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Ver 1. And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.2. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)3. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.4. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)5. To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
THEOPHYL; The Son of God, about to be born in the flesh, as by His birth of a virgin He showed that the grace of virginity was most pleasing in His sight, is therefore begotten in the most peaceful time of the world, because He taught men to seek peace, and condescends to visit those who follow it. But there could be no greater sign of peace than for the whole world to be brought together under one taxing, while its ruler Augustus reigned with so great peace for the twelve years, about the time of our Lord’s nativity, that war having been quelled throughout the whole world, there seemed to be a literal fulfillment of the Prophet’s prediction, They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, &c.
GREEK EX. Christ is born also at a time when the princes of Judah had failed, and the kingdom was transferred to Roman governors, to whom the Jews paid tribute; and then was fulfilled the, prophecy, saying, There shall not fail a leader from Judah, nor a prince from between his feet, until he shall come who is to be sent. And now when Caesar Augustus was in the 42nd year of his reign, there went forth an edict from him that all the world should be taxed for the payment of tribute, the management of which he committed to a certain Cyrinus whom he made governor of Judea and Syria; and so it follows, This taxing was first made, &c.
THEOPHYL; St. Luke points out, that this taxing was either the first of those which comprehended the whole world, for before this very many parts of the earth are often mentioned as having been taxed; or first began at that time when Cyrinus was sent into Syria.
AMBROSE; He has rightly added the name of the governor, to mark the course of time. For if the names of the Consuls are affixed to the tables of prices, how much more ought the time to be noted down, of that event which was the redemption of all men?
THEOPHYL; Now the registration of property was so appointed by Divine guidance, that every one was ordered to go into his own country, as it follows, And they all went to be taxed, every one to his own city. Which so came to pass, in order that the Lord, conceived in one place, born in another, might the more easily escape the fury of the crafty Herod.Hence it follows: Now Joseph also went up from Galilee.
CHRYS. It was the Lord who directed Augustus to give this edict, that he might minister to the coming of the Only-begotten; for it was this edict that brought Christ’s mother into her country as the prophets had foretold, namely, to Bethlehem of Judea, according to the word, to a city of David, which is called Bethlehem.
GREEK EX. Now he added, a city of David, that he might declare that the promise made by God to David, namely, that from the fruit of his loins there should go before him a king for ever, was already fulfilled. Whence it follows, Because he was of the house and lineage of David. But since Joseph was of t e family of David, it pleased the Evangelist to make known also that the Virgin herself was of the same family, because the Divine law enjoined marriages between those of the same line;and therefore it follows, With Mary his espoused wife.
CYRIL; It is said that she was espoused, to imply that nothing more than espousals preceded the conception; for it was not by man’s seed that the Holy Virgin conceived.
GREG. But the registering of the whole world when our Lord was about to be born was mystical; for He appeared in the flesh Who should write down the names of His own elect in eternity.
AMBROSE; There is described a secular registration, implied a spiritual, to be laid before the King not of earth but of Heaven; a registering of faith: a census of souls. For the old census of the Synagogue was abolished, a new census of the Church was preparing. And to decide that the census was not of Augustus, but of Christ, the whole world is ordered to be registered. For who could demand the registration of the whole world but He who had dominion over it, for the earth is not of Augustus, but the earth is the Lord’s?
THEOPHYL; And He most perfectly fulfilled what the name Augustus signifies, in that He was both desirous and able to increase His own.
THEOPHYL. Because it was fit also that at Christ’s coming the worship of many Gods should cease, and one God only be worshipped, one king is described as ruling the world.
ORIGEN; To those who attentively consider it, there seems to be expressed a kind of sacrament, in its being necessary that Christ should be put down in the registration of the whole world; in order that His name being written with all, He might sanctify all, and being placed in the census with the whole world, He might impart to the world the communion of Himself.THEOPHYL; As at that time in the reign of Augustus and under the governorship of Cyrinus, every one went to his own city to make returns of his property; so now when Christ reigns through His teachers (the governors of the Church) ought we to make returns of righteousness.
AMBROSE; This was then the first public enrollment of souls to the Lord, to Whom all enroll themselves not at the voice of the crier, but of the Prophet, who says, O clap your hands, all you people. But in order that men might know that the taxing was just, there came up to it Joseph and Mary, the just man and the virgin. He who kept the word and she who obeyed it.
THEOPHYL; Our city and country is the resting-place of the blessed, to which we ought to be traveling with daily increasing virtues. But day by day does Holy Church wait upon her Teacher, and going up from the course of worldly business (which the name of Galilee signifies) to the city of Judah, i.e. the city of confession and praise, make returns of her devotion to the Eternal King. She, after the example of the blessed Virgin Mary, a Virgin has conceived us of the Spirit. Though espoused to another, she is made fruitful by Him; and while visibly joined to the Pontiff who is placed over her, is invisibly filled with the graces of the Spirit. And hence Joseph is well interpreted increased, declaring by his very name, that the earnestness of the master speaking is of no avail, except he receive increasing help from above, that he may be heard.
Ver 6. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
AMBROSE; St. Luke has briefly explained the manner, time, and also the place in which Christ was born in the flesh; the manner, that is, in which the espoused has conceived, a virgin has born offspring.
GREG. NYSS. Though coming in the form of man, yet not in every thing is He subject to the laws of man’s nature; for while His being born of a woman, tells of human nature; virginity becoming capable of childbirth betokens something above man. Of Him then His mother’s burden was light, the birth immaculate, the delivery without pain, the nativity without defilement, neither beginning from wanton desire, nor brought to pass with sorrow. For as she who by her guilt engrafted death into our nature, was condemned to bring forth in trouble, it was meet that she who brought life into the world should accomplish her delivery with joy. But through a virgin’s purity He makes His passage into mortal life at a time in which the darkness was beginning to fail, and the vast expanse of night to fade away before the exceeding brightness of the light. For the death of sin had brought an end of wickedness which from henceforth tends to nothing by reason of the presence of the true light which has illuminated the whole world with the rays of the Gospel.
THEOPHYL; He condescended to become incarnate at that time, that after His birth He might be enrolled in Caesar’s taxing, and in order to bring liberty to us might Himself become subject to slavery. It was well also that our Lord was born at Bethlehem, not only as a mark of the royal crown, but on account of the sacrament of the name.
GREG. Bethlehem is by interpretation the house of c bread. For it is the Lord Himself who says, I am the bread of life which came down from heaven. The place therefore where the Lord was born was before called the house of bread, because it was there that He was to appear in His fleshly nature who should refresh the souls of the elect with spiritual fullness.
THEOPHYL; But down to the very end of time, the Lord ceases not to be conceived at Nazareth, to be born at Bethlehem, whenever any of His hearers taking of the flour of the word makes himself a house of eternal bread. Daily in the Virgin’s womb, i.e. in the mind of believers, Christ is conceived by faith, born by baptism. It follows, and she brought forth her firstborn son.
JEROME; From this Helvidius strives to prove that no one can be called firstborn who has not brothers, as he is called only-begotten who is the only son of his parents. But we thus determine the matter. Every only-begotten is firstborn, not every firstborn is only-begotten. We say not that he is first-begotten whom others follow, but before whom there is no one; (otherwise, supposing there is no firstborn but who has brothers following him, there are then no firstlings due to the priests as long as there are no others begotten;) lest perchance when no birth follows afterward, there should be an only-begotten and not a firstborn.
THEOPHYL; He is also only-begotten in the substance of His divinity, firstborn in the taking upon Himself humanity, firstborn in grace, only begotten in nature.
JEROME; Now here was no midwife, no tender anxiety of women; she wrapped the Child up in swaddling clothes, herself both mother and midwife.
THEOPHYL; He who clothes the whole world with its varied beauty, is wrapped up in common linen, that we might be able to receive the best robe; He by Whom all things are made, is folded both hands and feet, that our hands might be raised up for every good work, and our feet directed in the way of peace.
GREEK EX. Oh the wonderful straitening and banishment which He underwent, Who holds the whole world in His hands! From the very beginning He seeks for poverty, and ennobles it in His own person.
CHRYS. Surely if He had so willed it, He might have come moving the heavens, making the earth to shake, and shooting forth His thunderbolts; but such was not the way of His going forth; His desire was not to destroy, but to save; and to trample upon human pride from its very birth, therefore He is not only man, but a poor man, and has chosen a poor mother, who had not even a cradle where she might lay her new born Child; as it follows, and she laid him in the manger.
THEOPHYL; He is confined in the narrow space of a rude manger, whose seat is the heavens, that He may give us ample room in the joys of His heavenly kingdom. He Who is the bread of Angels is laid down in a manger, that He might feast us, as it were the sacred animals, with the bread of His flesh.
