Saturday, 21 February 2015

John 8:1-11

Pieter Bruegel, Oil on panel, 24cm x 34cm. Courtauld Institute Galleries, London

Today's text is the important - and rather mysterious (what was Jesus writing on the ground?) - story of the woman taken in adultery, an incident that is often misused today by liberals in order to (falsely) claim that continuing to sin is acceptable.

Some, from the sixteenth century onwards, have argued that this passage was a later addition to the text, and not by St John, because it was not included in some early manuscripts.  However, newly discovered early patristic manuscripts have vindicated the Vulgate version of the text.


The New Advent page with the Greek, Latin and English can be found here.  You can hear the Latin read here and the Greek here.

The Latin:

Jesus autem perrexit in montem Oliveti: 2 et diluculo iterum venit in templum, et omnis populus venit ad eum, et sedens docebat eos. 3 Adducunt autem scribæ et pharisæi mulierem in adulterio deprehensam: et statuerunt eam in medio, 4 et dixerunt ei: Magister, hæc mulier modo deprehensa est in adulterio. 5 In lege autem Moyses mandavit nobis hujusmodi lapidare. Tu ergo quid dicis? 6 Hoc autem dicebant tentantes eum, ut possent accusare eum. Jesus autem inclinans se deorsum, digito scribebat in terra. 7 Cum ergo perseverarent interrogantes eum, erexit se, et dixit eis: Qui sine peccato est vestrum, primus in illam lapidem mittat. 8 Et iterum se inclinans, scribebat in terra. 9 Audientes autem unus post unum exibant, incipientes a senioribus: et remansit solus Jesus, et mulier in medio stans. 10 Erigens autem se Jesus, dixit ei: Mulier, ubi sunt qui te accusabant? nemo te condemnavit? 11 Quæ dixit: Nemo, Domine. Dixit autem Jesus: Nec ego te condemnabo: vade, et jam amplius noli peccare.

The English:

And Jesus went unto mount Olivet. [2] And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him, and sitting down he taught them. [3] And the scribes and the Pharisees bring unto him a woman taken in adultery: and they set her in the midst, [4] And said to him: Master, this woman was even now taken in adultery. [5] Now Moses in the law commanded us to stone such a one. But what sayest thou? [6] And this they said tempting him, that they might accuse him. But Jesus bowing himself down, wrote with his finger on the ground. [7] When therefore they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said to them: He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. [8] And again stooping down, he wrote on the ground. [9] But they hearing this, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. And Jesus alone remained, and the woman standing in the midst. [10] Then Jesus lifting up himself, said to her: Woman, where are they that accused thee? Hath no man condemned thee? [11] Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee. Go, and now sin no more.


There are a number of important details to this story.  First the location, the mount of Olives:

ALCUIN. Our Lord at the time of His passion used to spend the day in Jerusalem, preaching in the temple, and performing miracles, and return in the evening to Bethany, where He lodged with the sisters of Lazarus. Thus on the last day of the feast, having, according to His wont, preached the whole day in the temple, in the evening He went to the mount of Olives.

AUG. And where ought Christ to teach, except on the mount of Olives; on the mount of ointment, on the mount of chrism. For the name Christ is from chrism, chrism being the Greek word for unction. He has anointed us, for wrestling with the devil.  

 ALCUIN. The anointing with oil is a relief to the limbs, when wearied and in pain. The mount of Olives also denotes the height of our Lord's pity, olive in the Greek signifying pity. The qualities of oil are such as to fit in to this mystical meaning. For it floats above all other liquids: and the Psalmist says, Your mercy is over all Your works. And early in the morning, He came again into the temple: i.e. to denote the giving and unfolding of His mercy, i.e. the now dawning light of the New Testament in the faithful, that is, in His temple. His returning early in the morning, signifies the new rise of grace.  

Secondly, Jesus is sitting on the ground, teaching.  But as usual, the Pharisees were setting out to trap him:

BEDE. And next it is signified, that after He began to dwell by grace in His temple, i.e. in the Church, men from all nations would believe in Him: And all the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. 

ALCUIN. The sitting down, represents the humility of His incarnation. And the people came to Him, when He sat down, i.e. after taking up human nature, and thereby becoming visible, many began to hear and believe on Him, only knowing Him as their friend and neighbor. But while these kind and simple persons are full of admiration at our Lord's discourse, the Scribes and Pharisees put questions to Him, not for the sake of instruction, but only to entangle the truth in their nets: And the Scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, they say to Him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, if the very act. 

AUG. They had remarked upon, Him already, as being over lenient. Of Him indeed it had I been prophesied, Ride on because of the word of truth, of meekness, and of righteousness. So as a teacher He exhibited truth, as a deliverer meekness, as a judge righteousness. When He spoke, His truth was acknowledged; when against His enemies He used no violence, His meekness was praised. So they raised the scandal on the score of justice For they said among themselves, If He decide to let her go He will not do justice; for the law cannot command what is unjust: Now Moses in the law commanded as, that such should be stoned: but to maintain His meekness, which has made Him already so acceptable to the people, He must decide to let her go. Wherefore they demand His opinion: And what say You? hoping to find an occasion to accuse Him, as a transgressor of the law: And this they said tempting Him, that they might have to accuse Him. 

What is the significance of Jesus writing on the ground?  The Fathers suggest it is a reminder that he himself is the divine legislator:

AUG. As if to signify that such persons were to be written in earth, not in heaven, where He told His disciples they should rejoice they were written. Or His bowing His head (to write on the ground), is an expression of humility; the writing on the ground signifying that His law was written on the earth which bore fruit, not on the barren stone, as before. 

ALCUIN. The ground denotes the human heart, which yields the fruit either of good or of bad actions: the finger jointed and flexible, discretion. He instructs us then, when we see any faults in our neighbors, not immediately and rashly to condemn them, but after searching our own hearts to begin with, to examine them attentively with the finger of discretion. 

BEDE. His writing with His finger on the ground perhaps showed, that it was He who had written the law on stone.

The key to the story is, perhaps, that in seeking to save the soul of the woman, and show her mercy, Jesus doesn't seek to contradict the law, but rather he pierces men's hearts, bringing all to consider the justice we must ultimately face:

AUG. He did not say, Stone her not, lest He should seem to speak contrary to the law. But God forbid that He should say, Stone her; for He came not to destroy that which He found, but to seek that which was lost. What then did He answer? He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. This is the voice of justice. Let the sinner be punished, but not by sinners; the law carried into effect, but not by transgressors of the law. 

GREG. For he who judges not himself first, cannot know how to judge correctly in the case of another. For though He know what the offense is, from being told, yet He cannot judge of another's deserts, who supposing himself innocent, will not apply the rule of justice to himself.

AUG. Having with the weapon of justice smitten them, He deigned not even to look on the fallen, but averted His eyes: And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 

ALCUIN. This is like our Lord; while His eyes are fixed, and He seems attending to something else, He gives the bystanders an opportunity of retiring: a tacit admonition to us to consider always both before we condemn a brother for a sin, and after we have punished him, whether we are not guilty ourselves of the same fault, or others as bad.

