Golden Chain 5445
5445 Mt 24,45-51
Hilary: Though the Lord had given above a general exhortation to all in common to unwearied vigilance, yet He adds a special charge to the rulers of the people, that is, the Bishops, of watchfulness in looking for His coming. Such He calls a faithful servant, and wise master of the household, careful for the needs and interests of the people entrusted to Him.
Chrys.: That He says, "Whom think ye is that faithful and wise servant," does not imply ignorance, for even the Father we find asking a question, as that, "Adam, where art thou?" (Gn 3,9)
Remig.: Nor yet does it imply the impossibility of attaining perfect virtue, but only the difficulty.
Gloss., ord.: For rare indeed is such "faithful" servant serving his Master for his Master's sake, feeding Christ's sheep not for lucre but for love of Christ, "skilled" to discern the abilities, the life, and the manner of those put under him, whom "the Lord sets over," that is, who is called of God, and has not thrust himself in.
Chrys.: He requires two things of such servant, fidelity and prudence; He calls him "faithful," because be appropriates to himself none of his Lord's goods, and wastes nought idly and unprofitably. He calls him "prudent," as knowing on what he ought to lay out the things committed to him.
Origen: Or, he that makes progress in the faith, though he is not yet perfect in it, is ordinarily called "faithful," and he who has natural quickness of intellect is called "prudent." And whoever observes will find many faithful, and zealous in their belief, but not at the same time prudent; "for God hath chosen the foolish things of the world." (1Co 1,27)
Others again he will see who are quick and prudent but of weak faith; for the union of faith and prudence in the same man is most rare. To give food in due season calls for prudence in a man; not to take away the food of the needy requires faithfulness. And this the literal sense obliges us to, that we be faithful in dispersing the revenues of the Church, that we (p. 839) devour not that which belongs to the widows, that we remember the poor, and that we do not take occasion from what is written, "The Lord hath ordained, that they which preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel," (1Co 9,14) to seek more than plain food and necessary clothing, or to keep more for ourselves than we give to those who suffer want. And that we be prudent, to understand the cases of them that are in need, whence they come to be so, what has been the education and what are the necessities of each.
It needs much prudence to distribute fairly the revenues of the Church. Also let the servant be faithful and prudent, that he lavish not the intellectual and spiritual food upon those whom he ought not, but dispense according as each has need; to one is more behoveful that word which shall edify his behaviour, and guide his practice, than that which sheds a ray of science; but to others who can pierce more deeply let him not fail to expound the deeper things, lest if he set before them common things only, he be despised by such as have naturally keener understandings, or have been sharpened by the discipline of worldly learning.
Chrys.: This parable may be also fitted to the case of secular rulers; for each ought to employ the things he has to the common benefit, and not to the hurt of his fellow-servants, nor to his own ruin; whether it be wisdom or dominion, or whatever else be has.
Raban.: The "lord" is Christ, the "household" over which He appoints is the Church Catholic. It is hard then to find one man who is both "faithful and wise," but not impossible; for He would not pronounce a blessing on a character that could never be, as when He adds, "Blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing."
Hilary: That is, obedient to his Lord's command, by the seasonableness of his teaching dispensing the word of life to a household which is to be nourished for the food of eternity.
Remig.: It should be observed, that as there is great difference of desert between good preachers and good hearers, so is there great difference between their rewards. The good hearers, if He finds them watching He will make to sit down to meat, as Luke speaks; but the good preachers "He will set over all His goods."
Origen: That he may reign with Christ, to whom the Father has committed all that is His. And as the son of a good father set over all that is his, (p. 840) He shall communicate of His dignity and glory to His faithful and wise stewards, that they also may be above the whole creation.
Raban.: Not that they only, but that they before others, shall be rewarded as well for their own lives as for their superintendence of the flock.
Hilary: Or, "shall set him over all his goods," that is, shall place him in the glory of God, because beyond this is nothing better.
Chrys.: And He instructs His hearer not only by the honour which awaits the good, but by the punishment which threatens the wicked, adding, "If that evil servant shall say in his heart, &c."
Aug., Ep. 199, 1: The temper of this servant is shewn in his behaviour, which is thus expressed by his good Master; his tyranny, "and shall begin to beat his fellow servants," his sensuality, "and to eat and drink with the drunken." So that when be said, "My Lord delayeth His coming," he is not to be supposed to speak from desire to see the Lord, such as was that of him who said, ?My soul is athirst for the living God; when shall I come?" (Ps 42,2) This shews that he was grieved at the delay, seeing that what was hastening towards him seemed to his longing desires to be coming slowly.
