Saturday, 22 February 2014

Readings for Sexagesima Sunday

This Sunday's Gospel is St Luke 8: 4-15:

Cum autem turba plurima convenirent, et de civitatibus properarent ad eum, dixit per similitudinem: 5 Exiit qui seminat, seminare semen suum. Et dum seminat, aliud cecidit secus viam, et conculcatum est, et volucres cæli comederunt illud. 6 Et aliud cecidit supra petram: et natum aruit, quia non habebat humorem. 7 Et aliud cecidit inter spinas, et simul exortæ spinæ suffocaverunt illud. 8 Et aliud cecidit in terram bonam: et ortum fecit fructum centuplum. Hæc dicens clamabat: Qui habet aures audiendi, audiat.9 Interrogabant autem eum discipuli ejus, quæ esset hæc parabola. 10 Quibus ipse dixit: Vobis datum est nosse mysterium regni Dei, ceteris autem in parabolis: ut videntes non videant, et audientes non intelligant. 11 Est autem hæc parabola: Semen est verbum Dei. 12 Qui autem secus viam, hi sunt qui audiunt: deinde venit diabolus, et tollit verbum de corde eorum, ne credentes salvi fiant. 13 Nam qui supra petram, qui cum audierint, cum gaudio suscipiunt verbum: et hi radices non habent: qui ad tempus credunt, et in tempore tentationis recedunt. 14 Quod autem in spinas cecidit: hi sunt qui audierunt, et a sollicitudinibus, et divitiis, et voluptatibus vitæ euntes, suffocantur, et non referunt fructum. 15 Quod autem in bonam terram: hi sunt qui in corde bono et optimo audientes verbum retinent, et fructum afferunt in patientia.

Or:

[4] And when a very great multitude was gathered together, and hastened out of the cities unto him, he spoke by a similitude. [5] The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it.[6] And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. [7] And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it. [8] And other some fell upon good ground; and being sprung up, yielded fruit a hundredfold. Saying these things, he cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. [9] And his disciples asked him what this parable might be. [10] To whom he said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand.[11] Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. [12] And they by the way side are they that hear; then the devil cometh, and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. [13] Now they upon the rock, are they who when they hear, receive the word with joy: and these have no roots; for they believe for a while, and in time of temptation, they fall away. [14] And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. [15] But that on the good ground, are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.

The Matins readings (Homily of St Gregory)

Reading 9: Dearly beloved brethren, the passage from the Holy Gospel which ye have just heard, needeth not so much that I should explain it, as that I should seek to enforce its lesson. The Truth Himself hath explained it, and, after that, it beseemeth not man's frailty to fritter away His exposition by any further comment. But there is, in that very explanation by the Lord, somewhat, which it behoveth us well to weigh. If it were but we who bade you believe that by the seed is signified the word; by the field, the world; by the birds, the devils; and by the thorns, riches ye would perchance doubt of the truth of our explanation.

Reading 10:Therefore the Lord Himself hath vouchsafed to give this explanation, and that, not for this parable only, but that ye may know in what manner to interpret others, whereof He hath not given the meaning.Beginning His explanation, the Lord saith that He speaketh in parables. Hereby He doth certify us, when our weakness would unveil to you the hidden meaning of His words.

Reading 11: If I spake of myself, who would believe me when I say that riches are thorns? Thorns prick, but riches lull to rest. And yet riches are indeed thorns, for the anxiety they bring is a ceaseless pricking to the minds of their owners, and, if they lead into sin, they are thorns which bloodily tear the soul. But we understand from another Evangelist Matth. xiii. 22 that in this place the Lord speaketh, not of riches themselves, but of the deceitfulness of riches.

Reading 12: Those riches are deceitful riches, which can be ours only for a little while; those riches are deceitful riches, which cannot relieve the poverty of our souls. They are the only true riches, which make us rich in virtues. If then, dearly beloved brethren, ye seek to be rich, earnestly desire the true riches. If ye would be truly honourable, strive after the kingdom of heaven. If ye love the bravery of titles, hasten to have your names written down at Court above, where Angels are. Take to heart the Lord's words which your ear heareth. The food of the soul is the word of God when the stomach is sick it throweth up again the food which is put into it, and so is the soul sick when a man heareth and digesteth not in his memory the Word of God. And if any man cannot keep his food, that man's life is in desperate case.

Matthew 19:1-15

St Matthew 19 opens with the teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, and the higher calling of celibacy for the sake of the kingdom.  Verses 3-12 are used in the Mass of a virgin martyr:

