Saturday, 1 February 2014

Feast of the Purification



This Sunday is the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady.  The Gospel is St Luke 2:22-32:

22 Et postquam impleti sunt dies purgationis ejus secundum legem Moysi, tulerunt illum in Jerusalem, ut sisterent eum Domino, 23 sicut scriptum est in lege Domini: Quia omne masculinum adaperiens vulvam, sanctum Domino vocabitur: 24 et ut darent hostiam secundum quod dictum est in lege Domini, par turturum, aut duos pullos columbarum. 25 Et ecce homo erat in Jerusalem, cui nomen Simeon, et homo iste justus, et timoratus, exspectans consolationem Israël: et Spiritus Sanctus erat in eo. 26 Et responsum acceperat a Spiritu Sancto, non visurum se mortem, nisi prius videret Christum Domini. 27 Et venit in spiritu in templum. Et cum inducerent puerum Jesum parentes ejus, ut facerent secundum consuetudinem legis pro eo, 28 et ipse accepit eum in ulnas suas: et benedixit Deum, et dixit:  29 Nunc dimittis servum tuum Domine, secundum verbum tuum in pace: 30 quia viderunt oculi mei salutare tuum, 31 quod parasti ante faciem omnium populorum: 32 lumen ad revelationem gentium, et gloriam plebis tuæ Israël. 

And in the Douay-Rheims version:

 [22] And after the days of her purification, according to the law of Moses, were accomplished, they carried him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord: [23] As it is written in the law of the Lord: Every male opening the womb shall be called holy to the Lord: [24] And to offer a sacrifice, according as it is written in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons: [25] And behold there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Ghost was in him.[26] And he had received an answer from the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. [27] And he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the law, [28] He also took him into his arms, and blessed God, and said: 
[29] Now thou dost dismiss thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word in peace; [30] Because my eyes have seen thy salvation,[31] Which thou hast prepared before the face of all peoples: [32] A light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

Matins readings

Here are the Third Nocturn readings for Matins by St Ambrose (from Divinum Officium, but arranged as for the Benedictine Office):

(Reading 9): And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. The birth of the Lord is attested not only by Angels and Prophets, and shepherds, but also by elders and just men. Every age, and both sexes, as well as the miracles of the events themselves, are here to strengthen our faith.

(Reading 10): A virgin conceiveth, a barren woman beareth, a dumb man speaketh, Elizabeth prophesieth, the wise man worshippeth, the unborn child leapeth, the widow praiseth, and the just man waiteth.Well is he called just, who looked not for favour for himself, but for consolation for his people. He desired to be set free from the bondage of this frail body, but he waited to see the Promised One for he knew that blessed are the eyes that see Him.

(Reading 11): Then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. Behold a just man, confined in the weary prison of the body, desiring to be dissolved and to begin to be with Christ. For to be dissolved and to be with Christ is much better. Whosoever will be dissolved and be with Christ, let him come into the Temple, let him come to Jerusalem, let him wait for the Lord's Christ, let him take hold on the Word of God, let him embrace it with good works, as it were with arms of faith and then let him depart in peace, for he shall not see death, who hath seen life.

(Reading 12): Behold how the Lord's Birth doth overflow with abounding grace for all, and prophecy is not denied to the just, but to the unbelieving. Behold, Simeon prophesieth that the Lord Jesus Christ is come for the fall and rising again of many yea, He shall separate the just from the unjust by their deserts, and according as our work shall be, so shall the true and righteous Judge command us to be punished or rewarded.

Canticle of Simeon

The Nunc Dimittis (verses 29-32 of the Gospel) is only used in the Benedictine Office on those few occasions where the Roman Rite has come to displace St Benedict's prescriptions, such as during the Easter Triduum.  In the Roman office though, it is traditionally sung daily at Compline.  Here is a beautiful modern setting by Geoffrey Burgon.

Matthew 12:22-37



Today's section of St Matthew's Gospel has the Pharisees accuse Jesus of  acting in league with the Devil, and leads to important teaching on discernment of spirits.

From Matthew 12:

22 Tunc oblatus est ei dæmonium habens, cæcus, et mutus, et curavit eum ita ut loqueretur, et videret. 23 Et stupebant omnes turbæ, et dicebant: Numquid hic est filius David? 24 Pharisæi autem audientes, dixerunt: Hic non ejicit dæmones nisi in Beelzebub principe dæmoniorum. 25 Jesus autem sciens cogitationes eorum, dixit eis: Omne regnum divisum contra se desolabitur: et omnis civitas vel domus divisa contra se, non stabit. 26 Et si Satanas Satanam ejicit, adversus se divisus est: quomodo ergo stabit regnum ejus? 27 Et si ego in Beelzebub ejicio dæmones, filii vestri in quo ejiciunt? ideo ipsi judices vestri erunt. 28 Si autem ego in Spiritu Dei ejicio dæmones, igitur pervenit in vos regnum Dei. 29 Aut quomodo potest quisquam intrare in domum fortis, et vasa ejus diripere, nisi prius alligaverit fortem? et tunc domum illius diripiet. 30 Qui non est mecum, contra me est; et qui non congregat mihi, spargit.31 Ideo dico vobis: Omne peccatum et blasphemia remittetur hominibus, Spiritus autem blasphemia non remittetur. 32 Et quicumque dixerit verbum contra Filium hominis, remittetur ei: qui autem dixerit contra Spiritum Sanctum, non remittetur ei, neque in hoc sæculo, neque in futuro. 33 Aut facite arborem bonam, et fructum ejus bonum: aut facite arborem malam, et fructum ejus malum: siquidem ex fructu arbor agnoscitur. 34 Progenies viperarum, quomodo potestis bona loqui, cum sitis mali? ex abundantia enim cordis os loquitur. 35 Bonus homo de bono thesauro profert bona: et malus homo de malo thesauro profert mala. 36 Dico autem vobis quoniam omne verbum otiosum, quod locuti fuerint homines, reddent rationem de eo in die judicii. 37 Ex verbis enim tuis justificaberis et ex verbis tuis condemnaberis.

