26:11.) What then do the boards do, when the pillars tremble? what does the shrub of the desert suffer, when the cedar of Paradise is shaken?
EUSEBIUS. Or the powers of heaven are those which preside over the sensible parts of the universe, which indeed shall then be shaken that they may attain to a better state. For they shall be discharged from the ministry with which they serve God toward the sensible bodies in their perishing condition.
AUGUSTINE. (ad Hes. ut sup.) But that the Lord may not seem to have foretold as extraordinary those things concerning His second coming, which were wont to happen to this world even before His first coming, and that we may not be laughed at by those who have read more and greater events than these in the history of nations, I think what has been said may be better understood to apply to the Church. For the Church is the sun, the moon, and the stars, to whom it was said, Fair as the moon, elect as the sun. (Cant. 6:10.) And she will then not be seen for the unbounded rage of the persecutors.
AMBROSE. While many also fall away from religion, clear faith will be obscured by the cloud of unbelief, for to me that Sun of righteousness is either diminished or increased according to my faith; and as the moon in its monthly wanings, or when it is opposite the sun by the interposition of the earth, suffers eclipse, so also the holy Church when the sins of the flesh oppose the heavenly light, cannot borrow the brightness of divine light from Christ’s rays. For in persecutions, the love of this world generally shuts out the light of the divine Sun; the stars also fall, that is, men who shine in glory fall when the bitterness of persecution waxes sharp and prevails. And this must be until the multitude of the Church be gathered in, for thus are the good tried and the weak made manifest.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) But in the words, And upon the earth distress of nations, He would understand by nations, not those which shall be blessed in the seed of Abraham, but those which shall stand on the left hand.
AMBROSE. So severe then will be the manifold fires of our souls, that with consciences depraved through the multitude of crimes, by reason of our fear of the coming judgment, the dew of the sacred fountain will be dried upon us. But as the Lord’s coming is looked for, in order that His presence may dwell in the whole circle of mankind or the world, which now dwells in each individual who has embraced Christ with his whole heart, so the powers of heaven shall at our Lord’s coming obtain an increase of grace, and shall be moved by the fulness of the Divine nature more closely infusing itself. There are also heavenly powers which proclaim the glory of God, which shall be stirred by a fuller infusion of Christ, that they may see Christ.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) Or the powers of heaven shall be stirred, because when the ungodly persecute, some of the most stout-hearted believers shall be troubled.
THEOPHYLACT. (ut sup.) It follows, And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds. Both the believers and unbelievers shall see Him, for He Himself as well as His cross shall glisten brighter than the sun, and so shall be observed of all.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) But the words, coming in the clouds, may be taken in two ways. Either coming in His Church as it were in a cloud, as He now ceases not to come. But then it shall be with great power and majesty, for far greater will His power and might appear to His saints, to whom He will give great virtue, that they may not be overcome in such a fearful persecution. Or in His body in which He sits at His Father’s right hand He must rightly be supposed to come, and not only in His body, but also in a cloud, for He will come even as He went away, And a cloud received him out of their sight.
CHRYSOSTOM. For God ever appears in a cloud, according to the Psalms, clouds and darkness are round about him. (Ps. 17:11.) Therefore shall the Son of man come in the clouds as God, and the Lord, not secretly, but in glory worthy of God. Therefore He adds, with great power and majesty.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Great must be understood in like manner. For His first appearance He made in our weakness and lowliness, the second He shall celebrate in all His own power.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) For in power and majesty will men see Him, whom in lowly stations they refused to hear, that so much the more acutely they may feel His power, as they are now the less willing to bow the necks of their hearts to His sufferings.
28. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
29. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees;
30. When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand.
31. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.
32. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.
33. Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away.
GREGORY. (Hom. 1. in Ev.) Having in what has gone before spoken against the reprobate, He now turns His words to the consolation of the elect; for it is added, When these things begin to be, look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh; as if he says, When the buffettings of the world multiply, lift up your heads, that is, rejoice your hearts, for when the world closes whose friends ye are not, the redemption is near which ye seek. For in holy Scripture the head is often put for the mind, for as the members are ruled by the head, so are the thoughts regulated by the mind. To lift up our heads then, is to raise up our minds to the joys of the heavenly country.
EUSEBIUS. Or else, To those that have passed through the body and bodily things, shall be present spiritual and heavenly bodies: that is, they will have no more to pass the kingdom of the world, and then to those that are worthy shall be given the promises of salvation. For having received the promises of God which we look for, we who before were crooked shall be made upright, and we shall lift up our heads who were before bent low; because the redemption which we hoped for is at hand; that namely for which the whole creation waiteth.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, perfect liberty of body and soul. For as the first coming of our Lord was for the restoration of our souls, so will the second be manifested unto the restoration of our bodies.
