Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 11:28-30

Mat 11:28  Come to me all you that labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you.
Mat 11:29  Take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart: And you shall find rest to your souls.
Mat 11:30  For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Come to me all you that labor. b. Happiness of the citizens even in this life. In this paragraph Jesus first determines more accurately who his little ones are; then he states in a general term the blessedness he will give them; thirdly, he describes the conditions of this blessedness more minutely; fourthly, he gives three reasons for conforming with these conditions, α. Christ’s little ones. In accordance with the prophecies [Is. 61:1, 3; Zeph 3:18 heb.; cf. Mt. 5:5], Christ calls especially all those that labor and are burdened, i. e., all those that are any way afflicted [Jansenius], or all those that are oppressed with work and suffering [Cajetan, Fillion], or all those oppressed by the Mosaic law and the sinfulness of the Gentile world [Hilary, Jerome, Cyril, Theophylact, Opus Imperfectum, Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas], or all those laboring under the miseries and the sinfulness of life and burdened with the Pharisaic traditions [Theodoret of Cyrus heracl. Or. in eat. Dionysius, Calmet, Arnoldi, Chrysologus serm. 105], or all those worried with care and oppressed with sin [Euthymius].

β. Blessedness of the citizens. Christ describes this in the general promise, “I will refresh you.” It consists, therefore, not merely in freedom from labor and burdens, but in positive refreshment of all that toil and bear heavy burdens [Chrysostom, Euthymius]. Our Lord’s doctrine contains the remedy against the ills of life, his sacraments remove the burden of sin and the pain of an evil conscience, his New Law abolishes the heavy burdens of the Mosaic legislation [cf. Jansenius].

γ. Condition of blessedness. The sole condition under which we can expect relief from all labor and pain is expressed in the words “take up my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” The second clause explains the first, showing that the first must be taken in the Rabbinic [Schöttgen, 1. p. 115; Wünsche, p. 147] and Hebrew sense [Jer. 5:5; Sirach 51:34] of law or precept. The yoke of Christ consists, therefore, in his teaching, whether strictly preceptive or instructive [cf. Euthymius, Hilary, Bede, Thomas Aquinas, Cajetan, Jansenius, Maldonado, Lapide, Calmet, Schanz, Fillion], and implies on our part a total surrender to his rule and management [cf. Arnoldi, Bisping, Keil, Weiss, Knabenbauer etc.].

δ. Three reasons for conforming with the foregoing condition: [1] On the part of the teacher, we shall find meekness and humility. Though several writers [Augustine, Opus Imperfectum, Paschasius, Alb. Thomas Aquinas, Faber Stapulensis, Dionysius, Cajetan, Calmet] understand the words “learn of me, because I am meek and humble of heart,” as if we were to learn the virtues of meekness towards men [Cajetan] and humility towards God [Cajetan] in a special manner of our Lord, the greater number of commentators prefer the explanation “learn of me, because,” according to which the meekness and humility of the teacher are held out as motives for becoming his disciples [Hilary, Maldonado, Jansenius, Sylveira, Lapide, Sa, Men. Lam. Arnoldi, Bisping, Schegg, Grimm, 4. p. 217; Reischl, Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer]. The second view is based first, on the Greek text, where we have the casual particle ὅτι; secondly, on the context, according to which we must learn not only the virtues of meekness and humility, but all that are implied in the “yoke” of Christ; thirdly, on the logical thread of thought which leads us to believe that our Lord did not introduce a new topic, but developed the idea of his yoke and doctrine; fourthly, on the inconsistency of the first view, according to which we must learn the two virtues of meekness and humility, while according to the gospel, thus interpreted, we ought to learn that Jesus is meek and humble. Our own obligation to be meek and humble is, then, only a consequent or inferential meaning of the passage in either the first or the second view. The author of op. imp. has well understood this, since, according to him, we must learn, by bearing the very yoke of Christ, that he is meek and humble of heart. It must be noted also that the preposition “of” in the clause “of me” renders the Greek preposition ἀπό, so that properly we ought to render “learn on me,” or “learn from me onwards” [Buttmann, p. 279]; but ἀπὸ stands also for the common παρὰ or ἐκ [Krüger, 68, 34, 1; cf. Col. 1:7], so that the rendering “of me” is based on good authority.

[2] On our own part, a compliance with the foregoing condition shall bring that peace and rest after which all living creatures long so ardently. The clause “to your souls” must not be understood as if the yoke of Christ contained contentment for the soul of man to the exclusion of his body [cf. Opus Imperfectum, Paschasius, Cajetan], but it means “for yourselves,” as soul is often used in Hebrew to express one’s self [cf. Jer. 6:16; Ps. 78:18; Is. 46:2; etc.].

[3] On the part of the service of Christ, his “yoke is sweet” and his “burden light”; the Greek word expressing “sweet” applies mostly to persons, so that it alludes to the character of the Master himself. The sweetness [properly “softness”] of the yoke is mentioned, because animals working under the yoke suffer more from its roughness or unfitness than from their labor [Knabenbauer]. The yoke of Christ is sweet for several reasons: first, he has abrogated the hard Mosaic legislation [cf. Acts 15:10]; secondly, he has commanded only what is more or less contained in the natural law, so that his commands can be comprised in the one injunction to do to our neighbor what we would wish our neighbor to do to us [Maldonado]; thirdly, he has merited for us abundant grace and the strength of the Holy Ghost, so that we need not perform our duties by our own strength [Augustine serm. 70, n. 2]; fourthly, he inspires us with his own love, and where one loves the command, there is no difficulty in obeying [Augustine, l. c. n. 3; Lam. Cajetan]; fifthly, he has abrogated the many hard punishments that threatened the transgressor in the Old Testament, and he has given us easy means to obtain forgiveness for our transgressions [Cyril]; he has proposed to us a most abundant reward for all our labor and toil undertaken for his sake [Chrysostom; cf. 2 Cor. 4:17]; finally, the precept of Jesus concerning the narrow gate and the bearing of the cross [Mt. 7:13, 14; 10:38] is rendered most easy by the foregoing aids, present and future, as is evident from the example of innumerable saints and martyrs who have gloried in the cross of Christ [cf. Opus Imperfectum]. These words of our Lord, which manifest a more than human attractiveness in his person and character, must have made a most powerful impression on the Jewish hearers, burdened with the heavy load of Pharisaic traditions [Mt. 23:4] and galled by the sovereign contempt of their scribes [Jn. 7:49].

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Commentaries for the Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

READINGS AND OFFICE:

Today’s Mass Readings (NABRE). Translation used in the USA.

Today’s Mass Readings (NJB). Scroll down slightly. The NJB is used in most other English speaking countries.

Today’s Divine Office.

COMMENTARIES OF THE FIRST READING: Isaiah 22:19-23.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Isaiah 22:19-23.

Word-Sunday Notes on Isaiah 22:19-23.

Sacred Page Blog on Isaiah 22:19-23. By Catholic biblical scholar Dr. John Bergsma. Looks at the passage in connection with the other readings.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 138.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 138.

St Albert the Great’s Commentary on Psalm 138.

Father Ronald Knox’s Meditation on Psalm 138.

Pope Benedict XVI’s Commentary/Meditation on Psalm 138.

Word-Sunday Notes on Psalm 138.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Romans 11:33-36.

Father de Piconio on Romans 11:33-36. This rather brief post actually contains commentary on verses 25-36.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 11:33-36.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 11:33-36.

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Romans 11:33-36.

Word-Sunday Notes on Romans 11:33-36.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Romans 11:33-36.

Father Zollner’s Homily on Romans 11:33-36. Originally preached for Trinity Sunday.

Homily Notes on Romans 11:33-36. Focuses on God’s knowledge. Can be used for sermon ideas, points for meditation and further study.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Matthew 16:13-20.

Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matthew 16:13-20.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 16:13-20. This post includes commentary on verse 21-23.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 16:13-20. On 13-23.

Pending: Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 16:13-20.

Word-Sunday Notes on Matthew 16:13-20.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 16:13-20.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Matthew 16:13-23

Text in red are my additions.

Mat 16:13  And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? 

Leaving Bethsaida, “Jesus came into the quarters (St. Mark 8:27, says, ‘into the towns”) “of Cæsarea Philippi.” It was enriched and embellished by Philip, the son of Herod, in honour of Cæsar Augustus. Hence, its name. Before that, it was called Paneas—and continued to be so called by Pagan writers—from the adjoining spring, Panium, the fountain head, or spring of the Jordan. It was situated at the foot of Mount Libanus, at the northern extremity of Judea. There was another Cæsarea in Palestine, built by Herod the Great, in honour of Augustus. This latter was situated on the Mediterranean, not far from Joppe.

“And He asked His disciples, saying,” &c. From St. Mark and Luke we can clearly infer, that our Redeemer, when on His way to Cæsarea, turned aside to some place where He prayed for some time alone; and after prayer, probably, in the place where He prayed, and while resting, before He reached the end of His journey, which is the meaning of, “in the way” (Mark 8:27), He proposed the following question to His disciples, “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?” There were various readings of these words, but the above, which is the common reading, is the best sustained. In St. Luke 9:18, it is, “Whom do the people say that I am?” This question He thought proper to put, in order to afford His Apostles an opportunity of confessing His Divinity, that thus He would confirm their faith, and they would not be scandalized by the allusion He intended making on this occasion to His ignominious death and passion, which might prove a stumbling block to those who were not sufficiently grounded in the faith of His Divinity.

 Mat 16:14  But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

“But they said: Some (say thou art) John the Baptist.” Probably, this refers to those who were of the same opinion with Herod the Tetrarch (Matt 14:2), and might have imbibed the error of the Pharisees, who held, as we are informed by Josephus, that a just man could easily return to life. Whether they held the Pythagorean error of transmigration of souls in general, is disputed. They thought that when prophets returned from the dead, they were endowed with extraordinary power for working miraculous wonders. Hence, Herod says, “it is John returned from the dead, and, therefore, these wonders show forth in Him.”

“Other some, Elias;” because, Elias was, according to the general opinion of the Jewish nation, to precede the Messias, the period of whose coming they believed to be at hand. This they inferred from the prophecy of Malachias (Mal 4:5). But these parties could never imagine, that one presenting the lowly appearance that our Redeemer did, could, notwithstanding His stupendous miracles, be the Messiah.

“And others, Jeremias;” whose freedom and boldness in denouncing the crimes of the Jews, of his own day, was so like the line of conduct pursued by our Redeemer in this respect.

“Or one of the Prophets,” the distinguished prophetical characters of old, such as Moses, Josue, Samuel. It is not likely that any among the multitude, even of those who addressed Him, as the Son of David, believed Him to be anything more than a mere man, anything more than human; and hence, the opinion of such is not quoted, their ideas of Him were mixed up with so many erroneous notions regarding Him. Moreover, such as thought Him to be the Son of God, could not be classed with the people, but with the disciples of our Lord.

Mat 16:15  Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?  

“But whom do you?” &c. There is here a clear antithesis. “You,” who have been brought up in My school, who have enjoyed so many opportunities, favoured with so many blessings, witnessed so many of My miracles, whom I, therefore, cannot place on a level with the mere crowd, the vulgar herd, that follow Me.

“That I am.” He before asked about “the Son of man” (v. 13), in reference to “men,” those who see nothing more than human in Him; but here it is, “that I am,” as if to say, what think you, who know Me as I am, God and man.

Mat 16:16  Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

“Simon Peter,” the former name, he bore from his birth; “Simon Bar-Jona,” the latter, the name promised him (John 1:32–42), and given since his call to the Apostleship (Mark 3:14; Matt. 10:1; Luke 6:14), expressive of his dignity, as rock and foundation of God’s Church.

“Answering, said.” Peter, whose faith was more ardent than that of all the rest, following the impulses of his natural and supernatural fervour, at once anticipates all the rest; and, fearing lest any one should utter anything beneath the dignity of his beloved Master, he “said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”

The Greek expresses it more emphatically still, by placing the article before all the words (ὁ Χριστός, ὁ ὑιος τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ζῶντος), “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In this, Peter professes his faith in the Divinity and Humanity of our Lord. The word, “Christ,” contains the faith of both. He is “the Christ” promised of old in the Law and the Prophets, hitherto anxiously expected by all the saints, anointed Prophet, Priest, and King.

“The Son,” not by adoption, like John the Baptist, Jeremias, &c., who are sons by adoption, with whom Peter here compares, or, rather, contrasts Him; but by nature, that only well-beloved Son, in whom He is always well pleased. “Of the living God,” of the true God, one of whose primary attributes is, necessary self existence, “qui solus habet immortalitatem.” (“who alone has immortality,” see 1 Tim 6:16)

“Living,” in opposition to false gods, who, as such, that is to say, as vested with Divinity, have no existence whatever, “omnes Dei Gentium dæmonia.” It also distinguishes, our Redeemer from the adopted sons of God. After recounting the several opinions of the people regarding Him, Peter says: We confess Thee to be the Christ; Thou callest Thyself. “the Son of man;” we proclaim Thee as the eternal Son of God.

Mat 16:17  And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

“Blessed.” They are said to be “blessed” in SS. Scripture, who receive from God some singular privilege and grace, conducing to eternal life. Hence, Peter is said to be “blessed,” because, singularly favoured by God.

“Simon Bar-Jona,” the son of Jona. (Bar, in Chaldaie, means, son.) “Jona,” is, probably, a contraction for “Johanna”—the Hebrew for Johannes, or John. For, Simon is said to be the “son of John” (John 21:15).

“Because flesh and blood,” that is, man. No human tradition or instruction, no information on the part of any human being, no lights derived from any human source whatsoever, could ever have communicated this to you, “but My Father who is in heaven.” It is the result of a supernatural revelation, imparted to you by My Heavenly Father.

How it is Peter is singularly “blessed,” on this occasion, is not easily seen, since he had already, on a former occasion (John 6:70), proclaimed our Lord’s Divinity. Nathanael (John 1:49) did the same; why not he be equally “blessed?” And here, Peter would seem to have acted merely as the mouthpiece or spokesman of the twelve. For, they were all asked, “who do you say?” &c.; he answers for them. Why, then, should he be singularly “blessed” on this occasion? The reply commonly given is, that on the occasion mentioned (John 6:70), Peter had not the same exalted faith in our Saviour’s Divinity, that He gives expression to here, or that he there expressed unasked, more than was true regarding all the Apostles, since our Redeemer corrects him (v. 71). But here, on this solemn occasion, being called upon by our blessed Lord to declare, what their faith in opposition to the false notions of the crowd regarding Him was, he freely and loudly proclaims Him “the Son of the living God.” As for Nathanael and others, the common opinion regarding them is, that in proclaiming Him to be the Son of God, they did so according to the notions of the Jews regarding the Messiah, viz., that He was the adopted Son of God, but in a measure still far exceeding that of the other saints (see note below). Hence, they had not the faith of Peter, who proclaimed Him the Natural, Eternal, Consubstantial Son of God. Note: See the footnote to John 1:49 in the NAB. Father Francis Moloney, in his Sacra Pagina Commentary on John points out that in chapter one of John the disciples are portrayed as not fully understanding the assumptions they are making in their confessions concerning Jesus. See his comments on Andrew’s words in John 1:41; on Philip’s words in John 1:45, and on Nathaniel’s words in John 1:49.

As regards the assertion, that Peter answered on behalf of the others, would it not appear from what follows, viz., the special prerogatives bestowed on him, the words addressed to himself personally, that he answered for himself principally? Otherwise, why should not our Redeemer say, “YOU are all blessed, for flesh and blood … to you.” Why not say, “To YOU ALL I give the keys?” &c. When all were asked why did not all answer, as they did severally, when interrogated regarding the opinions of the crowd? Hence, Peter replied on his own behalf. On his own behalf, he was the first to express, with greater ardour, what, no doubt, the others, too, might have said, had not Peter anticipated them; and this is what the holy Fathers mean, who say, that Peter was the mouthpiece of the other Apostles. Moreover, strictly speaking, no one could express the opinions of others, particularly on a point of such vital importance, unless be had the gift of searching their hearts, or, at least, without previous consultation, which did not occur here. Hence, Peter spoke for himself, and, thus merited the eulogium, “Blessed art thou.” “Revealed to thee;” and, probably, his faith on the subject was, in consequence of this revelation, more perfect at the time, than that of the others. What follows refers to Peter individually, so peculiar to him, designating his pre-eminence in the government of the Church, addressed to him in so marked a manner, that it is no more applicable to the other Apostles than the name, Peter itself.

Mat 16:18  And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

“And I say to thee, thou art Peter.” You, a mere man, confess and openly proclaim, under the influence of my Heavenly Father’s revelation, that I am the Natural, Eternal, Consubstantial Son of God; I, on the other hand, who am the Eternal Son of God, and can, therefore, fulfil all My promises; say to you, that although a mere man, “thou art Peter,” or rock—a name long since conferred on thee for mystical reasons. And in reward for your glorious confession, I promise you that, imparting to you a share, in a subordinate degree, in My incomparable privileges, “upon this (Peter, or) rock,” that is, upon thee, “I shall build My Church,” this spiritual edifice, which is to successfully resist every hostile assault, and subsist to the end of time. I being its great architect, on thee shall it rest, as the great centre of unity, its unfailing foundation. It is clear that, “upon this rock,” refers to Peter, according to all the laws of grammatical construction; and this becomes still more evident, if we bear in mind, that in the Syro-Chaldaic language, in which our Redeemer spoke, the words run thus, “thou art Cephas, and upon this Cephas I will build My Church,” which, literally rendered, should run thus: “thou art Peter (that is, a rock), and upon this Peter (or rock) I shall build My Church.” But the Greek interpreter, with some detriment to the clearness of the phrase, rendered Cephas—which means, “rock”—πετρος, in the masculine, in the first instance, as applying to the person of Peter; and πετρα, in the feminine, in the second instance, as more expressive of a quality, or of the exalted dignity conferred on him by our Redeemer.

It is utterly unmeaning to refer, as is done by some, the word, “rock,” to either our Redeemer Himself, or to the faith of Peter, save in the concrete, which is the same as Peter himself, gifted with such great faith, and raised to high dignity on account of it; or, to the faithful, themselves constituting the Church, or superstructure, which could not be built on itself; or, to the other Apostles, since Peter is addressed individually—“thou art,” &c.; “I will give to thee,” &c.; “whatever thou shalt bind,” &c.

“I shall build.” There is question, of course, of a spiritual building. “My Church.” His Church is the universal Church; to Him belongs not merely any one portion, but the whole Church, “which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28); “which He sanctified by the laver of water … and rendered glorious, not having spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:26, 27).

“And the gates of hell shall not prevail,” &c. By “gates,” is meant, strength, or might. Of this, “gates,” were symbolical. The word has this meaning in several passages of SS. Scripture.

“Of hell” (αδου, of Hades; Hebrew, Scheol). By this word, some understand the sepulchre, or death, which is the gate or entrance to hell. Others, more probably, the hell of the damned, the domains of him who hath the power of death, Satan. (See Murray, de Ecclesia. vol. 1; Fascic 11, Disp. vi.) This latter is the more general interpretation of the word. But, whichever of these two meanings be the true one, matters but little, as the words, whether they refer to death or hell—and death is represented as very powerful in SS. Scripture—symbolize a hostile kingdom, the great enemy, of all enemies the most powerful, the chief antagonist, ever warring implacably, but in vain, against the kingdom of Christ. So powerful, that it takes all the firmness of this kingdom, armed with the power of God, and founded on the immovable foundation which He has established, to resist it. In the Scriptures, the world, the flesh, and the devil, are exhibited as the great enemies which the Church of Christ has ever to combat.

“Shall not prevail against it.” The word, “prevail,” may be taken passively or actively. Passively; it means, to withstand, to successfully hold out and resist. The words would mean, in this interpretation, that all the powers of hell, all the strength of persecuting tyrants, all the blandishments of pleasures, all the errors of heretics, or whatever other means of defence Satan may employ, shall not be able to withstand the strength and assaults of the Church, or kingdom founded by Christ.

Taken actively, it will mean, to overcome. The word, “rock,” would favour this latter interpretation, which exhibits the Church as an impregnable fortress, made for resistance and defence, rather than for aggression.

“Against it.” The common interpretation of the holy Fathers and commentators, refers “it,” to the nearest noun, which is, “Church.” Although one must feel naturally reluctant to depart from the common interpretation, still, it seems to me far more probable, on intrinsic grounds, that the word, “it,” which, of itself, and by grammatical construction, may refer to Church or rock, directly and immediately refers to the latter. The context seems to require that it be referred to the primary subject of the discourse, which is also the subject of the promised remuneration spoken of. Now, this subject is “rock;” whereas, “Church,” is but a secondary, and as it were, incidental subject in the discourse (see Bouix, de Papa Tom ii., p. 173). Moreover, in the entire passage, “and” is a connecting link in the gradation of the several privileges, or, rather, in the several images and metaphors expressive of one and the same privilege of supreme authority conferred on Peter, in reward for his glorious confession of faith. 1. “Thou art Peter,” or rock, a name already conferred on you. 2. “AND upon this (Peter or) rock I will build My Church.” 3. “AND the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” 4. “AND I will give thee the keys,” &c. 5. “AND whatsoever thou shall bind … AND whatsoever thou shalt loose.” Then, in what precedes and follows, the words “prevail against it,” “and,” indicates an additional reward, or rather a new idea or image, symbolical of the same reward and exalted privilege bestowed on Peter, to whom the discourse is directed. Why not, then, refer to him in this, so as to express, that not only is he to be the rock support, but the invincible, ever enduring, conquering and unconquerable support of God’s indefectible Church? It seems to me, that the repetition of “and,” before the several prerogatives conferred on Peter, not on his own behoof, but for the enduring good of the Church, or, rather, before the several images expressive or symbolical of the one and same prerogative of supreme, enduring authority over the entire Church, greatly favours this latter interpretation. To this it may be added, that at all times the attacks of hell against God’s Church were principally levelled at her (as they are at the present day) through her head; and our Lord, by directly referring to the rock of the Church which, co ipso, includes the Church itself, as invincible, would wish to point out the source from which the Church derives her impregnable strength and invincibility, viz., her firm and inseparable union with her head. The meaning, however, of the passage will come to the same, whether “it” refers to the “rock,” or to the “Church.” “The rock is so strong, that the gates if hell cannot prevail against it; therefore, neither can they prevail against the Church built on the rock. The Church is so strong, that the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; therefore, neither can they prevail against the ‘rock,’ on which it is built” (Murray “An. Miscel.,” vol. iii. p. 297).

Peter, therefore, being Divinely appointed, as the impregnable rock on which the Church is built, possesses supreme spiritual authority, with full power to uphold, defend, govern, and consolidate the Church, as long as she exists—that is to say, to the end of time—against all her enemies. He must, therefore, be armed with all the necessary means, that is, with all legislative and executive power, in the spiritual order, to effectually accomplish this. As supreme monarch, acting as Vicar of Christ, he must be vested with all necessary power to uphold integrity of faith and purity of morals, a power extending, in Ecclesiastical matters, to all persons, limited only by the nature of things, and the immutable law of God. If this be not primacy of jurisdiction, it is hard to say what such primacy is. It need hardly be observed, that the interpretation of the words, “prevail against it,” adopted above, sets forth, in a clearer light, the proof, derived from this text, of the infallibility of the successor of St. Peter in the Apostolic See, when addressing the universal Church, and defining subjects of faith and morals; that is to say, when speaking ex Cathedra. The defined Faith of the Church regarding the Infallibility of the Sovereign Pontiff, speaking ex Cathedra, could be proved satisfactorily from other undoubted and independent sources, even though this text never existed.

Mat 16:19  And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

The same supreme power or jurisdiction is granted to him clearly under another symbol and image. “And I will give to thee the keys,” &c. “Keys” were regarded among all nations, ancient and modern, whenever they symbolized anything, as the symbols of power. To kings and conquerors the keys of cities were given, as a symbol of their power and authority. The tradition of the keys of any place, whether city or fortress, was equivalent to handing over the full power and authority over that place. In the SS. Scriptures we have several instances of this. (Isa. 22:19, &c.; Rev 3:7; Rev 9:1, &c.; Rev 21:25-27.) Hence, the metaphor of the keys here clearly conveys, that our Lord, on whose shoulders His Father had placed “the key of the house of David” (Isa. 22:22), had transferred to Peter the singular pre-eminence and power He Himself received, and communicated to him, as His vicar and vicegerent, the fulness of His power, over “the kingdom of heaven,” that is to say, the Church, or kingdom of the Messias, a signification the words frequently bear in the Gospels, and the signification they clearly bear here. To Peter, then, it is here promised by our Divine Redeemer, that he will be constituted supreme monarch, in His own place, over His “kingdom,” with universal spiritual power and jurisdiction, for extending, upholding, and consolidating that kingdom. This pre-eminence was actually given to him, after our Lord’s resurrection, “feed My lambs,” &c., in words addressed to him alone, in presence of the other Apostles (John 21:15–17).

“And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth,” &c. This, according to some commentators, is a clearer explanation of the metaphor of “the keys,” showing the principal effect of their exercise. Others, with greater probability, regard this as a distinct metaphor, conveying, under a different image, the same idea of supreme authority and jurisdiction. The effect attributed in SS. Scripture to “the keys,” is, not to “loose and bind,” but to “open and shut.” Again, the universal term (ὅ) “whatsoever,” extends to more objects than can fall within the exercise of the power of “the keys.” The word, “whatsoever,” embraces, in its widest extent, all things over which the power of binding or loosing can be exercised, in the spiritual order, all places throughout the entire earth, all persons who by baptism, are made subject to the Church, all matters in the spiritual order, not excepted by the nature of things, or, by the Law of God, or the Divine Constitution of the Church. In a word, it involves universal legislative, and executive authority to rule, govern and uphold the entire Church, including pastors and people.

Although each of the preceding metaphors, viz., of the rock, of the keys, or binding and loosing, conveys, of itself, with undoubted clearness, that supreme spiritual jurisdiction and authority was conferred on Peter; still, our Redeemer would impress us with its vast importance, by conveying the same general idea, under different and expressive metaphors.

Mat 16:20  Then he commanded his disciples, that they should tell no one that he was Jesus the Christ. 

“Then He commanded His disciples,” &c. Mark 8:30, and Luke 9:21, both tell us, He strictly charged them, not to tell any one of this. There are several reasons, or motives, assigned for this precept of our Redeemer. Some say, He was actuated by humility, as He was on several other occasions, when He performed miracles (Matt 9:30). Others say, He was influenced by motives of prudence, to avoid irritating His enemies, who might be excited to such a pitch, as to anticipate the hour He Himself had marked out for His death. The most probable reason seems to be, that, although He had already abundantly proved His Divinity by miracles, and His own positive assertions (John 5:1-47), still, the time for openly divulging and proclaiming this was reserved for the period after His resurrection, and the descent of the Holy Ghost, when the Apostles, no longer liable to be scandalized by His Passion, would be able to preach and defend it, and the people sufficiently strengthened in faith to receive it. It may be, too, that He feared, if once the people embraced the faith in His Divinity, the shock resulting from His death would be too great for them at this early stage of their faith, and, if it ended in apostasy, it would render their return more difficult. This is borne out by His reference to His death and Passion, in the following verse. Hence, we find that the great argument in proof of His Divinity everywhere in SS. Scripture, is derived from His resurrection. The injunction given here is by no means opposed to the commission heretofore given to the Apostles to preach in Judea, as they were only to “preach penance” (Mark 6:12), and the near approach “of the kingdom of heaven;” but they were by no means commissioned at the time to preach His Divinity. And although He says (Matt 10:33), He would deny him before His Father in heaven, who would “deny Him before men,” this, however, has reference to the time after His resurrection, when His Divinity would be openly proclaimed.

No doubt, our Lord had Himself, during life, declared His own Divinity (John 5, &c.) This, however, He did more or less obscurely; and He knew when and how He Himself might do so, without interfering with the decrees of His providence, while issuing a prohibition to others on the subject.

Mat 16:21  From that time Jesus began to shew to his disciples, that he must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the ancients and scribes and chief priests, and be put to death, and the third day rise again. 