And in English:

[22] Then was offered to him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and he healed him, so that he spoke and saw. [23] And all the multitudes were amazed, and said: Is not this the son of David? [24] But the Pharisees hearing it, said: This man casteth not out the devils but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. [25] And Jesus knowing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand. [26] And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand? [27] And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. [28] But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then is the kingdom of God come upon you. [29] Or how can any one enter into the house of the strong, and rifle his goods, unless he first bind the strong? and then he will rifle his house. [30] He that is not with me, is against me: and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth.[31] Therefore I say to you: Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit shall not be forgiven. [32] And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but he that shall speak against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in the world to come. [33] Either make the tree good and its fruit good: or make the tree evil, and its fruit evil. For by the fruit the tree is known. [34] O generation of vipers, how can you speak good things, whereas you are evil? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. [35] A good man out of a good treasure bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of an evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. [36] But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment. [37] For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Commentary

It is worth noting, first of all, Challoner's commentary on the passage about blasphemy:

The blasphemy of the Spirit: The sin here spoken of is that blasphemy, by which the Pharisees attributed the miracles of Christ, wrought by the Spirit of God, to Beelzebub the prince of devils. Now this kind of sin is usually accompanied with so much obstinacy, and such wilful opposing the Spirit of God, and the known truth, that men who are guilty of it, are seldom or never converted: and therefore are never forgiven, because they will not repent. Otherwise there is no sin, which God cannot or will not forgive to such as sincerely repent, and have recourse to the keys of the church.

Nor in the world to come: From these words St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, lib. 21, c. 13) and St. Gregory (Dialog., 4, c. 39).  Gather, that some sins may be remitted in the world to come; and, consequently, that there is a purgatory or a middle place.

The Catena Aurea on 'By their fruits' and a 'generation of vipers':

CHRYS; For the discerning of a tree is done by its fruits not the fruits by the tree. A tree is known by its fruits for though the tree is the cause of the fruit, yet the fruit is the evidence of the tree. But you do the very contrary, having no fault to allege against the works, you pass a sentence of evil against the tree, saying that I have a demon. 

HILARY; Thus did He at that present refute the Jews, who seeing Christ's works to be of power more than human, would notwithstanding not allow the hand of God And at the same time He convicts all future errors of the faith, such as that of those who taking away from the Lord His divinity, and communion of the Father's substance, have fallen into divers heresies; having their habitation neither under the plea of ignorance as the Gentiles, nor yet within the knowledge of the truth. He figures Himself as a tree in the body, seeing that through the inward fruitfulness His power sprung forth abundant richness of fruit. Therefore either must be made a good tree with good fruits, or an evil tree with evil fruits; not that a good tree is to be made a bad tree, or the reverse; but that in this metaphor we may understand that Christ is either to be left in fruitlessness, of to be retained in the fruitfulness of good works. But to hold one's self neuter, to attribute some things to Christ, tent to deny Him those things that are highest, to worship Him as God, and yet to deny Him a common substance with the Father, is blasphemy against the Spirit. In admiration of His so great works you dare not take away the name of God yet through malevolence of soul you debase His high nature by denying His participation of the Father's substance. 

AUG; Or this is an admonition to ourselves that we should be good trees that we may be able to bring forth good fruit; Make the tree good, and its fruit good, is a precept of health to which obedience is necessary. But what He says, Make the tree corrupt, and its fruit corrupt is not a command to do, but a warning to take heed, spoken against those who being evil thought that they could speak good things, or have good works; this the Lord declares is impossible. The man must be changed first, that his works may be changed; for if man remains in that wherein he is evil, he cannot have good works; if he remains in that wherein he is good, he cannot have evil works. Christ found us all corrupt trees, but get power to become sons of God to them that believe His name. 

CHRYS; But as speaking not for Himself but for Holy Spirit, He accordingly rebukes them, saying, Generation of vipers, how can you being evil speak good things? This is both a rebuke of them, and a proof in their characters of those things which had been said. As though He had said, So you being corrupt trees cannot bring forth good fruit. I do not wonder then that you thus speak, for you are ill nourished of ill parentage, and have an evil mind. And Observe He said not, How can you speak good things, seeing you are a generation of vipers? for these two are not connected together; but He said, How can you being evil speak good things? He calls them generation of vipers, because they made boast of their forefathers; in order therefore to cut off this their pride, He shuts them out of the race of Abraham, assigning them a parentage corresponding to their characters. 

