Saturday, 15 February 2014

Gospel for Septuagesima Sunday

c11th, Codex Aureus Epternacensis

This Sunday's Gospel is St Matthew 20:1-16, the parable of the labourers in the vineyard.

1 Simile est regnum cælorum homini patrifamilias, qui exiit primo mane conducere operarios in vineam suam. 2 Conventione autem facta cum operariis ex denario diurno, misit eos in vineam suam. 3 Et egressus circa horam tertiam, vidit alios stantes in foro otiosos, 4 et dixit illis: Ite et vos in vineam meam, et quod justum fuerit dabo vobis. 5 Illi autem abierunt. Iterum autem exiit circa sextam et nonam horam: et fecit similiter. 6 Circa undecimam vero exiit, et invenit alios stantes, et dicit illis: Quid hic statis tota die otiosi? 7 Dicunt ei: Quia nemo nos conduxit. Dicit illis: Ite et vos in vineam meam.8 Cum sero autem factum esset, dicit dominus vineæ procuratori suo: Voca operarios, et redde illis mercedem incipiens a novissimis usque ad primos. 9 Cum venissent ergo qui circa undecimam horam venerant, acceperunt singulos denarios. 10 Venientes autem et primi, arbitrati sunt quod plus essent accepturi: acceperunt autem et ipsi singulos denarios. 11 Et accipientes murmurabant adversus patremfamilias, 12 dicentes: Hi novissimi una hora fecerunt, et pares illos nobis fecisti, qui portavimus pondus diei, et æstus. 13 At ille respondens uni eorum, dixit: Amice, non facio tibi injuriam: nonne ex denario convenisti mecum? 14 Tolle quod tuum est, et vade: volo autem et huic novissimo dare sicut et tibi. 15 Aut non licet mihi quod volo, facere? an oculus tuus nequam est, quia ego bonus sum? 16 Sic erunt novissimi primi, et primi novissimi. Multi enim sunt vocati, pauci vero electi.

And from the Douay-Rheims:

1] The kingdom of heaven is like to an householder, who went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. [2] And having agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. [3] And going out about the third hour, he saw others standing in the market place idle. [4] And he said to them: Go you also into my vineyard, and I will give you what shall be just. [5] And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did in like manner.[6] But about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing, and he saith to them: Why stand you here all the day idle? [7] They say to him: Because no man hath hired us. He saith to them: Go you also into my vineyard. [8] And when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith to his steward: Call the labourers and pay them their hire, beginning from the last even to the first. [9] When therefore they were come, that came about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. [10] But when the first also came, they thought that they should receive more: and they also received every man a penny.[11] And receiving it they murmured against the master of the house, [12] Saying: These last have worked but one hour, and thou hast made them equal to us, that have borne the burden of the day and the heats. [13] But he answering said to one of them: Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst thou not agree with me for a penny? [14] Take what is thine, and go thy way: I will also give to this last even as to thee. [15] Or, is it not lawful for me to do what I will? is thy eye evil, because I am good?[16] So shall the last be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.

The readings

The Matins readings on this for Sunday are from St Gregory the Great:

(Reading 9): We hear that the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning, to hire labourers into his vineyard. Who indeed is more justly to be likened to an householder than our Maker, Who is the Head of the household of faith, bearing rule over them whom He hath made, and being Master of His chosen ones in the world, as a Master over those that are in his house? He it is That hath the Church for a vineyard, a vineyard that ceaseth not to bring forth branches of the True Vine, from righteous Abel to the last of the elect that shall be born in the world.

(Reading 10):This householder, then, for the cultivation of his vineyard, goeth out early in the morning, and at the third hour, and the sixth hour, and the ninth hour, and the eleventh hour, to hire labourers into his vineyard. Thus the Lord, from the beginning to the end of the world, ceaseth not to gather together preachers for the instruction of His faithful people. The early morning of the world was from Adam until Noah; the third hour from Noah until Abraham; the sixth hour from Abraham until Moses; the ninth hour from Moses until the coming of the Lord; the eleventh hour from the coming of the Lord until the end of the world. At this eleventh hour are sent forth as preachers the Holy Apostles, who have received full wages, albeit they be come in late.

