Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 1:15-23

15. On this account I also, hearing of your faith, which is in the Lord Jesus, and your love to all the saints.

On this account, because God has called you, and you have received the Gospel, and are sealed with the Holy Spirit, and because God is willing to receive the
praise due for his gifts. Then follows the parenthesis: since I heard of your faith which is in the Lord Jesus. Some years had elapsed since the Apostle visited Ephesus, and there had probably been a large accession of believers since that date, whose conversion was a fact well known, and realized thankfully as a great mercy of God, by all the Catholic Church. Hearing of your faith and charity towards all Christians. Faith and charity, St. Chrysostom remarks, are a well matched and noble pair of coursers, for without charity faith is dead, and will never reach the goal.

16. Do not cease giving thanks for you, making memory of you in my prayers.

Cease not giving thanks, the Vulgate here adopts the Greek idiom, Cease not to give thanks. Remembering you in my prayers. The Greek word for giving thanks is ευχαριστων (Euchariston, whence our word Eucharist), I remember you daily in offering the Holy Sacrifice, in thanksgiving to God for your faith, and prayer for your perseverance.

17. That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, will give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, in the recognition of him;

The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory. This seems to be a Hebraism, for Father most glorious. Or, as Ambrose thinks, the Father of all greatness, power, and dignity. Or possibly, the Father of Christ, who is the splendour of his glory. Will give you wisdom to see and understand the grandeur and sublimity of the Christian vocation, the wonderful and supernatural graces with which God has endowed you, the inconceivable glory and happiness which awaits you. All which is included in the knowledge of God, because it is from the infinite charity of God that these proceed. Of this knowledge he prays that they may have a larger and increasing share. For he who knows God aright, says St. Chrysostom, will never doubt the truth of any of his promises.

18. The eyes of your heart illuminated, that you may know what is the hope of his vocation, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the Saints,

I pray that God would give illumination to the eyes of your heart, or your interior vision. The Greek has the eyes of your mind. (The Vulgate substitutes heart, but the heart is not in Latin, as in French, the seat of the affections, but of the intellect and power of mental perception). That you may understand the hope of his vocation, a Hebraism for the thing hoped for. The greatness of those good things to which he has called us, and which he has bidden us hope for. And the abundance of that rich and glorious inheritance of bliss which he has prepared for the Saints hereafter. For without the light of grace we cannot know either (1) the excellence of the Christian vocation, or (2) the richness of the inheritance to which we are called, or (3) the miracle of our justification, which
is an evidence of divine power as great and wonderful as that which was exhibited in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, as is explained in the next verse.

19. And what is the sovereign greatness of his might towards us who believe according to the operation of the power of his strength,

The supreme, supereminent, victorious grandeur of that power which God exercised in us who believe, that is in bringing us from unbelief to faith. There is another explanation of these words, which is adopted by Ambrose and St. Thomas, and among modern writers by Cajetan and Estius, viz., that great and crowning miracle of divine power which God will one day exert, towards us believers, in raising our bodies from the grave, a power similar to, or parallel with, that which he put in exercise at the resurrection of Christ. The former interpretation, however, appears the more probable in view of the comparison instituted in the next chapter between the resurrection of Christ and the justification of the faithful. It must also be considered what was the condition of the world at that period, wholly in the power of the evil one, overrun with idolatry, magic, and every kind of wickedness. Yet God converted many of these people to the faith of Christ, sanctity of life, the true worship of ‘God. This was a miracle not less wonderful than the resurrection of Christ. The natural world submits mechanically to God’s commands; but the heart of man resists and rebels. It is commonly said that to make a sinner just is more difficult than to create heaven and earth, 1. Because sin and grace are more opposed than
existence and non-existence; 2. because sin and the sinner are further removed from God than nothing. For God and sin are the two furthest possible extremes, 3. Because grace and justice belong to the divine and supernatural order. It requires, therefore, the highest exercise of divine power for man, fallen through sin below the level of all other creatures, to rise to grace, partake of the divine nature, become God’s son and heir. All this will explain why the Apostle says that the spiritual resurrection of himself and the Christians of Ephesus was a miracle of divine power not less wonderful than Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead. Photius and some others understand the great strength of God, exhibited in the faith and justification of us who believe in the operation of his power, shown in the resurrection of Christ. That is, our belief in Christ’s resurrection is the cause of our justification, which sense of the words seems to be favoured by the Arabic translation. But the former, which we have adopted, is the interpretation of St, Chrysostom and Theophylact, as well as of many modem
writers.

20. Which he operated in Christ, raising him from the dead, and placing him on his right hand in the heavenly regions,

The strength and energy (ενηργησεν) which God exhibited in raising us to grace from sin, idolatry, and hell, resembles, says St. Chrysostom, that which he showed when he raised Christ from the grave and placed him on his own right hand, his equal in power and divinity, though wearing the form of a servant.

21. Above all principality, and power, and strength, and dominion, and every name which is named, not only in this world, but in that which is to come.

Above all principality. The Greek, more than above, far above, in the highest height above, all the orders and choirs of Angels, whether Principalities, or Powers, or Virtues, or Dominions, whatever name, dignity, office, or excellence they may bear, unknown to us, but which possibly we shall know in the world to comeEvery name stands for every power, authority, or excellence, angelic or human, in heaven or earth.

The reason for the introduction of this description of the supereminent dignity and splendour of the position to which Christ is raised in heaven, is explained in the next chapter, where, in verses 5 and 6, St. Paul declares that in the resurrection of Christ, and in his glory at the right hand of God in heaven, his faithful people share, by destination even now, and will share in actual reality in
eternity. Wonderful and inconceivable as is the elevation of human nature at the head and summit of all creation, in the person of Jesus Christ, it is at the same time an infinite condescension for Deity, because the nature of God is infinitely removed above all created natures, even that of the highest spirits of heaven.

22. And subjected all things under his feet: and gavehim head over all the Church,

God has subjected all things, or placed all things, under his feet. Hence St. Chrysostom concludes that Christ, even as man, is king and lord of heaven and earths All power is given to me. But as regards the exercise of this power all things are not as yet subject, as is observed in Heb 2:8. Evil spirits and evil men will be subduedby the power of Christ only at the end of the world.

And gave him as head over all the Church. The Greek text has: and gave him to the Church as her head over all, or supreme head. The Syriac reads: and him, who is over all, he gave to the Church as her head. All the Church, including men and angels, militant and triumphant.

23. Which is his body, and the plentitude of him who is completed in all things by all.

Which is his mystical body, and perfection or complement, as the body is the necessary complement of the head. For the head would be powerless without the body, and the body useless without the head, and the head is perfect or completed, when it has the members of the body attached to it.

Who is completed as to all things by all. Christ is completed, says Theophylact, as to the hand, by a liberal almsgiver; as to the feet, by one who goes on pilgrimage for love of him, or visits the sick; as to the tongue, by the teacher of the Church. The Syriac takes the verb in the active: who fills all things in all men. The Greek verb will bear either sense. Grotius, who takes it actively, says that this use of the word is an Attic idiom. The head may be said to fill the body by supplying its nervous action. So Christ fills the minds of the faithful with flight, their hearts with pious affections, their souls with supernatural and spiritual gifts.

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One Response to Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Ephesians 1:15-23

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord | stjoeofoblog

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