RABAN; Or the words, Generation of vipers, may be taken as signifying children, or imitators of the Devil, because they had willfully spoken against good works, which is of the Devil, and thence follows, Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. That man speaks out of the abundance of the heart who is not ignorant with what intention his words are uttered; and to declare his meaning more openly He adds, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things. The treasure of the heart is the intention of the thoughts, by which the Judge judges that work which is produced, so that sometimes though the outward work that is shown seem great, yet because of the carelessness of a cold heart, they receive a little reward from the Lord. 

CHRYS; Here also He shows His Godhead as knowing the hidden things of the heart; for not for words only, yea but for evil thoughts also they shall receive punishment. For it is the order of nature that the store of the wickedness which abounds within should be poured forth in words through the mouth. Thus when you shall hear any speaking evil, you must infer that his wickedness more than what his words express; for what is uttered out is but the overflowing of that within; which was a rebuke to them. For if that which was spoken by them were so evil, consider how evil must be the root from whence it sprung. And this happens naturally; for often the hesitating tongue does not suddenly pour forth all its evil, the heart, to which none other is privy, begets whatsoever evil it will, without fear; for it has little fear of God. But when the multitude of the evils which are within is increased, the things which had been hidden then burst forth through the mouth. This is that He says, Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 

JEROME; What He says, The good man out of the good treasure of his heart, &c. is either pointed against the Jews, that seeing they blasphemed God, what treasure in their heart must that be out of which such blasphemy proceeded; or it is connected with what had gone before, that like as a good man cannot bring forth evil things, nor an evil man good things, so Christ cannot do evil works, nor the Devil good works.



Friday, 31 January 2014

Matthew 12:1-21



St Matthew 12 includes some of those robust exchanges with the Pharisees, involving some name calling on the part of Our Lord (ye brood of vipers, etc) that tends to be somehow bypassed by the WWJD/tolerance and niceness crowd.  Today's section of the text sets the scene, with a discussion (and demonstration) of what it is lawful to do on the sabbath:

In illo tempore abiit Jesus per sata sabbato: discipuli autem ejus esurientes cœperunt vellere spicas, et manducare. 2 Pharisæi autem videntes, dixerunt ei: Ecce discipuli tui faciunt quod non licet facere sabbatis. 3 At ille dixit eis: Non legistis quid fecerit David, quando esuriit, et qui cum eo erant: 4 quomodo intravit in domum Dei, et panes propositionis comedit, quos non licebat ei edere, neque his qui cum eo erant, nisi solis sacerdotibus? 5 aut non legistis in lege quia sabbatis sacerdotes in templo sabbatum violant, et sine crimine sunt? 6 Dico autem vobis, quia templo major est hic. 7 Si autem sciretis, quid est: Misericordiam volo, et non sacrificium: numquam condemnassetis innocentes: 8 dominus enim est Filius hominis etiam sabbati. 9 Et cum inde transisset, venit in synagogam eorum. 10 Et ecce homo manum habens aridam, et interrogabant eum, dicentes: Si licet sabbatis curare? ut accusarent eum. 11 Ipse autem dixit illis: Quis erit ex vobis homo, qui habeat ovem unam, et si ceciderit hæc sabbatis in foveam, nonne tenebit et levabit eam? 12 Quanto magis melior est homo ove? itaque licet sabbatis benefacere. 13 Tunc ait homini: Extende manum tuam. Et extendit, et restituta est sanitati sicut altera.14 Exeuntes autem pharisæi, consilium faciebant adversus eum, quomodo perderent eum. 15 Jesus autem sciens recessit inde: et secuti sunt eum multi, et curavit eos omnes: 16 et præcepit eis ne manifestum eum facerent. 17 Ut adimpleretur quod dictum est per Isaiam prophetam, dicentem: 18 Ecce puer meus, quem elegi, dilectus meus, in quo bene complacuit animæ meæ. Ponam spiritum meum super eum,et judicium gentibus nuntiabit. 19 Non contendet, neque clamabit, neque audiet aliquis in plateis vocem ejus: 20 arundinem quassatam non confringet, et linum fumigans non extinguet, donec ejiciat ad victoriam judicium: 21 et in nomine ejus gentes sperabunt.

And in English:

At that time Jesus went through the corn on the sabbath: and his disciples being hungry, began to pluck the ears, and to eat. [2] And the Pharisees seeing them, said to him: Behold thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days. [3] But he said to them: Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and they that were with him: [4] How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the loaves of proposition, which it was not lawful for him to eat, nor for them that were with him, but for the priests only? [5] Or have ye not read in the law, that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple break the sabbath, and are without blame? [6] But I tell you that there is here a greater than the temple. [7] And if you knew what this meaneth: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: you would never have condemned the innocent. [8] For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath. [9] And when he had passed from thence, he came into their synagogues. [10] And behold there was a man who had a withered hand, and they asked him, saying: Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? that they might accuse him.[11] But he said to them: What man shall there be among you, that hath one sheep: and if the same fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not take hold on it and lift it up? [12] How much better is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do a good deed on the sabbath days. [13] Then he saith to the man: Stretch forth thy hand; and he stretched it forth, and it was restored to health even as the other. [14] And the Pharisees going out made a consultation against him, how they might destroy him. [15] But Jesus knowing it, retired from thence: and many followed him, and he healed them all. [16] And he charged them that they should not make him known. [17] That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaias the prophet, saying: [18] Behold my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved in whom my soul hath been well pleased. I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. [19] He shall not contend, nor cry out, neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets. [20] The bruised reed he shall not break: and smoking flax he shall not extinguish: till he send forth judgment unto victory. [21] And in his name the Gentiles shall hope. 

