Saturday, 7 February 2015

Notes on John 3:22-36**

Today's section of St John chapter 3 returns to the story of St John the Baptist, this time pointing to some perceived competition between his mission and Jesus' on the part of his disciples.  St John is an extremely important saint from a Benedictine perspective, so his mission is worth meditation.



22 Post hæc venit Jesus et discipuli ejus in terram Judæam: et illic demorabatur cum eis, et baptizabat. 23 Erat autem et Joannes baptizans, in Ænnon, juxta Salim: quia aquæ multæ erant illic, et veniebant et baptizabantur. 24 Nondum enim missus fuerat Joannes in carcerem. 25 Facta est autem quæstio ex discipulis Joannis cum Judæis de purificatione. 26 Et venerunt ad Joannem, et dixerunt ei: Rabbi, qui erat tecum trans Jordanem, cui tu testimonium perhibuisti, ecce hic baptizat, et omnes veniunt ad eum. 27 Respondit Joannes, et dixit: Non potest homo accipere quidquam, nisi fuerit ei datum de cælo. 28 Ipsi vos mihi testimonium perhibetis, quod dixerim: Non sum ego Christus: sed quia missus sum ante illum. 29 Qui habet sponsam, sponsus est: amicus autem sponsi, qui stat, et audit eum, gaudio gaudet propter vocem sponsi. Hoc ergo gaudium meum impletum est. 30 Illum oportet crescere, me autem minui.31 Qui desursum venit, super omnes est. Qui est de terra, de terra est, et de terra loquitur. Qui de cælo venit, super omnes est. 32 Et quod vidit, et audivit, hoc testatur: et testimonium ejus nemo accipit. 33 Qui accepit ejus testimonium signavit, quia Deus verax est. 34 Quem enim misit Deus, verba Dei loquitur: non enim ad mensuram dat Deus spiritum. 35 Pater diligit Filium et omnia dedit in manu ejus. 36 Qui credit in Filium, habet vitam æternam; qui autem incredulus est Filio, non videbit vitam, sed ira Dei manet super eum.

And the English (Douay-Rheims):

[22] After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea: and there he abode with them, and baptized. [23] And John also was baptizing in Ennon near Salim; because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized. [24] For John was not yet cast into prison. [25] And there arose a question between some of John' s disciples and the Jews concerning purification: [26] And they came to John, and said to him: Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond the Jordan, to whom thou gavest testimony, behold he baptizeth, and all men come to him. [27] John answered, and said: A man cannot receive any thing, unless it be given him from heaven. [28] You yourselves do bear me witness, that I said, I am not Christ, but that I am sent before him. [29] He that hath the bride, is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, who standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth with joy because of the bridegroom' s voice. This my joy therefore is fulfilled. [30] He must increase, but I must decrease. [31] He that cometh from above, is above all. He that is of the earth, of the earth he is, and of the earth he speaketh. He that cometh from heaven, is above all. [32] And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony. [33] He that hath received his testimony, hath set to his seal that God is true. [34] For he whom God hath sent, speaketh the words of God: for God doth not give the Spirit by measure. [35] The Father loveth the Son: and he hath given all things into his hand.[36] He that believeth in the Son, hath life everlasting; but he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

You can find the Latin and Greek, together with the Knox translation of John 3 here.  And you can listen to the Latin here (from 2.34) and the Greek here (2.55).  The video below provides the English and the Latin (with ecclesiastical pronunciation) read verse by verse.


This section deals firstly with the proper humility we should all have, accepting the role we are called to, and desiring no other.

But it also speaks to the role of the Church in propagating the faith through doctrine and the sacraments, as the Catena Aurea selections point out:

"...CHRYS. And see; the very argument by which they thought to have overthrown Christ, To whom you bare witness, he turns against them; You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ; as if he said, If you think my witness true, you must acknowledge Him more worthy of honor shall myself. He adds, But that I was sent before Him; that is to say, I am a servant, and perform the commission of the Father which sent me; my witness is not from favor or partiality; I say that which was given me to say. 

BEDE; Who are you then, since you are not the Christ, and who is He to Whom you bear witness? John replies, He is the Bridegroom; I am the friend of the Bridegroom, sent to prepare the Bride for His approach: He that has the Bride, is the Bridegroom. By the Bride he means the Church, gathered from amongst all nations; a Virgin in purity of heart, in perfection of love, in the bond of peace, in chastity of mind and body; in the unity of the Catholic faith; for in vain is she a virgin in body, who continues not a virgin in mind. This Bride has Christ joined to Himself in marriage, and redeemed with the price of His own Blood. 

THEOPHYL. Christ is the spouse of every soul; the wedlock, wherein they are joined, is baptism; the place of that wedlock is the Church; the pledge of it, remission of sins, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost; the consummation, eternal life; which those who are worthy shall receive. Christ alone is the Bridegroom: all other teachers are but the friends of the Bridegroom, as was the forerunner. The Lord is the giver of good; the rest are the despisers of His gifts... 

AUG. But wherefore does he stand? Because he fails not, by reason of his humility. A sure ground this to stand upon, Whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose. Again; He stands, and hears Him. So then if he fails, he hears Him not. Therefore the friend of the Bridegroom ought to stand and hear, i.e. to abide in the grace which he has received, and to hear the voice in which he rejoices. I rejoice not, he said, because of my own voice, but because of the Bridegroom's voice. I rejoice; I in hearing, He in speaking; I am the ear, He the Word. For he who guards the bride or wife of his friend, takes care that she love none else; if he wish to be loved himself in the stead of his friend, and to enjoy her who was entrusted to him, how detestable does he appear to the whole world? Yet many are the adulterers I see, who would fain possess themselves of the spouse who was bought at so great a price, and who aim by their words at being loved themselves instead of the Bridegroom. 

CHRYS. Or thus; The expression, which stands, is not without meaning, but indicates that his part is now over, and that for the future he must stand and listen. This is a transition from the parable to the real subject. For having introduced the figure of a bride and bridegroom, he shows how the marriage is consummated; viz. by word and doctrine. Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. And since the things he had hoped for had come to pass, he adds, This my Joy therefore is fulfilled; i.e. The work which I had to do is finished, and nothing more is left, that I can do..."

The Gospel also reminds us that the path is not easy, nor will it be universally accepted:

"CHRYS. He means not here, that to believe on the Son is sufficient to gain everlasting life, for elsewhere He says, Nor every one that said to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. And the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is of itself sufficient to send into hell. But we must not think that even a right belief in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is sufficient for salvation; for we have need of a good life and conversation. Knowing then that the greater part are not moved so much by the promise of good, as by the threat of punishment, he concludes, But He that believes not the Son, shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him. See how He refers to the Father again, when He speaks of punishment. He said not, the wrath of the Son, though the Son is judge; but makes the Father the judge, in order to alarm men more. And He does not say, in Him, but on Him, meaning that it Will never depart from Him; and for the same reason He says, shall not see life, i.e. to show that He did not mean only a temporary death!

AUG. Nor does He say, The wrath of God comes to him, but, abides on him. For all who are born, are under the wrath of God, which the first Adam incurred. The Son of God came without sin, and was clothed with mortality: He died that you might live. Whosoever then will not believe on the Son, on him abides the wrath of God, of which the Apostle speaks, We were by nature the children of wrath."


St John's Gospel plays heavily on the image of Christ as bridegroom of the Church.  In this section, St John the Baptist is the 'friend of the bridegroom' preparing the way for the nuptials through the call to repentance, and testifying to the truth of who Jesus is.

The Gospel presents to us the classic pattern for evangelization.

St John the Baptist attracted interest not because he does good works in service of the poor, but because of his stark asceticism and powerful message that we are all sinners, and we all need to be converted.  Only following that preparation does he point to the prophesies of who Jesus is, and use lend the authority of his ministry to attest to him.

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise

Friday, 6 February 2015

Notes on John 3:1-21

Jesus and Nicodemus, Crijn Hendricksz, 1616–1645.
Continuing this series on doing lectio divina in the Benedictine tradition, today's section of St John's Gospel, 3:1-21, deals with a conversation with one of Jesus' supporters among the Pharisees, a member of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus.

