Commentaries on the Sunday, Solemnity and Feast Readings, Years A, B, C (where applicable)

PLEASE NOTE: This post contains links to commentaries on all the Sunday readings, Solemnities and Feasts. I am currently in the process of posting commentaries on all the daily Mass readings. This will take some time. Posts on the weekly commentaries will include Sundays for that week and the following week (e.g., “Commentaries for the First Week of Advent” includes both the 1st and 2nd Sundays of Advent; Second Week Commentaries contains 2nd & 3rd Sundays, etc.).

ADVENT SEASON

COMMENTARIES FOR THE FIRST WEEK OF ADVENT.
COMMENTARIES FOR THE SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT.
COMMENTARIES FOR THE THIRD WEEK OF ADVENT.
Fourth Sunday of Advent:  A  B  C.

CHRISTMAS SEASON TO THE EPIPHANY

Vigil for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Dec. 24).
Christmas Mass During the Night (Midnight Mass).
Christmas Mass At Dawn.
Christmas Mass During the Day.
Sunday Within the Octave of Christmas.
Jan. 1. Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
The Epiphany of the Lord.

ORDINARY TIME
THE BAPTISM OF THE LORD TO CHRIST THE KING
(Scroll down for the Lenten and Easter Seasons)

Baptism of the Lord: B  C. Always Corresponds to the First Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Second Sunday of Ordinary Time: A  B  C.
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time:  A  B  C.
Solemnity of Christ the King (always the final Sunday of the year):  A  B  C.

LENTEN SEASON

Ash Wednesday.
Thursday After Ash Wednesday.
Friday After Ash Wednesday.
Saturday After Ash Wednesday.
First Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Second Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday of Lent:  A  B  C.
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion:  A  B  C.
Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Holy Thursday Chrism Mass.
Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion.

EASTER SEASON
Including Ascension and Pentecost

Easter Vigil. In the evening of Holy Saturday.
Easter Sunday The Resurrection of the Lord.
Divine Mercy Sunday (Second Sunday of Easter):  A  B  C.
Third Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Fourth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Fifth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Sixth Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Seventh Sunday of Easter:  A  B  C.
Ascension of the Lord, Years A, B and C.
Vigil of Pentecost (Regular and Extended).
Pentecost Sunday: Mass of the Day.

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St Robert Bellarmine’s Commentary on Psalm 122

PSALM 122
THE DESIRE AND HOPE OF THE JUST FOR THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, AND THE PEACE OF HIS CHURCH

Psa 122:1 A gradual canticle. I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: We shall go into the house of the Lord.

Such is the language of God’s people, expressive of their joy on hearing the welcome news of their return to their country. Jeremias was the person to announce that, after seventy years, there would be an end to the captivity, and that the city and the temple would be rebuilt. Daniel, Aggeus, and Zacharias, who lived at the time the captivity was ended, foretold it more clearly; and they, therefore, created much joy among the people, when, on the completion of the seventy years, they said, “We shall go into the house of the Lord;” that is to say, we shall return to our country, where we shall get to see mount Sion and the site of the house of the Lord; and then, when we shall have rebuilt the temple, we will again “go into the house of the Lord.” Christ, however, was the bearer of a far and away more happy message when he announced, “Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;” and when he said more clearly, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you; because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go and prepare a place for you I will come again, and will take you to myself, that where I am, you also may be.” Such news fills with unspeakable joy those who have learned the value “of going into the house of the Lord;” and to hold in that house, not the position “of a stranger or a foreigner, but of a fellow citizen with the saints and a domestic of God’s.” That must be well known to anyone reflecting seriously on the saying of David, “They shall be inebriated with the plenty of thy house;” and in another Psalm, “We shall be filled with the good things of thy house;” as also on that saying of the Apostle, “That you may know what is the hope of his calling, and what are the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.” Such is the man who, from his heart, desires to go into the house of the Lord; and, therefore, from his heart sings, “I rejoiced at the things that were said to me. We shall go into the house of the Lord.” Now, “the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the spirit of God,” and, therefore, on the approach of death, or the termination of his exile and pilgrimage, instead of rejoicing, is troubled and laments, and justly, because, as he did not choose during his life time “to dispose in his heart to ascend by steps,” he cannot possibly expect to go up to the house of the Lord on high, but rather fears to go down to the prison of the damned, there to be punished forever.

Psa 122:2 Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem.

He tells us why the Jews were so overjoyed at the idea of their return to their country, and he says it arose from their remembrance of the time previous to the captivity, when they saw Jerusalem in her extent and in her splendor; for many who had been carried off captives in their youth could have remembered Jerusalem as she then was; and in 1 Esdras 3 we read, that many returned from the captivity who had seen the city and the temple. These men, therefore, say, “Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem;” that is to say, because we recollected the time when we stood in your courts or in your gates, as it is more clearly expressed in the Hebrew. He names the courts or the gates, being, as it were, the vestibules of the city, rather than the public buildings or the streets, because it was at the gates that business was mostly transacted; it was there that the citizens mostly assembled, as we may infer from that verse in Proverbs, “Her husband is honorable in the gates, when he sitteth among the senators of the land.” It also appears, from 2 Kings 18, that the gates of Jerusalem were not plain, ordinary gates, but that they were double gates, with a considerable space between them, which, perhaps, is here called “thy courts.” Thus we read in 2 Kings 24, “And David sat between the two gates.” And again, Jeremias 39, “And all the princes of the king of Babylon came in and sat in the middle gate;” and, certainly, no small space was necessary to accommodate all those princes with their retinue. But how can we Christians say, “Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem,” when we were never in her courts? Well, we have been in her courts, otherwise we would not be now exiles and pilgrims, nor would Christ have redeemed us from captivity had we not been torn from our country and captives in a foreign land. We have been, then, in the courts of the heavenly Jerusalem, when, through our father Adam, we had possession of paradise, that was the gate of the paradise above; and the state of innocence then and there was the gate and the court to the state of glory; and that, perhaps, was the reason why the Holy Spirit made David write “in the courts,” instead of the streets of Jerusalem, that we may understand that the Psalm treats of the celestial, and not the earthly Jerusalem. “We have (therefore) rejoiced at the things that were said of thee,” when they said, “we shall go into the house of the Lord,” because we remembered the time when “our feet were standing” in paradise, and, consequently, in the courts of the paradise above; and, from the idea we got of happiness in the place below, we can guess at the happiness that awaits us above. And though this great place in question is sometimes called the house of the Lord, sometimes the city of Jerusalem, still it is all one and the same place; for our heavenly country is one time called a kingdom, sometimes a city, and at other times a house. It is a kingdom by reason of the multitude and the variety of its inhabitants, as St. John observes, Apoc. 7, “It is a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues.” It is a city by reason of the friendship and fellowship that exist between the saints and the blessed; for, however great their number may be, they know, recognize, and love each other as so many fellow citizens; and, finally, it is a house by reason of the elect having only one father, one inheritance, in which they are all brethren, under the one Father, God.

Psa 122:3 Jerusalem, which is built as a city, which is compact together.

The prophet now, in the person of the pilgrims hastening to Jerusalem, begins to enumerate its praises, with a view of thereby stirring himself up to make greater haste in his ascent to it. He praises it, first, by reason of the supreme peace enjoyed by all its inhabitants, who were so united in the love of each other that they held all their property in common. “Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem;” that same Jerusalem whose buildings have so increased, and are daily increasing, that it has now become a city “which is compact together;” which is enjoyed and shared in common by all. Referring the passage to a future state it is much more beautiful and more sublime, for the heavenly Jerusalem is truly built up as a city; not that it is, strictly speaking, a city, nor that there were stones used in the building; still, it is built up as a city so long as the living stones, dressed by a consummate workman, and, after being actually squared and fitted, are placed on the building of the celestial habitation; from which it follows, that they who understand it not only bear all manner of persecutions with equanimity, but they even rejoice and glory in their tribulations, being perfectly sensible that it is in such manner they are squared and fitted for being built into and raised upon the heavenly habitation. One of these living stones, St. James, thus admonishes us, “My brethren, count it great joy when you shall fall into diverse temptations.” Again, in our heavenly country, we shall have the real community of property; for, in the earthly Jerusalem such community of property was more a matter of fact than a matter of right, and arose from the mutual love of the inhabitants for each other; the same held for a time, in the infancy of the Church, as we read in the Acts, “Neither did any of them say, that of the things which he possessed, anything was his own, but all things were common to them;” which still holds among those religious orders that observe the spirit of their institute. But in the heavenly Jerusalem there is complete community of property, the one God being all unto all; that is, the one and the same God being the honor, the riches, and the delight of all those who dwell in his house; and that most happy and most supreme abundance is really always the same, subject to no diminution or alteration whatever.

