Daniel's Seventy Weeks prophecy)
"The gospel both is, and is called holy, because all
the things which it contains are pre-eminently holy. Holy is the
birth of Christ by the Holy Spirit, holy is His teaching, holy
are His works, holy are His miracles, holy His passion,
resurrection and ascension, holy the sending of the Holy Spirit.
Daniel 9:24 alludes to this, where it is said that seventy weeks
of years must be fulfilled until Christ, that the saint of
saints (the holy of holies) may be anointed. That
is to say, by this book and in this gospel the prophecy of
Daniel about the coming of Christ, who is the holy of holies, is
shown to be fulfilled." (Introduction to Matthew)
Ludovicus ab Alcazar)
"From what has been said, it
would seem that Alcazar (in Apoc. vi. 1 2), from the expression
"thus" in this verse of S. Matthew, gathers incorrectly that all
the things which are here spoken of refer literally, not to the
end of the world, but to the destruction of Jerusalem. By the
darkening of the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars,
this writer understands literally the blindness of the Jews,
their calamities, and the slaughter which was made of them by
Titus. By the shaking of the powers of the heavens, he
understands the flight of the Christians from the city, by whose
holiness it was sustained. But every one can see that these
meanings are mystical and symbolical. " (Great Commentary of
Lapide, Vol. 3, p. 87)
"But," continues Cornelius a Lapide,
"Alcazar (a very celebrated interpreter) in his method refers
this passage to the Primitive Church : hence by the man-child he
understands the Roman Church. ' Romano enim Pontifici data est a
Christo VIRGA FERREA, qua regat omnes gentes Christianismo
Matthew 23:36-Matthew 24
Ver. 38. Behold your house, &c. That is, the Temple, says S.
Jerome and Theophylact ; but more correctly, the city of
54 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIII.
and the whole region of Judea, which, as the punishment of such
black ingratitude, was to be laid waste by the Romans, under
Titus. There is an allusion to Jer. xii. 7, " I have left my
house, I have forsaken my inheritance." For when Jerusalem was
forsaken by God, it became the synagogue of Satan, and so the
prey of the Roman eagles under Titus and Vespasian, who partly
slew the Jews, partly led them away captive, and partly
scattered them over the whole world.
For I say unto you, &c. " I will withdraw Myself from you into
Heaven ; and ye shall see Me no more upon earth, until the Day
of Judgment, when I will condemn your unbelief." Some take this
verse to refer to Christ s solemn entry into Jerusalem on Palm
Sunday, when the Jews cried aloud to Him, Hosanna^ Blessed is He
that cometh in the name of the Lord. But this is clearly an
erroneous opinion, for this triumphal entry was already past, as
is plain from chap. xxi. i, &c. These words were spoken by
Christ after Palm Sunday, three days before His crucifixion. So
the Fathers and Commentators, passim.
I say then that Christ is here speaking concerning the end of
the world and the Day of Judgment. This is the opinion of S.
Chrysostom, Theophylact, S. Augustine (de consens. Evang. lib.
2, cap. 75). As though He had said, "You, O ye Scribes, who
constantly contradict and calumniate Me, saying that I am not
the Messiah, but that I cast out devils by Beelzebub, shall not
see Me from by and by, that is, after the few days before My
death, in which I shall be conversant among you, until the
Judgment Day, when ye shall be compelled, even against your
will, to acknowledge Me as Messiah, the Son of God, and your
Judge as well as the Judge of all men and to cry Hosanna, if not
with your outward lips, at least in your hearts and minds,
though against your will. Then shall ye see that I was, and am
Blessed, I who came in the Name of the Lord, inasmuch as I was
sent by God the Father to redeem and save all mankind, then, I
say, when ye ought to have worshipped and adored Me."
Secondly, it is possible that this passage
may be understood of
THE END. 55
the Jews, who about the end of the world shall be converted to
Christ by the preaching of Elias, and who, when He shall
presently come to judgment, will acknowledge Him to be Messiah,
the Blessed of the Lord. As though He said, "You, O ye Jews, do
not wish to acknowledge Me as Messiah, and persecute Me as a
false Christ, even unto death ; but your posterity in the end of
the world will acknowledge and worship Me. On them, therefore, I
will bestow My grace and glory, but you I will condemn to
everlasting punishment. And this will be to my praise and honour
and glory, but to your shame and everlasting contempt." Thus
does Christ prick the hard and unbelieving hearts of the Jews.
This was prophesied by Osee iii. 4, &c., to which Christ here
And Jesus went out, &c., according to His custom at eventide, to
the Mount of Olives, to pass the night, and partake of food at
Bethany, in the house of Martha and Mary, after He had been
teaching all day without food in the Temple.
And His disciples, &c. The occasion was because Christ, at the
end of the preceding chapter, had predicted the destruction of
Jerusalem, and consequently of the Temple. The disciples there
fore, being amazed at this desolation of so great a city, show
Him the wonderful fabric of the Temple, its beauty and
magnificence, which seemed worthy of lasting for ever, in order
that they might move Christ to pity, and to revoke the sentence
of destruction. For this Temple was the wonder of the world, as
Josephus says (de Bello Jud. vi. 6), "Its exterior had
everything for the mind and the eye to admire. The roof was
entirely covered with very heavy gold plates. At sunrise it was
seen from afar with such a fiery splendour as to dazzle the eyes
of beholders, as though, they were gazing at the sun itself."
See S. Hilary, "After Christ had threatened the destruction of
Jerusalem, they show Him the magnificence of its construction,
as if He could be moved by the desire of it." So, too,
BEAUTY OF THE TEMPLE. 59
Origen, S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Jansen, and others. But none
of this magnificence moved Christ to recall His sentence. In
like manner God overthrew all the magnificence of Babylon,
Nineveh, Antioch, and Rome, as well on account of the wickedness
of their inhabitants, as that He might show that all such
splendour is transitory, and of little worth, that so He might
draw the minds of men to regard and desire the magnificence of
Heaven, which is far greater, as well as eternal.
Truly and piously saith S. Augustine, " He will not be a great
man who thinks it much that wood and stone should fail and
mortals die." Such were the thoughts with which S. Austin was
wont to comfort himself, when Hippo, the city of which he was
bishop, was besieged by the Vandals, and which was taken by them
and burnt after his death.
But Jesus said, &c. One stone shall not be left upon another.
This is a hyperbole, meaning, there shall be
utter and total destruction. The Romans did not spend so much
time upon the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple as not to
leave a stone upon a stone ; but yet it was burnt by them, and
destroyed in so effectual a manner, that it was razed to the
ground, and a plough caused to pass over its site, as S. Jerome
testifies on Zech. viii., and Josephus. And this is what Christ
Listen to Josephus (1. 7, Bell. c. 18),
"Titus bid them utterly destroy the city and the Temple. But
there was left standing the three towers, Hippicus, Phaselus,
and Mariamne, and that part of the wall of the city which
defended it on the west. This was done for the sake of the
garrison which he left. And the towers were allowed to stand, in
order to be a witness to posterity how strongly fortified was
the city which the valour of the Romans had captured. But the
remainder of the fortifications they so completely levelled with
the ground, that. persons who approached would scarcely have
believed that the city had ever been inhabited."
And as He sat, &c. Disciples : Mark speaks of four, viz., Peter,
James, John, and Andrew, who were on more intimate terms with
Christ, and admitted to His secrets. Privately, apart not only
60 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
the multitude, but from the rest of the
Apostles. The Syriac has, between themselves and Him. For it was
a matter full of danger to prophesy, indeed even to speak about,
the destruction of the Temple, on account of the Scribes and the
Magistrates. It was on account of this that the Jews stoned S.
Stephen. This is plain from Acts vi. 14.
Tell us : the Disciples here ask two things; the first, that
Christ would tell them when Jerusalem was to be destroyed ; the
second, when the destruction of the world and the Day of
Judgment would be, when He should come to judge all men. The
Disciples thought that Jerusalem and the Temple would be
destroyed at the glorious Advent and reign of Christ at the end
of the world, as if He were about to destroy them in punishment
and vengeance for His death. For they supposed that these three
things, namely, the destruction of the city, the end of the
world, and the Day of Judgment would all take place at the same
time. And as they knew from the words of Christ that the
destruction of the city was nigh at hand, they thought that the
end of the world and the Day of Judgment was also at hand. They
seemed to come to this conclusion from the words of Christ
(Matt. xxii. 7, 8, and xxiii. 5), where He seems to join all
those events together, and speak of them unitedly.
Let no man seduce you (Vulgate), i.e. t from faith in Me and My
For many shall come, &c. Such were, i. that Theudas, of whom in
Acts v. 36. 2. That Egyptian impostor, of whom Josephus (/. 2,
Bell. cap. 12) and Acts xxi. 38. 3. Simon Magus, of whom Acts
viii. 10, who, as S. Jerome asserts, was wont to say, " I am the
word of God : I am beautiful : I am the Paraclete : I am
Almighty : I am all in all." For this Simon, as Irenasus
testifies (lib. i, c. 20), used to say that he had appeared in
Judea as the Son, in Samaria as the Father, and had come down
among the; Gentiles as the Holy Ghost. Thus this proud Titan, as
it were another Lucifer, was wont to say that he was not only
Messiah, or Christ, but the whole Blessed Trinity. He it was
who, by his magic spectres, so deluded Nero and the Romans, that
a statue was erected to him at Rome, between
SIGNS OF THE END. 61
two bridges, with this inscription, To Simon, a great god. 4.
Such were Menander, Saturninus, the Gnostics, and the rest who
sprang from the family of Simon. Lastly, such will be
Antichrist, who will proclaim himself to the Jews to be Christ,
according to the words of the Lord in John v. 43, " If another
shall come in his own name, him ye will receive," which every
one understands of Antichrist, as S. Augustine says (Serm. 45,
de Verb. Dom.).
When ye shall hear of wars, &c. Rumours: reports ; Arab, news,
which are often more miserable than the battles themselves, and
more thoroughly torment the mind with the fear of evils to come,
even though they do not come. Here is another sign given by
Christ, prior to the destruction of the city and the world,
viz., tumults, wars, seditions, &c. Josephus shows that such
took place before the destruction of Jerusalem (lib. 2, de
Bello, cap. u). As S. Chrysostom says, " He declares there shall
be a twofold war, one by the seducers, the other by the
Take heed, &c. That through fear of the enemy ye do not depart
from My faith, or by despairing of fruit give up preaching the
Gospel; but with generous minds struggling against fear and all
opposition, go forward and proclaim faith in Me and My Gospel.
He adds the reason why the Apostles must not be troubled,
For all those things must be. The Greek has all, which the
Vulgate omits. But the end is not yet, the end of Jerusalem and
the Temple, much less of the world, also of the battles and
evils prior to the destruction of both. For the end of any one
battle or trouble will be but the beginning of some greater one,
as Josephus says happened at the siege of Jerusalem. Be not
troubled, or lose confidence, but have greater courage, that ye
may be prepared for the greater evils which shall follow, so as
to sustain and overcome them. Do not hope for peace on earth,
but by bearing troubles here, pass on to the eternal and happy
rest of Heaven.
For nations shall rise, c. For, as S. Jerome and Bede observe,
and S. Augustine (Epist. 80, ad Hesych.) Christ answers His
Apostles, who were asking in a confused manner about the
destruction of the city and the world, mingling the two events
together, after the
62 S. MATTHEW C. XXIV.
same way that they asked. This He does as far as the 15th verse.
And He did it with this object, that the Apostles and the
faithful might always be in suspense, and so carefully prepare
and fortify themselves for both events. From the 15th verse He
treats expressly of the destruction of Jerusalem, and the signs
which should precede it, up to the 26th verse. After that, up to
the end of the chapter, He speaks of the signs which shall
precede the end of the world. Now that He is speaking both of
the destruction of the city and the world in this verse, and as
far as the 15th, is manifest from the signs themselves, which
were to precede both. Therefore S. Hilary and S. Gregory (Hom, i,
in Evang.) and Irenaeus (/. 5, c. 25), understand them of the
destruction of the world.
For it shall be preceded by the most dreadful
tumults, battles, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, false
Christs. Again S. Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, rightly
understand them of the destruction of Jerusalem. This is plain
from S. Luke xxi. 8, 12, " But before all these things they
shall lay their hands upon you, and persecute you, bringing you
i?ito the synagogues" Which happened to the Apostles before the
destruction of Jerusalem, as we learn from the Acts of the
Apostles. Before that event, i. "nation rose up against nation."
After the Jews had captured and slaughtered the Roman garrison
of Jerusalem, almost immediately the inhabitants of Ascalon,
Ptolemais, Damascus, Alexandria, the Syrians, Romans, and all
the neighbouring nations rose up against them. And this state of
things continued until the most miserable destruction of
Jerusalem. See Josephus, Bell. Jud. passim.
2. That Judaea was afflicted with famine before the destruction
of the capital, is plain from Acts xi. 28.
