The Holy Family is the model for a Christian family. It was in this simple home that Jesus, our Savior, grew into the man who would save the world. It was in the humble surroundings of his home life that this great man spent most of his life on earth. —Douglas Sousa (LPi Connect)
A Hidden Life of Strength, Wisdom, Grace
Holy Family (B)
Liturgical and pastoral resources from National Catholic Reporter’s Celebration
Holy Family (B)
Sirach 3:2-7, 12-1414 or Genesis 15:1-6; 21:1-3
Those who fear the Lord honor their parents
- God appoints parents to care for their children.
- Whoever honors their parents atones for their sins.
- Care for parents as they age; be kind and considerate of them.
Option: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
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Agape Bible Study
The First Reading reminds us of the fourth of the Ten Commandments: Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you. Significantly, it is the only one of the Ten Commandments associated with a promised blessing for obedience. In our reading, the inspired writer establishes the theme of this passage when he equates “fear of the LORD [Yahweh]” with respect for one’s parents. He tells us that our signs of honor and respect toward our parents are promised blessings beyond a good life. So important is one’s conduct towards one’s parents that God promises He will always hear the prayers of an obedient and caring child, and acts of kindness towards one’s parents will atone for sins.
Holy Family (B)
Psalm 12:1-5 or Psalm 105:1-6, 8-9
The Lord remembers his covenant for ever
Psalm 105 – The author is full of gratitude to God for his faithfulness to his covenant with the descendants of Abraham.
©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.
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Agape Bible Study
Psalm 128 – The Responsorial Psalm admonishes us to “fear the LORD [Yahweh] and to walk in his ways,” meaning to revere God and demonstrate obedience to His commands. Reverent fear of offending God is a spiritual healthy condition. It assures that one who fears God will avoid the causes of sin and will cherish fellowship with the Lord. We have God’s promise that He will faithfully bless those who approach Him in worshipful reverence with a happy home life, prosperity, and children. God’s blessing is also for all the reverent “children” of the faith community, which Scripture calls “the household of God,” our heavenly Father (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19).
Holy Family (B)
Colossians 3:12-21 or Hebrews 11:8, 11-12, 17-19
Family life in the Lord
- Live with heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
- Forgive one another.
- Live with gratitude and peace in your heart.
OPTION: Colossians 3:12-21
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
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Agape Bible Study
In the Second Reading, St. Paul lists a set of virtues for “God’s chosen ones.” The result of exhibiting such virtues is that we act with love towards one another. St. Paul writes that those who exercise these virtues are emulating divine love when they let the peace of Christ control their actions. Paul writes that it is the love of Christ that is “the bond of perfection” for the “household of God” that is the Church of Jesus Christ.
Then, St. Paul turns from the “household of God” to the “household” of marriage and the family, writing about a mutual loving submission of husbands and wives to each other and the obedience of children to their parents. The importance of obedience of children is rooted in the fourth of the Ten Commandments, commanding children to honor their parents. For their part, parents are to nurture their children and encourage them in Christian virtues. They are to encourage their children in the same way God loves and encourages all His human children to choose the right path in their faith journeys. It is also St. Paul’s gentle reminder of the important role of the Christian family in the life of the Church.
Holy Family (B)
The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom
- Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present him at the Temple.
- When Simeon held Jesus in his arms, he recognized him as the Messiah.
- As a child, Jesus grew stronger and he was filled with wisdom.
OPTION: Luke 2:22-40
SOURCE: Our Sunday Visitor
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Agape Bible Study
The Gospel Reading recounts baby Jesus’ parents presenting Him at the Jerusalem Temple when He was forty-days old, in obedience to the Law of the Sinai Covenant. At the time of His presentation and Mary’s sacrificial offerings, the Prophet Simeon and the Prophetess Anna received a divine revelation of Jesus’ true identity. In their prophecies over baby Jesus, they began the proclamation of the Gospel. Recognizing the Davidic Messiah, they began to announce His coming to the extended family of His covenant people, moving forward God’s Divine Plan for mankind’s salvation.