Psa 122:4 For thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord: the testimony of Israel, to praise the name of the Lord.

The second subject of praise in Jerusalem is the number of its inhabitants; and this verse has a connection with the second verse, because he now assigns a reason for having said, or rather, for having put in the mouth of God’s people, “Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem;” for, though they were not all citizens of Jerusalem, but inhabitants of different cities, still they all came up to Jerusalem three times in every year. He, therefore, says, “Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem; for thither did the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord;” that is, a great many tribes; such repetitions, in the Hebrew, being indicative of multitude; and thus, a great multitude assembled in Jerusalem, “the testimony of Israel to praise the name of the Lord;” explaining the cause of such an assemblage in Jerusalem. It was according to “the testimony,” that is, the law that obliged all Israel to visit the temple of the Lord at stated times, it being the only temple in the land of promise; and there “praise the name of the Lord,” in acts of thanksgiving and praise. From another point of view, which we consider was more intended by the Holy Ghost, the meaning is, A reason is assigned for having said, “Jerusalem which is built as a city;” because it was built as a city, by reason of “the tribes that go up there;” that is, the holy souls from all tribes and nations, who go up to be built into the spiritual structures, that St. Peter writes of in his first epistle, chap. 2. Now, those blessed souls have gone up to that heavenly Jerusalem, “to praise the name of the Lord;” for that is their whole occupation there, to the exclusion of every other business. Hence, in Psalm 83, we have, “Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord: they shall praise thee forever and ever;” and Tobias, speaking of the heavenly Jerusalem, has, “And Alleluia shall be sung in its streets;” and such is “the testimony,” that is, the command, “to Israel,” that is, to the soul enjoying the beatific vision, that it should never desist from praise, inasmuch as it never ceases to love.

Psa 122:5 Because their seats have sat in judgment, seats upon the house of David.

The third matter for praise in Jerusalem is its being the seat of government, and having a royal palace in it; and the word “because” would seem to connect this verse with the preceding; for it looks like assigning a reason why God wished to have a temple, which the people were bound to visit three times a year, in Jerusalem, in consequence of being the residence of royalty, and the metropolis of the kingdom. He, therefore, says, “Because there,” in Jerusalem, “seats have sat in judgment;” seats of kings in succession, whose business it was to judge the people, “have sat,” have been firmly settled and fixed, not like that of Saul’s, which was for a while in Gabaa of Benjamin, and made no great stay there either; nor, like that of the judges who preceded the kings, who never had any certain fixed place for “sitting,” or delivering judgment, while the kings of the family of David sat permanently in Jerusalem; and he, therefore, adds, “seats upon the house of David;” that is, the seat of royalty founded on the family of David, met with rest and stability; for God said to David, 2 Kings 7, “And thy house shall be faithful, and thy kingdom forever before thy face; and thy throne shall be firm forever.” From the expression, “seats upon the house of David,” we are not to infer that they sat in judgment on the family of David alone; for they had authority over the whole family of Jacob, that is, over the twelve tribes of Israel; but they are called seats upon the house of David, because all the kings of God’s people sprang from the family of David. All this is much more applicable to Christ and the heavenly Jerusalem. Because, lest the Jews may imagine that the words of the Psalm apply to that earthly Jerusalem, and not to the celestial Jerusalem, of which it was a figure, God permitted the seat of government to be removed from Jerusalem, and, furthermore, Jerusalem itself to be destroyed. The promise, then, applies to the Jerusalem above, and to Christ, according to the prophecy of Isaias, chap. 9; of Daniel, chap. 9; and of the Angel to the Virgin, Lk. 1, “The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father, and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” In the strictest acceptance, then, of the words have “the seats sat in judgment” in the heavenly Jerusalem; because Christ’s throne and the thrones of those who reign with him have been established most firmly in heaven; and because those very saints who reign and judge with Christ are a throne for God; for “the soul of the just is the seat of wisdom;” and those seats really sit in judgment, according to the promise of our Lord, “You that have followed me shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And those seats are upon the house of David, because all the power of the saints, royal as well as judiciary, is derived from Christ, who is called the son of David in the Gospel, and who got the seat of David his father, and who will reign forever in the house of Jacob, and of whose kingdom there shall be no end.

Psa 122:6 Pray ye for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem: and abundance for them that love thee.

The prophet now exhorts the exiles, on their return from their captivity, to salute, even from afar, the city of Jerusalem, praying for peace and abundance on it, two things that contribute principally to the happiness of cities; for peace, without abundance, is only a firm hold of misery; and abundance, without peace, amounts to doubtful and uncertain happiness; but when both are combined, the city needs nothing necessary for its happiness. He, therefore, says, “Pray for the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem.” Pray ye to God for true and solid peace for your country, and for “abundance,” not only for the city of Jerusalem, but also “to them that love thee,” you holy city.

Psa 122:7 Let peace be in thy strength: and abundance in thy towers.
Psa 122:8 For the sake of my brethren, and of my neighbours, I spoke peace of thee.

Psa 122:9 Because of the house of the Lord our God, I have sought good things for thee.

He dictates the very words in which those who pray for peace and abundance to Jerusalem are to salute her. When you salute her say ye, “Let peace be in thy strength, and abundance in thy towers;” that is to say, may your walk be always secure and fortified, thereby ensuring perfect peace and quiet to all who dwell within them; “and abundance in thy towers;” no lack of meat or drink in your public buildings and private houses. Now, the two last verses, in reference to the heavenly Jerusalem, though they imply prayers for peace and abundance, still they do not mean to insinuate that there can ever possibly be a want of either there, when we read in Psalm 147, “Who hath placed peace in thy borders; and filleth thee with the fat corn?” they, therefore, merely express the pious affection we cherish for the blessings of the Jerusalem above, just as we have in the Apocalypse, “Salvation to our God who sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

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Protected: A Summary Overview and Key Themes of Lamentations Chapter 2

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Protected: A Summary Overview and Key Themes of Lamentations Chapter 1

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Protected: A Introduction to the Book of Lamentations

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Pope St Leo the Great’s Homily on Matthew 5:1-9

This post is also available as a podcast.

1. Introduction of the subject

When our LORD Jesus Christ, beloved, was preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and was healing divers sicknesses through the whole of Galilee, the fame of His mighty works had spread into all Syria: large crowds too from all parts of Judæa were flocking to the heavenly Physician7. For as human ignorance is slow in believing what it does not see, and in hoping for what it does not know, those who were to be instructed in the divine lore8, needed to be aroused by bodily benefits and visible miracles: so that they might have no doubt as to the wholesomeness of His teaching when they actually experienced His benignant power. And therefore that the LORD might use outward healings as an introduction to inward remedies, and after healing bodies might work cures in the soul, He separated Himself from the surrounding crowd, ascended into the retirement of a neighbouring mountain, and called His apostles to Him there, that from the height of that mystic seat He might instruct them in the lottier doctrines, signifying from the very nature of the place and act that He it was who had once honoured Moses by speaking to him: then indeed with a more terrifying justice, but now with a holier mercifulness, that what had been promised might be fulfilled when the Prophet Jeremiah says: “behold the days come when I will complete a new covenant1 for the house of Israel and for the house of Judah. After those days, saith the LORD, I will put My laws in their minds2, and in their heart will I write them3.” He therefore who had spoken to Moses, spoke also to the apostles, and the swift hand of the Word wrote and deposited the secrets of the new covenant4 in the disciples’ hearts: there were no thick clouds surrounding Him as of old, nor were the people frightened off from approaching the mountain by frightful sounds and lightning5, but quietly and freely His discourse reached the ears of those who stood by: that the harshness of the law might give way before the gentleness of grace, and “the spirit of adoption” might dispel the terrors of bondage6.

2. The blessedness of humility discussed

The nature then of Christ’s teaching is attested by His own holy statements: that they who wish to arrive at eternal blessedness may understand the steps of ascent to that high happiness. “Blessed,” He saith, “are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven7.” It would perhaps be doubtful what poor He was speaking of, if in saying “blessed are the poor” He had added nothing which would explain the sort of poor: and then that poverty by itself would appear sufficient to win the kingdom of heaven which many suffer from hard and heavy necessity. But when He says “blessed are the poor in spirit,” He shows that the kingdom of heaven must be assigned to those who are recommended by the humility of their spirits rather than by the smallness of their means. Yet it cannot be doubted that this possession of humility is more easily acquired by the poor than the rich: for submissiveness is the companion of those that want, while loftiness of mind dwells with riches8. Notwithstanding, even in many of the rich is found that spirit which uses its abundance not for the increasing of its pride but on works of kindness, and counts that for the greatest gain which it expends in the relief of others’ hardships. It is given to every kind and rank of men to share in this virtue, because men may be equal in will, though unequal in fortune: and it does not matter how different they are in earthly means, who are found equal in spiritual possessions. Blessed, therefore, is poverty which is not possessed with a love of temporal things, and does not seek to be increased with the riches of the world, but is eager to amass heavenly possessions.

