Thursday, June 1st, 2023
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
Lapide's Great Biblical Commentary Lapide's Commentary
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Matthew 3". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ clc/ matthew-3.html. 1890.
Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Matthew 3". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://studylight.org/
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In those days , &c. This was in the fifteenth year of Tiberius, as S. Luke says, when John and Christ were about thirty years of age. Matthew passes at once from the childhood of Christ to His age of manhood, when He commenced His actual work of preaching and redemption, for which He had been sent by the Father into the world.
He sent John before Him to announce to the Jews that He was the Messiah, lest, if Christ should appear in Judæa abruptly, without one to point out who He was, or a witness worthy of credit, He should be despised of all.
Christ lived in obscurity, and exercised a workman's craft with his father Joseph for nineteen years, to give to the world a memorable example of humility. He began to preach in his thirtieth year, that He might conform Himself to the customs and laws of the Jews. Amongst them it was not lawful for any one to execute the office of a doctor or a priest before his thirtieth year. Such is the Hebrew tradition, and the same thing may be gathered from 1 Chronicles 23:3 . Hence John began to preach in this same thirtieth year, but a little before Christ.
That Christ should be hid so long in the obscure depths of His humility S. Bernard admires when he exclaims ( Serm . I de Epiph .), "O humility, virtue of Christ, how dost thou confound the pride of our vanity! Little enough do I know, or rather seem to myself to know, and yet I cannot know impertinently and imprudently carrying and manifesting myself ready to speak, swift to teach, slow to hear. And did Christ, when He kept silence for so long a time and hid Himself, did He fear vain glory? What could He fear from vain glory who is the True Glory of the Father? He did fear, indeed, but not for Himself. He feared for us that which He knew was to be feared by us. He took cautious heed for us, and so instructed us. He kept silence with His mouth, but taught by His deeds. And what He afterwards taught in words He at this time cried aloud by His example, 'Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.'"
In the desert . Not in a cultivated and inhabited place. For Isaiah 40:3 , prophesying concerning this desert of John, speaks of it as a wilderness. And this is plain from the circumstances. We behold John's rough clothing of sackcloth of camel's hair, his woodland food, the locusts and wild honey. The motive cause of this life was that, as a follower of Moses and Elias, and the precursor of Christ, in the desert, removed from the pollutions of men, he might converse with God and the angels, and might from them derive the power of strength and of the Spirit, and might acquire for himself the name and fame of sanctity, that all might give credit to him when he pointed out Christ, and, being pricked at his preaching, might repent. Whence the Fathers constantly call John the prince of monks and anchorites, as S. Jerome ( Epist . 22 ad Eustoch .), S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Cassian ( Collat . 18. 6). Hence John, living in the desert an angelic life with the angels, was regarded as an angel by Malachi (chap. 3) and by Christ Himself ( Mat 11:10 ): "For this is he of whom it is written, Behold, I send my angel before my face, who shall prepare thy way before thee." (Vulg.)
Symbolically , S. John preaching in the desert signified that the Gospel would be preached chiefly, not in Jerusalem and Judæa, but in the wilderness i.e ., the deserted multitudes of the Gentiles. So S. Jerome.
Tropologically , S. John, by his example, taught that the apostolic men and preachers who were about to be, would first retire from the tumult of men to have leisure in secret for prayer and meditation, that they might thereby drink, as it were, from heaven a mighty power of the Spirit, which they should afterwards pour forth upon their hearers. (See what I have said on Hosea ii. 1 "I will lead her into the wilderness, and will speak to her heart." Vulg.) To this may be referred what S. Augustine says ( Epist . 76): "He will not be a good clergyman who has not been a good monk." Wherefore SS. Augustine, Martin, Chrysostom, Nazianzen, Basil, and many more were taken out of their monasteries into the ranks of the clergy, and, even against their will, promoted to the episcopate.
The desert of Judæa was near the Jordan, close to Ænon and Salim ( Joh 3:23 ), and was very famous, both from the abundance of water for baptizing, as well as for being the abode and the scene of the miracles of the prophets and religious men who, in the Books of the Kings, are called the sons of the prophets , that is, of Elijah and Elisha, and such as they.
Lastly, Nicephorus (lib. 1, c. 14) asserts that when John was a year and a half old he was taken by his mother into the desert. Cedrinus adds, that he was concealed in a certain cave, and that his mother died there, and that an angel then took care of the child. This cave was afterwards frequented by the hermits, as appears from John Moschus ( Spiritual Meadow , c. I), who says that the cave was situated near the Jordan, and that by chance an abbot, John, who was sick, turned into it, where he was healed by John the Baptist, to whom he promised that he would dwell in the cave. When the Baptist appeared to the abbot, he said to him, "I am John the Baptist, and I bid thee that thou depart not from hence, for this narrow cave is greater than Mount Sinai, for into it our Lord Jesus Christ often entered when He visited me. Promise me therefore to dwell here, and I will restore thee to health." "When the old man heard this, he willingly promised to dwell in the cave; and forthwith he was healed; and he abode there unto his life's end. Moreover, he made that cave a church, and gathered brethren together there. And the name of the place was called Sapsas."
Saying, repent ye , &c. John went into the desert, and there did penance, and led an austere life that he might be a fitting preacher of repentance. S. Gregory Nazianzen strove to imitate John when he says, "The office, or rather the service of John, I strive to undertake, and though I am not the Forerunner, yet I come from the desert." For Gregory went apart with S. Basil into the wilderness of Pontus, and there led a hard life, and then, being filled with the Spirit, he came forth like another Baptist to preach repentance. This was the theme, this the sum of the Baptist's preaching, Repent ; because well-nigh all were grievous sinners, living in vices and lusts, therefore repentance was necessary, that they might receive the grace and righteousness of Christ.
Moreover, repentance is not only amendment of manners, and the beginning of a new life, as the heretics say, but it is a detestation, chastisement, and destruction of the old sinful life, for the new life cannot effectually be begun, unless the old life be cast away. Whence the Interlinear Gloss thus expounds: "Let every man punish the evils of his former life, because salvation shall come nigh, and the opportunity of returning thither from whence we have fallen." S. Augustine ( lib. de Pœniten .) says, "He cannot begin the new life who does not repent of the old." "To repent is to weep over sins past, and not to commit what has been wept over. He who truly repents, chastises in himself his past errors, and lifts up his mind to heavenly things. And this virtue is born of holy fear, and is called pœnitentia , penance, from the Latin puniendo , punishing." Gloss.
Whence Ausonius sings of penitence:"A goddess I, who punishment exact of things amiss,
Metanœa I, from penitence I wiss."
S. Gregory ( Hom . 34, in Evangel .) says, "Penitence is the bewailing past sins, and the abstaining from doing that which you have bewailed." The Hebrew הנחם hinnachem has the same meaning; viz., to repent and grieve over the past. Whence God, when He saw the men whom He had created rushing into wickedness, repented Him that He had made man upon the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart; and He said, "I will destroy man, whom I have created, from the face of the earth." Wherefore the Hebrew Gospel, attributed to S. Matthew by Munster, has, less fully, instead of hinnachem and nechumim , i.e . "to repent", and "repentance," teschuba , i.e ., "conversion," or schuba , that is, "be converted to the Lord;" for repentance is not merely turning to God, but turning away from sin; also grief, compunction, and satisfaction, as the Apostle teaches ( 2Co 7:10 ) and Joel 2:12 , "Be converted to me with all your heart, in fasting and weeping and in mourning." Whence it is plain that repentance must include three duties sorrow, a new life, and chastisement of sins in order to please God.
For the kingdom of heaven , &c. In which God reigns in the faithful, by grace in this life, and in the life to come by glory; and makes them kings and partakers of His eternal kingdom. "John first preached the kingdom of heaven," says the Gloss, "which the Jews had never heard of," says S. Chrysostom. And S. Jerome says, "John the Baptist first preaches the kingdom of heaven, that the precursor of the Lord might be honoured with this privilege." Observe, the Jews expected that their kingdom, under King Messiah, would be rich and splendid in their land, such as it was under Solomon. S. John, therefore, and after him Christ and the Apostles, begin their preaching from the kingdom of Messiah, but a kingdom heavenly, not earthly; as though to say, "Now is the time of heaven being opened, which Christ shall shortly open unto you by His death. Repent ye, therefore, for your sins past, correct your lives, be changed for the better, that ye may be meet to be taken by Him into His kingdom. Behold, now is the accepted time foretold by Isaiah, now is the day of salvation, the day when heaven, which has been shut for 4,000 years, is opened, and they who will may enter into it, if indeed they will walk in the path which Christ has pointed out, the path of faith, hope, and charity, and a heavenly life, and enter into the spiritual kingdom of the Church militant, which shall have its joyful consummation in the Church triumphant." Thus Theophylact and Jansen. Franc. Lucas says, "The kingdom of heaven is the dominion of Christ, both over the holy angels and the company of those men whose rightly ordered life on earth is obedient to God ruling from heaven."
For this is he , &c. I have commented at length upon this in Isaiah 11:6 , and will not here repeat.
