Golden Chain 4353
4353 (Mt 13,53-58)
Jerome: After the parables which the Lord spake to the people, and which the Apostles only understand, He goes over into His own country that He may teach there also.
Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 42: From the foregoing discourse consisting of these parables, He passes to what follows without any very evident connexion between them. Besides which, Mark passes from these parables to a different event from what Matthew here gives; and Luke agrees with him, so continuing the thread of the story as to make it much more probable that that which they relate followed here, namely, about the ship in which Jesus slept, and the miracle of the daemons cast out; which Matthew has introduced above.
Chrys., Hom., xlviii: By "his own country" here, He means Nazareth; for it was not there but in Capharnaum that, as is said below, He wrought so many miracles; but to these He shews His doctrine, causing no less wonder than His miracles.
Remig.: He taught in their synagogues where great numbers were met, because it was for the salvation of the multitude that He came from heaven upon earth.
It follows; "So that they marvelled, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these many mighty works?" His wisdom is referred to His doctrine, His mighty works to His miracles
Jerome: Wonderful folly of the Nazarenes! They wonder whence Wisdom itself has wisdom, whence Power has mighty works! But the source of their error is at hand, because they regard Him as the Son of a carpenter; as they say, "Is not this the carpenter's son?"
Chrys.: Therefore were they in all things insensate, seeing they lightly esteemed Him on account of him who was regarded as His father, notwithstanding the many instances in old times of sons illustrious sprung from ignoble fathers; as David was the son of a husbandman, (p. 520) Jesse; Amos the son of a shepherd, himself a shepherd.
And they ought to have given Him more abundant honour, because, that coming of such parents, He spake after such manner; clearly shewing that it came not of human industry, but of divine grace
Pseudo-Aug., non occ., cf. Serm. 135: For the Father of Christ is that Divine Workman who made all these works of nature, who set forth Noah's ark, who ordained the tabernacle of Moses, and instituted the Ark of the covenant; that Workman who polishes the stubborn mind, and cuts down the proud thoughts.
Hilary: And this was the carpenter's son who subdues iron by means of fire, who tries the virtue of this world in the judgment, and forms the rude mass to every work of human need; the figure of our bodies, for example, to the divers ministrations of the limbs, and all the actions of life eternal.
Jerome: And when they are mistaken in His Father, no wonder if they are also mistaken in His brethren. Whence it is added, "Is not his mother Mary, and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas? And his sisters, are they not all with us?
Jerome, Hieron. in Helvid., 14: Those who are here called the Lord's brethren, are the sons of a Mary, His Mother's sister; she is the mother of this James and Joseph, that is to say, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and this is the Mary who is called the mother of James the Less.
Aug., Quaest. in Matt., q. 17: No wonder then that any kinsmen by the mother's side should be called the Lord's brethren, when even by their kindred to Joseph some are here called His brethren by those who thought Him the son of Joseph.
Hilary: Thus the Lord is held in no honour by His own; and though the wisdom of His teaching, and the power of His working raised their admiration, yet do they not believe that He did these things in the name of the Lord, and they cast His father's trade in His teeth.
Amid all the wonderful works which He did they were moved with the contemplation of His Body, and hence they ask, "Whence hath this man these things? And thus they were offended in him."
Jerome: This error of the Jews is our salvation, and the condemnation of the heretics, for they perceived Jesus Christ to be man so far as to think Him the son of a carpenter.
Chrys.: Observe Christ's mercifulness; He is evil spoken of, yet He answers (p. 521) with mildness; "Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and in his own house."
Remig.: He calls Himself a Prophet, as Moses also declares, when he says, "A Prophet shall God raise up unto you of your brethren. (Dt 18,18) And it should be known, that not Christ only, who is the Head of all the Prophets, but Jeremiah, Daniel, and the other lesser Prophets, had more honour and regard among strangers than among their own citizens.
Jerome: For it is almost natural for citizens to be jealous towards one another; for they do not look to the present works of the man, but remember the frailties of his childhood; as if they themselves had not passed through the very same stages of age to their maturity.
Hilary: Further, He makes this answer, that a Prophet is without honour in his own country, because it was in Judea that He was to be condemned to the sentence of the cross; and forasmuch as the power of God is for the faithful alone, He here abstained from worlds of divine power because of their unbelief.
Whence it follows, "And he did not there many mighty works because of their unbelief."
