Saturday, 16 August 2014

St Luke 11: 37-54

The final section of St Luke's Gospel:

37 Et cum loqueretur, rogavit illum quidam pharisæus ut pranderet apud se. Et ingressus recubuit. 38 Pharisæus autem cœpit intra se reputans dicere, quare non baptizatus esset ante prandium. 39 Et ait Dominus ad illum: Nunc vos pharisæi, quod deforis est calicis et catini, mundatis: quod autem intus est vestrum, plenum est rapina et iniquitate. 40 Stulti! nonne qui fecit quod deforis est, etiam id quod deintus est fecit? 41 Verumtamen quod superest, date eleemosynam: et ecce omnia munda sunt vobis.2 Sed væ vobis, pharisæis, quia decimatis mentham, et rutam, et omne olus, et præteritis judicium et caritatem Dei: hæc autem oportuit facere, et illa non omittere. 43 Væ vobis, pharisæis, quia diligitis primas cathedras in synagogis, et salutationes in foro. 44 Væ vobis, quia estis ut monumenta, quæ non apparent, et homines ambulantes supra, nesciunt.45 Respondens autem quidam ex legisperitis, ait illi: Magister, hæc dicens etiam contumeliam nobis facis. 46 At ille ait: Et vobis legisperitis væ: quia oneratis homines oneribus, quæ portare non possunt, et ipsi uno digito vestro non tangitis sarcinas. 47 Væ vobis, qui ædificatis monumenta prophetarum: patres autem vestri occiderunt illos. 48 Profecto testificamini quod consentitis operibus patrum vestrorum: quoniam ipsi quidem eos occiderunt, vos autem ædificatis eorum sepulchra. 49 Propterea et sapientia Dei dixit: Mittam ad illos prophetas, et apostolos, et ex illis occident, et persequentur: 50 ut inquiratur sanguis omnium prophetarum, qui effusus est a constitutione mundi a generatione ista, 51 a sanguine Abel, usque ad sanguinem Zachariæ, qui periit inter altare et ædem. Ita dico vobis, requiretur ab hac generatione. 52 Væ vobis, legisperitis, quia tulistis clavem scientiæ: ipsi non introistis, et eos qui introibant, prohibuistis.53 Cum autem hæc ad illos diceret, cœperunt pharisæi et legisperiti graviter insistere, et os ejus opprimere de multis, 54 insidiantes ei, et quærentes aliquid capere de ore ejus, ut accusarent eum.

[37] And as he was speaking, a certain Pharisee prayed him, that he would dine with him. And he going in, sat down to eat. [38] And the Pharisee began to say, thinking within himself, why he was not washed before dinner. [39] And the Lord said to him: Now you Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but your inside is full of rapine and iniquity. [40] Ye fools, did not he that made that which is without, make also that which is within?[41] But yet that which remaineth, give alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you. [42] But woe to you, Pharisees, because you tithe mint and rue and every herb; and pass over judgment, and the charity of God. Now these things you ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone. [43] Woe to you, Pharisees, because you love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the marketplace. [44] Woe to you, because you are as sepulchres that appear not, and men that walk over are not aware. [45] And one of the lawyers answering, saith to him: Master, in saying these things, thou reproachest us also.[46] But he said: Woe to you lawyers also, because you load men with burdens which they cannot bear, and you yourselves touch not the packs with one of your fingers. [47] Woe to you who build the monuments of the prophets: and your fathers killed them. [48] Truly you bear witness that you consent to the doings of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and you build their sepulchres. [49] For this cause also the wisdom of God said: I will send to them prophets and apostles; and some of them they will kill and persecute. [50] That the blood of all the prophets which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation,[51] From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, who was slain between the alter and the temple: Yea I say to you, It shall be required of this generation. [52] Woe to you lawyers, for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you yourselves have not entered in, and those that were entering in, you have hindered. [53] And as he was saying these things to them, the Pharisees and the lawyers began violently to urge him, and to oppress his mouth about many things, [54] Lying in wait for him, and seeking to catch something from his mouth, that they might accuse him.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 37.—And as He spake, a certain Pharisee besought Him to dine with him: and He went in, and sat down to meat. “As he spake,” As He was on a certain occasion teaching the people, say St. Augustine and others; but Maldonatus considers that reference is here made to the preceding verses. The Pharisee therefore, having heard what our Lord had previously said, asked Him, from no good motive, but, as we learn from the two last verses of the chapter, in order to find some accusation against Him.

“He sat down to meat,” without having first washed His hands, after the manner of the Pharisees.

Ver. 38.—And when the Pharisee saw it, he marvelled that He had not first washed. For the Pharisees were accustomed, before they sat down to meat, to wash not their hands only, but their arms as far as the elbow. See St. Matt., xv. I.

Ver. 39.—And the Lord said unto him, Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and platter. Ye take care to wash the body, but are careless as to the cleansing of the heart. The word “now” gives point to the rebuke.

Ver. 41.—But rather give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you. τὰ ὲνόντα, quod superest. Vulgate. These words are omitted by many of the fathers, but retained in the Roman versions.

By these words we may therefore understand:

1. Such things as we possess. So Tertullian (lib. iv. 27 Contra Marc.). But St. Basil and Euthymius explain them as meaning “what we have in store,” or what we have at hand, what we have not consumed. Vatablus. Others think that the words mean “what we have not acquired wrongfully, for such things must be restored, and not given in charity.” Others, again, such things as we have in our power and at our disposal, that by giving of these we may make amends for our many misdeeds, may break off our iniquities, by showing mercy to the poor. Dan. iv. 24.

2. Toletus thinks, from a consideration of v. 39, that by τὰ ενόντα, we must understand the things within. “Ye, 0 Pharisees, make clean the outside of the cup and platter, but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness, for ye have obtained what ye eat and what ye drink by robbery and injustice. Cleanse yourselves therefore of your sins. Restore what you have gained unjustly and give alms of such things as ye lawfully possess.” Thus, Zaccheus said, “The half of my goods I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. St. Luke xix. 8.

3. Theophylact considers that our Lord here goes to the root of the evil, and would have the Pharisees cast out of their hearts τὰ ὲνόντα, ie. their inordinate love of riches.

4. But we may interpret the passage more forcibly as meaning, There is but one remedy for your past sins and extortions: give alms; this is a duty which comes before all others, this is the sum and substance of the whole matter. Bede.

5. Lastly, some would read the verse thus: Give alms of such things as you may lawfully dispose of, τὸ ε̉νὸν, what is lawful, i.e. of such things as are your own, and not the property of others. Give freely, and not because you are under any obligation to give.

And behold all things are clean unto you. Some think that these words were spoken in irony; but the general opinion of the fathers is that we must understand them seriously; but how—

1. Certain are of opinion that the sins of robbery and violence are pardoned through the giving of alms, even although no previous restitution has been made. But this is a manifest error, for S. Augustine says, “no sin is remitted, unless restitution is made,” for restitution of that which has been wrongfully acquired is due under every law, natural, human, or divine.

2. S. Augustine understands by “almsgiving” every good work, including even penitence itself, for “How,” he asks, “can you be merciful to another, if you are unmerciful to yourself? To have compassion on your own soul is to be pleasing, to God.” He therefore who repents of his sins, has compassion on his own soul; for almsgiving, is whatever is done by a profitable compassion. To “give alms” means “devote thyself to good works, to works of charity and of penitence, for these will make you clean.”

3. But we may take the words really in this sense. “All things, whether external, as the body, or internal, as the soul, are made clean, not by ceremonial washings, as ye think, but by alms given out of τὰ ὲνόντα, “that which is thine own.” See preceding section 5.

For by almsgiving we obtain the pardon of our venial offences, and are placed in the way of obtaining the remission of even mortal sin, if, that is to say, our almsgiving, is the fruit of true contrition which includes within itself the perfect love of God.

