The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Final volume of commentary of Gospel of Matthew focuses on liturgy, Eucharist

“In the end,” says Fr. Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, OCSO, “the only purpose of my writing is provoke prayer by staging an intense encounter between my readers and the enthralling presence of God in Christ Jesus.”

The four volumes of the "Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word" commentary on the Gospel of Matthew took Fr. Simeon Leiva-Merikakis 37 years to complete. (Images:

The fourth and final volume of the remarkable commentary series Fire of Mercy, Heart of the Word: Meditations on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, written by Fr. Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, OCSO, was published recently by Ignatius Press. It was written over the course of nearly four decades and is nearly 3,000 pages in length. More importantly, it is the result of an unusual combination of scholarship, literary erudition, deep spiritual insight, and keen theological knowledge.

‘Fire of Mercy has become a classic of Catholic culture,” states Fr. John Saward, “It is certainly original, like no other meditation on the Scriptures you will ever read.” And Sister Wendy Beckett says, “This is a biblical commentary with scholarship and, above all, a prayerfulness that is a great gift to the Church.”

As a layman, Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis obtained his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Theology from Emory University. Once a Professor of Literature and Theology at the University of San Francisco, he is now a Trappist monk at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Mass., having been ordained a priest in 2013.

He corresponded recently with Carl E. Olson, editor of Catholic World Report, about his commentary series.

CWR: As you note in the Prelude to this final volume, you began writing this commentary in 1983 at the age of 37. Going back those many years, why did you choose the Gospel of Matthew? What attracted you to the first Gospel?

Fr. Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, OCSO: My answer is rather banal: I happened to begin writing a Matthew commentary simply because it’s the first book in the New Testament!

In 1983 I had my first sabbatical leave from teaching, and I was supposed to write a book on “the Catholic prophecy voice” in literature, using as examples the writings of Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy. I began working on this official project in the morning, and as a personal activity I had decided to read the whole New Testament in Greek from beginning to end.

As I began reading Matthew, I began to scribble down little notes to myself, an old reading habit I have. Gradually, isolated words and phrases became sentences, and sentences became paragraphs, and before I knew it I found myself writing a book!

CWR: And what did you plan at that time? Did you expect it to be four volumes and some 2,000+ pages long? How did it evolve or grow?

Fr. Simeon: For the record, the sum total is actually closer to 3,000 pages! I could never have imagined writing any book even 300 pages long, much less a work in four volumes of such extravagant bulk.

I honestly have to say that the text grew in my hands through no desire of mine like foam in a bathtub. When I realized that I was actually writing a book, I decided on a very simple plan: I would simply proceed one verse at a time, making plenty of leisure to contemplate the original Greek text of that verse and trying to articulate the thoughts, emotions, and desires those particular words evoked in me. Nothing more complex than that. There’s a saying by Gregory the Great about this phenomenon: Verbum crescit cum legente, that is, “The Word grows with the reader”. I believe quite literally that, as Jesus says, the Word is a seed that God plants in our heart. If we do the best we can to be attentive, to open our deepest being up to receive this seed, then we do become “good earth” and the Word will grow in us and produce fruit.

That mystery occurs, I think, in the soul of every God-seeker, only in my case I was prompted to record the growth of the Word in my experience by writing down what I was being shown in each verse. You do this consistently enough and you will eventually end up writing 3,000 pages! Though bulk obviously isn’t everything, still that number of pages, though totally unforeseen by me, does bear witness to the inexhaustible depths of God’s Word and the unsuspected capacity of the human soul to welcome it and allow it to grow with a will of its own. Remember that the whole text of Matthew’s Gospel is only between 30 and 40 pages long, depending on the edition.

CWR: How did your own journey from a married professor of literature and theology to a Trappist monk-priest inform how you researched, studied, and wrote this work?

Fr. Simeon: As you mentioned, I began writing this work when I was 37 years old and, as it turned out, it took me another 37 years to complete it! Radical changes take place in any human life over such a period of time.

In a sense, writing this commentary, struggling with the deepest meaning of the Word over these many years much like Jacob wrestled with the angel, was the one activity that provided continuity in my life when almost everything else in it was in flux. Daily contact with the Word helped me little by little to unify parts of my person which had been kept in different compartments. Greater intimacy with the Word gave me the courage to move away from the public persona I had long cultivated in the academy and allow a more interior self to emerge.

