1 For this cause, I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ, for you Gentiles.
2 If yet you have; heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you;
3 How that, according to revelation, the mystery has been made known to me, as I have written above in a few words;
4 * As you reading may understand my prudence in the mystery of Christ,
5 Which in other generations was not known to the sons of men, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit:
6 That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs and of the same body, and co-partners of his promise in Christ Jesus, by the gospel.
The Apostle has previously recounted the many blessings of God granted to the human race and the Apostles themselves here he turns to God’s special blessings bestowed on himself.
First he sets forth his thought in a general way.
Secondly, he explains each part of it in detail (3:3).
Concerning the first he does two things:
First, he describes his condition in respect to patience and the sufferings he endures.
Secondly, in reference to the gifts of grace God has given him (3:2).
He remarks: I have said that “you also are built together into an habitation of God” (Eph. 2:22); For this cause, of your edification and conversion to Christ, I, Paul, am a prisoner at Rome; my greatness is in being an Apostle of Jesus Christ and a teacher of faith and truth to the nations. He wrote this letter from Rome where he was kept under custody. I labor even into bands, as an evildoer” (2 Tim. 2:9); I therefore, a prisoner in the Lord...” (Eph. 4:1). Certainly this indicates his suffering and pain amid the prison’s squalor.
Since it is not punishment that makes the martyr, but the reason [why he suffers], he inserts the cause of his tribulations. There are two causes in behalf of which someone can pursue martyrdom. One, if he should suffer for faith in Christ, or for any other virtue. “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a railer, or a coveter of other men’s things. But, if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed” (1 Pet. 4:15-16). With respect to this he affirms that he is a prisoner of Jesus Christ. The other is if one suffers for the utility of the Church, in regard to which he says for you Gentiles, that is, I long so much for conversion, and thus preach the word of salvation to you, that I have been thrown into prison. “We are in tribulation for your exhortation and salvation” (2 Cor. 1:6*). I now rejoice in my sufferings for you” (Col. 1:24).
Then he makes known the gift of grace given him, as though he said: I assert that I am a prisoner for you Gentiles, if yet you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you. This may be understood in two ways. In one, the dispensation is taken in a passive sense. Here, if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace means, if you have understood that this gift of being an apostle among the nations was dispensed to me. For, as is mentioned below: “To everyone of us is given grace, according to the measure of the giving of Christ... he gave some apostles, and some prophets...” (Eph. 4:7, 11). Whence the Lord Christ has given to me, that I should bear fruit s grace among you, and this has fallen to my lot by God’s grace. “I am made a minister of the Gospel” (Col. 1:23). I say the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me towards you, that is, I have been entrusted with dispensing those [graces].
In a second way, dispensation is taken actively so that the sense of if you have heard of the dispensation of the grace is, if you have understood what has been granted to me: that I might dispense gifts of grace through communicating the sacraments to you. “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (1 Cor. 4:1).
Subsequently, when he says how that, according to revelation... he makes known the several aspects of his condition in detail. In reference to which he does two things:
First, he treats of what pertains to the dignity of his office, namely, the dispensation of grace.
Secondly, what pertains to his experience of patience, namely, tribulations (3:13).
The first part contains two sections:
First, he discusses the dispensation of grace regarding the knowledge of various mysteries.
Secondly, regarding how these [mysteries] are carried into effect (3:7).
Once more the first section has two divisions:
First, he sets down the knowledge of the mysteries of Christ that was granted to him.
Secondly, he explains what that mystery is (3:6).
He makes three points in regard to his knowledge:
First, it is certain (3:3a).
Secondly, it is full (3:3b-4).
Thirdly, it is eminent (3:5).
Certain it is indeed, for he did not acquire it through human effort or human thought, which can err: “The thoughts of mortal men are timid, and our counsels uncertain” (Wis.9:14*). Instead it is through the divine law which is most certain. Hence he says according to revelation the mystery has been made known to me. “For neither did I receive it of man; nor did I learn it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1: 12). “We all, beholding the glory of the Lord with open face, are transformed into the same image (2 Cor. 3:18).
Moreover, it is a full [knowledge] since it is revealed perfectly to me, and I entrust it to your judgment. I write of it in few words, in which you can recognize that I enjoy a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of faith. And in regard to this he says as I have written above in a few words clearly, that as you are reading, you may understand. “Thy lips... are as a dropping honeycomb” (Cant. 4:11). Lips are small; and those of a doctor are as “a dropping honeycomb” when he conveys many and profound thoughts in a few short words. Nevertheless, note that Augustine remarks how a doctor should aim at being understood. As long as he strives for this his words are not superfluous, but if he remains on a point after he is understood he wastes his words. He adds my prudence since “the knowledge of the holy is prudence” (Prov. 9:10). This is not worldly but divine and heavenly, for which reason he states in the mystery of Christ.
It is also eminent since it was revealed to the Apostles alone. Hence he adds which in other generations was not known. For although the mysteries of Christ were revealed to the prophets and patriarchs, they were more clearly revealed to the Apostles. To the prophets and patriarchs they were revealed in vague generality; but they were shown in their singular and determinate circumstances to the Apostles.
Other generations admits of a twofold explanation. In one, by generations the times of the generations are understood, as in Psalm 144 (13): “Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” Then the meaning is which in other generations, that is, times, [the mystery] was not known to the sons of men, to no rational creature, neither to men nor to angels. “Thou has hid these things from the wise and the prudent, and hast revealed them to little ones” (Mt. 11:25). As it is now revealed to his holy Apostles and prophets in the Spirit, to them, namely, who interpret the Scriptures and explain the Law in the spirit of the New Testament. “To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to the rest in parables” (Lk. 8:10). “And turning to his disciples he said: Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see and have not seen them” (Lk. 10:23-24).
Another interpretation takes generations in the sense of human generations, as in Matthew 23 (36): “All these things shall come upon this generation.” Then the meaning is which in other generations was not known to those men, that is, who were born in the preceding generations. The rest [is interpreted] as above. “Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?” (Is. 53:1).
But certainly this sacrament of faith was revealed to some of the Old Testament fathers, as is implied in John 8 (56): “Abraham, your father, rejoiced that he might see my day; he saw it and was glad.” And [it was also revealed] to the prophets, according to Joel 2 (28): “And it shall come to pass after this, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy.” But it was revealed to them in certain generalities, whereas [it was disclosed] to the Apostles clearly and completely. Three reasons account for this. First, because the Apostles received the revelation immediately from the Son of God: “The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (Jn. 1:18). The prophets and fathers of the Old Testament, on the other hand, were taught by angels, or through some similar imagery: “And one of the seraphims flew to me: and in his hand was a live coal which he had taken with the tongs off the altar” (Is. 6:6). Hence, the Apostles received it more clearly. Secondly, they did not see in symbols and riddles as the prophets did, but were given a plain view of the Lord’s glory: “Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see” (Lk. 10:23). Thirdly, since the Apostles were meant to carry into effect and communicate this sacrament, it was necessary for them to be more instructed in it than others. “Others have labored; and you have entered into their labors” (Jn. 4:38).
Consequently, when he states that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, he makes known what the sacrament is. In reference to it, it should be recognized that the Jews enjoyed three prerogatives with respect to the Gentiles. They had the promised inheritance: “For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world; but through the justice of faith” (Rom. 4:13); “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance” (Ps. 15:5). Another was their special election, they were set apart from the Gentiles: “The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be his peculiar people of all peoples that are upon the earth” (Deut. 7:6). “We are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 99:3); “One is my dove: my perfect one is but one” (Cant. 6:8). Finally, they had the promise of a Christ: “In thee shall all the kindred of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
These three the Gentiles did not enjoy: “You were at that time without Christ, being aliens to Israel’s way of life” (Eph. 2:12 ‘). By faith, however, they have received them. First, they share in the inheritance; concerning this he says fellow heirs with the Jews in the heavenly inheritance. “And I say to you that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 8:11). Second, [they are admitted] to the chosen community of believers; thus he states of the same body, that is, in one body. “And other sheep I have that are not of this fold,” namely, the Gentiles, “them also I must bring. And they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold and one shepherd” (Jn. 10:16). Third, [they are admitted] to a participation in the promised grace; he says they are co-partners of his promise, the promises made to Abraham. “For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers; but that the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy” (Rom. 15:8-9).
The Gentiles have acquired all this, not through Moses, but in Christ. “For the Law was given by Moses; grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17), “by whom he hath given us most great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). Moreover, these did not come through fulfilling the law, whose burden “neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (Ac. 15: 10), but by the gospel through which all men are saved. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). “Now I make known unto you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you have received and wherein you stand. By which also you are saved” (1 Cor. 15:1-2).
7 * Of whom I am made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God, which is given to me according to the operation of his power.
8 To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ;
9 And to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God who created all things.
After the Apostle has discussed the grace given him relative to the knowledge of divine mysteries (3:3), he indicates the same with respect to carrying these mysteries themselves into effect. Concerning this he makes two points:
First, he acknowledges the assistance of grace granted him to put them into practice.
Secondly, he speaks of the ministerial duty confided to him (3:8).
The first has two divisions:
First, he briefly treats of putting divine mysteries into effect.
Secondly, he shows how help has been given him (3:7b).
The realization of divine realities was committed to him by way of a ministry. He says in relation to this: I assert that this ministry has been entrusted to me, that the Gentiles are co-heirs by the Gospel and through it they share as well in God’s promise in Christ Jesus, of whom I am made a minister. As though he stated: I do not fulfill or carry out [this mystery] as if it came from me or was mine, but as a ministry belonging to God. ‘Tor this man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles” (Act. 9:15). “Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (I Cor. 4:1).
When he writes according to the gift of the grace of God he touches on the aid granted him to carry out the mysteries. This type of assistance was twofold. One was the capacity to put them into effect, and another was the very actions or activities themselves. God bestows the capability by infusing the virtue and grace through which a man is able and fit for action; while he confers the action itself insofar as be moves us interiorly and spurs us on to good. Receiving both from God, the Apostle acknowledges the first in saying: I am made a minister, certainly not on my own merits, nor by my own virtue, but according to the gift of the grace of God which is given to me. For I was made worthy to realize the divine mysteries which previously I had persecuted. I have labored more abundantly than all they. Yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). In reference to the second he states according to the operation which God effects inasmuch as his power causes us both to will and to act in accord with good will.
This can be interpreted in another way according to a Gloss. What is said here refers to what immediately preceded (v. 6). For the pagans to have become co-heirs, and of the same body, and co-partners of God the Father’s promise-this is a gift God gave the Gentiles in Christ. That is, they come through Christ, according to the operation of his power in that he has powerfully acted in raising Christ from the dead.
