Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay your debt, and live you and your children from the rest.
Read Chapter 4
Caesarius of Arles
Notice, dearly beloved: as long as that widow had oil in her own vessel, it was not enough for her, and she could not pay her debt. It is true, brothers. If a person loves only himself, he does not suffice for himself, and he does not pay the debt of his sins; but when he begins to pour out the oil of charity on all his friends and neighbors and in fact on all people, then he is able to suffice for himself and can free himself from all debts. Truly brothers, such is the nature of holy love and true charity that it increases by being spent, and the more it is paid out to others, the more abundantly it is accumulated in oneself. If you want to give bodily food to the needy, at present you cannot keep what you have given him; but if you offer the bread of charity to one hundred people, it still remains whole. Even if you give it to a thousand, it stays undiminished for you. In fact, if you want to lavish it on the whole world, you will still lose nothing of it; or rather, not only does it...
Let us now consider what blessed Elisha said to her: “Borrow many vessels of your neighbors and your friends, shut your door, and pour out of that oil into the vessels of your neighbors.” Who were those neighbors, except the Gentiles? Although that widow typified the church, she was still a widow, and so those neighbors from whom she borrowed vessels prefigured the Gentiles. They offered empty vessels in order that they might merit to receive the oil of mercy, because before obtaining the gift of grace all the Gentiles are known to have been without faith, charity and all good works. Finally, all who are offered to the church to receive salutary baptism receive the chrism and oil of benediction, so that they may no longer merit to be empty vessels but full of God as his temples. - "Sermon 128.2"
Here the Scripture relates the other miracle that Elisha performed in order to help the widow. He made flow into the vessels an amount of oil sufficient to pay the debt of her husband and abundantly multiplied it for the nourishment of her children.
From the symbolic point of view three aspects must be observed here: first of all it is said that the widow filled the vessels of her neighbors with an oil that gushed out in her house thanks to a gift of God, because the holy church resembles the widow. In fact, she was not abandoned when her husband ascended to heaven, but she filled the hearts of the Gentiles with the oil of the knowledge of salvation which has multiplied and become abundant in her house thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Gentiles, who were separated before, after being filled with that fat oil, glorified with their lips of cheerfulness that God whom they had ignored before.
In the second place, the widow asked for empty vessels and filled with oil ...