Golden Chain 3120
3120 (Mt 1,20)
Remig.: Because Joseph was minded, as has been said, to put Mary away privily, which if he had done, there would have been few who would not rather have thought her a harlot than a virgin, therefore this purpose of Joseph was changed by Divine revelation, whence it is said, "While he thought on these things."
Gloss., ap Anselm: In this is to be noted the wise soul that desires to undertake nothing rashly.
Chrys.: Also observe the mercifulness of Joseph, that he imparted his suspicions to none, not even to her whom he suspected, but kept them within himself.
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. 195: Yet though Joseph think on these things, let not Mary the daughter of David be troubled; as the word of the Prophet brought pardon to David, so the Angel of the Saviour delivers Mary. Behold, again appears Gabriel the bridesman of this Virgin; as it follows, "Behold the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph."
Ambrose: In this word "appeared" is conveyed the power of Him that did appear, allowing Himself to be seen where and how He pleases.
Raban.: How the Angel appeared to Joseph is declared in the words, "In his sleep;" that is, as Jacob saw the ladder offered by a kind of imagining to the eyes of his heart.
Chrys.: He did not appear so openly to Joseph as to the Shepherds, because he was faithful; the shepherds needed it, because they were ignorant. The Virgin also needed it, as she had first to be instructed in these mighty wonders. In like manner Zacharias needed the wonderful vision before the conception of his son.
Gloss., part Int., part Anselm: The Angel appearing calls him by name, and adds his descent, in order to banish fear, "Joseph, son of David;" Joseph, as though he were known to him by name and his familiar friend.
Pseudo-Chrys.: By addressing him as son of David, he sought to recall to his memory the promise of God to David, that of (p. 48) his seed should Christ be born.
Chrys.: But by saying, "Be not afraid," he shews him to be in fear that he had offended God, by having an adulteress; for only as such would he have ever thought of putting her away.
Chrysologus: As her betrothed husband also he is admonished not to be afraid; for the mind that compassionates has most fear; as though he were to say, Here is no cause of death, but of life; she that brings forth life, does not deserve death.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Also by the words, "Fear not," he desired to shew that he knew the heart; that by this he might have the more faith in those good things to come, which he was about to speak concerning Christ.
Ambrose, in Luc., ii, 5: Be not troubled that he calls her his wife; for she is not herein robbed of her virginity, but her wedlock is witnessed to, and the celebration of her marriage is declared.
Jerome: But we are not to think that she ceased to be betrothed, because she is here called wife, since we know that this is the Scripture manner to call the man and woman, when espoused, husband and wife; and this is confirmed by that text in Deuteronomy, "If one finds a virgin that is betrothed to a man in the field, and offer violence to her, and lie with her, he shall die, because he hath humbled his neighbour's wife." (Dt 22,25)
Chrys.: He says, "Fear not to take unto thee;" that is, to keep at home; for in thought she was already dismissed.
Raban.: Or, "to take her," that is, in marriage union and continual converse.
Pseudo-Chrys.: There were three reasons why the Angel appeared to Joseph with this message. First, that a just man might not be led into an unjust action, with just intentions. Secondly, for the honour of the mother herself, for had she been put away, she could not have been free from evil suspicion among the unbelievers. Thirdly, that Joseph, understanding the holy conception, might keep himself from her with more care than before.
He did not appear to Joseph before the conception, that he should not think those things that Zacharias thought, nor suffer what he suffered in falling into the sin of unbelief concerning the conception of his wife in her old age. For it was yet more incredible that a virgin should conceive, than that a woman past the age should conceive.
Chrys.: Or, The Angel appeared to Joseph when he was in this perplexity, that his wisdom might be apparent to Joseph, and that this (p. 49) might be a proof to him of those things that he spoke. For when he heard out of the mouth of the Angel those very things that he thought within himself, this was an undoubted proof, that he was a messenger from God, who alone knows the secrets of the heart.
Also the account of the Evangelist is beyond suspicion, as he describes Joseph feeling all that a husband was likely to feel. The Virgin also by this was more removed from suspicion, in that her husband had felt jealousy, yet took her home, and kept her with him after her conception. She had not told Joseph the things that the Angel had said to her, because she did not suppose that she should be believed by her husband, especially as he had begun to have suspicions concerning her.
But to the Virgin the Angel announced her conception before it took place, lest if he should defer it till afterwards she should be in straits. And it behoved that Mother who was to receive the Maker of all things to be kept free from all trouble. Not only does the Angel vindicate the Virgin from all impurity, but shews that the conception was supernatural, not removing his fears only, but adding matter of joy; saying, "That which is born in her is of the Holy Spirit."
Gloss. ord: To be "born in her," and "born of her," are two different things; to be born of her is to come into the world; to be born in her, is the same as to be conceived. Or the word, "born," is used according to the foreknowledge of the Angel which he has of God, to whom the future is as the past.
