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Catena Aurea - Gospel of Mark
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Chapter 4

1. And Jesus began to teach again by the sea-side: and there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.

2. And He taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in His doctrine:

3: “Hearken: Behold, there went out a sower to sow:

4. And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.

5. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth:

6. But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away.

7. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit.

8. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.”

9. And He said unto them, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

10. And when He was alone, they that were about Him with the twelve asked of Him the parable.

11. And He said unto them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:

12. That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.”

13. And He said unto them, “Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?

14. The sower soweth the word.

15. And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts.

16. And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness;

17. And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.

18. And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word,

19. And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.

20. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirty-fold, some sixty, and some an hundred.”


Theophylact: Although the Lord appears in the transactions mentioned above to neglect His mother, nevertheless He honours her; since on her account He goes forth about the borders of the sea.

Wherefore it is said, “And Jesus began to teach again by the sea-side, &c.

Bede, in Marc., 1, 18: For if we look into the Gospel of Matthew, it appears that this same teaching of the Lord at the sea, was delivered on the same day as the former. For after the conclusion of the first sermon, Matthew immediately subjoins, saying, “The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea-side.”

Pseudo-Jerome: But He began to teach at the sea, that the place of His teaching might point out the bitter feelings and instability of His hearers.

Bede: After leaving the house also, He began to teach at the sea, because, quitting the synagogue, He came to gather together the multitude of the Gentile people by the Apostles.

Wherefore it continues: “And there was gathered unto Him a great multitude, so that He entered into a ship, and sat in the sea.”

Chrys., Hom. in Matt., 44: Which we must understand was not done without a purpose, but that He might not leave any one behind Him, but have all His hearers before His face.

Bede: Now this ship shewed in a figure the Church, to be built in the midst of the nations, in which the Lord consecrates for Himself a beloved dwelling-place.

It goes on: “And He taught them many things by parables.”

Pseudo-Jerome: A parable is a comparison made between things discordant by nature, under some similitude. For parable is the Greek for a similitude, when we point out by some comparisons what we would have understood. In this way we say an iron man, when we desire that he should be understood to be hardy and strong; when to be swift, we compare him to winds and birds. But He speaks to the multitudes in parables, with His usual providence, that those who could not take in heavenly things, might conceive what they heard by an earthly similitude.

Chrys.: For He rouses the minds of His hearers by a parable, pointing out objects to the sight, to make His discourse more manifest.

Theophylact: And in order to rouse the attention of those who heard, the first parable that He proposes is concerning the seed, which is the word of God.

Wherefore it goes on, “And He said to them in His doctrine.”

Not in that of Moses, nor of the Prophets, because He preaches His own Gospel.

“Hearken: behold, there went out a sower to sow.”

Now the Sower is Christ.

Chrys.: Not that He went out in space, Who is present in all space, and fills all, but in the form and economy by which He is made more near to us through the clothing of flesh. For since we were not able to go to Him, because sins impeded our path, He went out to us. But He went out, preaching in order to sow the word of piety, which He spake abundantly. Now He does not needlessly repeat the same word, when He says, “A sower went out to sow,” for sometimes a sower goes out that he may break up land for tillage, or to pull up weeds, or for some other work. But this one went out to sow.

Bede, in Marc., 1, 19: Or else, He went out to sow, when after calling to His faith the elect portion of the synagogue, He poured out the gifts of His grace in order to call the Gentiles also.

Chrys.: Further, as a sower does not make a distinction in the ground which is beneath him, but simply and without distinction puts in the seed, so also He Himself addresses all. And to signify this, He says, “And as he sowed, some fell by the way-side.”

Theophylact: Take notice, that He says not that He threw it in the way, but that it fell, for a sower, as far as he can, throws it into good ground, but if the ground be bad, it corrupts the seed. Now the way is Christ; but infidels are by the way-side, that is, out of Christ.

Bede: Or else, the way is a mind which is a path for bad thoughts, preventing the seed of the word from growing in it. And therefore whatsoever good seed comes in contact with such a way, perishes, and is carried off by devils.

Wherefore there follows, “And the fowls of the air came and devoured it up.”

