St Luke 12:35-59

The final section of Chapter 12:

35 Sint lumbi vestri præcincti, et lucernæ ardentes in manibus vestris, 36 et vos similes hominibus exspectantibus dominum suum quando revertatur a nuptiis: ut, cum venerit et pulsaverit, confestim aperiant ei. 37 Beati servi illi quos, cum venerit dominus, invenerit vigilantes: amen dico vobis, quod præcinget se, et faciet illos discumbere, et transiens ministrabit illis. 38 Et si venerit in secunda vigilia, et si in tertia vigilia venerit, et ita invenerit, beati sunt servi illi. 39 Hoc autem scitote, quoniam si sciret paterfamilias, qua hora fur veniret, vigilaret utique, et non sineret perfodi domum suam. 40 Et vos estote parati: quia qua hora non putatis, Filius hominis veniet.41 Ait autem ei Petrus: Domine, ad nos dicis hanc parabolam, an et ad omnes? 42 Dixit autem Dominus: Quis, putas, est fidelis dispensator, et prudens, quem constituit dominus supra familiam suam, ut det illis in tempore tritici mensuram? 43 Beatus ille servus quem, cum venerit dominus, invenerit ita facientem. 44 Vere dico vobis, quoniam supra omnia quæ possidet, constituet illum. 45 Quod si dixerit servus ille in corde suo: Moram facit dominus meus venire: et cœperit percutere servos, et ancillas, et edere, et bibere, et inebriari: 46 veniet dominus servi illius in die qua non sperat, et hora qua nescit, et dividet eum, partemque ejus cum infidelibus ponet. 47 Ille autem servus qui cognovit voluntatem domini sui, et non præparavit, et non facit secundum voluntatem ejus, vapulabit multis: 48 qui autem non cognovit, et fecit digna plagis, vapulabit paucis. Omni autem cui multum datum est, multum quæretur ab eo: et cui commendaverunt multum, plus petent ab eo.49 Ignem veni mittere in terram, et quid volo nisi ut accendatur? 50 Baptismo autem habeo baptizari: et quomodo coarctor usque dum perficiatur? 51 Putatis quia pacem veni dare in terram? non, dico vobis, sed separationem: 52 erunt enim ex hoc quinque in domo una divisi, tres in duos, et duo in tres 53 dividentur: pater in filium, et filius in patrem suum, mater in filiam, et filia in matrem, socrus in nurum suam, et nurus in socrum suam.54 Dicebat autem et ad turbas: Cum videritis nubem orientem ab occasu, statim dicitis: Nimbus venit: et ita fit. 55 Et cum austrum flantem, dicitis: Quia æstus erit: et fit. 56 Hypocritæ! faciem cæli et terræ nostis probare: hoc autem tempus quomodo non probatis? 57 quid autem et a vobis ipsis non judicatis quod justum est? 58 Cum autem vadis cum adversario tuo ad principem, in via da operam liberari ab illo, ne forte trahat te ad judicem, et judex tradat te exactori, et exactor mittat te in carcerem. 59 Dico tibi, non exies inde, donec etiam novissimum minutum reddas.

 [35] Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands.[36] And you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. [37] Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh, shall find watching. Amen I say to you, that he will gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them. [38] And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. [39] But this know ye, that if the householder did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. [40] Be you then also ready: for at what hour you think not, the Son of man will come.[41] And Peter said to him: Lord, dost thou speak this parable to us, or likewise to all? [42] And the Lord said: Who (thinkest thou) is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give them their measure of wheat in due season? [43] Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing. [44] Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth. [45] But if that servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming; and shall begin to strike the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and to drink and be drunk:[46] The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour that he knoweth not, and shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers. [47] And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. [48] But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. [49] I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled? [50] And I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?
[51] Think ye, that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, no; but separation. [52] For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. [53] The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [54] And he said also to the multitudes: When you see a cloud rising from the west, presently you say: A shower is coming: and so it happeneth: [55] And when ye see the south wind blow, you say: There will be heat: and it cometh to pass.[56] You hypocrites, you know how to discern the face of the heaven and of the earth: but how is it that you do not discern this time? [57] And why even of yourselves, do you not judge that which is just? [58] And when thou goest with thy adversary to the prince, whilst thou art in the way, endeavour to be delivered from him: lest perhaps he draw thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the exacter, and the exacter cast thee into prison. [59] I say to thee, thou shalt not go out thence, until thou pay the very last mite.

