Saturday, 11 January 2014

Matthew 4:12-25


Caravaggio

Today's section of St Matthew's Gospel covers the ministry of St John the Baptist and the calling of the first of the disciples:

 [12] And when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, he retired into Galilee: [13] And leaving the city Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capharnaum on the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim; [14] That it might be fulfilled which was said by Isaias the prophet: [15] Land of Zabulon and land of Nephthalim, the way of the sea beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles:[16] The people that sat in darkness, hath seen great light: and to them that sat in the region of the shadow of death, light is sprung up. [17] From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say: Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [18] And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishers). [19] And he saith to them: Come ye after me, and I will make you to be fishers of men. [20] And they immediately leaving their nets, followed him. [21] And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets: and he called them. [22] And they forthwith left their nets and father, and followed him. [23] And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom: and healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, among the people. [24] And his fame went throughout all Syria, and they presented to him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and such as were possessed by devils, and lunatics, and those that had palsy, and he cured them: [25] And much people followed him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

Or in Latin:


Cum autem audisset Jesus quod Joannes traditus esset, secessit in Galilæam: 13 et, relicta civitate Nazareth, venit, et habitavit in Capharnaum maritima, in finibus Zabulon et Nephthalim: 14 ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per Isaiam prophetam: Terra Zabulon, et terra Nephthalim,
via maris trans Jordanem, Galilæa gentium: 16 populus, qui sedebat in tenebris, vidit lucem magnam: et sedentibus in regione umbræ mortis, lux orta est eis. 17 Exinde cœpit Jesus prædicare, et dicere: Pœnitentiam agite: appropinquavit enim regnum cælorum.18 Ambulans autem Jesus juxta mare Galilææ, vidit duos fratres, Simonem, qui vocatur Petrus, et Andream fratrem ejus, mittentes rete in mare (erant enim piscatores), 19 et ait illis: Venite post me, et faciam vos fieri piscatores hominum. 20 At illi continuo relictis retibus secuti sunt eum. 21 Et procedens inde, vidit alios duos fratres, Jacobum Zebedæi, et Joannem fratrem ejus, in navi cum Zebedæo patre eorum, reficientes retia sua: et vocavit eos. 22 Illi autem statim relictis retibus et patre, secuti sunt eum.23 Et circuibat Jesus totam Galilæam, docens in synagogis eorum, et prædicans Evangelium regni: et sanans omnem languorem, et omnem infirmitatem in populo. 24 Et abiit opinio ejus in totam Syriam, et obtulerunt ei omnes male habentes, variis languoribus, et tormentis comprehensos, et qui dæmonia habebant, et lunaticos, et paralyticos, et curavit eos: 25 et secutæ sunt eum turbæ multæ de Galilæa, et Decapoli, et de Jerosolymis, et de Judæa, et de trans Jordanem.

Commentary

The opening verses of this section should sound very familiar, for they quote from a prophesy of Isaiah used in one of the Christmas Canticles in the Benedictine Office.  Here are some extracts St John Chrysostom's homily on these verses for your consideration:

"Now when Jesus had heard that John was delivered up, He departed into Galilee.



Wherefore does He depart? Again instructing us not to go to meet temptations, but to give place and withdraw ourselves. For it is no reproach, the not casting one's self into danger, but the failing to stand manfully when fallen into it. To teach us this accordingly, and to soothe the envy of the Jews, He retires to Capernaum; at once fulfilling the prophecy, and making haste to catch the teachers of the world: for they, as you know, were abiding there, following their craft.

But mark, I pray you, how in every case when He is about to depart unto the Gentiles, He has the occasion given Him by Jews. For so in this instance, by plotting against His forerunner, and casting him into prison, they thrust out Christ into the Galilee of the Gentiles. For to show that He neither speaks of the Jewish nation by a part of it, nor signifies obscurely all the tribes; mark how the Prophet distinguishes that place, saying The land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people which sat in darkness, saw great light: by darkness here not meaning that which is sensible, but men's errors and ungodliness. Wherefore he also added, They which sat in the region and shadow of death, to them light is sprung up. For that you might learn that neither the light nor the darkness which he speaks of are sensible, in discoursing of the light, he called it not merely light, but a great light which elsewhere he expresses by the word, True: John 1:9 and in describing the darkness, he termed it, a shadow of death.

Then implying that they did not of themselves seek and find, but that God showed Himself to them from above, he says to them, Light is sprung up; that is, the light of itself sprang up and shone forth: it was not that they first ran to the light. For in truth the condition of men was at the worst before Christ's coming. Since they more than walked in darkness; they sat in darkness; a kind of sign that they did not even hope to be delivered. For as persons not even knowing where to put a step forward, so they sat, overtaken by the darkness, not being able so much as to stand any more...."

St John also draws out for us some lessons from the calling of the Apostles:

"Let us therefore come unto Him, and let us ask nothing pertaining to this life, but rather remission of sins. For indeed He gives it even now, if we be in earnest. Since as then His fame went out into Syria, so now into the whole world. And they indeed ran together on hearing that He healed persons possessed: and you, after having much more and greater experience of His power, do you not rouse yourself and run?

But whereas they left both country, and friends, and kinsfolk; do you not endure so much as to leave your house for the sake of drawing near, and obtaining far greater things? Or rather we do not require of you so much as this, but leave your evil habits only, and you can easily be made whole, remaining at home with your friends.

But as it is, if we have any bodily ailment, we do and contrive everything to be rid of what pains us; but when our soul is indisposed, we delay, and draw back. For which cause neither from the other sort are we delivered: since the things that are indispensable are becoming to us secondary, and the secondary indispensable; and letting alone the fountain of our ills, we would fain cleanse out the streams.

For that our bodily ills are caused by the wickedness of the soul, is shown both by him that had the palsy thirty and eight years, and by him that was let down through the roof, and by Cain also before these; and from many other things likewise one may perceive this. Let us do away then with the well-spring of our evils, and all the channels of our diseases will be stayed. For the disease is not palsy only, but also our sin; and this more than that, by how much a soul is better than a body.

