1Co 12:31 But be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way.
But be zealous for the better gifts. Seek from God, and exercise, if you have received them (cf. notes to ver. 8), the more useful gifts, such as apostleship, prophecy, wisdom, but not such as the gift of tongues, which you are in the habit of seeking after and of priding yourselves in. So Anselm. Others take the clause interrogatively, “Do you covet the best gifts? then I will show you a more excellent way still.” So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius.
And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way, viz., the way of charity, which is the way to God, to life, and everlasting glory.
The commentary ascribed to S. Jerome says here that the Apostle divides off charity from the gifts of the Spirit, because these latter are gratuitously given by God, but charity is acquired by our own efforts and natural powers. This shows this commentary not to be S. Jerome’s, but the work of Pelagius or some Pelagian, as was said before. Primasius, who transcribed a good deal of this commentary, has shown the falsity of this remark. It appears too that charity is the gift of God from Rom 5:5: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Hence S. Paul says here that he shows a more excellent way, meaning one that excels all others. If, then, the graces gratuitously given are of lower rank and are given by God, much more ought charity, which is exceedingly better and more excellent than them all, to be sought for and to be given from God. The Apostle then fixes the distinction between charity and the gifts of the Spirit in the fact that these latter are given for the good of the Church, not for the sanctification of him to whom they are given, while charity is given to make him who has it holy and pleasing to God. “He,” says S. Augustine (de Laud. Char.), “holds both what is patent and what is latent in God’s sayings who holds charity in his daily life.”
1Co 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
The whole of this chapter 13 is in praise of charity. The Apostle treats of charity at such length, not only because charity is the queen of all virtues, but also because he wishes by charity, as by a most effectual medicine, to cure the pride and divisions of the Corinthians; for charity effects that superiors do not despise inferiors, and that inferiors do not feel bitter when their superiors are preferred before them. But, especially, he commends charity to them as a most excellent gift, that they may seek it rather than the gift of tongues, or of prophecy, or of miracles, which things the Corinthians were in the habit of considering most important. And this is why, in preparing his passage to charity, he said, at the end of the preceding chapter: “be zealous for the better gifts. And I shew unto you yet a more excellent way,” viz., of charity.
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels. Some hold that the tongue of angels is Hebrew, and that this was the tongue used by God, the angels, and Adam in Paradise (of which see below, ver. 8). Secondly, the Glossa, Durandus, Greg. Ariminensis (in 2 dist. 9, qu. 2), and Molina (i p. qu. 106 art. i.) think from this passage of the Apostle, that angels speak as men, not only by forms impressed on the angel who hears, but also by gestures and signs, spiritual signs (since they are as it were a kind of spiritual conversation and form of speech), imprinted on them at their creation, as the Hebrew tongue was imprinted on Adam. Hence Franciscus Albertinus (Lib. Corollariorum Theologicorum Corollario ii) says that each angel has his own proper tongue, different from the tongue of every other angel, because the Apostle says, “Though I speak with the tongues of angels,” not with the tongue. But it seems to follow from hence, that if angels make use of those signs and speak to one, they cannot conceal them from others; for nothing natural can practise concealment but only that which is free; but these signs are natural, imprinted on them with their nature at their creation. Whence others, with S. Thomas, think that angels speak in this way, that they direct their thoughts to another, and form a wish to make them known to him, and that then, from the meet appointment of God and their meeting, a proportionate object is formed, and that this is placed as it were within a sphere of knowledge, and becomes intelligible to him, to whom they wish to speak, and not to another, so that he and none else sees and understands this object placed as it were before his eyes; from which some conclude that angels by their nature cannot lie. But the contrary seems truer, viz., that they can lie; because angels can form in their intellect a concept that is false, and opposed to the judgment of their mind, and can direct it to the other, to whom, in this way, they speak: even as man forms a false mode of speech and one opposed to his judgment when he lies. For angels do not exhibit to the sight of others the very acts of their will in themselves, that is, the very volitions and intentions, but they form in their mind concepts of these actions, whether true or false, just as they will, and represent them to him to whom they speak. But we may leave these points to be more thoroughly disputed and settled by the Schoolmen.
