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St. Thomas Aquinas, 
Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), 

Gospel of Matthew 24:23-31

(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)


23. "Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.  
24. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.  
25. Behold, I have told you before.  
26. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.  
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.  
28. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.  

Chrys.: When the Lord had finished all that related to Jerusalem, He came in the rest to His own coming, and gives them signs thereof, useful not for them only, but for us and for all who shall be after us. 

As above, the Evangelist said, "In those days came John the Baptist," [Matt 3:1] not implying immediately after what had gone before, but thirty years after; so here, when He says, "Then," He passes over the whole interval of time between the taking of Jerusalem and the beginnings of the consummation of the world. 

Among the signs which He gives of His second coming He certifies them concerning the place, and the deceivers. For it shall not be then as at His former coming, when He appeared in Bethlehem, in a corner of the world, unknown of any; but [p. 817] He shall come openly so as not to need any to announce His approach. 

Wherefore, "If any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe not." 

Jerome: Wherein He shews that His second coming shall be not in lowliness as His first, but in glory; and therefore it is folly to seek in places little and obscure for Him who is the Light of the whole world. [marg note: John 8:12] 

Hilary: Notwithstanding, by reason of the great tribulation in which men shall be cast, false prophets promising to shew aid present from Christ, will falsely affirm that Christ is present in divers places, that they may draw into the service of Antichrist men discouraged and distracted. 

Chrys.: He speaks here of Antichrist, and of certain his ministers, whom He calls false Christs and false prophets, such as were many in the time of the Apostles; but before Christ's second coming there shall come others more bitter than the former, "And they shall shew great signs and wonders." [2 Thes 2:9] 

Aug., Lib. 83, Quaest., Q79: Here the Lord forewarns us that even wicked men shall do some miracles which the saints cannot do, yet are they not therefore to be thought to have a higher place in the sight of God. For the Egyptian magi were not more acceptable to God than the people of Israel, because they could do what the Israelites could not; yet did Moses, by the power of God, work greater things. This gift is not bestowed on all the saints, lest the weak should be led astray by a most destructive error, supposing such powers to be higher gifts than those works of righteousness by which eternal life is secured. And though magi do the same miracles that the saints do, yet are they done with a different end, and through a different authority; for the one do them seeking the glory of God, the others seeking their own glory; these do them by some special compact or privilege [marg. note: al. veneficia] granted to the Powers, within their sphere, those by the public dispensation and the command of Him to whom all creation is subject [ed. note: see above on chap. vii, 22]. 

For it is one thing for the owner of a horse to be compelled to give it up to a soldier, another for him to hand it over to a purchaser, or to give or lend it to a friend; and as those evil soldiers, who are condemned by the imperial discipline, employ the imperial ensigns to terrify the owners of any property, and to extort from them what is not required by [p. 818] the public service; so some evil Christians, by means of the name of Christ, or by words or sacraments Christian, compel somewhat from the Powers; yet these, when thus at the bidding of evil men, they depart from their purpose, they depart in order to deceive men in whose wanderings they rejoice. 

It is one way then in which magi, another in which good Christians, another in which bad Christians, work miracles; the magi by a private compact, good Christians by the public righteousness, evil Christians by the signs of public righteousness. [marg. note: non occ.] And we ought not to wonder at this when we believe not unreasonably that all that we see happen is wrought by the agency of the inferior powers of this air. 

Aug., de Trin., iii, 8: Yet are we not therefore to think that this visible material world attends the nod of the disobedient angels, but rather the power is given them of God. Nor are we to suppose that such evil angels have creative power, but by their spirituality they know the seeds of things which are bidden from us, and these they secretly scatter by suitable adaptations of the elements, and so they give occasion both to the whole being, and the more rapid increase of substances. 

For so there are many men who know what sort of creatures use to be generated out of certain herbs, meats, juices and humours, bruised and mingled together in a certain fashion; save only that it is harder for men to do these things, inasmuch as they lack that subtlety of sense, and penetrativeness of body in their limbs dull and of earthly mould. 

Greg., Mor. xv, 61: When then Antichrist shall have wrought wonderful prodigies before the eyes of the carnal, he shall draw men after him, all such as delight in present goods, surrendering themselves irrevocably to his sway, "Insomuch that if it were possible the very elect should be led astray." 

Origen: That, "If it were possible," is spoken hyperbolically; not that the elect can be led astray, but He wishes to shew that the discourse of heretics is often so persuasive, as to have force to prevail even with those who act [marg. note: al. audiunt] wisely. 

Greg., Mor., xxxiii, 36: Or, because the heart of the elect is assailed with fearful thoughts, yet their faithfulness is not shaken, the Lord comprehends both under the same sentence, for to waver in thought is to err. He adds, "If it were possible," because it is not possible that the elect should be taken in error. [p. 819] 

Raban.: He says not this because it is possible for the divine election to be defeated, but because they, who to men's judgment seemed elect, shall be led into error. 

Greg., Hom. in Ev., xxxv, i: And as darts, when foreseen, are less likely to hit, He adds, "Lo, I have told you." Our Lord announces the woes which are to precede the destruction of the world, that when they come they may alarm the less from having been foreknown. 

Hilary: The false prophets, of whom He had spoken above, shall say of Christ one while, "Lo, He is in the desert," in order that they may cause men to wander astray; another while, "Lo, He is in the secret chambers," that they may enthral men under the dominion of Antichrist. But the Lord declares Himself to be neither lurking in a remote corner, nor shut up to be visited singly, but that He shall be exhibited to the view of all, and in every place, "As the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be." 

Chrys.: As He had above described in what guise Antichrist should come, so here He describes how He Himself shall come. For as the lightning needeth none to herald or announce it, but is in an instant of time visible throughout the whole world, even to those that are sitting in their chambers, so the coming of Christ shall be seen every where at once, because of the brightness of His glory. 

Another sign He adds of His coming, "Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together." The eagles denote the company of the Angels, Martyrs, and Saints. 

Jerome: By an instance from nature, which we daily see, we are instructed in a sacrament of Christ. Eagles and vultures are said to scent dead bodies even beyond sea, and to flock to feed upon them. If then birds, not having the gift of reason, by instinct alone find out where lays a dead body, separated by so great space of country, how much more ought the whole multitude of believers to hasten to Christ, whose lightning goeth forth out of the east, and shines even to the west? We may understand by the carcase here, or corpse [], which in the Latin is more expressively 'cadaver,' an allusion to the passion of Christ's death. 

Hilary: That we might not be ignorant of the place in which He should come, He adds this, "Wheresoever [p. 820] the carcase, &c." He calls the Saints "eagles," from the spiritual flight of their bodies, and shews that their gathering shall be to the place of His passion, the Angels guiding them thither; and rightly should we look for His coming in glory there, where He wrought for us eternal glory by the suffering of His bodily humiliation. 

Origen: And observe, He says not vultures or crows, but "eagles," shewing the lordliness and royalty of all who have believed in the Lord's passion. 

Jerome: They are called eagles whose youth is renewed as the eagle's, and who take to themselves wings that they may come to Christ's passion. [marg. note: Ps 103:5, Isa 40:31] 

Greg., Mor. xxxi, 53: We may understand this, "Wheresoever the carcase is," as meaning, I who incarnate sit on the throne of heaven, as soon as I shall have loosed the souls of the elect from the flesh, will exalt them to heavenly places. 

Jerome: Or otherwise ; This may be understood of the false prophets. At the time of the Jewish captivity, there were many leaders who declared themselves to be Christs, [marg. note: Josephus, B. J., v. 1] so that while the Romans were actually besieging them, there were three factions within. But it is better taken as we expounded it above, of the end of the world. 

Thirdly, it may be understood of the warfare of the heretics against the Church, and of those Antichrists, who under pretext of false science, fight against Christ. 

Origen: The genus of Antichrist is one, the species many, just as all lies are of one sort. As all the holy Prophets were Prophets of the true Christ, so understand that each false Christ shall have his own false Prophets, who shall preach as true the false teachings of some Antichrist. When then one shall say, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," we need not look abroad out of the Scriptures, for out of the Law, the Prophets, and the Apostles, they bring the things which seem to favour their lie. 

Or by this, "Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," they shew that it was not Christ, but some impostor under the same title, such for example as Marcion, or Valentinus, or Basilides taught. 

Jerome: If then any one assert to you that Christ tarries in "the desert" of the Gentiles, or in the teaching of the Philosophers, or in "the secret chambers" of the heretics, who promise the hidden things of God, believe Him not, but believe that the Catholic Faith shines from "east to west" in [p. 821] the Churches. 

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 38: By the "east" and "west," He signifies the whole world, throughout which the Church should be. In the same way as He said below, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man coming in the clouds, of heaven," [Matt 26:64] so now He likens His coming to lightning, which uses to flash out of the clouds. When then the authority of the Church is set up clear and manifest throughout the whole world, He suitably warns His disciples that they should not believe schismatics and heretics. Each schism and heresy holds its own place, either occupying some important position in the earth, or ensnaring men's curiosity in obscure and remote conventicles. 

"Lo, here is Christ, or lo, there," refers to some district or province of the earth; "the secret chambers," or "the desert," signify the obscure and lurking conventicles of heretics. 

Jerome: Or by this, "in the desert," or "in the secret chambers," He means that in times of persecution and distress, the false Prophets always find place for deceiving. 

Origen: Or, when they allege secret and before unpublished Scriptures, in proof of their lie, they seem to say, Lo, the word of truth is in the desert. But when they produce canonical Scripture in which all Christians agree, they seem to say, Lo, the word of truth is in the chambers. 

Or wishing to point out such discourses as are altogether without Scripture, He said, "If they shall say to you, Lo, he is in the secret chambers, believe it not." Truth is like the "lightning that cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west." 

Or this may mean, that truth can be supported out of every passage of Scripture. The lightning of truth comes out of "the east," that is, from the first beginnings of Christ, and shines throughout even to His passion, which is His setting; or from the very beginning of creation, to the last Scripture of the Apostles. 

Or, "the east" is the Law, "the west" is the end of the Law, and of John's prophecy. The Church alone neither takes away word or meaning from this lightning, nor adds aught to its prophecy. 

Or He means that we should give no heed to those who say, "Lo, here is Christ," but shew Him not in the Church, in which alone is the coming or the Son of Man, who said, "Lo, I am with you, always even to the end of the world." [Matt 28:20] 

Jerome: We are invited to flock to Christ's passion wheresoever in Scripture it [p. 822] read of, that through it we may be able to come to God's word. 

29. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:  
30. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn."  

Gloss., non occ.: As soon as the Lord has fortified the believers against the arts of Antichrist and his ministers, by shewing that His coming would be public, He proceeds to shew the order and method of His coming. 

Chrys.: By the tribulation, He means the times of Antichrist and the false Prophets; for when there are so many deceivers, the tribulation will be great. But it shall not extend through any great length of time. For if for the elect's sake the Jewish war is shortened, much more shall this tribulation be shortened for their sakes; for which reason He said not "After," but "Immediately after," for He shall come immediately after. 

Hilary: The darkening of the sun, the failing of the moon, and the fall of the stars, indicate the glories of His coming. 

Origen: One will say, As at the breaking out of great conflagrations, great darkness is at the first caused by the smoke, so when the world shall be consumed by fire, which shall be kindled, even the great luminaries shall be darkened; and when the light of the stars is decayed, the rest of their substance, incapable of exaltation, shall fall from heaven into what it was, when it was first raised aloft by the light. 

When this shall have taken place, it follows that the rational heavenly powers shall suffer dismay and derangement, and shall be suspended from their functions. "And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven," that sign by which the heavenly things were made, that is, the power which the Son wrought when He hung upon the cross. And the sign shall appear in heaven, that men of all tribes [p. 823] who before had not believed Christianity when preached, then by that sign, acknowledging it as made plain, shall grieve and mourn for their ignorance and sins. 

Others will think otherwise, that as the light of a lamp dies away by degrees, so when the supply of the heavenly luminaries shall fail, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon and the light of the stars shall grow dim, and that which in their composition is earthy shall fall from heaven. But how can it be said of the sun that its light shall be darkened, when Esaias the Prophet declares, that in the end of the world, there shall be light proceeding forth from the sun? [Isa 30:26] 

And of the moon he declares that it shall be as the sun. But concerning the stars, there are some that endeavour to convince us that all, or many of them, are larger than the whole earth. How then shall they fall from heaven, when this earth would not be large enough to contain them? 

Jerome: These things, therefore, shall not come to pass by any diminution of light, for in another place we read that the light of the sun shall be sevenfold; but by comparison with real light, all things shall seem dim. 

Raban.: But nothing hinders our supposing that the sun and moon with the other stars shall for a time lose their light, as we know did the sun at the time of the Lord's passion; as Joel also says, "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon blood, before the great and manifest day of the Lord come." [Joel 2:31] 

But when the day of judgment is passed, and the life of future glory shall dawn, and there shall be a new heaven and a new earth, then shall that come to pass of which Isaiah speaks, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold. The stars shall fall from heaven," [Isa 30:26] is expressed in Mark; "There shall be stars falling from heaven," [Mark 13:25] that is, lacking their proper light. 

Jerome: "By the powers of heaven," we understand the bands of the Angels. 

Chrys.: Very fitly shall they be shaken and dismayed, seeing so mighty a change being wrought, their fellow-servants punished, and the universe standing before a terrible tribunal. 

Origen: But as, at the dispensation of the Cross, the sun was eclipsed, and darkness was spread over the earth; so when the sign of the Son of Man appears in heaven, the light of the sun, moon, and [p. 824] stars, shall fail, as though waning before the might of that sign. This we understand to be the sign of the cross, that the Jews. may see, as Zacharias and John speak, "Him whom they have pierced," [Zech 12:10, John 19:37] and the sign of victory. 

Chrys.: But because the sun will be darkened, the cross would not be seen, if it were not far brighter than the rays of the sun. That the disciples might not be ashamed, and grieve over the cross, He speaks of it as a sign, with a kind of distinction. The sign of the cross will appear to overthrow the shamelessness of the Jews, when Christ shall appear in the judgment, shewing not only His wounds, but His most ignominious death, "And then all the tribes of the earth shall mourn." For when they shall see the cross, they shall bethink them how they have gained nought by His death, and that they have crucified Him whom they ought to have worshipped. 

Jerome: Rightly does He say, "the tribes of the earth," for they shall mourn who have no citizenship in heaven, but are written in earth. [Jer 17:13] 

Origen: Morally, one may say that the sun, which shall be darkened, is the Devil, who shall be convicted in the end of the world, that whereas he is darkness, he has feigned himself to be the sun; the moon, which seems to receive its light from this sun, is the Church of the wicked, which professes to have and to give light, but then convicted with its sinful dogmas, shall lose its brightness; and all those who, either by false teaching, or false virtues, promised truth to men, but led them astray by lies, these are fitly called stars falling from, so to say, their own heaven, where they were raised on high, exalting themselves against the knowledge of God. 

For illustration of this discourse, we may apply that place in Proverbs, which says, "The light of the just is unquenchable, but the light of the wicked shall be quenched." [Prov 4:18] Then the brightness of God shall appear in every one who has borne the image of the heavenly; and they of heaven shall rejoice, but they of earth shall lament. 

Aug., Ep. 199, 39: Or, the Church is the sun, moon, and stars, to which it is said, "Fair as the moon, bright as the sun. Then shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light," [Song of Songs 6:10] because in that ungoverned fury of wicked persecutors, the Church shall not be seen. 

"Then shall the stars fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be [p. 825] shaken," because many, who seemed to be shining in God's grace, shall give way to their persecutors, and shall fall, and even the stoutest believers shall be shaken. And these things shall be "after the tribulation of those days," not because they shall happen when the whole persecution is overpast, but because the tribulation shall be first, that the falling away may come after. And because it shall be so throughout all those days, it shall be "after the tribulation of those days," yet on those very days. 

[30] "And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory."  

Chrys.: He adds this, that having heard of the cross, they should not now imagine a similar degradation. 

Aug., Ep. 199, 41: The first and most apparent meaning of this is of that time when He shall come to judge the quick and the dead in His body -- that body in which He sits at the right hand of the Father, in which He died and rose again and ascended into heaven. As we read in the Acts of the Apostles; "He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out their sight," [Acts 1:9] upon which it was said by the Angels, "He shall so come as ye have seen Him go into heaven," we may reasonably believe that He will come again, not only in the same body, but also in a cloud. 

Origen: Therefore shall they see with the bodily eyes the Son of Man, coming in human shape, "in the clouds of heaven," that is, on high. As at the transfiguration, a voice came out of the cloud, so when He shall come again transformed into His glorious appearance, it shall be not on one cloud, but upon many, which shall be His chariot. And if when the Son of God went up to Jerusalem, they who loved Him spread their garments in the way, not willing that even the ass that carried Him should tread upon the earth; what wonder, if the Father and God of all should spread the clouds of heaven under the body of the Son, when He comes to the work of the consummation? 

And one may say, that as in the creation of man, God took clay from the earth and made man; so to manifest the glory of Christ, the Lord taking of the heaven, and of its substance, gave it a body [p. 826] of a bright cloud in the Transfiguration, and of bright clouds at the Consummation; wherefore it is here said, "in the clouds of heaven," as it was there said, "of the clay of the ground." [Gen 2:7] 

And it behoves the Father to give all such admirable gifts to the Son, because He humbled Himself; and He has also exalted Him, not only spiritually, but bodily, that He should come upon such clouds; and perhaps upon rational clouds, that even the chariot of the glorified Son of Man should not be irrational. 

At the first, Jesus came with that power with which He wrought signs and wonders in the people; yet was that power little in comparison of that great power with which He shall come in the end; for that was the power of one emptying Himself of power. And also, it is fitting that He should be transformed into greater glory than at the transfiguration on the mount; for then He was transfigured for the sake of three only, but in the consummation of the whole world, He shall appear in great glory, that all may see Him in glory. 

Aug.: But because the Scriptures are to be searched, and we are not to content ourselves with the surface of them, let us look closely at what follows, "When ye see all these things come to pass, know that he is near even at the door." We know then that He is near, when we see come to pass not any of the foregoing things, but all of them, among which is this that the Son of Man shall be seen coming. "And he shall send his Angels," who from the four quarters of the world shall gather together His elect. 

All these things He does at "the last hour" [1 John 2:18] coming in His members as in the clouds, or in the whole Church as in one great cloud, as now He ceases not to come. And "with great power and glory," because His power and glory will seem greater in the Saints to whom He will give great power, that they may not be overcome of persecution. 

Origen: Or He comes every day "with great power" to the mind of the believer in the clouds of prophecy, that is, in the Scriptures of the Prophets and the Apostles, who utter the word of God with a meaning above human nature. 

Also we say that to those who understand He comes with "great glory," and that this is the more seen in the second coming of the Word which is to the perfect. And so it may be, that all which the three Evangelists have said concerning Christ's [p. 827] coming, if carefully compared together and thoroughly examined, would be found to apply to His continual daily coming in His body, which is the Church, of which coming He said in another place, "Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man. sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven," [Matt 26:6] excepting those places in which He promises that His last coming in His own person. 

31. "And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."  

Origen: Because He had spoken of mourning, which shall be only that they may bear witness against themselves and condemn themselves, that none should suppose that that mourning will end their woes, He now adds, "And he shall send his Angels with a trump and a loud voice." 

Remig.: Here we are not to think of a real trumpet, but of the voice of the archangel, which shall be so loud that at its sound all the dead shall rise out of the dust of the earth. 

Chrys.: The sound of the trump refers to the resurrection, and the rejoicing, and to represent the astonishment which shall be then, and the woe of those that shall be left, and shall not be snatched up into the clouds. 

Origen: It is written in Numbers, that the Priests shall summon by the sound of the trumpet from the four winds those who are of the camp of Israel [Num 10:3], and it is in allusion to this that Christ speaks here of the Angels, "And they shall gather together the elect from the four winds." 

Remig.: That is, from the four quarters of the world, north, south, east, and west. 

Origen: Some of little discernment think, that only those who shall then be found in the body shall be gathered together, but it is better to say that the Angels of Christ shall then gather together not only all who from the coming of Christ to the end of the world have been called and chosen, but all from the foundation of the world, who like Abraham have seen the day of Christ and rejoiced therein. [marg. note: John 8:56] And that He here means not only those that shall be found in the body, but those also who have quitted the body, the following words shew, "from one end of heaven to the other," which cannot be meant of any one upon earth, 

Or, the heavens are the divine [p. 828] Scriptures and their authors [marg. note: al. autoritates] in which God dwells. "One end of heaven" is the beginning of the Scriptures, "the other" end is their conclusion. The saints there are gathered together "from one end of heaven," that is, from those that live in the beginning of the Scriptures to those who live in the ends of them. They shall be gathered together "with a trump and a loud voice," that they who bear and attend may prepare themselves for that way of perfection which leads to the Son of God. 

Remig.: Or otherwise; Lest any one should suppose that they should be gathered only from the four quarters of the world, and not from the middle regions, He adds this, "And from one end of heaven to the other." By the heights of heaven meaning the central regions of the earth, which are under the heights of heaven; and by the ends of heaven, meaning the extreme parts of the earth, where the land seems to join a very wide and distant horizon. 

Chrys.: That the Lord calls His elect by His Angels pertains to the honour of the elect; and Paul also says "that they shall be caught into the clouds;" [1 Thes 4:17] that is, the Angels shall gather together those that have risen, and when they are gathered together, the clouds shall receive them.