And when they were come nigh, &c. Mark has ( Mark 11:1), "And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, He sendeth forth two of His disciples," and Luke adds ( Luke 19:29), "And it came to pass, when he was come nigh to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount called the mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples." But Mark and Luke are speaking generally, because Bethphage, Jerusalem, and Bethany are all nigh to each other. For coming to particulars it is clear from S. John ( John 12:1, John 12:12) that on the preceding Sabbath Christ supped, and passed the night at Bethany, and on the following day, or Palm Sunday, He came nearer to Jerusalem, that is to say, to Bethphage, and from thence sent His disciples to fetch the ass with her colt. For Bethphage was nearer to Jerusalem. Whence from Bethany through Bethphage, the Mount of Olives and the valley of Jehoshaphat was the road to Jerusalem. The valley of Jehoshaphat is close to Jerusalem. The brook Kedron flows through it. After this valley you come to the mount of Olives, then to the village of Bethphage, and then to Bethany.
Bethphage, in Hebrew, means the house of the mouth, or, at the mouth of the valley. Beth is a house, phe, the mouth, ge, a valley. For this village of Bethphage was seated at the foot of Mount Olivet, in a sort of cleft, or as it were mouth of the hill. Again this village was situated, as we may say, at the mouth, or entrance of the valley of Jehoshaphat. And this entrance is extremely narrow, as you come from Bethphage into the valley, and so on through the golden gate to the Temple. Whence it is very probable, as Jansen and Adrichomius say, that Bethphage was a village of the priests, in which lambs, goats, and oxen were kept ready for the temple sacrifices. Thus from Bethphage the priests were wont to fetch the paschal lambs, and other victims to the temple. From this cause too, when Christ willed to be brought in triumph from Bethphage through the golden gate unto Jerusalem, He would show that He was the Lamb which taketh away the sins of the world, prefigured by the paschal lambs.
Again, He wished in His triumphal entry to pass through the valley of Jehoshaphat, in order to intimate, that in that same valley He will, in the day of Judgment, pass His tremendous judgment upon all men. Now therefore He rides through the valley in triumph to Jerusalem, as her Lord and King, and, thus, as it were, takes possession of His kingdom, which He will bring to a glorious consummation in the Day of Judgment. It is as if He said, "Acknowledge Me, 0 ye Jews, to be your Messiah, believe and obey Me, that in the day of Judgment, which I will accomplish in this valley, I may award you Heaven. But if ye persist in your unbelief, I shall adjudge you to hell. Wherefore also, I come from Bethany, where a few days since I raised up Lazarus from the dead, which ye have all seen and wondered at, that by it, and My other miracles ye may know that I am your Messiah, the Saviour of the world."
Then Jesus sent, &c. S. Hilary, Bede, and the Gloss think that these two were Peter and Philip; but Origen and Theophylact think they were Peter and Paul—that is, typically, in such sort that the two who were sent represented Peter and Paul; the one, who was about to be the Apostle of the Jews, the other, who was to become the Apostle of the Gentiles. For Paul was not as yet converted to Christ. With greater probability, Jansen thinks these two were Peter and John: for soon after this Christ sent them to prepare the paschal lamb. But nothing is certain.
Saying, &c. Greek, είς κώμην κατένατι ύμω̃ν, i.e., into the village which is opposite to you. From whence it is plain that it is not Jerusalem which is meant, as Lyra thinks, but either Bethphage, as Jansen supposes, or some village opposite to Bethphage, as Adrichomius thinks. For Christ had already come to Bethphage, as I have said in verse1; unless you prefer to understand when He came to Bethphage, when He was coming to or approaching Bethany.
And straightway ye shall find, &c. Christ here beheld things absent, the ass and her colt, as though they were present. He surely made them known to His Apostles by the gift of prophecy, which His Divinity bestowed upon His humanity. Thus He here gave a proof of His Divinity.
Hear how blessed Peter Damian tropologically applies all the circumstances of this journey to the conversion of a sinner. (Hom in Dom. Palm.) "Bethphage is interpreted to mean, the house of the mouth; and it is the understanding of the priests, by which confession is meant. Thither the Lord cometh, because He kindles the heart to make confession. The castle (as the Latin has instead of village), which is opposite to the Lord and His disciples, is a mind obstinately bent upon its own will. The two disciples who are sent to it are Hope and Fear. The ass and her colt tied are Humility and Simplicity. For the mind of such a person sometimes knows what humility and simplicity are, and how he ought to live humbly and simply. But he, as it were, binds them, and sets them aside, when he is not willing to live accordingly. This man fear terrifies, when he draws back from evil, threatening him with torments. Hope comforts him if he repents, by the promise of rewards. By these two the mind is pricked. The ass and the colt are loosed, when meeting the Lord in the way to Bethphage, he confesses that he hath sinned, and promises that he will live humbly and simply for the time to come. And thus he who aforetime was a castle of the devil becomes Sion, the city of our strength. The Saviour is placed in it for a wall and a bulwark. The wall is humility, the bulwark is patience. Therefore, dearly beloved, let us go forth to meet the Lord at Bethphage, pricked with fear of punishment, and strengthened by the hope of heavenly life, confessing our sins with humility and simplicity, treading down the garments of our carnality, that the Lord may deign to sit upon us, and to bring us with Himself into the Heavenly Jerusalem."
And if any man, &c. The Lord: for I am indeed Messiah, the Lord and God of all things. Christ did not wish that the ass and her colt should be taken away against the owner"s will. For as His Providence worketh mightily, so also sweetly. By the power of His Divinity He influenced their minds, so that they should assent to the Apostles loosing the ass, yea that they should co-operate with them.
Christ, Who for three years had always gone on foot, and thus, had traversed the whole of Juda, wished to show that He was the King of Juda, the Messiah, the Son of David. Therefore does He enter Jerusalem, which was the metropolis of Juda, in regal pomp. But He is not carried on a horse with splendid trappings, or in a gilded chariot, with an accompanying multitude of noble knights, with trumpets sounding, resplendent in purple robes, as the kings of the earth are wont to do. But He is carried on an ass, to show that His kingdom is of another sort, spiritual and heavenly, and therefore meek and lowly, despising pomp. Nevertheless asses in Juda are better and stronger than our asses, more like mules. The sons of princes were accustomed to ride on asses. (See Judges 12:14.) "Christ," says Auctor Imperfecti, "sits upon the ass of tranquillity and peace, which is most patient to bear labours and burdens. You see not round about Him glittering swords, or the other ornaments of dreadful arms. But what do you see? leafy boughs, the tokens of affection. He came in meekness that he might not be dreaded because of His power, but that he might be loved for His gentleness."
All this was done, &c. The prophet, Zachariah. Tell ye the daughter of Sion. Some think these words are a quotation from Isaiah 62:11, as though Matthew put the quotation together from Isaiah and Zechariah. More simply, F. Lucas and others think Christ cited Zechariah only, but his meaning, not his exact words. Tell ye therefore the daughter of Sion is the same as, exult greatly (the Hebrew meod is very much), 0 daughter of Sion, shout0 daughter of Jerusalem, as Zechariah has ( Zechariah 9:9), for thy King Messias is coming to thee to save thee. Zechariah is exhorting the citizens of Jerusalem to receive with eagerness their Messiah and Saviour riding on an ass.
Observe: Jerusalem is called the daughter of Sion, either by synecdoche, in that from Sion, the higher part of the city, the whole was called Sion; or else by a metaphor, in that the city of Jerusalem, lying below Mount Sion, and protected by it, and reposing like a daughter on her mother"s bosom, was called the daughter of Sion. Moreover by Jerusalem are to be understood the citizens and inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Mystically, these things are true in the Christian Church, which as Jerusalem and the daughter of Sion is the vision of peace, and therefore always rejoices with Christ.
Behold thy king, &c. Zechariah has, son of an ass, the Vulgate has subjugalis, under the yoke, because it bears the yoke of the man riding upon it.
I have explained the other things pertaining to this prophecy on Zechariah 9:9.
His disciples went, &c. The prompt obedience of the disciples should be remarked, which deserved the prompt compliance of the owner of the ass, so that he suffered his ass to be taken away together with her foal, as Christ had predicted. He doubted not that they would be brought back to him.
And they brought, &c. spread their clothes, Gr. ίμάτια, i.e., their cloaks, or outer garments, as it were in adornment. Placed Him thereon: many existing MSS. together with the Syriac have, He sat upon him, i.e., the colt. It is most probable that Christ sat both upon the ass as well as her colt in succession. First He made use of the ass, then of the colt. The colt perchance was not strong enough to bear a rider in the descent and ascent of the mountain: the ass was not so becoming for the entry into the city. But it was chiefly because of the mystery implied that He willed to make use of both the beasts, that he might signify that He should reign not over those only to whom He had been promised, i.e., the Jews, but over the two sorts of people of which the world is made up—the Jews, accustomed to the yoke of the Mosaic law, who were represented by the ass; and the Gentiles, living up to this time without the Law of God, and who were denoted by the colt. "For, as sinners," says Auctor Imperfecti, "are the horses of the devil, so are the saints said to be the horses of Christ, although Christ loves mild asses, rather than fierce and proud horses."
