Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. A cohort, with the Romans, was a body of infantry 500 strong. There were ten cohorts in each legion. There were, generally speaking, two centurions appointed to the command of each cohort. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 2. A religious man, and one that feared God. He was not a Jew, yet believed in one God. — Always, that is, frequently praying, and giving alms. In the Rheims Testament we find this note: “Hereby it appeareth, that such works as are done before justification, though they suffice not to salvation, yet are acceptable preparatives for the grace of justification, and such as move God to mercy. … though all such preparative works come also of grace.” These Douay divines did not hold with the Quenellists that a true faith, or the habit of faith, must needs be the first grace. (Witham) — Cornelius religiously observed the law of nature, and the principal points of the Jewish moral law, though he did not profess Judaism. (Calmet) — He was an admirable example of virtue before his knowledge of Christianity. He feared God, and brought up his family in the same holy fear. He was leader of the first band, and consequently had the eagle, the Roman ensign, carried before him. Four hundred men were under his command. (Tirinus) — “His former goodness could no longer avail him, unless he were, by the bond of Christian society and peace, incorporated with the Church; he is therefore ordered to send unto Peter, that by him he may learn Christ, by him he may be baptized.” (St. Augustine, lib. i. de bap. chap. 8.) — Alms. Nothing is more efficacious than the alms of a man, whose hands have not been defiled by injustice. It is a clear stream, refreshing in the heat of day, and imparting verdure to every plant that is near it. It is a fountain springing to eternal life. It is a tree, whose branches reach even to heaven, and which produces its eternal fruit in abundance, when death has removed from you all that is temporal. Waste not, then, your treasures in selfish gratifications, the fruit of which is sorrow; but feed the poor, and the hungry. Plant and sow in their hands, and your produce will be great; no soil is more fertile. (St. Chrysostom, hic. hom. xxii.)
Ver. 3. He saw in a vision manifestly. An angel appearing visibly to him. (Witham)
Ver. 9. Stated hours for prayer were appointed both in the old and new law. Of this St. Cyprian writes: “In celebrating their prayers, we find that the three children of Daniel observed the third, sixth, and ninth hour. Thus afterwards, at the third hour, the Holy Ghost descended upon the apostles, fulfilling the grace of our Lord’s promise: at the sixth hour, Peter going up to the higher room of the house, was both by voice and sign from God instructed, that all nations should be admitted to the grace of salvation, of which he before doubted; and our Lord being crucified at the sixth hour, at the ninth washed away our sins by his blood. But to us, besides the seasons observed of old, the set times of praying are increased; for we must pray in the morning early, that the resurrection of our Lord may be celebrated by morning prayer; in the morning early will I stand before Thee, early in the morning wilt thou hear my voice. (Psalm v.) Towards the evening also, when the sun departeth, we must of necessity pray again.” (De Orat. Dom. No. 15) St. Jerome, writing to Eustochia, a virgin, and a religious, (ep. 22.) says, “though the apostle bid us to pray always, and, to holy persons, their very sleep is prayer; yet we must have distinct hours for prayer, that if perhaps we be otherwise occupied, the very time may admonish us of our duty. The third, sixth, ninth hour, morning early, and evening, no man can be ignorant of.”
Ver. 10. There came upon him an ecstasy of mind. This is the true sense by the Greek. I have never yet eaten any unclean thing. This seems to have happened, an. 35 [A.D. 35]. Till then the apostles followed the ceremonies of the law of Moses. It may seem strange that even St. Peter should not know that the ceremonial precepts of the law were to be abolished. It may be answered, that St. Peter and they, were only ignorant of the time, when they were to be laid aside; and so St. Chrysostom says, that the conversion of Cornelius, with all its circumstances, was to convince the Jews, rather than the apostles, that those ceremonies were no longer obligatory. (Witham)
Ver. 15. God hath purified. Not that the Almighty had already sanctified the Gentiles; but he had called them, that they might become so. He had thrown down the wall of separation, which had stood between Jew and Gentile; he had made one fold to contain all the sheep under one shepherd. Jesus Christ, by his blood, had generally reconciled all mankind to his Father. In this sense all were pure; that is, all had a right, as all were called, to partake of the merits of the Son of God. All had a right to communicate in the truths of the gospel, and in the sacraments, which were the appointed channels, through which the graces and merits of Jesus Christ were applied. (Calmet) — Here, then, God first announced to Peter, that the time was come to preach to the Gentiles unto salvation, no less than to the Jews; with full freedom to eat all meats, without respect to the prohibition of some made in the old law. (Bristow)
Ver. 25. Cornelius … worshipped. Some think Cornelius might look upon St. Peter as more than a man, and offer to him divine worship: but by prostrating, he might only intend to pay such honour to him, as is paid to persons eminent in dignity, especially according to the custom of the eastern people. (Witham)
Ver. 26. St. Chrysostom (hom. xxi in Act.) thinketh Peter refused this homage through humility, because this falling down, proskunein, is frequently used in Scripture towards men. St. Jerome (adv. Vigil. chap. ii.) holds the contrary sentiment.
Ver. 28. Abominable a thing. The Jews extended their aversion to the Gentiles to an unnatural length; hence the frequent accusations of the latter, that they were a nation the enemies of mankind. Josephus defends his nation against the imputation. He allows that Moses forbids them to admit strangers into their solemnities, and exercises of religion, but not to refuse any thing which common humanity demands of all. (Josephus, lib. ii. con. App.)
Ver. 35. In every nation, &c. That is to say, not only Jews, but Gentiles also, of what nation soever, are acceptable to God, if they fear him, and work justice. But then true faith is always to be presupposed, without which, (saith St. Paul, Hebrews xi. 6.) it is impossible to please God. Beware then of the error of those, who would infer from this passage, that men of all religions may be pleasing to God. For since none but the true religion can be from God, all other religions must be from the father of lies; and therefore highly displeasing to the God of truth. (Challoner) — He that feareth him, and worketh justice. So he calls the prayers, alms-deeds, and charitable works of this Gentile Cornelius. (Witham)
Ver. 36. God sent the word. By this word, some understand the eternal Word, the Son of God; but by the next verse, we may rather expound it of the word of the gospel preached. Jesus Christ … he is Lord of all things. A proof of Christ’s divinity. (Witham)
Ver. 37. For it began, or its beginning was, &c.
Ver. 39. Whom they killed. At the very first, says St. Chrysostom, the apostles preached Christ crucified, and tell them they had put to death on a cross the Lord of all things, the judge of the living and the dead. (Witham) — We may here admire how wonderfully Peter adapts his discourse to the capacity of his hearers. When speaking to the Jews, he proves Jesus to be their Messias, from the testimony of their prophets. On the present occasion, he only just alludes to the prophets, but confirms his discourse by the testimony of the miracles which Jesus had wrought in public, and were known to all the world. (Calmet)
Ver. 40. Jesus Christ did not announce his resurrection, and other mysteries, to all at once, but to a chosen few, who were to be governors of the rest; teaching us thereby, that we have to learn our religion, and every thing necessary to salvation, from the Church of God, speaking to us by her ministers.
Ver. 42. The living and of the dead. This may be understood of the elect, who live by grace, and the reprobate, who are spiritually dead; or perhaps more literally, of those who shall be found living upon earth at the second coming of Christ, and of all who have died from the commencement of the world to the end of time. (St. Augustine, Enchirid.)
Ver. 44. The Holy Ghost fell upon all them, and made his coming known in some visible manner and exterior signs, as on the day of Pentecost. The Christians who had come with St. Peter, who before had been Jews, were astonished to see that such extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were given to uncircumcised Gentiles. (Witham)
Ver. 47. Can any man forbid water? &c. Or doubt that these, on whom the Holy Ghost hath descended, may be made members of the Christian Church, by baptism, as Christ ordained? (Witham) — Such may be the grace of God occasionally towards men, and such their great charity and contrition, that they may have remission, justification, and sanctification, before the external sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and penance be received; as we see in this example: where, at Peter’s preaching, they all received the Holy Ghost before any sacrament. But here we also learn one necessary lesson, that such, notwithstanding, must needs receive the sacraments appointed by Christ, which whosoever contemneth, can never be justified. (St. Augustine, sup. Levit. q. 84. T. 4.)
 Ver. 10. Mentis excessus, epepesen ep auton ekstasis.
 Ver. 25. Procidens ad pedes ejus adoravit, peson epi tous podas prosekunesen. The same word is often used for a civil worship.
 Ver. 36. ton logon, verbum, but in the next verse for verbum, rema.
 Ver. 39. St. Chrysostom, hom. xxiii, vides eos nunquam occultare crucem, oras autous oudamou kruptontas ton stauron.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Cornelius is received into the Church. Peter’s vision.
