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(Updated) Commentaries on the Sunday Readings 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Through Christ the King, Year C
In 5 weeks (Nov 27) the Church will begin a new liturgical year and, consequently, a new lectionary cycle. This year the Sunday Gospel readings will focus upon Matthew and, as always, this Gospel will be read daily during weeks 10-21 of Ordinary Time. For this reason I thought I would list the following resources on the Gospel of St Matthew. Some works listed have abbreviations accompanying them. The abbreviations and their meaning are as follows: (OLF) indicates a resource available online for free. (ES) indicates a book that is part of a series of books ecumenical in scope, i.e., some of the authors in the series are Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, etc.
INTRODUCTIONS AND INTRODUCTORY LEVEL COMMENTARIES
Matthew: His Mind and His Message. Peter F. Ellis. Published in 1974 and now out of print. Somewhat outdated in certain respects but overall it still provides an outstanding introduction to Matthew’s theology, and an interesting view regarding the structure of the Gospel.
(OLF) Introduction to Matthew. Dom Henry Wansbrough, O.S.B. An online booklet in pdf format. Father Wansbrough was the general editor of the New Jerusalem Bible and was part of the editorial committee for the New Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (to which he contributed several commentaries and articles). A fairly up-to-date bibliography of his works can be found here.
(OLF) Pontifical Bible Study on St Matthew. Audio recordings. See the links under the heading “Pontifical Bible Study 2010”. The series continued into 2011.
(OLF) St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study on Matthew’s Gospel. Audio. The series began in December of 2009 and continued through April 2010. Use the archive links on the right side of the page to navigate through the series. For the months January-April 2010 you have to scroll down to the bottom of the page and work your way up in order to listen to the series in order.
(OLF) Notes on Passages Used in the Sunday and Weekday Lectionary. Various authors, ancient and modern.
(ES) The Gospel of Matthew: Interpreting Biblical Texts Series. Father Donald Senior, C.P. Part 1 of the book looks at “what have been the chief issues under discussion concerning Matthew’s gospel.” Part 2 “enters into the narrative world of Matthew itself by means of a ‘reading guide’ that takes us through the gospel chapter by chapter and scene by scene.” Father Senior is the General Editor of The Catholic Study Bible and the bi-monthly publication The Bible Today. He was co-editor of the 22 volume NT commentary series New Testament Message and contributed to that series the commentary on 1 & 2 Peter. He is a recognized authority on Matthew’s Gospel and on the Passion Narratives.
(ES). Invitation to Matthew. Father Donald Senior, C.P. See above concerning Father Senior. This volume is part of the Doubleday New Testament Commentary Series. This highly successful series is now out of print but used copies can still be found. A revised and updated single volume containing commentary on the 4 gospels is available.
What Are They Saying About Matthew? Father Donald Senior (see above). An overview and assessment of recent scholarship on Matthew. “In a clear and readable fashion, Senior investigates and then explains the major issues that dominate the study of Matthew today: the background of the evangelist and his community, the structure and the purpose of the gospel, the relationship of the gospel to Judaism, and the gospel’s portrayal of Jesus, discipleship, and church.”
The Mystery of the Kingdom (Kingdom Studies Series). Edward Sri.Can be used for personal study or in the context of a study/discussion group. Focuses on the Kingdom of Heaven, the dominant theological theme of Matthew. Dr. Sri recently published a new volume on Matthew for the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series (see further below). For more about Dr. Sri.
The Gospel According to Matthew: Ignatius Catholic Study Bible Series. Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch. Dr. Hahn is a well known author and has done a number of series on the Bible for EWTN. Often thought of as nothing more than a popularizer of scripture he has published numerous scholarly articles and essays in various books and journals. He is founder and president of the St Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Editor of its yearly Letter and Spirit Journal: A Journal of Catholic Biblical Theology. His monumental work Kinship By Covenant: A Canonical Approach to the Fulfillment of God’s Saving Promises is part of the Yale Anchor Bible Reference Library. Concerning Curtis Mitch.
FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO GO DEEPER INTO MATTHEW
The Navarre Bible: St Matthew’s Gospel. Part of an outstanding devotional and theological commentary series on the Bible by the faculty of the University of Navarre. The series was the brainchild of St Josemaria Escriva,, the founder and first chancellor of the university. The commentaries on the NT are available in three different editions. I recommend the Standard Edition which consists of 12 volumes. Some of these volumes contain general introductory essays not available in the other two editions. The Readers Edition is a good choice for those looking to save a little money. It consists of 3 volumes: 1. The Four Gospels and Acts; 2. The Letters of St Paul; 3. Revelation, Hebrews, and the Catholic Letters. The commentaries are identical to the standard edition but do not contains the general introductory essays. The Compact Edition is a single volume and provides short introductions to the NT books and succinct commentary. This edition would be a good resource for beginners.
(ES) Abingdon New Testament Commentary-Matthew. Father Donald Senior.
The Gospel of Matthew (The Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture). Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri. This series has been highly praised by the likes of Cardinal Schonborn, Cardinal Vanhoye, Archbishop Chaput, Robert Louis, Wilken, Father Kenneth Baker, and Father Aidan Nichols. Twelve volumes are currently available. Three more volumes (Luke; Romans; Galatians) are scheduled for release in 2017.
The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide on the Four Gospels. Between 1614 and 1635 Father Lapide wrote commentaries on all the books of the Catholic Bible except for Job and Psalms. These commentaries were immensely popular and influenced scholars, preachers and saints for several centuries.
Lifting the Burden: Reading Matthew’s Gospel in the Church Today. By Father Brendan Byrne.
(ES) Matthew 1-13 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series). The series is described as “a unique twenty-eight volume series encompassing all of Scripture and offering contemporary readers the opportunity to study for themselves the key writings of the early church fathers.
(ES) Matthew 14-28 (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series). See above.
The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina Series). Daniel J Harrington. Father Harrington is a leading authority on the Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel of Matthew. Rudolph Schnackenburg.
An exhortation to the praise and service of God
1 This is called an alphabetical Psalm, by reason of the first verse beginning with the first letter of the alphabet, the second, with the second letter, and so on—done, possibly, that it may be easier committed to memory, and be often chanted by the faithful. He commences by returning thanks with great affection. I will never forget God’s daily kindness, I will, rather “bless him at all times,” as long as I live, and he repeats it, saying, “his praise shall be always in my mouth.” The word always does not mean every moment, every day, every night, as if one had nothing else to do; but it means that he will do so in the proper time and place, to the end of his life, nay, more, as those Psalms will be sung to the end of time, David will thus, through others, “bless the Lord at all times.” This passage may be taken also in a spiritual sense, inasmuch as the just always praise God, when they are in the receipt of his favors as well as when they are afflicted by his trials, as Job did, when he said, “The Lord hath given, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
2 I will not be alone in blessing God for his kindness to me at all times, but others too will bless him; for, whosoever shall hear of it will praise me for having baffled that wicked king; and will, at the same time, praise and bless God, who enabled me by such cleverness to save myself from him. “In the Lord shall my soul be praised;” I will be praised by all who shall hear of it; but “in the Lord,” for he, who by his signal providence, inspired me with the true counsels, and helped me to carry them out, so as to produce the desired effect, deserves the principal praise. The Hebrew implies, that the soul, that is, the entire person, is to be praised by itself; and the meaning then is, I will glory to a great extent for this fact, not in myself, but in the Lord, through whose protection and assistance I have escaped the danger. We learn from this passage that it is not always a sin to glory, or to speak in terms of praise of our own actions, and that it is then only sinful when we praise what deserves no praise, or when we do not acknowledge God to be the primary source of all good. “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord; for not he that commendeth himself is approved, but he whom God commendeth.” The next sentence, “Let the meek hear and rejoice,” implies, that the announcement of such joy is specially made to those to whom such dangers are familiar; such as the patient and the meek, such as are often oppressed by those in power, and find a most willing helper in God. “Let the meek,” the humble, the servants of God, like me, hear what happened to me, “and rejoice,” bless God for it.
3 He directs his discourse to the meek he had just told to hear and to rejoice, and he exhorts them not only to praise God individually, but to join and unite with him in praising God. “O magnify the Lord with me.” Let us acknowledge the Lord, who alone is truly great to be really so, and he who alone is supreme, let us with our voices proclaim to be supreme, “and extol his name;” speak loudly of his knowledge and fame, of his power and majesty. God is much pleased that the faithful, not only in private, but also in public prayer in our churches, should praise and glorify him, “that with one mouth you may unanimously glorify God,” Rom. 15.
4 He now assigns a reason for wishing to bless God at all times, and that is, because he found him the best and most powerful of liberators. “I sought the Lord” when I was grievously harassed, I fled to the Lord, implored his assistance, approached him with confidence, “and he heard me” with his usual kindness and mercy; and the consequence was, that “he delivered me from all my troubles.” Saul, the king, with his own hand, and through his satellites, sought to kill me, but through God’s protection I escaped; in the hurry of my flight I could bring neither arms nor provisions with me, yet the mercy of God at once raised up Achimelech the priest, to supply me with both; soon after, by my own imprudence, I fell into the hands of Achis, king of the Philistines, but through the inspiration, help, and protection of the same God, by wonderful and unheard of stratagems, I escaped the danger. Thus God, my most kind Lord and loving Father, “has delivered me from all the troubles” that have hitherto befallen me.
5 He now commences a most beautiful and effective exhortation to love and fear God, and to cast all our solicitude on him. “Come ye to him,” or as it is in the Hebrew, “look on him.” Behold, the light of consolation and gladness, when you remove the cloud of sadness that was darkening you up; for light signifies gladness, according to Psalm 96, “Light is risen to the just, and joy to the right of heart.” The passage may also be explained in a higher and a mystical sense; “come ye to him,” through conversion, “and be enlightened,” by the grace of justification; for divine enlightenment confers spiritual life; hence, the apostle, Ephes. 5, says, “Rise thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten thee;” and Christ himself says, “He that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life;” and in Psalm 35, “For with thee is the fountain of life, and in thy light we shall see light;” where life and light are used synonymously. Besides, Baptism was formerly called, “illumination;” because, through it, men dead in sin, were regenerated, and from the darkness of sin, come to the light of life; “come,” therefore, “to him,” by conversion and penance, and he will be converted to you; and by the brightness of his countenance, that imparts so much vitality, coming as it does, from the increate Son and source of life, he will “enlighten” and vivify you. “And your faces shall not be confounded;” come with confidence, fear no repulse, he will hear you, receive you, and will not cause the slightest blush on your countenance. The face is said to be “confounded,” when the petitioner is refused, and goes away with a blush. Thus, Bethsabee said to king Solomon, “I desire one small petition of thee, do not put me to confusion.”
6 He proves the necessity of having recourse to God when in trouble, by his own example. “This poor man,” himself, in so destitute a state, that he had to beg some food of a priest, “cried,” in faith and confidence, knocked by ardent prayer at the gate of divine mercy, and “the Lord” at once “heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”
7 He already proved by example, he now proves by reason, that we should approach God in all confidence; because the Angel of the Lord, to whom [Psalm 90] he has given the just in charge, the moment he sees the soul in danger, is at once on the spot, and, as if with an encampment, so surrounds and protects it, that it can suffer no harm. Wonderful power of the Angels! One of them, equal to an army, whence it follows that those who fear God and have such a guard in waiting on them, should feel the greatest internal peace and security.
8 He goes on with his exhortation. Having said, “Come ye to him,” and having proved by his own experience, as well as by reason, that we should come to him in time of trouble, he now exhorts us to make a trial, and to prove by experience, that the fact is so. “O taste and see that the Lord is sweet.” Try it, look at it, judge for yourselves, and see; begin to reject all other consolations, and put all your trust in God alone; and “see,” that is, know, learn, “that the Lord is sweet” to those that depend on him. And, in fact, what sweeter can be imagined than a soul full of love, with a good conscience, a pure heart, and a candid faith, reposing in the bosom of the Supreme Good. Truly “blessed is the man that hopeth in him;” that is, in peace with God, and, in a certain hope, reposes in him. We stated that in the expression, “Come to him, and be enlightened,” another meaning may be found, referring to those who are enlightened by justification; and, in like manner, the expression, “O taste and see,” may be taken as referring to those who are more advanced; who, after being spiritually regenerated, begin to grow, and to require nourishment; according to 1 St. Peter, 2, “As new born infants desire the rational milk, without guile; that thereby you may grow unto salvation. If yet you have tasted that the Lord is sweet,” where St. Peter quotes this passage of the Psalm in the same sense that we have explained it. Even St. Paul, Heb. 6, identifies enlightening with tasting, “For it is impossible for those, who were once enlightened, have tasted also the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost.”
9 After exhorting them to try how sweet is the Lord, he now encourages them to fear him, that is, to observe his commandments; or, which amounts to the same, to persevere in the justice and love of God, that being the foundation of the confidence by which we approach to God, and taste of the sweetness of his benefits. This verse is most properly connected with the preceding, even in the more elevated sense, because, as it is by approaching we begin, and by tasting we advance, so it is by fear we are made perfect, not by servile fear, but by the pure and filial fear that is the characteristic of the saints and of the perfect. “Fear the Lord all ye his saints,” for that fear supposes perfect love, for the perfect lover fears vehemently lest he may offend his beloved in any way; and he, therefore, most diligently conforms himself to the will of God, and observes his word in every thing; and he that thus keeps his word, “in this is the perfect love of God,” as 1 St. John 2. has it. Speaking of this fear, Job 28, says, “Behold, the fear of the Lord is wisdom itself,” Eccli. 1, “The fullness of wisdom is to fear God,” and chap. 23, “There is nothing better than the fear of God;” and Isaias 2, speaking of Christ, says, “The spirit of the fear of the Lord will fill him,” and finally, Ecclesiastes, in the last chapter, says, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is all man,” as if he said: The whole perfection of man, and all the good he may have in life consists in this, through fear of God to observe all his commandments, and the following words, “for there is no want to them that fear him,” convey the same in the higher meaning, for the essence of perfection is to feel no want. And, what want can the friend of God, who owns everything, feel, when the property of friends is common; and if the just appear sometimes to be in want, they really are not so, because they get patience, better than any riches, to bear it; nor can they be said to want riches, who do not desire or covet them, for the soul, and not the money box, ought to abound in riches. Still the same prophet, or rather the same Holy Spirit, who by his words instructs the learned by the very same words, but understood in an humbler sense, instructs the ignorant also, and exhorts them to fear God, “for there is no want to them that fear God;” that is, that God will supply his servants with the temporal things of the world, and will not desert them in time of necessity. And we have, both in the Scriptures, and in the lives of the saints, numberless examples of the wonderful providence of God in supplying his servants with the necessaries of life.
10 He proves the preceding by instituting a comparison between the wicked with those that fear the Lord. The latter will not only feel no want, but the former will, however rich they may have previously been, and by the repeated scourges of God will be reduced to extreme poverty. “The rich have wanted, and have suffered hunger;” that is, those who had been rich began to hunger and to need, because riches are fallacious and uncertain, and exposed to many and various dangers; “but they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good;” they who put their hope, not in riches, but in God, as those do who fear God, they, however poor they may be, “shall not be deprived of any good;” that is, shall want no good. These words have a higher meaning also, namely, that those who are attached to the temporalities of this world always hunger and need, for they are always covetous and desirous of having more; but “they that seek the Lord,” as they seek a thing of infinite value, a thing greater than their desires, for, according to St. John, “God is greater than our heart,” they “shall not be deprived of any good,” because, as they cling to the Supreme Good, they possess all that is good.
11 The prophet having exhorted all to fear God, shows now the advantage of this fear, and in what it consists. “Come to me,” to the school of the Holy Spirit, the best school you can frequent; “hearken to me,” or rather to the Spirit of the Lord speaking through me, for so David himself says, in 2 Kings 23, “The Spirit of the Lord hath spoken by me, and his word by my tongue,” and when you do, “I will teach you to fear the Lord;” that is, in what it consists, and how useful is the fear of the Lord, to which I have so often and so earnestly invited you, as being the essence and the acme of all good and of all perfection.
12 He now explains the advantages and the end of the fear of the Lord, for it brings us long life and “good days;” that is, that life of bliss of which the just have a foretaste in this world, while they have in their hearts the “kingdom of God, which is justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;” and will have complete possession of it in the world to come, “when death shall be absorbed in victory.” “Who is the man that desireth life?” I promised to teach you the fear of the Lord, and I now fulfil my promise, and I tell you, that the end of the fear of the Lord is, what all covet, but few secure, that is, a true and a happy life. Now, those who wish to secure it must adopt the means I am going to point out; they, then, who say they wish for a happy life, and will not take the road that leads to it, they seem to be anything but serious in what they say, when they pursue the shadow and the image, instead of the reality. I therefore ask, who is he that really and truly wishes for true life, that truly loves to see good days, happy, blessed days?
13–14 The holy prophet now teaches how the fear of the Lord leads men to life, “and to see good days;” and lays down that the perfect observance of the commandments of God, or, in other words, the abstaining from all sins, of thought, word, or deed, is the true path to life, according to the words of our Savior, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments;” now, such observance of the law, and such abandonment of sin, springs from the fear of the Lord, and, therefore, it is the fear of the Lord that, through the observance of his law, makes us come to true life and “good days.” “Keep thy tongue from evil.” Beware of offending God through your tongue, by lies, by perjury, by detraction, by opprobrious language, etc. He commences with the tongue, because the sins committed by it are of more frequent occurrence, and guarded against with more difficulty, for which reason St. James says, chap. 3, “If a man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man.” “And thy lips from speaking guile.” Having prohibited in general all manner of sins of the tongue, he makes special mention of the sin of lying, as being much more grievous itself, and productive of various other sins. “Turn away from evil.” From sins of word, he passes to sins of deed, and first admonishes us to avoid sins of commission, such as murder, adultery, etc.; and then he adds, “and do good;” to beware of sins of omission, such as neglecting to honor our parents; giving due worship to God at the proper time; neglect of prayer, alms, fasting, etc., and similar good works. “Seek after peace, and pursue it.” He finally warns us to avoid sins of thought, such as anger, hatred, envy, and other minor affections of the soul; that thus we may have and retain true peace and tranquillity in everything we are concerned with. With great propriety, the prophet says, “seek after peace;” because the duty of a good man is not so much to be actually at peace with all, as to wish for it, and to be anxious for it; because, very often, others will not suffer us to be at peace with them; and, therefore, the apostle, Rom. 12, says, “If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men;” and David himself, in Psalm 119, says, “With them that hated peace I was peaceable;” which peace we are unable to maintain, not only with others, but even with ourselves; for we cannot maintain perfect peace whilst we are in this vale of misery. Hence the apostle says, Rom. 7, “But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind.” However, though perfect peace with ourselves is impossible, we must seek for it, we must try to acquire it, by subduing the members, by fasts; by subjecting the flesh to the spirit, that it may learn not to rebel at all, or, at least, to rebel less than it does against the sway of the mind. Finally, we must, with all the powers of our soul, seek for the peace that awaits us in the heavenly Jerusalem; for they who long as they ought for that peace, readily despise all temporal good and evil; and thus, even in this world, possess that peace with God, the one thing principally established by filial fear.
