1 Christ avoucheth his authority by a question of John’s baptism. 9 The parable of the vineyard. 19 Of giving tribute to Cæsar. 27 He convinceth the Sadducees that denied the resurrection. 41 How Christ is the son of David. 45 He warneth his disciples to beware of the scribes.
ND it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,
Douay Rheims Version
The parable of the husbandmen. Of paying tribute to Caesar and of the resurrection of the dead.
ND it came to pass that on one of the days, as he was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes, with the ancients, met together,
Ver. 36.—They are equal unto the angels. So the Arabic, Syriac, Egyptian, Persian, and Ethiopic; equal in celibacy, immortality, glory. As therefore the angels do not marry nor generate, so neither do the Blessed, because, being immortal per se, and glorious, they will remain for ever. For generation is desired in this life, because of death; as a mortal father might, as it were, survive and endure in the son whom he leaves alive. So S. Cyril: “As the angels are not of generation, so they who rise again will have no need of marriage.” S. Chrysostom on Matt. xxiii: “Wives are married that the diminution, which is by death, may be supplied by birth. But death will not be there, and, in consequence, neither marriages, nor wives, nor generation.”
And are, &c. “They are called the children of God,” says Theophylact, “as being born again through the Resurrection, not only through grace, but also through glory, that they may thus resemble God most closely, as is taught by S. John, 1 Ep. iii. 2. Then as sons they shall enter into the inheritance of God the Father.”
“They are called the sons of the Resurrection,” says Theophylact, “because they appear to be as it were born to a new, happy, and divine life.”
2. They will be the sons of the Resurrection, that is, worthy of the Resurrection, for the word “son” when it is added in Hebrew to the genitive of reward or punishment, means one subject to, one who deserves, or who is destined to, such a punishment or reward. Thus men are called the sons of Death and Gehenna, that is, men subject to death and hell; and the sons of the kingdom and the Resurrection, that is, they who are worthy of the kingdom of heaven, and of the Resurrection of the blessed.
Ver. 40.—And after that they durst not ask Him any question at all. That is the Sadducees, for the Pharisees asked Him afterwards which was the greatest commandment, as we find from Matt. xxii 35.
1 Christ commendeth the poor widow. 5 He foretelleth the destruction of the temple, and of the city Jerusalem: 25 the signs also which shall be before the 1ast day. 34 He exhorteth them to be watchful.
ND he looked up and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury.
Douay Rheims Version
The widow's mites. The signs that should forerun the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world.
ND looking on, he saw the rich men cast their gifts into the treasury.
38. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, to hear him.
Ver. 18.—But there shall not an hair of your head perish. “Because,” says S. Gregory, “what was said about death was hard, comfort is added at once, from the joy of the resurrection, when it is said, ‘a hair of your head shall not perish.’ For we know that the flesh when wounded, causes pain, but the hair when cut does not. Our Lord therefore said to His martyrs, ‘A hair of your head shall not perish.’” From these words of Christ, we may conclude that we shall rise again with our actual bodies. S. Augustine (De Civitate, chap.19, 2O.) So S. Bonaventure, S. Thomas, the master of the sentences, Soto, and others. Their proof is from Matt. x. 30: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered;” and from this of S. Luke, “Not a hair of your head shall perish.” “Not in length,” says S. Augustine, “but in number.”
2. We may collect this from reason, for our bodies will rise without deformity, with their natural adornments and comeliness; the adornment of the head is the hair, the beard, the nails. If any one has not these he is a deformed.