Commentary (de Lapide)

Verses 35, 36.—Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord when he will return from the wedding. The Syriac says, “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning.” So the Arabic, Egyptian, Æthiopic and Persian. Christ had said that it pleased the Father to give them the kingdom. Sell therefore what you possess, and give alms, that you may, by this means, purchase this kingdom. He now urges them diligently to prepare for it as being at hand, and girding their loins, and casting aside every care, to enter upon and take possession of it. That is, Be you prepared and furnished with all graces, and good works, and merits, especially almsgiving and contempt of riches, that when Christ our Lord from heaven, and His heavenly marriage and joys, returns to you in death to judge your souls, you may meet Him and be found worthy by Him of heaven, and be brought thither by Him. He alludes to the Eastern custom as among the Hebrews and Syrians, of wearing long robes, which they used to tuck up when travelling or at work, that they might not be in their way. (1 Kings xviii. 46; Tobit v. 5.)

Mystically. We gird our loins when we restrain the luxury of the flesh by abstinence (continentiam), says S, Gregory (Hom. xiii.), and S. Augustine (Serm. xxxix. de Verb. Dom.), S. Basil on Isa. xv., Bede, and others. Chrysologus (serm. xxiv.) says, “He commands us to gird our loins by the belt of purity, and to bind our whole body in the zone of virtue, that we may go forth quickly and expeditiously to meet our Lord at His coming.”

We may either unite the two verses 35 and 36 into one, with Maldonatus, making them contain one and the same parable, or we may disjoin them like Jansenius so as to make them contain two—one, the lamps burning; the other, the servants expecting their lord from the wedding.

Hence this sentence is differently explained by different persons, for those who gird themselves are divers—workmen, ministers, travellers, messengers, soldiers, porters, eremites, and their girdles are divers. Workmen are girt with the girdle of labour—ministers, of their ministry—travellers and messengers, of the road—soldiers, of warfare, whose is the girdle of hardness—porters, of constancy and patience—eremites, of abstinence, mortification, and penance.

Firstly, Of labourers girding their loins to their work, Theophylact speaks thus: “Be your loins girded;” that is, be ye ready in all ways for the work of your Lord, “and your lamps burning in your hands;“—that is, labour not in the dark and without judgment, but take the light of the word, which will show you what is and what is not to be done—for this world is night.” So Euthymius and Titus, meaning, “Be you ready to every good work.”

Secondly, Of those who minister to Christ and those who are poor through almsgiving (to which the words immediately preceding apply) some explain it as follows—Gird up your loins, that you may be swift and nimble to minister to Christ and His poor. On this subject there is related a notable vision in the life of John the almsgiver, who was always very ready to give to any one who asked aims of him (chap. xxix.), when a certain noble was slower than usual in giving a loan, he was taught by a vision of a hundred-fold remuneration to be quicker.

Thirdly, Of travellers girding up their loins for a journey. Some explain it thus: Gird up your loins, that you may be expeditious on your journey to heaven, from which the Word has gone before, for a grand way to it remains for you. S. Peter, Epist. 1, chap. I, 13-15, alludes to the exodus (hence called Pasch) of the Israelites. from Egypt into the promised land, which was a figure of the saints passing from earth into heaven. For God thus commanded and directed the Hebrews in the eating of the paschal lamb which was to be sacrificed for their happy journey. “Thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet and your staff in your hand” (as if girded to begin a journey), “and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the Lord’s passover.” The same has to be done by Christians in mystery. See what I have said thereon.

