ST. JOHN CHRYSTOSTOM
HOMILIES 58-67 ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW
[Translated by Rev. Sir George Prevost, Baronet, M.A. of Oriel College, Oxford.]
HOMILY LVIII: MATT. XVII. 22, 23.
"And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill Him, and the third day He shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry."
THAT is, to hinder their saying, "wherefore do we abide here continually," He speaks to them again of the passion; on hearing which they had no wish so much as to see Jerusalem. And it is remarkable how, when both Peter had been rebuked, and Moses and Elias had discoursed concerning it, and had called the thing glory, and the Father had uttered a voice from above, and so many miracles had been done, and the resurrection was at the doors (for He said, He should by no means abide any long time in death, but should be raised the third day); not even so did they endure it, but were sorry; and not merely sorry, but exceeding sorry.
Now this arose from their being ignorant as yet of the force of His sayings. This Mark and Luke indirectly expressing said, the one, "They understood not the saying, and were afraid to ask Him:"(1) the other, "It was hid from them, that they perceived it not, and they feared to ask Him of that saying."(2)
And yet if they were ignorant, how were they sorry? Because they were not altogether ignorant; that He was to die they knew, continually hearing it, but what this death might be, and that there would be a speedy release from it, and that it would work innumerable blessings, as yet they knew not clearly; nor what this resurrection might be: but they understood it not, wherefore they grieved; for indeed they clung very earnestly to their Master.
"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the didrachma came to Peter, and said, Doth not your Master pay the didrachma?"(3)
And what is this "didrachma?" When God had slain the firstborn of the Egyptians, then He took the tribe of Levi in their stead.(4) Afterwards, because the number of the tribe was less than of the firstborn among the Jews, for them that are wanting to make up the number, He commanded(5) a shekel to be contributed: and moreover a custom came thereby in force, that the firstborn should pay this tribute.
Because then Christ was a firstborn child, and Peter seemed to be first of the disciples, to him they come: their way being, as I suppose, to exact it in every city; wherefore also in His native place they approached Him; for Capernaum was accounted His native place.
And Him indeed they durst not approach, but Peter; nor him either with much violence, but rather gently. For not as blaming, but as inquiring, they said, "Doth not your Master pay the didrachma?" For the right opinion of Him they had not as yet, but as concerning a man, so did they feel; yet they rendered Him some reverence and honor, because of the signs that went before.
2. What then saith Peter? "He saith, Yea:" and to these indeed he said, that He payeth, but to Him he said it not, blushing perhaps to speak to Him of these things. Wherefore that gentle one, well knowing as He did all things, prevented him,(6) "saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own sons, or of strangers;" and when he said "of strangers," He replied, "Then are the sons free."(7)
For lest Peter should suppose Him to say so, being told it by the others, He prevents him, partly indicating what hath been said, partly giving him leave to speak freely, backward as he was to speak first of these things.
And what He saith is like this, "I am indeed free from paying tribute. For if the kings of the earth take it not of their sons, but of their subjects; much more ought I to be freed from this demand, I who am Son, not of an earthly king, but of the King of Heaven, and myself a King." Seest thou how He hath distinguished the sons from them that are not sons? And if He were not a Son, to no purpose hath He brought in the example also of the kings. "Yea," one may say, "He is a Son, but not truly begotten." Then is He not a Son; and if not a Son, nor truly begotten, neither doth He belong to God, but to some other. But if He belong to another, then neither hath the comparison its proper force. For He is discoursing not of the sons generally, but of the genuine sons, men's very own; of them that share the kingdom with their parents.
Wherefore also in contradistinction He hath mentioned the "strangers;" meaning by "strangers," such as are not born of them, but by "their own," those whom they have begotten of themselves.
And I would have thee mark this also; how the high doctrine,(1) revealed to Peter, He doth hereby again confirm. And neither at this did He stop, but by His very condescension declares this self-same truth; an instance of exceeding wisdom.
For after thus speaking, He saith, "But lest we should offend them, go thou and cast an hook into the sea, and take up the fish that first cometh up, and thou shall find therein a piece of money;(2) that take, and give unto them for me and thee."(3)
See how He neither declines the tribute, nor simply commands to pay it, but having first proved Himself not liable to it, then He gives it: the one to save the people, the other, those around Him, from offense. For He gives it not at all as a debt, but as doing the best(4) for their weakness. Elsewhere, however, He despises the offense, when He was discoursing of meats,(5) teaching us to know at what seasons we ought to consider them that are offended, and at what to disregard them.
And indeed by the very mode of giving He discloses Himself again. For wherefore doth He not command him to give of what they have laid up? That, as I have said, herein also He might signify Himself to be God of all, and the sea also to be under His rule. For He had indeed signified this even already, by His rebuke, and by His commanding this same Peter to walk on the waves; but He now again signifies the self- same thing, though in another way, yet so as to cause herein great amazement. For neither was it a small thing, to foretell that the first, who out of those depths should come in his way, would be the fish that would pay the tribute; and having cast forth His commandment like a net into that abyss, to bring up the one that bore the piece of money; but it was of a divine and unutterable power, thus to make even the sea bear gifts, and that its subjection to Him should be shown on all hands, as well when in its madness it was silent,(6) and when, though fierce, it received its fellow servant;(7) as now again, when it makes payment in His behalf to them that are demanding it.
