Golden Chain 6914
6914 Mc 9,14-29
(p. 173) Theophylact: After He had shewn His glory in the mount to the three disciples, He returns to the other disciples, who had not come up with Him into the mount; wherefore it is said, "And when He came to His disciples, He saw a great multitude about them, and the Scribes questioning with them."
For the Pharisees, catching the opportunity of the hour when Christ was not present, came up to them, to try to draw them over to themselves.
Pseudo-Jerome: But there is no peace for man under the sun; envy is ever slaying the little ones, and lightnings strike the tops of the great mountains. Of all those who run to the Church, some as the multitudes come in faith to learn, others, as the Scribes, with envy and pride.
It goes on, "And straightway all the people, when they beheld Jesus, were greatly amazed, and feared."
Bede, in Marc., 3, 38: In all cases, the difference between the mind of the Scribes and of the people ought to be observed; for the Scribes are never said to have shewn any devotion, faith, humility, and reverence, but as soon as the Lord was come, the whole multitude was greatly amazed and feared, and ran up to Him, and saluted Him; wherefore there follows, "And running to Him, saluted Him."
Theophylact: For the multitude was glad to see Him, so that they saluted Him from afar, as He was coming to them; but some suppose that His countenance had become more beautiful from His transfiguration, and that this induced the crowd to salute Him.
Pseudo-Jerome: Now it was the people, and not the disciples, who on seeing Him were amazed and feared, for there is no fear in love; fear belongs to servants, amazement to fools. (p. 174)
It goes on: "And He asked them, What question ye with them?"
Why does the Lord put this question? That confession may produce salvation, and the murmuring of our hearts may be appeased by religious works.
Bede: The question, indeed, which was raised may, if I am not deceived, have been this, wherefore they, who were the disciples of the Saviour, were unable to heal the demoniac, who was placed in the midst, which may be gathered from the following words; "And one of the multitude answered and said, "Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; and wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away."
Chrys.: The Scriptures declare that this man was weak in faith, for Christ says, "O faithless generation:" and He adds, "If thou canst believe."
But although his want of faith was the cause of their not casting out the devil, he nevertheless accuses the disciples.
Wherefore it is added, "And I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; but they could not."
Now observe his folly; in praying to Jesus in the midst of the crowd, he accuses the disciples, wherefore the Lord before the multitude so much the more accuses him, and not only aims the accusation at himself, but also extends it to all the Jews; for it is probable that many of those present had been offended, and had held wrong thoughts concerning His disciples.
Wherefore there follows, "He answereth them and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" By which He shewed both that He desired death, and that it was a burden to Him to converse with them.
Bede: So far, however, is He from being angry with the person, though He reproved the sin, that He immediately added, "Bring him unto Me; and they brought him unto Him. And when He saw him, straightway the spirit tare him, and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming."
Chrys.: But this the Lord permitted for the sake of the father of the boy, that when he saw the devil vexing his child, he might be brought on to believe that the miracle was to be wrought.
Theophylact: He also permits the child to be vexed, that in this way we might know the devil's wickedness, who would have killed him, had he not been (p. 175) assisted by the Lord.
It goes on: "And He asked his father, How long is it ago since this come unto him? And he said, Of a child; and ofttimes it has cast him into the fire and into the waters to destroy him."
Bede: Let Julian (ed. note: Julian was bishop of Eclanum in Campania; he was well known to St. Augustine, who before his fall speaks of him with great affection. On refusing however to agree to Pope Zosimus' condemnation of Pelagius, he was deposed, and expelled from Italy. He wrote a great deal against St. Augustine, by whom he was refuted in works now extant. The opinion specially referred to in the text was, that Adam would have died, even though he had remained innocent, and therefore that death and sickness are not the consequences of original sin. He died in Sicily in great poverty, about A.D. 453.) blush, who dares to say that all men are born in the flesh without the infection of sin, as though they were innocent in all respects, just as Adam was when he was created.
