Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Giving thanks for the year past: Te Deum Laudamus

There is a plenary indulgence to be gained if you participate in the public recitation of the Te Deum as thanksgiving on the last day of the year.  If said privately, it is a partial indulgence.  You can find the text here.

Remember too, that there is another plenary indulgence to be gained (under the normal conditions) for the public recitation of the Veni Creator on the first day of January.

Octave of the Nativity (aka Circumcision of Our Lord aka Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God)

New Year's Day is of course the Octave Day of Christmas.

At Matins in the Benedictine Office the readings are as follows:

Nocturn I: Romans 4:1-17
Nocturn II: Sermon of Pope St Leo
Nocturn III: Homily of St Ambrose
Gospel: Luke 2:21

Here are the third Nocturn readings:

(Reading 9): So the Child is circumcised. This is the Child of Whom it is said Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given. Made under the law to redeem them that were under the law. To present Him to the Lord.  In my Commentary on Isaiah I have already explained what is meant by being presented to the Lord in Jerusalem, and therefore I will not enter into the subject again. He that is circumcised in heart gaineth the protection of God, for the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous.

(Reading 10): Ye will see that as all the ceremonies of the old law were types of realities in the new, so the circumcision of the body signified the cleansing of the heart from the guilt of sin.  But since the body and mind of man remain yet infected with a proneness' to sin, the circumcision of the eighth day is also a type of that complete cleansing from sin which we shall have at the resurrection. This ceremony was also performed in obedience to the commandment of God: Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord. These words were written with especial reference to the delivery of the Blessed Virgin.

(Reading 11): Truly He That opened her womb was holy, for He was altogether without spot, and we may gather that the law was written specially for Him from the words of the Angel That Holy Thing Which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.Among all that are born of women the Lord Jesus Christ stood alone in holiness. Fresh from His immaculate Birth, He felt no contagion from human corruption, and His heavenly Majesty drove it away.

(Reading 12): If we are to follow the letter and say that every male that openeth the womb is holy, how shall we explain that so many have been unrighteous? Was Ahab holy? Were the false prophets holy? Were they holy on whom Elijah justly called down fire from heaven? But He to Whom the sacred commandment of the law of God is mystically directed is the Holy One of Israel; Who also alone hath opened the secret womb of His holy Virgin-bride the Church, filling her with a sinless fruitfulness to give birth to Christian souls.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity

Giotto: Presentation in the Temple

This Sunday is the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity.

Matins readings

At Matins in the traditional Benedictine Office the readings are as follows:

Nocturn I: Romans 1:1-19
Nocturn II: Sermon of Pope St Leo
Nocturn III: Homily of St Ambrose
Gospel: Luke 2: 33-40

The Benedictine Office this week in summary

Up until (and including) Wednesday, the Office is of the Octave of Christmas. From Wednesday, the 'Ordinary of nativitytide' is used.

Sunday 29 December – Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity, Class II [in some places, St Thomas Beckett, Class I]

Monday 30 December – Sixth Day within the Octave of the Nativity, Class II (First nocturn readings are from a homily of St Ambrose)

Tuesday 31 December – Seventh Day within the Octave of the Nativity, Class II; commemoration of St Sylvester I (Readings from a Homily of St Leo)

Wednesday January 1 – Octave of the Nativity, Class I

Thursday January 2 – Class IV [**in some places, St Thomas of Canterbury] (Readings: Romans 5:1-12)

Friday January 3 - Class IV (Readings: Romans 6:1-18)

Saturday January 4 – Our Lady on Saturday; St Titus, memorial (Romans 7: 1-9; third reading of Our Lady)

St Thomas a Becket

In some countries today is the feast of St Thomas Becket, murdered in 1170 over a dispute over the rights of the Church with King Henry II.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Feast of the Holy Innocents

Today is the feast of the Holy Innocents.  The first Nocturn readings at Matins in the Benedictine Office are from Jeremiah 31: 15-23, while the Gospel is St Matthew 2:13-18.

The Second Nocturn readings are from a sermon of St Caesarius (sometimes ascribed to St Augustine, as it is over at the Divinum Officium website where you can also find the third Nocturn readings by St Jerome):

(Reading 5): Dearly beloved brethren, today we keep the birthday of those children, who, as we are informed by the Gospel, were massacred by the savage King Herod. Therefore let earth rejoice with exceeding joy, for she is the mother of these heavenly soldiers, and of this numerous host. The love of the vile Herod could never have crowned these blessed ones as hath his hatred.

(Reading 6): For the Church testifieth by this holy solemnity, that whereas iniquity did specially abound against these little saints, so much the more were heavenly blessings poured out upon them.Blessed art thou, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, which hast suffered the cruelty of King Herod in the slaughter of thy children; who art found worthy to offer at once to God a whole white-robed army of guileless martyrs!

(Reading 7): Surely, it is well to keep their birthday, even that blessed birthday which gave them from earth to heaven, more blessed than the day that brought them out of their mother's womb. Scarcely had they entered on the life that now is, when they obtained that glorious life which is to come.

(Reading 8): We praise the death of other martyrs because it was the crowning act of an undaunted and persistent testimony; but these were crowned at once. He That maketh an end to this present life, gave to them at its very gates that eternal blessedness which we hope for at its close. They whom the wickedness of Herod tore from their mothers' breasts are rightfully called the flowers of martyrdom; hardly had these buds of the Church shown their heads above the soil, in the winter of unbelief, when the frost of persecution nipped them.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Feast of St John the Evangelist

The readings for today's feast at Matins in the traditional Benedictine Office are as follows:

Nocturn I: First Letter of St John 1:1-10; 2:1-5a
Nocturn II: From St Jerome on Ecclesiastical Writers; Commentary on Galatians
Nocturn III: Homily of St Augustine

All can be found on the Divinum Officium website.  Here are the Second Nocturn readings, arranged as for the Benedictine Office:

(Reading 5): The Apostle John whom Jesus loved was a son of Zebedee, and brother of the Apostle James, who was beheaded by Herod soon after our Lord suffered. He was the last of the Evangelists to write his Gospel, which he published at the request of the Bishops of Asia, against Cerinthus and other heretics, and particularly against the then spreading doctrine of the Ebionites, who asserted that Christ had had no existence before Mary. It was therefore needful for the Evangelist to declare His Eternal and Divine Generation.

(Reading 6):In the fourteenth year after Nero, Domitian stirred up the second persecution, and John was exiled to the island of Patmos, where he wrote his Apocalypse, which hath been explained by Justin the Martyr and Irenaeus.

(Reading 7): When Domitian was killed, the Senate annulled all his acts, on account of his savage cruelty, and the Apostle returned to Ephesus, during the reign of Nerva. He remained at Ephesus until the time of Trajan, and founded and governed all the Churches of Asia. There, in an extreme old age, he died, in the sixty-eighth year after the Lord's passion, and was buried near the city.

(Reading 8):The Blessed Evangelist John lived at Ephesus down to an extreme old age, and, at length, when he was with difficulty carried to the Church, and was not able to exhort the congregation at length, he was used simply to say at each meeting, My little children, love one another. At last the disciples and brethren were weary with hearing these words continually, and asked him, Master, wherefore ever sayest thou this only? Whereto he replied to them, worthy of John, It is the commandment of the Lord, and if this only be done, it is enough.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

St Stephen the Protomartyr

Today is the feast of St Stephen, whose story is recorded in Acts 6:1-10; 7: 55-60 (first nocturn readings at Matins).  Here are the second Nocturn readings, from a Sermon of St Fulgenius (from Divinum Officium):

(Reading 5): Yesterday we were celebrating the birth in time of our Eternal King; to-day we celebrate the victory, through suffering, of one of His soldiers. Yesterday our King was pleased to come forth from His royal palace of the Virgin's womb, clothed in a robe of flesh, to visit the world; to-day His soldier, laying aside the tabernacle of the body, entereth in triumph into the heavenly palaces. The One, preserving unchanged that glory of the Godhead which He had before the world was, girded Himself with the form of a servant, and entered the arena of this world to fight sin; the other taketh off the garments of this corruptible body, and entereth into the heavenly mansions, where he will reign for ever. The One cometh down, veiled in flesh; the other goeth up, clothed in a robe of glory, red with blood.

(Reading 6): The One cometh down amid the jubilation of angels; the other goeth up amid the stoning of the Jews. Yesterday the holy angels were singing, Glory to God in the highest; to-day there is joy among them, for they receive Stephen into their company. Yesterday the Lord came forth from the Virgin's womb; to-day His soldier is delivered from the prison of the body.

(Reading 7): Yesterday Christ was for our sakes wrapped in swaddling bands; to - day He girdeth Stephen with a robe of immortality. Yesterday the new-born Christ lay in a narrow manger; to-day Stephen entereth victorious into the boundless heavens. The Lord came down alone that He might raise many up; our King humbled Himself that He might set His soldiers in high places.Why brethren, it behoveth us to consider with what arms Stephen was able, amid all the cruelty of the Jews, to remain more than conqueror, and worthily to attain to so blessed a triumph.

(Reading 8): Stephen, in that struggle which brought him to the crown whereof his name is a prophecy, had for armour the love of God and man, and by it he remained victorious on all hands. The love of God strengthened him against the cruelty of the Jews; and the love of his neighbour made him pray even for his murderers. Through love he rebuked the wandering, that they might be corrected; through love he prayed for them that stoned him, that they might not be punished. By the might of his love he overcame Saul his cruel persecutor; and earned for a comrade in heaven, the very man who had done him to death upon earth.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Christmas!

c12th St Alban's Psalter

The second Nocturn readings at Matins today are from a Sermon of Pope St Leo (from Divinum Officium but divided as in the Benedictine Breviary):

(Reading 5): Dearly beloved brethren, Unto us is born this day a Saviour, Luke ii. 11. Let us rejoice. It would be unlawful to be sad to-day, for today is Life's Birthday; the Birthday of that Life, Which, for us dying creatures, taketh away the sting of death, and bringeth the bright promise of the eternal gladness hereafter. It would be unlawful for any man to refuse to partake in our rejoicing. All men have an equal share in the great cause of our joy, for, since our Lord, Who is the destroyer of sin and of death, findeth that all are bound under the condemnation, He is come to make all free.

(Reading 6): Rejoice, O thou that art holy, thou drawest nearer to thy crown! Rejoice, O thou that art sinful, thy Saviour offereth thee pardon! Rejoice also, O thou Gentile, God calleth thee to life! For the Son of God, when the fulness of the time was come, which had been fixed by the unsearchable counsel of God, took upon Him the nature of man, that He might reconcile that nature to Him Who made it, and so the devil, the inventor of death, is met and beaten in that very flesh which hath been the field of his victory.

(Reading 7): When our Lord entered the field of battle against the devil, He did so with a great and wonderful fairness. Being Himself the Almighty, He laid aside His uncreated Majesty to fight with our cruel enemy in our weak flesh. He brought against him the very shape, the very nature of our mortality, yet without sin. Heb. iv. 15. His birth however was not a birth like other births for no other is born pure, nay, not the little child whose life endureth but a day on the earth. To His birth alone the throes of human passion had not contributed, in His alone no consequence of sin had had -part. For His Mother was chosen a Virgin of the kingly lineage of David, and when she was to grow heavy with the sacred Child, her soul had already conceived Him before her body. She knew the counsel of God announced to her by the Angel, lest the unwonted events should alarm her. The future Mother of God knew what was to be wrought in her by the Holy Ghost, and that her modesty was absolutely safe.

(Reading 8): Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us give thanks to God the Father, through His Son, in the Holy Ghost: Who, for His great love wherewith He loved us, hath had mercy on us and, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, Eph. ii. 4, 5, that in Him we might be a new creature, and a new workmanship. Let us then put off the old man with his deeds (Col. iii. 9); and, having obtained a share in the Sonship of Christ, let us renounce the deeds of the flesh. Learn, O Christian, how great thou art, who hast been made partaker of the Divine nature, 2 Pet. i. 4, and fall not again by corrupt conversation into the beggarly elements above which thou art lifted. Remember Whose Body it is Whereof thou art made a member, and Who is its Head, (1 Cor. vi. 15.) Remember that it is He That hath delivered thee from the power of darkness and hath translated thee into God's light, and God's kingdom, (Col. i. 13.)

Vigil of the Nativity

The Matins readings of the day (on Matthew 1:18-21) are from a Homily of St Jerome (from Divinum Officium):

Reading 1: Why was the Lord conceived of an espoused virgin rather than of a free? First, for the sake of the genealogy of Mary, which we have obtained by that of Joseph. Secondly, because she was thus saved from being stoned by the Jews as an adulteress. Thirdly, that Himself and His mother might have a guardian on their journey into Egypt. To these, Ignatius, the martyr of Antioch, has added a fourth reason namely, that the birth might take place unknown to the devil, who would naturally suppose that Mary had conceived by Joseph.

Reading 2: Before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. She was found, that is, by Joseph, but by no one else. He had already almost an husband's privilege to know all that concerned her. Before they came together. This doth not imply that they ever did come together the Scripture merely showeth the absolute fact that up to this time they had not done so.

Reading 3: Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. If any man be joined to a fornicatress they become one body; and according to the law they that are privy to a crime are thereby guilty. How then can it be that Joseph is described as a just man, at the very time he was compounding the criminality of his espoused? It must have been that he knew her to be pure, and yet understood not the mystery of her pregnancy, but, while he wondered at that which had happened, was willing to hold his peace.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent

This Sunday is the fourth in Advent, and the week marks the start of Christmastide (note that there are of course twelve days of Christmas!).

This week in the Benedictine Office

Sunday 22 December – Fourth Sunday of Advent, Class I

Matins readings:
Nocturn I:  Isaiah 35: 1-10; Is 41:1-4
Nocturn II: Sermon of Pope St Leo
Nocturn III: Homily of St Gregory the Great
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

Monastic Diurnal (MD): MD 45* ff; at Vespers O Rex gentium MD 36*
Antiphonale Monasticum (AM): AM 226 ff; O Antiphon, AM211

Monday 23 December – Monday in the fourth week of Advent, Class II

Matins readings: Is 41:8-16
MD: Antiphons from MD 37*; Ordinary of Advent; Benedictus antiphon (Ecce completa) MD 45*; O Emmanuel, MD 36*
AM: Antiphons AM 212; Benedictus antiphon AM 220; O antiphon, AM 211

Tuesday 24 December - Vigil of the Nativity, Class I

Matins readings: Nocturn I: Homily of St Jerome; Nocturn II: Romans 1:4
MD: Antiphons and proper texts, MD 54* ff
AM: AM 232


I Vespers of the Nativity of Our Lord, MD 58* ff ; AM 236ff

Wednesday 25 December – The Nativity of Our Lord, Class I with a Second Class Octave

Matins readings: Isaiah 9:1-6, 40:1-8; 52:1-6; Sermon  21 of St Leo; Homilies of St Jerome, St Gregory, St Ambrose and St Augustine; Gospel: Mt 1:1-16
 MD 61* ff; AM 240 ff

Thursday 26 December – St Stephen, Protomartyr, Class II

Matins readings: Acts 6:1-10 & 7:54-60; Sermon of St Fulgentius; Homily of St Jerome; Mt 23:34-39
MD 83* ff; AM 250 ff

Friday 27 December – St John the Evangelist, Class II

Matins readings: I John 1:1-10, 2:1-5; St Jerome on Ecclesiastical writers and commentary on Galatians; Homily of St Augustine; John 21:19-24
MD 90* ff; AM 255ff

 Saturday 28 December - Holy Innocents, Class II

Matins readings: Jeremiah 31:15-23; Sermon of St Caesarii; Homily of St Jerome; Mt 2:15-18
MD 97* ff; AM 260 ff

Sunday 29 December – Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity, Class II [in some places, St Thomas Beckett, Class I]

Matins readings: Romans 1:1-19; Sermon of St Leo; Homily of St Ambrose; Luke 2:33-40

MD 77* ff; AM 265 ff

Feast of St Thomas

Today is the feast of the apostle Thomas.

