Saturday, 19 July 2014

St Luke 4:1-21

Chapter 4 of St Luke takes us to the temptation of Jesus in the desert, and his subsequent announcement of his mission:

1 Jesus autem plenus Spiritu Sancto regressus est a Jordane: et agebatur a Spiritu in desertum 2 diebus quadraginta, et tentabatur a diabolo. Et nihil manducavit in diebus illis: et consummatis illis esuriit. 3 Dixit autem illi diabolus: Si Filius Dei es, dic lapidi huic ut panis fiat. 4 Et respondit ad illum Jesus: Scriptum est: Quia non in solo pane vivit homo, sed in omni verbo Dei. 5 Et duxit illum diabolus in montem excelsum, et ostendit illi omnia regna orbis terræ in momento temporis, 6 et ait illi: Tibi dabo potestatem hanc universam, et gloriam illorum: quia mihi tradita sunt, et cui volo do illa. 7 Tu ergo si adoraveris coram me, erunt tua omnia. 8 Et respondens Jesus, dixit illi: Scriptum est: Dominum Deum tuum adorabis, et illi soli servies. 9 Et duxit illum in Jerusalem, et statuit eum super pinnam templi, et dixit illi: Si Filius Dei es, mitte te hinc deorsum. 10 Scriptum est enim quod angelis suis mandavit de te, ut conservent te: 11 et quia in manibus tollent te, ne forte offendas ad lapidem pedem tuum. 12 Et respondens Jesus, ait illi: Dictum est: Non tentabis Dominum Deum tuum. 13 Et consummata omni tentatione, diabolus recessit ab illo, usque ad tempus.14 Et regressus est Jesus in virtute Spiritus in Galilæam, et fama exiit per universam regionem de illo. 15 Et ipse docebat in synagogis eorum, et magnificabatur ab omnibus. 16 Et venit Nazareth, ubi erat nutritus, et intravit secundum consuetudinem suam die sabbati in synagogam, et surrexit legere. 17 Et traditus est illi liber Isaiæ prophetæ. Et ut revolvit librum, invenit locum ubi scriptum erat: 18 Spiritus Domini super me: propter quod unxit me, evangelizare pauperibus misit me, sanare contritos corde, 19 prædicare captivis remissionem, et cæcis visum, dimittere confractos in remissionem, prædicare annum Domini acceptum et diem retributionis. 20 Et cum plicuisset librum, reddit ministro, et sedit. Et omnium in synagoga oculi erant intendentes in eum. 21 Cœpit autem dicere ad illos: Quia hodie impleta est hæc scriptura in auribus vestris.

And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the desert, [2] For the space of forty days; and was tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. [3] And the devil said to him: If thou be the Son of God, say to this stone that it be made bread. [4] And Jesus answered him: It is written, that Man liveth not by bread alone, but by every word of God. [5] And the devil led him into a high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time;[6] And he said to him: To thee will I give all this power, and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them. [7] If thou therefore wilt adore before me, all shall be thine. [8] And Jesus answering said to him: It is written: Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. [9] And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and he said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself from hence. [10] For it is written, that He hath given his angels charge over thee, that they keep thee.[11] And that in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [12] And Jesus answering, said to him: It is said: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [13] And all the temptation being ended, the devil departed from him for a time.[14] And Jesus returned in the power of the spirit, into Galilee, and the fame of him went out through the whole country. [15] And he taught in their synagogues, and was magnified by all.[16] And he came to Nazareth, where he was brought up: and he went into the synagogue, according to his custom, on the sabbath day; and he rose up to read. [17] And the book of Isaias the prophet was delivered unto him. And as he unfolded the book, he found the place where it was written: [18] The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. Wherefore he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor, he hath sent me to heal the contrite of heart, [19] To preach deliverance to the captives, and sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of reward. [20] And when he had folded the book, he restored it to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.[21] And he began to say to them: This day is fulfilled this scripture in your ears. 

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 1.—And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, having been there baptized by John a little time before, and having visibly received the Holy Spirit, whose fulness He had already obtained invisibly in the first instant of His conception...

Ver. 5.—ln a moment of time. S. Ambrose says, “It is not so much the quickness of the view which is indicated, as the fleeting frailty of power which is expressed. For in a moment they all pass away. And often the honour of the world is gone ere it is come. For what can be lasting in the world when the worlds themselves are not lasting.”

Ver. 14.—And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee. In the Greek ε̉ν δυνάμει, in the power, strength, or force of the Spirit. Under a strong impulse of the Spirit, Jesus returned to Galilee. For the Holy Ghost was moving Him, and powerfully impelling Him to put forth at this time that spiritual power which He had received from the beginning of His conception, but which He had hitherto shut up and hidden within Himself, and to begin in Galilee with immense ardour and zeal, His ministry of preaching, and, confirm it by His admirable holiness of life and His stupendous miracles. Hence Theophylact renders it ε̉νθουσιω̃ν,driven and urged on by the enthusiasm and Divine afflatus of the Holy Ghost.

Ver. 16.—And He came to Nazareth. Note here that while Christ is said, in v. 14, to have gone into Galilee, He is not said to have entered Nazareth which is situated there, as S. Matthew (ch. iv. 13) has it, but Capernaum, and there to have done the things which S. Matthew relates in chaps. iv. to xiii., all of which S. Luke passes over here, and then He is said to have come to Nazareth.  S. Luke wished at the very outset to state the reason why Christ would not teach in Nazareth, namely, that He was despised by His fellow-townsmen as being the son of a carpenter. And though this only happened subsequently, yet Christ foresaw that it would be the case, and therefore turned aside from Nazareth and went to Capernaum, which He made the seat of His ministry, as S. Matthew relates in iv. 13.

And stood up for to read. It was (and still is) the custom among the Jews that each one should read the Hebrew books of Holy Scripture in the synagogue on the Sabbath-day, both that he might learn the law of God from it, and also that he might be stirred up to the worship, love, and service of God. Moreover, it was the part of the Rabbin and the teachers, such as Jesus was, to read the Holy Scripture publicly, to interpret it, to preach, and to teach.

Ver. 17.—And there was delivered unto Him (by the attendant) the book of the prophet Esaias. This was done by the counsel and direction of God, that Jesus might show from Isaiah that He was the-Messiah described by that prophet.

And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written (Isa. lxi. i). Christ seems so to have opened the book that, without looking for it, He lighted upon this passage of Isaiah by the will and guidance of God. The Vulgate, “as He unrolled the book,” is better; and Vatablus, “when He had unfolded;” others, “when He had spread out,” for this is the meaning of the Greek α̉ναπτύξαζ. For the books of the Hebrews were not divided into leaves, but consisted of one long piece of parchment which was rolled round a cylinder from beginning to end, as maps are nowadays. In order to read this parchment it was therefore necessary to unroll it, and spread it out.

Ver. 18.—The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: because He hath anointed me. The Holy Spirit, who was in Me from the beginning, descending upon Me here in the baptism which I have now received from John the Baptist, descending visibly in the form of a dove, while the voice of God the Father spoke forth in thunder, “This is My beloved Son; hear ye Him,” has by this sign, as by a visible anointing, publicly declared, authorised, and, as it were, consecrated Me as the Teacher, Prophet, Saviour, and Lawgiver of the world, and especially of the Jews to whom I was promised, and therefore—
He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor, for the rich Scribes and Pharisees despise My lowliness and My poverty.

Observe the words “hath anointed me;” for in Hebrew “Messiah,” and in Greek Χζιστὸς, mean “anointed.” This anointing of Christ was accomplished secretly in the Incarnation—

(1.) By the grace of the hypostatic union, which made Him in the highest degree holy and divine—nay, made Him God.

(2.) By the plenitude of graces which flowed from this union. For other saints are said to be anointed with the grace and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, but Christ was anointed with the Holy Ghost Himself, as though with the very fountain and plenitude of all graces, that the Man Christ might become a superabundant fountain pouring forth its grace into all the apostles, martyrs, virgins, and confessors, so says Basil (de Spiritu Sancto, ch. xxvi.). Christ was, as I have said, publicly anointed in His baptism, to heal them that are brokenhearted—heal and console those who, by reason of their sins, and the burden of the law of Moses, as well as their ignorance of the things of God, are afflicted in spirit, and pant for the knowledge of God, His pardon, His grace, and His salvation, and who, therefore, look for the Messiah. Hence Symmachus and Theodotus render it; so S. Jerome tells us in his Commentary on Isa. lxi., “to bind up the wounds of sinners.”

To preach deliverance to the captives—that I may preach, announce, and bring freedom, through penance and My grace, to those who are held captive by sin and the devil.

And recovering of sight to the blind. The Hebrew and Chaldee versions of Isaiah give “open to those bound,” i.e., as Symmachus has it, “loosening of those bound.” But the Septuagint, and S. Luke following them, render it in the Greek άνάβλεψιν, “looking again,” that they may see again. For the Hebrews call those that are blind bound, or shut, like the Latin idiom, “Moses seized in their eyes,” and consequently they call the illumination by which the eyes of the blind are opened “opening.” The meaning, therefore, is, Christ shall both restore sight to those who are physically, and illumine those who are spiritually, blind, and are ignorant of God and of the way of salvation. He shall teach them the knowledge of God and the way to save their souls. This was what Isaiah (xlii. 7) clearly foretold that the Messiah should do: “I will give Thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the eyes of the blind.” And hence it is plain that Isaiah in ch. xlii., is not speaking literally of the deliverance from the Babylonian captivity wrought by Cyrus, as Toletus would have it, but of the deliverance from the captivity of sin and of the devil wrought by Christ; for Cyrus restored sight to no one, but Christ to many. I confess, however, that there is an allusion to Cyrus, he being a type of Christ. To the Hebrews in Babylon who were “bound” he gave “opening and loosening,” as the Hebrew version has it, when he freed them from captivity and sent them back into Judæa.

