Post 5~Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 23:33-49 (Crucifixion and Death)

Ver 33. And when they were come to the place, in which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.

ATHAN, When mankind became corrupted, then Christ manifested His own body, that where corruption has been pass seen, there might spring up incorruption. Wherefore He is crucified in the place of Calvary; which place the Jewish doctors say was the burial-place of Adam.

BEDE; Or else, without the gate were the places where the heads of condemned criminals were cut off, and they received the name of Calvary, that is, beheaded. Thus for the salvation of all men the innocent is crucified among the guilty, that where sin abounded, there grace might much more abound.

CYRIL; The only-begotten Son of God did not Himself in His own nature in which He is God suffer the things which belong to the body, but rather in His earthly nature. For of one and the same Son both may be affirmed, namely, that He does not suffer in His divine nature, and that He suffered in His human.

EUSEB. But if, on the contrary, after His intercourse with men, He suddenly disappeared, flying away to avoid death, He might be likened by man to a phantom. And just as if any one wished to exhibit some incombustible vessel, which triumphed over the nature of fire, he would put it into the flame, and then directly draw it out from the flame unharmed; so the Word of God, wishing to show that the instrument which He used for the salvation of men was superior to death, exposed His mortal body to death to manifest His nature, then after a little rescued it from death by the force of His divine power. This is indeed the first cause of Christ’s death. But the second is the manifestation of the divine power of Christ inhabiting a body. For seeing that men of old deified those who were destined to a like end with themselves, and whom they called Heroes and Gods, He taught that He alone of the dead must be acknowledged the true God, who having vanquished death is adorned with the rewards of victory, having trodden death under His feet. The third reason is, that a victim must be slain for the whole race of mankind, which being offered, the whole power of the evil spirits was destroyed, and every error put to silence. There is also another cause of the health-giving death, that the disciples with secret faith might behold the resurrection after death. Whereunto they were taught to lift up their own hopes, that despising death they might embark cheerfully in the conflict with error.

ATHAN. Now our Savior came to accomplish not His own death, but that of man, for He experienced not death who is Life. Therefore not by His own death did He put off the body, but He endured that which was inflicted by men. But although His body had been afflicted, and was loosed in the sight of all men, yet was it not fitting that He who should heal the sicknesses of others should have His own body visited with sickness. But yet if without any disease He had put off His body apart in some remote place, He would not be believed when speaking of His remote place, For death must precede resurrection; why then should He openly proclaim His resurrection, but die in secret? Surely if these things had happened secretly, what calumnies would unbelieving men have invented? How would the victory of Christ over death appear, unless undergoing it in the sight of all men. He had proved it to be swallowed up by the incorruption of His body? But you will say, At least He ought to have devised for Himself a glorious death, to have avoided the death of the cross. But if He had done this, He would have made Himself suspected of not having power over every kind of death. As then the champion by laying prostrate whomsoever the enemy has opposed to him is shown to be superior to all, so the Life of all men took upon Him that death which His enemies inflicted, because it was the most dreadful and shameful, the abominable death upon the cross, that having destroyed it, the dominion of death might be entirely overthrown. Wherefore His head is not cut off as John’s was He was not sawn asunder as Isaiah, that He might preserve His body entire, and indivisible to death, and not become an excuse to those who ho would divide the Church. For He wished to bear the curse of sin which we had incurred, by taking upon Him the accursed death of the cross, as it is said, Cursed is he that hangs upon a tree. He dies also on the cross with outstretched hands, that with one indeed He may draw to Him the ancient people, with the other the Gentiles joining both to Himself. Dying also on the cross He purges the air of evil spirits, and prepares for us an ascent into heaven.

THEOPHYL. Because also by a tree death had entered, it must needs be that by a tree it should be abolished, and that the Lord passing unconquered through the pains of a tree should subdue the pleasures which flow from a tree.

GREG. NYSS. But the figure of the cross from one center of contact branching out into four separate terminations, signifies the power and providence of Him who hung upon it extending every where.

parAUG. For not without reason did He choose this kind of death, in order that He might be the master of breadth and length, and heighth and depth. For breadth lies in that cross piece of wood which is fastened from above. This belongs to good works, because on it the hands are outstretched. Length lies in that which is seen reaching from the former piece to the ground, for there in a certain manner we stand, that is, abide firm or persevere. And this is applied to long-suffering. Heighth is in that piece of wood which is left reaching upwards from that which is fixed across, that is, to the head of the Crucified; for the expectation of those who hope for better things is upward. Again, that part of the wood which is fixed hidden in the ground, signifies the depth of unrestrained grace.

