At that time: Jesus said to His disciples: Let your loins be girt and lamps burning in your hands, and you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding: that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching: amen I say to you that he will girt himself and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But this know ye, that if the householder did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch. and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Be you then also ready, for at what hour you think not the Son of man will come.
Verse 35. Let your loins be girded; i.e. be prepared to walk in the way of virtue; a comparison taken from the custom of the eastern people, who girded up their long garments, when they went about any business. Wi. — After our divine Saviour had given his disciples such excellent instructions, he wishes to lead them still farther in the path of perfection, by telling them to keep their loins girt, and to be prepared to obey the orders of their divine Master. By lamps burning in their hands he wished to insinuate, that they were not to pass their lives in obscurity, but to let their lights shine before men. Theophy.
Verse 38. In the first watch is childhood, the beginning of our existence, and by the second is understood manhood, and by the third is meant old age. He, therefore, who does not comply with our divine Master’s injunctions in the first or second watch, let him be careful not to lose his soul by neglecting to be converted to God in his old age. S. Greg. in S. Tho. Aquin.
Verse 39. Some have imagined that the devil, our implacable enemy, is designated by the thief, and our souls by the house, and man by the householder: yet this interpretation does not agree with what follows; for the coming of our Lord is compared to the thief, as if surprising us on a sudden. This latter opinion, therefore, seems to be the more probable one. Theophylactus.
35. Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36. And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. 37. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38. And if he shall come in the second watch, or in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
THEOPHYLACT. Our Lord having taught His disciples moderation, taking from them all care and conceit of this life, now leads them on to serve and obey, saying, Let your loins be girded, that is, always ready to do the work of your Lord, and your lamps burning, that is, do not lead a life in darkness, but have with you the light of reason, shewing you what to do and what to avoid. For this world is the night, but they have their loins girded, who follow a practical or active life. For such is the condition of servants who must have with them also lamps burning; that is, the gift of discernment, that the active man may be able to distinguish not only what he ought to do, but in what way; otherwise men rush down the precipice of pride. But we must observe, that He first orders our loins to be girded, secondly, our lamps to be burning. For first indeed comes action, then reflection, which is an enlightening of the mind. Let us then strive to exercise the virtues, that we may have two lamps burning, that is, the conception of the mind ever shining forth in the soul, by which we are ourselves enlightened, and learning, whereby we enlighten others.
MAXIMUS. Or, he teaches us to keep our lamps burning, by prayer and contemplation and spiritual love.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Or, to be girded, signifies activity and readiness to undergo evils from regard to Divine love. But the burning of the lamp signifies that we should not suffer any to live in the darkness of ignorance.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Evang.) Or else, we gird our loins when by continence we control the lusts of the flesh. For the lust of men is in their loins, and of women in their womb; by the name of loins, therefore, from the principal sex, lust is signified. But because it is a small thing not to do evil, unless also men strive to labour in good works, it is added, And your lamps burning in your hands; for we hold burning lamps in our hands, when by good works we shew forth bright examples to our neighbours.
AUGUSTINE. (de Qu. Ev. lib. ii. q. 25.) Or, He teaches us also to gird our loins for the sake of keeping ourselves from the love of the things of this world, and to have our lamps burning, that this thing may be done with a true end and right intention.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But if a man has both of these, whosoever he be, nothing remains for him but that he should place his whole expectation on the coming of the Redeemer. Therefore it is added, And be ye like to men that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding, &c. For our Lord went to the wedding, when ascending up into heaven as the Bridegroom He joined to Himself the heavenly multitude of angels.
THEOPHYLACT. Daily also in the heavens He betroths the souls of the Saints, whom Paul or another offers to Him, as a chaste virgin. (2 Cor 11:2.) But He returns from the celebration of the heavenly marriage, perhaps to all at the end of the whole world, when He shall come from heaven in the glory of the Father; perhaps also every hour standing suddenly present at the death of each individual.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Now consider that He comes from the wedding as from a festival, which God is ever keeping; for nothing can cause sadness to the Incorruptible Nature.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (Hom. 11. in Cant..) Or else, when the wedding was celebrated and the Church received into the secret bridal chamber, the angels were expecting the return of the King to His own natural blessedness. And after their example we order our life, that as they living together without evil, are prepared to welcome their Lord’s return, so we also, keeping watch at the door, should make ourselves ready to obey Him when He comes knocking; for it follows, that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) For He comes when He hastens to judgment, but He knocks, when already by the pain of sickness He denotes that death is at hand; to whom we immediately open if we receive Him with love. For he who trembles to depart from the body, has no wish to open to the Judge knocking, and dreads to see that Judge whom he remembers to have despised. But he who rests secure concerning his hope and works, immediately opens to Him that knocks; for when he is aware of the time of death drawing near, he grows joyful, because of the glory of his reward; and hence it is added, Blessed are the servants whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching. He watches who keeps the eyes of his mind open to behold the true light; who by his works maintains that which he beholds, who drives from himself the darkness of sloth and carelessness.
