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And Peter followed Him afar off even into the court of the

High Priest (St. Mark xiv.). Simon. Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple.

And that disciple was known to the High Priest, and went in with Jesus into the court of the High Priest. But Peter stood at the door without. The other disciple, therefore, who was known to the High Priest, went out and spoke to the portress, and brought in Peter (St. John xviii.).

St. John, as usual, supplies details omitted by the other Evangelists. Were it not for his help, it might be difficult to understand how Peter gained admission into the palace.

A. St. Peter is by nature bold and impetuous, and rushes into danger. Who but he would wish to leap into the waves to meet our Lord ? Who would draw the sword single-handed to resist an armed multitude ? He is now once more running into a grave danger of a worse kind. In the former case the life of his body was imperilled. Now his soul is in great danger. Moreover, in the midnight storm on the lake, he asked permission of our Saviour, nay more, asked for a command, before he threw himself into the danger. In this midnight storm, far more awful, he acts without his Master's counsel and sanction.

Most wisely Holy Church teaches us to pray often that “all our words and works may begin always from Thee, O Lord, and by Thee be happily ended”.

B. The other disciple went and brought in Peter.

Thanks to the charity and humility of the Heart of our Lord, He has not single-handed completed the redemption of each one of us; but left us all a little work to do for ourselves and for one another. I fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body which is the Church (Coloss. i.). Each one thus may become a Jesus, a Saviour to his neighbours. Through the communion of saints one faithful servant already safe in his eternal home goes out, we may say, to bring in another, still fighting his battle on the earth. Who can conceive the everlasting gratitude of the blessed to those who have by prayer, by penance, by labour, helped them into Heaven? And yet their gratitude is as nothing at all compared with the infinite and everlasting thanksgiving of Christ Jesus, Who says throughout eternity: What you did to My little ones, you did to Me.


The maid, therefore, that was portress saith to Peter : Art

not thou also one of this Man's disciples? He saith, I am not (St. John xviii. 17). Art thou one of this Man's disciples ?

I. Are we obliged to believe that the portress put this question at the moment when Peter was entering ? Reading hurriedly, we should probably think that this was the case, but St. John does not say so; and later on we shall see reason to think that it was not then, but afterwards, that she indulged her unhappy curiosity.

For the question is discussed : how many times did St. Peter deny our Lord? The commonly received opinion is that he denied thrice; and it is thought by judicious commentators that our Blessed Saviour sanctioned this opinion by afterwards requiring three professions of his love from St. Peter.

Other writers, however, have taught that he denied seven times, and certainly more than three denials seem to be mentioned in the Gospels.

One thing, however, which strongly favours the common opinion is that all the Evangelists record three distinct denials, and none of them more than three. It happens more than once that we find in one Evangelist a denial not related by the others; but as they all mention three, and no more, it seems highly probable the tradition was that the Saint denied three times.

The two conflicting opinions have been reconciled in this way. St. Peter repeated his denials on three separate and distinct occasions, but on each occasion he was questioned more than once and denied more than once.

II. The commentators further notice progressive degrees in his denials.

a. On the first occasion it was a simple denial : He said, I am not (St. John xviii.).

b. On the second: He denied with AN Oath that I know not the Man (St. Matt. xxvi.).

c. On the third : HE BEGAN TO CURSE AND SWEAR that he knew not the Man (St. Matt. xxvi.).

We may then endeavour to arrange the several denials mentioned in the Gospels into three groups, or, in other words, try to determine the three occasions on which they took place.

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The maid, therefore, that was portress saith to Peter: Art not

thou also one of this Man's disciples? He saith: I am not. Now the servants and ministers stood at a fire of coals and warmed themselves. And with them was Peter also stand

ing, and warming himself (St. John xviii.). And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall (the

court) and were sitting about it, Peter was in the midst of them. Whom when a certain servant-maid had seen sitting at the light, and had earnestly beheld him, she said: This man also was with Him. But he denied, saying :

Woman, I know Him not (St. Luke xxii.). And he sat with the servants at the fire and warmed himself.