15 He proves the assertion he made, viz., that they who avoid sin, and observe the commandments of God, have “life and good days;” and the reason is, because God constantly regards the just, and always hears their prayers; and how can they avoid having: “good days,” who spend their lives under an all powerful guardian? For if the just have any intimation of evils impending on them, and they cry to God, they find his ears open and attentive to them; if they do not know or expect the said evils, God watches for them, and saves them from many dangers themselves neither saw nor understood; for it is for such purpose “the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” to guard them from the evils not reached by their own eves. Wonderful goodness of God; Who should not be delighted at loving so good a God with his whole heart, and fearing him with the affection of a child? Who, on reflecting on these things, would not exclaim with the prophet, “Pierce thou my flesh with thy fear?” and, in another Psalm, 85, “Let my heart rejoice, that it may fear thy name.” But the just are not always heard by God—yes, they are heard; and if God does not do for them what they ask, it is because it would not be expedient for themselves to have it done. He is like the physician, who hears the request of the patient praying to escape the bitter dose, and still does not hear him, in order that he may cure him.
16 By contrasting God’s dealings with the wicked, the prophet greatly enhances his dealings with the just; for, “as the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” to protect them, so he watches over “those that do evil things;” that is, over the wicked, not to protect them, but “to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth;” that is, that they may be utterly ruined and perish, and, not only themselves, but their children and all their posterity, until their memory be completely abolished. This does not always happen, either because the wicked themselves repent before the day of vengeance, or because their children and posterity do not follow their example, or because God’s vengeance is stayed by some otherwise and sufficient reason; and the psalmist states here only what generally takes place, and which is laid down in the very beginning of the Decalogue, “I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
17 He proves the assertion, that “the eyes of the Lord are upon the just,” by the examples of the fathers in sacred history, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Josue, Gideon, and others; and, perhaps, in spirit, foresaw and proclaimed the delivery of Daniel from the den of the lions; of the three children from the fiery furnace; of Susanna, condemned to death through false witnesses. Perhaps, too, he had before him the example of the Machabees, who did not escape death and torments; as well as the apostles and martyrs, and Christ himself, who most unjustly suffered the most grievous torments at the hands of their enemies and persecutors. For they, in the truest sense, are delivered from all tribulation, who, as the Church celebrates them, “by a brief and holy death, possess a happy life.” They can most truly be said to have been heard when they cried, because they got what was so much superior to delivery from a temporal calamity. He gave them the precious gift of patience, and in reward of such patience a crown of everlasting glory.
18 He explains how God delivers the just from tribulation, and seems to enlarge on what he briefly threw out in Psalm 90, “I am with him in tribulation; I will deliver him, and I will glorify him;” that is, through patience I am with him in this life. “I will deliver him,” by the sleep of death; “and glorify him,” by a glorious resurrection. So he now says: “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart;” that is, God never deserts the just when they are afflicted and troubled in heart by injuries and persecutions, but is always at hand, ministering patience, mingling with it his heavenly consolations, to enable them to bear up against their trials, which will not be of long duration, for, presently, he will “save the humble of spirit;” those identical humble and afflicted in heart and spirit, and rescue them from all their troubles.
19 This verse properly belongs to the last part of the preceding verse: “He will save the humble of spirit.” He will save them, however numerous their troubles may be, and will save them from all their troubles. For “God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Here we are reminded that the faithful in this life are not promised an exemption from want, disease, ignominy, persecution, calumny, oppression, but are only promised spiritual consolation here, and full and perfect delivery hereafter.
20 This seems to apply to the glory of their resurrection, to which, undoubtedly, the expression of our Savior, “A hair from your head shall not be lost,” also applies. For that cannot be called broken, which, at once, becomes stronger and more beautiful than it was before it was broken. And, therefore, though the bones and all the members of the just may be scattered, or devoured by wild beasts, or cast into the sea, or consumed in the fire, God, however, preserves them all in the bosom of his providence; not one of them will be lost, but will all be renewed entire and glorified, at the resurrection.
21 For fear the wicked may suppose their pain and torments would be ended by death, as the atheists, or those who disbelieve the providence of God or the immortality of the soul, falsely persuade themselves of, the prophet adds, “The death of the wicked is very evil,” because it is the beginning of eternal torments; just as “the death of the saints is precious,” because it is the beginning of eternal rest and glory. “And they that hate the just shall be guilty;” that means, they who harass and hate the just, who persecute them, who look upon themselves as having accomplished a good work, and as conquerors, when they depress, despoil, and destroy the just, in the long run, “they shall be guilty;” that is, will stray from the paths of true happiness, and will speak in the language of Wisdom 5, “Therefore we have erred from the way of truth; and the light of justice hath not shined unto us; and the sun of understanding hath not risen upon us. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity and destruction, and have walked through hard ways: but the way of the Lord we have not known. What hath pride profited us; or what advantage hath the boasting of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like a shadow.”
22 The Psalm concludes by predicting a lot to the just very different from that predicted for the wicked, “The Lord will redeem” from all slavery, consequently from all evil, “the souls of his servants,” so soon as he shall have brought them out of the prison of the body and thus the death of the just will be the best, as Balaam rightly said, “May my soul die the death of the just, and may my last moments be like unto theirs,” Num. 23. “And none of them that trust in him shall offend,” will not miss their aim, fail in their course, but will arrive at the goal of eternal happiness; “all those” who confide not in their own strength, but in God.
We have here to remark, that hope of any sort, no more than faith of any sort, or faith that is dead, will not suffice to obtain eternal life; but here it is said, that hope will procure eternal life, because he supposes it to be the hope of the just, of those who fear and love God, which the Apostle Peter calls “lively (or living) hope.” Such hope and confidence as springs from patience, good works, and the testimony of a good conscience, according to St. Paul, Rom. 5., “Patience worketh trial, and trial hope;” and again, 1 Timothy 3, “For they that have ministered well, shall purchase to themselves a good degree, and much confidence in the faith which is in Christ Jesus;” and again, 1 John 3, “If our heart do not reprehend us we have confidence towards God.” This living and perfect hope brings us at once to what we want, to everlasting glory, so that we ultimately got possession of the object of our hope.
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
READINGS AND OFFICE:
Today’s Mass Readings (NABRE). Translation used in the USA.
Today’s Mass Readings (NJB). Scroll down slightly. The NJB is used in most other English speaking countries.
COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: 2 Samuel 5:1-3.
COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm 122.
COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Colossians 1:12-20.
Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Colossians 1:12-20. Begins with verse 9.
Pending: St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Colossians 1:12-20. On 9-20.
St Thomas Aquinas’ Lectures on Colossians 1:12-20. Read lectures 3, 4 & 5 on chapter 1.
Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Colossians 1:12-20. Actually on 15-20.
COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Luke 23:35-43.
St Cyril of Alexandria’s Homiletic Commentary on Luke 23:35-43. On 32-43. Posted for another occasion.
Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 23:35-43. On 34-43.
Sacred Page Blog: Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Catholic biblical scholar Dr. John Bergsma’s reflections on the readings.
Doctrinal Homily Outline. Highlights central theme(s), doctrinal application and practical application
Lector Notes. Brief historical and theological background to the readings.
Gospel Summary with Life Implications. St Vincent’s Archabbey.
Thoughts From the Early Church. From a homily on the gospel by St Bernard.
Scripture in Depth. Brief look at all the readings.
Prepare For Mass. Various links, videos, etc.
Franciscan Sisters Bible Study Podcast. This Sunday’s study will become available on Thursday. Looks at all the readings.
St Martha’s Parish Bible Study Podcast. Looks at the readings in some detail.
St Irenaeus Ministries Podcast Study of Luke 22-23. Click on POD icon or direct download link.
Dr Scott Hahn’s Podcast. Brief. highlights major theme(s) of the readings.
(1) Father Robert Barron’s Podcast Homily: March in the Army of the True King. From a noted speaker, author and theologian.
Father Francis Martin’s Reflections: In four parts. Approx. 15 minutes each.
Ver 34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.35. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,37. And saying, If you be the king of the Jews, save yourself.
CHRYS. Because the Lord had said, Pray for them that persecute you, this likewise He did, when He ascended the cross, as it follows, Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, not that He was not able Himself to pardon them, but that He might teach us to pray for our persecutors, not only in word, but in deed also. But He says, Forgive them, if they should repent. For He is gracious to the penitent, if they are willing after so great wickedness to wash away their guilt by faith.
BEDE; For must we imagine here that He prayed in vain, but that in those who believed after His passion He obtained the fruit of His prayers? It must be remarked, however, that He prayed not for those who chose rather to crucify, than to confess Him whom they knew to be the Son of God, but for such as were ignorant what they did, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, as He adds, For they know not what they do.
GREEK EX. But for those who after the crucifixion remain in unbelief, no one can suppose that they are excused by ignorance, because of the notable miracles that with aloud voice proclaimed Him to be the Son of God.
AMBROSE; It is important then to consider, in what condition He ascends the cross; for I see Him naked. Let him then who prepares to overcome the world, so ascend that he seek no the appliances of the world. Now Adam was overcome who sought for a covering. He overcame who laid aside His covering. He ascends such as nature formed us, God being our Creator. Such as the first man had dwelt in paradise, such did the second man enter paradise. But about to ascend the cross rightly, did He lay aside His royal garments, that you may know that He suffered not as God, but as man, though Christ is both.
ATHAN. He also who for our sakes took upon him all our conditions, put on our garments, the signs of Adam’s death, that He might put them off, and in their stead clothe us with life and incorruption. It follows, And they parted his raiment among them, and cast lots.
THEOPHYL. For perhaps many of them were in want. Or perhaps rather they did this as a reproach, and from a kind of wantonness. For what treasure did they find in His garments?
BEDE; But in the lot the grace of God seems to be commended; for when the lot is cast, we yield not to the merits of any person, but to the secret judgment of God.
AUG. This matter indeed was briefly related by the three first Evangelists, but John more distinctly explains how it was done.
THEOPHYL. They did it then mockingly. For when the rulers scoffed, what can we say of the crowd? For it follows, And the people stood, who in truth had entreated that He should be crucified, waiting, namely, for an end. And the rulers also with them derided.
AUG. Having mentioned the rulers, and said nothing of the priests, St. Luke comprehended under a general name all the chief men, so that hereby may be understood both the scribes and the elders.
BEDE; And these also unwillingly confess that He saved others, for it follows, Saying, He saved others, let him save himself, &c.