The tongues of angels mentioned here are not therefore addressed to the senses, as Cajetan thinks, but to the intellect, since these tongues are the very concepts of angels, most perfect and most beautiful. The tongues of angels is certainly a prosopopœia and hyperbole, that is, it denotes a most exquisite tongue. So we say in common phrases “He speaks divinely;” by a similar hyperbole it is said “the face of an angel,” that is, a most beautiful face. So Theodoret and Theophylact speak, because, as we know, angels are most beautiful in themselves, and show themselves such, both in appearance and speech, when they assume a body. So therefore Paul here, as elsewhere afterwards, speaks on a supposition by hyperbole, chiefly for the sake of emphasis. His meaning, is—If there were tongues of angels surpassing the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and I knew them, but yet did not use them for the good of my neighbour, what else would it be but an empty and noisy wordiness? So Gal 1:8; Rom 8:39. Paul here points at the Corinthians, who were wont to admire the gift of tongues more than other gifts.
A tinkling cymbal, giving forth an uncertain and confused sound. The Greek α̉λαλάξον is an onomatopœia, and denotes sounding “alala, alala.” So Apion Grammaticus, because of his garrulity, was called “the cymbal of the world” (Suetonius, Lib. de Præclaris Grammaticis).
1Co 13:2 And if I should have prophecy and should know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
If I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Erasmus thinks that this is a hyperbolic fiction, as though he should say, “Charity by far excels faith,” just as we say, “Virtue alone is the only nobility.” But this is far too cold; for in the following verse, speaking of almsgiving and martyrdom if charity is wanting, he says, it profiteth me nothing. Therefore, I am nothing imports I am of no value, and have no grace in the presence of God; and in truth, because the righteous man is of some account before God, the rest of men, being unrighteous, are, in the eyes and estimation of God, as nothing. In other words, without charity nothing profiteth, nothing makes friendship with God; there is nothing which wins for a man righteousness and salvation, not even faith, though it be most great and most excellent, so that it can remove mountains, such as Gregory Thaumaturgus had, who, by his faith, moved a mount from its place, that he might make a place to build a church, as Eusebius narrates (Hist. lib. 7, v. 25).
You will say, therefore, If a penitent exercises himself in good works before reconciliation, they profit him nothing. Some answer that they profit him, because the penitent, they say, has charity—not infused charity which makes righteous, but that charity which is a sincere love towards God, by which he longs for reconciliation. But this affection is not and cannot be called charity; for Holy Scripture, here and elsewhere, calls charity that most eminent virtue, greater than faith and hope, which makes us friends of God.
Secondly, because the affections of fear, hope, and faith dispose to righteousness, therefore they are something, even without the affection of that love. I reply, Good works profit the sinner who repents nothing, unless charity follow. For so, he says, alms giving profits nothing, as will appear in ver. 3. For disposition by itself is useless and of no account unless there follow the form to which it disposes; therefore works without charity are nothing, that is, they confer no righteousness or salvation; and a man without charity is nothing so far as the spiritual being is concerned, in which, by supernatural regeneration, he receives a supernatural and Divine being, and is made a new creature of God, a son and heir of God. Hence it follows that faith alone does not justify.
Beza replies that here faith which works miracles alone is in question; for justifying faith, which lays hold of the mercy of God in Christ, can be separated from charity indeed in thought, but not in reality, any more than light from fire. But on the other hand, since faith which works miracles includes and presupposes faith properly so called, which is the beginning of justification (nay, faith which works miracles is the most excellent faith, as the Apostle here signifies when he says: “Though I have faith so that I could remove mountains”), therefore, if faith which works miracles can exist without charity, it will also be able to be justifying faith. Secondly, the Apostle says “all faith,” which Beza dishonestly translates “whole faith:” if all, therefore also justifying.
Thirdly, the Apostle teaches us (vers. 3 and 13) that faith and hope, both theological and justifying, remain in this life only, while charity remains also in the future life; therefore faith is separated from charity. So Chrysostom, Anselm, Theophylact, and others; and especially S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. xv. c. 18) says: “Faith, according to the Apostle, can be without charity; it cannot be profitable;” and in his sermon on the three virtues—faith, hope, and charity (tom. x.), he speaks of charity alone, “that it distinguishes between the children of God and the children of the devil, between the children of the Kingdom and the children of perdition;” and again (Lib,. de Naturâ et Gratiâ, c. ult.) he says: “Charity begun is righteousness begun; charity increased is righteousness increased; charity perfected is righteousness perfected.” See Bellarmine (de Justificatione. lib. i. c. 15). What faith which works miracles is I have said (chap. xii. 9); why the operation of miracles is to be attributed to faith S. Thomas teaches (de Potentiâ, qu. 6, art. 9).
1Co 13:3 And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
And if I should distribute all my goods. The Greek verb signifies to put into the mouths of children or the sick bread, or food, in crumbs as cut up, as I have said (Rom 12:20); here, however, it denotes to expend all one’s substance for such a purpose.
