SYNOPSIS OF THE CHAPTER
i. He exhorts them not to neglect the proffered grace of reconciliation spoken of at the end of the last chapter.
ii. He points out (ver4) the qualities required in ministers, especially in Apostles and preachers of the Gospel.
iii. He declares (ver11) how his heart was filled with love of the Corinthians, and he strives to stir them up to like love.
iv. He warns them (ver14) by many contrasts carefully to avoid holding intercourse or intermarrying with unbelievers.
Ver1.—We then, as workers together with Him. We, as workers together with God, beseech you to accept this proffered reconciliation, spoken of in vers18, 19, and20, of the preceding chapter.
Beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. He receives grace into a vacuum, says Anselm, who does not work with it, who does not give it his heart, and who, through sloth, makes that grace ineffectual, by not doing, all that he can to express it in good works. In other words, do not suppose that faith alone is reconciliation, for a good life and good works are also indispensable. So Theophylact, following Chrysostom.
Observe that the Apostle applies the word grace to the general benefit of reconciliation of the world through Christ"s redemption; for it was of this that he had just been treating. Nevertheless, under that he comprehends that particular grace which Christ has merited for each one, and which God gives to each one, to enable each one to become a partaker of the general redemption wrought by Christ.
Ver2.—For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted (Isa. xlix8). The Apostle proves that now is the time of grace and reconciliation, in order that we way not receive this grace in vain, from the fact that Isaiah had foretold that this would be the time of grace. He is anticipating an objection which might be raised. It might be said by some one: "It is not in my power to receive the grace of God; for to give it or not to give it depends on the will of God. How, then, can you exhort me to receive it?" Paul replies. Now is the time accepted, now is the time of salvation, now is the time of grace, when, as Isaiah foretold, God offers His grace to all, and hears the desires and petitions of all.
In a time accepted. This time is the period of the law of grace, or the present life of Christians, during which they have the opportunity of doing good works and obtaining merit. But after this life it is not called "a time accepted;" for in this time only has God been pleased to offer to all men, through Christ, His grace of reconciliation, loving-kindness, and salvation. It is called accepted and acceptable, i.e., most welcome, and worthy of being received with the greatest possible rejoicing and praise, since it brings salvation to the world through Christ.
These words are addressed by the Father to the Son. I have heard, i.e., since the prophetic eye sees the future as already present, I will hear Thee, My Son, making request for Thy members, and in Thy faithful members, and asking for help, and grace, and, salvation. And in the day of salvation, in the time of grace, when I will call all men to eternal salvation by Thee, 0 Christ, have I succoured Thee, i.e., I will succour Thee, so that you shall obtain in, Christians, as Thy members, the salvation that is offered them by Thee. So Ambrose, Chrysostom, Anselm. Cf. Isa. lxi2, where Christ says that He is sent to preach the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all that mourn. This acceptable year was typified by the year of jubilee. The whole time, therefore, that Christ preached, and after that the whole time of the New Law, was, and is, to them that obey Christ and accept His free gift, a year of jubilee, of mercy, peace, forgiveness, salvation, and freedom. In this year, after the long-standing. wrath of God against us, we are restored to His grace, good-will, to our glorious inheritance, and all the original good things which we had in the state of innocence in Paradise. The same time, the same year, was the day of vengeance on our foes, when God avenged the human race on its enemies by delivering them from their tyranny.
Ver3.—Giving no offence in anything. When we speak of the day on which all are called by Christ to be saved, let us be careful that we put no stumbling-block in any one"s way, and by our self indulgence, or gloominess, or cowardice cause him to refuse to accept, or advance in the way of salvation; else we Apostles, who do all that we can by our preaching and living to induce all to accept salvation, will be blamed.
Ver4.—Approving ourselves. "Commending ourselves" (Erasmus), "declaring ourselves," as others render it; but "showing ourselves" (Syriac) is the best. The Latin version, however, takes it in the Optative, "let us show ourselves." Paul is here again defending himself and praising himself because of his rivals, the false apostles; and he exhorts all Christians, and especially all preachers of the Gospel, of whom there were many at Corinth, to live up to the Evangelical and Apostolical life. At the same time he tacitly describes his own life, his sufferings, fortitude, and virtues, that others may imitate him, and may in their own lives offer a contrast to the pride, self-indulgence, cowardice, and other vices of the false apostles. As we shall see in chap. xi., he is forced in this Epistle to praise himself in self-defence.