To set at liberty them that are bruised—intoliberty and health. The Arabic has “to send thee bound into remission.” Pagninus, “that I may send forth the broken by remission.” So also Vatablus. These words are not in Isaiah lxi 1. in the Hebrew; they have been added paraphrastically by S. Luke or his interpreter, and seem to form another explanation of “to heal them that are brokenhearted.” So Forerius on Isaiah lxi., and Francis Lucas on this passage. Origen omits “to heal them that are brokenhearted,” and reads instead, “to send forth the broken into liberty;” and he adds, “What was so broken or shattered as the man who, when sent away by Jesus, was healed?”

For “broken” the Greek has τετζανσμένους, which Vatablus and others translate “broken.”

Ver. 19.—To preach the acceptable year of the Lord—the pleasing year—in Hebrew, רצון מנת scenat raston; in the Septuagint ε̉νιαυτὸν ε̉υδοκίας, that is, as S. Jerome renders it, “the placable year,” or, as others with propriety, “the year of the good pleasure,” of divine benevolence and liberality, such as was the year of the jubilee to which he here alludes. For the year of the jubilee was the type and figure of this evangelical year which Christ brought. So the whole time of the preaching of Christ, and thenceforward all the time of Christianity, is a year of jubilee to those who obey Christ and accept His liberty—a year of grace, mercy, peace, remission, liberality, and salvation, in which, after God’s long anger against us, we are restored to His grace, His favour, His heirship, His glory, and all the former blessings which we had in Paradise in the state of innocence. This is what S. Paul says in 2 Cor. vi. 2, “Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

The Vulgate adds, and the day of retribution, of vengeance. The year of the jubilee, that is, the time of Christianity, shall be to the enemies of Christ a time of vengeance, when God shall avenge the human race on its enemies and oppressors, the demons that oppress it; for Christ shall deliver men from the devils, and shall cast them down, according to Isaiah xxxv. 4, “Say unto the timid, Be comforted, and fear not; behold, your God shall bring the vengeance of retribution. God Himself shall come and shall save you.” Vulgate. And Christ says, in John xii. 31, “Now is the judgment of the world, now shall the prince of this world be cast forth.”

Ver. 20.—And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him. “That they might hear,” says Euthymius, “how He interpreted what He had read.” For already the fame of what He had said and done at Capernaum had been noised abroad everywhere, so that many held Him to be the Messiah; and they especially desired to hear this from Christ. For they knew that the passage of Isaiah read by Him was a prophecy of the Messiah, and so they listened with eagerness to Him while He explained it.

Ver. 21.—And He began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture (“which has sounded,” says Euthymius, and the Syriac version), fulfilled in your ears. This day is fulfilled in your hearing this prophecy of Isaiah, while you hear me preaching to you and to the rest of the poor of Galilee the year of full remission, and I am prepared to do, nay, I have already done in Capernaum, all that Isaiah has here foretold. I am the Messiah of whom Isaiah there prophesies, whom you, in accordance with the predictions of Jacob and Daniel, are already eagerly expecting every moment. For, though Jesus does not clearly say that He is the Messiah, yet He tacitly implies it.

Friday, 18 July 2014

St Luke 3:23-38

St Luke provides us with a genealogy for Jesus.  It is worth pondering the significance of this more universalist listing, which takes us back to Adam, compared to St Matthew which only goes to Abraham:

23 Et ipse Jesus erat incipiens quasi annorum triginta, ut putabatur, filius Joseph, qui fuit Heli, qui fuit Mathat, 24 qui fuit Levi, qui fuit Melchi, qui fuit Janne, qui fuit Joseph, 25 qui fuit Mathathiæ, qui fuit Amos, qui fuit Nahum, qui fuit Hesli, qui fuit Nagge, 26 qui fuit Mahath, qui fuit Mathathiæ, qui fuit Semei, qui fuit Joseph, qui fuit Juda, 27 qui fuit Joanna, qui fuit Resa, qui fuit Zorobabel, qui fuit Salatheil, qui fuit Neri, 28 qui fuit Melchi, qui fuit Addi, qui fuit Cosan, qui fuit Elmadan, qui fuit Her, 29 qui fuit Jesu, qui fuit Eliezer, qui fuit Jorim, qui fuit Mathat, qui fuit Levi, 30 qui fuit Simeon, qui fuit Juda, qui fuit Joseph, qui fuit Jona, qui fuit Eliakim, 31 qui fuit Melea, qui fuit Menna, qui fuit Mathatha, qui fuit Natham, qui fuit David, 32 qui fuit Jesse, qui fuit Obed, qui fuit Booz, qui fuit Salmon, qui fuit Naasson, 33 qui fuit Aminadab, qui fuit Aram, qui fuit Esron, qui fuit Phares, qui fuit Judæ, 34 qui fuit Jacob, qui fuit Isaac, qui fuit Abrahæ, qui fuit Thare, qui fuit Nachor, 35 qui fuit Sarug, qui fuit Ragau, qui fuit Phaleg, qui fuit Heber, qui fuit Sale, 36 qui fuit Cainan, qui fuit Arphaxad, qui fuit Sem, qui fuit Noë, qui fuit Lamech, 37 qui fuit Methusale, qui fuit Henoch, qui fuit Jared, qui fuit Malaleel, qui fuit Cainan, 38 qui fuit Henos, qui fuit Seth, qui fuit Adam, qui fuit Dei.

[23] And Jesus himself was beginning about the age of thirty years; being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph, who was of Heli, who was of Mathat, [24] Who was of Levi, who was of Melchi, who was of Janne, who was of Joseph, [25] Who was of Mathathias, who was of Amos, who was of Nahum, who was of Hesli, who was of Nagge,[26] Who was of Mahath, who was of Mathathias, who was of Semei, who was of Joseph, who was of Juda, [27] Who was of Joanna, who was of Reza, who was of Zorobabel, who was of Salathiel, who was of Neri, [28] Who was of Melchi, who was of Addi, who was of Cosan, who was of Helmadan, who was of Her, [29] Who was of Jesus, who was of Eliezer, who was of Jorim, who was of Mathat, who was of Levi, [30] Who was of Simeon, who was of Judas, who was of Joseph, who was of Jona, who was of Eliakim,[31] Who was of Melea, who was of Menna, who was of Mathatha, who was of Nathan, who was of David, [32] Who was of Jesse, who was of Obed, who was of Booz, who was of Salmon, who was of Naasson, [33] Who was of Aminadab, who was of Aram, who was of Esron, who was of Phares, who was of Judas, [34] Who was of Jacob, who was of Isaac, who was of Abraham, who was of Thare, who was of Nachor, [35] Who was of Sarug, who was of Ragau, who was of Phaleg, who was of Heber, who was of Sale,
[36] Who was of Cainan, who was of Arphaxad, who was of Sem, who was of Noe, who was of Lamech, [37] Who was of Mathusale, who was of Henoch, who was of Jared, who was of Malaleel, who was of Cainan, [38] Who was of Henos, who was of Seth, who was of Adam, who was of God.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 23.—And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years old. “Beginning” refers not to “thirty years,” for then “about” would be redundant, but to the public preaching of Jesus, for which He was sent by the Father. Having been declared in His baptism the Messiah, the Teacher, Lawgiver, and Saviour of the world by the Dove and by the voice of the Father, and when He was therefore beginning to exercise this His function, and to teach the Gospel law and preach publicly, Jesus “was about thirty years old.” This is plain from the Greek, which has, “And Jesus was about thirty years beginning,” i.e., when He began to preach. So Jansenius, Baronius, and others.

Observe the “about;” he does not state definitely whether Jesus was exactly thirty. If we suppose Him to have been born in the forty-second year of Augustus, Jesus was, in this year of His baptism—the fifteenth of Tiberius—completing His twenty-ninth year and beginning His thirtieth. But if He were born in the forty-first of Augustus He was now completing His thirtieth year.

Thirty years. John, and a little after him, Christ, began to preach not too soon, but at a proper age. The Hebrews have the tradition that no one was allowed to teach publicly before his thirtieth year, for at that age a man is in his full vigour, and his judgment fully matured and perfected. This we also gather from 1 Chron. xxiii. 3.

As was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was (here, and before each of the following names the Arabic puts in “the son”) of Heli, which was of Mathat. From this passage Porphyry and Julian the Apostate accused Luke of being incorrect, because Joseph was not the son of Heli, but of Jacob, as S. Matthew says (ch. i.); and because S. Luke gives the other progenitors of Joseph and Heli names entirely different from those given them by S. Matthew.

Besides, Jesus was not the son of Joseph, but born of the Virgin Mary.