3. Scriptural examples of humility

Of this high-souled humility the Apostles first9, after the LORD, have given us example, who, leaving all that they had without difference at the voice of the heavenly Master, were turned by a ready change from the catching of fish to be fishers of men, and made many like themselves through the imitation of their faith, when with those first-begotten sons of the Church, “the heart of all was one, and the spirit one, of those that believed10:” for they, putting away the whole of their things and possessions, enriched themselves with eternal goods, through the most devoted poverty, and in accordance with the Apostles’ preaching rejoiced to have nothing of the world and possess all things with Christ. Hence the blessed Apostle Peter, when he was going up into the temple, and was asked for alms by the lame man, said, “Silver and gold is not mine, but what I have that I give thee: in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk11.” What more sublime than this humility? what richer than this poverty? He hath not stores of money12, but he hath gifts of nature. He whom his mother had brought forth lame from the womb, is made whole by Peter with a word; and he who gave not Cæsar’s image in a coin, restored Christ’s image on the man. And by the riches of this treasure not he only was aided whose power of walking was restored, but 5,000 men also, who then believed at the Apostle’s exhortation on account of the wonder of this cure. And that poor man who had not what to give to the asker, bestowed so great a bounty of Divine Grace, that, as he had set one man straight on his feet, so he healed these many thousands of believers in their hearts, and made them “leap as an hart” in Christ whom he had found limping in Jewish unbelief.

4. The blessedness of mourning discussed

After the assertion of this most happy humility, the LORD hath added, saying, “Blessed are they which mourn, for they shall be comforted13.” This mourning, beloved, to which eternal comforting is promised, is not the same as the affliction of this world: nor do those laments which are poured out in the sorrowings of the whole human race make any one blessed. The reason for holy groanings, the cause of blessed tears, is very different. Religious grief mourns sin either that of others’ or one’s own: nor does it mourn for that which is wrought by GOD’S justice, but it laments over that which is committed by man’s iniquity, where he that does wrong is more to be deplored than he who suffers it, because the unjust man’s wrongdoing plunges him into punishment, but the just man’s endurance leads him on to glory.

5. The blessedness of the meek

Next the LORD says: “blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth by inheritance1.” To the meek and gentle, to the humble and modest, and to those who are prepared to endure all injuries, the earth is promised for their possession. And this is not to be reckoned a small or cheap inheritance, as if it were distinct from our heavenly dwelling, since it is no other than these who are understood to enter the kingdom of heaven. The earth, then, which is promised to the meek, and is to be given to the gentle in possession, is the flesh of the saints, which in reward for their humility will be changed in a happy resurrection, and clothed with the glory of immortality, in nothing now to act contrary to the spirit, and to be in complete unity and agreement with the will of the soul2. For then the outer man will be the peaceful and unblemished possession of the inner man: then the mind, engrossed in beholding GOD, will be hampered by no obstacles of human weakness nor will it any more have to be said, “The body which is corrupted, weigheth upon the soul, and its earthly house presseth down the sense which thinketh many things3:” for the earth will not struggle against its tenant, and will not venture on any insubordination against the rule of its governor. For the meek shall possess it in perpetual peace, and nothing shall be taken from their rights, “when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality4:” that their danger may turn into reward, and what was a burden become an honour5.

6. The blessedness of desiring righteousness

After this the LORD goes on to say: “blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be satisfied6.” It is nothing bodily, nothing earthly, that this hunger, this thirst seeks for: but it desires to be satiated with the good food of righteousness, and wants to be admitted to all the deepest mysteries, and be filled with the LORD Himself. Happy the mind that craves this food and is eager for such drink: which it certainly would not seek for if it had never tasted of its sweetness. But hearing the Prophet’s spirit saying to him: “taste and see that the LORD is sweet7;” it has received some portion of sweetness from on high, and blazed out into love of the purest pleasure, so that spurning all things temporal, it is seized with the utmost eagerness for eating and drinking righteousness, and grasps the truth of that first commandment which says: “Thou shalt love the LORD thy GOD out of all thy heart, and out of all thy mind, and out of all thy strength8:” since to love GOD is nothing else but to love righteousness9. In fine, as in that passage the care for one’s neighbour is joined to the love of GOD, so, too, here the virtue of mercy is linked to the desire for righteousness, and it is said:

7. The blessedness of the merciful:

“Blessed are the merciful, for GOD shall have mercy on them10.” Recognize, Christian, the worth of thy wisdom, and understand to what rewards thou art called, and by what methods of discipline thou must attain thereto. Mercy wishes thee to be merciful, righteousness to be righteous, that the Creator may be seen in His creature, and the image of GOD may be reflected in the mirror of the human heart expressed by the lines of imitation. The faith of those who do good11 is free from anxiety: thou shalt have all thy desires, and shalt obtain without end what thou lovest. And since through thine almsgiving all things are pure to thee, to that blessedness also thou shalt attain which is promised in consequence where the LORD says:

8. The blessedness of a pure heart

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see GOD1.” Great is the happiness, beloved, of him for whom so great a reward is prepared. What, then, is it to have the heart pure, but to strive after those virtues which are mentioned above? And how great the blessedness of seeing GOD, what mind can conceive, what tongue declare? And yet this shall ensue when man’s nature is transformed, so that no longer “in a mirror,” nor “in a riddle,” but “face to face2” it sees the very Godhead “as He is3,” which no man could see4; and through the unspeakable joy of eternal contemplation obtains that “which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man5.” Rightly is this blessedness promised to purity of heart. For the brightness of the true light will not be able to be seen by the unclean sight: and that which will be happiness to minds that are bright and clean, will be a punishment to those that are stained. Therefore, let the mists of earth’s vanities be shunned and your inward eyes purged from all the filth of wickedness, that the sight may be free to feed on this great manifestation of GOD. For to the attainment of this we understand what follows to lead.

9. The blessedness of peace-making

“Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of GOD6.” This blessedness, beloved, belongs not to any and every kind of agreement and harmony, but to that of which the Apostle speaks: “have peace towards GOD7;” and of which the Prophet David speaks: “Much peace have they that love Thy law, and they have no cause of offences8.” This peace even the closest ties of friendship and the exactest likeness of mind do not really gain, if they do not agree with GOD’S will. Similarity of bad desires, leagues in crimes, associations of vice, cannot merit this peace. The love of the world does not consort with the love of GOD, nor doth he enter the alliance of the sons of GOD who will not separate himself from the children of this generation9 Whereas they who are in mind always with GOD, “giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace10,” never dissent from the eternal law, uttering that prayer of faith, “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth11.” These are “the peacemakers,” these are thoroughly of one mind, and fully harmonious, and are to be called sons “of GOD and joint-heirs with Christ12,” because this shall be the record of the love of GOD and the love of our neighbour, that we shall suffer no calamities, be in fear of no offence, but all the strife of trial ended, rest in GOD’S most perfect peace, through our LORD, Who, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, liveth and reigneth for ever and ever. Amen.

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Pope St Leo the Great’s Homily on Matthew 17:1-13 (The Transfiguration)

This post is also available in a podcast.

The Gospel lesson, dearly-beloved, which has reached the inner hearing of our minds through our bodily ears, calls us to the understanding of a great mystery, to which we shall by the help of God’s grace the better attain, if we turn our attention to what is narrated just before.

The Saviour of mankind, Jesus Christ, in founding that faith, which recalls the wicked to righteousness and the dead to life, used to instruct His disciples by admonitory teaching and by miraculous acts to the end that He, the Christ, might be believed to be at once the Only-begotten of God and the Son of Man. For the one without the other was of no avail to salvation, and it was equally dangerous to have believed the Lord Jesus Christ to be either only God without manhood, or only man without Godhead4, since both had equally to be confessed, because just as true manhood existed in His Godhead, so true Godhead existed in His Manhood. To strengthen, therefore, their most wholesome knowledge of this belief, the Lord had asked His disciples, among the various opinions of others, what they themselves believed, or thought about Him: whereat the Apostle Peter, by the revelation of the most High Father passing beyond things corporeal and surmounting things human by the eyes of his mind, saw Him to be Son of the living God, and acknowledged the glory of the Godhead, because he looked not at the substance of His flesh and blood alone; and with this lofty faith Christ was so well pleased that he received the fulness of blessing, and was endued with the holy firmness of the inviolable Rock on which the Church should be built and conquer the gates of hell and the laws of death, so that, in loosing or binding the petitions of any whatsoever, only that should be ratified in heaven which had been settled by the judgment of Peter.