Next (v. 8), he speaks of the duty entrusted to him; the grace of such a commission has three qualities to recommend it:
First, the condition of the person himself [to whom it is entrusted].
Secondly, the greatness of what is confided to him (3:8b).
Thirdly, the good that results as its fruit (3:10 ff.).
The office confided to him is recommended from this person’s condition. For if some king entrusted an important office to a great and high-ranking prince, he would not be doing him a very great favor since he would be placing an important person in an important position. But if he entrusts a great and exceedingly difficult duty to an insignificant person, he would greatly honor him and do him a considerable favor; the more so in proportion as the eminence of the office exceeds him. In this fashion Paul praises the gratuity of the office confided to himself: To me, the least of all the saints, is given this grace. He calls himself the least, not because of the power granted him, but in recognition of his former state: “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:9). “The least shall become a thousand, and a little one a most strong nation” (Is. 60:22). This [duty was to be fulfilled] among the Gentiles, that is, throughout the nations. “For he who wrought in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision wrought in me also among the Gentiles. And, when they had known the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision” (Gal. 2:8-9).
In the second place (3:8b), the grace of his mission is commended by reason of the magnitude of his task: to reveal and clarify the great and hidden secrets of God. Think of the greatness of Christ and of the salvation of those who believe which he accomplished. The entire Gospel concerns these two.
Regarding the first he says to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, as if to assert: To proclaim the good is the grace given me. “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel” (I Cor. 1: 17). “Woe unto me if I preach not the gospel” (I Cor. 9:16). This good is the unsearchable riches of Christ which are true wealth. “God who is rich in mercy... hath quickened us together in Christ” (Eph. 2:4); “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and patience, and longsuffering?” (Rom. 2:4); “The same is Lord over all, rich unto all that call upon him” (Rom. 10:12). These riches are unsearchable indeed, he affirms, since they are as great as his mercy which can be neither understood nor analyzed. “Riches of salvation, wisdom and knowledge: the fear of the Lord is his treasure” (Is. 33:6), referring to Christ since reverence of the Lord found its most plentiful expression in Christ. “And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord” (Is. 11:3).
In Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). They are unsearchable because Christ’s wisdom and knowledge cannot be analyzed. “Peradventure thou wilt comprehend the steps of God, and wilt find out the Almighty perfectly?” (Job 11:7). The implied answer is, No. For creatures, in whom a trace of their Creator is visible, do not provide us with a perfect understanding of Him. Struck by the wonder of these riches, the Apostle exclaimed: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments, and how unsearchable his waysl” (Rom. 11:33). “Who hath searched out the wisdom of God that goeth before all things?” (Ecclus. 1:3).
Concerning the second—to make known the salvation which comes from Christ to those who believe—he says to enlighten all men, not only the Jews, but the Gentiles as well, through preaching and miracles. I will enlighten all that hope in the Lord” (Ecclus. 24:45). “This man is to me a vessel of election, to carry my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Ac. 9:15); “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14). To enlighten, I say, insofar as I can, all who want to believe. For God “will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4) in order that they might understand what is the dispensation of the mystery. For these [mysteries] would be of no use if they were not imparted [to men]. As if he claimed: I shall enlighten men on how awe-inspiring the mystery of our redemption is, and from what an immense love it was accomplished. Inexhaustible riches of this sort are imparted to you through Christ.
Yet it might be objected: What you speak of is known to all, even if it is great. The Apostle gives a negative reply, it hath been hidden from eternity. Here it should be noted how everything present in an effect is concealed in the power of its causes. For example, in the power of the sun is contained everything that exists among the realities which come into being and cease to be. Nevertheless, certain [effects] are hidden there, and others are evident. For instance, heat is evidently in fire while the intelligibility of other [effects], which it produces in a more hidden manner, are said to be concealed in it. Now God is the efficient cause of everything; be makes some things whose intelligibility is open [to investigation], namely, those created through the mediation of second causes. Other effects, however, which he immediately produces by himself are hidden in him.
Since God accomplished by himself the mystery of buman redemption, this mystery is hidden in him alone. Thus he states that it is hidden from eternity in God, known to him only. Yet, to seek out the secrets of the First Cause is the greatest [wisdom]: “We speak wisdom among the perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, neither of the princes of this world that come to nought. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, a wisdom which is hidden, which God ordained before the world” (1 Cor. 2:6-7). He, I say, who created all things.
10 That the manifold wisdom of God may be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places through the church,
11 * According to a pre-determining of the ages which he made in Christ Jesus our Lord;
12 * In whom we have assurance and access with confidence by the faith of him.
Once he has set forth the dignity of his office that arises from the magnitude of what it entrusts to him (3:8), the Apostle here gives evidence of his office’s worth from the utility of its effect. This consists in the revelation of great realities to eminent persons. Three points are to be considered regarding this:
First, to whom the revelation is directed (3:10a).
Secondly, through whom it is made known, at through the church (3:10b).
Thirdly, what is revealed, namely, the manifold wisdom of God (3:10a).
The Apostle touches on four points in his description of this wisdom:
First, its many facets (3:10).
Secondly, how it is so manifold (3:11a).
Thirdly, the source of this multiplicity (3:11b).
