For the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, the gospel theme for the 28th Sunday in OT A, Jerome explains to us the meaning of the wedding garment and the symbol of the man whom the king found without. it The whole scenario of the wedding banquet points to the Last Judgment. His interpretation of the nuptial garment is not different from the one I propose in this article.
Gregory the Great gives Matthew 22:1-14 an allegorical meaning, which is suggested by the text itself. His extended homily (it must have been long in the delivery) gives a large picture of salvation history ending at the Last Judgment. For him the wedding garment is charity, and the one who did not have it is one who has been baptized and has received the faith, but has not integrated into his life the love of God. What he says about the “darknesses outside” has become a classic in the Church’s teaching about conscience. He who does not listen now to his conscience will be forced later on to listen to the Judgment of the King. And when he hears that Judgment, he won’t be able to say anything, since, he will recognize the King’s voice as that same one who has spoken to him from within all throughout his life.
“And the king having entered to see the guests, saw a man who was not clothed in the nuptial garment and he said to him, ‘Friend how did you enter here without the wedding garment?’ But he was silent. (Matthew 22:11-12)”. The wedding guests having been gathered from the highways and byways, from the plazzas and from the most diverse places, were already in the royal banquetting hall. But then the king came to see the guests seated around his table, that is, in a certain sense, those pacified in his faith (as in the day of judgment he will come to see those assembled to judge the merits of each one), he found one who was not wearing the wedding garment. In this one is included all those who are united in accomplishing evil. The nuptial garb symbolizes the precepts of the Lord and the works accomplished in the spirit of the Law and the Gospel. It is the clothing of the new man. If anyone who bears the name Christian, in the moment of judgment will be found without the wedding garment, that is, the garb of the heavenly man, and puts on instead a stained robe — the robe of the old man — he will be immmediately reprimanded and to him shall be said “Friend, why are you here?” He calls him friend because he is one of those invited to the wedding, and he rebukes his manner because with his dirty robe he has contaminated the purity of the wedding. “He was silent”, Jesus says. For at that moment, it will no longer be possible to repent, nor can one deny the fault, since the angels and the world itself will be witnesses to our sin.
“Therefore, the think said to his servants: ‘Tie him up hands and feet and throw him out in the darkness where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 22:13)”. To be tied hands and feed, the wailing, the gnashing of teeth — all these demonstrate the truth of the resurrection. Or, he is tied up hands and feet so that he would cease from doing evil and from running about to draw blood. In the wailing and gnashing of teeth is manifested metaphorically the gravity of the torments.
St. Jerome, In Matthaeum III 22, 8-11
The Wedding and the Rejected Invitations
God the Father set up a wedding for God the Son when he joined Him to human nature in the womb of the Virgin … He therefore sent his servants so as to invite the friends to this feast. He sent once, and then he sent again so as to make them preachers of the Incarnation of the Lord: first the prophets, then the apostles. Twice therefore did he sent servants to invite. In fact, through the prophets, he said that there would be the Incarnation of the Only Begotten. And then, through the apostles, he said that it already happened. But since those who have been invited the first time to the wedding banquet didn’t want to come, in the second, it is said: “Behold, I have prepared my dinner table; my cows and the fattened animals have been butchered. All is prepared (Matthew 22:4)”…
And the Gospel continues: “But these paid no attention and went away, one to his field, another to his business (Mt. 22:5)”. To go to one’s field is to give oneself immoderately to earthly labor; to go to one’s business is to seek with every care worldly profits. Since those who are intent upon earthly labor and he who is dedicated to the affairs of this world do not to think of the mystery of the Incarnation of the Lord and do not wish to live accordingly, they refuse to come to the banquet of the king like the one who goes to the field or to his business. Often — and this is graver — some not only refuse the grace of him who calls but also persecutes him. For this reason (the Gospel) adds: “Some grabbed his servants, insulted them and killed them.” So the king, after knowing of these things, sent out his troops, killed those assassins and put their city in flames (Matthew 22:6-7). He killed the murderers so as to put to death the persecutors. He put to the flames their city because in the flames of the eternal Gehenna, not only their souls are tormented but also the flesh they inhabit.
The New Invitation and the Mixed Guests
But he who whose invitation was despised would not see the wedding of his Son deserted. He sent out to call in others because even if the Word of God labors to be welcomed in some, it will however find a place to rest. For this reason (the Gospel) adds “He then said to his servants: ‘The wedding banquet is ready but the invited were not worthy of it. Go out to the streets outside and call those you will find to the wedding’ (Matthew 22:8-9).” If in the Sacred Scriptures we understand “streets” to be “works”, we understand “the streets outside” as “lack of work”, since many times they easily reach God who do not enjoy the favors of fortune in terrenal deeds. It then continues: “Going out into the streets, the servants gathered those whom they found, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled up with guests (Matthew 22:10).”
