2 Christ cleansth the leper, 5 healeth the centurion’s servant, 14 Peter’s mother in law, 16 and many other diseased: 18 sheweth how he is to be followed. 23 stilleth the tempest on the sea, 28 driveth the devils out of two men possessed, 31 and suffereth them to go into the swine.
HEN he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ cleanses the leper, heals the centurion's servant, Peter's mother-in-law, and many others: he stills the storm at sea, drives the devils out of two men possessed, and suffers them to go into the swine.
ND when he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him:
Ver. 2.—And, behold, a leper, &c. This same miracle is related by S. Mark (i. 40), and by Luke (v. 12). From a comparison of these it would seem to follow that the miracle was not performed immediately upon our Lord’s descent, at the very foot of the mountain, for Luke says that it came to pass in one of the cities. And both Mark and Luke speak of other miracles as previously performed. But S. Matthew’s narrative appears to be the most chronological, according to which it may be said that this miracle was the first which Christ wrought after His descent. So S. Jerome, Jansen, and others. As to what S. Luke says, that, it took place in one of the cities, we must understand, near the city. For by the law lepers were ordered to be kept entirely apart, and were forbidden to enter towns and camps, lest the inhabitants should catch the disease. Some think that the Levitical law only forbade lepers living in towns, but not their passing through them, so that this leper might have been cleansed by Christ as he was passing through this city. This city, as may be gathered from the fifth verse, was Capernaum.
How great, how incurable and contagious, a disease was leprosy is plain from hence, that lepers, both by the ancient law and the usage of all nations, were debarred from consorting with their fellow men. For in lepers there is a contagion which spreads by contact with the whole, whom they are able to infect by the stench of their ulcers and their fetid breath. With them, by the contagion and the infection of the disease, the face is disfigured, the hair falls off, the nostrils are enlarged, the bones are eaten away, and the tongue swells, in short, every kind of disease, and all their symptoms, are found as the accompaniment of leprosy. Physicians teach that it may be considered an elephantine disease, and incurable. How, says Avicenna, can leprosy be cured, since it is an universal cancer, when even a single cancer is beyond the power of medicine? Moreover, hot and stony and salt regions, and such as are exposed to excessive vicissitudes of cold and heat, are peculiarly liable to this disease. Such regions were Palestine and a part of Egypt. Wherefore Galen says, “In Alexandria many labour under elephantia (leprosy) as well on account of their way of living as of the heat.”
Worshipped, i.e., falling down upon his knees and face, for S. Markγονυπετω̃ν, i.e., falling at his knees. The leper did this not with the design of rendering Him civil honour, but that he might give to Christ the highest worship of religion, as is plain from his so humble and believing petition. For he did not request Christ to ask God, as Moses did, but If Thou art willing, Thou art able to make me clean. As though he had said, I know that Thou hast the power of God, and therefore dominion over diseases, so that Thou canst control leprosy by the right of a master, and canst, by Thy command alone, drive it from me. I ask Thee, therefore, that thou wouldst deign to do this. For if Thou wilt, the thing is done, and I am healed. So S. Chrysostom says, “To the spiritual physician, he offers spiritual hire—viz., believing prayer, than which nothing of more worth can be offered to God.” Also the Interlinear Gloss says, “To will He adds the attribute of power, for as great as His will so great is the power of God. For whatsoever He wills, that He is forthwith able to perform. According to the words of the Psalmist, ‘Whatsover the Lord willed, that did he in heaven and earth.’” (Ps. cxxxv. 6, Vulg.) This leper therefore had faith in the Divinity of Christ, partly from His inward illumination and inspiration, partly from His miracles, several of which Christ had already performed in this first year of His preaching. For this leper was healed in the second year, as I have said in the Chronotaxis, nu. 22. Again, the words, if Thou wilt, denote the desire of being healed, mingled with resignation. For he resigns himself to the will of Christ, that if He wishes it, he may be cured; if He be unwilling, he may remain unhealed.
And Jesus put forth his hand, &c. Touched him, that He might show that He was above the law, which forbade contact with the leper. The law forbade this touching of a leper from fear of contagion. But there was no danger of such contagion in Christ’s case, but rather the certainty of healing the leper. When, therefore, Christ touched the leper, He did not do so as against the law, but rather as fulfilling the spirit of the law.
2. He touched him out of kindness, that He might show His love for the leper.
3. He touched him, says S. Cyril, that the saving efficacy of the Flesh of Christ might be made manifest. Whence Victor of Antioch, on S. Mark (chap. i.), says, “The Word, willing to show forth Its indivisible union with the Flesh, wrought many miracles and signs through the ministry of the body.” And Bede says, “God stretched forth His hand, and touched human nature by His Incarnation, and brought back to the Temple those who were cast out of the camp of the people of God (the lepers), that they might offer their bodies a living sacrifice to Himself, to whom it is said, ‘Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.’”
I will, be thou clean. From these words the Fathers prove the Divinity of Christ and His omnipotence. Maldonatus cites them at length. Thus S. Ambrose: “He saith, ‘I will,’ because of Photinus, He commands on account of Arius, He touches on account of Manichæus.” For Photinus taught that Christ was a mere man, and not God, whose attribute is an almighty will, by which, he says, “I will, be thou clean.” Arius taught that Christ was inferior to the Father, and, therefore, did not Himself command, but received the Father’s commandments. Manichæus taught that Christ had not real flesh, but only in appearance, such as could not in reality either touch or be touched.
And immediately, &c. There was no interval between Christ’s command and its fulfilment. He spoke and all things were made, because His will was omnipotent. (Genesis i.) The Arabic translates, the man was cleansed from his leprosy: for the words, the leprosy was cleansed, are a figure of speech. By this miracle Christ shows that He came into the world as a physician that He might heal all diseases and purge away all filthiness.
And Jesus saith unto him. (S. Mark, threatened, ie., commanded him with a severe and stern countenance.) He did this to avoid ostentation, and to teach us not to boast of our virtues and gifts, but rather conceal them.
But go, show thyself to the priest; Mark has to the high priest. “He sends him to the priests,” says S. Jerome, “on account of humility, that He may appear to show deference to them, so that they henceforth might either believe and be saved, or else be held without excuse; and, lastly, that He might not be accounted to violate the law.
The gift which was to be offered to the priest by lepers who were cleansed was a lamb, or, if the leper were poor, two turtle doves, or two young pigeons. (Lev. xiv. 13, &c.)