1 Et factum est, cum consummasset Jesus sermones istos, migravit a Galilæa, et venit in fines Judææ trans Jordanem, 2 et secutæ sunt eum turbæ multæ, et curavit eos ibi. 3 Et accesserunt ad eum pharisæi tentantes eum, et dicentes: Si licet homini dimittere uxorem suam, quacumque ex causa? 4 Qui respondens, ait eis: Non legistis, quia qui fecit hominem ab initio, masculum et feminam fecit eos? Et dixit: 5 Propter hoc dimittet homo patrem, et matrem, et adhærebit uxori suæ, et erunt duo in carne una. 6 Itaque jam non sunt duo, sed una caro. Quod ergo Deus conjunxit, homo non separet. 7 Dicunt illi: Quid ergo Moyses mandavit dare libellum repudii, et dimittere? 8 Ait illis: Quoniam Moyses ad duritiam cordis vestri permisit vobis dimittere uxores vestras: ab initio autem non fuit sic. 9 Dico autem vobis, quia quicumque dimiserit uxorem suam, nisi ob fornicationem, et aliam duxerit, mœchatur: et qui dimissam duxerit, mœchatur. 10 Dicunt ei discipuli ejus: Si ita est causa hominis cum uxore, non expedit nubere. 11 Qui dixit illis: Non omnes capiunt verbum istud, sed quibus datum est. 12 Sunt enim eunuchi, qui de matris utero sic nati sunt: et sunt eunuchi, qui facti sunt ab hominibus: et sunt eunuchi, qui seipsos castraverunt propter regnum cælorum. Qui potest capere capiat.13 Tunc oblati sunt ei parvuli, ut manus eis imponeret, et oraret. Discipuli autem increpabant eos. 14 Jesus vero ait eis: Sinite parvulos, et nolite eos prohibere ad me venire: talium est enim regnum cælorum. 15 Et cum imposuisset eis manus, abiit inde.

Or:

1] And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea, beyond Jordan. [2] And great multitudes followed him: and he healed them there. [3] And there came to him the Pharisees tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? [4] Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, Made them male and female? And he said: [5] For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh.[6] Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. [7] They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away? [8] He saith to them: Because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. [9] And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery. [10] His disciples say unto him: If the case of a man with his wife be so, it is not expedient to marry.[11] Who said to them: All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given. [12] For there are eunuchs, who were born so from their mother' s womb: and there are eunuchs, who were made so by men: and there are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven. He that can take, let him take it. [13] Then were little children presented to him, that he should impose hands upon them and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. [14] But Jesus said to them: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me: for the kingdom of heaven is for such. [15] And when he had imposed hands upon them, he departed from thence.

Commentary

On the choice of celibacy:

JEROME; But let none think, that wherein He adds, save they to whom it its given, that either fate or fortune is implied, as though they were virgins only whom chance has led to such a fortune. For that is given to those who have sought it of God, who have longed for it, who have striven that they might obtain it. 

PSEUDO-CHRYS; But all cannot obtain it because all do not desire to obtain it. The prize is before them; he who desires the honor will not consider the toil. None would ever vanquish, if all shunned the struggle. Because then some have fallen from their purpose of continence, we ought not therefore to faint from that virtue; for they that fall in the battle do not slay the rest. That He says therefore, Save they to whom it is given, shows that unless we receive the aid of grace, we have not strength. But this aid of grace is not denied to such as seek it, for the Lord says above, Ask, and you shall receive. 

CHRYS; Then to show that this is possible, He says, For there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men; as much as to say, Consider, had you been so made of others, you would have lost the pleasure without gaining the reward. 

PSEUDO-CHRYS; For as the deed without the will does not constitute a sin; so a righteous act is not in the deed unless the will go with it. That therefore is honorable continence, not which mutilation of body of necessity enforces, but which the will of holy purpose embraces. 

JEROME; He speaks of three kinds of eunuchs, of whom two are carnal, and one spiritual. One, those who are so born of their mother's womb; another, those whom enemies or courtly luxury has made so; a third, those who have made themselves so for the kingdom of heaven, and who he might have been men, but become eunuchs for Christ. To them the reward is promised, for to the others whose continence was involuntary, nothing is due. 

HILARY; The cause in one item he assigns nature; in the next violence, and in the last his own choice, in him, namely, that determined to be so from hope of the kingdom of heaven. 

JEROME; Or we may say otherwise. The eunuchs from their mothers' wombs are they whose nature is colder, and not prone to lust. And they that are made so of men are they whom physicians made so, or they whom worship of idols has made effeminate, or who from the influence of heretical teaching pretend to chastity, that they may thereupon claim truth for their tenets. But none of them obtain the kingdom of heaven, save he only who has become a eunuch for Christ's sake. Whence it follows, He that is able to receive it, let him receive it; let each calculate his own strength, whether he is able to fulfill the rules of virginity and abstinence. For in itself continence is sweet and alluring, but each man must consider his strength, that he only that is able may receive it. This is the voice of the Lord exhorting and encouraging on His soldiers to the reward of chastity, that he who can fight might fight and conquer and triumph. 

CHRYS; When he says, Who have made themselves eunuchs. He does not mean cutting off of members, but a putting away of evil thoughts. For he that cuts off a limb is under a curse, for such an one undertakes the deeds of murderers, and opens a door to Manicheans who depreciate the creature, and cut off the same members as do the Gentiles. For to cut off members is of the temptation of demons. But by the means of which we have spoken desire is not diminished but made more urgent; for it has its source elsewhere, and chiefly in a weak purpose and an unguarded heart. For if the heart be well governed, there is no danger from the natural motions; nor does the amputation of a member bring such peacefulness and immunity from temptation as does a bridle upon the thoughts.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Matthew 18:21-35

The final section of St Matthew's Gospel deals with forgiveness.  The parable of the debtor is the Gospel for the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost:

