Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 14:22-36

Ver 22. And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.23. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.24. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.25. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.26. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a spirit;” and they cried out for fear.27. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.”28. And Peter answered him and said, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.”29. And he said, “Come.” And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.30. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me.”31. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, “0 thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”32. And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.33. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, “Of a truth thou art the Son of God.”

Chrys.: Desiring to occasion a diligent examination of the things that had been done, He commanded those who had beheld the foregoing sign to be separated from Him; for even if He had continued present it would have been said that He had wrought the miracle fantastically, and not in verity; but it would never be urged against Him that He had done it in His absence; and therefore it is said, “And straightway Jesus compelled his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him to the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.”

Jerome: These words shew that they left the Lord unwillingly, not desiring through their love for their teacher to be separated from Him even for a moment

Chrys.: It should be observed, that when the Lord works a great miracle, He sends the multitudes away, teaching us thereby never to pursue the praise of the multitude, nor to attract them to us. Further, He teaches us that we should not be ever mixed with crowds, nor yet always shunning them; but that both may be done with profit; whence if, follows, “And when he had sent the multitude array, he went up into a mountain apart to pray;” shewing us that solitude is good, when we have need to pray to God.

For this also He goes into the desert, and there spends the night in prayer, to teach us that for prayer we should seek stillness both in time and place.

Jerome: That He withdraws to pray alone, you should refer not to Him who fed five thousand on five loaves, but to Him who on hearing of the death of John withdrew into the desert; not that we would separate the Lord’s person into two parts, but that His actions are divided between the God and the man.

Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 47: This may seem contrary to that Matthew says, that having sent the multitudes away, He went up into a mountain that He might pray alone; and John again says, that it was on a mountain that He fed this same multitude. But since John himself says further, that after that miracle He retired to a mountain that He might not be held by the multitude, who sought to make Him a king, it is clear that He had come down from the mountain when He fed them. Nor do Matthew’s words, “He went up into a mountain alone to pray,” disagree with this, though John says, “When he knew that they would come to make him a king, he withdrew into a mountain himself alone.” [Joh_6:15]

For the cause of His praying is not contrary to the cause of His retiring, for herein the Lord teaches us that we have great cause for prayer when we have cause for Right. Nor, again, is it contrary to this that Matthew says first, that He bade His disciples go into the boat, and then that He sent the multitudes away, and went into a mountain alone to pray; while John relates that He first withdrew to the mountain, and then, “when it was late, his disciples went down to the sea, and when they had entered into a boat, &c.” for who does not see that John is relating as afterwards done by His disciples what Jesus had commanded before He retired into the mountain?

Jerome: Rightly had the Apostles departed from the Lord as unwilling, and slow to leave Him, lest they should suffer shipwreck whilst He was not with them. For it follows, “Now when it was evening he was there along;” that is, in the mountain; “but the boat was in the middle of the sea tossed with the waves; for the wind was contrary.”

Chrys.: Again, the disciples suffer shipwreck, as they had done before; but then they had Him in the boat, but now they are alone. Thus gradually He leads them to higher things, and instructs them to endure all manfully.

Jerome: While the Lord tarries in the top of the mountain, straightway a wind arises contrary to them, and stirs up the sea, and the disciples are in imminent peril of shipwreck, which continues till Jesus comes.

Chrys.: But He suffers them to be tossed the whole night, exciting their hearts by fear, and inspiring them with greater desire and more lasting recollection of Him; for this reason He did not stand by them immediately, but as it follows, “in the fourth watch of the night, he came to them walking upon the sea.”

Jerome: The military guards and watches are divided into portions of three hours each. When then he says that the Lord came to them in the fourth watch, this shews that they had been in danger the whole night.

Chrys.: Teaching them not to seek a speedy riddance of coming evil, but to bear manfully such things as befal them. But when they thought that they were delivered, then was their fear increased, whence it follows, “And seeing him walking upon the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a vision, and through fear they cried out.” For this the Lord ever does; when He is to rescue from any evil, He brings in things terrible and difficult. For since it is impossible that our temptation should continue a long time, when the warfare of the righteous is to be finished, then He increases their conflicts, desiring to make greater gain of them; which He did also in Abraham, making his conflict his trial of the loss of his son.

