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SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
i. After declaring his love for the Corinthians, he proceeds (ver. 4) to defend his apostleship against the false apostles, pointing out that they had bestowed no more of the Spirit, nor given more Christian doctrine than S. Paul.
ii. He says, moreover (ver. 7), that they preached the Gospel for the sake of gain, but he freely.
iii. He insists (ver. 22) on his being equally with them a Hebrew, and what they were not, a minister of Christ. He then enumerates the marks of his apostleship, his labours for Christ, his persecutions, scourgings, sufferings, anxieties, and the care of all the Churches, and in them all he glories. Ver. 1 . Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly. In my boasting, which sounds like folly. It is, however, a mark of the highest wisdom on my part, for I do it out of zeal to protect the faith of the Gospel against the false apostles (Chrysostom and Anselm). S. Paul anticipates an objection: he is about to praise himself, and he meets beforehand any charge of vainglory or self-seeking. The last clause, "and indeed bear with me," may be also indicative, and then it is a correction to his request for forbearance: "I need hardly make such a request: you do indeed bear with me."
At the commencement of his self-praise he thrice excuses himself: (1.) by saying, "Would ye could bear with me;" (2.) by calling himself foolish; (3.) when he says. "I am jealous over you" he takes such pains to excuse himself that the Corinthians may see the violence he does to his feelings when he descends to self-praise. Chrysostom says: " Just as a horse, when about to leap some deep and precipitous ravine, collects its strength, as though it would cross it at a bound, but when it looks down on the yawning gulf refuses the leap; then, under the spur of the rider, approaches again and admits its ability to leap and the necessity of it by standing still for a time, till at last it takes courage, and of its own accord boldly makes the attempt; so too S. Paul, like one about to throw himself over a precipice, when going to sing his own praises, retreats once, twice, and thrice, and at length falls to the task of praising himself ." Ver. 2. For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy. I cannot endure any rivals, such as these false apostles, who seek to seduce you. Paul calls his great and unbounded love "jealousy," implying that he seeks to be first in the affections of the Corinthians. S. Chrysostom remarks on this jealousy being a jealousy of God , which implies that Paul does not seek the bride for himself but for Christ and God not for his own glory, pleasure, or gain. Christ is the Bridegroom, he is but the paranymph.
For I have espoused you to one husband. "I have fitted you" (Augustine, contra Manich. lib. ii.); "I have prepared you" (Ambrose); "I have united you " (Theophylact). The Greek verb may well bear the three meanings of, "I have invited you," "I have betrothed you," I have united you in wedlock." The three duties of the paranymph are: (1.) to gain the maiden's affections for the bridegroom, and to do all he can to get her to be the wife of his friend; (2.) to see that she is espoused to him; and, (3.) when betrothed, to unite them in marriage. S. Paul says in effect: I, as the paranymph of a spiritual marriage, have by my preaching betrothed you to one husband, Christ, and by betrothing you I have persuaded you to present yourselves to Christ as His espoused bride. Or better still, with Anselm and Theophylact: I have now espoused you to Christ through baptizing you into the Christian faith, that I may show you, or present you in the day of judgment, as virgins, i.e ., pure in faith, hope, and charity, fitted for the nuptial couch of the glory of Christ.
Chrysostom remarks that the betrothal takes place in this life, the union in the next, when the espoused Church, i.e ., all the elect, shall be brought to the marriage of the Lamb and the eternal kingdom (Rev. xxi. 2).
The Church of Corinth is described by S. Paul as the virgin spouse of Christ, whose paranymph he is. Then he transfers to himself the jealous love of the Bridegroom, and protests against Christ's bride being stolen by false apostles, and handed over to the tender mercies of heretics. Just as true Apostles and preachers are paranymphs of Christ and His Church (S. Joh 3:29 ), so, on the other hand, false preachers are Satan's panders.
This passage of the espousal of the Church and each faithful soul is famous and full of consolation. It has been commented on beautifully by most of the Fathers, and still is frequently treated in pulpits and elsewhere. That it may be clearly and fully understood, let us then dwell on it a little more at length.
Observe, then, firstly, that this espousal takes place by faith and hope and other virtues. For, as S. Augustine says ( Tract. xiii . in Johan .), " the mind's virginity consists in perfect faith, well-grounded hope, and unfeigned love ." On the other hand, the soul becomes an adulteress or prostitute when she consents to unbelief, to sin, to the suggestions and wiles of the devil. " If, therefore ," says Origen ( Hom . 12 in Lev. ii.), " you have admitted an adulterous devil into the chamber of your soul, then your soul has committed fornication with the devil. If there has entered there the spirit of anger, envy, pride, uncleanness, and you have welcomed in and listened to its words, and taken pleasure in its suggestions, then you have committed fornication with him ."
Secondly, this betrothal makes the goods of each common to both, and therefore endows the Church and each faithful soul with the abundant riches of Christ. Hence, since the Bridegroom is a King, He makes His bride, even if she be a slave, however lowly and poor she be, a queen. S. Basil ( de Vita Virgin .) says, quoting Ps. xlv. " Upon thy right hand did stand the queen, in a vesture of gold wrought about with divers colours. Wherefore, she who now is counted vile for her sordid dress and servile habit, is ennobled by her station at the King's hand, and found in the kingdom of heaven to be a queen. Let her, then, despise all visible things, and with open face beholding her Spouse, let her be filled with His love, and make all her faculties His handmaidens. In no respect should a virgin be an adulteress, not in tongue, in ears, eyes, or any other sense, no, nor yet in thought; but let her keep her body as a temple, or bride-chamber ready for her Spouse. No unfaithfulness can escape the eye of Him of whom it is said, 'He that planted the ear, shall He not hear; or He that made the eye, shall He not see ."
