Voices ever ancient, ever new. Monday-Week21-2013

“You blind ones, which is greater, the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?” (Matthew 22:19)

In commenting on this verse from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew from today’s Mass Readings, Origen of Alexandria writes:

“Anyone who thinks that his own almsgiving, his own fasting, his own psalms and prayers are in themselves great and who, without good judgment, blesses them and does not reflect that it is just from such a heart that his almsgiving or psalms or prayers or fasting are offered — such a man is blind. For indeed his heart is the altar that sanctifies his offering which is the heart of the world. The heart and the conscience of such a man “do not feel remorse but have trust in God,” because his own heart has been rightly formed. He does not rely on his gifts as such or the words of his prayers or of his psalms — although they may seem well composed and chosen from the Scriptures — but on the heart rightly formed.

Whoever places his own witness on the altar, that is, his own conscience and the center of his heart, such a man swears by the altar, embracing everything which is contained in it. One who swears according to what we attest to by the temple, that is, “through the whole sense of Scriptures,” such a man seems to swear according to the word and the will of God which is contained in it. Such a man in this sense swears upon the temple (upon all the Scriptures) and upon the altar (upon the whole heart), that is, an understanding of the sense of the whole of the Scriptures and upon the whole heart. The temple is the glory of God, which “we see as in a mirror darkly.” The heavens, however, are above the temple of God, in which sits the throne of God, on which we may look “with our face uncovered” when he comes.” (Commentary on Matthew, 18)


O God,
Who cause the minds of the faithful
to unite in a single purpose,
grant your people to love what You command
and to desire what you promise, that,
amid the uncertainties of this world,
our hearts may be fixed on that place
where true gladness is found.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.