GREGORY OF NYSSA. (ubi sup.) For the sake then of keeping watch, our Lord advised above that our loins should be girded, and our lamps burning, for light when placed before the eyes drives away sleep. The loins also when tied with a girdle, make the body incapable of sleep. For he who is girt about with chastity, and illuminated by a pure conscience, continues wakeful.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. When then our Lord coming shall find us awake and girded, having our hearts enlightened, He will then pronounce us blessed, for it follows, Verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself; from which we perceive that He will recompense us in like manner, seeing that He will gird Himself with those that are girded. (Isa. 11:5.)
ORIGEN. For He will be girded about His loins with righteousness.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Ev.) By which He girds Himself, that is, prepares for judgment.
THEOPHYLACT. Or, He will gird Himself, in that He imparts not the whole fulness of blessings, but confines it within a certain measure. For who can comprehend God how great He is? Therefore are the Seraphims said to veil their countenance, because of the excellence of the Divine brightness. It follows, and will make them to sit down; for as a man sitting down causes his whole body to rest, so in the future coming the Saints will have complete rest; for here they have not rest for the body, but there together with their souls their spiritual bodies partaking of immortality will rejoice in perfect rest.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. He will then make them to sit down as a refreshment to the weary, setting before them spiritual enjoyments, and ordering a sumptuous table of His gifts.
PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS. (Dion. in Ep. ad Tit.) The “sitting down” is taken to be the repose from many labours, a life without annoyance, the divine conversation of those that dwell in the region of light enriched with all holy affections, and an abundant pouring forth of all gifts, whereby they are filled with joy. For the reason why Jesus makes them to sit down, is that He might give them perpetual rest, and distribute to them blessings without number. Therefore it follows, And will pass over (transiens) and serve them.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, Give back to them, as it were, an equal return, that as they served Him, so also He will serve them.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Ev.) But He is said to be passing over, when He returns from the judgment to His kingdom. Or the Lord passes to us after the judgment, and raises us from the form of His humanity to a contemplation of His divinity.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Our Lord knew the proneness of human infirmity to sin, but because He is merciful, He docs not allow us to despair, but rather has compassion, and gives us repentance as a saving remedy. And therefore He adds, And if he shall come in the second watch, &c. For they who keep watch on the walls of cities, or observe the attacks of the enemy, divide the night into three or four watches.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) The first watch then is the earliest time of our life, that is, childhood, the second youth and manhood, but the third represents old age. He then who is unwilling to watch in the first, let him keep even the second. And he who is unwilling in the second, let him not lose the remedies of the third watch, that he who has neglected conversion in childhood, may at least in the time of youth or old age recover himself.
CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA. Of the first watch, however, he makes no mention, for childhood is not punished by God, but obtains pardon; but the second and third age owe obedience to God, and the leading of an honest life according to His will.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. (Severus.) Or, to the first watch belong those who live more carefully, as having gained the first step, but to the second, those who keep the measure of a moderate conversation, but to the third, those who are below these. And the same must be supposed of the fourth, and if it should so happen also of the fifth. For there are different measures of life, and a good rewarder metes out to every man according to his deserts.
THEOPHYLACT. Or since the watches are the hours of the night which lull men to sleep, you must understand that there are also in our life certain hours which make us happy if we are found awake. Does any one seize your goods? Are your children dead? Are you accused? But if at these times you have done nothing against the commandments of God, He will find you watching in the second and third watch, that is, at the evil time, which brings destructive sleep to idle souls.
GREGORY. (ubi sup.) But to shake off the sloth of our minds, even our external losses are by a similitude set before us. For it is added, And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come.
THEOPHYLACT. Some understand this thief to be the devil, the house, the soul, the goodman of the house, man. This interpretation, however, does not seem to agree with what follows. For the Lord’s coming is compared to the thief as suddenly at hand, according to the word of the Apostle, The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. (1 Thess. 5:2.) And hence also it is here added, Be ye also ready, for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.
GREGORY. (Hom. 13. in Ev.) Or else; unknown to the master the thief breaks into the house, because while the spirit sleeps instead of guarding itself, death comes unexpectedly, and breaks into the dwelling place of our flesh. But he would resist the thief if he were watching, because being on his guard against the coming of the Judge, who secretly seizes his soul, he would by repentance go to meet Him, lest he should perish impenitent. But the last hour our Lord wishes to be unknown to us, in order as we cannot foresee it, we may be unceasingly preparing for it.