WE MAY WRAP UP OUR MEDIEVAL REFERENCES to the Golden Rule by citing St. Thomas Aquinas as our finisher. There are, of course, many others that could be cited in the medieval Church as representative of the Church's acceptance of the Golden Rule as a central fixture of its understanding of the moral life, of the natural law. Matthew of Acquasparta's Quaestiones disputatae, Quaestiones de lebibus (Codex 159 Assisi), St. Bonvaventure's Compendium theologiae veritatis, lib. V, cap. II, Duns Scotus and his Opus Oxoniensis IV, distinctio 21, q. 2, n. 8, etc. But we shall have to satisfy ourselves with the Universal Doctor. In this regard, we will look first at St. Thomas Aquinas's Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, part of his Catena Aurea. There is perhaps a fitting paralellism between the Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) and the Golden Rule (Regula Aurea). Because of its length, I will interlace the Latin text and the English translation (from Christian Classics) by paragraph, so that the English paragraph is immediately above the Latin text (from Documenta Catholica Omnia, which is from the Patrologia Latina of Migne). This work, of course, does not represent the original thoughts of St. Thomas Aquinas, but is a concatenation of texts from the Fathers of the Church linked to the particular Gospel text.
By piecing the texts selected by St. Thomas together, however, we may obtain the following insights: Christ taught us, as a summation of the law and the prophets, that all things whatsoever we would want men to do to us, we should do to them. This rule is without exception, and so, as St. Augustine teaches, must be habitual, and not something irregularly one. To follow this rule, which is simple and direct, brings to us simplicity of heart. It should cure us of a double-heart, a standard wherein we judge ourselves with one law, and our neighbor with another, which really is a form of hypocrisy. It is essential, then, that we not judge others, for as St. John Chrysostom suggests, the Golden Rule is the opposite of the rule that we should not judge our brother, lest we be judged by that law. The moral life does not begin with the judgment of our brother, but with the judgment of ourselves. We do not look at how others treat us, and then treat others. No, rather, an opposite flow is warranted. We are to look at how we would wish to be treated, and then that desire must be sublimated so that the rule be applied to the other. This attitude--of not judging others, but rather forgiving others, and reserving judgment for ourselves--is essential for the life of prayer. Ultimately, since the aid to follow such a rule comes through prayer and the invocation of God's help, the Holy Spirit is intimately involved in guiding us through the application of the Golden Rule. But following the rule is also an essential part of being able to pray, and of being heard. For we cannot properly pray when we walk by a neighbor that is hungry, and we do not stop to feed him; as in doing so, we would be violating this rule and severing communications between us and God. So St. Augustine states in his sermon.
It goes without saying that when the Lord uses the term all things whatsoever, omnia quaecumque, he is not including a disordered application of the rule. It is assumed that only good is intended by the rule. So, if we have disordered desires, the disordered desires are not to govern how we treat others; all things whatsoever that are good, that is, ordered to the Will of God and to the nature of things, that are reasonable, is what is intended by the rule as St. Augustine points out.
This law, though it was written in our hearts, and though found in the law and the prophets, is now promulgated affirmatively by the Lord God made flesh. So none are without excuse, and all are bound by it. It is a marvelous, though difficult ethic, and it will result, as Pope St. Gregory states, that we will return good for evil, and even better for good, so that the cycle of vengeance, of hatred will be broken, and a cycle, an upward spiraling gyre of love put in its place. And therefore, as St. Augustine points out, though it seems that this is a rule that relates only to the interactions among men, it ultimately leads us to the rule that we should love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
12. “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
12. Omnia ergo quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines et vos facite eis haec est enim lex et prophetae."
Aug.: Firmness and strength of walking by the way of wisdom in good habits is thus set before us, by which men are brought to purity and simplicity of heart; concerning which having spoken a long time, He thus concludes, “All things whatsoever ye would, &c.” For there is no man who would that another should act towards him with a double heart.