S. Bernard ( Serm. 2, Domin. 1, post Epiph .) thus describes the election, dignity, and glory of this bride: " For the sake of that Ethiopian woman, the Son of God came from afar to espouse her to Himself. Moses, indeed, married an Ethiopian wife, but her colour he could not change; but Christ, loving the Church, who till then was contemptible and foul, presented her to Himself, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Whence, 0 human soul, whence comes this to thee? Whence is the inestimable glory of meriting to be His spouse on whom the angels desire to gaze? Whence is it to thee that thou art the spouse of Him, whose beauty sun and moon wonder at, at whose will all things are changed? . . . What reward, then, will you give unto the Lord for all the benefits that He hath done unto you, in making you a sharer of His table, of His Kingdom, of His chamber? See with what arms of love should He be in turn lovingly embraced, who has thought so much of you, and made you so great. Leave all carnal affections, forget all worldly ways, undo all evil habits. For what thinkest thou? Does not the angel of the Lord stand ready to cut thee asunder, if perchance, which may He prevent, thou admittest any other lover ?" Then he goes on to describe the nuptial feast: " Now thou art espoused to Him, now the wedding feast is being celebrated, for the banquet is prepared in heaven. There the wine will not fail for we shall be inebriated with the fulness of the house of Gad, and shall drink of the torrent of His pleasure. For that marriage, truly, there is got ready a river of wine, which maketh glad the heart, an impetuous stream, which maketh glad the city of God ."
Thirdly, be it observed that from this betrothal and union of the soul to God, the fairest offspring are born. Origen ( Hom. 20 in Num. xxv.) thus Describes them. " When the soul, therefore, clings to her Spouse, and listens to His voice, and embraces Him, she doubtless receives from Him seed, even as He said: 'Of Thy fear, 0 Lord, have I conceived in the womb, and brought forth, and caused on the earth the spirits of Thy salvation.' Thence will proceed a noble offspring thence will be born chastity, righteousness, patience, meekness, and charity, and a fair family of all the virtues. . . . But if the unhappy soul forsakes the chaste embraces of the Divine Word, and surrenders herself to the devil's adulterous endearments, without a doubt she will bring forth children, but they will be such as those of whom it is written: 'The adulterous children shall be imperfect, and the seed of the wicked bed shall be destroyed.' All sins, therefore, are children of adultery and fornication ."
Fourthly, although this espousal is brought about by any virtues, yet the chief agent among them is charity. Charity carries with it towards God all the powers and affections of the soul, so much so that the more charity increases in a soul, the more closely is that soul united to God. Hence those whose souls are on fire with charity, and who are ever exercising themselves in it, enjoy the bliss of betrothal to God and the possession of His nuptial gifts of Divine joys. For charity is a marriage-union, the welding of two wills, the Divine and human, into one, whereby God and man mutually agree in all things. Hence springs familiar intercourse between the soul and God, hence spring peace and a wondrous delight of the soul. So great becomes the thirst for the Divine love that all other affections of the soul are absorbed in it and lost in God. S. Bernard ( Serm. 38 Cantic .) says: " Such conformity weds the soul to the Word, that, though naturally like Him, she none the less exhibits that likeness in the will, by loving as she has been loved. If, then, she loves perfectly, she is wedded to Him. What is more pleasant than this conformity? what more to be longed for than this charity? By it it comes to pass that you are not content, 0 my soul, to rest on human teaching, but you boldly approach the Word, and cling closely to Him, hang lovingly on His lips, and consult Him on everything. You are as bold in your longings will allow. Surely this is a holy and spiritual wedding contract. Contract, do I say? nay, it is an embrace; for where the same will to have or not have is, where one spirit is made out of two, there there must have been an embrace. Nor need we fear that the disparity of the persons can make this union of wills imperfect, for love knows no fear. Love is self-sufficient: wherever he comes he draws to himself and makes prisoners all the other affections. Therefore she loves what he loves, and knows nought else. There is a bride and there is a bridegroom. What other relation or connection do you seek between them that are wedded than that of loving and being loved ?"
If you say that the soul is so far inferior to God in its nature and love as to make it impossible for friendship to exist between them, and much less betrothal and marriage union, all of which can only be between equals, then S. Bernard replies: " It is true that there is not the same copious flow in the soul that Loves as in Love Himself, in the soul as in the Word, and in the bride as in the Bridegroom, in the creature as in the Creator, ably more than there is the same in him that is athirst and the spring that quenches his thirst. But what of that? Are we therefore to lose and see destroyed utterly the devotion of her that is about to wed, the desire of the longing soul the eagerness of the lover, the confidence of one that boldly draws near just because a dwarf cannot run on equal terms with a giant, because sweetness cannot rival honey, gentleness cannot compare with a lamb, whiteness with the lily, brightness with the sun, charity with Him who is charity? No, for though the creature's love is less because it is itself less, yet if it loves with all its might, it withholds nothing, and its love is entire. Therefore have I said, 'So to love is to be wedded already,' unless any one doubt that the soul is first loved and more loved by the Word. But truly He prevents and surpasses the soul in love. Happy the soul that has merited to be prevented with the blessings of goodness ."
