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AND there was a certain man in Caesarea, named Cornelius, a centurion of that which is called the Italian band;

Ver. 1.  A cohort, with the Romans, was a body of infantry 500 strong.  There were ten cohorts in each legion.  There were, generally speaking, two centurions appointed to the command of each cohort.  V.



Caesarea

In the Scripture, when Antioch and Cæsarea are simply mentioned, Antioch, in Syria, and Cæsarea, in Palestine, are uniformly designated.

2 A religious man, and fearing God with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and always praying to God.

Ver. 2.  A religious man, and one that feared God.  He was not a Jew, yet believed in one God.

 

--- Always, that is, frequently praying, and giving alms.  In the Rheims Testament we find this note: "Hereby it appeareth, that such works as are done before justification, though they suffice not to salvation, yet are acceptable preparatives for the grace of justification, and such as move God to mercy. . . . though all such preparative works come also of grace."  These Douay divines did not hold with the Quenellists that a true faith, or the habit of faith, must needs be the first grace.  Wi.

 

--- Cornelius religiously observed the law of nature, and the principal points of the Jewish moral law, though he did not profess Judaism.  Calmet.

 

--- He was an admirable example of virtue before his knowledge of Christianity.  He feared God, and brought up his family in the same holy fear.  He was leader of the first band, and consequently had the eagle, the Roman ensign, carried before him.  Four hundred men were under his command. Tirinus.

 

--- "His former goodness could no longer avail him, unless he were, by the bond of Christian society and peace, incorporated with the Church; he is therefore ordered to send unto Peter, that by him he may learn Christ, by him he may be baptized."  S. Aug. l. i. de bap. c. 8.

 

--- Alms.  Nothing is more efficacious than the alms of a man, whose hands have not been defiled by injustice.  It is a clear stream, refreshing in the heat of day, and imparting verdure to every plant that is near it.  It is a fountain springing to eternal life.  It is a tree, whose branches reach even to heaven, and which produces its eternal fruit in abundance, when death has removed from you all that is temporal.  Waste not, then, your treasures in selfish gratifications, the fruit of which is sorrow; but feed the poor, and the hungry.  Plant and sow in their hands, and your produce will be great; no soil is more fertile.  S. Chrys. hic. hom. xxii.


3 This man saw in a vision manifestly, about the ninth hour of the day, an angel of God coming in unto him, and saying to him: Cornelius.

Ver. 3.  He saw in a vision manifestly.  An angel appearing visibly to him.  Wi.


4 And he, beholding him, being seized with fear, said: What is it, Lord? And he said to him: Thy prayers and thy alms are ascended for a memorial in the sight of God. 5 And now send men to Joppe, and call hither one Simon, who is surnamed Peter:


6 He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side. He will tell thee what thou must do. 7 And when the angel who spoke to him was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a soldier who feared the Lord, of them that were under him. 8 To whom when he had related all, he sent them to Joppe.


9 And on the next day, whilst they were going on their journey, and drawing nigh to the city, Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray, about the sixth hour.

Ver. 9.  Stated hours for prayer were appointed both in the old and new law.  Of this S. Cyprian writes: "In celebrating their prayers, we find that the three children of Daniel observed the third, sixth, and ninth hour.  Thus afterwards, at the third hour, the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles, fulfilling the grace of our Lord's promise: at the sixth hour, Peter going up to the higher room of the house, was both by voice and sign from God instructed, that all nations should be admitted to the grace of salvation, of which he before doubted; and our Lord being crucified at the sixth hour, at the ninth washed away our sins by his blood.  But to us, besides the seasons observed of old, the set times of praying are increased; for we must pray in the morning early, that the resurrection of our Lord may be celebrated by morning prayer; in the morning early will I stand before Thee, early in the morning wilt thou hear my voice.  Ps. v.  Towards the evening also, when the sun departeth, we must of necessity pray again."  De Orat. Dom. No. 15.  S. Jerom, writing to Eustochia, a virgin, and a religious, (ep. 22.) says, "though the apostle bid us to pray always, and, to holy persons, their very sleep is prayer; yet we must have distinct hours for prayer, that if perhaps we be otherwise occupied, the very time may admonish us of our duty.  The third, sixth, ninth hour, morning early, and evening, no man can be ignorant of."


10 And being hungry, he was desirous to taste somewhat. And as they were preparing, there came upon him an ecstasy of mind.