For what was there in the boy, that he should be troubled from infancy with a cruel devil, if he were not held at all by the chain of original sin? since it is evident that he could not yet have had any sin of his own.
Gloss.: Now he expresses in the words of his petition his want of faith; for that is the reason why he adds, "But if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us."
For in that he says, "If thou canst do any thing," he shews that he doubts His power, because he had seen that the disciples of Christ had failed in curing him; but he says, "have compassion on us," to shew the misery of the sons, who suffered, and the father, who suffered with him.
It goes on: "Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth."
Pseudo-Jerome: This saying, "If thou canst," is a proof of the freedom of the will. Again, all things are possible to him that believeth, which evidently means all those things which are prayed for with tears in the name of Jesus, that is, of salvation.
Bede: The answer of the Lord was suited to the petition; for the man said, "If thou canst do any thing, help us;" and to this the Lord answered, "If thou canst believe." On the other hand, the leper who cried out, with faith, "Lord, if Thou will, Thou canst make me clean," (Mt 8,2) received an answer according to his faith, "I will, be thou clean."
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: His meaning is; such a plenitude of virtue is there in Me, that not only can I do this, but I will make others to have that power; wherefore if thou canst believe as thou oughtest to do, thou (p. 176) shalt be able to cure not only him, but many more. In this way then, He endeavoured to bring back to the faith, the man who as yet speaks unfaithfully.
There follows, "And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."
But if he had already believed, saying, "I believe," how is it that he adds, "help thou mine unbelief?" We must say then that faith is manifold, that one sort of faith is elementary, another perfect; but this man, being but a beginner in believing, prayed the Saviour to add to his virtue what was wanting.
Bede: For no man at once reaches to the highest point, but in holy living a man begins with the least things that he may reach the great; for the beginning of virtue is different from the progress and the perfection of it. Because then faith mounts up through the secret inspiration of grace, by the steps of its own merits, (ed. note: This sentence of Bede may be considered to be an exposition of our Lord's words: "for he that hath not from him shall be taken even that which he hath." The connection between grace and merit, as used by the Fathers, may be illustrated from St. Thomas, their faithful disciple. He defines a meritorious operation to be one the reward of which is beyond the nature of the worker; so that merit implies the infusion of a supernatural habit, that is, of grace, not only as its efficient, but as its formal cause. Summa 1 Q62, Art 4) he who had not yet believed perfectly was at once a believer and an unbeliever.
Pseudo-Jerome: By this also we are taught that our faith is tottering, if it lean not on the stay of the help of God. But faith by its tears receives the accomplishment of its wishes.
Wherefore it continues, "When Jesus saw that the multitude came running together, He rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee come out of him, and enter no more into him."
Theophylact: The reason that He rebuked the foul spirit, when He saw the crowd running together, was that He did not wish to cure him before the multitude, that He might give us a lesson to avoid ostentation.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: And His rebuking him, and saying, "I charge thee," is a proof of Divine power. Again, in that He says not only, "come out of him," but also "enter no more into him," He shews that the evil spirit was ready to enter again, because the man was weak in faith, but was prevented by the commend of the Lord.
It goes on, "And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him; and he was as one dead, insomuch that (p. 177) many said, He is dead."
For the devil was not able to inflict death upon him, because the true Life was come.
Bede: But him, whom the unholy spirit made like unto death, the holy Saviour saved by the touch of His hold hand; wherefore it goes on, "But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up, and he arose."
Thus as the Lord had shewn Himself to be very God by the power of healing, so He shewed that He had the very nature of our flesh, by the manner of His human touch. The Manichaean (ed. note: "Their fundamental maxim of the intrinsic evil of matter and the degraded state of mind, which their speculations on the birth after the flesh brought with it involved the denial of the Incarnation of our Lord and, as a consequence, of the reality of His whole life." (Note a, upon St. Augustine's Confessions, Oxf. Tr. p. 325)) indeed madly denies that He was truly clothed in flesh; He Himself, however, by raising, cleansing, enlightening so many afflicted persons by His touch, condemned his heresy before its birth.