I can tell by my greater use of the pronoun “I” in the later volumes: whatever I said I felt the freedom to utter more and more as the individual man and Catholic believer that I am, with my own sensibility and history, without having to take refuge behind some more impersonal, academic voice that speaks in the safer “we” of the scholarly community. Except for my insistence on the literal meaning of the actual Greek words used in the Gospel, which required careful consultation of good dictionaries, I must say I never did much conventional “research” to write these volumes.

One does not have to do second-hand research to receive the Word of God in the depth of one’s soul. Only a little humility, much spiritual thirst, and a loving disposition are required. These are the essential qualities needed to show up at what is basically an intense encounter with the living God, mediated by the drama of Christ’s incarnate presence among us.

CWR: There are, of course, numerous commentaries on all of the Gospels and other New Testament books. But yours is unique, in my reading, because it combines academic rigor, insights from the Church Fathers, and a deeply mystical and contemplative approach that is never sentimental but is strongly pastoral. Do you think that is a fair and accurate description? How do you hope readers will see and understand your approach?

Fr. Simeon: Yes, I think that is a fair and accurate description. In fact, you probably give me more credit than I deserve. All of the elements you list are, for me, not at all aspects of any “method” I might have set out to practice, but rather aspects of my own person, education, interests and passions.

As a teacher the only “method” I was ever able to follow was, simply, to share with my students something that I loved and admired, explaining to them why this was so. I always found foreign to me the dichotomy that is often imposed in higher education between the personal convictions and human makeup of the teacher, on the one hand, and the objective requirements of the academic discipline, on the other. Even though I did not do it consciously as a matter of deliberate choice, I suppose that my commentary is a reading of Matthew carried out in communion with the whole Christian tradition, and yet also from the perspective of one person’s living experience of the Mystery of Christ active in his own life. We do not create ourselves. Just as we receive physical life from our parents and social identity from a particular human group, so too do we receive spiritual life from the womb of the Church. We cannot speak about the Word and its meaning in any consequential way until we have first spent a great deal of time and energy listening to how others have experienced the Word throughout the centuries.

And wherever the Word is present and gladly embraced, there we encounter a locus of beauty and delight. This is why I often quote poems in the course of my commentary, or allude to paintings or music, because I delight in seeing the great creations of human art crystallize chorally around the luminous Center of Creation: Christ the Word. I would hope readers of my commentary sense in my words an invitation to delve with deliberate joy into the rich treasure house of the Word, which is the world of God’s Heart. In the end, the only purpose of my writing is provoke prayer by staging an intense encounter between my readers and the enthralling presence of God in Christ Jesus.

CWR: The Liturgy and the Eucharist are central to your commentary, especially in this final volume, which covers the final three chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. Can you reflect on those two, intertwined realities?

Fr. Simeon: As just stated, my chief goal in writing this commentary is to call attention to God’s dynamic presence among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is present to us in many ways: in our historical memory; in the faith that we profess; in the body of the Church; in the persons we daily encounter, especially the most needy; in moments of authentic prayer; in the words of Sacred Scripture.

However, to various degrees all of these modes of Jesus’ presence are mediated by some reality other than, simply, himself and ourselves. Most direct and purest communion with Jesus is objectively achieved in the Holy Eucharist, according to his own ineffable design. We may say that the whole thrust of Judaeo-Christian revelation, from the first line of Genesis, can be defined as the eternal God’s incredible desire to share his divine life with us, poor creatures that we are. Jesus’ name “Emmanuel”, “God-with-us”, is the perfect summary of this truth. And Jesus’ presence to us in the Holy Eucharist, together with holy Communion as the consummation of the Eucharistic sacrifice, is the unsurpassable and definitive form of God’s presence to us in Jesus. There is no mystery anywhere in heaven or on earth that is more paradoxical and unfathomable than God’s desire and plan to become the food of his creatures.