Origen: And every Bishop, who ministers not as a fellow servant, but rules by might as a master, and often an harsh one, sins against God; also if he does not cherish the needy, but feasts with the drunken, and is continually slumbering because his Lord cometh not till after long time.
Raban.: Typically, we may understand his beating his fellow servants, of offending the consciences of the weak by word, or by evil example.
Jerome: "The Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for Him," is to rouse the stewards to watchfulness and carefulness. "He shall cut him in sunder," is not to be understood of execution by the sword, but that he shall sever him from the company of the saints.
Origen: Or, "He shall cut him in sunder," when his spirit, that is, his spiritual gift, shall return to God who gave it; but his soul shall go with his body into hell. But the righteous man is not cut in sunder, but his soul, with his spirit, that is, with his gift, spiritual enters into the kingdom of heaven. They that are cut in sunder have in them thenceforth no part of that spiritual gift which was from God, but there remains to them that part which was their own, that is, their soul, which shall be punished with (p. 841) their body.
Jerome: "And shall appoint him his portion with the hypocrites," with those, namely, that were in the field, and grinding at the mill, and were nevertheless left. For as we often say that the hypocrite is one who is one thing, and passes himself for another; so in the field and at the mill he seemed to be doing the same as others, but the event proved that his purpose was different.
Raban.: Or, "appoints him his portion with the hypocrites," that is, a twofold share of punishment, that of fire and frost; to the fire belongs the "weeping," to the frost the "gnashing of teeth." (ed. note: See above on chap. viii, 12)
Origen: Or, there shall be "weeping" for such as have laughed amiss in this world, "gnashing of teeth" for those who have enjoyed an irrational peace. For being unwilling to suffer bodily pain, now the torture forces their teeth to chatter, with which they have eaten the bitterness of wickedness. From this we may learn that the Lord sets over His household not the faithful and wise only, but the wicked also; and that it will not save them to have been set over His household, but only if they have given them their food in due season, and have abstained from beating and drunkenness.
Aug., Ep. 199, in fin.: Putting aside this wicked servant, who, there is no doubt, hates his Master's coming, let us set before our eyes these good servants, who anxiously expect their Lord's coming. One looks for His coming sooner, another later, the third confesses his ignorance of the matter.
Let us see which is most agreeable to the Gospel. One says, Let us watch and pray, because the Lord will quickly come; another, Let us watch and pray, because this life is short and uncertain, though the Lord's coining may be distant; and the third, Let us watch, because this life is short and uncertain, and we know not the time when the Lord will come. What else does this man say than what we hear the Gospel say, "Watch, because ye know not the hour in which the Lord shall come?" All indeed, through longing for the kingdom, desire that that should be true which the first thinks, and if it should so come to pass, the second and third would rejoice with him; but if it should not come to pass, it were to be feared that the belief of its supporters might be shaken by the delay, and they might begin to think that the Lord's (p. 842) coming shall be, not remote, but never. He who believes with the second that the Lord's coming is distant will not be shaken in faith, but will receive an unlooked for joy. He who confesses his ignorance which of these is true, wishes for the one, is resigned to the other, but errs in neither, because he neither affirms or denies either.
5501 (Mt 25,1-13)
(p. 843) Chrys., Hom. lxxviii, In the foregoing parable the Lord set forth the punishment of the man who beat, and was drunk, and wasted (p. 844) his Lord's goods; in this He declares his punishment who profits not, and does not prepare for himself abundantly the things of which he has need; for the foolish virgins had oil, but not enough.
Hilary: "Then," because all this discourse is concerning the great day of the Lord, concerning which He had been speaking before.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xii, 1: By "the kingdom of heaven" is meant the present Church, as in that, "The Son of Man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend." (Mt 13,41)
Jerome: This parable of the ten foolish and the ten wise virgins, some interpret literally of virgins, of whom there are according to the Apostle (marg. note: 1Co 7) some who are virgins both in body and in thought, others who have preserved indeed their bodies virgin, but have not the other deeds of virgins, or have only been preserved by the guardianship of parents, but have wedded in their hearts. But from what has gone before, I think the meaning to be different, and that the parable has reference not to virgins only, but to the whole human race.
Greg.: For in each of the five senses of the body there is a double instrument, and the number five doubled makes ten. And because the company of the faithful is gathered out of both sexes, the Holy Church is described as being like to ten virgins, where as bad are mixed with good, and reprobate with elect, it is like a mixture of wise and foolish virgins.
Chrys.: And He employs the character virgins in this parable to shew, that though virginity be a great thing, yet if it be not accompanied by works of mercy, it shall be cast out with the adulterers.