St John mentions him again as arguing against the arrest of Jesus (John 7) and in helping Joseph of Arimathea preparing his body preparing his body for burial (John 19).  It is a very doctrinally rich passage, dealing, amongst other things, with Christ's divinity, the necessity of baptism and the life of grace.  Verses 16-21 are the Gospel for Monday in the Octave of Pentecost.


The Latin:

Erat autem homo ex pharisæis, Nicodemus nomine, princeps Judæorum. 2 Hic venit ad Jesum nocte, et dixit ei: Rabbi, scimus quia a Deo venisti magister, nemo enim potest hæc signa facere, quæ tu facis, nisi fuerit Deus cum eo. 3 Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Amen, amen dico tibi, nisi quis renatus fuerit denuo, non potest videre regnum Dei. 4 Dicit ad eum Nicodemus: Quomodo potest homo nasci, cum sit senex? numquid potest in ventrem matris suæ iterato introire et renasci? 5 Respondit Jesus: Amen, amen dico tibi, nisi quis renatus fuerit ex aqua, et Spiritu Sancto, non potest introire in regnum Dei. 6 Quod natum est ex carne, caro est: et quod natum est ex spiritu, spiritus est. 7 Non mireris quia dixi tibi: oportet vos nasci denuo. 8 Spiritus ubi vult spirat, et vocem ejus audis, sed nescis unde veniat, aut quo vadat: sic est omnis qui natus est ex spiritu. 9 Respondit Nicodemus, et dixit ei: Quomodo possunt hæc fieri? 10 Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Tu es magister in Israël, et hæc ignoras? 11 amen, amen dico tibi, quia quod scimus loquimur, et quod vidimus testamur, et testimonium nostrum non accipitis. 12 Si terrena dixi vobis, et non creditis: quomodo, si dixero vobis cælestia, credetis? 13 Et nemo ascendit in cælum, nisi qui descendit de cælo, Filius hominis, qui est in cælo. 14 Et sicut Moyses exaltavit serpentem in deserto, ita exaltari oportet Filium hominis: 15 ut omnis qui credit in ipsum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam.16 Sic enim Deus dilexit mundum, ut Filium suum unigenitum daret: ut omnis qui credit in eum, non pereat, sed habeat vitam æternam. 17 Non enim misit Deus Filium suum in mundum, ut judicet mundum, sed ut salvetur mundus per ipsum. 18 Qui credit in eum, non judicatur; qui autem non credit, jam judicatus est: quia non credit in nomine unigeniti Filii Dei. 19 Hoc est autem judicium: quia lux venit in mundum, et dilexerunt homines magis tenebras quam lucem: erant enim eorum mala opera. 20 Omnis enim qui male agit, odit lucem, et non venit ad lucem, ut non arguantur opera ejus: 21 qui autem facit veritatem, venit ad lucem, ut manifestentur opera ejus, quia in Deo sunt facta.

And the English:

"And there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. [2] This man came to Jesus by night, and said to him: Rabbi, we know that thou art come a teacher from God; for no man can do these signs which thou dost, unless God be with him. [3] Jesus answered, and said to him: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. [4] Nicodemus saith to him: How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother' s womb, and be born again? [5] Jesus answered: Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. [6] That which is born of the flesh, is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit, is spirit. [7] Wonder not, that I said to thee, you must be born again. [8] The Spirit breatheth where he will; and thou hearest his voice, but thou knowest not whence he cometh, and whither he goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. [9] Nicodemus answered, and said to him: How can these things be done? [10] Jesus answered, and said to him: Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? [11] Amen, amen I say to thee, that we speak what we know, and we testify what we have seen, and you receive not our testimony. [12] If I have spoken to you earthly things, and you believe not; how will you believe, if I shall speak to you heavenly things? [13] And no man hath ascended into heaven, but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man who is in heaven. [14] And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of man be lifted up: [15] That whosoever believeth in him, may not perish; but may have life everlasting. [16] For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. [17] For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. [18] He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged: because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [19] And this is the judgment: because the light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light: for their works were evil. [20] For every one that doth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, that his works may not be reproved. [21] But he that doth truth, cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, because they are done in God. 

You can find the Latin, Greek and Knox translation of John 3 here.  You can listen to the Latin here and the Greek here.  The video below provides the English and the Latin read verse by verse.

Study and meditation

Many today, influenced by rationalist and modernist interpretations of Scripture that reject the supernatural dimension of the world, prefer to see Jesus as a great teacher rather than God.  Nicodemus too, initially starts from this perspective, but is corrected on this, as three quotes from St John Chrysostom from the Catena Aurea make clear:

"CHRYS. He did not however conceive any great idea of them from His miracles; and attributed to Him as yet only a human character, speaking of Him as a Prophet, sent to execute a commission, and standing in need of assistance to do His work; whereas the Father had begotten Him perfect, self-sufficient, and free from all defect. It being Christ's design however for the present not so much to reveal His dignity, as to prove that He did nothing contrary to the Father; in words He is often humble, while His acts ever testify His power. And therefore to Nicodemus on this occasion He says nothing expressly to magnify Himself; but He imperceptibly corrects his low views of Him, and teaches him that He was Himself all-sufficient, and independent in His miraculous works. Hence He answers, Verily, verily, I say to you, Except a man be born again, the cannot see the kingdom of God... if He said, You are not yet born again, i.e. of God, by a spiritual begetting; and therefore your knowledge of Me is not spiritual, but carnal and human. But I say to you, that neither you, nor any one, except he be born again of God, shall be able to see the glory which is around me, but shall be out of the kingdom: for it is the begetting by baptism, which enlightens the mind. Or the meaning is, Except you are born from above, and have received the certainty of my doctrines, you wander out of the way, and are far from the kingdom of heaven. By which words our Lord discloses His nature, showing that He is more than what He appears to the outward eye. The expression, From above, means, according to some, from heaven, according to others, from the beginning. Had the Jews heard it, they would have left Him in scorn; but Nicodemus shows the love of a disciple, by staying to ask more questions.

...Nicodemus coming to Jesus, as to a man, is startled on learning greater things than man could utter, things too lofty for him. His mind is darkened, and he does not stand firm, but reels like one on the point of falling away from the faith. Therefore he objects to the doctrine as being impossible, in order to call forth a fuller explanation."

The verses on being born again in the spirit are often misinterpreted by fundamentalists, so are also worth a close look at:

"AUG. As if He said, You understand me to speak of a carnal birth; but a man must be born of water and of the Spirit, if he is to enter into the kingdom of God. If to obtain the temporal inheritance of his human father, a man must be born of the womb of his mother; to obtain the eternal inheritance of his heavenly Father, he must be born of the womb of the Church. And since man consists of two parts, body and soul, the mode even of this latter birth is twofold; water the visible part cleansing the body; the Spirit by His invisible cooperation, changing the invisible soul.

CHRYS. If any one asks how a man is born of water, I ask in return, how Adam was born from the ground. For as in the beginning though the element of earth was the subject-matter, the man was the work of the fashioner; so now too, though the element of water is the subject-matter, the whole work is done by the Spirit of grace. He then gave Paradise for a place to dwell in; now He has opened heaven to us. But what need is there of water, to those who receive the Holy Ghost? It carries out the divine symbols of burial, mortification, resurrection, and life. For by the immersion of our heads in the water, the old man disappears and is buried as it were in a sepulcher, whence he ascends a new man. Thus should you learn, that the virtue of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, fills all things. For which reason also Christ lay three days in the grave before His resurrection. That then which the womb is to the offspring, water is to the believer; he is fashioned and formed in the water. But that which is fashioned in the womb needs time; whereas the water all is done in an instant. For the nature of the body is such as to require time for its completion; but spiritual creations are perfect from the beginning. From the time that our Lord ascended out of the Jordan, water produces no longer reptiles, i.e. living souls; but souls rational and endued with the Spirit.

AUG. Because He does not say, Except a man be born again of water and of the Spirit, he shall not have salvation, or eternal life; but, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God; from this, some infer that children are to be baptized in order to be with Christ in the kingdom of God, where they would not be, were they not baptized; but that they will obtain salvation and eternal life even if they die without baptism, not being bound with any chain of sin. But why is a man born again, except to be changed from his old into a new state? Or why does the image of God not enter into the kingdom of God, if it be not by reason of sin?

