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SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
In this and the two following chapters S. Paul discusses Christian gifts and graces. In this chapter he points out
i. That gifts are variously distributed by the Holy Spirit.
ii. To show this he draws an illustration from the human body, which, though it is one, yet has many different members, and he concludes that each one in the Church should be content with the grace given him, and the position in which he is placed, and use his gifts for the common good, so that all, as members of the same body, may help and care for each other (ver. 12).
iii. Next he declares that God has provided His Church with different classes of men, so that some are apostles, some prophets, some teachers, &c. (Ver. 28).
In this chapter S. Paul deals with such gifts as prophecy, tongues, and powers of healing, &c. In the beginning of the Church these gifts were abundantly bestowed upon the faithful by the Holy Spirit, even as they were upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost. The occasion for his dealing with these was the way in which the Corinthians prided themselves upon these gifts: one put an extravagant value on one gift, another on another, and some were mortified at not receiving some gifts which they saw others have. The Apostle, therefore, lays down what these gifts are their nature and import, and the manner of their use. Ver. 1 . I would not have you ignorant. And therefore he proceeds to give them teaching about them. Ver. 2. Ye know that ye were Gentiles , &c. You were led like slaves, by custom, by the institutions of your ancestors, by religious tradition, and by diabolic agency to these dumb idols. For the Hebraism in the employment of the participle instead of the finite verb, cf. Rom. xi1 11. Remember, he says, 0 Corinthians, that when you were Gentiles you used to worship idols, as sticks and stones which have neither breath, feeling, power of speech, nor strength of any kind, and much less can give such things to their worshippers. But now that you have become Christians you can worship God, who is pure spirit, full of all grace and wisdom, and sheds these same spiritual gifts abundantly upon you, as you daily experience. Recognise, therefore, the grace bestowed upon you by Christ, the chance wrought in you, and worship Christ, the author of all this, together with the Holy Spirit. Ver. 3. Wherefore . . . no man . . . calleth Jesus accursed . The "wherefore" shows this verse to be a conclusion from the preceding, and explains it. I have reminded you, he says, of your previous condition as Gentiles, and of your dumb idols, in order that you may appreciate duly the greatness of your calling, and the grace of the Holy Spirit given you in your baptism, by which you no longer call on dumb idols but on Christ and the Holy Spirit, and receive from them gifts of tongues, &c., that you may know how full of eloquence and energy compared with your dumb idols is the Holy Spirit who makes you eloquent in divine wisdom. Acknowledge, then, the Holy Spirit's power, and contend no more about His gifts, since you have them from the Holy Spirit, who distributes His gifts as He wills. Let not him who has received less grieve thereat, nor him who has received more be high-minded. So Chrysostom.
No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed. No one execrates or blasphemes Jesus if he has the Spirit of God. He rather acknowledges Him and calls upon Him, as the author of the grace he has received, of his salvation, and of all spiritual gifts. S. Paul uses the figure meiosis, and leaves the rest to be understood.
Observe that S. Paul says this to the Corinthians, partly because of the Jews, who to this day are declared to say in their synagogues, Cajetan says, "May Jesus and the Christians be accursed;" partly, also, and even more, because of the Gentiles, among whom the Corinthians were living. They and their poets, and their priests especially, were in the habit of execrating Jesus. Moreover, by this Gentile rulers tested whether any one were a Christian or not. They would order them to curse Christ, as Pliny says, that he had ordered ( Ep. ad Traj ): " There was brought before me a schedule containing the names of many who were accused of being Christians. They deny that they are or ever were Christians. In my presence they called upon the gods, and burnt incense, and poured a libation of wine to your image, which I had ordered to be brought in amongst the statues of the gods. Moreover, they cursed Christ; and it is said that those who are bare Christians cannot be in any way forced to do any of these things. I thought, therefore, that they ought to be dismissed. Others said that they had been Christians, but had now ceased to be; they all paid honour to your image and the images of the gods, and cursed Christ ."
