Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 15
1. Then came to Jesus Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
Raban.: The men of Gennezareth and the less learned believe; but they who seem to be wise come to dispute with Him; according to that, "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Whence it is said, "Then, came to him from Jerusalem Scribes and Pharisee."
Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 49: The Evangelist thus constructs the order of his narrative, "Then came unto him," that, as appeared in the passage over the lake, the order of the events that followed that might be shewn.
Chrys.: For this reason also the Evangelist marks the time that He may shew their [p. 549] iniquity overcome by nothing; for they came to Him at a time when He had wrought many miracles, when He had healed the sick by the touch of His hem. That the Scribes and Pharisees are here said to have come from Jerusalem, it should be known that they were dispersed through all the tribes, but those that dwelt in the Metropolis were worse than the others, their higher dignity inspiring them with a greater degree of pride.
Remig.: They were faulty for two reasons; because they had come from Jerusalem, from the holy city; and because they were elders of the people, and doctors of the Law, and had not come to learn but to reprove the Lord; for it is added, "Saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?"
Jerome: wonderful infatuation of the Pharisees and Scribes! They accuse the Son of God that He does not keep the traditions and commandments of men.
Chrys.: Observe, how they are taken in their own question. They say not, 'Why do they transgress the Law of Moses?' but, "the tradition of the elders;" whence it is manifest that the Priests had introduced many new things, although Moses had said, "Ye shall not add ought to the word which I set before you this day, neither shall ye take ought away from it;" [Deut 4:2] and when they ought to have been set free from observances, then they bound themselves by many more; fearing lest any should take away their rule and power, they sought to increase the awe in which they were held, by setting themselves forth as legislators.
Remig.: Of what kind these traditions were, Mark shews when he says, "The Pharisees and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not." [Mark 7:3] Here then also they find fault with the disciples, saying, "For they wash not their hands when they eat bread."
Bede, in Marc., 7, 1: Taking carnally those words of the Prophets, in which it is said, "Wash, and be ye clean," [Isa 1:16] they observed it only in washing the body; hence they had laid it down that we ought not to eat with unwashen hands.
Jerome: But the hands that are to he washed are the acts not of the body, but of the mind; that the word of God may be done in them.
Chrys.: But the disciples now did not eat, with washen hands, because they already despised all things superfluous, and attended only to such as were necessary; thus they accepted neither washing nor not washing as a [p. 550] rule, but did either as it happened. For how should they who even neglected the food that was necessary for them, have any care about this rite?
Remig.: Or the Pharisees found fault with the Lord's disciples, not concerning that washing which we do from ordinary habit, and of necessity, but of that superfluous washing which was invented by the tradition of the elders.
Chrys.: Christ made no excuse for them, but immediately brought a counter charge, shewing that he that sins in great things ought not to take offence at the slight sins of others.
"He answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?"
He says not that they do well to transgress that He may not give room for calumny; nor on the other hand does He condemn what the Apostles had done, that He may not sanction their traditions; nor again does He bring any charge directly against them of old, that they might not put Him from them as a calumniator; but He points His reproof against those who had come to Him; thus at the same time touching the elders who had laid down such a tradition; saying,
Jerome: Since ye because of the tradition of men neglect the commandment of God, why do ye take upon you to reprove my disciples, for bestowing little regard upon the precepts of the elders, that they may observe the commands of God?
"For God hath said, Honour thy father and thy mother." Honour in the Scriptures is shewn not so much in salutations and courtesies as in alms and gifts. "Honour," says the Apostle, "the widows who are widows indeed;" [1 Tim 5:3] here 'honour' signifies a gift.
The Lord then having thought for the infirmity, the age, or the poverty of parents, commanded that sons should honour their parents in providing them with necessaries of life.
Chrys.: He desired to shew the great honour that ought to be paid to parents, and therefore attached both a reward and a penalty. But in this occasion the Lord passes over the reward promised to such as did honour their parents, namely, that they should live long upon the earth, and brings forward the terrible part only, namely, the punishment, that He might strike these dumb and attract others; "And he that, curseth father and mother, let him die the death;" thus He shews that they deserved even death. For if he who dishonours his parent [p. 551] even in word is worthy of death, much more ye who dishonour him in deed; and ye not only dishonour your parents, but teach others to do so likewise. Ye then who do not deserve even to live, how accuse ye my disciples? But how they transgress the commandment of God is clear when He adds, "But ye say, Whoso shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me."
Jerome: For the Scribes and Pharisees desiring to overturn this foregoing most provident law of God, that they might bring in their impiety under the mask of piety, taught bad sons, that should any desire to devote to God, who is the true parent, those things which ought to be offered to parents, the offering to the Lord should be preferred to the offering them to parents.
Gloss, ap. Anselm: In this interpretation the sense will be, What I offer to God will profit both you and myself; and therefore you ought not to take of my goods for your own needs, but to suffer that I offer them to God.
