This second council of the Jews against Jesus, was held on the Wednesday, two days before the Passover; and because on this day Judas sold Christ, and the Jews decreed his death, the ancient custom, according to S. Austin, originated of fasting on Wednesdays; (Ep. xxxvi. t. 3. p. 80,) and the general custom of abstaining from flesh on Fridays, because on that day Jesus suffered death for our redemption.
--- In the notes on these two following chapters, I shall join all the chief circumstances related by the other evangelists that the reader may have a fuller and more exact view of the history of Christ's sufferings and death. Wi.
Ver. 2. You know that after two days shall be the Pasch;† or the feast of the Pasch. The Protestants translate, of the Passover. The French all retain the same word in their language, Pâque; as the author of the Latin Vulg. and all other Greek versions have done. It is indeed an evident mistake, (as S. Aug. observed) to take Pascha for a Greek word, as Mr. N. . . has done, who in his note on this place says, Pascha, in Greek, is a passion or suffering. It is certain that the word Pascha, or Pasche, is from a Hebrew derivation, signifying a passing by or passing over. Yet it must also be observed, that this same word Pascha, has different significations; sometimes it is put for the Paschal Lamb, that was sacrificed; as Luke xxii. 7, elsewhere for the first day of the Paschal feast and solemnity, which lasted seven days; as in this place, and Ezech. xlv. 21. Again it is taken for the sabbath-day, that happened within the seven days of the solemnity. Jo. xix. 14. And it is also used to signify all the sacrifices, that were made during the seven days' feast; as John xviii. 28. Wi.
--- And the Son of man. Jesus Christ informed his disciples of the bloody transactions, which were soon to be perpetrated at Jerusalem, lest they might be disheartened, when they saw their Master condemned to die on a cross. Christ was delivered up to death by his heavenly Father out of love for man; he is betrayed by Judas for base lucre, condemned by the priests out of envy, and persecuted by the common enemy of mankind, who feared that his empire and reign might be destroyed among men by the preaching of our Redeemer; not perceiving, that man would be freed from his empire more by his death, than by his preaching. Origen.
[†] V. 2. Pascha fiet. to pasca ginetai fit. S. Jerom on this place, (p. 125.) Pascha, quod Hebraicè dicitur Phase: non a Passione, ut plerique arbitrantur, sed a transitu nominatur. So also S. Aug. tract 55. in Joan.
Ver. 3. Into the palace or court of the high priest. Assemblies were held in the public places, at the gates, or in the courts of the nobles. V.
Ver. 5. Not on the festival day. Such a day seemed to them at first improper, at least to some of them; but this was overruled, when Judas informed them how he could and would put him into their hands on Thursday night. S. Jerom takes notice, that when they said, Not on the festival, it was not through a motive of religion that they made this objection, but only lest a tumult should happen in his favour among the people; (Wi.) for they looked upon him as a great prophet.
--- Behold how fearful these people are, not of offending God, nor of increasing the enormity of their most atrocious crime, by committing it on the solemnity of the Passover, but of offending men by raising a tumult. Still boiling over with rage, they no sooner found the Traitor, than yielding to the impulse of their blind fury, they gladly seized the opportunity offered, and immolating their victim in the middle of their solemnity. Though this their wickedness was the instrument of the divine dispensation, to bring about the greatest good, still they will not go without receiving condign punishment; which the perversity of their wills so richly deserved, for murdering innocence itself; and at a time when guilt was accustomed to meet with mercy and forgiveness. S. Chrys. hom. lxxx.
--- We know that by a decree of divine Providence, what had been so long and so earnestly sought for by the Jewish princes, viz. an opportunity of murdering the innocent Lamb of God, was not granted to them, except on the very feast of the Pasch. For it was only fitting, that what had been for such a length of time figuratively promised, should be manifestly fulfilled; that the true Lamb should supersede the figurative one; and that by one grand sacrifice, the vast variety of offerings and holocausts should be done away. S. Leo the great.
Ver. 6. When Jesus was in Bethania, &c. S. Aug. observes, that this pouring of the ointment on Jesus is not related by S. Matthew in due order of time. It was not done on this Wednesday, but as S. John expressly tells us, (xii. 1.) six days before the Pasch, or Paschal feast, began. This anointing was different from that done in the house of the Pharisee, and in Galilee, set down by S. Luke, C. vii. 37. Wi.
--- S. Matthew mentions the fact in this place, because it was in some measure the occasion of Judas's treason. V.
--- S. Ambrose seems to assert, that the Simon here mentioned was at that time a leper, in the following words: "Hence, it appears, that Christ did not flee the company of lepers; he kept company with the unclean, that he might purify them from their uncleanness." S. Jerom is of opinion that Simon was not then a leper, but had been cured of a leprosy by our Lord; and that he afterwards retained the name of leper, as S. Matthew, after he was called by our Saviour, continued to be called the Publican. The latter sentiment seem most probable, because the Jews were not permitted to associate with lepers. Dion. Carth.
BethaniaBethania, is about one mile and a half from Jerusalem: Bethphage was between the two. V.
Ver. 7. A woman. This was Mary, the sister of Lazarus. S. John xii. 3. V.
--- It is not the use, but the abuse of things, which is blameworthy. That man is not to be blamed, who does not exceed the rules followed by good, honourable, and conscientious men, with whom he associates. What, therefore, in some is often reprehensible, in another is highly commendable. A good reputation is a sweet perfume, which a man merits for his worthy deeds; and whilst he follows the footsteps of Christ, he may justly be said to anoint our Redeemer's feet with a most precious ointment. S. Augustin.
Ver. 8. Indignation. It was chiefly Judas, who blamed aloud this profusion. V.
--- S. Matt. and S. Mark mention the disciples. But such of them as spoke, were persuaded to what they said either by Judas's words, or by their feeling and affection for the poor; but the only motive of Judas was avarice. S. Thos. Aquin.
Ver. 10. Why do you trouble this woman? By this, our Saviour teaches us, that we are not to expect the more perfect acts of virtue from persons still novices, or young in the service of God. He takes the part of the woman, and speaks in her behalf; that the tender bud of her faith might not be blasted, but that her virtues might be watered with tenderness, and thus assisted to produce greater fruit for the future. When, therefore, we behold any good action done, though some imperfection may creep in with it, still ought we to behold it with kindness, and assist it to bring forth more perfect acts for the time to come. S. Chrys. hom. lxxxi.
Ver. 11-12. Me you have not, or will not have always, in this visible manner.
--- She . . hath done it for my burial. S. Mark (xiv. 8.) says, She hath prevented the time to anoint me, which is done at burials, for my time of being buried will be in a few days. Wi.
--- Me you have not always; viz. in a visible manner, as when conversant here on earth: and as we have the poor, whom we may daily assist and relieve. Ch.
--- Or, he is not always corporally present with us, except in the persons of the poor, whom our Saviour commands us to receive or assist; promising to reward us in the same manner, as if we had conferred the same charity on himself. This saying does not contradict what he afterwards said: behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world; (C. xxviii. 20.) because in the former, he only speaks of his corporal presence, but in the latter text, of his spiritual presence and constant assistance. Dion. Carth.
Ver. 13. That also which she had done. The exploits of kings and emperors are no longer remembered. The actions of those who have built cities, raised fortresses, carried on wars, and erected trophies of their victories; who have subdued nations, dictated laws to thousands, and raised statues to their own honour, have passed into oblivion; and many of their names are long ago forgotten. But when a poor simple woman, in the house of a leper, in the presence of twelve men, pours out her ointment; her good work is rehearsed after the lapse of so many ages, in every part of the habitable globe. S. Chrys. hom. lxxxi.
Ver. 14. The chief priests were then assembled; Judas, the disciple, who chiefly regretted the expense of the perfumes that had been used on his Lord and Master, at the feast of Bethania, and wished for an opportunity to make good the loss, went to the chief priests, saying:
Ver. 15. What will you give me? The impious wretch did not betray his divine Master out of fear, but out of avarice. Of all passions the love of sordid lucre is the most vile; and the avaricious soul does not fear to plunge herself into the bottom of hell, for a trifling gain. There is no vestige of honour or justice, or probity, remaining in the heart of that man who is possessed with the love of base lucre; whose god is his money. The perfidious Judas, inebriated with this passion, while he thirsts after gain, sells with the most foolish impiety his Lord and his Master. S. Leo the great.
--- He sells him for the paltry consideration of thirty pieces of silver, about £3 15s. the price of a common slave. See Exod. xxi. 32. It is probable that even the obdurate heart of Judas would not have betrayed his Master to the Jews, had he not expected that Jesus would escape from their hands on this occasion, as he had done at Nazareth, and in the temple.
Ver. 17. The first day of the azymes; unleavened bread. S. Mark (xiv. 12.) adds, when they sacrificed the Pasch: and S. Luke (xxii. 7.) says, And the day of the unleavened bread came; on which it was necessary that the Pasch (i.e. the Paschal lamb) should be killed. From hence it follows, that Christ sent his apostles that very day (the 14th day of the month of Nisan) on which, in the evening, or at night, the Pasch was to be eaten; and which was to be with unleavened bread. It is true, the 15th day of that month is called (Exodus xii. 1.) the first day of unleavened bread: but we must take notice, that the Jews began their feasts, or festivals, from sunset of the evening before; and consequently on the evening of the 14th day of the moon: at which time there was to be no leavened bread in any of their houses. This shews that Christ eat the Pasch, or Paschal lamb, after sunset. And when the Paschal supper was over, he consecrated the blessed Eucharist, in unleavened bread, as the Latin Church doth. There are two or three difficulties relating to this matter in S. John, of which in their proper places. Wi.
--- There were four passovers during Christ's public ministry. The 1st was after the marriage feast of Cana, in the 31st year of Jesus, and the 779th from the foundation of Rome. To derive pascha from the Greek, pascein, to suffer, is a mistake, as S. Austin observes; tract. lv. in Joan. It is certainly taken from the Hebrew, and signifies a passing by, or passing over: 1st, because the children of Israel passed in haste on that night out of the land of Egypt; 2d, because the angel, who on that night killed all the first-born of the Egyptians, seeing the doors of the Israelites stained with the blood of the paschal lamb, passed by all theirs untouched; 3d, because that was a figure of our Saviour passing out of this life to his eternal Father. Yet it must be observed that this same word, pascha, or passover, is used sometimes for the paschal lamb, that was sacrificed; (Luke xxii. 7.) elsewhere, for the first day of the paschal feast and solemnity, which lasted seven days; (Mat. xvi. 2. Ezech. xlv. 21.) for the sabbath-day, which occurred within the seven days of the solemnity; (John xix. 14.) and also for all the sacrifices made during the seven days' fest. The Passover was the most solemn rite of the old law. When God ordered the Israelites to sprinkle the blood of the lamb upon their door-posts, it was solely with a view of signifying, that the blood of the true Lamb was to be the distinctive mark of as many as should be saved. Every thing was mysteriously and prophetical. A bone of the lamb was not to be broken; and they broke not the arms or legs of Jesus Christ, on the cross. The lamb was to be free from blemish; to express the perfect sanctity of Jesus Christ, the immaculate Lamb of God. The paschal lamb was to be sacrificed and eaten; because Christ was to suffer and die for us: and unless we eat his flesh, we shall have no life in us. The door-posts of the Israelites were to be sprinkled with blood, that the destroying angel might pass over them; for with the blood of Christ our souls are to be purified, that sin and death may not prevail against us. In every house was eaten a whole lamb; and Christ, at communion, is received whole and entire by every faithful soul.
--- The manner in which it was to be eaten, shews the proper dispositions for Christians when they receive the blessed sacrament. The roasting by fire, expresses divine charity; the unleavened bread, sincerity, truth, and a good conscience; the bitter herbs, repentance and contrition for sin; the girded loins and shod feet, the restraint upon our passions and lusts, and a readiness to follow the rules of the gospel; the staff, our mortal pilgrimage, and that having no lasting dwelling here, we should make the best of our way to our true country, the heavenly Chanaan.
--- On this day the passover was to be eaten, at least by a part of the people, according to S. Matt. S. Mark, and S. Luke; i.e. according to some, by the Galileans; for, according to S. John, it appears that the priests, and the Jews properly so called, such as dwelt in Judea, did not immolate it till the next day. John xiii. 1, xviii. 28, and xix. 14. V.
--- But we have here again to remark, that the Jews began their day from sunset of the previous day.
Ver. 18. To a certain man, whom SS. Mark and Luke call, the good man of the house, or master of the house. When S. Mat. therefore says, a certain man, he seems to do it for brevity's sake; as no one ever speaks to his servants thus, go to a certain man. The evangelist, therefore, after giving our Saviour's words, go ye into a certain city, he adds as from himself, to a certain man, to inform us that there was a particular man to whom Jesus sent his disciples. S. Austin.
--- In Greek, ton deina; in Hebrew, Peloni; words that express a person whose name is either not known, or is wished to be kept secret. Jans.
Ver. 19. And they prepared what was necessary, a lamb, wild lettuce, and unleavened bread. V.
Ver. 20. When it was evening.† S. Luke says, when the hour was come, which was at the latter evening, after sunset. The time of killing and sacrificing the lamb was, according to the 12th of Exodus, to be between the two evenings; (see Mar. xiv. 15.) so that we may reasonably suppose, that Christ sent some of his apostles on Thursday, in the afternoon, to perform what was to be done, as to the killing and sacrificing of the lamb, and then to bring it away: and he eat it with his disciples after sunset.
--- He sat down, &c. Lit. laid down, in a leaning or lying position. Some pretend, from this circumstance, that he eat not the paschal lamb that year, because it was to be eaten, standing, according to the law. But they might stand at the paschal lamb, and eat the rest of the supper on couches; as it was then the custom. Wi.
--- We must not hence suppose that he transgressed the law. He first eat the Pasch according to the Mosaic rite, standing, and then sat down to supper. S. Chrys. hom. lxxxii.
[†] V. 20. Vespere facto. See the two evenings, Matt. xiv. 15.
Ver. 22. And they being very much troubled. There were three motives for this great sorrow in the disciples: 1st, because they saw their innocent and dear Master was so soon to be taken from them, and delivered up to a most cruel and ignominious death; 2d, because each of them was afraid lest, through human frailty, he might fall into so great a crime; for they all were convinced, that what he said must necessarily come to pass: and lastly, that there could be found one among them so wretchedly perverse, as to deliver Jesus into the hands of his enemies. Hence afraid of themselves, and not daring to affix a suspicion on any individual, they began every one to say: Is it I, Lord, on whom so atrocious a crime is to fall? . . . It is extremely probable that Christ made this prediction three times: 1st, at the commencement of supper; (Mat. xxvi. 21.) 2d, after washing the feet; (John xiii. 18.) 3d, after the institution of the blessed Eucharist. Luke xxii. 21. Thus Pope Benedict XIV. Sandinus, &c.
Ver. 23. He that dippeth. He that is associated to me, that eateth bread with me, shall lift up his heel against me, according to the prophecy of the psalmist, cited by S. John, xiii. 18.
--- Jesus Christ does not here manifest the traitor; he only aggravates the enormity and malice of the crime.
Ver. 25. Is it I, Rabbi? After the other disciples had put their questions, and after our Saviour had finished speaking, Judas at length ventures to inquire of himself. With his usual hypocrisy, he wishes to cloke his wicked designs by asking a similar question with the rest. Origen.
--- It is remarkable that Judas did not ask, is it I, Lord? but, is it I, Rabbi? to which our Saviour replied, thou hast said it: which answer might have been spoken in so low a tone of voice, as not perfectly to be heard by all the company. Rabanus.
--- Hence it was that Peter beckoned to S. John, to learn more positively the person. Here S. Chrysostom justly remarks the patience and reserve of our Lord, who by his great meekness and self-possession, under the extremes of ingratitude, injustice, and blasphemy, shews how we ought to bear with the malice of others, and forget all personal injuries.
The Institution of the Holy Sacrament.
Ver. 26. And whilst they were at supper. Jesus Christ proceeds to the institution of the blessed Eucharist, that the truth or reality may succeed to the figure in one and the same banquet; and to impress more deeply upon our minds the remembrance of so singular a favour, his last and best gift to man. He would not institute it at the beginning of his ministry; he first prepares his disciples for the belief of it, by changing water into wine, and by the miraculous multiplication of the loaves.
--- Whilst they were, &c. before they parted: for by S. Luke (xxii. 20.) and 1 Cor. (xi. 25.) the blessed sacrament was not instituted till after supper.
--- Jesus took bread, and blessed it. S. Luke and S. Paul say, he gave thanks. This blessing and giving thanks, was not the consecration itself, but went before it. See the Council of Trent, sess. xiii. c. i. Wi.
--- This is my body. He does not say, this is the figure of my body—but, this is my body. 2d Council of Nice. Act. vi. Neither does he say in this, or with this is my body, but absolutely this is my body; which plainly implies transubstantiation. Ch.
--- Catholics maintain, after the express words of Scripture, and the universal tradition of the Church, that Christ in the blessed sacrament is corporally and substantially present; but not carnally; not in that gross, natural, and sensible manner, in which our separated brethren misrepresent the Catholic doctrine, as the Capharnaites did of old; (John vi. 61, 62.) who were scandalized with it. . . . If Protestants, in opposition to the primitive Fathers, deny the connection of the sixth chapter of John with the institution, it is from the fear of giving advantage to the doctrine of transubstantiation, says Dr. Clever, Protestant bishop of Bangor.
--- This is my body. By these words, and his divine power, Christ changed that which before was bread into his own body; not in that visible and bloody manner as the Capharnaites imagined. John vi. Yet so, that the elements of bread and wine were truly, really, and substantially changed into the substance of Christ's body and blood. Christ, whose divine power cannot be questioned, could not make use of plainer words than these set down by S. Matthew, S. Mark, S. Luke, and S. Paul to the Corinthians: this is my body; this is my blood: and that the bread and wine, at the words of consecration are changed into the body and blood of Christ, has been the constant doctrine and belief of the Catholic Church, in all ages, both in the east and west, both in the Greek and Latin churches; as may be seen in our controvertists, and particularly in the author of the books of the Perpetuity of the Faith. The first and fundamental truths of the Christian faith, by which we profess to believe the mystery of the holy Trinity, i.e. one God and three divine Persons, and of the incarnation, i.e. that the true Son of God was made man, was born, suffered and died upon the cross for our salvation, are no less obscure and mysterious, no less above the reach of human capacity, than this of the real presence: nor are they more clearly expressed in the sacred text. This change the Church hath thought proper to express by the word, transubstantiation: and it is as frivolous to reject this word, and to ask where it is found in the holy Scriptures, as to demand where we read in the Scriptures, the words, trinity, incarnation, consubstantial to the Father, &c.
--- Luther fairly owned that he wanted not an inclination to deny Christ's real presence in the sacrament, by which he should vex and contradict the Pope; but this, said he, is a truth that cannot be denied:† The words of the gospel are too clear. He and his followers hold, what is called impanation, or consubstantiation; i.e. that there is really present, both the substance of the bread and wine, and also the substance of Christ's body and blood.
--- Zuinglius, the Sacramentarians, and Calvinists deny the real presence; and hold that the word is, (est) importeth no more, than it signifieth, or is a figure of Christ's body; as it hath been lately translated, this represents my body, in a late translation, or rather paraphrase, 1729. I shall only produce here the words and reasoning of Luther: which may deserve the attention of the later reformers. ††"Who," saith Luther, (tom. vii. Edit. Wittemb. p. 391) "but the devil, hath granted such a license of wresting the words of the holy Scripture? Who ever read in the Scriptures, that my body is the same as the sign of my body? or, that is is the same as it signifies? What language in the world ever spoke so? It is only then the devil, that imposeth upon us by these fanatical men. . . . Not one of the Fathers, though so numerous, ever spoke as the Sacramentarians: not one of them ever said, It is only bread and wine; or, the body and blood of Christ is not there present. Surely it is not credible, nor possible, since they often speak, and repeat their sentiments, that they should never (if they thought so) not so much as once, say, or let slip these words: It is bread only; or the body of Christ is not there, especially it being of great importance, that men should not be deceived. Certainly in so many Fathers, and in so many writings, the negative might at least be found in one of them, had they thought the body and blood of Christ were not really present: but they are all of them unanimous." Thus far Luther; who, in another place, in his usual manner of writing, hesitates not to call the Sacramentarians, men possessed, prepossessed, and transpossessed by the devil.†††
--- My body. In S. Luke is added, which is given for you. Granted these words, which is given, may bear this sense, which shall be given, or offered on the cross; yet as it was the true body of Christ, that was to be crucified, so it was the same true body which Christ gave to his apostles, at his last supper, though in a different manner.
--- The holy Eucharist is not only a sacrament, but also a sacrifice, succeeding to all the sacrifices of the ancient law, which Christ commanded all the priests of the new law to offer up. Luther was forced to own, that divers Fathers, taught this doctrine; as Irenæus, Cyprian, Augustin: and in his answer to Henry VIII. of England: The king, says he, brings the testimonies of the Fathers, to prove the sacrifice of the mass, for my part, I care not, if a thousand Augustines, a thousand Cyprians, a thousand Churches, like that of Henry, stand against me. The Centurists of Magdeburg own the same to have been the doctrine of Cyprian, Tertullian, and also of Irenæus, in the end of the second age; and that S. Greg. of Nazianzen, in the fourth age, calls it an unbloody sacrifice; incruenti sacrificii. Wi.
This is my body.
To shew how these words have been interpreted by the primitive Church, we shall here subjoin some few extracts from the works of some of the most eminent writers of the first five centuries.
S. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, who was a disciple and contemporary with some of the apostles, and died a martyr, at Rome, in a very advanced age, An. 107, speaking of certain heretics of those times, says: "They abstain from the Eucharist and from oblations, because they do not confess the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who suffered for our sins." See epis. genuin. ad Smyrnæos.
--- He calls the Eucharist the medicine of immortality, the antidote against death, by which we always live in Christ.
--- In another part he writes: "I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, and for drink, his blood." Again: "use one Eucharist; for the flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ is one, and the cup is one in the unity of his blood. There is one altar, as there is one bishop with the college of the priesthood," &c.
S. Justin, the philosopher, in an apology for the Christians, which he addressed to the emperor and senate of Rome, about the year 150, says of the blessed Eucharist: "No one is allowed to partake of this food, but he that believes our doctrines are true, and who has been baptized in the laver of regeneration for remission of sins, and lives up to what Christ has taught. For we take not these as common bread, and common drink, but in the same manner as Jesus Christ, our Saviour, being incarnate by the word of God, hath both flesh and blood for our salvation; so we are taught that this food, by which our flesh and blood are nourished, over which thanks have been given by the prayers in his own words, is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus." Apology ii. in fin. he calls it, Panem eucharistisatum ton arton eucaristhqenta, the bread blessed by giving thanks, as he blessed and miraculously multiplied the loaves, euloghsen autouV.
S. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who suffered martyrdom in 258, says: "the bread which our Lord delivered to his disciples, was changed not in appearance, but in nature, being made flesh by the Almighty power of the divine word."
S. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, who was born in the commencement of the 4th century, and died in 386, explaining the mystery of the blessed Eucharist to the newly baptized, says: "Do not look upon the bread and wine as bare and common elements, for they are the body and blood of Christ; as our Lord assures us. Although thy senses suggest this to thee, let faith make thee firm and sure. Judge not of the thing by the taste, but be certain from faith that thou has been honoured with the gift of Christ's body and blood. When he has pronounced and said of the bread, this is my body, who will after this dare to doubt? And when he has assured, and said, this is my blood, who can ever hesitate, saying it in not his blood? He changed water into wine at Cana; and shall we not him worthy of our belief, when he changed wine into blood? Wherefore, let us receive them with an entire belief, as Christ's body and blood; for under the figure of bread, is given to thee his body, and under the figure of wine, his blood; that when thou hast received Christ's body and blood, thou be made one body and blood with him; for so we carry him about in us, his body and blood being distributed through our bodies." S. Cyril, catech.
--- S. Ambrose, one of the greatest doctors of the Latin Church, and bishop of Milan, who died in 396, proving that the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, is really possible to God, and really takes place in the blessed Eucharist, uses these words: "Will not the words of Christ have power enough to change the species of the elements? Shall not the words of Christ, which could make out of nothing things which did not exist, be able to change that, which already exists, into what it was not? It is not a less exertion of power to give a new nature to things, than to change their natures. Let us propose examples from himself and assert the truth of this mystery from the incarnation. Was it according to the course of nature, that our Lord Jesus Christ should be born of the Virgin Mary? It is evident that it was contrary to the course of nature for a virgin to bring forth. Now this body, which we produce, was born of the virgin. Who dost thou seek for the order of nature in the body of Christ, when our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin. S. Ambrose, lib. de initiandis, c. ix.
S. Chrysostom, bishop of Constantinople, who died in 407, does not speak less clearly on this subject. "He," (i.e. Jesus Christ,) says the holy doctor, hom. l. in Matt. "has given us himself to eat, and has set himself in the place of a victim sacrificed for us." And in hom. lxxxiii.: "How many now say they could wish to see his form, his garments, &c.; you wish to see his garments, but he gives you himself not only to be seen, but to be touched, to be eaten, to be received within you. Than what beam of the sun ought not that hand to be purer, which divides this flesh! That mouth, which is filled with this spiritual fire! That tongue, which is purpled with this adorable blood! The angels beholding it tremble, and dare not look thereon through awe and fear, on account of the rays, which dart from that, wherewith we are nourished, with which we are mingled, being made one body, one flesh with Christ. What shepherd ever fed his sheep with his own limbs? Nay, many mothers turn over their children to mercenary nurses; whereas he feeds us with his own blood!"
--- On another occasion, to inspire us with a dread of profaning the sacred body of Christ, he says: "When you see Him exposed before you, say to yourself: this body was pierced with nails; this body which was scourged, death did not destroy; this body was nailed to a cross, at which spectacle the sun withdrew his rays; this body the Magi venerated."
--- "There is as much difference between the loaves of proposition and the body of Christ, as between a shadow and a body, between a picture and the reality." Thus S. Jerom upon the epistle to Titus, c. i. See more authorities in the notes on S. Mark's Gospel, ch. xiv, v. 22, on the real presence, and also in the following verses and alibi passim.
[†] V. 26. Luther. Verum ego me captum video. . . . Textus enim Evangelii nimium apertus est.
[††] Ibid. See Luther, tom. 7. Ed. Wittemb. p. 391.
[†††] Ibid. See Hospinianus, 2. part. Hist. Sacram. p. 187. He says the Sacramentarians have a heart, according to a French translation, endiabolè, perdiabolè, transdiabolè.
Ver. 27. Drink ye all of this. This was spoken to the twelve apostles; who were the all then present; and they all drank of it, says Mark xiv. 23. But it no ways follows from these words spoken to the apostles, that all the faithful are here commanded to drink of the chalice, any more than that all the faithful are commanded to consecrate, offer and administer this sacrament; because Christ upon this same occasion, and as I may say, with the same breath, bid the apostles do so, in these words, (S. Luke xxii. 19,) Do this for a commemoration of me. Ch.
--- It is a point of discipline, which the Church for good reasons may allow, or disallow to the laity, without any injury done to the receiver, who according to the Catholic doctrine of the real presence, is made partaker of the same benefit under one kind only; he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever. John vi. . . . When our adversaries object to us, in opposition to the very clear and precise proofs we produce from the primitive writers of the doctrine of the real presence, that is called sometimes bread, a figure, a sign; we reply, that they can only mean that the outward forms of bread and wine, which remain after consecration, are a figure, a sign, a commemoration. They nowhere teach that the consecrated species are barely figures or signs, and nothing more. On the contrary, with S. Cyril above quoted, they say: "Let your soul rejoice in the Lord, being persuaded of it, as a thing most certain, that the bread, which appears to our eyes, in not bread, though our taste do judge it to be so, but the body of Christ: and that the wine which appears to our eyes, is not wine, but the blood of Christ." Myst. catech. 4, p. 528: and with S. Gregory of Nyssa, born in 331, "the bread, which at the beginning was common bread, after it has been consecrated by the mysterious word, is called, and is become, the body of Christ." And with S. Paulinus, in the same age, "the flesh of Christ, with which I am nourished, is the same flesh as that fastened to the cross; and the blood, with which my heart is purified, is the same blood that was spilt upon the cross."
Ver. 28. This is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for many for the remission of sins. The Greek text in S. Luke shews that the words shall be shed, or is shed, cannot, in construction, be referred to the blood of Christ shed on the cross, but to the cup, at the institution of the holy sacrament. This cup (says Luke xxii. 20,) is the New Testament in my blood; which cup† shall be shed, or is shed for you. S. Paul also saith: this cup is the New Testament in my blood. And if any one will needs insist upon the words, as related by S. Matthew and S. Mark, the sense is still the same; viz. that this cup was not wine, but the blood of Christ, by which the New Testament was confirmed, or alliance betwixt God and man.
--- For many. S. Luke and S. Paul, instead of many, say for you. Both are joined in the canon of the mass. Euthymius says, for many, is the same as for all mankind. This new alliance was made with all, and the former with the Jews only. Wi.
--- As the Old Testament was dedicated with blood in these words: This is the blood of the Testament, (Heb. ix. 20,) so here is the institution of the New Testament, in Christ's blood, by these words: This is the blood of the New Testament, which God contracts with you, to communicate to you his grace and justice, by the merits of this blood, which shall be shed for you on the cross; and which is here mystically shed for many, for the remission of sins: for the Greek is in the present tense in all the three evangelists, and in S. Paul, 1 Cor. xi, and the Latin Vulgate of S. Luke, xxii. 19. Hoc est corpus meum quod pro vobis datur: didomenon, klwmenon ekcunomenon.
[†] V. 28. Touto to pothrion, h kainh diaqhkh en tw aimati mou, to uper umwn ekcunomenon, and not ekcunomenw; so that it agrees with pothrion, &c.
Ver. 29. I will not drink from henceforth of this fruit of the vine. In S. Luke, (xxii. 15, 16,) Christ said to his disciples; I earnestly desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer; (or this paschal sacrifice) for I say to you, that, from this time I will not eat thereof, till it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. These expressions seem to import no more, than that it was the last time he would eat and drink with them in a mortal body. And if, as some expound it, Christ, by the generation of the vine, understood the consecrated cup of his blood, he might call it wine, or the fruit of the vine; because he gave them his blood under the appearance of wine; as S. Paul calls the body of Christ bread, because given under the appearance of bread. 1 Cor. xi. 26. Wi.
--- Fruit of the vine. These words, by the account of S. Luke, (xxii. 18,) were not spoken of the sacramental cup, but of the wine that was drunk with the paschal lamb. Though the Sacramental cup might also be called the fruit of the vine, because it was consecrated from wine, and retains the likeness, and all the accidents, or qualities, of wine. Ch.
--- As S. Paul calleth the body of Christ bread, so the blood of Christ may still be called wine, for three reasons: 1. Because it was so before; as in Genesis xi. 23, Eve is called Adam's bone; in Exod. vii, Aaron's rod devoured their rods, whereas they were not now rods but serpents; and in John ii, He tasted the water made wine, whereas it was now wine not water. 2. Because the blessed Eucharist retaineth the forms of bread and wine, and things in Scripture are frequently called from their appearance; as. Tob. v, the archangel Raphael, is called a young man; and Gen. xviii, three men appeared to Abraham; whereas they were three angels. 3. Because Jesus Christ in the blessed Sacrament is the true bread of life, refreshing us in soul and body to everlasting life. B.
--- Drink it new, after a different manner most wonderful and hitherto unheard of, not having a passible body, but one clothed with immortality; and henceforth no longer in need of nourishment. Thus he brings to their minds the idea of his resurrection, to strengthen them under the ignominies of his passion, and eats and drinks with them, to give them a more certain proof of this grand mystery. S. Chrys. hom lxxxiii.
Ver. 30. And when they had sung a hymn. Christ, with his disciples, after supper, sung a hymn of thanksgiving. Here in order to follow those incomparable instructions, which we read in S. John, chap. xiv. xv. xvi. and xvii. Wi.
Ver. 31. Scandalized in me, &c. For as much as my being apprehended shall make you all run away and forsake me. Ch.
Ver. 33. I will never be. After our Saviour had assured them of the prediction of the prophet, that the flock should be dispersed, and had confirmed it himself, still Peter denied it; and the more Christ assured him of his weakness, the more, according to S. Luke, (c. xxii.) did Peter affirm that he would not deny him. Whence this confidence in Peter? who when our Lord had said, that one of them would betray him, feared for himself, and though conscious of nothing, still prevailed on S. John to put the question to our Saviour. Freed now from that solicitude and anxiety, which had so much oppressed him concerning the treason of Judas, he began to trust to himself. Let us learn from this fall of the chief of the apostles, ever to assent with the greatest sincerity to the words of God. Let us believe him in every possible circumstance, though it may appear to our senses and understanding contradictory; for, the word of God can never be made void; but our senses may easily be deceived. When, therefore, he says, this is my body, let us without any the least hesitation immediately believe and contemplate the mystery with the eyes of our understanding. S. John Chrys. hom. lxxxiii.
Ver. 34. Before the cock crow.† S. Mark is more particular; before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. The sense seems to be, before the time that the cocks crow the second time, towards the morning. Wi.
[†] V. 34. The time towards the morning, called Gallicinium.
Ver. 36. Gethsemani. S. John tells us it was a garden, whither Jesus was accustomed to go with his disciples, which Judas knew. S. Luke says, he went according to his custom to the mount of Olives; i.e. where he used to spend part of the nights in prayer. Wi.
Ver. 37. He began to grow sorrowful.† The Greek signifies to be dispirited. S. Mark, to be in a consternation with fear: to wit, when all he was to undergo was represented to him, as well as the ingratitude of sinners. Wi.
[†] V. 37. LupeisJai kai adhmonein. In S. Mark, ekqambeisJai.
Ver. 38. My soul is sorrowful. The cause of our Lord's grief was not the fear of suffering; since he took upon himself human nature, to suffer and to die for us; but the cause of his grief was the unhappy state of Judas, the scandal his disciples would take at his passion, the reprobation of the Jewish nation, and the destruction of the miserable Jerusalem. Our Lord also suffered himself to be thus dejected, to convince the world of the truth and reality of his human nature. S. Jerom.
Ver. 39. Going a little further. S. Luke says, about a stone's cast, kneeling down; or as here in Matt. prostrating himself. He did both.
--- Father, if it is possible. Which is the same, says S. Augustin, as if he said, if thou wilt, let this cup of sufferings pass from me.
--- Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. He that was God and man, had both a divine and a human will. He was pleased to let us know what he naturally feared, as man, and in the sensitive part of his soul; yet shews his human will had nothing contrary to his divine will, by presently adding, but not my will, but thine be done. Here, as related by S. Luke, followed his bloody sweat. Luke xxii. 43. Wi.
--- These words are a source of instruction for all Christians. These words inflame the breasts of confessors; the same also crown the fortitude of the martyrs. For, who could overcome the hatred of the world, the assaults of temptations, and the terrors of persecutors, unless Christ in all, and for all, had said to his eternal Father: Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou willest. Let all the children of the Church then understand well these words, that when calamities violently beat upon us, we may with resignation exclaim: nevertheless, not as I will, but, &c. S. Leo the great.
Ver. 41. Watch ye and pray, &c. We watch by being intent on good works, and by being solicitous that no perverse doctrine seize our hearts. Thus we must first watch, and then pray. Origen.
--- The spirit indeed is willing, &c. This is addressed to the disciples; that they were not to trust too much to their own courage; for although their spirit was ready to undergo any temptation, their bodies were still so weak, that they would fail, unless strengthened by prayer. S. Hilary.
Ver. 44. He prayed the third time, to teach us perseverance in our prayers. Of these particulars Christ might inform his disciples afterwards; or they were revealed to them. Wi.
--- Our Lord prayed three different times, to obtain of his heavenly Father pardon for our past sins, defence against our present evils, and security against our future misfortunes; and that we might learn to address ourselves in prayer to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Rabanus.
Ver. 45. Sleep on now. These were words spoken, as it were, ironically. The hour is come, that I am to be betrayed. Wi.
--- It seems more probable that he then permitted them to sleep for some time, compassionating their weakness, and leaving them undisturbed. For, it is not very probable that after the agony he had just been in, he should address his disciples ironically; so that the words in the next verse, Rise, let us go, seem to have been spoken after he had permitted them to enjoy a short repose. Jans.
--- S. Austin also supposes that after our Lord said, sleep ye now, he was silent for some time, and only then added, it is enough, the hour is come.
Ver. 48. Judas wished to give them a sign, because Jesus had before been apprehended, and had escaped from them on account of their ignorance of his person; which on this occasion he could also have done, if such had been his pleasure. S. John Chrysostom.
Ver. 49. Hail, Rabbi. And he kissed him. This kind of salutation was ordinary with the Jews. S. Luke tells us, Christ called Judas friend; and added, Is it with a kiss thou betrayest the Son of man? By what we read in S. John, these men that came with Judas, seem not to have known our Saviour: for when he asked then, whom seek you? they do not answer, thyself, but Jesus of Nazareth. They were struck with a blindness, which S. Chrysostom looks upon as done miraculously. The second miracle was, that when Christ said, I am he, they fell to the ground, as thunder-struck. The third was, let these go, by which they had no power to seize any one of his disciples. The fourth was, the healing of Malchus's ear. Wi.
Ver. 51. Drew out his sword. Peter did not comprehend the meaning of what Christ had said, Luke xxii. 36. He that hath not a sword, let him buy one, which was no more than an intimation of the approaching danger. Now Peter, or some of them, asked, and said: Lord, shall we strike? But he struck without staying for an answer. Wi.
Ver. 52. Shall perish by the sword. This was not to condemn the use of the sword, when employed on a just cause, or by lawful authority. Euthymius looks upon it as a prophecy that the Jews should perish by the sword of the Romans. Wi.
--- Our divine Saviour would not permit this apostle to continue in his pious zeal for the safety of his Master. He says to him: put up thy sword. For he could not be unwilling to die for the redemption of man, who chose to be born for that end alone. Now, therefore, he gives power to his implacable enemies to treat him in the most cruel manner, not willing that the triumph of the cross should be in the least deferred; the dominion of the devil and man's captivity in the least prolonged. S. Leo.
Ver. 53. More than twelve legions of angels. A legion was computed about 6,000. Wi.
--- These would amount to 72,000; but our Lord means no more than a great number.
Ver. 55. In that same hour, &c. The reason why the Jewish princes did not seize our Lord in the temple, was, because they feared the multitude; on which account Jesus retired, that he might give them an opportunity, both from the circumstances of place and time, to apprehend him: thus shewing us, that without his permission they could not so much as lay a finger upon him. The evangelist informs us in the following verse of the reason of this conduct; that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled. S. Chrys. See Luke xxii. 53.
Ver. 56. All leaving him, fled away. Yet Peter and another soon followed after at a distance. S. Mark says (xiv. 51,) that a young man followed with nothing on but a linen cloth. Perhaps it was some one that upon the noise came hastily out of the neighbourhood; and when they catched hold on him, fled away naked. It is not known who he was. Wi.
Ver. 57. To Caiphas. Our Saviour Christ was led in the night time, both to Annas and Caiphas: and first to Annas; (Jo. xviii. 13,) perhaps because the house of Annas was in their way; or that they had a mind to gratify the old man with the sight of Jesus, now taken prisoner and bound with ropes. Wi.
--- After the chief priests had bribed Judas to betray Christ, they bring him to Caiphas, not as to his judge, but as to his enemy, to insult over him: and then they began to examine him concerning his doctrine and disciples, that they might find some heads of accusation from his answers: thus they shewed that they acted contrary to common justice, in apprehending a person before they had any thing to lay to his charge. Jans.
--- Josephus relates that Caiphas had purchased the high priesthood for that year; although Moses, at the command of God, had ordained that a regular succession be kept up, and the son should succeed the father in the high priesthood. It is no wonder then if an iniquitous judge passed an iniquitous sentence. S. Jerom.
Ver. 58. Peter followed. To wit, to the court of Caiphas, where a great many of the chief priests were met.
--- And another disciple. Many think this disciple was S. John himself. Wi.
Ver. 60. False witnesses. But how were these men false witnesses, who affirm what we read in the gospel? That man is a false witness, who construes what is said in a sense foreign to that of the speaker. Jesus Christ spoke of the temple of his body. Our divine Saviour had said, Destroy this temple; and they affirm that he had said, I am able to destroy. Had the Jews attended sufficiently to our Saviour's words, they would easily have perceived of what Christ was speaking, from what he there says: and in three days I will raise it up, S. Jerom.
--- These words of Jesus Christ are only mentioned by S. John ii. 19, who marks on what occasion and in what sense there were spoken. V.