CHRYS. Two thieves also they crucified on the two sides, that He might be a partaker of their reproach; as it follows, And the thieves one on his right hand, the other on his left. But it did not so turn out. For of them nothing is said, but His cross is every where honored. Kings, laying aside their crowns, assume the cross on their purple, on their diadems, on their arms. On the consecrated table, throughout the whole earth, the cross glitters. Such things are not of men. For even in their lifetime those who have acted nobly are mocked by their own actions, and when they perish their actions perish also. But in Christ it is quite different. For before the cross all things were gloomy, after it all things are joyful and glorious, that you may know that not a mere man was crucified.

BEDE; But the two robbers crucified with Christ signify those who under the faith of Christ undergo either the pains of martyrdom, or the rules of a still stricter continence. But they do this for eternal glory, who imitate the actions of the thief on the right hand; while they who do it to gain the praise of men, imitate the thief on the left hand.

Ver 34. Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.35. And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.36. And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar,37. And saying, If you be the king of the Jews, save yourself.

CHRYS. Because the Lord had said, Pray for them that persecute you, this likewise He did, when He ascended the cross, as it follows, Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, not that He was not able Himself to pardon them, but that He might teach us to pray for our persecutors, not only in word, but in deed also. But He says, Forgive them, if they should repent. For He is gracious to the penitent, if they are willing after so great wickedness to wash away their guilt by faith.

BEDE; For must we imagine here that He prayed in vain, but that in those who believed after His passion He obtained the fruit of His prayers? It must be remarked, however, that He prayed not for those who chose rather to crucify, than to confess Him whom they knew to be the Son of God, but for such as were ignorant what they did, having a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, as He adds, For they know not what they do.

GREEK EX. But for those who after the crucifixion remain in unbelief, no one can suppose that they are excused by ignorance, because of the notable miracles that with aloud voice proclaimed Him to be the Son of God.

AMBROSE; It is important then to consider, in what condition He ascends the cross; for I see Him naked. Let him then who prepares to overcome the world, so ascend that he seek no the appliances of the world. Now Adam was overcome who sought for a covering. He overcame who laid aside His covering. He ascends such as nature formed us, God being our Creator. Such as the first man had dwelt in paradise, such did the second man enter paradise. But about to ascend the cross rightly, did He lay aside His royal garments, that you may know that He suffered not as God, but as man, though Christ is both.

ATHAN. He also who for our sakes took upon him all our conditions, put on our garments, the signs of Adam’s death, that He might put them off, and in their stead clothe us with life and incorruption.   It follows, And they parted his raiment among them, and cast lots.

THEOPHYL. For perhaps many of them were in want. Or perhaps rather they did this as a reproach, and from a kind of wantonness. For what treasure did they find in His garments?

BEDE; But in the lot the grace of God seems to be commended; for when the lot is cast, we yield not to the merits of any person, but to the secret judgment of God.

AUG. This matter indeed was briefly related by the three first Evangelists, but John more distinctly explains how it was done.

THEOPHYL. They did it then mockingly. For when the rulers scoffed, what can we say of the crowd? For it follows, And the people stood, who in truth had entreated that He should be crucified, waiting, namely, for an end. And the rulers also with them derided.

AUG. Having mentioned the rulers, and said nothing of the priests, St. Luke comprehended under a general name all the chief men, so that hereby may be understood both the scribes and the elders.

BEDE; And these also unwillingly confess that He saved others, for it follows, Saying, He saved others, let him save himself, &c.

ATHAN. Now our Lord being truly the Savior wished not by saving Himself, but by saving His creatures, to be acknowledged the Savior. For neither is a physician by healing himself known to be physician by healing himself known to be a physician, unless he also gives proof of his skill towards the sick. So the Lord being the Savior had no need of salvation, nor by descending from the cross did He wish to be acknowledged the Savior, but by dying. For truly a much greater salvation does the death of the Savior bring to men, than the descent from the cross.

GREEK EX. Now the Devil, seeing that there was no protection for him, was at a loss, and as having no other resource, tried at last to offer him vinegar to drink. But he knew not that he was doing this against himself; for the bitterness of wrath caused by the transgression of the law, in which he kept all men bound, he now surrendered to the Savior, who took it and consumed it, in order that in the place of vinegar, He might give us wine to drink, which wisdom had mingled.

THEOPHYL. But the soldiers offered Christ vinegar, as it were ministering to a king,   for it follows, saying, If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.

BEDE; And it is worthy of remark, that the Jews blaspheme and mock the name of Christ, which was delivered to them by the authority of Scripture; whereas the soldiers, as being ignorant of the Scriptures, insult not Christ the chosen of God, but the King of the Jews.