These disciples, together with the multitude, were inspired and acted upon by the Holy Ghost, or else by Christ"s own Divinity to make the adornment of this royal pomp. They clothed the ass with their garments as with regal trappings; and they made Christ to sit thereon, that they might render Him homage as the Messiah, and inaugurate His reign as King of Jerusalem. Christ instigated and directed it all, that He might give an idea of His kingdom, united, however, with poverty and humility, for which reason he rode upon a despised and lowly ass.
Observe. Christ wished to adorn His royal entrance into Jerusalem with this unaccustomed pomp for various reasons. The first was that he might give an indication of His royal power and magnificence, because the Jews thought that He would come in such a manner, like another Solomon. Christ therefore presented Himself to them with this appearance of pomp, that they might not despise and reject Him as they had hitherto done. And yet He acted in such a manner as to show them that Messiah"s kingdom was spiritual rather than temporal. And He willed that all these things should be foretold by Zechariah, lest the Jews should despise this King when He came without royal dignity. So S. Chrysostom and Eusebius (lib8, demonst. c4). The second and accompanying reason was that Christ would present Himself to the Scribes and Pharisees in His royal entrance, that they might, as they ought to, be able to recognise Him by this means to be the Messiah, forasmuch as He had been so prophesied of by Zechariah. The third reason was, that He might correspond to the type of the Paschal Lamb. For it, on the tenth day of the first month, was brought with solemn pomp into the city, that it might be sacrificed on the fourteenth day. So Christ, as the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world, entered into Jerusalem on the tenth, or Palm Sunday. And He entered in pomp and with the auspicious acclamations of the multitude, forasmuch as He was certain of triumphing over death and sin and hell, and so made His triumph to precede His battle, and in triumph He entered on His contest.
The fourth reason was tropological—viz., that He might by this deed deride the world"s glory; forasmuch as He knew that five days after He would be crucified by those by whom He had been honoured at this entry, and that those who were now crying out Hosanna to the Son of David would cry before Pilate"s judgment-seat, Crucify Him, crucify Him; and, therefore, that this city would be utterly destroyed by the Romans, under Titus. Wherefore, even in this joyful entry, foreseeing this, He wept, as Luke says ( Luke 19:41). Again, He would teach that His kingdom consists in this life of suffering and the cross, and that we must not turn away from them, but embrace them and come to them with a joyful mind and with solemn pomp. Wherefore, the martyrs, as followers of Christ, went to their martyrdom as to a banquet—yea, to a kingdom and a triumph—with white robes, and attended with throngs of the faithful. Thus did S. Agatha, S. Cecilia, S. Agnes, S. Laurence, &c.
A great multitude, &c.; branches, of palms, olives, and other fruit trees, in which the Mount of Olives abounds, as S. Jerome says: for this multitude, not having carpets (which are accustomed to be laid down for royal progresses), laid down their garments for Christ, stripping themselves as a notable mark of their reverence for Him. These things happened on the twentieth of March; for in Palestine, which is a hot country, the trees are then in full leaf.
Tropologically. Remigius says: "The Lord came to Jerusalem sitting upon an ass, because He presides over the holy Church and the faithful soul, and rules it in this life, and afterwards introduces it to the vision of the celestial country. The Apostles and other Doctors placed their garments upon the ass, because they gave to the Gentiles the glory which they had received from Christ. But the multitude spread their garments in the way, because those of the circumcision who believed despised the glory which they had from the Law. And they cut down branches from the trees, because they received testimonies from the prophets, who flourished, as it were, from Christ, the Tree. Or the multitude which strawed their garments in the way signifies the martyrs, who gave their bodies, the garments of their souls, to martyrdom for the sake of Christ. Or they who tame their bodies by abstinence are signified. But they who cut down branches from the trees are those who search for the sayings and examples of the holy Fathers, for the salvation of themselves and of their children."
But the multitudes which went before, &c. S. John ( John 12:12) says On the morrow—i.e., Palm Sunday, or the day after the Sabbath, on which Jesus had come to Bethany—"much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet Him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord"—that is, Messias, whom, as the Divine king, we have been expecting for so many thousand years. The multitude went out to meet Him with palms, as a conqueror, because formerly victors in the games were crowned with palms. Thus the Church expounds when, in the Benediction of Palms, she chants thus: "Therefore the branches of palms anticipate the triumph over the king of death; the sprays of olives verily, as it were, cry aloud that the spiritual anointing has come. For even then that blessed multitude of people understood that it was prefigured that the Redeemer, grieving for the misery of the human race, was about to fight with the prince of death for the life of the whole world, and to triumph by dying. Therefore they obediently rendered such services, which should set forth in Him both the triumphs of His victory and the riches of His mercy." For although the multitude did not know that in four days Christ was about to suffer upon the Cross, He knew it, and therefore He willed that this His triumph should be foreshown by the multitude with palms. And they brought Christ, as it were the Lamb which taketh away the sins of the world, who was to be offered for its salvation upon the following Friday. For although they were at this time ignorant of the mystery of which the paschal lambs were types and figures, God, who foreknows all things, ordained them for the glory of Christ. Zechariah had predicted them, and so had David ( Psalm 118:25, &c.); and therefore the Jews, who would not believe in Christ, were without excuse. All this bringing the paschal lamb to Jerusalem was done in accordance with the law ( Exodus 12:3-6), where the paschal lamb is ordered to be chosen on the tenth day of the first month. The tenth of Nisan fell that year on Palm Sunday, which was—according to our computation—that year the twentieth of March.
Hosanna. So the Egyptian and Arabic. The Syrian has Ouschano, the Ethiopic Husanna, the Persian Husiana. You will ask what is the meaning of Hosanna? 1 S. Hilary, on this passage, and from him S. Ambrose, think that Hosanna signifies the redemption of the house of David. But S. Jerorne (Epist. ad. Dam.) shows that this is a mistake.
2. S. Austin (Tract51in Joan.) thinks Hosanna is an interjection of joy and supplication, like well done! bravo!
3. Euthymius says Hosanna means praise, being derived from עז, hoz—i.e., strength, which the Vulgate and LXX sometimes translates praise—and חנה, chanah, i.e. grace. Whence also the Greeks represent Ho sanna by two words.
But I say with S. Jerome, Theophylact, Pagninus, Jansen, and others that Hosanna is compounded of הושע, hoscha, save, and נא na, i.e., I beseech. Hosanna is therefore, save, I beseech, or save now. Hoscanna has been changed into Hosanna for the sake of euphony.
There is an allusion to Psalm 11825-26, "Save me," though the word me is not in the Hebrew (for it seems to be not the voice of Christ but of the people praying for salvation from Christ), "0 Lord, send now prosperity. Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord." Symmachus translates, "I beseech, 0 Lord, save me, I beseech." The Hebrew is, Anna Jehovah, hoscia na; anna Jehovah, hatslicha na, i.e., 0 Lord, save, I beseech; 0 Lord, prosper I beseech, our King David and his antitype, Messiah. Give him a happy beginning of his reign, a happier progress in it, and a most happy conclusion. Hosanna, then, is an acclamation to the new king of Israel, at his proclamation, as we say, God save the King.
Hence, too, we have in the same Psalm, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (ver24): and the reason is given in the two previous verses, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord"s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes." Where the Chaldee (paraphrase) applies it to David. David being first rejected, and afterwards made king, was, as it were, a corner stone, binding to himself Judah and Jerusalem, i.e., the two, as well as the ten tribes. Still better does S. Matthew explain it of Christ, thus, Christ being rejected by the Jews in life, and crucified in death, became the corner stone of the Church after His resurrection, as containing and connecting the whole edifice of the Church by uniting both Jews and Gentiles in the one bosom of His Church; and thus it is that we sing Hosanna unto Him.
Some think Hosanna was taken from the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Jews, rejoicing with boughs of trees, were wont frequently to cry Hosanna. And in prayers and litanies to God, the whole multitude used to respond with the same word, Hosanna, i.e., save us. As Christians in their litanies at each of the suffrages relating to pestilence, famine, war, and so on, respond, Good Lord, deliver us. Wherefore also the Jews were accustomed to call the boughs themselves Hosanna, as Angelus Caninius shows from the Chaldee, the Talmud, and Elias (Tract. de nomin. Heb. c4). But this Hosanna of the Chaldee paraphrase and the Talmudists was subsequent to our Christian Hosanna, so that it was rather taken from ours than ours from theirs. Besides, the Hosanna of the Feast of Tabernacles was one of affliction and deprecation, but the Hosanna in this place of Christ was one of jubilation and triumph.
This multitude, therefore, broke forth by God"s inspiration into this joyful shout of Hosanna, in honour of Christ, even as the children did in verse15. Although the occasion of it was the remembrance of that great miracle, viz., the raising of Lazarus, which had been performed shortly before by Christ in Bethany, as is plain from John 11:15, and John 12:9, John 12:17.
To the Son of David: many of the ancients refer these words to the multitude, as if they asked for salvation from their own Messiah. Hosanna to the Son of David, i.e., our salvation is from the Son of David. Or, let salvation come to us from the Son of David. So Origen, S. Jerome, Bede, &c.
Others refer Son of David not to Hosanna, but to saying. They said to the Son of David, i.e., to Christ, Save me, who am thy people, 0 Son of David, i.e., Messiah, our King.
But I say that Hosanna to the Son of David, means the same thing as, Save, I beseech thee, Son of David. For so it should be rendered according to the Latin syntax. But the Greek interpreter, equally with the Latin, followed the Hebraism. For the Hebrew verb hoscha, save, is constructed with lamed, which is the sign of the dative case, and sometimes of the accusative. The multitude therefore besought God to save and prosper Messiah, that they might all be safe, and live happily under Him. Or still better and more simply, Hosanna to the Son of David, let that solemn Hosanna be made to Jesus sprung from David, whom we acknowledge to be the promised, and up to this time expected Son of David.* Let Him be, let Him happen, let Him be acclaimed unanimously by us. This is the voice and the acclamation of the people by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, acknowledging Jesus as the Son of David, i.e., the Messiah, and congratulating Him, as it were entering upon the kingdom of His father David, the restoration of which by Him had been so long expected; in fine, praying for health, prosperity and all propitious things for Him from God, and joyfully promising the same to themselves through Him. For where Christ is called the Son of David, there there is reference to the restitution of David"s kingdom. So Franciscus Lucas.
Moreover Caninius in the place already quoted from, thus expounds, Hosanna to the Son of David, i.e., in our hands we beat Hosannas, that is branches of palms, to the Son of David, that indeed we may honour Him as the King Messiah, and in triumph accompany Him as a victor and triumphing. Or, Hosanna to the Son of David, that is, cut ye down boughs, which as Hosanna ye may offer to the Son of David. As the Poet says, "Give ye lilies with full hands." But one thing was the Hosanna of the Feast of Tabernacles, namely like a certain Litany, another thing that of the crowd here by Hosanna to Christ, proclaiming and congratulating His triumph, as I have said a little before.
More plainly and fully you may say, that by the people it was here cried to Christ, Hosanna to the Son of David, meaning thus: "0 Lord save not only our Messiah, David"s Son and Heir, but grant also to Him the power of saving all the faithful believing in Him, and subject unto Him, that Thy Divine salvation may be so abundantly derived from Thee to Christ that He may cause the same to emanate and flow forth unto us. For verbs of the conjugation Hiphil have a specially active force, whence they often signify a double action. Hosca therefore, i.e., save, signifies, save Christ, and at the same time cause that He should save His subjects, that in truth, even as He is called, so He may verily be Jesus, i.e., the Saviour of the World, For Jesus is derived from ישע iasca, i.e., he hath saved, which in Hiphil, the action being augmented, makes הושע hosca. From this cause the translator gives, to the Son of David, in the dative, whereas otherwise it might be translated, the Son of David, in the accusative. For the dative signifies, that salvation, i.e., the power of saving all men, as it were, appropriated to Him alone was given to Christ by God. Note this, because as far as I know it has not been observed by any one.
Here, therefore, Christ as the glorious, powerful and triumphant King of Israel, whom none can resist, is as it were installed in Jerusalem, the royal city, in which formerly David and Solomon the ancestors of Christ had gloriously reigned, that He might restore their fallen kingdom, yea perfect it; and instead of its being earthly, make it heavenly; divine, instead of human; eternal, instead of temporal. Him furthermore the people by Hosanna partly applaud, partly pray for salvation for Him, i.e., felicity and every good thing. This is what Mark says (xi9, 10)."And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord: Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
Moreover Christ as it were entered into this His kingdom of the Church, five days afterwards, on the day before the Passover, when He triumphed on the Cross over sin, the world, the devil and hell, and delivered all nations from their power as far as He was concerned, and subjugated them. Wherefore the Church in her Votive Mass of the Passion of Christ, sings to Him, "To Thee be glory, Hosanna; to Thee triumph and victory: to Thee the crown of highest praise and honour, Alleluia." Hence too the Church in the Benediction of Palms prays to God that, "carrying palms and branches of olives, we may with good deeds run to meet Christ and may through Him enter into eternal joy."
Blessed (supply, may He be) who cometh (Greek, ό ε̉ρχόμενος, i.e., He coming, viz., who was about to come, who was expected) in the name of the Lord. It means, may God bless, further, prosper, and make glorious the Kingdom of Messiah, our King. For He cometh to us in the name of the Lord, i.e., He is authorised, sent, and endowed by the Lord. Thus in Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 4:16) it is said, "Thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord," i.e., by the commandment, authority, and in the place of God. And ( Jeremiah 3:17), "All nations shall be gathered together unto it (Jerusalem) in the name of the Lord." There is an allusion to Psalm 45:3, "Gird Thee with Thy sword upon Thy thigh, 0 most Mighty," &c., "Press forward, proceed prosperously, and reign." "For Christ is the King of Israel," says S. Augustine (in Joan. cap. xii23), "in that He rules minds; that He counsels for eternity; that He leads those who believe, hope, and love, to the Kingdom of Heaven."
Tropologically, Remigius: Christ, he says, comes in the name of the Lord, because in all His good works He sought not His own glory, but the glory of the Father.
Hosanna in the highest: Jansen explains it as though it were said, "Thou, 0 Lord, who art, and who dwellest in the highest Heavens, save Messiah." Better Franc. Lucas, Maldonatus, and others, take the preposition כ, in, for מן, min, i.e., from, according to the Hebrew construction, as though it were said, "Thou, 0 Lord, from Heaven, yea from the highest top of Heaven, save and prosper King Messiah." For they prayed for Messiah, not earthly and transitory salvation from man; but divine, heavenly, and eternal from God, viz., that God would divinely save Him, and give Him the power of saying others; that, indeed, Christ by His grace would lead all His faithful and holy ones to the eternal salvation, felicity, kingdom, and glory. Hence Origen explains Hosanna to mean restitution to life eternal. For this is intimated by the words, in the highest, or as he himself reads, in the lofty, that in truth this salvation must be sought for not on earth, but in Heaven. Again, S. Jerome says, "The advent of Christ is shown to be the salvation of the whole world, joining earthly things to heavenly." The Gloss adds, in the Lofty, because Christ is the salvation even of the angels, whose number He fills up. Whence Emm. Sa adds that even the angels who are in the high places are here invited to the triumph and praise of Christ Messiah. Wherefore S. Luke (xix38), instead of Hosanna, has peace in heaven, that is, safety, prosperity, and every good thing (for this is what peace denotes to the Hebrews) be from Heaven to Messiah, and through Him may they flow, and rain from God upon us; and glory on high (supply) may there be to God, the giver to Messiah. Or rather, glory, viz., of the kingdom, firm, great and constant, this is a glorious kingdom; in, i.e., from on high, understand, from Heaven let there be divinely given to our Messiah. So Franc. Lucas. Again, more loftily, Peace in Heaven (let there be), namely, that God, until now angry with men, may be propitious to Christ, and through Christ to us; and may He reconcile angels to men, Heaven to earth, God to the synagogue. "Hence some," says S. Chrysostom, "interpret Hosanna, glory—others, the Resurrection; for also glory is due to Him, and redemption belongs to Him who all hath redeemed." Meaning, let glory and praise be to the God of all things who is on high. The angels sang the same at the birth of Christ. But Hosanna properly signifies not glory, but salvation. But our salvation through Christ was the glory of God. In another sense, in the preface of the Sacrifice of the Mass, at the Trisagion, Holy, Holy, Holy, is added. "Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord," that, indeed, we should pray not for Christ, but for ourselves, through Christ, for salvation, by asking that He also may by all be blessed, worshipped, praised, and may in turn copiously pour forth His blessings and graces upon us. Luke adds (xix41), And when He drew near, beholding the city, He wept over it, saying, because thou shouldst have known, even thou, &c. Because He foresaw and foretold its dreadful punishment and destruction by Titus and Vespasian.