Augustinus de serm. Dom. Firmitas quaedam et valentia ambulandi per sapientiae viam in bonis moribus constituta est, quibus perducuntur homines usque ad mundationem et simplicitatem cordis; de qua iam diu loquens, ita concludit omnia quaecumque vultis, etc. Nemo enim est qui velit quemquam duplici corde secum agere.
Pseudo-Chrys.: Otherwise; He had above commanded us in order to sanctify our prayers that men should not judge those who sin against them. Then breaking the thread of his discourse He had introduced various other matters, wherefore now when He returns to the command with which He had begun, He says, “All things whatsoever ye would, &c.” That is; I not only command that ye judge not, but “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye unto them;” and then you will be able to pray so as to obtain.
Chrysostomus super Matth. Vel aliter. Supra propter sanctificandam orationem mandavit ut non iudicent homines eos qui peccant in ipsos. Et quia ab ordine narrationis suae recedens, introduxit alia quaedam, nunc ad mandatum quod coeperat rediens, ait omnia quaecumque vultis; idest, non solum mando: nolite iudicare, sed et omnia quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, et facite eis: et tunc impetrabiliter poteritis orare.
Gloss. ord.: Otherwise; The Holy Spirit is the distributor of all spiritual goods, that the deeds of charity may be fulfilled; whence He adds, “All things therefore, &c.”
Glossa. Vel aliter. Omnium bonorum spiritualium distributor est spiritus sanctus, ut opera caritatis impleantur; unde subdit omnia ergo, etc.
Chrys.: Otherwise; The Lord desires to teach that men ought to seek aid from above, but at the same time to contribute what lays in their power; wherefore when He had said, “Ask, seek, and knock,” He proceeds to teach openly that men should be at pains for themselves, adding, “Whatsoever ye would &c.”
Chrysostomus in Matth.. Vel aliter. Vult dominus demonstrare quoniam oportet homines et superius inquirere auxilium, et quae a seipsis sunt simul inferre; unde cum dixisset petite, quaerite, et pulsate docet aperte ipsos homines studiosos esse; et ideo subdit omnia quaecumque vultis, etc.
Aug., Serm., 61. 7: Otherwise; The Lord had promised that He would give good things to them that ask Him. But that He may own his petitioners, let us also own ours. For they that beg are in every thing, save having of substance, equal to those of whom they beg. What face can you have of making request to your God, when you do not acknowledge your equal? This is said in Proverbs, “Whoso stoppeth his ear to the cry of the poor, he shall cry and shall not be heard.” [Prov 21:13] What we ought to bestow on our neighbour when he asks of us, that we ourselves may be heard of God, we may judge by what we would have others bestow upon us; therefore He says, “All things whatsoever ye would.”
Augustinus de verb. Dom. Vel aliter. Promiserat se dominus petentibus bona largiturum. Ut autem ille agnoscat mendicos suos, agnoscamus et nos nostros. Excepta enim substantia facultatum, tales sunt qui petunt, quales a quibus petunt. Quam frontem habes petendi ad Deum tuum, qui non agnoscis parem tuum? hinc est quod in proverbiis dicitur: qui obturat aurem suam ad clamorem pauperis, et ipse clamabit, et non exaudietur. Quid autem petenti proximo debeamus impendere ut et ipsi audiamur a Deo, ex hoc considerare possumus quod ab aliis volumus nobis impendi. Et ideo dixit omnia ergo quaecumque vultis.
Chrys.: He says not, “All things whatsoever,” simply, but “All things therefore,” as though He should say, If ye will be heard, besides those things which I have now said to you, do this also. And He said not, Whatsoever you would have done for you by God, do that for your neighbour; lest you should say, But how can I? but He says, Whatsoever you would have done to you by your fellow-servant, do that also to your neighbour.
Chrysostomus in Matth.. Non simpliciter dicit omnia, sed addidit ergo; quasi dicat: si vultis audiri, cum illis quae dixi et haec facite. Non autem dixit: quaecumque vis effici tibi a Deo, haec fac ad proximum; ut non dicas: qualiter hoc est possibile? sed ait: quaecumque volueris effici tibi a conservo, haec et circa proximum ostende.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 22: Some Latin copies add here, “good things,” [ed. note: So also S. Cyprian de Orat. (Tr. vii. 18. fin.) and the Latin MSS.] which I suppose was inserted to make the sense more plain. For it occurred that one might desire some crime to be committed for his advantage, and should so construe this place, that he ought first to do the like to him by whom he would have it done to him. It were absurd to think that this man had fulfilled this command. Yet the thought is perfect, even though this be not added.
