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CHAPTER 24 Ver. 1. Now upon the first day of the week. The first day after the Sabbath, the Lord's day, i.e. the day on which Christ rose from the dead. See S. Matthew 28:1 . Ver. 10. Joanna. A disciple, although her husband Chusa was the steward of Herod, who was an avowed enemy of Christ. So, as in the cases of SS. Serena, the wife of Diocletian, Antherina, her daughter, Tryphonia and others who were the near relatives of emperors notorious for their persecutions. God gathers roses from thorns, and wills that wives should win over their husbands, and that queens should make of none effect the evil counsel of kings. Ver. 13 . And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus , &c. These two are generally considered to be the same as those mentioned by S. Mark 16:12 , but Euthymius is of a different opinion, and argues that the Apostles believed these (see verse 34), whereas S. Mark 16:13 , expressly states that those spoken of by him, "went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them." But I answer that most of them believed, although some, as Thomas, doubted.
You ask, who were these two? I answer, one was Cleopas, but that it is uncertain about the other. S. Ambrose thinks he was called Amaon, because he was a native of Emmaus. Origen calls him Simeon. S. Epiphanius considers him to be the Nathanael mentioned by S. John i. 45. Very many again think that it was S. Luke himself, but it seems from the introduction to this Gospel that S. Luke had never seen Christ in the flesh, and that he was converted after the death of the Lord.
Two of them , i.e. of the disciples, went probably on some matter of business, and also for the purpose of diverting their thoughts from the sad subject of their Master's passion.
Threescore furlongs , στάςιους i.e., 125 paces, the eighth part of a Roman mile.
Called Emmaus. Emmaus was a village in the time of Christ, according to S. Jerome the birthplace of Cleopas; who seems now to have gone thither for some family reason. In the Hebrew the name may mean, according to its spelling, "fear" or "ardour." Each meaning is here very appropriate, for these two disciples were of a timorous disposition, but when the love of Christ was kindled in their hearts, their fear gave place to burning zeal. Others take ε̉μμαὺς as equivalent to עם מאום am mans, "a people rejected," and explain that the two disciples, because of their doubtings and distrust, were drawing nigh unto rejection, but were recalled by Christ and sent back to the chosen Apostles in Jerusalem.
Some say that this Emmaus, after the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans, was enlarged and called Nicopolis, of which Sozomen writes, "Before the village, where the roads meet, when Christ made as though He would have gone further, is a healing spring, in which not only men, but also animals suffering from manifold diseases, seek relief. For they say that Christ came thither with the disciples, and washed His feet therein, from which time its waters have possessed healing power." He adds something similar about a tree near Hermopolis, the leaves, fruit, and bark of which cure many diseases, because it bent in adoration as Christ passed on his flight into Egypt.
Many are of opinion that there were two places known by the name of Emmaus, one, the city afterwards called Nicopolis, about 140 stadia from Jerusalem, the other the village mentioned in the text. Ver. 14 . And they talked together of all these things which had happened, i.e. they were talking of the sufferings, the death, and the burial of their Master, grieving that so great a prophet had suffered so unworthily, and sorrowing because they would see Him no more; for they evidently despaired of his resurrection and of the redemption of Israel. Ver. 15. And it came to pass , &c. Jesus teaches here that He is present with those who speak concerning Him. Let us then speak of Jesus, and He will be present with us also, and take part in our communings: not indeed now in bodily form, but spiritually, by the grace of His Holy Spirit, by which He inspires our hearts. For this much He Himself has promised, saying, "Where two or three, are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them," S. Matthew 18:20 . They therefore that speak of good have Jesus in their midst. They who speak of evil, Satan. Of this there can be no doubt. Ver. 16. But their eyes were holden. You will ask, How was this effected?
1. Dionysius the Carthusian replies, and S. Augustine ( lib. xxii. chap. 9 De Civit. ) favours his opinion, that they were struck with blindness like the men of Sodom, Genesis 19:11 . But this can hardly be true, for they saw Christ, and conversed with Him, although they knew Him not.
2. Cajetan thinks that their eyes were holden because their minds were so preoccupied, and taken up with the events which had come to pass. But the words of S. Mark 16:12 , "He appeared in another form" are against this view.
3. S. Augustine ( Epist. 59, Quæst. viii.) is of opinion that some change had come over the countenance of Christ, as at the transfiguration. But this does not accord with the dignity of his glorified body, which is changeless and everlasting. Later on, Augustine ( De Consens. Evang. iii. chap. 25) changed his opinion and says that the eyes of the disciples were clouded over by Satan, or a darkness of some kind cast upon them, so that they might not recognise Christ. But, like as He appeared to the Magdalen in the form of a gardener, so he appeared to the two disciples in another form. The circumstances of His appearance were in accordance with His will and uninfluenced by the action of Satan.
