Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 21:5-19

Ver  5. And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, he said,6. As for these things which you behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.7. And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?8. And he said, Take heed that you be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near: go you not therefore after them.

EUSEB. How beautiful was every thing relating to the structure of the temple, history informs us, and there are yet preserved remains of it, enough to instruct us in what was once the character of the buildings. But our Lord proclaimed to those that were wondering at the building of the temple, that there should not be left in it one stone upon another. For it was meet that that place, because of the presumption of its worshippers, should suffer every kind of desolation.

BEDE; For it was ordained by the dispensation of God that the city itself and the temple should be overthrown, lest perhaps some one yet a child in the faith, while rapt in astonishment at the rites of the sacrifices, should be carried away by the mere sight of the various beauties.

AMBROSE; It was spoken then of the temple made with hands, that it should be overthrown. For there is nothing made with hands which age does not impair, or violence throw down, or fire burn. Yet there is also another temple, that is, the synagogue, whose ancient building falls to pieces as the Church rises. There is also a temple in every one, which falls when faith is lacking, and above all when any one falsely shields himself under the name of Christ, that so he may rebel against his inward inclinations.

CYRIL; Now His disciples did not at all perceive the force of His words, but supposed they were spoken of the end of the world. Therefore asked they Him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign, &c.

AMBROSE; Matthew adds a third question, that both the time of the destruction of the temple, and the sign of His coming, and the end of the world, might be inquired into by the disciples. But our Lord being asked when the destruction of the temple should be, and what the sign of His coming, instructs them as to the signs, but does not mind to inform them as to the time. It follows, Take heed that you be not deceived.

ATHAN. For since we have received, delivered to us by God, graces and doctrines which ere above man, (as, for example, the rule of a heavenly life, power against evil spirits, the adoption and the knowledge of the Father and the Word, the gift of the Holy Spirit,) our adversary the devil goes about seeking to steal from us the seed of the word which has been sown. But the Lord, shutting up in us His teaching as His own precious gift, warns us, lest we be deceived. And one very great gift He gives us, the word of God, that not only we be not led away by what appears, but even if there is ought lying concealed, by the grace of God we may discern it. For seeing that the devil is the hateful inventor of evil, what he himself is he conceals, but craftily assumes a name desirable to all; just as if a man wishing to get into his power some children not His own, should in the absence of the parents counterfeit their looks, and lead away the children who were longing for them. In every heresy then the devil says in disguise, “I am Christ, and with me there is truth.” And so it follows, For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draws near.

CYRIL; For before His descent from heaven, there shall come some to whom we must not give place. For the Only-begotten Son of God, when He came to save the world, wished to be in secret, that He might bear the cross for us. But His second coming shall not be in secret, but terrible and open. For He shall descend in the glory of God the Father, with the Angels attending Him, to judge the world in righteousness. Therefore He concludes, Go you not therefore after them.

TIT BOST. Or perhaps He does not speak of false Christs coming before the end of the world, but of those who existed in the Apostles’ time.

BEDE; For there were many leaders when the destruction of Jerusalem was at hand, who declared themselves to be Christ, and that the time of deliverance was drawing nigh. Many heresiarchs also in the Church have preached that the day of the Lord is at hand, whom the Apostles condemn. Many Antichrists also came in Christ’s name, of whom the first was Simon Magus, who said, This man is the great power of God.

Ver 9. But when you shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass, but the end is not by and by.10. Then said he to them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom:11. And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven.

GREG. God denounces the woes that shall forerun the destruction of the world, that so they may the less disturb when they come, as having been foreknown. For darts strike the less which are foreseen. And so He says, But when you shall hear of wars and commotions, &c. Wars refer to the enemy, commotions to citizens. To show us then that we shall be troubled from within and without, He asserts that the one we suffer from the enemy, the other from our own brethren.

AMBROSE; But of the heavenly words none are greater witnesses than we, upon whom the ends of the world have come. What wars and what rumors of wars have we received!

GREG. But that the end will not immediately follow these evils which come first, it is added, These things must first come to pass; but the end is not yet, &c. For the last tribulation is preceded by many tribulations, because many evils must come first, that they may await that evil which has no end.

It follows, Then said he to them, Nation shall rise against nation, &c. For it must needs be that we should suffer some things from heaven, some from earth, some from the elements, and some from men. Here then are signified the confusions of men. It follows, And great earthquakes shall be in diverse places. This relates to the wrath from above.

CHRYS. For an earthquake is at one time a sign of wrath, as when our Lord was crucified the earth shook; but at another time it is a token of God’s providence, as when the Apostles were praying, the place was moved where they were assembled. It follows, and pestilence.

GREG. Look at the vicissitudes of bodies. And famine. Observe the barrenness of the ground. And fearful sights and great signs there shall be from heaven. Behold the variableness of the climate, which must be ascribed to those storms which by no means regard the order of the seasons. For the things which come in fixed order are not signs. For every thing that we receive for the use of life we pervert to the service of sin, but all those things which we have bent to a wicked use, are turned to the instruments of our punishment.

AMBROSE; The ruin of the world then is preceded by certain of the world’s calamities, such as famine, pestilence, and persecution.