S. John was the voice of God, 1. Announcing that Christ was about to come. 2. Pointing out that He was now born, and inviting men to repent and prepare for the grace of Christ. "By the expression, crying , the strength of his preaching is denoted," says Raban. Aptly says Bede, "God, indeed, cried by means of others, but He Himself is the only Voice, because He shows the present Word." "Prepare therefore the way of the Lord," is the same as, "Repent ye;" as though "Arouse ye, O Jews, and ye! O inhabitants of the world, as many as ye be; Christ is about to come, and to be installed as Messiah, your King. Make smooth your ways, as is wont to be done for monarchs; take away all things which can offend or dishonour Him, that Christ may be freely and with longing received by all; that, indeed, each may prepare their hearts and minds, by thorough repentance, for the faith and grace of Christ and every kind of holiness."
The same John , &c. Not the flowing robe, commonly called camelots, as Chrytraeus, and those luxurious innovators, who magnificently adorn themselves in the pulpits like the suitors of Penelope. For Christ commends John for the roughness of his clothing. (Matthew 9:8 .) John fled from the halls of Herod, and retired into the desert, and preferred a hovel to a palace. His garment was cheap, rugged, hairy, and made of sackcloth. "Yea," say S. Chrysostom and others, "the clothing of his body spoke of the virtue of his soul." Eusebius of Emissa ( Hom . I de Joan. Bapt .) says that John's raiment was made of camel-hair sackcloth, since Syria abounds in camels. By this means he tamed his flesh in his youth, like as S. Paul says, "I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway." (1 Corinthians 9:27 . , Vulg.) For sackcloth, by its hairs and pointed bristles, pricking the flesh all over as with little needles. mortifies it greatly, and restrains its lusts. as they know who have made trial of it. Hence S. Ægidius, one of the first companions of S. Francis, being asked why S. John, who had not sinned, led so austere a life, and did penance, replied, "As flesh is seasoned with salt, that it may not corrupt, so was the body of the Baptist seasoned with penance." "Penance," as S. Cyprian says ( Serm. de ratione Circumcisionis ), "is that penetrating salt which dries up the rankling putrescences of the flesh." Hence, SS. Hilarion, Anthony, Paul, Pachomius, and the rest of the Anchorites, according to the testimony of S. Jerome and others, were clothed in hair shirts, or sackcloth, such as the Capuchins wear now, and such as was worn by Elijah, Elisha, and the other prophets, as I have shown in my Preface to the Minor Prophets. In truth, God made for Adam not fine linen or woollen tunics, but coats of skin, and rough ones, that by them, as by a hair shirt, he might tame his flesh and do penance for his sin, as I have shown in Genesis. That is a wise saying of Augustus Caesar in Suetonius, "Soft and splendid clothing is the banner of pride and a seed plot of luxury." S. Ephrem concludes his life of S. Abraham the hermit thus, "In all the fifty years of his abstinence he never changed the hair shirt which was his clothing." S. Clare wore for twenty-eight years, even in sickness, a hair shirt made of hogs' bristles. When S. Josaphat exchanged a kingdom for the desert, he wore a hair shirt next his skin, under his clothes. (See Damas., in Histor . c. 37.) Theodoret says that the emperor, wishing to see S. Abraham the hermit, called him to him, and when he came received him with a salutation, and regarded his rough sackcloth as of more excellence than his own purple. When S. William, Duke of Aquitaine, was converted by S. Bernard, he tamed his flesh with an iron coat of mail, and armed it against temptation. S. Dominic did the same, and was, for that reason, surnamed Loricatus (coated with mail). S. Martin, as Sulpitius testifies, was of opinion that it becomes a Christian to die on ashes; wherefore, he himself, making his bed on ashes, and clothed in sackcloth, so died. SS. Anselm, Charles Borromœo, and many others did the same.
And a leathern girdle , &c. The prophets indeed, all the Jews and Syrians wore long robes; to prevent these flowing down to the ground and impeding their walking, they made use of girdles. Thus they were more ready for a journey, and more strong for work. But John had a girdle of skin about his loins, that it might press his sackcloth more closely to his body, and so the more mortify his flesh and subdue it to the Spirit. For in the loins is the origin of lust. S. John was in this a follower of Elias, whose eulogium is that "he was a hairy man, and girt about the loins with a girdle of skin." It is a common saying, "A girded garment, a girded mind; an ungirded garment, an ungirded mind." As it is said in Ecclus 19:27, "A man's clothing, and excessive laughter and gait, shew what he is." (See S. Chrysostom in loc .) And Cassian (lib. i. de Habitu Monach .) thus begins, "so must a monk needs walk as a soldier of Christ, always ready for battle, with his loins always girded."
His meat , &c. For locusts the Greek has α̉κρίδες , which Beza erroneously understands to mean wild pears, for they are not called α̉κρίδες , but α̉χράδες. ̉Αχρας is a wild pear-tree, a species of thorn. (See Columella, lib. 10.)
A second opinion of certain heretics mentioned by S. Epiphanius, Hæres. 30, is also wrong. By α̉κρίδες they understood ε̉γκρίδες , or sweetmeats made of oil and honey.
Thirdly, certain innovators take α̉κρίδες to mean sea-crabs ; but these are not called α̉κρίδες but α̉χαρίδες , or καρίδες in Athanæus. But where, I ask, could John procure crabs in the desert? Besides, crabs, as crawling on the ground, were forbidden to the Jews.
Fourthly, some by α̉κρίδες translate herbs, or the tops of trees and leaves. The Ethiopian has, His food was arant anvota , the tops of herbs with wild honey, or dipped in honey.
But I say α̉κρίδες are locusts ; so the Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic. The Egyptian translates grasshoppers , but it means locusts, which chirp like grasshoppers. And both are so called because they feed upon τὰ α̉κρὰ , i.e . the tops of ears of corn and plants. So Theocritus, and the Lexicons, passim . Whence Origen, Hilary, Ambrose, Chrysostom, Augustine, understand by the word a kind of leaping insect, which is frequently eaten by the Ethiopians, Libyans, Parthians and other Orientals. (See Pliny, lib. 11, C. 29, and lib. 6, c. 30.) Hence S. Jerome (lib. 2 contra Jovin .) says, "Because clouds of locusts are found throughout the vast solitudes of the burning deserts, they are used as food; and this was what John the Baptist ate." So, too, the locust, because it leaps, was counted a clean animal, and was allowed by God to be eaten by the Israelites. (Leviticus 11:0 )
Moreover, the ancients were wont to eat locusts, either sodden or roasted; and when dried in the sun, or salted and smoked, they would keep for a year.
Nothing is here said of John's drink, for it is certain that he drank water only. Indeed there was nothing else to be had in the desert. So the angel said of him, "He shall drink neither wine nor strong drink."
Wild honey . What sort of honey was this? First, Rabanus is of opinion that it was the white and tender leaves of trees, which, when rubbed in the hands, give out a kind of honeyed flavour.
2. Others think that this honey was a moisture collected from the leaves of trees.
3. Suidas thinks it was the gum collected from trees and shrubs, which is called manna.
4. And rightly, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Isidore of Pelusium, believe that it was wild honey, made by wild bees, which they store in hollow trees, and which has a somewhat bitter and disagreeable flavour. The Ethiopic version has here, sedenæ , which means a particular kind of honey, sweeter and more wholesome than the common honey. It is made by a kind of bee, less than the common bee, about the size of a fly.
Then went out to him . Then, when the fame of his holy and austere and eremitical life was everywhere spread abroad. Of so great power with all men is sanctity, and the reputation of sanctity.
Now Jordan, in Hebrew, is as though, ירר מן דן , iored min dan , that is, descending from Dan. Dan in Hebrew signifies judgment . Whence the passage denotes, mystically, that they who fear the judgment of God run to holy preachers, such as was John, that they may learn from them the way of salvation, and thus, in the Day of Judgment, may have their portion in heaven assigned by Christ the Judge.
And were baptized , &c. Unaptly Calvin interprets were baptized to mean were taught the baptism of repentance . For to baptize does not mean to teach, but to wash the body with water, as is plain from verse 13. The baptism of John was different from the baptism of Christ, as I show against the heretics on Acts 19:2 . The baptism of John was only a sign and protestation of repentance, and a preparation for the baptism of Christ, that they might be justified by it. Hence they were confessing their sins. For repentance, or sorrow for sin, causes a man to confess his sins, and seek for a remedy for them and for pardon. Thus the Jews in certain cases were obliged to confess their sins to a priest, as I have shown on Leviticus 5:5 , and Leviticus 6:6-7 , and Numbers 5:7 . But this confession was not a Sacrament, nor did it procure remission of sins, as in the confession instituted by Christ. For in that, as in a Sacrament, the priest, by the power conferred upon him by Christ in ordination, absolves the penitent from his sins. But that confession of the Jews was only a sign of penitence and compunction, or inward contrition, which, if it were perfect, that is to say, proceeding from the love of God above all things, would put away sins and justify. "For charity covereth a multitude of sins."( 1Pe 4:8 ).
