Golden Chain 5735
5735 (Mt 27,35-38)
Gloss, non occ.: Having described how Christ was led to the scene of His Passion, the Evangelist proceeds to the Passion itself, describing the kind of death; "And they crucified him."
Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest q25: The Wisdom of God took upon Him man, to give us an example how we might live rightly. It pertains to right life not to fear things that are not to be feared. But some men who do not fear death in itself, yet dread some kinds of death. That no sort of death is to be feared by the man who lives aright, was to be shewn by this Man's cross. For of all the (p. 950) modes of death none was more horrible and fearful than this.
Aug., in Serm., non occ.: Let your holiness consider of what might is the power of the cross. Adam set at nought the commandment, taking the apple from the tree; but all that Adam lost, Christ found upon the cross. The ark of wood saved the human race from the deluge of waters; when God's people came out of Egypt, Moses divided the sea with his rod, overwhelmed Pharaoh, and redeemed God's people. The same Moses changed the bitter water into sweet by casting wood into it. By the rod the refreshing stream was drawn out of the rock; that Amalech might be overcome, Moses' outstretched hands were supported upon his rod; the Law of God is entrusted to the wooden ark of the covenant, that thus, by these steps we may come at last to the wood of the cross.
Chrys., Hom. de Cruc. et Lat. ii: He suffered on a lofty cross, and not under a roof, to the end that the nature of the air might be purified; the earth also partook a like benefit, being cleansed by the blood that dropped from His side.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: The shape of the cross seems also to signify the Church spread through the four quarters of the earth.
Raban.: Or, according to the practical exposition, the cross in respect of its broad transverse piece signifies the joy of him that works, for sorrow produces straitness; for the broad part of the cross is in the transverse beam to which the hands are fastened, and by the hands we understand works. By the upper part to which the head is fastened is denoted our looking for retribution from the supreme righteousness of God. The perpendicular part on which the body is stretched denotes endurance, whence the patient are called 'long-suffering' (marg. note: longamines). The point that is fixed into the ground shadows forth the invisible part of a sacrament.
Hilary: Thus on the tree of life the salvation and life of all is suspended.
Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 12: Matthew shortly says, "They parted his garments, casting lots;" but John explains more fully how it was done. "The soldiers, when they had crucified him, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat; now the coat was without seam." (Jn 19,23)
Chrys.: It is to be noted, that this is no small degradation of Christ. For they did this as to one utterly abject and worthless, yet for the thieves they did not the same. For they share the garments (p. 951) only in the case of condemned persons so mean and poor as to possess nothing more.
Jerome: This which was now done to Christ had been prophesied in the Psalm, "They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture." (Ps 22,18) It proceeds, "And sitting down, they watched him there." This watchfulness of the soldiers and of the Priests has proved of use to us in making the power of His resurrection greater and more notorious.
"And they set up over his head his accusation written, This is Jesus, the King of the Jews." I cannot sufficiently wonder at the enormity of the thing, that having purchased false witnesses, and having stirred up the unhappy people to riot and uproar, they found no other plea for putting Him to death, than that He was King of the Jews; and this perhaps they set up in mockery.
Remig.: It was divinely provided that this title should be set up over His head, that the Jews might learn that not even by putting Him to death could they avoid having Him for their King; for in the very instrument of His death He not only did not lose, but rather confirmed His sovereignty.
Origen: The High Priest also in obedience to the letter of the Law wore on his head the writing, 'Holiness to the Lord,' but the true High Priest and King, Jesus, bears on His cross the title, "This is the King of the Jews;" when ascending to His Father, instead of His own name with its proper letters, He has the Father Himself.
Raban.: For because He is at once King and Priest, when He would offer the sacrifice of His flesh on the altar of the cross, His title set forth His regal dignity. And it is set over and not beneath the cross, because though He suffered for us on the cross with the weakness of man, the majesty of the King was conspicuous above the cross; and this He did not lose, but rather confirmed, by the cross.
Jerome, Hieron., non occ.: As Christ was made for us a curse of the cross, so for the salvation of all He is crucified as guilty among the guilty.