Ver 38. And the superscription also was written over him in the letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.39. And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If you be Christ, save yourself and us.40. But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Do not you fear God, seeing you are in the same condemnation?41. And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man has done nothing amiss.42. And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.43. And Jesus said to him, Verily I say to you, Today shall you be with me in paradise.

THEOPHYL. Observe a second time the device of the devil turned against himself. For in letters of three different characters he published the accusation of Jesus, that in truth it might not escape one of the passers by, that He was crucified because He made Himself King. For it is said, In Greek, Latin, and Hebrew, by which it was signified, that the most powerful of the nations, (as the Romans,) the wisest, (as the Greeks,) those who most worshipped God, (as the Jewish nation,) must be made subject to the dominion of Christ.

AMBROSE; And rightly is the title placed above the cross, because Christ’s kingdom is not of the human body, but of the power of God. I read the title of the King of the Jews, when I read, My kingdom is not of this world. I read the cause of Christ written above His head, when I read, And the Word was God. For the head of Christ is God.

CYRIL; Now one of the thieves uttered the same revilings as the Jews, but the other tried to check his words, while he confessed his own guilt, adding, We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds.

CHRYS. Here the condemned performs the office of judge, and he begins to decide concerning truth who before Pilate confessed his crime only after many tortures. For the judgment of man from whom secret things are hid is of one kind; the judgment of God who searches the heart of another. And in the former case punishment follows after confession, but here confession is made to salvation. But he also pronounces Christ innocent, adding, But this man has done nothing wrong: as if to say, Behold a new injury, that innocence should be condemned with crime. We kill the living, He raised the dead. We have stolen from others, He bids us give up even what is our own.

The blessed thief thus taught those that stood by, uttering the words by which he rebuked the other. But when he saw that the ears of those who stood by were stopped up, he turns to Him who knows the hearts; for it follows, And he said to Jesus, Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. You behold the Crucified, and you acknowledge Him to be your Lord. You see the form of a condemned criminal, and you proclaim the dignity of a king. Stained with a thousand crimes, you ask the Fountain of righteousness to remember your wickedness, saying, But I discover your hidden kingdom; and you turn away my public iniquities, and accept the faith of a secret intention. Wickedness usurped the disciple of truth, truth did not change the disciple of wickedness.

GREG. On the cross nails had fastened his hands and feet, and nothing remained free from torture, but his heart and tongue. By the inspiration of God, the thief offered to Him the whole which he found free, that as it is written, With the heart he might believe to righteousness, with the mouth he might confess to salvation. But the three virtues which the Apostle speaks of, the thief suddenly filled with grace both received and preserved on the cross. He had faith, for example, who believed that God would reign whom he saw dying equally with himself. He had hope who asked for an entrance into His kingdom. He preserved charity also zealously in his death, who for his iniquity reproved his brother and fellow-thief, dying for a like clime to his own.

AMBROSE; A most remarkable example is here given of seeking after conversion, seeing that pardon is so speedily granted to the thief. The Lord quickly pardons, because the thief is quickly converted. And grace is more abundant than prayer; for the Lord ever gives more than He is asked for. The thief asked that He should remember him, but our Lord answers, Verily I say to you, This day shall you be with me in Paradise. To be with Christ is life, and where Christ is, there is His kingdom.

THEOPHYL. And as every king who returns victorious carries in triumph the best of his spoils, so the Lord having despoiled the devil of a portion of his plunder, carries it with Him into Paradise.

CHRYS. Here then might one see the Savior between the thieves weighing in the scales of justice faith, and unbelief. The devil cast Adam out of Paradise. Christ brought the thief into Paradise before the whole world, before the Apostles. By a mere word and by faith alone he entered into Paradise, that no one after his sins might despair of entrance. Mark the rapid change, from the cross to heaven, from condemnation to Paradise, that you may know that the Lord did it all, not with regard to the thief’s good intention, but His own mercy.

But if the reward of the good has already taken place, surely a resurrection will be superfluous. For if He introduced the thief into Paradise while his body remained in corruption without, it is clear there is no resurrection of the body. Such are the words of some, But shall the flesh which has partaken of the toil be deprived of the reward? Hear Paul speaking, Then must this corruptible put on incorruption. But if the Lord promised the kingdom of heaven, but introduced the thief into Paradise, He does not yet recompense him the reward. But they say, Under the name of Paradise He signified the kingdom of heaven, using a well-known name in addressing a thief who knew nothing of difficult teaching. Now some do not read it, This day shall you be with me in Paradise, but thus, I say to you on this day, and then follows, You shall be with me in Paradise. But we will add a still more obvious solution. For physicians when they see a man in a desperate state, say, He is already dead. So also the thief, since he no longer fears his falling back to perdition, is said to have entered Paradise.