I say, therefore, that they did not know the Lord, because although the body of Christ is unchanged, yet because it was glorified and united to the divine Word it possessed the power both of withdrawing itself from view, and also of affecting the sight of beholders either by appearing in a different form, by changing the medium as mirrors do, and even by a direct change of vision. For this is what, S. Luke says, "their eyes were holden," by Jesus, just as if they had been covered by a veil so that they were unable to exercise their functions. Hence immediately that Jesus willed, they recognised Him.
It is much more easy to account for the fact that the disciples did not recognise the voice of Christ, for many without any difficulty so change the sound of their voices as to appear other than they are. S. Thomas, Suarez, and others.
There are several reasons why Christ appeared in another form to these disciples.
1. Because Christ and the angels when they appear to men make themselves like those to whom they appear. The two disciples were journeying: Christ therefore appeared to them as a wayfarer. They were in doubt concerning Him: therefore He made as if He were a stranger. So S. Augustine ( de Consens. Evang. iii. 35) and S. Gregory ( hom. 23 in Evang .) say, "The Lord did that outwardly in the eyes of the body which was done by themselves inwardly in the eyes of the mind. For they themselves inwardly both loved and doubted, but to them the Lord was present outwardly, although He did not reveal himself. To them, therefore, as they talked of Him He exhibited His presence, but as they doubted of Him He concealed the appearance which they knew. He indeed conversed with them, upbraided them with their hardness of heart, expounded the mysteries of holy Scripture which referred to Himself, yet because in their hearts He was a stranger to their faith, He made as though He would have gone further."
2. Lest, if He at once manifested himself to the disciples they might be overcome by the novelty and newness of His resurrection, and imagine that they saw not Christ but a phantom, and therefore might remain doubtful whether He had risen from the dead. But now since He had conversed with them for some time, and then made Himself known, they could no longer doubt that He had risen from the dead.
3. "That the disciples might lay bare their sorrows and be cured of their doubt." Theophylact. For if He had at once said that He was Christ, they would not have dared to confess that they had been doubtful of the resurrection.
4. That from the circumstances of His appearance He might teach us that we are pilgrims and strangers, seeking an heavenly country, which we should be ever longing for, and strive our utmost to obtain. Wherefore S. Francis, who happened on a certain occasion to be spending his Easter in a monastery, where there were none of whom he could ask charity, mindful of our Lord's appearance to the two disciples in the form of a stranger on that very day, asked alms of the brothers themselves; and when he had received their alms, in a burst of sacred eloquence, he reminded them with all humility, that on their way through the desert of this world as strangers and pilgrims, like the true Israel they should in all lowliness of mind continue to celebrate the Passover of the Lord, i.e. their passage from this world to the Father; and he went on to inform them that it is the pilgrim's rule to seek shelter under the roof of others, to thirst for their own country; and peacefully journey thereunto. (Chronicle of the order of S. Francis). Ver. 17. And He said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk and are sad? σκυθζωποί , "sullen" in the sense of downcast. Christ knew whence their sadness arose, but asks them the cause, in order that He might remove it: "As I followed I heard you speak of some one who was slain at Jerusalem; tell me therefore who he was, and how, and for what reason he was put to death." Ver. 18 . And one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said , &c. This Cleopas was the brother of S. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin, the father of S. James the less, and S. Jude, and the grandfather of S. James the greater and S. John, who were the sons of Salome, the daughter of Cleopas. See chap. iii. 23.
Helecas, Bishop of Cæsarea, tells us on the authority of S. Jerome, that "Cleopas, or Alphæus, was the brother of S. Joseph, and one of the seventy disciples, and that he was slain by the Jews in the castle of Emmaus because of Christ." He was therefore a martyr. Hence, in the Roman Martyrology, the 25th of September is put down as the birthday of Blessed Cleopas, the disciple of Christ, who they say was slain by the Jews for confessing the faith in the very house in which he had entertained the Lord. See also Dorotheus (Lives of the Patriarchs).
Again, Cleopas, in the Greek Κλεόπας , is the same as "all glory," for the Jews who were subjugated by Alexander and the Greeks, took Greek names. But in the Hebrew the name may be taken to mean "adding to or increasing the Church," for קהלה kehala, is an assembly or church, and כּוש , pus, is to multiply. For Cleopas gave many sons and daughters to the Church of Christ.
Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem? Theophylact and Euthymius translate παζοικει̃ς ε̉ν Ιεζονσαλὴμ by "Art thou (only) a dweller in Jerusalem?" Others render it, "Art thou (only) a sojourner in Jerusalem?" The meaning is "Art thou such a stranger in Jerusalem, and so ignorant of what has been done in it to Jesus of Nazareth, as to ask who and what he was, about whom we are so sorrowfully conversing? All know the circumstances of His crucifixion and death, and can talk of nothing else. How is it that thou only art ignorant of these things?" Ver. 19. And He said unto them, What things? Christ constrains them to open their grief and to confess their doubts as to His resurrection.
And they said unto him, concerning Jesus of Nazareth. They acknowledge Him, says Bede, to be a great prophet, but they do not speak of Him as the Son of God, either because their faith was imperfect, or because they feared lest they might fall into the hands of the persecuting Jews. For they knew not with whom they were speaking and therefore concealed what they believed to be true. Because they say (verse 21) that they trusted that it had been he, as being the Messiah and the Son of God, which should have redeemed Israel.
Mighty in deed and in ward. So should every Christian be, especially those who have devoted themselves to a religious life, or have been called to any office in the Church. What they preach they should perform, and teach first by example and then by word. Ver. 20. And how the chief priests, and our rulers delivered him , &c. They do not accuse the chief priests and the rulers, although they were persuaded of the injustice of their actions. For they feared lest this stranger might be a spy, seeking some cause of accusation against them. Ver. 21. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel from the power of their enemies, e.g ., from the power of the Romans.
"We trusted that he had been the Messiah who would have restored the kingdom of Israel to the same, or even greater, dignity than it had possessed in the time of David and of Solomon. But now that he has been so unworthily put to death, although we do not despair, we have but little hope."
This was their grief, the wound which their faith had received, which Christ desired to hear from them, in order to heal.
"0 disciples," says S. Augustine ( serm. 140 De Temp .), "ye were hoping, therefore ye do not now hope. Behold Christ lives, but your hope within you is dead;" and again, "He was walking with them as their companion, and yet was their leader and guide."
And beside all this, to-day is the third day , &c. For Christ was crucified on the sixth day, and after three days rose from the dead. This is an aposiopesis, for the disciples, anxious and perplexed, knowing not what to think about Christ, as good as say, 'Jesus when He was alive said that He would rise from the dead on the third day; but although this is the third day we know not whether He has risen or is yet to rise." They were doubtful, balanced between hope and fear. "They speak thus," says Theophylact, "as men in doubt, and seem to me to be very undecided in their minds, for they are not absolutely unbelieving, nor do they believe aright. For their words 'we trusted that it had been he,' &c., indicate incredulity, but when they make mention of the third day, they show themselves mindful of the words of Christ, 'on the third day I shall rise again;'" and again, "On the whole they spake as men in perplexity and doubt." Ver. 22. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished ( ε̉ξέστησαν ). For what the women had told inspired them with awe rather than fear, and, says Theophylact, "overthrew their doubting and unbelief, whilst it strengthened their faith and hope in the resurrection of Christ. Their fear therefore struggled with their hope, and between the two they were undecided and in doubt." Ver. 25. Them said He unto them, 0 fools . Άνόητοι , rendered here in the Vulgate "stulti," but Galatians 3:1 . , "insensati." With these keen words Christ as the Master rebukes the disciples for their ignorance and slowness to believe. For a teacher is allowed to stimulate his disciples by sharp reproof to the pursuit of higher or more accurate knowledge. See S. Matthew 5:22 .
So our nature, frail and dull of understanding, needs some such stimulus to, enable it to believe in spiritual things, and to keep itself steadfast in the hope of their realisation.
Ver. 26. Ought not Christ . . . to enter into His glory? He calls His glorious resurrection and ascension, the sending of the Holy Spirit, His exaltation over every creature, the adoration of His name, the spread of the gospel throughout all the world, and His eternal kingdom, "glory."
