Saturday, 8 March 2014

First Sunday of Lent

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent is St Matthew 4:1-11 (the temptation of Christ):

1 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.

The Douay-Rheims renders it as follows:

Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil. [2] And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry. [3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, [6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve. [11] Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.

Patristic readings

The Third Nocturn Matins readings in the Benedictine Office are from St Gregory the Great:

(Reading 9): Some persons are accustomed to question what Spirit it was of which Jesus was led up into the wilderness, on account of the words a little farther on Then the devil taketh Him up into the holy city and again The devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain. But in truth, and without any searching, we may very fitly take it that we are to believe it was the Holy Ghost Who led Him up into the wilderness; His own Spirit led Him where the evil spirit found Him to tempt Him. 

(Reading 10): When however it is said that He, God and man, was taken up by the devil either into an exceeding high mountain or into the holy city, the mind shrinketh from believing, and the ears of man tingle to hear it. Yet these things we know not to be incredible, when we consider certain other things concerning Him.

(Reading 11): In truth, the devil is the head of all the wicked, and every wicked man is a member of this body, of which the devil is the head. Was not Pilate a limb of Satan? Were not the Jews that persecuted, and the soldiers that crucified Christ, likewise limbs of Satan? Is it then strange that He should allow Himself to be led up into a mountain by the head, Who allowed Himself to be crucified by the members? Therefore it is not unworthy of our Redeemer, Who came to be slain, that He was willing to be tempted. It was meet that He should thus overcome our temptations by His own, even as He came to conquer our death by His own.

(Reading 12): We ought to know that temptation worketh through three forms. There is, first, the suggestion; then the delectation; lastly, the consent. When we are tempted, it often happeneth that we fall into delectation, and even into consent, because in the sinful flesh of which we are begotten, we carry in ourselves matter to favour the attack. But God, when He took Flesh in the womb of the Virgin, and came into the world without sin, did so without having in Himself anything of this lusting of the flesh against the spirit. It was possible therefore for Him to be tempted in the first stage, namely suggestion; but there was nothing in His Mind in which delectation could fix its teeth. And thus all the temptation which He endured from the devil was without, and none within Him.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

St Matthew 28

The final verses of St Matthew's Gospel deal with the great commission.  Verses 16-20 are the Gospel for the Friday in the Easter Octave; and 18-20 on the Feast of the Holy Trinity:

16 Undecim autem discipuli abierunt in Galilæam in montem ubi constituerat illis Jesus. 17 Et videntes eum adoraverunt: quidam autem dubitaverunt. 18 Et accedens Jesus locutus est eis, dicens: Data est mihi omnis potestas in cælo et in terra: 19 euntes ergo docete omnes gentes: baptizantes eos in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti: 20 docentes eos servare omnia quæcumque mandavi vobis: et ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, usque ad consummationem sæculi.

And the eleven disciples went into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them. [17] And seeing him they adored: but some doubted. [18] And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. [19] Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.

The Catena Aurea anthology includes the following:

BEDE; When Saint Matthew has vindicated the Lord's resurrection as declared by the Angel, he relates the vision of the Lord which the disciples had, Then the eleven disciples went into Galilee into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. For when coming to His Passion the Lord had said to His disciples, After I am risen I will go before you into Galilee; and the Angel said the same to the women. Therefore the disciples obey the command of their Master. Eleven only go, for one had already perished. 

JEROME; After His Resurrection, Jesus is seen and worshipped in the mountain in Galilee; though some doubt, their doubting confirms our faith. 

REMIG. This is more fully told by Luke; how when the Lord after the Resurrection appeared to the disciples, in their terror they thought they saw a spirit. 

BEDE. The Lord appeared to them in the mountain to signify, that His Body which at His Birth He had taken of the common dust of the human race, He had by His Resurrection exalted above all earthly things; and to teach the faithful that if they desire there to see the height of His Resurrection, they must endeavor here to pass from low pleasures to high desires. And He goes before His disciples into Galilee, because Christ is risen from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept. And they that are Christ's follow Him, and pass in their order from death to life, contemplating Him as He appears with His proper Divinity. And it agrees with this that Galilee is interpreted 'revelation.' 

 REMIG. The disciples then, when they saw Him, knew the Lord; and worshipped Him, bowing their faces to the ground. And He their affectionate and merciful Master, that He might take away all doubtfulness from their hearts, coming to them, strengthened them in their belief; as it follows, And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. 

JEROME; Observe the order of these injunctions. He bids the Apostles first to teach all nations, then to wash them with the sacrament of faith, and after faith and baptism then to teach them what things they ought to observe; Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

St Matthew 27: 62-65

The Latin, Greek and English translations of St Matthew 27 can be found here.  It covers the events  of Jesus trial and crucifixion.

The chapter concludes with the Jewish authorities being concerned over the possibility of  deceit over the resurrection:

62 Altera autem die, quæ est post Parasceven, convenerunt principes sacerdotum et pharisæi ad Pilatum, 63 dicentes: Domine, recordati sumus, quia seductor ille dixit adhuc vivens: Post tres dies resurgam. 64 Jube ergo custodiri sepulchrum usque in diem tertium: ne forte veniant discipuli ejus, et furentur eum, et dicant plebi: Surrexit a mortuis: et erit novissimus error pejor priore. 65 Ait illis Pilatus: Habetis custodiam, ite, custodite sicut scitis. 66 Illi autem abeuntes, munierunt sepulchrum, signantes lapidem, cum custodibus.

"62 Next day, the next after the day of preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered in Pilate’s presence, 63 and said, Sir, we have recalled it to memory that this deceiver, while he yet lived, said, I am to rise again after three days. 64 Give orders, then, that his tomb shall be securely guarded until the third day; or perhaps his disciples will come and steal him away. If they should then say to the people, He has risen from the dead, this last deceit will be more dangerous than the old. 65 Pilate said to them, You have guards; away with you, make it secure as you best know how. 66 And they went and made the tomb secure, putting a seal on the stone and setting a guard over it." (Knox translation)

The Catena Aurea comments:

HILARY; Their fear lest the body should be stolen, the setting a watch on the tomb, and sealing it, are marks of folly and unbelief, that they should have sought to seal up the tomb of One at whose bidding they had seen a dead man raised from the tomb. 

RABAN. When they say, And the last error will be worse than the first, they utter a truth unwittingly, for their contempt of penitence was worse for the Jews than was their error of ignorance. 

CHRYS. Observe how against their will they concert to demonstrate the truth, for by their precautions irrefragable demonstration of the resurrection was attained. The sepulcher was watched, and so no fraud could have been practiced; and if there was no collusion, it is certain that the Lord rose again. 

RABAN. Pilate's answer to their request is as much as to say, Be it enough for you that you have conspired the death of an innocent man, henceforth let your error remain with you. 

CHRYS. Pilate will not suffer that the soldiers alone should seal. But as though he had learnt the truth concerning Christ, he was no longer willing to be partner in their acts, and says, Seal it as you will yourselves, that you may not be able to accuse others. For had the soldiers alone sealed, they might have said that the soldiers had suffered the disciples to steal the body, and so given the disciples a handle to forge a tale concerning the resurrection; but this could they not say now, when they themselves had sealed the sepulcher.


Monday, 3 March 2014

Matthew 26

The New Advent page for St Matthew 26, which covers the events of Jesus celebrating the Paschal feast with his disciples, his arrest, the desertion of the disciples, and Peter's betrayal, can be found here.  It is read on Palm Sunday.

From the interrogation of Jesus by the Chief Priests:

59. Now the Chief Priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;

60. But found none: yes, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses,

61. And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.

62. And the High Priest arose, and said to him, Answer you nothing? what is it which these witness against you?

63. But Jesus held his peace. And the High Priest answered and said to him, I adjure you by the living God, that you tell us whether you be the Christ, the Son of God.

64. Jesus said to him, You have said: nevertheless I say to you, Hereafter shall you see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

65. Then the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now you have heard his blasphemy.

66. What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

67. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,

68. Saying, Prophesy to us, you Christ, Who is he that smote you?

The Catena Aurea:

When the Chief Priests were thus assembled, this conventicle of ruffians sought to give their conspiracy the character of a legal trial. But it was entirely a scene of confusion and uproar, as what follows shows, Though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. 

False witnesses have place when there is any good color for their testimony. But no pretext was found which could further their falsehoods against Jesus; notwithstanding there were many desirous to do a favor to the Chief Priests. This then is a great testimony in favor of Jesus, that He had lived and taught so irreproachably, that though they were many, and crafty, and wicked, they could find no semblance of fault in Him.

At last came two false witnesses. How are they false witnesses, when they repeat only what we read that the Lord spoke? A false witness is one who takes what is said in a different sense from that in which it was said. Now this the Lord had spoken of the temple of His Body, and they cavil at His expressions, and by a slight change and addition produce a plausible charge. The Lord's words were, Destroy this temple; this they make into, I can destroy the Temple of God. He said, Destroy not 'I will destroy,' because it is unlawful to lay hands on ourselves. Also they phrased it, And build it again, making it apply to the temple of the Jews; but the Lord had said, And I will raise it up again, thus clearly pointing out a living and breathing temple. For to build again, and to raise again, are two different things. 

CHRYS. Why did they not bring forward now His breaking the Sabbath? Because He had so often confuted them on this point. 

Headlong and uncontrolled rage, unable to find even a false accusation, moves the High Priest from his throne, the motion of his body showing the emotion of his mind. And the High Priest arose, and said to him, Answer you nothing to the things which these witness against You? 

He said this with a design to draw from Him some indefensible answer which might be made a snare for Him. But Jesus held his peace, for defense had availed nothing when none would listen to it. For here was only a mockery of justice, it was in truth nothing more than the anarchy of a den of robbers. 

ORIGEN; This place teaches us to contemn the clamors of slanderers and false witnesses, and not to consider those who speak unbeseeming things of us worthy of an answer; but then, above all, when it is greater to be manfully and resolutely silent, than to plead our cause in vain. 

JEROME; For as God, He knew that whatever He said would be twisted into an accusation against Him. But at this His silence before false witnesses and ungodly Priests, the High Priest was exasperated, and summons Him to answer, that from any thing He says he may raise a charge against Him. 

Under the Law, we do indeed find many instances of this adjuration; but I judge that a man who would live according to the Gospel should not adjure another; for if we are not permitted to swear, surely not to adjure. But he that regards Jesus commanding the demons, and giving His disciples power over them, will say, that to address the demons by the power given by the Savior, is not to adjure them. But the High Priest did sin in laying a snare for Jesus; imitating his father, who twice asked the Savior, If you be Christ the Son of God. Hence one might rightly say, that to doubt concerning the Son of God, whether Christ be He, is the work of the Devil. It was not fit that the Lord should answer the High Priest's adjuration as though under compulsion, wherefore He neither denied nor confessed Himself to be the Son of God. For he was not worthy to be the object of Christ's teaching, therefore He does not instruct him, but taking up his own words retorts them upon him. This sitting of the Son of Man seems to me to denote a certain regal security; by the power of God, Who is the only power, is He securely seated to Whom is given by His Father all power in heaven as in earth. And there will come a time when the enemies shall see this establishment. Indeed this has begun to be fulfilled from the earliest time of the dispensation; for the disciples saw Him rising from the dead, and thereby saw Him seated on the right hand of power. Or, In respect of that eternity of duration which is with God, from the beginning of the world to the end of it is but one day; it is therefore no wonder that the Savior here says, Shortly, signifying that there is but short time before the end come. He prophesies moreover, that they should not only see Him sitting at the right hand of power, but also coming in the clouds of heaven. These clouds are the Prophets and Apostles, whom He commands to rain when it is required, they are the clouds that pass not away, but bearing the image of the heavenly, are worthy to he the throne of God, as heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. 

The same fury which drew the High Priest from his seat, impels him now to rend his clothes; for so it was customary with the Jews to do whenever they heard any blasphemy, or any thing against God. 

CHRYS. This He did to give weight to the accusation, and to confirm by deeds what He taught in words. 

JEROME; And by this rending his garments, he shows that the Jews have lost the priestly glory, and that their High Priest's throne was vacant. For by rending his garment he rent the veil of the Law which covered him. 

Then, after rending his garment, he did not give sentence of himself; but asked of others, saying, What think you? As was always done in undeniable cases of sin, and manifest blasphemy, and as by force driving them to a certain opinion, he anticipates the answer, What need we any further witnesses? Behold, now you have heard his blasphemy. What was this blasphemy? For before He had interpreted to them as they were gathered together that text, The Lord said to my Lord, Sit you on my right hand, and they had held their peace, and had not contradicted Him. How then do they call what He now says blasphemy? They answered and said, He is guilty of death, the same persons, at once accusers, examiners, and sentencers. 

ORIGEN; How great their error! to pronounce the principle of all men's life to be guilty of death, and not to acknowledge by the testimony of the resurrection of so many, the Fount of life, from Whom life flows to all that rise again. 

CHRYS. As hunters who have started their game, so they exhibit a wild and drunken exultation. 

They spit in his face, and buffeted him, to fulfill the prophecy of Esaias, I gave my cheek to the smiters, and turned not away my face from shame and spitting. 

Prophesy to us; is said in ridicule of His claim to be held as a Prophet by the people. 

JEROME; But it would have been foolish to have answered them that smote Him, and to have declared the smiter, seeing that in their madness they seem to have struck; Him openly. 

CHRYS. Observe how circumstantially the Evangelist recounts all those particulars even which seem most disgraceful, hiding or extenuating nothing, but thinking it the highest glory that the Lord of the earth should endure such things for us. This let us read continually, let us imprint in our minds, and in these things let us boast. 

AUG. That, they did spit in his face, signifies those who reject His proffered grace. They likewise buffet Him who prefer their own honor to Him; and they smite Him on the face, who, blinded with unbelief, affirm that He is not yet come, disowning and rejecting His person.


Sunday, 2 March 2014

Readings for Quinquagesima Sunday

The Gospel for Quinquagesima Sunday is Luke 18:31-43.

The Third Nocturn Readings on it at Matins in the Benedictine Office are from St Gregory the Great:

Reading 9: Our Redeemer, foreseeing that the minds of His disciples would be troubled by His suffering, told them long before both of the pains of that suffering, and of the glory of His rising again, to the end that, when they should see Him die as He had prophesied, they might not doubt that He was likewise to rise again. But, since His disciples were yet carnal, and could not receive the words telling of this mystery, He wrought a miracle before them. A blind man received his sight before their eyes, that if they could not receive heavenly things by words, they might be persuaded of heavenly things by deeds.

Reading 10: But, dearly beloved brethren, we must so take the miracles of our Lord and Saviour, as believing both that they were actually wrought, and that they have some mystic interpretation for our instruction. For in His works, power speaketh one thing and mystery again another. Behold here, for instance. We know not historically who this blind man was, but we do know of what he was mystically the figure.

Reading 11: Mankind is blind, driven out from Eden in the persons of his first parents, knowing not the light of heaven, and suffering the darkness of condemnation. But, nevertheless, through the coming of his Redeemer, he is enlightened, so that now he seeth by hope already the gladness of inward light, and walketh by good works in the path of life.One must note that as Jesus drew to Jericho a blind man received his sight. Now, this name Jericho, being interpreted, signifieth the city of the moon and in Holy Scripture the moon is used as a figure of our imperfect flesh, of whose gradual corruption her monthly waning is a type.

Reading 12: As, therefore, our Maker draweth nigh to Jericho, a blind man receiveth his sight. While the Godhead taketh. into itself our weak manhood, man receiveth again the light which he had lost. By God's suffering in the Manhood, man is raised up toward God. This blind man is also well described as sitting by the wayside begging, for the Truth saith: “I am the Way.”

St Matthew 25

The New Advent page for St Matthew 25 can be found here.    Verses 1-15 (parable of the wise and foolish virgins) are used in the Common of Virgins.  The chapter also takes in the parable of the talents, and the sorting of the sheep from the goats (verses 31-46, the Gospel for the Monday after First Sunday of Lent).

Here is the parable of the talents in St Matthew's version:

"Then He spoke again another parable. A man travelling into a far country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods; to one five talents, to another two, to another one, to every man according to his several ability, and took his journey. Then, when the two had brought him the double, he that had been entrusted with the one talent brought it alone, and being blamed says, I knew that you are a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered; and I was afraid, and hid your talent; lo! There you have that is yours. His Lord answered and said, Thou wicked servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered: you ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I might have received my own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that has ten talents. For to him that has shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that has not, shall be taken away even that which he has. And cast the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Chrysostom comments:

Let us hearken then to these words. As we have opportunity, let us help on our salvation, let us get oil for our lamps, let us labor to add to our talent. For if we be backward, and spend our time in sloth here, no one will pity us any more hereafter, though we should wail ten thousand times. He also that had on the filthy garments condemned himself, and profited nothing. He also that had the one talent restored that which was committed to his charge, and yet was condemned. The virgins again entreated, and came unto Him and knocked, and all in vain, and without effect.

Knowing then these things, let us contribute alike wealth, and diligence, and protection, and all things for our neighbor's advantage. For the talents here are each person's ability, whether in the way of protection, or in money, or in teaching, or in what thing soever of the kind. Let no man say, I have but one talent, and can do nothing; for you can even by one approve yourself. For you are not poorer than that widow; you are not more uninstructed than Peter and John, who were both unlearned and ignorant men; Acts 4:13 but nevertheless, since they showed forth a zeal, and did all things for the common good, they attained to Heaven. For nothing is so pleasing to God, as to live for the common advantage.

For this end God gave us speech, and hands, and feet, and strength of body, and mind, and understanding, that we might use all these things, both for our own salvation, and for our neighbor's advantage. For not for hymns only and thanksgivings is our speech serviceable to us, but it is profitable also for instruction and admonition. And if indeed we used it to this end, we should be imitating our Master; but if for the opposite ends, the devil. Since Peter also, when he confessed the Christ, was blessed, as having spoken the words of the Father; but when he refused the cross, and dissuaded it, he was severely reproved, as savoring the things of the devil. But if where the saying was of ignorance, so heavy is the blame, when we of our own will commit many sins, what favor shall we have?