(Reading 11): Nor the cultivation of His vineyard, (that is, the instruction of His people,) the Lord hath never ceased to send into it labourers. First, by the Fathers, then, by the Prophets and Teachers of the Law, and lastly, by the Apostles He hath dressed and tended the lives of His people, as the owner of a vineyard dresseth and tendeth it by means of workmen. Whoever in whatever degree joined to a right faith the teaching of righteousness, was so far one of God's labourers in God's vineyard. 

(Reading 12): By the labourers at early morning, and at the third hour, the sixth hour, and the ninth hour, may be understood God's ancient people, the Hebrews, who strove to worship Him with a right faith in company with His chosen ones from the very beginning of the world, and thus continually laboured in His vineyard. And now, at the eleventh hour, it is said unto the Gentiles also Why stand ye here all the day idle?

Notes on Matthew 16:21-28

The final section of St Matthew 16 foreshadows the coming Passion, and provides a stern warning to the apostles: rather than being concerned with earthly appearances, we must expect the way of suffering:

21 Exinde cœpit Jesus ostendere discipulis suis, quia oporteret eum ire Jerosolymam, et multa pati a senioribus, et scribis, et principibus sacerdotum, et occidi, et tertia die resurgere. 22 Et assumens eum Petrus, cœpit increpare illum dicens: Absit a te, Domine: non erit tibi hoc. 23 Qui conversus, dixit Petro: Vade post me Satana, scandalum es mihi: quia non sapis ea quæ Dei sunt, sed ea quæ hominum. 24 Tunc Jesus dixit discipulis suis: Si quis vult post me venire, abneget semetipsum, et tollat crucem suam, et sequatur me. 25 Qui enim voluerit animam suam salvam facere, perdet eam: qui autem perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet eam. 26 Quid enim prodest homini, si mundum universum lucretur, animæ vero suæ detrimentum patiatur? aut quam dabit homo commutationem pro anima sua? 27 Filius enim hominis venturus est in gloria Patris sui cum angelis suis: et tunc reddet unicuique secundum opera ejus. 28 Amen dico vobis, sunt quidam de hic stantibus, qui non gustabunt mortem, donec videant Filium hominis venientem in regno suo.

And from the Douay-Rheims:

21] From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again. [22] And Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee. [23] Who turning, said to Peter: Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men. [24] Then Jesus said to his disciples: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. [25] For he that will save his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. [26] For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul? [27] For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels: and then will he render to every man according to his works. [28] Amen I say to you, there are some of them that stand here, that shall not taste death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

Commentary

This passage is surely amongst the hardest sayings of the Gospel, for few of us truly embrace suffering, even when it is brought about by our own foolishness or worse, let alone when it comes to us unwarranted.  

The Gospel calls on us first of all to truly embrace the scandal of the Cross in the example of Christ, as St John Chrysostom comments in his Homily 55.  More, it calls on us to be prepared to follow suit:

Then; when? When Peter said, Be it far from You, this shall not be unto You; and was told, Get behind me, Satan. Matthew 16:22-23 For He was by no means satisfied with the mere rebuke, but, willing also more abundantly to show both the extravagance of what Peter had said, and the benefit of His passion, He says, Your word to me is, Be it far from You, this shall not be unto You: but my word to you is, Not only is it hurtful to you, and destructive, to hinder me and to be displeased at my Passion, but it will be impossible for you even to be saved, unless you yourself too be continually prepared for death.

Why is this necessary?:

"Thus, lest they should think His suffering unworthy of Him, not by the former things only, but also by the events that were coming on, He teaches them the gain thereof. Thus in John first, He says, Except the grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone; but if it die, it brings forth much fruit; John 12:24 but here more abundantly working it out, not concerning Himself only does He bring forward the statement that it is meet to die, but concerning them also. For so great is the profit thereof, that in your case also unwillingness to die is grievous, but to be ready for it, good."