THEOPHYL. This however is more true than all, that although they have not obtained all the promises, I mean, the thief and the other saints in order that without us they might not be made perfect, they are notwithstanding in the kingdom of heaven and Paradise.

GREG. NYSS. Here again, we must examine how the thief should be thought worthy of Paradise, seeing that a flaming sword prevents the entrance of the saints. But observe that the word of God describes it as turning about, so as it should obstruct the unworthy, but open a free entrance to life to the worthy.

GREG. Or that flaming sword is said to be turning, because that He knew the time would come when it must be removed; when He in truth should come, who by the mystery of His incarnation was to open to us the way of Paradise.

AMBROSE; But it must also be explained how the others, that is, Matthew and Mark, introduced two thieves reviling, while Luke, one reviling, the other resisting him. Perhaps this other at first reviled, but was suddenly converted. It may also have been spoken of one, but in the plural number; as in the Hebrews, They wandered in goat-skins, and they were sawn asunder; whereas Elijah alone is related to have had a goat-skin, and Isaiah to have been sawn asunder. But mystically, the two thieves represent the two sinful people who were to be crucified by baptism with Christ, whose disagreement likewise represents the difference of believers.

BEDE; For as many of us as were baptized in Christ Jesus, were baptized in His death; but we are washed; by baptism, seeing we were sinners. But some, in that they praise God suffering in the flesh, are crowned; others, in that they refuse to have the faith or works of baptism, are deprived of the gift which they have received.

Ver 44. And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.45. And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst.46. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

CYRIL; As soon as the Lord of all had been given up to be crucified, the whole framework of the world bewailed its rightful Master, and the light was darkened at mid-day, which was a manifest token that the souls of those who crucified Him would suffer darkness.

AUG. What is here said of the darkness, the other two Evangelists, Matthew and Mark confirm, but St. Luke adds the cause whence the darkness arose, saying, And the sun was darkened.

AUG. This darkening of the sun it is quite plain did not happen in the regular and fixed course of the heavenly bodies, because it was then the Passover, which is always celebrated at the full moon. But a regular eclipse of the sun does not take place except at new moon.

DIONYS. When owe were both at Heliopolis together, we both saw at the same time in a marvelous manner the moon meeting the sun, (for it was not then the time of new moon,) and then again from the ninth hour until evening supernaturally brought back to the edge of the sun’s diameter. Besides, we observed that this obscuration began from the east, and having reached as far as the sun’s western border at length returned, and that the loss and restoration of light took place not from the same side, but from opposite sides of the diameter. Such were the miraculous events of that time, and possible to Christ alone who is the cause of all things.

GREEK EX. This miracle then took place that it might be made known, that He who had undergone death was the Ruler of the whole creation.

AMBROSE; The sun also is eclipsed to the sacrilegious, that it may overshadow the scene of their awful wickedness; darkness was spread over the eyes of the unbelieving, that the light of faith might rise again.

BEDE; But Luke, wishing to join miracle to miracle, adds, And the veil of the temple was rent in two. This took place when our Lord expired, as Matthew and Mark bear witness, but Luke related it by anticipation.

THEOPHYL. By this then our Lord showed that the Holy of Holies should be no longer inaccessible, but being given over into the hands of the Romans, should be defiled, and its entrance laid open.

AMBROSE; The veil also is rent, by which is declared the division of the two people, and the profanation of the synagogue. The old veil is rent that the Church may hang up the new walls of faith. The covering of the synagogue is drawn up, that we may behold with the eyes of the mind the inward mysteries of religion now revealed to us.

THEOPHYL. Whereby it is signified that the veil which kept us asunder from the holy things which are in heaven, is broken through, namely, enmity and sin.

AMBROSE; It took place also at that time when every mystery of Christ’s assumed mortality was fulfilled, and His immortality alone remained; as it follows, And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said.

BEDE; By invoking the Father He declares Himself to be the Son of God, but by commending His Spirit, He signifies not the weakness of His strength, but His confidence in the same power with the Father.

AMBROSE; The flesh dies that the Spirit may rise again. The Spirit is commended to the Father, that heavenly things also may be loosed from the chain of iniquity, and peace be made in heaven, which earthly things should follow.

CHRYS. Now this voice teaches us, that the souls of the saints are not henceforth shut up in hell as before, but are with God, Christ being made the beginning of this change.