Let us therefore now also draw near unto Him; let us entreat Him that He would brace our paralyzed soul, and leaving all things that pertain to this life, let us take account of the things spiritual only. Or if you cleave unto these also, yet think of them after the other.

Neither must you think lightly of it, because you have no pain in sinning; rather on this very account most of all do thou lament, that you feel not the anguish of your offenses. For not because sin bites not, does this come to pass, but because the offending soul is insensible. Regard with this view them that have a feeling of their own sins, how they wail more bitterly than such as are being cut, or burned; how many things they do, how many suffer, how greatly they mourn and lament, in order to be delivered from their evil conscience. They would not do any such thing, unless they were exceedingly pained in soul.

The best thing then is, to avoid sin in the first instance: the next to it, is to feel that we sin, and thoroughly amend ourselves. But if we have not this, how shall we pray to God, and ask forgiveness of our sins, we who take no account of these matters? For when you yourself who hast offended art unwilling to know so much as this very fact, that you have sinned; for what manner of offenses will you entreat God for pardon? For what you know not? And how will you know the greatness of the benefit? Tell therefore your offenses in particular, that you may learn for what you receive forgiveness, that so you may become grateful towards your Benefactor.

But you, when it is a man whom you have provoked, entreatest friends, neighbors, and door-keepers, and spendest money, and consumest many days in visiting and petitioning, and though he that is provoked utterly reject you once, twice, ten thousand times over, you despond not, but becoming more earnest you make the more entreaty; but when the God of all is provoked, we gape, and throw ourselves back, and live in luxury and in drunkenness, and do all things as usual. And when shall we be able to propitiate Him? And how shall we by this very thing fail to provoke Him so much the more? For not so much sinning, as signing without even pain, causes in Him indignation and wrath. Wherefore it were meet after all this to sink into the very earth, and not so much as to behold this sun, nor to breathe at all, for that having so placable a Master, we provoke Him first, and then have no remorse for provoking Him. And yet He assuredly, even when He is angry, does not so as hating and turning away from us, but in order that in this way at least He may win us over to Himself. For if He continued after insult befriending you, you would the more despise Him. Therefore in order that this may not be, He turns away for a little while, to have you ever with Himself...."

Friday, 10 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 4: 1-11



I'm going to skip over the remainder of St Matthew Chapter 3 for the moment, and come back to it on Monday as it deals with the baptism of Our Lord, which is celebrated especially on that date.

The temptation in the desert

Instead, let's look at the temptation of Jesus in the desert, a text used in the Mass on the First Sunday of Lent.  First the Knox translation:

And now Jesus was led by the Spirit away into the wilderness, to be tempted there by the devil. 2 Forty days and forty nights he spent fasting, and at the end of them was hungry. 3 Then the tempter approached, and said to him, If thou art the Son of God, bid these stones turn into loaves of bread. 4 He answered, It is written, Man cannot live by bread only; there is life for him in all the words which proceed from the mouth of God.5 Next, the devil took him into the holy city, and there set him down on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down to earth; for it is written, He has given charge to his angels concerning thee, and they will hold thee up with their hands, lest thou shouldst chance to trip on a stone. 7 Jesus said to him, But it is further written, Thou shalt not put the Lord thy God to the proof. 8 Once more, the devil took him to the top of an exceedingly high mountain, from which he shewed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, 9 and said, I will give thee all these if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then Jesus said to him, Away with thee, Satan; it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and serve none but him.11 Then the devil left him alone; and thereupon angels came and ministered to him.

And here is the Latin:

Tunc Jesus ductus est in desertum a Spiritu, ut tentaretur a diabolo. 2 Et cum jejunasset quadraginta diebus, et quadraginta noctibus, postea esuriit. 3 Et accedens tentator dixit ei: Si Filius Dei es, dic ut lapides isti panes fiant. 4 Qui respondens dixit: Scriptum est: Non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore Dei. 5 Tunc assumpsit eum diabolus in sanctam civitatem, et statuit eum super pinnaculum templi, 6 et dixit ei: Si Filius Dei es, mitte te deorsum. Scriptum est enim: Quia angelis suis mandavit de te, et in manibus tollent te, ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum. 7 Ait illi Jesus: Rursum scriptum est: Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum. 8 Iterum assumpsit eum diabolus in montem excelsum valde: et ostendit ei omnia regna mundi, et gloriam eorum, 9 et dixit ei: Hæc omnia tibi dabo, si cadens adoraveris me. 10 Tunc dicit ei Jesus: Vade Satana: Scriptum est enim: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies. 11 Tunc reliquit eum diabolus: et ecce angeli accesserunt, et ministrabant ei.

Commentary

Haydock provides the following commentary on these verses:

Ver. 1. Jesus Christ was led by the Holy Ghost, immediately after his baptism, into the desert,[1] to prepare, by fasting and prayer, for his public ministry, and to merit for us by his victory over the enemy of our salvation, force to conquer him also ourselves. By this conduct, he teaches all that were to be in future times called to his ministry, how they are to retire into solitude, in order to converse with God in prayer, and draw down the blessing of heaven upon themselves and their undertaking. What treasures of grace might we expect, if, as often as we receive any of the sacraments, we were to retire within ourselves, and shut out, for a time, the world and its cares. Then should we come prepared to withstand temptation, and should experience the divine assistance in every difficulty through life. The life of man is a warfare on earth. It was not given us, says St. Hilary, to spend it in indolence, but to wage a continual war against our spiritual enemies. In the greatest sanctity there are often the greatest and most incessant trials; for Satan wishes nothing so much as the fall of the saints. (Haydock) --- By these trials, we learn the strength we have received from above, we are preserved from self-complacency and pride in the gifts of heaven; we confirm the renunciation we made in baptism of the devil, and all his works and pomps; we become stronger, and better prepared for future attacks, and are feelingly convinced of the dignity to which we have been raised, and of which the enemy of souls endeavours all he can to deprive us. St. Chrysostom hom. xiii. Both St. John the Baptist and our divine Master, by retiring into the wilderness for contemplation, prayer, fasting and suffering, have given a sanction and an example to those holy men called hermits, who have taken shelter in their sanctified retreats against the dangers of the world. (Bristow)