22 Dicit illi Jesus: Non dico tibi usque septies: sed usque septuagies septies. 23 Ideo assimilatum est regnum cælorum homini regi, qui voluit rationem ponere cum servis suis. 24 Et cum cœpisset rationem ponere, oblatus est ei unus, qui debebat ei decem millia talenta. 25 Cum autem non haberet unde redderet, jussit eum dominus ejus venundari, et uxorem ejus, et filios, et omnia quæ habebat, et reddi. 26 Procidens autem servus ille, orabat eum, dicens: Patientiam habe in me, et omnia reddam tibi. 27 Misertus autem dominus servi illius, dimisit eum, et debitum dimisit ei. 28 Egressus autem servus ille invenit unum de conservis suis, qui debebat ei centum denarios: et tenens suffocavit eum, dicens: Redde quod debes. 29 Et procidens conservus ejus, rogabat eum, dicens: Patientiam habe in me, et omnia reddam tibi. 30 Ille autem noluit: sed abiit, et misit eum in carcerem donec redderet debitum. 31 Videntes autem conservi ejus quæ fiebant, contristati sunt valde: et venerunt, et narraverunt domino suo omnia quæ facta fuerant. 32 Tunc vocavit illum dominus suus: et ait illi: Serve nequam, omne debitum dimisi tibi quoniam rogasti me: 33 nonne ergo oportuit et te misereri conservi tui, sicut et ego tui misertus sum? 34 Et iratus dominus ejus tradidit eum tortoribus, quoadusque redderet universum debitum. 35 Sic et Pater meus cælestis faciet vobis, si non remiseritis unusquisque fratri suo de cordibus vestris.

[21] Then came Peter unto him and said: Lord, how often shall my brother offend against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? [22] Jesus saith to him: I say not to thee, till seven times; but till seventy times seven times. [23] Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened to a king, who would take an account of his servants. [24] And when he had begun to take the account, one was brought to him, that owed him ten thousand talents. [25] And as he had not wherewith to pay it, his lord commanded that he should be sold, and his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.26] But that servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. [27] And the lord of that servant being moved with pity, let him go and forgave him the debt. [28] But when that servant was gone out, he found one of his fellow servants that owed him an hundred pence: and laying hold of him, throttled him, saying: Pay what thou owest. [29] And his fellow servant falling down, besought him, saying: Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. [30] And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he paid the debt.31] Now his fellow servants seeing what was done, were very much grieved, and they came and told their lord all that was done. [32] Then his lord called him; and said to him: Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all the debt, because thou besoughtest me: [33] Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee? [34] And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. [35] So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

Commentary

We often feel we shouldn't confess the same sins over and over; should only have to put up with so much from others.  The Gospel though, instructs us otherwise.  Here is the Catena Aurea's exposition of the seven times seventy rule:

"JEROME; The Lord had said above, See that you despise not one of these little ones, and had added, If your brother sin against you, &c. making also a promise, If two of you, &c. by which the Apostle Peter was led to ask, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? And to his question he adds an opinion, Until seven times? 

CHRYS; Peter thought that he had made a large allowance; but what answers Christ the Lover of men? it follows, Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times, but, Until seventy times seven. 

AUG; I am bold to say, that if he shall sin seventy-eight times, you should forgive him; yea, and if a hundred; and how often so if ever he sin against you, forgive him. For if Christ found a thousand sins, yet forgave them all, do not you withdraw your forgiveness. For the Apostle says, Forgiving one another, if any man have quarrel against any, even as God in Christ forgave you. 

CHRYS; When He says, Until seventy times seven, He does not limit a definite number within which forgiveness must be kept; but He signifies thereby something endless and ever enduring. 

AUG; Yet not without reason did the Lord say, Seventy times seven; for the Law is set forth in ten precepts; and the Law is signified by the number ten, sin by eleven, because it is passing the denary line. Seven is used to be put for a whole, because time goes round in seven days. Take eleven seven times, and you have seventy. He would therefore have all trespasses forgiven, for this is what He signifies by the number seventy-seven. 

ORIGEN; Or, because the number six seems to denote toil and labor, and the number seven repose, He says that forgiveness should be given to all brethren who live in this world, and sin in the things of this world. But if any commit transgressions beyond these things, he shall then have no further forgiveness. 

JEROME; Or understand it of four hundred and ninety times, that He bids us forgive our brother so oft. 

RABAN; It is one thing to give pardon to a brother when he seeks it, that he may live with us in social charity, as Joseph to his brethren; and another to a hostile foe, that we may wish him good, and if we can do him good, as David mourning for Saul."

Chrysostom sees in the parable an important issue about sins against God compared to sins against men:

Do you see how great the difference between sins against man and against God? As great as between ten thousand talents, and a hundred pence, or rather even much more. And this arises both from the difference of the persons, and the constant succession of our sins. For when a man looks at us, we stand off and shrink from sinning: but when God sees us every day, we do not forbear, but do and speak all things without fear.

God gives us so much, he argues, and we do so little in return:

And He gave us also a baptism of the re mission of sins, and a deliverance from vengeance, and an inheritance of a kingdom, and He promised numberless good things on our doing what is right, and stretched forth His hand, and shed abroad His Spirit into our hearts.

