The Challoner edition of the Douay-Rheims Bible gives a good description of Philippians 2 at the head of the chapter: “He recommends them to unity and humility, and to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.” In broad overview, what St. Paul delivers in this chapter one of his many exhortations to unity, but he turns the entreaty into a deep meditation on Christ’s humility and sufferings.
The four-verse exordium which opens the chapter has an admirable architecture. The Apostle expresses his wish that the Philippians be of one mind (v. 1-2). To bring this about, there must be humility in each individual (v. 3), for perfect unity will not be achieved unless each subordinates his own personal good to the common good of the Church (v. 4). As an example of this humility, St. Paul points to the Exemplar of all virtue himself, Jesus Christ, whose Incarnation and Passion show in a man the humility of God (v. 5-8). As Christ’s humility was rewarded (v. 9-11), the reader would logically infer that those who imitate him will also be “exalted,” mutatis mutandis. In imitation of Christ’s exinanation, they should obey the Apostle, a joyful and willing “victim” for them, and persevere in good works, with all patience and in the fear of God (12-18). He ends with some practical and intimate missionary details of his fellow laborers, at the same time giving his readers a glimpse of his own humility by praising Timothy (“as a son with the father, so hath he served with me in the gospel”) and Epaphroditus (“for the work of Christ he came to the point of death… that he might fulfill [what] was wanting towards my service”), who are deserving of honor for their service in the gospel (19-26). Continue reading