And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done.
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Cornelius a Lapide
Your father Abraham, &c. He longed for it with exulting mind; "He feared not, but exulted," says S. Augustine. "Believing he exulted with hope, that he might see by understanding." It is a catachresis. But what day? S. Augustine understands by it, that day of all eternity, wherein from all eternity the Son was begotten of the Father. "He wished to know My eternal generation and My Godhead, that he might believe in it, and be thereby saved." "He saw," says S. Augustine, "My day because he acknowledged the mystery of the trinity." (Bede follows him, as usual.) S. Jerome (on Dan. viii.) and S. Gregory (in loc.) say that it was the day when, by the three angels that appeared to him, only one of whom spoke to him, the mystery of the Trinity was by symbols revealed to him; he saw three but adored one (Gen. xviii2).
(1.) But others generally refer it to the day of His Humanity, and thus understand it of the day of His Passion, Crucifixion, and death. See S. Chrysostom, &c. (2.) It is more simple to understand it of the day of His Incarnation. For all the Prophets and Patriarchs earnestly longed for the coming of Christ, to free them from their sins and from their imperfect state (limbo). "To see" (says John Alba) "is to enjoy the happiness and blessings brought by Christ." The word has often that meaning, as in the Psalm "to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living," i.e, to enjoy it.
He saw it. By faith, and again in a figure when he was commanded by God to offer up his son Isaac, which was a type of Christ"s offering on the Cross. So S. Chrysostom and S. Augustine, and S. Bernard (Serm. vi. de. Vigil Natalis) adds that by smiting on his thigh he signified that Christ was to come from his race.
(2.) He knew by prophetical revelation. But this would not be "seeing."
(3.) The genuine meaning Isaiah , he saw from his own place (in limbo). He knew the day when Christ was incarnate and was born, not only from what Simeon told him, when he met him in the place below (in limbo), but also from what Anna the Prophetess, Zacharias, Anna the Virgin"s Mother, and S. John the Baptist told him, but he saw it by intuitive perception. He saw all, just as the Blessed in heaven behold all things on earth and under the earth, and as S. Anselm saw with his eyes lifted up by God what was doing behind a wall. Abraham longingly desired to see this, as if present. For the promise that Christ should be born of him had been frequently made him by God. And it was due to him, in consequence of his faith, obedience, and many merits, that as the father of the faithful, who for so long a time, without any fault of his own, was so long detained in prison (limbo), most eagerly looking for Christ to deliver him, might for his own consolation, and that of his fellow-patriarchs, and in solace of their long and anxious expectation, know the very day when Christ was Incarnate and born. For two thousand years had he eagerly waited for Christ and sighed for His birth. And therefore God revealed it to him by His Spirit, and then Abraham and all the Saints in prison rejoiced and were glad. So Jansen, Maldonatus, and others. Lastly, the angels who comfort souls in Purgatory, much more consoled the souls of Abraham and the Patriarchs (in limbo), even as the same angels announced that much longed-for birth to the shepherds. Christ said this, (1.) To show that He was greater than Abraham, and that He was God, (2.) to show how highly He was valued, though absent, by Abraham, though the Jews despised Him when present among, them. (3.) And also to prick their consciences indirectly in this way: "Abraham had so great a longing for Me, but ye have rejected Me. Ye are therefore not true children of Abraham, but spurious and degenerate." He says "Abraham your father," whose children ye glory in being, though I do not glory in him, but he rather glories and exults in Me.