But this exalted and highly-praised understanding, dearly-beloved, had also to be instructed on the mystery of Christ’s lower substance, lest the Apostle’s faith, being raised to the glory of confessing the Deity in Christ, should deem the reception of our weakness unworthy of the impassible God, and incongruous, and should believe the human nature to be so glorified in Him as to be incapable of suffering punishment, or being dissolved in death. And, therefore, when the Lord said that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and scribes and chief of the priests, and the third day rise again, the blessed Peter who, being illumined with light from above, was burning with the heat of his confession, rejected their mocking insults and the disgrace of the most cruel death, with, as he thought, a loyal and outspoken contempt, but was checked by a kindly rebuke from Jesus and animated with the desire to share His suffering. For the Saviour’s exhortation that followed, instilled and taught this, that they who wished to follow Him should deny themselves, and count the loss of temporal things as light in the hope of things eternal; because he alone could save his soul that did not fear to lose it for Christ. In order, therefore, that the Apostles might entertain this happy, constant courage with their whole heart, and have no tremblings about the harshness of taking up the cross, and that they might not be ashamed of the punishment of Christ, nor think what He endured disgraceful for themselves (for the bitterness of suffering was to be displayed without despite to His glorious power), Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John, and ascending a very high1 mountain with them apart, showed them the brightness of His glory; because, although they had recognised the majesty of God in Him, yet the power of His body, wherein His Deity was contained, they did not know. And, therefore, rightly and significantly, had He promised that certain of the disciples standing by should not taste death till they saw “the Son of Man coming in His Kingdom2,” that is, in the kingly brilliance which, as specially belonging to the nature of His assumed Manhood, He wished to be conspicuous to these three men. For the unspeakable and unapproachable vision of the Godhead Itself, which is reserved till eternal life for the pure in heart, they could in no wise look upon and see while still surrounded with mortal flesh. The Lord displays His glory, therefore, before chosen witnesses, and invests that bodily shape which He shared with others with such splendour, that His face was like the sun’s brightness and His garments equalled the whiteness of snow.

And in this Transfiguration the foremost object was to remove the offence of the cross from the disciple’s heart, and to prevent their faith being disturbed by the humiliation of His voluntary Passion by revealing to them the excellence of His hidden dignity. But with no less foresight, the foundation was laid of the Holy Church’s hope, that the whole body of Christ might realize the character of the change which it would have to receive, and that the members might promise themselves a share in that honour which had already shone forth in their Head. About which the Lord had Himself said, when He spoke of the majesty of His coming, “Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in their Father’s Kingdom3,” whilst the blessed Apostle Paul bears witness to the self-same thing, and says: “for I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the future glory which shall be revealed in us4:” and again, “for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. For when Christ our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory5.” But to confirm the Apostles and assist them to all knowledge, still further instruction was conveyed by that miracle.

For Moses and Elias, that is the Law and the Prophets, appeared talking with the Lord; that in the presence of those five men might most truly be fulfilled what was said: “In two or three witnesses stands every word6.” What more stable, what more steadfast than this word, in the proclamation of which the trumpet of the Old and of the New Testament joins, and the documentary evidence of the ancient witnesses7 combine with the teaching of the Gospel? For the pages of both covenants8 corroborate each other, and He Whom under the veil of mysteries the types that went before had promised, is displayed clearly and conspicuously by the splendour of the present glory. Because, as says the blessed John, “the law was given through Moses: but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ9,” in Whom is fulfilled both the promise of prophetic figures and the purpose of the legal ordinances: for He both teaches the truth of prophecy by His presence, and renders the commands possible through grace.

The Apostle Peter, therefore, being excited by the revelation of these mysteries, despising things mundane and scorning things earthly, was seized with a sort of frenzied craving for the things eternal, and being filled with rapture at the whole vision, desired to make his abode with Jesus in the place where he had been blessed with the manifestation of His glory. Whence also he says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make three tabernacles1, one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” But to this proposal the Lord made no answer, signifying that what he wanted was not indeed wicked, but contrary to the Divine order: since the world could not be saved, except by Christ’s death, and by the Lord’s example the faithful were called upon to believe that, although there ought not to be any doubt about the promises of happiness, yet we should understand that amidst the trials of this life we must ask for the power of endurance rather than the glory, because the joyousness of reigning cannot precede the times of suffering.

And so “while He was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” The Father was indeed present in the Son, and in the Lord’s brightness, which He had tempered to the disciples’ sight, the Father’s Essence was not separated from the Only-begotten: but, in order to emphasize the two-fold personality, as the effulgence of the Son’s body displayed the Son to their sight, so the Father’s voice from out the cloud announced the Father to their hearing. And when this voice was heard, “the disciples fell upon their faces, and were sore afraid,” trembling at the majesty, not only of the Father, but also of the Son: for they now had a deeper insight into the undivided Deity of Both: and in their fear they did not separate the One from the Other, because they doubted not in their faith2. That was a wide and manifold testimony, therefore, and contained a fuller meaning than struck the ear. For when the Father said, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom, &c.,” was it not clearly meant, “This is My Son,” Whose it is to be eternally from Me and with Me? because the Begetter is not anterior to the Begotten, nor the Begotten posterior to the Begetter. “This is My Son,” Who is separated from Me, neither by Godhead, nor by power, nor by eternity. “This is My Son,” not adopted, but true-born, not created from another source, but begotten of Me: nor yet made like Me from another nature, but born equal to Me of My nature. “This is My Son,” “through Whom all things were made, and without Whom was nothing made3,” because all things that I do He doth in like manner: and whatever I perform, He performs with Me inseparably and without difference: for the Son is in the Father and the Father in the Son4, and Our Unity is never divided: and though I am One Who begat, and He the Other Whom I begat, yet is it wrong for you to think anything of Him which is not possible of Me. “This is My Son,” Who sought not by grasping, and seized not in greediness5, that equality with Me which He has, but remaining in the form of My glory, that He might carry out Our common plan for the restoration of mankind, He lowered the unchangeable Godhead even to the form of a slave.

“Hear ye Him,” therefore, unhesitatingly, in Whom I am throughout well pleased, and by Whose preaching I am manifested, by Whose humiliation I am glorified; because He is “the Truth and the Life6,” He is My “Power and Wisdom7.” “Hear ye Him,” Whom the mysteries of the Law have foretold, Whom the mouths of prophets have sung. “Hear ye Him,” Who redeems the world by His blood, Who binds the devil, and carries off his chattels, Who destroys the bond of sin, and the compact of the transgression. Hear ye Him, Who opens the way to heaven, and by the punishment of the cross prepares for you the steps of ascent to the Kingdom? Why tremble ye at being redeemed? why fear ye to be healed of your wounds? Let that happen which Christ wills and I will. Cast away all fleshly fear, and arm yourselves with faithful constancy; for it is unworthy that ye should fear in the Saviour’s Passion what by His good gift ye shall not have to fear even at your own end.

These things, dearly-beloved, were said not for their profit only, who heard them with their own ears, but in these three Apostles the whole Church has learnt all that their eyes saw and their ears heard. Let all men’s faith then be established, according to the preaching of the most holy Gospel, and let no one be ashamed of Christ’s cross, through which the world was redeemed. And let not any one fear to suffer for righteousness’ sake, or doubt of the fulfilment of the promises, for this reason, that through toil we pass to rest and through death to life; since all the weakness of our humility was assumed by Him, in Whom, if we abide in the acknowledgment and love of Him, we conquer as He conquered, and receive what he promised, because, whether to the performance of His commands or to the endurance of adversities, the Father’s fore-announcing voice should always be sounding in our ears, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him:” Who liveth and reigneth, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Protected: RSM Notes on Philippians 4:1-23

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 3:15-29

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Gal 3:15. Brethren (I speak according to man), yet the settled covenant of man, no one sets at nought or supersedes.
Gal 3:16. To Abraham were the promises given, and to his seed; he says not to seeds, as to many, but as in one, and to thy seed, who is Christ.
Gal 3:17. And I say this: the covenant confirmed by God; the law which came after four hundred and thn’ty years does not render invalid to the abolition of the promise.
Gal 3:18. For if the inheritance of law, now not of promise; but to Abraham God gave it by promise
.