Fourthly, the effect of its coming from that source (3:12).
The wisdom which is revealed is manifold. Job 11 (5) briefly speaks of this diversity: “And I wish that God would speak with thee, and would open his lips to thee, that he might shew thee the secrets of wisdom, and that his law is manifold.” “For in her,” namely, divine wisdom, “is the spirit of understanding: holy, one, manifold” (Wis. 7:22). Manifold that is, in her effects, yet one in her essence.
The way this revealed knowledge is many-sided is according to a pre-determining of the ages, meaning the differentiation and limitation of the various times. For God plans something to exist at one time, and others at another time. In this fashion such wisdom is referred to as manifold according to a pre-determining of the ages since he provides different times with different events.
The source of this multiplicity is Christ; hence he says which God made in Christ Jesus our Lord, that is, through Christ. For he himself alters times and their states: “God, who, at sundry times and in diverse manners, spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days hath spoken to, us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the ages” (Heb. 1:1-2*). Which he made in Christ Jesus may refer to eternal predestination since the Father accomplishes this in his Son: “He chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy” (Eph. 1:4). For the Son himself is the wisdom of the Father, and nothing is determined or foreordained except through wisdom. Or which he made in Christ Jesus may refer to the fulfillment of eternal predestination which God the Father brings to completion through the Son. We are those “upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11*).
The effect of this source [auctoris] consists in a great fruit which comes to us from Christ. This is expressed at in whom we have assurance... Concerning this he does two things:
First, he puts down the blessings we receive.
Secondly, he designates through what we receive them (3:12b).
There are two goods which we obtain. One pertains to the hope of attaining [to our reward]; and in reference to this he says in whom, namely Christ, we have assurance of arriving at heaven and our eternal inheritance. “Have confidence, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). “Such assurance we have, through Christ, towards God” (2 Cor. 3:4*). The second good pertains to the power of attaining to [our reward]; in respect to which he states that we have access with confidence. “Let us go, therefore, with confidence to the throne of his glory” (Heb. 4:16*). “Thou shalt call me father and shall not cease to walk after me” (Jer. 3:19). “By whom [Christ] also we have access through faith into this grace wherein we stand; and glory in the hope of the glory of the sons of God” (Rom. 5:2).
The means by which these are given us is by the faith of him, namely, of Christ. “Being justified, therefore, by faith, let us have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5: 1).
That we might summarize [what has been said above] briefly, I assert that God’s many-faceted wisdom is revealed in the differentiation and pre-determining of the ages, which gives us assurance and access to the Father by faith in him.
He discusses those to whom the manifold wisdom of God is revealed in that text (3:10) previously not mentioned: that it may be made known to the principalities and powers, from which its greatness is evident. And, since there are also princes and potentates on earth, he adds in heavenly places meaning in heaven, where we shall be. Note here that Principalities and Powers are two ranks which, by their very names, designate a preeminence in action. The rank of Powers is ordered to check any hindrances to salvation, while the rank of Principalities takes the lead and gives commands that [salvation] might be carried into effect properly. The regulative function of the Principality rank is evident from that text of Psalm 67 (26-28): “Princes went before joined with singers... The princes of Juda are their leaders.” The repressive function of the Powers is clear in Romans 13 (3-4): “Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good; and thou shalt have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to thee, for good. But, if thou do that which is evil, fear; for he beareth not the sword in vain. For he is God’s minister; an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.” Hence, those to whom [the mystery] is made known are eminent; the holy angels by whom the saints are directed and protected.
The means through which the manifold wisdom of God is made known to them is designated by his saying through the church. This presents no small problem. For a Gloss has “That is, through the Apostles preaching in the Church.” This is one way it could be understood, the angels are taught by the Apostles, and this seems to have some grounds to it. For we notice that in heaven the higher angels, who are enlightened immediately by God, illumine and teach the lower angels who are not enlightened immediately by God. Therefore, it does not seem uneasonable that the Apostles should teach the angels since they were taught immediately by God according to John 1 (18): “The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
However, another factor upsets the sufficiency of this [interpretation]. For there are two natures in Christ, the divine and the human. The Apostles were taught immediately by Christ in his human nature; but the angels immediately intuit the divine nature—even the lower angels, otherwise they would not be happy, since the beatitude of a rational creature can consist in the vision of the Divine Essence alone.
It certainly would be unseemly and absurd for us to maintain that the saints in the fatherland could be taught by even the most perfect of those still on their way [to heaven]. Although among men bom of women none greater than Jqhn the Baptist has arisen, yet “he that is the lesser in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Lk. 7:28*). To hold that the demons could be instructed by men is, at first glance, credible. But that the blessed could be educated by pilgrims when they immediately behold the Word, the spotless mirror reflecting all being, this should not be held and does not appear proper.
Therefore, it must be asserted that the angels are instructed through the church, that is, through the apostolic preaching, as the Gloss maintains, in such a way that they are not taught by the Apostles, but in them. Augustine remarks, in his Super Genesim ad Litteram, that before God created [material] beings, he impressed on the angelic minds the intelligible patterns of natural realities. The “before” designating the order of nature and not of time, since from the standpoint of time everything was created together. As a result, angels know natural things in two ways. They know them in the Word, and this is termed their morning knowledge; and they know them in their own proper natures, this is referred to as their evening knowledge.
