Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 18:1-8

Luk 18:1  And he spoke also a parable to them, that we ought always to pray and not to faint,

And he spoke also a parable to them, that… Christ had said, at the end of the last chapter, that the Apostles and the faithful should suffer persecutions, in which they should wish for His presence that they might seek and receive help from Him. He now names a remedy for all their sufferings, prayer, for He both hears them and grants what they ask, for He teaches, directs, strengthens.

Always to pray. Hence the heretics called Euchitæ wished, but without reason, to be always praying and to do no manual work. But it is written, “If any man will not work, neither let him eat” (2Th 3:10). “Always” here seems to mean sedulously, perseveringly, diligently, assiduously as in other things, and at befitting times, especially when temptation, persecution, and affliction are hard at hand. It is impossible for us to pray always and at all times. We must have a time for eating, drinking, labouring, &c. The word “always” means, therefore, not continuance but perseverance in prayer: that is, that we should set apart fit times for prayer, and not cease to pray until we have obtained what we need and what we ask for. Our Lord adds, “and not to faint” or in the Greek “be weary.” The reason is that we daily meet so many difficulties and troubles that our whole lives appear to be one temptation and warfare. And as we are infirm and unable to overcome them we ought to ask help and strength from God through prayer. Thus our whole Christian life seems as it were one prayer. Again, “always,” that is frequently, at the hours appointed by the Church, that we may do nothing without prayer—nothing that we do not ascribe to the glory of God. Bede says, mystically, “He prays always who works for God always;” and the Gloss, “He prays always who lives virtuously always.” S. Chrysostom: “The Lord would have you to obtain by prayer that which He wishes to give you. The palace and the ears of princes are open to few. The ears of God are open to all who will.” He refers to Ecclus. 35:20. So the apostle, Eph 6:18; 1Th 5:17. See what I have said on those three passages, Climachus: Gradu xxviii.: “Prayer, if we regard its nature or quality, is the familiar conversation and union of man with God, but if we consider its force and efficacy it is the conservation of the world, our reconciliation with God, the mother, at once, and daughter of tears, the propitiation of sins, the bridge of escape from temptation, the bulwark against the attacks of afflictions, the destruction of war, the office of angels, the food of all spirits-future joy, continual action, the fountain of virtues, the reconciler and authoress of divine graces.” Not content, he speaks more highly, exaltedly, nobly still: “It is spiritual progress, the food of the soul, the illumination of the mind, the axe of despair, the demonstration of hope, the distinction of sorrow, the wealth of monks, the treasure of solitaries, the decreasing of anger, the mirror of religious growth, the index of our stature, the declaration of our condition, the signification of things future, the proof of the glory to come.” So the Church sings of S. Cæcilia: She always bore the evangel of Christ in her bosom, and neither by day nor by night did she cease from divine conversation and prayer, and when the organs sounded Cæcilia sang to the Lord, “Cleanse thou my heart, that I may not be confounded.” Valerian her husband found her on her bed praying, with an angel. By this increasing prayer she merited to be given to the angel for the preservation of her virginity, the conversion of her espoused husband Valerian, of Tiburtius and 400 others, and lastly a glorious martyrdom with them all.

Luk 18:2  Saying: There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God nor regarded man.

Saying: There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God. This judge was wicked, unjust, cruel, and godless, one who feared neither the vengeance of God, nor the ill-report of men, who cared nothing for his conscience or his character. For the wicked who have no fear of God are often deterred by the shame of men, from confessing those acts for which they are openly despised and considered godless and infamous. But this judge was moved by no fear of God or man, and therefore he had arrived, says Theophylact, at the summit of all wickedness.

Luk 18:3  And there was a certain widow in that city; and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary.

And there was a certain widow in that city. Avenge me, that is, vindicate my right against my oppressor, and free my innocence; righteousness, substance, and character, which are brought to trial by my enemy who is powerful, and against whom I cannot stand. She did not ask for vengeance but only for justice, that she might be delivered from the violence of her adversary and get back her own.

Luk 18:4  And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God nor regard man,
Luk 18:5  Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary me.

And he would not for a long time. Partly from his own wickedness and partly because he hoped for a great bribe from the opponent.

But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God nor regard man, i.e., Although I am unjust and without scruple or shame yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her of her adversary, and give her back her right, lest continually (Latin: in novissimo) coming she weary me out (Latin: sugillet me). The Syriac has “omni tempore;” the Arabic “semper.” Sugillet me is properly to bruise the face and make it livid by blows. The Greek is ύποπιάζω. The metaphorical meaning is, firstly, to deafen the head and ears with noise, and many so understand it. The Syriac has, “Lest she continually trouble me.” The Arabic, “Lest she be always coming to trouble me.”  S. Augustine (Ep. 121 to Proba): “She moved the unjust judge by her persistence to listen to her. Not that he was influenced by justice or mercy, but he was overcome by weariness.” So Bede, Euthymius, Lucas and others from the Greek. “As therefore this widow by the assiduity and importunity of her supplications conquered the judge, so do we overcome God. What fear cannot effect prayer can. Threats and the fear of punishment have not moved men to justice; but when the widow came as a suppliant, from a savage she made the judge humane. What then may we not conjecture of a beneficent God, if the widow by her prayers changed a judge who had been cruel before, into a humane one?”  S. Chrysostom adds that Christ here wishes to show that the chief strength of prayer consists in turning unjust and cruel judges to piety and mercy. Sugillare, applied from the body to the mind, means to brand with a mark, to affect with disgrace, to accuse. Although this senseless judge regarded neither God nor man, he feared for himself and his office, lest he should be deposed from his judgeship, and deprived of honour and profit; he therefore gave the widow her due.