Now, Christ’s refracted presence in the many words of Sacred Scripture and his utterly simple and real presence in the consecrated bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist are not two realities but one, two aspects of the same central Mystery. This is why every Mass consists of a Liturgy of the Word and a Liturgy of the Eucharist. These two parts of the one Eucharistic Liturgy are inconceivable without one another. First, our minds, hearts and wills are illuminated and moved by the divine force of the inspired words. Then, in a second movement, our prepared and awakened hearts can consummate the mystery of union with the living Christ, promised by and prefigured in the written Word, in the reception of Communion. Both kinds of presence are intrinsic aspects of the Incarnation.

In the past, in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, we fell into the habit of thinking that the Bible was the Protestant thing while the Eucharist was the Catholic thing. Such a dichotomy proved disastrous for both. This is why I devote the whole introduction to this fourth and final volume of my Matthew commentary to showing the essential, life-giving relationship between the written Word of God in Scripture and the living Word of God in the Eucharist, and why we absolutely depend on both simultaneously for dear life!

CWR: Matthew’s Gospel is a deeply Jewish text, and you refer constantly back to the Old Testament and to the essential Jewish context. What sort of connections to the Old Testament do you try to emphasize throughout?

Fr. Simeon: Matthew exceeds the other three Gospels by far in his number of citations from the Old Testament. We cannot understand the answers unless we know what the questions were in the first place, and we cannot understand the fulfillment of the promises God’s makes unless we know what those promises were.

The so-called “Old” Testament is essential to Christian faith. In order to emphasize its permanent relevance, it would probably be better to call it “the Hebrew Scriptures”, or “the First Covenant”. Although there surely exists a quantum leap between the Covenants due to the unparalleled nature of the Incarnation, there is a good reason why both Testaments, together, comprise the one Holy Bible. Without the first revelation to Israel, Christianity would be like a tree hanging in mid-air, without rich soil nourishing its roots. The Jewish soil keeps Christian faith grounded in history and the particularity of space, time and traditions.

The first thing the Gnostic heretics did in the early Church was to reject the Old Testament as obsolete, and every spiritualistic movement since has tried to do the same thing. The Christ’s human nature as incarnate God is a Jewish nature, with everything that implies. The evangelist Matthew was especially aware of all this. It is almost certain that his Gospel was originally written in Aramaic and that he wrote for a community that consisted largely of Judaeo-Christians. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not some universalistic, intellectual construct floating in the speculative imagination; he is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who has a history of involvement with the human race through the vicissitudes of the Jewish people. We cannot be Christians unless we become Jews spiritually, as Pius XI strikingly observed. Anti-Semitism is, by definition, a negation of Christianity. Without its Jewish substance and roots, Christian faith becomes pure, disembodied Gnosticism, with dire theological and political results.

So Matthew, in every line of his Gospel, focuses on the reality of an incarnate God, who has taken on real Jewish human flesh and entered the battleground of human history. The incarnate Word reveals that the God Jews and Christians worship has a heart, demands the involvement of faithful, reciprocal love, and ultimately delivers a judgment upon the quality of life of those he has created with such lavish wisdom and care. All of these traits are rooted in the Jewish theology of Torah and the Prophets, and Jesus of Nazareth is the living bearer, in his person, of the whole of Jewish revelation.

As Jesus says in Matthew, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (5:17). Obviously, “the law and the prophets” is shorthand for the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures.

CWR: As you’ve worked on this commentary, what has perhaps surprised you most? Are there aspects of Matthew’s Gospel that you think are overlooked? Misunderstood?

Fr. Simeon: I think I have been most surprised by Matthew’s keen psychological penetration, and the extent to which the emotions play into the life of faith. This is not something we usually look for in any of the Gospels, much less in the one most given to demonstrating, from the Old Testament, Jesus’ identity as Messiah and Son of God.

And yet, go to almost any miracle story (e.g. the stilling of the storm, 8:23-27), almost any intense encounter with Jesus (e.g., the Canaanite woman, 15:21-28), and especially almost any scene in the Passion narrative (e.g., Peter’s denial of Jesus, 26:69-75), and you will see how crucial emotions and human psychology are in our relationship with God. This surely has to do with the Evangelist’s purpose in writing the Gospel in the first place: he does not intend to write an objective history book, or to produce clear, philosophical arguments demonstrating the truth of Jesus as Redeemer. Rather, I believe he intends to move the whole being of his readers—heart, mind, will, and emotions—to cling to the person of the incarnate Word in an intimate embrace, much as Peter clung to him for dear life as he was sinking in the waters (14:25-31).