Fifthly, it follows that this espousal is most perfectly brought about by virginity and vows of chastity and religion. S. Augustine ( Tract . 9 in Johan .) says: " They who vow to God virginity, although they may hold a higher position of honour and dignity in the Church, yet are they not without nuptials; for they belong to those nuptials in which the whole Church is united to Christ as her Bridegroom ." And the reason is, that as a bride gives her heart and all her goods to her husband, so does a virgin, or a religious, consecrate herself and all that she has to Christ. Hence religion is called and is a state of perfection, or of perfect charity. Moreover, as a bride in contracting matrimony says. "I take thee for mine," so does a religious say: "I vow to God poverty, chastity, obedience," and by these she is bound to Christ as a wife to her husband. Hence Tertullian ( de Veland. Virgin. c. 16) says: " Thou hast been wedded to Christ, thou hast committed to Him thy body; thou hast betrothed to Him the bloom of thy life; walk, therefore, according to the will ,of thy Spouse ." For this reason S. Jerome ( Ep. 27) dared to call the mother of a virgin consecrated to God, "God's mother-in-law," and for this he was found fault with hypercritically by Ruffinus. A ring used to be given to virgins, in token that by it they were betrothed to Christ. "He gave me a ring," says S. Agnes (Ambrose, Serm. 90), "as an earnest of my betrothal to His faith." For this virgins were given veils, even as those who are married to husbands, and that solemnly, by priests, on appointed days alone, as Gelasius says ( ad Episc. Lucaniæ , c. 14), and Optatus Milevit. ( lib. 6). He says: " Spiritual wedlock is of this kind. In will and profession they had already come to be betrothed to their spouse; and to show that they had abjured all secular nuptials, they had cut off their hair for their spiritual Bridegroom, and had already celebrated their heavenly nuptials ." Ambrose ( ad Virg. Lapsam ) says: " She who has betrothed herself to Christ, and received the sacred veil, is already wedded, is already united to an immortal husband; and if she now wishes to marry under the common law, she commits adultery, and is made the handmaiden of death ." S. Cyprian too ( Ep. 62) calls such lapsed virgins adulteresses. From all this it is evident, whatever Marloratus may say, that the Church applies this passage of the Apostle to virgins, and reads it as the Epistle in the Mass of Holy Virgins.
Let these virgins ponder this, and recognise their dignity, so as to religiously keep these nuptials pure, and give themselves wholly to their one Bridegroom, Christ. S. Jerome says to Eustochius: " Hear, 0 daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own people and thy father's house, and then shall the King take pleasure in thy beauty. It is not enough for thee to leave thy land, unless thou also forget thy own peop1e and thy father's house, and, despising the flesh, yield thyself to the embraces of thy spouse. You will say perhaps: 'I have come from the house of my shame; I have forgotten the house of my father; I am born again in Christ. What reward for this am I to receive?' It tells you: 'So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty.' This then is a great sacrament: there-fore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cling to his wife, and they twain shall be not one flesh but one spirit. Thy Spouse is not haughty; He has married an Ethiopian woman. As soon as you desire to hear the wisdom of the true Solomon and come to Him, He will tell you all that He knows; He will as a King lead you into His chamber, and thy colour being wondrously changed, the words will apply to you, 'Who is this that cometh up all white?' . . . The bride of Christ is, like the Ark of the Covenant, covered within and without with gold, the guardian of the law of the Lord. As in it there was nothing save the tables of the law, so in thee let there be no other thought. Over this mercy-seat, as upon the cherubim, the Lord wills to sit. The Lord wishes to set you free from earthly cares, that leaving the bricks and straw of Egypt, you may follow Moses in the wilderness and enter the Promised Land. Whenever in your virgin breast there rages anxiety about earthly business, immediately the veil of the temple is rent in twain, your Bridegroom rises in wrath and says: 'Your house is left unto you desolate' . . . Do thou once for all cast aside every burden of the world, sit at the feet of thy Lord, and say: 'I have found Him in whom my soul delighteth; I have held Him fast; I will not let Him go.' He will answer: 'My dove, any undefiled, is but one.' Let the secret places of thy chamber ever keep thee, let thy Spouse ever play with thee within. When thou prayest thou speakest to thy Spouse. When thou readest He speaks to thee; and when sleep oppresses thee, He will come behind the wall; and when thou art awakened thou wilt say: 'I am sick with love,' and in return thou wilt hear Him say: 'A garden enclosed is My sister, My spouse .'"
That I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. There is something strange in such a marriage. "In the world," says Theophylact after Chrysostom, "brides do not remain virgins after marriage. But Christ's brides, as before marriage they were not virgins, so after marriage they become virgins most pure in faith, whole, and uncorrupt in life. So is the whole Church a virgin." " The virginity of the flesh ," says S. Augustine ( in Senten. 79), " is an undefiled body; the virginity of the soul is uncorrupted faith ."
S. Paul converted to Christ at Iconium that most illustrious virgin Thecla: he drew her from marriage and espoused her to Christ. S. Gregory of Nyssa is our authority for this. He says ( Hom. 4 in Cantic .): " Such myrrh did Paul once pour from his mouth, mingled with the pure lily of chastity, into the ears of a holy virgin. That virgin was Thecla, who, as the drops fell from the lily into her soul, to her salvation put to death the outward man and quenched the heat of lust within ." S. Epiphanius too ( Hæres . 78) says: " Thecla fell in with S. Paul, and was by him set free from wedlock, though she had a husband at once surpassingly handsome, rich, nobly-born, and famous ." S. Augustine ( contra Faustum, lib . xxx. c. 4) says: " This Saint in her lifetime despised all earthly things, that she might gain possession of things heavenly, and, though bound in wedlock, she was kindled by the eloquence of S. Paul with love of life-long virginity ." Through this Thecla overcame fire, lions, bulls, and serpents, and when thrown for her virginity into the midst of flames, she, like asbestos, remained unharmed. So did S. Paul arm the harlot Poppæa and virgins against the blandishments of Nero, to despise his embraces and dedicate themselves to Christ. For this he was condemned by Nero to the sword, and obtained the martyr's and virgin's crown, and therefore from his neck there flowed, when his head was cut off, a stream of white milk instead of red blood. Ver. 3. But I fear lest by any means . . . your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. Beware of the false apostles, who are panders of Satan, adulterers of the genuine doctrine of Christ, and therefore of the Church and of your souls. Ver. 4. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus. Christ is here put for Christianity and its perfection. If the false apostles should preach any other doctrine concerning Christ than that which I have preached, as though my preaching were insufficient for salvation and Christian perfection, then, &c. He speaks a few words further on of the same thing as another Gospel. But, in Gal. i. 8, he orders that any one who should preach another Gospel was not only not to be tolerated, but was even not to be listened to, and was to be anathematised. Hence by the phrase here another Gospel , he means a clear and more spiritual explanation of the Gospel.