Allegorically, S. Augustine (Lib. ii. Quæst. Evangel. qu. 45), says, “The widow is the Church, which seems desolate until her bridegroom Christ, who now bears her griefs in secret, return from heaven to judgment.”

In trope, “The widow,” says Theophylact, “is the soul which has put away her former husband. He was hostile to her because she came to God. God is a judge Who fears no one, and regards not the persons of men. The widow represents every soul that is desolate and afflicted, and who prays to the judge, that is God, to be delivered from her adversary. But because it is incongruous to compare God to the unjust and wicked judge, as Euthymius rightly says, from S. Chrysostom, we should rather say that it is Christ who is here spoken of; and not in comparison but as concluding from the less to the greater. That is: If the unjust judge were overcome by the importunity of the widow to change injustice into justice, and give her her rights, how much rather should God do this, who is most just, nay who is justice itself, punishing all injustice?” So S. Augustine above—S. Chrysostom and Theophylact—as will be clearly shown on verse 7.

Luk 18:6  And the Lord said: Hear what the unjust judge saith.
Luk 18:7  And will not God revenge his elect who cry to him day and night? And will he have patience in their regard?

And the Lord said, hear what the, &c. “God,” says Theophylact, “is the leader, the judge and the vindicator of all righteousness.” So David on Psa 34:17, “The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth.” The Arabic has, “Hear what the unjust judge said; and shall not God more rightly avenge His own elect who cry to Him day and night?” So Ecclus. 35:21, 22; Rev 6:9-10, where the souls of the slain for Christ cry to God demanding vengeance. They hear from Him that they must rest yet a little while until the number of their fellow servants is completed. See what I have commented on the place.

Morally. Behold how great is the dignity, the need, and the power of prayer. The need, that by it we may be delivered from all the temptations and tribulations by which we are every where, and always, surrounded. The dignity, because by means of prayer we converse with God, as do the angels. The power, because by it we overcome all adversities and hardships. “To pray always,” says S. Chrysostom (Book 2. of Prayer) “is the work of angels, who, wholly intent upon God, teach us while we pray to forget our human nature, and to have no regard to things present, but to conceive of ourselves as standing in the midst of angels, and performing the same sacrifice with them.” He adds, “Satan does not venture to come too near to a soul fortified by prayer, for he fears the strength and fortitude which prayer confers. Prayer supports the soul more than food supports the body.” And (Book 1.), “As the sun gives light to the body, so does prayer to the soul. If it be a loss to a blind man not to see the sun, how much greater a loss is it to a Christian not to pray assiduously, nor to introduce the light of Christ into his soul by prayer! By it we attain to this end, that we cease to be mortal and of time. By nature we are mortal, but by pray and our life with God, we pass to the life immortal. For it is inevitable that he who holds communion with God, should come out superior to death and to all that is subject to corruption.”

Luk 18:8  I say to you that he will quickly revenge them. But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall he find, think you, faith on earth?

But yet the Son of man, when he cometh. He comes to the universal judgment, when He will deliver His elect, whom He ordered to be always ready and eager; and to await that day patiently, preparing themselves for it by prayer and good works. For that day will be sudden and unexpected like lightning, as He Himself has said (chap17:24). Christ gives the reason why we should always pray, and persevere in prayer; (firstly) because from His long absence, faith will fail even in many who believe, so that they will either lose all faith or believe very feebly, scarcely thinking that He will return at all. Secondly, Christ here gives the reason, why many are not heard in prayer. Their faith begins to fail and they do not continue steadfast in prayer, nor await the coming of the Lord with patience as they ought.

Thirdly, Theophylact says, “He rightly connected His words on prayer with those on faith, for the base and foundation of all prayer is faith. He declared at the same time that few would pray, for faith would be found in few.”

Christ says this to add a fresh incentive to unceasing prayer, for by degrees faith is failing more and more, and offences and persecutions are therefore increasing.

Shall He find, think you faith on earth—perfect faith, that is; faith formed by certain confidence (fiducia) and love. “This,” says S. Augustine (tract xxxvi), “is scarcely found on earth, for the Church of the faithful is full of imperfect faith, and is, as it were, half dead.” Christ Him-self explains it so, S. Mat 24:12.

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One Response to Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Luke 18:1-8

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

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