Saturday, 12 July 2014

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

The Gospel for this Sunday is St Matthew 5:20-24:

20 Dico enim vobis, quia nisi abundaverit justitia vestra plus quam scribarum et pharisæorum, non intrabitis in regnum cælorum. 21 Audistis quia dictum est antiquis: Non occides: qui autem occiderit, reus erit judicio. 22 Ego autem dico vobis: quia omnis qui irascitur fratri suo, reus erit judicio. Qui autem dixerit fratri suo, raca: reus erit concilio. Qui autem dixerit, fatue: reus erit gehennæ ignis. 23 Si ergo offers munus tuum ad altare, et ibi recordatus fueris quia frater tuus habet aliquid adversum te: 24 relinque ibi munus tuum ante altare, et vade prius reconciliari fratri tuo: et tunc veniens offeres munus tuum.

[20] For I tell you, that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [21] You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. [22] But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, Thou Fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. [23] If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; [24] Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.

Matins readings (from St Augustine)

Reading 9: Thou shalt not kill, is of the righteousness of the Pharisees; Thou shalt not be angry with thy brother without a cause, is of the righteousness of them which shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. The least therefore is: Thou shalt not kill, and whosoever shall break this commandment, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But whosoever shall do it, and not kill, he is not therefore great, and meet for the kingdom of heaven; albeit, he hath risen a step; but he will have gotten farther, if he be not angry with his brother without a cause, which, if he do, he will be the farther off from manslaughter. 

Reading 10: Wherefore, He Which teacheth us that we are not to be angry without a cause, destroyeth not the law, Thou shalt not kill, but rather fulfilleth and increaseth it, making us not only to be free of the sin of outward killing, but also clean of anger within.  On sins of this kind there are divers steps. First, there is the swelling feeling of anger. When this feeling appeareth in a man's heart, he keepeth it. 

Reading 11: Then the inward disturbance wringeth forth words of indignation, not themselves meaning aught, but showing the trouble of him who is provoked. And this is something more than anger kept covered under silence. Next, this audible outburst of indignation may contain direct and open reviling of him who hath roused it. And it cannot be doubted that this is something more than an empty cry of anger.

Reading 12: Behold here the three degrees of guilt open respectively to the judgment, to the council, and to hellfire. In the judgment, there is still place for defence. In the council, albeit this also is in a sense a judgment, yet we may suppose this distinction from the judgment proper, that the council pronounceth sentence, not as the result of a trial whereat the accused is present, but as the result of a consultation among the judges, to what punishment he is to be sentenced of whom it is already established that he is guilty. When we get to hell-fire, there remaineth no longer any doubt about condemnation, as in the judgment, and no longer any doubt about sentence, as in the council. In hellfire the condemnation and the pain of him that is condemned are alike certain.

St Luke 1: 67-79

Today, continuing this look at the Benedictus, some commentary from the Fathers via St Thomas' Catena Aurea.  First a reminder of the text:

67 Et Zacharias pater ejus repletus est Spiritu Sancto: et prophetavit, dicens: 

68 Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, quia visitavit, et fecit redemptionem plebis suæ: 
69 et erexit cornu salutis nobis in domo David pueri sui, 
70 sicut locutum est per os sanctorum, qui a sæculo sunt, prophetarum ejus: 
71 salutem ex inimicis nostris, et de manu omnium qui oderunt nos: 
72 ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris:et memorari testamenti sui sancti: 
73 jusjurandum, quod juravit ad Abraham patrem nostrum, daturum se nobis 
74 ut sine timore, de manu inimicorum nostrorum liberati, serviamus illi 
75 in sanctitate et justitia coram ipso, omnibus diebus nostris. 
76 Et tu puer, propheta Altissimi vocaberis: præibis enim ante faciem Domini parare vias ejus, 7
7 ad dandam scientiam salutis plebi ejus in remissionem peccatorum eorum 
78 per viscera misericordiæ Dei nostri, in quibus visitavit nos, oriens ex alto: 
79 illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent: ad dirigendos pedes nostros in viam pacis.


[67] And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost; and he prophesied, saying: 

[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people: 
[69] And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant: 
[70] As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning: 
[71] Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us: 
[72] To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember his holy testament, 
[73] The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us, 
[74] That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear, 
[75] In holiness and justice before him, all our days. 
[76] And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: 
[77] To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: 
[78] Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: 
[79] To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace. 

Commentary (Catena Aurea)

68. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he has visited and redeemed his people.

AMBROSE; God in His mercy and readiness to pardon our sins, not only restores to us what He has taken away, but grants us favors even beyond our expectations. Let no one then distrust Him, let no one from consciousness of past sins despair of the Divine blessing. God knows how to change His sentence, if you have known how to correct your sin, seeing he that was long silent prophesies; as it is said, And Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit. 

CHRYS. That is, "with the working of the Holy Spirit;" for he had obtained the grace of the Holy Spirit, not in any manner, but fully; and the gift of prophecy shone forth in trim; as it follows, And he prophesied. 

ORIGEN; Now Zacharias being filled with the Holy Spirit utters two prophecies, the first relating to Christ, the second to John. And this is plainly proved by those words in which he speaks of the Savior as present and already going about in the world, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited, &c. 

CHRYS. Zacharias, when he is blessing God, says, that He has visited His people, meaning thereby either the Israelites in the flesh, for He came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel; or the spiritual Israel, that is, the faithful, who were worthy of this visitation, making the providence of God of good effect towards them. 

THEOPHYL; But the Lord visited His people who were pining away as it were from long sickness, and by the blood of His only begotten Son, redeemed them who were sold under sin. Which thing Zacharias, knowing that it would soon be accomplished, relates in the prophetic manner as if it were already passed. But he says, His people, not that when He came He found them His own, , but that by visiting He made them so.

69. And has raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.

THEOPHYL. God seemed to be asleep, disregarding the sins of the multitude, but in these last times coming in the flesh, He has risen up and trodden down the evil spirits who hated us. Hence it is said, And he has raised up an horn of salvation to us in the house of his servant David. 

ORIGEN; Because Christ was born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, it is said, A horn of salvation to us in the house of his servant David; as it has also elsewhere been said, A vineyard has been planted in a horn, i.e. in Jesus Christ.