Or if ye receive another Spirit. If you should receive other gifts of the Holy Spirit from the false apostles besides those that you received from me, you might well suffer them. He is censuring the pride of the false apostles, who boasted that they had more to give than S. Paul (Theophylact). Where, he asks, is that other Spirit, or those other gifts of which they boast? They do not appear. I call you then to witness that you have received from them nothing but empty words. Ver. 5. For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest Apostles. Beza says: "If Paul was in no way inferior to the chiefest Apostles, therefore Peter was not his superior in power and authority, and consequently he is not the Prince of the Apostles and of the Church." I answer that Paul yielded to none in any of the things just mentioned, such as in preaching Christ, in the gifts of the Spirit, in the genuineness of his Gospel, in the labours he bore, and in apostolical gifts in general. The question of power and primacy, therefore has no place here. Were he here to claim it for himself, it would be a sign of the most foolish ambition. Moreover, although by the phrase the very chiefest Apostles, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Œcumenius, understand Peter, James, and John, and this interpretation seems more simple and true, yet very many later writers understand it to refer to the false apostles, who boasted of their greatness. In this case S. Paul is speaking ironically. Ver. 6. Rude in speech. Unskilled in the polished and rhetorical eloquence of the Greeks, such as we find in Isocrates, Demosthenes, Lucian. Hence we find in S. Paul so many sudden transitions, ellipses, and solecisms (Chrysostom and Theophylact). S. Jerome ( Ep. 151 ad Algas. qu. 10) says: " I have frequently said and I repeat it now, that when S. Paul spoke of himself as being 'rude in speech yet not in knowledge,' he was not merely using the language of humility, but was speaking from a consciousness of the truth. For in his writings there are many profound passages unexplained in words, dealing, with truths evident enough to himself, but incapable of being conveyed to others ." He says the same in his epistle to Hedibia, where he adds that for this reason Paul kept Titus by him, who was a Greek scholar, just as S. Peter had S. Mark. Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 , notes. On the other hand, S. Augustine ( de Doct. Christ. lib. iv. c. 7) thinks that Paul calls himself here rude in speech , not as giving his own opinion but that of his detractors. S. Augustine there dwells at length on the eloquence of the Apostle, and shows that he has his own lively and nervous style, and an orderly arrangement of his materials. This is true. The Apostle's rhetoric was not mere wordiness, but was earnest, persuasive, manly, Divine, and therefore he was "rude," not so much in rhetoric as in grammatical niceties. It was evident to all that the Apostle by his eloquence stirred the hearts of all who heard him, smote them with the fear of God, and with wonderful skill almost drove them to faith, godliness, and mercy, and wheresoever he wished to lead them.
S. Augustine ( Senten. No . 266) says beautifully: " It is an evident token of a good disposition when the truth contained in the words of controversialists is loved, and not the mere words themselves. For what is the use of a golden key if it cannot accomplish our desire and open the door, or why should we think less of a key because it is of wood? All that we want is to have that opened which was shut. " Ver. 7. Have I committed an offence ? Do you find fault with that very thing which is a cause of glory to me and an instance of large-heartedness, that I humiliated myself to the manual labour of tent-making to support myself and not be a burden to you? (Anselm). This is the language of sarcasm. He charges the Corinthians to their face with ingratitude, in that while he might have claimed from them the means to support himself, he did not do so, but, while preaching and working at Corinth, preferred to be supported by poorer churches. In spite of this, however, as he says, the Corinthians undervalued the kindness of S. Paul, and lent an ear more readily to his rivals, the false apostles, who drained their purses.
Ver. 8. I robbed other churches. He uses a strong expression, in order to make a strong impression on them. You see my continence and charity. I have, as it were, despoiled other churches that were poor, in order to spare you and to enrich you, that you might not think, as rich merchants like you Corinthians are apt to think, that I was seeking yours instead of you, and also that I might shut the mouths of the false apostles. Acknowledge me, then, as your true and genuine Apostle. Ver. 9. I was chargeable to no man. TheGreek word for chargeable is derived from a word denoting torpor and inactivity, which are apt to be burdensome to others. The ray-fish called torpedo derived its Greek name from the same word. S. Paul says that he did not by his inactivity depend on another for support, but he worked hard with his hands without neglecting his duty of preaching. He gave himself to the work of teaching warning, and advising, just as diligently as if he were under no necessity of supporting himself. Ver. 10 . As the truth of Christ is in me. I speak in the truth of Christ; I call His truth to witness; I swear to you in truth and holiness by Christ ("under the testimony of Christ," Ambrose) that I wilt take nothing from you for my support (Theophylact).
No man shall stop me of this boasting. Or, this boasting shall not be stopped in me. This liberty and liberality of mine shall not be stopped, nor therefore my boasting of it. It is a metaphor, taken from springs and rivers, which no barriers can stop.