We are not compelled though, only invited:

"...If any man will come after me. I force not, I compel not, but each one I make lord of his own choice; wherefore also I say, 'If any man will.' For to good things do I call you, not to things evil, or burdensome; not to punishment and vengeance, that I should have to compel. Nay, the nature of the thing is alone sufficient to attract you."

What then must we do to attain the treasure of heaven?  Make the necessary act of will, and embrace all that it entails:

...And let him take up his cross. This arises out of the other. For to hinder your supposing that words, and insults, and reproaches are to be the limits of our self-renunciation, He says also how far one ought to renounce one's self; that is, unto death, and that a reproachful death. Therefore He said not, Let him renounce himself unto death, but, Let him take up his cross; setting forth the reproachful death; and that not once, nor twice, but throughout all life one ought so to do. Yea, says He, bear about this death continually, and day by day be ready for slaughter. For since many have indeed contemned riches, and pleasure, and glory, but death they despised not, but feared dangers; I, says He, will that my champion should wrestle even unto blood, and that the limits of his course should reach unto slaughter; so that although one must undergo death, death with reproach, the accursed death, and that upon evil surmise, we are to bear all things nobly, and rather to rejoice in being suspected.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Notes on Matthew 16:13-20

Verses 13-20 of St Matthew provide St Peter's famous declaration of faith in Jesus, his commissioning as head of the Church, the power to absolve sins, and the protections afforded to Christ's Church:

13 Venit autem Jesus in partes Cæsareæ Philippi: et interrogabat discipulos suos, dicens: Quem dicunt homines esse Filium hominis? 14 At illi dixerunt: Alii Joannem Baptistam, alii autem Eliam, alii vero Jeremiam, aut unum ex prophetis. 15 Dicit illis Jesus: Vos autem, quem me esse dicitis? 16 Respondens Simon Petrus dixit: Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi. 17 Respondens autem Jesus, dixit ei: Beatus es Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelavit tibi, sed Pater meus, qui in cælis est. 18 Et ego dico tibi, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portæ inferi non prævalebunt adversus eam. 19 Et tibi dabo claves regni cælorum. Et quodcumque ligaveris super terram, erit ligatum et in cælis: et quodcumque solveris super terram, erit solutum et in cælis. 20 Tunc præcepit discipulis suis ut nemini dicerent quia ipse esset Jesus Christus.

And in English:

[13] And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? [14] But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. [15] Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? [16] Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. [17] And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [19] And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven. [20] Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ.

Commentary

A key issue in our times, as in so many others, is just what the assurance that the gates of hell will not prevail  - that is the doctrine of the indefectibility of the church - actually means in practice!

It is worth noting first of all Challoner's extremely strong summation of this issue:

"The gates of hell: That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself, or his agents. For as the church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, that is, the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the church of Christ."

His reassurance is firmly based on the teaching of the Fathers, as the Catena Aurea makes clear:

JEROME; I suppose the gates of hell to mean vice and sin, or at least the doctrines of heretics by which men are ensnared and drawn into hell.

ORIGEN; He does not express what it is which they shall not prevail against, whether the rock on which He builds the Church, or the Church which He builds on the rock; but it is clear that neither against the rock nor against the Church will the gates of hell prevail. 

CYRIL; According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud, above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members, this reigns alone immovably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the mouths of all heretics; and we, not drunken with the wine of pride, confess together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition. 

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Notes on St Matthew 16: 1-12

St Matthew 16 opens with the demand from the Pharisees for a sign, and a warning to the disciples  about their false doctrines.  But there are also some more subtle lessons in this on belief and our relationship to Jesus I think:

