Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 2:16-21

Lk 2:16 And they came with haste: and they found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.

“With haste,” from a burning desire, inspired by the grace of God, to see their infant Saviour, and then to return at once to their flocks.

“They came.” The cave, it is supposed, was a mile distant. “They came in haste.”

“They found Mary”—who brought Him forth in full vigour of health—“and Joseph,” the guardian of His birth, both spending the night in holy contemplation and prayer, “and the infant lying in the manger,” as they had been told beforehand by the Angel. What a consoling spectacle, to behold, for the first time, the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. How the souls of the shepherds must be inflamed with divine love, at beholding this Trinity of persons on earth, who most faithfully represented the Trinity of the Godhead in heaven. Happy we, if in spirit, we often visit the Holy Family, and merit to be visited by them, at the awful and decisive moment of death.

Lk 2:17 And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them concerning this child.

“And seeing, they understood of the word that had been spoken to them.” “Understood,” may mean, they saw, with their own eyes, that the “word,” or announcement, made to them by the Angel was literally true, just as St. John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon,” &c. (1 John 1:1).

The Greek word for “understood,” εγνωρισαν (egnorisan), may also mean to divulge, to noise abroad, which sense accords well with what follows. The shepherds, doubtless, told, not only Mary and Joseph, of the Angel’s announcement, and the hymns of celestial melody chanted in the skies by multitudes of angels, but others also, as appears from the words of following verse, “And all that heard wondered,” &c.

Lk 2:18 And all that heard wondered: and at those things that were told them by the shepherds.

“And all that heard wondered.” It is likely, that many on hearing the accounts given of what occurred, went themselves to the stable, and saw with their own eyes, the truth of what was narrated. Some, probably, believed whom God enlightened; others, probably, remained in their incredulity, offended by the lowly appearance and condition of the Divine Infant.

“And at those things that were told them,” &c. The Greek and Syriac have not “and.” Of those who retain it, some understand it to mean, “that is,” at the things, &c. Others, understand it literally, and interpret the words thus, they admired the event of the birth of the Son of God, and, the other circumstances connected with it, which had been told them by the shepherds, such as the announcement made to them by the Angel, and the appearance of multitudes of angels praising God, &c.

Lk 2:19 But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her heart.

“Mary kept all these words.” While all others were loud in speaking of the wonderful things they saw and heard, and, probably, Joseph too spoke of what he himself knew, as well from the declaration of the Angel regarding the Divinity of the child, as also from what he himself knew in connexion with His birth, thus strengthening the faith of the shepherds, and others who came to the crib; “Mary,” as modest in regard to her tongue, as she was in body, displaying consummate prudence and humility,

“Kept all these words,” that is to say, things spoken of in her heart. “Pondering them,” putting them together (Bloomfield), comparing the past with the present, the oracles of the prophets regarding the birth of the Saviour from a virgin, and in a determinate place, and other oracles regarding Him, with their full accomplishment; the announcement made to herself by the Angel, regarding the Son to be born of her, with that made to the shepherd, regarding His actual birth. These things she pondered over, and derived from them fresh arguments, to confirm her faith, and “kept them in her heart,” treasured them up in her memory, to be disclosed, at God’s appointed time, to the world, to be made known to His Apostles, and especially to the Evangelist, St. Luke, by whom they are here recorded in detail.

Lk 2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

“The shepherds,” after being fully satisfied from the testimony of their own senses of the truth of the announcement made by the Angel, now “returned” to the discharge of their duty of tending their flocks, “praising and glorifying God, for all the things they had heard,” and had not only heard, but “seen as it was told to them.” These latter words, “as it was told,” &c., affect the words, “had seen.”

Lk 2:21 And after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised, his name was called JESUS, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

“And after eight days were accomplished that the child should be circumcised.” The words, “after eight days,” do not convey, that the period of eight days had elapsed; and after that, circumcision took place. For, it was on the eighth day, after the birth of a child, this was to take place according to the law of Moses; and here, the words, “that the child should be circumcised,” or, as was appointed by law for His circumcision, show, there is reference to the eighth day commenced but not ended. It is usual in SS. Scripture, to describe as happening after a time, what took place towards the close of it, and before the time had expired. Thus, of our Lord it is said, that “He was to rise after three days;” although, from the context, it is clear it was meant, that this would happen on the third day. So also (Genesis 41:18, 19, 20), where a thing is said to occur “after three days” (18, 19), which occurred “on the third” (v. 20). Here, then, the words mean, after seven days had passed and the eighth had arrived, on which, according to law, the child was to be circumcised. The Evangelist does not expressly say, He was circumcised; but, he implies it, by a reference to the time and law of circumcision, which He submitted to, who came “to fulfil all justice.” Our Lord voluntarily submitted to the painful rite of circumcision; although, not bound to do so, being Himself the legislator; and moreover, the reason of its application to Him did not exist at all, as He was free from all sin, of which circumcision was the type. He submitted to it, however, for several reasons, viz., to give an example of obedience; to take away every pretext from the Jews of rejecting Him, as not being a true son of Abraham; to show, that He assumed a real body on this earth; to approve of the rite of circumcision; to submit to the law, that being “made under the law, He would redeem those who were under the law.” (Gal. 4)

It is likely, He was circumcised in the stable, not by Joseph, but by some Priest or Levite, so that there would be an authentic record of the fact. See Lk 1:59.)

“His name was called Jesus,” by Mary and Joseph, according to the command given from Heaven to both (Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:31.) The Greek has, “And His name was called Jesus.” “And” may mean, also, or then. It is omitted by the Vulgate interpreter as superfluous. “Which was called by the Angel,” enjoined on them by the Angel to bestow on Him.

“Before He was conceived in the womb.” It was only after the close of the Annunciation, and the consent of the Virgin, that our Lord was conceived in her sacred womb. It was also given Him after He was conceived (Matthew 1:21).

For the meaning and derivation of the word “Jesus” (see Matthew 1:21). The rite of circumcision was most painful to the Divine Infant, who began to suffer thus early for our sakes. It was also most humiliating, even more so still, than His birth in a stable. In the latter case, He took on Himself the form of a man; in the former, of a sinner. But, in reward for this humiliation, He received an exalted name, at the sound of which every knee in heaven, earth, and hell, must bend. And, indeed, in almost every case, where our Lord endured any signal humiliation, His Heavenly Father bestowed on Him some compensation and mark of honour. In the stable, the angels sang hymns of praise; here, He received the most exalted of names; when the Scribes blasphemed His Divine works, the people would exalt Him; at His final humiliation and death, all nature, the sun, the rocks, the very dead, did Him honour, to convey to us, that if we wish to be exalted, we must first be humbled. Such is the disposition of Divine economy established in the present order of things. It is only in the adorable Sacrament of His abiding love on our altars, when He is truly a hidden God, and where He permanently submits to the greatest outrages for our sakes to the end of time, that He receives no proportionate sensible compensation from His Heavenly Father. Hence, the obligation on the part of His faithful, to whom His Heavenly Father intrusts Him, to make, as far as possible, some reparation to Him in this Divine institution, where He is our food during life, our solace at death, the last friend we hope to accompany us, when all others must leave us, our Viatic, guide and support when entering the gates of Eternity, whence we are never to return.

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One Response to Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Luke 2:16-21

  1. Pingback: January 1: Commentaries for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of God | stjoeofoblog

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