HAYMO. But Nicodemus being unable to take in so great and deep mysteries, our Lord helps him by the analogy of our carnal birth, saying, That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. For as flesh generates flesh, so also does spirit, spirit.

CHRYS Do not look then for any material production, or think that the Spirit generates flesh; for even the Lord's flesh is generated not by the Spirit only, but also by the flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spiritual. The birth here spoken of takes place not according to our substance, but according to honor and grace. But the birth of the Son of God is otherwise; for else what would He have been more than all who are born again? And He would be proved too inferior to the Spirit, inasmuch as His birth would be by the grace of the Spirit. How does this differ from the Jewish doctrine? - But mark next the part of the Holy Spirit, in the divine work. For whereas above some are said to be born of God, here, we find, the Spirit generates them. - The wonder of Nicodemus being roused again by the words, He who is born of the Spirit is spirit, Christ meets him again with an instance from nature; Marvel not that I said to you, You must be born again. The expression, Marvel not, shows that Nicodemus was surprised at His doctrine. He takes for this instance some thing, not of the grossness of other bodily things, but still removed from the incorporeal nature, the wind; The wind blows where it lists, and you hear the sound thereof, but can not tell whence it comes, and whither it goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. That is to say, if no one can restrain the wind from going where it will; much less can the laws of nature, whether the condition of our natural birth, or any other, restrain the action of the Spirit. That He speaks of the wind here is plain, from His saving, You hear the sound thereof, i.e. its noise when it strikes objects. He would not in talking to an unbeliever and ignorant person, so describe the action of the Spirit. He says, Blows where it lists; not meaning any power of choice in the wind, but only its natural movements, in their uncontrolled power. But can not tell whence it comes or whither it goes; i.e. If you can not explain the action of this wind which comes under the cognizance both of your feeling and hearing, why examine into the operation of the Divine Spirit? He adds, So is every one that is born of the Spirit."

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Notes on John 2: 13-25**

Today's verses are used at Mass on the Monday after the Fourth Sunday of Lent.


The Latin:

3 Et prope erat Pascha Judæorum, et ascendit Jesus Jerosolymam: 14 et invenit in templo vendentes boves, et oves, et columbas, et numularios sedentes. 15 Et cum fecisset quasi flagellum de funiculis, omnes ejecit de templo, oves quoque, et boves, et numulariorum effudit æs, et mensas subvertit. 16 Et his qui columbas vendebant, dixit: Auferte ista hinc, et nolite facere domum patris mei, domum negotiationis. 17 Recordati sunt vero discipuli ejus quia scriptum est: Zelus domus tuæ comedit me. 18 Responderunt ergo Judæi, et dixerunt ei: Quod signum ostendis nobis, quia hæc facis? 19 Respondit Jesus, et dixit eis: Solvite templum hoc, et in tribus diebus excitabo illud. 20 Dixerunt ergo Judæi: Quadraginta et sex annis ædificatum est templum hoc, et tu in tribus diebus excitabis illud? 21 Ille autem dicebat de templo corporis sui. 22 Cum ergo resurrexisset a mortuis, recordati sunt discipuli ejus, quia hoc dicebat, et crediderunt scripturæ et sermoni quem dixit Jesus.23 Cum autem esset Jerosolymis in Pascha in die festo, multi crediderunt in nomine ejus, videntes signa ejus, quæ faciebat. 24 Ipse autem Jesus non credebat semetipsum eis, eo quod ipse nosset omnes, 25 et quia opus ei non erat ut quis testimonium perhiberet de homine: ipse enim sciebat quid esset in homine.

The English:

[13] And the pasch of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. [14] And he found in the temple them that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting. [15] And when he had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, he drove them all out of the temple, the sheep also and the oxen, and the money of the changers he poured out, and the tables he overthrew. [16] And to them that sold doves he said: Take these things hence, and make not the house of my Father a house of traffic. [17] And his disciples remembered, that it was written: The zeal of thy house hath eaten me up. [18] The Jews, therefore, answered, and said to him: What sign dost thou shew unto us, seeing thou dost these things? [19] Jesus answered, and said to them: Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. [20] The Jews then said: Six and forty years was this temple in building; and wilt thou raise it up in three days? [21] But he spoke of the temple of his body. [22] When therefore he was risen again from the dead, his disciples remembered, that he had said this, and they believed the scripture, and the word that Jesus had said. [23] Now when he was at Jerusalem, at the pasch, upon the festival day, many believed in his name, seeing his signs which he did. [24] But Jesus did not trust himself unto them, for that he knew all men, [25] And because he needed not that any should give testimony of man: for he knew what was in man.

The New Advent Bible page with Greek, Latin and English (Knox translation) parallel text can be found here.  And you can listen to the Greek read here (from 1.42) and the Latin read here (from 1.39).  Alternatively, listen to this useful video with the English then the Latin read verse by verse (starts at 4.14):

Study notes

One of the more common errors of our times perpetrated by some Liberals is the idea that Jesus was in some sense anti-liturgical.  Some even argue that his commitment to the poor stands in opposition to the spending of money on vestments and other adornments for churches.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses these verses, among others, to refute this idea:

"583 Like the prophets before him Jesus expressed the deepest respect for the Temple in Jerusalem. It was in the Temple that Joseph and Mary presented him forty days after his birth.(349) At the age of twelve he decided to remain in the Temple to remind his parents that he must be about his Father's business.(350) He went there each year during his hidden life at least for Passover.(351) His public ministry itself was patterned by his pilgrimages to Jerusalem for the great Jewish feasts.(352)

584 Jesus went up to the Temple as the privileged place of encounter with God. For him, the Temple was the dwelling of his Father, a house of prayer, and he was angered that its outer court had become a place of commerce.(353) He drove merchants out of it because of jealous love for his Father: "You shall not make my Father's house a house of trade. His disciples remembered that it was written, 'Zeal for your house will consume me.'"(354) After his Resurrection his apostles retained their reverence for the Temple.(355)

585 On the threshold of his Passion Jesus announced the coming destruction of this splendid building, of which there would not remain "one stone upon another".(356) By doing so, he announced a sign of the last days, which were to begin with his own Passover.(357) But this prophecy would be distorted in its telling by false witnesses during his interrogation at the high priest's house, and would be thrown back at him as an insult when he was nailed to the cross.(358)

586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.(359) He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God's definitive dwelling-place among men.(360) Therefore his being put to bodily death(361) presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: "The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father."(362)"

Meditation points

The Catena Aurea draws out from these verses, among other points, some considerations about how we ought to behave in relation to churches:

"BEDE; Our Lord on coming to Jerusalem, immediately entered the temple to pray; giving us an example that, wheresoever we go, our first visit should be to the house of God to pray. And He found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting...

BEDE; His disciples seeing this most fervent zeal in Him, remembered that it was from zeal for His Father's house that our Savior drove the ungodly from the temple. 

ALCUIN. Zeal, taken in a good sense, is a certain fervor of the Spirit, by which the mind, all human fears forgotten, is stirred up to the defense of the truth.

AUG. He then is eaten up with zeal for God's house, who desires to correct all that he sees wrong there; and, if he cannot correct, endures and mourns. In your house you busy yourself to prevent matters going wrong; in the house of God, where salvation is offered, ought you to be indifferent? Have you a friend? admonish him gently; a wife? coerce her severely; a maid-servant? even compel her with stripes. Do what you are able, according to your station. 

ALCUIN. To take the passage mystically, God enters His Church spiritually every day, and marks each one's behavior there. Let us be careful then, when we are in God's Church, that we indulge not in stories, or jokes, or hatreds, or lusts, lest on a sudden He come and scourge us, and drive us out of His Church...

AUG. Or, those who sell in the Church, are those who seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. They who will not be bought, think they may sell earthly things. Thus Simon wished to buy the Spirit, that he might sell Him: for he was one of those who sell doves. (The Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove.) The dove however is not sold, but is given of free grace; for it is called grace. 

BEDE; They then are the sellers of doves, who, after receiving the free grace of the Holy Spirit, do not dispense it freely , as they are commanded, but at a price: who confer the laying on of hands, by which the Holy Spirit is received, if not for money, at least for the sake of getting favor with the people, who bestow Holy Orders not according to merit, but favor.