Pseudo-Aug., Hil. Quaest. N. et V. Test. q. 52: But if Christ was born by the agency of the Holy Ghost, how is that said, "Wisdom hath built herself an house?" (Pr 9,1)
That house may be taken in two meanings. First, the house of Christ is the Church, which He built with His own blood; and secondly, His body may be called His house, as it is called His temple. But the work of the Holy Spirit, is also the work of the Son of God, because of the unity of their nature and their will; for whether it be the Father, or the Son, or the Holy Spirit, that doeth it, it is the Trinity that works, and what the Three do, is of One God.
Aug., Enchir., 38: But shall we therefore say that the Holy Spirit is the Father of the man Christ, that as God the Father begot the Word, so the Holy Spirit begot the man? This is such an absurdity, that the ears of the faithful cannot bear it. (p. 50)
How then do we say that Christ was born by the Holy Spirit, if the Holy Spirit did not beget Him? Did He create Him? For so far as He is man He was created, as the Apostle speaks; "He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh." (Rm 1,3) For though God made the world, yet is it not right to say that it is the Son of God, or born by Him, but that it was made, or created, or formed by Him. But seeing that we confess Christ to have been born by the Holy Spirit, and of the Virgin Mary, how is He not the Son of the Holy Spirit, and is the Son of the Virgin? It does not follow, that whatever is born by any thing, is therefore to be called the son of that thing; for, not to say that of man is born in one sense a son, in another a hair, or vermin, or a worm, none of which are his son, certainly those that are born of water and the Spirit none would call sons of water; but sons of God their Father, and their Mother the Church. Thus Christ was born of the Holy Spirit, and yet is the Son of God the Father, not of the Holy Spirit.
3121 (Mt 1,21)
Chrys.: What the Angel thus told Joseph, was beyond human thought, and the law of nature, therefore he confirms his speech not only be revealing to him what was past, but also what was to come; "She shall bring forth a Son."
Gloss., ap Anselm: That Joseph should not suppose that he was no longer needed in this wedlock, seeing the conception had taken place without his intervention, the Angel declares to him, that though there had been no need of him in the conception, yet there was need of his guardianship; for the Virgin should bear a Son, and then he would be necessary both to the Mother and her Son; to the Mother to screen her from disgrace, to the Son to bring Him up and to circumcise Him. The circumcision is meant when he says, "And thou shalt call His name Jesus;" for it was usual to give the name in circumcision.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He said not, "Shall bear thee a Son," as to Zacharias, "Behold, Elisabeth thy wife shall bear thee a son." For the woman who conceives of her husband, (p. 51) bears the son to her husband, because he is more of him than of herself; but she who had not conceived of man, did not bear the Son to her husband, but to herself.
Chrys.: Or, he left it unappropriated, to shew that she bare Him to the whole world.
Raban.: "Thou shalt call His name," he says, and not, "shalt give Him a name," for His name had been given from all eternity.
Chrys.: This further shews that this birth should be wonderful, because it is God that sends down His name from above by His Angel; and that not any name, but one which is a treasure of infinite good. Therefore also the Angel interprets it, suggesting good hope, and by this induces him to believe what was spoken. For we lean more easily to prosperous things, and yield our belief more readily to good fortune.
Jerome: Jesus is a Hebrew word, meaning Saviour. He points to the etymology of the name, saying, "For He shall save His people from this sins."
Remig.: He shews the same man to be the Saviour of the whole world, and the Author of our salvation. He saves indeed not the unbelieving, but His people; that is, He saves those that believe on Him, not so much from visible as from invisible enemies; that is, from their sins, not by fighting with arms, but by remitting their sins.
Chrysologus: Let them approach to hear this, who ask, Who is He that Mary bare? "He shall save His people;" not any other man's people; from what? "from their sins." That it is God that forgives sins, if you do not believe the Christians so affirming, believe the infidels, or the Jews who say, "None can forgive sins but God only." (Lc 5,1)
3122 (Mt 1,22-23)
Remig.: It is the custom of the Evangelist to confirm what he says out of the Old Testament, for the sake of those Jews who believed on Christ, that they might recognize as fulfilled in the grace of the Gospel, the things that were foretold in the Old Testament; therefore he adds, "Now all this was done." (p. 52)
Here we must enquire why he should say "all this was done," when above he has only related the conception. It should be known that he says this to shew, that in the presence of God "all this was done" before it was done among men. Or he says, "all" this was done, because he is relating past events; for when he wrote, it was all done.
Gloss., ap Anselm: Or, he says, "all this was done," meaning, the Virgin was betrothed, she was kept chaste, she was found with child, the revelation was made by the Angel, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken. For that the Virgin should conceive and should bring forth would never have been fulfilled, had she not been espoused that she should not be stoned; and had not her secret been disclosed by the Angel, and so Joseph taken her unto him, that she was not dismissed to disgrace and to perish by stoning. So had she perished before the birth, that prophecy would have been made void which says, "She shall bring forth a Son." (Is 7,14)
Gloss: Or it may be said, that the word "that" does not here denote the cause; for the prophecy was not fulfilled merely because it was to be fulfilled. But it is put consecutively, as in Genesis, "He hung the other on the gallows, that the truth of the interpreter might be proved;" (Gn 40,22) since by the weighing of one, truth is established. So also in this place we must understand it as if it were, that which was foretold being done, the prophecy was accomplished.