Verse10. And when He was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? Who with so great honour, applause, congratulation, as it were the King of Israel, enters into Jerusalem, whilst the Scribes and Pharisees are looking on—yea, the Roman soldiers of Tiberius Caesar, who would not suffer another than Cæsar to be called King of Judæa ? Wherefore Christ, now bearing Himself as a king, would have come into peril of death, had not He, by the power of His Divinity, struck not only all the Jews but the Romans with amazement, and rendered them as it were thunder-struck, so that no one should dare to lay hands upon Him, nay, or even think of such a thing. So Abulensis and others.
But the people said, This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth, of Galilee. Greek, ό προφήτης, i.e., that prophet, par excellence, who far surpasses and transcends all the prophets in preaching, sanctity, power, and miracles. Therefore He is Messias, the King of Israel. Of Nazareth: for although Jesus was born at Bethlehem, yet He was brought up at Nazareth. Christ by this glory of His gave occasion to His death; for the Scribes, being stirred up by it to envy and hatred of Him, after four days crucified Him. In truth, God—foreknowing all things—ordered all these things, in part positively, in part permissively, that from them He might elicit greater good, namely, the redemption of the world, to be accomplished by the death of Christ. The malice, therefore, of the Scribes fulfilled the counsel and decree of God concerning the death of Christ and the redemption of the world, as S. Peter teaches (Acts ii.)
And Jesus entered into the Temple of God, and cast out all that sold. Jesus, entering into Jerusalem, did not come to the citadel of Sion as a second David, but to the Temple, that He might show that He was the Son of God the Father, Who was worshipped in the Temple; that He might refer to Him the honour here ascribed by the people to Himself, for He had accepted it for no other end than that He might lead men to God. Wherefore it is not doubtful that Christ gave thanks in the Temple to God the Father, because He had manifested Him to the whole city as Messiah, yea, had glorified Him by the applause of all the people. Again, the first care of Jesus, as Pontiff and Messiah, was of the Temple. Whence, entering into the city, He came to that the first, that He might teach us to do the same. For this reason He set out His journey through Bethany (where He raised Lazarus) and Bethphage, which were over against the Temple, that through them He might proceed straightway to the Temple. For as I have said (verse1), Christ—passing over the Mount of Olives from Bethany—proceeded directly from thence, through the Valley of Jehosaphat, to the golden gate, which pertained both to the Temple and to the city, near to which was the golden eagle set up by Herod. Wherefore through this gate there was immediate access to the Temple. See Adrichomius, in his account of Jerusalem, where he graphically describes this journey of Christ, and adds that it was said by some that this golden gate was wont to be shut, but that at the coming of Christ it was opened as by a miracle.
Note, that by the Temple here is understood not the Holy Place, nor the Holy of Holies (for into the latter it was lawful only for the high priest, into the former only for the priests, to enter), but the court of the Temple; for into this the laity were accustomed to enter in order to pray and behold the sacrifices, which were offered in the court of the Priests, before the Holy Place. For this court was, as it were, the people"s Temple. For Christ was not a Levitical priest, forasmuch as He was not sprung from Levi and Aaron. Wherefore He could not enter the Holy Place, nor the court of the Priests, but only the court of the people. Wherefore what Faustus the Manichee invented concerning the genealogy of Christ—as though He were sprung from the tribe of Levi—and His Levitical priesthood (apud S. Augustinum, lib23, contra eundem Faustum); also what Theodosius, a prince of the Jews in the time of the Emperor Justinian, said (which Suidas recites under the words, Jesus Christus) too rashly believed by Suidas and others; all learned men laugh at as dreams and most fabulous errors. Verily Vilalpando (tom2, lib3, cap9) thinks that this court was the court of the Gentiles. For who can believe that these merchants penetrated the inner courts when they could conveniently sell their goods in the outer courts? Especially because Christ in the same day and place had to do with Gentiles, as is plain from John xii20. But the Gentiles were not able to enter the court of the Jews, but that of the Gentiles, which was before the court of the Jews. This court then was Solomon"s porch—probably the eastern part of Solomon"s porch, in the court of the Gentiles—in which were sold doves, sheep, and lambs for sacrificing in the Temple, whom Christ drove out of it. For the court of the Gentiles was, as it were, the temple of the Gentiles, in which, therefore, it was not seemly to buy and sell.
And He cast out all that sold and bought in the Temple. Not on Palm Sunday itself, but on the next day; for Mark ( Mark 11:11), who exactly and precisely relates these actions of Christ, performed each day from Palm Sunday until the Friday on which He suffered and was crucified, says, on the day following the Palm Sunday on which this solemn entry of Christ into the city took place—that is, on the Monday—were these things done by Christ in the Temple. Christ, therefore, on Palm Sunday entered into the city and the Temple in solemn pomp, and prayed in it, and gave thanks to God; afterwards, about eventide He went out of the city to Bethany, with the twelve Apostles; and on the next day (Monday) He returned to the city and Temple, and drove out of it the sellers and buyers, as Mark relates (xi11, 12, 15). Wherefore there is here in Matthew a hyperbaton, or inverted historical order. For He wished to join with Christ"s entrance into the Temple His ejection of the buyers from the Temple, for the sake of brevity, lest he should be compelled to relate over again the entrance of Christ into the Temple on the following day. Moreover, Christ drove them from the Temple (that is, from the court of the Temple) for two reasons. The first is, because it was not seemly that those things should be sold in the Temple, but in the market-place; for the Temple is the house of prayer, not of merchandise, as Christ says. The second was the avarice and usury of the priests. For they were wont—by their own people, or servants, or factors—to sell at a dear rate sheep, kids, doves, to those who wished to offer them in the Temple; especially to those who came from a distance, and poor people, from whom (on account of delay in payment) they extorted gain by usury. Whence they are called robbers by Christ. Thus S. Chrysostom and others. Lastly, Christ twice cast out buyers from the Temple; the first time, at the beginning of His preaching (John ii14), the second, towards the end of it, four days before His death, as is plain from this place. So S. Chrysostom, Augustine, Euthymius, Theophylact, Jansen, Maldonatus, Toletus, and others.
And overthrew the tables of the money-changers (Syriac, bankers), and the seats of them that sold doves. Money-changers—Greek, κολλυ βιστω̃ν: for collyba, as S. Jerome says, means what we call sweet-meats, or cheap little presents—for example, of parched peas, grapes, raisins, and apples of various kinds. Therefore, because the colly-bistæ who lent money might not receive usury, they took for interest various sorts of things that they exacted by means of these things, which are bought for money, what it was not lawful to take in money; as if Ezekiel had not spoken of this very thing, saying, "Ye shall not take usury or increase." (Ezekiel xxii.)
With more probability Jansen and others are of opinion from Hesychius and Pollux that these collybistæ did not lend money but only exchanged it, so that for gold they gave silver, less for greater, for foreign money, domestic, and that with interest and profit; the collybistæ therefore were the money-brokers, so called from κόλλυβος, i.e., small change, which people gave for handling money.
Tropologically, money changers are simoniacal persons, indeed all sinners who profane their soul, which is the temple of God, by lusts and sins, according to the words, Know ye not that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost ( 1 Corinthians 6:19), and, "if any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy" ( 1 Corinthians 3:17). So S. Jerome, Origen and Auctor Imperfecti.
And the seats in which the men and women who sold doves were wont to sit. For doves were often sold by women, who being weak, and unable to stand long, procure seats for themselves, according to the saying of Martial, "she sits in the women"s seats all day long." It is wonderful that no one withstood one poor man, as Christ was, overturning all the gains of the priests in the temple. Whence S. Jerome thinks that this was Christ"s greatest Miracle, that He alone could "by the stripes of one scourge cast out so great a multitude, and overturn the tables, and break the seats, and do other things which a vast army could not have done. For something fiery and starlike shot from his eyes, and the majesty of the Godhead shone in His face." Thus far S. Jerome. Christ therefore here showed a great zeal for religion and the temple, and fulfilled the words of the Psalm (Ps l69:9). "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me," as John says ( John 2:17).
Mystically. They sell doves who sell the grace of the Holy Ghost, as orders, priesthood, and benefices. For a dove is the symbol of the Holy Ghost. Thus Origen: "And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Isaiah lvi7.) Arab. a cave for robbers. "For a robber," says S. Jerome, "and he who converts the temple into the appearance of a robber"s den is he who makes gain out of religion; and his worship is not so much the worship of God as an occasion of business," because forsooth, such priests, wholly bent on lucre, lurking in a place of honest appearance, the temple, as in a den, by selling at a dear rate, by usury and by other fraudulent arts and methods were wont to despoil foreigners and poor people, yea plunder them, as robbers do. "For a robber," says S. Isidore (lib. x. etymol. litera L.), "is an infester of the ways," in Latin latro from latendo. But latro is better derived as if from latero, he who lies in wait at the side of the way." And Varro (lib6 de lingua Latina) says, "latrones (robbers) are so called from latere, because they have a sword at their side." And Sextus Pompeius (de Verb. signif. litera L.) says, "the ancients called latrones those who fought for hire, α̉πὸ τη̃ς λατρείας, i.e., hire, but now highwaymen are called latrones because they make their attack à latere, or because they lurk in secret (latenter)."