“From that time,” that is, from the time of the glorious confession of His Divinity, made by Peter, in the presence, and with the concurrence, of the other Apostles, “Jesus began to show to (St. Mark 8:31, has, ‘to teach’) His disciples … must go to Jerusalem,” as preordained by His Father, and predicted by the Prophets, “and suffer many things from (St. Mark adds, ‘and be rejected by’) the ancients,” &c.

“The ancients,” refer to the members of the Great Sanhedrim, called (Luke 22:66). πρεσβυτεριον, who enjoyed supreme authority in the Jewish Republic—“and Scribes,” under whom are also included the Pharisees—“and be put to death,” &c. Our Redeemer did not treat “openly” (Mark 8:32), in presence of His Apostles, of His Passion, before they made a public confession of His Divinity, lest they might be scandalized thereby, so as to desert Him altogether. But, after this public confession of their faith in His Divinity, no such consequences were to be apprehended. And He now forewarns them, that he freely submitted to death, for man’s redemption; thus to prepare them for it, when it should happen (John 16:1). He, probably, also had in view, by referring to His Passion, to prepare them—as may be inferred from Matt 16:24—for the sufferings in store for them, after the example of His own unjust sufferings

Mat 16:22  And Peter taking him, began to rebuke him, saying: Lord, be it far from thee, this shall not be unto thee.

The vehement ardour of Peter’s affection for his Divine Master overleaping the bounds of prudent reserve on this occasion, could not endure, that He whom he was after proclaiming to be the Son of the Living God, should submit to such ignominious treatment from the Jews. Hence, “taking Him” aside, he began to remonstrate with Him, in the warmth of his ardent affection.

“Far be it from Thee.” This expresses the precise and ordinary meaning of the idiomatic phrase (Ἵλεως σοι), “propitius tibi,” to which, St. Jerome adds, “sis,” “spare Thyself, O Lord.” Others add, “sit Deus; propitius tibi sit Deus”—May God avert such an evil, and cause matters to take a more favourable turn. The phrase is sometimes used in the Old Testament, by the Septuagint; and it has the meaning given it here by the Vulgate, “absit a te,” &c.—May God forbid.

Mat 16:23  Who turning, said to Peter: Go behind me, Satan, thou art a scandal unto me: because thou savourest not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men.

Our Lord, turning round to Peter, who was either behind Him, or by His side, when He uttered the foregoing words (St. Mark adds, 8:33, “and seeing His disciples,” in whose presence Peter spoke), “said to Peter” (St. Mark, “threatened Peter”), redargued him, in the presence of all—“Go behind Me, Satan; thou art a scandal to Me.”  St. Hilary, understanding “Satan,” of the devil, who is the chief Satan, that is to say, adversary of the human race, says, the first words, “Go behind Me,” were alone addressed to Peter, and the following words, “Satan, thou art a scandal,” &c., were addressed to the devil, who tempts us, and suggests wicked actions. But these latter words, too, are commonly referred to Peter, who had been a Satan, which means, adversary, on this occasion, however, innocently, and unintentionally, opposing the will of God. “Go behind Me,” begone from Me, thou adversary, “thou art a scandal to Me,” so far as thou art concerned, endeavouring to induce Me to commit sin, by resisting the will of God, and to forego the great work of Redemption, by avoiding suffering and death. Others understand, “Go behind Me,” thus: rather follow My counsels and instructions, than anticipate them, by gratuitously tendering advice. But the foregoing is more probable, as our Redeemer manifestly rebukes Peter. It is remarked by some expositors, that the word, “Satan,” frequently signifies (as in 2 Sam 19:22), evil counsellor; and so, perhaps, it may signify the same here, as if He said: under the appearance of attachment, thou givest Me the worst counsel. This sudden change in our Redeemer, now calling Peter, “Satan,” after the eulogium bestowed on him, should cause no surprise, as the primacy was not given, but promised to Peter at this time “I will build; I will give,” &c.

“Because thou savourest not,” &c. In these words is assigned the reason why Peter is become a scandal, or occasion of sin, however unconsciously, by placing an obstacle to the glory of God, because he was actuated by human feelings, which shrink from death and ignominy, rather than by feelings inspired by God, which would dictate to us to undergo any amount of evil, sooner than commit sin, or resist the will of God, however opposed to our own corrupt passions.

From this may be seen the obligation we are under, of trampling under foot all human feelings and natural affections, when duty to God, or a call of a higher order, demands such a sacrifice. St. Jerome observes, with reference to Peter’s primacy, as apparently affected by this rebuke, that the primacy was not yet actually conferred. Moreover, ecclesiastical preferment does not destroy the passions.

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Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 16:13-23

Ver 13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?”14. And they said, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist; some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.”15. He saith unto them, “But whom say ye that I am?”16. And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17. And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.18. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.19. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Gloss., non occ.: As soon as the Lord had taken His disciples out of the teaching of the Pharisees, He then suitably proceeds to lay deep the foundations of the Gospel doctrine; and to give this the greater solemnity, it is introduced by the name of the place, “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi.”

Chrys., Hom., liv: He adds ‘of Philip,’ to distinguish it from the other Caesarea, of Strato. And He asks this question in the former place, leading His disciples far out of the way of the Jews, that being set free from all fear, they might say freely what was in their mind.

Jerome: This Philip was the brother of Herod, the tetrarch of Ituraea, and the region of Trachonitis, who gave to the city, which is now called Panaeas, the name of Caesarea in honour of Tiberias Caesar.

Gloss., ap. Anselm: When about to confirm the disciples in the faith, He would first take away from their minds the errors and opinions of others, whence it follows, “And he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?”

Origen: Christ puts this question to His disciples, that from their answer we may learn that there were at that time among the Jews various opinions concerning Christ; and to the end that we should always investigate what opinion men may form of us; that if any ill be said of us, we may cut off the occasions of it; or if any good, we may multiply the occasions of it.

Gloss., non occ.: So by this instance of the Apostles, the followers of the Bishops are instructed, that whatever opinions they may hear out of doors concerning their Bishops, they should tell them to them.

Jerome: Beautifully is the question put, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” For they who speak of the Son of Man, are men: but they who understood His divine nature are called not men but Gods.

Chrys.: He says not, Whom do the Scribes and Pharisees say that I am? but, Whom do men say that I am? searching into the minds of the common people, which were not perverted to evil. For though their opinion concerning Christ was much below what it ought to have been, yet it was free from wilful wickedness; but the opinion of the Pharisees concerning Christ was full of much malice.

Hilary: By asking, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” He implied that something ought to be thought respecting Him beyond what appeared, for He was the Son of Man. And in thus enquiring after men’s opinion respecting Himself, we are not to think that He made confession of Himself; for that which He asked for was something concealed, to which the faith of believers ought to extend itself.

We must hold that form of confession, that we so mention the Son of God as not to forget the Son of Man, for the one without the other offers us no hope of salvation; and therefore He said emphatically, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?”

Jerome: He says not, Whom do men say that I am? but, “Whom do men say that the Son of Man is?” that He should not seem to ask ostentatiously concerning Himself. Observe, that wherever the Old Testament has ‘Son of Man,’ the phrase in the Hebrew is ‘Son of Adam.’

Origen: Then the disciples recount the divers opinions of the Jews relating to Christ; “And they said, some say John the Baptist,” following Herod’s opinion [margin note: see Mat_14:2]; “others Elias,” supposing either that Elias had gone through a second birth, or that having continued alive in the body, He had at this time appeared; “others Jeremias”, whom the Lord had ordained to be Prophet among the Gentiles, not understanding that Jeremias was a type of Christ; “or one of the Prophets,” in a like way, because of those things which God spoke to them through the Prophets, yet they were not fulfilled in them, but in Christ.

Jerome: It was as easy for the multitudes to be wrong in supposing Him to be Elias and Jeremias, as Herod in supposing Him to be John the Baptist; whence I wonder that some interpreters should have sought for the causes of these several errors.

Chrys.: The disciples having recounted the opinion of the common people, He then by a second question invites them to higher thoughts concerning Him; and therefore it follows, “Jesus saith unto them, Whom say ye that I am?” You who are with Me always, and have seen greater miracles than the multitudes, ought not to agree in the opinion of the multitudes. For this reason He did not put this question to them at the commencement of His preaching, but after He had done many signs; then also He spoke many things to them concerning His Deity

Jerome: Observe how by this connexion of the discourse the Apostles are not styled men but Gods. For when He had said, “Whom say ye that the Son of Man is?” He adds, “Whom say ye that I am?” as much as to say, They being men think of Me as man, ye who are Gods, whom do you think Me?

Raban.: He enquires the opinions of His disciples and of those without, not because He was ignorant of them; His disciples He asks, that He may reward with due reward their confession of a right faith; and the opinions of those without He enquires, that having the wrong opinions first set forth, it might be proved that the disciples had received the truth of their confession not from common opinion, but out of the hidden treasure of the Lord’s revelation.

Chrys.: When the Lord enquires concerning the opinion of the multitudes, all the disciples answer; but when all the disciples are asked, Peter as the mouth and head of the Apostles answers for all, as it follows, “Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Origen: Peter denied that Jesus was any of those things which the Jews supposed, by his confession, “Thou art the Christ,” which the Jews were ignorant of; but he added what was more, “the Son of the living God,” who had said by his Prophets, “I live, saith the Lord.” [Eze_33:11] And therefore was He called the living Lord, but in a more especial manner as being eminent above all that had life; for He alone has immortality, and is the fount of life, wherefore He is rightly called God the Father; for He is life as it were flowing out of a fountain, who said, “I am the life.” [Joh_14:6]Jerome: He calls Him “the living God,” in comparison of those gods who are esteemed gods, but are dead; such, I mean, as Saturn, Jupiter, Venus, Hercules, and the other monsters of idols.

Hilary: This is the true and unalterable faith, that from God came forth God the Son, who has eternity out of the eternity of the Father. That this God took unto Him a body and was made man is a perfect confession. Thus He embraced all in that He here expresses both His nature and His name, in which is the sum of virtues.

Raban.: And by a remarkable distinction it was that the Lord Himself puts forward the lowliness of the humanity which He had taken upon Him, while His disciple shews us the excellence of His divine eternity.

Hilary: This confession of Peter met a worthy reward, for that he had seen the Son of God in the man. Whence it follows, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonas, for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven.”

Jerome: This return Christ makes to the Apostle for the testimony which Peter had spoken concerning Him, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.” The Lord said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonas?” Why? Because flesh and blood has not revealed this unto thee, but My Father. That which flesh and blood could not reveal, was revealed by the grace of the Holy Spirit. By his confession then he obtains a title, which should signify that he had received a revelation from the Holy Spirit, whose son he shall also be called; for Barjonas in our tongue signifies The son of a dove.

Others take it in the simple sense, that Peter is the son of John [ed. note: In John 21, the Vulgate has ‘Johannis,’ but in John 1, 43, ‘Jona.’], according to that question in another place, “Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?” [Joh_21:15] affirming that it is an error of the copyists in writing here Barjonas for Barjoannas, dropping one syllable. Now Joanna is interpreted ‘The grace of God.’ But either name has its mystical interpretation; the dove signifies the Holy Spirit; and the grace of God signifies the spiritual gift.

Chrys.: It would be without meaning to say, Thou art the son of Jonas, unless he intended to shew that Christ is as naturally the Son of God, as Peter is the son of Jonas, that is, of the same substance as him that begot him.

Jerome: Compare what is here said, “flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee,” with the Apostolic declaration, “Immediately I was not content with flesh and blood,” [Gal_1:16] meaning there by this expression the Jews; so that here also the same thing is shewn in different words, that not by the teaching of the Pharisees, but by the grace of God, Christ was revealed to him the Son of God.

Hilary: Otherwise; He is blessed, because to have looked and to have seen beyond human sight is matter of praise, not beholding that which is of flesh and blood, but seeing the Son of God by the revelation of the heavenly Father; and he was held worthy to be the first to acknowledge the divinity which was in Christ.

Origen: It must be enquired in this place whether, when they were first sent out, the disciples knew that He was the Christ. For this speech shews that Peter then first confessed Him to be the Son of the living God. And look whether you can solve a question of this sort, by saying that to believe Jesus to be the Christ is less than to know Him; and so suppose that when they were sent to preach they believed that Jesus was the Christ, and afterwards as they made progress they knew Him to be so. Or must we answer thus? That then the Apostles had the beginnings of a knowledge of Christ, and knew some little concerning Him; and that they made progress afterwards in the knowledge of Him, so that they were able to receive the knowledge of Christ revealed by the Father, as Peter, who is here blessed, not only for that he says, “Thou art the Christ,” but much more for that he adds, “the Son of the living God.”

Chrys.: And truly if Peter had not confessed that Christ was in a peculiar sense born of the Father, there had been no need of revelation; nor would he have been worthy of this blessing for confessing Christ to be one of many adopted sons; for before this they who were with Him in the ship had said, “Truly thou art the Son of God.” Nathanael also said, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God.” [Joh_1:49] Yet were not these blessed because they did not confess such sonship as does Peter here, but thought Him one among many, not in the true sense a son; or, if chief above all, yet not the substance of the Father.

But see how the Father reveals the Son, and the Son the Father; from none other comes it to confess the Son than of the Feather, and from none other to confess the Father than of the Son; so that from this place even it is manifest that the Son is of the same substance, and to be worshipped together with the Father. Christ then proceeds to shew that many would hereafter believe what Peter had now confessed, whence He adds, “And I say unto thee, that thou art Peter,”

Jerome: As much as to say, You have said to me, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God,” therefore I say unto thee, not in a mere speech, and that goes not on into operation; but I say unto thee, and for Me to speak is to make it so [ed. note: See Mr. Newman’s Lectures on Justification, Lect iii, p.87], “that thou art Peter.” For as from Christ proceeded that light to the Apostles, whereby they were called the light of the world, and those other names which were imposed upon them by the Lord, so upon Simon who believed in Christ the Rock, He bestowed the name of Peter (Rock.)

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 53: But let none suppose that Peter received that name here; he received it at no other time than where John relates that it was said unto him, “Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted, Peter.” [Joh_1:42] Chrys.: And pursuing the metaphor of the rock, it is rightly said to him as follows: “And upon this rock I will build my Church.”

