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Matthew 22:1-14

Patristic Commentary:

overviews The Lord's table is open to all who are willing correctly to receive it. But it is impor­tant that each one examines how he or she ap­proaches. Both good and bad guests are present at this feast. All who excused themselves from this feast are inattentive, but not all those who entered in are good (augustine). The gracious-ness of God toward the people of faith can be compared with a wedding feast. The Father in heaven is making a marriage feast for his Son by joining the church to him through the mystery of his incarnation. The feast is ready, but some who appear are not worthy. This represents the church of this time, in which the bad are present along with the good, only to be separated in fi­nal judgment (gregory the great). The proper wedding garment is charity from a pure heart. The wedding garment is not baptism as such but love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (augus­tine). This is what our Creator possessed when he came to the marriage feast to join the church to himself. Meanwhile, prior to the final judg­ment, the good and bad exist side by side in the church (gregory the great).

22:1-2 The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like a Marriage Feast

invitation TO THE feast. gregory THE great: First we must ask whether this lesson in Matthew is what Luke describes as a dinner, since some details appear inconsistent. Here it is a midday meal, there a dinner; here the one who came to the marriage feast improperly dressed was cast out, and there none of those said to have entered is shown to have been cast out. From Matthew we can infer that in this pas­sage the marriage feast represents the church of the present time, and the dinner in Luke repre­sents the final and eternal banquet. Some who enter the one will leave it, but no one who has once entered the other will later go out. But if anyone argues that it is the same lesson, I think it better to save the faith and yield to another's interpretation than to give in to strife. Perhaps we can reasonably take it that Luke kept silent about the man Matthew said came without a marriage garment and was thrown out. That one called it a dinner and the other a midday meal does not stand in the way of my interpretation, because when the ancients took their daily mid­day meal at the ninth hour it was also called a dinner....

A clearer and safer thing to say is that the Fa­ther made a marriage feast for his Son by joining the church to him through the mystery of his in­carnation, The womb of the Virgin who bore him was the bridal chamber of this bridegroom, and so the psalmist says, "He has set his tent in the sun, and he is like a bridegroom coming forth from his bridal chamber." He truly came forth like a bridegroom from his bridal chamber who, as God incarnate, left the inviolate womb of the Virgin to unite the church to himself.

And so he sent his servants to invite his friends to the marriage feast. He sent once, and he sent again, because first he made the proph­ets and later the apostles preachers of the Lord's incarnation. He sent his servants twice with the invitation, because he said through the prophets that his only Son's incarnation would come about, and he proclaimed through the apostles that it had.

Because those who were first invited to the marriage banquet refused to come, he said in his second invitation, "See, I have prepared my meal; my oxen and fattened animals have been slain, and everything is ready." What do we take the oxen and fattened animals to be but the fathers of the Old and New Testaments? forty gospel homilies 38.1.3-4.

22:3-4 Come to the Marriage feast

everything Is ready. augustine: All the faithful know the story of the marriage of the king's son, and his feast. They know that the Lord's table is open to all who are willing cor­rectly to receive it. But it is important that each one examines how he approaches, even when he is not forbidden to approach.

The holy Scriptures teach us that there are two feasts of the Lord: one to which the good and evil come, the other to which the evil do not come. So then the feast of which we have just now heard when the gospel was being read has both good and evil guests. All who excused themselves from this feast are evil, but not all those who entered in are good. I now address you, therefore, who are the good guests at this feast. You are taking careful note of the words "For anyone who eats and drinks without recog­nizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." It is to you I speak. I plead with you not to look vainly for the good apart from the church but to bear with the evil within it. sermon 90.1.

22:5-7 Rejecting the Invitation, Persecuting the Messengers

the king was angry. gregory THE great: But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business. To go to your farm is to involve yourself excessively in earthly toil. To go to your business is to long for the gain brought by our worldly activity. One person is concerned with earthly toil, another devoted to the business of this world. Neither takes notice of the mystery of the Lord's incarnation. They are unwilling to live in accordance with it. As if they are proceeding to their farm or business, they refuse to come to the marriage feast of the king. Frequently, and this is a more serious mat­ter, some not only decline the gift of the one call­ing them but even persecute those who accept it. And so he adds, "The rest seized his servants, and, having insulted them, killed them. But the king, learning of this, sent his armies, destroyed those murderers and set fire to their city." He destroys the murderers because he has slain the persecutors; he sets fire to their city because not only their souls but even their bodies are tor­mented by the eternal flames of hell....

But the one who sees himself despised when he issues the invitations will not have the mar­riage feast of his son the king empty. He sends for others, because although God's word is in danger from some, it will find a place to come to rest. Then he said to his servants, "The mar­riage feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the byroads, and call to the marriage feast everyone you find." If we take the roads in holy Scripture to mean our actions, we interpret the byroads as our failed actions. Often it is those who meet no prosper­ity in their earthly actions who come readily to God.

And his servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, bad and good, and the marriage feast was filled with guests. The character of those at the banquet reveals clearly that the king's marriage feast represents the church of this time, in which the bad are present along with the good. The church is a thorough mix of various offspring. It brings them all to the faith but does not lead them all to the liberty of spiritual grace successfully by changes in their lives, since their sins prevent it. As long as we are living in this world we have to proceed along the road of the present age thor­oughly mixed together. We shall be separated when we reach our goal. Only the good are in heaven, and only the bad are in hell. This life is situated between heaven and hell. It goes on in the middle, so to speak, and takes in the citizens of both parts. The church admits them now without distinguishing them but separates them later when they leave this life. forty gospel homilies 38.5-7.