And if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. You will say, Martyrdom, then, can be without grace and charity, with sin and damnation. Note firstly, as one can give alms, so one can hand over one’s body in different ways and from different motives, e.g., for one’s country, for one’s neighbour, for correction of the body, from vain glory, or again for the faith, for the love of Christ and of God—and then it is martyrdom. Secondly, martyrdom is an act springing from the virtue of fortitude, ordered often by charity; still it can be ordered, not by charity, but by another virtue, as by religion or obedience; e.g., if a man offer himself to martyrdom, that he may honour God or obey Him. These actions, however, flow from a general love of God. Thirdly, martyrdom, from whatever virtue springing, confers justifying grace, even the first, from the mere fact of its being wrought, as theologians teach; and consequently it confers charity, nor can it be separated from it as from its end.
I say, then, firstly, that the Apostle speaks in general terms of any handing over of the body to be burned: Whether any one does it for his country, as Mucius Scævola did, who, wishing to kill King Porsena when he was besieging Rome, made a mistake, and fell into the power of his enemies; then, to show how little he shrank from death for his country, he burnt his hand, “In order that you may know,” he said to Porsena, “how vile is the body in the eyes of us who look for glory;” or whether he do it for empty fame, as Peregrinus did, who, to obtain for himself an immortal name, threw himself at the Olympic games on a pyre to be consumed, as Lucian, an eyewitness, testified; or whether any one commit himself to fire for the faith of Christ, while at the same time keeping hatred of his neighbour, or a desire to commit mortal sin: which martyrdom is material, not formal; for it is then without charity and profiteth nothing, as D. Thomas, Anselm, and Theodoret say.
Hence, I say secondly, that the Apostle also speaks of giving the body in material and formal martyrdom, but hypothetically, i.e., if martyrdom could be without charity it would profit nothing. So S. Chrysostom and Theophylact. Whence Theodoret and S. Basil (Epis. 75 ad Neocæsarienses) remark that there is here a hyperbole. But, if you wish, the Apostle speaks, not merely hypothetically, but absolutely.
I say thirdly, martyrdom antecedently, whether from the mere fact of being wrought, in so far as its work is regarded in itself, or in so far as the merit of him who suffers martyrdom is regarded, can be without charity, e.g., if one living in mortal sin is willing to die for the faith of Christ, when as yet he has not charity, martyrdom profits him nothing. Nevertheless, in consequence, from the mere fact of its being wrought, in his end martyrdom always brings charity; for, from the very fact that any one, even a sinner, is killed for the faith, charity and righteousness are infused into him as if from the very act itself, and in this way martyrdom eminently profits. In this way, therefore, the sense of the Apostle will be, Martyrdom profiteth nothing unless charity go before, follow after, or accompany it, whether as the source or the end and effect of martyrdom. So S. Thomas, Cajetan, and Francisco Suarez (p. 3, qu. 69, disp. 29, sec 2). Anselm says: “Without charity nothing profits, however excellent; with charity everything profits, however vile, and becomes golden and Divine.”
It profiteth me nothing. I am not helped, I receive no benefit, i.e., towards justification and salvation. So Ephrem., “So great is charity that, if it be wanting, other things are reckoned vain; if it be present, we possess all,” says S. Augustine (tom. iii. Sententia, 326).
1Co 13:4 Charity is patient, is kind: charity envieth not, dealeth not perversely, is not puffed up,
Charity is patient, is kind. Ambrose reads: “Charity is high-souled” (so also S. Cyprian and Tertullian, de Patientiâi, c. 12, read), “and is pleasing.” Note, charity is long-suffering, not formally, but in the way of cause, because it produces patience and kindness; because patience, as well as kindness, is an act not elicited but ordered by charity. Tertullian (de Patientiâ, c. 2) beautifully teaches that no virtue is perfect which has not patience as its companion, and so in all the beatitudes which Christ (in S. Matt. 5) enumerates, patience also must be understood. He teaches also (c. 12) that the treasures of charity are held in by the discipline of patience, and that charity herself is taught by patience as her mistress; for, expounding, these words of the Apostle, “charity is patient,” he says: Love, the great mystery of the faith, by whose training is she taught save by that of patience? Love,” he, says, “is high-souled, so she adopts patience; she does good, so patience works no evil; envieth not—that also is the property of patience; savours nothing of wantonness—she has drawn her modesty from patience; is not puffed up, behaves not unseemly—for that belongs not to patience. But what would he have left to impatience? Therefore he says, ‘Love beareth all things, endureth all things,’ that is, because she is patient.”