AUG. Thus smitten then with the voice of justice, as with a weapon, they examine themselves, find themselves guilty, and one by one retire: And they which heard it, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest. 

GLOSS. The more guilty of them, perhaps, or those who were more conscious of their faults.

The crucial words though, omitted from so many modern analyses, is the instruction to sin no more:

AUG. ...We heard above the voice of justice; let us hear now that of mercy: Jesus said to her, Neither do I condemn you; I, who you feared would condemn you, because You found no fault in me. What then Lord? Do You favor sin? No, surely. Listen to what follows, Go, and sin no more. So then our Lord condemned sin, but not the sinner. For did He favor sin, He would have said, Go, and live as you will: depend on my deliverance: howsoever great your sins be, it matters not: I will deliver you from hell, and its tormentors. But He did not say this. Let those attend, who love the Lord's mercy, and fear His truth. Truly, Gracious and righteous is the Lord.


Does this passage instruct us 'not to judge', or to abandon the administration of justice?  Surely not.

But it is a reminder that right motives are important for an action to be morally right - the woman's accusers were out not for justice, but to entrap Jesus.

They were thwarted because Jesus' mission for his first coming was not judgment - though his mission for his second coming will be - but to seek the salvation of souls.

And two sets of souls were potentially saved here - the woman of course, but also the accusers who realise their own guilt.

The passage is, then a call to repentance for all of us, a call to sin no more.

Friday, 20 February 2015

John 7:31-53

Ezekiel 47

In yesterday's section of Chapter 7 of St John's Gospel, Christ arrived very discretely in Jerusalem, but nonetheless caused waves when he started teaching.  Today's section records that many were impressed with what he was saying, even including those sent by the Temple authorities to arrest him; as a result, the Pharisees are becoming more and more agitated.  In verses 31 to 53, in response to questioning by the Pharisees we are presented with important imagery drawn from Ezekiel 47, of Christ as the Temple from whom rivers of the living water flow.


You can find the Greek, Latin and English here.  The Latin is read aloud here (from 3.25) and the Greek here (from 3.29).

The Latin:

31 De turba autem multi crediderunt in eum, et dicebant: Christus cum venerit, numquid plura signa faciet quam quæ hic facit? 32 Audierunt pharisæi turbam murmurantem de illo hæc: et miserunt principes et pharisæi ministros ut apprehenderent eum. 33 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Adhuc modicum tempus vobiscum sum: et vado ad eum qui me misit. 34 Quæretis me, et non invenietis: et ubi ego sum, vos non potestis venire. 35 Dixerunt ergo Judæi ad semetipsos: Quo hic iturus est, quia non inveniemus eum? numquid in dispersionem gentium iturus est, et docturus gentes? 36 quis est hic sermo, quem dixit: Quæretis me, et non invenietis: et ubi sum ego, vos non potestis venire?37 In novissimo autem die magno festivitatis stabat Jesus, et clamabat dicens: Si quis sitit, veniat ad me et bibat. 38 Qui credit in me, sicut dicit Scriptura, flumina de ventre ejus fluent aquæ vivæ. 39 Hoc autem dixit de Spiritu, quem accepturi erant credentes in eum: nondum enim erat Spiritus datus, quia Jesus nondum erat glorificatus. 40 Ex illa ergo turba cum audissent hos sermones ejus, dicebant: Hic est vere propheta. 41 Alii dicebant: Hic est Christus. Quidam autem dicebant: Numquid a Galilæa venit Christus? 42 nonne Scriptura dicit: Quia ex semine David, et de Bethlehem castello, ubi erat David, venit Christus? 43 Dissensio itaque facta est in turba propter eum. 44 Quidam autem ex ipsis volebant apprehendere eum: sed nemo misit super eum manus.45 Venerunt ergo ministri ad pontifices et pharisæos. Et dixerunt eis illi: Quare non adduxistis illum? 46 Responderunt ministri: Numquam sic locutus est homo, sicut hic homo. 47 Responderunt ergo eis pharisæi: Numquid et vos seducti estis? 48 numquid ex principibus aliquis credidit in eum, aut ex pharisæis? 49 sed turba hæc, quæ non novit legem, maledicti sunt. 50 Dixit Nicodemus ad eos, ille qui venit ad eum nocte, qui unus erat ex ipsis: 51 Numquid lex nostra judicat hominem, nisi prius audierit ab ipso, et cognoverit quid faciat? 52 Responderunt, et dixerunt ei: Numquid et tu Galilæus es? scrutare Scripturas, et vide quia a Galilæa propheta non surgit. 53 Et reversi sunt unusquisque in domum suam.

The English:

31 But of the people many believed in him, and said: When the Christ cometh, shall he do more miracles, than these which this man doth? [32] The Pharisees heard the people murmuring these things concerning him: and the rulers and Pharisees sent ministers to apprehend him. [33] Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me. [34] You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come. [35] The Jews therefore said among themselves: Whither will he go, that we shall not find him? will he go unto the dispersed among the Gentiles, and teach the Gentiles?[36] What is this saying that he hath said: You shall seek me, and shall not find me; and where I am, you cannot come? [37] And on the last, and great day of the festivity, Jesus stood and cried, saying: If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink. [38] He that believeth in me, as the scripture saith, Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. [39] Now this he said of the Spirit which they should receive, who believed in him: for as yet the Spirit was not given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. [40] Of that multitude therefore, when they had heard these words of his, some said: This is the prophet indeed. [41] Others said: This is the Christ. But some said: Doth the Christ come out of Galilee? [42] Doth not the scripture say: That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and from Bethlehem the town where David was? [43] So there arose a dissension among the people because of him. [44] And some of them would have apprehended him: but no man laid hands on him. [45] The ministers therefore came to the chief priests and the Pharisees. And they said to them: Why have you not brought him?[46] The ministers answered: Never did man speak like this man. [47] The Pharisees therefore answered them: Are you also seduced? [48] Hath any one of the rulers believed in him, or of the Pharisees? [49] But this multitude, that knoweth not the law, are accursed. [50] Nicodemus said to them, (he that came to him by night, who was one of them:) [51] Doth our law judge any man, unless it first hear him, and know what he doth? [52] They answered, and said to him: Art thou also a Galilean? Search the scriptures, and see, that out of Galilee a prophet riseth not. [53] And every man returned to his own house.


The image of the living water, flowing freely as a river in the streets is an important one, calling to mind the image of Ezekiel 47, where water gushes from the Temple, an image that should suggest the operation of grace and the Holy Spirit for us:

CHRYS. The feast being over, and the people about to return home, our Lord gives them provisions for the way: On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come to Me, and drink...

AUG. For there is an inner thirst, because there is an inner man: and the inner man of a certainty loves more than the outer. So then if we thirst, let us go not on our feet, but on our affections, not by change of place, but by love.

CHRYS. He is speaking of spiritual drink, as His next words show: He that believes in Me, as the Scripture truth said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But where here does the Scripture say this? No where. What then? We should read, He that believes in Me, as said the Scripture, putting the stop here; and then, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water: the meaning being, that that was a right kind of belief, which was formed on the evidence of Scripture, not of miracles. Search the Scriptures, he had said before. 