CHRYS. Now by a horn he means power, glory, and honor, deriving it metaphorically from the brute creatures, to whom God has given horns for defense and glory. 

THEOPHYL; The kingdom of our Savior Christ is called also the horn of salvation, because all our bones are clothed with flesh, but the horn alone stretches beyond the flesh; so the kingdom of Christ is called the horn of salvation, as reaching beyond the world and the delights of the flesh. According to which figure David and Solomon were consecrated by the horn of oil to the glory of the kingdom.

70. As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets which have been since the world began.

THEOPHYL. That Christ was born of the house of David, Micah relates, saying, And you, Bethlehem, are not the least in the city of Juda, for out of you shall come a governor who shall rule my people Israel. But all the prophets spoke of the Incarnation, and therefore it is said, As he spoke by the month of his holy prophets. 

GREEK EX. Whereby he means that God spoke through them, and that their speech was not of man. 

THEOPHYL; But he says, Which have been since the world began. Because all the Scriptures of the Old Testament were a constant prophecy of Christ. For both our father Adam himself, and the other fathers, by their deeds bore testimony to His dispensation.

71. That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us.

THEOPHYL; Having first briefly said, He has raised up a horn of salvation to us, he goes on to explain his words, adding, of salvation from our enemies. As if he said, He has raised up to us a horn, i.e. He has raised up to us salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us. 

ORIGEN; Let us not suppose that this refers to our bodily enemies, but our ghostly. For the Lord Jesus came mighty in battle to destroy all our enemies, that He might deliver us from their snares and temptation.

72. To perform the mercy promised to our forefathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
73. The oath which he swore to our father Abraham,
74. That he would grant to us.

THEOPHYL; Having announced that the Lord, according to the declaration of the Prophet, would be born of the house of David, he now says, that the same Lord to fulfill the covenant He made with Abraham will deliver us, because chiefly to these patriarchs of Abraham's seed was promised the gathering of the Gentiles, or the incarnation of Christ. But David is put first, because to Abraham was promised the holy assembly of the Church; whereas to David it was told that from him Christ was to he born. And therefore after what was said of David, he adds concerning Abraham the words, To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, &c. 

ORIGEN; I think that at the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, both Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, were partakers of His mercy. For it is not to be believed, that they who had before seen His day, and were glad, should afterwards derive no advantage from His coming, since it is written, Having made peace through the blood of his Cross, whether in earth or in heaven.

THEOPHYL. The grace of Christ extends even to those who are dead, because through Him we shall rise again, not only we, but they also who have been dead before us. He performed His mercy also to our forefathers in fulfilling all their hopes and desires. Hence it follows, And to remember his holy covenant, that covenant, namely, wherein he said, Blessing, I will bless you, and multiplying, I will multiply you. For Abraham was multiplied in all nations, who became his children by adoption, through following the example of his faith. But the fathers also, seeing their children enjoy these blessings, rejoice together with them, just as if they received the mercy in themselves. 

Hence it follows, The oath which he swore to our father Abraham, that he would grant to us.

BASIL; But let no one, hearing that the Lord had sworn to Abraham, be tempted to swear. For as when the wrath of God is spoken of, it does not signify passion but punishment; so neither does God swear as man, but His word is in very truth expressed to us in place of an oath, confirming by an unchangeable sentence what He promised.

 74. That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear.

CHRYS. Having said that a horn of salvation had risen up to us from the house of David, he shows that through it we are partakers of His glory, and escape the assaults of the enemy As he says, That being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve him without fear. The two things above mentioned will not easily be found united. For many escape danger, but fail of a glorious life, as criminals discharged from prison by the king's mercy. On the other hand, some reap glory, but are compelled for its sake to encounter dangers, as soldiers in war embracing a life of honor are oftentimes in the greatest peril. But the horn brings both safety and glory. Safety indeed as it rescues us from the hands of our enemies, not slightly but in a wonderful manner, insomuch that we have no more fear, which are his very words; that being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we might serve him without fear. 

ORIGEN; Or in another way; Frequently are men delivered from the hands of the enemy, but not without fear. For when fear and peril have gone before, and a man is then plucked from the enemies' hand, he is delivered indeed, but not without fear. Therefore said he, that the coming of Christ caused us to be snatched from the enemies' hands without fear. For we suffered not from their evil designs, but He suddenly parting us from them, has led us out to our own allotted resting place.

 75. In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.

CHRYS. Zacharias glorifies the Lord, because He has made us to serve Him with full confidence, not in the flesh as Judah did with the blood of victims, but in the spirit with good works. And this is what he means by in holiness and righteousness. For holiness is, a proper observance of our duty towards God, righteousness of our duty towards man; as, for example, when a man devoutly performs the Divine commands, and lives honorably among his fellow men. But he does not say "before men," as of hypocrites desirous to please men, but "before God," as of those whose praise is not of men, but of God; and this not once or for a time; but all the days of their life, as it is said, all our days. 

THEOPHYL; For whosoever either departs from God's service before he dies, or by any uncleanness stains either the strictness or purity of his faith, or strives to be holy and righteous before men, and not before God, does not yet serve the Lord in perfect freedom from the hand of his spiritual enemies, but after the example of the old Samaritans endeavors to serve equally the Gods of the Gentiles, and his Lord.

76. And you, child, shall be called the Prophet of the Highest: for you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.

AMBROSE; In prophesying of the Lord he rightly addresses the prophet, showing that prophecy also is a gift of the Lord, in order that he might not, while enumerating public benefits, seen to be so ungrateful as to be silent of his own. Hence it is laid, And you, child, shall be called the Prophet of the Highest. 

ORIGEN; The reason I suppose that Zacharias hastened to speak to his son, was because he knew that John was shortly about to be a sojourner in the wilderness, and that he himself should see him no more. 

AMBROSE; Now perhaps some may think it an absurd extravagance of the mind to address a child of eight days old. But if we keep our eyes fixed upon higher things, we surely can understand that the son might hear the voice of his father, who before he was born heard the salutation of Mary. The Prophet knew that there were certain organs of healing in a Prophet which were unclosed by the Spirit of God, not by the growth of the body. He possessed the faculty of understanding who was moved by the feeling of exultation. 