Further, there exist certain intelligible patterns [operative in] the mysteries of grace which transcend the whole of creation. These intelligible patterns are not impressed on the angelic minds but are bidden in God alone. Thus the angels do not grasp them in themselves, nor even in God, but only as they unfold in the events [which the mysteries] effect. Now, the intelligible patterns relative to God’s manifold wisdom belong to this category. They are hidden in God and gradually unfold in external effects. Clearly, therefore, the angels will understand them neither in themselves, nor in the Word, nor by the Apostles or any other wayfarer. Rather, they know [the mysteries of grace] hidden in the Divine Mind as they unfold in the Apostles themselves. This is like the case of a house, or the concept of a house to be built, in the mind of an architect. As long as it remains in his mind it can be known to no one—except God who alone penetrates into human souls. However, once the concepts are realized externally in the construction, in the house after it is built, anyone can learn from the building what previously was concealed in the architect’s mind. Yet, they are not taught by the house but in the house.
There is still another interpretation of that it may be made known to the principalities and powers in which the conjunction that is not taken causally, but in a certain way, consecutively. Thus it would read: To make known what is the dispensation of the mystery hidden for ages in God who has created all reality; hidden, nonetheless, in such a way that it was made known to Principalities and Powers. The sacrament was concealed in God in such a manner that he later revealed it to the Principalities and Powers, not from eternity but from the time they began to exist, for every creature has a beginning. This was not through the earthly Church but through the heavenly one—the true Church who is our mother and to whom we tend; on her is our militant Church patterned. Thus the through signifies only a natural sequence, [the, mysteries] are made known “through the heavenly Church” in the sense that it is passed on from one to another. As when it is said: That fact is known throughout [per] a whole realm or city because the news travelled from one person to another in their conversations. Acts 9 (42) uses this figure of speaking in reference to St. Peter’s raising of Tabitha: “And it was made known throughout all Joppe; and many believed in the Lord.”
On the other band, the Teacher comments on the text of Augustine in such a way that “to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been hidden from eternity in God” (Eph. 3:9) occurs through the Church, that is, to all men who are in the earthly Church. But this is not in accord with Augustine’s thought. Here it could be asked whether the angels knew of the mystery of the Incarnation from the beginning of the world. The Teacher replies that it was known to the higher angels but not the lower ones. So the lower angels ask: “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bosra?” (Is. 63:1). This opinion contradicts that of Blessed Dionysius who sees in the Holy Scriptures two questions asked by the angels about Christ. The first is from Psalm 23 (8): “Who is this King of Glory?” and the other is from Isaias 63 (1): Who is this that cometh from Edom?” According to Dionysius, the first is asked by the lower angels and the second by the higher. He bases this on the fact that God does not reply to the first, but someone else says: “The Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory” (Ps. 23:10). Whereas the second is answered by God immediately: I, that speak justice and am a defender to save” (Is. 63:1). Hence, Dionysius prefers to say that both were ignorant of some [aspects of the mystery] and knew others. From the beginning all knew the mystery of the Incarnation in a general fashion, but as time passedor in the temporal process—they learned its detailed intelligible patterns when they were explicated in external events.
13 Wherefore I pray you not to faint at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
14 For this cause I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named;
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened by his Spirit with might unto the inward man;
17 That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts; that, being rooted and founded in charity.
After the Apostle has dealt with the dignity of the office belonging to his position (3:3), he goes on to speak of his tribulations and sufferings. In reference to this he does two things:
First, he exhorts them lest they be troubled by his sufferings; they should have patience.
Secondly, since divine assistance is necessary if man is not to become agitated, he prays that they might accomplish this through divine grace (3:14).
About the first he says: Due to the importance and security of my office, which I have through faith in Christ, it happens that I suffer tribulations; but they neither daunt me nor can they tear me away from Christ. “Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation? Or distress? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or danger? Or persecution? Or the sword?” (Rom. 8:35). As though he affirmed that nothing can. Wherefore I urge and pray you not to faint at my tribulations. My sufferings should not be an occasion for you to fail in faith or in good works at all. “Think diligently upon him [Jesus] that endureth such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds” (Heb. 12:3).
I declare that you must not be disheartened, they are for you, for your own utility. “Whether we be in tribulation, it is for your exhortation and salvation; or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation; or whether we be exhorted, it is for your exhortation and salvation, which worketh the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer, that our hope for you may be steadfast, knowing that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so shall you be also of the consolation” (2 Cor. 1:6-7). Or, he says for you meaning, for your testing: “As gold in the furnace he hath proved them, and as a victim of a holocaust he hath received them” (Wis. 3:6).
Which is your glory if you do not fall but remain steadfast in sufferings, for “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved” (Mt. 10:22). In a different way, which is your glory, that is, the endurance of our trials is to your own glory in that God exposes his Apostles and prophets to sorrows and pains on account of your salvation. “For this reason have I hewed them in the prophets, I have slain them by the words of my mouth” (Os. 6:5*). “We are your glory, as you also are ours, in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 1:14).
As a consequence he goes on (v. 14) to implore assistance for them through a prayer that they might derive advantage from his exhortation.
First, he sets down the prayer.
Secondly, confident of its being heard, he adds a thanksgiving (3:20).
The first part has three sections:
First, he mentions to whom the prayer is addressed.
Secondly, the intention of the prayer (3:16).