Ver. 19.—In your patience possess ye your souls. Patience, therefore, is the possession of our souls. Firstly, because patience rules the soul and directs it in peace, and bends and influences it as it pleases. Secondly, because no one can keep the hope of a future life, as S. Augustine says, unless he have patience in the labours of the present one. Thirdly, S. Gregory (Homily xxxv. in Evangel.): “The possession of the soul consists of the virtue of patience, because patience is the root and guardian of all virtues. Through patience, we possess our souls, because, while we learn to govern ourselves, we begin to possess the knowledge that we are (quod sumus, quod adverb). It is patience to endure calmly the evils we suffer from others, and to be affected with no painful feeling against him who inflicts them upon us. For whoever so takes the oppressions of others, as to grieve in silence, but to look out for a time of retribution, does not possess this virtue, but only makes a show of it. Again, Solomon says, Prov. xvi. 32: ‘The patient man is better than the valiant, and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh cities.’ The taking of a city is therefore a less victory, because the conquest is outside ourselves. That which is subdued by patience is greater, because the mind is subdued by itself, and subjects itself to itself when patience subdues it to the humility of endurance.” S. Gregory adds the example of the Abbot Stephen, who returned contumelies with thanks, and thought a gain, loss, and considered his adversaries his helpers. Hence, at his death, angels were seen taking his soul to heaven.
The impatient do not possess their souls, but are possessed by the vices of wrath and vindictiveness, and consequently by Satan. They, only, who have ardent love can gain true patience, as those fervent martyrs—SS. Ignatius, Laurence, Sebastian, Vincent, and others. Trajan the Emperor, consequently, said when he conferred, by his sentence, martyrdom on S. Ignatius, “No people suffer so much for their God as the Christians.” S. Gregory (book v. Moral. chap. 13), “What is it to possess our souls, but to live perfectly in all things, and to govern all the emotions of our minds by the art of virtue? Whoever therefore possesses patience, possesses his soul, because he is thus made strong against all adversities, so that he rules even by subduing himself. By whatever he masters himself, he clearly shows himself unmastered, for when he masters himself in his pleasures, he prepares himself to be unmastered by their opposites.” In his 39th Epistle to Theoclister; “In your patience possess your souls. Consider a moment where patience would be if there were nothing to be endured. I suspect that he would not be an Abel who had no Cain. For if the good were without misfortunes, they could not be perfectly good, for they would have no purgation. Their very society with evil is the purification of the good.” Hence, says Theodore Studita in his 19th Catechetical Lecture, “Endurance is the highest perfection of virtue;” and Lucan (lib. ix.):
—Serpens, sitis, ardor, arenæ
The sandy desert’s burning heat; the pangs
Lastly, the whole band of virtues flows into patience, so that it appears to be the complex of all virtues. Sencea (Ep. 69. and following): “There is i fortitude of which the brands are patience, endurance, and toleration. There is prudence, without which no undertaking is entered upon, and which persuades us to endure bravely what we cannot escape. There is constancy which cannot be cast down from its pedestal, and the determination of which no force can overthrow. Here is that indivisible society of virtues.” And see the words of S. James. i. 4.
Ver. 34.—And take heed to yourselves, lest “the cares of this life absorb the mind and sink the faculties,” says Euthymius, “and do not allow men to think about their salvation.” “The cares of this life,” says Titus, “debauchery and ebriety, deprive men of their senses, obscure their faith, and cause forgetfulness of all that is useful and necessary. They distract the mind, seize hold of it, and absorb it in the cares of this world.”
Ver. 35.—For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. As careless birds are taken craftily by snares, so in the day of judgment shall the men of pleasure be. 2 “As the snare strangles the birds, so shall the day of judgment choke sinners.” 3. “As the snare always keeps hold,” says the Interlinear, “of that which it has once caught, so shall the sentence, given by one Christian judge, be perpetual; and either for ever glorify him who is judged, in heaven, or consume him with fire in hell.”
Ver. 36.—Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand bore the Son of man. The Arabic has, “That you may be strengthened in flight.”
Stand before the Son of Man. So Wisdom v. i: “They shall stand with great constancy.” “To those therefore who give themselves up to vigils, prayers, and good works, that day shall not be a snare, but a festival,” says Theophylact.
Ver. 37.—And in the daytime He was teaching in the temple; and at night He went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. Because olives abounded in it. Christ gave the day to preaching and to His neighbour, but the night to prayer, to Himself, and to God. Thus He gave very little time to repose and slumber. The same did S. Paul, Dominic, F. Xavier, and others like them. “He went by night,” says Theophylact, “into the mountain, to show us that we ought to hold communion with God in quiet at night. By day we should be gentle, and do good.” So Bede: “What He commanded in words, He confirmed by His own example; for when the time of His Passion drew near, He was instant in teaching, in watching, and in prayers, either urging those, for whom He was to suffer, to faith by His words, or commending them to His Father by His prayers.”
