1 Jesus is accused before Pilate, and sent to Herod. 8 Herod mocketh him. 12 Herod and Pilate are made friends. 13 Barabbas is desired of the people, and is loosed by Pilate, and Jesus is given to be crucified. 27 He telleth the women, that lament him, the destruction of Jerusalem. 34 prayeth for his enemies. 39 Two evildoers are crucified with him. 46 His death. 50 His burial.
ND the whole multitude of them arose, and led them unto Pilate.
Douay Rheims Version
The continuation of the history of the passion.
ND the whole multitude of them, rising up, led him to Pilate.
2. And they began to accuse him, saying: We have found this man perverting our nation and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar and saying that he is Christ the king.
3. And Pilate asked him, saying: Art thou the king of the Jews? But he answering, said: Thou sayest it.
7. And when he understood that he was of Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him away to Herod, who was also himself at Jerusalem in those days.
8. And Herod seeing Jesus, was very glad: for he was desirous of a long time to see him, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to see some sign wrought by him.
9. And he questioned him in many words. But he answered him nothing.
10. And the chief priests and the scribes stood by, earnestly accusing him.
12. And Herod and Pilate were made friends, that same day: for before they were enemies one to another.
13. And Pilate, calling together the chief priests and the magistrates and the people,
24. And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required.
Ver. 39.—And one of the malefactors which were hanged—(this one, according to tradition, hung on the left hand of Christ)—railed on Him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.
If thou be the Christ, and Saviour of the world, save Thyself and us, free us from the cross and restore us to life and liberty. Christ chose to undergo the most bitter sufferings from all classes, and to be mocked and blasphemed, not only by the scribes and Jews, but even by the robber, the companion of His punishment. This made His trial the more hard; for the robber ought to have suffered with Christ and to have taken thought for the salvation of his soul, and to have begged it of Christ; as we also should beg that we may be quiet under scoffs, derisions, and insults, and be patient in mind and silent in speech.
Ver. 40.—But the other (who is said to have hung on the right side) answering rebuked him. The Syriac says, “Dost thou not fear, no, not even from God” (etiam, non, a Deo, non tirmes tu)?—that is, the scribes and Jews are well and strong and do not fear God, and therefore scoff at Christ; but thou, who art tormented on the cross, oughtest to fear Him, lest He punish thee severely, for blaspheming His Christ so sacrilegiously. This robber showed that he not only feared God himself, for “the beginning of wisdom” (and salvation) “is the fear of the Lord” (Ecclus. i. 16), but he also exhorted his companion to the same fear. That is, Let the Jews mock at Christ; we ought to fear God, because we are in the same condemnation—the punishment of the cross, to which we are justly condemned. But Christ, who was innocent was so condemned unjustly. Again, we should rather compassionate a companion in punishment, especially if innocent, than reproach him; because we ought to prepare ourselves for death and the judgment of God, where we shall give account for our blasphemy and undergo the heavy punishment of Gehenna. In his words, “Dost thou not fear God?” he seems to allude to Christ and to confess Him to be God. As if he had said, “Fear thou the retribution of Christ, whom thou blasphemest, for He is not only man but God also.” For, that he believed this from Christ’s illumination we shall shortly see. So S. Ambrose, and Eusebius, whose words I will produce.
Ver. 41.—And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds. This was an act of profound and public confession, contrition, and repentance, by which he expiated his former sins.
But this man hath done nothing amiss. The Greek is άτοπον, which means out of harmony, unbecoming incongruous, nothing worthy of the slightest blame or reprehension. Lo! a free and public confession of, and testimony to, the innocence of Christ, given before the scribes and rulers, who had condemned Him, fearing nothing.
Ver. 42.—And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into Thy kingdom. “The heavenly and divine kingdom, to which Thou passest through the death of the cross, that shortly Thou mayest enter into it by death, and bring into it Thine elect. Wherefore I beseech Thee to bring me also into it with Thyself, and I implore of Thee pardon for all sinners, for whom I very greatly grieve. I offer to Thee, moreover, the torments of this cross, and the death upon it which I willingly undergo. To this end, I wholly resign, dedicate, and consecrate myself to Thee; I would that it were given to me to suffer these and still other torments for Thy faith and love.” These words show his living and ardent faith, hope, love, humility, patience, contrition, and other virtues.
Moraliter. Learn from this the strength, efficacy, and swiftness of the grace of Christ, by which, from the cross itself, He made a man holy, most holy. Wonderful was the conversion of S. M. Magdalene—wonderful that of S. Paul, but much more wonderful this of the thief. For S. Mary had witnessed the words and miracles, of Christ; and S. Paul had felt Him strike him from heaven; but the thief on the very cross, where Christ was suffering the infamous and atrocious death of a criminal, was converted to Him by herioc acts of faith, love, devotion, &c.
SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, on S. Matt. xxvii., Cyril of Jerusalem in his Catechetical Lectures, xiii., Origen, Tract xxxv. on S. Matt., say that this thief had first blasphemed Christ with his companion, for SS. Matt. and Mark say in the plural “the thieves reproached Him,” though SS. Augustine, Epiphanius, Anselm and others think, like Suarez, with more probability, the contrary. These think that one of them was called “the thieves” by synecdoche, for S. Luke says that one blasphemed and the other confessed. If one of them blasphemed first, so much the greater miracle that conversion by which he suddenly changed blasphemy into the confession and praise of Christ. This change of the thief was “the right hand of the High One” (Ps. cxviii. 15, 16; dextera Excelsi). It may be asked by what means he was converted. I reply, 1. Outwardly, by the example of the virtues which he discerned in Christ, namely, His singular love, by which he heard Him praying for His enemies, His patience, fortitude, religion, and all virtues. So Theophylact and Euthymius, c. 67, on S. Matt. 2. Inwardly, by the rare and almost miraculous motion and representation of God, by which he knew Christ to be innocent and the King of a higher kingdom and the supreme Lord, in whose power it was to make even a dead man happy; and therefore that He was the Messiah, the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. So S. Leo (Serm. ii. de Pass.): “What exhortation persuaded him to the faith? What teaching instilled it? What preacher kindled it? He had not seen the miracles performed previously; the healing of the sick had ceased; the giving of sight to the blind, the recalling of the dead to life, the things that were about to happen had not taken place yet, and he still confesses Christ to be the Lord, whom he saw to be a partaker of his own suffering. Hence came this gift, hence this faith received its answer.” Observe the above words, “the things that were about to happen had not taken place yet,” for they seem silently to reprove those of S. Jerome, on chap. xxvii. S. Matt., “When the sun disappeared, and the earth was moved, and the rocks were rent, and the darkness rushed down, one thief began to believe and to confess Christ.” This opinion of S. Jerome is stated by S. Chrysostom almost in the same words, in his second Homily “On the Cross and the Thief,” and by Origen, in tract 34 on S. Matt.
But it is wonderful that these Fathers did not see that this assertion was at variance with the Gospel, because, except the darkness, the other signs happened after the death of Christ, as is clear from the gospel of S. Luke, whilst it is plain from the same gospel that the thief was converted whilst Christ was alive; for the cessation of the sun’s light, and the darkness are related by S. Luke after the conversion of the thief. S. Cyril teaches the same as S. Leo (Cat. Lect. xiii.) saying, “What virtue illuminated thee, 0 thief? Who taught thee to love contempt, and that, when thou wast affixed to the cross? 0 light undying, lighting the darkness!” S. Augustine follows out at length the same idea (Serm. xiii. de Temp.); S. Chrysostom (Hom. de Latrone, and Serm. 1 de Cruce et Latrone). Suarez also; who adds that it was possible that the thief, before he was imprisoned, may have heard Christ preach, or have seen His miracles, or heard of them, and, perhaps, have believed in Him. S. Vincentius, in his Sermon on the Good Thief, says, that he was converted by the shadow of Christ, when the sun in its decline, and the shadow of the cross, touched him. So the shadow of S. Peter healed the sick. Acts iii. Others add that the virgin stood in the midst, between the thief and Christ, and obtained this grace for him, and that Christ showed Himself to him when he was dying, his truly crucified, as they who are crucified are shown to the people. Add, that he saw the heavens and the earth darkened, and the day changed into night, because of the Cross and death of its Creator.