3. Although Josephus says nothing about pestilences or earth
quakes, yet it is certain from this prophecy of Christ that they
must have happened. And both are usual concomitants of war and
S. Luke adds, "fearful sights and great signs shall there be
from Heaven." That these shall precede the destruction of the
world is plain from Apoc. chaps, viii. and ix. It is equally
certain that they
SIGNS RELATED BY JOSEPIIUS. 63
preceded the destruction of Jerusalem. For, i. a dreadful comet,
in the shape of a sword, hung over Jerusalem a whole year before
its destruction. 2. At the Passover, when the people were
gathered together, three hours after midnight, a light as bright
as noon-day shone for half an hour in the Temple. 3. A bullock
that was about to be offered in sacrifice brought forth a lamb.
4. The eastern gate of the Temple, made of brass, and so heavy
that it could be with difficulty closed by twenty men, opened of
its own accord at the hour of midnight. 5. There was seen in the
air the appearances of armies, chariots, and battles. 6. There
was heard at Pentecost the voices of angels, saying in the
Temple, "Let us depart hence." 7. An ignorant man of the lower
orders, Jesus the son of Ananus, began suddenly to cry aloud, "
A voice from the east, a voice from the west, a voice from the
four winds, a voice against Jerusalem and the Temple, a voice
against the bride grooms and the brides, a voice against the
whole people." And this he continued to cry night and day
without ceasing, perambulat ing all the streets of the city.
This he did for seven years, crying with a dreadful voice, like
one astonied, " Woe, woe to Jerusalem," until at last, when the
city was besieged by Titus, as he was crying upon the wall with
a louder voice than usual, " Woe to Jerusalem, to the Temple, to
the people, and to myself," he was struck by a stone hurled from
one of the military engines of the besiegers, and killed. For
all these things, see Josephus, Bell. 7. 12, andEusebius, H. E.
Ver. 8. All these . . . of sorrows ; Gr. wd/W, parturition
pangs, as S. Jerome renders in his comment. That is to say, the
greatest possible pains, such as women suffer in childbirth, and
from which many die. For like as it is in people about to die,
disease and pain increase gradually until the time of death ; so
did wars, famine, pestilence increase until the final
destruction of Jerusalem, as we know from Josephus. Thus also
shall it be before the end of the world. Says S. Ambrose, "
Because we are in the last times, diseases of the world shall go
before " (in Luc. xxi. 9).
Ver. 9. Then shall . . . to be afflicted . . . and shall hate
64 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
The Syriac puts hate first, because hate begets oppression. "
They shall torment and afflict you with various torments. You
will seem to be given up and dedicated to tribulation. All
nations in all places shall persecute you as revilers of their
gods, and as preachers of a new God, Christ crucified." This was
fulfilled under Nero, who raised the first persecution, and slew
the princes of the Apostles, S. Peter by the cross, S. Paul by
the sword, and burnt alive in the circus many Christians,
smearing them with grease and pitch, and setting them on fire,
so that they acted the part of lamps to give light during the
night. (Tac. Ann. /. 15.) Antichrist will do yet more horrible
things before the end of the world.
Then . . . offended, i.e., suffer stumbling-blocks, and fall.
The Syriac is, shall impinge upon scandals. That is, from fear
of persecution and torments shall apostatize from the faith of
Christ. That many did this we know from Eusebius and others.
And shall deliver one another up (Vulg.) ;
Syr. and English, shall betray one another. Apostates and other
heathen, to curry favour with the emperors and princes, shall
betray their Christian friends and relations. This is now the
case in England, Scotland, and Japan. Such are false brethren,
of whom S. Paul complains, 2 Cor. xi. 26. "You see," says S.
Chrysostom, "there shall be a triple war, one by enemies, a
second by seducers, a third by false brethren."
And many false prophets -false teachers, heresiarchs, such as
Simon Magus, Menander, Arius, Luther, and Antichrist the head of
them all. Shall seduce many (Vulg.), not by the strength of the
seducers, but by the negligence of the seduced. Thus S. Paul
foretold, Acts xx. 29, 30, " For I know this, that after my
departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing
the flock. Also of your own selves shall men* arise, speaking
per verse things, to draw away disciples after them."
Ver. 12. And because iniquity shall abound ; i.e., be multiplied
; Syr. on account of the multitude of iniquity,
THE GOSPEL IN ALL NATIONS. 65
that is to say, infidelity, heresy, persecution, tyranny, and
every kind of impurity, the love of many shall grow cold ; Syr.
shall languish; Arab, shall be diminished. It means, that they
who aforetime were warm with love to Christ and Christians, when
they see so many persecutions and afflictions of Christians,
will cease to be warm. Yea, they will grow cold. Their love will
be turned into hatred and disgust. Christ foretells all these
things that He may strengthen believers against all hardships
and trials, and make them firm as an adamantine rock.
But he that shall endure, viz., in the faith and love of Christ,
unto the end : both of tribulation, and persecution, and of
life, and who is of invincible patience, so as to yield to no*
terrors, or blandishments, or torments, shall be saved. The one
only remedy and triumph over all these evils is a generous
constancy and perseverance in faith and charity. For he who
endures all these things is he who conquers and overcomes, as
appears by the Apostles, S. Laurence, S. Vincent, S. Sebastian,
and the rest of the martyrs. Therefore this saying should be
adopted by a believer, "Yield not to calamities, but advance
boldly against them."
Ver. 14. And this Gospel, &c. This was fulfilled before the
destruction of Jerusalem, for a witness unto all nations. For
thereby God testified unto all nations His love towards the
Jews, and their perfidy to Christ. And the calling of the
Gentiles for that reason into their place, and this election of
the Gentiles in place of the Jews, was just, as S. Chrysostom
proves from Rom. i. 8, " Your faith is spoken of throughout the
whole world ; " and "Their sound is gone .out into all lands,
and their words unto the ends of the world." And from Col. i. 6,
"Which (Gospel) is come unto you, and beareth fruit in you, as
it doth in all the world."
But this must be understood hyperbolically, meaning, that before
the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, the Gospel was
promulgated in the greatest number and chief countries and
provinces of the world, not in every small and remote spot.
Wherefore S. Jerome,
66 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
Bede, and other Fathers teach that this will clearly and fully
take place before the end of the world. " The end must here be
taken absolutely ; and before the end of the world the Gospel
will be preached throughout the whole world, so that Churches
will be founded among all nations, and dioceses and bishops
created. This it is allowed did not take place before the
destruction of Jerusalem. And all this shall be done for a
witness, or testimony to all nations. God will thereby make
known unto all nations His loving Providence, in that He hath
shut out no nation, however barbarous and impious, from faith in
Christ, from grace and salvation, but hath loved all, and cared
for all, and hath called them at suitable times, and therefore
hath omitted nothing which is needful for the salvation of all
nations. And likewise, in the day of judgment, He will condemn
all nations, who have refused to believe in Him, and obey Him.
From this prophecy of Christ, S. Jerome, Suarez, and others
teach that this will be a sure sign of the near approach of the
end of the world, namely, the preaching of the Gospel throughout
the whole world in such a manner, that the Church shall be
founded everywhere, and shall have everywhere Christian members,
clergy, temples, Priests. And although Maldonatus and Franc.
Lucas deny this as to its full extent, as being in this place
certainly declared by Christ, yet it is absolutely true, thus
far, that the Church shall be founded in all nations, and will
for some time before the end be established amongst them. But
for how long a time is uncertain, and known only to God.
Moreover, because we see that about 150 years ago, a new world,
America, was discovered by the Spaniards, and that Christopher
Columbus and Vespucci sailed to and opened out the West Indies,
which constitute half the globe, and that the Gospel has been
propagated in almost every portion of this new world, we may
gather from hence that we are sensibly coming near to the end of
the world. For of the rest of the globe, no part remains which
has not, at some time or other, received the faith of Christ,
except perhaps China. And even there Nicolas
ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION. 67
Trigaltius shows by certain proofs (Lib. de Fide in China
propagata) there were formerly Christians and Christian
Churches. The same thing is proved by the inscription upon a
stone which has lately been discovered in China, which plainly
testifies that the Gospel was preached there by Apostolic men.
Ver. 15. When therefore . . . the abomination of desolation^
i.e., the abominable desolation ; Syr. the unclean portent of
destruction. What this was I have explained at length on Dan.
ix. 27. Some under stand by it an idol placed in the Temple ;
others, Antichrist himself, who will desire to be worshipped in
the Temple as God; others, more correctly, the Roman armies
which besieged Jerusalem, and which, shortly afterwards, when it
had been captured, fearfully wasted it, and made it desolate.
The profanation of the Temple by the murders and other crimes
which were perpetrated in it by the seditious and wicked Jews,
who called themselves Zealots of the law and of liberty, may
also be intended.
Thus far Christ has given His Apostles signs in common, which
were to precede both the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of
the world. He now goes on to give special signs which were to
precede the siege of Jerusalem by Titus. Wherefore Christ warns
Jews and Christians alike, when they beheld these signs, to flee
immediately to the mountains not of Judaea, for they were
occupied by Roman soldiers (Jos. Bell. L 3. c. 12, and/. 4. c.
2), but those beyond Judaea, that they might thus escape the approaching
overthrow of the city. In this way the Christians, mindful of
this prediction of Christ, and warned by a Divine oracle (Eus.
H. E I. 3. c. 15), fled across the Jordan, to a city named Pella
(S. Epiphan. Hares. 29 and 30), and even carried their property
thither, as well as the episcopal Chair of S. James. Eusebius
says that this Chair was preserved down to his own time (H. E.
7. 15). If this Chair had remained at Jerusalem, it must have
been burnt with everything else. In these events we may see the
singular providence of God over Christians, and His anger
against the Jews. For, when the Roman army came, the Jews and
Galilaeans fled in crowds to Jerusalem, as to a place
68 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
of refuge, thinking that there they would be safe. But God
gathered them together there that they might be killed by the
Let him which is on the house-top for the Jewish roofs were
flat, so that they could walk and sleep upon them not come down,
but flee suddenly, so that he may save his life, and lose
For so great and so sudden shall be this destruction of Judaea
and Jerusalem by the Romans, that it were better for a man to
flee away naked, than, by wishing to save his goods, to expose
himself to danger. The sentence is hyperbolical, signifying how
swiftly men ought to fly from the fearful impending calamity.
Thus, " Let him that is on the house-top not come down gradually
by means of ladders, but let him descend by one leap, or let
himself down, very swiftly by a rope, that he may escape the
coming destruction." For, hyperbole apart, the Jews had some
little time given them to escape. In the first place, Cestius
Callus, who was sent by Nero, besieged Jerusalem, but he was
routed by the Jews, and put to flight. Six months afterwards,
Vespasian was sent by the same emperor,. Nero. He subdued
Galilee, and stormed all the other Jewish cities except
Jerusalem. In this work he spent three years. When he was
preparing for the siege of Jerusalem, tidings came to him of the
death of Nero. Then Vespasian was proclaimed emperor by the
army, and returned to Rome, to take charge of the State, commit
ting the conclusion of the war to his son Titus, who, after half
a year, besieged Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, and took
it in six months, and burnt and destroyed it. This half-year, in
which the Romans carried on the war less vigorously, was spent
by the Jews in internecine strife. For, first, the Zealots
seized the Temple, filling it with the murdered corpses of their
fellow-citizens. To the Zealots succeeded Simon of Gerasa, the
head of a new sedition. Being sent by the people into Jerusalem
to restrain the Zealots, he turned his hand in slaughter and
rapine against the citizens. There was then sufficient space
after the approach of the Roman armies for the Jews to save
their goods and flee; but Christ advises immediate flight, as
well to signify how dreadful the calamity would
ON THE HOUSE-TOP. 69
be, as well as because, when the Roman armies were once in
Judaea, and spreading themselves over the land, there would be
no safe place to flee unto. For the fugitives constantly fell
into the hands of the Roman soldiers, by whom they were
despoiled and slaughtered, as Josephus relates at length in the
history of the Jewish wars.
This most dreadful destruction of Jerusalem was an express type
and prelude of the end of the world, just as were Noah s deluge,
the burning of Sodom, and the drowning of Pharaoh and his host
in the Red Sea.
Mystically: Pope Adrian I., in his Epistle to Charles, King of
France, says, " He upon the house-top is he who, leaving carnal
things, lives spiritually, as it were, in a free atmosphere.
This man s furniture lies idle in the house, because with his
mind rising above the body, by the force of his understanding
being, as it were, placed upon the house-top, he enjoys through
the perspicuity of his wisdom an unbroken view, as it were, of
He that is in the field . . . clothes ; Gr. //xar/oi/, i.e.,
cloak or outer garment. For men who labour in the fields are
wont to leave their upper garments at home, so as to be able to
work more expeditiously. In like manner, when the destruction of
Jerusalem is impending, flee away swiftly, and half-naked, if
you are so at the time, that you may escape the great and
terrible slaughter. The expression is hyperbolical, and similar
to the one in the previous verse. Both signify that they were to
leave everything, even their clothes, and flee away as swiftly
as possible, for so the greatness of the calamity is intimated.