Ver. 38.—And all the people came early in the morning to Him. The senses are in their vigour in the morning, and the morning therefore, as the best part of the day, is to be given to God.
1 The Jews conspire against Christ. 3 Satan prepareth Judas to betray him. 7 The apostles prepare the passover. 19 Christ instituteth his holy supper, 21 covertly foretelleth of the traitor, 24 dehorteth the rest of his apostles from ambition, 31 assureth Peter his faith should not fail: 34 and yet he should deny him thrice. 39 He prayeth in the mount, and sweateth blood, 47 is betrayed with a kiss: 50 he healeth Malchus’ ear, 54 he is thrice denied of Peter, 63 shamefully abused, 66 and confesseth himself to be the Son of God.
OW the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.
21 ¶ But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! 23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.
Douay Rheims Version
The treason of Judas. The last supper. The first part of the history of the passion.
OW the feast of unleavened bread, which is called the pasch, was at hand.
Ver.6.—And he sought opportunity to betray Him unto them. Judas sold Jesus Christ on the fourth day of the week, the day of Mercury; on the following day, or the day of Jupiter, he delivered Him to them. Thence followed “the day of unleavened bread.” See how sudden was the wickedness of the Jews, and equally cunning and crafty. For they knew that Christ would celebrate the Passover, according to His custom, on the day following at Jerusalem, and that it would therefore be most convenient to deliver Him up then to the Jews at Jerusalem.
Ver. 20.—This cup is the new Testament in My blood. That is, this cup is the authentic instrument, and, as it were, the chart and tabula testamentaria, in which My new covenant is written and signed for giving you My heavenly inheritance, written, I say, not with ink, but in My blood. 1 Cor. xi. 23, &c.
Ver. 25.—And they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. Benefactor is a title of honour and praise which is bestowed upon princes because they are, or ought to be, good. The proper epithet of kings in former time was “good.” Virgil uses it of Acestes (Æn i. 195). Martial applies it to Trajan and Domitian, and Horace to Romulus. Homer thought nothing requisite in a king, but to be brave against the enemy, and good to the citizens. Paul calls Felix “Most Excellent.” Acts xxiv. 3.
Ver. 26.—But ye shall not be so. The Arabic has “Let the greater of you be as the least”—that is, let him among you who wishes to be the greatest, become the least. In this way he shall be the greatest.
Morally, let us learn this parable of Christ, incredible to the world, but in itself most true, and by experience most certain, namely, that the way to exaltation is abasement of self. Do we wish to become greater? Let us become less. God has sanctioned and fixed this way by His eternal law, and therefore Christ was the first-fruits to enter upon it, that we, by the same law, might follow Him, as in Phil. ii. 8, 9, 10, 11.
Hence S. Francis, a great follower and imitator of Christ, humbled himself to the lowest of all lowness, and wished to be the poorest and vilest of all men; and to a certain saint, a most lofty and splendid seat in heaven was shown, and when he asked whose it was, the answer was given, “It was the seat of one of the great ones among the fallen angels, but it is now reserved for the holy Francis.” S. Bonav., chap. vi., Life of St. Francis. The same S. Francis wished his followers to be called “Minores,” lest they should presume to become majores. His scribe, S. Francis de Paula, ordered the brethren of his order, to be called not Minores but Minimi. Hence the blessed Magdelena de Pazzi, who has been lately enrolled among the blessed by our holy father, Urban VIII., received the following order from God, “Be of the order of Minimæ, and the least of them, that thou mayest strive as zealously to be the least as men of this world do to be the greatest.” S. Elizabeth, wife of the Landgrave of Hesse, and the daughter of the king, of Hungary, personally, against the remonstrances of her friends, tended the sick and outcast, and said that if there were any position more humble still she would gladly fill it, the more closely to follow Christ, who from the first humbled Himself to be the lowest of men, as Isaiah describes, ch. liii.; for in this consists the crown of virtue and perfection. The like did Hedwig, Duchess of Polonia, and her granddaughter, S. Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal. So S. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, sold himself for a slave, for the good of a son of a widow, that he might imitate Christ, and make himself one of the most humble of men. Peter Telonarius did the same, as is related in the Life of S. John Eleemosynarius. This is what the wise man teaches, Ecclus. iii. 20. See what I have commented thereon.
Ver. 29.—And I appoint unto you a kingdom. As My Father has decreed and prepared for Me, through humility and the cross: through so many labours and sufferings: a kingdom heavenly and eternal, so do I also appoint the same unto you: that is, I decree, prepare, and, going to death I now appoint, as by my will, that through the same humility, cross, and suffering, you shall possess a like, nay, the same kingdom with Me in heaven; dispute not then who among you shall be greatest, but who shall be less, that each may study to surpass the other in low estate and humility, for whoever does this, shall be first and greatest in my kingdom.
Ver. 30.—That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. As kings gave to their most intimate nobles a place at their own table, and made them companions of their banquets, but assigned to other and less famous nobles another table, so will I make you, My Apostles, the chief and foremost of My kingdom, and place you most nearly to Myself, and, as it were, at My table, and I will have you as the most intimate guests of My royal feasts. “In like manner,” say Euthymius, Titus, and Theophylact, “He shows that the Apostles, as the first and most illustrious of His followers, should enjoy the highest honours with their immortal king. It is by catachresis that the pleasures and honours of the kingdom of heaven are often compared in Holy Scripture to banquets, and feasts of meat and drink, and to the first seats at table with kings; because carnal men understand these things best, but are unable to estimate spiritual ones, and because, as meat and drink are incorporated into ourselves and made our own, so, in heaven by the beautiful vision and His other glorious gifts, God will be incorporated into us, as it were, and will be made our own.”
Ver. 31.—And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have You. Sift—that is vex, afflict, agitate, cast you down as wheat in a sieve that it may be cleared of chaff and dust. Satan in the same manner asked God to permit him to sift and afflict Job, and in some degree he obtained his end. He did the same again to Peter and the other Apostles, and again, in part succeeded, when he stirred up the Jews to seize Christ, for then the Apostles themselves fled in fear and were dispersed. The temptation is well compared to sifting and a sieve, because, as by means of the sieve the grains of wheat are separated from the chaff, and remain in the sieve, while the chaff is scattered to the wind, and dispersed in air, so the faithful and the saints in temptation remain constant, but the wicked fail and fly off.
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. For thee, because I destine thee to be the head and chief of the Apostles and of My Church, that thy faith fail not in believing Me to be the Christ and the Saviour of the world. Observe that Christ in this prayer asked and obtained for Peter two especial privileges before the other Apostles: the first was personal, that he should never fall from faith in Christ; for Christ looked back to the sifting in the former verse, that is the temptation of His own apprehension when the other Apostles flew off from Him like chaff and lost their faith, and were dispersed, and fled into all parts. But Peter, although he denied Christ with his lips, at the hour foretold, and lost his love for Him, yet retained his faith. So S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxxviii.) on S. Matthew; S. Augustine (de corrept. et Grat. chap. viii.); Theophylact and others. This is possible but not certain, for F. Lucas and others think that Peter then lost both his faith and his love, from excessive perturbation and fear; but only for a short time, and so that his faith afterwards sprang up anew, and was restored with fresh vitality. Hence it is thought not to have wholly failed, or to have been torn up by the roots, but rather to have been shaken and dead for a time.
Another and a certain privilege was common to Peter with all his successors, that he and all the other bishops of Rome (for Peter, as Christ willed, founded and confirmed the Pontifical Church at Rome), should never openly fall from this faith, so as to teach the Church heresy, or any error, contrary to the faith. So S. Leo (serm. xxii.), on Natalis of SS. Peter and Paul; S. Cyprian (Lib. i. ep 3), to Cornelius; Lucius I., Felix I., Agatho, Nicolas I., Leo IX., Innocent III., Bernard and others, whom Bellarmine cites and follows (Lib. i. de Pontif. Roman).
For it was necessary that Christ, by His most wise providence, should provide for His Church, which is ever being sifted and tempted by the devil, and that not only in the time of Peter, but at all times henceforth, even to the end of the world, an oracle of thetrue faith which she might consult in every doubt and by which she might be taught and confirmed in the faith, otherwise the Church might err in faith, quod absit! For she is as S. Paul said to Timothy, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. iii 15). This oracle of the Church then is Peter, and all successive bishops of Rome. This promise made to Peter, and his successors, most especially applies to the time when Peter, as the successor of Christ, began to be the head of the Church, that is, after the death of Christ.
And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. “From the sifting of Satan, that is from his temptation and from the sin by which thou wilt deny Me; for by this thou wilt be turned aside from Me, and My grace and love.” So Euthymius, Theophylact, Jansen, F. Lucas, and others.
Some take this converted (conversus) as meaning “again” (iterum). So Bede, “Do thou, 0 Peter, again confirm the Apostles thy brethren, in the faith after My death, whom I now, while alive, strengthen by My words.” For the Hebrew often uses the verb for the adverb. So Ps. lxxxv. 6.
Strengthen thy brethren. Thy brethren, and therefore Mine. The condescension of Christ here is wonderful. He does not call the Apostles sons although He spiritually begot them to God, but brothers: as well because Christ as man, was the brother of all men, being a sharer of the same human nature, as because the Apostles in their apostleship and preaching of the Gospel, were the brothers and colleagues of Christ; for they did the same work as He. Hence the Fathers, whom I have cited, and the Doctors of the Church conclude that Peter was set over the other Apostles by Christ, and consequently was made the head and chief over the whole Church, that he might build up, perfect, and confirm the Church in the faith and religion of Christ.
Ver. 36.—But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip. A purse filled with money, a scrip with food, that they might have support in the impending persecution; for they will never find either, “because men will fly from Me, who am bound and accused, and consequently from My disciples as men wicked and condemned.”
And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Christ, in these words, did not command them to take a purse and a scrip, and to sell their garment and buy a sword, for He soon after forbade Peter to draw his sword; but they were a warning of the fierce persecution which was about to fall upon Himself and the apostles, and which was so heavy to those that regarded the difficulty of the case with the eyes of mere human wisdom, that food and weapons would appear things absolutely necessary for the preservation of life. The meaning therefore is this, “Everything, so far, has happened to you, 0 my Apostles, well and prosperously; for when I sent you to preach the Gospel without purse, or scrip, or sword, you were kindly received by most, fed, and sheltered, and had no need of these things. But now so grievous a persecution is impending over you, and so great is the danger to your lives, that in human prudence it may seem necessary to each to think of the preservation of his life, and therefore to take a scrip and purse for provision, and a weapon for defence, and to sell his cloak, and buy a sword. But to Me, who weigh circumstances by the design and decree of God the Father, there is no need of such things; for I go voluntarily to the cross, and to death, and I offer Myself of My own free will, to those who will persecute Me and crucify Me, so that I may conform Myself to the will of My Father.” So S. Chrysostom (Hom. 85 on S. Matt.), and from him Theophylact on this passage, Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. S. Ambrose says well, “0 Lord, why commandest Thou me to buy a sword, and forbiddest me to strike, unless that I may be prepared for my defence, and that Thou mayest appear able to avenge though Thou wouldst not?”
Ver. 38.—And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. They did not understand the mind and words of Christ clearly. He did not mean that they should buy swords, but He wished to show them the impending danger. Christ did not explain His meaning to the Apostles, but concealed it, saying, “It is enough,” meaning that Peter and the other Apostles might carry these swords, and even cut off Malchus’ ear, which He Himself afterwards restored and healed, showing that He was not compelled by force, but was urged by love, willingly and freely to suffer and die. Some think that they were not military swords, but rather large butchers’ knives, which the apostles used for the slaughtering, sacrificing, and disjointing of the Paschal Lamb. So S. Chrysostom, from whom I have said more on Matt. xxvii.