CYRIL; He finds man in his corrupt affections become like the beasts that perish, and therefore He is laid in the manger, in the place of food, that we changing the life of beasts, might be brought to the knowledge that befits man, partaking not of hay, but of the heavenly bread, the life-giving body.
THEOPHYL; He who sits at His Father’s right hand, finds no room in an inn, that He might prepare for us in His Father’s house many mansions; He is born not in His Father’s house, but in an inn and by the way side, because through the mystery of the incarnation He was made the way by which to bring us to our country, (where we shall enjoy the truth and the life.)
GREG. And that He might show that on account of the human form which He took upon Him, He was born as in a strange country, not according to His power but according to His nature.
AMBROSE; On your account then am I weak, in you am I strong. On your account am I poor, in you am I rich. Consider not what you see, but acknowledge that you are redeemed. I owe more, O Lord Jesus, to Your sufferings that I am redeemed, than to Your works that I am created. It were no advantage to be born, had it not advantaged me to be redeemed also.
Ver 8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.10. And the angel said to them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.11. For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.12. And this shall be a sign to you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
AMBROSE; Observe with what care God builds up our faith. An Angel teaches Mary; an Angel teaches Joseph; an Angel the shepherds also, of whom it is said, And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field.
CHRYS. To Joseph the Angel appeared in a dream, as to one who might be easily brought to believe, but to the shepherds in visible shape as to men of a ruder nature. But the Angel went not to Jerusalem, sought not for Scribes and Pharisees, (for they were corrupt and tormented with envy.) But these were simple men living in the ancient practices of Moses and the Patriarchs. There is a certain road which leads by innocence to Philosophy.
THEOPHYL; No where; in the whole course of the Old Testament do we find that the Angels who so constantly appear to the Patriarchs, came in the day time. This privilege was rightly kept for this time, when there arose in the darkness a light to them that were s true of heart. Hence it follows, and the glory of God shone round about them. He is sent forth from the womb, but He shines from heaven. He lies in a common inn, but He lives in celestial light.
GREEK EX. They were alarmed at the miracle, as it follows, And they were afraid, &c.
But the Angel dispels their rising fears. He not only soothes their terrors, but pours gladness into their hearts; for it follows, For, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, &c. not to the Jewish people only, but to all. The cause of their joy is declared; the new and wonderful birth is made manifest by the very names.
It follows, For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. The first of these, i.e. the Savior, has reference to the action, the third, i.e. the Lord, to the dignity of the person.
CYRIL; But that which is in the middle, namely, Christ, has reference to the adoration, and signifies not the nature, but the compound substance of two natures. For on Christ our Savior we confess the anointing to have been performed, not however figuratively, (as formerly on kings by the oil,) and as if by prophetic grace, nor for the accomplishment of any work, as it is said in Isaiah, Thus said the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus; who although he was an idolater was said to be anointed, that he might by the decree of Heaven take possession of the whole province of Babylon; but the Savior as man in the form of a servant, was anointed by the Holy Spirit as God He Himself by His Holy Spirit anoints those that believe in Him.
GREEK EX. He marks the time of our Lord’s nativity, when he says, Today, and the place when he adds In the city of David; and the signs thereof when it follows And there shall be a sign, &c. Now the Angels bring tidings to the shepherds of the Chief Shepherd ,as of a lamb discovered and brought up in a cave.
THEOPHYL; The infancy of the Savior was impressed upon us, both by frequent heraldings of Angels and testimonies of Evangelists, that we might be the more deeply penetrated in our hearts by what has been done for us. And we may observe, that the sign given us of the newborn Savior was, that He would be found not clothed in Tyrian purple, but wrapped in poor swaddling clothes, not laying on gilded couches, but in a manger.
MAXIMUS; But if perhaps the swaddling clothes are mean in your eyes, admire the Angels singing praises together If you despises" tile manger, raise your eyes a little, and behold the new star in heaven proclaiming to the world the Lord’s nativity. If you believe the mean things, believe also the mighty. If you dispute about those which betoken His lowliness, look with reverence on what is high and heavenly.
GREG. It was in a mystery that the angel appeared to the shepherds while they were watching, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, implying that they are thought worthy above the rest to see sublime things who take a watchful care of their faithful flocks; and while they themselves are piously watching over them, the Divine grace shines widely round about them.
THEOPHYL; For in a mystery, those shepherds, and their flocks, signify all teachers and guides of faithful souls. The night in which they were keeping watch over their flocks, indicates the dangerous temptations from which they never cease to keep themselves, and those placed under their care. Well also at the birth of our Lord do shepherds watch over their flocks; for He was born who says, I am the good Shepherd: but the time also was at hand in which the same Shepherd was to recall His scattered sheep to the pastures of life.
ORIGEN; But if we would rise to a more hidden meaning, I should say, that there were certain shepherd angels, who direct the affairs of men, and while each one of them was keeping his watch, an angel came at the birth of the Lord, and announced to the shepherds that the true Shepherd had arisen. For Angels before the coming of the Savior could bring little help to those entrusted to them, for scarcely did one single Gentile believe in God. But now whole nations come to the faith of Jesus.
Ver 13. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
THEOPHYL; Lest the authority of a single Angel should appear small, as soon as one had revealed the sacrament of the new birth, straightway there was present a multitude of the heavenly host. Rightly has the attending Chorus of Angels received the name of heavenly host, seeing they both humbly bring their aid to that Leader mighty in battle, Who has appeared to put down the powers of the air, and also themselves by their celestial arms bravely vanquish those opposing powers lest they should prevail as they wish in tempting men. But because He is both God and man, rightly do they sing Peace to men and Glory to God.
As it follows, Praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest. As soon as one Angel, one messenger, had brought the good tidings that God was born in the flesh, the multitude of the heavenly host broke forth in the praise of the Creator, in order both to fix their devotion on Christ, and to instruct us by their example, that as often as any of the brethren shall sound forth the word of sacred learning, or we ourselves shall have brought these holy things home to our minds, we should with our whole heart, our mouths and hands, return praise to God.CHRYS. Of old, indeed, Angels were sent to punish, as, for instance to the Israelites, to David, to the men of Sodom, to the valley of weeping. Now on the other hand they sing the song of thanksgiving to God: because He has revealed to them His coming down to men.
GREG. At the same time they also give praises because their voices of gladness accord well with our redemption, and while they behold our acceptance, they rejoice also that their number is completed.
THEOPHYL; They wish also peace to men, as they add, On earth peace to men, because those whom they had before despised as weak and abject, now that our Lord has come in the flesh they esteem as friends.
CYRIL; This peace has been made through Christ, for He has reconciled us by Himself to God and our Father, having taken away our guilt, which was the ground of offense also. He has united two nations in one man, and has joined the heavenly and the earthly in one flock.
THEOPHYL; For whom they ask peace is explained in the words, Of good will. For them, namely, who receive the new born Christ. For there is no peace to the ungodly, but much peace to them that love the name of God.
ORIGEN; But the attentive reader will ask, How then does the Savior say, I came not to send peace on the earth, whereas now the Angels’ song of His birth is, On earth peace to men? It is answered, that peace is said to be to men of goodwill. For the peace which the Lord does not give on the earth is not the peace of good will.
AUG. For righteousness belongs to good will.
CHRYS. Behold the wonderful fill working of God. He first brings Angels down to men, and then brings men up to heaven. The heaven became earth, when it was about to receive earthly things.
ORIGEN; But in a mystery, the Angels saw that they could not accomplish the work committed to them without Him Who was truly able to save, and that their healing fell short of what the care of men required. And so it was as if there should come one who had great knowledge in medicine, and those who before were unable to heal, acknowledging now the hand of a master, grudge not to see the corruptions of wounds ceasing, but break forth into the praises of the Physician, and of that God who sent to them and to the sick a man of such knowledge; the multitudes of the Angels praised God for the coming of Christ.
Ver 15. And it came pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.16. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.17. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.18. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.19. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.20. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.
GREEK EX. The shepherds were filled with astonishment at the things that they saw and heard, and so they left their sheepfolds, and set out by night to Bethlehem, seeking for the light of the Savior; and therefore it is said, They spoke one to another, &c.
THEOPHYL; As men who were truly watching, they said not, Let us see (the child; but) the word which has come to pass, i.e. the Word which was from the beginning, let us see how it has been made flesh for us, since this very Word is the Lord. For it follows, Which the Lord has made, and has shown to us; i.e. Let us see how the Lord has made Himself, and has shown His flesh to us.