JEROME. Or this testimony is taken from the Proverbs, where it is said, Let your fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.

AUG. The belly of the inner man, is the heart's conscience. Let him drink from that water, and his conscience is quickened and purified; he drinks in the whole fountain, nay, becomes the very fountain itself. But what is that fountain, and what is that river, which flows from the belly of the inner man? The love of his neighbor. If any one, who drinks of the water, thinks that it is meant to satisfy himself alone, out of his belly there does not flow living water. But if he does good to his neighbor, the stream is not dried up, but flows.

GREG. When sacred preaching flows from the soul of the faithful, rivers of living water, as it were, run down from the bellies of believers. For what are the entrails of the belly but the inner part of the mind; i.e. a right intention, a holy desire, humility towards God, mercy toward man.

CHRYS. He says, rivers, not river, to show the copious and overflowing power of grace: and living water, i.e. always moving; for when the grace of the Spirit has entered into and settled in the mind, it flows freer than any fountain, and neither fails, nor empties, nor stagnates. The wisdom of Stephen, the tongue of Peter, the strength of Paul, are evidences of this. Nothing hindered them; but, like impetuous torrents, they went on, carrying every thing along with them.

AUG. What kind of drink it was, to which our Lord invited them, the Evangelist next explains; But this He spoke of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive. Whom does the Spirit mean, but the Holy Spirit; For every man has within him his own spirit.

AUG. Our Lord having invited those, who believed in Him, to drink of the Holy Spirit, a dissension arose among the multitude: Many of the people therefore, when they heart these saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.

THEOPHYL. The one, that is, who was expected. Others, i.e. the people said, This is the Christ.

ALCUIN. These had now begun to drink in that spiritual thirst, and had laid aside the unbelieving thirst. But others still remained dried up in their unbelief: But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said, That Christ comes of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? They knew what were the predictions of the Prophets respecting Christ, but knew not that they all were fulfilled in Him. They knew that He had been brought up at Nazareth, but the place of His birth they did not know; and did not believe that it answered to the prophecies.

This section also sees the return of the Pharisee supporter of Jesus, Nicodemus:

CHRYS. As they said that none of the rulers believed on Him, the Evangelist contradicts them: Nicodemus said to them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them.)

AUG. He was not unbelieving, but fearful; and therefore came by night to the light, wishing to be enlightened, but afraid of being known to go. He replies, Does our law judge any man before it hear him, and know what he does? He thought that, if they would only hear Him patiently, they would be overcome, as the officers had been. But they preferred obstinately condemning Him, to knowing the truth.

AUG. He calls the law of God, our law; because it was given to men.

CHRYS. Nicodemus shows that they knew the law, and did not act according to the law. They, instead of disproving this, take to rude and angry contradiction: They answered and said to him, Are you also of Galilee?

Thursday, 19 February 2015

John 7:1-30

Sukkot boths

Today's text from St John's Gospel, 7:1-30, chronicles the increasing tensions between Jesus and the Jewish authorities, such that he avoids precipitating a confrontation by telling his relatives that he is not going to Jerusalem for one of the three mandated major feasts (Tabernacles, or Sukkot).  He then avoids notice by quietly slipping into Jerusalem at the last minute.  When he does eventually emerge publicly, starts teaching, the debate becomes one over discernment of spirits: how to know when something said is true.

The text

Here is the Latin (which can also be found over at New Advent; you can listen to it being read here (the Greek can be found here).

Post hæc autem ambulabat Jesus in Galilæam: non enim volebat in Judæam ambulare, quia quærebant eum Judæi interficere. 2 Erat autem in proximo dies festus Judæorum, Scenopegia. 3 Dixerunt autem ad eum fratres ejus: Transi hinc, et vade in Judæam, ut et discipuli tui videant opera tua, quæ facis. 4 Nemo quippe in occulto quid facit, et quærit ipse in palam esse: si hæc facis, manifesta teipsum mundo. 5 Neque enim fratres ejus credebant in eum. 6 Dicit ergo eis Jesus: Tempus meum nondum advenit: tempus autem vestrum semper est paratum. 7 Non potest mundus odisse vos: me autem odit, quia ego testimonium perhibeo de illo quod opera ejus mala sunt. 8 Vos ascendite ad diem festum hunc, ego autem non ascendo ad diem festum istum: quia meum tempus nondum impletum est. 9 Hæc cum dixisset, ipse mansit in Galilæa.10 Ut autem ascenderunt fratres ejus, tunc et ipse ascendit ad diem festum non manifeste, sed quasi in occulto. 11 Judæi ergo quærebant eum in die festo, et dicebant: Ubi est ille? 12 Et murmur multum erat in turba de eo. Quidam enim dicebant: Quia bonus est. Alii autem dicebant: Non, sed seducit turbas. 13 Nemo tamen palam loquebatur de illo propter metum Judæorum. 14 Jam autem die festo mediante, ascendit Jesus in templum, et docebat. 15 Et mirabantur Judæi, dicentes: Quomodo hic litteras scit, cum non didicerit? 16 Respondit eis Jesus, et dixit: Mea doctrina non est mea, sed ejus qui misit me. 17 Si quis voluerit voluntatem ejus facere, cognoscet de doctrina, utrum ex Deo sit, an ego a meipso loquar. 18 Qui a semetipso loquitur, gloriam propriam quærit; qui autem quærit gloriam ejus qui misit eum, hic verax est, et injustitia in illo non est. 19 Nonne Moyses dedit vobis legem: et nemo ex vobis facit legem? 20 Quid me quæritis interficere? Respondit turba, et dixit: Dæmonium habes: quis te quæret interficere? 21 Respondit Jesus et dixit eis: Unum opus feci, et omnes miramini: 22 propterea Moyses dedit vobis circumcisionem (non quia ex Moyse est, sed ex patribus), et in sabbato circumciditis hominem. 23 Si circumcisionem accipit homo in sabbato, ut non solvatur lex Moysi: mihi indignamini quia totum hominem sanum feci in sabbato? 24 Nolite judicare secundum faciem, sed justum judicium judicate.25 Dicebant ergo quidam ex Jerosolymis: Nonne hic est, quem quærunt interficere? 26 et ecce palam loquitur, et nihil ei dicunt. Numquid vere cognoverunt principes quia hic est Christus? 27 Sed hunc scimus unde sit: Christus autem cum venerit, nemo scit unde sit. 28 Clamabat ergo Jesus in templo docens, et dicens: Et me scitis, et unde sim scitis: et a meipso non veni, sed est verus qui misit me, quem vos nescitis. 29 Ego scio eum: quia ab ipso sum, et ipse me misit. 30 Quærebant ergo eum apprehendere: et nemo misit in illum manus, quia nondum venerat hora ejus.