The solution given by some to this difficulty is that Joseph was by nature the son of Jacob, but by law the son of Heli. By the old law (Deut. xxv. 5) a surviving brother had to raise up seed to his dead brother, and the brother who had died childless was held to be the legal father of these sons. Now Jesca, says Euthymius, married Mathat, and by him had Heli, then she married Mathan, and by him had Jacob. Heli died without issue, and his brother Jacob married his wife in accordance with the law, and Joseph was his son by her, being, therefore, naturally the son of Jacob, but legally of Heli. So Justinus, S. Jerome, Eusebius, Nazianzen, and S. Ambrose explain it. But, on the other hand, Heli and Jacob were only uterine brothers, and the law on the subject of raising up seed to a brother only applies to full brothers, sons of the same father; for they alone kept the name and heritage of the father. Besides, the introduction of Jesca is beside the point. For though her sons, Heli and Jacob, be connected through her, yet they would have no connection through Mathat and Mathan and the rest of their ancestors up to David.

This, therefore, has nothing to do with the pedigree of the Blessed Virgin and Christ, in so far as showing Jesus to be of the seed of David according to the flesh is concerned. For if Jesus be descended from Jesca and Mathat, He could not be also descended from Jesca and Mathan; how, then, is He set down as the descendant of both Mathan and Mathat?

My opinion is that in the time of Christ it was very well known that Mathan was the common grandfather of Joseph and the Blessed Virgin; and that Jacob, the father of Joseph, and Heli, or Joachim, the father of the Blessed Virgin, were full brothers - as Francis Lucas holds - or rather, that Jacob was the brother of S. Anne, the wife of Heli, or Joachim, and mother of the Blessed Virgin; hence the genealogy of one is the genealogy of the other. For the Blessed Virgin was descended, through her mother, from Jacob, Mathan, and Solomon, and, through her father, Joachim or Heli, from Mathat and Nathan.

So S. Matthew gives the genealogy of the Blessed Virgin through her mother S. Anne, while S. Luke gives it through her father Heli, or Joachim, so that Christ may be shown to be descended of the seed of David in both ways.

There is no other better way than this of reconciling the genealogies given by SS. Matthew and Luke. Moreover, it is the common opinion of S. Augustine, Denis the Carthusian, Cajetan, Jansenius, and other doctors whom Suarez quotes (pt. iii., quæst. xxvii. a. 1, disp. 3, sect. 2) that S. Luke traces the genealogy of Christ through Heli, or Joachim, the father of the Blessed Virgin. Hence it must follow that S. Matthew’s genealogy is traced through S. Anne, and that she was the daughter of Mathan; for otherwise all her ancestors, whom S. Matthew recounts, belong only to Joseph, and not to the Blessed Virgin and Christ.

S. Matthew then traces Christ’s descent through His father Joseph, S. Luke through His mother, the Blessed Virgin; both lines are united in David, but after him separate through his two sons Solomon and Nathan. And again these two lines of Nathan and of Solomon unite in S. Anne, the daughter of Mathan, and sister of Jacob, Joseph’s father.

Who was of Heli. The “who” may refer to Joseph, thus—Joseph was the son, i.e., son-in-law of Heli (or Joachim), because he married his daughter, the Blessed Virgin, and therefore Luke does not use the verb “begat” as S. Matthew does, but the verb “was” (fuit). And again the pronoun “who” may in the Greek clearly be taken with “Jesus”—Jesus was the son, i.e., the grandson of Heli, or Joachim, because He was his offspring, as from a grandfather, through the Blessed Virgin. For having premised that Joseph was not the real, but only the supposed, father of Christ, there was no reason why S. Luke should immediately subjoin the genealogy of Joseph. But rather S. Luke, as well as S. Matthew, means to describe the descent of the Blessed Virgin and Christ according to the flesh, and this is the end and aim of each genealogy—so says S. Augustine (or whoever is the author of the Quæst. veteris et novi Testament, bk. i. q. lvi., and bk. ii. q. vi).

Ver. 24.—Which was the son of Janna—Janneus, the second Hyrcanus, if we are to believe Annius and Philo, who was the last leader of the Jews of the line of David, and was of the stock of the Asmonæi, or Maccabees; Josephus mentions him in bk. xii. ch. iv. and v., and Eusebius in his Chronicle. For Christ was descended both from high priests, such as Judas, Jonathas, and Simon Maccabæus, and from kings, He being King and High Priest, as S. Thomas, and Bonaventure teach, and among the fathers, Nazianzen and Augustine, whom Suarez (loc. cit.) quotes and follows. The Kings of Judah used to take as their wives the daughters of the high priests.

Ver. 27.—Which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the Son of Salathiel. These two are quite distinct from the Zorobabel and Salathiel mentioned by S. Matthew (ch. i.), and described by him as descended from David through Solomon; for these mentioned by S. Luke descend from David through Nathan. So think Pereira, Toletus, Francis Lucas, and others. Perhaps these two descendants of Nathan, being, raised to the princely dignity, borrowed the names of those of Solomon’s family who were illustrious in that state.

Ver. 31.—Which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David. Some think that this Nathan was the prophet who reprehended David for his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Kings xii. i.) So think Origen, N. de Lyra, Burgensis, Albertus Magnus, and also S. Augustine (bk. lxxxviii q. lxi). But S. Augustine (Retract. bk. i. ch. xxvi.) rightly withdraws this theory, for this Nathan was born of David and Bathsheba when they were joined in lawful marriage, as appears from 2 Sam. v. 14 and 1 Chron. iii. 5.

Ver. 38.—Which was the son of God—as handiwork, not as son; for God, even as a potter, formed and fashioned Adam the first man out of the earth. And hence the Arabic version renders “who was from God,” whereas, in other cases, it renders, for “who was,” “son.” S. Luke, then, brings the genealogy of Christ up to Adam, but S. Matthew only to Abraham—the father of the faithful, and founder of the Synagogue.

Why does S. Luke make this addition?
1.  S. Athanasius (Discourse on “All things are given unto Me by My Father”) says, “Luke, beginning with the Son of God, went back up to Adam, to show that the body which Jesus assumed had its origin from Adam, who was formed by God.”
2. S. Irenæus (book iii. ch. xxxiii.) says, “So was Christ made the beginning of the living, since Adam was made the beginning of the dead; for this cause also S. Luke, beginning the commencement of the generation with the Lord, brings it back to Adam, signifying that they did not regenerate, Him, but He them, into the Gospel of life.”
3. S. Leo (Serm. x. De Nativitate Domini) says, “The evangelist Luke traced the genealogy of the Lord’s race from His birth, to show that even those ages which came before the deluge were joined to this mystery and that all the steps of the succession tended to Him in whom alone was the salvation of all.”
4. Francis Lucas says that it was in order that S. Luke might signify that through Jesus men are led back to God, having been through Adam led away from God,
Symbolically, Euthymius says, “Luke, beginning from the humanity of Christ, leads back to His Divinity, showing that Christ indeed began as man, but that as God He was without beginning.”
5. S. Ambrose gives another reason, “Now, what could be more fair and fitting with respect to Adam who, according to the Apostle, received the figure of Christ, than that the sacred generation should begin with the Son of God and end with the Son of God; and that he that was created should precede in figure, that He that was born might follow in truth; and that he who was made in the image of God should go before, for whose sake the likeness of God came down.”
6. S. Augustine (de Consens. Evang. book ii. ch. iv.) recounts the seventy-seven generations here given, by which, he says, is signified the remission and abolition of all sins whatever, to be made by the Saviour Jesus, according to the words of Christ, “I say not unto thee unto seven times but unto seventy times seven.”

Lastly, notice here the noble pedigree of Christ which S. Luke and S. Matthew trace from Jesus Himself through so many kings, prophets, and patriarchs to Adam, the first made—nay, to God Himself, through four thousand years, in one unbroken line. For there is no prince or king in all the world who can trace his descent in a straight line for a thousand years. As to why Christ deferred His coming and incarnation for so long, Barradi gives ten moral reasons in vol. i., book v., ch. xxxi.

This generation of Christ was prefigured by Jacob’s ladder. So says Rupertus (on Matt. i.), “This generation is Jacob’s ladder; and the sides of the ladder are the princes and fathers of the generation, Abraham and David, to whom the promise was made. The last step, on which the Lord leaned, is the Blessed Joseph, He leaned on him as a pupil on his master.”

Tropologically, “who was” is significant of the vanity of this world, the life of man passes away, generation by generation, and is straightway turned from the present into the past, from “is” to “as"...