No man can say that Jesus is the Lord but by the Holy Ghost. The Apostle draws a contrast between calling Jesus accursed and calling Him Lord. No one can recognise, believe, invoke, and preach Jesus as Lord, and profess faith in Him as he ought, and as is necessary to salvation, except in the Holy Spirit, i.e ., through the Holy Spirit. For faith, hope, and prayer are His gifts.
S. Paul does not by this deny that unbelievers, under the ordinary influence only of God, can profess the name of Jesus, or have good thoughts about Him, but only that no one without the grace of Christ and the Holy Spirit can with true faith and pious affection invoke Jesus as Lord earnestly and heartily, and confess Him to be our Redeemer; or even say in his heart, or think of Him anything which in its rank and order confers and disposes to forgiveness of sins, grace, and eternal bliss. So say Ambrose and Anselm. This appears from the fact that he is addressing the Corinthian faithful, and rebuking the pride which they took in their gifts and graces, on the ground that they have their faith and all their gifts, not from themselves but from the Holy Spirit. These gifts, then, he means to say, are not your own, nor can you even call upon Jesus of yourselves; but to know Him and call upon Him are the gift of the Holy Spirit Ver. 4. Now there are diversities of gifts. One grace is given to one, another to another, but they all proceed from the same Spirit. Ver. 5. And there are differences of administrations . There are different kinds of sacred ministries distributed by the same Lord, from whom as God and through whom as man we receive them, so that He is ministered to in different ways by different people. So Anselm. Ver. 6. And there are diversities of operations, &c. Observe 1. that the Apostle assigns gifts to the Holy Spirit, the fount of goodness; ministries to the Son, as Lord; operations to the Father, as the first beginning of all things. So Theophylact and Anselm.
2. The gifts here spoken of are what are sometimes called "graces gratuitously given;" the ministries are the various offices in the Church, such as the diaconate, the Episcopate, and the care of the poor; the operations are miraculous powers, such as the exorcism of demons, the healing the sick, the raising the dead. The word operations is explained in ver. 10 by being expanded into "working of miracles," which is translated by Erasmus the "working of powers." The Greek δύναμις is strictly power, might, ability, and ε̉νέργεια , working ε̉νέργημα , work.
But it will be more satisfactory to say that the Apostle calls all graces gratuitously given (1.) graces, because they are given gratuitously; (2.) ministries, because by them each one ministered to the Church; (3.) workings, because by them the faithful received from the Holy Spirit a marvellous power to say and do things surpassing the power of nature. These graces are the work of the Holy Spirit equally with the Father and the Son; for all external works, as theologians say, viz., all that go forth to created things, are common to the Three Persons; yet, as they are workings they are fitly assigned to the Father, as ministries to the Son, as graces to the Holy Spirit
Which worketh all in all. 1. God works everything in nature by working effectively with second causes, as theologians teach in opposition to Gabriel Biel. Thus God brings about all the blessings of nature and of good-fortune. That one is poor, another rich is to be attributed to the counsel and will of God. Cf. S. Chrysostom ( Hom. 29 Moral ).
2. God works all supernatural things, both the graces that make a man pleasing to God and the graces that the Apostle means here, viz., those gratuitously given, such as the working of miracles. Whatever the saints ask of God in prayer, or order to be done in His name, is done by God's direct action, even in the realm of nature.
It does not follow from this that the co-operation of God goes before and determines beforehand the working of secondary causes, and of free-will in good works, and of grace that makes a man pleasing; for in all these God works all things through His prevenient grace, by which He stirs up the will, and through grace co-operating, which, together with free-will freely working, works simultaneously everything that is good. But the Apostle is not dealing primarily with the works of grace that make a man pleasing to God, but with the workings of graces gratuitously given, as will appear from what follows.