Hence S. Augustine (de Moribus Eccl. c. 15) then defines fortitude: “Fortitude is love bearing easily all things for God’s sake.” In like manner he defines by love the three other cardinal virtues, that they are different forms of love. “We may say,” he says, “that temperance is love preserving itself pure and uncorrupt for God; that justice is love, serving God only, and for the same cause duly ordering other things which have been placed under man; that prudence is love, rightly discerning between those things by which God is served, and by which His service is hindered.” Again (c. xxii.) he says: “That love which we must have towards God, inflamed with all holiness, is called temperate in things that ought not to be sought for, and brave in things which can be lost.” And shortly afterwards: “There is nothing so hard, so steely, which cannot be overcome by the fire of love. By love, when the soul hastens towards God, rising above the defilement of the flesh, it will fly, freely and wonderfully, on most beautiful and most chaste wings, by which pure love strives for the embrace of God.” Every virtue therefore is love and charity, viz., an act of charity not elicited but ordered, because it is ordered, directed, formed, and perfected by charity. Add to this that virtue by itself is love of good. Such was the charity of Christ on the Cross towards His crucifiers, about which S. Bernard (Sermon de Passione Domini) says: “He was smitten with scourges, crowned wish thorns, pierced with nails, fastened to the Cross, laden with reproaches; yet, heedless of all pains, He cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ How ready art Thou to forgive, 0 Lord! How great is the multitude of Thy sweet mercies! How far are Thy thoughts from our thoughts! How is Thy mercy established on the wicked! A wondrous thing! He cries, ‘For give;’ the Jews, ‘Crucify;’ His words were softer than butter, and they are as darts. Oh, suffering charity, but also long suffering. ‘Charity suffereth long’—it is enough; ‘charity is kind’—it is the crowning point. Because charity is kind, she loves also those whom she tolerates, and loves them so ardently.’ And a little lower: “O Jews, ye are stones, but ye strike a softer stone, from which is given back the sound of piety, from which pours forth the oil of charity. How, 0 Lord, wilt Thou give drink to those who thirst for Thee of the torrent of Thy joy, who so overwhelmest those who crucify Thee with the oil of Thy mercy!”
Charity envieth not. For, as S. Gregory says (Hom. v. in Evang.), “the good will which charity begets is one that fears others’ misfortunes as its own, which rejoices in the prosperity of its neighbour as in its own, believes others’ losses as its own, and reckons others’ gains as its own.” The reason is, because charity does not regard my things and thine, but those which are God’s. For, as S. Gregory says (ibid.), “whatever we desire in this world, we envy to our neighbour,” for we seem to lose what another gains. For this cause charity is cold where lust is bold. On the contrary, when brotherly love reigns, then lust lives an exile; for, as S. Augustine says (de Doctr. Christ. lib. iii. c. 10), “the more the kingdom of lust is destroyed, the more charity is increased.”
Dealeth not perversely. Perversely, wantonly, maliciously. Some interpret the Greek, “does not chatter idly,” Vatablus, “does not flatter;” Clement (Pædag. c. ii.), “does not paint her face or adorn her head overmuch.” “For worship,” says Clement, “is said to act unseemly which openly shows superfluity and usefulness; for excessive striving after adornment is opposed to God, to reason, and to charity.” Cajetan interprets the word: “is not inconstant;” Theophylact, “is not head-strong, fickle, rash, stubborn;” Ephrem, “is not riotous.” Theophylact again, “doth not exalt itself.” So also S. Basil seems to interpret it. “What,” he asks, “does this word (περπερεύεται) mean?” which the Latin translator of Basil renders: “What do we mean by being boastful and arrogant without cause?” He replies. “That which is assumed, not from necessity but for the sake of superfluous adornment, incurs the charge o unseemliness.” But from these words it is evident that the translator has not followed the mind of S. Basil, and that Basil did not mean boasting and foolish arrogance, but painting, and excessive adornment, as did Clement of Alexandria in the place just cited. Best of all, Chrysostom understands it: “Charity is not forward or wanton, as is the carnal 1ove of lascivious men, wanton women, and harlots.” Whence Tertullian (de Patientiâ, c. xii.) says, “Charity makes not wanton.”
