Friday, 29 August 2014

St Luke 17:20-37

20 Interrogatus autem a pharisæis: Quando venit regnum Dei? respondens eis, dixit: Non venit regnum Dei cum observatione: 21 neque dicent: Ecce hic, aut ecce illic. Ecce enim regnum Dei intra vos est. 22 Et ait ad discipulos suos: Venient dies quando desideretis videre unum diem Filii hominis, et non videbitis. 23 Et dicent vobis: Ecce hic, et ecce illic. Nolite ire, neque sectemini: 24 nam, sicut fulgur coruscans de sub cælo in ea quæ sub cælo sunt, fulget: ita erit Filius hominis in die sua. 25 Primum autem oportet illum multa pati, et reprobari a generatione hac. 26 Et sicut factum est in diebus Noë, ita erit et in diebus Filii hominis: 27 edebant et bibebant: uxores ducebant et dabantur ad nuptias, usque in diem, qua intravit Noë in arcam: et venit diluvium, et perdidit omnes. 28 Similiter sicut factum est in diebus Lot: edebant et bibebant, emebant et vendebant, plantabant et ædificabant: 29 qua die autem exiit Lot a Sodomis, pluit ignem et sulphur de cælo, et omnes perdidit: 30 secundum hæc erit qua die Filius hominis revelabitur. 31 In illa hora, qui fuerit in tecto, et vasa ejus in domo, ne descendat tollere illa: et qui in agro, similiter non redeat retro. 32 Memores estote uxoris Lot. 33 Quicumque quæsierit animam suam salvam facere, perdet illam: et quicumque perdiderit illam, vivificabit eam. 34 Dico vobis: In illa nocte erunt duo in lecto uno: unus assumetur, et alter relinquetur: 35 duæ erunt molentes in unum: una assumetur, et altera relinquetur: 36 duo in agro: unus assumetur, et alter relinquetur. 37 Respondentes dicunt illi: Ubi Domine? Qui dixit illis: Ubicumque fuerit corpus, illuc congregabuntur et aquilæ.

[20] And being asked by the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come? he answered them, and said: The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:[21] Neither shall they say: Behold here, or behold there. For lo, the kingdom of God is within you. [22] And he said to his disciples: The days will come, when you shall desire to see one day of the Son of man; and you shall not see it. [23] And they will say to you: See here, and see there. Go ye not after, nor follow them: [24] For as the lightning that lighteneth from under heaven, shineth unto the parts that are under heaven, so shall the Son of man be in his day. [25] But first he must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation.[26] And as it came to pass in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. [27] They did eat and drink, they married wives, and were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark: and the flood came and destroyed them all. [28] Likewise as it came to pass, in the days of Lot: they did eat and drink, they bought and sold, they planted and built. [29] And in the day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. [30] Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man shall be revealed.[31] In that hour, he that shall be on the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to take them away: and he that shall be in the field, in like manner, let him not return back. [32] Remember Lot' s wife. [33] Whosoever shall seek to save his life, shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it, shall preserve it. [34] I say to you: in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. [35] Two women shall be grinding together: the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left: two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.[36] They answering, say to him: Where, Lord? [37] Who said to them: Wheresoever the body shall be, thither will the eagles also be gathered together.

Commentary

Ver. 20.—And when He was demanded of the Pharisees. The Kingdom of Israel, which had now indeed fallen, but which was to be raised up again by the Messiah.

The kingdom of God cometh not with observation. “Cometh,” that is, will come. It is a Hebraism, in which the present is put for the future. Observe that Christ said, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” This Pharisee, therefore, either from a desire of knowledge, or to mock Jesus, said, “Thou Jesus preachest Thy kingdom in heaven, but when will it come? When shall we see Thee reigning in it? When shall we see Israel, who is now subjugated by the Romans, breathe again through Thy means and recover her liberty and live happily under Thee as her kin?” “They asked Him when He would reign,” says Euthymius, “as to deride Him, who appeared as one of low estate.” But Christ answered mildly and briefly at first as in this verse, but afterwards at more length (verse 22 to the end of the chapter). 

He spoke of the glory of His kingdom in the heavens, to which that of grace should first be subordinated on earth, for we proceed to glory through grace. He said therefore, The kingdom of God. The kingdom of God and the Messiah cometh not with previous preparation, nor with the outward pomp of soldiers, horses, and chariots, as you can see, from itself. You know a king to be at hand when you see his attendants preceding him. With such as these you thought that the kingdom of the Messiah would come, and you look for it as now nigh at hand.

Ver.21.—Neither shall they say. They shall not say, In Jerusalem is the royal throne of Christ, He reigns there in magnificence like another Solomon; because Christ does not reign on a bodily throne, but in a spiritual soul, which by His grace He rules and directs into all good, and so guides it to the kingdom of heaven. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, Rom. xiv. 17. I would understand all these sayings of the same thing: that is, of the first Advent of Christ in which He reigns in the souls of the faithful as a king through His grace; for thus do His sayings, as a whole, best agree together and cohere. Some, however, understand the kingdom of glory, because He will adorn even the bodies of the just with His own brightness, and other gifts, as all may see.

Secondly, This kingdom of God is within us: that is, it is in our own power if we embrace the faith and grace of Christ, and work with Him, for, as Titus says, “It is of our own will and power to receive the kingdom of God.”

Thirdly, The kingdom of God is within us, because Christ, as our God and king, lives among us preaching and endowing this kingdom. Thus speaks Theophylact: “The kingdom of God on the whole is to live after the manner of the angels, when nothing of this world occupies our souls. We need no long time and no distant journey, for faith is near us, and after faith the divine life.” The same also said the Apostle, “The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth and in thy heart, that is, the word of faith,” Rom. x. 8. For to believe, and to walk worthily of our belief and of our calling, is within us. The Pharisees therefore derided the Lord, but He turned them into ridicule, showing that they were ignorant of that which was within them and which is very easy to any one who wishes for it. “For now when I am in the midst of you, you are able to possess the kingdom of God if you believe in Me and will live according to My commandments.”...

Thursday, 28 August 2014

St Luke 17:1-19

Et ait ad discipulos suos: Impossibile est ut non veniant scandala: væ autem illi per quem veniunt. 2 Utilius est illi si lapis molaris imponatur circa collum ejus, et projiciatur in mare quam ut scandalizet unum de pusillis istis. 3 Attendite vobis: Si peccaverit in te frater tuus, increpa illum: et si pœnitentiam egerit, dimitte illi. 4 Et si septies in die peccaverit in te, et septies in die conversus fuerit ad te, dicens: Pœnitet me, dimitte illi.5 Et dixerunt apostoli Domino: Adauge nobis fidem. 6 Dixit autem Dominus: Si habueritis fidem sicut granum sinapis, dicetis huic arbori moro: Eradicare, et transplantare in mare, et obediet vobis.7 Quis autem vestrum habens servum arantem aut pascentem, qui regresso de agro dicat illi: Statim transi, recumbe: 8 et non dicat ei: Para quod cœnem, et præcinge te, et ministra mihi donec manducem, et bibam, et post hæc tu manducabis, et bibes? 9 Numquid gratiam habet servo illi, quia fecit quæ ei imperaverat? 10 non puto. Sic et vos cum feceritis omnia quæ præcepta sunt vobis, dicite: Servi inutiles sumus: quod debuimus facere, fecimus.11 Et factum est, dum iret in Jerusalem, transibat per mediam Samariam et Galilæam. 12 Et cum ingrederetur quoddam castellum, occurrerunt ei decem viri leprosi, qui steterunt a longe: 13 et levaverunt vocem, dicentes: Jesu præceptor, miserere nostri. 14 Quos ut vidit, dixit: Ite, ostendite vos sacerdotibus. Et factum est, dum irent, mundati sunt. 15 Unus autem ex illis, ut vidit quia mundatus est, regressus est, cum magna voce magnificans Deum, 16 et cecidit in faciem ante pedes ejus, gratias agens: et hic erat Samaritanus. 17 Respondens autem Jesus, dixit: Nonne decem mundati sunt? et novem ubi sunt? 18 Non est inventus qui rediret, et daret gloriam Deo, nisi hic alienigena. 19 Et ait illi: Surge, vade: quia fides tua te salvum fecit.

