Golden Chain 10525
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BEDE; While the Scribes and Pharisees were murmuring about His receiving sinners, our Savior put three parables to them successively. In the two first He hints at the joy He has with the angels in the salvation of penitents. But in the third He not only declares His own joy and that of His angels, but He also blames the murmurings of those who were envious. For He says, Now his elder son was in the field.
AUG. The elder son is the people of Israel, not indeed gone into a distant country, yet not in the house, but in the field, that is, in the paternal wealth of the Law and the Prophets, choosing to work earthly things. But coming from the field he began to draw nigh to the house, that is, the labor of his servile works being condemned by the same Scriptures, he was looking upon the liberty of the Church. Whence it follows; And as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing; that is, men filled with the Holy Spirit, with harmonious voices preaching the Gospel.
It follows, And he called one of the servants, &c. that is, he takes one of the prophets to read, and as he searches in it, asks in a manner, why are those feasts celebrated in the Church at which he finds himself present? His Father's servant, the prophet, answers him.
For it follows; And he said to him, your brother is come, &c. As if he should say, your brother was in the farthest parts of the earth, but hence the greater rejoicing of those who sing a new song, because His praise is from the end of the earth; and for his sake who was afar off, was slain the Man who knows how to bear our infirmities, for they who have not been told of Him have seen Him.
AMBROSE; But the younger son, that is the Gentile people, is envied by Israel as the elder brother, the privilege of his father's blessing. Which the Jews did because Christ sat down to meat with the Gentiles, as it follows; And he was angry, and would not go in, &c.
AUG. He is angry even also now, and still is unwilling to enter. When then the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in, His father will go out at the fit time that all Israel also may be saved, as it follows, therefore came his father out and entreated him. For there shall be at some time an open calling of the Jews to the salvation of the Gospel. Which manifestation of calling he calls the going out of the father to entreat the elder son. Next the answer of the elder son involves two questions; for it follows, And he answering said to his father, Lo these many years do I serve you, either transgressed I at any time your commandment. With respect to the commandment not transgressed, it at once occurs, that it was not spoken of every command, but of that most essential one, that is, that he was seen to worship no other God but one, the Creator of all. Nor is that son to be understood to represent all Israelites, but those who have never turned from God to idols. For although he might desire earthly things, yet sought he them from God alone, though in common with sinners. Hence it is said, I was as a beast before you, and I am always with you. But who is the kid which he never received to make merry upon? for it follows, You never gave me a kid, &c. Under the name of a kid the sinner may be signified.
AMBROSE; The Jew requires a kid, the Christian a lamb, and therefore is Barabbas released to them, to us a lamb is sacrificed. Which thing also is seen in the kid, because the Jews have lost the ancient rite of sacrifice. Or they who seek for a kid wait for Antichrist.
AUG. But I do not see the object of this interpretation, for it is very absurd for him to whom it is afterwards said, You are ever with me, to have wished for this from his father, i.e. to believe in Antichrist. Nor altogether can we rightly understand any of the Jews who are to believe in Antichrist to be that son.
And how could he feast upon that kid which is Antichrist who did not believe in him? But if to feast upon the slain kid, is the same as to rejoice at the destruction of Antichrist, how does the son whom the father did not entertain say that this was never given him, seeing that all the sons will rejoice at his destruction? His complaint then is, that the Lord Himself was denied him to feast upon, because he deems Him a sinner. For since He is a kid to that nation which regards Him as a violator and profaner of the Sabbath, it was not meet that they should be made merry at his banquet. But his words with my friends are understood according to the relation of the chiefs with the people, or of the people of Jerusalem with the other nations of Judea.
JEROME; Or he says, You never gave me a kid, that is, no blood of prophet or priest has delivered us from the Roman power.
AMBROSE; Now the shameless son is like to the Pharisee justifying himself. Because he had kept the law in the letter, he wickedly accused his brother for having wasted his father's substance with harlots. For it follows, But as soon as this your son is come, who has devoured your living, &c.