1 Et accesserunt ad eum pharisæi et sadducæi tentantes: et rogaverunt eum ut signum de cælo ostenderet eis. 2 At ille respondens, ait illis: Facto vespere dicitis: Serenum erit, rubicundum est enim cælum. 3 Et mane: Hodie tempestas, rutilat enim triste cælum. 4 Faciem ergo cæli dijudicare nostis: signa autem temporum non potestis scire? Generatio mala et adultera signum quærit: et signum non dabitur ei, nisi signum Jonæ prophetæ. Et relictis illis, abiit.5 Et cum venissent discipuli ejus trans fretum, obliti sunt panes accipere. 6 Qui dixit illis: Intuemini, et cavete a fermento pharisæorum et sadducæorum. 7 At illi cogitabant intra se dicentes: Quia panes non accepimus. 8 Sciens autem Jesus, dixit: Quid cogitatis intra vos modicæ fidei, quia panes non habetis? 9 Nondum intelligitis, neque recordamini quinque panum in quinque millia hominum, et quot cophinos sumpsistis? 10 neque septem panum in quatuor millia hominum, et quot sportas sumpsistis? 11 Quare non intelligitis, quia non de pane dixi vobis: Cavete a fermento pharisæorum et sadducæorum? 12 Tunc intellexerunt quia non dixerit cavendum a fermento panum, sed a doctrina pharisæorum et sadducæorum.

Or in English:

And there came to him the Pharisees and Sadducees tempting: and they asked him to shew them a sign from heaven. [2] But he answered and said to them: When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather, for the sky is red. [3] And in the morning: Today there will be a storm, for the sky is red and lowering. You know then how to discern the face of the sky: and can you not know the signs of the times? [4] A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign: and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. And he left them, and went away. [5] And when his disciples were come over the water, they had forgotten to take bread. [6] Who said to them: Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. [7] But they thought within themselves, saying: Because we have taken no bread. [8] And Jesus knowing it, said: Why do you think within yourselves, O ye of little faith, for that you have no bread? [9] Do you not yet understand, neither do you remember the five loaves among five thousand men, and how many baskets you took up? [10] Nor the seven loaves among four thousand men, and how many baskets you took up? [11] Why do you not understand that it was not concerning the bread I said to you: Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? [12] Then they understood that he said not that they should beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Commentary

The first point to note is that Our Lord's contemporaries rejected the miracles they could see being performed right in front of them, and demanded yet more.  St John Chrysostom's sermon notes:

But for what sign from Heaven were they asking? Either that He should say the sun, or curb the moon, or bring down thunderbolts, or work a change in the air, or some other such thing.

What then says He to all this? You can discern the face of the sky, but can you not discern the signs of the times? See His meekness and moderation. For not even as before did He refuse merely, and say, There shall none be given them, but He states also the cause why He gives it not, even though they were not asking for information.

What then was the cause? Much as in the sky, says He, one thing is a sign of a storm, another of fair weather, and no one when he saw the sign of foul weather would seek for a calm, neither in calm and fair weather for a storm; so should you reckon with regard to me also. For this present time of my coming, is different from that which is to come. Now there is need of these signs which are on the earth, but those in Heaven are stored up against that time. Now as a physician am I come, then I shall be here as a judge; now to seek that which is gone astray, then to demand an account. Therefore in a hidden manner am I come, but then with much publicity, folding up the heaven, hiding the sun, not suffering the moon to give her light. Then 'the very powers of the heavens shall be shaken,' Matthew 24:29 and the manifestation of my coming shall imitate lightning that appears at once to all. Matthew 24:27 But not now is the time for these signs; for I have come to die, and to suffer all extremities...

And if men speak of the signs in Pharaoh's time, there was an enemy then from whom deliverance was needed, and it all took place in due course. But to Him that came among friends there was no need of those signs.

And besides, how shall I give the great signs, when the little are not believed? Little, I mean, as regards display, since in power these latter were much greater than the former. For what could be equal to remitting sins, and raising the dead, and driving away devils, and creating a body, and ordering all other things aright?

But see their hardened heart, how on being told, that no sign should be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonas, they do not ask. And yet, knowing both the prophet, and all that befell him, and having been told this a second time, they ought to have inquired and learned what the saying could mean; but, as I said, there is no desire of information in these their doings. For this cause He also left them, and departed.

The disciples though, are not much better at this point, panicking when they realise they forgot to bring food with them, and forgetting the miracles of the feeding of the multitudes.  We are often told these days that our relationship to Jesus should be that of a best friend.  But the great saints such as St Benedict and St Teresa of Avila more often admonish us to treat him as King and Father, and it is surely more this type of relationship we see exhibited in the Gospels.  St John Chrysostom comments:

Wherefore on all accounts He attacks them even with severity, saying, Why reason ye in yourselves, O you of little faith, because you have brought no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? Having ears, hear ye not? Mark 8:17-18 Do ye not remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Matthew 16:9-10

Do you see intense displeasure? For nowhere else does He appear to have so rebuked them...For not everywhere is lenity a good thing. And as He used to allow them freedom of speech, so does He also reprove, by this variety providing for their salvation. And mark at once His reproof, how strong, and His mildness. For all but excusing Himself to them for His severe reproofs to them, He says, Do ye not yet consider the five loaves, and how many baskets ye took up; and the seven loaves, and how many baskets ye took up? And to this end He sets down also the numbers, as well of the persons fed as of the fragments, at once both bringing them to recollection of the past, and making them more attentive to the future.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Notes on Matthew 15:21-39

The second half of St Matthew 15 deals with a Canaanite woman whose daughter is possessed, and the feeding of the four thousand:

21 Et egressus inde Jesus secessit in partes Tyri et Sidonis. 22 Et ecce mulier chananæa a finibus illis egressa clamavit, dicens ei: Miserere mei, Domine fili David: filia mea male a dæmonio vexatur. 23 Qui non respondit ei verbum. Et accedentes discipuli ejus rogabant eum dicentes: Dimitte eam: quia clamat post nos. 24 Ipse autem respondens ait: Non sum missus nisi ad oves, quæ perierunt domus Israël. 25 At illa venit, et adoravit eum, dicens: Domine, adjuva me. 26 Qui respondens ait: Non est bonum sumere panem filiorum, et mittere canibus. 27 At illa dixit: Etiam Domine: nam et catelli edunt de micis quæ cadunt de mensa dominorum suorum. 28 Tunc respondens Jesus, ait illi: O mulier, magna est fides tua: fiat tibi sicut vis. Et sanata est filia ejus ex illa hora.29 Et cum transisset inde Jesus, venit secus mare Galilææ: et ascendens in montem, sedebat ibi. 30 Et accesserunt ad eum turbæ multæ, habentes secum mutos, cæcos, claudos, debiles, et alios multos: et projecerunt eos ad pedes ejus, et curavit eos, 31 ita ut turbæ mirarentur, videntes mutos loquentes, claudos ambulantes, cæcos videntes: et magnificabant Deum Israël.32 Jesus autem, convocatis discipulis suis, dixit: Misereor turbæ, quia triduo jam perseverant mecum, et non habent quod manducent: et dimittere eos jejunos nolo, ne deficiant in via. 33 Et dicunt ei discipuli: Unde ergo nobis in deserto panes tantos, ut saturemus turbam tantam? 34 Et ait illis Jesus: Quot habetis panes? At illi dixerunt: Septem, et paucos pisciculos. 35 Et præcepit turbæ ut discumberent super terram. 36 Et accipiens septem panes, et pisces, et gratias agens, fregit, et dedit discipulis suis, et discipuli dederunt populo. 37 Et comederunt omnes, et saturati sunt. Et quod superfuit de fragmentis, tulerunt septem sportas plenas. 38 Erant autem qui manducaverunt quatuor millia hominum, extra parvulos et mulieres. 39 Et, dimissa turba, ascendit in naviculam: et venit in fines Magedan.

And in English:

[21] And Jesus went from thence, and retired into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. [22] And behold a woman of Canaan who came out of those coasts, crying out, said to him: Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David: my daughter is grieviously troubled by the devil. [23] Who answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying: Send her away, for she crieth after us: [24] And he answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep that are lost of the house of Israel. [25] But she came and adored him, saying: Lord, help me. [26] Who answering, said: It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs. [27] But she said: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. [28] Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt: and her daughter was cured from that hour. [29] And when Jesus had passed away from thence, he came nigh the sea of Galilee. And going up into a mountain, he sat there. [30] And there came to him great multitudes, having with them the dumb, the blind, the lame, the maimed, and many others: and they cast them down at his feet, and he healed them: [31] So that the multitudes marvelled seeing the dumb speak, the lame walk, and the blind see: and they glorified the God of Israel. [32] And Jesus called together his disciples, and said: I have compassion on the multitudes, because they continue with me now three days, and have not what to eat, and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way. [33] And the disciples say unto him: Whence then should we have so many loaves in the desert, as to fill so great a multitude? [34] And Jesus said to them: How many loaves have you? But they said: Seven, and a few little fishes. [35] And he commanded the multitude to sit down upon the ground.[36] And taking the seven loaves and the fishes, and giving thanks, he brake, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the people. [37] And they did all eat, and had their fill. And they took up seven baskets full, of what remained of the fragments. [38] And they that did eat, were four thousand men, beside children and women. [39] And having dismissed the multitude, he went up into a boat, and came into the coasts of Magedan.