Leo, Serm. 55, 1: "Two thieves were crucified with him, one on the right hand and one on the left," that in the figure of His cross might be represented that separation of all mankind which shall be made in His judgment. The Passion then of Christ contains a sacrament of our salvation, and of that instrument which the wickedness of the Jews provided for His punishment, the power of the Redeemer made a step (p. 952) to glory.
Hilary: Or otherwise; Two thieves are set up on His right and left hand, to signify that the entire human race is called to the Sacrament of the Lord's Passion; but because there shall be a division of believers to the right, and unbelievers to the left, one of the two who is set on His right hand is saved by the justification of faith.
Remig., ap. Gloss. ord.: Or, by the two thieves are denoted all those who strive after the continence of a strict life. They who do this with a single intention of pleasing God, are denoted by him who was crucified on the right hand; they who do it out of desire of human praise or any less worthy motive, are signified by him who was crucified on the left.
5739 (Mt 27,39-44)
Chrys.: Having stripped and crucified Christ, they go yet further, and seeing Him on the cross revile Him.
Jerome: "They revile him" because they passed by that way, and would not walk in the true way of the Scriptures. "They wagged their heads," because they had just before shifted their feet, and stood not upon a rock. The foolish rabble cast the same taunt against Him that the false witnesses had invented, "Aha! thou that destroyest the temple of God and rebuildest it in three days."
Remig.: "Aha!" is an interjection of taunt and (p. 953) mockery.
Hilary: What forgiveness then for them, when by the resurrection of His body they shall see the temple of God rebuilt within three days?
Chrys.: And as beginning to extenuate His former miracles, they add, "Save thyself; if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross."
Chrys., Hom. de Cruc. et Latr. ii: He, on the contrary, does not come down from the cross, because He is the Son of God; for He therefore came that He might be crucified for us.
Jerome: Even the Scribes and Pharisees reluctantly confess that "He saved others." Your own judgment then condemns you, for in that He saved others, He could if He would have saved Himself.
Pseudo-Chrys.: (ed. note, d: Hom. de Cruce et Latr. in the Latin Chrys. (ed. Paris. 1588.) vol. iii. p. 750)
But attend to this speech of these children of the Devil, how they imitate their father's speech. The Devil said, "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;" (Mt 4,6) and they say now, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross."
Leo, Serm. 55, 2: From what source of error, O Jews, have ye sucked in the poison of such blasphemies? What teacher delivered it to you? What learning moved you to think that the true King of Israel, that the veritable Son of God, would be He who would not suffer Himself to be crucified, and would set free His body from the fastenings of the nails? Not the bidden meaning of the Law, not the mouths of the Prophets. Had ye indeed ever read, "I hid not my face from the shame of spitting;" (Is 50,6) or that again, :They pierced my hands and my feet, they told all my bones." (Ps 22,16) Where have ye ever read that the Lord came down from the cross? But ye have read, "The Lord hath reigned from the tree." (ed. note, e: Ps 96,10 Ps 96, regnavit ligno,' in the old Italic Version; and so Tertullian adv. Marc. iii. The Vulg. follows the )
Raban.: Had He then been prevailed on by their taunts to leave the cross, He would not have proved to us the power of endurance; but He waited enduring their mockery; and He who would not come down from the cross, rose again from the tomb.
Jerome: But unworthy of credit is that promise, "And we will believe him." For which is greater, to come down while yet alive from the cross, or to rise from the tomb when dead? Yet this He did, and ye believed not; therefore neither would ye have believed if He had come down from the cross. It seems to me that this was a suggestion of the daemons. For immediately (p. 954) when the Lord was crucified they felt the power of the cross, and perceived that their strength was broken, and therefore contrive this to move Him to come down from the cross. But the Lord, aware of the designs of His foes, remains on the cross that He may destroy the Devil.
