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Ver 1. "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in Heaven."
Gloss., non occ.: Christ having now fulfilled the Law in respect of commandments, begins to fulfil it in respect of promises, that we may do God’s commandments for heavenly wages, not for the earthly which the Law held out. All earthly things are reduced to two main heads, viz. human glory, and abundance of earthly goods, both of which seem to be promised in the Law. Concerning the first is that spoken in Deuteronomy, "The Lord shall make thee higher than all the nations who dwell on the face of the earth." [Deut 28:1] And in the same place it is added of earthly wealth, "The Lord shall make thee abound in all good things." Therefore the Lord now forbids these two things, glory and wealth, to the attention of believers.
Chrys., Hom. xix: Yet be it known that the desire of fame is near a kin to virtue.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For when any thing truly glorious is done, there ostentation has its readiest occasion; so the Lord first shuts out all intention of seeking glory; as He knows that this is of all fleshly vices the most dangerous to man. The servants of the Devil are tormented by all kinds of vices; but it is the desire of empty glory that torments the servants of the Lord more than the servants of the Devil.
Aug., Prosper. Lib. Sentent. 318: How great strength the love of human glory has, none feels, but he who has proclaimed war against it. For though it is easy for any not to wish for praise when it is denied him, it is difficult not to be pleased with it when it is offered.
Chrys.: Observe how He has begun as it were describing some beast hard to be discerned, and ready to steal upon him who is not greatly on his guard against it; it enters in secretly, and carries off insensibly all those things that are within.Pseudo-Chrys.: And therefore he enjoins this to be more carefully avoided, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men." It is our heart we must watch, for it is an invisible serpent that we have to guard against, which secretly enters in and seduces; but if the heart be pure into which the enemy has succeeded in entering in, the righteous man soon feels that he is prompted by a strange spirit; but if his heart were full of wickedness, he does not readily perceive the suggestion of the Devil, and therefore He first taught us, "Be not angry, Lust not," for that he who is under the yoke of these evils cannot attend to his own heart.
But how can it be that we should not do our alms before men. Or if this may be, how can they be so done that we should not know of it. For if a poor man come before us in the presence of any one, how shall we be able to give him alms in secret? If we lead him aside, it must be seen that we shall give him. Observe then that He said not simply, "Do not before men," but added, "to be seen of them." He then who does righteousness not from this motive, even if he does it before the eyes of men, is not to be thought to be herein condemned; for he who does any thing for God’s sake, sees nothing in his heart but God, for whose sake he does it; as a workman has always before his eyes him who has entrusted him with the work to do.
Greg., Mor., viii, 48: If then we seek the fame of giving, we make even our public deeds to be hidden in His sight; for if herein we seek our own glory, then they are already cast out of His sight, even though there be many by whom they are yet unknown. It belongs only to the thoroughly perfect, to suffer their deeds to be seen, and to receive the praise of doing them in such sort that they are lifted up with no secret exultation; whereas they that are weak, because they cannot attain to this perfect contempt of their own fame, must needs hide those good deeds that they do.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 1: In saying only, "That ye be seen of men," without any addition, He seems to have forbidden that we should make that the end of our actions. For the Apostle who declared, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ;" [Gal 1:10] says in another place, "I please all men in all things. [1 Cor 10:33] This he did not that he might please men, but God, to the love of whom he desires to turn the hearts of men by pleasing them. As we should not think that he spoke absurdly, who should say, In this my pains in seeking a ship, it is not the ship I seek, but my country.
Aug., Serm. 54. 2: He says this, "that ye be seen of men," because there are some who so do their righteousness before men that themselves may not be seen, but that the works themselves may be seen, and their Father who is in heaven may be glorified; for they reckon not their own righteousness, but His, in the faith of whom they live.
Aug., Serm. in Mont.: That He adds, "Otherwise ye shall not have your reward before your Father who is in heaven," signifies no more than that we ought to take heed that we seek not praise of men in reward of our words.
Pseudo-Chrys.: What shall you receive from God, who have given God nothing? What is done for God’s sake is given to God, and received by Him; but what is done because of men is cast to the winds. But that wisdom is it, to bestow our goods, to reap empty words, and to have despised the reward of God? Nay you deceive the very man for whose good word you look; for he thinks you do it for God’s sake, otherwise he would rather reproach then command you.
Yet must we think him only to have done his work because of men, who does it with his whole will and intention governed by the thought of them. But if an idle thought, seeking to be seen of men, mount up in any one’s heart, but is resisted by the understanding spirit, he is not thereupon to be condemned of man-pleasing; for that the thought came to him was the passion of the flesh, what he chose was the judgment of his soul.
Ver 2. "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:4. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret Himself shall reward thee openly.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 2: Above the Lord had spoken of righteousness in general. He now pursues it through its different parts.
Pseudo-Chrys., Hom. xv: He opposes three chief virtues, alms, prayer, and fasting, to three evil things against which the Lord undertook the war of temptation. For He fought for us in the wilderness against gluttony; against covetousness on the mount; against false glory on the temple. It is alms that scatter abroad against covetousness which heaps up; fasting against gluttony which is its contrary; prayer against false glory, seeing that all other evil things come out of evil, this alone comes out of good; and therefore it is not overthrown but rather nourished of good, and has no remedy that may avail against it but prayer only.
Ambrosiaster, Comm. in Tim. 4, 8: The sum of all Christian discipline is comprehended in mercy and piety, for which reason He begins with almsgiving.Pseudo-Chrys.: The trumpet stands for every act or word that tends to a display of our works; for instance, to do alms if we know that some other person is looking on, or at the request of another, or to a person of such condition that he may make us return; and unless in such cases not to do them.
Yea, even if in some secret place they are done with intent to be thought praiseworthy, then is the trumpet sounded.
Aug.: Thus what He says, "Do not sound a trumpet before thee," refers to what He had said above, "Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men."
Jerome: He who sounds a trumpet before him when he does alms is a hypocrite. Whence he adds, "as the hypocrites do."
Isid., Etym. x. ex Aug. Serm.: The name ’hypocrite’ is derived from the appearance of those who in the shows are disguised in masks, variously coloured according to the character they represent, sometimes male, sometimes female, to impose on the spectators while they act in the games.
Aug.: As then the hypocrites, (a word meaning ’one who feigns,’) as personating the characters of other men, act parts which are not naturally their own - for he who personates Agamemnon, is not really , but feigns to be so - so likewise in the Churches, whosoever in his whole conduct desires to seem what he is not, is a hypocrite; he feigns himself righteous and is not really so, seeing his only motive is praise of men.
Gloss., non occ.: In the words, "in the streets and villages," he marks the public places which they selected; and in those, "that they may receive honour of men," he marks their motive.
Greg., Mor., xxxi, 13: It should be known, that there are some who wear the dress of sanctity, and are not able to work out the merit of perfection, yet who must in no wise be numbered among the hypocrites, because it is one thing to sin from weakness, another from crafty affectation.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 2: And such sinners receive from God the Searcher of hearts none other reward than punishment of their deceitfulness; "Verily I say unto you, they have their reward."
Jerome: A reward not of God, but of themselves, for they receive praise of men, for the sake of which it was that they practised their virtues.
Aug.: This refers to what He had said above, "Otherwise ye shall have no reward of your Father which is in heaven;" and He goes on to shew them that they should not do their alms as the hypocrites, but teaches them how they should do them.
Chrys.: "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth," is said as an extreme expression, as much as to say, If it were possible, that you should not know yourself, and that your very hands should be hid from your sight, that is what you should most strive after.
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Apostles in the book of the Constitutions, interpret thus; The right hand is the Christian people which is at Christ’s right hand; the left hand is all the people who are on His left hand. He means then, that when a Christian does alms, the unbeliever should not see it.
Aug.: But according to this interpretation, it will be no fault to have a respect to pleasing the faithful; and yet we are forbidden to propose as the end of any good work the pleasing of any kind of men. Yet if you would have men to imitate your actions which may be pleasing to them, they must be done before unbelievers as well as believers.
If again, according to another interpretation, we take the left hand to mean our enemy, and that our enemy should not know when we do our alms, why did the Lord Himself mercifully heal men when the Jews were standing round Him? And how too must we deal with our enemy himself according to that precept, "If thy enemy hunger, feed him." [Proverbs 25:21]
A third interpretation is ridiculous; that the left hand signifies the wife, and that because women are wont to be more close in the matter of expense out of the family purse, therefore the charities of the husband should be secret from the wife, for the avoiding of domestic strife. But this command is addressed to women as well as to men, what then is the left hand, from which women are bid to conceal their alms? Is the husband also the left hand of the wife? And when it is commanded such that they enrich each other with good works, it is clear that they ought not to hide their good deeds; nor is a theft to be committed to do God service.
But if in any case something must needs be done covertly, from respect to the weakness of the other, though it is not unlawful, yet that we cannot suppose the wife to be intended by the left hand here is clear from the purport of the whole paragraph; no, not even such an one as he might well call left. But that which is blamed in hypocrites, namely, that they seek praise of men, this you are forbid to do; the left hand therefore seems to signify the delight in men’s praise; the right hand denotes the purpose of fulfilling the divine commands.
Whenever then a desire to gain honour from men mingles itself with the conscience of him that does alms, it is then the left hand knowing what the right hand, the right conscience, does. "Let not the left hand know," therefore, "what the right hand doeth," means, let not the desire of men’s praise mingle with your conscience.
But our Lord does yet more strongly forbid the left hand alone to work in us, than its mingling in the works of the right hand. The intent with which He said all this is shewn in that He adds, "that your alms may be in secret;" that is, in that your good conscience only, which human eye cannot see, nor words discover, though many things are said falsely of many. But your good conscience itself is enough for you towards deserving your reward, if you look for your reward from Him who alone can see your conscience. This is that He adds, "And you Father which seeth in secret shall reward you." Many Latin copies have, "openly." [ed. note: "openly" omit Clement. Hom. iii. 56. on verse 6. Origen on v. 6 (in Ezek. viii. 12) but retains in Joan. tom. 13. n. 45, Jerome in loc. &c. vid. Wetstein in loc. Augustine adds that the Greek manuscripts omit, but all the present Greek manuscripts retain. He omits it also in v. 18]
Pseudo-Chrys.: For it is impossible that God should leave in obscurity any good work of man; but He makes it manifest in this world, and glorifies it in the next world, because it is the glory of God; as likewise the Devil manifests evil, in which is shewn the strength of his great wickedness.
But God properly makes public every good deed only in that world the goods of which are not common to the righteous and the wicked; therefore to whomsoever God shall there shew favour, it will be manifest that it was as reward of his righteousness. But the reward of virtue is not manifested in this world, in which both bad and good are alike in their fortunes.
Aug.: But in the Greek copies, which are earlier, we have not the word, "openly."
Chrys.: If therefore you desire spectators of your good deeds, behold you have not merely Angels and Archangels, but the God of the universe.
Ver 5. "And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are; for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
Pseudo-Chrys.: Solomon says, "Before prayer, prepare thy soul." This he does who comes to prayer doing alms; for good works stir up the faith of the heart, and give the soul confidence in prayer to God. Alms then are a preparation for prayer, and therefore the Lord after speaking of alms proceeds accordingly to instruct us concerning prayer.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 3: He does not now bid us pray, but instructs us how we should pray; as above He did not command us to do alms, but shewed the manner of doing them.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Prayer is as it were a spiritual tribute which the soul offers of its own bowels. Wherefore the more glorious it is, the more watchfully ought we to guard that it is not made vile by being done to be seen of men.