For a testimony unto them, sc. the priests. By the word Testimony, some understand the law, as though He had said, “Offer the gift enjoined, that thou mayest fulfil the law which Moses commanded.” For in the 119th Psalm the law is often called by the name of testimony. That is to say, it is the Divine will, which God testifies that He would have done by us. There is, however, no reason why testimony should not be taken in its ordinary acceptation.
This then was the testimony which the leper gave to the priests that he was cleansed from his leprosy, namely, an ocular inspection of his body and his limbs, which was made by them, And if they saw that he was healed, they accepted his gift as a thank-offering to God; but if he were not healed they refused it.
Tropologically, leprosy signifies mortal sin, especially that which is contagious, such as heresy is in an especial manner, because of its extreme foulness and infectious nature. So S. Augustine (lib. 2, Quæst. Evan., quæst. 40); Theodoret, Radulphus, and others, on Levit. xiv. Hence the cleansing. of leprosy is the symbol of the sacrament of penance, and of sacramental confession, whereby sins are forgiven. From this type, S. Jerome on the sixteenth chapter of S. Matthew proves the power and efficacy of this sacrament against the heretics, showing how the priests must be cognisant of the various kinds and varieties of sins. S. Chrysostom (lib. 3, de Sacerdotio) does the same, teaching that the office of a Christian priest is far more powerful and excellent than was that of a priest of the order of Aaron, because to these latter it was not granted to heal leprosy, but only to declare that it was healed, whilst to the former it is given not merely to declare that sins are forgiven, but really to cleanse and absolve them. And this was the reason why, when Christ came down from the mount, where He had taught the Evangelical Law, He willed that His first miracle should be the cleansing of the leper, chiefly because the various stages of leprosy best represent the foulness and plague of sin, and the cleansing of leprosy the forgiveness of sins. And so Christ in His Passion assumed the appearance of a leper, that He might take upon Himself and heal the leprosy of our souls. Wherefore Isaiah says (liii. 4), “Surely He Himself hath borne our sicknesses, and carried our griefs; and we esteemed Him as though He were a leper, stricken of God, and humiliated. But He was wounded for our iniquities; He was bruised for our wickednesses.” (Vulg.) See what I have said on leprosy on Lev. xiii. and xiv. This was why Christ appeared to the monk Martyrius in the form of a leper, and suffered Himself to be carried on his shoulders to the gates of his monastery, where He disappeared. Yet did not Martyrius feel His weight, because Christ bore him who carried Him, as S. Gregory says (Hom. 30 in Evang.). Christ appeared in the same form of a leper to S. Louis, Bishop of Toulouse, who was a grandson of S. Louis, King of France, as is related in his Life.
And when he was come into Capernaum, &c. This was the second miracle by which Christ confirmed His teaching upon the mount, as S. Jerome says. This is the passage from which we gather that the city near to which the leper was healed was Capernaum, as I have already said. Moreover, the leper was a Jew, and the centurion was a Gentile—probably a Roman, a captain of 100 men or more. L. Dexter, in his Chronicle, lately published, says that this centurion was Caius Cornelius, a Spanish centurion, the father of Caius Oppias, also a centurion, who stood beside Christ on the cross, and beheld the signs which were done in heaven, and the sun, and the earth, and the rocks, and was converted to Christ. Both father and son afterwards preached the Gospel in Judæa and Spain.
Came to him. There is an antilogy here; for Luke (vii. 1) relates the same miracle differently. He does not say that the centurion himself came to Christ but sent to Him, first Jews, then his friends, to ask the favour of Him that He would heal His servant. Wherefore in S. Luke we must supply from S. Matthew, that after his friends, the centurion himself, last of all, came to Christ, either for the sake of doing Him honour, or because of the urgency of the disease, and the imminent peril of death. This is the opinion of S. Chrysostom (Hom. 26), Theophylact, and Euthymius. Or you may suppose that the centurion is here said to have come to Christ, and besought and answered Him, not personally, but by his friends. This is the opinion of S. Augustine and Bede.
Heal my servant. Greek, boy: for servants were under subjection, and were bound to render obedience and reverence, like sons. Moreover, this servant was dear and precious to the centurion, as Luke says.
Lieth at home sick of the palsy. That was, says S. Hilary, “like a corpse in a bed, with all his limbs useless—unable to stand, or do anything.” Paralysis, says Celsus, is an unstringing of the nerves. It is a disease in which half the body is dead, without the power of motion or feeling. And so Galen says (Comment. lib. 4). It is called hemiplexia, i.e., semi-apoplexy, because it affects half the body; for when the whole body is similarly affected, it is called apoplexy.
Grievously tormented, and so at the point of death, as S. Luke says. For this was sudden and acute paralysis. There are other slow forms of paralysis, which are without this excessive torture and immediate danger. The torment here spoken of seems to have been convulsion and drawing up of the nerves, which have their origin in the brain. For when they are unnaturally twisted and stretched, they cause intense anguish, as William Ader shows, from Galen (lib. de Ægrotis et Morbis a Christo sanatis, c. 2), in which work Ader shows that those sick persons were despaired of, and incurable by natural means, and were therefore reserved by God, for Christ, as the Arch-physician. Such an one was this paralytic. S. Ambrose says the same thing (Epist. 75), “The Lord Jesus saved those whom no one else was able to cure.”
There is, in the account of this miracle, a second antilogy. S. Luke says, When he heard of Jesus he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, &c. Luke says, he asked him to come; whilst Matthew, and indeed Luke himself, relate what seems a contradiction of this in his saying, Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but speak the word only. The explanation is, that the words asked and sent, so far as they relate to the word come, apply to the Jewish ambassadors of -the centurion. They had less faith and humility than the centurion, who only asked through them that Christ would heal his servant; but the Jews added of themselves the request that He would come and heal him by touching him. And so, by means of the elders, he asked Jesus to come. For what the ambassador saith, that he who sent the ambassador is reckoned to say. Luke, therefore, after his manner, for the sake of brevity, rolls together what was done and said by the Jews and the centurion, without distinguishing or separating one from the other.
Others give a different explanation, namely, that when the centurion sent the Jews, he sent them to ask Christ to come and heal his servant; but after they had gone, being illuminated by God, and his faith and humility having increased, he repented of what he had done, and desired and asked that Christ, without being present, would heal, him. But this would be inconsistent with what is said in Luke vii. 7, where the centurion, through the Jews, is reported to have said at the first, Wherefore also, I thought not myself worthy to come unto thee. For if he had thought himself worthy that Christ should come unto him, much more would he have thought himself worthy to come unto Christ.