"Ought not," ("futurum erat," the Arabic and Syriac). It behoved Christ through the Cross to enter glory:
1. Because the prophets had foretold it.
2. Because God the Father had decreed it from all eternity.
3. Because it was necessary that He should purchase our redemption by His death upon the Cross.
4. Because it was fitting that such glory should be obtained through the merit of such sufferings and labour.
5. Because it behoved Christ, as leader, to become an example to the martyrs, and to all those who strive through much tribulation to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The meaning is, "My death upon the Cross has shaken your faith and hope in My resurrection, therefore ye said 'we trusted' (sperabamus). But ye spake rashly and without cause. For this ought to have confirmed your faith, for there is none other way to the resurrection save through death, nor to glory save through suffering, and the reproach of the Cross." Ver. 28 . And He made as though He would have gone further. This was no deceit: for He would have gone on if the disciples had not constrained Him, but as He knew that they would thus constrain Him to abide with them, in this respect he was not willing, but was making as if ( πζοσεποιει̃το ) He would have gone further.
Hence S. Augustine ( Quæst. Evang .) says, "When one feigning has reference to a certain meaning, it is not a falsehood, but a certain figure of the truth." And again, "A fiction founded on truth is a figure; not so founded, it is a lie." And S. Gregory ( hom. 23 in Evang. ) writes, 11 By the word 'fingere' we mean to put together or form, hence modellers of clay we call 'figuli.' He who was the truth did nothing by deceit. He manifested Himself to them in the body, such as He came before them in their midst. He would prove them whether they could show charity to Him as a stranger, although they might not yet love Him as God." Ver. 29 . And they constrained Him. "From which example it is gathered," says S. Gregory, "that strangers are not only to be invited to hospitality, but even to be taken by force." And S. Augustine adds ( Serm. 140 De Temp .), "Detain a guest, if you wish to recognise the Saviour; for hospitality restored what unbelief had taken away."
Saying, Abide with us; for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent , i.e. it is drawing near sunset. In order to detain Christ as their guest they exaggerate the lateness of the hour, for they returned soon after to Jerusalem, which was a three hours' journey.
Cardinal Hosius his whole life long had these words continually in his heart and on his lips, and died repeating often, "Abide with us, 0 Lord, for it is toward evening," and in truth the Lord abode with him, working many marvels by his means in Poland, in Germany, and in Italy, which are related by his biographer Rescius, who ends by eulogising him as "the atlas of religion, the voice and other hand of Paul, the demolisher of Luther, the janitor of heaven, and the love and admiration of the world." Ver. 30. He took bread and blessed it. He blessed it by causing it to become His body as in the consecration of the Eucharist. For that Christ thus consecrated it, although Jansenius and some others deny it, is clear:
1. Because S. Matthew, S. Mark, and S. Luke use the same words concerning the institution of the Eucharist, as S. Luke uses here.
2. Because this blessing does not appear to have been given it the commencement of the meal, for Christ wished not to vanish out of their sight before He had eaten with them, lest they might think him a phantom. It was given in the midst, or rather at the end, of the meal. It was not therefore the ordinary blessing on what had been provided for their use, but solemn and eucharistic.
3. This is clear also from the effect which this blessing of the bread had upon the disciples. "their eyes were opened and they knew Him."
4. Furthermore, this is the opinion of the great majority of the Fathers. So the author quoted by S. Chrysostom ( Hom . 17) says, "The Lord not only blessed the bread, but gave it with His own hand to Cleopas and his companion. But that which is given by His hand is not only sanctified, but sanctification and a cause of sanctity to the recipient."
Again, "How did the Lord will to make Himself known? By the breaking of bread. We are content then; in the breaking of bread the Lord is made known unto us. In no other way is it His will to reveal Himself. Therefore, although we shall not see Him in bodily form, He has given us His flesh to eat." S. Augustine ( Serm. 140 De Temp. )
This passage of Holy Scripture is a proof of the use of one species only in the Eucharist, for it is clear that Christ neither consecrated nor gave the cup to the disciples. After He had blessed the bread, and given it to them, they knew Him, and immediately He vanished out of their sight. S. Augustine, Chrysostom, Bede and others. Ver. 31. Their eyes were opened. "See here the power and effect of the Eucharist. It opens the eyes of the mind to the knowledge of Jesus, and enables it to comprehend heavenly and divine mysteries. For the flesh of Christ possesses a great and illuminative power." Theophylact. Hence S. Augustine ( Serm. 140 De Temp .) says, "Whosoever thou art that believest, the breaking of bread consoles thee, the absence of the Lord is no absence. Have faith, and He whom thou seest not is with thee."
Tropologically , he goes on to say, "By the exercise of hospitality we come to the knowledge of Christ." Again, "Let him who wishes to understand what he has heard, put in practice what he has understood." "Behold the Lord was not known whilst He was speaking, but when He gives them to eat, He allows Himself to be recognised." Gregory. Or according to the Gloss. "Truth is understood better in operation than by hearing; and none know Christ unless they are partakers of His Body, i.e . the Church, whose unity the Apostle commends in the sacrament of bread, saying, 'we being many are one bread, and one body.'" 1 Corinthians 10:17 .