AUG. By the oxen may be understood the Apostles and Prophets, who have dispensed to us the holy Scriptures. Those who by these very Scriptures deceive the people, from whom they seek honor, sell the oxen; and they sell the sheep too, i.e. the people themselves; and to whom do they sell them, but to the devil? For that which is cut off from the one Church, who takes away, except the roaring lion, who goes about every where, and seeks whom he may devour? 

BEDE; Or, the sheep are works of purity and piety, and they sell the sheep, who do works of piety to gain the praise of men. They exchange money in the temple, who, in the Church, openly devote themselves to secular business. And besides those who seek for money, or praise, or honor from Holy Orders, those too make the Lord's house a house of merchandise, who do not employ the rank, or spiritual grace, which they have received in the Church at the Lord's hands, with singleness of mind, but with an eye to human recompense.

AUG. Our Lord intended a meaning to be seen in His making a scourge of small cords, and then scourging those who were carrying on the merchandise in the temple. Every one by his sins twists for himself a cord, in that he goes on adding sin to sin. So then when men suffer for their iniquities, let them be sure that it is the Lord making a scourge of small cords, and admonishing them to change their lives: which if they fail to do, they will hear at the last, Bind him hand and foot. 

BEDE; With a scourge then made of small cords, He cast them out of the temple; for from the part and lot of the saints are cast out all, who, thrown externally among the Saints, do good works hypocritically, or bad openly. The sheep and the oxen too He cast out, to show that the life and the doctrine of such were alike reprobate. And He overthrew the change heaps of the money-changers and their tables, as a sign that, at the final condemnation of the wicked, He will take away the form even of those things which they loved. The sale of doves He ordered to be removed out of the temple, because the grace of the Spirit, being freely received, should be freely given. 

ORIGEN; By the temple we may understand too the soul wherein the Word of God dwells; in which, before the teaching of Christ, earthly and bestial affections had prevailed. The ox being the tiller of the soil, is the symbol of earthly affections: the sheep, being the most irrational of all animals, of dull ones; the dove is the type of light and volatile thoughts; and money, of earthly good things; which money Christ cast out by the Word of His doctrine, that His Father's house might be no longer a market."


In his response to the questioning Jews, Jesus points to the sign of the Resurrection as the testimony to the truth of his message.  He talks about the destruction of the Temple and its repair: his hearers thought he spoke of the physical temple, but in fact he was talking about the temple of his body.

The Temple of Jerusalem was of course, indeed to be destroyed.  But in the Resurrection it is rebuilt for us; in the Eucharist its sacrifices are supplanted, perfected and appropriated for us; in the reserved host in the tabernacle we venerate that temple.

St Francis, whose feast we celebrated yesterday went through a similar journey in understanding to that of the disciples, a journey in understanding that the literal points us to the spiritual.  When he heard a voice saying 'Repair my Church', the saint at first set about rebuilding the crumbling churches of the area.  Over time though, he came to realise that his real mission was to repair the spiritual fabric of a crumbling church.

In our own time, the Church is one again crumbling, desperately in need of saints to help rebuild it with the aid of the grace won for us through the Resurrection.  How can we contribute to that task?

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise Blog

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Notes on John 2:1-12**

The next section of the Gospel of St John, John 2: 1-12, used on the Second Sunday after Epiphany, deals with Jesus' first public miracle, at the wedding at Cana.  The Gospel of St John is structured around seven 'signs' that attest to Christ's divinity, and this is the first of them.


The New Advent Bible page with Greek, Latin and English (Knox translation) parallel text can be found here.  And you can listen to the Greek read here and the Latin read here.  Alternatively, listen to the useful video below, with the English then the Latn read verse by verse.

The Latin:

1 Et die tertia nuptiæ factæ sunt in Cana Galilææ, et erat mater Jesu ibi. 2 Vocatus est autem et Jesus, et discipuli ejus, ad nuptias. 3 Et deficiente vino, dicit mater Jesu ad eum: Vinum non habent. 4 Et dicit ei Jesus: Quid mihi et tibi est, mulier? nondum venit hora mea. 5 Dicit mater ejus ministris: Quodcumque dixerit vobis, facite. 6 Erant autem ibi lapideæ hydriæ sex positæ secundum purificationem Judæorum, capientes singulæ metretas binas vel ternas. 7 Dicit eis Jesus: Implete hydrias aqua. Et impleverunt eas usque ad summum. 8 Et dicit eis Jesus: Haurite nunc, et ferte architriclino. Et tulerunt. 9 Ut autem gustavit architriclinus aquam vinum factam, et non sciebat unde esset, ministri autem sciebant, qui hauserant aquam: vocat sponsum architriclinus, 10 et dicit ei: Omnis homo primum bonum vinum ponit et cum inebriati fuerint, tunc id, quod deterius est. Tu autem servasti bonum vinum usque adhuc. 11 Hoc fecit initium signorum Jesus in Cana Galilææ; et manifestavit gloriam suam, et crediderunt in eum discipuli ejus.12 Post hoc descendit Capharnaum ipse, et mater ejus, et fratres ejus, et discipuli ejus: et ibi manserunt non multis diebus.

The English:

And the third day, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee: and the mother of Jesus was there. [2] And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage. [3] And the wine failing, the mother of Jesus saith to him: They have no wine. [4] And Jesus saith to her: Woman, what is that to me and to thee? my hour is not yet come. [5] His mother saith to the waiters: Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye. [6] Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three measures apiece. [7] Jesus saith to them: Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And Jesus saith to them: Draw out now, and carry to the chief steward of the feast. And they carried it. [9] And when the chief steward had tasted the water made wine, and knew not whence it was, but the waiters knew who had drawn the water; the chief steward calleth the bridegroom, [10] And saith to him: Every man at first setteth forth good wine, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse. But thou hast kept the good wine until now. [11] This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee; and manifested his glory, and his disciples believed in him. [12] After this he went down to Capharnaum, he and his mother, and his brethren, and his disciples: and they remained there not many days. 


The Catena Aurea's selected commentaries on this story go mainly to the following issues:
  • Christ's humility in attending a social event;
  • the honour accorded to marriage by Christ, who raised it to the status of a sacrament;
  • the imagery of Christ as the bridegroom to the world;
  • the role of Mary in asking for a miracle, and the honour Jesus accords to her;
  • Jesus' assertion of his divinity (in verse 4); and
  • the nature of the miracle, and why he carried it out the way he did.
Here are a few of them for consideration:

"BEDE. His condescension in coming to the marriage, and the miracle He wrought there, are, even considering them in the letter only, a strong confirmation of the a faith. Therein too are condemned the errors of Tatian, Marcion, and others who detract from the honor of marriage. For if the undefiled bed, and the marriage celebrated with due chastity, partook at all of sin, our Lord would never have come to one. Whereas now, conjugal chastity being good, the continence of widows better, the perfection of the virgin state best, to sanction all these degrees, but distinguish the merit of each, He deigned to be born of the pure womb of the Virgin; was blessed after birth by the prophetic voice of the widow Anna; and now invited in manhood to attend the celebration of a marriage, honors that also by the presence of His goodness.

AUG. What marvel, if He went to that house to a marriage, Who came into this world to a marriage. For here He has His spouse whom He redeemed with His own blood, to whom He gave the pledge of the Spirit, and whom He united to Himself in the womb of the Virgin. For the Word is the Bridegroom, and human flesh the bride, and both together are one Son of God and Son of man. That womb of the Virgin Mary is His chamber, from which he went forth as a bridegroom. 

BEDE. Nor is it without some mysterious allusion, that the marriage is related as taking place on the third day. The first age of the world, before the giving of the Law, was enlightened by the example of the Patriarchs; the second, under the Law, by the writings of the Prophets; the third, under grace, by the preaching of the Evangelists, as if by the light of the third day; for our Lord had now appeared in the flesh. The name of the place too where the marriage was held, Cana of Galilee, which means, desire of migrating, has a typical signification, viz. that those are most worthy of Christ, who burn with devotional desires, and have known the passage from vice to virtue, from earthly to eternal things. 