S. Hilarius ( de Trin. lib. viii.) renders "works" "inworks," and so follows the Greek more closely, which signifies the inward presence and effectual power with which God works all things inwardly, especially miracles and all the other gifts. The whole chapter deals with these. Ver. 7. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. The gift given by the Holy Spirit, and by which He is manifested, is given for the benefit of the Church, not of the individual Ver. 8. To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom. The power of explaining wisdom, viz., the deepest mysteries of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, of predestination, &c. Cf. chap. xiii.
To another the word of knowledge. The power of explaining the things pertaining to life and morals. S. Augustine distinguishes thus between wisdom and knowledge ( de Trin. lib. xii. c. 14 and 15), and the Apostle so takes knowledge in chap. viii. Others understand by knowledge the power of explaining the things of faith by examples, comparisons, and human and philosophical reasonings. Ver. 9. To another by the same Spirit. 1. S. Paul does not mean here the theological faith which all Christians have, but that transcendent faith, including the theological, which is the mother of miracles. It consists above all things in a constant confidence in God for obtaining anything and for working miracles, e.g ., as Christ says, for removing mountains. This appears from chap. xiii 2. Cf. S. Chrysostom.
2. Ambrose understands faith here to be the gift of an intrepid confession and preaching of the faith.
3. But best of all faith here is a clear perception of the mysteries of the faith for the purposes of contemplation and explanation; for in Romans 12:6 , S. Paul says in the same way that prophets have the gift of prophecy, and ought to prophesy "according to the proportion of faith," i.e ., according to the measure of the understanding of the things of faith given them by God. Maldonatus ( in Notis Manusc .) says that the Apostle here means that transcendent faith possessed by but few, and which enables its possessors to give a ready assent to Divine things; for the faith which works miracles seems to be included in the "working of powers" mentioned in the next verse, as Toletus, amongst others, rightly points out at Romans 12:6 .
Ver. 10 . To another the working of miracles. Literally, the "working of powers," viz., those greater miracles which concern the soul, not those which belong to the body or its diseases. Of this kind are the raising the dead, casting out devils, punishing the unbelievers and impious by a miracle, as S. Peter did Ananias and Sapphira. So say Chrysostom and Anselm. Thus the "working of powers " is distinguished from the "gift of healing."
To another discerning of spirits. That is of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and consequently of words and actions, whether they proceed from nature, or from the inspiration of God, or an angel or the devil. So Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm. S. Jerome, in his life of S. Hilarion, says that he had this gift, and S. Augustine says (conf. lib. iii. c. 2) that his mother Monica had; so too had S. Vincent of Ferrara, and so have some now-a-days, especially those who have the direction of souls. It is a gift most useful to confessors, one to be sought for from God, in so far as a perfect knowledge and care of consciences require it.
To another the interpretation of tongues. Of obscure passages, especially of Holy Scripture. Hence there were formerly in the Church interpreters, whose duty was fourfold: (1.) there were those who, by the gift of tongues, prophesied or sung hymns in a foreign language; (2.) those who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, spoke of obscure and deep mysteries; (3.) those who publicly expounded the letters of S. Paul and of others sent to their people; (4.), those who turned them into another Language. In this way many think that S. Clement turned the letter to the Hebrews from Hebrew into Greek. It appears from this that Holy Scripture is not plain to every one; nor is it, as the heretics think, to be interpreted by the private ideas of any one, seeing that God has placed interpreters in His Church. But it should be noted that these interpreters have now been succeeded by professors of Hebrew, Greek, and Divinity.
1. From this chapter and the following, theologians have drawn the distinction between grace which perfects its subject and makes him pleasing to God, such as charity, chastity, piety, and other virtues, and grace gratuitously given, which is ordained for the perfecting of others. Although the Apostle names here nine only of the "graces gratuitously given," yet there may be more.