Jerome: A confused noise and uncertain sound is the mark of great fear. But if, according to Marcion and Manichaeus, our Lord was not born of a virgin, but was seen in a phantasm, how is it that the Apostles now fear that they have seen a phantasm (or vision)?

Chrys.: Christ then did not reveal Himself to His disciples until they cried out; for the more intense their fear, the more did they rejoice in His presence; whence it follows, “And immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid.” This speech took away their fear, and prepared their confidence.

Jerome: Whereas He says, “It is I,” without saying who, either they might be able to understand Him speaking through the darkness of night; or they might know that it was He who had spoken to Moses, “Say unto the children of Israel, He that is has sent me unto you.” [Exo_3:14]

On every occasion Peter is found to be the one of the most ardent faith. And with the same zeal as ever, so now, while the others are silent, he believes that by the will of his Master he will be able to do that which by nature he cannot do; whence it follows, “Peter answered and said unto him, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the water.” As much as to say, Do thou command, and straightway it will become solid; and that body which is in itself heavy will become light.

Aug., Serm., 76, 5: This I am not able by myself, but in Thee I am able. Peter confessed what he was in himself, and what he should receive from Him by whose will he believed he should be enabled to do that which no human infirmity was equal to.

Chrys.: See how great his warmth, how great his faith. He said not, Pray and entreat for me; but “Bid me;” he believes not only that Christ can Himself walk on the sea, but that He can lead others also thereon; also he wishes to come to Him speedily, and this, so great a thing, he asks not from ostentation, but from love. For he said not, Bid me walk upon the waters, but, “Bid me come unto thee.”

And it seems that having shewn in the first miracle that He has power over the sea, He now leads them to a more powerful sign; “He saith unto him, Come. And Peter, going forth of the boat, walked on the sea, that he might go to Jesus.”

Jerome: Let those who think that the Lords body was not real, because He walked upon the yielding waters as a light ethereal substance, answer here how Peter walked, whom they by no means deny to be man.

Raban.: Lastly, Theodorus wrote that the Lord had not bodily weight in respect of His flesh, but without weight walked on the sea. But the catholic faith preaches the contrary; for Dionysius says that He walked on the wave, without the feet being immersed, having bodily weight, and the burden of matter.

Chrys.: Peter overcame that which was greater, the waves, namely, of the sea, but is troubled by the lesser, the blowing wind, for it follows, “But seeing the wind boisterous, he was afraid.” Such is human nature, in great trials ofttimes holding itself aright, and in lesser falling into fault. This fear of Peter shewed the difference between Master and disciple, and thereby appeased the other disciples. For if they had indignation when the two brothers prayed to sit on the right and left hand, much more had they now. For they were not yet made spiritual; afterwards when they had been made spiritual, they every where yield the first place to Peter, and appoint him to lead in harangues to the people.

Jerome: Moreover he is left to temptation for a short season, that his faith may be increased, and that he may understand that he is saved not by his ability to ask, but by the power of the Lord. For faith burned at his heart, but human frailty drew him into the deep.

Aug., Serm., 76, 8: Peter then presumed on the Lord, he tottered as man, but returned to the Lord, as it follows, “And when he began to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me.” Does the Lord then desert him in his peril of failure whom he had hearkened to when he first called on Him? “Immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him.”

Chrys.: He bade not the winds to cease, but stretched forth His hand and caught him, because his faith was required. For when our own means fail, then those which are of God stand. Then to shew that not the strength of the tempest, but the smallness of his faith worked the danger, “He saith unto him, 0 thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?” which shews that not even the wind would have been able to hurt him, if his faith had been firm.

But as the mother bears on her wings and brings back to the nest her chick which has left the nest before its time and has fallen, so did Christ. “And when they were come into the boat, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the boat came and worshipped him, saying, Truly thou art the Son of God.”

Raban.: This may be understood either of the sailors, or of the Apostles.

Chrys.: Observe how He leads all gradually to that which is above them; He had before rebuked the sea, now He shews forth His power yet more by walking upon the sea, by bidding another to do the same, and by saving him in his peril; therefore they said unto Him, “Truly thou art the Son of God,” which they had not said above.

