1 Christ talketh with a woman of Samaria. 27 His disciples marvel. 31 Christ’s zeal for God’s g1ory. 43 He departeth into Galilee, and healeth the ruler’s son.
HEN therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,
Douay Rheims Version
Christ talks with the Samaritan woman. He heals the ruler's son.
HEN Jesus therefore understood the Pharisees had heard that Jesus maketh more disciples and baptizeth more than John
41. And many more believed in him, because of his own word.
42. And they said to the woman: We now believe, not for thy saying: for we ourselves have heard him and know that this is indeed the Saviour of the world.
51. And as he was going down, his servants met him: and they brought word, saying, that his son lived.
52. He asked therefore of them the hour wherein he grew better. And they said to him: Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him.
When therefore Jesus knew, &c. . . . than John, that is, than John had made and baptized, says S. Augustine (lib. 2, de cons. Evang., c. 18), for John was now in prison. For these things had happened through the occasion of John’s imprisonment. For Jesus, knowing of John’s imprisonment, and fearing the envy and calumny of the Pharisees, who had already stirred up Herod against John, that they might not be the means of casting Himself also into prison through the instrumentality of Herod or Pilate, and put him to death before the time predetermined by the Father, prudently retired out of Judea into Galilee. See what has been said about this on Matt iv. 12.
Although Jesus, &c. Both because Jesus was occupied in the greater works of preaching and Healing the sick; as Paul saith, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” (1 Cor. i. 17), also that He might show that the efficacy of His baptism was greater than that of John’s. See what has been said on iii. 32.
He left Judea, &c. Not as though He feared death, but that He might mollify the envy of the Pharisees, says S. Chrysostom. For the Pharisees were very influential. For most of the priests, senators, and magistrates belonged to their sect. This was the second occasion of Christ retiring into Galilee, the first being in chap. 1. 43.
He must needs, &c. For Samaria lies betwixt Judea and Galilee. Cyril observes that Christ does not here go counter to his own command, by which He enjoined on His apostles not to go into the cities of the Samaritans (S. Matt. x. 5). For He there forbids them not to go to the Samaritans of set purpose, nor to continuously evangelise them, lest they should prejudice the Jews, who were their enemies, against themselves and the faith of Christ. Jesus on this occasion was only passing through Samaria on His way to Galilee.
Samaria was the district which was occupied by the tribe of Ephraim, and half the tribe of Manasseh. It took its name of Samaria from the royal city, which was built upon the hill Somer. See 1 Kings xvi. 24.
Ver. 5.—He came therefore, &c. Sichar, i.e., Sichem. When Jeroboam revolted from Rehoboam, and usurped the kingdom of the Ten Tribes, he made this city his capital. The capital was afterwards transferred by Omri to Samaria. Afterwards, in the time of Alexander the Great, Sichem was again made the capital of the region of Samaria, as Josephus testifies (Ant., ii. 8), and was called Neapolis. In the time of our Saviour Sichem was corrupted into Sichar. It is now called Naplous This city was the site of many famous deeds mentioned in Scripture. Abraham journeying from Mesopotamia into Canaan, came first to Sichem, and built an altar to the Lord, and received the promise of that land. See Gen. xii. and xiii.
Jacob also returning from Mesopotamia fixed his tent here, and bought a piece of ground from the sons of Emmor (Gen. xxxiii.). Here Dinah, his daughter, was corrupted by the son of the King of Sichem (Gen. xxxiv.). Sichem was appointed one of the cities of refuge (Josh. xx.) Here the ten tribes revolted from Judea through the folly of Rehoboam. The bones of Joseph were buried at Sichem, as is related at the end of the Book of Joshua. S. Jerome (tract. de loc. Hebr.) says that Salem and Sichem were the same. Hence it follows that Melchisedec, the type of Christ, was also king of this city.
Near the parcel of ground, &c. See what I have said on Gen. xlviii. 22. Wherefore Joseph when he was dying in Egypt commanded his bones to be translated to Sichem, as to his own piece of land, which had been left him by the will of his father.
Ver. 6.—Jacob’s fountain (Vulg.) This fountain was a well dug by Jacob, as appears from ver. 12. This is the meaning of the Hebrew beer. So S. Augustine says, giving the meaning of fons in Latin, “Every well is a fountain, but not every fountain a well. Where water springs out of the earth, and affords drink, it is called a fountain. If it is on the surface it is called a fountain only: but if: it be deep, it is called a well, and loses the name of fountain.” Varro derives the word fons from fundo, to pour. A fountain, he says, is where living water is poured out of the earth. Jacob’s fount therefore was a well which Jacob had dug in this place for the use of himself and his family. Or he may have bought it of the Shechemites, as Ruperti thinks.
Jesus therefore being wearied; for He went about among the towns and villages on foot, even till His death. His apostles followed His example. Blessed Xavier and his followers lately did the same in India. Piously does S. Augustine say (Tract. 15), “Not in vain is Jesus wearied; not in vain is the power of God fatigued: for not vainly is He wearied by whom the weary are refreshed. Not in vain is He wearied, when if He forsake us, we are weary, but if He be present with us, we are strong. For though Jesus was wearied with His journey, yet it was the strength of Christ which has created thee. The strength of Christ made thee, that that which was not might be: the weakness of Christ caused that that which was should not perish. He formed us by His strength: He sought us by His weakness. Therefore He Himself cherishes the weak, as a hen her chickens, for to her He compared Himself.”
Upon the fount: Greek, ε̉πί τη̃ πηγη̃, at the fount, or near the well. Or strictly, above the fount, because the bubbling water was deep down in the well.
Sat thus: where He conveniently could. He sat upon the ground without a seat, as wayfarers are wont to sit down besides wells and fountains, for the sake of rest and refreshment. So S. Chrysostom and Euthymius. Or more simply, He sat thus, means, as being tired with His journey. He sat as men are wont to sit when they are tired, showing by so doing that they are weary. So Cajetan and others
3. Sat thus may mean, in this way, i.e., under the circumstances which I will now pass under review. He sat thus, i.e., when it was the sixth hour, and the woman came to draw water, and the disciples had gone away to buy food.
Sixth hour. He gives the reason why Jesus sat at the fountain; because He was wearied, hungry, and thirsty. It was the sixth hour, or mid-day, when the heat is greatest. Nonnus renders, It was the hour bringing thirst.
A woman of Samaria: of the district, not the city of Samaria. She came from the city of Sichar, which was near the well.
Jesus saith to her. Jesus took the initiative in conversing with her. For He knew that the woman, being a Samaritan, would not do so, but would dislike Him as being a Jew. But “He who desired to drink thirsted for the faith of the woman,” says S. Augustine. Observe the wonderful affability and charity of Christ in seeking to enter into conversation with a wretched harlot, that He might convert her, and through her a whole city.