AMBROSE; How remarkably Scripture weighs the import of each word. For when we behold the flesh of the Lord, we behold the Word, which is the Son. Let not this seem to you a slight example of faith, because of the humble character of the shepherds. For simplicity is sought for, not pride. It follows, And they came in haste. For no one indolently seeks after Christ.
ORIGEN; But because they came in haste, and not with loitering steps, it follows, They found Mary, (i.e. her who had brought Jesus into the world,) and Joseph, (i.e. the guardian of our Lord’s birth,) and the babe lying in the manger, (i.e. the Savior Himself.)
THEOPHYL; It seems to succeed in due order, that after having rightly celebrated the incarnation of the Word, we should at length come to behold the actual glory of that Word. Hence it follows: But when they saw it, they made known the word which had been spoken to them.
GREEK EX. Beholding with hidden faith indeed the happy events which had been told them, and not content with marveling at the reality of those things which at the very first they saw and embraced when the Angel told them, they began to relate them not only to Mary and Joseph, but to the others also (and what is more they impressed them on their minds,) as it follows, And all who heard it marveled. For how could it be otherwise, at the sight of one of the heavenly host upon earth, and earth in peace reconciled to heaven; and that ineffable Child binding together in one, by His divinity, heavenly things, by His humanity, earthly things, and by this conjunction of Himself ejecting a wonderful union!
GLOSS. Not only do they marvel at the mystery of the incarnation, but also at so wonderful an attestation of the shepherds, men who could not have devised these unheard of things, but were with simple eloquence proclaiming the truth.
AMBROSE; Esteem not the words of the shepherds as mean and despicable For from the shepherds Mary increases her faith, as it follows: Mary kept all these sayings, and pondered them in her heart. Let us learn the chastity of the sacred Virgin in all things, who no less chaste in her words than in her body, gathered up in her heart the materials of faith.
THEOPHYL; For keeping the laws of virgin modesty, she who had known the secrets of Christ would divulge them to no one, but comparing what she had read in prophecy with what she now acknowledged to have taken place, she did not utter them with the mouth, but preserved them shut up in her heart.
GREEK EX. Whatever the Angel had said to her, whatever she had heard from Zacharias, and Elisabeth, and the shepherds, she collected them all in her mind, and comparing them together, perceived in all one harmony. Truly, He was God who was born from her.
ATHANAS. But every one rejoiced in the nativity of Christ, not with human feelings, as men are wont to rejoice when a son is born, but at the presence of Christ and the luster of the Divine light. As it follows: And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for every thing they had heard, &c.
THEOPHYL; That is to say, from the Angels, and had seen, i.e. in Bethlehem, as it was told them, i.e. they glory in this, that when they came they found it even as it was told them, or as it was told them they give praise and glory to God. For this they were told by the Angels to do, not in very word commanding them, but setting before them the form of devotion when they sung glory to God in the highest.
THEOPHYL; To speak in a mystery, let the shepherds of spiritual flocks, (nay, all the faithful,) after the example of, these shepherds, go in thought even to Bethlehem, and celebrate the incarnation of Christ with due honors. Let us go indeed casting aside all fleshly lusts, with the whole desire of the mind even to the heavenly Bethlehem, (i.e. the house of the living bread,) that He whom they saw crying in the manger we may deserve to see reigning on the throne of His Father. And such bliss as this is not to be sought for with sloth and idleness, but with eagerness must we follow the footsteps of Christ. When they saw Him they knew Him; and let us haste to embrace in the fullness of our love those things which were spoken of our Savior, that when the time shall come that we shall see with perfect knowledge we may be able to comprehend them.
THEOPHYL; Again, the shepherds of the Lord’s flock by contemplating the life of the fathers who went before them, (which preserved the bread of life,) enter as it were the gates of Bethlehem, and find therein none other than the virgin beauty of the Church, that is, Mary; the manly company of spiritual doctors, that is, Joseph; and the lowly coming of Christ contained in the pages of Holy Scripture, that is, the infant child Christ, laid in the manger.
ORIGEN; That was the manger which Israel knew not, according to those words of Isaiah, The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib.
THEOPHYL; The shepherds did not hide in silence what they knew, because to this end have the Shepherds of the Church been ordained, that what they have learned in the Scriptures they might explain to their hearers.
THEOPHYL; The masters of the spiritual flocks also, while others sleep, at one time by contemplation enter into the heavenly places, at another time pass around them by seeking the examples of the faithful, at another time by teaching return to the public duties of the pastoral office.
THEOPHYL; Every one of us, even he who is supposed to live as a private person, exercises the office of shepherd, if, keeping together a multitude of good actions and pure thoughts, he strive to rule them with due moderation, to feed them with the food of the Scriptures, and to preserve them against the snares of the devil.
Ver 21. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
THEOPHYL; Having related our Lord’s nativity, the Evangelist adds, And after that eight days were accomplished for the circumcision of the child.
AMBROSE; Who is this Child, but He of whom it was said, Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given? For He was made under the law, that He might redeem them who were under the law.
EPIPH. Now the followers of Ebion and Cerinthus say, "It is enough for a disciple if he be as his Master. But Christ circumcised Himself. Be you therefore circumcised." But herein do they deceive themselves, destroying their own principles; for if Ebion should confess that Christ as God descended from heaven and was circumcised on the eighth day, it might then afford the ground of an argument for circumcision; but since he affirms Him to be mere man, surely as a boy he cannot be the cause of Himself being circumcised, as neither are infants the authors of their own circumcision. But we confess that it is God Himself who has descended from heaven, and that enclosed in a virgin’s womb, He abode there the whole time necessary for her delivery, until He should perfectly form to Himself of the virgin’s womb a human body; and that in this body He was not in appearance but truly circumcised on the eighth day, in order that the figures having come to this spiritual fulfillment, both by Himself and His disciples, might now be spread abroad no longer the figures but the reality.
ORIGEN; As we have died with Him at His death, and risen together with Him at His resurrection, so with Him have we been circumcised, and therefore need not now circumcision in the flesh.
EPIPHAN. Christ was circumcised for several reasons. First indeed to show the reality of His flesh, in opposition to Manichaus and those who say that He came forth in appearance only. Secondly, that He might prove that His body was not of the same substance with the Deity, according to Apollinaris, and that it descended not from heaven, as Valentinian said. Thirdly, to add a confirmation to circumcision which He had of old instituted to wait His coming. Lastly, to leave no excuse to the Jews. For had He not been circumcised, they might have objected that they could not receive Christ uncircumcised.
THEOPHYL; He was circumcised also that He might enjoin upon us by His example the virtue of obedience and might take compassion on them who being placed under the law, were unable to bear the burdens of the law, to the end that He who came in the likeness of sinful flesh might not reject the remedy with which sinful flesh was wont to be healed. For circumcision brought in the law the same assistance of a saving cure to the wound of original sin which Baptism does in the time of the grace of revelation, except that as yet the circumcised could not enter the gates of the heavenly kingdom, but comforted after death with a blessed rest in Abraham’s bosom, they waited with a joyful hope for their entrance into eternal peace.
ATHAN. For circumcision expressed nothing else, but the stripping off of the old birth, seeing that part was circumcised which caused the birth of the body. And thus it was done at that time as a sign of the future baptism through Christ. Therefore as soon as that of which it was a sign came, the figure ceased. For since the whole of the old man Adam is taken away by baptism, there remains nothing which the cutting of a part prefigures.
CYRIL; It was the custom on the eighth day to perform the circumcision of the flesh. For on the eighth day Christ rose from the dead, and conveyed to us a spiritual circumcision, saying, Go and teach all nations, baptizing them.
THEOPHYL; Now in His resurrection was prefigured the resurrection of each of us both in the flesh and the Spirit, for Christ has taught us by being circumcised that our nature must both now in itself be purged from the stain of vice, and at the last day be restored from the plague of death. And as the Lord rose on the eighth day, i.e. the day after the seventh, (which is the Sabbath,) so we also after six ages of the world and after the seventh, which is the rest of souls, and is now carrying on in another life, shall rise as on the eighth day.
CYRIL; But according to the command of the law, on the same day He received the imposition of a name, as it follows, His name was called Jesus which is interpreted Savior. For He was brought forth for the salvation of the whole world, which by His circumcision He prefigured, as the Apostle says to the Colossians, "you are circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the stripping off of the body of the flesh, to wit, the circumcision of Christ."
THEOPHYL; That upon the day of His circumcision He also received the imposition of the name was likewise done in imitation of the old observances. For Abraham, who received the first sacrament of circumcision, was on the day of his circumcision thought worthy to be. blessed by the increase of his name.
ORIGEN; But the name of Jesus, a glorious name and worthy of all honor, a name which is above every other, ought not first to be uttered by men, nor by them be brought into the world. Therefore significantly the Evangelist adds, which was called of the Angel, &c.
