vol 22, no. 311
In Chapter Five of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, Jesus bestowed the Beatitudes to the multitudes on the mount. Now in Chapter Six He teaches them not only how to pray but what to pray as He gives all The Lord's Prayer. The first part of the Pater Noster is praise and adoration towards the heavenly Father and a statement of affirmation that He is above all everywhere. Here also Our Lord equates the difference between the Pharisees and those who are truly humble. It is a confirmation to the faithful, encouragement if you will, that the method Christ is imparting is the true way to pray and for these gathered on the Mount, an entirely new way of prayer to Almighty God.
For the next section of The Sermon on the Mount I move now to Chapter 6 where again I should like to produce the commentaries to the particular Scripture passage, here all words by Our Lord. Again I will include the discernment by trusted Church scholars without overwhelming the senses with a multiplication of electrical ink. The first commentary under each verse is generally from Father George Leo Haydock as recorded in the Haydock Commentaries, 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. As a reminder, 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. Thus I will cover verses 1 through 10b of Chapter 6 which also treats the first part of The Lord's Prayer.
1 Take * heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise you shall have no reward of your Father, Who is in Heaven.
(* about the year A.M. 4035.[the year of the world 4035]; about the year A.D. 31)
Your justice; in the common Greek copies, your alms, which seems to be the sense in this place. (Witham) --- Hereby it is plain that good works are justice, and that man doing them doth justice, and is thereby just and justified, and not by faith only. All which justice of a christian man, our Saviour here compriseth in the three eminent good works, alms deeds, prayer, and fasting. (St. Augustine) So that to give alms is to do justice, and the works of mercy are justice. (St. Augustine) (Bristow) --- St. Gregory says, that the man who by his virtuous actions would gain the applause of men, quits at an easy rate a treasure of immense value; for, with what he might purchase the kingdom of heaven, he only seeks to acquire the transitory applause of mortals. This precept of Christ, says St. Chrysostom, beautifully evinces the solicitude and unspeakable goodness of God, lest we should have the labour of performing good works, and on account of evil motives be deprived of our reward. "Shut up alms in the heart of the poor." (Ecclesiasticus 29: 15)
Gloss: Christ having now fulfilled the Law in respect of commandments, begins to fulfil it in respect of promises, that we may do God's commandments for heavenly wages, not for the earthly which the Law held out. All earthly things are reduced to two main heads, viz. human glory, and abundance of earthly goods, both of which seem to be promised in the Law. Concerning the first is that spoken in Deuteronomy, "The Lord shall make thee higher than all the nations who dwell on the face of the earth." [Deut 28:1] And in the same place it is added of earthly wealth, "The Lord shall make thee abound in all good things." Therefore the Lord now forbids these two things, glory and wealth, to the attention of believers.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: For when any thing truly glorious is done, there ostentation has its readiest occasion; so the Lord first shuts out all intention of seeking glory; as He knows that this is of all fleshly vices the most dangerous to man. The servants of the Devil are tormented by all kinds of vices; but it is the desire of empty glory that torments the servants of the Lord more than the servants of the Devil.
St. Augustine: How great strength the love of human glory has, none feels, but he who has proclaimed war against it. For though it is easy for any not to wish for praise when it is denied him, it is difficult not to be pleased with it when it is offered.
St. Augustine: In saying only, "That ye be seen of men," without any addition, He seems to have forbidden that we should make that the end of our actions. For the Apostle who declared, "If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ;" [Gal 1: 10] says in another place, "I please all men in all things." [1 Cor 10: 33] This he did not that he might please men, but God, to the love of whom he desires to turn the hearts of men by pleasing them. As we should not think that he spoke absurdly, who should say, In this my pains in seeking a ship, it is not the ship I seek, but my country. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
2 Therefore when thou dost an alms-deed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues, and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
This must be understood figuratively, that we must avoid all ostentation (pretentiousness - JG) in the performance of our good works. Many respectable authors are of opinion, that it was customary with the Pharisees and other hypocrites, to assemble the poor they designed to relieve by sound of trumpet. (Menochius) --- Let us avoid vain glory, the agreeable plunderer of our good works, the pleasant enemy of our souls, which presents its poison to us under the appearance of honey. (St. Basil)
But when thou dost alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth:
Be content to have God for witness to your good works, who alone has power to reward you for them. They will be disclosed soon enough to man, when at the day of general retribution the good and the evil will be brought to light, and every one shall be rewarded according to his works. (Haydock)
That thy alms may be in secret, and thy Father, who seeth in secret, will repay thee.
This repaying or rewarding of good works, so often mentioned here by Jesus Christ, clearly evinces that good works are meritorious, and that we may do them with a view to a reward, as David did, propter retributionem. (Haydock)
And when you pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites, who love to pray standing in the synagogues, and at the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men: Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
St. Augustine: But according to this interpretation, it will be no fault to have a respect to pleasing the faithful; and yet we are forbidden to propose as the end of any good work the pleasing of any kind of men. Yet if you would have men to imitate your actions which may be pleasing to them, they must be done before unbelievers as well as believers.
If again, according to another interpretation, we take the left hand to mean our enemy, and that our enemy should not know when we do our alms, why did the Lord Himself mercifully heal men when the Jews were standing round Him? And how too must we deal with our enemy himself according to that precept, "If thy enemy hunger, feed him." [Prov 25:21]
A third interpretation is ridiculous; that the left hand signifies the wife, and that because women are wont to be more close in the matter of expense out of the family purse, therefore the charities of the husband should be secret from the wife, for the avoiding of domestic strife. But this command is addressed to women as well as to men, what then is the left hand, from which women are bid to conceal their alms? Is the husband also the left hand of the wife? And when it is commanded such that they enrich each other with good works, it is clear that they ought not to hide their good deeds; nor is a theft to be committed to do God service.
But if in any case something must needs be done covertly, from respect to the weakness of the other, though it is not unlawful, yet that we cannot suppose the wife to be intended by the left hand here is clear from the purport of the whole paragraph; no, not even such an one as he might well call left. But that which is blamed in hypocrites, namely, that they seek praise of men, this you are forbid to do; the left hand therefore seems to signify the delight in men's praise; the right hand denotes the purpose of fulfilling the divine commands.
Whenever then a desire to gain honor from men mingles itself with the conscience of him that does alms, it is then the left hand knowing what the right hand, the right conscience, does. "Let not the left hand know," therefore, "what the right hand doeth," means, let not the desire of men's praise mingle with your conscience.
But our Lord does yet more strongly forbid the left hand alone to work in us, than its mingling in the works of the right hand. The intent with which He said all this is shewn in that He adds, "that your alms may be in secret;" that is, in that your good conscience only, which human eye cannot see, nor words discover, though many things are said falsely of many. But your good conscience itself is enough for you towards deserving your reward, if you look for your reward from Him who alone can see your conscience. This is that He adds, "And you Father which seeth in secret shall reward you." Many Latin copies have, "openly." (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
Hypocrisy is forbidden in all these three good works of justice, but not the doing of them openly for the glory of God, the edification of our neighbor, and our own salvation. Let your light so shine before men, i.e. let your work be so done in public, that the intention remain in secret. (St. Gregory)
But thou, when thou shalt pray, enter into thy chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father in secret: and thy Father, Who seeth in secret, will reward thee.
Because he who should pray in his chamber, and at the same time desire it to be known by men, that he might thence receive vain glory, might truly be said to pray in the street, and sound a trumpet before him: whilst he, who though he pray in public, seeks not thence any vain glory, acts the same as if he prayed in his chamber. (Menochius) --- Jesus Christ went up to the temple, to attend public worship on the festival days.
St. Augustine: Or, by our chambers are to be understood our hearts, of which it is spoken in the fourth Psalm; "What things ye utter in your hearts, and wherewith ye are pricked in your chambers." [Ps 4:4] "The door" is the bodily senses; without are all worldly things, which, enter into our thoughts through the senses, and that crowd of vain imaginings which beset us in prayer.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Solomon says, "Before prayer, prepare thy soul." This he does who comes to prayer doing alms; for good works stir up the faith of the heart, and give the soul confidence in prayer to God. Alms then are a preparation for prayer, and therefore the Lord after speaking of alms proceeds accordingly to instruct us concerning prayer.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Prayer is as it were a spiritual tribute which the soul offers of its own bowels. Wherefore the more glorious it is, the more watchfully ought we to guard that it is not made vile by being done to be seen of men.
St. John Chrysostom: He calls them hypocrites, because feigning that they are praying to God, they are looking round to men; and He adds, "they love to pray in the synagogues."
Pseudo-Chrysostom: But I suppose that it is not the place that the Lord here refers to, but the motive of him that prays; for it is praiseworthy to pray in the congregation of the faithful, as it is said, "in your Churches bless ye God." [Ps. 68:26]
Whoever then so prays as to be seen of men does not look to God but to man, and so far as his purpose is concerned he prays in the synagogue. But he, whose mind in prayer is wholly fixed on God, though he pray in the synagogue, yet seems to pray with himself in secret. "In the corners of the streets," namely, that they may seem to be praying retiredly, and thus earn a twofold praise, both that they pray, and that they pray in retirement.
Pseudo-Chrysostom: He forbids us to pray in an assembly with the intent of being seen of that assembly, as He adds, "that they may be seen of men." He that prays therefore should do nothing singular that might attract notice; as crying out, striking his breast, or reaching forth his hands. (What do the Charismatics or "The Assembly of 'God'" members think of this commentary? - JG)
St. Augustine: Not that the mere being seen of men is an impiety, but the doing this, in order to be seen of men. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
And when you are praying, speak not much, as the heathens do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Long prayer is not here forbidden; for Christ Himself spent whole nights in prayer: and He sayeth, we must pray always; and the apostle, that we must pray without intermission, 1 Thessalonians 5; and the holy Church hath had from the beginning her canonical hours for prayer, but rhetorical and elaborate prayer, as if we thought to persuade God by our eloquence, is forbidden; the collects of the Church are most brief and most effectual. (St. Augustine) (Bristow) --- Perseverance in prayer is recommended us by the example of the poor widow, who by her importunity prevailed over the unjust judge. (St. John Chrysostom) --- The Greek word means, to babble or trifle.
Be not you therefore like them. For your Father knoweth what you stand in need of, before you ask Him.
St. Augustine: As the hypocrites use to set themselves so as to be seen in their prayers, whose reward is to be acceptable to men; so the Ethnici (that is, the Gentiles) use to think that they shall be heard for their much speaking; therefore He adds, "When ye pray, do not ye use many words."
You therefore shall pray in this manner: Our Father Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Cassian: We should indeed pray often, but in short form, lest if we be long in our prayers, the enemy that lies in wait for us, might suggest something for our thoughts.
St. Augustine: Yet to continue long in prayer is not, as some think, what is here meant, by "using many words." For much speaking is one thing, and an enduring fervency another. For of the Lord Himself it is written, that He continued a whole night in prayer, and prayed at great length, setting an example to us. The brethren in Egypt are said to use frequent prayers, but those very short, and as it were hasty ejaculations, lest that fervency of spirit, which is most behoveful for us in prayer, should by longer continuance be violently broken off.
Herein themselves sufficiently shew, that this fervency of spirit, as it is not to be forced if it cannot last, so if it has lasted is not to be violently broken off. Let prayer then be without much speaking, but not without much entreaty, if this fervent spirit can be supported; for much speaking in prayer is to use in a necessary matter more words than necessary. But to entreat much, is to importune with enduring warmth the heart Him to whom our entreaty is made; for often is this business effected more by groans than words, by weeping more than speech.
St. John Chrysostom: Hereby He dissuades from empty speaking in prayer; as, for example, when we ask of God things improper, as dominions, fame, overcoming of our enemies, (I'm sure Saint John Chrysostom was aware that King David quite often prayed to overcome his enemies, and was apparently quite often heard - JG) or abundance of wealth. He commands then that our prayers should not be long; long, that is, not in time, but in multitude of words. For it is right that those who ask should persevere in their asking; "being instant in prayer," as the Apostle instructs; but does not thereby enjoin us to compose a prayer of ten thousand verses, and speak it all; which He secretly hints at, when He says, "Do not ye use many words."
Gloss: What He condemns is many words in praying that come of want of faith; "as the Gentiles do." For a multitude of words were needful for the Gentiles, seeing the daemons (demons; false gods - JG) could not know for what they petitioned, until instructed by them; they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Augustine: And truly all superfluity of discourse has come from the Gentiles, who labor rather to practise their tongues than to cleanse their hearts, and introduce this art of rhetoric into that wherein they need to persuade God. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
As God is the common Father of all, we pray for all. Let none fear on account of their lowly station here, for all are comprised in the same heavenly nobility. ... By saying, "Who art in Heaven," He does not mean to insinuate that He is there only, but He wishes to withdraw the humble petitioner from earth, and fix his attention on Heaven. (St. John Chrysostom) Other prayers are not forbidden. Jesus Christ prayed in different words (St. John 8), and the apostles; (Acts 1: 24) but this is an example of the simple style to be used in prayer, and is applicable to all occasions. --- Hallowed be Thy name, from the word holy, be held and kept holy, be glorified by us, and that not only by our words, but principally by the lives we lead. The honor and glory of God should be the principal subject of our prayers, and the ultimate end of our every action; every other thing must be subordinate to this. (Haydock)
Thy kingdom come.
Gloss: Amongst His other saving instructions and divine lessons, wherewith He counsels believers, He has set forth for us a form of prayer in few words; thus giving us confidence that will be quickly granted, for which He would have us pray so shortly.
Cyprian: He Who gave to us to live, taught us also to pray, to the end, that speaking to the Father in the prayer which the Son hath taught, we may receive a readier hearing. It is praying like friends and familiars to offer up to God of His own. Let the Father recognize the Son's words when we offer up our prayer; and seeing we have Him when we sin for an Advocate with the Father, let us put forward the words of our Advocate, when as sinners we make petition for our offenses.
St. Augustine: "in Heaven" is among the saints and the righteous men; for God is not contained in space. For the heavens literally are the upper parts of the universe, and if God be thought to be in them, then are the birds of more desert than men, seeing they must have their habitation nearer to God. But, "God is nigh," [Ps. 34:18] it is not said to the men of lofty stature, or to the inhabitants of the mountain tops; but, "to the broken in heart."
But as the sinner is called 'earth,' as "earth thou art, and unto earth thou must return," [Gen 3: 19] so might the righteous on the other hand be called 'the Heaven.' Thus then it would be rightly said "Who art in Heaven," for there would seem to be as much difference spiritually between the righteous and sinners, as locally, between Heaven and earth.
With the intent of signifying which thing it is, that we turn our faces in prayer to the east, not as though God was there only, deserting all other parts of the earth; but that the mind may be reminded to turn itself to that nature which is more excellent, that is to God, when his body, which is of earth, is turned to the more excellent body which is of Heaven. For it is desirable that all, both small and great, should have right conceptions of God, and therefore for such as cannot fix their thought on spiritual natures, it is better that they should think of God as being in heaven than in earth. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
Those who desire to arrive at the kingdom of Heaven, must endeavor so to order their life and conversation, as if they were already conversing in heaven. This petition is also to be understood for the accomplishment of the divine will in every part of the world, for the extirpation of error, and explosion of vice, that truth and virtue may everywhere obtain, and heaven and earth differ no more in honouring the supreme majesty of God. (St. John Chrysostom)
Gloss: It follows suitably, that after our adoption as sons, we should ask a kingdom which is due to sons.
St. Augustine: This is not so said as though God did not now reign on earth, or had not reigned over it always. "Come," must therefore be taken for "be manifested to men." For none shall then be ignorant of His kingdom, when His Only-begotten not in understanding only, but in visible shape shall come to judge the quick and dead. This day of judgment the Lord teaches shall then come, when the Gospel shall have been preached to all nations; which thing pertains to the hallowing of God's name.
St. Jerome: Either it is a general prayer for the kingdom of the whole world that the reign of the Devil may cease; or for the kingdom in each of us that God may reign there, and that sin may not reign in our mortal body.
St. Cyprian: it is that kingdom which was promised to us by God, and bought with Christ's blood; that we who before in the world have been servants, may afterwards reign under the dominion of Christ.
St. Augustine: For the kingdom of God will come whether we desire it or not. But herein we kindle our desires towards that kingdom, that it may come to us, and that we may reign in it.
St. Jerome: But be it noted, that it comes of high confidence, and of an unblemished conscience only, to pray for the kingdom of God, and not to fear the judgment.
St. Augustine: In that kingdom of blessedness the happy life will be made perfect in the Saints as it now is in the heavenly Angels; and therefore after the petition, "Thy kingdom come," follows, "Thy will be done as in Heaven, so in earth." That is, as by the Angels who are in Heaven Thy will is done so as that they have fruition of Thee, no error clouding their knowledge, no pain marring their blessedness; so may it be done by Thy Saints who are on earth, and who, as to their bodies, are made of earth. So that, "Thy will be done," is rightly understood as, 'Thy commands be obeyed;' "as in heaven, so in earth," that is, as by Angels, so by men; not that they do what God would have them do, but they do because He would have them do it; that is, they do after His will. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
St. John Chrysostom: See how excellently this follows; having taught us to desire heavenly things by that which He said, "Thy kingdom come," before we come to Heaven He bids us make this earth into Heaven, in that saying, "Thy will be done as in Heaven, so in earth."
St. Jerome: Let them be put to shame by this text who falsely affirm that there are daily falls in Heaven.
St. Augustine: Or; as by the righteous, so by sinners; as if He had said, As the righteous do Thy will, so also may sinners; either by turning to Thee, or in receiving every man his just reward, which shall be in the last judgment.
Or, by the Heaven and the earth we may understand the spirit and the flesh. As the Apostle says, "In my mind I obey the law of God," [Rom 7: 25] we see the will of God done in the spirit. But in that change which is promised to the righteous there, "Let thy will be done as in Heaven, so in earth;" that is, as the spirit does not resist God, so let the body not resist the spirit.
Or; "as in Heaven, so in earth," as in Christ Jesus Himself, so in His Church; as in the Man who did His Father's will, so in the woman who is espoused of Him. And Heaven and earth may be suitably understood as husband and wife, seeing it is of the heaven that the earth brings forth her fruits.
St. Cyprian: We ask not that God may do His Own will, but that we may be enabled to do what He wills should be done by us; and that it may be done in us we stand in need of that will, that is, of God's aid and protection; for no man is strong by his own strength, but it safe in the indulgence and pity of God.
St. John Chrysostom: For virtue is not of our own efforts, but of grace from above. Here again is enjoined on each one of us prayer for the whole world, inasmuch as we are not to say, Thy will be done in me, or in us; but throughout the earth, that error may cease, truth be planted, malice be banished, and virtue return, and thus the earth not differ from Heaven. (Aquinas, Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew)
"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 7, 2011,
Volume 22, no. 311