Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Origen of Alexandria
Who is my neighbor?
To interpret the parable of the Good Samaritan, one of the elders used to say that the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho was Adam. He said Jerusalem was paradise, Jericho was the world, and the brigands were enemy powers. The priest was the law, the Levite the prophets, and the Samaritan Christ.
Adam’s wounds were his disobedience, the animal that carried him was the body of the Lord, and the “pandochium” or inn, open to all who wished to enter, was the Church. The two denarii represented the Father and the Son, and the innkeeper was the head of the Church, who was entrusted with its administration. The promised return of the Samaritan was a figure of the second coming of the Savior.
The Samaritan was carrying oil—“oil to make his face shine,” as scripture says, referring surely to the face of the man he cared for. He cleansed the man’s wounds with oil to soothe the inflammation and with wine that made them smart, and then placed him on his own mount, that is, on his own body, since he had condescended to assume our humanity.
This Samaritan bore our sins and suffered on our behalf; he carried the half dead man to the inn which takes in everyone, denying no one its help; in other words, to the Church. To this inn Jesus invites all when he says: “Come to me, all who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you new strength.”
After bringing in the man half dead the Samaritan did not immediately depart, but remained and dressed his wounds by night as well as by day, showing his concern and doing everything he could for him.
In the morning when he wished to set out again he took from his own pure silver coins, from his own sterling money, two denarii to pay the innkeeper—clearly the angel of the Church—and ordered him to nurse with all diligence and restore to health the man whom for a short time he himself had personally tended.
I think the two denarii stand for knowledge of the Father and the Son in the Father. This was given to the angel as a recompense, so that he would care more diligently for the man entrusted to him. He was also promised that whatever he spent of his own in healing him would be repaid.
This guardian of souls who showed mercy to the man who fell into the hands of brigands was a better neighbor to him than were either the law or the prophets, and he proved this more by deeds than by words.
Now the saying: “Be imitators of me as I am of Christ,” makes it clear that we can imitate Christ by showing mercy to those who have fallen into the hands of brigands. We can go to them, bandage their wounds after pouring in oil and wine, place them on our own mount, and bear their burdens.
And so the Son of God exhorts us to do these things, in words addressed not only to the teacher of the law but to all of us: “Go and do likewise.” If we do, we shall gain eternal life in Christ Jesus, “to whom belongs glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”
(On Luke’s Gospel 34, 3.7-9: SC 87, 402-410)
Origen (183-253), one of the greatest thinkers of ancient times, became head of the catechetical school of Alexandria at the age of eighteen. In 230 he was ordained priest by the bishop of Caesarea. His life was entirely devoted to the study of scripture and he was also a great master of the spiritual life. His book On First Principles was the first great theological synthesis. Many of his works are extant only in Latin as a result of his posthumous condemnation for heterodox teaching. Nevertheless, in intention he was always a loyal son of the Church.
**From Saint Louis University