Chrys.: Otherwise; the Angel seeing the depths of the Divine mercy, the laws of nature broken through and reconciliation made, He who was above all made lower than all; all these wonders, all this he comprises in that one saying, "Now all this hath happened;" as though he had said, Do not suppose that this is newly devised of God, it was determined of old. And he rightly cites the Prophet not to the Virgin, who as a maiden was untaught in such things, but to Joseph, as to one much versed in the Prophets.
And at first he had spoken of Mary as "thy wife," but now in the words of the Prophet he brings in the word, "Virgin," that he might hear this from the Prophet, as a thing long before determined. Therefore to confirm what he had said, he introduces Isaiah, or rather God; for he does not say, Which was spoken by Isaiah, but, "Which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet."
Jerome, in Isa 7:14; Since it is introduced in the Prophet by the words, (p. 53) "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign," it ought to be something new and wonderful. But if it be, as the Jews will have it, a young woman, or a girl shall bring forth, and not a virgin, what wonder is this, since these are words signifying age and not purity?
Indeed the Hebrew word signifying "Virgin" (Bethula) is not used in this place, but instead the word, 'Halma,' (ed. note, a:, &c.] which except the LXX all render 'girl.' But the word, 'Halma,' has a twofold meaning; it signifies both 'girl,' and 'hidden;' therefore 'Halma' denotes not only 'maiden' or 'virgin,' but 'hidden,' 'secret;' that is, one never exposed to the gaze of men, but kept under close custody by her parents.
In the Punic tongue also, which is said to be derived from Hebrew sources, a virgin is properly called 'Halma.' In our tongue also 'Halma' means holy; and the Hebrews use words of nearly all languages; and as far as my memory will serve me, I do not think I ever met with Halma used of a married woman, but of her that is a virgin, and such that she be not merely a virgin, but in the age of youth; for it is possible for an old woman to be a maid. But this was a virgin in years of youth, or at least a virgin, and not a child too young for marriage.
For that which Matthew the Evangelist says, "Shall have in her womb," the Prophet who is foretelling something future, writes, "shall receive." The Evangelist, not foretelling the future but describing the past, changes "shall receive," into "shall have;" but he who has, cannot after receive that he has. He says, "Lo, a Virgin shall have in her womb, and shall bear a Son."
Leo, Serm. 23, 1: The conception was by the Holy Spirit within the womb of the Virgin; who, as she conceived in perfect chastity, in like manner brought forth her Son.
Pseudo-Aug., in App. s. 123: He, who by a touch could heal the severed limbs of others, how much more could He, in His own birth, preserve whole that which He found whole? In this parturition, soundness of the Mother's body was rather strengthened than weakened, and her virginity rather confirmed than lost.
Theodotus, Hom. 1 and 2. in Conc. Eph. ap. Hard. t. i. pp. 1643, 1655: Inasmuch as Photinus affirms that He that was now born was mere man, not allowing the divine birth, and maintains that He who now issued from the womb was the man separate from the God; let him shew how it was possible that human nature, born of the Virgin's womb, should have preserved the (p. 54) virginity of that womb uncorrupted; for the mother of no man ever yet remained a virgin.
But forasmuch as it was God the Word who was now born in the flesh, He shewed Himself to be the Word, in that He preserved His mother's virginity. For as our word when it is begot does not destroy the mind, so neither does God the Word in choosing His birth destroy the virginity.
Chrys.: As it is the manner of Scripture to convey a knowledge of events under the form of a name, so here, "They shall call His name Emmanuel," means nothing else than, They shall see God among men. Whence he says not, 'Thou shalt call,' but "They shall call."
Raban.: First, Angels hymning, secondly, Apostles preaching, then Holy Martyrs, and lastly, all believers.
Jerome, in Isa 7:14; The LXX and three others translate, 'Thou shalt call,' instead of which we have here, "They shall call," which is not so in the Hebrew; for the word, 'Charathi,' (ed. note: ) which all render "Thou shalt call," may mean, 'And she shall call,' that is, The Virgin that shall conceive and shall bear Christ, shall call His name Emmanuel, which is interpreted, 'God with us.'
Remig.: It is a question who interpreted this name? The Prophet, or the Evangelist, or some translator? It should be known then, that the Prophet did not interpret it; and what need had the Holy Evangelist to do so, seeing he wrote in the Hebrew tongue? Perhaps that was a difficult and rare word in Hebrew, and therefore needed interpretation. It is more probable that some translator interpreted it, that the Latins might not be perplexed by an unintelligible word.
In this name are conveyed at once the two substances, the Divinity and Humanity in the one Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who before all time was begot in an unspeakable manner by God the Father, the same in the end of time was made "Emmanuel," that is, "God with us," of a Virgin Mother. This "God with us" may be understood in this way. He was made with us, passible, mortal, and in all things like unto us without sin; or because our frail substance which He took on Him, He joined in one Person to His Divine substance.
