"upon this rock I will build My Church" |
First Class Feast of the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary
Fr. George Leo Haydock
Editor's Note: We continue with this special feature provided by John Gregory with the Haydock Commentary found at the bottom of each page of the Douay-Rheims Bible. We publish it here in conjunction with the Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday Mass, with the cogent comprehensive Catholic Commentary penned by Father George Leo Haydock. This week the Double of the First Class Feast of the Holy Apostles Saints Peter and Paul supersedes the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost this year. The Gospel for today's Holy Mass is one of the most powerful for Christians in asserting the four marks of the Church and the supremacy of the Primacy of Peter and that the gates of hell shall never prevail against Christ's Church. It is a reassurance that in this time of the Great Apostasy foretold by St. Paul in the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians and reiterated in the Epistle of 2 Timothy 4: 3 that Christ's Church remains the spotless bride and proof that the conciliar church formed from the bowels of Vatican II is a false church which has tried to ape the true Church, but true to our Lord's words in St. Matthew 7: 15-20, we know by their fruits that they are ravenous wolves.
Epistle: Acts of the Apostles 12: 1-11
In those days, Herod the king stretched forth his hands, to afflict some of the Church.
Commentary on Verse 1 Herod. Agrippa, made king by the emperor Caius. (See Jos. 6: 18. Antiq. c. 8 and l. 19 c. 5) put to death James the great, brother to John. (Wi.) This man was the same as Agrippa, by which name he is most commonly known. He was brother to the famous Herodias, who was the cause of Saint John the Baptists decollation, (Calmet) and son-in-law of Herod the Great, by his father Aristobulus. (V.)
And he killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.
Commentary on Verse 2 Saint James the elder, brother of Saint John the evangelist.
And seeing that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take up Peter also. Now it was in the days of the Azymes.
Commentary on Verse 3 The days of the azymes. By this we may know about the time when Saint James was executed. Peter was to be reserved till after the Pasch, because it was not usual for the Jews to put any one to a violent death on a festival day. They would not dampen the joy of the solemnity by such actions. (Menoch.) Nothing can be more illiberal, nothing more unfounded, and unjust, than the accusation advanced by the translators of the Bible dedicated to King James. In their preface they say, that the Catholics keep the words, azymes, holocaust, pasch, & c. in their version, purposely to darken the sense, that since they must needs translate the Bible, yet by the language thereof, it may be kept from being understood. See the splendid Oxford edition annotation 1770 So far from this, we open the window, to let in the light; we break the shell, that the kernel may be eaten: we put aside the curtain, that a sight may be had into the holy place; we remove the cover of the well, that the good and humble may get to the water of life. If we retain certain words in the original tongue, it is for the same reason as our adversaries retain others, such as Amen, Sabaoth, Alleluai, Jehova, & c.
And when he had apprehended him, he cast him into prison, delivering him to four files of soldiers to be kept, intending, after the pasch, to bring him forth to the people.
Commentary on Verse 4 To four files of soldiers. To four times four soldiers, or to sixteen soldiers, each band or file consisting of four.
Peter therefore was kept in prison. But prayer was made without ceasing by the church unto God for him.
And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison.
Commentary on Verse 6 With these two chains, according to the Roman custom, Saint Peter must have been fastened to the two soldiers, that guarded him. Yet Peter slept secure, trusting in that Providence which sleepeth not.
And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him: and a light shined in the room: and he striking Peter on the side, raised him up, saying: Arise quickly. And the chains fell off from his hands.
Commentary on Verse 7 An Angel. This was probably his Angel Guardian. It has always been the constant belief of the Church, that each individual is put under the protection of a tutelar Angel. (A.) Saint Bernard, on these words of the psalm, He has given His Angels charge over thee, thus expresses himself: Wonderful condescension! And truly great love! He has given His Angels charge over thee, to guard thee in all thy ways. What is man, O God, that thou shouldst thus be midful of him, or the son of man, that thou shouldst look upon him! What reverence, devotion, and confidence, should this word inspire in us! Reverence their presence, be grateful for their good will; have confidence in their protection; walk with circumspection; your Angel is present. In every abode, in every place, respect his presence. Let us love them too, destined to be in future our co-heirs; in the mean time, our guardians and patrons. What have we to fear under such guides? They cannot be overcome nor seduced; much less can they lead us astray. They are faithful, they are prudent, they are powerful. Why do we fear? Let us follow them; let us stick close to them; and we shall dwell under the protection of the God of heaven. If a grievous temptation urges; if great tribulation hangs over you; call upon your leader, your helper in opportunities, in tribulations; call upon him, and say, save us, or we perish, & c. (Saint Bernard, Sermon in Psalm. Qui habitat.) A light shined in the room. To Peter only; not to the rest. (Wi.)
And the angel said to him: Gird thyself, and put on thy sandals. And he did so. And he said to him: Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.
And going out, he followed him, and he knew not that it was true which was done by the angel: but thought he saw a vision.
And passing through the first and the second ward, they came to the iron gate that leadeth to the city, which of itself opened to them. And going out, they passed on through one street: and immediately the angel departed from him.
And Peter coming to himself, said: Now I know in very deed, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews.
Commentary on Verse 11 Peter coming to himself. Being now sensible that all was true. (Wi.)
Gospel: St. Matthew 16: 13-19
At that time, Jesus came into the quarters of Cesarea Philippi: and He asked His disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is?
Commentary on Verse 13 Cesarea Philippi, was first called Paneades, and was afterwards embellished and greatly enlarged by Philip the tetrarch, son of Herod the great, and dedicated in honor of Augustus, hence its name. There was moreover another Cesarea, called Straton, situated on the Mediterranean: and not in this, but in the former, did Christ interrogate His disciples. He first withdrew them from the Jews, that they might, with more boldness and freedom, deliver their sentiments. (Saint John Chrysostom, homily lv.) The Cesarea here mentioned continued to be called by heathen writers Panea, from the adjoining spring Paneum, or Panium, which is usually taken for the source of the Jordan.
But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
Commentary on Verse 14 Some say, & c. Herod thought that Christ was the Baptist, on account of His prodigies. (Matthew 14: 2) Others that he was Elias: 1st. because they expected he was about to return to them, according to the Prophecy of Malachias; behold I will send you Elias; 2nd. on account of the greatness of His miracles; 3rd. on account of His invincible zeal and courage in the cause of truth and justice. Others again said He was Jeremias, either on account of His great sanctity, for he was sanctified in his mothers womb; or, on account of His great charity and love for His brethren, as it was written of Jeremias: he is a lover of his brethren. Or, again, one of the prophets, viz. Isaias, or some other noted for eloquence; for it was the opinion of many of the Jews, as we read in Saint Luke, that one of the ancient prophets had arisen again. (Dion. Carth)
Jesus said to them: But Whom do you say I am?
Commentary on Verse 15 Whom do you say that I am? You, who have been continually with Me; you, who have seen Me perform so many more miracles; you, who have yourselves worked miracles in My name? From this pointed interrogation, Jesus Christ intimates, that the opinion men had formed of Him was very inadequate to the exalted dignity of His Person, and that He expects they will have a juster conception of Him. (Saint John Chrysostom, homily lv.)
Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God.
Commentary on Verse 16 Simon Peter answering. As Simon Peter had been constituted the first in the college of apostles, (Matthew 10: 2) and therefore surpasseth the others in dignity as much as in zeal, without hesitation, and in the name of all, he answers: Thou art the Christ, the Redeemer promised to the world, not a mere man, not a mere prophet like other prophets, but the true and natural Son of the living God. Thus Saints John Chrysostom, Cyril, Ambrose, Augustine, and Tirinus. When our Savior inquired the opinion of the vulgar, all the apostles answered; but when He asks their opinion of him, Peter as the mouth of the rest, and head of the whole college, steps forth, and prevents the others. (Saint John Chrysostom, homily lv.) Tu es Christus, Filius Dei Vivi; or as it is in the Greek, (?); The Christ, the Son, the Christ formerly promised by the law and the prophets, expected and desired by all the saints, the anointed and consecrated to God: the Son, not by grace only, or an adoptive filiation like prophets, to whom Christ is here opposed, but by natural filiation, and in a manner that distinguishes Him from all created beings. Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God, not by grace only, or by adoption, as saints are the sons of God, but by nature, and from all eternity, the true Son of the living God. (W)
And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father Who is in Heaven.
Commentary on Verse17 Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona. (?) is undoubtedly (?), as written in 2 Peter 1: 1. (?) is son of Jona, or John, an abridgment for (?). Bar, in Chaldaic, is son; hence Saint Peter is called, in John 21: 16 and 17, Simon, son of John. It was customary with the Jews to add to a rather common name, for the sake of discrimination, a (?), or patronymic, as appears from Matthew 10: 3 and 23: 35; Mark 2: 14; John 6: 42. (P)
And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Commentary on Verse 18 (?). And I say to thee, and tell thee why I before declared, (John 1: 42) that thou shouldst be called Peter, for thou art constituted the rock upon which, as a foundation, I will build My Church, and that so firmly, as not to suffer the gates (i.e. the powers) of hell to prevail against its foundation; because if they overturn its foundation, (i.e. thee and thy successors) they will overturn also the Church that rests upon it. Christ therefore here promises to Peter, that he and his successors should be to the end, as long as the Church should last, its supreme pastors and princes. (T) In the Syriac tongue, which is that which Jesus Christ spoke, there is no difference of genders, as there is in Latin, between petra, a rock, and Petrus, Peter; hence, in the original language, the allusion was both more natural and more simple. (V)
And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven.
Thou art Peter; and upon this (i.e. upon thee, according to the literal and general exposition of the ancient Fathers) I will build My church. It is true Saint Augustine, in one or two places, thus expounds these words, and upon this rock, (i.e. upon Myself:) or upon this rock, which Peter hath confessed: yet he owns that he had also given the other interpretation, by which Peter himself was the rock. Some Fathers have also expounded it, upon the faith, which Peter confessed; but then they take not faith, as separated from the person of Peter, but on Peter, as holding the true faith. No one questions but that Christ Himself is the great foundation-stone, the chief corner-stone, as Saint Paul tells the Ephesians; (Chapter 2, verse 20) but it is also certain, that all the apostles may be called foundation-stones of the Church, as represented in Apocalypse 21: 14. In the mean time, Saint Peter (called therefore Cephas, a rock) was the first and chief foundation-stone among the apostles, on whom Christ promised to build His Church. (Wi.)
Thou art Peter, & c. As Saint Peter, by divine revelation, here made a solemn profession of his faith of the Divinity of Christ, so in recompense of this faith and profession, our Lord here declares to him the dignity to which He is pleased to raise him: viz. that he, to whom He had already given the name of Peter, signifying a rock, (John 1: 42) should be a rock indeed, of invincible strength, for the support of the building of the Church; in which building he should be next to Christ Himself, the chief foundation-stone, in quality of chief pastor, ruler, and governor; and should have accordingly all fullness of ecclesiastical power, signified by the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Upon this rock & c. The words of Christ to Peter, spoken in the vulgar language of the Jews, which our Lord made use of, were the same as if He had said in English, Thou art a rock, and upon this rock I will build My church. So that, by the plain course of the words, Peter here declared to be the rock, upon which the church was to be built; Christ himself being both the principal foundation and founder of the same. Where also note, that Christ by building His house, that is, His Church, upon a rock, has thereby secured it against all storms and floods, like the wise builder. (Matthew 7: 24 25)
The gates of hell, & c. That is, the powers of darkness, and whatever Satan can do, either by himself or his agents. For as the Church is here likened to a house, or fortress, built on a rock; so the adverse powers are likened to a contrary house or fortress, the gates of which, i.e. the whole strength, and all the efforts it can make, will never be able to prevail over the city or Church of Christ. By this promise we are fully assured, that neither idolatry, heresy, nor any pernicious error whatsoever shall at any time prevail over the Church of Christ. (Ch.) The gates, in the Oriental style, signify the powers; thus, to this day, we designate the Ottoman or Turkish empire by the Ottoman port. The princes were wont to hold their courts at the gates of the city. (V)
Commentary on Verse 19 And I will give to thee the keys, & c. This is another metaphor, expressing the supreme power and prerogative of the prince of the apostles. The keys of a city, or of its gates, are presented or given to the person that hath the chief power. We also own a power of the keys, given to the other apostles, but with a subordination to Saint Peter and to his successor, as head of the Catholic Church.
And whatsoever thou shalt bind, & c. All the apostles, and their successors, partake also of this power of binding and loosing, but with a due subordination to one head invested with the supreme power. (Wi.)
Loose on earth. The loosing the bands of temporal punishments due to sins, is called an indulgence: the power of which is here granted. (Ch.) Although Peter and his successors are mortal, they are nevertheless endowed with heavenly power, says Saint Chrysostom, nor is the sentence of life and death passed by Peter to be attempted to be reversed, but what he declares is to be considered a divine answer from heaven, and what he decrees, a decree of God Himself. He that heareth you, heareth Me, & c. The power of binding is exercised, 1st. by refusing to absolve; 2nd. by enjoining penance for sins forgiven; 3rd. by excommunication, suspension or interdict; 4th. By making rules and laws for the government of the Church; 5th. By determining what is of faith and the judgments and definitions of the Church. (T.) The terms binding and loosing, are equivalent to opening and shutting, because formerly the Jews opened the fastenings of their doors by untying it, and they shut or secured their doors by tying or binding it. (V.) Dr. Whitby, a learned Protestant divine, thus expounds this and the preceding verse: As a suitable return to thy confession, I say also to thee, that thou art by name Peter, i.e. a rock; and upon thee, who art this rock, I will build My Church, and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the power of making laws to govern My Church. (Tom. 1. p. 143) Dr. Hammond, another Protestant divine, explains it in the same manner. And p. 92, he says: What is here meant by the keys, is best understood by Isaias 22: 22, where they signify ruling the whole family or house of the king: and this being by Christ accommodated to the Church, denotes the power of governing it.