Ver. 2. As Christ had frequently denounced the destruction of the temple, his disciples, surprised that so beautiful an edifice should be reduced to nothing, wish on that account to shew him the grandeur and magnificence of it; upon which Christ exclaimed: There shall not remain a stone upon a stone. Theophy.
Ver. 4. When shall these things be? The miseries that took place previously to the destruction of the temple and city of Jerusalem, were a figure of the extreme calamity that will happen before the last day, in the reign of Antichrist: hence Jesus Christ speaketh indifferently of both. B.
Ver. 6. At the destruction of Jerusalem there appeared many impostors, many who professed themselves to be the Christ, and assured the populace that their delivery was at hand. And in the Church many heresiarchs started up, and many came in the name of Christ; the first of these was Simon Magus, mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, whom the people of Samaria received as the power and virtue of God. But it is remarkable from the time of our Saviour's passion, when they preferred the robber Barabbas to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, they had no peace or quiet in the city, but constant tumult and dissension succeeded, to the very time of its destruction. Ven. Bede.
--- So shall many seducers come towards the end of the world, who shall make themselves authors of sects, and shall gain many disciples: as followeth in plain words, v. 22. of this chapter. B.
Ver. 9. In the synagogues, or assemblies. The word is here taken for assemblies of judges, and of justice.
--- For a testimony to them; i.e. that you may bear witness of me and my doctrine, and also against them. Wi.
--- Some solicitude perhaps had seized upon the minds of the disciples, when they were informed by their divine Master, that they should stand accused before kings, and princes of the earth, for fear they should not be able, for want of human learning, to make a proper defence. Our Saviour therefore says: be not thoughtful beforehand; for when we are brought to the bar in defence of our holy faith, it is only necessary for us, under such circumstances, to make an offer of our will; Christ himself will speak for us: and in our answers will be infused the grace of the Holy Ghost: for it is not you that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 14. Ven. Bede here gives a beautiful illustration of this passage in a spiritual sense. When, says he, we see the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not, that is, when we behold heresies and crimes reigning where we ought to see truth and virtue flourish, then let those who are in Judea, such as have kept the true faith unpolluted, flee to the mountains; that is, rise to the height of perfection; and let those who are on the house-top, those who crucifying the works of the flesh, live according to the spirit, not descend any more to their former way of living according to the flesh. Ven. Bede.
--- If all heresies tend to the abomination of desolation, that more particularly does which taketh away with other sacrament, and the external worship of God, the very sacrifice of Christ's body and blood; which being taken away, as S. Cyprian remarketh, no religion can remain. S. Cyprian on the supper of our Lord. Num. ii.
Ver. 19. Jospehus, the Jewish historian, relates the calamities that befell unhappy Jerusalem, about thirty-seven years after the death of Jesus Christ, which verified to the very letter the prediction: there shall be such tribulations as were not from the beginning. S. Austin.
Ver. 20. This may be explained in a more general sense of the persecution of Antichrist, which will be dreadful beyond description, and executed in every part of the world. The time however allowed to him and his wicked agents to tread under foot the holy city, (Apoc. xi. 2.) i.e. the Church of Christ, will not extend beyond forty-two months, or three years and a half. This space of time Christ has set apart to purify his Church, and try his servants; and therefore he allows them to fall under the power of this merciless tyrant; and it was given unto him, says S. John, speaking of this event, to make war with the saints, and overcome them. Apoc. xiii. 7. We are admonished of the same by the prophet Daniel: (vii. 21.) I beheld, says he, and lo that horn (Antichrist) made war against the saints, and prevailed against them; and he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall crush the saints of the Most High . . . and they shall be delivered into his hand until a time, and times, and half a time, (Dan. vii. 25.) i.e. a year, two years, and half a year, or three years and a half, the same with S. John. Pastorini. p. 327 and 8.
--- S. Austin, speaking of this dreadful period, says: this persecution will be the last; it will happen towards the approach of the last judgment, and will fall upon the Church in every part of the world; that is, the whole city of Christ will be persecuted by the whole city of the devil, as far as both are extended upon earth. De civit. l. xx. c. xi. But our Saviour will put a stop to these calamities on account of his elect, unwilling that they should be tempted above their strength; for he will descend himself from heaven, and, as S. Paul tells us, will kill the wicked man, Antichrist, with the breath of his mouth, and shall destroy him with the brightness of his coming.
Ver. 24. In the day of judgment the luminaries of heaven shall be darkened, not by the privation of their light, but by the approach of the true light of the world, i.e. the great Judge. And what cause for wonder can there be, that man should be terrified at the thoughts of the last day, when the angelic powers shall tremble; or, how will these mortal habitations of ours stand the shock, when the very pillars of heaven shall be moved? what will the tender osier suffer, when the lofty cedars of Paradise bend their head! Ven. Bede.
Ver. 32. But how can the Son be ignorant of that last day? Were this the case, we must thence conclude that his nature was imperfect: since he was under the necessity of a second coming, and yet was ignorant when that time should be. But we must remember, that the meaning of this sentence is not, that Christ was really ignorant of this circumstance, but only that it was not then a convenient time to disclose the secret. S. Austin.
--- Not as if Christ were ignorant himself, as certain Eutychian heretics, called Agnoitæ, held; but because he knew it not as our teacher, to teach it others, as being not expedient. S. Ambrose de fide, l. v. c. viii.
--- The Son of God is ignorant of this day, not according to his divinity, which sees and knows all things; but according to his humanity, which does not know it of itself, of its own light, but by revelation which is made to it by the divinity, which is intimately united to it. In naturâ quidem divinitatis novit, says S. Gregory, non ex naturâ humanitatis. See S. Matt. xxiv. 36.
Ver. 33. Some will perhaps think, that it would have been much better, if the Almighty had not left the hour of death uncertain; as in that case, they would not have been so solicitous with regard to its arrival. But S. Austin, S. Gregory, and other saints assure us, on the contrary, that it is a very great mercy of God to keep us in this ignorance, that we may always be prepared for it. For, if we knew the precise period, this assurance would give occasion of living more unguardedly, and of sinning more freely. If, with this uncertainty of the hour of our death, we live notwithstanding, so very remissly; what should we do, were we assured that we were not to die for some years? SS. Gregory, Austin, and Bonaventure say, that God chose to leave us in this uncertainty, purposely to prevent all attachment to temporal things; that, seeing every hour, nay every moment, we may lose them, we may not be tied to them, but aspire to those we shall always possess, when once we have obtained them. Fool, says the Son of God to the rich covetous man, (Luke xii. 20.) this night thy soul shall be required of thee, and what then will become of all these riches thou hast amassed. S. Bonaventure.
Ver. 35. At even, at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning. These are generally referred to the different ages of man's life; infancy, youth, manhood, and old age. We are exhorted to be always in readiness, for we know not at what hour the Judge will come. Nic. de Lyra.
--- We are taught to watch, because we are charged with the care of our soul, which is the temple or house of God, and which is to be his temple for all eternity. V.