In the ecclesial community, we experience the Christian family which constitutes a specific revelation and realization of what is the “domestic church.” The Christian family is a communion of persons in the Body of Christ, and it is “a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit” (CCC 2205). In the procreation and bringing up of children in the Christian family, we reflect the Father’s work of creation. The spiritually reborn children of God in the Christian family still have a mission to fulfill in salvation history. The members of the Christian family are called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They are also called to fulfill the mission to evangelize within the family and outside the family to the other families in the world.
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Holy Family (B)
The Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Next after the circumcision they wait for the time of purification, as it is said, And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were come.
BEDE. If you diligently examine the words of the law, you will find indeed that the mother of God as she is free from all connexion with man, so is she exempt from any obligation of the law. For not every woman who brings forth, but she who has received seed and brought forth, is pronounced unclean, and by the ordinances of the law is taught that she must be cleansed, in order to distinguish probably from her who though a virgin has conceived and brought forth. But that we might be loosed from the bonds of the law, as did Christ, so also Mary submitted herself of her own will to the law.
TITUS BOSTRENSIS. Therefore the Evangelist has well observed, that the days of her purification were come according to the law, who since she had conceived of the Holy Spirit, was free from all uncleanness. It follows, They brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.g
ATHANASIUS. But when was the Lord hid from His Father’s eye, that He should not be seen by Him, or what place is excepted from His dominion, that by remaining there He should be separate from His Father, unless brought to Jerusalem and introduced into the temple? But for us perhaps these things were written. For as not to confer grace on Himself was He made man and circumcised in the flesh, but to make us Gods through grace, and that we might be circumcised in the Spirit, so for our sakes is He presented to the Lord, that we also might learn to present ourselves to the Lord.
BEDE. On the thirty-third day after His circumcision He is presented to the Lord, signifying in a mystery that no one but he who is circumcised from his sins is worthy to come into the Lord’s sight, that no one who has not severed himself from all human ties can perfectly enter into the joys of the heavenly city. It follows, As it is written in the law of the Lord.
ORIGEN. Where are they who deny that Christ proclaimed in the Gospel the law to be of God, or can it be supposed that the righteous God made His own Son under a hostile law which He Himself had not given? It is written in the law of Moses as follows, Every male which openeth the womb shall be called holy unto the Lord. (Ex. 13:2, 12.)
BEDE. By the words, opening the womb, he signifies the first-born both of man and beast, and each one of which was, according to the commandment, to be called holy to the Lord, and therefore to become the property of the priest, that is, so far that he was to receive a price for every first-born of man, and oblige every unclean animal to be ransomed.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (in Hom. de occursu Domini.) Now this commandment of the law seems to have had its fulfilment in the incarnate God, in a very remarkable and peculiar manner. For He alone, ineffably conceived and incomprehensibly brought forth, opened the virgin’s womb, till then unopened by marriage, and after this birth miraculously retaining the seal of chastity.
AMBROSE. For no union with man disclosed the secrets of the virgin’s womb, but the Holy Spirit infused the immaculate seed into an inviolate womb. He then who sanctified another womb in order that a prophet should be born, He it is who has opened the womb of His own mother, that the Immaculate should come forth. By the words opening the womb, he speaks of birth after the usual manner, not that the sacred abode of the virgin’s womb, which our Lord in entering sanctified, should now be thought by His proceeding forth from it to be deprived of its virginity.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) But the offspring of this birth is alone seen to be spiritually male, as contracting no guilt from being born of a woman. Hence He is truly called holy, and therefore Gabriel, as if announcing that this commandment belonged to Him only, said, That Holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Now of other first-borns the wisdom of the Gospel has declared that they are called holy from their being offered to God. But the first-born of every creature, That holy thing which is born, &c. the Angel pronounces to be in the nature of its very being holy.
AMBROSE. For among those that are born of a woman, the Lord Jesus alone is in every thing holy, who in the newness of His immaculate birth experienced not the contagion of earthly defilement, but by His Heavenly Majesty dispelled it. For if we follow the letter, how can every male be holy, since it is undoubted that many have been most wicked? But He is holy whom in the figure of a future mystery the pious ordinances of the divine law prefigured, because He alone was to open the hidden womb of the holy virgin Church for the begetting of nations.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (Hom. xi.) Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Rom. 11:33.) He offers victims, Who in each victim is honoured equally with the Father. The Truth preserves the figures of the law. He who as God is the Maker of the law, as man has kept the law. Hence it follows, And that they should give a victim as it was ordered in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves or two young pigeons. (Lev. 12:8.)