ATHAN. Now our Lord being truly the Savior wished not by saving Himself, but by saving His creatures, to be acknowledged the Savior. For neither is a physician by healing himself known to be physician by healing himself known to be a physician, unless he also gives proof of his skill towards the sick. So the Lord being the Savior had no need of salvation, nor by descending from the cross did He wish to be acknowledged the Savior, but by dying. For truly a much greater salvation does the death of the Savior bring to men, than the descent from the cross.
GREEK EX. Now the Devil, seeing that there was no protection for him, was at a loss, and as having no other resource, tried at last to offer him vinegar to drink. But he knew not that he was doing this against himself; for the bitterness of wrath caused by the transgression of the law, in which he kept all men bound, he now surrendered to the Savior, who took it and consumed it, in order that in the place of vinegar, He might give us wine to drink, which wisdom had mingled.
THEOPHYL. But the soldiers offered Christ vinegar, as it were ministering to a king, for it follows, saying, If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.
BEDE; And it is worthy of remark, that the Jews blaspheme and mock the name of Christ, which was delivered to them by the authority of Scripture; whereas the soldiers, as being ignorant of the Scriptures, insult not Christ the chosen of God, but the King of the Jews.
Ver 38. And the superscription also was written over him in the letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us.40. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation?41. And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss.42. And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.43. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, Today shall you be with me in paradise.
THEOPHYL. Observe a second time the device of the devil turned against himself. For in letters of three different characters he published the accusation of Jesus, that in truth it might not escape one of the passers by, that He was crucified because He made Himself King. For it is said, In Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, by which it was signified, that the most powerful of the nations, (as the Romans,) the wisest, (as the Greeks,) those who most worshipped God, (as the Jewish nation,) must be made subject to the dominion of Christ.
AMBROSE; And rightly is the title placed above the cross, because Christ’s kingdom is not of the human body, but of the power of God. I read the title of the King of the Jews, when I read, My kingdom is not of this world. I read the cause of Christ written above His head, when I read, And the Word was God. For the head of Christ is God.
CYRIL; Now one of the thieves uttered the same revilings as the Jews, but the other tried to check his words, while he confessed his own guilt, adding, We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds.
CHRYS. Here the condemned performs the office of judge, and he begins to decide concerning truth who before Pilate confessed his crime only after many tortures. For the judgment of man from whom secret things are hid is of one kind; the judgment of God who searches the heart of another. And in the former case punishment follows after confession, but here confession is made to salvation. But he also pronounces Christ innocent, adding, But this man has done nothing wrong: as if to say, Behold a new injury, that innocence should be condemned with crime. We kill the living, He raised the dead. We have stolen from others, He bids us give up even what is our own.
The blessed thief thus taught those that stood by, uttering the words by which he rebuked the other. But when he saw that the ears of those who stood by were stopped up, he turns to Him who knows the hearts; for it follows, And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. You behold the Crucified, and you acknowledge Him to be your Lord. You see the form of a condemned criminal, and you proclaim the dignity of a king. Stained with a thousand crimes, you ask the Fountain of righteousness to remember your wickedness, saying, But I discover your hidden kingdom; and you turn away my public iniquities, and accept the faith of a secret intention. Wickedness usurped the disciple of truth, truth did not change the disciple of wickedness.
GREG. On the cross nails had fastened his hands and feet, and nothing remained free from torture, but his heart and tongue. By the inspiration of God, the thief offered to Him the whole which he found free, that as it is written, With the heart he might believe to righteousness, with the mouth he might confess to salvation. But the three virtues which the Apostle speaks of, the thief suddenly filled with grace both received and preserved on the cross. He had faith, for example, who believed that God would reign whom he saw dying equally with himself. He had hope who asked for an entrance into His kingdom. He preserved charity also zealously in his death, who for his iniquity reproved his brother and fellow-thief, dying for a like clime to his own.
AMBROSE; A most remarkable example is here given of seeking after conversion, seeing that pardon is so speedily granted to the thief. The Lord quickly pardons, because the thief is quickly converted. And grace is more abundant than prayer; for the Lord ever gives more than He is asked for. The thief asked that He should remember him, but our Lord answers, Verily I say to you, This day shall you be with me in Paradise. To be with Christ is life, and where Christ is, there is His kingdom.
THEOPHYL. And as every king who returns victorious carries in triumph the best of his spoils, so the Lord having despoiled the devil of a portion of his plunder, carries it with Him into Paradise.
CHRYS. Here then might one see the Savior between the thieves weighing in the scales of justice faith, and unbelief. The devil cast Adam out of Paradise. Christ brought the thief into Paradise before the whole world, before the Apostles. By a mere word and by faith alone he entered into Paradise, that no one after his sins might despair of entrance. Mark the rapid change, from the cross to heaven, from condemnation to Paradise, that you may know that the Lord did it all, not with regard to the thief’s good intention, but His own mercy.
But if the reward of the good has already taken place, surely a resurrection will be superfluous. For if He introduced the thief into Paradise while his body remained in corruption without, it is clear there is no resurrection of the body. Such are the words of some, But shall the flesh which has partaken of the toil be deprived of the reward? Hear Paul speaking, Then must this corruptible put on incorruption. But if the Lord promised the kingdom of heaven, but introduced the thief into Paradise, He does not yet recompense him the reward. But they say, Under the name of Paradise He signified the kingdom of heaven, using a well-known name in addressing a thief who knew nothing of difficult teaching. Now some do not read it, This day shall you be with me in Paradise, but thus, I say to you on this day, and then follows, You shall be with me in Paradise. But we will add a still more obvious solution. For physicians when they see a man in a desperate state, say, He is already dead. So also the thief, since he no longer fears his falling back to perdition, is said to have entered Paradise.
THEOPHYL. This however is more true than all, that although they have not obtained all the promises, I mean, the thief and the other saints in order that without us they might not be made perfect, they are notwithstanding in the kingdom of heaven and Paradise.
GREG. NYSS. Here again, we must examine how the thief should be thought worthy of Paradise, seeing that a flaming sword prevents the entrance of the saints. But observe that the word of God describes it as turning about, so as it should obstruct the unworthy, but open a free entrance to life to the worthy.
GREG. Or that flaming sword is said to be turning, because that He knew the time would come when it must be removed; when He in truth should come, who by the mystery of His incarnation was to open to us the way of Paradise.
AMBROSE; But it must also be explained how the others, that is, Matthew and Mark, introduced two thieves reviling, while Luke, one reviling, the other resisting him. Perhaps this other at first reviled, but was suddenly converted. It may also have been spoken of one, but in the plural number; as in the Hebrews, They wandered in goat-skins, and they were sawn asunder; whereas Elijah alone is related to have had a goat-skin, and Isaiah to have been sawn asunder. But mystically, the two thieves represent the two sinful people who were to be crucified by baptism with Christ, whose disagreement likewise represents the difference of believers.
BEDE; For as many of us as were baptized in Christ Jesus, were baptized in His death; but we are washed; by baptism, seeing we were sinners. But some, in that they praise God suffering in the flesh, are crowned; others, in that they refuse to have the faith or works of baptism, are deprived of the gift which they have received.
23:32-43. And there were led also two others, who were malefactors, to be put to death with Him. And when they came to the place which is called a skull, there they crucified Him and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left. And dividing His garments, they cast lots. And the people stood looking on. And the rulers also derided Him, saying. He saved others; let Him save Himself if This is the Christ the elect of God. And the soldiers also mocked Him, coming to Him, and offering Him vinegar, and saying, If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself And there was also a writing written over Him, This is the King of the Jews. And one of the malefactors which were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us. But the other answered rebuking him, and said, Do you not fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due retribution of our deeds: but this man has done nothing that is hateful. And he said, Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, To-day shall you be with Me in paradise.
THE blessed Paul counts the mystery of the incarnation of the Only-begotten worthy of all admiration, and, so to speak, is in amaze at the wisdom and excellence of the plan of salvation, saying, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God.” For consider how the Saviour of all and Lord, by Whom the Father brought all things into existence, refashions man’s nature, restoring it to that which it was in the beginning by becoming Himself like to us, and bearing our sufferings for our sakes. For the first man was indeed in the beginning in the paradise of delight, being ennobled by the absence both of suffering and of corruption: but when he despised the commandment that had been given him, and fell under a curse and condemnation, and into the snare of death, by eating the fruit of the forbidden tree, Christ, as I said, by the very same thing restores him again to his original con-dition. For He became the fruit of the tree by having endured the precious cross for our sakes, that He might destroy death, which by means of the tree had invaded the bodies of mankind. He bore suffering that He might deliver us from sufferings: “He was despised and not esteemed,” as it is written, that He might make us honourable: He did no sin, that He might crown our nature with similar glory: He Who for our sakes was man submitted also to our lot; and He Who gives life to the world submitted to death in the flesh. Is not therefore the mystery profound? Must we not own that the dispensation is more than language can describe? What doubt can there be of this? Let us therefore, as we offer Him our praise, repeat that which was sung by the Psalmist’s harp; “How great are Your works, O Lord! in wisdom have You made them all.”
