Wednesday, 9 July 2014

St Luke 1:67-79 (Benedictus Pt 1)

Today's section of St Luke's Gospel is the other New Testament canticle said daily in the Office (at Lauds), the Benedictus.  Today, the commentary focuses on the first half of the canticle.

67 Et Zacharias pater ejus repletus est Spiritu Sancto: et prophetavit, dicens: 

68 Benedictus Dominus Deus Israël, quia visitavit, et fecit redemptionem plebis suæ: 
69 et erexit cornu salutis nobis in domo David pueri sui, 
70 sicut locutum est per os sanctorum, qui a sæculo sunt, prophetarum ejus: 
71 salutem ex inimicis nostris, et de manu omnium qui oderunt nos: 
72 ad faciendam misericordiam cum patribus nostris:et memorari testamenti sui sancti: 
73 jusjurandum, quod juravit ad Abraham patrem nostrum, daturum se nobis 
74 ut sine timore, de manu inimicorum nostrorum liberati, serviamus illi 
75 in sanctitate et justitia coram ipso, omnibus diebus nostris. 
76 Et tu puer, propheta Altissimi vocaberis: præibis enim ante faciem Domini parare vias ejus, 7
7 ad dandam scientiam salutis plebi ejus in remissionem peccatorum eorum 
78 per viscera misericordiæ Dei nostri, in quibus visitavit nos, oriens ex alto: 
79 illuminare his qui in tenebris et in umbra mortis sedent: ad dirigendos pedes nostros in viam pacis.

[67] And Zachary his father was filled with the Holy Ghost; and he prophesied, saying: 

[68] Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; because he hath visited and wrought the redemption of his people: 
[69] And hath raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant: 
[70] As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning: 
[71] Salvation from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us: 
[72] To perform mercy to our fathers, and to remember his holy testament, 
[73] The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us, 
[74] That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear, 
[75] In holiness and justice before him, all our days. 
[76] And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways: 
[77] To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins: 
[78] Through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us: 
[79] To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace. 


Ver. 67.—And his father Zacharias was filled, &c. Zacharias already had the Holy Spirit, for he was a just man (as we read in verse 6); yet he by the birth of John received so great a fulness of the grace of the Holy Spirit, both sanctifying and rendering him acceptable, and also gratuitously given, i.e. of the spirit of prophecy, and he was filled with so great a love for Christ, already incarnate in the womb of the Virgin, that he broke forth into this prophetic song which the Church sings daily in the Divine Office at Lauds.

Ver. 68.—Blessed be the Lord God of Israel. Zacharias in this song does two things.  1. He praises God for the Messiah incarnate in the Virgin.  2. From verse 76 to the end he praises God by addressing his son John, and celebrates his office as the forerunner of Christ.

The God of Israel. For although He is the God of all men, yet He is especially the God of Israel, i.e. of His faithful people, whether they were Jews and Israelites as formerly, or Christians as in these days.
Hath redeemed, &c. God by means of Christ already incarnate had begun the work of the redemption and deliverance of the whole world from the yoke of slavery to the devil, sin, death, and hell, under which it had been held for four thousand years, but especially the redemption of Israel, i.e. of the Jewish people, to whom especially the Messiah had been promised. Zacharias by the spirit of prophecy knew of the incarnation of the Messiah in the womb of the Virgin, and therefore that the redemption of the world was already begun, inasmuch as the Redeemer was conceived Who after a few years was about to complete the redemption of the world by His death on the Cross.

And hath raised up an horn of salvation. In Scripture horn signifies strength, power, victory, glory, and consequently a kingdom; for all the glory and strength of horned animals consists in their horns, as S. Chrysostom says. Hence S. Cornelius, pontiff and martyr, is represented in painting with a horn, and received his name from it because with the strength of an horn he resisted the Emperor Decius, and triumphed gloriously over him by martyrdom. See what I have said on Hab. iii. 4, Dan. viii. 4, and Deut. xxxiii. 17.

The meaning, therefore, is that God has again raised up the horn, i.e. the excellent power and glory of the kingdom of Israel by Christ the Son of David, which horn had flourished in the times of Joshua, and David, and Solomon, but had now fallen; and this horn was not temporal but spiritual, as I have said on verse 32. There is an allusion to Ezek. xxix. 21, In that day the horn of the house of Israel shall bud forth. It is clear, therefore, that the horn of salvation is Jesus Christ Himself the Saviour, and his power, victory, and kingdom; according to that saying of Hannah, 1 Sam. ii. 10, The Lord shall give strength unto His king and exalt the horn of His anointed. Tropologically, Bede says, “The horn stretches beyond the flesh, and so the kingdom of Christ reaches beyond the world and the joys of the flesh; according to which figure David and Solomon were consecrated kings by the horn of oil.” And Origen explains Isa. v. I, a vineyard hath been planted in a horn (Vulgate, vinea facta est in cornu), as meaning the Church has been planted in Christ.