Chrys.: That is, On this faith and confession I will build my Church. Herein shewing that many should believe what Peter had confessed, and raising his understanding, and making him His shepherd.

Aug., Retract., i, 21: I have said in a certain place of the Apostle Peter, that it was on him, as on a rock, that the Church was built. but I know that since that I have often explained these words of the Lord, “Thou art Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church,” as meaning upon Him whom Peter had confessed in the words, “Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God;: and so that Peter, taking his name from this rock, would represent the Church, which is built upon this rock. For it is not said to him, Thou art the rock, but, “Thou art Peter.” But the rock was Christ, [1Co_10:4] whom because Simon thus confessed, as the whole Church confesses Him, he was named Peter. Let the reader choose whether of these two opinions seems to him the more probable.

Hilary: But in this bestowing of a new name is a happy foundation of the Church, and a rock worthy of that building, which should break up the laws of hell, burst the gates of Tartarus, and all the shackles of death. And to shew the firmness of this Church thus built upon a rock, He adds, “And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Gloss. interlin.: That is, shall not separate it from the love and faith of Me.

Jerome: I suppose the gates of hell to mean vice and sin, or at least the doctrines of heretics by which men are ensnared and drawn into hell.

Origen: But in heavenly things every spiritual sin is a gate of hell, to which are opposed the gates of righteousness.

Raban.: The gates of hell are the torments and promises of the persecutors. Also, the evil works of the unbelievers, and vain conversation, are gates of hell, because they shew the path of destruction.

Origen: He does not express what it is which they shall not prevail against, whether the rock on which He builds the Church, or the Church which He builds on the rock; but it is clear that neither against the rock nor against the Church will the gates of hell prevail.

Cyril [ed. note: ‘ This passage is quoted in the Catena from ‘Cyril in Lib. Thes.’ but does not occur in any of S. Cyril’s works. On the subject of this interpolation, vid. Launoy’s Epistles, part i. Ep. 1-3. and v. Ep. 9. c. 6-12. From him it appears that, besides the passage introduced into the Catena, S. Thomas ascribes similar ones to S. Cyril in his comment on the Sentences, Lib. iv. cl. 24. 3. and in his books ‘contr. impugn.reliq.’ and ‘contra errores Graee.’ He is apparently the first to cite them, and they seem to have been written later than Nicholas I. and Leo IX. (A. D. 867-1054.) He was young when he used them, and he is silent about them in his Summa, (which was the work of his last ten years,) in three or four places where the reference might have been expected.]

According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud, above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members, this reigns alone immoveably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the mouths of all heretics; and we [ed. note: The editions read here, ‘et nos necessario salutis,’ the meaning of which, says Nicolai, it is impossible to divine], not drunken with the wine of pride, confess together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition.

Jerome: Let none think that this is said of death, implying that the Apostles should not be subject to the condition of death, when we see their martyrdoms so illustrious.

Origen: Wherefore if we, by the revelation of our Father who is in heaven, shall confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, having also our conversation in heaven, to us also shall be said, “Thou art Peter;” for every one is a Rock who is an imitator of Christ. But against whomsoever the gates of hell prevail, he is neither to be called a rock upon which Christ builds His Church; neither a Church, or part of the Church, which Christ builds upon a rock.

Chrys.: Then He speaks of another honour of Peter, when He adds, “And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven;” as much as to say, As the Father hath given thee to know Me, I also will give something unto thee, namely, the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

Raban.: For as with a zeal beyond the others he had confessed the King of heaven, he is deservedly entrusted more than the others with the keys of the heavenly kingdom, that it might be clear to all, that without that confession and faith none ought to enter the kingdom of heaven. By the keys of the kingdom He means discernment [margin note: discretio] and power; power, by which he binds and looses; discernment, by which he separates the worthy from the unworthy.

It follows, “And whatsoever thou shalt bind;” that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge unworthy of forgiveness while he lives, shall be judged unworthy with God; and “whatsoever thou shalt loose,” that is, whomsoever thou shalt judge worthy to be forgiven while he lives, shall obtain forgiveness of his sins from God.

Origen: See how great power has that rock upon which the Church is built, that its sentences are to continue firm as though God gave sentence by it.

Chrys.: See how Christ leads Peter to a high understanding concerning himself.  These things that He here promises to give him, belong to God alone, namely to forgive sins, and to make the Church immoveable amidst the storms of so many persecutions and trials.

Raban.: But this power of binding and loosing, though it seems given by the Lord to Peter alone, is indeed given also to the other Apostles, [margin note: see Mat_18:18] and is even now in the Bishops and Presbyters in every Church. But Peter received in a special manner the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and a supremacy of judicial power, that all the faithful throughout the world might understand that all who in any manner separate themselves from the unity of the faith, or from communion with him, such should neither be able to be loosed from the bonds of sin, nor to enter the gate of the heavenly kingdom.

Gloss., ap. Anselm: This power was committed specially to Peter, that we might thereby be invited to unity. For He therefore appointed him the head of the Apostles, that the Church might have one principal Vicar of Christ, to whom the different members of the Church should have recourse, if ever they should have dissensions among them.

But if there were many heads in the Church, the bond of unity would be broken. Some say that the words “upon earth” denote that power was not given to men to bind and loose the dead, but the living; for he who should loose the dead would do this not upon earth, but after the earth.

Second Council of Constantinople, Concil. Con. ii. Collat. 8: How is it that some do presume to say that these things are said only of the living? Know they not that the sentence of anathema is nothing else but separation? They are to be avoided who are held of grievous faults, whether they are among the living, or not. For it is always behoveful to fly from the wicked. Moreover there are divers letters read of Augustine of religious memory, who was of great renown among the African bishops, which affirmed [margin note: see Aug. Ep. 185, 4] that heretics ought to be anathematized even after death. Such an ecclesiastical tradition other African Bishops also have preserved. And the Holy Roman Church also has anathematized some Bishops after death, although no accusation had been brought against their faith in their lifetime. [ed. note: This passage is quoted from the sentence of the Council. It alleges the authority of S. Cyril, from one of whose lost works against Theodorus the sentence beginning, “They are to be avoided, &c,” is quoted.]

Jerome: Bishops and Presbyters, not understanding this passage, assume to themselves something of the lofty pretensions of the Pharisees, and suppose that they may either condemn the innocent, or absolve the guilty; whereas what will be enquired into before the Lord will be not the sentence of the Priests, but the life of him that is being judged.

We read in Leviticus of the lepers, how they are commanded to shew themselves to the Priests; and if they have the leprosy, then they are made unclean by the Priest; not that the Priest makes them leprous and unclean, but that the Priest has knowledge of what is leprosy and what is not leprosy, and can discern who is clean, and who is unclean. In the same way then as there the Priest makes the leper unclean, here the Bishop or Presbyter binds or looses not those who are without sin, or guilt, but in discharge of his function when he has heard the varieties of their sins, he knows who is to be bound, and who loosed.

Origen: Let him then be without blame who binds or looses another, that he may be found worthy to bind or loose in heaven. Moreover, to him who shall be able by his virtues to shut the gates of hell, are given in reward the keys of the kingdom of heaven. For every kind of virtue when any has begun to practise it, as it were opens itself before Him, the Lord, namely, opening it through His grace, so that the same virtue is found to be both the gate, and the key of the gate. But it may be that each virtue is itself the kingdom of heaven.

Ver 20. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.21. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and Chief Priests and Scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

Origen: Seeing Peter had confessed Him to be Christ the Son of the living God, because He would not have them preach this in the mean time, He adds, “Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man, that he was Jesus the Christ.”

Jerome: When then above He sends His disciples to preach, and commands them to proclaim His advent, this seems contrary to His command here, that they should not say that He is Jesus the Christ. To me it seems that it is one thing to preach Christ, and another to preach Jesus the Christ. Christ is a common title of dignity, Jesus the proper name of the Saviour.

Origen: Or they then spake of Him in lowly words, as only a great and wonderful man, but as yet proclaimed Him not as the Christ. Yet if any will have it that He was even at the first proclaimed to be Christ, be may say that now He chose that first short announcement of His name to be left in silence and not repeated, that little which they had heard concerning Christ might be digested into their minds. Or the difficulty may be solved thus: that the fairer relation concerning their preaching Christ does not belong to the time before His Resurrection, but to the time that should be after the Resurrection; and that the command now given is meant for the time present; for it were of no use to preach Him, and to be silent conceiving His cross. Moreover, He commanded them that they should tell no man that He was the Christ, and prepared them that they should afterwards say that He was Christ who was crucified, and who rose again from the dead.

Jerome: But that none should suppose that this is only any explanation, and not an evangelic interpretation, what follows explains the reasons of His forbidding them to preach Him at that time; “Then began Jesus to shew unto his disciples that he must needs go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and Scribes, and Chief Priests, and be put to death, and rise again the third day.”

The meaning is; Then preach Me when I shall have suffered these things, for it will be of no avail that Christ be preached publicly, and His Majesty spread abroad among the people, when after a little time they shall see Him scourged and crucified.

Chrys.: For what having once had root has afterwards been torn up, if it is again planted, is with difficulty retained among the multitude; but what having been once rooted has continued ever after unmoved, is easily brought on to a further growth. He therefore dwells on these sorrowful things, and repeats His discourse upon them, that He may open the minds of His disciples.

Origen: And observe that it is not said, ‘He began to say,’ or ‘to teach,’ but “to shew;” for as things are said to be shewn to the sense, so the things which Christ spake are said to be shewn by Him. Nor indeed do I think, that to those who saw Him suffering many things in the flesh, were those things which they saw so shewn as this representation in words shewed to the disciples the mystery of the passion and resurrection of Christ. At that time, indeed, He only “began to shew them,” and afterwards when they were more able to receive it, He shewed them more fully; for all that Jesus began to do, that He accomplished.

He must needs go to Jerusalem, to be put to death indeed in the Jerusalem which is below, but to rise again and reign in the heavenly Jerusalem. But when Christ rose again, and others were risen with Him, they no longer sought the Jerusalem which is beneath, or the house of prayer in it, but that which is above. He suffers many things from the elders of the earthly Jerusalem, that He may be glorified by those heavenly elders who receive His mercies. He rose again from the dead on the third day, that He may deliver from the evil one, and purchase for such as are so delivered this gift, that they be baptized in spirit, soul, and body, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are three days perpetually present to those that through them have been made children of light.

Ver 22. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.”23. But he turned, and said unto Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”
Origen: While Christ was yet speaking the beginnings of the things which He was shewing unto them, Peter considered them unworthy of the Son of the living God. And forgetting that the Son of the living God does nothing, and acts in no way worthy of blame, he began to rebuke Him; and this is what is said, “And Peter took him, and began to rebuke  him.”

Jerome: We have often said that Peter had too hot a zeal, and a very great affection towards the Lord the Saviour. Therefore after that his confession, and the reward of which he had heard from the Saviour, he would not have that his confession destroyed, and thought it impossible that the Son of God could be put to death, but takes Him to him affectionately, or takes Him aside that he may not seem to be rebuking his Master in the presence of his fellow disciples, and begins to chide Him with the feeling of one that loved Him, and to contradict Him, and say, “Be it far from thee, Lord;” or as it is better in the Greek, that is, Be propitious to Thyself, Lord, this shall not be unto Thee.

Origen: As though Christ Himself had needed a propitiation. His affection Christ allows, but charges him with ignorance; as it follows, “He turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me.”

Hilary: The Lord, knowing the suggestion of the craft of the devil, says to Peter, “Get thee behind me;” that is, that he should follow the example of His passion; but to him by whom this expression was suggested, He turns and says, “Satan, thou art an offence unto me.” For we cannot suppose that the name of Satan, and the sin of being an offence, would be imputed to Peter after those so great declarations of blessedness and power that had been granted him.

Jerome: But to me this error of the Apostle, proceeding from the warmth of his affection, will never seem a suggestion of the devil. Let the thoughtful reader consider that that blessedness of power was promised to Peter in time to come, not given him at the time present; had it been conveyed to him immediately, the error of a false confession would never have found place in him.

Chrys.: For what wonder is it that this should befal Peter, who had never received a revelation concerning these things? For that you may learn that confession which he made concerning Christ was not spoken of himself, observe how in these things which had not been revealed to him, he is at a loss. Estimating the things of Christ by human and earthly principles, he judged it mean and unworthy of Him that He should suffer. Therefore the Lord added, “For thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

Jerome: As much as to say; It is of My will, and of the Father’s will, that I should die for the salvation of men; you considering only your own will would not that the grain of wheat should fall into the ground, that it may bring forth much fruit; therefore as you speak what is opposed to My will, you ought to be called My adversary. For Satan is interpreted ‘adverse’ or ‘contrary.’

Origen: Yet the words in which Peter and those in which Satan are rebuked, are not, as is commonly thought, the same; to Peter it is said, “Get thee behind me, Satan;” that is, follow me, thou that art contrary to my will; to the Devil it is said, “Go thy way, Satan,” understanding not ‘behind me,’ but ‘into everlasting fire.’

He said therefore to Peter, “Get thee behind me,” as to one who through ignorance was ceasing to walk after Christ. And He called him Satan, as one, who through ignorance had somewhat contrary to God. But he is blessed to whom Christ turns, even though He turn in order to rebuke him. But why said He to Peter, “Thou art an offence unto me, when in the Psalm it is said, Great peace have they that love thy law, and there is no offence to them?” [Psa_119:165] It must be answered, that not only is Jesus not offended, but neither is any man who is perfect in the love of God; and yet he who does or speaks any thing of the nature of an offence, may be an offence even to one who is incapable of being offended. Or he may hold every disciple that sinneth as an offence, as Paul speaks, “Who is offended, and I burn not?” [2Co_11:29]

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Father Juan de Maldonado’s Commentary on Matt 16:13-19

Mat 16:13 And Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?