Jerome: It should be known, that the Hebrews believe this prophecy to refer to Ezekias, the son of Ahaz, because in his reign Samaria was taken; but this cannot be established. Ahaz (p. 55) son of Jotham reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem sixteen years, and was succeeded by his son Ezekias, who was twenty-three years old, and reigned over Judaea and Jerusalem twenty-nine years; how then can a prophecy prophesied in the first year of Ahaz refer to the conception and birth of Ezekias, when he was already nine years of age? Unless perhaps the sixth year of the reign of Ezekias, in which Samaria was taken, they think is here called his infancy, that is, the infancy of his reign, not of his age; which even a fool must see to be hard and forced.
A certain one of our interpreters contends, that the Prophet Isaiah had two sons, Jashub and Emmanuel; and that Emmanuel was born of his wife the Prophetess as a type of the Lord and Saviour. But this is a fabulous tale.
Petrus Alfonsus, Dial. tit. 7: For we know not that any man of that day was called Emmanuel. But the Hebrew objects, How can it be that this was said on account of Christ and Mary, when many centuries intervened between Ahaz and Mary? But though the Prophet was speaking to Ahaz, the prophecy was yet not spoken to him only or of his time only; for it is introduced, "Hear, O house of David;" (Is 7,13) not, 'Hear, O Ahaz.'
Again, "The Lord Himself shall give you a sign;" meaning He, and none other; from which we may understand that the Lord Himself should be the sign. And that he says "to you," (plur.) and not 'to thee,' shews that this was not spoken to Ahaz, or on his account only.
Jerome: What is spoken to Ahaz then is to be thus understood. This Child, that shall be born of a Virgin of the house of David, shall now be called Emmanuel, that is, God with us, because the events (perhaps delivery from the two hostile kings) will make it appear that you have God present with you. But after He shall be called Jesus, that is, Saviour, because He shall save the whole human race. Wonder not, therefore, O house of David, at the newness of this thing, that a Virgin should bring forth a God, seeing He has so great might that though yet to be born after a long while, He delivers you now when you call upon Him.
Aug., Cont. Faust., 12, 45, and 13, 7: Who so mad as to say with Manichaeus, that it is a weak faith not to believe i Christ without a witness; whereas the Apostle says, "How shall they believe on Him of whom they have not heard? Or how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rm 10,14)
That those things which were preached by the Apostle might (p. 56) not be contemned, nor thought to be fables, they are proved to have been foretold by the Prophets. For though attested by miracles, yet there would not have been wanting men to ascribe them all to magical power, had not such suggestions been overcome by the additional testimony of prophecy.
For none could suppose that long before He was born, He had raised up by magic prophets to prophesy of Him. For if we say to a Gentile, Believe on Christ that He is God, and he should answer, Whence is it that I should believe on Him? we might allege the authority of the Prophets. Should he refuse assent to this, we establish their credit from their having foretold things to come, and those things having truly come to pass. I suppose he could not but know how great persecutions the Christian religion has formerly suffered from the Kings of this world; let him now behold those very Kings submitting to the kingdom of Christ, and all nations serving the same; all which things the Prophets foretold. He then hearing these things out of the Scriptures of the Prophets, and beholding them accomplished throughout the whole earth, would be moved to faith.
Gloss, in Anselm: This error then is barred by the Evangelist saying, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the Prophet."
Now one kind of prophecy is by the preordination of God, and must needs be fulfilled, and that without any free choice on our part. Such is that of which we now speak; wherefore he says, "Lo," to shew the certainty of prophecy.
There is another kind of prophecy which is by the foreknowledge of God, and with this our free will is mixed up; wherein by grace working with us we obtain reward, or if justly deserted by it, torment.
Another is not of foreknowledge, but is a kind of threat made after the manner of men; as that, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown;" (Jon 3) understanding, unless the Ninevites amend themselves.
3124 (Mt 1,24-25)
(p. 57) Remig.: Life returned by the same entrance through which death had entered in. By Adam's disobedience we were ruined, by Joseph's obedience we all begin to be recalled to our former condition; for in these words is commended to us the great virtue of obedience, when it is said, "And Joseph rising from sleep, did as the Angel of the Lord had commanded him."
Gloss. ord. et ap. Anselm ex Beda cit.: He not only did what the Angel commanded, but as he commanded it. Let each one who is warned of God, in like manner, break off all delays, rise from sleep, and do that which is commanded him.
Pseudo-Chrys.: "Took unto him" not took home to him; for he had not sent her away; he had put her away in thought only, and now took her again in thought.
Remig.: Or, Took her so far, as that the nuptial rites being complete, she was called his wife; but not so far as to lie with her, as it follows, "And knew her not."