And the English:

1] After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for he would not walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill him. [2] Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. [3] And his brethren said to him: Pass from hence, and go into Judea; that thy disciples also may see thy works which thou dost. [4] For there is no man that doth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, manifest thyself to the world. [5] For neither did his brethren believe in him.[6] Then Jesus said to them: My time is not yet come; but your time is always ready. [7] The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth: because I give testimony of it, that the works thereof are evil. [8] Go you up to this festival day, but I go not up to this festival day: because my time is not accomplished. [9] When he had said these things, he himself stayed in Galilee. [10] But after his brethren were gone up, then he also went up to the feast, not openly, but, as it were, in secret. [11] The Jews therefore sought him on the festival day, and said: Where is he? [12] And there was much murmuring among the multitude concerning him. For some said: He is a good man. And others said: No, but he seduceth the people. [13] Yet no man spoke openly of him, for fear of the Jews. [14] Now about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. [15] And the Jews wondered, saying: How doth this man know letters, having never learned?[16] Jesus answered them, and said: My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. [17] If any man do the will of him; he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. [18] He that speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh the glory of him that sent him, he is true, and there is no injustice in him. [19] Did Moses not give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? [20] Why seek you to kill me? The multitude answered, and said: Thou hast a devil; who seeketh to kill thee?[21] Jesus answered, and said to them: One work I have done; and you all wonder: [22] Therefore, Moses gave you circumcision (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and on the sabbath day you circumcise a man. [23] If a man receive circumcision on the sabbath day, that the law of Moses may not be broken; are you angry at me because I have healed the whole man on the sabbath day? [24] Judge not according to the appearance, but judge just judgment. [25] Some therefore of Jerusalem said: Is not this he whom they seek to kill? [26] And behold, he speaketh openly, and they say nothing to him. Have the rulers known for a truth, that this is the Christ? [27] But we know this man, whence he is: but when the Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is. [28] Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching, and saying: You both know me, and you know whence I am: and I am not come of myself; but he that sent me, is true, whom you know not. [29] I know him, because I am from him, and he hath sent me. [30] They sought therefore to apprehend him: and no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.


The texts St Thomas Aquinas selected for his Catena Aurea goes first to the issue of avoiding persecution:
AUG. As the believer in Christ would have in time to, come to hide himself from persecution, that no guilt might attach to such concealment, the Head began with doing Himself, what He sanctioned in the member; After these things Jesus walked in Galilee: for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill Him...

THEOPHYL. He withdrew too now to Galilee, because the hour of His passion was not yet come; and He thought it useless to stay in the midst of His enemies, when the effect would only have been to irritate them the more. The time at which this happened is then given; Now the Jews; feast of tabernacles was at hand.

They also provide some background on the feast in question:

AUG. What the feast of tabernacles is, we read in the Scriptures. They used to make tents on the festival, like those in which they lived during their journey in the desert, after their departure from Egypt. They celebrated this feast in commemoration of the good things the Lord had done for them; though they were the very people who were about to slay the Lord. It is called the day of the feast, though it lasted many days.

CHRYS. It appears here, that a considerable time had passed since the last events. For when our Lord sat upon the mount, it was near the feast of the Passover and now it is the feast of tabernacles: so that in the five intermediate months the Evangelist has related nothing but the miracle of the loaves, and the conversation with those who ate of them. As our Lord was unceasingly working miracles, and holding disputes with people, the Evangelists could not relate all; but only aimed at giving those, in which complaint or opposition had followed on the part of the Jews as was as the case here.

Who are the 'brethren' referred to? Not literally Christ's siblings of course for he had none:

AUG. When you hear of our Lord's brethren, you must understand the kindred of Mary, not her offspring after our Lord's birth. For as the body of our Lord once only lay in the sepulcher, and neither before, nor after that once; so could not the womb of Mary have possibly conceived any other mortal offspring. Our Lord's works did not escape His disciples, but they escaped His brethren; hence their suggestion, That Your disciples may see the works that you do. They speak according to the wisdom of the flesh, to the Word that was made flesh, and add, For there is no man that does any thing in secret, and he himself seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show Yourself to the world; as if to say, You do miracles, do them in the eyes of the world, that the world may honor You. Their admonitions aim at procuring glory for Him; and this very thing, viz. aiming at human glory, proved that they did not believe in Him, as we next read, For neither did His brethren believe in Him. They were Christ's kindred, hut they were on that very account above believing in Him.

These relatives seem to be operating from dubious motives:

CHRYS. It is striking to observe the great sincerity of the Evangelists; that they are not ashamed to mention things which appear to be to our Lord's disadvantage, but take particular care to tell us of them. It is a considerable reflection on our Lord, that His brethren do not believe on Him. The beginning of their speech has a friendly appearance about it: tent there is much bitterness in it, thus charging Him with the motives of fear and vain glory; No man, say they, does anything in secret: this was reproaching Him tacitly with fear; and was an insinuation too that His miracles had not been real and solid ones. In what follows, And he himself seeks to be known openly, they taunt Him with the love of glory. Christ however answers them mildly, teaching us not to take the advice of people ever so inferior to ourselves angrily; Then Jesus said to them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready...

AUG. They gave Him advice to pursue glory, and not allow Himself to remain in concealment and obscurity; appealing altogether to worldly and secular motives. But our Lord was laying down another road to that very exaltation, viz. humility: My time, He says, i.e. the time of My glory, when I shall come to judge on high, is not yet come; but your time, i.e. the glory of the world, is always ready. And let us, who are the Lord's body, when insulted by the lovers of this world, say, Your time is ready: ours is not yet come. Our country is a lofty one, the way to it is low. Whoso rejects the way, why seek he the country?

CHRYS, Or there seems to be another meaning concealed in the words; perhaps they intended to betray Him to the Jews; and therefore He says, My time is not yet come, i.e. the time of My cross and death: but your time is always ready; for though you are always with the Jews, they will not kill you, because you are of the same mind with them: The world cannot hate you; but Me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil: as if He said, How can the world hate them who have the same wishes and aims with itself? It hates Me, because I reprove it. I seek not then glory from men; inasmuch as I hesitate not to reprove them, though I know that I am hated in consequence, and that My life is aimed at. Here we see that the hatred of the Jews was owing to His reproofs, not to His breaking the sabbath.

The central verses of the text are surely those dealing with the tests of discernment: the person teaching must be acting not to seek secular adulation, but rather to achieve the real objective; and the person hearing must be properly disposed:

AUG. Should any one however not understand this, let him hear the advice which immediately follows from our Lord: If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself. What means this, If any man will do His will? To do His will is to believe in Him, as He Himself says, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent. And who does not know, that to work the work of God, is to do His will? To know is to understand. Do not then seek to understand in order to believe, but believe in order to understand, for, Except you believe, you shall not understand.

CHRYS. This is as much as to say, Put away the anger, envy, and hatred which you have towards Me, and there will be nothing to prevent your knowing, that the words which I speak are from God. Then He brings in an irresistible argument taken from human experience: He that speaks of himself, seeks his own glory: as if to say, He who aims at establishing some doctrine of his own, does so for no purpose, but to get glory. But I seek the glory of Him that sent me, and wish to teach you for His, i.e. another's, sake: and then it follows, But he that seeks His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

THEOPHYL. As if He said, I speak the truth, because My doctrine contains the truth there is no unrighteousness in Me, because I usurp not another's glory.

