Ver. 1. Though the evangelists generally use the words pasch and azymes promiscuously, yet S. Mark distinguishes them, being really different. The pasch is used for the 14th day of the moon of the first month. But the 15th day, on which they departed out of Egypt, was the feast of the azymes, or the unleavened bread; which continued seven days, till the 21st day of the moon inclusive. Ven. Bede.
--- Pasch is also used for the sabbath day within the seven days of the solemnity; (Jo. xix. 14.) and also for all the sacrifices made during the seven days of the feast.
Ver. 2. They were not so much afraid of the sedition itself, as of the people delivering Christ out of their hands. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 3. Of precious† spikenard. This was a perfume extracted and distilled from the leaves, tops, or stalks, of the plant or herb called nard. It was the custom of the eastern people to pour such precious perfumes on their own heads, or on the heads of their guests whom they had a mind to honour. Wi.
--- This happened six days previous to the pasch. The woman here mentioned was Mary, sister of Lazarus. John xii. 3.
[†] V. 3. Unguenti nardi spicati pretiosi, murou nardou pistikhV polutelouV. Both here in S. Mark, and also in S. John, C. xii. 3. we read pistikhV, which by the Greek agees with nard, and not with ointment. The interpreters are much divided about the signification of the word pistikhV: some late writers would needs have pistikhV to come from piw or pinw, and to signify liquid, but this does not seem well grounded. Others, with S. Aug. would have pistikhV to be taken from the name of some country or place from whence this precious nard was brought. The most common opinion seems that of S. Hierom, with whom agree Theophylactus, and Euthymius, that pistika, derived from pistiV, signifies true and genuine nard, and so of the greatest price and value.
BethaniaBethania, is about one mile and a half from Jerusalem: Bethphage was between the two. V.
Ver. 4. It was chiefly Judas Iscariot that murmured here. S. John only mentions him; perhaps some others had been excited to complain, by the traitor. This is certain, that if any concurred in murmuring with Judas, they afterwards repented, on hearing the answer given immediately by our Saviour. D. Dionys.
Ver. 7. Christ here answers the apostles, by informing them that he should not always be with them, but would shortly leave them, as to his corporal presence, though he spiritually will remain with them, and their successors, to the end of time. Mat. xxviii.
--- Behold I am, &c. He will not always be with them, so as to want their services. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 10. Many of the present day shudder at the thought of the horrid and inexpressible crime of Judas, in betraying his Master, his Lord, and his God, and yet do not take care to avoid the like wickedness themselves; for, as often as for a little gain they neglect the duties of faith and charity, they become traitors to God, who is charity and faith. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 12. Whither wilt thou, &c. By these words the disciples teach us to direct our every step according to the will of God; therefore does their Lord tell them, with whom he would eat the pasch, to go two of them into the city. S. Jerom.
Ver. 14. Were is my refectory:† where I may eat the pasch, or the paschal supper of the lamb sacrificed? Lit. in the Lat. where is my eating, or my refection? but it is generally agreed that here is meant a place to eat in. Wi.
[†] V. 14. Ubi est refectio mea, ubi pascha manducem? pou esti to kataluma, opou pasca . . fagw.
Ver. 22. This which I now give, and which you now receive; for the bread is not the figure only of Christ, but is changed into the true body of Christ; and he himself says, The bread, which I will give you, is my flesh. S. John vi. But the flesh of Christ is not seen, on account of our infirmity; for if we were allowed to see with our eyes the flesh and blood of Jesus, we should not dare to approach the blessed sacrament. Our Lord therefore condescending to our weakness, preserves the outward species of bread and wine, but changes the bread and wine into the reality of flesh and blood. Theophy.