It goes on: "And when He was come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, Why could not we cast him out?"
Chrys.: They feared that perchance they had lost the grace conferred upon them; for they had already received power over unclean spirits.
It goes on: "And He said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting."
Theophylact: That is, the whole class of lunatics, or simply, of all persons possessed with devils. Both the man to be cured, and he who cures him, should fast; for a real prayer is offered up, when fasting is joined with prayer, when he who prays is sober and not heavy with food.
Bede: Again, in a mystical sense, on high the Lord unfolds the mysteries of the kingdom to His disciples, but below He rebukes the multitude for their sins of unfaithfulness, and expels devils from those who are vexed by them. Those who are still carnal and foolish, He strengthens, teaches, punishes, whilst He more freely instructs the perfect concerning the things of eternity.
Theophylact: Again, this devil is deaf and dumb; deaf, because he does not choose to hear the words of God; dumb, because he is unable to teach others their duty.
Pseudo-Jerome: Again, a sinner foameth forth folly, gnasheth with anger, pineth away in sloth. But the evil spirit tears him, when coming to salvation, and in like manner those whom he would drag into his maw (p. 178) he tears asunder by terrors and losses, as he did Job.
Bede: For oftentimes when we try to turn to God after sin, our old enemy attacks us with new and greater snares, which he does, either to instill into us a hatred of virtue, or to avenge the injury of his expulsion.
Greg., Mor. x., 30: But he who is freed from the power of the evil spirit is thought to be dead; for whosoever has already subdued earthly desires, puts to death within himself his carnal mode of life, and appears to the world as a dead man, and many look upon him as dead; for they who know not how to live after the Spirit, think that he who does not follow after carnal pleasures is altogether dead.
Pseudo-Jerome: Further, in his being vexed from his infancy, the Gentile people is signified, from the very birth of whom the vain worship of idols arose, so that they in their folly sacrificed their children to devils. And for this reason it is said that "it cast him into the fire and into the water;" for some of the Gentiles worshipped fire, others water.
Bede: Or by this demoniac are signified those who are bound by the guilt of original sin, and coming into the world as criminals, are to be saved by grace; and by fire is meant the heat of anger, by water, the pleasures of the flesh, which melt the soul by their sweetness.
But He did not rebuke the boy, who suffered violence, but the devil, who inflicted it, because he who desires to amend a sinner, ought, whilst he exterminates his vice by rebuking and cursing it, to love and cherish the man.
Pseudo-Jerome: Again, the Lord applies to the evil spirit what he had inflicted on the man, calling him a "deaf and dumb spirit," because he never will hear and speak what the penitent sinner can speak and hear. But the devil, quitting a man, never returns, if the man keep his heart with the keys of humility and charity, and hold possession of the gate of freedom (ed. note: of "fastness".). The man who was healed became as one dead, for it is said to those who are healed, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
Theophylact: Again, when Jesus, that is, the word of the Gospel, takes hold of the hand, that is, of our powers of action, then shall we be freed from the devil. And observe that God first helps us, then it is required of us that we do good; for which reason it is said that Jesus "raised him;" in which is shewn the aid of God, and that "he arose," in which is declared the zeal of man.
Bede: Further, (p. 179) our Lord, while teaching the Apostles how the worst devil is to be expelled, gives all of us rules for our life; that is, He would have us know that all the more grievous attacks of evil spirits or of men are to be overcome by fastings and prayers; and again, that the anger of the Lord, when it is kindled for vengeance on our crimes, can be appeased by this remedy alone.
But fasting in general is not only abstinence from food, but also from all carnal delights, yea, from all vicious passions. In like manner, prayer taken generally consists not only in the words by which we call upon the Divine mercy, but also in all those things which we do with the devotedness of faith in obedience to our Maker, as the Apostle testifies, when he says, "Pray without ceasing." (1Th 5,17)
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, the folly which is connected with the softness of the flesh, is healed by fasting; anger and laziness are healed by prayer. Each would has its own medicine, which must be applied to it; that which is used for the heel will not cure the eye; by fasting, the passions of the body, by prayer, the plagues of the soul, are healed.