AUG. He who seeks his own glory is Antichrist. But our Lord set us an example of humility, in that being found in fashion as a man, He sought His Father's glory, not His own. You, when you do good, take glory to yourself, when you do evil, upbraid God.

CHRYS. Observe, the reason why He spoke so humbly of Himself, is to let men know, that He does not aim at glory, or power; and to accommodate Himself to their weakness, and to teach them moderation, and a humble, as distinguished from an assuming, way of speaking of themselves.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

John 6: 41-72

Early third century depiction of eucharistic bread and fish,
Catacomb of San Callisto, Rome.

Today's section of St John's Gospel takes us to what must have seemed one of the darkest moments in Christ's ministry to the apostles, when his 'hard sayings' on the Eucharist led to most of his followers to reject his message and depart.

This part of the discourse - that insists that the Eucharist truly is the body and blood, the very flesh of Our Lord - is an important counter to all those who prefer a 'spiritual' interpretation of the Eucharist, and reject the doctrine of transubstantiation.


The Greek, Latin and Knox translations of John 6 can be found over at New Advent.  And you can listen to it in Latin here (from 4.37).  The Greek can be found here (from 5.20).

The Latin:

"41 Murmurabant ergo Judæi de illo, quia dixisset: Ego sum panis vivus, qui de cælo descendi, 42 et dicebant: Nonne hic est Jesus filius Joseph, cujus nos novimus patrem et matrem? quomodo ergo dicit hic: Quia de cælo descendi? 43 Respondit ergo Jesus, et dixit eis: Nolite murmurare in invicem: 44 nemo potest venire ad me, nisi Pater, qui misit me, traxerit eum; et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die. 45 Est scriptum in prophetis: Et erunt omnes docibiles Dei. Omnis qui audivit a Patre, et didicit, venit ad me. 46 Non quia Patrem vidit quisquam, nisi is, qui est a Deo, hic vidit Patrem. 47 Amen, amen dico vobis: qui credit in me, habet vitam æternam. 48 Ego sum panis vitæ. 49 Patres vestri manducaverunt manna in deserto, et mortui sunt. 50 Hic est panis de cælo descendens: ut si quis ex ipso manducaverit, non moriatur. 51 Ego sum panis vivus, qui de cælo descendi. Si quis manducaverit ex hoc pane, vivet in æternum: et panis quem ego dabo, caro mea est pro mundi vita.53 Litigabant ergo Judæi ad invicem, dicentes: Quomodo potest hic nobis carnem suam dare ad manducandum? 54 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis: nisi manducaveritis carnem Filii hominis, et biberitis ejus sanguinem, non habebitis vitam in vobis. 55 Qui manducat meam carnem, et bibit meum sanguinem, habet vitam æternam: et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die. 56 Caro enim mea vere est cibus: et sanguis meus, vere est potus; 57 qui manducat meam carnem et bibit meum sanguinem, in me manet, et ego in illo. 58 Sicut misit me vivens Pater, et ego vivo propter Patrem: et qui manducat me, et ipse vivet propter me. 59 Hic est panis qui de cælo descendit. Non sicut manducaverunt patres vestri manna, et mortui sunt. Qui manducat hunc panem, vivet in æternum.60 Hæc dixit in synagoga docens, in Capharnaum. 61 Multi ergo audientes ex discipulis ejus, dixerunt: Durus est hic sermo, et quis potest eum audire? 62 Sciens autem Jesus apud semetipsum quia murmurarent de hoc discipuli ejus, dixit eis: Hoc vos scandalizat? 63 si ergo videritis Filium hominis ascendentem ubi erat prius? 64 Spiritus est qui vivificat: caro non prodest quidquam: verba quæ ego locutus sum vobis, spiritus et vita sunt. 65 Sed sunt quidam ex vobis qui non credunt. Sciebat enim ab initio Jesus qui essent non credentes, et quis traditurus esset eum. 66 Et dicebat: Propterea dixi vobis, quia nemo potest venire ad me, nisi fuerit ei datum a Patre meo. 67 Ex hoc multi discipulorum ejus abierunt retro: et jam non cum illo ambulabant. 68 Dixit ergo Jesus ad duodecim: Numquid et vos vultis abire? 69 Respondit ergo ei Simon Petrus: Domine, ad quem ibimus? verba vitæ æternæ habes: 70 et nos credidimus, et cognovimus quia tu es Christus Filius Dei. 71 Respondit eis Jesus: Nonne ego vos duodecim elegi: et ex vobis unus diabolus est? 72 Dicebat autem Judam Simonis Iscariotem: hic enim erat traditurus eum, cum esset unus ex duodecim."

And the English:

The Jews therefore murmured at him, because he had said: I am the living bread which came down from heaven. [42] And they said: Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How then saith he, I came down from heaven? [43] Jesus therefore answered, and said to them: Murmur not among yourselves. [44] No man can come to me, except the Father, who hath sent me, draw him; and I will raise him up in the last day. [45] It is written in the prophets: And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard of the Father, and hath learned, cometh to me.[46] Not that any man hath seen the Father; but he who is of God, he hath seen the Father. [47] Amen, amen I say unto you: He that believeth in me, hath everlasting life. [48] I am the bread of life. [49] Your fathers did eat manna in the desert, and are dead. [50] This is the bread which cometh down from heaven; that if any man eat of it, he may not die. [51] I am the living bread which came down from heaven. [52] If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world. [53] The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat? [54] Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. [55] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.[56] For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed. [57] He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. [58] As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. [59] This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever. [60] These things he said, teaching in the synagogue, in Capharnaum.[61] Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it? [62] But Jesus, knowing in himself, that his disciples murmured at this, said to them: Doth this scandalize you? [63] If then you shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? [64] It is the spirit that quickeneth: the flesh profiteth nothing. The words that I have spoken to you, are spirit and life. [65] But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning, who they were that did not believe, and who he was, that would betray him. [66] And he said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father. [67] After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him. [68] Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? [69] And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. [70] And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. [71] Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil? [72] Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray him, whereas he was one of the twelve.


It is useful first to consider the core of this message on the Eucharist:

AUG. Our Lord pronounces Himself to be bread, not only in respect of that Divinity, which feeds all things, but also in respect of that human nature, which was assumed by the Word of God: And the bread, He says, that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. 

BEDE. This bread our Lord then gave, when He delivered to His disciple the mystery of His Body and Blood, and offered Himself to God the Father on the altar of the cross. For the life of the world, i.e. not for the elements, but for mankind, who are called the world. 