The extraordinary holiness of this thief appears from his great faith, hope, and love. Faith by which he believed in Christ as the king of kings, though he saw him as the vilest, of men, nay as a crucified thief. Hope, by which he sought from Christ to be admitted into His kingdom. Love, by which he rebuked the blasphemy of his companion. He openly confessed, and defended the innocence of Christ against the Jews and His most bitter enemies, when all the others, even the Apostles themselves, fled for fear and deserted Him. His confession, therefore, was heroic. S. Greg. (xviii. Moral. chap. 13): “On the cross, the nails fastened his hands and feet, and nothing of him remained free from punishment, but his heart and tongue. God inspired him to offer the whole to Him, of that which he found free in himself, to believe with his heart to righteousness, and to confess with his lips to salvation. In the hearts of the faithful there are, as the Apostle testifies, three chief virtues, faith, hope, and charity, all of which the thief, filled with sudden grace, both received and preserved on the cross.”
S. Augustine (Serm. de Feria 3, Of the Pasch; and Book 1 On the Soul and its Origin, chap. 9): “To this faith I know not what can be added. If they trembled who saw Christ raise the dead, he believed who saw Him hanging with himself on the cross. Assuredly Christ found not so great faith in Israel, nay, in the whole world.” “Before he asked any thing for himself, he laboured to benefit his companion. This was a mark of singular charity.” S. Chrysostom. Some in fact call this thief a martyr, like S. Cyprian in his letter to Fabian, and assert him to have been baptized in His own blood. He repeats the same in his Serms. de Cœna and de Passione—where he says, “The thief by his confession on the cross, not only merited indulgence, but was made the companion of Christ, and was sent before Him to Paradise, and made a sharer of His kingdom by confession, and a partner of martyrdom.” S. Augustine refers to these words of S. Cyprian, Lib. i. On the Soul and its Origin, and Lib. iv. On Baptism, chap. 22, where he says, “The thief had no need of baptism or martyrdom, but was saved by his contrition alone.” He had said before “that although the thief did not die for Christ, yet his death was of equal avail with God (because he confessed the Lord crucified) as if he had been crucified for Him, and so the measure of martyrdom was found in him who believed in Christ when they who were to be martyrs fell away.”
S. Augustine again (serm. 120 De Tempore): “The thief was not yet called, but was already an elect—he was not yet of the household, but he was a friend—not a disciple, but a master—and, from a thief, a confessor; for although punishment had commenced in the thief it was perfected in the martyr.” De anima et ejus orig. cap. 9: “The robber ranked as highly for his confession of his crucified Lord as if he had been martyred for Him.” S. Jerome (Ep. 13 to Paulinus). “The thief changed the cross for paradise, and made the punishment of his murder, martyrdom.” Drogo, Bishop of Ostia (Tract. de Sac. Dom. Pass. tom. ii. Bibliothica SS. Patrum), calls him “martyr.” Some assert as a probable reason of his martyrdom, that the Jews hearing his confession of Christ, by which he condemned their deeds and their judgment on Christ, were so stirred up by anger against him as to break his legs, as the Gospel relates, and to make his death more speedy and painful, and in the end to make him a martyr. And S. Hilary (lib. ii. de Trin.) calls him a martyr. “He promised to His martyr paradise—His martyr, that is, His witness, because the thief on the cross bore testimony to his own faith and hope in Christ, or he would not have been properly and precisely a martyr, because he suffered for his own sins, and not for Christ: unless, as I have already suggested, we say that the Jews aggravated and accelerated his death, because of his confession.”
Lastly, the Abbot Arnaldes or Renald (Tract 29 on the Seven words of Christ on the Cross, in the Bibliotheca SS. Patrum), asserts that the thief was carried up into the heavens, and possessed a seat above all angels and above all cherubim and seraphim, even the throne of Lucifer himself. See Stephen Binettus’ Book on the Good Thief, where he calls him “The Archangel of Paradise, the first-born son of the crucified Christ, the martyr, the apostle and preacher of the whole world, who, from his chair of the cross, preached Christ to the whole world.” “Paul,” he said, preached like the cherubim, the thief loved as the seraphim.” Hear now the praises of the fathers of him.
S. Chrysostom (Homily on the Cross and the Thief): “The thief purchased salvation from the tree. This thief stole the heavenly empire, he used compulsion to Majesty.” And below, “We find no one before the thief to have merited the promise of paradise, not Abraham, not Isaac, not Jacob, not Moses, not the Prophets or Apostles, but before all we find the thief.” He then compares the faith of the thief to that of Abraham, Isaac, Ezekiel, Moses, and this because he believed in Him, not in the temple, nor on His throne, nor in His glory, but as He was on the cross and in torments. “He sees Him,” he says, “in torments and adores Him as if He were in glory. He sees Him on the cross and prays to Him as if He were sitting in heaven. He sees Him and he calls upon Him, hailing Him as King of kings, saying, ‘Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom.’ Thou seest one crucified and thou callest Him a King, thou seest Him hanging on a tree and thou thinkest of the kingdoms of the heavens. 0 wonderful conversion of a thief!”
S. Ambrose (serm. 45). “It is the more to his grace and praise that he believed in Christ on the cross; and the suffering which was a scandal to others, availed to him for faith. Rightly then did he purchase paradise who thought the cross of Christ not an offence but a virtue.” And serm. 50: “Let him see His gaping wounds, let him look at His blood gushing out—he still believes Him to be God whom he knew not to be a criminal, he confesses Him to be righteous whom he knew not as a sinner.” And shortly after, “He understood that for the sins of others Christ bore these wounds. He knew that those wounds on the body of Christ were not the wounds of Christ, but of the thief, and he therefore began to love Him more when, on the Body of Christ, he had recognised his own wounds.” Again, “Great and wonderful, indeed, is that faith which believed that Christ crucified was glorified rather than punished. For in this was the form of his whole salvation. He then recognised the Lord of Majesty, when he saw Him crucified with the patience of humility. He went before in devotion, who went before also in reward. For the thief came into paradise before the Apostles.”
Eusebius of Emissa (or whoever was the author, for the style shows that he was a Latin, not a Greek or Syrian like Eusebius) in his Homily “De Latrone beato:” “How singular and how stupendous that devotion. The criminal believed at the very moment when the elect denied. It was more praiseworthy and more admirable in the thief to believe in the Lord when in bonds, and falling under the last punishments, than if he had done so when He was doing mighty works. Not therefore without reason did he merit such a reward.” He adds the cause. “The heart of the thief, I think, who was now a believer in Christ, was illuminated more properly by the Godhead in a bodily form, which had infused Itself more widely at that moment of the consummation of the redemption.” And again, “He did not say, ‘If Thou art God deliver me from this present suffering,’ but his ‘because Thou art God deliver me from the judgment to come,’ shows to the world its judge and the, King of ages. Although punishment began in the thief, it was perfected in a new manner in the martyr.”