1 Now *there was a certain man in Cęsarea, named Cornelius, a centurion of the band, which is called the Italian,
2 A religious man, and one that feared God, with all his house, giving much alms to the people, and praying to God always:
3 He saw in a vision manifestly, about the ninth hour of the day, an Angel of God coming in to him, and saying to him: Cornelius.
4 And he beholding him, being seized with fear, said: What is it, Lord? And he said to him: Thy prayers, and thy alms, have ascended for a memorial in the sight of God.
5 And now send men to Joppe, and call hither one Simon, who is surnamed Peter:
6 He lodgeth with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou must do.
7 And when the Angel who spoke to him was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a soldier, that feared the Lord, of them who were under him:
8 To whom, when he had related all, he sent them to Joppe.
9 And on the next day, whilst they were going on their journey, and drawing near to the city, Peter went up to the higher parts of the house to pray, about the sixth hour.
10 And being hungry, he was desirous to taste somewhat. And as they were preparing, there came upon him an ecstasy of mind.
11 And he saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending, as it were a great sheet, let down by the four corners from heaven to the earth,
12 In which were all manner of four-footed beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the air.
13 And there came a voice to him: Arise, Peter, kill, and eat.
14 But Peter said: Far be it from me, Lord, for I never eaten any common and unclean thing.
15 And the voice spoke to him again the second time: That which God hath purified, do not thou call common.
16 And this was done thrice: and presently the vessel was taken up again into heaven.
17 Now, whilst Peter was doubting within himself what the vision which he had seen should mean, behold the men who were sent by Cornelius, inquiring for Simon’s house, stood at the gate.
18 And when they had called, they asked, if Simon, who is surnamed Peter, lodged there?
19 And as Peter was thinking on the vision, the Spirit said to him: Behold three men seek thee.
20 Arise, therefore, go down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them.
21 Then Peter going down to the men, said: Behold I am he whom you seek: what is the cause, for which you are come?
22 They said, Cornelius, a centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and that hath good testimony from all the nations of the Jews, received an answer of a holy Angel, to send for thee into his house, and to hear words from thee.
23 Then bringing them in, he lodged them. And the day following, he arose and went with them: and some of the brethren from Joppe, accompanied him.
24 And the day after, he entered into Cęsarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, having called together his kinsmen, and special friends.
25 And it came to pass, when Peter was come in, Cornelius met him, and falling down at his feet, worshipped.
26 But Peter raised him up, saying: Arise, I myself also am a man.
27 And talking with him, he went in, and found many that were come together.
28 And he said to them: You know how abominable a thing it is for a man that is a Jew, to keep company with, or to come to, one of another nation: but God hath shewed to me, to call no man common or unclean.
29 Wherefore, making no doubt, I came when I was sent for. I ask, therefore, for what cause you have sent for me?
30 And Cornelius said: Four days ago, until this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me in white apparel, and said:
31 Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thy alms are remembered in the sight of God.
32 Send, therefore, to Joppe, and call hither Simon, who is surnamed Peter: he lodgeth in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea side.
33 Immediately, therefore, I sent to thee: and thou hast done well in coming. Now, therefore, all we are present in thy sight, to hear all things whatsoever are commanded thee by the Lord.
34 Then Peter, opening his mouth, said: In truth, I perceive *that God is no respecter of persons.
35 But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him.
36 God sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all).
37 You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: *for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached,
38 Jesus, of Nazareth: how God anointed him with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed by the devil: for God was with him.
39 And we are witnesses of all things, which he did in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem, whom they killed, hanging him upon a tree.
40 Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest,
41 Not to all the people, but to witnesses preordained by God, even to us, who eat and drank with him, after he rose again from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is he who hath been appointed by God to be judge of the living and of the dead.
43 *To him all the prophets give testimony, that through his name all receive remission of sins, who believe in him.
44 While Peter was yet speaking these words, the Holy Ghost fell upon all them that heard the word.
45 And the faithful of the circumcision, who had come with Peter, were astonished because the grace of the Holy Ghost was also poured out upon the Gentiles.
46 For they heard them speaking with tongues, and magnifying God.
47 Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?
48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they entreated him to stay with them some days.
1: about the year A.D. 39.
34: Deuteronomy x. 17.; 2 Paralipomenon xix. 7.; Job xxxiv. 19.; Wisdom vi. 8.; Ecclesiasticus xxxv. 15.; Romans ii. 11.; Galatians ii. 6.; Ephesians vi. 9.; Colossians iii. 25.; 1 Peter i. 17.
37: Luke iv. 14.
43: Jeremias xxxi. 34.; Micheas vii. 18.