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. c. 5: Helvidius is at much superfluous trouble to make this word "know" refer to carnal knowledge rather than to acquaintance, as though any had ever denied that; or as if the follies to which he replies had ever occurred to any person of common understanding. He then goes on to say, that the adverb, 'until,' denotes a fixed time when that should take place, which had not taken place before; so that here from the words, "He knew her not until she had brought forth her first-born Son," it is clear, he says, that after that he did know her. And in proof of this he heaps together many instances from Scripture.
To all this we answer, that the word 'until' is to be understood in two senses in Scripture. And concerning the expression, "knew her not," he has himself shewn, that it must be referred to carnal knowledge, none doubting that it is often used of acquaintance, as in that, "The child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem, and His parents knew not of it." (Lc 2,43)
In like manner, 'until' often denotes in Scripture, as he has shewn, a fixed period, but often also an infinite time, as in that, "Even to your old age I am He." (Is 46,4) Will God then cease to be when they are grown old? Also the Saviour in the Gospel, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this world." (Mt 28,20) Will He then leave His disciples at the end of the world? Again, the Apostle says, "He must reign till He has put His enemies under His feet." (1Co 15,25)
Be it understood then, that which if it had not been written might have been (p. 58) doubted, is expressly declared to us; other things are left to our own understanding.
(ed. note: In other words, "till," need not imply a termination at a certain point of time, but may be giving us information up to a point from which onwards there is already no doubt. Supposing an Evangelist thought the very notion shocking that Joseph should have considered the Blessed Virgin as his wife after he was a witness of her bearing God the Son, he would only say that the vision had its effect upon him up to that time when it was no longer necessary. Just as if, in speaking of a man like Augustine, one said, that, in consequence of some awful occurrence, he was in the habit of saying prayers till the time of his conversion, no one would suppose that he left them off on being converted.)
So here the Evangelist informs us, in that wherein there might have been room for error, that she was not known by her husband until the birth of her Son, that we might thence infer that much less was she known afterwards.
Pseudo-Chrys.: As one might say, 'He told it not so long as he lived;' would this imply that he told it after his death? Impossible. So it were credible that Joseph might have known her before the birth, while he was yet ignorant of the great mystery; but after that he understood how she had been made a temple of the Only-begotten of God, how could he occupy that? The followers of Eunomius think, as they have dared to assert this, that Joseph also dared to do it, just as the insane think all men equally mad with themselves.
Jerome, cont. Hevlid. 8: Lastly, I would ask, Why then did Joseph abstain at all up to the day of birth? He will surely answer, Because of the Angel's words, "That which is born in her, &c." He then who gave so much heed to a vision as not to dare to touch his wife, would he, after he had heard the shepherds, seen the Magi, and known so many miracles, dare to approach the temple of God, the seat of the Holy Ghost, the Mother of his Lord?
Pseudo-Chrys.: It may be said, that "know" here signifies simply, to understand; that whereas before he had not understood how great her dignity, after the birth he then "knew" that she had been made more honourable and worthy than the whole world, who had carried in her womb Him whom the whole world could not contain.
Gloss: Otherwise; On account of the glorification of the most holy Mary, she could not be known by Joseph until the birth; for she who had the Lord of glory in her womb, how should she be known? If the face of Moses talking with God was made glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look thereon, how much (p. 59) more could not Mary be known, or even looked upon, who bare the Lord of glory in her womb? After the birth she was known of Joseph to the beholding of her face, but not to be approached carnally.
Jerome: From the words, "her first-born Son," some most erroneously suspect that Mary had other sons, saying that first-born can only be said of one that has brethren. But this is the manner of Scripture, to call the first-born not only one who is followed by brethren, but the first-birth of the mother.
Jerome, Cont. Helvid. 10: For if he only was first-born who was followed by other brethren, then no first-birth could be due to the Priests, till such time as the second birth took place.
Gloss. ord.: Or; He is "first-born" among the elect by grace; but by nature the Only-begotten of God the Father, the only Son of Mary. "And called His name Jesus," on the eighth day on which the circumcision took place, and the Name was given.
Remig.: It is clear that this Name was well known to the Holy Fathers and the Prophets of God, but to him above all, who spake, "My soul fainted for Thy salvation;" (Ps 119,81) and, "My soul hath rejoiced in Thy salvation." (Ps 13,5) Also to him who spake, "I will joy in God my Saviour." (He 3,18)
3201 (Mt 2,1-2)
(p. 60) Aug.: After the miraculous Virgin-birth, a God-man having by Divine power proceeded from a virgin womb; in the obscure shelter of such a cradle, a narrow stall, wherein lay Infinite Majesty in a body more narrow, a God was suckled and suffered the wrapping of vile rags - amidst all this, on a sudden a new star shone in the sky upon the earth, and driving away the darkness of the world, changed night into day; that the day-star should not be hidden by the night.
Hence it is that the Evangelist says, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem."
Remig.: In the beginning of this passage of the Gospel he puts three several things; the person, "When Jesus was born," the place, "in Bethlehem of Judaea," and the time, "in the days of Herod the king." These three circumstances verify his words.