And He vanished out of their sight . άφαντσς ε̉γένετο , absconditus ab illis , Arabic version. Christ was present with His disciples, but made Himself invisible to them: a power possessed, as theologians teach us, by His glorified body. So after His resurrection He was wont to appear to His disciples and vanish from their midst.
Calvin, rashly, denies this, and contrary to its meaning translates άφαντος by "He withdrew Himself." He denies this somewhat craftily, lest he might be compelled to acknowledge that Christ was present in the Eucharist, but hidden and invisible.
The causes why Christ vanished out of their sight directly He was recognised by the disciples are these
1. To show that He had risen from the dead, and had become glorified. For it is the property of a glorified body to appear or disappear at will. His sudden disappearance therefore was a new argument by which Christ proved the truth of His resurrection.
2. To teach that by the resurrection He had passed from this mortal life to a state of glory, and therefore no longer held familiar converse with men, but with God and the angels.
3. To teach us how we ought to reverence Christ, and those blessed ones who have entered into heaven. For we are bound to render to our glorified Lord the worship of latria, and to the blessed saints that of dulia .
4. That the disciples might return to the Apostles, who were sorrowing over the death of Christ, and comfort them by the tidings of His resurrection and appearing.
Ver. 32 . And they said one to another, Did not our Hearts burn within us? This was a new and certain proof that Christ was alive from the dead. For Christ taught not as Aristotle, Plato, and the philosophers, but so as to inflame the hearts of his hearers with divine love. Let then all teachers and interpreters of Holy Scripture imitate their Master, and seek not only to enlighten the understandings of those who attend upon their teaching, but to kindle the love of God in their hearts as well. Let them not be content with being as the Cherubim, but be also as the Seraphim. Let them be as S. Francis and his disciple S. Bonaventura, who became known as the "Seraphic Doctor."
So David wrote, "Thy word is very pure" ( ignitum , Vulgate), Psalms 119:140 ; and Solomon: "Every word of God is pure," Proverbs 30:5 ; and Moses: "From His right hand went a fiery law," Deuteronomy 32:2 .
So also Christ. declared, "I am come to send fire on the earth." Luke 12:49 . Thus the Baptist "was a burning and a shining light," S. John 5:35 ; and Elias the prophet "stood up as fire, and his word burned like a lamp," Ecclus. 48:1. Let us be, each one, an Ignatius, a burning and fiery disciple and preacher of Christ, so that the words of the prophet may be true of us, "Their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps." "They ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning." Ver. 33. And they rose up the same hour (i.e., immediately and without waiting to finish their meal) and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together. Actually there were but ten assembled, for Thomas was absent and Judas had hanged himself. But the Apostolic college is spoken of as "the eleven," even though some of the members may not happen to be present.
They "returned" ( ύπέστζεψαν ) quickly, filled with an eager joy.
Them that were with them. The other disciples who were tarrying at Jerusalem with the Apostles. Ver. 34. Saying, The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared unto Simon. Christ appeared unto Peter before He showed Himself to the two disciples and the rest of the Apostles, because he was penitent, and because he was the prince of the Apostles. See verse 36. Ver. 35. How He was known of them in breaking of bread . S. Luke's expression for the Eucharist. So also S. Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:16 : "The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?"
Ver. 36 . And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them. In their midst, says Euthymius, that He might be seen of all, like as a shepherd stands in the midst of his scattered sheep to gather them again together around him. Ezek. xxxiv. 12.
"Peace be unto you." This was the ordinary salutation of the Hebrews, who under the name of peace included prosperity, health, and every other blessing.
Very fittingly does Christ grant them His peace, to take the place of the fear and perturbation of mind which His death had caused them. For He is the peace of all His people, says S. Cyril. Because "doing away with every difficulty, He gathered together in one the merits of the Cross, which are peace, because all hindrances are taken away." S. Chrysostom on S. Matthew 28:0 Ver. 37. But they . . . supposed that they had seen a spirit. Because of Jesus' sudden appearance in their midst although the doors were shut.