There is an allusion to Jeremiah 7:11, where God says, "Is this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, even I have seen it, saith the Lord." For these Semi-atheists thought that they hid themselves and their wickedness so that they should not be seen by God, as robbers hide themselves and lurk in caves.
Observe: the Temple is called the House of God, not as though God corporeally dwelt in it as in a house (for this S. Paul denies, Acts 17:24), but because the temple is the place appointed for worshipping and praying to God; in which God hears the supplications of those who pray. But the Temple of Christians is called especially the House of God because Christ the Lord corporeally dwells in it in the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, says S. Thomas.
Tropologically: the Temple is a house not for talk, nor speculation, nor drinking, nor revelling, but for prayer. Let therefore those who profane it by gossiping, by gaping about them, by acting lasciviously, by drinking, see how they will be scourged by Christ. For as Bede says (in cap2, Joannis), "Those things might seem to be lawfully sold in the Temple which were bought with the intention of offering them in the same Temple to the Lord; but the Lord Himself being unwilling that any earthly business, not even that which was considered honest, should be transacted in His house, drove away the unjust traffickers, and cast them all out together with the things which they sold. What then, my brethren, what do we think the Lord would do if He found people quarrelling, or listening to fables, or giving way to laughter, or entangled in any other wickedness, when He saw those who were buying in His Temple victims which were to be offered to Himself, and made haste to cast them out?" Especially when these buyers and sellers did not lodge in the Temple itself, strictly speaking, but only in a court of the Temple, indeed in a court common to all nations; and yet they were cast out by Christ from thence: what then will He do to Christians who perpetrate these and worse indignities in His Temple before the Holy Sacrament?
Learn from hence how great reverence is due to the Temple, such indeed as is due to God"s House, for Christ calls it My house. Wherefore as a master inquires into and punishes an injury done to his house, as though it were done to himself, so also does Christ look upon an indignity done to His Temple as done to Himself, and as such punishes and avenges it. Wherefore appositely does S. Augustine give the monition in his rule, "Let no one do anything in the Oratory, except that for which it was made, from whence also it hath its name." See what has been said on Isaiah lvi7, and Levit. ix. at the end of the chapter.
Verse14. And the blind and the lame came to Him, and He healed them, that by these miracles He might show Himself to be Messiah, yea God; and so that He had been rightly honoured by the acclamations of the people and the pomp. For Isaiah had foretold ( Isaiah 35:5) that Messiah would work such miracles. And they were worthy both of Christ and the Temple, and Christ substituted them for the covetous traffic in cattle.
Verse15. And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that He did, and the children crying in the Temple, and saying Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased. Both because they were envious of this glory of Christ, as because they were displeased at their gains and marketings being cast out of the Temple.
Verse16. And said unto Him, hearest Thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? ( Psalm 8:3.) The Hebrew is ימדת עז iissadta oz, i.e., hast founded strength. Aquila, hast laid foundations, power; Sixtine edition, Thou hast constituted strength; Tertuilian (Lib. de anima, cap19), Thou hast furnished praise; Syriac, Thou hast directed praise; Arabic, Thou hast prepared praise. This is, Thou hast proved, confirmed, made Thy power perfectly laudable, when out of the mouth of infants, not having the use of their tongues, and not yet able to give utterance, or to speak, Thou dost express Thy praise and glory. For thou hast caused that on Palm Sunday infants with the people should cry out to Christ, Hosanna to the Son of David. S. Hilary, and Auctor Imperfecti, understand by infants boys already able to speak and give utterance. With more truth S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, and Theophylact think that these were really infants unable to speak, as it is here expressly said. Whence the Syriac translates, Out of the mouth of little boys and infants Thou hast directed praise; and therefore Luke adds ( Luke 19:40) that Christ said, If these should be silent the stones will cry out. By this was signified that the infants equally with the boys being moved and acted upon by a Divine instinct and miracle, cried Hosanna to Christ, though they did not understand the word, yea although the infants naturally were not yet able to speak it. The reason was that which the Psalmist subjoins ( Psalm 8:3), "That Thou mayest destroy the enemy and the avenger," that in truth, through the mouths of infants Thou mayest confound the Scribes and Pharisees, the enemies of Christ, and mayest teach that they are senseless, and more foolish than infants, for these acknowledge, praise, and glorify Jesus as Christ. But those latter words of the psalm Christ did not cite, intentionally, lest He should too greatly exasperate the Scribes. At the same time, Christ here intimates that infants should be early taught, as soon as they begin to speak, to utter pious words—that their first words should be Hosanna, Jesus, Mary, &c. Thus S. Jerome writes to Blæsilla, that she should teach her little daughter Paula, the grandchild of her grandmother, S. Paula, as soon as she began to speak, to utter and pronounce Alleluia. So our S. Francis Borgia was taught when an infant to utter as his first words, Jesus, Maria, as Ribadaneira testifies in his life. Thus the Trisagion, for example, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth, was revealed to a boy caught up into the air at the time of an earthquake at Constantinople, which ceased as soon as the people, instructed by the boy, cried the Trisagion, A.D, 446, in the time of the Emperor Theodosius, as Damascene testifies (Trad de Trisagis). For God delights in the praises of boys, for boys (pueri) are so called from purity (puritate), says Varro, because they are not yet come to years of puberty, and are pure like terrestrial angels.
Arias Montanus (in Psalm ii.) observes, that infants in all nations utter the word יה, iah, which is the Name of God, and an abbreviation of Jehovah; and thus God claims for Himself the commencement and foundations of His wonderful Name, firmly uttered by the very mouth of infants. In like manner, Arnobius asserts that there is no man whatsoever who has not entered upon the first day of his life with the idea of God; and that the brutes, the trees, and the stones would cry out, if they were able to speak, that God is the Lord of all things. So Plato (lib10, de Republ.) and Cicero (lib1, de Natura Deorum) teach that we share in the knowledge and praise of God with our mother"s milk. Lyra distinguishes a threefold order of children praising God. The first are those who praise God by their deaths, not with their mouths; such as the Innocents who were slain by Herod for Christ"s sake. The second, such as praise with their mouths rather than by their deaths, like those who sang Hosanna to Christ. The third, those who both by their mouths and their deaths praised God. Such were S. Agnes, thirteen years of age; S. Pancras, twelve; SS. Vitus, Celsus, and others. See our Philip Barlaymont (in Paradiso puerorum, cap13,14), where he recounts the praises and oracles of God uttered by the mouths of infants.
Observe: the eighth Psalm seems to be spoken literally of God"s magnificence which He shows in the creation of the universe in which He made man the lord of all things. Yet more appropriately and profoundly, according to the letter, it speaks of the magnificence of God which He manifests in the re-creation and redemption of the world, in which He has made Christ the conqueror of death and sin, and the Redeemer of the world, and the Lord of all things; who therefore is the First Man, and the most noble of all men. This is plain—1. Because Christ here so expounds it, as S. Paul does ( Hebrews 2:7). 2. Because such great magnificence as the Psalmist there celebrates does not apply so well to the misery of man-who, after his fall into sin, lost his dominion over the brutes—as it does to Christ. 3. Because this passage, "Out of the mouths of infants and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise," applies much more clearly and truly to Christ than to any others. A like passage is Deuteronomy 18:18, as I have there said. For as to Maldonatus explaining it of David calling himself (in respect of Goliath, whose head he cut off) an infant, it is certain that he was not literally an infant at that time, but a spirited and warlike youth. Whence Nicephorus (on Psalm 8) says: "The Incarnation of the WORD is the magnificence of God."
Verse17. And He left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and He lodged there. Syriac and Arabic, He passed the night at Bethany. See here the ingratitude and fickleness of the people: for those who that very morning had cried to Christ Hosanna, on the evening of the same day forsake Christ for fear of the Scribes, so that no one was found to invite Him to hospitality. Therefore Christ was forced to go out of the city to Martha and Magdalene, his hostesses at Bethany.
Verse18. Now in the morning as He returned into the city, he hungered. This, therefore, took place on the day after Palm Sunday, on Monday, the eleventh day of Nisan, the first month; which is, according to our reckoning, the twenty-first of March. For three days afterwards (namely, on Friday in the Paschal season, which fell that year on the twenty-fifth day of March) Christ was crucified and offered up.