BEDE. (Hom. Purif.) Now this was the victim of the poor. For the Lord commanded in the law that they who were able should offer a lamb for a son or a daughter as well as a turtle dove or pigeon; but they who were not able to offer a lamb should give two turtle doves or two young pigeons. Therefore the Lord, though he was rich, deigned to become poor, that by his poverty He might make us partakers of His riches.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But let us see what these offerings mean. The turtle dove is the most vocal of birds, and the pigeon the gentlest. And such was the Saviour made unto us; He was endowed with perfect meekness, and like the turtle dove entranced the world, fillinga His garden with His own melodies. There was killed then either a turtle dove or a pigeon, that by a figure He might be shewn forth unto us as about to suffer in the flesh for the life of the world.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) Or the pigeon denotes simplicity, the turtle dove chastity, for the pigeon is a lover of simplicity, and the turtle dove of chastity, so that if by chance she has lost her mate, she heeds not to find another. Rightly then are the pigeon and turtle dove offered as victims to the Lord, because the simple and chaste conversation of the faithful is a sacrifice of righteousness well pleasing to Him.
ATHANASIUS. (ubi sup.) He ordered two things to be offered, because as man consists of both body and soul, the Lord requires a double return from us, chastity and meekness, not only of the body, but also of the soul. Otherwise, man will be a dissembler and hypocrite, wearing the face of innocence to mask his hidden malice.
BEDE. (ubi sup.) But while each bird, from its habit of wailing, represents the present sorrows of the saints, in this they differ, that the turtle is solitary, but the pigeon flies about in flocks, and hence the one points to the secret tears of confession, the other to the public assembling of the Church.
BEDE. Or the pigeon which flies in flocks sets forth the busy intercourse of active life. The turtle, which delights in solitariness, tells of the lofty heights of the contemplative life. But because each victim is equally accepted by the Creator, St. Luke has purposely omitted whether the turtles or young pigeons were offered for the Lord, that he might not prefer one mode of life before another, but teach that both ought to be followed.
AMBROSE. Not only did Angels and Prophets, the shepherds and his parents, bear witness to the birth of the Lord, but the old men and the righteous. As it is said, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and he was a just man, and one who feared God. For scarcely is righteousness preserved without fear, I mean not that fear which dreads the loss of worldly goods, (which perfect love casteth out,) (1 John 4:18) but that holy fear of the Lord which abideth for ever, (Ps. 19:9.) by which the righteous man, the more ardent his love to God, is so much the more careful not to offend Him.
AMBROSE. Well is he called righteous who sought not his own good, but the good of his nation, as it follows, Waiting for the consolation of Israel.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) It was not surely worldly happiness that the prudent Simeon was waiting for as the consolation of Israel, but a real happiness, that is, a passing over to the beauty of truth from the shadow of the law. For he had learnt from the sacred oracles that he would see the Lord’s Christ before he should depart out of this present life. Hence it follows, And the Holy Spirit was in him, (by which indeed he was justified,) and he received an answer from the Holy Spirit.
AMBROSE. He desired indeed to be loosed from the chains of bodily infirmity, but he waits to see the promise, for he knew, Happy are those eyes which shall see it. (Job 6.)
GREGORY. (Mor. 7.) Hereby also we learn with what desire the holy men of Israel desired to see the mystery of His incarnation.
BEDE. To see death means to undergo it, and happy will he be to see the death of the flesh who has first been enabled to see with the eyes of his heart the Lord Christ, having his conversation in the heavenly Jerusalem, and frequently entering the doors of God’s temple, that is, following the examples of the saints in whom God dwells as in His temple. By the same grace of the Spirit whereby he foreknew Christ would come, he now acknowledges Him come, as it follows, And he came by the Spirit into the temple.
ORIGEN. If thou wilt touch Jesus and grasp Him in thy hands, strive with all thy strength to have the Spirit for thy guide, and come to the temple of God. For it follows, And when his parents brought in the child Jesus, (i. e. Mary His mother, and Joseph His reputed father,) to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) How blessed was that holy entrance to holy things through which he hastened on to the end of life, blessed those hands which handled the word of life, and the arms which were held out to receive Him!
BEDE. Now the righteous man, according to the law, received the Child Jesus in his arms, that he might signify that the legal righteousness of works under the figure of the hands and arms was to be changed for the lowly indeed but saving grace of Gospel faith. The old man received the infant Christ, to convey thereby that this world, now worn out as it were with old age, should return to the childlike innocence of the Christian life.
ORIGEN. If we marvel to hear that a woman was healed by touching the hem of a garment, what must we think of Simeon, who received an Infant in his arms, and rejoiced seeing that the little one he carried was He who had come to let loose the captive! Knowing that no one could release him from the chains of the body with the hope of future life, but He whom he held in his arms. Therefore it is said, And he blessed God, saying, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart.
THEOPHYLACT. When he says Lord, he confesses that He is the very Lord of both life and death, and so acknowledges the Child whom he held in his arms to be God.
ORIGEN. As if he said, “As long as I held not Christ, I was in prison, and could not escape from my bonds.”
BASIL. (Hom. de grat. act.) If you examine the words of the righteous, you will find that they all sorrow over this world and its mournful delay. Alas me! says David, that my habitation is prolonged. (Ps. 120:5.)
AMBROSE. Observe then that this just man, confined as it were in the prison house of his earthly frame, is longing to be loosed, that he may again be with Christ. (Phil. 1:23.) But whoso would be cleansed, let him come into the temple;—into Jerusalem: let him wait for the Lord’s Christ, let him receive in his hands the word of God, and embrace it as it were with the arms of his faith. Then let him depart that he might not see death who has seen life.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) Simeon blessed God also, because the promises made to him had received their true fulfilment. For He was reckoned worthy to see with his eyes, and to carry in his arms the consolation of Israel. And therefore he says, According to thy word, i. e. since I have obtained the completion of thy promises. And now that I have seen with my eyes what was my desire to see, now lettest thou thy servant depart, neither dismayed at the taste of death, nor harassed with doubting thoughts: as he adds, in peace.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) For since Christ has destroyed the enemy, which is sin, and has reconciled us to the Father, the removal of saints has been in peace.
ORIGEN. But who departs from this world in peace, but he who is persuaded that God was Christ reconciling the world to Himself, (2 Cor. 5.) who has nothing hostile to God, having derived to himself all peace by good works in himself?
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) But it had been twice promised to him that he should not sec death before he should sec the Lord’s Christ, and therefore he adds, to shew that this promise was fulfilled, For mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Blessed are the eyes, both of thy soul and thy body. For the one visibly embrace God, but the others not considering those things which are seen, but enlightened by the brightness of the Spirit of the Lord, acknowledge the Word made flesh. For the salvation which thou hast perceived with thy eyes is Jesus Himself, by which name salvation is declared.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But Christ was the mystery which has been revealed in the last times of the world, having been prepared before the foundation of the world. Hence it follows, which thou hast prepared before the face of all men.
ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) That is to say, the salvation wrought by Christ for the whole world. How then was it said above that he was watching for the consolation of Israel, but because he truly perceived in the spirit that consolation would be to Israel at that time when salvation was prepared for all people.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) Mark the wisdom of the good and venerable old man, who before that he was thought worthy of the blessed vision, was waiting for the consolation of Israel, but when he obtained that which he was looking for, exclaims that he saw the salvation of all people. So enlightened was he by the unspeakable radiance of the Child, that he perceived at a glance things that were to happen a long time after.
THEOPHYLACT. By these words, Before the face, he signifies that our Lord’s incarnation would be visible to all men. And this salvation he says is to be the light of the Gentiles and the glory of Israel, as it follows, A light to lighten the Gentiles.
ATHANASIUS. (non occ.) For the Gentiles before the coming of Christ were lying in the deepest darkness, being without the knowledge of God.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. (ubi sup.) But Christ coming was made a light to them that sat in darkness, being sore oppressed by the power of the devil, but they were called by God the Father to the knowledge of His Son, Who is the true light.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Israel was enlightened though dimly by the law, so he says not that light came to them, but his words are, to be the glory of thy people Israel. Calling to mind the ancient history, that as of old Moses after speaking with God returned with his face glorious, so they also coming to the divine light of His human nature, casting away their old veil, might be transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:7.) For although some of them were disobedient, yet a remnant were saved and came through Christ to glory, of which the Apostles were first-fruits, whose brightness illumines the whole world. For Christ was in a peculiar manner the glory of Israel, because according to the flesh He came forth from Israel, although as God He was over all blessed for ever.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) He said therefore, of thy people, signifying that not only was He adored by them, but moreover of them was He born according to the flesh.
BEDE. And well is the enlightening of the Gentiles put before the glory of Israel, because when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, then shall Israel be safe. (Rom 11:26.)
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Photius.) The knowledge of supernatural things, as often as it is brought to the recollection, renews the miracle in the mind, and hence it is said, His father and mother marvelled at those things which were said of him.
ORIGEN. Both by the angel and the multitude of the heavenly host, by the shepherds also, and Simeon.
BEDE. Joseph is called the father of the Saviour, not because he was (as the Photinians say) His real father, but because from regard to the reputation of Mary, all men considered him so.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. in Evan. ii. 1.) He however might be called His father in that light in which he is rightly regarded as the husband of Mary, that is, not from any carnal connection, but by reason of the very bond of wedlock, a far closer relationship than that of adoption. For that Joseph was not to be called Christ’s father was not, because he had not begotten Him by cohabitation, since in truth he might be a father to one whom he had not begotten from his wife, but had adopted from another.
ORIGEN. But they who look deeper into the matter may say, that since the genealogy is deduced from David to Joseph, therefore lest Joseph should seem to be mentioned for no purpose, as not being the father of the Saviour, he was called His father, that the genealogy might maintain its place.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (ubi sup.) Having given praise to God, Simeon now turns to bless them that brought the Child, as it follows, And Simeon blessed them. He gave to each a blessing, but his presage of hidden things he imparts only to the mother, in order that in the common blessing He might not deprive Joseph of the likeness of a father, but in what he says to the mother apart from Joseph he might proclaim her to be the true mother.
AMBROSE. Behold what abundant grace is extended to all men by the birth of the Lord, and how prophecy is withheld from the unbelievers, not from the righteous. Simeon also prophesies that Christ Jesus has come for the fall and rising again of many.
ORIGEN. They who explain this simply, may say that He came for the fall of unbelievers, and the rising again of believers.
CHRYSOSTOM. As the light though it may annoy weak eyes, is still light; in like manner the Saviour endures, though many fall away, for His office is not to destroy; but their way is madness. Wherefore not only by the salvation of the good, but by the scattering of the wicked, is His power shewn. For the sun the brighter it shines, is the more trying to the weak sight.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) Mark the nice distinction here observed. Salvation is said to be prepared before the face of all people, but the falling and raising is of many; for the Divine purpose was the salvation and sanctification of every one, whereas the falling and lifting up stands in the will of many, believers and unbelievers. But that those who were lying in unbelief should be raised up again is not unreasonable.
ORIGEN. The careful interpreter will say, that no one falls who was not before standing. Tell me then, who were they who stood, for whose fall Christ came?
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) But by this he signifies a fall to the very lowest, as if the punishment before the mystery of the incarnation, fell far short of that after the giving and preaching of the Gospel dispensation. And those spoken of are chiefly of Israel, who must of necessity forfeit their ancient privileges, and pay a heavier penalty than any other nation, because they were so unwilling to receive Him Who had long been prophesied among them, had been worshipped, and had come forth from them. In a most especial manner then he threatens them with not only a fall from spiritual freedom, but also the destruction of their city, and of those who dwelt among them. But a resurrection is promised to believers, partly indeed as subject to the law, and about to be delivered from its bondage, but partly as buried together with Christ, and rising with Him.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (hom. de occ. Dom.) Now from these words, you may perceive through the agreement of men’s minds on the word of prophecy, that one and the same God and lawgiver hath spoken both in the Prophets and the New Testament. For the language of prophecy declared that there shall be a stone of fulling, and a rock of offence, that they who believe on Him should not be confounded. (Is. 8:14, Rom. 9:33.) The fall therefore is to them who are offended with the meanness of His coming in the flesh; the rising again to those who acknowledge the stedfastness of the Divine purpose.