CHRYS. But how came it into the mother's mind to expect so great a thing from her Son? for he had done no miracle as yet: as we read afterwards This beginning of miracles did Jesus. His real nature, however, was beginning now to be revealed by John, and His own conversations with His disciples; besides that His conception, and the circumstances of His birth, had from the first given rise to high expectations in her mind: as Luke tells us, His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. Why then did she never ask Him to work a miracle before? Because the time had now come that He should be made known. Before He had lived so much like an ordinary person, that she had not had the confidence to ask Him. But now that she heard that John had borne witness to Him, and that He had disciples, she asks Him confidently. 

ALCUIN. She represents here the Synagogue, which challenges Christ to perform a miracle. It was customary with the Jews to ask for miracles.

 Jesus said to her, Woman, what have I to do with you?

AUG. Some who derogate from the Gospel, and say that Jesus was not born of the Virgin Mary, try to draw an argument for their error from this place; for, how, say they, could she be His mother to whom He said, What have I to do with you? Now who is it who gives this account, and on whose authority do we believe it? The Evangelist John. But he himself says, The mother of Jesus was there. Why should He say it, unless both were true. But did He therefore come to the marriage to teach men to despise their mother? 

CHRYS. That He greatly venerated His mother, we know from St. Luke, who tells us that He was subject unto His parents. For where parents throw no obstacle in the way of God's commands, it is our duty to be subject to them; but when they demand any thing at an unseasonable time, or cut us off from spiritual things, we should not be deceived into compliance.

AUG. To mark a distinction between His Godhead and manhood, that according to His manhood He was inferior and subject, but according to His Godhead supreme, He said, Woman, what have I to do with you? 

AUG. Or it was because our Lord as God had not a mother, though as man He had, and the miracle He was about to work was the act of His Divinity, not of human infirmity. When therefore His mother demanded a miracle, He, as though not acknowledging a human birth, when about to perform a divine work, said, Woman, what have I to do with you? As if He said, You did not beget that in Me, which works the miracle, My Divinity. (She is called woman, with reference to the female sex, not to any injury of her virginity.) But because you brought forth My infirmity, I will acknowledge you then, when that very infirmity shall hang on the cross. And therefore He adds, Mine hour is not yet come: as if to say, I will acknowledge you when the infirmity, of which you are the mother, shall hang from the cross. He commended His mother to the disciple, when about to die, and to rise again, before her death. But note; just as the Manicheans have found an occasion of error and pretext for their faithlessness in our Lord's word, What have I to do with you? in the same way the astrologers support theirs from the words, Mine hour is not yet come. For, say they, if Christ had not been under the power of fate, He would never have said this. But let them believe what hat God says below, I have power to lay it (my life) down, and I have power to take it again: and then let them ask, why He says, Mine hour is not yet come: nor let them on such a ground subject the Creator of heaven to fate; seeing that, even were there a fatality in the stars, the Maker of the stars could not be under the dominion of the stars. And not only had Christ nothing to do with fate, as you call it; but neither have you, or any other man. Wherefore said He then, Mine hour is not yet come? Because He had the power to die when He pleased, but did not think it expedient yet to exert the power He was to call the disciples; to proclaim the Kingdom of heaven, to do marvelous works, to approve His divinity by miracles, His humility by partaking of the sufferings of our mortal state. And when He had done all, then the hour was come, not of destiny, but of will, not of obligation, but of power.

 CHRYS. Although He had said, Mine hour is not yet come, He afterwards did what His mother told Him, in order to show plainly, that He was not under subjection to the hour. For if He was, how could He have done this miracle before the hour appointed for it? In the next place, He wished to show honor to His mother, and make it appear that He did not go counter to her eventually. He would not put her to shame in the presence of so many; especially as she had sent the servants to Him, that the petition might come from a number, and not from herself only; His mother said to the servants, Whatsoever He says to you, do it. 

BEDE; As if she said, Though He appear to refuse, He will do it nevertheless. She knew His pity and mercifulness. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Hydriae are vessels to hold water: hydor being the Greek for water. 

BEDE; At the time of our Lord's appearing in the flesh, the sweet vinous taste of the law had been weakened by the carnal interpretations of the Pharisees. 

AUG. Now if He ordered the water to be poured out, and then introduced the wine from the hidden recesses of creation, He would seem to have rejected the Old Testament. But converting, as He did, the water into wine, He showed us that the Old Testament was from Himself; for it was as by His order that the waterpots were filled. But those Scriptures have no meaning, if Christ be not understood there. Now we know from what time the law dates, viz. from the foundation of the world. From that time to this are six ages; the first reckoning from Adam to Noah; the second, from Noah to Abraham; the third, from Abraham to David; the fourth, from David to the carrying away into Babylon; the fifth, from that time to John the Baptist; the sixth, from John the Baptist to the end of the world. The six waterpots then denote these six ages of prophecy. The prophecies are fulfilled; the waterpots are full. But what is the meaning of their holding two or three firkins apiece? Had He said three only, our minds would have run immediately to the mystery of the Trinity. Nor perhaps can we reject it, even though it is said, two or three: for the Father and the Son being named, the Holy Ghost may be understood by consequence; inasmuch as it is the love between the Father and the Son, which is the Holy Ghost. Nor should we pass over another interpretation, which makes the two firkins alluded to the two races of men, the Jews and the Greeks; and the three to the three sons of Noah. 

ALCUIN. The servants are the doctors of the New Testament, who interpret the holy Scripture to others spiritually; the ruler of the feast is some lawyer, as Nicodemus, Gamaliel, or Saul. When to the former then is committed the word of the Gospel, hid under the letter of the law, it is the water made wine, being set before the ruler of the feast. And the three rows of guests at table in the house of the marriage are properly mentioned; the Church consisting of three orders of believers, the married, the continent, and the doctors. Christ has kept the good wine until now, i.e. He has deferred the Gospel till this, the sixth age."


There is something of a 'first shall be last and the last first' flavour in this miracle, it seems to me, drawn out in the comment of the stewart to the bridegroom to the effect that he had kept the best wine until last.

The story, on the face of, seems to reflect a lack of proper planning on the part of the organisers - fancy having a wedding and running out of drinks!

If, though, one interprets the wine as our ever deepening understanding of the deposit of faith entrusted to the Apostles and their successors - for after all, as St John constantly reminds us Christ is the true bridegroom of the Church - then the supply of sound doctrine can indeed seem to dry up and run out at certain times and places!

If we but do the bidding of our holy mother though, we too can become saints, and have that better wine pour out through us, or be privileged to drink of it.

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise Blog

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Notes on John 1:35-51**

The concluding section of John 1 deals with the calling of the disciples: John attests to Jesus' status and two of his followers defect to Jesus.  They in turn spread the word, and Peter is given his name.

I thought though it would be particularly useful to focus in on the calling of Nathaniel (45-51), firstly because it introduces the figure of the fig-tree which is a recurring motif through the Gospels.  But also because it is the subject of an interesting and useful analysis of correct and modernist approaches to Bible interpretation in a series over at the Roman Theological Forum.

First the text.


The Latin:

35 Altera die iterum stabat Joannes, et ex discipulis ejus duo. 36 Et respiciens Jesum ambulantem, dicit: Ecce agnus Dei. 37 Et audierunt eum duo discipuli loquentem, et secuti sunt Jesum. 38 Conversus autem Jesus, et videns eos sequentes se, dicit eis: Quid quæritis? Qui dixerunt ei: Rabbi (quod dicitur interpretatum Magister), ubi habitas? 39 Dicit eis: Venite et videte. Venerunt, et viderunt ubi maneret, et apud eum manserunt die illo: hora autem erat quasi decima. 40 Erat autem Andreas, frater Simonis Petri, unus ex duobus qui audierant a Joanne, et secuti fuerant eum. 41 Invenit hic primum fratrem suum Simonem, et dicit ei: Invenimus Messiam (quod est interpretatum Christus). 42 Et adduxit eum ad Jesum. Intuitus autem eum Jesus, dixit: Tu es Simon, filius Jona; tu vocaberis Cephas, quod interpretatur Petrus. 43 In crastinum voluit exire in Galilæam, et invenit Philippum. Et dicit ei Jesus: Sequere me. 44 Erat autem Philippus a Bethsaida, civitate Andreæ et Petri.45 Invenit Philippus Nathanaël, et dicit ei: Quem scripsit Moyses in lege, et prophetæ, invenimus Jesum filium Joseph a Nazareth. 46 Et dixit ei Nathanaël: A Nazareth potest aliquid boni esse? Dicit ei Philippus: Veni et vide. 47 Vidit Jesus Nathanaël venientem ad se, et dicit de eo: Ecce vere Israëlita, in quo dolus non est. 48 Dicit ei Nathanaël: Unde me nosti? Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Priusquam te Philippus vocavit, cum esses sub ficu, vidi te. 49 Respondit ei Nathanaël, et ait: Rabbi, tu es Filius Dei, tu es rex Israël. 50 Respondit Jesus, et dixit ei: Quia dixi tibi: Vidi te sub ficu, credis; majus his videbis. 51 Et dicit ei: Amen, amen dico vobis, videbitis cælum apertum, et angelos Dei ascendentes, et descendentes supra Filium hominis.

You can find the Greek, Latin and Knox translation here, and listen here from 3.48 for the Latin, and the Greek from 4.14.

And the English (Douay-Rheims, for a more literal approach to the Latin than the Knox):

[35] The next day again John stood, and two of his disciples.[36] And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. [37] And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. [38] And Jesus turning, and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? [39] He saith to them: Come and see. They came, and saw where he abode, and they stayed with him that day: now it was about the tenth hour. [40] And Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard of John, and followed him. [41] He findeth first his brother Simon, and saith to him: We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. [42] And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter. [43] On the following day, he would go forth into Galilee, and he findeth Philip. And Jesus saith to him: Follow me. [44] Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. [45] Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith to him: We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth. [46] And Nathanael said to him: Can any thing of good come from Nazareth? Philip saith to him: Come and see. [47] Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him: and he saith of him: Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile. [48] Nathanael saith to him: Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered, and said to him: Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. [49] Nathanael answered him, and said: Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the King of Israel. [50] Jesus answered, and said to him: Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, thou believest: greater things than these shalt thou see. [51] And he saith to him: Amen, amen I say to you, you shall see the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.


John McCarthy's notes on these verses over at the Roman Theological Forum's study course provide a dissection of historico-critical approaches to these verses and the errors they involve.  He then suggests that the better approach is neo-Patristic:

"...All of the Fathers of the Church understood the passage about the calling of Nathanael to be an exact historical description of what actually took is necessary to realize what is hinted at in the text, namely, that Philip and Nathanael had some knowledge of the Scriptures, and that part of this knowledge had to do with the origins of names. Now it was easy for Nathanael to conjecture on the spur of the moment that the name Nazareth comes from the Hebrew verb nazar, meaning "to set apart,""to consecrate," and, therefore, "to make holy." So Nathanael made a witty remark, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" meaning "Can anything good come from the town named holy?" This was only a facetious remark, but it did cast a humorous aspersion on the origin of Jesus. Now, Jesus outdid the wit of Nathanael as He quipped: "Behold a true Israelite in whom there is no guile," for Nathanael knew that Israel, that is, the Patriarch Jacob, was one of the most guileful persons who ever lived, and this witty and ironical riposte of Jesus caught Nathanael in his own conceit. Surprised by this spirited opening of Jesus, Nathanael asks: "From where do you know me?" - thus bringing up the question of origins, and Jesus refers to the origin of Nathanael as He replies: "I saw you when you were under the fig tree." A contemporary writer has noted that Jesus must have been referring to some previous occasion, since fig trees were not in foliage at that time of year, but St. Augustine long ago suggested the answer, when he said: "Adam and Eve, after sinning, made themselves aprons of fig leaves. Fig leaves, then, signify sins, and Nathanael, when he was under the fig tree, was under the shadow of death." So, on the level of the literal and historical sense, the implication of this observation of Jesus is that Jesus saw Nathanael when he was still in the seed of his first parents Adam and Eve, who stood shamefully under the fig tree after their sin. Thus, in answer to Nathanael's quip, "Can anything good come from Nazareth? Jesus replies in effect: "You joked about my supposed place of origin, but I saw you when you were still in the seed of your first-parents Adam and Eve, as they stood naked and ashamed under the fig tree." Nathanael, aided by grace, understands this, and he exclaims: "Master, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." Nathanael probably intended the title "Son of God" in a human rather than in a Trinitarian or Incarnational sense,15 but he did thereby correct his witty remark and attribute to Jesus the highest and holiest of origins, being the son of the most holy God and having the social status of a king. Jesus approves this insight and then elevates it as he turns to the group of his disciples and says: "You shall see Heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man." When would they see Heaven opened? Ultimately and completely after their death when they would be accorded the Beatific Vision. In Heaven they would see the good angels ascending in thought and in prayer to the divinity of Jesus and descending in service upon his humanity, to which He is specifically referring when He calls Himself the Son of Man. The Heaven to which we refer is, then, not a religious fantasy; it is the ultimate reality attainable by man."

For meditation

There is a lot more that is worth reading over at the RTF, including the following analysis of the spiritual sense of the text.  Here is the final summary of it provided there:

"...On the level of the lower allegory, that is, the Allegory of Christ and his Church, Jesus is "from Nazareth" in the sense that his human nature was conceived virginally "from the root" (netser) of Jesse and David in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. And the humanity of Jesus is the Ladder of Jacob, the bridge between earth and Heaven. On the level of the higher allegory, that is, the anagogy of the Trinity and of the Four Last Things, the reference to "heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" is the literal and historical meaning of the words, to the extent that this is one of the texts which literally underpin allegorical references to Heaven elsewhere in Sacred Scripture. Also on the level of the allegory of words, Jesus is the Son of Joseph, that is, the Son of the "Increaser", in that He is the Son of God the Father, who is the absolute Increaser of all things. On the level of tropology, the moral allegory, Nathanael accepts the invitation to "come and see," and, over and above his geographical journey to Jesus, he has an experience of conversion from conceitedness over his birth and his academic education to an awareness of the lowliness of his human birth and the highness of the birth of Jesus, the Messiah. So Nathanael becomes a follower of Jesus. His exchange of irony with Jesus is like his forebear Jacob's wrestling with an angel: but Nathanael comes away with only his pride wounded and he walks thereafter in humility, as he also receives the blessing of a promise of eternal life. And his guile is no longer personal conceit, but rather a growing understanding of the deeper meaning of divine revelation and an increasing love for Jesus, the Bridegroom of souls."

**Reposted from Saints Will Arise blog.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Notes on John 1:15-34**

Juan de Juanes, c. 1560

Today's section of St John's Gospel is chapter 1 verses 15-34, which deal with St John the Baptist's ministry.

It is a set of verses where St John emphasizes that he is not the Christ, but merely one who prepares the way for him: in John we are shown how to approach Christ with the true humility that is grounded in our understanding of who Jesus is.  Note that verses 19b-28 are used at Mass for the Third Sunday of Advent.


You can listen to the Latin here (and the Greek here).  And the text of both Greek and Latin, together with the Knox translation can be found here.