S. Paul here puts forward a living picture of a true and genuine Apostle and preacher of the Gospel, by which any one may examine teachers whose faith and uprightness are suspected. This picture is also a model for all teachers and pastors to copy. S. Paul wishes the Corinthians to see the injustice of preferring their false apostles and blatant demagogues before himself and his fellow-Apostles, in whom all the marks of a true Apostle will easily be found. These marks he now proceeds to enumerate.
As the ministers of God in much patience. The exhibition of suffering endured not once but often is a plain proof of apostleship. The word "patience" is to be referred to what follows. Let us show ourselves, says S. Paul, as ministers of God, by suffering many tribulations, necessities, distresses, stripes, and other afflictions. For men admire this patience as a higher philosophy, they themselves being accustomed when they are injured to be angry, indignant, and to avenge themselves by blows and angry words, and thus they are led to infer the truth of Christian doctrine and to recognise the Spirit of God. For example, S. Xavier and his companion Juan Fernandez made no progress in Japan until a man one day spat in the face of one of them; whereupon the Saint gently wiped his face and proceeded with his sermon as though he had suffered nothing, and bore with most exemplary patience their scoffs and insults. The keen-witted Japanese so admired this fortitude that they at once proceeded to honour them as men descended from heaven, and to vie with each other in embracing the faith they taught. The heathen Epictetus also saw the power of constancy and long-suffering, and taught his followers to show the wisdom he had taught them, not so much by words as by deeds of endurance. In his Enchiridion (c29), he says: "Be not in a hurry to utter thy words to the unskilful; but rather let thy words act as fuel to the flames of thy deeds; for sheep do not ask us to prove by reasonings how much they may have eaten, but they quietly digest their food, and show its results in wool and milk." So Christ (S. Matt. vii16) says of false prophets, "by their fruits ye shall know them;" and again, in S. Luke 8:15, speaking, of the seed of the Gospel which falls into good ground, He says "these are they which in an honest and good heart having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."
In necessities.—In want of food, drink, and clothing. Theophylact takes the word in a more general sense, as denoting the intensity and severity of his tribulations, when they become so overwhelming that escape seems impossible, and drive a man into extreme necessity, and as it were stifle him.
Ver5.—In tumults. Being constantly hunted from one city to another, so that I have no place to abide in, but am forced to be always going hither and thither. The word may, however, also denote popular outbreaks or tumults, as in S. Luke 21:9.
Ver6.—By pureness. Being pure in all things, not only inasmuch as Paul was guiltless of bribery, and forbade his disciples to yield to it, but also because he preached not at others" expense, as Theophylact says. The Latin version gives the word a narrower meaning, as denoting pure and perfect chastity, abstinence from every lustful action, the cultivation of angelic purity, such as was seen in Paul and the other Apostles. Every infidel and heretic looks upon this as a token that a man is a true minister of God; and he rightly thinks that chastity with himself is impossible. It is possible among Catholics alone, inasmuch as they are sharers in the true faith and in the grace of God. Hence you will not find among heretics virgins or houses of virgins, or monks or monasteries, no, nor even celibate priests. These are to be found in every age in the Roman Catholic Church alone, which has followed, and taught her members to follow, Paul and the other Apostles as her guides and teachers.
By knowledge. Let us see that we do not appear to some to be unskilled and untaught as to what things Christians are to do and avoid. Let us rather show that we know such things, by teaching others the good they are to do, and the evil that they are to avoid, that so they may attain salvation, and that all may know us to be God"s ministers, preachers, and Apostles. So Ambrose. Anselm, not amiss, thinks that knowledge here denotes acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures.
By kindness. Let us not be rancorously bitter against those who trouble us, but let us be gentle and kindly disposed to them, in thought, word, and deed, that all may say that we are God"s ministers. It is evidently a sign of adamantine fortitude, says Theophylact, when any one, being harassed and attacked on every side, is not only long-suffering, but also gentle and kind. It is superhuman, Christ-like, God-like.