The prophets make use of a similar expression under similar
circumstances. Thus Jeremiah, in the slaughter of the Egyptians
by the Chaldeans (xlvi. 5), " Wherefore have I seen them
dismayed and turned away back? And their mighty ones are beaten
down, and are fled apace, and look not back : for fear was round
about, saith the LORD." *
Ver. 19. But woe to them that are with child, &c. Because the
* This quotation has only a general reference to flight.
70 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
burden of their children would hinder their flight, so that they
would be" taken and slain by the savage Roman soldiers, together
with their little ones. So S. Chrysostom and others. Theophylact
adds that there is a further allusion to the severity of the
famine, by reason of which some women were constrained to devour
their infants in the siege of Jerusalem. As Josephus testifies
(Bell. 7. 8) f> Christ declares the Tearfulness of the vengeance
and destruction of Jerusalem, that even women with child and
infants would not be spared, as is customary in the siege and
capture of other cities.
But pray ye^ &c. In winter: because flight is difficult, on
account of the cold, snow, rain, and tempests. For this reason
flight is then impossible to the sick and aged. Or, if
attempted, it ends in death. On the Sabbath: because then it was
not lawful for the Jews to walk more than about 700 paces, as I
have shown in Acts i. 12.
You will say that the Sabbath, as well as other ordinances of
the Law, had been already abrogated by Christ when Jerusalem was
destroyed by Titus ; and even if they had not been abrogated, it
would have been allowed by the law of nature that persons should
go many miles to save their lives.
I answer: Christ is speaking of Jews, and Christians who still
judaized, who were wont to observe the Sabbath with such
over-scrupulosity, that they preferred to die rather than flee
or defend themselves against the attacks of their enemies upon
the Sabbath (see i Mace. ii. 34, &c.). And the Jews and
judaizing Christians would observe the Law although it had been
abrogated by Christ before the capture of Jerusalem. I may add
that when the legal observances were abrogated by Christ at
Pentecost, they were thenceforward dead, and were no longer
binding ; but they did not immediately become deadly, but it was
permitted the Jews who were converted to Christ still to keep
them for several years, out of reverence for Moses and the Law,
until, being better instructed in evangelical liberty, they
passed into perfect union with the Gentiles in the Church of
Christ, as I have said in Gal. ii. So S. Chrysostom. Theophylact,
THE GREAT TRIBULATION. J\
Christ here alludes to the capture of Jerusalem, which was to
take place upon the Sabbath, as Dio Cassius asserts in his
account of Nero. Indeed, one Caspar Sanchez (in Zach. 14, num.
27) takes the words literally, as though Christ foretold that
the Jews would take to flight upon the Sabbath, because
Jerusalem was to be taken on that day. But Christ is here giving
signs which were to precede the destruction of Jerusalem, so
that men might flee away and escape, as I have already said. But
in the actual siege and destruction, Titus had so completely
encompassed the city by a wall, that it was impossible to flee
out of it, as Josephus testifies.
Then shall be great tribulation, &c. Some, with S. Augustine
(Epist. 80, ad Hesych.), confine the words, such as was not, nor
ever shall be, to the Jews (for Christ thus far has been
speaking of them), meaning that neither in the Egyptian, nor the
Assyrian, nor the Babylonian, nor the Syrian distress under
Antiochus Epiphanes, had they suffered such slaughter as they
should suffer under Titus and the Romans; yea, that they never
would suffer anything so terrible, because Titus would bring
upon them the extremity of destruction and desolation which were
to continue until the end of the world.
With greater latitude others think that this destruction of the
Jews by Titus is to be considered as more terrible than the
destruction and punishment which befell any other nation
whatsoever. For the Jews were not from the beginning of the
world, but took their rise from Abraham and Jacob. In this way
the meaning would be, that neither the burning of Sodom, nor the
drowning of Pharaoh, nor the destruction of the Canaanites by
Joshua, nor the overthrow of Nineveh or Babylon, or of any other
nation, however dreadful and terrible, which ever has been or
shall be, was so dreadful as this destruction of Judaea, which
was to take place under Titus. I have spoken of separate and
individual nations, because the destruction of the whole world
by the general Deluge in the time of Noah, and the general
conflagration at the last day, with the common destruction of
all, surpasses in horror the destruction of the single nation of
the Jews. In like manner, the persecution of
72 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
Antichrist will be more horrible, forasmuch as it will be a
general persecution of all Christians who in all nations believe
Christ therefore compares the destruction- of the one nation of
the Jews with that of any other nation whatsoever, but not with
the destruction of all nations, or of the whole world. That
these things were so, is plain from the seven books which
Josephus compiled (de Be/l.Jud.). Thus he says expressly (6. n),
"To speak briefly, I am of opinion that no other city ever
suffered such calamities, nor in any other nation of which there
is memory among men was the wickedness of the seditious more
S. Chrysostom assigns as the reason of this most dreadful
destruction of the Jews, the awful nature of their crime, by
which they crucified their own Messiah, Christ, the Son of God.
Wherefore, from this destruction and unceasing desolation of the
Jewish nation, you may prove to the Jews that Christ has come
already, and that it is He whom they have slain. For God has
never punished any other crime, either among the Jews or any
other nation, so fearfully as He has punished this, their
Christicide and Deicide. Whence rightly, Auctor Imperfecti, "
Until Christ, although the Jews were sinners, yet they were
accounted as sons, and as sons they were punished. But after the
Lord was crucified they ceased to be sons, and were treated as
enemies, and as such were rooted out, without any hope of
salvation. For inasmuch as they had committed a crime, the like
whereof had never been committed, nor yet would be committed
again, so there came upon them such a sentence as never has been
passed, nor ever will be passed upon any others." This is what
S. Luke says, Then shall be the days of vengeance, i.e., for the
death of Christ. There shall be great affliction and wrath upon
this people. Josephus adds (Bell. 7. 16) that Titus recognized
this vengeance of God, and attributed the capture of Jerusalem,
not to his own power, but to Him. For en tering into the
captured city, when he saw the height and solidity of the
bulwarks and towers, he exclaimed, "It is evident that God has
helped us to fight. It was God Himself who cast down the Jews
from those mountains. For what power of man, or what
SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS. 73
machines, would have been able to do so?" The same Josephus
(Bell. 6. 14) adds, that when Titus went round and saw the
ditches full of the corpses of the dead, he groaned aloud, and
lifting up his hands to Heaven, called God to witness that it
was not his work.
Luke adds, xxi. 24, ist. They shall fall by the edge of the
sword, i.e., they shall be slain by the swords of the Romans.
Josephus asserts that, besides innumerable others slain in all
parts of Judaea, there fell in the siege of Jerusalem alone
1,100.000 souls, who died by the sword, by famine, and by
2d. And they shall be carried captive among all nations. The
same writer says that 97,000 Jews were taken captive at that
time. And he adds that the multitude of the Jews who flocked
together at that time to the Passover out of all the world,
amounted to 2.700,000 souls. Wherefore he adds, that the whole
nation was as it were shut up in a prison by fate ; and the city
was besieged when it was crammed full of people. Therefore the
number of those who fell, including those whom the Romans killed
or took captive, exceeded the number who fell by any other
divinely sent judgment, or destruction wrought by man. For,
opening the sewers, and uncovering the sepulchres, they slew
those whom they found there. In addition to these, there were
found in those places 2000 who had fallen by their own hands, or
by wounds received from one another.
3d. And Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until
the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled, i.e., until the end of
the world and of all nations. For when the number of the
Gentiles, according to God s decree, has been completed, all the
people and the number of the Gentiles shall be finished together
with the world. So Euthymius ; or as Bede, until the plenitude
of the Gentiles shall enter into the Church of Christ. For when
this shall be accomplished, then "all Israel shall be saved," as
the Apostle says (Rom. xi.), which shall be in the end of the
world. For Christ has regard to the desolation of Jerusalem.
This was foretold by Daniel (ix.), where it is said, " The
desolation shall continue unto the consummation and the end,"
meaning that Jerusalem, after being razed to
74 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
the ground and laid desolate by Titus, shall be no longer the
capital city of the Jews, but shall belong to the Gentiles, and
after that to the Christians, and after that to the Saracens and
the Turks, as it is at present. And this state of things shall
continue until the end of the world, when Antichrist, the king
and Messias of the Jews, shall fix the seat of his empire at
Jerusalem, as is plain from Apoc. xi. 8. And then shall Enoch
and Elias resist Antichrist, and convert many of the Jews to
Christ. After Antichrist is slain, all the Jews shall be brought
to Christ by the disciples of Enoch and Elias, and shall
publicly worship Christ in Jerusalem, as may be easily gathered
from Apoc. xx. 8.
Eusebius adds (ff. E. 4. 6), that Adrian, who succeeded Trajan
as emperor of Rome, made a severe edict that all Jews whatsoever
should depart out of Judaea, so that it should not be lawful for
any of them to see Judaea. He adds, " This was done, so that
after the ruin of the Jewish nation, the inhabitants of the city
being changed, the name of Jerusalem itself was changed to Elia,
from the cogno men of the Emperor ^Elius Adrianus." Behold, this
is what Christ foretold Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the
From these words of Christ S. Cyril of Jerusalem rightly
confuted the Jews, who, at the instigation of Julian the
Apostate, set about rebuilding the Temple. He predicted that all
their labour would be in vain, because Christ had declared out
of Daniel that the desolation of Jerusalem and of the Temple
would continue unto the end of the world. And he was a true
seer. For fire coming down from Heaven consumed all the tools of
the workmen. And a great earthquake tore up the
foundation-stones and dispersed them, and destroyed the adjacent
buildings. On the following night, impressions of the sign of
the cross, shining like rays of the sun, appeared impressed upon
the garments of the Jews, which by no efforts were they able to
efface. (So Socrates, H. E. 3. 20.)
Ver. 22. Except those days . . . shortened; Gr. f xo?.o/?ai&)tfav,
a period, or stop put to them ; i.e., by the Lord, as Mark adds.
The elect are twofold : those who are elected to grace, who are
all the faithful and the righteous ; and those who are elected
THE ELECT SAVED. 75
who are all those who shall be saved. Both classes may be here
understood, but especially the second. For these are they who
are perfectly elected. And whosoever are elected to final grace,
so that they persevere in it to the end of life, are those who
are also elected to glory. The sense is unless God from eternity
had decreed, and had fulfilled the same in time, that the days
of the wasting of Judaea should be shorter shorter, I mean, than
the sins of the Jews and the anger of the Romans demanded, all
Jews would have perished. For if the time of the siege of
Jerusalem and the destruction of Judaea had lasted longer, no
flesh, i.e., no Jews, would have survived. For the rage of the
Romans against the Jews was very great, as against a rebellious
and obstinate nation ; and unless the gentleness of Titus had
somewhat restrained them, the Romans would have slain all the
Jews. God therefore shortened this time of slaughter for the
ekcfs sake ; that is, partly for the sake of those Christians
who had not been able or willing to flee away from Jerusalem,
partly on account of the Jews who, in the great slaughter of the
siege, had been converted to Christ, as well as for the sake of
those who were afterwards to be sprung from them and converted
to Christ. What is meant is this, " If this tribulation of the
Jews had lasted longer, none of them would have continued alive,
and would not, by consequence have persevered in faith and grace
in this life, and so no one of them would have survived to be
elect and saved. In order, therefore, that some may survive, who
by the predestination of God shall be saved, those, namely, whom
God foresees and foreordains, shall remain in this tribulation,
and be converted to Christ, and so be saved, for this cause, I
say, God will abbreviate and cut short these days of
That such was the case appears from Josephtis (Bell. 7. 15). He
testifies that more than forty thousand Jews were saved by Titus
in the destruction of Jerusalem. Where observe that God, for the
sake of His elect and believing ones, saved alive many Jews who
did not believe, but were obstinate and reprobate. "Therefore,"
says S. Chrysostom, "let not the Jews say that these things
happened to them because of the preaching and worship of Christ.
76 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
He shows not only that Christians were not the cause of these
evils, but that if there had been no Christians, all Jews would
have per ished. For if the war, by Divine permission, had been
prolonged, no remnant of the Jews would have escaped. But in
order that the believing Jews might not be destroyed with the
unbelieving, God put a more speedy end to the war than He would
Tropologically : Learn from hence how great is God s love and
care for His elect. For them He spared many Jews. For the elect
s sake God created, and still preserves the whole world, and all
the things that are therein. Yea, for their sake He caused
Christ, His own Son, to become man, and willed that He should
suffer death upon the cross. Wherefore S. Paul saith (i Cor.
iii. 22), "All things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or
Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or
things to come.
Ver. 23. Then if any man, &c. Some think that Christ here passes
from the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem to those before
the end of the world. But it is better to refer them to the
destruction of Jerusalem, of which He has been speaking thus
far. This is the force of the word then.
