Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 24:37-44

Ver 36. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.37. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.38. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,39. And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.40. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.41. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”

Chrys.: The Lord having described all the tokens that shall precede His coming, and brought His discourse to thevery doors, yet would not name the day; “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels Of heaven, but my Father only.”

Jerome: In some Latin copies is added here, “neither the Son:” but in the Greek copies, and particularly those of Adamantius and Pierius, it is not found. [ed. note: The addition is found in a very few Greek MSS., and ancient versions, in Chrys. and Theophylact. It is in the Old Italic version, and is acknowledged by Hilary, Ambrose, and Pseudo-Chrys.; but the preponderance of evidence is greatly against it, and it is not admitted into the text of the G. T. by any editors. It probably crept in from the parallel passage in S. Mark. Adamantius is a surname of Origen. Pierius was a presbyter of Alexandria in the third century, whose learning occasioned him to be styled ‘Origen the younger.’] But because it is read in some, it seems to require our notice.

Remig.: And Mark has the addition. [Mar_13:32]

Jerome: Whereat Arius and Eunomius rejoice greatly; for say they, He who knows and He who is ignorant cannot be both equal. Against these we answer shortly; Seeing that Jesus, that is, The Word of God, made all times, (for “By him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made, [1Jo_1:3]) and that the day of judgment must be in all time, by what reasoning can He who knows the whole be shewn to be ignorant of a part?

This we will further say; Which is the greater, the knowledge of the Father, or the knowledge of the judgment? If He knows the greater, how can He be ignorant of the less?

Hilary: And has indeed God the Father denied the knowledge of that day to the Son, when He has declared, “All things are committed to me of my Father?” [Luk_10:22] but if any thing has been denied, all things are not committed to Him.

Jerome: Having then shewn that the Son of God cannot be ignorant of the day of the consummation, we must now show a cause why He should be said to be ignorant. When after the resurrection He is demanded concerning this day by the Apostles, He answers more openly; “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power.” [Act_1:7] Wherein He shews that Himself knows, but that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being in uncertainty of the coming of their Judge, they should live every day as though they were to be judged that day.

Aug., de Trin., i, 12: When He says here, “Knows not,” He means, ‘makes others not to know;’ i.e. He knew not then, so as to tell His disciples; as it was said to Abraham, “Now I know that thou fearest God;” [Gen_22:19] i.e. ‘Now have I caused that thou shouldest know,’ because by the temptation he came to know himself.

Aug., Serm., 97, 1: That He says that the “Father knoweth,” implies that in the Father the Son also knows. For what can there be in time which was not made by the Word, seeing that time itself was made by the Word!

Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest. Q60: That the Father alone knows may be well understood in the above-mentioned manner of knowing, that He makes the Son to know; but the Son is said not to know, because be does not make men to know.

Origen: Otherwise; So long as the Church which is Christ’s body knows not that day and hour, so long the Son Himself is said not to know that day and hour. The word “know” is used according to its proper usual meaning in Scripture. The Apostle speaks of Christ, as “him who knew no sin,” [1Co_5:21] i.e. sinned not. The knowledge of that day and hour the Son reserves in store for the fellow-heirs of the promise, that all may know at once, i.e. in the day when it shall come upon them, “what things God hath prepared for them that love him.” [1Co_2:9]

Raban.: I have read also in some one’s book, that “the Son” here is not to be taken of the Only-begotten, but of the adopted, for that He would not have put the Angels before the Only-begotten Son, saying, “Not the Angels of heaven, neither the Son.” [ed. note: See further on this Passage, Hil. de Trin. ix. 58, cited in the Catena on Mark, xiii. 32, and Basil adv. Eunom. iv.]

Aug., Ep. 199, 16: The Gospel then says, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man;” but you say, That neither the month nor the year of His coming can be known. This exactness of yours up to this point seems as if you meant that the year could not be known, but that the week or the decade of years might be known, as though it was possible to fix or assign it to some seven, ten, or a hundred, or some number of years more or less. If you allow that you cannot so limit it, you think with me.

Chrys.: That you may perceive that it is not owing to ignorance that He is silent of the day and hour of the judgment, He brings forward another token, “As it was in the days of Noe, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be.” By this He means that He shall come sudden and unlooked for, and while men are taking their pleasure; of which Paul also speaks, “When they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” [1Th_5:3]

Raban: Marriage and meats in themselves are not here condemned, as the error of Marcion and Manicheaus teaches; for in the one the continuation of the species, in the other that of life, depends; but what is reproved is all unrestrained use of things lawful.Jerome: It is asked here, how it was said above, “Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, &c.” when here only tokens of peace are spoken of as what shall be then? We must suppose, that after the wars and the other miseries which shall waste the human race, shall follow a short peace, offering rest and quiet to approve the faith of the believers.

Chrys.: Or, To such as are thoughtlessly disposed, it shall be a time of peace and enjoyment; as the Apostle said not, ‘When there shall be peace,’ but “When they shall say, Peace and safety,” shewing their insensibility to be such as was theirs in the days of Noe, when the wicked, and not the good, indulged themselves, but their end was sorrow and tribulation. This shews also, that when Antichrist shall come, those who are wicked, and despair of their salvation, shall run into illicit pleasures; therefore He chooses an instance suitable. For while the ark was building, Noe preached among them, foretelling the evils that should come; but those wicked giving no heed to him, wantoned as though no evil should ever come; so now, because many would not believe things future, He makes credible what He says from what has happened.