Jerome: We think the Evangelist first wrote, as we read in the Hebrew, 'Judah,' not 'Judaea.' For in what other country is there a Bethlehem, that this needs to be distinguished as in 'Judaea?' But 'Judah' is written, because there is another Bethlehem in Galilee.
Gloss. ord.: There are two Bethlehems; (Jos 19,15) one in the tribe of Zabulon, the other in the tribe of Judah, which was before called Ephrata.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., 2, 15: Concerning the place, Bethlehem, Matthew and Luke agree; but the cause and manner of their being there, Luke relates, Matthew omits. Luke again omits the account of the Magi, which Matthew gives. (p. 61)
Pseudo-Chrys.: Let us see to what serves this designation of time, "In the days of Herod the king." It shews the fulfilment of Daniel's prophecy, wherein he spake that Christ should be born after seventy weeks of years. For from the time of the prophecy to the reign of Herod, the years of seventy weeks were accomplished.
Or again, as long as Judaea was ruled by Jewish princes, though sinners, so long prophets were sent for its amendment; but now, whereas God's law was held under the power of an unrighteous king, and the righteousness of God enslaved by the Roman rule, Christ is born; the most desperate sickness required the better physician.
Rabanus: Otherwise, he mentions the foreign king to shew the fulfilment of the prophecy. "The Sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a Lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come." (Gn 49,10)
Ambrose, in Luc., iii, 41: It is said, that some Idumaean robbers coming to Ascalon, brought with them among other prisoners Antipater. (ed. note: The same account of Herod's parentage is given by Africanus, Euseb. Hist. i. 7. but Josephus says (Antiq. xiv. 1. n. 3. de Bell. Jud. i. 6. n. 2.) that Herod was an Idumaean, of noble birth, and that his father Antipas was governor of Idumaea under Alexander Jannaeus.) He was instructed in the law and customs of the Jews, and acquired the friendship of Hyrcanus, king of Judaea, who sent him as his deputy to Pompey. He succeeded so well in the object of his mission, that he laid claim to a share of the throne. He was put to death, but his son Herod was under Antony appointed king of Judaea, by a decree of the Senate; so it is clear that Herod sought the throne of Judaea without any connection or claim of birth.
Chrys.: "Herod the king," mentioning his dignity, because there was another Herod who put John to death.
Pseudo-Chrys.: "When He was born . . . behold wise men," that is, immediately on His birth, shewing that a great God existed in a little one of man.
Rabanus: The Magi are men who enquire into the nature of things philosophically, but common speech uses Magi for wizards. In their own country, however, they are held in other repute, being the philosophers of the Chaldaeans, in whose lore kings and princes of that nation are taught, and by which themselves knew the birth of the Lord.
Aug., Serm. 202: What were these Magi but the first (p. 62) fruits of the Gentiles? Israelitish shepherds, gentile Magians, one from far, the other from near, hastened to the one Corner-stone.
Aug., Serm. 200: Jesus then was manifested neither to the learned nor the righteous; for ignorance belonged to the shepherds, impiety to the idolatrous Magi. Yet does that Corner-stone attract them both to Itself, seeing He came to choose the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and not to call the righteous, but sinners; that nothing great should exalt himself, none weak should despair.
Gloss: These Magi were kings, and though their gifts were three, it is not to be thence inferred that themselves were only three in number, but in them was prefigured the coming to the faith of the nations sprung from the three sons of Noah.
Or, the princes were only three, but each brought a large company with him. They came not after a year's end, for He would then have been found in Egypt, not in the manger, but on the thirteenth day. To shew whence they came it is said, "from the East."
Remig.: It should be known that opinions vary respecting the Magi. Some say they were Chaldaeans, who are known to have worshipped a star as God; thus their fictitious Deity shewed them the way to the true God. Others think that they were Persians; others again, that they came from the utmost ends of the earth. Another and more probable opinion is, that they were descendants of Balaam, who having his prophecy, "There shall rise a Star out of Jacob," (Nb 24,17) as soon as they saw the star, would know that a King was born.
Jerome: They knew that such a star would rise by the prophecy of Balaam, whose successors they were. But whether they were Chaldaeans, or Persians, or came from the utmost ends of the earth, how in so short a space of time could they arrive at Jerusalem?
Remig.: Some used to answer, 'No marvel if that boy who was then born could draw them so speedily, though it were from the ends of the earth.'
Gloss: Or, they had dromedaries and Arabian horses, whose great swiftness brought them to Bethlehem in thirteen days.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, they had set out two years before the Saviour's birth, and though they travelled all that time, neither meat nor drink failed in their scrips.
Remig.: Or, if they were the descendants of Balaam, their kings are not far distant from the land of promise, and (p. 63) might easily come to Jerusalem in that so short time.
But why does he write "From the East?" Because surely they came from a country eastward of Judaea. But there is also great beauty in this, They "came out of the East," seeing all who come to the Lord, come from Him and through Him; as it is said in Zechariah, "Behold the Man whose name is the East." (Za 6,12)
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, whence the day springs, thence came the first-fruits of the faith; for faith is the light of the soul. Therefore they came from the East, but to Jerusalem.