AUG. The harlots are the superstitions of the Gentiles, with whom he wastes his substance, who having left the true marriage of the true God, goes a whoring after evil spirits from foul desire.
JEROME; Now in that which he says, You have killed for him the fatted calf, he confesses that Christ has come, but envy has no wish to be saved.
AUG. But the father does not rebuke him as a liar, but commending his steadfastness with him invites him to the perfection of a better and happier rejoicing. Hence it follows, But he said to him, Son, you are ever with me.
JEROME; Or after having said, "This is boasting, not truth," the father does not agree with him, but restrains him in another way, saying, You are with me, by the law under which you are bound; not as though he had not sinned, but because God continually drew him back by chastening. Nor is it wonderful that he lies to his father who hates his brother.
AMBROSE; But the kind father was still desirous to save him, saying, You are ever with me, either as a Jew in the law, or as the righteous man in communion with Him.
AUG. But what means he that he adds, And all that I have is yours, as if they were not his brother's also? But it is thus that all things are looked at by perfect and immortal children, that each is the possession of all, and all of each. For as desire obtains nothing without want, so charity nothing with w ant. But how all things? Must then God be supposed to have subjected the angels also to the possession of such a son? If you so take possession as that the possessor of a thing is its lord, certainly not all things. For we shall not be the lords, but the companions of angels. Again, if possession is thus understood, how do we rightly say that our souls possess truth? I see no reason why we may not truly and properly say so. For we do not so speak as to call our souls the mistresses of truth. Or if by the term possession we are hindered from this sense, let that also be set aside. For the father says not, "You possess all things," but All that I have is yours, still not as if you were its lord. For that which is our property may be either food for our families, or ornament, or something of the kind. And surely, when he can rightly call his father his own, I do not see why he may not also rightly call his own what belongs to his father, only in different ways. For when we shall have obtained that blessedness, the higher things will be ours to look upon, equal things ours to have fellowship with, the lower things ours to rule. Let then the elder brother join most safely in the rejoicing.
AMBROSE; For if he ceases to envy, he will feel all things to be his, either as the Jew possessing the sacraments of the Old Testament, or as a baptized person those of the New also.
THEOPHYL. Or to take the whole differently; the character of the son who seems to complain is put for all those who are offended at the sudden advances and salvation of the perfect, as David introduces one who took offense at the peace of sinners.
TIT. BOST. The elder son then as a husbandmen was engaged in husbandry, digging not the land, but the field of the soul, and planting trees of salvation, that is to say, the virtues.
THEOPHYL. Or he was in the field, that is, in the world, pampering his own flesh, that he might be filled with bread, and sowing in tears that he might reap in joy, but when he found what was being done, he was unwilling to enter into the common joy.
CHRYS. But it is asked, whether one who grieves at the prosperity of others is affected by the passion of envy. We must answer, that no Saint grieves at such things; but rather looks upon the good things of others as his own. Now we must not take every thing contained in the parable literally, but bringing out the weaning which the author had in view, search for nothing farther. This parable then was written to the end that sinners should not despair of returning, knowing that they shall obtain great things. Therefore he introduces others so troubled at these good things as to be consumed with envy, but those who return, treated with such great honor as to become themselves an object of envy to others.
THEOPHYL. Or by this parable our Lord reproves the will of the Pharisees, whom according to the argument he terms just, as if to say, Let it be that you are truly just, having transgressed none of the commandments, must we then for this reason refuse to admit those who turn away from their iniquities?
JEROME; Or, in another way, all justice in comparison of the justice of God is injustice. Therefore Paul says, Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? and hence were the Apostles moved with anger at the request of the sons of Zebedee.
CYRIL; We also ourselves sometimes; for some live a most excellent and perfect life, another ofttime even in his old age is converted to God, or perhaps when just about to close his last day, through God's mercy washes away his guilt. But this mercy some men reject from restless timidity of mind, not counting upon the will of our Savior, who rejoices in the salvation of those who are perishing.
