Monday
November 14
vol 22, no. 318

Sermon on the Mount
Part Seven

    In reaching the middle of Chapter Six of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Jesus continues imparting The Lord's Prayer, also known as the Our Father or Pater Noster. In the second part of this prayer the subject now turns to man as Christ shows the multitudes gathered on the Mount how they, and subsequently we, are to petition the Almighty for protection of body and soul. Our Lord then reminds all that one cannot be forgiven if one is not willing to forgive and to not pray to impress man, but to please God for the Father knows all. Finally, Jesus nails it that if we truly love God and seek to do His will, there is our treasure for God knows the heart.

    For the seventh part of The Sermon on the Mount I complete The Lord's Prayer which Christ imparts to His disciples and those gathered on the Mount in Chapter 6. I should like to produce the commentaries only, without adding related Scripture to it. The reason for this, rather than skipping over the context, (we have already read and provided discernment for chapter 5) is to get the meaning, without overwhelming the senses with a multiplication of electrical ink. The first commentary under each verse is generally from Haydock, trusted commentary so named after its author Father George Leo Haydock where credit is given to the commentator at the end of the commentary, while the rest are from Saint Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea or Golden Chain, where the credit is given at the beginning. I have cleaned up the commentary for easier reading, deleting the long names of the works they have come from, but leaving you with the name of the proposed commentator alone. The name "Psuedo-Chrysostom" is from a work that was once, but wrongly, attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, and "Gloss", I believe, is generally from commentaries found in the margins of the Scripture translation. When it comes to "Gregory" I suppose the source(s) could be any number of "Gregory's" though, as far as I can tell, the on-line version of this great work of Saint Thomas Aquinas does not share this information. I pick up with the second part of The Lord's Prayer.

11 Give us this day our supersubstantial bread.

    Our supersubstantial bread. So it is at present in the Latin text: yet the same Greek word in St. Luke, is translated daily bread, as we say it in our Lord's prayer, and as it was used to be said in the second or third age, as we find by Tertullian and St. Cyprian. Perhaps the Latin word, supersubstantialis, may bear the same sense as daily bread, or bread that we daily stand in need of; for it need not be taken for supernatural bread, but for bread which is daily added, to maintain and support the substance of our bodies. (Witham) --- In St. Luke the same word is rendered daily bread. It is understood of the bread of life, which we receive in the blessed sacrament. (Challoner) --- It is also understood of the supernatural support of the grace of God, and especially of the bread of life received in the blessed eucharist. (Haydock) --- As we are only to pray for our daily bread, we are not to be over solicitous for the morrow, nor for the things of this earth, but being satisfied with what is necessary, turn all our thoughts to the joys of heaven. (St. John Chrysostom)

    St. Augustine: These three things therefore which have been asked in the foregoing petitions, are begun here on earth, and according to our proficiency are increased in us; but in another life, as we hope, they shall be everlastingly possessed in perfection. In the four remaining petitions we ask for temporal blessings which are necessary to obtaining the eternal; the bread, which is accordingly the next petition in order, is a necessary.

    St. Cyprian: For Christ is the bread of life, and this bread belongs not to all men, but to us. This bread we pray that it be given day by day, lest we who are in Christ, and who daily receive the Eucharist for food of salvation, should by the admission of any grievous crime, and our being therefore forbidden the heavenly bread, be separated from the body of Christ. Hence then we pray, that we who abide in Christ, may not draw back from His sanctification and His body.

    St. Augustine: Here then the saints ask for perseverance of God, when they pray that they may not be separated from the body of Christ, but may abide in that holiness, committing no crime. Cassian: In that He says, "this day," He shews that it is to be daily taken, and that this prayer should be offered at all seasons, seeing there is no day on which we have not need, by the receiving of this bread, to confirm the heart of the inward man.

    St. Augustine: There is here a difficulty created by the circumstance of there being many in the East, who do not daily communicate in the Lord's Supper. And they defend their practice on the ground of ecclesiastical authority, that they do this without offence, and are not forbidden by those who preside over the Churches, But not to pronounce any thing concerning them in either way, this ought certainly to occur to our thoughts, that we have here received of the Lord a rule for prayer which we ought not to transgress.

        Who then will dare to affirm that we ought to use this prayer only once? Or if twice or thrice, yet only up to that hour at which we communicate on the Lord's body? For after that we cannot say, "Give us this day," that which we have already received. Or will any one on this account be able to compel us to celebrate this sacrament at the close of the day? (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)

12 And forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.

        Of all the petitions this alone is repeated twice. God puts our judgment in our own hands, that none might complain, being the author of his own sentence. He could have forgiven us our sins without this condition, but he consulted our good, in affording us opportunities of practising daily the virtues of piety and mildness. (St. John Chrysostom) --- These debts signify not only mortal but venial sins, as St. Augustine often teaches. Therefore every man, be he ever so just, yet because he cannot live without venial sin, ought to say this prayer. (Bristow)

    St. Cyprian: After supply of food, next pardon of sin is asked for, that he who is fed of God may live in God, and not only the present and passing life be provided for, but the eternal also; whereunto we may come, if we receive the pardon of our sins, to which the Lord gives the name of debts, as he speaks further on, "I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst Me." [St. Matthew 18: 32]

        How well is it for our need, how provident and saving a thing, to be reminded that we are sinners compelled to make petition for our offences, so that in claiming God's indulgence, the mind is recalled to a recollection of its guilt. That no man may plume himself with the pretence of innocence, and perish more wretchedly through self-exaltation, he is instructed that he commits sin every day by being commanded to pray for his sins.

    St. Augustine: With this weapon the Pelagian heretics received their deathblow, who dare to say that a righteous man is free altogether from sin in this life, and that of such is at this present time composed a Church, "having neither spot nor wrinkle."

    St. John Chrysostom: That this prayer is meant for the faithful, both the laws of the Church teach, and the beginning of the prayer which instructs us to call God Father. In thus bidding the faithful pray for forgiveness of sin, He shews that even after baptism sin can be remitted (against the Novatians.)

    St. Cyprian: He then Who taught us to pray for our sins, has promised us that His fatherly mercy and pardon shall ensue. But He has added a rule besides, binding us under the fixed condition and responsibility, that we are to ask for our sins to be forgiven in such sort as we forgive them that are in debt to us.

    St. Gregory: That good which in our penitence we ask of God, we should first turn and bestow on our neighbor.

    St. Augustine: This is not said of debts of money only, but of all things in which any sins against us, and among these also of money, because that he sins against you, who does not return money due to you, when he has whence he can return it. Unless you forgive this sin you cannot say, "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)

13 And lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. Amen.

        God is not the tempter of evil, or author of sin. (James 1: 13.) He tempteth no man: we pray that he would not suffer the devil to tempt us above our strength: that he would remove the temptations, or enable us to overcome them, and deliver us from evil, particularly the evil of sin, which is the first, and the greatest, and the true efficient cause of all evils. (Haydock) --- In the Greek we here read, for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory; which words are found in some old Greek liturgies, and there is every appearance that they have thence slipped into the text of St. Matthew. They do not occur in St. Luke (6: 4.), nor in any one of the old Latin copies, nor yet in the most ancient of the Greek texts. The holy Fathers prior to St. Chrysostom, as Grotius observes, who have explained the Lord's prayer, never mention these words. --- And not being found in Tertullian, St. Cyprian, St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, &c., nor in the Vatican Greek copy, nor in the Cambridge manuscripts. &c. as Dr. Wells also observes, it seems certain that they were only a pious conclusion, or doxology, with which the Greeks in the fourth age began to conclude their prayers, much after the same manner as, Glory be to the Father, &c. was added to the end of each psalm. We may reasonably presume, that these words at first were in the margin of some copies, and afterwards by some transcribers taken into the text itself. (Witham)

    I answer that, The Lord's Prayer is most perfect, because, as Augustine says, "if we pray rightly and fittingly, we can say nothing else but what is contained in this prayer of our Lord." For since prayer interprets our desires, as it were, before God, then alone is it right to ask for something in our prayers when it is right that we should desire it. Now in the Lord's Prayer not only do we ask for all that we may rightly desire, but also in the order wherein we ought to desire them, so that this prayer not only teaches us to ask, but also directs all our affections. Thus it is evident that the first thing to be the object of our desire is the end, and afterwards whatever is directed to the end. Now our end is God towards Whom our affections tend in two ways: first, by our willing the glory of God, secondly, by willing to enjoy His glory. The first belongs to the love whereby we love God in Himself, while the second belongs to the love whereby we love ourselves in God. Wherefore the first petition is expressed thus: "Hallowed be Thy name," and the second thus: "Thy kingdom come," by which we ask to come to the glory of His kingdom.

        To this same end a thing directs us in two ways: in one way, by its very nature, in another way, accidentally. Of its very nature the good which is useful for an end directs us to that end. Now a thing is useful in two ways to that end which is beatitude: in one way, directly and principally, according to the merit whereby we merit beatitude by obeying God, and in this respect we ask: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven"; in another way instrumentally, and as it were helping us to merit, and in this respect we say: "Give us this day our daily bread," whether we understand this of the sacramental Bread, the daily use of which is profitable to man, and in which all the other sacraments are contained, or of the bread of the body, so that it denotes all sufficiency of food, as Augustine says, since the Eucharist is the chief sacrament, and bread is the chief food: thus in the Gospel of Matthew we read, "supersubstantial," i.e. "principal," as Jerome expounds it.

        We are directed to beatitude accidentally by the removal of obstacles. Now there are three obstacles to our attainment of beatitude. First, there is sin, which directly excludes a man from the kingdom, according to 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10, "Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, etc., shall possess the kingdom of God"; and to this refer the words, "Forgive us our trespasses." Secondly, there is temptation which hinders us from keeping God's will, and to this we refer when we say: "And lead us not into temptation," whereby we do not ask not to be tempted, but not to be conquered by temptation, which is to be led into temptation. Thirdly, there is the present penal state (our fallen or "penalized" state - JG) which is a kind of obstacle to a sufficiency of life, and to this we refer in the words, "Deliver us from evil." (Aquinas - Summa Theologica)

14 For if you forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will forgive you also your offenses.

        Here he again recommendeth the forgiving of others, as the means of obtaining forgiveness. (Haydock)

15 But if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offenses.

    Rabanus: By the word, "Amen." He shews that without doubt the Lord will bestow all things that are rightly asked, and by those that do not fail in observing the annexed condition, "For if ye forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your sins."

    St. Augustine: Here we should not overlook that of all the petitions enjoined by the Lord, He judged that most worthy of further enforcement, which relates to forgiveness of sins, in which He would have us merciful; which is the only means of escaping misery.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: He does not say that God will first forgive us, and that we should after forgive our debtors. For God knows how treacherous the heart of man is, and that though they should have received forgiveness themselves, yet they do not forgive their debtors; therefore He instructs us first to forgive, and we shall be forgiven after.

    St. Augustine: Whoever does not forgive him that in true sorrow seeks forgiveness, let him not suppose that his sins are by any means forgiven of the Lord.

    St. Cyprian: For no excuse will abide you in the day of judgment, when you will be judged by your own sentence, and as you have dealt towards others, will be dealt with yourself.

    St. Jerome: But if that which is written, "I said, Ye are gods, but ye shall die like men," [Ps 82: 6-7] is said to those who for their sins deserve to become men instead of gods, then they to whom sins are forgiven are rightly called "men."

    St. John Chrysostom: He mentions Heaven and the Father to claim our attention, for nothing so likens you to God, as to forgive him who has injured you. And it were indeed unmeet should the son of such a Father become a slave, and should one who has a heavenly vocation live as of this earth, and of this life only. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)

16 And when you fast, be not as the hypocrites, sad: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear fasting to men. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.

        He condemns not public fasts as prescribed to the people of God, (Judges 20: 26; 2 Esdras 9; Joel 2: 15; John 3) but fasting through vain glory, and for the esteem of men. (Bristow)

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Forasmuch as that prayer which is offered in a humble spirit and contrite heart, shews a mind already strong and disciplined; whereas he who is sunk in self-indulgence cannot have a humble spirit and contrite heart; it is plain that without fasting prayer must be faint and feeble; therefore, when any would pray for any need in which they might be, they joined fasting with prayer, because it is an aid thereof. Accordingly the Lord, after His doctrine respecting prayer, adds doctrine concerning fasting, saying, "When ye fast, be not ye as the hypocrites, of sad countenance." The Lord knew that vanity may spring from every good thing, and therefore bids us root out the bramble of vain-gloriousness which springs in the good soil, that it choke not the fruit of fasting. For though it cannot be that fasting should not be discovered in any one, yet is it better that fasting should shew you, than that you should shew your fasting.

        But it is impossible that any in fasting should be gay, therefore He said not, Be not sad, but "Be not made sad;" for they who discover themselves by any false displays of their affliction, they are not sad, but make themselves; but he who is naturally sad in consequence of continued fasting, does not make himself sad, but is so.

    St. Gregory: For by the pale countenance, the trembling limbs, and the bursting sighs, and by all so great toil and trouble, nothing is in the mind but the esteem of men.

    St. Leo: But that fasting is not pure, that comes not of reasons of continence, but of the arts of deceit.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: If then he who fasts, and makes himself of sad countenance, is a hypocrite, how much more wicked is he who does not fast, yet assumes a fictitious paleness of face as a token of fasting.

    St. Augustine: On this paragraph it is to be specially noted, that not only in outward splendor and pomp, but even in the dress of sorrow and mourning, is there room for display, and that the more dangerous, inasmuch as it deceives under the name of God's services. For he who by inordinate pains taken with her person, or his apparel, or by the glitter of his other equipage, is distinguished, is easily proved by these very circumstances to be a follower of the pomps of this world, and no man is deceived by any semblance of a feigned sanctity in him. But when any one in the profession of Christianity draws men's eyes upon him by unwonted beggary and slovenliness in dress, if this be voluntary and not compulsory, then by his other conduct may be seen whether he does this to be seen of men, or from contempt of the refinements of dress.

    St. Remigius: The reward of the hypocrites' fast is shewn, when it is added, "That they may seem to men to fast; verily I say unto you, They have their reward;" that is, that reward for which they looked. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face,

        The forty days' fast, my dear brethren, is not an observance peculiar to ourselves; it is kept by all who unite with us in the profession of the same faith. Nor is it without reason that the fast of Christ should be an observance common to all Christians. What is more reasonable, than that the different members should follow the example of the head. If we have been made partakers with him of good, why not also of evil. Is it generous to exempt ourselves from every thing that is painful, and with to partake with him in all that is agreeable? With such dispositions, we are members unworthy of such a head. ... Is it much for us to fast with Christ, who expect to sit at the table of His Father with Him? Is it much for the members to suffer with the head, when we expect to be made one day partakers with him in glory? Happy the man who shall imitate such a Master. He shall accompany him whithersoever he goes. (St. Bernard) --- Wherefore, my dear brethren, if the taste only has caused us to offend God, let the taste only fast, and it will be enough. But if the other members also have sinned, let them also fast. Let the eye fast, if it has been the cause of sin to the soul; let the ear fast, the tongue, the hand, and the soul itself. Let the eye fast from beholding objects, which are only calculated to excite curiosity and vanity; that being now humbled, it may be restrained to repentance, which before wandered in guilt. Let the ear fast from listening to idle stories and words that have no reference to salvation. Let the tongue fast from detraction and murmuring, from unprofitable and sacrilegious discourse; sometimes also, out of respect to holy silence, from speaking what appears necessary and profitable. Let the hand also fast from useless works, and from every action that is not commanded. But above all, let the soul fast from sin and the doing of its own will. Without these fasts, all others will not be accepted by the Lord. (St. Bernard) --- Fast from what is in itself lawful, that you may receive pardon for what you have formerly done amiss. Redeem an eternal fast by a short and transitory one. For we have deserved hell fire, where there will be no food, no consolation, no end; where the rich man begs for a drop of water, and is not worthy to receive it. A truly good and salutary fast, the observance of which frees us from eternal punishment, by obtaining for us in this life the remission of our sins. Nor is it only the remission of former transgressions, but likewise a preservative against future sin, by meriting for us grace to enable us to avoid those faults we might otherwise have committed. I will add another advantage, which results from tasting, one which I hope I am not deceived in saying you have frequently experienced. It gives devotion and confidence to prayer. Observe how closely prayer and fasting are connected. Prayer gives us power to fast, fasting enables us to pray. Fasting gives strength to our prayer, prayer sanctifies our fast, and renders it worthy of acceptance before the Lord. (St. Bernard)

18 That thou appear not fasting to men, but to thy Father Who is in secret: and thy Father Who seeth in secret, will repay thee.

    St. Anselm: The Lord having taught us what we ought not to do, now proceeds to teach us what we ought to do, saying, "When thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face."

    St. Augustine: A question is here wont to be raised; for none surely would literally enjoin, that, as we wash our faces from daily habit, so we should have our heads anointed when we fast; a thing which all allow to be most disgraceful.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Also if He bade us not to be of sad countenance that we might not seem to men to fast, yet if anointing of the head and washing of the face are always observed in fasting, they will become tokens of fasting.

    St. Jerome: But He speaks in accordance with the manner of the province of Palestine, where it is the custom on festival days to anoint the head. What He enjoins then is, that when we are fasting we should wear the appearance of joy and gladness.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Therefore the simple interpretation of this is, that is added as an hyperbolical (deliberate exaggeration used for effect - JG) explanation of the command; as though He had said, Yea, so far should ye be from any display of your fasting, that if it might be (which yet it may not be) so done, ye should even do such things as are tokens of luxury and feasting.

    St. John Chrysostom: In almsgiving indeed, He did not say simply, 'Do not your alms before men,' but added, 'to be seen of them.' But in fasting and prayer He added nothing of this sort; because alms cannot be so done as to be altogether hid, fasting and prayer can be so done. The contempt of men's praise is no small fruit, for thereby we are freed from the heavy slavery of human opinions, and become properly workers of virtue, loving it for itself and not for others. For as we esteem it an affront if we are loved not for ourselves but for others' sake, so ought we not to follow virtue on the account of these men, nor to obey God for men's sake but for His Own.

        Therefore it follows here, "But to thy Father which seeth in secret."

    Gloss: That is, to thy heavenly Father, Who is unseen, or Who dwells in the heart through faith. He fasts to God who afflicts himself for the love of God, and bestows on others what he denies himself.

    St. Remigius: For it is enough for you that He who sees your conscience should be your rewarder. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)

19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and the moth consume, and where thieves dig through, and steal.

20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven: where neither the rust nor the moth doth consume, and where thieves do not dig through, nor steal.

    Ver. 20. By doing good works, distributing your superfluities (excess/oversupply - JG) to the indigent (extremely poor - JG). (Haydock)

21 For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

    St. John Chrysostom: When He has driven away the disease of vanity, He does well to bring in speech of contempt of riches. For there is no greater cause of desire of money than love of praise; for this men desire troops of slaves, horses accoutred in gold, and tables of silver, not for use or pleasure, but that they may be seen of many; therefore He says, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth."

    St. Augustine: For if any does a work with the mind of gaining thereby an earthly good, how will his heart be pure while it is thus walking on earth? For any thing that is mingled with an inferior nature is polluted therewith, though that inferior be in its kind pure. Thus gold is alloyed when mixed with pure silver; and in like manner our mind is defiled by lust of earthly things, though earth is in its own kind pure.

    Pseudo-Chrysostom: Otherwise; As the Lord had above taught nothing concerning alms, or prayer, or fasting, but had only checked a pretence of them, He now proceeds to deliver a doctrine of three portions, according to the division which He had before made, in this order. First, a counsel that alms should be done; second, to shew the benefit of almsgiving; third, that the fear of poverty should be no hindrance to our purpose of almsgiving.

    St. John Chrysostom: Saying, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth," He adds, "where rust and moth destroy," in order to shew the insecurity of that treasure that is here, and the advantage of that which is in Heaven, both from the place, and from those things which harm. As though He had said; Why fear you that your wealth should be consumed, if you should give alms? Yea rather give alms, and they shall receive increase, for those treasures that are in Heaven shall be added to them, which treasures perish if ye do not give alms. He said not, You leave them to others, for that is pleasant to men.

    St. Anselm: Here are three precepts according to the three different kinds of wealth. Metals are destroyed by rust, clothes by moth; but as there are other things which fear neither rust nor moth, as precious stones, He therefore names a common damage, that by thieves, who may rob wealth of all kinds.

    Rabanus: Allegorically; Rust denotes pride which obscures the brightness of virtue. Moth which privily eats out garments, is jealousy which frets into good intention, and destroys the bond of unity. Thieves denote heretics and demons, who are ever on the watch to rob men of their spiritual treasure.

    Hilary: But the praise of Heaven is eternal, and cannot be carried off by invading thief, nor consumed by the moth and rust of envy.

    St. Jerome: This must be understood not of money only, but of all our possessions. The god of a glutton is his belly; of a lover his lust; and so every man serves that to which he is in bondage; and has his heart there where his treasure is. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)

John Gregory


        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373





John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADITION Monday, November 14, 2011, Volume 22, no. 318