To me, this is the iconic paradigm of authentic faith. It isn’t until our emotions tell us that we are about to perish that we finally make the desperate leap of faith that lands us in the arms of Jesus.

CWR: If you could highlight just a few insights or thoughts on the Passion of Christ, as described by Matthew, what might they be?

Fr. Simeon: First of all, what is most impressive to me is the deliberateness with which Jesus goes to his Passion and Death. Matthew bends backwards to stress continually that everything that is happening to Jesus can happen only because Jesus exercises full freedom in handing himself over into the hands of his persecutors.

This, in turn, underscores the theological truth that the world is redeemed by the purity of Jesus’ self-surrender out of love and not by any kind of magical power or intellectual superiority. From this self-surrender, as defining the essence of the Passion and Death, there follows Jesus’ silence in the face of his judges and persecutors. In this, he is not behaving as some kind of Stoic, showing the power of mind over matter, the ability to conquer pain by an interior strength. No; his silence demonstrates that the incarnate Word, after he has spoken many human words and performed many good deeds of healing and compassion, must ultimately become muted by human opposition in order to blossom as the transcendent, luminous Presence of God loving the world beyond all words, arguments, or temporal human victories.

Another aspect that greatly struck me in Matthew’s Passion narrative is manner in which, during the crucifixion and its aftermath on Golgotha, the Evangelist manages to portray a world reverting to chaos (through the symbols of darkness at noon, the earthquake, the desolate landscape, and sheer human cruelty) at the death of him who is, by divine nature, the very Center of the Universe. How extraordinary that Matthew portrays this chaos on Golgotha, which takes us back to the elemental tohu webohu of the first page of Genesis, in order to prepare the way for the new Creation by grace as a result of Christ’s death and his pouring out his Holy Spirit on the chaos through his final agonizing cry from the Cross!

CWR: Any final thoughts?

Fr. Simeon: This reflection on the way Matthew portrays a chaotic state of affairs on Golgotha is very relevant, it seems to me, to our contemporary social and cultural landscape. Religiously, socially, politically, our culture has lost its center. Things are spinning out of control. I am not only thinking of explicit religious faith as a communal reality but, at a more fundamental level, I am thinking of things like common courtesy and the ability for people to disagree without hurling rhetorical bricks at one another. The generational gap, and the resulting inability of older and younger people to understand and coexist joyfully with one another, has gone quite beyond the parameters of the normal.

I don’t think I need to belabor all the obvious aspects of our social dysfunction at this moment of our history as a nation. We have no patience for others because each one cares more and more exclusively for his or her own goals and desires. We find boring or irrelevant, or even a potential foe, anyone who is not like ourselves. How can we live through this cultural situation with a measure of calm, generosity, and even creativity? Each of us needs to find a center to our lives, something that will make our existence cohere meaningfully on a day-to-day basis. We must adopt some recurring “practice”, no matter how simply and modest, that will help us establish a modicum of peace and light and nourishment at the core of our existence. From this core we might then be able to move outward in our lives to accomplish the good purpose we have set before us, engaging the world and others with assurance and imperturbability.

We cannot derive interior order from the surrounding disorder. It seems to me that, at least for serious Christians and all those ardently searching for the interior path of spiritual vigilance, a daily encounter with the person of Jesus in the Gospel would provide a source of nourishment and stability to counteract the centrifugal whirlwind of our society. Focusing quietly on Jesus’ words a few minutes a day, pondering the impact of his presence on my mind and heart, trying to find light in the often disconcerting thrust of Jesus’ thoughts, and, above all, allowing our whole being to be flooded by the regenerative power emanating from his Heart: I believe that such a practice can prove extremely helpful in transforming what can at times be a very frustrating daily struggle into a more hopeful spiritual warfare, in which we feel steadily supported and accompanied rather than grimly alone.

(Editor’s note: This interview was posted originally on Sept. 16, 2021.)

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About Carl E. Olson 1217 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.


  1. “And wherever the Word is present and gladly embraced, there we encounter a locus of beauty and delight

    Yes! and what is more beautiful than an open honest embrace/acknowledgment of one’s own failings before God and the faithful as this is beauty in action and it is called humility, which is ‘immediately’ recognized/’reflected’ within the hearts of young and old alike.