THEOPHYL. The son then says to the father, For nothing I left a life of sorrow, ever harassed by sinners who were my enemies, and never have you for my sake ordered a kid to be slain, (that sinner who persecuted me,) that I might enjoy myself for a little. Such a kid was Ahab to Elijah, who said, Lord, they have killed your prophets.
AMBROSE; Or else, This brother is described so as to be said to come from the farm, that is, engaged in worldly occupations, so ignorant of the things of the Spirit of God, as at last to complain that a kid had never been slain for him. For not for envy, but for the pardon of the world, was the Lamb sacrificed. The envious seeks a kid, the innocent a lamb, to be sacrificed for it. Therefore also is he called the elder, because a man soon grows old through envy. Therefore too he stands without, because his malice excludes him; therefore could he not hear the dancing and music, that is, not the wanton fascinations of the stage, but the harmonious song of a people, resounding with the sweet pleasantness of joy for a sinner saved. For they who seem to themselves righteous are angry when pardon is granted to one confessing his sins. Who are you that speak against your Lord, that he should not, for example, forgive a fault, when you pardon whom you will? But we ought to favor forgiving sin after repentance, lest while grudging pardon to another, we ourselves obtain it not from our Lord. Let us not envy those who return from a distant country, seeing that we ourselves also were afar off.
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BEDE; Having rebuked in three parables those who murmured because He received penitents, our Savior shortly after subjoins a fourth and a fifth on almsgiving and frugality, because it is also the fittest order in preaching that almsgiving should be added after repentance. Hence it follows, And he said to his disciples, There was a certain rich man.
PSEUDO. There is a certain erroneous opinion inherent in mankind, which increases evil and lessens good. It is the feeling that all the good things we possess in the course of our life we possess as lords over them, and accordingly we seize them as our especial goods. But it is quite the contrary. For we are placed in this life not as lords in our own house, but as guests and strangers, led whither we would not, and at a time we think not of. He who is now rich, suddenly becomes a beggar. Therefore whoever you are, know yourself to be a dispenser of the things of others, and that the privileges granted you are for a brief and passing use. Cast away then from your soul the pride of power, and put on the humility and modesty of a steward.
BEDE; The bailiff is the manager of the farm, therefore he takes his name from the farm. But the steward, or director of the household, is the overseer of money as well as fruits, and of every thing his master possesses.
AMBROSE; From this we learn then, that we are not ourselves the masters, but rather the stewards of the property of others.
THEOPHYL. Next, that when we exercise not the management of our wealth according to our Lord's pleasure, but abuse our trust to our own pleasures, we are guilty stewards. Hence it follows, And he was accused to him.
PSEUDO-CHRYS. Meanwhile he is taken and thrust out of his stewardship; for it follows, And he called him, and said to him, What is this that I hear of you? give an account of your stewardship, for you can be no longer steward. Day after day by the events which take place our Lord cries aloud to us the same thing, showing us a man at midday rejoicing in health, before the evening cold and lifeless; another expiring in the midst of a meal. And in various ways we go out from our stewardship; but the faithful steward, who has confidence concerning his management, desires with Paul to depart and be with Christ. But he whose wishes are on earth is troubled at his departing.
Hence it is added of this steward, Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do, for my Lord takes away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig, to beg I all ashamed. Weakness in action is the fault of a slothful life. For no one would shrink who had been accustomed to apply himself to labor. But if we take the parable allegorically, after our departure hence there is no more time for working; the present life contains the practice of what is commanded, the future, consolation. If you have done nothing here, in vain then are you careful for the future, nor will you gain any thing by begging. The foolish virgins are an instance of this, who unwisely begged of the wise, but returned empty. For every one puts on his daily life as his inner garment; it is not possible for him to put it off or exchange it with another.
