Golden Chain 9000
I will clothe the heavens with darkness, and place a sack as their covering. The Lord gave me an erudite tongue, so that I can sustain the fallen by my word. He awakens me in the morning; in the morning he awakens my ear, that I may hear him as my teacher.
Gloss: Among the mysteries of the incarnation of Christ, which Isaiah diligently and openly foretold, he says: "I will clothe the heavens" etc. From these words we can gather, for the Gospel according to Luke, the matter, the manner of writing, the purpose and the condition of the writer.
Augustine, On the consistency of the Gospel: For Luke seems preoccupied with the royal lineage and person of the Lord. Therefore he is typified by the bull, because it is the chief victim of the priest.
Ambrose, on Luke: For the priestly boois is the victim; therefore this Gospel book fits the bull well, because it starts from priests and vinishes in the book who took the sins of all and was sacrificed for the life of the world. And Luke gave a fuller treatment to the immolation of the bull.
Gloss: Because Luke principally intended to treat of the passion of Christ, the matter of this Gospel can be represented by the statement: "I will clothe the heavens with darkness, and place a sack as their covering," for in the passion of Christ darkness literally took pllace, and the faith of the disciples was darkened.
Jerome, on Isaiah: Christ was despised and without honor when he hung on the cross. His face was hidden and despised, so that the divine power would be hidden by a human body.
Jerome, on illustrious men: Luke's narration, both in the Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, is refined and full of secular eloquence. Therefore Isaiah adds: "The Lord gave me an eloquent tongue."
Ambrose, on Luke: Although Scripture defeats human wisdom, which relies more on a rich vocabulary than on reality, nevertheless, if anyone looks in divine Scripture for what they think should be imitated, he will find it. For St. Luke held to an historical order, and made known to us very many miracles worked by the Lord. At the same time the historical narration of this Gospel embraces all the powers of wisdom. For what could surpass natural wisdom more than that he brought into play the Holy Creator Spirit also for the Lord's incarnation. He teaches morals in the same book, such as that I must love my enemy. He also teaches reasonable things, as when I read that he who is faithful in little things, will be faithful in great things.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History: From Antiochene stock, he was a medical practitioner, according to the medicine that he learned from the company of the apostles or from tradtion. He left us two medical books, where he explained how not bodies, but souls are cured. Therefore, Isaiah continues: "so that I can sustain the fallen by my word."
Jerome, on Isaiah: He says that he received from the Lord his account on how to raise up a falling and erring people, and call them back to salvation.
A Greek expositor: Since Luke was well endowed and could work hard, he acquired Greek learning. He fully mastered grammar, poetry, rhetoric and the ability to persuade, nor did he lack philosophical talent. Lastly, he acquired medical science, and since by natural precosity he tasted his full of human wisdom, he flew to a higher level. So he hurred to Judaea, and went to Christ, seeing him and hearing him. Since he knew the truth, he became a true disciple of Christ, staying with his Master for a long time.
Gloss: There follows: "He awakens me in the morning," that is, from his youth with secular wisdom. He awakens me to divine things, so that I may hear him as a Master, that is, Christ himself.
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History: The tradition is that he wrote his Gospel from the mouth of Paul, as Mark wrote what Peter preached.
Chrysostom, on Matthew: Each of them imitated their master, Luke imitating Paul flowing on the rivers, Mark imitating Peter who kept to brief speech.
Augustine, on the consistency of the Gospels: At that time they wrote, they received the approbation no only of the Church of Christ, but also of the apostles who were still living.
And this suffices as an introduction.
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EUSEBIUS; St. Luke at the commencement of his Gospel has told us the reason of his writing, which was, that many others had rashly taken upon themselves to give accounts of those things of which he had a more certain knowledge. And this is his meaning when he says, Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of things.
AMBROSE; For as many among the Jewish people prophesied by inspiration of the Spirit of God, but others were false prophets rather than prophets, so now also travel many attempted to write Gospels which the good moneychanger refuses to pass. One gospel is mentioned which the twelve Apostles are said to have written; another Basilides presumed to write; and another is said to have been by Matthias.