ATHAN. For He commends to His Father through Himself all mankind quickened in Him; for we are His members; as the Apostle says, You are all one in Christ.

GREG. NYSS. But it becomes us to inquire how our Lord distributes Himself into three parts at once; into the bowels of the earth, as He told the Pharisees; into the Paradise of God, as He told the thief; into the hands of the Father, as it is said here. To those however who rightly consider, it is scarcely worthy of question, for He who by His divine power is in every place, is present in any particular place.

AMBROSE; His spirit then is commended to God, but though He is above He yet gives light to the parts below the earth, that all things may be redeemed. For Christ is all things, and in Christ are all things.

GREG. NYSS. There is another explanation that at the time of His Passion, His Divinity being once united to His humanity, left neither part of His humanity, but of its own accord separated the soul from the body, yet showed itself abiding in each. For through the body in which He suffered death He vanquished the power of death, but through the soul He prepared for the thief an entrance into Paradise. Now Isaiah says of the heavenly Jerusalem, which is no other than Paradise, Upon my hands I have painted your walls; whence it is clear, that he who is in Paradise dwells in the hands of the Father.

DAMASC. Or to speak more expressly, In respect of His body, He was in the grave, in respect of His soul, He was in hell, and with the thief in Paradise; but as God, on the throne with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

THEOPHYL. But crying with a loud voice He gives up the ghost, because He had in Himself the power of laying down His life and taking it up again.

AMBROSE; He gave up His Spirit, because He did not lose it as one unwilling; for what a man sends forth is voluntary, what he loses, compulsory.

Ver 47. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.48. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.49. And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.

AUG. When after uttering that voice He immediately gave up the ghost, those who were present greatly marveled. For those who hung upon the cross were generally tortured by a prolonged death. Hence it is said, Now when the centurion saw, &c.

AUG. There is no contradiction in that the centurion seeing the earthquake marveled, whereas Luke says that he marveled, that Jesus while uttering the loud voice expired, showing what power He had when He was dying. But in that Matthew not only says, at the sight of the earthquake, but added, and at the things that were done, he has made it clear that there was ample room for Luke to say, that the centurion marveled at the death of the Lord. But because Luke also himself said, Now when the centurion saw what was done, he has included in that general expression all the marvelous things which took place at that hour, as if relating one marvelous event of which all those miracles were the parts and members. Again, because one Evangelist stated that the centurion said, Truly this man was the Son of God, but Luke gives the words, was a just man, they might be supposed to differ. But either we ought to understand that both these were said by the centurion, and that one Evangelist related one, another. Or perhaps, that Luke expresses the opinion of the centurion, in what respect he called Him the Son of God. For perhaps the centurion did not know Him to be the Only-begotten, equal to the Father, but called Him the Son of God, because he believed Him to be just, as many just persons are called the sons of God. But again, because Matthew added, those who were with the centurion, while Luke omits this, there is no contradiction, since one says what another is silent about. And Matthew said, They were greatly afraid; but Luke does not say that he feared, but that he glorified God. Who then does not see that by fearing he glorified God?

THEOPHYL. The words of our Lord seem now to be fulfilled, wherein He said, When I shall be lifted up I will draw all men to me. For when lifted upon the cross He drew to Him the thief and the centurion, besides some of the Jews also, of whom it follows, And all the people that came together smote their breasts.

BEDE; By their smiting their breasts as if betokening a penitential sorrow, two things may be understood; either that they bewailed Him unjustly slain whose life they loved, or that remembering that they had demanded His death, they trembled to see Him in death still farther glorified. But we may observe, that the Gentiles fearing God glorify Him with works of public confession; the Jews only striking their breasts returned silent home

AMBROSE; O the breasts of the Jews, harder than the rocks! The Judge acquits, the officer believes, the traitor by his death condemns his own crime, the elements flee away, the earth quakes, the graves are opened; the hardness of the Jews still remains immovable, though the whole world is shaken.

BEDE; Rightly then by the centurion is the faith of the Church signified, which in the silence of the synagogue bears witness to the Son of God. And now is fulfilled that complaint which the Lord makes to His Father, neighbor and friend have you put far from me, and mine acquaintance because of a misery. Hence it follows, And all his acquaintance stood afar off.

THEOPHYL. But the race of women formerly cursed remains and sees all these things; for it follows, And the women which followed him from Galilee, seeing these things. And thus they are the first to be renewed by Justification, or by the blessing which flows from His passion, as also from His resurrection.

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One Response to Post 5~Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 23:33-49 (Crucifixion and Death)

  1. Pingback: Year C: Palm Sunday Commentaries on the Processional and Gospel Readings | stjoeofoblog

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