EUSEBIUS. He speaks these things to His disciples, not as to those who would continue in this life to the end of the world, but as if uniting in one body of believers in Christ both themselves and us and our posterity, even to the end of the world.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) That the world ought to be trampled upon and despised, He proves by a wise comparison, adding, Behold the fig tree and all the trees, when they now put forth fruit, ye know that summer is near. As if He says, As from the fruit of the tree the summer is perceived to be near, so from the fall of the world the kingdom of God is known to be at hand. Hereby is it manifested that the world’s fall is our fruit. For hereunto it puts forth buds, that whomsoever it has fostered in the bud it may consume in slaughter. But well is the kingdom of God compared to summer; for then the clouds of our sorrow flee away, and the days of life brighten up under the clear light of the Eternal Sun.
AMBROSE. Matthew speaks of the fig-tree only, Luke of all the trees. But the fig-tree shadows forth two things, either the ripening of what is hard, or the luxuriance of sin; that is, either that, when the fruit bursts forth in all trees and the fruitful fig-tree abounds, (that is, when every tongue confesses God, even the Jewish people confessing Him,) we ought to hope for our Lord’s coming, in which shall be gathered in as at summer the fruits of the resurrection. Or, when the man of sin shall clothe himself in his light and fickle boasting as it were the leaves of the synagogue, we must then suppose the judgment to be drawing near. For the Lord hastens to reward faith, and to bring an end of sinning.
AUGUSTINE. (ut sup.) But when He says, When ye shall see these things to come to pass, what can we understand but those things which were mentioned above. But among them we read, And then shall they see the Son of man coming. When therefore this is seen, the kingdom of God is not yet, but nigh at hand. Or must we say that we are not to understand all the things before mentioned, when He says, When ye shall see these things, &c. but only some of them; this for example being excepted, And then shall they see the Son of man. But Matthew would plainly have it taken with no exception, for he says, And so ye, when ye see all these things, among which is the seeing the coming of the Son of man; in order that it may be understood of that coming whereby He now comes in His members as in clouds, or in the Church as in a great cloud.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Or else, He says, the kingdom of God is at hand, meaning that when these things shall be, not yet shall all things come to their last end, but they shall be already tending towards it. For the very coming of our Lord itself, casting out every principality and power, is the preparation for the kingdom of God.
EUSEBIUS. For as in this life, when winter dies away, and spring succeeds, the sun sending forth its warm rays cherishes and quickens the seeds hid in the ground, just laying aside their first form, and the young plants sprout forth, having put on different shades of green; so also the glorious coming of the Only-begotten of God, illuminating the new world with His quickening rays, shall bring forth into light from more excellent bodies than before the seeds that have long been hidden in the whole world, i. e. those who sleep in the dust of the earth. And having vanquished death, He shall reign from henceforth the life of the new world.
GREGORY. (in Hom. 1. in Ev.) But all the things before mentioned are confirmed with great certainty, when He adds, Verily I say unto you, &c.
BEDE. He strongly commends that which he thus foretels. And, if one may so speak, his oath is this, Amen, I say unto you. Amen is by interpretation “true.” Therefore the truth says, I tell you the truth, and though He spoke not thus, He could by no means lie. But by generation he means either the whole human race, or especially the Jews.
EUSEBIUS. Or by generation He means the new generation of His holy Church, shewing that the generation of the faithful would last up to that time, when it would see all things, and embrace with its eyes the fulfilment of our Saviour’s words.
THEOPHYLACT. For because He had foretold that there should be commotions, and wars, and changes, both of the elements and in other things, lest any one might suspect that Christianity itself also would perish, He adds, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away: as if He said, Though all things should be shaken, yet shall my faith fail not. Whereby He implies that He sets the Church before the whole creation. The creation shall suffer change, but the Church of the faithful and the words of the Gospel shall abide for ever.
GREGORY. (ut sup.) Or else, The heaven and earth shall pass away, &c. As if He says, All that with us seems lasting, does not abide to eternity without change, and all that with Me seems to pass away is held fixed and immoveable, for My word which passeth away utters sentences which remain unchangeable, and abide for ever.
BEDE. But by the heaven which shall pass away we must understand not the æthereal or the starry heaven, but the air from which the birds are named “of heaven.” But if the earth shall pass away, how does Ecclesiastes say, The earth standeth for ever? (Ecc. 1:4.) Plainly then the heaven and earth in the fashion which they now have shall pass away, but in essence subsist eternally.
34. And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.
35. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
THEOPHYLACT. Our Lord declared above the fearful and sensible signs of the evils which should overtake sinners, against which the only remedy is watching and prayer, as it is said, And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time, &c.
BASIL. (Hom. 1. in illud Atten de tibi.) Every animal has within itself certain instincts which it has received from God, for the preservation of its own being. Wherefore Christ has also given us this warning, that what comes to them by nature, may be ours by the aid of reason and prudence: that we may flee from sin as the brute creatures shun deadly food, but that we seek after righteousness, as they wholesome herbs. Therefore saith He, Take heed to yourselves, that is, that you may distinguish the noxious from the wholesome. But since there are two ways of taking heed to ourselves, the one with the bodily eyes, the other by the faculties of the soul, and the bodily eye does not reach to virtue; it remains that we speak of the operations of the soul. Take heed, that is, Look around you on all sides, keeping an ever watchful eye to the guardianship of your soul. He says not, Take heed to your own or to the things around, but to yourselves. For ye are mind and spirit, your body is only of sense. Around you are riches, arts, and all the appendages of life, you must not mind these, but your soul, of which you must take especial care. The same admonition tends both to the healing of the sick, and the perfecting of those that are well, namely, such as are the guardians of the present, the providers of the future, not judging the actions of others, but strictly searching their own, not suffering the mind to be the slave of their passions, but subduing the irrational part of the soul to the rational. But the reason why we should take heed He adds as follows, Lest at any time your hearts be overcharged, &c.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. As if He says, Beware lest the eyes of your mind wax heavy. For the cares of this life, and surfeiting, and drunkenness, scare away prudence, shatter and make shipwreck of faith.
CLEMENT OF ALEXENDRIA. (Clem. Al. lib. ii. Pædag. c. 2.) Drunkenness is an excessive use of wine; crapula1 is the uneasiness, and nausea attendant on drunkenness, a Greek word so called from the motion of the head. And a little below. As then we must partake of food lest we suffer hunger, so also of drink lest we thirst, but with still greater care to avoid falling into excess. For the indulgence of wine is deceitful, and the soul when free from wine will be the wisest and best, but steeped in the fumes of wine is lost as in a cloud.
BASIL. (in Reg. Brev. ad int. 88.) But carefulness, or the care of this life, although it seems to have nothing unlawful in it, nevertheless if it conduce not to religion, must be avoided. And the reason why He said this He shews by what comes next, And so that day come upon you unawares.
THEOPHYLACT. For that day will not come when men are expecting it, but unlooked for and by stealth, taking as a snare those who are unwary. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that sit upon the face of the earth. But this we may diligently keep far from us. For that day will take those that sit on the face of the earth, as the unthinking and slothful. But as many as are prompt and active in the way of good, not sitting and loitering on the ground, but rising from it, saying to themselves, Rise up, begone, for here there is no rest for thee. To such that day is not as a perilous snare, but a day of rejoicing.
EUSEBIUS. He taught them therefore to take heed unto the things we have just before mentioned, lest they fall into the indolence resulting therefrom. Hence it follows, Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all those things that shall come to pass.
THEOPHYLACT. Namely, hunger, pestilence, and such like, which for a time only threaten the elect and others, and those things also which are hereafter the lot of the guilty for ever. For these we can in no wise escape, save by watching and prayer.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. l. ii. c. 77.) This is supposed to be that flight which Matthew mentions; which must not be in the winter or on the sabbath day. To the winter belong the cares of this life, which are mournful as the winter, but to the sabbath surfeiting and drunkenness, which drowns and buries the heart in carnal luxury and delight, since on that day the Jews are immersed in worldly pleasure, while they are lost to a spiritual sabbath.
THEOPHYLACT. And because a Christian needs not only to flee evil, but to strive to obtain glory, He adds, And to stand before the Son of man. For this is the glory of angels, to stand before the Son of man, our God, and always to behold His face.
BEDE. Now supposing a physician should bid us beware of the juice of a certain herb, lest a sudden death overtake us, we should most earnestly attend to his command; but when our Saviour warns us to shun drunkenness and surfeiting, and the cares of this world, men have no fear of being wounded and destroyed by them; for the faith which they put in the caution of the physician, they disdain to give to the words of God.
37. And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
38. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him.
BEDE. What our Lord commanded in word, He confirms by His example. For He who bid us watch and pray before the coming of the Judge, and the uncertain end of each of us, as the time of His Passion drew near, is Himself instant in teaching, watching, and prayer. As it is said, And in the day time he was teaching in the temple, whereby He conveys by His own example, that it is a thing worthy of God, to watch, or by word and deed to point out the way of truth to our neighbour.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But what were the things He taught, unless such as transcended the worship of the law?
THEOPHYLACT. Now the Evangelists are silent as to the greater part of Christ’s teaching; for whereas He preached for the space nearly of three years, all the teaching which they have written down would scarcely, one might say, suffice for the discourse of a single day. For out of a great many things extracting a few, they have given only a taste as it were of the sweetness of His teaching. But our Lord here instructs us, that we ought to address God at night and in silence, but in day time to be doing good to men; and to gather indeed at night, but in the day distribute what we have gathered. As it is added, And at night he went out and abode in the mount that is called Olivet. Not that He had need of prayer, but He did this for our example.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. But because His speech was with power, and with authority He applied to spiritual worship the things which had been delivered in figures by Moses and the Prophets, the people heard Him gladly. As it follows, And the whole people made haste to come early to hear him in the temple. But the people who came to Him before light might with fitness say, O God my God, early do I wait upon thee.
BEDE. Now mystically, we also when amid our prosperity we behave ourselves soberly, piously, and honestly, teach by day time in the temple, for we hold up to the faithful the model of a good work; but at night we abide on mount Olivet, when in the darkness of anguish we are refreshed with spiritual consolation; and to us also the people come early in the morning, when either having shaken off the works of darkness, or scattered all the clouds of sorrow, they follow our example.
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