Thursday, 17 July 2014

St Luke 3:1-22

Chapter 3 of St Luke's Gospel takes us to the mission of St John the Baptist:

1 Anno autem quintodecimo imperii Tiberii Cæsaris, procurante Pontio Pilato Judæam, tetrarcha autem Galiææ Herode, Philippo autem fratre ejus tetrarcha Iturææ, et Trachonitidis regionis, et Lysania Abilinæ tetrarcha, 2 sub principibus sacerdotum Anna et Caipha: factum est verbum Domini super Joannem, Zachariæ filium, in deserto. 3 Et venit in omnem regionem Jordanis, prædicans baptismum pœnitentiæ in remissionem peccatorum, 4 sicut scriptum est in libro sermonum Isaiæ prophetæ:
Vox clamantis in deserto:Parate viam Domini; rectas facite semitas ejus: 5 omnis vallis implebitur,et omnis mons, et collis humiliabitur:et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas: 6 et videbit omnis caro salutare Dei. 7 Dicebat ergo ad turbas quæ exibant ut baptizarentur ab ipso: Genimina viperarum, quis ostendit vobis fugere a ventura ira? 8 Facite ergo fructus dignos pœnitentiæ, et ne cœperitis dicere: Patrem habemus Abraham. Dico enim vobis quia potens est Deus de lapidibus istis suscitare filios Abrahæ. 9 Jam enim securis ad radicem arborum posita est. Omnis ergo arbor non faciens fructum bonum, excidetur, et in ignem mittetur. 10 Et interrogabant eum turbæ, dicentes: Quid ergo faciemus? 11 Respondens autem dicebat illis: Qui habet duas tunicas, det non habenti: et qui habet escas, similiter faciat. 12 Venerunt autem et publicani ut baptizarentur, et dixerunt ad illum: Magister, quid faciemus? 13 At ille dixit ad eos: Nihil amplius, quam quod constitutum est vobis, faciatis. 14 Interrogabant autem eum et milites, dicentes: Quid faciemus et nos? Et ait illis: Neminem concutiatis, neque calumniam faciatis: et contenti estote stipendiis vestris.15 Existimante autem populo, et cogitantibus omnibus in cordibus suis de Joanne, ne forte ipse esset Christus, 16 respondit Joannes, dicens omnibus: Ego quidem aqua baptizo vos: veniet autem fortior me, cujus non sum dignus solvere corrigiam calceamentorum ejus: ipse vos baptizabit in Spiritu Sancto et igni: 17 cujus ventilabrum in manu ejus, et purgabit aream suam, et congregabit triticum in horreum suum, paleas autem comburet igni inextinguibili. 18 Multa quidem et alia exhortans evangelizabat populo. 19 Herodes autem tetrarcha cum corriperetur ab illo de Herodiade uxore fratris sui, et de omnibus malis quæ fecit Herodes, 20 adjecit et hoc super omnia, et inclusit Joannem in carcere. 21 Factum est autem cum baptizaretur omnis populus, et Jesu baptizato, et orante, apertum est cælum: 22 et descendit Spiritus Sanctus corporali specie sicut columba in ipsum: et vox de cælo facta est: Tu es filius meus dilectus, in te complacui mihi.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea, and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina; [2] Under the high priests Annas and Caiphas; the word of the Lord was made unto John, the son of Zachary, in the desert. [3] And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins; [4] As it was written in the book of the sayings of Isaias the prophet: A voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. [5] Every valley shall be filled; and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight; and the rough ways plain;[6] And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. [7] He said therefore to the multitudes that went forth to be baptized by him: Ye offspring of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? [8] Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of penance; and do not begin to say, We have Abraham for our father. For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham. [9] For now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that bringeth not forth good fruit, shall be cut down and cast into the fire. [10] And the people asked him, saying: What then shall we do?[11] And he answering, said to them: He that hath two coats, let him give to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do in like manner. [12] And the publicans also came to be baptized, and said to him: Master, what shall we do? [13] But he said to them: Do nothing more than that which is appointed you. [14] And the soldiers also asked him, saying: And what shall we do? And he said to them: Do violence to no man; neither calumniate any man; and be content with your pay. [15] And as the people were of opinion, and all were thinking in their hearts of John, that perhaps he might be the Christ; [16] John answered, saying unto all: I indeed baptize you with water; but there shall come one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: [17] Whose fan is in his hand, and he will purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. [18] And many other things exhorting, did he preach to the people. [19] But Herod the tetrarch, when he was reproved by him for Herodias, his brother' s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done; [20] He added this also above all, and shut up John in prison.[21] Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; [22] And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

Commentary (de Lapide)

...S. Luke passes from the twelfth year of Christ to His thirtieth, when, after the manner of the Hebrews, He began to discharge His Office of Teacher and Redeemer and to preach publicly....

S. Luke is at great pains to enumerate here the chief personages, both secular and ecclesiastic:—
(1.) To mark distinctly and palpably the time and year when John, and then Christ, began to preach.
(2.) To shew that the sceptre had now passed from Judah, because Herod and his sons the tetrarchs, and Tiberias and the Romans had become the rulers of Judæa, and that therefore the Messiah, the beginning of whose preaching he relates in this chapter, had come, according to the prophecy of Jacob, Gen. xlix. 10.
(3.) To give us to understand that Israel, torn in sunder among so many rulers; some infidels, others impious men, had need of the advent of the Messiah, Who should make the people whole and save them.
(4.) Because these personages had much to do with those works of John and of Christ which S. Luke will afterwards relate. Tiberius, as I have said, wished to number Christ among the gods; Pilate crucified Him; Herod Antipas seized upon Herodias the wife of his brother Philip, and being reproved by John, slew him; and he clothed Christ in a white dress and mocked Him; while Annas and Caiaphas persecuted Christ to death, and also persecuted the Apostles after His death...

The word (that is, the command) of God came unto John the son of Zacharias. In the fifteenth year of Tiberius, God ordered John the Baptist to preach and baptize; ordered him by an interior inspiration, perhaps too by the voice of an angel.

Ver. 3.—And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance (i.e., stirring them up to do penance) for the remission of sins—to be obtained in the baptism of Christ. John was preaching penance, that by it they might dispose themselves for the reception of pardon and grace from Christ. See Matt. iii.

Ver. 4.—As it is written in the book of the words of Isaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.

Ver. 5.—Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be bought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth.  S. Gregory (Hom. xx. In Evangelia), S. Augustine, S. Chrysostom, Bede, and others interpret these words as meaning, Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted, as Christ said. This, however, is a discourse in which John exhorts his hearers to a change of life and conversation, as though he said, 0 ye Jews, prepare the way for Christ, your Messiah, now about to come to you. Wherefore, “Every valley shall be filled,” i.e., let it be filled up, “and every mountain and hill shall be brought low,” i.e., let it be brought low, “and the crooked,” i.e., difficult ways, “shall be,” i.e., let them be made, “into straight,” &c. In other words, smooth all the ways for Christ, your King, Who cometh, as is wont to be done for kings that are about to enter upon their kingdoms, so that the rough ways be made smooth and level. Remove from your minds all that is evil, distorted, or unequal; too much lifted up, or too much cast down; he that beareth in his heart the mountain of pride, let him bring down this swelling, and he that hath in him the valley of pusillanimity or sloth, let him lift and fill it up with generosity and confidence in God; and he that is of “rough” behaviour, let him train himself to suavity and modesty.
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God—i.e., so shall it come to pass that every man shall be able to see both with the eyes of the body, and also more especially with those of the soul, “the salvation of God”—the Saviour Christ—feel and experience within himself the salvation and the power of the grace brought by Christ.

S. Gregory (Hom. 20 In Evang.) says, “Every valley shall be filled up, because the humble receive a gift which the hearts of them that are puffed up repel from them. The bad places are made straight when the hearts of the wicked, turned awry by iniquity, are directed by the rule of justice; and the rough places are turned into smooth ways when haughty and angry minds return to the gentleness of meekness by the infusion of heavenly grace.”...

Ver. 10.—And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? that we may bear fruits worthy of penance, and so avoid the ruin threatened by you, and obtain everlasting salvation. John had accused the Pharisees and the populace, but the Pharisees “despised the counsel of God,” c. vii. 30, and therefore also the discourse of John; but the crowd of common people, deeply moved and touched by the force of his preaching, try to find out the way to repent, so as to seize upon John’s instructions, and offer themselves to him ready and prepared. So also, in these days, the common people were more ready than the great to take hold of the warnings of preachers, and are therefore saved rather than they.

Ver. 11.—He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. A synecdoche; he signifies every kind of alms-deed by one which is the more common and necessary; clothing and feeding the poor. “Two” supposing one coat to be sufficient to clothe and warm the body, and the other, therefore, superfluous, let him give that other “to him that hath not,” to him that is naked and in need of a coat. For if both be necessary he is not bound to, give either to the poor man. So S. Jerome (Quæst. I. ad Hedibiam); and S. Ambrose, on this passage, says, “The limits of mercy are observed according to the capability of human nature, so that each one deprive not himself of everything, but share what he has with the poor man,” and he adds, “He that is able, let him bear the fruit of grace, he that is bound, of penance. The use of mercy is common, therefore the precept is common; mercy is the fulness of the virtues.”

This, then, is one of the fruits worthy of penance, according to the words of Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, “Break off thy sins by righteousness and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor” iv. 27. Besides, almsgiving fitly disposes our lives for every virtue. Every virtue is either of obligation or of supererogation; justice is of obligation, mercy of supererogation, and therefore mercy satisfies both for itself and for justice, both because he that gives what is his own, will not seize what belongs to others, and also because he that gives what he is not bound to give will much more pay what he owes—to which he is bound by justice or some other virtue—and again because mercy comes of love and charity, and charity is the fulness of the law. For “He that loveth hath fulfilled the law,” Rom. xiii.
Euthymius aptly remarks here, “He enjoins on the multitudes to take one another into mutual benevolence, and assist one another with mutual good works.” For the many easily understand works of mercy, and devote themselves to them, while they are not easily induced to prayer, fasting, and works of penance, and sometimes are incapable of them.

Ver. 12.—Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?—to save our souls. Here is fulfilled the saying of Christ “Publicans and harlots shall be before you (0 Scribes) in the kingdom of God,” Matt. xxi. 31. For the sinners, being called to account by John, felt deep compunction, acknowledged their fault, and sought for penance; but the proud Scribes, thinking themselves just and wise, despised it.