Jerome: And thus the parents refusing what they saw thus dedicated to God, that they might not incur the guilt of sacrilege, perished of want, and so it came to pass that what the children offered for the needs of the temple and the service of God, went to the gain of the Priests.
Gloss, ap. Anselm: Or the sense may be, "Whosoever," that is, of you young men, "shall say," that is, shall either be able to say, or shall say, "to his father or mother," O father, the gift that is of me devoted to God, shall it profit thee? as it were an exclamation of surprise; you ought not to take it that you may not incur the guilt of sacrilege.
Or, we may read it with this ellipsis, "Whosoever shall say to his father, &c." he shall do the commandment of God, or shall fulfil the Law, or shall be worthy of life eternal.
Jerome: Or it may briefly have the following sense; Ye compel children to say to their parents, What gift soever I was purposing to offer to God, you take and consume upon your living, and so it profits you; as much as to say. Do not so.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: And thus through these arguments of your avarice, this youth shall "Honour not his father or his mother." As if He had said; Ye have led sons into most evil deeds; so that it will come to pass that afterwards they shall not even honour their father and mother. And thus ye have made the commandment of God concerning the [p. 552] support of parents by their children vain through your traditions, obeying the dictates of avarice.
Aug., cont. Adv. Leg. et Proph., ii, 1: Christ here clearly shews both that that law which the heretic blasphemes is God's law, and that the Jews had their traditions foreign to the prophetical and canonical books; such as the Apostle calls "profane and vain fables."
Aug., cont. Faust., xvi, 24: The Lord here teaches us many things; That it was not He that turned the Jews from their God; that not only did He not infringe the commandments, but convicts them of infringing them; and that He had ordained no more than those by the hand of Moses.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 16: Otherwise; "The gift whatsoever thou offerest on my account, shall profit thee;" that is to say, Whatsoever gift thou offerest on my account, shall henceforth remain with thee; the son signifying by these words that there is no longer need that parents should offer for him, as he is of age to offer for himself. And those who were of age to be able to say thus to their parents, the Pharisees denied that they were guilty, if they did not shew honour to their parents.
Chrys.: The Lord had shewn that the Pharisees were not worthy to accuse those who transgressed the commands of the elders, seeing they overthrew the law of God themselves; and He again proves this by the testimony of the Prophet; "Hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This [p. 553] people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far frost me."
Remig.: Hypocrite signifies dissembler, one who feigns one thing in his outward act, and bears another thing in his heart. These then are well called hypocrites because under cover of God's honour they sought to heap up for themselves earthly gain.
Raban.: Esaias saw before the hypocrisy of the Jews, that they would craftily oppose the Gospel, and therefore he said in the person of the Lord, "This people honoureth me with their lips, &c."
Remig.: For the Jewish nation seemed to draw near to God with their lips and mouth, inasmuch as they boasted that they held the worship of the One God; but in their hearts they departed from Him, because after they had seen His signs and miracles, they would neither acknowledge His divinity, nor receive Him.
Raban.: Also, they honoured Him with their lips when they said, "Master, we know that thou art true," [Matt 22:16] but their heart was far from Him when they sent spies to entangle Him in His talk.
Gloss, ap. Anselm: Or, They honoured Him in commending outward purity; but in that they lacked the inward which is the true purity, their heart was far from God, and such honour was of no avail to them; as it follows, "But without reason do they worship me, teaching doctrines and commandments of men."
Raban.: Therefore they shall not have their reward with the true worshippers, because they teach doctrines and commandments of men to the contempt of the law of God.
Chrys.: Having added weight to His accusation of the Pharisees by the testimony of the Prophet, and not having amended them, He now ceases to speak to them, and turns to the multitudes, "And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear and understand." Because He was about to set before them a high dogma, and full of much philosophy, He does not utter it nakedly, but so frames His speech that it should be received by them.
First, by exhibiting anxiety on their account, which the Evangelist expresses by the words, "And he called the multitude to him."
Secondly, the time He chooses recommends His speech; after the victory He has just gained over the Pharisees. And He not merely calls the multitude to Him, [p. 554] but rouses their attention by the words, "Hear and understand;" that is, Attend, and give your minds to what ye are to hear. But He said not unto them, The observance of meats is nought; nor, Moses bade you wrongly; but in the way of warning and advice, drawing His testimony from natural things; "Not what entereth in at the mouth defileth a man, but what goeth forth of the mouth that defileth a man."
Jerome: The word here [ed. note: Jerome reads 'communicat.' The Vulgate has, coinquinat] 'makes a man common' is peculiar to Scripture, and is not hackneyed in common parlance. The Jewish nation, boasting themselves to be a part of God, call those meats common, of which all men partake; for example, swine's flesh, shell fish, hares, and those species of animals that do not divide the hoof, and chew the cud, and among the fish such as have not scales. Hence in the Acts of the Apostles we read, "What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common." [Acts 10:15] Common then in this sense is that which is free to the rest of mankind, and as though not in part of God, is therefore called unclean.
Aug., cont. Faust., vi, 6: This declaration of the Lord, "Not that which, entereth into the mouth defileth a man," is not contrary to the Old Testament. As the Apostle also speaks, "To the pure all things are pure;" [Tit 1:15] and "Every creature of God is good." [1 Tim 4:4]
Let the Manichaeans understand, if they can, that the Apostle said this of the very natures and qualities of things; while that letter (of the ritual law) declared certain animals unclean, not in their nature but typically, for certain figures which were needed for a time. Therefore to take an instance in the swine and the lamb, by nature both are clean, because naturally every creature of God is good; but in a certain typical meaning the lamb is clean, and the swine unclean.
Take the two words, 'fool,' and 'wise,' in their own nature, as sounds, or letters, both of them are pure, but one of them because of the meaning attached to it, not because of any thing in its own nature, may be said to be impure. And perhaps what the swine are in typical representation, that among mankind is the fool; and the animal, and this word of two syllables (stultus) signify some [p. 555] one and the same thing. That animal is reckoned unclean in the law because it does not chew the cud; but this is not its fault but its nature. But the men of whom this animal is the emblem, are impure by their own fault, not by nature; they readily hear the words of wisdom, but never think upon them again.
Whatever of profit you may hear, to summon this up from the internal region of the memory through the sweetness of recollection into the mouth of thought, what is this but spiritually to chew the cud? They who do not this are represented by this species of animal. Such resemblances as these in speech, or in ceremonies, having figurative signification, profitably and pleasantly move the rational mind; but by the former people, many such things were not only to be heard, but to be kept as precepts. For that was a time when it behoved not in words only, but in deeds, to prophesy those things which hereafter were to be revealed. When these had been revealed through Christ, and in Christ, the burdens of observances were not imposed on the faith of the Gentiles; but the authority of the prophecy was yet confirmed.
But I ask of the Manichaeans, whether this declaration of the Lord, when He said that a man is not defiled by what enters into his mouth, is true or false? If false, why then does their doctor Adimantus bring it forward against the Old Testament? If true, why contrary to its tenor do they consider that they are thus defiled?
Jerome: The thoughtful reader may here object and say, If that which entereth into the mouth defileth not a man, why do we not feed on meats offered to idols? Be it known then that meats and every creature of God is in itself clean; but the invocation of idols and daemons makes them unclean with those at least who with conscience of the idol eat that which is offered to idols; and their conscience being weak is polluted, as the Apostle says.
Remig.: But if any one's faith be so strong that he understands that God's creature can in no way be defiled, let him eat what he will, after the food has been hallowed by the word of God and of prayer; yet so that this his liberty be not made an offence to the weak, as the Apostle speaks.
Jerome: In one of the Lord's discourses the whole superstition of Jewish observances had been cut down. They placed their whole religion in using or abstaining from certain meats.
Chrys.: When the Pharisees heard the things that went before, they made no reply to them, because He had so mightily overthrown them, not only refuting their arguments, but detecting their fraud, but they, not the multitudes, were offended at them.
"Then came his disciples unto him and said, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying?"
Jerome: As this word 'scandalum' (offence or stumblingblock) is of such frequent use in ecclesiastical writings, we will shortly explain it. We might render it in Latin, 'offendiculum,' or 'ruina,' or 'impactio;' and so when we read, Whosoever shall scandalize, we understand, whoso by word or deed has given an occasion of falling to any.
Chrys.: Christ does not remove the stumblingblock out of the way of the Pharisees, but rather rebukes them; as it follows, "But he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted shall be rooted up."
This Manichaeus affirmed was spoken of the Law, but what has been already said is a sufficient refutation of this. For if He had said this of the Law, how would He have above contended for the Law, saying, "Why transgress ye the commandment of God through your tradition?"
Or would He have cited the Prophet? Or how, if God said, "Honour thy father and thy mother," is not this, being spoken in the Law, a plant of God?
Hilary: What He intends then by a plant not planted of His Father, is that tradition of men under cover [p. 557] of which the Law had been transgressed, this He instructs them must be rooted up.
Remig.: Every false doctrine and superstitious observance with the workers thereof cannot endure; and because it is not from God the Father, it shall be rooted up with the same. And that only shall endure which is of God.
Jerome: Shall that plant also be rooted up of which the Apostle says, "I planted, Apollos watered?" [1 Cor 3:6] The question is answered by what follows, "but God gave the increase." He says also, "Ye are God's husbandry, a building of God;" and in another place, "We are workers together of God." And if when Paul plants, and Apollos waters, they are in so doing workers together with God, then God plants and waters together with them.
This passage is abused by some who apply it at once to two different kinds of men; they say, 'If every plant which the Father hath not planted shall be rooted up, then that which He has planted cannot be rooted up.' But let them hear these words of Jeremiah, "I had planted thee a true vine, wholly a right seed, how then art thou turned into the bitterness of a strange vine?" [Jer 2:21]
God indeed has planted it, and none may root up His planting. But since that planting was through the disposition of the will of him which was planted, none other can root it up unless its own will consents thereto.