Remig.: Yet was not the Lord born there; thus they knew the time but not the place of His birth. Jerusalem being the royal city, they believed that such a child could not be born in any other.
Or it was to fulfil that Scripture, "The Law shall go out of Sion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." (Is 2,3) And there Christ was first preached.
Or it was to condemn the backwardness of the Jews.
Pseudo-Aug., Append. Serm. 132: Many kings of Judaea had been born and died before, yet had Magi ever sought out any of them for adoration? No, for they had not been taught that any of these spoke from heaven. To no ordinary King of Judaea had these men, aliens from the land of Judaea, ever thought such honour due. But they had been taught that this Child was one, in worshipping whom they would certainly secure that salvation which is of God. Neither His age was such as attracts men's flattery; His limbs not robed in purple, His brow not crowned with a diamond, no pompous train, no awful army, no glorious fame of battles, attracted these men to Him from the remotest countries, with such earnestness of supplication. There lay in a manger a Boy, newly born, of infantine size, of pitiable poverty. But in that small Infant lay hid something great, which these men, the first-fruits of the Gentiles, had learned not of earth but of heaven; as it follows, "We have seen His star in the east." They announce the vision and ask, they believe and enquire, as signifying those who walk by faith and desire sight.
Greg., M. in Evan., i. 10. n. 4: It should be known that the Priscillianists, heretics who believe every man to be born under the aspect of some planet. cite this text in support of their error; the new star which appeared at the Lord's birth they consider to have been his fate.
Aug., contr. Faust, ii, 1: And, according to Faustus this (p. 64) introduction of the account of the star would lead us rather to call this part of the history, 'The Nativity,' than 'The Gospel.'
Gregory: But far be it from the hearts of the faithful to call any thing, 'fate.'
Aug., City of God, book v, ch. 1: For by the word, 'fate,' in common acceptation, is meant the disposition of the stars at the moment of a person's birth or conception; to which some assign a power independent of the will of God. These must be kept at a distance from the ears of all who desire to be worshippers of Gods of any sort. But others think the stars have this virtue committed to them by the great God; wherein they greatly wrong the skies, in that they impute to their splendent host the decreeing of crimes, such as should any earthly people decree, their city should in the judgment of mankind deserve to be utterly destroyed.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If then any should become an adulterer or homicide through means of the planets, how great is the evil and wickedness of those stars, or rather of Him who made them? For as God knows things to come, and what evils are to spring from those stars; if He would not hinder it, He is not good; if He would but could not, He is weak.
Again, if it be of the star that we are either good or bad, we have neither merit nor demerit, as being involuntary agents; and why should I be punished for sin which I have done not wilfully, but by necessity? The very commands of God against sin, and exhortations to righteousness, overthrow such folly. For where a man has not power to do, or where he has not power to forbear, who would command him either to do or to forbear?
Gregory Nyss.: How vain moreover is prayer for those who live by fate; Divine Providence is banished from the world together with piety, and man is made the mere instrument of the sidereal motions. For these they say move to action, not only the bodily members, but the thoughts of the mind. In a word, they who teach this, take away all that is in us, and the very nature of a contingency; which is nothing less than to overturn all things. For where will there be free will? but that which is in us must be free.
Augustine, City of God, Book 5, ch. 6: It cannot be said to be utterly absurd to suppose that sidereal afflatus should influence the state of the body, when we see that it is by the approach and departure of the sun that the seasons of the year are (p. 65) varied, and that many things, as shells and the wonderful tides of the Ocean, increase or decrease as the moon waxes or wanes. But not so, to say that the dispositions of the mind are subject to sidereal impulse. Do they say that the stars rather foreshew than effect these results? how then do they explain, that in the life of twins, in their actions, their successes, professions, honours, and all other circumstances of life, there will often be so great diversity, that men of different countries are often more alike in their lives than twins, between whose birth there was only a moment's, and between whose conception in the womb there was not a moment's, interval.
And the small interval between their births is not enough to account for the great difference between their fates. Some give the name of fate not only to the constitution of the stars, but to all series of causes, at the same time subjecting all to the will and power of God.
This sort of subjection of human affairs and fate is a confusion of language which should be corrected, for fate is strictly the constitution of the stars. The will of God we do not call 'fate,' unless indeed we will derive the word from 'speaking;' as in the Psalms, "God hath spoken once, twice have I heard the same." (Ps 62,11) There is then no need of much contention about what is merely a verbal controversy.
Aug., cont. Faust. ii, 5: But if we will not subject the nativity of any man to the influence of the stars, in order that we may vindicate the freedom of the will from any chain of necessity; how much less must we suppose sidereal influences to have ruled at His temporal birth, who is eternal Creator and Lord of the universe? The star which the Magi saw, at Christ's birth according to the flesh, did not rule His fate, but ministered as a testimony to Him. Further, this was not of the number of those stars, which from the beginning of the creation observe their paths of motion according to the law of their Maker; but a star that first appeared at the birth, ministering to the Magi who sought Christ, by going before them till it brought them to the place where the infant God the Word was.