Chrys.: He calls them hypocrites, because feigning that they are praying to God, they are looking round to men; and He adds, "they love to pray in the synagogues."
Pseudo-Chrys.: But I suppose that it is not the place that the Lord here refers to, but the motive of him that prays; for it is praiseworthy to pray in the congregation of the faithful, as it is said, "in your Churches bless ye God." [Psalms 68:26]
Whoever then so prays as to be seen of men does not look to God but to man, and so far as his purpose is concerned he prays in the synagogue. But he, whose mind in prayer is wholly fixed on God, though he pray in the synagogue, yet seems to pray with himself in secret. "In the corners of the streets," namely, that they may seem to be praying retiredly, and thus earn a twofold praise, both that they pray, and that they pray in retirement.
Gloss. ord.: Or, "the corners of the streets," are the places where one way crosses another, and makes four cross-ways.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He forbids us to pray in an assembly with the intent of being seen of that assembly, as He adds, "that they may be seen of men." He that prays therefore should do nothing singular that might attract notice; as crying out, striking his breast, or reaching forth his hands.
Aug.: Not that the mere being seen of men is an impiety, but the doing this, in order to be seen of men.
Chrys.: It is a good thing to be drawn away from the thought of empty glory, but especially in prayer. For our thoughts are apt to stray of themselves; if then we address ourselves to prayer with this disease upon us, how shall we understand those things that are said by us?
Aug.: The privity of other men is to be so far shunned by us, as it leads us to do any thing with this mind that we look for the fruit of their applause.
Pseudo-Chrys.: "Verily I say unto you, they have received their reward," for every man where he sows there he reaps, therefore they who pray because of men, not because of God, receive praise of men, not of God.
Chrys.: He says, have received, because God was ready to give them that reward which comes from Himself, but they prefer rather that which comes from men. He then goes on to teach how we should pray.
Jerome: This if taken in its plain sense teaches the hearer to shun all desire of vain honour in praying.
Pseudo-Chrys.: That none should be there present save he only who is praying, for a witness impedes rather than forwards prayer.
Cyprian, Tr. vii. 2: The Lord has bid us in His instructions to pray secretly in remote and withdrawn places, as best suited to faith; that we may be assured that God who is present every where hears and sees all, and in the fulness of His Majesty penetrates even hidden places.
Pseudo-Chrys.: We may also understand by "the door of the chamber," the mouth of the body; so that we should not pray to God with loudness of tone, but with silent heart, for three reasons. First, because God is not to be gained by vehement crying, but by a right conscience, seeing He is a hearer of the heart; secondly, because none but thyself and God should be privy to your secret prayers; thirdly, because if you pray aloud, you hinder any other from praying near you.
Cassian, Collat. ix, 35: Also we should observe close silence in our prayers, that our enemies, who are ever most watchful to ensnare us at that time, may not know the purport of our petition.
Aug.: Or, by our chambers are to be understood our hearts, of which it is spoken in the fourth Psalm; "What things ye utter in your hearts, and wherewith ye are pricked in your chambers." [Psalms 4:4] "The door" is the bodily senses; without are al worldly things, which, enter into our thoughts through the senses, and that crowd of vain imaginings which beset us in prayer.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 20: What insensibility is it to be snatched wandering off by light and profane imaginings, when you are presenting your entreaty to the Lord, as if there were aught else you ought rather to consider than that your converse is with God! How can you claim of God to attend to you, when you do not attend to yourself? This is altogether to make no provision against the enemy; this is when praying to God, to offend God’s Majesty by the neglectfulness of your prayer.
Aug.: The door then must be shut, that is, we must resist the bodily sense, that we may address our Father in such spiritual prayer as is made in the inmost spirit, where we pray to Him truly in secret.
Remig.: Let it be enough for you that He alone know your petitions, who knows the secrets of all hearts; for He Who sees all things, the same shall listen to you.
Chrys.: He said not ’shall freely give thee,’ but, "shall reward thee;" thus He constitutes Himself your debtor.
Ver 7. "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.8. Be ye not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him."
Aug.: As the hypocrites use to set themselves so as to be seen in their prayers, whose reward is to be acceptable to men; so the Ethnici (that is, the Gentiles) use to think that they shall be heard for their much speaking; therefore He adds, "When ye pray, do not ye use many words."
Cassian, Collat. ix. 36: We should indeed pray often, but in short form, lest if we be long in our prayers, the enemy that lies in wait for us, might suggest something for our thoughts.
Aug., Epist., 130, 10: Yet to continue long in prayer is not, as some think, what is here meant, by "using many words." For much speaking is one thing, and an enduring fervency another. For of the Lord Himself it is written, that He continued a whole night in prayer, and prayed at great length, setting an example to us. The brethren in Egypt are said to use frequent prayers, but those very short, and as it were hasty ejaculations, lest that fervency of spirit, which is most behoveful for us in prayer, should by longer continuance be violently broken off.
Herein themselves sufficiently shew, that this fervency of spirit, as it is not to be forced if it cannot last, so if it has lasted is not to be violently broken off. Let prayer then be without much speaking, but not without much entreaty, if this fervent spirit can be supported; for much speaking in prayer is to use in a necessary matter more words than necessary. But to entreat much, is to importune with enduring warmth the heart Him to whom our entreaty is made; for often is this business effected more by groans than words, by weeping more than speech.
Chrys.: Hereby He dissuades from empty speaking in prayer; as, for example, when we ask of God things improper, as dominions, fame, overcoming of our enemies, or abundance of wealth. He commands then that our prayers should not be long; long, that is, not in time, but in multitude of words. For it is right that those who ask should persevere in their asking; "being instant in prayer," as the Apostle instructs; but does not thereby enjoin us to compose a prayer of ten thousand verses, and speak it all; which He secretly hints at, when He says, "Do not ye use many words."
Gloss. ord.: What He condemns is many words in praying that come of want of faith; "as the Gentiles do." For a multitude of words were needful for the Gentiles, seeing the daemons could not know for what they petitioned, until instructed by them; they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Aug.: And truly all superfluity of discourse has come from the Gentiles, who labour rather to practise their tongues than to cleanse their hearts, and introduce this art of rhetoric into that wherein they need to persuade God.
Greg., Mor. xxxiii. 23: True prayer consists rather in the bitter groans of repentance, than in the repetition of set forms of words.
Aug.: For we use many words then when we have to instruct one who is in ignorance, what need of them to Him who is Creator of all things; "Your heavenly Father knoweth what ye have need of before you ask Him"
Jerome: Or this there starts up a heresy of certain Philosophers [margin note: Epicureans] who taught the mistaken dogma that if God knows for what we shall pray, and, before we ask, knows what we need, our prayer is needlessly made to one who has such knowledge. To such we shortly reply, That in our prayers we do not instruct, but entreat; it is one thing to inform the ignorant, another to beg of the understanding: the first were to teach; the latter is to perform a service of duty.
Chrys.: You do not then pray in order to teach God your wants, but to move Him, that you may become His friend by the importunity of your applications to Him, that you may be humbled, that you may be reminded of your sins.
Aug.: Nor ought we to use words in seeking to obtain of God what we would, but to seek with intense and fervent application of mind, with pure love, and suppliant spirit.
Aug., Epist. 130. 9: But even with words we ought at certain periods to make prayer to God, that by these signs of things we may keep ourselves in mind, and may know what progress we have made in such desire, and may stir up ourselves more actively to increase this desire, that after it have begun to wax warm, it may not be chilled and utterly frozen up by divers cares, without our continual care to keep it alive.
Words therefore are needful for us that we should be moved by them, that we should understand clearly what it is we ask, not that we should think that by them the Lord is either instructed or persuaded.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 3: Still it may be asked, what is the use of prayer at all, whether made in words or in meditation of things, if God knows already what is necessary for us. The mental posture of prayer calms and purifies the soul, and makes it of more capacity to receive the divine gifts which are poured into it. For God does not hear us for the prevailing force of our pleadings; He is at all times ready to give us His light, but we are not ready to receive it, but prone to other things.
There is then in prayer a turning of the body to God, and a purging of the inward eye, whilst those worldly things which we desired are shut out, that the eye of the mind made single might be able to bear the single light, and in it abide with that joy with which a happy life is perfected.
Ver 9. "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed by thy name."
Gloss: Amongst His other saving instructions and divine lessons, wherewith He counsels believers, He has set forth for us a form of prayer in few words; thus giving us confidence that will be quickly granted, for which He would have us pray so shortly.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 1: He who gave to us to live, taught us also to pray, to the end, that speaking to the Father in the prayer which the Son hath taught, we may receive a readier hearing. It is praying like friends and familiars to offer up to God of His own. Let the Father recognize the Son’s words when we offer up our prayer; and seeing we have Him when we sin for an Advocate with the Father, let us put forward the words of our Advocate, when as sinners we make petition for our offences.
Gloss. ord.: Yet we do not confine ourselves wholly to these words, but use others also conceived in the same sense, with which our heart is kindled.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 4: Since in every entreaty we have first to propitiate the good favour of Him whom we entreat, and after that mention what we entreat for; and this we commonly do by saying something in praise of Him whom we entreat, and place it in the front of our petition; in this the Lord bids us say no more than only, "Our Father which art in Heaven."
Mary things were said of them to the praise of God, yet do we never find it taught to the children of Israel to address God as ’Our Father;’ He is rather set before them as a Lord over slaves. But of Christ’s people the Apostle says, "We have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father," [Romans 8:15] and that not of our deservings, but of grace. This then we express in the prayer when we say, "Father;" which name also stirs up love. For what can be dearer than sons are to a father? And a suppliant spirit, in that men should say to God "Our Father." And a certain presumption that we shall obtain; for what will He not give to His sons when they ask of Him, who has given them that first that they should be sons?
Lastly, how great anxiety possesses his mind, that having called God his Father, he should not be unworthy of such a Father. By this the rich and the noble are admonished when they have become Christians not to be haughty towards the poor or truly born, who like themselves may address God as "Our Father;" and they therefore cannot truly or piously say this unless they acknowledge such for brethren.
Chrys.: For what hurt does such kindred with those beneath us, when we are all alike kin to One above us? For who calls God Father, in that one title confesses at once the forgiveness of sins, the adoption, the heirship, the brotherhood, which he has with the Only-begotten, and the gift of the Spirit. For none can call God Father, but he who has obtained all these blessings. In a two-fold manner, therefore, he moves the feeling of them that pray, both by the dignity of Him who is prayed to, and the greatness of those benefits which we gain by prayer.
Cyprian, Tr. vii. 4: We say not My Father, but "Our Father," for the teacher of peace and master of unity would not have men pray singly and severally, since when any prays, he is not to pray for himself only. Our prayer is general and for all, and when we pray, we pray not for one person, but for us all, because we all are one. So also He willed that one should pray for all, according as Himself in one did bear us all.
Pseudo-Chrys.: To pray for ourselves it is our necessity compels us, to pray for others brotherly charity instigates.
Gloss. ord.: Also because He is a common Father of all, we say, "Our Father;" not "My Father" which is appropriate to Christ alone, who is his Son by nature.
Pseudo-Chrys.: "Which are in heaven," is added, that we may know that we have a heavenly Father, and may blush to immerse ourselves wholly in earthly things when we have a Father in heaven.
Cassian, Collat. ix. 18: And that we should speed with strong desire thitherward where our Father dwells.
Chrys.: "In heaven," not confining God’s presence to that, but withdrawing the thoughts of the petitioner from earth and fixing them on things above.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 5: Or; "in heaven" is among the saints and the righteous men; for God is not contained in space. For the heavens literally are the upper parts of the universe, and if God be thought to be in them, then are the birds of more desert than men, seeing they must have their habitation nearer to God. But, "God is nigh," [Psalms 34:18] it is not said to the men of lofty stature, or to the inhabitants of the mountain tops; but, "to the broken in heart."
But as the sinner is called ’earth,’ as "earth thou art, and unto earth thou must return," [Genesis 3:19] so might the righteous on the other hand be called ’the heaven.’ Thus then it would be rightly said "Who art in heaven," for there would seem to be as much difference spiritually between the righteous and sinners, as locally, between heaven and earth.
With the intent of signifying which thing it is, that we turn our faces in prayer to the east, not as though God was there only, deserting all other parts of the earth; but that the mind may be reminded to turn itself to that nature which is more excellent, that is to God, when his body, which is of earth, is turned to the more excellent body which is of heaven. For it is desirable that all, both small and great, should have right conceptions of God, and therefore for such as cannot fix their thought on spiritual natures, it is better that they should think of God as being in heaven than in earth.
Aug.: Having named Him to whom prayer is made and where He dwells, let us now see what things they are for which we ought to pray. But the first of all the things that are prayed for it, "Hallowed be thy name," not implying that the name of God is not holy, but that it may be held sacred of men; that is, that God may be so known that nothing may be esteemed more holy.
Chrys.: Or, He bids us in praying beg that God may be glorified in our life; as if we were to say, Make us to live so that all things may glorify Thee through us. For "hallowed" signifies the same as glorified. It is a petition worthy to be made by man to God, to ask nothing before the glory of the Father, but to postpone all things to His praise.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 7: Otherwise, we say this not as wishing for God to be made holy by our prayers, but asking of Him for His name to be kept holy in us. For seeing He Himself has said, "Be ye holy, for I also am holy," [Leviticus 20:7] it is this that we ask and request that we who have been sanctified in Baptism, may persevere such as we have begun.
Aug., De Don. Pers. 2: But why is this perseverance asked of God, if, as the Pelagians say, it is not given by God? Is it not a mocking petition to ask of God what we know is not given by Him, but is in the power of man himself to attain?
Cyprian: For this we daily make petition, since we need a daily sanctification, in order that we who sin day by day, may cleanse afresh our offences by a continual sanctification.
Ver 10. "Thy kingdom come."
Gloss. ord.: It follows suitably, that after our adoption as sons, we should ask a kingdom which is due to sons.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 6: This is not so said as though God did not now reign on earth, or had not reigned over it always. "Come," must therefore be taken for "be manifested to men." For none shall then be ignorant of His kingdom, when His Only-begotten not in understanding only, but in visible shape shall come to judge the quick and dead. This day of judgment the Lord teaches shall then come, when the Gospel shall have been preached to all nations; which thing pertains to the hallowing of God’s name.
Jerome: Either it is a general prayer for the kingdom of the whole world that the reign of the Devil may cease; or for the kingdom in each of us that God may reign there, and that sin may not reign in our mortal body.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 8: Or; it is that kingdom which was promised to us by God, and bought with Christ’s blood; that we who before in the world have been servants, may afterwards reign under the dominion of Christ.
Aug., Epist., 130, 11: For the kingdom of God will come whether we desire it or not. But herein we kindle our desires towards that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may reign in it.
Cassian, Collat., ix, 19: Or, because the Saint knows by the witness of his conscience, that when the kingdom of God shall appear, he shall be partaker therein.
Jerome: But be it noted, that it comes of high confidence, and of an unblemished conscience only, to pray for the kingdom of God, and not to fear the judgment.
Cyprian: The kingdom of God may stand for Christ Himself, whom we day by day wish to come, and for whose advent we pray that it may be quickly manifested to us. As He is our resurrection, because in Him we rise again, so may He be called the kingdom of God, because we are to reign in Him. Rightly we ask for God’s kingdom, that is, for the heavenly, because there is a kingdom of this earth beside. He, however, who has renounced the world, is superior to its honours and to its kingdom; and hence he who dedicates himself to God and to Christ, longs not for the kingdom of earth, but for the kingdom of Heaven.
Aug., De Don. Pers. 2: When they pray, "Let thy kingdom come," what else do they pray for who are already holy, but that they may persevere in that holiness they now have given unto them? For no otherwise will the kingdom of God come, than as it is certain it will come to those that persevere unto the end.
Ver 10. ------- "Thy will be done in earth as it is in Heaven."
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 6: In that kingdom of blessedness the happy life will be made perfect in the Saints as it now is in the heavenly Angels; and therefore after the petition, "Thy kingdom come," follows, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth." That is, as by the Angels who are in Heaven Thy will is done so as that they have fruition of Thee, no error clouding their knowledge, no pain marring their blessedness; so may it be done by Thy Saints who are on earth, and who, as to their bodies, are made of earth. So that, "Thy will be done," is rightly understood as, ’Thy commands be obeyed;’ "as in heaven, so in earth," that is, as by Angels, so by men; not that they do what God would have them do, but they do because He would have them do it; that is, they do after His will.
Chrys.: See how excellently this follows; having taught us to desire heavenly things by that which He said, "Thy kingdom come," before we come to Heaven He bids us make this earth into Heaven, in that saying, "Thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth."
Jerome: Let them be put to shame by this text who falsely affirm that there are daily falls [margin note: ruinas] in Heaven. [ed. note: There were various opinions in the first ages about the indefectibility and perfection of good spirits, vid. Petav. de Angelis iii. 2, &c. Dissert. Bened. in Cyril. Hier. iii. 5. Huet. Origenian. ii. 5. n. 16. Nat. Alex. in prim. mund. aot. Diss. 7.]
Aug.: Or; as by the righteous, so by sinners; as if He had said, As the righteous do Thy will, so also may sinners; either by turning to Thee, or in receiving every man his just reward, which shall be in the last judgment.
Or, by the heaven and the earth we may understand the spirit and the flesh. As the Apostle says, "In my mind I obey the law of God," [Romans 7:25] we see the will of God done in the spirit. But in that change which is promised to the righteous there, "Let thy will be done as in heaven, so in earth;" that is, as the spirit does not resist God, so let the body not resist the spirit.
Or; "as in heaven, so in earth," as in Christ Jesus Himself, so in His Church; as in the Man who did His Father’s will, so in the woman who is espoused of Him. And heaven and earth may be suitably understood as husband and wife, seeing it is of the heaven that the earth brings forth her fruits.
Cyprian: We ask not that God may do His own will, but that we may be enabled to do what He wills should be done by us; and that it may be done in us we stand in need of that will, that is, of God’s aid and protection; for no man is strong by his own strength, but it safe in the indulgence and pity of God.
Chrys.: For virtue is not of our own efforts, but of grace from above. Here again is enjoined on each one of us prayer for the whole world, inasmuch as we are not to say, Thy will be done in me, or in us; but throughout the earth, that error may cease, truth be planted, malice be banished, and virtue return, and thus the earth not differ from heaven.
Aug., De Don. Pers., 3: From this passage is clearly shewn against the Pelagians that the beginning of faith is God’s gift, when Holy Church prays for unbelievers that they may begin to have faith. Moreover, seeing it is done already in the Saints, why do they yet pray that it may be done, but that they pray that they may persevere in that they have begun to be?
Pseudo-Chrys.: These words, "As in heaven so in earth," must be taken as common to all three preceding petitions. Observe also how carefully it is worded; He said not, Father, hallow Thy name in us, Let Thy kingdom come on us, Do Thy will in us. Nor again; Let us hallow Thy name, Let us enter into Thy kingdom, Let us do Thy will; that it should not seem to be either God’s doing only, or man’s doing only. But He used a middle form of speech, and the impersonal verb; for as man can do nothing good without God’s aid, so neither does God work good in man unless man wills it.
Ver 11. "Give us this day our daily bread."
Aug., Enchir., 115: These three things therefore which have been asked in the foregoing petitions, are begun here on earth, and according to our proficiency are increased in us; but in another life, as we hope, they shall be everlastingly possessed in perfection. In the four remaining petitions we ask for temporal blessings which are necessary to obtaining the eternal; the bread, which is accordingly the next petition in order, is a necessary.
Jerome: The Greek word here which we render, ’supersubstantialis,’ is . The LXX often make use of the word, , by which we find, on reference to the Hebrew, they always render the word, sogola. [ed. note, c: on , vid. note c on Cyr. Cat. xxiii. 15. Tr. and Petav. Dogm. t. iv. pp. 200,201. ed. Antwerp. 1700.]
Symmachus translates it , that is, ’chief,’ or ’excellent,’ though in one place he has interpreted ’peculiar.’ When then we pray God to give us our ’peculiar’ or ’chief’ bread, we mean Him who says in the Gospel, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven." [John 6:51]
Cyprian: For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread belongs not to all men, but to us. This bread we pray that it be given day by day, lest we who are in Christ, and who daily receive the Eucharist for food of salvation, should by the admission of any grievous crime, and our being therefore forbidden the heavenly bread, be separated from the body of Christ. Hence then we pray, that we who abide in Christ, may not draw back from His sanctification and His body.
Aug., De Don. Pers. 4: Here then the saints ask for perseverance of God, when they pray that they may not be separated from the body of Christ, but may abide in that holiness, committing no crime.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or by ’supersubstantialis’ may be intended, ’daily.’ [ed. note: Pseudo-Chrys. reads or translates ’quotidianus,’ he does not introduce the word ’supersubstantialis’ at all.]
Cassian, Coll., ix, 21: In that He says, "this day," He shews that it is to be daily taken, and that this prayer should be offered at all seasons, seeing there is no day on which we have not need, by the receiving of this bread, to confirm the heart of the inward man.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 7: There is here a difficulty created by the circumstance of there being many in the East, who do not daily communicate in the Lord’s Supper. And they defend their practice on the ground of ecclesiastical authority, that they do this without offence, and are not forbidden by those who preside over the Churches, But not to pronounce any thing concerning them in either way, this ought certainly to occur to our thoughts, that we have here received of the Lord a rule for prayer which we ought not to transgress.
Who then will dare to affirm that we ought to use this prayer only once? Or if twice or thrice, yet only up to that hour at which we communicate on the Lord’s body? For after that we cannot say, "Give us this day," that which we have already received. Or will any one on this account be able to compel us to celebrate this sacrament at the close of the day?
Cassian: Though the expression to-day may be understood of this present life; thus, Give us this bread while we abide in this world.
Jerome: We may also interpret the word ’supersubstantialis’ otherwise, as that which is above all other substances, and more excellent than all creatures, to wit, the body of the Lord.
Aug.: Or by "daily" we may understand spiritual, namely, the divine precepts which we ought to meditate and work.
Greg., Mor., xxiv. 7: We call it our bread, yet pray that it may be given us, for it is God’s to give, and is made ours by our receiving it.
Jerome: Others understand it literally according to that saying of the Apostle, "Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content," that the saints should have care only of present food; as it follows, "Take no thought for the morrow."
Aug., Epist., 130, 11: So that herein we ask for a sufficiency of all things necessary under the one name of bread.
Pseudo-Chrys.: We pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," not only that we may have what to eat, which is common to both righteous and sinners; but that what we eat we may receive at the hand of God, which belongs only to the saints. For to him God giveth bread who earns it by righteous means; but to him who earns it by sin, the Devil it is that gives.