But the wicked steward aptly contrived the remission of debts, to provide for himself an escape from his misfortunes among his fellow-servants; for it follows, I am resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. For as often as a man perceiving his end approaching, lightens by a kind deed the load of his sins, (either by forgiving a debtor his debts, or by giving abundance to the poor,) dispensing those things which are his Lord's, he conciliates to himself many friends, who will afford him before the judge a real testimony, not by words, but by the demonstration of good works, nay moreover will provide for him by their testimony a resting-place of consolation. But nothing is our own, all things are in the power of God.
Hence it follows, So he called every one of his Lord's debtors to him, and said to the first, How much owe you to my Lord? And he said, A hundred casks of oil.
BEDE, A cadus in Greek is a vessel containing three urns. It follows, And he said to him, Take your bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty, forgiving him the half.
It follows, Then said he to another, And how much owe you? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. A corus is made up of thirty bushels. And he said to him, Take your bill, and write fourscore, forgiving him a fifth part. It may be then simply taken as follows: whosoever relieves the want of a poor man, either by supplying half or a fifth part, will be blessed with the reward of his mercy.
AUG. Or because out of the hundred measures of oil, he caused fifty to be written down by the debtors, and of the hundred measures of w heat, fourscore, the meaning thereof is this, that those things which every Jew performs toward the Priests and Levites should be the more attendant in the Church of Christ, that whereas they give a tenth, Christians should give a half, as Zaccheus gave of his goods, or at least by giving two tenths, that is, a fifth, exceed the payments of the Jews.
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AUG. The steward whom his Lord cast out of his stewardship is nevertheless commended because he provided himself against the future. As it follows, And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely; we ought not however to take the whole for our imitation. For we should never act deceitfully against our Lord in order that from the fraud itself we may give alms.
ORIGEN; But because the Gentiles say that wisdom is a virtue, and define it to be the experience of w hat is good, evil, and indifferent, or the knowledge of what is and what is not to be done, we must consider whether this word signifies many things, or one. For it is said that God by wisdom prepared the heavens. Now it is plain that wisdom is good, because the Lord by wisdom prepared the heavens. It is said also in Genesis, according to the LXX, that the serpent was the wisest animal, wherein he does not make wisdom a virtue, but evil-minded cunning. And it is in this sense that the Lord commended the steward that he had done wisely, that is, cunningly and evilly. And perhaps the word commended was spoken not in the sense of real commendation, but in a lower sense; as when we speak of a man being commended in slight and indifferent matters, and in a certain measure clashings and sharpness of wit are admired, by which the power of the mind is drawn out.
AUG. On the other hand this parable is spoken that we should understand that if the steward who acted deceitfully, could be praised by his lord, how much more they please God who do their works according to His commandment.
ORIGEN; The children of this world also are not called wiser but more prudent than the children of light, and this not absolutely and simply, but in their generation. For it follows, For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, &c.
BEDE; The children of light and the children of this world are spoken of in the same manner as the children of the kingdom, and the children of hell. For whatever works a man does, he is also termed their sun.
THEOPHYL. By the children of this world then He means those who mind the good things which are on the earth; by the children of light, those who beholding the divine love, employ themselves with spiritual treasures. But it is found indeed in the management of human affairs, that we prudently order our own things, and busily set ourselves to work, in order that when we depart we may have a refuge for our life; but when we ought to direct the things of God, we take no forethought for what shall be our lot hereafter.
GREG. In order then that after death they may find something in their own hand, let men before death place their riches in the hands of the poor. Hence it follows, And I say to you, d/lake to yourselves friends of the man of unrighteousness, &c.