Jerome: Not that because they did not believe He could not do His mighty works; but that He might not by doing them be condemning His fellow-citizens in their unbelief.
Chrys.: But if His miracles raised their wonder, why did He not work many? Because He looked not to display of Himself, but to what would profit others; and when that did not result, He despised what pertained only to Himself that He might not increase their punishment. Why then did He even these few miracles? That they should not say, We should have believed had any miracles been done among us.
Jerome: Or we may understand it otherwise, that Jesus is despised in His own house and country, signifies in the Jewish people; and therefore He did among them few miracles, that they might not be altogether without excuse; but among the Gentiles He does daily greater miracles by His Apostles, not so much in healing their bodies, as in saving their souls.
4401 (Mt 14,1-5)
(p. 522) Gloss., non occ.: The Evangelist had above shewn the Pharisees speaking falsely against Christ's miracles, and just now His fellow-citizens wondering, yet despising Him; he now relates what opinion Herod had formed concerning Christ on hearing of His miracles, and says, "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the fame of Jesus."
Chrys.: It is not without reason that the Evangelist here specifies the time, but that you may understand the pride and carelessness of the tyrant; inasmuch as he had not at the first made himself acquainted with the things concerning Christ, but now only after long time. Thus they, who in authority are fenced about with much pomp, learn these things slowly, because they do not much regard them.
Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 43: Matthew says, "At that time," not, On that day, or, In that same hour; for Mark relates the same circumstances, but not in the same order. He places (p. 523) this after the mission of the disciples to preach, though not implying that it necessarily follows there; any more than Luke, who follows the same order as Mark.
Chrys.: Observe how great a thing is virtue; Herod fears John even after he is dead, and philosophizes concerning the resurrection; as it followers; "And he saith to his servants, This is John the baptist, he is risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works are wrought in him."
Raban.: From this place we may learn how great the jealousy of the Jews was; that John could have risen from the dead, Herod, an alien-born, here declares, without any witness that he had risen: concerning Christ, whom the Prophets had foretold, the Jews preferred to believe, that He had not risen, but had been carried away by stealth. This intimates that the Gentile heart is more disposed to belief than that of the Jews.
Jerome: One of the Ecclesiastical interpreters asks what caused Herod to think that John was risen from the dead; as though we had to account for the errors of an alien, or as though the heresy of metempsychosis was at all supported by this place -- a heresy which teaches that souls pass through various bodies after a long period of years -- for the Lord was thirty years old when John was beheaded.
Raban.: All men have well thought concerning the power of the resurrection, that the saints shall have greater power after they have risen from the dead, than they had while they were yet weighed down with the infirmity of the flesh; wherefore Herod says, "Therefore mighty works are wrought in him."
Aug.: Luke's words are, "John have I beheaded: who is he of whom I hear such things? (Lc 9,9) As Luke has thus represented Herod as in doubt, we must understand rather that he was afterwards convinced of that which was commonly said -- or we must take what he here says to his servants as expressing a doubt -- for they admit of either of these acceptations.
Remig.: Perhaps some one may ask how it can be here said, "At that time Herod heard," seeing that we have long before read that Herod was dead, and that on that the Lord returned out of Egypt. This question is answered, if we remember that there were two Herods. On the death of the first Herod, his son Archelaus succeeded him, and after ten years was (p. 524) sent into exile to Vienne in Gaul. Then Caesar Augustus gave command that the kingdom should be divided into tetrarchies, and gave three parts to the sons of Herod. This Herod then who beheaded John is the son of that greater Herod under whom the Lord was born; and this is confirmed by the Evangelist adding "the tetrarch."
Gloss. ord.: Having mentioned this supposition of John's resurrection, because he had never yet spoken of his death, he now returns, and narrates how it came to pass.
Chrys.: And this relation is not set before us as a principal matter, because the Evangelist's only object was to tell us concerning Christ, and nothing beyond, unless so far as it furthered this object. He says then, "For Herod had seized John, and bound him."
Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 44: Luke does not give this in the same order, but where he is speaking of the Lord's baptism, so that he took beforehand an event which happened long afterwards. For after that saying of John's concerning the Lord, that His fan is in His hand, he straightway adds this, which, as we may gather from John's Gospel, did not follow immediately. For he relates that after Jesus was baptized, He went into Galilee, and thence returned into Judaea, and baptized there near to the Jordan before John was cast into prison.