When therefore He hung upon the precious cross, two thieves were hung with Him. And what follows from this? It was verily mockery as far as regards the object of the Jews; but the commemoration of prophecy: for it is written, that “He was also numbered with the transgressors.” For our sakes He became a curse, that is, accursed: for it is written again, that “Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.” But this act of His did away with the curse that was upon us: for we with Him and because of Him are blessed. And knowing this, the blessed David says: “Blessed are we of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth:” for by His sufferings blessings descend to us. He in our stead paid our debts: He bore our sins; and as it is written, “in our stead He was stricken.” “He took them up in His own body on the tree:” for it is true that “by His bruises we are healed.” He too was sick because of our sins, and we are delivered from the sicknesses of the soul. He bore derision, and mockeries, and spittings: for the rulers of the synagogue of the Jews scoffed Him, shaking their polluted heads, and pouring out upon Him bitter laughter, as they said, “He saved others: let Him save Himself, if He is the Christ.” But if you did not really believe that He was the Christ, why did you kill Him as the heir? Why did you wish to seize His inheritance? If He saved others, and you know that this indeed was so, how could He want the power to save Himself from your hands? You heard in the temple those whose office it was to sing and recite in chorus constantly chanting; “They pierced My hands and My feet: they counted all My bones: and themselves watched and gazed at Me. They divided My garments among them, and on My clothing did they cast the lot.” And again, “They gave gall for My eating, and for My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Since then you were learned in the law,—-for such you considered yourself to be,—-how came you to leave prophecy, and what had been foretold concerning these things unexamined? It was your duty to have enquired Who it was That spoke these things; to Whose person, I mean, you should have referred these verses. You heard your great chieftain Moses foretelling the savageness of your attacks: for he said, that “you shall see your Life hanging upon a tree:” you shall see, that is, Him Who is the cause of life, or rather Life Itself, hung upon a tree. And how then did you entirely disregard the prophecy of Moses, of whom you made so great boast? For we have heard you expressly declaring, “We are Moses’ disciples.” Tell me what you mean by shaking your head at Him? Is it the meek endurance of the Sufferer that you despise? or is it to prove the stony hardness of your mind? Are you eager to subject the Prince of Life to the death of the flesh? Why meddle you with holy cares? Why purpose you a counsel that you will not be able to establish? “He that dwells in heaven shall laugh at them: and the Lord shall deride them,” as it is written.
Two thieves therefore were hanged with Him, as I said, in mockery even of the passion which brings salvation to the whole world: but of these, the one, it says, resembled in his conduct the impiety of the Jews, belching forth the same words as they did, and giving free utterance to blasphemous expressions. “For if, says he, You be the Christ, save Yourself, and us.” But the other, following a different course, is justly worthy of our admiration: for he believed in Him: and while suffering so bitter a punishment, he rebuked the vehement outcries of the Jews, and the words of him who was hanging with him. He “confessed his sin, that he might be justified:” he became the accuser of his own wicked ways, that God might remit his guilt; for it is written, “I said that I will confess of myself my iniquity to the Lord, and You forgave the wickedness of my heart.” He bore to Christ a blameless testimony, and reproved the Jewish want of love to God, and condemned the sentence of Pilate: “for This Man, he says, has done nothing that is hateful.” O how beautiful is this confession! how wise the reasonings, and how excellent the thoughts! He became the confessor of the Saviour’s glory, and the accuser of the pride of those who crucified Him. What reward therefore did he receive? Of what honours was he counted worthy? Or what benefit did the thief gain who was the first to profess faith? He lit upon a treasure worth the having: he became rich unexpectedly, and possessed of every blessing: he won the inheritance of the saints, and to have his name written above, in heaven: he was in the book of life who was bearing the sentence of death, and is numbered with the dwellers in the city that is above.
And let us look at his most beautiful confession of faith. “Jesus, he says, remember me when You come in Your kingdom.” You see Him crucified, and call Him a king: Him Who was bearing scorn and suffering, you expect to come in godlike glory: you see Him surrounded by a multitude of the Jews, and the wicked gang of the Pharisees, and Pilate’s band of soldiers,—-all these were mocking Him, and no single one of them confessed …
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[Here the Syriac finally stops altogether. A table of contents prefixed to part 2 of the Syriac indicates that there were originally only three more sermons in the manuscript: namely, Sermon CLIV. on 23:44 ff.; Serm. CLV. on 23:54 ff.; and Serm. CLVI. on c. 24:36 ff. S. Cyril therefore must have passed over most of the circumstances of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, or have referred to them very briefly.
This post opens with Fr. MacEvilly’s brief analysis of Colossians chapter 1 followed by his notes on verses 12-20. Text in purple indicates his paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on. Text in red, if any, are my additions.
ANALYSIS OF COLOSSIANS CHAPTER 1
The Apostle commences this Epistle with the usual form of Apostolical salutation (Col 1:1, 2). In the next place, he gives thanks to God for the gifts of grace and the divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity, bestowed on the Colossians (Col 1:3–5). These gifts and virtues were to terminate in the enjoyment of the future blessings promised in the Gospel. From the mention of the Gospel, he takes occasion to confirm the doctrine preached to them by Epaphras, as a faithful minister of the Gospel. He prays that the Lord would grant, them a more perfect knowledge of his holy will, and strength and power to lead lives worthy of God, in the performance of good works, and the patient endurance of sufferings for his sake (Col 1:6–12).
The Apostle then renders thanks to God for the grace of faith, and the other blessings of redemption bestowed on all Christians; and from this, takes occasion to point out the attributes of Christ, and his superior excellence over the angels. He claims for him in a special way, the prerogatives of Creator and Redeemer, of which the heretics wishes to deprive him, by transferring them to the angels. The apostle, therefore, asserts, that he is the image of the invisible God—the Creator of all things, the angels included—the preserver, by his Providence, of all things created—the Redeemer of all men, Jews and Gentiles—the head of the Church—the reconciler of offended heaven with sinful man—the very fulness of the Divinity (Col 1:12–21).
He says that the Colossians will be partakers of the blessings of Redemption, provided they persevere in the faith announced to them, which is the same with that preached throughout the rest of the world. He declares himself to be appointed by the will of God a minister of the Gospel, in order to announce to the Gentiles a mystery hitherto concealed from them—a mystery for the fulfilment or accomplishment of which among the Gentiles, he cheerfully submits to suffering and privations of every kind (Col 1:22-29).
Col 1:12 Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light:
We give thanks to God the Father, who, of his pure mercy and grace, has vouchsafed to make us sharers by the light of faith in the inheritance of the saints, which consists in light, or the beatific vision of God.
“Giving thanks to God the Father.” The Greek omits, God. Some persons connects this verse with verse 9, thus: “we cease not praying God to grant you this grace also of thanking him for having called you,” &c. According to the connexion in the Paraphrase, a new sentence is commenced, and St. Paul having concluded his petitions in the preceding verse, now thanks God for the benefits here enumerated. “The lot of the saints,” τοῦ κληρου τῶν ἁγ ων. Eternal life is called a “lot,” to express its gratuitousness, and the absence of strict claim on our part signified by the absence of a claim on the part of those who gain a thing by casting lots. And though we merit eternal life; still, it is primarily founded on grace. In crowning our merits, he only crowns his own gifts.—St. Augustine (from his Treatise ON GRACE AND FREE WILL). “In light.” The light of faith here, or the light of glory hereafter, by which we shall see God, face to face. “It may, however, denote both, as in Paraphrase.”
Col 1:13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love,
Who has rescued us from the power of darkness, i.e., of demons and infidels, and translated us to the kingdom, i.e., the Church of his beloved Son here, which is the portal to the kingdom of heaven hereafter.
“Darkness,” taken in a moral sense in SS. Scripture, denotes evil; hence, it means here, the power of the devil, the prince of darkness. “The Son of his love,” a Hebraism, for his most beloved Son.
Col 1:14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins:
Through whom we have obtained redemption, which consists in the remission of our sins, and which he effected by giving his blood by way of ransom or price for us.
In the following verses the Apostle claims for Christ, the titles of Creator and Redeemer, the two grand prerogatives of which the Simonians attempted to deprive him, and which they wished to transfer to angels. In this verse, he claims for Him the title of Redeemer, upon which he dilates more fully at verse 20—after claiming for him the title of Creator in the intervening verses, 16, 17, 18, 19. The words “through his blood,” are not in the Douay-Rheims Version, made from the Sixtine Edition of the Vulgate, nor in the Codex Vaticanus, nor in MSS. or Versions generally.
Col 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
15. Who is the perfect image of the invisible God (having the same identical nature with Him), existing before any creature, having been begotten of the Father by an eternal generation.
Before asserting that he is Creator, the Apostle first claims for Christ the supreme attribute of Divinity, and the eternal Sonship of God. Others say, that the object of the Apostle in this verse is, to show the great benefits of Redemption from the exalted nature of the person by whom it was effected. Christ is the perfect delineation of that invisible God whom no one ever saw, and exhibits the perfect image which the person possessing the nature of God could alone exhibit. He was begotten of God by an eternal generation; hence, as far anterior to the EONS of the Gnostics in time, as he is superior to them in causality, which latter is shown in the following verse.
Col 1:16 For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers. All things were created by him and in him.
16. For by him were all things created in heaven and earth, both visible and invisible, men and angels of every rank and order—whether thrones or dominations, or principalities or powers, all things were created by him and unto him, i.e., for his glory.
In this verse is refuted the false doctrine of the Gnostics, who asserted that this material visible world was created by the ministry of angels. “Through him and in him.” In Greek, unto him, i.e., unto his glory.
Col 1:17 And he is before all: and by him all things consist.
17. And he is before all creatures, and in him, and through him, all things subsist and are preserved.
In this verse, the Apostle refers to the Divine attribute of Providence, whereby all created things are preserved. From this and the preceding verses, it is clear, that the “image,” εἰκων, referred to in verse 15, must regard the substantial image of God, and the possession of the divine nature; since of God only could it be said that all things were created “by him,” and “in him,” or unto him, as in the Greek, i.e., for his glory, as also that by his providence all things subsist and are preserved. And it was this God—born of the Father before all ages, begotten by eternal generation—his substantial image, by whom all things were made and are still preserved—that submitted to the ignominious tortures of the cross, for what?—to make atonement for the sins of his own creatures—the sins by which he himself was offended. He, though God, submits to tortures, which he could not merit, to free us, worms of earth, from the eternal tortures of the damned which we justly deserved. What excessive love! Sic amantem quis non redamaret. The Latin phrase is from the the famous hymn ADESTE FIDELIS and translates something like: Who would not return the love of one who has loved so much.