We must therefore understand that the giving of alms makes all things clean, if it be accompanied by faith, hope, contrition, and such other things as are required by scripture for the remission of sin, and if the almsgiver does not again return to his evil ways. Hence, according to the teaching of Christ and His apostles, we are saved by faith, and that not alone, but accompanied by penitence and love.

Origen, SS. Cyprian, Ambrose and others, explain that almsgiving is a remedy for every sin, but chiefly for extortion and robbery and such sins as are contrary to itself. For it is a remedy against avarice, which is the root of the evil. Because he who is liberal and compassionate neither envies, robs, nor wrongs any one. Hence Theophylact calls almsgiving “the daughter of godlike love and charity;” and S. Cyril, on Dan. iv., declares the giving of alms to be better than fasting, for that which can be applied to all wounds is no valueless medicament. See also S. Matt. xxii.

Ver. 45.—Then answered one of the lawyers, and said unto Him, Master, thus saying Thou reproachest us also. ύβζίζεις, blamest or dishonourest. Thou accusest us, and that openly, of much wickedness. But Christ exposed the wickedness of the Scribes, not to disgrace them, but to lead them to amend their lives; or, if that were impossible, to prevent others from following their evil example. So S. Cyril says, “To be convicted of error is to the proud intolerable, but to the humble a great means of advancement.” Bede: How wretched is that conscience which thinks itself insulted whenever it may happen to hear the word of God.” Yet even now the wicked, when a preacher attacks vices which they are conscious of committing, think themselves aggrieved and persecute the man who warns them of their sin.

Ver. 47.—Woe unto you! for ye build the sepulchres of the prophets. Christ does not rebuke the Scribes for building these sepulchres, but because they sought to persecute and slay Him and His apostles, who were as the prophets of old. See S. Matt. xxiii.2

“Ye act, 0 ye Scribes, in accordance with the example of your fathers. They killed the prophets and ye bury them, as robbers bury those whom they have plundered and slain. Ye act thus out of pretended reverence and zeal, yet ye are but imitations of your fathers, for ye seek to kill Me and My disciples, and by so doing fill up the measure of their iniquity.” But Suarez explains these verses thus, “Inasmuch as ye imitate your fathers in your persecution of Christ and His apostles, ye seem to build these sepulchres more to commemorate the act of the slayer, than out of any desire to honour the slain.”

Ver. 52.—Woe unto you, lawyers! Ye have usurped, as S. Ambrose renders the Greek ήζατε, the key of knowledge, i.e., the teaching of the law and the interpretation of scripture. Ye have used this knowledge for your own evil purposes, and have prejudiced the people against Me and the salvation which I came to bestow. Thus ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in, S. Matt. xxiii. 13.

Thus S. Ambrose and Tertullian; and S. Cyril, who understands the key of knowledge to mean the law, the sign of the justice of Christ, and adds, Faith also is the key, because by means of it we retain the knowledge and the truth, for “unless ye believe ye will not understand.” These men therefore shut up the kingdom of heaven, for they neither explained the law as testifying to Christ, nor did they suffer men to believe on Him.

Figurativly, S. Augustine (lib. ii. Quæst. Evang.), alluding to Isa. xxii. 22, and Rev. iii. 7, says, The key of knowledge is humility, which these lawyers themselves understood not, and were unwilling that others should understand.

Ver. 53.—And the Scribes and the Pharisees began to urge Him vehemently. “To urge Him vehemently,” δεινω̃ς συνέχειν; but the Vulgate has “to insist,” as if ε̉ιέχειν “and to provoke Him to speak of many things,” α̉ποστοματίζειν, i.e. to catch something out of His mouth that they might accuse Him—to seek an immediate answer to their crafty questionings, and to confuse Him in His talk. Euthymius and Theophylact. But Maldonatus thinks that α̉ποστοματίζειν should be rendered “to shut His mouth,” i.e. to put Him to silence. But the Scribes did not wish to silence Christ, but on the contrary to provoke Him to say something against the law or against Caesar, whereof they might accuse Him.
They said therefore, Thou hast derided our ceremonies, and broken the tradition of our fathers, v. 38. Thou hast rebuked us because we tithe mint and rue, v. 42. Thou hast charged us with loving the uppermost seats, and therefore Thou hast blamed Moses who assigned them to us, v. 43. Thou hast forbidden us to honour the prophets, v. 47. Thou hast deprived us of the key of knowledge, which the whole synagogue has committed to our care, v. 52. Thou desirest therefore to be wiser than Moses, and to overthrow the law, and the ordinances of God.

Ver. 54.—Laying wait for Him, and seeking to catch something out of His mouth. θηζευ̃σαί, “to hunt for,” that they might accuse Him to Caiaphas or Pilate. For Euthymius says, “They thought by their rapid questionings to lead Him to commit Himself to some rash statement; but He answered them in all things wisely, for He answered nothing but what had been well thought out aforehand, and He spake unmoved by any human passion.”

They trusted that in anger, or in excitement, he would have said something with which they could find fault, for men in the heat of argument oftentimes make statements which they regret and are compelled to retract. Not so with Christ; calm and unmoved, His words were truth.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Feast of the Assumption (Lk1:41-50)

The Gospel for the feast is St Luke 1:41-50:

41 Et factum est, ut audivit salutationem Mariæ Elisabeth, exsultavit infans in utero ejus: et repleta est Spiritu Sancto Elisabeth: 42 et exclamavit voce magna, et dixit: Benedicta tu inter mulieres, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. 43 Et unde hoc mihi, ut veniat mater Domini mei ad me? 44 Ecce enim ut facta est vox salutationis tuæ in auribus meis, exsultavit in gaudio infans in utero meo. 45 Et beata, quæ credidisti, quoniam perficientur ea, quæ dicta sunt tibi a Domino.46 Et ait Maria: Magnificat anima mea Dominum: 47 et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo. 48 Quia respexit humilitatem ancillæ suæ:ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes, 49 quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est:
et sanctum nomen ejus, 50 et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum.

And it came to pass, that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: [42] And she cried out with a loud voice, and said: Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. [43] And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] For behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. [45] And blessed art thou that hast believed, because those things shall be accomplished that were spoken to thee by the Lord.[46] And Mary said: My soul doth magnify the Lord. [47] And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. [48] Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. [49] Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. [50] And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him.

Matins readings (from St Peter Canisius)

Reading 9: The Church frequently and reverently keepeth feastdays dedicated to the Mother of God, realizing that it is a work pleasing to God and worthy of the faithful if many feasts, with fixed dates and public ceremonies, are celebrated in honour of the most blessed of all the blessed in heaven, the Mother of our Lord and God. Among all these feasts which have been celebrated so devotedly for so many years, even unto the present day, the Feast of the Assumption is considered the greatest and holdeth chief place.

Reading 10: Indeed there was no happier or more joyful day for Mary, if we duly consider the happiness of both body and soul granted to her on that day. Then especially, as never before, her spirit, soul and body rejoiced wondrously in the living God and she could rightfully say: He hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden; for behold, all generations shall call me blessed; for he that is mighty hath magnified me.

Reading 11: O thrice blessed and truly august Mother, it is for this reason that we who love thee and thy Son cannot refrain from congratulating thee with all sincerity upon thine admirable and incomparable happiness, especially since everything that hath been said to thee and about thee by the Lord, is brought to a conclusion by thy beautiful passing away from this life, and in every wise hath been perfectly fulfilled. Blessed art thou who hast not only believed but hast this day attained unto the end of faith and the fruit of all virtue, and now at last hast merited to enjoy the most pleasing sight of him whom thou didst love and desire so greatly. Thyself a guest, thou didst receive Emmanuel who as a guest did enter into thee, as into a mighty fortress in this world; and today, thou in turn art received by him into his royal mansion, and magnificently welcomed with the highest honour, as befitteth one found worthy to be the Mother of such a Solomon.