Commentary

In reflecting on  this passage, St John Chrysostom first adds the summary of the teaching from this incident provided in St Mark's Gospel:

After this He mentions another reason likewise; For the Son of man, says He, is Lord of the Sabbath day; Matthew 12:8 speaking it of Himself. But Mark relates Him to have said this of our common nature also; for He said, The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27

The point is that the sabbath is meant to benefit us, not hurt:

For indeed the Sabbath did at the first confer many and great benefits; for instance, it made them gentle towards those of their household, and humane; it taught them God's providence and the creation, as Ezekiel says; Ezekiel 20:12 it trained them by degrees to abstain from wickedness, and disposed them to regard the things of the Spirit.

For because they could not have borne it, if when He was giving the law for the Sabbath, He had said, Do your good works on the Sabbath, but do not the works which are evil, therefore He restrained them from all alike for, You must do nothing at all, says He: and not even so were they kept in order. But He Himself, in the very act of giving the law of the Sabbath, did even therein darkly signify that He will have them refrain from the evil works only, by the saying, You must do no work, except what shall be done for your life. And in the temple too all went on, and with more diligence and double toil. Numbers 28:9-10 Thus even by the very shadow He was secretly opening unto them the truth.

St John goes on to argue that far from abolishing the sabbath rest, Christ enhanced it in ways consistent with the law of grace:

Did Christ then, it will be said, repeal a thing so highly profitable? Far from it; nay, He greatly enhanced it. For it was time for them to be trained in all things by the higher rules, and it was unnecessary that his hands should be bound, who was freed from wickedness, winged for all good works; or that men should hereby learn that God made all things; or that they should so be made gentle, who are called to imitate God's own love to mankind (for He says, Be merciful, as your Heavenly Father); Luke 6:36 or that they should make one day a festival, who are commanded to keep a feast all their life long; (For let us keep the feast, it is said, not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness; but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth); 1 Corinthians 5:8 as neither need they stand by an ark and a golden altar, who have the very Lord of all for their inmate, and in all things hold communion with Him; by prayer, and by oblation, and by scriptures, and by almsgiving, and by having Him within them. Lo now, why is any Sabbath required, by him who is always keeping the feast, whose conversation is in Heaven?

Let us keep the feast then continually, and do no evil thing; for this is a feast: and let our spiritual things be made intense, while our earthly things give place: and let us rest a spiritual rest, refraining our hands from covetousness; withdrawing our body from our superfluous and unprofitable toils, from such as the people of the Hebrews did of old endure in Egypt. 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Matthew 11:20-30




St Matthew 11 concludes with a call to conversion and penance, with its concluding words perhaps most familiar in their setting by Handel, where the libretto links the Gospel text with the prophecies it refers back to in the opening verses from Isaiah.

Matthew 11

20 Tunc cœpit exprobrare civitatibus, in quibus factæ sunt plurimæ virtutes ejus, quia non egissent pœnitentiam: 21 Væ tibi Corozain, væ tibi Bethsaida: quia, si in Tyro et Sidone factæ essent virtutes quæ factæ sunt in vobis, olim in cilicio et cinere pœnitentiam egissent. 22 Verumtamen dico vobis: Tyro et Sidoni remissius erit in die judicii, quam vobis. 23 Et tu Capharnaum, numquid usque in cælum exaltaberis? usque in infernum descendes, quia si in Sodomis factæ fuissent virtutes quæ factæ sunt in te, forte mansissent usque in hanc diem. 24 Verumtamen dico vobis, quia terræ Sodomorum remissius erit in die judicii, quam tibi.25 In illo tempore respondens Jesus dixit: Confiteor tibi, Pater, Domine cæli et terræ, quia abscondisti hæc a sapientibus, et prudentibus, et revelasti ea parvulis. 26 Ita Pater: quoniam sic fuit placitum ante te. 27 Omnia mihi tradita sunt a Patre meo. Et nemo novit Filium, nisi Pater: neque Patrem quis novit, nisi Filius, et cui voluerit Filius revelare.28 Venite ad me omnes qui laboratis, et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos. 29 Tollite jugum meum super vos, et discite a me, quia mitis sum, et humilis corde: et invenietis requiem animabus vestris. 30 Jugum enim meum suave est, et onus meum leve.

And the English:

[20] Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein were done the most of his miracles, for that they had not done penance. [21] Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. [22] But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. [23] And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. [24] But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. [25] At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones. [26] Yea, Father; for so hath it seemed good in thy sight. [27] All things are delivered to me by my Father. And no one knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither doth any one know the Father, but the Son, and he to whom it shall please the Son to reveal him. [28] Come to me, all you that labour, and are burdened, and I will refresh you. [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. [30] For my yoke is sweet and my burden light.

Commentary

What is the connection between the dire warnings on the fate of evil cities, and the injunction to rest in Christ?  St John Chrysostom explains, in Homily 38 on St Matthew:

Next, having brought them by His words to an earnest desire, and having signified His unspeakable power, He after that invites them, saying, Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28 Not this or that person, but all that are in anxiety, in sorrows, in sins. Come, not that I may call you to account, but that I may do away your sins; come, not that I want your honor, but that I want your salvation. For I, says He, will give you rest. He said not, I will save you, only; but what was much more, I will place you in all security.