What then? After so many and such great blessings, what ought to be our disposition; should we indeed, even if each day we died for Him who so loves us, make due recompense, or rather should we repay the smallest portion of the debt

By forgiving others we go some way towards making recompense,.  Something to contemplate as we approach Lent.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Matthew 18:15-20

St Matthew 18:15-20  deals with rebuking those who sin.  Verses 15-22 are used at Mass on the Tuesday after the Third Sunday of Lent:

15 Si autem peccaverit in te frater tuus, vade, et corripe eum inter te, et ipsum solum: si te audierit, lucratus eris fratrem tuum. 16 Si autem te non audierit, adhibe tecum adhuc unum, vel duos, ut in ore duorum, vel trium testium stet omne verbum. 17 Quod si non audierit eos: dic ecclesiæ. Si autem ecclesiam non audierit, sit tibi sicut ethnicus et publicanus. 18 Amen dico vobis, quæcumque alligaveritis super terram, erunt ligata et in cælo: et quæcumque solveritis super terram, erunt soluta et in cælo. 19 Iterum dico vobis, quia si duo ex vobis consenserint super terram, de omni re quamcumque petierint, fiet illis a Patre meo, qui in cælis est. 20 Ubi enim sunt duo vel tres congregati in nomine meo, ibi sum in medio eorum.

Or:

[15] But if thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. [16] And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more: that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. [17] And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican. [18] Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven. [19] Again I say to you, that if two of you shall consent upon earth, concerning any thing whatsoever they shall ask, it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven. [20] For where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

Commentary

In the previous section of the chapter, we were instructed not to cause offence; here we deal with the victims.  And we are told not to let things go, for silence can be a sin too, but to attempt to get the offender to repent:

CHRYS; Having above given a severe sentence against those who were the cause of offense, making them to fear on all sides; so now that they to whom the offense is offered should not fall into the opposite fault of supineness and indifference, seeking to spare themselves in all things, and so be puffed up; the Lord here checks such a tendency, commanding that they be reproved, saying, If your brother shall trespass against you, go, tell him his fault between you and him alone. 

AUG; Our Lord admonishes us not to overlook one another's faults, yet not so as seeking formatter of blame, but watching what you may amend. For our rebuke should be in love, not eager to wound, but anxious to amend. If you pass it by, you are become worse shall he. He by doing you a wrong has done himself a great hurt; you slight your brother's wound, and are more to blame for your silence than he for his ill words to you. 

ID; For often we wrongly shun to teach and admonish, or to rebuke and check the wicked, either because the task is irksome, or because we would escape their enmity, lest they should harm or obstruct us in temporal things, whether in gaining objects we desire, or in holding what our frailty fears to love. But if any one spares reproof of evil doers, because he seeks fitter occasion, or fears to make them worse, or that they may be an impediment to the good and pious living of other weak ones, or may grieve them, or turn them from the faith; herein there is seen no considerations of covetousness, but the prudence of charity. And much weightier reason have they who are set over the churches, to the end they should not spare to rebuke sin; though not even he is free from this blame, who, though not in authority, wots of many things in them to whom he is bound by the ties of this life, which should be touched by admonition or correction, but neglects to do so; shunning their displeasure on account of things which he does not unduly use in this life, but wherewith he is unduly delighted. 

Of course this does not exclude us from the need to forgive:

CHRYS; It is to be noted, that one while the Lord brings the offender to him whom he has offended; as when He says, If you remember that your brother has something against you, go, be reconciled to your brother: meanwhile He bids him that has suffered the wrong to forgive his neighbor; as where he says, Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors. Here He has devised yet another method, for He brings him who has been grieved to him that grieved him, and therefore says, If your brother sin against you; for because he that did the wrong would not readily come to make amends, because of his shame, He draws to him that has suffered the wrong; and not only draws him there, but with the very purpose of correcting what was done amiss; whence He says, Go and tell him his fault. 

RABAN; He does not command us to forgive indiscriminately, but him only that will hearken and be obedient, and do penitence; that neither should forgiveness be unattainable, nor sufferance be too far relaxed.

The command to go first to the person in private evidently only applies where the sin is private.  In others cases discernment must take place:

AUG; But the Apostle says, They that sin rebuke before all, that others may fear to do the like. Some times therefore your brother is to be spoken to between you and him alone, sometimes to be rebuked before all. What you must do first, attend and learn; If your brother, says He, sin against you, tell him of his fault between you and him alone. Why? Because he has sinned against you. What is it that he has sinned against you? You know that he has sinned, and therefore since his sin was in private, let your rebuke be in private too. For if you alone know of his trespass, and proceed to rebuke him before all, you do not correct but betray him. Your brother has sinned against you; if you alone know thereof, then he has sinned against you only but if he did you a wrong in the presence of many, then he has sinned against those also who were witnesses of his fault. Those faults then are to be rebuked before all, that are committed before all; those which are done in private, are to be rebuked in private. Discern times, and the Scriptures are consistent. But why do you correct your neighbor? Because his trespass has hurt yourself? Far be it from you. If you do it from self love, you do nothing; if you do it from love of him, you do most rightly. Lastly, in what you shall say to him, keep in view for whose sake it is that you ought to do it, for your own or for his, for it follows, If he hear you, you has gained your brother, do it therefore for his sake, that you may gain him. And do you confess that by your sin against man you were lost; for if you were not lost, how has he gained you? Let none then make light of it when he sins against his brother. 

When the escalation prescribed doesn't work, more is needed:

JEROME; If yet he will not hear them, then it must be told to many, that he may be held in abhorrence; so that he who could not be saved by his own sense of shame, may be saved by public disgrace; whence it follows, If he will not hear them, tell it to the Church. 