Joannes testimonium perhibet de ipso, et clamat dicens: Hic erat quem dixi: Qui post me venturus est,
ante me factus est: quia prior me erat. 16  Et de plenitudine ejus nos omnes accepimus, et gratiam pro gratia: 17  quia lex per Moysen data est, gratia et veritas per Jesum Christum facta est. 18 Deum nemo vidit umquam: unigenitus Filius, qui est in sinu Patris, ipse enarravit.19 Et hoc est testimonium Joannis, quando miserunt Judæi ab Jerosolymis sacerdotes et Levitas ad eum ut interrogarent eum: Tu quis es? 20 Et confessus est, et non negavit, et confessus est: Quia non sum ego Christus. 21 Et interrogaverunt eum: Quid ergo? Elias es tu? Et dixit: Non sum. Propheta es tu? Et respondit: Non. 22 Dixerunt ergo ei: Quis es ut responsum demus his qui miserunt nos? quid dicis de teipso? 23 Ait: Ego vox clamantis in deserto: Dirigite viam Domini, sicut dixit Isaias propheta. 24 Et qui missi fuerant, erant ex pharisæis. 25 Et interrogaverunt eum, et dixerunt ei: Quid ergo baptizas, si tu non es Christus, neque Elias, neque propheta? 26 Respondit eis Joannes, dicens: Ego baptizo in aqua: medius autem vestrum stetit, quem vos nescitis. 27 Ipse est qui post me venturus est, qui ante me factus est: cujus ego non sum dignus ut solvam ejus corrigiam calceamenti. 28 Hæc in Bethania facta sunt trans Jordanem, ubi erat Joannes baptizans. 29 Altera die vidit Joannes Jesum venientem ad se, et ait: Ecce agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccatum mundi. 30 Hic est de quo dixi: Post me venit vir qui ante me factus est: quia prior me erat: 31 et ego nesciebam eum, sed ut manifestetur in Israël, propterea veni ego in aqua baptizans. 32 Et testimonium perhibuit Joannes, dicens: Quia vidi Spiritum descendentem quasi columbam de cælo, et mansit super eum. 33 Et ego nesciebam eum: sed qui misit me baptizare in aqua, ille mihi dixit: Super quem videris Spiritum descendentem, et manentem super eum, hic est qui baptizat in Spiritu Sancto. 34 Et ego vidi: et testimonium perhibui quia hic est Filius Dei.

The English:

[15] John beareth witness of him, and crieth out, saying: This was he of whom I spoke: He that shall come after me, is preferred before me: because he was before me. [16] And of his fulness we all have received, and grace for grace. [17] For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. [18] No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. [19] And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to him, to ask him: Who art thou? [20] And he confessed, and did not deny: and he confessed: I am not the Christ. [21] And they asked him: What then? Art thou Elias? And he said: I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered: No. [22] They said therefore unto him: Who art thou, that we may give an answer to them that sent us? What sayest thou of thyself? [23] He said: I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaias. [24] And they that were sent, were of the Pharisees. [25] And they asked him, and said to him: Why then dost thou baptize, if thou be not Christ, nor Elias, nor the prophet? [26] John answered them, saying: I baptize with water; but there hath stood one in the midst of you, whom you know not. [27] The same is he that shall come after me, who is preferred before me: the latchet of whose shoe I am not worthy to loose. [28] These things were done in Bethania, beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. [29] The next day, John saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith: Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin of the world. [30] This is he, of whom I said: After me there cometh a man, who is preferred before me: because he was before me. [31] And I knew him not, but that he may be made manifest in Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. [32] And John gave testimony, saying: I saw the Spirit coming down, as a dove from heaven, and he remained upon him. [33] And I knew him not; but he who sent me to baptize with water, said to me: He upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining upon him, he it is that baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. [34] And I saw, and I gave testimony, that this is the Son of God.


These verses emphasis both the continuity of Christ's mission, perfecting the law through grace; its sacrificial nature, with the reference to the lamb of God; and the revelation of the Trinitarian nature of God.

Why was John's testimony so important?  The Catena Aurea's explanations include these:

"ORIGEN; The Jews of Jerusalem, as being of kin to the Baptist, who was of the priestly stock, send Priests and Levites to ask him who he is; that is, men considered to hold a superior rank to the rest of their order, by God's election, and coming from that favored above all cities, Jerusalem. Such is the reverential way in which they interrogate John. We read of no such proceeding towards Christ: but what the Jews did to John, John in turn does to Christ, when he asks Him, through His disciples, Are you He that should come, or look we for another? 

CHRYS. Such confidence had they in John, that they were ready to believe him on his own words: witness how it is said, To ask him, Who are you?

AUG. They would not have sent, unless they had been impressed by his lofty exercise of authority, in daring to baptize. 

ORIGEN; John, as it appears, saw from the question, that the Priests and Levites had doubts whether it might not be the Christ, who was baptizing; which doubts however they were afraid to profess openly, for fear of incurring the charge of credulity. He wisely determines therefore first to correct their mistake, and then to proclaim the truth. 

Accordingly, he first of all shows that he is not the Christ: And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. We may add here, that at this time the people had already begun to be impressed with the idea that Christ's advent was at hand, in consequence of the interpretations which the lawyers had collected out of the sacred writings to that effect. Thus Theudas had been enabled to collect together a considerable body, on the strength of his pretending to be the Christ; and after him Judas, in the days of the taxation, had done the same. Such being the strong expectation of Christ's advent then prevalent, the Jews send to John, intending by the question, Who are you? to extract from him whether he were the Christ. 

GREG. He denied directly being what he was not, but he did not deny what he was: thus, by his speaking truth, becoming a true member of Him Whose name he had not dishonestly usurped. 

CHRYS. Or take this explanation: The Jews were influenced by a kind of human sympathy for John, whom they were reluctant to see made subordinate to Christ, on account of the many marks of greatness about him; his illustrious descent in the first place, he being the son of a chief priest; in the next, his hard training, and his contempt of the world. Whereas in Christ the contrary were apparent; a humble birth, for which they reproach Him; Is not this the carpenter's son? an ordinary way of living; a dress such as every one else wore. 

As John then was constantly sending to Christ, they send to him, with the view of having him for their master, and thinking to induce him, by blandishments, to confess himself Christ. They do not therefore send inferior persons to him, ministers and Herodians, as they did to Christ, but Priests and Levites; and not of these an indiscriminate party, but those of Jerusalem, i.e. the more honorable ones; but they send them with this question, to ask, Who are you? not from a wish to be informed, but in order to induce him to do what I have said. John replies then to their intention, not to their interrogation: And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. 

And observe the wisdom of the Evangelist: he repeats the same thing three times, to show John's virtue, and the malice and madness of the Jews. For it is the character of a devoted servant, not only to forbear taking to himself his lord's glory, but even, when numbers offer it to him, to reject it. The multitude indeed believed from ignorance that John was the Christ, but in these it was malice; and in this spirit they put the question to him, thinking, by their blandishments to bring him over to their wishes. 

For unless this had been their design, when he replied, I am not the Christ, they would have said, We did not suspect this; we did not come to ask this. When caught, however, and discovered in their purpose, they proceed to another question: And they asked him, What then? Are you Elias?

AUG. For they knew that Elias was to preach Christ; the name of Christ not being unknown to any among the Jews; but they did not think that our Lord was the Christ: and yet did not altogether imagine that there was no Christ about to come. In this way, while looking forward to the future, they mistook at the present.

 And he said, I am not...

GREG. But if we examine the truth accurately, that which sounds inconsistent, will be found not really so. The Angel told Zacharias concerning John, He shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias. As Elias then will preach the second advent of our Lord, so John preached His first; as the former will come as the precursor of the Judge, so the latter was made the precursor of the Redeemer. John was Elias in spirit, not in person: and what our Lord affirms of the spirit, John denies of the Person: there being a kind of propriety in this; viz. that our Lord to His disciples should speak spiritually of John, and that John, in answering the carnal multitude, should speak of his body, not of his spirit... 

ORIGEN; There is need of the voice crying in the wilderness, that the soul, forsaken by God, may be recalled to making straight the way of the Lord, following no more the crooked paths of the serpent. This has reference both to the contemplative life, as enlightened by truth, without mixture of falsehood, and to the practical, as following up the correct perception by the suitable action. Wherefore he adds, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. 

GREG. The way of the Lord is made straight to the heart, when the word of truth is heard with humility; the way of the Lord is made straight to the heart, when the life is formed upon the precept."


In a sermon for Advent of 2011, which you can find along with a compilation of commentaries by the Fathers, Theologians and the Magisterium at the useful Bibliaclerus site, Pope Benedict XVI noted:

"...John had withdrawn into the wilderness to live a very austere life and to invite people to conversion, also by the example of his life. He conferred on them a baptism of water, a single rite of penance which distinguished it from the many rites of external purification of the sects of that time.

So who was this man? Who was John the Baptist? The response he himself gave is surprisingly humble. He was not the Messiah, he was not the light. He was neither Elijah come back to the earth nor the great prophet awaited. He was the Forerunner, a simple witness, totally subordinate to the One he proclaimed; a voice in the wilderness, as in our day too, in the wilderness of the great cities of this world, of the great absence of God, we need voices that simply announce to us “God exists. He is always near, even if he seems absent”.