1Co 13:5 Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil:
Is not ambitious. Ephrem translates it: “Does not commit what is shameful.” Clement (Pædag. lib. iii.c. 1). “Doth not behave itself unseemly.” Our translator with Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Œcumenius, takes it thus: Charity thinks that nothing is dishonouring or unbecoming to it, though it suffer or do what is vile, ignominious, or degrading. Or more shortly: Charity is not ashamed, because it is ambitious of nothing, and of no honour. Our translator therefore has, from the effect, understood and rendered the cause—the cause why any one is not ashamed is, because he seeks for no honour or glory. Whence Chrysostom and Theophylact think that this is said by Paul against the arrogant. “Charity,” says Chrysostom, “knows not what dishonour and disgrace are; she covers with her wings of gold the vices of all whom she embraces.” So the love of Christ did not spurn or reject harlots, scourgings, or washing of men’s feet. S. Basil understands it (in Regul. Brev. Reg. 246): “Charity doth not depart from her habit and form.” But Œcumenius: “Charity doth not treat bitterly as a prisoner the man who is her enemy.”
Thinketh no evil, i.e., charity, if she is provoked by any one, does not reckon up the injury nor seek revenge, but conceals it, excuses it, forgives it. For the Greek word, as Vatablus and the Greeks understand it, is, imputes not his evil to any one.
1Co 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth:
Rejoiceth in the truth. In the truth, not so much of speech and mind as of life, i.e., of righteousness. In other words, charity, when it sees its neighbours living justly and rightly and making advance, does not envy them, but rejoices and is glad, as though it were its own advance, as Anselm says from S. Gregory; for truth here is opposed to iniquity. Therefore truth here is equity, uprightness, righteousness. The Greeks understand it otherwise. Charity does not rejoice, but grieves when it sees an enemy suffering anything wrongly or unjustly; and it rejoices in the truth if it sees his own given to him.
1Co 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Beareth all things. Like a beam which sustains an imposed weight, or rather, like a palm-tree, which does not yield under its own weight, but, like an arch, is the more strong. Rightly says Augustine (in Sententiis, sec. 295): “The fortitude of the Gentiles comes from wordly lust, but the fortitude of the Christians from the love of God which was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us, not by any determination of our own will.”
Believeth all things, i.e., charity is not suspicious, but readily gives credence to others where it can prudently believe without danger of error. Therefore Paul says, “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” That is to say, charity bears all evils and all injuries, believes and is persuaded of the best about its neighbour, hopes for all good things for its neighbour, and endures from him evil words and blows. So Chrysostom and the Greeks. Anselm, S. Thomas, and Lyra explain the words differently. Charity makes us believe what ought to be believed, hope for what we ought, and await it with patience; for otherwise in some cases that saying of Seneca is true, “It is a vice to believe everything and a vice to believe nothing.” So also S. Augustine explains it; and from these words of the Apostle he makes a chariot for charity, namely, of the four virtues of charity, faith, hope, patience, perseverance. In his sermon on the four virtues of charity he thus speaks: “Every one who devoutly bears rightly believes, and every one who rightly believes hopes for somewhat, and he who hopes perseveres, lest he should lose hope;” for the Apostle in this whole passage is treating of the offices of charity, not towards God, but towards our neighbour, and is showing how charity manifests itself in all cases to him.
Chrysostom remarks (Hom. xxxiv.) that there are here sixteen benefits and fruits of charity, which he sets up as remedies for the diseases of the Corinthians: “Charity,” he says, “patient, condemning the quarrelsome; kind, condemning the factious and stealthy; envies not, against those who are bitter against their superiors; is not wanton—he lays hold of the dissolute; is not puffed up—the proud; is not haughty, against those who will not abase themselves and serve their neighbour; seeketh not her own, against those who despise others; is not provoked—thinketh no evil against those who inflict insults; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, against the envious. Again, ‘beareth all things,’ is for a solace to these who are hemmed in by foes and down-trodden; ‘hopeth all things,’ is for a solace to those who are rejected and despaired of; ‘endureth all things and never faileth,’ is against those who, for a slight cause, foster divisions.” S. Gregory thus describes these offices of charity (Morals, book x. c. 8): “Charity is patient, because it bears calmly all evils that may be inflicted; is kind, because it bountifully repays good for evil; envieih not, because, from the fact that it seeks for nothing in this present world, it knows not how to be envious at earthly successes; is not puffed up, because, since it eagerly 1ongs for the promised inward reward, it does not exalt itself on the score of outward advantages ; does nothing amiss, because it confines itself to the love of God and of its neighbour, and is ignorant of whatever departs from rectitude; is not ambitious, because it ardently seeks within for its own perfection, and covets without no man’s goods; seeketh not its own, because it disregards, as though they were another’s, all things which here for a brief time it possesses, since it recognises that nothing is its own save what abides permanently; is not provoked, because, though stirred up by injuries, it is roused to no motions of revenge, since for great sufferings it expects hereafter greater rewards; thinketh no evil, because purity establishes a mind in love, while it plucks up all hatred by the roots, and cannot dwell in a soul which is defiled; rejoiceth not in iniquity, for it yearns with love alone for all, and does not rejoice in the fall of its enemies; but rejoiceth in the truth, because, loving others as itself, it rejoices in that which it sees good in others, as though it were an increase of its own perfection.”