Ver. 2. Jesus wished to manifest a certain corporeal weakness, arising from his continued fast, that the devil might venture to tempt him; and after a fast of 40 days and 40 nights he was hungry. (Haydock) --- Christ was well acquainted with the thoughts of the wicked fiend, and his great desire of tempting or trying him. The devil had learnt that he was come into the world from the songs of the angels at his birth, and from the mouth of the shepherds and of St. John the Baptist. To fast 40 days without being hungry, was certainly far above the strength of man, but to be hungry at any time is inconsistent with God; for which reason our blessed Saviour, that he might not manifestly declare his divinity, was afterwards hungry. (St. Hilary) --- On this example, as well as that of Moses and Elias, who also fasted 40 days, the fast of Lent was instituted by the apostles, and is of necessity to be observed according to the general consent of the ancient Fathers. St. Jerome (ep. liv. ad Marcel.) says, we fast 40 days, or make one Lent in a year, according to the tradition of the apostles. St. Augustine (serm. lxix.) says, by the due observance of Lent, the wicked are separated from the good, infidels from Christians, heretics from Catholics. Our Saviour fasted 40 days, not because he stood in need of it, as we do, to subject the unruly members of the body, which lust against the spirit, but to set an example for our imitation. (Haydock) --- Another reason might be, to prevent the captious remarks of the Jews, who might object that he had not yet done what the founder of their law, Moses, and after him Elias, had done. (Palacius in Mat.)

Ver. 3. "And the tempter coming," O peirazon, who looked upon this hunger as a favourable moment to tempt him, and to discover if he were truly the Son of God, as was declared at his baptism, desired Jesus to change by a miracle the stones into bread, to appease his hunger and to recover his strength. (Haydock) --- By this we are taught, that amidst our greatest austerities and fasts, we are never free from temptation. But if your fasts, says St. Gregory, do not free you entirely from temptations, they will at least give you strength not to be overcome by them. (St. Thomas Aquinas.) The tempter is supposed to have appeared in a human form, and the whole temptation to have been merely external, like that which took place with our first parents in Paradise. It would have been beneath the perfection of Christ, to have allowed the devil the power of suggesting wicked thoughts to his mind. (Jansenius. p. 107.) Had Jesus Christ converted the stones into bread, the devil, according to St. Jerome, would have thence inferred that he was God. But it was Christ's intention to overcome the proud fiend rather by humility than power. (St. Thomas Aquinas) Thus, if the first Adam fell from God by pride, the second Adam has effectually taught us how to overcome the devil by humility. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. Man liveth not by bread only. The words were spoken of the manna. (Deuteronomy viii. 3.) The sense in this place is, that man's life may be supported by any thing, or in any manner, as it pleaseth God. (Witham) --- St. Gregory upon this passage says: if our divine Redeemer, when tempted by the devil, answered in so mild a manner, when he could have buried the wicked tempter in the bottom of hell, ought not man, when he suffers any thing from his fellow man, rather to improve it to his advantage, than to resent it to his own ruin. Man consists of soul and body; his body is supported by bread, his soul by the word of God; hence the saying, "Lex est cibus animæ." (Mat. Polus.)

Ver. 5. In the text of St. Luke this temptation is the third: but most commentators follow the order of St. Matthew. In Palestine, all buildings had a flat roof, with a balustrade or a parapet. It was probably upon the parapet that the devil conveyed Jesus. The three temptations comprise the three principal sources of sin: 1. sensuality; 2. pride; and 3. concupiscence. 1st epistle John ii. 16. We may hope to conquer the first by fasting and confidence in divine Providence; the second by humility; the third by despising all sublunary things, as unworthy a Christian's solicitude. (Haydock) --- the devil took him, &c.[2] If we ask in what manner this was done, St. Gregory answers, that Christ might permit himself to be taken up, and transported in the air by the devil, he that afterwards permitted himself to be tormented, and nailed to a cross by wicked men, who are members of the devil. Others think the devil only conducted him from place to place. The text of St. Luke favours this exposition, when it is said, the devil led him to Jerusalem, to a high mountain, &c. (Witham)

Ver. 6. Heretics, says St. Augustine, quote Scriptures, as the devil does here, in a wrong and forced sense; the Church cites them, like Jesus Christ, in their true sense, and to confute their falsehood. (Cont. lit. Petil. lib. ii. chap. 51.) It is on this account, that the Catholic Church wishes persons who come to the study of the most mysterious and difficult book ever published, should bring with them some preparation of mind and heart; convinced that the abuse of the strongest and best food may be converted into deadly poison. The promoters of Bible societies have published in Ireland a tract to encourage the universal perusal of the Scriptures, as the sole rule of faith. In this they give not only a mutilated and corrupt version of the letter of his late Holiness Pius VI. to the now archbishop of Florence, (to be seen at the head of this edition of the Bible) but certain letters from German Jansenists, who are described as being good Catholics. (Haydock)

Ver. 8. Shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory; and as St. Luke says, in a moment of time. We cannot comprehend how this could be done from any mountain, or seen with human eyes. Therefore many think it was by some kind of representation; or that the devil shewing a part, by words set forth the rest. (Witham) --- He shewed him the different climates in which each country was situated. (St. Chrysostom)