Secondly, it is better to suppose that S. Paul, following a Hebrew usage, employs the simple verb denoting to seal up for the compound verb unseal ( σφραγίζω for α̉νασφραγίζω ). "I have determined," he then would say, "to receive nothing from you; and I have so confirmed that determination by the strong seal of my oath, that I shall not open this seal, or break my purpose, whatever need or necessity may lay upon me." Ver. 12. Which desire occasion. Of finding fault with me for not bringing anything peculiar to myself more than others.
That wherein they glory they may be found even as we. They boast that in their preaching they are equal to me, when they are inferior; for I preach freely, they for the sake of gain. Cf., ver. 21 (Anselm, Chrysostom, Theophylact). Ver. 13. Transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ. From this it appears that these detractors of Paul were not believers who were impelled by mere vanity or by envy of Paul, but were heretics; for, in ver. 15, he calls them false apostles and ministers of Satan.
Secondly, he censures their hypocrisy in that, in order that they might impose on the Christians, they took to themselves the appearance and name of the Apostles of Christ, as though they were of Christ, and preachers of the Christian faith. The Calvinists of the present day are of the same kind, for they deform and profane everything sacred our rites, sacraments, churches, monasteries, sanctuaries, altars, all true worship, religion, and godliness-and yet wish to be looked upon and spoken of as reformers. Ver. 14 . For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. He says of light , because good angels, being blessed, are wont, when they show themselves to men, to appear full of light and glory. Secondly, of light refers to the light of truth, righteousness, and godliness. Satan assumes these virtues, promises them to those men before whose eyes he appears in visible form, or into whose imagination he insinuates himself and his counsels, when really he is an angel of darkness, inasmuch as he suggests nothing but what is sinful, erroneous, and false. To unmask him and recognise his wiles there is nothing better, as the Fathers, and holy men, and experience itself teach, than to disclose your thoughts and suggestions to some prudent, pious, and learned man, preferably your Superior or Confessor, and to follow his advice. But Satan hates the light, and therefore dissuades and prevents his followers from doing this. From neglecting this counsel many, even hermits, have been by him most terribly deceived. In the lives of the Fathers there are extant many sad instances of this, e.g ., in the case of that monk whom the devil persuaded to throw himself headlong into a well, by declaring that he would find that God, for his merits, would most gloriously deliver him. S. Epiphanius, Irenæus, and Augustine tell us the dreadful and abominable delusions instilled by the devil into such heretics as the Ophites, the Artotyritæ, and the Circumcelliones.
Under the form of a good angel the devil attempted to deceive the hermit S. Abraham, as S. Ephrem records in his Life. While he was singing psalms at midnight, a light like that of the sun suddenly shone in his cell, and a voice was heard saying: "Blessed art thou, Abraham: none is like thee in fulfilling all my will." But the humility of the Saint recognised the fraud of the devil, and exclaimed: "Thy darkness perish with thee, thou full of all fraud and falsehood; for I am a sinful man; but the name of my Lord, Jesus Christ whom I have loved and do love, is a wall to me, and in it I rebuke thee, thou unclean dog." And then the devil vanished from his sight as smoke.
Similarly, the devil appeared in splendour, with horses of fire and a chariot of fire, near the column on which was S. Symeon Stylites, and said to him: "The Lord hath sent me, His angel, to carry thee off as I carried Elijah. Ascend, therefore, with me into the chariot, and let us go into heaven. The holy angels, the Apostles, martyrs, and prophets, and Mary the Mother of the Lord long to see thee." When S. Symeon was lifting his right foot to get into the chariot he made the sign of the Cross, on which the devil disappeared. This is recorded by Antony, his disciple, in his Life.
Another, on hearing from the devil, "I am Christ," shut his eyes and said: "I would not see Christ in this life but in the next." Hence the Fathers used to warn people, saying: "Even if an angel really appear to you, do not readily receive him, but humble yourself and say: 'I am not worthy, while I live in my sins, to see an angel.'"
S. John, who foretold to the Emperor Theodosius his victory over the tyrants, saw devils like an army and chariots of fire, saying to him: "In all things, 0 man, you have borne yourself well. Now worship me, and I will take you up like Elias." John answered: "God is my Lord and King: Him I ever worship; thou art not my King." Then the devil vanished. Palladius gives this ( Lausiac . c 46).
The devil appeared to Pachomius in the form of Christ, saying: "Pachomius, I am Christ, and I come to thee, my faithful friend." Pachomius knew by Divine inspiration the fraud, and thought within himself: "The coming of Christ gives tranquillity; but I am now fiercely assailed by conflicting thoughts." Then, making the sign of the Cross, and breathing on him, he said: "Depart from me, 0 devil, for accursed art thou with thy vision and treacherous wiles; there is no place for you among the servants of God." Then, leaving a horrible stench, he departed, saying: "I should have gained thee, had not the surpassing power of Christ hindered me. Nevertheless, so far as I can, I will not cease to trouble thee." Cf. Dionysius, in Vita Pachomii.
The monk Valens was frequently deceived by the devil under the form of an angel. From this Valens became swollen with pride, because of his intimacy with angels. At length the devil appeared to him, feigning that he was Christ, accompanied by a thousand angels holding lights and a fiery wheel. One of them said to him: "Christ has loved thy free and confident life, and has come to see thee; come out, therefore, and worship Him." Then he went out and worshipped the devil as Christ. This so unhinged his mind that he went into the church and said: "I have no need of communion. I have seen Christ to-day." The Fathers, therefore, bound him and threw him into fetters. Cf. Palladius, c. 31. Ver. 16 . If otherwise, yet as a fool receive me . If I can obtain from you nothing else, then receive me as a fool, only that I may have license to glory somewhat. As Cato says: "Neither praise nor blame thyself; leave this to fools, whom empty glory vexes." Notice how S. Paul hesitates, and paves the way for self-praise, to show how unwillingly he was driven to it (Chrysostom). Ver. 17. That which I speak. The praises of myself, that I propose to utter directly.