Thirdly, the prayer’s fruit (3:18).
Humility makes a prayer worthy of being heard: “He hath had regard to the prayer of the humble: and he hath not despised their petition” (Ps. 101:18). And, “The prayer of him that humbleth himself shall pierce the clouds: and till it come nigh he will not be comforted.” (Ecclus. 35:21). Therefore, he immediately starts his prayer in humility, saying For this cause that you fail not in the faith I bow my knees to the Father. This is a symbol of humility for two reasons. First, a man belittles himself, in a certain way, when he genuflects, and he subjects himself to the one he genuflects before. In such a way he recognizes his own weakness and insignificance. Secondly, physical strength is present in the knees; in bending them a man confesses openly to his lack of strength. Thus external, physical symbols are shown to God for the purpose of renewing and spiritually training the inner soul. [This is expressed] in the prayer of Manasse: I bend the knee of by heart...” “For every knee shall be bowed to me: and every tongue shall swear” (Is. 45:24).
He describes next the person to whom the prayer is directed, God, whom he portrays in his nearness and in his authority. For from his relationship to us we are encouraged to pray with confidence. In this regard he states to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and whose children we are also. “Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). “Thou, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer: from everlasting is thy name” (Is. 63:16). We are confirmed in the hope of obtaining what we ask for with confidence by his authority since from him all paternity in heaven and earth is named.
At this point the question arises if there is any paternity in heaven. A quick answer would be that in heaven means that paternity is present in God and in Divinity, and that this is the source of all fatherhood. But this is not questioned here, it is known to all the faithful. It is asked whether in heaven, that is, in the angels, there is any paternity.
To this I reply that paternity exists only among beings who live and who know. But life is twofold: it is either actual or potential. To possess the vital activities in potency is to be potentially alive; for example, a person who is sleeping is said to be potentially alive in regard to the external actions [he performs when awake]. But when someone actually performs the vital activities, he is alive in act. Thus, not only he who transmits the potency to life is the father of him to whom he gives it, but also he who communicates an act of life can be called a father. Therefore, whoever stimulates another to some vital act, whether it be to good activity, to understanding, to willing or loving, can be given the name of father. “For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers” (1 Cor. 4:15). Likewise, in the hierarchical acts by which one angel illumines, perfects, and purifies another, it is evident that that angel is the father of the other—just as a teacher is the father of his disciples.
Some doubt that the fatherhood in heaven and on earth is derived from the paternity which exists in the Divinity. It seems not to be, for we give names in accordance with our knowledge of the reality named. And whatever we do know is through creatures; hence, the names we give to the things themselves are applicable primarily, and to a greater degree, to creatures rather than God.
I reply and state that the name of anything we name can be taken in two ways. In one it is expressive or symbolic of an intellectual concept, since words are the marks or signs of the impressions or concepts that are in the soul. In this perspective a name refers to creatures more than to God. However, in the second [the name] discloses the quiddity of the external object which is named; thus it will refer more to God. Therefore, the word paternity, when it signifies a concept formed by our intellect as it is naming a thing, will primarily be applicable to creatures instead of God since creatures are more known to us than God. But when it signifies the reality itself which has been named, then [this reality] is primarily in God rather than in us. For certainly all the power to procreate present in us is from God. So he says of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named as though to affirm: The fatherhood present in creatures is, as it were, nominal or vocal; but the divine fatherhood by which the Father communicates his whole nature to the Son without any imperfection, this is true paternity.
Next (v. 16), he discloses what he prays for:
First, he does this.
Secondly, he shows through whom he can ask for what he desires (3:16b).
Thus he says: I ask that you do not give up, but be steadfast like men. Yet I know that by yourselves you cannot achieve this without God’s gift, so I beg that he would grant it to you since “every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17). He will do this according to the riches of his glory, that is, in accord with his overflowing majesty and grandeur. “Glory and riches are in his house” (Ps. 111:3), and “With me are riches and glory” (Prov. 8:18). Riches, I say, which will cause you to be strengthened with might. “It is he that giveth strength to the weary, and increaseth force and might to them that are not” (Is. 40:29). This is for the inward man because a man is overcome easily by his enemy if be is not inwardly fortified. [God must] “establish him and strengthen him with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever” (Is. 9:7*).
Inserted in the above is the phrase by his Spirit indicating through whom petitions are granted. The Spirit himself fortifies, he is the Spirit of fortitude, and is the source of our not yielding under sufferings. We receive him through a faith which is most strong because it is the substance of the realities we hope for—that is, it makes these desired realities exist within us. Whence I Peter 5 (9) [concerning the devil]: “Whom resist ye, strong in faith.” And Paul adds that Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts. “Sanctify the Lord Christ in, your hearts” (1 Pet. 3:15).
With what? I claim that it should not only be through faith, which as a gift is the strongest, but also through the charity that is in the saints. That you may be rooted and founded in a charity which “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never falleth away” (1 Cor. 13:7-8). “For love is strong as death...” (Cant. 8:6). A tree without roots, or a house lacking a foundation are destroyed easily. In a similar manner, a spiritual edifice not rooted and founded in charity cannot last.
18 You may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth;
19 To know also the charity of Christ, which surpasseth all knowledge; that you may be filled into all the fulness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us;
21 * To him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus, unto all the generations of the age of ages, Amen.