Col 1:18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he may hold the primacy:
18. And this same person of whom we are treating as God, is, as man, the head of the Church, which is his mystical body; he is the principle and author of the resurrection, and is himself the first born, or first fruits of the dead, consecrating the resurrection of all by raising himself from the grave. So that whether viewed as God, or as man, he holds pre-eminence over all things created.
He now treats of him, as man; as such, he is the head of his mystical body, the Church—towards her, he exercises all the duties, which the relation of head imposes on him, governing and vivifying her by the continual influx of his graces. He is “the beginning,” which appears from the Greek, ὅς ἐστιν ἀρχὴ, to refer to the words immediately following, viz., “the first born from the dead.” Hence, it means, “he is the principle and author of the resurrection.”
Col 1:19 Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell:
19. For, it has pleased God the Father, that in Christ, all fulness, all perfection of power necessary for him as head, to govern, and of grace, to vivify his body, should permanently and inseparably dwell, and essentially reside.
“All fulness,” i.e., all perfection of wisdom, grace, power, befitting him, as head of the Church. He has the fulness, not only of grace, but of divinity. “Should dwell,” perpetually, inseparably, and essentially. All grace befitting him as head, dwelt in him in the sense already explained, in order that from the head it would descend to the members, and that each might derive from him, as source, the graces necessary for his state and place in the body. The Greek word for “fulness,” πληρωμα, had a special significance, in the false system of the Gnostics.
Col 1:20 And through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth and the things that are in heaven.
20. And it hath pleased the Father, to reconcile all things to himself through him—making peace, by the blood which he shed on the cross, between the angels in heaven and men on earth, between whose union under one common head, sin stood as an obstacle.
The Apostle again refers in this verse to the other great prerogative of Christ, viz., that of Redeemer, to which he alluded before (verse 14). “The things on earth, and the things in heaven.” He reconciled men and angels, and united them, hitherto so far dissevered from each other, under one common headship, having destroyed, by the blood which he shed on the cross, the chiefest obstacle to this union, viz., sin.
Note: the following commentary begins on verse 9. Notes in red represent my additions.
9. Therefore we also, from the day we heard, cease not praying for you and imploring that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10. That you walk worthily of God through all, pleasing in every good work, fruit-bearing and growing in the science of God;
11. In all virtue strengthened according to the might of his glory in all patience and long suffering, with joy,
12. Giving thanks to God the Father, who made us worthy of a portion of the lot of the saints in light;
13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the son of his love,
14. In whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of sins.
Having returned thanks to God for the graces bestowed on the Christians of Colossae, Saint Paul proceeds to pray for them. He repeats in verse 9 what he said in verse 3, that he had not ceased to pray for them since he heard of their conversion to Christ. His prayer was that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and with all wisdom, the apprehension of the great mysteries of faith, and spiritual understanding, or prudence, in the application of these mysteries to practice in their daily lives. Saint Chrysostom thinks this is said in special reference to the efforts of the heretics to mislead them by a false wisdom, which was not spiritual, but mundane and human. The Vulgate has in verse 9 agnitione voluntatis ejus (agnitione = recognizing or knowing voluntatis = the will ejus = of Him), the power of recognition of what is truly the will of God, when the truth and the error are placed in contrast side by side before their minds. The recognition of God’s will and determination to reconcile mankind to himself, not by the ministry of angels, but through his own only-begotten Son. So that knowing this you may walk worthily of God in every respect. The Greek has worthily of the Lord, that is of Christ, as befits his disciples, and therefore pleasing to God the Father, whose pleasure is in the Son of his love, and in those who belong to Him. Pleasing God in every good work. In the Greek this is attached to the words that follow: in all pleasing, and in every good work fructifying and growing in the knowledge of God. This is to please God, and to walk worthily of him. To walk is to continue and persevere. The word rendered in the Vulgate by scientia in this verse is the same which is translated agnitione (knowledge, recognition) in verse 9. There it was the knowledge of God’s will, for the redemption of the world through Christ, which may be fully known and understood; here the knowledge of God’s nature, in which we may continually fructify and grow; but never know fully. Next the Apostle prays that the Christians of Colossal may be strengthened in all virtue (the Greek has, in all strength) according to the power of his glory, in all patience and long-suffering and joy. That is,
the very strength of God’s strength, the victorious splendour of God’s glory, is put in action and exhibited to the world, by the persecutions which his saints are exposed to, because they bear them, not only with complete and unfailing patience and endurance, to the utmost extent—in all patience and long suffering—but actually with joy. The Apostles, having been scourged, went from the presence of the council rejoicing. Act 5:41. Greater courage is shown in suffering than in action. Scævola said fortia agere Romanovum est, but fortia pati is equally a mark of Christians. The Syriac version attaches the words with joy at the end of verse 1 1 to the opening words of verse 12; with joy giving thanks to God the Father. It was part of the Apostle’s prayer that the Colossians should so give thanks. But Saint Chrysostom and Theodoret are of opinion, with greater probability, that Saint Paul uses the words giving thanks to God the Father of himself, in continuation of the orantes et postulantes (pray and beg) of verse 9. He is passing on to a new subject, and there is a change of person in verse 12, for whereas he has before said impleamini (you may be filled, vs 9), ambuletis (you may walk, vs 10), he now says dignos nos fecit (made us worthy). He enters here upon what is in fact the principal object of the whole Epistle, namely to state and maintain the evangelical doctrine of Christ as the true Saviour of the world, in opposition to the errors of the heretics. He begins therefore by thanking God the Father, who has made us worthy of a portion of the inheritance of the saints in light. You, and me, and all Christian people, previously unworthy of any such promotion, as being God’s enemies, he has rendered, by his grace alone, worthy to be written and numbered among his Saints, and receive a portion of their eternal inheritance. In light signifies either the means by which this inheritance is attained, namely, the light of faith ; or else it is said of the lot and inheritance of the Saints, which is in light, in the clear vision of God. Or possibly both meanings may be included, for the light of faith on earth, and the light of glory in heaven, are both portions of the inheritance of the Saints. God the Father has further delivered us from the power of darkness, the tyranny of evil spirits, who are the princes of darkness, from infidelity and sin, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. The Son of his love is a Hebraism for his beloved Son, as they said the mountain of
holiness for the holy mountain. This translation is effected by Baptism, by which we are delivered from the power of the devil, and grafted into the mystical body of Christ, his Church, which is the kingdom of light; and through the blood of Christ have obtained redemption or deliverance, that is, the remission of sins.
15. Who is the image of God the invisible, firstborn of all creation;
16. Because in him all things were created, in the heavens and in earth, visible and invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers; all were created through him and in him;
17. And he is before all, and in him all things consist.
God the Son is the image ol God the Father, who is invisible, whom no man has seen nor can see (1 Tim 6), in all things like him, equal to him, consubstantial with him, proceeding from him per intellectum, his equal Word. And through this consubstantial Image of the Father, painted in the colours of the flesh, he becomes visible in time, who is invisible in eternity. Firstborn of all creation, that is, born before all creation, and therefore higher in dignity than anything created; elder than creation by all eternity, himself its Creator in time. First born, Saint Chrysostom observes, not first created. It is generation, not creation, which is predicated of him. Because, this marks that what follows is an explanation of the statement just made. Christ is the firstborn of creation in this sense, that in him all things were made. Made by God the Father through the agency or intervention of God the Word. In heaven or in earth, visible or invisible, and including therefore the angels (this is stated in opposition to the doctrine of Simon Magus) however lofty their dignity, however great their powers and faculties. All created things were made through Christ, and, in the Greek, to or for him. God the Father did not create the universe by himself, or for himself, but it was made through the agency of the Son, and for the pleasure of the Son. He is before all creatures in time, and in him they consist and are kept in being.
18. And he is the head of the body, the Church, who is the principle, the first-begotten from the dead; that he may in all things hold primacy.
19. Because in him it pleased God that all fullness should dwell.
Christ is the head of the Church, and the head is the seat and source of life, will, and sensation. And he is the Principle, Principium. Saint John applies this term to God the Father: In Principio, in the Principle, in the great First Cause, in the bosom of the Father from eternity, was the Word. But Moses seems to apply it to the Son, as the Principle or beginning of the Creation: In Principio, in the Principle, in the Divine Word, God the Father created the heavens and the earth. But some Greek writers instead of ἀρχή read àπἀρχή, which means literally the beginning of a sacrifice, and was usually a lock of haircut from the head of the victim and thrown into the fire. Generally it came to mean the firstfruits, the representative or more valuable part of anything. Saint Chrysostom says: He calls him the first-fruits, implying that he has hallowed us all by the oblation of his sacrifice. The first-fruits of the human race, offered for the rest in sacrifice to God; and also the Prince of the resurrection, the first-born from the dead. Thus in all things he holds primacy and pre-eminence, as the only-begotten son of the Father, as the author and beginner of the creation, as the Victim for mankind, as the Head of the Church, as the leader of the resurrection. For it pleased the Father, of his own love and generosity, of free grace, not the merit of Christ, that in Christ all fullness should dwell, the perfection of wisdom, grace, and power. Men receive these gifts in part, Christ has them all, and in all fullness. And in him they dwell, perpetually and inseparably, both by grace and in his Divine nature. But the life that dwells in the head flows also into the body, and having recourse to Christ we draw from the fullness of the fountain of divine grace.
20. And through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the blood of his Cross, whether the things that are on earth, or the things that are in the heavens.
The infinitive depends upon complacuit (pleased) in the previous verse. It was the good pleasure of the Father to reconcile all things to himself by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. The words in ipsum (unto Himself) are a Hebraism, and equivalent to sibi. Sin had introduced enmity between heaven and earth, but by the Cross of Christ sin is done away. By the blood of Christ angels and men are made at peace.
1. We have just heard and enjoyed as a prayer one of the most beautiful and fervent songs of ascents. It is Psalm 122, a living, shared celebration of Jerusalem, the Holy City to which the pilgrims climb.
Indeed, in the opening line, two moments lived by the faithful are amalgamated: that of the day on which the pilgrim rejoiced when he accepted the invitation to “go to God’s house” (v. 1), and that of his joyful arrival at the “gates” of Jerusalem (cf. v. 2); now at last he is walking on that beloved Holy Land. A festive hymn is on his lips at that very moment in honour of Zion, whose deep spiritual significance he contemplates.
2. As a “strongly compact” city (v. 3), a symbol of security and stability, Jerusalem is the heart of the unity of the 12 tribes of Israel that converge towards it as the centre of their faith and worship. They go up there, in fact, “to praise the Lord’s name” (v. 4) in the place that “Israel’s law” (Dt 12: 13-14; 16: 16) has chosen as the only legitimate and perfect shrine.
There is another important reality in Jerusalem that is also a sign of God’s presence in Israel: “the thrones… of the House of David” (cf. v. 5); that is, the Davidic dynasty governs, an expression of the divine action in history that was to lead to the Messiah (II Sam 7: 8-16).
3. The “thrones… of the House of David” are at the same time called “thrones of judgment” (v. 5), because the king was also the supreme judge. Thus, Jerusalem, a political capital, was also the highest tribunal where controversies were settled in the final instance: in this way, when Jewish pilgrims left Zion, they returned to their villages feeling more righteous and peaceful.
The Psalm thus traced an ideal portrait of the Holy City with her religious and social function, showing that biblical religion is neither abstract nor intimistic, but a leaven of justice and solidarity. Communion with God is necessarily followed by the communion of brothers and sisters with one another.
4. We now come to the final invocation (cf. v. 6-9). It is marked throughout by the Jewish word shalom, “peace”, traditionally considered to be the etymological root of Jerushalajim, the Holy City itself, interpreted as “city of peace”.
It is well known that shalom alludes to the messianic peace that in itself brings joy, prosperity, goodness and abundance. Indeed, in the pilgrim’s final farewell to the temple, to the “house of the Lord our God”, he adds “good” to “peace”: “I will ask for your good” (v. 9). This anticipates the Franciscan greeting: “Peace and good!”. We all have something of a Franciscan soul. This greeting expresses the hope that blessings will be poured out upon the faithful who love the Holy City, upon the physical reality of its walls and buildings in which the life of a people pulsates, on all its brothers and sisters and friends. In this way, Jerusalem will become a hearth of harmony and peace.
5. Let us end our meditation on Psalm 122 with an idea for reflection suggested by the Fathers of the Church for whom the ancient Jerusalem was the sign of another Jerusalem, also “built as a city strongly compact”.
This city, St Gregory the Great says in his Homilies on Ezekiel, “has here a great construction in the customs of the saints. In a building, one stone supports the other, because each stone is set upon another, and the one that supports another is in turn supported by another. This is exactly how in our Holy Church each one is sustaining and sustained. The closest support one another, and so it is by using them that the building of charity is erected.
“This explains Paul’s exhortation: “Help carry one another’s burdens; in that way you will fulfil the law of Christ’ (Gal 6: 2). Emphasizing the force of this law, he says: “Love is the fulfilment of the law’ (Rom 13: 10).
“Indeed, if I do not make an effort to accept you as you are and you do not strive to accept me as I am, the building of love between us can no longer be erected, bound though we may be by reciprocal and patient love”.
And to complete the image, let us not forget that “there is one foundation that supports the full weight of the construction; and it is our Redeemer, who alone bears all together the customs of us all. The Apostle says of him: “No one can lay a foundation other than the one that has been laid, namely, Jesus Christ’ (I Cor 3: 11). The foundation sustains the stones but the stones do not sustain the foundation: in other words, our Redeemer bore the burden of all our sins, but in him there was no sin to be borne” (2, 1, 5: Opere di Gregorio Magno, III/2, Rome, 1993, pp. 27, 29).
Thus, Pope St Gregory the Great tells us what the Psalm means for our lives in practice. He tells us that we must be a true Jerusalem in the Church today, that is, a place of peace, “supporting one another” as we are; “supporting one another together” in the joyful certainty that the Lord “supports us all”. In this way the Church will grow like a true Jerusalem, a place of peace. But let us also pray for the city of Jerusalem, that it may increasingly be a place for the encounter of religions and peoples; that it may truly be a place of peace.
Psalm 122:1 I was glad when they said unto me: We will go into the house of the LORD.
In the first and literal sense, (St Hilary) the words are most probably those of a Hebrew in a foreign land, whose friends and neighbours propose to join in pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and who rejoices in the opportunity thus afforded to himself. Others explain they as the Prophets (St Robert Bellarmine), especially Jeremiah, Daniel, Haggai, and Zechariah, who declared to the exiled people the certainty of their return and the restoration of their temple and city (Bereshith Rabba). But even the Talmudists declare that the higher sense is that to be followed here, and that it is the heavenly Jerusalem, of which the Prophets tell us, which is meant. Who are they, then, who say these words to us? The Three Persons of the Most Blessed Trinity, and especially the HOLY SPIRIT Himself, (St Hilary) speaking to us by the Prophets (St Albert the Great), Apostles, Doctors, and Saints, and saying, not “Go,” but We will go, and be your guides and companions on the road to that house which admits the righteous only, which is the house of the Angels, and has the blessedness of beholding the Creator of all things, that desirable dwelling, that house built up of living stones, of which is said in another Psalm, (Cassiorodur) “One thing have I desired of the LORD, which I will require, even that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the fair beauty of the LORD, (Remigius of S. Germanus) and to visit His temple.” (Ps 27:4) In that they say it to me, the unity of the Church, the individuality of the promises, is denoted; in that it is added, we will go, the multitude of them that are of one heart and mind is shown forth (Cardinal Hugo). There are four Houses of GOD, moreover, into which the faithful soul must needs go, First is that lower House of His, the Church Militant here on earth, of which is written, “My House shall be called the house of prayer” (Isaiah 56:7); next, the outer House of Scripture; the inner house of conscience and secret meditations; the upper house of the Church Triumphant, where there are many mansions. Not need we have any doubt as to our welcome, for when we ask the question, “Master, where dwellest Thou” (Jn 1:38)? He saith unto us, “Come and see.” Happy they of whom it is added (St Augustine): “They came and saw where He dwelt, and abode with Him that day.” How are we to go? On the two feet of charity, answers a Saint (Gregory), love of GOD and love of our neighbour. S. Gregory Nazianzen relates that his father, a Pagan, who had long held out against the prayers and counsels of his Christian wife, dreamt one night that he recited this verse, and conceived therewith a desire to embrace the faith, which he accordingly did speedily afterwards (Oration 19). Richard of S. Victor allegorizes the verse at length, saying that it is the fallen Adam and Eve, the reason and the affection of men, rejoicing in the good news of recall from exile, and return to Paradise.* It is said, we will go, because neither the hand nor the heart alone suffices for that pilgrimage. It is not a very praiseworthy thing for Adam to desire entrance without Eve, for knowledge of divine things without love of them is unprofitable; it is altogether impossible for Eve to enter without Adam, for if we know nothing of divine things, we shall not love them at all. And, lastly, it is taken of the gladness of Saints at entering into their rest through the gate of death, while the Angels round their beds bid them welcome into their fellowship, and urge them to speedy departure.
Psalm 122:2 Our feet shall stand in thy gates: O Jerusalem.
The words should be in the historical tense, as in the Vulgate; (Dionysius the Carthusian ) Our feet were standing, which may imply either a past or a still continuing state of things. The very sign and cause of our hope that we shall go into the House of the LORD is that our feet are, even now, already standing in the gates of Jerusalem, that is, that our desires and contemplations are fixed and established in the mansions of the kingdom of heaven, because our conversation is in heaven, and accordingly the Apostle speaks in similar language to those still on pilgrimage, “Ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the Living GOD, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb 12:22). He stands there who delights himself in GOD (St Augustine), but he whose delight is in himself, cannot stand, but must fall through his pride, as Lucifer did. Note too that it is not said at thy gates, but in thy gates, because the gates of the Church (Rev 21:25), Militant or Triumphant, are open to all, and are shut neither by day nor by night; for CHRIST is Himself the one Door of the heavenly City (Rev 21:12), albeit its twelve minor gates are set on every side of the walls, that we may learn how there is a welcome there for every tribe, from every quarter of the world.
Psalm 122:3 Jerusalem is built as a city: that is at unity in itself.
Or, with A. V., that is compact together. There may be a reference here to the topography of Jerusalem, girdled and hemmed in on all sides by mountains and ravines, forming a great series of natural bastions and entrenchments; or we may understand the words of the repairs executed just after the return from exile, when the gaps and waste places were rebuilt, and the walls completed and dedicated; or, lastly, the Psalm may here express the admiration of a dweller in tents or scattered villages for the stately, numerous, and continuous houses and palaces of the capital city. A further meaning, that Jerusalem is here regarded as the federal capital of all the tribes, which having each local synagogues and courts of their own, here met in one common temple and submitted to one supreme tribunal, may be fairly got out of the Hebrew, and is the plainest sense of Symmachus, συνάφειαν ἔχουσαν ὁμοῦ, borne out, moreover, by the two following verses.