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:29-30 Thus, be not afraid, says He, hearing of a yoke, for it is easy: fear not, because I said, a burden, for it is light.

And how said He before, The gate is narrow and the way strait? Matthew 7:13 Whilst you are careless, while you are supine; whereas, if you duly perform His words, the burden will be light; wherefore also He has now called it so.

But how are they duly performed? If you have become lowly, and meek, and gentle. For this virtue is the mother of all strictness of life. Wherefore also, when beginning those divine laws, with this He began. Matthew 5:3 And here again He does the very same, and exceeding great is the reward He appoints. For not to another only do you become serviceable; but yourself also above all you refresh, says He. For you shall find rest unto your souls...

And how, some one may say, is the burden light, when He says, Except one hate father and mother; and, Whosoever takes not up his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me: and, Whosoever forsakes not all that he has, cannot be my disciple: when He commands even to give up our very life? Matthew 16:25 Let Paul teach you, saying, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Romans 8:35  And that, The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 Let those teach you, who return from the council of the Jews after plenty of stripes, and rejoice that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ. Acts 5:41 And if you are still afraid and tremblest at hearing of the yoke and the burden, the fear comes not of the nature of the thing, but of your remissness; since if you are prepared, and in earnest, all will be easy to you and light. Since for this cause Christ also, to signify that we too must needs labor ourselves, did not mention the gracious things only, and then hold His peace, nor the painful things only, but set down both. Thus He both spoke of a yoke, and called it easy; both named a burden, and added that it was light; that you should neither flee from them as toilsome, nor despise them as over easy...


Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 11:1-19


The first section of St Matthew 11 returns us to the ministry of St John the Baptist.  St John is now in prison, but the exchanges between him and Jesus go the prophesies fulfilled in each.  Verses 2-10 are the Gospel for the Second Week of Advent:

Et factum est, cum consummasset Jesus, præcipiens duodecim discipulis suis, transiit inde ut doceret, et prædicaret in civitatibus eorum. 2 Joannes autem cum audisset in vinculis opera Christi, mittens duos de discipulis suis, 3 ait illi: Tu es, qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? 4 Et respondens Jesus ait illis: Euntes renuntiate Joanni quæ audistis, et vidistis. 5 Cæci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur, surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur: 6 et beatus est, qui non fuerit scandalizatus in me.7 Illis autem abeuntibus, cœpit Jesus dicere ad turbas de Joanne: Quid existis in desertum videre? arundinem vento agitatam? 8 Sed quid existis videre? hominem mollibus vestitum? Ecce qui mollibus vestiuntur, in domibus regum sunt. 9 Sed quid existis videre? prophetam? Etiam dico vobis, et plus quam prophetam. 10 Hic est enim de quo scriptum est: Ecce ego mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam, qui præparabit viam tuam ante te. 11 Amen dico vobis, non surrexit inter natos mulierum major Joanne Baptista: qui autem minor est in regno cælorum, major est illo. 12 A diebus autem Joannis Baptistæ usque nunc, regnum cælorum vim patitur, et violenti rapiunt illud. 13 Omnes enim prophetæ et lex usque ad Joannem prophetaverunt: 14 et si vultis recipere, ipse est Elias, qui venturus est. 15 Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat. 16 Cui autem similem æstimabo generationem istam? Similis est pueris sedentibus in foro: qui clamantes coæqualibus 17 dicunt: Cecinimus vobis, et non saltastis: lamentavimus, et non planxistis. 18 Venit enim Joannes neque manducans, neque bibens, et dicunt: Dæmonium habet. 19 Venit Filius hominis manducans, et bibens, et dicunt: Ecce homo vorax, et potator vini, publicanorum et peccatorum amicus. Et justificata est sapientia a filiis suis.

And in the Douay-Rheims translation:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had made an end of commanding his twelve disciples, he passed from thence, to teach and preach in their cities. [2] Now when John had heard in prison the works of Christ: sending two of his disciples he said to him: [3] Art thou he that art to come, or look we for another? [4] And Jesus making answer said to them: Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen. [5] The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the gospel preached to them.[6] And blessed is he that shall not be scandalized in me. [7] And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: What went you out into the desert to see? a reed shaken with the wind? [8] But what went you out to see? a man clothed in soft garments? Behold they that are clothed in soft garments, are in the houses of kings. [9] But what went you out to see? a prophet? yea I tell you, and more than a prophet. [10] For this is he of whom it is written: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee. [11] Amen I say to you, there hath not risen among them that are born of women a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. [12] And from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away. [13] For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John: [14] And if you will receive it, he is Elias that is to come. [15] He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.[16] But whereunto shall I esteem this generation to be like? It is like to children sitting in the market place. [17] Who crying to their companions say: We have piped to you, and you have not danced: we have lamented, and you have not mourned. [18] For John came neither eating nor drinking; and they say: He hath a devil. [19] The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say: Behold a man that is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of publicans and sinners. And wisdom is justified by her children.

Commentary

Why does St John send messengers to Jesus:

JEROME; Therefore he does not ask as being himself ignorant. But as the Savior asks where Lazarus is buried, in order that they who showed Him the sepulcher might be so far prepared for faith, and believe that the dead was verily raised again - so John, about to be put to death by Herod, sends his disciples to Christ, that by this opportunity of seeing His signs and wonders they might believe in Him, and so might learn through their master's inquiry. But John's disciples had somewhat of bitterness and jealousy towards the Lord, as their former inquiry showed, Why do you and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples fast not? 