Previously the Apostle revealed the object of his petition or prayer in behalf of the Ephesians, a strengthening of spirit in faith and charity (3:14). Consequently, he here shows the fruit of this strengthening through faith and charity; it is a certain type of knowledge. He sets forth:
First, the knowledge itself.
Secondly, the effective power of this awareness or knowledge (3:19b).
He says: You ought to be so rooted and founded in charity, dearly beloved, that you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth. This can be read in two ways. In the first way we are more in accord with the Apostle’s thought.
The knowledge of God is necessary for us both in the future life and in the present. For in the future we shall rejoice in our knowledge of God and in our perception of the humanity [the Son] assumed. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3). [Our Lord compared himself to a door; men will] “go in” to contemplate the divinity, and will “go out” in the contemplation of the humanity, “and shall find pastures” (Jn. 10:9). Faith inaugurates that future knowledge; it is “the substance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1), already making the realities we desire exist within us in an inchoate manner. For this reason our faith consists in the divinity and humanity of Christ. “For I judged not myself to know anything among you, but Jesus Christ; and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). In accord with this he discusses:
First, the knowledge of divinity.
Secondly, the knowledge of the mysteries of the humanity (3: 19).
He reveals the knowledge of the divinity to them with the words: that you may be able to comprehend, with all the saints... As though he said: Be strong in faith and charity for if you are, you will gain life eternal where you will enjoy God’s presence and perfectly know him. It is evident from John 14 (21) that God reveals himself to one who loves: “He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father; and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.” It is also clear that he shows himself to one who believes, as a variant reading of Isaias 7 (9) puts it: “Unless you believe, you will not understand. You must be fortified by faith and charity in order that you might be able to comprehend.
It should be noted that sometimes to comprehend means “to enclose,” and then it is necessary that the comprehending totally contains within itself what is comprehended. At other times it means “to apprehend,” and then it affirms a remoteness or distance and yet implies proximity. No created intellect can comprehend God in the first manner. “Peradventure thou wilt comprehend the steps of God, and wilt find out the Almighty perfectly?” (Job 11:7). The answer implied is, No. For one could know him perfectly to the extent that [one knew all] that could be known about him. And this type of knowledge is not referred to in that you may comprehend, but rather the second kind. This latter is one of the three dowries, and it is of it that the Apostle speaks here when he says that you may comprehend, meaning, that you may enjoy the presence of God and know him intimately. “Not as though I had already attained, or were already perfect; but I follow after, if I may by any means apprehend [comprehendam], wherein I am also apprehended by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12). Such comprehension is common to all his saints; so he adds with all the saints. “This glory is to all his saints” (Ps. 149:9). “So run that you may apprehend [comprehendatis]” (1 Cor. 9:24*).
Note that the words what is the breadth and length and height and depth seem to owe their origin to the passage in Job 11 (7-9). “Peradventure,” he says, “thou wilt comprehend the steps of God?” As if he stated that God is incomprehensible. Then he gives the reason for this incomprehensibility by saying: “He is higher than the heaven, and what wilt thou do? He is deeper than hell, and how wilt thou know? The measure of him is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea.” Yet from this it appears that Job, in attributing the four different dimensions to him, shows that he is comprehensible. Alluding to these words the Apostle asserts that you may be able to comprehend what is the breadth and length and height and depth; as though he said: May you possess sufficient faith and charity that you might comprehend him to the extent that he is able to be comprehended. Dionysius explains the text in this way.
Under no pretext should these dimensions be conceived as physically applicable to God, “God is spirit” (Jn. 4:24). They are in God metaphorically. Breadth designates the dimension or extension of his power and divine wisdom over all being. “And he poured her out,” namely wisdom, “upon all his works” (Ecclus. 1:10). By length his eternal duration is signified: “But thou, O Lord, endurest forever” (Ps. 101:13), and “holiness becometh thy house, O Lord, unto length of days” (Ps. 92:5). Height or loftiness denotes the perfection and nobility of his nature which infinitely exceeds all creation: “The Lord is high above all nations: and his glory above the heavens” (Ps. 112:4). In depth the incomprehensibility of his wisdom is intimated: “It is a great depth,” this divine wisdom, “who shall find it out?” (Eccl. 7:25). Clearly, therefore, the fulfillment of our faith and charity is to arrive at a perfect knowledge of the faith, by it we shall know, to the degree we can attain to it, the infinite extent of his power, the unbounded eternity of his duration, the loftiness of his most perfect nature, and the incomprehensibility and depth of his wisdom.
Next, since further knowledge is also necessary—a knowledge of the mysteries of the humanity—he goes on to know also the charity of Christ. For whatever occurred in the mystery of human redemption and Christ’s incarnation was the work of love. He was born out of charity: “For his exceeding charity wherewith he loved us even when we were dead in sins, bath quickened us together in Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5). That he died also sprang from charity: “Greater love than this no man bath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). And “Christ also bath loved us and bath delivered hftnself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:2). On this account St. Gregory exclaimed: “O the incalculable love of your charity! To redeem slaves you delivered up your Son.” It follows that to know Christ’s love is to know all the mysteries of Christ’s Incarnation and our Redemption. These have poured out from the immense charity of God; a charity exceeding every created intelligence and the [combined] knowledge of all of them because it cannot be grasped in thought. Thus he says which surpasseth all natural knowledge and every created intellect: “The peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). For the charity of Christ is [the manifestation of] what God the Father has accomplished through Christ: “God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor. 5:19).