2. It is very likely that of these nine five are permanent habits, viz., wisdom, knowledge, faith, different kinds of tongues and their interpretation, to which must sometimes be added the discerning of spirits. The remaining four are not habits but transient actions, viz., the gift of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, and the discerning of spirits. Cf. Bellarmine ( de Gratiâ , lib. i.,c. 10). Ver. 11 . Dividing to every man severally as He will. Dividing to each one individually his own gifts and graces. Cf. S. Jerome ( contra Pelag. dial. 1). Origen understood "as He will" to refer to each several man. It refers, of course, to the Holy Spirit. 1. Hence, as Theophylact says, the Holy Spirit is Lord and God. He, is not produced as an effect, but He effects all things equally with the Father, who worketh all in all (ver. 6). The working all in all assigned to the Father in ver. 6 is here assigned to the Spirit.
2. It follows that the Holy Spirit, being God, has free-will and works freely.
3. Abélard, Wyclif, and Calvin may be refuted by this verse, in their teaching that God cannot do anything but what He actually does do. This is to rob God of His omnipotence, and to subject Him, like man, to fate, and therefore to transfer His Divinity to fate. For, if this were so, God would not work as He chose, but as fate willed, under whom He and all things would be placed. Ver. 12 . For as the body is one . . . so also is Christ. As an animal body is one, as a man has but one body, so also has Christ one body, the Church, the members of which are many, whose head He is.
1. But S. Augustine objects ( de Peccat. Meritis , lib . i. c. 31) that if the Apostle had meant this he would have said, "So also is [the body] of Christ," rather than, "So also is Christ." In other words, he would have said that the body of Christ, the Church, has many members.
2. James Faber gathers from this that the body of Christ being indivisibly united to the whole Godhead, locally fills heaven and earth, which are, as it were, its place and His body. As Plato said that God was the soul of the world, and consequently was in a sense the whole world, so the body of Christ, from its intimate conjunction with Deity, is, like the Divine Spirit, diffused through the whole world, its parts and members are the several divisions of space and the bodies contained in it. But still in respect of the unity of the Deity, and of the body of Christ as its soul, they make up one body, viz., the universe. And hence it is that the Ubiquitarians are supposed to have obtained their false opinion that the body of Christ is everywhere. This absurd doctrine has been confuted by many, but most clearly of all by Gregory of Valentia, in five books written against the heresy of the Ubiquitarians.
3 . I say, then, with S. Augustine that the meaning of this passage is simply this. So also is Christ one body, i.e ., the Church. For Christ is both head and body to the Church, inasmuch as He sustains all her members and works in them all, teaches by the doctor, baptizes by the minister, believes through faith, and repents in the penitent. For in this sense Christ is not locally but mystically, and by way of operation and effectually, the body, hypostasis, soul, and spirit of the whole Church. As the Church is the body of Christ, its head, so in turn is Christ the body of the Church, because, through the operation of His grace, He transfers Himself into all the members of the Church. So the Apostle often says that we are one in Christ, that through baptism we are incorporated into Christ and made one plant with Him. And Christ said to Paul, "Why persecutest thou Me?" that is, the Christians, My members (Acts ix. 4). So Paul says again: "To me to live is Christ, to die is gain." Therefore S. Francis in his words, "My God, my Love, my All," was but echoing S. Paul. Ver. 13. For by one Spirit are we all baptized. He proves that Christ is one body with many members from baptism, for by baptism we were regenerate, and incorporated into the one body of the Church, and therefore into Christ. In that body we live by the same Spirit, the Spirit of Christ; and on the same food, the Eucharist, we are fed, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, bond or free. Notice the phrase "into one body:" this body is the Church, and consequently we are baptized into Christ, who, as I have said, is in a sense the body of the Church.
And have been all made to drink into one Spirit. In the Eucharistic chalice we have quaffed, together with Christ's blood, His Spirit. Hence some Greek copies read, "We have all drunk of one draught." Cf. Clemens Alex. Pædag. lib. i. c. 6. The meaning is that from it we all partake of one and the same Spirit of Christ, who, by abiding in all, quickens every member, and makes it perform duly its function. In other words, not only were we born and incorporated into the said body, but we all partake of the same food, viz., Christ's body and blood, in the Eucharist. For one species of the Eucharist leads easily to the other, and by "the drink" we may well understand "the food;" just as on the other hand from the species of bread we understand that of wine in chap. x. 17. Cf. Chrysostom and Cajetan, whose comments here are noteworthy.
