Catena Aurea in Mattheum
The Golden Chain on Matthew
Sanctissimo ac reverendissimo patri domino Urbano, divina providentia Papae quarto, frater Thomas de Aquino, ordinis fratrum praedicatorum, cum devota reverentia, pedum osculo beatorum.
To the most holy and reverend father, Lord Urban IV, by divine providence Pope. I, brother Thomas of Aquino, of the Order of Friars Preachers, devoutly and reverently kiss your holy feet.
Fons sapientiae unigenitum Dei verbum praesidens in excelsis, per quod pater sapienter fecerat et suaviter disposuerat universa, in fine temporum carnem sumere voluit, ut sub tegumento naturae corporeae, splendorem eius humanus intuitus posset inspicere, quem in celsitudine maiestatis divinae attingere non valebat. Diffuderat siquidem radios suos, sapientiae videlicet suae indicia, super omnia opera quae creavit; quodam vero ampliori privilegio imaginem propriam hominum animabus impresserat, quam tamen diligentius expresserat in cordibus ipsum amantium secundum sui muneris largitatem. Sed quid est hominis anima in tam immensa creatura, ut divinae sapientiae vestigia possit comprehendere ad perfectionem? Quinimmo et sapientiae lux infusa hominibus per peccati tenebras et occupationum temporalium caligines fuerat obumbrata; et intantum est quorumdam cor insipiens obscuratum, ut Dei gloriam in idola vana converterent, et quae non conveniunt facerent, in sensum reprobum incidentes.
The font of wisdom, the only-begotten Word of God, presiding in the highest, through whom the Father made everything wisely, and smoothly arranged it, at the end of time decided to take flesh, so that under the garment of a bodily nature our human gaze could view his splendor, which it could not reach when he was in the heights of divine majesty. Certainly, he spread his rays, the evidence of his wisdom, on all the works which he created. But he impressed his image in a more privileged way on human souls, and still more expressed this image in the hearts of those who love him, according to his great munificence. But what is the soul of man in such immense creation, that it could perfectly comprehend the traces of divine wisdom? Moreover, the light of wisdom that had been infused in men was obscured by the darkness of sin and the fog of temporal occupations. Moreover, the stupid hearts of some were so darkened that they turned the glory of God into useless idols, doing things that were improper, and falling into a damnable mentality.
Divina vero sapientia, quae ad sui fruitionem hominem fecerat eum sui inexpertem esse non sinens, totum se in humanam naturam contulit, eam modo sibi assumendo mirabili, ut errantem hominem ad se totaliter revocaret. Huius igitur sapientiae claritatem nube mortalitatis velatam, primus apostolorum princeps fide conspicere meruit, et eam constanter absque errore et plenarie confiteri, dicens tu es Christus filius Dei vivi. O beata confessio, quam non caro et sanguis, sed pater caelestis revelat. Haec in terris fundat Ecclesiam, aditum praebet in caelum, peccata meretur solvere, et contra eam portae non praevalent Inferorum. Huius igitur fidei ac confessionis heres legitime, sanctissime pater, pio studio mens vestra invigilat, ut tantae sapientiae lux fidelium corda perfundat et haereticorum confutet insanias, quae portae Inferorum merito designantur.
But divine wisdom, which had made man to enjoy himself, would not allow him to have no experience of himself. So he entered human nature totally, assuming it to himself in a wonderful way, so that he could call wandering man back totally to himself. The first prince of apostles merited to see by faith the brightness of this wisdom, covered with the cloud of mortality, and he constantly, fully, and without error testified to it, saying, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. O blessed testimony, which flesh and blood did not reveal, but the heavenly Father. This testimony gives foundation to the Church on earth, opens the way to heaven, merits the power to forgive sins, and the gates of hell do not prevail against it. You, the rightful heir to this faith and testimony, most holy father, and your mind is religiously watchful, to let the light of such great wisdom pervade the hearts of the faithful, and refute the madness of heretics, which are rightly called the ‘gates of hell’.
Sane si, secundum Platonis sententiam, beata censetur respublica cuius rectores operam sapientiae dare contigerit, illi siquidem sapientiae quam imbecillitas intellectus humani erroribus plerumque commaculat, quanto magis sub vestro regimine beatus censeri potest populus Christianus, ubi tanta diligentia excellentissimae illi sapientiae curam impenditis, quam Dei sapientia carnalibus membris induta et verbis docuit et operibus demonstravit? Et huius siquidem diligentiae studio vestrae sanctitati complacuit mihi committere Matthaei Evangelium exponendum, quod iuxta propriam facultatem executus, sollicite ex diversis doctorum libris praedicti Evangelii expositionem continuam compilavi, pauca quidem certorum auctorum verbis, ut plurimum ex Glossis adiiciens, quae, ut ab eorum dictis possent discerni, sub Glossae titulo praenotavi.