CHRYS; That is, to those that are over the Church. 

GLOSS; Or, tell it to the whole Church, that his infamy may be the greater. After all these things follows excommunication, which ought to be inflicted by the mouth of the Church, that is, by the Priest, and when he excommunicates, the whole Church works with him; as it follows, And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to you as a heathen, and a publican. 

AUG; That is, regard him no longer in the number of your brethren. Though even thus we are not to neglect his salvation; for the heathens themselves, that is, the gentiles and pagans, we do not indeed regard in the number of our brethren, yet we ever seek their salvation. 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Notes on Matthew 18:1-14

Chapter 18 of St Matthew contains several important teachings on which there is much confusion in our times, and on which we need to be ready to refute error.    Challoner's summary is:

"Christ teaches humility, to beware of scandal, and to flee the occasions of sin: to denounce to the church incorrigible sinners, and to look upon such as refuse to hear the church as heathens. He promises to his disciples the power of binding and loosing: and that he will be in the midst of their assemblies. No forgiveness for them that will not forgive."

 Accordingly, I'm going to spread consideration of it over three days.  Today's section provides, inter alia, a salutary reminder to us that scandal caused by those within the Church, though a terrible thing, is to be expected, a product of original sin.  The chapter does prescribe what to do in the face of such scandals.  But its message is firstly to focus on our own sins.

Matthew 18:1-15

1 In illa hora accesserunt discipuli ad Jesum, dicentes: Quis, putas, major est in regno cælorum? 2 Et advocans Jesus parvulum, statuit eum in medio eorum, 3 et dixit: Amen dico vobis, nisi conversi fueritis, et efficiamini sicut parvuli, non intrabitis in regnum cælorum. 4 Quicumque ergo humiliaverit se sicut parvulus iste, hic est major in regno cælorum. 5 Et qui susceperit unum parvulum talem in nomine meo, me suscipit: 6 qui autem scandalizaverit unum de pusillis istis, qui in me credunt, expedit ei ut suspendatur mola asinaria in collo ejus, et demergatur in profundum maris. 7 Væ mundo a scandalis! Necesse est enim ut veniant scandala: verumtamen væ homini illi, per quem scandalum venit. 8 Si autem manus tua, vel pes tuus scandalizat te, abscide eum, et projice abs te: bonum tibi est ad vitam ingredi debilem, vel claudum, quam duas manus vel duos pedes habentem mitti in ignem æternum. 9 Et si oculus tuus scandalizat te, erue eum, et projice abs te: bonum tibi est cum uno oculo in vitam intrare, quam duos oculos habentem mitti in gehennam ignis. 10 Videte ne contemnatis unum ex his pusillis: dico enim vobis, quia angeli eorum in cælis semper vident faciem Patris mei, qui in cælis est. 11 Venit enim Filius hominis salvare quod perierat. 12 Quid vobis videtur? si fuerint alicui centum oves, et erravit una ex eis: nonne relinquit nonaginta novem in montibus, et vadit quærere eam quæ erravit? 13 Et si contigerit ut inveniat eam: amen dico vobis, quia gaudet super eam magis quam super nonaginta novem, quæ non erraverunt. 14 Sic non est voluntas ante Patrem vestrum, qui in cælis est, ut pereat unus de pusillis istis.

And in the Douay-Rheims version:

1] At that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? [2] And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them, [3] And said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. [4] Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. [5] And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.
[6] But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea. [7] Woe to the world because of scandals. For it must needs be that scandals come: but nevertheless woe to that man by whom the scandal cometh. [8] And if thy hand, or thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee to go into life maimed or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into everlasting fire. [9] And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee. It is better for thee having one eye to enter into life, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. [10] See that you despise not one of these little ones: for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.r the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. [12] What think you? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them should go astray: doth he not leave the ninety-nine in the mountains, and go to seek that which is gone astray? [13] And if it so be that he find it: Amen I say to you, he rejoiceth more for that, than for the ninety-nine that went not astray. [14] Even so it is not the will of your Father, who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. 

Commentary

The Catena Aurea on the inevitability of scandals, both positive and negative:

CHRYS; This does not subvert the liberty of the will, or impose a necessity of any act, but shows what must come to pass. Offenses are hindrances in the right way. But Christ's prophecy does not bring in the offenses, for it is not done because He foretold it, but He foretold it because it was certainly to come to pass. But some one will say, If all men are recovered, and if there be none to bring the offenses, will not His speech be convicted of falsehood? By no means; for seeing that men were incurable, He therefore said, It must needs be that of offenses come; that is, they surely will come; which He never would have said, if all men might be amended. 

GLOSS; Or they must needs come because they are necessary, that is, useful, that by this mean they that are approved may be made manifest. 

CHRYS; For offenses rouse men, and make them more attentive; and he who falls by them speedily rises again, and is more careful. 

HILARY; Or; The lowliness of His passion is the scandal of the world, which refused to receive the Lord of eternal glory under the disgrace of the Cross. And what more dangerous for the world than to have rejected Christ? And He says that offenses must needs come, forasmuch as in the sacrament of restoring to us eternal life, all lowliness of suffering was to be fulfilled in Him. 