Note, first, that, in speaking of the earthly Jerusalem (St Hilary), the Psalmist does not say that it is a city; but only that it is built as a city; because it is at best but the faint and shadowy type of the only true Jerusalem, the City made without hands, eternal in the heavens. And that Jerusalem, too, is building, stone by stone, nor will it be completed till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in (Rom 11:25), and then shall the remnant of Israel be saved (St Augustine). It is being built of living stones, and therefore is in the truest sense a city, because that is the term for the place where a great concourse of men, citizens, are assembled, while the same place, as a mere collection of empty dwellings, would be no more than a town. The Latin runs on: Cujus participatio ejus in idipsum, a sentence difficult to render into English, but lending itself most readily to the last explanation of the Hebrew given above; to wit, the solidarity of the inhabitants, united in harmonious fellowship, an interpretation given in fact by several of the commentators, who see in this very union and concord a fresh proof that it is no earthly city which is intended, but that one whose citizens all seek and share the same thing (Haymo), that is, GOD (Remigius of St Germanus). But with a patient minuteness of construing, some of them (St Albert the Great), notably S. Augustine, get a further notion out of the words, taking ejus not as a mere redundant iteration of cujus, but as bringing in a fresh idea: (Cassiodorus) Whose participation is of Him Who is the same, “yesterday, to-day, and for ever” (Heb 13:8), JESUS CHRIST our LORD; unwearying might, unchangeable power, self-existent substance, powerful to effect all that He wills, Who is I AM THAT I AM (Ex 4:14). S. Augustine, in another place, quoting Cicero’s definition of a city or state, that it is a multitude of men living in harmony under a common code of laws and for mutual advantage, held together by a traditional bond of moral habit, declares that Rome never answered to this description; and it is equally true, observes Parez, that it never can have applied to the earthly Jerusalem, in which strife, injustice, selfishness, and departure from the law of GOD, had always found a place. The heavenly Jerusalem, too, is built as a city (Cardinal Hugo); it has its points of likeness to the towns of earth; its “many mansions” (Jn 14:2); its one municipal law, that of love; its one King, CHRIST; its fountain (Song 4:12), His pure Mother; its twelve gates, the glorious company of the Apostles (Rev 21:12); its citizens, the Saints and Angels; its walls and bulwarks (Isa 24:1); salvation, that is, CHRIST; “from Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying (building-up) of itself in love.” (Eph 4:7).
O quàm præclara regio,
Et quàm decora legio,
Ex angelis et hominibus!
O gloriosa civitas,
In quâ summa tranquillitas,
Lux et pax in cunctis finibus!
O how illustrious is that Land,
And how magnificent the band
Of angels and mankind!
O glorious City, where is found
Supremest rest, in every bound
Both light and peace combined!
(Thomas à Kempis, The Hymn, Astant Angelorum Chori.)
Psalm 122:4 For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the LORD: to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the Name of the LORD.
To testify unto Israel,* rather, a testimony or ordinance unto Israel, namely, the law which ordained that all males should present themselves thrice a year before the LORD (Ex 23:17), to attest their loyalty to Him (Deut 16:16), and to claim the consequent privileges of the Covenant.
The tribes of the Lord. (St Hilary) It is not, as we might expect, the tribes of Israel who go up, a testimony unto the Gentiles, showing them the way of righteousness; but the Gentile tribes of the Lord who go up, and thus testify unto Israel, saying, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the: LORD, to the house of the GOD of Jacob; and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isa 2:3, St Robert Bellarmine). To give thanks unto the Name of the LORD. Since, as it is written in another Psalm, “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they will be alway praising Thee” (Ps 84:4), for “the streets of Jerusalem shall be paved with beryl and carbuncle, and stones of Ophir; and all her streets shall say, Alleluia; and they shall praise Him, saying, Blessed be GOD, which hath extolled it for ever.” (Tobit 13:17)
Psalm 122:5 For there is the seat of judgment: even the seat of the house of David.
Here is the third glory of Jerusalem (St John Chrysostom), that it is not merely stately and strong in beauty, and the gathering-place of all the tribes, but also the seat of kingly power and justice, and also of the supreme tribunal in matters of religion. (Parez) It is therefore rightly said thrones (seats) of judgment, in the plural, (A. V., LXX., Vulg., &c.) as denoting the appeal in civil and criminal causes to the King, and in religious ones to the High Priest (Origen), both of them sitting in judgment at Jerusalem. So, as it is added, thrones for the house of David, that is, for a line of Sovereigns sprung from the Shepherd-King (Cassiodorus); it is no marvel that all the Christian commentators with one voice see here the fulfilment of those two sayings of the Gospel, “The FATHER judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the SON” (Jn 5:22); and again, “Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28). The Vulgate reading, over the house of David, draws from the commentators here a note of the priority of the Apostles in the Church, as co-assessors of the High Priest and King to Whom is committed the judgment of quick and dead.
Psalm 122:6 O pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
Psalm 122:7 Peace be within thy walls: and plenteousness within thy palaces.
The welfare and security of every earthly city consists in two things (Parez); first, in the strength of its walls and towers; next, in the abundance of its citizens and provisions. And the Church Militant here on earth, besieged as it is incessantly by spiritual foes, needs the same helps too; wherefore all Saints of GOD, angels and faithful departed, as well as living men, are besought to join in prayer that the walls of faith, hope, and charity, manned by the Doctors and Martyrs, may be firm and unshattered; that the citizens may be many and zealous, and that abundant store of graces, in Sacraments and prayer, may be provided for their support, that no want or famine may be found there. Gerhohus, reminding us how we have revolted against GOD, how the Church Militant, Jerusalem on earth, has failed to do GOD’S will as it is done in heaven (Lk 14:32), Jerusalem above, notes that we have deep reason to send an embassy to our King to desire conditions of peace, before He comes against us with twenty thousand (Ps 68:17), to sit in judgment on our deeds and words and hidden thoughts; to ask Him not only for pardon, but for plenteousness. For walls and palaces the Vulgate reads strength and towers, (St Augustine) and these terms are variously explained of divers virtues and graces, especially of charity and faith; but a deeper exposition takes the strength of Jerusalem to be the Passion of CHRIST, (Parez) and her towers the heights of celestial grace and glory attained by those who love Him (St Bernard).
Psalm 122:8 For my brethren and companions’ sakes: I will wish thee prosperity.1
There are two literal ways of interpreting this verse (Agellius), each of which lends itself to a deep mystical sense. I will wish thee prosperity, because I recognize all thy citizens as my own brothers and friends, and thus have a personal and domestic interest in thy welfare; or, I will wish thee prosperity, that all my brothers and friends, now in exile and poverty, may be brought home to their own city, (Cassiodorus) and be enriched with the abundance of her palaces, “not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved” (1 Cor 10:33). One gives us the rejoicing sense of fellowship in the Communion of Saints, the Catholic Church; the other the eager yearning of all devout and compassionate souls for those who have gone astray and are in captivity to sin, suffering a famine of the Word of GOD. The last words of the verse are more literally, I will speak peace within thee, that is, will utter the greeting, “Peace be unto thee.” And then we get a further meaning besides that correctly enough, that he who has at heart the interests of the Church will preach in her the unity of the Faith, wherein alone is true peace (Arnobius), and not merely try to cover over real divisions by specious words of agreement with all parties. Some commentators take these words as those of CHRIST Himself, promising present blessings and future glory to the Church on earth, “for both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Heb 2:11).
Psalm 122:9 Yea, because of the house of the LORD our GOD: I will seek to do thee good.
The outward splendour, the temporal polity of Jerusalem is dear to her true citizens only as encompassing and shrining the House of GOD. (St Hilary) The descent of the blessing of peace on the brethren and companions of the Psalmist constitutes them into the City of GOD, as when JESUS returning to His yet infant Church, while it mourned for His death, said, “Peace be unto you” (Jn 20:19): and now the whole City, learning what is the dignity and beauty of the House of the LORD, desires to be that House itself, that GOD may dwell not only within its limits, but throughout it, in the heart of every one within its walls, saying to her citizens, “Ye are the temple of GOD, and the Spirit of GOD dwelleth in you” (1 Cor 3:16). I will seek to do thee good is more than I will wish thee prosperity, for it carries goodwill into action; firstly, that of earnest wrestling in prayer that GOD may grant His City all desirable blessings; and next (Haymo), diligent seeking out of good things to increase the power and wealth of that City, new converts, to be soon full citizens, fresh stores of song, art, devotion, beauty, holiness, to be cast into the treasury of the LORD.
Glory be to the FATHER, the Maker and Builder of the heavenly Jerusalem; glory be to the SON, the Prince of the House of David, Who sitteth on the Throne of Judgment; glory be to the HOLY GHOST, Who hath told us by the Prophets and Apostles that we shall go into the House of the LORD.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.
VARIOUS USES OF THE PSALM
Gregorian. Thursday: Vespers. [Circumcision. Comm. B.V.M. Comm. Virg.: Vespers. Little Office B.V.M.: Terce.]
Monastic. Week-days: Terce.
Ambrosian: Tuesday: Vespers.
Parisian: Tuesday: Vespers.
Lyons: Tuesday: Vespers.
Quignon. Wednesday: Sext.
Gregorian. We will go gladly into the House of the LORD. [Circumcision: In the bush which Moses saw unconsumed, we recognize the preservation of thy praiseworthy Virginity. Mother of GOD, intercede for us. Comm. B.V.M. and Virg.: I am black, but comely, O daughters of Jerusalem, therefore the King loved me, and brought me into His chamber.]
Monastic. As cxx.
Ambrosian. Be there peace * in Thy might, O LORD.
Parisian. For my brethren and companions’ sakes, I spake peace of thee, O Jerusalem.
Lyons. As Gregorian.
Mozarabic. Peace be within thy walls * and plenteousness within thy towers.
Ludolphus: Almighty GOD, vouchsafe to bestow plenteousness of peace on them that walk in the courts of Thine house, that while we give thanks unto Thee with all the eagerness of our hearts, we may attain Thy good things in heavenly places. (If the Collect be addressed to GOD the FATHER, the proper ending is: Through JESUS CHRIST our LORD, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the HOLY GHOST, One GOD, world without end. Amen.)
Dionysius the Carthusian: O GOD, the artificer of all things which be, cause our feet to stand in Thy courts, build up within us Jerusalem which is above, let us have unbroken peace in Thy might, that we may always devoutly seek the good of that sure City, and find it by Thine aid. (If the Collect be addressed to GOD the FATHER, the proper ending is: Through JESUS CHRIST our LORD, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the HOLY GHOST, One GOD, world without end. Amen.)
Catholic biblical scholar Dr. Brant Pitre examines the Gospel reading for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Oct. 23). You can see more resources (commentaries, podcasts, etc.,) on all this Sunday’s readings here.