But when he saw many , &c. As early as the time of Jonathan, the brother of Judas Maccabæus, there were three sects among the Jews, the Pharisees, the Essenes, and the Sadducees. Josephus ( Ant . lib. 13, c. 9) thus writes concerning them: "In the time of Jonathan there were three sects, who disagreed among themselves about human affairs. They were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. Of these the Pharisees attributed some things, but not all, to fate; and some things they say are in our own power, so as to be or not to be. The Essenes affirm that all things are in the power of fate; and that nothing can happen to man except by the decree of fate. But the Sadducees altogether deny fate in human affairs. They say that nothing happens because it is fated to happen, and that everything is in our own power; and that we ourselves are the authors of our own happiness or misfortune, according as we follow good or evil counsel." He treats more fully of these sects, de Bell. Jud . lib. 2, C. 7, where he says that the Pharisees professed a more accurate knowledge of the rites of the law: the Sadducees denied Providence, and rewards and punishment for the soul after death, which is the only bridle which will restrain from sin; and when it is withdrawn, men rush, like unbridled horses, into all manner of voluptuousness. Whence S. Luke says ( Act 23:8 ), "The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees confess both." For the Sadducees followed the fables of the Greek Sophists and Atheists, and laughed at the Elysian Fields of the Blessed, at Orcus, and Cerberus, and Hell. The Pharisees opposed the Sadducees, following the faith and hope of the ancient Fathers, Abraham, Moses, and the Prophets; and the people were on their side. But on the side of the Sadducees were the nobles, and it would appear, Herod, who lived like an atheist in all licentiousness and cruelty. When Christ came, both Pharisees and Sadducees conspired against Him, as the common enemy of the Jews. Against the Sadducees the Book of Wisdom was written, and the Second Book of the Maccabees, as I have shown. The Sadducees were so called as though they were just, because they arrogated to themselves the name of justice, from sadoc , "justice;" or rather from Sadoc, the name of their founder. The Pharisees were so called as expounders and explainers of the Law, or separated (for the root פרש parash signifies to separate, and also to expound) from the common people by their learning and sanctity. Their masters and chiefs were R. Hillel, and Shammai, who S. Jerome says, on the eighth chapter of Isaiah, lived a little before Christ. They were, however, always opposed to virtue and the truth: whence they are here most severely rebuked by S. John, because they were proud, and puffed up with a vain opinion of their wisdom and sanctity, as well as because they were hypocritical, and, as though ambitious of a feigned holiness, they sought for baptism with the rest, that they might be accounted holy by the people. Thus Origen (tom. 6 in Joan .). It may be added that they wished by this means to bind John to themselves, and stop his mouth from speaking of their faults. This is what politicians do at the present day. The Essenes alone, on account of the goodness of their faith and morals, favoured Christ and Christians. Indeed, being made Christians, they became the first monks under S. Mark, as I have shown, on Acts 5:2 .
Ye brood of vipers . This is a Hebraism, meaning, ye are vipers sprung from vipers, the very evil children of very evil parents, noxious, crafty, and poisonous, who propagate your pernicious morals and errors which you have derived and inherited from your wicked ancestors, in your disciples, as your children, whose souls you kill and destroy. So SS. Jerome and Gregory. For the bite of the viper is so noxious and destructive that it causes death in seven hours, or, at furthest, on the third day. Christ explains John's words, saying ( Mat 23:31 ), "Wherefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are the sons of them that killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, generation of vipers, how will ye flee from the judgment of hell?"
S. Ambrose, on Luke 3:7 , thinks that the prudence of the Pharisees is here alluded to, according to the words, "Be ye wise as serpents;" for the serpent, by prudence, provides for the future; yet does not its venom leave it. So likewise was it with them: by a certain provident devotion, they took care of the future, and desired the baptism of John; and yet they forsook not their badness and their sins.
Who hath warned you to flee , &c. To flee , that is, to escape . For warned , the Greek has ύπέδεξεν signifying (I), suggested , advised ; (2), shown , demonstrated i.e ., by reasoning and example. Hence ύπόδειξις means, a demonstration .
The wrath to come does not mean the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, so much as the wrath of Christ the Judge, which He will manifest to the wicked who are condemned in the Day of Judgment. It means the vengeance and sentence of condemnation which He shall then pronounce upon them, as Christ Himself explains. (Matthew 23:33 .) It means the wrath and angry countenance of Christ, which shall then so terrify the wicked, that "they say to the mountains and to the rocks: Fall upon us and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:16 .) S. John the Baptist was a true preacher of the kingdom of heaven, promising it to those who repent, but a preacher likewise of the wrath of God and of hell, with these threatening the impenitent, such as were the Pharisees and Sadducees. Let the true preacher do the same, as Isaiah did ( Isa 2:19 ), and Hosea ( Hos 10:8 ), and Christ Himself ( Luk 23:30 ).
The meaning of the whole is clear and plain. Who hath shown, or pointed out ( demonstravit , Vulg.) that ye shall escape the coming wrath? That is, the judgment of an angry Christ, and everlasting damnation. For so Christ Himself explains John, when He threatens the same Scribes and Pharisees with Gehenna, saying, "ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell?" That is to say, "By no means shall ye be able to escape that condemnation; but of a very surety ye shall fall into it, because ye are a generation of vipers; i.e ., ye have your malignity and hypocrisy so long a time in you, and so confirmed by practice, that ye cannot be torn away from them, because ye do not wish to be. As dissemblers do ye draw nigh to me, as though ye repented, when either ye do not believe in God's providence, wrath, and vengeance, like the Sadducees; or, if ye do believe in them, ye believe as the Pharisees do; ye fear them not, but proudly think that ye are righteous." So John gravely rebukes them. "Who hath promised you that ye shall escape hell? False is your persuasion, O ye Sadducees! There is a hell. Most vain, likewise, is your presumption and security, O ye Pharisees! in that ye are not afraid of hell, because ye proudly esteem yourselves righteous." The emphasis is on the word ύπέδειξεν , "Ye live securely, and are asleep in your lusts, just as if there were no vengeance of God, and punishment of wickedness after this life, or at least as if they need not be apprehended by you. Whence is that security of yours, whence that ύπόδειξις , that demonstration, that proof, that suggestion? It comes from no sure and evident reason. It comes only from your own pride and foolish persuasion." Jansen and Franc. Lucas give another turn to the words. They think they are the expression of John's rebuke of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and Sadducees, as though he said, "I do not believe that ye are approaching my baptism in sincerity: for who could have pointed out to you that by my baptism of repentance, the coming wrath of God might be escaped, when either, like the Sadducees, ye do not believe in that wrath, or else do not fear it, like the Pharisees? For to the unbelieving and the arrogant, nothing can be demonstrated or persuaded which goes contrary to their own opinion or their pride. Wherefore ye do not repent ex animo , but ye pretend that ye are fleeing from the anger of God."
Maldonatus has another opinion. He thinks that these are the words of John admiring so great and so sudden conversion of the Sadducees and Pharisees. "Who hath demonstrated to you that ye should fear the judgment of God and hell fire, which aforetime ye either did not believe, or else did not fear? Whence comes so great a change in you?" "Not surely from yourselves, but from the mighty grace and operation of God," says S. Chrysostom, "and from your evil conscience, which accuses you of your guilt, and compels you to fear the judgment of God."
Tropologically , S. Bernard teaches that coming (Gr. μελλούσης ) wrath must be escaped by present wrath, i.e ., by penance, which a man imposes upon himself, or accepts when imposed upon him by God. "What, O miserable ones! hath pointed out to you to flee from the coming wrath? Why do ye so greatly flee from the present wrath, when by it ye may escape that which is to come? Why do ye fear the scourge? Why decline the rod? These are the things which in this your day belong unto your peace, if ye would but know it. You only change, you do not escape penance. For it cannot be that the wicked shall go unpunished. He who is not punished here of his own will, shall be punished elsewhere without end. A wretched exchange indeed, and a token of the extreme of madness, is that exchange by which ye would decline temporal affliction, and choose the eternal anguish prepared for the devil. The sinner who would avoid the rod of the correcting Father, will fall into the everlasting punishment of God the Judge."
Bring forth therefore , &c. Gr. καρπὸν άξιον , worthy fruit , in the singular. Worthy fruit of penance. Observe that the genitive of penance is governed by the word fruit , as well as by the word worthy. The Baptist teaches the way and the means of escaping the wrath to come, that it is present repentance, but it must be worthy penance , that is to say, true, serious, and condign or suitable. "Because ye, O Sadducees, do not believe the providence of God, and the anger which shall overtake the wicked in hell; and because ye, O ye Pharisees, do not fear that anger because ye trust in your own works that ye are righteous, therefore shall ye both fall into that hell. And therefore, that ye may both escape it, do penance, and change your lives. Do ye, O ye Sadducees, exchange your faithless atheism for belief in Divine Providence: do ye, O ye Pharisees, exchange your pride for humility, your gluttony for abstinence, your lust for chastity, your covetousness for almsdeeds, your outward Pharisaic righteousness and the boast of it for Christian and inward holiness. Bring forth such fruits as truly become penance, as indicate serious repentance, such as proceed from the heart of a true penitent. They are tears, detestation and punishment of sin: they are the conversion of life and conduct." (See S. Gregory, Hom . 20 in Evang .)
Let me add that worthy penance is that in which the measure of grief and pain corresponds to the measure of the pleasure and the sin, that according to the enormity of the sin should be the increase of punishment. A far heavier penance should be that of the adulterer than of the thief, of the parricide than of the manslayer. Whence, in the Penitential Canons, penances are justly decreed and measured out to every kind of sin. Justly, I say, having regard to the crimes and to man, not with respect to God. For one single mortal sin, inasmuch as it is an offense against God, and because thereby the sinner implicitly places his chief good and end in the creature, which he loves so as to prefer it to God, and so takes away from the honour of the Deity, such sin is therefore as it were Decide and Christicide, and so contains within it an infinity of wickedness. For it is an offence and an injury against God, who is immense and infinite. Wherefore by no punishment or penance of any creature whatsoever can just and adequate satisfaction be made to God. Yea, even if all men and all angels were, of their own accord, to endure all the torments of hell for all eternity, they could never offer worthy penance and satisfaction to God for a single mortal sin. Christ alone can do this, inasmuch as He is the Son of God, and very God. His penance, therefore, and satisfaction, as regards His Person, which is of infinite dignity, are likewise of infinite value, and are equal and adequate to the infinite offence committed against an infinite God. Such is the sinfulness of sin, which if men thoroughly perceived, surely they would sin no more.