22:8 The Invited Guests Unworthy

those invited were not worthy. augustine; But someone will object. This is strange. What great matter is it that one man among this large crowd does not have a wedding garment? Why rivet attention on this one man? So what if he creeps in unperceived by the servants of the householder? How could it be said that because of just that one, "they invited in both good and bad together"? Attend therefore, beloved, and understand. This man represents a whole class of persons of whom there are many. sermon 90.4.

22:9-10 Gathering All Whom the Servants Found

grace given TO THE outcasts.  apollinaris: This wedding pictures the marriage of the church to the Word. The donation of the gifts of the wealthy provides for the wedding's preparation and is compared with bulls and fat­tened calves prepared for lavish feasting. For Paul says that "in every way" we have been "enriched" in Christ, in our "speaking and knowledge."The first and second are called servants. The first are those who run ahead in light of the coming of the Lord, fellow laborers and successors of the apostles. But a failure to watch carefully prevents those who are invited from attending. For they "who live their lives according to the flesh" do not follow the divine call which is according to Christ. In the case of the rest, with the calling of the nations there is no longer a separation of a people nor a special honor accorded to Israel. But grace is even [given] to the rejected and outcasts, "to the wise and to the foolish," as Paul says, to the evil and to the good, as the parable teaches ... if it is that they really obey the calling to do good, "having clothed themselves with the new humanity."14 If this proves not to be true, though they were called, they were not chosen. Rather, their call­ing is even overturned. fragment in 111.

22:11 A Guest with No Wedding Garment

no wedding garment. gregory THE great: But since you have already come into the house of the marriage feast, our holy church, as a result of God's generosity, be careful, my friends, lest when the King enters he find fault with some aspect of your heart's clothing. We must consider what comes next with great fear in our hearts. But the king came in to look at the guests and saw there a person not clothed in a wedding garment.

What do we think is meant by the wedding garment, dearly beloved? For if we say it is bap­tism or faith, is there anyone who has entered this marriage feast without them? A person is outside because he has not yet come to believe, What then must we understand by the wedding garment but love? That person enters the mar­riage feast, but without wearing a wedding gar­ment, who is present in the holy church. He may have faith, but he does not have love. We are correct when we say that love is the wedding garment because this is what our Creator him­self possessed when he came to the marriage feast to join the church to himself. Only God's love brought it about that his only begotten Son united the hearts of his chosen to himself. John says that "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son for us." forty gospel homilies 38.9.

22:12 The Guest Speechless

without A wedding garment. augus­tine: Note that "the master of the house came in to look at the guests." See, my beloved, the ser­vants' business was only to invite and bring in the good and bad. It is not said that the servants took notice of the guests, found among them a man who had no wedding garment and spoke to him. This is not written. The master of the house came in, the master saw him, the master of the house inspected, the master of the house hauled him off and threw him out. It is not fit­ting to pass over this quickly.But I have under­taken to establish another point, how that one man stands for many. "But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment; and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you get in here without a wed­ding garment?' And he was speechless." For the one who questioned him was one to whom he could give no deceptive reply. sermon 90.4.

22:13 Cost into Outer Darkness

binding OF hands AND feet. apollinaris: The binding of their feet and hands puts a check on all their activity.... The outer darkness speaks of those things far removed from divine virtue and glory. fragment 111.

cast him out. augustine: The garment that is required is in the heart, not on the body, for if it had been put on externally, it could not have been concealed even from the servants. But what is the wedding garment that must be put on? We learn it from these words, "May your priests be clothed with righteousness."It is of that garment of righteousness that the apostle speaks when he says, "Because when we are clothed, we are not found naked." In this way the unprepared man was discovered by the Lord of the feast, interrogated, bound and thrown out, one from among the many. sermon 90.4.

22:14 Many Called, Few Chosen

those WITH THE garment OF charity. augustine: What is that wedding garment, then? This is the wedding garment:" The goal of this command is charity," says the apostle, "which comes from a pure heart and a good con­science and a sincere faith." This is the wed­ding garment. Not charity of any kind whatever—for very often they who are partak­ers together of an evil conscience seem to love one another. Those who commit robberies to­gether, who love the destructive arts of witch­craft, and who go to the coliseum together and join together in the shout of the chariot race or the wild beast fight—these too in some sense very often may be said to love one another.

But in these is no charity from a pure heart, a good conscience and a faith unfeigned. The wed­ding garment is charity such as this: "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I have become like a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal." Suppose someone who speaks in tongues comes in and is asked, "How did you get in here without a wedding garment?"

Suppose he answers, "But I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains." But if he has no charity, he has nothing. Such may be the clothing of those who in fact lack the wedding garment, "Though," he says," I have all these and have not Christ, I am nothing." Is then "the gift of prophecy" nothing? Is then "the knowledge of mysteries" nothing? It is not that these are noth­ing. But, “I, if I have them, and have not charity, am nothing." sermon 90.6.



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