Gal 3:15-18. This is another argument to prove the same thesis—namely, that the justification of man is to be obtained by faith in Christ, not by the Mosaic law. God’s promise was anterior to the law, and could not be aftected by it. The Syriac has: My brethren, I speak as among men. He has just called them fools, and senseless, but he used that language affectionately, For he now says, my brethren. And while one time he chides, and at another consoles, he does all for their salvation. An agreement between man and man, duly authenticated, registered, and accepted, cannot be set aside as worthless, as long as it exists and is in force; neither can it be changed, or anything added to it or taken from it. Much more the solemn promise of Almighty God stands immutable and irrefragable, like himself. The promise of God was given to Abraham, and extended to his posterity, in thee Gen. 12:3, in thy seed, Gen. 22:18, shall all nations be blessed. In the singular not the plural, as limiting this promise to the children of Isaac, to the exclusion of those of Ismael, because from Isaac, not from Ismael, Christ was to descend, in whom the promise is fulfilled. This promise, the salvation of the nations through faith in Jesus Christ, cannot be abrogated or rendered void, changed or altered, anything added to it or taken from it, by the giving of the law four centuries later. But it would be abrogated, if justification and salvation were given by circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic institutes, instead of faith in Christ and baptism. The giving of the law on Mount Sinai took place B.C. 1491, and the computation of the Apostle would place the date of the promise to Abraham in B.C. 1921, the year usually assigned for the original call of Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees, which is the date St. Paul probably had in his mind. If the inheritance, or hereditary and traditional promise of benediction, justification, eternal salvation, were afterwards made dependent in its fulfilment upon obedience to the law of Moses, the promise would not have been made good. This cannot be the case; God gave it to Abraham by promise, and the promise was that he nations were to obtain salvation by faith in Christ.

In deferring the execution of this promise to a later period of the world’s history, the Almighty did not act inconsistently with his own love and affection for the lost race of man, afterwards so conspicuously displayed in the incarnation and death of Christ, because from the beginning he promised it, and confirmed his promise with an oath. By the promise, as by its subsequent fulfilment, he earned beforehand a title to the adoration and gratitude of mankind. The faith, confidence, and affection mankind are therefore due to him. Faith and obedience are the attitude of the soul, due from the creature to the Creator. And if we are not likely to be called upon to shed our blood for our faith, we can at least shed our faith over all we do.

Gal 3:19. What then is the law? It was enacted on account of transgressions; until the seed came, to whom he had promised, and ordained by angels, in the hand of a mediator.
Gal 3:20. And a mediator is not of one; but God is one
.

Gal 3:19.  This is an anticipation of the objection that if the law does not affect in any way the promise made to Abraham, or invest the fulfilment of that promise with any conditions, why was it given? To what purpose does it serve? is it worthless and useless? And in reply to this question the Apostle takes occasion to notice incidentally, though in reality it is the more important aspect of what he has to say, four particulars in which this grand, eternal, universal promise is more excellent than the law which followed it. The law, he says, was given, the Greek has “added” or “appointed in addition,” “on account of transgressions;” to restrain and curb the vicious and irregular inclinations and propensities of the people of Israel, consequent on their long residence in Egypt, until the coming of Christ. For otherwise they might have sunk into the same degeneracy as the nations round them, and the fulfilment of the promise, which depended on the birth of Christ of an Immaculate Virgin, sprung from a holy race, might have been gravely imperilled, if not frustrated and prevented. St. Augustine interprets the words on account of transgressions to mean in order to multiply transgressions, that having been its effect, as St. Paul shows in the Epistle of the Romans. But this signification of the words, thous^h verbally different from the former, amounts to very much the same thing; in the end ; for any law which revealed the sanctity of God, and the nature of the obedience he required, must have the double effect, on the one hand, of acting in a large degree as a restraint on the faults and vices of the nation to whom it was given, while on the other hand it would reveal to their apprehension much evil which they had not known or suspected to be such, or would soon have forgotten or become indifferent to, under the influence of bad examples around them, and would therefore probably multiplying cases of conscious transgression of the divine law.

Saint Paul has, therefore, so far, established two particulars in which the promise to Abraham is shown to be an infinitely grander and nobler thing than the law of Moses. First, the law is occasional and accidental, intro- duced only for the furtherance of the fulfilment of the promise, to which it is subsidiary and subservient ; while the promise is original, universal, the dispensation of God’s great purpose for the redemption of the world from the beginning of its history. Secondly, the law is temporary, to last only until the coming of Christ, which it was designed to facilitate and prepare the way for; but the promise is unlimited and eternal, and the blessing it foretold is to constitute the happiness and well-being of the whole human race to the end of the world, and on- ward to eternity. He now adds two others. The law was ordained by angels. This was well known by tradition to the Jewish people, and St. Stephen said, “you received the law by the ordinances of angels, and have not kept it.” An angel was the representative of the Almighty on Mount Sinai,but he was doubtless not alone. “The Lord came with tens of thousands of holy ones,” Deut. 33:2. But the promise was given to Abraham directly from the mouth of God, or by an internal voice speaking to the heart of the patriarch, and there is no mention made of the intervention of any angel, Gen. 12:3. In the repetition of the promise, and extension of it to the seed of Abraham, Gen. 22:15, it is indeed said that “the angel of the Lord called to him out of heaven the second time.” The first time was shortly before, when he stopped him in the act of slaying his son. But even here the angel did not directly represent the Almighty, as on Mount Sinai; he only delivered the message, with the words. “By myself I have sworn, saith the Lord.” The communication thus made could not be said to be made by the ordinance of angels, nor could an angel promise Christ. The promise came, as before, from the mouth of God, though it was delivered by angelic ministry.

Gal 3:20. Lastly, Saint Paul points out, as the great and crowning difference and super-excellence which distinguishes the Promise and the Law, that the law was given in the hands of a mediator, namely Moses. The promise was given by God directly to Abraham, without any mediator whatever. And this, as the Apostle proceeds to point out in verse 20, marks a radical difference and distinction in the character of the two dispensations respectively. For a mediator is not of one; that is, he is a negotiator between two parties. The result of his mediation or negotiation is a covenant or agreement between those two parties. And one of them, at least, must be human, and subject, therefore, to the imperfections and conditions of mortality. God may be one party to the covenant, but man must be the other, and man is constitutionally changeable, irresolute, not to be depended on. Every agreement or covenant to which man is a party must always contain some elements of uncertainity, instability, or change. The Jews received the law by the ordinance of angels, and stood to the covenant and accepted it. But, as Stephen says, they did not keep it. But the promise to Abraham was not in any sense a covenant between two parties. The patriarch had nothing to do with it, except to receive it and transmit it to the tradition of the ages that followed. God’s oath requires nothing to support or to endorse it. It is like himself, one, eternal, unchanging, unchangeable. What God says is, what God foretells will be, what God promises, he will do. His promise is one with its fulfilment. There is one God who made the world, one promise which sustained its hope and expectation of redemption, one Saviour who redeemed it. “The word of the Lord shall stand for ever.”

The argument in these two verses may be summed up in this way. In reply to the question, what is the law? the Apostle says that the law was given, 1. occasionaliter, on account-of transgessions; 2. for a time, until Christ came; 3. by the ministry of angels; 4. by the ministry of a human mediator, Moses. He replies that the Promise was given, 1. principaliter; 2. without limit as to time; 3. immediately, from the mouth of God; 4. absolutely, without stipulation, condition, or contingency. It follows the Promise is beyond all comparison a greater thing than the law. The promise is immutable and eternal, like its Author, the law transitory and dependent on the circumstances which occasioned it. The promise was fulfilled when Christ came, to realise it; the law was then abolished, as having fulfilled its object. It no longer binds the Jews, much less the Gentiles. Why, then. Galatians, do you seek justification in the law, when you have found this justification, and all the infinite benedictions which accompany and follow it, by faith of Jesus Christ?

The above is, undoubtedly, the general sense of the argument the Apostle endeavours to express in these two verses. The economy of words in which he conveys is probably absolutely without parallel. It is fair to observe, since he addresses the Christians of Galatia as senseless, or mindless, that he certainly credits them in this passage, and in the general tenor of the Epistle he addressed to them, with a considerable share of that quick intelligence and dialectical acuteness which was a characteristic of the Greek people, and the nations who were brought under their influence.

Gal 3:21. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid. For if a law was given which could give life, truly by the law would be justice.
Gal 3:22. But the Scripture concluded all things under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to believers
.

Gal 3:21. This is another objection. The law might be represented as the rival of, or seeking to take the place of the Promise, in that by pointing out the evil of sin, it sought to effect the regeneration or restoration of mankind, and so against the promises of God. St. Chrysostom, however, thinks the objection arises from what was said in verse 10, that the law inflicted a curse, from which curse Christ redeemed us. Is the law, then, in opposition to the promise? St. Ambrose refers it to the statement in verse 18, if the inheritance is of the law, it is not of the promise. Is there, then, an opposition of contrariety of nature between the law and the promise? Lastly, and this is probably the most simple explanation, the objection may be taken generally against the whole argument of the Apostle, that the law is only preparatory to the fulfilment of the Promise, and was only enacted, on account of transgressions, until Christ should come, and then would cease, .as no longer required. Are the law and the promise, when fulfilled, contrary to one another, as if they did proceed from the same God, that they cannot co-exist,, and one must cease when the other is realised?