Or that inasmuch as it is given by God, it is received sanctified; and therefore He adds, "our," that is, such bread as we have prepared for us, that do Thou give us, that by Thy giving it may be sanctified. Like as the Priest taking bread of the laic, sanctifies it, and then offers it to him; the bread indeed is his that brought it in offering, but that it is sanctified is the benefit from the Priest.
He says "Our" for two reasons. First, because all things that God gives us He gives through us to others, that of what we receive of Him we may impart to the helpless. Whoso then of what he gains by his own toil bestows nothing on others, eats not his own bread only, but others’ bread also. Secondly, he who eats bread got righteously, eats his own bread; but he who eats bread got with sin, eats others’ bread.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 7: Some one may perhaps find a difficulty in our here praying that we may obtain necessaries of this life, such as food and raiment, when the Lord has instructed us, "Be not ye careful what ye shall eat, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed." But it is impossible not to be careful about that for the obtaining which we pray.
Aug., Epist., 130, 6: But to wish for the necessaries of life and no more, is not improper; for such sufficiency is not sought for its own sake, but for the health of the body, and for such garb and appliances of the person, as may make us to be not disagreeable to those with whom we have to live in all good reputation. For these things we may pray that they may be had when we are in want of them, that they may be kept when we have them.
Chrys.: It should be thought upon how when He had delivered to us this petition, "Thy will be done as in heaven so in earth," then because He spake to men in the flesh, and not like angelic natures without passion or appetite, He now descends to the needs of our bodies. And He teaches us to pray not for money or the gratification of lust, but for daily bread; and as yet further restriction, He adds, "this day," that we should not trouble ourselves with thought for the coming day.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And these words at first sight might seem to forbid our having it prepared for the morrow, or after the morrow. If this were so, this prayer could only suit a few; such as the Apostles who travelled hither and thither teaching - or perhaps none among us. Yet ought we so to adapt Christ’s doctrine, that all men may profit in it.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 14: Justly therefore does the disciple of Christ make petition for today’s provision, without indulging excessive longings in his prayer. It were a self-contradicting and incompatible thing for us who pray that the kingdom of God may quickly come, to be looking unto long life in the world below.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or; He adds, "daily," that a man may eat so much only as natural reason requires, not as the lust of the flesh urges. For if you expend on one banquet as much as would suffice you for a hundred days, you are not eating today’s provision, but that of many days.
Jerome: In the Gospel, entitled The Gospel according to the Hebrew, ’supersubstantialis’ is rendered, ’mohar,’ that is, ’tomorrow’s; so that the sense would be, Give us today tomorrow’s bread; i.e. for the time to come.
Ver 12. "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 15: After supply of food, next pardon of sin is asked for, that he who is fed of God may live in God, and not only the present and passing life be provided for, but the eternal also; whereunto we may come, if we receive the pardon of our sins, to which the Lord gives the name of debts, as he speaks further on, "I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me." [Matthew 18:32]
How well is it for our need, how provident and saving a thing, to be reminded that we are sinners compelled to make petition for our offences, so that in claiming God’s indulgence, the mind is recalled to a recollection of its guilt. That no man may plume himself with the pretence of innocence, and perish more wretchedly through self-exaltation, he is instructed that he commits sin every day by being commanded to pray for his sins.
Aug., De Don. Pers., 5: With this weapon the Pelagian heretics received their deathblow, who dare to say that a righteous man is free altogether from sin in this life, and that of such is at this present time composed a Church, "having neither spot nor wrinkle."
Chrys.: That this prayer is meant for the faithful, both the laws of the Church teach, and the beginning of the prayer which instructs us to call God Father. In thus bidding the faithful pray for forgiveness of sin, He shews that even after baptism sin can be remitted (against the Novatians.)
Cyprian: He then who taught us to pray for our sins, has promised us that His fatherly mercy and pardon shall ensue. But He has added a rule besides, binding us under the fixed condition and responsibility, that we are to ask for our sins to be forgiven in such sort as we forgive them that are in debt to us.
Greg., Mor., x, 15: That good which in our penitence we ask of God, we should first turn and bestow on our neighbour.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 8: This is not said of debts of money only, but of all things in which any sins against us, and among these also of money, because that he sins against you, who does not return money due to you, when he has whence he can return it. Unless you forgive this sin you cannot say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."
Pseudo-Chrys.: With what hope then does he pray, who cherishes hatred against another by whom he has been wronged? As he prays with a falsehood on his lips, when he says, I forgive, and does not forgive, so he asks indulgence of God, but no indulgence is granted him. There are many who, being unwilling to forgive those that trespass against them, will not use this prayer.
How foolish! First, because he who does not pray in the manner Christ taught, is not Christ’s disciple; and secondly, because the Father does not readily hear any prayer which the Son has not dictated; for the Father knows the intention and the words of the Son, nor will He entertain such petitions as human presumption has suggested, but only those which Christ’s wisdom has set forth.
Aug., Enchir., 73: Forasmuch as this so great goodness, namely, to forgive debts, and to love our enemies, cannot be possessed by so great a number as we suppose to be heard in the use of this prayer; without doubt the terms of this stipulation are fulfilled; though one have not attained to such proficiency as to love his enemy; yet if when he is requested by one, who has trespassed against him, that he would forgive him, he do forgive him from his heart; for he himself desires to be forgiven then at least when he asks forgiveness. And if one have been moved by a sense of his sin to ask forgiveness of him against whom he has sinned, he is no more to be thought on as an enemy, that there should be any thing hard in loving him, as there was when he was in active enmity.
Ver 13. "And lead us not into temptation."
Pseudo-Chrys.: As He had above put many high things into men’s mouths, teaching them to call God their Father, to pray that His kingdom might come; so now He adds a lesson of humility, when He says, "and lead us not into temptation."
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 9: Some copies read, "Carry us not," [margin note: inferas] an equivalent word, both being a translation of one Greek word, Many in interpreting say, ’Suffer us not to be led into temptation,’ as being what is implied in the word, "lead." For God does not of Himself lead a man, but suffer him to be led from whom He has withdrawn His aid.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 17: Herein it is shewn that the adversary can nothing avail against us, unless God first permit him; so that all our fear and devotion ought to be addressed to God.
Aug.: But it is one thing to be led into temptation, another to be tempted; for without temptation none can be approved, either to himself or to another; but every man is fully known to God before all trial. Therefore we do not here pray that we may not be tempted, but that we may not be led into temptation. As if one who was to be burnt alive should pray not that he should not be touched by fire, but that he should not be burnt. For we are then led into temptation when such temptations befall us as we are not able to resist.
Aug., Epist., 130, 11: When then we say, "Lead us not into temptation," what we ask is, that we may not, deserted by His aid, either consent through the subtle snares, or yield to the forcible might, or any temptation.
Cyprian: And in so praying we are cautioned of our own infirmity and weakness, lest any presumptuously exalt himself; that while a humble and submissive confession comes first, and all is referred to God, whatever we suppliantly apply for may by His gracious favour be supplied.
Aug., De Don. Pers., 5: When the Saints pray, "Lead us not into temptation," what else do they pray for than that they may persevere in their sanctity. This once granted - and that it is God’s gift this, that of Him we ask it, shews - none of the Saints but holds to the end his abiding holiness; for none ceases to hold on his Christian profession, till he be first overtaken of temptation.
Therefore we seek not to be led into temptation that this may not happen to us; and if it does not happen, it is God that does not permit it to happen; for there is nothing done, but what He either does, or suffers to be done. He is therefore able to turn our wills from evil to good, to raise the fallen and to direct him into the way that is pleasing to Himself, to whom not in vain we plead, "Lead us not into temptation."
For whoso is not led into temptation of his own evil will, is free of all temptation; for, "each man is tempted of his own lust." [James 1:14] God would have us pray to Him that we may not be led into temptation, though He could have granted it without our prayer, that we might be kept in mind who it is from whom we receive all benefits. Let the Church therefore observe her daily prayers; she prays that the unbelieving may believe, therefore it is God that turns men to the faith; she prays that the believers may persevere; God gives them perseverance even unto the end.
Ver 13. ------- "But deliver us from evil. Amen."
Aug.: We ought to pray not only that we may not be led into evil from which we are at present free; but further that we may be set free from that into which we have already been led. Therefore it follows, "Deliver us from evil."
Cyprian, Tr. vii. 18: After all these preceding petitions, at the conclusion of the prayer comes a sentence, comprising shortly and collectively the whole of our petitions and desires. For there remains nothing beyond for us to ask for, after petition made for God’s protection from evil; for that gained, we stand secure and safe against all things that the Devil and the world work against us. What fear hath he from this life, who has God through life for his guardian?
Aug., Epist., 130, 11: This petition with which the Lord’s Prayer concludes is of such extent, that a Christian man in whatever tribulation cast, will in this petition utter groans, in this shed tears, here begin and here end his prayer. And therefore follows "Amen," by which is expressed the strong desire of him that prays.
Jerome: "Amen," which appears here at the close, is the seal of the Lord’s Prayer. Aquila rendered ’faithfully’ - we may perhaps ’truly.’
Cyprian: We need not wonder, dearest brethren, that this is God’s prayer, seeing how His instruction comprises all our petitioning, in one saving sentence. This had already been prophesied by Isaiah the Prophet, "A short word will God make in the whole earth." [Isaiah 10:22] For when our Lord Jesus Christ came unto all, and gather together the learned alike and the unlearned, did to every sex and age set forth the precepts of salvation, He made a full compendium of His instructions, that the memory of the scholars might not labour in the heavenly discipline, but accept with readiness whatsoever was necessary into a simple faith.
Aug., Epist., 130, 12: And whatever other words we may use, either introductory to quicken the affections, or in conclusion to add to them, we say nothing more than is contained in the Lord’s Prayer if we pray rightly and connectedly.
For he who says, "Glorify thyself in all nations, as thou art glorified among us," what else does he say than, "Hallowed be thy name?" He who prays, "Shew thy face and we shall be safe," [Psalms 80:3] what is it but to say, "Let thy kingdom come?" To say, "Direct my steps according to thy word," [Psalms 119:133] what is it more than, "Thy will be done?" To say, "Give me neither poverty nor riches," [Proverbs 30:8] what else is it than, "Give us this day our daily bread?" "Lord, remember David and all his mercifulness!" [Psalms 131:1] and, "If I have returned evil for evil," [Psalms 7:4] what else but, "Forgive us our debts even as we forgive our debtors?" He who says, "Remove far from me all greediness of belly," what else does he say, but "Lead us not into temptation?" He who says, "Save me, O my God, from my enemies," [Psalms 59:1] what else does he say but "Deliver us from evil?"
And if you thus go through all the words of the holy prayers, you will find nothing that is not contained in the Lord’s Prayer. Whoever then speaks such words as have no relation to this evangelic prayer, prays carnally; and such prayer I know not why we should not pronounce unlawful, seeing the Lord instructs those who are born again only to pray spiritually. But whoso in prayer says, Lord, increase my riches, add to my honours; and that from desire of such things, not with a view to doing men service after God’s will by such things; I think that he finds nothing in the Lord’s Prayer on which he may build such petitions.
Let such a one then be withheld by shame from praying for, if not from desiring, such things. But if he have shame at the desire, yet desire overcomes, he will do better to pray for deliverance from the evil of desire to Him to whom we say, "Deliver us from evil."
Aug., Serm. in Mont. ii. 11: This number of petitions seems to answer to the seven-fold number of the beatitudes.
If it is the fear of God by which are made "blessed the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," let us ask that the name of God be hallowed among men, a reverent fear abiding for ever and ever.
If it be piety by which "the meek are blessed," let us pray that His kingdom may come, that we may become meek, and not resist Him.
If it be knowledge by which "they that mourn are blessed," let us pray that His will may be done as in heaven so in earth; for if the body consent with the spirit as does earth with heaven, we shall not mourn.
If fortitude be that by which "they that hunger are blessed," let us pray that our daily bread be this day given us, by which we may come to full saturity.
If it is counsel by which "blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy," let us forgive debts, that our debts may be forgiven us.
If it be understanding by which they of "pure heart are blessed," let us pray that we be not led into temptation, lest we have a double heart in the pursuit of temporal and earthly things which are for our probation.
If it be wisdom by which "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God," let us pray to be delivered from evil; for that very deliverance will make us free as sons of God.
Chrys.: Having made us anxious by the mention of our enemy, in this that He has said, "Deliver us from evil," He again restores confidence by that which is added in some copies, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory," since if His be the kingdom, none need fear, since even he who fights against us, must be His subject. But since His power and glory are infinite, He can not only deliver from evil, but also make glorious.
Pseudo-Chrys.: This is also connected with the foregoing. "Thine is the kingdom" has reference to "Thy kingdom come," that none should therefore say, "God has no kingdom on earth. The power," answers to "Thy will be done, as in earth so in heaven," that none should say thereon that God cannot perform whatever He would. "And the glory," answers to all that follows, in which God’s glory is shewn forth.
Ver 14. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Rabanus: By the word, "Amen." He shews that without doubt the Lord will bestow all things that are rightly asked, and by those that do not fail in observing the annexed condition, "For if ye forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your sins."
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 11: Here we should not overlook that of all the petitions enjoined by the Lord, He judged that most worthy of further enforcement, which relates to forgiveness of sins, in which He would have us merciful; which is the only means of escaping misery.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He does not say that God will first forgive us, and that we should after forgive our debtors. For God knows how treacherous the heart of man is, and that though they should have received forgiveness themselves, yet they do not forgive their debtors; therefore He instructs us first to forgive, and we shall be forgiven after.
Aug., Enchir., 74: Whoever does not forgive him that in true sorrow seeks forgiveness, let him not suppose that his sins are by any means forgiven of the Lord.
Cyprian, Tr. vii, 16: For no excuse will abide you in the day of judgment, when you will be judged by your own sentence, and as you have dealt towards others, will be dealt with yourself.
Jerome: But if that which is written, "I said, Ye are gods, but ye shall die like men," [Psalms 82:6-7] is said to those who for their sins deserve to become men instead of gods, then they to whom sins are forgiven are rightly called "men."
Chrys.: He mentions heaven and the Father to claim our attention, for nothing so likens you to God, as to forgive him who has injured you. And it were indeed unmeet should the son of such a Father become a slave, and should one who has a heavenly vocation live as of this earth, and of this life only.
Ver 16. "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."
Pseudo-Chrys.: Forasmuch as that prayer which is offered in a humble spirit and contrite heart, shews a mind already strong and disciplined; whereas he who is sunk in self-indulgence cannot have a humble spirit and contrite heart; it is plain that without fasting prayer must be faint and feeble; therefore, when any would pray for any need in which they might be, they joined fasting with prayer, because it is an aid thereof. Accordingly the Lord, after His doctrine respecting prayer, adds doctrine concerning fasting, saying, "When ye fast, be not ye as the hypocrites, of sad countenance." The Lord knew that vanity may spring from every good thing, and therefore bids us root out the bramble of vain-gloriousness which springs in the good soil, that it choke not the fruit of fasting. For though it cannot be that fasting should not be discovered in any one, yet is it better that fasting should shew you, than that you should shew your fasting.
But it is impossible that any in fasting should be gay, therefore He said not, Be not sad, but "Be not made sad;" for they who discover themselves by any false displays of their affliction, they are not sad, but make themselves; but he who is naturally sad in consequence of continued fasting, does not make himself sad, but is so.
Jerome: The word, "exterminare," so often used in the ecclesiastical Scriptures though a blunder of the translators, has a quite different meaning from that in which it is commonly understood. It is properly said of exiles who are sent beyond the boundry of their country. Instead of this word, it would seem better to use the word, "demoliri," ’to destroy,’ in translating the Greek . The hypocrite destroys his face, in order that he may feign sorrow, and with a heart full of joy wears sorrow in his countenance.
Greg., Mor., viii, 44: For by the pale countenance, the trembling limbs, and the bursting sighs, and by all so great toil and trouble, nothing is in the mind but the esteem of men.
Leo, Serm. in Epiph., iv, 5: But that fasting is not pure, that comes not of reasons of continence, but of the arts of deceit.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If then he who fasts, and makes himself of sad countenance, is a hypocrite, how much more wicked is he who does not fast, yet assumes a fictitious paleness of face as a token of fasting.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 12: On this paragraph it is to be specially noted, that not only in outward splendor and pomp, but even in the dress of sorrow and mourning, is there room for display, and that the more dangerous, inasmuch as it deceives under the name of God’s services. For he who by inordinate pains taken with her person, or his apparel, or by the glitter of his other equipage, is distinguished, is easily proved by these very circumstances to be a follower of the pomps of this world, and no man is deceived by any semblance of a feigned sanctity in him. But when any one in the profession of Christianity draws men’s eyes upon him by unwonted beggary and slovenliness in dress, if this be voluntary and not compulsory, then by his other conduct may be seen whether he does this to be seen of men, or from contempt of the refinements of dress.
Remig.: The reward of the hypocrites’ fast is shewn, when it is added, "That they may seem to men to fast; verily I say unto you, They have their reward;" that is, that reward for which they looked.
Ver 17. "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;18. That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly."
Gloss. ap. Anselm: The Lord having taught us what we ought not to do, now proceeds to teach us what we ought to do, saying, "When thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face."
Aug.: A question is here wont to be raised; for none surely would literally enjoin, that, as we wash our faces from daily habit, so we should have our heads anointed when we fast; a thing which all allow to be most disgraceful.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Also if He bade us not to be of sad countenance that we might not seem to men to fast, yet if anointing of the head and washing of the face are always observed in fasting, they will become tokens of fasting.
Jerome: But He speaks in accordance with the manner of the province of Palestine, where it is the custom on festival days to anoint the head. What He enjoins then is, that when we are fasting we should wear the appearance of joy and gladness.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Therefore the simple interpretation of this is, that is added as an hyperbolical explanation of the command; as though He had said, Yea, so far should ye be from any display of your fasting, that if it might be (which yet it may not be) so done, ye should even do such things as are tokens of luxury and feasting.
Chrys., Hom. xx: In almsgiving indeed, He did not say simply, ’Do not your alms before men,’ but added, ’to be seen of them.’ But in fasting and prayer He added nothing of this sort; because alms cannot be so done as to be altogether hid, fasting and prayer can be so done. The contempt of men’s praise is no small fruit, for thereby we are freed from the heavy slavery of human opinions, and become properly workers of virtue, loving it for itself and not for others. For as we esteem it an affront if we are loved not for ourselves but for others’ sake, so ought we not to follow virtue on the account of these men, nor to obey God for men’s sake but for His own.
Therefore it follows here, "But to thy Father which seeth in secret."
Gloss.: That is, to thy heavenly Father, who is unseen, or who dwells in the heart through faith. He fasts to God who afflicts himself for the love of God, and bestows on others what he denies himself.
Remig.: For it is enough for you that He who sees your conscience should be your rewarder.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Spiritually interpreted - the face may be understood to mean the mental conscience. And as in the eyes of man a fair face has grace, so in the eyes of God a pure conscience has favour. This face the hypocrites, fasting on man’s account, disfigure, seeking thereby to cheat both God and man; for the conscience of the sinner is always wounded. If then you have cast out all wickedness from your heart, you have washed your conscience, and fast well.
Leo, Serm. in Quadr., vi, 2: Fasting ought to be fulfilled not in abstinence of food only, but much more in cutting off vices. For when we submit ourselves to that discipline in order to withdraw that which is the nurse of carnal desires, there is no sort of good conscience more to be sought than that we should keep ourselves sober from unjust will, and abstinent from dishonourable action. This is an act of religion from which the sick are not excluded, seeing integrity of heart may be found in an infirm body.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Spiritually again, "thy head" denotes Christ. Give the thirsty drink and feed the hungry, and therein you have anointed your head, that is, Christ, who cries out in the Gospel, "In that ye have done this to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it to me." [Matthew 25:40]
Greg., Hom. in Ev., xvi, 6: For God approves that fasting, which before His eyes opens the hands of alms. This then that you deny yourself, bestow on another, that wherein your flesh is afflicted, that of your needy neighbour may be refreshed.
Aug.: Or; by the head we rightly understand the reason, because it is preeminent in the soul, and rules the other members of the man. Now anointing the head has some reference to rejoicing. Let him therefore joy within himself because of his fasting, who in fasting turns himself from doing the will of the world, that he may be subject to Christ.
Gloss. ord.: Behold how every thing in the New Testament is not to be taken literally. It were ridiculous to be smeared with oil when fasting; but it is behoveful for the mind to be anointed with the spirit of His love, in whose sufferings we ought to partake by afflicting ourselves.
Pseudo-Chrys.: And truly we ought to wash our face, but to anoint, and not to wash, our head. For as long as we are in the body, our conscience is foul with sin. But Christ who is our head has done no sin.
Ver 19. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:21. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Chrys.: When He has driven away the disease of vanity, He does well to bring in speech of contempt of riches. For there is no greater cause of desire of money than love of praise; for this men desire troops of slaves, horses accoutred in gold, and tables of silver, not for use or pleasure, but that they may be seen of many; therefore He says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth."
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 13: For if any does a work with the mind of gaining thereby an earthly good, how will his heart be pure while it is thus walking on earth? For any thing that is mingled with an inferior nature is polluted therewith, though that inferior be in its kind pure. Thus gold is alloyed when mixed with pure silver; and in like manner our mind is defiled by lust of earthly things, though earth is in its own kind pure.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; As the Lord had above taught nothing concerning alms, or prayer, or fasting, but had only checked a pretence of them, He now proceeds to deliver a doctrine of three portions, according to the division which He had before made, in this order. First, a counsel that alms should be done; second, to shew the benefit of almsgiving; third, that the fear of poverty should be no hindrance to our purpose of almsgiving.
Chrys.: Saying, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth," He adds, "where rust and moth destroy," in order to shew the insecurity of that treasure that is here, and the advantage of that which is in Heaven, both from the place, and from those things which harm. As though He had said; Why fear you that your wealth should be consumed, if you should give alms? Yea rather give alms, and they shall receive increase, for those treasures that are in Heaven shall be added to them, which treasures perish if ye do not give alms. He said not, You leave them to others, for that is pleasant to men.
Rabanus, ap. Anselm: Here are three precepts according to the three different kinds of wealth. Metals are destroyed by rust, clothes by moth; but as there are other things which fear neither rust nor moth, as precious stones, He therefore names a common damage, that by thieves, who may rob wealth of all kinds.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Another reading is, "Where moth and banqueting consume." For a threefold destruction awaits all the goods of this life. They either decay and are eaten of moths as cloth; or are consumed by their master’s luxurious living; or are plundered by strangers, either by violence, or pilfering, or false accusation, or some other unjust doing. For all may be called thieves who hasten by any unlawful means to make other men’s goods their own.
But you will say, Do all who have these things, perforce lose them? I would answer by the way, that if all do not, yet many do. But ill-hoarded wealth, you have lost spiritually if not actually, because it profits you not to your salvation.
Rabanus: Allegorically; Rust denotes pride which obscures the brightness of virtue. Moth which privily eats out garments, is jealousy which frets into good intention, and destroys the bond of unity. Thieves denote heretics and demons, who are ever on the watch to rob men of their spiritual treasure.
Hilary: But the praise of Heaven is eternal, and cannot be carried off by invading thief, nor consumed by the moth and rust of envy.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 13: By heaven in this place I understand not the material heavens, for every thing that has a body is earthly. But it behoves that the whole world be despised by him who lays up his treasure in that Heaven, of which it is said, "The heaven of heavens is the Lord’s," [Psalms 115:16] that is, in the spiritual firmament. "For heaven and earth shall pass away;" [Matthew 24:35] but we ought not to place our treasure in that which passes away, but in that which abides for ever.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Which then is better? To place it on earth where its security is doubtful, or in Heaven where it will be certainly preserved? What folly to leave it in this place whence you must soon depart, and not to send it before you thither, whither you are to go? Therefore place your substance there where your country is.
Chrys.: But forasmuch as not every earthly treasure is destroyed by rust or moth, or carried away by thieves, He therefore brings in another motive, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." As much as to say; Though none of these former losses should befall you, you will yet sustain no small loss by attaching your affections to things beneath, and becoming a slave to them, and in falling from Heaven, and being unable to think of any lofty thing.
Jerome: This must be understood not of money only, but of all our possessions. The god of a glutton is his belly; of a lover his lust; and so every man serves that to which he is in bondage; and has his heart there where his treasure is.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; He now teaches the benefit of almsgiving. He who places his treasure on earth has nothing to look for in Heaven; for why should he look up to Heaven where he has nothing laid up for himself? Thus he doubly sins; first, because he gathers together things evil; secondly, because he has his heart in earth; and so on the contrary he does right in a twofold manner who lays up his treasure in Heaven.
Ver 22. "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.23. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"
Chrys.: Having spoken of the bringing the understanding into captivity because it was not easy to be understood of many, He transfers it to a sensible instance, saying, "The light of thy body is thy eye." As though He had said, If you do not know what is meant by the loss of the understanding, learn a parable of the bodily members; for what the eye is to the body, that the understanding is to the soul. As by the loss of the eyes we lose much of the use of the other limbs, so when the understanding is corrupted, your life is filled with many evils.
Jerome: That is an illustration drawn from the senses. As the whole body is in darkness, where the eye is not single, so if the soul has lost her original brightness, every sense, or that whole part of the soul to which sensation belongs, will abide in darkness.
Wherefore He says, "If then the light which is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" that is, if the senses which are the soul’s light be darkened by vice, in how great darkness do you suppose the darkness itself will be wrapped?
Pseudo-Chrys.: It seems that He is not here speaking of the bodily eye, or of the outward body that is seen, or He would have said, If thine eye be sound, or weak; but He says, "single," and, "evil." But if one have a benign yet diseased eye, is his body therefore in light? Or if an evil yet a sound, is his body therefore in darkness?
Jerome: Those who have thick eye-sight see the lights multiplied; but the single and clear eye sees them single and clear.Chrys.: Or; The eye He speaks of is not the external but the internal eye. The light is the understanding, through which the soul sees God. He whose heart is turned to God, has an eye full of light; that is, his understanding is pure, not distorted by the influence of worldly lusts. The darkness in us is our bodily senses, which always desire the things that pertain to darkness.
Whoso then has a pure eye, that is, a spiritual understanding, preserves his body in light, that is, without sin; for though the flesh desires evil, yet by the might of divine fear the soul resists it. But whoever has an eye, that is, an understanding, either darkened by the influence of the malignant passions, or fouled by evil lusts, possesses his body in darkness; he does not resist the flesh when it lusts after evil things, because he has no hope in Heaven, which hope alone gives us the strength to resist desire.
Hilary: Otherwise; from the office of the light of the eye, He calls it the light of the heart; which if it continue single and brilliant, will confer on the body the brightness of the eternal light, and pour again into the corrupted flesh the splendor of its origin, that is, in the resurrection. But if it be obscured by sin, and evil in will, the bodily nature will yet abide subject to all the evils of the understanding.
Aug.: Otherwise; by the eye here we may understand our purpose; if that be pure and right, all our works which we work according thereto are good. These He here calls the body, as the Apostle speaks of certain works as members; "Mortify your members, fornication and uncleanness." [Colossians 3:5]
We should look then, not to what a person does, but with what mind he does it. For this is the light within us, because by this we see that we do with good intention what we do. "For all which doth make manifest is light." [Ephesians 5:13] But the deeds themselves, which go forth to men’s society, have a result to us uncertain, and therefore He calls them darkness; as when I give money to one in need, I know not what he will do with it.
If then the purport of your heart, which you can know, is defiled with the lust of temporal things, much more is the act itself, of which the issue is uncertain, defiled. For even though one should reap good of what you do with a purport not good, it will be imputed to you as you did it, not as it resulted to him. If however our works are done with a single purport, that is with the aim of charity, then are they pure and pleasing in God’s sight.
Aug., cont. Mendac., 7: But acts which are known to be in themselves sins, are not to be done as with a good purpose; but such works only as are either good or bad, according as the motives from which they are done are either good or bad, and are not in themselves sins; as to give food to the poor is good if it be done from merciful motives, but evil if it be done from ostentation. But such works as are in themselves sins, who will say that they are to be done with good motives, or that they are not sins? Who would say, Let us rob the rich, that we may have to give to the poor?
Greg., Mor., xxviii, 11: Otherwise; if the light that "is in thee," that is, if what we have begun to do well, we overcloud with evil purpose, when we do things which we know to be in themselves evil, "how great is the darkness!"
Remig., ap. Gloss. ord.: Otherwise; faith is likened to a light, because by it the goings of the inner man, that is, action, are lightened, that he should not stumble according to that, "Thy word is a light to my feet." [Psalms 119:105] If that then be pure and single, the whole body is light; but if defiled, the whole body will be dark. Yet otherwise; by the light may be understood the ruler of the Church, who may be well called the eye, as he it is that ought to see that wholesome things be provided for the people under him, which are understood by the body. If then the ruler of the Church err, how much more will the people subject to him err?
Ver 24. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Pseudo-Chrys.: The Lord had said above, that he that has a spiritual mind is able to keep his body free from sin; and that he who has not, is not able. Of this He here gives the reason, saying, "No man can serve two masters."
Gloss., non occ.: Otherwise; it had been declared above, that good things become evil, when done with a worldly purpose. It might therefore have been said by some one, I will do good works from worldly and heavenly motives at once. Against this the Lord says, "No man can serve two masters."
Chrys., Hom xxi: Or otherwise; in what had gone before He had restrained the tyranny of avarice by many and weighty motives, but He now adds yet more. Riches do not only harm us in that they arm robbers against us, and that they cloud our understanding, but they moreover turn us away from God’s service.
This He proves from familiar notions, saying, "No man can serve two masters;" two, He means, whose orders are contrary; for concord makes one of many. This is proved by what follows, "for either he will hate the one." He mentions two, that we may see that change for the better is easy. For if one were to give himself up in despair as having been made a slave to riches, namely, by loving them, he may hence learn, that it is possible for him to change into a better service, namely, by not submitting to such slavery, but by despising it.
Gloss., non occ.: Or; He seems to allude to two different kinds of servants; one kind who serve freely for love, another who serve servilely from fear. If then one serve two masters of contrary character from love, it must be that he hate the one; if from fear, while he trembles before the one, he must despise the other. But as the world or God predominate in a man’s heart, he must be drawn contrary ways; for God draws him who serves Him to things above; the earth draws to things beneath; therefore He concludes, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Jerome: "Mammon," - riches are so termed in Syriac. Let the covetous man who is called by the Christian name, hear this, that he cannot serve both Christ and riches. Yet He said not, he who has riches, but, he who is the servant of riches. For he who is the slave of money, guards his money as a slave; but he who has thrown off the yoke of his slavery, despenses them as a master.
Gloss. ord.: By "mammon" is meant the Devil, who is the lord of money, not that he can bestow them unless where God wills, but because by means of them he deceives men.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 14: Whoso serves "mammon," (that is, riches,) verily serves him, who, being for desert of his perversity set over these things of earth, is called by the Lord, "The prince of this world."
Or otherwise; who the two masters are He shews when He says, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon," that is to say, God and the Devil. "Either" then man "will hate the one, and love the other," namely, God; "or, he will endure the one and despise the other." For he who is mammon’s servant endures a hard master; for ensnared by his own lust he has been made subject to the Devil, and loves him not. As one whose passions have connected him with another man’s handmaid, suffers a hard slavery, yet loves not him whose handmaid he loves. But He said, "will despise," and not "will hate," the other, for none can with a right conscience hate God. But he despises, that is, fears Him not, as being certain of His goodness.
Ver 25. "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 15: The Lord had taught above, that whoso desires to love God, and to take heed not to offend, should not think that he can serve two masters; lest though perhaps he may not look for superfluities, yet his heart may become double for the sake of very necessaries, and his thoughts bent to obtain them.
"Therefore I say unto you, Be not ye careful for your life what ye shall eat, or for your body what ye shall put on."
Chrys.: He does not hereby mean that the spirit needs food, for it is incorporeal, but He speaks according to common usage, for the soul cannot remain in the body unless the body be fed.
Aug.: Or we may understand the soul in this place to be put for the animal life.
Jerome: Some manuscripts, add here, "nor what ye shall drink." [ed. note, b: vid. Exod. xv. 34. and infra v. 31. The clause is also omitted by other versions, by Erasmus, Mill, and Bengel. Wetstein retains.] That which belongs naturally to all animals alike, to brutes and beasts of burden as well as to man, from all thought of this we are not freed. But we are bid not to be anxious what we should eat, for in the sweat of our face we earn our bread; the toil is to be undergone, the anxiety put away. This "Be not careful," is to be taken of bodily food and clothing; for the food and clothing of the spirit it becomes us to be always careful.
Aug., De Haeres., 57: There are certain heretics called Euchitae [ed. note, c: The Euchites, who were so called from their profession of prayer, were properly fanatical Monks of the fourth and following centuries, but their name is often taken as synonymous with Mystics. They were of oriental origin, and disparaged, if not denied, the efficacy of Baptism.], who hold that a monk may not do any work even for his support; who embrace this profession that they may be freed from necessity of daily labour.
Aug., De Op. Monach. 1 et seq.: For they say the Apostle did not speak of personal labour, such as that of husbandmen or craftsmen, when he said, "Who will not work, neither let him eat." [2 Thes 3:10] For he could not be so contrary to the Gospel where it is said, "Therefore I say unto you, Be not careful." Therefore in that saying of the Apostle we are to understand spiritual works, of which it is elsewhere said, "I have planted, Apollos watereth." [1 Corinthians 3:6]
And thus they think themselves obedient to the Apostolic precept, interpreting the Gospel to speak of not taking care for the needs of the body, and the Apostle to speak of spiritual labour and food. First let us prove that the Apostle meant that the servants of God should labour with the body. He had said, "Ye yourselves know how ye ought to imitate us in that we were not troublesome among you, nor did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but travailing in labour and weariness day and night, that we might not be burdensome to any of you. Not that we have not power, but that we might offer ourselves as a pattern to you which ye should imitate. For when we were among you, this we taught among you, that if a man would not work, neither should he eat."
What shall we say to this, since he taught by his example when he delivered in precept, in that he himself wrought with his own hands. This is proved from the Acts [Acts 18:3], where it is said, that he abode with Aquila and his wife Priscilla, "labouring with them, for they were tent-makers."
And yet to the Apostle, as a preacher of the Gospel, a soldier of Christ, a planter of the vineyard, a shepherd of his flock, the Lord had appointed that he should live of the Gospel, but he refused that payment which was justly his due, that he might present himself an example to those who exacted what was not due to them. Let those hear this who have not that power which he had; namely, of eating bread for nought, and only labouring with spiritual labour. If indeed they be Evangelists, if ministers of the Altar, if dispensers of the Sacraments, they have this power.
Or if they had in this world possessions, whereby they might without labour have supported themselves, and had on their turning to God distributed this to the needy, then were their infirmity to be believed and to be borne with. And it would not import whatever place it was in which he made the distribution, seeing there is but one commonwealth of all Christians.
But they who enter the profession of God’s service from the country life, from the workman’s craft, or the common labour, if they work not, are not to be excused. For it is by no means fitting that in that life in which senators become labourers, there should labouring men become idle; or that where lords of farms come having given up their luxuries, there should rustic slaves come to find luxury.
But when the Lord says, "Be not ye careful," He does not mean that they should not procure such things as they have need of, wherever they may honestly, but that they should not look to these things, and should not for their sake do what they are commanded to do in preaching the Gospel; for this intention He had a little before called the eye.
Chrys.: Or we may connect the context otherwise; When the Lord had inculcated contempt of money, that none might say, How then shall we be able to live when we have given up our all? He adds, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life."
Gloss. interlin.: That is, Be not withdrawn by temporal cares from things eternal.
Jerome: The command is therefore, "not to be anxious what we shall eat." For it is also commanded, that in the sweat of our face we must eat bread. Toil therefore is enjoined, carking forbidden.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Bread may not be gained by carefulness of spirit, but by toil of body; and to them that will labour it abounds, God bestowing it as a reward of their industry; and is lacking to the idle, God withdrawing it as punishment of their sloth. The Lord also confirms our hope, and descending first from the greater to the less, says, "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
Jerome: He who has given the greater, will He not also give the less?Pseudo-Chrys.: For had He not willed that which was should be preserved, He had not created it; but what He so created that it should be preserved by food, it is necessary that He give it food, as long as He would have it to be preserved.
Hilary: Otherwise; Because the thoughts of the unbelievers were ill-employed respecting care of things future, cavilling concerning what is to be the appearance of our bodies in the resurrection, what the food in the eternal life, therefore He continues, "Is not the life more than food?" He will not endure that our hope should hang in care for the meat and drink and clothing that is to be in the resurrection, lest there should be affront given to Him who has given us the more precious things, in our being anxious that He should also give us the lesser.
Ver 26. "Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?27. Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?"
Pseudo-Chrys.: Having confirmed our hope by this arguing from the greater to the less, He next confirms it by an argument from less to greater, "Behold the fowls of the air, they sow not, neither do they reap."
Aug., De Op. Monach., 23: Some argue that they ought not to labour, because the fowls of the air neither sow nor reap. Why then do they not attend to that which follows, "neither gather into barns? Why do they seek to have their hands idle, and their storehouses full? Why indeed do they grind corn, and dress it? For this do not the birds.
Or even if they find men whom they can persuade to supply them day by day with victuals ready prepared, at least they draw water from the spring, and set on table for themselves, which the birds do not. But if neither are they driven to fill themselves vessels with water, then have they gone one new step of righteousness beyond those who were at that time at Jerusalem, [margin note: see Acts 11:29] who of corn sent to them of free gift, made, or caused to be made, loaves, which the birds do not. But not to lay up any thing for the morrow cannot be observed by those, who for many days together withdrawn from the sight of men, and suffering none to approach to them, shut themselves up, to live in much fervency of prayer.
What? will you say that the more holy men become, the more unlike the birds of the air in this respect they become? What He says respecting the birds of the air, He says to this end, that none of His servants should think that God has no thought of their wants, when they see Him so provide even for these inferior creatures. Neither is it not God that feeds those that earn their bread by their own labour; neither because God hath said, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver thee," [Psalms 50:15] ought the Apostle therefore not to have fled, but to have remained still to have been seized, that God might save him as He did the Three Children out of the midst of the fire.
Should any object in this sort to the saints in their flight from persecution, they would answer that they ought not to tempt God, and that God, if He pleased, would so do to deliver them as He had done Daniel from the lions, Peter from prison, then when they could no longer help themselves; but that in having made flight possible to them, should they be saved by flight, it was by God that they were saved. In like manner, such of God’s servants as have strength to earn their food by the labour of their hands, would easily answer any who should object to them this out of the Gospel concerning the birds of the air, that they neither sow nor reap; and would say, If we by sickness or any other hindrance are not able to work, He will feed us as He feeds the birds, that work not. But when we can work, we ought not to tempt God, seeing that even this our ability is His gift; and that we live here we live of His goodness that has made us able to live; He feeds us by whom the birds of the air are fed; as He says, "Your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much greater value?"
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 15: Ye are of more value, because a rational animal, such as man is, is higher in the scale of nature than an irrational, such as are the birds of the air.
Aug., City of God, xi, 16: Indeed a higher price is often given for a horse than a slave, for a jewel than for a waiting maid, but this not from reasonable valuation, but from the need of the person requiring, or rather from his pleasure desiring it.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For God created all animals for man, but man for himself; therefore by how much the more precious is the creation of man, so much the greater is God’s care for him. If then the birds without toiling find food, shall man not find, to whom God has given both knowledge of labour and hope of fruitfulness?
Jerome: There be some who, seeking to go beyond the limits of their fathers, and to soar into the air, sink into the deep and are drowned. These will have the birds of the air to mean the Angels, and the other powers in the ministry of God, who without any care of their own are fed by God’s providence.
But if this be indeed as they would have it, how follows it, said to men, "Are not ye of more worth than they?" It must be taken then in the plain sense; If birds that today are, and tomorrow are not, be nourished by God’s providence, without thought or toil of their own, how much more men to whom eternity is promised!
Hilary: It may be said, that under the name of birds, He exhorts us by the example of the unclean spirits, to whom, without any trouble of their own in seeking and collecting it, provision of life is given by the power of the Eternal Wisdom. And to lead us to refer this to the unclean spirits, He suitably adds, "Are not ye of much more value than they?" Thus shewing the great interval between piety and wickedness.
Gloss., non occ.: He teaches us not only by the instance of the birds, but adds a further proof, that to our being and life our own care is not enough, but Divine Providence therein works; saying, "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?"
Pseudo-Chrys.: For it is God who day by day works the growth of your body, yourself not feeling it. If then the Providence of God works thus daily in your very body, how shall that same Providence withhold from working in necessaries of life? And if by taking thought you cannot add the smallest part to your body, how shall you by taking thought be altogether saved?
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 15: Or it may be connected with what follows it; as though He should say, It was not by our care that our body was brought to its present stature; so that we may know that if we desired to add one cubit to it, we should not be able. Leave then the care of clothing that body to Him who made it to grow to its present stature.
Hilary: Otherwise; As by the example of the spirits He had fixed our faith in the supply of food for our lives, so now by a decision of common understanding He cuts off all anxiety about supply of clothing. Seeing that He it is who shall raise in one perfect man every various kind of body that ever drew breath, and is alone able to add one or two or three cubits to each man’s stature; surely in being anxious concerning clothing, that is, concerning the appearance of our bodies, we offer affront to Him who will add so much to each man’s stature as shall bring all to an equality.
Aug., City of God, book xxii, ch. 15: But if Christ rose again with the same stature with which He died, it is impious to say that when the time of the resurrection of all shall come, there shall be added to His body a bigness that it had not at His own resurrection, (for He appeared to His disciples with that body in which He had been known among them,) such that He shall be equalled to the tallest among men.
If again we say that all men’s bodies, whether tall or short, shall be alike brought to the size and stature of the Lord’s body, then much will perish from many bodies, though He has declared that "not a hair shall fall." It remains therefore that each be raised in his own stature - that stature which he had in youth, if he died in old age; if in childhood that stature to which he would have attained had he lived. For the Apostle says not, ’To the measure of the stature,’ but, "To the measure of the full age of Christ." [Ephesians 4:13] For the bodies of the dead shall rise in youth and maturity to which we know that Christ attained. [ed. note: Hence the Roman Catholics teach that "men shall rise at a perfect age, which is thirty three;" vid. Bp. Doyle’s Christian Doctrine.]
Ver 28. "And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:29. And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.30. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
Chrys.: Hom., xxii: Having shewn that it is not right to be anxious about food, He passes to that which is less; (for raiment is not so necessary as food;) and asks, "And why are ye careful wherewith ye shall be clothed?" He uses not here the instance of the birds, when He might have drawn some to the point, as the peacock, or the swan, but brings forward the lilies, saying, "Consider the lilies of the field." He would prove in two things the abundant goodness of God; to wit, the richness of the beauty with which they are clothed, and the mean value of the things so clothed with it.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 15: The things instanced are not to be allegorized so that we enquire what is denoted by the birds of the air, or the lilies of the field; they are only examples to prove God’s care for the greater from His care for the less.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For lilies within a fixed time are formed into branches, clothed in whiteness, and endowed with sweet odour, God conveying by an unseen operation, what the earth had not given to the root. But in all the same perfectness is observed, that they may not be thought to have been formed by chance, but may be known to be ordered by God’s providence. When He says, "They toil not," He speaks for the comfort of men; "Neither do they spin," for the women.
Chrys.: He forbids not labour but carefulness, both here and above when He spoke of sowing.
Gloss, non occ.: And for the greater exaltation of God’s providence in those things that are beyond human industry, He adds, "I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these."
Jerome: For, in sooth, what regal purple, what silk, what web of divers colours from the loom, may vie with flowers? What work of man has the red blush of the rose? the pure white of the lily? How the Tyrian dye yields to the violet, sight alone and not words can express.
Chrys.: As widely as truth differs from falsehood, so widely so our clothes differ from flowers. If then Solomon, who was more eminent than all other kings, was yet surpassed by flowers, how shall you exceed the beauty of flowers by your garments? And Solomon was exceeded by the flowers not once only, or twice, but throughout his whole reign; and this is that He says, "In all his glory;" for no one day was he arrayed as are the flowers.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Or the meaning may be, that Solomon though he toiled not for his own raiment, yet he gave command for the making of it. But where command is, there is often found both offence of them that minister, and wrath of him that commands. When then any are without these things, then they are arrayed as are the lilies.
Hilary: Or; By the lilies are to be understood the eminences of the heavenly Angels, to whom a surpassing radiance of whiteness is communicated by God. "They toil not, neither do they spin," because the angelic powers received in the very first allotment of their existence such a nature, that as they were made so they should ever continue to be; and when in the resurrection men shall be like unto Angels, He would have them look for a covering of angelic glory by this example of angelic excellence.
Pseudo-Chrys.: If God then thus provides for the flowers of the earth which only spring up, that they may be seen and die, shall He overlook men whom He has created not to be seen for a time, but that they should be for ever?
