1 Spiritual gifts 4 are divers, 7 yet all to profit withal 8 And to that end are diversely bestowed: 12 that by the like proportion, as the members of a natural body tend all to the 16 mutual decency, 22 service, and 26 succour of the same body; 27 so we should do one for another, to make up the mystical body of Christ.
OW concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
19 And if they were all one member, where were the body?
20 But now are they many members, yet but one body.
Douay Rheims Version
Of the diversity of spiritual gifts. The members of the mystical body, like those of the natural body, must mutually cherish one another.
OW concerning spiritual things, my brethren, I would not have you ignorant.
In this and the two following chapters S. Paul discusses Christian gifts and graces. In this chapter he points out—
i. That gifts are variously distributed by the Holy Spirit.
ii. To show this he draws an illustration from the human body, which, though it is one, yet has many different members, and he concludes that each one in the Church should be content with the grace given him, and the position in which he is placed, and use his gifts for the common good, so that all, as members of the same body, may help and care for each other (ver. 12).
iii. Next he declares that God has provided His Church with different classes of men, so that some are apostles, some prophets, some teachers, &c. (Ver. 28).
In this chapter S. Paul deals with such gifts as prophecy, tongues, and powers of healing, &c. In the beginning of the Church these gifts were abundantly bestowed upon the faithful by the Holy Spirit, even as they were upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. The occasion for his dealing with these was the way in which the Corinthians prided themselves upon these gifts: one put an extravagant value on one gift, another on another, and some were mortified at not receiving some gifts which they saw others have. The Apostle, therefore, lays down what these gifts are—their nature and import, and the manner of their use.
Ver. 1.—I would not have you ignorant. And therefore he proceeds to give them teaching about them.
Ver. 2.—Ye know that ye were Gentiles, &c. You were led like slaves, by custom, by the institutions of your ancestors, by religious tradition, and by diabolic agency to these dumb idols. For the Hebraism in the employment of the participle instead of the finite verb, cf. Rom. xi1 11. Remember, he says, 0 Corinthians, that when you were Gentiles you used to worship idols, as sticks and stones which have neither breath, feeling, power of speech, nor strength of any kind, and much less can give such things to their worshippers. But now that you have become Christians you can worship God, who is pure spirit, full of all grace and wisdom, and sheds these same spiritual gifts abundantly upon you, as you daily experience. Recognise, therefore, the grace bestowed upon you by Christ, the chance wrought in you, and worship Christ, the author of all this, together with the Holy Spirit.
Ver. 3.—Wherefore . . . no man . . . calleth Jesus accursed. The “wherefore” shows this verse to be a conclusion from the preceding, and explains it. I have reminded you, he says, of your previous condition as Gentiles, and of your dumb idols, in order that you may appreciate duly the greatness of your calling, and the grace of the Holy Spirit given you in your baptism, by which you no longer call on dumb idols but on Christ and the Holy Spirit, and receive from them gifts of tongues, &c., that you may know how full of eloquence and energy compared with your dumb idols is the Holy Spirit who makes you eloquent in divine wisdom. Acknowledge, then, the Holy Spirit’s power, and contend no more about His gifts, since you have them from the Holy Spirit, who distributes His gifts as He wills. Let not him who has received less grieve thereat, nor him who has received more be high-minded. So Chrysostom.
No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed. No one execrates or blasphemes Jesus if he has the Spirit of God. He rather acknowledges Him and calls upon Him, as the author of the grace he has received, of his salvation, and of all spiritual gifts. S. Paul uses the figure meiosis, and leaves the rest to be understood.
Observe that S. Paul says this to the Corinthians, partly because of the Jews, who to this day are declared to say in their synagogues, Cajetan says, “May Jesus and the Christians be accursed;” partly, also, and even more, because of the Gentiles, among whom the Corinthians were living. They and their poets, and their priests especially, were in the habit of execrating Jesus. Moreover, by this Gentile rulers tested whether any one were a Christian or not. They would order them to curse Christ, as Pliny says, that he had ordered (Ep. ad Traj): “There was brought before me a schedule containing the names of many who were accused of being Christians. They deny that they are or ever were Christians. In my presence they called upon the gods, and burnt incense, and poured a libation of wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought in amongst the statues of the gods. Moreover, they cursed Christ; and it is said that those who are bare Christians cannot be in any way forced to do any of these things. I thought, therefore, that they ought to be dismissed. Others said that they had been Christians, but had now ceased to be; they all paid honour to your image and the images of the gods, and cursed Christ.”
No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. The Apostle draws a contrast between calling Jesus accursed and calling Him Lord. No one can recognise, believe, invoke, and preach Jesus as Lord, and profess faith in Him as he ought, and as is necessary to salvation, except in the Holy Spirit, i.e., through the Holy Spirit. For faith, hope, and prayer are His gifts.
S. Paul does not by this deny that unbelievers, under the ordinary influence only of God, can profess the name of Jesus, or have good thoughts about Him, but only that no one without the grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit can with true faith and pious affection invoke Jesus as Lord earnestly and heartily, and confess Him to be our Redeemer; or even say in his heart, or think of Him anything which in its rank and order confers and disposes to forgiveness of sins, grace, and eternal bliss. So say Ambrose and Anselm. This appears from the fact that he is addressing the Corinthian faithful, and rebuking the pride which they took in their gifts and graces, on the ground that they have their faith and all their gifts, not from themselves but from the Holy Spirit. These gifts, then, he means to say, are not your own, nor can you even call upon Jesus of yourselves; but to know Him and call upon Him are the gift of the Holy Spirit
Ver. 4.—Now there are diversities of gifts. One grace is given to one, another to another, but they all proceed from the same Spirit.
Ver. 5.—And there are differences of administrations. There are different kinds of sacred ministries distributed by the same Lord, from whom as God and through whom as man we receive them, so that He is ministered to in different ways by different people. So Anselm.
Ver. 6.—And there are diversities of operations, &c. Observe 1. that the Apostle assigns gifts to the Holy Spirit, the fount of goodness; ministries to the Son, as Lord; operations to the Father, as the first beginning of all things. So Theophylact and Anselm.
2. The gifts here spoken of are what are sometimes called “graces gratuitously given;” the ministries are the various offices in the Church, such as the diaconate, the Episcopate, and the care of the poor; the operations are miraculous powers, such as the exorcism of demons, the healing the sick, the raising the dead. The word operations is explained in ver. 10 by being expanded into “working of miracles,” which is translated by Erasmus the “working of powers.” The Greek δύναμιςis strictly power, might, ability, and ε̉νέργεια, working ε̉νέργημα, work.
But it will be more satisfactory to say that the Apostle calls all graces gratuitously given (1.) graces, because they are given gratuitously; (2.) ministries, because by them each one ministered to the Church; (3.) workings, because by them the faithful received from the Holy Spirit a marvellous power to say and do things surpassing the power of nature. These graces are the work of the Holy Spirit equally with the Father and the Son; for all external works, as theologians say, viz., all that go forth to created things, are common to the Three Persons; yet, as they are workings they are fitly assigned to the Father, as ministries to the Son, as graces to the Holy Spirit
Which worketh all in all. 1. God works everything in nature by working effectively with second causes, as theologians teach in opposition to Gabriel Biel. Thus God brings about all the blessings of nature and of good-fortune. That one is poor, another rich is to be attributed to the counsel and will of God. Cf. S. Chrysostom (Hom. 29 Moral).
2. God works all supernatural things, both the graces that make a man pleasing to God and the graces that the Apostle means here, viz., those gratuitously given, such as the working of miracles. Whatever the saints ask of God in prayer, or order to be done in His name, is done by God’s direct action, even in the realm of nature.
It does not follow from this that the co-operation of God goes before and determines beforehand the working of secondary causes, and of free-will in good works, and of grace that makes a man pleasing; for in all these God works all things through His prevenient grace, by which He stirs up the will, and through grace co-operating, which, together with free-will freely working, works simultaneously everything that is good. But the Apostle is not dealing primarily with the works of grace that make a man pleasing to God, but with the workings of graces gratuitously given, as will appear from what follows.
S. Hilarius (de Trin. lib. viii.) renders “works” “inworks,” and so follows the Greek more closely, which signifies the inward presence and effectual power with which God works all things inwardly, especially miracles and all the other gifts. The whole chapter deals with these.
Ver. 7.—But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. The gift given by the Holy Spirit, and by which He is manifested, is given for the benefit of the Church, not of the individual
Ver. 8.—To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom. The power of explaining wisdom, viz., the deepest mysteries of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, of predestination, &c. Cf. chap. xiii.
To another the word of knowledge. The power of explaining the things pertaining to life and morals. S. Augustine distinguishes thus between wisdom and knowledge (de Trin. lib. xii. c. 14 and 15), and the Apostle so takes knowledge in chap. viii. Others understand by knowledge the power of explaining the things of faith by examples, comparisons, and human and philosophical reasonings.
Ver. 9.—To another by the same Spirit. 1. S. Paul does not mean here the theological faith which all Christians have, but that transcendent faith, including the theological, which is the mother of miracles. It consists above all things in a constant confidence in God for obtaining anything and for working miracles, e.g., as Christ says, for removing mountains. This appears from chap. xiii 2. Cf. S. Chrysostom.
2. Ambrose understands faith here to be the gift of an intrepid confession and preaching of the faith.
3. But best of all faith here is a clear perception of the mysteries of the faith for the purposes of contemplation and explanation; for in Rom. xii. 6, S. Paul says in the same way that prophets have the gift of prophecy, and ought to prophesy “according to the proportion of faith,” i.e., according to the measure of the understanding of the things of faith given them by God. Maldonatus (in Notis Manusc.) says that the Apostle here means that transcendent faith possessed by but few, and which enables its possessors to give a ready assent to Divine things; for the faith which works miracles seems to be included in the “working of powers” mentioned in the next verse, as Toletus, amongst others, rightly points out at Rom. xii. 6.
Ver. 10.—To another the working of miracles. Literally, the “working of powers,” viz., those greater miracles which concern the soul, not those which belong to the body or its diseases. Of this kind are the raising the dead, casting out devils, punishing the unbelievers and impious by a miracle, as S. Peter did Ananias and Sapphira. So say Chrysostom and Anselm. Thus the “working of powers ” is distinguished from the “gift of healing.”
To another discerning of spirits. That is of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and consequently of words and actions, whether they proceed from nature, or from the inspiration of God, or an angel or the devil. So Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm. S. Jerome, in his life of S. Hilarion, says that he had this gift, and S. Augustine says (conf. lib. iii. c. 2) that his mother Monica had; so too had S. Vincent of Ferrara, and so have some now-a-days, especially those who have the direction of souls. It is a gift most useful to confessors, one to be sought for from God, in so far as a perfect knowledge and care of consciences require it.
To another the interpretation of tongues. Of obscure passages, especially of Holy Scripture. Hence there were formerly in the Church interpreters, whose duty was fourfold: (1.) there were those who, by the gift of tongues, prophesied or sung hymns in a foreign language; (2.) those who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoke of obscure and deep mysteries; (3.) those who publicly expounded the letters of S. Paul and of others sent to their people; (4.), those who turned them into another Language. In this way many think that S. Clement turned the letter to the Hebrews from Hebrew into Greek. It appears from this that Holy Scripture is not plain to every one; nor is it, as the heretics think, to be interpreted by the private ideas of any one, seeing that God has placed interpreters in His Church. But it should be noted that these interpreters have now been succeeded by professors of Hebrew, Greek, and Divinity.
1. From this chapter and the following, theologians have drawn the distinction between grace which perfects its subject and makes him pleasing to God, such as charity, chastity, piety, and other virtues, and grace gratuitously given, which is ordained for the perfecting of others. Although the Apostle names here nine only of the “graces gratuitously given,” yet there may be more.
2. It is very likely that of these nine five are permanent habits, viz., wisdom, knowledge, faith, different kinds of tongues and their interpretation, to which must sometimes be added the discerning of spirits. The remaining four are not habits but transient actions, viz., the gift of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, and the discerning of spirits. Cf. Bellarmine (de Gratiâ, lib. i.,c. 10).
Ver. 11.—Dividing to every man severally as He will. Dividing to each one individually his own gifts and graces. Cf. S. Jerome (contra Pelag. dial. 1). Origen understood “as He will” to refer to each several man. It refers, of course, to the Holy Spirit. 1. Hence, as Theophylact says, the Holy Spirit is Lord and God. He, is not produced as an effect, but He effects all things equally with the Father, who worketh all in all (ver. 6). The working all in all assigned to the Father in ver. 6 is here assigned to the Spirit.
2. It follows that the Holy Spirit, being God, has free-will and works freely.
3. Abélard, Wyclif, and Calvin may be refuted by this verse, in their teaching that God cannot do anything but what He actually does do. This is to rob God of His omnipotence, and to subject Him, like man, to fate, and therefore to transfer His Divinity to fate. For, if this were so, God would not work as He chose, but as fate willed, under whom He and all things would be placed.
Ver. 12.—For as the body is one . . . so also is Christ. As an animal body is one, as a man has but one body, so also has Christ one body, the Church, the members of which are many, whose head He is.
1. But S. Augustine objects (de Peccat. Meritis, lib. i. c. 31) that if the Apostle had meant this he would have said, “So also is [the body] of Christ,” rather than, “So also is Christ.” In other words, he would have said that the body of Christ, the Church, has many members.