Lo, here is. Christ. The Jews knew that the advent of the
Messiah was now nigh at hand, because the sceptre had been
transferred from Judah to aliens, Herod and the Romans, accord
ing to Jacob s prophecy (Gen. xlix. 10). Wherefore, many at that
time flattered Vespasian by saying that he was the Messiah, as
we learn from Suetonius. Others gave Herod the same flattering
title. Moreover, there were at that time in Jerusalem, as
Josephus and S. Jerome testify, three factions, which had each
its own leader, who boasted himself to be the Messiah, who would
defend the Jews against the Romans. These chiefs were Eleazar
the son of Simon, John the son of Levi, Simon the son of Goria,
who all contended for supremacy amongst themselves. Such also
was the impostor who, under Adrian, pretended to be Messiah*,
and wished to be called Barchochabas, the son of a Star, as
though in him was fulfilled the prophecy of Balaam, "A star
shall rise out of Jacob." Of this man Eusebius says (H. E. 4. 6)
: ; Barchochabas, a wicked
FALSE CHRISTS. 77
and cruel man, was the leader of a Jewish army. And referring to
the signification of his name, he persuaded them, as if they had
been vile slaves, that he was a great star for their salvation,
and that he bore the succour of light to sick mortals and those
who were doomed to long darkness."
Such in our own age were David George ; also
John of Leyden, who seized a monastery in a city of Westphalia,
where he made himself Christ, a king, and created twelve
apostles, whom he sent into all the neighbouring cities, that
they should bring all men to him as Christ. But being besieged
by the Catholics and captured, he was hung alive in a wickerwork
cage from the top of a tower, and being eaten by flies and
wasps, he died A.D. 1536. There shall be many more such in the
time of Antichrist.
Tropologically : such are heresiarchs, who
proclaim another Christ, in that they affirm other doctrines,
which are not the doctrines of Christ, but of Antichrist. For
although the word then properly denotes the time of the
destruction of Jerusalem, yet it may be taken indefinitely, so
as to denote any period whatsoever, from the fall of Jerusalem
to the end of the world, as S. Chrysostom observes (Horn. 77).
Moreover, the heretics foolishly say that by the words, if any
man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, Catholics are
denoted, because they say of the Eucharist, " Lo, here is
Christ." For , Christ is here speaking of visible heretics and
false prophets, who shall call themselves Christs, and draw away
disciples after them. He is not speaking of the Eucharist, where
Christ is invisible.
Ver. 24. For there shall arise false Christs,
&c. Signs, wrought by art magic, by the power of the devil, whom
many heresiarchs have had as a familiar spirit, as I have shown
in i Tim. iv. i. Such was their great prince Simon Magus, who
deluded Nero and the Romans, so that they erected a statue to
him at Rome; but at length he himself, flying through the air by
the aid of the devil, was dashed down to the earth by the
prayers of S. Peter, and falling upon a stone, broke his knees,
" so that he who had attempted to fly was not able to walk; and
he who had taken wings, lost his legs," as S. Maximus says
(Horn. 5, de SS. Petro et Paulo).
78 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
So as to deceive even the elect. Understand this of final
falling away, in such a sense that the elect should finally fall
from grace, and be lost. For there is no surer sign of
reprobation than that any one should apostatize from the faith.
Falsely, therefore, does Calvin infer from this passage that the
elect cannot sin. They do sin, but they repent and rise again.
Jf it were possible. So great shall be the tribulation and the
temptation of the false Christs and heretics, their power,
deceit, guile, and speciousness, that, if such a thing were
possible, even the elect would be seduced by them, and come over
to their errors and heresies, and so fall from the faith and be
damned. But this can never happen, because of God s more
powerful protection, and His infallible predestination, as S.
Augustine says (de Civ. xx. 19), and- according to Christ s own
words, "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall not perish
eternally : and no one shall pluck them out of My Father s
hand," S. John x. 28 (Vulg.). For it is not possible that the
elect should fall away so as to become reprobate. I do not speak
of any physical or absolute necessity, but of that moral
foreknowledge and pre destination of God, by which He so works,
and so disposes it, and combines it with the issue of future
events, that there is necessity in a composite sense, as
Theologians say. For although the elect are free, and free to
sin, to go astray, and be lost, nevertheless, inasmuch as it has
been laid down that God has predestinated and foreseen that they
cannot sin, go astray, and be damned, it is impossible that they
should sin, go astray, and be damned. For the predestination of
God is most sure, and cannot fail. These two things, therefore,
cannot co-exist, that a man should be predestinated, and yet be
damned; that God should foreknow that such a man will die in His
grace, and be saved, and also foreknow that he will die in sin,
and be damned. In a similar manner S. John speaks of the Jews
(xii. 39), " Wherefore they could not believe, because Isaiah
saith again, He hath blinded their eyes : " not as though Isaiah
s prophecy were the cause why the Jews did not believe in
Christ, but because his
ELECTION AND FREE-WILL. 79
prediction of the incredulity of the Jews was incompatible with
their believing in Christ. And S. Paul says (i Tim. ii. 19),
"The foundation of God (concerning the elect) standeth sure,
having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His."
Moreover, those Theologians who say that the elect unto glory
are persons who have been elected independently of all prevision
of their works, ascribe the force of this election, this
necessity of their being saved, to the Divine decree ; but the
others, in order not to take away man s free will, must take the
matter in a composite sense. They must combine the constancy and
perseverance of the elect with God s decree to bestow this
perseverance upon them, in such manner as not to interfere with
their free will, and with His carrying this out in time, that is
to say, by giving them in time grace of congruity and grace
efficacious, whereby they may effectually, but of their own free
will, resist heretics, and persevere in the faith and grace of
God. Nor is it more wonderful that those cannot fall whom God
wills not to fall (for who hath resisted His will ?), than that
they cannot fall whom God has foreseen will not fall. For God s
prescience and His will are both infallible.
Some by the elect in this place understand those who are
especially beloved and chosen of God, and who, on that account,
are wont to suffer dreadful things from the devil and heretics
and wicked men ; but they bravely and constantly resist and
overcome them. It is meant, that so great shall be the
temptation, that even most holy men, religious and apostolic,
who are especially dear to God, would fall away from the faith,
if such a thing could be, and the more powerful grace and sure
election of God did not prevent it.
Ver. 26. If, therefore, they shall say, &c. Christ here denotes
Simon of Gerasa, who collected a multitude of robbers and
soldiers in the deserts and mountains, on the pretext that,
being Messiah, he would defend the Jews against the Romans. He
was admitted into Jerusalem to be a check upon the Zealots, but
he acted as tyranni cally towards the citizens as the Zealots
themselves. (Josh. Bell. 5.7-)
In the secret chambers ; that is, the
innermost and secret places
80 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
of the Temple, where God is accustomed to manifest His presence
and aid the Jews, that He may now protect them by means of His
Messias from the Romans. Christ here signifies Eleazar and John,
the leaders of the Zealots, who occupied the inner court of the
Temple, on the pretext of defending the city against the Romans,
but in reality that they might rule over it and despoil it. So
Josephus (de BelL 6. i and 4, and 7. u). He relates that when
the Temple was on fire, many Jews fled to the porch without the
Temple, because a certain false prophet had said that those who
fled to the Temple on that day would be safe under God s
protection. But those all perished either by the flames or the
sword of the Romans.
Luke adds, The days shall come ivhen ye shall desire to see one
of the days of the Son of Man, and shall not see it. That is,
"The time shall come when ye shall desire rny Presence which ye
have now, both for your consolation in so great tribulation, and
for the manifestation and confutation of the errors and heresies
which shall arise."
Ver. 27. For as the lightning, &c. Ye must not give credit to
wanderers, who shall say, Messiah, the Saviour of the Jews from
the Romans, is hidden in desert places, or in secret chambers in
the Temple; for when He shall come the second time to judgment
to bless the saints and condemn the wicked, He will appear
publicly to the whole world. The Judge of all will appear like
the lightning, radiant with great glory and majesty, so as to
dazzle the eyes of all, and turn them upon Himself, in such a
manner that no one will be able to doubt that He is the Christ
the Saviour of the world. He means, " My advent, My return to
judgment, will be like the lightning, because ist, it will be
sudden ; 2d, it will be unexpected ; 3d, it will be manifest to
all ; 4th, it will be glorious ; 5th, mighty, so that no one can
resist it ; 6th, it will not be on the earth, but in the air,
like the lightning, which makes itself plain to view ; not in a
corner, but to the world in a moment of time." For Christ is
here replying to the mind and thoughts of the Apostles. For they
thought that Christ would inaugurate His glorious Kingdom
THE CARCASE. 8 1
upon earth immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. So S.
Chrysostom, "For as the lightning needs no preacher nor messenger,
but appears in a moment to all, so shall that advent be seen
everywhere alway to shine immediately." Also Auctor Imperfecti,
"As lightning traverses all things in the twinkling of an eye,
so likewise shall the Son of God not seem to be coming, but to
have come. For if the sun, which has been created for our
service, possesses such splendour, that in whatsoever part of
the heavens it may be, it appeareth everywhere present ; how
much more shall Christ, the Spiritual Sun, when He cometh, be
seen by all the world, or rather, the world be seen by Him ? "
This author adds, that Christ here makes mention of lightning,
because lightning shall go before Him when He comes to judgment,
according to the words of the Psalm, xcvii. 4, 5, "His
lightnings enlightened the world : the earth saw, and trembled.
The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD, at the
presence of the LORD of the whole earth."
Wheresoever the carcase is, &c. There is an allusion to Job
xxxix. 33, And wheresoever the carcase (Heb. the slain] shall
be, he will be there. After the metaphor of lightning, he
subjoins the parable of the eagle; both because, as the eagle is
not struck by lightning, so the elect will not be affected by
the thunderbolt of the sentence and the curse with which Christ
shall condemn the wicked to hell in the Day of Judgment, as also
in order that the Apostles might not suppose that the glorious
Advent of Christ should, like lightning, pass away, and should
ask, "What reward will accrue to us therefrom ? " Christ gives
the assurance that He will indeed appear like the lightning unto
all, but that He will abide with His elect, and wall feed them
with His glory, as an eagle feeds upon a body as its prey and
Carcase. The Vulg. seems to have read <rw,u, as some copies
still have it. But a better reading is nrupa, which properly
signifies ruin, fall, and from hence comes to mean a carcase.
comes from -jn rrrw, as cadaver from cadendo. But by Salmeron
understands prey, hunting, either for the body of a bird,
82 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
a hare, or some such thing as eagles hunt. This is called
because the bodies of those creatures which eagles capture fall
upon the earth. For the eagle is too noble to eat carrion, or
the dead body of anything save of what it has itself captured
Aristotle, however (lib. 9, Histor. Anim. c. 32), enumerates six
kinds of eagles, and amongst them the yufi-aerop, or
vulture-eagle, that is to say, a species which seeks out dead
bodies. Hence the LXX. in Job xxxix. 27 translate by 764*. This
is the bird of which Christ here speaks, according to
Aldrovandus and others. Both meanings and readings suit this
passage, as I will presently show.
The words constitute an enigmatical parable,
signifying that Christ cannot be hid. As though He had said, "
As eagles discern the bodies upon which they prey, even from on
high, and fly towards them, and as a vulture smells a carcase
even when it is very far off ; so in like manner shall My
glorious return to judge the world not be hidden or secret, but
manifest to all. Wherefore the faithful and righteous at that
time, like eagles of most piercing sight, and like vultures of
most acute scent, shall, by divine power, scent Me out, that is,
they shall perceive Me beforehand. They shall discern Me with
their eyes, and fly to Me, that they may most happily feed upon
Me and upon My glory, and be refreshed and blessed for ever."
And in truth there shall be no need then to search where is
Christ. For His Advent shall be glorious, and visible to all the
world. This is what Paul says, " We shall be snatched up into
the clouds, to meet Christ in the air, and so shall we ever be
with the Lord " (i Thess. iv. 17).
Christ compares Himself to a carcase, that He may signify His
death, by which He merited glory for us. He compares Himself
also to a body made alive again, that He may signify His
glorious Resurrection, by which He will feed and bless His
elect. Where fore S. Hilary gathers from this passage that the
universal judgment of Christ will take place on that spot where
He hung a corpse upon the cross, and where He was buried, that
is to say, near Jerusalem, in the valley of Jehoshaphat, as Joel
teaches (iii. 2). Hear
THE EAGLES. 83
S. Hilary, "He called the saints eagles, from the flight of the
spiritual body, whose gathering together by the angels He showed
would be in the place of His Passion. And rightly may His
glorious Advent there be expected, where for us He procured an
eternity of glory by the sufferings of the body of His
humility." And S. Jerome says, " Eagles are they who take wings
to fly to the Passion of Christ." It is agreeable to reason that
Christ should there judge all men, where He was unjustly judged
for all ; and that His glory should be there seen, where His
lowliness and humility were witnessed ; that He should descend
from Heaven in the place where He ascended into Heaven, and that
so the whole work of our salvation should be completed and
finished in that same spot where it was begun.
Moreover, the saints are rightly compared to eagles, because the
eagle is the king of birds, as the lion is the king of beasts.