Commentary

The story of the Canaanite woman requires, I think, some explication.  Here are some extracts from the Catena Aurea to help.

1.  How does Jesus come to encounter the Canaanite woman?

JEROME; Leaving the Scribes and Pharisees and those cavilers, He passes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon, that He may heal the Tyrians and Sidonians; And Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

REMIG; Tyre and Sidon were Gentile towns, for Tyre was the metropolis of the Chananaeans, and Sidon the boundary of the Chananaeans towards the north. 

CHRYS; It should be observed, that when He delivered the Jews from the observance of meats, He then also opened the door to the Gentiles, as Peter was first bidden in the vision to break this law, and was afterwards sent to Cornelius. But if any should ask, how it is that He bade His disciples go not into the way of the Gentiles, and yet now Himself walks this way; we will answer, first, that that precept which He had given His disciples was not obligatory on Him; secondly, that He went not to preach, whence Mark even says, that He purposely concealed Himself. 

REMIG; He went that He might heal them of Tyre and Sidon; or that He might deliver this woman's daughter from the demon, and so through her faith might condemn the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Of this woman it proceeds And, behold, a woman, a Chananite, came out from those parts. 

CHRYS; The Evangelist says that she was a Chananaean, to show the power of Christ's presence. For this nation, which had been driven out that they might not corrupt the Jews, now showed themselves wiser than the Jews, leaving their own borders that they might go to Christ. And when she came to Him, she asked only for mercy, as it follows, She cried to Him, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, you Son of David. 

2.  The faith of the Canaanite woman: why does Jesus not answer her at first?

GLOSS; The great faith of this Chananaean woman is herein showed. She believes Him to be God, in that she calls Him Lord; and man, in that she calls Him Son of David. She claims nothing of her own desert, but craves only God's mercy. And she says not, Have mercy on my daughter, but Have mercy on me; because the affliction of the daughter is the affliction of the mother. And the more to excite His compassion, she declares to Him the whole of her grief, My daughter is grievously vexed by a demon; thus unfolding to the Physician the wound and the extent and nature of the disease; its extent, when she says is grievously vexed; its nature, by a demon. 

CHRYS; Note the wisdom of this woman, in she went not to men who promised fair, she sought not useless bandages, but leaving all devilish charms, she came to the Lord. She asked not James, she did not pray John, or apply to Peter, but putting herself under the protection of penitence, she ran alone to the Lord. But, behold, a new trouble. She makes her petition, raising her voice into a shout, and God, the lover of mankind, answers not a word. 

JEROME; Not from pharisaic pride, or the superciliousness of the Scribes, but that He might not seem to contravene His own decision, Go not into the way of the Gentiles. For He was unwilling to give occasion to their cavils, and reserved the complete salvation of the Gentiles for the season of His passion and resurrection. 

GLOSS; And by this delay in answering, He shows us the patience and perseverance of this woman. And He answered not for this reason also, that the disciples might petition for her; showing herein that the prayers of the Saints are necessary in order to obtain any thing; as it follows, And his disciples came to him, saying, Send her away, for she cries after us. 

CHRYS; I judge that the disciples were sorry for the woman's affliction, yet dared not say, Grant her this mercy, but only Send her away as we, when we would persuade any one, oftentimes say the very contrary to what we wish. He answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 

JEROME; He says that He is not sent to the Gentiles but that He is sent first to Israel, so that when they would not receive the Gospel, the passing over to the Gentiles might have just cause. 