Certainly if, according to Plato’s opinion, the nation is blessed whose rulers are occupied with wisdom, that wisdom which in fact the stupidity of the human intellect often mixes with errors, how much more blessed must the Christian people under your rule be reckoned, since you devote such great concern for that wisdom, which God’s wisdom clothed in bodily limbs taught by words and demonstrated by works? Because of this zeal for wisdom, it pleased your holiness to commission me to expound the Gospel of Matthew. I did so according to my ability, scouring different books of the doctors, to make a continuous commentary. The words of some authors are few, where I usually added from the Glosses. In this case, I headed such quotations under the title of ‘Gloss’.
Sed et in sanctorum doctorum dictis hoc adhibui studium, ut singulorum auctorum nomina, nec non in quibus habeantur libri assumpta testimonia describantur, hoc excepto quod libros et expositionem supra loca quae exponebantur, non oportebat specialiter designari: puta, sicubi nomen inveniatur Hieronymi, de libro mentione non facta, datur intelligi quod hoc dicat super Matthaeum, et in aliis ratio similis observetur, nisi in his quae de commentario Chrysostomi super Matthaeum sumuntur, oportuit inscribi in titulo super Matthaeum, ut per hoc ab aliis quae sumuntur de ipsius homiliario distinguantur.
As for quotations from the holy doctors, I mention the name of each, and the books from which the quotations come, except where this was unnecessary. For instance, in mentioning Jerome, with no reference to a book, you can infer that it is his commentary on Matthew. The same holds for the others, except for the commentary of Chrysostom on Matthew, where the commentary had to be mentioned to distinguish it from his sermons.
In assumendis autem sanctorum testimoniis, plerumque oportuit aliqua rescindi de medio ad prolixitatem vitandam, nec non ad manifestiorem sensum vel, secundum congruentiam expositionis, litterae ordinem commutari; interdum etiam sensum posui, verba dimisi, praecipue in homiliario Chrysostomi, propter hoc quod est translatio vitiosa.
In quoting the testimony of the saints, much had to be omitted, both to avoid being over-long, and to make the meaning clearer, or to change the order of the commentary to fit the Scriptural text. Sometimes I just summarized the meaning, not quoting verbatim, especially in the sermons of Chrysostom, because the translation was bad.
Fuit autem mea intentio in hoc opere non solum sensum prosequi litteralem, sed etiam mysticum ponere; interdum etiam errores destruere, nec non confirmare Catholicam veritatem. Quod quidem necessarium fuisse videtur, quia in Evangelio praecipue forma fidei Catholicae traditur et totius vitae regula Christianae. Prolixum igitur praesens opus non videatur alicui. Fieri enim non potuit ut haec omnia sine diminutione prosequerer, et tot sanctorum sententias explicarem, omnimoda brevitate servata.
My intention in this work was to present not merely the literal meaning, but also the mystical meaning, and sometimes also to refute errors and confirm the Catholic truth. This seemed necessary, because especially in the Gospel the form of Catholic faith is transmitted, as well as the whole rule of Christian life. I hope therefore that the present work does not seem too long for anybody. I could not pursue all the material without summarizing, nor explain the opinions of so many saints if I abbreviated too much.
Suscipiat itaque vestra sanctitas praesens opus, vestro discutiendum corrigendumque iudicio, vestrae sollicitudinis et obedientiae meae fructum, ut dum a vobis emanavit praeceptum et vobis reservetur finale iudicium, ad locum unde exeunt flumina revertantur.
Therefore, may your holiness receive this work, presented to your judgment for discussion and correction. It is the fruit of your sollicitude and my obedience. Since it originated from your precept and its final judgment is reserved to you, let the rivers return to their source.
Super montem excelsum ascende, tu qui evangelizas Sion; exalta in fortitudine vocem tuam, qui evangelizas Ierusalem; exalta, noli timere. Dic civitatibus Iudae: ecce Deus vester; ecce dominus Deus in fortitudine veniet, et brachium eius dominabitur, ecce merces eius cum eo.
Go up to the top of the mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion: lift up thy voice with might, thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem: cry aloud, fear not. Say to the cities of Juda: Behold your God; behold the Lord God shall come with power, and his arm shall have dominion; lo, his reward is with him.
Evangelii praenuntiator apertus Isaias propheta, evangelicae doctrinae sublimitatem, nomen et materiam breviter comprehendens, evangelicum doctorem ex persona domini alloquitur, dicens super montem excelsum ascende tu, et cetera.
The Prophet Isaiah, a manifest preacher of the Gospel, briefly expressing the loftiness, the name, and the substance of the Gospel doctrine, addresses the evangelic teacher in the person of the Lord, saying, go up to the top of the mountain, etc.