6930 Mc 9,30-37
(p. 180) Theophylact: It is after miracles that the Lord inserts a discourse concerning His Passion, lest it should be thought that He suffered because He could not help it.
Wherefore it is said, "And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and He would not that any man should know it. For He taught His disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him."
Bede, in Marc., 1, 39: He always mingles together sorrowful and joyful things, that sorrow should not by its suddenness frighten the Apostles, but be borne by them with prepared minds.
Theophylact: After, however, saying what was sorrowful, He adds what ought to rejoice them; wherefore it goes on: "And after that He is killed, He shall rise the third day;" in order that we may learn that joys come on after struggles.
There follows: "But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask Him."
Bede: This ignorance of the disciples proceeds not so much from slowness of intellect, as from love for the Saviour, for they were as yet carnal, and ignorant of the mystery of the cross, they could not therefore believe that He whom they had recognized as the true God, was about to die; being accustomed then to hear Him often talk in figures, and shrinking from the events of His death, they would have it that something was conveyed figuratively in those things, which He spoke openly concerning His betrayal and passion.
It goes on: "And they came to Capernaum."
Pseudo-Jerome: Capernaum means the city of consolation, and agrees with the former sentence, which He had spoken: "And after that He is killed, He shall arise the third day."
There follows: "And being in the house He asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace."
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Matthew however says that the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who is the greatest in (p. 181) the kingdom of heaven?" (Mt 18,1)
The reason is, that He did not begin the narrative from its commencement, but omitted our Saviour's knowledge of the thoughts and words of His disciples; unless we understand Him to mean, that even what they thought and said, when away from Christ, was said unto Him, since it was as well known to Him as if it had been said to Him.
It goes on: "For by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest."
But Luke says (ed. note: Lc 9,46, Vulgate) that "the thought entered into the disciples which of them should be the greatest;" for the Lord laid open their thought and intention from their private discourse according to the Gospel narrative.
Pseudo-Jerome: It was fit also that they should dispute concerning the chief place by the way; the dispute is like the place where it is held; for lofty station is only entered upon to be quitted: as long as a man keeps it, it is slippery, and it is uncertain at what stage, that is, on what day, it will end.
Bede: The reason why the dispute concerning the chief place arose amongst the disciples seems to have been, that Peter, James and John, were led apart from the rest into the mountain, and that something secret was there entrusted to them, also that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were promised to Peter, according to Matthew.
Seeing however the thoughts of the disciples, the Lord takes care to heal the desire of glory by humility; for He first, by simply commanding humility, admonishes them that a high station was not to be aimed at.
Wherefore it goes on: "And He sat down, and called the twelve and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all."
Jerome: Where it is to be observed, that the disciples disputed by the way concerning the chief place, but Christ Himself sat down to teach humility; for princes toil while the humble repose.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: The disciples indeed wished to receive honour at the hands of the Lord; they also had a desire to be made great by Christ, for the great a man is, the more worthy of honour he becomes, for which reason He did not throw an obstacle in the way of that desire, but brought in humility.
Theophylact: For His wish is not that we should usurp for ourselves chief places, but that we should attain to lofty heights by lowliness.
He next admonishes them by the example of a child's innocence.
Wherefore there follows, "And He took (p. 182) a child, and set him in the midst of them."
Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc. see Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 58: By the very sight, persuading them to humility and simplicity; for this little one was pure from envy and vain glory, and from a desire of superiority. But He does not only say, If ye become such, ye shall receive a great reward, but also, if ye will honour others, who are such for My sake.
Wherefore there follows: "And when He had taken him in His arms, He said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in My name, receiveth Me."
Bede: By which, He either simply shews that those who would become greater must receive the poor of Christ in honour of Him, or He would persuade them to be in malice children, to keep simplicity without arrogance, charity without envy, devotedness without anger. Again, by taking the child into His arms, He implies that the lowly are worthy of his embrace and love.