But neither Matthew nor Mark have placed John's imprisonment in that order in which it appears from their own writings that it took place; for they also say that when John was delivered up, the Lord went into Galilee, and after many things there done, then by occasion of the fame of Christ reaching Herod they relate what took place in the imprisonment and beheading of John.
The cause for which he had been cast into prison he shews when he says, "On account of Herodias his brother's wife. For John had said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her."
Jerome: The old history tells us that Philip the son of Herod the greater, the brother of this Herod, had taken to wife Herodias daughter of Aretas, king of the Arabs; and that he, the father-in-law, having afterwards cause of quarrel with his son-in-law, took away his daughter, and to grieve her husband gave her in marriage to his enemy Herod.
John the Baptist therefore, who came in the spirit and power of Elias, with the same authority that he had exerted over (p. 525) Ahab and Jezebel, rebuked Herod and Herodias, because that they had entered into unlawful wedlock; it being unlawful while the own brother yet lives to take his wife.
He preferred to endanger himself with the King, than to be forgetful of the commandments of God in commending himself to him.
Chrys.: Yet he speaks not to the woman but to the husband, as he was the chief person.
Gloss. ord.: And perhaps he observed the Jewish Law, according to which John forbade him this adultery.
"And desiring to kill him, he feared the people."
Jerome: He feared a disturbance among the people for John's sake, for he knew that multitudes had been baptized by him in Jordan; but he was overcome by love of his wife, which had already made him neglect the commands of God.
Gloss. ord.: The fear of God amends us, the fear of man torments us, but alters not our will; it rather renders us more impatient to sin as it has held us back for a time from our indulgence.
4406 (Mt 14,6-12)
Gloss., non occ.: The Evangelist having related John's imprisonment, proceeds to his putting to death, saying, "But on Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced in the (p. 526) midst.
Jerome: We find no others keeping their birthday besides Herod and Pharaoh, that they who were alike in their wickedness might be alike in their festivities.
Remig.: It should be known that it is customary not for rich only but for poor mothers also, to educate their daughters so chastely, that they are scarce so much as seen by strangers. But this unchaste woman had so brought up her daughter after the same manner, that she had taught her not chastity but dancing. Nor is Herod to be less blamed who forgot that his was a royal palace, but this woman made it a theatre; "And it pleased Herod, so that he swore with an oath that he would give her whatsoever she should ask of him."
Jerome: I do not excuse Herod that he committed this murder against his will by reason of his oath, for perhaps he took the oath for the very purpose of bringing about the murder. But if he says that he did it for his oath's sake, had she asked the death of her mother, or her father, would he have granted it or not? What then he would have refused in his own person, he ought to have rejected in that of the Prophet.
Isidore, Lib. Syn., ii, 10: In evil promises then break faith. That promise is impious which must be kept by crime; that oath is not to be observed by which we have unwittingly pledged ourselves to evil.
It follows, "And she being before instructed of her mother said, Give me here John Baptist's head in a charger."
Jerome: For Herodias, fearing that Herod might some time recover his senses, and be reconciled to his brother, and dissolve their unlawful union by a divorce, instructs her daughter to ask at once at the banquet the head of John, a reward of blood worthy of the deed of the dancing.
Chrys.: Here is a twofold accusation against the damsel, that she danced, and that she chose to ask an execution as her reward. Observe how Herod is at once cruel and yielding; he obliges himself by an oath, and leaves her free to choose her request. Yet when he knew what evil was resulting from her request, he was grieved, "And the king was sorry," for virtue gains praise and admiration even among the bad.
Jerome: Otherwise; It is the manner of Scripture to speak of events as they were commonly viewed at the time by all. So Joseph is called by Mary herself the father of Jesus; so here (p. 527) Herod is said to be "sorry," because the guests believed that he was so.
This dissembler of his own inclinations, this contriver of a murder displayed sorrow in his face, when he had joy in his mind. "For his oath's sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given."
He excuses his crime by his oath, that his wickedness might be done under a pretence of piety. That he adds, "and them that sat at meat with him," he would have them all sharers in his crime, that a bloody dish might be brought in, in a luxurious feast.
Chrys.: If he was afraid to have so many witnesses of his perjury, how much more ought he to have feared so many witnesses of a murder?