THEOPHYL. Which I shall give: this shows His power; for it shows that He was not crucified as a servant, in subjection to the Father, but of his own accord; for though He is said to have been given up by the Father, yet He delivered Himself up also. And observe, the bread which is taken by us in the mysteries, is not only the sign of Christ's flesh, but is itself the very flesh of Christ; for He does not say, The bread which I will give, is the sign of My flesh, but, is My flesh. The bread is by a mystical benediction conveyed in unutterable words, and by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, transmuted into the flesh of Christ. But why see we not the flesh? Because, if the flesh were seen, it would revolt us to such a degree, that we should be unable to partake of it. And therefore in condescension to our infirmity, the mystical food is given to us under an appearance suitable to our minds. He gave His flesh for the life of the world, in that, by dying, He destroyed death. By the life of the world too, I understand the resurrection; our Lord's death having brought about the resurrection of the whole human race. It may mean too the sanctified, beatified, spiritual life; for though all have not attained to this life, yet our Lord gave Himself for the world, and, as far as lies in Him, the whole world is sanctified.

What are the consequences of this?

AUG. But when does flesh receive the bread which He calls His flesh? The faithful know and receive the Body of Christ, if they labor to be the body of Christ. And they become the body of Christ, if they study to live by the Spirit of Christ: for that which lives by the Spirit of Christ, is the body of Christ. This bread the Apostle sets forth, where he says, We being many are one body. O sacrament of mercy, O sign of unity, O bond of love! Whoso wishes to live, let him draw nigh, believe, be incorporated, that he may be quickened.

AUG. But are we, who eat the bread that comes down from heaven, relieved from death? From visible and carnal death, the death of the body, we are not: we shall die, even as they died. But from spiritual death which their fathers suffered, we are delivered. Moses and many, acceptable of God, eat the manna, and died not, because they understood that visible food in a spiritual sense, spiritually tasted it, and were spiritually filled with it. And we too at this day receive the visible food; but the Sacrament is one thing, the virtue of the Sacrament another. Many a one receives from the Altar, and perishes in receiving; eating and drinking his own damnation, as said the Apostle. To eat then the heavenly bread spiritually, is to bring to the Altar an innocent mind. Sins, though they be daily, are not deadly. Before you go to the Altar, attend to the prayer you repeat: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. If you forgive, you are forgiven: approach confidently; it is bread, not poison. None then that eat of this bread, shall die. But we speak of the virtue of the Sacrament, not the visible Sacrament itself; of the inward, not of the outward eater. 

 AUG. There are some who promise men deliverance from eternal punishment, if they are washed in Baptism and partake of Christ's Body, whatever lives they live. The Apostle however contradicts them, where he says, The works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkeness, revelings, and such like; of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Let us examine what is meant here. He who is in the unity of His body, (i.e. one of the Christian members,) the Sacrament of which body the faithful receive when they communicate at the Altar; he is truly said to eat the body, and drink the blood of Christ. And heretics and schismatics, who are cut off from the unity of the body, may receive the same Sacrament; but it does not profit them, may, rather is hurtful, as tending to make their judgment heavier, or their forgiveness later. Nor ought they to feel secure in their abandoned and damnable ways, who, by the iniquity of their lives, desert righteousness, i.e. Christ; either by fornication, or other sins of the like kind. Such are not to be said to eat the body of Christ; forasmuch as they are not to be counted among the members of Christ For, not to mention other things, men cannot be members of Christ, and at the same time members of an harlot.

AUG. As for those, as indeed there are many, who either eat that flesh and drink that blood hypocritically, or, who having eaten, become apostates, do they dwell in Christ, and Christ in them? Nay, but there is a certain mode of eating that flesh, and drinking that blood, in the which he that eats and drinks, dwells in Christ, and Christ in him.


We should view this passage, I think, as a call to act: a call to 'resacralise' our churches and the Mass.  We must ensure that we receive in a state of grace, and through our prayers cultivate a proper fervour.  We should use means such as reception of the sacrament on the tongue and kneeling to emphasize our belief in what it is we are doing.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

John 6:28-40

Today's section of St John's Gospel is the start of the 'bread of life' discourse.


The Greek, Latin and Knox translations of John 6 can be found over at New Advent.  And you can listen to it in Latin here (from 3.18) and the Greek from here.

The Latin:

28 Dixerunt ergo ad eum: Quid faciemus ut operemur opera Dei? 29 Respondit Jesus, et dixit eis: Hoc est opus Dei, ut credatis in eum quem misit ille.30 Dixerunt ergo ei: Quod ergo tu facis signum ut videamus et credamus tibi? quid operaris? 31 Patres nostri manducaverunt manna in deserto, sicut scriptum est: Panem de cælo dedit eis manducare. 32 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Amen, amen dico vobis: non Moyses dedit vobis panem de cælo, sed Pater meus dat vobis panem de cælo verum. 33 Panis enim Dei est, qui de cælo descendit, et dat vitam mundo. 34 Dixerunt ergo ad eum: Domine, semper da nobis panem hunc. 35 Dixit autem eis Jesus: Ego sum panis vitæ: qui venit ad me, non esuriet, et qui credit in me, non sitiet umquam. 36 Sed dixi vobis quia et vidistis me, et non creditis. 37 Omne quod dat mihi Pater, ad me veniet: et eum qui venit ad me, non ejiciam foras: 38 quia descendi de cælo, non ut faciam voluntatem meam, sed voluntatem ejus qui misit me. 39 Hæc est autem voluntas ejus qui misit me, Patris: ut omne quod dedit mihi, non perdam ex eo, sed resuscitem illud in novissimo die. 40 Hæc est autem voluntas Patris mei, qui misit me: ut omnis qui videt Filium et credit in eum, habeat vitam æternam, et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die.

The English:

[28] They said therefore unto him: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? [29] Jesus answered, and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hath sent. [30] They said therefore to him: What sign therefore dost thou shew, that we may see, and may believe thee? What dost thou work? [31] Our fathers did eat manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat. [32] Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you; Moses gave you not bread from heaven, but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. [33] For the bread of God is that which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life to the world. [34] They said therefore unto him: Lord, give us always this bread. [35] And Jesus said to them: I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall not hunger: and he that believeth in me shall never thirst. [36] But I said unto you, that you also have seen me, and you believe not. [37] All that the Father giveth to me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me, I will not cast out. [38] Because I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. [39] Now this is the will of the Father who sent me: that of all that he hath given me, I should lose nothing; but should raise it up again in the last day. [40] And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day.


The crowd, predictably, demand yet another miracle.  Instead, as the Catena Aurea extracts from the Fathers point out, Jesus confronts them with his own divinity, in which we must believe:

CHRYS. Our Lord now proceeds to set forth mysteries; and first speaks of His Divinity: And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He does not say this of His body, for He speaks of that at the end; The bread that I will give you is My flesh. Here He is speaking of His Divinity. The flesh is bread, by virtue of the Word; this bread is heavenly bread, on account of the Spirit which dwells in it. 

THEOPHYL. He does not say, I am the bread of nourishment, but of life, for, whereas all things brought death, Christ has quickened us by Himself. But the life here, is not our common life, but that which is not cut short by death: He that comes to Me shall never hunger; and, He that believes in Me shall never thirst.

AUG. He that comes to Me, i.e. that believes in Me, shall never hunger, has the same meaning as shall never thirst; both signifying that eternal society, where there is no want. 