BEDE; The many who are mentioned, he reckons not so much by their number, as by the variety of their manifold heresies; men who were not endued with the gift of the Holy Spirit, but engaging in a vain work, have rather set forth in order a relation of events, than woven a true history
AMBROSE; Now they who have attempted to set forth these things in order have labored by themselves, and have not succeeded in what they attempted. For without the assistance of man come the gifts and the grace of God, which, when it is infused, is wont so to flow, that the genius of the writer is not exhausted, but ever abounding. He well says therefore, Of things which have been fully accomplished among us, or which abound among us. For that which abounds is lacking to none, and no one doubts about that which is fulfilled, since the accomplishment builds up our faith, and the end manifests it.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS; He says, of things, because not by shadows, as the heretics say, did Jesus accomplish His advent in the flesh, but being as He was the Truth, so in very truth He performed His work.
ORIGEN; The effect upon his own mind, St. Luke explains by the expression, of the things which have been fully accomplished among us, i.e. have had their full manifestation among us, (as the Greek word signifies, which the Latin cannot not express in one word,) for he had been convinced of them by sure faith and reason, and wavered not in any thing
CHRYS; The Evangelist was so far from being content with his single testimony, that he refers the whole to the Apostles, seeking from them a confirmation of his words; and therefore he adds, as they handed them down to us, who were themselves from the beginning eyewitnesses.
EUSEBIUS; Luke is a sure witness, because he obtained his knowledge of the truth either from St. Paul's instructions, or the instructions and traditions of the other Apostles, who were themselves eyewitnesses from the beginning.
CHRYS. He says, were eyewitnesses, because this is our chief ground for believing in a thing, that we derive it from those who were actually eyewitnesses.
ORIGEN; It is plain that of one kind of knowledge, the end is in the knowledge itself, as in geometry; but of another kind, the end is counted to be in the work, as in medicine; and so it is in the word of God, and therefore having signified the knowledge by the words were themselves eyewitnesses, he points out the work by what follows, and were ministers of the word
AMBROSE; This expression is used, not that we should suppose the ministry of the word to consist rather in seeing than hearing, but that, because by the word was meant not a word that can be spoken by the mouth, but one of real existence, we may understand that to have been not a common, but a Heavenly Word, to which the Apostles ministered.
CYRIL; In what he says of the Apostles having been eyewitnesses of the word, he agrees with John, who says, The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory. For the Word by means of the flesh was made visible.
AMBROSE; Now not only did they see the Lord in the body, but also in the Word. For they saw the Word, who with Moses and Elias saw the glory of the Word. Others did not see it, who could only see the body.
ORIGEN; It is written in Exodus, The people saw the voice of the Lord. Now a voice is rather heard than seen. But it was so written, to show us that men see the voice of the Lord with other eyes, which they only have who are worthy of them. Again in the Gospel, it is not the voice that is perceived, but the Word, which is more excellent than the voice.
THEOPHYL; By these words it is plainly implied, that Luke was not a disciple from the beginning but became one in course of time; others were disciples from the beginning, as Peter, and the sons of Zebedee.
THEOPHYL; Nevertheless both Matthew and John were obliged in many things that they wrote to consult those who had had means of knowing the infancy, childhood, and genealogy of our Lord, and of seeing the things which he did.
ORIGEN; St. Luke hereby explains to us the source of his writing; seeing that what things he wrote, he gained not from report, but had himself traced them up from the beginning. Hence it follows, It seemed good to me also, having carefully investigated every thing from the very first, to write to you in order, most excellent Theophilus.
AMBROSE; When he says, It seemed good to me, he does not deny that it seemed good to God for it is God who predisposes the wills of men. Now no one has doubted that this book of the Gospel is more full of details than the others; by these words then he claims to himself, not any thing that is false, but the truth; and therefore he says, "It seemed good to me, having investigated every thing, to write." Not to write every thing, but from a review of every thing; "for if all the things which Jesus did were written, I do not think the world itself could contain them." But purposely has Luke passed by things that were written by others, in order that each book of the Gospel might be distinguished by certain mysteries and miracles peculiar to itself.
THEOPHYL; He writes to Theophilus, a man probably of some distinction, and a governor; for the form, Most excellent, was not used except to rulers and governors. As for example, Paul says to Festus, Most excellent Festus.
THEOPHYL; Theophilus means, "loving God," or "being loved by God." Whoever then loses God, or desires to be loved by Him, let him think this Gospel to have been written to him, and preserve it as a gift presented to him, a pledge entrusted to his care. The promise was not to explain the meaning of certain new and strange things to Theophilus, but to set forth the truth of those words in which he had been instructed; as it is added, That you might know the truth of those words in which you have been instructed; that is, "that you might be able to know in what order each thing was said or done by the Lord."
CHRYS; Or it may be, "That you might feel certain and satisfied as to the truth of those things which you have heard, now that you behold the same in writing."
THEOPHYL; For frequently, when a thing is asserted by any one, and not expressed in writing, we suspect it of falsehood; but when a man has written what he asserts, we are the more inclined to believe it, as if, unless he thought it to be true, he would not commit it to writing.
GREEK EX. The whole preface of in this Evangelist contains two things; first, the condition of those who wrote Gospels before him, (Matthew and Mark for example;) secondly, the reason why he also himself proposed to write one.
Having said, "attempted," a word which may be applied both to those who presumptuously engage upon a subject, and those who reverently handle it, he determines the doubtful expression by two additions; first, by the words, Of things which have been fully accomplished among us; and secondly, As they handed them down to us, who were eyewitnesses from the beginning. The word handed down seems to show, that the eye-witnesses themselves had a commission to transmit the truth. For as they handed it down, so it became others also receiving it in due order, in their turn to publish it. But from the not depositing in writing what had been delivered, several difficulties through lapse of time sprang up. Rightly then did those who had received the tradition from the first eye-witnesses of the Word, establish it in writing for the whole world; thereby repelling falsehood, destroying forgetfulness, and making up from tradition itself a perfect whole.
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CHRYS; St. Luke commences the history of his Gospel with Zacharias and the birth of John; relating one marvelous event before another, the less before the greater. For since a virgin was about to become a mother, it had been fore-ordained by grace that the old should previously conceive. He fixes the time, when he says, In the days of Herod, and in the following words adds his rank, king of Judea. There was another Herod, who killed John; he was tetrarch, whereas this one was king.
THEOPHYL; Now the time of Herod, i. c. of a foreign king, bears witness to our Lord's coming, for it had been foretold, The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come. For from the time that our fathers came out of Egypt, they were governed by judges of their own nation, until the Prophet Samuel; and then by kings, until the carrying away to Babylon. But after the return from Babylon, the chief power was in the hands of priests, until the time of Hyrcanus, who was both king and high priest. He was slain by Herod, after which the government of the kingdom was delivered over by the command of Augustus Caesar to this same Herod, a foreigner, in whose thirty-first year, according to the prophecy we have mentioned, Shiloh came.
AMBROSE; Divine Scripture teaches us with respect to those whom we commemorate, that not only the characters of the men themselves, but of their parents also, ought to be praised, that they might be distinguished by an inheritance, as it were, handed down to them of unspotted purity. Now not only from his parents, but also from his ancestors, St. John derives his illustrious descent, a descent not exalted by secular power, but venerable from its sanctity. Complete then is that praise which comprehends birth, character, office, actions, and judgments.
The office was that of the Priesthood, as it is said, A certain Priest of the name of Zacharias.
THEOPHYL; For John was allotted a Priestly tribe, that he might with the more authority herald forth a change of priesthood.
AMBROSE; His birth is implied in the mention made of his ancestors. Of the course of Abia, i.e. of high rank among the noblest families.
THEOPHYL; There were Princes of the Sanctuary or High Priests, both of the sons of Eleazar and the sons of Thamar, whose courses according to their respective services when they entered into the House of God David divided into twenty-four lots, of which the family of Abia (from which Zacharias was descended) obtained the eighth lot. But it was not without meaning that the first preacher of the new covenant was born with the rights of the eighth lot; because as the old Covenant is often expressed by the seventh number on account of the Sabbath, so frequently is the new Covenant by the eighth, because of the sacrament of our Lord's or our resurrection.