So likewise are the Saints kings, not of earth, but of Heaven.
Hear Origen, " He said not, where the carcase is, thither shall
the vultures or the crows be gathered together, but the eagles,
to signify that those who have believed in the Passion of the
Lord are all great and regal."
Here also Aitdor Imferfecti, who for eagles understands
vultures, "Concerning vultures, the Scripture saith in the Book
of Job, Wheresoever the carcase is, there will be found the
vulture s young ones. For this is the natural property of
vultures. As some say, they can scent a corpse even across the
sea. But because vultures are foul birds, Christ adopted the
name of eagles to the habits of vultures, that thus might be
shown the gathering together of the Saints to the Advent of
Christ, that in the royal eagles the regal dignity might be
shown. For in this manner are the Saints like unto eagles,
because as eaglets are proved by the sun, in such manner, that
if without blenching they can look straight up at the sun, they
are considered legitimate offspring, but if they cannot do this,
they are regarded as spurious ; so, also, the sons of God are
proved by the justice of Christ. If they are able fully to
accept the words of His justice, they are understood to be
84 S. MATTHEW, c. XXIV.
legitimate ; but if not, they are understood to be the offspring
of the devil."
2. Because, as S. Ambrose says (in S. Luke xviii.), eagles renew
themselves. So also the Saints are renewed here by grace, and
hereafter by glory, according to those words of the Psalm, "They
shall renew their strength like eagles."
3. Because there is something divine about the eagle. As
Aristotle says (lib. 9, Hist. Anim. c. 32), "Eagles fly on high,
that they may see to the farthest possible extent. Wherefore men
say that the eagle is the only bird which is divine." Hence by
eagles S. Chrysostom understands the multitude of Angels,
Martyrs, Saints, who all, as it were divine spirits, shall be
gathered together to Christ their God in the Day of Judgment,
that they may ascend up with Him in glory to Heaven.
4. The saints are eagles, because they fly above the earth, and
mount up to Heaven, that they may behold heavenly things, and
look down upon earthly things as far beneath them. Whence they
say with S. Paul, " Our conversation is in Heaven."
5. As eagles possess sharp and strong sight, so as to be able
with unblenching eye to gaze at the sun ; thus do the Saints
assiduously, with the keen eyes of their minds, contemplate
Christ, who is the Sun of justice.
Allegorically : the Body of Christ is the Church, in which are
eagles, that is, spiritual persons of heavenly life and
doctrine. So, on the contrary, heretics are like black crows and
chattering daws ; or like moles, wholly conversant with earth
and earthly things. Hear S. Ambrose (in Luc. c. xvii. last ver.\
" Do not the eagles seem to thee to be about the Body, when the
Son of Man shall come in that Day with clouds of them that
understand ? When every eye shall see Him, and they also that
pierced Him ? This is the Body of which it has been said, My
Flesh is meat indeed, and My Blood is drink indeed. Round about
this Body are the true eagles, Vho fly with spiritual wings.
There likewise fly the eagles who believe that Jesus is come in
the flesh. For every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is
come in the flesh, is of God. For where there
THE BLESSED LIKE EAGLES. 85
is faith, there is the sacrament, there is the abode of
sanctity. This is the Body of the Church, in which by the grace
of baptism we are renewed in spirit, and the decay of age is
renewed by the return of youth."
Analogically: the Blessed, in the Day of Judgment, after the
Resurrection, shall be gathered together to the Body, i.e., to
Christ risen and glorified, that they may fly with Him to life
in Heaven. By eagles is denoted the swiftness of the Blessed,
according to the words in Isa. xl., "They shall fly like
eagles." Wherefore S. Gregory expounds thus (S. Thorn, in
Catena), " Wheresoever the Body" &c. As though Christ had said,
"Because I, incarnate, preside in the heavenly seat, I sustain
with flesh the life of My elect, I lift them up to Heaven." And
S. Ambrose (in Ps. xlix. sub fcnem), for body, reading ruin, ory#//,;vvhich
is the meaning of the Greek Kru&a, says, "Where the ruin is,
there are the eagles ; i.e., where He fell, there He rose
again." Again, the eagle is the symbol of the blessed eternity
of the Saints. For the eagle is very long-lived, and when it
grows old it renews its youth. Hence the proverb, " The old age
of an eagle."
Symbolically : the eagle, because it has sharp sight, is a
symbol of truth. Whence S. Ambrose, " Where the body," &c.,
i.e., "Where the Body of Christ is, there is truth." Again, the
eagle is a type of the angels, because of their swiftness.
Therefore S. Ambrose (lib. i, de Sacram. c. 2) understands the
words of the Eucharist. For at the Eucharist, where the Body of
Christ is, the eagles, i.e., the angels, assist. So also do the
Saints and Priests. The same also saith (lib. 4, c. 2), "The
form of the Body is the altar; the Body of Christ is on the
altar. Ye are eagles, renewed by being washed from sin."
Ver. 29. But immediately after the tribulation, &c. Christ
passes from the destruction of Jerusalem to the destruction of
the world, and the signs which shall precede it.
Tribulation. Understand the persecutions and temptations which
shall arise from false Christs and false Prophets, of which the
23d verse speaks ; or rather the tribulation which came upon the
86 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
at the siege of Jerusalem by Titus. For this only did He call
tribulation a little above in ver. 21. Where observe, with S.
Chrysostom, Jerome, and others, that Christ, in order to keep
His disciples and those who succeeded them in constant
expectation of His Advent and the Day of Judgment, and to urge
them to be always prepared for it, seems to favour the mistake
of the Apostles, and to speak as though the end of the world
would follow immediately upon the destruction of the city, but
in a different way from that in which the Apostles understood
it. For although 1560 years have elapsed since the destruction
of Jerusalem, and many more will yet elapse before the end of
the world, nevertheless all this period, long as it seems to us,
whose span of life is so short, yet compared with the eternity
of God, who is the true Measurer of times, is but very small,
yea, only as it were a moment. Thus answers S. Peter (2 Pet.
iii. 8), " One day is with God as a thousand years, and a
thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His
promise. This is why the Prophets and Apostles call the period
of Christ and of the Gospel Dispensation, the last time and the
last hour, as appears from i John ii. 18; i Cor. x. n; Jas. v.
8; Heb. x. 37. For the same reason Haggai (ii. 4) says that
there shall -be but a little while to the coming of Christ, and
yet there were 517 years still to elapse before He came. There
is also this to be considered, that the tribulation of the world
shall immediately follow the tribulation of the city, in the
sense that no very remarkable and exceptional tribulation of the
Jews shall intervene between those two events, so that the one
shall very closely succeed the other, not as regards time, but
in type, similitude, and fearfulness. For a similar reason
Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the rest of the Prophets, when they
describe the de struction of Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, and of Judaea
by the Chaldeans, pass on at once to the antitype, the
destruction of the world, as though it were about to take place
immediately. And they set forth how dreadful shall be the former
events by the signs and horrors which shall take place at the
latter event. This appears by Isa. xiii. 19 ; Jer. xv. 9 ; Amos
viii. 9 ; Joel ii. 10.
From what has been said, it would seem that Alcazar (in Apoc.
THE SUN DARKENED. 87
vi. 1 2), from the expression "thus" in this verse of S.
Matthew, gathers incorrectly that all the things which are here
spoken of refer literally, not to the end of the world, but to
the destruction of Jerusalem. By the darkening of the sun and
moon, and the falling of the stars, this writer understands
literally the blindness of the Jews, their calamities, and the
slaughter which was made of them by Titus. By the shaking of the
powers of the heavens, he understands the flight of the
Christians from the city, by whose holiness it was sustained.
But every one can see that these meanings are mystical and
The sun shall be darkened. Observe that this sign and those
which follow are not after the General Resurrection, as SS.
Jerome and Chrysostom suppose, but previous to it, as is plain
from S. Luke xxi. 26, and Joel ii. 31. As to the meaning, S.
Augustine (Epist. So, ad Jfesych.) says, "The sun, i.e., the
Church, shall be darkened, because in those tremendous
temptations and tribulations which shall be in the end of the
world, many who had seemed as bright and as firm as the sun and
the stars shall fall from the faith." This is the allegorical
sense, and is just and apposite.
You will ask, what will be the cause of this great obscuration
of the sun before the Judgment Day ? SS. Hilary, Jerome, Chrysostom
answer, that it will be because the excessive brightness of
Christ s glorious body will make the sun grow pale. But I have
already observed that these signs will take place before the
General Resurrection, and therefore before Christ s coming to
judgment. So that I reply, the sun will be darkened because God
will take away from it, not its light indeed, but its power of
illuminating, by which it shall come to pass that in the sun
there will be light, but upon the earth nothing but darkness.
Thus was it at the Passion of Christ. Again, God will hide the
sun by means of thick clouds and smoke. Perchance also there
will be extraordinary and miraculous eclipses, as may be
gathered from Lactantius vii. 16.
Of this darkening of the sun at the end of the world, the
calamities and prodigies which took place at the destruction of
Babylon, Tyre, Egypt, Idumasa, &c, were types. When, therefore,
88 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
phets speak of them, they speak by catachresis of the
horribleness of the destruction, by saying that the sun and moon
and stars shall be darkened. For such dreadful calamities bring
on men giddiness and blindness. Thus those overthrows were types
and foreshadowings of the destruction of the world, when the
heavenly luminaries will be literally darkened. And the
moon, &c. For when the sun is darkened, the moon must
necessarily be so likewise, since she derives her light from
Symbolically : Auctor Imperfecti says, " When the master of the
household dies, his whole household is troubled ; his family
make lamentations and rend their garments. So, in like manner,
when the human race, for whom all things were made, is about to
come to an end, all creation languishes, the powers of the
heavens mourn, and laying aside their brightness, are clothed
with robes of darkness."
And the stars, &c. i. Because at the end of the world the stars
also shall be darkened, so that they shall appear to men to have
fallen from the heavens. For Holy Scripture often speaks of
things not as they are in themselves, but as they appear unto
2. Stars, i.e., comets and such like bodies, which are formed in
the atmosphere, shall then fall upon the earth. This may be
gathered from Joel ii. 30.
S. Chrysostom and Euthymius add, that at the end of the world
stars, properly so called, shall fall from the heavens to the
earth. But this must be understood of very small stars, and such
as are invisible to us. For as to the visible stars, they are
larger than our whole earth, and cannot therefore fall upon it.
And the powers of the heavens, &c. Origen, S. Chrysostom, &c.,
understand by these powers the sevenfold choirs or orders of the
angels, which are called powers (Lat. vlrtutes) because they
excel in strength iyirtute). And the meaning would be, that the
angels, mighty as they are, when they behold the sun and moon
become dark, and the stars fall from heaven, and many other
dreadful prodigies multiplied at the end of the world, will
stand, as it were, astonished and stupefied at such great
changes and terrible sights.
THE POWERS OF THE HEAVENS. 89
Here may be mentioned the opinion of Suarez (3 p. qu. 59, art.
6, disp. 56, sect. 3), " The powers of the heavens" saith he,
"are the angels, who, by their surpassing strength, cause the
heavens to revolve; because they, as the ministers of the Divine
justice and vengeance against the wicked, shall change the
accustomed order of motion of the heavens. Thus there shall be
utter confusion in this lower world."
But more simply, by the powers of the heavens, you may under
stand the stars themselves and their influences. The meaning is,
that at the end of the world the very great and very strong
stars of heaven shall change their motions, appearances,
influences, and in consequence everything upon earth shall be in
perturbation, so that the world shall be shaken by unwonted
movements, the sea shall overflow, and the atmosphere shall be
troubled with comets, thunderbolts, meteors, whirlwinds, so that
all things will seem to be utterly in confusion.
Lastly, and most plainly, by the powers, c., you may understand
their poles and hinges. These are dwd/tei;, Heb. gibburoth, the
strength and props, as it were, of the heavens. It means, that
at the end of the world the whole heavens shall be shaken, all
plucked from their poles and hinges, so that they will seem to
fall down, so as to strike terror into the wicked, and to set
forth the wrath of an angry Christ. I have treated of this
matter more at length in Apoc. vi. 14. There is an allusion to
Job xxvi. n, "The pillars of heaven shall tremble, and shall
fear by reason of His rebuke ; " and to Isa. xxxix. 4, " And all
the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be
rolled together as a scroll : and all their hosts shall fall
down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling^
from the fig-tree." For as Bede says (in Luc. xxi. 25), "As when
trees are shaken to their fall, they are wont to show
premonitions of the coming crash ; so likewise when the end of
the world draweth nigh, shall the elements nod and tremble as
though they were in fear ; " and the heavens burning with fire,
and as it were perishing, shall rise again with the Saints, and
shall be renewed in a glorious state of felicity.
