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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter we have an account of the birth of our Lord, and of certain remarkable events connected with it. Its announcement to the shepherds by the Angel. The celestial hymns sung on the occasion by a multitude of the heavenly army (1–14). The visit of the shepherds to the crib (15–19). Their return after having witnessed the truth of the joyous announcement made to them by the Angel (20). The circumcision of our Lord. The purification of his Virgin Mother (21–24). The timely arrival in the Temple of Simeon, no doubt, providentially arranged, to bear testimony to our Lord (25–28). Simeon’s inspired Canticle, and prophecy, relating to our Lord, and His Blessed Mother (29–35). The testimony borne by the saintly prophetess, Anna (36–38). Our Lord’s return to Nazareth, after His circumcision (39–40). The finding of Him in the Temple, after a diligent search made for Him during three days, by His disconsolate parents, on the occasion of His going up with them, at the age of twelve, to assist at the Paschal solemnity (41–50). His hidden life at Nazareth, and His obedience to His parents.

1. “And it came to pass,” not by mere chance or accident, but it was so arranged by the over-ruling providence of God. “That in those days.” Shortly, or immediately after the birth and circumcision of the Baptist, described in the preceding chapter. “There went out a decree from.” A decree was promulgated by “Cæsar Augustus.” Julius Cæsar, who was assassinated, was the first Roman Emperor; “Augustus,” who immediately succeeded him, was the second, in the forty-second year of whose reign, Christ was born. “Cæsar,” was the title generally given to all the Roman Emperors. The title of “Augustus,” was given by the Roman Senate to this Cæsar, whose reign, so long and prosperous, lasting for fifty—seven years, gave rise, partly, to the saying, “Augusto felicior, Trajano melior.”

“That the whole world should be enrolled.” There is no mention made of this enrolment by Pagan historians. Hence, some Expositors understand by the words, “whole world,” Judea only, a signification they bear sometimes in SS.Scripture. These say, that Augustus had for object in taking this census in that part of his Empire, to ascertain the amount of aid he might expect, in case of emergency, from Herod, who was the mere creature of the Romans. They assign as a reason for using the words in this restricted sense, the mention of “Cyrinus, as Governor of Syria,” in connexion with it, which would have no meaning, if there were question of the vast Roman Empire, the enrolment of which could not be committed to Cyrinus. However, the mention of Cyrinus, as Governor of Syria, might be accounted for, even if there were question of a general enrolment of the Empire; because, it was the enrolment, which, so far as it regarded the Syrian part of the Empire, had immediate connexion with the wonderful event now about to be recorded. It was owing to the decree of enrolment in this part of the Empire, that Christ was born in Bethlehem, the place marked out for His birth in the ancient prophecies. If the above restricted sense of the words be adopted, the silence of profane historians is perfectly intelligible, as an event occurring in so remote a corner of the Empire would be beneath their notice. However, the words are commonly understood, of the habitable quarters of the globe, then subject to the Roman Empire, πᾶσαν τὴν σικουμένην, a sense, which the words, “whole world,” sometimes bears, as the Roman Empire at the time embraced the greater part of the habitable globe. This is held by many, with Paulus Orosius, Ven. Bede, &c.

“Should be enrolled.” Whether this enrolment, or census, of the subjects of the whole Empire, its provinces and dependencies, with an account of its population and resources, was ordered without any view to taxation, and solely out of a feeling of vain-glory, on the part of Augustus—an opinion maintained by some, chiefly on the ground, that if taxation were in view, each one would be enrolled, not in the place whence his family had sprung, as in this case, but where his possessions were (Patrizzi, Dissert. xviii., Lib. 31); or whether it was ordered by Augustus, with a further view to taxation, in order to recruit the Imperial Treasury, exhausted by long wars, as is stated by Josephus (De Antiq. Lib. 18, c. 1), is uncertain; although, the latter opinion seems the more probable. One thing, however, is quite certain, viz., that it was ordained by the all-ruling providence of God, for the verification of His prophecies regarding the birth of His Son in Bethlehem. It might seem strange, at first, considering that Herod was at this time King of Judea, that the general enrolment decreed by Augustus, whether from motives of vanity, or with a view to taxation, should include his kingdom. But, it is to be borne in mind, that Herod held his kingdom at the good-will of the Romans; and, hence, he could not safely object to their taking a census of a kingdom which was tributary to them. Josephus informs us (Antiq. xvi. c. 9), that Herod had at this time, owing to grave accusations preferred against him, incurred the displeasure of Augustus, who threatened, “instead of treating him any longer as his friend, to treat him in future as his subject.” Hence, his dominions, regarded as subject to Augustus, were now included in the general census of the Roman Empire. It is supposed by many, that Augustus had in view to impose a tribute, or capitation tax, levied on all, men and women. Therefore, the Blessed Virgin accompanied Joseph to Bethlehem. After ascertaining the number of his subjects, most likely, the tax imposed in Judea was similar to that contributed for the necessities of the Temple (see Matthew 17:23). We are informed by historians, sacred and profane, that at this period, the whole world enjoyed a profound peace, as an indication of which, the Temple of Janus was now closed a third time by Augustus. All this was well suited to greet the entrance into this world of Him, who was “the Prince of Peace,” who came to reconcile God to man, by making atonement to His outraged Majesty by the plentiful effusion of His most sacred blood; and to establish the firmest bonds of union between men themselves, by breaking down the middle wall of partition, that divided Jews from Gentiles (Ephes 2:14).

2. “This enrolment was first made by Cyrinus,” &c. This general enrolment of all the subjects of the entire Empire was the first of the kind that was made, or could be made, owing to continuous wars (although there might possibly have been several partial or local ones), and so far as the portion of the Empire connected with the extensive province of Syria, including Judea, was concerned, it was made by Cyrinus, who was President of Syria, vested with supreme vicarial authority. The more probable opinion is, that Cyrinus or Quirinus acted as extraordinary commissioner on this occasion, being invested with this high office by Augustus, in reward for his public services, especially for having utterly destroyed the Homodanenses—a savage tribe in the neighbourhood of Mount Taurus, who proved very troublesome to the Roman authorities in these distant dependencies. The ordinary Governor of Syria—the most important of the Roman Provinces—was at this time Sentius Saturninus, (Tacitus Annal., Lib. iii.) Cyrinus associated him with himself in taking the census in the province of Syria, and, on this account, Tertullian (Lib. iv., c. 7, adv. Marcion), referring to the Roman Archives in proof of our Lord’s nativity and its circumstances, says (c. 19), that the census was taken by Sentius Saturninus, as he was the ordinary Governor of Syria at the time, whom Cyrinus had associated with himself, in this important business. Cyrinus only is mentioned by St. Luke, because eleven years afterwards he returned as ordinary Governor of Syria, when, after the banishment of Archelaus, Judea was annexed to the province of Syria. It is likely our Lord was registered, at least, on the octave day of His nativity, when He was circumcised and returned on this census. For, Justin Martyr, addressing Antoninus Pius, appeals to the Roman census under Cyrinus, and Tertullian (ut supra), to their own archives, in proof of our Lord’s nativity. The Greek, omitting the particle “by,” merely has—ἡγεμονεύοντος τῆς Συρίας Κυρηνιό—Cyrinus being President of Syria.

Some understand, “first,” of the census made by Cyrinus as extraordinary Commissioner, in the life-time of Herod, in opposition to a second made by the same Cyrinus, eleven years after this, when, on the banishment of Archelaus, his kingdom was annexed to the Roman Province of Syria, of which Cyrinus was then appointed ordinary Governor (Josephus, Antiq., Lib. 15, c. 1); and a tax levied, which gave occasion to the unhappy rebellion of Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37). St. Luke refers to the former census; Josephus to the latter. Or “first” may mean the first census of Judea made by the authority of the Romans, who committed it to Cyrinus, Governor of Syria (Justin Martyr adv. Typhon). Some Expositors, in order to remove more fully still, the chronological difficulties raised here, say “first” means, before, a signification the word, πρωτη, bears in other parts of the Gospel; this census was made before Cyrinus was Governor of Syria; while, by others, the words are understood to mean, this enrolment was perfected and its object carried out, viz., the levying of a tax by Cyrinus, when he was President of Syria, eleven years after this.

3. “And all went to be enrolled.” This was the tenor of the decree as regarded Judea; “Every one (went) into his own city.” The usual system of enrolment practised among the Jews was, to commence with the tribe; then, to descend to the family; and then, to the individuals comprised in each family (Josue 7:14; 1 Kings 9:21; 2 Kings 24:2). Augustus wished the same order to be observed on this occasion. Whether any similar arrangement was made in regard to the Gentiles is not ascertained. Livy (Lib. xlii. 10) makes mention of some such arrangement having been made by order of the Consul in regard to the taxing of the allied cities, or the Socii Latini Nominis.

“Into his own city,” not the city of His birth, nor where He dwelled; but, the city whence the head of His family had sprung, as in the present case, Bethlehem was the city of David.

4. “Joseph also went up”—because Judea was higher in point of situation than Galilee—“to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,” to distinguish it from the citadel of Sion, which David built, after having taken it from the Jesubeans, and dwelling there, made the seat of his kingdom. Hence, in several parts of the Book of Kings, it is called “David’s city;” but, he was born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was six miles to the south of Jerusalem, and about seventy from Nazareth, in Galilee, a long and wearisome journey for the Virgin, under the circumstances. It is supposed that it was made on foot.

“Because he was of the house and family of David.” “House and family,” mean one and the same thing, although some Expositors mean by “house,” the several heads of each household; by “family,” the several distinguished members of each tribe. Both words convey, that Joseph sprang from the family, of which David was the distinguished head.

