Jesus is Tempted by the Devil in the Desert: Part 2

With Commentary by Cornelius a Lapide


Artwork by: John Ritto Penniman. 1818. Christ Tempted by the Devil. This work is in the public domain. {{PD-US}}

The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide masterfully illustrates the teachings of the Saints and fathers of the Church regarding the temptation of Jesus by the Devil in the desert. Part 2 of this series will consist entirely of the profound and extensive Scriptural commentary of Cornelius a Lapide. Reading this commentary on this event of monumental importance in the life of Christ, which has been handed down through tradition, is truly a great treasure which provides the sincere reader with the heavenly armor of God which protects against the diabolical attacks of the Devil. Understanding these passages from Sacred Scripture makes it possible to identify the insidious battle plans of the Devil. In a way, it is almost as if the the battle tactics of the ancient enemy have been intercepted and decoded by the soldiers of God. Not only that, but these commentaries provide an impenetrable defense against the infernal dragon as they illustrate how to emulate Jesus Christ in a more perfect manner. Christ has already crushed the head of the vile, ancient serpent. Christus Vincit! Christus Regnat! Christus Imperat!

[3] And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. [4] Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. [5] Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

[6] And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone. [7] Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. [8] Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, [9] And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me. [10] Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

[11] Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.
— (Gospel According to St. Matthew)

And the tempter coming said to him:

And when the tempter came—came, i.e., in human form, and with an audible voice. For this temptation of Christ, like that of Adam and Eve, in their state of innocence, was effected by the external suggestion of the voice, not by internal cogitations and movements of the fancy, rising up against reason and the Spirit. For in Adam, and much more in Christ, was original righteousness, which kept in subjection to the reason all motions of the soul and imagination, so that in Him was no unlawful thought, no motion of concupiscence that could be stirred up by the devil, such as is stirred up in us since Adam’s sin. For by it we have lost original righteousness, and are vexed by concupiscence. So Damasc. (lib. 3, de Fide, c. 20), and from him theologians, passim. Whence St. Gregory (Hom. 16): ‘By suggestion Christ could be tempted; but His mind the delectation of sin wounded not, and therefore all that temptation of the devil was without, not within.’

The tempter. Not because he is the only tempter, but because he is the first and chief among tempters. For they mistake who say that all temptation comes from Satan. Some temptations arise out of our own carnal will and frailness, and some from the world, i.e., from worldly and carnal men. So St. Chrysostom (Hom. 54 in Acta), ‘Many sin without the devil. He does not do everything: many things even come of our slothfulness alone.’ The devil, however, often rouses concupiscence in us by representing to the imagination things to be lusted after, and thus inflaming the sensual appetite. In the same way he stirs up the world, i.e., worldly and carnal men, to tempt us by persecuting us, or by enticing us to their follies. So he is called the tempter, κατ έ̉ξοχήν. Note here the craft of the devil, how he tempts every one by that to which he has a propensity, or in which he is weak. As fowlers and hunters lay in snares for wild birds and beasts various sorts of food such as each prefer, so also the devil offers the pleasures of the table to such as are prone to gluttony, to those who are full he offers ease and sloth, to the proud he offers honours, to the contentious lawsuits and strifes, to the avaricious usury, fraud, iniquitous bargains, and so on. (S. Gregory, lib. 14, Moral. c. 7.)
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

If thou be, &c. The devil had heard the Father’s Voice at the Baptism of Christ—Thou art my beloved Son; yet forasmuch as he saw Him in some respects like a poor, weak, ordinary mortal, and being for that reason in doubt whether He were the very Son of God by nature, the WORD itself of the Father, or only a very eminent Son of God by adoption, he tempts Christ, and asks Him to turn stones into bread, that by His performance of the miracle, or inability to perform it, he might determine what kind of Son of God he was. For as by the Word of God all things had been created in the beginning, so by the same Word might stones be suddenly and instantly converted into bread. If therefore Christ had done this, the devil would have believed that He was the WORD of God.