Gloss. interlin.: Or, the plant here spoken of may be the doctors of the Law with their followers, who had not Christ for their foundation. Why they are to be rooted up, He adds, "Let them alone; they are blind, leaders of the blind."
Raban.: They are blind, that is, they want the light of God's commandments; and they are "leaders of the blind," inasmuch as they draw others headlong, erring, and leading into error; whence it is added, "If the blind lead the blind, they both fall into the ditch."
Jerome: This is also the same as that Apostolic injunction, "A heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that such a one is perverse." [Tit 3:11-11] To the same end the Saviour commands evil teachers to be left to their own will, knowing that it is hardly that they can be brought to the truth.
Remig.: The Lord was used to speak in parables, so that Peter when he heard, "That which entereth into the mouth, defileth not a man," thought it was spoken as a parable, and asked, as it follows; "Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable." And because he asked this on behalf of the rest, they are all included in the rebuke, "But he said, Are ye also yet without understanding?"
Jerome: He is reproved by the Lord, because He supposed that to be spoken parabolically, which was indeed spoken plainly. Which teaches us that the hearer is to be blamed who would take dark sayings as clear, or clear sayings as obscure.
Chrys.: Or, The Lord blames him, because it was not from any uncertainty that he asked this, but from offence which he had taken. The multitudes had not understood what had been said; but the disciples were offended at it, whence at the first they had desired to ask Him concerning the Pharisees, but had been stayed by that mighty declaration, "Every plant, &c."
But Peter, who is ever zealous, is not silent even so; therefore the Lord reproves him, adding a reason for His reproof, "Do ye not understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?"
Jerome: Some cavil at this, that the Lord is ignorant of physical disputation in saying that all food goes into the belly, and is cast out into the draught; [p. 559] for that the food, as soon as it is taken, is distributed through the limbs, the veins, the marrow, and the nerves. But it should be known, that the lighter juices, and liquid food after it has been reduced and digested in the veins and vessels, passes into the lower parts through those passages which the Greeks call 'pores,' and so goes into the draught.
Aug., de Vera Relig., 40: The nourishment of the body being first changed into corruption, that is, having lost its proper form, is absorbed into the substance of the limbs, and repairs their waste, passing through a medium into another form, and by the spontaneous motion of the parts is so separated, that such portions as are adapted for the purpose are taken up into the structure of this fair visible, while such as are unfit are rejected through their own passages. One part consisting of faeces is restored to earth to reappear again in new forms; another part goes off in perspiration; and another is taken up by the nervous system for the purposes of reproduction of the species.
Chrys.: But the Lord in thus speaking answers His disciples after Jewish infirmity; He says that the food does not abide, but goes out; but if it did abide, yet would it not make a man unclean. But they could not yet hear these things. Thus Moses also pronounces that they continued unclean, so long as the food continued in them; for he bids them wash in the evening, and then they should be clean; calculating the time of digestion and egestion.
Aug., de Trin., xv, 10: And the Lord includes herein man's two mouths, one of the body, one of the heart. For when He says, "Not all that goeth into the mouth defileth a man," He clearly speaks of the body's mouth; but in that which follows, He alludes to the mouth of the heart; "But those things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and they defile a man."
Chrys.: For the things which are of the heart, remain within a man, and defile him in going out of him, as well as in abiding in him; yea, more in going out of him; wherefore He adds, "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts;" He gives these the first place, because this was the very fault of the Jews, who laid snares for Him.
Jerome: The principle therefore of the soul is not according to Plato in the brain, but according to Christ in the heart, and by this passage we may refute [p. 560] those who think that evil thoughts are suggestions of the Devil, and do not spring from our proper will. The Devil may encourage and abet evil thoughts, but not originate them. And if he be able, being always on the watch, to blow into flame any small spark of thought in us, we should not thence conclude that he searches the hidden places of the heart, but that from our manner and motions he judges of what is passing within us.
For instance, if he see us direct frequent looks towards a fair woman, he understands that our heart is wounded through the eye.
Gloss., non occ.: And from evil thoughts proceed evil deeds and evil words, which are forbidden by the law; whence He adds "Murders," which are forbidden by that commandment of the Law, "Thou shalt not kill;" "Adulteries, fornications," which are understood to be forbidden by that precept, "Thou, shalt not commit adultery;" "Thefts," forbidden by the command, "Thou shalt not steal;" "False witness," by that, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour;" "Blasphemies," by that, "Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain."
Remig.: Having named the vices which are forbidden by the divine Law, the Lord beautifully adds, "These are they that defile a man," that is, make him unclean and impure.
Gloss., non occ.: And because these words of the Lord had been occasioned by the iniquity of the Pharisees, who preferred their traditions to the commands of God, He hence concludes that there was no necessity for the foregoing tradition, "But to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."
Chrys.: He said not that to eat the meats forbidden in the Law defiles not a man, that they might not have what to answer to Him again; but He concludes in that concerning which the disputation had been.
21. Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." [p. 561]
Jerome: Leaving the Scribes and Pharisees and those cavillers, He passes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon, that He may heal the Tyrians and Sidonians; "And Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon."
Remig.: Tyre and Sidon were Gentile towns, for Tyre was the metropolis of the Chananaeans, and Sidon the boundary of the Chananaeans towards the north.
Chrys., Hom, iii: It should be observed, that when He delivered the Jews from the observance of meats, He then also opened the door to the Gentiles, as Peter was first bidden in the vision to break this law, and was afterwards sent to Cornelius. But if any should ask, how it is that He bade His disciples "go not into the way of the Gentiles," and yet now Himself walks this way; we will answer, first, that that precept which He had given His disciples was not obligatory on Him; secondly, that He went not to preach, whence Mark even says, that He purposely concealed Himself.
Remig.: He went that He might heal them of Tyre and Sidon; or that He might deliver this woman's daughter from the daemon, and so through her faith might condemn the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Of this woman it proceeds; "And, behold, a woman, a Chananite, came out [p. 562] from those parts."
Chrys.: The Evangelist says that she was a Chananaean, to shew the power of Christ's presence. For this nation, which had been driven out that they might not corrupt the Jews, now shewed themselves wiser than the Jews, leaving their own borders that they might go to Christ. And when she came to Him, she asked only for mercy, as it follows, "She cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, thou Son of David."
Gloss., ap. Anselm: The great faith of this Chananaean woman is herein shewed. She believes Him to be God, in that she calls Him "Lord;" and man, in that she calls Him "Son of David." She claims nothing of her own desert, but craves only God's mercy. And she says not, Have mercy on my daughter, but "Have mercy on me;" because the affliction of the daughter is the affliction of the mother. And the more to excite His compassion, she declares to Him the whole of her grief, "My daughter is sore vexed by a daemon;" thus unfolding to the Physician the wound, and the extent and nature of the disease; its extent, when she says "is sore vexed;" its nature, "by a daemon."
Chrys., Hom. in quaedam loca, xlvii: Note the wisdom of this woman, she went not to men who promised fair, she sought not useless bandages, but leaving all devilish charms, she came to the Lord. She asked not James, she did not pray John, or apply to Peter, but putting herself under the protection of penitence, she ran alone to the Lord. But, behold, a new trouble. She makes her petition, raising her voice into a shout, and God, the lover of mankind, answers not a word.
Jerome: Not from pharisaical pride, or the superciliousness of the Scribes, but that He might not seem to contravene His own decision, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles." For He was unwilling to give occasion to their cavils, and reserved the complete salvation of the Gentiles for the season of His passion and resurrection.
Gloss., ap. Anselm: And by this delay in answering, He shews us the patience and perseverance of this woman. And He answered not for this reason also, that the disciples might petition for her; shewing herein that the prayers of the Saints are necessary in order to obtain any thing; as it follows, "And his disciples came unto him, saying, Send her away, for she crieth after us."
Jerome: The disciples, as yet ignorant of the mysteries [p. 563] of God or moved by compassion, beg for this Chananaean woman; or perhaps seeking to be rid of her importunity.
Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 49: A question of discrepancy is raised upon this, that Mark says the Lord was in the house when the woman came praying for her daughter. Indeed Matthew might have been understood to have omitted mention of the house, and yet to have been relating the same event; but when he says, that the disciples suggested to the Lord, "Send her away, for she crieth after us," he seems to indicate clearly that the woman raised her voice in supplication, in following the Lord who was walking.
We must understand then, that, as Mark writes, she entered in where Jesus was, that is, as he had noticed above, in the house; then, that as Matthew writes, "He answered her not a word," and during this silence of both sides, Jesus left the house; and then the rest follows without any discordance.
Chrys.: I judge that the disciples were sorry for the woman's affliction, yet dared not say 'Grant her this mercy,' but only "Send her away," as we, when we would persuade any one, oftentimes say the very contrary to what we wish.
"He answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost
sheep of the house of
Jerome: He says that He is
not sent to the Gentiles, but that He is sent first to
Remig.: In this way also He was sent specially to the Jew, because He taught them by His bodily presence.
Jerome: And He adds "of
the house of
Chrys.: But when the woman saw that the Apostles had no power, she became bold with commendable boldness; for before she had not dared to come before His sight; but, as it is said, "She crieth after us." But when it seemed that she must now retire without being relieved, she came nearer, "But she came and worshipped him."
Jerome: Note how perseveringly this Chananaean woman calls Him first "Son of David," then "Lord," and lastly "came and worshipped him," as God.
Chrys.: And therefore she said not Ask, or Pray God for me, but "Lord, help me." But the more the woman urged her petition, the more He strengthened His [p. 564] denial; for He calls the Jews now not sheep but sons, and the Gentiles dogs; "He answered and said unto her, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and give it to dogs."
Gloss., ap. Anselm: The Jews were born sons, and brought up by the Law in the worship of one God. The bread is the Gospel, its miracles and other things which pertain to our salvation. It is not then meet that these should be taken from the children and given to the Gentiles, who are dogs, till the Jews refuse them.
