3 And his countenance was as lightning, and his raiment as snow.
Chrysologus: Lightning is in heaven, snow on the earth; as the Prophet saith, “Praise the Lord from the earth; fire and hail, snow and vapours.” [Ps 148:7-8] Thus in the Angel’s countenance is preserved the splendour of his heavenly nature; in his raiment is shewn the grace of human communion. For the appearance of the Angel that talked with them is so ordered, that eyes of flesh might endure the still splendour of his robes, and by reason of his shining countenance they might tremble before the messenger of their Maker.
Gregory: “Lightning” inspires terror; “snow” is an emblem of equity; and as the Almighty God is terrible to sinners and mild to the righteous, so this Angel is rightly a witness of His resurrection, and is exhibited with a countenance as lightning, and with raiment as snow, that by His presence He might terrify the wicked, and comfort the good; and so it follows, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake.”
Jerome: The Angel in white raiment signifies the glory of His triumph.
4 And for fear of him, the guards were struck with terror, and became as dead men.
Rabanus: These who had not the faith of love were shaken with a panic fear; and they who would not believe the truth of the resurrection “become” themselves “as dead men.”
Chrysologus: For they kept watch over Him with a purpose of cruelty, not with the solicitude of affection. And no man can stand who is forsaken by his own conscience, or troubled with a sense of guilt. Hence the Angel confounds the wicked, and comforts the good.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. I (London: Rivington, 1842).