Ver. 9. All these will I give thee. The father of lies here promised what was not his to give. For though he be called the prince of this world, (John xii. 31,) meaning of the wicked, who wilfully make themselves his slaves; yet so restrained is the devil's power, that he could not go into the swine till Christ permitted it. (Matthew viii. 31.) (Witham) --- What arrogance! what pride! The devil promises earthly kingdoms, whilst Jesus promises a heavenly kingdom to his followers. (St. Remigius) Behold the pride of his heart; as he formerly wished to make himself God, so now he wishes to assume to himself divine honours. (St. Aquinas)

Ver. 10. Jesus Christ does not here cite the words, but the substance of the text. (Deuteronomy v. 7. and 9; vi. 13; x. 20.) --- It is remarkable that our Lord bore with the pride and insolence of the devil, till he assumed to himself the honour due to God alone. (St. Chrysostom)

Ver. 11. Then the devil having exhausted all his artifices, left him for a time, as St. Luke remarks; whence we are to learn, that after we have resisted with success, we are not to think ourselves secure, but avail ourselves of the truce to return thanks to God for the victory, and to prepare for fresh combats, especially by fortifying ourselves with the bread of angels in the holy communion.  The temptations of Jesus Christ are to us a subject both of consolation and instruction.  By example he has taught us how to fight and to conquer. The struggle may be painful; but angels, as well as God, witness our struggle, ready to crown our victory. (Haydock)

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 3:1-12


The opening verses of Chapter 3 of St Matthew deals with the preaching of St John the Baptist, and makes it clear that his was a tough message indeed, for he preached of hellfire and damnation:

And in those days cometh John the Baptist preaching in the desert of Judea. [2] And saying: Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [3] For this is he that was spoken of by Isaias the prophet, saying: A voice of one crying in the desert, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. [4] And the same John had his garment of camels' hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins: and his meat was locusts and wild honey. [5] Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan:[6] And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. [7] And seeing many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them: Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance. [9] And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham for our father. For I tell you that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. [10] For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that doth not yield good fruit, shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.[11] I indeed baptize you in the water unto penance, but he that shall come after me, is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear; he shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and fire. [12] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly cleanse his floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. 

The Latin Vulgate:

In diebus autem illis venit Joannes Baptista prædicans in deserto Judææ, 2 et dicens: Pœnitentiam agite: appropinquavit enim regnum cælorum. 3 Hic est enim, qui dictus est per Isaiam prophetam dicentem:Vox clamantis in deserto: Parate viam Domini; rectas facite semitas ejus. 4 Ipse autem Joannes habebat vestimentum de pilis camelorum, et zonam pelliceam circa lumbos suos: esca autem ejus erat locustæ, et mel silvestre. 5 Tunc exibat ad eum Jerosolyma, et omnis Judæa, et omnis regio circa Jordanem; 6 et baptizabantur ab eo in Jordane, confitentes peccata sua. 7 Videns autem multos pharisæorum, et sadducæorum, venientes ad baptismum suum, dixit eis: Progenies viperarum, quis demonstravit vobis fugere a ventura ira? 8 Facite ergo fructum dignum pœnitentiæ. 9 Et ne velitis dicere intra vos: Patrem habemus Abraham. Dico enim vobis quoniam potens est Deus de lapidibus istis suscitare filios Abrahæ. 10 Jam enim securis ad radicem arborum posita est. Omnis ergo arbor, quæ non facit fructum bonum, excidetur, et in ignem mittetur. 11 Ego quidem baptizo vos in aqua in pœnitentiam: qui autem post me venturus est, fortior me est, cujus non sum dignus calceamenta portare: ipse vos baptizabit in Spiritu Sancto, et igni. 12 Cujus ventilabrum in manu sua: et permundabit aream suam: et congregabit triticum suum in horreum, paleas autem comburet igni inextinguibili.

Commentary

The strong warnings contained in this text are important for us to heed not just for our own salvation, but also in the way we approach spreading the Gospel to others.  In our time, people seem to think it is wrong to act out of fear of God rather than love of him.  But the Fathers, such as St Benedict knew that fear comes first as a motivator, love develops later, as the result of the cultivation of virtue:

"Then when all these degrees of humility have been climbed, the monk will presently come to that perfect love of God which casts out all fear; whereby he will begin to observe without labour, as though naturally and by habit, all those precepts which formerly he did not observe without fear: no longer for fear of hell, but for love of Christ and through good habit and delight in virtue..." (RB 7)

Many contemporary commentators emphasise Christ's mission as a healer, a doctor of souls, ignoring his condemnations of those who refuse to hear his message and rejected him.  But St John's call to repentance reminds us of both aspects of Christ's mission, as the Catena Aurea anthology makes clear:

CHRYS. But why must John thus go before Christ with a witness of deeds preaching Him? First, that we might hence learn Christ's dignity, that he also, as the Father has, has prophets, in the words of Zacharias And you, Child, shall be called the Prophet of the Highest (Luke 1:76). Secondly, that the Jews might have no cause for offense; as he declared, John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He has a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous man (Luke 7:33). It needs moreover that the things concerning Christ should be told by some other first, and not by Himself; or what would the Jews have said, who after the witness of John made complaint, You bear witness of yourself; your witness is not true (John 8:13). 

REMIG. His office: the Baptist; in this he prepared the way of the Lord, for had not men been used to being baptized, they would have shunned Christ's baptism. His employment: Preaching; 

JEROME; Consider how the salvation of God, and the glory of the Lord, is preached not in Jerusalem, but in the solitude of the Church, in the wilderness to multitudes. 

GLOSS. The desert typically means a life removed from the temptations of the world, such as befits the penitent.

AUG. Unless one repent him of his former life, he cannot begin a new life. 

HILARY; He therefore preaches repentance when the Kingdom of Heaven approaches, by which we return from error, we escape from sin, and after shame for our faults, we make profession of forsaking them. 

What then, is meant by the kingdom of heaven that St John proclaims is near?