JEROME; And He adds of the house of Israel, with this design, that we might rightly interpret by this place that other parable concerning the stray sheep. 

GLOSS; The Jews were born sons, and brought up by the Law in the worship of one God. The bread is the Gospel, its miracles and other things which pertain to our salvation. It is not then meet that these should be taken from the children and given to the Gentiles, who are dogs, till the Jews refuse them. 

JEROME; Wonderful are shown the faith, patience, and humility of this woman; faith, that she believed that her daughter could be healed; patience, that so many times overlooked, she yet perseveres in her prayers; humility, that she compares herself not to the dogs, but to the whelps. I know, she says, that I do not deserve the children's bread, and that I cannot have whole meat, nor sit at the table with the master of the house, but I am content with that which is left for the whelps, that through humble fragments I may come to the amplitude of the perfect bread. 

Jesus' real response:

CHRYS; This was the cause why Christ was so backward, that He knew what she would say, and would not have her so great excellence hid; whence it follows, Then Jesus answered and said to her, O woman, great is your faith, be it to you according to your will. Observe how the woman herself had contributed not a little to her daughter's healing; and therefore Christ said not to her, 'Let your daughter be healed', but, Be it to you according to your will; that you may perceive that she had spoken in sincerity, and that her words were not words of flattery, but of abundant faith. And this word of Christ is like that word which said, Let there be a firmament and it was made; so here, And her daughter was made whole from that hour. Observe how she obtains what the Apostles could not obtain for her; so great a thing is the earnestness of prayer. He would rather that we should pray for our own offenses ourselves, than that others should pray for us. 

REMIG; In these words is given us a pattern of catechizing and baptizing children; for the woman says not 'Heal my daughter,' or 'Help her,' but, Have mercy upon me, and help me. Thus there has come down in the Church the practice that the faithful are sponsors to God for their young children, before they have attained such age and reason that they can themselves make any pledge to God. So that as by this woman's faith her daughter was healed, so by the faith of Catholics of mature age their sins might be forgiven to infants. Allegorically; This woman figures the Holy Church gathered out of the Gentiles. The Lord leaves the Scribes and Pharisees, and comes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon; this figures His leaving the Jews and going over to the Gentiles. This woman came out of her own country, because the Holy Church departed from former errors and sins. 

GLOSS; And if the Lord delays the salvation of a soul at the first tears of the supplicating Church, we ought not to despair, or to cease from our prayers, but rather continue them earnestly. 
  

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Lectio notes for Matthew 15:1-20

St Matthew 15 opens with a discussion of the law and its abuse by the Pharisees, and introduces the key concept of worship that is unacceptable to God.  These verses are the Gospel for the Mass of Wednesday after the third Sunday of Lent:

1 Tunc accesserunt ad eum ab Jerosolymis scribæ et pharisæi, dicentes: 2 Quare discipuli tui transgrediuntur traditionem seniorum? non enim lavant manus suas cum panem manducant. 3 Ipse autem respondens ait illis: Quare et vos transgredimini mandatum Dei propter traditionem vestram? Nam Deus dixit: 4 Honora patrem, et matrem: et, Qui maledixerit patri, vel matri, morte moriatur. 5 Vos autem dicitis: Quicumque dixerit patri, vel matri: Munus, quodcumque est ex me, tibi proderit: 6 et non honorificabit patrem suum, aut matrem suam: et irritum fecistis mandatum Dei propter traditionem vestram. 7 Hypocritæ, bene prophetavit de vobis Isaias, dicens: 8 Populus hic labiis me honorat:
cor autem eorum longe est a me. 9 Sine causa autem colunt me, docentes doctrinas et mandata hominum. 10 Et convocatis ad se turbis, dixit eis: Audite, et intelligite. 11 Non quod intrat in os, coinquinat hominem: sed quod procedit ex ore, hoc coinquinat hominem. 12 Tunc accedentes discipuli ejus, dixerunt ei: Scis quia pharisæi audito verbo hoc, scandalizati sunt? 13 At ille respondens ait: Omnis plantatio, quam non plantavit Pater meus cælestis, eradicabitur. 14 Sinite illos: cæci sunt, et duces cæcorum; cæcus autem si cæco ducatum præstet, ambo in foveam cadunt. 15 Respondens autem Petrus dixit ei: Edissere nobis parabolam istam. 16 At ille dixit: Adhuc et vos sine intellectu estis? 17 Non intelligitis quia omne quod in os intrat, in ventrem vadit, et in secessum emittitur? 18 Quæ autem procedunt de ore, de corde exeunt, et ea coinquinant hominem: 19 de corde enim exeunt cogitationes malæ, homicidia, adulteria, fornicationes, furta, falsa testimonia, blasphemiæ: 20 hæc sunt, quæ coinquinant hominem. Non lotis autem manibus manducare, non coinquinat hominem.