For the words, “All things whatsoever ye would,” are not to be taken in their ordinary and loose signification, but in their exact and proper sense. For there is no will but only in the good [margin note: but see Retract. i. 9. n. 4]; in the wicked it is rather named desire, and not will. Not that the Scriptures always observe this propriety; but where need is, there they retain the proper word so that none other need be understood.
Augustinus de serm. Dom. Quidam Latini codices habent additum bona; quod additum puto ad manifestationem sententiae. Occurrebat enim quod si quisquam flagitiose aliquid erga se fieri velit, et ad hoc referat istam sententiam, ut hoc prior illi faciat a quo sibi fieri cupit; ridiculum est hunc putare istam implesse sententiam. Intelligendum est autem perfectam esse sententiam, etiamsi hoc non addatur.
Quod enim dictum est omnia quaecumque vultis, non usitate ac passim, sed proprie dictum accipi oportet. Voluntas namque non est nisi in bonis: nam in malis cupiditas proprie dicitur, non voluntas: non quia sic semper loquantur Scripturae, sed ubi oportet, ibi omnino proprium verbum tenent, ut non aliud intelligatur.
Cyprian, Tr. vii: Since the Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ came to all men, He summed up all his commands in one precept, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them;” and adds, “for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
Cyprianus de orat. Domin. Cum autem Dei verbum dominus Jesus Christus omnibus venerit, praeceptorum suorum fecit grande compendium, cum dixit quaecumque vultis ut faciant vobis homines, et vos facite eis; unde subdit haec est lex et prophetae.
Pseudo-Chrys.: For whosoever the Law and the Prophets contain up and down through the whole Scriptures, is embraced in this one compendious precept, as the innumerable branches of a tree spring from one root.
Chrysostomus super Matth. Nam quaecumque lex et prophetae sparsim in omnibus praeceperunt Scripturis, in hoc compendioso continentur mandato, quasi innumerabiles arborum rami in una radice.
Greg., Mor., x, 6: He that thinks he ought to do to another as he expects that others will do to him, considers verily how he may return good things for bad, and better things for good.
Gregorius Moralium. Qui enim cogitat ut ea alteri faciat quae ipse sibi ab altero fieri expectat, pensat nimirum ut malis bona et bonis meliora reddat.
Chrys.: Whence what we ought to do is clear, as in our own cases we all know what is proper, and so we cannot take refuge in our ignorance.
Chrysostomus in Matth. Unde manifestum est quoniam ex nobis quae deceant omnes scimus, et non est possibile ad ignorantiam refugere.
Aug., Serm. in Mont., ii, 22: This precept seems to refer to the love of our neighbour, not of God, as in another place He says, there are two commandments on which hang the Law and the Prophets. But as He says not here, The whole Law, as He speaks there, He reserves a place for the other commandment respecting the love of God.
Augustinus de serm. Dom. Videtur autem hoc praeceptum ad dilectionem proximi pertinere, non autem ad Dei; cum in alio loco duo esse praecepta dicat, in quibus lex pendet et prophetae. Cum autem hic non addit: tota lex, quod ibi addidit, servavit locum alteri praecepto, quod est de dilectione Dei.
Aug., De Trin., viii, 7: Otherwise; Scripture does not mention the love of God, where it says, “All things whatsoever ye would;” because he who loves his neighbour must consequently love Love itself above all things; but God is Love; therefore he loves God above all things.
Augustinus de Trin.. Vel aliter. Ideo Scriptura tantum dilectionem proximi commemorat, cum dicit omnia quaecumque vultis; quia qui proximum diligit, consequens est ut et ipsam praecipue dilectionem diligat; Deus autem dilectio est; consequens est ergo ut praecipue diligat Deum.