The name "Gospel"
Ut autem ab ipso Evangelii nomine sumamus exordium.
But to make our beginning with the title, the Gospel.
Augustinus contra Faustum. Evangelii nomen Latine interpretatur bonum nuntium vel bona Annuntiatio; quod quidem cum aliquod bonum annuntiatur, semper dici potest, proprie tamen hoc vocabulum obtinuit Annuntiatio salvatoris. Narratores quippe originis, factorum, dictorum, passionum domini Iesu Christi proprie dicti sunt Evangelistae.
Augustine, against Faustus, ii, 2. The word, ‘Evangelium,’ (Gospel,) is rendered in Latin ‘bonus nuntius,’ or ‘bona annuntiatio,’ (good news). It may indeed be used on all occasions whenever any good is announced; but it has come to be appropriated to the announcement of the Savior. Those who have related the birth, deeds, words, and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, are properly styled Evangelists.
Chrysostomus super Matth. Quid enim his bonis nuntiatis fiat aequale? Deus in terra, homo in caelo, amicitia Dei ad nostram facta naturam, prolixum solutum praelium, Diabolus confusus, mors soluta, Paradisus apertus. Et haec omnia super dignitatem nostram, et cum facilitate nobis data sunt, non quia laboravimus, sed quia dilecti sumus a Deo.
Chrysostom, homil. on Matt., i, 2. For what is there that can equal these good tidings? God on earth, man in heaven; that long war ceased, reconciliation made between God and our nature, the devil overthrown, death abolished, paradise opened. These things, so far beyond our merits, are given us with all fullness; not for our own toil or labor, but because we are beloved of God.
Augustinus de vera religione. Cum enim omnibus modis medeatur animis Deus, pro temporum opportunitatibus, quae mira sapientia eius ordinantur, nullo modo beneficentius consuluit generi humano, quam cum unicus filius consubstantialis patri et coaeternus, totum hominem suscipere dignatus est, et verbum caro factum est, et habitavit in nobis, ita enim demonstravit quam excelsum locum inter creaturas habeat humana natura, in hoc quod hominibus in vero homine apparuit.
Augustine, on true religion, xvi. Whereas God in many ways heals the souls of men, according to the times and the seasons which are ordained by his marvellous wisdom, yet has he in no way more beneficently provided for the human race, than when the very Wisdom of God, the only Son of one substance and coeternal with the Father, stooped to take upon him perfect man, and The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Hereby he made manifest how high a place among creatures had human nature, in that he appeared to men as very man.
Augustinus in sermone 9 de nativitate. Demum factus est Deus homo, ut homo fieret Deus.
Pseudo-Augustine, serm. ix on the Nativity. God was made man, that man might be made God.
Hoc igitur bonum evangelizandum praenuntiat propheta dicens ecce Deus vester.
Gloss. This part of the glad tidings that should be preached, the prophet foretells saying, Behold your God, etc.
Leo ad Flavianum. Exinanitio autem illa, qua se invisibilem praebuit, et creator ac dominus omnium rerum unus voluit esse mortalium, inclinatio fuit miserationis, non desertio potestatis.
Leo, epist. xxviii, to Flavian, 3. For this emptying of himself, by which the invisible made himself visible, and the Creator and Lord of all things chose to become one of us mortal creatures, was a stooping of his mercy, not a failing of his power.
Glossa. Ne ergo sic Deus adesse credatur ut fieret aliqua diminutio potestatis, subiungit propheta ecce dominus in fortitudine veniet.
Gloss. Therefore that the Lord should not be supposed to be present in such a way as that there should be any thing lost of his power, the prophet adds, The Lord shall come with power.
Augustinus de doctrina Christiana. Non per locorum spatia veniendo, sed in carne mortali mortalibus apparendo.
Augustine, on Christian doctrine, i, 12. Come, not by passing through the regions of space, but by showing himself to men in the flesh.
Leo in Serm. 19 de passione domini. De ineffabili autem Dei potentia factum est ut dum Deus verus est in carne passibili, conferatur homini gloria per contumeliam, incorruptio per supplicium, vita per mortem.
Leo, serm. on the passion of the Lord, xix, 3. By the unspeakable power of God, it was wrought, that while very man was in the inviolable God, and very God in passible flesh, there was bestowed upon man, glory through shame, immortality through punishment, life through death.
Augustinus de peccatorum meritis. Fuso enim sanguine sine culpa, omnium culparum chirographa deleta sunt, quibus homines a Diabolo antea tenebantur.
Augustine, on merit and the forgiveness of sins, ii, 30. For blood that was without sin being shed, the bond of all men’s sins was done away, by which men were before held captive by the devil.
Glossa. Quia ergo per virtutem Christi patientis homines a peccato liberati servi facti sunt Dei, sequitur et brachium eius dominabitur.
Gloss. Therefore because men, having been delivered from sin by virtue of Christ suffering, became the servants of God, it follows, And his arm shall have dominion.
Leo Papa in Serm. 10 de passione. Affuit autem nobis in Christo singulare praesidium, ut in natura passibili mortis conditio non maneret, quam impassibilis essentia recepisset; et per id quod non poterat mori, possit id quod mortuum fuerat, suscitari.
Leo, serm. on the passion, x. In Christ then was given us this wonderful deliverance, that on our passible nature the condition of death should not abide, which his impassible essence had admitted, and that by that which could not die, that which was dead might be brought to life.
Glossa. Et sic per Christum nobis immortalis gloriae aditus aperitur, unde sequitur ecce merces eius cum eo; de qua scilicet ipse dicit: merces vestra copiosa est in caelis.
Gloss. And thus through Christ is opened to us the entrance of immortal glory, concerning which it follows, Lo, his reward is with him; that, namely, of which himself speaks, Your reward is abundant in heaven (Matt 5:12).
Augustinus contra Faustum. Aeternae enim vitae promissio, regnumque caelorum ad novum pertinet testamentum, temporalium vero promissiones testamento veteri continentur.
Augustine, against Faustus, iv, 2. The promise of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven belongs to the New Testament; in the Old Testament are contained promises of temporal things.
Materia evangelicae doctrinae
Matter of the Gospel teaching
Glossa. Sic ergo quatuor nobis de Christo evangelica doctrina tradit: divinitatem assumentem, humanitatem assumptam, mortem per quam a servitute eripimur, resurrectionem per quam nobis aditus gloriae vitae aperitur; et propter hoc in Ezechiele sub figura quatuor animalium demonstratur.
Gloss. So then evangelic teaching delivers to us four things concerning Christ; the divinity that takes upon it, the humanity that is taken upon it, his death by which we are delivered from bondage, his resurrection by which the entrance of a glorious life is opened to us. On this account it is represented in Ezekiel under the figure of the four animals.
Gregorius super Ezech. Ipse enim unigenitus Dei filius veraciter factus est homo; ipse in sacrificio nostrae redemptionis dignatus est mori, ut vitulus; ipse per virtutem suae fortitudinis surrexit, ut leo; ipse etiam ascendens ad caelos est elevatus, ut aquila.
Gregory, homil. on Ezek., iv. The only-begotten Son of God was himself verily made man; himself condescended to die as the sacrifice of our redemption as a calf; he rose again through the power of his might, as a lion; and as an eagle he ascended aloft into heaven.
Glossa. In qua ascensione manifeste ostendit suam divinitatem. Matthaeus ergo in homine intelligitur, quia circa humanitatem Christi principaliter immoratur; Marcus in leone, quia agit de resurrectione; Lucas in vitulo, quia agit de sacerdotio; Ioannes in aquila, scribens sacramenta divinitatis.
Gloss. In which ascension he showed manifestly his divinity; Matthew then is denoted by the man, because he dwells chiefly on the humanity of Christ; Mark by the lion, because he treats of his resurrection; Luke by the calf, because he insists on his priesthood; John by the eagle, because he describes the sacraments of his divinity.
Ambrosius super Lucam. (in praefatione in Lucam, parum ante finem.) Et bene accidit, ut quoniam Evangelii huius librum secundum Matthaeum dicimus esse moralem, opinio huius praemitteretur: mores enim proprie dicuntur humani. Figura autem leonis ascribitur Marco, quia a potentiae coepit expressione divinae, cum dixit: initium Evangelii Iesu Christi filii Dei. Ioanni autem figura aquilae, eo quod divinae miracula resurrectionis expressit.
Ambrose, comm. on Luke, pref. And it has happened well that we set out with delivering the opinion that the Gospel according to Matthew is of a moral kind, for morals are the peculiar province of man. The figure of a lion is ascribed to Mark, because he begins with an assertion of his divine power, saying, The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God (Mark 1:1). The figure of the eagle is given to John, because he has described the miracles of the divine resurrection.
Gregorius super Ezech. Haec autem ipsa uniuscuiusque libri evangelica exordia testantur: nam quia ab humana generatione coepit, iure per hominem Matthaeus; quia per clamorem in deserto, recte per leonem Marcus; quia a sacrificio exorsus est, bene per vitulum Lucas; quia vero a divinitate verbi coepit, digne per aquilam significatur Ioannes.
Gregory, homil. on Ezek., iv. These things the commencement of each of the Gospel books testifies. Because he opens with Christ’s human generation, Matthew is rightly designated by a man; Mark by a lion, because he begins with the crying in the desert; Luke by a calf, because he begins with a sacrifice; because he takes his beginning from the divinity of the Word, John is worthily signified by an eagle.