Ver. 8.—Say in a word only. Meaning, There is no need that Thou shouldst be present to touch my servant; but though Thou art absent, give the command, and my servant will be immediately healed. The centurion therefore believed that Christ was God who is everywhere present, and commandeth and worketh whatsoever He will, or at least, that Christ was an extraordinary prophet, and most dear to God—in other words, the Messiah promised to the Jews, who, in God’s name in Judæa, ordered all things according to His own will.
For I also am a man under authority, &c. If I have authority over a few soldiers, so that they obey my behests, how much more, 0 Christ, who hast power over all things, canst Thou make diseases obey Thee? Or, if I, who am placed under the authority of my tribune and of Cæsar, can yet give my orders to the soldiers under me, how much more canst Thou, 0 Christ, who art under the power of none, but art God omnipotent and Lord of all, do whatsoever Thou wilt? so that even if absent Thou shouldst say to the disease, I mean my servant’s palsy, Go away, immediately it will depart: if Thou shouldst say, Come, straightway it would come. For diseases are, as it were, Thy ministers and satellites, whom Thou at a nod sendest upon the guilty, and whom, when sinners repent and are suppliant, Thou recallest. S. Jerome commends the faith of the centurion, who, though he was a Gentile, believed that one who was paralytic could be healed by the Saviour; his humility, in that he deemed himself unworthy that He should come under his roof; his prudence, because he beheld the Divinity lying hid beneath Its corporeal veil, for he knew that not that which was seen, even by unbelievers, could help him, but that which was within, which was unseen.
When Jesus heard, he marvelled. Whence Origen says, “Consider how great a thing, and what sort of thing, that was which the Only-Begotten God marvels at. Gold, riches, kingdoms, principalities in His sight are as shadows, or as fading flowers. None of these things therefore in His sight are wonderful, as though they were great or precious. Faith alone is such: this He honours and admires: this He counts acceptable to Himself.”
You will ask, could wonder really exist in Christ? I would lay down that in Christ, according to the common opinion of theologians, besides that Divine knowledge which He had as God, there was a threefold knowledge, as He was man. 1. Beatific, by which He beheld the essence of God, and in the enjoyment of which He was blessed. 2. Infused, by which, through the appearances sent into His soul by God, at the very moment of His conception, He knew all things. 3. Experimental, by which those things which He understood by infused knowledge, He daily saw, heard, and understood experimentally.
I answer therefore, that in Christ wonder did not exist properly and absolutely, as something which flows from the depths of the heart. For wonder arises in us when we see or hear something new. But Christ, by means of infused knowledge, knew all things before they were done. Since therefore He was omniscient, nothing was to Him new, unknown, unexpected, or wonderful. Christ, however, stirred up in Himself, as it were, by experimental knowledge, when He met with anything new or wonderful, a certain, as it were, interior act of wonder, and the outward expression of that wonder, that so He might teach others to marvel at the same. Thus S. Augustine (lib. 1. de Gen. contra Manichæos): “Who indeed, save Himself, had wrought in the man that very faith at which He marvelled? But even if another had wrought it, why should He marvel who had foreknowledge? That the Lord wondered signifies that we must wonder, for whom it is needful as yet that we should thus be moved. But all such movements in Christ are signs, not of a perturbed mind, but of one teaching authoritatively.” So also S. Thomas. Very well saith S. Cyprian (Tract. de Spectaculis), “Never will he wonder at human works who has known himself to be a child of God. He has been cast down from the height of his nobility, who is able to admire anything after God.”
And he said to them which followed, &c. When Christ says I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel, you must understand Him to speak of the ordinary run of people at the time of His preaching, for there was without doubt greater faith in the Blessed Virgin, in Abraham and Moses, and John the Baptist, and others. Or as S. Chrysostom, I have not found so great faith, that is, in proportion, for this centurion was a Gentile; those were believing Israelites. The same S. Chrysostom prefers the faith of the centurion to the faith of the Apostles at their first vocation. Hear S. Chrysostom: “Andrew believed, but it was when John said, Behold the Lamb of God. Peter believed, but it was when Andrew had told him the glad tidings of the Gospel. Philip believed, but by reading the Scriptures. And Nathanael first received a sign of Christ’s Divinity, and then offered the profession of his faith.” Hear likewise Origen: “Jairus, a prince of Israel, asking in behalf of his daughter, said not, Say in a word, but Come quickly. Nicodemus, when he heard of the Sacrament of faith, answered, How can these things be? Martha and Mary said, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died, as though doubting that the power of God is everywhere present.”
But I say unto you, &c. Christ here predicts the calling of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the Jews. He alludes to Isaiah xliii. 5, &c., where is predicted the calling of the Gentiles from the four quarters of the earth, their grace and glory. Shall sit down i.e., shall rest, says S. Hilary. But the Greek isα̉νακλιθήσονται, i.e., shall lie down as on a triclinium, or couch. They shall feast as guests at a magnificent entertainment. For to this the kingdom of heaven, and the felicity of Christ and His saints, is often compared, because of their perfect joy, security, and satisfaction. There is an allusion to Ps. xvii. 15, “When thy glory shall appear, I shall be satisfied” (Vulg.); and Ps. xxxvi. 8, “They shall be inebriated with the richness of thine house, and thou shalt give them to drink from the torrent of thy pleasure” (Vulg.)
But the children of the kingdom, &c., i.e., destined and called to the kingdom as being Israelites, as being the progeny of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to whose seed God had promised both the earthly kingdom of Judah, and the spiritual kingdom of eternal glory in heaven. By a similar Hebrew idiom, they are called children of death, of hell, of the resurrection, to whom death or hell is threatened, or to whom the resurrection has been promised.
Into the outer darkness, of hell. Christ still keeps up the metaphor of a feast in the kingdom of heaven, a feast therefore in which was abundance of light. Observe that most of the ancients did not dine, or at least put very sparingly, after the manner of a lunch, but made supper their chief meal, at which they fed heartily, and were hilarious. And this was the time when they made their feasts, because then they had ease and leisure. For they did this, as Horace says, not to break into the day.
Hence the triclinia, where feasts were made, were called supper-rooms. It is plain that this was the custom among the Hebrews from the constant mention in Holy Scripture of supper and, supper chambers, but rarely of dinner. Examples are the supper of Darius (3 Esdr. iii. 1), of Holofernes (Judith xii. 5), of Herod (Mark vi. 21), &c. In the Old Testament there is no mention of dinner except in Tobit ii. 1, Daniel xiii. 13, and Esther, when the Jews had been carried away to Assyria and Babylon, where they followed the customs of the Gentiles, and ate as those nations did. I except Jeroboam I., king of Israel, who invited the prophet who restored his hand home to dine with him. (1 Kings xiii. 7.) But this king was an idolater, the maker of the golden calves which the Israelites worshipped. So that it is not at all strange that he should affect gluttonous feasts.
Moreover, the first Christians were wont to fast until eventide, as Tertullian shows (lib. 1 de Jejun. c. 10). Indeed, as late as the time of S. Thomas Aquinas, who flourished A.D. 1270, it was customary to fast until three o’clock in the afternoon, when Christ expired upon the cross. And he who took food before that hour was considered not to have fasted, according to a decree of the Council of Cabillon. (See D. Thomas 2. 2. quæst., 147, art. 7, where, however, Chalcedon has crept in instead of Cabillon.)
Since, then, they did not dine at midday, but supped at night, there was abundance of light at the ancient feasts, as Virgil says:—
“From golden roofs the lamps depend,
And darkness from the guests defend.”
With the guests, then, and in the supper-hall, was light, but without was darkness, which is here called the outer darkness—that is, outside the banquet.
The meaning of the passage is: the children of the kingdom, the Jews, destined, for the sake of their fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the kingdom of heaven, on account of their unbelief, in refusing to believe in Christ, shall be excluded from the royal and heavenly feast, and shall be driven into the outer darkness of hell.
Jesus saith unto the centurion, &c. From this it would appear that Christ had not gone into the centurion’s house, nor touched his servant; but in the very place where the centurion met Him, there He healed the sick man, that He might confirm his master in the faith that He was the Messiah—yea, that He might show Himself to be God; for great faith gains great rewards, great confidence gains great things. As much as thou expectest from God, so much shalt thou obtain. Whence S. Bernard (on Ps. Qui habitat, Serm. 15), explaining tropologically God’s words to Joshua—“Whatsoever place the soles of your feet shall tread upon shall be yours”—says, “Hope in the Lord, all ye congregation of the people; all that your feet tread upon shall be yours; for your foot is your hope.”
Let masters learn from this narrative what great care they ought to bestow upon their servants, and how dear they ought to be to them. So dear was this servant to the centurion, that he employed the aid of the elders and his friends to call Christ to heal him. So too, in turn, ought servants to obey their masters with the greatest zeal, love, and reverence. Wisely saith Seneca, although he was a heathen (Epist. 47), “Are they servants? Still they are men. Are they servants? Still they belong to thy family. Are they servants? Yet they are thy fellow-servants, if thou considerest how both are in the power of fortune.” And then he gives examples of servants who had been well treated by their masters, who were prepared to lay down their lives for them, if by so doing they could avert danger from them. Wherefore that common saying is false, ” As many servants, so many enemies.” “For,” saith he, “we do not have them as enemies, but we make them enemies, by treating them unkindly.” Wherefore let all masters and superiors act towards their dependents as this centurion acted towards his servant, especially by bringing them to Christ, to be healed of the diseases of their souls, if not of their bodies.
Mystically, the centurion is every one who rules over his members, senses, and faculties, so that they, as it were soldiers, may fight for and serve God.
And when he was come into Peter’s house, &c. We have here an inverted order of the narrative, for this miracle, and the other works of Christ which Matthew proceeds to relate, as far as the end of chap. ix. took place before the healing of the leper and the centurion’s servant, before, indeed, the Sermon on the Mount, as may be gathered from Mark 1. 23 and 29, Luke iv. 32 and 38, and, indeed, from S. Matthew himself. For the Sermon on the Mount was delivered in the hearing of the Twelve Apostles, and therefore of S. Matthew himself. Yet he relates his vocation subsequently to this, in ix. 9. The reason is, that Matthew wished to give, at the commencement of Christ’s preaching, a summary of His doctrine, and then to relate in order His miracles, both those which He wrought before His sermon, and those which He wrought afterwards, in confirmation of His doctrine. The true order of the narrative is, then, as follows, as may be learnt by comparing Mark and Luke. After Christ had called Peter and Andrew from their fishing to follow Him, as Matthew relates (iv. 18), He entered into Capernaum. There He preached in the synagogue, and healed the demoniac. From thence He proceeded to Peter’s house, and healed his mother-in-law. This miracle, therefore, and the others which follow to the end of chap. ix ought, according to chronological sequence, to be inserted in chap. iv., immediately after ver. 22.
Into Peter’s house, which belonged to Peter and Andrew, as we find in S. Mark i. 29. This house, was at Bethsaida, the native place of Peter. (See John i. 44.) Bethsaida was close to Capernaum, about half-an-hour’s journey. Or it may be that this was Peter’s wife’s mother’s house, and that she lived in Capernaum itself, and that Peter was wont to call in there. For Mark and Luke seem to intimate that this miracle was wrought in Capernaum. The mention of this mother-in-law shows that Peter was called in marriage by Christ, and that he left his wife and a daughter, who in time to come, from her father, Peter, was called Petronilla. None of the Apostles, except Peter, are spoken of in the Gospels as having a wife. Peter’s wife was called Perpetua, says Molanus, although others called her Concordia, and others again, Mary. In after time, when she had been converted to Christ, and was being led to martyrdom for her faith in Him, she was strengthened by S. Peter, who said, “0 spouse, remember the Lord.” This is related by Clement of Alexandria (Strom. lib. 2). Petronilla, on account of her great beauty, was sought in marriage by a nobleman named Flaccus. She asked for three days to deliberate. The term being expired, she received Holy Communion from the priest Nicomede, after which she gave up her soul to God, and is reckoned among the Virgin Saints. Her name occurs in the Calendar on the last day of May, and her relics are still preserved at Rome, in the Basilica of S. Peter.
Sick of a fever; a great fever, says S. Luke. Tropologically, the fever of the soul is the fire of concupiscence, the burning heat of lust, of gluttony, of pride, of envy, &c. Listen to S. Ambrose (lib. 4 in Luc. c. 4, ver. 38). “Under the type of Simon’s wife’s mother, our flesh languishes under the fevers of various spiritual sicknesses, and is tempest-tossed by the varied enticements of immoderate desires. The fever of love, I may say, is no less than of heat. The one inflames the mind, the other the body. Our avarice is a fever, our lust is a fever. Hence the Apostle says ‘If they cannot contain let them marry, for it is better to marry than to burn.’” He subjoins the example of Theotimus, who, being told by his physicians that if he married he would lose his sight, exclaimed, “Farewell, dear light.”