THEOPHYL; Of this name the elect also in their spiritual circumcision rejoice to be partakers, that as from Christ they are called Christians, so also from the Savior they may be called saved, which title was given them of God not only before they were conceived through faith in the womb of the Church, but even before the world began.
Ver 22. And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;23. (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)24. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
CYRIL; Next after the circumcision they wait for the time of purification, as it is said, And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were come.
THEOPHYL; If you diligently examine the words of the law, you will find indeed that the mother of God as she is free from all connection with man, so is she exempt from any obligation of the law. For not every woman who brings forth, but she who has received seed and brought forth, is pronounced unclean, and by the ordinances of the law is taught that she must be cleansed, in order to distinguish probably from her who though a virgin has conceived and brought forth. But that we might be loosed from the bonds of the law, as did Christ, so also Mary submitted herself of her own will to the law.
TITUS BOST. Therefore the Evangelist has well observed, that the days of her purification were come according to the law, who since she had conceived of the Holy Spirit, was free from all uncleanness. It follows, They brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
ATHAN. But when was the Lord hid from His Father’s eye, that He should not be seen by Him, or what place is excepted from His dominion, that by remaining there He should be separate from His Father unless brought to Jerusalem and introduced into the temple? But for us perhaps these things were written. For as not to confer grace on Himself was He made man and circumcised in the flesh, but to make us Gods through grace, and that we might be circumcised in the Spirit, so for our sakes is He presented to the Lord, that we also might learn to present ourselves to the Lord.
THEOPHYL; On the thirty-third day after His circumcision He is presented to the Lord, signifying in a mystery that no one but he who is circumcised from his sins is worthy to come into the Lord’s sight, that no one who ho has not severed himself from all human ties can perfectly enter into the joys of the heavenly city. It follows, As it is written in the law of the Lord.
ORIGEN; Where are they who deny that Christ proclaimed in the Gospel the law to be of God, or can it be supposed that the righteous God made His own Son under a hostile law which He Himself had not given? It is written in the law of Moses as follows, Every male which opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.
THEOPHYL; By the words, opening the womb, he signifies the first-born both of man and beast, and each one of which was, according to the commandment, to be called holy to the Lord, and therefore to become the property of the priest, that is, so far that he was to receive a price for every first-born of man, and oblige every unclean animal to be ransomed.
GREG. NYSS. Now this commandment of the law seems to have had its fulfillment in the incarnate God, in a very remarkable and peculiar manner. For He alone, ineffably conceived and incomprehensibly brought forth, opened the virgin’s womb, till then unopened by marriage, and after this birth miraculously retaining the seal of chastity.
AMBROSE; For no union with man disclosed the secrets of the virgin’s womb, but the Holy Spirit infused the immaculate seed into an inviolate womb. He then who sanctified another womb in order that a prophet should be born, He it is who has opened the womb of His own mother, that the Immaculate should come forth. By the words opening the womb, he speaks of birth after the usual manner, not that the sacred abode of the virgin’s womb, which our Lord in entering sanctified, should now be thought by His proceeding forth from it to be deprived of its virginity.
GREG. NYSS. But the offspring of this birth is alone seen to be spiritually male, as contracting no guilt from being born of a woman. Hence He is truly called holy, and therefore Gabriel, as if announcing that this commandment belonged to Him only, said, That Holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called, the Son of God. Now of other first-borns the wisdom of the Gospel has declared that they are called holy from their being offered to God. But the first-born of every creature, That holy thing which is born, &c. the Angel pronounces to be in the nature of its very being holy.
AMBROSE; For among those that are born of a woman, the Lord Jesus alone is in every thing holy, who in the newness of His immaculate birth experienced not the contagion of earthly defilement, but by His Heavenly Majesty dispelled it. For if we follow the letter, how can every male be holy, since it is undoubted that many have been most wicked? But He is holy whom in the figure of a future mystery the pious ordinances of the divine law prefigured, because He alone was to open the hidden womb of the holy virgin Church for the begetting of nations.
CYRIL; Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! He offers victims, Who in each victim is honored equally with the Father. The Truth preserves the figures of the law. He who as God is the Maker of the law, as man has kept the law. Hence it follows, And that they should give a victim as it was ordered in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons.
THEOPHYL; Now this was the victim of the poor. For the Lord commanded in the law that they who were should offer a lamb for a son or a daughter as well as a turtle dove or pigeon; but they who were not able to offer a lamb should give two turtle doves or two young pigeons. Therefore the Lord, though he was rich, deigned to become poor, that by his poverty He might make us partakers of His riches.
CYRIL; But let us see what these offerings mean. The turtle dove is the most vocal of birds, and the pigeon the gentlest. And such was the Savior made unto us; He was endowed with perfect meekness, and like the turtle dove entranced the world, filling His garden with His own melodies. There was killed then either a turtle dove or a pigeon, that by a figure He might be shown forth to us as about to suffer in the flesh for the life of the world.
THEOPHYL; Or the pigeon denotes simplicity, the turtle dove chastity, for the pigeon is a lover of simplicity, and the turtle dove of chastity, so that if by chance she has lost her mate, she heeds not to find another. Rightly then are the pigeon and turtle dove offered as victims to the Lord, because the simple and chaste conversation of the faithful is a sacrifice of righteousness well pleasing to Him.
ATHAN. He ordered two things to be offered, because as man consists of both body and soul, the Lord requires a double return from us, chastity and meekness, not only of the body, but also of the soul. Otherwise, man will be a dissembler and hypocrite, wearing the face of innocence to mask his hidden malice.
THEOPHYL; But while each bird, from its habit of wailing, represents the present sorrows of the saints, in this they differ, that the turtle is solitary, but the pigeon flies about in flocks, and hence the one points to the secret tears of confession, the other to the public assembling of the Church.
THEOPHYL; Or the pigeon which flies in flocks sets forth the busy intercourse of active life. The turtle, which delights in solitariness, tells of the lofty heights of the contemplative life. But because each victim is equally accepted by the Creator, St. Luke has purposely omitted whether the turtles or young pigeons were offered for the Lord, that he might not prefer one mode of life before another, but teach that both ought to be followed.
Ver 25. And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.26. And it was revealed to him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.27. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,28. Then took he him up in his arms.
AMBROSE; Not only did Angels and Prophets, the shepherds and his parents, bear witness to the birth of the Lord, but the old men and the righteous. As it is said, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and he was a just man, and one who feared God. For scarcely is righteousness preserved without fear, I mean not that fear which dreads the loss of worldly goods, (which perfect love casts out,) but that holy fear of the Lord which abides for ever, by which the righteous man, the more ardent his love to God, is so much the more careful not to offend Him.
AMBROSE; Well is he called righteous who sought not his own good, but the good of his nation, as it follows, Waiting for the consolation of Israel.
GREG. NYSS. It was not surely worldly happiness that the prudent Simeon was waiting for as the consolation of Israel, but a real happiness, that is, a passing over to the beauty of truth from the shadow of the law. For he had learnt from the sacred oracles that he would see the Lord’s Christ before he should depart out of this present life. Hence it follows, And the Holy Spirit was in him, (by which indeed he was justified,) and he received an answer from the Holy Spirit.
AMBROSE; He desired indeed to be loosed from the chains of bodily infirmity, but he wails to see the promise, for he knew, Happy are those eyes which shall see it.
GREG. Hereby also we learn with what desire the holy men of Israel desired to see the mystery of His incarnation.
THEOPHYL; To see death means to undergo it, and happy will he be to see the death of the flesh who has first been enabled to see with the eyes of his heart the Lord Christ, having his conversation in the heavenly Jerusalem, and frequently entering the doors of God’s temple, that is, following the examples of the saints in whom God dwells as in His temple. By the same grace of the Spirit whereby he foreknew Christ would come, he now acknowledges Him come, as it follows, And he came by the Spirit into the temple.
ORIGEN; If you will touch Jesus and grasp Him in your hands, strive with all your strength to have the Spirit for your guide, and come to the temple of God. For it follows, And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, (i.e. Mary His mother, and Joseph His reputed father,) to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms.
GREG. NYSS. How blessed was that holy entrance to holy things through which he hastened on to the end of life, blessed those hands which handled the word of life, and the arms which were held out to receive Him!
THEOPHYL; Now the righteous man, according to the law, received the Child Jesus in his arms, that he might signify that the legal righteousness of works under the figure of the hands and arms was to be changed for the lowly indeed but saving grace of Gospel faith The old man received the infant Christ, to convey thereby that this world, now worn out as it were with old age, should return to the childlike innocence of the Christian life.
Ver 28. - and blessed God, and said,29. Lord, now let you your servant depart in peace, according to your word:30. For mine eyes have seen your salvation,31. Which you have prepared before the face of all people;32. A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.
ORIGEN; If we marvel to hear that a woman was healed by touching the hem of a garment, what must we think of Simeon, who received an Infant in his arms, and rejoiced seeing that the little one he carried was He who had come to let loose the captive! Knowing that no one could release him from the chains of the body with the hope of future life, but He whom he held in his arms. Therefore it is said, And he blessed God, saying, Lord, now let you your servant depart.
THEOPHYL. When he says Lord, he confesses that He is the very Lord of both life and death, and so acknowledges the Child whom he held in his arms to be God.
ORIGEN; As it he said, "As long as I held not Christ, I was in prison, and could not escape from my bonds."
BASIL; If you examine the words of the righteous, you will find that they all sorrow over this world and its mournful delay. Alas me! says David, that my habitation is prolonged.
AMBROSE; Observe then that this just man, confined as it were in the prison house of his earthly frame, is longing to be loosed, that he may again be with Christ. But whoso would be cleansed, let him come into the temple; - into Jerusalem: let him wait for the Lord’s Christ, let him receive in his hands the word of God, and embrace it as it were with the arms of his faith. Then let him depart that he might not see death who has seen life.
GREEK EX. Simeon blessed God also, because the promises made to him had received their true fulfillment. For He was reckoned worthy to see with his eyes, and to carry in his arms the consolation of Israel. And therefore he says, According to your word, i.e. since I have obtained the completion of your promises. And now that I have seen with my eyes what was my desire to see, now let you your servant depart, neither dismayed at the taste of death, nor harassed with doubting thoughts: as he adds, in peace.
GREG. NYSS. For since Christ has destroyed the enemy, which is sin, and has reconciled us to the Father, the removal of saints has been in peace.
ORIGEN; But who departs from this world in peace, but he who is persuaded that was Christ reconciling the world to Himself; who has nothing hostile to God, having derived to himself all peace by good works in himself?
GREEK EX. But it had been twice promised to him that he should not see death before ho should see the Lord’s Christ, and therefore he adds, to show that this promise was fulfilled, For mine eyes have seen your salvation.
GREG. NYSS. Blessed are the eyes, both of your soul and your body. For the one visibly embrace God, but the others not considering those things which are seen, but enlightened by the brightness of the Spirit of the Lord, acknowledge the Word made flesh. For the salvation which you have perceived with your eyes is Jesus Himself, by which name salvation is declared.
CYRIL; But Christ was the mystery which has been revealed in the last times of the world, having been prepared before the foundation of the world. Hence it follows, which you have prepared before the face of all men.
ATHAN. That is to say, the salvation wrought by Christ for the whole world. How then was it said above that he was watching for the consolation of Israel, but because he truly perceived in the spirit that consolation would be to Israel at that time when salvation was prepared for all people.
GREEK EX. Mark the wisdom of the good and venerable old man, who before that he was thought worthy of the blessed vision, was waiting for the consolation of Israel, but when he obtained that which he was looking for, exclaims that he saw the salvation of all people. So enlightened was he by the unspeakable radiance of the Child, that the perceived at a glance things that were to happen a long time after.
THEOPHYL. By these words, Before the face, he signifies that our Lord’s incarnation would be visible to all men. And this salvation he says is to be the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel, as it follows, A light to lighten the Gentiles.
ATHAN. For the Gentiles before the coming of Christ were lying in the deepest darkness, being without the knowledge of God.
CYRIL; But Christ coming was made a light to them that sat in darkness, being sore oppressed by the power of the devil but they were called by God the Father to the knowledge of His Son, Who is the true light.
GREG. NYSS. Israel was enlightened though dimly by the law, so he says not that light came to them, but his words are, to be the glory of your people Israel. Calling to mind the ancient history that as of old Moses after speaking with God returned with his face glorious, so they also coming to the divine light of His human nature, casting away their old veil, might be transformed into the same image from glory to glory. For although some of them were disobedient, yet a remnant were saved and came through Christ to glory, of which the Apostles were first-fruits, whose brightness illumines the whole world. For Christ was in a peculiar manner the glory of Israel, because according to the flesh He came forth from Israel, although as God He was over all blessed for ever.
GREG. NYSS, He said therefore, of your people, signifying that not only was He adored by them, but moreover of them was He born according to the flesh.
THEOPHYL; And well is the enlightening of the Gentiles put before the glory of Israel, because when the fullness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then shall Israel be safe.
Ver 33. And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him.34. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;35. (Yea, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
GREEK EX. The knowledge of supernatural things, as often as it is brought to the recollection, renews the miracle in the mind, and hence it is said, His father and mother marveled at those things which were said of him.
ORIGEN; Both by the angel and the multitude of the heavenly host, by the shepherds also, and Simeon.
THEOPHYL; Joseph is called the father of the Savior, not because he was (as the Photinians say) His real father, but because from regard to the reputation of Mary, all men considered him so.
AUG. He however might be called His father in that light in which, he is rightly regarded as the husband of Mary, that is, not from any carnal connection, but by reason of the very bond of wedlock, a far closer relationship than that of adoption. For that Joseph was not to be called Christ’s father was not, because he had not begotten Him by cohabitation, since in truth he might be a father to one whom he had not begotten from his wife, but had adopted from another.
ORIGEN; But they who look deeper into the matter may say, that since the genealogy is deduced from David to Joseph, therefore lest Joseph should seem to be mentioned for no purpose, as not being the father of the Savior, he was called His father, that the genealogy might maintain sup. its place.
GREEK EX. Having given praise to God, Simeon now turns to bless them that brought the Child, as it follows, And Simeon blessed them. He gave to each a blessing, but his presage of hidden things he imparts only to the mother, in order that in the common blessing He might not deprive Joseph of the likeness of a father, but in what he says to the mother apart from Joseph he might proclaim her to be the true mother.
AMBROSE; Behold what abundant grace is extended to all men by the birth of the Lord, and how prophecy is withheld from the unbelievers, not from the righteous. Simeon also prophesies that Christ Jesus has come for the fall and rising again of many.
ORIGEN; They who explain this simply, may say that He came for the fall of unbelievers, and the rising again of believers.
CHRYS. As the light though it may annoy weak eyes, is still light; in like manner the Savior endures, though many fall away, for His office is not to destroy; but their way is madness. Wherefore not only by the salvation of the good but by the scattering of the wicked, is His power shown. For the sun the brighter it shines, is the more trying to the weak sight.
GREG. NYSS. Mark the nice distinction here observed. Salvation is said to be prepared before the face of all people, but the falling and raising is of many; for the Divine purpose was the salvation and sanctification of every one whereas the falling and lifting up stands in the will of many believers and unbelievers. But that those who were lying in unbelief should be raised up again is not unreasonable
ORIGEN; The careful interpreter will say, that no one falls who was not before standing. Tell me then, who were they who stood, for whose fall Christ came?
GREG. NYSS. But by this he signifies a fall to the very lowest, as if the punishment before the mystery of the incarnation, fell far short of that after the giving and preaching of the Gospel dispensation And those spoken of are chiefly of Israel, who must of necessity forfeit their ancient privileges, and pay a heavier penalty than any other nation, because they were so unwilling to receive Him Who had long been prophesied among them, had been worshipped, and had come forth from them. In a most especial manner then he threatens them with not only a fall from spiritual freedom, but also the destruction of their city, and of those who dwelt among them. But a resurrection is promised to believers, partly indeed as subject to the law, and about to be delivered from its bondage, but partly as buried together with Christ, and rising with Him.
GREG. NYSS. Now from these words, you may perceive through the agreement of men’s minds on the word of prophecy, that one and the same God and lawgiver has spoken both in the Prophets and the New Testament. For the language of prophecy declared that there shall be a stone of falling, and a rock of offense, that they who believe on Him should not be confounded. The fall therefore is to them who are offended with the meanness of His coming in the flesh; the rising again to those who acknowledge the steadfastness of the Divine purpose.
ORIGEN; There is also a deeper meaning aimed against those who raise their voices against their Creator, saying, Behold the God of the Law and the Prophets of what sort He is! He says, I kill, and I make alive. If God then is a bloody judge and a cruel master, it is most plain that Jesus is His Son, since the same things here are written of Him, namely, that He comes for the fall and rising again of many.
AMBROSE; That is, to distinguish the merits of the just and the unjust, and according to the quality of our deeds, as a true and just Judge, to decree punishment or rewards.