Jerome: If then upon this single miracle of stilling the sea, a thing which often happens by accident after even great tempests, the sailors and pilots confessed them to be truly the Son of God, how does Arrius preach in the Church itself that He is a creature?

Psuedo-Aug., App. Serm., 72, 1: Mystically; The mountain is loftiness. But what is higher than the heavens in the world? And Who it was that ascended into heaven, that our faith knows. Why did He ascend alone into heaven? Because no man has ascended into heaven, but He that came down from heaven. For even when He shall come in the end, and shall have exalted us into heaven, He will yet ascend alone, inasmuch as the head with its body is One Christ, and now the head only is ascended. He went up to pray, because He is ascended to make intercession to His Father for us.

Hilary: Or, that He is alone in the evening, signifies His sorrow at the time of His passion, when the rest were scattered from Him in fear.

Jerome: Also He ascends into the mountain alone because the multitude cannot follow Him aloft, until He has instructed it by the shore of the sea.

Aug.: But while Christ prays on high, the boat is tossed with great waves in the deep; and forasmuch as the waves rise, that boat can be tossed; but because Christ prays, it cannot be sunk. Think of that boat as the Church, and the stormy sea as this world.

Hilary: That He commands His disciples to enter the ship and to go across the sea, while He sends the multitudes away, and after that He goes up into the mountain to pray; He therein bids us to be within the Church, and to be in peril until such time as returning in His splendour He shall give salvation to all the people that shall be remaining of Israel, and shall forgive their sins; and having dismissed them into His Father’s kingdom, returning thanks to His Father, He shall sit down in His glory and majesty.

Meanwhile the disciples are tossed by the wind and the waves; struggling against all the storms of this world, raised by the opposition of the unclean spirit.

Aug.: For when any of a wicked will and of great power, proclaims a persecution of the Church, then it is that a mighty wave rises against the boat of Christ.

Raban.: Whence it is well said here, that the ship was in the middle of the sea, and He alone on the land, because the Church is sometimes oppressed with such persecution that her Lord may seem to have forsaken her for a season.

Aug.: The Lord came to visit His disciples who are tossed on the sea in the fourth watch of the night — that is, at its close; for each watch consisting of three hours, the night has thus four watches.

Hilary: The first watch was therefore of the Law, the second of the Prophets, the third His coming in the flesh, the fourth His return in glory.

Aug.: Therefore in the fourth watch of the night, that is when the night is nearly ended, He shall come, in the end of the world, when the night of iniquity is past, to judge the quick and the dead.

But His coming was with a wonder. The waves swelled, but they were trodden upon. Thus howsoever the powers of this world shall swell themselves, our Head shall crush their head.

Hilary: But Christ coming in the end shall find His Church wearied, and tossed by the spirit of Anti-Christ, and by the troubles of the world. And because by their long experience of Anti-Christ they will be troubled at every novelty of trial, they shall have fear even at the approach of the Lord, suspecting deceitful appearances.

But the good Lord banishes their fear, saying, “It is I;” and by proof of His presence takes away their dread of impending shipwreck.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 15: Or; That the disciples here say, It is a phantasm, figures those who yielding to the Devil shall doubt of the coming of Christ. That Peter cries to the Lord for help that he should not be drowned, signifies that He shall purge His Church with certain trials even after the last persecution; as Paul also notes, saying, “He shall be saved, yet so as by fire.” [1Co_3:15]

Hilary: Or; That Peter alone out of all the number of those that were in the vessel has courage to answer, and to pray that the Lord would bid him come to Him upon the waters, figures the frowardness of his will in the Lord’s passion, when following after the Lord’s steps he endeavoured to attain to despise death. But his fearfulness shews his weakness in his after trial, when through fear of death, he was driven to the necessity of denial. His crying out here is the groaning of his repentance there.

Raban.: The Lord looked back upon him, and brought him to repentance; He stretched forth His hand, and forgave him, and thus the disciple found salvation, which “is not of him that willeth or of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” [Rom_9:16]

Hilary: That when Peter was seized with fear, the Lord gave him not power of coming to Him, but held him by the hand and sustained him, this is the signification thereof; that He who alone was to suffer for all alone forgave the sins of a11; and no partner is admitted into that which was bestowed upon mankind by one.