ORIGEN. There is also a deeper meaning aimed against those who raise their voices against their Creator, saying, Behold the God of the Law and the Prophets of what sort He is! He says, I kill, and I make alive. (Deut. 32:39.) If God then is a bloody judge and a cruel master, it is most plain that Jesus is His Son, since the same things here are written of Him, namely, that he comes for the fall and rising again of many.
AMBROSE. That is, to distinguish the merits of the just and the unjust, and according to the quality of our deeds, as a true and just Judge, to decree punishment or rewards.
ORIGEN. But we must take care lest by chance the Saviour should not come to some equally for the fall and rising again; for when I stood in sin, it was first good for me to fall, and die to sin. Lastly, Prophets and Saints when they were designing some great thing, used to fall on their faces, that by their fall their sins should be the more fully blotted out. This it is that the Saviour first grants to thee. Thou wert a sinner, let that which is sin fall in thee, that thou mayest thence rise again, and say, If we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him. (2 Tim. 2:11.)
CHRYSOSTOM. The resurrection is a new life and conversation. For when the sensual man becomes chaste, the covetous merciful, the cruel man gentle, a resurrection takes place. Sin being dead, righteousness rises again. It follows, And for a sign which shall be spoken against.
BASIL. (ep. 260. ad Opt.) The sign which is spoken against is called in Scripture, the cross. For Moses, it says, made a brazen serpent, and placed it for a sign. (Numb. 21:8.)
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) He has joined together honour and dishonour. For to us Christians this sign is a token of honour, but it is a sign of contradiction, inasmuch by some indeed it is received as absurd and monstrous, by others with the greatest veneration. Or perhaps Christ Himself is termed a sign, as having a supernatural existence, and as the author of signs.
BASIL. (ubi sup.) For a sign betokens something marvellous and mysterious, which is seen indeed by the simple minded.
ORIGEN. But all the things which history relates of Christ are spoken against, not that those who believe on Him speak against Him, (for we know that all the things which are written of Him are true,) but that every thing which has been written of Him is with the unbelievers a sign which is spoken against.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (non occ.) Though these things are said of the Son, yet they have reference also to His mother, who takes each thing to herself, whether it be of danger or glory. He announces to her not only her prosperity, but her sorrows; for it follows. And a sword shall pierce through thy own heart.
BEDE. No history tells us that Mary departed this life by being slain with the sword, therefore since not the soul but the body is killed with iron, we are left to understand that sword which is mentioned, And a sword in their lips, (Ps. 59:7.) that is, grief because of our Lord’s passion passed through her soul, who although she saw Christ the very Son of God die a voluntary death, and doubted not that He who was begotten of her flesh would overcome death, could not without grief see Him crucified.
AMBROSE. Or it shews the wisdom of Mary, that she was not ignorant of the heavenly Majesty. For the word of God is living and strong, and sharper than the sharpest sword. (Heb. 4:12.)
AUGUSTINE. (de Nov. ac vet, Test. c. 73.) Or by this is signified that Mary also, through whom was performed the mystery of the incarnation, looked with doubt and astonishment at the death of her Lord, seeing the Son of God so humbled as to come down even to death. And as a sword passing close by a man causes fear, though it does not strike him; so doubt also causes sorrow, yet does not kill; for it is not fastened to the mind, but passes through it as through a shadow.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (de occ. Dom. non occ.) But it is not meant that she alone was concerned in that passion, for it is added, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. The word that marks the event; it is not used causatively; for when all these events took place, there followed the discovery of many men’s intentions. For some confessed God on the cross, others even then ceased not from their blasphemies and revilings. Or this was said, meaning that at the time of the passion the thoughts of men’s hearts should be laid open, and be corrected by the resurrection. For doubts are quickly superseded by certainty. Or perhaps by revealing may be meant, the enlightening of the thoughts, as it is often used in Scripture.
BEDE. But now even down to the close of the present time, the sword of the severest tribulation ceases not to go through the soul of the Church, when with bitter sorrow she experiences the evil speaking against the sign of faith, when hearing the word of God that many are raised with Christ, she finds still more falling from the faith, when at the revealing of the thoughts of many hearts, in which the good seed of the Gospel has been sown, she beholds the tares of vice overshooting it, spreading beyond it, or growing alone.
ORIGEN. But the evil thoughts of men were revealed, that He Who died for us might slay them; for while they were hidden, it was impossible to utterly destroy them. Hence also when we have sinned we ought to say, Mine iniquity have I not hid. (Ps. 32:5.) For if we make known our sins not only to God, but to whoever can heal our wounds, our sins will be blotted out.
AMBROSE. Simeon had prophesied, a woman united in marriage had prophesied, a virgin had prophesied, it was meet also that a widow should prophesy, that there might lack no sex or condition of life, and therefore it is said, And there was one Anna a prophetess.
THEOPHYLACT. The Evangelist dwells some time on the account of Anna, mentioning both her father’s tribe, and adding, as it were, many witnesses who knew her father and her tribe.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) Or because at that time there were several others who were called by the same name, that there might be a plain way of distinguishing her, he mentions her father, and describes the quality of her parents.
AMBROSE. Now Anna, both from the duties of her widowhood and her manner of life, is found to be such that she is thought worthy to announce the Redeemer of the world. As it follows, She was of a great age, and had lived with her husband, &c.
ORIGEN. For the Holy Spirit dwelt not by chance in her. For the highest blessing, if any can possess it, is the grace of virginity, but if this cannot be, and it chance to a woman to lose her husband, let her remain a widow, which indeed not only after the death of her husband, but even while he is living, she ought to have in her mind, that supposing it should not happen, her will and determination might be crowned by the Lord, and her words should be, “This I vow, and promise, that if a certain condition of this life be mine, (which yet I wish not,) I will do nothing else but remain inviolate and a widow.” Most justly then was this holy woman thought worthy to receive the gift of prophecy, because by long chastity and long fastings she had ascended to this height of virtue, as it follows, Who departed not from the temple with fastings and prayers, &c.
ORIGEN. From which it is plain that she possessed a multitude of other virtues; and mark how she resembles Simeon in his goodness, for they were both in the temple together, and both counted worthy of prophetic grace, as it follows, And she coming in at this very instant, gave thanks to the Lord.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, returned thanks for seeing in Israel the Saviour of the world, and she confessed of Jesus that He was the Redeemer and the Saviour. Hence it follows, And she spoke of him to all, &c.
ORIGEN. But because Anna’s words were nothing remarkable, and of no great note respecting Christ, the Gospel does not give the particulars of what she said, and perhaps for this reason one may suppose that Simeon anticipated her, since he indeed bore the character of the law, (for his name signifies obedience,) but she the character of grace, (which her name is by interpretation,) and Christ came between them. Therefore He let Simeon depart dying with the law, but Anna he sustains living beyond through grace.
BEDE. According to the mystical meaning, Anna signifies the Church, who at present is indeed a widow by the death of her Husband; the number also of the years of her widowhood marks the time of the Church, at which established in the body, she is separated from the Lord. For seven times twelve make eighty-four, seven indeed referring to the course of this world, which revolves in seven days; but twelve had reference to the perfection of Apostolic teaching, and therefore the Universal Church, or any faithful soul which strives to devote the whole period of its life to the following of Apostolic practice, is said to serve the Lord for eighty-four years. The term also of seven years, during which she lived with her husband, coincides. For through the prerogative of our Lord’s greatness, whereby abiding in the flesh, He taught, the simple number of seven years was taken to express the sign of perfection. Anna also favours the mysteries of the Church, being by interpretation its “grace,” and being both the daughter of Phanuel, who is called “the face of God,” and descended from the tribe of Aser, i. e. the blessed.