And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. [2] It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. [3] Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. [4] And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him. [5] And the apostles said to the Lord: Increase our faith.[6] And the Lord said: If you had faith like to a grain of mustard seed, you might say to this mulberry tree, Be thou rooted up, and be thou transplanted into the sea: and it would obey you. [7] But which of you having a servant ploughing, or feeding cattle, will say to him, when he is come from the field: Immediately go, sit down to meat: [8] And will not rather say to him: Make ready my supper, and gird thyself, and serve me, whilst I eat and drink, and afterwards thou shalt eat and drink? [9] Doth he thank that servant, for doing the things which he commanded him? [10] I think not. So you also, when you shall have done all these things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.[11] And it came to pass, as he was going to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. [12] And as he entered into a certain town, there met him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off; [13] And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. [14] Whom when he saw, he said: Go, shew yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. [15] And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.[16] And he fell on his face before his feet, giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan. [17] And Jesus answering, said, Were not ten made clean? and where are the nine? [18] There is no one found to return and give glory to God, but this stranger. [19] And he said to him: Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole. 

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 5.—And the Apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith. The Apostles said this, when, from their little faith, they had been unable to cast out the devil from the lunatic. They then asked for greater faith, as appears from the above words compared with those of S. Matt. xvii. 19, &c., for Christ made the same reply in each place, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed you would move mountains.”

Ver. 6.—If ye had faith. “This indeed,” says S. Chrysostom, “is small in quantity but great in power. He means that the least portion of faith can do great things.” And Bede, “Perfect faith is a grain of mustard seed: in appearance it is small, in the heart it is fervent.”

You would say unto this sycamine tree (a mulberry tree (moro) close at hand, to which Christ pointed). Be thou rooted up and be thou east into the sea, and it would have obeyed you.—For mulberry tree, Matt. xvii. 20 has mountain. Christ therefore said both. It is called the mulberry tree allegorically, as if μώζος (foolish); that is by antithesis, because it is the wisest of trees; not putting forth its leaves till the frost is over, lest they should be cut off. The mulberry signifies the gospel of the cross of Christ, which to the Gentiles appears foolishness, but to the faithful is “the power of God and the wisdom of God,” 1. Cor. i. 24. Hence S. Augustine (Lib. II, Quæst. Evan.: quæst. 39): “Let those servants speak through the grain of mustard seed, to this mulberry tree; that is, to the gospel of the cross of Christ through the blood-coloured apples hanging like wounds on that tree which is to give food to the nations. Let them say that it is rooted up by the unbelief of the Jews, and transferred to the sea of the Gentiles and planted there, for by this home service they will minister to the hungering and thirsting Lord.” 

So too Bede. “The mulberry tree,” he says, “by the blood colour of the fruit and shoots, is the gospel of the cross of Christ, which, through the faith of the Apostles, when it was held as it were in the stem of its kind, was rooted up from the Jews, and planted in the sea of the Gentiles.” The Gloss adds, “The leaves of the mulberry, offered to the serpent, bring death upon him, as the word of the cross destroys all hurtful and venomous things of the soul.” On the other hand, SS. Ambrose and Chrysostom and the Gloss understand by the mulberry tree, the devil, whom the faith of Christ casts out and sends into hell. “The fruit of the mulberry, tree,” says S. Ambrose, “is firstly white, when in flower, when fully blown red, and when ripe it becomes black. The devil also, from the white flower of his angelic nature and power, when cast out by his reddening wickedness, grew horrible from the foul odour of sin. Behold Christ saying to the mulberry tree, ‘Be thou rooted up and cast into the sea;’ when He cast the Legion out of the man, He permitted them to enter into the swine which, being driven by the spirit of the devils, cast themselves into the sea.”

Hear also S. Chrysostom in the Catena: “As the mulberry feeds worms (silkworms) which spin silk from its leaves, so does the devil, from thoughts springing from those leaves, nourish in us an undying worm; but faith has power to root this tree out of our souls, and to plunge it into hell.”

Lastly, the Arabic for the mulberry has “sycamine,” or “sycamore,” of which, chap. xix. 4. Christ, moreover, exalts the power of faith, that He might implant in the Apostles an additional desire of increasing its keenness, and of praying for its gift to them; for He who gave to men the mind and desire of praying, wished also to increase the faith of those who prayed. Hence He subsequently increased their faith, especially when He sent the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost. Hence too, by the strength of their excelling faith, they wrought so great wonders and miracles, converting the whole world; and, lest they should grow proud of such deeds, and become vainglorious, Christ, by the following Parable, teaches them to be humble-minded, and to say, “we are unprofitable servants.”...

Vers. 8, 9...The heretics object, “Christ here calls His faithful, useless servants, therefore by their merits they deserve nothing, nay, they do nothing good, because they contribute nothing useful ” I .answer, Their first premiss is false, for Christ does not call His own servants unprofitable, nay, in Matt. xxv. 23, He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” &c. But He warns each one of the faithful to call himself unprofitable, to the avoidance of vainglory, and to the greater increase of humility and equally so of their merit, as say SS. Ambrose, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Bede, and others, passim; and that, in a sense not false and pretended but true and sincere. 

Because the faithful servant, in merely fulfilling the precepts of God, does nothing peculiar or remarkable, but only that which by the law of God he ought to do, and to which he was bound under the penalty of sin. He therefore both is, and is called, unprofitable, because he has fulfilled the commandments alone, but has omitted the counsels and works of supererogation, as Christ Himself explains: “All things that are commanded,” and “what we ought to do we have done.” He therefore gains only the ordinary reward of such observance of His commands; but to that exceptional glory, and crown, and aureole of the observance of the Evangelical counsels he does not attain; as says S. Paul, whose words I will shortly cite. Again, says S. Chrysostom, “When we say, with humility, we are unprofitable servants,” Christ says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

S. Bernard again, in his treatise de Præcept et Dispens., thus explains the matter, “We are unprofitable servants, we have done what we ought;” i.e. If you are content with the mere precept and traditions of the law, and do not give yourselves up to the counsels and persuasions of perfection, you are free indeed from debt, but you are not praiseworthy for merit; you have escaped punishment, you have not gained the crown. It is this which S. Paul, when preaching the Gospel freely, and when he might have required food from the faithful, 1 Cor. ix. 15, calls his glory.

...Even S. Paul himself, the other Apostles, and the Religious, in observing not only the precepts but also the counsels of Christ, can truly say, “We are unprofitable servants: we have done what we ought to do.” Firstly, because we owe to God our souls, our bodies, our lives, and all that we have, which, whatever good we do, we can never pay back. This debt is infinite and manifold, but it is especially fourfold. 

First, there is the debt of creation, for as we were created out of nothing by God, the whole that we are we owe to God our Creator. Thus Plato in his Phædo, “Man is one of the possessions of God.” “Behold,” says S. Bernard on “Our Fourfold Debt,” “He is at the door who made the heavens and the earth. He is thy Creator and thou art His creature: thou art the end of His work.” 