Remig.: Here is a less sin done for the sake of another greater; he would not extinguish his lustful desires, and therefore he betakes him to luxurious living; he would not put any restraint on his luxury, and thus he passes to the guilt of murder; for, "He sent and beheaded John in prison, and his head was brought in a charger."
Jerome, Hieron. Liv. xxxix, 43: We read in Roman history, that Flaminius, a Roman general, sitting at supper with his mistress, on her saying that she had never seen a man beheaded, gave permission that a man under sentence for a capital crime should be brought in and beheaded during the entertainment. For this he was expelled the senate by the censors, because he had mingled feasting with blood, and had employed death, though of a criminal, for the amusement of another, causing murder and enjoyment to be joined together.
How much more wicked Herod, and Herodias, and the damsel who danced; she asked as her bloody reward the head of a Prophet, that she might have in her power the tongue that reproved the unlawful nuptials.
Greg., Mor., iii, 7: But not without most deep wonder do I consider, that he who in his mother's womb was filled with the spirit of prophecy, than whom there arose not a greater among them that are born of women, is cast into prison by wicked men, and is beheaded because of the dancing of a girl, and that a man of such severe life dies for the sport of shameful men.
Are we to think that there was any thing in his life which this so shameful death should wipe away? God thus oppresses His people in the least things, because He sees how He may reward them in the highest things. And (p. 528) hence may be gathered what they will suffer whom He casts away, if He thus tortures those He loves.
Greg., Mor., xxix, 7: And John is not sought out to suffer concerning the confession of Christ, but for the truth of righteousness. But because Christ is truth, he goes to death for Christ in going for truth.
It follows, "And his disciples came, and took up his body, and buried it."
Jerome: By which we may understand both the disciples of John himself, and of the Saviour.
Raban., Antiq. xviii, 5: Josephus relates, that John was sent bound to the castle of Mecheron, and there beheaded; but ecclesiastical history relates that he was buried in Sebastia, a town of Palestine, which was formerly called Samaria.
Chrys., Hom., xlix: Observe how John's disciples are henceforth more attached to Jesus; they it is who told Him what was done concerning John; "And they came and told Jesus." For leaving all they take refuge with Him, and so by degrees after their calamity, and the answer given by Christ, they are set right.
Hilary: Mystically, John represents the Law; for the Law preached Christ, and John came of the Law, preaching Christ out of the Law. Herod is the Prince of the people, and the Prince of the people bears the name and the cause of the whole body put under him. John then warned Herod that he should not take to him his brother's wife. For there are and there were two people, of the circumcision, and of the Gentiles; and these are brethren, children of the same parent of the human race, but the Law warned Israel that, he should not take to him the works of the Gentiles and unbelief which was united to them as by the bond of conjugal love.
On the birthday, that is amidst the enjoyments of the things of the body, the daughter of Herodias danced; for pleasure, as it were springing from unbelief, was carried in its alluring course throughout the whole of Israel, and the nation bound itself thereto as by an oath, for sin and worldly pleasures the Israelites sold the gifts of eternal life.
She (Pleasure), at the suggestion of her mother Unbelief, begged that there should be given her the head of John, that is, the glory of the Law; but the people knowing the good that was in the Law, yielded these terms to pleasure, not without sorrow for its own danger, conscious that it ought not to have given up so great glory of its teachers. (p. 529)
But forced by its sins, as by the force of an oath, as well as overcome by the fear, and corrupted by the example of the neighbouring princes, it sorrowfully yields to the blandishments of pleasure. So among the other gratifications of a debauched people the head of John is brought in a dish, that is by the loss of the Law, the pleasures of the body, and worldly luxury is increased. It is carried by the damsel to her mother; thus depraved Israel offered up the glory of the Law to pleasure and unbelief. The times of the Law being expired, and buried with John, his disciples declare what is done to the Lord, coming, that is, to the Gospels from the Law.
Raban.: Otherwise; Even at this day we see that in the head of the Prophet John the Jews have lost Christ, who is the head of the Prophets.
Jerome: And the Prophet has lost among them both tongue and voice.
Remig.: Otherwise; The beheading of John marks the increase of that fame which Christ has among the people, as the exaltation of the Lord upon the cross marks the progress of the faith; whence John had said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (Jn 3,30)
4413 (Mt 14,13-14)
Gloss., ap. Anselm: The Saviour having heard the death of His baptist, retired into the desert; as it follows, "which when Jesus had heard, he departed thence by ship into a desert place."
Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 45: This the Evangelist relates to have been done immediately after the passion of John, therefore after this were those things done that were spoken of above, and moved Herod to say, "This is John." For we must suppose those things to have been after his death which report carried to Herod, and which moved him to doubt who he could be concerning (p. 530) whom he heard such things; for himself had put John to death.
Jerome: He did not retire into the desert through fear of death, as some suppose, but in mercy to His enemies, that they might not add murder to murder; putting off His death till the day of His passion; on which day the lamb is to be slain as the sacrament, and the posts of them that believe to be sprinkled with the blood.
Or, He retired to leave us an example to shun that rashness which leads men to surrender themselves voluntarily, because not all persevere with like constancy under torture with the which they offered themselves to it. For this reason He says in another place, "When they shall persecute you in one city, flee ye to another." Whence the Evangelist says not 'fled,' but elegantly, "departed thence," (or, 'withdrew,') shewing that He shunned rather than feared persecution.
Or for another reason He might have withdrawn into a desert place on hearing of John's death, namely, to prove the faith of the believers.
Chrys.: Or; He did this because He desired to prolong the economy of His humanity, the time not being yet come for openly manifesting His deity; wherefore also He charged His disciples that they should tell no man that He was the Christ. But after His resurrection He would have this made manifest.
Therefore although He knew of Himself what was done, yet before it was told Him He withdrew not, that He might shew the verity of His incarnation in all things; for He would that this should be assured not by sight only, but by His actions. And when He withdrew, He did not go into the city, but into the desert by ship that none might follow Him. Yet do not the multitudes leave Him even for this, but still follow after Him, not deterred by what had been done concerning John.
Whence it follows, "And when the multitudes had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities."
Jerome: They followed on foot, not riding, or in carriages, but with the toil of their own legs, to shew the ardour of their mind.
Chrys.: And they immediately reap the reward of this; for it follows, "And he went out and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion upon them, and healed their sick." For though great was the affection of those who had left their cities, and sought Him carefully, yet the (p. 531) things that were done by Him surpassed the reward of any zeal.
Therefore he assigns compassion as the cause of this healing. And it is great compassion to heal all, and not to require faith.
Hilary: Mystically; The Word of God, on the close of the Law, entered the ship, that is, the Church; and departed into the desert, that is, leaving to walk with Israel, He passes into breasts void of Divine knowledge. The multitude learning this, follows the Lord out of the city into the desert, going, that is, from the Synagogue to the Church. The Lord sees them, and has compassion upon them, and heals all sickness and infirmity, that is, He cleanses their obstructed minds, and unbelieving hearts for the understanding of the new preaching.
Jerome: It is to be observed moreover, that when the Lord came into the desert, great crowds followed Him; for before He went into the wilderness of the Gentiles, He was worshipped by only one people. They leave their cities, that is, their former conversation, and various dogmas. That Jesus went out, shews that the multitudes had the will to go, but not the strength to attain, therefore the Saviour departs out of His place and goes to meet them.
4415 (Mt 14,15-21)
Chrys.: It is a proof of the faith of these multitudes that they endured hunger in waiting for the Lord even till evening; to which purpose it follows, "And when it was evening, his disciples came unto him, saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now past."
The Lord purposing to feed them waits to be asked, as always not stepping forward first to do miracles, but when called upon. None out of the crowd approached Him, both because they stood in great awe of Him, and because in their zeal of love they did not feel their hunger. But even the disciples do not come and say, Give them to eat; for the disciples were as yet in an imperfect condition; but they say, "This is a desert place." So that what was proverbial among the Jews to express a miracle, as it is said, "Can he spread a table in the wilderness?" (Ps 78,19) this also He shews among his other works.
For this cause also He leads them out into the desert, that the miracle might be clear of all suspicion, and that none might suppose that any thing was supplied towards the feast from any neighbouring town. But though the place be desert, yet is He there who feeds the world; and though the hour is, as they say, past, yet He who now commanded was not subjected to hours. And though the Lord had gone before His disciples in healing many sick, yet they were so imperfect that they could not judge what He would do concerning food for them, wherefore they add, "Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns, and buy themselves food." Observe the wisdom of the Master; He says not straightway to them, 'I will give them to eat;' for they would not easily have received this, but, "Jesus said to them, They need not depart, Give ye them to eat."
Jerome: Wherein He calls the Apostles to breaking of bread, that the greatness of the miracle might be more evident by their testimony that they had none.
Aug., De Cons. Ev., ii, 46: It may perplex some how, if the Lord, according to the relation (p. 533) of John, asked Philip whence bread was to be found for them, that can be true which Matthew here relates, that the disciples first prayed the Lord to send the multitudes away, that they might buy food from the nearest towns. Suppose then that after these words the Lord looked upon the multitude and said what John relates, but Matthew and the others have omitted. And by such cases as this none ought to be perplexed, when one of the Evangelists relates what the rest have omitted.
Chrys.: Yet not even by these words were the disciples set right, but speak yet to Him as to man; "They answered unto Him, We have here but five loaves and two fishes." From this we learn the philosophy of the disciples, how far they despised food; they were twelve in number, yet they had but five loaves and two fishes; for things of the body were contemned by them, they were altogether possessed by spiritual things. But because the disciples were yet attracted to earth, the Lord begins to introduce the things that were of Himself; "He saith unto them, Bring them hither to me."
Wherefore does He not create out of nothing the bread to feed the multitude with? That He might put to silence the mouth of Marcion and Manichaeus, who take away from God His creatures, (margin note: i.e. deny that God created the visible world) and by His deeds might teach that all things that are seen are His works and creation, and that it is He that has given us the fruits of the earth, who said in the beginning, "Let the earth bring forth the green herb;" (Gn 1,11) for this is no less a deed than that. For of five loaves to make so many loaves, and ashes in like manner, is no less a thing than to bring fruits from the earth, reptiles and other living things from the waters; which shewed Him to be Lord both of land and sea.
By the example of the disciples also we ought to be taught, that though we should have but little, we ought to give that to such as have need. For they when bid to bring their five loaves say not, Whence shall we satisfy our own hunger? but immediately obey; "And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took they five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven blessed them, and brake."
Why did He look to heaven and bless? For it should be believed concerning Him that He is from the Father, and that He is equal with (p. 534) the Father. His equality He shews when He does all things with power. That He is from the Father He shews by referring to Him whatsoever He does, and calling upon Him on all occasions.
To prove these two things therefore, He works His miracles at times with power, at other times with prayer. It should be considered also that in lesser things He looks to heaven, but in greater He does all with power. When He forgave sins, raised the dead, stilled the sea, opened the secrets of the heart, opened the eyes of him that was born blind, which were works only of God, He is not seen to pray; but when He multiplies the loaves, a work less than any of these, He looks up to heaven, that you may learn that even in little things He has no power but from His Father.
And at the same time He teaches us not to touch our food, until we have returned thanks to Him who gives it us. For this reason also He looks up to heaven, because His disciples had examples of many other miracles, but none of this.
Jerome: While the Lord breaks there is a sowing of food; for had the loaves been whole and not broken into fragments, and thus divided into a manifold harvest, they could not have fed so great a multitude. The multitude receives the food from the Lord through the Apostles; as it follows, "And he gave the loaves to hie disciples, and the disciples to the multitude."
Chrys.: In doing which He not only honoured them, but would that upon this miracle they should not be unbelieving, nor forget it when it was past, seeing their own hands had borne witness to it. Therefore also He suffers the multitudes first to feel the sense of hunger, and His disciples to come to Him, and to ask Him, and He took the loaves at their hands, that they might have many testimonies of that which was done, and many things to remind them of the miracle.
From this that He gave them, nothing more than bread and fish, and that He set this equally before all, He taught them moderation, frugality, and that charity by which they should have all things in common. This He also taught them in the place, in making them sit down upon the grass; for He sought not to feed the body only, but to instruct the mind.
But the bread and fish multiplied in the disciples' hands; whence it follows, "And they did all eat, and were (p. 535) filled."
But the miracle ended not here; for He caused to abound not only whole loaves, but fragments also; to shew that the first loaves were not so much as what was left, and that they who were not present might learn what had been done, and that none might think that what had been done was a phantasy; "And they took up fragments that were left, twelve baskets full."
Jerome: Each of the Apostles fills his basket of the fragments left by his Saviour, that these fragments might witness that they were true loaves that were multiplied.
Chrys.: For this reason also He caused twelve baskets to remain over and above, that Judas might bear his basket. He took up the fragments, and gave them to the disciples and not to the multitudes, who were yet more imperfectly trained than the disciples.
Jerome: To the number of loaves, five, the number of the men that ate is apportioned, five thousand; "And the number of them that had eaten was about five thousand men, besides women and children."
Chrys.: This was to the very great credit of the people, that the women and the men stood up when these remnants still remained.
Hilary: The five loaves are not multiplied into more, but fragments succeed to fragments; the substance growing whether upon the tables, or in the hands that took them up, I know not.
Raban.: When John is to describe this miracle, he first tells us that the passover is at hand; Matthew and Mark place it immediately after the execution of John. Hence we may gather, that he was beheaded when the paschal festival was near at hand, and that at the passover of the following year, the mystery of the Lord's passion was accomplished.
Jerome: But all these things are full of mysteries; the Lord does these things not in the morning, nor at noon, but in the evening, when the Sun of righteousness was set.
Remig.: By the evening the Lord's death is denoted; and after He, the true Sun, was set on the altar of the cross, He filled the hungry. Or by evening is denoted the last age of this world, in which the Son of God came and refreshed the multitudes of those that believed on Him.
Raban.: When the disciples ask the Lord to send away the multitudes that they might buy food in the towns, it signifies the pride of the Jews towards the multitudes of the Gentiles, whom they judged rather fit (p. 536) to seek for themselves food in the assemblies of the Pharisees than to use the pasture of the Divine books
Hilary: But the Lord answered, "They have no need to go," shewing that those whom He heals have no need of the food of mercenary doctrine, and have no necessity to return to Judaea to buy food; and He commands the Apostles that they give them food. Did He not know then that there was nothing to give them?
But there was a complete series of types to be set forth; for as yet it was not given the Apostles to make and minister the heavenly bread, the flood of eternal life; and their answer thus belongs to the chain of spiritual interpretation; they were as yet confined to the five loaves, that is, the five books of the Law, and the two fishes, that is, the preaching of the Prophets and of John.
Raban.: Or, by the two fishes we may understand the Prophets, and the Psalms, for the whole of the Old Testament was comprehended in these three, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms.
Hilary: These therefore the Apostles first set forth, because they were yet in these things; and from these things the preaching of the Gospel grows to its more abundant strength and virtue. Then the people is commanded to sit down upon the grass, as no longer lying upon the ground, but resting upon the Law, each one reposing upon the fruit of his own works as upon the grass of the earth.
Jerome: Or, they are bid to lie down on the grass, and that, according to another Evangelist, by fifties and by hundreds, that after they have trampled upon their flesh, and have subjugated the pleasures of the world as dried grass under them, then by the presence (ed. note: Vallarsi reads paenitentiam, Jerome has borrowed the interpretation from Origen who refers to the year of jubilee; and the Glossa ordinaria on this verse is, "The rest of the Jubilee is here contained under the mystery of the number fifty; for fifty twice taken makes a hundred; because we must first rest from evil actions, that the soul may afterwards more fully repose in meditation.") of the number fifty, they ascend to the eminent perfection of a hundred.
He looks up to heaven to teach us that our eyes are to be directed thither. The Law with the Prophets is broken, and in the midst of them are brought forward mysteries, that whereas they partook not of it whole, when broken into pieces it may be food for the multitude of the (p. 537) Gentiles.
Hilary: Then the loaves are given to the Apostles, because through them the gifts of divine grace were to be rendered. And the number of them that did eat is found to be the same as that of those who should believe; for we find in the book of Acts that out of the vast number of the people of Israel, five thousand men believed.
Jerome: There partook five thousand who had reached maturity; for women and children, the weaker sex, and the tender age, were unworthy of number; thus in the book of Numbers, slaves, women, children, and an undistinguished crowd, are passed over unnumbered.
Raban.: The multitude being hungry, He creates no new viands, but having taken what the disciples had, He gave thanks. In like manner when He came in the flesh, He preached no other things than what had been foretold, but shewed that the writings of the Law and the Prophets were big with mysteries.
That which the multitude leave is taken up by the disciples, because the more secret mysteries which cannot be comprehended by the uninstructed, are not to be treated with neglect, but are to be diligently sought out by the twelve Apostles (who are represented by the twelve baskets) and their successors. For by baskets servile offices are performed, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong. The five thousand for the five senses of the body are they who in a secular condition know how to use rightly things without.
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