2. James Faber gathers from this that the body of Christ being indivisibly united to the whole Godhead, locally fills heaven and earth, which are, as it were, its place and His body. As Plato said that God was the soul of the world, and consequently was in a sense the whole world, so the body of Christ, from its intimate conjunction with Deity, is, like the Divine Spirit, diffused through the whole world, its parts and members are the several divisions of space and the bodies contained in it. But still in respect of the unity of the Deity, and of the body of Christ as its soul, they make up one body, viz., the universe. And hence it is that the Ubiquitarians are supposed to have obtained their false opinion that the body of Christ is everywhere. This absurd doctrine has been confuted by many, but most clearly of all by Gregory of Valentia, in five books written against the heresy of the Ubiquitarians.
3. I say, then, with S. Augustine that the meaning of this passage is simply this. So also is Christ one body, i.e., the Church. For Christ is both head and body to the Church, inasmuch as He sustains all her members and works in them all, teaches by the doctor, baptizes by the minister, believes through faith, and repents in the penitent. For in this sense Christ is not locally but mystically, and by way of operation and effectually, the body, hypostasis, soul, and spirit of the whole Church. As the Church is the body of Christ, its head, so in turn is Christ the body of the Church, because, through the operation of His grace, He transfers Himself into all the members of the Church. So the Apostle often says that we are one in Christ, that through baptism we are incorporated into Christ and made one plant with Him. And Christ said to Paul, “Why persecutest thou Me?” that is, the Christians, My members (Acts ix. 4). So Paul says again: “To me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Therefore S. Francis in his words, “My God, my Love, my All,” was but echoing S. Paul.
Ver. 13.—For by one Spirit are we all baptized. He proves that Christ is one body with many members from baptism, for by baptism we were regenerate, and incorporated into the one body of the Church, and therefore into Christ. In that body we live by the same Spirit, the Spirit of Christ; and on the same food, the Eucharist, we are fed, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, bond or free. Notice the phrase “into one body:” this body is the Church, and consequently we are baptized into Christ, who, as I have said, is in a sense the body of the Church.
And have been all made to drink into one Spirit. In the Eucharistic chalice we have quaffed, together with Christ’s blood, His Spirit. Hence some Greek copies read, “We have all drunk of one draught.” Cf. Clemens Alex. Pædag. lib. i. c. 6. The meaning is that from it we all partake of one and the same Spirit of Christ, who, by abiding in all, quickens every member, and makes it perform duly its function. In other words, not only were we born and incorporated into the said body, but we all partake of the same food, viz., Christ’s body and blood, in the Eucharist. For one species of the Eucharist leads easily to the other, and by “the drink” we may well understand “the food;” just as on the other hand from the species of bread we understand that of wine in chap. x. 17. Cf. Chrysostom and Cajetan, whose comments here are noteworthy.
It appears from this that all the baptized, whether good or bad, are the body of Christ, that is, are of the Church, and that they have been grafted into Him as members by baptism; for the soul of this body, the Church, is the faith which all the faithful have, even though their life be evil. Cf. notes to Eph. v. 27.
Ver. 22.—Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. S. Chrysostom and Theophylact think that this refers to the eyes, which are small and delicate but yet most necessary. But as the eyes have been included in the preceding verse amongst the nobler members which govern the body, it is better to refer it, as others do, to the internal parts of the body. For the belly is as the kitchen or the caterer for the whole of the body, and cooks and distributes the food for every part, and therefore is essential to the life of the body.
Ver. 23.—And those members of the body . . . upon these we bestow more abundant honour. The “less honourable” members are the feet, say Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Ambrose. We are more careful to cover them with shoes, or to bestow ornament upon them, lest they be hurt in walking, or catch cold or in some way convey illness to the stomach and head.
“Honour” here means either covering or the attention bestowed upon the feet in the way of decorated boots or leggings, such as many rich young men, and especially soldiers, wear. Homer, e.g., frequently speaks of the “well-greaved Achæans.”
And our comely parts have more abundant honour. Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Theophylact refer these to the pudenda. These, says S. Augustine (Retract. lib. ii. c. 7), are called uncomely, not because nature so made them, but because, since the Fall, lust reigns in them more than elsewhere, because lust is contrary to the law of reason, and therefore ought to be a cause of shame to man. For it puts man to shame when his member so casts off his authority. The more abundant honour that they receive is a more careful and comely covering, so that even if men anywhere discard clothing, they yet cover these parts, as Theophylact says. Moreover, these members are honoured in wedlock, as being necessary to the procreation of children and the perpetuation of the species, as Chrysostom says. Hence, under the Romans, any one who emasculated himself was severely punished, as an offender against the common good and a violent assailant of nature.
Others think that the “more feeble” and “less honourable members are identical, and are the belly and its subsidiary organs. But the Apostle makes a distinction between them, and connects them as distinct entities by the conjunction “and.” His meaning then is, that as we care for those members of the body which are more feeble and ignoble when compared to the rest, and treat them as if they were more useful, so, too, in the Church those who seem to be of less account, such as the infirm, the unknown, and the despised, are for that very reason of more use and should be the more carefully helped. So say Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm. For the use of beggars in the Church, see S. Chrysostom (Hom. 20 Moral, and also contra Invid. Hom. 31).
We have an illustration of this verse in the allegory of the belly deserted by the other members, by which Menenius Agrippa brought back the lower orders who had seceded from the senate of the Roman people, and settled on Mons Sacer (Livy, lib. ii. dec. 1). Menenius said: “At that time when men’s members were not so agreed as they are now, but each sought its own private ends, they say that the other parts of the body were indignant that the belly should get its wants supplied by their care, their toil, and their ministry, and itself rest quietly in the midst, and enjoy the pleasures they gave; so they agreed that the hand would lift no food to the mouth, that the mouth would not admit it if it were offered, nor the teeth chew it. Then while, as they thought, that they were reducing the belly by hunger, they found that each member and the whole body also were brought down to the last extremities. They saw then that the belly had, too, its active service, and was not more nourished by them than they gained from it. They saw that the blood, re-invigorated by the food that had been eaten, was impartially distributed through the veins into every part of the body, giving each its life and energy. Then, by drawing a comparison between the civil war in the body and the angry action of the lower orders against the Fathers, Menenius induced them to return.”
Ver. 24.—For our comely parts have no need. The eyes, the face, and the hands, which are the more comely parts of the body, lack no ornament, but are comely enough in themselves.
Having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. That is more careful guard, more clothing, and ornament. Cf. ver. 22.
Ver. 25.—That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. No schism, such as that related by Menenius, but that all should have the same care for the others as for themselves, or else it may mean that each member should be solicitous for the common good of the whole body.
Ver. 26.—Whether one member suffer all the members suffer with it. “They suffer together” in such away that the suffering member’s grief is lightened, “not by communion in disaster, but by the solace afforded by charity,” says S. Augustine (Ep. 133). Hence S. Basil (Reg. Brevior. 175) says that the outward proof of love is twofold: (1.) rejoicing in the good of one’s neighbour and labouring for it; (2.) in grief and sorrow for his misfortune or his sin. He who has not this loves not.
Doctors infer from this verse that souls in bliss, burning with love for us, help us by their prayers in our troubles and dangers; and that we in our turn ought to help souls kept in purgatory, for they suffer the devouring flame, and therefore he must be cruel indeed who does not suffer with them, and do what he can to set them free.
Or one member be honoured. Or as Ambrose takes it, “be glorified,” or, according to Ephrem, “whether one member rejoice.” Salmeron, after S. Chrysostom, beautifully says: “He who loves possesses whatever is in the body, the Church: take away envy and what I have is thine.” S. Chrysostom says again: “If the eye suffer, all the members will grieve, all will crease to act: the feet will not go, the hands will not work, the belly will take no pleasure in its wonted food, although it is the eye only that is suffering. Why, 0 eye, do you trouble the belly? why chain the feet? why bind the hands? Because all are knit together by nature, and suffer together in a “mysterious manner.”
Ver. 27.—-Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. The Latin version gives “members of the member.” This is explained (1.) by S. Thomas: “You are members of the principal member, viz., Christ, for Christ is the head of the Church;” (2.) by S. Anselm, “You are members of Christ through the agency of another member, viz., Paul, by whom you were united to Christ, the head, and to the Church, the body.” But (3.) the Greek gives “members in part,” and this is the rendering of some Latin Fathers, or “members of each other.” S. Ambrose seems to understand it so. The Latin version also means “fellow-members,” brethren in the same society, of the same mystical body, the Church. So too S. Chrysostom and Ephrem, whose meaning may be paraphrased: “Each one, in his part and place, is a member of the Church.”
Notice here that, as in the body there is (1.) a unity and a union of soul and body; (2.) diversity of members; (3.) differences of function between the several members; (4.) an aptitude for its function given to each member; (5.) a community of interests in the members, so that each is bound to work, not for itself only but for the others also, just because they are members of the one body; (6.) harmony, inasmuch as each member is content with its rank and duty, does not seek another post or envy a more honoured member, so that there is the most perfect union and concord, the same share in sorrow and joy: so is it in the Church. There each one has from Christ, as if He were his soul, his proper gift, his proper talent, his office and rank, his functions to be discharged for others’ good, not his own, his limits fixed by God. If anyone disturbs this order and seeks after another post, he resists the ordinance and providence of God, and forgets that all his gifts have come from God. S. Paul therefore says: “You, 0 Corinthians are members of the same body of Christ, the Church: let there not be then any divisions among you, let no one despise, envy, grieve at another, but let him love him, help him, and rejoice with him. Let each be content with his place, his rank, and his duty, for so he will be a partaker, not only of his own good, but also of the good of others. Just as the foot walks for the benefit of the eye, the ear, the belly, so in their turn the eye sees, the ear hears, and the belly digests for the benefit of the foot. But if there is envy and unwillingness shown by the eye to see, by the ear to hear, and the belly to digest, then those members hurt themselves as much as any other; and, as Chrysostom says, it is just as if one hand were to cut off the other, for that hand would be dishonoured and weakened through receiving no help from the other hand. Moreover, if nature is at such pains to preserve such perfect concord between the different members of the body, and so sternly forbids any seditious discord, how much greater concord between men’s minds will the grace of God through its greater power effect, how little will it endure that any member should stand aloof from and be at variance with another in the same body! If the magistrate or the king severely punishes sedition in the state, what, think you, will Christ do to the schismatics who rend His Church?
Ver. 28.—And God hath set some in the church, &c. Apostles as the rulers, prophets as the eyes, teachers as the tongue. From this it follows that the princes of this world are not, as Brentius thinks, the rulers and the head of the Church, but the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops; “for God,” says S. Paul, “set the Apostles first.” After that come “powers,” i.e., workers of miracles, who are as the hands of the Church; then healers of diseases; then helps, or those who help others and perform works of mercy towards the sick, the poor, the unhappy, guests, and foreigners; then governments, or men who rule. and correct others, as parish priests, as S. Thomas says, or better still, with Theophylact and Cajetan, men who have the care of the temporal wealth which the faithful offer to the Church. These last are as the feet in the body of Christ, and of such were the deacons ordained by the Apostles to look after tables and the widows (Acts vi. 1-6).
Notice the abstract here put for the concrete: “powers” for workers of powers, “gifts of healing” for healers, “helps” for helpers, “governments” for governors, “diversities of tongues” for men skilled in different languages. S. Paul knits all these, as other members of the Church, to Apostles, prophets, and teachers.
Ver. 29.—Are all apostles? Certainly not. Let each, therefore, be content with the position in which God has placed him in the Church, and with the grace that he has freely received from God, and thank God for all, and use the grace given him to God’s glory and the good of the Church.
Ver. 30—Have all the gifts of healing? S. Augustine says (Ep. 137) that “God, who divides to every man severally as He will, has not willed that miracles should be wrought in honour of every saint.” It is not wonderful then that God should work miracles in this place, in this temple, at this or that image of the Holy Mother, or again that He should give one grace to one saint, another to another. Those, e.g., who invoke S. Antony He sets free from the plague, those S. Apollonia from toothache, those S. Barbara from sudden death, and from dying without confession; for, as the Apostle says, “God divides to every man severally as He will.” So at the pool of Bethesda, and not elsewhere, God miraculously healed the impotent folk (S. John v. 2-4). So by the rod of Aaron, and of no one else, He worked miracles (Num. xvii. 8). So by the image of the brazen serpent, and of nothing else, He set free the Jews from the plague of fiery serpents (Num. xxi. 9).
Ver. 31.—But covet earnestly the best gifts. Seek from God, and exercise, if you have received them (cf. notes to ver. 8), the more useful gifts, such as apostleship, prophecy, wisdom, but not such as the gift of tongues, which you are in the habit of seeking after and of priding yourselves in. So Anselm. Others take the clause interrogatively, “Do you covet the best gifts? then I will show you a more excellent way still.” So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius.
And yet show I unto you a more excellent way, viz., the way of charity, which is the way to God, to life, and everlasting glory.
The commentary ascribed to S. Jerome says here that the Apostle divides off charity from the gifts of the Spirit, because these latter are gratuitously given by God, but charity is acquired by our own efforts and natural powers. This shows this commentary not to be S. Jerome’s, but the work of Pelagius or some Pelagian, as was said before. Primasius, who transcribed a good deal of this commentary, has shown the falsity of this remark. It appears too that charity is the gift of God from Rom. v. 5: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Hence S. Paul says here that he shows a more excellent way, meaning one that excels all others. If, then, the graces gratuitously given are of lower rank and are given by God, much more ought charity, which is exceedingly better and more excellent than them all, to be sought for and to be given from God. The Apostle then fixes the distinction between charity and the gifts of the Spirit in the fact that these latter are given for the good of the Church, not for the sanctification of him to whom they are given, while charity is given to make him who has it holy and pleasing to God. “He,” says S. Augustine (de Laud. Char.), “holds both what is patent and what is latent in God’s sayings who holds charity in his daily life.”
1 All gifts, 2, 3 how excellent soever, are nothing worth without charity. 4 The praises thereof, and 13 prelation before hope and faith.
HOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
Douay Rheims Version
Charity is to be preferred before all gifts.
F I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
3. And if I should distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I should deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
5. Is not ambitious, seeketh not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinketh no evil:
9. For we know in part: and we prophesy in part.
10. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.
i. He points out that of all gifts and graces, charity is the first, and that without charity no gift or virtue is of any use.
ii. He enumerates (ver. 4) the sixteen conditions of charity, or the modes of its manifestation towards our neighbours.
iii. He shows (ver. 8) the eminency of charity from the fact that it will remain in heaven, when faith is changed into sight and hope into fruition.
The whole of this chapter is in praise of charity. The Apostle treats of charity at such length, not only because charity is the queen of all virtues, but also because he wishes by charity, as by a most effectual medicine, to cure the pride and divisions of the Corinthians; for charity effects that superiors do not despise inferiors, and that inferiors do not feel bitter when their superiors are preferred before them. But, especially, he commends charity to them as a most excellent gift, that they may seek it rather than the gift of tongues, or of prophecy, or of miracles, which things the Corinthians were in the habit of considering most important. And this is why, in preparing his passage to charity, he said, at the end of the preceding chapter: “Covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way,” viz., of charity.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels. Some hold that the tongue of angels is Hebrew, and that this was the tongue used by God, the angels, and Adam in Paradise (of which see below, ver. 8). Secondly, the Glossa, Durandus, Greg. Ariminensis (in 2 dist. 9, qu. 2), and Molina (i p. qu. 106 art. i.) think from this passage of the Apostle, that angels speak as men, not only by forms impressed on the angel who hears, but also by gestures and signs, spiritual signs (since they are as it were a kind of spiritual conversation and form of speech), imprinted on them at their creation, as the Hebrew tongue was imprinted on Adam. Hence Franciscus Albertinus (Lib. Corollariorum Theologicorum Corollario ii) says that each angel has his own proper tongue, different from the tongue of every other angel, because the Apostle says, “Though I speak with the tongues of angels,” not with the tongue. But it seems to follow from hence, that if angels make use of those signs and speak to one, they cannot conceal them from others; for nothing natural can practise concealment but only that which is free; but these signs are natural, imprinted on them with their nature at their creation. Whence others, with S. Thomas, think that angels speak in this way, that they direct their thoughts to another, and form a wish to make them known to him, and that then, from the meet appointment of God and their meeting, a proportionate object is formed, and that this is placed as it were within a sphere of knowledge, and becomes intelligible to him, to whom they wish to speak, and not to another, so that he and none else sees and understands this object placed as it were before his eyes; from which some conclude that angels by their nature cannot lie. But the contrary seems truer, viz., that they can lie; because angels can form in their intellect a concept that is false, and opposed to the judgment of their mind, and can direct it to the other, to whom, in this way, they speak: even as man forms a false mode of speech and one opposed to his judgment when he lies. For angels do not exhibit to the sight of others the very acts of their will in themselves, that is, the very volitions and intentions, but they form in their mind concepts of these actions, whether true or false, just as they will, and represent them to him to whom they speak. But we may leave these points to be more thoroughly disputed and settled by the Schoolmen.
The tongues of angels mentioned here are not therefore addressed to the senses, as Cajetan thinks, but to the intellect, since these tongues are the very concepts of angels, most perfect and most beautiful. The tongues of angels is certainly a prosopopœia and hyperbole, that is, it denotes a most exquisite tongue. So we say in common phrases “He speaks divinely;” by a similar hyperbole it is said “the face of an angel,” that is, a most beautiful face. So Theodoret and Theophylact speak, because, as we know, angels are most beautiful in themselves, and show themselves such, both in appearance and speech, when they assume a body. So therefore Paul here, as elsewhere afterwards, speaks on a supposition by hyperbole, chiefly for the sake of emphasis. His meaning, is—If there were tongues of angels surpassing the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and I knew them, but yet did not use them for the good of my neighbour, what else would it be but an empty and noisy wordiness? So Gal. i. 8; Rom. viii. 39. Paul here points at the Corinthians, who were wont to admire the gift of tongues more than other gifts.
A tinkling cymbal, giving forth an uncertain and confused sound. The Greek α̉λαλάξονis an onomatopœia, and denotes sounding “alala, alala.” So Apion Grammaticus, because of his garrulity, was called “the cymbal of the world” (Suetonius, Lib. de Præclaris Grammaticis).
Ver. 2.—Though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Erasmus thinks that this is a hyperbolic fiction, as though he should say, “Charity by far excels faith,” just as we say, “Virtue alone is the only nobility.” But this is far too cold; for in the following verse, speaking of almsgiving and martyrdom if charity is wanting, he says, it profiteth me nothing. Therefore, I am nothing imports I am of no value, and have no grace in the presence of God; and in truth, because the righteous man is of some account before God, the rest of men, being unrighteous, are, in the eyes and estimation of God, as nothing. In other words, without charity nothing profiteth, nothing makes friendship with God; there is nothing which wins for a man righteousness and salvation, not even faith, though it be most great and most excellent, so that it can remove mountains, such as Gregory Thaumaturgus had, who, by his faith, moved a mount from its place, that he might make a place to build a church, as Eusebius narrates (Hist. lib. 7, v. 25).
You will say, therefore, If a penitent exercises himself in good works before reconciliation, they profit him nothing. Some answer that they profit him, because the penitent, they say, has charity—not infused charity which makes righteous, but that charity which is a sincere love towards God, by which he longs for reconciliation. But this affection is not and cannot be called charity; for Holy Scripture, here and elsewhere, calls charity that most eminent virtue, greater than faith and hope, which makes us friends of God.
Secondly, because the affections of fear, hope, and faith dispose to righteousness, therefore they are something, even without the affection of that love. I reply, Good works profit the sinner who repents nothing, unless charity follow. For so, he says, alms giving profits nothing, as will appear in ver. 3. For disposition by itself is useless and of no account unless there follow the form to which it disposes; therefore works without charity are nothing, that is, they confer no righteousness or salvation; and a man without charity is nothing so far as the spiritual being is concerned, in which, by supernatural regeneration, he receives a supernatural and Divine being, and is made a new creature of God, a son and heir of God. Hence it follows that faith alone does not justify.
Beza replies that here faith which works miracles alone is in question; for justifying faith, which lays hold of the mercy of God in Christ, can be separated from charity indeed in thought, but not in reality, any more than light from fire. But on the other hand, since faith which works miracles includes and presupposes faith properly so called, which is the beginning of justification (nay, faith which works miracles is the most excellent faith, as the Apostle here signifies when he says: “Though I have faith so that I could remove mountains”), therefore, if faith which works miracles can exist without charity, it will also be able to be justifying faith. Secondly, the Apostle says “all faith,” which Beza dishonestly translates “whole faith:” if all, therefore also justifying.
Thirdly, the Apostle teaches us (vers. 3 and 13) that faith and hope, both theological and justifying, remain in this life only, while charity remains also in the future life; therefore faith is separated from charity. So Chrysostom, Anselm, Theophylact, and others; and especially S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. xv. c. 18) says: “Faith, according to the Apostle, can be without charity; it cannot be profitable;” and in his sermon on the three virtues—faith, hope, and charity (tom. x.), he speaks of charity alone, “that it distinguishes between the children of God and the children of the devil, between the children of the Kingdom and the children of perdition;” and again (Lib,. de Naturâ et Gratiâ, c. ult.) he says: “Charity begun is righteousness begun; charity increased is righteousness increased; charity perfected is righteousness perfected.” See Bellarmine (de Justificatione. lib. i. c. 15). What faith which works miracles is I have said (chap. xii. 9); why the operation of miracles is to be attributed to faith S. Thomas teaches (de Potentiâ, qu. 6, art. 9).
Ver. 3—And though I bestow all my goods. The Greek verb signifies to put into the mouths of children or the sick bread, or food, in crumbs as cut up, as I have said (Rom. xii. 20); here, however, it denotes to expend all one’s substance for such a purpose.
Though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it pofiteth me nothing. You will say, Martyrdom, then, can be without grace and charity, with sin and damnation. Note firstly, as one can give alms, so one can hand over one’s body in different ways and from different motives, e.g., for one’s country, for one’s neighbour, for correction of the body, from vain glory, or again for the faith, for the love of Christ and of God—and then it is martyrdom. Secondly, martyrdom is an act springing from the virtue of fortitude, ordered often by charity; still it can be ordered, not by charity, but by another virtue, as by religion or obedience; e.g., if a man offer himself to martyrdom, that he may honour God or obey Him. These actions, however, flow from a general love of God. Thirdly, martyrdom, from whatever virtue springing, confers justifying grace, even the first, from the mere fact of its being wrought, as theologians teach; and consequently it confers charity, nor can it be separated from it as from its end.
I say, then, firstly, that the Apostle speaks in general terms of any handing over of the body to be burned: Whether any one does it for his country, as Mucius Scævola did, who, wishing to kill King Porsena when he was besieging Rome, made a mistake, and fell into the power of his enemies; then, to show how little he shrank from death for his country, he burnt his hand, “In order that you may know,” he said to Porsena, “how vile is the body in the eyes of us who look for glory;” or whether he do it for empty fame, as Peregrinus did, who, to obtain for himself an immortal name, threw himself at the Olympic games on a pyre to be consumed, as Lucian, an eyewitness, testified; or whether any one commit himself to fire for the faith of Christ, while at the same time keeping hatred of his neighbour, or a desire to commit mortal sin: which martyrdom is material, not formal; for it is then without charity and profiteth nothing, as D. Thomas, Anselm, and Theodoret say.
Hence, I say secondly, that the Apostle also speaks of giving the body in material and formal martyrdom, but hypothetically, i.e., if martyrdom could be without charity it would profit nothing. So S. Chrysostom and Theophylact. Whence Theodoret and S. Basil (Epis. 75 ad Neocæsarienses) remark that there is here a hyperbole. But, if you wish, the Apostle speaks, not merely hypothetically, but absolutely.
I say thirdly, martyrdom antecedently, whether from the mere fact of being wrought, in so far as its work is regarded in itself, or in so far as the merit of him who suffers martyrdom is regarded, can be without charity, e.g., if one living in mortal sin is willing to die for the faith of Christ, when as yet he has not charity, martyrdom profits him nothing. Nevertheless, in consequence, from the mere fact of its being wrought, in his end martyrdom always brings charity; for, from the very fact that any one, even a sinner, is killed for the faith, charity and righteousness are infused into him as if from the very act itself, and in this way martyrdom eminently profits. In this way, therefore, the sense of the Apostle will be, Martyrdom profiteth nothing unless charity go before, follow after, or accompany it, whether as the source or the end and effect of martyrdom. So S. Thomas, Cajetan, and Francisco Suarez (p. 3, qu. 69, disp. 29, sec 2). Anselm says: “Without charity nothing profits, however excellent; with charity everything profits, however vile, and becomes golden and Divine.”
It profiteth me nothing. I am not helped, I receive no benefit, i.e., towards justification and salvation. So Ephrem., “So great is charity that, if it be wanting, other things are reckoned vain; if it be present, we possess all,” says S. Augustine (tom. iii. Sententia, 326).
Ver. 4.—Charity suffereth long and is kind. Ambrose reads: “Charity is high-souled” (so also S. Cyprian and Tertullian, de Patientiâi, c. 12, read), “and is pleasing.” Note, charity is long-suffering, not formally, but in the way of cause, because it produces patience and kindness; because patience, as well as kindness, is an act not elicited but ordered by charity. Tertullian (de Patientiâ, c. 2) beautifully teaches that no virtue is perfect which has not patience as its companion, and so in all the beatitudes which Christ (in S. Matt. v.) enumerates, patience also must be understood. He teaches also (c. 12) that the treasures of charity are held in by the discipline of patience, and that charity herself is taught by patience as her mistress; for, expounding, these words of the Apostle, “charity suffereth long,” he says: Love, the great mystery of the faith, by whose training is she taught save by that of patience? Love,” he, says, “is high-souled, so she adopts patience; she does good, so patience works no evil; envieth not—that also is the property of patience; savours nothing of wantonness—she has drawn her modesty from patience; is not puffed up, behaves not unseemly—for that belongs not to patience. But what would he have left to impatience? Therefore he says, ‘Love beareth all things, endureth all things,’ that is, because she is patient.”
Hence S. Augustine (de Moribus Eccl. c. 15) then defines fortitude: “Fortitude is love bearing easily all things for God’s sake.” In like manner he defines by love the three other cardinal virtues, that they are different forms of love. “We may say,” he says, “that temperance is love preserving itself pure and uncorrupt for God; that justice is love, serving God only, and for the same cause duly ordering other things which have been placed under man; that prudence is love, rightly discerning between those things by which God is served, and by which His service is hindered.” Again (c. xxii.) he says: “That love which we must have towards God, inflamed with all holiness, is called temperate in things that ought not to be sought for, and brave in things which can be lost.” And shortly afterwards: “There is nothing so hard, so steely, which cannot be overcome by the fire of love. By love, when the soul hastens towards God, rising above the defilement of the flesh, it will fly, freely and wonderfully, on most beautiful and most chaste wings, by which pure love strives for the embrace of God.” Every virtue therefore is love and charity, viz., an act of charity not elicited but ordered, because it is ordered, directed, formed, and perfected by charity. Add to this that virtue by itself is love of good. Such was the charity of Christ on the Cross towards His crucifiers, about which S. Bernard (Sermon de Passione Domini) says: “He was smitten with scourges, crowned wish thorns, pierced with nails, fastened to the Cross, laden with reproaches; yet, heedless of all pains, He cried, ‘Forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ How ready art Thou to forgive, 0 Lord! How great is the multitude of Thy sweet mercies! How far are Thy thoughts from our thoughts! How is Thy mercy established on the wicked! A wondrous thing! He cries, ‘For give;’ the Jews, ‘Crucify;’ His words were softer than butter, and they are as darts. Oh, suffering charity, but also long suffering. ‘Charity suffereth long’—it is enough; ‘charity is kind’—it is the crowning point. Because charity is kind, she loves also those whom she tolerates, and loves them so ardently.’ And a little lower: “O Jews, ye are stones, but ye strike a softer stone, from which is given back the sound of piety, from which pours forth the oil of charity. How, 0 Lord, wilt Thou give drink to those who thirst for Thee of the torrent of Thy joy, who so overwhelmest those who crucify Thee with the oil of Thy mercy!”
Envieth not. For, as S. Gregory says (Hom. v. in Evang.), “the good will which charity begets is one that fears others’ misfortunes as its own, which rejoices in the prosperity of its neighbour as in its own, believes others’ losses as its own, and reckons others’ gains as its own.” The reason is, because charity does not regard my things and thine, but those which are God’s. For, as S. Gregory says (ibid.), “whatever we desire in this world, we envy to our neighbour,” for we seem to lose what another gains. For this cause charity is cold where lust is bold. On the contrary, when brotherly love reigns, then lust lives an exile; for, as S. Augustine says (de Doctr. Christ. lib. iii. c. 10), “the more the kingdom of lust is destroyed, the more charity is increased.”
Does nothing wrongly. Perversely, wantonly, maliciously. Some interpret the Greek, “does not chatter idly,” Vatablus, “does not flatter;” Clement (Pædag. c. ii.), “does not paint her face or adorn her head overmuch.” “For worship,” says Clement, “is said to act unseemly which openly shows superfluity and usefulness; for excessive striving after adornment is opposed to God, to reason, and to charity.” Cajetan interprets the word: “is not inconstant;” Theophylact, “is not head-strong, fickle, rash, stubborn;” Ephrem, “is not riotous.” Theophylact again, “doth not exalt itself.” So also S. Basil seems to interpret it. “What,” he asks, “does this word (περπερεύεται) mean?” which the Latin translator of Basil renders: “What do we mean by being boastful and arrogant without cause?” He replies. “That which is assumed, not from necessity but for the sake of superfluous adornment, incurs the charge o unseemliness.” But from these words it is evident that the translator has not followed the mind of S. Basil, and that Basil did not mean boasting and foolish arrogance, but painting, and excessive adornment, as did Clement of Alexandria in the place just cited. Best of all, Chrysostom understands it: “Charity is not forward or wanton, as is the carnal 1ove of lascivious men, wanton women, and harlots.” Whence Tertullian (de Patientiâ, c. xii.) says, “Charity makes not wanton.”
Ver. 5.—Is not ambitious. Ephrem translates it: “Does not commit what is shameful.” Clement (Pædag. lib. iii.c. 1). “Doth not behave itself unseemly.” Our translator with Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Œcumenius, takes it thus: Charity thinks that nothing is dishonouring or unbecoming to it, though it suffer or do what is vile, ignominious, or degrading. Or more shortly: Charity is not ashamed, because it is ambitious of nothing, and of no honour. Our translator therefore has, from the effect, understood and rendered the cause—the cause why any one is not ashamed is, because he seeks for no honour or glory. Whence Chrysostom and Theophylact think that this is said by Paul against the arrogant. “Charity,” says Chrysostom, “knows not what dishonour and disgrace are; she covers with her wings of gold the vices of all whom she embraces.” So the love of Christ did not spurn or reject harlots, scourgings, or washing of men’s feet. S. Basil understands it (in Regul. Brev. Reg. 246): “Charity doth not depart from her habit and form.” But Œcumenius: “Charity doth not treat bitterly as a prisoner the man who is her enemy.”
Thinketh no evil, i.e., charity, if she is provoked by any one, does not reckon up the injury nor seek revenge, but conceals it, excuses it, forgives it. For the Greek word, as Vatablus and the Greeks understand it, is, imputes not his evil to any one.
Ver. 6.—Rejoiceth in the truth. In the truth, not so much of speech and mind as of life, i.e., of righteousness. In other words, charity, when it sees its neighbours living justly and rightly and making advance, does not envy them, but rejoices and is glad, as though it were its own advance, as Anselm says from S. Gregory; for truth here is opposed to iniquity. Therefore truth here is equity, uprightness, righteousness. The Greeks understand it otherwise. Charity does not rejoice, but grieves when it sees an enemy suffering anything wrongly or unjustly; and it rejoices in the truth if it sees his own given to him.
Ver. 7.—Beareth all things. Like a beam which sustains an imposed weight, or rather, like a palm-tree, which does not yield under its own weight, but, like an arch, is the more strong. Rightly says Augustine (in Sententiis, sec. 295): “The fortitude of the Gentiles comes from wordly lust, but the fortitude of the Christians from the love of God which was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who was given to us, not by any determination of our own will.”
Believeth all things, i.e., charity is not suspicious, but readily gives credence to others where it can prudently believe without danger of error. Therefore Paul says, “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” That is to say, charity bears all evils and all injuries, believes and is persuaded of the best about its neighbour, hopes for all good things for its neighbour, and endures from him evil words and blows. So Chrysostom and the Greeks. Anselm, S. Thomas, and Lyra explain the words differently. Charity makes us believe what ought to be believed, hope for what we ought, and await it with patience; for otherwise in some cases that saying of Seneca is true, “It is a vice to believe everything and a vice to believe nothing.” So also S. Augustine explains it; and from these words of the Apostle he makes a chariot for charity, namely, of the four virtues of charity, faith, hope, patience, perseverance. In his sermon on the four virtues of charity he thus speaks: “Every one who devoutly bears rightly believes, and every one who rightly believes hopes for somewhat, and he who hopes perseveres, lest he should lose hope;” for the Apostle in this whole passage is treating of the offices of charity, not towards God, but towards our neighbour, and is showing how charity manifests itself in all cases to him.
Chrysostom remarks (Hom. xxxiv.) that there are here sixteen benefits and fruits of charity, which he sets up as remedies for the diseases of the Corinthians: “Charity,” he says, “patient, condemning the quarrelsome; kind, condemning the factious and stealthy; envies not, against those who are bitter against their superiors; is not wanton—he lays hold of the dissolute; is not puffed up—the proud; is not haughty, against those who will not abase themselves and serve their neighbour; seeketh not her own, against those who despise others; is not provoked—thinketh no evil against those who inflict insults; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, against the envious. Again, ‘beareth all things,’ is for a solace to these who are hemmed in by foes and down-trodden; ‘hopeth all things,’ is for a solace to those who are rejected and despaired of; ‘endureth all things and never faileth,’ is against those who, for a slight cause, foster divisions.” S. Gregory thus describes these offices of charity (Morals, book x. c. 8): “Charity is patient, because it bears calmly all evils that may be inflicted; is kind, because it bountifully repays good for evil; envieih not, because, from the fact that it seeks for nothing in this present world, it knows not how to be envious at earthly successes; is not puffed up, because, since it eagerly 1ongs for the promised inward reward, it does not exalt itself on the score of outward advantages ; does nothing amiss, because it confines itself to the love of God and of its neighbour, and is ignorant of whatever departs from rectitude; is not ambitious, because it ardently seeks within for its own perfection, and covets without no man’s goods; seeketh not its own, because it disregards, as though they were another’s, all things which here for a brief time it possesses, since it recognises that nothing is its own save what abides permanently; is not provoked, because, though stirred up by injuries, it is roused to no motions of revenge, since for great sufferings it expects hereafter greater rewards; thinketh no evil, because purity establishes a mind in love, while it plucks up all hatred by the roots, and cannot dwell in a soul which is defiled; rejoiceth not in iniquity, for it yearns with love alone for all, and does not rejoice in the fall of its enemies; but rejoiceth in the truth, because, loving others as itself, it rejoices in that which it sees good in others, as though it were an increase of its own perfection.”
A soul on fire with charity is like the sky; for as the wide-spreading sky embraces the whole earth, and warms and fertilises it by the suit, and waters it by its showers, even places bristling with thorns, so such a soul embraces with its charity the inhabitants of the whole earth, though they be barbarians or foes, and does good to whom it can, and waters and cherishes with its sweetness those who bristle with the thorns of hatred and of vice.
Ver. 8.—Charity never faileth. It suffers no death; it will never cease: other gifts will cease in the heavenly glory. Heretics infer from this that, if charity never faileth, he who has it cannot sin, and is assured of his salvation. I reply, I deny the consequence. For charity never faileth, viz., by itself; for of its own accord it never deserts a man, unless it be first through sin deserted by him. “Charity,” says Cassian (Callat. iii. c. 7), “is one who never suffers her follower to fall by sin supplanting her.” So long, therefore, as you give yourself to charity and will to keep her, you will never sin; but if you sin, it is not that charity in itself fails, but you yourself eject her by force.
Whether there be prophecies they shall fail. Not so much because of their obscurity as because they were here given to meet the imperfection of those who heard them, in order that they, being more untaught, might be taught by prophecy and tongues. Thus in heaven faith shall cease, because it is imperfect through lack of evidence, and hope, because it is imperfect through the absence of the thing hoped for; but charity has nothing of these, but is perfect in itself, and therefore will remain in heaven.
Whether tongues they shall cease. He does not say language shall cease but languages, because in heaven there will be no variety of tongues, but language there will be; for we shall with one accord praise God, not only in mind but also with perceptible language. Haymo, Remigius, Cajetan here, Galatinus (de Arc. Fidei, lib. xii. c. 4), Viguerius (in Instit. c. ix. ver. 8), where he treats of the gift of tongues, all teach that the one tongue which we shall all use in heaven will be Hebrew, which Adam used in his state of innocence, which all the patriarchs, prophets, and saints before Christ, nay, which the whole world used before its dispersion and confusion of tongues at Babel. Hence in the Apocalypse, though written in Greek, it is said that the saints in heaven will sing in Hebrew “Amen, Alleluia.” For since in heaven all sin will have been banished, the confusion of tongues will be done away with; and as we shall return to the primeval state of innocence, so shall we to its language, and to the one and first speech. Certainly, if any one of those tongues which we use on earth remain in heaven, I should think it would be Hebrew. But it is not plain that any will remain; for the Apostle only says that tongues will cease, which may mean that all which are now in use among men are to cease. Nevertheless, it is consistent with this that in heaven another sensible tongue may be infused anew into the blessed, a celestial tongue, one far more perfect than any we have here, one befitting their mouth and glorified body, and with this they will in a bodily manner praise God. Whether this be more true, a blessed experience will teach us. John Salas (in 1, 2, tom. i. qu. 5, art. 5, tract. 2 disp. 14, sect. 14. n. 106) thinks that is more likely. His reason is that the Hebrew tongue is wanting in sweetness, fulness, and perspicuity, and therefore it is not worthy to be retained after the General Resurrection. In heaven there will be an elect speech, as Wisdom says (cap. iii. 9), that is, a special tongue pre-eminently sweet, terse, and perspicuous, common to all nations, to be taught by God. Hence S. Bernard says (in Medit. c. iv.): “The unwearied rejoicing of all will be with one tongue,” &c. There will not be in the peace of heaven any diversity of tongues, viz., for common use. Beyond this, however, they will speak, when they wish, with other tongues; for all will have the gift of tongues, and will know all idioms by Divine revelation. Salmeron and others add that in heaven it is meet for God to be worshipped with all kinds of tongues; for it seems to tend to the greater glory of God, that every tongue confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. And so all tongues will be one, for they will feel and proclaim the same thing, as Martial (Epigram i.), in flattery of Caesar, said—
“The voices of the nations sound unlike, yet they are one,
For you are proclaimed by all, true father of your country.”
Whether there be knowledge it shall vanish away. This knowledge, as Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact say, is that which is imperfect, obscure, and enigmatical, as Paul calls it in ver. 12, e.g., faith and all that depends on faith. Of this kind is our theological knowledge, which draws its conclusions from the principles of the faith: all this will cease in heaven. For theology there will be of a different appearance, being most clear, drawn from the vision of God and from the clearest principles. So say Cajetan, Molina, Vasquez, and others, in the beginning of the first part.