The second is the debt of emption and redemption, for Christ redeemed us from death and hell at the price of His own blood. We are therefore slaves of purchase, nay, “the purchased servants of Christ,” 1 Cor. vi. 20.  S. Bernard, in the sermon already cited: “Firstly, we owe all our lives to Christ Jesus, for He laid down His life for us, and endured bitter torments, that we might not have to undergo eternal ones.” He sums up thus: “When I give to Him all that I am, all that I can do, is not this as a star to the sun, a drop to the river, a stone to the mountain, a grain to the heap?” So in his tract, De Deo dilig.: “If I owe my whole self for my first creation, what shall I add for my second, and that brought about as it was? For a second creation is not effected as easily as a first. He who made me once and only by a word, in creating me a second time spoke many words and did wonderful things and endured hard things, and not only hard but even undeserved things. In the first creation He gave me to myself, in the second He gave Himself to me, and when He gave Himself to me He restored me to myself. Given, then, and restored, I owe myself for myself, and I have a double debt. What reward shall I give to God for Himself, for if I were to weigh myself a thousand times, what am I to God?”

The third debt is, that renouncing Satan in our baptism we have given ourselves wholly over to the obedience of Christ; He in regenerating us in Himself has made us new men, and divine, who are the Temple of God and of the Holy Ghost.

The fourth is that He is our beginning and final end, and He to whom we ought to direct all our actions. For He has promised us the happiness of heaven, and everlasting glory, which is nothing else than the vision and fruition of God. See Jerome (Platus, Book I., On the Grace or a Religious State, chapters iii. iv.), where he recounts seven titles of our service, on account of which we are not of our own right, but are God’s and Christ’s.

To these add that we are unprofitable servants in respect of God; for, to God who is immense, most rich, and most blessed, we can add no good thing. Hence S. Augustine on Psalm xxxix. “He possesses thee that thou mayest possess Him. Thou wilt be His land, Thou wilt be His house. He possesses thee, He is possessed by thee, that He may profit thee. Canst thou profit Him in any way? For I said to the Lord, ‘Thou art my God, therefore shall I want no good thing.’”...

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

St Luke 16:19-31

Today's section of St Luke's Gospel is the story of Dives and Lazarus:

19 Homo quidam erat dives, qui induebatur purpura et bysso, et epulabatur quotidie splendide. 20 Et erat quidam mendicus, nomine Lazarus, qui jacebat ad januam ejus, ulceribus plenus, 21 cupiens saturari de micis quæ cadebant de mensa divitis, et nemo illi dabat: sed et canes veniebant, et lingebant ulcera ejus. 22 Factum est autem ut moreretur mendicus, et portaretur ab angelis in sinum Abrahæ. Mortuus est autem et dives, et sepultus est in inferno. 23 Elevans autem oculos suos, cum esset in tormentis, vidit Abraham a longe, et Lazarum in sinu ejus: 24 et ipse clamans dixit: Pater Abraham, miserere mei, et mitte Lazarum ut intingat extremum digiti sui in aquam, ut refrigeret linguam meam, quia crucior in hac flamma. 25 Et dixit illi Abraham: Fili, recordare quia recepisti bona in vita tua, et Lazarus similiter mala: nunc autem hic consolatur, tu vero cruciaris: 26 et in his omnibus inter nos et vos chaos magnum firmatum est: ut hi qui volunt hinc transire ad vos, non possint, neque inde huc transmeare. 27 Et ait: Rogo ergo te, pater, ut mittas eum in domum patris mei: 28 habeo enim quinque fratres: ut testetur illis, ne et ipsi veniant in hunc locum tormentorum. 29 Et ait illi Abraham: Habent Moysen et prophetas: audiant illos. 30 At ille dixit: Non, pater Abraham: sed si quis ex mortuis ierit ad eos, pœnitentiam agent. 31 Ait autem illi: Si Moysen et prophetas non audiunt, neque si quis ex mortuis resurrexerit, credent.

 [19] There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen; and feasted sumptuously every day. [20] And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, [21] Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man' s table, and no one did give him; moreover the dogs came, and licked his sores. [22] And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham' s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. [23] And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom: [24] And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. [25] And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazareth evil things, but now he is comforted; and thou art tormented. [26] And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot, nor from thence come hither. [27] And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee, that thou wouldst send him to my father' s house, for I have five brethren, [28] That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. [29] And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. [30] But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance.[31] And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 19...Was clothed in purple and in fine linen. The one denoting luxury and pride, and other softness and effeminacy. There are some, says S. Gregory, who do not think that extravagance in apparel is a sin. But if it were not so, the Word of God would not have so directly stated that Dives, who was tormented in hell, had been clothed in purple and fine linen. No one seeks fine clothing but out of vainglory, in order to appear better than his fellow-men.

And fared sumptuously every day. The Greek ευ̉φζαινόμενος signifies both gladness and feasting. So Dives, not content with the richness of his banquet, sought to add to the pleasures of the feast the delights of music, dancing, and whatever else could add to his enjoyment. Forgetful of the future, perhaps not believing that there was any future at all, he lived without God, a follower of him who bids men “eat, drink, and enjoy themselves, for death makes an end of all delights.” He lived as they live who “take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave” (Job xxi. 12, 13).

Hence S. Gregory teaches that we cannot indulge in revelling without sin. For when the body is given up to the enjoyment of the feast, the heart is led away to empty rejoicing. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Exod. xxxii. 6).

Conversation generally follows after a feast, for when the appetite is satisfied, the tongue is let loose. Hence Dives is fitly described as desiring water to cool his tongue, for feasting ministers to gluttony, wantonness, pride, evil speaking, envy, and many other vices...

S. Chrysostom (hom. De Lazaro), enumerates nine grievous ills to which the poor man was subjected:

1. A poverty so extreme, that he could not even obtain the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.
2. A disease so grievous and so weakening, that he was unable to drive away the dogs which gathered round him.
3. Desertion by all, even those who ought to have aided him.
4 The constant sight of the rich man’s happiness, for his bodily pains and his grief of mind were increased by the knowledge, that they who were possessed of every enjoyment had no thought or consideration for him.
5. The hard heartedness of the rich man, who passed him by, without a kind word or look.
6. His loneliness, for “it is pleasant to have a companion in misfortunes.”
7. Uncertainty as to the future, for since the coming of Christ, faith in the resurrection of the dead is a wonderful support in affliction.
8. The long continuance and constancy of his sufferings.
9. The loss of reputation, for many thought that his sufferings were a direct punishment for some great crime. But, like another Job, he bore all his trials with fortitude and an undaunted mind. Hence God has set forth Lazarus, Job, Tobias and S. Lydwina, whose sufferings are recorded by Sirius, to be as long as the world last examples of patience to all who are sick and afflicted

Ver. 22.—And it came to pass that the beggar died, of disease, misery, and want.

And was carried, i.e. his soul was conducted with honour for the soul after death needs no actual carrying. Observe here the office of the angels; for S. Chrysostom says, if we need guides then we are changing from one country to another, how much shall we need some to lead the way when the disembodied soul is on its passage to futurity. He further adds, “Ye saw the poor man at the rich, man’s gate: ye see him now in Abraham’s bosom; ye saw him surrounded by dogs: ye see him in company of the angels; ye saw him poor, famished, struggling: ye see him happy, filled with good things, and possessed of the prize. Ye saw his labours: ye see his reward.”...

You ask, What is Abraham’s bosom, and where situated?  S. Augustine (lib. iv. De Anima) replies, “It is the place of rest in which are received after death the souls of all who are imitators of the faith and piety of Abraham. The place which before Christ was the ‘limbus patrum,’ but now is heaven, the paradise of the blessed. Hence the Church sings, “Martin rejoices in Abraham’s bosom—Martin, here poor and mean, enters heaven abounding in wealth.”...