He adds also, "In My name," that they might, with the fixed purpose of reason, follow for His name's sake that mould of virtue to which the child keeps, with nature for his guide. And because He taught that He Himself was received in children, lest it should be thought that there was nothing in Him but what was seen, He added, "And whosoever shall receive Me, receiveth not Me, but Him that sent Me.;" thus wishing that we should believe Him to be of the same nature and of equal greatness with His Father.
Theophylact: See, how great is humility, for it wins for itself the indwelling of the Father, and of the Son, and also of the Holy Ghost.
6938 Mc 9,38-42
(p. 183) Bede: John, loving the Lord with eminent devotion, thought that He who performed an office to which He had no right was to be excluded from the benefit of it.
Wherefore it is said, "And John answered Him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in Thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us."
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: For many believers received gifts, and yet were not with Christ, such was this man who cast out devils; for there were many of them deficient in some way; some were pure in life, but were not so perfect in faith; others again, contrariwise.
Theophylact: Or again, some unbelievers, seeing that the name of Jesus was full of virtue, themselves used it, and performed signs, though they were unworthy of Divine grace; for the Lord wished to extend His name even by the unworthy.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: It was not from jealousy or envy, however, that John wished to forbid him who cast out devils, but because he wished that all who called on the name of the Lord should follow Christ and be one body with His disciples. But the Lord, however unworthy they who perform the miracles may be, incites others by their means to believe on Him, and induces themselves by this unspeakable grace to become better.
Wherefore there follows: "But Jesus said, Forbid him not."
Bede: By which He shews that no one is to be driven away from that partial goodness which he possesses already, but rather to be stirred up to that which he has not as yet obtained.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: In conformity to this, He shews that he is not to be forbidden, adding immediately after, "For there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name, that can lightly speak evil of Me." He says "lightly" to meet the case of those who fell into heresy, such as were Simon and Menander, and Cerinthus (ed. note: Irenaeus, cont. Haer. 2, 31, seems to imply that the early heretics actually worked wonders, but that these differed from Christian miracles in that they were done by magic through the aid of the devil, and were not works of mercy; he contrasts with these the ecclesiastical miracles of his day.); not that they did miracles in the name of Christ, but by their deceptions had the appearance of doing them.
But these others, though they do (p. 184) not follow us, cannot however set themselves to say any thing against us, because they honour My name by working miracles.
Theophylact: For how can he speak evil of Me, who draws glory from My name, and works miracles by the invocation of this very name.
There follows, "For he that is not against you is on your part."
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 5: We must take care that this saying of the Lord appear not to be contrary to that where He says, "He who is not with Me is against Me." (Lc 11,23) Or will any one say that the difference lies in that here He says to His disciples, "For he that is not against you is on your part," but in the other He speaks of Himself, "He who is not with Me is against Me?" As if indeed it were possible (ed. note: St. Augustine has here quasi vero, instead of quasi non, which hardly makes sense; the latter reading has also been found in an old edition of the Catena Aurea, A.D. 1417.) that he who is joined to Christ's disciples, who are as His members, should not be with Him.
How if it were so, could it be true that "he that receiveth you receiveth Me?" (Mt 10,40) Or how is he not against Him who is against His disciples? Where then will be that saying, "He who despiseth you, despiseth Me? (Lc 10,16) But surely what is implied is that a man is not with Him in as far as he is against Him, and is not against Him in as far as he is with Him.
For instance, he who worked miracles in the name of Christ, and yet did not join himself to the body of His disciples, in as far as he worked the miracles in His name, was with them, and was not against them; again, in that he did not join their society, he was not with them, and was against them.
Be because they forbade his doing that in which he was with them, the Lord said unto them, "Forbid him not:" for they ought to have forbidden his being without their society, and thus to have persuaded him of the unity of the Church, but they should not have forbidden that in which he was with them, that is, his commendation of the name of their Lord and Master by the expulsion of devils.