Belief though, is not a work of the human intellect alone, but rather requires grace:

CHRYS. The expression, that the Father gives Me, shows that it is no accident whether a man believes or not, and that belief is not the work of human cogitation, but requires a revelation from on high, and a mind devout enough to receive the revelation. Not that they are free from blame, whom the Father does not give, for they are deficient even in that which lies in their own power, the will to believe. This is a virtual rebuke to their unbelief, as it shows that whoever does not believe in Him, transgresses the Father's will. Paul, however, says, that He gives them up to the Father: When He shall have given up the kingdom to God, even the Father. But as the Father, in giving, does not take from Himself, so neither does the Son when He gives up. The Son is said to give up to the Father, because we are brought to the Father by Him. And of the Father at the same time we read, By Whom you were called to the fellowship of His Son. Whoever then, our Lord says, comes to Me, shall be saved, for to save such I took up flesh: For I came down from heaven not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me. But what? Have you one will, He another? No, certainly. Mark what He says afterwards; And this is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes in Him, should have everlasting life. And this is the Son's will too; For the Son quickens whom He will. He says then, I came to do nothing but what the Father wills, for I have no will distinct from My Father's: all things that the Father has are Mine. But this not now: He reserves these higher truths for the end of His ministry.

AUG. They therefore who by God s unerring providence are foreknown, and predestined, called, justified, glorified, even before their new birth, or before they are born at all, are already the sons of God, and cannot possibly perish; these are they who truly come to Christ. By Him there is given also perseverance in good to the end; which is given only to those who will not perish. Those who do not persevere will perish."

Monday, 16 February 2015

John 6: 1-27

Feeding the multitudes
Bernardo Strozzi,
early 17th century.
Today's section of St John's Gospel, 6:1-27, includes the feeding of the five thousand, and Jesus' walking on the water to reach a boat the disciples were on.  The key verse, I think, is the last:

"You should not work to earn food which perishes in the using. Work to earn food which affords, continually, eternal life, such food as the Son of Man will give you; God, the Father, has authorized him." (Knox trans)


The Greek, Latin and Knox translations of John 6 can be found over at New Advent.  And you can listen to it in Latin here.  The Latin:

1 Post hæc abiit Jesus trans mare Galilææ, quod est Tiberiadis: 2 et sequebatur eum multitudo magna, quia videbant signa quæ faciebat super his qui infirmabantur. 3 Subiit ergo in montem Jesus et ibi sedebat cum discipulis suis. 4 Erat autem proximum Pascha dies festus Judæorum. 5 Cum sublevasset ergo oculos Jesus, et vidisset quia multitudo maxima venit ad eum, dixit ad Philippum: Unde ememus panes, ut manducent hi? 6 Hoc autem dicebat tentans eum: ipse enim sciebat quid esset facturus. 7 Respondit ei Philippus: Ducentorum denariorum panes non sufficiunt eis, ut unusquisque modicum quid accipiat. 8 Dicit ei unus ex discipulis ejus, Andreas, frater Simonis Petri: 9 Est puer unus hic qui habet quinque panes hordeaceos et duos pisces: sed hæc quid sunt inter tantos? 10 Dixit ergo Jesus: Facite homines discumbere. Erat autem fœnum multum in loco. Discumberunt ergo viri, numero quasi quinque millia. 11 Accepit ergo Jesus panes: et cum gratias egisset, distribuit discumbentibus: similiter et ex piscibus quantum volebant. 12 Ut autem impleti sunt, dixit discipulis suis: Colligite quæ superaverunt fragmenta, ne pereant. 13 Collegerunt ergo, et impleverunt duodecim cophinos fragmentorum ex quinque panibus hordeaceis, quæ superfuerunt his qui manducaverant. 14 Illi ergo homines cum vidissent quod Jesus fecerat signum, dicebant: Quia hic est vere propheta, qui venturus est in mundum.15 Jesus ergo cum cognovisset quia venturi essent ut raperent eum, et facerent eum regem, fugit iterum in montem ipse solus. 16 Ut autem sero factum est, descenderunt discipuli ejus ad mare. 17 Et cum ascendissent navim, venerunt trans mare in Capharnaum: et tenebræ jam factæ erant et non venerat ad eos Jesus. 18 Mare autem, vento magno flante, exsurgebat. 19 Cum remigassent ergo quasi stadia viginti quinque aut triginta, vident Jesum ambulantem supra mare, et proximum navi fieri, et timuerunt. 20 Ille autem dicit eis: Ego sum, nolite timere. 21 Voluerunt ergo accipere eum in navim et statim navis fuit ad terram, in quam ibant.22 Altera die, turba, quæ stabat trans mare, vidit quia navicula alia non erat ibi nisi una, et quia non introisset cum discipulis suis Jesus in navim, sed soli discipuli ejus abiissent: 23 aliæ vero supervenerunt naves a Tiberiade juxta locum ubi manducaverunt panem, gratias agente Domino. 24 Cum ergo vidisset turba quia Jesus non esset ibi, neque discipuli ejus, ascenderunt in naviculas, et venerunt Capharnaum quærentes Jesum. 25 Et cum invenissent eum trans mare, dixerunt ei: Rabbi, quando huc venisti? 26 Respondit eis Jesus, et dixit: Amen, amen dico vobis: quæritis me non quia vidistis signa, sed quia manducastis ex panibus et saturati estis. 27 Operamini non cibum, qui perit, sed qui permanet in vitam æternam, quem Filius hominis dabit vobis. Hunc enim Pater signavit Deus. 

Here is the Douay-Rheims translation:

"After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, which is that of Tiberias. [2] And a great multitude followed him, because they saw the miracles which he did on them that were diseased. [3] Jesus therefore went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. [4] Now the pasch, the festival day of the Jews, was near at hand. [5] When Jesus therefore had lifted up his eyes, and seen that a very great multitude cometh to him, he said to Philip: Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?[6] And this he said to try him; for he himself knew what he would do. [7] Philip answered him: Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one may take a little. [8] One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, saith to him: [9] There is a boy here that hath five barley loaves, and two fishes; but what are these among so many? [10] Then Jesus said: Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. The men therefore sat down, in number about five thousand.[11] And Jesus took the loaves: and when he had given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down. In like manner also of the fishes, as much as they would. [12] And when they were filled, he said to his disciples: Gather up the fragments that remain, lest they be lost. [13] They gathered up therefore, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten. [14] Now those men, when they had seen what a miracle Jesus had done, said: This is of a truth the prophet, that is to come into the world. [15] Jesus therefore, when he knew that they would come to take him by force, and make him king, fled again into the mountain himself alone. [16] And when evening was come, his disciples went down to the sea. [17] And when they had gone up into a ship, they went over the sea to Capharnaum; and it was now dark, and Jesus was not come unto them. [18] And the sea arose, by reason of a great wind that blew. [19] When they had rowed therefore about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking upon the sea, and drawing nigh to the ship, and they were afraid. [20] But he saith to them: It is I; be not afraid.[21] They were willing therefore to take him into the ship; and presently the ship was at the land to which they were going. [22] The next day, the multitude that stood on the other side of the sea, saw that there was no other ship there but one, and that Jesus had not entered into the ship with his disciples, but that his disciples were gone away alone. [23] But other ships came in from Tiberias; nigh unto the place where they had eaten the bread, the Lord giving thanks. [24] When therefore the multitude saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they took shipping, and came to Capharnaum, seeking for Jesus. [25] And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him: Rabbi, when camest thou hither?[26] Jesus answered them, and said: Amen, amen I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled. [27] Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you. For him hath God, the Father, sealed.