Christ comes as the heavenly physician to quench the heat of this fever of concupiscence within us by the dew of His grace, that grace which must be incessantly implored by those who are thus fevered in soul.
Whosoever then thou art who labourest under the fever of concupiscence, I do not say that thou shouldst embrace a monastic life, or that thou shouldst macerate thy body by hair shirts or the scourge, or drink nothing but water. I make an easy suggestion; frequently receive Holy Communion, and by so doing receive Christ into the house of thy soul. He is a virgin, and the son of a virgin, and by His own virgin flesh He will extinguish this fire. This assuredly is the most powerful medicine against lust, as Holy Scripture teaches, and the holy Fathers testify, and daily experience confirms. For this is “the wheat of the elect, and the wine that maketh virgins.” (Zech. ix. 17, where see my commentary.)
There are nine correspondences between fever of the body and fever of the soul. 1. There is fever when noxious moisture and abnormal heat, opposed to the natural heat, affect the heart. Thus too there is fever in the soul when man’s will is steeped in the love of concupiscence, which is contrary to the love of God.
2. As fever takes away the healthy disposition of the secretions of the body, so does the fever of the soul put an end to the due regulation of its passions and affections.
3. As fever is known by a violent pulse, so may the soul’s fever be discerned by excessive cares and anxieties, as it were pulsating in the mind.
4. Fever excites thirst, which those who are in a fever do not quench by drinking, but rather augment, so does the soul’s fever excite a thirst for riches, honours, and pleasures which is not extinguished by the possession of them, but increased.
5. Fever arises from cold, and ends in burning heat. So does the soul’s fever often arise from negligence, ease, and torpor. Hence is the cupidity of luxury and pride kindled and inflamed.
6. Fever vitiates the taste, making sweet things and honey itself appear bitter; so the soul’s fever makes divine things—such as spiritual reading—appear insipid.
7. Fever makes a sound, flourishing, and beautiful body appear weak, pallid, ugly; so too does the soul’s fever make the soul weak, unnerved, deformed.
8. Fever agitates a man, will not suffer him to rest; so does the soul’s fever make a man unquiet, so that he cannot fix his mind, but, ever unstable, he falls into lust after lust.
9. As one fever is apt to produce another, so does one vice beget another and yet another. In short, the heretic labours under a pestilential fever; the slothful man under a hectic and slow fever; the glutton under a daily, and the inconstant man under a tertian fever.
And he touched her hand, &c. S. Luke adds, He commanded the fever. Gr.τω̃ πυρετω̃, i.e., He rebuked the fever. As Euthymius says, with powerful authority He commanded, and as it were, threatened the fever. Well says B. Peter Chrysologus (Serm. 18), “Ye see how the fever let go its hold of her whom Christ held. There stood not infirmity where the Author of salvation was present. There could be no approach of death there where the Lifegiver had entered. He took her by the hand, it is said. What need could there be for touching her, when He had the power to command? Christ took hold of this woman’s hand, for life, because Adam from a woman’s hand had received death. He held her hand, that what the hand of presumptuous Eve had lost, the hand of her Maker might restore.
When even was come . . . he healed many that were sick. S. Luke says (iv. 4O), by imposition of hands. For Christ did not disdain, with His most pure and Divine hands, to touch those who had ulcers, running sores, and leprosies, that He might show the power and virtue of His Divine touch, and heal them all.
That it might be fulfilled, &c. These words of Isaiah have a two-fold meaning. The first is concerning diseases of the soul, i.e., sins and their penalty, which Christ took upon Himself, and abolished upon the cross. This was Isaiah’s chief meaning, as appears from what follows, and from the words, He carried. The second meaning concerns diseases of the body, which are at once the types and result of diseases of the soul. These too, Matthew here says, Christ bore: not by actually becoming diseased Himself, but by compassion, and by wholly healing those who were diseased. Hence the Syriac translates, He shall sustain our sickness. Christ bore so many torments, and even the death of the cross, that He might do away with all infirmities, and death itself, either in this life or at the resurrection—in other words, that He might take away sin with all its consequences and penalties. Thus therefore Christ carried our sins, thus also our diseases and punishments. And thus Christ had the power of healing diseases in that He Himself took them upon Himself, by atoning for and expiating them upon the cross. Thus S. Chrysostom and Origen (See my comment on Is. liii. 4.)
And a certain scribe came to him, &c. This doctor of the Law seeing Jesus preparing to depart, and cross over the lake, and being moved by His preaching and miracles, and the concourse of applauding people, desired to be associated with Him as a disciple with a master.
And Jesus said unto him, &c. Nests; the Greek hasκατασκηνώσεις, i.e., shady coverts made by the boughs and leaves of trees. S. Cyprian (lib. 1. ad Quirinum, c. 11), and S. Augustine translate the word, inns.
The meaning is—common, worthless, and even noxious animals, such as foxes and birds of prey, have places of rest and shelter; but the Son of Man, He who was born of the Virgin, and made man, hath nothing of His own, not a cushion, or a bed, or a bench on which to rest His head.
Christ here detects and uncovers the latent ulcer of covetousness in the Scribe. It is as though He said to him, “Thou desirest to follow Me because thou seest Me pleasing to the people, because of the healing and benefits which I bestow upon them. Hence thou hopest, in following Me, to increase thy possessions, and pick up many gifts, as though I made Me and Mine rich by the Gospel. But thou art mistaken, for I, as it were, the Master of perfection, am poor and a lover of poverty Myself, and such I wish My disciples to be, that being free from the care of things temporal, they may be wholly at leisure for God and preaching.” When the Scribe heard this he was silent; and, being disappointed of his hope, withdrew himself from the eyes of Christ, as Matthew tacitly intimates. Thus S. Hilary, Theophylact, Euthymius, and S. Jerome explain. “Why,” says S. Jerome, “do you wish to follow Me for the sake of riches and worldly gain, when I have not even one little guest-chamber?”
Let religious, who unite themselves to God by the profession of poverty, imitate this example of Christ, and look for support to His Providence.
This passage also refutes the heresy of those who condemn voluntary poverty, which religious profess.
The originator of this heresy was a certain Lombard, named Desiderius, in the time of Pope Alexander IV., and another called William of Holy Love, in the same age, who are entirely confuted by SS. Thomas and Bonaventura. By an entirely opposite error, other heretics, called Apostolici, have falsely concluded from this passage, as S. Augustine testifies (Hæres. 40), that this absolute poverty is necessary for all men for salvation. From the same passage the Waldenses, or Poor Men of Lyons, and Wickliffe, have falsely argued that it is unlawful for bishops and priests to possess any property, but that they ought to live only on alms, because Christ did so. But Christ did so being perfect, and gave it as a counsel, not as a command necessary to salvation. Hence this error is denounced by many decrees of Councils.