Chrys.: "He trusted in God, let him now deliver him, if he will." O most foul! Were they therefore not Prophets or righteous men, because God did not deliver them out of their perils? But if He would not oppose their glory, which accrued to them out of the perils which you brought upon them, much more in this man ought you not to be offended because of what He suffers; what He has ever said ought to remove any such suspicion.
When they add, "Because he said, I am the Son of God," they desire to intimate that He suffered as an impostor and seducer, and as making high and false pretences. And not only the Jews and the soldiers from below, but from above likewise. "The thieves, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth."
Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 16: It may seem that Luke contradicts this, when be describes one of the robbers as reviling Him, and as therefore rebuked by the other. But we may suppose that Matthew, shortly alluding to the circumstance, has used the plural for the singular, as in the Epistle to the Hebrews we have, "Have stopped the mouths of lions," (He 11,33) when Daniel only is spoken of. And what more common way of speaking than for one to say, See the country people insult me, when it is one only who has done so. If indeed Matthew had said that both the thieves had reviled the Lord, there would be some discrepancy; but when he says merely, "The thieves," without adding 'both,' we must consider it as that common form of speech in which the singular is signified by the plural.
Jerome: Or it may be said that at first both reviled Him; but when the sun had withdrawn, the earth was shaken, the rocks were rent, and the darkness increased, one believed on Jesus, and repaired his former denial by a subsequent confession.
Chrys.: At first both reviled Him, but afterwards not so. For that you should not suppose that the thing was arranged by any collusion, and that the thief was not a thief, he shews you by his wanton reproaches, that even after He was crucified he was a thief and a foe, but was afterwards totally changed. (p. 955)
Hilary: That both the thieves cast in His teeth the manner of His Passion, shews that the cross should be an offence to all mankind, even to the faithful.
Jerome: Or, in the two thieves both nations, Jews and Gentiles, at first blasphemed the Lord; afterwards the latter terrified by the multitude of signs did penitence, and thus rebukes the Jews, who blaspheme to this day.
Origen: The thief who was saved may be a sign of those who after many sins have believed on Christ.
5745 (Mt 27,45-50)
Pseudo-Chrys., in Hom. de Cruce et Latr.: Creation could not bear the outrage offered to the Creator; whence the sun withdrew his beams, that he might not look upon the crime of these impious men.
Origen: Some take occasion from this text to cavil against the truth of the Gospel. For indeed from the beginning eclipses of the sun have happened in their proper seasons; but such an eclipse as would be brought about by the ordinary course of the seasons could only be at such time as the sun and moon come together, when the moon passing beneath intercepts the sun's rays. But at the time of Christ's passion it is clear that this was not the case, because it was the paschal feast, which it was customary to celebrate when the moon was full.
Some believers, desiring to produce some (p. 956) answer to this objection, have said, that this eclipse in accordance with the other prodigies was an exception to the established laws of nature.
Dionys. ad Polycarp. Ep. 7: When we were together at Heliopolis, we both observed such an interference of the moon with the sun quite unexpectedly, for it was not the season of their conjunction; and then from the ninth hour until evening, beyond the power of nature, continuing in a direct line between us and the sun. And this obscuration we saw begin from the east, and so pass to the extreme of the sun's orb, and again return back the same way, being thus the very reverse of an ordinary eclipse.
Chrys., Hom. lxxxviii: This darkness lasted three hours, whereas an eclipse is transient, and not enduring, as they know who have studied the matter.
Origen: Against this the children of this world urge, How is it that of the Greeks and Barbarians, who have made observations of these things, not one has recorded so remarkable a phenomenon as this? Phlegon indeed has recorded such an event as happening in the time of Tiberius Caesar, but he has not mentioned that it was at the full moon. I think therefore that, like the other miracles which took place at the Passion, the rending of the veil, and the earthquake, this also was confined to Jerusalem.
Or, if any one chooses, it may be extended to the whole of Judaea; as in the book of Kings, Abdias said to Elias, "As the Lord thy God liveth, there is no nation or kingdom whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee," (1 Ki 18:10) meaning that be had been sought in the countries round about Judaea. Accordingly we might suppose many and dense clouds to have been brought together over Jerusalem and Judaea, enough to produce thick darkness from the sixth to the ninth hour. For we understand that there were two creatures created on the sixth day, the beasts before the sixth hour, man on the sixth; and therefore it was fitting that He who died for the salvation of man should be crucified at the sixth hour, and for this cause that darkness should be over the whole earth from the sixth to the ninth hour. And as by Moses stretching out his hands towards heaven darkness was brought upon the Egyptians who held the servants of God in bondage, so likewise when at the sixth hour Christ stretched out his hands on the cross to heaven, darkness came over all the people who had cried out, (p. 957) "Crucify him," and they were deprived of all light as a sign of the darkness that should come, and that should envelop the whole people of the Jews. Further, under Moses there was darkness over the land of Egypt three days, but all the children of Israel had light; so under Christ there was darkness over all Judaea for three hours, because for their sins they were deprived of the light of God the Father, the splendour of Christ, and the illumination of the Holy Spirit.
But over the rest of the earth there is light, which every where illumines the Church of God in Christ. And if to the ninth hour there was darkness over Judaea, it is manifest that light returned to them again after that; "so, when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have entered in, then all Israel shall be saved." (Rm 11,25)
Chrys.: Or otherwise; The wonder was in this, that the darkness was over the whole earth, which had never come to pass before, save only in Egypt what time the Passover was celebrated; for the things done then were a type of these. And consider the time when this is done; at mid-day, while over the whole world it was day, that all the dwellers on the earth might perceive it. This is the sign He promised to them that asked Him, "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, and there shall no sign be given it save the sign of Jonas the Prophet," (Mt 12,39) alluding to His cross and resurrection. And it was a much greater marvel that this should come to pass when He was fastened to the cross, than when He was walking at large on the earth.
Surely here was enough to convert them, not by the greatness of the miracle alone, but because it was done not till after all these instances of their frenzy, when their passion was past, when they had uttered all that they would, and were satiated with taunts and gibes. But how did they not all marvel and conclude Him to be God? Because the human race was at that time plunged in exceeding sluggishness and vice, and this wonder was but one, and quickly past away, and none cared to search out its cause, or perhaps they attributed it to eclipse, or some other physical consequence.
And on this account He shortly afterwards lifts up His voice to shew that He yet lives, and Himself wrought this miracle; "And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice," &c.
Jerome: He employed the beginning of the twenty-first Psalm. [marg. note: Ps 22:1, Vulg.] That clause in the [p. 958] middle of the verse, "Look upon me," is superfluous; for the Hebrew has only 'Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani,' that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is impiety therefore to think that this Psalm was spoken in the character of David or Esther or Mardocheus, when passages taken out of it by the Evangelist are understood of the Saviour; as, "They parted my garments among them," and, "They pierced my hands."
Chrys.: He uttered this word of prophecy, that He might bear witness to the very last hour to the Old Testament, and that they might see that He honours the Father, and is not against God. And therefore too, He used the Hebrew tongue, that what He said might be intelligible to them.
Origen: But it must be asked, What means this, that Christ is forsaken of God? Some, unable to explain how Christ could be forsaken of God, say that this was spoken out of humility. But you will be able clearly to comprehend His meaning if you make a comparison of the glory which He had with the Father with the shame which He despised when He endured the cross.
Hilary, de Trin. x. 50 &c.: From these words heretical spirits contend either that God the Word was entirely absorbed into the soul at the time it discharged the function of a soul in quickening the body; or that Christ could not have been born man, because the Divine Word dwelt in Him after the manner of a prophetical spirit. As though Jesus Christ was a man of ordinary soul and body, having His beginning then when He began to be man, and thus now deserted upon the withdrawal of the protection of God's word cries out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Or at least that the nature of the Word being transmuted into soul, Christ, who had depended in all things upon His Father's support, now deserted and left to death, mourns over this desertion, and pleads with Him departing. But amidst these impious and feeble opinions, the faith of the Church imbued with Apostolic teaching does not sever Christ that He should be considered as Son of God and not as Son of Man. The complaint of His being deserted is the weakness of the dying man; the promise of Paradise is the kingdom of the living God. You have Him complaining that He is left to death, and thus He is Man; you have Him as He is dying declaring that He reigns in Paradise; and thus He is God. Wonder (p. 959) not then at the humility of these words, when you know the form of a servant, and see the offence of the cross.