REMIG. The Kingdom of Heaven has a fourfold meaning. It is said, of Christ, as The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). Of Holy Scripture, as, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and shall he given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (Mat 21:43). Of the Holy Church, as, The Kingdom of Heaven is like to ten virgins (Mat 25). Of the abode above, as, Many shall come from the East and the West, and shall sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mat 8:11). And all these significations may be here understood. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Matthew 2:13-23

The remainder of Chapter 2 of St Matthew's Gospel deals with the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the Innocents (Verses 13-18 are the Gospel for the feast we celebrated on December 28, while 19-23 are set for the Vigil of the Epiphany).  It is a passage often used to justify welcoming refugees, but I'm not sure the next really supports the broad interpretation often given to it in this context.

The threat here was mortal and very personal: these were not economic migrants!  Nor were the Holy Family seeking to migrate permanently after all: as soon as the threat was over they returned to their own country. And when they were concerned about their safety in their home town, they chose another region to live in to address the problem:

13 Qui cum recessissent, ecce angelus Domini apparuit in somnis Joseph, dicens: Surge, et accipe puerum, et matrem ejus, et fuge in Ægyptum, et esto ibi usque dum dicam tibi. Futurum est enim ut Herodes quærat puerum ad perdendum eum. 14 Qui consurgens accepit puerum et matrem ejus nocte, et secessit in Ægyptum: 15 et erat ibi usque ad obitum Herodis: ut adimpleretur quod dictum est a Domino per prophetam dicentem: Ex Ægypto vocavi filium meum. 16 Tunc Herodes videns quoniam illusus esset a magis, iratus est valde, et mittens occidit omnes pueros, qui erant in Bethlehem, et in omnibus finibus ejus, a bimatu et infra secundum tempus, quod exquisierat a magis. 17 Tunc adimpletum est quod dictum est per Jeremiam prophetam dicentem: 18 Vox in Rama audita est
ploratus, et ululatus multus: Rachel plorans filios suos, et noluit consolari, quia non sunt. 19 Defuncto autem Herode, ecce angelus Domini apparuit in somnis Joseph in Ægypto, 20 dicens: Surge, et accipe puerum, et matrem ejus, et vade in terram Israël: defuncti sunt enim qui quærebant animam pueri. 21 Qui consurgens, accepit puerum, et matrem ejus, et venit in terram Israël. 22 Audiens autem quod Archelaus regnaret in Judæa pro Herode patre suo, timuit illo ire: et admonitus in somnis, secessit in partes Galilææ. 23 Et veniens habitavit in civitate quæ vocatur Nazareth: ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per prophetas: Quoniam Nazaræus vocabitur.

And the Douay-Rheims:

[13] And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy him. [14] Who arose, and took the child and his mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: [15] That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called my son. [16] Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry; and sending killed all the men children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. [17] Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremias the prophet, saying: [18] A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. [19] But when Herod was dead, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph in Egypt, [20] Saying: Arise, and take the child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel. For they are dead that sought the life of the child. [21] Who arose, and took the child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. [22] But hearing that Archelaus reigned in Judea in the room of Herod his father, he was afraid to go thither: and being warned in sleep retired into the quarters of Galilee. [23] And coming he dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was said by prophets: That he shall be called a Nazarene.

Commentary

From the Catena Aurea:

RABANUS. Here Matthew omits the clay of purification when the first-born must be presented in the Temple with a lamb or a pair of turtle doves or pigeons. Their fear of Herod did not make them bold to transgress the Law, that they should not present the Child in the temple. As soon then as the rumor concerning the Child begins to be spread abroad, the Angel is sent to bid Joseph carry Him into Egypt.

REMIG. By this that the Angel appears always to Joseph in sleep, is mystically signified that they who rest from mundane cares and secular pursuits, deserve angelic visitations.

HILARY; The first time when he would teach Joseph that she was lawfully espoused, the Angel called the Virgin his espoused wife; but after the birth she is only spoken of as the Mother of Jesus. As wedlock was rightfully imputed to her in her virginity, so virginity is esteemed venerable in her as the mother of Jesus.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. He says not, 'the Mother and her young Child'; but, the young Child and His mother; for the Child was not born for the mother, but the mother prepared for the Child. How is this that the Son of God flies from the face of man? or who shall deliver from the enemy's hand, if He Himself fears His enemies? First, He ought to observe, even in this, the law of that human nature which He took on Him; and human nature and infancy must flee before threatening power. Next, that Christians when persecution makes it necessary should not be ashamed to fly. But why into Egypt? The Lord, who keeps not His anger forever, remembered time woes He had brought upon Egypt, and therefore sent His Son there, and gives it this sign of great reconciliation, that with this one remedy He might heal the ten plagues of Egypt, and the nation that had been the persecutor of this first-born people, might be the guardian of His first-born Son. As formerly they had cruelly tyrannized, now they might devoutly serve; nor go to the Red Sea to be drowned, but be called to the waters of baptism to receive life.

AUG. Hear the sacrament of a great mystery. Moses before had shut up the light of day from the traitors the Egyptians; Christ by going down thither brought back light to them that sat in darkness. He fled that He might enlighten them, not that he might escape his foes.

What lessons should we draw from the text?

CHRYS. See how immediately on His birth the tyrant is furious against Him, and the mother with her Child is driven into foreign lands. So should you in the beginning of your spiritual career seem to have tribulation, you need not to be discouraged, but bear all things manfully, having this example.

BEDE. The flight into Egypt signifies that the elect are often by the wickedness of the bad driven from their homes, or sentenced to banishment. Thus He, who, we shall see below, gave the command to His own, When they shall persecute you in one city, flee to another, first practiced what He enjoined, as a man flying before the face of man on earth. He whom but a little before a star had proclaimed to the Magi to be worshipped as from heaven.