From this passage it is also plain that poverty, and its very marrow and efficacy, consist in this—that a man should possess and affect nothing as though it were his own, but should keep his affections free for God alone, to serve Him. And it is not repugnant to this spirit, but conformable to it, to possess in common things necessary for life. And so, by a decree of the Council of Trent (Sess. 25, c. 3), all religious, except the Franciscans, are allowed to own even real property in common, that they may not be forced to beg, nor be anxious about supplies, nor become burdensome to the faithful. For even Christ and the Apostles had goods in common, of which Judas was the steward and dispenser, as appears from John xii. 6.
Son of Man. That is, Man sprung from man, as Christ constantly calls Himself, in His love of humility, because He who was God deigned for our sakes to become incarnate, and be made man.
But of what man is Christ the Son? First, by man, the heathen understood Joseph, whence they contended that he was begotten of Joseph, not conceived by the Holy Ghost, as S. Justin testifies (Quæst. 66 ad Orthodoxos). But this is contrary to Scripture and the Creeds.
2. Theophylact says, Christ is the Son of Man, i.e., of the Virgin Mary, His mother; for man is common gender, and may be used of a male or a female, like the Greekα̉νθρωπος. But the addition in Greek of the masculine article shows that the word is here restricted to signify a male.
3. And more probably, others say, Son of Man, i.e., of Abraham, or David; for to them it was promised that of their posterity the Messiah, or Christ, should be born.
4. Others, Christ is the Son of Man, i.e., of men, as of the patriarchs and kings, from whom Matthew has deduced his genealogy.
5. And last, Christ is the Son of Man, i.e., of Adam, because He, like all other men, was sprung from Adam. For Adam is called absolutely man, because he was the first man, and the parent of all other men. Hence Adam, in Hebrew, means man. There is a reference to Ezek. ii. 1. Ezekiel, who is a type of Christ, is called son of man, in Hebrew, ben-adam, i.e., son of Adam. Whence S. Gregory Nazianzen (de Theolog. Orat. 4) says, Christ is called Son of Adam, according to the Hebrew, not to show that He had a man for His father, but that through the Virgin Mary He derived His generation from Adam. For He willed to be born of Adam, that by this means He might repair the Fall of Adam and his posterity. Hence S. Augustine (lib. 2 de Consens. Evang. c. 1) says, “He commendeth unto us how mercifully He hath deigned to be of us, and, as it were, commending the mystery of His wonderful Incarnation, He often sounds this title (Son of Man) in our ears.”
Son of Man signifies more than man, because man can be created by God alone, as Adam was created; but Son of Man signifies sprung from Adam, the common parent, that first might be set forth the infinite humility of Christ, that He should deign to be sprung from a sinful man, and to receive in Himself his miseries and his mortality in that earthly body which He assumed. For Adam is derived from Adama, the ground, as homo from humus, mortalis from mors, “death.” (See what I have said on Ezek. ii. 1.) 2. There is shown the wonderful brotherhood and charity of Christ to men, whereby He willed to he born in Bethlehem, of the same common parent Adam, that He might become the Brother of all men, and akin to them in blood, that He might be closely grafted into human nature, and united to it, even to the whole company of mankind, by human generation and natural birth from man, after the manner which I explained on chap. i. 18, according to those words of Isaiah, “Unto us a Son is born, a Child is given.” Son of Man therefore denotes the perfect kindness, friendship, and condescension of Christ, and the blandishments of His love, by which He offers Himself to men as the Son of Man, as a Child to children, that with Him, as a most sweet Little One, as a most delightsome Brother, they may take delight, and have pleasure, according to the words, “My delight is with the sons of men.” (Prov. viii.) Why dost thou fear, 0 man, to draw nigh to Jesus? Lo! He is the Son of Man. Why tremblest thou, 0 sinner, at the wrath of God? Come unto Jesus, the Son of Man, made a little Child for thee. In the whole world there is no Child so sweet—no son so dear. For “the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” And “the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Son of Man, therefore, is the proper name of, or rather the name appropriated to Christ. It is the mark of His dignity, and of His love, the wonder of all ages, that the Only-Begotten Son of God should, for men, deign to become the Son of Man, and to have His converse with men, that He might teach them the way of salvation, and redeem them by His Cross, and make them happy in heaven.
Ver. 21.—And another of his disciples, &c. This disciple was not one of the twelve Apostles, but some other person who was called by Christ to follow Him. We must supply from Luke ix. 59, that Christ previously said to this same person, Follow me. He did not refuse the call of Christ, but wished, after having discharged his debt of filial piety, to be more free to follow Him. So says the Gloss. From the answer of this disciple, given by S. Matthew, we may understand his questioning and vocation by Christ.
Lord. Reverently and obediently he speaks to Christ as desiring to do Him service; whereas the Scribe, with somewhat too much freedom, addressed Christ as Teacher (magister). The one was deservedly left, the other chosen. How much of evil was there in the Scribe? how much of good was there in this man? says S. Augustine. (Serm. 9 de Verb. Domini.)
Suffer me first, &c. Theophylact, and after him Franc. Lucas, think that his father was still living, and that he said in effect— “Suffer me to remain with my father, who is now an old man, that I may support him until he die. Then, having done what filial duty requires, I will follow Thee.” Thus he asked for a long furlough from the spiritual warfare.
S. Chrysostom and others expound more plainly and accurately that his father was already dead, and that Christ most opportunely and benignantly called him. As though he said, “Thy father is now deceased, Follow Me. I will be to thee a better Father. He had need of thy good offices, but thou hast need of Mine. He was the author of thy carnal life; I will give thee spiritual and eternal life.”
Clement of Alexandria, (Stromat. lib. 2) thinks that Philip, who was afterwards an Apostle, was the man to whom Christ said, Suffer the dead to bury their dead. But the objection to this is that Philip had been already called by Christ, and was following Him, as is plain from John i. 43. Unless you assume that Philip had been a follower of Christ before this, but, having heard that his father had departed this life, asked Christ’s permission to bury him, but did not obtain it. This would explain why he is here called a disciple by S. Matthew. And another of his disciples. And this seems very probable, especially as Clement relates the matter as certain.