I speak it not after the Lord. If regarded by itself. But it will be after God if charity and necessity be taken into account, the necessity, that is, of preventing you from despising me, and glorifying the false apostles.
In this confidence of boasting. In this substance (Latin version). In this subject-matter of boasting, i.e ., my works, of which I am now going to speak. Ver. 18. Seeing that many glory after the flesh. In things merely outward and carnal, as, e.g ., in birth, riches, wisdom, circumcision, having Hebrew parents of all which these false apostles boast. Hence I too will glory in them (Chrysostom). Cf. x. 2, note Ver. 19 . For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. Irony. You have foolishly suffered the boastings of these vain-glorious false apostles; I hope that you will suffer me to glory wisely and usefully among them that are wise. Theophylact, however, and Anselm think that this is said seriously, in the way of exaggerated rebuke. Since you are wise in Christ, you ought to have exploded the folly of the false apostles. Why, then, do you gladly suffer them? Ver. 20. For ye suffer if a man bring you into bondage. This is aimed at the insatiable arrogance, avarice, and tyranny of the false apostles. You suffer false apostles, who imperiously treat you as slaves, who devour you by extorting from you your goods, who are exalted by their self-praise, who smite you in the face, not with the palms of their hands, but with insults. Hence he adds: "I speak as concerning reproach." These words, therefore, contain a sharp rebuke. These men squander your money, take away your freedom and honour, load you with taunts, as though you were slaves; but 1 have borne myself humbly, have lived at my own expense, have wished to put upon you the easy yoke of Christ. Yet you prefer them to me, as though, when compared with these, your imperious lords, nay, tyrants, I was not sufficiently well-born, or powerful, or eloquent. S. Bernard ( de Consid. lib. i. c. 3) says: " When you may be free there is no virtue in the patience which lets you become a slave. Do not conceal the slavery into which you are being daily led, while you know it not. It is the mark of a dull and heavy heart not to feel its own continual trouble. Trouble gives to the hearing understanding, provided it be not excessive. If it is, it gives not understanding, but carelessness ."
Let superiors and prelates console themselves by the example of S. Paul, when they duly do their duty, and are despised by those under them, and see others preferred before them. It has ever been the custom of the world, and ever will be till the end, as Salmeron notices here, to obstinately resist the servants of God, to murmur, and, meeting rebuke, on the least occasion, to complain of even moderate severity; to spurn all discipline; to submit servilely to impostors, libertines, and false apostles; to entrust everything to them; to bear patiently whatever burden they may choose to impose. The Israelites, e.g ., despised the holy and gentle Samuel, and preferred to bear the yoke of a self-willed and tyrannical king (1 Sam. viii.). Ver. 21. I speak as concerning reproach. This belongs to the preceding. The "smiting on the face" spoken of is here explained to be mental, not physical consisting in the ignominy and revilings cast, as it were, in their faces by the false apostles. This "smiting" is no less wrong than if they had been beaten like slaves. Others, however, interpret these words to mean: "I say this to your shame." This, however, would require πρὸς instead of κατὰ .
As though we had been weak. Refer this to the words, ye suffer. You suffer these bold and imperious false apostles; me you do not, but rather despise me as weak and timid, as though I could not have acted more imperiously than I have done, I could, indeed, have done so, but I would not, through humility, modesty, and abounding charity (Chrysostom).
Whereinsoever any is bold. If any one ventures to boast foolishly, I too can do the same. Ver. 22. Are they Hebrews? so am I. The word Hebrew is derived either (1.) from a Hebrew word denoting "across the stream," in allusion to their descent from Abraham, who crossed the Euphrates from Chaldæa to dwell in Palestine. Hebrews in this sense would mean (to coin a word) transamnine, as we speak of transmarine or transalpine. Abraham, after crossing the Euphrates, is the first to be called Hebrew (Gen. xiv. 13). The LXX and Aquila render the word here "crosser;" S. Augustine (qu. 29 in Gen .) renders it "transfluvial." So Chrysostom, Origen, Theodoret understand the word. (2.) Or the Jews were called Hebrews as being descended from Heber, Abraham's forefather, the only man who with his family, after the confusion of tongues at Babel, retained the primeval Hebrew tongue, together with true faith, religion, and piety. (Cf. Genesis 10:21 , and Genesis 11:1 , et seq .) Those, then, are wrong who suppose that Hebræi is derived from Abrahæi. S. Augustine, it is true, at one time held this opinion ( de Consens. Evang. lib. 1. c. 14), but in his Retractations (lib. ii. c. 14) he gave it up. The meaning of the Apostle, at all events, is this: These false apostles glory in their birth in their being, as Hebrews, descendants of Heber, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; in their possession of the holy religion of their ancestors, and the primeval tongue. But I also am a Hebrew and descendant of Abraham like him in stock, tongue, faith, and religion. Ver. 23. Are they ministers of Christ ? The Latin version takes this in the indicative, and supposes S. Paul to concede, for the sake of argument, that the false apostles were ministers of Christ. Be it so, but I am much more truly such than they.
In labours more abundant. Let prelates and doctors take notice from this, that they should base their influence, as S. Paul did, not on external show, but on labours and mode of life. The Fourth Council of Carthage (c. 5) says: " Let a bishop have a sordid dress, a scanty table, and poor living, and let him seek to have his high office revered through his faith and the merits of his life ."