The rich man also died, and was buried. “The man who had so buried his soul in drunkenness and self-indulgence that it was useless and dead within him,” says S. Chrysostom; who goes on to give a touching description of the change which had now come over Dives. “Consider,” he says, “the pomp in which he had lived, the flatterers and friends which were wont to seek his company, and the luxury which had surrounded him: and now all had departed. Everywhere nothing but dust and ashes, lamentation and weeping; no one to help him, no one to call back his soul. Of what avail were his riches, now that he was taken away from all his dependents and left deserted, defenceless, and neglected, left alone to bear in his own person an intolerable punishment?”

In hell, i.e. “in purgatory,” says James Faber, who thinks that the rich man, after suffering the purgatorial fires, was saved. But others understand here the place of the damned, and hold that the rich man had received his condemnation, an interpretation which is supported by the after narrative, particularly by the 26th verse; and indeed, this is the proper signification of the word “hell,” which—in the Greek, άδης, from the primitive particle α, and ίδειν, to see—means a place of darkness, where there is neither seeing nor light.

But you will say, We do not read that the rich man sinned, save inasmuch as he fared sumptuously every day, which as a venial sin was deserving of purgatory, but not of hell.

I answer, that although to fare sumptuously is a venial sin, yet if it leads to evil and to excess, especially if it is productive of selfishness and a disregard of the poor, it becomes mortal, and this must happen to him who is a slave to his appetite, for as I have said (ver. 19), a man cannot at the same time serve his belly and his God. The rich man therefore was damned on account of these sins, and chiefly because of his neglect of Lazarus. For he was bound, under peril of committing mortal sin, to minister to the need of the poor man, and since he did not do so, he became liable to the punishment of hell.
“For it is robbery,” says S. Chrysostom “to keep what we have received, and to refuse to others a share in our abundance.” Again he adds, “the rich man was tormented, not because he was rich, but because he had no compassion.” So also S. Gregory of Nyssa.

Hear also S. Hieronymus (Epist. 34, ad Julianum): “The flames of hell received the purple-clad Dives. But the poor and suffering beggar, whose sores the dogs licked, who scarcely could maintain himself on the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table, is carried into Abraham’s bosom, and comforted by the Patriarch with a parent’s care. For it is difficult, nay impossible, to enjoy both present and future possessions; to fill here the belly, there the soul; to pass from delights to delights; to be first in both worlds, and to appear glorious both in heaven and on earth.”

Hence S. Basil (serm. 1, De Jejunio) says, “Beware of luxury, for the rich man is tormented, not because of his evil deeds, but because of his self-indulgent life.” For they who are indulgent to themselves are harsh and unmerciful to others. They take away what the poor man needs to minister to their own unnecessary enjoyments, as this glutton did, not only from Lazarus, but also from the other poor. For, adds S. Chrysostom, “If he had no pity on him whom time after time, as he went out of his house and returned to it again, he was compelled to see lying at his gate, on whom has he ever had compassion? He therefore was content that they should die of hunger, cold, and disease. So to this very day there are some rich men who are liberal in their banquetings, illiberal to the poor—who spend pounds on one feast alone, but grudge a penny for the relief of those in want. Thus they who always study themselves, neglect others, and consume everything on their own pleasures. For gluttony is a master passion and says, “All is for me, nothing for thee.”

He lift up his eyes. The eyes not of his body, but of his mind. God showed the rich man Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, that, says S. Chrysostom, “he might be the more tormented, not only from the nature of his punishment, but also from seeing the estimation in which Lazarus was held. For as the sufferings of Lazarus, when a prey to so many evils, were increased by the sight of the rich man abounding in good things, so now the sight of Lazarus, in his turn comforted, was to Dives an increase of misery.” Hence S. Gregory (hom. 40) and after him the Gloss says: “We must believe that before the judgment the wicked see the just at rest, and are tormented by their happiness, and also that the just behold the wicked in torment, that their joy may be increased as they look upon the evils from which they have been mercifully preserved.”...

In short, all these things set forth, after the manner of a parable, the extreme misery and torment of the rich man; and also that the blessed are not able to render any aid to the damned, nor indeed have they the wish to do so, inasmuch as they are persuaded that this would be contrary to the fixed purpose of God. Furthermore, the damned do not dare to ask this aid, for they on their part know that they are separated by a great and impassable gulf from those who have entered into rest.

Hence Abraham feels no compassion for the misery of the rich man, because he recognises in his punishment the justice of God. For the sight of the punishment of the wicked does not lessen the happiness of the just, because since they can feel no compassion for the sufferings which they see, their joy will not on this account be diminished. Gloss. And S. Gregory (hom. 40) says, The souls of the just, although in the goodness of their nature they feel compassion, yet after they have been united to the righteousness of their Author, are constrained by such great uprightness as not to be moved with compassion towards the reprobate.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

St Luke 16:1-18

1 Dicebat autem et ad discipulos suos: Homo quidam erat dives, qui habebat villicum: et hic diffamatus est apud illum quasi dissipasset bona ipsius. 2 Et vocavit illum, et ait illi: Quid hoc audio de te? redde rationem villicationis tuæ: jam enim non poteris villicare. 3 Ait autem villicus intra se: Quid faciam, quia dominus meus aufert a me villicationem? Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco. 4 Scio quid faciam, ut, cum amotus fuero a villicatione, recipiant me in domos suas. 5 Convocatis itaque singulis debitoribus domini sui, dicebat primo: Quantum debes domino meo? 6 At ille dixit: Centum cados olei. Dixitque illi: Accipe cautionem tuam: et sede cito, scribe quinquaginta. 7 Deinde alii dixit: Tu vero quantum debes? Qui ait: Centum coros tritici. Ait illi: Accipe litteras tuas, et scribe octoginta. 8 Et laudavit dominus villicum iniquitatis, quia prudenter fecisset: quia filii hujus sæculi prudentiores filiis lucis in generatione sua sunt. 9 Et ego vobis dico: facite vobis amicos de mammona iniquitatis: ut, cum defeceritis, recipiant vos in æterna tabernacula. 10 Qui fidelis est in minimo, et in majori fidelis est: et qui in modico iniquus est, et in majori iniquus est. 11 Si ergo in iniquo mammona fideles non fuistis quod verum est, quis credet vobis? 12 Et si in alieno fideles non fuistis, quod vestrum est, quis dabit vobis?13 Nemo servus potest duobus dominis servire: aut enim unum odiet, et alterum diliget: aut uni adhærebit, et alterum contemnet. Non potestis Deo servire et mammonæ.14 Audiebant autem omnia hæc pharisæi, qui erant avari: et deridebant illum. 15 Et ait illis: Vos estis qui justificatis vos coram hominibus: Deus autem novit corda vestra: quia quod hominibus altum est, abominatio est ante Deum. 16 Lex et prophetæ usque ad Joannem: ex eo regnum Dei evangelizatur, et omnis in illud vim facit. 17 Facilius est autem cælum et terram præterire, quam de lege unum apicem cadere. 18 Omnis qui dimittit uxorem suam et alteram ducit, mœchatur: et qui dimissam a viro ducit, mœchatur.

And he said also to his disciples: There was a certain rich man who had a steward: and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his goods. [2] And he called him, and said to him: How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship: for now thou canst be steward no longer. [3] And the steward said within himself: What shall I do, because my lord taketh away from me the stewardship? To dig I am not able; to beg I am ashamed. [4] I know what I will do, that when I shall be removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. [5] Therefore calling together every one of his lord' s debtors, he said to the first: How much dost thou owe my lord? [6] But he said: An hundred barrels of oil. And he said to him: Take thy bill and sit down quickly, and write fifty. [7] Then he said to another: And how much dost thou owe? Who said: An hundred quarters of wheat. He said to him: Take thy bill, and write eighty. [8] And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. [9] And I say to you: Make unto you friends of the mammon of iniquity; that when you shall fail, they may receive you into everlasting dwellings. [10] He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in that which is greater: and he that is unjust in that which is little, is unjust also in that which is greater.[11] If then you have not been faithful in the unjust mammon; who will trust you with that which is the true? [12] And if you have not been faithful in that which is another' s; who will give you that which is your own? [13] No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. [14] Now the Pharisees, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. [15] And he said to them: You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is high to men, is an abomination before God.[16] The law and the prophets were until John; from that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every one useth violence towards it. [17] And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fall. [18] Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, committeth adultery.