The answer is, that so far from there being any contrariety or opposition between the law and the fulfilment of the promise, both have, in intention and effort, the same object in view, that is to give justice, or impart to man remission of sin, the grace of God, and holiness of life. This it was in the intention of the law to further, but not within the power of the law to accomplish. No law can give life. The Greek has: if a law had been given, which could give life; meaning, if it had been possible to enact such a law. Had it been possible, God would have granted justification by the law. This was not possible, by any law. (Gal 3:22) But by the revelation it made of the real evil of sin, and the holiness of God, the Scripture, that is the written law, convinced or convicted all mankind, of all nations, Jews and Gentiles alike, of sin, and concluded them all under the sentence of condemnation which the infinite justice of God must pronounce upon the guilty race of man. Thus it brought men to repentance, and by forcing upon them the recognition of their lost condition, and absolute dependence upon the free mercy of Almighty God, prepared them to accept the justification, or remission of sins, which he offered them through Christ. When Christ came, mankind, taught by the law, had nothing left to do but to believe in him. Thus the law^ so far from being in opposition to God’s great promise of redemption, prepared the way for its accomplishment.

The same thing might be said, though the Apostle does not expressly refer to it in this place, of the moral law of natural conscience which existed in the people of the pagan world. Such a law could not, any more than the law given to Moses, give life, or obtain remission of  sin. Rather, it aggravated sin, by bringing it into contrast with the light of conscience. Yet it pointed it out, and concluded all things, included the whole race of Adam, under the sentence of guilt, self-conscious and self- pronounced, and thus prepared the Gentile world, as the law of Moses prepared the Hebrew world, to look for pardon, reconciliation with their Creator, deliverance from their apprehensions of futurity, and the satisfaction of the unfulfilled aspirations of the human soul, in the grace and mercy of a Redeemer to come. Of the promise of his coming, they also had a vague tradition. In him they were prepared to believe, and to those who believed, were given, in all their completeness, the promises which, by God’s appointment, were to be obtained by faith of Jesus Christ.

As pride is the beginning of all sin, so is humility, or humiliation, the beginning of all recovery from sin. So necessary was humiliation for fallen men, that God permitted the greatest of all possible evils, namely sin, that the sinner being humbled might have recourse to his only redemption, and his only Redeemer.

Gal 3:23. For before the faith came, we were kept guarded under the law, locked up for the faith which was to be revealed.

We Jews were kept as it were locked up in safe custody under the law, waiting for the revelation of the Faith. Another service which the law rendered to faith. The law kept us faithful to the true worship of G’)d, and at least in a partial, though not complete obedience to his commands, in expectation of something better that was to come. The law held them enclosed by its terrors, as by a wall, says St. Chrysostom, and reserved them for the age of faith, by the very necessity of existence

Gal 3:24. Therefore the law was our guide in Christ : that we may be justified by the faith.
Gal 3:25. But when the faith was come, we are no longer under a guide. 

(Gal 3:24) The paedagogus was the person entrusted with the duty of conducting children to school, and keeping them out of mischief till they were safe under charge of the teacher. He was not the teacher, but only a guide to the teacher. Christ is the teacher, or rather faith in Christ ; the law the guide to Christ. There is no opposition or antagonism between the teacher and the guide, for both have the same object in view, neither is there any antagonism between the law and faith, one being the provision made for the safety of the pupil until the other was ready. When the preceptor comes, the guide departs, as when the sun is risen the lights are extinguished. (Gal 3:25) Faith being come, we no longer need the guide.

Gal 3:26. For you are all sons of God through the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

You are now all sons, and grown-up sons, of God. As Ambrose says, you have attained your majority. How wonderfully the power of faith, St. Chrysostom says, is exhibited and developed in the progress of the Apostle’s argument. He has just told us in Gal 3:7, that faith makes us sons of Abraham. Now he says, you are all the sons of God through the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27. For you, whoever are baptized in Christ, have put on Christ.
Gal 3:28. There is not Jew, nor Greek ; there is not slave, nor free : there is not male, nor female ; for you are all one in Christ Jesus
.

(Gal 3:27) You have put on Christ. An explanation of the statement in the last verse. You are by baptism incorporated into Christ, and in a certain sense transformed into him, and as he is the Son of God, you therefore also are sons of God. (Gal 3:28) Differences of race, of conditions of life, of sex, are all absorbed, and become of infinitesimal consequence and importance, in comparison with this immense and transcendent dignity. You are all one in Christ. The Greek has there is not among you, or in you, Jew nor Greek, &c. Even types of individual disposition and character are changed, so far as is possible, in Christian people into one and the same type, which is the disposition and character of Christ. What can be more astonishing, what can demand greater awe and reverence, says St. Chrysostom, than this assertion of the Apostle, that he who once was Pagan or Jew, bond or free, now bears the likeness, not of Angel or Archangel, but of the Lord of all things, and is in himself a living representation of Christ ?

Gal 3:29. And if you are of Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.

Christ was the seed of Abraham promised from ancient days. You are one with Christ. Therefore you are the seed of Abraham, and the heirs of the Promise. And this is the thesis which this Epistle was written to establish.

COROLLARY OF PIETY

Consider and realize, O brother Christian, the exalted dignity which has been conferred upon you. You have put on Christ, the Son of God, in Baptism. You are become one with Jesus Christ. Christ has been, so to say, multiplied and reproduced in you. You are transformed into Christ, as St. Chrysostom puts it, by receiving his likeness and resemblance. You are become what he IS. He is God’s Son by nature; you are God’s son by grace. Man is made Christian, says St. Augustine, by the very same grace by which Christ was made man. We have put on Christ, says another ancient writer, that is, we are brought into the same relation in which he stands to God, we are the idea of which he is the ideal, and are become by grace what he is by his divine and original nature. We have taken Christ, as wood takes fire, says St. Thomas. What follows from this ? Evidently that uou live always in memory of so great a privilege, live as a son of God must live, live as Christ lives. What pleases Him, I always do. My food is to do my Father’s will. Christ’s rule of live is also yours. Thy will be done, in heaven and earth. Exteriorly, live like Christ, whom you have taken and put on. Let him be the vesture with which you are clothed. Let Christ alone be seen upon you, as the vesture only is seen of one who is clothed. Let his humility, modesty, gentleness, patience, be apparent in all you do or say. Compared with this splendid distinction, earthly honours and distinctions fade into absolute insignificance. Noble or humble, slave or free, all Christian men alike are one with Christ, who sits enthroned in glory at the right hand of God in heaven. You are seated there with Him, and are continually in God’s immediate presence. God does not look for lord or slave in you, but sees in you the person of his Son, looks in you for the likeness of his Son. Our study our endeavour, and our prayer should to carry Christ within, exhibit him without. Jesus, likeness of the Father, splendour of his glory, express image of his substance and person, imprint thyself upon my heart by grace, that I may bear thy image, and thy Father’s likeness, and thus may he see himself and thee reflected in me, and for thy likeness’ sake, have compassion on me for eternity.

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 3:1-14

Text in red, if any, are my additions.

Chapter 3. In this chapter the Apostle shows that the law of Moses was preparatory to the Gospel, and that salvation is obtained only by faith in Christ.

Gal 3:1. O  SENSELESS Galatians, who has fascinated you not to obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was proclaimed as condemned, and crucified among you?

Gal 3:1. This verse is the conclusion of the argument begun in the last clause of verse 19 of the last chapter (Gal 3:19). The immense love of God, as exhibited in the death and passion of Christ, should have convinced the Galatians that their salvation was secured by that great sacrifice, and appropriated by faith in it. senseless ! is said m paternal compassion and remonstrance for their folly, not m angry reproach ; like the words of Christ, Luc. 24:25, “Fools, and slow of heart.’ Who has fascinated, bewitched, or charmed you, as if by an evil eye. A belief in superstitions of this character was doubtless common among the Galatians, and possibly exposed them to ridicule among other nations, but the reference of the Apostle, being only figurative, gives no authority or countenance to any supposed reahty in it. He implies only that their folly and insensibility were so great that no ordinary or natural cause seemed to him sufficient to account for it. Jesus Christ hangs on the cross before your eyes ; are you incapable of learning the lesson that sight is intended to teach you?