--- S. Chrysostom, in his thirtieth sermon on the treason of Judas, says: "Christ is also now present to adorn our table, (altar) the same that was present to adorn that table. For it is not man that causes the elements to become the body and blood of Christ, but the very Christ, the same that was crucified for us: oude gar anqrwpoV estin o koiwn ta prokeimena ginesqai swma kai aima cristou all autoV o staurwqeiV uper hmwn cristoV. The priest stands his vicegerent, and pronounces the words, but the power and grace is of God. He says, this is my body, and the word changes the elements: and as the sentence 'increase and multiply, and fill the earth, was spoken once, but still imparts fecundity to human nature throughout all time: so these words (of consecration) once spoken, constitute an absolute, perfect sacrifice upon every altar of the Church from that day to this, yea even to the time when Christ shall come again at the last day." Schma plhrwn esthken o iereuV, ta rhmata fqeggomenoV ekeina h de dunamiV, kai h cariV tou qeou esti. touto mou esti to swma, fhsi touto to rhma metarruqmizei ta prokeimena. Kai kaqaper h fwnh ekeinh h legousa ²auxanesqe, kai plhqunesqe, kai plhrwsate thn ghn,² erreqh men apax, dia pantoV de tou cronou ginetai ergw endunamousa thn fusin thn hmeteran proV paidopoiian. outw kai h fwnh auth apax lecqeisa, kaq ekasthn trapezan en taiV ekklhsiaiV, ex ekeinou mecri shmeron, kai mecri thV autou parousiaV, thn qusian aphrtismenhn ergazetai. S. Chrysostom, Serm. xxx, on the treachery of Judas.
--- These words are so plain, that it is difficult to imagine others more explicit. Their force and import will however appear in a still stronger light, if we consider the formal promise Christ had made to his apostles, as related by S. John, that he would give them his flesh to eat, that same flesh he was to deliver up for the life of the world. He on that occasion confirmed with remarkable emphasis of expression the reality of this manducation, assuring them that his flesh was meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed; and when some of the disciples were shocked at such a proposal, he still insisted that unless they eat his flesh, they should have no life in them. The possibility of it he evinced from his divine power, to be exemplified in his miraculous ascension; the necessity of it he established, by permitting those to abandon him who refused to believe it; and the belief of it he enforced on the minds of his disciples, from the consideration that he, their teacher, was the Son of God, and the author of their eternal salvation. The apostles were deeply impressed with these thoughts, previously to the institution of the holy Eucharist; consequently when they beheld Jesus Christ, just before his death, taking bread into his sacred hands; when after blessing it with solemnity, they heard him say, Take, eat; this is my body, which shall be given for you; they must necessarily have concluded, that it was truly his body, which he now gave them to eat, according to his former promise. And though their reason or senses might have started difficulties, yet all these were obviated by their belief of his being God, and consequently able to effect whatever he pleased, and to make good whatever he said.
--- Moreover, if we consult tradition, we shall find that the Greek, as well as the Latin Church, has uniformly declared in favour of the literal sense of Christ's words, as may be seen at large in all Catholic controvertists. The learned author of the Perpetuité de la Foi, and his continuator, Renaudot, in the two additional quarto volumes, have invincibly demonstrated, that the belief of all the Oriental Christians perfectly coincides with that of the Catholic Church, respecting the real presence. Dr. Philip Nicolai, though a Protestant, candidly acknowledges, in his first book of the Kingdom of Christ, p. 22, "that not only the churches of the Greeks, but also the Russians, the Georgians, the Armenians, the Judæans, and the Ethiopians, as many of them as believe in Christ, hold the true and real presence of the body and blood of our Lord." This general agreement amongst the many Churches of the Christian world, affords the strongest evidence against Secker and others, who pretend that the doctrine of the real presence is a mere innovation; which was not started till 700 years after Christ's death. For, how will their supposition accord with the belief of the Nestorians and Eutychians, who were separated from the Church of Rome long before that period, and who were found to agree exactly with Catholics concerning this important tenent?
--- See this point clearly given in Rutter's Evangelical Harmony.
Ver. 24. Which shall be shed. With words so explicit, with the unanimous agreement of the Eastern and Western Churches, how can any Dissenters bring themselves to believe that there is nothing more designed, or given, than a memorial of Christ's passion and death? Catholics, who believe in the real presence, do certainly renew in themselves the remembrance of our Saviour's death and passion, with more lively sentiments of devotion than they who believe it to be mere bread and wine. The outward forms of bread and wine, which remain in the Eucharist, are chiefly designed to signify or represent to us three things; viz. 1. The passion of Christ, of which they are the remembrance; 2. the body and blood of Christ, really, though sacramentally present, of which they are the veil; and 3. everlasting life, of which they are the pledge.
--- N. B. In speaking of the real presence in the Eucharist, Catholics hold that Christ is corporally and substantially present, but not carnally; i.e. not in that gross, natural, and sensible manner, in which or separated brethren so frequently misrepresent our doctrine.
Ver. 25. This vine represents the Synagogue, according to Isaias. The vine, or vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel. Of this vine Christ drank for some time; and though many of the branches were become useless, there were yet many that still brought forth fruit. But Christ now going to his passion, declares that it would be no longer acceptable to him, since the figures were not to pass into reality. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 26. Jesus Christ is seized upon Mount Olivet, whence he ascended into heaven; that we might know that the place on earth where we watch and pray, where we suffer chains without resistance, is the place whence we are to ascend into heaven. S. Jerom.
Ver. 27. Christ permitted his disciples to fall, that they might learn not to trust in themselves. To strengthen his prediction, he adduces the testimony of Zacharias the prophet, (xiii. 7.) I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be dispersed. Theophy. . . . This text is expressed in other words, being there spoken in the person of the prophet: Strike the pastor, and the sheep shall be dispersed. Ven. Bede.
--- By these words, the prophet prays for the passion of the Lord. The Almighty Father answers his prayer: I will strike the shepherd. The Son is sent by the Father, and is stricken by becoming incarnate and suffering death. S. Jerom.
Ver. 37. You who were ready to die for me, cannot watch with me! We are here taught a great duty of a Christian life, and that is, to beg of God, that he would give us strength to observe and follow the motions and inspirations of his Holy Spirit, and never to resist the calls of heaven.
Ver. 45. Our Lord received the kiss of the traitor, that he might not appear to avoid being delivered up; and at the same time he fulfilled that of the Psalmist, with those who hated peace, I was peaceful. Ps. cxix. 7.
Ver. 46. Here is Joseph betrayed and sold by his brethren, and pierced in his soul with a sword. S. Jerom.
Ver. 47. This was Peter, as we learn from S. John xviii. 10. He is here actuated with his usual ardent zeal, calling to mind the example of Phinees, who by executing justice on the wicked, merited the reward of justice, and a continual priesthood. Ven. Bede.
--- S. Mark conceals his master's name, lest he should seem to be publishing the ardour of his zeal for Christ. Theophy.
Ver. 51. This probably was the owner, or the son of the owner of the garden, who hearing the tumult came to see what was the cause. It must have been a young man from the Greek word neaniskoV. T.
Ver. 55. Though the law prescribed there should be only one high priest, yet at this time there were many, being appointed yearly by the Roman governor; and those are here called chief priests who had once been invested with the dignity of high priest, but were at that time out of office. Theophy.
Ver. 56. Their evidence did not agree. Others translate, their testimonies were not sufficient;† that is, so as to amount to a crime that made him guilty of death. The Greek, as well as the Latin text, may be taken in either sense. The high priest, vexed at this, stood up, and asked him questions, hoping to make him appear guilty by his own confession. Wi.
--- This latter sense is given to the same expression, v. 59. infra.
[†] V. 56. Convenientia testimonia non erant. isai ai marturiai ouk hsan. The word isai may either signify that they did not agree together, or that they were not sufficient to get him condemned, which latter is the opinion of Erasmus, who translates, non erant idonea.
Ver. 57. Thus has iniquity lied to itself, (Ps. xxvi.) as formerly in the case of the wife of Putiphar against Joseph, (Gen. xxix.) and the elders against Susanna. Dan. S. Jerom.
Ver. 61. Our Redeemer was silent, because he knew they would not attend to his words; therefore does he say in S. Luke, If I shall tell you, you will not believe me. Theophy.
Ver. 63. Caiphas, in order to excite their hatred against what was said, rent his garments, and thus deprived himself of the priestly dignity, by transgressing the precept; which, speaking of the high priest says: He shall not uncover his head, and his garments he shall not rend. Lev. xxi. 10. S. Leo the Great.
--- By the high priest rending his garments he shews, that the Jewish priesthood, on account of their crimes, was now dissolved; whereas the tunic of Christ, by which the one true Catholic Church is prefigured, was seamless, and not to be divided. Ven. Bede.
Ver. 71. In this one apostle, Peter, the first and chief in the order of apostles, in whom the Church was figured, both sorts were to be signified, viz. the strong and the weak, because the Church is not without both. S. Austin, Serm. xiii. de verb. Do.
--- Again, our Saviour would shew by the example of the chief apostle, that no man ought to presume of himself, when even S. Peter was not secure and immoveable. Idem. tract. lxvi. in Evan. Joan. and S. Leo. serm. ix. de Pass. Do.