Ver. 13.—And he said unto them, exact no more than that which is appointed you—in the exaction of taxes. In the Greek it is πζάσσετε, which can be translated both make and exact, but in this place is more clearly rendered exact as the Syriac and the Greek render it. So Jansenius, Maldonatus, Francis Lucas, and others. For tax-gatherers are wont to increase the tribute out of avarice, and to exact more than is appointed by the Ruler, which is theft or rapine, wherefore John here charges them with it. “He lays a moderate command on them,” says S. Augustine (Serm. 3 de Diversis), “that both iniquity may have no place, and the appointed tribute may have effect” “So the Baptist,” says S. Ambrose, “gives to each generation of men the answer suitable to them.” Let the preacher do the same, and prescribe to wives, to husbands, to sons, to maidservants, to menservants, to merchants, farmers and lawyers, what each in particular ought to do, and give each one the directions proper to his state of life.”

Ver. 14.—And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. Soldiers who were serving some of them under Herod Antipas against Aretas, the king of the Arabs, some under the prefect of the Temple, and some under Pilate, the Roman Governor; these men, hearing John thundering against their vices, and threatening them with hell, conscious of rapine and other crimes, which soldiers are wont to commit, becoming, together with the publicans, contrite, at the word of John, seek from him the remedy of penance, of a good life, and of salvation. John, therefore, tacitly gives it to be understood that it is lawful to be a soldier, and that war is lawful, as S. Ambrose teaches (Serm. 7), and S. Augustine (Contra Faustum, bk. xxii. ch. lxxiv.)

Ver. 15.—And as the people were in expectation (in the Greek πζοσδοκου̃ντες, suspecting, expecting, as Vatablus renders it—when the people were hoping, or were in suspense with hope, desire, and expectation), and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not—the Messiah promised to the fathers, and so eagerly expected by all the Jews at this particular time when the sceptre had passed from Judah, and Daniel’s seventy weeks, the sign of Christ’s coming, were fulfilled. As the people, then, were spreading this report about John, the chief men of the Jews at length sent messengers to him to ask him whether he were Christ (John i 19). Such was the holiness of John. So S. Ambrose, Bede, and others explain.

Ver. 16.—John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I cometh, namely the Messias.

The rest which Luke here adds has been explained on Matt. iii. 11.

Morally, Origen says, “Preachers are here warned not to allow themselves to be too much praised or honoured by the people, but to suppress these praises and honours, and refer them to Christ, lest by reason of their pride they be deprived of them by Christ.”

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

St Luke 2:40-52

The conclusion of chapter 2 of St Luke's Gospel is extremely important doctrinally, on the human and divine knowledge of Christ:

Puer autem crescebat, et confortabatur plenus sapientia: et gratia Dei erat in illo. 41 Et ibant parentes ejus per omnes annos in Jerusalem, in die solemni Paschæ. 42 Et cum factus esset annorum duodecim, ascendentibus illis Jerosolymam secundum consuetudinem diei festi, 43 consummatisque diebus, cum redirent, remansit puer Jesus in Jerusalem, et non cognoverunt parentes ejus. 44 Existimantes autem illum esse in comitatu, venerunt iter diei, et requirebant eum inter cognatos et notos. 45 Et non invenientes, regressi sunt in Jerusalem, requirentes eum. 46 Et factum est, post triduum invenerunt illum in templo sedentem in medio doctorum, audientem illos, et interrogantem eos. 47 Stupebant autem omnes qui eum audiebant, super prudentia et responsis ejus. 48 Et videntes admirati sunt. Et dixit mater ejus ad illum: Fili, quid fecisti nobis sic? ecce pater tuus et ego dolentes quærebamus te. 49 Et ait ad illos: Quid est quod me quærebatis? nesciebatis quia in his quæ Patris mei sunt, oportet me esse? 50 Et ipsi non intellexerunt verbum quod locutus est ad eos. 51 Et descendit cum eis, et venit Nazareth: et erat subditus illis. Et mater ejus conservabat omnia verba hæc in corde suo. 52 Et Jesus proficiebat sapientia, et ætate, et gratia apud Deum et homines.

41] And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the solemn day of the pasch, [42] And when he was twelve years old, they going up into Jerusalem, according to the custom of the feast, [43] And having fulfilled the days, when they returned, the child Jesus remained in Jerusalem; and his parents knew it not. [44] And thinking that he was in the company, they came a day' s journey, and sought him among their kinsfolks and acquaintance. [45] And not finding him, they returned into Jerusalem, seeking him.[46] And it came to pass, that, after three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. [47] And all that heard him were astonished at his wisdom and his answers. [48] And seeing him, they wondered. And his mother said to him: Son, why hast thou done so to us? behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. [49] And he said to them: How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father' s business? [50] And they understood not the word that he spoke unto them.[51] And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them. And his mother kept all these words in her heart. [52] And Jesus advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 40.—And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit. The Greek, Syriac, and Arabic add “in spirit,” and Euthymius explains it that Christ did not receive greater spiritual strength inwardly day by day, since He was full of grace and the Holy Ghost from the first moment of His conception, but that He exhibited this strength more and more outwardly by word and work. The Latin version, the Latin fathers, and the interpreter reject “in spirit,” as also Origen and Titus among the Greeks.

Filled with wisdom. The Greek πληζούμενον means both to be being filled and to be full, so as to be equivalent to πλήζης. The Arabic renders “was being filled again with wisdom,” the Syriac “was being filled with wisdom.” So also Origen, Theophylact, Euthymius, and Titus on this passage, and S. Ambrose (de Incarn. Dom. Sact. cap. vii.). Theophylact explains—Not acquiring wisdom (for what could be more perfect than He who was perfect from the beginning?) but discovering it little by little. For had He manifested all His wisdom whilst he was small in stature, He would have appeared, as it were, monstrous, and as though not really a child, but a phantasm of a child.

And the Grace of God was upon Him. In the Greek ε̉π αυ̉τόν. All the favour, goodwill, care, and love of God the Father towards the Child Jesus, as His Son, brooded, as it were, over Him from out of the heavens, to adorn Him with gifts and graces, to guide and dispose Him in all His actions, that all might see that He was ruled, and in all things directed by God, and that His actions were not so much human as Divine. So says Euthymius. In a similar manner it is said of John the Baptist, “And the hand of the Lord was with him,” Luke i. 66....

Ver. 46...Asking them questions. (1.) Because it was fitting that the child should ask questions of these learned men, and not teach them. (2.) To teach the young modesty, and the desire to hear, to question, and to learn, “Lest,” says Bede, “if they will not be disciples of the truth, they become masters of error.” (3.) That, asking them questions, He might be questioned in turn by them, and might teach them by His replies.

Ver. 47.—And all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. That a child of twelve, the son of a carpenter, one who had never attended the schools, should be so versed in Holy Scripture, should question so wisely and answer so intelligently as to surpass even the doctors themselves, so that they said, “What thinkest thou that this child will be?”—will He be a Prophet? will He be the Messiah, whom we all anxiously expect from day to day to be the Teacher of the World?
Ver. 48.—And when they saw him, they were amazed. His parents, who were seeking Him, wondered and rejoiced at finding Him alone disputing with the doctors, manifesting such wisdom, while the doctors, and all the rest who were present, wondered at Him.

And His mother said unto Him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, Thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing—the Arabic adds, “with labour.” Such are the words of His mother, not as finding fault with Christ, but in wonder and in sorrow, and sorrowfully unfolding her grief. The reverence felt by this mother for her Child—the God-Man—assures us of this; so it is most likely that she said this to Him, not publicly in the assemblage of doctors, but privately, calling Him aside, or when the assembly had dispersed. So Jansenius, Maldonatus, and others.

Thy father and I.  S. Augustine (Serm. 63 De Diversis, xi.) remarks upon the, humility of the Virgin, who, knowing that she was in every sense (in solidum) the Mother of Christ, and, therefore, of God, and that Joseph had no part in begetting Him, yet modestly puts herself after Joseph as her husband. “She expresses herself always,” says an anonymous writer in the “Catena Græcca,” like a mother, with trustfulness, humility, and affection.”

Tropologically, let the soul that has separated itself from Jesus by mortal sin, or from its wonted communion with Him by venial negligence, seek Him again (1) with the sorrow and tears of a penitent heart, for, as S. Gregory Nazianzen says (Orat. 3), “The tears of righteous men” (and of sinful too, if they repent) “are the flood that covers sin, and the expiation of the world, as was Noah’s flood;” (2) with earnestness and solicitude, as the Blessed Virgin did, and that in the Temple, by passing some time in prayer and in spiritual reading and meditation; (3) among the doctors, among learned and good men, who shall instruct the soul as well in knowledge as in piety.

Ver. 49.—And He said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?  S. Ambrose holds that these are the words of one administering reproof. And Christ, as the Messiah, and as a Lawgiver, might rightfully have reproved His mother had she sinned. But there was no blemish of sin in His mother, neither therefore was there any reproof on the part of Christ. Still, there is in the words a certain sharpness of tone, savouring of reproof, that He may teach them by His question and incite them the more keenly to learn the things that concerned Him, just as parents are wont to stimulate their children to zeal and diligence with sharp words, and masters their pupils. These words of Christ, then, are the words of one instructing and consoling; excusing himself, and defending what he has done:—There was no need for you to seek Me, for you might have considered that I was treating concerning the beginning of that business, the salvation of the world, for which My Father sent Me. Neither must you suppose that I shall always remain with you; some day I shall leave you and go away about this business, as I have already begun to do. And, as for My going without your knowledge, I did so purposely, to teach you that, in these matters, I depend not on you, but on My Heavenly Father, and that I must act according to His will and His plan. It is not I, then, who have given you cause for sorrow, but partly your love for Me and partly your ignorance of the mystery I have now told you of; you knew not that I was occupied with My Father’s affairs. For, though this ought to have presented itself to your mind, your tender love prevented it, and turned aside the thought. Hence Bede says, “He blames her not because she sought Him as her son, but forces her to raise the eyes of her mind to what He owes Him whose Eternal Son He is.”

In order to understand this thoroughly we must notice that Christ, besides His Divine actions, which He had as God and the Son of God, such as creating, preserving, and ruling all things, and breathing the Holy Spirit, had human actions of two kinds. Of these He had some as man, common to Him with other men, eating, walking, labouring, &c.; others were proper to Him as the God-Man, the Redeemer, the Christ, and these actions are called by S. Dionysius “Theandric” (Θέος α̉νηζ); being the works partly of God and partly of a man. Such actions were those of teaching, working miracles, calling His disciples, creating and ordaining apostles, &c.  In respect of the former class of actions Christ was willing to obey His parents; but as to the latter He would obey only God His Father, because these, as being of a higher order, were received by and were under the direction of God alone. Wherefore He answered His parents, when they sought an explanation of His conduct, that these things were to be done, not at their will and pleasure, but at God’s—as appears from this passage, and at the marriage at Cana, in the turning of the water into wine, S. John ii. 4, and in other similar cases.

And these actions which Christ did as the God-Man He calls the actions of God His Father, and attributes to His Father, not to Himself (1) because on account of these works He was sent by His Father into the world; (2) because He had His Divinity from the Father, and these were the works chiefly of His Divinity; (3) because He did them by the Father’s command; (4) because in these matters He was subject to no one but His Eternal Father, to teach us that God’s command or counsel must come before even the tenderest love for mother—as when God calls any one to religion, to the priesthood, to martyrdom, or to the apostolate, and his parents are opposed to the call...

Ver. 52.—And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. For stature the Greek has ήλικία, “age,” or “proficiency.” See also chap. xii. 25. Both renderings are true and apposite.

To the question whether Jesus really progressed in wisdom and grace, as He did in age and stature, S. Athanasius (Serm. 4 Contra Arianos) and S. Cyril (Thesaurus, l. x.) seem to answer in the affirmative; for they seem to say that the humanity of Christ drew greater wisdom from the Word by degrees, just as the Blessed Virgin and other men and women did.

But the rest of the fathers teach differently. For, from the first instant of His conception, Jesus was, as has been said at v. 40, full of wisdom and grace, this being due to that humanity on account of its hypostatic union with the Word.  S. Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. 20 in laudem Basilii) says, “He progressed in wisdom before God and men, not that He received any increase, since He was, from the beginning, absolute in grace and wisdom, but these gradually became apparent to men [hitherto] unaware of them.” For, as Theophylact says, “the shining forth of His wisdom is this very progress;” just as the sun, though it always gives the same degree of light, yet is said to increase in light as it unfolds it more and more from morning until midday. It is to be noted that there were in the soul of Christ three kinds of knowledge—(1) beatific, by which He saw God, and all things in God, and so was rendered blessed; (2) knowledge infused by God; (3) experimental knowledge guided by daily use. The two former were implanted in Christ in so perfect a degree from the first moment of His conception that He could not increase them. I assert the same with respect to His habitual grace and glory. So say S. Augustine (De peccat. mor. et rem., 1. iii. c. xxix.), S. Jerome (on the words of Jer. xxxi. 22, “A woman shall compass a man”), S. Athanasius, Cyril, S. Gregory Nazianzen, Bede, and others,  S. Thomas and the schoolmen everywhere—for this is required by the hypostatic union.
Christ, therefore, is said to have progressed in wisdom and grace as He progressed in years—1. In the estimation of men, and in outward seeming. For sometimes Scripture speaks according to what is seen outwardly, and the judgment formed by men. So Origen, Theophylact, Nazianzen, S. Athanasius, and Cyril.

2. Christ did really increase in experimental wisdom, for from mere use He acquired experience—“He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” Heb. v. 8.

3. Though Christ did not increase in habitual, yet He did increase in actual and practical wisdom and grace. For, even while yet a child, He daily exerted more and more of the strength of mind and heavenly wisdom that lay hidden in His soul; so that in face and manner, in word and deed, He ever acted with greater and greater modesty, gravity, prudence, sweetness, and piety.
To the objection that Christ is said to have increased in grace before God, S. Thomas (p. iii. Quæst. vii.), answers that Christ increased in grace in Himself, not as regards the habit, but as regards the acts and effects produced by it.

Among other differences between the grace which Christ had, and that which we have, there are the four following:—

1. Christ had grace, as it were, naturally by virtue both of the hypostatic union and of His conception of the Holy Ghost; but with us all grace is undue, gratuitous, adventitious, and supernatural.

2. In us grace (1) wipes out original sin, and whatever actual sins there may be, and so (2) makes us pleasing to God; but in Christ grace existed not only previously to sin, but actually without it, sanctifying Him per Se primo, for from the grace of the union with the Word emanated habitual grace, as rays from the sun, immediately and naturally. So that we are adopted and are called sons of God, but Christ is truly and naturally the Son of God, as S. Hilary (De Trinit., 1. xii.), and Cyril (In Joannem, 1. iii. c. xii.), teach.

3. In us grace is peculiar to the individual, justifying the man in whom it resides; but the grace of Christ is the grace of the Head, and so sanctifying us. For “of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace” S. John i. 16.

4. Grace increases in us (even in the case of the Blessed Virgin) by good works; but in Christ it did not increase, because, proceeding from the union with the Word, which from the beginning was full and perfect, this fulness of grace, which could not be increased, was given Him at the moment of that union.
Tropologically, Damascene (De fide, 1 iii c. xxii.) says that Christ progresses in wisdom and grace, not in Himself, but in His members, that is, in Christians. For He went on producing greater acts of virtue day by day that He might teach us to do the same. All our life is without ceasing either a progress or a falling off; when it is not becoming better it is becoming worse, as S. Bernard tells us. Ep. 25.
With God and man. “For,” says Theophylact, “it behoves us to please God first and then man.” If we please God He will make us pleasing to men. It is not enough to please man, for this is often false and feigned, nor to please God only, for this is peculiar to oneself and unseen, but we must please “God and man,” that we may show to men that grace by which we are pleasing to God, and so attract them to it. “To God,” says S. Bernard, “we owe our conscience, to our neighbours our good reputation.”

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

St Luke 2:21-39

St Luke's Gospel, chapter 2, continues now with the circumcision of Jesus, and includes the third New Testament canticle (albeit one not used in the Benedictine form of the Office; its use at Easter-time is a modern import from the Roman), the Nunc Dimittis:

21 Et postquam consummati sunt dies octo, ut circumcideretur puer, vocatum est nomen ejus Jesus, quod vocatum est ab angelo priusquam in utero conciperetur. 22 Et postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis ejus secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino, 23 sicut scriptum est in lege Domini: Quia omne masculinum adaperiens vulvam, sanctum Domino vocabitur: 24 et ut darent hostiam secundum quod dictum est in lege Domini, par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum. 25 Et ecce homo erat in Jerusalem, cui nomen Simeon, et homo iste justus, et timoratus, exspectans consolationem Israël: et Spiritus Sanctus erat in eo. 26 Et responsum acceperat a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi prius videret Christum Domini. 27 Et venit in spiritu in templum. Et cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus, ut facerent secundum consuetudinem legis pro eo, 28 et ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas: et benedixit Deum, et dixit:

29 Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: 
30 quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, 
31 quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum: 
32 lumen ad revelationem gentium,et gloriam plebis tuæ Israël. 

33 Et erat pater ejus et mater mirantes super his quæ dicebantur de illo. 34 Et benedixit illis Simeon, et dixit ad Mariam matrem ejus: Ecce positus est hic in ruinam et in resurrectionem multorum in Israël, et in signum cui contradicetur: 35 et tuam ipsius animam pertransibit gladius ut revelentur ex multis cordibus cogitationes. 36 Et erat Anna prophetissa, filia Phanuel, de tribu Aser: hæc processerat in diebus multis, et vixerat cum viro suo annis septem a virginitate sua. 37 Et hæc vidua usque ad annos octoginta quatuor: quæ non discedebat de templo, jejuniis et obsecrationibus serviens nocte ac die. 38 Et hæc, ipsa hora superveniens, confitebatur Domino: et loquebatur de illo omnibus, qui exspectabant redemptionem Israël. 39 Et ut perfecerunt omnia secundum legem Domini, reversi sunt in Galilæam in civitatem suam Nazareth.

And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb. [22] And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: [23] As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: [24] And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: [25] And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.[26] And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. [27] And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, [28] He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said:

[29] Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; 
[30] Because my eyes have seen thy salvation,
[31] Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: 
[32] A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. 

[33] And his father and mother were wondering at those things which were spoken concerning him. [34] And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother: Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign which shall be contradicted; [35] And thy own soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.[36] And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser; she was far advanced in years, and had lived with her husband seven years from her virginity. [37] And she was a widow until fourscore and four years; who departed not from the temple, by fastings and prayers serving night and day. [38] Now she, at the same hour, coming in, confessed to the Lord; and spoke of him to all that looked for the redemption of Israel. [39] And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their city Nazareth.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 26.—And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. “It was revealed” by a divine oracle and promise—the Greek expression is χζηματίξειν. “The Lords Christ”—the Messiah, anointed with the unction of the Holy Spirit and the plentitude of grace. (Isa. xi. 2.)