CHRYS. Yet whilst John was with them he held them rightly convinced concerning Christ. But when he was going to die, he was more concerned on their behalf. For he feared that he might leave his disciples a prey to some pernicious doctrine, and that they should remain separate from Christ, to whom it had been his care to bring all his followers from the beginning. Had he said to them, Depart from me, for He is better than me, he would not have prevailed with them, as they would have supposed that he spoke this in humility, which opinion would have drawn them more closely to him. What then does he? He waits to hear through them that Christ works miracles. Nor did he send all, but two only, (whom perhaps he chose as more ready to believe than the rest,) that the reason of his inquiry might be unsuspected, and that from the things themselves which they should see they might understand the difference between him and Jesus. 

HILARY; John then is providing not for his own, but his disciples' ignorance; that they might know that it was no other whom he had proclaimed, he sent them to see His works, that the works might establish what John had spoken; and that they should not look for any other Christ, than Him to whom His works had borne testimony. 

CHRYS. So also Christ as knowing the mind of John, said not, I am He; for thus He would have put an obstacle in the way of those that heard Him, who would have at least thought within themselves, if they did not say, what the Jews did say to Christ, You bear witness of yourself. Therefore He would have them learn from His miracles, and so presented His doctrine to them more clear, and without suspicion. For the testimony of deeds is stronger than the testimony of words. Therefore He straightway healed a number of blind, and lame, and many other, for the sake not of John who had knowledge, but of others who doubted; as it follows, And Jesus answered and said to them, Go and tell John what you have heard and seen; The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the Gospel preached to them. 

How then, should we treat St John's example of austerity:

JEROME; This teaches that an austere life and strict preaching ought to shun kings' courts and the palaces of the rich and luxurious. 

GREG; Let one suppose that there is nothing sinful in luxury and rich dress; if pursuit of such things had been blameless, the Lord would not have thus commended John for the coarseness of his raiment, nor would Peter have checked the desire of fine clothes in women as he does, Not in costly raiment. 

AUG. In all such things we blame not the use of the things, but the lust of those that use them. For whoever uses the good things in his reach more sparingly than are the habits of those with whom he lives, is either temperate or superstitious. Whoever again uses them in a measure exceeding the practice of the good among whom he lives, either has some meaning therein, or else is dissolute. 

JEROME; Mystically; The desert is that which is deserted of the Holy Spirit, where there is no habitation of God; in the reed is signified a man who in outward show lives a pious life, but lacks all real fruit within himself, fair outside, within hollow, moved unclean with every breath of wind, that is, with every impulse of unclean spirits, having no firmness to remain still, devoid of the marrow of the soul; by the garment wherewith his body is clothed is his mind strewn, that it is lost in luxury and self-indulgence. The kings are the fallen angels; they are they who are powerful in this life, and the lords of this world. Thus, They that are clothed in soft raiment are in kings' houses; that is, those whose bodies are enervated and destroyed by luxury, it is clear are possessed by demons 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 10:24-42



Today's section of St Matthew's Gospel (selections of which are used in the Masses of a martyr) continues Jesus' instructions to the disciples before sending them out on mission:

24 Non est discipulus super magistrum, nec servus super dominum suum: 25 sufficit discipulo ut sit sicut magister ejus, et servo, sicut dominus ejus. Si patremfamilias Beelzebub vocaverunt, quanto magis domesticos ejus? 26 Ne ergo timueritis eos. Nihil enim est opertum, quod non revelabitur: et occultum, quod non scietur. 27 Quod dico vobis in tenebris, dicite in lumine: et quod in aure auditis, prædicate super tecta. 28 Et nolite timere eos qui occidunt corpus, animam autem non possunt occidere: sed potius timete eum, qui potest et animam et corpus perdere in gehennam. 29 Nonne duo passeres asse veneunt? et unus ex illis non cadet super terram sine Patre vestro. 30 Vestri autem capilli capitis omnes numerati sunt. 31 Nolite ergo timere: multis passeribus meliores estis vos. 32 Omnis ergo qui confitebitur me coram hominibus, confitebor et ego eum coram Patre meo, qui in cælis est. 33 Qui autem negaverit me coram hominibus, negabo et ego eum coram Patre meo, qui in cælis est.34 Nolite arbitrari quia pacem venerim mittere in terram: non veni pacem mittere, sed gladium: 35 veni enim separare hominem adversus patrem suum, et filiam adversus matrem suam, et nurum adversus socrum suam: 36 et inimici hominis, domestici ejus. 37 Qui amat patrem aut matrem plus quam me, non est me dignus: et qui amat filium aut filiam super me, non est me dignus. 38 Et qui non accipit crucem suam, et sequitur me, non est me dignus. 39 Qui invenit animam suam, perdet illam: et qui perdiderit animam suam propter me, inveniet eam. 40 Qui recipit vos, me recipit: et qui me recipit, recipit eum qui me misit. 41 Qui recipit prophetam in nomine prophetæ, mercedem prophetæ accipiet: et qui recipit justum in nomine justi, mercedem justi accipiet. 42 Et quicumque potum dederit uni ex minimis istis calicem aquæ frigidæ tantum in nomine discipuli: amen dico vobis, non perdet mercedem suam.