Such was S. Athanasius, of whom Nazianzen says in his oration in his praise: "Athanasius was in his life high and lifted up, in his mind filled with humility; of such urbanity that all might easily approach him; forgiving, free from all anger, compassionate, Pleasant in speech, pleasanter still in his life, in shape like an angel, in mind still more angelic, calm when rebuking others, able to instruct when he gave praise, as far removed from easy-going carelessness as from harsh severity; in short, he was adamant to those that struck against him, a magnet to those that stood apart from him."
By the Holy Ghost. By the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and by the works we do by His help and guidance. Let us do everything with so pious, kind, sincere, and fervent spirit, that it may be apparent that we are not moved by vanity or pride, but by the Holy Spirit. So Anselm, Theophylact, Chrysostom.
Ver7.—By the word of truth. By purely and sincerely preaching Gospel truth, let us show ourselves ministers of God.
By the power of God. By working miracles, or rather, with Chrysostom, by Christian constancy and fortitude displaying itself in so many adversities, so many labours, such vehemence of word, and so effectual preaching. All such things come to us through the power of God, and prove us to be powerful ministers of Him, worthy of all admiration.
By the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left. Both in prosperity and adversity let us take as our arms works of righteousness, i.e., of virtuous deeds springing from a righteous and holy life, that we may neither be lifted up by prosperity nor cast down by adversity. So Anselm. But Chrysostom and Theophylact say that the left hand denotes adversity, and the right prosperity, which two things, by alternate action, fortify the servants of God like armour, so that they are neither exalted to pride nor cast down into despondency.
Ver8.—By honour and dishonour. Whether we are honoured and praised, or dishonoured and abused, as, e.g., when the Lycaonians wished to worship Paul as God, and directly afterwards to stone him as an impostor. The preposition by is here equivalent to in. See note to
1 Timothy 2:15.
By evil report and good report. Whether we are spoken evil of, or are in great repute.
As deceivers. Regarded as such, says Ambrose, when yet we are true.
As unknown, and yet well known. Looked upon by unbelievers and heretics as unknown and obscure, but yet well known to God and our own consciences (Ambrose).
Ver9.—As dying. We may seem to be always dying through our daily dangers, persecutions, and trials, but God preserves us alive and unharmed.
As chastened and not killed. Let us show ourselves as ministers of God (ver4), by being chastened and not killed.
Ver10.—As poor, yet making many rich. By enriching them with earthly goods as well as with things Divine and heavenly. S. Paul was collecting alms for the poor Saints, and especially those of Jerusalem.
As having nothing, and yet possessing all things. (1.) I have all things necessary, and I want no more; nay, what is more, I despise them as vile and beneath me, whence I am as though I possessed all things. (2.) Though we Apostles are poor, yet are we the head of the faithful, the richest of whom bring all their goods and lay them at our feet (Ambrose and Anselm). Cf. Chrysostom here and Homily (in Moral.). (3.) Possessing all things may also be understood to mean, having books, garments, and all other necessary things, all meaning "some out of all," and being "distributed" according to classes of individuals, and not according to the individuals of classes. Others say that all things refers to God, and they who possess Him possess all things. But this last sense is mystical and symbolical.
Anselm remarks that as though is here prefixed to what is painful, but not to what is joyful, because all the sadness of the Saints is but apparent. It is short-lived, and passes away as a dream, and seems but a shadow, and is not sorrow, but a mere semblance of it. The joy of the Saints, however, has no as though, because it is founded on the sure and certain hope of eternal bliss. On the other hand, the joy of the wicked has here the prefix as though, because it is brief and shadowy as a dream, while their sorrow will have no as, because it will be eternally bitter.
