3 The rulers conspire against Christ. I4 Judas selleth him. 17 Christ eateth the passover. 47 He is betrayed by Judas.
ND it came to pass, when Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said unto his disciples,
Douay Rheims Version
The Jews conspire against Christ. He is anointed by Mary. The treason of Judas. The last supper. The prayer in the garden. The apprehension of our Lord. His treatment in the house of Caiphas.
ND it came to pass, when Jesus had ended all these words, he said to his disciples:
47. As he yet spoke, behold Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the ancients of the people.
48. And he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying: Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he. Hold him fast.
53. Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father, and he will give me presently more than twelve legions of angels?
54. How then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be done?
58. And Peter followed him afar off, even to the court of the high priest, And going in, he sat with the servants, that he might see the end.
66. What think you? But they answering, said: He is guilty of death.
And it came to pass, when He had finished, or completed, all that He had spoken in the last chapter concerning, the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, then He girded Himself to meet His Passion, which was nigh at hand, and foretold it. He would not seem to be ignorant of the things which were shortly to come to pass, whilst He prophesied of those in the far distant future. He would not have His disciples suppose that Christ was ignorant of the things which were to befall Him, or that they happened to Him against His will; but that they might know that all was foreseen by Him. The meaning is, as S. Thomas expresses it, “When Christ had fulfilled His office as a Teacher, He began to prepare Himself for the office of a Redeemer and a Saviour.”
Ye know, &c., after two days. He said, therefore, these things on the Tuesday evening, when, after the Hebrew custom, the fourth day of the week, or Wednesday, was about to begin. This was the reckoning employed with respect to festivals. For, as Pererius says (on Gen. i. 5, on the words, “The evening and the morning were one day”), “It is certain that the ancient Jews reckoned their days by a threefold method.” First, the legal day from evening to evening. Secondly, the natural day from sunrise to sunrise. Thirdly, the common day from midnight to midnight. Wherefore Christ saith truly, After two days shall be the feast of the Passover, because after two days, that is to say, Wednesday and Thursday, on the evening of Thursday, when Friday is about to begin, is the Passover.
The Passover. This means in Hebrew, passing over, because the angel passed over the houses of the Hebrews. For pasach means to pass over. But the Syrians write pascha not with samech, as the Hebrews, but with tsade, and then pascha signifies joy and gladness, for the feast of the Passover was a time of utmost joyfulness.
Then were gathered together, &c. Then means on the morning of the fourth day of the week, or Wednesday. It was or the morning of this day that Judas came to them, and sold Christ to them for the stipulated price of thirty denarii, according to the general opinion of the Church, and as the same may be gathered from S. Matthew’s narrative. Wherefore from this council of the Jews, and selling of Jesus, the ancient Christians were accustomed to fast on Wednesday, as S. Augustine testifies (Epist. 86). Moreover, the Greeks, and many inhabitants of Poland and Holland, still abstain from eating flesh on Wednesday, because on that day the flesh of Christ was sold.
Observe, we gather from S. Matthew’s narrative that on these two days—Wednesday and Thursday—Christ did not come into Jerusalem, as He had done on the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but remained at Bethany, and only returned to Jerusalem towards the evening of Thursday, that He might celebrate the Passover.
Take Jesus by subtilty—by subtilty, because they were afraid lest Christ should take Himself out of their hands, as He had done before. Again, they seek a stratagem, that they might seize Him without a tumult of the people. For they were afraid lest the people, hanging upon the words of Christ, as a very great prophet, might fight for Him, and not suffer Him to be taken. Wherefore it follows,
For they said, &c. It was not, therefore, out of regard for the festival, but from fear of the people, that they were unwilling to take Jesus on the feast of the Passover. For at this feast a countless multitude of Jews flocked together to Jerusalem, among whom were many who had received salvation both of body and soul from Jesus, who, they feared, would defend Him. Wherefore, “They had no zeal for devotion, but for wickedness,” says S. Jerome. In like manner, Herod Agrippa did not wish to put Peter to death until after the Passover (Acts xii.). For the Passover was to the Jews a festival of liberty and joy, because in it they celebrated their deliverance from the slavery of Egypt. Whence they were accustomed to release condemned persons at that time, as they released Barabbas. The rulers, therefore, had decreed to take Christ and put Him to death after the Passover; but in consequence of the treachery of Judas, they changed their purpose. For the counsel and purpose of God was, that Christ should die at the Passover, in order that He might show that the antitype answered to its type. For the sacrifice of a lamb, which took place at the Passover, was a type that Christ would be sacrificed at that feast. By this circumstance God signified that Christ was the very Paschal Lamb, who suffered upon the cross for the redemption of the world.
In the house of Simon the leper. Matthew repeats more circumstantially things which had already happened, in order to relate the manner in which Christ was taken. For Judas was moved to betray Christ to the Jews by the occasion of this ointment, that he might by his treachery recover the price of the ointment, and, like a thief, as he was, hide it in his coffers. This feast, when Christ was in the house of Simon, took place on the day before Palm Sunday, as is plain from S. John xii. 1, where it is said, six days before the Passover, which was Friday, He came to Bethany. And it is added, they made Him a feast, that is, Simon and his friends. This was on the Saturday, or the Sabbath; and the next day was Palm Sunday.
Simon the leper. Some of the Fathers are of opinion that Simon had really been a leper, and had been healed by Christ. Others think that Leper was a patronymic of the family of Simon, either because he was descended from a leper, or because of some connection with lepers. Thus there were at Rome the families of the Claudii (the Lame), and the Balbi (the Sutterers), although there were many members of those families who were neither lame nor stutterers.
There came to Him a woman, &c. This was the same feast as that which S. John gives an account of (xii. 1), as will be seen by comparing these two Evangelists. S. Matthew relates it in order to explain the occasion of Judas’ being moved to betray Christ, as I have said.
You may object that John says, They made Him a feast, and Martha served, which might seem to intimate that the feast was in Martha’s house, not in Simon’s. I reply by denying the inference. John does not say that Martha and Mary made Him a feast, but simply, they, that is, some persons, made one. The persons meant were the inhabitants of Bethany, friends of Jesus, prominent among whom was this Simon the leper. But Martha ministered at this supper, either because she was a neighbour, or because she was a friend and relative of Simon.
A woman. Mary Magdalene, as S. John says expressly (xii. 3), who, as she had two years before this repented, and washed the feet of Jesus with her tears, and anointed them with ointment, so upon this occasion likewise, six days before His death, she did the same thing, partly from devotion, and partly by an inspiration from God, as a kind of prophecy of Christ’s rapidly approaching death and burial.
Alabaster. Vessels made of alabaster, or onyx stone, which Pliny says was an excellent material for preserving ointment incorrupt (lib. 36, cap. 8), were made use of for this purpose. Wherefore it is not surprising that this hollow vessel, which was as thin and brittle as glass, might easily be broken by Mary Magdalene, by striking it with a small hammer, so that she might pour the whole of the ointment upon the head of Christ. Unless you prefer to think, with Suidas, that this so-called alabaster box was a clear vessel without a handle, such as chemists have in their shops to keep unguents and drugs in.
S. Epiphanius (lib. de Mensuris) says, “This box was a small glass vessel of ointment, containing a pound of oil. It was called alabaster because of its brittleness.”
Ointment. I have shown on Eccles. ix. 8 that the Jews followed the custom of the Arabians, Persians, Syrians, and other Eastern nations in making use of unguents at their feasts for purposes of refreshment, and as a hindrance to drunkenness. Moreover, those ointments were not unfrequently not thick, such as those which doctors make use of for blows and wounds, but in a liquid state. They were confections of odoriferous herbs, which refreshed and delighted the brain and the other parts of the body. This particular ointment was fluid spikenard, as we learn from S. John. Spikenard has a very sweet smell, and abounds in Syria. Whence Tibullus, “His temples lately moist with Tyrian (or better, Syrian) nard.” It is certain that spikenard compounded with oil formed a very precious ointment, which the ancients made use of for anointing the head. (See Plin. lib. xiii. caps. 1 and 2.)
Precious; Gr. βαζυτίμου, of great price; lit. heavy, because money was formerly estimated according to weight, as by the ounce, the pound. The Syriac adds, it was very sweet; S. Mark says, spicati (Vulg.); S. John, pistici. I will explain the meaning of these words in S. John xii. 3.
Upon His head. You will say that John has, she anointed the feet of Jesus, &c. I answer that Mary Magdalene first anointed the feet of Christ and then poured all the contents of the vessel upon His head. To do this she broke off the narrow neck of the bottle, as we gather from S. Mark. So S. Augustine (lib. de Consens. Evangel. 79). John adds, she wiped His feet, that is, before she anointed them, to cleanse them from dust. For Jesus went about with the upper part of His feet uncovered, as I have shown, x. 10. So Toletus. But if any one shall maintain that she wiped Christ’s feet after the anointing, in order to dry them, I offer no objection. John, in order to show the surpassing excellence of the ointment, adds, And the house was filled with the odour. In the Magdalene, therefore, was fulfilled the words of Canticles i. 12, “When the king was on his couch my spikenard gave its odour” (Vulg.). Also, “Thy name is as oil poured forth.”
Tropologically: Origen says that oil or ointment is the work of virtue, especially of mercy. If this be shown out of natural compassion, as it is by infidels, not for God’s sake, God accepts it indeed, but not unto life eternal. But if it be done from love to God, it is an excellent ointment of a sweet-smelliing savour. Again, if a good work be done to relieve the wants of the poor, it is an anointing of the feet of the Lord. For the poor in the Church are the mystical feet of the Lord. But if the work be done for the glory of God, as in the way of zeal for chastity, fasting, or prayer, it is an anointing of the Lord’s head, a precious ointment, with whose odour the whole Church is filled; and this is the proper work of the perfect.
2d The Gloss says, “This woman who anointed the head and feet of Christ signifies the faith of the Church, which, when it preaches and invokes the Godhead of Christ, anoints His head: when it preaches His humanity, His feet.”
Lastly, he anoints the feet, who in an active life serves his neighbour; but he the head, who cleaves to God by contemplation, and becomes one spirit with Him.
When the disciples saw it, &c. You may say that S. John speaks only of Judas as murmuring. S. Augustine (lib. 2, de Consens. Evang. c. 69) says that Judas was the leader and inciter of this murmuring, who stirred up the other Apostles, in the pretence of pity for the poor, to indignation, which in their case flowed from a real affection of pity, but with him was a mere pretence, springing from avarice.
Sold for much . . . three hundred denarii, as Mark has. Judas meant to say that this ointment ought not to have been used for luxury and pleasure upon the head of Christ, but ought to have been poured into the lap of many poor, to relieve their wants. This was the opinion of Calvin, who, lest any one should make use of the “example of Mary Magdalene to approve of funereal honours, in the way of lights, incense, and other like observances, says that this action of hers must neither be approved nor imitated, but only defended, as done by a special inspiration of the Holy Ghost. But who cannot see that the spirit of Judas and Calvin are identical, and that the same Satan speaks by Calvin who erst spake by Judas, whom Christ proceeds to confute?
But Jesus knowing, &c.,—by the Divine Spirit their secret murmuring,—said, Why trouble ye, &c. Arab. Why do you blame? A good work; καλόν, i.e., fair, honourable, worthy of highest praise. For what can be more worthy and honourable than to anoint the feet of God? Who would not account himself happy if he might but touch and kiss the feet of Christ?
The poor ye have always, &c. The world is full of poor, to whom ye may always do good; but I, after six days, am about to die, and go away to Heaven, so that ye will not be able either to see Me or to touch Me. Suffer then this woman’s act of service towards Me. In six days ye would vainly desire to do the like.
For My burial. Christ might have excused Mary because of the excellence of His Divine Person, which was anointed by her, which made it more meritorious to expend the price of the ointment upon Him than upon feeding the poor, as Theophylact teaches. And the same argument holds good in the present day with respect to the adornment of temples, altars, chalices, &c. For this is done in honour of the person of Christ, to stir up the devotion and reverence of others towards Him, when there is no special necessity calling for the relief of the poor. Or Christ might have excused her, because she performed this anointing out of gratitude, piety, reverence. But out of modesty He was unwilling to make use of these pleas. His only ground of defence is, she did it for My burial, that He might show that His death was at hand, and that He was willing and ready to die, yea, that He had ordained the anointing with a view to His death, and so permitted the consequent betrayal of Judas. For Christ very greatly longed for His death, for the glory of God and the redemption of men. At the same time He, as it were, pricks Judas; as S. Chrysostom says, “I am troublesome and burdensome to you, but wait a little while, and I will depart hence. But take thou care lest, by betraying Me, thou promotest My death, lest thou bring death and hell upon thyself.” The Syriac adds, She did it as if for My burial, because Mary did not intend to anoint Him for burial; but the Holy Ghost, knowing what was about to take place, inwardly moved her to do what she did.
Christ therefore excuses her because of her inward affection of charity, because of the peculiar circumstances and the unique occasion, and especially because the Holy Ghost guided her, although she knew not what she did. For she anointed Him as though He had been on the very point of being buried. She could not anoint Him for burial after He was dead, because she was anticipated by Joseph of Arimathea. So Mark says distinctly, She hath done what she could; she is come aforehand to anoint My body for the burial. S. John has, Let her alone, that she may keep (ut servet) it for the day of My burial (Vulg.). The Greek is in the past tense, she hath kept it. As though He had said, “Suffer her, 0 Judas, to obey the instinct of her devotion, that she may anoint Me yet alive, though so soon about to die, for she will not be able to do it after I am dead.” So Vatablus. Otherwise Maldonatus, That she may keep it, “She has so bestowed this ointment in anointing Me that she cannot lose it.” As if one should say that he had kept his money who had bought a field with it; for if he had hidden it in a coffer, he might have lost it. That she may keep it—that she may be proved to have kept it (Franc. Lucas).
Somewhat differently Nonnus Panopolitanus, who read with the Vulg. ίνα τηζήόη, that she may keep, “Account this woman’s gift free from all blame, so that she may keep and preserve the treasure of My body until the hour of My death and preparation for burial be come.”
Verily I say unto you . . . for a memorial of her, i.e., of Mary Magdalene, not of Christ, as is shown by the fem. pronoun αυ̉τη̃ς. This anointing and pious devotion shall be celebrated throughout the whole world for the everlasting praise and honour of Mary, and for the infamy of Judas, who found fault with her. Victor of Antioch paraphrases as follows, “So far am I from condemning her as though she had done amiss, or blaming her as though she had not acted aright, that I will never suffer this deed of hers to he forgotten in all time to come. Yea, the whole world shall know what she did in a house and in obscurity. For she did it with a pious mind, and with fervent faith and a contrite heart. What was done was pleasing, not so much because of the money that was spent, as because of the faith which she offered together with the ointment. For this was to Me as the most fragrant of all odours.”
Then went away (abiit) one of the twelve, &c. The word then refers partly to what has immediately preceded, and partly to the council of the rulers about taking Christ in the 16th verse. It means that on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, when Judas, the instigator of the murmuring, found himself rebuked by Christ, he did not repent as the other Apostles, whom he had misled, did, but then he made his forehead brazen, and clothed himself with the cloak of impudence, and, mad with covetousness and wickedness, he determined to sell and betray Christ to the Jews. Therefore, on the following Wednesday, when the rulers were taking counsel as to the way in which they might lay hold on Christ, he came to them, and suggested a method, and stipulated to deliver Him into their hands for thirty pieces of silver.
One of the twelve. An Apostle, not one even of Christ’s seventy disciples, or He might the better have borne it, but one of the twelve Apostles, and of His own most intimate friends, whom He had elevated to that lofty rank. So this was the dark ingratitude and wickedness of Judas, which pierced the heart of Christ, so that He said, “If mine enemy had spoken evil of Me, I would have borne it,” &c. “But thou, the man united to me, my guide and my familiar friend! We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the house of God by consent” (Ps. lv. 13, &c). Wherefore S. Augustine (Tract. 61 in Joan.) says, “One by vocation, not by predestination; in number, not in merit; in body, not in spirit; in appearance, not in reality.”
He went away. Satan having entered into him, as Mark has, not that Satan insinuated himself into the soul of Judas, and so inclined his will and intellect to betray Christ. For God alone is able to glide into the soul, as Didymus rightly teaches (Tract. 3, de Spiritu Sancto). Neither was it that Satan took bodily possession of Judas, in the same way that he possesses energumens, but that he presented reasons suited to his imagination, which induced him to betray Christ, as S. John shows, xiii. 2. The same Evangelist says in the 27th verse, that after supper, when Judas had received the morsel from Christ, Satan entered into him, in order that he might accomplish in act the treachery which he had already purposed in his mind. This expression shows also the horrible atrocity of Judas’ wickedness, as though a man were not sufficient for its perpetration, but there were need of the help and instigation of the devil.
And he said unto them, What will ye give me, &c. “Unhappy Judas,” says S. Jerome, “wishes to recompense himself for the loss which he deemed he had sustained by the pouring forth of the oil, by selling his Master. Nor does he even demand a certain sum, so that his treachery might at least seem profitable, but as though he were disposing of a worthless slave, he left the price to the option of the buyers.”
So S. Jerome, who thinks that Judas did not stipulate for any fixed sum, but left it to be determined by the rulers, as though he had said, “Give me what you will.” But others, with greater probability, say that Judas bargained with the rulers thus, “I will sell Christ to you, but for so great a person, and for one whom you hate so much, I demand a suitable price. How much will ye give me?”
Thirty pieces of silver. See the vileness of Judas in valuing Christ, the Saviour of the world, his Master and his Lord, for such a miserable sum. This vileness afflicted Christ with great sorrow. Wherefore S. Ambrose says (lib. de Spirit. Sanct. c. 18) “0 Judas, the traitor, thou valuest the ointment of His Passion at 300 denarii, and His Passion itself at thirty,—rich in valuing, cheap in crime!”
You will ask what was the weight and value of these thirty pieces of silver. Baronius (ex Helia in Tisbi, R. David, and other more modern Rabbins) thinks that the silver piece of Zechariah and the prophets, and consequently of this passage of S. Matthew, as is plain from xxvii 9, is a pound of silver. This would amount to about 1000 Flemish florins. But who can believe that the covetous Jews would pay such a sum to Judas, of his own accord making the offer, not to sell, but only to betray and guide them to a man who was daily to be met with, especially since the Fathers and Zechariah marvel at the price as being so small and poor?
With greater probability, Maldonatus and others understand thirty shekels to be here intended, which would be equal in value to thirty Flemish florins. This was the price at which a slave, who had been killed, was estimated, according to the law in Exod. xxi. 32. Thus the life of Christ was valued by Judas and the Jews at the same price as that of a slave.
But since Jeremiah (xxxii. 9) distinguishes the stater, or the shekel, which is the Hebrew word, from the silver piece, for he says, “Weigh for it the silver, seven staters and ten silver pieces” (Vulg. following the Heb. See also the margin of the English Version), it would seem more probable that these silver pieces of Judas were half shekels or double denarii. I have been the more confirmed in this opinion from seeing in the Church of the Holy Cross of Jerusalem at Rome, together with a portion of the true Cross brought thither by S. Helena, one of those silver pieces for which Christ was sold. This is about the size of a Spanish real, but a little thicker. Hence, also, Zacharias calls the price, ironically, due or fitting; Ang. Vers. goodly. The shekel was equal to a Flemish florin, so that the thirty pieces of silver would be equal to fifteen Flemish florins.
You will ask how could “the potter’s field” be bought for such a sum as this? I answer, that the Heb. שדה, sade, and the Syr. חקל, chakel, i.e., a field, is put for any piece of land, however sandy, stony, or barren, such as sand-pits, which this “field” probably was. It seems to have been useless for agricultural purposes, and of very small value, like the Jewish cemeteries outside the cities of Germany. It is also possible that the rulers may have supplemented the thirty pieces of silver by a grant from the corbana, or treasury.
Observe: Joseph being sold by his brethren was a type of this selling of Christ. But Joseph was sold for twenty pieces of silver, for it was not fitting, says S. Jerome, that the servant should be sold for as much as his Master.
Observe secondly: Judas, according to S. Ambrose, received the tenth part of the price of the ointment with which Christ was anointed, which was valued at 300 denarii. But it is more probable that he received the fifth part, for the silver piece of Judas seems to have been, as has been said, a double denarius.
Thirdly, because Christ was sold at so vile a price, therefore He deserved to become the price of the whole world, and of all sinners.
Fourthly, because of these thirty pieces of silver, with which Judas and the Jews trafficked for Christ, God smites them with thirty curses in the 109th Psalm. The first is, “Set Thou an ungodly man to be ruler over him.” The second, “Let the devil stand at his right hand.” The third, “When he is judged, let him be condemned.” The fourth, “Let his prayer be turned into sin.” The fifth, “Let his days be few.” The sixth, “His bishopric let another take,” and so on. Lastly, as Hegesippus says, thirty Jews, who were taken captive by Titus, were sold for one denarius.
Sought opportunity—and found it the following day, being Thursday, which was the first day of unleavened bread. Hear Origen: “Such an opportunity as he sought, Luke explains by saying, he sought . . . in the absence of the multitude, that is to say, when the people were not about Him; but He was in private with His disciples. This also he did, betraying Him at night after supper, in the garden of Gethsemane, whither He had retired.”
Ver. 17. On the first day of unleavened bread, &c. The Passover was to be eaten with unleavened, that is, pure unfermented bread, according to the Law. This abstinence from leaven lasted seven days, and the first day of unleavened bread was the first day of the Passover. The Pasch or Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of the first month, at even ; that is to say, on the full moon of the month called Nisan, which was that in which fell the full moon of the vernal equinox. Wherefore, Nisan answers partly to our March and partly to April.
The following is the chronology of the last eight days of the life of Christ. On the Friday, which was the 8th day of Nisan, He came from Ephrem to Bethany. The next day, being the Sabbath, He sups in the house of Simon the leper. The day following was the 10th of Nisan, and Palm Sunday. On the 11th of Nisan, He taught in the Temple, and cursed the barren fig-tree. On the 12th, He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and spake the parables recorded in S. Matthew xxiv. and xxv. On the 13th of Nisan, or Wednesday, the rulers held their council, when Judas sold Him to them. On the 14th of Nisan, He instituted the Eucharist. On the 15th, He was crucified. The 16th of Nisan was Saturday, when He lay in the tomb. The 17th of Nisan was Easter Sunday.
On the first day of unleavened bread, that is, the 14th day of Nisan, or the full moon, Christ about mid-day sent two of His disciples from Bethany to Jerusalem to prepare and roast the paschal lamb, that He might eat it with them in the evening. Here observe, that the first day of unleavened bread is sometimes called the 14th of Nisan and sometimes the 15th. For that evening in which the Jews celebrated the Pasch, with which the days and the eating of unleavened bread commenced, according to the natural computation of time, pertained to the fourteenth day, but according to the computation observed with respect to festivals, it pertained to the following day, or the 15th of Nisan.
You will ask, What was the precise day on which Christ ate the Passover and instituted the Eucharist? Was it the same day on which the Jews kept the Pasch, or was it another? I take it for granted that, according to the belief of the whole Church, Christ was crucified on Friday, and therefore that He ate the paschal lamb at supper the day before, or on Thursday evening.
1st Euthymius and the Greeks say that Christ celebrated the Pasch on the 13th of Nisan; that He anticipated the time fixed by the Law for the Passover, on account of His Passion, which was about to be on the next day, on which the Jews celebrated the Passover. And because the use of azyms, or unleavened bread, began with the Passover on the following day, they think that Christ instituted the Eucharist before the azyms, and in leavened bread. Therefore they celebrate in leavened bread; and they say that this is a command. Whence they condemn the Latins for celebrating in unleavened bread, and call them Azymites and heretics. And they wash their altars before they will celebrate upon them, as deeming them polluted with unleavened bread. They cite in favour of their view S. John xiii. 1, 2, who says, before the feast of the Passover (that is, before the fourteenth day of the moon, when they began to eat unleavened bread) Christ made His supper.
2d Rupertus, Jansen, Maldonatus, and Salmeron, who enters at length into the subject (tract 9, tom. 4), say that Christ celebrated the Pasch according to the Law on the 14th of Nisan, but that the Jews deferred it until the 15th, an opinion thought to be supported by S. John. For there was a tradition, says Burgensis (ex Seder Olam), that if the Passover fell on the Friday, or the preparation for the Sabbath, it was transferred to the following day, which was the Sabbath, or Saturday, lest two solemn festivals, the Passover and the Sabbath, should concur.1 But this tradition is later than the time of Christ, as may be proved from the Talmud and Aben Ezra.
With these I say that both Christ and the Jews celebrated the Passover on the same day prescribed by the Law, namely, on the 14th day of Nisan, in the evening. That this was so, appears from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who say that Christ celebrated the Passover on the first day of unleavened bread, on which the Passover must (by the Law) be killed. And on which day they (ie., the Jews) killed the Passover. Had it been otherwise, the Jews would have proved and condemned Christ to be a transgressor of the Law.
You may object, 1st If Christ celebrated the Passover on the 14th of Nisan, why do Matthew, Mark, and Luke say that He celebrated it on the first day of unleavened bread, which fell upon the fifteenth day? The answer is, as I have already said, that the first day of the azyms was partly the 14th and partly the 15th of Nisan. For that evening on which the Jews celebrated the Passover, with which began the days and the use of unleavened bread, pertained, according to the natural reckoning of time, to the day which preceded the evening, that is, to the 14th of Nisan. But the same evening pertained, according to the festal reckoning, to the day following, which was the 15th of Nisan. And in this sense John says that Christ supped upon the paschal lamb before the feast of the Passover, which was the 15th of Nisan, according to the festal reckoning.
You will object, 2d That it is said, John xviii. 28, that the Jews did not enter the prætorium lest they should be defiled, but that they being pure, might eat a pure Pasch. I answer, Passover, in that place, does not signify the paschal lamb, for that had been already sacrificed and eaten the evening before, but the other paschal victims, which they were wont to immolate on the seven following days, but especially on the first day of the azyms, that is, on the morning of the 15th day of Nisan, according to the Law.
You will object, 3d John (xix. 21) calls the 15th of Nisan, on which Christ celebrated the paschal supper, the preparation of the Passover. I answer yes, of the Passover, that is, of the Paschal Sabbath, or the Sabbath which fell within the octave of the Paschal Feast, which was for that reason more thought of than other Sabbaths. As S. John adds by way of explanation, For that Sabbath-day was a high day. This appears also from Mark xv. 32, who calls this preparation day the day before the Sabbath. For on the preparation day, that is, the Friday, they prepared food and other necessaries for the following day, which was the Sabbath. For on this Sabbath, as being most holy, they abstained from every kind of work, even from preparing food, which was allowable on other festivals.
You will object, 4th That the rulers say in Matt. xxvi. 5, Let us put Christ to death, but not on the feast day. I reply that, after the treachery of Judas, they changed their counsel; and they did put Him to death on the feast day.
The disciples came,—two, says S. Mark; Peter and John, S. Luke. Where?—this is not to ask the city or town, but the house. They were certain from the Law (Deut. xvi. 5-7) that the Passover could not be offered anywhere save at Jerusalem. The paschal lamb, however, was not immolated in the temple by the priests, but at home, by each master of a household, who for this purpose retained the ancient right of the priesthood, which was originally given to each first-born son of a family. Philo shows this at length (lib. de Decalogo, sub finem): “Every one ordinarily sacrifices the Passover without waiting for the priest; for they in this case, by the permission of the Law, discharge the office of the priest.” For the sacrifice of the paschal lamb consisted rather in the eating thereof, than in the immolation. Whence the disciples say, eat the Passover. Hence, also, it might be slain, immolated, flayed, and roasted, not indeed by common butchers, but either by a priest, or by that member of a family whom its head should appoint. Thus Peter and John, who were here sent by Christ, killed and made ready the lamb, and prepared the unleavened bread, and the wild herbs with which the lamb was to be eaten. The lamb was wont to be slain at the ninth hour, or three o’clock in the afternoon, as Josephus says (lib. 7, de.Bell. c. 17).
Go into the city: Jerusalem. From this it is plain that Christ said these things in Bethany. To such a one, and say. Such a one; this is the Hebrew idiom, when any one is intended whose name is not mentioned. However, He indicates him by certain marks, as S. Mark signifies: “And He sendeth forth two of His disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the good man of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us. And His disciples went forth, And came into the city, and found as He had said unto them; and they made ready the Passover.”
Where observe, that it is plain from S. Mark’s words that this water-carrier, who guided them to the house, was not the master of the house. This latter appears to have been a wealthy man, who possessed a spacious mansion, and who was probably a friend and disciple of Christ. The tradition is, that this house belonged to John, whose surname was Mark, the companion of Paul and Barnabas. This was the house in which the Apostles lay concealed after the death of Christ. In it Christ appeared to them in the evening of the day of His resurrection. And in the same house they received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Wherefore also Peter, when he was delivered by the angel out of the prison into which he had been cast by Herod, betook himself to the believers who were gathered together in this same house (see Acts xii. 12). Wherefore, this house was converted into a church. For in it was Sion builded up, which is the greatest and the holiest of all churches. Alexander shows all these things in his Life of the Apostle S. Barnabas. He is followed by Baronius and many others. For where My refreshment is, as the Vulgate of S. Matt. (ver. 14) translates, the Greek has κατάλυμα, inn or lodging. The Greek for chamber is α̉νώγεων, an upper floor, or chamber, or flat, such as are inhabited at Rome by wealthy people. Wherefore it is a type of the Church, which is tending from earth to Heaven.
My time, i.e., the time of My death, and of finishing the work which My Father sent Me to do.
Ver. 19. And the disciples, viz., Peter and John, did as Jesus had appointed them: they killed and roasted the paschal lamb. Now the lamb, prepared for roasting, set forth the image of Christ crucified. For as S. Justin (contr. Tryph.) teaches, the body of the lamb was pierced through with the spit. The hind- feet as well as the fore-feet, which stood in the place of hands, were distended, and held apart by little sticks inserted in the hollows of the feet. As if the spit signified the longitudinal portion of the cross, and the little stakes the transverse bars, together with the nails driven into the hands and feet of the Divine Lamb. For the fire of His affliction was no less than the fire by which the paschal lamb was roasted. “Why,” asks Franc. Lucas, “do lambs always bear the marks of wounds in the hollow of their feet, in a manner not unlike to those which our Saviour retained from the piercing of the nails upon the cross?” Christ then, when He came to the house, and beheld the roasted lamb, beheld in it a lively image of His own crucifixion. Wherefore He offered this lamb, as it were a type of Himself, or rather He offered up Himself, a whole burnt-offering, and as it were a Victim for the sins of the whole world, with a great and burning ardour unto God the Father.
When the evening was come, &c. For in the evening, according to the Law, the lamb was to be eaten, and by the eaters standing, that the Hebrews might thereby show that they were prepared for the journey, that is to say, out of Egypt to the land of promise But Jesus is said to have lain down (discubuisse) with His disciples, because the ancients were accustomed at supper to recline upon couches; that is to say, with the lower portion of the body they were in a recumbent position, but with their arms they leant upon supports, as though they were sitting at table. Mark (xiv. 17) has, when it was evening he came with the twelve. Speaking precisely, there were ten, since two had been previously sent to prepare the Passover, and were already on the spot.
You will ask, Was Judas the traitor present at the celebration of the Passover and the Eucharist? And did he partake of it? S. Hilary and Theophylact (in loc.) say, No. So do Clemens Romanus (lib. 5, Constit. c. 16), Innocent III. (lib. de Myster. Euchar. c. 13), and Rupertus (lib. 10, in Matth.). S. Dionysius (de Eccles. Hierar.) is thought by some to favour the same opinion; but other writers, as S. Thomas, take S. Dionysius to incline to the opposite view. Theophylact also may be taken both ways. The reason why the above writers think that Judas did not partake is, because a traitor was unworthy of so great Mysteries, and one who must be forbidden to assist at them.
But that Judas was present at the Passover and the Eucharist, and that he did communicate with the rest of the Apostles, is the common opinion of all other Fathers and Doctors, namely, Origen, Cyril, Chrysostom, Ambrose, SS. Leo, Cyprian, Austin, Bede, Rabanus, S. Thomas, and others, whom Suarez cites and follows (3 part. quæst. 73, art. 5, disp. 41, sect. 3), where he maintains that S. Dionysius also held the same opinion. For Dionysius says thus, “And the Author Himself (Christ) of the Creeds most justly separates him, who not as He Himself, nor in like manner, with sacred simplicity, had supped with Him.” Which means, Christ separates Judas from the company of Himself and His Apostles, saying to him, “What thou doest, do quickly,” because he had supped and taken the Eucharist unworthily with Him. For presently, after his unworthy communicating, Satan entered into him, and compelled him to accomplish his betrayal of Christ, as SS. Chrysostom, Cyril, and Austin teach.
This opinion is proved—1st Because Matthew here says that Christ sat down to the Supper of the lamb and the Eucharist with the twelve Apostles—therefore with Judas. Whence in the 21st verse it follows, And when they were eating, He said unto them, Verily I say unto you that one of you shall betray Me. 2d Because Mark (xiv. 23) says concerning the Eucharistic Chalice ,And they all drank of it. 3d Because Luke says that, after the consecration of the Chalice, Christ immediately added, Nevertheless the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me on the table. 4th Because John (chap. xiii.), when he relates that Christ, before the Eucharistic Feast, washed the Apostles’ feet, signifies that He washed the feet of Judas, for He says, Ye are clean, but not all, for He knew who would betray Him. If, then, Christ washed the feet of Judas, He also gave him the Eucharist; for this washing was preparatory to the Eucharistic Feast. 5th Because Christ, after the Eucharistic Supper, said that one of them who were reclining with Him at the table, meaning Judas, was His betrayer. And when John asked, Who was this betrayer? Christ answered (xiii. 26), It is he to whom I shall give a sop when I have dipped it. And when We had dipped the piece of bread (Vulg), He gave it to Judas Iscatiot, the son of Simon.
The a priori reason is, that although Christ might properly have made known to the Apostles the hidden treachery of Judas, for the manifestation of His Divinity and His love, both because He was the lord of the character (famæ) of Judas, as well as because the treason of Judas was already known to others, that is, to the princes and elders, and was very shortly to become known to the Apostles themselves by the course of events, yet was He unwilling to do this, that He might give an example of perfect charity, and that He might by this means draw Judas to repentance. Lastly, He would show that secret sinners must not be publicly traduced nor prohibited from coming to the celebration of holy Communion. Wherefore, when Christ, in instituting the Eucharist, made the Apostles priests and bishops when he said, Do this in commemoration of Me, it follows that He created Judas also, who was present, a priest and a bishop. Wherefore it is said concerning him in the 109th [108th 8] Psalm, “And his bishopric let another take.” For S. Peter interprets this of Judas in the 1st chapter of the Acts. For although the Hebrew of the passage in the Psalm is pecuddato, i.e., prefecture, meaning his Apostleship, yet there is no reason why it should not be properly understood of Bishopric, as Suarez takes it. Lastly, it is plain that none others, except the twelve Apostles, were present at the Supper and the Eucharist. For these twelve only are mentioned. This against Euthymius, who thinks that others were present.
And whilst they were eating, &c. Matthew says that Christ spake this before the institution of the Eucharist, but Luke (xxii. 22) says after it. And this seems more probable. For Christ would be unwilling to trouble the minds of His disciples with such dreadful news before the Eucharist. Rather would He have them wholly intent upon, and devoted to the consideration of so great a Sacrament. Wherefore S. Matthew speaks by way of anticipation. Although S. Austin thinks (lib. 3, de Consens. Evang. c. 1) that Christ spake thus twice, both before and after the Eucharist.
About to betray (Vulg.), i.e., in a few hours to deliver up. Christ spoke thus, as well to show that He was conscious of the treachery, as that, not against His will, but voluntarily, He suffered. Wherefore He did not flee away, but offered Himself to His betrayer. He did it also to prick the conscience of Judas and arouse him to repentance. So S. Jerome says, “He casts the accusation generally, that the conscience of the guilty one might lead him to repentance” Christ did not name Judas for three reasons. 1st For the sake of his good name, and to teach us to act in like manner. 2d Lest Peter and the Apostles should rise up against Judas, and tear him to pieces. 3d That by this gentleness and charity He might provoke Judas to repentance. Wherefore S. Leo says (Serm. 7, de Passione), “He made it plain to the traitor that his inmost heart was known to Him, not confounding the impious one by a rough or open rebuke, but convicting him by a gentle and quiet admonition, that He might the more easily correct, by bringing to repentance, him whom no charge had robbed of his good name.”
And they were exceeding sorry, &c. Syr. They were vehemently troubled. Lord, is it I? Syr. Mori, i.e., My Lord, is it I? For very greatly did they grieve that Christ their Lord, their Parent and their Master, upon whom they wholly depended, was to be torn from them, and to die, and that through treachery, which was to be perpetrated by one of their own college, which would be the greatest injury, and occasion the utmost infamy to the entire college. Wherefore these words of Christ transfixed their hearts as with a sword, and, says S. Chrysostom, “they became half dead.”
One by one: therefore Judas lest if he alone kept silence should betray himself, or render himself suspected to the rest of the Apostles. For, as Origen says, “I think that at first he thought he might lie hid as a man. But when afterwards he saw that his heart was known to Christ, he embraced the opportunity of concealment offered by Christ’s words.” His first action was one of unbelief, his second of impudence. Now the other Apostles all said, Is it I? because, although their conscience did not accuse them of such a crime, yet, as S. Chrysostom says, they believed the words of Christ rather than their own conscience. Because, as S. Austin says in another place, “There is no sin which a man has done, which a man may not do, if the Ruler, by whom man was made, be absent from him.”
He that dippeth his hand, &c. Dippeth; Gr. ό ε̉μβαψάς, who dipped, or who is accustomed to dip. It appears that Judas, in order the better to conceal his treachery, and show himself a friend to Christ, the more frequently dipped bread, or flesh, into the vessel of broth, or vinegar, or condiment. But inasmuch as the other Apostles were wont to do the same thing to some extent, they could not know that Judas was certainly designated as the traitor by these words of Christ. Whence they strove to get at the fact by means of other questions addressed to Him.
Here take notice, for the harmony of the Evangelists, who relate diversely the pointing out of Judas the traitor, that the following is the historical order which harmonises all the Gospels with one another. First, Christ before the Eucharist foretold that He should be betrayed by one of the Apostles. But this He did in a general manner, without naming or indicating any individual. This is plain from Matthew and Mark. Afterwards, when the Apostles asked one by one, Lord, is it I? Christ answered, that “he was the traitor, who dipped his hand with Him in the dish.” For the ancients were wont to recline at table on couches by threes and fours, as I have shown on Esther i. 6. Each three or four, therefore, had a common dish, in such a way, that those who reclined on opposite couches might have the same dish. Therefore, because several of the Apostles had the same dish, Christ did not by those words indicate precisely who was the traitor. After this Christ instituted the Eucharist. And when this was finished, He again said that the traitor was with Him at the table, as S. Luke relates at length; on which I have said more on S. John xiii. 21. Whereupon Peter made signs to John, who was reclining upon the bosom of Christ, to ask Him definitely, and by name, who was the traitor. John then asked, and to him Christ answered, “that it was he to whom He was about to give a morsel,” which presently He gives to Judas. Judas having received it, and feeling that he was designated both by his own consciousness of his guilt and by the sign which Christ gave, impudently asks, Rabbi, is it I? Christ answered, Thou hast said, that is, thou art he. Wherefore he seemed to himself altogether detected, goes forth, as it were, in madness and rage to accomplish the betrayal of Christ, and goes to the house of Caiaphas, to ask for servants and officers to take Christ.
Ver. 24. The Son of Man indeed goeth, &c. Good were it for that man if he had not been born. For “far better is it not to exist at all, than to exist in evil. The punishment is foretold, that him whom shame had not conquered, the denunciation of punishment might correct,” says S. Jerome. He threatens him with the woe of damnation. For far better is it not to be, than to exist only to be endlessly miserable, as I have shown on Eccles. iv. 2, 3. Wisely does S. Jerome say (Epist. ad Furiam), “It is not their beginning which is inquired about in Christians, but their ending. Paul began badly but ended well. Judas’ beginning was commended, but his end was to be condemned as a traitor.”
Goeth. “By this word,” says Victor of Antioch, “Christ showeth that His death is like rather to a departure or passing away, than to real death. He signifies, likewise, by it that He went voluntarily to death.” Moreover, the betrayal of Judas was an act of infinite sacrilege, perpetrated directly against the very Person of Christ and God. Thus it was true deicide. Wherefore it is exceedingly probable that Judas abides in the deepest pit of Gehenna, near to Lucifer, and is there grievously tormented. And this seems to be indicated by the word woe, which Christ here pronounces upon him above the rest of the reprobates. Blessed Francis Borgia was wont, in meditation, in the depth of his humility, to place himself at the feet of Judas, that is to say, in the lowest pit of hell, exclaiming that there was no other place fit for him, neither in Heaven, nor in earth, nor under the earth, as the due reward of his sins.
Ver. 25. Judas answered . . . Is it I? Franc. Lucas thinks, with probability, that Judas asked this question after Christ had given him the morsel of bread.
Now Judas asked this question out of impudence, to cover his wickedness; and, as Jerome says, “by boldness to lay a lying claim to a good conscience.” For he thought that Christ, out of gentleness, would not name His betrayer. As though he had said, “Surely it is not I, 0 Christ, who am Thy betrayer? I who have faithfully served Thee all these years? Who have fed Thy family, and executed all Thy business?”
Thou hast said. This is the modest Hebrew method of answering, by which they confirm what is asked. As though Christ said, “It is not that I say it, and call thee traitor. It is thou thyself who in reality dost call thyself so because thou art, in truth, a traitor.” Whence S. Chrysostom extols the meekness of Christ, who, in just anger, did not say, “Thou wicked and sacrilegious wretch! thou ungrateful traitor! but gently, Thou hast said. “Thus has He fixed for us the bounds and rules of forbearance and forgetfulness of injuries.”
Ver. 26. Whilst they were at supper, &c. This is My Body. Thus the Syriac, Arabic, and Persian. But the Ethiopic more significantly renders, This is My very Flesh. The Egyptian adds for: For this is My Body. The rest, indeed, understand for. For that the word must here be supplied is sufficiently plain from the account of the consecration of the wine in ver. 28, For this is My Blood. The word for gives the reason why they must eat and drink, namely, because it is the Body and Blood of Christ which are offered to them by Him to be eaten and drunken. For who would not most eagerly receive such Divine and precious meat and drink?
At supper, i.e., after the supper, as Luke and Paul have, it, of the paschal lamb, but whilst they were still reclining at the table as it was spread for the feast. Therefore Matthew says, whilst they were at supper. Here take notice that this supper of Christ was threefold. First, that of the paschal lamb, which Christ and His Apostles celebrated standing, according to the law in Exod. xii. Secondly, a common supper of other food after the lamb, which they ate reclining upon couches. For all the members of a family, especially if it were a numerous one, would not have sufficient food in the lamb alone. Thirdly, Christ added a most sacred, yea, a Divine Supper, that is to say, the institution of the Eucharist. For Christ before the Eucharist partook of the lamb and the ordinary supper, since it was fitting that the type of the lamb should precede the Eucharistic Verity; and that the Eucharist should be the final memorial of Him who was about to die, as it were the highest pledge of love. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Suarez, however, in speaking of this passage, thinks that the Eucharist was instituted between the paschal and the ordinary supper. At present, indeed, for the sake of reverence of so great a Sacrament, it is, says S. Augustine (Epist. 128), an Apostolic tradition that the Eucharist should only be taken by those who are fasting. Wherefore the heretics falsely and deceitfully call the Eucharist “the Supper,” although it be true the first Christians for some time celebrated the Eucharist at supper, after the example of Christ, as we gather from 1 Cor. xi. 25. Moreover, in the place of the second and ordinary supper, which Paul calls the Lord’s Supper, there succeeded in ancient times, among Christians, the Agape, that is, a feast common to all, as a sign and incentive of charity, but taken after the reception of the Eucharist. Lastly, Christ, after the supper upon the lamb and the ordinary supper, but before the institution of the Eucharist washed the disciples’ feet. He did this to signify with what purity we ought to approach so great Mysteries. This is plain from John xiii. 4. After the washing, He took and consecrated bread and wine, which were still upon the table, and converted them into the Eucharist, that is, into His own Body and Blood.
From all this it is gathered that Christ instituted the Eucharist about the first or second hour of the night. For after taking the Eucharist, Judas went out to summon the servants of the rulers, that they might seize Christ. Christ in the meanwhile delivered His prolonged discourse, of which John gives an account, chaps. xiv.-xvii. When this was ended, He went out to the Mount of Olives, and there continued a long time in prayer. Then He was taken by the Jews and dragged back from Gethsemane to Jerusalem. Then He was taken to Annas, and after that to Caiaphas. Still there was a great part of the night left, during which He was beaten by the hands of the servants of the priests, was spat upon and mocked by them, whilst they were waiting for the day, that they might take Him to Pilate to be condemned. From all this it appears that Christ instituted the Eucharist about the beginning of Thursday night.
Lastly, listen to the Council of Trent (Sess. 22, c. 1): “After Christ had celebrated the ancient Passover, which the multitude of the sons of Israel sacrificed in memory of their going out of Egypt, He instituted a new Passover, that He Himself should be immolated by the Church (ab ecclesia), by means of (per) the priests, under (sub) visible signs, in memory of His passage from this world to the Father, when He redeemed us by the shedding of His Blood, and delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us to His Kingdom.”
Jesus took bread. Observe here five actions of Christ. 1st He took bread. 2d He gave thanks to the Father. 3d He blessed bread. 4th He brake bread. 5th He extended it, and as He was extending it to them He said, Take and eat; this is My.Body. For these are the words by which He offered it to them as well as by which He consecrated it. This annihilates Calvin’s argument, who says, all these words, namely, took, blessed, brake, gave, have respect only unto bread. Therefore the Apostles received and ate bread, not the Body of Christ. I reply to the major premiss: These words refer to bread, not as it remained bread, but as it was in the act of being bestowed (inter dandum), changed by virtue of the words and consecration of Christ into the Body of Christ. For thus might Christ have said at Cana of Galilee, “Take and drink, for this is wine,” if He had wished by these words to turn water into wine. For so we say in ordinary speech, “Herod shut up S. John in prison, killed and buried him, or permitted him to be buried.” And yet it was not the same that he shut up in prison whom he buried. For he imprisoned a man, he buried a corpse. After a similar and common way of speaking is what the Evangelists and S. Paul say of the Eucharist.
Observe, secondly, from what Christ said, Take ye, for this is, &c., it would seem that Christ took one loaf, and during the act of consecration broke it inter twelve parts, and gave one of these parts to each of the Apostles, which they appear to have received in their hands. Wherefore also, for a long time in the Church, the Eucharist was given to the faithful in their hands, as is plain from Tertullian (lib. de Spectac.), and from S. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechesi Mystagog. 5), and from S. Austin (Serm. 244). Afterwards, however, from fear of desecration, and through reverence, it was given in the mouth.
Lastly, the Apostles were not troubled at this unaccustomed action of Christ, and this new and wonderful Sacrament, for two reasons. First, because they had been already instructed and premonished (John vi.), as S. Chrysostom teaches (Hom. 83, in Matth.). The other, because the same Christ who delivered the Mysteries, illuminated their minds by faith, that they might simply believe. For they had heard and believed many other more marvellous things without being troubled; as, chiefly that that Man, whom they saw eat, drink, sleep, be weary, was true God. Yea, that He was in Heaven at the very same time that He was speaking with them on earth, when He said (John iii. 13), “And no man hath ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man, which is in Heaven.”
Blessed. Observe, Christ before consecration, 1st gave thanks to God the Father, as Luke and Paul say; and that, after His manner, with His eyes lifted up to Heaven, as it is in the Canon of the Mass and the Liturgy of S. James. Whence this Sacrament is called the Eucharist, i.e., Giving of Thanks, because it is itself the greatest and chief Thanksgiving.
2d Christ blessed, not the Father, as the heretics choose to say, but the bread and wine, as S. Paul says expressly, the cup of blessing which we bless, &c (1 Cor. x.). Now Christ blessed the bread and the chalice, that is to say, He invoked the blessing and almighty power of God upon the bread and wine, that it might be then at that time, and in all future consecrations, converted, the bread into the Body, and the wine of the chalice into the Blood of Christ, whensoever the, words of consecration are rightly and duly (legitime) pronounced. Similar was the blessing of the loaves (Luke ix. 16). Not, therefore, was this benediction the same as consecration, though S. Thomas thinks otherwise (see Council of Trent, Sess. 13, cap. 1). Whence in the Liturgies of S. James and S. Basil, and in our Canon, we pray, after Christ’s example, that God would bless these gifts, that the Divine power may descend upon the bread and the chalice, to perfect the consecration. Hence it is called the chalice of benediction, i.e., blessed by Christ. Whence also S. Paul says (1 Cor. x. 16), “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communication of the Blood of Christ?”
Lastly, it seems that Christ blessed the bread by making over it the sign of the cross, and in blessing, invoked the power of God, that it might become consecrated and transubstantiated. For, according to the practice of the Church, priests in consecration bless the bread and the wine with the sign of the cross. This they do after the example of Christ.
This is My Body. From hence it is plain that the Eucharist is not the figure of the Body of Christ, as the Innovators perversely say, but the true and proper Body of Christ, which was born of the Virgin Mary, and crucified on Calvary, as the Church has believed in all ages, and defined in many Councils. This I have shown on 1 Cor. xi. 24. There Paul, in the same words, repeats and relates the institution of the Eucharist. We must add, that some have been torn away from this faith, because they are not able to comprehend how the Body of Christ, so lofty and so great, can be contained whole in (sub) a very little host. But these persons ought to remember that God is Almighty; and that as He constituted nature, so also He often works, as He wills, contrary to nature, in a supernatural manner, that He may show Himself to be the Lord and God of nature and of all things. Wherefore, whatsoever there is peculiar in nature may be inverted and altogether changed (everti). Consequently, God is able to effect that a great quantity may be contained in a little space, yea, in a point. This is the theological reason. But in order to give full satisfaction to some weak minds, I will subjoin two evidential arguments for this mystery to show that it is possible—arguments which derive their force from analogy. Take, therefore, the following demonstration, drawn from a physical analogy—from the eye and a mirror. For both a looking-glass and a small eye receive into themselves the whole quantity of the very greatest things, not only men, but houses, temples, trees, mountains, &c., and clearly reproduce and represent them whole. Why then should not a small host, by God’s power, set forth (exhibeat) whole Christ? You will say that in the eye and in the mirror what takes place is done in a spiritual manner, by means of optical or visual appearances. I reply, in like manner the Body of Christ in the Eucharist assumes a spiritual mode of existence, so that, as a spirit, it should be spiritually in the very small portion of the host.2 Let us add this, that the objective appearances themselves are not spiritual in such a sense as that they are not really natural and physical, yes, corporeal, entities. For they are inseparable from corporeal entities, such as the atmosphere. And of these things we see that very many, and as it were an infinite number, are received and comprehended in a mirror and in the eye. If all this constantly takes place in a natural manner, with respect to the appearances received by the eye, much more can the omnipotence of God do the same thing supernaturally in respect to the Body of Christ, miraculously in the Eucharist.
(Here follows in the original what the Author calls an analogical mathematical demonstration. This is omitted, both because it would involve the printing of two intricate mathematical diagrams, as also because such a species of argument seems less likely to convince now than it did when à Lapide wrote.)
You may add here a third proof drawn from condensation and rarefaction, which I have brought forward on 1 Cor. xi. 25. Water in a vessel, made dense by means of cold, occupies only half of the vessel, but when it is made hot and rarefied by means of fire, it bubbles up and fills the whole vessel. And yet the water continues the same as regards matter, volume (molem), and, as many celebrated philosophers are of opinion, as regards intrinsic bulk; for nothing is added to the water by rarefaction except extension in space. If, then, this takes place according to natural laws, why should God be unable to do the same thing supernaturally, as respects the body of Christ?
Luke adds (xxii. 19), This is My Body which is given for you, i.e., which is about to be given. S. Paul (1 Cor. xi.) has, which shall be delivered (Vulg.); Gr. κλώμενον, broken.
Luke also adds, This do ye for a commemoration of Me. By these words Christ gave to the Apostles, and to the Priests who were to be ordained by them, power, as well as commandments, to consecrate and transubstantiate bread into His Body, and wine into His Blood. Wherefore by these words Christ constituted and ordained His Apostles Priests and Bishops, as the Council of Trent teaches (Sess. 22, cap. 1). For by these words He commanded His Apostles, as Bishops, to ordain Priests to celebrate as well the Sacrament as the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, continuously and perpetually throughout all ages. And this He did both for the perpetual praise and worship of God, and also for the spiritual nourishment of the faithful, that they might, by this means, ask and obtain of God every grace for the Church. And this is the doctrine and faith of the whole Church. This do, therefore, is as though He said, “Do what I do, i.e., consecrate, sacrifice, transubstantiate bread and wine, and eat them, as I have consecrated, sacrificed, transubstantiated, eaten the same. Moreover, also, ordain Priests and Bishops, who, by a perpetual succession, may do the same, even unto the end of the world.”
For a commemoration of Me. “That, namely, by the consecration and receiving of the Eucharist, ye may commemorate, and, as S. Paul says (1 Cor. xi. 26), may announce (Vulg.), My death.” For consecrating Priests are here bidden not only to remember the Death of Christ, but to recall the same to memory with Christian people, that they may be always mindful of so great a benefit, and of Christ’s great condescension and redemption, and thankful for it, and so by it ask and obtain all grace from God.
Ver. 27. And taking the chalice, &c. Bellarmine (lib. iv. de Eucharist. c. 27) is of opinion that Christ did not consecrate the chalice immediately after the consecration of the bread, but that many actions and words of His intervened. He endeavours to prove this from the fact that S. Matthew says, whilst they were at supper; but Luke and Paul say concerning the chalice, likewise also the cup after supper.
But it is far more probable that Christ, after the consecration of the bread, proceeded immediately with the consecration of the chalice. For Matthew, Mark, and Luke so relate. Moreover, the rationale of the Sacrament and the Eucharistic Sacrifice so required that there should not be any division or interruption, but that the whole matter should be accomplished at one and the same time. And we know that to the rationale of the Sacrifice pertains the consecration of the wine as well as the bread. For Christ instituted this Sacrifice after the manner of a feast, for which wine is required for drink, as well as bread for food. Thus likewise in the Old Testament, in the sacrifice of the mincha, that is, of fine flour, equally as in the sacrifice of animals, there was added a drink-offering, i.e., a pouring forth of wine and oil. For sacrifice is offered to God that it should be a refection of God. But for a refection, drink is required as well as food, that is to say, both wine and bread.
Drink ye all of this. Christ said this before the consecration of the chalice. Wherefore, in Mark xiv. 23 there is an hysterologia when it is said, and they all drank of it. And presently he relates that Christ consecrated it, saying, This is My Blood of the New Testament. But it is certain from Matthew and Luke that Christ first consecrated the chalice, and then gave it to His Apostles to drink. For otherwise they would have drunk mere wine, and not the Blood of Christ.
Observe, that Christ divided the bread into thirteen parts, one of which He took first Himself, and then gave the remaining parts to the Apostles, one by one. But with the contents of the chalice, being liquid, He could not do this. Wherefore, after it was consecrated, Christ first drank of it Himself, and then gave it to his next neighbour, whether John or Peter, bidding him pass it to his nearest neighbour, and thus the chalice passed round the company, and all the Apostles drank of it. Wherefore it does not follow, as the Hussites and Luther say, that the chalice ought to be given to the laity, and that they ought to communicate in both kinds, because Christ and the Apostles communicated in both kinds, and that the same is Christ’s command. For this precept of drinking, where He said, Drink ye all of this (as the Church has always understood), pertained only to the Apostles, who alone were then present. For Christ at that time was consecrating them Priests, and He bade them consecrate the Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Eucharist under both kinds, and bade them receive both kinds, that they might complete a perfect Sacrifice. But He did not command this to the laity, to whom, inasmuch as they do not sacrifice, but only receive the Eucharist as a Sacrament, it is sufficient that they take it under one kind, because in one kind they receive the whole effect and fruit of the Sacrament. And it is especially to be considered that in so great a number of lay people communicating, the chalice might easily be overturned, and the Blood of Christ contained in it spilt upon the ground, which would be an act of great irreverence. Similarly the command of Christ, This do ye for a commemoration of Me, in what refers to consecration, pertains only to Priests; but to the laity pertains only the receiving of the consecrated Bread, as is plain. For when several precepts are mingled together, their variety may be limited and distributed, according to the condition of the persons intended, and the intention of the legislator, who in this place is Christ, and His interpreter the Church.
S. Cyprian, or whoever is the author of the treatise (de Cæna Dom.), observes that formerly it was forbidden to the Hebrews to drink the blood of animals, as, is plain from Heb. ix. 22, Lev. iv. 6, &c., but that now the Blood of Christ is drunk by His Priests. First, because the Blood of Christ is life-giving. 2nd Because by It we have been redeemed. 3rd Because by It, being made spiritual, we shudder at the sins of a carnal life, as at impure blood.
For this is My Blood of the New Testament. Syr. Covenant, &c. The Ethiopic has, This is My very Blood. He means, “in this chalice, by this My consecration, wine is turned into My Blood. Wherefore, after this consecration, there is no longer wine there, but My Blood, by which the new Covenant and Testament are confirmed and rectified, by means of My mediation between God and man.” For Christ by His Blood, shortly to be shed, merited and confirmed for us the hope and the right of eternal inheritance in Heaven, which was the chief and the last will of Christ the Testator. And the Sacraments afford this right to us, especially the Eucharist, in the same way that a testament consigns in writing to the heir a right to the testator’s goods.
Observe: Matthew and Mark have, My Blood of the New Testament. But Luke and Paul have, This chalice is the New Testament in My Blood. The meaning in both is the same, but Christ would seem to have actually uttered what Matthew and Mark relate. For this is an expression of clearer meaning. Christ, by instituting the Eucharist at His last supper, rather than upon the Cross, ratified His testament and covenant with the Church. For all the Apostles were here present. And they personified and represented the Church.
Observe, secondly: In the form of consecrating the chalice which we now use in the Sacrifice of the Mass, there are added these words, The eternal testament, the mystery of the faith. Tradition says they have been handed down from S. Peter, who is the author of our Liturgy. So teach Leo IX. (Epist. ad. Michael imp. c. 9) and S. Thomas (3 p. q. 78, art. 2, ad. 4). For although they do not concern the essence of the form (and yet S. Thomas in 1 Cor. xi. seems to say they do), wherefore they are not found in the Liturgies of S. James, S. Basil, S. Chrysostom, and S. Clement, yet they pertain to its complete integrity. And this is the common opinion of the whole Latin Church, which, in the form of consecrating the chalice in the Mass, writes and pronounces these words as spoken by Christ, and enjoined by the Apostles, equally with the rest.
Where observe: The mystery of the faith signifies—1st That the Blood of Christ veiled beneath the species is a hidden (arcanam) thing, which can be recognised and believed by faith alone. 2nd That the very Blood of Christ, as it was shed in His Passion, is the object of faith whereby we are justified. For we believe that we are justified and cleansed from our sins by the merits of the Passion and Death of Christ.
For many, i.e., for all men, who are very many.
Shall be shed (Vulg.). But the Greek of Matthew, Mark, and Luke has ε̉κχυνόμενον, is shed, in the present, i.e., is offered in this Sacrifice of the Eucharist under the species of wine, and which shall be presently shed upon the Cross in its own species and natural form of blood. For the blood of the victim was wont to be shed in the sacrifice itself, and so was a libation made to God. Whence the shedding itself is called a libation, a drink-offering. Wherefore this chalice of the Blood of Christ, as it was the drink-offering of the Sacrifice of Christ, was poured into the mouth of Christ and His Apostles, and for this reason the reception of the species, both of bread and wine, pertains to the object and the perfection of the Sacrifice.
Hence, then, it is plain that the Eucharist is not only a Sacrament, but a Sacrifice, in truth, the only Sacrifice of the New Law, which has succeeded to all the ancient sacrifices, and which contains them all in their completeness in Itself. Therefore Christ is called “a Priest after the order of Melchizedek,” not of Aaron. For Aaron offered sheep, but Melchizedek bread and wine, even as Christ did, and transubstantiated them into His Body and Blood (see Ps. cx. 4 and Heb. v. 6, 7). The Eucharist is, therefore—1st A burnt-offering; 2nd A sin-offering; 3rd A peace-offering; 4th A mincha, or meat-offering (Lev. i., &c.).
That this is so is plain—1st Because Christ did not say of His Blood, “which is poured upon many,” as a Sacrament, but which is shed for many,” as a sacrifice and drink-offering.
2nd Because the Greek of all three Evangelists is ε̉κχυνόμενον, which is shed, in the present tense, that is to say, now, in this Supper and consecration of the Eucharist. Therefore He speaks of the present Sacrifice of the Eucharist, and not only of that which was about to take place upon the Cross. And so S. Ambrose understands (in Ps. 38). But the Vulgate translates, shall be shed, because it has respect to the Sacrifice of the Cross, which was just about to take place, in which the Blood of Christ was most evidently and most perfectly shed for the salvation of sinners, of which this sacramental shedding of His Blood in the Eucharist was a type and figure, and therefore was, typically, one and the same with It.
3rd Because Luke and Paul, to the words of consecration, This is My Body, add, which is given, that is, is offered, for you in sacrifice. Paul has, which is broken for you, that is to say, under the species of bread in the Eucharist, and actually by the nails and lance upon the Cross. Wherefore Paul calls the Eucharist, the bread which we break, viz., in the Sacrament, because we break and eat the species of bread, as offering this in sacrifice to God, by receiving and consuming them, none of which things were done upon the cross. Therefore to break bread signifies the Sacrifice, not of the Cross, but of the Eucharist.
4th Because Luke has expressly, του̃το τὸ ποτήριον ή καινὴ διαθήκη ε̉ν τω̃ αίματί μου τὸ ύπὲζ υ̉μω̃ν ε̉κχυνόμενον, i.e., this cup is the New Testament in My Blood, which, i.e., the cup, shall be poured forth for you. For the word which must be referred to the cup, not to the Blood; since αίματι is in the dative case, τό in the nom. Therefore the chalice of the Blood of Christ is poured out for us; but it is poured out in the Eucharist, not on the Cross, for then there was no chalice. Therefore the pouring out of the Blood is a drink-offering and a sacrifice.
The Sacrifice of the Eucharist, then, is a whole burnt-offering, because in consecrating and eating we offer whole Christ to God. The same is a peace-offering, because by It we ask and obtain peace, that is, all good things from God. The same also is a sin-offering, because it is offered to God, and obtains from Him remission of venial sins and temporal punishments. But It obtains remission of mortal sins indirectly, because It obtains from God prevenient grace and contrition, by which they are blotted out. (See Council of Trent, Sess. 22. q. 2. See also S. Thomas and the Scholastics on the Eucharistic Sacrifice.)
Lastly, to the Blood of Christ rather than to His Body is ascribed remission of sins, although it pertains to both. The reason is, that in the Old Testament expiation is attributed to blood, and in the sin-offering the victim’s blood was poured out. Also by the shedding of His Blood the Death of Christ is signified, which was the all-worthy price, expiation and satisfaction for our sins.
The first reason, then, which moved Christ to institute the Eucharist, was to ordain a most excellent and Divine Sacrament in the New Law, by means of which He might feed the faithful with Divine Food. And that the Church might worthily, by It, as well unceasingly honour and worship God. For the victim which is offered to God in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is of infinite value. It is commensurate and co-equal with God Himself. For the victim is Christ Himself, who is both God and man. God Himself therefore is offered to God. Wherefore, since all our other worship, inasmuch as it is but that of creatures, is poor and worthless, therefore Christ made Himself to be the Victim in the Eucharist, that by It, as being God’s equal, we might render due and equal worship to God, even such as He of right requires. Moreover, this Sacrifice chiefly consists in the consecration. For by it Christ is mystically slain, when His Body and His Blood are severally apportioned (seorsim allocantur) under the species of bread and wine, as Suarez and Lessius (lib. 12, de Perfect. Div. c. 13, n. 94) teach from SS. Gregory, Irenæus, Nyssen, &c. By the word “severally” (seorsim), “by themselves,” understand only as regards the effect (vis) of consecration. For by concomitance, where there is the Body of Christ, there also Is His Blood, and vice versâ.