BEDE. Luke has omitted in this place what he knew to have been sufficiently set forth by Matthew, that the Lord after this, for fear that He should be discovered and put to death by Herod, was carried by His parents into Egypt, and at Herod’s death, having at length returned to Galilee, came to dwell in His own city Nazareth. For the Evangelists individually are wont to omit certain things which they either know to have been, or in the Spirit foresee will be, related by others, so that in the connected chain of their narrative, they seem as it were to have omitted nothing, whereas by examining the writings of another Evangelist, the careful reader may discover the places where the omissions have been. Thus after omitting many things, Luke says, And when they had accomplished all things, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. Bethlehem was indeed their city, their paternal city, Nazareth the place of their abode.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. ii. 9.) Perhaps it may strike you as strange that Matthew should say that His parents went with the young Child into Galilee because they were unwilling to go to Judæa for fear of Archelaus, when they seem to have gone into Galilee rather because their city was Nazareth in Galilee, as Luke in this place explains it. But we must consider, that when the Angel, said in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Rise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel, (Matt. 2:20.) it was at first understood by Joseph as a command to go into Judæa, for so at first sight the land of Israel might have been taken to mean. But when afterwards he finds that Herod’s son Archelaus was king, he was unwilling to be exposed to that danger, seeing the land of Israel might also be understood to include Galilee also as a part of it, for there also the people of Israel dwelt.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Metaphrastes.) Or again, Luke is here describing the time before the descent to Egypt, for before her purification Joseph had not taken Mary there. But before they went down into Egypt, they were not told by God to go to Nazareth, but as living more freely in their own country, thither of their own accord they went; for since the going up to Bethlehem was for no other reason but the taxing, when that was accomplished they go down to Nazareth.
THEOPHYLACT. Now our Lord might have come forth from the womb in the stature of mature age, but this would seem like something imaginary; therefore His growth is gradual, as it follows, And the child grew, and waxed strong.
BEDE. We must observe the distinction of words, that the Lord Jesus Christ in that He was a child, that is, had put on the condition of human weakness, was daily growing and being strengthened.
ATHANASIUS. (lib. de Incarn. Christi cont. Apollin.) But if as some say the flesh was changed into a Divine nature, how did it derive growth? for to attribute growth to an uncreated substance is impious.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Rightly with the growth in age, St. Luke has united increase in wisdom, as he says, And he was strengthened, (i. e. in spirit.) For in proportion to the measure of bodily growth, the Divine nature developed its own wisdom.
THEOPHYLACT. For if while yet a little child, He had displayed His wisdom, He would have seemed a miracle, but together with the advance of age He gradually shewed Himself, so as to fill the whole world. For not as receiving wisdom is He said to be strengthened in spirit. For that which is most perfect in the beginning, how can that become any more perfect. Hence it follows, Filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was in him.
BEDE. Wisdom truly, for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, (Col. 2:19.) but grace, because it was in great grace given to the man Christ Jesus, that from the time He began to be man He should be perfect man and perfect God. But much rather because He was the word of God, and God needed not to be strengthened, nor was in a state of growth. But while He was yet a little child He had the grace of God, that as in Him all things were wonderful, His childhood also might be wonderful, so as to be filled with the wisdom of God. It follows, And his parents went every year to Jerusalem, at the feast of the Passover.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Orat. cont. Judæos.) At the feast of the Hebrews the law commanded men not only to observe the time, but the place, and so the Lord’s parents wished to celebrate the feast of the Passover only at Jerusalem.
AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Ev. ii. 10.) But it may be asked, how did His parents go up all the years of Christ’s childhood to Jerusalem, if they were prevented from going there by fear of Archelaus? This question might be easily answered, even had some one of the Evangelists mentioned how long Archelaus reigned. For it were possible that on the feast day amid so great a crowd they might secretly come, and soon return again, at the same time that they feared to remain there on other days, so as neither to be wanting in religious duties by neglecting the feast, nor leave themselves open to detection by a constant abode there. But now since all have been silent as to the length of Archelaus’ reign, it is plain that when Luke says, They were accustomed to go up every year to Jerusalem, we are to understand that to have been when Archelaus was no longer feared.