But Jesus saith, &c. A second time Jesus calls him. Twice He saith, Follow Me, namely before his excusing himself, and afterwards because He effectually willed him to be His disciple. He puts aside the impediment which he alleged, and forbids him to return to bury his father. But He assigns most convincing reasons for His refusal. He says, Suffer the dead to bury their dead. Observe, Christ does not intend to condemn the burial of the dead, which is a work of mercy praised in the Book of Tobit. But He wished to teach that when God calls He must immediately be obeyed. For God knows our hindrances, and when He calls us in them He wishes us to break them off, and He in effect promises us His grace and help to enable us to do so. Wherefore He lays it down that following the call of God is to be preferred even to the burial of our parents. That is, divine are to be preferred to human duties, religion to nature, God to man. Christ here plays upon the word dead. For first the dead signifies those who are spiritually dead, as unbelievers and those who are destitute of the grace of God. Thus SS. Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine. Afterwards by dead He means those who are corporeally dead. For as a body separated from the soul is dead, so a soul separated from God is dead. As the soul is the life of the body so is God the life of the soul, says S. Augustine. Let the dead, such as the Jews who reject belief in Me; let those who are steeped in sin and worldliness, bury their own dead, i.e., those who are figuratively dead like themselves, or those of their own relations who are naturally dead, and, it may be, spiritually dead likewise. But as for thee, I would. have thee follow Me, who am the true Life, and live with Me here through My perfect grace, and in the world to come in perfect glory, and preach this Gospel to others, as Luke adds.
Hear S. Ambrose: “He is not allowed to go and bury his father, that thou rnayest understand that human things must give way to Divine things.”
Tropologically. Christ signifies that they are dead, and busy themselves with dead things, who give up their minds to the wills and legacies of parents or relations. But to this His disciple He says, Thy destiny is to live for God, and as thou hast begun to be alive unto Him by grace, go on thus to live unto Him, and serve Him, the living God. And so leave to the dead and dying the things which are dead and about to die. Thus S. Jerome: “If the dead bury the dead, we ought to care not for the things which are dead, but for those which are alive, lest whilst we are anxious about the dead we too should be called dead.”
And S. Chrysostom says, “If it was forbidden to be absent from spiritual things, for the brief space of time needed for burying parents, weigh well the punishment of which they shall be counted worthy who are always absent from those things which are worthy of Christ, because they prefer the worthless and abject affairs of worldly business to things which are indeed necessary, and that even when none compels.
Luke adds (ix. 60), But go thou and preach the kingdom of God, namely, the way by which men may arrive at the kingdom of heaven—that is to say, by faith, and a life conformed to the Gospel which Christ has made known. As S. Augustine says (di Verb. Domini, Serm. 7), “When the Lord is preparing men for the Gospel, He will not receive any such excuses as have to do with fleshly and temporal affairs.” For, as S. Chrysostom says again, “It is far better to preach the kingdom of God, and rescue others from death, than to bury one who is dead and can be of no use, especially when there are other persons to discharge the office.” And S. Gregory speaks to the same purpose (lib. 19, Moral. c. 14) “Sometimes in our actions lesser good deeds are to be set aside, in favour of other things of greater usefulness. For who is ignorant that it is indeed a good work to bury the dead, but that it is better to preach the Gospel?”
And when he had gone up into a ship, &c. The Vulgate has navicula, “a little ship,” because they were small boats, which were used for crossing the lake, and for fishing. S. Mark adds (iv. 36), they received him as he was, i.e., as he was teaching the multitudes who were standing upon the shore.
And, behold, there was a great tempest in the sea. S. Luke adds, the waves were filling the ship, and they were in jeopardy. Bede and Strabus and the Gloss are of opinion that in this storm Christ’s ship alone was tossed, but not the other little ships which accompanied them, that Christ might show thereby that He was the Author of the storm arising, as well as of its being made to cease. But it is more correct to suppose that the other boats were also storm-tossed, for these boats were near, yea, close to Christ’s ship, that there might be shown the greater fury of the tempest, and the greater power of Christ in calming it. Moreover, God permitted this storm to arise from natural causes, such as vapours, and winds concurring with them, so that Christ raised and sent this storm.
He did this—1. That He might declare His power, and show that He is Lord of the sea as well as the land, says Origen. (Hom. 6 in Diver.) Hence the angel who appeared to S. John set his right foot upon the sea, as though commanding it. (Rev. x. 2.) For this angel represented Christ, as Bede, Richard of S. Victor, and others say.
2. That He might exercise His disciples in bearing, as well the persecutions of men as the storms and tempests of wind and rain which they must often experience in going about the world to evangelize it. So Theophylact. Whence also S. Chrysostom gives this reason, “that He might exercise the athletes of the world in temptations and terrors.”
3. That His disciples and the other passengers in the ship might, through the miracle of the quelled tempest, believe in Him that He was very and omnipotent God.
Tropologically, this tempest in the sea, says S. Chrysostom, was a type of the future trials of the Church. For the ship in the waves represents the Church and the soul in temptations, by which they are quickened and profited. For a life without trial is like a dead sea, as Seneca says (Epist. 67). And thus a man who is without temptation is like one who is in a swoon, or dead. Temptation rouses him up to exert his faculties, that he may vanquish it.
Again, as a tempest drives ships before it, that they may the more speedily arrive at their wished-for haven, so does temptation stimulate a man to greater zeal for virtue, whereby he may he borne on towards heaven. As Chrysologus says (Ser. 20), “It is not serene weather which proves the skill of the pilot, it is tempestuous weather which does that. Any sort of a sailor can manage a ship in a gentle breeze, but for the confusion of a tempest the skill of the best captain is needed.”
The tempest therefore of the waves and winds is the temptation of pride, gluttony, lust, envy, and so on.
Let him then who is beaten by temptation do as sailors do in a storm. First they furl their sails, that the fury of the wind may not have so much power over the ship to hurry it to destruction. Thus let him who is tempted furl the sails of his pleasures, and give himself up to fasting and penance.
2. Sailors make for the open sea, that their ship may not strike against rocks. So let him who is tempted flee from the world and worldly things, and let him betake himself to God as a haven of refuge; and let him say with the Psalmist, “My soul refused comfort. I thought upon God and was refreshed.” (Ps. lxxvii.)
Sailors cast fittings and merchandise into the sea, that they may lighten the ship; so let the tempted unburden themselves by means of contrition and confession of the heavy weight of their sins, and lighten their minds. Hence doctors teach that they who are about to go on a voyage, especially a long and perilous one, ought to go to confession, that they may place themselves in a state of grace, as persons drawing nigh to the article of death, not once only, but in a manifold manner.
