St. Hilary on today’s Gospel from Matthew 12

St. Hilary of Poitier (+367) interpreted the passage from the Gospel of Matthew used for today’s celebration of Holy Mass (in the Novus Ordo). Here is a brief excerpt from Hilary Commentary on Matthew:

We must first point out the beginning of this passage: "At that time Jesus went through the standing grain." This is set at the time he gave thanks to God the Father for having given salvation to the people. The same meaning is given to what went before (his thanksgiving) and what came after (his walking in the fields). Note the relationships. Spiritually viewed, the land is the world, the sabbath is the day of rest, and the crop is the effect of future believers upon the harvest. Therefore, having gone out to a field on the sabbath, the day of rest under God’s law, he proceeded into this world, to visiting the crop, the sown field of the human race. And since hunger is the craving for human salvation, the disciples hasten to pluck of the ears of corn, namely, the holy people, to get their fill of salvation. But the grain is not yet ready for human consumption. Rather, the crop upholds faith in the events to come. The added power of words completes the sacrament that implies both hunger and fullness.

2. Ac principio contuendum est sermonem hunc ita coeptum esse: In illo tempore abiit Iesus per segetes, id est in eo tempore quo patri Deo gratiam data gentibus salute confessus est, ut idem sensus et superiora et consequentia contineret. Ergo per reliqua curramus. Ager mundus est, sabbatum otium est, seges crediturorum profectus in messem est. Ergo sabbato in agrum profectus in legis otio Domini progressus in hunc mundum est segetem eam, id est sationem humani generis inuisens. Et quia esuritio fames est salutis humanae, spicas praecerpere ac uellere, scilicet sanctorum se salute satiare discipuli festinant. Neque enim homini congruit cibus spicae neque praecerptarum esus est utilis aristarum, sed futuri fidem facti species exsequitur et uirtus interiecta uerborum sacramentum et esuritionis et satietatis absoluit. (On Matthew 12.2 – in SC 254:270)

This is an interesting allegorical exploration. Of particular interest is the paring of hunger and satiety, hope and salvation.

In this life we are still living in a time of hope even though our salvation is worked out for us already: already, but not yet. We are still waiting and striving for the fullness of what we have been given but a taste.

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