5. “To be enrolled with Mary,” &c. “With Mary,” may be joined with “enrolled,” or, “went up” (v. 4), or rather with both, as both occurrences took place. He went up with her, and he was enrolled with her. Women, as well as men, were enrolled at every such census, particularly with a view to the capitation tax, which, most likely, was the chief or ultimate object Augustus contemplated in ordering it. Nor can we see why Mary, in an advanced state of pregnancy, would have undertaken so toilsome a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, unless in obedience to the law requiring her to be enrolled. So that she might say with her Son, “We must fulfil all justice,” particularly as she was an heiress of the Tribe of Juda, and family of David (see Matthew 1:16, Commentary on). All this was regulated by the all-wise providence of God, in view of the birth of His Son in Bethlehem, as had been long before predicted by the prophets (Micheas 5:2).

“His espoused wife.” The word, “espoused,” is used to show, that although married to Joseph, she was, still, an Immaculate Virgin.

“Who was with child,” on the point of giving birth to a child, at the time of their arrival in Bethlehem, now referred to.

6. “And it came to pass,” not by chance, but by the ordination of God’s providence.

“That when they were there,” which some Commentators, Maldonatus, Toletus, Lucas Brugensis, Jansenius, &c., understand to mean, having tarried there some days after their arrival; either waiting for their turn to be enrolled, or, after being enrolled, awaiting the event, which they knew would certainly come to pass there. Others (with Silveira, &c.), understand the words to mean, immediately on their arrival. These quote a revelation made to St. Brigid (Lib. 7; Revel. c. 21), that the Blessed Virgin brought forth our Lord the night she reached Bethlehem.

“Her days were accomplished,” that is, fully nine months—the natural period of gestation—commencing with the conception of our Lord, on the 25th of March, and His birth, on the 25th of December, which, “the authority of the Church keeps, taking up the tradition of the ancients on the subject” (St. Augustin de Trinitate, Lib. iv. c. 5). “Sicut a majoribus traditum suscipiens Ecclesiæ custodit auctoritas.” It is thus shown, that our Lord was born in the fulness of time, having been carried in His mother’s womb, like other children, thereby proving He was true man, no less than true God, begotten of the Father by an eternal generation.

7. “And she brought forth her first-born Son.” She gave Him birth, as other women do to their offspring. But she did so, unlike them, without any detriment to her virginal integrity, being, as Catholic faith teaches, a spotless Virgin, “ante partum, in partu, post partum.” He emanated from her, just as His glorious body penetrated the apartment in which His Apostles were assembled after His resurrection, the door remaining shut; and as the rays of the sun penetrate glass, without any fracture of its component parts. She also brought Him forth without pain, or iassitude, or weakness of any sort, being free from the curse entailed on other mothers by sin, “in dolore filios paries” (Genesis 3:16). Commentators observe, that while of Elizabeth it is said, “she brought forth a son” (chap. 1:57); of Mary, it is said, “she brought forth her Son,” as if to convey, that she was the mother of her Son, in the strictest sense of the word; and even might be called the mother of her Son, on a title still stricter than applies to other mothers; because her Son had no father on earth, unlike other children; and His mother alone, without the co-operation of an earthly father, supplied the substance of His sacred body. Now, as this Son is also God, having a Divine Person only; hence, Mary is justly termed, the Mother of God.

“First-born.” For meaning, see Matthew, chap. 1. v. 25.

“And wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes,” as is commonly done to infants, to prevent distortion of the limbs. Although this was not needed in the case of our Blessed Lord; still, the Blessed Virgin acted in His regard, as mothers commonly see done in regard to their new-born babes, and wrapped Him in the swaddling clothes she had provided, in view of the approaching birth of the Divine Infant, of which she was fully aware. From the activity and pious offices performed by the Blessed Virgin, herself in person, requiring no assistance, as ordinary mothers do, immediately on giving birth to the children of sin, it is clear, she brought forth, without pain, or lassitude, which, in other mothers, are the allotted punishment of sin.

“And laid Him in the manger,” which implies, that our Lord was born in a stable. This manger was the most befitting place in the stable for receiving the Divine Infant on His entry into this world. Tradition has it, that, at the time, an ox and an ass were tied to the manger, to which allusion is made (Isaias 1:3), “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib,” as explained by St. Gregory of Nyssa (Serm. de Nativitate), and also, in the Septuagint version of Habucue (3:2), which, instead of the words, as rendered by St. Jerome, “in the midst of the years, thou shalt make it known,” has, “in the midst of two animals, thou shalt be known,” “in medio duorum animalium cognosceris.” This manger is now religiously preserved in the Basilica of St. Mary Major, at Rome, and made the object of pious veneration.

“Because there was no room for them in the inn.” Either on account of their having arrived late, the inns, or places of public reception—caravanseries, as they are called in the East—were crowded by the concourse of people coming from all quarters, to be enrolled at Bethlehem. Hence, no room for Joseph and Mary; or even if they arrived, as most likely they did, in time, they were obliged, on account of their poverty, to make way for more favoured and more welcome guests, especially as there might be some reluctance in receiving a woman evidently far gone in pregnancy. Thus “there was no room for them.” They were, therefore, forced to take shelter in a stable, where the King of Heaven and Creator of the Universe, to whom belongs the earth and its fulness, was to be born. There is a diversity of opinion among Commentators regarding the site of this stable. Some hold, that it was a kind of outhouse attached to the inn, in the little town of Bethlehem. Others, however, who explored the Holy Land, and among them St. Jerome (Ep. ad Marcellam; Bede, de locis sanctis) maintain, that it was at the extreme eastern side of the town, a cave hewn in a rock, whither the shepherds were wont to drive their cattle as a place of protection against the inclemency of the weather.

What a mystery of love and humiliation. The God of heaven, the Almighty Creator of the universe, the Eternal Son of God, becoming a weak babe and born in a stable, although His “was the earth and its fulness.” What excess of love. “God so loved the world” (and this world His enemy by sin, sunk in the depth and mire of sinful degradation), “as to give up for it His only begotten Son” (John 3:16), “and evidently great is this mystery of godliness. manifested in the flesh,” &c. (1 Timothy 3:16.)

What a moving example of humility, austerity, poverty, penance, and above all, of charity, does He not leave us in the stable. While “the foxes had their dens, and the birds of the air their nests, He had not whereon to lay His head.” Born in a stable, living in a workshop, dying on a gibbet “being rich, He became poor, for our sakes, that through His poverty we might be made rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). From the pulpit of the crib, He addresses us—I, “who measured the waters in the hollow of my hand … and poised with three fingers the bulk of the earth, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance” (Isaias 40:12); who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing, the King of glory, and Lord of majesty, before whom “the pillars of heaven tremble” (Job 26:11), “and under whom they stoop, that bear up the world” (Job 9:13), in order to save you, wretched worms of the earth, and out of pure love, to rescue you from the unquenchable flames of hell, and bring you to the happiness of heaven—“came leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills” (Cant. 2:8). From heaven and my Father’s bosom, I leaped to the Virgin’s womb; from her womb, to earth; from earth, to the cross; from the cross, to the lower regions; thence, I leaped back to earth; from earth, to heaven, to convey you thither. By the bowels of my mercy, I visited you rising from on high; and I united heaven to earth, God to man, by the closest personal union. I became flesh, to make you God; and when you became like the horse and mule, and without understanding, like unto the brute beasts, I was born between two brute animals, to rescue you from this miserable servitude (A Lapide).

8. Having described the circumstances of our Lord’s birth, His poverty and humility, St. Luke now describes the kind of people first favoured with the joyful tidings. “In the same country,” surrounding Bethlehem and its immediate proximity, St. Jerome (Lib. de locis Hebraicis) says, it was the place of the Flock Tower, or Tower of Eder (Genesis 35:21), where Jacob dwelt with his flocks on his return from Mesopotamia, and where Rachel died and was buried. Ven. Bede (Lib. de locis Sanctis) says, they were three in number, as were the Magi also in number, three.

“Shepherds watching.” The Greek word for “watching,” αγραυλοῦντες, properly signifies, dwelling in the fields, either in the open air, or covered with tents. David formerly cared his father’s sheep as shepherd, probably in the very same place near Bethlehem.

“And keeping the night watches.” Watching for a fixed portion of the night, till relieved by others, who spent their allotted portion of time, when they, in turn, were relieved. In this, there is allusion to the division of the nights into four watches, at that time observed by the Jews in imitation of Roman usage (see Matthew 14:25). The Greek literally means, “watching the watches of the night,” or nightly watches, “over their flock,” to guard them against wolves or robbers.

Some writers, with Scaliger, infer from this, that our Lord’s birth occurred not in the end (25th) of December—as the weather would be then too cold for shepherds to tend their flocks out at night; but, in September, when the shepherds could live out at night, watching their flocks. But, the constant tradition of the Church has always been, that our Lord was born at night, on the 25th December; and, as regards the reason adduced to the contrary by Scaliger, it is of no weight if it be borne in mind, that, in hot climates, flocks are fed out on the pastures at night even in mid-winter, or in huts, such as most likely were erected around the “Flock Tower” or Tower of Eder, for sheltering flocks in case of great severity of weather (A. Lapide).

9. “And behold,” as a matter of unusual occurrence, coming on them, quite unexpectedly.

“An Angel of the Lord,” generally supposed to be Gabriel, who had been already entrusted by God with such an exalted commission in connexion with the Incarnation. (Tertullian, Lib. de carne Christi; Cyprian, de Nativitate, Bede, &c.)

“Stood by them,” probably, in a visible, human form, which was now assumed by the King of Angels Himself. The Greek, επεστη, would signify also, to stand over them, as if gliding down from heaven; and this rendering would be in perfect accordance with what is said of “the multitude of the heavenly army” (v. 13), who accompanied “the Angel” referred to, and were no doubt aloft in the air.

“And the brightness of God.” Some divine effulgence reflected from the glorious majesty of God, such as was reflected from our Lord in His glorious transfiguration on Thabor, when “His face shone as the sun.”

“Shone round about them,” enveloping them, and diffusing a bright light on every side, so as to dispel the surrounding darkness, and show it was divinely sent.

“And they feared with a great fear,” as men usually do, when there is question of the supernatural. Among the Jews, it was thought, that whosoever saw an angel, would die (Judges 6:22, 23; 13:22).

The Greek for “the brightness of God,” has “the brightness of the Lord,” δοξα τοῦ κυρίου. And the Angel calls our Redeemer, “Lord,” “Christ the Lord” (v. 11), as if the Evangelist meant to convey, that it was the same Christ, our Lord, who was laid obscurely in a manger, that as Sovereign King of heaven, despatched His angels and shed a heavenly effulgent light around the shepherds.

Several reasons are assigned why our Lord appeared first to the poor shepherds, the chief of which are—1st, because He wished, in His humility and poverty, as He had selected a poor stable to be born in, to show a preference for the poor and humble, since “His communication is with the simple” (Prov. 3:32), making them His first Evangelists, as He made fishermen His Apostles; and, because in the whole economy of Redemption, while forwarding the new order of things, which He came to establish on earth, He made use of “the weak to confound the strong, the foolish to confound the wise … and the things that are not, to bring to nought the things that are” (1 Cor. 1:28), thus removing all grounds for boasting on the part of creatures. He, therefore, hid these things from the wise, the Scribes and Pharisees, and the princes who would have derided Him (Matthew 11:25; Luke 7:30); 2ndly, because the shepherds were, in their occupation, very like the Patriarchs, themselves shepherds, to whom were made the promises regarding the future Incarnation of the Son of God; 3rdly, because their occupation resembled His own, who was “the good Shepherd,” and was to lay down His life for sheep; 4thly, to convey, that He was one day to be offered up as the Lamb, who was to take away the sins of the world, and had by the retrospective merits of His future Passion, remitted sins in all former ages, being the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, “agnus occisus ab origine mundi” (Apoc. 13:8).

It is remarked by Ven Bede, that never in the Old Testament is it said of angels, that they appeared surrounded with light, as is said here; because now a light has risen for those who are upright of heart, “exortum est in tenebris lumen rectis.”

10. The Angel dispels the fear caused by his presence and the heavenly effulgence which accompanied him.

“For, behold I bring you good tidings.” I announce “to you,” and not to the great ones of the earth, excellent tidings regarding a subject, which will cause “great joy,” not only to you, but “to all the people” of Judea, to whom it is announced first, and “to all the people” and nations of the earth, and to all generations of men, who shall have cause to rejoice for it for all eternity, in the priceless blessings and solid good which they shall derive from it, both in time and eternity.

11. “For this day is born to you a Saviour,” absolutely called so, because He rescues us from all sin, its guilt and eternal liability; and all this He shall one day perfect in the general resurrection of the just. This was the subject of the “great joy” whereby the Angel wished to dispel their fears and calm their apprehensions. It was a subject not only of great joy, but of the greatest joy ever communicated to the human race.

“This day”—showing the cause of joy to be present—this very hour of midnight, when we are on the point of entering on a new day, “is born,” a perfect man after having assumed human nature “to you” Israelites, to whom He was promised in the first place, “parvulus natus est nobis; filius datus est nobis” (Isaiah 9:6) or, “to you,” as representatives of the human race: for, it was not for Angels, who needed Him not, He was born; but, for lost man. “Born for you,” as your Saviour, in His second generation, as Man God, who in His first generation from the Eternal Father, was begotten as God, the Creator, “per quem, omnia facta sunt.”

“Who is Christ the Lord,” thereby implying His divine nature, as His human nature was implied in the preceding, “born to you.” “Christ,” the Messiah, anointed in virtue of the hypostatic union, to be Prophet, Priest and King (see Matthew 1:1), “anointed with the oil of gladness, beyond His fellows.”

“In the city of David,” conveys, that He was the blessed seed referred to by the prophets, as springing from the seed of David, and that He was born in the place indicated and foretold by the Prophet Micheas (5:2), viz., Bethlehem. The words, “city of David,” are used preferably to Bethlehem, to point out Christ’s descent, as had been foretold, from David (John 7:42).

In order to estimate at their full value, the magnitude of the blessings contained in the words, “born to you a Saviour,” we have only to consider the state of the world, the miserably hopeless, spiritual condition of the human race, progressing daily from bad to worse, at the time of the birth of our Redeemer. St. Paul graphically describes it in reference to the Gentile world (Rom. 1:23–32), and in reference to the Jews, (2:19–24), and in reference to both together (3:11–19). Out of this miserable state, which would, in all probability, have become worse every day, as it had been progressing in evil up to that, only the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ could have rescued them. Hence, the necessity of His coming; and when He did come, to establish a new order of things, to institute a new creation, whereby He renewed the face of the earth, the abundance of grace and gifts He bestowed far exceeded the evil entailed by sin. “Where sin abounded, grace abounded still more” (Rom. 5:15–20). Hence, the birth of the Son of God, in accordance with the economy of Redemption decreed by the Almighty, was a subject “of great joy to all the people,” to all generations of men, who were to exist on earth to the end of time.

12. “And this shall be a sign unto you.” If you wish to go and pay your homage to your new-born Saviour, in order to distinguish Him from others, this will serve as a distinctive sign. Others say, the Angel meant by the words, “I give you a proof and confirmatory argument of the truth of my announcement, that the long expected Saviour is born, and that He is Christ the Lord.” It is quite usual in Scripture for divinely commissioned messengers to give signs, as proofs of the truth of what they assert. Thus, Gabriel gave it to Zachary (1:20); to the Blessed Virgin (36); the Angel to Gideon (Judges 6:36, 37); Samuel to Saul (1 Kings 10:2). Most likely, however, the Angel primarily refers to a distinctive sign for knowing the infant and distinguishing Him from others; and it may be also, in a certain sense, confirmatory of the truth of what he announced, by showing he could divine future contingent things, and tell beforehand what would happen. The holy Virgin might have changed the position of the infant, and instead of having Him “laid in a manger,” at the advent of the shepherds, she might have him clasped in her blessed arms. The Angel, to prove his divine mission and credibility, states the exact position of affairs on their arrival.

“You shall find the infant,” if you mean to go and pay Him your homage, not in a royal palace, in regal splendid attire, but, “wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.” His first advent amongst us was in humility and poverty, thus the more effectually to elevate, by being the first Himself to enter on it, the new order of things He came to establish, viz.: to exalt poverty, humility, beyond riches, pride, worldly comfort, so much prized by men, who were fast going along the broad road that leads to perdition.

Some say, “the manger,” and “stable,” referred to here, were commonly known to the shepherds, as celebrated all over the country; otherwise the Angel would not have given the shepherds sufficient information, if there were many such places in Bethlehem. Others hold, the Angel probably pointed out the direction in which the manger lay—a circumstance omitted in his narrative by the Evangelist—and that the grace of God, interiorly enlightening them, guided them securely thither.

13. “And suddenly,” unexpectedly, as soon as the Angel ceased to speak, after making the joyous announcement.

“There was with the Angel,” either, at that moment descending from heaven, as Ven. Bede, &c., hold, or, then only heard and seen, although present with the Angel from the beginning of the joyous announcement of our Saviour’s birth, as is held by others. It is commonly held, they were seen as well as heard by the shepherds.

“A multitude of the heavenly army.” That is, a countless number of angels, who came to corroborate the testimony of the Angel, who announced the birth, so that there would be more than one witness, and all doubt might be removed from the minds of the shepherds. It is very likely, the Heavenly Father sent all the angels of heaven to adore His Incarnate Son on this occasion, to which reference is made in the words, “Adorate eum omnes angeli ejus” (Psalm 96:8), “et cum iterum introducit primogenitum in orbem terræ, dicit, et adorent eum omnes Angeli Dei” (Hebrews 1:6). The angels are called “an army,” on account of their number, on account of their orderly, hierarchical division, on account of their great power, and their readiness ever to obey the commands of their great Leader in heaven, mighty in battle, who is so often termed, “Deus virtutum, Deus exercituum, Deus Sabaoth,” the number of whose soldiers is beyond counting (Job 25:3.)

“Praising God,” with songs of exquisite, angelic melody, thanking Him for the ineffable manifestation of His goodness, displayed in the birth of His Eternal Son; and the priceless benefits resulting from it to earth and heaven. If, at the first creation, “the morning stars praised Him together, and all the sons of God made a joyful melody” (Job 38), with how much greater reason should all heaven now resound with shouts of joy and jubilee at the birth of His Son—the greatest of all His works, the second and more exalted creation, by which He renewed the face of the earth?

14. “Glory to God in the highest: and on earth peace to men of good will.” According to this reading, adopted by the Vulgate—“pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis”—there are but two members in the sentence. According to the ordinary Greek reading, there are three members. “Glory to God … and on earth peace, good will in men,” και επι της γης ειρηνη, εν ανθρωποις ευδοκια. In the Vatican MS., the reading is, ευδοκιας, bonæ voluntatis, which is followed by the Vulgate, and by the most ancient Latin writers, by Origen (Hom. 13 in Lucam), Chrysostom (Hom. de Nativitate); by the Codex Cantabrigensis, by St. Iræneus, SS. Cyril of Jerusalem, Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, &c. The antithesis between “God in the highest heaven,” and “men on earth,” is better sustained by rendering the sentence, bimembris; for, between “men,” and “earth,” there is hardly any distinction; since, it is only of men there is question when “earth” is spoken of. Another question arises as to whether the words are assertive or optative. The former seems more likely; inasmuch, as, the praises of the angels seem to extol God for what has been mercifully accomplished by Him. The result of the birth of Christ is, “Glory to God,” of which He had been hitherto robbed, when man impiously transferred to senseless idols, what was His inalienable due. His power, wisdom, goodness, mercy, and other attributes are now displayed in the birth of His Son, and proclaimed, as due to Him, “in the highest” heavens. These words may be joined immediately with “God,” who dwells in the highest heavens; or, with “Glory,” which is rendered in the highest heavens to God, by the angels who surround His throne, and sing a new song of joy in praise of His infinite perfections, now so resplendently manifested in the Incarnation and birth of His Son.