Fourthly, Messengers and legates gird their loins that they may be the swifter in performing their office. The angels who are the messengers of God, are therefore painted with their loins girded to show that they are swift and nimble to perform the commandments of God; according to the words, “Who maketh His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.” Heb. i. 7. Christ therefore says, “0 ye apostles and disciples, gird ye your loins, that you may be my messengers throughout the whole world—proclaiming the faith of the Gospel to Greeks, Romans, Italians, Gauls, Spaniards, Indians, Brazilians, Japanese, Chinese, &c. Behold I send you: Go ye therefore, eagerly, swiftly, and ardently like angels,” as Isaiah, “Go ye swift messengers to a nation scattered and peeled ” xviii. 2, and lii. 7, which S. Paul cites to the Romans, x. 15, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace.”

Fifthly, Soldiers and athletes gird their loins that they may fight with more strength and courage. So do you also, 0 Christians, gird your loins with the girdle of strength and fortitude, that as ministers of Christ you may fight boldly against the devil, the flesh, and the world, and conquer and triumph, as S. Paul to the Ephesians, “Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” On which I have commented at length. David also: “Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle,” Ps. xviii 39 and Job, “Gird up now thy loins like a man” xxxviii. 3; and Ex. xii. II, “Your loins girded,” for they went armed as to take possession of the promised land. Hence Origen (Hom. ix. in lib. Judic.) thinks that allusion is here made to the army of Gideon who went up girded against the Midianites (Judg. vii.).

Sixthly, The porters, that they may be strong to carry heavy burthens, gird their loins. So, 0 ye faithful, do ye gird your loins with the girdle of patience that you may bear all adverse accidents with nobleness. So Cyril, in the Catena, “Be ye prompt to bear misfortunes.”

Seventhly, The continent, that they may overcome the flesh and resist with success all the wicked incitements of lust, gird themselves with the girdle of continence, that is of self-abnegation and mortification, by which they reject all the wicked desires that are continually arising from concupiscence—and refuse them, and mortify them, and cut them off. So Simeon the Stylite. He tortured himself to such a degree by a knotted cord that the head (præfectus) of his monastery undid it, and dismissed him from the monastery, lest the weaker brethren should endeavour to follow his example, and from their failure become a disgrace. We have this from his disciple S. Antony, and from Theodoret, in their lives of him.

And your lamps burning. Christ, commanded us to be ready, with loins girt, for good works, and for our passage to heaven. He now fitly requires our lamps to be burning, for these are needed by night whether for work or for taking a journey. For this, our life is a mystical night, and is full of ignorance, errors, and the darkness of concupiscence; so that we have need of light and lighted lamps, that we travel on in that night and perform our work. He alludes especially to the marriage feast, which was celebrated at night with torches. That is, as in the night-time the servants await their lord on his return from his marriage with lighted torches, and go before him, so do ye watch and await me as I return to you from heaven by death, and go before me with spiritual torches, for you know not the day and hour of your death and the coming of Christ to judgment. If you know this you will be prepared and expect Him every hour, for so the virgins with their lamps lighted await the bridegroom. Matt. xxv. This parable of Luke is mostly the same as that of Matthew.

If it be asked what the lighted lamps signify, Theophylact answers, “Firstly, they signify that we ought to have the light of reason and discretion to distinguish what we ought to do and how we ought to do it; and secondly, we should have faith, burning with love and fervour of spirit, for this will show us what to do and what to avoid, will urge us to lofty acts of virtue and incite us to teach others the way of faith and salvation, and inspire them with the love of God, and not suffer any to live in the darkness of ignorance and sin.” So S. Augustine (serm. xxxix.) on the words of the Lord; and so S. Jerome, or whoever is the author, on Jeremiah i., who says, “that to hold a lamp in the hand is the same as to preach the Gospel.”