Reading 12: O blessed day which sent so precious a gift from the desert of this world, and carried it to the holy and eternal city, so that universal and unheard of joy no less than admiration welled up in all the blessed in heaven. O blessed day, that fulfilled the long and ardent yearning of the gentle spouse, so that she might find what she had sought, that she might receive what she asked; that what she awaited she might possess securely, resting safely at last in that perfect vision and inward joy of the eternal and all-great Goodness. O blessed day which raised up and so highly exalted this most humble handmaiden of the Lord that she might become the most glorious Queen of Heaven and the mistress of the world. Indeed she could not have risen to more sublime heights since she had been elevated to the very Throne of the heavenly kingdom, and thus was established in glory next after Christ. O blessed and truly honourable is this day which constituted and confirmed for us a Queen and Mother who is at once powerful and merciful in the kingdom of God, that we might have her, who ever remaineth the Mother of the Judge, as a Mother of mercy protecting us and interceding for us with Christ, unceasingly watching over the work of our salvation.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

St Luke 11:14-36

St Luke 11 continues:

14 Et erat ejiciens dæmonium, et illud erat mutum. Et cum ejecisset dæmonium, locutus est mutus, et admiratæ sunt turbæ. 15 Quidam autem ex eis dixerunt: In Beelzebub principe dæmoniorum ejicit dæmonia. 16 Et alii tentantes, signum de cælo quærebant ab eo. 17 Ipse autem ut vidit cogitationes eorum, dixit eis: Omne regnum in seipsum divisum desolabitur, et domus supra domum cadet. 18 Si autem et Satanas in seipsum divisus est, quomodo stabit regnum ejus? quia dicitis in Beelzebub me ejicere dæmonia. 19 Si autem ego in Beelzebub ejicio dæmonia: filii vestri in quo ejiciunt? ideo ipsi judices vestri erunt. 20 Porro si in digito Dei ejicio dæmonia: profecto pervenit in vos regnum Dei. 21 Cum fortis armatus custodit atrium suum, in pace sunt ea quæ possidet. 22 Si autem fortior eo superveniens vicerit eum, universa arma ejus auferet, in quibus confidebat, et spolia ejus distribuet. 23 Qui non est mecum, contra me est: et qui non colligit mecum, dispergit. 24 Cum immundus spiritus exierit de homine, ambulat per loca inaquosa, quærens requiem: et non inveniens dicit: Revertar in domum meam unde exivi. 25 Et cum venerit, invenit eam scopis mundatam, et ornatam. 26 Tunc vadit, et assumit septem alios spiritus secum, nequiores se, et ingressi habitant ibi. Et fiunt novissima hominis illius pejora prioribus. 27 Factum est autem, cum hæc diceret: extollens vocem quædam mulier de turba dixit illi: Beatus venter qui te portavit, et ubera quæ suxisti. 28 At ille dixit: Quinimmo beati, qui audiunt verbum Dei et custodiunt illud.9 Turbis autem concurrentibus cœpit dicere: Generatio hæc, generatio nequam est: signum quærit, et signum non dabitur ei, nisi signum Jonæ prophetæ. 30 Nam sicut fuit Jonas signum Ninivitis, ita erit et Filius hominis generationi isti. 31 Regina austri surget in judicio cum viris generationis hujus, et condemnabit illos: quia venit a finibus terræ audire sapientiam Salomonis: et ecce plus quam Salomon hic. 32 Viri Ninivitæ surgent in judicio cum generatione hac, et condemnabunt illam: quia pœnitentiam egerunt ad prædicationem Jonæ, et ecce plus quam Jonas hic.
33 Nemo lucernam accendit, et in abscondito ponit, neque sub modio: sed supra candelabrum, ut qui ingrediuntur, lumen videant. 34 Lucerna corporis tui est oculus tuus. Si oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit: si autem nequam fuerit, etiam corpus tuum tenebrosum erit. 35 Vide ergo ne lumen quod in te est, tenebræ sint. 36 Si ergo corpus tuum totum lucidum fuerit, non habens aliquam partem tenebrarum, erit lucidum totum, et sicut lucerna fulgoris illuminabit te.

 [14] And he was casting out a devil, and the same was dumb: and when he had cast out the devil, the dumb spoke: and the multitudes were in admiration at it: [15] But some of them said: He casteth out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils.[16] And others tempting, asked of him a sign from heaven. [17] But he seeing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself, shall be brought to desolation, and house upon house shall fall. [18] And if Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because you say, that through Beelzebub I cast out devils. [19] Now if I cast out devils by Beelzebub; by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. [20] But if I by the finger of God cast out devils; doubtless the kingdom of God is come upon you.
[21] When a strong man armed keepeth his court, those things are in peace which he possesseth. [22] But if a stronger than he come upon him, and overcome him; he will take away all his armour wherein he trusted, and will distribute his spoils. [23] He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. [24] When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through places without water, seeking rest; and not finding, he saith: I will return into my house whence I came out. [25] And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished.[26] Then he goeth and taketh with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and entering in they dwell there. And the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. [27] And it came to pass, as he spoke these things, a certain woman from the crowd, lifting up her voice, said to him: Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck. [28] But he said: Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it. [29] And the multitudes running together, he began to say: This generation is a wicked generation: it asketh a sign, and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet. [30] For as Jonas was a sign to the Ninivites; so shall the Son of man also be to this generation.[31] The queen of the south shall rise in the judgment with the men of this generation, and shall condemn them: because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold more than Solomon here. [32] The men of Ninive shall rise in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it; because they did penance at the preaching of Jonas; and behold more than Jonas here. [33] No man lighteth a candle, and putteth it in a hidden place, nor under a bushel; but upon a candlestick, that they that come in, may see the light. [34] The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body will be lightsome: but if it be evil, thy body also will be darksome. [35] Take heed therefore, that the light which is in thee, be not darkness.[36] If then thy whole body be lightsome, having no part of darkness; the whole shall be lightsome; and as a bright lamp, shall enlighten thee.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 27.—And it came to pass as He spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, &c., i.e. Thou art so holy and so blessed, 0 Christ, that because of thee thy mother must be also blessed. Although she was ignorant of the mystery, this woman was moved by the Holy Spirit to declare that Christ was born of a virgin mother. Some suppose that the woman here mentioned was S. Martha or her handmaid S. Marcella. However, had it been Martha, in all probability  S. Luke would have said so, since he so frequently in the chapter preceding, makes mention of her name.

But Marcella is said to have incurred the enmity of the Scribes because she thus openly spoke in praise of Christ, and to have been by them condemned to death a little after the crucifixion, and there is a tradition that, together with Martha, Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus, she was exposed in an open boat without sails or oars, but that it with its living freight was by the providence of God brought safe to shore at Marseilles.

Blessed is the womb that bare thee. For it was the abiding place of the Son of God. Hence Methodius says of the Blessed Virgin: “Thou didst conceive Him who comprehended all things. Thou didst bear Him in thy womb by whose word all things are sustained. For she is the chariot of the true Solomon, of whom it is written, ‘King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it of purple, the midst thereof being paved with love.’” Cant. iii.’9.

Hence Gregory of Nicomedia calls her “the glorious throne and royal chariot on which the Incarnate Word was carried when He visited the earth. And S. Bernard says, Ignatius, in the many letters which he wrote to the Blessed Virgin, addresses her as “Christofera,” which is indeed a noble title conveying with it infinite honour; for to be the servant of Christ is to be a ruler and prince, and to bear Him is to be ennobled, not burdened. And the same writer, commenting on Rev. xii., goes on to say, “How great favour hast thou found in the sight of God, how very nigh hast thou been brought to Him! He abides in thee, and thou in Him. Thou didst provide Him a garment, and in turn thou are clothed upon by Him. He received of thee the garment of the flesh; He clothed thee with the glory of His majesty. Thou didst clothe the sun with a cloudy covering, and thou thyself art encircled with its splendours.”

Rightly therefore may we sing of the mother of our Lord: “Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem. Thou art the great glory of Israel. Blessed be thou of the Almighty Lord for evermore,” Judith xv. 9.