    So can the Church under Pope Francis and his Bishops embrace humility and reflect this recognizable innate instinct within the hearts of mankind which has been given by God to all and in doing so reclaim the laity/faithful in giving the Church relevance that is based on Truth in the world today.

    The proclaiming of the Word (Words without action are just a distraction) is not enough the laity/faithful must see the true intent (that defines the action) within the hearts of those who lead us. While ever the true Divine Mercy Image is kept hidden away, we clearly see the truth (Intent) of the present situation which can be summed up in these words

    ‘We lead we do as we please, we just appease’

    The Church has been given the means by Our Lord Himself via the true DM Image one of Broken Man the means to immediately shift the culture of Clericalism globally in a way that cannot be misunderstood by mankind while at the same time creating a genuine atmosphere of sorrow for the culture of cover-up within the whole church. While this image would remain as a visual reminder to All to serve the Truth first before any institution or individual man/woman as only an honest church one seen to be based on humility can recapture the hearts of mankind especially in the West today.

    A church for the poor is not enough (although good in itself) as it sidesteps the full spectrum of Truth which confronts evil on both the spiritual plain and worldly plain
    And this is what I am advocating Humility (Truth) as the basis for cohesion and inclusivity within the Church. Creating a Church (Field Hospital) that is truly universal where no one (Baptised Christian) is barred from partaking of the bread of life especially those who cannot receive absolution who by openly (Publicly) acknowledge (Confesses) their need for God’s Divine Mercy just prior to receiving the Bread of Life should not be turned away. This would ensure spiritual growth for all her children no matter in what state, place, or time that she encounters them at the crossroads (difficulties) of life.

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • An addendum to my post above. From the article

      “This, in turn, underscores the theological truth that the world is redeemed by the purity of Jesus’ self-surrender out of love and not by any kind of magical power or intellectual superiority…….

      And this is mirrored within a truly humble heart, a muted heart of self-abasement (-surrender) before Him.
      kevin your brother
      In Christ

      • Thank you Meiron for your comment
        In the past and probably so today many Catholics move away from the Church as they commence their working life, never having truly committed themselves to the faith, they drift along. The Church is universal many Baptized Catholics (Cultural) know little of their religion, but a process/path has commenced that encompasses Hope, and for this reason, I believe that any child presented for baptism should be baptized no matter what the circumstances of their parents/guardians as it confers on the child, led by the Holy Spirit, an acknowledgeable recognition of given grace (Calling), within their own heart later in life, no matter how broken that life may be.

        I believe this stirring of the heart often occurs in life’s confounding moments of significance as in death/birth/loss etc. But sadly, this stirring (Hope) is stifled almost immediately, as they are often entangled within a sinful situation (Mortal Sin).

        Our life circumstances tend to influence our thinking and behavior, in my era many poorly educated people left school at a very young age, with the basic rudiments of Christianity, many without making a true commitment to Jesus Christ. I remember one instance when some of the boys in my class, who came from a Children Home were about to be Confirmed, they were told that “if you are not Confirmed you will have to leave the Home”, at thirteen years of age, possibly for some the only home they had known. Then as school finished for them at fifteen years of age they would have to go out into the real world, often with no family connections whatsoever.

        A man/woman can have a calling to the faith at any time in their life, in the early Church many converted to Christianity as informed adults. Indoctrinated uneducated children leaving school at fifteen were comparable to lambs without a Shepherd. If mistakes have been made Divine Mercy (an Image of Broken Man) demands a way back for the indoctrinated, as in an open door, even if they are entangled in an evil situation, (Mortal Sin) to lay damnation on these lambs (Now older) is a travesty of justice.

        The Church has tried to remedy the situation for some with Amoris Laetitia, which is flawed as it dismisses Christ’s commandment of the indissolubility of marriage, whereas it should be vigorously defended and reinforced. While understanding that God’s Divine Mercy cannot be codified. As

        “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”

        What I am proposing gives the Church the means to call all of her Children (Cultural Catholics, seen by some as the spiritual undeserving poor) no matter what their present state (Entangled in sinful situations). Many of whom never truly committed themselves to the faith. To embrace publicly in humility their brokenness, in the present moment, before God and the faithful. If this act of humility is sincere (I believe for many it would be so) spiritual growth (Virtue/Grace) will accrue.