It appears from this that all the baptized, whether good or bad, are the body of Christ, that is, are of the Church, and that they have been grafted into Him as members by baptism; for the soul of this body, the Church, is the faith which all the faithful have, even though their life be evil. Cf. notes to Ephesians 5:27 . Ver. 22. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary. S. Chrysostom and Theophylact think that this refers to the eyes, which are small and delicate but yet most necessary. But as the eyes have been included in the preceding verse amongst the nobler members which govern the body, it is better to refer it, as others do, to the internal parts of the body. For the belly is as the kitchen or the caterer for the whole of the body, and cooks and distributes the food for every part, and therefore is essential to the life of the body. Ver. 23. And those members of the body . . . upon these we bestow more abundant honour. The "less honourable" members are the feet, say Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Ambrose. We are more careful to cover them with shoes, or to bestow ornament upon them, lest they be hurt in walking, or catch cold or in some way convey illness to the stomach and head.
"Honour" here means either covering or the attention bestowed upon the feet in the way of decorated boots or leggings, such as many rich young men, and especially soldiers, wear. Homer, e.g ., frequently speaks of the "well-greaved Achæans."
And our comely parts have more abundant honour. Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Theophylact refer these to the pudenda. These, says S. Augustine ( Retract. lib. ii. c. 7), are called uncomely, not because nature so made them, but because, since the Fall, lust reigns in them more than elsewhere, because lust is contrary to the law of reason, and therefore ought to be a cause of shame to man. For it puts man to shame when his member so casts off his authority. The more abundant honour that they receive is a more careful and comely covering, so that even if men anywhere discard clothing, they yet cover these parts, as Theophylact says. Moreover, these members are honoured in wedlock, as being necessary to the procreation of children and the perpetuation of the species, as Chrysostom says. Hence, under the Romans, any one who emasculated himself was severely punished, as an offender against the common good and a violent assailant of nature.
Others think that the "more feeble" and "less honourable members are identical, and are the belly and its subsidiary organs. But the Apostle makes a distinction between them, and connects them as distinct entities by the conjunction "and." His meaning then is, that as we care for those members of the body which are more feeble and ignoble when compared to the rest, and treat them as if they were more useful, so, too, in the Church those who seem to be of less account, such as the infirm, the unknown, and the despised, are for that very reason of more use and should be the more carefully helped. So say Chrysostom, Theophylact, Anselm. For the use of beggars in the Church, see S. Chrysostom ( Hom . 20 Moral , and also contra Invid. Hom . 31).
We have an illustration of this verse in the allegory of the belly deserted by the other members, by which Menenius Agrippa brought back the lower orders who had seceded from the senate of the Roman people, and settled on Mons Sacer ( Livy , lib. ii. dec. 1). Menenius said: " At that time when men's members were not so agreed as they are now, but each sought its own private ends, they say that the other parts of the body were indignant that the belly should get its wants supplied by their care, their toil, and their ministry, and itself rest quietly in the midst, and enjoy the pleasures they gave; so they agreed that the hand would lift no food to the mouth, that the mouth would not admit it if it were offered, nor the teeth chew it. Then while, as they thought, that they were reducing the belly by hunger, they found that each member and the whole body also were brought down to the last extremities. They saw then that the belly had, too, its active service, and was not more nourished by them than they gained from it. They saw that the blood, re-invigorated by the food that had been eaten, was impartially distributed through the veins into every part of the body, giving each its life and energy. Then, by drawing a comparison between the civil war in the body and the angry action of the lower orders against the Fathers, Menenius induced them to return ." Ver. 24. For our comely parts have no need. The eyes, the face, and the hands, which are the more comely parts of the body, lack no ornament, but are comely enough in themselves.
Having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked. That is more careful guard, more clothing, and ornament. Cf. ver. 22. Ver. 25. That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. No schism, such as that related by Menenius, but that all should have the same care for the others as for themselves, or else it may mean that each member should be solicitous for the common good of the whole body. Ver. 26. Whether one member suffer all the members suffer with it . "They suffer together" in such away that the suffering member's grief is lightened, "not by communion in disaster, but by the solace afforded by charity," says S. Augustine ( Ep . 133). Hence S. Basil ( Reg. Brevior. 175) says that the outward proof of love is twofold: (1.) rejoicing in the good of one's neighbour and labouring for it; (2.) in grief and sorrow for his misfortune or his sin. He who has not this loves not.
Doctors infer from this verse that souls in bliss, burning with love for us, help us by their prayers in our troubles and dangers; and that we in our turn ought to help souls kept in purgatory, for they suffer the devouring flame, and therefore he must be cruel indeed who does not suffer with them, and do what he can to set them free.
Or one member be honoured. Or as Ambrose takes it, "be glorified," or, according to Ephrem, "whether one member rejoice." Salmeron, after S. Chrysostom, beautifully says: " He who loves possesses whatever is in the body, the Church: take away envy and what I have is thine ." S. Chrysostom says again: " If the eye suffer, all the members will grieve, all will crease to act: the feet will not go, the hands will not work, the belly will take no pleasure in its wonted food, although it is the eye only that is suffering. Why, 0 eye, do you trouble the belly? why chain the feet? why bind the hands? Because all are knit together by nature, and suffer together in a "mysterious manner ." Ver. 27. - Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. The Latin version gives "members of the member." This is explained (1.) by S. Thomas: "You are members of the principal member, viz., Christ, for Christ is the head of the Church;" (2.) by S. Anselm, "You are members of Christ through the agency of another member, viz., Paul, by whom you were united to Christ, the head, and to the Church, the body." But (3.) the Greek gives "members in part," and this is the rendering of some Latin Fathers, or "members of each other." S. Ambrose seems to understand it so. The Latin version also means "fellow-members," brethren in the same society, of the same mystical body, the Church. So too S. Chrysostom and Ephrem, whose meaning may be paraphrased: "Each one, in his part and place, is a member of the Church."
Notice here that, as in the body there is (1.) a unity and a union of soul and body; (2.) diversity of members; (3.) differences of function between the several members; (4.) an aptitude for its function given to each member; (5.) a community of interests in the members, so that each is bound to work, not for itself only but for the others also, just because they are members of the one body; (6.) harmony, inasmuch as each member is content with its rank and duty, does not seek another post or envy a more honoured member, so that there is the most perfect union and concord, the same share in sorrow and joy: so is it in the Church. There each one has from Christ, as if He were his soul, his proper gift, his proper talent, his office and rank, his functions to be discharged for others' good, not his own, his limits fixed by God. If anyone disturbs this order and seeks after another post, he resists the ordinance and providence of God, and forgets that all his gifts have come from God. S. Paul therefore says: "You, 0 Corinthians are members of the same body of Christ, the Church: let there not be then any divisions among you, let no one despise, envy, grieve at another, but let him love him, help him, and rejoice with him. Let each be content with his place, his rank, and his duty, for so he will be a partaker, not only of his own good, but also of the good of others. Just as the foot walks for the benefit of the eye, the ear, the belly, so in their turn the eye sees, the ear hears, and the belly digests for the benefit of the foot. But if there is envy and unwillingness shown by the eye to see, by the ear to hear, and the belly to digest, then those members hurt themselves as much as any other; and, as Chrysostom says, it is just as if one hand were to cut off the other, for that hand would be dishonoured and weakened through receiving no help from the other hand. Moreover, if nature is at such pains to preserve such perfect concord between the different members of the body, and so sternly forbids any seditious discord, how much greater concord between men's minds will the grace of God through its greater power effect, how little will it endure that any member should stand aloof from and be at variance with another in the same body! If the magistrate or the king severely punishes sedition in the state, what, think you, will Christ do to the schismatics who rend His Church? Ver. 28. And God hath set some in the church , &c. Apostles as the rulers, prophets as the eyes, teachers as the tongue. From this it follows that the princes of this world are not, as Brentius thinks, the rulers and the head of the Church, but the Apostles and their successors, the Pope and the bishops; "for God," says S. Paul, "set the Apostles first." After that come "powers," i.e ., workers of miracles, who are as the hands of the Church; then healers of diseases; then helps, or those who help others and perform works of mercy towards the sick, the poor, the unhappy, guests, and foreigners; then governments, or men who rule. and correct others, as parish priests, as S. Thomas says, or better still, with Theophylact and Cajetan, men who have the care of the temporal wealth which the faithful offer to the Church. These last are as the feet in the body of Christ, and of such were the deacons ordained by the Apostles to look after tables and the widows (Acts vi. 1-6).
Notice the abstract here put for the concrete: "powers" for workers of powers, "gifts of healing" for healers, "helps" for helpers, "governments" for governors, "diversities of tongues" for men skilled in different languages. S. Paul knits all these, as other members of the Church, to Apostles, prophets, and teachers. Ver. 29. Are all apostles? Certainly not. Let each, therefore, be content with the position in which God has placed him in the Church, and with the grace that he has freely received from God, and thank God for all, and use the grace given him to God's glory and the good of the Church. Ver. 30 Have all the gifts of healing? S. Augustine says ( Ep . 137) that " God, who divides to every man severally as He will, has not willed that miracles should be wrought in honour of every saint ." It is not wonderful then that God should work miracles in this place, in this temple, at this or that image of the Holy Mother, or again that He should give one grace to one saint, another to another. Those, e.g ., who invoke S. Antony He sets free from the plague, those S. Apollonia from toothache, those S. Barbara from sudden death, and from dying without confession; for, as the Apostle says, "God divides to every man severally as He will." So at the pool of Bethesda, and not elsewhere, God miraculously healed the impotent folk (S. John v. 2-4). So by the rod of Aaron, and of no one else, He worked miracles (Num. xvii. 8). So by the image of the brazen serpent, and of nothing else, He set free the Jews from the plague of fiery serpents (Num. xxi. 9). Ver. 31. But covet earnestly the best gifts. Seek from God, and exercise, if you have received them (cf. notes to ver. 8), the more useful gifts, such as apostleship, prophecy, wisdom, but not such as the gift of tongues, which you are in the habit of seeking after and of priding yourselves in. So Anselm. Others take the clause interrogatively, "Do you covet the best gifts? then I will show you a more excellent way still." So Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius.
And yet show I unto you a more excellent way, viz., the way of charity, which is the way to God, to life, and everlasting glory.
The commentary ascribed to S. Jerome says here that the Apostle divides off charity from the gifts of the Spirit, because these latter are gratuitously given by God, but charity is acquired by our own efforts and natural powers. This shows this commentary not to be S. Jerome's, but the work of Pelagius or some Pelagian, as was said before. Primasius, who transcribed a good deal of this commentary, has shown the falsity of this remark. It appears too that charity is the gift of God from Rom. v. 5: "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Hence S. Paul says here that he shows a more excellent way, meaning one that excels all others. If, then, the graces gratuitously given are of lower rank and are given by God, much more ought charity, which is exceedingly better and more excellent than them all, to be sought for and to be given from God. The Apostle then fixes the distinction between charity and the gifts of the Spirit in the fact that these latter are given for the good of the Church, not for the sanctification of him to whom they are given, while charity is given to make him who has it holy and pleasing to God. " He ," says S. Augustine ( de Laud. Char. ), " holds both what is patent and what is latent in God's sayings who holds charity in his daily life ."
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 1 Corinthians 12". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29