Gloss., non occ.: God is said to have forsaken Him in death because He exposed Him to the power of His persecutors; He withdrew His protection, but did not break the union.
Origen: When He saw darkness over the whole land of Judaea He said this, Father, "why hast thou forsaken me?" meaning, Why hast thou given Me over exhausted to such sufferings? that the people who were honoured by Thee may receive the things that they have dared against Me, and should be deprived of the light of Thy countenance. Also, Thou hast forsaken Me for the salvation of the Gentiles. But what good have they of the Gentiles who have believed done, that I should deliver them from the evil one by shedding My precious blood on the ground for them? Or will they, for whom I suffer these things, ever do aught worthy of them? Or foreseeing the sins of those for whom He suffered, He said, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" that I should become "as one that gathereth stubble in the harvest, and gleanings in the vintage." (Mic 9:1)
But you must not imagine that the Saviour said this after the manner of men by reason of the misery which encompassed Him on the cross; for if you take it so you will not hear His "loud voice" and mighty words which point to something great hidden.
Raban.: Or, The Saviour said this as bearing about with Him our feelings, who when placed in dangers think ourselves forsaken by God. Human nature was forsaken by God because of its sins, and the Son of God becoming our Advocate laments the misery of those whose guilt He took upon Him; (ed. note: "These words He uttered as representing the person of men. For He was never forsaken by His Divine nature; but we were the forsaken, and the overlooked; whence He said this in as representing us." Damasc. Fid Orth. iii 24. and so Theophylact.) therein shewing how they who sin ought to mourn, when He who never sinned did thus mourn.
Jerome: It follows, "Some of them that stood by," &c"; "some," not all; whom I suppose to have been Roman soldiers, ignorant of Hebrew, but from the words "Eli, Eli," thought that He called upon Elias. But if we prefer to suppose them Jews, they do it after their usual manner, that they may accuse the Lord of weakness in thus invoking Elias.
Pseudo-Chrys., Hom. vi in Pass. (vol iii, p. 733): Thus the Source of living water is made to drink vinegar, (p. 960) the Giver of honey is fed with gall; Forgiveness is scourged, Acquittance is condemned, Majesty is mocked, Virtue ridiculed, the Bestower of showers is repaid with spitting.
Hilary: Vinegar is wine, which has turned sour either from neglect, or the fault of the vessel. Wine is the honour of immortality, or virtue. When this then had been turned sour in Adam, He took and drunk it at the hands of the Gentiles. It is offered to Him on a reed and a spunge; that is, He took from the bodies of the Gentiles immortality spoiled and corrupted, and transfused in Himself into a mixture of immortality that in us which was spoiled.
Remig.: Or otherwise; The Jews as degenerating from the wine of the Patriarchs and Prophets were vinegar; they had deceitful hearts, like to the winding holes and hollows in spunge. By the reed, Sacred Scripture is denoted, which was fulfilled in this action; for as we call that which the tongue utters, the Hebrew tongue, or the Greek tongue, for example; so the writing, or letters which the seed produces, we may call a reed.
Origen: And perhaps all who know the ecclesiastical doctrine, but live amiss, have given them to drink wine mingled with gall; but they who attribute to Christ untrue opinions, these filling a sponge with vinegar, put it upon the reed of Scripture, and put it to His mouth.
Raban.: The soldiers misunderstanding the sound of the Lord's words, foolishly looked for the coming of Elias. But God, whom the Saviour thus invoked in the Hebrew tongue, He had in ever inseparably with Him.
Aug., in Serm., non occ.: When now nought of suffering remains to be endured, death still lingers, knowing that it has nothing there. The ancient foe suspected somewhat unusual. This man, first and only, he found having no sin, free from guilt, owing nothing to the laws of his jurisdiction. But leagued with Jewish madness, Death comes again to the assault, and desperately invades the Life-giver.
"And Jesus, when He had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost."
Wherefore should we be offended that Christ came from the bosom of the Father to take upon Him our bondage, that He might confer on us His freedom; to take upon Him our death, that we might be set free by His death; by despising death He exalted us mortals into Gods, counted them of earth worthy of things (p. 961) in heaven? For seeing the Divine power shines forth so brilliant in the contemplation of its works, it is an argument of boundless love, that it suffers for its subjects, dies for its bondsmen. This then was the first cause of the Lord's Passion, that He would have it known how great God's love to man, Who desired rather to be loved than feared.
The second was that He might abolish with yet more justice the sentence of death which He had with justice passed. For as the first man had by guilt incurred death through God's sentence, and handed down the same to his posterity, the second Man, who knew no sin, came from heaven that death might be condemned, which, when commissioned to seize the guilty, had presumed to touch the Author of sinlessness. And it is no wonder if for us He laid down what He had taken of us, His life, namely, when He has done other so great things for us, and bestowed so much on us.
Pseudo-Aug., Vigil cont. Felicianum, 14: Far be from the faithful any suspicion that Christ experienced our death in such sort that life (as far as it can) ceased to live. Had this been so, how could aught have been said to live during that three days, if the Fountain of Life itself was dried up? Therefore Christ's Godhead experienced death through its partaking of humanity or of human feeling, which it had voluntarily taken on it; but it lost not the properties of its nature by which it gives life to all things. For when we die, without doubt the loss of life by the body is not the destruction of the soul, but the soul quitting the body loses not its own properties, but only lets go what it had quickened, and as far as in it lays produces the death of somewhat else, but itself defies death. To speak now of the Saviour's soul; it might depart without being itself destroyed from His body for this three days' space, even by the common laws of death, and without taking into account the indwelling Godhead, and His singular righteousness. For I believe that the Son of God died not in punishment of unrighteousness which He had not at all, but according to the law of that nature which He took upon Him for the redemption of the human race.
Damasc., de Fid. Orth. iii, 27: Although He died as man, and His holy soul was separated from His unstained body, yet His Godhead remained inseparate from either body or soul. Yet was not the one Person divided into two; for as both (p. 962) body and soul had from the beginning an existence in the Person of the Word, so also had they in death. For neither soul nor body had ever a Person of their own, besides the Person of the Word.
Jerome: It was a mark of Divine power in Him thus to dismiss the Spirit as Himself had said, "No man can take my life from me, but I lay it down and take it again." (Jn 10,18)
For by "the ghost" in this place we understand the soul; so called either because it is that which makes the body quick or spiritual, or because the substance of the soul itself is spirit, according to that which is written, "Thou takest away their breath, and they die." (Ps 104,29)
Chrys.: Also for this reason He cried out with a loud voice to shew that this is done by His own power. For by crying out with a loud voice when dying, He shewed incontestably that He was the true God; because a man in dying can scarcely utter even a feeble sound.
Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 18: Luke mentions the words which He thus cries out, "Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit."
Hilary: Or, He gave up the ghost with a loud voice, in grief that He was not carrying the sins of all men.
5751 (Mt 27,51-56)
(p. 963) Origen: Great things were done at the moment that Jesus cried with a great voice.
Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 19: The wording sufficiently shews that the veil was rent just when He gave up the ghost. If he had not added, "And, lo!" but had merely said, "And the veil of the temple was rent,: it would have been uncertain whether Matthew and Mark had not inserted it here out of its place as they recollected, and Luke had observed the right order, who having said, "And the sun was darkened," adds, "And the veil of the temple was rent in twain;" (Lc 23,45) or, on the contrary, Luke had returned to what they had inserted in its place.