This penitent thief, again, is termed by S. Athanasius an evangelist. “0 Thou excellent one! Thou wast crucified as a thief, thou comest forth suddenly as an evangelist.” He is called by S. Chrysostom in his Sermon on Parasc., “a prophet,” that is a preacher and enunciator of the greatness of Christ. “0 the might of Jesus!” he gays, “the thief is now a prophet and preaches from the cross!” He calls him “a robber and seizer of paradise.” “Thou sawest,” He says, “how he did not forget his former craft, even on the cross, but, by his confession, stole the kindom.” So Sedulius (Carm. v. on Pasch):
“Abstulit ipse suis cœlorum regna rapinis,”
“And he the heavenly kingdom took by force.”
S. Cyril (lib. ii. de Adoratione) and S. P. Damianus (Serm. on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross) calls him the first-fruit of the cross and of believers. Christ is thus pointed out by Drogo: “Thou wert Peter on the cross, and Peter in the house of Caiaphas was the thief,” because he denied Christ, whom the thief on the cross confessed before the people. He is called by S. Cyprian, or whoever is the author of the Sermon de Passione, “The colleague of the martyrdom of Christ.” By Arnold, abbot of Bona Vallis, (tract de verb. Christ): “The comrade” (collateralis) “of Christ, and the forerunner of His victory.” By S. Chrysostom (Homily on the Man Born Blind): “The advocate of Christ, because he defended Him against the Jews, like an advocate.” By Anastasius the Sinaite (lib. v. Hexam.), “The bird of heaven, the great eagle, flying through the air to paradise.” S. Athanasius classes together many eulogies in his aforesaid piece on Parasc:—Among other things he says, “0 thief, fellow soldier of Christ, accuser of the Jews. 0 thief, merchant of the kingdom, keeper of paradise. 0 thief, the garland, as it were, of the cross, making a heaven for thyself. 0 thief, teaching men how to carry off a kingdom as if by theft. 0 thief, the last to come, the first to be crowned. 0 thief, mighty accuser of the Jews. 0 thief, colleague (symmista) of the Apostles, purchaser of Christ!” Hear S. Paulinus in his Panegyric of the youth Celsus:
Mœror abi! discede pavor! fuge culpa, ruit mors.
Christ answered S. Bridget when she prayed for a penitent sinner who had no means of confession, in these words: “He laments because he has none to hear his confession; tell him that the will is sufficient. For what benefited the thief on the cross? Was it not his good will? Or what opened heaven to him but his wish to desire good and hate evil? What makes hell but an evil inclination and inordinate concupiscence?” This is found in the sixth book of the Revelations of S. Bridget, chap. 115. See further, T. Reynaud in a learned work he wrote on the change of the thief into an Apostle—where, chap. xvii., he says, “He formed figurative honey by Christian bees, which they gathered from the meadows of the holy thief.”
Ver. 43.—And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, This day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise. That is, in a place of pleasure where thou mayest be in the beatitude and beatific vision of God, i.e. To-day I will make thee for ever happy; I will make thee a king reigning in the kingdom of glory with me this day. So S. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechet. Lect. c. 13); S. Chrysostom (Hom. ii. de Cruce et Latrone); S. Gregory of Nyssa (Serm. on the Resurrection); S. Augustine (Tract. III on John). He explains paradise by heaven, that is celestial beatitude. It is certain that Christ on the day on which He died, did not go up to heaven with the thief, but went down into the Limbus Patrum (S. Augustine Lib. ii. de Genese ad litt. chap. 34; and Maldonatus by paradise here understand Abraham’s bosom), and imparted to them the vision of His Godhead and thus made them blest, changing the order of things; for He then made limbus to be paradise, and the lower parts the upper, so that hell should be heaven. For where Christ is, there is paradise; where, the vision and beatitude of God, there, heaven. For, as to what Euthymius and other Greeks say, denying that the souls of the saints see God before the judgment and are happy: by paradise they understand an earthly place; that to which Enoch was carried. But it cannot be so—for it is of the faith that Christ, shortly after His death went down in infernum—that is, the limbus of the Fathers, but He did not go into any earthly paradise. It is, moreover, uncertain whether, after the Deluge, there be any earthly paradise remaining. But grant that there be such, it is the happy and joyful habitation, not of souls, but of bodies only. Hence it is plain from this passage, against the Greeks, Calvin, and the other innovators, that the souls of the saints, when thoroughly purged from sin, do not sleep till the day of judgment, but there behold God, and are beatified by a vision of Him.
Moraliter. Observe here the liberality of Christ, who exceeds our prayers and vows. The thief only prayed Christ to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Christ at the same time promised him a kingdom, that he might reign in it as a king. “This day,” says Eusebius of Emissa, in his “Homily on the Blessed Thief”—“as if He would say, 0 my faithful companion and one only witness of so great a triumph, dost thou think that I need to be so earnestly entreated to remember thee? this day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” And again, “Christ when placed in the yoke (patibulum) as an arbiter between the two condemned, rejected him who denied, and received the one who confessed; on the latter He bestows a kingdom, the former He leaves in hell. Let us then believe that He will come to judge, whom we see to have already on the cross exercised judgment.” This is that most sweet answer of Christ to the thief which Fulgentius (serm. nov. 60), calls “the testament of Christ, written with the pen of the cross.”
Lastly, the name of this most blessed thief is said to have been Dismas, for some chapels are found, in the name of “Dismas the Robber.” His day in the Cataloaue of Saints is the 25th March, for on that day he seems to have suffered, and Christ in consequence on the same day. For we find in it, “At Jerusalem, the commemoration of the holy thief who confessed Christ on the cross, and who therefore merited to hear ‘This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.’”
Ver. 46.—Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit. The Arabic has pono, Tertullian depono (cont. Prax. cap. xxv.). The Hebrew word Hiphid means the same as our “commend.” “My Spirit.” S. Athanasius in his work De Human. Nat. cont. Apollin., says, “When Christ said on the cross, Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit, He commends all men to the Father, to be, by Him and through Him, restored to life; for we are members, and those many members are one body, which is the Church. He commends therefore all who are in Him to God.” Christ therefore, according to S. Athanasius, calls men His soul and spirit. What then ought we not to do to profit and save souls, that we may keep as it were for Christ, His soul and spirit? So S. Paul to Philemon and Onesimus, “His bowels.” “He gave His life,” says S. Cyril, “into the hands of His Father (Lib. ii on John chap. xxxvi.), that by this and through this, as a beginning, we might have certain hope of this, firmly believing that we shall be in the hands of God after our death.” So Victor Antiochus on S. Mark, “This recommendation of Christ tends to the good of our souls, which, when freed from the bodies previously inhabited by them, He gave by these words, as a kind of deposit, into the hands of the living God.” And Euthymius: “God did this for us, that the souls of the just should not henceforth go down into hell, but should rather ascend to God.” He cites Ps. xxxi. 5, when David, afflicted and in danger of death, spoke as much in his own person as in that of Christ and said, “into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” And, from this, the Church daily uses the same Psalm and verse, and sings it in the Compline at night, to teach us, when we retire to rest, to commend our souls to God, because at night we run many risks of sudden death. The dying use the same words, as did S. Nicholas, Louis King of France, and S. Basil. S. Basil did it in the presence of angels, who brought him away; as S. Gregory Nazianzen testifies in his oration on him. S. Stephen also cried, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
By these words we testify—1. That at our birth we received our souls, not from our father and mother, but from God alone; and that we therefore give Him back the same, as His own creatures. 2. That we believe that our souls do not die at our death, but survive and are immortal, and return to God who gave them and who will judge them. 3. That we believe in the resurrection of the flesh. For in death we commend our souls to God that He may keep them, as it were as a deposit, and restore them again at the resurrection to our bodies. 4. That in the last agony which we undergo, most bitterly, from the devils, we implore the assistance of God, that in giving back our souls to Him, we may overcome and triumph over the devil. Hence many think that each of us has his own peculiar devil, who appears to the dying in some terrible form, and tempts them to despair, and to other sins, as he did to S. Martha and others, but not to all. S. Ephrem seems to think this in his sermon on those who sleep in Christ. S. Chrysostom (Hom. 34 on S. Matt.), and others whom our own Lorinus cites on Eccles viii. 8. Many think the same of Christ. Hence Eusebius (Demonstrat. Lib. iv. cap. ult.) understands Christ’s words, Ps. xxii. 12, “Many strong bulls of Basan have beset me round,” of devils whom Christ saw, mocking Him on the cross as a criminal and wicked, and insulting Him for His crucifixion and impending death. Habakkuk seems to support this idea, iii. 5: “Burning coals” (diabolus) went forth at His feet;” and S. John, xiv. 30: “The prince of this world cometh, and he hath nothing in Me.” Christ lays down His Spirit therefore into the hands of God, certain that no one can sever Him from it. For God is a most faithful and strong protector. So S. Jerome on Psalm xxxi. 5, “Into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” That is, “into Thy power.” This example the Church received from Christ, and S. Stephen followed it. The saints when departing, use the same words; as the following: “They commend their souls to the faithful Creator for His good acts;” our Lord said this, when hanging on the cross, commending His Spirit to the hands of the Father as being to receive it again at the resurrection.