Angels indeed are able to turn stones into bread, but not suddenly and directly, but by degrees and indirectly, by applying active energies to passive objects, with many previous actions, alterations, and conversions; but if Christ could not have done what He was asked, and had said that He could not, and that this was a Divine work, and peculiar to God, the devil would have urged, ‘Then thou art not the WORD of God, nor His Son by nature.’ It is a probable opinion of many theologians that the sin and pride of Lucifer in heaven were, that when God revealed to him that the Son of God would assume man’s nature, and bade him submit himself to Christ as man, he became envious of Christ, that a man forsooth should be preferred to himself, who was the most glorious angel, and that a man should be taken up into hypostatic union with the WORD. Of this honour he was himself ambitious, and so rebelled against Christ and God. When therefore he saw this man called the Son of God by John the Baptist and the Father, he wished to find out if He were really God’s Son, that he might pour out upon Him his pristine envy, fury, and indignation. So Suarez. This was Satan’s cross, gnawing and tormenting his proud mind. But he conceals all this, veils it beneath the cloak of charity, that he wished to succour Christ in His hunger. Wherefore it is probable that the devil did not abruptly and without preface say to Christ, If thou be, &c., but first saluted Him kindly, and insinuated himself by some such bland words as these, ‘What, my lord, are you doing here alone? I saw you baptized of late in Jordan: I heard a voice come down to you from heaven, This is my Son. I should be glad to know whether you are truly the Son of God by nature, or only His adopted Son by grace. I observe also that you are utterly spent with hunger after your fast of forty days. If then you are the Son of God, relieve your hunger, convert these stones into loaves of bread. This for you were most easy.’

Wherefore what St. Chrysostom says in this place is not so probable—that the devil endeavoured to tempt Christ to unbelief. Somewhat as though he had said thus:—‘It is true you heard a voice at your baptism, This is my Son, but do not imagine yourself to be the Son of God, or, if you are, turn these stones into bread.’ For it would have been folly to try to persuade Christ to believe that He was not the Son of God, if He was indeed His Son, and knew that He was.

The devil wished also, by this temptation, to entice Christ to make a vain boast of his power, and to distrust the aid of God His Father. ‘Your Father has for forty days been unmindful of you; He has not given you food. Now then, take care of yourself.’

There was also a temptation to gluttony. For the temptation to gluttony, in this case, would have been, on account of hunger to yield to the devil, to acquiesce in his persuasions, and work a miracle. For this were directly contrary to religion, which forbids all commerce with Satan. Indirectly, it were contrary to temperance. Calvin, therefore, is wrong in denying that Christ was tempted to gluttony. Hear St. Gregory (Hom. 16 in Evang.), where He teaches that Christ was assailed by a threefold temptation—viz., gluttony, vain glory, and avarice—because Adam had been attacked and vanquished by the same temptations: ‘He tempted him to gluttony when he showed him the fruit of the forbidden tree, and persuaded him to eat. He tempted him to vain glory when he said, “Ye shall be as gods.” He tempted him to covetousness when he added, “knowing good and evil.” For avarice is not only of money, but also of greatness. For that is rightly called avarice where loftiness above measure is ambitiously desired. Christ was assailed by the same temptations, but overcame them: by gluttony, when the devil said, “Turn these stones into bread;” by vain glory, “If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;” by covetousness of magnificence, when he showed Him all the kingdoms of the world.’
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

But he answered, &c. The Greek and the Vulgate have, in every word. This is by enallage of the preposition, in every, for from every, as the Vulgate translates in Deut. viii. 3, the passage which Christ here quotes. The Hebrew is, ‘upon every thing which goeth forth from the mouth of the Lord shall man live’—that is to say, on whatsoever thing the Lord shall command, or order for the sustentation of life, man shall live and be nourished, as He fed the Jews for forty years without bread, with manna from heaven (the discourse in Deut. viii. 3 is upon this manna), and fed Moses, Elias, and Christ for forty days by His word, and by His power, preserving nature.
Mystically, every faithful Christian lives by every word of God:—1. By receiving Christ, who is God’s Eternal Word, and who, being made man, nourishes us by His doctrine, His grace, and His example. And we, by receiving Himself, by receiving His Flesh, receive His Godhead in the Eucharist. 2. God gives the words of sacred Scripture, which feed by illuminating and inflaming the mind. 3. He feeds us by prayers and holy inspiration.