Ver. 70.—By the mouth of His holy prophets. All the prophets prophesied of Christ, e.g. Isa. xix. 20; Jerem. xxx. 10; Ezek. xiii. 21.

Ver. 71.—That we should be saved from our enemies. As God spake by the prophets, and promised salvation, i.e. the deliverance and salvation of Israel and the whole world from captivity to the devil, sin, death, and hell, so now hath He accomplished the same, by giving a horn of salvation, i.e. a strong Saviour, Jesus Christ. Observe that Zacharias here interprets the ancient prophecies of the kingdom and salvation of Christ, not in a temporal but in a spiritual sense, as is clear from verse 73 and the following.

Ver. 72.—To perform the mercy. As God promised Christ to our fathers, so now has He fulfilled His promises, and has shown Christ to their posterity, by Whom He will deliver also the fathers from limbus, and bless them, and bring them into heaven with Himself. Whence Theophylact says, “The grace of Christ reaches even to those who were dead; for through him all will rise again: He also fulfilled the hope of the fathers;” for as Theophylact says again, “When the fathers see their sons enjoying such blessings, they rejoice and are partakers of their joy, in the same way as if the blessings had been bestowed upon themselves.”

His Holy Covenant.—This covenant was made by God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Gen. xii. 3, and xxvi. 4, and xxviii. 14; and it is this, in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Jeremiah explains this blessing, ch. xxxi. 31.

Ver. 73.—The oath. This may be referred—1. To the word remember. So Euthymius takes it.  2. It may be referred to the word mercy.  3. It may, more properly, be referred to the word covenant; so that the meaning is, God hath sent Christ, that He might show Himself mindful of the covenant, by which He promised Him to the fathers; which covenant is that great oath which He sware to Abraham.

Or 4, you may refer the word oath more plainly and easily to the word perform in the preceding verse; so that three reasons may be signified here on account of which God has raised up this horn of salvation—1. that He might perform His mercy;  2. that He might remember his covenant;  3. that He might fulfil His own oath by which He swore to Abraham that He would multiply his spiritual seed, rather than his seed according to the flesh, as the stars of heaven, and that in his seed He would bless all nations. Gen. xxii. 16, and Heb. vi. 13, 14. The Hebrews often leave words to be understood from those which precede or follow: so here the word oath is used for the performance and fulfilment of the oath, for these words were spoken by Zacharias when he was exulting, and, as it were, absorbed in joy; so that he has regard to and pours forth not so much words as things; whence in his words he often falls into solecisms and other defects.

Ver. 74.—That we being delivered, &c. He explains the oath of God, i.e. the blessing which He promised to Abraham, and confirmed with an oath, and shows that it consists in the salvation which Christ brought, that being set free by His grace from our enemies, viz., from sin, the devil, and hell, to which we had been as it were enslaved, we may now serve God in holiness. His service is latria which is the worship due to God alone; for in the Greek it is λατζεύειν.

Ver. 75.—In holiness and righteousness. This is the oath, or blessing of God sworn to Abraham, viz. the salvation and grace of Christ and of His Gospel, the excellence and perfection of which He beautifully describes in these words. For the first part of which it consists is liberty, that is deliverance from the slavery of sin and the devil. The second is service, that is the worship of the true and most high God. The third is love, not slavish fear; for the Jews served God through fear of punishment, but Christians serve Him like sons with a free love, Rom. viii. 15. The fourth part is inward and true holiness and righteousness, not outward and placed in washings, sacrifices, and other ceremonies like the righteousness which the Jews had. The fifth part is expressed in the words before God, so that we, considering that we are always before the eyes of God, Who beholds the hearts of every one, may strive to show forth before Him a pure and holy heart, and to perform all our works out of such, knowing that God looks into us and beholds the very bottom of our heart, and according to it will judge our works. The sixth part is, that we should perform these things, not on one day, month, or year, but all our days by persevering in them even unto death.

Holiness has respect to God, and consists in the holy worship of God. Righteousness has respect to our neighbour, and consequently to oneself. Holiness, therefore, gives to God what is His due, Righteousness to men what is their due, so that each should give to each what is owing to him either from justice or charity, and consequently that a man should give to himself temperance, modesty and humility, by which he may conform himself aright to the rule of the law and of virtue, for this is what he ought to render to himself. By holiness and righteousness, therefore, every observance of virtue is signified that is prescribed in the decalogue; for holiness has respect to the precepts of the first table which pertain to God, righteousness to those of the second, which concern our neighbour and our self. These therefore are the duties of the evangelical life to which Christ calls us. This, therefore, is the vocation of the faithful, namely, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present life, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, Tit. ii. 12, 13, so that we should imitate the holiness of God and of Christ, and Christ should seem to live, act, and speak in us; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works, Tit. ii. 14, according to that saying of S. Paul, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, Gal. ii. 20. Let each, therefore, contemplate the life and character of Christ, and in them let him behold as in a mirror his own, and he will see whether he is a true Christian or only a false painted one.