THEOPHYL; Wishing to show also that John was legally of Priestly descent, Luke adds, And his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth, for it was not permitted to the Jews to take a wife from any other tribe but their own. Elisabeth by interpretation signifies "rest," Zacharias "the remembrance of the land."
THEOPHYL; John was born of just parents, that so he might the more boldly give precepts of justice to the people, which he had not learnt as novelties, but had received by right of inheritance from his ancestors. Hence it follows, And they were both just before God.
AMBROSE; Here their whole character is comprehended in their justice, but it is well said before God, for a man by affecting a popular good-will might seem just to me, but not be just before God, if that justice instead of springing from simpleness of heart, was a mere presence carried on by flattery. Perfect then is the praise, "that a man is just before God;" for he only is perfect who is approved by Him who cannot be deceived. St. Luke comprehends the action in the commandment, the doing justice in the justification. Hence it follows, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord. For when we obey the command of heaven we walk in the commandments of the Lord, when we observe justice we seem to possess the justification of the Lord. But to be "blameless" we must "provide things honest", not only before God, but also before men; there is no blame when both motive and action are alike good, but a too austere righteousness often provokes censure. A righteous act may also be done unrighteously, as when a man out of ostentation gives largely to the poor, which is not without just cause of blame. It follows, And they had no son, because Elizabeth was barren.
CHRYS; Not only Elisabeth, but the wives of the Patriarchs also, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, were barren, which was counted a disgrace among the ancients. Not that their barrenness was the effect of sin, since all were just and virtuous, but ordained rather for our benefit, that when you saw a virgin giving birth to the Lord, you might not be faithless, or perplexing your mind with respect to the womb of the barren
THEOPHYL; And that you might learn that the law of God seeks not a bodily increase of sons but a spiritual, both were far advanced, not only in the body but in the Spirit, "making ascents in their heart," having their life as the day not as the night, and walking honestly as in the day.
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THEOPHYL; The Lord appointed by the hand of Moses one High Priest, at whose death another was to succeed in due order. This was observed until the time of David, who by the command of the Lord increased the number of the Priests; and so at this time Zacharias is said to have been performing his Priest's office in the order of his course, as it follows: But it came to pass, when Zacharias was performing the Priest's office in the order of his course before God, according to the custom of the Priesthood, his lot was, &c.
AMBROSE; Zacharias seems here to be designated High Priest, because into the second tabernacle went the High Priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and the sins of the people.
THEOPHYL; It was not by a new lot that he was chosen when the incense was to be burnt, but by the old lot, whereby according to the order of his Priesthood he succeeded in the course of Abia.
It follows, And all the multitude of the people, &c. Incense was ordered to be carried into the Holy of Holies by the High Priest, the whole people waiting without the temple. It was to be on the tenth day of the seventh month, and this day was to be called the day of expiation or propitiation, the mystery of which day the Apostle explaining to the Hebrews, points to Jesus as the true High Priest, who in His own blood has entered the secret places of heaven that he might reconcile the Father to us, and intercede for the sins of those who still wait praying before the doors.
AMBROSE; This then is that High Priest who is still sought by lot, for as yet the true High Priest is unknown; for he who is chosen by lot is not obtained by man's judgment. That High Priest therefore was sought for, and another typified, the true High Priest for ever, who not by the blood of victims, but by His own blood, was to reconcile God the Father to mankind. Then indeed there were changes in the Priesthood, now it is unchangeable.
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CHRYS; When Zacharias entered into the temple to offer up prayers to God for all men, interceding between God and man, he saw an angel standing within, as it is said, And there appeared to him an angel.
AMBROSE; It is well said that there appeared an angel to Zacharias, who suddenly beheld him; and this is the expression especially used by Divine Scripture with respect to angels or God, that what cannot be seen beforehand may be said to appear. For things which are the objects of our senses are not seen as He is seen, Who is seen only as He will, and Whose nature is not to be seen.