He hungered. Not with natural hunger, but with hunger voluntarily excited, say S. Chrysostom and Abulensis (qust103). For it was morning, and Christ had supped with Martha the evening previous; so that He would not so soon again be hungry. He stirred up, therefore, this hunger in Himself, that by it He might have occasion to curse the unfruitful fig tree. Wherefore, also, He sought figs upon it, although He knew that the time of figs was not yet, as Mark has ( Mark 11:13). For this was the twenty-first of March, as I have said, at which time there are no figs.
Observe: this hunger of Christ and the withering of the fig tree were before He cast out of the Temple the buyers and sellers. For He did this on this same Monday, but after the withering of the fig tree, as appears from Mark 11:14, &c., where he assigns the actions of Christ to the several days on which they were done.
Verse19. And when He saw a fig tree in, the way, He came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it Let no fruit grow on thee hencefoward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. Christ cursed the fig tree, and dried it up, that He might manifest His power, by which He was able in like manner to destroy and wither up the Scribes and the Jews, His enemies, if He wished; and to show that He would shortly suffer the Cross and death at their hands, not against His will, but voluntarily. Note that this curse of Christ was not done proprie, but by catachresis, abusive. For this malediction only signifies that Christ prayed for evil—i.e., withering for the fig tree—which it is lawful, especially to Christ, for a sufficient reason to pray for, for inanimate things; for to Him belong all the trees and farms of all men. See what has been said ( Jeremiah 20:14, and Job 3:1). In like manner, S. Francis cursed a juniper tree planted by blessed Juniper, one of his first companions, in punishment of his disobedience. From thenceforward, this tree did not grow a nail"s breadth after the day in which it was planted in the ground. This tree is still visited at Carinula, or Calenum, a town of Campania Felix, near Mondragonium, in a monastery of the Friars Minor. For blessed Juniper was busy planting this tree, and being called by S. Francis, he delayed obeying the call until he had finished his work. S. Francis cursed the tree because it had been an occasion and object of disobedience, and bade it grow no more; and so it straightway happened that the tree obeyed the saint, in order to teach men the evil of disobedience. So Wadding (in Annal. Minorum, A.D1222, Numbers 11).
Verse20. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! The Vulg. omits fig tree, which is found in the Greek and Syriac. This took place on the following day, for Christ on the Monday returning from Bethany to Jerusalem cursed the fig tree: after that He cast out the buyers from the Temple, and taught there: in the evening He returned from the city to Bethany: on the Tuesday morning, as the disciples were returning with Him from Bethany to Jerusalem, they saw the fig tree dried up, and then they cried in wonder, How immediately is it dried up! That this is the order in which the events happened is plain from Mark xi19, 20.
Symbolically: Christ cursed the fig tree, because a fig was the tree which God forbade, of which Adam ate, and ruined himself and his posterity, as the learned men whom I have cited ( Genesis 2:9) think with probability.
Allegorically: the withered fig tree denotes the Jews, who when Christ came, being unbelieving, lost the sap of faith and grace, and so bring forth no fruits of good works. Thus Origen.
Tropologically: the fig tree, full of leaves but without figs, denotes believers who have the leaves of a profession of the faith but lack the solid fruit of virtues, and so will be cursed by Christ. Thus Origen.
Verse21. Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith (that excellent and efficacious faith, like a grain of mustard seed, of which, Matthew 17:19) and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree (that which ye see has been done by Me, as is plain from the Greek), but also ye shall say to this mountain, Lift up (viz. thyself, as follows, in the Greek άρθητι, i.e., as the Syriac, be lifted up, be rooted up out of the earth) and be thou cast (Gr. βλήθητι, Syr. fall) into the sea, it shall be done. And shall not hesitate, Gr. μὴ διακριθη̃τε, i.e., shall not dispute, as doubting and hesitating; shall not distinguish whether what ye ask be easy, or hard to be done. For many, because they think what they ask arduous and difficult, are in doubt whether they shall obtain it from God, and so do not obtain it. But they do not distinguish between easy and difficult, thinking that what is difficult to them is easy to God, and who therefore rely on the Divine Omnipotence, goodness and promise, by which He has promised that we shall obtain from Him all things which we ask of Him with certain faith and confidence; wherefore, I say, they lift up their minds and hopes above their infirmity, and set them upon God, certainly expecting from Him the end and fruit of their prayer; such, I say obtain whatsoever and how much soever they ask of Him. This mountain, Olivet, for Jesus, proceeding by it to Jerusalem, there spake these things. So Abulensis (quæst134), Franc. Lucas and others. Other things which pertain to this subject I have spoken of, chapter xvii19.
So on account of the infidelity of the Turks who are masters of the Holy Land, the Angels, A.D1291, transferred from Galilee and Nazareth the house of the Blessed Virgin (in which she, the angel announcing it, conceived the Son of God), to Dalmatia, and subsequently, A.D1294, to Italy (Lauretum), where is the seat and the head of the faith and the faithful; and therefore on account of that faith it works in the same place innumerable miracles, which our Horace Turselli relates in his History of Loretto.
Verse22. And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive. Believing, i.e., if ye shall believe and be confident that ye shall obtain those things from God, according to James 1:6. "Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting." See what is there said.
Well speaks S. Bernard (Serm15 in Psal. Qui habitat), expounding tropologically the words of God to Joshua, chap. i. "Whatsoever place your foot shall tread upon shall be yours." "Your foot," he says "is your faith, and let it go as far as it will, it shall obtain, if so be that it be fixed wholly upon God, that it be firm, and stumble not." The reason priori is the liberality and munificence of God, which does not suffer itself to be surpassed by our hope, but far surpasses and transcends it.
Verse23. And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority? By what power (Vulg.cf0
Verse23. And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto Him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority? By what power (Vulg.), Greek, ε̉ξουσία, i.e., authority; meaning, Who gave Thee right and authority to teach in the temple? to cast out of it the buyers and sellers? and to call the people together to acclaim thee by Hosanna as the Teacher and the Messiah?
Verse24. And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. It is commonly said, He does not put an end to a suit who resolves a suit by a suit. For thus dishonest lawyers, when they have no faith in their cause, get up another cause and lawsuit, so that they may quibble and escape condemnation. So also when the heretics cannot reply to the arguments of Catholics, they bring forward other arguments, so as to find a way of escape from their heresy and ignorance. But Christ does not here act so, but he proposes another question, on the solution of which depended the answer to the question proposed by the Scribes. Thus—"Ye do not believe Me when I say that I have received power from God, believe then John the Baptist who bare witness to Me, that I have been sent by God to do these things."
The baptism of John, whence was it, from Heaven or of men? By the baptism of John, Christ means his testimony, doctrine, and the whole of his preaching concerning Him. There is a synecdoche. This is Christ"s argument, bearing upon the Scribes with irresistible force. Thus, "Ye ask, from whence I have power—from God or from men? I, in reply, ask you, from whom had John power to preach and baptize—from God or from men? If he had that authority from God, as all allow, then have I the same authority from God. For this was the witness which John gave of Me, teaching that he was the servant, but I the Messiah, the Son of God. And this he did when ye sent messengers to him expressly about this very thing, to ask him if he were the Messias." (John i20, 26, 27.)
From Heaven, come from God. Where observe: The Hebrews by metonyme, by which that which holds is put for what is held, call God שמים, Scamaim, i.e., Heaven. The Greek poets, following this usage, called the father of Saturn ούρανον, and the Latins, cœlum. Thus Caninius (de nomin. Hebræis, c2). Hence the Jews worshipped Heaven and the stars as God. Hence Christians who apostatized from Christianity to Judaism were formerly called cœlicolæ, against whom there are extant rescripts of the emperors Theodosius and Honorius (lib18, de Judæis et cœlicolis). See Baronius, A.D408. Hence also the poet sings of the Jews—
"They adore shining clouds and the divinity of Heaven."
For the Heaven by its immensity, beauty, motion, adornment, and influx, carries every one away with admiration of it. "Whence Heaven" (cœlum), says Sipontius, "is so called because it is, as it were, sculptured with stars and constellations." But Varro (lib4, de linguâ Latinâ) derives it from κοίλος, i.e., hollow, because it embraces all created things in its cavity. Hence God is, as it were, the Atlas of Heaven and earth, of whom Virgil says (lib6, Æn.)—
"Where Heaven-bearing Atlas turns round the Heaven,
Furnished with burning stars upon his shoulders."
