Sunday, July 11, 2010

Allegorical Christological Interpretation of the Good Samaritan

I am sure I have done something on this before but here goes...
Jerusalem = the City of the Most High, the footstall of God, the Holy Mountain - it is metaphorically the highest city on earth - it signifies Heaven
Jericho = the depths - it is actually one of the lowest places on earth - for the Jews it was a place to descend to - the descent from Jerusalem is steep
Man on a journey = us - we have no abiding city, we are between heaven and hell, life is a pilgrimage, we are travellers
set upon by robbers = we are damaged by sin left prostrate in the gutter, enfeebled and helpless by our injuries
priest passes by = the sacrifices of the Temple are ineffectual - he has nothing to offer
levite passes by = the Law is ineffectual - he has nothing to offer
Samaritan = the rejected one = the Lord who comes to heal us
oil - Christ is the annointed, oil represents the Holy Spirit and the sacramental life of the Church
wine = the blood of Christ
Placed him on his donkey = Christ raising up broken humanity
the inn = the Church
two denarii = the payment of our redemption
my return = 2nd Coming

10 comments:

Paul Mallinder said...

Solid nourishment. Thank you.

umblepie said...

Thanks Father, new to me!

Patricius said...

In the Good Samaritan window of Chartres Cathedral the narrative of the creation and fall of man is juxtaposed with that of the Good Samaritan. In other words the two stories are shown as complementary. I think this interpretation goes back to St Irenaeus.

Bryan said...

Your setting out of the allegory matches that by Ludolphus the Carthusian (1300 - c.1378) in the Vita Christi apart from the explanation of the Oil and Wine.

Here is a rough translation of an extract of part of the Vita Christi on the Good Samaritan (Book 1 - Chapter: LIX:

"According to the allegorical sense, this man fallen into the hands of robbers represents us, the entire human race. In effect, in the person of our first parents, the human race went down from Jerusalem which signified the “vision of peace” to Jericho which signifies “the moon” and indicates mutability or inconstancy. In other words, sinful man was driven out of paradise...he fell into the hands of robbers who are the demons... the demons stripped him, that is to say in tricking him they took off his garments of innocence and immortality...after having beaten him...that is to say after having weakened and harmed his good natural qualities by the sins that they make him commit the demons retire, hiding themselves to continue their attacks, for the devil no longer tempts openly as in the Garden of Eden, but in an invisible manner. The man was left half-dead, for even though he had lost by sin the privilege of immortality, he nevertheless still preserved the light of reason by which he could know God. The priest and levite... this shows that the Old Law can only point out sins but not heal them...The Samaritan, whose name signifies guardian, is Jesus Christ who, in his humanity, is the guardian of souls, for he came into the world to save them. He approaches the wounded man in making himself similar to him by His Incarnation.. he binds up the wounds by covering him with His grace.. He pours the oil of gentleness on the wounds by promising to the penitent the forgiveness of his sins. He pours out the wine of compunction by inspiring the sinner to think of eternal punishment. The donkey of the Samaritan represents the humanity of Jesus Christ by means of which he has deigned to come to us."

Fr Ray Blake said...

Bryan, I didn't know about Ludolphus - thanks

santoeusebio said...

The Story of the Good Samaritan has been used in a paper "A Defence of Abortion" by one JJ Thomson - to support the Woman's Right to Choose. She says that the Samaritan was not required to do what he did. He could just have phoned for an ambulance or the equivalent in those days - sending a message to his family I suppose. That would have been the action of a Minimally Decent Samaritan rather than a Good Samaritan. Having quoted the parable she concludes "... Jesus said 'Go, and do thou likewise.' Perhaps he meant that we are morally required to act as the Good Samaritan did. Perhaps he was urging people to do more than is morally required of them."

So her argument goes on that a woman is not morally required to carry her child to term and that if she has some non-trivial reason (i.e. she acts minimally decent) she should be allowed an abortion.

It is the two "Perhaps" that give the game away. Thomson entirely overlooks the fact that Christ was being asked "What must I do to inherit eternal life?". It is a tough call.

Nicolas Bellord

georgem said...

A wonderful explanation.
Great minds think alike!

nickbris said...

Your explanation in your Homily today was excellent Father Ray,I have never thought about it before but it is about time we were taught correctly about these stories and I have had my three score & ten.

Ma Tucker said...

Thank you Father for the great insights.

Elizabeth from Sussex said...

Oh, if only I had been somewhere where that understanding of the parable was given. We had the usual tired just the moral-of-the-story one. The great thing about using the allegorical/spirtual sense here is that the message of Jesus to us is not just 'be nice to everyone', but 'YOU are MY neighbour'. Jesus, GOd the SON, stooped to earth to help us - we are his neighbours!