Hence S. Ambrose says, "Although Peter believed in the resurrection, yet it was but natural that he should be terrified and affrighted when he saw that the Lord had the power of suddenly presenting Himself in bodily form, in a place guarded by closed doors, and despite of obstructing walls." Ver. 38. And He said unto them, . . . Why do thoughts arize in your hearts? i.e. why do you give way to them and permit them to arise? "These thoughts," says Augustine ( serm. 69 De Diversis ) "were earthly. For had they been from heaven they would have descended, not ascended, into their hearts. Thus Christ showed that He knew the hearts of men, ( καζδιογνω̃στης , Acts i.. 24) and that He was God." Titus and Euthymius. Ver. 39. Behold My hands and My feet ,&c. If you cannot believe your sight, believe your touch. Let your hands prove whether your eyes have played you false. S. Augustine. For the sense of touch is more to be relied upon than the sight.
Handle me ( ψηλαφήσατέ ), that by touching my body you may be assured of the reality of its existence. Hence it is clear, says S. Gregory, that a glorified body is immaterial (subtile) by reason of its spiritual powers, but material (palpabile) inasmuch as it is true to its nature.
You will ask, firstly, how the glorified body of Christ could be at one and the same time material and immaterial?
I answer. First, because glorified bodies possess (1) the property of permeability, and hence are able not only to offer no resistance to another body, but even to penetrate it. And they possess (2) the power of eluding the touch, as they have the power of vanishing from the sight, according to what I have just said. These properties or powers they use or not, according as they are inclined.
Consequently, glorified bodies can be apprehended by the touch or not, according as they will.
You will ask secondly, whether this handling of Christ, His sitting at meat with the disciples, and such like, are sufficient proofs of His resurrection?
I answer that these proofs were not absolutely and physically certain, for the angels, when they appeared in bodily form, were touched and handled by Abraham, Lot, and others; but they are certain in a moral sense, and as far as human certainty permits.
1. Because on this account Christ willed to abide long with the Apostles, and to manifest Himself after His resurrection, as in His death, to their hearing, sight, and touch, senses which are held by men to be most trustworthy.
2. Because it pertained to the providence of God not to let these so great signs pass unnoticed, but to take away all pretence of deception. For the truth of the Messiah and the new religion was at stake, specially the point as to whether He really had risen from the dead.
3. Because these signs, taken in conjunction with the miracles of Christ, and the prophecies of His coming, made it both credible and certain, that He had indeed risen from the dead. Ver. 40 . And when He had thus spoken, He shewed them His hands and His feet "pierced, and still bearing the prints of the nails," says Euthymius; as is clear from S. John 20:27 . For Christ willed that these five wounds, or rather wound-prints, should remain in His glorified body as trophies of His victory over sin and death and hell.
"He bore them with Him to heaven," says S. Ambrose, "in order to show them to God the Father, as the price of our liberty." For "He who destroyed the kingdom of death would not efface the signs of death." In like manner also the martyrs will exhibit their scars in heaven, as so many glorious tokens of their victory.
For they will be to them not a disfigurement but dignity, and in their bodies a certain beauty will shine forth, a beauty not of the body, but of merit; for such marks as these must not be accounted blemishes. S. Augustine ( De Civit. Lib. xxii . cap. xx.)
You will ask whether the disciples actually handled and touched the pierced hands and feet of Christ after His resurrection?
I answer that this is a matter of uncertainty, because Scripture is silent on the subject. But it is probable that some both handled and touched the Lord, especially those who were the more doubtful concerning His resurrection, because they, on their part, were anxious to satisfy themselves, by actual touch, that it was no phantom, but Christ alive from the dead because also Christ Himself bade them "handle" Him, so that there might be no room for doubt, but that the Apostles might be able to preach to the Gentiles that Christ had indeed risen from the dead.
So we read, "That which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life . . . declare we unto you." 1 John 1:1 . Ver. 41. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered. On the one hand, because they had handled Him, the disciples believed that Jesus had risen, and taken again His true body; but on the other hand, so great was their joy and their wonder at the strangeness of the event, that they could scarcely believe that it was the very Jesus who had been so recently crucified. They rejoiced greatly because they believed, but the greatness of their joy reacted on their faith. So it is a matter of common experience that if a trustworthy person brings us some unexpected good news, our joy is so great that we refuse to credit it, lest if it prove untrue, and we find that we have been deceived, we sorrow as much as we before rejoiced. We restrain our joy until we are sure that it is well founded. So was it with the Apostles: "their exceeding great joy," says Vatablus, "obscured their judgment."
