Jesus said to his disciples:
"Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man travelling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"
Theophylact: The Lord wishing to prevent His disciples from asking about that day and hour, says, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
For if He had said, I know, but I will not reveal it to you, He would have saddened them not a little; but He acted more wisely, and prevents their asking such a question, lest they should importune Him, by saying, neither the Angels, nor I.
Hilary, de Trin., ix: This ignorance of the day and hour is urged against the Only-Begotten God, as if, God born of God had not the same perfection of nature as God. But first, let common sense decide whether it is credible that He, who (p. 270) is the cause that all things are, and are to be, should be ignorant of any out of all these things. For how can it be beyond the knowledge of that nature, by which and in which that which is to be done is contained? And can He be ignorant of that day, which is the day of His own Advent? Human substances foreknow as far as they can what they intend to do, and the knowledge of what is to be done, follows upon the will to act. How then can the Lord of glory, from ignorance of the day of His coming, be believed to be of that imperfect nature, which has on it a necessity of coming, and has not attained to the knowledge of its own advent?
But again, how much more room for blasphemy will there be, if a feeling of envy is ascribed to God the Father, in that He has withheld the knowledge of His beatitude from Him to whom He gave a foreknowledge of His death. But if there are in Him all the treasures of knowledge, He is not ignorant of this day; rather we ought to remember that the treasures of wisdom in Him are hidden; His ignorance therefore must be connected with the hiding of the treasures of wisdom, which are in Him.
For in all cases, in which God declares Himself ignorant, He is not under the power of ignorance, but either it is not a fit time for speaking, or it is an economy of not acting.
But if God is said then to have known that Abraham loved Him, when He did not hide that His knowledge from Abraham, it follows, that the Father is said to know the day, because He did not hide it from the Son. If therefore the Son knew not the day, it is a Sacrament of His being silent, as on the contrary the Father alone is said to know, because He is not silent. But God forbid that any new and bodily changes should be ascribed to the Father or the Son.
Lastly, lest He should be said to be ignorant from weakness, He has immediately added, “Take ye heed, watch and pray, for ye know not when the time is.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For we must need watch with our souls before the death of the body.
Theophylact: But He teaches us two things, watching and prayer; for many of us watch, but watch only to pass the night in wickedness; He now follows this up with a parable, saying, “For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave his servants power over every work, and commanded the porter to watch.” (p. 271)
Bede: The man who took a far journey left his house is Christ, who ascending as a conqueror to His Father after the Resurrection, left His Church, as to His bodily presence, but has never deprived her of the safeguard of His Divine presence.
Greg, Hom in Evan, 9: For the earth is properly the place for the flesh, which was as it were carried away to a far country, when it was placed by our Redeemer in the heavens. “And he gave his servants power over every work,” when, by giving to His faithful ones the grace of the Holy Ghost, He gave them the power of serving every good work.
He has also ordered the porter to watch, because He commanded the order of pastors to have a care over the Church committed to them. Not only, however, those of us who rule over Churches, but all are required to watch the doors of their hearts, lest the evil suggestions of the devil enter into them, and lest our Lord find us sleeping.
Wherefore concluding this parable He adds, “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning: lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping.”
Pseudo-Jerome: For he who sleeps applies not his mind to real bodies, but to phantoms, and when he awakes, he possesses not what he had seen; so also are those, whom the love of this world seizes upon in this life; they quit after this life what they dreamed was real.
Theophylact: See again that He has not said, I know not when the time will be, but, “Ye know not.” For the reason why He concealed it was that it was better for us; for if, now that we know not the end, we are careless, what should we do if we knew it? We should keep on our wickedness even unto the end. Let us, therefore, attend to His words; for the end comes at even, when a man dies in old age; a midnight, when he dies in the midst of his youth; and at cockcrow, when our reason is perfect within us; for when a child begins to live according to his reason, then the cock cries loud within him, rousing him from the sleep of sense; but the age of childhood is the morning. Now all these ages must look out for the end; for even a child must be watched, lest he die unbaptized.
Pseudo-Jerome: He thus concludes His discourse, that the last should hear from those who come first this precept which is common to all; wherefore He adds, “But what I say unto you I (p. 272) say unto all, Watch.”
Augustine, Epist., 199, 3: For He not only speaks to those in whose hearing He then spake, but even to all who came after them, before our time, and even to us, and to all after us, even to His last coming. but shall that day find all living, or will any man say that He speaks also to the dead, when He says, “Watch, lest when he cometh he find you sleeping?”
Why then does He say to all, what only belongs to those who shall then be alive, if it be not that it belongs to all, as I have said? For that day comes to each man when his day comes for departing from this life such as he is to be, when judged in that day, and for this reason every Christian ought to watch, lest the Advent of the Lord find him unprepared; but that day shall find him unprepared, whom the last day of his life shall find unprepared.
A Reading from a Homily by Godfrey of Admont
Take heed, watch, and pray, the Scripture says. By these words our Lord
and Saviour admonished not only his disciples whom he was addressing in the flesh; by these same words, he also made clear to us what we must do, and how we should keep watch. The three parts of this saying plainly show how all destined to be saved, who forget what lies behind them and desire to press on toward what lies ahead, can attain the summit of perfection which is their goal.
Those then who moved to compunction by divine grace, have decided to renounce the world and its desires, must have their eyes open and take heed, according to the warning of the word of God at the beginning of the
gospel reading. In other words, they must begin by distinguishing between what should be done and what should be avoided.
However, people intending to change their way of life will not reach perfection simply by knowing what is right. After learning how to live a good life they must also strive to be watchful by performing good works. Hence, after warning his disciples to take heed, the Lord fittingly adds,
Watch and pray.The command to watch means that we must strive to put our understanding of what is right into practice. We must turn our backs on the lazy, indolent way of life into which we had fallen, and eagerly watch for anything that we can do.
But to those who thus keep watch by the zealous performance of good deeds, the Lord shows a yet higher way. He immediately adds the admonition:
"and pray". All the elect are commanded to pray, which means that
their desires are to be for things eternal; their only motive in performing
a good deed should be their hope of a reward in heaven. It would seem to be perseverance in this kind of prayer that the apostle Paul enjoins on his disciples when he tells them to pray without ceasing. We pray without ceasing if for performing a good deed we have not the slightest desire to receive the glory of earthly praise but think longingly only of what is eternal. Take heed, watch and pray, our text says; meaning, take heed by understanding what is right; watch by doing what is good; pray by desiring what is eternal. And the following words show clearly why they must be so very heedful, watchful, and prayerful. You do not know, the text says when the time will be. So since we are ignorant of the time of this great visitation, we must be always watching and praying; that is to say, for the grace of so great a visitation we must prepare the innermost recesses of our hearts by vigilant effort.
Godfrey of Admont, Festal Homilies, 23: PL 174, 724–6