Lastly, he brings forth worthy fruits of repentance, who, when he is converted, serves the truth with as much zeal as before he served the devil and vanity; and loves God as fervently as before he loved the world and the flesh. Hear Climacus, how he gives an exact description of penitence: "Penitence is an ever-abiding abandonment of fleshly consolation. Penitence is a willing endurance of all afflictive dispensations. Penitence is the continual framer of scourges for itself. Penitence is the strong source of tribulation for the belly, and the stern rebuker of the sinful soul."
And think not to say , &c. As it were, boast not to say among yourselves, to think, and flatter yourselves as relying on the thought, that ye have Abraham for your father. For the Jews were accustomed to confide and boast in this, that they were sons of Abraham. This was their reply to Christ, "We be Abraham's seed." It was this vain-glorious boast of theirs which S. John here denounced. And the sense is this: "Abraham was a most holy patriarch and a friend of God, to whom God promised blessing and salvation, which was to be handed down to his children. Now we are sons of Abraham, and therefore heirs of these promises. Let us live therefore as we please, and refuse all worthy penance, yet shall we be saved by this, that we are the children of Abraham. God is faithful to His promises, that what He hath promised He will surely perform. Were it not so, Abraham would be defrauded of his sons, and of their salvation promised by God; and the race of Abraham would come to an end." John answers as S. Paul does (Romans 9:0 ), that the sons of Abraham, the heirs of the blessing and salvation promised to him, are not reckoned by carnal generation, but by faith and virtue, which are spiritual things. Insomuch that not those are counted sons of Abraham who are born of Abraham, but those who imitate the faith and holiness of Abraham. Wherefore even if the Sadducees and Pharisees, and the rest of the Jews, were to fall from righteousness and salvation, God would bring others in their place, and give them to be as it were children unto Abraham and successors to his blessings. "So that, although ye should perish, O ye Jews, the blessings promised to the seed of Abraham will not perish, but will be transferred from you, who are unworthy, to those who are worthy, viz., the Gentiles."
God is able , &c. John was preaching and baptizing in Bethabara, i.e ., the house of the passage , where the children of Israel, under Joshua, passed over Jordan dryshod. Wherefore in memory of this great miracle Joshua set up in this place twelve stones, taken from the bed of Jordan. Remigius and S. Anselm think that S. John here spoke of and pointed out those very stones. So also does Pineda. These stones were types and figures of the Gentiles, buried beneath the waves of error and ignorance, but at length raised up by Christ and His Apostles from the lowest pit of idolatry into the Church by baptism, to the glory of being sons of God.
You will ask, how can this be true? For how can sons of stones become sons of Abraham now dead? And even if stones were raised up and endowed with life, how could they be born of Abraham? Many here betake themselves to allegory, but I say that the words are true in their plain meaning as they stand. 1. Because God is able of stones to form men, whom He, by His will and intention, could reckon to Abraham for sons, or whom Abraham might adopt, just as God was able to form Adam out of the ground, and from barren Sara to produce Isaac unto Abraham. S. John seems to allude to Isaiah li.: "Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged," i.e ., as he goes on to explain, "Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sara that bare you." 2. Physically and precisely. As God turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt, so is He able to turn stones into men, and children born of Abraham. Yea, God, by His infinite power, is able wholly to transmute any created substance whatsoever into any other substance, and that either as regards matter or as regards form. For it suffices for a real transformation that the accidents only should remain the same, as is the case in transubstantiation, where the whole substance of the Bread of the Eucharist is converted into the Body of Christ.
S. John compares the Sadducees and Pharisees to stones, both that he might signify their hardness and obstinacy in evil, as well as humble their pride. As though he said, "O ye swelling Pharisees, of yourselves ye are no better than stones; and that wherein ye are more excellent than stones ye have from God. It was God who made you children of Abraham, and if ye be proud He will blot you out from the family of Abraham, and will raise up others in your place, and those even of stones if it so please Him."
Lastly, God is able to turn any stones whatsoever into men, and endow them with the faith and piety of Abraham, and so make them spiritual children of Abraham. For, as the Apostle says ( Rom 9:7 ), "Not they that are the children of the flesh are the children of God, but they that are the children of the promise are counted for the seed" i.e . are reckoned as the seed and sons of Abraham. Whence, mystically, God raised up out of stones children unto Abraham, when he made Gentiles who were rough and unpolished, and who worshipped stocks and stones, and were on that account likened unto stones by David (Ps. cxiv. 8) to become sons of Abraham by imitation of his faith, piety, and obedience. For he is the father of believers and of the just. So SS. Jerome, Hilary, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory ( Hom . 10), and all the ancient Fathers. Euthymius adds that there was a fulfilment at Christ's Passion, when many who were hard of heart seeing the rocks rent and other miracles, repented and believed in Christ.
For now is the ax , &c. Here is another stimulus wherewith John pricks the Pharisees to do penance, and that speedily, threatening them, indeed, with the peril of being cut down, and burnt up in hell. So S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and others. Of these Euthymius says, "The axe is compared to death, the tree to man." That is why the Greek is ε̉κκόπτεται , is cut down, and βάλλεται , is cast into the fire meaning it is upon the very point and verge of being cut down. "Your fate, therefore, O ye Pharisees, hangs as it were upon a razor's edge. The extreme of peril hangs over you; destruction, death, and hell are gaping for you. Therefore bring forth worthy fruits of penance, that ye may escape those things." The meaning is, the axe that is, the vengeance and judgment of God is laid to the roots of the trees that is, to the life of each individual that if they be unfruitful, as up to this present time is your case, O ye Sadducees and Pharisees, it may speedily cut them down by death, and cast them into the eternal fire. But if, on the other hand, they be fruitful, and produce repentance and good works, it shall in a little while, not so much cut them down as transfer and transplant them to the celestial paradise, where they shall produce the perennial fruits of eternal felicity, glory and praise.
You may say, Surely this was true before the coming of Christ. Why, then, saith John, after His coming, " Now is the axe laid," &c.? I answer, because all this is more clear and sure since the coming of Christ. For Christ for this very purpose came into the world, that as the Judge, King, and Lord of all men, He might translate those who believe in and obey Him to heaven, and punish the unbelieving and disobedient with present and eternal death. Therefore Christ, by Himself, by His Apostles, and by John, clearly preached and promised to the pious the kingdom of heaven, and threatened the wicked with hell, that they might know that in His hand is their salvation and their damnation, and that by turning to Him they might escape hell, and be put into the way for heaven; and that He was able immediately to do all this, and that He would shortly do it, since there was no longer any excuse of ignorance or infirmity for men, as there was to the uninstructed Jews before Christ, to whom present and temporal rewards and punishments, not future and eternal, were promised and threatened by Moses and the prophets.
Secondly, and more aptly, the axe is the judgment and vengeance of Christ, the King and the Judge, wherewith He will cut off not only noxious, but unfruitful trees that is, the Jews-from the garden of the Church, and from the salvation and the blessing promised to Abraham and his children, and cast them into the eternal fire; and shall, in their stead, plant the Gentiles who believe in Him in the paradise of His Church, which is, as it were, the estate and heritage of Abraham, who is the father of all them that believe. John therefore threatens the Pharisees with the reprobation of the Jews, and intimates the calling of the Gentiles into their place, which was shortly afterwards accomplished by Christ; for He rejected the Pharisees and the Jews from the family of Abraham that is, from the Church of the faithful, and consequently from the kingdom of God.
I indeed baptize you , &c. These words must not be connected with what precedes, nor were they spoken immediately afterwards by John. But they were spoken as suitable to an occasion of which S. Luke gives an account and explanation (iii. 15): "And as the people were of opinion, and all were thinking in their hearts of John, that perhaps he might be the Christ: John answered, saying unto all: I indeed baptize you with water: but there shall come one mightier than I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose. He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire" From the sanctity of his life and the fervour of his preaching, and from his baptizing, the people suspected that John was the Messiah, or the Christ. For none of the other prophets, except John and Ezekiel, had made use of baptism. (See Ezekiel 26:0 , where he foretold that baptism would be a sign of Christ: "I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness.") John therefore puts an end to this suspicion, and declares that he is not the Christ, but the forerunner and indicator of Christ, and that his baptism was a prelude to the baptism of Christ, and a preparation for it.
So he says, "I indeed baptize you in," or "with water," that is, with water only. This is a Hebraism, for the Hebrews denote the instrument by the preposition or letter ב , or in , which is understood in Latin. So the Hebrew said: במים , bammayim "in," or "with water, unto repentance," that I may stir you up to repentance, and that I may prepare you by corporeal ablutions for the washing of the soul to be received in the baptism of Christ. The baptism of John therefore was a profession of penance. Whence those who were about to be baptized by him confessed their sins, not that there was thereby a condonation of their faults; for this they were to wait for from Christ, by means of His baptism and true contrition .
He that cometh after me. Gr. ό ε̉ρχόμενος , i.e ., the coming One , He whose advent is at hand, who is nigh us, even at our doors.
Mightier than I . Gr. ίσχυρότερσς , i.e ., stronger, more powerful, more excellent , and who in gifts far excels me. For He is mighty by His own divine and heavenly strength, wherewith He influences not only the body, as I do, but the soul by the Spirit of His grace, and purifies it from every spot of sin. Whence Isaiah (chap. ix.) among other titles of Christ gives him that of strong . "He shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, God: the Mighty." (Vulg.) "And verily was He Strong, who, by the wonderful power of His Divinity, overcame the devil, and took his prey out of his hand, and overthrew his kingdom and transferred it to Himself; who opened the doors of heaven, and swallowed up death in victory; who abolished sin, and brought in grace and glory." (Toletus.)
Again, Christ was mightier than John in miracles, because by a single word He raised the dead, drove out demons, healed the sick, changed the elements, whilst John by penance tamed the flesh that he might subdue it under the Spirit. Thus was the strength of Christ the weakness of John.
Whose shoes , &c. in Mark 1:7 "falling down." S. Luke has "Whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose." Each is true, each denotes the menial office of servants, who kneel down, and put on or take off their master's shoes, and carry his shoes, when he puts on his slippers. John therefore here confesses that he is the servant and slave of Christ, that Christ is his Lord, yea his God.
Mystically, shoe denotes Christ's Humanity, which to serve, by carrying it on his shoulders, or bearing it in his hand, he acknowledges himself unworthy. For this humanity, by union with the W ORD , was of boundless dignity and majesty. Whence S. Bernard: "The majesty of the W ORD was shod with the shoe of our humanity." For since shoes are worn upon the extremities of the body, and are made of dead animals, according to S. Gregory and S. Jerome they rightly signify the Incarnation of Christ. By shoes Theoplylact understands Christ's coming down to the earth, and descent after death into the Limbus Patrum .
He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost . Christ shall pour forth the Holy Spirit, with all His gifts, in such abundance upon you, that He shall wash you from all your sins, and fill you, and, as it were, overwhelm you, with grace and charity, and His other charismata . Christ did this visibly at Pentecost. When He was about to ascend into heaven, alluding to these words of John, He said to His Apostles, "John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence." (Acts 1:5 .) But invisibly He does it in the sacrament of baptism, and confirmation, which is, as it were, the perfection and consummation of baptism. The contrast, therefore, between John and Christ is this John baptized with water only, but Christ with water and the Holy Ghost. John washed the body, Christ the soul. And as the soul excels the body, so does the baptism of Christ excel the baptism of John, which was only rudimentary. So the Council of Trent ( Sess . 7 Can . 1), and the Fathers generally. Hence Doctors speak of a threefold baptism 1, of the river; 2, of breath; 3, of blood. The baptism of the river is when any one is baptized with water. Of wind, or spirit ( flaminis sive spiritus , Lat.), when a catechumen in a prison, or a desert, where there is no water, is truly contrite for his sins, and wishes for baptism. For such a one is justified by contrition, which includes the desire of baptism. Of blood, when any one not baptized dies a martyr for the faith; for he is baptized in his own blood, and cleansed from all his sins.
With the Holy Ghost and with fire . So it is in all the Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Egyptian, and Ethiopic versions. It is as though the Baptist said, "My baptism is by water, Christ's by fire; and as fire is more powerful than water, so is His baptism more efficacious than mine." Certain heretics, called Hermiani and Seleuciani, were wont, for this reason, to baptize their converts with fire, as S. Augustine testifies ( Hæres . 59).
You ask, what is this fire? 1. Origen ( Hom . 24 in Luc .) understands it of a purgatorial fire, that Christ will cleanse His faithful, dying in venial sins, in the fire of purgatory, according to the words, "The fire shall try every man's work;" and, "He himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire." (1 Corinthians 3:0 ) So also Suarez out of SS. Jerome and Bede.
2. S. Hilary by fire here understands the judgment of Christ, that it will be sharp, clear, and dreadful, like fire.
3. S. Basil (on Isaiah, chap. iv.), Damascene (lib. 4 de Fide , c. 10), and Toletus, understand the fire of hell, by which Christ punishes the reprobate; whence the Baptist says, "He shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."
4. Some by fire understand tribulations , by which, as by fire, Christ washes His faithful people from their sins.
5. And, correctly, by the Holy Ghost and fire is meant the Holy, Fiery, and Inflaming Spirit, who is fire that is, like fire and, as fire, burns, and kindles. It is a hendiadys. The Holy Ghost, as it were fire, purges the faithful from their sins, kindles and illuminates them, raises them towards heaven and strengthens them, unites them closely to Himself, and, like fire, transforms them into Himself. Hence, at Pentecost, the Holy Ghost glided down upon the Apostles in the appearance of tongues of fire. Hence S. Chrysostom: "By adding the mention of fire, he signified the efficacy of the Holy Ghost, the vehement and unconquerable strength of His grace." Hence, in the primitive Church, the Holy Spirit was often wont to descend in the visible appearance of fire upon those who were baptized and confirmed, to denote the complete purgation of their sins, and the fiery love and the words of fire with which the Holy Ghost inflamed them. According to that in Deut. iv. 24, "God is a consuming fire;" and, in Jeremiah 23:29 , "Are not my words as a fire? saith the Lord."
Whose fan , &c. The fan is that with which farmers winnow the corn which has been thrashed, in order that the wind may carry away the chaff, and leave only the good corn behind. Fan, in Greek, πτύον , that which, as it were, spits forth the chaff. It is derived from πτύω , to spit out . The fan denotes the judgment of Christ, by which, as the fan separates the wheat from the chaff, He separates the good from the bad. The floor here does not signify the place, but rather the corn collected in the floor, which is cleansed by the separation of the chaff. By metonymy, that which contains is put for the contents. The floor , then, denotes the Church, or the company of the faithful.
The Fanner is Christ the Judge; the fan is His judgment, by which he fans and examines the thoughts, words, and deeds of every one. The chaff are the wicked. The wheat are the just and the saints, whom He will gather into His barn, the kingdom of heaven, where with them, as with wheat, He will feed and delight the Holy Trinity, the Angels, and all the Church triumphant.
John rises from Christ's first advent of grace to His second advent of judgment. And he signifies that this judgment is pressing on, and is nigh at hand, by saying, "His fan is in His hand." So S. Ambrose on Luke 3:17 . For although many hundred years may yet elapse before the judgment day, yet all those years, if compared with eternity, are but as a very little while, or as nothing. Moreover Christ, the Lord and Judge, holds in His hand the spirit, soul, and life of all men, to take them away if He will, to judge, bless, or condemn them.
He will burn up &c. And if the chaff, how much more the tares? The wicked are here called chaff, because, like chaff, they are very light, worthless and useless, and good for nothing save for fuel of Gehenna. For unquenchable, the Greek has άσβεστω , unextinguished, eternal . Hence a stone which always burns is called asbestus. The figure of speech here used is miosis, for little is said, much is meant. The fire of hell is a άσβεστος inextinguishable, not only because it cannot be quenched, but because it does not consume the wicked whom it burns; nay, it excruciates them living and feeling with endless torments. The error of Origen is here condemned, who thought that the pains of hell would not be eternal, but after the completion of the great cycle of Plato would come to an end.
There is an allusion to Isa 56:24 , "Their worm shall not die, and their fire shall not be quenched;" and xxxiii. 14, "Which of you can dwell with devouring fire? Which of you shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Where see what I have said. S. Chrysostom gives examples. "Do you not discern that sun which ever burns and is never extinguished? Have you not read of the inanimate bush, which was burnt with fire, and not consumed?" And S. Austin ( contra Donatist . Lib. post Collat. c. 9) says, "Now I have proved sufficiently, that there are animals, which are called Piraustæ because they can live in the fire, and be burnt without being consumed, in pain without death, by the marvellous power of the Creator. And if any deny that this is possible, they are ignorant of Him by whom whatsoever is wonderful in all nature is effected."
Think of, then, and dread this fire of hell, which no water, no tears can extinguish: yea, though all rivers, all abysses, all seas, were collected together, they could not quench it: which all demons, all creatures, with all their powers, could not even diminish in the very least degree, "because the breath of the Lord as a stream of brimstone doth kindle it."
Then cometh Jesus , &c. Then , when the Baptist was stirring up all to repentance, and baptizing as a preparation for receiving the grace of Christ, then , I say, Christ came, that Him whom he had commended when absent, he might point out being present, even as the day-star goes before and indicates the rising of the sun.
From Galilee , or as S. Mark says from Nazareth, where he had lived with His mother in a private station until He was thirty years of age. Then He came to John, that He might be by him declared to be the Messiah, that is, the Teacher and Redeemer of the world: and that He might, upon John's testimony, inaugurate His public office of teaching, and bringing in the Evangelical Law, for which He had been sent by the Father.
To be baptized . You will ask, what were the causes of John's preaching and baptism, and why did Christ wish to be baptized by him? There was a threefold reason, says S. Jerome. 1. That because He was born a man, he might fulfil all the righteousness and humility of the law. 2. That He might give a sanction to John's baptism. 3. That sanctifying the waters of Jordan by the descent of the Dove, He might show the coming of the Holy Ghost to the laver of the faithful.
4. A fourth reason was that by the Holy Spirit's coming down upon Christ in the form of a dove, and by the Father thundering from heaven, He might afford Himself an irrefragable testimony. So S. Jerome.
5. Christ, by receiving baptism from John, would allure all men to His own Baptism, and would show them its benefit, viz. the coming and gift of the Holy Ghost.
6. Christ took our sins upon Him. Therefore as guilty and a penitent He stood before John, that He might wash away and cleanse our sins in Himself. Whence Nazianzen says ( Orat. in sancta luminaria ), "John baptizes, and Jesus comes to him, sanctifying even him who baptizes, that especially He may bury the old Adam in the waters." And again, "Jesus ascended up out of the water, drawing and lifting up with Himself a drowned world."
7. That Christ, who had determined to found the new commonwealth of Christians, in which none should be admitted except by baptism, should Himself, their Chief, be baptized, that He might in all things except sin, be made like unto His brethren. That is a famous saying of Cato, "Submit to the law, which thou thyself hast enacted."
8. As Abraham formerly, by God's command, instituted the sign of circumcision, so Christ would give a new pledge to His Church by sanctioning baptism. Thus S. Thomas thinks (3 p ., q . 66, art . 2) that when Christ was baptized, He instituted the Sacrament of Baptism, not in words, but in deed. For then there appeared all the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity, in whose name we are baptized. The Father was manifested by His Voice, the Son appeared in Jordan, the Holy Ghost was seen in the form of a Dove.
But it is more correct to say that Christ when He was baptized only directed attention to His own Sacrament, and its matter, water; but that He instituted it shortly afterwards, when He began to preach publicly. For He does not seem to have instituted Baptism publicly at the time He said to Nicodemus coming to Him privately and by night, "Except any one be born of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." And this is the opinion of S. Chrysostom, S. Augustine ( Serm . 36 & 37, de Tempore ) S. Gregory Nazianzen ( Orat. in S. Nativit .), and others, who at the same time assert that Christ by His Baptism sanctified all water, and by His corporeal contact with it endued it with regenerating power, not as though He infused into water any physical, but only a moral quality, because water was then, ipso facto , by the intention of Christ, designed for the sanctification of men by washing them in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Tropologically , Christ by His Baptism at this time wished to teach us that a holy and perfect life must begin with baptism, and that this should be the great object of all who teach others, such as doctors and preachers.
But John forbad him . John recognized Christ by a secret instinct and revelation of God, by which he knew Him as to his face, which he had seen and known thirty years before, when he leapt in his mother's womb for joy. You may ask, "Why then was there a sign given to the Baptist (John i. 33) by which he was to recognize Christ, viz., the descending and abiding of the Holy Ghost upon Him?" I reply, This sign was given to the Baptist, not that he should for the first time know Christ, but that it should more fully confirm him in that faith and knowledge, and that by the same, as by a sure testimony of God, he should point out and commend Christ to the people.
I have need to be baptized , &c. That is, to be spiritually washed from my sins, and perfected by the Spirit of Thy grace. Have need here does not signify an obligation of precept, as though the Baptist was obliged to receive the baptism of Christ. For this precept of baptism was given and promulged by S. Peter on the Day of Pentecost, and therefore after John's death. Some gather from this place that John was soon afterwards baptized by Christ Himself, as were also the Blessed Virgin Mary, SS. Peter, James, and John, and the rest of the Apostles. This is stated by S. Evodius, who succeeded S. Peter in the Chair of Antioch, in an Epistle of his, entitled τὸ φώς .
In favour of this idea are also Nazian. ( Orat . 39 towards the end); "Christ knew," he says, "that He would Himself shortly afterwards baptize the Baptist;" also S. Chrysostom, who says, "John baptized Christ with water, but Christ baptized John with the Spirit." Whence the author of the Imperfect Comment . says, "It is plainly written in apocryphal writings, that John baptized Christ with water, but He baptized John with the Spirit."
Abulensis thinks, on the other hand, that John was not baptized by Christ. And he proves it by the marvelling of John's disciples, who soon afterwards told John that Christ, whom he had baptized, was Himself baptizing, and that all men were coming unto Him. For this would have been needlessly told to John if he had been baptized by Christ, and he would have given this reply to his disciples. So that it is a doubtful point whether John was baptized by Christ or not.
Abulensis thinks, on the other hand, that John was not baptized by Christ. And he proves it by the marvelling of John's disciples, who soon afterwards told John that Christ, whom he had baptized, was Himself baptizing, and that all men were coming unto Him. For this would have been needlessly told to John if he had been baptized by Christ, and he would have given this reply to his disciples. So that it is a doubtful point whether John was baptized by Christ or not.
And Jesus answering said , &c. It becometh us , i.e ., Me to receive, thee to confer, baptism. Others understand us in this way: "It behoves us who are teachers to set an example in ourselves. Nothing, however apparently unimportant, must be omitted. I shall institute baptism. It is the part of him who commands, to do before others what he commands." Whence S. Luke says of Christ ( Act 1:1 ), "Jesus began both to do and to teach." "This is righteousness," saith S. Ambrose, "that what you wish another to do, you should yourself first begin, and encourage others by your own example." Whence S. Gregory, "Of true humility is ever sprung secure authority."
Moreover, not only Christ receiving, but John conferring baptism fulfilled all righteousness, because, contending in humility with Christ, he suffered himself to be vanquished, by being as it were put upon an equality with Christ. And so he, as it were, being vanquished by Christ in humility, vanquished Christ by yielding to Him and obeying Him. As S. Dominic, wishing to give his right hand to S. Francis, whilst Francis opposed it and strove to take his left, said at length, "You overcome me in humility; I conquer you by obedience."
It is very probable that in the act of baptism John pointed out Christ to the people, since the form of John's baptism would be something of this kind: "I baptize thee in the Name of Him who is to come;" or, "Believe in Messiah who is about to come." This is inferred from chap. xix. 4. Thus it would seem that when Christ came, and was being baptized, John would say, "This is Messias of whom I said that He was about to come."
S. Jerome observes "Beautifully is it said, 'Suffer it now,' that it might be shown that Christ was baptized with water, and that John was about to be baptized by Christ with the Spirit. And by-and-by Christ might say, 'Thou baptizest Me in water, that I may baptize thee in thine own blood shed for Me.'"
For so it becometh us to fulfil (Arabic, to perfect ) all righteousness . Instead of righteousness the Syriac has all rectitude , i.e ., whatever is just, right, holy, and pleasing unto God. And it is not right to decline or depart from such things, even though they seem lowly and abject; and even though they be not provided for by any precept, but are matters of counsel only. But again, all righteousness is whatsoever God the Father hath commanded. So Vatabl. For that is just which God sanctions and commands. And it would seem that as God the Father commanded Christ to die, so also He gave Him a precept to submit to John's baptism.
Hence, secondly, the Gloss says, humility is all righteousness humility which subjects itself to all superiors, equals, and inferiors. On the contrary, pride, by which a man prefers himself to all, not only inferiors and equals, but superiors, is all unrighteousness. For it takes away their just rights, and deprives them of the subjection which is their due. For as in every act of righteousness, i.e ., of virtue, humility comes in, in that a man submits himself to reason and virtue, so pride mixes itself up with every act of sin, in that a man prefers himself, and his own will and desire, to the law and will of God. Humility therefore fulfils all righteousness, because it is the head of all right and justice which a man owes to God, his neighbour, and himself. He submits himself to God by religion, to his neighbour by charity. He subjects the body to the soul, the soul to the law of God. Wherefore the humble hath peace with all; the proud with all hath strife and war. At this present day how many lawsuits and contentions are there between clergy and prelates for places, titles, precedence! How both sides pertinaciously contend for what is due to each, to the great scandal of the laity, and with little gain of victory to either side. For what dost thou gain if thou overcomest in the lawsuit, save some small worthless point of honour, and in the meanwhile makest a far greater loss of reputation, peace, and conscience? Learn from Christ, O Christian, to believe in, yea, even to be ambitious of the lowest place, so shalt thou be exalted with Christ and deserve the highest. For Christ, subjecting Himself to John, was declared by John, yea, by all the Holy Trinity, to be greater than John, to be the Son of God. Say, therefore, with Christ, "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness." S. Ignatius, the founder of our Society, was a follower of Christ when he gave this golden axiom:"With e'en the least, let no true Christian fight,
But still to yield be e'er his chief delight."
For the grace, honour, and glory of a Christian is humility, that is to say, to yield, to suffer himself to be vanquished, to yield the place of honour to another. Wherefore the greater is he who is the humbler. For, as S. Gregory says, "Pride is the place of the wicked, humility the place of the good." Christ here teaches us to follow an ordinary life, not to seek exemption from the common law and lot, and to be accounted as one of the common people, according to the words in Ecclus. 3:20, "If thou wouldst be famous, be as one of the flock;" yea, descend to the lowest place, and prefer all men to thyself.
3. All righteousness , i.e ., the highest justice. Thus God says to Moses ( Exo 23:19 ), "I will shew thee all," i.e . the highest "good" (Vulg.) namely, Myself. For the lowest degree of righteousness is to submit oneself to a superior, the middle degree to submit to an equal, the highest to an inferior. even as Christ submitted Himself to John. Christ, I say, who is the Holy of Holies, bowed His head to John for baptism, as though seeking from him sanctification and purification, like the rest, who were sinners, who came to his baptism.
Excellently says S. Gregory (3 p. Pastor. Admonit . 18), "Let the humble hear that the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; let those who are lifted up hear that pride is the beginning of all sin. Let the humble hear that our Redeemer humbled Himself, being made obedient even unto death; let the proud hear what is written of their head, 'He is a king over all the children of pride.' The pride of the devil was made the occasion of our ruin, the humility of God was found to be the assurance of our redemption. Let the humble therefore be told that when they abase themselves they rise to the likeness of God; but let it be said to the proud that when they lift up themselves they sink down to the likeness of the apostate angel. What then is more base than to be haughty? And what is more exalted than humility; which, while it puts itself in the lowest place, is united to its Maker in the very highest?"
S. Gregory says elsewhere: "This is the highest righteousness and sanctity, when we are in respect of our virtue the loftiest, in respect of our humility the lowliest." S. Thomas Aquinas, being asked by what mark a really holy and perfect person might be known, answered, "By humility , by contempt of himself, contempt of honour and praise, by bearing ignominy and reproach." "For if," he said, "you see any one, when he is neglected and despised, and has others preferred before him, show a sense of pain or indignation, to be of a downcast countenance, to turn up his nose, wrinkle his forehead, you may be very sure he is not a saint, even though he should work miracles. For when he is neglected he shows his pride, anger, impatience, and so makes himself vile and contemptible."
4. All righteousness , i.e ., every increase of righteousness, that is to say, of virtue and sanctity. Christ indeed could not increase in interior grace, for with that He was always perfectly filled from the first moment of His Conception and union with the Word; but He showed daily ever greater and greater signs of virtue, and ever more and more humbled Himself. For Christ came down from heaven into the Virgin's womb, from the womb to the manger, from the manger to Jordan, from Jordan to the Cross, as He would teach us in Psalms 83:8 : "They shall go from virtue to virtue: the God of gods shall be seen in Sion." (Vulg.) So S. Augustine ( Epist . 50, ad Dioscorum ), "I would, my Dioscorus, that thou shouldst in all piety subject thyself to Christ and the Christian discipline, nor fortify for thyself any other way of reaching and obtaining the truth than that which has been fortified for us by Him who knoweth the infirmity of our footsteps, forasmuch as He is God. And so it is said of that most famous orator Demosthenes, that when he was asked what was the first rule to be observed in oratory, he replied, Pronunciation; and when he was asked what was the second, replied, Pronunciation; and being asked what was the third, still answered, Pronunciation. So if thou shouldst ask and ask again concerning the precepts of the Christian religion, I should answer that nothing else but humility would make you perfectly fulfil their obligations, although, perchance, I might be obliged to speak of other duties. To this most salutary humility, which, that our Lord Jesus Christ might teach us, He humbled Himself, to this, the greatest adversary is, if I may so say, a most uninstructed science."
Lastly, he fulfils all righteousness who endures the unpleasant ways and manners and tempers of others, according to those words of St. Paul, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." He who loves those who hate him, blesses those who curse him, does good to those who injure him, honours those who despise him, vanquishes his enemies by the warmth of his love; who with Paul desires to be anathema for his enemies; and to be all things to all men that he may gain all for Christ, he is truly humble and is like Christ.
Then he suffered him . That is, when he heard this, John yielded and baptized Christ. "If God received baptism from man, no one need disdain to receive it from his fellow-servant," says S. Jerome. And S. Ambrose says, "Let no one refuse the laver of grace, when Christ refused not the laver of penance." Beautifully, too, says S. Bernard, "John acquiesced and obeyed; he baptized the Lamb of God, and washed Him in the waters; but we, not He, were washed, because, for washing us, the waters are known to be of cleansing power."
S. Augustine ( Serm . 154 de Temp .) says that the day on which Christ was baptized was a Sunday, though John Lucidus (lib. 7, c. 2) was of opinion that the day was Friday. What is certain from tradition is, that Christ was baptized on the 6th day of January, the same day of the month on which he had been adored by the Magi thirty years before. Whence the Church commemorates the event on that day. The Ethiopians on the 6th of January, in memory of Christ's Baptism, not only sprinkle themselves with water, but immerse themselves in it. The faithful in Greece also were accustomed, about midnight before the 6th of January, to draw water from the nearest river or fountain, which, by the gift of God, remained sweet for many years, as S. Chrysostom expressly testifies ( Hom. de Baptism. Christiano , tom. 5, Opp. Græc .). S. Epiphanius ( Hæres . 51) adds, that on that day the Nile was turned into wine. "About the 11th day of the month Tybus (our 6th of January) Christ's first miracle was wrought in Cana of Galilee, when water was made wine. Wherefore in various places, until this very time, the same thing takes place as a divine sign for a testimony to unbelievers. Various rivers and fountains which are turned into wine are the proof of this. Cibyris, a fount of a city of Caria, becomes wine at the very hour in which Christ said 'Draw out now, and bear to the governor of the feast.' Gerasa in Arabia is another example. I myself have drunk of the fountain of Cibyris, and our brethren of the fount of Gerasa, which is in a temple of the Martyrs. Many testify the same concerning the Nile."
Moreover, that the water of Jordan received by reason of Christ's Baptism in it the gift of incorruption, Gretser testifies, "Let us add this," he says, "that the waters of Jordan, after Christ had consecrated them by His Baptism in them, have been endowed with the gift of incorruption." That illustrious prince, Nicolas Christopher Radzivil, in his Hodæporicum Hierosolymit ., says, "The water of the Jordan is extremely turbid, but very wholesome, and when kept in vessels does not become putrid. This I have found to be the case with some which I have brought with me."
Christ appears to have been baptized and washed by John, not only as to His head, but with respect to the rest of His body. I think so, because such was the manner of the Jews, who were accustomed to denude themselves of their clothes, and undergo their ceremonial baptisms and lustrations naked. Jesus therefore condescended to appear naked before John, and he underwent this indignity for our sakes, that Adam's and our nakedness and shame, induced by sin, He might clothe and cover by His grace. Whence also, as Bede testifies, a church was erected by the faithful on the spot where the clothes of Christ were deposited when He was baptized. Bede adds, that the same place was adorned with a noble monastery and church which was dedicated in honour of John the Baptist.
Gregory of Tours ( lib. de Gloria Martyr ., c. 17) writes about the same place: "There is a place by Jordan where the Lord was baptized. The water flows into a certain bay, in which, even now, lepers are cleansed. When they be come thither, they wash frequently until they are cleansed from their infirmity. As long as they remain there they are fed at the public expense. When they are cleansed they depart to their own homes. This spot is five miles from where the Jordan loses itself in the Dead Sea."
The place is called in S. John's Gospel Ænon, near to Salim. It was not far from Zarthan and Jericho, where the children of Israel under Joshua passed over on dry ground, that it might be signified that the same Christ, who once led the Israelites over Jordan into the land of promise, will, by baptism, bring His faithful people to heaven. "And as under Joshua the waters were driven back, so under Christ, as our baptized Leader, are our sins turned back," says S. Augustine. Again, Elias divided the waters of Jordan when he was about to be taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire, that it might be signified that those who pass through the waters of Christ's baptism shall have an entrance into heaven opened to them by the fire of the Holy Ghost. Thus S. Thomas.
And Jesus, being baptized , &c. Luke adds, Jesus being baptized and praying . Whence it is plain that not by virtue of John's baptism, but by the merit of Christ's humility and prayer, the heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him.
Forthwith . This word is best referred, not to the words coming up out of the water , but to the heavens were opened .
Lo! the heavens were opened . Mark has, He saw the heavens opened . He that is, Jesus John too, and others who were present, doubtless saw them, since it was for their sakes this was done. Whence Matthew says, They were opened , i.e ., unto him or for him . This is, they were seen to be opened in His honour, that God might make manifest that heaven is open unto all through Christ, says S. Chrysostom.
Also that the heavenly power of baptism might be pointed out, because by it carnal men become heavenly and spiritual, and by it are called and, as it were, taken by the hand to heaven. So S. Thomas.
You will inquire, in what way were the heavens opened unto Christ? It is replied, it was not the actual substance ( soliditatem , Lat.) of the sky which was opened and rent in twain, for this is naturally impossible and supernaturally unneeded. Neither were the heavens opened by a merely imaginary vision, as they were opened to Ezekiel (i. I); but there was in the upper region of the air a hiatus visible to the senses, from which visible aperture both the Dove and the Voice of the Father appeared to come down upon Christ. Such hiatuses appear not unfrequently in the atmosphere, concerning which see Aristotle on meteors.
Hieron. Prado, the Jesuit, on the words the heavens were opened , says, "There was an appearance as though the sky were opened and divided by thunders and lightnings, and from the opening the Father's voice burst forth as thunder. For thunder is always accompanied by lightning; indeed, lightning is the cause of thunder, although the thunder is always heard after the lightning, because sound travels more slowly than light."
And saw (Syriac, looked up at ) the Spirit of God descending like a dove (Egyptian, in the form of a dove ). You will ask first, was this a true and real dove, or was it only the appearance and likeness of a dove? SS. Jerome, Anselm, and Thomas, Salmeron, and others, think that it was a real dove; and this is probable. It is, however, equally, or rather, more probable that it was not a real dove, but only the shape of a dove, formed by an angel, agitated and moved so that it should descend upon Christ. The reason is that all the Evangelists seem to indicate this. S. Matthew says, as if a dove ; Mark, as it were a dove ; John, like a dove ; Luke, in a bodily shape like a dove . There was therefore the appearance and similitude only, not the reality of a dove. Nor was there any need of a real dove, but of its likeness for a symbolical signification, that by such a symbol those gifts of Christ of which I shall speak presently might be designated. In such wise were the heavens opened, not in reality, but in appearance, as I have already said. This was the opinion of S. Augustine, S. Ambrose, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Lyra, &c.