Mystically. “These things” says Cœlestine, “have their own mysteries. For in the girding of the loins is shown purity: in the staff, pastoral rule; in the lighted lamps, the brightness of good works” (Epist. ii ad Episc. Gall.) S. Gregory also, in his 13th homily, understands by the shining lamps, good examples. We hold lighted lamps in our hands, he says, when by our good works we show examples of light to our neighbours. Two things are commanded us, to have our loins girded and our lamps lighted, as are innocence and purity of body, and the light of truth in our actions, for purity is of little value without a good life, or a good act without chastity.

S. Augustine again (Lib. ii. Quæst. Evan.): “Girt loins means abstinence from secular affairs, lighted lamps, the doing of the same thing with a true object and right intention.” “The lighted lamps,” says S. Maximus, “are prayer, contemplation, and spiritual love.” Lastly, Origen (Hom. 9 on Judges) thinks that allusion is here made to the torches of the army of Gideon, and that as their sudden discovery terrified the Midianites, so the apostles and martyrs, when their bodies had been shattered and broken by martyrdom, began to shine forth by their miracles, by which the persecutors were put to flight, and thus their doctrine and holiness shone throughout the world. As is clearly explained by Bede in his questions on the book of Judges, and Gregory at length, 30 Moral. chap. xxxii, and following; see Judges vii.

In your hands. These words are not found in the Greek, Syriac, and Arabic; nor in the Greek Fathers, Origen, Clement, Cyril, Chrysostom, S. Basil, Titus; nor in the Latins,  S. Ambrose, Cyprian, Hilary, and Augustine (Serm. xxxix.) But S. Gregory has them in his 13th Homily, Irenæus (lib. iv. cap. 72), and S. Jerome, on Eph. xvi. and Jer. i., as also the codices of the Holy Scriptures, corrected at Rome. “In your hands,” therefore, means in your possession, that they may shed light on your works. Again, it means, that with their lamps in their hands they should go as His servants to meet Christ their Lord. From these words of Christ has arisen the custom of placing in the hands of the faithful, when in their last agony, lighted and blessed candles of wax, to show that they are going to meet Christ with faith and burning love and to excite them to it. So Amalarius, Rabanus and others who have written on Ecclesiastical Offices.

S. Cyril adds, in his fourth book on Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth, “Having your feet shod;” but no other has it, and therefore  S. Cyril seems to have inadvertently copied it from S. Paul, Eph. vi. 15.
Ver. 36.—And be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord. This is the third precept of Christ, or rather the third part of the same precept. The first was to have their loins girt, the second to have their lights shining, the third to look for their lord. The first two are referred to this. The meaning is, Be you so prepared and ready as servants who expect their lord by night, that is, watchful, with loins girt and lamps burning. Hence Maldonatus thinks that this parable is one and identical, but consisting of three parts. Jansenius thinks that it is diverse; but it comes to the same thing, for, as I have said, this is another and the third part of the parable to which the other two tend and are directed. “They await their lord” says Toletus, “as those who, thinking themselves strangers, burn with the desire for Christ, and frequently, nay, continually think of Him—have their minds fixed on Him; for His love and hope bear adversity and all kinds of calamities with patience; fear to offend Him as having Him at length come to them, before their eyes; despise without difficulty whatever does not make for His coming; delight in whatever they know to be pleasing to Him; hold temporal things of small account because of their hope of eternal ones.”

Symbolically, The above words, “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord,” teach us (1.) That here we are as strangers journeying on to the heavenly kingdom. (2.) That we ought to outshine all others in virtue. (3.) That we should fix our hopes on the heavens, according to the words of 1 S. Peter ii. 11, 12, and 1 i. 13.