And well are the devils called fowls of the air, either because they are of a heavenly and spiritual origin, or because they dwell in the air.

Or else, those who are about the way are negligent and slothful men.

It goes on: “And some fell on stony ground.”

He calls stone, the hardness of a wanton mind; He calls ground, the inconstancy of a soul in its obedience; and sun, the heat of a raging persecution.

Therefore the depth of earth, which ought to have received the seed of God, is the honesty of a mind trained in heavenly discipline, and regularly brought up in obedience to the Divine words. But the stony places, which have no strength for fixing the root firmly, are those breasts which are delighted only with the sweetness of the word which they hear, and for a time with the heavenly promises, but in a season of temptation fall away, for there is too little of healthful desire in them to conceive the seed of life.

Theophylact: Or, the stony persons are those who adhering a little to the rock, that is, to Christ, up to a short time, receive the word, and afterwards, falling back, cast it away.

It goes on: “And some fell among thorns;” by which are marked souls which care for many things. For thorns are cares.

Chrys.: But further He mentions good ground, saying, “And other fell on good ground.” For the difference of the fruits follows the quality of the ground. But great is the love of the Sower for men, for the first He commends, and rejects not the second, and gives a place to the third.

Theophylact: See also how the bad are the greatest number, and the few are those who are saved, for the fourth part of the ground is found to be saved.

Chrys.: This, however, the greater portion of the seed is not lost through the fault of the owner, but of the earth, which received it, that is, of the soul, which hears. And indeed the real husbandman, if he sowed in this way, would be rightly blamed; for he is not ignorant that rock, or the road, or thorny ground, cannot become fertile. But in spiritual things it is not so; for there it is possible that stony ground may become fertile; and that the road should not be trodden down, and that the thorns may be destroyed, for if this could not take place, he would not have sown there. By this, therefore, He gives to us hope of repentance.

It goes on, “And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Bede: As often as this is inserted in the Gospel or in the Apocalypse of John, that which is spoken is mystical, and is pointed out as healthful to be heard and learnt. For the ears by which they are heard belong to the heart, and the ears by which men obey and do what is commanded are those of an interior sense.

There follows, “And when He was alone, the twelve that were with Him asked of Him the parable; and He said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to them that are without all things are done in parables.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: As if He said unto them, You that are worthy to be taught all things which are fitted for teaching, shall learn the manifestation of parables; but I use parables with them who are unworthy to learn, because of their wickedness. For it was right that they who did not hold fast their obedience to that law which they had received, should not have any share in a new teaching, but should be estranged from both; for He shewed by the obedience of His disciples, that, on the other hand, the others were become unworthy of mystical doctrine. But afterwards, by bringing in a voice from prophecy, He confounds their wickedness, as having been long before reproved.

Wherefore it goes on, “that seeing they might see, and not perceive, &c.” [see Isa 6:9] as if He said that they prophecy might be fulfilled which foretells these things.

Theophylact: For it was God Who made them to see, that is, to understand what is good. But they themselves see not, of their own will making themselves not to see, lest they should be converted and correct themselves, as if they were displeased at their own salvation.

It goes on, “Lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them.”

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Thus, therefore, they see and they do not see, they hear and do not understand, for their seeing and hearing comes to them from God’s grace, but their seeing and not understanding comes to them from their unwillingness to receive grace, and closing their eyes, and pretending that they could not see; neither do they acquiesce in what was said, and so are not changed as to their sins by hearing and seeing, but rather are made worse.

Theophylact: Or we may understand in a different way His speaking to the rest in parables, that seeing they might not perceive, and hearing, not understand. For God gives sight and understanding to men who seek for them, but the rest He blinds, lest it become a greater accusation against them, that though they understood, they did not choose to do what they ought.

Wherefore it goes on, “Lest at any times they should be, &c.”

Augustine, Quaest, 14, in Matt.: Or else they deserved this, their not understanding, and yet this in itself was done in mercy to them, that they might know their sins, and, being converted, merit pardon.

Bede: To those then who are without, all things are done in parables, that is, both the actions and the words of the Saviour, because neither in those miracles which He was working, nor in those mysteries which He preached, were they able to acknowledge Him as God. Therefore they are not able to attain to the remission of their sins.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: But His speaking to them only in parables, and yet not leaving off speaking to them entirely, shews that to those who are placed near to what is good, though they may have no good in themselves, still good is shewn disguised.

But when a man approaches it with reverence and a right heart, he wins for himself an abundant revelation of mysteries; when on the contrary his thoughts are not sound, he will be neither made worthy of those things which are easy to many men, nor even of hearing them.

There follows, “And He said unto them, Know ye not this parable, how then shall ye know all parables?”

Pseudo-Jerome: For it was necessary that they to whom He spoke in parables should ask for what they did not understand, and learn by the Apostle whom they despised, the mystery of the kingdom which they themselves had not.

Gloss.: And for this reason, the Lord in saying these things, shews that they ought to understand both this first, and all following miracles.

Wherefore explaining it, He goes on, “The sower soweth the word.”

Chrys., in Matt., Hom. 44: And indeed the prophet has compared the teaching of the people to the planting of a vine; [Isa 5] in this place however it is compared to sowing, to shew that obedience is now shorter and more easy, and will sooner yield fruit.

Bede: But in this exposition of the Lord there is embraced the whole range of those who might hear the words of truth, but are unable to attain to salvation. For there are some to whom no faith, no intellect, nay no opportunity of trying its usefulness, can give a perception of the word which they hear; of whom He says, “And these are by the wayside.” For unclean spirits take away at once the word committed to their hearts, as birds carry away the seed of the trodden way. There are some who both experience its usefulness and feel a desire for it, but some of them the calamities of this world frighten, and others its prosperity allures, so that they do not attain to that which they approve. Of the first of whom He says, “And these are they who fell on stony ground;” of the latter, “And these are they which are sown among thorns.” But riches are called thorns, because they tear the soul with the piercing of its own thoughts, and after bringing it to sin, they, as one may say, make it bleed by inflicting a wound.

Again He says, “And the toil of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches;” for the man who is deceived by an empty desire of riches must soon be afflicted by the toils of continual cares.

He adds, “And the lusts of other things;” because, whosoever despises the commandments of God, and wanders away lustfully seeking other things, is unable to attain to the joy of beatitude. And concupiscences of this sort choke the word, because they do not allow a good desire to enter into the heart, and, as it were, stifle the entrance of vital breath.

There are, however, excepted from these different classes of men, the Gentiles who do not even have grace to hear the words of life.

Theophylact: Further, of those who receive the seed as they ought there are three degrees.

Wherefore it goes on, “And these are they who are sown on good ground.”

Those who bear fruit an hundred-fold are those who lead a perfect and an obedient life, as virgins and hermits. Those who bear fruit sixty-fold are those who are in the mean as continent persons [ed. note: The word translated continentes . . . means ascetics, who mix in the affairs of the world; whereas hermits lived quite out of them, and gave themselves up to contemplation; caenobites came between the two, living together in convents, and combined both the practical and contemplative life, see Greg. Naz. Or. 43, 62] and those who are living in convents.

Those who bear thirty-fold are those who though weak indeed, bear fruit according to their own virtue, as laymen and married persons.

Bede: Or he bears thirty-fold, who instills into the minds of the elect faith in the Holy Trinity; sixty-fold, who teaches the perfection of good works; a hundred-fold, who shews the rewards of the heavenly kingdom.

For in counting a hundred, we pass on to the right hand [ed. note: “He alludes to the mode of counting among the ancients. All numbers were signified by fingers of the left hand, either straight or variously bent, up to a hundred; and then they changed to the right. Consult Caelius Rhodiginus, Lectionum Antiq. lib. 23, cap. 11, 12.” Benedictine note on Greg. Hom. in Ezec. lib. 2, Hom., 5]; therefore that number is fitly made to signify everlasting happiness.

But the good ground is the conscience of the elect, which does the contrary to all the former three, which both receives with willingness the seed of the word committed to it, and keeps it when received up to the season of fruit.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or else the fruits of the earth are contained in thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold, that is, in the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel.


21. And He said unto them, “Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick?

22. For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.

23. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

24. And He saith unto them, “Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.

25. For he that hath, to him shall be given: and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.”


Chrys.: After the question of the disciples concerning the parable, and its explanation, He well subjoins, “And He said unto them, Is a candle brought, &c.” As if He said, A parable is given, not that it should remain obscure, and hidden as if under a bed or a bushel, but that it should be manifested to those who are worthy. The candle within us is that of our intellectual nature, and it shines either clearly or obscurely according to the proportion of our illumination. For if meditations which feed the light, and the recollection with which such a light is kindled, are neglected, it is presently extinguished.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or else the candle is the discourse concerning the three sorts of seed. The bushel or the bed is the hearing of the disobedient. The Apostles are the candlestick, whom the word of the Lord hath enlightened.

Wherefore it goes on, “For there is nothing hidden, &c.”

The hidden and secret thing is the parable of the seed, which comes forth to light, when it is spoken of by the Lord.

Theophylact: Or else the Lord warns His disciples to be as light, in their life and conversation; as if He said, As a candle is put so as to give light, so all will look to your life. Therefore be diligent to lead a good life; sit not in corners, but be ye a candle. For a candle gives light, not when placed under a bed, but on a candlestick; this light indeed must be placed on a candlestick, that is, on the eminence of a godly life, that it may be able to give light to others. Not under a bushel, that is, in things pertaining to the palate, nor under a bed, that is, in idleness. For no one who seeks after the delights of his palate and loves rest can be a light shining over all.

Bede, in Marc., 1, 20: Or, because the time of our life is contained under a certain measurement of Divine Providence, it is rightly compared to a bushel. But the bed of the soul is the body, in which it dwells and reposes for a time. He therefore who hides the word of God under the love of this transitory life, and of carnal allurements, covers his candle with a bushel or a bed.

But he puts his light on a candlestick who employs his body in the ministry of the word of God; therefore under these words He typically teaches them a figure of preaching.

Wherefore it goes on, “For there is nothing hidden, which shall not be revealed, nor is there any thing made secret, which shall not come abroad.”

As if He said, Be not ashamed of the Gospel, but amidst the darkness of persecution raise the light of the word of God upon the candlestick of your body, keeping fixedly in your mind that day, when the Lord will throw light upon the hidden places of darkness, for then everlasting praise awaits you, and everlasting punishment your adversaries.

Chrys., in Matt., Hom. 15: Or else, “There is nothing hid;” as if He said, If ye conduct your life with care, accusation will not be able to obscure your light.

Theophylact: For each of us, whether he have done good or evil, is brought to light in this life, much more in that which is to come. For what can be more hidden than God, nevertheless He Himself is manifested in the flesh.

It continues, “If any man have ears to hear, let him hear.”

Bede: That is, if any man have a sense for understanding the word of God, let him not withdraw himself, let him not turn his ear to fables, but let him lend his ear to search those things which truth hath spoken, his hands for fulfilling them, his tongue for preaching them.

There follows, “And He said unto them, Take heed what ye hear.”

Theophylact: That is, that none of those things which are said to you by me should escape you.

“With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you,” that is, whatsoever degree of application ye bring, in that degree ye will receive profit.

Bede: Or else, If ye diligently endeavor to do all the good which ye can, and to teach it to your neighbours, the mercy of God will come in, to give you both in the present life a sense to take in higher things, and a will to do better things, and will add for the future an everlasting reward. And therefore it is subjoined, “And to you shall more be given.”

Pseudo-Jerome: According to the measure of his faith the understanding of mysteries is divided to every man, and the virtues of knowledge will also be added to them.

It goes on: “For he that hath, to him shall be given;” that is, he who hath faith shall have virtue, and he who hath obedience to the word, shall also have the understanding of the mystery. Again, he who, on the other hand, has not faith, fails in virtue; and he who has not obedience to the word, shall not have the understanding of it; and if he does not understand, he might as well not have heard.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else, He who has the desire and wish to hear and to seek, to him shall be given. But he who has not the desire of hearing divine things, even what he happens to have of the written law is taken from him.

Bede: For sometimes a clever reader by neglecting his mind, deprives himself of wisdom, of which he tastes the sweetness, who, though slow in intellect, works more diligently.

Chrys.: Again it may be said, that he “hath not,” who has not truth. But our Lord says that “he hath,” because he has a lie, for every one whose understanding believes a lie, thinks that he has something.


26. And He said, “So is the kingdom of god, as if a man should cast seed into the ground;

27. And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.

28. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.

29. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”


Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: A parable occurred, a little above, about the three seeds which perished in various ways, and the one which was saved; in which last He also shews three differences, according to the proportion of faith and practice.

Here, however, He puts forth a parable concerning those only who are saved.

Wherefore it is said, “And He said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, &c.”

Pseudo-Jerome: The kingdom of God is the Church, which is ruled by God, and herself rules over men, and treads down the powers which are contrary to her, and all wickedness.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else He calls by the name of kingdom of God, faith in Him, and in the economy of His Incarnation; which kingdom indeed is as if a man should throw seed. For He Himself being God and the Son of God, having without change been made man, has cast seed upon the earth, that is, He has enlightened the whole world by the word of divine knowledge.

Pseudo-Jerome: For the seed is the word of life, the ground is the human heart, and the sleep of the man means the death of the Saviour. The seed springs up night and day, because after the sleep of Christ, the number of Christians, through calamity and prosperity, continued to flourish more and more in faith, and to wax greater in deed.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or Christ Himself is the man who rises, for He sat waiting with patience, that they who received seed should bear fruit. He rises, that is, by the word of His love, He makes us grow to the bringing forth fruit, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand, [2 Cor 6:7] by which is meant the day, and on the left, by which is meant the night of persecution; for by these the seed springs up, and does not wither.

Theophylact: Or else Christ sleeps, that is, ascends into heaven, where, though He seem to sleep, yet He rises by night, when through temptations He raises us up to the knowledge of Himself; and in the day time, when on account of our prayers, He sets in order our salvation.

Pseudo-Jerome: But when He says, “He knoweth not how,” He is speaking in a figure; that is, He does not make known to us, who amongst us will produce fruit unto the end.

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Ant. e Cat. in Marc.: Or else He says, “He knoweth not,” that He may shew the free-will of those who receive the word, for He commits a work to our will, and does not work the whole Himself alone, lest the good should seem involuntary. For the earth brings forth fruits of its own accord, that is, she is brought to bear fruit without being compelled by a necessity contrary to her will. “First the blade.”

Pseudo-Jerome: That is, fear. For “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Then the full corn in the ear;” [Ps 111:10] that is, charity, for charity is the fulfilling of the Law. [see Rom 13:8]

Pseudo-Chrys., Vict. Cat. e Cat. in Marc.: Or, first it produces the blade, in the law of nature, by degrees growing up to advancement; afterwards it brings forth the ears, which are to be collected into a bundle, and to be offered on an altar to the Lord, that is, in the law of Moses; afterwards the full-fruit, in the Gospel.

Or because we must not only put forth leaves by obedience, but also learn prudence, and, like the stalk of corn, remain upright without minding the winds which blow us about. We must also take heed to our soul by a diligent recollection, that, like the ears, we may bear fruit, that is, shew forth the perfect operation of virtue.

Theophylact: for we put forth the blade when we shew a principle of good; then the ear, when we can resist temptations; then comes the fruit, when a man works something perfect.

It goes on: “and when it has brought forth the fruit, immediately he sendeth the sickle, because the harvest is come.”

Pseudo-Jerome: The sickle is death or the judgment, which cuts down all things; the harvest is the end of the world.

Gregory, in Ezech, 2, Hom. 3: Or else, Man casts seed into the ground, when he places a good intention in his heart; and he sleeps, when he already rests in the hope which attends on a good work. But he rises night and day, because he advances amidst prosperity and adversity, though he knows it not, for he is as yet unable to measure his increase, and yet virtue, once conceived, goes on increasing.

When therefore we conceive good desires, we put seed into the ground; when we begin to work rightly, we are the blade. When we increase to the perfection of good works, we arrive at the ear; when we are firmly fixed in the perfection of the same working, we already put forth the full corn in the ear.


30. And He said, “Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?

31. It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth:

32. But when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it.”

33. And with many such parable spake He the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.

34. But without a parable spake He not unto them: and when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples.


Gloss.: After having narrated the parable concerning the coming forth of the fruit from the seed of the Gospel, he here subjoins another parable, to shew the excellence of the doctrine of the Gospel before all other doctrines.

Wherefore it is said, “And He said, Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God?”

Theophylact: Most brief indeed is the word of faith; Believe in God, and thou shalt be saved. But the preaching of it has been spread far and wide over the earth, and increased so, that the birds of heaven, that is, contemplative men, sublime in understanding and knowledge, dwell under it. For how many wise men among the Gentiles, quitting their wisdom, have found rest in the preaching of the Gospel! Its preaching then is greater than all.

Chrys.: And also because the wisdom spoken amongst the perfect expands, to an extent greater than all other sayings, that which was told to men in short discourses, for there is nothing greater than this truth.

Theophylact: Again, it put forth great boughs, for the Apostles were divided off as the boughs of a tree, some to Rome, some to India, some to other parts of the world.

Pseudo-Jerome: Or else, that seed is very small in fear, but great when it has grown into charity, which is greater than all herbs: for “God is love,” [1 John 4:16] whilst “all flesh is grass.” [Isa 40:6] But the boughs which it puts forth are those of mercy and compassion, since under its shade the poor of Christ, who are meant by the living creatures of the heavens, delight to dwell.

Bede: Again, the man who sows is by many taken to mean the Saviour Himself, by others, man himself sowing in his own heart.

Chrys.: Then after this, Mark, who delights in brevity, to shew the nature of the parables, subjoins, “And with many such parables spake He the word unto them as they could hear Him.”

Theophylact: For since the multitude was unlearned, He instructs them from objects of food and familiar names, and for this reason he adds, “But without a parable spake He not unto them,” that is, in order that they might be induced to approach and to ask Him.

It goes on, “And when they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples,” that is, all things about which they were ignorant and asked Him, not simply all, whether obscure or not.

Pseudo-Jerome: For they were worthy to hear mysteries apart, in the most secret haunt of wisdom, for they were men, who, removed from the crowds of evil thoughts, remained in the solitude of virtue; and wisdom is received in a time of quiet.


35. And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, “Let us pass over unto the other side.”

36. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships.

37. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

38. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake Him, and say unto Him, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

39. And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, “Peace, be still.” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

40. And He said unto them, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?”

41. And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”


Pseudo-Jerome: After His teaching, they come from that place to the sea, and are tossed by the waves.

Wherefore it is said, “And the same day, when the even was come, &c.”

Remig.: For the Lord is said to have had three places of refuge, namely, the ship, the mountain, and the desert. As often as He was pressed upon by the multitude, He used to fly to one of these. When therefore the Lord saw many crowds about Him, as man, He wished to avoid their importunity, and ordered His disciples to go over to the other side.

There follows: “And sending away the multitudes, they took Him, &c.”

Chrys., Hom. in Matt. 28: The Lord took the disciples indeed, that they might be spectators of the miracle which was coming, but He took them alone, that no others might see that they were of such little faith.

Wherefore, to shew that others went across separately, it is said, “And there were also with Him other ships.”

Lest again the disciples might be proud of being alone taken, He permits them to be in danger; and besides this, in order that they might learn to bear temptations manfully.

Wherefore it goes on, “And there arose a great storm of wind;” and that He might impress upon them a greater sense of the miracle which was to be done, He gives time for their fear, by sleeping.

Wherefore there follows, “And He was Himself in the hinder part of the ship, &c.”

For if He had been awake, they would either not have feared, not have asked Him to save them when the storm arose, or they would not have thought that He could do any such things.

Theophylact: Therefore He allowed them to fall into the fear of danger, that they might experience His power in themselves, who saw others benefitted by Him. But He was sleeping upon the pillow of the ship, that is, on a wooden one.

Chrys., Hom. in Matt. 28: Shewing His humility, and thus teaching us many lessons of wisdom. But not yet did the disciples who remained about Him know His glory; they thought indeed that if He arose He could command the winds, but could by no means do so reposing or asleep.

And therefore there follows, “And they awake Him, and say unto Him, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”

Theophylact: But He arising, rebukes first the wind, which was raising the tempest of the sea, and causing the waves to swell, and this is expressed in what follows, “And He arose, and rebuked the wind;” then He commands the sea.

Wherefore it goes on, “And He said to the sea, Peace, be still.”

Gloss.: For from the troubling of the sea there arises a certain sound, which appears to be its voice threatening danger, and therefore, by a sort of metaphor, He fitly commands tranquility by a word signifying silence: just as in the restraining of the winds, which trouble the sea with their violence, He uses a rebuke.

For men who are in power are accustomed to curb those, who rudely disturb the peace of mankind, by threatening to punish them; by this, therefore, we are given to understand, that, as a king can repress violent men by threats, and by his edicts sooth the murmurs of his people, so Christ, the King of all creatures, by His threats restrained the violence of the winds, and compelled the sea to be silent.

And immediately the effect followed, for it continues, “And the wind ceased,” when He had threatened, “and there arose a great calm,” that is, in the sea, to which He had commanded silence.

Theophylact: He rebuked His disciples for not having faith; for it goes on, “And He said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?” How is it that ye have not faith? For if they had faith, they would have believed that even when sleeping, He could preserve them safe.

There follows, “And they feared with a great fear, and said one to another, &c.”

For they were in doubt about Him, for since He stilled the sea, not with a rod like Moses, nor with prayers as Elisha at the Jordan, nor with the ark as Joshua, the son of Nun, on this account they thought Him truly God, but since He was asleep, they thought Him a man.

Pseudo-Jerome: Mystically, however, the hinder part of the ship is the beginning of the Church, in which the Lord sleeps in the body only, for He never sleepeth who keepeth Israel; for the ship with its skins of dead animals keeps in the living, and keeps out the waves, and is bound together by wood, that is, by the cross and the death of the Lord the Church is saved.

The pillow is the body of the Lord, on which His Divinity, which is as His head, has come down.

But the wind and the sea are devils and persecutors, to whom He says Peace, when He restrains the edicts of impious kings, as He will.

The great calm is the peace of the Church after oppression, or a contemplative after an active life.

Bede: Or else the ship into which He embarked, is taken to mean the tree of His passion, by which the faithful attain to the security of the safe shore. The other ships which are said to have been with the Lord signify those who are imbued with faith in the cross of Christ, and are not beaten about by the whirlwind of tribulation; or who, after the storms of temptation, are enjoying the serenity of peace.

And whilst His disciples are sailing on, Christ is asleep, because the time of our Lord’s Passion came on His faithful ones when they were meditating on the rest of His future reign.

Wherefore it is related, that it took place late, that not only the sleep of our Lord, but the hour itself of departing light might signify the setting of the true Sun.

Again, when He ascended the cross, of which the stern of the ship was a type, His blaspheming persecutors rose like the waves against Him, driven on by the storms of the devils, by which, however, His own patience is not disturbed, but His foolish disciples are stuck with amazement. The disciples awake the Lord, because they sought, with most earnest wishes, the resurrection of Him whom they had seen die. Rising up, He threatened the wind, because when He had triumphed in His resurrection, He prostrated the pride of the devil.

He ordered the sea to be still, that is, in rising again, He cast down the rage of the Jews. The disciples are blamed, because after His resurrection, He chided them for their unbelief. And we also when being marked with the sign of the Lord’s cross, we determine to quit the world, embark in the ship with Christ; we attempt to cross the sea; but, He goes to sleep, as we are sailing amidst the roaring of the waters, when amidst the strivings of our virtues, or amidst the attacks of evil spirits, of wicked men, or of our own thoughts, the flame of our love grows cold.

Amongst storms of this sort, let us diligently strive to awake Him; He will soon restrain the tempest, pour down peace upon us, give us the harbour of salvation.

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