See that with this quality of guests, it is clearly indicated that the king’s wedding prefigures the Church of this present time, in which are reunited both good and bad. She is made up of different sons; she has generated all in faith but not all change their lifestyles, so she is not able to lead them to the freedom of spiritual grace on account of impediments put up by sin. While we live down here, it is necessary that we go mixed up through the by ways of this present world. We shall be separated when we shall have arrived. Only the good ones will be in heaven; onl the bad ones will be in hell. Now this life is placed between heaven and hell; because it is in an intermediate position, it receives citizes from both sides. However, what the Holy Church receives now with promiscuity, she will separate at the end of the world. If therefore you are bood while you stay in this life, patiently help the bad ones. In fact, who does not bear the bad ones shows oneself not to be good because of one’s impatience.
The Man Without the Wedding Garment
But brothers, since you have entered into the wedding hall — which is the Holy Church — by the grace of God, be watchful so that when the king enters, he will not have reason to reprimand the garment of your soul. In fact, one needs to think with pounding hearts, that which follows immediately. “The king entered to see the guests and saw one who was not wearing the nuptial robe (Matthew 22:11).” What, dearest brothers, is the meaning of the wedding garment? If we say that the wedding garment means baptism or the faith, who is the one who entered the wedding banquet without baptism and the faith? The one who has no faith is in fact excluded here. What should we understand then by the wedding garment, if not charity? One enters the wedding but without the wedding garment; who is he who is part of the Holy Church and has faith but does not have charity? It is correct to say that charity is the wedding garment because our Redeemer was clothed in it when he came to the wedding to join to himself the Church. It was only for the love of God that the only Begooten united to himself the souls of the elect. For this reason, John says: “God loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son (John 3:16)”. So He who came among men for charity reveals to us that this same charity is the wedding garment. Each of you who lives in the Church and believes in God has already entered the wedding banquet. But the one who does not take care of the grace of charity is the one who has come without the wedding garment. Let him, while being a guest at the wedding, does not have this robe, be filled with anxiety and fear at the coming of the king. He will be thrown outside. See how it is said: “The king entered to see the guests and saw one who did not wear the wedding garment.” We, dearest brothers, we are the guests at the wedding feast of the Word. We already have the faith of the Church, we nourish ourselves at the banquet of the Holy Scriptures and enjoy the union of the Church with God. Please consider whether you have come to this wedding feast with the wedding garment. Examine your thoughts attentively. Weight your hearts very carefully and see whether you don’t hate anyone, if there is no envy that inflames you against the happiness of another, if you are not thinking of damaging anyone with secret malice.
See the king enters the wedding hall and observes the clothings of our heart. And to him whom he does not find clothed in charity, he says angrily: “Friend, how were you able to enter here without the wedding garment?”. It is worth noting dearest brothers that he calls this one friedn and yet condemns him as if he has called him both friend and enemy at the same time. A friend in faith, an enemy in works. “And he was silent.” that is — and one could not speak of this without pain — in the last severe judgment, all possible excuse will be gone because he who rebukes from outside will also be the voice of conscience who accusses the soul from within…
Those who now allow themselves to be tied up to vices, will then be against their will tied up to torments. It is right then to sayy that they shall be thrown into the darknesses outside. We call the interior darkness the blindness of the heart. And we call outside darkness the eternal night of damnation. Each damned soul is not sent into the interior darkness but into the darknesses outside since he is thrown out against his will into the night of damnation him who voluntarily falls into the blindness of the heart. It is said also that there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. They will grind their teeth there who enjoy voracity now; and the eyes that here are given to illicit concupiscense will cry there. So this way, all those members which serve a particular vice will be put under torments.
Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen
Immediately after this one — who prefigures the host of evil doers — has been expelled, comes the general judgment that says: “Many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 20:16). This is frightening, dearest brothers, what we just heard! See: we have been called through faith and we are already in the nuptials of the heavenly king. We believe and profess the mystery of his Incarnation and we get nourishment from the food of the Divine Word. But the king still comes to judge. We know that we have been called. We do not know if we will be chosen. All the more is it necessary that each of us lowers himself in humility, since he does not know if he will be chosen. Some in fact will not begin to do what is good, others do not persevere in the good that they have begun. One would seem to conduct all his life in sin but towards the end, he repents of his sin through the laments of a rigorous penance. Another would seem to live the life of the elect and yet towards the end of his existence he falls into iniquity. One begins well and finishes better. Another gives himself to bad actions from childhood and ends up the same way after becoming worse. All the more should each one fear with utmost concern, the more he does not know what to expect. One needs to say it often so as never to forget it: “Many are called but few are chosen.”
Gregory the Great, Homily XXXVIII, 3.5-7.9.11-14
Originally posted 2008-09-11 00:45:39. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
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