Lastly, a good captain, maintaining his courage, and having presence of mind, tries every way of escaping from the peril of the storm. Let the mind of him who is tempted do the same. A master of a ship, says S. Cyprian (Tract. de Mortal.) is proved by a storm, as a soldier is by a battle.
But he was asleep. This was voluntary, but at the same time natural sleep. 1. That the winds and storm might increase, so that Christ’s power and authority might be the more manifested by His quelling them.
2. “There is set forth,” says S. Ambrose, “the security of His power, that whilst all others were afraid He abode in calm serenity, so that when we are in any similar tribulation we might flee unto Him, and fix our hopes firmly upon Him, according to the saying in Proverbs xxviii. 1: “The righteous is bold as a lion.”
Moreover the pillow upon which, as S. Mark relates, Christ rested is mystically, 1. A good conscience. 2. Resignation to the will of God. 3. Confidence in God’s power and providence. For on this a believer rests, and as it were sleeps, in all adversities.
Origen (Hom. 6 in Diversis) says, Christ slept as to His body, but was awake as to His Deity. The sleep of Jonah when the rest who were in the ship were in peril was a type of this. See what I have there said. Moreover what kind of sleep this of Christ’s was, and wherein it differed from ours, see in Toletus, Annotat. 43, in 8. cap. Luc.
Tropologically, says the Gloss, Christ sleeps when we are negligent: but when faith revives He commands the winds and the waves.
And he said unto them, Why are ye fearful, &c. He said this before He had stilled the tempest, according to S. Matthew’s order in this place, though S. Mark and S. Luke mention it afterwards. It was fitting that the extreme terror of the disciples should be calmed before the raging of the sea, and that their waning faith should be strengthened that it might be rewarded by the cessation of the storm. So Jansen and others.
Of little faith. For ye do not seem perfectly to believe that I am God; and ye do not trust to My providential care, nor believe that whilst I am asleep I know of your peril, and will deliver you from it. So S. Chrysostom.
1. Faith here may be taken in the strict use of the word. Or, 2. for confidence, which is produced and sharpened by faith. On the other hand, little faith is the cause of little confidence. S. Luke gives the striking question of our Lord to them, Where is your faith? Hear S. Bernard: “Though the world rages, though the enemy roars, though the flesh itself lusts against the spirit, yet will I put my trust in Thee.”
Then he arose. For rebuked, the Greek hasε̉πετίμησε which corresponds to the Hebrew נער gaar. He chided, as the Arabic translates, as a master does his servant. Whence S. Mark says, according to the literal translation of the Greek, He threatened the wind, and said unto the sea, Be silent, be muzzled.
By these expressions is denoted the great violence by which the sea was tossed with the winds, such as no human power but only Divine, could make to cease. Here, therefore, Christ shows that He was God, since He, as their Master, commanded the winds and the sea.
Tropologically. Christ thought of, and invoked in the mind, commands the persecutors of the Church, and the temptations of the soul, as S. Augustine teaches: “Hast thou heard reviling? It is the wind. Art thou angry? It is the waves. For when the wind blows, the waves arise, the ship is in peril, thy heart is in danger, for thy heart is tossed by waves. When thou hearest reproach, thou desirest to vindicate thyself. Lo, thou art avenged, and yielding to another’s evil, thou hast shipwrecked thyself. And why is this? It is because Christ is asleep within thee. Thou hast forgotten Christ. Awake Him therefore; call Him to remembrance. Let Christ keep vigil within thee. And think thou upon Him. Why shouldst thou wish to be avenged? He hath cut thee off from vengeance by His cry upon the Gross, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’” And after some other remarks, S. Austin proceeds: “I will refrain from anger, and will return to the quiet of my heart. Christ commanded the sea, and there was a calm. What I have said with reference to anger, you may apply to all your other temptations. Temptation arises, it is the wind. Thou art troubled, it is the waves. Awake Christ and let Him speak with thee.”
Allegorically, Bede says: “The ship with its yard-arm is the tree of the Cross, by the help of which we who were sunk in the waves of the sea, proceed as Christ’s disciples to the privileges of the eternal country. For Christ says, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him take up the Gross and follow Me.’”
Anagogically, “Christ slept in the time of His Passion. The tempest arose which was stirred up by the blasts of the devil. The disciples awake the Lord, whose death they had witnessed, by desiring His Resurrection. He rises with a speedy Resurrection. He rebukes the wind—that is, the pride of the devil. He calms the tempest—that is, the insulting madness of the Jews. He chides His disciples, for He upbraided them for their incredulity after His Resurrection.”
And there was a great calm, for as S. Jerome says, “All creatures feel their Creator; and things which are senseless to us are sensible to Him.” Or, as Origen says, “It became Him who was so great to do great things.”
And the men marvelled, saying, &c. These men were not the disciples, but the sailors and others who were in the ship of Jesus, and in the other ships which accompanied it. For, as Origen says, “The disciples are never named but with the mark of distinction, Apostles, or Disciples.”
What manner of man. The Greek isποταπὸς, which is not simply a particle of interrogation, but is uttered with an emphasis of wonder and admiration. “Who is this? He does not seem to be like other men, but a Being of a different race.”
And when he was come to the other side, &c. This miracle of healing the demoniac is given with greater fulness by S. Luke. The commentary, therefore, upon it will be given in S. Luke viii. 27-40.
Hast thou come hither to torment us before the time? From these words some have thought that the devils have not yet received the extreme punishment of their offences, and that they will not be condemned to be tormented in hell before the Day of Judgment. S. Hilary has been thought to be of this opinion, by saying (Can. 8), “It cried out, why should He grudge them their position? (in the demoniac) why should He attack them before the time of judgment?” The same opinion is by some ascribed to S. Irenæus, Justin, Lactantius, Eusebius, Nicephorus; but I have found nothing of the kind in their writings. And the words of S. Hilary do not bear that meaning, but only say what S. Matthew relates.
For it is certain from Scripture and the Fathers that the devils, from the beginning of the world were condemned as soon as they sinned, and were tormented in the fire of hell. For by that fire they are tormented, even when they are away from it, having gone forth from hell, and taken up their abode in the air. This is brought about by the omnipotence of God. The fire of hell is a supernatural instrument of the omnipotent God, hence by the will of God, it can operate in the most distant places.
When therefore they said to Christ, Art thou come, &c., they did not speak of the ancient, perpetual, irrevocable torment of hell fire, but they deprecated any new torment being inflicted upon them by Christ. This new torment was their expulsion from the bodies of those whom they were in the habit of possessing, as S. Chrysostom says, and their banishment to the prison-house of hell.