Here is the Douay-Rheims version:

[24] The disciple is not above the master, nor the servant above his lord. [25] It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the goodman of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of his household? [26] Therefore fear them not. For nothing is covered that shall not be revealed: nor hid, that shall not be known. [27] That which I tell you in the dark, speak ye in the light: and that which you hear in the ear, preach ye upon the housetops. [28] And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell. [29] Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and not one of them shall fall on the ground without your Father. [30] But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. [31] Fear not therefore: better are you than many sparrows. [32] Every one therefore that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. [33] But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. [34] Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. [35] For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. [36] And a man' s enemies shall be they of his own household. [37] He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. [38] And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. [39] He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it. [40] He that receiveth you, receiveth me: and he that receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me. [41] He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet, shall receive the reward of a prophet: and he that receiveth a just man in the name of a just man, shall receive the reward of a just man. [42] And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.

Commentary

There is so much packed into this brief set of verses that we could spend many days on it!  But one point that strikes me as particularly important in our times is the injunction not to fear those who would kill us, so much as those who would kill the soul.

We live in a society where fear of death has become so overwhelming that it seeks to avoid any pain through options like euthanasia.  Where the life of animals - those many sparrows - is elevated above that of man.  Consider then, what St John Chrysostom has to say on the subject:

"Then, because He had lifted them up on high, He again gives warning of the perils also, adding wings to their mind, and exalting them high above all. For what says He? Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. Matthew 10:28 Do you see how He set them far above all things, persuading them to despise not anxiety only and calumny, dangers and plots, but even that which is esteemed of all things most terrible, death? And not death alone, but by violence too? And He said not, you shall be slain, but with the dignity that became Him, He set this before them, saying, Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell; bringing round the argument, as He ever does, to its opposite. For what? Is your fear, says He, of death? And are you therefore slow to preach? Nay for this very cause I bid you preach, that you fear death: for this shall deliver you from that which is really death. What though they shall slay you? Yet over the better part they shall not prevail, though they strive ten thousand ways. Therefore He said not, Who do not kill the soul, but, who are not able to kill. For wish it as they may, they shall not prevail. Wherefore, if you fear punishment, fear that, the more grievous by far.

Do you see how again He does not promise them deliverance from death, but permits them to die, granting them more than if He had not allowed them to suffer it? Because deliverance from death is not near so great as persuading men to despise death. You see now, He does not push them into dangers, but sets them above dangers, and in a short sentence fixes in their mind the doctrines that relate to the immortality of the soul, and having in two or three words implanted a saving doctrine, He comforts them also by other considerations.

Thus, lest they should think, when killed and butchered, that as men forsaken they suffered this, He introduces again the argument of God's providence, saying on this wise: Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall into a snare without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Matthew 10:29-30 For what is viler than they? says He; nevertheless, not even these shall be taken without God's knowledge. For He means not this, by His operation they fall, for this were unworthy of God; but, nothing that is done is hid from Him. If then He is not ignorant of anything that befalls us, and loves us more truly than a father, and so loves us, as to have numbered our very hairs; we ought not to be afraid. And this He said, not that God numbers our hairs, but that He might indicate His perfect knowledge, and His great providence over them. If therefore He both knows all the things that are done, and is able to save you, and willing; whatever ye may have to suffer, think not that as persons forsaken ye suffer. For neither is it His will to deliver you from the terrors, but to persuade you to despise them, since this is, more than anything, deliverance from the terrors."

Monday, 27 January 2014

Notes on Matthew 10: 1-23



This week I plan to look at  St Matthew's Gospel, chapters 10-12, dealing with chapter 12 in three parts, and so aiming to finish it next Monday.

Chapter 10 of St Matthew deals with the first preaching mission for the Twelve:

Et convocatis duodecim discipulis suis, dedit illis potestatem spirituum immundorum, ut ejicerent eos, et curarent omnem languorem, et omnem infirmitatem. 2 Duodecim autem Apostolorum nomina sunt hæc. Primus, Simon, qui dicitur Petrus: et Andreas frater ejus, 3 Jacobus Zebedæi, et Joannes frater ejus, Philippus, et Bartholomæus, Thomas, et Matthæus publicanus, Jacobus Alphæi, et Thaddæus, 4 Simon Chananæus, et Judas Iscariotes, qui et tradidit eum.5 Hos duodecim misit Jesus, præcipiens eis, dicens: In viam gentium ne abieritis, et in civitates Samaritanorum ne intraveritis: 6 sed potius ite ad oves quæ perierunt domus Israël. 7 Euntes autem prædicate, dicentes: Quia appropinquavit regnum cælorum. 8 Infirmos curate, mortuos suscitate, leprosos mundate, dæmones ejicite: gratis accepistis, gratis date. 9 Nolite possidere aurum, neque argentum, neque pecuniam in zonis vestris: 10 non peram in via, neque duas tunicas, neque calceamenta, neque virgam: dignus enim est operarius cibo suo. 11 In quamcumque autem civitatem aut castellum intraveritis, interrogate, quis in ea dignus sit: et ibi manete donec exeatis. 12 Intrantes autem in domum, salutate eam, dicentes: Pax huic domui. 13 Et siquidem fuerit domus illa digna, veniet pax vestra super eam: si autem non fuerit digna, pax vestra revertetur ad vos. 14 Et quicumque non receperit vos, neque audierit sermones vestros: exeunte foras de domo, vel civitate, excutite pulverem de pedibus vestris. 15 Amen dico vobis: Tolerabilius erit terræ Sodomorum et Gomorrhæorum in die judicii, quam illi civitati.16 Ecce ego mitto vos sicut oves in medio luporum. Estote ergo prudentes sicut serpentes, et simplices sicut columbæ. 17 Cavete autem ab hominibus. Tradent enim vos in conciliis, et in synagogis suis flagellabunt vos: 18 et ad præsides, et ad reges ducemini propter me in testimonium illis, et gentibus. 19 Cum autem tradent vos, nolite cogitare quomodo, aut quid loquamini: dabitur enim vobis in illa hora, quid loquamini: 20 non enim vos estis qui loquimini, sed Spiritus Patris vestri, qui loquitur in vobis. 21 Tradet autem frater fratrem in mortem, et pater filium: et insurgent filii in parentes, et morte eos afficient: 22 et eritis odio omnibus propter nomen meum: qui autem perseveraverit usque in finem, hic salvus erit. 23 Cum autem persequentur vos in civitate ista, fugite in aliam. Amen dico vobis, non consummabitis civitates Israël, donec veniat Filius hominis.