These verses confront us with a problem that recurs frequently through the Gospel, namely that people were impressed by miracles, but rejected Jesus' actual teaching, as the Catena Aurea makes clear:

"CHRYS. Though favored with such teaching, they were influenced less by it, than by the miracles; a sign of their low state of belief: for Paul says of tongues, that they are for a sign, not to them that believe, I but to them that believe not. They were wiser of whom it is said, that they were astonished at His doctrine. The Evangelist does not say what miracles He wrought, the great object of his book being to give our Lord's discourses. It follows: And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there sat with His disciples. He went up into the mountain, on account of the miracle which was going to be done. That the disciples alone ascended with Him, implies that the people w ho stayed behind were in fault for not following. He went up to the mountain too, as a lesson to us to retire from the tumult and confusion of the world, and leave wisdom in solitude..."

Even the disciples still needed further instruction to understand the importance of what was happening"

"CHRYS. Nor did He only sit with His disciples, but conversed with them familiarly, and gained possession of their minds. Then He looked, and saw a crowd advancing. But why did He ask Philip that question? Because He knew that His disciples, and he especially, needed further teaching. For this Philip it was who said afterwards, Show us the Father, and it suffices us. And if the miracle had been performed at once, without any introduction, the greatness of it would not have been seen. The disciples were made to confess their own inability, that they might see the miracle more clearly; And this He said to prove him...

THEOPHYL. Thus tried by our Lord, Philip was found to be possessed which human notions, as appears from what follows, Philip answered Him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little... 

ALCUIN. His leaving the multitude below, and ascending the heights with His disciples, signifies, that lesser precepts are to be given to beginners, higher to the more matured. His refreshing the people shortly before the Passover signifies our refreshment by the bread of the divine word; and the body and blood, i.e. our spiritual passover, by which we pass over from vice to virtue. And the Lord's eyes are spiritual gifts, which he mercifully bestows on His Elect. He turns His eyes upon them, i.e. has compassionate respect to them...

Jesus retreats to the mountain to pray in order to escape attempts to make him an earthly king.  But in his appearance on the water, he reasserts his divine kingship to the disciples alone:

"CHRYS. And at last He appears quite unexpectedly: They see Jesus walking upon the sea, drawing nigh. He reappears after His retirement, teaching them what it is to be forsaken, and stirring them to greater love; His reappearance manifesting His power. They were disturbed, were afraid, it is said. Our Lord comforts them: But He said to them, It is I, be not afraid. 

BEDE. He does not say, I am Jesus, but only I am. He trusts to their easily recognizing a c voice, which was so familiar to them, or, as is more probable, He shows that He was the same who said to Moses, I am that I am. 

CHRYS. He appeared to them in this way, to show His power; for He immediately calmed the tempest: Then they wished to receive Him into tile ship; and immediately the ship was at the land, whither they went. So great was the calm, He did not even enter the ship, in order to work a greater miracle, and to show his Divinity more clearly. 

THEOPHYL. Observe the three miracles here; the first, His walking on the sea; the second, His stilling the waves; the third, His putting them immediately on shore, which they were some distance off, when our Lord appeared."

The story of the ship on the sea is often given a spiritual interpretation, in relation to the travails of the Church in this world:

AUG. There is a mystical meaning in our Lord's feeding the multitude, and ascending the mountain: for thus was it prophesied of Him, So shall the congregation of the people come about You: for their sake therefore lift up Yourself again: i.e. that the congregation of the people may come about You, lift up Yourself again. But why is it fled; for they could not have detained Him against His wild? This fleeing has a meaning; viz. that His flight is above our comprehension; just as, when you do not understand a thing, you see, It escapes me. He fled alone to the mountain, because He is ascended from above all heavens. But on His ascension aloft a storm came upon the disciples in the ship, i.e. the Church, and it became dark, the light, i.e. Jesus, having gone. As the end of the world draws nigh, error increases, iniquity abounds. Light again is love, according to John, He that hates his brother is in darkness. The waves and storms and winds then that agitate the ship, are the clamors of the evil speaking, and love waxing cold. Nevertheless the wind, and storm, and waves, and darkness were not able to stop, and sink the vessel; For be that endures to the end, the same shall be saved. As the number five has reference to the Law, the books of Moses being five, the number five and twenty, being made up of five pieces, has the same meaning. And this law was imperfect, before the Gospel came. Now the number of perfection is six, so therefore five is multiplied by six, which makes thirty: i.e. the law is fulfilled by the Gospel. To those then who fulfill the law Jesus comes treading on the waves, i.e. trampling under foot all the swellings of the world, all the loftiness of men: and yet such tribulations remain, that even they who believe on Jesus, fear lest they should be lost. 

The high point of these verses, set the scene for the next sections of the Gospel on the Eucharist:

CHRYS. After the rebuke, however, He proceeds to teach them: Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life; meaning, you seek for temporal food, whereas I only fed your bodies, that you might seek the more diligently for that food, which is not temporary, but contains eternal life. 

ALCUIN. Bodily food only supports the flesh of the outward man, and must be taken not once for all, but daily; whereas spiritual food remains for ever, imparting perpetual fullness, and immortality.

AUG. Under the figure of food He alludes to Himself you seek Me, He said, for the sake of something else; seek Me for My own sake. 

CHRYS. But, inasmuch much as some who wish to live in sloth, pervert this precept: Labor not, &c. it is well to notice what Paul says, Let him that stole steal no more, but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs. And he himself too, when he resided with Aquila and Priscilla at Corinth, worked with his hand. By saying, Labor not for the meat which perishes, our Lord does not mean to tell us to be idle; but to work, and give alms. This is that meat which perishes not; to labor for the meat which perishes, is to be devoted to the interests of this life. Our Lord saw that the multitude had no thought of believing, and only wished to fill their bellies, without working; and this He justly called the meat which perishes.

ALCUIN. When, through the hand of the priest, you receive the Body of Christ, think not of the priest which you see, but of the Priest you do not see. The priest is the dispenser of this food, not the author. The Son of man gives Himself to us, that we may abide in Him, and He in us. Do not conceive that Son of man to be the same as other sons of men: He stands alone in abundance of grace, separate and distinct from all the rest: for that Son of man is the Son of God, as it follows, For Him has God the Father sealed. To seal is to put a mark upon; so the meaning is, Do not despise Me because I am the Son of man, for I am the Son of man in such sort, as that the Father has sealed Me, i.e. given Me something peculiar, to the end that should not be confounded with the human race, but that the human race should be delivered by Me. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Quinquagesima Sunday

The Matins readings on the Gospel for Quinquagesima Sunday can be found here.