Jerome: The Gentiles are called dogs because of their idolatry; who, given to the eating of blood, and dead bodies, turn to madness.
Chrys.: Observe this woman's prudence; she does not dare to contradict Him, nor is she vexed with the commendation of the Jews, and the evil word applied to herself; "But she said, Yea, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." He said, "It is not good;" she answers, 'Yet even so, Lord;' He calls the Jews children, she calls them masters; He called her a dog, she accepts the office of a dog; as if she had said, I cannot leave the table of my Lord.
Jerome: Wonderful are shewn the faith, patience, and humility of this woman; faith, that she believed that her daughter could be healed; patience, that so many times overlooked, she yet perseveres in her prayers; humility, that she compares herself not to the dogs, but to the whelps.
I know, she says, that I do not deserve the children's bread, and that I cannot have whole meat, nor sit at the table with the master of the house, but I am content with that which is left for the whelps, that through humble fragments I may come to the amplitude of the perfect bread.
Chrys.:. This was the cause why Christ was so backward, that He knew what she would say, and would not have her so great excellence hid; whence it follows, "Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee according to thy will."
Observe how the woman herself had contributed not a little to her daughter's healing; and therefore Christ said not unto her, 'Let thy daughter be healed,' but, "Be it unto thee according to thy will;" that you may perceive that she had spoken in sincerity, and that her words were not words of flattery, but of abundant faith.
And this word of Christ is like that word which said, "Let [p. 565] there be a firmament." [Gen 1:6] and it was made; so here, "And her daughter was made whole from that hour."
Observe how she obtains what the Apostles could not obtain for her; so great a thing is the earnestness of prayer. He would rather that we should pray for our own offences ourselves, than that others should pray for us.
Remig.: In these words is given us a pattern of catechizing and baptizing children; for the woman says not 'Heal my daughter,' or 'Help her,' but, "Have mercy upon me, and help me." Thus there has come down in the Church the practice that the faithful are sponsors to God for their young children, before they have attained such age and reason that they can themselves make any pledge to God. So that as by this woman's faith her daughter was healed, so by the faith of Catholics of mature age their sins might be forgiven to infants.
Allegorically; This woman figures the Holy Church gathered out of the Gentiles. The Lord leaves the Scribes and Pharisees, and comes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon; this figures His leaving the Jews and going over to the Gentiles. This woman came out of her own country, because the Holy Church departed from former errors and sins.
Jerome: And the daughter of this Chananaean I suppose to be the souls of believers, who were sorely vexed by a daemon, not knowing their Creator, and bowing down to stones.
Remig.: Thus of whom the Lord speaks as children are the Patriarchs and Prophets of that time. By the table is signified the Holy Scripture, by the fragments the best precepts, or inward mysteries on which Holy Church feeds; by the crumbs the carnal precepts which the Jews keep. The fragments are said to be eaten under the table, because the Church submits itself. humbly to fulfilling the Divine commands.
Raban.: But the whelps eat not the crust only, but the crumbs of the children's bread, because the despised among the Gentiles on turning to the faith, seek out in Scripture not the outside of the letter, but the spiritual sense, by which they may be able to profit in good acts.
Jerome: Wonderful change of
Raban.: Great indeed was her faith; for the Gentiles, neither trained in the Law, nor educated by the words of the Prophets, straightway on the preaching of the Apostles obeyed with the hearing of the ear, and therefore deserved to obtain salvation.
Gloss., non occ.: And if the Lord delays the salvation of a soul at the first tears of the supplicating Church, we ought not to despair, or to cease from our prayers, but rather continue them earnestly.
Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 18: And that to heal the Centurion's servant, and the daughter of this Chananaean woman, He does not go to their houses, signifies that the Gentiles, among whom He himself went not, should be saved by His word. That these are healed on the prayer of their parents, we must understand of the Church, which is at once mother and children; the whole body of those who make up the Church is the mother, and each individual of that body is a son of that mother.
Hilary: Or, This mother represents the proselytes, in that she leaves her own country, and forsakes the Gentiles for the name of another nation; she prays for her daughter, that is, the body of the Gentiles possessed with unclean spirits; and having learned the Lord by the Law, calls Him the Son of David.
Raban.: Also whosoever has his conscience polluted with the defilement of any sin, has a daughter sorely vexed by a daemon. Also whosoever has defiled any good that he has done by the plague of sin, has a daughter tossed by the furies of an unclean spirit, and has need to fly to prayers and tears, and to seek the intercessions and aids of the saints.
Jerome: Having healed the daughter of this Chananaean, the Lord returns into Judaea, as it follows, "And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee."
Remig.: This sea is called by various names; the sea at Galilee, because of its neighbourhood to Galilee; the sea of Tiberias, from the town of Tiberias.
"And going up into a mountain, he sat down there."