Tropologically, St. Gregory (Hom. 16 in Evang.) here admires the meekness of Christ. ‘Consider how great is the patience of God, and how great our impatience. If we be injured, or provoked by any wrong, we are moved with wrath, and either revenge ourselves as far as we can, or threaten when we are not able. Behold, the Lord endured the onset of the devil, and answered him nothing save words of meekness. He endures him whom He might have punished.’ Then the devil took him up into the holy city, i.e. Jerusalem. The word, then, signifies that the devil, having been conquered by Christ in the first temptation to gluttony, immediately subjected Him to a second, vain glory. You may inquire why Saint Luke places this temptation third instead of second. The reason is that Saint Luke in this place, as in many others, disregards the chronological order of the temptations, which Matthew accurately observes. Whence the latter says in the eighth verse, Again the devil took him. And this is a natural and congruous sequence of temptation, to pass from gluttony to vain glory. So Saints Chrysostom, Jerome, Hilary, and others. For when the devil sees any one despise the pleasures and allurements of the flesh, he raises up against him the spiritual temptation of vanity and presumption.
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

Then the devil took him up into the holy city,

Taketh him. The first opinion we will here notice is that of St. Cyprian (Sermon on the Fast and Temptation of Christ). He thinks that the devil’s taking Christ up was not real but only imaginary, like the visions seen by Ezekiel, and such as are the translations of sorcerers, who seem to themselves to be transported by the devil to a feast—a grand assembly, when in reality they are not transported, but the devil is playing tricks with their imagination, somewhat like the illusions of dreams. But we cannot suppose that the devil thus played false with the imagination of Christ, especially since the devil had no power over Christ’s inner man. The whole of this temptation was effected by means of an external voice, not through interior suggestion, as I have already said from St. Gregory.
And most probably, Christ was taken up—i.e., was carried through the air to the pinnacle of the Temple. So Saints Jerome, Gregory, Author Imperfecti, the Gloss, St. Thomas. Nor is it wonderful, says St. Gregory, that Christ should suffer the devil to deal with Him in this manner, since He suffered Himself to be crucified by the devil’s members—the wicked Jews. Nor did the demon betray himself by this, because he might have transported Christ in the guise of an angel of light. Or, indeed, he cared little now about betraying who he was, since he already suspected and feared that he was thoroughly known. Whence in the third temptation he boldly threw off all disguise of an angel of light, and unveiled his Satanic arrogance.

The Author Imperfecti, and from him St. Thomas, here observe that although the devil thus took up Christ so that Christ might be seen of all, and be supposed to have commerce with Satan and be thought a magician, Christ so wrought unseen that He should be beheld of none, though the devil knew it not.

So Christ made the devil suffer an illusion, who had intended to play falsely with Him. For the demon thought that if Christ were the Son of God, He would not allow Himself to be taken up and carried through the air, and by this would know whether He were the Son of God or not; but Christ, by suffering this, frustrated the demon’s plan, and left him still in doubt. Whence St. Chrysostom was of opinion that the devil supposed that he carried Christ through the air to the pinnacle of the Temple against His will, and because He was not able to resist him.
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple, And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down,

Upon The pinnacle. It is probable that this pinnacle was the ridge or extreme point of the roof of the porch of that part of the Temple which was called the Sanctuary, or the Holy of Holies, for this part of the Temple alone had a roof (the Court of Israel was open to the sky), and like a tower overtopped the whole edifice. It was 120 cubits high. ? If Christ had fallen down from thence, He would have fallen into the court of the priests, between the porch just spoken of and the altar of burnt offering. The devil therefore suggested to Christ that He should cast Himself down from this pinnacle into the court of the priests, using some such arguments as these: ‘Cast thyself down, and show thyself to the priests and the other worshippers of God, and to all the people (for they, from the Court of Israel, were able to behold the sacrifices which were offered in the court of the priests), show thyself, I say, by miraculously gliding down unhurt, to be the Son of the True God, of Him whom in this court all are worshipping, and to whom they are offering sacrifices.’ For by this temptation Satan wished Christ to make a vain show of Himself and His glory. So Franc. Lucas, Toletus, and others.

Moraliter. The devil, who fell down from heaven into Tartarus, strives to cast or drag others down with him. Wherefore when he persuades any one to sin, he causes him to cast himself down. As Christ saith to the perverse Jews, ‘You are from beneath, I am from above.’ (St. John viii. 23 .) Again, Christ, studiously concealing from the devil that He was the Son of God, eluded all his arts and devices, and kept him in doubt and suspense, so that he should not know in what way he might tempt Him. Wherefore learn not to make known to every one the secrets of thy soul, lest thou be hindered of the devil. In battles, the crown of victory is his who can conceal his own plans, and discover those of the enemy. A Christian learns by frequent experience that heroic acts of virtue are easily accomplished, if the determination of them be kept secret in the mind, and they are suddenly brought out into the sphere of action, before the demon has been able to get scent of them and oppose them. This is the art of deluding the demon.
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.