Origen: It is understood that there were two veils; one veiling the Holy of Holies, the other, the outer part of the tabernacle or temple. In the Passion then of our Lord and Saviour, it was the outer veil which was rent from the top to the bottom, that by the rending of the veil from the beginning to the end of the world, the mysteries might be published which had been hid with good reason until the Lord's coming. "But when that which is perfect is come," (1Co 13,10) then the second veil also shall be taken away, that we may see the things that are hidden within, to wit, the true Ark of the Testament, and behold the Cherubim and the rest in their real nature.
Hilary; Or, The veil of the temple is rent, because from this time the nation was dispersed, and the honour of the veil is taken away with the guardianship of the protecting Angel.
Leo, in Serm. de Pass., non occ.: The sudden commotion in the elements is a sufficient sign in witness of His venerable Passion, "The earth quaked, and the rocks rent, and the graves were opened."
Jerome: It is not doubtful to any what these great signs signify according to the letter, namely, that heaven and earth and all things should bear witness to their crucified Lord.
Hilary: "The earth quaked," because it was unequal to contain such a body; "the rocks rent," for the Word of God that pierces all strong and mighty things, and the virtue of the eternal Power had penetrated them; "the graves were opened," for the bands of death were loosed. "And many bodies of the saints which slept arose," for illumining the darkness of death, and shedding light upon the gloom of Hades, He robbed the spirits of death.
Chrys.: When He remained on the cross they had said tauntingly, "He saved others, himself he cannot save." But what He would not do for Himself, that He did (p. 964) and more than that for the bodies of the Saints. For if it was a great thing to raise Lazarus after four days, much more was it that they who had long slept should now shew themselves alive; this is indeed a proof of the resurrection to come. But that it might not be thought that that which was done was an appearance merely, the Evangelist adds, "And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
Jerome: As Lazarus rose from the dead, so also did many bodies of the Saints rise again to shew forth the Lord's resurrection; yet notwithstanding that the graves were opened, they did not rise again before the Lord rose, that He might be the first-born of the resurrection from the dead.
"The holy city" in which they were seen after they had risen may be understood to mean either the heavenly Jerusalem, or this earthly, which once had been holy. For the city of Jerusalem was called Holy on account of the Temple and the Holy of Holies, and to distinguish it from other cities in which idols were worshipped.
When it is said, "And appeared unto many," it is signified that this was not a general resurrection which all should see, but special, seen only by such as were worthy to see it.
Remig.: But some one will ask, what became of those who rose again when the Lord rose. We must believe that they rose again to be witnesses of the Lord's resurrection. Some have said that they died again, and were turned to dust, as Lazarus and the rest whom the Lord raised. But we must by no means give credit to these men's sayings, since if they were to die again, it would be greater torment to them, than if they had not risen again. We ought therefore to believe without hesitation that they who rose from the dead at the Lord's resurrection, ascended also into heaven together with Him.
Origen: These same mighty works are still done every day; the veil of the temple is rent for the Saints, in order to reveal the things that are contained within. The earthquakes, that is, all flesh because of the new word and new things of the New Testament. The rocks are rent, i.e. the mystery of the Prophets, that we may see the spiritual mysteries bid in their depths. The graves are the bodies of sinful souls, that is, souls dead to God; but when by God's grace these souls have been raised, their bodies which before were graves, become (p. 965) bodies of Saints, and appear to go out of themselves, and follow Him who rose again, and walk with Him in newness of life; and such as are worthy to have their conversation in heaven enter into the Holy City at divers times, and appear unto many who see their good works.
Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 20: It is no contradiction here that Matthew says, that "The centurion and they that were with him, watching Jesus, feared when they saw the earthquake, and the things that were done;" while Luke says, that he wondered at the giving up the ghost with a loud voice. For when Matthew adds, the things that were done, this gives full scope for Luke's expression, that he wondered at the Lord's death, for this among the rest was wonderful.
Jerome: Observe, that in the very midst of the offence of His passion the Centurion acknowledges the Son of God, while Arius in the Church proclaims Him a creature.
Raban.: Whence with good reason by the Centurion is denoted the faith of the Church, which, when the veil of heavenly mysteries had been rent by the Lord's death, immediately asserts Jesus to be both very Man, and truly Son of God, while the Synagogue held its peace.
Leo, Serm. 66, 3: From this example then of the Centurion let the substance of the earth tremble in the punishment of it Redeemer, let the rocks of unbelieving minds be rent, and those who were pent up in these sepulchres of mortality leap forth, bursting the bonds that would detain them; and let them shew themselves in the Holy City, i.e. the Church of God, as signs of the Resurrection to come; and thus let that take place in the heart, which we must believe takes place in the body.
Jerome: It was a Jewish custom, and held no disgrace, according to the manners of the people of old, for women to minister of their substance, food, and clothing to their teachers. This Paul says, that he refused, because it might occasion scandal among the Gentiles. They ministered to the Lord of their substance, that He might reap their carnal things, of whom they reaped spiritual things. Not that the Lord needed food of the creature, but that He might set an example for the teacher, that He should be content to receive food and clothing from His disciples.
But let us see what sort of attendants He had; "Among whom was Mary Magdalene (p. 966), and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee's children."
Origen: In Mark the third is called Salome.
Chrys.: These women thus watching the things that are done are the most compassionate, the most sorrowful. They had followed Him ministering, and remained by Him in danger, shewing the highest courage, for when the disciples fled they remained.
Jerome, Hieron. adv. Helvid.: 'See,' says Helvidius, 'Jacob and Joseph are the sons of Mary the Lord's mother, whom the Jews call the brethren of Christ. (marg. note: Mc 6,3) He is also called James the less, to distinguish him from James the greater, who was the son of Zebedee.' And he urges that 'it were impious to suppose that His mother Mary would be absent, when the other women were there; or that we should have to invent some other third unknown person of the name of Mary, and that too when John's Gospel witnesses that His mother was present.'
O blind folly! O mind perverted to its own destruction! Hear what the Evangelist John says: "There stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." (Jn 19,25)
No one can doubt that there were two Apostles called James; the son of Zebedee, and the son of Alpheus. This unknown James the less, whom Scripture mentions as the son of Mary, if he is an Apostle, is the son of Alpheus; if he is not an Apostle, but a third unknown James, how can he be supposed to be the Lord's brother, and why should he be styled 'The Less,' to distinguish him from 'The Greater?' For The Greater and The Less are epithets which distinguish two persons, but not three. And that the James, the Lord's brother, was an Apostle, is proved by Paul, "Other of the Apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." (Ga 1,19)
But that you should not suppose this James to be the son of Zebedee, read the Acts, where he was put to death by Herod. (marg. note: Ac 12,1) The conclusion then remains, that this Mary, who is described as the mother of James the less, was wife of Alpheus, and sister of Mary the Lord's mother, called by John, Mary the wife of Cleophas. But should you incline to think them two different persons, because in one place she is called Mary the mother of James the less, and in another place Mary the wife of Cleophas, you will learn the Scripture custom of calling the same man by different names; as (p. 967) Raguel Moses' father-in-law is called Jethro. In like manner then, Mary the wife of Cleophas is called the wife of Alpheus, and the mother of James the less. For if she had been the Lord's mother, the Evangelist would here, as in all other places, have called her so, and not described her as the mother of James, when he meant to designate the mother of the Lord.
But even if Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, were different persons, it is still certain, that Mary the mother of James and Joses was not the Lord's mother.
Aug.: We might have supposed that some of the women stood "afar off," as three Evangelists say, and others "near the cross," as John says, had not Matthew and Mark reckoned Mary Magdalen among those that stood afar off, while John puts her among those that stood near. This is reconciled if we understand the distance at which they were to be such that they might be said to be near, because they were in His sight; but far off in comparison of the crowd who stood nearer with the centurion and soldiers. We might also suppose that they who were there together with the Lord's mother, began to depart after He had commended her to the disciple, that they might extricate themselves from the crowd, and looked on from a distance at the other things which were done, so that the Evangelists, who speak of them after the Lord's death, speak of them as standing afar off.
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