Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Theophylact
“If anyone wishes to be first, let him make himself
last of all and the servant of all.” (Mk: 9:35)
“As he was teaching his disciples the Lord said to them: ‘The Son of man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will put him to death, but after his death, on the third day, he will rise again’'”
The Lord always alternated prophecies of his passion with the performance of miracles, so that he should not be thought to have suffered through lack of power. Therefore, after imparting the grievous news that men would kill him, he added the joyful tidings that on the third day he would rise again. This was to teach us that joy always follows sorrow, and that we should not be uselessly distressed by painful events, but should rather have hope that better times will come.
“He came to Capernaum, and after entering the house he questioned the disciples: 'What were you arguing about on the way?'” Now the disciples still saw things from a very human point of view, and they had been quarrelling amongst themselves about which of them was the greatest and the most esteemed by Christ. Yet the Lord did not restrain their desire for preeminent honor; indeed he wishes us to aspire to the most exalted rank. He does not however wish us to seize the first place, but rather to win the highest honor by humility.
He stood a child among them because he wants us to become childlike. A child has no desire for honor; it is not jealous, and it does not remember injuries. And he said: “If you become like that, you will receive a great reward, and if, moreover, for my sake, you honor others who are like that, you will receive the kingdom of heaven; for you will be receiving me, and in receiving me you receive the one who sent me.”
You see then what great things humility, together with simplicity and guilelessness, can accomplish. It causes both the Son and the Father to dwell in us, and with them of course comes the Holy Spirit also.
Commentary on Mark’s Gospel: pp. 123, 588-89
Theophylact (c. 1050-1109), theologian and language scholar, studied at Constantinople. He taught rhetoric and was tutor to the imperial heir presumptive: hence his treatise on the Education of Monarchs. In 1078 he became archbishop of Ochrida in Bulgarian territory. While diffusing Byzantine culture among the Slavs, he allowed the use of Slavonic texts. He wrote commentaries on several books of the Old Testament and all of the New except Revelation. He especially stressed practical morality, as did Chrysostorn, his model.