Hear also the testimony of the fathers. Gregory Nazianzen, in his tragedy, “The Suffering Christ” writes:—“0 queen, 0 mistress and blessinag of the human race! be ever propitious to us mortal men: and be my safeguard wherever I may dwell.” And S. Cyril (Contra Nestorium) says, “All praise to thee, holy mother of God, for thou art this world’s pearl, an evershining light, the crown of virgins, and the sceptre of the faith;” and S. Chrysostom: “Hail, mother, the throne, the grace, the glory and the support of our Holy Church!” And again, S. Ephrem salutes her as “the hope of the Fathers, the glory of the Prophets, the praise of the Apostles, the honour of the Martyrs, the joy of the Saints, and the light of the Patriarchs of old.”

Ver. 28.—But He said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear one word of God, and keep it. Christ does not say that His mother is not blessed, as Calvin would have us believe, but only that they are more blessed who hear the word of God and keep it, i.e. fulfil its precepts. Because to be the mother of God is a grace and free gift of God, but external, and therefore not of necessity acting upon the soul, but to hear and keep the word is an internal grace, finding acceptance in the sight of God. Again, to be the mother of God does not absolutely ensure everlasting happiness, but to keep God’s word up to death has the sure promise of eternal life. And further, to be the mother of God is, of necessity, the blessing of one virgin only, but to hear and keep the word of God, a privilege common to all believers.

Christ therefore would encourage the woman who had addressed Him. Thou callest My mother blessed, and sorrowest that so great a privilege has not fallen to thy lot, but I offer thee a better and more lasting blessing, if thou wilt hear My word, and keep My commandments. For My mother was blessed more because she acknowledged My divinity than because she conceived Me in her womb, nay more, because, had she not recognised the purpose of God and been obedient unto His word, she would have been accounted unworthy to have become the mother of His Son; and so S, Augustine says, “The near relationship of mother would not have profited Mary had she not conceived Christ in her heart as well as in her womb. For she was more blessed in her faith than in her conception.”

Ver. 34.—The light of the body is the eye. Figuratively the eye represents reason, intellect, especially good intention—for what the eye is to the body, such is reason or good intention to the mind.
When thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light, i.e. illumined by a single, a clear and unclouded eye.

Ver. 36.—If thy whole body therefore be full of light . . . the whole shall be full of light. Not the body, but the whole man and all his faculties and powers. Maldonatus. But Toletus gives a different rendering: “If the eye, which is the principal and most noble part of the body, is full of light, then by means of it the whole body will be enlightened.”

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

St Luke 11: 5-13

5 Et ait ad illos: Quis vestrum habebit amicum, et ibit ad illum media nocte, et dicet illi: Amice, commoda mihi tres panes, 6 quoniam amicus meus venit de via ad me, et non habeo quod ponam ante illum, 7 et ille de intus respondens dicat: Noli mihi molestus esse, jam ostium clausum est, et pueri mei mecum sunt in cubili: non possum surgere, et dare tibi. 8 Et si ille perseveraverit pulsans: dico vobis, etsi non dabit illi surgens eo quod amicus ejus sit, propter improbitatem tamen ejus surget, et dabit illi quotquot habet necessarios. 9 Et ego dico vobis: Petite, et dabitur vobis; quærite, et invenietis; pulsate, et aperietur vobis. 10 Omnis enim qui petit, accipit: et qui quærit, invenit: et pulsanti aperietur. 11 Quis autem ex vobis patrem petit panem, numquid lapidem dabit illi? aut piscem, numquid pro pisce serpentem dabit illi? 12 aut si petierit ovum, numquid porriget illi scorpionem? 13 Si ergo vos, cum sitis mali, nostis bona data dare filiis vestris: quanto magis Pater vester de cælo dabit spiritum bonum petentibus se?

 [5] And he said to them: Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go to him at midnight, and shall say to him: Friend, lend me three loaves,[6] Because a friend of mine is come off his journey to me, and I have not what to set before him. [7] And he from within should answer, and say: Trouble me not, the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. [8] Yet if he shall continue knocking, I say to you, although he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend; yet, because of his importunity, he will rise, and give him as many as he needeth. [9] And I say to you, Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you. [10] For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened. [11] And which of you, if he ask his father bread, will he give him a stone? or a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? [12] Or if he shall ask an egg, will he reach him a scorpion? [13] If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father from heaven give the good Spirit to them that ask him?

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 5.—And He said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight.
At midnight, i.e. at a most inconvenient time.

Christ puts forth this parable to teach His disciples not to be disheartened, nor to cease to pray because their petitions are unanswered, but to persevere, for if they do this, God will listen to their prayers and grant them their requests.

Ver. 6.—For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him. My friend, hungry and wearied with his journey, seeks refreshment, and I have nothing to set before him.

Ver. 7.—And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not. He makes excuse that he cannot wake his children from their sleep and disturb his household.

Ver. 8.—I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

Importunity—α̉ναίδειαν, i.e., impudence, used as the Latin word impudens—e.g., labour impudens (i.e. unceasing labour) omnia vincit.

Here S. Augustine asks, “Why because of his importunity? Because he continued to knock and did not go away because his request was denied him. He who was unwilling to give what his friend had need of, gave at last because the other continued his demands. Much more then will God who in His goodness bids us make known our requests to Him, and is displeased with those who seek Him not, grant our requests.”

God wills that we should continue instant in prayer, and is pleased with our “importunity,” for persistent prayer is “violence pleasing to God.” Tertullian.

Ver. 9.—And I say unto you, ask and it shall be given you. (See S. Matt. vii. 7.)

Ver. 12.—Or if he shall ask an egg. This verse is omitted by S. Matthew. An ege, because of the nourishment it contains.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

St Luke 11:1-4

St Luke 11 opens with the Lord's prayer:

1 Et factum est: cum esset in quodam loco orans, ut cessavit, dixit unus ex discipulis ejus ad eum: Domine, doce nos orare, sicut docuit et Joannes discipulos suos. 2 Et ait illis: Cum oratis, dicite: Pater, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. 3 Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. 4 Et dimitte nobis peccata nostra, siquidem et ipsi dimittimus omni debenti nobis. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem.

 And it came to pass, that as he was in a certain place praying, when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him: Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. [2] And he said to them: When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. [3] Give us this day our daily bread. [4] And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.


de Lapide:

Ver. 2.—When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  S. Matthew adds this prayer to the sermon on the mount, whilst S. Luke places it at a later period. Either, therefore, Christ taught His disciples this prayer on two separate occasions, or S. Matthew added it to the sermon on the mount, in order to make that sermon a complete summary of evangelical doctrine.

Here we may observe, that S. Matthew makes this prayer consist of seven petitions, but S. Luke of five. The latter evangelist unites two, because they are contained in the others. Hence, because S. Luke omits the last petition, “deliver us from evil,” the Pelagians argued that although we might pray against being led into temptation, we ought not to pray for deliverance from evil.

Catena Aurea:

BEDE; After the account of the sisters, who signified the two lives of the Church, our Lord is not without reason related to have both Himself prayed, and taught His disciples to pray, seeing that the prayer which He taught contains in itself the mystery of each life, and the perfection of the lives themselves is to be obtained not by our own strength, but by prayer. Hence it is said, And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place. 

CYRIL; Now whereas He possesses every good in abundance, why does He pray, since He is full, and has altogether need of nothing? To this we answer, that it befits Him, according to the manner of His dispensation in the flesh, to follow human observances at the time convenient for them. For if He eats and drinks, He rightly was used to pray, that He might teach us not to be lukewarm in this duty, but to be the more diligent and earnest in our prayers.

TIT. BOST. The disciples having seen a new way of life, desire a new form of prayer, since there were several prayers to be found in the Old Testament. Hence it follows, When he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, Lord, teach us to pray, in order that we might not sin against God in asking for one thing instead of another, or by approaching God in prayer in a manner that we ought not.

ORIGEN; And that he might point out the kind of teaching, the disciple proceeds, as John also taught his disciples. Of whom in truth you have told us, that among them that are born of women there had arisen none greater than he. And because you have commanded us to seek things that are great and eternal, whence shall we arrive at the knowledge of these but from You, our God and Savior?

GREG. NYSS.. He unfolds the teaching of prayer to His disciples, who wisely desire the knowledge of prayer, directing them how they ought to beseech God to hear them. 

BASIL; There are two kinds of prayer, one composed of praise with humiliation, the other of petitions, and more subdued. Whenever then you pray, do not first break forth into petition; but if you condemn your inclination, supplicate God as if of necessity forced thereto. And when you begin to pray, forget all visible and invisible creatures, but commence with the praise of Him who created all things. Hence it is added, And he says to them, When you pray, say, Our Father. 

PSEUDO-AUG. The first word, how gracious is it? You durst not raise your face to heaven, and suddenly you receive the grace of Christ. From an evil servant you are made a good son. Boast not then of your working, but of the grace of Christ; for therein is no arrogance, but faith. To proclaim what you have received is not pride, but devotion. Therefore raise your eyes to your Father, who begot you by Baptism, redeemed you by His Son. Say Father as a son, but claim no especial favor to t yourself. Of Christ alone is He the especial Father, of us the common Father. For Christ alone He begot, but us he created. And therefore according to Matthew when it is said, Our Father, it is added, which art in heaven, that is, in those heavens of which it was said, The heavens declare the glory of God. Heaven is where sin has ceased, and where there is no sting of death. 

THEOPHYL. But He says not, which art in heaven, as though He were confined to that place, but to raise the hearer up to heaven, and draw him away from earthly things. 

GREG. NYSS.. See how great a preparation you need, to be able to say boldly to God, O Father, for if you have your eyes fixed on worldly things, or court the praise of men, or are a slave to your passions, and utter this prayer, I seem to hear God saying, 'Whereas you that are of a corrupt life call the Author of the incorruptible your Father, you pollute with your defiled lips an incorruptible name. For He who commanded you to call Him Father, gave you not leave to utter lies. But the highest of e all good things is to glorify God's name in our lives. Hence He adds, Hallowed be thy name. For who is there so debased, as when He sees the pure life of those who believe, does not glorify the name invoked in such a life. He then who says in his prayer, Be thy name, which I call upon, hallowed in me, prays this, "May I through Your concurring aid be made just, abstaining from all evil." 

CHRYS. For as when a man gazes upon the beauty of the heavens, he says, Glory be you, O God; so likewise when He beholds a man's virtuous actions, seeing that the virtue of man glorifies God much more than the heavens. 

PSEUDO-AUG. Or it is said, Hallowed be thy name; that is, let Your holiness be known to all the world, and let it worthily praise You. For praise becomes the upright, and therefore He bids them pray for the cleansing of the whole world. 

CYRIL; Since among those to whom the faith has not yet come, the name of God is still despised. But when the rays of truth shall have shined upon them, they will confess the Holy of Holies. 

TIT. BOST. And because in the name of Jesus is the glory of God the Father, the name of the Father will be hallowed whenever Christ shall be known.

ORIGEN; Or, because the name of God is given by idolaters, and those who are in error, to idols and creatures, it has not as yet been so made holy, as to be separated from those things from which it ought to be. He teaches us therefore to pray that the name of God may be appropriated to the only true God; to whom alone belongs what follow, Thy kingdom come, to the end that may be put down all the rule, authority, and power, and kingdom of the world, together with sin which reigns in our mortal bodies. 

GREG. NYSS.. We beseech also to be delivered by the Lord from corruption, to be taken out of death. Or, according to some, Thy kingdom come, that is, May Your Holy Spirit come upon us to purify us.

 PSEUDO-AUG. For then comes the kingdom of God, when we have obtained His grace. For He Himself says, The kingdom of God is within you. 

CYRIL; Or they who say this seem to wish to have the Savior of all again illuminating the world. But He has commanded us to desire in prayer that truly awful time, in order that men might know that it behoves them to live not in sloth and backwardness, lest that time bring upon them the fiery punishment, but rather honestly and according to His will, that that time may weave crowns for them. Hence it follows, according to Matthew, Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. 

CHRYS. As if He says, Enable us, O Lord, to follow the heavenly life, that whatever You will, we may will in also. 

GREG. NYSS.. For sin since He says that the life of man after the resurrection will be like to that of Angels, it follows, that our life in this world should be so ordered with respect to that which we hope for hereafter, that living in the flesh we may not live according to the flesh. But hereby the true Physician of the souls destroys the nature of the disease, that those who have been seized with sickness, whereby they have departed from the Divine will, may forthwith be released from the disease by being joined to the Divine will. For the health of the soul is the due fulfillment of the will of God.

 AUG. It seems according to the Evangelist Matthew, that the Lord's prayer contains seven petitions, but Luke has comprehended it in five. Nor in truth does the one disagree from the other, but the latter has suggested by his brevity how those seven are to be understood. For the name of God is hallowed in the spirit, but the kingdom of God is about to come at the resurrection of the body. Luke then, showing that the third petition is in a manner a repetition of the two former, wished to make it so understood by omitting it. He then added three others. And first, of daily bread, saying, Give us day by day our daily bread. 

PSEUDO-AUG. In the Greek the word is that is, something added to the substance. It is not that bread which goes into the body, but that bread of everlasting life, which supports the substance of our soul. But the Latins call this "daily" bread, which the Greeks call "coming to." If it is daily bread, why is it eaten a year old, as is the custom with the Greeks in the east? Take daily what profits you for the day; so live that you may daily be thought worthy to receive. The death of our Lord is signified thereby, and the remission of sins, and cost you not daily partake of that bread of life? He who has a wound seeks to be cured; the wound is that we are under sin, the cure is the heavenly and dreadful Sacrament. If you receive daily, daily does "Today" come to you. Christ is to you Today; Christ rises to thee daily. 

TIT. BOST. Or the bread of souls is the Divine power, bringing the everlasting life which is to come, as the bread which comes out of the earth preserves the temporal life. But by saying "daily," He signifies the Divine bread which comes and is to come, which we seek to be given to us daily, requiring a certain earnest and taste of it, seeing that the Spirit which dwells in us has wrought a virtue surpassing all human virtues, as chastity, humility, and the rest.

CYRIL; Now perhaps some think it unfit for saints to seek from God bodily goods, and for this reason assign to these words a spiritual sense. But granting that the chief concern of the saints should be to obtain spiritual gifts, still it becomes them to see that they seek without blame, according to our Lord's command, their common bread. For from the fact that He bids them ask for bread, that is daily food, it seems that He implies that they should possess nothing, but rather practice an honorable poverty. For it is not the part of those who have bread to seek it, but rather of those who are oppressed with want. 

BASIL; As if He said, For your daily bread, namely, that which serves for our daily wants, trust not to yourself, but fly to God for it, making known to Him the necessities of your nature. 

CHRYS. We must then require of God the necessities of life; not varieties of meats, and spiced wines, and the other things which please the palate, while they load your stomach and disturb your mind, but bread which is able to support the bodily substance, that is to say, which is sufficient only for the day, that we may take no thought of the morrow. But we make only one petition about things of sense, that the present life may not trouble us.

GREG. NYSS.. Having taught us to take confidence through good works, He next teaches us to implore the remission of our offenses, for it follows, And forgive us our sins. 

TIT. BOST. This also was necessarily added, for no one is found without sin, that we should not be hindered from the holy participation on account of man's guilt. For whereas we are bound to render to Christ all manner of holiness, who makes His Spirit to dwell in us, we are to be blamed if we keep not our temples clean for Him. But this defect is supplied by the goodness of God, remitting to human frailty the severe punishment of sin. And this act is done justly by the just God, when we forgive as it were our debtors, those, namely, who have injured us, and have not restored what was due. Hence it follows, For we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. 