Ver. 10.  There came upon him an ecstasy of mind.  This is the true sense by the Greek.  I have never yet eaten any unclean thing.  This seems to have happened, an. 35.  Till then the apostles followed the ceremonies of the law of Moses.  It may seem strange that even S. Peter should not know that the ceremonial precepts of the law were to be abolished.  It may be answered, that S. Peter and they, were only ignorant of the time, when they were to be laid aside; and so S. Chrysostom says, that the conversion of Cornelius, with all its circumstances, was to convince the Jews, rather than the apostles, that those ceremonies were no longer obligatory.  Wi.

 

[†]  V. 10.  Mentis excessus, epepesen ep auton ekstasiV.

11 And he saw the heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great linen sheet let down by the four corners from heaven to the earth: 12 Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him: Arise, Peter; kill and eat. 14 But Peter said: Far be it from me; for I never did eat any thing that is common and unclean. 15 And the voice spoke to him again the second time: That which God hath cleansed, do not thou call common.

Ver. 15.  God hath purified.  Not that the Almighty had already sanctified the Gentiles; but he had called them, that they might become so.  He had thrown down the wall of separation, which had stood between Jew and Gentile; he had made one fold to contain all the sheep under one shepherd.  Jesus Christ, by his blood, had generally reconciled all mankind to his Father.  In this sense all were pure; that is, all had a right, as all were called, to partake of the merits of the Son of God.  All had a right to communicate in the truths of the gospel, and in the sacraments, which were the appointed channels, through which the graces and merits of Jesus Christ were applied.  Calmet.

 

--- Here, then, God first announced to Peter, that the time was come to preach to the Gentiles unto salvation, no less than to the Jews; with full freedom to eat all meats, without respect to the prohibition of some made in the old law.  B.


16 And this was done thrice; and presently the vessel was taken up into heaven. 17 Now, whilst Peter was doubting within himself, what the vision that he had seen should mean, behold the men who were sent from Cornelius, inquiring for Simon's house, stood at the gate. 18 And when they had called, they asked, if Simon, who is surnamed Peter, were lodged there. 19 And as Peter was thinking of the vision, the Spirit said to him: Behold three men seek thee.

Peters Vision

Peters Vision

And as Peter was thinking of the vision, the Spirit said to him: Behold three men seek thee.

20 Arise, therefore, get thee down and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.

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21 Then Peter, going down to the men, said: Behold, I am he whom you seek; what is the cause for which you are come? 22 Who said: Cornelius, a centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and having good testimony from all the nation of the Jews, received an answer of an holy angel, to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. 23 Then bringing them in, he lodged them. And the day following he arose, and went with them: and some of the brethren from Joppe accompanied him.


24 And the morrow after, he entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, having called together his kinsmen and special friends.

Caesarea

In the Scripture, when Antioch and Cæsarea are simply mentioned, Antioch, in Syria, and Cæsarea, in Palestine, are uniformly designated.

25 And it came to pass, that when Peter was come in, Cornelius came to meet him, Cornelius came to meet him, and falling at his feet adored.

Ver. 25.  Cornelius . . . worshipped.  Some think Cornelius might look upon S. Peter as more than a man, and offer to him divine worship: but by prostrating, he might only intend to pay such honour to him, as is paid to persons eminent in dignity, especially according to the custom of the eastern people.  Wi.

 

[†]  V. 25.  Procidens ad pedes ejus adoravit, peswn epi touV podaV prosekunhsen.  The same word is often used for a civil worship.

26 But Peter lifted him up, saying: Arise, I myself also am a man.

Ver. 26.  S. Chrysostom (hom. xxi in Act.) thinketh Peter refused this homage through humility, because this falling down, proskunein, is frequently used in Scripture towards men.  S. Jerom (adv. Vigil. c. ii.) holds the contrary sentiment.


27 And talking with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. 28 And he said to them: You know how abominable it is for a man that is a Jew, to keep company or to come unto one of another nation: but God hath shewed to me, to call no man common or unclean.

Ver. 28.  Abominable a thing.  The Jews extended their aversion to the Gentiles to an unnatural length; hence the frequent accusations of the latter, that they were a nation the enemies of mankind.  Josephus defends his nation against the imputation.  He allows that Moses forbids them to admit strangers into their solemnities, and exercises of religion, but not to refuse any thing which common humanity demands of all.  Jos. lib. ii. con. App.



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Peter In The House Of Cornelius

Peter In The House Of Cornelius

And he said to them: You know how abominable it is for a man that is a Jew, to keep company or to come unto one of another nation: but God hath shewed to me, to call no man common or unclean.