Observe the nature of the life of Paul and the other Apostles. It was such a life as is led by religious, whose fathers were the Apostles. Nazianzen (Oral1de Pace), in describing this life, says: "Their life is one of wealth in the midst of need, of great possessions while but pilgrims, of glory amid scorn, patience in weakness, a noble offspring in celibacy: instead of riches they have contempt of riches; for the kingdom of heaven"s sake they embrace humility; they have nothing in the world, and yet they are superior to the world; they are in the flesh, and yet live out of the flesh; they have God for their portion; their hope of the Kingdom makes them labour in want, and through want they rein." Such was the life of Bishops and apostolic men. Sulpitius praises S. Martin for fulfilling the dignified duties of a Bishop without abandoning his purpose as a monk. Posidonius relates of S. Augustine that he lived so frugally as to be content with bread and vegetables, seldom providing flesh except for his guests; he says also that when he was at the point of death he left no will, because, as he said, Christ"s poor had nothing to leave. Still he was able to refute Arians, Manichees, Donatists, and Pelagians, and became one of the first columns and doctors of the Churches. Of Exuperius, Bishop of Toulouse, S. Jerome says: "When hungry himself he fed others, and showed by his face, wasted and wan with constant fasting, that he was consumed by hunger after other things."
This therefore, is the norm and form of the apostolic life prescribed by S. Paul to all who are desirous of perfection and the salvation of their souls. From this was drawn the short rule of the Institute of our Order, a printed copy of which each of us is wont to carry about with him, and to apply to it his eyes and mind, regarding it as his private monitor, and a keen spur to zeal for virtue, nay, as a living mirror of our vocation and profession. It says as follows: "The nature of our life demands that we be men crucified to the world, and to whom the world itself is crucified; new men, who have put off their affections to put on Christ; dead to themselves, to live to righteousness; men who, as S. Basil says, show themselves to be ministers of Christ in labours, in watchings, in fastings, in pureness in knowledge, in long-suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned, in the word of truth; men who by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report, in prosperity and adversity, are themselves hastening by force marches to their heavenly country, and wish all zealous labour compelling others also, always aiming at the greatest glory of God. This is the summary, this one thing the aim and object of our constitutions, viz., Jesus."
Ver11.—0 ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you. My mouth is open, it longs to say more to you, and to express all my affection for you, and it cannot. No matter what and how much I may say, it is less than my affection. The Apostle says this to show that what he had said of his patience, tribulations, and virtues was not from self-love, but from friendship, trust, and love towards the Corinthians. Friends are in the habit of interchanging their secret joys and sorrows, and thus showing their love for each other. When this is great they more and more try to express it, but find themselves unable to do justice to their feelings. This is what Paul does here.
The two ideas of "straitening" and "enlarging" are frequently contrasted by the Hebrews, to denote on the one hand sadness, timidity, suspicion, and avarice, and on the other joyfulness and generosity of heart. As sadness and avarice contract the heart, the brow, and the hands, so joy, cheerfulness, and charity expand them. Cf. Psalm 119:32, and 1 Kings 4:29.
Ver12.—Ye are not straitened in us. You dwell fully and spaciously in my heart as in your home. My love builds for you a spacious house.
Ye are straitened in your own bowels. The love of your hearts for me is so small that it contracts them, and barely gives me place there. Your love and good-will do not equal mine. The Corinthians would seem to have been alienated from Paul by the calumnies of the false apostles; he, therefore, declares the greatness of his love for them, that he may kindle theirs in return.
Moreover, Paul seemed to have in his First Epistle straitened the Corinthians by prohibiting them from idolatry, from going to law before unbelieving judges, from their love-feasts and sumptuous banquets; and in ver14he is about to straiten them by forbidding a believer to marry with an unbeliever. He here paves the way by urging them to receive, with the large-hearted love of Christ, his apparently straitening precepts, which are not his but Christ"s.
Ver13.—Now for a recompence in the same . . . be ye also enlarged. S. Paul is speaking of a return of love, and not, as some think, of the heavenly reward. These latter take the meaning to be, that since the Corinthians were to have the same reward in heaven, they should enlarge their love for S. Paul. But the sense clearly is that they should repay S. Paul"s for them with an equal measure of love on their part.
