Golden Chain 3203
3203 (Mt 2,3-6)
Aug.: As the Magi seek a Redeemer, so Herod fears a successor.
Gloss. ord.: "The King," he is called, though in comparison with him whom they are seeking he is an alien and a foreigner.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Herod "was troubled" when he heard that a King was born of Jewish lineage, lest, himself being an Idumaean, the kingdom should return again to native princes, and himself be expelled, and his seed after (p. 69) him.
Great station is ever obnoxious to great fears; as the boughs of trees planted in high ground move when never so little wind blows, so high men are troubled with little rumours; while the lowly, like trees in the valley, remain at peace.
Aug., Serm. 200, 2: If His birth as an infant makes proud kings tremble, what will His tribunal as a Judge do? Let princes fear Him sitting at the right hand of His Father, whom this impious king feared while He hanged yet on His mother's breast.
Leo: Thou art troubled, Herod, without cause. Thy nature cannot contain Christ, nor is the Lord of the world content with the narrow bounds of thy dominion. He, whom thou wouldest not should reign in Judaea, reigns every where.
Gloss. ord.: Perhaps he was troubled not on his own account, but for fear of the displeasure of the Romans. They would not allow the title of King or of God to any without their permission.
Greg., Hom. in Evan., 1, 10: At the birth of a King of Heaven, a king of earth is troubled; surely, earthly greatness is confounded, when heavenly greatness shews itself.
Leo, Serm. 36, 2: Herod represents the Devil; who as he then instigated him, so now he unweariedly imitates him. For he is grieved by the calling of the Gentiles, and by the daily ruin of his power.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Both have their own causes of jealousy, both fear a successor in their kingdom; Herod an earthly successor, the Devil a spiritual. Even Jerusalem is troubled, which should have rejoiced at that news, when a Jewish King was said to be risen up. But they were troubled, for the wicked cannot rejoice at the coming of the good. Or perhaps it was in fear that Herod should wreak his wrath against a Jewish King on his race.
Gloss. ord.: "Jerusalem was troubled with him," as willing to favour him whom it feared; the vulgar always pay undue honour to one who tyrannizes over it. Observe the diligence of his enquiry. If he should find him, he would do to him as he shewed afterwards his disposition; if he should not, he would at least be excused to the Romans.
Remig.: They are called Scribes, not from the employment of writing, but from the interpretation of the Scriptures, for they were doctors of the law. Observe, he does not enquire where Christ is born, but where He should be born; the subtle purpose of this was to see if they would shew pleasure at (p. 70) the birth of their King. He calls Him Christ, because he knew that the King of the Jews was anointed.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Why does Herod make this enquiry, seeing he believed not the Scriptures? Or if he did believe, how could he hope to be able to kill Him whom the Scriptures declared should be King? The Devil instigated Herod; who believed that Scripture lies not. Such is the faith of devils, who are not permitted to have perfect belief, even of that which they do believe. That they do believe, it is the force of truth constrains them; that they do not believe, it is that they are blinded by the enemy. If they had perfect faith, they would live as about to depart from this world soon, not as to possess it for ever.
Leo, Serm. 31, 2: The Magi, judging as men, sought in the royal city for Him, whom they had been told was born a King. But He who took the form of a servant, and came not to judge but to be judged, chose Bethlehem for His birth, Jerusalem for His death.
Theodotus, Serm. 1, ap. Conc. Eph.: Had He chosen the mighty city of Rome, it might have been thought that this change of the world had been wrought by the might of her citizens; had He been the son of the emperor, his power might have aided Him. But what was His choice? All that was mean, all that was in low esteem, that in this transformation of the world, divinity might at once be recognized. Therefore He chose a poor woman for His mother, a poor country for His native country; He has no money, and this stable is His cradle.
Gregory, Hom. in Evan., 8, 1: Rightly is He born in Bethlehem, which signifies the house of bread, who said, "I am the living bread, who came down from heaven."
Pseudo-Chrys.: When they should have kept secret the mystery of the King appointed of God, especially before a foreign king, straightway they became not preachers of the word of God, but revealers of His mystery. And they not only display the mystery, but cite the passage of the prophet, viz. Micah.
Gloss. ord.: He quotes this prophecy as they quote who give the sense and not the words.
Jerome, Epist. 57: The Jews are here blamed for ignorance; for whereas the prophecy says, "Thou Bethlehem Ephrata;" they said, 'Bethlehem in the land of Judah.'
Pseudo-Chrys.: By cutting short the prophecy, they became the cause of the murder of (p. 71) the Innocents. For the prophecy proceeds, "From thee shall go forth a King who shall feed My people Israel, and His day shall be from everlasting." Had they cited the whole prophecy, Herod would not have raged so madly, considering that it could not be an earthly King whose days were spoken of as "from everlasting."
Jerome, in Mich. v. 2: The following is the sense of the prophecy. Thou, Bethlehem, of the land of Judah, or Ephrata, (which is added to distinguish it from another Bethlehem in Galilee,) though thou art a small village among the thousand cities of Judah, yet out of thee shall be born Christ, who shall be the Ruler of Israel, who according to the flesh is of the seed of David, but was born of Me before the worlds; and therefore it is written, "His goings forth are of old. In the beginning was the Word."
Gloss: This latter half of the prophecy the Jews dropped; and other parts they altered, either through ignorance, (as was said above,) or for perspicuity, that Herod who was a foreigner might better understand the prophecy; thus for "Ephrata," they said, "land of Judah;" and for "little among the thousands of Judah," which expresses its smallness contrasted with the multitude of the people, they said, "not the least among the princes," willing to shew the high dignity that would come from the birth of the Prince. As if they had said, "Thou art great among cities from which princes have come."
Remig.: Or the sense is; though little among cities that have dominion, yet art thou not the least, for "out of thee shall come the Ruler, who shall rule My people Israel;" this Ruler is Christ, who rules and guides His faithful people.
Chrys.: Observe the exactness of the prophecy; it is not He shall be in Bethlehem, but shall come out of Bethlehem; shewing that He should be only born there. What reason is there for applying this to Zorobabel, as some do? For his goings forth were not from everlasting; nor did he go forth from Bethlehem, but was born in Babylonia. The expression, "art not the least," is a further proof, for none but Christ could make the town where He was born illustrious.
And after that birth, there came men from the utmost ends of the earth to see the stable and manger. He calls Him not 'the Son of God,' but "the Ruler who shall govern My people Israel;" (p. 72) for thus He ought to condescend at the first, that they should not be scandalized, but should preach such things as more pertained to salvation, that they might be gained.
"Who shall rule My people Israel," is said mystically, for those of the Jews who believed; for if Christ ruled not all the Jews, theirs is the blame. Meanwhile he is silent respecting the Gentiles, that the Jews might not be scandalized. Mark this wonderful ordinance; Jews and Magi mutually instruct each other; the Jews learn of the Magi that a star had proclaimed Christ in the east, the Magi from the Jews that the Prophets had spoken of Him of old. Thus confirmed by a twofold testimony, they would look with more ardent faith for One whom the brightness of the star and the voice of the Prophets equally proclaimed.
Aug., Serm. 374. 2, 373. 4: The star that guided the Magi to the spot where was the Infant God with His Virgin Mother, might have conducted them straight to the town; but it vanished, and shewed not itself again to them till the Jews themselves had told them "the place where Christ should be born;" Bethlehem of Judaea.
Like in this to those who built the ark for Noah, providing others with a refuge, themselves perished in the flood; or like to the stones by the road that shew the miles, but themselves are not able to move.
The enquirers heard and departed; the teachers spake and remained still. Even now the Jews shew us something similar; for some Pagans, when clear passages of Scripture are shewn them, which prophesy of Christ, suspecting them to be forged by the Christians, have recourse to Jewish copies. Thus they leave the Jews to read unprofitably, and go on themselves to believe faithfully.
3207 (Mt 2,7-9)
Pseudo-Chrys.: As soon as Herod had heard the answer, though doubly authenticated, both by the authority of the Priests, and the passage from the Prophets, he yet turned not to worship the King that was to be born, but sought how he might put Him to death by subtilty. He saw that the Magi were neither to be won by flattery, nor awed by threats, nor bribed by gifts, to consent to this murder; he sought therefore to deceive them; "he privily called the wise men;" that the Jews, whom he suspected, might not know of it. For he thought they would incline the rather to a King of their own nation.
Remig.: "Diligently enquired;" craftily, for he feared they would not return to him, and then he should know how he should do to put the young Child to death.
Pseudo-Aug., Serm. in App. 131, 3: The star had been seen, and with great wonder, nearly two years before. We are to understand that it was signified to them whose the star was, which was visible all that time till He, whom it signified, was born. Then as soon as Christ was made known to them they set out, and came and worshipped Him in thirteen days from the east. (ed. note: This is written upon the notion that the Magi presented themselves to Christ twelve days after His birth, according to the Latin date for celebrating the event. It seems really to have taken place after the Purification, on the return of St. Mary to Bethlehem. However, Aug. (Cons. Evan., ii. 11) places it before the Purification.)
Chrys.: Or, the star appeared to them long time before, because the journey would take up some time, and they were to stand before Him immediately on His birth, that seeing Him in swaddling clothes, He might seem the more wonderful.
Gloss: According to others, the star was first seen on the day of the nativity, and having accomplished its end, ceased to be. Thus Fulgentius (margin note: Serm. de Epiph.) says, "The Boy at His birth created a new star." Though they now knew both time and place, he still would not have them ignorant of the person of the Child, "Go," he says, "and enquire diligently of the young Child;" a commission they would have executed even if he had not commanded it.
Chrys.: "Concerning the young Child," he says, not 'of the King;' he envies Him the regal title.
Pseudo-Chrys.: To induce them to do this, he put on the colour of devotion, beneath which he whetted the sword, hiding the malice of his heart under colour of (p. 74) humility. Such is the manner of the malicious, when they would hurt any one in secret, they feign meekness and affection.
Greg., Hom. in Ev. i. 10. 3: He feigns a wish of worshipping Him only that he may discover Him, and put him to death.
Remig.: The Magi obeyed the King so far as to seek the Lord, but not to return to Herod. Like in this to good hearers; the good they hear from wicked preachers, that they do; but do not imitate their evil lives.
3209 (Mt 2,9)
Pseudo-Chrys.: This passage shews, that when the star had brought the Magi nearly to Jerusalem, it was hidden from them, and so they were compelled to ask in Jerusalem, "where Christ should be born?" and thus to manifest Him to them; on two accounts, first, to put to confusion the Jews, inasmuch as the Gentiles instructed only by sight of a star sought Christ through strange lands, while the Jews who had read the Prophets from their youth did not receive Him, though born in their country.
Secondly, that the Priests, when asked where Christ should be born, might answer to their now condemnation, and while they instructed Herod, they were themselves ignorant of Him.
"The star went before them," to shew them the greatness of the King.
Aug.: To perform its due service to the Lord, it advanced slowly, leading them to the spot. It was ministering to Him, and not ruling His fate; its light shewed the suppliants and filled the inn, shed over the walls and roof that covered the birth; and thus it disappeared.
Pseudo-Chrys.: What wonder that a divine star should minister to the Sun of righteousness about to rise. It stood over the Child's head, as it were, saying, 'This is He;' proving by its place what it had no voice to utter.
Gloss. Anselm: It is evident that the star must have been in the air, and close above the house where the Child was, else it would not have pointed out the exact house.
Ambrose, in Luc. 2, 45: The star is the way, and the way is Christ; and according to the mystery of the incarnation, Christ is a (p. 75) star. He is a blazing and a morning-star. Thus where Herod is, the star is not seen; where Christ is, there it is again seen, and points out the way.
Remig.: Or, the star figures the grace of God, and Herod the Devil. He, who by sin puts himself in the Devil's power, loses that grace; but if he return by repentance, he soon finds that grace again which leaves him not till it have brought him to the young Child's house, i.e. the Church.
Gloss. ord.: Or, the star is the illumination of faith, which leads him to the nearest aid; while they turn aside to the Jews, the Magi lose it; so those who seek counsel of the bad, lose the true light.
3210 (Mt 2,10-11)
Gloss: This service of the star is followed by the rejoicing of the Magi.
Remig.: And it was not enough to say, "They rejoiced," but "they rejoiced with exceeding great joy."
Pseudo-Chrys.: They rejoiced, because their hopes were not falsified but confirmed, and because the toil of so great travel had not been undertaken in vain.
Gloss. ord.: He rejoices indeed who rejoices on God's account, who is the true joy. "With great joy," he says, for they had great cause.
Pseudo-Chrys.: By the mystery of this star they understood that the dignity of the King then born exceeded the measure of all worldly kings.
Remig.: He adds, "greatly," shewing that men rejoice more over what they have lost than over what they possess.
Leo, Serm. in Epiph., 4. 3: Though in stature a babe, needing the aid of others, unable to speak, and different in nothing from other infants, yet such faithful witnesses, shewing the unseen Divine Majesty which was in Him, ought to have proved most certainly that was the Eternal Essence of the Son of (p. 76) God that had taken upon Him the true human nature.
Pseudo-Chrys.: "Mary His mother," not crowned with a diadem or laying on a golden couch; but with barely one garment, not for ornament but for covering, and that such as the wife of a carpenter when abroad might have. Had they therefore come to seek an earthly king, they would have been more confounded than rejoiced, deeming their pains thrown away.
But now they looked for a heavenly King; so that though they saw nought of regal state, that star's witness sufficed them, and their eyes rejoiced to behold a despised Boy, the Spirit shewing Him to their hearts in all His wonderful power, they fell down and worshipped, seeing the man, they acknowledged the God.
Rabanus: Joseph was absent by Divine command, that no wrong suspicions might occur to the Gentiles.
Gloss, Anselm: in these offerings we observe their national customs, gold, frankincense, and various spices abounding among the Arabians; yet they intended thereby to signify something in mystery.
Greg., Hom. in Evan., 1, 106: Gold, as to a King; frankincense, as sacrifice to God; myrrh, as embalming the body of the dead.
Aug.: Gold, as paid to a mighty King; frankincense, as offered to God; myrrh, as to one who is to die for the sins of all.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And though it were not then understood what these several gifts mystically signified, that is no difficulty; the same grace that instigated them to the deed, ordained the whole.
Remig.: And it is to be known that each did not offer a different gift, but each one the three kings, each one thus proclaiming the King, the God, and the man.
Chrys.: Let Marcion and Paul of Samosata then blush, who will not see what the Magi saw, those progenitors of the Church adoring God in the flesh. That He was truly in the flesh, the swaddling clothes and the stall prove; yet that they worshipped Him not as mere man, but as God, the gifts prove which it was becoming to offer to a God. Let the Jews also be ashamed, seeing the Magi coming before them, and themselves not even earnest to tread in their path.
Greg.: Something further may yet be meant here. Wisdom is typified by gold; as Solomon saith in the Proverbs, "A treasure to be desired is in the mouth of the wise."
By frankincense, which is burnt before God, the power of prayer (p. 77) is intended, as in the Psalms, "Let my speech come before thee as incense." (Ps 141,2) In myrrh is figured mortification of the flesh. To a king at his birth we offer gold, if we shine in his sight with the light of wisdom; we offer frankincense, if we have power before God by the sweet savour of our prayers; we offer myrrh, when we mortify by abstinence the lusts of the flesh.
Gloss, Anselm: The three men who offer, signify the nations who come from the three quarters of the earth. They open their treasures, i.e. manifest the faith of their hearts by confession. Rightly "in the house," teaching that we should not vaingloriously display the treasure of a good conscience. They bring "three" gifts, i.e. the faith in the Holy Trinity. Or opening the stores of Scripture, they offer its threefold sense, historical, moral and allegorical; or Logic, Physic, and Ethics, making them all serve the faith.
3212 (Mt 2,12)
Aug.: The wicked Herod, now made cruel by fear, will needs do a deed of horror. But how could he ensnare him who had come to cut off all fraud? His fraud is escaped as it follows, "And being warned."
Jerome: They had offered gifts to the Lord, and receive a warning corresponding to it. This warning (in the Greek 'having received a response') is given not by an Angel, but by the Lord Himself, to shew the high privilege granted to the merit of Joseph.
Gloss. ord.: This warning is given by the Lord Himself; it is none other that now teaches these Magi the way they should return, but He who said, "I am the way." (Jn 14,6) Not that the Infant actually speaks to them, that His divinity may not be revealed before the time, and His human nature may be thought real. But he says, "having received an answer," for as Moses prayed silently, so they with pious spirit had asked what the Divine will bade. "By another way," for they were not to be mixed up with the unbelieving Jews.
Chrys., Hom. 8: See the faith of the Magi; they were not offended, nor said within themselves, What need now of flight? or (p. 78) of secret return, if this Boy be really some great one? Such is true faith; it asks not the reason of any command, but obeys.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Had the Magi sought Christ as an earthly King, they would have remained with Him when they had found Him; but they only worship, and go their way. After their return, they continued in the worship of God more steadfast than before, and taught many by their preaching. And when afterwards Thomas reached their country, they joined themselves to him, and were baptized, and did according to his preaching. (ed. note: S. Thomas is said to have preached to the Parthians, Persians, or Indians. Euseb. Hist. iii. 1. Clem. Recogn. ix. 29. Greg. Naz. Or. 25. p. 438. The Margi are mentioned, Pseudo-Hippol. de Duod. Apost. (ed. Fabr. Append. p. 30) Combefis conjecturing Mardi.)
Greg., Hom. in Ev. i. 10. 7: We may learn much from this return of the Magi another way. Our country is Paradise, to which, after we have come to the knowledge of Christ we are forbidden to return the way we came. We have left this country by pride, disobedience, following things of sight, tasting, forbidden food; and we must return to it by repentance, obedience, by contemning things of sight, and overcoming carnal appetite.
Pseudo-Chrys.: It was impossible that they, who left Herod to go to Christ, should return to Herod. They who have by sin left Christ and passed to the devil, often return to Christ; for the innocent, who knows not what is evil, is easily deceived, but having once tasted the evil he has taken up, and remembering the good he has left, he returns in penitence to God. He who has forsaken the devil and come to Christ, hardly returns to the devil; for rejoicing in the good he has found, and remembering the evil he has escaped, with difficulty returns to that evil.
3213 (Mt 2,13-15)
Rabanus: Here Matthew omits the day of purification when the first-born must be presented in the Temple with the lamb, or a pair of turtle doves, or pigeons. Their fear of Herod did not make them bold to transgress the Law, that they should not present the Child in the temple. As soon then as the rumour concerning the Child begins to be spread abroad, the Angel is sent to bid Joseph carry Him into Egypt.
Remig.: by this that the Angel appears always to Joseph in sleep, is mystically signified that they who rest from mundane cares and secular pursuits, deserve angelic visitations.
Hilary: The first time when he would teach Joseph that she was lawfully espoused, the Angel called the Virgin his espoused "wife;" but after the birth she is only spoken of as the Mother of Jesus. As wedlock was rightfully imputed to her in her virginity, so virginity is esteemed venerable in her as the mother of Jesus.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He says not, 'the Mother and her young Child,' but, "the young Child and His mother;" for the Child was not born for the mother, but the mother prepared for the Child. How is this that the Son of God flies from the face of man? or who shall deliver from the enemy's hand, if He Himself fears His enemies?
First; He ought to observe, even in this, the law of that human nature which He took on Him; and human nature and infancy must flee before threatening power.
Next, that Christians when persecution makes it necessary should not be ashamed to fly. But why into Egypt? The Lord, "who keepeth not His anger for ever," remembered the woes He had brought upon Egypt, and therefore sent His Son thither, and gives it this sign of great reconciliation, that with this one remedy He might heal the ten plagues of Egypt, and the nation that had been the persecutor of this first-born people, might be the guardian of His first-born Son. As formerly (p. 80) they had cruelly tyrannized, now they might devoutly serve; nor go to the Red Sea to be drowned, but be called to the waters of baptism to receive life.
Aug.: Hear the sacrament of a great mystery. Moses before had shut up the light of day from the traitors the Egyptians; Christ by going down thither brought back light to them that sat in darkness. He fled that he might enlighten them, not that he might escape his foes.
Aug., Serm. 218, App.: The miserable tyrant supposed that by the Saviour's coming he should be thrust from his royal throne. But it was not so; Christ came not to hurt others' dignity, but to bestow His own on others.
Hilary: Egypt full of idols; for after this enquiry for Him among the Jews, Christ leaving Judaea goes to be cherished among nations given to the vainest superstitions.
Jerome: When he takes the Child and His mother to go into Egypt, it is in the night and darkness, when to return into Judaea, the Gospel speaks of no light, no darkness.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The straitness of every persecution may be called night - the relief from it in like manner, day.
Rabanus: For when the true light withdraws, they who hate the light are in darkness, when it returns they are again enlightened.
Chrys.: See how immediately on His birth the tyrant is furious against Him, and the mother with her Child is driven into foreign lands. So should you in the beginning of your spiritual career seem to have tribulation, you need not to be discouraged, but bear all things manfully, having this example.
Bede, Hom. in Nat. Innocent: The flight into Egypt signifies that the elect are often by the wickedness of the bad driven from their homes, or sentenced to banishment. Thus He, who, we shall see below, gave the command to His own, "When they shall persecute you in one city, flee ye to another," first practised what He enjoined, as a man flying before the face of man on earth. He whom but a little before a star had proclaimed to the Magi to be worshipped as from heaven.
Remig.: Isaiah had foretold this flight into Egypt. "Lo! the Lord shall ascend on a light cloud, and shall come into Egypt, and shall scatter the idols of Egypt." (Is 19,1) It is the practice of this Evangelist to confirm all he says; and that because he is writing to the Jews, therefore he adds, "that it might be fulfilled, &c."
Jerome, Epist., 57. 7: This is not in the LXX; but in Osee according to the genuine (p. 81) Hebrew text we read; "Israel is my child, and I have loved him," and "from Egypt have I called my Son;" where the LXX render, "Israel is my child, and I have loved him, and called my sons out of Egypt."
Jerome, in Osee, 11, 2: The Evangelist cites this text because it refers to Christ typically. For it is to be observed, that in this Prophet and in others, the coming of Christ and the call of the Gentiles are foreshewn in such a manner, that the thread of history is never broken.
Chrys.: It is a law of prophecy, that in a thousand places many things are said of some and fulfilled of others. As it is said of Simeon and Levi, "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel;" (Gn 49,7) which was fulfilled not in themselves, but in their descendants. So here Christ is by nature the Son of God, and so the prophecy is fulfilled in Him.
Jerome: Let those who deny the authenticity of the Hebrew copies, shew us this passage in the LXX, and when they have failed to find it, we will shew it them in the Hebrew. We may also explain it in another way, by considering it as quoted from Numbers, "God brought him out of Egypt; his glory is as it were that of a unicorn." (Num 23:22)
Remig.: In Joseph is figured the order of preachers, in Mary Holy Scripture; by the Child the knowledge of the Saviour; by the cruelty of Herod the persecution which the Church suffered in Jerusalem; by Joseph's flight into Egypt the passing of the preachers to the unbelieving Gentiles, (for Egypt signifies darkness;) by the time that he abode in Egypt the space of time between the ascension of the Lord and the coming of Anti-Christ; by Herod's death the extinction of jealousy in the hearts of the Jews.
3216 (Mt 2,16)
Pseudo-Chrys.: When the infant Jesus had subdued the Magi, not by the might of His flesh, but the grace of His (p. 82) Spirit, Herod "was exceeding wrath," that they whom he, sitting on his throne, had no power to move, were obedient to an Infant lying in a manger. Then by their contempt of him the Magi gave further cause of wrath. For when kings' wrath is stirred by fear for their crowns, it is a great and inextinguishable wrath.
But what did he? "He sent and slew all the children." As a wounded beast rends whatsoever meeteth it as if the cause of its smart, so he mocked by the Magi spent his fury on children. He said to himself in his fury, 'Surely the Magi have found the Child whom they said should be King;' for a king in fear for his crown fears all things, suspects all. Then he sent and slew all those infants, that he might secure one among so many.
Aug.: And while he thus persecutes Christ, he furnished an army (or martyrs) clothed in white robes of the same age as the Lord.
Aug., Serm. 220. App.: Behold how this unrighteous enemy never could have so much profited these infants by his love, as he did by his hate; for as much as iniquity abounded against them, so much did the grace of blessing abound on them.
Aug., Serm. 373, 3: O blessed infants! He only will doubt of your crown in this your passion for Christ, who doubts that the baptism of Christ has a benefit for infants. He who at His birth had Angels to proclaim Him, the heavens to testify, and Magi to worship Him, could surely have prevented that these should not have died for Him, had He not known that they died not in that death, but rather lived in higher bliss. Far be the thought, that Christ who came to set men free, did nothing to reward those who died in His behalf, when hanging on the cross He prayed for those who put Him to death.
Rabanus: He is not satisfied with the massacre at Bethlehem, but extends it to the adjacent villages; sparing no age from the child of one night old, to that of two years.
Aug., Serm. 132, App.: The Magi had seen this unknown star in the heavens, not a few days, but two years before, as they had informed Herod when he enquired. This caused him to fix "two years old and under;" as it follows, "according to the time he had enquired of the Magi."
Gloss. ord.: Or because he feared that the Child to whom even stars ministered, might transform His appearance to greater or under that of His own age, or might conceal all those of that age: hence it (p. 83) seems to be that he slew all from one day to two years old.
Aug., de Cons. Evan., 2, 11: Or, disturbed by pressure of still more imminent dangers, Herod's thoughts are drawn to other thoughts than the slaughter of children, he might suppose that the Magi, unable to find Him whom they had supposed born, were ashamed to return to him. So the days of purification being accomplished, they might go up in safety to Jerusalem. And who does not see the one day they may have escaped the attention of a King occupied with so many cares, and that afterwards when the things done in the Temple came to be spread abroad, then Herod discovered that he had been deceived by the Magi, and then sent and slew the children.
Bede, Hom. in Nat. Innocent: In this death of the children the precious death of all Christ's martyrs is figured; that they were infants signifies, that by the merit of humility alone can we come to the glory of martyrdom; that they were slain in Bethlehem and the coasts thereof, that the persecution shall be both in Jerusalem whence the Church originated, and throughout the world; in those of two years old are figured the perfect in doctrine and works; those under that age the neophytes; that they were slain while Christ escaped, signifies that the bodies of the martyrs may be destroyed by the wicked, but that Christ cannot be taken from them.
3217 (Mt 2,17-18)
Chrys., Hom. IX: The Evangelist by this history of so bloody a massacre, having filled the reader with horror, now again sooths his feelings, shewing that these things were not done because God could not hinder, or knew not of them; but as the Prophet had foretold.
Jerome, In Hierem, 31, 15: This passage of Jeremiah has been quoted by Matthew neither according to the Hebrew nor the LXX version. This shews that the (p. 84) Evangelists and Apostles did not follow any one's translation, but according to the Hebrew manner expressed in their own words what they had read in Hebrew.
By Ramah we need not suppose that the town of that name near Gibeah is meant; but take it as signifying 'high.' A voice was heard 'aloft,' that is, spread far and wide.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or, it was heard on high, because uttered for the death of the innocent, according to that, "The voice of the poor entereth into the heavens." The 'weeping' means the cries of the children; 'lamentation,' refers to the mothers. In the infants themselves their death ends their cries, in the mothers it is continually renewed by the remembrance of their loss.
Jerome: Rachel's son was Benjamin, in which tribe Bethlehem is not situated. How then does Rachel weep for the children of Judah as if they were her own? We answer briefly. She was buried near Bethlehem in Ephrata, and was regarded as the mother, because her body was there entertained. Or, as the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin were contiguous, and Herod's command extended to the coasts of Bethlehem as well as to the town itself, we may suppose that many were slain in Benjamin.
Pseudo-Aug., Hil. Quaest. N. and N. Test. 9. 62: Or, The sons of Benjamin, who were akin to Rachel, were formerly cut off by the other tribes, and so extinct both then and ever after. Then therefore Rachel began to mourn her sons, when she saw those of her sister cut off in such a cause, that they should be heirs of eternal life; for he who has experienced any misfortune, is made more sensible of his losses by the good fortune of a neighbour.
Remig.: The sacred Evangelist adds, to shew the greatness of the mourning, that even the dead Rachel was roused to mourn her sons; and "would not be comforted because they were not."
Jerome: This may be understood in two ways; either she thought them dead for all eternity, so that no consolation could comfort her; or, she desired not to receive any comfort for those who she knew had gone into life eternal.
Hilary: It could not be that they "were not" who seemed now dead, but by glorious martyrdom they were advanced to eternal life; and consolation is for those who have suffered loss, not for those who have reaped a gain. Rachel affords a type of the Church long barren now at length fruitful. (p. 85) She is heard weeping for her children, not because she mourned them dead, but because they were slaughtered by those whom she would have retained as her first-born sons.
Rabanus: Or, The Church weeps the removal of the saints from this earth, but wishes not to be comforted as though they should return again to the struggles of life, for they are not to be recalled into life.
Gloss. ord.: She "will not be comforted" in this present life, for that they are not, but transfers all her hope and comfort to the life to come.
Rabanus: Rachel is well set for a type of the Church, as the word signifies 'a sheep' or 'seeing;' (margin note: see Ch. 1, note i, p. 19) her whole thought being to fix her eye in contemplation of God; and she is the hundredth sheep that the shepherd layeth on his shoulder.
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