ORIGEN; Or; The scandals that are to come are the Angels of Satan. But do not look that these offenses should show themselves in a substantial or natural shape, for in some the freedom of the will has been the origin of offense, not liking to undergo toil for virtue's sake. But there cannot be real good, without the opposition of evil. It must needs be then that offenses come, as it must needs be that we encounter the evil assaults of spiritual porters; whose hatred is the more stirred up, as Christ's word invading men drives out the evil influences from them. And they seek instruments by whom the offenses may the rather work; and to such instruments is more woe; for him who gives, it shall be worse than for him who takes, the offense, as it follows, But woe to that man by whom the offense come. 

JEROME, As much as to say, Woe to that man through whose fault it comes to pass, that offenses must heeds be in the world.. And finder this general declaration, Judas is particularly condemned, who had made ready his soul for the act of betrayal. 

There are, however, things we can do when the scandal is ourselves.  First, avoid occasions of sin:

CHRYS; But that you may learn that there is no absolute necessity for offenses, hear what follows, If your hand or your foot offend you, &c. This is not said of the limbs of the body, but of friends whom we esteem as limbs necessary to us; for nothing is so hurtful as evil communications

RABAN; Scandal (offense) is a Greek word, which we may call a stumbling-block, or a fall, or hitting of the foot. He then scandalizes his brother, who by word or deed amiss gives him occasion of falling. 

JEROME; So all affection, our whole kindred, are severed from us; lest under cover of duty any believer should be exposed to offense. If, He says, he be united to you as close as is your hand, or foot, or eye, and is useful to you, anxious and quick to discern, and yet causes you offense, and is by the unmeetness of his behavior drawing you into hell; it is better for you that you lack his kindled, and his profitableness to you, than that whilst you seek to gain your kindled or friends, you should have cause of failings. For every believer knows what is doing him harm, what troubles and tempts him, for it is better to lead a solitary life, than to lose eternal life, in order to have the things necessary for this present life. 

ORIGEN; Or, The priests may with good reason be called the eyes of the Church, since they are considered her watchmen ; but the deacons and the rest her hands, for by them spiritual deeds are wrought; the people are the feet of the body, the Church; and all these it is necessary not to spare, if they become an offense to the Church. Or, by the offending hand is understood an act of the mind; a motion of the mind is the offending foot, and a vision of the mind is the sinning eye, which we ought to cut off if they give offense, for thus the acts of the limbs are often put in Scripture for the limbs themselves.

Secondly, be careful not to despise others, but rather seek to help heal them:

JEROME; The Lord had said, under the type of hand, foot, and eye, that all kin and connection which could afford scandal must be cut off. The harshness of this declaration He accordingly tempers with the following precept, saying, Take heed that you despise not one of these little ones; i.e. As far as you may avoid despising them, but next to your own salvation seek also to heal them. But if you see that they hold to their sins, it is better that you be saved, than that you perish in much company. 

CHRYS; Or otherwise, As to shun the evil, so to honor the good, has great recompense. Above then He had bid them to cut off the friendships of those that gave offense, here He teaches them to show honor and service to the saints. 

ORIGEN; The little ones are those that are but lately born in Christ, or those who abide without advance, as though lately born. But Christ judged it needless to give command concerning not despising the more perfect believers, but concerning the little ones, as He had said above, If any man shall offend one of these little ones. A man may perhaps say that a little one here means a perfect Christian, according to that He says elsewhere, Who is least among you, you shall be great. 

CHRYS; Or because the perfect are esteemed of many as little ones, as poor, namely, and despicable. 

Thirdly, ask for help from our Guardian angels:

JEROME; High dignity of souls, that each from its birth has an Angel set in charge over it! 

CHRYS; Here He is speaking not of any Angels, but of the higher sort; for when He says, Behold the face of my Father, He shows that their presence before God is free and open, and their honor great. 

HILARY; The Angels offer daily to God the prayers of those that are to be saved by Christ; it is therefore perilous to despise him whose desires and requests are conveyed to the eternal and invisible God, by the service and ministry of Angels. 

Fourthly, rely on Christ:

JEROME; Others think that by the ninety and nine sheep are understood the number of the righteous, and by the one sheep the sinners, according to that said in another place, I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Notes on Matthew 17: 14-26

St Matthew 17: 14-26 opens with a story of the disciples failure to heal, and Jesus' instruction on why this could occur:

14 Et cum venisset ad turbam, accessit ad eum homo genibus provolutus ante eum, dicens: Domine, miserere filio meo, quia lunaticus est, et male patitur: nam sæpe cadit in ignem, et crebro in aquam. 15 Et obtuli eum discipulis tuis, et non potuerunt curare eum. 16 Respondens autem Jesus, ait: O generatio incredula, et perversa, quousque ero vobiscum? usquequo patiar vos? Afferte huc illum ad me. 17 Et increpavit illum Jesus, et exiit ab eo dæmonium, et curatus est puer ex illa hora. 18 Tunc accesserunt discipuli ad Jesum secreto, et dixerunt: Quare nos non potuimus ejicere illum? 19 Dixit illis Jesus: Propter incredulitatem vestram. Amen quippe dico vobis, si habueritis fidem sicut granum sinapis, dicetis monti huic: Transi hinc illuc, et transibit, et nihil impossibile erit vobis. 20 Hoc autem genus non ejicitur nisi per orationem et jejunium.21 Conversantibus autem eis in Galilæa, dixit illis Jesus: Filius hominis tradendus est in manus hominum: 22 et occident eum, et tertia die resurget. Et contristati sunt vehementer.23 Et cum venissent Capharnaum, accesserunt qui didrachma accipiebant ad Petrum, et dixerunt ei: Magister vester non solvit didrachma? 24 Ait: Etiam. Et cum intrasset in domum, prævenit eum Jesus, dicens: Quid tibi videtur Simon? reges terræ a quibus accipiunt tributum vel censum? a filiis suis, an ab alienis? 25 Et ille dixit: Ab alienis. Dixit illi Jesus: Ergo liberi sunt filii. 26 Ut autem non scandalizemus eos, vade ad mare, et mitte hamum: et eum piscem, qui primus ascenderit, tolle: et aperto ore ejus, invenies staterem: illum sumens, da eis pro me et te.

In English:

[14] And when he was come to the multitude, there came to him a man falling down on his knees before him, saying: Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often into the fire, and often into the water. [15] And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. [16] Then Jesus answered and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. [17] And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child was cured from that hour. [18] Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast him out? [19] Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. [20] But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.[21] And when they abode together in Galilee, Jesus said to them: The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: [22] And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again. And they were troubled exceedingly. [23] And when they were come to Capharnaum, they that received the didrachmas, came to Peter and said to him: Doth not your master pay the didrachmas? [24] He said: Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying: What is thy opinion, Simon? The kings of the earth, of whom do they receive tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers? [25] And he said: Of strangers. Jesus said to him: Then the children are free.[26] But that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea, and cast in a hook: and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take that, and give it to them for me and thee.

Commentary

The chapter opens with a case of seeming failure of the disciples, who could not heal a child afflicted by demons.  The Catena Aurea points out that Jesus' public response is that the problem is not (just) with the disciples but the lack of faith on the part of those seeking the miracle:

JEROME; In saying, And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him, he covertly accuses the Apostles, whereas that a cure is impossible is sometimes the effect not of want of power in those that undertake it, but of want of faith in those that are to be healed. 

CHRYS; See herein also his folly, in that before the multitude he appeals to Jesus against His disciples. But He clears them from shame, imputing their failure to the patient himself; for many things show that he was weak in faith. But He addresses His reproof not to the man singly, that He may not trouble him, but to the Jews in general. For many of those present, it is likely, had improper thoughts concerning the disciples, and therefore it follows, Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, how long shall I suffer you? His How long shall I be with you? shows that death was desired by Him, and that He longed for His withdrawal. 

ORIGEN; Or; Because the disciples could not heal him as being weak in faith, He said to them, O faithless generation, adding perverse, to show that their perverseness had introduced evil beyond their nature. But I suppose, that because of the perverseness of the whole human race, as it were oppressed with their evil nature, He said, How long shall I be with you? 

Still, in private Jesus teaches that the disciples must have the faith that moves mountains:

HILARY; The Apostles had believed, yet their faith was imperfect; while the Lord tarried in the mount, and they abode below with the multitude, their faith had become stagnant. 

CHRYS; Whence it is plain that the disciples' faith was grown weak, yet not all, for those pillars were there, Peter, and James, and John. 

JEROME; This is what the Lord says in another place, Whatever you shall ask in my name believing, you shall receive. Therefore when we receive not, it is not the weakness of Him that gives, but the fault of them that ask. 

CHRYS; But it is to be known, that, as often the faith of him that draws near to receive supplies the miraculous virtue, so often the power of those that work the miracle is sufficient even without the faith of those who sought to receive. Cornelius and his household, by their faith, attracted to them the grace of the Holy Spirit; but the dead man who was cast into the sepulcher of Elisha, was revived solely by virtue of the holy body. It happened that the disciples were then weak in faith; for indeed they were but in an imperfect condition before the cross; wherefore He here tells them, that faith is the mean of miracles, I say to you, if you shall have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove hence, and it shall remove. 

JEROME; Some think that the faith that is compared to a grain of mustard-seed is a little faith, whereas the Apostle says, If I shall have such faith that I could remove mountains. The faith therefore which is compared to a grain of mustard-seed is a great faith. 

On fasting and prayer:

RABAN; But while He teaches the Apostles flow the demon ought to be cast out, He instructs all in regulation of life; that we may all know that all the heavier infliction, whether of unclean spirits, or temptations of men, may be removed by fasts and prayers; and that the wrath also of the Lord may be appeased by this remedy alone; whence he adds, This kind is not cast out except by prayer and fasting. 

CHRYS; And this He says not of lunatics in particular, but of the whole class of demons. For fast endues with great wisdom, makes a man as an Angel from heaven, and beats down the unseen powers of evil. But there is need of prayer as even still more important. And who prays as he ought, and fasts, had need of little more, and so is not covetous, but ready to almsgiving. For he who fasts, is light and active, and prays wakefully, and quenches his evil lusts, makes God propitious, and humbles his proud stomach. And he who prays with his fasting, has two wings, lighter than the winds themselves. For he is not heavy and wandering in his prayers, (as is the case with many,) but his zeal is as the warmth of fire, and his constancy as the firmness of the earth. Such an one is most able to contend with demons, for there is nothing more powerful than a man who prays properly. But if your health be too weak for strict fast, yet is it not for prayer, and if you cannot fast, you can abstain from indulgences. And this is not a little, and not very different from fast. 

REMIG; Or, fasting is here understood generally as abstinence not from food only, but from all carnal allurements, and sinful passions. In like manner prayer is to be understood in general as consisting in pious and good acts, concerning which the Apostle speaks, Pray without ceasing.


Monday, 17 February 2014

Notes on Matthew 17:1-13

Verses 1-13 of Matthew 17 deals with the Transfiguration, a very important event in the monastic tradition.  Verses 1-9 are used at the Mass of Ember Saturday in Lent, as well as on the Second Sunday of Lent.  You can find the Latin, Greek and Knox translation here.

Matthew 17

Et post dies sex assumit Jesus Petrum, et Jacobum, et Joannem fratrem ejus, et ducit illos in montem excelsum seorsum: 2 et transfiguratus est ante eos. Et resplenduit facies ejus sicut sol: vestimenta autem ejus facta sunt alba sicut nix. 3 Et ecce apparuerunt illis Moyses et Elias cum eo loquentes. 4 Respondens autem Petrus, dixit ad Jesum: Domine, bonum est nos hic esse: si vis, faciamus tria tabernacula, tibi unum, Moysi unum, et Eliæ unum. 5 Adhuc eo loquente, ecce nubes lucida obumbravit eos. Et ecce vox de nube, dicens: Hic est Filius meus dilectus, in quo mihi bene complacui: ipsum audite. 6 Et audientes discipuli ceciderunt in faciem suam, et timuerunt valde. 7 Et accessit Jesus, et tetigit eos: dixitque eis: Surgite, et nolite timere. 8 Levantes autem oculos suos, neminem viderunt, nisi solum Jesum.9 Et descendentibus illis de monte, præcepit eis Jesus, dicens: Nemini dixeritis visionem, donec Filius hominis a mortuis resurgat. 10 Et interrogaverunt eum discipuli, dicentes: Quid ergo scribæ dicunt, quod Eliam oporteat primum venire? 11 At ille respondens, ait eis: Elias quidem venturus est, et restituet omnia. 12 Dico autem vobis, quia Elias jam venit, et non cognoverunt eum, sed fecerunt in eo quæcumque voluerunt. Sic et Filius hominis passurus est ab eis. 13 Tunc intellexerunt discipuli, quia de Joanne Baptista dixisset eis.

[1] And after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart: [2] And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow. [3] And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias talking with him. [4] And Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. [5] And as he was yet speaking, behold a bright cloud overshadowed them. And lo, a voice out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him. [6] And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much afraid. [7] And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them, Arise, and fear not. [8] And they lifting up their eyes saw no one but only Jesus. [9] And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying: Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead. [10] And his disciples asked him, saying: Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first? [11] But he answering, said to them: Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things. [12] But I say to you, that Elias is already come, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind. So also the Son of man shall suffer from them. [13] Then the disciples understood, that he had spoken to them of John the Baptist.

Commentary

In this scene, Our Lord takes the leaders of the disciples aside, and gives them an experience to strengthen them for what is to come.  But why a vision of Moses and Elias?  St John Chrysostom explains:

"...And first of all this: because the multitudes said He was, some Elias, some Jeremias, some one of the old prophets, He brings the leaders of His choir, that they might see the difference even hereby between the servants and the Lord; and that Peter was rightly commended for confessing Him Son of God.

But besides that, one may mention another reason also: that because men were continually accusing Him of transgressing the law, and accounting Him to be a blasphemer, as appropriating to Himself a glory which belonged not to Him, even the Father's, and were saying, This Man is not of God, because He keeps not the Sabbath day; John 9:16 and again, For a good work we stone You not, but for blasphemy, and because that Thou, being a man, makest Yourself God: John 10:33 that both the charges might be shown to spring from envy, and He be proved not liable to either; and that neither is His conduct a transgression of the law, nor His calling Himself equal to the Father an appropriation of glory not His own; He brings forward them who had shone out in each of these respects: Moses, because he gave the law, and the Jews might infer that he would not have overlooked its being trampled on, as they supposed, nor have shown respect to the transgressor of it, and the enemy of its founder: Elias too for his part was jealous for the glory of God, and were any man an adversary of God, and calling himself God, making himself equal to the Father, while he was not what he said, and had no right to do so; he was not the person to stand by, and hearken unto him.

And one may mention another reason also, with those which have been spoken of. Of what kind then is it? To inform them that He has power both of death and life, is ruler both above and beneath. For this cause He brings forward both him that had died, and him that never yet suffered this.

But the fifth motive, (for it is a fifth, besides those that have been mentioned), even the evangelist himself has revealed. Now what was this? To show the glory of the cross, and to console Peter and the others in their dread of the passion, and to raise up their minds. Since having come, they by no means held their peace, but spoke, it is said, of the glory which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem; Luke 9:31 that is, of the passion, and the cross; for so they call it always...

For He brought those in glory too, not that these should stay where they were, but that they might even surpass their limitary lines. For example, when they said, Should we command fire to come down from heaven, and made mention of Elias as having done so, He says, You know not what manner of spirit you are of; training them to forbearance by the superiority in their gift."