CYRIL; For He wishes, if I may so speak, to make God the imitator of the patience which men practice, that the kindness which they have shown to their fellow servants, they should in like manner seek to receive in equal balance from God, who recompenses to each man justly, and knows how to have mercy upon all men. 

CHRYS. Considering then these things, we ought to show mercy to our debtors. For they are to us if we are wise the cause of our greatest pardon; and though we perform only a few things, we shall find many. For we owe many and great debts to the Lord, of which if the least part should be exacted from us, we should soon perish.

PSEUDO-AUG. But what is the debt except sin? If you had not received, you would not owe money to another. And therefore sin is imputed to you. For you had money with which you were born rich, and made after the likeness and image of God, but you have lost what you then had. As when you put on pride you lose the gold of humility, you have receipted the devil's debt which was not necessary; the enemy held the bond, but the Lord crucified it, and canceled it with His blood. But the Lord is able, who has taken away our sins and forgiven our debts, to guard us against the snares of the devil, who is wont to produce sin in us. Hence it follows, And lead us not into temptation, such as we are not able to bear, but like the wrestler we wish only such temptation as the condition of man can sustain. 

TIT. BOST. For it is impossible not to be tempted by the devil, but we make this prayer that we may not be abandoned to our temptations. Now that which happens by Divine permission, God is sometimes in Scripture said to do. And in this way by hindering not the increase of temptation which is above our strength, he leads us into temptation. 

MAX. Or, the Lord commands us to pray, Lead us not into temptation, that is, let us not have experience of lustful and self-induced temptations. But James teaches those who contend only for the truth, not to be unnerved by involuntary and troublesome temptations, saying, lily brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations.

BASIL; It does not however become us to seek by our prayers bodily afflictions. For Christ has universally commanded men every where to pray that they enter not into temptation. But when one has already entered, it is fitting to ask from the Lord the power of enduring, that we may have fulfilled in us those words, He that endures to the end shall be saved.

 AUG. But what Matthew has placed at the end, But deliver us from evil, Luke has not mentioned, that we might understand it belongs to the former, which was spoken of temptation. He therefore says, But deliver us, not, "And deliver us," clearly proving this to be but one petition, "Do not this, but this." But let every one know that he is therein delivered from evil, when he is not brought into temptation. 

PSEUDO-AUG. For each man seeks to be delivered from evil, that is, from his enemies and sin, but he who gives himself up to God, fears not the devil, for if God is for us, who he can be against us?

Monday, 11 August 2014

St Luke 10:38-42

Chapter 10 of St Luke concludes with the famous story of Martha and Mary:

38 Factum est autem, dum irent, et ipse intravit in quoddam castellum: et mulier quædam, Martha nomine, excepit illum in domum suam, 39 et huic erat soror nomine Maria, quæ etiam sedens secus pedes Domini, audiebat verbum illius. 40 Martha autem satagebat circa frequens ministerium: quæ stetit, et ait: Domine, non est tibi curæ quod soror mea reliquit me solam ministrare? dic ergo illi ut me adjuvet. 41 Et respondens dixit illi Dominus: Martha, Martha, sollicita es, et turbaris erga plurima, 42 porro unum est necessarium. Maria optimam partem elegit, quæ non auferetur ab ea.

[38] Now it came to pass as they went, that he entered into a certain town: and a certain woman named Martha, received him into her house. [39] And she had a sister called Mary, who sitting also at the Lord' s feet, heard his word. [40] But Martha was busy about much serving. Who stood and said: Lord, hast thou no care that my sister hath left me alone to serve? speak to her therefore, that she help me.
[41] And the Lord answering, said to her: Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and art troubled about many things: [42] But one thing is necessary. Mary hath chosen the best part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Commentary (de Lapide)

...Which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard His word. The word “also” shows that at the very time when Mary might have been assisting her sister in her household cares, she was sitting at Jesus feet showing her diligence and zeal in hearing, and the great reverence which she had for Christ.

As by sitting at Jesus’ feet she had made the better choice, says S. Augustine, so she received the greater benefit. For water collects in the low-lying valleys, but flows down the acclivities of the hills.
And heard His word. Christ here teaches His disciples how they ought to behave in the houses of those who receive them, for, says S. Chrysostom (S. Cyril in the Catena), “They should not remain idle, but rather fill the minds of those who receive them with heavenly doctrine.” That no time may be without fruit, but that they may everywhere sow the seeds of religion, and excite men to virtue and to the love of God. Thus did Peter Faber, the first companion of S. Ignatius Loyola, who spent his whole life in journeying amongst his fellowmen, and in his will left us this salutary advice, that when we enter a house we should recite the hours, or take part in religious discourses, to show the reality of our profession. For thus a stop is put to improper conversation, and religion is the gainer. Thus he more than once by his discourse moved those whom he was entertaining to repentance, and received from them confession of their sins. Thus also did S. Francis Xavier, who sailed throughout the East, and won converts as much by his life as by his preaching.

Ver. 40.—But Martha was cumbered with much serving, πεζιεσπα̃το πεζί πολλὴν διακονίαν, was drawn aside and distracted, i.e. was anxious that nothing should be wanting for the entertainment of such a guest. Hence the Arabic, Martha was diligently serving to the utmost of her power.
And came to Him, and said, Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me. Came to Him: Greek, ε̉πιστα̃σα, standing by Him.
Dost Thou not care? Does not it displease you? Arabic.

Martha spoke thus partly from her wish that all things should be properly prepared for Christ, partly from her knowledge of His consideration and kindness. Lord, my sister sees me overwhelmed with care because of my desire to honour Thee, and yet does nothing to assist me. Out of kindness to me, bid her, therefore, share my labour. She will obey Thy word, but will not, I know, listen to my request.

Ver. 41.—And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. The repetition of her name, says S. Augustine, “is a sign of affection, or perhaps of a desire to arrest her attention more particularly to what He was about to say. For she was so entirely engrossed by her household cares, that His words might have been unheeded had she not been specially addressed by name.”  S. Augustine adds, “Mary made no reply, because she preferred to commit her cause to her judge, and knew that Christ would, as He was wont, stand by her and support her. Hence Christ, who was appealed to as judge, became her Advocate.” Interlinear Gloss.
Thou art too anxious, Martha, and therefore thou are troubled. Thou desirest to prepare many things for me, whereas I need but few. Emmanuel Sa and all the others translate τυζβάζή, thou art confused, but the better rendering is, thou art troubled. For those who are anxious about many things experience much perturbation of mind—hence too much care and anxiety is the sign of excessive love or fear, and so they who love honour or riches, or any other thing too much, fear lest they may lose what they love, and become perturbed and anxious.

Ver. 42.—But one thing is needful. The Greek has ε̉νὸς δέ ε̉στιν χζεία; and this “one thing” Christ places in opposition to the “many things” about which Martha was troubled.

What then is this one thing which is needful? Luther, Bullinger, Melancthon, and other like innovators answer, Faith, i.e. to hear the Gospel and to believe in it. For this is what the Magdalene did. Hence they think that faith only is necessary for salvation. Only believe, they say, that you are saved through the merits of Christ, and you will assuredly obtain your salvation. But such a faith is rash and delusive. For blasphemers and evildoers might possess it. Hence, in addition to faith, hope, charity, and good works are necessary for salvation, as is clear from S. Matt xix. 17, 1 Cor. xiii., and Holy Scripture generally, and from the example of the Magdalene herself, who not only heard, but was obedient to the word of the Lord. See S. Luke vii. 43.

The truer and more orthodox interpretation seems to be that of those who understand by “one thing” one kind of food. Thou art anxious, Martha, to place before me many dishes, but to no purpose, for I require but one. I want not a rich banquet, but only ordinary food, for I am temperate, and a lover of humble fare. I do not blame, but praise your desire to do Me honour, yet I warn you not to be over careful for the things of this life, nor to call your sister away from hearing My words. So Theophylact, S. Gregory, and others.