Ver14.—Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. Do not have so close fellowship with them in matters of religion as to be gradually led away to share in their unbelief, as, e.g., in marriage. Separate yourselves from the unbelievers" assemblies, temples, sacrifices, feasts; do not intermarry with them, for all commerce with them is either wicked and unrighteous in itself, or is dangerous to those who hold it, and a cause of offence to others. Do not imitate the Jews, whose laxity is recorded in PS. cvi35 (Chrysostom, Ambrose, Theophylact). S. Jerome (contra Jovin. lib. i.) understands S. Paul to warn against intermarriage with unbelievers. There seems to be an allusion to Ps. cvi28, "They joined themselves unto Baal-peor," which refers to the fornication committed by the Israelites in honour of Baal-peor. So, whoever marries with an unbeliever may be said to join himself to Baal-peor, i.e., the devil, the ruler of unbelievers. Anselm again supposes that by "unbelievers" is meant the Judaising false apostles, who were attempting to eviscerate the faith of Christ by making the ceremonies of the law of Moses binding on Christians. Such men are more dangerous to Christians, and more to be shunned than unbelieving Gentiles, and therefore S. Paul warns his readers against them. This sense is good but defective, for the Apostle wishes the fellowship of all unbelievers whatsoever to be avoided
The Apostle is here passing on, as is usual in letters, to discuss another point of importance just then to the Corinthians, viz., the duty of avoiding unbelievers. It is in vain, therefore, for any one to seek for connecting links with what has gone before.
Erasmus observes that the Latin version is happy in its translation here; it renders the passage: "Do not be joined in the same yoke with unbelievers." For if a Christian marry a heathen wife, or a Christian magistrate have a Gentile as colleague, he is called έτεροζυγω̃ν. Marriages of this kind S. Jerome calls unequal.
Observe upon this that έτερος signifies sometimes one of two, sometimes an object that is diverse, whether from some one other or from several others. Thus the word occurs in a compound word, to denote one who lacks an eye, and again to denote one who is of a different opinion (έτεροφθάλμος and έτερόδοξος). And hence it is uncertain whether S. Paul here means one who bears one-half of a yoke, or one who bears a yoke in company with one of a different condition.
Budus takes the former of these two, and understands S. Paul to exhort the Corinthians not to bear one part of a yoke with unbelievers, just as in Campania two oxen bear the same yoke, one on each side.
Others more properly take the latter meaning, and understand the warning to be against such an alliance as that of an ox and an ass would be in the same yoke (Deut. xxii10). This interpretation is rendered more probable from the words that follow—"what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?"
Theophylact again thinks that the warning is against accommodating one"s principles to those of our partner in wedlock. He says that the allusion here is not to a yoke but to the beam of a balance, and one especially that is unequally weighted, so that one side is lower than the other. We are not to be like such a balance, and lean towards an unrighteous or unbelieving partner.
For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteous? The just with the unjust, believers with unbelievers.
It was hard for the Corinthians, while Christians were so few, to be forbidden to have commerce and intermarriage with unbelievers. Many amongst them would find a difficulty in obtaining partners of equal rank, or wealth, or position; and hence they would either be obliged to abstain from marriage, or else marry an inferior. Moreover, by natural and Divine law there was nothing simply and absolutely to prohibit them from allying themselves with unbelievers; still such alliance would be unbecoming and full of danger, and hence it is forbidden by the Apostle. But to reconcile them to so severe a precept he puts before them five contrasts drawn from the inherent opposition between Christianity and heathenism.
(1.) Unequal wedlock is a heavy yoke, burdensome to both parties, even as it would be if a horse and an ox were yoked together. (2.) Light and darkness cannot cohere in the same subject or be in the same place at once; therefore one of the faithful, who has the light of faith, cannot well enter into the same yoke with one who is full of the darkness of unbelief. (3.) There is no concord between Christ and Belial: believers belong to Christ, unbelievers to Belial; therefore they cannot agree. (4.) The believer has no part or communion with the unbeliever, but differs from him as widely as belief from unbelief, heaven from hell; therefore they cannot be joined together. (5.) The temple of God cannot be associated with the idols and temples of devils; neither, therefore, can a believer with an unbeliever. For each of the faithful is a temple of God, and the unbeliever is a temple and image of the devil.
Ver15.—What concord hath Christ with Belial? What harmony can there be between Him who is the Author of all knowledge, obedience, and righteousness and the devil with his followers?