Ver. 61. This man said: I am able to destroy the temple of God. These men that gave this evidence, are called false witnesses. They relate not the true words of Christ; which were not, I can destroy, but destroy you this temple, &c. 2. Christ spoke of the temple of his body, and they of the material temple. 3. It is not unlikely that they made other additions, as well as false constructions, omitted by the evangelists. Wi.
Ver. 63. I adjure thee by the living God. They hoped this might make him own himself God; for which they were for stoning him. Jo. x. 31.
--- S. Luke tells us, (xxii. 66,) that this question was put to Jesus, when it was day. S. Augustine thinks it was put to him first in the night, and again the next morning. We must not forget that when Christ was examined by the high priest, one of the servants standing by gave our blessed Redeemer a box on the ear, or on the face. See John xviii. 22. Wi.
--- Our divine Saviour as God knew perfectly well, that whatever he said would be condemned; and therefore the more Jesus was silent to what was alleged against him, the more did the high priest try to extort an answer from him, that he might have some accusation against the Lord of glory. Hence he exclaimed in that violent manner: I adjure thee, or I command thee by the living God, Exorkizw se kata tou Qeou zwntoV. The law for witnesses is to be found in Levit. v. 1; where the witness is pronounced guilty who should suppress the truth, after he has heard the fwnhn orkismou. This is the true meaning of that law, so very ill understood by many. See also Menochius, who on these very words of Leviticus says: if any one shall be called upon to say what he knows of a point that another has confirmed by oath, he shall carry his iniquity, i.e. the punishment of his iniquity, which God will inflict. M.
--- See 1 Kings xiv. 24. 27. Numbers v. 19. 1 Thess. v. 27. The confession or denial of a person thus interrogated was decisive. C.
Ver. 64. Thou hast said it. Or, as it is in S. Mark, I am. According to S. Luke, Christ in the morning, before he answered directly, said to them: If I tell you, you will not believe me, &c. Wi.
Ver. 65. The same fury that made Caiphas rise from his seat, forced him also to rend his garments, saying: he hath blasphemed. It was customary with the Jews, whenever they heard any blasphemous doctrines uttered against the majesty of the Almighty, to rend their garments in abhorrence of what was uttered. S. Jerom.
--- This was forbidden the high priest; (Lev. xxi. 10,) but the Pharisees allowed him to rend his clothes from the bottom, but not from the top to the breast.
Ver. 66. He is guilty of death; i.e. of blasphemy, and so deserves to be stoned to death. Wi.
Ver. 67. Then they spat in his face, and buffetted him, &c. Here it was that this wicked council of the Sanhedrim broke up, in order to meet again the next morning. Our blessed Saviour in the mean time was abandoned; that is, had abandoned himself for our sake, to be abused, vilified, beaten and tormented by a crew of miscreants, by all the ways and means their enraged malice could devise or invent: which S. Luke passeth over in a few words, telling us, that, blaspheming, they said many other things against him. Let us, at least, compassionate our blessed Redeemer, and cry out with the angel in the Apocalypse: thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive power and divinity, honour and glory for ever. Wi.
--- Behold with what accuracy the evangelist mentions every, even the most ignominious circumstance, concealing nothing, ashamed of nothing, but esteeming it his glory that the Creator of heaven and earth should suffer so much for man's redemption. Let us continually meditate upon this; let us ever glory in this, and fix it irrevocably in our minds. S. Chrys. See Mark xiv. 65. Luke xxii. 64.
Ver. 69. Peter sat without in the palace: i.e. in the open court below, where the servants had lighted a fire. There came to him a certain servant-maid, the portress, says S. John, xviii. 17. But he denied, saying: I know not what thou sayest. In S. Luke, I know him not: in S. John, I am not. The sense is the same; and Peter might use all these expressions. Wi.
Ver. 71. As he went out of the gate another maid. S. Mark says, he went out before the court. By the Greek, he seems to have gone out of the court into the porch. He went from the fire, but returned thither again: for by S. John, (xviii. 25,) this second denial was at the fire. S. Luke seems to say it was a man,† that spoke to him: and S. John, that they were several that spoke to him: it is likely both a girl and a man. Wi.
[†] V. 71. Aluis, eteroV, says S. Luke. S. John says, eipon autw.
Ver. 73. And after a little while. S. Luke says, about an hour after: this seems to have been about the time that the cocks crow the second time.
--- They that stood by came. S. Luke says, another man. S. John says, the cousin to him whose ear Peter cut off. It is probable not he alone, but others with him.
--- Peter began to curse and swear. It is in vain to pretend to excuse Peter, as if he meant that he knew not Jesus, as man; but knew him as God.† They (says S. Jer.) who are for excusing Peter in this manner, accuse Christ of a lie, who foretold that he should deny him. Wi.
--- See how one fall draws on another, and generally a deeper: to a simple untruth is added perjury; and to this, horrible imprecations against himself. Lord, Jesus, preserve me! or, I also shall deny thee!
[†] V. 73. S. Jerom, in Matt. p. 133, scio quosdam pii affectus erga Apostolum Petrum, locum hunc ita interpretatos, ut dicerent Petrum non Deum negasse, sed hominem . . . Hoc quam frivolum sit, prudens Lector intelligit; qui sic defendunt Apostolum, ut Deum mendacii reum faciant.
Ver. 75. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus. S. Aug. understands this rather of an interior illumination of grace: but it is likely our Saviour then might be where he saw Peter, and gave him a glance of his eye.
--- And going forth he wept bitterly: even daily all his life-time, say the ancient historians of his life. Wi.
--- S. Clement, pope, in his itinerary, relates how S. Peter was ever after accustomed to watch in prayer, from the first crow of the cock till morning, pouring forth torrents of tears, and bitterly bewailing his heinous crime. Dion. Carth.
--- Let us compassionate our blessed Lord under his sufferings, and in opposition to the cruel malice of his enemies, let his followers cry out with the angel in the Apocalypse: Thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive power and divinity, honour and glory, for ever and ever.