ORIGEN; But we must take care lest by chance the Savior should not come to some equally for the fall and rising again; for when I stood in sin, it was first good for me to fall, and die to sin. Lastly, Prophets and Saints when they were designing some great thing, used to fall on their faces, that by their fall their sins should be the more fully blotted out. This it is that the Savior first grants to you. You were a sinner, let that which is sin fall in you, that you may thence rise again, and say, If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.
CHRYS. The resurrection is a new life and conversation. For when the sensual man becomes chaste, the covetous merciful, the cruel man gentle, a resurrection takes place. Sin being dead, righteousness rises again. It follows, And for a sign which shall be spoken against.
BASIL; The sign which is spoken against is called in Scripture, the cross. For Moses, it says, made a brazen serpent, and placed it for a sign.
GREG. NYSS. He has joined together honor and dishonor. For to us Christians this sign is a token of honor, but it is a sign of contradiction, inasmuch by some indeed it is received as absurd and monstrous, by others with the greatest veneration. Or perhaps Christ Himself is termed a sign, as having a supernatural existence, and as the author of signs.
BASIL; For a sign betokens something marvelous and mysterious, which is seen indeed by the simple minded.
ORIGEN; But all the things which history relates of Christ are spoken against, not that those who believe on Him speak against Him, (for we know that all the things which are written of Him are true,) but that every thing which has been written of Him is with the unbelievers a sign which is spoken against.
GREG. NYSS. Though these things are said of the Son, yet they have reference also to His mother, who takes each thing to herself, whether it be of danger or glory. He announces to her not only her prosperity, but her sorrows; for it follows, And a sword shall pierce through your own heart.
THEOPHYL; No history tells us that Mary departed this life by being slain with the sword, therefore since not the soul but the body is killed with iron, we are left to understand that sword which is mentioned, And a sword in their lips, that is, grief because of our Lord’s passion passed through her soul, who although she saw Christ the very Son of God die a voluntary death, and doubted not that He who was begotten of her flesh would overcome death, could not without grief see Him crucified.
AMBROSE; Or it shows the wisdom of Mary, that she was not ignorant of the heavenly Majesty For the word of God is living and strong, and sharper than the sharpest sword
AUG. Or by this is signified that Mary also, through whom was performed the mystery of the incarnation, looked with doubt and astonishment at the death of her Lord, seeing the Son of God so humbled as to come down even to death. And as a sword passing close by a man causes fear, though it does not strike him; so doubt also causes sorrow, yet does not kill; for it is not fastened to the mind, but passes through it as through a shadow.
GREG. NYSS. But it is not meant that she alone was concerned in that passion, for it is added, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. The word that marks the non event; it is not used causatively; for when all these events took place, there followed the discovery of many men’s intentions. For some confessed God on the cross, others even then ceased not from their blasphemies and revilings. Or this was said, meaning that at the time of the passion the thoughts of men’s hearts should be laid open, and be corrected by the resurrection. For doubts are quickly superseded by certainty. Or perhaps by revealing may be meant, the enlightening of the thoughts, as it is often used in Scripture.
THEOPHYL; But now even down to the close of the present time, the sword of the severest tribulation ceases not to go through the soul of the Church, when with bitter sorrow she experiences the evil speaking against the sign of faith, when hearing the word of God that many are raised with Christ, she finds still more falling from the faith, when at the revealing of the thoughts of many hearts, in which the good seed of the Gospel has been sown, she beholds the tares of vice overshooting it, spreading beyond it, or growing alone.
ORIGEN; But the evil thoughts of men were revealed, that He Who died for us might slay them; for while they were hidden, it was impossible to utterly destroy them. Hence also when we have sinned we ought to say, Mine iniquity have I not hid. For if we make known our sins not only to God, but to whoever can heal our wounds, our sins will be blotted out.
Ver 36. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;37. And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise to the Lord, and spoke of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
AMBROSE; Simeon had prophesied, a woman united in marriage had prophesied, a virgin had prophesied, it was meet also that a widow should prophesy, that there might lack no sex or condition of life, and therefore it is said, And there was one Anna a prophetess.
THEOPHYL. The Evangelist dwells some time on the account of Anna, mentioning both her father’s tribe, and adding, as it were, many witnesses who knew her father and her tribe.
GREG. NYSS. Or because at that time there were several others who were called by the same name, that there might be a plain way of distinguishing her, he mentions her father, and describes the quality of her parents.
AMBROSE; Now Anna, both from the duties of her widowhood and her manner of life, is found to be such that she is thought worthy to announce the Redeemer of the world. As it follows, She was of a great age, and had lived with her husband, &c.
ORIGEN; For the Holy Spirit dwelt not by chance in her. For the highest blessing, if any can possess it, is the grace of virginity, but if this cannot be, and it chance to a woman to lose her husband, let her remain a widow, which indeed not only after the death of her husband, but even while he is living, she ought to have in her mind, that supposing it should not happen, her will and determination might be crowned by the Lord, and her words should be, "This I vow, and promise, that if a certain condition of this life be mine, (which yet I wish not,) I will do nothing else but remain inviolate and a widow." Most justly then was this holy woman thought worthy to receive the gift of prophecy, because by long chastity and long fastings she had ascended to this height of virtue, as It follows, Who departed not from the temple with fastings and prayers, &c.
ORIGEN; From which it is plain that she possessed a multitude of other virtues, and mark how she resembles Simeon in his goodness, for they were both in the temple together, anti both counted worthy of prophetic grace, as it follows, And she coming in at this very instant, gave thanks to the Lord.
THEOPHYL. That is, returned thanks for seeing in Israel the Savior of the world, and she confessed of Jesus that He was the Redeemer and the Savior. Hence it follows, And she spoke of him to all, &c.
ORIGEN; But because Anna’s words were nothing remarkable, and of no great note respecting Christ, the Gospel does not give the particulars of what she said, and perhaps for this reason one may suppose that Simeon anticipated her, since he indeed bore the character of the law, (for his name signifies obedience,) but she the character of grace, (which her name is by interpretation,) and Christ came between them. Therefore He let Simeon depart dying with the law, but Anna he sustains living beyond through grace.
THEOPHYL; According to the mystical meaning, Anna signifies the Church, who at present is indeed a widow by the death of her Husband ; the number also of the years of her widowhood marks the time of the Church, at which established in the body, she is separated from the Lord. For seven times twelve make eighty-four, seven indeed referring to the course of this world, which revolves in seven days; but twelve had reference to the perfection of Apostolic teaching, and therefore the Universal Church, or any faithful soul which strives to devote the whole period of its life to the following of Apostolic practice, is said to serve the Lord for eighty-four years. The term also of seven years, during which she lived with her husband, coincides. For through the prerogative of our Lord’s greatness, whereby abiding in the flesh, He taught, the simple number of seven years was taken to express the sign of perfection. Anna also favors the mysteries of the Church, being by interpretation its "grace," and being both the daughter of Phanuel, who is called "the face of God," and descended from the tribe of Aser, i.e. the blessed.
Ver 39. And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.41. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.
THEOPHYL; Luke has omitted in this place what he knew to have been sufficiently set forth by Matthew, that the Lord after this, for fear that He should be discovered and put to death by Herod, was carried by His parents into Egypt, and at Herod’s death, having at length returned to Galilee, came to dwell in His own city Nazareth. For the Evangelists individually are wont to omit certain things which they either know to have been, or in the Spirit foresee will be, related by others, so that in the connected chain of their narrative, they seem as it were to have omitted nothing, whereas by examining the writings of another Evangelist, the careful reader may discover the places where the omissions have been. Thus after omitting many things, Luke says, And when they had accomplished all things, &c.
THEOPHYL. Bethlehem was indeed their city, their paternal city, Nazareth the place of their abode.
AUG. Perhaps it may strike you as strange that Matthew should say that His parents went with the young Child into Galilee because they were unwilling to go to Judea for fear of Archelaus, when they seem to have gone into Galilee rather because their city w as Nazareth in Galilee, as Luke in this place explains it. But we must consider, that when the Angel said in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Rise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, it was at first understood by Joseph as a command to go into Judea, for so at first sight the land of Israel might have been taken to mean. But when afterwards he finds that Herod’s son Archelaus was king, he was unwilling to be exposed to that danger, seeing the land of Israel might also be understood to include Galilee also as a part of it, for there also the people of Israel dwelt.
GREEK EX. Or again, Luke is here describing the time before the descent to Egypt, for before her purification Joseph had not taken Mary there But before they went down into Egypt, they were not told by God to go to Nazareth but as living more freely in their own country, thither of their own accord they went; for since the going up to Bethlehem was for no other reason but the taxing, when that was accomplished they go down to Nazareth.