Ver. 8.—For His disciples, &c. The word for gives the reason why Jesus asked drink of the woman; because His disciples, from whom otherwise He would have sought food and drink, had gone into the city to buy food. For Jesus wished to drink beside the well, and to drink from it, just as poor travellers are wont to do, especially in Syria and Arabia, and other hot countries where there is a scarcity of water. This happened by Christ’s tacit providence, that His disciples being all gone away into the city, He might by Himself be able more easily, in talking with this immodest woman, to spare her shame, and disclose her immodesty, and so convert her to faith and modesty.
Ver. 9.—The woman therefore saith, &c. Therefore in Greek and Hebrew often merely marks the beginning of a sentence. Here, however, it denotes an inference from the preceding question of Christ.
Jesus had asked the woman for water; the woman therefore replied to His question, How is it, &c. The woman recognised Jesus to be a Jew from His dress and speech, which Christ, out of good feeling to His country, accommodated to that of his fellow-countrymen.
For the Jews, &c., i.e., have no intercourse, do not use the same bed, or cup, or vessel, as though they were impure and abominable on account of their schism. These words may be either those of the Evangelist, or of the Samaritan woman. In either case they are very appropriate. Learn from this example how we ought to shun the friendship, looks, and conversation of heretics; for “their speech doth eat as doth a cancer,” saith S. Paul.
Ver. 10.—Jesus answered, &c. If thou knewest the gift of God. This gift is (1.) common, what God has given to every man, “if thou knowest that I am Christ, the Saviour of the world.” 2. Especial to thyself, what God now manifests to thee through Me, that through My conversation thou mayest have an opportunity of salvation, that thou mayest believe in Me, and so be justified and saved. So Maldonatus.
Thou perchance wouldst have asked, Greek, σὺ άν ήτησας αυ̉τὸν, i.e., thou surely wouldst have asked. For α̉ν here is an expletive and confirmatory particle. The Vulgate, however, has forsitan, perchance, to denote the free will of the asker.
And He would have given, &c. Christ leads her from earthly water to spiritual water. Let religious and apostolical men do likewise. Observe, as a stagnant lake, or pool, is termed dead, because it moves not; so, on the contrary, flowing water is called living water, especially that which leaps forth, as it were, from fountains, as though animated by a living spirit.
Moreover, Christ’s evangelical doctrine is here called living water: so are the Holy Ghost and His grace. So S. Cyril, and other authors passim. It is called water (1.) because, like water, it cleanses the soul from sin. Indeed, it gives the soul new beauty and adornment, which water does not do: according to the words, “Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” Again, though water washes, it likewise weakens and destroys. For we see that clothes which are washed, are cleansed indeed, but are worn away. But it is not thus with the Holy Ghost, for He cleanses the soul, and at the same time gives it greater strength. And the more the soul is washed the stronger it becomes.
2. Because the Holy Ghost and His grace cool the heat of concupiscence, and all the other passions of the soul.
3. Because it quenches spiritual thirst.
4. Because as water fertilises the earth, trees, and plants, so does grace render the soul fruitful in good works and all virtues. But grace does a greater work than water: for it elevates the soul, so that it not only produces natural good fruit, but the supernatural fruit of faith, hope, and charity, according to the words, “He that abideth in Me, the same bringeth forth much fruit.” Again, water from a pear-tree produces pears, from a rose-bush roses. But grace brings forth in one and the same soul the fruits of all virtues, and that in a soul which before was so polluted by sin that it produced nothing but the evil fruits of wickedness.
Moreover, the Holy Spirit and His grace are called living water. 1. Because the Holy Ghost liveth in Himself with the fulness of His Divinity a blessed and Divine life, and imparts this His own life to the believing soul. Indeed, the Holy Ghost, with the Father and the Son, is uncreated and essential Life Itself, from which the natural and supernatural life of all angels, men, animals, and plants flows as from a fountain, yea, an ocean.
2. Because the grace of the Holy Spirit is the form by which life is lived according to the Spirit. Therefore grace is, as it were, the soul of the soul; the soul, I say, of virtue and holiness.
3. Because by His grace the Holy Ghost, who is Life Itself, dwells within us, and quickens us.
4. Because He effects that the soul shall be continually renewed unto what is good, ever arranging new steps in the heart, by which it mounts to better and higher things, according to the words in the 84th Psalm, ver. 6, “He hath disposed ascensions in His heart.” (Vulg.) For as S. Ambrose says, “The grace of the Holy Spirit knows not tardy efforts, but constrains the soul to ascend with the Blessed Virgin the hills of virtues.”
5. S. Augustine says, Living water is so called, because it flows in such a manner that it is united with its fount or source. What is called dead water is that which is cut off from its source. Grace therefore is called living water because it is never separated from its fount, which is the Holy Ghost. Just as the Holy Ghost Himself is inseparable from His source, which is the Father and the Son, and ever liveth most closely united with them in the Divine Essence. Wherefore although the Holy Ghost pours Himself into the soul, yet He departeth not from the Father and the Son; yea, He causes the Father and the Son to enter into the soul together with Himself, that they all may dwell therein, as in their temple, according to the words (John xiv. 23), “If any man loveth Me he will keep My word, and My Father will love him: and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” So S. Cyril (lib. 2, c. 22), “He calls the grace of the Spirit living, because it is life-giving; and because it is united to its source, and makes us to be united.” For grace always depends upon the Holy Spirit, and by it the Spirit dwells in us, and is united with us, and by it we are united to Him, according to the words, Your members are the temple of the holy Ghost (1 Cor. vi.)
6.The water of a fountain being brought down into the valleys by means of pipes, can again from them, by the continuous rush of the water from the fount, be drawn to as great a height as its original source. This is proved by constant experience. In like manner heavenly grace, like a fountain of gifts and virtues, flowing down from the Holy Ghost out of heaven, makes us to leap back as it were thither as high as its source, even to God and heaven. The water which I shall give him shall be in him a fount of water leading up into eternal life (John v. 14, Vulg.)
Ver. 11.—The woman, &c. The Greek is, Thou hast not α̉ντλημα, a pitcher, or waterpot. Observe, the fountain is here called a well, and is said to be deep. Rupertus writes that its depth was forty cubits.
Ver. 12.—Art Thou greater, &c. Observe, the Samaritans were Assyrians whom Salmanasar had brought into Samaria instead of the original inhabitants, the ten tribes of Israel, whom he carried away into Assyria. These Assyrians, however, wished, when the Jewish state was in a flourishing condition, to be accounted Jews (Jos., Ant., lib. 11, cap. ult.), both because they dwelt in the portion of the Holy Land which had been allotted to the tribe of Ephraim, and because they were commingled with the Israelites who had been left in the country. Another reason was because they partly followed the Jewish religion. For they worshipped the God of Israel, together with the Assyrian idols (2 Kings xvii.) This then was why the woman called Jacob our father, as though the Samaritans were Israelites, and descended from him. The meaning then is, “Jacob had no better water than this, for if he had had, he surely would have drank of it, both himself, and his children. If thou, therefore, 0 Jesus, art able to give, or to find better water than this, Thou must needs be greater than the Patriarch Jacob, our father.” So S. Chrysostom. By degrees did Jesus raise the woman’s mind, so that she should at length acknowledge Him to be the Messiah. For from what He had said, If thou knewest who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water, the woman conjectured, or suspected, that Jesus was making Himself to be greater than Jacob.
Ver. 13.—Jesus answered, &c. Jesus modestly points out to this woman, who was extolling the water of her own well, that His living water must be far better, because it would quench all, even future thirst. From this He tacitly left it to be gathered that He was superior to Jacob. As S. Chrysostom says, “He did not say that He was greater, because He would have seemed to be boasting of Himself, not yet being known; but this meaning lay hid under His words. For He said not simply, I will give thee water; but taking no notice of Jacob’s water, He praises His own, wishing to show its difference from the (different) nature of the givers of the gifts, and how greatly He excelled the Patriarch.” S. Cyril adds, “He showed that sensible and earthly water was infinitely inferior to that which He would have her understand” (that He would give her).
Whoso drinketh, &c. Tropologically, S. Augustine: “The water in the well,” he says, “is the pleasure of the world in a dark abyss, which men draw with the pitcher of desire. For this makes men always to thirst, because cupidity is insatiable.”
But whose shall drink, &c. Meaning, He that shall receive from Me living water, that is, the grace of the Holy Spirit, shall no more thirst for justice, the friendship of God, virtue, or holiness, because he shall already have them through grace. We must understand, unless he should wilfully squander and lose this water of grace by deadly sin. This is Christ’s antithesis: Common water, 0 woman, such as thine out of this well, when drunk, only quenches thirst for a brief space, because it does not remain in the body. But this water of Mine, which is the grace of the Holy Spirit, is in itself of such efficacy, that if it be even once tasted, it will suffice to banish thirst for ever. For it will always abide in the soul, the same and immutable. For the habitual grace of the ordinary Law of God, brings with itself at set times prevenient helps, that is to say, the impulses of exciting grace, which, as they are needful, so also they suffice, for retaining the spiritual vigour of the soul, and also its perseverance unto salvation. This is the teaching of the Council of Trent (Sess. 6, c. 16).
You will ask, Why then is it said in the Book of Ecclesiasticus, “They that drink me shall yet be thirsty?” For this would seem to be contrary to what Christ here says of His grace, He shall nor thirst for ever. I answer that the meaning of “they that drink me shall yet be thirsty,” is, they shall desire to be still more filled with that wisdom of God which they already possess. They will wish for an increase of the wisdom and grace of God. Thus S. Ignatius the martyr, when, being condemned to the lions, he came into the amphitheatre of Rome, said, looking round at the spectators, “I am come hither to die for my Jesus, for whom I thirst unquenchably, that I may be united to Him in heaven.”
Observe, that the Holy Spirit by His grace begins to fulfil in this life all the thirst and desire of the soul, but in heaven He does this perfectly. Also He extinguishes the thirst of pride and concupiscence. Lastly, in heaven He altogether takes away all the hunger and thirst of the soul, every defect and trouble, through the glory and endowment of impassibility, according to the words, “I shall be satisfied when Thy glory shall appear” (Ps. xvii. 15): also, “They shall not hunger nor thirst any more; neither shall the heat, nor the sun smite them” (Isa. xlix. 10). As the Gloss says, “He promises the fulness of the Spirit, which shall be in the resurrection, because with Him is the fountain of life with which they shall be inebriated. Heavenly glory therefore makes up all defects both of soul and body, all desires, and all thirst. “For beatitude is a perfect state through the aggregation of all goods,” says Boethius, according as it is said, “Thou shalt give them drink out of the torrent of Thy pleasure (Ps. xxxvi. 9).
Ver. 14.—But the water, &c. . . . waters leaping up (Syriac). The allusion is to those fountains which flow with such an impetus, the water behind pressing on that which is before, that although they be brought down into the valleys, yet by means of pipes they ascend to the level of the original spring. Thus the grace of the Holy Spirit draws the soul to its source, which is God and heaven. For grace is the seed of glory. The Arabic translates, The water which I will give, shall be in him water which shall bring a flood of eternal life. Grace then propels, as it were, a man to heaven, and never rests until it carries him where there is no thirst, nor defect, nor misery, but where all is abundance, and all is happiness. For this is the meaning of everlasting life. For this fountain of grace which is in the soul is derived from its original Spring, which is the Holy Ghost in heaven, even like a fountain which, being artificially conducted, bursts forth in a square, or garden, but is derived from its original spring in some mountain.
2. It shall be in him a fount, because, as Theophylact says, the water of grace which Christ instils into the faithful soul is being ever multiplied in it. For the saints receive the seeds and beginning of good through grace, but they themselves “trade” with it, and work for its increase, that, as it were a fountain, it may abound in them, and afford abundant drink, not only to themselves, but to many others. As S. Chrysostom says, “He that hath a fountain in himself is not troubled with thirst.” And Origen, “Every one of the angels hath in him a fount of water welling up unto life eternal from the Word Himself.”
3. A fountain, the more it flows downward, the more water there flows into it from above. So too the more any one pours his own grace upon others, the more God clauses to flow into him.
Lastly, this is a paradox spoken by Christ, that whereas earthly water flows downwards, this His fountain flows upwards, according to the saying, The founts of the holy rivers are borne upwards. Here is a great and marvellous leap, the mighty and infinite power of the Holy Ghost, which makes the earthy and laden hearts of men to leap from earth to highest heaven, from grace to glory, from the flesh to the spirit, from death to life eternal, from Satan to God. To believers therefore it is said, Sursum corda. And this is a sure sign of the indwelling of grace and the Holy Ghost, if our minds are occupied in heaven, if we speak and do heavenly things, if we say, with S. Paul, “Our conversation is in heaven.” For this cause Christ came down from heaven, that He might make us to rise from earth to heaven, according to the words, “Behold he cometh, leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills” (Cant. ii. 8).
The woman saith, &c. “She was delighted,” says S. Austin, “not to thirst, and thought that this promise was made unto her by the Lord in a fleshly sense. Her poverty drove her to the labour of coming and drawing water from a well at a distance from the town; and her weakness shrank from this toil. The woman, who was carnal and ignorant, did not yet understand that Christ was speaking of the spiritual water of grace. Then He smote her with another dart, that she might have loftier thoughts concerning Him.”
Therefore Jesus saith unto her, Go call thy husband. Observe from S. Chrysostom and others that Christ bade the woman call her husband with this pretext, that it would not be proper to give this so great a gift of living water to a married woman without the knowledge of her husband. But Christ really intended to open out to her the hidden things of her life, and her secret fornication, that so He might draw her confession from her, and arouse her to repentance. At the same time He would show her that He was more than a mere man, that He was the Christ, from whom she might ask and expect remission of her sins and everlasting salvation.
For this was the living water which Christ set forth.
Ver. 17.—The woman answered, &c. From hence it is plain that this woman was thus a widow, and therefore not an adulteress, but a harlot, unless indeed her lover were married, in which case both were guilty of adultery.
Ver. 18.—For thou hast had, &c. Nonnus says, For thou hast had five husbands, one after another; and he whom thou now hast is not thy lawful husband. So S. Austin, Bede, Euthymius, and others passim. But S. Chrysostom and Maldonatus think they were unlawful, adulterous connections, and that they are here spoken of by Christ in this sense, that she was now living with a sixth adulterer. But the former sense is the more probable, because Christ makes an antithesis between the five former, which were lawful connections, and this sixth, which was unlawful.
Observe here the gentle and courteous method of Christ’s reproof. He does not say directly to the woman, “Thou art an adulteress, or a fornicatrix—do penance for thy fornications.” But He praises her for speaking the truth in saying, she had no husband. Then He adds, He whom thou now hast is not thy husband, tacitly implying that she was living in sin with him, and that He knew of this secret sin by the revelation of God, and therefore that He was a prophet, from whom she ought to ask pardon and grace.
S. Basil (Epist. 2. ad Amphiloch.) says that a third marriage is an abomination to the Church, but better than fornication. And in his first epistle to the same he says, “The thrice married are often excommunicated for three or four years, not longer: and such unions are called polygamy, or qualified fornication. Therefore the Lord said to the Samaritan woman, who had had five husbands, He whom thou now hast is not thy husband, surely because those who had gone beyond a second union were not worthy the name of husband, or wife.” But the Church is now of a different mind. For it is certain that fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, or more marriages, are licit, although they are indecent, and marks of incontinence. And this is what S. Basil appears to have meant.
Ver. 19.—The woman, &c. Because Thou revealest the hidden things of my life, whether good or bad, which Thou couldest not know except by the revelation of God, especially since thou art a Jew and a foreigner, I humbly accept Thy gentle reproof, and confess my sin. “By one and the same confession,” says Rupertus, “she confessed, as to herself, what she was, and as to Him, what she was able to perceive He was.”
Ver. 20.—Our fathers, &c. The woman, acknowledging Jesus to be a prophet, now proposes a question concerning religion, which was at that time a great source of controversy between the Jews and the Samaritans. This she did that she might know which side she ought to take, so that she might provide for her salvation. For she was more agitated by this question than by thirst for the living water which Christ promised her, which she did not understand.
Worshipped: observe that by worship here and elsewhere is signified the whole public ritual of worshipping God, especially by means of sacrifices, and the other ceremonies instituted by Moses at God’s mouth. This public worship could only be offered in the Tabernacle erected by Moses, and afterwards in the Temple built by Solomon. This is plain from God’s law in Deut. xiv. 24. For otherwise, by natural and Divine right, it ever has been, and is lawful to worship and call upon God privately always and in every place. Thus in Gen. xxii. 5, Abraham said to his servants, “After we have worshipped, i.e., sacrificed, we will come again to you.”
In this mountain: Garizim, which overhangs the city of Sichem. From this mountain Jotham, the son of Gideon, cursed the Sichemites, (Judges ix. 7).
There was a famous and unending controversy between the Samaritans and the Jews concerning worshipping and sacrificing in this mountain. In the time of Alexander the Great, Manasses, the brother of Jaddi, the High Priest who met Alexander, and appeased him, when he was incensed against the Jews, married a foreign wife, the daughter of Sanballat, whom Darius, the last king of Persia, had set over Samaria. Manasses, being excluded by his brother from the performance of sacerdotal functions, fled to his father-in-law, Sanballat. Sanballat built a noble temple on Mount Garizim, and appointed Manasses to be its priest. Thither fled many Jewish refugees, especially those who, like Manasses, had married strange wives, contrary to the Law. As an excuse they made use of the argument that Sichem was celebrated for the worship and sacrifices of the Patriarchs, as of Jacob (Gen. xxxiii. 20; Josh. xxiv. 1), of the Tribes (Deut. xxvii. 12), where Moses by God’s command bids Joshua to build an altar on Mount Garizim, and there offer burnt-offerings, and engrave the Decalogue on stones, and promulgate the Law of God to the Twelve Tribes, with blessings to those who kept it, the people answering “Amen.”
This temple stood upon Mount Garizim for 200 years, until it was destroyed by Hyrcanus, son of Simon, the brother of Judas Maccabeus (Jos., Ant., 1. 3, c. 17). Josephus also relates that the Jews and Samaritans referred their controversy for settlement to Ptolemy Philometor, King of Egypt, who decided it in favour of the Jews, on the ground that the latter had built their temple at the instance of Moses. But the Samaritans were not contented with this decision, and still persisted in their schism.
Ver. 21.—Jesus saith, &c. Ye, i.e., whosoever rightly, according to God’s ordinance, wish to worship God the Father. The meaning is, the hour cometh, the time of the Evangelical Law and doctrine, about to be instituted by Me, by which, immediately after My death, which is shortly to come to pass, the Law of Moses shall be abolished, and all its rites for worshipping God in the Temple at Jerusalem, as well as in this your rival temple on Garizim. For throughout the whole world Christian churches shall be built, in which God shall be worshipped in spirit and in truth. This is what Malachi predicted under the reign of Christ (i. 10, 11).
The Hebrew for the pure or clean oblation is mincha, sc., the Eucharist, or the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ, which alone has succeeded to all the ancient sacrifices of animals.
Ver. 22.—Ye worship what (Arabic, whom) ye know not, &c. Here Christ gives a direct answer to the woman, and decides the Jews to be in the right in the controversy concerning the worship of God, condemning the Samaritans as schismatics. He says, You, 0 ye Samaritans, worship ye know not what, because ye worship God together with your Assyrian idols; and associating God as it were with idols, ye worship a false or fictitious God. Again the Samaritans had their own heresies and errors, which S. Epiphanius recapitulates. In the same manner the Turks and Jews worship a God whom they know not, because they deny Him to be in a Trinity of Persons. So also Calvin with his followers, in denying the omnipotence of God, and making Him cruel in condemning some men to hell without any demerit on their part, worship not a true, but a false God. For the true God is Almighty, and most kind.
2. and better. Ye worship, i.e. ye have a method of worship and sacrifice which ye do not know to have proceeded from God. For ye have framed it out of your own imagination, contrary to the will and law of God. But we Jews know what we worship, because we follow the way of worshipping God which was prescribed by Moses.
For salvation, &c. Both because I, Christ, who am the Author of salvation, am not born of the Samaritans, but of the Jews, as well as because the true knowledge and worship of God, which leads men to salvation, formerly emanated from the Jews to the Gentiles, and now in the New Law will emanate from Me, a Jew, to all nations.
Ver. 23.—But the hour cometh, &c. Now is the time of the New Law of My Gospel, in which the true worshippers, namely, Christians, whether Jews, or Samaritans, or of other nations, being converted unto Me, shall worship God, not in this mountain, nor Jerusalem only, by the carnal sacrifices of beasts, as the Jews and Samaritans do, but in all places throughout the world in spirit and in truth.
In spirit and truth. Observe, the Samaritans ignorantly and falsely worshipped God. But the Jews worshipped the true God indeed, but chiefly by corporeal victims, and other bodily symbols, and in one stated place, Jerusalem: all which things were shadows and types of the spiritual worship which was to he inaugurated by Christ. To both these Christ opposes His faithful Christians, who instead of the body, worship God in spirit; and in truth instead of in falsity, shadows and ignorance. For God is an incorporeal Spirit, most true, and most pure. Spirit therefore here signifies the spiritual worship of faith, hope, and charity, devotion, contrition, and other virtues, by which God is most rightly worshipped by Christians, and not through shadows and figures, but in truth. In truth therefore is in the true, sincere, and worthy worship of God, in which God is well pleased, according to the words (Ps. 1. 18), “In holocausts Thou shalt not be delighted: the sacrifice for God is a broken spirit” (Vulg.). Also (Ps. xlix. 23), “The sacrifice of praise shall honour Me”0 (Vulg.). And (Ps. iv. 6), “Sacrifice the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord.”
As Theophylact says, “Because many seem to worship in soul, but have not right knowledge, such as heretics, therefore He added, and in truth. For it behoves us both to worship God with the mind, and also to have a sound faith with regard to Him. Such a worshipper was Paul, as Origen says, when he declares, “God is my witness, whom I serve’ (Greek, ώ λατζεύω, i.e., worship with latria) in my spirit (Rom. 1. 9).” And the Gloss says, not in the Temple, not in the mountain, but in the innermost temple of the heart, and with a true knowledge must God be worshipped. The Samaritan therefore worshipped God in a mountain, or locally, the Jew in a shadow, or figuratively, the Christian in spirit and in truth, truly and spiritually. For, as S. Chrysostom says, “The former things were figures, now all is truth.”
Others explain thus, we must worship God in spirit, i.e., by the Spirit, or the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“Mystically, by the spirit is intended,” says Theophylact, “action: by truth, contemplation.” For all Christians serve God either by an active, or a contemplative life.
Heretics object, since God should be worshipped by Christians in spirit and in truth, therefore all corporal rites and ceremonies ought to be rejected in baptism.
I answer by denying the consequence. For these are not shadows and figures of the Old Law, but ornaments, incentives, and effects of the Spirit, and therefore pertain to the Spirit. For without sacraments and sacrifices the Church cannot exist, because without them she would cease to be visible, and could not be united and gathered together. In form these ceremonies are practised by Christians, and flow from the inward spirit of faith, hope, and charity. Therefore they belong to the Spirit, as results depend upon a cause, and external upon interior actions. It was otherwise with the ignorant and carnal Jews, who placed all their worship in external sacrifices and rites. So SS. Cyril and Ambrose, (De Sp. Sc. l 3. c. 12).
Even the heathen saw that God, to be worshipped acceptably, must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
“If God be Mind, as ancient verses tell,
Who worship Him in spirit, worship well.”
God is a Spirit, &c. This is the reason a priori: God is a most pure and true Spirit, therefore He is pleased only with worship in spirit and in truth. “If God were a body,” says S. Augustine, “it would be fitting to worship Him in a mountain, because a mountain is material. Hence it is plain against the Anthropomorphites, and against Tertullian and Lactantius, that God has not a body, even the least material conceivable, but that He is a most immaterial Spirit.” That axiom therefore of Tertullian is false, “that what is incorporeal is non-existent.” However, Tertullian and Lactantius seem to use the words body and corporeal in an improper sense, merely to denote an actual substance.
Listen to S. Augustine expounding these words of Christ (lib. De Spec. c. 1). “God is a Spirit incomprehensible, incorporeal, immutable, that cannot be bounded by space, everywhere whole, nowhere divided: everywhere present, ineffably penetrating all things, containing all things, knowing all things, beholding all things; Almighty, governing all things: wholly in heaven, wholly in earth, wholly everywhere. Always working, always resting, gathering, but needing not, carrying all things without being burdened, filling all things, but not included in them, creating and protecting, nourishing and perfecting all things. Thou seekest, but Thou never wantest anything. Loving, but not inflamed. Thou art jealous, but untroubled. Thou repentest without grieving. Thou art angry, and tranquil all the while. Thou changest Thy works, but Thy counsel knows no alteration. Thou holdest all things, fillest all things, embracest all things, art above all things, sustainest all things. Nor dost Thou in one part sustain, and in another super-exceed: nor in one part dost Thou fill, and in another include. In sustaining Thou super-exceedest, and in super-exceeding Thou sustainest. Thou teachest the hearts of the faithful without the service of words, ‘reaching from one end to another mightily, and sweetly disposing all things.’”
What is God? Listen to Arnobius invoking Him (lib. 1, Cont. Gent.). “0 greatest and highest Creator of things invisible. Thou art invisible, and art never comprehended by any other natures. Worthy, indeed worthy art Thou, if only Thou mayest be called worthy by mortal lips, after whom all intelligent nature aspires, and to whom it never ceases to give thanks: to whom every living thing ought continually to bend the knee, and supplicate with unceasing prayers. For Thou art the First Cause: the locality and space of things: the foundation of whatsoever is infinite, unborn, immortal, eternal, the Only One, whom no corporeal form outlines, no circumscription bounds, without quality or size, without situation, motion, or hold: concerning whom nothing can be said or expressed by mortal words: and that Thou mayest be understood, we must be silent, and that as in a shadow a fallible look may seek after Thee, nothing whatsoever must be muttered.”
Ver. 25.—The woman saith, &c. Cometh, Greek, ε̉ζχεται, present tense, is come, who will presently solve all things that are doubtful to us in religion, and will teach us where, when, and how God is to be worshipped. The woman knew this by common speech and report. For already the sceptre had been transferred from Judah to Herod, and Daniel’s seventy weeks were fulfilled, so that all men knew that the time for the Advent of Messiah was close at hand. The Jews thought that John the Baptist was Messiah: but he himself attested that Jesus was Messiah. Wherefore through this assertion of the Baptist the report was widely diffused that Messiah had come.
Who is called Christ. These are not the words of the woman, who spake only in the Hebrew or Syrian language, but of the Evangelist interpreting the Hebrew word Messiah, by Christ, the Anointed One.
Ver. 26.—Jesus saith, &c. “I am the Messias, or the Christ. Have faith in Me: receive My doctrine and my law, that thou mayest be saved and blessed.” Christ both spoke this with the outward voice, but still more with an inward voice, illuminating the woman’s mind, and kindling her will, to love and reverence Him. Whereon the woman believed straightway, and moved her whole city to believe in Him.
Ver. 27.—And immediately, &c. Origen, S. Cyril, and others, think it is meant that the disciples marvelled at the humility of Christ that He should condescend to talk, with a poor and foreign woman.— But if so, the Evangelist would have written, that He should talk with such a woman. Wherefore S. Cyprian (Tract. de Sing. Clericorum) and others better explain thus;—that Christ was not accustomed to talk with women alone, and with this end in view, that He might give an example of chastity and prudence to all the faithful, but especially to clerics, priests, preachers, and religious. For rightly says the wise man, “A moth proceedeth from a garment, and so doth the iniquity of man from the woman” (Ecclus. xlii. 13) Hence Eliseus and all the saints most carefully avoided converse with women. It was their common opinion that women can be approached with but little profit, and with great peril, either to the woman or the man—peril of chastity, or at the least, of reputation.
You will say—Are then women to be neglected? I answer, By no means: but let them be taught in public preaching, or catechising. If they are sick, or there be any other reason why the priest should come to them, let it be in an open place, acting as Christ here did: and let a witness be present, as S. Charles Borromeo took care should always be in his own case.
Ver. 28.—She left, &c. “Having heard Him say,” saith S. Augustine, “‘I am He that talketh with thee,’ and having received the Lord Christ into her heart, what could she do but leave her pitcher, and run to preach the Gospel?” For she knew that Jesus must be a Prophet because He had revealed to her the secrets of her heart. When therefore He declared that He was Messias, she believed in Him, knowing that He was a man worthy of credit, who could neither deceive, nor be deceived. Wherefore she ran into the city without delay, fearing lest Jesus might go away if she tarried. As S. Chrysostom says, “She had come to draw water, but as soon as she found the true Fountain she despised the other; and by the grace which came down upon her from above, she discharges the office of an Apostle.”
For this is the Spirit of Christ, to infuse into those whom He converts zeal for converting others, that they may make others partakers of that great benefit which they feel in themselves. Elegantly and piously does S. Ambrose write of this (Serm. 30): “By a new kind of marvel, the woman, who came to the well of Samaria a harlot, went away chaste from the fountain of Christ. And she who came to fetch water carried back modesty. For as soon as the Lord showed her her sins, she knew and confessed them: she announced Christ to be the Saviour. And leaving her water-pot at the well, she does not carry a pitcher back to the city, but she brings grace. She seems to return without a load, but she goes back full of sanctity. She returned full, I say, because she came a sinner, she returns a preacher. And she who had left her water-pot carried back the fulness of Christ. She brought back no harm to her city, for though, it is true, she carried no water to it, she brought them the whole well of salvation.”
Ver. 29.—Come and see, &c. Saith Cyril, “Giving an account of the miracle, she prepared her hearers to believe:” because although, as S. Chrysostom says, she had not heard the whole history of her life from Christ, from what she did hear she believed (He knew) the rest.
Is not this the Christ? “She speaks as though hesitating, that they might give their opinion,” said Euthymius. For she herself had no doubt, but firmly believed Jesus to be the Messiah. As S. Chrysostom says, “Observe the immense wisdom of this woman: she neither affirms nor denies that He is the Christ. She did not wish that she should be the author of their believing in Him. She wished them to be persuaded by hearing Him for themselves, which persuasion would be far more likely to happen in that way. For without doubt she understood that if they once tasted of that Fountain, they would have the same opinion about it that she had.” This Samaritan woman then, by the conversation and grace of Christ, from a sinner became a penitent and a saint, yea a preacher of Christ like Mary Magdalen.
Her proper name was Photina, who is reckoned among the Saints in the Roman Martyrology on the 20th of March, in the words following: “On the same day Saint Photina, the Samaritan woman, her sons, Joseph and Victor: also Sebastian, a general, Anatolius, Photius, &c., brothers, who all confessed Christ and obtained martyrdom.” On which Baronius says, “The Greek Menology assigns this day for her commemoration.” Her head is religiously preserved at Rome, in the basilica of S. Paul, where I have seen it amongst other relies of the saints.
Ver. 30.—They went out, &c. And from what they saw of the wisdom and holiness of His words and manners, they believed in Him as the Messiah, as is plain from verse 42. “The hardness of the Jews,” says Cyril, “is reproved by the readiness to believe of the Samaritans.” For the Samaritans were converted by one conversation of Christ, but the Jews after three years of His preaching, and after all the many miracles which He had wrought, would not believe.
Ver. 31.—In the meanwhile, &c. “This,” says S. Chrysostom, “they did out of love and zeal for their Master, seeing Him wearied with the heat and the journey.” At the same time they were thinking about themselves. Hungry and tired as they were, they wished to eat, but did not venture to do so until Christ should commence, and bless the meal, as was His wont. “Jesus was accustomed,” says Theophylact, “to accept the gift of food when offered, though He giveth food to all flesh. This He did, that they who presented it might gain merit, and that no one might be ashamed to be poor, nor think it hard to be fed by others.” For it is fitting that Teachers should have other persons to provide food for them, that they themselves having no other cares may be careful only about the ministry of the word.
Ver. 32.—But He said, &c. “I am hungering for the conversion of the Samaritans, which I am procuring through the woman. So that spiritual hunger diminishes and keeps down, if it does not take away, all hunger for bodily food: meanwhile you who are tired and famished, eat as much as you please.” “More obscurely He intimates,” says S. Cyril, “that if the disciples knew of the conversion of the Samaritans, which was then going on, they would be thinking of that food, rather than be taking thought for corporal food. For since they were to be the future Teachers of the world, He teaches them by His own example that they ought to have far more care for the salvation of men than for their own bodies.”
Ver. 33.—Then said His disciples, &c. The Apostles did not understand that Christ was speaking of spiritual food. Wherefore S. Augustine says, “What wonder was it that if the woman did not understand about the water? behold, the disciples do not understand the food.”
Ver. 34.—Jesus saith, &c. Christ here tells the work of preaching, and man’s redemption, His, that is, His own special and sweetest food, because by it, as by the greatest dainties, He was fed and delighted. So Euthymius says, “The will of the Father, who had sent Him, and His work enjoined upon Christ, is the salvation of men, according to the words, I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do.”
Tropologically, let Christians, and specially preachers, learn from Christ that their spiritual food ought to be obedience and zeal for souls. 1. Because both sustain the life of the soul. 2. Because both, like food, cause the powers of the mind to become strong. 3. Because as food causes a child to grow up to be a perfect man, so do these two virtues make us to grow to a virile state of spiritual strength.
Ver. 35.—Say not ye, &c. From the metaphor of food He passes to the allegorical harvest, from which are food and bread.
Say not ye? That is, ye are wont often to say. From this it would appear that the Apostles, as they passed through the corn fields of the Sichemites, talked among themselves about the coming harvest, as men are wont to do. From hence Christ took occasion to speak about the spiritual harvest, i.e., the conversion of the Samaritans. As though He had said, “The care of the natural harvest interests you: but the care of the spiritual harvest ought to concern you far more, that you should help Me in converting the Samaritans.”
Yet four months. Maldonatus thinks this was a proverb, meaning that there was time enough for thinking about any matter—as the natural harvest, for instance: but that it could not be used of the spiritual harvest; for that indeed was already ripe for being reaped by Christ and the Apostles. For Maldonatus thinks this was spoken by Christ about the end of March, when the harvest is not far off.
S. Augustine and others take the words as they stand, literally. Wherefore these words should be seen to have been spoken by Christ in the month of January, after the eight months in which He had preached in Judea. For in four months from January or in May, the crops are ripe, and the harvest comes. Wherefore at Pentecost, which fell in May, they offered to God the loaves of the first fruits of the new harvest. “Ye,” says S. Augustine, “are counting four months unto harvest. I show you another harvest, white and prepared already.” So He says, Lift up your eyes, and look unto the fields that they are white already unto the harvest. The white fields He calls the city of Sichem, and the places round about, which, stirred up by the woman, bring hearers in troops to Christ. As though He had said, Ye see these fields, filled not with wheat, but with a multitude of people flocking to Me, who are prepared to receive My doctrine, and to be admitted into My Church. Labour then strenuously with Me, 0 My Apostles, to reap the harvest. The wheat harvest may be four months distant yet: but the harvest of souls is nigh, yea ready, amongst these Samaritans. It is fitting then that you and I should reap them, and gather them into the garner of God.” Theophylact says, “Lift up both your bodily and your spiritual eyes, and see the multitude of the Samaritans. See their minds eager to believe, which, like fields that are ripe for salvation, have need of reapers.”
Ver. 36.—And he that reapeth, &c. Christ invites the Apostles to labour with Him in gathering in this harvest, by the hope of an eternal reward. As though He said, “He that reaps wheat receives wages, but only brief and temporal: but he that reaps with Me this spiritual harvest of souls gathers it unto life eternal. For this harvest the reaper gains both for himself and for his crop, that is, for the souls whom he converts, for he leads them to heaven as it were in triumph.” “The fruit of this terrestrial harvest,” says S. Chrysostom, “does not arrive at eternal life, but that spiritual harvest always accompanies us.” Christ calls Moses and the Prophets sowers, who with great labour delivered the seeds of faith to the Jews, i.e., such first principles as that God is One, and that the Messiah would come for the salvation of the world. The reapers are Christ and His Apostles, who, by the teaching of the Gospel, perfected these first principles of the Prophets, and by the faith and grace of Christ sanctified both Jews and Samaritans, and brought them to eternal life. Wherefore this conversion of the Samaritans brought joy, not only to Christ and the Apostles, but to Moses and the Prophets, because their seed had not proved unfruitful, but had been brought by Christ to an abundant harvest. As S. Augustine says, “If the Prophets had not been sowers, whence had it come to that woman to say, I know that Messiah cometh? That woman was already ripe fruit.” And again, “They had different labours in time, but they shall have an equal fruition of joy, when they together receive the wages of everlasting life.” It is often very different in the natural harvest, where the reaper rejoices, but the sower sorrows.
Ver. 37.—For in this, &c. A word, i.e., a proverb, which is “current in the mouths of many,” says S. Chrysostom. This proverb, one soweth, &c., which is spoken of the natural harvest, is still more true with regard to the spiritual sowers and reapers. “The sowers were the Prophets, the reapers are you, 0 ye Apostles, who by My doctrine will bring to perfection the seeds of faith which were sown by the Prophets, and will gather them, when ripe, into the storehouse of the Church.” Wherefore He subjoins an explanation.
Ver. 38.—I have sent, &c. I have sent, i.e., I have desired and determined to send. An inchoate and destined, not a completed, action is signified. The Prophets, and teachers of the Law, and such as they, with great toil taught the uninstructed minds of the Jews the rudiments of the knowledge of God, and prepared them for the Christian harvest of righteousness and holiness. You, 0 ye Apostles, have entered into their labours, because ye shall convert the minds of the Jews prepared to receive Me.
Moreover Christ said this, that by the example of the Prophets, who sowed so laboriously, He might animate the Apostles to preach the gospel, which was more easy, and involved less toil. “Lest,” as S. Chrysostom says, “they should be troubled as about to undergo the greatest burden, when they were sent to preach. They must think that the Prophets had had yet harder labour, even as sowing the seed is harder labour, and needs greater anxiety than reaping. As the Gloss says, “Unless the Jews had been prepared by the Prophets, they would not have listened to the Apostles.”
Ver. 39.—Of that city many believed, &c They were moved because she confessed before her fellow-citizens that she had lived in fornication with a man not her husband, as Christ had told her, that by means of her own shame she might make known the honour and glory of Christ, the true Prophet and Messiah.
Ver. 40.—He abode there two days: not longer, lest, if He abode longer among Samaritans, the Jews should calumniate Him, as not being the Messiah, who was promised to the Jews, rather than to the Samaritans.
Ver. 42.—And said to the woman, &c. Saviour of the world, understand Messiah, as the Syriac Version adds, who was sent by God for the salvation not of Israel only, as the Jews pretended, but of all the nations of the whole world. Of the world I say, lost by sin. Deservedly does S. Chrysostom in this place admire the, as it were, sudden faith of the Samaritans, when the Jews were so dilatory and hard to believe in Christ.
Ver. 43.—After two days, &c. That is, He went into other cities and villages of Galilee, leaving out Nazareth, His own city, as S. Matthew says (iv. 13).
Ver. 44.—For Jesus, &c. The word for expresses the reason why Jesus left Nazareth, His own city, and went into the other parts of Galilee, because the Nazarenes despised Him as their fellow-citizen, and the son of an artizan.
Ver. 45.—When therefore He was come, &c. All the miracles, especially that He alone had cast out all the buyers and sellers from the Temple, as well as the many other signs that He had shown.
Observe: The Jews, after the many miracles of Christ which they saw, did not believe in His preaching, nor even receive Him. The Galileans, who also saw many miracles, received Him kindly but did not believe in Him. But the Samaritans, although they saw no miracles, received Him, and believed Him to be the Messiah, sent by God for the salvation of the whole world. So those who are without, often receive what those of the household disdain and despise.
Ver. 46.—A certain nobleman. The Latin translator seems to have had in his Greek copies βασιλισκος, i.e., regulus, a little king. The present reading is βασιλικος, i.e., royal, understand counsellor, or public minister, of Herod Antipas; a prefect, or intimate friend of his. The Syriac has, a royal servant: S. Chrysostom says, “because he was of the royal race, or discharged some princely function.” Nonnus says, “he was a courtier, who was over the army.” Origen says, “he was perhaps of the family of Tiberius Cæsar, employed by him in some office of Judea.”
Capharnaum: it is probable that this nobleman’s son lay ill at Capharnaum, because it was his father’s usual place of abode. And his father, hearing that Jesus, who healed so many sick, was come out of Judea into Cana of Galilee, went thither, to ask of Jesus the healing of his son; as is plain from what follows. The nobleman seems to have been a Jew, not a Gentile, as both S. Jerome and Origen think. We may think so, because he had little faith, and for that reason was reproved by Christ; whereas the Gentiles were prompt to believe, and so were praised by Him, as was the case with the centurion, and the woman of Canaan.
Some, as Irenæus, think that this nobleman was the same person as the centurion mentioned in Matthew viii. But they were different persons. For the centurion, when Christ was willing to go to him, asked him to remain where he was. But this nobleman asks Christ to come to his sick son. The former came to Christ as He was descending from the mountain to Capharnaum. The nobleman comes to Jesus as He is going into Cana. The boy of the former was sick with palsy; this one’s child was ill with a fever. Christ was all but present when He healed the former: this He healed being absent. The one was a servant, the other a son. So S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and others.
Ver. 47.—When he had heard, &c. The nobleman having heard the fame of Christ, that He healed all sick persons whatsoever, proceeded from Capharnaum to Cana, to ask Jesus, who was staying there, to come back with him to Capharnaum, to heal his son. This was a journey of fourteen hours, or leagues, and therefore long and difficult. Wherefore he had little faith in Jesus, says S. Gregory, since he did not think He could save unless He were corporeally present.
Ver. 48.—Jesus therefore, &c. Signs and prodigies mean nearly the same thing. Signs, however, are properly what take place in natural things, and by nature, slowly operating, but which Christ wrought in a moment, and therefore miraculously. Such are the healing of the sick. But prodigies are things which surpass the whole power of nature, as the raising of the dead.
Christ reproved the small faith of the nobleman, in order that He might sharpen and augment it. As though He said, “Thou and thine hast heard of certain signs and prodigies which I have wrought; still thou believest not that I am the Messiah, unless I do very many more, and that thou thyself mayest behold them with thine eyes.” “He teaches,” says S. Chrysostom, “that it is not His miracles that we are to attend to, but His doctrine. He shows that signs are especially made gracious to the soul; and in this case He heals the father who was labouring under a disease of the mind, no less than the (bodily) disease of the son.” Indeed, He first cures the unbelief, or the imperfection of faith, in the father, and then the fever of the son.
Ver. 49.—The ruler saith, &c. My child, Greek, παιδιον μου, i.e., my little son, meaning, my most beloved, my only delight. “The ruler,” says S. Chrysostom, “being distressed by his son’s affliction, did not pay much attention then to the words of Jesus, but was wholly taken up with the cure. See how he grovels on the earth—Come down, ere my child die—as if Jesus could not raise the dead, or knew not that he had a son.”
Ver. 50.—Jesus saith, &c. “This one word,” saith Rupert, “was a true declaration concerning things present, and a command of life.” For this word of Christ was not only declaratory, but effectual: for it produced that which it declared, namely, the life and healing of the sick. So in the Eucharist, the words, This is My Body, enunciate in such manner that the Body of Christ is there, that they cause It to be there present. Moreover, Christ went to the servant of the centurion: He was not willing to go to the son of the ruler, because there was in the centurion confirmed faith, but in the ruler faith was imperfect.
He believed the word which Jesus spake. “The Saviour cured two persons,” says Cyril, “by the same words. He brought the mind of the ruler to believe, and He delivered the youth from bodily disease.”
Ver. 51.-—As he was going, &c. “His servants met him,” says Cyril, “telling of the swiftness and power of the words of Christ, the Lord so ordering that by the sequence of events the faith of the ruler might be confirmed.”
Ver. 52.—He asked therefore, &c. “He studies to be informed concerning the hour,” says Cyril, “to see if it coincides with the time when the Saviour’s favour was bestowed upon him.”
Yesterday, at the seventh hour: this was an hour after noon, when, the child being healed, the servants had immediately set out to tell the glad news to the father. But they could not reach him on the same day. They travelled therefore the rest of that day, and all through the night, and came to him the next morning, for, as we have said, Capharnaum was fourteen leagues or hours distant from Cana.
Ver. 53.—The father therefore knew. “From hence we may understand,” says Bede (in Catena), “that there are degrees of faith, as well as of other virtues. There is the beginning, the increase, and the perfection of faith. This man’s faith had its beginning when he asked for his son’s safety: its increase when he believed the word of the Lord saying, Thy son liveth: it was perfected by the announcement of his servants.” Moreover, because this nobleman dwelt at Capharnaum, as well as the centurion, we need not doubt that they were friends; and that the centurion through this miracle, which was prior in point of time, conceived so great faith in Christ that he said, “Lord, I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof, but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (Matt. viii. 8).
Tropologically, listen to Theophylact, “The little king (regulus) is every man, not only because, according to the soul, he is nigh to the King of all, but because he has assumed dominion over all things. The son is a mind fevered with depraved pleasures and desires. The going down of Christ is His merciful condescension. Christ saith, Go thy way, i.e., show continual progress in good things: then thy son shall live. Otherwise he will die, if thou ceasest to walk (aright)”
Finally, he was healed at the seventh hour, 1. because as Origen says, seven is the symbol of the Sabbath, and of rest, in which is health. 2. Because the same number is the symbol of the seven-fold Holy Spirit, in Whom is all salvation.
Ver. 54.—This is again, &c. The word again must be joined with when He was come. Meaning, this was the second miracle which Christ wrought in Cana of Galilee, when again—that is, a second time—He was come thither out of Judea. For the first miracle was the conversion of water into wine, which Christ did, when He came the first time out of Judea into Galilee. He came, therefore, twice out of Judea into Galilee, and illustrated each of His comings by a new miracle. “It is called the second,” says Euthymius, not “because after the first He had done no other miracle in the whole of Palestine (for He had already done many in Judea), but because, after the first, this was (only) the second which He had done in Cana.” John says this, indicating that an abundance of miracles were performed subsequently by Christ in Galilee, which Matthew relates (iv. 23, &c.), and which after this are related by S. John.