The other manner in which this passage (vv. 18-19) can be read is in reference to the perfection of our charity. As though he stated: Be strong, rooted and founded in charity, that you may comprehend—and not merely know—with all the saints; since this gift of charity is common to all, no one can be holy without charity, as the third chapter of Ephesians indicates. May you, I say, comprehend what is the breadth of charity, extending, as it does, even to one’s enemies: “Thy commandment is exceeding broad” (Ps. 118:96). For charity is broad in its diffusion: “And the Lord brought me forth into a broad place” (Ps. 17:20*). Its length is seen in its durability, never stopping, it begins in this life and is perfected in glory: “Charity never falleth away” (1 Cor. 13:8), and “Many waters cannot quench charity” (Cant. 8:7). Its height is perceived in its motivation which is heavenly; God is not loved to obtain temporal advantages—which love would be sickly—but be is loved for his own sake alone. “Set thyself up on high and be glorious” (job 40:5). Depth signifies the source of charity itself. For our love of God does not spring from ourselves, but from the Holy Spirit, as Romans 5 (5) mentions: “The charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost who is given to us.” Hence, for one person to possess a love which is lasting, extensive, sublime and deep, while another person does not, arises out of the depth of divine predestination. And “who has measured the depth of the abyss?” (Ecclus. 1:2).
Thus you may be able to comprehend, in the sense of perfectly attaining to, with all the saints, what is the breadth with which your charity should extend even to enemies, and what is the length during which it never ceases, and its height in loving God for his own sake, and the depth of the divine predestination [from which it springs].
At this point it should be realized that it was within Christ’s power to choose what type of death he wanted. And since he underwent death out of charity, he chose the death of the cross in which the aforesaid four dimensions are present. The cross-beam has breadth and to it his hands were nailed because through charity our good works ought to stretch out even to adversaries: “The Lord brought me forth into a broad place” (Ps. 17:20*). The trunk of the cross has length against which the whole body leans since charity ought to be enduring, thus sustaining and saving man: “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved” (Mt. 10:22). The projection of wood [above the cross-beam], against which the head is thrown back, has height since our hope must rise toward the eternal and the divine: “The head of every man is Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3). The cross is braced by its depth which lies concealed beneath the ground; it is not seen because the depth of the divine love which sustains us is not visible insofar as the plans of predestination, as was said above, are beyond our intelligence.
In this manner we should comprehend the power of our love, and of Christ’s, realizing that his surpasses human understanding. For no one could know how much Christ has loved us; nor can one know the charity of the knowledge of Christ, [that love] which is possessed with knowledge of Christ. I hold that such charity surpasses a love which is without knowledge.
Is it not correct that a charity with knowledge is more eminent than,a charity without knowledge? It seems that it is not, for then a wicked theologian would have a charity of greater dignity than a holy old woman. I reply that what is discussed here is a knowledge which exerts its influence [on one’s life and conduct]. For the force of the knowledge stimulates one to love more since the more God is known, so much the more is he loved. For this reason Augustine used to ask: “That I may know You and know myself.” Or, this is stated here on account of some who possess zeal for God “but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). A charity coupled with the above mentioned knowledge of Christ surpasses the love of such people.
Next he speaks of the efficacy of a knowledge of the divine. That you may be filled unto all the fullness of God, that is, that you might enjoy a perfect participation in all God’s gifts. In other words, that you might possess the fullness of the virtues here, and beatitude in the next life—charity accomplishes just that. “Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits” (Ecclus. 24-26).
After this, the Apostle gives thanks to God for hearing his prayer (v. 20). In reference to this he does three things:
First, he mentions the power of God with which he grants petitions.
Secondly, he gives an example of that power (3:20b).
Thirdly, he mentions what prompts his thanksgiving (3:21).
He describes the infinite power of God, saying Now to him, meaning to Christ as God and God the Father, who is able to do all things: “Almighty is his name” (Ex. 15:3). “Now, to him that is able to establish you, according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 16:25). He effects this within us more abundantly than we either would know how to ask for through desire or understand with our intelligence.
He gives an example of this profusion within us [of the divine power], saying according to the power that worketh in us. As if he had stated: It becomes apparent once we consider what he has wrought in us men. For the human mind and will could never imagine, understand or ask that God become man, and that man become God and a sharer in the divine nature. But he has done this in us by his power, and it was accomplished in the Incarnation of his Son. “That through this you may be made partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4*). Concerning these matters Ecclesiasticus 18 (2-4) says: “Who is able to declare his works? For who shall search out his glorious acts? And who shall shew forth the power of his majesty? Or, who shall be able to declare his mercy?”
Or, that worketh in us Apostles, to whom he gave the grace of proclaiming the good news of “the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to enlighten all men, that they may see what is the dispensation of the mystery which hath been bidden from eternity in God” (Eph. 3:8).
The subject matter of the thanksgiving is the twofold blessing God has bestowed upon us. The first is the institution of the Church, and the second the Incarnation of his Son. Hence he says to him, God the Father, be glory in the Church for all he has done in the Church he established, and in Christ, that is, through Christ; or for Christ whom he gave to us. To him, I repeat, be glory that his glory might shine forth, not only now, but unto all the generations of the age of ages, meaning in the age which embraces all things. “Now, to the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1: 17).