Text in red, if any, represent my additions.
Ver 1. And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
CYRIL; Although our Lord knew the malice of the Pharisees, yet He became their guest, that He might benefit by His words and miracles those who were present. Whence it follows, And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him; to see whether He would despise the observance of the law, or do any thing that was forbidden on the sabbath day. When then the man with the dropsy came into the midst of them, He rebukes by a question the insolence of the Pharisees, who wished to detect Him (see verses 2-6, not part of today’s reading.Verse 1 is in fact an introduction to all that transpires at the meal; notice how verse 1 speaks of the Pharisees watching Jesus, while in verse 7 it is stated that Jesus is “marking (paying attention to) how they chose the first seats.” Our Lord has turned the table on them).
Ver 7. And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying to them,8. When you are bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honor man than you be bidden of him;9. And he that bade you and him come and say to you, Give this man place; and you begin with shame to take the lowest room.10. But when you are bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade you comes, he may say to you, Friend, go up higher: then shall you have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with you.11. For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.
AMBROSE; First the dropsical man is cured, in whom the abundant discharges of the flesh crushed down the powers of the soul quenched the ardor of the Spirit. Next, humility is taught, when at the nuptial feast the desire of the highest place is forbidden. As it is said, And he spoke, Sit not down in the highest room.
CYRIL; For to rush forward hastily to honors which are not fitting for us, indicates rashness. and casts a slur upon our actions. Hence it follows, lest a more honorable man than you be invited, &c.
CHRYS. And so the seeker of honor obtained not that which he coveted, but suffered a defeat, and busying himself how he might be loaded with honors, is treated with dishonor. And because nothing is of so much worth as modesty, He leads His hearer to the opposite of this; not only for- him to seek the highest place, but bidding him search for the lowest. As it follows; But when you are bidden go and sit down in the lowest room.
CYRIL; For if a man wishes not to be set before others, he obtains this honor according to the divine word. As it follows; That when he that bade you comes, he may say to you, Friend, go up higher. In these words He does not harshly chide, but gently admonishes; for a word of advice is enough for the wise. And thus for their humility men are crowned with honors; as it follows, Then shall you have worship.
BASIL; To take then the lowest place at a feast, according to our Lord’s command, is becoming to every man, but again to rush contentiously after this is to be condemned as a breach of order and cause of tumult; and a strife raised about it, will place you on a level with those who dispute concerning the highest place. Wherefore, as our Lord here says, it becomes him who makes the feast to arrange the order of sitting down. Thus in patience and love should we mutually bear ourselves, following all things decently according to order, not for external appearance or public display; nor should we seem to study or affect humility by violent contradiction, but rather gain it by condescension or by patience. For resistance or opposition is a far stronger token of pride than taking the first seat at meat, when we obtain it by authority.
THEOPHYL. Now let no one deem the above precepts of Christ to be trifling, and unworthy of the sublimity and grandeur of the Word of God. For you would not call him a merciful physician who professed to heal the gout, but refilled to cure a scar on the finger or a tooth-ache. Besides, how can that passion of vainglory appear slight, which moved or agitated those who sought the first seats. It became then the Master of humility to cut off every branch of the bad root. But observe this also, that when the supper was ready, and the wretched guests were contending for precedency before the eyes of the Savior, there was a fit occasion for advice.
CYRIL; Having shown therefore from so slight an example the degradation of the ambitious and the exaltation of the humble-minded, He adds a great thing to a little, pronouncing a general sentence, as it follows, For every one who exalts himself shall be abased, and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. This is spoken according to the divine judgment, not after human experience, in which they who desire after glory obtain it, while others who humble themselves remain inglorious.
THEOPHYL. Moreover, he is not to be respected in the end, nor by all men, who thrusts himself into honors; but while by some he is honored, by others he is disparaged, and sometimes even by the very men who outwardly honor him.
BEDE; But as the Evangelist calls this admonition a parable, we must briefly examine what is its mystical meaning. Whosoever being bidden has come to the marriage feast of Christ’s Church, being united to the members of the Church by faith, let him not exalt himself as higher than others by boasting of his merits. For he will have to give place to one more honorable who is bidden afterwards, seeing that he is overtaken by the activity of those who followed him, and with shame he occupies the lowest place, now that knowing better things of the others he brings low whatever high thoughts he once had of his own works. But a man sits in the lowest place according to that verse, The greater you are, humble yourself in all things. But the Lord when He comes, whomsoever He shall find humble, blessing him with the name of friend, He will command him to go up higher. For whoever humbles himself as a little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But it is well said, Then shall you have glory, that you may not begin to seek now what is kept for you in the end. It may also be understood, even in this life, for daily does God come to His marriage feast, despising the proud; and often giving to the humble such great gifts of His Spirit, that the assembly of those who sit at meat, i.e. the faithful, glorify them in wonder. But in the general conclusion which is added, it is plainly declared that the preceding discourse of our Lord must be understood typically. For not every one who exalts himself before men is abased; nor is he who humbles himself in their sight, exalted by them. But whoever exalts himself because of his merits, the Lord shall bring low, and him who humbles himself on account of his mercies, shall He exalt.
Ver 12. Then said he also to him that bade him, When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbors; lest they also bid you again, and recompense be made you.13. But when you makes a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:14. And you shall be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
THEOPHYL. The supper being composed of two parties, the invited and the inviter, and having already exhorted the invited to humility, He next rewards by His advice the inviter, guarding him against making a feast to gain the favor of men. Hence it is said, Then said he also to him that bade him, When you makes a dinner or a supper, call not your friends.
CHRYS. Many are the sources from which friendships are made. Leaving out all unlawful ones, we shall speak only of those which are natural and moral; the natural are, for instance, between father and son, brother and brother, and such like; which He meant, saying, Nor your brethren, nor your kinsmen; the moral, when a man has become your guest or neighbor; and with reference to these He says, nor your neighbors.
BEDE; Brothers then, and friends, and the rich, are not forbidden, as though it were a crime to entertain one another, but this, like all the other necessary intercourse among men, is strewn to fail in meriting the reward of everlasting life; as it follows, Lest perchance they also bid you again, and a recompense be made you. He says not, “and sin be committed against you.” And the like to this He speaks in another place, And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thank have you? There are however certain mutual feastings of brothers and neighbors, which not only incur a retribution in this life, but also condemnation hereafter. And these are celebrated by the general gathering together of all, or the hospitality in turn of each one of the company; and they meet together that they may perpetrate foul deeds, and through excess of wine be provoked to all kinds of lustful pleasure.
CHRYS. Let us not then bestow kindness on others under the hope of return. For this is a cold motive, and hence it is that such a friendship soon vanishes. But if you invite the poor, God, who never forgets, will be your debtor, as it follows, But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind.
CHRYS. For the humbler our brother is, so much c the more does Christ come through him and visit us. For he who entertains a great man does it often from vainglory. And elsewhere, But very often interest is his object, that through such a one he may gain promotion. I could indeed mention many who for this pay court to the most distinguished of the nobles, that through their assistance they may obtain the greater favor from the prince. Let us not then ask those who can recompense us, as it follows, And you shall be blessed, for they cannot recompense you. And let us not be troubled when we receive no return of a kindness, but when we do; for if we have received it we shall receive nothing more, but if man does not repay us, God will. As it follows, For you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
BEDE; And though all rise again, yet it is called the resurrection of the just, because in the resurrection they doubt not that they are blessed. Whoever then bids the poor to his feast shall receive a reward hereafter. But he who invites his friends, brothers, and the rich, has received his reward. But if he does this for God’s sake after the example of the sons of Job, God, who Himself commanded all the duties of brotherly love, will reward him.
CHRYS. But you say, the poor are unclean and filthy. Wash him, and make him to sit with you at table. If he has dirty garments, give him clean ones. Christ comes to thee through him, and do you stand trifling?
GREG. NYSS. Do not then let them lie as though they were nothing worth. Reflect who they are, and you will discover their preciousness. They have put on the image of the Savior. Heirs of future blessings, bearing the keys of the kingdom, able accusers and excusers, not speaking themselves, but examined by the judge.
CHRYS. It would become you then to receive them above in the best chamber, but if you shrink, at least admit Christ below, where are the menials and servants. Let the poor man be at least your door keeper. For where there is alms, the devil durst not enter. And if you sit not down with them, at any rate send them the dishes from your table.
ORIGEN; But mystically, he who shuns vain-glory calls to a spiritual banquet the poor, that is, the ignorant, that he may enrich them; the weak, that is, those with offended consciences, that he may heal them; the lame, that is, those who have wandered from reason, that he may make their paths straight; the blind, that is, those who discern not the truth, that they may behold the true light. But it is said, They cannot recompense thee, i.e. they know not how to return an answer