THEOPHYL. Now our Lord might have come forth from the womb in the stature of mature age, but this would seem like something imaginary; therefore His growth is gradual, as it follows, And the child grew, and waxed strong.
THEOPHYL; We must observe the distinction of words, that the Lord Jesus Christ in that He w as a child, that is, had put on the condition of human weakness, was daily growing and being strengthened.
ATHAN. But if as some say the flesh was changed into a Divine nature, how did it derive growth? for to attribute growth to an uncreated substance is impious.
CYRIL; Rightly with the A growth in age, St. Luke has united increase in wisdom, as he says, And he was strengthened, (i.e. in spirit.) For in proportion to the measure of bodily growth, the Divine nature developed its own wisdom.
THEOPHYL. For if while yet a little child, He had displayed His wisdom, He would have seemed a miracle, but together with the advance of age He gradually showed Himself, so as to fill the whole world. For not as receiving wisdom is He said to be strengthened in spirit. For that which is most perfect in the beginning, how can that become any more perfect. Hence it follows, Filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was in him.
THEOPHYL; Wisdom truly, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, but grace, because it was in great grace given to the man Christ Jesus, that from the time He began to be man He should be perfect man and perfect God. But much rather because He was the word of God, and God needed not to be strengthened, nor was in a state of growth. But while He was yet a little child He had the grace of God, that as in Him all things were wonderful, His childhood also might be wonderful, so as to be filled with the wisdom of God. It follows, And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the feast of the Passover.
CHRYS. At the feast of the Hebrews the law commanded men not, only to observe the time, but the place, and so the Lord’s parents wished to celebrate the feast of the Passover only at Jerusalem.
AUG. But it may be asked, how did His parents go up all the years of Christ’s childhood to Jerusalem, if they were prevented from going there by fear of Archelaus? This question might be easily answered, even had some one of the Evangelists mentioned how long Archelaus reigned. For it were possible that on the feast day amid so great a crowd they might secretly come, and soon return again, at the same time that they feared to remain there on other days, so as neither to be wanting in religious duties by neglecting the feast, nor leave themselves open to detection by a constant abode there. But now since all have been silent as to the length of Archelaus’ reign, it is plain that when Luke says, They were accustomed to go up every year to Jerusalem, we are to understand that to have been when Archelaus was no longer feared.
Ver 42. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.43. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it.44. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance.45. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.46. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions.47. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.48. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said to him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us? behold, your father and I have sought your sorrowing.49. And he said to them, How is it that you sought me? wish you not that I must be about my Father’s business?50. And they understood not the saying which he spoke to them.
CYRIL; The Evangelist having said before that the Child grew and waxed strong, verifies his own words when he relates, that Jesus with the holy Virgin went up to Jerusalem; as it is said, And when he was twelve years old, &c.
GREEK EX. His indication of wisdom did not exceed the measure of His age, but at the time that with us the powers of discernment are generally perfected, the wisdom of Christ shows itself.
AMBROSE; Or the twelfth year was the commencement of our Lord’s disputation with the doctors, for this was the number of the Evangelists necessary to preach the faith.
THEOPHYL; We may also say, that as by the seventh number, so also by the twelfth, (which consists of the parts of seven multiplied alternately by one another,) the universality and perfection of either things or times is signified, and therefore rightly from the number twelve, the glory of Christ takes its beginning, being that by which all places and times are to be filled.
THEOPHYL; Now that the Lord came up every year to Jerusalem at the Passover, betokens His humility as a man, for it is, man’s duty to meet together to offer sacrifices to God, and conciliate Him with prayers. Accordingly the Lord as man, did among men what God by angels commended c men to do. Hence it is said, According to the custom of the feast day. Let us follow then the journey of His mortal life, if we delight to behold the glory of His divine nature.
GREEK EX. The feast having been celebrated, while the rest returned, Jesus secretly tarried behind. As it follows, And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and his parents knew not of it. It is said, When the days were accomplished, because the feast lasted seven days. But the reason of His tarrying behind in secret was, that His parents might not be a hindrance to His carrying on the discussion with the lawyers; or perhaps to avoid appearing to despise his parents by not obeying their commands. He remains therefore secretly, that he might neither be kept away nor be disobedient.
ORIGEN; But we must not wonder that they are called His parents, seeing the one from her childbirth, the other from his knowledge of it, deserved the names of father and mother.
THEOPHYL; But some one will ask, how was it that the Son of God, brought up by His parents with such care, could be left behind from forgetfulness? To which it is answered, that the custom of the children of Israel while assembling at Jerusalem on the feast days, or returning to their homes, was for the women and men to go separately, and the infants or children to go with either parent indiscriminately. And so both Mary and Joseph each thought in turn that the Child Jesus, whom they saw not with them, was returning with the other parent. Hence it follows, But they, supposing him to have been in the company, &c.
ORIGEN; But as when the Jews plotted against Him He escaped from the midst of them, and was not seen; so now it seems that the Child Jesus remained, and His parents knew not where He was. As it follows, And not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking for him.
GLOSS. They were on their way home, one day’s journey from Jerusalem; on the second day they seek for Him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance, and when they found Him not, they returned on the third day to Jerusalem, and there they found Him. As it follows, And it came to pass, after three days they found him.
ORIGEN; He is not found as soon as sought for, for Jesus was not among His kinsfolk and relations, among those who are joined to Him in the flesh, nor in the company of the multitude can He be found. Learn where those who seek Him find Him, not every where, but in the temple. And do you then seek Jesus in the temple of God. Seek Him in the Church, and seek Him among the masters who are in the temple. For if you wilt so seek Him, you shall find Him. They found Him not among His kinsfolk, for human relations could not comprehend the Son of God; not among His acquaintance, for He passes far beyond all human knowledge and understanding. Where then do they find Him? In the temple! If at any time you seek the Son of God, seek Him first in the temple, thither go up, and verily shall you find Christ, the Word, and the Wisdom, (i.e. the Son of God.)
AMBROSE; After three days He is found in the temple, that it might be for a sign, that after three days of victorious suffering, He who was believed to be dead should rise again anti manifest Himself to our faith, seated in heaven with divine glory.
GLOSS. Or because the advent of Christ, which was looked for by the Patriarchs before the Law, was not found, nor again, that which was sought for by prophets and just men under the Law, but that alone is found which is sought for by Gentiles under grace.
ORIGEN; Because moreover He was the Son of God, He is found in the midst of the doctors, enlightening and instructing them. But because He was a little child, He is found among them not teaching but asking questions, as it is said, Sitting in the midst of the doctors, hearing them, and asking them questions. And this He did as a duty of reverence, that He might set us an example of the proper behavior of children, though they be wise and learned, rather to hear their masters than teach them, and not to vaunt themselves with empty boasting. But He asked not that He might learn, but that asking He might instruct.
For from the same source of learning is derived both the power of asking and answering wisely, as it follows, All who heard him were astonished at his wisdom.
THEOPHYL; To show that He was a man, He humbly listened to the masters; but to prove that He was God, He divinely answered those who spoke.
GREEK EX. He asks questions with reason, He listens M with wisdom, and answers with more wisdom, so as to cause astonishment. As it follows, And they who saw it were astonished.
CHRYS. The Lord truly did no miracle in His childhood, yet this one fact St. Luke mentions, which made men look with wonder upon Him.THEOPHYL; For from His tongue there went forth divine wisdom, while His age exhibited man’s helplessness, and hence the Jews, amid the high things they hear and the lowly things they see, are perplexed with doubts and astonishment. But we can in no wise wonder, knowing the words of the Prophet, that thus unto us a Is Child is born, that He abides the mighty God.
GREEK EX. But the ever-wonderful mother of God, moved by a mother’s feelings, as it w were with weeping makes her mournful inquiry, in every thing like a mother, with confidence, humility, and affection. As it follows, And his mother said to him, Son, what have you done?
ORIGEN; The holy Virgin knew that He was not the Son of Joseph, and yet calls her husband His father according to the belief of the Jews, who thought that He was conceived in the common way. Now to speak generally we may say, that the Holy Spirit honored Joseph by the name of father, because he brought up the Child Jesus; but more technically, that it might not seem superfluous in St. Luke, bringing down the genealogy from David to Joseph. But why sought they Him sorrowing? Was it that he might have perished or been lost? It could not be. For what should cause them to dread the loss of Him whom they knew to be the Lord? But as whenever you read the Scriptures you search out their meaning with pains, not that you suppose them to have erred or to contain any thing incorrect, but that the truth which they have inherent in them you are anxious to find out; so they sought Jesus, lest perchance leaving them he should have returned to heaven, thither to descend v hen He would. He then who seeks Jesus must go about it not carelessly and idly, as many seek Him who never find Him, but with labor and sorrow.