All know that there were two Caesareas. One, the ancient, which was formerly called the Tower of Strato. It was enlarged by King Herod, and adorned by him with many noble works, and called Caesarea in honour of Augustus Caesar, as we learn from Josephus (Antiq., xv. 13, and De Bell. Jud., xvi.) and from S. Jerome on this passage. It was situated on the coast of the Mediterranean, between Dora and Joppa. There was another, more modern, in Phoenicia, at the foot of Mount Libanus, where the Jordan takes its rise, which had been previously called Paneas, and which Philip, the son of Herod the Great, and tetrarch of the region of Trachonitis (S. Luke 3:12), adorned and enlarged, and called Caesarea in honour of Tiberius. After wards, King Agrippa, to flatter Nero, called it Neronias, as Josephus says (Antiq., xx. 8). The assertion of S. Jerome that it was then called Paneas does not seem to have been said by a lapse of memory; but it was very likely that in his time the adulatory name of Caesarea had been lost, and the city had resumed its ancient name of Paneas. It was called Caesarea Philippi; Philip the tetrarch having so named it to distinguish it from the other Caesarea of Herod.

And He asked His disciples.  S. Mark 8:27 says that this happened on the way, and S. Luke 9:18 when He was alone praying.  Euthymius answers that He took His journey and prayed at the same time.  This hardly seems probable.  The opinion of S. Augustin (De Consens., ii. 53) seems more probable, that it happened by the way, before He reached the place to which He was going. He turned aside out of the way to some solitary spot to pray, and, when He had finished His prayer, He went on, and then asked the disciples whom men said that He was.  “As He was praying” (S. Luke 9:18) is a Hebraism for “When He had finished,” as Ps 125:1: “When the Lord brought back”; that is, “When,” or “after He had”.

Whom do men say.  Many Latin copies, and most Greek ones, have “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”  There is a three fold version. (1).  “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?”  (2) Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”  (3) “Whom do men say that I am?”  In the first, almost all the Latin copies and all authors agree.  In the second, only S. Epiphanius (In Anchoratus), Theophylact, and, as it seems, S. Hilary. In the third, only S. Chrysostom (Hom. lv.).

The first, which is the most usual one, and that in common use, seems much the best, and the conjecture that it was written at first (“Whom do men say that the Son ofman is?”) seems very excellent. Then perhaps some Greek, to show that Christ spoke of Himself, inserted “that I am,” into the margin; another may have transferred it to the text  ; and thus it may have begun to be read, “Whom do men say that I, the Son of man, am?”  And, lastly, that some transcriber, thinking that there was a redundancy, removed the words, “the Son of man,” which were obscure, and left the “Me,” “that I,” which was clearer. I know that many read it either way, and either without an interrogation, and by apposition: “I, the Son of man;” or, with an interrogation: “Whom do men say that I am? the Son of man?”   Both readings seem absurd; the second the more so of the two.  For Christ does not call Himself the Son of man honourably, but in humility; nor does He speak in the third person of any but Himself.

Observe the antithesis. Christ asks: “Whom do men say that the Son of man is?”  Peter answers: “Thou art the Son of the living God”.  Hence it seems that in the first passage we ought to read the words, “the Son of man,” for the antithesis. For Christ seems designedly, and in the most contemptuous terms, to have called Himself the Son of man, to try their faith, and to give them an opportunity of saying freely what their thoughts of Him were, even if they held Him no more than a mere man.

Men. A Hebraism, as in Matt 5:1313, which S. Luke explains. To S. Matthew’s, “Whom do men say?” S. Luke 9:18, adds, “Whom do the people say that I am?” as in explanation. S. Matthew, as we have shown, keeps the words; S. Luke the meaning and explanation.

Mat 16:14 But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

Why some said John the Baptist, some Elias, some Jeremias, vide Matt 11:4; 14:2.

Mat 16:15 Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am?

But whom do you say that I am? Here is a plain antithesis. S. Jerome thinks that Christ opposed the Apostles to men, as being something more than men.  “Observe,” he says, “that from what follows and from the text of the discourse, the Apostles are not called men, but gods.  For when Christ had said: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? He added: But whom do you say that I am?”  It may be believed that Christ did not oppose them to men as gods, but He seems to have opposed them to the vulgar, as not ordinary men, which S. Chrysostom also thinks.  “You who have been with Me always, who have seen Me do many wonderful things, who in My name have yourselves done many acts of power, whom do you say that I am?”

Mat 16:16 Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.

Simon Peter answered.  The Ancients give many reasons for Peter’s having answered before the rest.  (1) That Peter was the princeps all, as S. Chrysostom (Hom. LV.) says.  (2) Because he was of a more ardent temperament, as S. Hilary and S. Jerome on Matt 14:28 say.  (3) Because He was as the mouth of the Apostles, and was accustomed to speak for all, as S. Chrysostom (in loco) and S. Augustin say; for in S. John 6:68, when Christ asked all the disciples if they also would go away, Peter answered: “Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life.”  Whether he answered here for himself only, or for all, we will endeavour to show on verse 18.

Thou art the Son of the living God.  Peter calls Christ the Son, by nature, not by adoption.  For all confessed Him to be the Son of God by adoption, as being a just man and a prophet.  The most certain proof that Peter thought Christ the Son of the living God was his opposing Him to John, Elias, Jeremiah, and the Prophets, who, it is certain, were the sons of God by adoption.  He calls Christ, therefore, the Son of God, not by adoption, but by nature. The Ancients rightly proved the Divinity of Christ from this passage; as S. Hilary (in his Comment., and De Trin., vi.), S. Athanasius (Serm. cont. Arian. Serm. iii.), and Dionysius Alexandria (Cont. Arian).

The living.  Peter calls Him the living God to distinguish Him from idols, which are lifeless things, as S. Jerome, Bede, and Euthymius have observed. S. Basil (De Pcenit.) terms Him the Son of the Holy God. Rightly, then, Theophylact notes the addition of the Greek article to the word Son, to show, not that He was an ordinary man, but that He was the one only Son of God by nature. ( Vide Matt 10:2.).

Mat 16:17 And Jesus answering said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.

Simon Bar jona.  So called by contraction for Bar-johanna, which in the Chaldee means the son of John, as he is called (S. John 21:15). S. Luke 3:30 uses a like contraction.

Because flesh and blood.  Man, that is, consisting of flesh and blood. The Evangelist opposes men to God.  “My Father,” He says, “who is in heaven,” and as Gal 1:16; 5. John 1:13. Thus Scripture opposes men who savour of carnal things to God, or to those who savour of divine things (1 Cor 15:50).  So it is called the wisdom of the flesh (Rom 8:6, 7).

Mat 16:18 And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it

And I. A forcible antithesis; but the Greek is still more forcible: δέ κἀγώ λέγω, “and I assuredly say.”  As if Christ had said: You, who are a man, have called me the Son of the living God; but I, who am the Son of the living God, say that thou art Peter, that is, My vicar, whom thou hast confessed to be the Son of God.  For My Church which is built upon Me I will build, as upon a second foundation, upon thee also.

Thou art Peter.  Some think that he was not called Peter before, but that the name was only promised him. S. John 1:42: “Jesus, looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jonas.  Thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.”  It is more probable, as S. Augustin says (De Cons., ii.), that he was so called from the beginning of his vocation, as S. Mark 3:16 and S. Luke 6:14 show. And, therefore, when Christ said to him (S. John 1:42), ” Thou art Simon the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter,” He gave him a name;  as if He had said: Henceforth thou shalt not be called Simon, but Cephas, i.e. Peter; as God gave Abram the name of Abraham, speaking of the future (Gen 17:5).

And upon this rock I will build My Church.  Some ancient authors take this rock to mean this faith, or this confession of faith, by which Peter had called Him the son of the living God.  Such are S. Hilary (De Trin. vi.); S. Gregory of Nyssa (Cont. Jud.); S. Chrysostom (Hom. Iv. in loc., and Orat.u. adv. Jud.);  S. Cyril Alexandria (Dial. iv. de Trin) , and the author of the Commentaries on
the Epistles of S. Paul, which are ascribed to S. Ambrose (On Gal. iv.).

But the interpretation of S. Augustin (On S. John xxvii. and cxxiv. 4, and Serm. xiii. de verb. Dom. sec. S. Matt.).  “Upon this rock, that is, upon Myself,” because Christ was the Rock (1 Cor 10:4, and 3:11), is still further from the meaning. Origen takes it of all who have the same faith (Tract, in S. Matt.).

Nothing could be more alien to the meaning of Christ than to suppose Him to say that He built the Church upon Himself, or upon any other foundation than S. Peter. For (1) the demonstrative pronoun “this” is here evidently put for the relative “which.”  As if Christ had said: “Thou art a rock upon which I will build My Church,” for Petrus and Petra are the same word, only of different genders.  It may be doubted why, if not S. Matthew himself, yet the Greek translator of S. Matthew, made that distinction of word and gender. The answer is, that in the Greek Πέτρος (Petros) and πέτρα (petra) are masculine and feminine.  Peter, because he was a man, could not be spoken of by the word Petra, but must be described by his own proper masculine name Petrus. (2) When Christ spoke of the foundation of the building, He called him not Petrus but Petra, though both words meant the same thing.  And in buildings of this kind, the feminine form of the word is more used than the masculine the masculine being Attic and rare. Besides, who doubts that by these words Christ meant to bestow some great and singular gift upon Peter as a reward of his confession of faith, or wished to promise such? But what would Christ have given to him if He had only given him the name of Peter?  Nay, He would not have given him the name, for, as has been shown, he was already called Peter; but by the words, “upon this rock,” He signified that He would bestow upon him the great and singular dignity of founding upon him His Church; that is, of making him the head of the Church, and His own vicar in it.  From the words that follow: “And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” it is clear that the words in question apply to Peter, for it is absurd that a change either of things or persons could be made by so few words. As, then, Christ said, “I will give unto thee the keys,” so He said, “Upon this rock,” that is, upon thee, “I will build My Church”.

He gave him the same thing in different words, and by different metaphors, that he should be His vicar in the Church.  This dignity (prior to that of the foundation), when He said, “Upon this rock I will build My Church,” He afterwards confirmed by the metaphor of chief or head of the Church, when He gave him the keys like those of a city: Christ Himself being both head and foundation of the Church; by which two names and metaphors, not two, but one and the same thing is signified.

It may be asked why Christ did not directly, and in one word, say: “Upon thee will I build My Church?”  The obvious reply is, that the grace and force of His words would in that case have been lost These consisted in Christ s using terms applicable to a building when speaking of the Church as a building; but it would not have been consistent to say, “Upon thee,” for buildings are not founded upon men, but upon rocks, as S. Jerome says.  Besides, if the meaning were “upon this rock,” that is, upon this faith, or upon Myself, it would be very greatly in favour of the opponent who thinks that Peter spoke not for himself alone, but for all the Apostles; which, it must be confessed, some of the ancient Fathers thought as well (S. Chrysostom, S. Jerome, in loc.; S. Augustin, Serm. xiii. de verb. Dom. ap. S. Matt.), who shall shortly be commented on with due respect.  We have now to refute the errors of the followers of Calvin.  If Peter spoke for all, why did not Christ say to all, “Blessed are ye?”   Why were not the names of all changed? Why was it not said to all, “To you I give the keys?”  Again, when Christ asked all, why did not all reply? Especially when a little before, when He asked whom men said that He was, not only Peter, but all, or as many as would, answered: “Some say John the Baptist, others Elias, others Jeremias, or one of the Prophets”.  All other authors, then, have seen more correctly that Peter answered for himself alone.  Not that the others did not believe the same thing, and would have said it, had not Peter anticipated them; but that Peter, with a great faith, was the first to break out with a confession.  These authors meant this alone, when they said that he answered for all, and called him the mouth of the Apostles. It is consonant with this, that as Christ chose the twelve Apostles, after the form of the twelve Patriarchs, so He should choose one like Abraham, who, because of his great faith, was the head of all; and that as Abraham was the foundation of the Old Testament so Peter should be of the Church of the Gospel.  For all things are equal in both.  Abraham excelled in faith, so did Peter. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, as he was to be the father of many nations (Gen. xvii. 5); and so Peter’s, who was to be the father and head of all Christians.  For the one sole reason given by the heretics for denying that the Church was founded upon Peter, that it could have no other foundation but that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus (1 Cor 3:11), is altogether false.  For S. Paul (Eph 2:20) calls the Apostles and Prophets the foundation of the Church.  The heretics interpretation of this, as meaning the faith and doctrine, is wholly perverse.  For the Apostle adds: “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone”.  In these words, he signifies that in the Church, as in the foundations of other buildings, there are many stones, the first and chief corner-stone being Christ, into whom all others are united; the second ones being the Apostles and Prophets, who are themselves built upon the first, but who were the foundation of other Christians; as S. John says in the Revelation 21:14, in plain words, which have not yet met with any heretical explanation.

Why, then, did S. Paul not say that we are built upon Christ rather than upon the Apostles and Prophets? The answer is easy.  We are placed further from Christ in the building of the Church than from the Apostles and Prophets.  For Christ is in the first place.  He is the first and corner-stone.  Upon Christ are the Apostles and Prophets.  Upon the Apostles and Prophets are built ourselves.

Lastly, except these heretics, all ancient authors teach that the Church was built upon Peter.  So, then, S. Clement Rome (Ep. to James), Hippolytus (De Consum. Mundi), Dionysius (Ep. to Tim.), Tertullian (De Prcescript. and De Pudicitia), S. Cyprian (Eps. to Jubaian. and Cornell), Origen (Horn. v. on Exod.), S. Epiphanius (Anchorat.), S. Gregory Nazianzen (Orat. de Moderat.), S. Basil (Hom, de Paenit., and ii., Against Eunom.), S. Ambrose (Serm. xlvii. de Fide Petri, and Ixviii. de Nat. Pet. et Paul.), and the Hymn of the Church, which is said by S. Augustin to be the composition of S. Ambrose:

“Hoc, ipsa petra Ecclesias
Canente, culpam diluit”
“And singing this the Church’s rock itself,
His fault condoned”.

So, S. Jerome (Ep. to Marcella against Montanus, and bk. 1, Adv.Jovin the author of the Commentaries on the Epistles of S. Paul which are commonly ascribed to S. Ambrose (On Gal. ii.), Leo (Serm. ii. de Pet. et Paulo, Ep. to Pp. Vienna and Ep. to Geminian),the whole Council of Chalcedon, Juvencus (Psellus ap. T/ieod., and iii., In Cant.), and lastly, those authors who are thought to have held the contrary.  For S. Hilary (De Trin., vi.), when he said that Christ founded the Church upon the faith of Peter, uses these words: “After his confession of this mystery, the blessed Simon, laying it as the foundation in the edification of the Church, and receiving the keys.”  And (On Ps. cxxxi.): ” So great was Christ’s zeal of suffering for the salvation of the human race, that He named Peter, with the railing of Satan.”  (Satanae convicio), “the first confessor of God, the foundation of the Church, the door-keeper of the kingdom of heaven, and in earthly judgment the judge of heaven.”  “O thou, happy in the naming of thy new name, blessed foundation of the Church, and rock worthy of that edification which shall destroy the laws of hell, the gates of Tartarus, and all the bars of death” (Can. xvi. on S. Matt.). And S. Chrysostom (Hom. ii. on Ps. 1.): “Hear what Christ said to Peter, the column and foundation of the faith, who, for the strength of his confession, was called Peter: Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build My Church”. S. Cyril (ii., On S. John xii.): “Thou art Simon, the son of Jona; thou shalt be called Cephas” rightly showing, by the name itself, that on him, as on a rock and most firm stone, He would build His Church.” And S. Augustin (Serm. xlix. in verb. Dom. sec. Joann: “He said to Peter, on whom He establishes His Church, Peter, lovest thou Me?” And (lib. i. 21 of Retract.) the opinion of those who should say that the Church was built upon Peter he does not disapprove.

From this it appears that those authors who explain the words “upon this rock” by “this faith” received it in a different sense to these heretics.  It would seem the best explanation to say that they meant that the Church was built upon the faith and confession of Peter; that is, upon Peter because of his faith and confession, as all other authors say.

We use such expressions daily, as when we say that the kingdom was built upon the faith of one man; that is, on one man because of his faith, as S. Ambrose (De Resurrect. Fide) said: ” It was not the body of Peter that walked upon the waters, but his faith; for it was not his body, but his faith that made him do it”.  It is clear from these words that they do not deny, as the heretics do, that S. Peter is the foundation of the Church.

It may be said : If all others, not only Apostles, but also Prophets, as S. Paul says, are the foundation of the Church, what in particular is given to S. Peter in those words? The answer is, that among all the Prophets and Apostles, he, after Christ, was the first foundation of the Church, and fills Christ s place in His absence.  But when others are a foundation also, nothing less could be given to him than that he should be the second foundation-stone after Christ, and in the same way in which Christ is such; that is, that not only one part, but the whole Church, should rest on him (niteretur). There is this difference, that Christ is the foundation by His own power, Peter by Christ’s; and Christ rests on no other foundation, but Peter rests on another, that is, Christ.

My Church.  Christ calls the Church His, to show that He was God and the Lord of the Church, as Theophylact has rightly shown.

And the gates of hell.  That by the gates of hell all the powers of the devil is meant is beyond question ; but it is doubtful why, by the word “gates,” powers is signified, and why Christ did not call it by its proper name of power, but by a metaphorical one of the gates. The reason may be easily conjectured.  Christ speaks of the Church as if it were some city.  The gates were the strongly fortified parts of the city (as in Ps 147:13) ; and because cities were most commonly taken through the gates, as Gen 22:17, 24:60: “Thy seed shall possess the gates of thine enemies;” that is shall possess the cities of their enemies; and Judges 5:8; 1 Kings 8:37.

For this reason, therefore, the power of the devil is not called the power, but the gates of hell.  But why is it called hell, and not the devil, who is the enemy of the Church, as Moses said? (Gen 22:17).  This also is easy. Because, as Christ speaks of the Church, He speaks of hell, where the devil rules, as if of some city, as Ps 107:16: “Because he hath broken gates of brass, and burst iron bars”.  For these are two cities: one of God, the other of the devil, of which S. Augustin wrote his books.

Shall not prevail.  Shall not overcome, or have the mastery.  The meaning of these words does not appear to be that which most authors, except S. Hilary, seem to suppose.  For they think that the meaning is, that the power of the devil may try The Church, but will never be able to overcome it, never to oppress it.  This meaning, though true, is poor, and does not fill up the place and words of Christ.  Christ seems to have intended something better. For gates do not over come, but resist; so that it is not the power of offending, but of defending, that must be meant by the gates.  The meaning, then, seems to be that there will be a time when the Church, founded by Christ upon a rock, shall so take by storm all the power of the devil that he will be able by no power and no arts to resist. The Hebrew is “will not be able to resist it”. It is clear that S. Hilary is of this opinion. The Church, he says, shall break to pieces all the laws and gates of hell, and all the bonds of death.  By the gates of hell, that is, the power of the devil, some of the Ancients understand heresies; as S. Epiphanius (In Anckorat.).  Others, vices, as S. Ambrose (De Bon. Mortis., chap, xii., and Comments, on S. Luke, ix.).  Others both, as Origen (Tract. 1. on S. Matt.), S. Jerome, and Bede. Others, the blasphemies of heretics and their persecution of the Church, as Euthymius.  Others, all persecutors of the Church, as Theophylact.  It is better not to narrow the meaning, but to understand generally all the power of the devil.

Against it.  Origen (Tract. i. on S. Matt.) and S. Chrysostom (Hom. Lv.) think that the relative is to be referred either to the rock or to the Church. Doubtless to the latter, which the ancient authors think more probable, and the rest think true; although Christ said that the gates of hell should not prevail against the Church, because it was founded upon a rock (as above, Matt 7:24, 25); except that there it is said that that house resisted the rains and waves and winds, and here that the Church shall not only resist hell, but shall take it by storm, because it is founded upon a strong rock.  For the Church and hell are spoken of, as we have said, as like two cities or strong citadels, near to and at war with one another; of which the one that hath the better foundation, and is the most strongly fortified, shall take the other.

Mat 16:19 And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.

And I will give to thee the keys. The power of opening and shutting the kingdom of heaven is called the keys by metaphor (Luke 9:52). The same power is immediately expressed by the other metaphor of binding and loosing.

The question is, in what this power consists? The followers of Luther and Calvin say that it means (merely) the teaching that their sins have already been forgiven, or that they will be if we believe the Gospel. But if so, Christ, in giving Peter the keys, gives him nothing more than that which the Scribes and Pharisees had before (Matt 23:2, and Luke 9:52): “Woe to you lawyers, for you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves have not entered in, and those that were entering in you have hindered”. It has been proved, however, that Christ not only gave more to Peter than to the Scribes and Pharisees, but more even than to the other Apostles. Something, then, is meant by the power of the keys more than the power of teaching. Besides, Christ gave this power not only to the twelve Apostles, but also to the seventy-two disciples (Luke 10:1). But the keys and the power of binding and loosing He gave to the Apostles alone. Thus, the power of binding and loosing and the power of teaching are not one and the same power. Besides, Christ had already given the power of teaching to the Apostles (Matt 10:7);but that of the keys He had not given.

It has been shown that the Apostles had had given to them a general power of teaching; but the use of it was restricted for a time, that they should not go among theGentiles, because it was not fitting that the Gospel should be preached to the Gentiles before it had been preached to the Jews. Supposing a special power only to have been given to them, what would it have to do with the present question? Certainly, if to teach and to remit sins be one and the same thing, wherever they could teach they could also forgive sins. But we see that the power of teaching had been given them, but the power of the remission of sins had not been given. Therefore they are not the same power.

We see, also, that in this place where the keys are given, and with them the power of binding and loosing, no mention is made of teaching. On the other hand (Matt 28:19, and Mark 16:15), where the Apostles are commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, no mention is made of the keys, or of binding and loosing. For, from the words of S. John 20:22, 23, we learn that Christ, when He sent the Apostles, said: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins ye retain, they are retained.” Though it was said to be about the same time, it was not said to have been actually the same. Besides, as in many other instances, S. John relates this as having been passed over by the other Evangelists.

It is not the least argument that the power of remitting sins was given to the Apostles with a different ceremony to that of teaching. For, when He gave the former, He is said to have breathed upon the Apostles, and said,  “Receive ye the Holy Ghost”. But when He gave the latter, He is not said to have either breathed upon them nor given them the Holy Spirit. The power of teaching, then, was different to that of remitting sins. Add to this, that if men only remit sins in this manner by teaching, whoever teaches another, even if the teacher be a woman, will remit sins, which is both unheard of and most senseless.

Again, if to teach is to loosen, that is, to remit sins, not to teach is to bind, that is, to retain them. So that everyone who does not teach has the power of binding, that is, of retaining sins. Again, if to teach is to loosen, and not to teach is to bind, Christ had not given the Apostles power to bind when He commanded them to teach all nations; that is (if their opinion be true), to loosen all, and to bind none. To what end was this power of binding, if no one were to be bound? It follows, from their own opinion, that the saying of Christ was false. For if to teach is to loosen, it is not the case that whatever the Apostles loosed upon earth would be loosed in heaven; for how many have been taught well whose sins, for their unbelief, have not been loosed in heaven! Nay, how many who have believed and been well taught, and have believed rightly, will be lost!

Finally, those whom we read of as having been bound in Scripture, were not bound either by teaching or not teaching. S. Paul bound the Corinthian (1 Cor 5:5). He bound those heretics (1 Tim 1:20), not by teaching, but by delivering them to Satan, when he had taught them well before; as now the Catholic Church binds the heretics with whom we are now at issue by excommunicating them, that is, by delivering them over to Satan.

So far one of these heretics on this passage has been answered. The second is their denial that anything was given to S. Peter by these words, which was not given equally to all the other Apostles.

This has to be answered, not by disputing the words, “Upon this rock,” of which enough has been said, and proof shown that it was given to Peter alone, that the Church should be built upon him. We are now to treat of the words: “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven”.

By these words, I maintain, against the opinion of the followers of Calvin, and even of some Catholics, that the primacy of the Church was given to Peter; not that these Catholics deny it, but because they think it not to have been given him but in the preceding words, “Upon this rock I will build My Church”; and that the keys were not given to S. Peter alone, but to all the Apostles collectively. It appears that in both forms of words the primacy of the Catholic Church was given to Peter.

The words mean this. For the keys of a house or city are given into the keeping of the chief of the house or city. Therefore, the primacy is signified in Scripture by the keys, as in Isaiah 22:22: “I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder”; that is, I will give to him the supreme power in the kingdom of heaven. The words, “Upon his shoulder,” when keys are not laid upon the shoulder but carried in the girdle, are used, as is frequently the case in Scripture, by a confusion of two metaphors, signifying one and the same thing; one of the keys, the other of the sceptre; each of which terms expresses the supreme power; and because the sceptre is laid upon the shoulder, He says that He would place the keys of the house of David on his shoulder, as in Isaiah 9:6; ” And the government is upon his shoulder”. In the same sense Christ says (Rev 1:18) that He has the keys of death and hell; that is, that He is the Lord of life and death; and (Rev 3:7) that He has the keys of David: “He that hath the key of David; He that openeth and no man shutteth, shutteth and no man openeth”. In this sense, then, the keys were given to Peter; that is, the supreme power in the Church, that he might shut and no man open, and that he might open and no man shut; that is, that no man should loose what he has bound, and no man bind what he has loosed. Hence, the power of the Roman Pontiff is most effectually proved ad reservatos casus; and hence it is concluded that to Peter alone it was said in this place: “I will give to thee the keys of heaven and hell”; and so said as if they were not to be given to any other, because he alone answered: “Thou art Christ the Son of the living God”; as it was said to him alone; ” On this rock I will build My Church”. For by both metaphors, one of the foundation, and the other of the keys, one and the same primacy is signified, and the explanation of one is that of the other.

2. It cannot be denied that the other Apostles had also their own keys; that is, the power of binding and loosing; as all ancient authors teach, saying that the keys were given to all; but I deny that they had the keys which are now in question, and that those which all Catholics call keys, and rightly so, but in a different sense, are ever called keys in Scripture. It is a most unanswerable proof of the truth of this, that when Christ gave the other Apostles (Matt 18:18; John 20:23) the power of binding and loosing, He made no mention of the keys. Peter alone, therefore, had those keys by which he so opened that no one could shut, and so shut that no one could open. So, in a house, all or many have their own keys, but the master alone has all the keys, and the secret ones, by which, when he wills, he can so shut that no one can open, and so open that no one can shut.

3. The third error of the followers of Calvin is that the power which was given to S. Peter was not given also to his successors; and therefore, even if it be granted that Peter had the primacy of the Church, it does not follow that his successors had the same, but that this power was given (to use his own words) to Peter personally. Tertullian (De Pudicitia) seems to say the same, but he spoke not as a Catholic, but as a heretic, when he deserted the camp of the Church to join that of Montanus. S. Jerome (Lit. de Script. Eccl.) says that that work of Tertullian was written against the Church.

We have shown that the keys and the rock upon which Christ built the Church mean the same thing. Who is so senseless as to believe that Christ built an immortal Church upon a mortal man, after whose death the Church must necessarily fall into ruins? Not upon Peter alone, then, but upon him and his successors was the Church founded; and as these will never fail, the Church will remain for ever. The same must be said of the keys which, as we have said, mean the same thing. How, too, did Christ give this power to Peter alone and to his successors? For He instituted His Church; He instituted her officers; and that not to the honour of persons, but to the good of the Church. These were to endure as long as the Church herself, especially that which, as it is the greatest of all, so it was the most necessary of all: the head of the Church, who was also to be its foundation. Therefore, as the other and lesser offices were not to be transferred to later ages, it was yet necessary that this should be so, as all ancient writers teach.

4. The fourth error of these men is the denial that the Roman Pontiff is the successor of Peter. They say that Peter was either never at Rome at all, or if he were, it cannot be shown that whoever was the Roman Pontiff then was his immediate successor. This error shall be confuted elsewhere. Here we simply bid the assertors fight against the whole world. For there never was any before them, Catholic or heretic, who did not affirm (1) That Peter died at Rome; (2) That the Roman Pontiffs were his successors. As the Wise Man says therefore (Wisdom 5:21): “The whole world shall fight with him against the unwise”.

