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St. Thomas Aquinas, 
Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), 
Parallel Gospel of Matthew 24:29-36
(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)
29. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:  
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn."  

Gloss., non occ.: As soon as the Lord has fortified the believers against the arts of Antichrist and his ministers, by shewing that His coming would be public, He proceeds to shew the order and method of His coming. 

Chrys.: By the tribulation, He means the times of Antichrist and the false Prophets; for when there are so many deceivers, the tribulation will be great. But it shall not extend through any great length of time. For if for the elect's sake the Jewish war is shortened, much more shall this tribulation be shortened for their sakes; for which reason He said not "After," but "Immediately after," for He shall come immediately after. 

Hilary: The darkening of the sun, the failing of the moon, and the fall of the stars, indicate the glories of His coming. 

Origen: One will say, As at the breaking out of great conflagrations, great darkness is at the first caused by the smoke, so when the world shall be consumed by fire, which shall be kindled, even the great luminaries shall be darkened; and when the light of the stars is decayed, the rest of their substance, incapable of exaltation, shall fall from heaven into what it was, when it was first raised aloft by the light. 

When this shall have taken place, it follows that the rational heavenly powers shall suffer dismay and derangement, and shall be suspended from their functions. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven," that sign by which the heavenly things were made, that is, the power which the Son wrought when He hung upon the cross. And the sign shall appear in heaven, that men of all tribes [p. 823] who before had not believed Christianity when preached, then by that sign, acknowledging it as made plain, shall grieve and mourn for their ignorance and sins. 

Others will think otherwise, that as the light of a lamp dies away by degrees, so when the supply of the heavenly luminaries shall fail, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon and the light of the stars shall grow dim, and that which in their composition is earthy shall fall from heaven. But how can it be said of the sun that its light shall be darkened, when Esaias the Prophet declares, that in the end of the world, there shall be light proceeding forth from the sun? [Isa 30:26] 

And of the moon he declares that it shall be as the sun. But concerning the stars, there are some that endeavour to convince us that all, or many of them, are larger than the whole earth. How then shall they fall from heaven, when this earth would not be large enough to contain them? 

Jerome: These things, therefore, shall not come to pass by any diminution of light, for in another place we read that the light of the sun shall be sevenfold; but by comparison with real light, all things shall seem dim. 

Raban.: But nothing hinders our supposing that the sun and moon with the other stars shall for a time lose their light, as we know did the sun at the time of the Lord's passion; as Joel also says, "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come." [Joel 2:31] 

But when the day of judgment is passed, and the life of future glory shall dawn, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, then shall that come to pass of which Isaiah speaks, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold. The stars shall fall from heaven," [Isa 30:26] is expressed in Mark; "There shall be stars falling from heaven," [Mark 13:25] that is, lacking their proper light. 

Jerome: "By the powers of heaven," we understand the bands of the Angels. 

Chrys.: Very fitly shall they be shaken and dismayed, seeing so mighty a change being wrought, their fellow-servants punished, and the universe standing before a terrible tribunal. 

Origen: But as, at the dispensation of the Cross, the sun was eclipsed, and darkness was spread over the earth; so when the sign of the Son of Man appears in heaven, the light of the sun, moon, and [p. 824] stars, shall fail, as though waning before the might of that sign. This we understand to be the sign of the cross, that the Jews. may see, as Zacharias and John speak, "Him whom they have pierced," [Zech 12:10, John 19:37] and the sign of victory. 

Chrys.: But because the sun will be darkened, the cross would not be seen, if it were not far brighter than the rays of the sun. That the disciples might not be ashamed, and grieve over the cross, He speaks of it as a sign, with a kind of distinction. The sign of the cross will appear to overthrow the shamelessness of the Jews, when Christ shall appear in the judgment, shewing not only His wounds, but His most ignominious death, "And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn." For when they shall see the cross, they shall bethink them how they have gained nought by His death, and that they have crucified Him whom they ought to have worshipped. 

Jerome: Rightly does He say, "the tribes of the earth," for they shall mourn who have no citizenship in heaven, but are written in earth. [Jer 17:13] 

Origen: Morally, one may say that the sun, which shall be darkened, is the Devil, who shall be convicted in the end of the world, that whereas he is darkness, he has feigned himself to be the sun; the moon, which seems to receive its light from this sun, is the Church of the wicked, which professes to have and to give light, but then convicted with its sinful dogmas, shall lose its brightness; and all those who, either by false teaching, or false virtues, promised truth to men, but led them astray by lies, these are fitly called stars falling from, so to say, their own heaven, where they were raised on high, exalting themselves against the knowledge of God. 

For illustration of this discourse, we may apply that place in Proverbs, which says, "The light of the just is unquenchable, but the light of the wicked shall be quenched." [Prov 4:18] Then the brightness of God shall appear in every one who has borne the image of the heavenly; and they of heaven shall rejoice, but they of earth shall lament. 

Aug., Ep. 199, 39: Or, the Church is the sun, moon, and stars, to which it is said, "Fair as the moon, bright as the sun. Then shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light," [Song of Songs 6:10] because in that ungoverned fury of wicked persecutors, the Church shall not be seen. 

"Then shall the stars fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be [p. 825] shaken," because many, who seemed to be shining in God's grace, shall give way to their persecutors, and shall fall, and even the stoutest believers shall be shaken. And these things shall be "after the tribulation of those days," not because they shall happen when the whole persecution is overpast, but because the tribulation shall be first, that the falling away may come after. And because it shall be so throughout all those days, it shall be "after the tribulation of those days," yet on those very days. 

[30] "And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."  

Chrys.: He adds this, that having heard of the cross, they should not now imagine a similar degradation. 

Aug., Ep. 199, 41: The first and most apparent meaning of this is of that time when He shall come to judge the quick and the dead in His body -- that body in which He sits at the right hand of the Father, in which He died and rose again and ascended into heaven. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles; "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out their sight," [Acts 1:9] upon which it was said by the Angels, "He shall so come as ye have seen Him go into heaven," we may reasonably believe that He will come again, not only in the same body, but also in a cloud. 

Origen: Therefore shall they see with the bodily eyes the Son of Man, coming in human shape, "in the clouds of heaven," that is, on high. As at the transfiguration, a voice came out of the cloud, so when He shall come again transformed into His glorious appearance, it shall be not on one cloud, but upon many, which shall be His chariot. And if when the Son of God went up to Jerusalem, they who loved Him spread their garments in the way, not willing that even the ass that carried Him should tread upon the earth; what wonder, if the Father and God of all should spread the clouds of heaven under the body of the Son, when He comes to the work of the consummation? 

And one may say, that as in the creation of man, God took clay from the earth and made man; so to manifest the glory of Christ, the Lord taking of the heaven, and of its substance, gave it a body [p. 826] of a bright cloud in the Transfiguration, and of bright clouds at the Consummation; wherefore it is here said, "in the clouds of heaven," as it was there said, "of the clay of the ground." [Gen 2:7] 

And it behoves the Father to give all such admirable gifts to the Son, because He humbled Himself; and He has also exalted Him, not only spiritually, but bodily, that He should come upon such clouds; and perhaps upon rational clouds, that even the chariot of the glorified Son of Man should not be irrational. 

At the first, Jesus came with that power with which He wrought signs and wonders in the people; yet was that power little in comparison of that great power with which He shall come in the end; for that was the power of one emptying Himself of power. And also, it is fitting that He should be transformed into greater glory than at the transfiguration on the mount; for then He was transfigured for the sake of three only, but in the consummation of the whole world, He shall appear in great glory, that all may see Him in glory. 

Aug.: But because the Scriptures are to be searched, and we are not to content ourselves with the surface of them, let us look closely at what follows, "When ye see all these things come to pass, know that he is near even at the door." We know then that He is near, when we see come to pass not any of the foregoing things, but all of them, among which is this that the Son of Man shall be seen coming. "And he shall send his Angels," who from the four quarters of the world shall gather together His elect. 

All these things He does at "the last hour" [1 John 2:18] coming in His members as in the clouds, or in the whole Church as in one great cloud, as now He ceases not to come. And "with great power and glory," because His power and glory will seem greater in the Saints to whom He will give great power, that they may not be overcome of persecution. 

Origen: Or He comes every day "with great power" to the mind of the believer in the clouds of prophecy, that is, in the Scriptures of the Prophets and the Apostles, who utter the word of God with a meaning above human nature. 

Also we say that to those who understand He comes with "great glory," and that this is the more seen in the second coming of the Word which is to the perfect. And so it may be, that all which the three Evangelists have said concerning Christ's [p. 827] coming, if carefully compared together and thoroughly examined, would be found to apply to His continual daily coming in His body, which is the Church, of which coming He said in another place, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man. sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven," [Matt 26:6] excepting those places in which He promises that His last coming in His own person. 

31. "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  

Origen: Because He had spoken of mourning, which shall be only that they may bear witness against themselves and condemn themselves, that none should suppose that that mourning will end their woes, He now adds, "And he shall send his Angels with a trump and a loud voice." 

Remig.: Here we are not to think of a real trumpet, but of the voice of the archangel, which shall be so loud that at its sound all the dead shall rise out of the dust of the earth. 

Chrys.: The sound of the trump refers to the resurrection, and the rejoicing, and to represent the astonishment which shall be then, and the woe of those that shall be left, and shall not be snatched up into the clouds. 

Origen: It is written in Numbers, that the Priests shall summon by the sound of the trumpet from the four winds those who are of the camp of Israel [Num 10:3], and it is in allusion to this that Christ speaks here of the Angels, "And they shall gather together the elect from the four winds." 

Remig.: That is, from the four quarters of the world, north, south, east, and west. 

Origen: Some of little discernment think, that only those who shall then be found in the body shall be gathered together, but it is better to say that the Angels of Christ shall then gather together not only all who from the coming of Christ to the end of the world have been called and chosen, but all from the foundation of the world, who like Abraham have seen the day of Christ and rejoiced therein. [marg. note: John 8:56] And that He here means not only those that shall be found in the body, but those also who have quitted the body, the following words shew, "from one end of heaven to the other," which cannot be meant of any one upon earth, 

Or, the heavens are the divine [p. 828] Scriptures and their authors [marg. note: al. autoritates] in which God dwells. "One end of heaven" is the beginning of the Scriptures, "the other" end is their conclusion. The saints there are gathered together "from one end of heaven," that is, from those that live in the beginning of the Scriptures to those who live in the ends of them. They shall be gathered together "with a trump and a loud voice," that they who bear and attend may prepare themselves for that way of perfection which leads to the Son of God. 

Remig.: Or otherwise; Lest any one should suppose that they should be gathered only from the four quarters of the world, and not from the middle regions, He adds this, "And from one end of heaven to the other." By the heights of heaven meaning the central regions of the earth, which are under the heights of heaven; and by the ends of heaven, meaning the extreme parts of the earth, where the land seems to join a very wide and distant horizon. 

Chrys.: That the Lord calls His elect by His Angels pertains to the honour of the elect; and Paul also says "that they shall be caught into the clouds;" [1 Thes 4:17] that is, the Angels shall gather together those that have risen, and when they are gathered together, the clouds shall receive them. 

32. "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:  
33. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.  
34. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.  
35. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away."  

Chrys., Hom. lxxvii: Because He had said that these things should come to pass "immediately after the tribulation of those days," they might ask, How long time hence, He therefore gives them an instance in the fig. 

Jerome: As much as to say, When the tender shoots first shew themselves in the stem of the fig tree, and the bud bursts into flower, and the bark puts forth leaves, ye perceive the approach of summer and the season of spring and growth; so when ye shall see all [p. 829] these things that are written, do not suppose that the end of the world is immediate, but that certain monitory signs and precursors are shewing its approach. 

Chrys.: He shews that the interval of time shall not be great, but that the coming of Christ will be presently. By the comparison of the tree He signifies the spiritual summer and peace that the just shall enjoy after their winter, while sinners on the other hand shall have a winter after summer. 

Origen: As the fig has its vital powers torpid within it through the season of winter, but when that is past its branches become tender by those very powers and put forth leaves; so the world and all those who are saved had before Christ's coming their vital energies dormant within them as in a season of winter. Christ's Spirit breathing upon them makes the branches of their hearts soft and tender, and that which was dormant within burgeons into leaf, and makes shew of fruit. To such the summer and the coming of the glory of the Word of God is nigh at hand. 

Chrys.: This analogy also adds credit to His foregoing discourse; for wherever He speaks of what must by all means come to pass, Christ ever brings forward parallel physical laws. 

Aug., Ep. 199, 22: That now from the Evangelic and Prophetic signs that we see come to pass, we ought to look that the Lord's coming should be nigh, who is there that denies? For daily it draws ever more and more near, but of the exact time it is said, "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons." [Acts 1:7] See how long ago the Apostle said, "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." [Rom 13:11] What he spoke was not false, and yet how many years have elapsed, how much more may we not say that the Lord's coming is at hand now, that so great an accession of time has been made? 

Hilary: Mystically; The Synagogue is likened to the fig tree; [ed. note: See above on chap xxi, 19] its branch is Antichrist, the son of the Devil, the portion of sin, the maintainer of the law; when this shall begin to swell and to put forth leaves, then summer is nigh, i.e. the approach of the day of judgment shall be perceived. 

Remig.: Or, when this fig shall again bud, that is, when the synagogue shall receive the word of holy preaching, as the preaching of Enoch and Elias, then we ought to understand that the day of the consummation is at hand. 

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 39: Or, by the fig tree understand the human race, by reason of the [p. 830] temptations of the flesh. "When its branch is tender," i.e. when the sons of men through faith in Christ have progressed towards spiritual fruits, and the honour of their adoption to be the sons of God has shone forth in them. 

Hilary: To give sure credit to the things which should come to pass He adds, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away until all these things be fulfilled." By saying "Verily," He gives asseveration to the truth. 

Origen: The uninstructed refer the words to the destruction of Jerusalem, and suppose them to have been said of that generation which saw Christ's death, that it should not pass away before the city should be destroyed. But I doubt that they would succeed in thus expounding every word from that, "one stone shall not be left upon another," to that, "it is even at the door;" in some perhaps they would succeed, in others not altogether. 

Chrys.: All these things therefore mean what was said of the end of Jerusalem, of the false prophets, and the false Christs, and all the rest which shall happen down to the time of Christ's coming, That He said, "This generation," He meant not of the men then living, but of the generation of the faithful; for so Scripture uses to speak of generations, not of time only, but of place, life, and conversation; as it is said, "This, is the generation of them that seek the Lord." [Ps 24:6] 

Herein He teaches that Jerusalem shall perish, and the greater part of the Jews be destroyed, but that no trial shall overthrow the generation of the faithful. 

Origen: Yet shall the generation of the Church survive the whole of this world, that it may inherit the world to come, yet it shall not pass away until all these things have come to pass. But when all these shall have been fulfilled, then not the earth only but the heavens also shall pass away; that is, not only the men whose life is earthly, and who are therefore called the earth, but also they whose conversation is in heaven, and who are therefore called the heaven; these "shall pass away" to things to come, that they may come to better things. 

But the words spoken by the Saviour shall not pass away, because they effect and shall ever effect their purpose; but the perfect and they that admit no further improvement, passing through what they are, come to that which they are not; and this is that, "My words shall not pass away." And perhaps the words of Moses and the Prophets have passed away, because all that they prophesied has [p. 831] been fulfilled; but the words of Christ are always complete, daily fulfilling and to be fulfilled in the saints. Or perhaps we ought not to say that the words of Moses and the Prophets are once for all fulfilled; seeing they also are the words of the Son of God, and are fulfilled continually. 

Jerome: Or, by "generation" here He means the whole human race, and the Jews in particular. And He adds, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," to confirm their faith in what has gone before; as though He had said, it is easier to destroy things solid and immovable, than that aught should fail of my words. 

Hilary: For heaven and earth have in their constitution no necessity of existence, but Christ's words derived from eternity have in them such virtue that they must needs abide. 

Jerome: The heaven and the earth shall pass away by a change, not by annihilation; for how should the "sun be darkened, and the moon not give her light," if earth and heaven in which these are should be no more? 

Raban.: The heaven which shall pass away is not the starry [marg. note: sidereum] but the atmospheric [marg. note: aereum] heaven which of old was destroyed by the deluge. 

Chrys.: He brings forward the elements of the earth to shew that the Church is of more value than either heaven or earth, and that He is Maker of all things. [marg. note: 2 Pet 3:5] 

36. "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.  

Chrys.: The Lord having described all the tokens that shall precede His coming, and brought His discourse to the [p. 832] very doors, yet would not name the day; "Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the Angels Of heaven, but my Father only." 

Jerome: In some Latin copies is added here, "neither the Son:" but in the Greek copies, and particularly those of Adamantius and Pierius, it is not found. [ed. note: The addition is found in a very few Greek MSS., and ancient versions, in Chrys. and Theophylact. It is in the Old Italic version, and is acknowledged by Hilary, Ambrose, and Pseudo-Chrys.; but the preponderance of evidence is greatly against it, and it is not admitted into the text of the G. T. by any editors. It probably crept in from the parallel passage in S. Mark. Adamantius is a surname of Origen. Pierius was a presbyter of Alexandria in the third century, whose learning occasioned him to be styled 'Origen the younger.'] But because it is read in some, it seems to require our notice. 

Remig.: And Mark has the addition. [Mark 13:32] 

Jerome: Whereat Arius and Eunomius rejoice greatly; for say they, He who knows and He who is ignorant cannot be both equal. Against these we answer shortly; Seeing that Jesus, that is, The Word of God, made all times, (for "By him all things were made, and without him was not any thing made that was made, [1 John 1:3]) and that the day of judgment must be in all time, by what reasoning can He who knows the whole be shewn to be ignorant of a part? 

This we will further say; Which is the greater, the knowledge of the Father, or the knowledge of the judgment? If He knows the greater, how can He be ignorant of the less? 

Hilary: And has indeed God the Father denied the knowledge of that day to the Son, when He has declared, "All things are committed to me of my Father?" [Luke 10:22] but if any thing has been denied, all things are not committed to Him. 

Jerome: Having then shewn that the Son of God cannot be ignorant of the day of the consummation, we must now show a cause why He should be said to be ignorant. When after the resurrection He is demanded concerning this day by the Apostles, He answers more openly; "It is not for you to know the times or the seasons which the Father has put in his own power." [Acts 1:7] Wherein He shews that Himself knows, but that it was not expedient for the Apostles to know, that being in uncertainty of the coming of their Judge, they should live every day as though they were to be judged that day. 

Aug., de Trin., i, 12: When He says here, "Knows not," He means, 'makes others not to know;' i.e. He knew not then, so as to tell His disciples; as it was said to Abraham, "Now I know that thou fearest God;" [Gen 22:19] i.e. 'Now have I caused that thou shouldest know,' because by the temptation he came to know himself. 

Aug., Serm., 97, 1: That [p. 833] He says that the "Father knoweth," implies that in the Father the Son also knows. For what can there be in time which was not made by the Word, seeing that time itself was made by the Word! 

Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest. Q60: That the Father alone knows may be well understood in the above-mentioned manner of knowing, that He makes the Son to know; but the Son is said not to know, because be does not make men to know. 

Origen: Otherwise; So long as the Church which is Christ's body knows not that day and hour, so long the Son Himself is said not to know that day and hour. The word "know" is used according to its proper usual meaning in Scripture. The Apostle speaks of Christ, as "him who knew no sin," [1 Cor 5:21] i.e. sinned not. The knowledge of that day and hour the Son reserves in store for the fellow-heirs of the promise, that all may know at once, i.e. in the day when it shall come upon them, "what things God hath prepared for them that love him." [1 Cor 2:9] 

Raban.: I have read also in some one's book, that "the Son" here is not to be taken of the Only-begotten, but of the adopted, for that He would not have put the Angels before the Only-begotten Son, saying, "Not the Angels of heaven, neither the Son." [ed. note: See further on this Passage, Hil. de Trin. ix. 58, cited in the Catena on Mark, xiii. 32, and Basil adv. Eunom. iv.] 

Aug., Ep. 199, 16: The Gospel then says, "Of that day and hour knoweth no man;" but you say, That neither the month nor the year of His coming can be known. This exactness of yours up to this point seems as if you meant that the year could not be known, but that the week or the decade of years might be known, as though it was possible to fix or assign it to some seven, ten, or a hundred, or some number of years more or less. If you allow that you cannot so limit it, you think with me.