“And on earth peace to men of good will.” “And” may mean, “because.” Glory to God, &c., because, on earth peace is established, which was so long desired. The word “peace,” according to a Hebrew usage, means every description of blessings. It may mean, “peace,” reconciliation with God, which is soon to be effected by the blood of His Son, who is to reconcile sinful man to His Father, offended by sin, and pay the price of his ransom, and make full satisfaction and atonement; or, “peace” between man and man, who were hitherto held asunder. This peace Christ came to establish, breaking down, by His blood, the middle wall of partition, which kept asunder for ages Jews and Gentiles. He came to establish true peace between all the tribes of the earth, by meriting for them the grace to overcome their dreadful feelings of mutual enmity and desires of revenge, which corrupt nature of itself could not overcome; and by substituting in their place, the sweet law of charity, forgiveness of injuries, and brotherly love.

“Men of good will,” is understood by some to mean, that while Christ came to establish peace for all, and to tender to all the blessings of peace; it was only men of good will, men well-disposed to profit by the graces and blessings thus offered, that would actually enjoy the priceless blessings of this peace, which He came to establish.

Others, looking to the meaning of the Greek word for “good will,” ευδοκια, which, although sometimes understood of men (Romans 10:1), generally, and almost always, in Sacred Seriptures is understood to refer to God, to His benevolence, favour, gracious designs of mercy towards men (as Psalm 149:4, 7; Ephes. 1:5), interpret the words in connexion with “peace” thus, “and on earth, peace of good will,” which results not from men’s merits or deserts; but is purely the effect of God’s merciful designs “in,” or towards, “men,” elected by God to salvation, according to the purpose of His good will (Ephes. 1:5), and merciful designs in regard to them.

15. “After the angels,” having discharged their commission, “departed from them into heaven,” in an invisible form, unto God, by whom they were sent. This shows they were good angels.

“The shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this word,” &c. “This word,” this thing. “Word,” in Sacred Scripture, is used, by a Hebrew phrase, to mean any thing. “Which the Lord hath showed to us.” It was “the Lord” who “showed” it to them, preferably to the Scribes and Pharisees, and great ones of the earth; because it was He that commissioned the angels. He “showed,” that is, revealed it, and gave signs for ascertaining it, thereby inviting them to go see for themselves, and learn experimentally the truth of what was said. The shepherds at once obey the heavenly call, and correspond with the Divine inspirations. While the Angel instructed and invited them externally, the grace of God, no doubt, aided and impelled them interiorly to leave their flocks, and visit this Divine Infant in His crib. The same divine grace enlightened them fully as to the Divinity of Him, whom they resolved to visit, and before whom they, doubtless, fell down in prostrate adoration, with mingled feelings of faith, love, and awe.

16. “With haste,” from a burning desire, inspired by the grace of God, to see their infant Saviour, and then to return at once to their flocks.

“They came.” The cave, it is supposed, was a mile distant. “They came in haste.”

“They found Mary”—who brought Him forth in full vigour of health—“and Joseph,” the guardian of His birth, both spending the night in holy contemplation and prayer, “and the infant lying in the manger,” as they had been told beforehand by the Angel. What a consoling spectacle, to behold, for the first time, the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How the souls of the shepherds must be inflamed with divine love, at beholding this Trinity of persons on earth, who most faithfully represented the Trinity of the Godhead in heaven. Happy we, if in spirit, we often visit the Holy Family, and merit to be visited by them, at the awful and decisive moment of death.

17. “And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them.” “Understood,” may mean, they saw, with their own eyes, that the “word,” or announcement, made to them by the Angel was literally true, just as St. John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon,” &c. (1 John 1:1).

The Greek word for “understood,” εγνωρισαν, may also mean to divulge, to noise abroad, which sense accords well with what follows. The shepherds, doubtless, told, not only Mary and Joseph, of the Angel’s announcement, and the hymns of celestial melody chanted in the skies by multitudes of angels, but others also, as appears from the words of following verse, “And all that heard wondered,” &c.

18. “And all that heard wondered.” It is likely, that many on hearing the accounts given of what occurred, went themselves to the stable, and saw with their own eyes, the truth of what was narrated. Some, probably, believed whom God enlightened; others, probably, remained in their incredulity, offended by the lowly appearance and condition of the Divine Infant.

“And at those things that were told them,” &c. The Greek and Syriac have not “and.” Of those who retain it, some understand it to mean, “that is,” at the things, &c. Others, understand it literally, and interpret the words thus, they admired the event of the birth of the Son of God, and, the other circumstances connected with it, which had been told them by the shepherds, such as the announcement made to them by the Angel, and the appearance of multitudes of angels praising God, &c.

19. “Mary kept all these words.” While all others were loud in speaking of the wonderful things they saw and heard, and, probably, Joseph too spoke of what he himself knew, as well from the declaration of the Angel regarding the Divinity of the child, as also from what he himself knew in connexion with His birth, thus strengthening the faith of the shepherds, and others who came to the crib; “Mary,” as modest in regard to her tongue, as she was in body, displaying consummate prudence and humility,

“Kept all these words,” that is to say, things spoken of in her heart. “Pondering them,” putting them together (Bloomfield), comparing the past with the present, the oracles of the prophets regarding the birth of the Saviour from a virgin, and in a determinate place, and other oracles regarding Him, with their full accomplishment; the announcement made to herself by the Angel, regarding the Son to be born of her, with that made to the shepherd, regarding His actual birth. These things she pondered over, and derived from them fresh arguments, to confirm her faith, and “kept them in her heart,” treasured them up in her memory, to be disclosed, at God’s appointed time, to the world, to be made known to His Apostles, and especially to the Evangelist, St. Luke, by whom they are here recorded in detail.

20. “The shepherds,” after being fully satisfied from the testimony of their own senses of the truth of the announcement made by the Angel, now “returned” to the discharge of their duty of tending their flocks, “praising and glorifying God, for all the things they had heard,” and had not only heard, but “seen as it was told to them.” These latter words, “as it was told,” &c., affect the words, “had seen.”

21. “And after eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised.” The words, “after eight days,” do not convey, that the period of eight days had elapsed; and after that, circumcision took place. For, it was on the eighth day, after the birth of a child, this was to take place according to the law of Moses; and here, the words, “that the child should be circumcised,” or, as was appointed by law for His circumcision, show, there is reference to the eighth day commenced but not ended. It is usual in SS. Scripture, to describe as happening after a time, what took place towards the close of it, and before the time had expired. Thus, of our Lord it is said, that “He was to rise after three days;” although, from the context, it is clear it was meant, that this would happen on the third day. So also (Genesis 41:18, 19, 20), where a thing is said to occur “after three days” (18, 19), which occurred “on the third” (v. 20). Here, then, the words mean, after seven days had passed and the eighth had arrived, on which, according to law, the child was to be circumcised. The Evangelist does not expressly say, He was circumcised; but, he implies it, by a reference to the time and law of circumcision, which He submitted to, who came “to fulfil all justice.” Our Lord voluntarily submitted to the painful rite of circumcision; although, not bound to do so, being Himself the legislator; and moreover, the reason of its application to Him did not exist at all, as He was free from all sin, of which circumcision was the type. He submitted to it, however, for several reasons, viz., to give an example of obedience; to take away every pretext from the Jews of rejecting Him, as not being a true son of Abraham; to show, that He assumed a real body on this earth; to approve of the rite of circumcision; to submit to the law, that being “made under the law, He would redeem those who were under the law.” (Gal. 4)

It is likely, He was circumcised in the stable, not by Joseph, but by some Priest or Levite, so that there would be an authentic record of the fact. See chap. 1. v. 59.)

“His name was called Jesus,” by Mary and Joseph, according to the command given from Heaven to both (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31.) The Greek has, “And His name was called Jesus.” “And” may mean, also, or then. It is omitted by the Vulgate interpreter as superfluous. “Which was called by the Angel,” enjoined on them by the Angel to bestow on Him.

“Before He was conceived in the womb.” It was only after the close of the Annunciation, and the consent of the Virgin, that our Lord was conceived in her sacred womb. It was also given Him after He was conceived (Matthew 1:21).

For the meaning and derivation of the word “Jesus” (see Matthew 1:21). The rite of circumcision was most painful to the Divine Infant, who began to suffer thus early for our sakes. It was also most humiliating, even more so still, than His birth in a stable. In the latter case, He took on Himself the form of a man; in the former, of a sinner. But, in reward for this humiliation, He received an exalted name, at the sound of which every knee in heaven, earth, and hell, must bend. And, indeed, in almost every case, where our Lord endured any signal humiliation, His Heavenly Father bestowed on Him some compensation and mark of honour. In the stable, the angels sang hymns of praise; here, He received the most exalted of names; when the Scribes blasphemed His Divine works, the people would exalt Him; at His final humiliation and death, all nature, the sun, the rocks, the very dead, did Him honour, to convey to us, that if we wish to be exalted, we must first be humbled. Such is the disposition of Divine economy established in the present order of things. It is only in the adorable Sacrament of His abiding love on our altars, when He is truly a hidden God, and where He permanently submits to the greatest outrages for our sakes to the end of time, that He receives no proportionate sensible compensation from His Heavenly Father. Hence, the obligation on the part of His faithful, to whom His Heavenly Father intrusts Him, to make, as far as possible, some reparation to Him in this Divine institution, where He is our food during life, our solace at death, the last friend we hope to accompany us, when all others must leave us, our Viatic, guide and support when entering the gates of Eternity, whence we are never to return.