A soul on fire with charity is like the sky; for as the wide-spreading sky embraces the whole earth, and warms and fertilises it by the suit, and waters it by its showers, even places bristling with thorns, so such a soul embraces with its charity the inhabitants of the whole earth, though they be barbarians or foes, and does good to whom it can, and waters and cherishes with its sweetness those who bristle with the thorns of hatred and of vice.
1Co 13:8 Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void or tongues shall cease or knowledge shall be destroyed.
Charity never falleth away. It suffers no death; it will never cease: other gifts will cease in the heavenly glory. Heretics infer from this that, if charity never faileth, he who has it cannot sin, and is assured of his salvation. I reply, I deny the consequence. For charity never faileth, viz., by itself; for of its own accord it never deserts a man, unless it be first through sin deserted by him. “Charity,” says Cassian (Callat. iii. c. 7), “is one who never suffers her follower to fall by sin supplanting her.” So long, therefore, as you give yourself to charity and will to keep her, you will never sin; but if you sin, it is not that charity in itself fails, but you yourself eject her by force.
Whether prophecies (they) shall be made void. Not so much because of their obscurity as because they were here given to meet the imperfection of those who heard them, in order that they, being more untaught, might be taught by prophecy and tongues. Thus in heaven faith shall cease, because it is imperfect through lack of evidence, and hope, because it is imperfect through the absence of the thing hoped for; but charity has nothing of these, but is perfect in itself, and therefore will remain in heaven.
Tongues (they) shall cease. He does not say language shall cease but languages, because in heaven there will be no variety of tongues, but language there will be; for we shall with one accord praise God, not only in mind but also with perceptible language. Haymo, Remigius, Cajetan here, Galatinus (de Arc. Fidei, lib. xii. c. 4), Viguerius (in Instit. c. ix. ver. 8), where he treats of the gift of tongues, all teach that the one tongue which we shall all use in heaven will be Hebrew, which Adam used in his state of innocence, which all the patriarchs, prophets, and saints before Christ, nay, which the whole world used before its dispersion and confusion of tongues at Babel. Hence in the Apocalypse, though written in Greek, it is said that the saints in heaven will sing in Hebrew “Amen, Alleluia.” For since in heaven all sin will have been banished, the confusion of tongues will be done away with; and as we shall return to the primeval state of innocence, so shall we to its language, and to the one and first speech. Certainly, if any one of those tongues which we use on earth remain in heaven, I should think it would be Hebrew. But it is not plain that any will remain; for the Apostle only says that tongues will cease, which may mean that all which are now in use among men are to cease. Nevertheless, it is consistent with this that in heaven another sensible tongue may be infused anew into the blessed, a celestial tongue, one far more perfect than any we have here, one befitting their mouth and glorified body, and with this they will in a bodily manner praise God. Whether this be more true, a blessed experience will teach us. John Salas (in 1, 2, tom. i. qu. 5, art. 5, tract. 2 disp. 14, sect. 14. n. 106) thinks that is more likely. His reason is that the Hebrew tongue is wanting in sweetness, fulness, and perspicuity, and therefore it is not worthy to be retained after the General Resurrection. In heaven there will be an elect speech, as Wisdom says (3:9), that is, a special tongue pre-eminently sweet, terse, and perspicuous, common to all nations, to be taught by God. Hence S. Bernard says (in Medit. c. iv.): “The unwearied rejoicing of all will be with one tongue,” &c. There will not be in the peace of heaven any diversity of tongues, viz., for common use. Beyond this, however, they will speak, when they wish, with other tongues; for all will have the gift of tongues, and will know all idioms by Divine revelation. Salmeron and others add that in heaven it is meet for God to be worshipped with all kinds of tongues; for it seems to tend to the greater glory of God, that every tongue confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. And so all tongues will be one, for they will feel and proclaim the same thing, as Martial (Epigram i.), in flattery of Caesar, said—
“The voices of the nations sound unlike, yet they are one,
For you are proclaimed by all, true father of your country.”