ORIGEN; And we speak thus not only of the present time, but also of the future. When we shall have passed from the world, God will not appear to all men, nor will the angels, but to him only who has a clean heart. The place will neither hinder nor serve any one.
CHRYS; But the angel evidently came not in a dream, because the tidings he brought were too hard to be understood, and needed therefore a more visible and marvelous manifestation.
DAMASCENE; Angels, however, are revealed not as they really are, but transformed (as men are able to behold them) into whatever the Lord commands.
THEOPHYL; It is said the altar of incense, because the other altar was set apart for burnt offerings.
AMBROSE; It was not without good reason that the angel appeared in the temple, for the coming of the true High Priest was now announced, and the Heavenly Sacrifice was preparing at which angels were to minister. For one cannot doubt that an angel stands by where Christ is sacrificed. But he appeared at the right hand of the altar of incense, because he brought down the token of Divine mercy. For the Lord is on my right hand, so that I should not be moved.
CHRYS; The justest of men can not without fear behold an angel; Zacharias therefore, not sustaining the sight of the angel's presence, nor able to withstand his brightness, is troubled, as it is added, Zacharias was troubled. But as it happens, when a charioteer is frightened, and has let loose his reins, the horses run headlong, and the chariot is overturned; so is it with the soul, when it is taken by any surprise or alarm; as it is here added and fear fell upon him.
ORIGEN; A new face suddenly presenting itself to the human eye, troubles and startles the mind. The angel knowing this to be the nature of man, first dispels the alarm, as it follows, But the angel said to him, Fear not.
ATHAN; Whereby it is not difficult to discern between good and bad spirits, for if joy has succeeded to fear, we may know that relief has come from God, because the peace of the soul is a sign of the Divine Presence; but if the fear remains unshaken, it is an enemy who is seen,
ORIGEN; The angel not only soothes his fears, but gladdens him with good tidings, adding, For your prayer is heard, and your wife Elizabeth shall bear a son.
AUG; Now here we must first consider that it is not likely that Zacharias, when offering sacrifice for the sins or for the salvation or redemption of the people, would neglect the public petitions, to pray (though himself an old man, and his wife also old) that he might receive children; and, next, above all that no one prays for what he despairs of ever obtaining. And even up to this time, so much had he despaired of ever having children, that he would not believe, even when an angel promised it to him The words, Your prayer is heard, must be understood therefore to refer to the people; and as salvation, redemption, and the putting away of the sins of the people was to be through Christ, it is told Zacharias that a son shall be born to him, because that son was ordained to be the forerunner of Christ.
CHRYS; Or it means, that this was to be the proof of his prayer having been heard, namely, that a son should be born to him, crying, Behold the Lamb of God!
THEOPHYL; As if when Zacharias asks, How shall I know this? the angel answers, Because Elisabeth shall bring forth a son, you shall believe that the sins of your people are forgiven.
AMBROSE; Or, as follows; Divine mercy is ever full and overflowing, not narrowed to a single gift, but pouring in an abundant store of blessings; as in this case, where first the fruit of his prayer is promised; and next, that his barren wife shall bear a child, whose name is announced as follows; And you shall call his name John.
THEOPHYL; It is meant as a token of particular merit, when a man has a name given him or changed by God.
CHRYS; Which must be the meaning here, for those who from their earliest years were destined to shine forth in virtue, received their names at the very first from a divine source; while those who were to rise up in later years, had a name given them afterwards.
THEOPHYL; John is therefore interpreted, "one in whom is grace, or the grace of God;" by which name it is declared, first, that grace was given to his parents, to whom in their old age a son was to be born, next, to John himself, who was to become great before the Lord; lastly, also to the children of Israel, whom he was to convert to the Lord. Hence it follows, And he shall be a joy to you, and a cause of rejoicing.
ORIGEN; For when a just man is born into the world, the authors of his birth rejoice; but when one is born who is to be as it were an exile to labor and punishment, they are struck with terror and dismay.