Now when Peter was in the court below, there cometh one of the maid-servants of the High Priest. And when she had seen Peter warming himself, looking on him she saith : Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. But he denied, saying : I neither know nor understand what thou sayest

(St. Mark xiv.). And going in he sat with the servants that he might see the

end. And there came to him a servant-maid, saying : Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean. But he denied before them all, saying: I know not what thou sayest (St. Matt. xxvi.).

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Here we have from the four Gospels the denial that is put in the first place by each Evangelist. There seems to be no reason why we may not assume that the servant-maid who questions in all these four cases, is one and the same person, namely, the portress, who when she has finished her work at the door, and let all in who are to come in, naturally goes to the fire to warm herself with the rest-for it was cold, as St. John writes. Even from St. John's narrative this harmony of the four narratives looks

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very probable. For though, on the one hand, he seems to join on the question put by the portress to the entrance of St. Peter -The other disciple spoke to the portress and brought in Peter. The maid therefore that was portress saith to Peter, Art thou not also one of this Man's disciples 2-yet if we observe what follows we see that he indicates that Peter was at the fire when the portress questioned him. He saith, I am not. Now the servants and ministers stood at a fire of coals, because it was cold, and warmed themselves. And with them was Peter also standing, and warming himself.

Here then we have for contemplation the story of St. Peter's first fall, and the composition of place. St. John, indeed, writes that he was STANDING at a fire of coals. St. Matthew and St. Mark write that he sat with the servants. This slight discrepancy is accounted for if we suppose that there are not seats enough for all the large party of servants assembled, and that some are sitting, some standing. St. Peter sometimes finds a vacant seat, and sometimes is obliged to stand.


A. Whom when a certain servant-maid (the portress) had seen sitting at the light, and had earnestly beheld him, she said : This man also was with Him.--Art thou not also one of His disciples ? Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean. Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. He saith : I am not.-Woman, I know Him not. He denied before them all, saying : I know not what thou sayest.

Wise commentators hold that the Evangelists do not always intend give the exact words spoken, but rat the sense. We need not, therefore, believe that this portress said all these words here given; but if she did, there would be nothing in the repetition, and in the mixture of questions and affirmatives, contrary to the nature of inquisitive curiosity.

All the Evangelists are agreed that a woman takes the lead in this outburst of unhallowed curiosity. It is from a woman, in the first place, that the scandal cometh to the future Vicar of Christ. Dux fæmina facti.On the other hand, holy writers remark that there is no instance mentioned in the Gospels of a woman taking any part in the outrages heaped on our Lord during His Passion. On the contrary, women showed compassion and stood by the Cross. There remains, however, the sad coincidence that in the beginning the Fall was in great measure helped on by a woman: and in the new creation of Jesus Christ

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scandal comes to His Vicar through a woman. But to this must always be added, that the Blessed among women has abundantly and superabundantly repaired the damage done by woman.

B. Art thou not one of this Man's disciples ?

We must notice how the mischief originates in idle curiosity. To this woman it matters nothing at all who or what this stranger is. How little heed we give to our Saviour's word: I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak they shall render an account of it at the Day of Judgment.

An idle word seems to us so harmless; but we see in this courtyard, how terrible the outcome may be. If the palace had crumbled, if Jerusalem had been destroyed by earthquake, this would have been a small catastrophe compared with the fall of this holy Apostle, the future Vicar of Christ. The woman seems to speak but a passing word; but when we read of St. Peter's after years, and his enduring contrition through all the time of his exile on earth, we can see the truth of St. James' comparison, that one idle question from the restless tongue can cause a distress like the vast conflagration that grows out of a spark of fire.

Terrified by idle and unnecessary questioning, children often sully the bright innocence of childhood, and become liars. An idle question destroys fidelity, and induces the faithless tongue to betray grave secrets; an idle curiosity encourages the tale-bearer to divulge some news which engenders a life-long quarrel and bitter hatred.

If there were no curious questioners there would be few calumniators, detractors, and backbiters. There is great truth in our homely proverb: “Ask me no questions, and I will tell you no lies”. Ask me no questions, and I will not sin myself by my tongue, and you will not sin by listening, and will not sin by repeating and propagating the slander or detraction which you learn from me.

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