Knowledge shall be destroyed. This knowledge, as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact say, is that which is imperfect, obscure, and enigmatical, as Paul calls it in ver. 12, e.g., faith and all that depends on faith. Of this kind is our theological knowledge, which draws its conclusions from the principles of the faith: all this will cease in heaven. For theology there will be of a different appearance, being most clear, drawn from the vision of God and from the clearest principles. So say Cajetan, Molina, Vasquez, and others, in the beginning of the first part.
Observe that the Apostle is speaking rather of the act of knowledge than of its habit; and therefore he adds (verses 9, 11, 12): “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;” and “When I was a child…I thought as a child;” and: “Now I know in part, then shall I know even as also I am known.” Still, from the cessation of the act he leaves it to be collected that the habit will cease; for the habit will be of no avail if there is no use for it; for it will not issue in action. And this he signifies by the words “shall fail” and “shall vanish away,” which imply that knowledge, prophecy, and tongues, simply, both as regards act and habit, are to perish. Secondly, Photius explains the passage not amiss thus. Knowledge, i.e., teaching and learning shall fail, for in heaven we shall neither teach nor learn. Thirdly, others say that knowledge here is science, or the use of scientific terms, by which the realities of faith are illustrated and explained, by means of natural sciences.
1Co 13:9 For we know in part: and we prophesy in part.
1Co 13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part, i.e., imperfectly. Ephrem turns it. “We know but little of much;” for the Apostle opposes what is little and imperfect, what we know partly by reason, partly by prophecy, to what is perfect (ver. 10), i.e., to the perfect vision and knowledge of God in himself, and of all things in God. It is certainly true that the whole being of God, and all His attributes and perfections, we do not know in this life, but all the blessed know them, and they alone. He proves this from the example of a boy, who grows both in age and knowledge. For the blessed are in knowledge as men, and we in it as boys. Again, our theological knowledge, though it is certain, is yet hidden and obscure; it leans on faith, and for that reason alone it is in part or imperfect. The blessed, however, know all things clearly and intuitively, nay, they see and behold face to face.
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child.
When I was a child, that is, one who is now beginning to say, think, plan, attempt, study, play, and do anything, as our children are wont to do.
I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. I understood as a child, or felt as a child; for children have not wisdom, but feeling. In other words, when a child I thought, and understood, and felt as a child, but when I became a man I thought and understood as a man does. So, when that which is perfect is come (vs. 10), i.e., perfect wisdom in heaven, partial and imperfect knowledge, as we have it in this life, shall fail; so that we who here are boys in knowledge are to be men in heaven. S. Paul leaves the remaining part of the likeness to be supplied from the verse before.
1Co 13:12 We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face. Now I know in part: but then I shall know even as I am known.
We see now through a glass in a dark manner: but then face to face. We see, i.e., God and heavenly things, by which we may be saved and be happy, as appears from what follows. You will say: If we see God here in a mirror, we see Him clearly and not in an enigma, for a mirror exhibits to the eyes, not an image of the object, as is commonly supposed, but the very object itself. I reply. It is true that a mirror exhibits to the eyes the object itself, yet it does so, not by a direct ray but reflected; and therefore it represents the object, not properly, clearly, distinctly, but as from a distance, obscure and confusedly. Such is the knowledge of God and of Divine things which we have in this life, but in heaven we shall see God as He is, face to face, directly, closely, clearly.
Secondly, the Greek word denotes that which we look through as a means of seeing anything, such as the spectacles of old men, an eye-glass, or green glass which is placed over a writing, that it may help weak eyes in reading, nevertheless, it makes things look green, dark, and obscure. Such a glass, properly speaking, makes the letters to be seen, not in themselves immediately, but by an obscure medium and by a shadowy likeness, or, as the Apostle says, in an enigma. Such a glass may be meant here.
Thirdly, some interpret the word, “through a screen;” for, as merchants show their wares in their shops through glass screens to those who pass by, not close at hand and distinctly, but from a distance, in the mass and confusedly, so does God show Himself to us in this life.
You will ask, What is this mirror by which we see God and Divine things here in an enigma? I reply, Firstly, the creatures which act as a mirror to represent their Creator. So S. Thomas teaches. Secondly, the phenomena of nature, which are the mirrors of realities. Thirdly, the humanity of Christ and its mysteries, which veil and set forth His Divinity. Again, the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies. So S. Theodoret says: “In holy baptism we see a figure of the resurrection; there we shall see the resurrection itself. Here we see the symbols of the Lord’s body, there the Lord Himself; for so the words face to face imply. We shall see, however, not His Divine nature, which no eye can take in, but that which was assumed of us.” In these last words of Theodoret an error of his must be guarded against, for he seems to say that in heaven we shall see the humanity only of Christ, because he says the Divine nature cannot he seen. But the excuse can perhaps be made that he is speaking only of corporal vision, of which it is true to say, that with the eyes of the body we shall see the humanity only of Christ. But this is outside the mind of the Apostle, for he is treating of the beatific vision, especially of the Divinity.
In a dark manner, i.e., according to Anselm, by an obscure speech, thought, or imagination. For an enigma (αινιγματι) is a question which is proposed in involved terms.
Then face to face. He alludes to Moses (Exodus33:2; Num 12:8).
Now I know in part (imperfectly, as I have said, ver. 9), but then shall I know even as also I am known. That is, Then in heaven I shall perfectly know and see God, as He is in His essence, and all other mysteries of God and the faith, even as He knows me and sees what I am in my essence. So Anselm, Theophylact, Cajetan, Ambrose, and Theodoret. “I shall know,” he says, “even as I am known,” as a well-known and familiar friend clearly sees the face of his friend. S. Augustine extends these words of the Apostle to a knowledge also of what takes place here on earth, and of what relates to the state of any saint. Hence he proves from this place that the saints understand in heaven our affairs more perfectly than they once did on earth; whence it follows that they hear the prayers with which we invoke them (de Civ. Dei, lib. xxii. c. 29). Chrysostom and Œcum. understand it otherwise. Then, they say, shall I know what concerns action: I shall hasten to Him through love and righteousness, even as He prevented and went before me with His grace. Thirdly others interpret it thus: Then shall I know with that degree of perfection to which I was known and predestinated for eternity by God. But the first sense is the genuine one; for he opposes knowledge, which is clear and full, to that which is in part, i.e., imperfect and enigmatical.
1Co 13:13 And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.
And now there remain faith, hope, and charity. S. Paul in this chapter clearly teaches that faith, hope, and charity abide in this present life, but charity alone in our heavenly country. So the Fathers hold. See Gregory de Valentia, disp. qu. 5 de Subjecto Fidei, part 2).
You will say, Irenæus (ii. c. 47), Tertullian (de Patientiâ, c. xii.) understand “now” of heaven; therefore in heaven there will be, and will abide, both faith and hope.
I reply: These Fathers understand by faith all sure knowledge, such as the vision of God; by hope, a firm adherence to God, as the object of love, which is the enjoyment of God. For this is what Tertullian says: “There abide faiih, hope, love: faith which the patietice of Christ had begotten; hope which the patience of man waits for; love which, with God as her teacher, patience accompanies.” But these are not to the purpose of the Apostle, as is evident.
The greatest of these is charity. Greatest, i.e., the greatest. So Catullus:— “0 Hesperus, light more fair, which shineth in heaven.” That is, fairest star.
Hence it is plain that faith is not the confidence of heretics in the remission of their sins; for that confidence is nothing else but a strong hope: if it is more it is properly called faith, by which you believe most firmly that you have been justified and saved, as you believe that God is; then hope is superfluous. For what you firmly believe you do not, nor can hope for, as, e.g., you do not hope that God is, that Christ suffered for us. For hope which truly is hope is allied to fear and dread as its opposites; there is nothing of this kind in faith. The Apostle just above distinguishes hope or confidence from faith, and requires in this life hope as well as faith; therefore faith is not that confidence of which heretics make their boast.
Lastly, it is plain that of all virtues charity is the greatest and most eminent; for, as fire among the elements, gold among the elements, the empyrean among the heavens, the sun among the planets, the seraphim among the angels, so shines charity as the queen among virtues. For charity is the celestial fire which kindles the souls of all around it: the most glittering gold with which we purchase our heavenly inheritance; the highest heaven in which God and the blessed dwell; the sun which illuminates, fertilises, quickens all; the seraphic virtue which makes the seraphim glow. (See on Deu_6:5.) Beroald says: “As is the helmsman in a ship, the ruler in a state, the sun in the world, so is love among mortals. Without a helmsman the ship is shattered, without a ruler the state is endangered, without the sun the world is darkened, and without love life is no life. Take love from men, you take the sun from the world.” Plautinus happily calls love a purifying God, that is, making all things pure and beautiful.