AMBROSE; But a saint is not only the blessing of his parents, but also the salvation of many; as it follows, And many shall rejoice at his birth, Parents are reminded here to rejoice at the birth of saints, and to give thanks. For it is no slight gift of God to vouchsafe to us children, to be the transmitters of our race, to be the heirs of succession.
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AMBROSE; Next to his becoming the rejoicing of many, the greatness his virtue is prophesied; as it is said, For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord. The greatness signified is not of the body, but of the soul. Greatness in the sight of the Lord is greatness of soul, greatness of virtue.
THEOPHYL; For many are called great before men, but not before God, as the hypocrites. And so in like manner was John called great, as the parents of John were called just, before the Lord.
AMBROSE; He extended not the boundaries of an empire, nor brought back in triumph the spoils of war, (but, what is far greater,) preaching in the desert he overcame by his great virtue the delights of the world, and the lusts of the flesh. Hence it follows; And he shall drink no wine nor strong drink.
THEOPHYL; Sicera is interpreted "drunkenness," and by the word the Hebrews understand any drink that can intoxicate, (whether made from fruits, corn, or any other thing.) But it was part of the law of the Nazarites to give up wine and strong drink at the time of their consecration. Hence John, and others like him, that they might always remain Nazarites, (i.e. holy,) are careful always to abstain from these things. For he ought not to be drunk with wine (in which is licentiousness) who desires to be filled with the new wine of the Holy Spirit; rightly then is he, from whom all drunkenness with wine is utterly put away, filled with the grace of the Spirit. But it follows, And he shall be filled with the Holy Spirit.
AMBROSE; On whomsoever the Holy Spirit is poured, in him there is fullness of great virtue; as in St. John, who before he was born, when yet in his mother's womb, bore witness to the grace of the Spirit which he had received, when leaping in the womb of his parent he hailed the glad tidings of the coming of the Lord. There is one spirit of this life, another of grace. The former has its beginning at birth, its end at death; the latter is not tied down to times and seasons, is not quenched by death, is not shut out of the womb.
GREEK EXPOSITOR; But what John's work is to be, and what he will do through the Holy Spirit, is shown as follows; And many of the children of Israel shall he turn, &c.
ORIGEN; John indeed turned many, but it is the Lord's work to turn all to God their Father.
THEOPHYL; Now since John (who, bearing witness to Christ, baptized the people in His faith) is said to have turned the children of Israel to the Lord their God, it is plain that Christ is the God of Israel. Let the Arians then cease to deny that Christ our Lord is God. Let the Photinians blush to ascribe Christ's beginning to the Virgin. Let the Manichaeans no longer believe that there is one God of the people of Israel, another of the Christians.
AMBROSE; But we need no testimony that St. John turned the hearts of many, for to this point we have the express witness of both prophetic and evangelical Scriptures. For the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare you the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight; and his baptisms thronged by the people, declare the rapid progress of conversion. For the forerunner of Christ preached, not himself, but the Lord; and therefore it follows, And he shall go before Him. It was well said, that he shall go before Him, who both in birth and in death was His forerunner.
ORIGEN; In the spirit and power of Elijah. - He says not, in the mind of Elijah, but in the spirit and power For the spirit which was in Elijah came upon John, and in like manner his power.
AMBROSE; For never is the spirit without power, nor power without the spirit. And therefore it is said, in the spirit and power; because holy Elijah had great power and grace. Power, so that he turned back the false hearts of the people to faith; power of abstinence, and patience, and the spirit of prophecy. Elijah was in the wilderness, in the wilderness also was John. The one sought not the favor of king Ahab; the other despised that of Herod. The one divided Jordan; the other brought men to the Saving waters; John, the forerunner of our Lord's first coming; Elijah of His latter.
THEOPHYL; But what was foretold of Elias by Malachi, is now spoken by the angel of John; as it follows, That he should turn the hearts of the parents to the children; pouring into the minds of the people, by his preaching, the spiritual knowledge of the ancient saints. And the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; i.e. not laying claim to righteousness from the works of the law, but seeking salvation by faith.