Symbolically, Didymus in his Catena on Psalm xxxi. “The spirit is threefold—1. Our thought. 2. Our soul. 3. Our conscience. These three we ought to commend to God.”
And having said thus, He gave up the ghost. The Syriac. “He said this, and ended,” His life, that is. The Arabic, “And when He had said this He gave up His Spirit.” This was a certain sign that He was the Son of God the Father, who was called upon by Him, and that the Father heard the cry of the Son and received His soul. “For when He had said, ‘Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit;’ then, at last, He suffered death to come to Him.” Says Euthymius, on Matt. xxvii: “As certainly knowing that the spirit, placed in His hands as a deposit, the Father would keep securely, and would give back in the resurrection on the third day. Firm in this hope He gladly and with alacrity rendered up His Spirit to the Father.”
1 Christ’s resurrection is declared by two angels to the women that come to the sepulchre. 9 These report it to others. 13 Christ himself appeareth to the two disciples that went to Emmaus: 36 afterwards he appeareth to the apostles, and reproveth their unbelief: 47 giveth them a charge: 49 promiseth the Holy Ghost: 51 and so ascendeth into heaven.
OW upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ's resurrection and manifestation of himself to his disciples.
ND on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared.
4. And it came to pass, as they were astonished in their mind at this, behold, two men stood by them, in shining apparel.
5. And as they were afraid and bowed down their countenance towards the ground, they said unto them: Why seek you the living with the dead?
14. And they talked together of all these things which had happened.
15. And it came to pass that while they talked and reasoned with themselves, Jesus himself also, drawing near, went with them.
53. And they were always in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
Ver. 1.—Now upon the first day of the week. The first day after the Sabbath, the Lord’s day, i.e. the day on which Christ rose from the dead. See S. Matt. xxviii. I.
Ver. 10.—Joanna. A disciple, although her husband Chusa was the steward of Herod, who was an avowed enemy of Christ. So, as in the cases of SS. Serena, the wife of Diocletian, Antherina, her daughter, Tryphonia and others who were the near relatives of emperors notorious for their persecutions. God gathers roses from thorns, and wills that wives should win over their husbands, and that queens should make of none effect the evil counsel of kings.
Ver. 13.—And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, &c. These two are generally considered to be the same as those mentioned by S. Mark xvi. 12, but Euthymius is of a different opinion, and argues that the Apostles believed these (see verse 34), whereas S. Mark, xvi. 13, expressly states that those spoken of by him, “went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.” But I answer that most of them believed, although some, as Thomas, doubted.
You ask, who were these two? I answer, one was Cleopas, but that it is uncertain about the other. S. Ambrose thinks he was called Amaon, because he was a native of Emmaus. Origen calls him Simeon. S. Epiphanius considers him to be the Nathanael mentioned by S. John i. 45. Very many again think that it was S. Luke himself, but it seems from the introduction to this Gospel that S. Luke had never seen Christ in the flesh, and that he was converted after the death of the Lord.
Two of them, i.e. of the disciples, went probably on some matter of business, and also for the purpose of diverting their thoughts from the sad subject of their Master’s passion.
Threescore furlongs, στάςιους i.e., 125 paces, the eighth part of a Roman mile.
Called Emmaus. Emmaus was a village in the time of Christ, according to S. Jerome the birthplace of Cleopas; who seems now to have gone thither for some family reason. In the Hebrew the name may mean, according to its spelling, “fear” or “ardour.” Each meaning is here very appropriate, for these two disciples were of a timorous disposition, but when the love of Christ was kindled in their hearts, their fear gave place to burning zeal. Others take ε̉μμαὺς as equivalent to עם מאום am mans, “a people rejected,” and explain that the two disciples, because of their doubtings and distrust, were drawing nigh unto rejection, but were recalled by Christ and sent back to the chosen Apostles in Jerusalem.
Some say that this Emmaus, after the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, was enlarged and called Nicopolis, of which Sozomen writes, “Before the village, where the roads meet, when Christ made as though He would have gone further, is a healing spring, in which not only men, but also animals suffering from manifold diseases, seek relief. For they say that Christ came thither with the disciples, and washed His feet therein, from which time its waters have possessed healing power.” He adds something similar about a tree near Hermopolis, the leaves, fruit, and bark of which cure many diseases, because it bent in adoration as Christ passed on his flight into Egypt.
Many are of opinion that there were two places known by the name of Emmaus, one, the city afterwards called Nicopolis, about 140 stadia from Jerusalem, the other the village mentioned in the text.
Ver. 14.—And they talked together of all these things which had happened, i.e. they were talking of the sufferings, the death, and the burial of their Master, grieving that so great a prophet had suffered so unworthily, and sorrowing because they would see Him no more; for they evidently despaired of his resurrection and of the redemption of Israel.
Ver. 15.—And it came to pass, &c. Jesus teaches here that He is present with those who speak concerning Him. Let us then speak of Jesus, and He will be present with us also, and take part in our communings: not indeed now in bodily form, but spiritually, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, by which He inspires our hearts. For this much He Himself has promised, saying, “Where two or three, are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them,” S. Matt. xviii. 20. They therefore that speak of good have Jesus in their midst. They who speak of evil, Satan. Of this there can be no doubt.
Ver. 16.—But their eyes were holden. You will ask, How was this effected?
1. Dionysius the Carthusian replies, and S. Augustine (lib. xxii. chap. 9 De Civit.) favours his opinion, that they were struck with blindness like the men of Sodom, Gen. xix. 11. But this can hardly be true, for they saw Christ, and conversed with Him, although they knew Him not.
2. Cajetan thinks that their eyes were holden because their minds were so preoccupied, and taken up with the events which had come to pass. But the words of S. Mark xvi. 12, “He appeared in another form” are against this view.
3. S. Augustine (Epist. 59, Quæst. viii.) is of opinion that some change had come over the countenance of Christ, as at the transfiguration. But this does not accord with the dignity of his glorified body, which is changeless and everlasting. Later on, Augustine (De Consens. Evang. iii. chap. 25) changed his opinion and says that the eyes of the disciples were clouded over by Satan, or a darkness of some kind cast upon them, so that they might not recognise Christ. But, like as He appeared to the Magdalen in the form of a gardener, so he appeared to the two disciples in another form. The circumstances of His appearance were in accordance with His will and uninfluenced by the action of Satan.
I say, therefore, that they did not know the Lord, because although the body of Christ is unchanged, yet because it was glorified and united to the divine Word it possessed the power both of withdrawing itself from view, and also of affecting the sight of beholders either by appearing in a different form, by changing the medium as mirrors do, and even by a direct change of vision. For this is what, S. Luke says, “their eyes were holden,” by Jesus, just as if they had been covered by a veil so that they were unable to exercise their functions. Hence immediately that Jesus willed, they recognised Him.
It is much more easy to account for the fact that the disciples did not recognise the voice of Christ, for many without any difficulty so change the sound of their voices as to appear other than they are. S. Thomas, Suarez, and others.
There are several reasons why Christ appeared in another form to these disciples.
1. Because Christ and the angels when they appear to men make themselves like those to whom they appear. The two disciples were journeying: Christ therefore appeared to them as a wayfarer. They were in doubt concerning Him: therefore He made as if He were a stranger. So S. Augustine (de Consens. Evang. iii. 35) and S. Gregory (hom. 23 in Evang.) say, “The Lord did that outwardly in the eyes of the body which was done by themselves inwardly in the eyes of the mind. For they themselves inwardly both loved and doubted, but to them the Lord was present outwardly, although He did not reveal himself. To them, therefore, as they talked of Him He exhibited His presence, but as they doubted of Him He concealed the appearance which they knew. He indeed conversed with them, upbraided them with their hardness of heart, expounded the mysteries of holy Scripture which referred to Himself, yet because in their hearts He was a stranger to their faith, He made as though He would have gone further.”
2. Lest, if He at once manifested himself to the disciples they might be overcome by the novelty and newness of His resurrection, and imagine that they saw not Christ but a phantom, and therefore might remain doubtful whether He had risen from the dead. But now since He had conversed with them for some time, and then made Himself known, they could no longer doubt that He had risen from the dead.
3. “That the disciples might lay bare their sorrows and be cured of their doubt.” Theophylact. For if He had at once said that He was Christ, they would not have dared to confess that they had been doubtful of the resurrection.
4. That from the circumstances of His appearance He might teach us that we are pilgrims and strangers, seeking an heavenly country, which we should be ever longing for, and strive our utmost to obtain. Wherefore S. Francis, who happened on a certain occasion to be spending his Easter in a monastery, where there were none of whom he could ask charity, mindful of our Lord’s appearance to the two disciples in the form of a stranger on that very day, asked alms of the brothers themselves; and when he had received their alms, in a burst of sacred eloquence, he reminded them with all humility, that on their way through the desert of this world as strangers and pilgrims, like the true Israel they should in all lowliness of mind continue to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, i.e. their passage from this world to the Father; and he went on to inform them that it is the pilgrim’s rule to seek shelter under the roof of others, to thirst for their own country; and peacefully journey thereunto. (Chronicle of the order of S. Francis).
Ver. 17.—And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk and are sad? σκυθζωποί, “sullen” in the sense of downcast. Christ knew whence their sadness arose, but asks them the cause, in order that He might remove it: “As I followed I heard you speak of some one who was slain at Jerusalem; tell me therefore who he was, and how, and for what reason he was put to death.”
Ver. 18.—And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said, &c. This Cleopas was the brother of S. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin, the father of S. James the less, and S. Jude, and the grandfather of S. James the greater and S. John, who were the sons of Salome, the daughter of Cleopas. See chap. iii. 23.
Helecas, Bishop of Cæsarea, tells us on the authority of S. Jerome, that “Cleopas, or Alphæus, was the brother of S. Joseph, and one of the seventy disciples, and that he was slain by the Jews in the castle of Emmaus because of Christ.” He was therefore a martyr. Hence, in the Roman Martyrology, the 25th of September is put down as the birthday of Blessed Cleopas, the disciple of Christ, who they say was slain by the Jews for confessing the faith in the very house in which he had entertained the Lord. See also Dorotheus (Lives of the Patriarchs).
Again, Cleopas, in the Greek Κλεόπας, is the same as “all glory,” for the Jews who were subjugated by Alexander and the Greeks, took Greek names. But in the Hebrew the name may be taken to mean “adding to or increasing the Church,” for קהלה kehala, is an assembly or church, and כּוש, pus, is to multiply. For Cleopas gave many sons and daughters to the Church of Christ.
Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem? Theophylact and Euthymius translate παζοικει̃ς ε̉ν Ιεζονσαλὴμ by “Art thou (only) a dweller in Jerusalem?” Others render it, “Art thou (only) a sojourner in Jerusalem?” The meaning is “Art thou such a stranger in Jerusalem, and so ignorant of what has been done in it to Jesus of Nazareth, as to ask who and what he was, about whom we are so sorrowfully conversing? All know the circumstances of His crucifixion and death, and can talk of nothing else. How is it that thou only art ignorant of these things?”
Ver. 19.—And He said unto them, What things? Christ constrains them to open their grief and to confess their doubts as to His resurrection.
And they said unto him, concerning Jesus of Nazareth. They acknowledge Him, says Bede, to be a great prophet, but they do not speak of Him as the Son of God, either because their faith was imperfect, or because they feared lest they might fall into the hands of the persecuting Jews. For they knew not with whom they were speaking and therefore concealed what they believed to be true. Because they say (verse 21) that they trusted that it had been he, as being the Messiah and the Son of God, which should have redeemed Israel.
Mighty in deed and in ward. So should every Christian be, especially those who have devoted themselves to a religious life, or have been called to any office in the Church. What they preach they should perform, and teach first by example and then by word.
Ver. 20.—And how the chief priests, and our rulers delivered him, &c. They do not accuse the chief priests and the rulers, although they were persuaded of the injustice of their actions. For they feared lest this stranger might be a spy, seeking some cause of accusation against them.
Ver. 21.—But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel from the power of their enemies, e.g., from the power of the Romans.
“We trusted that he had been the Messiah who would have restored the kingdom of Israel to the same, or even greater, dignity than it had possessed in the time of David and of Solomon. But now that he has been so unworthily put to death, although we do not despair, we have but little hope.”
This was their grief, the wound which their faith had received, which Christ desired to hear from them, in order to heal.
“0 disciples,” says S. Augustine (serm. 140 De Temp.), “ye were hoping, therefore ye do not now hope. Behold Christ lives, but your hope within you is dead;” and again, “He was walking with them as their companion, and yet was their leader and guide.”
And beside all this, to-day is the third day, &c. For Christ was crucified on the sixth day, and after three days rose from the dead. This is an aposiopesis, for the disciples, anxious and perplexed, knowing not what to think about Christ, as good as say, ‘Jesus when He was alive said that He would rise from the dead on the third day; but although this is the third day we know not whether He has risen or is yet to rise.” They were doubtful, balanced between hope and fear. “They speak thus,” says Theophylact, “as men in doubt, and seem to me to be very undecided in their minds, for they are not absolutely unbelieving, nor do they believe aright. For their words ‘we trusted that it had been he,’ &c., indicate incredulity, but when they make mention of the third day, they show themselves mindful of the words of Christ, ‘on the third day I shall rise again;’” and again, “On the whole they spake as men in perplexity and doubt.”
Ver. 22.—Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished (ε̉ξέστησαν). For what the women had told inspired them with awe rather than fear, and, says Theophylact, “overthrew their doubting and unbelief, whilst it strengthened their faith and hope in the resurrection of Christ. Their fear therefore struggled with their hope, and between the two they were undecided and in doubt.”
Ver. 25.—Them said He unto them, 0 fools. Άνόητοι, rendered here in the Vulgate “stulti,” but Gal. iii. i., “insensati.” With these keen words Christ as the Master rebukes the disciples for their ignorance and slowness to believe. For a teacher is allowed to stimulate his disciples by sharp reproof to the pursuit of higher or more accurate knowledge. See S. Matt. v. 22.
So our nature, frail and dull of understanding, needs some such stimulus to, enable it to believe in spiritual things, and to keep itself steadfast in the hope of their realisation.
Ver. 26.—Ought not Christ . . . to enter into His glory? He calls His glorious resurrection and ascension, the sending of the Holy Spirit, His exaltation over every creature, the adoration of His name, the spread of the gospel throughout all the world, and His eternal kingdom, “glory.”
“Ought not,” (“futurum erat,” the Arabic and Syriac). It behoved Christ through the Cross to enter glory:
1. Because the prophets had foretold it.
2. Because God the Father had decreed it from all eternity.
3. Because it was necessary that He should purchase our redemption by His death upon the Cross.
4. Because it was fitting that such glory should be obtained through the merit of such sufferings and labour.
5. Because it behoved Christ, as leader, to become an example to the martyrs, and to all those who strive through much tribulation to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The meaning is, “My death upon the Cross has shaken your faith and hope in My resurrection, therefore ye said ‘we trusted’ (sperabamus). But ye spake rashly and without cause. For this ought to have confirmed your faith, for there is none other way to the resurrection save through death, nor to glory save through suffering, and the reproach of the Cross.”
Ver. 28.—And He made as though He would have gone further. This was no deceit: for He would have gone on if the disciples had not constrained Him, but as He knew that they would thus constrain Him to abide with them, in this respect he was not willing, but was making as if (πζοσεποιει̃το) He would have gone further.
Hence S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang.) says, “When one feigning has reference to a certain meaning, it is not a falsehood, but a certain figure of the truth.” And again, “A fiction founded on truth is a figure; not so founded, it is a lie.” And S. Gregory (hom. 23 in Evang.) writes, 11 By the word ‘fingere’ we mean to put together or form, hence modellers of clay we call ‘figuli.’ He who was the truth did nothing by deceit. He manifested Himself to them in the body, such as He came before them in their midst. He would prove them whether they could show charity to Him as a stranger, although they might not yet love Him as God.”
Ver. 29.—And they constrained Him. “From which example it is gathered,” says S. Gregory, “that strangers are not only to be invited to hospitality, but even to be taken by force.” And S. Augustine adds (Serm. 140 De Temp.), “Detain a guest, if you wish to recognise the Saviour; for hospitality restored what unbelief had taken away.”
Saying, Abide with us; for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent, i.e. it is drawing near sunset. In order to detain Christ as their guest they exaggerate the lateness of the hour, for they returned soon after to Jerusalem, which was a three hours’ journey.
Cardinal Hosius his whole life long had these words continually in his heart and on his lips, and died repeating often, “Abide with us, 0 Lord, for it is toward evening,” and in truth the Lord abode with him, working many marvels by his means in Poland, in Germany, and in Italy, which are related by his biographer Rescius, who ends by eulogising him as “the atlas of religion, the voice and other hand of Paul, the demolisher of Luther, the janitor of heaven, and the love and admiration of the world.”
Ver. 30.—He took bread and blessed it. He blessed it by causing it to become His body as in the consecration of the Eucharist. For that Christ thus consecrated it, although Jansenius and some others deny it, is clear:
1. Because S. Matthew, S. Mark, and S. Luke use the same words concerning the institution of the Eucharist, as S. Luke uses here.
2. Because this blessing does not appear to have been given it the commencement of the meal, for Christ wished not to vanish out of their sight before He had eaten with them, lest they might think him a phantom. It was given in the midst, or rather at the end, of the meal. It was not therefore the ordinary blessing on what had been provided for their use, but solemn and eucharistic.
3. This is clear also from the effect which this blessing of the bread had upon the disciples. “their eyes were opened and they knew Him.”
4. Furthermore, this is the opinion of the great majority of the Fathers. So the author quoted by S. Chrysostom (Hom. 17) says, “The Lord not only blessed the bread, but gave it with His own hand to Cleopas and his companion. But that which is given by His hand is not only sanctified, but sanctification and a cause of sanctity to the recipient.”
Again, “How did the Lord will to make Himself known? By the breaking of bread. We are content then; in the breaking of bread the Lord is made known unto us. In no other way is it His will to reveal Himself. Therefore, although we shall not see Him in bodily form, He has given us His flesh to eat.” S. Augustine (Serm. 140 De Temp.)
This passage of Holy Scripture is a proof of the use of one species only in the Eucharist, for it is clear that Christ neither consecrated nor gave the cup to the disciples. After He had blessed the bread, and given it to them, they knew Him, and immediately He vanished out of their sight. S. Augustine, Chrysostom, Bede and others.
Ver. 31.—Their eyes were opened. “See here the power and effect of the Eucharist. It opens the eyes of the mind to the knowledge of Jesus, and enables it to comprehend heavenly and divine mysteries. For the flesh of Christ possesses a great and illuminative power.” Theophylact. Hence S. Augustine (Serm. 140 De Temp.) says, “Whosoever thou art that believest, the breaking of bread consoles thee, the absence of the Lord is no absence. Have faith, and He whom thou seest not is with thee.”
Tropologically, he goes on to say, “By the exercise of hospitality we come to the knowledge of Christ.” Again, “Let him who wishes to understand what he has heard, put in practice what he has understood.” “Behold the Lord was not known whilst He was speaking, but when He gives them to eat, He allows Himself to be recognised.” Gregory. Or according to the Gloss. “Truth is understood better in operation than by hearing; and none know Christ unless they are partakers of His Body, i.e. the Church, whose unity the Apostle commends in the sacrament of bread, saying, ‘we being many are one bread, and one body.’” 1 Cor. x. 17.
And He vanished out of their sight. άφαντσς ε̉γένετο, absconditus ab illis, Arabic version. Christ was present with His disciples, but made Himself invisible to them: a power possessed, as theologians teach us, by His glorified body. So after His resurrection He was wont to appear to His disciples and vanish from their midst.
Calvin, rashly, denies this, and contrary to its meaning translates άφαντος by “He withdrew Himself.” He denies this somewhat craftily, lest he might be compelled to acknowledge that Christ was present in the Eucharist, but hidden and invisible.
The causes why Christ vanished out of their sight directly He was recognised by the disciples are these
1. To show that He had risen from the dead, and had become glorified. For it is the property of a glorified body to appear or disappear at will. His sudden disappearance therefore was a new argument by which Christ proved the truth of His resurrection.
2. To teach that by the resurrection He had passed from this mortal life to a state of glory, and therefore no longer held familiar converse with men, but with God and the angels.
3. To teach us how we ought to reverence Christ, and those blessed ones who have entered into heaven. For we are bound to render to our glorified Lord the worship of latria, and to the blessed saints that of dulia.
4. That the disciples might return to the Apostles, who were sorrowing over the death of Christ, and comfort them by the tidings of His resurrection and appearing.
Ver. 32.—And they said one to another, Did not our Hearts burn within us? This was a new and certain proof that Christ was alive from the dead. For Christ taught not as Aristotle, Plato, and the philosophers, but so as to inflame the hearts of his hearers with divine love. Let then all teachers and interpreters of Holy Scripture imitate their Master, and seek not only to enlighten the understandings of those who attend upon their teaching, but to kindle the love of God in their hearts as well. Let them not be content with being as the Cherubim, but be also as the Seraphim. Let them be as S. Francis and his disciple S. Bonaventura, who became known as the “Seraphic Doctor.”
So David wrote, “Thy word is very pure” (ignitum, Vulgate), Ps. cxix. 140; and Solomon: “Every word of God is pure,” Prov. xxx. 5; and Moses: “From His right hand went a fiery law,” Deut. xxxiii 2.
So also Christ. declared, “I am come to send fire on the earth.” Luke xii. 49. Thus the Baptist “was a burning and a shining light,” S. John v. 35; and Elias the prophet “stood up as fire, and his word burned like a lamp,” Ecclus. xlviii. i. Let us be, each one, an Ignatius, a burning and fiery disciple and preacher of Christ, so that the words of the prophet may be true of us, “Their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps.” “They ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning.”
Ver. 33.—And they rose up the same hour (i.e., immediately and without waiting to finish their meal) and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together. Actually there were but ten assembled, for Thomas was absent and Judas had hanged himself. But the Apostolic college is spoken of as “the eleven,” even though some of the members may not happen to be present.
They “returned” (ύπέστζεψαν) quickly, filled with an eager joy.
Them that were with them. The other disciples who were tarrying at Jerusalem with the Apostles.
Ver. 34.—Saying, The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared unto Simon. Christ appeared unto Peter before He showed Himself to the two disciples and the rest of the Apostles, because he was penitent, and because he was the prince of the Apostles. See verse 36.
Ver. 35.—How He was known of them in breaking of bread. S. Luke’s expression for the Eucharist. So also S. Paul, 1 Cor. x. 16: “The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”
Ver. 36.—And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them. In their midst, says Euthymius, that He might be seen of all, like as a shepherd stands in the midst of his scattered sheep to gather them again together around him. Ezek. xxxiv. 12.
“Peace be unto you.” This was the ordinary salutation of the Hebrews, who under the name of peace included prosperity, health, and every other blessing.
Very fittingly does Christ grant them His peace, to take the place of the fear and perturbation of mind which His death had caused them. For He is the peace of all His people, says S. Cyril. Because “doing away with every difficulty, He gathered together in one the merits of the Cross, which are peace, because all hindrances are taken away.” S. Chrysostom on S. Matt. xxviii
Ver. 37.—But they . . . supposed that they had seen a spirit. Because of Jesus’ sudden appearance in their midst although the doors were shut.
Hence S. Ambrose says, “Although Peter believed in the resurrection, yet it was but natural that he should be terrified and affrighted when he saw that the Lord had the power of suddenly presenting Himself in bodily form, in a place guarded by closed doors, and despite of obstructing walls.”
Ver. 38.—And He said unto them, . . . Why do thoughts arize in your hearts? i.e. why do you give way to them and permit them to arise? “These thoughts,” says Augustine (serm. 69 De Diversis) “were earthly. For had they been from heaven they would have descended, not ascended, into their hearts. Thus Christ showed that He knew the hearts of men, (καζδιογνω̃στης, Acts i.. 24) and that He was God.” Titus and Euthymius.
Ver. 39.—Behold My hands and My feet,&c. If you cannot believe your sight, believe your touch. Let your hands prove whether your eyes have played you false. S. Augustine. For the sense of touch is more to be relied upon than the sight.
Handle me (ψηλαφήσατέ), that by touching my body you may be assured of the reality of its existence. Hence it is clear, says S. Gregory, that a glorified body is immaterial (subtile) by reason of its spiritual powers, but material (palpabile) inasmuch as it is true to its nature.
You will ask, firstly, how the glorified body of Christ could be at one and the same time material and immaterial?
I answer. First, because glorified bodies possess (1) the property of permeability, and hence are able not only to offer no resistance to another body, but even to penetrate it. And they possess (2) the power of eluding the touch, as they have the power of vanishing from the sight, according to what I have just said. These properties or powers they use or not, according as they are inclined.
Consequently, glorified bodies can be apprehended by the touch or not, according as they will.
You will ask secondly, whether this handling of Christ, His sitting at meat with the disciples, and such like, are sufficient proofs of His resurrection?
I answer that these proofs were not absolutely and physically certain, for the angels, when they appeared in bodily form, were touched and handled by Abraham, Lot, and others; but they are certain in a moral sense, and as far as human certainty permits.
1. Because on this account Christ willed to abide long with the Apostles, and to manifest Himself after His resurrection, as in His death, to their hearing, sight, and touch, senses which are held by men to be most trustworthy.
2. Because it pertained to the providence of God not to let these so great signs pass unnoticed, but to take away all pretence of deception. For the truth of the Messiah and the new religion was at stake, specially the point as to whether He really had risen from the dead.
3. Because these signs, taken in conjunction with the miracles of Christ, and the prophecies of His coming, made it both credible and certain, that He had indeed risen from the dead.
Ver. 40.—And when He had thus spoken, He shewed them His hands and His feet—“pierced, and still bearing the prints of the nails,” says Euthymius; as is clear from S. John xx. 27. For Christ willed that these five wounds, or rather wound-prints, should remain in His glorified body as trophies of His victory over sin and death and hell.
“He bore them with Him to heaven,” says S. Ambrose, “in order to show them to God the Father, as the price of our liberty.” For “He who destroyed the kingdom of death would not efface the signs of death.” In like manner also the martyrs will exhibit their scars in heaven, as so many glorious tokens of their victory.
For they will be to them not a disfigurement but dignity, and in their bodies a certain beauty will shine forth, a beauty not of the body, but of merit; for such marks as these must not be accounted blemishes. S. Augustine (De Civit. Lib. xxii. cap. xx.)
You will ask whether the disciples actually handled and touched the pierced hands and feet of Christ after His resurrection?
I answer that this is a matter of uncertainty, because Scripture is silent on the subject. But it is probable that some both handled and touched the Lord, especially those who were the more doubtful concerning His resurrection, because they, on their part, were anxious to satisfy themselves, by actual touch, that it was no phantom, but Christ alive from the dead—because also Christ Himself bade them “handle” Him, so that there might be no room for doubt, but that the Apostles might be able to preach to the Gentiles that Christ had indeed risen from the dead.
So we read, “That which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life . . . declare we unto you.” 1 S. John I. i.
Ver. 41.—And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered. On the one hand, because they had handled Him, the disciples believed that Jesus had risen, and taken again His true body; but on the other hand, so great was their joy and their wonder at the strangeness of the event, that they could scarcely believe that it was the very Jesus who had been so recently crucified. They rejoiced greatly because they believed, but the greatness of their joy reacted on their faith. So it is a matter of common experience that if a trustworthy person brings us some unexpected good news, our joy is so great that we refuse to credit it, lest if it prove untrue, and we find that we have been deceived, we sorrow as much as we before rejoiced. We restrain our joy until we are sure that it is well founded. So was it with the Apostles: “their exceeding great joy,” says Vatablus, “obscured their judgment.”
Have ye here any meat? Christ appeared to His disciples “as they sat at meat” (S. Mark, xvi. 13), and they, when they saw Him, out of reverence rose up from the table and ran to meet Him, full of joy and astonishment, and therefore doubtingly. Hence, Jesus suffered them to handle Him, and since they did not even then fully believe, asked for meat, in order that He might eat before them, and so show that He was alive again.
Ver. 42.—And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. A proof of the frugality of the Apostles, for if they had had any better food they would have offered it to their Master. But as fishermen they fed on fish, just as Athæneus (De Cœnis Sapientum) tells us the frugal men of old were accustomed to do; and in point of fact up to the time of the deluge flesh was not known as an article of food. (See Gen. ix.)
Symbolically, says Bede, “the broiled fish signifies the sufferings of Christ. For He, having condescended to lie in the waters of the human race, was willing to be taken by the hook of our death, and was as it were burnt up by anguish at the time of His passion. But the honeycomb was present to us at the resurrection; the honey in the wax being the divine nature in the human;” and again “He ate part of a broiled fish, signifying that having burnt by the fire of His own divinity our nature swimming in the sea of this life, and dried up the moisture which it had contracted from the waves, He made it divine food of sweet savour in the sight of God, which the honeycomb signifies. Or we may take the broiled fish to mean the active life drying up the moisture by the coals of labour, and the honeycomb is the sweet contemplation of the oracles of God.” Theophylact. “By the command of the law the passover was eaten with bitter herbs, but after the resurrection the food is sweetened with a honeycomb.” Gregory Nyssen.
