These proverbs are useful "to know wisdom and instruction, to understand the words of prudence; and to receive the instruction of doctrine, justice, and judgment and equity: to give subtilty to little ones, to the young man knowledge and understanding" (1st Nocturn).
Solomon was only a type of Christ, the Incarnate wisdom, as indeed, we read in to-day's Gospel: "Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. For I say to you that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them; and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them " "Blessed," says St. Bede, "are the eyes that can recognize the mysteries of the Lord; of whom it is said 'Thou hast revealed them to little ones'." Blessed are the eyes of these little ones, to whom the Son has vouchsafed to reveal Himself and the Father. Here is a doctor of the law who, tempting our Lord, asks Him questions about eternal life (Gospel). But the snare that he spread for Jesus Christ shows how true were the words our Redeemer had just uttered, when He said to His Father: "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them to little ones " (2nd Nocturn).
"The fear of the Lord," says Solomon, "is the beginning of wisdom ... If sinners shall entice thee consent not to them. If they shall say: 'Come with us, let us hide snares for the innocent without cause: let us swallow him up alive like hell, and whole as one that goeth down into the pit. We shall find all precious substance: we shall fill our houses with spoils.' My son, walk not with them: restrain thy foot from their paths. For their feet run to evil and make haste to shed blood. So the ways of every covetous man destroy the souls of the possessors" (1st Nocturn).
It was thus that the demons acted with regard to the first man, for when Adam fell into sin they stripped him of all his goods and covered him with wounds. For original sin deprives man of all the gifts of grace and wounds him in his very nature. His intelligence is less alert and his will weaker, for the concupiscence which reigns in his members carries him towards evil. To make him feel his impotence, for as St. Paul says, our sufficiency is from God (Epistle), almighty God instituted the Mosaic Law which gave him the commandments that faith enabled him to fulfil, but without supplying the sacramental help we enjoy in the New Dispensation.
Then man, understanding that he needs the divine assistance in order to be healed, to will what is good, to obtain it and to persevere in it to the end, looks towards heaven and cries: "Incline unto my aid, O God: O Lord, make haste to help me: let my enemies be confounded and ashamed who seek my soul" (Introit). "O Lord the God of my salvation, I have cried in the day, and in the night before Thee" (Alleluia).
God resolved to come to man's assistance, and since the priests and Levites of the Old Law could not help him, He sent Jesus Christ, who according to St. Gregory's teaching, made Himself man's neighbour, clothing Himself with our humanity that He might heal it (3rd Nocturn). This is what the Epistle and Gospel tell us. The Law of Sinai, engraven as St. Paul explains, with letters upon stones, was a ministration of death, for as we have seen, it did not supply the strength necessary to perform what it commanded. Thus in the Offertory we see how Moses had to intercede with almighty God to appease His anger, provoked by the sins of His people. The law of grace was a ministration of justification, for the Holy Ghost, who was sent to the Church at Pentecost, the day on which the Old Law was abrogated, bestows the strength to observe the precepts of the decalogue and of the Church. As St. Paul says: "The letter killeth but the spirit quickeneth" (Epistle). The Gospel gives practical proof of this in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the face of the impotence of the priesthood of the Old Law, represented by the priest and the Levite, the Good Samaritan, that is our Lord Himself sets up a new law, different to the first and comes Himself to the help of man. Physician of our souls, He pours into our wounds the ointment of His grace, the oil of His sacraments and the wine of His Eucharist. Therefore, in a style full of imagery, the liturgy sings the loving kindnesses of God, who has made the earth bring forth bread that strengthens man, wine that rejoices his heart and oil that makes his face cheerful (Communion). As the Gradual says: "I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall ever be in my mouth."
What God has done for us, we should do for our neighbour, following the example set us by the divine Samaritan. "There being," says St. Bede, "no closer relationship than that of head and members, we should love him who is the imitation of Christ; we should be ready to render him every service both spiritual and temporal of which he has need." Neither the Mosaic Law nor the Gospel separate love towards God from that which we should have for our brethren, a love supernatural in its origin, since it is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and supernatural in its object, which is God in the person of our brethren. The neighbour of this wounded Jew was not, as the Jews thought, one connected with him by the tie of blood, but he who charitably bent over him to give him aid. That sense of union in Christ, which goes so far as to make us love those who hate us and pardon those who do us wrong, because God is in them or at least should be, is the true love of our neighbour. Made, by grace, partakers of the divine nature, we ought to imitate our heavenly Father, who appeased by the prayer of Moses, a type of our Redeemer, could only heap blessings upon the people who had offended Him (Offertory, Communion).
United with Christ, let us bend with Him over our suffering neighbour. This will be the best way to become, by divine mercy, qualified to serve almighty God in a fitting and laudable manner and raised up by His grace, we may run without hindrance, toward the heaven He has promised us (Collect). "Our Lord," says the Venerable Bede, "affirms in the clearest way that there is only one love, and that it must not only be expressed in words but shown forth by good deeds. It is this that leads to eternal life" (3rd Nocturn).
Deus, in adjutorium meum intende: Domine, ad adjuvandum me festina: confundantur et revereantur inimici mei, qui quaerunt animam meam. * Avertantur retrorsum, et erubescant: qui cogitant mihi mala.
Incline unto my aid, O God: O Lord, make haste to help me: let my enemies be confounded and ashamed, who seek my soul. * Let them be turned backward and blush for shame, who desire evils to me.
(Psalm 69:2-4 from the Introit of Mass)
Omnipotens et misericors Deus, de cujus munere venit, ut tibi a fidelibus tuis digne et laudabiliter serviatur; tribue quaesumus, nobis; ut ad promissiones tuas sine offensione curramus.
Almighty and merciful God, of whose gift it cometh that Thy faithful people do unto Thee true and laudable service; grant, we beseech Thee, that we may run without hindrance toward the attainment of Thy promises.
Continuation of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: Blessed are the eyes that see the things which you see. For I say to you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them ; and to hear the things that you hear, and have not heard them. And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting Him, and saying : Master, what must I do to possess eternal life? But He said to him : What is written in the law? how readest thou? He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And He said to him: Thou hast answered rightly: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said to Jesus: And who is my neighbour? And Jesus answering, said: A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among robbers, who also stripped him, and having wounded him went away, leaving him half dead: and it chanced that a certain priest went down the same way, and seeing him, passed by. In like manner also a Levite, when he was near the place and saw him, passed by. But a certain Samaritan being on his journey, came near him, and seeing him, was moved with compassion, and going up to him, bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and setting him upon his own beast, brought him to an inn, and took care of him : and the next day he took out two pence, and gave to the host, and said : Take care of him, and whatsoever thou shalt spend over and above, I, at my return will repay thee. Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him that fell among robbers? But he said : He that shewed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him : Go and do thou in like manner.
(St Luke 10:23-37)