Golden Chain 9849
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CYRIL; It was fitting that those who were appointed the ministers of holy teaching should be able to work miracles, and by these very acts themselves be believed to be the ministers of God. Hence it is said, Then called he his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils. Herein He brings down the haughty pride of the devil, who once said, There is none who shall open his mouth against me.
EUSEB. And that through them the whole race of mankind may be sought out, He not only gives them power to drive away evil spirits, but to cure all kind of diseases at His command; as it follows, And to cure diseases.
CYRIL; Mark here the divine power of the Son, which belongs not to a fleshly nature. For it was in the power of the saints to perform miracles not by nature, but by participation of the Holy Spirit; but it was altogether out of their power to grant this authority to others. For how could created natures possess dominion over the gifts of the Spirit? But our Lord Jesus Christ, as by nature God, imparts graces of this kind to whomsoever He will, not invoking upon them a power which is not His own, but infusing it into them from Himself.
CHRYS. But after that they had been sufficiently strengthened by His guidance, and had received competent proofs of His power, He sends them out, as it follows, And he sent them to teach the kingdom of God. And here we must remark, that they are not commissioned to speak of sensible things as Moses and the Prophets; for they promised a land and earthly goods, but these a kingdom, and whatsoever is contained in it.
GREG. NAZ. Now in sending His disciples to preach, our Lord enjoined many things on them, the chief of which are, that they should be so virtuous, so constant, so temperate, and, to speak briefly, so heavenly, that no less through their manner of living than their words, the teaching of the Gospel might be spread abroad. And therefore were they sent with lack of money, and staves, and a single garment; He accordingly adds, And he said to them, Take nothing in the way, neither staves.
CHRYS. Many things indeed He ordained hereby; first indeed it rendered the disciples unsuspected; secondly, it held them aloof from all care, so that they might give their whole study to the word; thirdly, it taught them their own proper virtue. But perhaps some one will say that the other things indeed are reasonable, but for what reason did He command them to have no scrip on their way, nor two coats, nor staff? In truth, because He wished to rouse them to all diligence, taking them away from all the cares of this life, that they might be occupied by the one single care of teaching.
EUSEB. Wishing then that they should be free from the desire of wealth and the anxieties of life, He gave this injunction. He took it as a proof of their faith and courage, that when it was commanded them to lead a life of extreme poverty, they would not escape from what was ordered. For it was fitting that they should make a kind of bargain, receiving these saving virtues to recompense them for obedience to commands. And when He was making them soldiers of God, He girds them for battle against their enemies, by telling them to embrace poverty. For no soldier of God entangles himself in the affairs of a secular life.
AMBROSE; Of what kind then he ought to be who preaches the Gospel of the kingdom of God is marked out by these Gospel precepts; that is, he must not require the supports of secular aid; and clinging wholly to faith, he must believe that the less he requires those things, the more they will be supplied to him.
THEOPHYL. For He sends them out as very beggars, so that He would have them neither carry bread, nor any thing else of which men are generally in want.
AUG. Or, the Lord did not wish the disciples to possess and carry with them these things, not that they were not necessary to the support of this life, but because He sent them thus to show that these things were due to them from those believers to whom they announced the Gospel, that so they might neither possess security, nor carry about with them the necessaries of this life, either great or little. He has therefore, according to Mark, excluded all except a staff, showing that the faithful owe every thing to their ministers who require no superfluities. But this permission of the staff He has mentioned by name, when He says, They should take nothing in the way, but a staff only.
AMBROSE; To those also who wish it, this place admits of being explained, so as to seem only to represent a spiritual temper of mind, which appears to have castoff as it were a certain covering of the body; not only rejecting power and despising wealth, but renouncing also the delights of the flesh itself.
THEOPHYL. Some also understand by the Apostles not carrying scrip, nor staff, nor two coats, that they must not lay up treasures, (which a scrip implies, collecting many things,) nor be angry and of a quarrelsome spirit, (which the staff signifies,) nor be false and of a double heart, (which is meant by the two coats.)
CYRIL; But it may be said, How then shall necessary things be prepared for them. He therefore adds, And into whatsoever house you enter, there abide, and thence depart. As if He said, Let the food of disciples suffice you, who receiving from you spiritual things, will minister to you temporal. But He ordered them to abide in one house, so as neither to incommode the host, (that is, so as to send him away,) nor themselves to incur the suspicion of gluttony and wantonness.
