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The Great Commentary Of Cornelius À Lapide Volumes 1 To 8

3 Women minister unto Christ of their substance. 4 Christ, after he had preached from place to place, attended with his apostles, propoundeth the parable of the sower. 16 And of the candle. 21 Declareth who are his mother, and brethren. 22 Rebuketh the winds. 26 Casteth the legion of devils out of the man into the herd of swine. 37 Is rejected of the Gadarenes. 43 Healeth the woman of her bloody issue. 49 And raiseth from death Jairus’ daughter.

Ver. 1.—And the twelve (apostles) were with Him, i.e. they accompanied Jesus as He went through the cities and villages preaching.

Ver. 2.—And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils. These women followed Christ (1.) out of gratitude, because He had healed their diseases, and cast out the devils which possessed them. (2.) For safety, lest if they were away from their physician, their former ills might again overtake them. (3.) From pious motives, that from His companionship and preaching they might advance in holiness.

Mary. In Hebrew, Mary signifies a “bitter sea” of repentance. Bede.

Called Magdalene. As we have before explained, from the castle or fort near Bethsaida and Capernaum. S. Augustin infers that she was a married woman (Hom. 33), and therefore calls her not a harlot but an adulteress. But according to S. Jerome, the author of the commentary on S. Mark calls her a widow, which is much the same thing; so also Jansenius, Luke and others. That she was an inhabitant of Judæa, and like Lazarus and Martha lived at Bethany, is clear from S. John 12:1. Adricomius, in his description of the Holy Land, tells us that the Magdalene’s home was situated on the shore of the sea of Galilee, and towards the northeast looks out on an extensive plain, and that it was called Magdala from the battlements and towers, wherewith it was fortified. Hence Jerome asserts that she was rightly called Magdalene, that is to say, “turreted” because of her zeal and love. Josephus makes mention of this castle, and tells us that Agrippa fruitlessly sent an expedition against it.

In the Hebrew then Magdalene signifies (1.) turreted, or tower-bearing, from the root מגרל migdol, a tower; for she was tall of stature, and of a yet loftier mind. “Thy neck is like the tower of David,” Cant. 4:4. (2.) Or “magnificent” (Origen), or “magnified,” according to Pagninus, because, says Origen, she followed Jesus, ministered unto Him, and beheld the mystery of His Passion. For the root ערל gadal, means, “to be great and magnificent,” and the Magdalene was greatly exalted by Christ. (3.) Pagninus says that Magdalene means, “remarkable for the standard,” “bearing or raising the standard,” from the root רעל deghol, which, when the letters ghimel and daleth are transposed, signifies a standard. For the Magdalene raised the standard of penitence and love, and of the contemplative life. Like as we read, “His banner over me was love,” Cant. 2:4. (4). Or otherwise, as the same writer remarks, the name means, “brought up, nourished,” i.e. led by the teaching of Christ to a holy and a virtuous life. For the Hebrew ברל gadal means the same thing as to nourish and bring up.

Out of whom went seven devils, i.e. seven capital sins, pride, avarice, gluttony, luxury, anger, envy, and careless living. Bede, Theophylact and S. Gregory. For in a literal sense we are to understand that she had been possessed by devils or evil spirits, as I have before said, and that they had gone out of her, or (S. Mark 16:9) been cast out. So teach S. Ambrose, Euthymius, Jansenius, and others.

We may conclude, therefore, that the Magdalene, because of her wickedness and sins, had been possessed by seven devils, and that with other demoniacs she had been made whole by Christ; that on her repentance she had obtained pardon and forgiveness, and, no longer under the power of Satan, but filled with the spirit of God, she devoted her whole after life to the service of Christ. John of Rochester and others.

Seven devils, either seven in actual number, or “seven” in the sense of many, or all; for, as I have often pointed out, “seven” is the sign of multitude or totality.

Ver. 3.—And Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward (manager or treasurer, according to the Arabic version) and Susanna, and many others which ministered unto Him of their substance. For they were rich, and grateful to their deliverer, and therefore sought to further His preaching, and to spread the faith.

So SS. Plautilla, Priscilla, and many other rich and noble matrons ministered unto SS. Peter, Paul, Clement, and other Roman Pontiffs, and other orders of the clergy.

And Susanna, an illustrious woman who, healed by Christ, had become His disciple. Her name in the Hebrew signifies “a lily.” On account of the sweet radiance of a heavenly life (Interlinear Gloss), and the golden fervour of her inward affection. Bede.