Hear also S. Basil. “There is need of few things, or rather of but one. Of few things as far as preparations are concerned, but of one object for the supply of our need;” and Titus, “We came not hither to fill ourselves with superfluous food, for nature is content with little.” Similarly Theophylact says, “One thing is needful: we must eat something, but we need not varieties of food,” i.e. according to the Arabic version, “That which is necessary for us we can easily obtain.”

2. But in a higher sense, the one thing needful is the love of God, and the desire of salvation. This was the good part which Mary had chosen; and therefore, explaining the one thing needful, Christ goes on to say, “Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her.”
The meaning is, therefore, this: Thou, Martha, art troubled about many things, but I exhort thee to devote thyself to one thing alone, to seek to please God, and Him only, in every action of thy life, and to do everything out of love towards Him. So, not attempting that which thou art unable to perform, thou wilt be enabled to serve God quietly and without fear, and to accomplish whatsoever He would have thee to do. Bede, Euthymius, and others.

Hence S. Augustine and S. Gregory say, “This one thing is the end and chief good of men, on which their minds should be ever fixed;” and Cassian says, “The one thing needful is a mind which, regardless of all else, is fixed on God alone, and rejoices in the contemplation of His perfections.” For although divine contemplation is not necessary for salvation it is necessary for the perfection of those who are united to God by a holy life. So the Psalmist says, Ps. xxvii 4, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” And S. Paul, Phil. iii. 13, 14, “One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” And again, Esther xiv. 18, “Thine handmaid hath never rejoiced since I was brought hither, unto this day, but in thee, 0 Lord, the God of Abraham.“—Douay. For Christ saith, S. John xvii. 3, “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”
Wherefore, when S. Ægidius, a very holy man, one of the first followers of S. Francis, was asked the way to holiness and perfection, he answered, “Una uni.” Let your whole mind be entirely given up to God, and one with Him. For unity is contrary to division, and God is one. Wherefore let him who seeks God return to unity with Him, for God must be sought by conformity of will, and by the union of the intellect and affections. S. Bernard (serm. 7 in Cant.)

Hence S. Augustine (lib. ii, 18 De Ordine.) proves by induction that all things tend to one, because, as he shows, “Unity or singleness is the first fruit of God, who is the first essential and uncreated unity, the origin and fount of all other unities;” and in a later chapter he dwells upon the beauty of unity.
In short, the one thing needful is God. All other things contingent and immaterial, created by the good pleasure of God out of nothing; and as, to quote the proverb, he who pursues two hares catches neither, so he who strives to please God and the world fails to attain either object.

Figuratively, this “one thing” is to be acquired by meditation and prayer, for thus men are brought into communion with God. Hence he who would lead a religious life should seek this one thing only, so as to be thereby drawn into union with the Almighty.  S. Dionysius and Climacus. “A monk is one who always has his soul lifted up to God; one who prays at all times, at all places, and on all occasions;” and S. Chrysostom says, “Prayer is the heart and soul of a perfect and religious life;” and S. Bonaventura (De perfectione vitæ, chap. 5), declares that “If any one who has taken the vows of a religious life omits frequent prayer, his soul is dead within him, or in other words he is like a body without a soul, having the outward form and religion, but lacking its inward grace.” And again, “Without abundant prayer religion becomes languid and weak. Why, unhappy spirit, dost thou wander through many places, seeking rest and finding none? Set thy affections on Him, of whom are all things, and in Him thou wilt rest happy and content. For He will satisfy thee with good things, and give thee to drink out of His pleasures as out of a river.”

Hear also what Epictetus says to Arrian: “All first principles must, as if the world were turned upside down, return to one—all beauty, truth, and everything which is good, to one origin—everything divine to one God, all unity to the Triune.” For unity, the beginning of things, goodness, truth and God are the same, and therefore one. Hence we read, Cant. ii. 16, “My beloved to me, and I to Him,” for the Bride makes entire surrender of herself to her spouse; and so the saints desire to put off the flesh, that their souls may be united with God. So S. Paul was willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. v. 8); and Simeon, “Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word;” and the Psalmist, “Woe is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech.” Ps. cxx. 5.

S. Basil speaks of some who abhorred this life, as if it were a dark prison, and with difficulty restrained their desire (ὸζγαι̃ς) for release, because their hearts were filled with the love of God, and eager to gaze upon the divine perfections: they longed for the time when they might for ever contemplate the loving kindness of the Lord.

So this blessed rest is to the wise a time of working, and the mind which has once been absorbed in the contemplation of the divinity, sustains itself on God and is sustained by Him.
Wherefore David says, Ps. xlii. 2, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God?”

Symbolically, unity is the beginning and end of all numbers, for every number commences and ends in it—whilst it is independent and indivisible.

So God is the beginning and ending of all things, the Alpha and Omega (Rev. xxi. 6), who shutteth and openeth all things, before whom and after whom there is nothing. Who was from all eternity, through whom and by whom all things exist. Hence Plato says, “All things spring from the divine unity, and retain the trace of their origin, by means of which they are recalled to this unity, and perfected in it;” and considers unity to be God, in whom all things exist as branches from the root.

Again, where sin is there is division; but where virtue, there oneness—where love, there unity. Therefore let him who seeks after virtue love one thing, and seek also for unity. For Christ, the teacher of unity, wills to join us together in one Church and unite us to Himself.

For unity imparts holiness to the mind, health to the body, peace and concord to countries and households, in short, all the virtue and strength of a nation arises out of its oneness with itself. But division is the cause of discord, schism, war, and countless ills. Hence Plato (De Repub. lib. v.) says, The worst evil which can befall a state is division, and its highest good subjection, if subjection makes it again one.

Hence S. Augustine says of the heavenly life, “There will be there no grudging because of unequal love, for one love will reign supreme in all;” and S. Gregory, “So great a love there unites all, that each rejoices that another rather than himself has received a blessing.” Life therefore reigns in love, i.e. in union; but death in hatred, i.e. in division.

Mary hath chosen that good part. The Syriac and Arabic add “to herself”—hath taken to herself. The Greek word α̉γαθὴν implies excellence, hence the Vulgate gives optimam. For Christ commends the one sister more than the other. “Thou, Martha, hast chosen well, but Mary better. Thou hast not chosen a bad part, but she a better.”  S. Augustine. “Behold, Martha is not blamed, but Mary is praised.” Bede. And again, S. Augustine (serm. 27 De Verbis Domini), “Can we imagine that Martha was blamed for being intent on hospitable cares? How could she be rightly blamed for rejoicing over such a guest?” So also Ambrose and Cassian (Collat. i., chap. 8).

Theophylact explains, “By the action of the one, the body is nourished; by the action of the other the soul receives life.” And Euthymius, “It is good to be hospitable, but it is better to hear the word of God, for the one is of the body, the other of the spirit.”

S. Augustine gives another figurative interpretation: “Why was Mary’s the better part? Because she preferred the one thing to many. Many things were created, but there was but one Creator, and if the things created were very good, how excellent must He be who created them.”

There are three persons in the Godhead, and these three are one, so the nearer you approach to perfect unity, the higher you draw to God; and Christ Himself prays the Father that His disciples “may be one, as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us.” And again, “The glory which thou gavest Me have I given them; that they may be one, even as We are one.” See S. John xvii. 21 et seq.

Hence to choose the good part, is to give up all care of earthly things, and to devote oneself entirely to the service of God.

Hear Richard de S. Victor on Cant. viii: “Mary chose the better part, because she saw that the contemplation and the love of God included all things; but her sister was occupied about things which, though many, are limited to this world: hence by comparison Martha was troubled about few things. But the one thing necessary, and to be preferred before all, is to love God with the whole heart, and to show love and charity to all men.” And Suarez (De Oratione Mentali) says, “Mary made the better choice, because mental prayer brings about blessedness in this life, because it is the commencement of that beatific vision which will be the happiness of the saints in heaven.”

