St. Thomas Aquinas,
Catena Aurea (Golden Chain),
Gospel of Matthew 8:23-34
(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)
23. And when he was entered into a ship, his disciples followed him.
24. And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but he was asleep.
25. And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, “Lord, save us: we perish.”
26. And he saith unto them, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” The he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a great calm.
27. But the men marvelled, saying, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”
Pseudo-Origen, Hom. in div. vii: Christ having performed many great and wonderful things on the land, passes to the sea, that there also He might shew forth His excellent power, presenting Himself before all men as the Lord of both earth and sea. “And when he was entered into a boat, his disciples followed him,” not being weak but strong and established in the faith. Thus they followed Him not so much treading in His footsteps, as accompanying Him in holiness of spirit.
Chrys., Hom., xxviii: He took His disciples with Him, and in a boat, that they might learn two lessons; first, not to be confounded in dangers, secondly, to think lowly of themselves in honour. That they should not think great things of themselves because He kept them while He sent the rest away, He suffers them to be tossed by the waves. Where miracles were to be shewn, He suffers the people to be present; where temptations and fears were to be stilled, there He takes with Him only the victors of the world, whom He would prepare for strife.
Pseudo-Origen: Therefore, having entered into the boat He cause the sea to rise; “And, to, there arose a great tempest in the sea, so that the boat was covered by the waves.” This tempest did not arise of itself, but in obedience to the power of Him Who gave commandment, “who brings the winds out of his treasures.” [Jer 10:13] There “arose a great tempest,” that a great work might be wrought; because by how much the more the waves rushed into the boat, so much the more were the disciples troubled, and sought to be delivered by the wonderful power of the Saviour.
Chrys.: They had seen others made partakers of Christ’s mercies, but forasmuch as no man has so strong a sense of those things that are done in the person of another as of what is done to himself, it behoved that in their own bodies they should feel Christ’s mercies. Therefore He willed that this tempest should arise, that in their deliverance they might have a more lively sense of His goodness. This tossing of the sea was a type of their future trials of which Paul speaks, “I would not have you ignorant, brethren, how that we were troubled beyond our strength.” [2 Cor 1:8]
But that there might be time for their fear to arise, it follows, “But he was asleep.” For if the storm had arisen while He was awake, they would either not have feared, or not have prayed Him, or would not have believed that He had the power to still it.
Pseudo-Origen: Wonderful, stupendous event! He that never slumbereth nor sleepeth, is said to be asleep. He slept with His body, but was awake in His Deity, shewing that He bare a truly human body which He had taken on Him, corruptible. He slept with the body that He might cause the Apostles to watch, and that we all should never sleep with our mind. With so great fear were the disciples seized, and almost beside themselves, that they rushed to Him, and did not modestly or gently rouse Him, but violently awakened Him, “His disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us, we perish.”
Jerome: Of this miracle we have a type in Jonah, who while all are in danger is himself unconcerned, sleeps, and is awakened.
Pseudo-Origen: O ye true disciples! ye have the Saviour with you, and do ye fear danger? Life itself is among you, and are ye afraid of death? They would answer, We are yet children, and weak; and are therefore afraid; whence it follows, “Jesus saith unto them, Why are ye afraid, O ye of little faith?” As though He had said, If ye have known me mighty upon earth, why believe ye not that I am also mighty upon the sea? And even though death were threatening you, ought ye not to support it with constancy? He who believes a little will be reasoned with; he who believes not at all will be neglected.
Chrys.: If any should say, that this was a sign of no small faith to go and rouse Jesus; it is rather a sign that they had not a right opinion concerning Him. They knew that when wakened He could rebuke the waves, but they did not yet know that He could do it while sleeping. For this cause He did not do this wonder in the presence of the multitudes, that they should not be charged with their little faith; but He takes His disciples apart to correct them, and first stills the raging of the waters. “Then he arose, and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.”
Jerome: From this passage we understand, that all creation is conscious of its Creator; for what may be rebuked and commanded is conscious of the mind commanding. I do not mean as some heretics hold, that the whole creation is animate [ed. note: Origen is accused of maintaining that the sun, moon, and stars had souls, (which had been originally created incorporeal, and for sinning had been united with the heavenly bodies,) that they were in consequence rational, that they knew, praised, and prayed to God through Christ, that they were liable to sin, and that they, and the elements also, would undergo the future judgment. vid. Jerom. ad. Avit. 4] - but by the power of the Maker things which to us have no consciousness have to Him.
Pseudo-Origen: Therefore He gave commandment to the winds and the sea, and from a great storm it because a great calm. For it behoves Him that is great to do great things; therefore He who first greatly stirred the depths of the sea, now again commands a great calm, that the disciples who had been too much troubled might have great rejoicing.