And for those interested in the psalms Zachariah drew on in his inspired song, the table below illustrates that once again the allusions are heavily concentrated in the psalms set for Monday in the Benedictine Office, but also with a heavy sprinkling of references appearing on Saturday.

Table: Allusions to the Benedictus in the psalms

Luke 1:


68 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: because he has visited and wrought the redemption of his people.
BENEDICTUS Dóminus, Deus Israël: *

quia visitávit,
et fecit redemptiónem plebis suæ :
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel a saeculo et usque in saeculum fiat fiat (40:14; 105:48)

Benedíctus Dóminus, Deus Israël, * qui facit mirabília solus. (71:18)

Redimet Dominus animas servorum surorum (33:22)

Immíttet Angelus Dómini in circúitu timéntium eum : et erípiet eos (33:7)

Redemptiónem misit pópulo suo: * mandávit in ætérnum testaméntum suum (110:9)

Cf also 43:28
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel forever and ever, and world without end, Amen, Amen

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wonderful things.

The Lord will redeem the souls of his servants

The angel of the Lord shall encamp round about them that fear him: and shall deliver them.

He has sent redemption to his people: he has commanded his covenant for ever.
69 And has raised up an horn of salvation to us, in the house of David his servant.
2  Et eréxit cornu salútis nobis: * in domo David, púeri sui.
In te inimicos nostros ventilabimus cornu (43:7)

Protéctor meus, et cornu salútis meæ, (17:3)

Illuc prodúcam cornu David: * parávi lucérnam Christo meo (131:17)
Through thee will we overthrow our enemies with the horn

My protector, and the horn of my salvation, and my support

There will I bring forth a horn to David: I have prepared a lamp for my anointed
70 As he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets, who are from the beginning.
3  Sicut locútus est per os sanctórum, * qui a sæculo sunt, prophetárum ejus
Cf 43:1

71 Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us.
4  Salútem ex inimícis nostris, * et de manu ómnium, qui odérunt nos.
Salvasti enim nos de affligentibus nos: et odientes nos confudisti (43:9)
But it is thou that hast saved us from them that afflict us, and put them to confusion that hate us
72 To perform mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy testament.
5  Ad faciéndam misericórdiam cum pátribus nostris: * et memorári testaménti sui sancti.
Fiat misericordia tua Domine super nos quemadmodum speravimus in te (32:22)

Et memor fuit testaménti sui: * et pœnítuit eum secúndum multitúdinem misericórdiæ suæ (105:45).
Let your mercy Lord be upon us as we have hoped in you

And he was mindful of his covenant: and repented according to the multitude of his mercies.
73 The oath, which he swore to Abraham our father, that he would grant to us.
6 Jusjurándum, quod jurávit ad Abraham patrem nostrum, * datúrum se nobis :
Deus auribus nostris audivimus patres nostri annuntiaverunt nobis (43:1)

Quod dispósuit ad Abraham: * et juraménti sui ad Isaac (104: 8)

Which he made to Abraham; and his oath to Isaac
74 That being delivered from the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear:
7  Ut sine timóre, de manu inimicórum nostrórum liberáti, * serviámus illi.
...non gaudebit inimicus meus super me (40)

Et salvávit eos de manu odiéntium: * et redémit eos de manu inimíci (105:10)

For my enemy shall not triumph against me

And he saved them from the hand of them that hated them: and he redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
75 In holiness and justice before him, all our days.
8  In sanctitáte, et justítia coram ipso, * ómnibus diébus nostris.
Me autem propter innocentiam susepisti: et confirmasti me in conspectu tuo in aeternum (40:)
And because of my innocence thou upholdest me and shalt set me before thy face forever
76 And you, child, shall be called the prophet of the Highest: for you shall, go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways:
9  Et tu, puer, Prophéta Altíssimi vocáberis: * præíbis enim ante fáciem Dómini, paráre vias ejus

77 To give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins.
10  Ad dandam sciéntiam salútis plebi ejus: * in remissiónem peccatórum eórum :
Annuntiavi justitiam tuam in ecclesia magna...veritatem tuam et salutare tuum dixi (39:  )
I have declared thy righteousness in the great congregation....I have declared thy truth and thy salvation
78 Through the bowels of the mercy of our God in which the Orient from on high has visited us:
11  Per víscera misericórdiæ Dei nostri: * in quibus visitávit nos, óriens ex alto :

79 To enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace.
12  Illumináre his, qui in ténebris, et in umbra mortis sedent: *

ad dirigéndos pedes nostros in viam pacis.
Ut eruat a morte animas eorum et alat eos in fame (32:19)

Apud Dominum gressus hominis dirgentur et viam ejus volet (36:23)
To deliver their soul from death and to feed them in the time of dearth

With the Lord shall the steps of a man be directed and he shall like well his way

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