Another token He gives to shew how unexpectedly that day shall come, and that He is not ignorant of the day, “Then two shall be in the field, one shall be taken and the other left.” These words shew that masters and servants, they that work, and they that work not, shall be taken or left alike.

Hilary: Or, the two in the field, are the two people of believers and unbelievers, whom the day of the Lord shall overtake, as it were in the labours of this life. And they shall be separated, one being taken and the other left; this shews the separation that shall be between believers and unbelievers; when God’s wrath is kindled, the saints shall be gathered into His garner, and the unbelievers shall be left as fuel for the fire from heaven. The same is the account to be given of that, “Two shall be grinding at the mill.” The mill is the work of the Law, but as some of the Jews believed through the Apostles, so some shall believe through Elias, and be justified through faith; and one part shall be taken through this same faith of good works, the other part shall be left unfruitful in the work of the Law, grinding in vain, and never to produce the bread of heavenly food.

Jerome: Or, “Two men in one field” shall be found performing the same labour, sowing corn together, but not reaping the same fruit of their labour. The two “grinding together” we may understand either of the Synagogue and the Church, which seem to grind together in the Law, and to make of the same Scriptures meal of the commandments of God; or of other heresies, which out of both or one Testament, seem to grind meal of their own doctrines.

Hilary:; The “two in one bed” are those who preach alike the Lord’s rest after His passion, about which heretics and catholics have the same confession; but because the Catholic Faith preaches the unity of the Godhead of the Father and the Son, and the false creed of the heretics impugns that, therefore shall the Divine judgment decide between the confession of these two by taking one and leaving the other.

Remig.: Or, these words denote three orders in the Church. “The two men in the field” denote the order of preachers [marg. note: praedicatores], to whom is committed the field of the Church; by “the two grinding at the mill,” the order of the married priests [marg. note: conjugati], who while with a divided heart they are called first to one side, then to the other, do, as it were, ever turn round a mill; by “the two in one bed,” the order of the continent [marg. note: continentes], whose repose is signified by the bed. But in all these orders are good and bad, righteous and unrighteous, so that some shall be taken, and some left.

Origen: Or otherwise; The body is laid as sick on the bed of carnal passions, the soul grinds in the mill of this world, and the bodily senses labour in the field of the world.

Ver 42. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.43. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.44. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.”

Jerome: Having declared that “of that hour knoweth no man, but the Father only,” He shews that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being ignorant they might live in perpetual expectation of His coming, and thus concluding the whole, He says, “Watch therefore, &c.” And He does not say, ‘Because we know not,’ but “Because ye know not,” shewing that He Himself is not ignorant of the day of judgment.Chrys.: He would have them ever ready, and therefore He says, “Watch.”

Greg., Hom. in Ev., ii, 3: To watch is to keep the eyes open, and looking out for the true light, to do and to observe that which one believes, to cast away the darkness of sloth and negligence.

Origen: Those of more plain understanding say, that He spoke this of His second coming; but others would say that it applies to an intellectual coming of the word into the understanding of the disciples, for as yet He was not in their understanding as He was to be.

Aug., Ep. 199, 3: He said this “Watch,” not to those only who heard Him speak at the time, but to those who came after them, and to us, and to all who shall be after us, until His second coming, for it touches all in a manner. That day comes to each one of us, when it comes to him to go out of the world, such as he shall be judged, and therefore ought every Christian to watch that the Lord’s coming may not find him unprepared; and he will be unprepared for the day of His coming, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared.

Aug., non occ.: Foolish are all they, who either profess to know the day of the end of the world, when it is to come, or even the end of their own life, which no one can know unless be is illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

Jerome: And by the instance of the master of the household, He teaches more plainly why He keeps secret the day of the consummation.

Origen: “The master of the household” is the understanding, “the house” is the soul, “the thief” is the Devil. The thief is also every contrary doctrine which enters the soul of the unwary by other than the natural entrance, breaking into the house, and pulling down the soul’s natural fences, that is, the natural powers of understanding, it enters the breach, and spoils the soul.

Sometimes one takes the thief in the act of breaking in, and seizing him, stabs him with a word,  and slays him. And the thief comes not in the day-time, when the soul of the thoughtful man is illuminated with the Sun of righteousness, but in the night, that is, in the time of prevailing wickedness; in which, when one is plunged, it is possible, though he have not the power of the sun, that he may be illuminated by some rays from the Word, as from a lamp; continuing still in evil, yet having a better purpose, and watchfulness, that this his purpose should not be broken through.

Or in time of temptation, or of any calamities, is the time when the thief is most found to come, seeking to break through the house of the soul.

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xiii, 5: Or, the thief breaks into the house through the neglect of the master of the house, when the spirit has slept upon its post of guard, and death has come in unawares into the dwelling house of our flesh, and finding the lord of the house sleeping, slays him; that is, the spirit, little providing for coming evils, is taken off unprepared, to punishment, by death.

But if he had watched be would have been secure from the thief; that is, looking forward to the coming of the Judge, who takes our lives unawares, be would meet Him with penitence, and not perish impenitent. And the Lord would therefore have the last hour unknown, that it might always be in suspense, and that being unable to foresee it, we might never be unprepared for it.

Chrys.: In this He rebukes such as have less care for their souls, than they have of guarding their money against an expected thief.

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One Response to Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 24:37-44

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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