90 S MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
Ver. 30. And then shall appear the sign, &c. You will ask, what
is the sign of the Son of Man, that is to say, of Christ
Incarnate ? I answer, it is the Cross. For this is the sign,
because it is the standard (pexiZlum) of Christ, and the cause
of the victory of believers. And as it was beforetime the
scandal of unbelievers and the impious, so will it be in the Day
of Judgment their condemnation and their torment. So the
Fathers, almost passim. Yea, the Church herself gives this
meaning her sanction, when she sings in the office for Holy
Cross Day, " This sign of the Cross shall be in heaven when the
Lord shall come to judgment." There are three reasons why the
Cross shall then appear, ist. To signify that Christ by the
Cross has merited this judicial power and glory. 2d. To show
that Christ was crucified for the salvation of all men, and that
therefore they are ungrateful and without excuse who have
neglected so great grace and love. 3d. To show that all
worshippers of Christ crucified shall be then exalted with Him
to Heaven, and all who hate and despise Him cast down to hell.
From this saying of Christ it is extremely probable that the
actual cross on which He was crucified shall appear in heaven at
the Day of Judgment, for the consolation of the Saints, who have
been saved by it, and who therefore have striven to conform
themselves in their lives, by patience and self-denial, to
Christ crucified ; and for the condemnation of the wicked, who
have despised the Cross of Christ, and who have ungratefully
preferred pleasuits to self-mortification. This is the opinion
of S. Chrysostom (Horn, de Cruce et Latrone). The Sibyl predicts
the same thing (lib. 6)
"Whereon God hung, O blessed Tree I Not earth alone, but heaven
hath thee, When lightning-crown d God s face we see."
S. Anselm is of a different opinion, viz., that- at the Day of
Judgment it will not be the actual Cross of Christ which will
appear in the air, but a symbol, or image of it, formed by the
angels. The expression sign is in favour of this.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS. 91
Moreover, SS. Chrysostom and Augustine and S. Cyril teach that
this standard of the Cross will be borne by the angels before
the face of Christ, coming to judgment, as a trophy of victory,
and a royal banner of supreme power and dignity.
Our Salmeron also says, "The doctors of the Church believe that,
together with the Cross will appear the pillar, the scourge, the
crown of thorns, the nails, the sponge, the spear, and the rest
of the instruments of the Passion." So. too, S. Thomas (Opitsc.
ii. cap. 244). This is probable, but not certain, because
nowhere expressly declared.
Lastly, at that time the sign of the cross shall appear on the
foreheads of all the elect, according to what is said in Apoc.
vii. 3, " Let us sign the servants of our God on their foreheads
" ( Vulg.) ; and Ezek. ix. 4, in an allegorical sense, " Sign
Tau, i.e., the sign of the Cross, upon the foreheads of the men
that sigh and that cry" (Heir, and Vulg.). Hear S. Augustine (Serm.
de temp. 130), " Hast thou considered how great is the virtue of
this sign of the Cross ? The sun shall be darkened, the moon
shall not give her light ; but the Cross shall shine and shall
obscure the heavenly luminaries. When the stars shall fall, it
alone shall send forth radiance, that thou mayst learn how the
Cross is more luminous than the moon and more glorious than the
sun. For like as when a king enters into a city, his soldiers go
before him, bearing upon their shoulders the royal arms and
standards, and all the pomp of military array, to proclaim the
monarch s entry ; so when the Lord descends from Heaven, the
angel hosts shall go before Him, bearing upon their lofty
shoulders that sign which is the ensign of triumph, to announce
to the inhabitants of earth the approach of the King of Heaven."
And then shall all the tribes, &c. That is, many of every tribe,
viz., all the reprobate and the damned, because they have
neglected their salvation, to procure which Christ was
crucified. But the elect will rejoice and sing, because they
will see that they have been saved and blessed by the Cross. S.
Augustine gives the cause of this weeping, "All the tribes of
the earth shall mourn.
92 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
because they shall see their accuser, that is, the Cross itself;
and at the sight of this reprover they shall acknowledge their
sin. Too late, and in vain shall they confess their impious
blindness. And dost thou marvel that when Christ cometh He will
bring His Cross, since He will show His wounds also ? " S.
Chrysostom also, " Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn,
because they shall perceive that they gained nothing by His
death, and that they crucified Him who ought to be adored." And
S. Jerome, " Rightly doth He say, The tribes of the earth ; for
they shall mourn who have no citizenship in Heaven, but whose
names are written in the earth." Again, hear S. Chrysostom on
this passage (Horn. 77), "He brings with Him the Cross, that
their sin may be condemned without accusation, as though a man
who had been struck with a stone should produce the stone
itself, or the blood stained clothes as a witness of the deed."
Moreover, they shall mourn, because (as Auctor Imperf,, Horn.
77, says) Christ will then reprove the wicked thus, "For your
sakes I became man, was bound and crucified. Where is the fruit
of all My sufferings? Behold the price of My blood, which I paid
for the redemption of your souls ! Where is your service, which
you owe Me as the price of My blood? I valued you above My own
glory, when, being God, I appeared in fashion of a man ; and yet
ye accounted Me of less worth than any of your possessions. For
ye loved every vile thing upon earth more than My justice and
faith." And shortly afterwards he adds, " Deservedly shall they
mourn, because then neither shall money profit the rich to do
alms withal ; nor righteous parents be able to intercede for
their children; nor the angels themselves to say a word, as is
their wont, for men, because the nature of judgment accords not
with mercy, as neither the time of mercy with judgment. As saith
the Prophet, I will sing of mercy and judgment; of mercy in the
first Advent, of judgment in the second."
Hear S. Bernard mourning, yea, trembling with horror (Serm. 16
in Cant.\ " I am afraid of hell ; I fear the face of the Judge,
before whom the heavenly hosts themselves tremble. I tremble
ELOQUENT WORDS OF S. BERNARD. 93
at His almighty wrath, at the crash of a falling world, at the
conflagration of the elements, at the horrible tempest, at the
voice of the archangel, and the dreadful words. I tremble at the
teeth of the infernal beast, at the belly of hell, at the lions
roaring for their prey. I dread the gnawing of the worm, the
fiery torrent, the smoke and vapour, the brimstone, and the
spirit of tempests. 1 dread the outer darkness." Then he adds,
"Who will give water to my head, and a fountain of tears to my
eyes, that by my tears I may prevent the weeping and gnashing of
teeth, the hard chains for hand and foot, the weight of the
fetters that press and bind and burn without consuming? Woe is
me, my mother! Where fore hast thou brought me forth, a child of
sorrow? a child of bitterness, of indignation, of weeping
without end? Why did the knees prevent me, and the breasts that
I sucked, that I should be born for burning and for fuel of fire
And they shall see the Son, &c. ist. That the clouds may temper
the exceeding brightness of the Body of Christ, which otherwise
would blind the eyes of the reprobate. 2d. Because a cloud is
the symbol of the hidden Deity. 3d. Because the cloud is the
seat, as well as the vehicle and covert, of Christ s glory.
Hence, constantly in the Old Testament, God appeared to Moses
and the Prophets in a cloud. (See Ezek. i. 4, and Ex. xix.
9-18.) There is an allusion to Daniel (vii. 13), "And lo, one
like unto the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven."
With power, &c. (Vulg.), with great virtue or strength and
majesty. For as Christ at His first Advent came in great
infirmity of the flesh, in poverty and contempt, so He hath
thereby deserved to come in His second Advent with great
strength, glory, and majesty. His power and strength shall
appear in that at His command all the dead shall arise in a
moment ; in that all men, angels, and devils shall behold and
worship Him as their God, their Lord, and their Judge ; in that
He shall pass sentence upon all according to their deserts, and
shall execute His sentence, so that none shall dare to gainsay
or resist. His majesty shall appear in the infinite splendour of
His body, in the multitude and
94 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
brightness of all the angels surrounding Him, and in His
garments of radiant clouds.
Ver. 31. And He shall send His angels, &c. There is an inversion
of order in this passage ; for Christ shall previously send His
angels with a trumpet, or rather with many trumpets, throughout
all the world, to wake the dead and summon them to judgment. For
when this trumpet sounds very many angels shall gather together
the ashes of every one of the dead, and from them form the
semblance of human bodies, which God shall organize and animate.
And after life has been restored to those bodies, He shall, if
they be those of the holy and elect, glorify and bless them.
Wherefore also the Blessed themselves shall, by the gift of
swiftness, with which they shall be endowed, immediately
transfer themselves in the company of the angels from all parts
of the world to the Valley of Jehoshaphat to judgment. But the
reprobate, because they shall lack the gift of swiftness, shall
be dragged thither by the devils, or rather by the angels.
From the four winds, i.e., from the four quarters of the world,
from whence the four chief winds blow. Whence he adds by way of
explanation, from one end of Heaven to the other.
The Greek is from extremity to extremity, from one terminus of
heaven and earth to their other terminus, from the east to the
west. For axga. signifies any extreme limit, whether above or
below, whether to the right or to the left. Mark has (xiii. 27),
from the height of earth to the height of heaven (Vulg.), by
which is meant the same thing as in S. Matthew, from one extreme
of earth to the other extremity of heaven and earth. For the
earth at its extremities seems to be joined to the sky. This is
at the horizon. There is no reason why extremity of heaven
(Vulg.) in this place should not be taken literally, meaning
that the angels shall gather together the elect wherever they
may be, whether in heaven or earth. For the bodies of the
Patriarchs, who rose again with Christ, are in Heaven. Wherefore
they shall descend from Heaven to the valley of Jehoshaphat at
the time of the Last Judgment.
PARABLE OF THE FIG-TREE. 95
But the former sense seems to be the best.
Learn a parable. Take a similitude from the fig-tree. Learn from
the analogy of the fig-tree what I have spoken concerning the
signs of the destruction of the world, when it is nigh at hand.
Christ makes mention of the fig rather than of other trees,
because the fig-tree only puts forth its leaves and fruit under
the influence of heat, because its sap is exceedingly sweet, and
therefore concocted ; and for that there is need of the heat of
summer. Hence Aristotle (lib. 9, Histor. Animal.} says that the
fig is the food of bees, which only fly and make honey in
summer. They make honey from the fig, for it is indeed a purse
of honey. Again, he says that cattle grow fat upon figs. Again,
the fig does not flower, but produces fruit immediately from the
leaves, and brings it to maturity. Whence Pliny says (15. 18),
"Wonderful is the haste of this fruit, one in all things
hastening to maturity by the art of nature." Again, " the fig is
the sweetest of all fruits, devoid of all acidity, and therefore
most tasty and wholesome. Moreover, the fig-tree is extremely
fruitful, so much so that there are fig-trees in Hyrcania, each
yielding a yearly produce of 70 bushels," as Pliny affirms in
the same book. He adds that Romulus and Remus were suckled by
the she- wolf under a fig-tree, and therefore that the fig was
worshipped at Rome in the forum.
Symbolically, therefore, Christ would intimate that His Saints
and elect ought to bring forth most sweet and abundant fruits of
good works, that so they may deserve to taste in the summer of
the Resurrection the abundant sweetness of celestial glory.
Lastly, a fig was the cause of the destruction of Carthage. For
when Cato, as Pliny tells us, was exclaiming in the Senate that
Carthage must be destroyed, he brought one day into the Senate
house a very ripe fig which had been grown in Africa. Showing it
to the Senators, " I ask you," said he, " to guess how long ago
it is since this fig was plucked from the tree." All allowed
that it must have been but recently gathered. " Yes," he said, "
I would have you know that it is but three days since it was
plucked at Carthage; so near is the enemy to your walls."
9 6 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
afterwards the third Punic War, in which Carthage was destroyed,
In like manner those signs which Christ compares to a fig-tree
shall be the cause of the destruction of the world.
When her branch, &c. For the reason already mentioned, inasmuch
as the sap of the fig-tree is most sweet, it lies dormant during
the winter in the root, but being drawn out by the heat of
summer, it rises into the branches, and comes out in leaves and
fruit. It is like the mulberry tree (moms], which does not
germinate until the cold is all gone. The mulberry is called for
that reason pwoc, or "a fool," because it is anything but
foolish, but the wisest of trees.
Ver. 33. So likewise ye, &c. Near: it is as though Christ, the
Judge, and His glorious Kingdom, and your redemption, as Luke
has it, that is, the resurrection and everlasting glory, were
entering the earth, as it were by a door. For redemption
signifies deliverance from all evils and miseries. This will be
the summer. And after the winter, there shall come this most
joyful summer to all the elect, as this parable intimates. As
when the fig comes into leaf summer is nigh, which causes to be
brought forth most sweet figs and other fruits ; so when ye
shall behold the elect to flourish with such great patience in
the winter of such great tribulations as shall befall them at
the end of the world, know ye that the reward of your patience
is nigh at hand, the summer of a joyful resurrection, which
shall heap upon you the fruit of every good gift, when Christ
the Judge shall bless and glorify you.
Verily I say, &c. This generation, that is to say, i. of all
men, or this age, which shall last until the end of the world.
So S. Jerome. As though Christ had said, " Before the end of the
world all these things shall come to pass."
2. Origen, Hilary, and Chrysostom take generation in a more
restricted sense, to mean the generation of believers of
Christians, that were now sprung from Christ, to whom Christ was
speaking in the person of His Apostles, according to the words
in Ps. xxiv. 6, "This is the generation of them that seek the
DURATION OF THE WORLD. 97
though the Lord had said, "The Christian religion which I have
instituted shall not come to an end until Christians, -who
faithfully serve Me, are rewarded by Me, and crowned in the Day
Ver. 35. Heaven and earth, &c., shall pass away, i.e., shall be
changed, shall cease to be, shall perish, as regards their
present state and condition, that they may pass into one which
is better, and be glorified with the Saints.
Some are of opinion that at the end of the world the heavens
will be changed as regards their form and substance. Of this
question I have treated at length on 2 Peter iii. 13 and Isa.
Lastly, this sentence may be understood comparatively, thus,
"The heavens shall pass away and perish, sooner than My words
shall come to naught."
But of that day (namely, of My glorious coming to judgment) and
hour, &c. As if He had said, " Do not, O My apostles, ask Me
when I shall come again as Judge, or what shall be the day of
the general Judgment, for no one except God knoweth this : and
He willeth not any other being to know it." " He held them
back," says Chrysostom, " from wishing to learn that which the
angels are ignorant of." As to the time when the world shall
come to an end, there are various opinions.
1. Many suppose that the world will come to
an end after it has existed for six thousand years, as it was
created in six days, according to the saying or prophecy of
Elias, " six thousand " (years ?) " the world." (Sex millia
mundus, Lat.) This opinion is probably true, as I have shown at
length on Apoc. xx. 4.
2. Some think that there will be just as many years after Christ
to the end of the world as there were from the Creation to
Christ. They gather this idea from Hab. iii. 2, " O Lord, revive
Thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years
Thou shalt make it known." But this passage has a different
meaning, as I have there shown.
The third opinion was one which supposed the world would
98 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
last as many jubilees after Christ as there were years in His
earthly life. This calculation would place the end in A.D. 1700.
4. Druitlimarns, who flourished about A.D. 800, and who wrote
upon S. Matthew, says, "Our ancestors have left in writing that
the world was created, the Lord was conceived and crucified, on
the 25th of March, and in like manner the world will be
destroyed upon the same day; but in what year they say not." But
these things have no foundation.
5. A fifth calculation was put forth by a contemporary of d
Lapide, whose name he does not give, whom he calls a jester
rather than a reckoner, which fixed on 1666 as the end of the
"If," says d Lapide, "you object to this l joculator the words
of Christ, of that day knoweth no man, he answers, that only
applied to the time when He was speaking, and that the day might
be known afterwards by revelation or in some other way." But all
this a Lapide characterises as frivolous and old wives fables.
My Father only: because from eternity He had determined in His
own mind, and appointed this day, which He keeps secret. Now by
the word only, the Son is not excluded, neither the Holy Ghost,
for They know the day and the hour of the Judgment equally with
the Father, since They have all the same essence, majesty, will,
mind, power, understanding, and knowledge. For it is a
theological principle, that if the word "only" be added to any
of the essential attributes of the Godhead, such as wisdom, and
be ascribed to one of the Divine Persons, it does not exclude
the other two Persons, but only creatures, which are of a
different nature and essence. But in Personal Attributes, the
expression "only" does exclude two of the Divine Persons, as
when it is said, "The Father only begets; " "The Son only is
You will say, Mark adds (xiii. 32), neither the Son, for so it s
in the Greek, Latin, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Egyptian,
Ethiopic. Various answers are given. The best is that which is
common among the Fathers It is that the Son, both as God and as
man, by infused knowledge, knows the Day of Judgment and of
HOW THE SON KNOWETH NOT. 99
the end of the world, for it pertains for Him to know this,
inasmuch as He has been appointed the Judge of the world. But
Christ denies that He knoweth this as man, and as He is God s
messenger to us, because He did not know it so that He could
reveal it to us, or because He had not been commissioned by the
Father to reveal it to us. As an ambassador who was questioned
concerning the secrets of his prince would reply that he did not
know them, although he did know them, because he did not know
them as an ambassador. For an ambassador declares only those
things which he has a commission to declare.
Christ s meaning then is, " God only knows what year and day and
hour the end of the world and the Judgment shall be. And
although God has caused Me, Christ, as I am man, to know the
same, as I am that one man who is united to the WORD ; yet as I
am the Father s ambassador to men, He hath not willed Me to make
known that day, but to keep it secret, and to stir them up
continually to prepare themselves for it." There is a like mode
of expression in S. John xv. 15.
There are some who explain thus : that Christ, qua man, knoweth
not the Day of Judgment; but that He knoweth it as He is the
God-man. That is to say, Christ as man knoweth it not by virtue
of His humanity, but of His divinity. So S. Athanasius (Sermon
4, contra Arian.}, Nazianzen (Or at. 4, de Theologl), Cyril
(lib. 9, Thesaur. c. 4), Ambrose (lib. 5, de Fide, c. 8).
Maldonatus gives another explanation. He says that Christ, even
as He is God, knoweth not the Day of Judgment in, as it were, an
ex offirio sense, because it is the office of the Father alone
to predestinate, decree, and determine the Day of Judgment; and,
by consequence, that He knows it, and reveals it when He wills.
For providence, in which predestination is included, is a
special attribute of the Father. But this explanation is
somewhat too subtle and abstruse.
But as the days of Noah, &c. Like the Deluge, which suddenly and
unexpectedly drowned all men, shall My Advent come upon all.
This is made plain by the subsequent verse.
100 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
As in the days that were before the flood, c.
Ver. 39. And knew not, &c. You may say, "From the dark ness of
the sun and moon, and the falling of the stars, and the other
dreadful signs, men will know that the end of the world is
near." As Luke saith, Men s hearts withering with fear, and with
looking for those things which are coming on the earth. "
Therefore the end of the world cannot be unexpected by them." I
reply, that after the darkening of the sun and moon, and the
other signs, God will give a certain space of quietness and
peace; and then men will forget the signs, and will give
themselves up to pleasures, to gluttony and lust, even as they
did before. Then will God put an end to them and to the world,
crushing them with a sudden destruction. In like manner, dying
persons will seem to revive for a little while, but soon grow
worse and expire. So, too, a candle when it is burnt out will
flicker up with a last effort before its flame, like a breath,
departs and is extinguished. Again, so great shall be the
hardness and the wickedness of the multitude of the ungodly at
that time, that even though they do behold the sun and moon
darkened, yet will they apply themselves to the gluttony and the
luxury to which they have been accustomed, and will not think of
the end of the world so nigh at the doors. Thus was it with
Belshazzar, when he was feasting with his lords, on the night
when he was besieged and slain by Cyrus, until he beheld the
fateful hand which foretold his destruction by the words, Meni,
Tekel, Phares. Wherefore S. Augustine teaches that at the end of
the world, the righteous will be sorrowful on account of these
signs, but the \vicked will indulge their bent, and rejoice.
Then two shall be in the field, &c. In the Day of Judgment
Christ will separate companion from companion, neighbour from
neighbour ; as, for example, husbandman from husbandman. Him who
has lived justly and piously He will take up with Himself to
glory. But his companion, who has lived wickedly, He will leave
in his sins, and condemn to everlasting punishment. For as S.
Ambrose says (in Luke xvii. 35), "He who is taken is carried
away to meet Christ in the air ; but he who is left is
ON WATCHING. IOI
Christ says this, that no one may trust to good society merely
because he lives among the righteous. He would also show how
exact and searching will be that judgment, which will separate
father from son, wife from husband, brother from brother."
Two women, &c. He instances the same thing in persons grinding
at a mill. For formerly mills were in use which were not turned
by wind or water, but by hand. These were worked by male and
female slaves to grind flour (see Ex. xi. 5). In mola (Vulg.), h
rti pvXwi, in the place of grinding, where was the bakehouse.
Ver. 42. Watch therefore, &c. That is, " think continually that
death is certain, but the day of death uncertain. I say the same
of the Day of Judgment, both that particular judgment which
comes to every one at death, as well as the general Judgment,
which shall take place at the end of the world. Wherefore
prepare yourselves for both by giving heed to virtue and good
works." For as S. Jerome saith (in Joel, c. ii.), "That which
shall happen to all in the Day of Judgment is fulfilled in each
at the day of death." And S. Augustine (Epist. 80) says, " In
whatsoever state a man s last day shall find him, in the same
state shall the world s last day come upon him ; because as the
man dies, so shall he be judged. Therefore ought every Christian
to watch, lest the coming of the Lord find him unprepared. But
that day shall find unprepared the man whom the last day of his
life now shall seize unprepared."
Moreover, the reason why God wills that this day should be
unknown to us is, that the uncertainty may be a never-failing
stimulus to us in the practice of every virtue. "For," as S.
Chrysostom says, " if men knew surely when they were to die, at
that time only would they seek to repent."
The devil, therefore, in order that he may take away this
stimulus of uncertainty, gets rid of it by degrees, and in part.
He persuades every one that they have at least one year to live.
When that has come to an end, he tells them they have another,
and so on interminably. He causes men to believe themselves so
strong and well, that they can surely live this one year. Year
by year he does this, and puts such a thought into their minds
as, "You are in
102 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
very good health ; you will not die this year." Thus it comes to
pass that being, as it were, certain of life, they neglect
repentance from year to year, deferring it to the year in which
they are to die. Wherefore, when that year comes to each in
which it is God s decree that they shall die, they, in like
manner, persuade them selves that they will not die in it. Thus
it comes to pass that they are always unprepared when certain
death and the last day over take them. Wherefore this idea,
instigated by the devil, must be crushed. Every one should say
to himself at the beginning of each year, of each day, "It may
be that thou shalt die this year or this day. Therefore so live
as if thou wert to die to-day." This was the advice which S.
Anthony was wont to give to his disciples, as S. Athanasius
testifies, " When we awake out of sleep, let us be in doubt
whether we shall see the evening. When we lay us down to rest,
let us not be confident that we shall come to the light of
another day. Thus we shall not offend, nor be carried away by
vain desires. Neither shall we be angry, nor covet to lay up
earthly treasures. But rather by the fear of departure, from day
to day we shall trample upon all transitory things." Barlaam
also taught the same to his Josaphat, " Think that this day thou
hast begun the religious life. Think that this day also thou
wilt finish it." S. Jerome says, " So live as though thou
shouldst die to-day ; so study as though thou wert to live
always." The same Father (Ep. 1 6, ad Prinapiam) says that
Marcella was wont to praise that saying of Plato, " that
philosophy was a meditation upon death ; * and the precept of
the Satirist, " Live mindful of death : time flies. * She
therefore so lived as though she always believed herself at the
point of death. When she put on her clothes, she remembered the
grave, offering herself to God as a reasonable, living, accept
Ver. 43. But know this> &c. Here we must "supply what is to be
understood, somewhat as follows : But forasmuch as a man knows
not this hour, and is not willing or able to watch at every
hour, therefore the thief, as his manner is, comes at the hour
in which he thinks the householder is not watching, but
MEANING OF THE THIEF. 1 03
so robs his house while he is asleep. It is clear that this is
the meaning from the Greek, which has in the past tense, If the
master of the house had known in what hour the thief would come,
he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to
be broken through. You must supply, "But because he did not know
the hour, he did not watch, and did suffer his house to be
broken into and robbed."
By the thief, S. Hilary understands the devil. " The thief," he
says, "shows that the devil is very watchful to take from us our
goods, and to plot against the houses of our souls, that he may
dig through them whilst we are careless, and given up to the
sleep of our own devices ; and he would pierce through them with
the darts of enticements. It behoves us, therefore, to be
prepared, because ignorance of the day sharpens the intense
solicitude of expectation ever suspended." But it is better to
apply the words to Christ. For so He Himself explains, applying
this parable of the thief to Himself in the following verse.
Be ye also ready, &c. . . . the Son of man shall come, to
judgment, both the particular judgment of your own soul, and the
general Judgment of all men at the end of the world. Christ
therefore compares Himself to a thief, not as regards the act of
stealing, but as regards silence and secrecy, in that the thief
chooses the hour in which he thinks the householder will be
absent or asleep, that so he may come upon him unawares, and rob
his house. In like manner Christ summons those who are careless,
and not waiting for Him, to death and judgment. Whence the
Apocalypse warns every one saying, "Behold, I come as a thief"
(xvi. 15). And S. Paul (i Thess. v. 4) says, "But ye, brethren,
are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a
thief. Ye are all children of the light, and of the day." Truly
hath the wise man said, "The life of mortals is a vigil."
The truth of this sentence of Christ is seen in daily
experience. For we see very many men seized by death at a time
when they think themselves to be in good health, and are forming
grand projects in their minds. They think death is far distant,
104 S - MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
promise themselves many years of life. And yet both experience
and the warning of Christ should teach them to do the very
opposite. When they appear to themselves to enjoy the most
perfect health, they should think that death is lying hid at the
very threshold of their doors, and should believe that they are
then about to die when thoughts and hopes of long life are
suggested to them, either by the devil or their own
concupiscence. So would the day of death never come upon them
unawares, nor overtake them as a thief.