Origen: Or, The understandings of all who have received the word of God are virgins. For such is the word of God, that of its purity it imparts to all, who by its teaching have departed from the worship of idols, and have through Christ drawn near to the worship of God; "Which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom and the bride." (ed. note: 'Et sponsae' Vulg. and so a few Greek MSS.)
They take "their lamps," i.e. their natural faculties, and go forth out of the world and its errors, and go to meet the Saviour, who is ever ready to come to enter with them that are worthy to His blessed bride the Church.
Hilary: Or, "The bridegroom and the bride" represent our Lord God in the body, for the flesh is the bride of the spirit. "The lamps" are the light of bright souls which shine forth in the sacrament of (p. 845) baptism. (ed. note: Alluding to the terms and illuminatia, by which Baptism was designated. S. Cyr. Cat. Oxf. Tr. p. 1.)
Aug., Lib. 83 Quaest, Q59: Or, "The lamps" which they carry in their hands are their works, of which it was said above, "Let your works shine before men." (Mt 5,16)
Origen: They that believe rightly, and live righteously, are likened to the five wise ; they that profess the faith of Jesus, but prepare themselves not by good works to salvation, are likened to the five foolish.
Jerome: For there are five senses which hasten towards heavenly things, and seek after things above. Of sight, hearing, and touch, it is specially said, "That which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled." (1Jn 1,1) Of taste, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." (Ps 34,8) Of smell, "Because of the savour of thy good ointments." (Song of Songs 1:3) There are also other five senses which gape after earthly husks.
Aug.: Or, by the five virgins, is denoted a five-fold continence from the allurements of the flesh; for our appetite must be held from gratification of the eyes, ears, smell, taste, and touch. And as this continence may be done before God, to please Him in inward joy of the conscience, or before men only to gain applause of men, five are called wise, and five foolish. Both are virgins, because both these men exercise continence, though from different motives.
Origen: And because the virtues are so linked together, that he who has one has all, so all the senses so follow one another, that all must be wise, or all foolish.
Hilary: Or, The five wise and five foolish are an absolute distinction between believers and unbelievers.
Greg.: It is to be observed, that all have lamps, but all have not oil.
Hilary: The "oil" is the fruit of good works, the "vessels" are the human bodies in whose inward parts the treasure of a good conscience is to be laid up.
Jerome: The virgins that have oil are they who, besides their faith, have the ornament of good works - they that have not oil, are they that seem to confess with like faith, but neglect the works of virtue.
Aug.: Or, The "oil" denotes joy, according to that, "God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness." (Ps 45,7) He then whose joy springs not from this that he is inwardly pleasing to God, has no oil with him; for they have no gladness in their continent lives, (p. 846) save in the praises of men. "But the wise took oil with their lamps," that is, the gladness of good works, "in their vessels," that is, they stored it in their heart and conscience, as the Apostle speaks, "Let every man prove himself, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself, and not in another." (Ga 6,4)
Chrys.: Or, The "oil" denotes charity, alms, and every aid rendered to the needy; the lamps denote the gifts of virginity; and He calls them "foolish," because after having gone through the greater toil, they lost all for the sake of a less; for it is greater labour to overcome the desires of the flesh than of money.
Origen: Or, The "oil" is the word of teaching, with which the vessels of souls are filled ; for what gives so great content as moral discourse, which is called the oil of light. The "wise" took with them of this oil, as much as would suffice, though the Word should tarry long, and be slack to come to their consummation.
The, "foolish" took lamps, alight indeed at the first, but not supplied with so much oil as should suffice even to the end, being careless respecting the provision of doctrine which comforts faith, and enlightens the lamp of good deeds.
Aug.: For there die of both kinds of men in this interval of time before the resurrection of the dead, and the Lord's coming shall be.
Greg.: To sleep is to die, to slumber before sleep is to faint from salvation before death, because, by the burden of sickness we come to the sleep of death.
Jerome: Or, "They slumbered," i.e. they were dead. And then follows, "And slept," because they were to be afterwards wakened. "While the bridegroom tarried," shews that no little time intervened between the Lord's first and second coming.
Origen: Or, Whilst the bridegroom "tarried," and the Word comes not speedily to the consummation of this life, the senses suffer, slumbering and moving in the night of the world; and sleep, as energizing feebly, and with no quick sense. Yet did those wise virgins not quit their lamps, nor despair of hoarding their oil.
Jerome: The Jews have a tradition that Christ will come at midnight, in like manner as in that visitation of Egypt, when the Paschal feast is celebrated, and the destroyer comes, and the Lord passes over our dwellings, and the door posts of each man's countenance are hallowed by the blood of the Lamb.
