Jun 21, 2015

Adult Formation Sessions on the Gospel of St John -- The Raising of Lazarus, session 8

There was not the normal class this night, on account of the Nashville Dominican Sisters being with us.
However, here is an handout on the subject.


Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of St John
Session 8 – The Raising of Lazarus

I.                   The place of this passage in the Gospel
a.       This history is unique to St. John
b.      The ire of the Jews – the immediate cause of the Passion
c.       The role of St Thomas the Apostle, Thomas, therefore, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples: Let us also go, that we may die with him. (Jn 11:16)
                                                              i.      Compare with the post-resurrection: My Lord and my God. (Jn 20:29)
                                                            ii.      Lord, we know not whither thou goest. And how can we know the way? (Jn 14:5)
“This can be interpreted two ways: in one way as indicating a lack of confidence; and in another as indicating love. Chrysostom interprets it in the first way. All the disciples feared the Jews, but especially Thomas. Indeed, before the passion he was weaker than the others and had less faith, but after he became stronger and was beyond reproach, traveling the whole world alone. […] Augustine interprets it in the second way. For Thomas and the other disciples loved Christ so much that they wanted either to live with him while he was here, or die with him.” (St Thomas)
Thomas, who is called Didymus – “Who is called the twin. Thomas was not doubly named, as if his first name had been Thomas, and his second Didymus; but they were one and the same: for the Hebrew word ‘Thomas’ is the same as the Greek ‘didymus’, meaning ‘twin’. Thomas therefore is called Didymus, i.e. ‘Twin’, either because he was born at the same time as another brother, or else he had received the name form his ancestors.” (Cornelius a’ Lapide, who goes on the state that this could indicate his changeable character, or “rather that Thomas is called Didymus here as though the twin brother of Christ: for so he shows himself to be here, when he presents himself as ready to live and die with Christ, for twins usually love each other greatly, and are quit similar in character and in their likes, so that when one rejoices, laughs, or weeps, the other rejoices, laughs, or weeps as well; indeed, when one is sick and dying, the other falls sick or dies, too.”

II.                Lazarus and Martha and Mary
a.       Which Lazarus is this?
                                                              i.      Not the same as the poor Lazarus of Luke 16.
                                                            ii.      “Of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha her sister.” – The three dwelt there not as rulers, but as honored residents (cf. Cornelius a’ Lapide).
                                                          iii.      Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” (Jn 11:35-36)
                                                          iv.      “We read that Christ wept thrice: first, here at the death of Lazars; second, at the sight of Jerusalem and its impending ruin (Lk 19:41); third, on the Cross (Hebr. 5:7)” (Cornelius a’ Lapide)
b.      Martha: Martha therefore, as soon as she heard that Jesus was come, went to meet him: but Mary sat at home. (Jn 11:20)
                                                              i.      Marty was the elder and was in charge of the household. Mary was more accustomed to silence.
                                                            ii.      This is the same Martha and Mary as Luke 10 – as also their personalities show.
c.       Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and the penitent woman


The majority of modern biblical “scholars” – including Catholics – maintain that Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha), and the sinful woman (of Luke 7) are three distinct women. On the other hand, there is some popular devotion which connects Mary Magdalene at least with the sinful woman, if not with Mary of Bethany. Finally, there is a modern opinion that Mary Magdalene is the adulterous woman of John 8 [in my study of the Fathers and Doctors, I have yet to find any support for this final claim].

It may be somewhat surprising, therefore, to realize that the Western Catholic tradition has held – from at least the 5th century up to the early 1900s – that Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the sinful woman (of Luke 7, not the adulteress of John 8) are one and the same person. Thus, the ancient and nearly unanimous tradition of the Latin Church is completely ignored by the modern Catholic “scholars”.

Indeed, if Mary Magdalene is not also Mary of Bethany, then we come to the awkward conclusion that Mary of Bethany is not venerated in the Roman Catholic Church – since there is no feast of “St. Mary of Bethany”, nor does the Latin Rite recognize any saint of that description apart from St. Mary Magdalene. Moreover, we point out that the feast of St. Martha of Bethany falls on the octave day of the feast of St. Mary Magdalene – lending additional support to the Church’s tradition.

While there is a tradition in the East which considers Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, and the sinful woman to be either two or even three women – and there is certainly some ground for such a claim – we will here defend the Latin consensus that these three are indeed only one single woman: The penitent, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, the Magdalen.

The relevant Scripture passages

And behold a woman that was in the city, a sinner, when she knew that he sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment; And standing behind at his feet, she began to wash his feet, with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:37-38)

And it came to pass afterwards, that he travelled through the cities and towns, preaching and evangelizing the kingdom of God; and the twelve with him: And certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities; Mary who is called Magdalen, out of whom seven devils were gone forth, (Luke 8:1-2)
Now there was a certain man sick, named Lazarus, of Bethania, of the town of Mary and Martha her sister. (And Mary was she that anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair: whose brother Lazarus was sick.) (John 11:1-2)

Mary therefore took a pound of ointment of right spikenard, of great price, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. (John 12:3)

The Latin tradition: Fr. Cornelius a’ Lapide (commenting on Luke 7)

And behold a woman in the city. Behold, a wonderful thing, and a wonderful example of penitence. A woman called Mary Magdalene. S. Luke viii. 2. It is questioned whether this is the same woman who is mentioned by the two other Evangelists.  S. Chrysostom thinks there were two; Origen, Theophylact, and Euthymius, three who thus anointed our Lord, and that each Evangelist wrote of a different person. S. Matt. xxvi. 7;  S. John xii. 3.

But I hold that it was one and the same woman – Mary Magdalene, the sister of Martha and of Lazarus, who anointed our Lord, as we read in the Gospels, on two but not three occasions; and this is clear, –

1. Because this is the general interpretation of the Church, who in her Offices accepts what is here written by S. Luke as referring to the Magdalene alone.

2. Because S. John (xi. 2) writes, It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick, thus plainly alluding to this passage of S. Luke, and signifying that only one woman anointed the Lord. For if there had been more than one, the words just quoted would have insufficiently described her. But the meaning is, “when I say Mary, I mean the penitent who anointed the feet of the Lord, as recounted by S. Luke, whom all know to be Mary Magdalene.”

3. Because the Mary mentioned by S. John (xii. 2, 3) is clearly the same Mary Magdalene, the sister of Martha and of Lazarus, who anointed Christ here, as described by S. Luke, and again at Bethany, six days before the passover. For S. Matthew (xxvi. 6) and S. John (xii. i) both refer to the same event, as is evident if the two accounts are compared together. Therefore it was Mary Magdalene who anointed Christ, not three times, as Origen would have us believe, but twice only, once as is recorded by S. Luke, and again six days before His death.

4 The same thing is testified to by Church history and tradition, and also by the inscription on the tomb of the Magdalene, which Maximus, one of the seventy disciples, is said to have built.

5. And this is also the opinion of S. Augustine, S. Cyprian, and many other interpreters of scripture.
But it may be objected that this Magdalene followed Jesus from Galilee (S. Matt. xxvii. 55), and was a Galilean, and cannot have been the same as Mary the sister of Martha, who lived at Bethany, and was therefore of Judæa. I answer that she was of Judæa by descent, but seems to have lived in Galilee, it may be in the castle called Magdala, either because she had married the lord of that place, or because it had been allotted her as her share of the family property. Hence she was called Magdalene from the name of the place, Magdala. So Jansenius and others.

A sinner. Some recent writers, to honour the Magdalene, think that she was not unchaste, but only conceited and vain, and for this reason called a sinner. But in proportion as they thus honour the Magdalene, they detract from the grace of God and that penitence which enabled her to live a holy life. For by the word sinner we generally understand one who not only sins, but leads others also to sin. The word sinner therefore here signifies a harlot, i.e. one who has many lovers although she may not make a public market of her charms, and this interpretation is accepted by S. Augustine, S. Jerome, Isidore of Pelusium,  S. Ambrose, Gregory, Bede, and S. Chrysostom, who holds (Hom. 62 ad Pop.) that to her refer the words of our Lord, Verily, I say unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. S. Matt. xxii. 31.

The Catholic Encyclopedia on St. Mary Magdalene

“In the view we have advocated the series of events forms a consistent whole; the sinner comes early in the ministry to seek for pardon; she is described immediately afterwards as Mary Magdalen out of whom seven devils were gone forth; shortly after, we find her sitting at the Lord's feet and hearing His words. To the Catholic mind it all seems fitting and natural.

“At a later period Mary and Martha turn to the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and He restores to them their brother Lazarus; a short time afterwards they make Him a supper and Mary once more repeats the act she had performed when a penitent. At the Passion she stands near by; she sees Him laid in the tomb; and she is the first witness of His Resurrection – excepting always His Mother, to whom He must needs have appeared first, though the New Testament is silent on this point.

“In our view, then, there were two anointings of Christ's feet – it should surely be no difficulty that St. Matthew and St. Mark speak of His head – the first (Luke 7) took place at a comparatively early date; the second, two days before the last Passover. But it was one and the same woman who performed this pious act on each occasion.”


III.             The resuscitation of Lazarus and the Resurrection of Jesus
a.       Difference of time: 4 days compared to 3 days. 4 symbolizing earthly life, 3 heavenly.
b.      Difference of place: An open tomb compared to a closed tomb. Christ’s divinity.

c.       Difference of witnesses: Many witness compared to none. “O truly blessed night, which alone merited to know the time and the hour in which Christ rose from the dead!” (Exultet)