His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
Read Chapter 49
Ambrose of Milan
And therefore the prophet says, “His eyes are joyful from wine, and his teeth are whiter than milk,” for he means the prophets and the apostles. For some, like eyes of Christ, have foreseen and announced his coming, and of them Christ himself says, “Abraham saw my day and he rejoiced,” and one of the prophets says, “I saw the Lord of hosts.” Seeing him, they were filled with a spiritual joy. Others, however, that is, the apostles, whom the Lord cleansed from every stain of sin, were made whiter than milk, for no blemish darkened them afterward. Indeed, milk is a temporal thing, but the grace of the apostles remains forever. They provided us with that spiritual sustenance which is of heaven, and they nourished the vitals of the spirit which is within. There are also those who think that the commandments of the Lord, which were revealed from the mouth of God, being clear, have become to us like milk. Nourished upon them, we come to the sustenance of the bread of heaven. On this account a...
All these various ways and figures of speech speak of the Word: solid food, flesh, nourishment, bread, blood and milk. The Lord is all these things for the refreshment of us who believe in him. Let no one think it strange, then, that we speak of the blood of the Lord also under the figure of milk. Is it not named wine, metaphorically? “He washes his garment in wine,” Scripture says, “and his robe in the blood of the grape.” That means he will attire the body of the Word with his own blood, just as he will nurture those who hunger for the Word with his own Spirit. .
Beautiful. The eyes and teeth contribute much to the beauty of a face. Our Saviour, rising form the dead, filled the hearts of the beholders with joy, as wine exhilarates the heart of man. (Menochius)
The spouse in the Canticle of Canticles, (ver. 12,) compares the eyes of the bridegroom to the shining reddish, or fiery ones of pigeons: chaclili, beautiful, means shining red Jesus Christ seems to allude to this prophecy of Jacob, (Matthew xxi. 43. and John x. 16,) telling the Jews, that the kingdom of God should be taken from them, and one fold should be established for all. God would then cease to distinguish the Jews by any other marks than those of his wrath. He would no longer be their king and shepherd. His sceptre, or pastoral crook, should be taken off the tribe of Juda, and it should be confounded with the rest, as it is at this day. (Calmet)
“Eyes” then, the prophets have been the eyes of Christ when they rejoiced in the power of the Spirit, and announced in advance the sufferings which had to rush upon him and which were useful for the generations after him to understand that every person can be saved. Through the words “His teeth (are) whiter than milk” he signified either the apostles sanctified by the Word himself and become like milk, the apostles who have provided us with the spiritual and heavenly nourishment. Or, … he means the commandments of the Lord, which were uttered by a holy mouth but remain for us milk, so that by obtaining from them nourishment and growth we may take our part of the heavenly bread.
HIPPOLYTUS: That is, his eyes are brilliant as with the word of truth; for they regard all who believe upon him. And his teeth are white as milk—that denotes the luminous power of his words: for this reason he calls them white, and compares them to milk, as that which nourishes the flesh and the soul. And Zabulun is, by interpretation, fragrance and blessing.
Then, after something from Cyril:
HIPPOLYTUS: Again, I think, it mystically signifies the sacraments of the New Testament of our Saviour; and the words, his teeth are white as milk, denote the excellency and purity of the sacramental food. And again, these words, his teeth are white as milk, we take in the sense that His words give light to those who believe in Him.
And in saying, moreover, that Zabulun will dwell by the sea, he speaks prophetically of his territory as bordering on the sea, and of Israel as mingling with the Gentiles, the two nations being brought as it were into one flock. And this is manifest in the Gospe...
That is, his eyes are brilliant as with the word of truth; for they regard all who believe upon him. And his teeth are white as milk;—that denotes the luminous power of his words: for this reason he calls them white, and compares them to milk, as that which nourishes the flesh and the soul. And Zabulun is, by interpretation, “fragrance” and “blessing.”
Again, I think, it mystically signifies the sacraments of the New Testament of our Saviour; and the words, “his teeth are white as milk,” denote the excellency and purity of the sacramental food. And again, these words, “his teeth are white as milk,” we take in the sense that His words give light to those who believe on Him.
And in saying, moreover, that Zabulun will dwell by the sea, he speaks prophetically of his territory as bordering on the sea, and of Israel as mingling with the Gentiles, the two nations being brought as it were into one flock. And this is manifest in the Gospel. “The land of Zabulun, and the land of Nephthalim,” ...
We have already discussed many times about the nature and quality of Christ’s limbs, and it seems to be superfluous to repeat again the same things in this passage. So his teeth whiter than milk are those who can chew and grind with their teeth the strong and solid food of the Word of God to extreme fineness, those about whom the apostle in his epistle to the Hebrews says, “Solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.” About the still imperfect Corinthians he says, “I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.” Since they are superior to those who live on milk, his teeth are therefore white, that is, those who can take and eat solid food are superior to those who still need milk like babies. That is why in the law those animals which ruminate and bring back to their teeth the food that they had previously eaten, in order to make it very fine for their feeding, are called pure animals....
And also Christ’s eyes will be like this, those eyes which bring the light of knowledge to the whole body, according to what is written in the Gospel: “The lamp of your body is the eye.” Therefore these eyes are made graceful: a word of knowledge is seasoned with salt to be pleasing to the audience. The one who proclaims the word of knowledge is not said to be “made graceful” just because he has in himself the grace but because he also acts in order that his listeners may have the grace. In fact, “after comprehending that, the wise man will become wiser.” His eyes are made graceful by wine because nothing is watery, nothing is fluid, nothing is cold in the word of knowledge. It is like a wine that cheers the human heart and is sprinkled on the wounds of the victims of robbers. This means that the wounds of the listeners, their sins, are not only soothed by the sweetness of oil but are also purified by the harshness of wine.