The readings at Matins are:

Nocturn I: Common of Apostles (I Corinthians 4:1-15)
Nocturn II: on the life of the saint (see below) and sermon of St Gregory
Nocturn III: Homily of St Gregory (also at Divinum Officium)
Gospel: John 20: 24-29

On the life of St Thomas:

(Reading 5): The Apostle Thomas, called Didymus, or the Twin, was a Galilean. After the descent of the Holy Ghost, he went into many provinces to preach Christ's Gospel. He gave knowledge of the rules of Christian faith and life to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, and Bactrians. He went last to the East Indies. Here he provoked the anger of one of the idolatrous kings, because the holiness of his life and teaching, and the number of his miracles, drew many after him, and brought them to the love of Christ Jesus. He was therefore condemned, and slain with lances. He crowned the dignity of the Apostleship with the glory of martyrdom, on the Coromandel coast, not far from Madras.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Ember Friday of Advent (December 20)

Today's Gospel is St Luke 1: 39-47.  Here are the Matins readings, by St Ambrose (from Divinum Officium), on it:

Reading 1: When any one asketh another for credence, he is bound to give some reasonable ground. And so the Angel, when he announced to Mary the counsel of God, gave, as a proof, the conception of Elizabeth, then aged and barren, that Mary might perceive, by this example, that with God nothing is impossible. When the holy Virgin had heard it, she arose and went to visit her cousin. She did not go to see if what she had heard was true, because she did not believe God, or because she knew not who the messenger had been, or yet because she doubted the fact adduced in proof. She went joyfully as one who hath received a mercy in answer to his vow goeth to pay the same. She went with devotion, as a godly person goeth to execute a religious duty. She went into the hill country in joyful haste. And is it not something that she went up into the hills? God was already in her womb, and her feeling bore her continually upward. The grace of the Holy Spirit knoweth no slow working.

Reading 2: Godly women will learn from the example of the Mother of God to take a tender care of their kinswomen who are with child. In pursuance of this charity, Mary, who had hitherto remained alone at home, was not deterred by her maidenly shyness from entering on a public journey; she faced for this end the hardships of mountain travelling; and encountered with a sense of duty the weary length of the way. The Virgin left her home, and went into the hill country with haste, unmindful of the trouble, and remembering only the office to which her cousinly love prompted her, in spite of the delicacy of her sex. Maidens will learn from her not to idle about from house to house, to loiter in the streets, nor to take part in conversations in public. Mary, as she was hasteful to pass through the public roads, so was she slow again to enter on them she abode with her cousin about three months.

Reading 3: As the modesty of Mary is a pattern for the imitation of all maidens, so also is her humility. She went to see Elizabeth, like one cousin going to visit another, and as the younger to the elder. Not only did she first go, but she first saluted Elizabeth. Now, the purer a virgin is, the humbler ought she to be. She will know how to submit herself to her elders. She that professeth chastity ought to be a very mistress of humility. Lowly-mindedness is at once the very ground in which devotion groweth, and the first and principal rule of its teaching. In this act of the Virgin then we see the greater going to visit and to succour the lesser Mary to Elizabeth, Christ to John.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ember Wednesday of Advent (December 18)

Today is Ember Wednesday of Advent, and today in the Office at Matins the readings are a homily of St Ambrose on the Gospel of the day, St Luke 1:26-38 (translation from Divinum Officium):

Reading 1: The mysteries of God are unsearchable, and it is especially declared by a Prophet, that a man can hardly know His counsels. Wisd. ix. 13. Nevertheless, some things have been revealed to us, and we may gather from some of the words and works of the Lord our Saviour, that there was a special purpose of God, in the fact that she who was chosen to be the mother of the Lord was espoused to a man. Why did not the power of the Highest overshadow her before she was so espoused? Perhaps it was lest any might blasphemously say that she had conceived in adultery the Holy One.

Reading 2: And the Angel came in unto her. Let us learn from this Virgin how to bear ourselves, let us learn her modesty, let us learn by her devout utterance, above all let us learn by the holy mystery enacted. It is the part of a maiden to be timid, to avoid the advances of men, and to shrink from men's addresses. Would that our women would learn from the example of modesty here set before us. She upon whom the stare of men had never been fixed was alone in her chamber, and she found herself alone with Angels. There was neither companion nor witness there, that what passed might not be debased in gossip and the Angel saluted her.

Reading 3: The message of God to the Virgin was a mystery, which it was not lawful for the mouth of men, but only of Angels, to utter. For the first time on earth the words are spoken The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee. The holy maiden heareth, and believeth. At length she said Behold the handmaid of the Lord be it unto me according to thy word. Here is an example of lowliness, here is a pattern of true devotion. At the very moment that she is told she is chosen to be the mother of the Lord she at once declareth herself His handmaid. The knowledge that she was mother of God caused in the heart of Mary only an act of humility.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Lectio notes on John 21: 20-25

The final section of St John's Gospel is an autobiographical note on the 'beloved disciple' (St John himself).

The New Advent page can be found here.  The Latin is:

20 Conversus Petrus vidit illum discipulum, quem diligebat Jesus, sequentem, qui et recubuit in cœna super pectus ejus, et dixit: Domine, quis est qui tradet te? 21 Hunc ergo cum vidisset Petrus, dixit Jesu: Domine, hic autem quid? 22 Dicit ei Jesus: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? tu me sequere. 23 Exiit ergo sermo iste inter fratres quia discipulus ille non moritur. Et non dixit ei Jesus: Non moritur, sed: Sic eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? 24 Hic est discipulus ille qui testimonium perhibet de his, et scripsit hæc: et scimus quia verum est testimonium ejus. 25 Sunt autem et alia multa quæ fecit Jesus: quæ si scribantur per singula, nec ipsum arbitror mundum capere posse eos, qui scribendi sunt, libros.


Peter turning about, saw that disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also leaned on his breast at supper, and said: Lord, who is he that shall betray thee?[21] Him therefore when Peter had seen, he saith to Jesus: Lord, and what shall this man do? [22] Jesus saith to him: So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? follow thou me. [23] This saying therefore went abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die. And Jesus did not say to him: He should not die; but, So I will have him to remain till I come, what is it to thee? [24] This is that disciple who giveth testimony of these things, and hath written these things; and we know that his testimony is true. [25] But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written.


Catena Aurea on the beloved disciple:

AUG. He calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved, because Jesus had a greater and more familiar love for him, than for the rest; so that He made him lie on His breast at supper. In this way John the more commends the divine excellency of that Gospel which he preached.

Some think, and they no contemptible commentators upon Scripture, that the reason why John was loved more than the rest, was, because he had lived in perfect chastity from his youth up. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you?

THEOPHYL. i.e. Shall he not die?

AUG. Jesus says to him, What is that to you? and He then repeats, Follow you Me, as if John would not follow Him, because he wished to remain till He came; Then went this saying abroad among the disciples, that disciple should not die. Was it not a natural inference of the disciple's? But John himself does awes With such a notion: Yet Jesus said not to him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? But if any so will, let him contradict, and say that what John says is true, viz. that our Lord did not say that that disciple should not die, but that nevertheless this was signified by using such words as John records.

THEOPHYL. Or let him say, Christ did not deny that John was to die, for whatever is born cries; but said, I will that he tarry till I come, i.e. to live to the end of the world, and then he shall suffer martyrdom for Me. And therefore they confess that he still lives, but will be killed by Antichrist, and will preach Christ's name with Elias. But if his sepulcher be objected, then they say that he entered in alive, and went out of it afterwards.