22. “And after the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished.” This means, as explained already in reference to the words, “and after eight days,” &c. (v. 21), when the days filling up the interval between the birth of the child and the day appointed in the law of Moses for the purification of a woman had passed, and the day itself was partially over, for, it was on that day the rite of purification took place. A similar form is used (Leviticus 12:6). There is reference in these two verses to a threefold law enacted by Moses. The first (Leviticus 12) having reference to a woman after child-birth. In case of a son, she should be unclean seven days, during which, anything she touched or came in contact with, was legally unclean. She should remain thirty-three days, besides, in the blood of her purification. During these thirty-three days, she was forbidden to enter the Sanctuary; but, she might not have kept so much aloof from others, as during the preceding seven days. After the lapse of these forty days, she was to be purified according to a certain rite, in the Temple. If she gave birth to a female infant, she was to remain unclean, fourteen days, in the strictest sense, so as to keep aloof from all, as was usual during the seven days succeeding the birth of a male child, and she should remain sixty-six days more—in all, eighty days, double the number of days enjoined in case she gave birth to a male child—in the blood of her purification. During the latter sixty-six days, she was only prevented from entering the Sanctuary. It is to this law, reference is here made by St. Luke, “When the days of her purification according to the law of Moses,” which, in regard to a male child, was forty days. The following words, “and they carried Him to Jerusalem,” have no essential connexion with this law, as the law, having reference to the offering of a male infant was quite distinct from that regarding the purification of the mother, although, usually, the legal process of declaring the mother purified and offering the child took place at the same time.

The second had reference to a sacrifice which the mother, whether in case of the birth of a son or daughter, was bound, by the law of Moses, to offer, on the occasion of her being declared purified. If the parties were rich (Leviticus 12:6–8), they should present a lamb of a year old for holocaust, and a turtle or young pigeon for a sin-offering, which they were to deliver to the priest; if poor, two turtles, or two young pigeons, one for a holocaust, and the other for sin-offering. To this, reference is made by St. Luke (v. 24), “and to offer a sacrifice, &c.,” and as the Blessed Virgin was, from her condition in life—the wife of a carpenter—reckoned among the poor, St. Luke only cites the portion of the Divine ordinance that had reference to the offering on the part of the poor. It is to be observed, that the words (v. 24), “and to offer,” &c., are not joined with, “they carried Him to Jerusalem;” but, with the words, implied and understood, viz., they went to Jerusalem, since the presence of the child was not necessary at the offering of turtles, &c., for, this offering took place, whether there was question of either a male or female child; and in the latter case, the child was not present at all.

The third (Exodus 13) had reference to an ordinance requiring the Jews, in the case of the first-born male, whether of man or beast, that it should be given and consecrated to the Lord, in commemoration of the preservation of the Hebrews, and the slaying of the first-born of the Egyptians by the destroying Angel in Egypt. In case of the first-born of a clean animal, it was offered up as a victim; of an unclean, it was to be redeemed (Numbers 18:15); the first-born of an ass to be exchanged for a sheep; if not redeemed, to be killed (Exodus 13:13). In the case of man, as the Lord had chosen the sons of Levi in place of the first-born male children of His people (Numbers 3), he was to be redeemed at a price (Exod. 13:15) of five sicles. It is to this ordinance St. Luke refers in the words, “They carried Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord, as it is written … every male opening the womb shall be called holy,” that is, shall be dedicated and set apart from profane uses, and thus “holy to the Lord.” Although St. Luke makes no mention of it, it is likely our Lord who came “to fulfil all justice,” was redeemed for five sicles.

It is commonly held, that the Blessed Virgin was not strictly bound by the law of Leviticus 12, prescribing the rite of purification; because she brought forth her child, a pure virgin, without any physical, or moral defilement either. But she complied with this law, to avoid scandal; as her Son, for the same reason, submitted to the knife of circumcision, and paid the tribute. As regards the precept of (Exodus 13) having reference to the offering of the first-born, some hold, the Blessed Virgin was not bound; because the words of the law, “opening the womb,” could not apply to her offspring, who was born of her, without opening her womb, because, she remained a pure virgin. Hers was, therefore, according to these, an exceptional case, not comprehended in the law, relative to the opening of the womb. However, some interpreters understand the words to mean, the first-born of a mother. At all events, as in the preceding case, she offered her Son to avoid scandal, and to give an example of humility and obedience.

The same applies to the offering of two turtles or two young pigeons (the Evangelist does not say which), one offered for a holocaust in thanksgiving for the happy deliverance of the mother; and the other, for a sin-offering. With this also she complied, to give an example of obedience and humility, and to avoid scandal, although, not strictly bound by the precept on this subject.

25. “And behold,” it being a matter well deserving of attention. The Evangelist wishes to convey, that testimony was rendered to our Lord, by two saints of both sexes, venerable for their years, and edifying conduct; both imbued with a prophetic spirit. Hence, their testimony was of the greatest weight.

“There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon.” Some say, he was a priest; because he blessed Joseph and Mary (v. 34). But, it is most likely, if he were a priest, St. Luke, who mentions other qualities in commendation of him, would not have omitted this. He might have blessed Mary and Joseph, in the capacity of a venerable old man.

“Just and devout.” These qualities first assigned in commendation of him, are calculated to add weight to his testimony. “Just,” owing to the inherent justice and sanctification permanently residing in him, and showing this in his relations with his fellow-men. “Devout” (ευλαβης) towards God, whom he reverenced and feared to offend.

“Waiting for the consolation of Israel,” anxiously looking forward to and expecting the advent of Him, who was to bring consolation to Israel, under the temporal and spiritual bondage and misery, from which they suffered. They suffered great temporal evils from the Romans and Herod, and great spiritual tyranny from the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 9:36). Christ was looked forward to as the consoler of Israel. (Isaias 40:1; 51:3; 61:1, 2). Simeon inferred from the several prophecies—the sceptre having passed away from Juda—the fulfilment of the seventy weeks of Daniel, and other prophecies, that the time of the Messiah had arrived. Simeon was more anxious about the public good than his own.

“And the Holy Ghost was in him,” by sanctifying grace, as he was “just,” and also by the gift of prophecy which he possessed, a sense in which the words are often taken in SS. Scripture. They are thus used (Luke 1:35) in reference to the conception of a Son by the Blessed Virgin, and (1:45) in reference to Elizabeth, who, under this influence, began to prophesy. The Evangelist probably mentions this, to show how it is he received an answer; because, God’s Spirit had resided in him.

26. “And he had received an answer.” The Greek word—κεχρηματισμενον—means, to receive an oracular or divine admonition, as in Matthew (2:12). How it is this admonition was communicated, whether orally, or by dream, or by internal inspiration, or otherwise, the Evangelist does not say.

“See death,” means, by a Hebrew idiom, to die.

“The Christ of the Lord.” For the meaning of “Christ,” and its application to our Lord (see Matthew 1:1; Psalm 44:7, 8; Heb. 1:9). The Evangelist ascribes the foregoing qualities to Simeon, to add greater weight to his testimony regarding our Lord.

27. “By the Spirit,” under the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit that “was in him.”

“His parents.” Joseph was the reputed father of our Lord (v. 48).

“To do for Him according to the custom of the law.” Offering Him up to God as first-born male child (v. 23); and, probably, paying the ransom of five sicles, usually paid in such cases.

28. “He also took Him.” “Also,” &c., may mean, that He as well as His mother, who carried Him, or the priest who offered Him, to be returned to His parents on paying the ransom of five sicles. It may also mean, then, or, perhaps, it may be redundant.

“Took Him into his arms,” embracing Him with all faith and devotion, in which he had the advantage over the prophets of old, who only saw Him at a distant futurity, and were gladdened in their exile. The same Holy Spirit that guided and inspired Simeon to enter the Temple, also revealed to him, our Lord as the Redeemer of mankind and Consoler of Israel. We can conjecture, says Origen (in Luc., Hom. 15), what graces Simeon received, who took the Son of God into his arms, when we read of the favours bestowed on the woman who merely touched the hem of His garment. “And blessed God,” thanking Him for having fulfilled His promise, that he would see his Saviour before he died; thanking Him also for the great mystery of the Incarnation of His Son.

29. “Now, O Lord,” who art master of life and death, “who killeth and maketh alive, bringeth down to hell, and bringeth back again,” (1 Kings 2:6). “Dost dismiss,” Greek—απολυεις—means to loosen, to dissolve, as if he meant to loosen the bonds whereby the soul is detained in the body, away from its native, eternal home. Some read the words, imperatively, “now dismiss;” others, in the future, “thou shalt dismiss.” Better give it a present signification; “now, O Lord, whenever it pleases Thee to take me out of life, Thou doest so in peace,” leaving me no cause of regret, nothing to bind me to earth. All my desires are satiated. The words, “in peace,” are to be joined to “dost dismiss.” “Peace,” among the Jews, meant the quiet possession of all blessings. Here, the fulness of satiety without any want or cause for regret. The words of Simeon are similar to those of Jacob on beholding Joseph (Genesis 46:30), “Now shall I die with joy, because I have seen thy face.”

“Thy servant.” He speaks of himself in the third person, out of humility.

“According to Thy word,” or promise made, that before death I would see my Salvation. This promise being now enjoyed by me, there is nothing else to bind me to this earth. I can, therefore, depart contentedly out of life, the only thing to keep me anxiously in it, to bind me to it, being to see your promise fulfilled. But, now, this promise fulfilled, I depart cheerfully at any moment Thou mayest fix upon.

30. “Because my eyes have seen Thy salvation.” This is addressed to God, the Father, whose Son, sent by Him—“Thy salvation”—for the salvation and redemption of His people, is frequently in SS. Scripture called “Salvation” (Genesis 40:8; Psalm 50:14; 84:8; 118:81, &c.; Isaias 32:10; Habacuc 3:18). Simeon is now willing to die, because with his corporal eyes, he saw Him present, whom with the eyes of his soul, he believed to be the Eternal Son of God, and who was only seen in spirit by the Patriarchs at a distant futurity.

31. “Which” (“salvation,” or) Saviour, “Thou hast prepared,” by an Eternal decree, and sent in time, not to a remote corner of Judea; but, “before the face of all peoples,” Jews and Gentiles alike, whom He was to redeem; and who by knowing Him, and looking on Him by faith, conceived from the preaching of His Apostles and their successors were to obtain eternal happiness and full redemption from all evils here and hereafter. Here holy Simeon refers to the calling of the Gentile world, and their full participation in these spiritual blessings, of which the Jews alone were hitherto the depositaries (Romans 3:2; 9:1, 2).

32. “A light,” that is, Thou hast prepared Him to be “a light.” It is put in apposition to “salvation” (v. 30). A light to enlighten the Gentiles sunk in the densest darkness of error, unbelief, and sin, “sitting in darkness and the shadow of death” (1:79), and to be the glory of the Jewish people, to whom it was a source of particular glory to have Christ born of them, according to the flesh; to have all His miracles during life performed in their midst, not excepting His glorious Resurrection and Ascension; to have His Apostles first sent amongst them. Although the Gentiles derived great glory from the birth of Christ, and the Jews received great light, still, light appropriately applies to the Gentiles, on account of the darkness of Paganism, out of which they were rescued by Christ.

“Father.” Joseph was reputed in public, to be the father of our Lord, being the spouse of His mother, as men are frequently called the fathers of the children they adopt.

“Were wondering,” because, although they knew the Divine Infant to be the Son of God, the destined Saviour of mankind; still, they did not know in detail the things said here of Him by Simeon and Anna; such as, that He was to be the light of the Gentile and the glory of the Jew; that He would be “for the ruin as well as for the resurrection of many, &c.”; that “the sword of sorrow would pierce her soul, &c.” For, what is said in the following verses formed the subject of admiration on their part, just as well as what precedes.

34. While holding Jesus in his arms, “Simeon blessed them,” His parents. We cannot for a moment suppose he would presume to bless Him whom he knew to be the Son of God. The form of sacerdotal blessing is given, (Numbers 6:24, 25, &c.) Simeon’s blessing of them here, according to St. Bonaventure, consisted in congratulating them; Mary, in having given birth to the source of all good; Joseph, in being charged, as reputed father, with His education; and, in wishing them the increase of all blessings. Before treating of His future Passion and Mary’s sufferings on His account, Simeon “blessed them,” to prepare them for the bitter cup in store for them.

“And said to Mary His mother.” These words he addresses to her in particular, because they concerned her; and, in all probability, Joseph was not alive when these prophetic words were verified in her regard. It is likely, Joseph died before our Lord’s manifestation to Israel, and was not on earth to be looked upon by men as the reputed father of Jesus, when He publicly called God His Father. Epiphanius (Hæresi 71, contra Antidicomarianatas). Simeon, after congratulating her, on the wonderful things God did for her, now predicts the sufferings of herself and her Son.

“Behold,” as a matter deserving of all attention, “this” (child), whom I have proclaimed to be a Saviour in the face of all peoples, will still be the occasion, through their own perversity, of the eternal ruin of many.

“Is set for the full and resurrection of many in Israel.” Our Lord was set as the foundation in the spiritual edifice of the Church, indirectly, for the fall and spiritual ruin of many in Israel, being its occasion, owing to their own perversity, and obstinate rejection of His preaching and mission; but He was set directly, “for their resurrection,” their resuscitation from the grave of sin and infidelity, to a new life of grace, truth, and sanctity here, and a life of eternal glory hereafter. This was directly intended by God, as the effect of Christ’s coming.

This is allusive to Isaias (8:14; 28:16), quoted by St. Paul (Rom. 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6; Acts 4:11; Matthew 21:42).

“And for a sign which shall be contradicted.” Holy Simeon here corroborates what he had already said regarding our Lord being set up “for the ruin of many,” who shall perversely oppose Him, by word and act; and who by blasphemous charges and persecutions shall oppose and make Him the mark, at which they shall level an the arrows of their cruel hate and malignity. In several parts of SS. Scripture our Lord is referred to, both as a “sign to be set up” (Isaias 8:18; 11:10; Lament. 3:12, 13; Job 16:13), and as an object of contradiction. (Psa. 17:44; Heb. 12:3, &c.) The idea is borrowed from archers, who level their arrows at some mark they set up, and cease not till by perforation in all parts it is rendered perfectly valueless. So, this prophecy of Simeon is seen thoroughly verified from the history of our Lord’s life, in the calumnies, the expressions of hatred, malevolence and envy He suffered at the hands of the Jews, and the persecution they subjected Him to, throughout the whole course of His sacred mission, until finally they raised Him aloft on the cross, thus contradicting or rather persecuting Him to the very death. While the “sign of contradiction” includes all the sufferings of our Redeemer through life; it is likely, it contains special reference to His elevation on the cross, with marked allusion to the brazen serpent raised up by Moses in the desert, which was a figure of our Lord’s crucifixion (John 3:14). It was at the time of our Lord’s crucifixion the following words of Simeon regarding the “sword” of sorrow, &c., were specially verified.

The Greek for, “shall be contradicted,” is in the present, αντιλεγομενον, but the Vulgate interpreter gave the sense in the future tense; or, the Greek word may mean, that He was a sign liable to contradiction, as some of the Holy Fathers have it, signum contradicibile.

35. “And thy own soul,” as well as the soul of your Son, “a sword shall pierce.” It shall penetrate His soul and body, and cause His death; and, by the same stroke, while killing Him, it shall wound her soul, and transfix it to its inmost depths. By the “sword,” is meant, the contumelious language, [“lingua eorum gladius acutus” (Psalm 56:5); “exacuerunt ut gladium linguas suas” (Psalm 63:4)] addressed to her Son, both in life, and particularly, at His death, and the torments inflicted on Him, especially during His cruel Passion. She suffered in her soul the most intense grief, which may be measured by her intense love for her suffering Son; by the dignity of His person; by the atrocity and duration of His torments; by His utter dereliction, “ut quid dereliquisti,” &c. Simeon predicts these, in order to fortify the Virgin against them, by preparing her to bear them, as she did, with the greatest sense of dignity and heroic patience.

“That out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed.” These words are commonly connected with the preceding verse, and the intervening words, “a sword shall pierce thy own soul,” read parenthetically, “behold this child is set for the fall … to be contradicted” (and thy own soul …) “that out of many hearts, &c.,” as if it were meant to convey, that the consequence of His being “set for the fall and resurrection of many,” was, that “out of many hearts, &c.;” or, the cause (“that” signifying either cause or consequence, or both), of His being thus contradicted, was, to elicit the latent thoughts of many regarding Him. Some affecting great love for justice, a great longing desire for the advent of their Messiah, regarding whom, however, they entertained erroneous notions, scornfully rejected Him, and rejoiced in His ignominy and death; others, who were in heart and soul true believers, now openly avowing their convictions, resolved to sacrifice everything for His sake. In truth, at all periods of the Christian dispensation, our Lord’s presence in this world, as a sign rejected by many, would be the test for disclosing men’s innermost thoughts, for showing, on the one hand, who were His humble followers, that were to be numbered among His elect; and, on the other, who, the obstinate unbelievers were, that perversely rejected Him.

Others, who reject the idea of the preceding words, “a sword,” &c., being included in a parenthesis, hold, that these words are to be connected immediately with the preceding, and mean, that the sight of the Virgin, transfixed with sorrow at the foot of the cross, would have the effect of causing many to associate themselves with her, and openly and fearlessly proclaim their belief in our Lord (John 19:38; Mark 15:14). Thus, we see Nicodemus, the holy women, St. John, and others, who fled from fear, now rally round the Blessed Virgin in the hour of her intense sorrow, and openly proclaim their faith and feelings.

36. The Evangelist now adduces a second witness to our Lord’s divinity—since our Lord came to repair and redeem both sexes—so that, “in the mouth of two witnesses every word might stand.” He mentions certain qualities pertaining to this witness, “Anna,” which served to add greater weight to her testimony. Her name “Anna,” which signifies, grace; her parent, “Phanuel,” well known for his goodness at the time; “the tribe” from which she sprung, “Aser,” thus distinguishing her from others of the name who might have lived at the time.

“A prophetess,” filled with the spirit of prophecy, as appears (v. 38); probably, she may have been regarded as such by common repute.

“Far advanced in years,” not likely to be carried away by youthful enthusiasm.

“And had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity.” In these words she is commended for her virginal and conjugal chastity. She reached puberty and got married about the 15th year of her age.

37. “She was a widow until fourscore and four years.” In this, she is commended for her continency in the state of widowhood, not again seeking second nuptials. Some, with St. Ambrose, understand these words to embrace the period of time she was a widow, so that according to them, she must have reached about the 106th year of her age, during fifteen of which she was a virgin; seven, a married woman; 84 a widow. From the Greek reading, it is commonly inferred that the term 84, comprises the number of years she lived up to this time. “Who departed not from the Temple,” spent a great part of her time there. Some say, she lived in the Temple, or in the apartments set aside for devout females in the Temple, “who watched at the door of the tabernacle” (Exodus 38:8).

“By fastings and by prayers”—these kindred virtues, which serve as wings to raise up the soul to God, to whom they have been from the beginning in all dispensations, and are still and shall be, so acceptable, “bona est oratio cum jejunio.” (Tobias 12) “Serving.” The Greek word, λατρευουσα, signifies, offering the homage of divine worship. This she did almost constantly, “night and day,” by means of prayer and fasting. Fasting and prayer are recommended in the Old Testament and the New, as specially agreeable to God. Fasting disposes for prayer; excessive indulgence renders us unfit for it. “Qui corporali jejunio … mentem elevas” (Præf. Missæ). What then are we to think of those who, boasting of their Christian profession, decry by every means, this Christian exercise of fasting, so much commended throughout the SS. Scriptures?

38. “Now she at the same hour,” at the time Simeon holding our Lord in his arms spoke of Him, as above. “Coming in,” not by chance, but under the guidance and impulse of the same Holy Spirit that directed Simeon to the Temple at the time (v. 27). “Coming in,” Greek, επιστᾶσα, would signify, coming up. Probably, leaving the place in the Temple where she was engaged in prayer, she came up to the portion of it in which the child and His parents were.

“Confessed to the Lord,” gave thanks and praised His eternal mercies in having now, at His appointed time, sent His Son into the world, and exhibited Him now in His holy temple. The Greek word, ανθωμολογεῖτο, would imply, that she did so in turn on her own part, in response to the praises uttered by Simeon.

“And spoke of Him.” She acted discreetly by not speaking of Him to every one, who cared little for His coming, and might spurn her profession; but, “to all that looked,” with sincere and anxious minds, and a spirit of true faith and piety, “for the redemption of Israel”—the coming of the promised Messiah, now present, who was to be for them, a Saviour to rescue them from sin and its temporal and eternal consequences. The Greek has, “the Redemption in Jerusalem,” and some Greek MSS., viz., Vatican, “of Jerusalem.” However, it does not much affect the sense. In the latter reading, “of Jerusalem,” there is mention of a part, the most prominent and conspicuous, of the Jewish nation, whose capital city was Jerusalem, the seat of their religion—so a part is used for the whole; the other reading, “in Jerusalem,” would either mean, that they were expecting this redemption would be accomplished in Jerusalem, or that she spoke to such as expected the Messiah in Jerusalem. It may be, that the Evangelist wrote both, viz., “all who were expecting the salvation of Israel in Jerusalem.”

39. “And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord,” in regard to the purification of the mother, the presentation of a pair of turtles, or two young pigeons; the offering of the child, and His redemption, as first-born, for five sicles.

“They returned into Galilee,” &c. (See Matthew 2:13, as to the time at which this occurred, and the order of events connected with it.) St. Luke passes over the flight into Egypt, the visit of the Magi, probably, because St. Matthew had already fully described these occurrences. Some say, they proceeded from Judea to Egypt, as it was to Judea Joseph afterwards was about returning from his exile. Others say, from Nazareth. Others, from Bethlehem, whither they went directly from the Temple, with the view of returning to Nazareth. Nothing certain is known regarding it.

40. “And the child grew,” in stature, “and waxed strong,” His limbs becoming more firm and robust, as He grew in bodily size. The common Greek has, “waxed strong in spirit,” having reference to His soul, which was filled with all the gifts of the Holy Ghost, by whom He was conceived.

“Full of wisdom,” with which His soul was full, arising from the hypostatic union, from the moment of His Incarnation. The Greek reading—πληρουμενον σοφιας—would convey, that He gradually acquired experimental knowledge, or, it may mean, that while interiorly filled with all knowledge and wisdom, which, according to some, was incapable of increase or augmentation, as, “in Him were hidden all the treasures of wisdom, &c.” (Coloss. 2:3), He, externally, to the eyes of men, became more and more perfect in the exhibition of all virtues, being thoroughly free from all these faults and imperfections, to which children and youth are commonly subject.

“And the grace of God was in Him,” or, as the Greek—επʼ αυτο—has it, “upon Him,” that is to say, the favour, unchangeable complacency, and benevolence of His Heavenly Father, who was always well pleased with Him, ever guided and regulated all His movements and actions. By saying, “the child grew, and waxed strong,” &c., the Evangelist wishes to note the reality of His assumed nature; while, at the same time, he indicates that there was something more to be seen in Him; being free from all imperfections, He every day showed advancement in perfection.

41. “And His parents went every year,” &c. The men were commanded by the law of Moses (Exodus 23:14–17; 34:23; Deut. 16:16) to go to the Temple three times in the year, viz., at the solemn festivals of the Pasch, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. It was not enjoined on the women; the Blessed Virgin, however, out of devotion, accompanied her husband. Whether Joseph himself went up on these three occasions, or, only at the Pasch—the greatest solemnity of all—and whether Mary accompanied him on these three occasions, with the child Jesus, is disputed. Some hold, Joseph went up only at the Pasch, from which there was no dispensation; and that, on account of the great distance of Jerusalem from Nazareth, he was dispensed from going to the two other feasts. It is, however, more commonly held, that Joseph attended on all three occasions each year; and that his holy Virgin spouse accompanied him on these several occasions; and, as it is most unlikely, they left their heavenly charge behind them; it is, therefore, commonly held that our Lord always accompanied them. Moreover, in this, they would give a lesson to parents as to the practical early teaching of children in the duties of religion. But, St. Luke refers only to their annual attendance at the Pasch, as it was only at the Pasch, the following wonderful occurrence, in the Temple, where our Lord showed He was “full of wisdom,” took place. He does not deny it regarding other occasions. And, although the cruel Archelaus still reigned in Jerusalem, the dread of whose cruelty caused Joseph to give up all idea of dwelling in Judea (Matt. 2); still, the parents of the child naturally expected He would pass unnoticed in the crowd that flocked to Jerusalem on these solemn festivals. Besides, they had great trust in Providence, for whose honour and service they underwent this risk, and they dreaded offending God, by neglect, more than the danger they incurred from Archelaus, which was diminished by their immediate return home on each occasion. Some hold, that our Redeemer did not go to the Temple till he was twelve years old, when, according to them, Archelaus, in the tenth year of his reign, was banished by Augustus, and sent into exile. Hence, no danger from him.

42. To the end of this verse should be added, in order to complete the sense, the words, “the child also went up with them.”

43. They religiously remained till the Octave day, although not bound to remain, at Jerusalem; and then, returned home, while “the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem.” Some say, He rendered Himself invisible on this, as He did on subsequent occasions (Origen in Luc., Hom. 19). He assigns Himself the reason of His remaining (v. 49).

“And His parents knew it not.” Some Greek copies have, “Joseph and His mother knew it not.” Very likely, He concealed His design from His parents, lest if He asked their permission, which they probably might refuse, He would seem guilty of disobedience by remaining; and He also may have in view to show, He had a more exalted Parent in heaven, whose glory and business He should promote, independently of all earthly relations and considerations. He wished, by remaining, to give a glimpse of the glory concealed within Him, and to prepare men for its manifestation in due time, marked out in the decrees of His Eternal Father. He “remained,” not by accident, but, by the all-ruling designs of Providence. The parents may be freed from the charge of negligence regarding Him, if it be borne in mind, that those of the same neighbourhood and kindred returned in companies: those of one household being mixed up with those of another, till, at evening, they were to be recognised at the place of public entertainment. Probably, the men formed one company apart; and the women, another. Thus, Joseph might have supposed that the Divine Infant was with His mother’s company; and, His mother, that he was with Joseph. This is held by St. Bernard (Serm. infra Octav. Epiph.), by Ven. Bede, St. Bonaventure, &c. However, the Evangelist seems to favour the former supposition, viz., that the persons of the same neighbourhood used to travel in companies without minding the distinction of families, or household, on their journey, till they halted at evening. For, he says, His parents thought, “He was in the company,” among whom they searched for Him in the evening.

44. “They came a day’s journey.” Nazareth was three days’ journey from Jerusalem. “And sought Him,” when they reached the term of their day’s journey, at the place of common resort. The Evangelist would seem to exculpate Mary and Joseph, as the practice of allowing children to travel with the members of the same company was probably quite common, and it may be, that our Lord did so on former occasions when He went up, in company with them, to attend the festival celebrations at Jerusalem.

45. “They returned to Jerusalem,” as they got no tidings from any one regarding His having been seen leaving it. “Seeking Him,” inquiring regarding Him on their way thither.

46. “After three days,” or on the third day after they left. It is quite common in Sacred Scriptures to say that a thing occurred after a day on which it took place (v. 21; also Mark 8:31). One day was spent on their way home; a second, on their return to Jerusalem. On the third, they found Him. “They found Him in the Temple,” engaged in His Father’s business, in His Father’s house, and not in places of public diversion or entertainment. Probably, the “Temple” here means, a court of it, in which the doctors sat for the purpose of public instruction.

“Sitting in the midst of the doctors,” not that the child took His place among them. This His own modesty would forbid, and the pride of these learned teachers would not submit to it. It only means, that He was sitting in their presence, as a hearer, listening to them treating of the Divine law.

“Hearing them and asking them questions.” He so managed His questions, which He proposed modestly, not by way of disputation, as to convey knowledge; and, in turn, elicited from them questions, to which He replied with marvellous wisdom and knowledge. It was wonderful to see this child of twelve, answering and proposing questions connected with the Law of God to these learned doctors, which elicited the admiration of all. It is very likely, He managed to turn their attention to the great question of the coming of their Messiah, and to the fulfilment of all the prophecies that had reference to Him, viz., the passing away of the sceptre from Judah—the seventy weeks of Daniel, &c. Very likely, He proved the Messiah must now have come. His personal appearance showed His human nature; the maturity of His judgment and knowledge, and wisdom, at that age, showed He was something more than man. He thus early gave a passing proof of what He was. He darted forth a ray of His Divinity in order to prepare men for a fuller manifestation of it, when He would, at no distant day, enter on His public mission, and the instruction of the world.

47. “His wisdom and His answers,” that is, the wisdom of His answers.

48. His parents “seeing Him, wondered.” Not that it caused them surprise to see Him, whom they knew to be the Eternal Son of God, display such knowledge. But as He never before publicly acted thus—very likely in private, He might have given proofs of His latent Divinity—they were surprised at His doing so now, for the first time, the more so, as it was these very doctors who had been consulted formerly by Herod the Great as to the place of His birth (Matthew 2:4), and this wonderful display, on the part of so young a child might make them suspect, He was the very Messiah referred to.

“His mother said to Him,” not in a spirit of rebuke or reproach, but, from a feeling of sorrow that had hitherto overwhelmed her and her blessed spouse, she lovingly addresses Him—“Son,” specially confided to my care by your Heavenly Father, “why hast Thou done so to us?”—to leave us without knowing it, and thus overwhelm us with unspeakable sorrow at your loss and absence, and the fear lest through any fault of ours, we should have the unspeakable misfortune of losing you for ever. Joseph, who knew he had no claim of paternity, save that he was His reputed father, the husband of her who gave Him birth, observes a guarded and respectful silence, though, he also was oppressed with grief at the loss of the child.

“Behold Thy father,” commonly reputed such by men, “and I have sought Thee sorrowing,” fearing lest we might be guilty of any neglect, or have merited the punishment of losing you. It is likely, the Virgin thus spoke to Him apart, after they left the meeting of the doctors in the Temple, and she lovingly gives Joseph a share in their common sorrow and anxiety concerning Him. St. Augustine here notes the singular modesty and humility of the Virgin, in putting Joseph before herself, “Thy father and I,” thus giving an example of the respect wives should never fail to show their husbands.

49. “How is it that you sought Me?” as if He said, It is a wonder you, who knew who I am, viz., the Eternal Son of God, did not reflect, that My departure and absence for a time, was not the result of mere accident; that it was arranged by the all—ruling providence of My Eternal Father. In this, He by no means censures or blames them, since they did only what it was right and natural for them to do. They were guilty of no fault, and therefore gave no cause for blame or censure. It was great natural affection, and a laudable pious solicitude and fear for the safety of their heavenly charge, that prompted them in what they had done.

“Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” The Virgin mother had speken of His putative father on earth; He refers to His true and Eternal Father in heaven. This Father sent Him to earth to redeem mankind. It was to this all His thoughts and actions were to be referred; it was to this, His appearing on this occasion in the Temple was to be attributed. These are the words recorded in the Gospel as the first spoken by our Lord, and they convey to us the most important of all lessons, viz., that we should be always engaged in the business of our Heavenly Father, and the advancement of His glory. In them, He also conveys, that while subject in all His merely human actions, to His earthly parents, still, when aims and objects of a higher order interfered, He ceased to be subject to them, or to be influenced by any human feelings or affections whatever. In regard to His mission, He was to be guided, solely by the good-will and pleasure of His Eternal Father in heaven, to have no dependence on flesh or blood; to know neither father nor mother on earth. These words, though apparently reproachful, convey not a reproof, because such was undeserved; but only instruction to His parents regarding His relations towards them, His utter independence of them, whenever the work of God was to be done, and His Father’s precept urgent; and consolation also, by intimating that it was solely on account of the loftier duties that devolved upon Him, He was forced as it were, to ignore them, and cause them the sorrow and pain they lately endured.

Whenever in the Gospel, there is mention of any interference on the part of friends in what was peculiarly the business of His Eternal Father, and the action of His Divine nature, our Lord employs language apparently reproachful, (though really not so, because unmerited, as in this case) for the instruction of children in all ages, as to how they are to act whenever their parents, or feelings of natural affection, would interfere with what is clearly their duty towards God; as for instance, should parents unreasonably oppose their children’s entrance into religion, when clearly called to that state by God. In such a case, ordinarily speaking, the higher call of duty to God is to be preferred.

50. “And they understood not,” &c. Although the parents of our Redeemer, especially the Holy Virgin, knew our Lord to be the Eternal Son of the Father, and that He was sent into this world to save mankind, and promote His Father’s glory; still, they did not fully comprehend the meaning of His words. They did not see what connexion His withdrawal from them, His appearing at that age in the Temple and disputation with the doctors had with this general object. No doubt, the Blessed Virgin was at this time perfect in charity; but, we need not suppose her perfect in the gift of knowledge. God gradually developed the fulness of this gift in her, and left her nescient of several details connected with her Son, which she knew in course of time. Although Mary and Joseph did not fully understand our Lord’s words, they devoutly and reverently acquiesced in all He said without asking further questions, without entertaining or expressing any doubts regarding them, fully resigning themselves to the Divine will, perfectly satisfied with having found and received Him back again.

51. “And was subject to them.” Having for a moment displayed His Divinity, and after showing in what things children are not subject to their parents, He now returns to His usual occupations, and gives an example of obedience to His earthly parents in their home at Nazareth, which all children are strictly bound to follow, under pain of being deprived of the special reward promised to dutiful children, and of being excluded from the inheritance, or land which the Lord God is to give them. The Evangelist, probably, adds this to let us see, that the passing manifestation of His Divine origin did not exempt Him from the duty of obedience, which, as man, He felt to be due to His parents in human and domestic affairs. It is likely, He laboured as a carpenter, and assisted Joseph in his workshop. Hence, called “a carpenter” (Mark 6:3), as well as “the carpenter’s Son” (Matthew 13:55). From these words we see the great merit of obedience, the entire private life of our Lord, from the age of twelve to thirty, being briefly summed up in these words, “et crat subditus illis.” This is the abridgment of Christian duty. The spirit of religion is a spirit of submission; its practice is the practice of obedience. On these words, St. Bernard (Sermo 1, super missus est), cries out, Who was subject? God. To whom? To men. He, whom the powers of heaven obey, was subject to Mary, and not to Mary only; but to Joseph. On both sides, an astounding wonder. On both sides, a miracle. That God would obey a woman, is an instance of unexampled humility. That a woman should rule a God, of unequalled sublimity. Blush, proud ashes, a God humbles Himself; and dost thou exalt thyself? A God subjects Himself to man, and dost thou anxiously wish to prefer thyself to the Author of thy being? Learn therefore, man, to obey; learn, O earth, to be subject; and thou, O dust, to submit.

“His mother kept all these words in her heart.” She constantly meditated on all the words and acts and events connected with her Son, whom she knew to be God, thus nourishing her piety, acquiring a more certain knowledge of all the mysteries of His life, which she might be enabled to communicate with undoubting certainty to the Apostles and Evangelists, who were, at the appointed time, to announce them throughout the world. It is likely, it was from her, St. Luke obtained the information he here gives regarding the Incarnation, birth and infancy of our Redeemer.

We have no further mention of Joseph in the Gospel. It is likely he passed to his reward, before our Lord entered on His public mission. No doubt, with Jesus and Mary presiding at his death bed, the approach of death only revealed to him, by anticipation, the unspeakable joys in store for him. We find no mention of him even at the first public manifestation of our Saviour at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee. (John 2, &c.)

52. “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age,” &c. Hitherto the Evangelist called Him “the child,” παιδιον; but, henceforth, after His having displayed so much wisdom, he calls Him “Jesus.” Nothing more is recorded of Him, than that He was subject to His parents, probably toiling in His workshop with His reputed father (Mark 6:3), and discharging faithfully all the other offices of a dutiful son. “And He advanced in wisdom and age.” The word “age,” may mean stature, ἡλκία, as it is rendered (Luke 12:25). How it is He “advanced in wisdom,” in whom, from His Incarnation, from the moment of the hypostatic union, when the Holy Ghost anointed Him with “the oil of gladness beyond His fellows,” were “hid all the treasures of knowledge and of wisdom” (Col. 2:2); “who was full of grace and of truth” (John 1:14), has caused a difference of opinion among Commentators. The usual modes of explaining this point are—First, He advanced in the external manifestation of hidden wisdom, by words and acts proportioned to His advancing age, which, before men, were indications of greater wisdom; from wise words and acts, progressing to acts and words wiser still; the interior habit, however, or fund of infused wisdom which was perfect from the Incarnation in a finite degree, of which alone the soul of Christ was capable, received no real increase; just as the sun, according to its position above the horizon, increases not in itself, as it is always the same; but, in its effects, in its light and greater brilliancy in regard to us. In SS. Scripture, words and external acts emanating from wisdom, are called “wisdom.” Thus, “The queen of the south came to hear the wisdom of Solomon” (Luke 11:31; Matthew 12:42). Thus it is said, “we speak the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 2:7). Secondly, He increased in wisdom, as to a new mode of acquiring it, viz., experimentally, He advanced in acquired experimental knowledge, which He had not before, and which could result from experience only, just as is said of Him, “And whereas, indeed, He was the Son of God, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Heb. 5:8).

“And grace with God and man.” As regards men, all His acts, His entire demeanour procured Him greater favour and acceptability with them, conciliated more and more the esteem and love of all. This has reference to His private hidden life. In His public missionary life, many, for whose ruin He was set, were found to find fault with Him, owing to their own perversity.

In regard to God, He increased in grace, inasmuch as its external manifestation before men was genuine, and not affected, but real in the sight of God, who felt complacency in this external manifestation of it before men. While His body grew in stature, His soul grew in wisdom and grace, not as to the internal habit, but, as to its external manifestation in acts before men, which was not affected but real, emanating from the internal habit, as seen by God and pleasing in His sight.

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