Commentary

...Ver. 2.—And he called him, and said unto him,. . . give an account of thy stewardship, i.e. of how much thou hast received and how thou hast expended it, for thou mayest be no longer steward.
So Christ saith, unto every one in the hour of death, “Give an account of thy stewardship. Give an account of thy life, of thy goods, and of thy talents, whether thou hast used them to promote the glory of God and the salvation of thyself and thy fellow-men.”

Climacus relates that a monk, who was afterwards abbot, saw in a dream, the first night he entered the monastery, certain men who demanded of him the payment of one hundred pounds of gold. Whereupon for the space of three years he gave himself up to obedience and mortification, and at the end of that time was told that ten pounds had been subtracted from his debt. For thirteen years longer he continued to practise still greater austerities, and then messengers were sent from God to say that all his debt was forgiven. The same writer has also something terrible to say about the abbot Stephen, who had for forty years lived a holy life of fasting and prayer. This man, the day before he died, fell into a trance, and was heard as if in colloquy with an unseen judge, denying at one time the accusations against him, at another time pleading guilty to the charges, and praying for mercy. Terrible indeed was the spectacle of this invisible and stern judgment...

Ver. 7.—Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. The κόζος which was the same size as the homer, contained ten ephahs. See Ezek. xlv. II.

“To me,” says S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang. Lib. ii 34), “the meaning of the passage seems this; that whatever the Jews do for the priests and Levites, should be more liberally provided for in the Church; that whereas they give a tenth, Christians should give a half, as Zaccheus gave, not of his crops, but of his goods; or at least that they should give two tenths, and thus exceed the payments of the Jews.”
Ver. 8.—And the lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely. The landlord, not the Lord Jesus, as Erasmus holds. The lord praised not the action, for it was dishonest, but the prudence, the cunning craft of the steward, just as we often admire, not indeed a crime, but the cleverness shown in contriving it.

The children of this world are in their generation, i.e. after their kind, in worldly matters, or as Himmel understands it, amongst their fellow-men, wiser than the children of light, i.e. than those who are followers of Christ. Very wisely has some one said, “In worldly matters we are philosophers, as to our spiritual affairs, fools; in earthly things we are lynx-eyed, but in heavenly we are moles.”
The children of this world, says S. Augustine (Lib. ii. de Genesi) are wiser in providing for their future; and very naturally so, because the desire of earthly pleasure and enjoyment is strong in man, but the aspirations of his soul are blunted and weakened, partly because of the body, partly from love of earthly things. Hence those that are led by the flesh are more active and energetic than those who are led by the spirit, inasmuch as spiritual things, being invisible, produce but little effect on the minds of men.

The parable was directed against the avarice of the Pharisees. We are taught by it to use our riches not for our own selfish ends, but for the relief of our poorer brethren. For Christ bids us all remember that we are but stewards of God’s good gifts, and therefore bound to use them so that we may give a good account of our stewardship, and obtain our due reward. In this sense the unjust steward is held up as an example, and not because of his injustice and fraud.

Hence S. Augustine, as already referred to, considers that Christ reasons thus, “If this steward could so wisely provide for this life, much more ought we to be solicitous for the life to come.” And again, “If this steward, unjust as he proved himself to be, was praised for his wisdom, much more shall we receive praise of God, if by our almsgiving we injure none, but benefit many.” And he goes on to say, “If a wrongdoer received praise from his lord, how much more pleasing are they to the Lord God, who do all in accordance with His will. So from the parable of the unjust judge Christ took occasion to speak of God as judge, although between the two no comparison was possible.”

We learn then from this parable (1.) That those who are possessed of riches, or any other gift of God, such as health, intellect, and the like, are but stewards of His bounty. (2.) That every one is bound to use his possessions to the honour and glory of God. (3.) And that every one at the day of judgment will have to give account, not only for the sins which he has committed, but also for duties which he has neglected to perform. Such is the general meaning of the parable. Its particular application I will proceed to explain.

Ver. 9.—And (in like manner) I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. Ye have heard how the unjust steward made his lord’s debtors so kindly disposed towards him, that when he was deprived of his stewardship, they were willing to receive him into their houses. In like manner take heed that ye, who have wasted your lord’s goods through your misuse of them, by the mammon or the riches of unrighteousness—not by robbery and fraud, but in another sense which I will soon explain—give to the poor, so that after this life is over, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Here note that the word unrighteousness has a double signification. In the case of the steward it meant dishonesty and deceit: in our case it has a different meaning, us I shall proceed, to show.
Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, i.e. of riches, which are “unrighteous” in a fourfold sense and from a fourfold cause.

1. Because riches are often amassed through unrighteousness, i.e. through fraud, usury, and the like of oneself or one’s ancestors. Hence S. Jerome (Ep. 150) says every rich man is either himself unrighteous or else the heir of an unrighteous man, and although he may not be ignorant of the evil-doings of his ancestors, yet he can scarcely be expected to know to whom restitution should be made. Therefore he is bound to make such restitution as lies in his power, by giving to the poor. And commenting on S. Matt. vi. the same Father goes on to say, Riches are called Mammon because they are acquired through unrighteousness, taking mammon to be derived from מן, min, and מנה, mona, i.e. violence, from the root ינה, iana, the meaning being “to exercise force.” But the real derivation seems to be from טמן taman, to hide or conceal; for riches and money are wont to be hidden.
2. They are unrighteous in the sense of faithless and deceptive, for they are not to be depended upon, but often desert one man and pass on to another.

3. They are called the mammon of unrighteousness, because in their endeavour to become rich men are guilty of fraud, dishonesty, unrighteous dealing, and every kind of sin.

4. And again, they are unrighteous, because wicked and ungodly men esteem them of more value than the heavenly treasures.  S. Augustine (serm. 35 De Verbis Domini). Hence we may understand Christ as saying, “Ye rich and avaricious men have made money your god, but be ye well assured that it is unrighteous, i.e. vain and deceptive. Break up your idol, therefore, and give to the poor, and God will recompense you with eternal riches.” See S. Matt. vi. 24.
That when ye fail, when life is over and your riches are no longer at your disposal, or according to the Syriac version, when it, i.e. mammon, fails you.
They may receive you. The poor, i.e. those whom you have made your friends by the right use of your riches. For they, if they are worthy of heaven, will by their prayers and by a communication of their merits make a way for you to enter therein: but if, on the contrary, they are unworthy of so great a blessing, you will be received into heaven because of your almsgiving, for what is given to the poor is accepted of Christ.

Christ seems, here to be speaking of the poor who lead godly lives, who are poor as far as earthly possessions are concerned, but rich in understanding and in spiritual grace. Let not the rich then think that they are conferring, but rather that they are receiving benefits from such as these, for they give gold, to receive in return heaven. Hence S. Gregory (Moral. xxii. 14) says, “Almsgiving is not so much the relieving the necessities of the poor as the offering of gifts to those who hereafter will receive us into everlasting habitations.”

Learn therefore, that heaven is the inheritance of the poor, not for their own possession, but rather that they may introduce therein those who have been their benefactors. They are therefore the door-keepers of heaven, for “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (see S. Matt. v. 3), and this their blessedness is not of their own deserving, but the special gift of God. So S. Augustine (lib. ii. q. 38 Quæst. Evang.) says, “They receive them not as of right but by the permission of Him who counselled them to make themselves friends, and who deigns to look upon Himself as being fed, clothed, entertained and visited in the person of the least of His followers.”