Ver. 15.—Which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it. The Council of Basle observes that for the right hearing of the word of God there is required,

1. A place fitted to receive it, i.e. an honest and good heart.

2. A proper disposition, to “keep” the word when heard; and

3. That best return, fruit brought forth with patience.

A heart is honest and good, says Lyranus, because of the faith which illumines it, and good (optimum) in a higher sense because of grace working in it; or, as others hold, it is “bonum” because disciplined and exercised in virtue, and “optimum” because of inward peace and consolation. Again, it is “bonum” because purified from sin, and “optimum” because conformed to the will of God (Albertus Magnus); or “bonum” in discerning the truth, and “optimum” in its desire of that which is right (Bonaventura); or, according to S. Augustin on Ps. vii., “bonum” on account of the love it bears its neighbour and itself, “optimum” on account of its exceeding love for God.

Hence we may take the Greek, καλῇ καὶ ἀγαθῇ, to mean the same as the Vulgate “bono et optimo,” for the copula καὶ, or “et,” signifies gradation and increase. They, therefore, who keep the word of God in an honest and good heart bring forth fruit in proportion: good fruit if the heart is good, better if the heart is better, and the best fruit if the heart is perfect, i.e. thirty fold, sixty fold, or one hundred fold. S. Matt. 13:8. And it does not follow of necessity, as Toletus holds, that these words apply to different persons, for the heart of a believer may grow in grace, until at last it is “optimum,” perfect in sight of God.

With patience, ἐν ὑπομονῇ, i.e. in the endurance of labour, disappointment, and sorrow in the plowing, seeding, and harrowing of the soul, and in the long expectation of harvest.

Ver. 26.—And they arrived at (sailed over to) the country of the Gadarenes, which is over against Galilee.

Gadarenes. Gergesenes (S. Matt.), or as it is written in some MSS., Gerasenes. Some think that one and the same place is here signified, but Adricomius shows that Gadara, and Gerasa or Gergesa were two distinct cities, but that the surrounding country was named indifferently after either.

The Vulgate translates “the country of the Gerasenes,” because this was the best known name.

Ver. 27.—And when he went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs.

A man.” S. Matt. says there were two. But as this one was the fiercer, and possessed by a legion, S. Luke and S. Mark mention him alone.

But in the tombs. 1. The Jews, as I have before said, had their burial places without their cities. Their tombs were large and lofty chambers as it were, so as to afford burial to many, and to be easy of access to the friends and relatives of the departed. This is clear from what we read of the sepulture of Christ, of Abraham, Sarah, and others.

This demoniac then was driven by the devils which possessed him to dwell among the tombs. For these reasons:

1. In order to excite him to greater ferocity, and that he might be the cause of greater fear to the passers-by.

Probably he was like what the French fable to be a “loup-garou,” i.e. a man who after the manner of a wolf sallies forth by night and preys upon men and animals, while by day he hides himself in tombs and by hollows of the rocks. “So that no man might pass by that way” (S. Matt. 8:28), because passers-by were attacked and wounded by him. The evil spirits were mostly wont to attack those of a melancholy disposition of mind, as the more easily driven into the madness of despair.

2. Because unclean spirits love to dwell in unclean places. Hence witches hold their sabbaths underneath the gallows.

3. Because the devils rejoice at the death of men, and triumph over the souls of them who are condemned to hell.

4. S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Theophylact add that he dwelt amongst the tombs, to persuade men that the souls of the dead are changed into devils, who abide in the sepulchres wherein their bodies are buried. Hence demoniacs from time to time have cried out, I am the soul of Peter, or of Paul, or of John.

Ver. 28.—When he saw Jesus, he cried out, and fell down before Him. S. Mark (chap. 5:6), adds, “And when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,” i.e. bent the knee before Him. Because he felt the power of Christ’s presence, and was therefore compelled to draw nigh and worship Him, for fear lest, if he acknowledged not the Lord, he might receive greater punishment; and again, Christ caused him to act thus in order that an opportunity might be afforded for his cure.

Son of God most high. It would seem that the devil, who in the temptation had not recognised Christ, now after so many miracles acknowledged Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God; yet, blinded by pride and hatred, he hesitated to believe that the Son of God had stooped to take upon Him our flesh, and thought it impossible that by His death upon the Cross the whole human race could be redeemed, because, as Aquinas remarks, in many ways God had hindered him from recognising the truth. See S. Mark 4:12.

Torment me not. Do not cast me out and bind me for ever in hell. See S. Matt. 8:31.

Ver. 29.—For He had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. From this and similar passages it is clear that the devils are permitted by God to dwell on earth and tempt mankind.

Hence it is the custom of the Church to bury the bodies of the faithful in consecrated ground in order that they may rest therein free from the assaults of evil spirits, and may profit by the prayers of the living.

Ver. 30.—And Jesus asked him, i.e. one of the devils, saying, What is thy name? For Christ willed that the evil spirit should declare his name, that from it the number of the devils, and thence the mightiness of the power which expelled them, might be known.

And he said, Legion. A legion was composed of 6000 men, and S. Ambrose thinks that this was the exact number of the devils; others, following the Scripture, take the word generally as meaning “many,” “because many devils were entered into him.”

S. Gregory of Nyssa adds, “The devils, imitating the angelic host, call themselves Legion; nay more, they would liken themselves to God Himself, who is called the Lord God of Sabaoth, i.e. the Lord of Hosts. For Satan is the counterfeit and mockery of God.

Learn then how great must be the number and the malignity of the devils, that so many should possess one man. So we read in the life of S. Dominic, that very many devils were cast out of a man by his prayers and entreaties.

Therefore, since we are surrounded on all sides by so many spiritual foes, we must give ourselves continually to watching and prayer, in order to obtain the victory over them, as Antony, who was wont to say that all temptations could be overcome by the Cross of Christ, by calling on Him, and by praying in the spirit.

Wherefore if any one determines to serve God perfectly, let him be well assured that he has arrayed against him, not one legion of devils only, but many, even Satan himself, and all the dwellers in hell. Hence the Apostle (Eph. 6:12), “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

Following the example of Christ, S. Hilarion is said to have healed a demoniac possessed by Legion. It is said that after he prayed to the Lord that He would release the afflicted man from his misery, there were heard various voices proceeding from the mouth of the demoniac, and as it were the clamour of much people. And straightway the demoniac was healed, and presented himself not long after with his wife and children at the monastery, bearing gifts in gratitude for his cure.

Ver. 31.—And they besought Him that He would not command them to go out into the deep. For although the devils, whilst they go to and fro on earth, are consumed by the fires of hell, yet it is some gratification, to them that they are not shut up in prison, but are permitted to tempt men to sin, and make them sharers in their condemnation. For they hate God and envy men, because men are heirs of that kingdom from which they by pride fell. Emmanuel Sa very appropriately remarks, “God has appointed a punishment suited to each sin. Hell for the lusts of the flesh; gnashing of teeth for ribald laughter; thirst for self-indulgence and gluttony; the worm for an evilly disposed heart; darkness for ignorance and self-deceit; the deep for pride, and therefore for the devil and his angels.

Ver. 32.—And there was there an herd of many swine (about two thousand, S. Mark 5:11) feeding on the mountain (nigh unto the mountain, S. Mark, ibid.). But for what purpose were these swine, inasmuch as they were forbidden to the Jews by the law of Moses? Gadara, although a city of Judæa or rather of Galilee, had, according to Josephus, been assigned by Cæsar for a dwelling-place to the Syrians and Gentiles; who were not prohibited from keeping swine. And again, the Jews might have been feeding the swine, not for their own eating, but for other purposes: to sell them to the Gentiles for the use of the Roman soldiery, or in order to provide lard for the greasing of their chariot wheels.

And they besought Him that He would suffer them to enter into them. The devils made this request:

1. In order that, inasmuch as they were unable to injure men directly, they might injure them indirectly through their property or possessions.

2. That, as actually came to pass, they might stir up the ill-will of the inhabitants against Christ.

3. Because unclean spirits delight in unclean things. Hence the devil is said to be worshipped by the witches in form of a he-goat. But from this entreaty S. Antony, according to S. Athanasius, infers the powerlessness of the devils. “For how,” he says, “can they who are feign to seek permission to enter into the herd of swine, have any real power over man, made in the image of God. Great, my brethren, are our means of defence against the hosts of Satan: an honest and pure life, and unfeigned faith towards God. Believe me, Satan fears the prayers and fasting, the meekness and self-denial, the humility and contempt of vainglory, the compassion and self-command, and above all the heart purified by the love of Christ, of those who are living godly lives. For the old serpent, the worst enemy of man, knows that he lies under the feet of the righteous according to the word of the Lord which saith, ‘Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy.’ ” S. Luke 10:19.

And He suffered them. Christ granted the request of the devils: 1. To show that He had power over the evil spirits, and that they without His leave could do no evil to swine, much less to men. Hence, as we have seen, S. Antony says that they are not to be feared. 2. To demonstrate the number, strength and malevolence of the devils, and to make manifest by their expulsion the greatness of His power and glory. S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius. 3. To refute the error of the Sadducees, who say that there is “neither angel nor spirit,” Acts 23:8. Hilary. Rupert adds, That the Gadarenes were Jews, who kept swine contrary to the laws, and that the destruction of the herd was a punishment for their disobedience; but this interpretation I have shown to be wrong.

Mystically. Christ did this to show men, who, after the manner of swine wallow in fleshly lusts and pleasures, that they in like manner are rushing into the abyss of hell, and also to teach us that we must account the loss of our earthly possessions as of small account compared with the destruction of the soul. For He permitted the devils to enter into the herd of swine in order to free the demoniac from their power; and to show how impure were the minds of the Gadarenes, and therefore how fitted they were to be possessed by devils; and yet further to intimate that those who live after the manner of swine fall an easy prey to the power of Satan.

Ver. 33.—The herd ran violently down a steep place into the lake (the lake of Genesareth or sea of Galilee) and were choked. S. Jerome writes that the place where this happened was well known in his day. The Syriac gives this rendering, “The whole herd hurried up the mountain, and thence rushed into the sea.”

Ver. 34.—When they that fed them saw what was done they fled (lest they also should perish. Titus), and went and told it in the city and in the country. To the owners, in order that they might demand redress from Christ, who had given the swine up to the power of the devils, and not blame those who were in charge of the herd for their loss.

Ver. 35.—Then they (the inhabitants of the city and country round about) went out to see what was done; and came to Jesus. They first wished to ascertain the extent of their loss. Then they “came to Jesus,” to see the author of the mischief which had befallen them, and the man from whom the devils had been cast out. For their loss was so great that they were anxious to see whether there was any possibility of redress.

And found the man out of whom the devils were departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. It is very probable that the man, as soon as the devils were cast out, fell on his knees at the feet of Christ to give Him thanks, and that when bidden to sit down, in reverent humility he placed himself at Jesus’ feet.

And they were afraid. Lest Christ should punish them because of their anger and murmurings against Him, and perhaps give them up to the power of the devils.

Ver. 37.—Then the whole multitude (the whole city, S. Matt.) of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought Him to depart from them. They did not make their request out of humility, because they considered themselves unworthy of the presence of Christ, as S. Jerome thinks, but out of distrust and fear, lest His continuing amongst them might cause them further loss. For they knew that Jesus was a Jew by nation, a holy man, and possessed of divine power, and that they were Gentiles of an alien race. They therefore feared lest He might inflict further punishment upon them because of their different religion and their past sins. They feared as did the widow of Sarepta, when she exclaimed, “What have I to do with thee, O thou man of God? Art thou come unto me to call my sin to remembrance, and to slay my son?” 1 Kings 17:18. Therefore not from any ill-will, but rather from a reverential awe, they besought Jesus to depart out of their coasts. For sinners, knowing that righteousness and sin cannot exist together, fear the presence of holy men, because of the zeal with which they seek the correction of sinners and the punishment of sin.

And He went up into the ship, and returned back again, from the country of the Gadarenes to Capernaum. S. Matt. 9:1. For He would not force Himself or His ministration on those who were unwilling to receive them.

Ver. 38.—Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that He might be with Him. In gratitude for the mercy he had received, and in hope of further benefits.

But Jesus sent him away, saying,

Ver. 39.—Return to thy own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee, by means of Me, that therefore acknowledging Me to be the Messiah, and laying aside their bitter feeling because of the loss of their swine, they may believe and be saved.

And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city (in Decapolis, S. Mark. 5:20) how great things Jesus had done unto him. This city was in the neighbourhood of Gadara, and near it were the tombs in which the demoniac used to dwell. It is very probable that, besides Jews, some of its inhabitants were Gentiles and unbelievers; to them, therefore, he would tell of his belief in Christ, in order to lead them to acknowledge the Son of God. S. Ambrose and S. Chrysostom.

Mystically. S. Gregory explains (Moral. lib. vi. cap. xvii.), that “Christ here would teach us to prefer the contemplative to the active life.” For when our thoughts are once awakened to divine truths, we are unwilling to be taken up again with earthly concerns, and refuse to be burdened with our neighbours’ wants and necessities. We seek the quiet of contemplation, and long for nothing but that which without labour refreshes the mind. But truth bids us return home, and show what great things have been done unto us in order that the mind may be first exercised in working, and then refreshed by contemplation.

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