REMIG. In Joseph is figured the order of preachers, in Mary Holy Scripture; by the Child the knowledge of the Savior; by the cruelty of Herod the persecution which the Church suffered in Jerusalem; by Joseph's flight into Egypt the passing of the preachers to the unbelieving Gentiles (for Egypt signifies darkness); by the time that he abode in Egypt the space of time between the ascension of the Lord and the coming of Anti-Christ; by Herod's death the extinction of jealousy in the hearts of the Jews.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. See how Joseph was set for ministering to Mary; when she went into Egypt and returned, who would have fulfilled to her this so needful ministry, had she not been betrothed? For to outward view Mary nourished and Joseph defended the Child; but in truth the Child supported His mother and protected Joseph. Return into the land of Israel; for He went down into Egypt as a physician, not to abide there, but to succour it sick with error. But the reason of the return is given in the words, They are dead, &c.

GLOSS. Joseph was not disobedient to the angelic warning, but he arose, and took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. The Angel had not fixed the particular place, so that while Joseph hesitates, the Angel returns, and by the often visiting him confirms his obedience.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Matthew 2:7-12

Today a quick look at the remainder of the Gospel for Epiphany, which recalls Herod's interaction with the Magi:

7 Tunc Herodes clam vocatis magis diligenter didicit ab eis tempus stellæ, quæ apparuit eis: 8 et mittens illos in Bethlehem, dixit: Ite, et interrogate diligenter de puero: et cum inveneritis, renuntiate mihi, ut et ego veniens adorem eum. 9 Qui cum audissent regem, abierunt, et ecce stella, quam viderant in oriente, antecedebat eos, usque dum veniens staret supra, ubi erat puer. 10 Videntes autem stellam gavisi sunt gaudio magno valde. 11 Et intrantes domum, invenerunt puerum cum Maria matre ejus, et procidentes adoraverunt eum: et apertis thesauris suis obtulerunt ei munera, aurum, thus, et myrrham. 12 Et responso accepto in somnis ne redirent ad Herodem, per aliam viam reversi sunt in regionem suam.

And in the Douay-Rheims:

[7] Then Herod, privately calling the wise men, learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; [8] And sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found him, bring me word again, that I also may come to adore him. [9] Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. [10] And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. [11] And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. [12] And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country.

Commentary

Chrysostom comments on the idiocy of Herod's attempts to subvert the course of history:

Attempting to slay that which was born—an act of extreme idiocy not of madness only; since what had been said and done was enough to have withholden him from any such attempt. For those occurrences were not after the manner of man. A star, I mean, calling the wise men from on high; and barbarians making so long a pilgrimage, to worship Him that lay in swaddling clothes and a manger; and prophets too from of old, proclaiming beforehand all this—these and all the rest were more than human events: but nevertheless, none of these things restrained him. For such a thing is wickedness. It falls foul of itself, and is ever attempting impossibilities. And mark his utter folly. If on the one hand he believed the prophecy, and accounted it to be unchangeable, it was quite clear that he was attempting impossibilities; if again he disbelieved, and did not expect that those sayings would come to pass, he need not have been in fear and alarm, nor have formed any plot on that behalf. So that in either way his craft was superfluous.

And this too came of the utmost folly, to think that the wise men would make more account of him than of the Child that was born, for the sake of which they had come so long a journey. For if, before they saw, they were so inflamed with longing for Him; after they had seen with their eyes, and been confirmed by the prophecy, how hoped he to persuade them to betray the young Child to him?


Nevertheless, many as were the reasons to withhold him, he made the attempt; and having privily called the wise men, he inquired of them. Because he thought that Jews would be concerned in favor of the Child, and he never could expect that they would fall away unto such madness as to be willing to give up to His enemies their Protector and Saviour, and Him who had come for the deliverance of their nation. On account of this he both calls them privily, and seeks the time not of the Child, but of the star: thereby marking out the object of his chase so as to include far more than it. For the star, I think, must have appeared a long time before. It was a long time which the wise men had to spend on their journey. In order, therefore, that they might present themselves just after His birth (it being meet for Him to be worshipped in His very swaddling clothes, that the marvellous and strange nature of the thing might appear), the star, a long time before, makes itself visible. Whereas if at the moment of His birth in Palestine, and not before, it had been seen by them in the East, they, consuming a long time in their journey, would not have seen Him in swaddling clothes on their arrival. As to his slaying the children from two years old and under, let us not marvel; for his wrath and dread, for the sake of a fuller security, added very much to the time, so that not one might escape.


Having therefore called them, he says, Go and search diligently for the young Child; and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship Him also. Matthew 2:8


Do you see his extreme folly? Why, if you say these things in sincerity, wherefore do you inquire privily? But if intending to plot against Him, how is it you do not perceive, that from the fact of their being asked secretly the wise men will be able to perceive your craft? But as I have already said, a soul taken captive by any wickedness becomes more utterly senseless than any thing.


And he said not, go and learn concerning the King, but concerning the young Child; for he could not even endure to call Him by the name of His dominion.


All the same, the wise men seem to be oblivious of Herod's real state of mind:

But the wise men perceive nothing of this, by reason of their exceeding reverence (for they never could have expected that he could have gone on to so great wickedness, and would have attempted to form plots against a dispensation so marvellous): and they depart suspecting none of these things, but from what was in themselves auguring all that would be in the rest of mankind.

And, lo! The star, which they saw in the east, went before them. Matthew 2:9


For therefore only was it hidden, that having lost their guide, they might come to be obliged to make inquiry of the Jews, and so the matter might be made evident to all. Since after they have made inquiries, and have had His enemies for informants, it appears to them again. And mark how excellent was the order; how in the first place after the star the people of the Jews receives them, and the king, and these bring in the prophecy to explain what had appeared: how next, after the prophet, an angel again took them up and taught them all things; but for a time they journey from Jerusalem to Bethlehem by the guidance of the star, the star again journeying with them from that place also; that hence too you might learn, that this was not one of the ordinary stars, for there is not so much as one star that has this nature. And it not merely moved, but went before them, drawing and guiding them on in mid-day.


