Thoughts from the Early Church

Commentary by Paschasius Radbertus

They do not practice what they preach. (Mt 23:3)

Christ is called master, or teacher, by right of nature rather than by courtesy, for all things subsist through him. Through his incarnation and life upon earth we are taught the way to eternal life. Our reconciliation with God is dependent on the fact of his being greater than we are.

Yet, having told his disciples not to allow themselves to be called master, or to love seats of honor and things of that kind, he himself set an example and was a model of humility. It is as though he said:

Even as I do not seek my own glory (though there is One who seeks it), so neither must you love to be honored above others, or to be called master. Look at me: The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life for many.

This was said not only for the instruction of his disciples, but also of those who are teachers in the Church.

None of them must seek positions of honor; whoever wishes to be greater than the rest must first become the servant of all, as Christ himself did. If anyone wants a high office let him want the labor it entails, not the honor it will bring him.

He should desire to serve and minister to everyone, and not expect everyone to serve and minister to him. For the desire to be served comes from the supercilious attitude of the Pharisees; the desire to serve from the teaching of Christ.

Those who canvass for positions of honor are the ones who exalt themselves; and similarly it is those who of their own accord humble themselves who will be exalted by the Lord.

After specifically reserving the office of teaching to himself, Christ immediately went on to give as the rule of his teaching that whoever wants to be greatest should be the servant of all.

And he gave the same rule in other words when he said: Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart.

Anyone therefore who wants to be Christ’s disciple must hasten to learn the lesson he professes to teach, for a perfect disciple will be like his master. Otherwise, if he refuses to learn the master’s lesson, far from being a master himself, he will not even be a disciple.
Commentary on Saint Matthew’s Gospel
10, 23: PL 120, 769-770


Paschasius Radbertus (c.785-860) was brought up by the nuns of Notre Dame at Soissons, after being left abandoned on their doorstep. He received the monastic habit at Corbie, and was the confidant of two successive abbots. On the death of Abbot Wala Paschasius himself became abbot, but he found the office uncongenial and resigned after seven years. He always refused to be raised to the priesthood. Paschasius, who was a prolific writer, is noted especially for the part he played in establishing the Catholic doctrine on the eucharist. He also wrote lengthy commentaries on Matthew and on the forty-fourth psalm

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson