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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

1 The Jews conspire against Christ. 3 Satan prepareth Judas to betray him. 7 The apostles prepare the passover. 19 Christ instituteth his holy supper, 21 covertly foretelleth of the traitor, 24 dehorteth the rest of his apostles from ambition, 31 assureth Peter his faith should not fail: 34 and yet he should deny him thrice. 39 He prayeth in the mount, and sweateth blood, 47 is betrayed with a kiss: 50 he healeth Malchus’ ear, 54 he is thrice denied of Peter, 63 shamefully abused, 66 and confesseth himself to be the Son of God.

Ver. 6.—And he sought opportunity to betray him unto them. Judas sold Jesus Christ on the fourth day of the week, the day of Mercury; on the following day, or the day of Jupiter, he delivered Him to them. Thence followed “the day of unleavened bread.” See how sudden was the wickedness of the Jews, and equally cunning and crafty. For they knew that Christ would celebrate the Passover, according to His custom, on the day following at Jerusalem, and that it would therefore be most convenient to deliver Him up then to the Jews at Jerusalem.

Ver. 20.—This cup is the new Testament in My blood. That is, this cup is the authentic instrument, and, as it were, the chart and tabula testamentaria, in which My new covenant is written and signed for giving you My heavenly inheritance, written, I say, not with ink, but in My blood. 1 Cor. 11:23, &c.

Ver. 25.—And they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. Benefactor is a title of honour and praise which is bestowed upon princes because they are, or ought to be, good. The proper epithet of kings in former time was “good.” Virgil uses it of Acestes (Æn i. 195). Martial applies it to Trajan and Domitian, and Horace to Romulus. Homer thought nothing requisite in a king, but to be brave against the enemy, and good to the citizens. Paul calls Felix “Most Excellent.” Acts 24:3.

Ver. 26.—But ye shall not be so. The Arabic has “Let the greater of you be as the least”—that is, let him among you who wishes to be the greatest, become the least. In this way he shall be the greatest.

Morally, let us learn this parable of Christ, incredible to the world, but in itself most true, and by experience most certain, namely, that the way to exaltation is abasement of self. Do we wish to become greater? Let us become less. God has sanctioned and fixed this way by His eternal law, and therefore Christ was the first-fruits to enter upon it, that we, by the same law, might follow Him, as in Phil. 2:8, 9, 10, 11.

Hence S. Francis, a great follower and imitator of Christ, humbled himself to the lowest of all lowness, and wished to be the poorest and vilest of all men; and to a certain saint, a most lofty and splendid seat in heaven was shown, and when he asked whose it was, the answer was given, “It was the seat of one of the great ones among the fallen angels, but it is now reserved for the holy Francis.” S. Bonav., chap, vi., Life of St. Francis. The same S. Francis wished his followers to be called “Minores,” lest they should presume to become majores. His scribe, S. Francis de Paula, ordered the brethren of his order, to be called not Minores but Minimi. Hence the blessed Magdelena de Pazzi, who has been lately enrolled among the blessed by our holy Father, Urban VIII., received the following order from God, “Be of the order of Minimæ, and the least of them, that thou mayest strive as zealously to be the least as men of this world do to be the greatest.” S. Elizabeth, wife of the Landgrave of Hesse, and the daughter of the king of Hungary, personally, against the remonstrances of her friends, tended the sick and outcast, and said that if there were any position more humble still she would gladly fill it, the more closely to follow Christ, who from the first humbled Himself to be the lowest of men, as Isaiah describes, ch. 53.; for in this consists the crown of virtue and perfection. The like did Hedwig, Duchess of Polonia, and her granddaughter, S. Elizabeth, Queen of Portugal. So S. Paulinus, Bishop of Nola, sold himself for a slave, for the good of a son of a widow, that he might imitate Christ, and make himself one of the most humble of men. Peter Telonarius did the same, as is related in the Life of S. John Eleemosynarius. This is what the wise man teaches, Ecclus. 3:20. See what I have commented thereon.

Ver. 29.—And I appoint unto you a kingdom. As My Father has decreed and prepared for Me, through humility and the cross: through so many labours and sufferings: a kingdom heavenly and eternal, so do I also appoint the same unto you: that is, I decree, prepare, and, going to death I now appoint, as by my will, that through the same humility, cross, and suffering, you shall possess a like, nay, the same kingdom with Me in heaven; dispute not then who among you shall be greatest, but who shall be less, that each may study to surpass the other in low estate and humility, for whoever does this, shall be first and greatest in my kingdom.

Ver. 30.—That ye may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom. As kings gave to their most intimate nobles a place at their own table, and made them companions of their banquets, but assigned to other and less famous nobles another table, so will I make you, My Apostles, the chief and foremost of My kingdom, and place you most nearly to Myself, and, as it were, at My table, and I will have you as the most intimate guests of My royal feasts. “In like manner,” say Euthymius, Titus, and Theophylact, “He shows that the Apostles, as the first and most illustrious of His followers, should enjoy the highest honours with their immortal king. It is by catachresis that the pleasures and honours of the kingdom of heaven are often compared in Holy Scripture to banquets, and feasts of meat and drink, and to the first seats at table with kings; because carnal men understand these things best, but are unable to estimate spiritual ones, and because, as meat and drink are incorporated into ourselves and made our own, so, in heaven by the beautiful vision and His other glorious gifts, God will be incorporated into us, as it were, and will be made our own.”

Ver. 31.—And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you. Sift—that is vex, afflict, agitate, cast you down as wheat in a sieve that it may be cleared of chaff and dust. Satan in the same manner asked God to permit him to sift and afflict Job, and in some degree he obtained his end. He did the same again to Peter and the other Apostles, and again, in part succeeded, when he stirred up the Jews to seize Christ, for then the Apostles themselves fled in fear and were dispersed. The temptation is well compared to sifting and a sieve, because, as by means of the sieve the grains of wheat are separated from the chaff, and remain in the sieve, while the chaff is scattered to the wind, and dispersed in air, so the faithful and the saints in temptation remain constant, but the wicked fail and fly off.

But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. For thee, because I destine thee to be the head and chief of the Apostles and of My Church, that thy faith fail not in believing Me to be the Christ and the Saviour of the world. Observe that Christ in this prayer asked and obtained for Peter two especial privileges before the other Apostles: the first was personal, that he should never fall from faith in Christ; for Christ looked back to the sifting in the former verse, that is the temptation of His own apprehension when the other Apostles flew off from Him like chaff and lost their faith, and were dispersed, and fled into all parts. But Peter, although he denied Christ with his lips, at the hour foretold, and lost his love for Him, yet retained his faith. So S. Chrysostom (Hom. xxxviii.) on S. Matthew; S. Augustine (de corrept. et Grat. chap. viii.); Theophylact and others. This is possible but not certain, for F. Lucas and others think that Peter then lost both his faith and his love, from excessive perturbation and fear; but only for a short time, and so that his faith afterwards sprang up anew, and was restored with fresh vitality. Hence it is thought not to have wholly failed, or to have been torn up by the roots, but rather to have been shaken and dead for a time.

Another and a certain privilege was common to Peter with all his successors, that he and all the other bishops of Rome (for Peter, as Christ willed, founded and confirmed the Pontifical Church at Rome), should never openly fall from this faith, so as to teach the Church heresy, or any error, contrary to the faith. So S. Leo (serm. xxii.), on Natalis of SS. Peter and Paul; S. Cyprian (Lib. i. ep. 3), to Cornelius; Lucius I., Felix I., Agatho, Nicolas I., Leo IX., Innocent III., Bernard and others, whom Bellarmine cites and follows (Lib. i. de Pontif. Roman).

For it was necessary that Christ, by His most wise providence, should provide for His Church, which is ever being sifted and tempted by the devil, and that not only in the time of Peter, but at all times henceforth, even to the end of the world, an oracle of the true faith which she might consult in every doubt, and by which she might be taught and confirmed in the faith, otherwise the Church might err in faith, quod absit! For she is, as S. Paul said to Timothy, “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). This oracle of the Church then is Peter, and all successive bishops of Rome. This promise made to Peter and his successors, most especially applies to the time when Peter, as the successor of Christ, began to be the head of the Church, that is, after the death of Christ.

And when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. “From the sifting o: Satan, that is from his temptation and from the sin by which thou wilt deny Me; for by this thou wilt be turned aside from Me, and My grace and love.” So Euthymius, Theophylact, Jansen, F. Lucas, and others.

Some take this converted (conversus) as meaning “again” (iterum). So Bede, “Do thou, O Peter, again confirm the Apostles thy brethren, in the faith after My death, whom I now, while alive, strengthen by My words.” For the Hebrew often uses the verb for the adverb. So Ps. 85:6.

Strengthen thy brethren. Thy brethren, and therefore Mine. The condescension of Christ here is wonderful. He does not call the Apostles sons although He spiritually begot them to God, but brothers: as well because Christ as man, was the brother of all men, being a sharer of the same human nature, as because the Apostles in their apostleship and preaching of the Gospel, were the brothers and colleagues of Christ; for they did the same work as He. Hence the Fathers, whom I have cited, and the Doctors of the Church conclude that Peter was set over the other Apostles by Christ, and consequently was made the head and chief over the whole Church, that he might build up, perfect, and confirm the Church in the faith and religion of Christ.

Ver. 36.—But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip. A purse filled with money, a scrip with food, that they might have support in the impending persecution; for they will never find either, “because men will fly from Me, who am bound and accused, and consequently from My disciples as men wicked and condemned.”

And he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. Christ, in these words, did not command them to take a purse and a scrip, and to sell their garment and buy a sword, for He soon after forbade Peter to draw his sword; but they were a warning of the fierce persecution which was about to fall upon Himself and the apostles, and which was so heavy to those that regarded the difficulty of the case with the eyes of mere human wisdom, that food and weapons would appear things absolutely necessary for the preservation of life. The meaning therefore is this, “Everything, so far, has happened to you, O my Apostles, well and prosperously; for when I sent you to preach the Gospel without purse, or scrip, or sword, you were kindly received by most, fed, and sheltered, and had no need of these things. But now so grievous a persecution is impending over you, and so great is the danger to your lives, that in human prudence it may seem necessary to each to think of the preservation of his life, and therefore to take a scrip and purse for provision, and a weapon for defence, and to sell his cloak, and buy a sword. But to Me, who weigh circumstances by the design and decree of God the Father, there is no need of such things; for I go voluntarily to the cross, and to death, and I offer Myself of My own free will, to those who will persecute Me and crucify Me, so that I may conform Myself to the will of My Father.” So S. Chrysostom (Hom. 85 on S. Matt.), and from him Theophylact on this passage, Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. S. Ambrose says well, “O Lord, why commandest Thou me to buy a sword, and forbiddest me to strike, unless that I may be prepared for my defence, and that Thou mayest appear able to avenge though Thou wouldst not?”

Ver. 38.—And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. They did not understand the mind and words of Christ clearly. He did not mean that they should buy swords, but He wished to show them the impending danger. Christ did not explain His meaning to the Apostles, but concealed it, saying, “It is enough,” meaning that Peter and the other Apostles might carry these swords, and even cut off Malchus’ ear, which He Himself afterwards restored and healed, showing that He was not compelled by force, but was urged by love, willingly and freely to suffer and die. Some think that they were not military swords, but rather large butchers’ knives, which the apostles used for the slaughtering, sacrificing, and disjointing of the Paschal Lamb. So S. Chrysostom, from whom I have said more on Matt. xxvii.