        Does not the Church accommodate the broken condition of Man presently via The Sacrament of Reconciliation as it heals/leads that brokenness in calling it (The sinner) to a life of virtue?

        I have read that the final words of the Code of Canon Law are these: “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes” (Can. 1752)

        I have been advocating that The True Divine Mercy Image is an Image of Broken Man, given by our Lord to the Church and has within itself, the capacity to draw into communion, in humility, all those outcasts who our Saviour came to save.

        Perhaps you may consider reading my posts via the link

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

        • So the argument seems to be this:
          1) The Sacrament of Reconciliation accommodates the broken condition of man by calling sinners to virtue.
          2) Not all sinners receive sacramental absolution.
          3) The Church should consider the Divine Mercy image as the means to draw into communion those not currently accommodated through sacramental Reconciliation.

          Is this the basic argument?

          • Thank you meiron for your comment Not all sinners receive sacramental absolution that is true because the church presently cannot accommodate those Baptized Catholics who in the past have never truly committed to the faith some of whom are now looking for a way back as they are often entangled within a sinful situation (Mortal Sin) while lacking the necessary grace to change direction; while living in that said entanglement within a sinful life situation.

            All of us can only approach the Eucharistic sacrifice/table dressed in the wedding/bonding garment of humility this is why we say
            “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof only say the word and my soul shall be healed”

            John 6:50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that anyone may eat of it and not die

            The nourishing bread of life is for those who ‘would be’ children of God. God’s mercy is greater than any sin Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself for sinners not the self-righteous. What I am proposing fulfills these words for ‘anyone who approaches Him in humility.

            “Anyone who comes to me I will not turn away”

            Then (after first publicly declaring their need for God’s Mercy in these words “Jesus I trust in Thee” leave the shared Eucharistic table now nourished ‘live a life of ongoing repentance’ while trusting in His Divine Mercy with the given hope of a full reconciliation/Communion with God’s Holy Church.

            ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it’

            So, from my perspective, we should be the fertilizer (Active ingredient), as we work (Dig) around those who need help (Entangled in sinful situations), especially whenever promising buds (Change of heart/direction) occur, as in, to nurture them.

            The alternative as in ‘not to nurture others’, is to align oneself with those who think that they are righteous.

            “I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.” (Change direction)

            So yes meiron “The Church should consider the Divine Mercy image as the means to draw into communion those not currently accommodated through the Sacrament of Reconciliation”

            kevin your brother
            In Christ

  2. Please folks, if you have the means and a mere 8 ounces of interest,


    The investment of a few dollars will bring unfathomable oceans of spiritual profit.

  3. Fire of Mercy,Heart of the Word is beyond doubt a classic of biblical commentary, each page, each sentence loaded with intellectual and spiritual insights gleaned by a scholar with knowledge of Greek and deep devotion to understanding and living the Gospel.

  4. “One does not have to do second-hand research to receive the Word of God in the depth of one’s soul” (Fr Simeon). That experience was mine with Thomas Aquinas, not because commentaries weren’t worthy of secondary research, rather that there were no commentaries I was aware of on the more esoteric subject matter that I was eliciting from Aquinas, the dimension of intuitive apprehension in ethics. Intuition was a veritable expletive in orthodox Catholic circles due to its earlier misunderstanding and misuse by New Age progressives. Aquinas instead spoke of a deeper understanding of a truth or principle that coincides with the intellect’s inherent capacity to grasp first principles in one act of knowing, when subject and predicate are apprehended simultaneously. Josef Pieper is the only Catholic philosopher I’m aware of who understood this. So I can appreciate Fr Simeon’s more personal scriptural research with the written word of God, which perhaps moreso is a groundbreaking understanding of sacred scripture, groundbreaking in depth not in something other than what the words are intended by the Holy Spirit to convey. Gregory the Great understood this interior transaction requiring Fr Simeon’s dialogue with Our Lord. “Allowing our whole being to be flooded by the regenerative power emanating from his Heart” (Fr Simeon). When sought wisdom subtle and effusive permeates our understanding of faith and reason, of theology and philosophy. Fr Simeon’s scriptural work seems inspired by the Holy Spirit at a time when revelation is frequently slanted to support an agenda.