Jerome: Tomorrow in Scripture is put for time future in general. Jacob says, "So shall my righteousness answer for me tomorrow." [Genesis 30:33] And in the phantasm of Samuel, the Pythoness says to Saul, "Tomorrow shalt thou be with me." [1 Samuel 28:19]
Gloss: Some copies have "into the fire," or, "into an heap," which has the appearance of an oven.
Chrys.: He calls them no more lilies, but "the grass of the field," to shew their small worth; and adds moreover another cause of their small value; "which today is." And He said not, "and tomorrow is not," but what is yet greater fall, "is cast into the oven." In that He says "How much more you," is implicitly conveyed the dignity of the human race, as though He had said, You to whom He has given a soul, for whom He has contrived a body, to whom He has sent Prophets and gave His Only-begotten Son.
Gloss: He says, "of little faith," for that faith is little which is not sure of even the least things.
Hilary: Or, under the signification of grass the Gentiles are pointed to. If then an eternal existence is only therefore granted to the Gentiles, that they may soon be handed over to the judgment fires; how impious it is that the saints should doubt of attaining to eternal glory, when the wicked have eternity bestowed on them for their punishment.
Remig.: Spiritually, by the birds of the air are meant the Saints who are born again in the water of holy Baptism; [ed. note: Vid. the Breviary Hymn, Magnae Deus Potentiae] and by devotion raise themselves above the earth and seek the skies. The Apostles are said to be of more value than these, because they are the heads of the Saints.
By the lilies also may be understood the Saints, who without the toil of legal ceremonies pleased God by faith alone; of whom it is said, "My Beloved, who feedeth among the lilies." [Cant 2:16] Holy Church also is understood by the lilies, because of the whiteness of its faith, and the odour of its good conversation, of which it is said in the same place, "As the lily among the thorns."
By the grass are denoted the unbelievers, of whom it is said, "The grass hath dried up, and the flowers thereof faded." [Isaiah 40:7]
By the oven eternal damnation; so that the sense be, If God bestows temporal goods on the unbelievers, how much more shall He bestow on you eternal goods!
Ver 31. "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?32. (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Gloss, non occ.: Having thus expressly cut off all anxiety concerning food and raiment, by an argument drawn from observation of the inferior creation, He follows it up by a further prohibition; "Be not ye therefore careful, saying, What shall we eat, what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed?"
Remig.: The Lord repeated this, that He might shew how highly necessary this precept is, and that He might inculcate it more strongly on our hearts.
Rabanus: It should be observed that He does not say, Do not ye seek, or be thoughtful for, food drink, and raiment, but "what ye shall eat, what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed." Wherein they seem to me to be convicted, who, using themselves the usual food and clothing, require of those with whom they live either greater sumptuousness, or greater austerity in both.
Gloss, non occ.: There is also a further needless solicitude wherein men sin, when they lay by of produce or money more than necessity requires, and leaving spiritual things, are intent on these things, as though despairing of the goodness of God; this is what is forbidden; "for after all these things do the Gentiles seek."
Pseudo-Chrys.: Since their belief is that it is Fortune and not Providence that has place in human affairs, and think not that their lives are directed by God’s counsel, but follow the uncertain chance, they accordingly fear and despair, as having none to guide them. But he who believes that he is guided by God’s counsel, entrusts his provision of food to God’s hand; as it follows, "for your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things."
Chrys.: He said not ’God knoweth,’ but, "Your Father knoweth," in order to lead them to higher hope; for if He be their Father, He will not endure to forget his children, since not even human fathers could do so. He says, "That ye have need of all these things," in order that for that very reason, because they are necessary, ye may the more lay aside all anxiety. For he who denies his son bare necessaries, after what fashion is he a father? But for superfluities they have no right to look with the like confidence.
Aug., De Trin., xv, 13: God did not gain this knowledge at any certain time, but before all time, without beginning of knowledge, foreknew that the things of the world would be, and among others, both what and when we should ask of Him.
Aug., City of God, xii, 18: As to what some say that these things are so many that they cannot be compassed by the knowledge of God; they ought with like reason to maintain further that God cannot know all numbers which are certainly infinite. But infinity of number is not beyond the compass of His understanding, who is Himself infinite.
Therefore if whatever is compassed by knowledge, is bounded by the compass of him that has the knowledge, then is all infinity in a certain unspeakable way bounded by God, because it is not incomprehensible by His knowledge.
Nemesius, De Nat. Hom., 42: That there is a Providence, is shewn by such signs as the following; The continuance of all things, of those things especially which are in a state of decay and reproduction, and the place and order of all things that exist is ever preserved in one and the same state; and how could this be done unless by some presiding power? But some affirm that God does indeed care for the general continuance of all things in the universe, and provides for this, but that all particular events depend on contingency.
Now there are but three reasons that can be alleged for God exercising no providence of particular events; either God is ignorant that it is good to have knowledge of particular things; or He is unwilling; or He is unable. But ignorance is altogether alien from blessed substance; for how shall God not know what every wise man knows, that if particulars were destroyed, the whole would be destroyed? But nothing prevents all individuals from perishing; when no power watches over them. If again, He be unwilling, this must be from one of two reasons; inactivity, or the meanness of the occupation. But inactivity is produced by two things; either we are drawn aside by some pleasure, or hindered by some fear, neither of which can be piously supposed of God. If they affirm that it would be unbecoming, for that it is beneath such blessedness to stoop to things so trifling, how is it not inconsistent that a workman overseeing the whole of any machine, leaves no part however insignificant without attention, knowing the whole is but made up of the parts, and thus pronounce God the Creator of all things to be less wise than craftsmen? But if it be that He is unable, then is He unable to bestow benefits on us. But if we are unable to comprehend the manner of special Providence, we have not therefore any right to deny its operation; we might as well say that, because we did not know the number of mankind, therefore there were no men.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Thus then let him who believes himself to be under the rule of God’s counsel, commit his provision into God’s hand; but let him meditate of good and evil, which if he do not, he will neither shun the evil, nor lay hold of the good.
Therefore it is added, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." The kingdom of God is the reward of good works; His righteousness is the way of piety by which we go to that kingdom. If then you consider how great is the glory of the Saints, you will either through fear of punishment depart from evil, or through desire of glory hasten to good. And if you consider that is the righteousness of God, what He loves, and what He hates, the righteousness itself will shew you His ways, as it attends on those that love it. And the account we shall have to render is not whether we have been poor or rich, but whether we have done well or ill, which is in our own power.
Gloss., interlin.: Or, He says "his righteousness," as though He were to say, ’Ye are made righteous through Him, and not through yourselves.’
Pseudo-Chrys.: The earth for man’s sin is accursed that it should not put forth fruit, according to that in Genesis, "Cursed is the ground in thy works;" [Genesis 3:17] but when we do well, then it is blessed. Seek righteousness therefore, and thou shalt not lack food. Wherefore it follows, "and all these things shall be added unto you."
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 16: To wit, these temporal goods which are thus manifestly shewn not to be such goods as those goods of ours for the sake of which we ought to do well; and yet they are necessary. The kingdom of God and His righteousness is our good which we ought to make our end.
But since in order to attain this end we are militant in this life, which may not be lived without supply of these necessaries, He promises, "These things shall be added unto you." That He says, "first," implies that these are to be sought second not in time, but in value; the one is our good, the other necessary to us.
For example, we ought not to preach that we may eat, for so we should hold the Gospel as of less value than our food; but we should therefore eat that we may preach the Gospel. But if we "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," that is, set this before all other things, and seek other things for the sake of this, we ought not to be anxious lest we should lack necessaries; and therefore He says, "All these things shall be added unto you;" that is, of course, without being an hindrance to you: that you may not in seeking them be turned away from the other, and thus set two ends before you.
Chrys.: And He said not, Shall be given, but, "Shall be added," that you may learn that the things that are now, are nought to the greatness of the things that shall be.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 17: But when we read that the Apostle suffered hunger and thirst, let us not think that God’s promises failed him; for these things are rather aids. That Physician to whom we have entirely entrusted ourselves, knows when He will give and when He will withhold, as He judges most for our advantage. So that should these things ever be lacking to us, (as God to exercise us often permits,) it will not weaken our fixed purpose, but rather confirm it when wavering.
Ver 34. "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
Gloss., ap. Anselm: Having forbid anxiety for the things of the day, He now forbids anxiety for future things, such a fruitless care as proceeds from the fault of men, in these words, "Be not ye anxious about the morrow."
Jerome: Tomorrow in Scripture signifies time future, as Jacob in Genesis says, "Tomorrow shall my righteousness hear me." [Genesis 35:33] And in the phantasm of Samuel the Pythoness says to Saul, "Tomorrow shalt thou be with me." [1 Samuel 28:19]
He yields therefore unto them that they should care for things present, though He forbids them to take thought for things to come. For sufficient for us is the thought of time present; let us leave to God the future which is uncertain. And this is that He says, "The morrow shall be anxious for itself;" that is, it shall bring its own anxiety with it. "For sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." By evil He means here not that which is contrary to virtue, but toil, and affliction, and the hardships of life.
Chrys.: Nothing brings so much pain to the spirit as anxiety and cark. That He says, "The morrow shall be anxious for itself," comes of desire to make more plain what He speaks; to that end employing a prosopopeia of time, after the practice of many in speaking to the rude populace; to impress them the more, He brings in the day itself complaining of its too heavy cares. Has not every day a burden enough of its own, in its own cares? why then do you add to them by laying on those that belong to another day?
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; By "today" are signified such things as are needful for us in this present life; "Tomorrow" denotes those things that are superfluous. "Be not ye therefore anxious for the morrow," thus means, Seek not to have aught beyond that which is necessary for your daily life, for that which is over and above, i.e. Tomorrow, shall care for itself.
"Tomorrow shall be anxious for itself," is as much as to say, when you have heaped up superfluities, they shall care for themselves, you shall not enjoy them, but they shall find many lords who shall care for them. Why then should you be anxious about those things, the property of which you must part with?
"Sufficient for the day is its own evil," as much as to say, The toil you undergo for necessaries is enough, do not toil for things superfluous.
Aug.: Or otherwise; Tomorrow is said only of time where future succeeds to past. When then we work any good work, we think not of earthly but of heavenly things. "The morrow shall be anxious for itself," that is, Take food and the like, when you ought to take it, that is when necessity begins to call for it.
"For sufficient for the day is its own evil," that is, it is enough that necessity shall compel to take these things; He calls it "evil," because it is penal, inasmuch as it pertains to our mortality, which we earned by sinning. To this necessity then of worldly punishment, add not further weight, that you may not only fulfil it, but may even so fulfil it as to shew yourself God’s soldier.
But herein we must be careful, that, when we see any servant of God endeavouring to provide necessaries either for himself, or those committed to his care, we do not straight judge him to sin against this command of the Lord in being anxious for the morrow. For the Lord Himself, to whom Angels ministered, thought good to carry a bag for example sake. And in the Acts of the Apostles it is written, that food necessary for life was provided for future time, at a time when famine threatened. What the Lord condemns therefore, is not the provision of these things after the manner of men, but if a man because of these things does not fight as God’s soldier.
Hilary: This is further comprehended under the full meaning of the Divine words. We are commanded not to be careful about the future, because sufficient for our life is the evil of the days wherein we live, that is to say, the sins, that all our thought and pains be occupied in cleansing this away. And if our care be slack, yet will the future be careful for itself, in that there is held out to us a harvest of eternal love to be provided by God.
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Aquinas, Thomas. "Commentary on Matthew 6". "Golden Chain Commentary on the Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany