Thoughts from the Early Church
Commentary by Bruno of Segni
The one who exalts himself shall be humbled
and the one who humbles himself shall be exalted.
Invited to a wedding feast, the Lord looked round and noticed how all were choosing the first and most honorable places, each person wanting to take precedence over the others and to be raised above them.
He then told them this parable, which even taken literally is most useful and appropriate for all who like to be honored, and fear being put to shame. To those of lower station it accords courtesy, and to those of higher condition respect.
However, since it is called a parable, it must have some other interpretation besides the literal one. Let us see then what this wedding feast is, and who are the people invited to it.
This wedding feast takes place in the Church every day. Every day the Lord makes a wedding feast, for every day he unites faithful souls to himself, some coming to be baptized, others leaving this world for the kingdom of heaven.
We are all invited to this wedding feast—all of us who have received faith in Christ and the seal of baptism. This table set before us is that of which it is said: “You have prepared a table before me in the sight of those who trouble me.”Here is the showbread, here the fatted calf, here the lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Here is the living bread come down from heaven, here placed before us is the chalice of the New Covenant, here are the gospels and the letters of the apostles, here the books of Moses and the prophets.
It is as though a dish containing every delight was brought and set before us. What more then can we desire? What reason is there for choosing the first seats? There is plenty for all no matter where we sit. There is nothing we shall lack.
But whoever you may be who still desire the first place here—go and sit in the last place. Do not be lifted up by pride, inflated by knowledge, elated by nobility, but the greater you are the more you must humble yourself in every way, and you will find grace with God. In his own time he will say to you: “Friend, go up higher, and then you will be honored by all who sit at table with you.”
Moses sat in the last place whenever he had the choice. When the Lord wishing to send him to the Israelites, invited him to take a higher place, his answer was: “I beg you, Lord, send someone else. I am not a good speaker.” It was the same as saying: “I am not worthy of so great an office.”
Saul, too, was of small account in his own eyes when the Lord made him king. And Jeremiah, similarly, was afraid of rising to the first place: “Ah, Lord God, he said, look I cannot speak—I am only a child.”
In the church, then, the first seat, or the highest place, is to be sought not by ambition but by humility; not by money but by holiness.
(On Luke’s Gospel II, 14: PL 165, 406-407)
Bruno of Segni (d.1123) was born near Asti in Piedmont, and studied at the university of Bologna before being made a canon of Siena.
At the Council of Rome (1079) he defended the Catholic doctrine of the eucharist against Berengarius. In the following year Gregory VII, his personal friend, made him bishop of Segni, but he refused a cardinalate.
Bruno was a zealous pastor, and shared in all the projects of Gregory VII for the reform of the Church. In his writings he attacked simony and lay investiture. He was the greatest scripture commentator of his age.
Longing for solitude, he received the monastic habit at Monte Cassino and in 1107 became abbot, but was later ordered by Pope Paschal II to return to his see.
**From Saint Louis University