THEOPHYL; Unless indeed Zacharias be supposed to have wished as soon as he was able to speak, to proclaim for their instruction who were present, the future gifts of his son, which he had long before learnt from the Angel. Let the Arians however hear that our Lord Christ, whom John went before prophesying of Him, Zacharias calls "the Most High," as it is said in the Psalms, A man was as born in her, and the most highest has established her. 

CHRYS. But as kings have their companions in arms, who stand nearest to them, so John, who was the friend of the Bridegroom, went before Him nigh to His coming. And this is what follows, For you shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways. For some prophets have preached the mystery of Christ at a distance, but he preached it nearer the time, that he might both see Christ, and declare Him to others. 

GREG. But all they who by preaching cleanse the hearts of their hearers from the filth of their sins, prepare a way for the coming of wisdom into the heart.

 77. To give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins.

THEOPHYL. For the manner in which the forerunner prepared the way of the Lord he explains, adding, To give knowledge of salvation. The Lord Jesus is salvation, but the knowledge of salvation, i.e. of Christ, was given in John, who bore witness of Christ. 

THEOPHYL; For as if desiring to explain the name of Jesus, i.e. the Savior, he frequently makes mention of salvation, but lest men should think it was a temporal salvation which was promised, he adds, for the forgiveness of sins. 

THEOPHYL. For in no other way was He known to be God, but as having forgiven the sins of His people. For or it is of God alone to forgive sins. 

THEOPHYL; But the Jews prefer not to receive Christ, but to wait for Antichrist; for they desire to be delivered not from the dominion of sin within, but from the yoke of man's bondage without.

78. Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the day-spring from on high has visited us.

THEOPHYL. Because God has forgiven our sins not for our works sake, but through His mercy, it is therefore fitly added, Through the tender mercy of our God. 

CHRYS. Which mercy we find not indeed by our own seeking, but God from on high has appeared to us, as it follows; Whereby (i.e. by His tender mercy) the day-spring from on high (that is, Christ) has visited us, taking upon Him our flesh. 

GREEK EX. Abiding on high yet present upon the earth, suffering neither division nor limitation, which thing neither can our understanding embrace, nor any power of words express.

79. To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.

THEOPHYL; Christ is rightly called the Day-spring, because He has disclosed to us the rising of the true light, as it follows; To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. 

CHRYS. By darkness he means not material darkness, but error or and distance from the faith, or ungodliness. BASIL; For in thick darkness were the Gentile people sitting, who were sunk deep in idolatry, until the rising light dispersed the darkness, and spread abroad the brightness of truth. 

GREG. But the shadow of death is taken to mean the forgetfulness of the mind. For as death causes that which it kills to be no longer in life, so whatever oblivion touches ceases to be in the memory. Hence the Jewish people who were forgetful of God are said to sit in the shadow of death. The shadow of death is taken also for the death of the flesh, because as that is the true death, by which the soul is separated from God, so that is the shadow of death by which the flesh is separated from the soul. Hence in the words of the martyrs it is said, the shadow of death has come over us. By the shadow of death also is represented the following of the devil, who is called Death, in the Revelations, because as a shadow is formed according to the quality of the body, so the actions of the wicked are expressed according to the manner of their following him. 

CHRYS. He rightly says sitting, for we were not walking in darkness, but sitting down as having no hope of deliverance. 

THEOPHYL. But not only does the Lord at His rising give light to those who sit in darkness, but he says something further as it follows, to direct our feet in the way of peace. The way of peace is the way of righteousness, to which He has directed our feet, i.e. the affections of our souls. 

GREG. For we guide our steps in the way of peace, when we walk in that line of conduct wherein we depart not from the grace of our Maker. 

AMBROSE; Mark also, in how few words Elisabeth prophesies, in how many Zacharias, and yet each spoke filled with the Holy Spirit; but this discipline is preserved, that women may study rather to learn what are the Divine commands than to teach them.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Feast of St Benedict

Today is the feast of the translation of the relics of St Benedict in the Benedictine and Novus Ordo calendars.  The Gospel for the feast is St Matthew 19:27-29:

27 Tunc respondens Petrus, dixit ei: Ecce nos reliquimus omnia, et secuti sumus te: quid ergo erit nobis? 28 Jesus autem dixit illis: Amen dico vobis, quod vos, qui secuti estis me, in regeneratione cum sederit Filius hominis in sede majestatis suæ, sedebitis et vos super sedes duodecim, judicantes duodecim tribus Israël. 29 Et omnis qui reliquerit domum, vel fratres, aut sorores, aut patrem, aut matrem, aut uxorem, aut filios, aut agros propter nomen meum, centuplum accipiet, et vitam æternam possidebit. 

27 Hereupon Peter took occasion to say, And what of us who have forsaken all, and followed thee; what is left for us? 28 Jesus said to them, I promise you, in the new birth, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you also shall sit there on twelve thrones, you who have followed me, and shall be judges over the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every man that has forsaken home, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive his reward a hundredfold, and obtain everlasting life. (Knox translation)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Luke 1: 76-79 - Benedictus pt 2

Today the notes focus on the second half of the Benedictus.

67 Et Zacharias pater ejus repletus est Spiritu Sancto: et prophetavit, dicens: 

68 Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, quia visitavit, et fecit redemptionem plebis suæ: 
69 et erexit cornu salutis nobis in domo David pueri sui, 
70 sicut locutum est per os sanctorum, qui a sæculo sunt, prophetarum ejus: 
71 salutem ex inimicis nostris, et de manu omnium qui oderunt nos: 
72 ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris:et memorari testamenti sui sancti: 
73 jusjurandum, quod juravit ad Abraham patrem nostrum, daturum se nobis 
74 ut sine timore, de manu inimicorum nostrorum liberati, serviamus illi 
75 in sanctitate et justitia coram ipso, omnibus diebus nostris. 
76 Et tu puer, propheta Altissimi vocaberis: præibis enim ante faciem Domini parare vias ejus, 7
7 ad dandam scientiam salutis plebi ejus in remissionem peccatorum eorum 
78 per viscera misericordiæ Dei nostri, in quibus visitavit nos, oriens ex alto: 
79 illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent: ad dirigendos pedes nostros in viam pacis.


[67] And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost; and he prophesied, saying: 

[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people: 
[69] And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant: 
[70] As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning: 
[71] Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us: 
[72] To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember his holy testament, 
[73] The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us, 
[74] That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear, 
[75] In holiness and justice before him, all our days. 
[76] And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: 
[77] To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: 
[78] Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: 
[79] To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace. 

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 76.—And thou, child. And thou John, though thou art only now eight days old, yet when thou art twenty-nine years old, thou wilt be a Prophet announcing and pointing out the Christ. This is the second part of the song in which Zacharias passes from Christ to his son, and foretells that he will be the Prophet and Forerunner of Christ.  S. Ambrose, Origen, Theophylact, and Titus say that the infant, inasmuch as he had been gifted with the use of reason in the womb of his mother, understood these words in which his father addressed him. Ambrose says, “He could hear the voice of his father who before he was born heard the salutation of Mary. He surely knew that there were certain organs of hearing in a prophet, which were unclosed by the Spirit of God, not by the growth of the body.” Bede adds, “Unless perhaps Zacharias is to be supposed to have wished, as soon as he was able to speak, to declare rather for their instruction who were present, the future gifts of his son, which he had learnt long before from the angel.”

For thou shalt go before. As for kings when approaching, the roads are wont to be prepared, levelled and advanced, by removing stones, filth, and other impediments or eyesores, so thou, my son, wilt prepare a way for Christ the King, by removing whatever might be an offence to Him in the minds of the Jews, by exhorting them, by word and example, to repent and to receive Jesus as the true Messiah sent by God, and to believe and obey Him, and so obtain from Him salvation and forgiveness of sins and the grace of God.

Ver. 77.—To give knowledge of salvalion, &c. That the Jews may know that they ought to hope and seek for salvation from Christ the Saviour in, i.e. for, the remission of sins, so that they may obtain it from Christ through faith in Him and baptism, for in this consists the salvation of Christ; for sins are not remitted except through the salvation and grace of Christ. Whence Bede says, “As if desiring to explain the name of Jesus, he frequently makes mention of salvation, but lest you should think it was a temporal and carnal salvation which was promised, he says, for the forgiveness of their sins.”

Ver. 78.—Through the tender mercy, &c. Vulg., Viscera misericordiæ; bowels of mercy: this expression signifies the most inward and greatest mercy of God.

The Dayspring. Observe—

1. That this Dayspring (Vulg. oriens) is in the Greek ὰνατολὴ, i.e. rising, as of the sun, or shooting up as of a branch. The word is used especially of Christ; whence the Chaldean version renders it in Zechariah iii. 8 and vi. 12 by Messiah, i.e. Christ.

2. That Zechariah here alludes (1.) to the passage Mal. iv. 2. To you that fear my name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise (orietur) with healing in His wings; and to Wisd. v. 6, and to Isaiah lx. 1, and Num. xxiv. 17, There shall arise a star out of Jacob and a sceptre (Vulg., virga, a rod) shall spring forth out of Israel, viz. Christ, Who as a star or a sun will illuminate us, and will make us glad with all grace, and as a leader and sun will go before us on the way to heaven. (2.) Zacharias refers to Zech. iii. 8, Behold I will send forth my servant the Branch: Vulg. orientem, Greek α̉νατολην; and to Zech. vi. 12, Behold the man whose name is the Branch; and to Isaiah iv. 2, It that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious: where the Septuag. translates, In that day God shall shine forth in counsel with glory; and Jerem. xxiii. 5, I will raise unto David a righteous Branch. In Zech. iii. and vi., the Septuag. renders Branch (oriens) by α̉νατολή, and S. Luke has taken the word (which is not found anywhere else) from those passages.

Observe, 3. That in Zech. iii. and iv., for α̉νατολή Hebrew is צמח, which properly signifies a shoot, as S. Jerome teaches: whence the Sept. elsewhere renders it by βλάστημα; but the word is used to signify many other things by metaphor. This is clear from Ezek. xxix. 21, &c.; and also from the Septuag., which renders the word in Zech. iii. and vi. (as I have said before) by α̉νατολή, which, although it may be used generally of any springing up, even of herbs (according to Suidas), yet is properly used of the rising of the sun, moon, and stars.

I say therefore that Christ is called a Branch, but a Branch from the sun, i.e. a heavenly and divine Branch. This is clear (1.) because the word α̉νατολή properly has this meaning. (2.) Because of what follows, the Branch (or Day Spring) from on high, i.e. from God and heaven: and shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death; all which expressions clearly refer, not to the shooting forth of an earthly branch, but of the sun or a star. So Theophilus, Euthymius, &c.

Observe, that Christ is called both, a heavenly and an earthly Branch: for Christ has two generations; a divine, by virtue of which He is the offspring of the Father; and a human, by virtue of which He is the offspring of His mother and of David. Thus He is spoken of by Isaiah, Zechariah, and others as a Branch, (1.) because He will shoot forth as a new Branch from the root of Jesse or David which seemed to have dried up; a Branch I say, at first, shooting forth in heaven, and then transplanted on to the earth.  (2.) By the word Branch is signified the littleness and lowliness of Christ at His birth, which afterwards increased to so great a size that the whole world was embraced by its shadow, according to the parable of the grain of mustard seed.  (3.) Christ is signified (by the same expression Branch or Dayspring) as a second Melchisedec, without father as man; i.e. as a shoot springing up from the earth alone, signifying that He was born of a virgin mother: but as God, without mother, because he was generated from the Father, like a beam from the sun.

Observe also, that to Christ are rightly attributed three qualities which belong both to the sun, and to a branch, because (1.) He arose in heaven with splendour and glory, and then shooting forth from heaven He sprang up on earth. For Christ is the Tree of Life transplanted to earth from the celestial paradise by the Incarnation, and thence again ascending to heaven and paradise, by the vision and fruition of Himself He bestows upon His Saints an eternity of the highest glory.  S. Jerome on Zech. vi. 12, explaining the passage mystically, says, “He who is called Jesus because He saved the world, is also called the Dayspring (oriens) because in His day righteousness arose: and He is celebrated in the words of the Psalm, Truth shall flourish out of the earth, because being sprung from the womb of a virgin in the consummation of the ages, He said I am the Truth.” And again, “He who is crowned with our virtues will arise and will be called the Dayspring; to Whom the Father said, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee; according to that saying of Isaiah (xi. 1), Then shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a blossom shall grow up from his root.”

But other Fathers rightly interpret the word oriens as signifying the sun rising from on high, namely heaven, by which they understand Christ Who is the Light of the world, and therefore was born on the earth, that by means of the flesh He might be as it were a transparent sun illuminating every man that comes to Him. So Bede, &c., and S. Gregory (Lib. 20 in Job, cap. 18), who says, “Because the light rises from the east, He is rightly called the Dayspring, by the light of Whose righteousness the night of our iniquity is illuminated.”

In both ways, therefore, ought the word oriens to be understood here, as alluding both to the springing up of a shoot and to the rising of the sun: for Christ is a heavenly shoot, and He is likewise a sun shooting forth and springing from a Virgin on the earth, as I have already said.

Ver. 79.—To give light, &c. Greek ε̉πιφα̃ναι, or with a different accent ε̉πίφαναι. If we read ε̉πίφαναι it will be the imperative mood, so that the meaning will be, Arise, shine, 0 my son, like some new sun of the world (for Zacharias is addressing John), so that through faith in Christ thou mayest illuminate sinners who are sitting in the darkness of errors and sins, and restore them to the light of truth, righteousness, and salvation, and deliver them from the tyranny of the devil.

2. It is better to take ε̉πιφα̃ναι as an infinitive; so that the meaning will be, Christ has visited us like a sun from on high to bring the light of true doctrine, grace, righteousness, and joy both to the fathers who were dead, and to sinners who are alive, who both were sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. For literally the fathers were sitting in the dark limbus of Hades, as it were in the shadow of death. And mystically, sinners were sitting in darkness, i.e. in dark errors, vices, and sins.  S. Chrysostom and others by darkness understand errors, by the shadow of death sins; it is better, though, to take each expression as applying to both; so that darkness means common errors and faults, and the shadow of death serious errors and wickedness.

To guide our feet into the way of Peace. That is, that Christ by the light of His faith and grace may direct us into the way of righteousness; for this is the way of peace; for righteousness is the way and means to attain peace and tranquillity of mind; both peace with God and men in this life, and beatific peace in heaven; according to Isaiah xxxii. 17. And the work of righteousness shall be peace, . . . and my people shall dwell in the beauty of peace, and in sure dwellings; for by peace the Hebrews signify every blessing, and eternal felicity and beatitude itself. Hence Christ is called by Isaiah (iv- 6), The Prince of peace and the Father of the coming age; and he adds, of peace there shall be no end.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

St Luke 1:67-79 (Benedictus Pt 1)

Today's section of St Luke's Gospel is the other New Testament canticle said daily in the Office (at Lauds), the Benedictus.  Today, the commentary focuses on the first half of the canticle.

67 Et Zacharias pater ejus repletus est Spiritu Sancto: et prophetavit, dicens: 

68 Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, quia visitavit, et fecit redemptionem plebis suæ: 
69 et erexit cornu salutis nobis in domo David pueri sui, 
70 sicut locutum est per os sanctorum, qui a sæculo sunt, prophetarum ejus: 
71 salutem ex inimicis nostris, et de manu omnium qui oderunt nos: 
72 ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris:et memorari testamenti sui sancti: 
73 jusjurandum, quod juravit ad Abraham patrem nostrum, daturum se nobis 
74 ut sine timore, de manu inimicorum nostrorum liberati, serviamus illi 
75 in sanctitate et justitia coram ipso, omnibus diebus nostris. 
76 Et tu puer, propheta Altissimi vocaberis: præibis enim ante faciem Domini parare vias ejus, 7
7 ad dandam scientiam salutis plebi ejus in remissionem peccatorum eorum 
78 per viscera misericordiæ Dei nostri, in quibus visitavit nos, oriens ex alto: 
79 illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent: ad dirigendos pedes nostros in viam pacis.


[67] And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost; and he prophesied, saying: 

[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people: 
[69] And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant: 
[70] As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning: 
[71] Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us: 
[72] To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember his holy testament, 
[73] The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us, 
[74] That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear, 
[75] In holiness and justice before him, all our days. 
[76] And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: 
[77] To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: 
[78] Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: 
[79] To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace. 

Commentary

Ver. 67.—And his father Zacharias was filled, &c. Zacharias already had the Holy Spirit, for he was a just man (as we read in verse 6); yet he by the birth of John received so great a fulness of the grace of the Holy Spirit, both sanctifying and rendering him acceptable, and also gratuitously given, i.e. of the spirit of prophecy, and he was filled with so great a love for Christ, already incarnate in the womb of the Virgin, that he broke forth into this prophetic song which the Church sings daily in the Divine Office at Lauds.

Ver. 68.—Blessed be the Lord God of Israel. Zacharias in this song does two things.  1. He praises God for the Messiah incarnate in the Virgin.  2. From verse 76 to the end he praises God by addressing his son John, and celebrates his office as the forerunner of Christ.

The God of Israel. For although He is the God of all men, yet He is especially the God of Israel, i.e. of His faithful people, whether they were Jews and Israelites as formerly, or Christians as in these days.
Hath redeemed, &c. God by means of Christ already incarnate had begun the work of the redemption and deliverance of the whole world from the yoke of slavery to the devil, sin, death, and hell, under which it had been held for four thousand years, but especially the redemption of Israel, i.e. of the Jewish people, to whom especially the Messiah had been promised. Zacharias by the spirit of prophecy knew of the incarnation of the Messiah in the womb of the Virgin, and therefore that the redemption of the world was already begun, inasmuch as the Redeemer was conceived Who after a few years was about to complete the redemption of the world by His death on the Cross.

And hath raised up an horn of salvation. In Scripture horn signifies strength, power, victory, glory, and consequently a kingdom; for all the glory and strength of horned animals consists in their horns, as S. Chrysostom says. Hence S. Cornelius, pontiff and martyr, is represented in painting with a horn, and received his name from it because with the strength of an horn he resisted the Emperor Decius, and triumphed gloriously over him by martyrdom. See what I have said on Hab. iii. 4, Dan. viii. 4, and Deut. xxxiii. 17.

The meaning, therefore, is that God has again raised up the horn, i.e. the excellent power and glory of the kingdom of Israel by Christ the Son of David, which horn had flourished in the times of Joshua, and David, and Solomon, but had now fallen; and this horn was not temporal but spiritual, as I have said on verse 32. There is an allusion to Ezek. xxix. 21, In that day the horn of the house of Israel shall bud forth. It is clear, therefore, that the horn of salvation is Jesus Christ Himself the Saviour, and his power, victory, and kingdom; according to that saying of Hannah, 1 Sam. ii. 10, The Lord shall give strength unto His king and exalt the horn of His anointed. Tropologically, Bede says, “The horn stretches beyond the flesh, and so the kingdom of Christ reaches beyond the world and the joys of the flesh; according to which figure David and Solomon were consecrated kings by the horn of oil.” And Origen explains Isa. v. I, a vineyard hath been planted in a horn (Vulgate, vinea facta est in cornu), as meaning the Church has been planted in Christ.

Ver. 70.—By the mouth of His holy prophets. All the prophets prophesied of Christ, e.g. Isa. xix. 20; Jerem. xxx. 10; Ezek. xiii. 21.

Ver. 71.—That we should be saved from our enemies. As God spake by the prophets, and promised salvation, i.e. the deliverance and salvation of Israel and the whole world from captivity to the devil, sin, death, and hell, so now hath He accomplished the same, by giving a horn of salvation, i.e. a strong Saviour, Jesus Christ. Observe that Zacharias here interprets the ancient prophecies of the kingdom and salvation of Christ, not in a temporal but in a spiritual sense, as is clear from verse 73 and the following.

Ver. 72.—To perform the mercy. As God promised Christ to our fathers, so now has He fulfilled His promises, and has shown Christ to their posterity, by Whom He will deliver also the fathers from limbus, and bless them, and bring them into heaven with Himself. Whence Theophylact says, “The grace of Christ reaches even to those who were dead; for through him all will rise again: He also fulfilled the hope of the fathers;” for as Theophylact says again, “When the fathers see their sons enjoying such blessings, they rejoice and are partakers of their joy, in the same way as if the blessings had been bestowed upon themselves.”

His Holy Covenant.—This covenant was made by God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Gen. xii. 3, and xxvi. 4, and xxviii. 14; and it is this, in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Jeremiah explains this blessing, ch. xxxi. 31.

Ver. 73.—The oath. This may be referred—1. To the word remember. So Euthymius takes it.  2. It may be referred to the word mercy.  3. It may, more properly, be referred to the word covenant; so that the meaning is, God hath sent Christ, that He might show Himself mindful of the covenant, by which He promised Him to the fathers; which covenant is that great oath which He sware to Abraham.

Or 4, you may refer the word oath more plainly and easily to the word perform in the preceding verse; so that three reasons may be signified here on account of which God has raised up this horn of salvation—1. that He might perform His mercy;  2. that He might remember his covenant;  3. that He might fulfil His own oath by which He swore to Abraham that He would multiply his spiritual seed, rather than his seed according to the flesh, as the stars of heaven, and that in his seed He would bless all nations. Gen. xxii. 16, and Heb. vi. 13, 14. The Hebrews often leave words to be understood from those which precede or follow: so here the word oath is used for the performance and fulfilment of the oath, for these words were spoken by Zacharias when he was exulting, and, as it were, absorbed in joy; so that he has regard to and pours forth not so much words as things; whence in his words he often falls into solecisms and other defects.

Ver. 74.—That we being delivered, &c. He explains the oath of God, i.e. the blessing which He promised to Abraham, and confirmed with an oath, and shows that it consists in the salvation which Christ brought, that being set free by His grace from our enemies, viz., from sin, the devil, and hell, to which we had been as it were enslaved, we may now serve God in holiness. His service is latria which is the worship due to God alone; for in the Greek it is λατζεύειν.

Ver. 75.—In holiness and righteousness. This is the oath, or blessing of God sworn to Abraham, viz. the salvation and grace of Christ and of His Gospel, the excellence and perfection of which He beautifully describes in these words. For the first part of which it consists is liberty, that is deliverance from the slavery of sin and the devil. The second is service, that is the worship of the true and most high God. The third is love, not slavish fear; for the Jews served God through fear of punishment, but Christians serve Him like sons with a free love, Rom. viii. 15. The fourth part is inward and true holiness and righteousness, not outward and placed in washings, sacrifices, and other ceremonies like the righteousness which the Jews had. The fifth part is expressed in the words before God, so that we, considering that we are always before the eyes of God, Who beholds the hearts of every one, may strive to show forth before Him a pure and holy heart, and to perform all our works out of such, knowing that God looks into us and beholds the very bottom of our heart, and according to it will judge our works. The sixth part is, that we should perform these things, not on one day, month, or year, but all our days by persevering in them even unto death.

Holiness has respect to God, and consists in the holy worship of God. Righteousness has respect to our neighbour, and consequently to oneself. Holiness, therefore, gives to God what is His due, Righteousness to men what is their due, so that each should give to each what is owing to him either from justice or charity, and consequently that a man should give to himself temperance, modesty and humility, by which he may conform himself aright to the rule of the law and of virtue, for this is what he ought to render to himself. By holiness and righteousness, therefore, every observance of virtue is signified that is prescribed in the decalogue; for holiness has respect to the precepts of the first table which pertain to God, righteousness to those of the second, which concern our neighbour and our self. These therefore are the duties of the evangelical life to which Christ calls us. This, therefore, is the vocation of the faithful, namely, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present life, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, Tit. ii. 12, 13, so that we should imitate the holiness of God and of Christ, and Christ should seem to live, act, and speak in us; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14, according to that saying of S. Paul, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, Gal. ii. 20. Let each, therefore, contemplate the life and character of Christ, and in them let him behold as in a mirror his own, and he will see whether he is a true Christian or only a false painted one.

And for those interested in the psalms Zachariah drew on in his inspired song, the table below illustrates that once again the allusions are heavily concentrated in the psalms set for Monday in the Benedictine Office, but also with a heavy sprinkling of references appearing on Saturday.

Table: Allusions to the Benedictus in the psalms

Luke 1:

Psalm

68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because he has visited and wrought the redemption of his people.
BENEDICTUS Dóminus, Deus Israël: *










quia visitávit,
et fecit redemptiónem plebis suæ :
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel a saeculo et usque in saeculum fiat fiat (40:14; 105:48)

Benedíctus Dóminus, Deus Israël, * qui facit mirabília solus. (71:18)

Redimet Dominus animas servorum surorum (33:22)

Immíttet Angelus Dómini in circúitu timéntium eum : et erípiet eos (33:7)

Redemptiónem misit pópulo suo: * mandávit in ætérnum testaméntum suum (110:9)

Cf also 43:28
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel forever and ever, and world without end, Amen, Amen


Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful things.


The Lord will redeem the souls of his servants


The angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him: and shall deliver them.


He has sent redemption to his people: he has commanded his covenant for ever.
69 And has raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant.
2  Et eréxit cornu salútis nobis: * in domo David, púeri sui.
In te inimicos nostros ventilabimus cornu (43:7)

Protéctor meus, et cornu salútis meæ, (17:3)

Illuc prodúcam cornu David: * parávi lucérnam Christo meo (131:17)
Through thee will we overthrow our enemies with the horn


My protector, and the horn of my salvation, and my support

There will I bring forth a horn to David: I have prepared a lamp for my anointed
70 As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning.
3  Sicut locútus est per os sanctórum, * qui a sæculo sunt, prophetárum ejus
Cf 43:1

71 Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us.
4  Salútem ex inimícis nostris, * et de manu ómnium, qui odérunt nos.
Salvasti enim nos de affligentibus nos: et odientes nos confudisti (43:9)
But it is thou that hast saved us from them that afflict us, and put them to confusion that hate us
72 To perform mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy testament.
5  Ad faciéndam misericórdiam cum pátribus nostris: * et memorári testaménti sui sancti.
Fiat misericordia tua Domine super nos quemadmodum speravimus in te (32:22)

Et memor fuit testaménti sui: * et pœnítuit eum secúndum multitúdinem misericórdiæ suæ (105:45).
Let your mercy Lord be upon us as we have hoped in you




And he was mindful of his covenant: and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.
73 The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us.
6 Jusjurándum, quod jurávit ad Abraham patrem nostrum, * datúrum se nobis :
Deus auribus nostris audivimus patres nostri annuntiaverunt nobis (43:1)

Quod dispósuit ad Abraham: * et juraménti sui ad Isaac (104: 8)






Which he made to Abraham; and his oath to Isaac
74 That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear:
7  Ut sine timóre, de manu inimicórum nostrórum liberáti, * serviámus illi.
...non gaudebit inimicus meus super me (40)

Et salvávit eos de manu odiéntium: * et redémit eos de manu inimíci (105:10)

For my enemy shall not triumph against me

And he saved them from the hand of them that hated them: and he redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
75 In holiness and justice before him, all our days.
8  In sanctitáte, et justítia coram ipso, * ómnibus diébus nostris.
Me autem propter innocentiam susepisti: et confirmasti me in conspectu tuo in aeternum (40:)
And because of my innocence thou upholdest me and shalt set me before thy face forever
76 And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall, go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:
9  Et tu, puer, Prophéta Altíssimi vocáberis: * præíbis enim ante fáciem Dómini, paráre vias ejus
38?
44?

77 To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins.
10  Ad dandam sciéntiam salútis plebi ejus: * in remissiónem peccatórum eórum :
Annuntiavi justitiam tuam in ecclesia magna...veritatem tuam et salutare tuum dixi (39:  )
I have declared thy righteousness in the great congregation....I have declared thy truth and thy salvation
78 Through the bowels of the mercy of our God in which the Orient from on high has visited us:
11  Per víscera misericórdiæ Dei nostri: * in quibus visitávit nos, óriens ex alto :


79 To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace.
12  Illumináre his, qui in ténebris, et in umbra mortis sedent: *

ad dirigéndos pedes nostros in viam pacis.
Ut eruat a morte animas eorum et alat eos in fame (32:19)


Apud Dominum gressus hominis dirgentur et viam ejus volet (36:23)
To deliver their soul from death and to feed them in the time of dearth


With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed and he shall like well his way

Monday, 7 July 2014

St Luke 1:56-66

Today's section of the Gospel:

56 Mansit autem Maria cum illa quasi mensibus tribus: et reversa est in domum suam. 57 Elisabeth autem impletum est tempus pariendi, et peperit filium. 58 Et audierunt vicini et cognati ejus quia magnificavit Dominus misericordiam suam cum illa, et congratulabantur ei. 59 Et factum est in die octavo, venerunt circumcidere puerum, et vocabant eum nomine patris sui Zachariam. 60 Et respondens mater ejus, dixit: Nequaquam, sed vocabitur Joannes. 61 Et dixerunt ad illam: Quia nemo est in cognatione tua, qui vocetur hoc nomine. 62 Innuebant autem patri ejus, quem vellet vocari eum. 63 Et postulans pugillarem scripsit, dicens: Joannes est nomen ejus. Et mirati sunt universi. 64 Apertum est autem illico os ejus, et lingua ejus, et loquebatur benedicens Deum. 65 Et factus est timor super omnes vicinos eorum: et super omnia montana Judææ divulgabantur omnia verba hæc: 66 et posuerunt omnes qui audierant in corde suo, dicentes: Quis, putas, puer iste erit? etenim manus Domini erat cum illo.

56] And Mary abode with her about three months; and she returned to her own house. [57] Now Elizabeth' s full time of being delivered was come, and she brought forth a son. [58] And her neighbours and kinsfolks heard that the Lord had shewed his great mercy towards her, and they congratulated with her. [59] And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they called him by his father' s name Zachary. [60] And his mother answering, said: Not so; but he shall be called John. [61] And they said to her: There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. [62] And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called. [63] And demanding a writing table, he wrote, saying: John is his name. And they all wondered. [64] And immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. [65] And fear came upon all their neighbours; and all these things were noised abroad over all the hill country of Judea. [66] And all they that had heard them laid them up in their heart, saying: What an one, think ye, shall this child be? For the hand of the Lord was with him.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 56.—And Mary abode with her about three months, &c She ministered to Elizabeth her kinswoman, refreshing her with her holy ministrations and conversation, and sanctifying her, and John likewise. So S. Ambrose says, “It was not only for the sake of friendship that she abode so long, but for the advancement also of so great a prophet; for if at her first coming the child had advanced so far that at the salutation of Mary he leaped in the womb, and his mother was filled with the Holy Spirit, how much may we suppose that the presence of the holy Mary added during so long a time?” So also Origen (Hom. 9) shows that during these three months, owing to the presence of the Virgin both John and Elizabeth made wonderful progress in holiness.

There is a question here whether the Blessed Virgin remained until the nativity of John. Theophylact, Euthymius, Jansenius maintain that she did not.

They prove this—1. because the Blessed Virgin came in the sixth month, and remained, as it were, three months (Vulg. quasi tres menses), therefore she departed before the ninth month was completed, and therefore before Elizabeth gave birth to the child;  2. because after the departure of the Virgin, S. Luke relates the birth of the child, without making any mention of the Virgin ;  3. and chiefly, because it was not fitting that the Virgin should be present at the birth;  4. because it was proper that she should avoid the crowd which would gather together at the birth.

The contrary opinion is equally, and even more, probable; and is maintained by Origen, S. Ambrose, &c.—1. because it would have been discourteous to remain up to the birth and leave immediately before it;  2. because at the time of the birth Elizabeth most needed the presence, help, and consolation of the Virgin;  3. because the Virgin remained three months for this very purpose, that she might behold, embrace, and bless John, the wonder of the world, and the forerunner of Christ, and on the other hand that John when born might behold and venerate the mother of the Lord, and Christ the Lord in her. Whence Bede says, “Mary remained until, Elizabeth’s full time having come, she saw the nativity of the forerunner of her Lord, on account of whom chiefly she had come.”

And she returned to her own house. To Nazareth. This house of the Virgin was translated by angels to Loretto, as I have said before.

Ver. 57.—And Elizabeth’s full time came, &c. S. Luke adds the account of Elizabeth’s bringing forth to that of the visitation of the Blessed Virgin, as an effect to a cause. For the Blessed Virgin by her prayers and merits obtained for John both his nativity and his sanctification; for this purpose she had come from Nazareth and had remained with her for three months.

And she brought forth a son. John the Baptist on June 24th; for then the Church keeps the yearly celebration of his birth, observing it in his case alone, as it does also in the case of Christ. For as regards the rest of the Saints the Church celebrates not the day of their birth, but that of their death on which they passed from a life of misery to one of blessedness.

Ver. 58.—And her neighbours, &c. So was fulfilled the promise of the Angel (v. 14), Many shall rejoice at his birth. Truly as S. Ambrose says, “The bringing forth of the Saints causes the rejoicing of many, for it is a common blessing; for justice is a public virtue.” For the just by their example benefit all; many also, as John did, benefit them by their preaching

Ver. 59.—They came. That is, the priests and relations whose office it was to perform the rite of circumcision.

To circumcise. Notice here that the Jews were not always circumcised in the synagogue. For that John was circumcised at home is inferred from the following verse, in which it is clearly implied that his mother was present, who could not at that time according to the law (Lev. xii. 4) leave the house.
Also by circumcision an infant was purged from original sin, and united to the church, or company of the faithful, whence at that time the name of some faithful person, especially of the father, grandfather, or some relation was given to the infant, as is now done in baptism.

Ver. 60.—And his mother, &c. Elizabeth, who on the salutation of the Virgin, being filled with the Holy Ghost, had learned the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word, learned also the name of her son not from Zacharias but from the Holy Spirit, and all the other things that had happened to Zacharias in the temple when he was burning incense. For as S. Ambrose says, “She could not be ignorant of the Forerunner of the Lord who had prophesied of Christ.”

Ver. 61.—And they said, There is none of thy kindred, &c. This is an earthly custom, but John was a citizen of heaven, not of the earth; whence he received from heaven a celestial name. “Observe,” as S. Ambrose and Bede say, “that the name belongs not to the family, but to the prophet.”

Ver. 62.—They made signs, &c. Lest perchance the mother had made a mistake in assigning the name, they refer to the father, to whom both the infant and the giving of a name to the infant belonged. They made signs; “because,” says S. Ambrose, “his unbelief had deprived him of speech and hearing, they question him by signs.”

Ver. 63.—His name is John. S. Ambrose remarks that it is said his name is, not will be; so that the meaning is, we do not give a name to him who has received one from God, “he has his own name, which we acknowledge, but which we did not choose.” Names were frequently given from some event either present or future; thus Isaac received his name from the laughter of his mother; Cain because he was the possession of his mother Eve; Moses because he was drawn out of the water, &c.; so also John received his name from the grace and mercy which he received, not in his conception, but when he was visited by the Blessed Virgin.

And they all wondered, both at the agreement between the father and mother, and at the name, which was an unknown one in the family; for they did not know that it had been revealed from heaven to Zacharias.

Ver. 64.—And his mouth, &c. That is, he began to speak. S. Ambrose says, “Rightly from that moment was his tongue loosed, for that which unbelief had bound faith set free.” When he saw John really born, he believed the promise made to him by the angel concerning him. John therefore, as he had filled his mother when in her womb with the Holy Spirit, so now when born breathed the same spirit upon his father. Whence S. Gregory Nazianzen says, “The birth of John broke the silence of Zacharias; for it were unreasonable, when the voice of the Word had come forth, that the father should remain speechless.”

Moreover, Theophylact says, “All these things were done œconomically, that John might be esteemed a witness of Christ worthy of credit;” and Bede, “The future prophet is commanded by previous auspices.”

Symbolically, S. Ambrose says, “Because John was a voice (according to the words, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness), therefore at his birth his father, who had been dumb, recovered his voice.”

Ver. 65.—And fear came on all that dwelt, &c. That is, a religious fear and reverence towards God Who had done so many wonderful works concerning John both as to his father and mother. For where God displays his power there arises on the part of men towards Him and His majesty a sacred feeling of fear and reverence.

Ver. 66.—What manner of child shall this be, &c. God did this in order that by means of these signs He might stir up the minds of all men to the veneration of John as the future forerunner and discloser of Christ, and in order that He might procure authority for him; and that so his testimony concerning Christ might outweigh every objection. Christ revealed to S. Bridget (Lib. Revel. cap. 108) that there were three saints who had pleased Him above all others, viz., the Blessed Virgin, Mary Magdalen, and John the Baptist, and that the demons, being struck with terror at his birth, bewailed and lamented when the angels and pious Israelites rejoiced.