The Greek word προεγράφη (proegraphe) is variously interpreted to mean depicted or represented in painting, which is the view taken by the Syriac and Arabic versions; or described in my preaching, which is what is understood by St. Chrysostom and the Greek Fathers: or condemned to crucifixion, with his title affixed to the cross, which is the interpretation commonly given (see note below). Baronius suggests (A.D. 35) that some of the Galatians had been present at Jerusalem when Christ was crucified, and saw him hanging on the cross. In either view, Christ was, as it were, crucified before their eyes; yet they rejected the salvation he brought them, and the free remission of sins purchased by his blood, and were looking to useless ceremonial of an abrogated law for that which God’s mercy had so abundantly and so wonderfully conferred upon them.

“Condemned to crucifixion with his title affixed to the cross, which is the interpretation commonly given” The Greek word proegraphe means, literally, “before (pro) engraved (grapho),” which in English can be rendered, “previously engraved.” The original meaning of grapho was to carve or engrave, and then, by extension, to draw or paint, but its most common meaning is to write (see Mk 15:26; Lk 23:38; Mt 27:37; Jn 19:19-22). He may be relying here on Aquinas’s 1st Lecture on Galatians 3, #121.

Gal 3:2. This only I wish to learn from you; was it by works of law that you received the Spirit? Or by hearing of faith?

You know well that by Baptism, and the imposition of our hands, you received the Holy Spirit, by whose power you prophesied, spoke tongues, and worked miracles. Was it then the law that gave you this spirit, and these operations of the Spirit? Or was it not by faith in Jesus Christ, which reached you by means of preaching ?

Gal 3:3. Are you so foolish, that having begun by spirit, you are now made perfect by flesh?

Are you then so foolish, that beginning your salvation by the reception of the Spirit of God, you seek the completion and consummation of it in carnal and corporeal ceremonies?

Saint Jerome observes that St. Paul does not ask, did you receive the Spirit by works, for he knew that Cornelius the centurion received the Spirit by works. He says, was it by the works of the law.

Saint Paul’s love of brevity in writing is so extreme that he almost always omits the definite article, where it is not absolutely necessary to make his meaning clear, and here, as elsewhere, he speaks generally of law. It is certain, however, that he refers to the Hebrew law as given in the Old Testament. In the Latin, of course, the omission is not apparent.

After miracles, says St. Chrysostom, you have come down to circumcision; after apprehension of the truth, you have gone back to types and figures ; after gazing on the sunlight, you are gone to look for a lantern; after solid food you have returned to the use of milk.

Gal 3:4. Have you suffered so many things without cause? If indeed without cause.

The reference to the miracles wrought among the Galatians reminds the Apostle that they not only possessed these gifts, but had also suffered much inconvenience and persecution for the cause of Christ; occasioned, not improbably, by the enmity of wealthy and influential Jews; for which he is anxious to give them full credit, and soften somewhat the apparent harshness of his language. All this they would have suffered in vain, if after all they fell away from the true faith. I trust, he says, it will not be so, for if you repent and turn to God, you will receive the reward of your sufferings, and they will not be in vain (i.e., without cause).

Gal 3:5. He then who gives you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, is it by works of law? or by hearmg of faith?

When God gives you his Holy Spirit, and works miracles by your hands, is this by the law, or by the faith of Christ which you heard from me? This is the same question as in verse 2, but it is here put in the present tense. God continues to work miracles among you, many of the Galatians doubtless continuing yet in the communion of the Church, and retaining their faith. The answer to the question is not given, but is understood. Certainly it is by faith, and not by legal observance: and the Apostle continues:

Gal 3:6. As it is written: Abraham believed God, and it was reputed to him to justice.
Gal 3:7. Know, therefore, that who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham.

Abraham received the Holy Spirit before he was circumcised, and before the law was given, and was justified because he believed God, Gen 15. So you also have been justified, in exactly the same way, by faith in Christ. The argument here is the same which is stated more fully in the Epistle to the Romans 4:9, &c., and shows by the example of Abraham that justification is by faith, and not by legal works. You ought to know, therefore, by your own experience, that faith, not the law, makes true sons of Abraham.

Gal 3:8. And the Scripture foreseeing that of faith God justifies the nations, foretold to Abraham, that all nations shall be blessed in thee.

The Scripture preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham, is the phrase in the Greek: announced to him the joyful news that in him all nations of the earth would be blessed. The Scripture is here personified, or rather the Apostle means the Spirit of God speaking in the Scripture. The Syriac has: When God foreknew that nations would be justified by faith. All nations, Hebrew and Gentile alike, shall be blessed, for, being justified, they shall hear the words of benediction, Come, blessed children of my Father.

Christ said of Abraham, He saw my day, and was glad. The greatest joy of Abraham was that he was the father of saints and just men; or rather, says Ambrose, that he was the type and form of all believers, and those who believe are blessed in him. For those who follow his faith, participate in his benediction. This is the more probable meaning of shall be blessed in thee, shall be blessed like thee by faith

Gal 3:9. Therefore who are of faith, shall be blessed with Abraham the faithful.

Believers in Christ are therefore blessed, for the same reason and in the same manner that Abraham was, namely by faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham is called particularly and specially, the faithful, because faith was his most conspicuous excellence, and on this account he is also called the Father of the faithful, or of all believers in all time. Thus at a Christian burial we pray that the holy Angels may lead the soul of the departed into paradise, and into the bosom of Abraham.

Gal 3:10. For whoever are of works of law, are under a curse: for it is written: Cursed is every one who has not persevered in all things which are written in the book of the law, that you may do them.
Gal 3:11. And that in the law no one is justified with God, is manifest; because the just lives of faith.
Gal 3:12. And the law is not of faith: but he who has done these things, shall live in them.
Gal 3:13. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law; being made a curse for us: because it is written: Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree.
Gal 3:14. That the blessing of Abraham may come upon the nations in Christ Jesus, that we may obtain by faith the promise of the Spirit
.

(Gal 3:10-11) This is the negative conclusion. Faith justifies; the law does not. For those who seek justification by the law fall inevitably under the curse pronounced upon all who fail in obedience to it, or to any part of it, Deut. 27:26. For complete and perfect obedience to God’s law is impossible for human nature, since the Fall. And again, the law cannot justify with God, for as the Prophet Habacuc says (Hab 2:4) The just man lives of faith.  (Gal 3:12) And the law is not matter of faith, nor affords any exercise of faith, requiring obedience to its precepts. The man that doeth them shall live by them, Lev. 18:5, live, that is, a life of temporal prosperity, but not the true life of the soul, which is derived only from Christ by faith.

(Gal 3:13-14) The just man lives by faith, because God is a Spirit, to be adored by man in the spirit, and faith is the highest faculty of the created human soul. And by faith in Christ, because Christ is the source of spiritual life, and spiritual life itself, to and in all his creatures. Only faith in Christ can ever bring the human soul to the exercise of its noblest faculties, to happiness and ultimate perfection. And for this perfection there is required the redemption of the soul, fully and completely, from the guilt of sin. This Christ has done, delivering us from the curse attaching to disobedience to the holy law of God, taking that curse upon himself, and becoming, for our sakes, an object of execration to God. (Cursed of God is every one who hangeth on a tree, Deut. 21:23) as representing the accumulated guilt of all the human race. Then the curse or malediction which hung over us was removed, and the blessing of Abraham came upon the nations, now justified by faith in Christ, and the promised Spirit (Joel 2:28) was at length poured forth on mankind.

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Galatians 2:15-21 With Excursus on the Debate Between St Jerome and St Augustine Concerning This Passage

Gal 2:15. We, by nature Jews, and not sinners from the Gentiles ;
Gal 2:16. But knowing that man is not justified by the works of law, except through faith of Jesus Christ ; we also believe in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith of Christ, and not by works of law : because by works of law there shall no flesh be justified.
Gal 2:17. But if seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners ; is Christ the minister of sin ? God forbid
.

We who have been born among the nation of the Jews, and of parents who observed the law, and who are not proselytes and converts to Judaism (as most of the heretical teachers are) sprung from heathen parents, ignorant of the law ; yet being persuaded that justification, or remission of sins is not obtainable by obedience to the law of Moses, because it is not possible for imperfect human nature to render that perfect obedience to God’s commands which will satisfy the severity of God’s justice, and justification is therefore only to be obtained through faith in Christ ; we, in search of that reconciliation with our Creator which is the first and last great want of every human soul, and without which existence is intolerable, have believed in Christ, to find this justification in the Christian faith. For the Saints of old who obtained justice, as Abraham and Isaac obtained it, as Ambrose observes, not by the works of any law, but by faith in Christ.

