Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Colossians 1:9-20

Note: the following commentary begins on verse 9. Notes in red represent my additions.

9. Therefore we also, from the day we heard, cease not praying for you and imploring that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10. That you walk worthily of God through all, pleasing in every good work, fruit-bearing and growing in the science of God;
11. In all virtue strengthened according to the might of his glory in all patience and long suffering, with joy,
12. Giving thanks to God the Father, who made us worthy of a portion of the lot of the saints in light;
13. Who delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the son of his love,
14. In whom we have the redemption through his blood, the remission of sins.

Having returned thanks to God for the graces bestowed on the Christians of Colossae, Saint Paul proceeds to pray for them. He repeats in verse 9 what he said in verse 3, that he had not ceased to pray for them since he heard of their conversion to Christ. His prayer was that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, and with all wisdom, the apprehension of the great mysteries of faith, and spiritual understanding, or prudence, in the application of these mysteries to practice in their daily lives. Saint Chrysostom thinks this is said in special reference to the efforts of the heretics to mislead them by a false wisdom, which was not spiritual, but mundane and human. The Vulgate has in verse 9 agnitione voluntatis ejus (agnitione = recognizing or knowing voluntatis = the will  ejus = of Him), the power of recognition of what is truly the will of God, when the truth and the error are placed in contrast side by side before their minds. The recognition of God’s will and determination to reconcile mankind to himself, not by the ministry of angels, but through his own only-begotten Son. So that knowing this you may walk worthily of God in every respect. The Greek has worthily of the Lord, that is of Christ, as befits his disciples, and therefore pleasing to God the Father, whose pleasure is in the Son of his love, and in those who belong to Him. Pleasing God in every good work. In the Greek this is attached to the words that follow: in all pleasing, and in every good work fructifying and growing in the knowledge of God. This is to please God, and to walk worthily of him. To walk is to continue and persevere. The word rendered in the Vulgate by scientia in this verse is the same which is translated agnitione (knowledge, recognition) in verse 9. There it was the knowledge of God’s will, for the redemption of the world through Christ, which may be fully known and understood; here the knowledge of God’s nature, in which we may continually fructify and grow; but never know fully. Next the Apostle prays that the Christians of Colossal may be strengthened in all virtue (the Greek has, in all strength) according to the power of his glory, in all patience and long-suffering and joy. That is,
the very strength of God’s strength, the victorious splendour of God’s glory, is put in action and exhibited to the world, by the persecutions which his saints are exposed to, because they bear them, not only with complete and unfailing patience and endurance, to the utmost extent—in all patience and long suffering—but actually with joy. The Apostles, having been scourged, went from the presence of the council rejoicing. Act 5:41. Greater courage is shown in suffering than in action. Scævola said fortia agere Romanovum est, but fortia pati is equally a mark of Christians. The Syriac version attaches the words with joy at the end of verse 1 1 to the opening words of verse 12; with joy giving thanks to God the Father. It was part of the Apostle’s prayer that the Colossians should so give thanks. But Saint Chrysostom and Theodoret are of opinion, with greater probability, that Saint Paul uses the words giving thanks to God the Father of himself, in continuation of the orantes et postulantes (pray and beg) of verse 9. He is passing on to a new subject, and there is a change of person in verse 12, for whereas he has before said impleamini (you may be filled, vs 9), ambuletis (you may walk, vs 10), he now says dignos nos fecit (made us worthy). He enters here upon what is in fact the principal object of the whole Epistle, namely to state and maintain the evangelical doctrine of Christ as the true Saviour of the world, in opposition to the errors of the heretics. He begins therefore by thanking God the Father, who has made us worthy of a portion of the inheritance of the saints in light. You, and me, and all Christian people, previously unworthy of any such promotion, as being God’s enemies, he has rendered, by his grace alone, worthy to be written and numbered among his Saints, and receive a portion of their eternal inheritance. In light signifies either the means by which this inheritance is attained, namely, the light of faith ; or else it is said of the lot and inheritance of the Saints, which is in light, in the clear vision of God. Or possibly both meanings may be included, for the light of faith on earth, and the light of glory in heaven, are both portions of the inheritance of the Saints. God the Father has further delivered us from the power of darkness, the tyranny of evil spirits, who are the princes of darkness, from infidelity and sin, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love. The Son of his love is a Hebraism for his beloved Son, as they said the mountain of
holiness for the holy mountain. This translation is effected by Baptism, by which we are delivered from the power of the devil, and grafted into the mystical body of Christ, his Church, which is the kingdom of light; and through the blood of Christ have obtained redemption or deliverance, that is, the remission of sins.