Ver. 39.—And He came out, and went, as He was wont, to the mount of Olives. Bede gives the reason of this: “The Lord, when about to be delivered up, came to the retirement of this accustomed place, that He might be found the more easily. Where are they who maintained that He feared death, and was crucified against His will? Christ was wont, in these last days of His life, to preach in the temple by day, and to retire at night to the mount of Olives to pray. This, Judas, as being an Apostle, and a companion of Christ, knew; and hence he came to this mountain with his followers, and there betrayed and delivered up Christ to them.”

Ver. 43.—And there appeared an angel unto Him from heaven. The angel appeared in a body assumed visibly that he might comfort the eyes and ears of Christ by his appearance and voice. Jansenius thinks that the angel appeared at each of Christ’s three prayers, and therefore comforted Him three times, to teach us that God always hears those who pray, and gives them grace and strength unceasingly. F. Lucas, and others, think with more reason, that the angel only appeared once, at the third and last prayer, and comforted Him when He prayed more earnestly, and sweated blood, to show that we ought to persevere in prayer, and that the fruit of such perseverance is the comfort of God, and the vision of angels. For after this consolation from the Father by the angel, the agony of Christ seems to have passed away, and He appears to have prayed no more but to have prepared bravely for death. This angel was Gabriel, says Gabriel Vasquez (I. p. tom. ii. disput. 244, No. 3), for Gabriel has his name from his fortitude, Gabriel being Geber-el the man of God, or Gebura-el the fortitude of God; for he has the office of comforting the weak, afflicted, and fearful. But he comforted Christ not by strengthening His weakness, but by praising His surpassing fortitude. Lud. de Pont. thinks the same in his “Meditation on the Agony of Christ in the Garden,” because Gabriel was the legate and messenger of the œconomy of Christ, as at the Incarnation (Luke 1:26), and of the seventy weeks of Daniel, which foretold the time of the nativity of Christ.

Others, however, as F. Lucas, think that it was Michael, for he is the highest of all angels, and it became him, as such, to perform this office for the supreme God, that is Christ.

Strengthening Him. “The praise and due adoration of Christ,” says Titus, “being premised,” he comforted Christ by speaking to Him outwardly and setting before Him the will and glory of the Father, and the rich fruit which would ensue, both to Christ Himself, to men, and to angels, from His Passion. For the angel could not affect the inner mind of Christ, nor immediately change His inner powers. And as He could only be tempted by Satan, externally, so He could only be comforted by the angel outwardly. He could not be taught nor illuminated by him, for He was above all angels, and from the first moment of His conception, was full of wisdom and knowledge. So say the schoolmen with S. Thomas (3. p. q. 12, art. 4): The angel spoke the following, or like words to Christ, “O Lord, bravest of men, Thy prayer is most acceptable to Thy Father; because, notwithstanding Thy natural dread of death, Thou resignedst Thyself wholly to the will of the Father boldly to undergo the death appointed for Thee by Him. Lay aside therefore this Thy horror and grief with which Thou hast voluntarily invested Thyself, and reassume Thy former mind and strength, and come bravely to the work of human Redemption, by which Thou wilt most signally celebrate the glory of God, rejoice the angels, redeem men from Heil, and bring them back to the glories of heaven. Endure the cross for the joy that is offered Thee, as the future author and perfector of the faith of very many. Heb. 12:2. Thus Thou wilt cause SS. Peter and Paul, Laurentius, Vincentius, Agnes, Cœcilia and very many other martyrs and virgins, men, and noble heroes and heroines boldly to undergo martyrdom for God, and the faithful, with other holy men, who triumphed gloriously over the flesh, the world, and the devil. I know that Thou, O Lord, hast no need of any strengthening of mine, who am myself strengthened by Thee both to be and to live; but, that this my ministry which I execute as a steward at the command of God Thy Father may be acceptable to Thee, I pray again and again.”

Theophylact thinks that the angel spoke thus, “O Lord, Thine is the strength, for thou art powerful against death and hell, to set free the race of men.”

Ver. 44.—And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly. The “et” here in the Hebrew is causal, and means quia, because. That is, the angel comforted Him; because being in an agony and praying more earnestly, He sweated blood, and then appeared to need comfort, and to merit it. The following was the order of events. Christ had prayed the first and second time, but felt no help of God. Then His feeling growing on Him, He, permitting the agony (that is, a more vehement horror and anguish) to arise in Himself, He sweated blood. To overcome this, He prayed a third time more earnestly, teaching us that as temptation increases our prayers should increase equally. The angel therefore appeared to Him immediately, comforting Him; whereupon He ceased to pray and to fear, and to grieve, and, suppressing and overcoming His agony, He manfully prepared Himself for His Passion, and went forth of His own accord to meet Judas.

More earnestly. The Greek is ἐκτενέστερον, that is, more exclusively, more intensely. For this, as appears from SS. Matthew and Mark, was the third prayer of Christ, and He appears to have remained in it longer. More earnestly, because, as the anguish pressed upon Him, Christ, to overcome it, at once directed the contention of His mind, by praying; and He prayed with a more intense feeling and ardour. Luke includes in one as in a compendium, the three prayers of Matthew and Mark, and therefore relates some things of it, which took place in the first and second, and some which took place in the third.

And His sweat was as it were great drops of blood. The Greek has θρόμβοι, gouts, thick masses. The Arabic and S. Irenæus have globi. The Arabic says, “His sweat was (made) as distilling blood descending on the ground.”

Note. Firstly, Some copies have nothing about this bloody sweat, as S. Hilary shows (De Trinit. lib. x.); S. Jerome (lib. ii. against Pelagius), lest men should ascribe infirmity of mind and weakness to Christ. But now all versions, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, have the same account, so it is certainly to be read, according to the agreement of the Council of Trent, Session IV.

Secondly, Christ is said to have sweated blood not improperly or as a by-word, and an allegory, as we say of one who is grievously afflicted and tormented, “he sweats blood,” as Euthymius and Theophylact explain it—but truly and properly. Hence the words “as it were” denote not resemblance but the truth. So SS. Hilary, Jerome, Augustine passim. The Ethiopic renders it plainly, “And His sweat was made as the sweat of blood flowing down upon the earth.” The Persian agrees with it. S. Athanasius, also, in hi sixth book to Theophilus, which is on the Beatitude of the Son of God, says, “Anathema to those who deny that Christ sweated true blood.”

S. Bernard, treating of this prayer of Christ in the garden, says, “Not only with His eyes does He seem to have wept, but, as it were, with all His members, that His whole Body, which is the Church, might be the more effectually purged by His tears” (Serm. 3 on Palm Sunday). The love of Christ indeed was not content with the watery tears of His eyes, but wished, by the bloody tears of His whole Body, to lament and blot out our sins, and these tears of Christ were most efficacious with God the Father. “For,” says S. Irenæus (Lib. v. cap. i.) “the blood of Christ has a voice and ‘speaketh better things than that of Abel,’ Heb. 12:24. The blood of Abel calls for vengeance, that of Christ for mercy.”

Symbolically, “the reason was,” says S. Augustine, “that Christ might show that from His whole Body would proceed the passions of martyrs” (Seutent. sent. 68). Again, “The blood of Christ,” says Bede, “flowed down upon the earth to show that men of the earth would be moistened by it.”

Ver. 45.—And when He rose up from prayer. For sorrow contracts the heart, and hinders the vital and subtle spirits from being sent to the head; wherefore the black and crass vapours which are the cause of sleep, invade the brain. But there is a hysteron proteron here. For these things happened before the bloody sweat which took place in the third prayer of Christ, while the former happened in the first prayer, as is clear from SS. Matthew and Mark. The reason is that S. Luke compresses the three prayers into one, and unites what happened at different times in the three prayers as if they had been done in one and the same. For after the first prayer, Christ, visiting the Apostles and finding them asleep, said as follows,

Ver. 46.—And said unto them, Why sleep ye? See what has been said on Matthew 26. 27.








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