You will urge, Was it then a phantasm, a merely fancied dove? I reply, By no means. It was a real, solid body, having the form of a dove, as S. Augustine teaches, de Doctr. Christian . c. 22; not indeed assumed, hypostatically, by the Holy Spirit, as the Humanity of Christ was assumed by the W ORD , as Tertullian appears to have thought, lib. de Carne Christi ., c. 3. But it was only an index and a symbol of the Holy Ghost. It was thus taken because the dove is a most meek, simple, innocent, fruitful bird, very amiable, but very jealous. Such in like manner is the Holy Ghost, who endowed the soul of Christ at the very moment of His conception with these qualities of meekness and the rest. And what was now done was, by this sign of the dove, to signify that the Holy Ghost had done this, and to declare it to the people publicly.
You will inquire in the next place, why the Holy Ghost descended upon Christ in the form of a dove, upon Apostles in the shape of tongues of fire? S. Chrysostom answers, 1. Because Christ came in the flesh, and into the world, meek like a dove, for the remission of sins, and for the release of sinners. But in the Day of Judgment, He will come as a severe Judge, to punish the wicked. 2. And more literally, the Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles in the likeness of fire, because He endued them with fervour and ardour in preaching. (S. Augustine, Tract . 6 in Joan .)
Again, the dove represented excellently well the Holy Sevenfold Spirit, or His sevenfold gifts which He poured upon Christ as predicted in Isaiah 11:2 , "And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and fortitude, the spirit of knowledge and godliness, and he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord." All these gifts are appositely signified by the dove. For as S. Thomas expounds (3 p ., q . 39, art . 6, ad . 4), the dove tarries by flowing streams, and when in the waters she beholds the reflection of a hawk she is able to escape it. Here is the gift of wisdom. 2. The dove selects the best grains of corn, and places them by themselves in a heap. Here is the gift of understanding. 3. The dove brings up the young of others. Behold the gift of counsel. 4. The dove does not tear with her beak. Behold the gift of knowledge. 5. The dove is without gall and bile. Lo! the gift of piety or godliness. 6. The dove maketh her nest in the rocks. See the gift of true strength. 7. The dove utters a mournful plaint instead of a song. Behold the gift of fear, wherewith Christ and His saints wail for sins, whether their own, or those of others.
Again, the dove is the symbol of the reconciliation and renewal of the world, which the Holy Spirit has wrought through Christ. Hence His symbol was a dove, bearing a green olive-branch to Noah, signifying that the Deluge and God's anger were at an end.
Lastly, because the dove is an amicable and social bird, it denotes the union of the faithful in the Church, which the Holy Spirit effects through the baptism of Christ. So S. Thomas. In fine, the dove is very fair, it delights in sweet odours, and it dearly loves its young. So too Christ is most fair, He delights in the odour of virtues, and dearly loves His children.
As the Holy Spirit thus descended upon Christ, so has He often descended in the form of a dove upon illustrious Christians, more especially upon doctors, bishops, and pontiffs of the Church, and thus, as it were, consecrated them. S. Eieucadius, the disciple of S. Apollinaris, Apostle of Ravenna, when a dove had flown upon his head, was ordained Bishop of Ravenna. After a life illustrious for sanctity he migrated to heaven, A.D. 115. (Philip Ferrar in his Catalogue of the Saints of Italy .)
Thus a dove flew down upon the head of S. Aderitus, in the presence of the clergy, and designated him the successor of S. Apollinaris, and second Bishop of Ravenna.
S. Marcellinus in like manner, was designated bishop of the same city, A.D. 230.
S. Fabian, in consequence of a dove lighting upon his head, was elected Bishop of Rome.
When S. Gregory was writing his works, the Holy Spirit, in the likeness of a dove, was seen to instil into his ear what he wrote.
So S. Basil, who wished to be baptized in the same river Jordan as Christ was, in celebrating Mass, was surrounded by a celestial light, and gave orders for a dove to be made of pure gold, and a portion of the consecrated Host to be placed in it, and suspended it above the altar. So Amphilochius. He adds that S. Ephrem saw the Holy Ghost, in the likeness of a dove of fire, sitting upon S. Basil, wherefore he exclaimed, "Truly is Basil a column of fire; truly the Holy Ghost speaks by his mouth."
Flavian the patriarch, by the command of an angel, consecrating S. John Chrysostom to be a priest, beheld a white dove fly down upon his head. Leo Augustus relates this in his life of S. Chrysostom. (See Baronius, A.D. 456, n. 7.)
This was the reason why the impostor Mahomet tamed a dove, and accustomed it to fly to him, by placing in his ear grains of corn , which the dove picked and ate, and by this means he persuaded the people that the Holy Spirit was his friend, and dictated the Koran to him, and revealed the most secret purposes of God. He also caused the dove to bring him a scroll, on which was written in letters of gold, "Whosoever shall tame a bull, let him be king." But he had brought up a bull, which of course he easily tamed, and was thereupon saluted as king by the foolish people. So the authors of the Life of Mahomet.
And lighting upon him . Piously says S. Bernard ( Serm . I de Epiphan .), "Not unsuitably came a dove, to point out the Son of God; for nothing so well corresponds to a lamb as a dove. As the lamb among beasts, so is the dove among birds. There is the utmost innocence in each, the utmost gentleness, the utmost guilelessness. What is so opposed to all malice as a lamb and a dove? They know not how to injure or do harm."
And behold a voice , &c. From the opened heaven a dove glided down upon the head of Christ, and whilst it sat upon Him, there came the voice, "This is my beloved Son." The voice explained the symbol of the dove, that it had reference to Christ, and to Him alone. This voice, "in the Person of the Father, was framed by the ministry of angels," say Victor Antioch. ( in c . I S. Marc .). Here was first revealed to the world the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which had been darkly indicated to the Jews. The Father manifested Himself by a voice, the Son was seen in the flesh, the Holy Ghost was visible in the form of a dove, that it might be signified that the faith of the Holy Trinity was about to be unfolded, and that the baptism of Christ was conferred in Their Name. For although all these things viz., heaven opened, the forming of the voice, the descent of the dove were, as regards operations, ad extra , as theologians say, common to the whole Trinity, yet each several Person was represented by the aforenamed symbols. (See S. Augustine, Serm . 38 de Temp .)
This is my Son . Greek ό υίὸς i.e . the Son of God the Father, by nature, not by adoption, as the angels and holy men are sons of God. Therefore the Son of God is not a creature, but the Creator, consubstantial with God the Father, as was defined by the Nicene Council.
Mark and Luke have, in different words, but with the same meaning, " Thou art my Son." And it is probable that these last were the exact words used, not merely because of the consensus of two Evangelists, but because, when Jesus was looking up into heaven, and praying to the Father, it is probable that the words would be immediately and directly addressed to Him. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others.
My beloved Son . Gr. ό αγαπητός , i.e ., only and chiefly beloved , through whom all others are beloved. For no one is beloved by God save those whom Christ loves. The Syriac has most beloved .
In whom I am well pleased . As it were, "Thou only, O Christ, art perfectly, in all things, and infinitely pleasing unto Me; and no one is pleasing unto Me save through Thee. For by Thee I am well pleased with all the human race, with whom I was offended because of Adam's sin." The Heb. רצה signifies both to please and to be propitious, or reconciled.
"Because Thou art the Brightness of My glory and the express figure of My substance (Heb. i. 3.), Thou art immeasurably pleasing unto Me. In Thee nothing ever displeases, but all things please Me. Thou art He in whom I have always delight. And for Thy sake all Thy disciples and followers that is to say, all holy Christians are pleasing unto Me." There is an allusion to Noah, who alone of his generation pleased God. (See Genesis 6:9 ; Genesis 8:20 .)
As, therefore, Noah was well-pleasing unto God especially when he offered the sacrifice unto Him, with which He was propitiated, and promised that He would no more destroy the world by the waters of a flood so, much more, when Christ offered Himself to God as a peculiar and special victim, did He cause God to be propitious to the whole human race. "By this Voice was Christ constituted by God the Father the universal Doctor and Legislator of the World."
The voice added, Hear ye him . "Hear Christ, believe in Him obey Him. He hath come forth from My bosom. He will show you My mysteries, things kept secret from the foundation of the world. He will open to you the way of peace, the way to heaven, the way to happiness. He will preach to you the glad tidings of the kingdom of heaven, even such divine things as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have they come into the heart of man." Hence, when the Magdalen sat at the feet of Jesus, and diligently listened to Him, it was said to her, "Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken from her."
Very well saith S. Leo ( Serm. de Transfigurat .): "This is My Son who is from Me, and with Me from everlasting. This is My Son, who is not separated from Me in Deity, divided in power, severed by eternity. This is My Son, My very own, not created of any other substance, but begotten of Myself. This is My Son, by whom all things were made. This is My Son, who sought not by robbery that equality which He hath with Me. He attained it by no presumption, but, abiding in the form of My glory, and in order that He might fulfil Our common purpose for the restoration of the human race, He bowed down the unchangeable Godhead, even to the form of a servant. In Him, therefore, I am in all things well pleased, and by His preaching I am manifested, and by His humility I am glorified. Hear ye Him, therefore, without delay, for He is the Truth and the Life. He is My strength and My wisdom. Hear Him of whom the lips of the prophets sung. Hear Him who hath redeemed the world by His Blood; who by His Cross hath prepared for you a ladder by which ye may ascend up to heaven."