Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 1:19-27

19. For I know this will turn out well for me to salvation, through your prayer, and the subministration of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
20. According to my expectation and hope, that I shall be in nothing ashamed, but in every confidence, as always, so now Christ will be magnified in my body, whether through life, or through death.
21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

I know that this will turn to my salvation. The Apostle evidently regarded with feelings of great joy, but also of great solemnity, the mission on which he was engaged, in bearing his testimony to the truth of Christ’s resurrection and divine character, in presence of men of influence in the great city of the Roman world, and before the Emperor, at the risk of his own life, and was determined to discharge this duty fearlessly and with all Christian boldness, as if his eternal crown depended on it. I know that the preaching of Christ by others, whether actuated by jealousy, animosity against me, or sincerity and goodwill, will turn out to my salvation, and the faithful discharge of my mission, for I am sure and confident that through the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, which will be granted to me through your prayers, I shall not be disappointed in the hope I entertain and cherish, and that hope is, that I shall be enabled, when the time comes, to speak with boldness and confidence, whether in the presence of the Emperor or elsewhere. If I live, Christ will be magnified by my preaching and my bodily life. If I die, he will be glorified in my death. In either case, his Gospel will be more widely known, his Church more firmly founded and established upon earth. If I live, I live for the service and glory of Christ; if I die, I shall be still better off, for I shall be admitted to the enjoyment of his presence.

22. But if to live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my work, and what I shall choose I do not know.

The meaning of the Greek text of this verse seems to be, I do not know whether the fruit of my work, the result of the struggle in which I am now engaged, will be my continued life in the flesh, or which I should choose if the choice were left to me. Saint Chrysostom is of opinion that the choice of life or death was given to the Apostle, and that he hesitated between inclination on one side and the interests of the Church on the other. It is not, however, necessary to take his words so literally as this, and it appears from his language in the next chapter that he regarded his life or death as uncertain, like all other contingent and future events.

23. For I am urged by two things at once, having the desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ, much far better;

I am urged by two at once, two equally balanced aspirations and desires. I desire to he dissolved, set free from the chain of the body with which the soul is bound. As in Ecclesiastes 12:7~The spirit returns to God who gave it. The inferior animals at death are resolved into the elements of which they are composed; the soul of man is dissolved from the chain of the body, after which the body, like the body of the brutes, is resolved into its elements. This dissolution is something good and desirable; because it makes the soul impassable, impeccable, celestial, and divine; or, as St. Bernard says, sets men free from pain, sin, and peril. See a further elucidation of this subject in the note of Cornelius a Lapide on this place. St. Augustine says of St. Paul: He who desires to be dissolved and to be with Christ, does not die with patience. On the contrary, he lives with patience and dies with delight and joy.

Much far better. Latin: Multo magis melius, much more better, means better beyond all comparison. St. Paul had seen Jesus Christ in the glory of the resurrection, and knew that no satisfaction which creation could afford was worthy of a moment’s comparison with that great happiness.

24. But to remain in the flesh is necessary on your account.

To remain in the body is necessary for you, not for the Philippians only, but for the other Gentile Churches as well. The presence and encouragement of the Apostle was necessary to prepare the Churches for the severe trial that awaited them at the outbreak of the great persecution, which occurred two or three years later, and which by depriving them of all their Apostles and Evangelists must have severely tried their faith.

25. And trusting this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, to your advancement and joy of faith:

Trusting this, leaving the decision of the question with perfect confidence in the hands of God, who will order it as he sees to be best, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for some considerable time. The word I know implies, however, no more than moral certainty, as appears from the language of the preceding verses, and from his words in Phil 2:17, even if I should be sacrificed for your faith, and 24, I trust in the Lord to come to you quickly. For your profit, or advancement in sanctity and merit, and joy in the strengthening of your faith, in the great privileges of the Gospel and hope of life everlasting.

26. That your rejoicing may abound in Christ Jesus in me, through my coming to you.

That your rejoicing or boasting may abound in Christ Jesus in me, St. Chrysostom takes this actively, that I may be able to boast or rejoice in your spiritual advancement and the joy you derive from your faith in Jesus Christ, when I ccune among you. The words will, however, bear a more simple and literal interpretation. That your rejoicing in Christ may be increased in me, that is by my coming to you, my happy return to visit you once more, alive and well, in safety and in triumph.

27. Only live worthily of the Gospel of Christ, that whether when I come and see you, or absent hear of you, that you stand unanimous in one spirit, labouring together for the faith of the Gospel.

Only live worthily of the Gospel of Christ. The Greek word is πολιτεύομαι, fill your place as citizens of the Church of God, worthily of the Gospel which is the charter of your incorporation. The figure is perhaps an allusion to the civic privileges enjoyed by the citizens of the Roman colony of Philippi. Either I shall come and visit you, and see with my own eyes, or if not, I shall hear of you by the report of others, and in either case I hope to find you standing in your ranks (another figure borrowed from the same source, for Philippi was a colony of soldiers) animated by one spirit and one soul, fighting side by side on behalf of the faith of the Gospel. The Vulgate has collahorantes, labouring together. The Greek word will bear either meaning. The grammatical construction of this sentence in the Vulgate is irregular. The Greek has: that whether coming and seeing, or absent, I may hear.

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One Response to Father Bernardin de Piconio’s Commentary on Philippians 1:19-27

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

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