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St. Thomas Aquinas, 

Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), 

Gospel of Matthew 27:57-66

(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)


57. When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple:  
58. He went to Pilate and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered.  
59. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth,  
60. And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.  
61. And there was Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary, sitting over against the sepulchre.  

[p. 968] Gloss., non occ.: When the Evangelist had finished the order of the Lord's Passion and death, he treats of His burial. 

Remig.: Arimathea is the same as Ramatha, the city of Helcana and Samuel, and is situated in the Chananitic country near Diospolis. This Joseph was a man of great dignity in respect of worldly station, but has the praise of much higher merit in God's sight, seeing he is described as righteous. Indeed he that should have the burial of the Lord's body ought to have been such, that he might be deserving of that office by righteous merit. 

Jerome: He is described as rich, not out of any ambition on the part of the writer to represent so noble and rich a man as Jesus' disciple, but to shew how he was able to obtain the body of Jesus from Pilate. For poor and unknown individuals would not have dared to approach Pilate, the representative of Roman power, and ask the body of a crucified malefactor. 

In another Gospel this Joseph is called a counsellor; and it is supposed that the first Psalm has reference to him, "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly." [Ps 1:1] 

Chrys.: Consider this man's courage; he risked his life, and took upon him many enmities in order to render this service; and not only dares to ask for Christ's body, but also to bury it. 

Jerome: By this simple burial of the Lord is condemned the ostentation of the rich, who cannot dispense with lavish expense even in their tombs. But we may also consider in a spiritual sense, that the Lord's body was wrapped not in gold, jewels, or silk, but in clean linen; and that he who wrapped it, is he who embraces Jesus with a pure heart. 

Remig.: Or, otherwise; The linen is grown out of the ground, and is bleached to whiteness with great labour, and thus this signifies that His body which was taken of the earth, that is of a Virgin, through the toil of passion came to the whiteness of immortality. 

Raban.: From this also has prevailed in the Church the custom of celebrating the sacrifice of the altar not in silk, or in coloured robes, but in linen grown from the earth, as we read, was ordered by the Holy Pope Silvester. 

Pseudo-Aug., Serm. App., 248, 4: The Saviour was laid in a tomb belonging to another man, because He died for the salvation of others. For why should He who in Himself had no death, have been laid in His own tomb? Or He whose place [p. 969] was reserved for Him in heaven, have had a monument upon earth? He who remained but three days space in the tomb, not as dead, but as resting on His bed? A tomb is the necessary abode of death; Christ then, who is our life, could not have an abode of death; He that ever liveth had no need of the dwelling of the departed. 

Jerome: He is laid in a new tomb, lest after His resurrection it should be pretended that it was some other who had risen when they saw the other bodies there remaining. The new tomb may also signify the virgin womb of Mary. And He was laid in a tomb hewn out of the rock, lest had it been one raised of many stones, it might have been said that He was stolen away by undermining the foundations of the pile. 

Pseudo-Aug., Aug in Serm., non occ.: Had the tomb been in the earth, it might have been said they undermined the place, and so carried Him off. Had a small stone been laid thereon, they might have said, They carried Him off while we slept. 

Jerome: That a great stone was rolled there, shews that the tomb could not have been reopened without the united strength of many. 

Hilary: Mystically, Joseph affords a figure of the Apostles. He wraps the body in a clean linen cloth, in which same linen sheet were let down to Peter out of heaven all manner of living creatures; whence we understand, that under the representation of this linen cloth the Church is buried together with Christ. The Lord's body moreover is laid in a chamber hewn out of rock, empty and new; that is, by the teaching of the Apostles, Christ is conveyed into the hard breast of the Gentiles hewn out by the toil of teaching, rude and new, hitherto unpenetrated by any fear of God. And for that besides Him ought nothing to enter our breasts, a stone is rolled to the mouth, that as before Him we had received no author of divine knowledge, so after Him we should admit none. 

Origen: This is no casual mention of the circumstances that the body was wrapped in clean linen, and laid in a new tomb, and a great stone rolled to the month, but that every thing touching the body of Jesus is clean, and new, and very great. 

Remig.: When the Lord's body was buried, and the rest returned to their own places, the women alone, who had loved Him more attachedly adhered to Him, and with anxious care noted the place [p. 970] where the Lord's body was laid, that at fit time they might perform the service of their devotion to him. 

Origen: The mother of the sons of Zebedee is not mentioned as having sat over against the sepulchre. And perhaps she was able to endure as far as the cross only, but these as stronger in love were not absent even from the things that were afterwards done. 

Jerome: Or, when the rest left the Lord, the women continued in their attendance, looking for what Jesus had promised; and therefore they deserved to be the first to see the resurrection, because "he that endureth to the end shall be saved." [Matt 10:22] 

Remig.: And to this day the holy women, that is, the lowly souls of the saints, do the like in this present world, and with pious assiduity wait while Christ's passion is being completed. 

62. Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the Chief Priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate,  
63. Saying, "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again.  
64. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first.  
65 Pilate said unto them, "Ye have a watch: go your way, make it as sure as ye can."  
66 So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.  

Jerome: It was not enough for the Chief Priests to have crucified the Lord the Saviour, if they did not guard the sepulchre, and do their utmost to lay hands on Him as He rose from the dead. 

Raban.: By the Parasceve is meant 'preparation;' and they gave this name to the sixth day of the week, on which they made ready the things needed for [p. 971] the Sabbath, as was commanded respecting the manna, "On the sixth day they gathered twice as much." [Ex 16:22] Because on the sixth day man was made, and on the seventh God rested; therefore on the sixth day Jesus died for man, and rested the Sabbath day in the tomb. The Chief Priests although in putting the Lord to death they had committed a heinous crime, yet were they not satisfied unless even after His death they carried on the venom of their malice once begun, traducing His character, and calling one, whom they knew to be guileless, "a deceiver." [John 11:49] 

But as Caiaphas prophesied without knowing it, that "it is expedient that one man should die for the people," so now, Christ was a deceiver [marg. note: seductor], not from truth into error, but leading men from error to truth, from vices to virtue, from death to life. 

Remig.: They say that He had declared, "After three days I will rise again," in consequence of that He said above, "As Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly," &c. [Matt 12:40] But let us see in what way He can be said to have risen again after three days. Some would have the three hours of darkness understood as one night, and the light succeeding the darkness as a day, but these do not know the force of figurative language. 

The sixth day of the week on which He suffered comprehended the foregoing night; then follows the night of the Sabbath with its own day, and the night of the Lord's day includes also its own day; and hence it is true that He rose again after three days. 

Aug., Aug. in Serm., non occ.: He rose again after three days, to signify the consent of the whole Trinity in the passion of the Son; the three days' space is read figuratively, because the Trinity which in the beginning made man, the same in the end restores man by the passion of Christ. 

Raban.: "Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day." For Christ's disciples were spiritually thieves; stealing from the unthankful Jews the writings of the New and Old Testament, they bestowed them to be used by the Church; and while they slept, that is, while the Jews were sunk in the lethargy of unbelief, they carried off the promised Saviour, and gave Him to be believed on by the Gentiles. 

Hilary: Their fear lest the body should be stolen, the setting a watch on the tomb, and sealing it, are marks of folly and unbelief, that they should have sought [p. 972] to seal up the tomb of One at whose bidding they had seen a dead man raised from the tomb. 

Raban.: When they say, "And the last error will be worse than the first," they utter a truth unwittingly, for their contempt of penitence was worse for the Jews than was their error of ignorance. 

Chrys., Hom. lxxxix: Observe how against their will they concert to demonstrate the truth, for by their precautions irrefragable demonstration of the resurrection was attained. The sepulchre was watched, and so no fraud could have been practised; and if there was no collusion, it is certain that the Lord rose again. 

Raban.: Pilate's answer to their request is as much as to say, Be it enough for you that ye have conspired the death of an innocent man, henceforth let your error remain with you. 

Chrys.: Pilate will not suffer that the soldiers alone should seal. But as though he had learnt the truth concerning Christ, he was no longer willing to be partner in their acts, and says, Seal it as ye will yourselves, that ye may not be able to accuse others. For had the soldiers alone sealed, they might have said that the soldiers had suffered the disciples to steal the body, and so given the disciples a handle to forge a tale concerning the resurrection; but this could they not say now, when they themselves had sealed the sepulchre.