If then, in abandoning the law, and taking refuge in the Church of Jesus Christ, we have, as your heretical teachers assert, committed a sin, and forsaken God’s holy law, it follows that Christ is the minister of sin, the cause and author of our sin. For he fulfilled and abrogated the law, and substituted the grace of the Gospel, which they maintain to be nevertheless insufficient for justification. If the law of Moses is necessary for the salvation of Christian men, as they assert, Christ, who is sanctity itself, and the destroyer of sin, will be the author of sin, and we Jews, in deserting the law for Christ, have in so doing committed treason against God, and incurred the guilt of mortal sin. This is absurd and impossible. It is, therefore, equally absurd and impossible that the observation of the law should be indispensable for the salvation of Christian men.

Gal 2:18. For if what I have destroyed, this I build again, I constitute myself a transgressor.

If after forsaking the law of Moses, and proclaiming it to be abrogated, I return to it again and maintain it by preaching or example, I become a transgressor of the law itself. Because it was the law itself which led me to Christ, and pointed to him as its completion and con summation. A prophet the Lord your God shall raise up ta you, and you shall hear him, as you hear me, Deut. 18. Obeying and believing this, I became dead to the law, and the law became dead to me. Henceforth, I live to God, and live to God through Christ. In forsaking the law, I have therefore obeyed the law ; in returning to it, I should break it.

Gal 2:19. For I through the law died to the law, that I may live to God. With Christ I am fixed to the cross.
Gal 2:20. And I live not now myself, but Christ lives in me. But in so far as I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me.
Gal 2:21. I do not throw away the grace of God: for if justice is through the law : therefore Christ died for nothing

Gal 2:19. With Christ I am fixed to the cross. This is the introduction of a new argument to prove the abrogation of the law, continued to the end of verse i. of the next chapter. When Christ died on the cross, he ceased to be subject to the law, which he had fulfilled. We, crucified with him by Baptism, share his death ; but we share equally the new life, and the new freedom, to which he rose. I live to God, for I live to him whose life I have put on, Theodoret. Christ’s crucifixion and death is our life says St. Chrysostom. The life of the graft is not its own, but that of the tree. Gal 2:20. I live not now myself, but Christ lives in me. Christ, the source of grace and justice, is the source of my spiritual life ; his Spirit moves and governs my soul, his will is the active principle of mine. And leading this spiritual life while still in the body, I live in the faith of the Son of God. 

The sacrifice of Christ was his infinite charity, which extends severally to every individual soul of man. He loved me and gave himself for me. He loves, therefore, every individual of the human race, with the same charity with which he loves the human race, and would have died for each one singly. St. Chrysostom says : The Apostle expresses in these words that it is reasonable and right for every one of us, singly and individually, to return thanks to Christ, as much as if he had died for me alone. For he would not have shrunk from making this exhibition of charity and self-sacrifice for even a single soul, and he loves every individual of our race with a charity equal to that with which he loves all creation.

Gal 2:21. Can I then, says the Apostle, be expected to cast aside, reject, and despise this marvellous and inconceivable mercy and affection, this grace of God, and the salvation it has procured me? I reject not the grace of God. Yet this is what the heretic teachers call upon me to do, and do themselves. He who seeks justification through the law, rejects the salvation of Christ; for if justification were obtainable by the law, there would have been no necessity for Christ to die. He suffered and died for nothing. This is inconceivable and absurd. Therefore, it is the faith of Christ, and not the law, which obtains for man the remission of sins and the grace of God.

EXCURSUS

The controversy at Antioch between St. Peter and St. Paul was made the subject of a lively discussion between St. Jerome and St. Augustine, which is to be found in the letters of St. Jerome 86-97, and in the letters 8-19 in the second volume of St. Augustine’s works (see my note below). As a preliminary, they differed as to the period when, and the manner in which, the precepts of the old law ceased to take effect. St. Jerome recognised only two epochs ; before the passion of Christ, when the law lived, and after it, when the law became dead, and deadly. St. Augustine recognised three ; the law was living before the passion of Christ ; after the passion, but before grace was promulgated, the law was dead ; after grace was promulgated, it was dead, and became deadly. This last opinion is the one generally received ; for the old law ceased to be obligatory on the day of Pentecost, when the new law was promulgated, but did not so completely cease That it was capable of enduring some time longer, until the Jews could be withdrawn from it gently and by degrees. The Jews were not at once prohibited from all observance of the law, lest the law should appear evil, as if it were a parallel with idolatry, and the Jews of old be thought to have walked side by side with idolaters. Their mother the synagogue was dead, but was to be conducted respectfully and decently to the tomb.

Secondly, the two Fathers differed as to whether the Apostles did, or did not, in reality obey the law. St. Jerome, who considered the legal observances deadly after the passion of Christ, held that the Apostles did not really conform to them, but only pretended to, in order to avoid occasioning scandal to Jewish converts who adhered to observance of the law. St. Augustine, on the other hand, holding that the law was indeed useless, but not baleful or injurious, says that the Apostles observed it, but reposed no hope in it, being well aware that it was inefficacious to salvation.

Thirdly, they disputed as to whether Peter sinned at Antioch, or not ? St. Jerome says that Peter did not sin in his dissimulation (simulatione) because he dissembled from charity, not from worldly fear. St. Augustine asserts that he sinned venially, through indiscretion ; and that, by his adherence to the Jews, gave scandal to the Gentiles, inclining them to judaize with him, and think Judaism necessary to salvation.

Fourthly, they disagreed as to whether the reproof administered by St. Paul was real or a pretence. St. Jerome insisted that it was a pretence, or piece of acting, as was also St. Peter’s observance of the Jewish prohibitions. St. Augustine maintains that Peter really observed the rules ofthe law, and that St. Paul really reproved him. The opinion now generally received is that of St. Augustine, as more in accordance with the language of St. Paul, who said that Peter walked not aright, and was on that account blamed, or blameworthy. This interpretation is that which has been followed in this commentary.

Nevertheless the language used by St. Chrysostom on this subject is well worthy of consideration, though it is too long to be quoted here at length. He held the same opinion as St. Jerome, and is followed by Theophylact and Baronius. In this view, St. Peter affected a pretended zeal for Judaism, in order that by means of the pretended rebuke administered by St. Paul the Jews in a body might be withdrawn from their superstitious attachment to the law ; and that the whole proceeding was prepared and arranged beforehand by the two Apostles with this intent. In favour of this view, St. Chrysostom refers to the expression of the Greek text, κατὰ πρόσωπον (kata prosopn), I resisted him in show or appearance (a figurative meaning of prosopon); and the word used in verse 13, the other Jews συνυπεκρίθησαν (synypekrithesan), consimulabant, or dissembled with him. Nor can it be said that this was giving sanction to lying. It was a stratagem rather than a lie, as Cornelius a Lapide asserts (commenting on verse 11). And deeds are more, and more easily, excusable from the charge of falsehood than words. It would have been a lie, had Peter externally simulated Judaism, while secretly detesting it in his heart. But this is not imagined or assumed either by St. Chrysostom or St. Jerome, as Cornelius shows. And the last-named writer is further of opinion that St. Jerome and St. Augustine did not clearly understand, or make themselves understood, to one another, on the point they were discussing.

A Note on the Correspondence Between St Augustine and St Jerome. Augustine addressed 6 letters to Jerome and Jerome addressed 5 to Augustine. They can all be found in a very readable translation, The Works of St Augustine (A Translation for the 21st Century): Letters 1-99. In this volume the letters are numbered 28, 39, 40, 67, 68, 71, 72, 73, 75, 81, 82.  An older but less readable English translation can be read online, using the same numbers as just given.

COROLLARY OF PIETY

Jesus Christ is the author of our salvation. The Scriptures of the Old Testament prove this, for they point to him; the astonishing miracles God has wrought in the Church confirm it, for they evidence his Divine power. There is, therefore, no room for doubt. The salvation offered by Christ is true. What follows? This: that the Christian who believes in Christ and from Christ hopes to receive salvation, has nothing to fear. God has undertaken our salvation, and is answerable for it; and in the words of Richard of St. Victor, we shall be entitled to say to him at the day of judgment, By so many signs, wonders, prodigies, possible only to your unlimited power, you have confirmed your promise, that we have no room or right to fear, and with all confidence we are able to say, Lord, if there is error, it is you have deceived us. Who loved me, are the words of the Apostle. Who loved? and loved whom? God loved the miserable creature he had made. The Lord loved the servant. The Saint of saints loved the sinner. He who himself contains all good, loved him who in himself is nothing. How, then, are we to become partakers and sharers of this redemption, in this salvation, in this love? He was crucified for us, and we are crucified with him. And how? First, by Baptism: secured to us by the charity of others long ago. We are one body with Christ, and animated by his Spirit. Secondly, by the Sacrament of Penance, by which we are washed from our sins. And, thirdly, by frequent acts of faith, of charity, and of contrition. In these ways we partake the sufferings of Christ, and sharing his sufferings, may look forward confidently to share the glory of his resurrection.

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