In English:

Then came to him from Jerusalem scribes and Pharisees, saying: [2] Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the ancients? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread. [3] But he answering, said to them: Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for your tradition? For God said: [4] Honour thy father and mother: And: He that shall curse father or mother, let him die the death. [5] But you say: Whosoever shall say to father or mother, The gift whatsoever proceedeth from me, shall profit thee. [6] And he shall not honour his father or his mother: and you have made void the commandment of God for your tradition. [7] Hypocrites, well hath Isaias prophesied of you, saying: [8] This people honoureth me with their lips: but their heart is far from me. [9] And in vain do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men. [10] And having called together the multitudes unto him, he said to them: Hear ye and understand. [11] Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man: but what cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. [12] Then came his disciples, and said to him: Dost thou know that the Pharisees, when they heard this word, were scandalized? [13] But he answering them, said: Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. [14] Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit. [15] And Peter answering, said to him: Expound to us this parable. [16] But he said: Are you also yet without understanding? [17] Do you not understand, that whatsoever entereth into the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the privy? [18] But the things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. [19] For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. [20] These are the things that defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands doth not defile a man.

Commentary

There are many in the Church today who find something to praise in the forms of worship of other religions - the fasting of Ramadan, or the feasts of the Jewish religion today for example.  Yet this passage teaches us that such 'worship' can be entirely in vain where what is being propagated is actually the twisted doctrines constructed by men, not God.  The point is just as applicable though to those who claim to be within the Church, but instead of respecting the tradition invent their own doctrines and indulge in endless liturgical abuses.  

Chrysostom comments, in Homily 51:

"...But mark, I pray you, how even by the question itself they are convicted; in not saying, Why do they transgress the law of Moses, but, the tradition of the elders. Whence it is evident that the priests were inventing many novelties, although Moses, with much terror and with much threatening, had enjoined neither to add nor take away. For you shall not add, says he, unto the word which I command you this day, and you shall not take away from it. Deuteronomy 4:2.

But not the less were they innovating; as in this instance, that one ought not to eat with unwashen hands, that we must wash cups and brazen vessels, that we must wash also ourselves. Thus, when men were henceforth, as time advanced, to be freed from their observances, at that very time they bound them with the same in more and more instances, fearing lest any one should take away their power, and wishing to strike more dread, as though they were themselves also lawgivers. The thing in fact proceeded so far in enormity, that while their own commandments were kept, those of God were transgressed; and they so far prevailed, that the matter had actually become a ground of accusation. Which was a twofold charge against them, in that they both invented novelties, and were so strict exactors on their own account, while of God they made no reckoning...

The solution is to ensure that we worship in body and mind:

Having thus adorned ourselves, let us come to our King, and fall at His knees, not with the body only, but also with the mind. Let us consider whom we are approaching, and on whose behalf, and what we would accomplish. We are drawing near unto God, whom the seraphim behold and turn away their faces, not bearing His brightness; at sight of whom the earth trembles. We draw near unto God, who dwells in the light, which no man can approach unto. 1 Timothy 6:16 And we draw near unto Him for deliverance from hell, for remission of sins, for escape from those in tolerable punishments, for attaining to the Heavens, and to the good things that are there. Let us, I say, fall down before Him both in body and in mind, that He may raise us up when we are down; let us converse with all gentleness and meekness...