And whatsoever thou shalt bind. This is a metaphorical saying, by which the same thing is signified as was contained in the two former verses, that Peter had the supreme power of remitting or retaining sins; but I do not consider that it was said to Peter in the same sense as that in which it was said to the other Apostles, though all authors apparently, except Origen, take it so; but in the sense in which the Church was built upon Peter alone, and in which to him alone were given the keys, so to bind as no one should be able to loose, and in so to loose as no one should be able to bind. This is to be proved by the same arguments as we have used already to prove his primacy.

It is asked in what the power of binding and loosing consists? S. Thomas, in his Commentaries, has noticed three errors on the subject to be marked and avoided.

1. That of those who appear arrogantly to think that the priesthood can arbitrarily bind or loose whomsoever they please; and that every act of theirs, whether right or wrong, will be ratified in heaven. And if we look at the mere words, they do seem to bear this meaning. For “Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven”.  But it is not so. For Christ only intended to give to Peter first, and then to the other Apostles, to perform His offices as if He were on earth: binding those that were to be bound, and loosing those who were to be loosed; with this sole exception, that Christ would bind or loose in His own power, the Apostles in another s, that is, Christ’s. From the fact, then, that He gave over to them His own functions, we understand that they should bind and loose, not according to their own judgment, but according to His ; so that, as S. Cyprian rightly says: “Let no one prejudge Christ the Judge”. This is what theologians and Doctors of the Church call “Clave non errante“.

2. The second error is, that to bind or to loose is nothing else than the declaration that men are already bound or loosed by God, as, in the Old Testament, the priest neither made nor healed the leper, but merely declared that he was actually a leper, or was truly healed of his leprosy.  This error is confuted by the passage before us. For, if this were so, and the priest could only loose and bind in this manner, Christ would not have said, “Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven,” but, “What is bound in heaven you shall bind on earth”. But, as He says, on the contrary, “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth it shall be bound also in heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on earth it shall be loosed also in heaven,” He signifies most clearly that it shall be loosed by the Apostles on earth before it is loosed by God in heaven. This was a gift befitting the Apostles, as representing the Person of Christ, that, as when Christ Himself was on earth, whatever He loosed on earth was loosed by the Father in heaven, so, when He had returned to heaven, whatever the Apostles loosed on earth should be loosed by Him also in heaven. I do not think that the opinion of S. Jerome was at all different, nor that he would have countenanced the above error, but that he only desired to confute the former one.

3. The third error is that, “as in sin there are two things the fault, and the penalty of eternal punishment and a man is absolved from both by contrition, the eternal punishment being commuted into a temporal one, the priest can do no more by his absolution than diminish some part of the temporal penalty”. This is easily answered, for Christ said (John 20:23): “Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained”. The priest, then, remits not only the penalty but the fault. Nor ought it to appear more wonderful, the priest doing this by the sacrament of penitence than by that of baptism, as S. Ambrose says against the Novatians (lib. i. 2, De Pænit). It may be objected that, as the priest, when he binds, does not make men sinners, but only declares them to be such, so, when he absolves, he does not make men righteous, but only declares that they are so, and absolved from their sins. The answer may be that this is not a sequitur. For the power of binding and loosing was given to the Apostles, not for the righteous, but for sinners. For those who are righteous, that is, who are loosed, God will not have bound. But those who are sinners, that is, who are bound, He desires to have loosed, if they are worthy, and to be bound, if they are unworthy. Besides, the priest is not able to bind and to loose in the same way. He cannot bind in the same manner as that in which he looses. He looses by truly loosing; he binds by not loosing, that is, not by causing, but as S. John says, by retaining sins.

On earth. Some conclude from this that the power of the Church of binding and loosing does not apply to the dead, because they are not upon earth, that is, under the jurisdiction of the Church. So says Strabo, the author of what is termed the ordinary gloss. Whether this be so or not, it can only be said at present that this conclusion does not follow from the words in question, for the words “on earth” are to be referred, not to those who are bound or loosed, but to those who bind or loose ; as if Christ had said, “What ever you who are living on earth shall bind or loose shall be bound or loosed by God, who dwells in heaven,” or, more briefly, “Whatever is loosed or bound by you men shall be loosed or bound by God”. For men are signified by “earth,” and God by “heaven”. It is an elegant antithesis by which, from the great distance between heaven and earth, the power given to the Apostles is commended. As if a prince should say to some dependant: “Whatever you do, even in the Indies, I shall value very highly,” to show how thoroughly he confided in him, and how ample power he gave to him. For we are less used to ratify what is done in our absence, in our name, by someone else, than if we were present or at hand. Servants, the longer their master is away, are the more apt to take greater licence, as the parable shows (Matt 24:48, 49).

Two premisses ought to be fixed and certain:

1. That the Church has the power of excommunicating even the dead that is, of depriving them of the prayers of the Church, which seems to have been always practised by SS. Cyprian and Augustin; and,

2. That the Church has the power of freeing those who are in purgatory by her prayers.

This passage is also one from which the practice of ecclesiastical confession is most clearly proved. For this power which was given to the Apostles could not have been exercised without their knowledge of the sinners, nor could the sins, which are for the most part secret, be known without the explicit confession of the sinner. Thus all the ancient Fathers have based on this passage the practice of penance; e.g., S. Cyprian (Serm. on “Lapsed”), S. Athanasius (Hom, on the words, “Go into the village”), S. Basil (Ep. to Amphilock.). We may add that Christ, in these words, not only gave the Apostles the power of absolving, but He laid upon all Christians the obligation of confession.

The meaning, then, will be not only that whatever the Apostles loosed on earth, He Himself would loose in heaven: but also that He would neither loose nor bind anything in heaven, except what His Apostles or their successors had loosed or bound on earth. For He bestowed on them His own power to govern the Church for Him. So that He would have everyone who needed forgiveness come to the Apostles or their successors as if to Him, if He were on earth, and seek from them absolution when they had made their confession, as, if He were living on earth, He would absolve no one from his sins unless he had first made confession of them.

But He as God could do so without that sacrament, the Apostles as men could only do so through the sacrament; as if that were the hand of Christ; that is, as if a king when sending some minister to a distant province to govern for him, should say: “Whatever you do I approve,” and he should give orders to the people to refer any question or difference to his substitute as to himself, and plead all causes before him; not that he deprived himself of his power, so that he could not judge a cause if he pleased, but that, by the transference of all ordinary power to his substitute, he reserved the extraordinary to himself. This is to be understood of Christ and the Apostles. The ordinary remedies instituted in the Church for the remission of sins are the sacraments, without which men cannot remit them. Christ is able to do this, but He does it extraordinarily, and very much more rarely than through the sacraments. For He would not have men trust to extra ordinary means, which are both rare and uncertain, for the remission of sins ; but He would have them seek the ordinary, and, so to say, the visible aids of the sacraments. And He has, therefore, given the precept, as of baptism and the Eucharist, so of confession and penance.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on Romans 11:33-36

Rom 11:33. “Oh, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments!”

Here after going back to former times, and looking back to God’s original dispensation of things whereby the world hath existed up to the present time, and having considered what special provision He had made for all occurrences, he is stricken with awe, and cries aloud, so making his hearers feel confident that certainly that will come to pass which he saith. For he would not have cried aloud and been awe-struck, unless this was quite sure to come to pass. That it is a depth then, he knows: but how great, he knows not. For the language is that of a person wondering, not of one that knew the whole. But admiring and being awe-struck at the goodliness, so far forth as in him lay, he heralds it forth by two intensitive words, riches and depth, and then is awestruck at His having had both the will and the power to do all this, and by opposites effecting opposites. “How unsearchable are His judgments.” For they are not only impossible to be comprehended, but even to be searched. “And His ways past finding out;” that is, His dispensations for these also are not only impossible to be known, but even to be sought into. For even I, he means, have not found out the whole, but a little part, not all. For He alone knoweth His own clearly. Wherefore he proceeds:

Rom 11:34-35. “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?”

What he means is nearly this: that though He is so wise, yet He has not His Wisdom from any other, but is Himself the Fountain of good things. And though He hath done so great things, and made us so great presents, yet it was not by borrowing from any other that He gave them, but by making them spring forth from Himself; nor as owing any a return for having received from him, but as always being Himself the first to do the benefits; for this is a chief mark of riches, to overflow abundantly, and yet need no aid. Wherefore he proceeds to say, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.” Himself devised, Himself created, Himself worketh together (Vulg). sugkratei, mss. sugkrotei ). For He is rich, and needeth not to receive from another. And wise, and needeth no counsellor. Why speak I of a counsellor? To know the things of Him is no one able, save Himself alone, the Rich and Wise One. For it is proof of much riches that He should make them of the Gentiles thus well supplied; and of much wisdom that He should constitute the inferiors of the Jews their teachers. Then as he was awe-struck he offers up thanksgiving also in the word, “To Whom be glory forever. Amen.

For when he tells of any great and unutterable thing of this kind, he ends in wonder with a doxology. And this he does in regard to the Son also. For in that passage also he went on to the very same thing that he does here. “Of whom is Christ according to the flesh, Who is over all God blessed forever. Amen. (Rom 9:5).

Him then let us also imitate, and let us glorify God in all things, by a heedful way of life, and let us not feel confidence in the virtues of our ancestry, knowing the example that has been made of the Jews. For this is not, certainly it is not, the relationship of Christians, for theirs is the kinsmanship of the Spirit. So the Scythian becometh Abraham’s son: and his son on the other hand more of an alien to him than the Scythian. Let us not then feel confidence in the well-doings of our fathers (most mss. “of others”), but if you have a parent who is a marvel even, fancy not that this will be enough to save you, or to get you honor and glory, unless you have the relationship of character to him. So too if you have a bad one, do not think that you will be condemned on this account, or be put to shame if at least you order your own doings aright. For what can be less honorable than the Gentiles? still in faith they soon became related to the Saints. Or what more nearly connected than the Jews? Yet still by unbelief they were made aliens. For that relationship is of nature and necessity, after which we are all relations. For of Adam we all sprung, and none can be more a relation than another, both as regards Adam and as regards Noah, and as regards the earth, the common mother of all. But the relationship worthy of honors, is that which does distinguish us from the wicked. For it is not possible for all to be relations in this way, but those of the same character only. Nor do we call them brothers who come of the same labor with ourselves, but those who display the same zeal. In this way Christ giveth men the name of children of God, and so on the other hand children of the devil, and so too children of disobedience, of hell, and of perdition likewise. So Timothy was Paul’s son from goodness and was called “mine own son” (1 Tim 1:2): but of his sister’s son we do not know even the name. And yet the one was by nature related to him, and still that availed him not. But the other being both by nature and country far removed from him (as being a native of Lystra), still became most nearly related. Let us then also become the sons of the Saints, or rather let us become even God’s sons. For that it is possible to become sons of God, hear what he says, “Be ye therefore perfect, as your father which is in Heaven.” (Mt 5:48). This is why we call Him Father in prayer, and that not only to remind ourselves of the grace, but also of virtue, that we may not do aught unworthy of such a relationship. And how it may be said is it possible to be a son of God? by being free from all passions, and showing gentleness to them that affront and wrong us. For thy Father is so to them that blaspheme Him. Wherefore, though He says various things at various times, yet in no case does He say that ye may be like your Father, but when He says, “Pray for them that despitefully use you, do good to them that hate you” (Mt 5:44), then He brings in this as the reward. For there is nothing that brings us so near to God, and makes us so like Him, as this well-doing. Therefore Paul also, when he says, “Be ye followers of God” (Eph 5:1), means them to be so in this respect. For we have need of all good deeds, chiefly however of love to man and gentleness, since we need so much of His love to man ourselves. For we commit many transgressions every day. Wherefore also we have need to show much mercy. But much and little is not measured by the quantity of things given, but by the amount of the givers’ means. Let not then the rich be high-minded, nor the poor dejected as giving so little, for the latter often gives more than the former. We must not then make ourselves miserable because we are poor, since it makes alms-giving the easier for us. For he that has got much together is seized with haughtiness, as well as a greater affection to that (or “lust beyond that”) he has. But he that hath but a little is quit of either of these domineering passions: hence he finds more occasions for doing well. For this man will go cheerfully into a prison-house, and will visit the sick, and will give a cup of cold water. But the other will not take upon him any office of this sort, as pampered up (flegmainwn, by his riches. Be not then out of heart at thy poverty. For thy poverty makes thy traffic for heaven the easier to thee. And if thou have nothing, but have a compassionating soul, even this will be laid up as a reward for thee. Hence too Paul bade us “weep with them that weep” (Rom 12:15), and exhorted us to be to prisoners as though bound with them. (Heb 13:3).  For it is not to them that weep only that it yieldeth some solace that there be many that compassionate them, but to them who are in other afflicting circumstances. For there are cases where conversation has as muchpower to recover him that is cast down as money. For this then God exhorts us to give money to them that ask, not merely with a view to relieve their poverty, but that He may teach us to compassionate the misfortunes of our neighbors. For this also the covetous man is odious, in that he not only disregards men in a beggared state, but because he gets himself trained for cruelty and great inhumanity. And so he that, for their sakes, thinks little of money, is even on this account an object of love, that he is merciful and kind to man. And Christ, when He blesseth the merciful, blesseth and praiseth not those only that give the alms of money, but those also who have the will to do so. Let us then be so inclinable to mercy, and all other blessings will follow, for he that hath a spirit of love and mercy, if he have money, will give it away, or if he see any in distress, will weep and bewail it; if he fall in with a person wronged, will stand up for him; if he sees one spitefully entreated, will reach out his hand to him. For as he has that treasure-house of blessings, a loving and merciful soul, he will make it a fountain for all his brethren’s needs, and will enjoy all he rewards that are laid up with God. That we then may attain to these, let us of all things frame our souls accordingly. For so, while in this world, we shall do good deeds without number, and shall enjoy the crowns to come. To which may we all attain by the grace and love toward man, etc).