Chrys.: Observe also that the storm is stilled at once entirely, and no trace of disturbance appears; which is beyond nature; for when a storm ceases in the course of nature, yet the water is wont to be agitated for some time longer, but here all is tranquility at once. Thus what is said of the Father, “He spake, and the storm of wind ceases,” [Ps 107:25] this Christ fulfilled in deed; for by His word and bidding only He stayed and checked the waters. For from His appearance, from His sleeping, and His using a boat, they that were present supposed Him a man only, and on this account they fell into admiration of Him; “And the men marvelled, saying, What manner of man is this, for the winds and the sea obey him?”
Gloss., non occ.: Chrysostom explains thus, “What manner of man is this?” His sleeping and His appearance shewed the man; the sea and the calm pointed out the God.
Pseudo-Origen: But who were the men that marvelled? You must not think that the Apostles are here meant, for we never find the Lord’s disciples mentioned with disrespect; they are always called either the Disciples or the Apostles. They marvelled then who sailed with Him, whose was the boat.
Jerome: But if any shall content that it was the disciples who wondered, we shall answer they are rightly spoken of as ‘the men,’ seeing they had not yet learnt the power of the Saviour.
Pseudo-Origen: This is not a question, “What manner of man is this?” but an affirmation that He is one whom the winds and the sea obey, “What manner of man then is this?” that is, how powerful, how mighty, how great! He commands every creature, and they transgress not His law; men alone disobey, and are therefore condemned by His judgment.
Figuratively; We are all embarked in the vessel of the Holy Church, and voyaging through this stormy world with the Lord. The Lord Himself sleeps a merciful sleep while we suffer, and awaits the repentance of the wicked.
Hilary: Or; He sleeps, because by our sloth He is cast asleep in us. This is done that we may hope aid from God in fear of danger; and that hope though late may be confident that it shall escape danger by the might of Christ watching within.
Pseudo-Origen: Let us therefore come to Him with joy, saying with the Prophet, “Arise, O Lord, why sleepest thou?” [Ps 44:23] And He will command the winds, that is, the daemons, who raise the waves, that is, the rulers of the world, to persecute the saints, and He shall make a great calm around both body and spirit, peace for the Church, stillness for the world.
Rabanus: Otherwise; The sea is the turmoil of the world; the boat in which Christ is embarked is to be understood the tree of the cross, by the aid of which the faithful having passed the waves of the world, arrive in their heavenly country, as on a safe shore, whither Christ goes with His own; whence He says below, “He that will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” [Matt 16:24]
When then Christ was fixed on the cross, a great commotion was raised, the minds of His disciples being troubled at His passion, and the boat was covered by the waves. For the whole strength of persecution was around the cross of Christ, on which He died; as it is here, “But he was asleep.” His sleep is death. The disciples awaken the Lord, when troubled at His death; they seek His resurrection with earnest prayers, saying, “Save us,” by rising again; “we perish,” by our trouble at Thy death. He rises again, and rebukes the hardness of their hearts, as we read in other places. “He commands the winds,” in that He overthrew the power of the Devil; “He commanded the sea,” in that He disappointed the malice of the Jews; “and there was a great calm,” because the minds of the disciples were calmed when they beheld His resurrection.
Bede: Or; The boat is the present Church, in which Christ passes over the sea of this world with His own, and stills the waves of persecution. Wherefore we may wonder, and give thanks.
28. And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.
29. And, behold, they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”
30. And there was a good way off from them a herd of many swine feeding.
31. So the devils besought him, saying, “If thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.”
32. And he said unto them, “Go.” And when they were come out, they went into the herd of swine: and, behold, the whole herd of swine ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters.
33. And they that kept them fled, and went their ways into the city, and told every thing, and what was befallen to the possessed of the devils.
34. And, behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus: and when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.
Chrys.: Because there were who thought Christ to be a man, therefore the daemons came to proclaim His divinity, that they who had not seen the sea raging and again still, might hear the daemons crying; “And when he was come to the other side in the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two men having daemons.”
Rabanus: Gerasa is a town of Arabia beyond Jordan, close to Mount Gilead, which was in the possession of the tribe of Manasseh, not far from the lake of Tiberias, into which the swine were precipitated.
Aug., De. Cons. Evan., ii, 24: Whereas Matthew relates that there were two who were afflicted with daemons, but Mark and Luke mention only one, you must understand that one of them was a person of note, for whom all that country was in grief, and about whose recovery there was much care, whence the fame of this miracle was the more noised abroad.
Chrys.: Or; Luke and Mark chose to speak of one who was more grievously afflicted; whence also they add a further description of his calamity; Luke saying that he brake his bonds and was driven into the desert; Mark telling that he ofttimes cut himself with stones. But they neither of them say that there was only one, which would be to contradict Matthew. What is added respecting them that they “came from among the tombs,” alludes to a mischievous opinion, that the souls of the dead became daemons. Thus many soothsayers use to kill children, that they may have their souls to cooperate with them; and daemoniacs also often cry out, I am the spirit of such an one. But it is not the soul of the dead man that then cries out, the daemon assumes his voice to deceive the hearers. For if the soul of a dead man has power to enter the body of another, much more might it enter its own. And it is more unreasonable to suppose that a soul that has suffered cruelty should cooperate with him that injured it, or that a man should have power to change an incorporeal being into a different kind of substance, such as a human soul into the substance of a daemon. For even in a material body, this is beyond human power; as, for example, no man can change the body of a man into that of an ass.
And it is not reasonable to think that a disembodied spirit should wander to and for on the earth. “The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God;” [Wis 3:1] therefore those of young children must be so, seeing they are not evil. And the souls of sinners are at once conveyed away from hence, as is clear from Lazarus, and the rich man.
Because none dared to bring them to Christ because of their fierceness, therefore Christ goes to them. This their fierceness is intimated when it is added, “Exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass that way.” So they who hindered all others from passing that way, found one now standing in their way. For they were tortured in an unseen manner, suffering intolerable things from the mere presence of Christ. “And, to, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of David?”
Jerome: This is no voluntary confession followed up by a reward to the utterer, but one extorted by the compulsion of necessity. A runaway slave, when after long time he first beholds his master, straight thinks only of deprecating the scourge; so the daemons, seeing the Lord suddenly moving upon the earth, thought He was come to judge them. Some absurdly suppose that these daemons knew the Son of God, while the Devil knew Him not, because their wickedness was less than his. But all the knowledge of the disciple must be supposed in the Master.
Aug., City of God, book 9, ch. 21: God was so far known to them as it was His pleasure to be known; and He pleased to be known so far as it was needful. He was known to them therefore not as He is Life eternal, and the Light which enlightens the good, but by certain temporal effects of His excellence, and signs of His hidden presence, which are visible to angelic spirits though evil, rather than to the infirmity of human nature.
Jerome: But both the Devil and the daemons may be said to have rather suspected, than known, Jesus to be the Son of God.
Pseudo-Aug., Quaest. V. et. N.T., 9, 55: When the daemons cry out, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?” we must suppose them to have spoken from suspicion rather than knowledge. “For had they known him, they never would have suffered the Lord of glory to be crucified.” [1 Cor 2:8]
Remig.: But as often as they were tortured by His excellent power, and saw Him working signs and miracles, they supposed Him to be the Son of God; when they saw Him hungry and thirsty, and suffering such things, they doubted, and thought Him mere man. It should be considered that even the unbelieving Jews when they said that Christ cast out daemons in Beelzebub, and the Arians who said that He was a creature, deserve condemnation not only on God’s sentence, but on the confession of the daemons, who declare Christ to be the Son of God. Rightly do they say, “What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God?” that is, our malice and Thy grace have nothing in common, according to that the Apostle speaks, “There is no fellowship of light with darkness.” [2 Cor 6:14]
Chrys.: That this should not be thought to be flattery, they cry out what they were experiencing, “Art thou come to torment us before the time?”
Aug., City of God, book 8, ch. 23: Either because that came upon them unexpectedly, which they looked for indeed, but supposed more distant; or because they thought their perdition consisted in this, that when known they would be despised; or because this was before the day of judgment, when they should be punished with eternal damnation.
Jerome: For the presence of the Saviour is the torment of daemons.
Chrys.: They could not say they had not sinned, because Christ had found them doing evil, and marring the workmanship of God; whence they supposed that for their more abundant wickedness the time of the last punishment which shall be at the day of judgment should not be tarried for to punish them.
Aug., De Cons. Evan., ii, 24: Though the words of the daemons are variously reported by the three Evangelists, yet this is no difficulty; for they either all convey the same sense, or may be supposed to have been all spoken. Nor again because in Matthew they speak in the plural, in the others in the singular number; because even the other two Evangelists relate that when asked his name, he answered, Legion, shewing that the daemons were many.
“Now there was not far from thence a herd of many swine feeding; and the daemons prayed him, saying, If thou cast us out hence, send us into the swine.
Greg., Mor., ii, 10: For the Devil knows that of himself he has no power to do any thing, because it is not of himself that he exists as a spirit.
Remig.: They did not ask to be sent into men, because they saw Him by whose excellence they were tortured existing in human shape. Nor did they ask to be sent into sheep, because sheep are by God’s institution clean animals, and were then offered in the temple of God. But they requested to be sent into the swine rather than into any of the other unclean animals, because this is of all animals the most unclean; whence also it has its name ‘porcus,’ as being ‘spurens,’ filthy, and delighting in filthiness; and daemons also delight in the filthiness of sin. They did not pray that they might be sent into the air, because of their eager desire of hurting men.
“And he saith unto them, Go.”
Chrys.: Jesus did not say this, as though persuaded by the daemons, but with many designs therein. One, that He might shew the mighty power to hurt of these daemons, who were in possession of the two men; another, that all might see that they had no power against the swine unless by His sufferance; thirdly, to shew that they would have done more grievous hurt to the men, had they not even in their calamities been aided by Divine Providence, for they hate men more than irrational animals. By this it is manifest that there is no man who is not supported by Divine Providence; and if all are not equally supported by it, neither after one manner, this is the highest characteristic of Providence, that it is extended to each man according to his need.
Besides the above-mentioned things, we learn also that He cares not only for the whole together, but for each one in particular; which one may see clearly in these daemoniacs, who would have been long before choked in the deep, had not Divine care preserved them. He also permitted them to go into the herd of swine, that they that dwelt in those parts might know His power. For where He was known to none, there He makes His miracles to shine forth, that He may bring them to a confession of His divinity.
Jerome: The Saviour bade them go, not as yielding to their request, but that by the death of the swine, an occasion of man’s salvation might be offered.
“But they went out, (to wit, out of the men,) and went into the swine; and, lo, the whole herd rushed violently headlong into the sea, and perished in the waters.”
Let Manichaeans blush; if the souls of men and of beasts be of one substance, and one origin, how should two thousand swine have perished for the sake of the salvation of two men?
Chrys.: The daemons destroyed the swine because they are ever striving to bring men into distress, and rejoice in destruction. The greatness of the loss also added to the fame of that which was done; for it was published by many persons; namely, by the men that were healed, by the owners of the swine, and by those that fed them; as it follows, “But they that fed them fled, and went into the town, and told all, and concerning them that had the daemons; and, behold, the whole town went out to meet Jesus.” But when they should have adored Him, and wondered at His excellent power, they cast Him from them, as it follows, “And when they saw him, they besought him that he would depart out of their coasts.”
Observe the clemency of Christ next in His excellent power; when those who had received favours from Him would drive Him away, He resisted not, but departed, and left those who thus pronounced themselves unworthy of His teaching, giving them as teachers those who had been delivered from the daemons, and the feeders of the swine.
Jerome: Otherwise; This request may have proceeded from humility as well as pride; like Peter, they may have held themselves unworthy of the Lord’s presence, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” [Luke 5:8]
Rabanus: Gerasa is interpreted ‘casting out the dweller,’ or, ‘a stranger approaching;’ this is the Gentile world which cast out the Devil from it; and which was first far off, but now made near, after the resurrection being visited by Christ through His preachers.
Ambrose, Ambrosiaster, in Luc. 3. 30: The two daemoniacs are also a type of the Gentile world; for Noah having three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, Shem’s posterity alone was taken into the inheritance of God, while from the other two sprang the nations of the Gentiles.
Hilary: Thus the daemons held the two men among the tombs without the town, that is, without the synagogue of the Law and the Prophets; that is, they infested the original seats of the two nations, the abodes of the dead, making the way of this present life dangerous to the passers by.
Rabanus: It is not without cause that he speaks of them as dwelling among the tombs; for what else are the bodies of the faithless but sepulchres of the dead, in which the word of God dwells not, but there is enclosed the soul dead in sins. He says, “So that no man might pass through that way,” because before the coming of the Saviour the Gentile world was inaccessible.
Or, by the two, understand both Jews and Gentiles, who did not abide in the house, that is, did not rest in their conscience. But they abode in tombs, that is, delighted themselves in dead works, and suffered no man to pass by the way of faith, which way the Jews obstructed.
Hilary: By their coming forth to meet Him is signified the willingness of men flocking to the faith. The daemons seeing that there is no longer any place left for them among the Gentiles, pray that they may be suffered to dwell among the heretics; these, seized by them, are drowned in the sea, that is, in worldly desires, by the instigations of the daemons, and perish in the unbelief of the rest of the Gentiles.
Bede, in Luc., 3: Or; The swine are they that delight in filthy manners; for unless one live as a swine, the devils do not receive power over him; or at most, only to try him, not to destroy him. That the swine were sent headlong into the lake, signifies, that when the people of the Gentiles are delivered from the condemnation of the daemons, yet still they who would not believe in Christ, perform their profane rites in secret, drowned in a blind and deep curiosity. That they that fed the swine, fled and told what was done, signifies that even the leaders of the wicked though they shun the law of Christianity, yet cease not to proclaim the wonderful power of Christ. When struck with terror, they entreat Him to depart from them, they signify a great number who, well satisfied with their ancient life, shew themselves willing to honour the Christian law, while they declare themselves unable to perform it.
Hilary: Or; the town is a type of the Jewish nation, which having heard of Christ’s works goes forth to meet its Lord, to forbid Him to approach their country and town; for they have not received the Gospel.