S. Bernard, quoting this passage in his work, De Consideratione , addressed to Pope Eugenius, says, (lib. ii. c. 6): " How excellent a ministry is this! What king holds a more glorious office? If you must needs glory, the life of the Saints is put before your eyes, the glorying of the Apostles is set forth. Seems that to you a little matter? Would that one would give to me to be like the Saints in their glorying! The Apostle exclaims God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Recognise thy heritage in the cross of Christ, in abundant labours. Happy the man who would say: "I have laboured more than they all.' This is glorying indeed, but there is nothing in it empty, slothful, or effeminate. If labour terrifies, the reward beckons us onward. Though he laboured more than all, yet he did not elaborate the whole work, and yet there is room. Go into the field of the Lord, and notice carefully how the ancient curse holds sway in an abundant crop of thorns and thistles. Go forth, I say, into the world; for the field is the world, and it has been entrusted to you. Go into it, not as a lord but as a steward, who will one day be called on to give an account ."
In stripes above measure. More than can be told or believed.
In deaths oft. In dangers of death, when my companions, or others, were wounded or slain, as, e.g ., by robbers, or in popular out-breaks. Cf. 2 Corinthians 1:10 , and 1 Corinthians 15:31 . Ver. 24. Forty stripes save one. The Lord had ordered, in Deut. xxv. 3, that the number of stripes should not exceed forty. The Jews, to make sure of obedience to this precept, used to inflict on criminals one less. Ver. 25. I have been in the deep. The Greek word for the deep may refer to a well or a prison, as well as the sea. Hence (1.) some think, says Theophylact, that that well is meant in which Paul is said to have lain concealed after escaping from the attack made on him by the people of Lystra (Acts xiv. 18). (2.) Baronius ( Annals, A.D. 58), following Bede and Theodoret, thinks that the Cyzicenum, that deep and loathsome dungeon, like the Barathrum at Athens and the Tullianum at Rome, into which Paul was thrown, is here meant. (3.) It is better to understand the deep to be the sea, and to be an explanation of the hardships of his shipwreck: " A night and a day I have been in the deep." In other words, he says: I was tossed about by so violent a tempest that I seemed to be days and nights in the depths of the sea (Maldonatus Not. Manusc .). Or it may be that he means to say that after his shipwreck he spent a day and a night tossed by the waves, not in a boat or on a raft, but swimming in the deep, i.e ., on the open sea (Theophylact, Ambrose, S. Thomas). Haymo says that this latter explanation of S. Paul's rescue alive from the belly of the deep, like another Jonah, is the tradition of the Fathers.
Of these scourgings and this shipwreck there is no record in the Acts of the Apostles. The shipwreck at Melita, narrated in Acts xxvii., happened long after this, when Paul was sent a prisoner to Rome. Only one scourging is mentioned, that in Acts xvi., and only one stoning, that in Acts xiv. S. Luke, it is evident, therefore, is silent on many details of S. Paul's life. Ver. 26. In perils by my own countrymen. Through the plots that the Jews often entered into against him (Anselm).
In painfulness. Ærumna (Latin version), which, says Cicero, is laborious toil, as, e.g ., when one that is tired out is forced, for the sake of rest, to undertake fresh toils.
The things in which the Apostle glories are those that not only many Christians now-a-days but many clergy would be ashamed of, as S. Bernard laments when commenting on the words, "Lo, we have left all." Whither have we drifted? Where has the apostolic Spirit gone? Whither are fled the humility, labours, sufferings, and zeal of the primitive Church? The Apostles, the princes of the Church, Christ's lieutenants, do not rejoice in their palaces, their carriages, their silken robes, in an attending crowd of noblemen, domestics, soldiers, horses, and hounds; in banquets and dinners; in fat benefices, in an effeminate, luxurious, and sumptuous life; but they exult and glory in hunger, thirst, painfulness, and weariness; cold and nakedness; in continual journeying to barbarous nations; in persecution, preaching, scourgings, beatings, stonings, death, martyrdom, fatigues by day and night; they are made all things to all men; they scorn no one; they are fathers of the poor and the afflicted; those that are barbarous, ignorant, and poor they teach: they preach to them the Gospel, comfort them, give them alms. This was the calling of the Apostles; this was the high dignity of the princes of the Church, of which Paul here boasts; this was the spirit of the early Christians, both clergy and people. Nor has this spirit, God be thanked, died out in this age. Our age has had, and still has its Borroméo, Pius, Xavier, Menesius, Gaspar, Hosius, and others like minded.
Be not ashamed then, 0 Bishop, or prior, or doctor, or pastor, to imitate these men to visit the poor after their example, to enter hospitals and prisons, to bear the confessions of peasants, to give counsel to the unhappy, to instruct the simple and ignorant, to be made all things to all men, to zealously seek the salvation of all. In these works do not shrink from toil, fatigue, and sorrow, even unto death; in this cause be pleased and delighted to suffer scoffs and even blows. So Christ did and suffered, so did S. Paul, so did the Apostles in general. In this consisted their virtue, holiness, and apostleship. In that last day of the world, when the Chief Shepherd and great Doctor shall sit as judge, to examine the deeds of each one and to pass on each one sentence of an eternity of bliss or an eternity of woe, He will not ask you how many benefices, what wealth, or servants, or knowledge you had, but how you used them how many by them you converted, how many poor you fed or gave drink to, how many you visited in prison, how far you spread His Gospel and extended His glory; what labours, dangers, ridicule, and persecutions you bore for Him; what hunger, and thirst, and weariness. These things God has done; and, while we have time, let us think on these things, let us do these things, that we may stir up in ourselves and in all men the spirit of the primitive Church and of the Apostles, that we may follow Christ our Leader, and the Apostles His princes, and so by our zeal and burning charity, set on fire a world now growing old and stiffening with cold. Then shall we in due time hear with the Apostles: "Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed Me, in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, then shall ye also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
Listen to what S. Chrysostom has to say of these sufferings and victories, and the courage of S. Paul ( Hom. 25, 26): " Paul, as a champion athlete, against the world contends in every kind of contest, and conquers in all. This was his apostolic character, and by these contests he spread the Gospel. Just as a flame of inextinguishable fire, if it falls into the ocean and is swallowed by the waves, emerges again as bright as ever so too S. Paul, though pressed on all sides, was not oppressed; not knowing how to yield. Suffering but left him the more glorious victor and martyr a thousand times over ."