The second reason was, that He might leave unto us a perpetual exhibition (ideam) of His Life and Passion, to continually stir up in every one the memory of so great a redemption. For in the Eucharist the Blood is consecrated by Itself, and the Body of Christ is consecrated by Itself, that His Passion may thereby be set forth, in which His Blood was shed, and separated from His Body. The species therefore of wine shows forth (representat) the Blood of Christ shed. The species of bread exhibits the lifeless Body of Christ. This is what He said, Do this, &c. And S. Paul, 1 Cor. xi. 26, says, As oft as ye shall eat, &c., ye shall announce the Lord’s Death until He come.
The third reason was, the greatness of the love of Christ towards His faithful people, by which, as He united our flesh, hypostatically, in the Incarnation, to His Deity, so in the Eucharist, sacramentally, He unites the same together with His Godhead, to each faithful communicant, and as it were incorporates them, that each may become Divine, and in a certain sense a Christ and God. For this is what S. John says of Christ when He was about to institute the Eucharist, before He washed the Disciples’ feet. John xiii. 1: Jesus, knowing that His hour was come, and that He was about to Pass out of this world to the Father, having loved His own that were in hie world, He loved them to the end.
To the end, to the extremity both of life and love. That is, He loved them with extremest and highest love, when He left Himself to them in the Eucharist, that they might always have Him present with them, that they might associate and converse with Him, consult Him, open to Him all their difficulties, troubles, and temptations, ask and obtain His assistance. For as He Himself says in Prov. (viii. 31), “My delights are with the sons of men.”
Hence, as the Church sings, with S. Thomas:
“Himself as born for brotherhood,
Feasting He gives His brethren food:
Their price He gives Himself to die,
Their guerdon when they reign on high.”
That by this extremity of love He may entice, yea, compel us, ardently to love Him back. For a “magnet is the love of love.” It was this love which, as a sharp goad, drove S. Laurence to the flames, S. Vincent to the “wooden horse,” S. Sebastian to the arrows, S. Ignatius to the lions, and all the other martyrs bravely to endure and overcome all manner of pains and torments, that they might pay back love for love, life for life death for Christ’s death. This was why they were ambitious of martyrdom, and rejoiced and triumphed in it. And these things were the effect of the Eucharist. This supplied them with strength and gladness in all temptations and sufferings. Wherefore, of old time, the Christians in days of persecution used to communicate daily, that they might strengthen themselves for martyrdom. Indeed, they took the Eucharist home with them, and received It with their own hands (as Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, when she was kept captive in England, and had no Priest with her). Christ before His Passion instituted the Eucharist, that by means of It He might arm the Apostles to meet temptation.
A fourth reason was, that in the Eucharist Christ might give us the opportunity of exercising every virtue. For in it our faith is exercised, when we believe that He who is true God and man is invisibly, but really and truly, contained in a small host. Hope is exercised, because when we believe that Christ giveth Himself unto us, we hope that He will give us all other things, which are far less than Himself. Charity is exercised, because the Eucharist is a furnace of love, which Christ exhales, and breathes upon us, that we may love Him again. Religion is exercised, because we worship and invoke God with the highest form of worship, and sacrifice to Him Christ Himself. Humility is exercised, because we ignore our eyes and senses and natural judgment, which suggests to us that there is only bread and wine in the Eucharist, and humbly submit ourselves to the words of Christ, who says, This is My Body: This is My Blood. Gratitude is exercised, because by it we render highest thanks to God for all His benefits, which is why it is called Eucharist. Abstinence is exercised, because it is not right to communicate otherwise than fasting. Patience and mortification are exercised, because it is a lively mirror of Christ’s sufferings and crucifixion, and so on.
The tropological reason is, that by feeding us with His Divine Flesh, He may call us away from earthly flesh, and its pleasures and concupiscences, that we may live a life that is not carnal, but spiritual and divine, and may say with S. Paul, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” A Christian ought therefore so to live, speak, work, as though it were not he himself, but Christ who is living, speaking, working in him. Let him live, therefore, like an angel, “For man did eat angels’ food.” And S. Cyril of Jerusalem says (Cateches. 4, Myst.), “In the Eucharist we are made concorporate, and of the same blood with Christ.”
Moreover, S. Chrysostom says (Hom. 36, in 1 Cor.), “Where Christ is eucharistically, there is not wanting the frequent presence of angels. Where there is such a King and such a Prince, there is the celestial palace, yea, there is Heaven itself.” Wherefore we read concerning S. Ammon in the Lives of the Fathers, that when he was celebrating, an angel was seen to stand at the altar, sign the communicants with the sign of the cross, and write their names in a book. And S. Chrysostom (lib. 3, de Sacerdotio) relates that choirs of angels have been seen round about the altar, who, with bowed heads, showed deepest reverence to Christ their King, and uttered awe-inspiring voices. When, therefore, we communicate, or say or hear Mass, let us think that we are sitting by the side of Christ at the Last Supper. Let us think that Christ is speaking by the mouth of the Priest, is celebrating, is transubstantiating bread and wine into His Body and Blood, and is feeding us therewith. For it is Christ who is the chief Agent, and works the Eucharistic miracle, as the Council of Trent teaches (Sess. 22). Wherefore S. Ambrose (lib. 8, in Luc.) says, “It is this Body of which it is said, My Flesh is meat indeed. About this Body are the true eagles, which fly round about It with spiritual wings.” And (lib. 4 de Sac.) “well may the eagles be about the altar where the Body is.” Wherefore S. Francis says, in his epistle to Priests, “It is a great misery, and a miserable infirmity, when you have Him Himself present, and care for anything else in the world.”
The anagogical reason is, that Christ, in the Eucharist, gave us a pledge, a prelibation and a foretaste of the celestial inheritance. Wherefore the Church sings, with S. Thomas, in the Office of the Adorable Sacrament, “0 sacred Feast, in which Christ is received, in which the memory of His Passion is recalled, the soul is filled with grace, and to us is given a pledge of future glory.”
S. Thomas says, “In the Eucharist spiritual sweetness is tasted at the very fountain.” This was what S. Francis, S. Monica, S. Catherine of Sienna, and many others were wont to feel at the Holy Eucharist, who were inebriated with heavenly delights, and kept jubilee, exulted, and were rapt in ecstasy, saying with the Psalmist, “My heart and my flesh exult in the living God. For whom have I in Heaven but Thee, and who is there upon earth that I desire in comparison of Thee? God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
“My Jesus, my Love, my God, and my all.”
Again, the Eucharist is the Food of immortality, because by virtue of It our bodies rise to the life immortal, according to that saying of Christ (John vi.), “Whoso eateth of this Bread shall live for ever.” The Eucharist therefore stamps upon our bodies a certain force, not physical, but moral, which is the seed of immortality, that by means of it we may rise again. Whence S. Chrysostom rightly concludes (Hom. 83, in Matth.), “How, then, does it not behove that he should be purer who enjoys such a sacrifice? Should not the hand which divides this Flesh be more resplendent than a solar ray? Should not the mouth be filled with spiritual fire; and the tongue, which is ruddy, with that tremendous Blood?”
And our Thomas, taught of God, says in the 4th Book of the Imitation, chap. 2, “It ought to seem as great, as new, and as pleasant to thee, when thou celebratest or hearest Mass, as though Christ on that self-same day descended into the Virgin’s womb, and became man; or was hanging upon the Cross, suffering and dying for man’s salvation.” Whence he gathers (chap. v.), “that when a Priest celebrates devoutly, he honours God, makes glad the angels, builds up the Church, assists the living, affords rest to the departed, and makes himself to have a share in all these good things.” “For what is His goodness, and what is His beauty, unless it be the wheat of the elect, and the wine that bringeth forth virgins?” (Zech. ix. 17) Vulgate.
Ver. 29. I say unto you . . . fruit of the vine; Arab., juice of the vine, &c. S. Austin (lib. de Consens. Evang. iii. 1), and from him Jansen and others, are of opinion that Matthew intimates that Christ spake these words after the Eucharistic Supper. Let us here consider the following objection. “The fruit of the vine is wine produced from it, pressed from its grapes; therefore in the Eucharistic Chalice there is not the Blood of Christ, but only wine sprung from a vine.” I answer, the pronoun this in this fruit, &c., does not signify exactly that wine which was in the consecrated Chalice, but in general the wine upon the table, from which the cup was filled, which was used both at the Passover and at the consecration of the Eucharist. Secondly, the Blood of Christ may be called wine, as the Body of Christ is called bread by S. Paul, on account, indeed, of the substance of bread and wine, as it was before consecration, and because of the species of bread and wine which remain after consecration. In truth, the species themselves, or the accidents of the wine, are rightly called the fruit of the vine, because they are produced by the vine. Thirdly, as all kinds of food, both by Scriptural and common usage, are often called bread, because it is the staple of all food, so in like manner is any kind of drink called wine, especially by the Italians, Syrians, and others.
But it is far more probable that Christ spake these words before the institution of the Eucharist, concerning the supper and the chalice of the paschal lamb. For at that supper a cup of wine was carried round, which the father of the family tasted first, and then sent round about to all who partook of the lamb, as the Jewish tradition is. This second view is proved, because Luke expressly asserts as much. He distinctly gives an account of the two suppers of Christ,—that upon the lamb, and the Eucharistic Supper,—which Matthew, for the sake of brevity, condensed into one. And he says that these words concerning the chalice were spoken before the Eucharist at the paschal supper. We may see that the same conclusion must be drawn from what Christ said previously concerning the eating of the lamb (Luke xxii. 15, 16). “And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer: for I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” Then immediately afterwards He subjoins what is said concerning the cup of the paschal lamb, “And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: for I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.” Then, immediately afterwards, he relates the institution of the Eucharist, and of the Eucharistic cup, which Christ consecrated, saying, “Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” Where there is no mention made of the fruit of the vine, nor of drinking new wine in the kingdom of God.
Christ intended, therefore, by these words only to signify that He, from henceforth, would not sup with His disciples after the accustomed manner; but that this was His last supper, after which He was about to be taken and put to death. Wherefore here, as proceeding to die, He bids the Apostles His last farewell. Wherefore these words do not refer to the Eucharistic Chalice, which does not contain the fruit of the vine, in the sense of wine, but the Blood of Christ, into which it has been changed by consecration. This is the opinion of Jerome, Bede, and many others.
When I will drink it new with you, &c. New, i.e., of a new and different kind. For in Heaven the Blessed drink no earthly wine, but heavenly, even the wine and nectar of everlasting glory and joy; according to the words of Psalm xxxvi. 9, “They shall be inebriated with the fatness of Thy house: Thou shalt give them to drink of the torrent of Thy pleasure.” So Origen on this passage, and Nazianzen (Orat. de Pascha.). For Scripture is wont to express the spiritual joys of the Blessed by means of corporeal pleasures, such as food and drink.
You will say that Christ after His Resurrection, in order to prove it to His Apostles, ate with them, and, as it would appear, also drank wine with them. How, then, does He here say that He will no more drink wine with them? I answer, that Christ did indeed both eat and drink with His Apostles after the Resurrection, but only by the way as it were, and to prove to them that He had risen, but not to satisfy the requirements of nature, as He had done before His death. Wherefore, speaking after the manner of men, that reception of food after the Resurrection cannot be counted eating.
And when they had sung an hymn, &c. Vulg. said an hymn, but meaning sung. Greek ύμνήσαντες, i.e., said or sung a hymn, by way of giving thanks and praise to God. The Arabic has they gave praise. Some think from the books of the Hebrew ritual that this was the hymn customarily sung by the Jews at the Passover, to give thanks after eating the lamb. But indeed, as Paul Burgensis observes, and from him Franc. Lucas, Baronius, and others, this hymn consisted of seven psalms of Hallelujah, beginning with the 113th, “When Israel came out of Egypt,” and ending with the 119th, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way.” From hence S. Chrysostom concludes that no one ought to depart from Mass before the thanksgivings, which are contained in the collects after communion. You may gather the same principle from an ordinary dinner or supper, from which people ought not to depart before returning thanks to God. Hence, also, the Fourth Council of Toledo asserts that this hymn of Christ’s affords us an example of singing hymns. Hence, also, the practice of singing at Mass is of the highest antiquity, as is plain from the ancient Liturgies.
This, then, was the custom of the ancient Hebrews, to sing hymns at the Paschal Supper, which the Christians afterwards followed, in that after the Eucharist and the Agape, a common feast of charity for all the faithful, they sung hymns and psalms by way of giving thanks to God. This is gathered from S. Paul (Eph. v. 19), and Tertullian eloquently shows the same (Apol. c. 39), and S. Cyprian (Epist. ad Donat.).
The ancient heathen had a similar practice at their feasts, in honour of their gods.
Lastly, S. Augustine (Epist. 253) says that this hymn of Christ was in circulation in his time, but he himself regarded it as spurious, and intimates that it was forged by the Priscillianists.
They went out to the Mount of Olives. Christ was wont, especially in these last days of His life, to go daily to Jerusalem, and teach in the Temple; and then about evening to return to Bethany, and there sup, and soon after supper return to the Mount, of Olives, and there spend the night in prayer, as Luke intimates (xxi. 37). But upon this occasion He did not go to Bethany, as He had supped in Jerusalem. He went, therefore, direct to the Mount of Olives, as it were to a wrestling-ground, that there He might offer Himself to be seized by Judas and the Jews. Thus Victor of Antioch asks, “Why did He go out to the mountain? why does He despise a lurking-place, and manifest Himself to those who came to apprehend Him? He made haste to occupy the spot where aforetime He was wont to pray, the spot which His betrayer knew so well” (John xviii. 2).
Ver. 31. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered. Be offended and fall into sin, first the sin of weakness and cowardice in forsaking Me, your Master and Lord, in My Passion. “The terror of the disciples,” says S. Leo, “was then excusable, nor did their sorrow sink into distrust.” And further on, speaking of S. Peter’s denial, “The Lord saw not in thee a feigned faith, nor estranged love, but shaken resolution.” It was thus that Marcellinus and many others, when asked whether they were Christians, and denied it through fear of tortures, sinned not directly against the faith, but merely against its open profession, in not daring openly to confess it.
But the Apostles seem to have stumbled in the faith, because, when they saw Christ seized by the Jews without defending Himself, they thought He was suffering either unwillingly or by compulsion, and as He could not deliver Himself and them, He consequently was not God, and that as He would die and never rise again, they had nothing further to hope for from Him. They consequently forgot and disbelieved all His promises and predictions. The Church accordingly seems to think that the Blessed Virgin alone remained then steadfast in the faith. For in the Office for Good Friday the Church puts out all the lights one by one, leaving only one burning; though others confine this more strictly to faith in the resurrection, as if she alone believed that He would rise again from the dead. This is clear, too, from the Apostles, who hardly believed Christ when He appeared to them after His resurrection, and said that He was alive. Christ accordingly reproved their unbelief (Mark xvi. 14). And so S. Hilary explains it, “Ye shall be troubled with fear and want of faith.” And Euthymius, “The faith ye now have in Me will be driven out of you, because ye will believe that I can no longer help you.” Indeed our Lord foretold this. See John xvi. 31, 32, “The hour cometh when ye shall be scattered, every one to his own, and shall leave Me alone. Ye believe in Me now, but very soon ye will not believe, when ye see Me a captive and suffering.” For not only “did they forsake Him hastily, but” (says S. Augustine, Tract. ciii.) “in their hearts forsook the faith. For they were reduced to as great despair, and extinction (as it were) of their faith, as appeared in Cleophas when he said he trusted that He would have redeemed Israel. But see how they forsook Him, in abandoning the very faith wherewith they believed in Him.” Many commentators follow S. Augustine in considering that the Apostles fell away from the faith. And S. Ambrose also maintains that S. Peter lost his faith, and Turrecremata also (de Eccl. i. 30 and iii. 61). But many theologians teach at the present day that he did not lose his faith, but merely sinned in not openly professing it. This, they urge, is all that the Evangelists say; why invent a heavier charge, and urge it against him? S. Augustine says (in John, Tract. cxiii.,) he merely denied that he was a Christian, as people did in Japan, though still retaining the faith in their hearts. S. Cyril (lib. xi. 41, in John) maintains that he denied Christ not through fear, but through love; for that if he confessed himself His disciple he could not have remained by Him, as he wished to do. S. Ambrose (in Luc. xxii.) says that he did not deny God, but man. “I know not the man, because I know Him to be God.” And when he says (Serm. xlvii.) that Peter gave up the faith, he means the profession of the faith. So, too, S. Hilary (cap. xxxii. in Matt.) and S. Leo (as above), “His tears abounded where his love failed not, and the fount of charity washed away the words of fear.” Peter then sinned mortally against the profession of the faith, and consequently lost charity, though not faith. Maldonatus, Toletus (in John xviii.), Bellarmine (de Eccl. iii. 17) distinctly maintain this; Suarez (de Fide Disp. ix. sect. 6) thinks it was probably the case with all the Apostles that they fled through fear, and not as denying Christ.
God allowed this for various reasons. 1. To suggest to Christ further grounds for patience, and to exercise Him in every kind of suffering. For the defection of the Apostles was a great affliction to Christ; not merely on their own account, but because He saw that all the fruit of His preaching had been lost upon them. 2. To humble the Apostles with a sense of their own weakness, when they saw that all their courage and resolution had melted away. “Like lions before the battle, like deer when in it.” 3. To show the power of persecution and fear which bereft them of their faith, their memory, and senses; and that consequently this fear could not be overcome by their natural reason or strength, but only by Divine grace, which they should constantly implore. “We learn thence,” says S. Chrysostom, “a great lesson, that the will of man is powerless unless strengthened by help from above.” And S. Victor of Antioch, “Man’s promptitude is worthless for withstanding graver temptations, if heavenly aid be wanting.”
I will smite. The Heb. and Sept. read “smite” in the imperative. The meaning is, however, the same. The Prophets frequently use the imperative for the future by way of apostrophe. “Smite, 0 sword,” that is, “I God will smite Christ, will suffer Him,” i.e., to be smitten. Comp. Isa. vi. 10 with S. Paul, Acts xxviii. 26.
The shepherd. Christ the Shepherd and the Bishop of our souls (1 Pet. ii. 25).
And the sheep shall be scattered, i.e., the Apostles. But God soon brought them together again, that Christ might find them joined in one body, and restore them their faith and courage. For having no homes of their own, they naturally betook themselves to the upper chamber, where they had kept the Passover, that He the master of that house might be again their host and friend, and where, in fact, He soon after appeared to them, and restored their faith. This was Christ’s special favour. He bestowed it on Peter after his threefold denial, when by a look He made him weep bitterly; and on S. John, whom He brought back and placed by His mother near the cross, and commended him to His mother as her son. There can then be no question that they both returned into favour with Christ and were sanctified. Christ foretold this to show that He was God, and that He suffered for man’s redemption, not compulsorily, but willingly; and that when suffering thus “they might not despair,” says S. Hilary, “but might exercise repentance and be saved.”
Ver. 32. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee, “where I will meet you,” says Euthymius. “He mentioned Galilee,” says S. Chrysostom, “to deliver them from fear of the Jews, and induce them the more readily to listen to Him.” It was to keep them from despair.
Ver. 33. Peter answered and said unto Him, Though all should be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended. This was from his vehement love for Christ. “For faith is the ardent affection towards God,” says S. Jerome, “which makes him speak thus.” “For he thinks” (says S. Augustine, de Grat. de lib. Arb. cap. xvii.) “that he can really do that which he feels he wishes.” And yet his sin was threefold—first, in boldly and vehemently contradicting Christ; next, in arrogantly preferring himself to others; thirdly, in too great presumption and reliance on his own strength. He ought to have said, “I believe it can be, nay, that from my weakness it will be so. But do Thou, 0 Lord, strengthen my weakness by Thy grace; support and sustain me, that I fall not into sin.” And our experience is the same. We think that we are strong in faith, in chastity, in patience; but when tribulation assails us we stumble, we are afraid, and speedily fall. The remedy for temptation is the acknowledgment of our own weakness and the imploring Divine strength.
Ver. 34. Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny Me thrice. In Greek α̉παρνήση, abjure Me. Thou wilt do much worse than the others. Thy presumption deserves it. They only fled, thou shalt abjure Me.—The cock crows more loudly in the morning than at midnight. This time, then, is properly the cock-crowing. It was before this cock-crowing that Peter thrice denied Christ. As S. Mark says, “Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny Me thrice.” Thou who art now so eager to confess Me, wilt be more frequent and eager in thy denials this very night than the cock in his crowing. And yet the cock awakes the sleepers to praise God, whilst thou, by thy denial, wilt excite others to revile Me.
Peter, says S. Jerome, made professions from the warmth of his faith, and the Saviour foretold, as God, what would be. And He gives the cock-crowing as a sign to Peter, in order that whenever he hears it he may remember Christ’s prophecy, may penitently acknowledge his sin of denial and presumption, and seek for pardon; as indeed he did. “As God” (so Bede observes), “He foretells the mode, time, moment, and extent of his denial.”
Ver. 35. Peter saith unto Him, Though I should die with Thee, yea will I not deny Thee. Likewise also said they all. To testify their faith, affection, and love towards Him; but in their presumption they sinned in a twofold manner. Thou wilt say, The Apostles believed Christ to be the Son of God, why then did they not believe (nay, clamoured against) Him when He predicted their fall? Why, because they did not attend to Christ’s prediction, but looked rather to their then purpose of heart, which they felt to be so strong that it would be impossible for them to fall away. And consequently regarding Christ’s words not so much a prediction as a test and trial of their purpose and love, they thought that in this time of trial their affection towards Him should be boldly and resolutely manifested. “Peter,” says S. Hilary, “was so carried forward by his affection and love for Christ, as to take no account of his own natural weakness, nor the belief he should have in the Lord’s words.” But even though they believed Christ’s prediction, yet they were free to deny Him, because neither did the prediction itself nor their belief in it take away their liberty, but rather presupposed it. For Christ predicted their defection because they would certainly forsake Him; but they did not forsake Him because He foretold they would do so. Objectively their future defection was prior to Christ’s foreknowledge and prediction, for Christ only foresaw that which they would do as free agents, and accordingly imposed not on them any necessity of denying Him, since His prediction was objectively subsequent.
But thou wilt maintain, If Peter, believing Christ’s words, had persuaded himself that he would certainly deny Christ that very night, he could not have but done it; because this persuasion and belief would have determined his mind, and bound him to do so. For no one can effectually strive against that which he knows will certainly happen by his own agency. The attempt would be vain. He regards and shrinks from it as impossible; for he knows that this and nothing else would happen, whatever his efforts. But, I reply, this persuasion would have inclined and in some measure have determined Peter to deny Christ, but yet only in a general way, that he would deny Him some time in the night, but not at that particular moment or occasion, or before such and such people. All his particular acts then would have been free. And in like manner that knowledge, that we cannot avoid all venial sins, obliges us to fall into them at some time or another. But yet only generally, and in a confused way. For as often as we commit this or that venial sin, we sin of free choice. Theologians, and Suarez in his treatise on Hope, teach us that if a man’s damnation were revealed to him, he could not possibly effectually hope for eternal life, as already apprehending it to be impossible (for no one can attempt what he thinks impossible). But yet he both ought and can observe God’s commands, and that as often as he transgresses he would do so freely and sinfully, even though he is generally aware that he would fall into, and die in, some mortal sin. This fall of Peter and the rest made them more humble and cautious. See John xxi. 15, 21, 22.
Ver. 36. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, &c. Gethsemane is the valley of oil or fatness, or more precisely, the oil-press, for pressing the oil from the olives which grew on Mount Olivet. It was somewhat more than half an (Italian) mile from the cœnaculum (upper chamber). Christ withdrew there—(1) for retirement and prayer, and to be free from distraction; (2) to show that He did not fly from death, but rather sought for it, for the place was well known to the traitor; and (3) to show that He suffered out of pure love and compassion for men. For oil is the type of compassion; and as oil was in that spot pressed from the olives, so in His agony was the Blood of Christ pressed forth, with which we are refreshed as with oil, are anointed and are fed. See Cant. i. 3.
Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. That is, in the garden, about a stone’s throw distant. See John xviii. 1; Luke xxii. 41. Adrichomius describes the hut of S. Pelagia the penitent and the tomb of the Blessed Virgin as close by, and above it Mount Olivet, the place of the ascension; humility and exaltation being fitly associated together, as is oft the case with God’s elect. To speak accurately, Christ neither prayed nor suffered His agony in Gethsemane, but in the garden close by; and He began His Passion in a garden as expiating the sin of Adam, which was committed in a garden. For he ruined therein himself and all his descendants, and subjected them to sin, death, and hell. And all these did Christ expiate in a garden by the agony He there endured. As in the Canticle, “I raised thee up under the apple tree: there was thy mother defiled: there was she violated that bare thee” (Cant. viii. 5). Christ therefore in the garden restored us to Paradise, from which we had been expelled by Adam, and planted there the garden of His Church, verdant with the anguish of mortification, the saffron of charity, the spikenard of humility, the lilies of virgins, the roses of martyrs, the chaplets of doctors; for “a garden enclosed is my sister, a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed. Thy sendings forth (shoots) are of Paradise” (Cant. iv. 12, 13).
Ver. 37. And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, &c. He took only these three to be witnesses of His sorrow and agony, lest the other Apostles should be troubled and scandalised thereby. Moreover, Christ most relied on these three as His special intimates, and also because it was but fitting that they who had seen the glory of His transfiguration should contemplate His agony, and learn that the way to glory is through agony and suffering, and that the way of Calvary and the Cross leads to the Mount and glory of Tabor.
And began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Of His own free will, and not by compulsion. He began to be so sore distressed as to be almost lifeless and beside Himself. “My soul is exceeding sorrowful,” He says, “even unto death.” S. Luke calls it “an agony,” like those who are at the last struggle with death. Vulg. in Mark reads “fœdet,” for sorrow makes a man weary of life. S. Mark adds, to be stupefied (ε̉κθαμβείσθαι), for excessive fear has this effect, as a lion stupefies other animals with its roar. Note, first, that Christ had true sorrow. For though from the moment of His conception He enjoyed the vision of God, as hypostatically united to Him, and thus enjoyed the highest happiness, He was yet supremely sorrowful, God supernaturally enlarging the capacity of His soul, that it might experience the highest joy and the deepest sorrow at the same time. This is the general opinion of theologians, though Melchior Canus (de Locis xii. 14) says that the joy naturally arising from the sight of God was suspended while He was but a sojourner, in order that He might feel sorrow. (See S. Thomas, p. iii. q. 46, art. 8, and Suarez, p. 111, q. 18, Disp. 38, sect. 8.) Christ was both on His journey and had reached the end (viator et comprehensor). In the one character He was full of sorrow, in the other full of joy. But even when on the way He had both the greatest joy and the greatest sorrow in His Passion. He was sorrowful in His lower nature, since it was painful; He rejoiced in His higher nature, since it was the will of God, and ordained for man’s salvation.
2. This sorrow was not only “in His feelings, but also in His will (at least in its lower part), which naturally regards that which is for itself good as life and death, and hates the contrary. This is clear from His own prayer, “Father, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” He naturally wished to he saved from death. As in Luke, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”
3. The primary cause of His sorrow was not the flight of His Apostles, which He foresaw, but the vivid apprehension of His approaching Passion and death, as is plain from His prayer, “Let this cup pass from Me.” For Christ foresaw all the torments, one by one, which the Jews would inflict on Him, and fully entered into and weighed the magnitude and bitterness of His several sorrows, so as to seem to be already suffering them, even to the shedding of His blood. For Christ doubtless wished to atone by His sorrow for the pleasure which Adam had in eating the forbidden fruit, and which sinners now experience in their sins.
There were, moreover, other grounds of sorrow, which He experienced in the highest degree from the very moment of His conception to His death. First, the sins of all men, which He undertook to atone for, and thus make satisfaction for the injury done to His Father. For the soul of Christ saw them all in God, and manifested for them the greatest sorrow and compunction, as though they had been His own. For He saw how great was their gravity, how the majesty of God was offended, and consequently what wrong had been done to Him. All which elicited condign and commensurate sorrow. So He says Ps. xxii. 1.
2. The second was His foreseeing all the pains which martyrs, confessors, virgins, married people also would suffer in their several ways. Prelates too and pastors in governing the faithful; the faithful in withstanding the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. All which sorrows Christ generally and severally mentally took upon Him, that by His sorrow He might obtain for them from God the Father grace and strength to bear and overcome them all. For He loves His children as Himself, and feels for their affliction. See Matt. xxv. 35, 40.
3. The third was the ingratitude of men. For He foresaw that His Passion would be of use to but very few, and that the many would be lost through their own negligence and ingratitude. As the poet sings,-
“’Tis not my grief, ’tis love; my only pain
Is that to thousands ’twill be all in vain.”
4. The fourth was the affliction of His mother; for the sorrows of the Son pierced, as a sword, the soul of the mother, and from her were reflected on Christ. For His greatest sorrow was that His mother suffered so grievously on His account. All other sorrows Christ suppressed and overcame, manifesting this only to His disciples. Now, observe this sorrow of Christ was not by compulsion, or involuntary, so as to prevent the exercise of reason, but was freely undergone by Christ. Whence theologians say that in Christ were not passions, but their first suggestions (propassiones);3 for all His affections resulted from the ordering of His reason and His own free choice. For to this all the inferior powers were perfectly subjected, both in Adam and in Christ. For original righteousness, which was in Christ as in Adam before his fall, required this. See S. Augustine, de Civ. xiv. 9, and Damascene (de Fid. iii. 23). Nothing was compulsory in Christ, for of His own will He hungered, was fearful, and was sad.
5. S. Luke adds, that He sweated blood, and was comforted by an angel; while Isaiah (liii. 3) calls Him a man of sorrows.
But the final and moral grounds of this were manifold. S. Chrysostom gives as the 1st: “To show that He took on Himself true flesh, He endures human sufferings.” So Jerome and Origen; and S. Leo (Serm. vii. de Pass.) says, He was despised in our humility, made sad with our sadness, and crucified with our pain.” 2nd S. Gregory (Mor. xxiv. 17), “As His death was approaching, He set forth in His own person our struggles of mind, for we fear greatly the approach of death.” The 3rd S. Ambrose sets forth (in Luke xxii. 44), “In no point do I more admire the tenderness and Majesty of Christ than in this, which most men dread. He would have done much less for me had He not taken on Himself my feelings; He took on Him my sorrow, that He might now give me joy. I confidently make mention of His sorrow, for I preach the Cross. He was obliged to endure pain, that He might conquer. Insensibility wins not the praise of fortitude. But He wished to instruct us to overcome the sorrow of coming death, and perhaps He was sad because, after the fall of Adam, death was a necessity, and again because He knew that His persecutors would have to pay the penalty of their monstrous sacrilege.” And again, “Thou smartest not for Thine own wounds, but for ours; not for Thine own death, but for our infirmity.” S. Athanasius (de Cruce) writes thus elegantly, “Christ descended to win for us our ascension; was born that we might be reconciled to the unborn Father; was made weak for our sakes, that we might be raised up by His strength, and say with S. Paul, I can do all things through Jesus Christ that strengtheneth me. He assumed a corruptible body, that the corruptible might put on incorruption; a mortal body, that mortality might put on immortality. Lastly, He became man, and died, that we men might by dying become gods, and no longer have death reigning over us.” 4th The fourth was to mitigate the dread of death, which was inflicted as a punishment for Adam’s sin, and turn it into joy and the hope of attaining a better life. Christ then obtained for the martyrs exemption from pain and fear in their grievous torments, and caused them to undergo them willingy, and even to rejoice in them. “Christ came,” says S. Chrysostom, “to bear our infirmities, and to give us His strength. And again, Christ by His agony enabled His faithful ones not to fear death, but patiently and even joyfully to meet it from their hope in the resurrection, saying with Hosea and S. Paul, as triumphing over death, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Cor. xv. 55).
5th The fifth was to cure by His sorrow our sloth, weakness, fear, &c. As Isaiah (liii. 4) says, “Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” And accordingly our best remedy in all these trials is to look at Christ in His agony, that by the pattern and merits of the agony He endured in the garden He may heal our sorrow. As S. Leo (Serm. iv. de Pass.) says, “He healed our weaknesses by partaking them, and drove away the fear of suffering punishment by undergoing it Himself: our Lord trembled with our fear, that He might take on Himself our weakness, and robe our weakness with His strength.” It was, again, to remove the dread of difficulty, which occurs in every virtuous act. For this dread keeps many back from virtue and holiness. Whenever, therefore, any difficulty or temptation assails, let us strengthen ourselves by meditating on the agony of Christ; for if He overcame His by the struggle and bloody sweat, we ought also to overcome ours by manly resistance. See Heb. xii. 1.
Christ then taught us to fight against our passions with reason and judgment, especially our sloth, sadness, and anxiety. Calvin and Beza here impiously and unlearnedly accuse Christ of timidity, inconstancy, and vacillation, as being indeed more cowardly than the martyrs; rather He not only willingly underwent these sufferings, but brought them of His own accord on Himself, that He might by His bold struggle overcome them in Himself, and subdue them also in us. For, as S. Augustine says, “Christ was troubled when exercising His power, and not in His weakness” [John xi. 33]
Ver. 38. Then saith He unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with Me. I am as sorrowful from the lively apprehension of My sufferings and death, as if I were now dying; I seem to be lifeless with sorrow and dread. My pain well-nigh takes away My life and breath. It is not My flesh, but My soul, which is so very sad, for sorrow penetrates the inmost parts of My soul, and cuts it in sunder as a sword. “The waters have come in even to My soul,” Ps. lxix. 1. I am but the smallest point removed from death, so that the slightest addition to My sorrow would crush Me, and take away My life. Consider with what feeling of sorrow and love Christ spake these words,—His pathos, His look, His voice, His countenance,—Tarry ye here. Wait and behold Me here, deeply sorrowing and praying in the agony of death, both as witnesses of My sorrow, and to learn from Me in every tribulation to betake yourselves to prayer; so that thus watching ye may be some solace to Me in My affliction. But it is not so; for sorrow hath overwhelmed you, and forces you to sleep. Whence Christ complains (Ps. lxix. 21), “I waited for some to have pity on Me, but there was no man, neither found I any to comfort Me.” Christ from the vehemence of His love wished to pass through His unmitigated and wondrous Passion without any consolation or consoler. He wished to drain the chalice of gall and bitterness unmixed with the sweetness of honey, both in order that His redemption should be plenteous, and for an example of heroic virtue. For Christ manifested in His Passion the most perfect acts of heroic virtue. And He Himself was therein a prodigy of humanity; for though “He was in the form of God . . . He became obedient as far as unto death, even the death of the Cross,” Phil. ii. 8. He was also therein a prodigy of patience, fortitude, and of charity; for “greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John xv. 13). But Christ laid down His for His enemies (Rom. v. 8).
Ver. 39. And He went a little farther, and fell on His face. For a few steps, that He might pray in secret, and yet be seen and heard by them. By this prostration He manifested His extreme suffering, gave a striking example of humility, and the highest reverence to God the Father. Again, to set forth the heavy burden of our sins, which He had taken upon Him, and present Himself to the Father in our stead as though guilty and penitent, and submit Himself entirely to chastisement, I surrender Myself, He says, to Thee, 0 Father, as guilty, in the place of men. I give up Myself entirely to Thee, and present to Thee the punishment due to them. I offer My back to the scourger, My head to the crown of thorns, My hands and feet to the nails, and My entire body to the cross. Wound and crucify Me, that man may be spared and received back into Thy favour.
And prayed, saying. For as man He in a true and proper sense prayed to the Father, yea, even to Himself as God. On the spot where He prayed a church was erected, and the marks of His footsteps were said by Baronius to be still there.
0 My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me. Absolutely this was possible, but it was impossible according to God’s decree that man was to be redeemed by Christ’s death. Christ knew this, and therefore did not wish for it absolutely, and asks for nothing contrary to His own and the Father’s will. But He merely expresses His natural shrinking from death, His ineffectual and conditionated will, and yet freely submitted Himself to the contrary will of God, that He should die.
Let this cup pass from Me. Calvin here accuses our Lord of hastiness, forgetfulness, ignorance, darkness of mind, inconstancy, and opposition to the Divine will—in fact, ascribing to Him sin. But, as I before observed, Christ took all this upon Him voluntarily, yet in accordance with the will of God. His first act was subordinated to the latter act, and was therefore regulated and ordered by right reason; for nothing in Christ could be disordered and out of place. Reason, then, and the higher nature were justly unwilling that His inferior nature should feel sorrow and horror of death, as stated above. 2. S. Jerome understands by the “cup,” the sin of the Jews. I pray, 0 Father, that I may not suffer at the hand of the Jews, my kinsmen. For in killing Me they commit a most awful crime, and will be punished most severely in hell. But this is too restricted a meaning.
3. The full and adequate meaning is, that this cup of suffering should pass away, even though Thou hast decreed that I should drink it to the dregs; and thus (as Origen says) it should pass away from Himself, and the whole race of mankind.
4. S. Catharine of Sienna offered two other explanations, which she said were revealed to her by Christ. The first, that Christ most eagerly thirsted for this cup, to manifest His love to the Father, and to effect our redemption. He wished to die and suffer immediately. His love admitted not any delay. I wish the cup to pass away, and that I may return at once to Thee. This was the prayer of His spirit, though in His flesh He dreaded death. The two meanings are compatible. But why did He not effect His wish? It was (1) in order to give the martyrs an example of longing for the Cross; (2) Because so many would be unthankful for His Passion, and would die in their sins; and as this was His greatest sorrow, He prays that this “cup” might be taken away, and that all might be saved. But yet He chose to conform Himself to His Father’s will, “Not My will,” &c. So S. Catharine, not taking it literally, but expressing the holy and ardent affection of Christ.
Symbolically: S. Hilary says, “Christ took all our infirmities and nailed them to the Cross, and therefore that cup could not pass away from Him without His drinking it, for we cannot suffer except through His Passion.” May that cup, 0 Father, pass over to My own followers, that when enduring My suffering they may experience also through My gift My strength and power to endure.
S. Bernard (Serm. x. in Cant.) piously and wisely remarks, “The cup Thou didst drink, the mark of our redemption, makes Thee above all things lovely. It is this which readily claims our entire love. It both more tenderly attracts our devotion, more justly demands it, binds us to Thee the more firmly, and affects us the more vehemently. For great was the Saviour’s labour, greater than in the work of creation. For He spake and it was done. But here He had those who contradicted His words, watched His actions, jested at Him in His torments, and reproached Him in His death. Behold how He loved! Learn thou, 0 Christian, from Christ Himself, how to love Him. Learn to love Him sweetly, wisely, and firmly: sweetly, that we may not be allured away; wisely, that we be not deceived; and firmly, that we may not by force be drawn away from the love of the Lord,” &c.
Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt. Here it is plain, as against the Monothelites, that there are two wills in Christ: not only the Divine, to supply the place of the human will, as they said, but the will He had as man, by which He obtained our redemption. The Sixth Synod (Acts 4 and 10) proves that there were in Him two wills, and that the human was by obedience subject to the Divine; and this on the authority of SS. Athanasius, Augustine, Ambrose, and Leo. Nay, rather, though the human will was in itself one, yet in its power and action it was twofold, the one natural, with which it shrank from death; the other rational and free, with which He subjected Himself to the will of God. “Nevertheless, not what I will” naturally, “but what Thou wilt.” By My reasonable will I subject My natural will to Thee, 0 Father, and only will what Thou willest. And, accordingly, the natural will of Christ was conditional and of no avail, because it wished to escape death only under the condition that it pleased God. But His rational will was absolute and effectual, because He embraced death for the same reason that God willed it, that is, for man’s redemption. But the natural will of Christ seemed materially contrary to the Divine will. But by the rule of subordination it was conformable to it, as suffering itself to be guided by the rational will, and thus by the Divine will; and, on the other hand, the will of God, as well as the rational will of Christ, wishes on deliberate and just ground that His natural will should express this natural fear of death. In both aspects, therefore, was the will of Christ in all respects conformable to the Divine. Christ here teaches us, as a moral duty, that our sole remedy in affliction is submission to the Divine will, and that in every temptation we must betake ourselves to the aid of God, who alone can free us from them or strengthen us under them if we submit ourselves humbly, reverently, and lovingly to His will. “This voice of the Head,” says S. Leo, “is the salvation of the whole body; It taught the faithful, it inspired confessors, it crowned the martyrs. For who could overcome the hatred of the world, the whirlwinds of temptations, the terrors of persecution, had not Christ in all and for all said in submission to His Father, Thy will be done?”
Ver. 40. And He cometh to His disciples and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? To gain some consolation, little though it were, and also as having care for His people; thus teaching bishops and pastors to do the like, and to break off prayer in order to visit them. They were sleeping for sorrow, and He speaks to Peter as the head of the rest, and as having so boldly professed his allegiance to Christ.
But observe how gently and tenderly He reproves them. He does not reproach them with their grand promises; but He merely says, “Could ye not?” Ye wished indeed to watch, but I attribute your sleep not to your will, but to your weakness: arouse yourselves, overcome your infirmity, shake off sleep.
Mystically: “He signified,” says S. Irenæus, “that His Passion is the awakening of sleepers.”
Ver. 41. Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. Of denying and forsaking Me for fear of the Jews. If my dangers move you not, may your own do so. There hangs over you the great temptation of denying Me; watch and pray to overcome it. “The more spiritual a man is,” says Origen, “the more anxious should he be lest his great goodness should have a great fall.” Watchfulness and prayer are the great means of foreseeing and overcoming the arts of devils and men.
Enter into temptation. Be not ensnared, as birds in a net and fishes with a hook. Not to be tempted is often not in our own power, nor is it God’s will for us. He wills we should be tempted, to try our faith, to increase our virtue, and to crown our deserts. But we must not enter into temptation, so that it should occupy, possess, and rule over us. So Theophylact and S. Jerome.
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. I know your readiness in spirit, but your weakness in the flesh. By the flesh is meant our natural feelings, which shrink from suffering and death. Pray, therefore, that your weak flesh may not enfeeble your spirit and compel it to deny Me; but may God by His grace so strengthen both your spirit and your flesh, that ye may not only be ready, but strong to overcome all adversities, so that for My sake ye may eagerly wish for death, and bravely endure it. “The more, therefore,” says S. Jerome, “we trust to the warmth of our feelings, the more let us fear for the weakness of the flesh.” Some understand (less suitably) by “spirit” the devil, by the “flesh” man. That is, the devil is powerful to tempt, man is feeble to resist. Origen, moreover, observes “the flesh of all is weak, but it is only the spirit of the saints which is ready to mortify the deeds of the flesh.” S. Mark adds, “And they knew not what to answer, for they were struck down by their grief, and oppressed with sleep, and had neither sense nor understanding.”
Ver. 42. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, 0 My Father, if this cup may not pass away unless 1 drink it, Thy will be done. S. Mark says that He used the same words as before. But S. Matthew omitted the first part of the prayer as without efficacy or meaning, and in order to insist on the latter part in which the whole force of the passage consists, and set it forth for our imitation. For Christ absolutely wished and prayed to drink the cup of His Passion, which was decreed and destined for Him by the will of God. For He plainly and expressly asked that the will of God might be fulfilled in Him in and through all things.
Ver. 43. And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. With sorrow and watching, and afterwards with sleep. “For,” says S. Chrysostom, “it was a wild night,” adding that “Christ did not reprove them, since their weakness was great.”
Ver. 44. And He left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, using the same words. 1st To show the intensity of His sorrow; for, as S. Luke says, He sweated blood, and an angel comforted Him. But this was only when He prayed the third time, and not the first and second time, as Jansen maintains. 2nd To teach us that if God hears us not in our first prayer, we should pray more frequently and fervently, till He hears us, and we obtain our request. Perseverance crowns the work, in prayer especially. And if Christ was not heard in His first and second prayer, what wonder if we are not heard at once? Let us persevere, and we shall gain the fruit of our prayer, strengthening, calming of sorrow, and power of mind to withstand and overcome our trials.
Symbolically: 1. Remigius says, “He prays thrice for the Apostles, and especially for Peter, who was about to deny Him thrice.” 2. Rabanus says “that He prayed thrice, in order that we should ask pardon for past sins, protection in present, and caution in future perils; that we should direct all our prayers to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and that our body, soul, and spirit should be preserved blameless.” 3. S. Augustine (Quæst. Evang. in loc.) says, “It is not unreasonable to conclude that our Lord prayed thrice, in consequence of our temptation being threefold. For as the temptation of desire is threefold, so also is the temptation of fear. The fear of death is opposed to the desire of curiosity. For as in the one there is the desire of knowledge, so in the other is the fear of losing it. But to the desire for honour or praise there is opposed the fear of disgrace and contumely, and to the desire of pleasure there is opposed the fear of pain.”
Ver. 45. Then cometh He to His disciples, and saith unto thein. Being after His third prayer strengthened by an angel, He resumed His former courage and spirit, and nobly composed Himself to meet His Passion (see on Luke xxii. 41).
Sleep on now, and take your rest. S. Chrysostom and others suppose that this was said ironically. This is no time for sleeping in our moment of extreme peril; rouse yourselves now, if ever.
But S. Augustine (de Cons. Evan. iii. 4), and Bede after him, suppose that Christ spoke seriously, and in compassion for them granted them a little longer rest. “Sleep on for the short time that remains till Judas arrives.”
Behold, the hour has arrived. Fixed from eternity by the Father, and decreed for My Passion and death.
And the Son of Man is betrayed, i.e., is about to be betrayed into the hands of sinners—sinners in a special manner, such as Judas and the Jews who were raging against Him. For there was no nation more wicked at that time, and therefore Christ had resolved to be born and die at that very time, in order that He might suffer more atrocious cruelties from such a people. His supreme goodness resolved to do battle with their consummate malice, in order that He might crush in them, as its head, the malice of all men, subject it to Himself, and convert it into goodness. The divine clemency and power of Christ were equally manifested in converting to Himself and making saints of those self-same wicked Jews, by Peter and the other apostles.
Ver. 46. Rise, let us be going: behold, he hath come who will betray Me. He bids them rise, not in order to fly with Him, but to go forth to meet Judas. It is hence clear that Christ was heard in His last prayer; that, comforted of God by the angel, He had thrown off His sadness and sorrow, and went forth to meet Judas and the death of the cross with great and noble resolution. “For,” as Origen says, “He saw in the spirit Judas the traitor drawing nigh, though he was not yet seen by the disciples.” “He therefore in every way teaches His disciples,” says S. Chrysostom, “that this was not a matter of necessity or of weakness, but of a certain incomprehensible dispensation, for He foresaw that they were coming, and so far from flying, He went forth to meet them.”
Christ in thus going forth, as indeed in the whole of His Passion, left three points most worthy of notice. 1st His innocence in boldly going forth to meet His enemies. 2nd His majesty, forethought, and power, wherewith as God He orders and foretells the approach of His enemies, and so moderates their fury that they could do no more than He permitted and foreordained. 3rd The readiness with which He voluntarily met Judas, to show that it was not from weakness or unwillingness, but with the highest dignity, condescension, and generous love that He suffered and died for us. “Rise, let us be going,” to meet Judas; and, as S. Jerome says, “let us go of our own accord to death.”
Morally: Christ here teaches us to arouse ourselves, and go forth to meet our sufferings. It is the act of an heroic mind to weaken by its own resolution the force of any imminent evil, and by voluntarily embracing it to overcome and subdue it. Great evils are more easily overcome by a great mind than minor evils by a small one. As says the poet, “Yield not to trials; boldly go to meet them, as a lion shuts its eyes when rushing on its foes” (Plin. N.H. viii. 16). The cross therefore pursues those who fly from it, and flies those who seek for it As is said of honour.
Ver. 47. And while He yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve came, &c. This is more fully set forth, John xviii 2. The truth of His prediction and foreordaining was thus made good. He so interwove Judas’ sin and His Passion, that the whole action appeared to be partly permitted and partly ordained by Him.
Lo, Judas, one of the twelve. Lo is an expression of wonder. An unheard-of portent, a stupendous crime, that one of the Apostles was not only a thief and robber, but the traitor, and the leader of those who killed Christ! “He went before them,” says S. Luke.
A great multitude: of Roman soldiers, high priests’ servants, &c.
Staves: tipped with iron, as spears, &c., or not so tipped, as clubs. Observe here the folly and madness of Judas and the Jews. He knew that He was a very great prophet, nay, the Son of God, who could not be overcome by force, as the Jews well knew, and yet, maddened with avarice and fury, they bring armed men to use violence towards Him, to seize and bind Him. Dost thou wish, 0 Judas, to bind God, to seize the Almighty, to fight, 0 petty men, against your Creator, and compel Him to give Himself into your hands? “It was avarice,” says S. Chrysostom, “which inspired him with this madness, avarice which makes all its slaves cruel and fierce; for if the covetous man neglect his own salvation, what will he care for another?
Ver. 48. Now he that betrayed Him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He: hold him fast. Lest He escape, as He did at other times. “And lead Him away carefully,” adds S. Mark. For Judas was afraid lest Christ should escape by changing His shape, and that He should thus lose the thirty pieces of silver, which were not as yet given, but only promised.
Gave them a sign. That the Roman soldiers might know him. For it was night. And perhaps, as some moderns suggest, from His likeness to S. James the Less, His kinsman.
I shall kiss. Origen mentions a tradition that Christ had two countenances, one natural, the other assumed at will, as at His transfiguration, and that Judas gave this sign for fear Christ should alter His appearance, so as not to be recognised. But this is a gratuitous assumption, and not to the point, for Judas was not present at the Transfiguration; and even had he been there, he might reasonably fear that Christ might render Himself invisible, as He knew He had done at other times. The true reason is as given above.
Ver. 49. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed Him. Judas knew from Christ’s words at the Last Supper that he and his treachery were known to Christ; but yet, in order to hide it from the other Apostles, he pretends to give Christ the usual mark of friendship and reverence. It was the ancient mode of salutation. The Apostles probably saluted Christ in this manner, when returning back to Him from some other place. The early Christians also used to salute each other in the same way (see Tert. de Orat., and 1 Cor. xvi. 20). But Judas most wickedly misused this token of friendship for the purpose of betrayal, being persuaded (says S. Chrysostom) that Christ in His gentleness would not reject his kiss, and that if He rejected it, the sign would yet have been given. S. Victor of Antioch says, “The unhappy man gave the kiss of peace to Him against whom he was laying deadly snares.” “Giving,” says pseudo-Jerome, “the sign of the kiss with the poison of deceit.” Moreover, though Christ felt deeply, and was much pained at His betrayal by Judas, yet He refused not his kiss, and gave him a loving kiss in return. 1. “That He might not seem to shrink from treachery” (S. Ambrose in Luke xxi. 45), but willingly to embrace it and even greater indignities, for our sake. 2. To soften and pierce the heart of Judas (S. Ambrose, ibid.); and 3. To teach us to love our enemies and those whom we know would rage against us (S. Hilary). For Christ hated not, but loved the traitor, and grieved more at his sin than at His own betrayal, and accordingly strove to lead him to repentance. Just as the spark of fire is elicited from the steel, so was Christ’s latent love elicited by His blows and sufferings. His love was pre-eminent through the whole of His Passion.
Ver. 50. And Jesus said unto Him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? If thou comest to betray Me, why givest thou Me this friendly kiss? But if thou comest as a friend, why bringest thou so many enemies against Me? “Thou kissest Me,” says S. Augustine, “and layest snares for Me. Thou pretendest to be a friend, though thou art a traitor.” Hence Luke adds that Christ said, “Judas, why betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss?” And such words, full of majesty and love, ought to have wounded his stony heart, unless he had hardened it like iron.
It was a wondrous instance of Christ’s gentleness and patience, that He tolerated Judas for three years, and deprived him not of his Apostolate, or disclosed to any one his sin. Teaching us to overcome our wrongs by love.
The Saints in this matter imitated Christ, S. Martin especially in his treatment of Brice, one of his clerks, who was constantly calumniating him. And when blamed for it, he said, “Christ bore with Judas the traitor, and should not I bear with Brice my calumniator?” By this gentleness he so won upon him, that he amended his ways, became a Saint, and succeeded S. Martin as Bishop, as S. Martin had foretold (Sulp. in Vit. S. Martin).
The passage, John xviii. 4, should here come in, in the regular course of the narrative. To harmonise S. John with the other Evangelists the order of the history is as follows:—Judas preceded the crowd by a few steps, so as not to seem to be one of them; and then, when he had kissed Christ, he drew back into the crowd again, and when Jesus boldly confronted the crowd, Judas was standing with them. Jesus thus boldly asked them, “Whom seek ye?” and on Jesus saying that He was Jesus of Nazareth whom they were seeking, they were thunderstruck, and fell to the ground; not on their faces, but backward, so as to make it clear that they were struck down by His power. He allowed them, however, to rise up again, and on their saying again that they were seeking Christ, He replied, “I told you that I am He; if, therefore, ye seek Me, let these go their way,” showing that He cared more for them than for Himself.
Observe (with S. Chrysostom and S. Cyril) that the eyes of the soldiers were miraculously blinded, so that they could not discern, and much less lay hold on Christ. (S. Augustine thinks otherwise.) They gather this from the reply, “We seek Jesus of Nazareth,” as though they knew not it was He. S. Chrysostom and others suppose that even Judas did not recognise Him. But he seems to have withdrawn rather from horror at his crime. For Christ cut him off from the Apostolic band, “Begone, 0 traitor; thou art not worthy of the companionship of Me and Mine,” and then struck him and the whole band to the earth. This was the first miracle which Christ wrought when He was seized, to manifest His Divine majesty and omnipotence, and that the Jews might learn that they would have come in vain against Him with the armed band, had not He given Himself gracefully and willingly into their hands. The Sodomites were struck with a like blindness (Gen. xix. 11). “Seest thou His surprising power, that though standing in their midst He struck them blind?” says S. Chrysostom and S. Cyril. “The divine power of Christ shone forth in that, though He presented Himself to those who sought Him, He was not recognised.” Symbolically S. Augustine in John xviii. The eternal day was so hid by human form,4 as to be sought for with lanterns and torches, in order to be slain by the darkness.
2. His second miracle was His striking them to the ground by the single word, “I am He.” “That word, ‘I am He,’ struck them down like a thunderbolt,” says S. Leo. “Where was their cruel conspiracy? where their glowing anger? where their array of weapons? The Lord saith, I am He, and at His voice the multitude of the ungodly falls prostrate. What will His Majesty do hereafter in judgment, when His humility, though about to be judged, had such power?”
Though “I am He” means only “He whom ye seek,” yet Rupertus explains it, “I am that I am” (Exod. iii.). And S. Jerome (Ep. cxl. ad Principium) thinks that Christ struck down these guards with the heavenly splendour of His countenance, for otherwise the Apostles would not have followed Him, nor would those who came to lay hold on Him have fallen to the earth.
Allegorically: This fall of Judas and his followers signified the comparable fall of the Jews, who would be obstinate in their unbelief, and well-nigh incapable of salvation. “Their fall is an image of all those who oppose Christ.” S. Cyr. Alex. in John xviii. and S. Augustine in loc. “Where is now the band of soldiers, the terror and defence of weapons? A single word, without a weapon, struck down, smote, laid prostrate that crowd, fierce in hatred and terrible in arms. For God was veiled in flesh. What will He do when He comes in judgment, who wrought this when He came to be judged?
Tropologically: Here is represented the fall of the reprobate, for they fall on their back so that they cannot arise; but when the elect sin, they fall on their face, because they are soon touched by God, and rise up in penitence. “We fall on our face,” says S. Gregory (Hom. viii. in Ez.), “because we blush for our sins, which we remember to have committed.” And also (Mor. xiii. 10), “To fall on the face is for every one to acknowledge his own faults in this life, and to bewail them with penitence. But to fall on the back, where we cannot see, is to depart suddenly out of life, and to know not to what punishment we are brought.”
Again, “The righteous fall on their face, as looking on those things that are before; but sinners fall on their back, as seeking for those things which are behind and pass away, and are soon gone.” “For everything which passes away,” says S. Gregory (Mor. xxxiii. 23), “is behind, while everything which is coming and is permanent is before.”
3. The third miracle, as S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine remark, was that which He wrought by His all-powerful providence and the efficacy of His word. “Let these go their way,” that the Jews laid hands on none of the disciples. He offered Himself alone to death, as a good shepherd laying down His life for the sheep.
4. The fourth, the instantaneous healing of Malchus’ ear. But how great was their blindness and malice, who, after they had seen so many miracles, dared to lay hands on Him!
Then came they and laid hands on Jesus, and took Him. The order is here inverted, for before they could take Him Peter smote off Malchus’ ear, and it was only when Jesus had healed it that He gave Himself up to be taken and bound.
Ver. 51. And behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched forth his hand, and struck the servant of the high priest. Peter, that is, who was more fervent and resolute than the others. S. Luke adds that he first asked permission from Christ, “Shall we smite with the sword?” but waited not for His answer, and in his zeal for Christ in His imminent danger drew his sword.
A question is raised, what was this sword ? merely a knife (culter), or a military sword (ensis), or an ordinary sword (gladius)? The Fathers are in favour of ensis.5 S. Hilary says that the sword was ordered to be sheathed, because He was about to destroy them with no human sword, but with the word of His mouth (Rev. i. 16, xix. 15). S. Ambrose explains the two swords (Luke xxii. 38) mystically, as the Old and New Testaments, with which we are armed against the wiles of the devil.
But writers on all sides explain these two swords allegorically as the twofold power of the Church, temporal and spiritual (see Extrav. “Unam sanctam” De Majoritate et obedientia). And again by the sword is denoted excommunication, which cuts off a man from the Church.
Many think that Peter intended to kill Malchus, but that God guided the blow so that he merely cut off his ear.
Tropologically: S. Ambrose by this sword understands martyrdom. “There is,” saith he, “the sword of suffering, by which thou canst cast off the body, and purchase for thyself the crown of a martyr by putting off the slough of the body.” Cornelius urges many reasons why it should be a sword, and not merely a knife which S. Peter used, adding that the sword of Peter is still preserved, and exposed to the veneration of the faithful.
A servant of the high Priest, named Malchus (John xviii. 10). S. Peter seems to have attacked him, as being the most bold and forward in assailing Christ.
Cut off his ear. His right ear, say S. John and S. Luke, signifying, as Origen says, that the Jews in reading and hearing Scriptures had lost their right ear, the true understanding of heavenly things
S. Augustine (Contr. Faust. xxii. 70) remarks that Moses, after he had smitten the Egyptian, was made the head of the Synagogue. S. Peter, after mutilating Malchus, was made the head of the Church. Both of them went beyond bounds, not from hateful cruelty, but from blameless impetuosity. For Peter sinned through rashness, for it was without the knowledge, rather6 against the will of Christ that he drew his sword, his sole means of defending Christ against so many armed men, and in cutting off Malchus’ ear he provoked them the rather against Christ. But he showed his ardour and zeal for Christ, blameable as it was; and when this fault had been corrected at Pentecost, he obtained through Him to be the Pastor and Prince of the Church.
Christ by blaming and restraining S. Peter, and by healing Malchus’ ear, manifested most strikingly His power and clemency. Especially since it is a theological dogma (as Paulus de Palatio adds) that when the Lord heals, He heals perfectly. If Christ healed Malchus both in body and mind, what greater proof could there be of charity, what stronger evidence of an undisturbed mind? It is clear from Acts ii. 37 that many of these persecutors of Christ were converted. And what marvel if Malchus were, who had experienced so striking an evidence of Christ’s goodness and power? Christ thus acted that He might furnish no ground for the charge that He had opposed the public ministers of justice, and also to exhibit a pattern of forbearance and gentleness, as He did when He converted Saul into Paul. Mystically, the Gloss says that the wounding and healing of Malchus’ car is the restoration of hearing, when the old man is taken away, for slavery is the old estate, healing is liberty.Ver. 52. Then Jesus saith to him, Put up again thy sword into his place. Christ here reproves Peter’s rashness in drawing his sword against His wish. Peter’s sin, then, was twofold: first in striking against Christ’s wish, and next, because this was an act not so much of defence as of revenge, which did not help to deliver Christ from the soldiers, but rather excited them the more against Him. But Peter, says S. Chrysostom, was hurried on by his eagerness to protect Christ, and did not think of this, but remembered rather His words, that Christ had ordered them to take two swords, inferring that it was for His defence. And accordingly he thought that in striking the servant he was acting according to the mind of Christ, “Let revenge cease, let patience be exhibited,” says the Interlinear Gloss.
For all they that take the sword (without proper authority). To strike, i.e., and wound others. To take the sword by public authority to punish the guilty, or in a just war, is lawful and honest.
Shall perish with the sword. Deserve thus to perish (Gen. ix. 6) (see Aug. Quæst. V. and N. T., cap. civ.). Homicides, moreover, and gladiators very often die violent deaths in war or by casualties (see Act. xxviii. 4).
And Christ here insinuates that the Jews would perish by the swords of the Romans. S. Luke adds that Christ said, “Suffer ye thus far.” “Cease to draw your swords, ye have contended sufficiently,” just as we part two combatants. But Cajetan explains otherwise, “Suffer the Jews to rage against Me, while their hour lasts, and the power of darkness.” Hence Maldonatus and others infer that the other Apostles, when they saw S. Peter’s zeal, wished to fight for Him also, but were forbidden by Christ. For, says S. Ambrose (in Luke xxii.), He who wished to save all by His own wounds, wished not to be saved by the wounding of His persecutors. Whence the motto, “Health by wounds,” which is specially applicable to Christ, by whose stripes we are healed (1 Pet. ii. 24).
Ver. 53. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will give Me more than twelve legions of angels? A second reason for our Lord forbidding Peter to defend Him. I need not thy aid, since I have at My command all the armies of angels, one of whom slew the host of the Assyrians (2 Kings xix. 35). “If one angel,” says S. Chrysostom, “slew so many thousands of armed men, what would twelve legions of them do against one thousand?” He accommodated His discourse to their wish, for they were already half dead with fear. “For Christ Himself as God needed not their aid,” as Origen remarked; “they much rather needed His,” to whom thousands of thousands ministered (see Dan. vii. 10).
Christ is within bounds in speaking as He does. For angels are countless, exceeding the number of all men, past, present and future (see S. Dion. de Cel. Hier. S. Thom. part 1, quæst. 2, art. 3).
Christ here teaches us in every danger to invoke our guardian angels, as most wise, powerful, and full of love for us, as knowing that God orders this to be so. Conf Ps. xci. 11, xxxiv. 7; Gen. xxxii. 1, &c.
Ver. 54. But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus, it must be? And if Scripture foretells My sufferings, “Why do ye oppose it?” says S. Chrysostom. This, then, is the third reason why Christ prohibits His defence by arms. “Though He might have these legions, He was unwilling to have them, in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, that it was fitting He should thus suffer.” For we owe that reverence to the word of God, as not to oppose, but to assent to it and make it good. But thou wilt say, “The Jews then did no sin in killing Christ, because they merely fulfilled the Scriptures.” S. Athanasius (de Cruce) denies the inference. “For they did sin thus boldly against Christ, as fulfilling the words of prophecy, but merely of their own accord, so that the Prophet was not the cause of their acts, but their own free will. Or rather, they themselves caused the Prophets to predict such things of them.” The Jews then perpetrated this sacrilegious murder from their own wickedness and hatred of Christ, and the Prophets only foresaw and foretold it. They did not approve, or order the Jews to do it. But God ordered Christ to bear it all, and thus atone for the sins of men. “ Pleasing the suffering, though the deed displeased.” Hence S. Leo (Serm. 1. de Pass.) says, “We have nothing to thank you for, 0 ye Jews; we owe nought to thee, 0 Judas. For your wickedness promoted our salvation without your will, and that was wrought by you which the hand and counsel of God decreed to be done. That death thus sets us free, but is a charge against you. Ye only justly lose that which ye wished all to lose.” See on Acts ii. 23. 4. The fourth reason is given by S. John (xviii. 11). “The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? God ordained this cup of the Passion from all eternity, and now gives it Me to drink. Shall I not eagerly take it from His hand, and gladly drain it out?” Observe, He had before deprecated it as a very bitter cup of gall, but now, on knowing the Father’s will, He embraces it, as full of honeyed sweetness. For what is sweeter than for Him to obey God, to offer Himself as a holocaust to God, to make Himself a sacrifice to God for the salvation of men? “How sweetly,” says S. Bernard (Serm. ii. in Pent.), “didst Thou hold converse with men! How abundantly didst Thou bestow on them many and great blessings! How boldly didst Thou suffer such indignities and cruelties for men, so as to draw honey from the rock, and oil from the hardest stone!” (Deut. xxxii. 13). Which was hard set against Thy words, harder still at Thy wounds, most hard at the horrors of the Cross; for in all these sufferings He was as a lamb before His shearers, and opened not His mouth (Isa. liii. 7).
Ver. 55. In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out as against a thief, with swords and staves for to take Me? I sat daily with you teaching in the Temple, and ye laid no hold on Me. He had before reproved Peter and the Apostles when they drew their swords; He now reproves still more severely Judas and the Jews who wished to take Him; exhibiting in this way wonderful loftiness, freedom, and calmness of mind. For He said this when He was still free. It was just after He had healed Malchus’ ear. Shame on you, He would say, to come and seize Me by night, as a thief! I am no thief, but publicly taught the Jews in the Temple. Why did ye not seize Me then? I know why you seek to take Me, but I know also that ye were afraid to take Me in the Temple on account of the people. Deal with Me now as you please; I surrender Myself willingly; bind Me, scourge Me at your will, &c. This is your hour, and the power of darkness. And ye therefore fittingly come to seize Me by night, because I am the light of the world, and have openly taught the light of truth in the light of day. But ye as children of darkness shun the light and love darkness, and therefore do ye seize Me in the darkness. So say Bede and Theophylact, and S. Leo (Serm. viii. de Pass.), “The sons of darkness rushed against the true Light, and though using torches and lanterns, yet escaped not the darkness of unbelief, because they knew not the Author of light,” &c.
It is clear from S. Luke that it was after these words that the Jews laid hands on Jesus. The order of events (see ver. 50) is here transposed by S. Matthew, who wished to bring together at one time all that related to the seizure of Christ without regard to the order of time.
Lastly, how cruel and insulting was this seizure of Christ! First, as being seized as a malefactor, though most innocent, and in Himself, as God, boundless and uncreated sanctity. Secondly, in being seized by the vilest of men, and His greatest enemies. Thirdly, in being forsaken by the Apostles. Fourthly, because by these His bonds He wished to loose the most grievous and hard bonds of our sins (see Lam. iv. 20). Fifthly, because He wished in this way to animate Christians and martyrs especially to bear boldly their imprisonment and bonds, as S. Paul did, Eph. iii. 1, and S. Chrysostom in loc. The bonds of many martyrs were cruel, but those of Christ were more cruel still.
This crowd consisted of a thousand soldiers, and also of many attendants and servants of the high priest. See John xviii. 12.
Ver. 56. But all this was done that the Scriptures of the Prophets might be fulfilled. These are the words of the Evangelist, not of Christ. All these indignities were foreordained in the eternal counsel of God, who willed that Christ should take them all on Himself, and suffer for the salvation of man. And He willed also that the Prophets should foretell them.
Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled. As He foretold (ver. 31), they fled because they saw no hope of assisting Him, and were afraid lest they themselves should be seized and evil entreated by the Jews. “They were more ready,” says Bede (in Mark xiv. 49), “to take safety in flight, than to suffer boldly with Christ.” For, as Origen says, “the Spirit was not yet given” (John vii. 39). Was this flight of the Apostles allowable? Some say there was little blame in it, because they inwardly and in their minds clave to Christ, though in outward act they fled, as being no longer able to help Him. They were therefore wise in flying, to avoid the risk of either denying Christ or of suffering hardship. But when they had received at Pentecost the gift of the Holy Spirit, they boldly exposed themselves to every trial. This flight of theirs was defective, as arising from fear and failing in resolution, but not unlawful and wicked.
But others regard it as unlawful, as springing from distrust in Christ, and despairing of His aid, by which act they tacitly denied Christ. The first opinion I said (ver. 31) was the most probable. They sinned therefore venially, as struck down by sudden and excessive fear, and without His command or assent. For having experienced so often Christ’s aid in danger, they ought to have still trusted in it, especially after His recent displays of power. They ought to have sought for His aid, and to have prayed, Lord, help us! what wouldst Thou have us to do? And Christ no doubt would have told them. S. Mark here speaks of the young man who left his linen cloak and fled away naked. Who he was, and why he did so, we shall read in S. Mark.
Ver. 57. But they that had laid hold on Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the High Priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled. S. John mentions that they led Him first to Annas, the father-in-law to Caiaphas. This was out of respect to Annas as the elder, or because he especially wished that Christ should be taken. Whence S. Cyril and F. Lucas think that the price of Judas’ betrayal was paid him there, or because the house of Annas was on the road (see on S. John xviii. 13). For it was in the house of Caiaphas that Christ was first examined, smitten, and denied by S. Peter, as is clear from S. Matthew, S. Mark, and S. Luke; and S. John (xviii. 19) also insinuates the same when he says “that the High Priest questioned Jesus.” For when he says (ver. 24) that Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas, it must be considered an analepsis. For John merely goes back to what he had omitted, for fear any one should conclude from his previous statement that Christ had been examined by Annas and not by Caiaphas. Some transpose ver. 24 and put it in after ver. 13, as S. Cyril does. So Origen, S. Augustine (de Cons. Evang. cap. vi.), Jansen, &c.
Were assembled. He says not “were called together,” for this had been done when Judas requested Caiaphas’ soldiers to take Christ. For it was then that Caiaphas summoned the Scribes and Elders to judge and condemn Him as soon as Judas brought Him before them. For they had conceived a deadly hatred against Christ, and thirsted for His death. “They sat watching all the night in Caiaphas’ house,” says S. Chrysostom.
Ver. 58. But Peter followed Him afar off. Peter alone gathered courage, and partly from curiosity, but more from love of Jesus, followed Him; but yet it was “afar off,” for fear he should be seized by the soldiers, both as a disciple of Jesus, and also as having cut off Malchus’ ear. His flight was a token of fear, his return a token of love overmastering his fear. “Peter,” says S. Ambrose in Luke xxii., “is deserving our highest admiration for not forsaking the Lord even when afraid; his fear was natural, his care for Him was from affection; his fear alien to his nature, his not flying natural; his following Him was from devotion, his denial from surprise.” In Peter, therefore, fear and love struggled together; in the first case love overcame fear, but soon afterwards under heavy temptation fear overcame love, when through fear of the attendants he denied Christ.
Unto the High Priest’s house. That is, Caiaphas.’ This is more fully stated John xviii. 15. The disciple there mentioned was S. John, according to S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius. So Jerome (in Epit. Marc.), and Lyranus, who says that John was known to the High Priest from selling him fishes, or because one of his kindred was a servant of the High Priest, or because he had sold his inheritance to the High Priest (Niceph. i. 28). But it is more likely that it was not one of the Apostles, because they were not known to the High Priest. And, moreover, both Christ and his Apostles were hated by the High Priest, and would not have been admitted into his palace by the servants; more likely would have been taken prisoners. Most probably it was one of His secret disciples, according to the Syriac version.
And went in, and sat with the servants. Not into the house where Jesus was to be examined, but into the court. “He approached not the place where Jesus was,” says S. Jerome, “lest he should be suspected, but sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire,” as the other Evangelists state. Peter erred from imprudence and rashness, for thrusting himself among the servants, and thus exposing himself to the risk of either joining with them in reviling Him, or else of suffering imprisonment and scourging. He therefore shortly afterwards denied Christ. “He that loveth danger shall perish therein” (Ecclus. iii. 26).
To see the end. Whether Christ would be condemned or not, or set Himself free from His peril. If condemned, Peter would have taken refuge in flight; if acquitted, he would have dutifully returned to Him.
Ver. 59. But the Chief Priests and all the Council sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death. Here comes in S. John’s narrative (xviii. 19).
The High Priest “asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine,” as is there said, because, says Euthymius, “he wished to convict Him of introducing strange doctrines, and of stirring up sedition.” For it was the duty of the High Priest to inquire, into heresies and new sects. But Jesus firmly and prudently replied that He had taught openly, and that those who heard His teaching were there present, and though His enemies, could speak to it. Let him ask them what He had taught them. For there is no surer evidence of innocence and sound teaching than that which comes from unfriendly hearers. For had Christ stated His own doctrine, they might have urged that through fear of condemnation He had said one thing in the Council and another in public. “He replied not arrogantly,” says S. Chrysostom, “but as confident in the truth.” Whence He says, “Why askest thou Me?” Why dost thou insidiously and captiously ask Me, thou crafty High Priest, to catch something out of My mouth wherewith to accuse and condemn Me? Thou canst easily learn from the common opinion of the people what I taught them. If thou knowest it not, thou hast not done thy duty as High Priest. And if thou wishest to know it now, ask the bystanders, My enemies, who have often heard Me. Let them produce, if they can, a single untrue or unsound word of Mine. For I know they cannot do so in truth.
But when S. John says “that one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand,” S. Cyril thinks that he was struck with His teaching, and wished to remove this impression by striking Him.
He struck Him on the cheek, as vindicating the honour of the High Priest. Such a blow, inflicted with a mailed hand, was both severe and disgraceful, as appears from the “sacred countenance” which is religiously preserved at S. Peter’s, and exhibited to the people in Passion Week. “What more audacious act?” says & Chrysostom. “Let the Heaven be horrified, let the earth tremble at the patience of Christ and the insolence of His servants.” “Methinks,” says S. Cyril, “the whole universe would have shuddered had it known what it meant: for the Lord of Glory was smitten by the impious hand of a man.” It is a marvel that this hand was not at once shrivelled up, nay, that the earth had not swallowed the man up alive. But the gentleness and love of Christ prevented this, who called him and many of his fellows to repentance (Acts ii. 37). Just as Jeremiah foretold in sorrow, or rather in astonishment, “He will give His cheek to him that smiteth Him. He will be filled full of reproach” (Lam. iii. 30).
Now comes in S. Matthew’s narrative. Finding they could find nothing against Him from those who were there, “they sought false witnesses,” as despairing of finding true testimony, because Christ’s wisdom, truthfulness, and sanctity were fully known to all the people.
That they might deliver Him to death. This was the great end for which they sought for false witnesses as a necessary means, though the sole end of justice is to condemn only on true evidence, and to inflict on false witnesses a correspondent punishment. For they wished for their own credit not to appear men of violence, but impartial judges, and consequently to be proceeding judicially against Him, though they were at the same time both judges and accusers, against every rule of justice and equity. “They craftily devise,” says S. Chrysostom, “the outward form and appearance of justice, disguising their craft under the veil of a trial” (Vict. Ant. on Mark xiv.). Again, they wished Him to be condemned by Pilate, but they knew he would not condemn Him unless the crime were proved by witnesses to be deserving of death. The Chief Priests therefore seek false witnesses against Jesus, the Author of life and Saviour of the world, because, though they knew it not, God had decreed to give us, by His death, life both here and hereafter.
Ver. 60. But found none: yea, Though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. “The wicked men found no semblance of blame in him,” says Origen, “though they were many, astute, and ingenious, so pure and blameless was the life of Jesus.” For the evidence of these witnesses was either false or contradictory, or not to the point, so that He could not be proceeded against as worthy of death.
At last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days. Christ, indeed, had said this (John ii. 19), in answer to their request for a sign that He was sent from God. But they were false witnesses, because, though they spake the truth in part, yet they perverted His words and meaning. For, first, He did not say “I am able to destroy,” but “destroy ye,” i.e., “if ye destroy it.” Next, S. Mark says they added the words “made without hands,” though S. John has nothing of the kind. Next, Christ said not, “I will build it again,” but “I will raise it up.” In like manner they distorted its meaning, for He spake of the temple of His Body, in which the fulness of the Godhead dwelt as in a temple, as S. John added. For when the Jews asked for a sign, Christ gave them the sign of His resurrection. Christ might have plainly said, “I will rise again from the dead.” But He chose rather to make use of the figure of the temple, because in the presence of cavillers He was obliged to speak covertly and symbolically, and also by speaking thus obscurely to furnish occasion for His Passion; for He knew that the Jews, from misunderstanding this obscure saying, would prosecute Him as guilty of death. S. Mark here adds, “But neither so did their testimony agree together.” For however boastful these words of Christ seemed to be, yet they injured no one, and a capital charge could not be founded on them.
Ver. 62. And the High-Priest arose and said, Answerest Thou nothing to those things which they witness against Thee? He arose, as being indignant that He was silent, and slighted this accusation as futile, and confuted it by His silence. Again, he rose up to show the heinousness and gravity of the crime brought against Christ, as though Christ, in speaking thus, had made light of the magnificence and holiness of the temple.
But Jesus held His peace. 1. Because the charge contained nothing worthy of death, and needed not an answer. 2. Because He knew that anything He might answer would be turned into a charge against Him. 3. Because He was fully preparing Himself for the death decreed for Him of the Father, and wished not to escape it by self-excuse. 4. The silence of Christ atoned for Adam’s excuses (Com. on Mark xiv. apud S. Jer.). Christ was silent, in order by His silence to make satisfaction for Adam’s foolish talking.
Ver. 63. And the High Priest said to Him, I adjure Thee by the Living God that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God. I, the High Priest, am the Vicar of God on earth, and therefore by the authority of God committed to me, I call God to witness, and conjure Thee to answer. Caiaphas here touches the essence of the whole matter. Jesus said that He was the Christ, sent with supreme power for the salvation of men. The Chief Priests pertinaciously denied it. He therefore asks the question not for information, but in order to condemn Him. For if He said He were, they condemned Him to death as a blasphemer; but if He said He were not, he would have replied, Why then didst Thou pass Thyself off with the people as Christ the Son of God? and would consequently have condemned Him as a false Prophet, in having made Himself equal with God, as the Jews urged against Him (John v. 19). For the whole ground of their hatred against Him was that He, a man, as it seemed, of low birth, said He was Christ and Son of God, preached accordingly without their sanction, despised their foolish traditions, and publicly and sharply reproved their vices and crimes.
Ver. 64. Jesus saith unto him, thou hast said. Meaning thereby, I am. Christ candidly and clearly replied that He was Christ, both to show reverence to the Divine Name by which He was adjured, and to bestow due honour and obedience to the authority of the High Priest who adjured Him. Says S. Chrysostom, “to take away from them every excuse,” that they might not be able to excuse themselves with men, nor before God in the day of judgment, by saying, We asked Jesus judicially in the Council, but He was either silent or answered ambiguously, wherefore we were not obliged to accept and believe in Him as Christ!
Nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power. After this time, i.e., in the day of judgment. Ye shall see Me then, who now seem to be only the Son of Man, to be truly the very Son of God, when I am seated at the right hand of God, and to be His equal in dignity, majesty, and glory. He alludes to Ps. cx. 1. I am He of whom David sang of old, “The Lord said unto my Lord,” &c. Christ, moreover, not only as God, but as man too, sitteth on the right hand of God, as explained in Col. iii. 1.
The Chief Priests will not strictly and exactly see this in the day of judgment, as being reprobates, and not to be blessed with the sight of God, but to be cursed with the sight of the devil. But indirectly and in effect they will see it. For they will see such great majesty, glory, and splendour, and such a train of angels attending Him, that they will not doubt that He is near to God, nay, God himself, and the Son of God. For they will then experience His omnipotence in glorifying the godly and condemning the ungodly, who here have condemned Him as weak and feeble.
And coming in the clouds of Heaven. Alluding to Dan. vii 13. Behold here, and wonder at His greatness of mind, who though standing in the midst of His enemies, yet threatens them with His coming to judgment. As though He said, Ye now unjustly condemn Me as a false prophet and false Christ, but that day will come when I, who stand at your tribunal, shall be seated as judge. Ye condemn Me now to the death of the Cross; but I, in this very same place (for Christ will sit in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, which is nigh Jerusalem, Joel iii. 2), will condemn you to the eternal torture of hell-fire, because ye committed on My person this awful sacrilege, because ye were the murderers of Christ and of God. And surely it will thus be
Ver. 65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. The garments of the Jews could easily be rent, for they were open at the neck, so as to be readily taken on and off. They could therefore easily take hold of both sides of the opening, and tear them down to the waist (but no farther), in token of grief and indignation. This was usual among the heathen, but especially among the Jews, in grief or when they heard blasphemy against God. (See 2 Kings xix. 1.)
But Caiaphas, being High Priest, tore his garments unlawfully; for “he shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes,” Lev. xxi 10: the reasons for which I have there given. But Caiaphas rent his garment to arouse their ill-will against Jesus, and to expose Him as a blasphemer to general execration. But by this very act he signified symbolically that the old law with its priesthood was rent away by the death of Christ, and that he also was deprived of his Priesthood by Him. So S. Leo (Serm. vi. de Pass.) says, “He did this to increase their anger at what they had heard. But not knowing the meaning of his mad act, he deprived himself of the honour of the Priesthood in forgetfulness of the precept, ‘He shall not take off his head-dress, nor rend his clothes.’” And Origen says, “He rent his garments, displaying his filthiness and the nakedness of his soul, and showing forth in mystery that the old Priesthood was to be rent away, and its school of Priests, and its training, which was according to the letter.” And Jerome, “He rent his garments to show that the Jews had lost the glory of the Priesthood, and that the seats of the High Priests were empty.” So, too, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Jansen, Barradius, and others.
He hath spoken blasphemy, in saying He was the Messiah and Son of God. The High Priest, for fear any one should be influenced by the words of Christ, anticipates it by fastening on Him the charge of blasphemy, to keep any one from speaking in His behalf, and to compel them all to condemn Him as a blasphemer.
What need we any further witness? Caiaphas here displays his wickedness, in not acting as a judge, but as a prosecutor and accuser of Christ. (See S. Chrysostom.)
What think ye? Here again he acts the part of a prosecutor and not of a judge, makes the very enemies of Christ His judges, and by his pontifical authority, and his sentence already decided on, drives them, as it were, to condemn Him as a malefactor. “The same persons,” says S. Chrysostom, “bring the charge, discuss it, and pass sentence.”
But they answered and said, He is guilty of death. Blasphemers were stoned (Lev. xxiv. 16), as S. Stephen was stoned. But they cried out that He was guilty, not of stoning, but of death. For they had already decided to crucify Him. Origen touchingly sets forth the indignity of this most iniquitous sentence. “How great an error was it to declare the Prince of Life Himself guilty of death, and not, on the testimony of so many who had risen, to look on Him as the Fount of Life, from whom life flowed forth on all living! For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” What greater indignity than that the Son of God, the source of all life to angels, men, and all living things, should be condemned by the whole Council as guilty of death for having, when asked and adjured by the High Priest, confessed that He was the Son of God?
He had restored sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead, and is therefore condemned to death by the envious priests. But they said in ignorance (but in another sense), that though Christ was in Himself most innocent and holy, yet He had taken on Himself to atone for our sins. And on that account He was guilty of death. For Christ took on Himself the sentence passed on Adam and his posterity, “In the day thou eatest thereof,” &c. (Gen. ii. 17). For He wished to atone for our death, that by His death He might restore us to the eternal life of grace and glory. And accordingly He took on Himself this most undeserved sentence with the greatest calmness, equanimity, and patience, and surrendered Himself to God the Father as a victim for our sins (see Isa. liii.), to teach us to bear contentedly (after His example, and for love of Him) the unjust judgments, the reproaches and censures of men, in order to make the best return to Him we can; while in His service we are treated as guilty of death, just as He was, by the whole Council, judged and proclaimed guilty of death for our sakes.
Tropologically: a Christian who sins condemns our Redeemer a second time to death, kills Him (as it were), and crucifies Him (see Heb. vi. 6). Whence S. Bridget (Rev. i. 37) tells us that the Blessed Virgin said to her, “I complain that my Son is crucified more cruelly by His enemies in the world now, than He was by the Jews. For the sins with which they spiritually crucify my Son are more abominable and grievous than the sins of those who crucified Him in the body.” Some suppose that this Council was held early the next day, and that everything here recorded by S. Matthew from ver. 59 is spoken by anticipation, and ought to come after the first verse of the next chapter (see S. Aug. de Cons. Evan. iii. 7, &c.). Others maintain, more correctly, that these events were recorded by S. Matthew in due order, and that they took place immediately after midnight. For there were two Councils held, one at night, the one here mentioned, the second next morning (Luke xxii. 66). For as all the Council were not present at night, Caiaphas summoned a general assembly in the morning, to which he convened them all. In this Christ was condemned unanimously as guilty of treason, not only against Divine law in calling Himself the Son of God, but against human law also, in asserting that He was a King, and was given up to Pilate to sentence Him to crucifixion. The great Council (the Sanhedrin) was held in the morning.
Ver. 67. Then they spat on His face. Great and brutal was the barbarity of the servants, as also of the Chief Priests and the Councillors who permitted it. But they considered they did rightly, in vindicating their law and the honour of God, since Christ had been already condemned to death as a blasphemer. Those who held Him, and the other bystanders as well, and some, too, of the Council (as S. Mark implies), spat upon Him.
On that Divine face, worthy of reverence and adoration from all creatures, on which the angels desire to look. This was an atrocious insult inflicted by the vilest men on Christ the Son of God, who here exhibited stupendous gentleness, humility, and patience, and fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (ii. 6), “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that pluck off the hair.” Whence Forerius says that the plucking of the beard was a great pain and insult, like spitting in the face. Whence S. Clement Alex (Pæd. iii. 3) says “it is a monstrous thing to pluck off the hair, which is man’s natural beauty.”
Whence Euthymius says, “Shudder, ye heavens and earth, and all creation; for what face was it on which they inflicted such insults?” And so S. Chrysostom, and Titus Bostrensis after him, “They spat on that face which the waves of the sea feared, on seeing which on the Cross the sun hid his rays; they smote it, fully satisfying their anger, inflicting the most insulting wounds, thrusting their hands into His face, &c. But why did they beat Him when they were about to kill Him? What need was there for such insults? But their cruelty was manifest in all they did, like hunters who vent their rage on the prey they have at length found, counting it a pleasure and festive sport, and showing how eager they were for cruelty.”
S. Anselm (de Pass. Dom.) introduces the Blessed Virgin as thus saying, “After a little while my Son appeared covered with spittle as with leprosy;” and speaking of His scourging says, “My Son was so benumbed and disfigured, that He appeared as though struck with leprosy.”
They buffeted Him. A buffet (colaphus) is a blow struck with the fist on the neck or head; a blow (alapa) is given with the flat of the hand on the cheek, inflicting greater insult, but less pain than the blow (colaphus).
But others struck Him in the face with their hands. Some translate ζαπίς as a rod or a slipper. But here, by a misuse of words, it means “a blow.” Christ is therefore here accused as impious,—struck with the hand, as impudent; speaks as the Lord, is silent as innocent; is condemned as sacrilegious; is smitten with fists, “though He measures out the waters with the hollow of His hand” (Isa. xl.). His countenance, the brightness of His Father’s glory, is disfigured with blows. His eyes are veiled who lays bare the secrets of the hearts and looks into all thoughts. He is insulted, beaten, and assailed with scoffs, and has His hair torn out.
Ver. 68. Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote Thee? They jest at Him for saying He was a Prophet. If Thou art a Prophet, prophesy to us. They seem to have said this insultingly, after they had covered His face. If Thou art the Christ, Thou canst not be ignorant of what is hid from Thee. Tell us who smote Thee? They jested at Him as a pretended soothsayer. “The King of Prophets,” says Theophylact gravely, “is jested at as a false Prophet.” “They insultingly covered His face, so as to make mock of Him, and next that they might not be deterred from beating Him by His Divine countenance,” says Jansen. “For His majesty beamed forth in His countenance,” says S. Jerome.
Mystically: Christ when veiled signified that He hid His face from the Jews, who were deprived of faith and the knowledge of God. Just as Moses, a type of Christ, when he veiled his eyes on coming down from the Mount, signified the same thing (2 Cor. iii. 13). In his own words, “I will hide my face from them” (Deut. xxxii. 20).
Tropologically: it signifies that He atoned for Adam and Eve’s sin, for they sinned both with their eyes and their mouths, in looking at and then eating the forbidden fruit. Christ therefore, to expiate this sin, suffered His mouth and eyes to be covered. For, as S. Augustine says, “Christ suffered in all the members in which man has sinned, that He might expiate all.”
Christ, moreover, endured all these sufferings with steadfast patience. “As He,” says S. Chrysostom, “omitted no act of gentleness, so did they omit no act of insult or impiety, but sought to glut their rage both in word and deed.”
The Delphic Sibyl thus foretold—
“Then impious Israel
Will buffet Him, and from their sinful lips
Will pour their poisonous spittle,
And will give, for food the gall, and vinegar to drink,” &c,
And the Erythræan Sibyl (Lact. iv. 18)—
“The innocent will give His back to blows,” &c.
The reason for these insults was—First, That Christ should thus expiate the infinite sins with which men (so far as they can) inflict the greatest injuries on God. For the sinner, so far as he can, spits upon God, buffets and beats Him, because he despises Him, and esteems Him less than the creature which he loves. So Origen, “He suffered all these indignities to save us who deserved them all.” “His reproaches took away our reproach,” Pseudo-Jerome on S. Mark. “It was not Christ that suffered, but we suffered in Him,” says S. Athanasius. Christ wished to endure all these dire sufferings in order to honour God the more, and to make the greater satisfaction for the wrong done Him. His Passion therefore honoured God more than Adam’s sin dishonoured Him. Add to this, that wicked men insult God, and invent fresh ways of insulting Him. Christ therefore willed to be insulted, and to expiate their newly-devised sins by His newly-devised insults.
Secondly, to set forth the highest pattern of patience and virtue. If any one, therefore, desires a specimen of the greatest humility, gentleness, obedience, patience, constancy, charity, let him look on Christ suffering and crucified, and imitate Him as far as he can. “According to the pattern I showed to thee in the Mount” of Calvary (Exod. xxv. 40). “Wondrous is Thy Passion, 0 Lord Jesus,” says S. Bernard (Wednesday in Holy Week), “which hath driven away all our sufferings, makes propitiation for all our iniquities, and is never found ineffectual in all our diseases. For what is so deadly as not to be healed by Thy death? In this Passion, then, three things we must specially look at: the act, the mode, the cause; for in the act, patience; in the mode, humility; in the cause, charity,—is specially commended to us.”
Thirdly, to animate the martyr to endure every kind of torment, and the faithful to bear any injuries, by whomsoever imposed. “He endured them all with great courage, teaching us to bear injuries,” says Euthymius, deriving from Christ adamantine hardness; as Isaiah (l. 7) says, “I have set my face as a flint, and I know that I shall not be confounded. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me?” For as iron is hardened the more it is struck with the hammers, and is so far from being broken by them that it breaks them itself; so let us, the more we are afflicted, exhibit the greater courage, and thus by our patience overcome the hatred of our adversaries (see Ezek. iii. 9). Again, as iron breaks iron, so do the patient overcome the obstinate wickedness of the ungodly, of whom Zecharias says (vii. 12), “They made their hearts as adamant, lest they should hear the law.” “For nothing is so hard as not to be surpassed by something harder,” says S. Bernard. Moreover, S. Athanasius says (de Cruce), “Just as when a man strikes a stone with his hand, he does not break the stone, but hurts his hand; so they who strove against the Lord, as contending against incorruption, were corrupted, and as plotting against the Immortal, themselves perished.”
And so the Jews, for these insults offered to Christ, were rejected by God, and exposed to universal reprobation. “They received,” says Origen, “a lasting blow, and lost all their Prophets; whereas God exalted Jesus, who humbled Himself even unto death, and gave Him a name which is above every name.”
After Caiaphas had with the whole Council proclaimed Christ to be guilty of death, the servants of the High Priest and some of the Council insulted Him for three whole hours, while the others lay down to rest, to be ready to proceed with the case in the morning.
Indeed, He was subjected all the night through to cruel injuries, and bore them all with sweetness and fortitude.
S. Bernard (Serm. xliii. in Cant. i. 12), on the words, ‘My beloved is as a bundle of myrrh,’ wisely and piously observes, “He made up this bundle from the reproaches and insults of these attendants,” and adds, “This healthful posy is preserved for me; no one shall take it from me. It shall lie between my breasts. These I said meditated wisdom; in these I established the perfections of my righteousness, in these the fulness of wisdom, in these the riches of salvation, in these abundance of merits. From these there came to me one while the heathful draught of bitterness, at another the sweet ointment of consolation. They sustain me in adversity, those check me in prosperity; and amidst the joys and sorrows of this present life they afford me safe guidance on either side as I walk along the royal road, and ward off imminent dangers on both sides.”
Ver. 69. Now Peter sat without in the hall: and a damsel came unto Him, saying, And thou also was with Jesus of Galilee. S. Matthew here goes back to the history of S. Peter, whom he speaks of (ver. 58) as having followed Jesus into the hall; and he here brings together in one S. Peter’s three denials, though they took place at different times. He sat at the fire warming himself. S. John says he stood; but this with the Jews merely meant that he was present, not any particular attitude. He stood, it may be, at one time, and sat at another.
But if he stood without, how was it that he was within the house? He was within, as being in the outer court, but without with respect to the inner court. Whence S. Ambrose says (Luke xxii.), “Where was it that Peter denied Christ? In the prætorium of the Jews, in the company of the wicked.” And Bede, too, on Mark xiv., “How hurtful is converse with the wicked! Peter amongst the servants of the High Priest said he knew not the man, though among the disciples he had confessed Him to be God.”
A damsel. One of inferior degree, “a doorkeeper,” says S. John. Hence we see more clearly the weakness and fear of Peter, who was staggered by the question of a humble damsel, and denied Christ; though afterwards, when he had received the Spirit, feared not Caiaphas, or the whole Council, when he said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts iv.). Learn from this how weak is man when over-confident in himself and forsaken of God, and, on the other hand, how bold, if he distrusts himself and trusts in God. “Peter without the Spirit was overcome by the words of the damsel, but with the Spirit he yielded neither to rulers nor kings” (Com. on S. Mark, apud S. Jerome).
But how did this damsel recognise Peter before all the men who had seen him in the garden with Christ? Because, as the doorkeeper, she carefully noticed those who went in and out. And she observed that Peter was not one of the servants, but a stranger, and with an agitated look, and hence conjectured he was a follower of Jesus. For sagacious doorkeepers are quick in detecting, for it is difficult to conceal the feelings, and not to betray them by the look. Perhaps, also, she had seen Peter with the other Apostles, and had carefully noted his appearance.
0f Galilee: For Jesus was of Nazareth in Galilee, and he calls him a Galilean, both as despised by the Jews, who thought that no Prophets came from thence (John vii. 62), and also as a seditious person, a follower of Judas of Galilee (Acts v. 37).
Ver. 70. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. Fearing he would be seized, and to obtain belief for his denial, he said that her question was so strange that he knew not what it meant. “I am so far from knowing who Jesus is, that I know not what it is you ask. For I know not whether He has disciples, or who and what they are.” It was a lie; just as when a person, if asked by Pagans whether he is a Christian, says he is not. This is a sin against the profession of the faith, of which Peter had heard Christ’s warnings and threatenings (Matt. x. 33). “But Peter,” says Victor of Antioch, “was in such consternation and agitation of mind as entirely to forget the Lord’s threatening.” And hence S. Augustine (on John xviii. 65), commiserating his fall, exclaims, “Behold this most firm pillar tumbled at one single breath of air! Where is now that boldness of promising, that over-confidence in himself? Where are his words, ‘If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee’? But what marvel if God’s prediction proved true, and man’s presumption false?”
Denied. How many times? Dionys. Carthus. says six times, thrice in the house of Annas. S. John implies, thrice in the house of Caiaphas, as the other Evangelists expressly state (see S. Aug. de Cons. Evang. iii. 6). Cajetan (on John xviii.) says seven times, thrice when addressed by women, and four times by men.
But the common opinion is that he denied only thrice. See S. Cyril on John xviii.; S. Ambrose (Luke xxii.), and others. And this is clear from S. Matthew’s narrative, who sets forth the history succinctly, and in the best order.
The Evangelists relate his threefold denials in different ways. But in order to reconcile them, observe that Peter first simply denied in the hall, when asked by the first damsel, next with an oath, when asked by the second, and thirdly, with cursing and swearing.
Here observe that S. Hilary on this passage, and S. Ambrose on Luke xxii., seem to say that Peter in denying Christ did not lie, but spoke ambiguously. For he said he knew not the man, because he knew Him to be God. “I was not with Him whom ye call a man, but I withdrew not from the Son of God,” says S. Ambrose. I know not what thou sayest,—that is, I understand not your profanity. But S. Jerome tacitly refutes them, as Christ does also by saying, “Thou shalt thrice deny Me.” But SS. Hilary and Ambrose can both be excused, because they merely meant to say that Peter’s words were so measured that a sound meaning could be elicited from them, that he spoke so ambiguously that his words of denial could be turned into a good meaning.
1. It is certain, therefore, that Peter sinned mortally. So S. Chrysostom here, and S. Augustine (Tract. cxiii. on John). He therefore lost by his denial the grace and love of God. But whether he lost his faith is doubtful. But if any one of the Apostles retained his faith it was Peter (see above, ver. 31), especially as he soon afterwards repented, and wept bitterly for his sin of denial. He therefore mentally retained his faith, which moved him to repentance and tears. 2. He was to fall thus gravely for three reasons. First (which is the source of all), from over-confidence; next, because, though conscious of his weakness, he threw himself into the company of the wicked men who had seized Jesus; and lastly, that he, the future head of the Church, might learn to have compassion for the fallen, and set a pattern of true penitence to all sinners. So S. Chrysostom, S. Leo (Serm. ix. de Pass.), S. Gregory (Hom. xxi.), and others.
The first denial took place just after midnight. He went away for fear the damsel should question him again.
And the cock crew. This first cock-crowing did not rouse Peter from his fall, nor keep him from falling again.
Ver. 71. But as he was going out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said to them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. “It is clear,” says S. Augustine (de Cons. Evang. iii. 6), “by comparing the testimony of all the Evangelists, that Peter did not deny in front of the gate, but within it, in the hall by the fire. S. Matthew and S. Mark mention his going, but for brevity’s sake do not mention his return.”
Ver. 72. And immediately he denied with an oath, I know not the man. It appears from S. Luke and S. John that several others put the same question, and pressed him hard. On which Peter, finding that a stronger answer was required, added an oath, i.e., committed perjury; for, as S. Gregory says, “a sin which is not blotted out by repentance, by its very weight quickly draws on to another,” both because it weighs down, depresses, and weakens the conscience, and also because the sinner thinks that as he has sinned, it is of little moment if he falls again into the like sin. Some Christians when they have once fallen into fornication or gluttony repeat the sin, as thinking, “We have already fallen, let us fall again, and then by the same confession we shall blot out all our sins together.” But they are wrong; for a second is a new offence against God, and inflicts on the soul a new wound more deadly than the first; for repentance is more difficult after repeated sin than after the first fall. “Perseverance in sin causes increase of guilt,” says Rabanus. His intercourse with the ungodly, which he ought to have given up after his first fall, drove Peter to this, though, assuredly, he never should have done it, as having experienced its noxiousness and his weakness in their company.
Ver. 73. And after a while came unto him they that stood by and said unto him, Surely thou art one of them, for thy speech betrayeth thee.
Ver. 74. Then began he to curse and swear, saying, I know not the man. The servants who were watching the trial at the door after a while returned to the fire, and turning to Peter, tempted him again, and forced him to his third denial. They gave their reason, “Thy speech betrayeth thee;” from his Galilean dialect. S. John adds (xviii. 26) a further charge, for a kinsman of Malchus said, “Did I not see thee in the garden with Him?” Peter, therefore, finding himself driven to extremities, “began to curse and swear” that he knew not the man, saying, after the Hebrew manner, May God do these things to me if I know Him. May the earth open, may the lightning blast me, if I know Him. The Greek word is καταναθεματίζειν, to anathematise vehemently, to call curses down on oneself. “The more they urge and insist upon it, the more vehemently does he swear, the more obstinately does he act,” says Victor of Antioch on Mark xiv. “Consider here,” says S. Cyril (Lib. xii. on John), “what the Apostles were before the coming of the Holy Spirit, and what they were made afterwards, when endued with power from on high.”
And immediately the cock crew. To remind Peter of Christ’s prediction, and to move him to repentance. S. Luke adds, “And the Lord turned and looked upon Peter,” &c. This look, then, as S. Ambrose teaches, caused Peter, who had not noticed the first cock-crowing, to notice this, to call to mind his warning, and to begin to repent and weep. “Christ looked on Peter,” says S. Leo, “and then raised him up.” He looked on him also with the eyes of His mind, putting before him the baseness of his denial, and urging him on to repentance (S. Augustine, Bede, Ambrose, and others). And with His bodily eyes also, because Christ, after being pronounced guilty of death, seems to have been brought down to the outer hall, which was below, and where Peter was; and there turning to him, and smiting him with His gracious look, He reminded him of his fall, and recalled him to himself. Christ seems to have been brought down to this hall that, while the Priests were taking a little rest, He might be handed over to the custody and insolence of their attendants. Or Christ certainly from the inner hall saw Peter standing in the outer one, Christ’s overruling providence so ordering everything, that a fit opportunity was afforded for looking on Peter.
Here admire alike the loftiness and the charity of Christ. For though already condemned to death, and in the midst of His insults and blows, He seemed as it were to forget Himself, and to care for Peter, to bring him back as a lost sheep into the path of safety, and teach us to do the like. It was so with S. Chrysostom, who, when driven into exile, and even to death, seemed to forget himself, and wrote most affectionate letters to his friends; and exhorts Constantius, his presbyter, not to be downcast at his persecution, but to rouse himself, and send apostolic men to convert Phœnicia, and write him an account of their proceedings. For the energy and courage of the helmsman is exhibited in the storm, as that of a soldier in fight, a general in the field, a physician in the paroxysm of a disease. S. Leo (Serm. iii de Pass.) observes, “The Lord looked on Peter, and though exposed to the revilings of the Priests, the falsehoods of the witnesses, and the insults of those who smote and spat upon Him, He met His troubled disciple with those eyes wherewith He foresaw he would be troubled. And the glance of truth was turned on him in whom amendment of heart was to be wrought, as though the voice of the Lord sounded within him, and said, What doest thou, Peter? Why dost thou withdraw into thine own conscience? Turn to Me, trust in Me, follow Me; this is the time of My passion, the hour of thy punishment has not yet arrived. Why fearest thou that which thou also wilt overcome? Let not the weakness I have taken upon Me perplex thee; I was trembling for thy fate, be not thou anxious for Mine.” And therefore “it was impossible,” says S. Jerome, “that he should remain in the darkness of denial, since the Light of the World had looked upon him.”
Ver. 75. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus which He said, Before the cock crow twice (S. Mark adds), thou shalt deny Me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly. “After the herald of day cried to him,” says Origen, “he remembered.” And Victor of Antioch on Mark xiv. says, “He was admonished by the cock crowing, and, as if aroused from deep sleep and brought back again to himself, he remembered that he had fallen into that very sin and disgrace which the Lord had foretold.”
Symbolically: a cock. Our own conscience is given to us by God, which cries out against us as oft as we sin, and says, Why committest thou this great sin? Why dost thou offend God? Why dost thou hurt thyself, and expose thyself to the peril of hell? This cry wounds the conscience, and stimulates it to repentance; and whoso hears and regards it feels true compunction with S. Peter, and does away his sin by penitence. So Laur. Justin de Christi agone, cap. ix. So, too, S. Gregory (Mor. xxx. 4), explaining Job xxxviii. 36 (Vulg.), “Who hath given the cock understanding?”
And he went out. Because he could not weep before the Jews, lest he should betray himself; and because the very sight of them was the cause of his denying Christ. As he was penitent, this ground for falling away had to be removed. He goes forth, therefore, and gives full vent to his tears. “For he could not,” says S. Jerome, “manifest his repentance when sitting in the hall of Caiaphas; he therefore goes away from the council of the wicked to wash away the filth of his cowardly denial with the tears of love.”
Calvin objects, that this was but a halting repentance, because he did not confess his sin before the Jews, in whose presence he had denied Christ, and thus do away with the scandal he had caused them. I reply, that he had not given them any scandal so as to strengthen them in their hatred of Christ, for they were already most determined in their hatred of Him. And if he had retracted his denial in their presence, it would have been without any benefit, nay, with hurt both to himself and them. For he would have exposed himself to the risk of relapse, and them to the peril of feeling greater indignation against Christ; and they would then have punished more severely both himself and Christ.
Wept bitterly. He wept with bitter tears (in the Arabic), as though his great sorrow had embittered his heart, so as to shed bitter tears in satisfaction for his sin. “For” (as S. Bernard says) “the tears of penitents are the wine of angels”—nay, of God and Christ. Hear S. Ambrose (in Luc. xxii.), “Why wept he? Because his sin came into his mind. Peter grieved and wept because he had erred as a man. To fall is a common thing, to repent is of faith. But why did he not pray rather than weep?” He answers, “Tears wash away the sin which the voice is ashamed to confess. Tears do not ask for pardon, they merit it. I know why Peter kept silence. It was because an earlier request for pardon would have added to his offence. We must weep first, and then pray.” And shortly after he says, “Teach us, 0 Peter, what did thy tears profit thee! Thou hast taught us already. For thou didst fall before thou wept. But after thy tears thou wast raised up to rule others, though before thou couldest not rule thyself.”
Thou wilt say that S. Ambrose remarks in the same passage, “I read of the tears of Peter, but not of his satisfaction.” These words the Calvinists pervert, as doing away with works of satisfaction, and destroying their efficacy. But ignorantly and foolishly. For S. Ambrose means by “satisfaction” excuses for sin, as appears from what follows. “I read that Peter lamented his sin, and did not excuse it, as guilty men are wont to do.” But Peter confessed his sin with loving tears. And there is no question among the orthodox that such works are satisfactory.
S. Clement, the disciple and successor of S. Peter, records that Peter was so penitent, as his whole life afterwards to fall on his knees when he heard the cock. crow, shed bitter tears, and ask pardon again of God and Christ for his sin, long since forgiven. His eyes also are evidence of this, being bloodshot from constant weeping (Niceph. ii. 37). And lastly, Peter compensated for his fall by living to his death an austere life, feeding on lupins (S. Gregory Naz. de Amore pauperum), and also by his unwearied labours as an apostle, his persecutions, his sorrows, and, finally, his death on the cross, which he most resolutely and joyfully underwent for Christ’s sake.
S. Bridget records (Rev. iii. 5) that S. Peter appeared to her, and stated that the cause of his fall was his forgetfulness of his own resolution and the promise he made to Christ. And he thence suggests this remedy for temptation, “Rise up by humility to the Lord of Memory, and seek for memory from Him.”
1 Ne concurrent is the Latin. In order to understand à Lapide, it must be borne in mind that, according to the Jewish festival computation of time, our Lord in keeping with the Passover on Thursday evening was really keeping it on the 15th Nisan, or the Friday, according to the natural reckoning of time.— (Trans.) (Back up the the place.)
2 Lat. ut quasi spiritus spiritualiter sit in puncto hostiæ. (Back up to the place.)
3 [The word is taken from S. Jerome (in Matt. xxvi.). See Aquin. p. iii. quæst. xv. art. 4, and Suarez in loc. Disp. xxxiv. sect. 1.] (Back up to the place.)
4 Membris in S. Augustine, not tenebris, as in Cornelius à Lapide. (Back up to the place.)
5 S. Jereome says that S. Peter used the fiery sword which was at the gate of Paradise, and the sword of the Spirit (Eph. vi. 17). (Back up to the place.)
6 Imo. (Back up to the place.)