Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18

Text in red are my additions.

Gal 6:14  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

But God forbid that I should glory, &c. The adversative but marks a contrast between the glory of the Judaisers in circumcision and the glorying of S. Paul in the Cross. The Cross of course stands for itself and all the redemptive benefits it bestows, and in it is shown the greatness of man’s sin and the depth of God’s love.  S. Augustine (Serm. 20 de Verbis Apost.) says: “The Apostle might well have gloried in the wisdom of Christ, or His majesty, or His power; but it was the Cross he specified. The philosopher’s shame is the Apostle’s boast. He glories in his Lord. What Lord? Christ crucified. In Him are conjoined humility and majesty, weakness and power, life and death. Would you come to Him? Despise not these; be not ashamed; you have received the sign of the Cross on your forehead as on the seat of shame.”

S. Bernard (Serm. 25 in Cant.) says: “He thinks nothing more glorious than to bear the reproach of Christ. The shame of the Cross is pleasing to him who is not unpleasing to the Crucified.”

And again he writes (Serm. 1 de S. Andrea): “The Cross is precious, capable of being loved, and is a cause of exultation. The wood of the Cross puts forth blossoms, bears pleasant fruit, drops the oil of gladness, exudes the balsam of temporal gifts. It is no woodland tree, but a tree of life, to those who lay hold of it. It bears life-giving fruits, else how should it occupy the Lord’s land, that most precious soil, to which it was affixed by nails which were, as it were, its roots?”

So (in Ep. 190 ad Innocent. Pont.) he says: “I see three principal things in this work of our salvation: the form of humility, in which Christ emptied Himself; the measure of charity, which stretched itself even to death, and that the death of the Cross ; the sacrament of redemption, whereby He bore that death He vouchsafed to take upon Him.”

By whom the world is crucified to me. As the world shrinks from the Cross or any crucified corpse, so do I shrink from the pomps and vanity of the world. Whatever, as S. Bernard says, the world thinks of the Cross, that do I think of worldly pleasures; and whatever the world thinks of pleasure, that do I think of the Cross.

A simpler explanation, however, is to take crucified in the general meaning of death, that being the consequence of crucifixion. The Apostle used the term crucified to maintain the continuity of his subject. Being crucified with Christ, he says, I am a new creature, and breathe a new life. I am dead to the worldly things clung to by the Jews (he still has these in his mind); I am not held by them or by the opinions, applause, or hatred of anybody whatsoever, as the Judaisers are. And by consequence all worldly things are, so far as I am concerned, dead—they have no power to affect me. The world is crucified to me; it cannot hold me. I am crucified to the world; I do not regard it. The world cannot hurt me, nor do I desire anything from it. S. Ignatius, writing to the Romans, said: “My love is crucified, and hence corruptible food and worldly pleasure delight me not. I long for the bread of God, that bread which cometh down from heaven, which is the Flesh of Christ. With Him I am crucified.”

Cassian (de Institut. Renunt. iv. 34, 35) relates the beautiful description of the monastic ideal given to a novice by Abbot Pinusius. He put before him Christ crucified: “Renunciation of the world is nothing but the choice of the Cross and the mortified life. You know, therefore, that this day you have done with the world its activity and its delights, and that, as the Apostle says, you are crucified to the world, and the world to you. Consider, then, the conditions of life under the Cross, under the shadow of which you are henceforth to dwell. For it is no longer you that live, but He liveth in you who was crucified for you. As He hung on the Cross, so must we be in this life, mortifying our flesh in the fear of the Lord, with all its affections and lusts; not serving our own wills, but nailing them to His Cross. So shall we fulfil the Lord’s command, ‘He that taketh not up his cross and followeth not after Me is not worthy of Me.’ ” He then describes in detail the way we should be crucified with Christ: “If it be asked, How can a man take up his cross and be crucified while still living, I reply: Our cross is the fear of the Lord; as the crucified man has no power over his own members, so are we to order our wills, not after our own desires, but according to the fear of the Lord, which constraineth us. And just as the man fastened to a cross regards not things present, studies not his own feelings, is not anxious about the morrow, is stimulated by no worldly desires, grieves not over present injuries, thinks not of the past, and, while still breathing, holds that he has done with the elements of this world, sending on his spirit whither where he will soon be, so must we be crucified by the fear of the Lord to all these things, not only to sins of the flesh, but to all earthly things, keeping our eyes intent on the land to which we hope every moment to travel.”