Aug., Serm. 76: For in one Apostle, namely Peter, first and chief in the order of Apostles in whom was figured the Church, both kinds were to be signified; that is, the strong, in his walking upon the waters; the weak, in that he doubted; for to each of us our lusts are as a tempest. Dost thou love God? Thou walkest on the sea; the fear of this world is under thy feet. Dost thou love the world? It swallows thee up. But when thy heart is tossed with desire, then that thou mayest overcome thy lust, call upon the divine person of Christ.

Remig.: And the Lord will be with thee to help thee, when lulling to rest the perils of thy trials, He restores the confidence of His protection, and this towards the break of day; for when human frailty beset with difficulties considers the weakness of its own powers, it looks upon itself as in darkness; when it raises its view to the protection of heaven, it straightway beholds the rise of the morning star, which gives its light through the whole of the morning watch.

Raban.: Nor should we wonder that the wind ceased when the Lord had entered into the boat; for in whatsoever heart the Lord is present by grace, there all wars cease.

Hilary: Also by this entrance of Christ into the boat, and the calm of the wind and sea thereupon, is pointed out the eternal peace of the Church, and that rest which shall be after His return in glory. And forasmuch as He shall then appear manifestly, rightly do they all cry out now in wonder, “Truly thou art the Son of God.” For there shall then be a free and public confession of all men that the Son of God is come no longer in lowliness of body, but that He has given peace to the Church in heavenly glory.

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 15: For it is here conveyed to us that His glory will then be made manifest, seeing that now they who walk by faith see it in a figure.

Ver 34. And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennesaret.35. And when the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased;36. And besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.

Remig.: The Evangelist had related above that the Lord had commanded His disciples to enter the boat, and to go before Him across the strait; he now proceeds with the same intention to relate whither they arrived by their passage, “And when they were gone over, they came into the land of Gennezareth.”

Raban.: The land of Gennezar, by the lake of Gennezareth, takes its name from a natural power which it is said to have of spontaneously modulating its waters so as to excite a breeze; the Greek words importing, ‘creating for itself the breeze.’

Chrys.: But the Evangelist shews that it was now long time since Christ had come into these parts; for it follows, “And where the men of that place knew him, they sent into all that region.”

Jerome: They knew Him by fame, not by sight; although indeed by reason of the greatness of the signs which He did among the people, He was known by face to great numbers. And note how great the faith of the men of the land of Gennezareth, that they were not content with the healing of the men of that country only, but sent to all the towns round about.

Chrys.: Nor do they now as before drag Him to their houses, and seek the touch of His hand, but they draw Him by their greater faith, for they brought unto him all them that were sick, and besought him that they might touch but the hem of his garment. For the woman who suffered under the issue of blood had taught them all this wisdom, namely, that by touching the hem only of Christ’s garment they might be saved.

Therefore it follows, “And as many as touched, were made whole.”

Jerome: If we knew what the word Gennezareth would convey in our tongue, we might understand how under the type of the Apostles and the boat, Jesus guides to shore the Church when He has delivered it from the wreck of persecution, and makes it to rest in a most tranquil harbour.

Raban.: Genezar is interpreted, ‘rise,’ ‘beginning.’ For then will complete rest be given to us, when Christ shall have restored to us our inheritance of Paradise, and the joy of our first robe.

Hilary: Otherwise; When the times of the Law were ended, and five thousand out of Israel were entered within the Church, it was then that the people of believers met Him, then those that were saved out of the Law by faith set before the Lord the rest of their sick and weak; and they that were thus brought sought to touch the hem of His garment, because through their faith they would be healed. And as the virtue of the hem proceeded from the whole garment, so the virtue of the grace of the Holy Spirit went forth from our Lord Jesus Christ, and imparted to the Apostles, who proceeded as it were from the same body, administers salvation to such as desire to touch.

Jerome: Or, by the hem of the garment understand His least commandment, which whosoever transgresses, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; or, again, His assumption of the body, by which we come to the Word of God.

Chrys.: But we have not a hem or a garment only of Christ, but have even His body, that we may eat thereof. If then they who touched the hem of His garment derived so much virtue therefrom, much more they that shall receive Himself whole.

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One Response to Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 14:22-36

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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