John the Baptist was a voice in the wilderness and a witness to the light; and this moves our hearts, for in this world where there are so many shadows, so much darkness, we are all called to be witnesses of light...and we can only be this if we carry the light within us, if we are not only certain that the light exists, but also that we have seen a ray of light.

In the Church, in God’s word, in the celebration of the sacraments, in the Sacrament of Confession with the forgiveness that we receive, in the celebration of the Blessed Eucharist where the Lord gives himself into our hands and hearts, we touch the light and receive this mission: to bear witness today that there is light, and to carry the light in our time."

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise blog.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Notes on John 1:1-14**

Reading St John's Gospel with the help of commentaries

There are a number of great commentaries on St John's Gospel available online.  In particular I would recommend taking a look at the following:
St John Chapter One

The opening of St John's Gospel, of course, is said as the Last Gospel in every traditional Mass.

But because it's only place in the main cycle of Gospel readings is on Christmas Day, it is rarely the subject of sermons.  Accordingly, some prompts to aid your study, meditation, prayer and contemplation of John 1:1-14.


First, listen to the Latin, following along with the text.  Then read it aloud yourself.

Unfortunately there are, as far as I can find, no versions of the complete New Testament, or even the Gospel of John, read with ecclesiastical pronunciation (do let me know if you are aware of any though).  But you can hear the whole text read with Latin classical pronunciation from the excellent Greek and Latin audio site here (to 1.25).

Alternatively, the video below provides a line by line version of John 1 read first from the Douay-Rheims translation, followed by the Vulgate Latin (to 3.47).

In principio erat Verbum, et Verbum erat apud Deum, et Deus erat Verbum. 2 Hoc erat in principio apud Deum. 3 Omnia per ipsum facta sunt: et sine ipso factum est nihil, quod factum est. 4 In ipso vita erat, et vita erat lux hominum: 5 et lux in tenebris lucet, et tenebræ eam non comprehenderunt. Fuit homo missus a Deo, cui nomen erat Joannes. 7 Hic venit in testimonium ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine, ut omnes crederent per illum. 8 Non erat ille lux, sed ut testimonium perhiberet de lumine. 9  Erat lux vera, quæ illuminat omnem hominem venientem in hunc mundum. 10  In mundo erat, et mundus per ipsum factus est, et mundus eum non cognovit. 11 In propria venit, et sui eum non receperunt. 12 Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis potestatem filios Dei fieri, his qui credunt in nomine ejus: 13 qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt. 14 Et Verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis: et vidimus gloriam ejus, gloriam quasi unigeniti a Patre plenum gratiæ et veritatis.

For the English, I personally think the best translation is the Knox one.  You can find it online (along with the Greek for those interested) at the fabulous New Advent site (and if you want to hear the Greek, listen here).

Here though is the Douay Rheims (updated version):

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] The same was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] And the light shineth in darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. [6] There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. [7] This man came for a witness, to give testimony of the light, that all men might believe through him. [8] He was not the light, but was to give testimony of the light. [9] That was the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into this world. [10] He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. [11] He came unto his own, and his own received him not. [12] But as many as received him, he gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in his name. [13] Who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. [14] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw his glory, the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

To aid your study

Once you have the text in your mind, focus on the overall message of it.  These extracts from the Catena Aurea may help:

"BEDE; The other Evangelists describe Christ as born in time; John witnesses that He was in the beginning, saying, In the beginning was the Word. The others describe His sudden appearance among men; he witnesses that He was ever with God, saying, And the Word was with God. The others prove Him very man; he very God, saying, And the Word was God. The others exhibit Him as man conversing with men for a season; he pronounces Him God abiding with God in the beginning, saying, The Same was in the beginning with God. The others relate the great deeds which He did amongst men; he that God the Father made every creature through Him, saying, All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any shiny made.

CHRYS. While all the other Evangelists begin with the Incarnation, John, passing over the Conception, Nativity, education, and growth, speaks immediately of the Eternal Generation, saying, In the beginning was the Word.

AUG. The Greek word "logos" signifies both Word and Reason. But in this passage it is better to interpret it Word; as referring not only to the Father, but to the creation of things by the operative power of the Word; whereas Reason, though it produce nothing, is still rightly called Reason..

BASIL; This Word is not a human word. For how was there a human word in the beginning, when man received his being last of all? There was not then any word of man in the beginning, nor yet of Angels; for every creature is within the limits of time, having its beginning of existence from the Creator. But what says the Gospel? It calls the Only-Begotten Himself the Word.

CHRYS. But why omitting the Father, does he proceed at once to speak of the Son? Because the Father was known to all; though not as the Father, yet as God; whereas the Only-Begotten was not known. As was meet then, he endeavors first of all to inculcate the knowledge of the Son on those who knew Him not; though neither in discoursing on Him, is he altogether silent on the Father. And inasmuch as he was about to teach that the Word was the Only-Begotten Son of God, that no one might think this a possible generation, he makes mention of the Word in the first place, in order to destroy the dangerous suspicion, and show that the Son was from God impassibly. And a second reason is, that He was to declare to us the things of the Father. But he does not speak of the Word simply, but with the addition of the article, in order to distinguish It from other words. For Scripture calls God's laws and commandments words; but this Word is a certain Substance, or Person, an Essence, coming forth impassibly from the Father Himself.

BASIL; Wherefore then Word? Because born impassibly, the Image of Him that begat, manifesting all the Father in Himself; abstracting from Him nothing, but existing perfect in Himself.

For Meditation

I would then suggest picking out one or two verses that seem particularly meaningful to you, then using some of the Patristic commentaries from the Catena Aurea to extract the juice from it.  Here is an example of the kind of material the Catena provides:

CHRYS. Observe the spiritual wisdom of the Evangelist. He knew that men honored most what was as most ancient, and that honoring what is before every thing else, they conceived of it as God. On this account he mentions first the beginning, saving, In the beginning was the Word.

ORIGEN; There are many significations of this word beginning. For there is a beginning of a journey, and beginning of a length, according to Proverbs, The beginning of the right path is to do justice. There is a beginning too of a creation, according to Job, He is the beginning of the ways of God. Nor would it be incorrect to say, that God is the Beginning of all things. The preexistent material again, where supposed to be original, out of which any thing is produced, is considered as the beginning. There is a beginning also in respect of form: as where Christ is the beginning of those who are made according to the image of God. And there is a beginning of doctrine, according to Hebrews; When for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God. For there are two kinds of beginning of doctrine: one in itself, the other relative to us; as if we should say that Christ, in that He is the Wisdom and Word of God, was in Himself the beginning of wisdom, but to us, in that He was the Word incarnate. There being so many significations then of the word, we may take it as the Beginning through Whom, i.e. the Maker; for Christ is Creator as The Beginning, in that He is Wisdom; so that the Word is in the beginning, i.e. in Wisdom; the Savior being all these excellences at once. As life then is in the Word, so the Word is in the Beginning, that is to say, in Wisdom. Consider then if it be possible according to this signification to understand the Beginning, as meaning that all things are made according to Wisdom, and the patterns contained therein; or, inasmuch as the Beginning of the Son is the Father, the Beginning of all creatures and existences, to understand by the text, In the beginning was the Word, that the Son, the Word, was in the Beginning, that is, in the Father...

CHRYS. Life having come to us, the empire of death is dissolved; a light having shone upon us, there is darkness no longer: but there remains ever a life which death, a light which darkness cannot overcome. Whence he continues, And the light shines in darkness: by darkness meaning death and error, for sensible light does not shine in darkness, but darkness must be removed first; whereas the preaching of Christ shone forth amidst the reign of error, and caused it to disappear, and Christ by dying changed death into life, so overcoming it, that, those who were already in its grasp, were brought back again. Forasmuch then as neither death nor error has overcome his light, which is every where conspicuous shilling forth by its own strength; therefore he adds, And the darkness comprehended it not.

Pray, contemplate and work

The next stages of lectio must be an individual process: they involving turning the insights gained through our meditation into prayer; contemplating those insights, and considering how they should change our behaviour and thinking; and then putting these changes into action.

**Cross-posted from Saints Will Arise blog.