AMBROSE; He pronounces it to be foreign to the character of a preacher of the heavenly kingdom to run from house to house and change the rights of inviolable hospitality; but as the grace of hospitality is supposed to be offered, so also if they are not received the dust must be shaken oil; and they are commanded to depart from the city; as it follows, And whosoever will not receive you when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony, &c.
THEOPHYL; The dust is shaken off from the Apostles' feet as a testimony of their labors, that they entered into a city, and the apostolical preaching had reached to the inhabitants thereof. Or the dust is shaken off when they receive nothing (not even of the necessaries of life) from those who despised the Gospel.
CYRIL; For it is very improbable that those who despise the saving Word, and the Master of the household, will show themselves kind to His servants, and seek further blessings.
AMBROSE; Or it is a great return of hospitality which is here taught, i.e. that we should not only wish peace to our hosts, but also if any faults of earthly infirmity obscure them, they should be removed by receiving the footsteps of apostolical preaching.
THEOPHYL; But if any by treacherous negligence, or even from zeal, despise the word of God, their communion must be shunned, the dust of the feet must be shaken off, lest by their vain deeds which are to be compared to the dust, the footstep of a chaste mind be defiled.
EUSEB. But when the Lord had girded His disciples as soldiers of God with divine virtue and wise admonitions, sending them to the Jews as teachers and physicians, they afterwards went forth, as it follows, And they departed, and went through the towns preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
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CHRYS. It was not till a long time had passed that Herod took notice of the things that were done by Jesus, (to show Ho you the pride of a tyrant,) for he did not acknowledge them at first, as it is said, Now Herod heard, &c.
THEOPHYL. Herod was the son of Herod the Great who slew the children, who was king, but this Herod was tetrarch. He inquired about Christ, who He was. Hence it follows, And he was perplexed.
CHRYS. For sinners fear both when they know, and when they are ignorant; they are afraid of shadows, are suspicious about every thing, and are alarmed at the slightest noise. Such in truth is sin; when no one blames or finds fault, it betrays a man, when no one accuses it condemns, and makes the offender timid and backward. But the cause of fear is stated afterwards, in the words, Because that it was said of some.
THEOPHYL. For the Jews expected a resurrection of the dead to a fleshly life, eating and drinking, but those that rise again will not be concerned with the deeds of the flesh.
CHRYS. When Herod then heard of the miracles which Jesus was performing, he says, John have I beheaded, which was not an expression of boasting, but by way of allaying his fears, and bringing his distracted soul to recollect that he had killed. And because he had beheaded John, he adds, but who is this.
THEOPHYL. If John is alive and has risen from the dead, I shall know him when I see him; as it follows, And he sought to see him.
AUG. Now Luke, though he keeps the same order in his narrative with Mark, does not oblige us to believe that the course of events was the same. In these words too, Mark testifies only to the fact that others (not Herod) said that John had risen from the dead, but since Luke has mentioned Herod's perplexity, we must suppose either that after that perplexity, he confirmed in his own mind what was said by others, since he says to his servants, (as Matthew relates,) This is John the Baptist, he is risen from the dead, or these words of Matthew must have been altered so as to signify that he was still doubting.
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AUG. Matthew and Mark, taking occasion from what had occurred above, relate here how John was slain by Herod. But Luke, who had long before given an account of John's sufferings, after mentioning that perplexity of Herod's, as to who our Lord was, immediately adds, And the apostles when they were returned told him all that they had done.
THEOPHYL; But they not only tell Him what they had done and taught, but also, as Matthew implies, the things which John suffered while they were occupied in teaching, are now repeated to Him either by His own, or, according to Matthew, by John's disciples.
ISIDORE; Our Lord because He hates the men of blood, and those that dwell with them, as long as they depart not from their crimes, after the murder of the Baptist left the murderers and departed; as it follows, And he took them, and went aside privately into a desert place belonging to the city called Bethsaida.
THEOPHYL; Now Bethsaida is in Galilee, the city of the Apostles Andrew, Peter, and Philip, near the lake of Gennesaret. Our Lord did not this from fear of death, (as some think,) but to spare His enemies, lest they should commit two murders, waiting also for the proper time for His own sufferings.
CHRYS. Now He did not depart before, but after it was told Him what had happened, manifesting in each particular the reality of His incarnation.
THEOPHYL. But our Lord went into a desert place because He was about to perform the miracle of the loaves of bread, that no one should say that the bread was brought from the neighboring cities.
CHRYS. Or He went into a desert place c that no one might follow Him. But the people did not retire, but accompanied Him, as it follows, And the people when they knew it, followed him.
CYRIL; Some indeed asking to be delivered from evil spirits, but others desiring of Him the removal of their diseases; those also who were delighted with His teaching attended Him diligently.
THEOPHYL; But He as the powerful and merciful Savior by receiving the weary, by teaching the ignorant, curing the sick, filling the hungry, implies how He was pleased with their devotion; as it follows, And he received them, and spoke to them of the kingdom of God, &c.
THEOPHYL. That you may learn that the wisdom which is in us is distributed into word and work, and that it becomes us to speak of what has been done, and to do what we speak of. But when the day was wearing away, the disciples now beginning to have a care of others take compassion on the multitude.
CYRIL; For, as has been said, they sought to be healed of different diseases, and because the disciples saw that what they sought might be accomplished by His simple assent, they say, Send them away, that they be no more distressed. But mark the overflowing kindness of Him who is asked.
He not only grants those things which the disciples seek, but to those who follow Him, He supplies the bounty of a munificent hand, commanding food to be set before them; as it follows, But he said to them, Give you them to eat.
THEOPHYL. Now He said not this as ignorant of their answer, but wishing to induce them to tell Him how much bread they had, that so a great miracle might be manifested through their confession, when the quantity of bread was made known.
CYRIL; But this was a command which the disciples were unable to comply with, since they had with them but five loaves and two fishes. As it follows, And they said, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes; except we go and buy meat for all this people.
AUG. In these words indeed Luke has strung together in one sentence the answer of Philip, saying, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, but that every one may have a little, and the answer of Andrew, There is a lad here who has five loaves and two small fishes, as John relates. For when Luke says, We have no more but five loaves and two fishes, he refers to the answer of Andrew. But that which he added, Except we go and buy food for all the people, seems to belong to Philip's answer, save that he is silent about the two hundred pennyworth, although this may be implied also in the expression of Andrew himself. For when he had said, There is a lad here who has five loaves and two fishes, he added, But what are these among so many? that is to say, unless we go and buy meat for all this people. From which diversity of words, but harmony of things and opinions, it is sufficiently evident that we have this wholesome lesson given us, that we must seek for nothing in words but the meaning of the speaker; and to explain this clearly, ought to be the care of all truth telling authors whenever they relate any thing concerning man, or angel, or God.
CYRIL; But that the difficulty of the miracle may be still more enhanced, the number of men is stated to have been by no means small. As it follows, And there were about five thousand men, besides women and children, as another Evangelist relates.
THEOPHYL. Our Lord teaches us, that when we entertain any one, we ought to make him sit down at meat, and partake of every comfort. Hence it follows, And he said to his disciples, &c.
AUG. That Luke says here, that the men were ordered to sit down by fifties, but Mark, by fifties and hundreds, does not matter, seeing that one spoke of a part, the other of the whole. But if one had mentioned only the fifties, and the other only the hundreds, they would seem to be greatly opposed to one another; nor would it be sufficiently distinct which of the two was said. But who will not admit, that one was mentioned by one Evangelist, the other by another, and that if more attentively considered it must be found so. But I have said thus much, because often certain things of this kind exist, which to those who take little heed and judge hastily appear contrary to one another, and yet are not so.
CHRYS. And to make men believe that He came from the Father, Christ when He was about to work the miracle looked up to heaven. As it follows, There he took the five loaves, &c.
CYRIL; This also He did purposely for our sakes, that we may learn that at the commencement of a feast when we are going to break bread, we ought to offer thanks for it to God, and to draw forth the heavenly blessing upon it. As it follows, And he blessed, and broke.
CHRYS. He distributes to them by the hands of His disciples, so honoring them that they might not forget it when the miracle was past. Now He did not create food for the multitude out of what did not exist, that He might stop the mouth of the Manichaeans, who say that the creatures are independent of Him; showing that He Himself is both the Giver of food, and, the same who said, Let the earth bring forth, &c. He makes also the fishes to increase, to signify that He has dominion over the seas, as weld as the dry land. But well did He perform a special miracle for the weak, at the same time that He gives also a general blessing in feeding all the strong as well as the weak. And they did all eat, and were filled.