Hence the joy of Magdalene was real and lasting. So S. Bernard says, “It is impossible to enjoy here on earth a sweet and happy life, since the earth itself is subject to constant change; but there is a joy lasting in its happiness, which arises out of a pure conscience. For the mind which is purified from earthly affections and entirely fixed on the contemplation of heavenly things, fears no threatenings, knows no fear, conceives no false hopes, but, void of all offence, rests in perfect peace.” Hugo Victorinus accounts for this perfect peace thus: “A conscience is quiet and void of offence when it is kindly affectioned to all, and bears ill-will to none: when it regards a friend with kindness, an enemy with patience, and seeks to do good, if possible, to all men.”

Allusion is here made, says Maldonatus, to the manner in which the ancients divided an inheritance. It was customary for the eldest son to divide the property into as many parts as might be requisite, and for his brothers to have the first choice, so as to ensure an equal division. Seneca (lib. vi., Declamatio 3).
Thus Christ was the inheritance, which Martha as the elder sister divided into two parts, to hear Christ and to serve Him. Mary the younger chose the better part, i.e. to hear the words of Christ, for the Hebrew חלק, chelec, i.e. part, in Scripture signifies the lot of one’s inheritance. Thus, “The Lord is my portion,” Lam. iii. 4. See also Psalm xvi. 5.

But the active and the contemplative life combined tend to perfection, for the one controls and directs the other. So Christ taught the people by day, but was wont to spend whole nights in prayer, and following his example thus did also the Baptist and the Apostles.

Which shall not he taken away from her. Because to hear, like Mary, the word of God, and to meditate thereon, is spiritual food which will support she soul until it comes to appear in the eternal presence; but to minister, as Martha, is to choose that part which endures but for this present life.  S. Augustine and others. Hence S. Gregory. “The part which Mary chose will never be taken away from her, because a contemplative life is unlike an active life, its joys gain strength from death.”

Hear also S. Augustine: “That which thou hast chosen, Martha, will be taken from thee, that something better may be given. For in place of labour thou shalt have rest. Thou hast not yet reached thy journey’s end, but thy sister is in the haven.” And a little before he says, “Martha was troubled how she might feed the Lord, Mary anxious to be fed by Him.” And again, “Carefulness for many things passes away, but the love of one thing lasts for ever.” And Laurentius Justinianus says, “An active life is an anxious one, but a life of contemplation possesses a lasting joy. The one obtains a kingdom, while the other perceives only. In the one the world is despised, in the other God will be manifest, for ‘My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.’” Isaiah xxxii. 18.

Again S. Gregory writes, “The active life ends with this world for in the next who can give bread to the hungry where there is no hunger—or drink to the thirsty where there is no thirst. But the contemplative life begins here on earth, to be perfected in heaven; for the fire of divine love which is kindled here, burns brighter in the presence of God, who is its object.”

See also Cassian, who says amongst other things, “In the future world all will pass from the many distractions of life and from actual work, to be absorbed in the love of God and in the contemplation of the Deity.”

Observe, as against Calvin, that Martha is the type of the active life, and that Mary, sitting silently at Jesus’ feet, insensible to what was going on around because of her rapt attention to the words of Christ, a type of the contemplative. S. Bernard and others.

But what is contemplation?  S. Augustine (or whoever else may be the author of the treatise De Spiritu et Animo) answers, “It is the joyful admiration of a manifest truth.” But S. Bernard defines contemplation as “the uplifting of the mind to God, whereby we gain a foretaste of the joys of happiness eternal.” Others again say, “It is the sure intuition of the soul or its undoubted apprehension of the truth.” But Gerson, following Hugo says, “It is to be dead to all carnal desires, and to taste how sweet the Lord is. As David rejoiced in the living God (Ps. lxxxiv. 9), and declared God to be his portion for ever.” Ps. lxxiii. 25.

S. Gregory also (hom. 14 in Ezek.) thus describes the duties of each kind of life:—“The active life consists in giving bread to the hungry, in teaching the ignorant, reclaiming those who are in error, caring for the sick, and in ministering to the necessities of all, specially to the necessities of those committed to our trust. But he who would lead a life of contemplation must ever keep in mind the love of God and of his neighbour, and refraining from acting on this love, look with the longing expectation of a heart wholly fixed on heaven for the glory which shall be revealed.”

Hence S. Thomas says, “The contemplative life, although mainly intellectual, originates in the affections, inasmuch as it springs out of the love of God, and the end of such a life is like the beginning, for delight at the sight of that which we love increases our love for it.”

The contemplative life therefore causes a man to rise superior to the world, its trials and temptations, and to count all things as valueless in comparison with God, and gives perfect peace, because, S. Bernard says, “God wrapt all things in a holy calm, and to gaze on Him is to be at rest.” But this life of contemplation is preceded by an active life of mortification and self-denial, for as the fruit follows after the flower, so from a monk does a man become a hermit. Therefore S. Basil and other ascetics say that the monastic life is a fitting preparation for that life of contemplation to which the hermits are devoted.

And so the Church has rightly appointed this portion of scripture to be read on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin because she rendered to Christ the service both of Martha and of Mary, and chose that good part, of which she will never be deprived.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost

This Sunday's Gospel is St Luke 19:41-47:

41 Et ut appropinquavit, videns civitatem flevit super illam, dicens: 42 Quia si cognovisses et tu, et quidem in hac die tua, quæ ad pacem tibi: nunc autem abscondita sunt ab oculis tuis. 43 Quia venient dies in te: et circumdabunt te inimici tui vallo, et circumdabunt te: et coangustabunt te undique: 44 et ad terram prosternent te, et filios tuos, qui in te sunt, et non relinquent in te lapidem super lapidem: eo quod non cognoveris tempus visitationis tuæ. 45 Et ingressus in templum, cœpit ejicere vendentes in illo, et ementes, 46 dicens illis: Scriptum est: Quia domus mea domus orationis est: vos autem fecistis illam speluncam latronum. 47 Et erat docens quotidie in templo. Principes autem sacerdotum, et scribæ, et princeps plebis quærebant illum perdere.

[41] And when he drew near, seeing the city, he wept over it, saying: [42] If thou also hadst known, and that in this thy day, the things that are to thy peace; but now they are hidden from thy eyes. [43] For the days shall come upon thee, and thy enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and straiten thee on every side, [44] And beat thee flat to the ground, and thy children who are in thee: and they shall not leave in thee a stone upon a stone: because thou hast not known the time of thy visitation. [45] And entering into the temple, he began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought.[46] Saying to them: It is written: My house is the house of prayer. But you have made it a den of thieves. [47] And he was teaching daily in the temple. And the chief priests and the scribes and the rulers of the people sought to destroy him:

Matins readings (from St Gregory):

Reading 9: No man that hath read the history of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Princes Vespasian and Titus, can be ignorant that it was of that destruction that the Lord spoke when He wept over the ruin of the city. It is these Princes that are pointed at where it is said "For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee."

Reading 10: The truth of what followeth: "They shall not leave in thee one stone upon another" is even now fulfilled in the change of site of the city, which hath been re-built round about that place without the gates, where the Lord was crucified, while the ancient city hath been, as I am told, rooted up from the very foundations.

Reading 11: What the sin of Jerusalem was which brought upon her the punishment of this destruction, we find written after: "Because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation." The Maker of men, through the mystery of His Incarnation, was pleased to visit her, but she remembered not to fear and to love Him. Hence also the Prophet Jeremiah, rebuking the hardness of man's heart, calleth the birds of the air to testify against it, saying "The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed time and the turtle, and the swallow, and the crane, observe the time of their coming but my people know not the judgment of the Lord."

Reading 12: The Saviour wept over the ruin of the unfaithful city, while she herself as yet knew not that it was coming. If thou hadst known, said He, even thou and we may understand Him to have meant thou wouldest thyself have wept, in place of making merry as thou now dost, knowing not what hangeth over thee. And hence He saith farther: "at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace." While she was giving herself up to fleshly pleasures, and casting no look ahead upon coming sorrows, she had still for a day in her power the things which might have brought unto her peace.