Have ye here any meat? Christ appeared to His disciples "as they sat at meat" (S. Mark, xvi. 13), and they, when they saw Him, out of reverence rose up from the table and ran to meet Him, full of joy and astonishment, and therefore doubtingly. Hence, Jesus suffered them to handle Him, and since they did not even then fully believe, asked for meat, in order that He might eat before them, and so show that He was alive again. Ver. 42 . And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. A proof of the frugality of the Apostles, for if they had had any better food they would have offered it to their Master. But as fishermen they fed on fish, just as Athæneus ( De Cœnis Sapientum ) tells us the frugal men of old were accustomed to do; and in point of fact up to the time of the deluge flesh was not known as an article of food. (See Genesis 9:0 )
Symbolically , says Bede, "the broiled fish signifies the sufferings of Christ. For He, having condescended to lie in the waters of the human race, was willing to be taken by the hook of our death, and was as it were burnt up by anguish at the time of His passion. But the honeycomb was present to us at the resurrection; the honey in the wax being the divine nature in the human;" and again "He ate part of a broiled fish, signifying that having burnt by the fire of His own divinity our nature swimming in the sea of this life, and dried up the moisture which it had contracted from the waves, He made it divine food of sweet savour in the sight of God, which the honeycomb signifies. Or we may take the broiled fish to mean the active life drying up the moisture by the coals of labour, and the honeycomb is the sweet contemplation of the oracles of God." Theophylact. "By the command of the law the passover was eaten with bitter herbs, but after the resurrection the food is sweetened with a honeycomb." Gregory Nyssen.
Tropologically , says the Gloss: "Those who endure tribulation ( assantur tribulalionibus ) for the sake of God, will hereafter be satisfied with true sweetness."
Another reason why Christ ate the broiled fish is given by an anonymous writer in the Greek Catena : "The word of God as a new and unapproachable fire, by the hypostatic union, dried up the moisture in which human nature as a fish because of its incontinency was immersed, and set it free by mixture of His passion, fulfilling so sweetly this dispensation as to make ready sweet food for Himself; for the salvation of men is the food of God."
Hence Christ soon after He had eaten, breathed on the Apostles, and bestowed on them the gift of the Holy Ghost for the remission of sins. S. John 20:22 .
Ver. 43. And He look it, and did eat before them. Christ truly ate of the food, and not in appearance only, after the manner of an angel "I did neither eat nor drink, but ye did see a vision." Tobit xii. 19. Yet He was not thereby nourished. So Theophylact says, "He ate by some divine power consuming what He was eating." Similarly, S. Augustine: "The thirsty earth, and the burning rays of the sun absorb water, each in a different way; the one because of its need; the other by its power." So D. Thomas and the Schoolmen.
The Vulgate adds, " sumens reliquias, dedit eis ;" but these words, although in the Arabic, are absent from the Greek and from the Syriac versions. Ver. 44 . And He said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you , &c., i.e. that I was to suffer death upon the Cross and rise again the third day. Acknowledge Me then as the true Messiah, inasmuch as My words have been verified to the letter. Or by a metonomy these are the words, i.e. the things which I spake to you, My passion, death, and resurrection, which ye see accomplished. These things therefore ought not to appear to you strange and unexpected, for they were predicted, not only by me, but in time past by Moses, and the prophets, and by David in the Psalms concerning Me.
Some think that S. Luke wrote these words by anticipation, and that Christ spake them not on the day of His resurrection but on that of His ascension. For it was then that He bade the disciples remain in Jerusalem (Acts i. 4), as Luke records, verse 49, going on in the verses following to describe the ascension. But perhaps the words were used on both occasions, the oftener to impress them upon the Apostles for the greater confirmation of their faith. Ver. 45 . Then opened He their understanding that they might understand the scriptures. He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself, as He had done before at Emmaus. See ver. 27.
Christ did this both to confirm the Apostles in their belief, and to prepare them to teach and to preach the faith. For it was part of the apostolic office to expound the Scriptures. Hence what He here began, Christ perfected at Pentecost, by the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Hence it is clear:
1. That Holy Scripture is not, as heretics say, easy of interpretation to all.
2. That it is not to be interpreted, as they contend, according to the letter, but according to the teaching of that Holy Spirit, which Christ bestowed upon His Apostles, which the Apostles delivered to the Church, and the Church has handed down to us. Hence S. Paul, 1 Cor. xii., tells us that God hath set teachers in the Church, and among the diversities of gifts numbers "the interpretation of tongues." And so in former times the Church had her interpreters, whose special duties are described by Baronius, vol. i. p. 394.
Ver. 46 . And said unto them, Thus it is written (Isaiah 53:5-10 . , Psa 22:16-19 et alib.) and thus it behoved Christ to suffer , &c. See how by these articles of faith Christ opened the understanding of the Apostles, to the acknowledging the Scriptures, which foretold these events. Ver. 47. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, i.e. 1. By His authority. 2. At His command. 3. In His stead. That the Apostles should continue the teaching of Christ, and spread the doctrine of repentance and remission of sins throughout the world. 4. In His name, i.e. , in virtue of His meritorious death upon the cross, whereby alone God gives the spirit of repentance and remission of sin.
Beginning at Jerusalem. A command to the Apostles to commence their preaching at Jerusalem, and from thence to go unto all nations. "Beginning" ( α̉ζξάμενον , incipientibus, Vulgate). The Apostles were to begin their preaching at Jerusalem: 1. Because there the Synagogue was flourishing, and there the Church had its origin, for the old Jewish dispensation was transformed into the Christian Church by the preaching of Christ, according to the words of the prophet: "Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." Isaiah ii. 3. And again, "Arise, shine; for thy light has come." Ibid. lx. (Vulgate). 2. Because Christ, with all the blessings He came to bestow, was promised to the Jews by the prophets, and Jerusalem was their chief city; and 3. Because David and Solomon had reigned there, and Christ, the son of David, had come to restore their kingdom, but in a higher and a spiritual sense (see Acts i. 4).
Ver. 48. And ye are witnesses of these things. (See commentary on Acts i.) Ver. 49. And behold, I send the promise of My Father upon you, i.e. , after a few days, when the Feast of Pentecost is come, I will send you the Holy Spirit, who will teach you clearly many things besides these, and enable you to preach the gospel to all nations.
But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high. δυνάμιν , i.e. , with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for "as a general does not permit his soldiers who are about to meet a large number, to go out until they are armed, so also the Lord did not permit His disciples to go forth to the conflict before the descent of the Spirit." S. Chrysostom in Catena .
Tropologically . S. Gregory ( Past. iii 26) says, "We abide in a city when we keep ourselves close within the gates of our minds, lest by speaking we wander beyong them; that when we are perfectly endued with divine power we may then as it were go out beyond ourselves to instruct others."
Ver. 50. And He led them out as far as to Bethany , and from thence to the mount of Olives. Bethany was about fifteen furlongs [stadia] from Jerusalem, and close by the mount of Olives. Christ went to Bethany to say farewell to Lazarus and his sister, and to bring them with Him to mount Olivet, in order that they might witness His ascension, and share in His triumph.
And He lifted up his hands towards heaven, as if seeking a special blessing for his disciples.
And blessed them , signing them with the sign of the Cross, as Dionysius the Carthusian and others think. Indeed, S. Jerome, commenting on the words, "I will set a sign upon them," Isaiah 65:19 , says, Our ascending Lord left us this sign, or rather placed it on our foreheads, so that we may freely say, "The light of Thy countenance is lifted up upon us, O Lord." For the Cross is the sign of Christ, which is the fountain of all benediction and grace. Hence the tradition which has come down from the time of Christ and the Apostles that in giving a blessing the hands should always form the sign of the Cross.
Therefore, says Theophylact, we should learn when about to leave our dependents or friends, to give them our blessing, and, signing them with the sigh of the Cross, commit them to the keeping of God. Ver. 52. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. They rejoiced greatly because they had seen their Master triumphantly ascend into heaven, because they eagerly and without doubting looked for the promised gift of the Comforter, and because they had good hope that Christ would, in like manner, after they had laboured in the gospel cause, receive them to Himself, according to His gracious promise. S. John.
Ver. 53. And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. "Continually." We may either take this word to refer to the time of the descent of the Holy Spirit, for before His coming they remained at home for fear of the Jews, or we may take it absolutely, for the upper room in which they dwelt was near the temple, so that they could easily go to and fro. Acts 1:13 .
In midst of prayers and praises, with eager preparation of heart, they waited for the promise of the Spirit, says Bede, who also observes "that S. Luke, who commenced his Gospel with the ministry of Zacharias, the priest in the temple, very fitly concludes it with the devotion of the Apostles in the same holy place. For he has placed them there, about to be the ministers of a new priesthood, not in the blood of sacrifices, but in the praises of God, and in blessing."
Morally , the Apostles and the disciples teach us by their example to make the Christian life a perpetual round of praise to God and Christ. For thus we enter upon the life of the blessed, to whom the ceaseless praise of God is, as I have often shown, for everlasting their labour and their rest. "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be alway praising Thee."
END OF VOL. VI. (proof read from the third edition 1892)
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Luke 24". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34