“Everlasting habitations,” says Theophylact, “are in Christ ordained for the poor, wherein they may receive those who have given them liberal alms out of that which God has committed to their trust.” Happy indeed is the exchange, for earthly things become heavenly. Hence almsgiving is the most skilful of arts, for it does not build us an earthly tabernacle, but provides us with eternal life.” S. Chrysostom.

Ver. 10.—He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much. By “that which is least” we must understand earthly possessions as distinguished from the “much” of spiritual gifts. That ye may not be deprived of your heavenly stewardship, or rather that ye may be entrusted therewith, take heed rightly to administer your temporal affairs, and especially to give alms to the poor, according to the purpose of God. For so Christ explains His words in the next verse. In a similar sense S. Paul writes, “If a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. iii 5.) Christ seems here to be reproaching the Pharisees with unfaithfulness in the disposal of their riches, and in the interpretation of the law, and also with being little worthy of the position they held (see S. Matt. v. and xxiii.), for from ver. 14 it is clear that these things were spoken against them.
Ver. 11.—If, therefore, ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? If ye have made a wrong use of this world’s fleeting possessions (1 Tim. vi. 7), who will entrust to your care the things which are lasting, and which pertain unto the kingdom of God? Theophylact and many others.

Ver. 12.—And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own? The wording of this verse is different, but the sense is the same as that of the preceding. The mammon which in the verse above Christ called unrighteous, he here calls “another man’s.” For temporal possessions are another’s:

1. Because they are in their nature totally different from the nature of man. They are of the earth, given to man for his use in this life, to revert again to the earth after death.
2. They are another’s as regards God, for we are not absolute masters of what we possess but administrators only, bound to dispose of our goods according to His will. So Titus says, “He describes much riches as that which is another man’s, because to abound in riches is, considering human nature, foreign to men. For if any man possesses them, they are external to him, and as it were, an accident.” 

“They are,” says S. Ambrose, “foreign to the nature of man, for they have no continuance, they were neither born with us, nor can they follow us when we die.”  S. Augustine also (Quæst. Evang. ii. 35) “He calls earthly endowments another’s, for no man can carry them away with him at his death.” “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Tim. vi. 7); and Euthymius: “Earthly riches are called another’s for they do not remain long with their possessor.”

Christ reproves avarice, and shows that he who loves money cannot love God: therefore the Apostles, if they would love Him, must despise riches.  S. Jerome. But the better interpretation is one which I am about to give.

That which is your own. “Christ calls heavenly riches ours says Euthymius, “because, as Theophylact explains, ‘our citizenship is in heaven.’ For man was created in the image of God, but wealth and earthly possessions are not ours, for there is nothing divine therein. But to enjoy divine blessings, and to partake in the nature of God, is ours.”

But you will say, Men are wont to value that which is their own, more than that which is the property of another. Why then does Christ here imply the contrary?

I answer that the force of our Lord’s argument is seen: 1. If we look to the meaning of the parable, If ye have not been faithful in earthly things, how will ye be so in heavenly, and who will dare to commit such things to your trust? and 2. From the parable itself. Men are as a rule more careful in their management of the affairs of others than of their own, for many reasons, but chiefly because they are bound in justice to make good any losses which may have been incurred by their carelessness, and if careless may even be suspected of dishonesty or theft; whereas for their own losses, or for the mismanagement of their own concerns, they are responsible to no one.

True, therefore, is the argument of Christ, If ye have not been faithful in earthly things, which are another’s, God will not give you those heavenly treasures which are rightly your own. For he who makes a wrong use of that which belongs to another deserves to lose that which is his own. For, as Dionysius (Denis) the Carthusian astutely remarks, “In the former verse, Christ spoke of the good things of this life, ‘who will trust, or commit,’ because an account will have to be rendered of their use. But of the good things of the heavenly country, he says, ‘who will give,’ for we shall not be called upon to account for these, because once given they are everlastingly our own.”
For the following verse, see S. Matt. vi. 24.

Monday, 25 August 2014

St Luke 15:1-32

1 Erant autem appropinquantes ei publicani, et peccatores ut audirent illum. 2 Et murmurabant pharisæi, et scribæ, dicentes: Quia hic peccatores recipit, et manducat cum illis. 3 Et ait ad illos parabolam istam dicens: 4 Quis ex vobis homo, qui habet centum oves, et si perdiderit unam ex illis, nonne dimittit nonaginta novem in deserto, et vadit ad illam quæ perierat, donec inveniat eam? 5 Et cum invenerit eam, imponit in humeros suos gaudens: 6 et veniens domum convocat amicos et vicinos, dicens illis: Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni ovem meam, quæ perierat. 7 Dico vobis quod ita gaudium erit in cælo super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente, quam super nonaginta novem justis, qui non indigent pœnitentia. 8 Aut quæ mulier habens drachmas decem, si perdiderit drachmam unam, nonne accendit lucernam, et everrit domum, et quærit diligenter, donec inveniat? 9 Et cum invenerit convocat amicas et vicinas, dicens: Congratulamini mihi, quia inveni drachmam quam perdideram. 10 Ita, dico vobis, gaudium erit coram angelis Dei super uno peccatore pœnitentiam agente.11 Ait autem: Homo quidam habuit duos filios: 12 et dixit adolescentior ex illis patri: Pater, da mihi portionem substantiæ, quæ me contingit. Et divisit illis substantiam. 13 Et non post multos dies, congregatis omnibus, adolescentior filius peregre profectus est in regionem longinquam, et ibi dissipavit substantiam suam vivendo luxuriose. 14 Et postquam omnia consummasset, facta est fames valida in regione illa, et ipse cœpit egere. 15 Et abiit, et adhæsit uni civium regionis illius: et misit illum in villam suam ut pasceret porcos. 16 Et cupiebat implere ventrem suum de siliquis, quas porci manducabant: et nemo illi dabat. 17 In se autem reversus, dixit: Quanti mercenarii in domo patris mei abundant panibus, ego autem hic fame pereo! 18 surgam, et ibo ad patrem meum, et dicam ei: Pater, peccavi in cælum, et coram te: 19 jam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus: fac me sicut unum de mercenariis tuis. 20 Et surgens venit ad patrem suum. Cum autem adhuc longe esset, vidit illum pater ipsius, et misericordia motus est, et accurrens cecidit super collum ejus, et osculatus est eum. 21 Dixitque ei filius: Pater, peccavi in cælum, et coram te: jam non sum dignus vocari filius tuus. 22 Dixit autem pater ad servos suos: Cito proferte stolam primam, et induite illum, et date annulum in manum ejus, et calceamenta in pedes ejus: 23 et adducite vitulum saginatum, et occidite, et manducemus, et epulemur: 24 quia hic filius meus mortuus erat, et revixit: perierat, et inventus est. Et cœperunt epulari. 25 Erat autem filius ejus senior in agro: et cum veniret, et appropinquaret domui, audivit symphoniam et chorum: 26 et vocavit unum de servis, et interrogavit quid hæc essent. 27 Isque dixit illi: Frater tuus venit, et occidit pater tuus vitulum saginatum, quia salvum illum recepit. 28 Indignatus est autem, et nolebat introire. Pater ergo illius egressus, cœpit rogare illum. 29 At ille respondens, dixit patri suo: Ecce tot annis servio tibi, et numquam mandatum tuum præterivi: et numquam dedisti mihi hædum ut cum amicis meis epularer. 30 Sed postquam filius tuus hic, qui devoravit substantiam suam cum meretricibus, venit, occidisti illi vitulum saginatum. 31 At ipse dixit illi: Fili, tu semper mecum es, et omnia mea tua sunt: 32 epulari autem, et gaudere oportebat, quia frater tuus hic mortuus erat, et revixit; perierat, et inventus est.

Now the publicans and sinners drew near unto him to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying: This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them. [3] And he spoke to them this parable, saying: [4] What man of you that hath an hundred sheep: and if he shall lose one of them, doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the desert, and go after that which was lost, until he find it? [5] And when he hath found it, lay it upon his shoulders, rejoicing:[6] And coming home, call together his friends and neighbours, saying to them: Rejoice with me, because I have found my sheep that was lost? [7] I say to you, that even so there shall be joy in heaven upon one sinner that doth penance, more than upon ninety-nine just who need not penance. [8] Or what woman having ten groats; if she lose one groat, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? [9] And when she hath found it, call together her friends and neighbours, saying: Rejoice with me, because I have found the groat which I had lost. [10] So I say to you, there shall be joy before the angels of God upon one sinner doing penance.[10] Before the angels: By this it is plain that the spirits in heaven have a concern for us below, and a joy at our repentance and consequently a knowledge of it.[11] And he said: A certain man had two sons: [12] And the younger of them said to his father: Father, give me the portion of substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his substance. [13] And not many days after, the younger son, gathering all together, went abroad into a far country: and there wasted his substance, living riotously. [14] And after he had spent all, there came a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. [15] And he went and cleaved to one of the citizens of that country. And he sent him into his farm to feed swine.[16] And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him. [17] And returning to himself, he said: How many hired servants in my father' s house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger? [18] I will arise, and will go to my father, and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee: [19] I am not worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. [20] And rising up he came to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and running to him fell upon his neck, and kissed him.[21] And the son said to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, I am not now worthy to be called thy son. [22] And the father said to his servants: Bring forth quickly the first robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: [23] And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and make merry: [24] Because this my son was dead, and is come to life again: was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. [25] Now his elder son was in the field, and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing:[26] And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. [27] And he said to him: Thy brother is come, and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe. [28] And he was angry, and would not go in. His father therefore coming out began to entreat him. [29] And he answering, said to his father: Behold, for so many years do I serve thee, and I have never transgressed thy commandment, and yet thou hast never given me a kid to make merry with my friends: [30] But as soon as this thy son is come, who hath devoured his substance with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.[31] But he said to him: Son, thou art always with me, and all I have is thine. [32] But it was fit that we should make merry and be glad, for this thy brother was dead and is come to life again; he was lost, and is found.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Ver. 1.—Then drew near under Him all the publicans and sinners. πάντες, all, that is, many came together to hear Christ, attracted by His sanctity and by the loving-kindness with which He called sinners to Himself, and promised pardon and salvation to the penitent. For His preaching was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” S. Matt. iv. 17.

Ver. 2.—And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured. For as they avoided the touch of unclean bodies, so did they avoid that of sinful souls. Hence they did not deign to speak to sinners, much less to eat with them. This constituted the proud spirit of the Pharisees, who thought themselves pure and holy in all things pertaining to the law, and therefore kept apart from the impure that they might not be defiled. To them the spirit of Christ was clearly opposed; for He came into the world to save sinners, and therefore sought opportunity to converse with them, and when invited was present at their feasts; for nothing is more pleasing to God than the conversion of the sinner. “From which we may gather,” says S. Gregory (Hom. 34), “that true justice, i.e. the justice of Christ, is full of compassion, but that the false justice of the Pharisees is scornful.” “Indeed, it is,” says S. Chrysostom, “the mark of the apostolic life, to think for the salvation of souls.”

Ver. 4.—What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he 1ose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? For a sheep is a simple and foolish animal, which, in search of pasture, easily loses its way and wanders from the fold, and when once astray is unable to return. So that there is need of a shepherd to go forth and seek it.

So we, by reason of our sinful lusts, were as wandering sheep, treading the path which led to perdition, without a thought of God or of heaven, or of the salvation of our souls. Wherefore Christ came down from heaven to seek us, and to lead us back from the way of destruction to that which leadeth to eternal life. So we read, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all,” Isa. liii. 6; and again, “Ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” 1 S. Pet. ii. 25.

Ver. 5.—And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. Or as the Arabic renders it, “He carries it on his shoulders joyfully,” that he may the more quickly return it to the flock.
In like manner on Christ “was laid,” as saith the prophet Isaiah, the iniquity of us all.” Hence Gregory of Nyssa, writes in the Catena, “When the shepherd had found the sheep, he did not punish it, he did not drive it to the fold, but placing it on his shoulder, and carrying it gently, he reunited it with the flock.” 

Oh how wondrous is the meekness, clemency, and love of Christ our Lord! It was to represent this love to the faithful that Christ is depicted in our temples with the lost sheep on His shoulders, carrying it back to the flock, and it is related of the son of Charlemagne, that laying aside his royal state, he became a monk, and when employed in keeping sheep, followed to the letter the example set by the Good Shepherd: for humility and the imitation of Christ is in truth the glory of Christian kings.

Ver. 6.—Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. Συγχάζητέ μοι, Let My joy be one with yours—partake of My joy. His joy is so great that he cannot confine it to Himself, His friends must rejoice also. He further indicates that the event is such a happy one, that it ought to afford matter for rejoicing to all. He says not, “Rejoice with the sheep that is found,” but, “with Me.” Because truly our life is His joy. S. Gregory.

Ver. 7.—I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven, &c., i.e. greater joy, for such is implied by the comparative particle ρ̀, “than.”

The angels then, and the saints in heaven rejoice with exceeding great joy when it is made known to them, by the revelation of God, that a sinner is converted; for when such an one by repentance passes from condemnation to life, it is a gain to the sinner—to the angels—and above all to God Himself.
The sinner passes from sin unto righteousness, from hell to heaven. The angels therefore rejoice at the blessedness of such an one, because, says Euthymius, they are kindly disposed towards men and because by repentance men become like them in purity and in holiness. They rejoice also on their own account because the ruin which was effected by Lucifer and his angels is remedied by the justification and sanctification of men, and because the places from which these angels fell are restored and filled up. It is a joy to God because He is φιλόψυχος, a lover of souls, and thirsts for the salvation of men.
Again the angels rejoice that the desire of God, whom they love above all things, is fulfilled, and that He is a partaker of this joy, as well as honoured by the penitence of the, sinner. Apposite to this matter is the vision of Carpus, to whom Christ made known that He so longed for the conversion of sinners, as to be ready again to suffer death upon the Cross, if thereby this object could be effected. And Palladius relates that a certain Anchorite, who had fallen into sin, repented in sackcloth and ashes with many tears; whereupon an angel appeared to him and said, “The Lord hath accepted thy penitence, and hath had compassion on thee. Take heed that thou art not again led astray.”

By this argument, Christ rebukes the Pharisees for murmuring against Him because He companied with sinners in order to convert them. For the conversion of sinners is a work most pleasing to God and His angels. The Pharisees ought therefore to take part in this work, and to share in the rejoicing. For “all the fruit” of the Incarnation, and of the death of Christ upon the Cross is “to take away sin,” Isa. xxvii. 9,—“to bring in everlasting righteousness,” and to extend the kingdom of God. S. Matt. vi. 10. The knowledge of this ought to excite in every follower of Christ a zealous love for the souls of men.
Hence S. Gregory, when he heard that the English had been converted by the preaching of Augustine, rejoiced in spirit, and wrote; “If there is great joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, what joy, think you, has there been over the conversion of so great a people; for by their repentance and faith they have condemned the sins which they aforetime had committed. Whilst heaven is thus rejoicing, let us repeat the angelic strain, and let us all with one accord exclaim, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill towards men.’”

More than over ninety and nine just persons. God and His holy angels, then, rejoice over one penitent more than over one righteous man, nay, more than over ninety and nine just persons; because from the conversion of the sinner there arises a new joy, which seems more perceptible, and is in reality felt more than that continuous and long-standing joy which attaches itself to the ninety and nine; a joy which, although actually the greater, seems to men to lose its freshness by reason of its long duration. For the novelty of a thing which we long for awakens in us a vast and a new joy, which is felt all the more on account of its novelty, as we find when we receive tidings of victories or conversions; and Christ often speaks after the manner of men, especially in His parables. The saying of S. Bernard, that “The tears of penitents are the wine of the angels,” applies here:—The joy over the conversion of a sinner, writes Emmanuel Sà, is sensibly greater. Although in other respects, a man undoubtedly rejoices more over ninety-nine sheep than over one, and God joys more over ninety and nine just persons than over one sinner that repenteth.

S. Gregory adds that God and His angels rejoice the more, because penitents are wont to be more fervent in their love than those who have not fallen away. And elsewhere he says, “The life of fervent devotion which follows after sins committed is often more pleasing to God than that innocence which grows sluggish in its security.” “Just as the leader in battle loves that soldier more who, having turned from flight, bravely pursues the enemy, than he who never turned his back and never did a brave act.” “And as again the husbandman loves that land more which, after bearing thorns, yields abundant fruit, than that which never had thorns, and never gave him a plentiful crop.” Finally (Hom. 34), he cites the example of Victorinus who, having fallen into carnal sin, entered a monastery, and there subjected himself to the severest penance, and so merited to be transfused with the light of heaven, and to hear the voice of God, “Thy sin is forgiven thee!”

If therefore penance be of such avail in a sinner, how great, infers S. Gregory, must be its power in a just man! For many, he says, are conscious of no evil, yet subject themselves to austerities as extreme as if they were beset by every kind of sin. They eschew all things, even such as are lawful, they gird themselves about with a lofty disdain of earth and earthly things, they consider every pleasure forbidden, they deprive themselves of such good things as are allowed them, things that are seen they despise, they yearn for the things which are invisible, they rejoice in mourning, in all things they humble themselves, and deplore sins of thought, as many mourn over sins actually committed.

Ver. 8.—Either that woman having ten pieces of silver, &c. “Sweep,” or as the Arabic renders it, “cleanse;” not “overturn,” as some read with S. Gregory.

The “piece of silver,” or drachma, was a coin weighing the eighth part of an ounce. Hence S. Cyril explains, that by the parable of the lost sheep we are to understand, mystically, that we are the creatures of God who made us, and the sheep of His pasture, but that by this second parable we are taught that we were created in the image and likeness of God, just as the coin bears the image of the king.

S. Gregory (Hom. 34), very fully explains the parable, and applies it in the following manner: “He who is signified by the shepherd, is signified also by the woman. For it is God Himself—God and the wisdom of God. And because there is an image impressed on the piece, the woman lost the piece of silver when man, who was created after the image of God, by sinning fell away from the likeness of his Creator. The woman lighted a candle, because the wisdom of God appeared in man. For the candle is a light in an earthen vessel, but the light in an earthen vessel is the Godhead in the flesh, and when the candle was lit she overturned (evertit) the house. Because as soon as His divinity shone forth through the flesh, all our consciences were appalled. But the word ‘overturn’ differs not from the ‘cleanse’ or ‘sweep’ of the other MSS. Because the corrupt mind, if it be not first overthrown through fear is not cleansed from its habitual faults. But when the house is overturned the piece of silver is found, for when the conscience of man is disturbed, the likeness of the Creator is restored in him.” And again, “Who are the friends and neighbours but those heavenly powers afore mentioned, who are near to the Divine Wisdom, inasmuch as they approach Him through the grace of continual vision?” Hence in conclusion he says, “The woman had ten pieces of silver, because there are nine orders of angels, but, that the number of the elect might be filled up, man, the tenth, was created, who even after his sin did not fall utterly away from his Maker, because the eternal Wisdom, shining through the flesh by His miracles, restored him by the light of the earthen vessel.”

Or, as Theophylact interprets it, “The friends are all the heavenly powers; but the neighbours, the thrones—cherubims and seraphims—which are most nigh unto God.”

Lastly, S. Gregory Nyssen, says, “The ten pieces of silver are so many virtues, of which we ought to lack none, for like the commandments they are complete in themselves (decem). The candle is the divine word or perhaps the torch of repentance; the neighbours, reason, desire, anger, and such like affections.”

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

Today's Gospel is St Mark 7:31-37:

31 Et iterum exiens de finibus Tyri, venit per Sidonem ad mare Galilææ inter medios fines Decapoleos. 32 Et adducunt ei surdum, et mutum, et deprecabantur eum, ut imponat illi manum. 33 Et apprehendens eum de turba seorsum, misit digitos suos in auriculas ejus: et exspuens, tetigit linguam ejus: 34 et suscipiens in cælum, ingemuit, et ait illi: Ephphetha, quod est, Adaperire. 35 Et statim apertæ sunt aures ejus, et solutum est vinculum linguæ ejus, et loquebatur recte. 36 Et præcepit illis ne cui dicerent. Quanto autem eis præcipiebat, tanto magis plus prædicabant: 37 et eo amplius admirabantur, dicentes: Bene omnia fecit: et surdos fecit audire, et mutos loqui.

And again going out of the coasts of Tyre, he came by Sidon to the sea of Galilee, through the midst of the coasts of Decapolis. [32] And they bring to him one deaf and dumb; and they besought him that he would lay his hand upon him. [33] And taking him from the multitude apart, he put his fingers into his ears, and spitting, he touched his tongue: [34] And looking up to heaven, he groaned, and said to him: Ephpheta, which is, Be thou opened. [35] And immediately his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right.[36] And he charged them that they should tell no man. But the more he charged them, so much the more a great deal did they publish it. [37] And so much the more did they wonder, saying: He hath done all things well; he hath made both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.

Matins readings (St Gregory the Great)

Reading 9: What signifieth it that when God, the Maker of all, would heal a deaf and dumb man, "He put His Fingers into his ears, and He spit, and touched his tongue." What is figured by the Fingers of the Redeemer but the gifts of the Holy Ghost? Hence it is written in another place Luke xi. 20 that after He had cast out an evil spirit, He said: "If I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you." Which words are thus given by another Evangelist Matth. xii. 28: "If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you." By setting these two passages together we see that the Spirit is called the Finger. 

Reading 10: For our Lord, then, to put His Fingers into the deaf man's ears was by the gift of the Holy Spirit to enlighten his dark mind unto obedience. That signifieth it also that "He spit and touched his tongue." We receive spittle out of the Redeemer's mouth upon our tongues when we receive wisdom to speak God's truth. Spittle is a secretion of the head which floweth into the mouth. And so, that wisdom, which is Himself, the great Head of His Church, as soon as it hath touched our tongue, doth straightway take the form of preaching. 

Reading 11: "And looking up to heaven, He sighed," not that He had any need to sigh, Who gave whatsoever He asked, but that He was fain to teach us to look up and sigh toward Him Whose throne is in heaven, confessing our need, that our ears should be opened by the gift of the Holy Spirit, and our tongue loosed by the spittle of our Saviour's Mouth, that is, by knowledge of His Divine Word, before we can use it to preach to others.

Reading 12: "And He said unto him: Ephphatha, that is, be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed." Herein we must remark the command, "Be opened" was addressed to the deaf ears, but the tongue also was immediately loosed. Just so, when the ears of a man's heart have been opened to learn the obedience of faith, the string of his tongue also is thereupon loosed, that he may exhort others to do the good things which himself doth. It is well added "And he spake plain." He only doth well preach obedience to others who hath first learnt himself to obey.