THEOPHYL. Now some have wished to place the fulfillment of these things not only at the future consummation of all things, but at the time also of the taking of Jerusalem. For when the Author of peace was killed, then justly arose among the Jews wars and sedition. But from wars proceed pestilence and famine, the former indeed produced by the air infected with dead bodies, the latter through the lands remaining uncultivated. Josephus also relates the most intolerable distresses to have occurred from famine; and at the time of Claudius Caesar there was a severe famine, as we read in the Acts, and many terrible events happened, A forboding, as Josephus says, the destruction of Jerusalem.

CHRYS. But He says, that the end of the city shall not come immediately, that is, the taking of Jerusalem, but there shall be many battles first.

BEDE; The Apostles are also exhorted not to be alarmed by these forerunners, nor to desert Jerusalem and Judea. But the kingdom against kingdom, and the pestilence of those whose word creeps as a cancer, and the famine of hearing the word of God, and the shaking of the whole earth, and the separation from the true faith, may be explained also in the heretics, who contending one with another bring victory to the Church.

AMBROSE; There are also other wars which the Christian wages, the struggles of different lusts, and the conflicts of the will; and domestic foes are far more dangerous than all foreign.

Ver  12. But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.13. And it shall turn to you for a testimony.14. Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what you shall answer:15. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.16. And you shall be betrayed both by parents and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.17. And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.18. But there shall not an hair of your head perish.19. In your patience you will possess your souls.

GREG. Because the things which have been prophesied of arise not from the injustice of the inflictor of them, but from the deserts of the world which suffers them, the deeds of wicked men are foretold; as it is said, But before all these things, they shall lay their hands upon you: as if He says First the hearts of men, afterwards the elements, shall be disturbed, that when the order of things is thrown into confusion, it may be plain from what retribution it arises. For although the end of the world depends upon its own appointed course, yet finding some more corrupt than others who shall rightly be overwhelmed in its fall, our Lord makes them known.

CYRIL; Or He says this, because before that Jerusalem should be taken by the Romans, the disciples, having suffered persecution from the Jews, were imprisoned and brought before rulers; Paul was sent to Rome to Caesar, and stood before Festus and Agrippa.   It follows, And it shall turn to you for a testimony. In the Greek it is, for the glory of martyrdom.

GREG. Or, for a testimony, that is, against those who by persecuting you bring death upon themselves, or living do not imitate you, or themselves becoming hardened perish without excuse from whom the elect take example that they may live. But as hearing so many terrible things the hearts of men may be troubled He therefore adds for their consolation, Settle it therefore in your hearts, &c.

THEOPHYL. For because they were foolish and inexperienced, the Lord tells them this, that they might not be confounded when about to give account to the wise. And He adds the cause, For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay or resist. As if He said, you shall forthwith receive of me eloquence and wisdom, so that all your adversaries, were they gathered together in one, shall not be able to resist you, neither in wisdom, that is, the power of the understanding, nor in eloquence, that is, excellence of speech, for many men have often wisdom in their mind, but being easily provoked to their great disturbance, mar the whole when their time of speaking comes. But not such were the Apostles, for in both these gifts they were highly favored.

GREG. As if the Lord said to His disciples, “Be not afraid, go forward to the battle, it is I that fight; you utter the words, I am He that speaks.”

AMBROSE; Now in one place Christ speaks in His disciples, as here; in another, the Father; in another the Spirit of the Father speaks. These do not differ but agree together. In that one speaks, three speak, for the voice of the Trinity is one.

THEOPHYL. Having in what has gone before dispelled the fear of inexperience, He goes on to warn them of another very certain event, which might agitate their minds, lest falling suddenly upon them, it should dismay them; for it follows, And you shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolk, and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.

GREG We are the more galled by the persecutions we suffer from those of whose dispositions we made sure, because together with the bodily pain, we are tormented by the bitter pangs of lost affection.

GREG. NYSS. But let us consider the state of things at that time. While all men were suspected, kinsfolk were divided against one another, each differing from the other in religion; the gentile son stood up the betrayer of his believing parents, and of his believing son the unbelieving father became the determined accuser; no age was spared in the persecution of the faith; women were unprotected even by the natural weakness of their sex.

THEOPHYL. To all this He adds the hatred which they shall met with from men.

GREG. But because of the hard things foretold concerning the affliction of death, there immediately follows a consolation, concerning the joy of the resurrection, when it is said, But there shall not an hair of your head perish. As though He said to the martyrs Why fear you for the perishing of that which when cut, pains when that can not perish in you, which when cut gives no pain?

BEDE; Or else, There shall not perish a hair of the head of our Lord’s Apostles, because not only the noble deeds and words of the Saints, but e en the slightest thought shall meet with its deserving reward.

GREG. He who preserves patience in adversity, is thereby rendered proof against all affliction, and so by conquering himself, he gains the government of himself; as it follows, In your patience shall you possess your souls. For what is it to possess your souls, but to live perfectly in all things, and sitting it upon the citadel of virtue to hold in subjection every motion of the mind?

GREG. By patience then we possess our souls, because when we are said to govern; ourselves, we begin to possess you very thing which we are. But for this reason, the possession of the soul is laid in the virtue of patience, because patience is the root and guardian which are inflicted by others, and also to have no feeling of indignation against him who inflicts them.

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One Response to Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Luke 21:5-19

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

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