S. Chrysostom ( Hom. 2) says again: " Paul, through the abundance of his devotion, somehow did not feel the sufferings that he underwent in the cause of virtue; nay, he thought virtue itself its own reward. Daily he rose higher and more ardent; in every attack he rejoiced and gained the victory; when suffering under blows and injuries he counted it triumph. He sought death before life, poverty before riches; he longed for toil more than others rest; he counted cities, nations, provinces, and power as of as little account as the sand. He regarded nothing bitter and nothing sweet, as men commonly regard things. He looked on tyrants as moths; on death, tortures, a thousand sufferings as mere child's play, provided that he might endure something for Christ. He was as adamant, nay, harder and stronger than adamant. Like a bird he flew over the whole world to teach it, and, as though hampered by no body, he despised all sufferings and dangers. So thoroughly did he despise all earthly things that heaven might seem already his ." Ver. 28. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily. The weight of business that daily presses upon me. The Greek word here used denotes, says Budæus, to collect a band, to call together a meeting, as, e.g ., when the mob assembles and makes an attack on the aristocracy and the magistrates. So the Apostle here uses the word to denote those manifold cares which, as it were, formed a band and rushed upon him from every side, and almost overwhelmed him, and this not once only but continuously. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Ephrem understand it to mean that factious conspiracies, seditions, tumults, popular outbreaks, and plots were being always set in motion against him. This is, indeed, the literal meaning of the Greek; but S. Paul has already mentioned those troubles in ver. 26. The former meaning is, therefore, the better. Then next clause, "the care of all the churches," is explanatory of this. Anselm and Theophylact say beautifully: " Everywhere Paul teaches, but he also suffers greatly. He endures his own sufferings, and at the same time bears the sufferings of others. He bears the infirmities of individuals, and at the same time is anxious about the salvation of all. "
S. Chrysostom here ( Hom. 18) teaches us beautifully, by his example, that nothing is sweeter than this anxiety, thought, labour, and grief of a good pastor for the Church. " A mother too ," he says, " in the in midst of deep grief for her child has pleasure; in the midst of anxiety she has joy. Though her anxiety be a source of bitterness, yet her devotion gives her great happiness ." Let great men, and those that are ministers of Christ, desire to be ever in motion as the heart is, or like the heavens, and, as Suetonius says of Vespasian, to die standing. Pacatus says, in his Panegyric of Theodosius: " Divine things delight in continual motion, and at the same time eternity feeds itself on movement, and your nature delights too in what we men call labour. As the heavens revolve with unfailing rotation, and the waves of the sea are ever in motion, and the sun never stands still, so are you, 0 Emperor, always engaged in matters of business that seem to return in a regular cycle ." Ver. 29. Who is weak and I am not weak ? Who is weak, or grieves, or is afflicted, and I am not with him weak, grieved, or afflicted? Who is offended and I am not on fire, both with grief, because the evil that my neighbour suffers when he is scandalised is mine, and with zeal also, to remedy his trouble and remove the cause of offence?
S. Gregory ( Hom . 12 in Ezekiel 4:3; Ezekiel 4:3 ), on the words, "Take thou unto thee an iron pan," thinks that by the pan is meant the mind of Ezekiel, who, on seeing the overthrow of Jerusalem, was, as it were, roasted in a pan with compassion. Of this God puts him in mind by ordering him to place a pan between himself and the city. Such, too, was S. Paul when he said: "Who is offended and I burn not?" " Paul had set on fire his heart ," says S. Gregory, " with zeal for souls, and so had made it a pan in which, from love of virtue, he flamed against vice ." Ver. 30 . Of the things which concern mine infirmities . I will glory of the afflictions, blows, persecutions, and sufferings that I have borne for Christ. Through them I seem weak, i.e ., despicable, mean, and worthless (Chrysostom). Observe that Paul glories not in his miracles but his infirmities, because in them there shines forth the effectual power of God's grace, and also because in these he surpassed the false apostles, and thirdly, because they are the tokens of real virtue and of an Apostle. Ver. 32 . The governor under Aretas the king. This satrap of King Aretas was, says Theophylact, the father-in-law of Herod. Josephus says that Herod Antipas, who put to death John the Baptist, married the daughter of Aretas. Ver. 33 . And through a window in a basket was I let down. This escape of S. Paul from Damascus happened in the year 39 ( Act 9:25 ), when, as Josephus says, Aretas, King of Arabia and of the country near Damascus, waged war against Herod, because Herod had repudiated his wife, the daughter of Aretas, for the purpose of marrying Herodias. In this war Herod was worsted, and slain by Aretas. This brought on Aretas the vengeance of Tiberius Cæsar, who sent Vitellius, governor of Syria, to take or slay Aretas (Josephus, Ant. lib. x. c. 7). Using the opportunity, the Jews, enraged with S. Paul, seem to have accused him before the prefect of Aretas of disturbing the people under a pretext of preaching the Gospel, and so drawing them away from heathenism, and consequently from Aretas. They wished to show that this would end in his betraying Damascus to the Jews and to Vitellius. Hence the prefect sought to take Paul, but he, being warned, escaped by being let down by the wall in a basket. Cf. Baronius ( Annals , vol. i. p. 304).
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30