GREEK EX. Or else; The Jews were the parents of John and the Apostles; but, nevertheless, from pride and infidelity raged violently against the Gospel. Therefore, like dutiful children, John first, and the Apostles after him, declared to them the truth, winning them over to their own righteousness and wisdom. So also will Elias convert the remnant of Hebrews to the truth of the Apostles.
THEOPHYL; But because he had said that Zacharias' prayer for the people was heard, he adds, To make ready a people prepared for the Lord; by which he teaches in what manner the same people must be healed and prepared; namely, by repenting at the preaching of John and believing on Christ.
THEOPHYL. Or, John made ready a people not disbelieving but prepared, that is, previously fitted to receive Christ.
ORIGEN; This sacrament of preparation is even now fulfilled in the world, for even now the spirit and power of John must come upon the soul, before it believes in Jesus Christ.
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CHRYS; Considering his own age, and moreover the barrenness of his wife, Zacharias doubted; as it is said, And Zacharias said to the angel, Whereby shall I know this? as if he said, "How shall this be?" And he adds the reason of his doubting; For I am an old man. An unseasonable time of life, an ill-suited nature; the planter infirm, the soil barren. But it is thought by some a thing unpardonable. in the priest, that he raises a course of objections; for whenever God declares any thing, it becomes us to receive it in faith, and moreover, disputes of this kind are the mark of a rebellious spirit.
Hence it follows; And the angel answering said to him, I am Gabriel, who stand before God.
THEOPHYL; As if he says, "If it were man who promised these miracles, one might with impunity demand a sign, but when an angel promises, it is then not right to doubt. It follows; And I am sent to speak to you.
CHRYS. That when you hear that I am sent from God, you should deem none of the things which are said to you to be of man, for I speak not of myself, but declare the message of Him who sends me. And this is the merit and excellence of a messenger to relate nothing of his own.
THEOPHYL; Here we must remark, that the angel testifies, that he both stands before God, and is sent to bring good tidings to Zacharias. GREG. For when angels come to us, they so outwardly fulfill their ministry, as at the same time inwardly to be never absent from His sight; since, though the angelic spirit is circumscribed, the highest Spirit, which is God, is not circumscribed. The angels therefore even when sent are before Him, because on whatever mission they go, they pass within Him.
THEOPHYL; But he gives him the sign which he asks for, that he who spoke in unbelief, might now by silence learn to believe; as it follows; and, behold, you shall be dumb.
CHRYS. That the bonds might be transferred from the powers of generation to the vocal organs. From no regard to the priesthood was he spared, but for this reason was the more smitten, because in a matter of faith he ought to have set an example to others.
THEOPHYL. Because the word in the Greek may also signify deaf, he well says, Because you believe not, you shall be deaf, and shall not be able to speak. For most reasonably he suffered these two things; as disobedient, he incurs the penalty of deafness; as an objector, of silence.
CHRYS. But the Angel says, And, behold; in other words, "At this instant." But mark the mercy of God in what follows: Until the day in which these things shall be performed. As if he said, "When by the issues of events I shall have proved my words, and you shall perceive that you are lightly punished, I will remove the punishment from you." And he points out the cause of the punishment, adding, Because you believe not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season; not considering His power Who sent me, and before Whom I stand. But if he who was incredulous about a mortal birth is punished how shall he escape vengeance, who speaks falsely of the heavenly and unspeakable birth?
GREEK EX. Now while these things were going on within the delay excited surprise among the multitudes who were waiting without, as it follows: And the people waited for Zacharias, an marveled that he tarried. And while various -suspicions were going about, each man repeating them as it pleased him, Zacharias coming forth told by his silence what he secretly endured.
Hence it follows, And when he came out, he could not speak.
THEOPHYL. But Zacharias beckoned to the people, who perhaps inquired the cause of his silence, which, as he was not able to speak, he signified to them by nodding. Hence it follows, And he beckoned to them, and remained speechless.
AMBROSE; But a nod is a certain action of the body, without speech endeavoring to declare the will, yet not expressing it.
Golden Chain 9000