GREG. NYSS. For whom neither the heaven rained manna, nor the earth brought forth corn according to its nature, but from the unspeakable garner of divine power the blessing was poured forth. The bread is supplied in the hands of those who serve, it is even increased through the fullness of those who eat. The sea supplied not their wants with the food of fishes, but He who placed in the sea the race of fishes.
AMBROSE; It is clear that the multitude were filled not by a scanty meal, but by a constant and increasing supply of food. You might see in an incomprehensible manner amid the hands of those who distributed, the particles multiplying which they broke not; the fragments too, touched by the fingers of the breakers, spontaneously mounting up.
CYRIL; Nor was this all that the miracle came to; but it follows, And there was taken up of the fragments that remained, twelve baskets, that this might be a manifest proof that a work of love to our neighbor will claim a rich reward from God.
THEOPHYL. And that we might learn the value of hospitality, and how much our own store is increased when we help those that need
CHRYS. But He caused not loaves to remain over, but fragments, that He might show them to be the remnants of the loaves, and these were made to be of that number, that there might be as many baskets as disciples.
AMBROSE; After that she who received the type of the Church was cured of the issue of blood, and that the Apostles were appointed to preach the Gospel of the kingdom of God, the nourishment of heavenly grace is imparted. but mark to whom it is imparted. Not to the indolent, not to those in a city, of rank in the synagogue, or in high secular office, but to those who seek Christ in the desert.
THEOPHYL; Who Himself having left Judea, which by unbelief had bereft herself of the source of prophecy, in the desert of the Church which had no husband, dispenses the food of the word. But many companies of the faithful leaving the city of their former manner of life, and their various opinions, follow Christ into the deserts of the Gentiles.
AMBROSE; But they who are not proud are themselves received by Christ, and the Word of God speaks with them, not about worldly things, but of the kingdom of God. And if any have ulcers of bodily passions, to these He willingly affords His cure. But every where the order of the mystery is preserved, that first through the remission of sins the wounds should be healed, but afterwards the nourishment of the heavenly table should plentifully abound.
THEOPHYL; Now when the day was going down, he refreshes the multitudes, that is, as the end of the world approaches, or when the Sun of righteousness sets for us.
AMBROSE; Although the multitude is not as yet fed with stronger food. For first, as milk, there are five loaves; secondly, seven; thirdly, the Body of Christ is the stronger food. But if any one fears to seek food, let him leave every thing that belongs to him, and listen to the word of God. But whoever begins to hear the word of God begins to eat, the Apostles begin to see him eating. And if they who eat, as yet know not what they eat, Christ knows; He knows that they eat not this world's food, but the food of Christ. For they did not as yet know that the food of a believing people was not to be bought and sold. Christ knew that we are rather to be bought with a ransom, but His banquet to be without price.
THEOPHYL; The Apostles had only got but the five loaves of the Mosaic law, and the two fishes of each covenant, which were covered in the secret place of obscure mysteries, as in the waters of the deep. But because men have five external senses, the five thousand men who followed the Lord signify those who still live in worldly ways, knowing well how to use the external things they possess. For they who entirely renounce the world are raised aloft in the enjoyment of His Gospel feast. But the different divisions of the guests, indicate the different congregations of Churches throughout the world, which together compose the one Catholic.
AMBROSE; But here the bread which Jesus broke is mystically indeed the word of God, and discourse concerning Christ, which when it is divided is increased. For from these few words, He ministered abundant nourishment to the people. He gave us words like loaves, which while they are tasted by our mouth are doubled.
THEOPHYL; Now our Savior does not create new food for the hungry multitudes, but He took those things which the disciples had and blessed them, since coming in the flesh He preaches nothing else than what had been foretold, but demonstrates the words of prophecy to be pregnant with the mysteries of grace; He looks towards heaven, that thither He may teach us to direct the eye of the mind, there to seek the light of knowledge; He breaks and distributes to the disciples to be placed before the multitude, because He revealed to them the Sacraments of the Law and the Prophets that they might preach them to the world.
AMBROSE; Not without meaning are the fragments which remained over and above what the multitudes had eaten, collected by the disciples, since those things which are divine you may more easily find among the elect than among the people. Blessed is he who can collect those which remain over and above even to the learned. But for what reason did Christ fill twelve baskets, except that He might solve that word concerning the Jewish people, His hands served in the basket? that is, the people who before collected mud for the pots, now through the cross of Christ gather up the nourishment of the heavenly life. Nor is this the office of few, but all. For by the twelve baskets, as if of each of the tribes, the foundation of the faith is spread abroad.
THEOPHYL; Or by the twelve baskets the twelve Apostles are figured, and all succeeding teachers, despised indeed by men without, but within loaded with the fragments of saving food.
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CYRIL; Our Lord having retired from the multitude, and being in a place apart, was engaged in prayer. As it is said, And it came to pass, as he was alone praying. For He ordained Himself as an example of this, instructing His disciples by an easy' method of teaching. For I suppose the rulers of the people ought to be superior also in good deeds, to those that are under them, ever holding converse with them in all necessary things, and treating of those things in which God delights.
THEOPHYL; Now the disciples were with the Lord, but He alone prayed to the Father, since the saints may be joined to the Lord in the bond of faith and love, but the Son alone is able to penetrate the incomprehensible secrets of the Father's will. Every where then He prays alone, for human wishes comprehend not the counsel of God, nor can any one be a partaker with Christ of the deep things of God.
CYRIL; Now His engaging in prayer might perplex His disciples. For they saw Him praying like a man, Whom before they had seen performing miracles with divine power. In order then to banish all perplexity of this kind, He asks them this question, not because He did not know the reports which they had gathered from without, but that He might rid them of the opinion of the many, and instill into them the true faith. Hence it follows, And he asked them, saying, Whom say the people that I am?
THEOPHYL; Rightly does our Lord, when about to inquire into the faith of the disciples, first inquire into the opinion of the multitudes, lest their confession should appear not to be determined by their knowledge, but to be formed by the opinion of the generality, and they should be considered not to believe from experience, but like Herod to be perplexed by different reports which they heard.
AUG. Now it may raise a question, that Luke says that our Lord asked His disciples, Whom do men say that I am? at the same time that He was alone praying, and they also were with Him; whereas Mark says, that they were asked this question by our Lord on the way; but this is difficult only to him who never prayed on the way.
AMBROSE; But it is no trifling opinion of the multitude which the disciples mention, when it is added, But they answering said, John the Baptist, (whom they knew to be beheaded;) but some say, Elias, (whom they thought would come,) but others say that one of the old Prophets is risen again. But to make this inquiry belongs to a different kind of wisdom from ours, for if it were enough for the Apostle Paul to know nothing but Christ Jesus, and Him crucified, what more can I desire to know than Christ?
CYRIL; But mark the subtle skill of the question. For he directs them first to the praises of strangers, that having overthrown these, He might beget in them the right opinion. So when the disciples had given the opinion of the people, He asks them their own opinion; as it is added, And He said to them, Whom say you that I am? How marked is you! He excludes them from the other, that they may avoid their opinions; as if He said, you who by my decree are called to the Apostleship, the witnesses of my miracles, whom do you say that I am? But Peter anticipated the rest, and becomes the mouthpiece of the whole company, and launching forth into the eloquence of divine love, utters the confession of faith, as it is added, Peter answering said, The Christ of God. He says not merely that He was Christ of God, but now He uses the article. Hence it is in the Greek. For many divinely accounted persons are in diverse ways called Christs, for some were anointed kings, some prophets. But we through Christ have been anointed by the holy Spirit, have obtained the name of Christ. But there is only one who is the Christ of God and the Father, He alone as it were having His own Father who is in heaven. And so Luke agrees indeed in the same opinion as Matthew, who relates Peter to have said, You are Christ, the Son of the living God, but speaking briefly Luke says that Peter answered, the Christ of God.
AMBROSE; In this one name there is the expression both of His divinity and incarnation, and the belief of His passion. He has therefore comprehended every thing, having expressed both the nature and tile name wherein is all virtue.
CYRIL; But we must observe, that Peter most wisely confessed Christ to be one, against those who presumed to divide Immanuel into two Christs. For Christ did not inquire of them, saying, Whom do men say the divine Word is? but the Son of man, whom Peter confessed to be the Son of God. Herein then is Peter to be admired, and thought worthy of such chief honor, seeing that Him whom he marveled at in our form, he believed to be the Christ of the Father, that is to say, that the Word which proceeded of the Father's Substance was become man.
AMBROSE; But our Lord Jesus Christ was as at first unwilling to be preached, lest an uproar should arise; as it follows, And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man any thing. For many reasons He commands His disciples to be silent; to deceive the prince of this world, to reject boasting, to teach humility. Christ then would not boast, and cost you boast who are of ignoble birth? Likewise He did it to prevent rude and as yet imperfect disciples from being oppressed with the wonder of this awful announcement. They are then forbid to preach Him as the Son of God, that they might afterwards preach Him crucified.
CHRYS. Timely also was our Lord's command that no one should tell that He was Christ, in order that when offenses should be taken away and the sufferings of the cross completed, a proper opinion of Him might be firmly rooted in the minds of the hearers. For that which has once taken root and afterwards been torn up, when fresh planted will scarcely ever be preserved. But that which when once planted continues undisturbed, grows up securely. For if Peter was offended merely by what he heard, what would be the feelings of those many who, after they had heard that He was the Son of God, saw Him crucified, and spit upon?
CYRIL; It was the duty then of the disciples to preach Him throughout the world. For this was the work of those who were chosen by Him to the office of the Apostleship. But as holy Scripture bears witness, There is a time for every thing. For it was fitting that the cross and resurrection should be accomplished, an d then should follow the preaching of the Apostles; as it is spoken, saying, The Son of man must needs suffer many things.
AMBROSE; Perhaps because the Lord knew that the disciples would believe even the difficult mystery of the Passion and Resurrection, He wished to be Himself the proclaimer of His own Passion and Resurrection.
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CYRIL; Great and noble leaders provoke the mighty in arms to deeds of velour, not only by promising them the honors of victory, but by declaring that suffering is in itself glorious. Such we see is the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. For He had foretold to His disciples, that He must needs suffer the accusations of the Jews, be slain, and rise again on the third day. Lest then they should think that Christ indeed was to suffer persecution for the life of the world, but that they might lead a soft life, He shows them that they must needs pass through similar struggles, if they desired to obtain His glory. Hence it is said, And he said to all.
THEOPHYL; He rightly addressed Himself to all, since He treats of the higher things (which relate to the belief in His birth and passion) apart with His disciples.
CHRYS. Now the Savior of His great mercy and loving kindness will have no one serve Him unwillingly and from constraint, but those only who come of their own accord, and are grateful for being allowed to serve Him. And so not by compelling men and putting a yoke upon them, but by persuasion and kindness, He draws to Him every where those who are willing, saying, If any man will, &c.
BASIL; But He has left His own life for an example of blameless conversation to those who are willing to obey Him; as He says, Come after me, meaning thereby not a following of His body, for that would be impossible to all, since our Lord is in heaven, but a due imitation of His life according to their capacities.
THEOPHYL; Now unless a man renounces himself, he comes not near to Him, who is above him; it is said therefore, Let him deny himself.
BASIL; A denial of one's self is indeed a total forgetfulness of things past, and a forsaking of his own will ill anti affection
ORIGEN; A man also denies himself when by a sufficient alteration of manners or a good conversation he changes a life of habitual wickedness. He who has long lived in lasciviousness, abandons his lustful self when he becomes chaste, and in like manner a forsaking of any crimes is a denial of one's self.
BASIL; Now a desire of suffering death for Christ and a mortification of one's members which are upon the earth, end a manful resolution to undergo any danger for Christ, and an indifference towards the present life, this it is to take up one's cross. Hence it is added, And let him take up his cross daily.
THEOPHYL. By the cross, He speaks of an ignominious death, meaning, that if any one will follow Christ, he must not for his own sake flee from even an ignominious death.
GREG. In two ways also is the cross taken up, either when the body is afflicted through abstinence, or the mind touched by sympathy.
GREEK EX. He rightly joins these two, Let him deny himself, and let him take up his cross, for as he who is prepared to ascend the cross conceives in his mind the intention of death, and so goes on thinking to have no more part in this life, so he who is willing to follow our Lord, ought first to deny himself, and so take up his cross, that his will may be ready to endure every calamity.
BASIL; Herein then stands a man's perfection, that he should have his affections hardened, even towards life itself, and have ever about him the answer of death, that he should by no means trust in himself. But perfection takes its beginning from the relinquishment of things foreign to it; suppose these to be possessions or vain-glory, or affection for things that profit not.
THEOPHYL; We are bid then to take up the cross of which we have above spoken, and having taken it, to follow our Lord who bore His own cross. Hence it follows, And let him follow me.
ORIGEN; He assigns the cause of this when He adds, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; that is, whosoever will according to the present life keep his own soul fixed on things of sense, the same shall lose it, never reaching to the bounds of happiness. But on the other hand He adds, but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, shall save it. That is, whosoever forsakes the things of sense looking upon truth, and exposes himself to death, as it were losing his life for Christ, shall the rather save it. If then it is a blessed thing to save our life, (with regard to that safety which is in God,) there must be also a certain good surrender of life which is made by looking upon Christ. It seems also to me from resemblance to that denying of one's self which has been before spoken of, that it becomes us to lose a certain sinful life of ours, to take up that which is saved by virtue.
CYRIL; But that incomparable exercise of the passion of Christ, which surpasses the delights and precious things of the world, is alluded to when he adds, What is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world and lose himself, or be a cast away? As if he says, When a man, through his looking after the present delights, gains pleasure, and refuses indeed to suffer, but chooses to live splendidly in his riches, what advantage will he get then, when he has lost his soul? For the fashion of this world passes away, and pleasant things depart as a shadow. For the treasures of ungodliness shall not profit, but righteousness snatches a man from death.
GREG. Since then the holy Church has one time of persecution, another time of peace, our Lord has noticed both times in His command to us. For at the time of persecution we must lay down our soul, that is our life, which He signified, saying, Whosoever shall lose his life. But in time of peace, those things which have the greatest power to subdue us, our earthly desires, must be vanquished; which He signified, saying, What does it profit a man, &c. Now we commonly despise all fleeting things, but still we are so checked by that feeling of shame so common to man, that we are yet unable to express in words the uprightness which we preserve in our hearts.
But to this wound the Lord indeed subjoins a suitable application, saying, For whoever shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed.
THEOPHYL. He is ashamed of Christ who says, Am I to believe on Him that is crucified? He also is ashamed of His words who despises the simplicity of the Gospel. But of him shall the Lord be ashamed in His kingdom, in the same manner as if a master of a household should have a bad servant, and be ashamed to have him.
CYRIL; Now he strikes fear into their hearts, when He says that He will descend from heaven, not in His former humility and condition proportioned to our capacities for receiving Him, but in the glory of the Father, with the Angels ministering to Him. For it follows, When he shall come in his own glory, and his Father's, and of the holy angels. Awful then and fatal will it be, to he branded as an enemy, and slothful in business, when so great a Judge shall descend with the armies of Angels standing round Him. But from this you may perceive, that though He has taken to Himself our flesh and blood, the Son is no less God, seeing that He promises to come in the glory of God the Father, and that Angels shall minister to Him as the Judge of all, Who was made man like to us.
AMBROSE; Now our Lord while He ever raises us to look to the future reward of virtue, and teaches us how good it is to despise worldly things, so also He supports the weakness of the human mind by a present recompense. For it is a hard thing to take up the cross, and expose your life to danger and your body to death; to give up what you are, when you wish to be what you are not; and even the loftiest virtue seldom exchanges things present for future. The good Master then, lest any man should be broken down by despair or weariness, straightway promises that He will be seen by the faithful, in these words, But I say to you, There are some standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God.
THEOPHYL. That is, the glory in which the righteous shall be. Now He said this of His transfiguration, which was the type of the glory to come; as if He said, There are some standing here, Peter, James, and John, who shall not reach death before they have seen at the time of My transfiguration what will be the glory of those who confess Me.
GREG. Or, by the kingdom of God in this place, is meant the present Church; and some of His disciples were to live in the body up to that time, when they should behold the Church of God built and raised up against the glory of the world.
AMBROSE; If then we also wish not to fear death, let us stand where Christ is. For they only cannot taste death who are able to stand with Christ, wherein we may consider from the nature of the very word, that they will not experience even the slightest perception of death, who are thought worthy to obtain union with Christ. At least let us suppose that the death of the body is tasted by touch, the life of the soul preserved by possession; for here not the death of the body, but of the soul, is denied.
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