15. Who is the image of God the invisible, firstborn of all creation;
16. Because in him all things were created, in the heavens and in earth, visible and invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers; all were created through him and in him;
17. And he is before all, and in him all things consist.

God the Son is the image ol God the Father, who is  invisible, whom no man has seen nor can see (1 Tim 6), in all things like him, equal to him, consubstantial with him, proceeding from him per intellectum, his equal Word. And through this consubstantial Image of the Father, painted in the colours of the flesh, he becomes visible in time, who is invisible in eternity. Firstborn of all creation, that is, born before all creation, and therefore higher in dignity than anything created; elder than creation by all eternity, himself its Creator in time. First born, Saint Chrysostom observes, not first created. It is generation, not creation, which is predicated of him. Because, this marks that what follows is an explanation of the statement just made. Christ is the firstborn of creation in this sense, that in him all things were made. Made by God the Father through the agency or intervention of God the Word. In heaven or in earth, visible or invisible, and including therefore the angels (this is stated in opposition to the doctrine of Simon Magus) however lofty their dignity, however great their powers and faculties. All created things were made through Christ, and, in the Greek, to or for him. God the Father did not create the universe by himself, or for himself, but it was made through the agency of the Son, and for the pleasure of the Son. He is before all creatures in time, and in him they consist and are kept in being.

18. And he is the head of the body, the Church, who is the principle, the first-begotten from the dead; that he may in all things hold primacy.
19. Because in him it pleased God that all fullness should dwell.

Christ is the head of the Church, and the head is the seat and source of life, will, and sensation. And he is the Principle, Principium. Saint John applies this term to God the Father: In Principio, in the Principle, in the great First Cause, in the bosom of the Father from eternity, was the Word. But Moses seems to apply it to the Son, as the Principle or beginning of the Creation: In Principio, in the Principle, in the Divine Word, God the Father created the heavens and the earth. But some Greek writers instead of ἀρχή read àπἀρχή, which means literally the beginning of a sacrifice, and was usually a lock of haircut from the head of the victim and thrown into the fire. Generally it came to mean the firstfruits, the representative or more valuable part of anything. Saint Chrysostom says: He calls him the first-fruits, implying that he has hallowed us all by the oblation of his sacrifice. The first-fruits of the human race, offered for the rest in sacrifice to God; and also the Prince of the resurrection, the first-born from the dead. Thus in all things he holds primacy and pre-eminence, as the only-begotten son of the Father, as the author and beginner of the creation, as the Victim for mankind, as the Head of the Church, as the leader of the resurrection. For it pleased the Father, of his own love and generosity, of free grace, not the merit of Christ, that in Christ all fullness should dwell, the perfection of wisdom, grace, and power. Men receive these gifts in part, Christ has them all, and in all fullness. And in him they dwell, perpetually and inseparably, both by grace and in his Divine nature. But the life that dwells in the head flows also into the body, and having recourse to Christ we draw from the fullness of the fountain of divine grace.

20. And through him to reconcile all things to himself, making peace through the blood of his Cross, whether the things that are on earth, or the things that are in the heavens.

The infinitive depends upon complacuit (pleased) in the previous verse. It was the good pleasure of the Father to reconcile all things to himself by the blood of Christ shed on the Cross. The words in ipsum (unto Himself) are a Hebraism, and equivalent to sibi. Sin had introduced enmity between heaven and earth, but by the Cross of Christ sin is done away. By the blood of Christ angels and men are made at peace.

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One Response to Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Colossians 1:9-20

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Solemnity of Christ the King, Year C | stjoeofoblog

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