"And give unto them," He saith, "for me and thee." Seest thou the exceeding greatness of the honor? See also the self-command of Peter's mind. For this point Mark, the follower of this apostle, doth not appear to have set down, because it indicated the great honor paid to him; but while of the denial he wrote as well as the rest, the things that make him illustrious he hath passed over in silence, his master perhaps entreating him not to mention the great things about himself. And He used the phrase, "for me and thee," because Peter too was a firstborn child.
Now as thou art amazed at Christ's power, so I bid thee admire also the disciple's faith, that to a thing beyond possibility he so gave ear. For indeed it was very far beyond possibility by nature. Wherefore also in requital for his faith, He joined him to Himself in the payment of the tribute.
3. "In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"(8)
The disciples experienced some feeling of human weakness; wherefore the evangelist also adds this note, saying, "In that hour;" when He had preferred him to all. For of James too, and John, one was a firstborn son, but no such thing as this had He done for them.
Then, being ashamed to avow their feeling, they say not indeed openly, "Wherefore hast thou preferred Peter to us?" or, "Is he greater than we are?" for they were ashamed; but indefinitely they ask, "Who then is greater?" For when they saw the three preferred, they felt nothing of the kind; but now that the honor had come round to one, they were vexed. And not for this only, but there were many other things which they put together to kindle that feeling. For to him He had said, "I will give thee the keys;"(9) to him, "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona;" to him here, "Give unto them for me and thee;" and seeing too in general how freely he was allowed to speak, it somewhat fretted them. And if Mark saith,(10) that they did not ask, but reasoned in themselves, that is nothing contrary to this. For it is likely that they did both the one and the other, and whereas before, on another occasion, they had had this feeling, both once and twice, that now they did both declare it, and reason among themselves.
But to thee I say, "Look not to the charge against them only, but consider this too; first, that they seek none of the things of this world; next, that even this passion they afterwards laid aside, and give up the first place one to another." But we are not able to attain so much as unto their faults, neither do we seek, "who is greatest(1) in the kingdom of heaven;" but, who is greatest(2) in the earthly kingdom, who is wealthiest, who most powerful.
What then saith Christ? He unveils their conscience, and replies to their feeling, not merely to their words. "For He called a little child unto Him," saith the Scripture, "and said, Except ye be converted, and become as this little child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."(3) "Why, you," He saith, "inquire who is greatest, and are contentious for first honors; but I pronounce him, that is not become lowest of all, unworthy so much as to enter in thither."
And full well doth He both allege that pattern, and not allege it only, but also set the child in the midst, by the very sight abashing them, and persuading them to be in like manner lowly and artless. Since both from envy the little child is pure, and from vainglory, and from longing for the first place; and he is possessed of the greatest of virtues, simplicity, and whatever is artless and lowly.
Not courage then only is wanted, nor wisdom, but this virtue also, humility I mean, and simplicity. Yea, and the things that belong to our salvation halt even in the chiefest point, if these be not with us.
The little child, whether it be insulted and, beaten, or honored and glorified, neither by the one is it moved to impatience or envy, nor by the other lifted up.
Seest thou how again He calls us on to all natural excellencies, indicating that of free choice it is possible to attain them, and so silences the wicked frenzy of the Manichaeans? For if nature be an evil thing, wherefore doth He draw from hence His patterns of severe goodness? And the child which He set in the midst suppose to have been a very young child indeed, free from all these passions. For such a little child is free from pride and the mad desire of glory, and envy, and contentiousness, and all such passions, and having many virtues, simplicity, humility, unworldliness,(4) prides itself upon none of them; which is a twofold severity of goodness; to have these things, and not to be puffed up about them.
Wherefore He brought it in, and set it in the midst; and not at this merely did He conclude His discourse, but carries further this admonition, saying, "And whoso shall receive such a little child in my name, receiveth me."(5)
"For know," saith He, "that not only, if ye yourselves become like this, shall ye receive a great reward; but also if for my sake ye honor others who are such, even for your honor to them do I appoint unto you a kingdom as your recompence." Or rather, He sets down what is far greater, saying, "he receiveth me." So exceedingly dear to me is all that is lowly and artless." For by "a little child," here, He means the men that are thus simple and lowly, and abject and contemptible in the judgment of the common sort.
4. After this, to obtain yet more acceptance for His saying, He establishes it not by the honor only, but also by the punishment, going on to say, "And whoso shall offend one of these little ones, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."(6)
"For as they," saith He, "who honor these for my sake, have heaven, or rather an honor greater than the very kingdom; even so they likewise who dishonor them (for this is to offend them), shall suffer the extremity of punishment. And marvel thou not at His calling the affront "an offense;"(7) for many feeble-minded persons have suffered no ordinary offense from being treated with slight and insult. To heighten therefore and aggravate the blame, He states the mischief arising therefrom.
And He doth not go on to express the punishment in the same way, but from the things familiar to us, He indicates how intolerable it is. For when He would touch the grosser sort most sharply, He brings sensible images. Wherefore here also, meaning to indicate the greatness of the punishment they shall undergo, and to strike into the arrogance of those that despise them, He brought forward a kind of sensible punishment, that of the millstone, and of the drowning. Yet surely it were suitable to what had gone before to have said, "He that receiveth not one of these little ones, receiveth not me;" a thing bitterer than any punishment; but since the very unfeeling, and exceeding gross, were not so much penetrated by this, terrible as it is, He puts "a millstone," and "a drowning." And He said not, "A millstone shall be hanged about his neck," but, "It were better for him"(1) to undergo this; implying that another evil, more grievous than this, awaits him; and if this be unbearable, much more that.