AUG. That which the Hebrews call mammon, in Latin is "riches." As if He said, "Make to yourselves friends of the riches of unrighteousness." Now some misunderstanding this, seize upon the things of others, and so give something to the poor, and think that they are doing what is commanded. That interpretation must be corrected into, Give alms of your righteous labors. For you will not corrupt Christ your Judge. If from the plunder of a poor man, you were to give any thing to the judge that he might decide for you, and that judge should decide for you, such is the force of justice, that you would be ill pleased in yourself. Do not then make to yourself such a God. God is the fountain of Justice, give not your alms then from interest and usury. I speak to the faithful, to whom we dispense the body of Christ. But if you have such money, it is of evil that you have it. Be no longer doers of evil. Zaccheus said, Half my goods I give to the poor. See how he runs who runs to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; and not to be held guilty from any quarter, he says, If have taken any thing from any one, I restore fourfold. According to another interpretation, the mammon of unrighteousness are all the riches of the world, whenever they come. For if you seek the true riches, there are some in which Job when naked abounded, when he had his hears full towards God. The others are called riches from unrighteousness; because they are not true riches, for they are full of poverty, and ever liable to chances. For if they were true riches, they would give you security.
AUG. Or the riches of unrighteousness are so called, because they are not riches except to the unrighteous, and such as rest in their hopes and the fullness of their happiness. But when these things are possessed by the righteous, they have indeed so much money, but no riches are theirs but heavenly and spiritual.
AMBROSE. Or he spoke of the unrighteous Mammon, because by the various enticements of riches covetousness corrupts our hearts, that we may be willing to obey riches.
BASIL; Or if you have succeeded to a patrimony, you receive what has been amassed by the unrighteous; for in a number of predecessors some one must needs be found who has unjustly usurped the property of others. But suppose that your father has not been guilty of exaction, whence have you your money? If indeed you answer, "From myself;" you are ignorant of God, not having the knowledge of your Creator; but if, "From God," tell me the reason for which you receive it. Is not the earth and the fullness thereof the Lord's? If then whatever is ours belongs to our common Lord, so will it also belong to our fellow-servant.
THEOPHYL. Those then are called the riches of unrighteousness which the Lord has given for the necessities of our brethren and fellow-servants, but we spend upon ourselves. It became us then, from the beginning, to give all things to the poor, but because we have become the stewards of unrighteousness, wickedly retaining what was appointed for the aid of others, we must not surely remain in this cruelty, but distribute to the poor, that we may be received by them into everlasting habitations. For it follows, That, when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
GREG. But if through their friendship we obtain everlasting habitations, we ought to calculate that when we give we rather offer presents to patrons, than bestow benefits upon he needy.
AUG. For who are they that shall have everlasting habitations but the saints of God? and who are they that are to be received by them into everlasting habitations but they who administer to their want, and whatsoever they have need of, gladly supply. They are those little ones of Christ, who have forsaken all that belonged to them and followed Him; and whatsoever they had have given to the poor, that they might serve God without earthly shackles, and freeing their shoulders from the burdens of the world, might raise them aloft as with wings.
AUG. We must not then understand those by whom we wish to be received into everlasting habitations to be as it were debtors of God; seeing that the just and holy are signified in this place, who cause those to enter in, who administered to their necessity of their own worldly goods.
AMBROSE; Or else, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that by giving to the poor we may purchase the favor of angels and all the saints.
CHRYS. Mark also that He said not, "that they may receive you into their own habitations." For it is not they who receive you. Therefore when He said, Make to yourselves friends, he added, of the mammon of unrighteousness, to show, that their friendship will not alone protect us unless good works accompany us, unless we righteously cast away all riches unrighteously amassed. The most skillful then of all arts is that of almsgiving. For it builds not for us houses of mud, but lays up in store an everlasting life. Now in each of the arts one needs the support of another; but when we ought to show mercy, we need nothing else but the will alone.
CYRIL; Thus then Christ taught those who abound in riches, earnestly to love the friendship of the poor, and to have treasure in heaven. But He knew the sloth of the human mind, how that they who court riches bestow no work of charity upon the needy. That to such men there results no profit of spiritual gifts, He shows by obvious examples, adding, He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
Now our Lord opens to us the eye of the heart, explaining what He had said, adding, If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteousness mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? That which is least then is the mammon of unrighteousness, that is, earthly riches, which seem nothing to those that are heavenly wise. I think then that a man is faithful in a little, when he imparts aid to those who are bowed down with sorrow. If then we have been unfaithful in a little thing, how shall we obtain from hence the true riches, that is, the fruitful gift of Divine grace, impressing the image of God on the human soul?
But that our Lord's words incline to this meaning is plain from the following; for He says, And if you have not been faithful in that which is another man's who shall give you that which is your own?
AMBROSE; Riches are foreign to us, because they are something beyond nature, they are not born with us, and they do not pass away with us. But Christ is ours, because He is the life of man. Lastly, He came to His own.
THEOPHYL. Thus then hitherto He has taught us how faithfully we ought to dispose of our wealth. But because the management of our wealth according to God is no otherwise obtained than by the indifference of a mind unaffected towards riches, He adds, No man can serve two masters.
AMBROSE; Not because the Lord is two, but one. For although there are who serve mammon, yet he knows no rights of lordship; but has himself placed upon himself a yoke of servitude. There is one Lord, because there is one God. Hence it is evident, that the power of the Father and the Son is one and He assigns a reason, thus saying, For either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.
AUG. But these things were not spoken indifferently or at random. For no one when asked whether he loves the devil, answers that he loves him, but rather that he hates him; but all generally proclaim that they love God. Therefore either he will hate the one, (that is, the devil,) and love the other, (that is, God;) or will hold to the one, (that is, the devil, when he pursues as it were temporal wants,) and will despise the other, (that is, God,) as when men frequently neglect His threats for their desires, who because of His goodness flatter themselves that they will have impunity.
CYRIL; But the conclusion of the whole discourse is what follows, You cannot serve God and man. Let us then transfer all our devotions to the one, forsaking riches.
BEDE; Let then the covetous hear this, that we can not at the same time serve Christ and riches; and yet He said not, "Who has riches," but, who serves riches; for he who is the servant of riches, watches them as a servant; but he who has shaken off the yoke of servitude, dispenses them as a master; but he who serves mammon, verily serves him who is set over those earthly things as the reward of his iniquity, and is called the prince of this world.
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BEDE; Christ had told the Pharisees not to boast of their own righteousness, but to receive penitent sinners, and to redeem their sins by almsgiving. But they derided the Preacher of mercy, humility, and frugality; as it is said, And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard these things; and derided him: it may be for two reasons, either because He commanded what was not sufficiently profitable, or cast blame upon their past superfluous actions.
THEOPHYL. But the Lord detecting in them a hidden malice, proves that they make a presence of righteousness. Therefore it is added, And he said to them, you are they which justify yourselves before men.
BEDE; They justify themselves before men who despise sinners as in a weak and hopeless condition, but fancy themselves to be perfect and not to need the remedy of almsgiving; but how justly the depth of deadly pride is to be condemned, He sees who will enlighten the hidden places of darkness. Hence it follows, But God knows your hearts.
THEOPHYL. And therefore you are an abomination to Him because of your arrogance, and love of seeking after the praise of men; as He adds, For that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
BEDE; Now the Pharisees derided our Savior disputing against covetousness, as if He taught things contrary to the Law and the Prophets, in which many very rich men are said to have pleased God; but Moses also himself promised that the people whom he ruled, if they followed the Law, should abound in all earthly goods. These the Lord answers by showing that between the Law and the Gospel, as in these promises so also in the commands, there is not the slightest difference. Hence He adds, The Law and the Prophets were until John.
AMBROSE; Not that the Law failed, but that the preaching of the Gospel began, for that which is inferior seems to be completed when a better succeeds.
CHRYS. He hereby disposes them readily to believe on Him, because if as far as John's time all things were complete, I am He who am come. For the Prophets had not ceased unless I had come; but you will say, "how" were the Prophets until John, since there have been many more Prophets in the New than the Old Testament. But He spoke of those prophets who foretold Christ's coming.
EUSEB. Now the ancient prophets knew the preaching of the kingdom of heaven, but none of them had expressly announced it to the Jewish people, because the Jews having a childish understanding were unequal to the preaching of what is infinite. But John first openly preached that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, as well as also the remission of sins by the laver of regeneration. Hence it follows, Since that time the kingdom of heaven is preached, and every one presses into it.
AMBROSE; For the Law delivered many things according to nature, as being more indulgent to our natural desires, that it might call us to the pursuit of righteousness. Christ breaks through nature as cutting off even our natural pleasures. But therefore we keep under nature, that it should not sink us down to earthly things, but raise us to heavenly.
EUSEB. A great struggle befalls men in their ascent to heaven. For that men clothed with mortal flesh should be able to subdue pleasure and every unlawful appetite, desiring to imitate the life of angels, must be compassed with violence. But who that looking upon those who labor earnestly in the service of God, and almost put to death their flesh, will not in reality confess that they do violence to the kingdom of heaven.
AUG. They also do violence to the kingdom of heaven, in that they not only despise all temporal things, but also the tongues of those who desire their doing so. This the Evangelist added, when he said that Jesus was derided when He spoke of despising earthly riches.
BEDE; But lest they should suppose that in His words, the Law and the Prophets were until John, He preached the destruction of the Law or the Prophets, He obviates such a notion, adding, And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law should fail. For it is written, the fashion of this world passes away. But of the Law, not even the very extreme point of one letter, that is, not even the least things are destitute of spiritual sacraments. And yet the Law and the Prophets were until John, because that could always he prophesied as about to come, which by the preaching of John it was clear had come.
But that which He spoke beforehand concerning the perpetual inviolability of the Law, He confirms by one testimony taken therefrom for the sake of example, saying, Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another, commits adultery: and whosoever marries her that is put away from her husband, commits adultery; that from this one instance they should learn that He came not to destroy but to fulfill the commands of the Law.
THEOPHYL. For that to the imperfect the Law spoke imperfectly is plain from what he says to the hard hearts of the Jews, "If a man hate his wife, let him put her away," because since they were murderers and rejoiced in blood, they had no pity even upon those who were united to them, so that they slew their sons and daughters for devils. But now there is need of a more perfect doctrine. Wherefore I say, that if a man puts away his wife, having no excuse of fornication, he commits adultery, and he who marries another commits adultery.
AMBROSE; But we must first speak, I think, of the law of marriage, that we may afterwards discuss the forbidding of divorce. Some think that all marriage is sanctioned by God, because it is written, Whom God has joined, let not man put asunder. How then does the Apostle say, If the unbelieving depart, let him depart? Herein he shows that the marriage of all is not from God. For neither by God's approval are Christians joined with Gentiles. Do not then put away your wife, lest you deny God to be the Author of your union. For if others, much more ought you to bear with and correct the behavior of your wife. And if she is sent away pregnant with children, it is a hard thing to shut out the parent and keep the pledge; so as to add to the parents' disgrace the loss also of filial affection. Harder still if because of the mother you drive away the children also. Would you suffer in your lifetime your children to be under a step-father, or when the mother was alive to be under a step-mother? How dangerous to expose to error the tender age of a young wife. How wicked to desert in old age one, the flower of whose growth you have blighted. Suppose that being divorced she does not marry, this also ought to be displeasing to you, to whom though an adulterer, she keeps her troth. Suppose she marries, her necessity is your crime, and that which you suppose marriage, is adultery.
But to understand it morally. Having just before set forth that the kingdom of God is preached, and said that one tittle could not fall from the Law, He added, Whosoever puts away his wife, &c. Christ is the husband; whomsoever then God has brought to His son, let not persecution sever, nor lust entice, nor philosophy spoil, nor heretics taint, nor Jew seduce. Adulterers are all such as desire to corrupt truth, faith, and wisdom.
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