For it is written, &c. A citation of Ps. xci. 2. The angels in this place mean properly men’s guardian angels, though any other messengers whom God sends in various ways to help and save men may be understood. Whence Saints Chrysostom, Jerome, Hilary on this passage, Origen (Hom. 24 in Luc.), Nazianzen (Orat. in S. Baptisma.), think that the devil here wrongly cites Holy Scripture; that the Psalmist in the passage in question speaks of mere men, not of Christ, who was the God-man. For He had not, like other men, a guardian angel; the Divinity Itself was the Guardian of His Humanity.

On the contrary, St. Ambrose (in cap. 4 Luc.), and Remigius (on Ps. xci.), think that the devil did not wrest this passage of the Psalms, but applied it rightly to Christ; for although He had not any stated guardian angel, He had all the angels at His call, all deputed to minister unto Him. The devil did, however, wrest the text so far as this, that he used it for an evil purpose, namely, to make Christ cast Himself down. For God hath promised this guardianship of the angels to the righteous who act prudently and piously, not rashly and presumptuously, after the manner of those who tempt God. Hear St. Bernard, on Psalm Qui habitat, Ser. 14. ‘What has he commanded? Surely what follows in the Psalm, “That they may keep thee in all thy ways.” Does he say in precipices, in such a way as casting thyself headlong from the pinnacle of the Temple? That is not a way but a destruction, a downfall. Or if it be a way, it is thine own, not God’s.’
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Jesus said to him: It is written again, &c. For he tempts God who asks for a miracle without necessity, such as this would have been, for Christ might have descended from the pinnacle by means of the stairs.

Moraliter. Learn here that the devil in the same way that he tempted Christ to cast Himself headlong, tempts Christians by raising the fancy, the blood, black bile, so that they may have sad, horrible, sanguinary, despairing, blasphemous thoughts, such as had never come into their minds before. Let them comfort themselves by the example of Christ, how God permitted His temptation for His greater virtue and merit. The advice which Scipio Nasica gave the Romans not to destroy Carthage when it was conquered, lest the Roman youth should become enervated by ease, for that Carthage, raising war, would be a perpetual spur to their courage, you might apply to the struggle which the saints endure through frequent temptations. Thus St. Paul, though almost an angel upon earth, said, ‘Lest the abundance of the revelations should puff me up there was given me a thorn in the flesh—the messenger of Satan to buffet me.’ The remedy is constancy of mind, fortitude, and firm confidence in God, by which you will manfully overcome temptations of every sort, however dreadful and abominable they may be. Yea, you will despise them, and proceed with a great heart in the course of virtue in which you have entered.

The devil formerly came to St. Anthony complaining that all men spake ill of him. ‘And very properly,’ said the saint, ‘for it is your own fault, since you vex and distress all men.’ The demon answered, ‘I do nothing; I have no power against him who is unwilling. Men vex themselves and one another. It is their own consent to my suggestions which makes them the authors of evil.’ He who consents not to the devil when he tempts him, but resists him, overcomes him, and triumphs over him.
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,

Again the devil, &c. In descriptions of the Holy Land, this mountain is said to be near the desert of Quarantana. ‘The devil’s mountain is distant two miles from Quarantana. It is to the south of Bethel and Hai. Up it Christ was led by Satan, when he showed Him all the kingdoms of the word.’ So Adrichomius.

You will ask, in what way did the devil show to Christ all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and that ‘in a moment,’ as St. Luke adds? Observe, God alone is able to do this absolutely; for, in the first place, God is able so to strengthen the power of sight in men that they are able to see any object, however remote, and that even through rocks and walls, so that they see things as they are in themselves, without visible appearance. In this manner He strengthens the mind of the blessed with the light of glory, so that it beholds God’s essence without any appearance. So St. Anselm saw with his bodily eyes things which were done on the other side of a wall, as his ‘Life’ records. In a similar manner God is able to make us here in Rome see with our bodily eyes things done in the bedchamber of the King of China. 2nd. God is able to multiply visible appearances in such wise that they are dispersed through places dark and dense, and even far distant and remote. 3. He is able, not only to draw forth the appearance from an object, but to prolong it to any place whatever. Thus, God showed the whole of the promised land to Moses from Mount Abarim; thus, He set the whole world before the eyes of St. Benedict in a round globe, as St. Gregory relates (lib. 2 Dial., c. 35). The devil can do none of these things.