GLOSS. Or they feared lest Herod who sought Him in His infancy, now that He was advanced to boyhood might find an opportunity of putting Him to death.
GREEK EX. But the Lord Himself sets every thing at rest, and correcting as it were her saying concerning him who was His reputed father, manifests His true Father, teaching us not to walk on the ground, but to raise ourselves on high, as it follows, And he says to them, What is it that you ask of me?
THEOPHYL; He blames them not that they seek Him as their son, but compels them to raise the eyes of their mind to what was rather due to Him whose eternal Son He was. Hence it follows, Knew you not? &c.
AMBROSE; There are two generations in Christ, one from His Father, the other from His mother; the Father’s more divine, the mother’s that which has come down for our use and advantage.
CYRIL; He says this then by way of showing that He surpasses all human standards, and hinting that the Holy Virgin was made the handmaid of the work in bringing His flesh unto the world, but that He Himself was by nature and in truth God, and the Son of the Father most high Now from this let the followers of Valentinus, healing that the temple was of God, be ashamed to say that the Creator, and the God of the law and of the temple, is not also the Father of Christ.
EPIPH. Let Ebion know that at twelve years old, not thirty, Christ is found the astonishment of all men, wonderful and mighty in the words of grace. We can not here fore say, that after that the Spirit came to Him in Baptism He was made the Christ, that is, anointed with divinity, but from His very childhood He acknowledged both the temple and His Father.
GREEK EX. This is the first demonstration of the and power of the Child Jesus. For as to what are called you acts of His childhood, we can not but suppose them to be the work not only of a childish but even of a devilish mind and perverse will, attempting to revile those things which are contained in the Gospel and the sacred prophecies. But should one desire to receive only such things as are generally believed, and are not contrary to our other declarations, but accord also with the words of prophecy, let it suffice that Jesus was distinguished in form above the sons of men; obedient to His mother, gentle in disposition; in appearance full of grace and dignity; eloquent in words, kind and thoughtful of the wants of others, known among all for a power and energy, as of one who was filled with all wisdom; and as in other things, so also in all human conversation, though above man, Himself the rule and measure. But that which most distinguished Him was His meekness, and that a razor had never come upon His head, nor any human hand except His mother’s. But from these words we may derive a lesson; for when the Lord reproves Mary seeking Him among His relations, He most aptly points to the giving up of all fleshly ties, showing that it is not for him to attain the goal of perfection who is still encompassed by and walks among the things of the body, and that men fall from perfection through love of their relations.
THEOPHYL; It follows, And they understood him not, that is, the word which He spoke to them of His divinity.
ORIG. Or they knew not whether when He said about my Father’s business, He referred to the temple, or something higher and more edifying; for every one of us who does good, is the seat of God the Father; but whoever is the seat of God the Father, has Christ in the midst of him.
Ver 51. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.52. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.
GREEK EX. All that time of the life of Christ which He passed between His manifestation in the temple and His baptism being devoid of any great public miracles or teaching, the Evangelist sums up in one word saying, And he went down with them.
ORIGEN; Jesus frequently went down with His disciples, for He is not always dwelling on the mount, for they who were troubled with various diseases were not able to ascend the mount. For this reason now also He went down to them who were below. It follows: And he was subject to them,.
GREEK EX. Sometimes by His word He first institutes laws, and He afterwards confirms them, by His work, as when He says, The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. For shortly after seeking our salvation He poured out His own life. But sometimes He first sets forth in Himself an example, and afterwards, as far as words can go, draws therefrom rules of life, as He does here, showing forth by His work these three things above the rest, the love of God, honor to parents, but the preferring God also to our parents. For when He was blamed by His parents, He counts all other things of less moment than those which belong to God; again, He gives His obedience also to His parents.
THEOPHYL; For what is the teacher of virtue, unless he fulfill his duty to his parents? What else did He do among us, than what He wished should be done by us?
ORIGEN; Let us then also ourselves be subject to our parents. But if our fathers are not let us be subject to those who are our fathers. Jesus the Son of God is subject to Joseph and Mary. But I must be subject to the Bishop who has been constituted my father. It seems that Joseph knew that Jesus was greater than he, and there fore in awe moderated his authority. But let every one see, that oftentimes he who is subject is the greater. Which if they who are higher in dignity understand they will not be elated with pride, knowing that their superior is subject to them.
GREG. NYSS. Further, since the young have not yet perfect understanding, and have need to be led forward by those who have advanced to a more perfect state; therefore when He arrived at twelve years, He is obedient to His parents, to show that whatever is made perfect by moving forward, before that it arrives at the end profitably embraces obedience, (as leading to good.)
BASIL; But from His very first years being obedient to His parents, He endured all bodily labors, humbly and reverently. For since His parents were honest and just, yet at the same time poor, and ill supplied with the necessaries of life, (as the stable which administered to the holy birth bears witness,) it is plain that they continually underwent bodily fatigue in providing for their daily wants. But Jesus being obedient to them, as the Scriptures testify, even in sustaining labors, submitted Himself to a complete subjection.
AMBROSE; And can you wonder if He who is subject to His mother, also submits to His Father? Surely that subjection is a mark not of weakness but of filial duty. Let then the heretic so raise his head as to assert that He who is sent has need of other help; yet why should He need human help, in obeying His mother’s authority? He was obedient to a handmaid, He was obedient to His pretended father, and do you wonder whether He obeyed God; Or is it a mark of duty to obey man, of weakness to obey God.
THEOPHYL; The Virgin, whether she understood or whether she could not yet understand, equally laid up all things in her heart for reflection and diligent examination. Hence it follows, And, his mother laid up all these things, etc. Mark the wisest of mothers, Mary the mother of true wisdom, becomes the scholar or disciple of the Child. For she yielded to Him not as to a boy, nor as to a man, but as unto God. Further, she pondered upon both His divine words and works, so that nothing that was said or done by Him was lost upon her, but as the Word itself was before in her womb, so now she conceived the ways and words of the same, and in a manner nursed them in her heart. And while indeed she thought upon one thing at the time, another she wanted to be more clearly revealed to her; and this was her constant rule and law through her whole life.
It follows, And Jesus increased in wisdom.
THEOPHYL. Not that He became wise by making progress, but that by degrees He revealed His wisdom. As it was when He disputed with the Scribes, asking them questions of their law to the astonishment of all who heard Him. You see then how He increased in wisdom, in that He became known to many, and caused them to wonder, for the showing forth of His wisdom is His increase. But mark how the Evangelist, having interpreted what it is to increase in wisdom, adds, and in stature, declaring thereby that an increase or growth in age is an increase in wisdom.
CYRIL; But the Eunomian Heretics say, "How can He be equal to the Father in substance, who is said to increase, as if before imperfect." But not because He is the Word, but because He is made man, He is said to receive increase. For if He really increased after that He was made flesh, as having before existed imperfect, why then do we give Him thanks as having thence become incarnate for us? But how if He is the true wisdom can He be increased, or how can He who gives grace to others be Himself advanced in grace. Again, if bearing that the Word humbled Himself, no one is offended (thinking slightingly of the true God,) but rather marvels at His compassion, how is it not absurd to be offended at hearing that He increases? For as He was humbled for us, so for us He increased, that we who have fallen through sin might increase in Him. For whatever concerns us, Christ Himself has truly undertaken for us, that He might restore us to a better state. And mark what He says, not that the Word, but Jesus, increases, that you should not suppose that the pure Word increases, but the Word made flesh; and as we confess that the Word suffered in the flesh, although the flesh only suffered, because of the Word the flesh was which suffered, so He is said to increase, because the human nature of the Word increased in Him. But He is said to increase in His human nature, not as if that nature which was perfect from the beginning received increase, but that by degrees it was manifested. For the law of nature brooks not that man should have higher faculties than the age of his body permits. The Word then (made man) was perfect, as being the power and wisdom of the Father, but because something was to be yielded to the habits of our nature, lest He should be counted strange by those who saw Him, He manifested Himself as man with a body, gradually advancing in growth, and was daily thought wiser by those who saw and heard Him.
GREEK EX. He increased then in age, His body growing to the stature of man; but in wisdom through those who were taught divine truths by Him; in grace, that is, whereby we are advanced with joy, trusting at last to obtain the promises; and this indeed before God, because having put on the flesh, He performed His Father’s work, but before men by their conversion from the worship of idols to the knowledge of the Most High Trinity.
THEOPHYL. He says before God and men, because we must first please God, then man.
GREG. NYSS. The word also increases in different degrees in those who receive it; and according to the measure of its increase a man appears either an infant, grown up, or a perfect man.
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Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Luke 2". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18