The Hebrew Belial denotes (1.) disobedience, rebellion, ungodliness; (2.) those who have these qualities; and (3.) the devil, as the first apostate, the first to shake of the yoke of obedience to God and His law. Hence apostates are called "sons of Belial," i.e., children of the devil, or children of disobedience, rebellion ungodliness
What part hath he that believeth with an infidel? What is there common to both, to be shared by both? So, in 1 Kings 12:16, we find: "What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse." This antithesis explains the three preceding ones. It is not right for a believer to be joined with an unbeliever, even as it is not possible for righteousness to be joined to unrighteousness, light to darkness, Christ to Belial, the temple of God with idols.
Ver16.—Ye are the temple of the living God. By faith, grace, and holiness. S. Cyprian (de Orat. Domin.) says beautifully: "Let us show ourselves in our lives as the temples of God, that all may see that God indwells within us, so that we who have begun to be heavenly and spiritual, may think and do nothing but what is spiritual and heavenly." The Hebrew word for "temple" connotes power and majesty. Hence Chrysostom (Hom17 in Ep. ad Heb.) says that God ordered Solomon"s Temple to be made exceeding magnifical, that the Jews, who were naturally attracted by outward things, might be led to know something of the majesty of God. Why, then, should not Christians ornament their temples, as the houses of God, and show honour to God, and especially to the body of Christ present with them, and so excite others to reverence and love God? Such a temple, such a royal, nay, such a Divine palace, is the Church allegorically, and each faithful soul tropologically, as the Apostle here declares. In this temple God shows His great glory and majesty, by His exceeding great grace, by magnificent and glorious works of virtue, and by the power of His sacraments.
Villalpando (in Ezek. vol. ii. p256) sees a further reference in the Hebrew word for temple to motion or walking. The tabernacle was a movable temple in which God dwelt and walked with the Hebrews through the wilderness into their promised land. It is to this that S. Paul alludes in the words that follow.
I will walk in them. I will be their guardian, and will spiritually walk in them through the powers and virtues of the soul. Anselm points out that S. Paul quotes Ezekiel 37:27 literally, and Leviticus 26:12 tropologically. What is said in the latter passage of the literal tabernacle of witness is to be understood of God"s protecting presence in each one of the faithful.
Allegorically this tabernacle signified the Church of Christ, as is explained in Ezekiel 28:27, and tropologically each holy soul, which is a temple of God moving through the wilderness of this world to its resting-place in heaven.
(i.) God walks in the soul as in His tabernacle when, through acts of faith, hope, and charity, He passes from the memory to the understanding, and thence to the will. For the faithful soul is as the temple of heaven: its sun is the understanding, or zeal for righteousness, its moon is faith and continence; its stars the other virtues, as S. Bernard says (Serm27 in Cantic.). (2.) God walks in the soul, inasmuch as He makes it by His grace go from virtue to virtue (Anselm and Theophylact). In the same way that in the tabernacle the way to the Holy of Holies through the Holy Place was by the altar of incense, the table of shew-bread, and the candle-stick, does God enable us to pass into heaven through holiness of life by prayer, almsgiving, chastity, and purity of soul. The altar of incense was a symbol of prayer, the table of almsgiving, the candle-stick of purity and brightness of life. (3.) God walks in the soul by way of contemplation. He causes us to follow in our minds His temples, as He passed from the temple of heaven to that of the Virgin"s womb, thence to that of Calvary, thence to hell, and finally back again to heaven. (4.) God walks in us corporally, says S. Ambrose, for the Word was made flesh and dwelt and walked amongst us, and daily by Holy Communion He dwells in us and walks with us.
Ver17.—Come out from among them. Isaiah 52:11, which is here quoted, taken literally ordered the Apostles and the faithful generally to come out, not from the unbelieving and unclean city of Babylon, but from Jerusalem, to be laid waste by Titus. But the Apostle, either tropologically or by parity of reasoning, applies it as an injunction to the faithful to avoid too great intimacy with unbelievers, and not to touch the unclean thing, that is unclean unbelievers; not to live with them, lest they stain themselves with their uncleannesses, such as drunkenness, lust, pride, ungodliness, and unrighteousness (Jerome, Cyril in Isa. lii., Chrysostom, Ambrose, Anselm).
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on 2 Corinthians 6". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany