Reflections – Palm Sunday (B)
A featured reflection each week; including Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Sunday Gospel
A featured reflection each week; including Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Sunday Gospel
1. And when they came nigh to Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples,
2. And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you: and as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat; loose him, and bring him.
3. And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye that the Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him hither.
4. And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him.
5. And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?
6. And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded: and they let them go.
7. And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.
8. And many spread their garments in the way: and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way.
9. And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
10. Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, that cometh in the name of the Lord: Hosanna in the highest.
CHRYSOSTOM. (ubi sup.) Now that the Lord had given sufficient proof of His virtue, and the cross was at hand, even at the door, He did those things which were about to excite them against Him with a greater openness; therefore although He had so often gone up to Jerusalem, He never however had done so in such a conspicuous manner as now.
THEOPHYLACT. That thus, if they were willing, they might recognise His glory, and by the prophecies, which were fulfilled concerning Him, know that He is very God; and that if they would not, they might receive a greater judgment, for not having believed so many wonderful miracles. Describing therefore this illustrious entrance, the Evangelist says, And when they came nigh unto Jerusalem, and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth forth two of his disciples.
BEDE. (in Marc. 3, 41) Bethany is a little village or town by the side of mount Olivet, where Lazarus was raised from the dead. But in what way He sent His disciples and for what purpose is shewn in these words, And saith unto them, Go your way into the village over against you.
THEOPHYLACT. Now consider how many things the Lord foretold to His disciples, that they should find a colt; wherefore it goes on, And as soon as ye be entered into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon never man sat, loose him, and bring him; and that they should be impeded in taking it, wherefore there follows, And if any man say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye, The Lord hath need of him; and that on saying this, they should be allowed to take him; wherefore there follows, And straightway he will send him hither; and as the Lord had said, so it was fulfilled. Thus it goes on: And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without, in a place where two ways meet; and they loose him.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. ii. 66) Matthew says, an ass and a colt, the rest however do not mention the ass. Where then both may be the case, there is no disagreement, though one Evangelist mentions one thing, and a second mentions another; how much less should a question be raised, when one mentions one, and another mentions that same one and another. It goes on: And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt? And they said unto them even as Jesus had commanded, and they let them take it, that is, the colt.
THEOPHYLACT. But they would not have allowed this, if the Divine power had not been upon them, to compel them, especially, as they were country people and farmers, and yet allowed them to take away the colt. It goes on: And they brought the colt to Jesus, and cast their garments on him; and he sat upon him.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Cat. in Marc. Oxon.) Not indeed that He was compelled by necessity to ride on a colt from the mount of Olives to Jerusalem, for He had gone over Judæa and all Galilee on foot, but this action of His is typical. It goes on: And many spread their garments in the way: that is, under the feet of the colt; and others cut down branches off the trees, and strawed them in the way. 1This, however, was rather done to honour Him, and as a Sacrament, than of necessity. It goes on: And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna; blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. 2For the multitude, until it was corrupted, knew what was its duty, for which reason each honoured Jesus according to his own strength. Wherefore they praised Him, and took up the hymns of the Levites, saying, Hosanna, which according to some is the same as save me, but according to others means a hymn. I however suppose the former to be more probable, for there is in the 117th Psalm, (Ps. 118:25) Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord, which in the Hebrew is Hosanna.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) But Hosanna is a Hebrew word, made out of two, one imperfect the other perfect. For save, or preserve, is in their language, hosy; but anna is a supplicatory interjection, as in Latin heu is an exclamation of grief.
PSEUDO-JEROME. They cry out Hosanna, that is save us, that men might be saved by Him who was blessed, and was a conqueror and came in the name of the Lord, that is, of His Father, since the Father is so called because of the Son, and the Son, because of the Father.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Cat. in Marc. Oxon.) Thus then they give glory to God, saying, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. They also bless the kingdom of Christ, saying, Blessed be the kingdom of our father David, which cometh.
THEOPHYLACT. But they called the kingdom of Christ, that of David, both because Christ was descended from the seed of David, and because David means a man of a strong hand. For whose hand is stronger than the Lord’s, by which so many and so great miracles were wrought.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Cat. in Marc. Oxon.) Wherefore also the prophets so often call Christ by the name of David, on account of the descent according to the flesh of Christ from David.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) Now we read in the Gospel of John that He fled into a mountain, lest they should make him their king. Now, however, when He comes to Jerusalem to suffer, He does not shun those who call Him king, that He might openly teach them that He was King over an empire not temporal and earthly, but everlasting in the heavens, and that the path to this kingdom was through contempt of death. Observe also the agreement of the multitude with the saying of Gabriel, The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; (Luke 1:32) that is, that He Himself may call by word and deed to a heavenly kingdom the nation to which David once furnished the government of a temporal rule.
PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (Cat. in Marc. Oxon.) And further, they give glory to God, when they add Hosanna in the highest, that is, praise and glory be to the God of all, Who is in the highest.
PSEUDO-JEROME. Or Hosanna, that is, save in the highest as well as in the lowest, that is, that the just be built on the ruin of Angels, and also that both those on the earth and those under the earth should be saved. In a mystical sense, also, the Lord approaches Jerusalem, which is ‘the vision of peace,’ in which happiness remains fixed and unmoved, being, as the Apostle says, the mother of all believers. (Gal. 4:26)
BEDE. (ubi sup.) Bethany again means the house of obedience, because by teaching many before His Passion, he made for Himself a house of obedience; and it is said to be placed on the mount of Olives, because He cherishes His Church with the unction of spiritual gifts, and with the light of piety and knowledge. But He sent His disciples to a hold1, which was over against them, that is, He appointed doctors to penetrate into the ignorant parts of the whole world, into, as it were, the walls of the hold placed against them.
PSEUDO-JEROME. The disciples of Christ are called two by two, and sent two by two, since charity implies more than one, as it is written, Woe to him that is alone. (Eccl. 4:10) Two persons lead the Israelites out of Egypt: two bring down the bunch of grapes from the Holy Land, that men in authority might ever join together activity and knowledge, and bring forward two commandments from the Two Tables, and be washed from two fountains, and carry the ark of the Lord on two poles, and know the Lord between the two Cherubim, and sing to Him with both mind and spirit.
THEOPHYLACT. The colt, however, was not necessary to Him, but He sent for it to shew that He would transfer Himself to the Gentiles.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) For the colt of the ass, wanton and unshackled, denotes the people of the nations, on whom no man had yet sat, because no wise doctor had, by teaching them the things of salvation, put upon them the bridle of correction, to oblige them to restrain their tongues from evil, or to compel them into the narrow path of life.
PSEUDO-JEROME. But they found the colt tied by the door without, because the Gentile people were bound by the chain of their sins before the door of faith, that is, without the Church.
AMBROSE. (in Luc. 9, 6) Or else, they found it bound before the door, because whosoever is not in Christ is without, in the way; but he who is in Christ, is not without. He has added in the way, or in a place where two ways meet, where there is no certain possession for any man, nor stall, nor food, nor stable; miserable is his service, whose rights are unfixed; for he who has not the one Master, has many. Strangers bind him that they may possess him, Christ looses him in order to keep him, for He knows that gifts are stronger ties than bonds.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or else, fitly did the colt stand in a place where two ways meet, because the Gentile people did not hold on in any certain road of life and faith, but followed in its error many doubtful paths of various sects.
PSEUDO-JEROME. Or, in a place where two roads meet, that is, in the freedom of will, hesitating between life and death.
THEOPHYLACT. Or else, in a place where two roads meet, that is, in this life, but it was loosed by the disciples, through faith and baptism.
PSEUDO-JEROME. But some said, What do ye? as if they would say, Who can remit sins?
THEOPHYLACT. Or else, those who prevent them are the devils, who were weaker than the Apostles.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or else, the masters of error, who resisted the teachers, when they came to save the Gentiles; but after that the power of the faith of the Lord appeared to believers, the faithful people were freed from the cavils of the adversaries, and were brought to the Lord, whom they bore in their hearts. But by the garments of the Apostles, which they put upon it, we may understand the teaching of virtues, or the interpretation of the Scriptures, or the various doctrines of the Church, by which they clothe the hearts of men, once naked and cold and fit them to become the seats of Christ.
PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else, they put upon it their garments, that is, they bring to them the first robe of immortality by the Sacrament of Baptism. And Jesus sat upon it, that is, began to reign in them, so that sin should not reign in their wanton flesh, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Again, many spread their garments in the way, under the feet of the foal of the ass. What are feet, but those who carry, and the least esteemed, whom the Apostle has set to judge? (v. 1 Cor. 6:4.) And these too, though they are not the back on which the Lord sat, yet are instructed by John with the soldiers.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or else, many strew their garments in the way, because the holy martyrs put off from themselves the garment of their own flesh, and prepare a way for the more simple servants of God with their own blood. Many also strew their garments in the way, because they tame their bodies with abstinence, that they may prepare a way for God to the mount, or may give good examples to those who follow them. And they cut down branches from the trees, who in the teaching of the truth cull the sentences of the Fathers from their words, and by their lowly preaching scatter them in the path of God, when He comes into the soul of the hearer.
THEOPHYLACT. Let us also strew the way of our life with branches which we cut from the trees, that is, imitate the saints, for these are holy trees, from which, he who imitates their virtues cuts down branches.
PSEUDO-JEROME. For the righteous shall flourish as a palm tree, straitened in their roots, but spreading out wide with flowers and fruits; for they are a good odour unto Christ, and strew the way of the commandments of God with their good report. Those who went before are the prophets, and those who followed are the Apostles.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) And because all the elect, whether those who were able to become such in Judæa, or those who now are such in the Church, believed and now believe on the Mediator between God and man, both those who go before and those who follow cried out Hosanna.
THEOPHYLACT. But both those of our deeds which go before and those which follow after must be done to the glory of God; for some in their past life make a good beginning, but their following life does not correspond with their former, neither does it end to the glory of God.
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