Thus the Church Catholic does not disapprove in heretics the sacraments, which are common, but she blames their division, or some opinion of theirs adverse to peace and to truth; for in this they are against us.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, this is said of those who believe on Him, but nevertheless do not follow Him from the looseness of their lives. Again, it is said of devils, who try to separate all from God, and to disperse His (p. 185) congregation.
There follows, "For whosoever shall give you a cup of cold water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward."
Theophylact: Not only will I not forbid him who works miracles in My name, but also whosoever shall give you the smallest thing for My name's sake, and shall receive you, not on account of human and worldly favour, but from love to Me, shall not lose his reward.
Augustine, de Con. Evan., 4, 6: By which He shews, that he of whom John had spoken was not so far separated from the fellowship of the disciples, as to reject it, as a heretic, but as men are wont to hang back from receiving the Sacraments of Christ, and yet favour the Christian name, so as even to succour Christians, and do them service only because they are Christians. Of these He says they shall not lose their reward; not that they ought already to think themselves secure on account of this good will which they have towards Christians, without being washed with His baptism, and incorporated in His unity, but that they are already so guided by the mercy of God, as also to attain to these, and thus to go away from this life in security.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: And that no man may allege poverty, He mentions that of which none can be destitute, that is, a cup of cold water, for which also he will obtain a reward; for it is not the value of the gift, but the dignity of those who receive it, and the feelings of the giver, which makes a work worthy of reward.
His words shew that His disciples are to be received, not only on account of the reward, which he who receives them obtains, but also, because he thus saves himself from punishment.
There follows: "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea:" as though He would say (ed. note: see Chrys., Hom. in Mt 58), All who honour you for My sake have their reward, so also those who dishonour you, that is, offend you, shall receive the worst of vengeance.
Further, from things which are palpable to us, He describes an intolerable torment, making mention of a millstone, and of being drowned; and He says not, let a millstone be hanged about his neck, but, it is better for him to suffer this, shewing by this that some more heavy evil awaits him. But He means by "little ones that believe on Me," not only those (p. 186) who follow Him, but those who call upon His name, those also who offer a cup of cold water, though they do not any greater works. Now He will have none of these offended or plucked away; for this is what is meant by forbidding them to call upon His name.
Bede: And fitly the man who if offended is called a little one, for he who is great, whatever he may suffer, departs not from the faith; but he who is little and weak in mind looks out for occasions of stumbling. For this reason we must most of all look to those who are little ones in the faith, lest by our fault they should be offended, and go back from the faith, and fall away from salvation.
Greg., in Faeceh., 1, Hom. 7: We must observe, however, that in our good works we must sometimes avoid the offence of our neighbour, sometimes look down upon it as of no moment. For in as far as we can do it without sin, we ought to avoid the offence of our neighbour; but if a stumblingblock is laid before men in what concerns the truth, it is better to allow the offence to arise, than that the truth should be abandoned.
Greg, de eura, past. p.i.v.2: Mystically by a millstone is expressed the tedious round and toil of a secular life, and by the depths of the sea, the worst damnation is pointed out. He who therefore, after having been brought to a profession of sanctity, destroys others, either by word or example, it had been indeed better for him that his worldly deeds should render him liable to death, under a secular garb, than that his holy office should hole him out as an example for others in his faults, because doubtless if he had fallen alone, his pain in hell would have been of a more endurable kind.
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(p. 187) Bede: Because the Lord had taught us not to offend those who believe on Him, He now as next in order warns us how much we should beware of those who offend us, that is, who by their words or conduct strive to drag us into the perdition of sin; wherefore He says, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off."
Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 59: He says not this of our limbs, but of our intimate friends, whom as being necessary to us we look upon as our limbs; for nothing is so hurtful as mischievous society.
Bede: That is, He calls by the name of hand, our intimate friend, of whose aid we daily stand in need; but if such an one should wish to do us a hurt in what concerns our soul, he is to be driven away from our society, lest by choosing a portion in this life with one who is lost, we should perish together with him in that which is to come.
Wherefore there follows, "It is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to enter into hell."
Gloss.: By maimed He means, deprived of the help of some friend, for it is better to enter into life without a friend, than to go with him into hell.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, "It is better for thee to enter into life maimed," that is, without the chief place, for which you have wished, than having two hands to go into eternal fire. The two hands for high station are humility and pride; cut off pride, keeping to the estate of lowliness.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Then He introduces the witness of prophecy (p. 188) from the prophet Isaiah, saying, "Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." (Is 65,24) He says not this of a visible worm, but He calls conscience, a worm, gnawing the soul for not having done any good thing; for each of us shall be made his own accuser, by calling to mind what he has done in this mortal life, and so their worm remains forever.
Bede: And as the worm is the pain which inwardly accuses, so the fire is a punishment which rages without us; or by the worm is meant the rottenness of hell, by the fire, its heat.
Augustine, de Civ. Dei, 21, 9: But those who hold that both of these, namely, the fire and the worm, belong to the pains of the soul, and not of the body, say also that those who are separated from the kingdom of God are tortured, as with fire, by the pangs of a soul repenting too late and hopelessly; and they not unfitly contend that fire may be put for that burning grief, as says the Apostle, "Who is offended, and I burn not?" (2Co 11,29)
They also think that by the worm must be understood the same grief, as is said: "As a moth destroys a garment, and a worm wood, so grief tortures the heart of man." (Pr 25,20 Vulgate)
All those who hesitate not to affirm that there will be pain both of body and soul in that punishment affirm that the body is burnt by the fire. But although this is more credible, because it is absurd that there either the pains of body or of soul should be wanting, still I think that it is easier to say that both belong to the body than that neither: and therefore it seems to me that Holy Scripture in this place is silent about the pains of the soul, because it follows that the soul also is tortured in the pains of the body.
Let each man therefore choose which he will, either to refer the fire to the body, the worm to the soul, the one properly, the other in a figure, or else both properly to the body; for living things may exist even in fire, in burnings without being wasted, in pain without death, by the wondrous power of the Almighty Creator.
It goes on: "And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
Bede: A friend is called a foot, on account of its service in going about for us, since he is as it were ready for our use.
It goes on: "And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better (p. 189) for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire; where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched."
A friend who is useful, and anxious, and sharp in perception, is called an eye.
Augustine, de. Con. Evan., 4, 6: Here truly it appears that they who do acts of devotedness in the name of Christ, even before they have joined themselves to the company of Christians, and have been washed in the Christian Sacraments, are more useful than those who though already bearing the name of Christians, by their doctrine drag their followers with themselves into everlasting punishment; whom also under the name of members of the body, He orders, as an offending eye or hand, to be torn from the body, that is, from the fellowship itself of unity, that we may rather come to everlasting life without them, than with them go into hell.
But the separation of those who separate themselves from them consists in the very circumstance of their not yielding to them, when they would persuade them to evil, that is, offend them. If indeed their wickedness becomes known to all the good men with whom they are connected, they are altogether cut off from all fellowship, and even from partaking in the heavenly Sacraments.
If however they are thus known only to the smaller number, whilst their wickedness is unknown to the generality, they are to be tolerated in such a way that we should not consent to join in their iniquity, and that the communion of the good should not be deserted on their account.
Bede: But because the Lord had three times made mention of the worm and the fire, that we might be able to avoid this torment, He subjoins, "For every one shall be salted with fire."
For the stink of worms always arises from the corruption of flesh and blood, and therefore fresh meat is seasoned with salt, that the moisture of the blood may be dried off, and so it may not breed worms. And if, indeed, that which is salted with salt, keeps off the putrefying worm, that which is salted with fire, that is, seasoned again with flames, on which salt is sprinkled, not only casts off worms, but also consumes the flesh itself.
Flesh and blood therefore breed worms, that is, carnal pleasure, if unopposed by the seasoning of continence, produces everlasting punishment for the luxurious; the stink of (p. 190) which if any man would avoid, let him take care to chasten his body with the salt of continence, and his mind with the seasoning of wisdom, from the stain of error and vice.
For salt means the sweetness of wisdom; and fire, the grace of the Holy Spirit.
He says, therefore, "Every one shall be salted with fire," because all the elect ought to be purged by spiritual wisdom, from the corruption of carnal concupiscence.
Or else, the fire is the fire of tribulation, by which the patience of the faithful is proved, that it may have its perfect work.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Similar to this is that which the Apostle says, "And the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is." (1Co 3,13)
Afterwards he brings in a witness from Leviticus: which says, "And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt." (Lv 2,13)
Pseudo-Jerome: The oblation of the Lord is the race of man, which is here salted by means of wisdom, whilst the corruption of blood, the nurse of rottenness, and the mother of worms, is being consumed, which there also shall be tried by the purgatorial fire. (ed. note: On the subject of the purgatorial fire, see Fluery's Hist., xix, 31, p. 102, note i, and Chrysostom, de Statuis, vi, 10, p. 130, note c, Oxford trans.)
Bede: We may also understand the altar to be the heart of the elect, and the victims and sacrifices to be offered on the altar are good works. But in all sacrifices salt ought to be offered, for that is not a good work which is not purged by the salt of wisdom from all corruption of vain glory, and other evil and superfluous thoughts.
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. in Cat.: Or else it is meant, that every gift of our victim, which is accompanied by prayer and the assisting of our neighbour, is salted with that divine fire, of which it is said, "I am come to send fire on earth." (Lc 12,49) Concerning which it is added: "Salt is good;" that is, the fire of love.
"But if the salt have lost his saltness," that is, is deprived of itself, and that peculiar quality, by which it is called, good, "where with will ye season it?" For there is salt, which has saltness, that is, which has the fulness of grace; and there is salt, which has no saltness, for that which is not peaceful is salt unseasoned.
Bede: Or the good salt is the frequent hearing of God's word, and the seasoning the hidden parts of the heart with the salt of spiritual wisdom.
Theophylact: For as salt preserves flesh, and suffers it not to breed worms, so also the discourse of the teacher, if it can dry up what is evil, (p. 191) constrains carnal men, and suffers not the undying worm to grow up in them.
But if it be without saltness, that is, if its virtue of drying up and preserving be gone, with what shall it be salted?
Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. in Cat.: Or, according to Matthew, the disciples of Christ are the salt, which preserves the whole world, resisting the rottenness which proceeds from idolatry and sinful fornication. For it may also be meant, that each of us has salt, in as far as he contains in himself the graces of God.
Wherefore also the Apostle joins together grace and salt, saying, "Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt.: (Col 4,6)
For salt is the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was able to preserve the whole earth, and made many to be salt in the earth: and if any of these be corrupted, (for it is possible for even the good to be changed into corruption,) they are worthy to be cast out.
Pseudo-Jerome: Or otherwise; That salt is saltless which loves the chief place, and dares not rebuke others.
Wherefore there follows, "Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."
That is, let the love of your neighbour temper the saltness of rebuke, and the salt of justice season the love of your neighbour.
Greg., De cura past., iii, e.22: Or this is said against those whom greater knowledge, while it raises above their neighbours, cuts off from the fellowship of others; thus the more their learning increases, the more they unlearn the virtue of concord.
Greg., De cura past., ii, 4: He also who strives to speak with wisdom should be greatly afraid, lest by his eloquence the unity of his hearers be thrown into confusion, lest, while he would appear wise, he unwisely cut asunder the bonds of unity.
Theophylact: Or else, he who binds himself to his neighbour by the tie of love, has salt, and in this way peace with his neighbour.
Augustine, de. Con, iv. 6: Mark relates that the Lord said these things consecutively, and has put down some things omitted by every other Evangelist, some which Matthew has also related, others which both Matthew and Luke relate, but on other occasions, and in a different series of events. Wherefore it seems to me that our Lord repeated in this place discourses which He had used in other places, because they were pertinent enough to this saying of His, by which He prevented their forbidding miracles to be wrought in His name, even by him who followed Him not together with His disciples.
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