And in the Douay Rheims translation:

And having called his twelve disciples together, he gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of diseases, and all manner of infirmities. [2] And the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, [3] James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, [4] Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. [5] These twelve Jesus sent: commanding them, saying: Go ye not into the way of the Gentiles, and into the city of the Samaritans enter ye not.[6] But go ye rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [7] And going, preach, saying: The kingdom of heaven is at hand. [8] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils: freely have you received, freely give. [9] Do not possess gold, nor silver, nor money in your purses: [10] Nor scrip for your journey, nor two coats, nor shoes, nor a staff; for the workman is worthy of his meat.[11] And into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till you go thence. [12] And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house. [13] And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you. [14] And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. [15] Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.[16] Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves. [17] But beware of men. For they will deliver you up in councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues. [18] And you shall be brought before governors, and before kings for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles: [19] But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. [20] For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you.[21] The brother also shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and shall put them to death. [22] And you shall be hated by all men for my name' s sake: but he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved. [23] And when they shall persecute you in this city, flee into another. Amen I say to you, you shall not finish all the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come.

Commentary

We live in a time with much talk about the need for the 'New Evangelization', but very little actual practical action.  Indeed, I've often heard it suggested that door to door evangelisation is not particularly 'catholic'.  In a world where virtually everyone was Catholic, such an attitude might be understandable; in a world where even the baptised are mostly uncatechized, rather less so!  Bishops (and priests) are responsible for all those who live within their territories, not just those that turn up at at their church.  So perhaps more of our bishops should take to heart the example of the sending out of the Apostles...

Here is some of what the Catena Aurea has to say on the subject:

"GLOSS; Because the manifestation of the Spirit, as the Apostle speaks, is given for the profit of the Church, after bestowing His power on the Apostles, He sends them that they may exercise this power for the good of others; These twelve Jesus sent forth. 

JEROME; This passage does not contradict the command which He gave afterwards, Go and teach all nations; for this was before His resurrection , that was after. And it was necessary the coming of Christ to be preached to the Jews first, that they might not have any just plea, or say that they were rejected of the Lord, who sent the Apostles to the Gentiles and Samaritans. 

CHRYS; Also they were sent to the Jews first, in order that being trained in Judea, as in a palaestra, they might enter on the arena of the world to contend; thus He taught them like weak nestlings to fly. 

GREG; Or He would be first preached to Judea and afterwards to the Gentiles, in order that the preaching of the Redeemer should seem to seek out foreign lands only because it had been rejected in His own. There were also at that time some among the Jews who should be called, and among the Gentiles some who were not to be called, as being unworthy of being renewed to life, and yet not deserving of the aggravated punishment which would ensue upon their rejection of the Apostles' preaching. 

GLOSS; Having told them to whom they should go, He now introduces what they should preach; Go and preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 

RABAN; The kingdom of heaven is here said to draw nigh by the faith in the unseen Creator which is bestowed upon us, not by any movement of the visible elements. The saints are rightly denoted by the heavens, because they contain God by faith, and love Him with affection. 

CHRYS; Behold the greatness of their ministry, behold the dignity of the Apostles. They are not to preach of any thing that can be an object of sense, as Moses and the Prophets did; but things new and unhooked for; those preached earthly goods, but these the kingdom of heaven and all the goods that are there. 

GREG; The Holy Church daily does spiritually, what it then did materially by the Apostles; yea, things far greater, inasmuch as she raises and cures souls and not bodies. 

REMIG; The sick are the slothful who have not strength to live well; the lepers are the unclean in sin and animal delights; the demoniacs are they that are given up under the power of the Devil. 

JEROME; And because spiritual gifts are more lightly esteemed when money is made the means of obtaining them, He adds a condemnation of avarice; Freely you have received, freely give; I your Master and Lord have imparted these to you without price, do you therefore give them to others in like manner, that the free grace of the Gospel be not corrupted. 

GREG; For He knew before that there would be some that would turn the gift of the Spirit which they had received into merchandise, and pervert the power of miracles into an instrument of their covetousness.