Again, S. Augustine (serm. 39 de Verbis Domini), asserts that these are the three subjects on which S. Paul exhorted Felix (Acts xxiv.) “Paul,” he says, “taught continence, justice, and eternal life, for in these is contained the sum of the evangelical life.” Secondly, in them are shown the three duties of the apostolic life: Firstly; the loins girded show that the Apostles were sent by Christ to preach the gospel through the whole world, and also to contend against all evil spirits, tyrannical rulers, unbelievers, and vices, according to the words of S. Luke, “I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.” Secondly, The burning lamps shew those who ought to illuminate the world by their doctrine and preaching, according to the words, “Ye are the light of the world,” Matt. v. 14. Thirdly, “Be like unto men looking for their lord.” This signifies those who ought to despise and tread under foot this present world and all things belonging to it, and to lead a heavenly and divine life, that their minds and hearts may be fixed on heaven, as in Phil. iii. 20, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” S. Paul adds the result, the fruit, and the reward: “From whence also we wait for a Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of His glory.” That is, We despise earthly things, we seek for heavenly ones, because we look with a certain hope for Christ, who shall beautify and make us glorious for ever. So Toletus.

These three things the early Christians always kept rooted in their minds, who as strangers upon earth and citizens of heaven willingly poured out their wealth, their honours, their pleasures, their very present life itself for Christ, because they surely looked for the coming of the Lord Christ after this short life, and for a happy and eternal one to be given to them by Him, which indeed is true wisdom and prudence. We may see this in the Pontiffs, Virgins, Roman Martyrs for three hundred years, from S. Peter to Silvester, all of whom rejoiced in ceaseless persecutions, rejoiced to be spoiled of their goods, to be imprisoned, scourged, slain, burnt, that they might enjoy (possess) Christ in heaven. Eminent amongst others was S. Cecilia, who, when flourishing in youth, beauty, wealth, nobility, of her own will most gladly gave up all things for Christ and even her life itself, in the midst of wondering, pitying, and lamenting friends, and went joyfully and exultingly to the place of martyrdom, saying, “This is not to lose my youth but to change it; this is to give clay and receive in return gold; to give a vile and miserable hovel and receive a palace most spacious, lofty, and magnificent, built of precious stones and gold; to give a perishable thing and receive one that knows no end and is subject to no death:” and soon after, “Our Lord Jesus Christ does not give pound for pound, but what He gives as a simple sum He returns a hundredfold, and adds besides eternal life.” Thus is it in her Acts.

The life of a Christian then should be nothing but one looking for the coming of Christ, that He may deliver him from this life, which is so vile and miserable and subject to so many fears and perils, and bring him to His own kingdom in the heavens and to eternal life. And hence the prophets and Paul teach everywhere that the faithful ought to live in such holiness and contempt of the things of this world, as to look eagerly and with avidity to the coming of Christ. So the patriarch Jacob when dying and longing for the coming of Christ, “I have waited for Thy salvation, 0 Lord,” Gen. xlix. 18; and Job. “All the days of my appointed time I will wait till my change come,” xiv. 14; and the Psalms, “I have waited patiently for the Lord,” xl. 1, and “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart, wait, I say, on the Lord,” xxvil. i4 (Bib. version). Isa. viii. 17, “I will wait upon the Lord;” and xxv. 9, “We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord, we have waited for Him, we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Jeremiah, Lam. iii. 24, “The Lord is my portion, therefore will I wait for Him;” Micah vii. 7, “I will look unto the Lord, I will wait for the God of my salvation.” So Joseph of Arimathæa, despising all fear of the Jews, buried Christ because he was looking, for the kingdom of God,” Luke xxiii. 51. S. Paul to the Romans, “The earnest expectation of the creation waiteth for the revealing of the sons of God,” viii. 19; and 23, “Ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for our redemption, to wit, the redemption of our body;” Gal. v. 5, “We wait for the hope of righteousness;” Phil iii. 20, “We wait for a Saviour;” Titus ii. 12, 13, “We should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God;” 2 S. Peter iii. 11, “Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God? ” and ver. 13, 14, “But according to His promise we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace without spot and blameless in His sight.” Climacus (de gradu) says, “He is righteous who fears not death; he is holy and perfect who daily expects it.” So S. Francis expected the Lord when he recited, as he was dying, the words of the Psalm, “The righteous shall compass me about, for Thou shalt deal righteously with me” (Ps. cxlii 7), and so died....

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