AUG. Or perhaps he will allow that John still lies in his sepulcher at Ephesus, but asleep, not dead; and will give us a proof, that the soil over his grave is moist and watery, owing to his respiration. But why should our Lord grant it as a great privilege to the disciple whom He loved, that he should sleep this long time in the body, when he released Peter from the burden of the flesh by a glorious martyrdom, and gave him what Paul had longed for, when he said, I have a desire to depart and be with Christ? If there really takes place at John's grave that which report says, it is either done to commend his precious death, since that had not martyrdom to commend it, or for some other cause not known to us. Yet the question remains, Why did our Lord say of one who was about to die, I will that he tarry till I come? It may be asked too why our Lord loved John the most, when Peter loved our Lord the most? I might easily reply, that the one who loved Christ the more, was the better man, and the one whom Christ loved the more, the more blessed; only this would not be a defense of our Lord's justice. This important question then I will endeavor to answer. The Church acknowledges two modes of life, as divinely revealed, that by faith, and that by sight. The one is represented by the Apostle Peter, in respect of the primacy of his Apostleship; the other by John: wherefore to the one it is said, Follow Me, i.e. imitate Me in enduring temporal sufferings; of the other it is said, I will that he tarry till I come: as if to say, Do you follow Me, by the endurance of temporal sufferings, let him remain till I come to give everlasting bliss; or to open out the meaning more, Let action be perfected by following the example of My Passion, but let contemplation wait inchoate till at My coming it be completed: wait, not simply remain, continue, but wait for its completion at Christ's coming. Now in this life of action it is true, the more we love Christ, the more we are freed from sin; but He does not love us as we are, He frees us from sin, that we may not always remain as we are, but He loves us heretofore rather, because hereafter we shall not have that which displeases Him, and which He frees us from. So then let Peter love Him, that we may be freed from this mortality; let John be loved by Him, that we may be preserved in that immortality. John loved less than Peter, because, as he represented that life in which we are much more loved, our Lord said, I will that he remain (i.e. wait) till I come; seeing that that greater love we have not yet, but wait till we have it at His coming. And this intermediate state is represented by Peter who loves, but is loved less, for Christ loves us in our misery less than in our blessedness: and we again love the contemplation of truth such as it will be then, less in our present state, because as yet we neither know nor have it. But let none separate those illustrious Apostles; that which Peter represented, and that which John represented, both were sometime to be.

 Eyewitness testimony:

CHRYS. John appeals to his own knowledge of these events, having been witness of them: This is the disciple which testifies of these things. When we assert any undoubted fact in common life, we do not withhold our testimony: much less would he, who wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. And thus the other Apostles, And we are witnesses of these things, and wrote these things. John is only one who appeals to his own testimony; and he does so, because he was the last who wrote. And for this reason he often mentions Christ's love for him, i.e. to show the motive which led him to write, and to give weight to his history. And we know that his testimony is true. He was present at every event, even at the crucifixion, when our Lord committed His mother to him; circumstances which both show Christ's love, and his own importance as a witness. 

There is more to the tradition than contained in Scripture:

CHRYS: But if any believe not, let him consider what follows:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did. If, when there were so many things to relate, I have not said so much as the other, and have selected often reproaches and contumelies in preference to other things, it is evident that I have not written partially. One who wants to show another off to advantage does the very contrary, omits the dishonorable parts.

AUG. The which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should, be written; meaning not the world had not space for them, but that the capacity of readers was not large enough to hold them: though sometimes words themselves may exceed the truth, and yet the thing they express be true; a mode of speech which is used not to explain an obscure and doubtful, but to magnify or estimate a plain, thing: nor does it involve any departure from the path of truth; inasmuch as the excess of the word over the truth is evidently only a figure of speech, and not a deception. This way of speaking the Greeks call hyperbole, and it is found in other parts of Scripture.

CHRYS. This is said to show the power of Him Who did the miracles; i. e that it was as easy for Him to do them, as it is for us to speak of them, seeing He is God over all, blessed for ever.

And that concludes this series of lectio notes on the Gospel of St John.  I hope that it has stimulated you to do more lectio divina; that the notes proved helpful, and your reading proved fruitful!  

Friday, December 13, 2013

John 21:12-19


Today's section of St John's Gospel continues on from the story of the miraculous catch of fish, and includes the important 'commissioning' of St Peter.


The New Advent page can be found here.

2 Dicit eis Jesus: Venite, prandete. Et nemo audebat discumbentium interrogare eum: Tu quis es? scientes, quia Dominus est. 13 Et venit Jesus, et accipit panem, et dat eis, et piscem similiter. 14 Hoc jam tertio manifestatus est Jesus discipulis suis cum resurrexisset a mortuis.15 Cum ergo prandissent, dicit Simoni Petro Jesus: Simon Joannis, diligis me plus his? Dicit ei: Etiam Domine, tu scis quia amo te. Dicit ei: Pasce agnos meos. 16 Dicit ei iterum: Simon Joannis, diligis me? Ait illi: Etiam Domine, tu scis quia amo te. Dicit ei: Pasce agnos meos. 17 Dicit ei tertio: Simon Joannis, amas me? Contristatus est Petrus, quia dixit ei tertio: Amas me? et dixit ei: Domine, tu omnia nosti, tu scis quia amo te. Dixit ei: Pasce oves meas. 18 Amen, amen dico tibi: cum esses junior, cingebas te, et ambulabas ubi volebas: cum autem senueris, extendes manus tuas, et alius te cinget, et ducet quo tu non vis. 19 Hoc autem dixit significans qua morte clarificaturus esset Deum. Et cum hoc dixisset, dicit ei: Sequere me.

From the Douay-Rheims:

[12] Jesus saith to them: Come, and dine. And none of them who were at meat, durst ask him: Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. [13] And Jesus cometh and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish in like manner. [14] This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested to his disciples, after he was risen from the dead. [15] When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.[16] He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. [17] He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep. [18] Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not. [19] And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me.


The Catena Aurea anthology on the reasons for Jesus' questioning of Peter:

THEOPHYL. The dinner being ended, He commits to Peter the superintendence over the sheep of the world, not to the others: So when they had dined, Jesus says to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, Do love you Me more than these do?

AUG. Our Lord asked this, knowing it: He knew that Peter not only loved Him, but loved Him more than all the rest.

ALCUIN. He is called Simon, son of John, John being his natural father. But mystically, Simon is obedience, John grace, a name well befitting him who was so obedient to God's grace, that he loved our Lord more ardently than any of the others. Such virtue arising from divine gift, not mere human will.

AUG. While our Lord was being condemned to death, he feared, and denied Him. But by His resurrection Christ implanted love in his heart, and drove away fear. Peter denied, because he feared to die: but when our Lord was risen from the dead, and by His death destroyed death, what should he fear? He says to Him, Yea, Lord; you know that 1 love You. On this confession of his love, our Lord commends His sheep to him: He says to him, Feed My lambs. as if there were no way of Peter's showing his love for Him, but by being a faithful shepherd, under the chief Shepherd.

CHRYS. That which most of all attracts the Divine love is care and love for our neighbor. Our Lord passing by the rest, addresses this command to Peter: he being the chief of the Apostles, the mouth of the disciples, and head of the college. Our Lord remembers no more his sin in denying Him, or brings that as a charge against him, but commits to him at once the superintendence over his brethren. If you love Me, have rule over your brethren, show forth that love which you have evidenced throughout, and that life which you said you would lay down for Me, lay down for the sheep.

 He says to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? He says to Him, Yea, Lord; you know that I love You. Well does He say to Peter, Love you Me, and Peter answer, Amo Te, and our Lord replies again, Feed My lambs. Whereby, it appears that amor and dilectio are the same thing: especially as our Lord the third time He speaks does not say, Diligis Me, but Amas Me.

He says to him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, love you Me? A third time our Lord asks Peter whether he loves Him. Three confessions are made to answer to the three denials; that the tongue might show as much love as it had fear, and life gained draw out the voice as much as death threatened.

CHRYS. A third time He asks the same question, and gives the same command; to show of what importance He esteems the superintendence of His own sheep, and how He regards it as the greatest proof of love to Him.

THEOPHYL. Thence is taken the custom of threefold confession in baptism.

CHRYS. The question asked for the third time disturbed him: Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, Love you Me? He was afraid perhaps of receiving a reproof again for professing to love more than he did. So he appeals to Christ Himself: And he said to Him, Lord, you know all things, i.e. the secrets of the heart, present and to come.

AUG. He was grieved because he was asked so often by Him Who knew what He asked, and gave the answer. He replies therefore from his inmost heart; you know that I love You.

AUG. He says no more, He only replies what he knew himself; he knew he loved Him; whether any else loved Him he could not tell, as he could not see into another's heart: Jesus says to him, Feed My sheep; as if to say, Be it the office of love to feed the Lord's flock, as it was the resolution of fear to deny the Shepherd.

The nature of the commission:

THEOPHYL. There is a difference perhaps between lambs and sheep. The lambs are those just initiated, the sheep are the perfected.

ALCUIN. To feed the sheep is to support the believers in Christ from falling from the faith, to provide earthly sustenance for those under us, to preach and exemplify withal our preaching by our lives, to resist adversaries, to correct wanderers.

AUG. They who feed Christ's sheep, as if they were their own, not Christ's, show plainly that they love themselves, not Christ; that they are moved by lust of glory, power, gain, not by the love of obeying, ministering, pleasing God. Let us love therefore, not ourselves, but Him, and in feeding His sheep, seek not our own, but the things which are His. For whoso loves himself, not God, loves not himself: man that cannot live of himself, must die by loving himself; and he cannot love himself, who loves himself to his own destruction. Whereas when He by Whom we live is loved, we love ourselves the more, because we do not love ourselves; because we do not love ourselves in order that we may love Him by Whom we live

AUG. But unfaithful servants arose, who divided Christ's flock, and handed down the division to their successors: and you hear them say, Those sheep are mine, what seek you with my sheep, I will not let you come to my sheep. If we call our sheep ours, as they call them theirs, Christ has lost His sheep.

On St Peter's future martyrdom:

CHRYS. Our Lord having made Peter declare his love, informs him of his future martyrdom; an intimation to us how we should love: Verily, verily, I say to you, When you were young, you girded yourself, and walked where you would. He reminds him of his former life, because, whereas in worldly matters a young man has powers, an old man none; in spiritual things, on the contrary, virtue is brighter, manliness stronger, in old age; age is no hindrance to grace. Peter had all along desired to share Christ's dangers; so Christ tells him, Be of good cheer; I will fulfill your desire in such a way, that what you has not suffered when young, you shall suffer when old: But when you are old. Whence it appears, that he was then neither a young nor an old man, but in the prime of life.

ORIGEN. It is not easy to find any ready to pass at once from this life; and so he says to Peter, When you are old, you shall stretch forth your hand.

AUG. That is, shall be crucified. And to come to this end, Another shall gird you, and carry you where you would not. First He said what would come to pass, secondly, how it would come to pass. For it was not when crucified, but when about to be crucified, that he was led where he would not. He wished to be released from the body, and be with Christ; but, if it were possible, he wished to attain to eternal life without the pains of death; to which he went against his will, but conquered by the force of his will, and triumphing over the human feeling, so natural a one, that even old age could not deprive Peter of it. But whatever be the pain of death, it ought to be conquered by the strength of love for Him, Who being our life, voluntarily also underwent death for us. For if there is no pain in death, or very little, the glory of martyrdom would not be great.

CHRYS. He says, Where you would not, with reference to the natural reluctance of the soul to be separated from the body; an instinct implanted by God to prevent men putting an end to themselves.

Then raising the subject, the Evangelist says, This spoke He, signifying by what death he should glorify God: not, should die: he expresses himself so, to intimate that to suffer for Christ was the glory of the sufferer. But unless the mind is persuaded that He is very God, the sight of Him can in no way enable us to endure death. Wherefore the death of the saints is certainty of divine glory.

AUG. He who denied and loved, died in perfect love for Him, for Whom he had promised to die with wrong haste. It was necessary that Christ should first die for Peter's salvation, and then Peter die for Christ's Gospel.

Feast of St Lucy

Eutychia and Lucy at the Tomb of Saint Agatha,
by Jacobello del Fiore
The third reading at Matins, for St Lucy is as follows:

Lucy a virgin of Syracuse, noble by birth and by her Christian faith, went to the tomb of St. Agatha at Catheria and obtained the cure of her mother, Eutichia who was suffering from a hemorrhage. Soon after, she gained her mother's permission to distribute to the poor all the possessions which were to have served as her dowry. As a result of this charitable action, she was accused of being a Christian and brought before Paschasius the Prefect. When neither promises nor threats could induce her to sacrifice the idols, Paschasius became enraged and commanded Lucy to be taken to a place where her virginity would be violated. But the power of God gave the virgin a strength that matched the firmness of her resolution, so that no force could move her where she stood. And so the prefect commanded a fire to be kindled all around here, but the flames did not harm her. After she had suffered many torments, therefore her throat was pierced through with a sword. So wounded she foretold that the Church would have peace after the deaths of Diocletian and Maximilian, and on December 13 she gave up her spirit to God. Her body was first buried at Syracuse, than taken to Constantinople, and finally transferred to Venice.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feast of Our Lady of Guadeloupe

Where this feast is of the First Class, the Common of Our Lady is used.  Where it is third class, the third reading at Matins is as follows:

In Mexico, on the hill of Tepeyac, in the year 1531, the God-bearing Virgin Mary, as is piously handed down, appeared to the neophyte Juan Diego, and gave him a command for Bishop Juan de Zumarraga, which she urgently repeated, that a church was to be constructed in her name at that location. The bishop, however, requested a sign. Then, while he was seeking the sacraments for his dying uncle far from the place of the apparition, his loving Mother favored the neophyte with a third vision, assured him of his uncle's health, and after he had gathered roses into his cloak that had blossomed out of season, she ordered him to take them to the bishop. The roses having spilled out in the sight of the bishop, an image of Mary, impressed upon the cloak itself, according to the tradition, appeared to those present in a wondrous manner. At first kept in the bishop's chapel, then transferred to a shrine constructed on the hill of Tepeyac, it was finally moved to a magnificent temple, to which Mexicans increasingly began to gather in droves, for reasons of veneration and frequency of miracles. And therefore as an ever-present defense, the Mexican bishops, to the applause of the whole people, chose the blessed Virgin Mary of Guadalupe as the first Patroness of the Mexican people, which was duly confirmed by the apostolic authority of Benedict XIV. Leo XIII adorned the sacred image with a golden crown on Columbus Day, 1895, by the agency of the archbishop of Mexico. And St. Pius X declared the blessed Guadalupan Virgin as the Patroness of all Latin America. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lectio notes on John 21: 1-11

Spoleto Cathedral

The final chapter of St John's Gospel deals with Jesus' appearances after the Resurrection.  Today, the miraculous catch of fish.


The New Advent page can be found here.

1 Postea manifestavit se iterum Jesus discipulis ad mare Tiberiadis. Manifestavit autem sic: 2 erant simul Simon Petrus, et Thomas, qui dicitur Didymus, et Nathanaël, qui erat a Cana Galilææ, et filii Zebedæi, et alii ex discipulis ejus duo. 3 Dicit eis Simon Petrus: Vado piscari. Dicunt ei: Venimus et nos tecum. Et exierunt, et ascenderunt in navim: et illa nocte nihil prendiderunt. 4 Mane autem facto stetit Jesus in littore: non tamen cognoverunt discipuli quia Jesus est. 5 Dixit ergo eis Jesus: Pueri, numquid pulmentarium habetis? Responderunt ei: Non. 6 Dicit eis: Mittite in dexteram navigii rete, et invenietis. Miserunt ergo: et jam non valebant illud trahere præ multitudine piscium. 7 Dixit ergo discipulus ille, quem diligebat Jesus, Petro: Dominus est. Simon Petrus cum audisset quia Dominus est, tunica succinxit se (erat enim nudus) et misit se in mare. 8 Alii autem discipuli navigio venerunt (non enim longe erant a terra, sed quasi cubitis ducentis), trahentes rete piscium. 9 Ut ergo descenderunt in terram, viderunt prunas positas, et piscem superpositum, et panem. 10 Dicit eis Jesus: Afferte de piscibus, quos prendidistis nunc. 11 Ascendit Simon Petrus et traxit rete in terram, plenum magnis piscibus centum quinquaginta tribus. Et cum tanti essent, non est scissum rete.

From the Douay-Rheims:

After this, Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias. And he shewed himself after this manner. [2] There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas, who is called Didymus, and Nathanael, who was of Cana of Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. [3] Simon Peter saith to them: I go a fishing. They say to him: We also come with thee. And they went forth, and entered into the ship: and that night they caught nothing. [4] But when the morning was come, Jesus stood on the shore: yet the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. [5] Jesus therefore said to them: Children, have you any meat? They answered him: No. [6] He saith to them: Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore; and now they were not able to draw it, for the multitude of fishes. [7] That disciple therefore whom Jesus loved, said to Peter: It is the Lord. Simon Peter, when he heard that it was the Lord, girt his coat about him, (for he was naked,) and cast himself into the sea. [8] But the other disciples came in the ship, (for they were not far from the land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. [9] As soon then as they came to land, they saw hot coals lying, and a fish laid thereon, and bread. [10] Jesus saith to them: Bring hither of the fishes which you have now caught. [11] Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty-three. And although there were so many, the net was not broken.


The Catena Aurea anthology draws out the reasons for Christ's appearances:

AUG. The preceding words of the Evangelist seem to indicate the end of the book, but He goes on farther to give an account of our Lord's appearance by the sea of Tiberias: After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias.

CHRYS. He says, Afterwards, because He did not go continually with His disciples as before; and, manifested Himself, because His body being incorruptible, it was a condescension to allow Himself to be seen. He mentions the place, to show that our Lord had taken away a good deal of their fear, and that they no longer kept within doors, though they had gone to Galilee to avoid the persecution of the Jews.

BEDE. The Evangelist, after his wont, first states the thing itself, and then says how it took place: And on this wise showed He Himself.

CHRYS. As our Lord was not with them regularly, and the Spirit was as not given them, and they had received no commission, and had nothing to do, they followed the trade of fishermen: And on this wise showed He Himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee he who was called by Philip and the sons of Zebedee, i.e. James and John, and two other of His disciples.

Why did the apostles go back to fishing?

GREG. It may be asked, why Peter, who was a fisherman before his conversion, returned to fishing, when it is said, No man putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

AUG. If the disciples had done this after the death of Jesus, and before His resurrection, we should have imagined that they did it in despair. But now after that He has risen from the grave, after seeing the marks of His wounds, after receiving, by means of His breathing, the Holy Ghost, all at once they become what they were before, fishers, not of men, but of fishes. We must remember then that they were not forbidden by their Apostleship from earning their livelihood by a lawful craft, provided they had no other means of living. For if the blessed Paul used not that power which he had with the rest of the preachers of the Gospel, as they did, but went a warfare upon his own resources, lest the Gentiles, who were aliens from the name of Christ, might be offended at a doctrine apparently venal; if, educated in another way, he learnt a craft he never knew before, that, while the teacher worked with his own hands, the hearer might not be burdened much more might Peter, who had been a fisherman, work at what he knew, if he had nothing else to live upon at the time. But how had he not, some one will ask, when our Lord promises, Seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you? Our Lord, we answer, fulfilled this promise, by bringing them the fishes to catch: for who else brought them? He did not bring upon them that poverty which obliged them to go fishing, except in order to exhibit a miracle.

GREG. The craft which was exercised without sin before conversion, was no sin after it. Wherefore after his conversion Peter returned to fishing; but Matthew sat not down again for the receipt? of custom. For there are some businesses which cannot or it can hardly be carried on without sin; and these cannot be returned to after conversion.

CHRYS. The other disciples followed Peter: They say to him, We also go with you; for from this time they were all bound together; and they wished too to see the fishing: They went forth and entered into a ship immediately. And that night they caught nothing. They fished in the night, from fear.

GREG. The fishing was made to be very unlucky, in order to raise their astonishment at the miracle after: And that night they caught nothing

Jesus' intervention:

CHRYS. In the midst of their labor and distress, Jesus presented Himself to them: But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus.

He did not make Himself known to them immediately, but entered into conversation; and first He speak after human fashion: Then Jesus says to them, Children, have you any meat? as if He wished to beg some of them. They answered, No.

He then gives them a sign to know Him by: And He said to them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. The recognition of Him brings out Peter and John in their different tempers of mind; the one fervid, the other sublime; the one ready, the other penetrating.

John is the first to recognize our Lord: Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved says to Peter, It is the Lord; Peter is the first to come to Him... 

The meaning of the catch:

AUG. Mystically, in the draught of fishes He signified the mystery of the Church, a such as it will be at the final resurrection of the dead. And to make this clearer, it is put near the end of the book. The number seven, which is the number of the disciples who were fishing, signifies the end of time; for time is counted by periods of seven days.

THEOPHYL. In the night time before the presence of the sun, Christ, the Prophets took nothing; for though they endeavored to correct the people, yet these often fell into idolatry.

GREG. It may be asked, why after His resurrection He stood on the shore to receive the disciples, whereas before He walked on the sea? The sea signifies the world, which is tossed about with various causes of tumults, and the waves of this corruptible life; the shore by its solidity figures the rest eternal. The disciples then, inasmuch as they were still upon the waves of this mortal life, were laboring on the sea; but the Redeemer having by His resurrection thrown off the corruption of the flesh, stood upon the shore.

AUG. The shore is the end of the sea, and therefore signifies the end of the world. The Church is here typified as she will be at the end of the world, just as other draughts of fishes typified her as she is now. Jesus before did not stand on the shore, but went into a ship which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little from the land.

In a former draught the nets are not thrown to the right, or to the left, so that the good or the bad should be typified alone, but indifferently: Let down your nets for a draught, meaning that the good and bad were mixed together. But here it is, Cast the net on the right side of the ship; to signify those who should stand on the right hand, the good. The one our Lord did at the beginning of His ministry, the other after His resurrection, strewing therein that the former draught of fishes signified the mixture of bad and good, which composes the Church at present; the latter the good alone, which it will contain in eternity, when the world is ended, and the resurrection of the dead completed.

But they who belong to the resurrection of life, i.e. to the right hand, and are caught within the net of the Christian name, shall only appear on the shore, i.e. at the end of the world, after the resurrection: wherefore they were not able to draw the net into the ship, and unload the fishes, as they were before. The Church keeps these of the right hand, after death, in the sleep of peace, as it were in the deep, till the net come to shore. That the first draught was taken in two little ships, the last two hundred cubits from land, a hundred and a hundred, typifies, I think, the two classes of elect, circumcised and uncircumcised.

BEDE. By the two hundred cubits is signified the twofold grace of love; the love of God and the love of our neighbor; for by them we approach to Christ. The fish broiled is Christ who suffered. He deigned to be hid in the waters of human nature, and to be taken in the net of our night; and having become a fish by the taking of humanity, became bread to refresh us by His divinity.

GREG. To Peter was the holy Church committed; to him is it specially said, Feed My sheep. That then which is afterwards declared by word, is now signified by act. He it is who draws the fishes to the firm shore, because he it was who pointed out the stability of the eternal country to the faithful. This he did by word of mouth, by epistles; this he does daily by signs and miracles. After saying that the net was full of great fishes, the number follows: Full of great fishes, one hundred and fifty and three.

AUG. In the draught before, the number of the fishes is not mentioned, as if in fulfillment of the prophecy in the Psalm, If I should declare them, and speak of them, they should be more than l am able to express, but here there is a certain number mentioned, which we must explain.

The number which signifies the law is ten, from the ten Commandments. But when to the law is joined grace, to the letter spirit, the number seven is brought in, that being the number which represents the Holy Spirit, to Whom sanctification properly belongs. For sanctification was first heard of in the law, with respect to the seventh day; and Isaiah praises the Holy Spirit for His sevenfold work and office. The seven of the Spirit added to the ten of the law make seventeen, and the numbers from one up to seventeen when added together, make a hundred and fifty-three.

GREG. Seven and ten multiplied by three make fifty-one. The fiftieth year was a year of rest to the whole people from all their work. In unity is true rest; for where division is, true rest cannot be.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lectio notes: John 20: 19-31

Today's concluding section of Chapter 20 of St John's Gospel includes the story of Doubting Thomas.

The text

The New Advent page provides the Greek, Latin and Knox English in a parallel text version.  You can listen to the Latin here  and the Greek here.  Here is the Latin:

19 Cum ergo sero esset die illo, una sabbatorum, et fores essent clausæ, ubi erant discipuli congregati propter metum Judæorum: venit Jesus, et stetit in medio, et dixit eis: Pax vobis. 20 Et cum hoc dixisset, ostendit eis manus et latus. Gavisi sunt ergo discipuli, viso Domino. 21 Dixit ergo eis iterum: Pax vobis. Sicut misit me Pater, et ego mitto vos. 22 Hæc cum dixisset, insufflavit, et dixit eis: Accipite Spiritum Sanctum: 23 quorum remiseritis peccata, remittuntur eis: et quorum retinueritis, retenta sunt. 24 Thomas autem unus ex duodecim, qui dicitur Didymus, non erat cum eis quando venit Jesus. 25 Dixerunt ergo ei alii discipuli: Vidimus Dominum. Ille autem dixit eis: Nisi videro in manibus ejus fixuram clavorum, et mittam digitum meum in locum clavorum, et mittam manum meam in latus ejus, non credam. 26 Et post dies octo, iterum erant discipuli ejus intus, et Thomas cum eis. Venit Jesus januis clausis, et stetit in medio, et dixit: Pax vobis. 27 Deinde dicit Thomæ: Infer digitum tuum huc, et vide manus meas, et affer manum tuam, et mitte in latus meum: et noli esse incredulus, sed fidelis. 28 Respondit Thomas, et dixit ei: Dominus meus et Deus meus. 29 Dixit ei Jesus: Quia vidisti me, Thoma, credidisti: beati qui non viderunt, et crediderunt.30 Multa quidem et alia signa fecit Jesus in conspectu discipulorum suorum, quæ non sunt scripta in libro hoc. 31 Hæc autem scripta sunt ut credatis, quia Jesus est Christus Filius Dei: et ut credentes, vitam habeatis in nomine ejus.

The Douay-Rheims:

[19] Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. [20] And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.[21] He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. [22] When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. [23] Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. [24] Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. [25] The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.[26] And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. [27] Then he saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. [28] Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. [29] Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed. [30] Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of his disciples, which are not written in this book.[31] But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in his name.


The Catena Aurea's commentaries highlight the weakness of the apostles:

CHRYS. The disciples, when they heard what Mary told them, were obliged either to disbelieve, or, if they believed, to grieve that He did not count them worthy to have the sight of Him. He did not let them however pass a whole day in such reflections, but in the midst of their longing trembling desires to see Him, presented Himself to them: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews. 

BEDE. Wherein is strewn the infirmity of the Apostles. They assembled with doors shut, through that same fear of the Jews, which had before scattered them: Came Jesus, and stood in the midst. He came in the evening, because they would be the most afraid at that time... 

CHRYS. It is wonderful that they did not think him a phantom. But Mary had provided against this, by the faith she had wrought in them. And He Himself too showed Himself so openly, and strengthened their wavering minds by His voice: And says to them, Peace be to you, i.e. Be not disturbed. Wherein too He reminds them; of what He had said before His crucifixion; My peace I give to you; and again, In Me you shall have peace. 

GREG. And because their faith wavered even with the material body before them, He showed them His hands and side: And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. 

The significance of his breathing on them:

CHRYS. Having then given them confidence by His own miracles, and appealing to Him who sent Him, He uses a prayer to the Father, but of His own authority gives them power: And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and says to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost. 

AUG. That corporeal breath was not the substance of the Holy Ghost, but to show, by meet symbol, that the Holy Ghost proceeded not only from the Father, but the Son. For who would be so mad as to say, that it was one Spirit which He gave by breathing, and another which He sent after His ascension? 

GREG. But why is He first given too the disciples on earth, and afterwards sent from heaven? Because there are two commandments of love, to love God, and to love our neighbor. The spirit to love our neighbor is given on earth, the spirit to love God is given from heaven. As then love is one, and there are two commandments; so the Spirit is one, and there are two gifts of the Spirit. And the first is given by our Lord while yet upon earth, the second from heaven, because by the love of our neighbor we learn how to arrive at the love of God. 

CHRYS. Some say that by breathing He did not give them the Spirit, but made them meet to receive the Spirit. For if Daniel's senses were so overpowered by the sight of the Angel, how would they have been overwhelmed in receiving that unutterable gift, if He had not first prepared them for it! It would not be wrong however to say that they received then the gift of a certain spiritual power, not to raise the dead and do miracles, but to remit sins: Whosoever sins you remit, they are remitted to them, and whosoever sins you retain, they are retained. 

AUG. The love of the Church, which is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, remits the sins of those who partake of it; but retains the sins of those who do not. Where then He has said, Receive you the Holy Ghost, He instantly makes mention of the remission and retaining of sins. 

GREG. We must understand that those who first received the Holy Ghost, for innocence of life in themselves, and preaching to a few others, received it openly after the resurrection, that they might profit not a few only, but many. The disciples who were called to such works of humility, to what a height of glory are they led! Lo, not only have they salvation for themselves, but are admitted to the powers of the supreme Judgment-seat; so that, in the place of God, they retain some men's sins, and remit others. Their place in the Church, the Bishops now hold; who receive the authority to bind, when they are admitted to the ram; of government. Great the honor, but heavy the burden of the place. It is ill if one who knows not how to govern his own life, shall be judge of another's. 

On Thomas' doubts: 

ALCUIN. Didymus, double or doubtful, because he doubted in believing: Thomas, depth, because with most sure faith he penetrated into the depth of our Lord's divinity. 

GREG. It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The Divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master the wounds of the flesh heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith, than the belief of the other disciples; for, the touch by which he is brought to believe, confirming our minds in belief, beyond all question. 

CHRYS. As to believe directly, and any how, is the mark of too easy a mind, so is too much inquiring of a gross one: and this is Thomas's fault. For when the Apostle said, We have seen the Lord, he did not believe, not because he discredited them, but from an idea of the impossibility of the thing itself: The other disciples therefore said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe. Being the grossest of all, he required the evidence of the grossest sense, viz. the touch, and would not even believe his eyes: for he does not say only, Except I shall see, but adds, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into His side.

AUG. He might, had He pleased, have wiped all spot and trace of wound from His glorified body; but He had reasons for retaining them. He showed them to Thomas, who would not believe except he saw and touched, and He will show them to His enemies, not to say, as He did to Thomas, Because you have seen, you have believed, but to convict them: Behold the Man whom you crucified, see the wounds which you inflicted, recognize the side which you pierced, that it was by you, and for you, that it was opened, and yet you cannot enter there. 

GREG. Our Lord gave that flesh to be touched which He had introduced through shut doors: wherein two wonderful, and, according to human reason, contradictory things appear, viz. that after the resurrection He had a body incorruptible, and yet palpable. For that which is palpable must be corruptible, and that which is incorruptible must be impalpable. But He showed Himself incorruptible and yet palpable, to prove that His body after His resurrection was the same in nature as before, but different in glory. 

AUG. Thomas saw and touched the man, and confessed the. God whom he neither saw nor touched. By means of the one he believed the other undoubtingly: Thomas answered and said to Him, My Lord and My God. 

THEOPHYL. He who had been before unbelieving, after touching the body showed himself the best divine; for he asserted the twofold nature and one Person of Christ; by saying, My Lord, the human nature by saying, My God, the divine, and by joining them both, confessed that one and the same Person was Lord and God.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Lectio notes: John 20:11-18

At the end of the last section, the Apostles, having viewed the empty sepulchre but without understanding what it meant, departed the scene. Mary Magdalene, however, remained behind.

The text

The New Advent page provides the Greek, Latin and Knox English in a parallel text version.  You can listen to the Latin here  and the Greek here.  Here is the Latin:

11 Maria autem stabat ad monumentum foris, plorans. Dum ergo fleret, inclinavit se, et prospexit in monumentum: 12 et vidit duos angelos in albis sedentes, unum ad caput, et unum ad pedes, ubi positum fuerat corpus Jesu. 13 Dicunt ei illi: Mulier, quid ploras? Dicit eis: Quia tulerunt Dominum meum: et nescio ubi posuerunt eum. 14 Hæc cum dixisset, conversa est retrorsum, et vidit Jesum stantem: et non sciebat quia Jesus est. 15 Dicit ei Jesus: Mulier, quid ploras? quem quæris? Illa existimans quia hortulanus esset, dicit ei: Domine, si tu sustulisti eum, dicito mihi ubi posuisti eum, et ego eum tollam. 16 Dicit ei Jesus: Maria. Conversa illa, dicit ei: Rabboni (quod dicitur Magister). 17 Dicit ei Jesus: Noli me tangere, nondum enim ascendi ad Patrem meum: vade autem ad fratres meos, et dic eis: Ascendo ad Patrem meum, et Patrem vestrum, Deum meum, et Deum vestrum.18 Venit Maria Magdalene annuntians discipulis: Quia vidi Dominum, et hæc dixit mihi.


[11] But Mary stood at the sepulchre without, weeping. Now as she was weeping, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, [12] And she saw two angels in white, sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laid. [13] They say to her: Woman, why weepest thou? She saith to them: Because they have taken away my Lord; and I know not where they have laid him. [14] When she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing; and she knew not that it was Jesus. [15] Jesus saith to her: Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, thinking it was the gardener, saith to him: Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. [16] Jesus saith to her: Mary. She turning, saith to him: Rabboni (which is to say, Master). [17] Jesus saith to her: Do not touch me, for I am not yet ascended to my Father. But go to my brethren, and say to them: I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God. [18] Mary Magdalen cometh, and telleth the disciples: I have seen the Lord, and these things he said to me.


From the Catena Aurea:

CHRYS. The sight of the sepulcher itself was some consolation. Nay, behold her, to console herself still more, stooping down, to see the very place where the body lay: And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher.

GREG. For to have looked once is not enough for love. Love makes one desire to look over and over again.

AUG. In her too great grief she could believe neither her own eyes, nor the disciples. Or was it a divine impulse which caused her to look in?

GREG. She sought the body, and found it not; she persevered in seeking; and so it came to pass that she found. Her longings growing the stronger, the more they were disappointed, at last found and laid hold on their object. For holy longings ever gain strength by delay, did they not, they would not be longings. Mary so loved, that not content with seeing the sepulcher, she stooped down and looked in: let us see the fruit which came of this persevering love: And sees two Angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain,

CHRYS. As her understanding was not so raised as to be able to gather from the napkins the fact of the resurrection, she is given the sight of Angels in bright apparel, who soothe her sorrow

The significance of the angels:

AUG. But why did one sit at the head, the other at the feet? To signify that the glad tidings of Christ's Gospel was to be delivered from the head to the feet, from the beginning to the end. The Greek word Angel means one who delivers news.

GREG. The Angel sits at the head when the Apostles preach that in the beginning was the Word: he sits, as it were, at the feet, when it is said, The Word was made flesh. By the two Angels too we may understand the two testaments; both of which proclaim alike the incarnation, death, and resurrection of our Lord. The Old seems to sit at the head, the New at the feet.

CHRYS. The Angels who appear say nothing about the resurrection; but by degrees the subject is entered on. First of all they address her compassionately, to prevent her from being overpowered by a spectacle of such extraordinary brightness: And they say to her, Woman, why weep you? The Angels forbade tears, and announced, as it were, the joy that was at hand: Why weep you? As if to say, Weep not.

Noli me tangere:

GREG The Evangelist does not add what she did upon recognizing Him, but we know from what our Lord said to her: Jesus says to her, Touch Me not. Mary then had tried to embrace His feet, but was not allowed. Why not? The reason follows: For I am not yet ascended to My Father.

AUG. But if standing upon the earth, He is not touched, how shall He be touched sitting in heaven? And did He not before His ascension offer Himself to the touch of the disciples: Handle Me and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones? Who can be so absurd as to suppose that He was willing that disciples should touch Him before He ascended to His Father, and unwilling that women should till after Nay, we read of women after the resurrection, and before He ascended to His Father, touching Him, one of whom was Mary Magdalene herself, according to Matthew. Either then Mary here is a type of the Gentile Church, which did not believe in Christ till after His ascension: or the meaning is that Jesus is to be believed in, i.e. spiritually touched, in no other way, but as being one with the Father. He ascends to the Father mystically, as it were, in the mind of him who has so far advanced as to acknowledge that He is equal to the Father. But how could Mary believe in Him otherwise than carnally, when she wept for Him as a man?

AUG. Touch is as it were the end of knowledge and He was unwilling that a soul intent upon Him should have its end, in thinking Him only what He seemed to be.

CHRYS. Mary wished to be as familiar with Christ now, as she was before His Passion; forgetting, in her joy, that His body was made much more holy by its resurrection. So, Touch Me not, He says, to remind her of this, and make her feel awe in talking with Him. For which reason too He no longer keeps company with His disciples, viz. that they might look upon Him with the greater awe. Again, by saying I have not yet ascended, He shows that He is hastening there. And He who was going to depart and live no more with men, ought not to be regarded with the same feeling that He was before: But go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and you Father; and to My God, and your God.

Apostle to the apostles:

AUG. She then went away from. the sepulcher, i.e. from that part of the garden before the rock which had been hollowed out, and with her the other women. But these, according to Mark, were seized with trembling and amazement, and said nothing to any man: Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.

GREG. So the sin of mankind is buried in the very place whence it came forth. For whereas in Paradise the woman gave the man the deadly fruit, a woman from the sepulcher announced life to men; a woman delivers the message of Him who raises us from the dead, as a woman had delivered the words of the serpent who slew us.

AUG. While she was going with the other women, according to Matthew, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. So we gather that there were two visions of Angels ; and that our Lord too was seen twice once when Mary took Him for the gardener, and again, when He met them by the way, and by this repeating His presence confirmed their faith. And so Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples, not alone, but with the other women whom Luke mentions.

BEDE. Mystically, Mary, which name signifies, mistress, enlightened, enlightener, star of the sea, stands for the Church, which is also Magdalene, i.e. towered, (Magdalene being Greek for tower) as we read in the Psalms, you have been a strong tower for me. In that she announced Christ's resurrection to the disciples, all, especially those to whom the office of preaching is committed are admonished to be zealous in setting forth to others whatever is revealed from above.