And with more probability, Euthymius and others, with St. Thomas (3 p., q. 41, art. 4) say that the devil took Christ up on a lofty mountain, that he might show Him, at least in a confused way, the situation of each kingdom, as by saying thus: ‘There in that direction is Asia; there is Europe, here is Syria, there is Italy’—and all this in a moment, as Luke says, that is, in an extremely brief space of time. And because from this mountain the devil showed Christ not only all kingdoms, but the glory of them, we may add with Theophilus, Jansen, and others, that the demon, like a painter, represented in a compendious manner pictures of all kingdoms in the air by varied refractions of the rays of the sun, as is done in the case of the rainbow, and so, as it were, painted them as to cause whatsoever was glorious and splendid in all lands to be set before the eyes of Christ. Thus did the same demon make dense the air and so work upon it, that he pictured many spectres of lions, wild beasts, serpents, and monsters, and brought them before the eyes of St. Anthony that he might terrify him, as St. Athanasius asserts in his Life of St. Anthony. If the demon is able to picture such things to the fancy, why not in the air? Various colours are depicted in the rainbow. In the time of the Maccabees, squadrons of soldiers were seen fighting in the air, with other portents.
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.

And said to him, &c. You ask, how did the devil dare to make such an impious proposal to Christ? I answer that he is so ambitious that even from the beginning he wished to be God, and envied Christ, as man, the Divinity which He had by means of the Hypostatic Union. Ambition, therefore, and envy blinded him so that he treated Christ as his rival. 2. Because when he saw Christ once and again declining to work a miracle, he made himself more and more certain that He was not the Son of God. 3. Because from Luke iv. 6 we learn that the devil added, ‘For to me they are delivered, and to whom I will I give them,’ from whence it is plain that he pretended to be the Son of God and God, and consequently an object of worship, as St. Hilary says. The devil then, from Christ’s patiently suffering Himself to be transported from the pinnacle of the temple to the mountain, and growing bold by Christ’s modest silence, suspected that He was not the Son of God, but a mere man; and so he here demands the Divine honours which he had formerly coveted in heaven—that they should be rendered to him by Christ as well as by all other men. For this ambition of being a god is, as it were, innate in him, and blinds him, says the Gloss. And therefore he introduced idols, that by them he might be worshipped. Satan, moreover, by this solicitation of worship, wished to make still further trial whether or not Christ were the Son of God.

In the two previous temptations he made trial directly whether Christ were the Son of God, but in this third temptation his direct object was to tempt to avarice, ambition, and idolatry, and indirectly to find out if He were the Son of God.

Observe the arrogance of the devil. He does not care for any mere adoration, but such only as is accompanied by falling down and prostration. Hear what St. Irenæus says upon this expression, fall down. ‘The devil himself confesses that to worship him and do his will is to fall from the glory of God.’ He therefore sells us vain honours at the price of our own destruction. Irenæus adds, ‘Not even these things which he has promised will he give to him who has fallen.’

St. Luke adds that the devil gave a reason why he made this offer to Christ, but in so doing he told a double falsehood. He said ‘All these things have been delivered unto me,’ i.e., by God, but he withholds mention of the Divine Name, both because it is hateful to him and because he himself wished to be accounted and worshipped as God. And God has not given into his power the kingdoms of the world. ‘For the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.’ Secondly, because it is false that the devil gives them to whom he will. He did not intend to give the kingdoms of the world to Christ, neither would he have given them, even though Christ had worshipped him. The devil therefore here betrays himself, as Toletus observes, because this his promise was false, arrogant, and deceitful. We have seen why it was false. It was deceitful because he exchanges the present for the future. ‘I will give,’ he says, but he would have the adoration now. By a similar fraud the devil endeavours to persuade men to give their youth and time present to pleasures and himself, but to give the future and old age to repentance and God: though old age is uncertain, and ill adapted for penance, as St. Gregory warns us.

Lastly, observe how Christ, by His examples and answers, teaches us that the first temptation of the flesh and hunger is to be overcome by hoping in God and His providence; the second, of pride and presumption, is to be vanquished by the fear of God; the third, to avarice and ambition, must be driven away by greatness of soul and contempt of the world. B. Peter Damian suggests three efficacious incentives to bring this to pass. ‘The conqueror of the demons is made the companion of angels; the exile of the world is the heir of Paradise; the denier of himself is the follower of Christ.’
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan:

Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan. The Syriac adds, behind me. Jesus spake thus in righteous anger and indignation; and so the devil, despairing of victory, fled away in confusion. Whence let Christians learn bravely to repel the suggestions of the devil and to rebuke him, and he will flee from them.
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

for it is written, The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

It is written, &c. For thou shall worship, the Hebrew has תירא tira, ‘thou shalt fear.’ For the Hebrews by the word “fear” signify reverence, adoration, the whole worship of God. As Statius says, ‘Fear first made gods to be in the world.’ The word only is not in the Hebrew, but it is understood in the pronoun Him. Thou shall worship, I say, Him alone, Him, thy Creator. Thou shalt serve Him with latria. For the Greek is λατρεύσεις; since latria is rendered to God alone, dulia to the saints, according to St. Augustine (de Civ. Dei, lib. 10, c. 1), to the Blessed Virgin hyperdulia.

Moraliter. Christ here teaches us the answer we should give to the devil when he tempts us to avarice or any other sin. All temptation tends to this, that we should prefer the creature to the Creator, and make it, as it were, our idol, and worship it. Thus, the idol which the devil sets before the covetous man is Plutus, mammon, riches, kingdoms; the idol of the proud man is honour, ambition; of the glutton, his belly; of the wanton, Venus. With Christ we must answer Satan, ‘I worship God, not Plutus or Venus.’ For as St. Cyprian says (Tract. de Spect.), ‘He casts himself down from the vantage ground of his nobility who is able to admire anything in comparison with God.’ For what is the whole world, what are all its kingdoms—all creatures—compared with God, but as a point compared with the universe? What is all time in respect of eternity, but as a moment? What are all pleasures, honours, riches, compared with the riches and honours of eternity, but vanities and shadows, yea, but dust and ashes? Despise them, therefore, for God’s sake, and cleave close to Him; and then, last, overcome all temptation. As the Psalmist says, ‘It is good for me to hold me fast by God.’ And again, ‘My soul is firmly stayed upon God.’ As St. Cyprian (de Orat. Domin.) says, ‘Since of God are all things, to him who hath God nothing will be wanting, if he be not wanting to God.’

In like manner, if the devil threaten you with the fear of infamy, poverty, disease, death, join thyself to God, worship Him with constant hope and prayer. St. Cyprian (in Exhort. Martyr.) shows that some fell away from martyrdom because they had respect to the fierceness of the torments, not to the strength and help of God, and that those stand fast and conquer who turn away their minds from the torments and fix them upon God, and say, ‘I can do all things through Him who strengtheneth me.’ God is greater than the torments. So St. Agnes, fixing all her hopes and love upon Christ, vanquished all the torments of the tyrant. For God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong, and He wills to show to the whole world His strength in our weakness. For God cannot forsake those who hope in Him, call upon Him, and worship Him.

Wherefore, St. Cyprian (Tract. de Mortal.) says, ‘Adversity does not withdraw us from the power of faith, but confirms us.’ Of this St. Anthony had experience, who, on the testimony of St. Athanasius, was wont to say that ‘the best remedy for overcoming all the temptations of the devil is spiritual joy and the love of Christ, from one sign of whose cross he flies away vanquished.’
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him. 

Then the devil, &c. Rightly Anon. (in Catenâ) says, ‘The end of contests is found when the adversary yields to his victor of his own will, or is vanquished by a threefold fall according to the rules of pugilism.’ For he who has thrice overcome his antagonist is plainly his superior.

Then the angels approached Christ in His human form which He had assumed, and congratulated him, and brought Him food, and rendered Him other offices of their service, as their Creator and their Lord.

Learn from hence that he who bravely conquers the devil is rewarded by the ministry, the strengthening, and the consolation of the angels. For the conqueror of Satan becomes, as it were, one of the angels.

Let us hear St. Ambrose (lib. 4. in c. 4 Luc., ver. 13): ‘Rightly are these three temptations of Christ shown to be the fountains of all sins. Nor would Scripture have said that all the temptation was ended, unless there were in these three the material of all offences, the seeds of which must be avoided in their origin. The end of temptations is the end of desires, because the causes of temptations are the causes of desires. The causes of desires are the pleasing of the flesh, the show of glory, the greed of power.’ And after a little, ‘You see, then, that the devil is not persevering in his zeal; that he is accustomed to yield to true courage. And though he does not leave off to envy, he ceases to attack, because he has often fled away when triumphed over.’ After much more, St. Ambrose thus concludes: ‘Therefore, He who wishes to give a crown suggests temptations. Whenever thou art tempted, know that a crown is being prepared.’
— (Cornelius a Lapide Commentary)

*The Great Commentary of Cornelius a Lapide comes from the iPieta app which is available in iTunes.