The Apostle here is speaking not only to religious, but to all Christians, who by baptism have renounced the world, with its conventional ideals and low code of honour. The world may say: “Go to market—adapt yourself to everybody; be a heretic with heretics, a politician with politicians; and when you dine with them, eat flesh as they do, even on a fast day.” But the Christian will reply that he is dead to a life of this sort, and is bound to live the Christ life. Though he be called Papist, hypocrite, Jesuit, he will care nothing. The world scorns a man who refuses to fight a duel when challenged. The Christian will be content to know that duelling is forbidden by the law of Christ, and will despise the stupid opinions of a stupid world, preferring to follow the wisdom of Christ, which condemns all duelling as wicked and foolish. He will recollect that Christian fortitude is seen in bearing injuries in the defence of our country or ourselves, not in the retaliation of insults and injuries.

S. Bernard (Serm. 7 in Quadrag.) says that there are three steps in the way of perfection through crucifixion to the world. “The first is to bear ourselves as pilgrims who, if they see men quarrelling, give no heed; if they see men marrying, or making merry, pass by as pilgrims who are longing to reach their country, and who, therefore, decline to trouble themselves with anything but food and raiment. The second is to bear ourselves as though we were dead, void of feeling, knowing no difference between praise or blame, between flattery or calumny, nay, deaf to everything, even as a dead man. Happy is the death which thus keeps us spotless, nay, which makes us wholly foreigners to this world. But as the Apostle says, he who lives not in himself, must have Christ living in him. All else must find him dead; the things of Christ alone must find him living. The third is that He be not merely dead but crucified. Sensual pleasure, honours, riches, fame—all that the world delights in must be a cross to us. All that the world regards as painful must be gladly chosen by us and clung to.”

S. Bernard then adds a figurative explanation of this passage: “The Apostle might not improperly be understood to mean that the world was crucified to him so far as its character was concerned, it being bound by the chains of its vines, and that he was crucified to the world by the pity he felt for its condition.”

And I to the world. Blessed Dorotheus (Biblioth. SS. Patrum, vol. iii.) asks: “How is the world crucified to any one? When he renounces it and lives a life of solitude, having left father and mother and all earthly possessions. How is a man crucified to the world? Again, by renunciation; when any one, after retiring from the world, strives against his own lusts and his own will, and subdues the motions of the flesh within. We religious seem to ourselves to have crucified the world, because we have left it and retired to our monasteries; but we are unwilling to crucify ourselves to the world. Its blandishments still have power over us; we have still a lurking love for it; we hanker after its glory, its pleasures, its gaiety, and for these vile things cherish the passions which once swayed us. What madness is this to leave what is precious and worry ourselves over what is despicable. If we have renounced the world, we ought also to have renounced all worldly desires as well.”

This explanation is, however, too narrow. The Apostle is speaking to all, and not to religious alone. Moreover, crucifixion to the world and crucifixion of the world are not two distinct things, as Dorotheus seems to think, but two sides of the same thing.

Gal 6:15  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision: but a new creature.

For in Christ Jesus neither cirumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision.Whether you be Jew or Gentile matters nothing; neither brings you nearer Christ. What is of importance is a new creature, i.e., a soul regenerated in baptism, and fortified by grace to walk in newness of life. Cf. Rev 3:14, where Christ is called “the beginning of the creation of God,” and Isa 9:6, where He is called “the Father of the world that is to be ” (Vulg.), for from Him began a new creation. Cf. too Virgil (Ecl. iv. 8), where Virgil transfers to Salonius, the newly born son of Asinius Pollio, Roman Consul, the predictions by the Cumæan Sibyl of the birth of Christ, in which the Christian era is described as a golden age.

Gal 6:16  And whosoever shall follow this rule, peace on them and mercy: and upon the Israel of God.

Whosoever shall follow this rule. The rule laid down by S. Paul as to justification, and the relation of Judaism to Christianity.

Peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. On Jews and Gentiles alike who believe on Christ, according to Ambrose; but comparing this verse with Eph 1:1 and Col 2:8, it is better to explain the Israel of God as those who are Israelites indeed, i.e., who have embraced Christianity and renounced whether Gentilism or Judaism. Not those who are descended from Jacob according to the flesh are the Israel of God, but those who have embraced his faith. These find peace within, and on them God plentifully bestows His grace.

There may be a reference to the meaning of Israel, i.e., he who sees God, says Theophylact. They who see Him by faith here will see Him under a fitting image in heaven. Or Israel may mean “he who has power with God,” according to Gen_32:28. As Jacob by his prayers obtained success against Esau, so the people of God are by His grace masters over the world and all its lusts, and over Judaism. So S. Thomas and Haymo.

Gal 6:17  From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me: for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body.

From henceforth let no man be troublesome to me. Let no Jew trouble me in future by asking whose servant I am. He bears the marks of circumcision, I the marks of Christ. Maldonatus takes the words as a defence of his apostleship.

For I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus in my body. The Greek word used here denotes marks burnt in, like those impressed on slaves. It also stands for the scars left by wounds. S. Paul gives reasons for believing that he bore these latter in 2 Cor 11:23. As soldiers are proud of their scars gained in honourable warfare, so does S. Paul point with pride to those he had gained in the service of Christ.

S. Ambrose (in Ps 119:120) writes: “That man is pierced with the nails of God’s fear who bears in his body the mortification of Jesus. He merits to hear his Lord saying: ‘Set Me as a seal upon thy hears, as a seal upon thine arm.’ Place then on thy breast and on thy heart the seal of the Crucified; place it too an thy arm, that thy works may be dead unto sin. Perchance not only fear but love also will pierce thee with its nails, for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave. May our souls be wounded by these nails of charity, that they may cry out: ‘We bear the wounds of charity.’ ”

In the same way did Blessed Theodorus Studita rejoice in the wounds he received in defence of the sacred images when they were assailed by Leo the Armenian, in A.D. 824. Baring his body to the scourge, he said: “Delightful to me is the scourging of this vile body, and delightful will it be to lay it aside altogether, that my liberated soul may flee to Him whom it thirsts for.” And when the scourging was over, he wrote joyfully to Naucratius: “Is it not more glorious to bear the marks of Christ, than to wear earthly crowns?” See Baronius, Annals for that year.

They bear the marks of Christ, says S. Jerome, who for love of Christ afflict their bodies, or who are afflicted with illness.  S. Francis of Assissi, as S. Bonaventura relates in his Life of him (c. 13), received from a seraph nails in his hands and feet, out of his intense love of Christ crucified. These nails were not of iron but of hard, dead flesh, having their heads projecting, and the sharp end turned inwards, so that it was with pain and difficulty that he could walk. Pope Alexander IV testified that he saw these nails himself with his own eyes after the death of S. Francis, and from him S. Bonaventura learnt the fact.

Let the impious blasphemy of Beza then do its worst, which speaks of this as a “stigmatic idol,” fondly and fraudulently fashioned. S. Paul, however, is not claiming here such marks for himself, nor do the oldest likenesses of him show any of the sort. Indeed Sixtus IV., in a Bull quoted by Henry Sedulius, in his “Notes to the Life of S. Francis,” forbade, under pain of excommunication, any other saint but S. Francis to be so painted. The Dominicans, who have lately depicted S. Catherine of Sienna in this way, claim a special privilege given them for the purpose by Pius V.

GOD FORBID THAT I SHOULD GLORY SAVE IN THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST.
THE CROSS IS THE LADDER OF BLESSED ETERNITY.
O LONG AND BLESSED ETERNITY!

Gal 6:18  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.

Blessings also close out the letter to the Philippians, 2 Tim, and Philemon. Grace should here be understood as God’s full salvific bounty, as in the opening addresses of St Paul’s letters. Paul blessing is that this salvific bounty be with the spirit of the Galatians. Spirit here is not a reference to the Holy Spirit, rather, it is synonymous with the person, designating especially consciousness and functions of thought (see 1 Cor 2:11). St Paul’s desire is that the individual Galatians always be conscious of, and thinking about, the full breath of God’s salvific gifts for them, lest they remain deluded and foolish (Gal 3:1-3), forsaking the Gospel for a worthless imitation (Gal 1:6-9). One should have the attitude of St Paul’s spiritual interior: glorying in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ as a new creature (see verses 14-15).

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Galatians 6:14-18

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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