Ver. 39.—And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of Olives. Bede gives the reason of this: “The Lord, when about to be delivered up, came to the retirement of this accustomed place, that He might be found the more easily. Where are they who maintained that He feared death, and was crucified against His will? Christ was wont, in these last days of His life, to preach in the temple by day, and to retire at night to the mount of Olives to pray. This, Judas, as being an Apostle, and a companion of Christ knew; and hence he came to this mountain with his followers, and there betrayed and delivered up Christ to them.”
Ver. 43.—And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven. The angel appeared in a body assumed visibly that he might comfort the eyes and ears of Christ by his appearance and voice. Jansenius thinks that the angel appeared at each of Christ’s three prayers, and therefore comforted Him three times, to teach us that God always hears those who pray, and gives them grace and strength unceasingly. F. Lucas, and others, think with more reason, that the angel only appeared once, at the third and last prayer, and comforted Him when He prayed more earnestly, and sweated blood, to show that we ought to persevere in prayer, and that the fruit of such perseverance is the comfort of God, and the vision of angels. For after this consolation from the Father by the angel, the agony of Christ seems to have passed away, and He appears to have prayed no more but to have prepared bravely for death. This angel was Gabriel, says Gabriel Vasquez (I. p. tom. ii. disbut. 244, No. 3), for Gabriel has his name from his fortitude, Gabriel being Geber-el the man of God, or Gebura-el the fortitude of God; for he has the office of comforting the weak, afflicted, and fearful. But he comforted Christ not by strengthening His weakness, but by praising His surpassing fortitude. Lud. de Pont. thinks the same in his “Meditation on the Agony of Christ in the Garden,” because Gabriel was the legate and messenger of the śconomy of Christ, as at the Incarnation (Luke i. 26), and of the seventy weeks of Daniel, which foretold the time of the nativity of Christ.
Others, however, as F. Lucas, think that it was Michael, for he is the highest of all angels, and it became him, as such, to perform this office for the supreme God, that is Christ.
Strengthening Him. “The praise and due adoration of Christ,” says Titus, “being premised,” he comforted Christ by speaking to Him outwardly and setting before Him the will and glory of the Father, and the rich fruit which would ensue, both to Christ Himself, to men, and to angels, from His Passion. For the angel could not affect the inner mind of Christ, nor immediately change His inner powers. And as He could only be tempted by Satan, externally, so He could only be comforted by the angel outwardly. He could not be taught nor illuminated by him, for He was above all angels, and from the first moment of His conception, was full of wisdom and knowledge. So say the schoolmen with S. Thomas (3. p. q. 12, art. 4): The angel spoke the following, or like words to Christ, “0 Lord, bravest of men, Thy prayer is most acceptable to Thy Father; because, notwithstanding Thy natural dread of death, Thou resignedst Thyself wholly to the will of the Father boldly to undergo the death appointed for Thee by Him. Lay aside therefore this Thy horror and grief with which Thou hast voluntarily invested Thyself, and reassume Thy former mind and strength, and come bravely to the work of human Redemption, by which Thou wilt most signally celebrate the glory of God, rejoice the angels, redeem men from Hell, and bring them back to the glories of heaven. Endure the cross for the joy that is offered Thee, as the future author and perfector of the faith of very many. Heb. xii. 2. Thus Thou wilt cause SS. Peter and Paul, Laurentius, Vincentius, Agnes, Cścilia and very many other martyrs and virgins, men, and noble heroes and heroines boldly to undergo martyrdom for God, and the faithful, with other holy men, who triumphed gloriously over the flesh, the world, and the devil. I know that Thou, 0 Lord, hast no need of any strengthening of mine, who am myself strengthened by Thee both to be and to live; but, that this my ministry which I execute as a steward at the command of God Thy Father may be acceptable to Thee, I pray again and again.”
Theophylact thinks that the angel spoke thus, “0 Lord, Thine is the strength, for thou art powerful against death and hell, to set free the race of men.”
Ver. 44.—And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly. The “et” here in the Hebrew is causal, and means quia, because. That is, the angel comforted Him; because being in an agony and praying more earnestly, He sweated blood, and then appeared to need comfort, and to merit it. The following, was the order of events. Christ had prayed the first and second time, but felt no help of God. Then His feeling growing on Him, He, permitting the agony (that is, a more vehement horror and anguish) to arise in Himself, He sweated blood. To overcome this, He prayed a third time more earnestly, teaching us that as temptation increases our prayers should increase equally. The angel therefore appeared to Him immediately, comforting Him; whereupon He ceased to pray and to fear, and to grieve, and, suppressing and overcoming His agony, He manfully prepared Himself for His Passion, and went forth of His own accord to meet Judas.
More earnestly. The Greek is ε̉κτενέστεζον, that is, more exclusively, more intensely. For this, as appears from SS. Matthew and Mark, was the third prayer of Christ, and He appears to have remained in it longer. More earnestly, because, as the anguish pressed upon Him, Christ, to overcome it, at once directed the contention of His mind, by praying; and He prayed with a more intense feeling and ardour. Luke includes in one as in a compendium, the three prayers of Matthew and Mark, and therefore relates some things of it, which took place in the first and second, and some which took place in the third.
And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood. The Greek has θζόμβοι, gouts, thick masses. The Arabic and S. Irenæus have globi. The Arabic says, “His sweat was (made) as distilling blood descending on the ground.”
Note. Firstly, Some copies have nothing about this bloody sweat, as S. Hilary shows (De Trinit. lib. x.); S. Jerome (lib. ii. against Pelagius), lest men should ascribe infirmity of mind and weakness to Christ. But now all versions, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, have the same account, so it is certainly to be read, according to the agreement of the Council of Trent, Session IV.
Secondly, Christ is said to have sweated blood not improperly or as a by-word, and an allegory, as we say of one who is grievously afflicted and tormented, “he sweats blood,” as Euthymius and Theophylact explain it—but truly and properly. Hence the words “as it were” denote not resemblance but the truth. So SS. Hilary, Jerome, Augustine passim. The Ethiopic renders it plainly, “And His sweat was made as the sweat of blood flowing down upon the earth.” The Persian agrees with it. S. Athanasius, also, in his sixth book to Theophilus, which is on the Beatitude of the Son of God, says, “Anathema to those who deny that Christ sweated true blood.”
S. Bernard, treating of this prayer of Christ in the garden, says, “Not only with His eyes does He seem to have wept, but, as it were, with all His members, that His whole Body, which is the Church, might be the more effectually purged by His tears” (Serm. 3 on Palm Sunday). The love of Christ indeed was not content with the watery tears of His eyes, but wished, by the bloody tears of His whole Body, to lament and blot out our sins, and these tears of Christ were most efficacious with God the Father. “For,” says S. Irenæus (Lib. v. cap. i.) “the blood of Christ has a voice and ‘speaketh better things than that of Abel,’ Heb. xii. 24. The blood of Abel calls for vengeance, that of Christ for mercy.”
Symbolically, “the reason was,” says S. Augustine, “that Christ might show that from His whole Body would proceed the passions of martyrs” (Seutent. sent. 68). Again, “The blood of Christ,” says Bede, “flowed down upon the earth to show that men of the earth would be moistened by it.”
Ver. 45.—And when He rose up from prayer. For sorrow contracts the heart, and hinders the vital and subtle spirits from being sent to the head; wherefore the black and crass vapours which are the cause of sleep, invade the brain. But there is a hysteron proteron here. For these things happened before the bloody sweat which took place in the third prayer of Christ, while the former happened in the first prayer, as is clear from SS. Matthew and Mark. The reason is that S. Luke compresses the three prayers into one, and unites what happened at different times in the three prayers as if they had been done in one and the same. For after the first prayer, Christ, visiting the Apostles and finding them asleep, said as follows,
Ver. 46.—And said unto them, Why sleep ye? See what has been said on Matthew xxvi. xxvii.