According to some astrologers such is the connexion of human fate with the stars, that on the birth of some men stars have been known to leave their courses, and go directly to the new-born. The fortune indeed of him (p. 66) that is born they suppose to be bound up with the course of the stars, not that the course of the stars is changed after the day of any man's birth.
If then this star were of the number of those that fulfil their courses in the heavens, how could it determine what Christ should do, when it was commanded at His birth only to leave its own course? If, as is more probable, it was first created at His birth, Christ was not therefore born because it arose, but the reverse; so that if we must have fate connected with the stars, this star did not rule Christ's fate, but Christ the stars.
Chrys.: The object of astrology is not to learn from the stars the fact of one's birth; but from the hour of their nativity to forecast the fate of those that are born. But these men knew not the time of the nativity to have forecast the future from it, but the converse.
Gloss. interlin.: 'His star,' i.e. the star He created for a witness of Himself.
Gloss. ord.: To the Shepherds, Angels, and the Magians, a star points out Christ; to both speaks the tongue of Heaven, since the tongue of the Prophets was mute. The Angels dwell in the heavens, the stars adorn it, to both therefore "the heavens declare the glory of God."
Greg., Hom. in Ev. Lib. i. Hom. 10: To the Jews who used their reason, a rational creature, i.e. an Angel, ought to preach. But the Gentiles who knew not to use their reason are brought to the knowledge of the Lord, not by words, but by signs; to the one prophecy, as to the faithful; to the other signs, as to the unbelievers. One and the same Christ is preached, when of perfect age, by Apostles; when an infant, and not yet able to speak, is announced by a star to the Gentiles; for so the order of reason required; speaking preachers proclaimed a speaking Lord, mute signs proclaimed a mute infant.
Leo, Serm. 33, 2: Christ Himself, the expectation of the nations, that innumerable posterity once promised to the most blessed patriarch Abraham, but to be born not after the flesh, but by the Spirit, therefore likened to the stars for multitude, that from the father of all nations, not an earthly but an heavenly progeny might be looked for.
Thus the heirs of that promised posterity, marked out in the stars, are roused to the faith by the rise of a new star, and where the heavens had been at first called in to witness, the aid of Heaven is continued. (p. 67)
Chrys.: This was manifestly not one of the common stars of Heaven. First, because none of the stars moves in this way, from east to south, and such is the situation of Palestine with respect to Persia. Secondly, from the time of its appearance, not in the night only, but during the day. Thirdly, from its being visible and then again invisible; when they entered Jerusalem it hid itself, and then appeared again when they left Herod. Further, it had no stated motion, but when the Magi were to go on, it went before them; when to stop, it stopped like the pillar of cloud in the desert. Fourthly, it signified the Virgin's delivery, not by being fixed aloft, but by descending to earth, shewing herein like an invisible virtue formed into the visible appearance of a star.
Remig.: Some affirm this star to have been the Holy Spirit; He who descended on the baptized Lord as a dove, appearing to the Magi as a star. Others say it was an Angel, the same who appeared to the shepherds.
Gloss. ord: "In the east." It seems doubtful whether this refers to the place of the star, or of those that saw it; it might have risen in the east, and gone before them to Jerusalem.
Aug., Serm. 374: Will you ask, from whom had they learned that such an appearance as a star was to signify the birth of Christ? I answer from Angels, by the warning of some revelation. Do you ask, was it from good or ill Angels? Truly even wicked spirits, namely the daemons, confessed Christ to be the Son of God. But why should they not have heard it from good Angels, since in this their adoration of Christ their salvation was sought, not their wickedness condemned? The Angels might say to them, 'The Star which ye have seen is the Christ. Go ye, worship Him, where He is now born, and see how great is He that is born.'
Leo, Sermon 34, 3: Besides that star thus seen with the bodily eye, a yet brighter ray of truth pierced their hearts; they were enlightened by the illumination of the true faith.
Pseudo-Aug., Hil. Quaest. V. and N. Test. q. 63: They might think that a king of Judaea was born, since the birth of temporal princes is sometimes attended by a star. These Chaldean Magi inspected the stars, not with malevolence, but with the true desire of knowledge; following, it may be supposed, the tradition from Balaam; so that (p. 68) when they saw this new and singular star, they understood it to be that of which Balaam had prophesied, as marking the birth of a King of Judaea.
Leo: What they knew and believed might have been sufficient for themselves, that they needed not to seek to see with the bodily eye, what they saw so clearly with the spiritual. But their earnestness and perseverance to see the Babe was for our profit. It profited us that Thomas, after the Lord's resurrection, touched and felt the marks of his wounds, and so for our profit the Magians' eyes looked on the Lord in His cradle.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Were they then ignorant that Herod reigned in Jerusalem? Or that it is a capital treason to proclaim another King while one yet lives? But while they thought on the King to come, they feared not the king that was; while as yet they had not seen Christ, they were ready to die for Him. O blessed Magi! who before the face of a most cruel king, and before having beheld Christ, were made His confessors.
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