The lesson we should take from this?  According to Chrysostom, we should make sure we are not little Herod's claiming to want to worship the Christ, but in reality desiring to slay him through our sins:

But take heed that you be not like Herod, and say, that I may come and worship Him, and when you have come, be minded to slay Him. For him do they resemble, who partake of the mysteries unworthily: it being said, that such a one shall be guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 11:27 Yes; for they have in themselves the tyrant who is grieved at Christ's kingdom, him that is more wicked than Herod of old, even Mammon. For he would fain have the dominion, and sends them that are his own to worship in appearance, but slaying while they worship. Let us fear then, lest at any time, while we have the appearance of suppliants and worshippers, we should in deed show forth the contrary.

And let us cast everything out of our hands when we are to worship; though it be gold that we have, let us offer it unto him and not bury it. For if those barbarians then offered it for honor, what will become of you, not giving even to Him that has need? If those men journeyed so far to see Him newly born, what sort of excuse will you have, not going out of your way one alley's length, that you may visit Him sick or in bonds? And yet when they are sick or in bonds, even our enemies have our pity; yours is denied even to your Benefactor and Lord. And they offered gold, you hardly give bread. They saw the star and were glad, you, seeing Christ Himself a stranger and naked, are not moved.


For which of you, for Christ's sake, has made so long a pilgrimage, you that have received countless benefits, as these barbarians, or rather, these wiser than the wisest philosophers? And why say I, so long a journey? Nay, many of our women are so delicate, that they go not over so much as one crossing of the streets to behold Him on the spiritual manger, unless they can have mules to draw them. And others being able to walk, yet prefer to their attendance here, some a crowd of worldly business, some the theatres. Whereas the barbarians accomplished so great a journey for His sake, before seeing Him; you do not emulate them even after you have seen Him, but forsake Him after seeing Him, and run to see the stage player. (For I touch again on the same subjects, as I did also of late. ) And seeing Christ lying in the manger, you leave Him, that you may see women on the stage.


Monday, 6 January 2014

Matthew 2: 4-6



It is worth noting that today's Gospel, for the feast of the Epiphany, is Matthew 2:1-12 (these verses also feature in the third Mass of Christmas Day).  I've previously posted the first three verses, and I'm going to linger on this section a little while (Epiphany, after all, used to have an octave!) so here are the next few verses:

4 Et congregans omnes principes sacerdotum, et scribas populi, sciscitabatur ab eis ubi Christus nasceretur. 5 At illi dixerunt: In Bethlehem Judæ: sic enim scriptum est per prophetam: 6 Et tu Bethlehem terra Juda, nequaquam minima es in principibus Juda: ex te enim exiet dux, qui regat populum meum Israël. 

And in English:

[4] And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. [5] But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Juda. For so it is written by the prophet:[6] And thou Bethlehem the land of Juda art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come forth the captain that shall rule my people Israel. 

Commentary

The scene of Herod calling together a conference of scholars to find out where the prophesied king will be born, particularly given his nefarious reasons for wanting to know, is curious.  The Fathers speculated on his motives:

REMIG. They are called Scribes, not from the employment of writing, but from the interpretation of the Scriptures, for they were doctors of the law. Observe, he does not inquire where Christ is born, but where He should be born; the subtle purpose of this was to see if they would show pleasure at the birth of their King. He calls Him Christ, because he knows that the King of the Jews was anointed.

PSEUDO-CHRYS. Why does Herod make this inquiry, seeing he believed not the Scriptures? Or if he did believe, how could he hope to be able to kill Him whom the Scriptures declared should be King? The Devil instigated him, who believed that Scripture lies not; such is the faith of devils, who are not permitted to have perfect belief; even of that which they do believe. That they do believe, it is the force of truth constrains them; that they do not believe, it is that they are blinded by the enemy. If they had perfect faith, they would live as about to depart from this world soon, not as to possess it forever.

And why is it that Bethlehem, and nota more important town was chosen for this great event?

LEO; The Magi, judging as men, sought in the royal city for Him, whom they had been told was born a King. But He who took the form of a servant, and came not to judge but to be judged, chose Bethlehem for His birth, Jerusalem for His death.

THEODOTUS; Had He chosen the mighty city of Rome, it might have been thought that this change of the world had been wrought by the might of her citizens; had He been the son of the emperor, his power might have aided Him. But what was His choice? All that was mean, all that was in low esteem, that in this transformation of the world, divinity might at once be recognized. Therefore He chose a poor woman for His mother, a poor country for His native country; He has no money, and this stable is His cradle.

GREG; Rightly is He born in Bethlehem, which signifies the house of bread, who said, I am the living bread, who came down from heaven.

And what of the prophesy they find?

PSEUDO-CHRYS. By cutting short the prophecy, they became the cause of the murder of the Innocents. For the prophecy proceeds, From you shall go forth a King who shall feed My people Israel, and His day shall be from everlasting. Had they cited the whole prophecy, Herod would not have raged so madly, considering that it could not be an earthly King whose days were spoken of as from everlasting.

JEROME; The following is the sense of the prophecy. You, Bethlehem, of the land of Judah, or Ephrata, (which is added to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in Galilee,) though you are a small village among the thousand cities of Judah, yet out of you shall be born Christ, who shall be the Ruler of Israel, who according to the flesh is of the seed of David, but was born of Me before the worlds; and therefore it is written, His goings forth are of old. In the beginning was the Word.

GLOSS. This latter half of the prophecy the Jews dropped; and other parts they altered, either through ignorance (as was said above) or for perspicuity, that Herod who was a foreigner might better understand the prophecy; thus for Ephrata, they said, land of Judah; and for little among the thousands of Judah, which expresses its smallness contrasted with the multitude of the people, they said, not the least among the princes, willing to show the high dignity that would come from the birth of the Prince. As if they had said, you art great among cities from which princes have come.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Sunday's Gospel (for the Most Holy Name of Jesus): Luke 2:21


The importance of the name of God, revealed for us to be Jesus in the second person of the Trinity, is repeated over and over in Scripture.  And the antiphons and readings for the feast make clear just how critical the veneration of it is.

The first antiphon for Vespers of today's feast is: Omnis qui invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit, or all who invoke the name of the Lord will be saved.  The second antiphon is: sanctum et terribile nomen ejus, initium sapientiae timor Domini; holy and terrible his name, the beginning of wisdom fear of the Lord.

The liturgical revolutionaries of the 1960s attempted to abolish the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and succeeded in the Benedictine General Calendar.  Surely no single act more loudly speaks of the demonic source of inspiration for some of these reforms than this.  Nonetheless the devil cannot long prevail against the Church: though the removal of the feast from the calendar was ratified by the Vatican, the texts that replaced them for the 'Second Sunday after Christmas' are perfectly orthodox.  And in reality most Benedictine monasteries do in fact continue to celebrate the feast, for the Roman Breviary of 1962 retained the feast, and the 2002 Missal restored it for the OF.

The Gospel

The Gospel for the feast is Luke 2:21:

Et postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur puer, vocatum est nomen ejus Jesus, quod vocatum est ab angelo priusquam in utero conciperetur. 

The Knox translation renders it as:

When eight days had passed, and the boy must be circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name which the angel had given him before ever he was conceived in the womb. 

Commentary 


The readings of the feast at Matins are by St Bernard: 

It is not idly that the Holy Ghost likeneth the Name of the Bridegroom to oil, when He maketh the Bride say to the Bridegroom: thy Name is as oil poured forth. Oil indeed giveth light, meat, and unction. It feedeth fire, it nourisheth the flesh, it sootheth pain; it is light, food, and healing. Behold, Thus also is the Name of the Bridegroom. To preach it, is to give light; to think of it, is to feed the soul; to call on it, is to win grace and unction. Let us take it point by point. What, thinkest thou, hath made the light of faith so suddenly and so brightly to shine in the whole world but the preaching of the Name of Jesus? Is it not in the light of this Name that God hath called us into His marvellous light, even that light wherewith we being enlightened, and in His light seeing light, Paul saith truly of us Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.

This is the Name which the Apostle was commanded to bear before Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel, the Name which he bore as a light to enlighten his people, crying everywhere The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light, let us walk honestly as in the dayligth, He pointed out to all that candle set upon a candlestick, preaching in every place Jesus and Him crucified. How did that Name shine forth and dazzle every eye that beheld it, when it came like lightning out of the mouth of Peter to give bodily strength to the feet of the lame man, and to clear the sight of many a blind soul? Cast he not fire when he said In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk


The Name of Jesus is not a Name of light only, but it is meat also. Dost thou ever call it to mind, and remain unstrengthened? Is there anything like it to enrich the soul of him that thinketh of it? What is there like it to restore the fagged senses, to fortify strength, to give birth to good lives and pure affections? The soul is fed on husks if that whereon it feedeth lack seasoning with this salt. If thou writest, thou hast no meaning for me if I read not of Jesus there. If thou preach, or dispute, thou hast no meaning for me if I hear not of Jesus there. The mention of Jesus is honey in the mouth, music in the ear, and gladness in the heart. It is our healing too. Is any sorrowful among us? Let the thought of Jesus come into his heart, and spring to his mouth. Behold, when the day of that Name beginneth to break, every cloud will flee away, and there will be a great calm. Doth any fall into sin? Doth any draw nigh to an hopeless death? And if he but call on the life - giving Name of Jesus, will he not draw the breath of a new life again?


Behold a mystery, great and full of wonder! The Child is circumcised, and His Name is called Jesus. Why are these two things thus mentioned together? It would seem that circumcision should rather be for the saved than for the Saviour; that the Saviour ought rather to be Circumciser than circumcised. But behold here the Mediator between God and men, how even from His childhood He joineth the things of the Highest to the things of the lowest, the things of God to the things of men. He is born of a woman, but her womb is made fruitful without the loss of the flower of her virginity. He is wrapped in swaddling-bands, but these swaddling-bands are a theme for the jubilation of angels. He is laid in a manger, but a bright star standeth in heaven over the place. So also in His circumcision, the ceremony gave proof of the reality of the Manhood which He had taken, and that Name which is above every name proclaimed the glory of His Blessed Majesty. As very son of Abraham He underwent circumcision; He assumed the Name of Jesus as very Son of God.


Why Jesus beareth not that Name as others have borne it before Him, as a vain and empty title. It is not in Him the shadow of a great Name, but the very meaning of that Name. That His Name was revealed from heaven, is attested by the Evangelist, where it is written, Which was so named of the Angel before He was conceived in the womb. After Jesus was born, men called Him Jesus, but angels called Him Jesus, before He was conceived in the womb. The One Lord is the Saviour of angels and of men; of men, since His Incarnation; of angels, from the beginning of their creation. His Name, saith the Evangelist, was called Jesus, which was so named of the Angel before He was conceived in the womb. In the mouth therefore of two or three witnesses is every word established; and that word whereof the Prophet spoke as cut short, is set forth at length in the Gospel the Word made Flesh.


It is no wonder that it should be at His circumcision that the Name of Jesus (which is, being interpreted, Saviour,) is given to the Child Who is born unto us, for it was then that He for the first time shed that sinless Blood Which is the mean whereby He hath chosen to work out our salvation. It is no matter for the speculation of Christians why the Lord Christ was pleased to be circumcised. He was circumcised for the same reason for which He was born, and for which He suffered. Neither one nor the other was for Himself, but all for the sake of the elect. He was not born in sin; He was not circumcised to separate Him from sin; neither did He die for sins of His own, but for ours. Which was so named of the Angel before He was conceived in the womb. The Angel indeed gave Him that title of Saviour, but not for the first time. Saviour is His Name from everlasting; He hath it of His own proper nature to save. This title He hath in Himself, not by the gift of anything that He hath made, be it man or Angel.