Hence, I suppose, has continued among us that apostolic tradition, (p. 847) that on the vigil of Easter the people should not be dismissed before midnight, in expectation of Christ's coming; but when that hour has past over, they may celebrate the feast in security; whence also the Psalmist says, "At midnight did I rise to praise thee." (Ps 119,62)
(ed note, Easter vigil: This day was kept an universal fast over the whole Church. And they continued it not only till evening, but till cockcrowing in the morning. The night was spent in a Vigil, or Pernoctation, when they assembled together to perform all parts of Divine service. There is frequent mention made of this in ancient writers, Chrysostom, (Hom. 30. in Gen,) Epiphanius, (Exp. fid. n. 22.) and many others. Particularly Lactantius and S. Jerome tell us observed it on a double account. Lactantius, (vii. 19.) says, 'This is the night which we observe, with a per noctation for the Advent of our King and God; of which there is a twofold reason to be given; because in this night our Lord was raised to life again after His Passion; and in the same He is expected to return to receive the kingdom of the world.' " Bingham's Antiquities, xxi. 1. 32.)
Aug.: Or, "At midnight," that is, when none knew or looked for it.
Jerome: Suddenly thus, as on a stormy night, and when all think themselves secure, at the hour when sleep is the deepest, the coming of Christ shall be proclaimed by the shout of Angels, and the trumpets of the Powers that go before Him. This is meant when it says, "Lo, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him."
Hilary: At the trumpet signal they go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, for then shall the two be one, that is, the flesh and God, when the lowliness of the flesh shall be transformed into spiritual glory.
Aug.: Or, that the virgins go forth to meet the bridegroom alone, I think is to be understood that the virgins themselves constitute her who is called the bride - as we speak of the Christians flocking to the Church as children running to their mother, and yet this same mother consists only of the children who are gathered together. For now the Church is betrothed, and is to be led forth as a virgin to the marriage, which takes place then when all her mortal part having past away, she maybe held in an eternal union.
Origen: Or, "At midnight," that is, at the time of their most abandoned carelessness, "there was a great cry," of the Angels, I suppose, desiring to arouse all men, those ministering spirits crying within in the senses of all that sleep, "Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him." All heard this summons, and arose, but all were not able to trim their lamps fitly. The lamps of the senses are trimmed by evangelical and right use of them; and they that use their senses amiss have their lamps untrimmed.
Greg.: Or, "All the virgins arose," (p. 848) that is, both elect and reprobate are roused from the sleep of death; they "trimmed their lamps," that is, they reckon up to themselves their works for which they look to receive eternal blessedness.
Aug.: They "trimmed their lamps," that is, prepared to give an account of their deeds.
Hilary: Or, the trimming their lamps is the return of their souls into their bodies, and their light is the consciousness of good works that shines forth, which is contained in the vessels of the body.
Greg.: The lamps of the foolish virgins go out, because the works which appeared outwardly to men to be bright, are dimmed within at the coming of the Judge. That they then beg oil of the wise virgins, what is it but that at the coming of the Judge, when they find themselves empty within, they seek for witness from without? As though deceived by their own self-confidence, they say to their neighbours, "Whereas ye see us rejected as living without works, do ye witness to our works that ye have seen.
Aug.: From habit, the mind seeks that which uses to give it pleasure. And these now seek from men, who see not the heart, witness to God, who sees the heart. But their lamps go out, because those, whose good works rest upon the testimony of others, when that is withdrawn, sink into nothing.
Jerome: Or, These virgins who complain that their lamps are gone out, shew that they are partially alight, yet have they not an unfailing light, nor enduring works. Whoso then has a virgin soul, and is a lover of chastity, ought not to rest content with such virtues as quickly fade, and are withered away when the heat comes upon them, but should follow after perfect virtues, that he may have an enduring light.
Chrys.: Or otherwise ; These virgins were foolish, not only because they departed hence, lacking store of mercy, but because they deemed to receive it from those of whom they importunately begged it. For though nothing could be more merciful than those wise virgins, who for this very mercifulness were approved, yet would they not grant the prayer of the foolish virgins. But the wise answered, saying, "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you;" hence we learn that none of us shall be able in that day to stand forth as patron (marg. note: ) of those who are betrayed by their own works, not because he will not, but because he cannot.
Jerome: For these wise virgins do not answer thus out of covetousness, (p. 849) but out of fear. Wherefore, each man shall receive the recompense of his own works, and the virtues of one cannot atone for the vices of another in the day of judgment. The wise admonish them not to go to meet the bridegroom without oil, "Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves."
Hilary: They that sell are the poor, who, needing the alms of the faithful, made them that recompense which they desire, selling in return for the relief afforded to their wants, a consciousness of good works. This is the abundant fuel of an undying light which may be bought and stored up for the fruits of mercy.
Chrys.: You see then how great merchants the poor are to us; but the poor are not there, but here, and therefore we must store up oil here, that we may have it to use there when occasion shall require.
Jerome: And this oil is sold, and at a high cost, nor is it to be got without much toil; so that we understand it not of alms only, but of all virtues and counsels of the teachers.
Origen: Otherwise; Notwithstanding they were foolish, they yet understood that they must have light to go and meet the bridegroom, that all the lights of their senses might be burning. This also they discerned, that because they had little of the spiritual oil, their lamps would burn dim as darkness drew on. But the wise send the foolish to those that sell, seeing that they had not stored up so much oil, that is, word of doctrine, as would suffice both for themselves to live by, and to teach others, "Go ye rather to them that sell," i.e. to the doctors, "and buy," i.e. take of them; the price is perseverance, the love of learning, industry, and toil of all who are willing to learn.
Aug.: Or we may suppose it not meant as advice what they should do, but as an indirect allusion to their fault. For flatterers sell oil, who by praising things false, and things unknown, lead souls astray, recommending to them, as foolish, empty joys, and receiving in return some temporal benefit.
"Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves," i.e. Let us now see what they can profit you who have used to sell you their praise. "Lest there be not enough for us and you," because no man is profited in God's sight by the testimony of others, because God sees the heart, and each man is scarce able to give testimony concerning his own conscience.
Jerome: But because the (p. 850) season for buying was now past, and the day of judgment was coming on, so that there was no room for penitence, they must not now lay up new works, but give an account of the old.
Hilary: "The marriage" is the putting on of immortality, and the joining together corruption and incorruption in a new union.
Chrys.; That, "While they went to buy," shews that even, if we should become merciful after death, it will avail us nothing to escape punishment, as it was no profit to the rich man, that he became merciful and careful about those who belonged to him.
Origen: Or, He says, "While they went to buy," because there are men to be found who have neglected to learn any thing useful, till when, in the very end of their life, when they set themselves to learn, they are overtaken by death.
Aug.: Or otherwise; "While they went to buy," that is, while they turned themselves to things without, and sought to find pleasure in things they had been accustomed to, because they knew not inward joys, came He that judges; and they "that were ready," i.e. they whose conscience bore witness to them before God, "went in with him to the wedding," i.e. to where the pure soul is united prolific to the pure and perfect word of God.
Jerome: After the day of judgment, there is no more opportunity for good works, or for righteousness, and therefore it follows, "And the door was shut."
Aug.: When they have been taken in who have been changed into angelic being, all entrance into the kingdom of heaven is closed; after the judgment, there is no more place for prayers or merit. (marg. note: 1Co 15,51)
Hilary: Yet though the season of repentance is now past, the foolish virgins come and beg that entrance may be granted to them.
Jerome: Their worthy confession calling Him, "Lord, Lord," is a mark of faith. But what avails it to confess with the mouth Him whom you deny with your works?
Gloss, ap. Anselm: Grief at their exclusion extorts from them a repetition of this title of, "Lord;" they call not Him Father, whose mercy they despised in their lifetime.
Aug.: It is not said that they bought any oil, and therefore we must suppose that all their delight in the praise of men being gone, they return in distress and affliction to implore God. But His severity, after judgment, is as great as His mercy was unspeakable before. "But He answered (p. 851) and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not;" by that rule, namely, that the art of God, that is, His wisdom, does not admit that those should enter into His joy who have sought to do in any thing according to His commandments, not as before God, but that they may please men.
Jerome: For "the Lord knoweth them that are his," (2Tm 2,19) and he that knoweth not shall not be known, and though they be virgins in purity of body, or in confession of the true faith, yet forasmuch as they have no oil, they are unknown by the bridegroom. When He adds, "Watch therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour," He means that all that has been said points to this, namely, that seeing we know not the day of judgment, we should be careful in providing the light of good works.
Aug.: For indeed we know the day and the hour neither of that future time when the Bridegroom will come, nor of our own falling asleep each of us; if then we be prepared for this latter, we shall also be prepared when that voice shall sound, which shall arouse us all.
Aug., Ep. 199, 45: There have not been wanting those who would refer these ten virgins to that coming of Christ, which takes place now in the Church; but this is not to be hastily held out, lest any thing should occur contradictory of it.
5514 (Mt 25,14-30)
(p. 853) Gloss.: In the foregoing parable is set forth the condemnation of such as have not prepared sufficient oil for themselves, whether by oil is meant the brightness of good works, or inward joy of conscience, or alms paid in money.
Chrys.: This parable is delivered against those who will not assist their neighbours either with money, or words, or in any other way, but hide all that they have.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, i: The man in travelling into a far country is our Redeemer, who ascended into heaven in that flesh which He had taken upon Him. For the proper home of the flesh is the earth, and it, as it were, travels into a foreign country, when it is placed by the Redeemer in heaven.
Origen: He travels, not according to His divine nature, but according to the dispensation of the flesh which He took upon Him. For He who says to His disciples, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world," (Mt 28,20) is the Only-Begotten God, who is not circumscribed by bodily form. By saying this, we do not disunite Jesus, but attribute its proper qualities to each constituent substance.
We may also explain thus, that the Lord travels in a far country with all those who walk by faith and not by sight. And when we are absent from the body with the Lord, then will He also he with us. Observe that the turn of expression is not thus, I am like, or The Son of Man is like, "a man travelling into a far country," because He is represented in the parable as travelling, not as the Son of God, but as man.
Jerome: Calling together the Apostles, He gave them the Gospel doctrine, to one more, to another less, not as of His own bounty or scanting, but as meeting the capacity of the receivers, as the Apostle says (marg. note 1Co 3,2), that he fed with milk those that were unable to take solid food. In the five, two, and one talent, we recognise the diversity of gifts wherewith we have been entrusted.
Origen: Whenever you see of those who have received from Christ a dispensation of the oracles of God that some have more and some less; that some have not in comparison of the better sort half an understanding of things; that others have still less; you will perceive the difference of those who have all of them received from Christ oracles of God. They to whom five talents were given, and they to whom two, and they to whom one, have divers degrees of capacity, and one could not hold the measure of another; he who received but one (p. 854) having received no mean endowment, for one talent of such a master is a great thing.
His proper servants are three, as there are three sorts of those that bear fruit. He that received five talents, is he that is able to raise all the meanings of the Scriptures to their more divine significations; he that has two is he that has been taught carnal doctrine, (for two seems to be a carnal number,) and to the less strong the Master of the household has given one talent.
Greg.: Otherwise; The five talents denote the gift of the five senses, that is, the knowledge of things without; the two signify understanding and action, the one talent understanding only.
Gloss., ord.: "And straightway took his journey," not changing his place, but leaving them to their own freewill and choice of action.
Jerome: "He that had received five talents," that is, having received his bodily senses, he doubled his knowledge of heavenly things, from the creature understanding the Creator, from earthly unearthly, from temporal the eternal.
Greg.: There are also some who though they cannot pierce to things inward and mystical, yet for their measure of view of their heavenly country they teach rightly such things as they can, what they have gathered from things without, and while they keep themselves from wantonness of the flesh, and from ambition of earthly things, and from the delights of the things that are seen, they restrain others also from the same by their admonitions.
Origen: Or, They that have their senses exercised by healthy conversation, both raising themselves to higher knowledge and zealous in teaching others, these have gained other five; because no one can easily have increase of any virtues that are not his own, and without he teaches others what he himself knows, and no more.
Hilary: Or, That servant who received five talents is the people of believers under the Law, who beginning with that, doubled their merit by the right obedience of an evangelic faith.
Greg.: Again, there are some who by their understanding and their actions preach to others, and thence gain as it were a twofold profit in such merchandize. This their preaching bestowed upon both sexes is thus a talent doubled.
Origen: Or, "gained other two," that is, carnal instruction, and another yet a little higher.
Hilary: Or, the servant to whom two talents were committed is the people of the Gentiles justified by the faith and confession of the Son and of the Father, confessing (p. 855) our Lord Jesus Christ, to be both God and Man, both Spirit and Flesh. These are the two talents committed to this servant. But as the Jewish people doubled by its belief in the Gospel every Sacrament which it had learned in the Law, (i.e. its five talents,) so this people by its use of its two talents merited understanding and working.
Greg.: To hide one's talent in the earth is to devote the ability we have received to worldly business.
Origen: Or otherwise; When you see one who has the power of teaching, and of benefitting souls, hiding this power, though he may have a certain religiousness of life, doubt not of such an one that he has received one talent and hides it in the earth.
Hilary: Or, This servant who has received one talent and hid it in the earth is the people that continue in the Law, who through jealousy of the salvation of the Gentiles hide the talent they have received in the earth. For to hide a talent in the earth is to hide the glory of the new preaching through offence at the Passion of His Body. His coming to reckon with them is the assize of the day of judgment.
Origen: And note here that the servants do not come to the Lord to be judged, but the Lord shall come to them when the time shall be accomplished. "After a long time," that is, when He has sent forth such as are fitted to bring about the salvation of souls, and perhaps for this reason it is not easy to find one who is quite fit to pass forthwith out of this life, as is manifest from this, that even the Apostles lived to old age; for example, it was said to Peter, "When thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hand;" (Jn 21,18) and Paul says to Philemon, "Now as Paul the aged."
Chrys.: Observe also that the Lord does not require the reckoning immediately, that you may learn His long suffering. To me He seems to say this covertly, alluding to the resurrection.
Jerome: "After a long time," because there is a long interval between the Saviour's ascension and His second coming.
Greg.: This lesson from this Gospel warns us to consider whether those who seem to have received more in this world than others shall not be more severely judged by the Author of the world; the greater the gifts, the greater the reckoning for them. Therefore should every one be humble concerning his talents in proportion as he sees himself tied up with a greater responsibility.
Origen: He who had received five talents comes (p. 856) first with boldness before his Lord.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 2: And bringing his talents doubled, he is commended by his Lord, and is sent into eternal happiness.
Raban.: "Well done" is an interjection of joy; the Lord shewing us therein the joy with which He invites the servant who labours well to eternal bliss; of which the Prophet speaks, "In thy presence is fulness of joy." (Ps 16,11)
Chrys.: "Thou good servant," this he means of that goodness which is shewn towards our neighbour.
Gloss., non occ.: "Faithful," because he appropriated to himself none of those things which were his lord's.
Jerome: He says, "Thou wast faithful in a few things," because all that we have at present though they seem great and many, yet in comparison of the things to come are little and few.
Greg.: The faithful servant is set over many things, when having overcome the afflictions of corruption, he joys with eternal joy in that heavenly seat. He is then fully admitted to the joy of his Lord, when taken in to that abiding country, and numbered among the companies of Angels, he has such inward joy for this gift, that there is no room for outward sorrow at his corruption.
Jerome: What greater thing can be given to a faithful servant than to be with his Lord, and to see his Lord's joy?
Chrys.: By this word "joy" He expresses complete blessedness.
Aug., de Trin., i, 8: This will be our perfect joy, than which is none greater, to have fruition of that Divine Trinity in whose image we were made.
Jerome: The servant who of five talents had made ten, and he who of two had made four, are received with equal favour by the Master of the household, who looks not to the largeness of their profit, but to the disposition of their will.
Origen: That He says of both these servants that they "came," we must understand of their passing out of this world to Him. And observe that the same was said to them both; he that had less capacity, but that which he had, he exercised after such manner as he ought, shall have no whit less with God than he who has a greater capacity; for all that is required is that whatever a man has from God, he should use it all to the glory of God.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix: The servant who would not trade with his talent returns to his Lord with words of excuse.
Jerome: For truly that which is written, "To offer excuses excusing sins" (Ps 141,4) happened to this servant, so that to slothfulness and idleness was added also the sin of pride. For he who ought to have (p. 857) honestly acknowledged his fault, and to have entreated the Master of the household, on the contrary cavils against him, and avers that he did it with provident design, lest while he sought to make profit he should hazard the capital.
Origen: This servant seems to me to have been one of those who believe, but do not act honestly, concealing their faith, and doing every thing that they may not be known to be Christians. They who are such seem to me to have a fear of God, and to regard Him as austere and implacable. We indeed understand how the Lord reaps where He sowed not, because the righteous man sows in the Spirit, whereof he shall reap life eternal. Also He reaps where He sowed not, and gathers where he scattered not, because He counts as bestowed upon Himself all that is sown among the poor.
Jerome: Also, by this which this servant dared to say, "Thou reapest where thou sowedst not," we understand that the Lord accepts the good life of the Gentiles and of the Philosophers.
Greg.: But there are many within the Church of whom this servant is a type, who fear to set out on the path of a better life, and yet are not afraid to continue in carnal indolence; they esteem themselves sinners, and therefore tremble to take up the paths of holiness, but fearlessly remain in their own iniquities.
Hilary: Or, By this servant is understood the Jewish people which continues in the Law, and says, I was "afraid of thee," as through fear of the old commandments abstaining from the exercise of evangelical liberty; and it says, "Lo, there is that is thine," as though it had continued in those things which the Lord commanded, when yet it knew that the fruits of righteousness should be reaped there, where the Law had not been sown, and that there should be gathered from among the Gentiles some who were not scattered of the seed of Abraham.
Jerome: But what he thought would be his excuse is turned into his condemnation. He calls him "wicked servant," because he cavilled against his Lord; and "slothful," because he would not double his talent; condemning his pride in the one, and his idleness in the other. If you knew me to be hard and austere, and to seek after other men's goods, you should also have known that I exact with the more rigour that is mine own, and should have given my money to the bankers; for the Greek word here () (p. 858) means money.
"The words of the Lord are pure words, silver tried in the fire." (Ps 12,6) The money, or silver, then are the preaching of the Gospel and the heavenly word; which ought to be given to the bankers, that is, either to the other doctors, which the Apostles did when they ordained Priests and Bishops throughout the cities; or to all the believers, who can double the sum and restore it with usury by fulfilling in act what they have learned in word.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 4: So then we see as well the peril of the teachers if they withhold the Lord's money, as that of the hearers from whom is exacted with usury that they have heard, namely, that from what they have heard they should strive to understand that they have not heard.
Origen: The Lord did not allow that He was "a hard man" as the servant supposed, but He assented to all his other words. But He is indeed hard to those who abuse the mercy of God to suffer themselves to become remiss, and use it not to be converted.
Greg.: Let us hear now the sentence by which the Lord condemns the slothful servant, "Take away from him the talent, and give it to him that hath ten talents."
Origen: The Lord is able by the might of His divinity to take away his ability from the man who is slack to use it, and to give it to him who has improved his own.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 5: It might seem more seasonable to have given it rather to him who had two, than to him who had five. But as the five talents denote the knowledge of things without, the two understanding and action, he who had the two had more than he who had the five talents; this man with his five talents merited the administration of things without, but was yet without any understanding of things eternal. The one talent therefore, which we say signifies the intellect, ought to be given to him who had administered well the things without which he had received; the same we see happen every day in the Holy Church, that they who administer faithfully things without, are also mighty in the inward understanding.
Jerome: Or, it is given to him who had gained five talents, that we may understand that though the Lord's joy over the labour of each be equal, of him who doubled the five as of him who doubled the two, yet is a greater reward due to him who laboured more in the Lord's money.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., ix, 6: Then follows a general sentence, "For to every one that hath shall be given, (p. 859) and he shall have abundance, but from him that hath not, even that which he seemeth to have shall be taken away." For whosoever has charity receives the other gifts also; but whosoever has not charity loses even the gifts which he seemed to have had.
Chrys.: Also he who has the graces of eloquence and of teaching to profit withal, and uses it not, loses that grace; but he who does his endeavour in putting it to use acquires a larger share.
Jerome: Many also who are naturally clever and have sharp wit, if they become neglectful, and by disuse spoil that good they have by nature, these do, in comparison of him who being somewhat dull by nature compensates by industry and painstaking his backwardness, lose their natural gift, and see the reward promised them pass away to others.
But it may also be understood thus; To him who has faith, and a right will in the Lord, even if he come in aught short in deed as being man, shall be given by the merciful Judge; but he who has not faith, shall lose even the other virtues which he seems to have naturally. And He says carefully, "From him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to have," for whatsoever is without faith in Christ ought not to be imputed to him who uses it amiss, but to Him who gives the goods of nature even to a wicked servant.
Greg.: Or, Whoso has not charity, loses even those things which he seems to have received.
Hilary: And on those who have the privilege of the Gospels, the honour of the Law is also conferred, but from him who has not the faith of Christ is taken away even that honour which seemed to be his through the Law.
Chrys.: The wicked servant is punished not only by loss of his talent, but by intolerable infliction, and a denunciation in accusation joined therewith.
Origen: "Into outer darkness," where is no light, perhaps not even physical light; and where God is not seen, but those who are condemned thereto are condemned as unworthy the contemplation of God. We have also read some one before us expounding this of the darkness of that abyss which is outside the world, as though unworthy of the world, they were cast out into that abyss, where is darkness with none to lighten it.
Greg.: And thus for punishment he shall be cast into outer darkness who has of his own free will fallen into inward darkness.
Jerome: What is weeping and (p. 860) gnashing of teeth we have said above.
Chrys.: Observe that not only he who robs others, or who works evil, is punished with extreme punishment, but he also who does not good works.
Greg., Hom. in Ev., lx, 7: Let him then who has understanding look that he hold not his peace; let him who has affluence not be dead to mercy; let him who has the art of guiding life communicate its use with his neighbour; and him who has the faculty of eloquence intercede with the rich for the poor. For the very least endowment will be reckoned as a talent entrusted for use.
Origen: If you are offended at this we have said, namely that a man shall be judged if he does not teach others, call to mind the Apostle's words, "Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel." (1Co 9,16)
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