Observe that the Apostle is speaking rather of the act of knowledge than of its habit; and therefore he adds: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part;” and “When I was a child I thought as a child;” and: “Now I know in part, then shall I know even as also I am known.” Still, from the cessation of the act he leaves it to be collected that the habit will cease; for the habit will be of no avail if there is no use for it; for it will not issue in action. And this he signifies by the words “shall fail” and “shall vanish away,” which imply that knowledge, prophecy, and tongues, simply, both as regards act and habit, are to perish. Secondly, Photius explains the passage not amiss thus. Knowledge, i.e., teaching and learning shall fail, for in heaven we shall neither teach nor learn. Thirdly, others say that knowledge here is science, or the use of scientific terms, by which the realities of faith are illustrated and explained, by means of natural sciences.
Ver. 9.—For we know in part and we prophesy in part, i.e., imperfectly. Ephrem turns it. “We know but little of much;” for the Apostle opposes what is little and imperfect, what we know partly by reason, partly by prophecy, to what is perfect (ver. 10), i.e., to the perfect vision and knowledge of God in himself, and of all things in God. It is certainly true that the whole being of God, and all His attributes and perfections, we do not know in this life, but all the blessed know them, and they alone. He proves this from the example of a boy, who grows both in age and knowledge. For the blessed are in knowledge as men, and we in it as boys. Again, our theological knowledge, though it is certain, is yet hidden and obscure; it leans on faith, and for that reason alone it is in part or imperfect. The blessed, however, know all things clearly and intuitively, nay, they see and behold face to face.
Ver. 11.—When I was a child, that is, one who is now beginning to say, think, plan, attempt, study, play, and do anything, as our children are wont to do.
I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. I understood as a child, or felt as a child; for children have not wisdom, but feeling. In other words, when a child I thought, and understood, and felt as a child, but when I became a man I thought and understood as a man does. So, when that which is perfect is come, i.e., perfect wisdom in heaven, partial and imperfect knowledge, as we have it in this life, shall fail; so that we who here are boys in knowledge are to be men in heaven. S. Paul leaves the remaining part of the likeness to be supplied from the verse before.
Ver. 12.—For now we see through a glass in an enigma: but then face to face. We see, i.e., God and heavenly things, by which we may be saved and be happy, as appears from what follows. You will say: If we see God here in a mirror, we see Him clearly and not in an enigma, for a mirror exhibits to the eyes, not an image of the object, as is commonly supposed, but the very object itself. I reply. It is true that a mirror exhibits to the eyes the object itself, yet it does so, not by a direct ray but reflected; and therefore it represents the object, not properly, clearly, distinctly, but as from a distance, obscure and confusedly. Such is the knowledge of God and of Divine things which we have in this life, but in heaven we shall see God as He is, face to face, directly, closely, clearly.
Secondly, the Greek word denotes that which we look through as a means of seeing anything, such as the spectacles of old men, an eye-glass, or green glass which is placed over a writing, that it may help weak eyes in reading, nevertheless, it makes things look green, dark, and obscure. Such a glass, properly speaking, makes the letters to be seen, not in themselves immediately, but by an obscure medium and by a shadowy likeness, or, as the Apostle says, in an enigma. Such a glass may be meant here.
Thirdly, some interpret the word, “through a screen;” for, as merchants show their wares in their shops through glass screens to those who pass by, not close at hand and distinctly, but from a distance, in the mass and confusedly, so does God show Himself to us in this life.
You will ask, What is this mirror by which we see God and Divine things here in an enigma? I reply, Firstly, the creatures which act as a mirror to represent their Creator. So S. Thomas teaches. Secondly, the phenomena of nature, which are the mirrors of realities. Thirdly, the humanity of Christ and its mysteries, which veil and set forth His Divinity. Again, the sacraments and other rites and ceremonies. So S. Theodoret says: “In holy baptism we see a figure of the resurrection; there we shall see the resurrection itself. Here we see the symbols of the Lord’s body, there the Lord Himself; for so the words face to face imply. We shall see, however, not His Divine nature, which no eye can take in, but that which was assumed of us.” In these last words of Theodoret an error of his must be guarded against, for he seems to say that in heaven we shall see the humanity only of Christ, because he says the Divine nature cannot he seen. But the excuse can perhaps be made that he is speaking only of corporal vision, of which it is true to say, that with the eyes of the body we shall see the humanity only of Christ. But this is outside the mind of the Apostle, for he is treating of the beatific vision, especially of the Divinity.
In an enigma, i.e., according to Anselm, by an obscure speech, thought, or imagination. For an enigma is a question which is proposed in involved terms.
Then face to face. He alludes to Moses (Exod. xxxiii. 2; Num. xii. 8).
“Now I know in part” (imperfectly, as I have said, ver. 9), “but then shall I know even as also I am known.” That is, Then in heaven I shall perfectly know and see God, as He is in His essence, and all other mysteries of God and the faith, even as He knows me and sees what I am in my essence. So Anselm, Theophylact, Cajetan, Ambrose, and Theodoret. “I shall know,” he says, “even as I am known,” as a well-known and familiar friend clearly sees the face of his friend. S. Augustine extends these words of the Apostle to a knowledge also of what takes place here on earth, and of what relates to the state of any saint. Hence he proves from this place that the saints understand in heaven our affairs more perfectly than they once did on earth; whence it follows that they hear the prayers with which we invoke them (de Civ. Dei, lib. xxii. c. 29). Chrysostom and Œcum. understand it otherwise. Then, they say, shall I know what concerns action: I shall hasten to Him through love and righteousness, even as He prevented and went before me with His grace. Thirdly others interpret it thus: Then shall I know with that degree of perfection to which I was known and predestinated for eternity by God. But the first sense is the genuine one; for he opposes knowledge, which is clear and full, to that which is in part, i.e., imperfect and enigmatical.
Ver. 13.—Now abide faith, hope, charity. S. Paul in this chapter clearly teaches that faith, hope, and charity abide in this present life, but charity alone in our heavenly country. So the Fathers hold. See Gregory de Valentia, disp. qu. 5 de Subjecto Fidei, part 2).
You will say, Irenæus (ii. c. 47), Tertullian (de Patientiâ, c. xii.) understand “now” of heaven; therefore in heaven there will be, and will abide, both faith and hope.
I reply: These Fathers understand by faith all sure knowledge, such as the vision of God; by hope, a firm adherence to God, as the object of love, which is the enjoyment of God. For this is what Tertullian says: “There abide faiih, hope, love: faith which the patietice of Christ had begotten; hope which the patience of man waits for; love which, with God as her teacher, patience accompanies.” But these are not to the purpose of the Apostle, as is evident.
The greater of these is charity. Greater, i.e., the greatest. So Catullus:—
“0 Hesperus, light more fair, which shineth in heaven.”
that is, fairest star.
Hence it is plain that faith is not the confidence of heretics in the remission of their sins; for that confidence is nothing else but a strong hope: if it is more it is properly called faith, by which you believe most firmly that you have been justified and saved, as you believe that God is; then hope is superfluous. For what you firmly believe you do not, nor can hope for, as, e.g., you do not hope that God is, that Christ suffered for us. For hope which truly is hope is allied to fear and dread as its opposites; there is nothing of this kind in faith. The Apostle just above distinguishes hope or confidence from faith, and requires in this life hope as well as faith; therefore faith is not that confidence of which heretics make their boast.
Lastly, it is plain that of all virtues charity is the greatest and most eminent; for, as fire among the elements, gold among the elements, the empyrean among the heavens, the sun among the planets, the seraphim among the angels, so shines charity as the queen among virtues. For charity is the celestial fire which kindles the souls of all around it: the most glittering gold with which we purchase our heavenly inheritance; the highest heaven in which God and the blessed dwell; the sun which illuminates, fertilises, quickens all; the seraphic virtue which makes the seraphim glow. (See on Deut. vi. 5.) Beroald says: “As is the helmsman in a ship, the ruler in a state, the sun in the world, so is love among mortals. Without a helmsman the ship is shattered, without a ruler the state is endangered, without the sun the world is darkened, and without love life is no life. Take love from men, you take the sun from the world.” Plautinus happily calls love a purifying God, that is, making all things pure and beautiful.
Check one Greek insertion, two paras below ver. 14, formatted blue, then delete blue formatting and this line.
1 Prophecy is commended, 2, 3, 4 and preferred before speaking with tongues, 6 by a comparison drawn from musical instruments. 12 Both must be referred to edification, 22 as to their true and proper end. 26 The true use of each is taught, 27 and the abuse taxed. 34 Women are forbidden to speak in the church.
OLLOW after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.
30 If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace,
31 For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.
Douay Rheims Version
The gift of prophesying is to be preferred before that of speaking strange tongues.
OLLOW after charity, be zealous for spiritual gifts; but rather that you may prophesy.
i. He puts prophecy before the gift of tongues, because (a) it is of great use in edifying others, and tongues are not, unless some one interpret; (b) because (Ver. 21) prophecy is given to the faithful, while tongues are a sign to them that believe not, and he proves this from Isaiah xxviii.
ii. He gives a rule for the due use of these gifts, and lays down laws to be observed in the meetings of the Church for public worship; amongst other things he bids (ver. 34) women keep silence always.
The Apostle began in chap. xii. to treat of the various gifts of the Spirit, which He distributes to whom He wills and as He wills; and then, to take away all boasting from the Corinthians about these gifts, and especially about the gift of tongues, he exhorted them, in chap. xiii., to follow after charity as the queen of all graces and gifts; he now, in this chapter, returns to consider these gifts, and points out that not only charity but also prophecy excels the gift of tongues.
The question arises, What does S. Paul mean in this chapter by prophecy and what by a prophet? This is the chief difficulty to be met with here.
The word “prophet,” properly speaking, denotes one who, by revelation from God, foretells an event before it comes to pass. The word is of Greek, not Latin, origin, coming from two words denoting to speak beforehand, as though the prophet saw an event before it happened. This is the origin of the word. Like most words, it then acquired a secondary meaning, and was extended to signify one who reveals the secrets of the heart or other mysteries, and one, especially who knows the will of God, and becomes His interpreter and messenger to others, and who sees and proclaims the mysteries of the mind and will of God. So Abraham, from being admitted to familiar intercourse with God, was honoured with the title of prophet (Gen. xx. 7).
Hence prophecy generally in Scripture is the power of knowing more fully and more surely than is given to most men the counsels and determinations of God, and also of proclaiming them for the purpose of edifying the Church. This power is inspired by the Holy Spirit into some men, who are hence called prophets. A part of this power consists in a provision and prediction of future events, or even of any hidden things, whether past or future. Another part of it, and one that is far more important and more exalted, one not derived from study but inspired by the same Spirit, consists in discoursing more ably and more divinely of the being and attributes of God. If it were derived from study, it would be knowledge and doctrine, not prophecy; and so S. Paul, who received his Gospel, not from man but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal i. 12), taught and preached rather from a constant flow of prophecy than of doctrine.
1. They then are called prophets who, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, forth-tell future events or hidden mysteries.
2. Those teachers only who so exhort to piety are to be called prophets.
3. Those too received the name of prophets who were borne along by a Divine impulse to praise God with hymns and to provoke the people to devotion. So, in 1 Sam. x., the Spirit of God came on Saul and he prophesied; and again, in chap. xix., he laid aside his clothes and lay down naked, singing his prophecies a whole day and night. Again, since Elijah and EIisha had disciples, who at fixed times, like men devoted to religion, occupied themselves more zealously than others in singing psalms, in prayers and praises, in investigating, meditating on, and teaching the law, and since they sometimes were carried away by the power of the Spirit, as, e.g., he who anointed Jehu—hence all these were called prophets, and their sons or disciples were called sons of the prophets. Frequent mention of them is made in 2 Kings. They were especially so called because among them were some true prophets.
4. Hence the name of prophet is extended to any singers, so that to prophesy is the same as to play or to sing anything in praise of God. So, in 1 Chron. xxv. 1, the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun are said to prophesy with harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals. Still among them there were prophets indeed, such as the leaders of the singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, composed the psalms that bear their names, as the Hebrews hand down to us by tradition.
(5.) By an abuse of the word, those are called prophets who, under the influence of some evil spirit, lose their self-control, and utter idiotic and frensied sounds. So, in 1 Sam. xviii. 9, it is said that “an evil spirit of God came upon Saul, and he prophesied in the midst of his house,” i.e., he spoke and acted as one demented, like one filled with frensy. Hence the heathen called their poets seers and prophets, because they seemed borne along by the irresistible power of the Muses, as, e.g., the Sibyls in composing and singing their songs. So Ovid (Fasti, lib. vi. 5.) says—
“God is within us, enkindling us to song,
And fanning into flame the sparks of heavenly truth.”
So, in Titus, i. 21, the poet Epimenides is called a prophet.
(6.) “To prophesy” also denotes the working of miracles; for this was the work of prophets, who were holy men, gifted from above, and like organs of God and of His wisdom and power. So, in Ecclus. xlviii., the dead body of Elisha is said to have prophesied, because by its touch it raised a man from the dead (2 Kings xiii. 21). The word “prophet” is so used in S. Luke vii. 16.
(7.) To prophesy is to confirm prophecy. So, in Ecclus. xlxx., the bones of Joseph are said to have prophesied after his death, viz., when they were carried with the Israelites out of Egypt, and so testified silently that the prophecy about them was true.
From all these it is evident that prophecy, strictly speaking, is that gift which was frequently given before Christ came, as well as in the Primitive church, but which now for the most part has ceased, and is only vouchsafed to a very few men, for a testimony to their exceptional holiness. The frequency of such gifts was miraculous, and came almost to an end with the Apostles; that is to say, they are not now given, as then, promiscuously, but to very few and very seldom. It was the purpose of the Lord that those miracles should shine forth brightly, to draw the attention of the heathen to the Gospel, and to convince them of its truth. Now, however, that the faith has been well grounded and the world converted, He withdraws them and bids the Church depend for her growth and perfection on the usual instruments of teaching and exhortation. Cf. Jansenius (Concordia, c. 47).
A second question arises, Which of these various meanings does S. Paul apply here to the word “prophet?” Chrysostom and Theophylact say that he uses the word in the strict meaning of “one who foretells future things.” This was his meaning, they say, in chapter xii. Theodoret takes prophecy to mean the revelation of thoughts and other hidden mysteries, and quotes ver. 24 in support of his opinion.
But we should notice that the Apostle is describing in this chapter everything that took place then in the public assemblies of the Church, and that he includes them all under the names of tongues and of prophesying. For the Holy Spirit then would fill many in the Church to sing and speak spiritual songs, hymns, prayers, collects, and psalms in strange tongues, in the presence of an unlettered crowd of all sorts of men, just as He did on the day of Pentecost, as described in Acts ii. This is supported by S. Dionysius (de Div. Nomin. c. 3) and by Tertullian (Apol. 29), and the Apostle calls this “the gift of tongues,” or “speaking in tongues.” To others the Holy Spirit would give the power of ex- pounding Holy Scripture, or of teaching or preaching, or of singing, or of leading the people in exalted prayer in the vulgar tongue, and hence, as Chrysostom and Theodoret point out, of manifesting the secrets of men’s hearts, and even of uttering real prophecies. All these things S. Paul includes here under the name of prophecy, especially preaching and teaching, and he opposes them to the gift of tongues. Cf. vers. 4-6, 31, and especially vers. 25, 26. For the prophets of old time not only foretold future things, but taught and preached, and mingled with their teaching psalms and prayers. Therefore the Apostle here puts this kind of prophecy before tongues, and throughout the whole chapter exhorts them to it, and gives directions for its due use and its order in the public assemblies of the Church, both before and after the Eucharist; for in these assemblies one would expound Holy Scripture, another exhort, a third sing a hymn, a fourth a psalm, even sometimes in a foreign tongue. Cf. Ambrose, Anselm, and Philo (de Essæis). The word “prophet” has this meaning also in chap. xi. vers. 4, 5.
We must notice too, that S. Paul does not here call all prophets who simply explain the obscure passages of the Prophets or of Holy Scripture, nor yet all those who teach others or exhort, as some writers suppose, but only those who do so by the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and not from learning acquired by laborious study. This is plain from ver. 30, where he says. “If anything be revealed to another, let the first hold his peace,” and from ver. 32: “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.” By the name of prophets he means those who were filled with the Holy Spirit, and received from Him some revelation of doctrine, or word of exhortation, or of prayer. This was frequently given then, as appears from ver. 26. But when that influence of the Holy Spirit ceased, it was succeeded by reading of the Scriptures, preaching, psalm-singing before the Mass, during the Mass, and after the Mass. Cf. note on ver. 26.
Ver. 1.—Follow after Charity. Pursue it eagerly so as to obtain it, just as a huntsman pursues a wild animal.
Desire spiritual gifts. These are, S. Chrysostom says, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, not His graces, as, e.g., the gift of tongues or of healing, and the others referred to in chap. xi. S. Paul bids them desire these, try to obtain them, especially by prayer, not from any desire for superiority but from charity, that they may profit others and the Church at large by means of those gifts.
But rather that ye may prophesy. Viz., that under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit ye may teach, say, or sing such things as may stir up the devotion of others. This has just been seen to be the force of “prophecy.”
Ver. 2.—He that speaketh in a tongue, &c. S. Augustine (de Gen. ad Litt. lib. xii.), Primasius, and Cajetan read the nominative in the last clause of this verse, “Howbeit the Spirit speaketh mysteries,” The meaning then would be: The Holy Spirit speaks of hidden mysteries in the Holy Scriptures, which cannot be understood, except some prophet or doctor interpret them. But this meaning is foreign to the context, and this reading is not supported by the Greek or Latin copies.
Ver. 3.—But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to . . . comfort. This is what I said before, that to prophesy means here to speak words which edify, exhort, and comfort others. Hence, to prophesy is better than to speak in unknown tongues, which no one understands, and from which no one can receive instruction, edification, or comfort.
Ver. 6.—Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues . . . or by doctrine? His tongues would profit them nothing unless he added to them a revelation, that is an explanation of the revelation given him; or knowledge, that is a declaration of what he knew, whether infused by God or acquired by study; or prophecy, that is a statement of what he knew, either by prophecy properly so called or improperly, in the way of explanation of hidden and difficult things, especially of Holy Scripture; or doctrine, that is an accommodation of his discourse to their capacity. Such is pretty nearly the explanation given by S. Thomas and Theophylact. To complete the sense of the verse we must supply: But I shall do nothing of this sort if I merely speak with tongues and do not interpret, so that you may understand me; therefore it is better to prophesy than to speak with tongues, unless some one interpret.
But in the second place we can understand the Apostle’s meaning still better if we join knowledge with doctrine, and revelation with prophecy. For, as it was from their stores of knowledge that learned men drew the teaching that they gave others, so was it from revelation that they prophesied. Prophecy is distinguished from doctrine in that it is received by revelation, doctrine from knowledge; for what we teach has been acquired by intellectual study. So Tolatus and Jansenius, in the place quoted above, say that S. Paul’s meaning is, “Though I speak in unknown tongues, but do not teach you, whether by knowledge gained by study or by prophecy received by revelation, I shall profit you nothing.”
Thirdly, Cassianus (Collat xiv. 8) sees here the four senses of Holy Scripture: in the doctrine the literal sense, in the revelation the allegorical, in the knowledge the tropological, in the prophecy the allegorical. But this is a mystical and symbolic interpretation.
Ver. 7.—And even things without life, &c. That tongues profit nothing unless they are understood can be seen, even from a comparison drawn from inanimate things; for a pipe or harp are of no use unless they give a distinct sound. Unless a man knows what is played he will take no pleasure in the sounds, nor will he be induced to dance to the music.
Ver. 9.—So likewise ye . . . how shall it be known what is spoken. For the tongue is the stamp, the image, the index, and messenger of the mind. As Aristotle says (Peri Hermen. lib. ii.), “words are signs of the feelings which lie concealed in the soul.” Hence Socrates used to determine the mind and character of any one from his voice, and would say, “Speak, young man, that I may see you.” But this cannot be if the language of the speaker is unknown to the hearer.
Ver. 10.—There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. As a matter of fact, or for example, there are many different languages: no nation is without its language, no language without its meaning. Others, as Œcumenius, refer the none to the instrument, and say that no pipe or harp but has its proper sound; others, more generally, no object is without its voice. As Ausonius sings to Paulinus:—
“No creature silent is, nor winged bird,
Nor beast that walks the earth, nor hissing snake:
The cymbals smitten sound, the stage when struck
By dancers’ feet, the drum its echo gives.”
The best meaning, however, is that no tongue is void of meaning.
Ver. 11.—I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian. As Ovid says:—
“A barbarian here am I, and understood by none.”
The word “barbarian” is onomatopoetic, and was first applied by the Greeks to any one who spoke another language than Greek; then by the Romans to one who spoke neither Greek nor Latin; afterwards it denoted any one who spoke any other tongue but that of his native country. Hence Anacharsis the Scythian, when ridiculed as a barbarian by the Athenians, well replied, “The Scythians are barbarians to the Athenians, the Athenians just as much barbarians to the Scythians.”
Ver. 12.—Forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts. Since ye desire to have the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit enumerated in chap. xii, seek them from God abundantly, that ye may use them, not for ostentation, but for the perfecting of the Church.
Ver. 13.—Let him that speaketh . . . pray that he may interpret. Paul is here speaking of public prayer, in which one man, even though a layman, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would offer up prayer in an audible voice before all, the others listening, and joining their prayers to his. This is the meaning, as appears from the following verses. But Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Anselm explain it thus: Let him pray that he may receive the gift of the interpretation of tongues, so as to make his own prayer intelligible to others.
Ver. 14.—For if I pray in an unknown tongue my spirit prayeth. (1.) My spirit is refreshed; (2.) according to S. Chrysostom, the gift of the Holy Spirit which is in me prayeth, makes me pray and utter my prayer in public. (3.) Theophylact and Erasmus, following S. Basil, understand breath by spirit; in other words, My voice, produced by the vital and vocal breath, prays; but my mind is unfruitful, because it does not understand the meaning of the words uttered. Primasius, too, says that the word “spirit” here is to be understood of prayers uttered sometimes while the mind is thinking of something else. But the first is the true sense, and best fits in with what follows. S. Thomas, commenting on this clause, gives three other meanings, but they are not those in the Apostle’s mind.
But my understanding is unfruitful. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Ambrose, S. Thomas, and Cajetan think that the Apostle is speaking here of those who had received the gift of tongues, but who, like Balaam’s ass, did not understand what they said, or at all events did not enter into the mysteries contained in their words. S. Augustine says the same (de Gen. ad Litt. lib. xii. c. 8 and 9), and it is gathered from ver. 28. For these prayed without fruit in such tongues; for, though their spirit fed on God in pious devotion, yet their mind was not fed on any understanding, of the words of the prayer.
But I say that the Greek νοΰςhere is the same as “meaning.” It is so rendered in the Latin in ver. 19, and in chap. ii. 16, and in Rev. xvii. 9, where we read, “Here is the meaning” (of the vision of the beast) “which hath wisdom.” S. Paul makes the same distinction between the tongue and the mind, or the letter and the spirit, which is so common amongst rhetoricians. “Sense” or meaning here is passive understanding, that by which I am understood by all—not active, by which I understand things. This “mind,” or signification of tongues, is without fruit, because no one takes it in, and no one is aroused to devotion. This is the natural meaning, and S. Basil seems to hold it (in Reg. Brev. Interrog. 278).
Secondly, Œcumenius and Theodoret give an explanation which is not improbable: My mind, or my aim and object, is without fruit, not on the part of the speaker but the hearer, whom the speaker strives to excite to piety. It is certain, from vers. 14, 16 and 19, that S. Paul is speaking of fruit on the side of the hearers; for he is speaking of the prayers and spiritual songs which some of the laity composed under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and uttered in public, or sang in the church at the time of their spiritual feasts, for the comfort, instruction, or exhortation of the people. He wishes them to be said in the vulgar tongue, so as to be understood by all; otherwise, he says, they would be fruitless.
You will perhaps say that the Mass and Canonical Hours ought then to be said now in the vulgar tongue. I deny that this follows, for the Apostle is speaking of the prayers which any lay person might compose for the edification or quickening of the people, not of the public Divine offices, which the clergy now perform with the approbation, not to say at the command, and in the name of the whole Church, to worship and praise God with a solemn and uniform majesty in Latin. For if the vernacular tongue were used, it would come to pass (1.) that the uneducated would not understand Divine mysteries, or rather they would misunderstand them, and accept heretical opinions; (2.) the language would have to vary with the countries, or even with the cities. Although all the Germans speak the same language, yet each province has a different idiom: the Westphalians have one, the Swiss another, the Hessians another, and so on. And so if the Divine office were said in the vernacular, in such a difference of dialects division would arise, and sacred things would be ridiculed and despised.
You will urge, secondly, perhaps that the people do not understand Latin: what fruit then have they from the Latin Mass? I answer, (1.) They participate in the sacrifice and also the sacrament if they wish to; (2.) in all the prayers which the priest offers for all men, and especially for those present; (3.) they are inflamed by the decent rites and ceremonies to devotion and elevation of their souls to God in private prayer, especially since parish priests are bound, by the Council of Trent (sess. xxii. c. 8), to explain the service to the people in their sermons. See Bellarmine (de Verbo. Dei. lib. ii. c. 16).
Ver. 15.—I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also. I will pray with sense and meaning, intelligibly, so that others may understand me. S. Paul alludes to Ps. xlvii. 7, where the same double meaning of understanding on the part of speaker and hearer is found.
Ver. 16.—Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, &c. To bless here is to praise God with heart and mouth. S. Thomas understands it of the public blessing of the people; so also do Primasius, Haymo, and Salmeron, the latter of whom strives by many arguments to prove that the Apostle is speaking here of the sacrifice of the Mass, in which the priest blesses God rather than the people; for the two Greek words for “blessing” and “giving thanks,” used indifferently by the Evangelists and S. Paul in their accounts of the institution of the Eucharist, are used here, and seem to point to the Mass. It hence derives its names of the “Blessing” and the “Eucharist,” or giving of thanks. Add to this that in all the liturgies of the Mass, including those of S. James, S. Clement, S. Basil, and S. Chrysostom, after the consecration of the bread and wine, the people are wont to answer “Amen!” The Apostle, then, seems to mean here that public blessings, prayers, and Masses should not be celebrated in the church in an utterly unknown tongue, but that among the Greeks Greek should be used, among the Hebrews Hebrew, and among the Latins Latin; for these languages are for the most part understood by all who are of each race respectively. If it is impossible to use one language which is understood by all the different peoples who hear the same Mass, then one which is the best known should be selected, such as Latin among us, so that many “in the room of the unlearned” may answer “Amen!” as the Apostle requires.
But that the Apostle is not speaking of the solemn blessing in the Mass, but of any other uttered by some private member, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, in hymn or psalm or prayer, appears (1.) from the Greek particle for else, which, in its meaning of because, gives the cause of the preceding verse. The singular, used in “thy giving of thanks,” points also to the private and personal devotion of each of the faithful. (2.) It appears from the drift of the whole chapter, and especially from the conclusion, stated in ver. 26, “Let all things be done to edifying.” (3.) It appears again from ver. 31, where he says: “Ye may all prophesy one by one;” and from ver. 29 “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge;” but it was of any one’s fresh and private blessing, or prophecy that they were to judge; for the common prayer and liturgy of the whole Church, having been approved of by the whole Church, ought not to be subjected to examination for judgment. All this will better appear from the next paragraph.
The unlearned. Gagneius, following Severian, says the unlearned is the catechumen. Primasius says he is a neophyte. Chrysostom, Ephrem, Theophylact, S. Thomas, and others give the best meaning, viz., one untaught, unlettered, and with no knowledge of tongues.
S. Thomas, Primasius, and Haymo take the “unlearned” here to be the minister who at Divine service says “Amen!” for the people at the end of the Collects. These Fathers say that S. Paul means that at all events the minister at the Mass and other sacred rites should be able to understand the priest, or him who offers up prayer in public, in any other language than the vernacular, and should be able to respond, “Amen!” This is good and fitting teaching, but not necessarily the one uppermost in the mind of the Apostle.
But the “unlearned” here denotes, not some minister of the sacred rites, but any one of the laity. The Greek gives us, “he who sits among the unlearned” that is, is himself unlearned. Prophets and teachers used to sit in one place, the lay people in another. This is the explanation given by Chrysostom and Theophylact. Justin (Apol. 2) says that the whole of the laity, and consequently any individual of it, was wont to answer “Amen!” Hence S. Jerome, towards the end of his commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, says that the people used to answer “Amen!” with a noise like thunder. A minister now says it for the people, so as to prevent a confused murmuring.
The Apostle is speaking here, we must notice once more, of the extempore prayer of the individual, uttered for the purpose of edifying, and which might possibly contain some doctrinal error, as is hinted in ver. 29. He directs that in such prayers the vulgar be used, so that the people may not answer “Amen!” to a prayer in an unknown tongue which is meaningless, absurd, or heretical. He is not speaking of prayers approved by the Church, which for that very reason are free from error, to which a single minister makes reply, and to which the people can add private prayers of their own. Moreover, the Council of Trent orders that sometimes, instead of the sermon, these prayers be explained to the people.
Again, it is lawful to pray in a language not understood by the person who prays, if you are certain that the prayers are good ones, as, e.g., when nuns say the Canonical Hours in Latin. In the same way the laity, when the priest offers up prayers in Latin, can pray with him, and add the intention of seeking that the priest may obtain for himself and all the people what he asks in the name of the Church in the beautiful prayers provided. And even if they do not understand them, and get no nourishment for their understanding from the meaning of the prayers, yet they reap the fruit of devotion to God, and of reverence towards the prayers; nay, they merit and obtain more than those who understand them if they pray with more humility, piety, and fervour.
S. Jordanes, when asked whether such prayers as these of nuns were pleasing to God, well replied: “Just as a jewel in the hand of a peasant who knows not its value is worth as much as if it were in the hand of a goldsmith or jeweller who knew its value, so too prayers in the mouth of one who does not understand them are worth as much as if they were uttered by one who knew their meaning.” A petition presented to a king by an ignorant peasant would obtain as much consideration as one presented by a learned man; for it is written: “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise;” and again, “If these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (S. Matt. xxi. 16; S. Luke xix. 40). In the same way, in the “Lives of the Fathers,” Abbot Pastor is related to have said to one who complained to him, that though he prayed he felt no contrition, because he knew not the meaning of the words that he used: “Do you none the less persevere in prayer, for like as a charmer sings words which the snake hears but understands not, and yet is subdued and tamed by them, so when we use words whose meaning we know not, the devils hear them and understand them, and are terrified and driven away.” Cf. S. Thomas and Cajetan.
The case is different with the Lord’s Prayer, which every one ought to learn and intelligently use in the vernacular, that he may know exactly what he should ask of God, as has been often laid down in synods. Cajetan, on the other hand, gathers from this passage that it is better for organs, and musical instruments generally, to be excluded from church services, in order that the Hours and the Masses may be sung so as to be understood, and so that the people may be able to answer “Amen!” But the practice of the Church is against this, which makes use of organs and other musical instruments in Divine service, as David did, to stir up the devotion of the people, who just as little understand the Latin language. The Church does this for three reasons: (1.) as we join in praising God, not only in spirit but also in body, so we should praise Him, not only with the best music of the voice, but also of instruments; for every spirit, every creature, every instrument ought to praise Him whose due never can be reached. (2.) To arouse the listeners, and especially the uneducated, to religious fervour, as David and Elisha were enkindled by psalms and harps, and as Saul was stirred up by music to give God praise. (3.) That the beauty, solemnity, and majesty of Divine service may be the greater. Prudentius, in his Apotheosis, written against the Jews, and the Faculty of Paris, in its decree (tit. xix. prop. 6), explain this verse thus: “When St. Paul says that in the church he would rather speak five words with his understanding than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue, he is speaking of sermons addressed to the people, in which a flow of words void of thought is useless. He says nothing about Church canticles, which are governed by another law.”
Nevertheless, we must in these matters guard against lightness, as the Council of Trent bids. Hence S. Augustine (Hom. in Ps. xxxiii.) says that pipes and organs used in theatres had been rejected by the Church, because the heathen used them then for lust in the theatres, and for banquets, and at their sacrifices. But, following the example and injunctions of David, we may use organs and other musical instruments, if it be done with piety, soberness, and gravity (cf. Ps. cl.). S. John, too (Rev. v. 8, and xiv. 2), heard in heaven, where all are perfected, harps, though of course more solemn and Divine than ours on earth.
Amen. Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodoret have translated this faithfully or truly; the Septuagint, so be it. “Amen” signifies truly or even firmly. It is not the expression of an oath, but of one who affirms or confirms. It is used as an affirmation when it is put at the beginning of a sentence, as, e.g., “Amen, Amen, I say unto you.” And in this sense S. Augustine (in Joan. Tract. 41) calls “Amen” the oath of Christ, because Christ’s oath was not strictly an oath but a simple affirmation. It is a mark of confirmation when put at the end of a prayer, or it signifies the consent of the hearer; it sometimes marks an assertion and agreement, sometimes a wish. It stands for agreement in Deut. xxvii., where the people are bidden to answer “Amen” in token that they were willing to accept the blessings for keeping the law and the curses for breaking it. But in a prayer, as, e.g., in the Lord’s Prayer, it merely denotes a wish that what is sought for in the prayer may be obtained. The Rabbinical writers say that there are two “Amens,” one perfect and the other imperfect in three ways: (1.) that of a pupil, when “Amen” is said, not as though the prayer is understood, but it is left to the direction of another to dictate it, as it were; (2.) when the “Amen” is said before the end of the prayer it is called “surreptitious,” (3.) and “divided” when the answer is given by one who is not thinking of the prayer, because he is occupied with something else.
Ver. 18.—I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all. The Latin rendering is, “I speak with the tongues of you all,” which suggests the question, What could be S. Paul’s meaning in this, since there was but one tongue in Greece, and at Corinth in particular, viz., Greek? Haymo’s answer is that he refers to the different dialects of Greek. A better answer would be, that foreigners and merchants of all nations flocked to Corinth as a great emporium, just as to-day, at Antwerp, Venice, or Paris, we find the commerce and language of the French, Italians, and English, and other nations, and that S. Paul is therefore referring to the different languages to be heard in the streets of Corinth, But Ephrem, Chrysostom, Jerome (ad Hedibiam), and others support the rendering of the text. All the tongues that you speak and more I speak: I do not extol, I do not condemn the gift of tongues, for I use it myself, but I do not use it, as you do, for ostentation, but to edification.
Ver. 19—Ye in the church I had rather speak, &c. A very few words spoken so as to be understood are better than a multitude of foreign words not understood by the hearer.
Notice (1.) that understanding is to be taken here passively, and denotes the meaning by which I and my speech are understood; hence he adds, “that I might teach others also.” For there is a contrast between the meaning, and the foreign tongue understood by no one. See note to ver. 14. But (2.) Anselm takes it of the active understanding, that by which I myself understand what I say, and so can better explain it to others. (3.) Chrysostom says that it means with judgment—that he would rather speak and teach with tact and judgment, so that the hearers, no matter how rude and uncultured they might be, might take in and retain what he said. But the first sense is the best, and most to the point.
Ver. 20.—Brethren, be not children in understanding. Understanding here is not the same word in the Greek as in the preceding verse: It can, with Chrysostom and Ephrem, be rendered “mind.”—Do not become children in mind, judgment, and reason, so as to display your gift of tongues as children might.
Howbeit in malice be ye children. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Ephrem render this: “Let malice be as unknown to you as to infants.” So, too, S. Augustine (qu. lxi. lib. 73) says: “Be, like infants, free from malice.” As “infant” is derived from in, “not,” and fans, “speaking,” and as a child who cannot speak knows still less of malice or anything else, so too the Christian is to be an infant in evil, not to know it nor to be able to speak of it, e.g., not to know what emulation, defilement, fornication are. So Theophylact following S. Chrysostom. Tertullian (contra Valent. lib. ii.) beautifully says: “The Apostle bids us after God be children again, that we may be infants in malice through our simplicity, and at last wise in understanding.” Clement of Alexandria (Pæd. lib. i. c. 5) has pointed out that “children” here is not synonymous with “fools.” The whole of his chapter, in which he points out how all Christians should be children, may be studied with advantage.
Ver. 21.—In the law. Viz., Isa. xxviii. 11. As Chrysostom remarks, the law is sometimes used to denote, not merely the Pentateuch, but also the Prophets and the whole of the Old Testament.
It is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people. This is a difficult passage, and to understand it we must explain the passage in Isaiah cited by the Apostle. The prophet’s meaning in vers. 9 and 10 is, that God is wont to teach knowledge and wisdom to those who have left childish delights and an immature age, and are men with the capacity for knowledge; but these Jews, who (ver. 7) take delight in the pleasures of wine and in drunkenness, are like children—do not take solid food—and are consequently unfitted for doctrine and true wisdom. Filled with wine, they scoff at me and at other prophets who denounce to them punishments from heaven for their drunkenness and other sins, and they say. “Precept must be upon precept, line upon line . . . here a little and there a little.”
S. Jerome and Haymo point out that in this passage there is an ironical play upon words. Isaiah and other prophets were often saying, “Thus saith,” or, “Thus ordereth the Lord.” Hence the Jews, when drunken over their cups, would repeat in derision, “Order and order again” (precept upon precept), “Expect and expect again” (line upon line). It was as if they had said: “The prophets are always dinning into our ears, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and are always threatening or promising things which never come to pass, bidding us expect here a little and there a little, and nothing comes of it all.” The same is oftentimes the experience of preachers, that the wicked ridicule, repeat, and sneer at their sermons and threatenings. Rabbi David, Rabbi Abraham, and after them Vatablus, Isidorus, Clarius, Pagninus, and Forterius give a very cold rendering to this verse (10)—“precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little.” The meaning then is: “These Jews are taught roughly and gradually line upon line, just as boys are taught their alphabet.” But the following verses show that the prophet had in his mind scoffers and mockers, not untaught boys, for the punishments threatened are against scorners. S. Paul renders the sense of Isaiah and not the exact words: he applies the passage of Isaiah to the gift of tongues bestowed on the Apostles, who spoke with other tongues, not to scoff but to edify.
The sense then is: God, speaking by Isaiah, says: “My exhortation to repentance, given by Isaiah and other prophets, seemed to you, 0 Jews, troublesome and ridiculous, just as if I had spoken to you with inarticulate sounds or in a foreign tongue; hence you imitate what seem to you the meaningless sounds of the prophets, and you repeat in mockery their words. Wherefore, by the Chaldeans, who seem to you stammerers and lispers, will I punish you, that they, as the ministers of My righteousness, may restrain your unbelief by the strange sounds of their foreign tongue, and may ridicule you as their captives, and in their language mock and condemn your Hebrew words; and they shall serve as a type of the Apostles, whom in the time of Christ I will send to reprove your equal unbelief then, by the gift of unknown tongues, and they shall seem to you as men that lisp or speak indistinctly, and they shall be scoffed at by you and the wise of this world as foolish preachers of the Cross of Christ.”
The literal meaning of Isaiah refers to his own time, and to the Chaldeans who were to overthrow Jerusalem; the allegorical refers to the gift of tongues given to the Apostles for a sign, not to the faithful but to unbelievers, of the malediction with which God punishes the incredulous, not of the benediction with which He teaches His own servants. This verse of S. Paul shows the sense of Isaiah. Cf. S. Jerome and Cyril on Isa. xxviii.
Ver. 22.—Wherefore tongues are for a sign . . . to them that believe not. Viz., to the unbelieving Jews, both here and in Isaiah xxviii, rather than to the Gentiles. This sign must therefore not be used by the faithful for vain glory.
Prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. The teaching of the word of God and exhortation are a sign of the blessing with which God trains up His servants, and stirs them up to every good work (see ver. 3). Sign here is not the same as “miracle,” for the Chaldeans worked no miracle when in their own tongue they chided the Jews; but sign stands for a symbol, and mark of reproof, teaching, and exhortation. But understand what has been said of the believing and unbelieving, as applying to them primarily and principally; for in a secondary sense tongues serve for a sign to the faithful, and prophecy to the unbelievers. Cf. vers. 23 and 25.
Vers. 23, 24.—If therefore the whole church, . . . he is judged of all. If all speak together confusedly and noisily, they will seem to be mad; but if all teach the faith from the Scriptures and other authorities, and preach of the way to lead a right life, the outsider will be convinced of, and reproved for, his unbelief and evil life, by all the teachers and preachers.
Ver. 25.—And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest. Out of the gift of discerning of spirits, or because God directs the tongue of the prophet, i.e., the preacher, the most hidden sins of his heart will be described and reproved, and the man will think that the preacher speaks as a prophet to him in particular. It is evident from this that this was a common occurrence; it is also evident that these teachers and preachers were, strictly speaking, real prophets.
There is a parallel case in the, life of S. Augustine by Possidonius (c. 15), where it is said that on one occasion S. Augustine left the subject that he had decided to speak on, and discoursed on Manichæism. This led to the conversion of a certain Manichæan, who chanced to be present, as S. Augustine afterwards learnt. He believed it to be due to the direct guidance of God. Hence (de Doct. Christ. lib. iv. c. 15) he says that prayer should always be offered to God before preaching, that He would direct the mind and tongue of the preacher suitably to the capacity and disposition of the audience.
Others, however, understand “the secrets of his heart” to mean the sins which the unbeliever or unlearned has, but which he does not know to be sins, e.g., when he does not know that idolatry and fornication are sinful. He will learn this when he hears the prophet discoursing about them, and condemning them as sinful. But the first meaning is the best.
Ver. 26.—How is it then, brethren? . . . Let all things be done unto edifying. “Every one of you” is, of course, distributive. It is not meant that each one had all these things, but one had one thing, another another. Whoever of you has a psalm, or a doctrine, or a revelation, or an interpretation, or the gift of tongues, let him sing the praises of God, or pour forth his prayers and other devotions.
Hath a psalm. The grace of composing and singing psalms or hymns. So Pliny writes to Trajan that the Christians were wont to sing hymns before dawn to Christ as God.
Hath a revelation. A revelation and exposition, either of some difficult passage of Holy Scripture, or of some future or unrevealed event.
We should notice from this passage that in the Primitive Church the rites and order of Divine Service, instituted by Paul and the other Apostles, were somewhat as follows: (1.) Psalms were sung by all; (2.) the Holy Scriptures were read; (3.) the Bishop preached; (4.) then followed the Eucharist, which at that time consisted of simply the oblation, the consecration, communion, the canon and Lord’s Prayer, and some collect to which the people answered, “Amen.” (5.) All communicated; (6.) some, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would utter or sing, in different tongues, psalms or hymns to the praise of God, others would prophesy; (7.) some, after the Jewish fashion, would interpret the Holy Scriptures or give an exhortation, and that by two or three, especially prophets or men full of the Spirit; others would listen and then ask questions about what had been said. This was done even by the women, though this was an abuse corrected by S. Paul; and when anything particularly good or pious was said, they would all exclaim together, “Amen, amen! ” (8.) All was concluded with the agape, which was a common feast and a symbol of brotherly love, after which prayers and hymns again were used. Justin, in the passage quoted below, enumerates all these in order. He says: “In all the oblations which we offer we praise with thanksgiving” (the first part) “the Maker of all, through His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; and on the day called Sunday there is an assembly of all who live in town or country, and the commentaries of the Apostles or writings of the Prophets are read” (the second part). “Then when the reader ceases, he who presides delivers a sermon, in which he instructs the people, or exhorts them to practise the good things they have heard” (the third part). “Upon this we all rise together and offer up prayers, and as I have said, when the prayers are finished, bread is offered with wine and water; and the same president, as far as he can, offers up prayers and thanks givings, and the people answer with acclamation, ‘Amen!’” (the fourth part). “Then there is made a distribution, and communication with thanksgiving to each one present, of the gifts, and the same is sent by means of the deacons to the absent” (the fifth part)—Justin (Apol. ii. ad Ant.). The sixth, seventh, and eighth parts are described indiscriminately by Tertullian (Apol. xxxix.): “Our supper shows its nature by its name of agape, which denotes love. We do not sit down to it without first praying to God. Then follows washing of the hands, lights are brought in, and as each one is able from the Holy Scriptures or his own gifts, he utters praise aloud, and the feast is ended also with prayer.” Philo (de Essæis) gives a similar account.
We must notice, secondly, that these gifts and this fervour were of short continuance. Still, the Church has retained as far as possible the order and method then observed. Hence our present customs are the legitimate descendants of the eight mentioned above.
1. To the saying of psalms, &c., have succeeded the Hours of Mattins, Lauds, and Prime.
2. To the prophecies, readiness with exposition and homilies, not only in the Hours, but also in the Mass, in the form of the Epistle and Gospel.
3. After the Gospel comes the sermon.
4. Now as then we have the Mass, in which, at the end of the collect, a clerk says “Amen!” for the people.
The fifth, as well as the sixth, seventh, and eighth, have fallen somewhat into abeyance, except that hymns and the Lesser Hours are sung after Mass, and that monks, in their assemblies for worship, are wont to discourse of spiritual things, as Cassian relates (Collat. Patrum).
Ver. 27.—If any man speak in an unknown tongue. . . . let one interpret. This verse depends on the foregoing clause, “Let all things be done to edifying.” If any one sing, or teach, or speak with a tongue, let all be done to edifying, so that, e.g., if tongues are used, then let only two, or at the most three, in each assembly speak, and that in their turns, so that there may be no confusion; and let one interpret, so that the hearers may understand what is said.
Ver. 29.—Let the prophets speak two or three, viz., their prophecies or revealed truths, or intuitions or exhortations inspired into them by God. See what was said at the beginning of the chapter.
And let the other judge. Let the other prophets, not the people, judge by the gift they have whether what the prophet or teacher says is prophecy indeed, that is sound and wholesome doctrine, or not; for it does not belong to the laity to judge of the doctrines of religion, as heretics infer from this verse. It would be as absurd and foolish for the people to judge of prophecies, prophets, teachers, and pastors as for a scholar to judge his teacher, a sheep its shepherd, and a soldier his commander.
Ver. 30.—If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace. Let him rise and speak; let the first cease and sit down. S. Ambrose says: “This is a custom of the synagogue which S. Paul borrows and enjoins on us. The elders in dignity sit in their chairs while discoursing, those next to them sit on lower seats, the last on mats spread on the pavement. If anything happens to be revealed to these last, he bids that they be listened to: they are not to be despised, for they are members of the same body.”
Ver. 31.—For ye may all prophesy . . . and all may be comforted. All the prophets can exhort in their turn, if only the method and order laid down above be observed, and so all can receive exhortation and consolation. The word for “may be comforted” occurs again in 2Cor. i. 6. Some take it as active, when the meaning becomes, “that all may learn when they hear, and may teach when they speak and exhort.”
Ver. 32.—And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. The prophets can, when they wish, restrain the spirit of prophecy, and keep silence, and give place to other prophets; they are not forced to speak by an irresistible impulse, like heathen fanatics; for, as S. Thomas says, the spirit or gift of prophecy is not a habit but is partly an inspiration, or impartation of light and truth, by which God illuminates the prophet’s mind in regard to facts that are future, hidden, or Divine; it is partly a force or impulse by which God touches the heart and impels it to prophesy, while preserving the freedom of the will. So Jonah and Jeremiah restrained themselves on occasion, as did Moses (Exod. iv. 30). S. Chrysostom’s explanation is different. The gift of prophecy, he says, which the prophet has is subject to the judgment of the College of Prophets; but the first sense is more to the context, for S. Paul is giving the reason why the prophets ought in turn to give way to each other and be silent, viz., because the prophetical spirit was under their control.
Ver. 33.—For God is not the author of confusion. He does not compel these or those to prophesy at the same time, to make a noise and disturb each other, and so cause such a confusion as is commonly found in uproarious crowds.
Ver. 34.—Let women keep silence in the churches. Ambrose, and after him Anselm, say that even the prophetesses are to keep silence: (1.) Because it is against the order of nature and of the Law, in Gen. iii. 16, for women, who have been made subject to men, to speak in their presence. (2.) Because it is opposed to the modesty and humility which befits them. (3.) Because man is endowed with better judgment, reason, discursive power, and discretion than woman. (4.) She is rightly bidden, says S. Anselm, to keep silence, because when she spoke it was to persuade man to sin (Gen. iii. 6). (5.) To curb her loquacity, for, as it is said, “when two women quarrel it is like the beating of two cymbals or the clanging of two bells.” This might readily enough happen in the church if they were allowed to teach. About this silence enjoined on women, see notes on 1 Tim. ii. 9. How much is it then against the command of S. Paul, against all law, right, and seemliness, for a woman to be the head of a church!
Tropologically woman stands for passion and lust, man for reason. Let the first then be silent and obey the reason. Cf. S. Chrysostom (Hom. 37 in Morali.). Aristotle (de Nat. Animal. lib. ix. c. 1) says: “Woman is more pitiful and more inclined to tears than man; also more envious, more ready to complain, to utter curses, and to revenge; she is besides more anxious and desponding than man, more pert and untruthful, and more easily deceived.”
Ver. 35.—And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home. Hence Primasius says that men ought to be well taught enough to teach their wives in matters of faith. But what if they are themselves untaught, as is often the case? Who, then, is to teach the woman? Primasius answers that they have preachers, confessors, and teachers to instruct them. Again, it is better for them to be ignorant of some things that are not essentials than to ask and learn about them in public, to their own shame and the scandal of the Church.
You may say that it is recorded in S. Luke ii. 38 that Anna the prophetess spoke in the Temple to all concerning Christ. The answer is that she spoke to all in private, and one by one, not in a church assembly, nor in the Temple properly so called, for neither man nor woman, but the priests alone, were allowed to enter the Temple at Jerusalem. Anna, then, spoke to the women singly in the court of the women; for, as Josephus says, the women had a court distinct from the men’s court.
You may say again, “Nuns sing in their churches.” I answer that theirs is not a church in the sense of being an assembly of the faithful, but merely a choir of nuns. The Apostle does not forbid women to speak or sing among women, but he forbids it in the common assembly only, where both men and women meet. In this Cajetan agrees. Moreover, S. Paul does not allude to such public speaking as is sanctioned by authority, but that particular and individual speech which consists in teaching, exhorting, and asking questions.
Add to this that he is speaking of married women only, for he orders such to keep silence in the church and be subject to their husbands, and ask them at home what they want to know.
Ver. 36.—What! came the word of God out from you? This is a sarcasm, concluding what had been said in this chapter and the preceding. Did not the Churches of Judæa, Samaria, and Syria believe before you? Look, then, at the order and custom of those Churches, whether they are so contentious about their gifts or make such boasting of their tongues as you do. So Ambrose and Anselm.
Ver. 37.—If any man think himself to be a prophet, &c. It is the Lord who commands this order to be observed in your assemblies, by my mouth, not directly by Himself.
This verse is an authority for canons passed by the Popes, and for the laws of the Church.
Melancthon replies that Bishops cannot make fresh canons, because, since the whole of the Holy Scripture has been now written, the Bishops have a full and sufficient guide in the word of God; but he says the civil magistrate can pass new laws, because he has not the word of God to follow.
But this is a frivolous answer. The magistrate has not only the law of nature, but a very full and complete code of laws in the statute-book. But if everything has not been provided for there, and the magistrate may add to the number of laws, why may not Bishops do the same? For the word of God has not provided for everything, as may be seen in the additions made to it by the Canon Law.
Moreover, S. Paul is here enacting human and ecclesiastical laws, not Divine ones; and he had besides the word of God, not indeed written, but received by tradition or revelation from God (Gal. i. 12), and that much more fully than we have it. If, therefore, it was lawful for him to add his laws to those given by God, it is also lawful for the Pope and the Bishops, who have succeeded Paul, to do the same.
Ver. 38.—But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. He who is not willing to acknowledge these laws and my power will be ignorant, or ignored or condemned by God, who will say to him, “I know you not,” for “he that heareth you hear heareth Me, and he that despiseth you despiseth Me.” Ambrose, Jerome, Ephrem, read the future, “will be ignorant.” “Let him be ignorant” has a parallel in “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still;” or, as others render it, “He that is ignorant, let him acknowledge himself ignorant, and behave accordingly, and not presume to pass judgment on other men, and on things of which he knows nothing, but let him rather follow others, as leaders in matters of prophecy and doctrine.” But I prefer the first reading, that of the Latin Version, as the plainer, truer, and better supported reading.
Ver. 40.—Let all things be done decently and in order. Like S. Ignatius (Ep. ad. Philipp. et Tars.), S. Paul had a great care for good order in the Church, especially in things indifferent, both because this order is beautiful and decent in itself, and because it prevents confusion and disturbance, and also because it greatly edifies others, even unbelievers. See notes on Col. ii. 5.