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Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 11:33-36

A HYMN OF PRAISE TO THE INFINITE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

A Summary of Romans 11:33-36~These verses conclude the Dogmatic Part of the Epistle, but they are suited in a special manner to terminate chapters 9-11. In these chapters something has been said of the purposes and ways of God in dealing with humanity. Enough has been shown to confirm our faith and hope in God, the veil has been drawn aside sufficiently to give us dim glimpses of the great realities that lie behind; but with and around it all, as the Apostle now says, deep clouds of mystery hang: the infinite knowledge and wisdom of God, His inscrutable judgments and far-off deep counsels are not only but faintly reached, but are of their very nature so far beyond our utmost human capacities of comprehension that we can only bow our heads in faith and humble obedience, ever trusting, in the dire problems and experiences of life, to God’s infinite goodness, wisdom and mercy for the solution of all our difficulties.

33. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How  incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways

O the depth. All the Greek MSS. and the Fathers read: “O depth of riches and of wisdom and of knowledge of God.” “Depth” may signify height, as well as profundity; here it means the immensity of God’s riches, wisdom, etc.

Riches represents the treasures of God’s goodness and mercy (Rom 10:12; Eph 3:8, etc.).

Wisdom indicates the divine prudence with which God governs all creatures and leads them to their ends which have been ordained from all eternity.

Knowledge means the science with which God penetrates all things, knowing and choosing the means most fitted to their ends. The end here in question is the salvation of souls, to which God has ordered faith in Christ as a means.

How incomprehensible, etc. The reasons which underlie God’s judgments in showing mercy to some rather than to others are altogether inscrutable to the mind of man.

How unsearchable, etc. The ways which God takes and the means He employs in executing the decrees of His infinite knowledge are beyond the power of any creature to trace.

In the Vulgate et should precede sapientiae.

34. For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?
35. Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?

St. Paul confirms the profundity of God’s divine attributes by three citations from the Old Testament, the first two of which are almost literally from the LXX of Isaiah 40:13, 14, and the third from the Hebrew text of Job 41:3. God reveals to some extent, but His mind is open to no one, because none can penetrate the divine thoughts; He draws His counsels from no one, for He has no need of counselors; to none is He indebted, since He is the source and ruler and end of all.

36. For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things : to him be glory for ever. Amen.

We can neither penetrate the knowledge of God, nor aid Him with our counsels, nor help Him with our resources, because all things are of him, i.e., they depend upon Him as upon their cause and creator; all things are by him, i.e., they are sustained by Him; all things are in him, or unto him (εις αυτον), i.e., they tend to Him as to their last end (Comely, Lagr., Zahn). Origen, St. Aug. and others have seen an allusion to the Trinity in the three expressions of him, by him, and in him; but there is no good reason for this opinion (Cornely, Lagr.).

To him be glory, etc. Thus, by calling on all creatures to give glory to God, does the Apostle terminate the Dogmatic Portion of this great Epistle.

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 11:33-36

This post contains the Bishop’s brief analysis of Romans 11, followed by his notes on 11:33-36. Text in purple indicates the Bishop’s paraphrasing of the text he is commenting on.

ANALYSIS OF ROMANS 11

The Apostle, having pointed out, in the two preceding chapters, the rejection of the Jews, and the vocation of the Gentiles to the faith, employs this chapter in offering consolation to the Jews, and in repressing the arrogance and boasting of the Gentile converts. He consoles the Jews by showing, that all the Jewish people are not rejected from the faith (verses 1–5). But although some are saved, he does not conceal from them the painful fact, that these are only the remnant, while the great bulk of them are reprobated, according to the predictions of the prophets (6–10). At verse, 11, the Apostle proposes a second question similar to that proposed (1), where the question regarded the NUMBER of the Jews rejected. Here the question regards the DURATION or PERIOD of the rejection of the greater portion; and, he answers, by saying, that this rejection shall not always continue. He adduces several reasons to show, that, at a future day, the great bulk of the Jews will be again called to the faith, and admitted to the divine favour. The first reason is grounded on the designs of God in calling the Gentiles, in order to provoke the Jews to emulation. The next reason is grounded on the advantages this conversion of the Jews would bring to the entire world (12). Again, he derives a reason from the designs of the Apostle himself in their regard (13, 14, 15). Again, he argues from the extrinsic moral consecration of the Jews in the patriarchs, from whom they sprang, and in the Apostles and first faithful who are of the same race with them (16); and after adducing several reasons why the Gentiles should not boast against the Jews, both on the grounds of benefits received from them (18), and of holy fear (19–22), he finally announces as a certain fact, that all the Jews will be converted, at some future day (25–29), and that the same economy of Providence will be observed towards them, that had been observed in regard to the Gentiles (30, 31). Unable to fathom this mysterious Providence, he bursts forth into the exclamation, “O the depth!” &c.—(33, &c.).

Rom 11:33  O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his ways!

As we cannot fathom or penetrate this mysterious economy of Providence, we can only exclaim in amazement: O the profound abyss of the mercy, and of the wisdom, and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and decrees, and how unsearchable are his ways in carrying his decrees into execution.

The Apostle, unable to fathom this mysterious Providence of God in the rejection and vocation of both Jews and Gentiles, and wishing to teach us to submit our judgment to the decrees of Providence, be they ever so incomprehensible, recoils with sacred horror from further examination of the matter, and oppressed with the majesty of glory, bursts into the exclamation: “O the depths, of the riches!” i.e., of his mercy displayed in the vocation of Jew and Gentile, though both had sinned, and had no claim on him. “The wisdom” in drawing good out of evil, making the obstinate incredulity of the Jew the occasion of calling the Gentile, and the envy of the Jew at the call of the Gentile, the occasion of his conversion. “And of the science” displayed in the knowledge of all things future. In the Paraphrase, the Greek construction has been adopted: “O the depth of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God!” is the reading of ail Greek copies; but in our Vulgate, the word “riches” is not separated from “wisdom” and “science;” and the words appear to mean, “the riches of the wisdom,” and “the riches of the science,” i.e., the exceedingly rich wisdom and science. However, the three distinct questions in verses 34, 35, would appear to-correspond with the three qualities expressed in the Greek.

Rom 11:34  For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?

For who ever has known the mind of the Lord?—or who is it that has shared in his counsels?

“Who hath known,” &c., refers to his “knowledge,” or, “who hath been his counsellor,” to his “wisdom.”

Rom 11:35  Or who hath first given to him, and recompense shall be made him?

Or who gave God anything first, so that God would be bound to make a return?

“Or who hath first given to him,” &c., refers to the “riches” of his mercy, which in all the affairs of creatures He can exercise, subject to no claim, since God owes his sinful creatures no exercise of mercy.

Rom 11:36  For of him, and by him, and in him, are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen.

Since from God, as Creator and first source, all things have emanated; by him as Preserver, or, by his Providence, all things subsist and are preserved in existence; and to him, as their Final End, all things tend; or, in him, all things exist and are contained. To him alone, therefore, are due honour, praise, and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

“For of him,” as Creator and first source, and “by him,” as preserving by his Providence, “and in him,” as the end for which he created all things, universa propter semetipsum operatus est Dominus (Prov. 16); or, as in the Greek, εις αυτον, “unto him,” as their last end, all things tend. Some Expositors apply each of them, by appropriation, to the three distinct Persons of the adorable Trinity: “of him,” to the Father; “by him,” to the Son; and “in him” to the Holy Ghost. “To him be glory.” Many Commentators assert that the sacred doxology, “Glory be to the Father,” &c., took its rise in the Church from the example of St. Paul here, and the common institution of the Apostles; and that in the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, was added: “As it was in the beginning is now, and ever more shall be, world without end, Amen,” in order to refute the impiety of the Arians, who asserted, erat, quando non erat, i.e., there was a time, when the Son existed not.

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Father Bernardin de Piconio on Romans 11:25-36

25. For I would not you should be ignorant, brethren, of this mystery (lest you be wise to yourselves) that blindness in part has happened in Israel, until the fulness of the nations enters.
26. And thus all Israel shall be saved, as it is written: There shall come from Sion who will deliver, and turn away impiety from Jacob.
27. And this covenant to them from me: when I shail have taken away their sins.
28. According to the Gospel indeed they are enemies on your account; but according  to the election they are most beloved on account of the fathers.
29. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.
30. For as you also once believed not God, but have now obtained mercy on account of their unbelief:
31. So they also have not now believed for your mercy, that thev also may obtain mercy.
32. For God has concluded all things in unbelief, that on all he may have mercy
.

25. I wish to reveal to you a secret which possibly I should have suppressed, were it not that the knowledge of it is necessary for you, to repress the pride and exultation you are disposed to indulge in on the score of your faith, as knowing more than other men know. (In the Greek, that you may not be arrogant to yourselves.) Blindness of heart has fallen upon a great part of the Jewish nation. (This is the phrase used in the Syriac: the Greek has hardness or obduracy) until the number of the Gentiles who shall believe in Christ have entered the fold of the Church. Then, the number of the Gentile converts being complete, the whole Jewish nation will be converted to God, as predicted in Is 59:20, and 27:9. Their rejection of the Gospel of Christ has, indeed, made them the objects of God’s displeasure, and has at the same time facilitated and expedited your conversion. For God’s original design was the acceptance of Christ by the Jewish people in the first instance. This was defeated by their unbelief, and the message of salvation then offered to you. But they are still beloved on account of God’s choice of their nation in ancient times, and for the fathers’ sake. God’s gifts and promises, once given, are never recalled. You yourselves once believed not in God, but through the incredulity of the Jews you have now received his mercy. So in turn they also are now unbelieving for the very reason that you have obtained mercy; (the Greek, they disbelieve in your mercy, that God can really have extended his mercy to the Gentiles) and God will turn even this ultimately to their salvation, for they will one day believe in Christ for this very reason. For God, in his wonderful providence has permitted all nations successively (the Vulgate has all things, the Greek and the Syriac all men) to fall into unbelief, in the Syriac into disobedience. First the Gentiles, and now the Jews, that each may learn that it is to his gratuitous kindness and mercy alone that they are indebted for their salvation. He has permitted all men, Saint Thomas says, to be bound by the chain of error in some form or other, and from it there is no escape but by the grace of Christ, that God may have mercy upon all, and display this mercy to the whole world without exception.

From the statement of the Apostle in verse 27, and the words of the Prophet Malachi, 4:5, 6, Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes. And he will convert the heart of the fathers to the sons, and the heart of the sons to their fathers; lest by chance I come and strike the earth with anathema—there has arisen a tradition that the Jewish nation will be converted to Christ before the end of the  world, and that the Church will be complete in unity and perfection in the union of Jews and Gentiles.

(Some modern writers consider that the prediction, All Israel shall be saved, was fulfilled after the destruction of Jerusalem, and that the great bulk of the Jewish nation was converted to Christ, and absorbed in the Catholic Church, during the interval which elapsed after that event and before the outbreak of the persecution under Domitian. See Hammond, Commentary on the N.T. in loc. In this case the modern Jews are the descendants of those who still remained in unbelief. This is not inconsistent with the view taken above of the prophecy of Malachi.) Note: “Some modern writers” &c.  Piconio was writing in the late 17th century. The opinion of these writers is unknown to me, and I do not recall ever seeing such an interpretation mentioned in historical reviews of the interpretation of Romans 11.

33. O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgements and untraceable his ways!
34. For who hath known the sense of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor?
35. Or who first gave to him, and it shall be repaid him?
36. For of him, and through him, and in him are all things: to him be glory for ever. Amen
.

What the Apostle has said, is that in the early years of the world the nations fell into idolatry; then by the covenant with Abraham God secured the Hebrew race as his true worshipers; when the Gentiles believed in Christ the Jews fell, from that very circumstance, into unbelief, and finally, when the faith of the Gentiles shall be growing cold, the Jews will at length believe, and the Church be strengthened by the union of Jews and Gentiles. Thus in the midst of the maze of human error God is controlling error itself, and guiding all nations ultimately to the acceptance of his truth and their salvation. The contemplation of this leads him to the exclamation in the text.

33. The riches of the wisdom. The Greek and the Syriac have the depths of the riches and of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God. The riches of God is his mercy to all mankind, to the Gentiles first, then patiently bearing the infidelity of the Jews. His wisdom, in turning the infidelity of the Jews to the salvation of the Gentiles, and the conversion of the Gentiles, by emulation, to the salvation of the Jews. His knowledge of the whole history of mankind, past and future. His decrees are unsearchable by finite understanding, and we cannot trace the mode in which they are carried out.

34. Who has known the mind of the Lord? God is a King who entrusts his mind, or intention, to no created counsellor. And his riches are his own, and none has lent to him.

36. Cornelius a Lapide thinks that this passage, or at least the general custom of the Apostles, suggested the formula always used in the Church, Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. The other verse of the doxology. As it was in the beginning, &c., was added by the Council of Nice. See the words of Saint Basil, cited by Baronius, t. III, anno 325.

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Commentaries for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

READINGS AND OFFICE:

Today’s Mass Readings (NABRE). Translation used in the USA.

Today’s Mass Readings (NJB). Scroll down slightly. The NJB is used in most other English speaking countries.

COMMENTARIES ON THE FIRST READING: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Isaiah 56:1, 6-7.

Word-Sunday Note on Isaiah 56:1, 6-7.

COMMENTARIES ON THE RESPONSORIAL: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8.

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 67.

A Lectio Divina Commentary on Psalm 67.

Pope John Paul II’s Commentary on Psalm 67.

St Augustine’s Notes on Psalm 67.

Word-Sunday’s Notes on Psalm 67.

Pending: Patristic/Medieval Commentary on Psalm 67.

COMMENTARIES ON THE SECOND READING: Roman 11:13-15, 29-32.

Father de Piconio’s Commentary on Romans 11:13-15, 29-32.

Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on Romans 11:13-15, 29-32.

Father Callan’s Commentary on Romans 11:13-15, 29-32. On 13-15 and 25-36.

Word-Sunday Notes on Romans 11:13-15, 29-32.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Romans 11:13-15, 29-32.

COMMENTARIES ON THE GOSPEL READING: Matthew 15:21-28.

Cornelius a Lapide’s Commentary on Matthew 15:21-28.

Saints and Holy People on Matthew 15:21-28.

Aquinas’ Catena Aurea on Matthew 15:21-28

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 15:21-28.

Word-Sunday Notes on Matthew 15:21-28.

Navarre Bible Commentary on Matthew 15:21-28.

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