29 For which cause, making no doubt, I came when I was sent for. I ask, therefore, for what cause you have sent for me? 30 And Cornelius said: Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me in white apparel, and said: 31 Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thy alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppe, and call hither Simon, who is surnamed Peter: he lodgeth in the house of Simon a tanner, by the sea side.


33 Immediately therefore I sent to thee: and thou hast done well in coming. Now therefore all we are present in thy sight, to hear all things whatsoever are commanded thee by the Lord. 34 And Peter opening his mouth, said: In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons.

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35 But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him.

Ver. 35.  In every nation, &c.  That is to say, not only Jews, but Gentiles also, of what nation soever, are acceptable to God, if they fear him, and work justice.  But then true faith is always to be presupposed, without which, (saith S. Paul, Heb. xi. 6.) it is impossible to please God.  Beware then of the error of those, who would infer from this passage, that men of all religions may be pleasing to God.  For since none but the true religion can be from God, all other religions must be from the father of lies; and therefore highly displeasing to the God of truth.  Ch.

 

--- He that feareth him, and worketh justice.  So he calls the prayers, alms-deeds, and charitable works of this Gentile Cornelius.  Wi.


36 God sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all.)

Ver. 36.  God sent the word.  By this word, some understand the eternal Word, the Son of God; but by the next verse, we may rather expound it of the word of the gospel preached.  Jesus Christ . . . he is Lord of all things.  A proof of Christ's divinity.  Wi.

 

[†]  V. 36.  ton logon, verbum, but in the next verse for verbum, rhma.

37 You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached,

Ver. 37.  For it began, or its beginning was, &c.



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38 Jesus of Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.


39 And we are witnesses of all things that he did in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him upon a tree.

Ver. 39.  Whom they killed.  At the very first, says† S. Chrys. the apostles preached Christ crucified, and tell them they had put to death on a cross the Lord of all things, the judge of the living and the dead.  Wi.

 

--- We may here admire how wonderfully Peter adapts his discourse to the capacity of his hearers.  When speaking to the Jews, he proves Jesus to be their Messias, from the testimony of their prophets.  On the present occasion, he only just alludes to the prophets, but confirms his discourse by the testimony of the miracles which Jesus had wrought in public, and were known to all the world.  Calmet.

 

[†]  V. 39.  S. Chrys. hom. xxiii, vides eos nunquam occultare crucem, oraV autouV oudamou kruptontaV ton stauron.



40 Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest,

Ver. 40.  Jesus Christ did not announce his resurrection, and other mysteries, to all at once, but to a chosen few, who were to be governors of the rest; teaching us thereby, that we have to learn our religion, and every thing necessary to salvation, from the Church of God, speaking to us by her ministers.


41 Not to all the people, but to witnesses preordained by God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he arose again from the dead; 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is he who was appointed by God, to be judge of the living and of the dead.

Ver. 42.  The living and of the dead.  This may be understood of the elect, who live by grace, and the reprobate, who are spiritually dead; or perhaps more literally, of those who shall be found living upon earth at the second coming of Christ, and of all who have died from the commencement of the world to the end of time.  S. Aug. Enchirid.


43 To him all the prophets give testimony, that by his name all receive remission of sins, who believe in him.

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44 While Peter was yet speaking these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word.

Ver. 44.  The Holy Ghost fell upon all them, and made his coming known in some visible manner and exterior signs, as on the day of Pentecost.  The Christians who had come with S. Peter, who before had been Jews, were astonished to see that such extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were given to uncircumcised Gentiles.  Wi.


45 And the faithful of the circumcision, who came with Peter, were astonished, for that the grace of the Holy Ghost was poured out upon the Gentiles also.

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46 For they heard them speaking with tongues, and magnifying God. 47 Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we?

Ver. 47.  Can any man forbid water? &c.  Or doubt that these, on whom the Holy Ghost hath descended, may be made members of the Christian Church, by baptism, as Christ ordained?  Wi.

 

--- Such may be the grace of God occasionally towards men, and such their great charity and contrition, that they may have remission, justification, and sanctification, before the external sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and penance be received; as we see in this example: where, at Peter's preaching, they all received the Holy Ghost before any sacrament.  But here we also learn one necessary lesson, that such, notwithstanding, must needs receive the sacraments appointed by Christ, which whosoever contemneth, can never be justified.  S. Aug. sup. Levit. q. 84. T. 4.


48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they desired him to tarry with them some days.
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