Thus did the wise and holy men of whom we read in the Lives of
the Fathers (lib. 5, libello 3, de Compunc. n. 2). Abbot Ammon
gives this precept of salvation to a certain person, "Entertain
such thoughts as evil-doers who are in prison have. For these
men ask, Where is the judge, and when will he come? And they
weep in expectation of their punishments. After this manner
ought a monk to do. He should ever be chiding his soul, and
saying, Woe is me, who have to stand before the judgment-seat of
Christ, to render unto Him an account of all my deeds/ For if
thou wilt always meditate thus, thou wilt be safe." And Abbot
Evagrius said, " That is divine, to picture the dreadful and
terrible judgment. Consider the confusion which is laid up for
sinners, which they shall endure in the presence of Christ and
God, before angels, and archangels, and powers, and all men.
Think of the everlasting fire, the undying worm, the blackness
of hell; and in addition to all these things, the gnashing of
teeth the fears and torments. Consider likewise the good things
which are laid up for the righteous confidence before God the
Father and Christ His Son, and before the angels. Consider the
heavenly Kingdom and its gifts of joy and rest." And Abbot Elias
saith, "I am afraid of three things the first, the going forth
of my soul from the body; the second, when I shall meet God; the
third, when sentence shall be pronounced against me." Abp.
Theophilus, of holy memory, said, when he was about to die, "
Blessed art thou, O Abbot Arsenius, because thou always hadst
this hour before thine eyes." In the same work we read that
THE FAITHFUL SERVANT. 105
a certain old man saw one laughing, and said to him, " We have
to give an account of our whole life before the Lord of heaven
and earth, and dost thou laugh ? "
Ver. 45. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, &c. Who then ?
Who thinkest thou? At first sight there might seem to be a
hiatus here, or a question without an answer. But it is not so.
The sentence should be disposed as follows : " Who, thinkest
thou, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the Lord hath
set over His family, to give them of His. household food in due
season?" He assuredly is faithful and prudent who performs that
for which he is appointed, who does give every member of the
family their food in due time. He distributes, that is, to the
servants and domestics, their proper portion of victuals, as the
price of their labours. For in ancient times, when money was
scarce, the wages of servants were paid in rations of food.
This saying of Christ has special reference to Bishops and
Pastors. For on them it is incumbent to feed the Church, which
is their family, indeed Christ s family, that they should
distribute the food of holy doctrine according to the capacity
of every one to receive it. Wherefore it behoves them to be
vigilant in this matter, prudent, and faithful. Thus, S. Hilary
saith, " Although He exhorts every one of us in common to betake
ourselves to unwearied watchfulness, yet He gives a special
charge of solicitude to the princes of the people, that is, to
the Bishops, in expectation of His Advent. For He signifies that
he is a faithful servant, and a prudent overseer of His family,
who is careful about the profit of the people committed to his
charge; who hears the word and obeys it ; who in opportunity of
doctrine and truth strengthens the weak, establishes the fallen,
converts the depraved, and dispenses the word of life as the
eternal food for nourishing the family."
This question, Who thinkest thou? intimates that such ;
servants, such Bishops and Pastors as are wholly faithful to
Christ in the care of His flock, are few. Whence the saying of
S. Jerome, "Priests many, Priests few." Also that of S.
106 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
Apostle of Germany, and Martyr, " Formerly Priests of gold
celebrated in chalices of wood; now Priests of wood celebrate in
chalices of gold."
Blessed is that servant . . . so doing: that is, assiduously and
continually until death, and the day of particular judgment, and
so, by consequence, of the general Judgment, namely, that he
should distribute to all the faithful of his Church such food as
is suitable for each, the word and Sacraments, especially the
Holy Eucharist, to nourish their souls in faith and piety.
Blessed therefore is the Bishop who doth this, because, not only
on account of his own holiness shall he receive of Christ the
crown of righteousness, but shall obtain as many crowns as there
are faithful people whom he has nourished and profited,
according to the words of Daniel, "They that instruct many to
justice shall shine as the stars for perpetual eternities "
Ver. 47. Amen, i.e., Verily I say, &c. He alludes to the servant
who, because of his merit in faithfully and prudently ruling his
master s household, deserves to be exalted by him and set over
all his goods, so as to enjoy them as an associate and
companion, and almost like an equal of his master. Such was
Joseph, who was set by Pharaoh to preside over Egypt, and was
virtually king of Egypt (Gen. xli. 10). In like manner will God
bless prudent and faithful Bishops, who have ruled well their
flocks, and have guided them to everlasting salvation. He will
bestow upon them greater glory than He will upon private
believers. He will cause them to preside, not only over them,
but He will make them kings and lords of the whole universe.
Thus Rernigius says, " He will make the good hearers to sit
down, as Luke saith : the good preachers He will set over all
His goods. For as the difference of merits is great, so also is
the difference in rewards." This is \what is spoken of in Apoc.
iv. 10, "The four and twenty Elders," i.e., Bishops and
Prelates, "cast their crowns before Him that sitteth on the
Throne and worshipped Him that liveth for ever, saying unto the
Lamb," that is, to Christ, "Thou hast made us unto God a Kingdom
and Priests, and we
THE GOOD STEWARD. IO/
shall reign for ever and ever." What I have said of Bishops
applies to every father of a family, for he is, as it were, a
bishop of his own house ; and as S. Augustine saith, every
faithful soul is a bishop of himself.
In the Life of S. Amandus, who flourished about A.D. 870, and
who converted Sclavonians and many other tribes to Christ, it is
related, that at the very hour when he departed this life, he
appeared to S. Aldegonde in glory, encompassed with a
white-robed throng. And when she knew not what it meant, she
heard an angel saying, "Amandus, the man of God, has passed in
glory to celestial joys. The white-robed throng are they who by
means of his earnest preaching have been enrolled as citizens of
Heaven, and from henceforth he shall appear as a prince over
them for ever." Among the more illustrious of his disciples were
S. Landvald, S. Bavo, S. Amantius, S. Gertrude, S. Maurontus,
and many others.
Over all His goods ; Gr. over all the things which belong to
Hi??i self. The good things of God are twofold, viz., ist.
Things external and created, as Heaven and earth, and all
creatures contained in them. So Origen. 2d. Things internal and
un created such are His infinite majesty, goodness, wisdom,
power, and glory. For God is,- as it were, an infinite ocean of
all good things; and over them all He will appoint His faithful
servant His bishop and pastor. He will make him to rule, as it
were, not only over all creatures, but also over all the immense
and infinite goodness which God contains in Himself, that he may
enjoy them with God, and be blessed and glorified for ever. For
if Jacob, wrestling with the angel of God, and overcoming Him,
willing to be overcome, was called Israel, /.<?., "ruling God"*
Gen. xxxii. 28), much rather shall blessed Bishops, by their own
virtue, as it were, overcoming God, be called and become Israels,
that is, "rulers of God," that "they may have these eternal
rewards, both because of their own life, as well as for their
* Dominans Deo is the Latin of a Lapide. It might perhaps be
translated "lord of God."
I0 8 S. MATTHEW, C. XXIV.
of their flocks," as Rabanus says. For in that they have rightly
presided over the flock of God, they have therefore deserved
that they should, in a certain sense, through God s wonderful
condescension, be appointed over the good things of God, and
even over Himself. For God makes Himself over to them, as their
peculiar possession, as it is said in the i6th Psalm, "The Lord
is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup."
But if that evil servant, i.e., such a servant as has been set
by his master over his household, shall say, &c. It means, "If a
Bishop shall think, The day of death and judgment is far away :
wherefore I will abuse my life and my office for the purposes of
luxury and ambition. " Therefore He adds
Ver. 49. And shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, &c. To
smite, i.e., unjustly. For, as saith Auctor Imperf., " He who
smites for just cause, even if he smite, does not seem to smite.
For as righteous anger is not anger, but diligence ; so just
smiting is not smiting, but correction. Thus a father and a
master smite their sons and pupils for the sake of correcting
Christ here intimates that there are two capital vices of
Prelates, from which all their other faults take their rise.
They are, imperious and tyrannical audacity, and a seeking after
pleasures, gluttony, and luxury. This is why S. Peter admonishes
Pastors and Bishops (i Pet. v. 2) thus, " Feed the flock of God,
which is among you, providing for them not by constraint, but
sponta neously, according to God; neither for filthy lucre s
sake, but voluntarily; neither as lording it over the clergy,
but as affording examples of their actions to the flock from the
heart. And when the Prince of the Shepherds shall appear, ye
shall receive the unwithering crown of glory."
The Lord . . . shall come . . . when he looketh not ; Vulg. non
sperat, hopeth not, expecteth not. Thus Virgil, in the First ^Eneid,
" Hope," that is, fear, " that the gods take note of right and
And shall cut him asunder ; cut in twain, i.e., soul and body in
death, and after death, by sending the soul to
SLOTHFUL SERVANTS. 1 09
hell and the demons, and the body to the tomb and the worms, "
He shall divide? says S. Jerome, " not by cutting him in two
wiih a sword, but by severing him from the company of the
Saints." It means that not only shall Christ remove such a
Bishop from his office, but shall separate him from the company
of the Blessed, and deliver him to the devil to be tormented for
With the hypocrites , i.e., slothful servants, who, like
hypocrites, serve only the eyes of their masters. As soon as
they are out of their master s sight, they indulge in sleep and
drunkenness, and so shall be sent to the prison-house of hell,
which is the proper place for the slothful. Thus in Proverbs,
passim, a hypocrite signifies a wicked man, who serves God
slothfully, but his own lusts fervently. There is an allusion to
Job viii. 13, "The hope of the hypocrite shall perish."
Christ has shown that it is the duty of every believer to watch,
that by good works he may prepare himself for the certain coming
of the Lord to judgment, forasmuch as the time is uncertain,
lest that day should come upon him unawares. This He showed :
ist. By the example of the Deluge, which drowned the world at
unawares (ver. 37). 2d. By the parable of the house holder, who
watches that he may repel the thief, who comes by night, at a
time unexpected (ver. 43). 3rd. By the parable of the servants,
one faithful, the other unfaithful ; the one of whom receives
from his master an ample reward, the other severe chastisement
(ver. 45). 4th. In the following chapter (ver. i), by the
parable of the virgins. 5th. By the parable of the talents,
which the master distributes to his servants, and gloriously re
compenses those who had traded diligently, but beats those who
were idle and slothful.
THE VEIL RENT
"Now there were two veils, one before the
Holy of Holies, the other before the Holy Place, which the
priests entered every day. But the Holy of Holies the Chief
Priest alone entered, and once only in the year. Some consider
that the outer veil was rent (S. Jerome, Ep. cl. ad Hedibiaui).
But it was clearly the inner one. (See S. Leo, Serm. x. de Pass.
; S. Cyril, in John xix. ; Euthymius and others.) But why was it
rent? S. Cyril, Theophylact, and Euthymius say to show that the
temple was indignant that the Priests, who should have been the
first to acknowledge Christ, had denied and slain Him. And that
it thus foretold, and threatened, as it were, that they were to
be deprived of their Priesthood (S. Leo, Serm. x. de Pass.},
Mystically : Theophylact says it was to signify that the temple
was to be profaned, and done away with, and set aside, with all
its rites and sacrifices (nay, more, says S. Chrysostom, "to be
laid waste"). God in this way made it manifest," says
Theophylact, "that the grace of the Holy Spirit was flying away
from the temple, and that the Holy of Holies (before
inaccessible) was brought within view of all." "For then," says
S. Cyril (xii. 27 on John), " Israel fell utterly away from the
grace of God when it so madly and impiously slew its Saviour."
And S. Hilary, "The glory of the veil was taken away, and the
protection of the guardian angel." Hence S. Ephr. (Serm. de
Pass.) records that when it was rent asunder, a dove, the type
of the Holy Spirit, flew out of the temple.
Allegorically : To signify that the veil of legal ceremonies was
thrown open, as fulfilled in Christ, so that henceforth both
Jews and Gentiles should clearly know God, and Christ, and His
Mysteries, which the Jews figuratively shadowed forth in so many
ways ; nay, more, that the service and Church of God should be
transferred from Jerusalem, and the temple to the Gentiles and
to Rome. So Origen, S. Jerome, S. Ambrose, and others. S. Leo
says (Serm. xvii. de Pass.), " There was then so clear a change
made from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the
Church, from the many sacrifices to the One Victim, God Himself,
that when our Lord gave up the ghost the veil was violently and
suddenly rent asunder." And S. Jerome, "The veil of the temple
was rent, and all the mysteries of the Law, whicn before were
kept secret, were then laid open, and handed over to the
Analogically: S. Paul says (Heb. ix.) that the way to Heaven,
was then opened ; for the Holy of Holies was a type of Heaven,
and the veil signified that it was closed till Christ burst
through it by His death. S. Jerome mentions that the huge lintel
of the temple was then broken (Epist. cl). But Josephus says
that it was at the destruction of Jerusalem. "