In this Simeon was privileged far beyond Abraham, Isaac, and all the patriarchs and prophets, who, as the apostle says, Heb. xi. 13, “died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and embraced them.” Hence it is plain that Simeon was a man of singular holiness, and full of holy aspirations and zeal.

Ver. 27.—And he came by the Spirit into the Temple. By the impulse of the Holy Spirit, moved and incited by the Holy Spirit, say Euthymius and Theophylact. And the same Spirit who urged him thither gave him the sign by which he should know Christ among so many infants that were then being offered in the Temple, or, rather, showed Him to him, inwardly prompting him and saying, Behold, this is Christ, whom I promised thee that thou shouldst see before thy death.

Timothy, a priest of Jerusalem, in his Oratio de Simeone, thinks that he must have seen the Virgin surrounded with light in the midst of the other women, and by this mark understood her to be the Mother of the Messiah. The Carthusian (Denis), too, says, “Perhaps he saw some divine splendour in the countenance of the child.”

Hence we may learn how God guides the mind and the paths of His saints that they may fall in with the good predestined for them by Him. Wherefore we must pray diligently, especially when about to undertake a journey, for this direction, that we may be preserved from evil, and blessed with good issues; saying with the Psalmist, “0 Lord, show me Thy ways and teach me Thy paths,” Ps. xxv. 4 “Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments,” Ps. cxix. 35.

We read, in the life of S. Ephrem, that, when he was entering a certain city, he prayed to God that he might fall in with something that should edify him. A harlot met him, and stared so hard at him, that he asked with great severity why she acted so immodestly; and he received this answer, “Let woman look upon man, for from him was she made, but let man fix his gaze upon the earth, of which he was formed.” The man of God felt that the rebuke was just, and, being deeply touched by it, gave thanks to God because he had received from a harlot a lesson so salutary...

Ver. 29.—Lord, now lettest thou Thy servant depart in peace, according to Thy word. Lettest thou—in Greek α̉πολύεις, loosen, as it were, from the prison-chains of this body, that I may go to the liberty, peace, and rest which the fathers in limbo enjoy. In peace, so Tobias, ch. iii. 6; and Abraham, Gen. xv. 15, desired to die in peace. Euthymius here understands by peace—

1. The calming of his feelings, which had fluctuated between hope and fear with reference to his seeing Christ.
2. The peace of an intrepid soul that did not fear death.
3. His joy.
4. Peace may be taken to mean that security from the dangers of the world which death brings.  S. Cyprian (Tract. de Moralitate, c. i) says, “joyful at his approaching death, sure that it must soon come, he took the Child in his hands, and, blessing the Lord, lifted up his voice and said, Now Thou dost dismiss, &c., . . . thus proving and bearing witness that then is there peace for the servants of God, then an easy and tranquil mind when, delivered from out the whirlpools of the world, we make for the haven of our eternal habitation and our peace.”

Thy word. Thy promise, says Theophylact, when Thou didst promise to prolong my life until I should see Christ; now have I seen Him, therefore let me depart and die.

Symbolically, S. Augustine (Serm. 20 de Tempore) says, “Now, Lord, let me depart in peace, because I see thy peace—Christ, Who shall make peace between heaven and earth—between God and angels and men—between men and themselves.”

And Simeon obtained his wish from God, for soon after he went to his rest.  S. Epiphanius (De Prophetarum vita, c. xxiv.) puts S. Simeon among the prophets. “Simon,” he says, “departed this life full of years and utterly worn out; yet did he not obtain at the hands of the priests the last honours of burial.” He gives no reason, however, why this should have been so, but it is thought that, in openly announcing the advent of Christ, he brought upon himself the envy and hatred of the other priests.
Tropologically, the Church sings this hymn of Simeon every evening in the Office of Compline, for two reasons—First, to admonish the faithful, and especially ecclesiastics, to think upon death, and so live as though they were to die in the evening; and, again, that they may acquire that yearning which Simeon felt to pass away from the vanities and troubles of this life to the true and blessed life in heaven, begging of God to be permitted to depart, and saying with Paul, “I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.” “Behold how the just man,” says S. Ambrose, “as though shut in within the gross prison-house of the body, wishes to be loosed, that he may begin to be with Christ. But he that will be set free, let him come to the Temple, let him come to Jerusalem, let him wait for the Lord, let him embrace Him with good work as with the arms of faith. Then shall he be set free, that he may not see death, because he has looked upon life.”

Ver. 30.—For mine eyes have seen thy salvation. “Salvation,” in Greek σωτήζιον, the word used by the Septuagint as a rendering of the Hebrew ישוצח, iescua, safety. “Safety” is used by metonomy for “Saviour.” By “salvation,” then, we are to understand the Saviour Christ, whom the ancient fathers desired to see, but Simeon alone saw, touched, and embraced.

Ver. 31.—Which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people. That all the nations of the Gentiles may draw salvation from Christ the Saviour. God has not hidden Christ in a corner of Judæa, but has set Him forth before all men, and soon will announce Him throughout the world by His Apostles, that all who will embrace His faith and law may be saved by Him.

Ver. 32.—A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel. Thou hast given Christ the Saviour that He may be a light for the enlightenment of the Gentiles, enlightening with His faith and worship the Gentiles who know not the true God, and also to be the glory and honour of the Jewish people. TheArabic has, “the light that hath appeared to the nations.” In the same way we have in Ps. cxviii. ii 8, “Open Thou” (that is, illumine) “mine eyes.” The allusion here is to the prophecy of Isaiah, made seven hundred years before, in ch. xlii. 6, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house;” and in xliv. 6, “I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” In the Mass, and particularly on the Feast of the Purification, we bless candles, light them, and carry them about, thereby (1) symbolising our belief in Christ as the light of the nations, and (2) praying that He will grant us in this life the light of His grace, and in the other life the light of His gladness and His glory. And it is for this reason that these lighted candles are put into the hands of the dying. See Amalarius, Durandus, and others, who have written on the Offices of the Church.

And the glory of Thy people Israel. 1. Because Christ, promised to their forefathers by God, took upon Himself the flesh of their race, and was a Jew.

2. Because He lived and died in Judæa, His life being made glorious by His teaching, His holiness, and His miracles.

3. Because He first founded His Church in Judæa, the first believers having been Jews, who afterwards gathered the Gentiles to themselves.

4. It was in Judæa that He rose from the dead and gloriously ascended into heaven, sending down thence the Holy Ghost with the gift of tongues.

The allusion is to Isaiah xlvi. 13, “I will place salvation in Zion for Israel, my glory;” and lx. I, “The glory of the Lord is risen upon thee;” and ibid. 2, “His glory shall be seen upon thee.”...

Monday, 14 July 2014

St Luke 2:1-20

The opening section of chapter 2 of St Luke's Gospel takes us to the nativity:

1 Factum est autem in diebus illis, exiit edictum a Cæsare Augusto ut describeretur universus orbis. 2 Hæc descriptio prima facta est a præside Syriæ Cyrino: 3 et ibant omnes ut profiterentur singuli in suam civitatem. 4 Ascendit autem et Joseph a Galilæa de civitate Nazareth in Judæam, in civitatem David, quæ vocatur Bethlehem: eo quod esset de domo et familia David, 5 ut profiteretur cum Maria desponsata sibi uxore prægnante. 6 Factum est autem, cum essent ibi, impleti sunt dies ut pareret. 7 Et peperit filium suum primogenitum, et pannis eum involvit, et reclinavit eum in præsepio: quia non erat eis locus in diversorio.8 Et pastores erant in regione eadem vigilantes, et custodientes vigilias noctis super gregem suum. 9 Et ecce angelus Domini stetit juxta illos, et claritas Dei circumfulsit illos, et timuerunt timore magno. 10 Et dixit illis angelus: Nolite timere: ecce enim evangelizo vobis gaudium magnum, quod erit omni populo: 11 quia natus est vobis hodie Salvator, qui est Christus Dominus, in civitate David. 12 Et hoc vobis signum: invenietis infantem pannis involutum, et positum in præsepio. 13 Et subito facta est cum angelo multitudo militiæ cælestis laudantium Deum, et dicentium: 14 Gloria in altissimis Deo,et in terra pax hominibus bonæ voluntatis.15 Et factum est, ut discesserunt ab eis angeli in cælum: pastores loquebantur ad invicem: Transeamus usque Bethlehem, et videamus hoc verbum, quod factum est, quod Dominus ostendit nobis. 16 Et venerunt festinantes: et invenerunt Mariam, et Joseph, et infantem positum in præsepio. 17 Videntes autem cognoverunt de verbo, quod dictum erat illis de puero hoc. 18 Et omnes qui audierunt, mirati sunt: et de his quæ dicta erant a pastoribus ad ipsos. 19 Maria autem conservabat omnia verba hæc, conferens in corde suo. 20 Et reversi sunt pastores glorificantes et laudantes Deum in omnibus quæ audierant et viderant, sicut dictum est ad illos.

[1] And it came to pass, that in those days there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that the whole world should be enrolled. [2] This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria. [3] And all went to be enrolled, every one into his own city. [4] And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem: because he was of the house and family of David, [5] To be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, who was with child.
[6] And it came to pass, that when they were there, her days were accomplished, that she should be delivered. [7] And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him up in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. [8] And there were in the same country shepherds watching, and keeping the night watches over their flock. [9] And behold an angel of the Lord stood by them, and the brightness of God shone round about them; and they feared with a great fear. [10] And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people:[11] For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David. [12] And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. [13] And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army, praising God, and saying: [14] Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will. [15] And it came to pass, after the angels departed from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another: Let us go over to Bethlehem, and let us see this word that is come to pass, which the Lord hath shewed to us.[16] And they came with haste; and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. [17] And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child. [18] And all that heard, wondered; and at those things that were told them by the shepherds. [19] But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart. [20] And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God, for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 6.—And so it was that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. Here the prophecy of Micah, v. 2, that Christ should be born in Bethlehem, was fulfilled.
Went up—from Nazareth, where, at the annunciation of the angel, the Blessed Virgin had conceived Christ. Hence Christ was called by the Jews a Galilean and a Nazarene.

To Bethlehem, which was beyond Jerusalem, and two hours journey from it; so that from Nazareth to Bethlehem was a journey of three days or more, and the Blessed Virgin, though near her delivery, accomplished it, as many piously suppose, on foot. S. Bernard, in his sermon on the words “A great sign appeared in heaven” of the Apocalypse, says, “She went up to Bethlehem, her delivery being now at hand, bearing that most precious trust, bearing a light burden, bearing Him by whom she was borne. . 
. . She alone conceived without defilement, carried without trouble, and brought forth her Son without pain.”  S. Gregory, Hom in Evang., says, “And well is He born in Bethlehem. For Bethlehem means ‘The House of Bread.’ And He it is who says, ‘I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven.’”
Her days were accomplished. She brought forth, not under the influence of the fatigue of the journey, but naturally. Observe that Christ was born a little after the winter solstice, when the days begin to increase, John the Baptist a little after the summer solstice, when the days begin to decrease. For, as John himself said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” So S, Augustine remarks.

Ver. 7.—And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the inn. She brought Him forth naturally like other mothers, and was, therefore, truly and naturally the mother of Christ, and therefore of God, for Christ is God. Moreover the Blessed Virgin was more the parent of Christ than other mothers are of their children; for from her Christ received all His substance, and other sons receive it not only from their mother and but also from their father. Hence the love between Christ His mother was far greater than that between other mothers and their offspring, for the love which is divided between mother and father was, in the case of the Virgin, united and kept together, since she was to Him in place of both, mother and father. Secondly, as she conceived so she brought forth, remaining a virgin, so that Christ was born while the womb of his mother was closed, and penetrated as the rays of the sun penetrate glass.
Thirdly, the Blessed Virgin, as she conceived without concupiscence, so also brought forth without pain, or any of the concomitants of ordinary childbirth. So say the Fathers everywhere.

So the Blessed Virgin was all vigorous and in good health, absorbed in the love and contemplation of her Son, each moment expecting His birth, and longing to see and embrace Him.

And she herself on a certain anniversary of the Nativity made a revelation to S. Bridget, as the latter tells us in book vi. ch. 88 of her Revelations, saying, “When He was born of me He went forth from my closed virgin womb with unspeakable joy and exultation. . . . I brought Him forth as thou hast now seen me, kneeling alone in prayer in the stable. For, with such exultation and gladness of soul did I bear Him that I felt no trouble nor any pain; but straightway I wrapped Him in the clean clothing which I had prepared long before. And when Joseph saw these things, he marvelled with great joy and gladness that I had brought forth without assistance.” And in the “Angelic Discourse,” ch. xv.—“God Himself bent low His majesty, and, descending into the womb of the Virgin . . . formed in purest fashion from the flesh and blood of the Virgin alone His Human Body. And therefore is that most chosen Mother fitly likened to the burning bush which Moses saw, that took no hurt. . . . Moreover as, when the Son of God was conceived, He entered throughout the whole body of the Virgin with His Divinity, so, when he was born with His Humanity and His Godhead, He was poured forth throughout her body, like all its sweetness shed whole from the bosom of the rose, the glory of maidenhood remaining entire in His Mother.”

There is a question as to what place was the first to receive Christ at His birth. Barradius thinks it was the ground, that Christ might teach us humility. Others think that Christ was received into the arms of His Mother, with exceeding joy,—for this would seem to be becoming for such a mother and such a son, and would be natural, and is gathered from what Luke immediately adds, “and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.” Taking Him in her hands she adored Him, kneeling, and then kissed Him most sweetly, and wrapped Him in the clothes and bands. Suarez thinks that Christ, as soon as He was born, was laid by angels in the arms of His most holy and loving Mother;  S. Gregory of Nyssa implies the same. This would be the place most becoming to Him, and most consonant to the wishes both of Son and Mother; and from thence she placed Him in the manger.

S. Bridget, Revel. bk. viii. ch. 47, implies that, at His birth, Christ came of His own accord into the hands of His sweet Virgin Mother, and this may be piously believed with great probability.
Ribadaneira says that there is a tradition to the effect that the Blessed Virgin, as soon as she saw Christ, struck with wonder at God made Man, prostrated herself on the ground before Him, and, with the deepest reverence and joy of heart, saluted Him with the words, Thou art come to one who has longed for Thee, my God! my Lord! my Son!—not doubting that she was understood by Him, infant as He was; and that thus she adored Him, kissing his feet as God, His hands as her Lord, and His face as her Son.
Christ, says S. Bernard, sermon 4, “On the Nativity,” when born cried and shed tears like other infants; both that He might begin to weep for and wash away our sins and also that He might conform himself to other infants; as Solomon, who was a type of Christ, says, “And when I was born, I drew in the common air, and fell upon the earth, which is of like nature, and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do. . . . For there is no king that had any other beginning of birth.” Wisdom vii. 3-5.
All the angels accompanied Christ, their God and Lord, to earth, as all royal households accompany a king when he goes abroad. They were amazed at God the immeasurable as it were straitened into a span’s breadth, they venerated Him and adored Him. Such is the meaning of the Apostle where he says, “And again, when He bringeth His Firstborn into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him,” Heb. i. 6.

And so it came to pass that this stable was, as it were, turned into the highest heaven,—full of angels, yea, of cherubim and seraphim, who all, leaving heaven, came down to adore their God made Man. Such was the work of the Incarnation and Nativity of the Word,—hitherto inconceivable, and, as it were, incredible to the angels, as being the supreme and appropriate work of the Divine Power, Wisdom, Justice, and Clemency—surpassing every understanding of men and of angels.

The reasons why Christ would be made Man and born on earth were many. First, that suffering and dying in the flesh He might redeem us from our sins and from hell. That He might teach us by example rather than word the way of salvation, and give us a perfect specimen of sanctity and of all virtues, but especially of the most profound humility. “Dig within thyself,” says S. Augustine, “the foundation of humility, and so shalt thou arrive at the summit of charity.”

Another reason was that Christ wished to become our kinsman and brother, nay, our very flesh and blood, in order that He might deal as flesh with flesh, as man with man, as equal with equal. Hence S. Bernard (Serm. 3, super Missus Est) says, “He has been sent;—let us strive to be made like as this little one; let us learn of Him, for He is meek and humble of heart, lest the Great God be made Man to no purpose.”

A third reason is that Christ took upon Him the meanness, the lowliness, the ills of our flesh, not for Himself but for us, to prick the icy hearts of men with the effectual stimulus of love and stir them up,—nay, force them, to love Him in return. For Christ, in His Incarnation, is ever calling aloud to us; I have given Myself all to thee, do thou in turn give thyself whole to Me. For this did I take flesh upon Me, that thou mightest say with Paul, I live now not I, but Christ lives in me. Listen to S. Ambrose,—“He therefore was a little infant that thou mightest be a perfect man—He swathed in bands that thou mightest be freed from the snares of death—He in a crib that thou mightest be on the altars—He on earth that thou mightest be in heaven—He had not room in the inn, that thou mightest have more abiding places among the inhabitants of heaven. . . . His poverty, therefore, is my heritage, and the weakness of my Lord is my strength.”

A fourth reason is that we could not conceive the idea of God, who is a pure and uncreated spirit, so God clothed Himself in our flesh that we might see Him with our eyes and hear Him with our cars. It is this that the Church sings in the Preface of the Mass of the Nativity—“Because by the Mystery of the Incarnate Word a new effulgence of Thy glory has shone upon the eyes of our soul, that coming to know God visibly we may by Him be rapt into yearning after things that are not seen.”...

Ver. 19.—But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart—putting them together and comparing them—not as Bede would have it, the prophecies made about Christ by the prophets, but the things seen and reported by the shepherds with reference to the angels—the “Gloria in excelsis,” &c., with what she had experienced herself—the annunciation of Gabriel, the prophecy of Elizabeth and of Zacharias, and the other things which she herself had witnessed and felt in herself. And this she did, first, that seeing the wondrous harmony—all things agreeing so well together—she might be the more confirmed in her faith that the only begotten Son of God was born of her. So speaks S. Ambrose. 

Secondly, that by the sweet contemplation of these circumstances so consonant among themselves, she might feed her mind, and look with sure hope for the rest—namely, that God would bring this work to an end, and redeem mankind by Christ. Thirdly, that in good time she might unfold all these things and narrate them in order to the apostles, and especially to S. Luke, who was destined to write of them. Observe here in the Virgin the rare example of maidenly silence and modesty, of heavenly prudence, and of the firmest faith and hope, as she wonders at the present and waits for the future. She was comparing the signs of deepest loneliness which she saw with what she knew of His Supreme Majesty, the stable with heaven, the swaddling clothes with that which is spoken of in Ps. civ., “covered with light as with a garment,” the crib with the throne of God, the beasts with the seraphim.