Chrys.: It should be considered that sometimes the Lord goes about to heal the sick, sometimes He sits and waits for them to come; and accordingly here it is added, "And there came great multitudes unto him, having with them those that were dumb, lame, blind, maimed, and many others."
Jerome: What the Latin translator calls 'debiles' (maimed), is in the Greek , which is not a general term for a maimed person, but a peculiar species, as he that is lame in one foot is called 'claudus,' so he that is crippled in one hand is called, .
Chrys.: These shewed their faith in two points especially, in that they went up the mountain, and in that they believed that they had need of nothing beyond but to cast themselves at Jesus' feet; for they do not now touch the hem even of His garment, but have attained to a loftier faith; "And cast them down at Jesus' feet."
The woman's daughter He healed with great slackness, that He might shew her virtue; but to these He administers healing immediately, not because they were better than that woman, but that He might stop the mouths of the unbelieving Jews; as it follows, "and he healed them all."
But the multitude of those that were healed, and the ease with which it was done, struck them with astonishment. "Insomuch that the multitude wondered when they saw the dumb to speak."
Jerome: He said nothing concerning the maimed, because there was no one word which was the opposite of this." [ed. note: The Vulgate and old Italic have no clause to , (the maimed to be whole) of the Greek, which is also wanting in many ancient versions.]
Raban.: Mystically; Having
in the daughter of this Chananaean prefigured the salvation of the Gentiles,
Ho came into Judaea; because, "when the fulness of the Gentiles shall
have entered in, then shall all
Gloss., ap Anselm: The sea near to which Jesus came signifies the turbid [p. 568] swellings of this world; it is the sea of Galilee when men pass from virtue to vice.
Jerome: He goes up into the mountain, that as a bird He may entice the tender nestlings to fly.
Raban.: Thus raising his hearers to meditate on heavenly things. He sat down there to shew that rest is not to be sought but in heavenly things. And as He sits on the mountain, that is, in the heavenly height, there come unto Him multitudes of the faithful, drawing near to Him with devoted mind, and bringing to Him the dumb, and the blind, &c. and cast them down at Jesus' feet; because they that confess their sins are brought to be healed by Him alone.
These He so heals, that the multitudes marvel and magnify the God of Israel; because the faithful when they see those that have been spiritually sick richly endued with all manner of works of virtuousness, sing praise to God.
Gloss. ord.: The dumb are they that do not praise God; the blind, they who do not understand the paths of life; the deaf, they that obey not; the lame, they that walk not firmly through the difficult ways of good works; the maimed, they that are crippled in their good works.
32. Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.
Jerome: Christ first took away the infirmities of the sick, and afterwards supplied food to them that had been healed. Also He calls His disciples to tell them what He is about to do; "Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude." This He does that He may give an example to masters of sharing their counsels with the young, and their disciples; or, that by this dialogue they might come to understand the greatness of the miracle.
Chrys., Hom., iii: For the multitude when they came to be healed, had not dared to ask for food, but He that loveth man, and hath care of all creatures, gives it to them unasked; whence He says, "I have compassion upon the multitude."
That it should not be said that they had brought provision with them on their way, He says, "Because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat." For though when they came they had food, it was now consumed, and for this reason He did it not on the first or second day, but on the third, when all was consumed that they might have brought with them; and thus they having been first placed in need, might take the food that was now provided with keener appetite.
That they had come from far, and that nothing was now left them, is shewn in what He says, "And I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint by the way."
Yet He does not immediately proceed to work the miracle, that He may rouse the disciples' attention by this questioning, and that they may shew their faith by saying to Him, Create loaves. And though at the time of the former miracle Christ had done many things to the end that they should remember it, making them distribute the loaves, and divide the baskets among them, yet they were still imperfectly disposed, as appears from what follows; "And his disciples say unto him, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness as to fill so great a multitude?"
This they spoke out of the [p. 570] infirmity of their thoughts, yet thereby making the ensuing miracle to be beyond suspicion; for that none might suspect that the loaves had been got from a neighbouring village, this miracle is wrought in the wilderness far distant from villages.
Then to arouse His disciples' thoughts, He puts a question to them, which may call the foregone miracle to their minds; "And Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? They said unto him, Seven, and a few little fishes."
But they do not add, 'But what are they among so many?' as they had said before; for they had advanced somewhat, though they did not yet comprehend the whole. Admire in the Apostles their love of truth, though themselves are the writers, they do not conceal their own great faults; and it is no light self-accusation to have so soon forgotten so great a miracle.
Observe also their wisdom in another respect, how they had overcome their appetite, taking so little care of their meals, that though they had been three days in the desert, yet they had with them only seven loaves. Some other things also He does like to what had been done before. He makes them to sit down on the ground, and the bread to grow in the hands of the disciples; as it follows, "And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground."
Jerome, Sup. c. xiv, 15: As we have spoken of this above, it would be tedious to repeat what has been already said; we shall therefore only dwell on those particulars in which this differs from the former.
Chrys.: The end of the two miracles is different; "And they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets full. Now they that had eaten were four thousand men, besides children and women."
Whence are the fragments fewer in this miracle than in the former, although they that ate were not so many? It is a either that the basket [margin note: sporta] in this miracle is of larger capacity than the basket [margin note: cophinus] in the former, or that by this point of difference they might remember the two separate miracles; for which reason also He then made the number of baskets equal to the number of the disciples, but now to the number of the loaves.
Remig.: In this Gospel lection we must consider in Christ the work of His humanity, and of His divinity. In that He has compassion on the multitudes, He shews that He has feeling of human frailty; in the multiplication [p. 571] of the loaves, and the feeding the multitudes, is shewn the working of His divinity. So here is overthrown the error of Eutyches [margin note: vid. sup. p. 16], who said, that in Christ was one nature only.
Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 50: Surely it will not be out of place to suggest upon this miracle, that if any of the Evangelists who had not given the miracle of the five loaves had related this of the seven loaves, he would have been supposed to have contradicted the rest. But because those who have related the one, have also related the other, no one is puzzled, but it is understood at once that they were two separate miracles.
This we have said, that wherever any thing is found done by the Lord, wherein the accounts of any two Evangelists seem irreconcilable, we may understand them as two distinct occurrences, of which one is related by one Evangelist, and one by another.
Gloss., ap. Anselm:. It should be noted, that the Lord first removes their sicknessess, and after that feeds them; because sin must be first wiped away, and then the soul fed with the words of God.
Hilary: As that first multitude which He fed answers to the people among the Jews that believed; so this is compared to the people of the gentiles, the number of four thousand denoting an innumerable number of people out of the four quarters of the earth.
Jerome: For these are not five, but four thousand; the number four being one always used in a good sense, and a four-sided stone is firm and rocks not, for which reason the Gospels also have been sacredly bestowed in this number.
Also in the former miracle, because the people were neighbours unto the five senses [ed. note: That is, there were five thousand, and they were fed with five loaves], it is the disciples, and not the Lord, that calls to mind their condition; but here the Lord Himself says, that He has compassion upon them, "because they continue now three days" with Him, that is, they believed on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Hilary: Or, they spend the whole time of the Lord's passion with the Lord; either because when they should come to baptism, they would confess that they believed in His passion and resurrection; or, because through the whole time of the Lord's passion they are joined to the Lord by fasting in a kind of union of suffering with Him.
Raban.: Or, this is said because in all time there have only [p. 572] been three periods when grace was given; the first, before the Law; the second, under the Law; the third, under grace; the fourth, is in heaven, to which as we journey we are refreshed by the way.
Remig.: Or, because correcting by penitence the sins that they have committed, in thought, word, and deed, they turn to the Lord. These multitudes the Lord would not send away fasting, that they should not faint by the way; because sinners turning in penitence, perish in their passage through the world, if they are sent away without the nourishment of sacred teaching.
Gloss. ord.: The seven loaves are the Scripture of the New Testament, in which the grace of the Holy Spirit is revealed and given. And these are not as those former loaves, barley, because it is not with these, as in the Law, where the nutritious substance is wrapped in types, as in a very adhesive husk; here are not two fishes, as under the Law two only were anointed, the King, and the Priest, but a fewer, that is, the saints of the New Testament, who, snatched from the waves of the world, sustain this tossing sea, and by their example refresh us lest we faint by the way.
Hilary: The multitudes sit down on the ground; for before they had not reposed on the works of the Law, but they had supported themselves on their own sins, as men standing on their feet.
Gloss.: Or, they sit down there [margin note: xiv, 19] on the grass, that the desires of the flesh may be controlled, here on the ground, because the earth itself is commanded to be left. Or, the mountain in which the Lord refreshes them is the height of Christ; there, therefore, is grass upon the ground, because there the height of Christ is covered with carnal hopes and desires, on account of the carnal; here, where all carnal lust is banished, the guests are solidly placed on the basis of an abiding hope; there, are five thousand, who are the carnal subjected to the five senses; here, four thousand, on account of the four virtues, by which they are spiritually fortified, temperance, prudence, fortitude, and justice; of which the first is the knowledge of things to be sought and avoided; the second, the restraining of desire from those things that give pleasure in the world; the third, strength against the pains of life; the fourth, which is spread over all the love of God and our neighbour.
Both there and here women and children are [p. 573] excepted, because in the Old and New Testament, none are admitted to the Lord who do not endure to the perfect man, whether through the infirmity of their strength, or the levity of their tempers.
Both refreshings were performed upon a mountain, because the Scriptures of both Testaments commend the loftiness of the heavenly commands and rewards, and both preach the height of Christ. The higher mysteries which the multitudes cannot receive the Apostles discharge, and fill seven baskets, to wit, the hearts of the perfect which are enlightened to understand by the grace of the seven-fold spirit. [margin note: Isa 11:2] Baskets are usually woven of rushes, or palm leaves; these signify the saints, who fix the root of their hearts in the very fount of life, as a bulrush in the water, that they may not wither away, and retain in their hearts the palm of their eternal reward.