Tropologically, says the Gloss: “Those who endure tribulation (assantur tribulalionibus) for the sake of God, will hereafter be satisfied with true sweetness.”
Another reason why Christ ate the broiled fish is given by an anonymous writer in the Greek Catena: “The word of God as a new and unapproachable fire, by the hypostatic union, dried up the moisture in which human nature as a fish—because of its incontinency—was immersed, and set it free by mixture of His passion, fulfilling so sweetly this dispensation as to make ready sweet food for Himself; for the salvation of men is the food of God.”
Hence Christ soon after He had eaten, breathed on the Apostles, and bestowed on them the gift of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins. S. John xx. 22.
Ver. 43.—And He look it, and did eat before them. Christ truly ate of the food, and not in appearance only, after the manner of an angel “I did neither eat nor drink, but ye did see a vision.” Tobit xii. 19. Yet He was not thereby nourished. So Theophylact says, “He ate by some divine power consuming what He was eating.” Similarly, S. Augustine: “The thirsty earth, and the burning rays of the sun absorb water, each in a different way; the one because of its need; the other by its power.” So D. Thomas and the Schoolmen.
The Vulgate adds, “sumens reliquias, dedit eis;” but these words, although in the Arabic, are absent from the Greek and from the Syriac versions.
Ver. 44.—And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, &c., i.e. that I was to suffer death upon the Cross and rise again the third day. Acknowledge Me then as the true Messiah, inasmuch as My words have been verified to the letter. Or by a metonomy these are the words, i.e. the things which I spake to you, My passion, death, and resurrection, which ye see accomplished. These things therefore ought not to appear to you strange and unexpected, for they were predicted, not only by me, but in time past by Moses, and the prophets, and by David in the Psalms concerning Me.
Some think that S. Luke wrote these words by anticipation, and that Christ spake them not on the day of His resurrection but on that of His ascension. For it was then that He bade the disciples remain in Jerusalem (Acts i. 4), as Luke records, verse 49, going on in the verses following to describe the ascension. But perhaps the words were used on both occasions, the oftener to impress them upon the Apostles for the greater confirmation of their faith.
Ver. 45.—Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the scriptures. He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, as He had done before at Emmaus. See ver. 27.
Christ did this both to confirm the Apostles in their belief, and to prepare them to teach and to preach the faith. For it was part of the apostolic office to expound the Scriptures. Hence what He here began, Christ perfected at Pentecost, by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Hence it is clear:
1. That Holy Scripture is not, as heretics say, easy of interpretation to all.
2. That it is not to be interpreted, as they contend, according to the letter, but according to the teaching of that Holy Spirit, which Christ bestowed upon His Apostles, which the Apostles delivered to the Church, and the Church has handed down to us. Hence S. Paul, 1 Cor. xii., tells us that God hath set teachers in the Church, and among the diversities of gifts numbers “the interpretation of tongues.” And so in former times the Church had her interpreters, whose special duties are described by Baronius, vol. i. p. 394.
Ver. 46.—And said unto them, Thus it is written (Isa. liii., Ps. xxii et alib.) and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, &c. See how by these articles of faith Christ opened the understanding of the Apostles, to the acknowledging the Scriptures, which foretold these events.
Ver. 47.—And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, i.e.—1. By His authority. 2. At His command. 3. In His stead. That the Apostles should continue the teaching of Christ, and spread the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins throughout the world. 4. In His name, i.e., in virtue of His meritorious death upon the cross, whereby alone God gives the spirit of repentance and remission of sin.
Beginning at Jerusalem. A command to the Apostles to commence their preaching at Jerusalem, and from thence to go unto all nations. “Beginning” (α̉ζξάμενον, incipientibus, Vulgate). The Apostles were to begin their preaching at Jerusalem: 1. Because there the Synagogue was flourishing, and there the Church had its origin, for the old Jewish dispensation was transformed into the Christian Church by the preaching of Christ, according to the words of the prophet: “Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isaiah ii. 3. And again, “Arise, shine; for thy light has come.” Ibid. lx. (Vulgate). 2. Because Christ, with all the blessings He came to bestow, was promised to the Jews by the prophets, and Jerusalem was their chief city; and 3. Because David and Solomon had reigned there, and Christ, the son of David, had come to restore their kingdom, but in a higher and a spiritual sense (see Acts i. 4).
Ver. 48.—And ye are witnesses of these things. (See commentary on Acts i.)
Ver. 49.—And behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you, i.e., after a few days, when the Feast of Pentecost is come, I will send you the Holy Spirit, who will teach you clearly many things besides these, and enable you to preach the gospel to all nations.
But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high. δυνάμιν, i.e., with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for “as a general does not permit his soldiers who are about to meet a large number, to go out until they are armed, so also the Lord did not permit His disciples to go forth to the conflict before the descent of the Spirit.” S. Chrysostom in Catena.
Tropologically. S. Gregory (Past. iii 26) says, “We abide in a city when we keep ourselves close within the gates of our minds, lest by speaking we wander beyong them; that when we are perfectly endued with divine power we may then as it were go out beyond ourselves to instruct others.”
Ver. 50.—And He led them out as far as to Bethany, and from thence to the mount of Olives. Bethany was about fifteen furlongs [stadia] from Jerusalem, and close by the mount of Olives. Christ went to Bethany to say farewell to Lazarus and his sister, and to bring them with Him to mount Olivet, in order that they might witness His ascension, and share in His triumph.
And He lifted up his hands towards heaven, as if seeking a special blessing for his disciples.
And blessed them, signing them with the sign of the Cross, as Dionysius the Carthusian and others think. Indeed, S. Jerome, commenting on the words, “I will set a sign upon them,” Isa. lxvi. 19, says, Our ascending Lord left us this sign, or rather placed it on our foreheads, so that we may freely say, “The light of Thy countenance is lifted up upon us, O Lord.” For the Cross is the sign of Christ, which is the fountain of all benediction and grace. Hence the tradition which has come down from the time of Christ and the Apostles that in giving a blessing the hands should always form the sign of the Cross.
Therefore, says Theophylact, we should learn when about to leave our dependents or friends, to give them our blessing, and, signing them with the sigh of the Cross, commit them to the keeping of God.
Ver. 52.—And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. They rejoiced greatly because they had seen their Master triumphantly ascend into heaven, because they eagerly and without doubting looked for the promised gift of the Comforter, and because they had good hope that Christ would, in like manner, after they had laboured in the gospel cause, receive them to Himself, according to His gracious promise. S. John.
Ver. 53.—And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. “Continually.” We may either take this word to refer to the time of the descent of the Holy Spirit, for before His coming they remained at home for fear of the Jews, or we may take it absolutely, for the upper room in which they dwelt was near the temple, so that they could easily go to and fro. Acts i. 13.
In midst of prayers and praises, with eager preparation of heart, they waited for the promise of the Spirit, says Bede, who also observes “that S. Luke, who commenced his Gospel with the ministry of Zacharias, the priest in the temple, very fitly concludes it with the devotion of the Apostles in the same holy place. For he has placed them there, about to be the ministers of a new priesthood, not in the blood of sacrifices, but in the praises of God, and in blessing.”
Morally, the Apostles and the disciples teach us by their example to make the Christian life a perpetual round of praise to God and Christ. For thus we enter upon the life of the blessed, to whom the ceaseless praise of God is, as I have often shown, for everlasting their labour and their rest. “Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be alway praising Thee.”