    • Reviewing my comment I see I’ve mastered the art of self reference. I apologize. Author, Fr Simeon, highlights a mysterious wonderful dimension of the written word of God. He speaks of the richness we find in the word. We return to it, remain with, a word, a phrase begins to reveal further meaning. Saint John of the Cross says similar with the analogy of a vein of gold the mine revealing greater riches as we continue to search. Fr Simeon’s book provides us with a tutorial on reading scripture and eliciting from it riches we all generally pass over.

  5. .”…the word, which is the word of God’s heart.” Also the Divine love of the Heart of Christ, which, it seems to me, has permeated Fr. Simeon’s own heart streaming forth to our hearts the depth of truth; and the core of truth is love.

  6. Thank-you Carl Olson for a penetrating interview with Father Simeon Leiva-Merikakis. I have read the first three volumes as slowly and meditatively as I could and look forward to the final one. My words would be inadequate, but, based on Fr Simeon’s discussion here, I can vouch that I thought the Holy Spirit was present to me many times in the earlier volumes. No other commentary is like it. So enthusiastic am I that I gave three of volume one to friends.

    Fr Peter Morello’s comment tying-in, “Aquinas instead spoke of a deeper understanding of a truth or principle that coincides with the intellect’s inherent capacity to grasp first principles in one act of knowing, when subject and predicate are apprehended simultaneously.” is a fascinating one. Doesn’t that parallel the Angelic understanding Aquinas wrote of? Instead of the labored step-by-step there is a grasp of the whole at once?

    If you can’t afford all four volumes at once, try just volume 1. Properly read, sentence by sentence with ruminative meditation will take time. When you’ve finished it you will find a way to get volume 2 – and so on.

    Again, thank-you for this insight to Fr Simeon, as I’m sure many who have read any of the volumes must wonder whether he is entirely of this earth! Wonderful.

  7. Enjoying Fr Simeon’s great new commentary, yet, I question “God the Father has not loved God the Son more than He loved us (p. 202, 2nd par). “The Son cannot love the Father without loving us…the Father cannot love the Son without requiring of him our redemption.” “Jesus can receive life from his Father only by giving his life to us,” (p.474). God is holiness itself. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, each God, each Deity, in perfect absolute love, bliss, and joy. “He has no need of any creature!” It is not the Father’s demand, but the LOVE of the Son for his creatures that make him incarnate to make himself a holy bride; yet the bride does not become the bridegroom.

  8. A question for Fr. Simeon or a CWR reader knowledgeable in Scripture history…

    Fr. Simeon mentions the misconception that Catholics have only the Eucharist while Protestants have the Scripture. But, another misconception is the Protestant elimination of the laying-on-of-hands Apostolic Succession as essential for the Tradition and as necessary for valid sacraments (except Baptism).

    My question: Is Mathew’s Gospel not only the first of the four presented in Scripture, but is it also the first chronologically?

    The very dominant theory is that the narrative actions in Luke and canonical (Greek) Matthew both draw from an earlier Mark. And, that all of the gospel writers draw from a hypothetical and non-extant “Source Q”, said to consist of the sayings of Jesus Christ. And yet, the earlier and still minority thesis is the Catholic Two Source Theory, e.g., by Alfred Wickenhauser (early from the University of Freiburg), that the Mark-to-Matthew sequence is correct in the Greek versions, but that the original Matthew (addressed to the Jews and still in Aramaic, and not extant) is the so-called Source Q, and is substantially identical with the later and canonical (Greek) Matthew we have today.

    The Protestant theory, from 19th-century German theologians?, is convenient to the Protestant sects because Mark, as the presumed original, does not include the historical commissioning of the apostles and their designated successors as reported in Matthew: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:19-20).

    Not much room there for replacing the Tradition with the 16th-century rupture, or even for a similar? “hermeneutics of discontinuity” and block-party, synodal “paradigm-shift” today–under the non-documentary and fluid “spirit” of Vatican II.

    So, Fr. Simeon or someone else, who came first in time, Matthew or Mark, and which chronology is endorsed in Catholic seminary training today?

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