Wherefore many nations have worshipped Heaven as a god. As Cicero (lib2, de Divinat.) says, "I have always said, and I will say, that the race of the gods belongs to Heaven." The same (in Somnio Scipionis) says, "And I give thanks to thee, 0 highest sun, and to you the rest of the heavenly ones." And Pliny (lib7, cap33) says, "Divinity and a certain most noble association of women from Heaven was in the Sibyl." Hear also S. Augustine (lib. x. de Civit. cap1), "And they call the gods themselves cœlicolæ, for no other reason than that they inhabit (colant) Heaven, not, indeed, worshipping, but inhabiting—as it were, colonists (coloni) of Heaven." Lastly, Heaven is the throne of God, and the seat of His majesty and glory, as well as of the holy angels and beatified men.
Learn from hence to be ambitious of Heaven, to sigh after Heaven, to despise the earth and earthly things, and to say with our S. Ignatius, "How mean to me is the earth when I look at Heaven." For he who seeks Heaven, seeks paradise, happiness, a blessed eternity—he desires the God of Heaven. "0 Israel, how great is the house of God, and vast the place of His possession!" (Baruch iii24. See the passage.)
But they thought within themselves, saying: Greek, διελογίξοντο, i.e., they thought and conferred among themselves, deliberating what to answer Christ, being anxious and perplexed.
If we shall say, From Heaven; He will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? verse24. But if we shall say, of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. Wherefore did ye not believe him, declaring Me to be Messiah, and persuading you to prepare by repentance for My grace and salvation? We fear the multitude, understand, lest they should stone us, as Luke adds ( Luke 20:5). As a prophet: The word, as, is the mark of truth, not of likeness. It means, all held John for a true and a great prophet, and therefore sent by God. For a prophet is the ambassador, seer, and interpreter of God. Thus it is said of Christ ( John 1.), "We saw His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father," where as denotes reality, not similitude. Meaning, "We saw the glory of Him, as verify the Only Begotten Son of God, or, of Him who was the true and Only Begotten of God."
And they answered Jesus and said, We know not. They lie; for they had seen the life of John, as well as his most holy and divine preaching, sealed by his death and martyrdom for the sake of chastity. But dishonesty would rather lie than be convicted of falsehood and convinced of dishonesty.
And He said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. It means, "Ye are not willing to answer My question, wherefore neither will I answer yours, because the solution of yours depends upon Mine. But ye say that ye do not know it, and ye lie. I say that I know, but am unwilling to say; and I speak the truth, that I may confound and put down your insolence." For by this answer Christ stopped the mouth of the Scribes, so that they were as silent as mice, nor did they dare again to open their lips. Whence S. Jerome says: "He showed that they knew, but would not answer, and that He knew, and did not answer, because they kept back what they knew.
How seemeth it to you? Christ, by the following parable, convicted the Scribes and Pharisees—who said that they knew not whether the baptism of John were from heaven or of men—of the utmost dishonesty and obstinacy; because, although they wished to be accounted sons of God, yet refused to receive John who was sent by God, and would not believe His preaching, nor do penance. Moreover, Christ in this place, says S. Chrysostom, brings in guilty the judges themselves, with a great confidence in justice, where the cause is entrusted to the adversary. But He employs a parable, that they may not perceive how they are pronouncing sentence against themselves: "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto Him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him." (Verses28-32.)
This parable scarcely needs an explanation, because Christ applies and explains it. In truth, the first—being at the beginning unwilling to obey his father, but afterwards repenting and obeying, by going to work in the vineyard—denotes the publicans and harlots; who at first by their sins repelled the will and law of God, but afterwards by John"s preaching came to a better mind, and did penance, and lived chastely and justly, according to the law of God. The second son—who said to his father that he would go into the vineyard, but broke his word, and went not—denotes the Scribes and Pharisees; who always had the law of God in their mouths (as though they were most zealous and religious observers of it), but did not fulfil it in their deeds, but by lust, rapine, and usury acted contrary to it. Wherefore they provoked the heavy displeasure and anger of God against them, as well on account of their wickedness itself as because of their hypocrisy and feigned observance of the Law. For such hypocrisy and duplicity grievously provokes God.
Go before—Greek, προάγουσιν, in the present tense; future in Vulg. Meaning as follows: "The publicans and harlots precede you, 0 ye Scribes, i.e., they go before you in the way of God and of virtue, and advance to Heaven by the pattern of faith, repentance, and change of life; and therefore they will indeed precede and go before you into the kingdom of Heaven, into which ye wicked ones will never enter, although ye might enter if ye would repent and change your lives. Thus ( Matthew 5:19) the least in the kingdom of Heaven are the impious and the reprobate, who shall be shut out of it.
In the way of justice; the Syriac is, walking in the way of rectitude—i.e., leading a life perfectly just, right, holy and blameless.
Neither repented—i.e., did not do penance. The Greek is ου̉ μετεμελήθητε, did not repent and amend.
Mystically. Publicans and harlots denote the Gentiles, who at first were slaves to idols and vices, and afterwards were converted by the preaching of the Apostles, and served God and virtue. The Pharisees and Scribes denote the Jews, who seemed to worship God, but really despised Him, since they despised Christ who was sent by Him, and hardened their hearts in this perfidy. Whence S. Jerome, S. Chrysostom, Origen, S. Athanasius, Bede, Euthymius, Maldonatus, Jansen, and others, passim, interpret the parable of them.
Tropologically. Christ shows, says S. Chrysostom, that the populace and plebeians, who some time or other are converted, are better than priests who are never converted.
Tropologically. Ordinary Christians and lay people who, from a desire of holiness, keep evangelical counsels, although they are not bound to them by vow or profession, are like the first son. Priests, monks, and religious, who have taken vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and afterwards break them, are like the second son.
"Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vine-yard, and slew him. When the Lord, therefore, of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons" (Verses33-41). Christ turns the point of this parable against the Scribes and Pharisees, His adversaries; but borrows it from Isaiah ( Isaiah 5:1), that He may add weight to it, so as to press and convince them. For Isaiah there made use of it, and predicted that Christ would use it. For Isaiah begins his fifth chapter thus. "I will sing to my beloved (Christ Incarnate) a song of my kinsman of his vineyard. A vineyard has been made for my beloved in the horn of a son of oil" (Vulg.)—i.e., in a horn of olives, meaning in Judæa, which was strong and lofty like a horn, and fertile and rich like an olive. I have expounded this at length on Isaiah v.; from whence I will repeat summarily what has been there said, and will go through the whole parable in a few words.
1The man planting a vineyard is God founding the Church, or synagogue, according to Psalm 80:9. "Thou hast transplanted a vine out of Egypt, Thou hast cast out the nations (from Canaan), and there planted the vine," i.e., the Synagogue, or Temple of the Jews.
2. The hedge, the wine press and the tower erected in the vineyard signify that God provided abundantly for His Church all things necessary. Literally however by the hedge you may understand, with S. Jerome, the wall of Jerusalem; or strong princes like David and the Maccabees, with the Interlinear; or the Law, with Auctor Imperfecti, and S. Irenus (lib4. cap70). hedged it round about, the Syriac has, protected it on all sides by a wall.
The wine press is the Altar where the blood of the victims was poured out. So Origen, S. Jerome, Bede, Theophylact, Euthymius. The wine press is said to be dug, because formerly small lakes were cut out, or dug, for the purpose. Or as Mark says ( Mark 12:1) a lake: where they received the new wine pressed from the grapes by the press. This is plain from Isaiah 5:2. Tropologically, the wine press says S. Jerome, denotes the martyrs. Whence the Psalm 881, and84. are entitled, For the wine presses. But S. Hilary thinks the prophets are meant, into whom the richness of the Holy Ghost very warmly flowed. S. Chrysostom by the wine press understands the word of God, which presses and torments man, through the opposition of the flesh.
The tower of the vineyard, i.e., of the synagogue was the temple of Jerusalem, and God"s worship there. So Origen, the Chaldee, S. Hilary, Bede, Theophylact, Euthymius. Mystically, the prophets, pastors and teachers, together with the kings and princes of the people were the tower. For they as from a tower were the watchmen of the people. So the same. Whence S. Hilary says, "A tower denotes the eminence of the law, which towered towards heaven, and from which the Advent of Christ might be watched for.
3. The inhabitants of the vineyard were the princes of the people: for it is their part to rule and guide the people. To work in the vine-yard, is to do justice, says S. Chrysostom.
4. God went into a far country, because, as Origen says, when He had given His law and covenants to the Jews, appearing to them on Mount Sinai, He did not afterwards appear to them, as though He had gone elsewhere.
5. The time of fruits, i.e., of the observance of the law and worship of God was in the time of David, Solomon, Josaphat, Hezekias, Josias, &c., when the Jews were able to live quietly to themselves and to God, as they ought. Or rather this time was always; because they were always bound to serve God, and bring forth the fruit of good works. Whence Maldonatus thinks this pertains to the figures and adornment of the parable.
6. The servants sent by God to the vineyard, i.e., the synagogue, to gather its fruits were Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the rest of the prophets, whom the Jews killed, because they reproved their vices, stoning some of them, as Jeremiah. And He sent them a second time, and more than the first, that by His diligence and His love He might overcome the wickedness of the husbandmen. Whence S. Chrysostom says, "Through all the grades of wickedness the mercy of God went on increasing, and through all the steps of God"s mercy, the wickedness kept increasing." Wherefore at length God sent unto them His Son, that is Christ, now Incarnate, whom as the Heir of the Synagogue, the Scribes both slew and crucified without the city, i.e., outside of Jerusalem, on Mount Calvary, that they themselves might preside over and rule the synagogue, and enrich and magnify themselves by means of it. Instead of they will reverence My Son, the Syriac has, they will be ashamed on account of My Son.
Lastly, every one"s vineyard that he must till is his soul. To a pastor it is his parish: to a bishop, his diocese: to a magistrate, the state; that they may bring forth the fruit of good works and virtues. The hedge is the laws and statutes: the keepers are the angels: the tower is meditation, reason, forethought: the wine press is tribulation, mortification, the cross. "A servant is sent," says Rabanus, "when the law, a psalm, or a prophecy is read: he is cast out when they are blasphemed or despised. He kills the heir, who tramples on the Son of God, and does despite to the Spirit of grace. The vineyard is given to another when the humble receive the grace which was despised by the proud."
Moreover, The man planting the vineyard is God, who is called a man, says S. Chrysostom, by similitude, not reality. By nature He is Lord, by kindness Father, according to the words in Isaiah "The vineyard of the Lord of Sabaoth is the house of Israel."
They (the Scribes) say unto Him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men. You will say, Mark and Luke assert that Christ said this; how then does Matthew attribute the same words to the Scribes? I may reply with S. Chrysostom and Euthymius, that the Scribes said it first, and afterwards Christ repeated and confirmed the same, in such manner and gesture that from thence, and from what preceded and followed (as Abulensis rightly observes, qust20), the Scribes sufficiently understood that it was spoken of them; and then they added, God forbid, as Luke has (c. Luke 20:16).
He will miserably destroy the wicked: namely, the wicked ones of the vineyard, i.e., the husbandmen of the Church, or the Scribes, with their followers, who killed the prophets and Christ. God will destroy them by Titus and Vespasian in this life, and by the devils in hell.
And will let out His vineyard to other husbandmen (viz., the Apostles and their successors), who shall render to Him the fruits in their seasons. This fruit of the vineyard, i.e., of the Church of God, is made manifest in the conversion of the whole world to the faith and holiness of Christ, and especially in the constancy of so many thousands of virgins and martyrs. The rejection of the Jews and the conversion of the Gentiles are here foretold, as Christ teaches, verse43.
Moraliter: learn from hence that, like as a vineyard produces good grapes even if those who till it be evil, so does the Church and her faithful members produce the good works of virtues, even though her pastors and teachers be sometimes evil, like the Scribes. Yet will they bring forth more and larger fruits if the pastors are good, as is plain from the Apostles, whose Apostolic virtues the primitive believers imitating, excelled in chastity, charity, patience, and all virtues. Zeuxis, a famous painter, is an illustration of this emblem. He painted a boy with a basket of grapes so skilfully and beautifully as to deceive the birds; for the birds flew to these grapes as though they were real, and pecked at them, to try to eat them. Then Zeuxis said, modestly, "I have painted the grapes better than I have the boy; for the birds fly to the grapes, and do not fear the boy, who stands there, as being only a picture." Thus the shepherds and keepers of the Church are frequently depraved, and badly depicted; but the grapes, i.e., the works of the people, are better and mote beautiful. By the carelessness of the keepers—i.e., of the pastors—it comes to pass that they become the prey of the birds—that is, of the demons—by whom they are devoured.
Verse42. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord"s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? Christ cites Psalm 18:22, where David speaks and prophesies of Christ. And the Scribes knew this. Wherefore they understood that they were marked and censured in this sentence by David as well as Christ. The meaning is: the Scribes, Priests, and Pharisees as the builders of the Synagogue—i.e., of the Jewish Church—cast Christ from it as a worthless stone; indeed, as being hurtful to it, they condemned and killed Him. For the Scribes, whom He had previously called labourers and husbandmen, He now calls builders, says S. Jerome. But this stone rejected by the Jews is made by God the Head of the corner. That is, it was placed at the head of the corner, and was made the chief and altogether fundamental stone of the Church, and at the same time the corner stone, so as to join and connect the two walls of the Gentiles and the Jews on Itself, as in a corner, in the same fabric and house of the Church. So S. Augustine, S. Basil, Euthymius, Cassiodorus, Abulensis, Jansen, Maldonatus, and the rest of the Fathers and expositors, either here, or on Psalm 18:22. Also S. Peter (Epist1, cap. ii6), where I have expounded the passage at length. For frequently in Scripture the fabric of the Church is compared to the building of a house, which is laid upon a solid foundation, such as a rock; for thus the Church is built upon, and rests upon, Christ. Christ, therefore, is the first rock of the Church, who communicated this name (together with the thing itself) to S. Peter—that after Christ he should be the rock of the Church—and then to the rest of the Apostles, whom in like manner He constituted the foundations of the Church, as is plain from the Revelation 21:19, Ephesians 2:20, and elsewhere. Moreover, Calvin arrogantly, as well as foolishly and impiously, declares himself to be this stone; forasmuch as, being rejected by the Pope and the Roman Church, he became the foundation of the Calvinistic sect. Thus does that proud braggart dare to equal himself to Christ, yea, to rob Christ of His oracle and title. But let him give the signs by which he may show that he has been sent by God: let him show, I say, miracles, prophecies, Scriptures, as Christ did. But he never has shown them, and he never will. Therefore he is not the reformer of the Church, but the deformer.
Verse43. Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. The Church is constantly called the kingdom of God in the gospel, because in it God reigns in the faithful by faith and grace, and leads them to the heavenly kingdom, that He may reign in them by glory.
Behold there is here, as it were, the epimythion, or post-parable and application, in which Christ clearly expounds and applies the three parables which He has spoken—namely, the first, concerning the two sons, one obedient, the other disobedient; the second, concerning the vineyard, whose husbandmen killed the servants and the Son of the owner; the third, concerning the rejected stone, which was made the head of the corner—to the Scribes themselves, and the Jews their followers, as follows: "You, 0 ye Scribes, are disobedient sons to God your Father, for ye persecute Me His Only Begotten Son sent by Him. Ye, too, are the husbandmen of this vineyard, who will kill Me its Heir. Lastly, ye are the builders of the synagogue, who reject Me as a stone; but God will make Me the basis and foundation of His Church, because He will take it away from you, and transfer it to the Gentiles, who will eagerly receive and worship Me, and so will be endowed by Me with grace and glory." For all the parables of Christ have this end in view—that they may signify the rejection of the Jews and the election of the Gentiles, because the Jews rejected Christ, Whom the Gentiles accepted. By this parable Christ so pricked the Scribes, that they prepared the cross for Him.
Verse44. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. The Syriac has, shall dissipate him. It means, whoso shall resist Christ and persecute Him, as you do, 0 ye Scribes, shall do it in vain, and shall bring hurt to himself both in mind and in body: still in such sort as that it may, by repentance, be repaired.
But upon whom it shall fall: this stone. Upon whomsoever Christ shall press with the whole weight of His heavy vengeance, as, for example upon the damned in the Day of Judgment (as you, 0 ye Scribes will be damned unless ye repent), to such a one there shall remain no hope of reparation, or restitution: as if a great stone should fall upon a shell, and dash it into minutest fragments, so that in no way could it be restored, or repaired. Christ therefore here threatens the Scribes with eternal and irreparable destruction, even the flames of hell. So S. Augustine (lib1. qust. Evang. ix30), Abulensis, Barradi, Jansen, Maldonatus and others. Hear S. Augustine, "They fall upon Him, who only despise Him, or injure Him: but He shall fall upon them, when He shall come to judgment to destroy, that the wicked may be as dust which the wind driveth away."
Verses45, 46. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet. The Scribes were aware, partly from the actual words of the Psalm, partly from the words and gestures of Christ, that these things were spoken against them, wherefore they roared, and gnashed their teeth at Him; and wished to take Him and torment Him, but through fear of the people, they did not dare to do so. Behold how by degrees Christ through His reproofs of the Scribes prepared for Himself the way to the cross and death. For to this after three days He was brought by the Scribes. Thus was fulfilled the counsel of God, that He would redeem mankind by the death of Christ.
*With this line begins a translation of every word of the original Latin. (back)
END OF VOLUME II.
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Lapide, Cornelius. "Commentary on Matthew 21". The Great Biblical Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. https://www.studylight.org/
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