Seest thou how in both respects He made His threat terrible, first by the comparison with the known image rendering it more distinct, then by the excess on its side presenting it to the fancy as far greater than that visible one. Seest thou how He plucks up by the root the spirit of arrogance; how He heals the ulcer of vainglory; how He instructs us in nothing to set our heart on the first honors; how He persuades such as covet them in everything to follow after the lowest place?
5. For nothing is worse than arrogance.(2) This even takes men out of their natural senses, and brings upon them the character of fools; or rather, it really makes them to be utterly like idiots.
For like as, if any one, being three cubits in stature, were to strive to be higher than the mountains, or actually to think it, and draw himself up, as overpassing their summits, we should seek no other proof of his being out of his senses; so also when thou seest a man arrogant, and thinking himself superior to all, and accounting it a degradation to live with other people, seek not thou after that to see any other proof of that man's madness. Why, he is much more ridiculous than any natural fool, inasmuch as he absolutely creates this his disease on purpose. And not in this only is he wretched, but because he doth without feeling it fall into the very gulf of wickedness.
For when will such an one come to due knowledge of any sin? when will he perceive that he is offending? Nay, rather he is as a vile and captive slave, whom the devil having caught goes off with, and makes him altogether a prey, buffetting him on every side, and encompassing him with ten thousand insults.
For unto such great folly doth he lead them in the end, as to get them to be haughty towards their children, and wives, and towards their own forefathers. And others, on the contrary, He causes to be puffed up by the distinction of their ancestors. Now, what can be more foolish than this? when from opposite causes people are alike puffed up, the one sort because they had mean persons for fathers, grandfathers, and ancestors; and the other because theirs were glorious and distinguished? How then may one abate in each case the swelling sore? By saying to these last, "Go farther back than your grandfather, and immediate ancestors, and you will find perchance many cooks, and drivers of asses, and shopkeepers:" but to the former, that are puffed up by the meanness of their forefathers, the contrary again; "And thou again, if thou proceed farther up among thy forefathers, wilt find many far more illustrious than thou art."
For that nature hath this course, come let me prove it to thee even from the Scriptures. Solomon was son of a king, and of an illustrious king, but that king's father was one of the vile and ignoble. And his grandfather on his mother's side in like manner; for else he would not have given his daughter to a mere soldier. And if thou weft to go up again higher from these mean persons, thou wilt see the race more illustrious and royal. So in Saul's case too, so in many others also, one shall come to this result. Let us not then pride ourselves herein. For what is birth? tell me. Nothing, but a name only without a substance; and this ye will know in that day. But because that day is not yet come, let us now even from the things present persuade you, that hence arises no superiority. For should war overtake us, should famine, should anything else, all these inflated conceits of noble birth are put to the proof: should disease, should pestilence come upon us, it knows not how to distinguish between the rich and the poor, the glorious and inglorious, the high born and him that is not such; neither doth death, nor the other reverses of fortune, but they all rise up alike against all; and if I may say something that is even marvellous, against the rich more of the two. For by how much they are less exercised in these things, so much the more do they perish, when overtaken by them. And the fear too is greater with the rich. For none so tremble at princes as they; and at multitudes, not less than at princes, yea rather much more; many such houses in fact have been subverted alike by the wrath of multitudes and the threatening of princes. But the poor man is exempt from both these kinds of troubled waters.
6. Wherefore let alone this nobility, and if thou wouldest show me that thou art noble, show the freedom of thy soul, such as that blessed man had (and he a poor man), who said to Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother Philip's wife;"(1) such as he was possessed of, who before him was like him, and after him shall be so again; who said to Ahab, "I do not trouble Israel, but thou, and thy father's house;"(2) such as the prophets had, such as all the apostles.
But not like this are the souls of them that are slaves to wealth, but as they that are under ten thousand tutors, and taskmasters, so these dare not so much as lift up their eye, and speak boldly in behalf of virtue. For the love of riches, and that of glory, and that of other things, looking terribly on them, make them slavish flatterers; there being nothing which so takes away liberty, as entanglement in worldly affairs, and the wearing what are accounted marks of distinction. For such an one hath not one master, nor two, nor three, but ten thousand.
And if ye would fain even number them, let us bring in some one of those that are in honor in kings' courts, and let him have both very much wealth, and great power, and a birthplace excelling others, and distinction of ancestry, and let him be looked up to by all men. Now then let us see, if this be not the very person to be more in slavery than all; and let us set in comparison with him, not a slave merely, but a slave's slave, for many though servants have slaves. This slave's slave then for his part hath but one master. And what though that one be not a freeman? yet he is but one, and the other looks only to his pleasure. For albeit his master's master seem to have power over him, yet for the present he obeys one only; and if matters between them two are well, he will abide in security all his life. But our man hath not one or two only, but many, and more grievous masters. And first he is in care about the sovereign himself. And it is not the same to have a mean person for a master, as to have a king, whose ears are buzzed into by many, and who becomes a property now to this set and now to that.
Our man, though conscious of nothing, suspects all; both his comrades and his subordinates; both his friends and his enemies.
But the other man too, you may say, fears his master. But how is it the same thing, to have one or many, to make one timorous? Or rather, if a man inquire carefully, he will not find so much as one. How, and in what sense? Whereas that slave hath no one that desires to put him out of that service of his, and to introduce himself (whence neither hath he any one to plot against him therein); these have not even any other pursuit, but to unsettle him. that is more approved and more beloved by their ruler. Wherefore also he must needs flatter all, his superiors, his equals, his friends. For where envy is, and love of glory, there even sincere friendship has no strength. For as those of the same craft cannot love one another with a perfect and genuine love, so is it with rivals in honor also, and with them that long for the same among worldly objects. Whence also great is the war within.
Seest thou what a swarm of masters, and of hard masters? Wilt thou that I show thee yet another, more grievous than this? They that are behind him, all of them strive to get before him: all that are before him, to hinder him from coming nearer them, and passing them by.
7. But O marvel! I undertook indeed to show you masters, but our discourse, we find, coming on and waxing eager, hath performed more than my undertaking, pointing out foes instead of masters; or rather the same persons both as foes and as masters. For while they are courted like masters, they are terrible as foes, and they plot against us as enemies. When then any one hath the same persons both as masters, and as enemies, what can be worse than this calamity? The slave indeed, though he be subject to command, yet nevertheless hath the advantage of care and good- will on the part of them who give him orders; but these, while they receive commands, are made enemies, and are set one against another; and that so much more grievously than those in battles, in that they both wound secretly, and in the mask of friends they treat men as their enemies would do, and oftentimes make themselves credit of the calamity of others.
But not such are our circumstances; rather should another fare ill, there are many to grieve with him: should he obtain distinction, many to find pleasure with him. Not so again the apostle: "For whether," saith he, "one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it."(3) And the words of him who gives these admonitions, are at one time, "What is my hope or joy? are not even ye?"(4) at another, "Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord;"(1) at another, "Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you;"(2) and, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is offended, and I burn not?"(3)
Wherefore then do we still endure the tempest and the billows of the world without, and not run to this calm haven, and leaving the names of good things, go on to the very things themselves? For glory, and dignity, and wealth, and credit, and all such things, are names with them, but with us realities; just as the grievous things, death and dishonor and poverty, and whatever else is like them, are names indeed with us, but realities with them.
And, if thou wilt, let us first bring forward glory, so lovely and desirable with all of them. And I speak not of its being short-lived, and soon put out, but when it is in its bloom, then show it me. Take not away the daubings and colored lines of the harlot, but bring her forward decked out, and exhibit her to us, for me thereupon to expose her deformity. Well then, of course thou wilt tell of her array, and her many lictors, and the heralds' voice, and the listening of all classes, and the silence kept by the populace, and the blows given to all that come in one's way, and the universal gazing. Are not these her splendors? Come then, let us examine whether these things be not vain, and a mere unprofitable imagination. For wherein is the person we speak of the better for these things, either in body, or in soul? for this constitutes the man. Will he then be taller hereby, or stronger, or healthier, or swifter, or will he have his senses keener, and more piercing? Nay, no one could say this. Let us go then to the soul, if haply we may find there any advantage occurring herefrom. What then? Will such a one be more temperate, more gentle, more prudent, through that kind of attendance? By no means, but rather quite the contrary. For not as in the body, so also is the result here. For there the body indeed gains nothing in respect of its proper excellence; but here the mischief is not only the soul's reaping no good fruit, but also its actually receiving much evil therefrom: hurried as it is by such means into haughtiness, and vainglory, and folly, and wrath, and ten thousand faults like them.
"But he rejoices," thou wilt say, "and exults in these things, and they brighten him up." The crowning point(4) of his evils lies in that word of thine, and the incurable part of the disease. For he that rejoices in these things, would be unwilling however easily to be released from that which is the ground of his evils; yea, he hath blocked up against himself the way of healing by this delight. So that here most of all is the mischief, that he is not even pained, but rather rejoices, when the diseases are growing upon him.
For neither is rejoicing always a good thing; since even thieves rejoice in stealing, and an adulterer in defiling his neighbor's marriage bed, and the covetous in spoiling by violence, and the manslayer in murdering. Let us not then look whether he rejoice, but whether it be for something profitable, lest(5) perchance we find his joy to be such as that of the adulterer and the thief.
For wherefore, tell me, doth he rejoice? For his credit with the multitude, because he can puff himself up, and be gazed upon? Nay, what can be worse than this desire, and this ill-placed fondness? or if it be no bad thing, ye must leave off deriding the vainglorious and aspersing them with continual mockeries: ye must leave off uttering imprecations on the haughty and contemptuous. But ye would not endure it. Well then, they too deserve plenty of censure, though they have plenty of lictors. And all this I have said of the more tolerable sort of rulers; since the greater part of them we shall find transgressing more grievously than either robbers, or murderers, or adulterers, or spoilers of tombs, from not making a good use of their power. For indeed both their thefts are more shameless, and their butcheries more hardened, and their impurities far more enormous than the others; and they dig through, not one wall, but estates and houses without end, their prerogative making it very easy to them.
And they serve a most grievous servitude, both stooping basely under their passions,(6) and trembling at all their accomplices. For he only is free, and he only a ruler, and more kingly than all kings, who is delivered from his passions.
Knowing then these things, let us follow after the true freedom, and deliver ourselves from the evil slavery, and let us account neither pomp of power nor dominion of wealth, nor any other such thing, to be blessed; but virtue only. For thus shall we both enjoy security here, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LIX: MATT. XVIII. 7.
Woe unto the world because of offenses:(1) for it must needs be that offenses come: but woe to that man by(2) whom the offense cometh."
"AND if 'it must needs be that offenses come,'" (some one of our adversaries may perchance say), "why doth He lament over the world, when He ought rather to afford succor, and to stretch forth His hand in its behalf? For this were the part of a physician, and a protector, whereas the other might be looked for even from any ordinary person."
What then could we possibly say, in answer to so shameless a tongue? nay what dost thou seek for equal to this healing care of His? For indeed being God He became man for thee, and took the form of a slave, and underwent all extremities, and left undone none of those things which it concerned Him to do. But inasmuch as unthankful men were nothing the better for this, He laments over them, for that after so much fostering care they continued in their unsoundness.
It was like as if over the sick man, that had had the advantage of much attendance, and who had not been willing to obey the rules of the physician, any one were to lament and say, "Woe to such a man from his infirmity, which he has increased by his own remissness." But in that case indeed there is no advantage from the bewailing, but here this too is a kind of healing treatment to foretell what would be, and to lament it. For many oftentimes, though, when advised, they were nothing profited, yet, when mourned for, they amended.
For which reason most of all He used the word "Woe," thoroughly to rouse them, and to make them in earnest, and to work upon them to be wakeful. And at the same time He shows forth the good will He had towards those very men and His own mildness, that He mourns for them even when gainsaying, not taking mere disgust at it, but correcting them, both with the mourning, and with the prediction, so as to win them over.
But how is this possible? he may say. For if "it must needs be that offenses come," how is it possible to escape these? Because that the offenses come indeed must needs be, but that men should perish is not altogether of necessity. Like as though a physician should say (for nothing hinders our using the same illustration again), it must needs be that this disease should come on, but it is not a necessary consequence that he who gives heed should be of course destroyed by the disease. And this He said, as I mentioned, to awaken together with the others His disciples. For that they may not slumber, as sent unto peace and unto untroubled life, He shows many wars close upon them, from without, from within. Declaring this, Paul said, "Without were fightings, within were fears;"(3) and, "In perils among false brethren;"(4) and in his discourse to the Milesians too He said, "Also of you shall some arise speaking perverse things;"(5) and He Himself too said, "The man's foes shall be they of his own household."(6) But when He said, "It must needs be," it is not as taking away the power of choosing for themselves, nor the freedom of the moral principle, nor as placing man's life under any absolute constraint of circumstances, that He saith these things, but He foretells what would surely be; and this Luke hath set forth in another form of expression, "It is impossible but that offenses should come."(7)
But what are the offenses?(8) The hindrances on the right way. Thus also do those on the stage call them that are skilled in those matters, them that distort their bodies.
It is not then His prediction that brings the offenses; far from it; neither because He foretold it, therefore doth it take place; but because it surely was to be, therefore He foretold it; since if those who bring in the offenses had not been minded to do wickedly, neither would the offenses have come; and if they had not been to come, neither would they have been foretold. But because those men did evil, and were incurably diseased, the offenses came, and He foretells that which is to be.
But if these men had been kept right, it may be said, and there had been no one to bring in an offense, would not this saying have been convicted of falsehood? By no means, for neither would it have been spoken. For if all were to have been kept right, He would not have said, "it must needs be that they come," but because He foreknew they would be of themselves incorrigible, therefore He said, the offenses will surely come.
And wherefore did He not take them out of the way? it may be said. Why, wherefore should they have been taken out of the way? For the sake of them that are hurt? But not thence is the ruin of them that are hurt, but from their own remissness. And the virtuous prove it, who, so far from being injured thereby, are even in the greatest degree profiled, such as was Job, such as was Joseph, such as were all the righteous, and the apostles. But if many perish, it is from their own slumbering. But if it were not so, but the ruin was the effect of the offenses, all must have perished. And if there are those who escape, let him who doth not escape impute it to himself. For the offenses, as I have said, awaken, and render more quick- sighted, and sharper, not only him that is preserved; but even him that hath fallen into them, if he rise up again quickly, for they render him more safe, and make him more difficult to overcome; so that if we be watchful, no small profit do we reap from hence, even to be continually awake. For if when we have enemies, and when so many dangers are pressing upon us, we sleep, what should we be if living in security. Nay, if thou wilt, look at the first man. For if having lived in paradise a short time, perchance not so much as a whole day, and having enjoyed delights, he drove on to such a pitch of wickedness, as even to imagine an equality with God, and to account the deceiver a benefactor, and not to keep to one commandment; if he had lived the rest of his life also without affliction, what would he not have done?
2. But when we say these things, they make other objections again, asking, And why did God make him such? God did not make him such, far from it, since then neither would He have punished him. For if we in those matters in which we are the cause, do not find fault with our servant, much more will not the God of all. "But whence did this come to pass?" one may say. Of himself and his own remissness. "What means, of himself?" Ask thyself. For if it be not of themselves the bad are bad, do not punish thy servant nor reprove thy wife for what errors she may commit, neither beat thy son, nor blame thy friend, nor hate thine enemy that doth despite to thee: for all these deserve to be pitied, not to be punished, unless they offend of themselves. "But I am not able to practise self-restraint," one may say. And yet, when thou perceivest the cause not to be with them, but of another necessity, thou canst practise self-restraint. When at least a servant being taken with sickness doth not the things enjoined him, so far from blaming thou dost rather excuse him. Thus thou art a witness, that the one thing is of one's self, the other not of one's self. So that here too, if thou knewest that he was wicked from being born such, so far from blaming, thou wouldest rather have shown him indulgence. For surely, when thou makest him allowance for his illness, it could not be that thou wouldest have refused to make allowance for God's act of creation, if indeed he had been made such from the very first.
And in another way too it is easy to stop the mouths of such men, for great is the abounding power of the truth. For wherefore dost thou never find fault with thy servant, because he is not of a beautiful countenance, that he is not of fine stature in his body, that he is not able to fly? Because these things are natural. So then from blame against his nature he is acquitted, and no man gainsays it. When therefore thou blamest, thou showest that the fault is not of nature but of his choice. For if in those things, which we do not blame, we bear witness that the whole is of nature, it is evident that where we reprove, we declare that the offense is of the choice.
Do not then bring forward, I beseech thee, perverse reasonings, neither sophistries and webs slighter than the spider's, but answer me this again: Did God make all men? It is surely plain to every man. How then are not all equal in respect of virtue and vice? whence are the good, and gentle, and meek? whence are the worthless and evil? For if these things do not require any purpose, but are of nature, how are the one this, the others that? For if by nature all were bad, it were not possible for any one to be good, but if good by nature, then no one bad. For if there were one nature of all men, they must needs in this respect be all one, whether they were to be this, or whether they were to be that.
But if we should say that by nature the one are good, the other bad, which would not be reasonable (as we have shown), these things must be unchangeable, for the things of nature are unchangeable. Nay, mark. All mortals are also liable to suffering; and no one is free from suffering, though he strive without end. But now we see of good many becoming worthless, and of worthless good, the one through remissness, the other by earnestness; which thing most of all indicates that these things do not come of nature.
For the things of nature are neither changed, nor do they need diligence for their acquisition. For like as for seeing and hearing we do not need labor, so neither should we need toils in virtue, if it had been apportioned by nature.
"But wherefore did He at all make worthless men, when He might have made all men good? Whence then are the evil things?" saith he. Ask thyself; for it is my part to show they are not of nature, nor from God.
"Come they then of themselves?" he saith. By no means. "But are they unoriginated?" Speak reverently, O man, and start back from this madness, honoring with one honor God and the evil things, and that honor the highest. For if they be unoriginate they are mighty, and cannot so much as be plucked up, nor pass into annihilation. For that what is unoriginate is imperishable, is surely manifest to all.
3. And whence also are there so many good, when evil hath such great power? how are they that have an origin stronger than that which is unoriginate?
"But God destroys these things," he saith. When? And how will He destroy what are of equal honor, and of equal strength, and of the same age, as one might say, with Himself?
Oh malice of the devil! how great an evil hath he invented! With what blasphemy hath he persuaded men to surround God! with what cloak of godliness hath he devised another profane account? For desiring to show, that not of Him was the evil, they brought in another evil doctrine, saying, that these things are unoriginate.
"Whence then are evils?" one may say. From willing and not willing. "But the very thing of our willing and not willing, whence is it?" From ourselves. But thou dost the same in asking, as if when thou hadst asked, whence is seeing and not seeing? then when I said, from closing the eyes or not closing the eyes, thou wert to ask again; the very closing the eyes or not, whence is it? then having heard that it was of ourselves, and our will, thou weft to seek again another cause.
For evil is nothing else than disobedience to God. "Whence then," one may say, "did man find this?" "Why, was it a task to find this? I pray thee." "Nay, neither do I say this, that this thing is difficult; but whence became he desirous to disobey." "From remissness. For having power for either, he inclined rather to this."
But if thou art perplexed yet and dizzy at hearing this, I will ask thee nothing difficult nor involved, but a simple and plain question. Hast thou become some time bad? and hast thou become some time also good? What I mean, is like this. Didst thou prevail some time over passion, and wast thou taken again by passion? Has thou been overtaken by drunkenness, and hast thou prevailed over drunkenness? Wast thou once moved to wrath, and again not moved to wrath? Didst thou overlook a poor man, and not overlook him? Didst thou commit whoredom once? and didst thou become chaste again? Whence then are all these things? tell me, whence? Nay if thou thyself do not tell, I will say. Because at one time thou didst restrain thyself and strive, but after that thou becamest remiss and careless. For to those that are desperate, and are continually in wickedness, and are in a state of senselessness, and are mad, and who are not willing so much as to hear what will amend them, I will not even discourse of self restraint; but to them that have been sometimes in the one, and sometimes in the other, I will gladly speak. Didst thou once take by violence the things that belonged not to thee; and after this, subdued by pity, didst impart even of thine unto him that was in need? Whence then this change? Is it not quite plain it is from the mind, and the choice of will?
It is quite plain, and there is no one who would not say this. Wherefore I entreat you to be in earnest, and to cleave to virtue, and ye will have no need of these questions. For our evils are mere names, if we be willing. Inquire not then whence are evils, neither perplex thyself; but having found that they are from remissness only, flee the evil deeds.
And if any one should say, that these things come not from us; whenever thou seest him angry with his servants, and provoked with his wife, and blaming a child, and condemning them who injure him, say to him, how then saidst thou, that evils come not from us? For if they be not from us, wherefore dost thou find fault? Say again; is it of thyself thou revilest, and insultest? For if it be not of thyself, let no man be angry with thee; but if it be of thyself, of thyself and of thy remissness are thy evil deeds.
But what? thinkest thou there are some good men? For if indeed no man is good, whence hast thou this word? whence are praises? But if there are good men, it is quite plain that they will also reprove the bad. Yet if no one is voluntarily wicked, nor of himself, the good will be found to be unjustly reproving the bad, and they themselves too will be in this way bad again. For what can be worse than to subject the guiltless to accusations? But if they continue in our estimation good men, though reproving, and this especially is a proof of their goodness, even to the very fools it is hereby plain, that no one is ever by necessity bad.
But if after all this thou wouldest still inquire, whence are evils? I would say, from remissness, from idleness, from keeping company with the bad, from contempt of virtue; hence are both the evils themselves, and the fact that some inquire, whence are the evils. Since of them surely who do right no one inquires about these things, of them that are purposed to live equitably and temperately; but they, who dare to commit wicked acts, and wish to devise some foolish comfort(1) to themselves by these discussions, do weave spiders' webs.
But let us tear these in pieces not by our words only, but by our deeds too. For neither are these things of necessity. For if they were of necessity, He would not have said, "Woe to the man, by whom the offense cometh."(2) For those only doth he bewail, who are wicked by their choice.
And if He saith "by whom,"(3) marvel not. For not as though another were bringing in it by him, doth He say this, but viewing him as himself causing the whole. For the Scripture is wont to say, "by whom," for "of whom;"(4) as when it saith, "I have gotten a man by God,"(5) putting not the second cause, but the first; and again, "Is not the interpretation of them by God,"(6) and, "God is faithful, by whom ye are called unto the fellowship of His Son."(7)
4. And that thou mayest learn that it is not of necessity, hear also what follows. For after bewailing them, He saith, "If thy hand, or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: for it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or feet to be cast into the fire. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into the furnace of fire;"(8) not saying these things of limbs; far from it; but of friends, of relations, whom we regard in the rank of necessary members. This He had both said further back, and now He saith it. For nothing is so hurtful as bad company. For what things compulsion cannot, friendship can often effect, both for hurt, and for profit. Wherefore with much earnestness He commands us to cut off them that hurt us, intimating these that bring the offenses.
Seest thou how He hath put away the mischief that would result from the offenses? By foretelling that there surely will be offenses, so that they might find no one in a state of carelessness, but that looking for them men might be watchful. By showing the evils to be great (for He would not have said without purpose, "Woe to the world because of the offenses," but to show that great is the mischief therefrom), by lamenting again in stronger terms over him that brings them in. For the saying, "But woe to that man," was that of one showing that great was the punishment, but not this only, but also by the comparison which He added He increased the fear.
Then He is not satisfied with these things, but He showeth also the way, by which one may avoid the offenses.
But what is this? The wicked, saith He, though they be exceeding dear friends to thee, cut off from thy friendship.
And He giveth a reason that cannot be gainsaid. For if they continue friends, thou wilt not gain them, but thou wilt lose thyself besides; but if thou shouldest cut them off, thine own salvation at least thou wilt gain. So that if any one's friendship harms thee, cut it off from thee. For if of our own members we often cut off many, when they are both in an incurable state, and are ruining the rest, much more ought one to do this in the case of friends.
But if evils were by nature, superfluous were all this admonition and advice, superfluous the precaution by the means that have been mentioned. But if it be not superfluous, as surely it is not superfluous, it is quite clear that wickedness is of the will.(9)
"Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, that their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven."(10)
He calleth little ones not them that are really little, but them that are so esteemed by the multitude, the poor, the objects of contempt, the unknown (for how should he be little who is equal in value to the whole world; how should he be little, who is dear to God?); but them who in the imagination of the multitude are so esteemed.
And He speaks not of many only, but even of one, even by this again warding off the hurt of the many offenses. For even as to flee the wicked, so also to honor the good, hath very great gain, and would be a twofold security to him who gives heed, the one by rooting out the friendships with them that offend, the other from regarding these saints with respect and honor.
Then in another way also He makes them objects of reverence, saying, "That their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in Heaven."
Hence it is evident, that the saints have angels, or even all men. For the apostle too saith of the woman, "That she ought to have power on her head because of the angels."(1) And Moses, "He set the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels(2) of God."(3)
But here He is discoursing not of angels only, but rather of angels that are greater than others. But when He saith, "The face of my Father," He means nothing else than their fuller confidence, and their great honor.
"For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost."(4)
Again, He is putting another reason stronger than the former, and connects with it a parable, by which He brings in the Father also as desiring these things. "For how think ye?" saith He; "If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it,(5) he rejoiceth over it more than over the ninety and nine, which went not astray. Even so it is not will before your Father,(6) that one of these little ones should perish."(7)
Seest thou by how many things He is urging to the care of our mean brethren. Say not then, "Such a one is a blacksmith, a shoemaker, he is a ploughman, he is a fool," and so despise him. For in order that thou shouldest not feel this, see by how many motives He persuades thee to practise moderation, and presses thee into a care for these. He set a little child, and saith, "Be ye as little children." And, "Whosoever receiveth such a little child receiveth me;" and, "Whosoever shall offend," shall suffer the utmost penalties. And He was not even satisfied with the comparison of the "millstone," but added also His "woe," and commanded us to cut off such, though they be in the place of hands and eyes to us. And by the angels again that are entrusted with these same mean brethren, He makes them objects of veneration, and from His own will and passion (for when He said, "The Son of Man is come to save that which was lost," He signifies even the cross, like as Paul saith, speaking of a brother, "For whom Christ died"); and from the Father, for that neither to Him doth it seem good that one should perish; and from common custom, because the shepherd leaves them that are safe, and seeks what is lost; and when he hath found what was gone astray, he is greatly delighted at the finding and the saving of this.
5. If then God thus rejoices over the little one that is found, how dost thou despise them that are the objects of God's earnest care, when one ought to give up even one's very life for one of these little ones? But is he weak and mean? Therefore for this very cause most of all, one ought to do everything in order to preserve him. For even He Himself left the ninety and nine sheep, and went after this, and the safety of so many availed not to throw into the shade the loss of one. But Luke saith, that He even brought it on his shoulders, and that "There was greater joy over one sinner that repenteth, than over ninety and nine just persons"(8) And from His forsaking those that were saved for it, and from His taking more pleasure in this one, He showed His earnestness about it to be great.
Let us not then be careless about such souls as these. For all these things are said for this object. For by threatening, that he who has not become a little child should not so much as at all set foot in the Heavens, and speaking of "the millstone," He hath brought down the haughtiness of the boastful; for nothing is so hostile to love as pride; and by saying, "It must needs be that offenses come," He made them to be wakeful; and by adding, "Woe unto him by whom the offense cometh," He hath caused each to endeavor that it be not by him. And while by commanding to cut off them that offend He made salvation easy; by enjoining not to despise them, and not merely enjoining, but with earnestness (for "take heed," saith He, "that ye despise not one of these little ones"), and by saying, "Their angels behold the face of my Father," and, "For this end am I come," and "my Father willeth this," He hath made those who should take care of them more diligent.
Seest thou what a wall He hath set around them, and what earnest care He taketh of them that are contemptible and perishing, at once threatening incurable ills to them that make them fall, and promising great blessings to them that wait upon them, and take care of them, and bringing an example from Himself again and from the Father?
Him let us also imitate, refusing none of the tasks that seem lowly and troublesome for our brethren's sake; but though we have to do service, though he be small, though he be mean for whom this is done, though the work be laborious, though we must pass over mountains and precipices, let all things be held endurable for the salvation of our brother. For a soul is an object of such earnest care to God, that "He spared not His own Son."(1)
Wherefore I entreat, when morning hath appeared, straightway as we come out of our house, let us have this one object in view, this earnest care above all, to rescue him that is in danger; I do not mean this danger only that is known by sense, for this is not danger at all, but the danger of the soul, that which is brought upon men by the devil.
For the merchant too, to increase his wealth, crosses the sea; and the artisan, to add to his substance, doeth all things. Let us also then not be satisfied with our own salvation only, since else we destroy even this. For in a war too, and in an engagement, the soldier who is looking to this only how he may save himself by flight, destroys the rest also with himself; much as on the other hand the noble-minded one, and he who stands in arms in defense of the others, with the others preserves himself also. Since then our state too is a war, and of all wars the bitterest, and an engagement and a battle, even as our King commanded us, so let us set ourselves in array in the engagement, prepared for slaughter, and blood, and murders, looking to salvation in behalf of all, and cheering them that stand, and raising up them that are down. For indeed many of our brethren lie fallen in this conflict, having wounds, wallowing in blood, and there is none to heal, not any one of the people, not a priest, no one else, no one to stand by, no friend, no brother, but we look every man to his own things.
By reason of this we maim our own interests also. For the greatest confidence and means of approval is the not looking to our own things.
Therefore I say, are we weak and easy to be overcome both by men, and by the devil, because we seek the opposite to this, and lock not our shields one with another, neither are fortified with godly love, but seek for ourselves other motives of friendship, some from relationship, some from long acquaintance, some from community of interest, some from neighborhood; and from every cause rather are we friends, than from godliness, when one's friendships ought to be formed upon this only. But now the contrary is done; with Jews and with Greeks(2) we sometimes become friends, rather than with the children of the church.
6. Yes, saith he, because the one is worthless, but the other kind and gentle. What sayest thou? Dost thou call thy brother worthless, who art commanded not to call him so much as Raca? And art thou not ashamed, neither dost thou blush, at exposing thy brother, thy fellow member, him that hath shared in the same birth with thee, that hath partaken of the same table?
But if thou hast any brother after the flesh, if he should perpetrate ten thousand evil deeds, thou laborest to conceal him, and accountest thyself also to partake of the shame, when he is disgraced; but as to thy spiritual brother, when thou oughtest to free him from calumny, thou dost rather encompass him with ten thousand charges against him?
"Why he is worthless and insufferable," thou mayest say. Nay then for this reason become his friend, that thou mayest put an end to his being such a one, that thou mayest convert him, that thou mayest lead him back to virtue.--" But he obeys not," thou wilt say, "neither cloth he bear advice."--Whence knowest thou it? What, hast thou admonished him, and attempted to amend him?--"I have admonished him often," thou wilt say. How many times?--Oftentimes, both once, and a second time.--Oh! Is this often? Why, if thou hadst done this throughout all the time, oughtest thou to grow weary, and to give it up? Seest thou not how God is always admonishing us, by the prophets, by the apostles, by the evangelists? What then? have we performed all? and have we been obedient in all things? By no means. Did He then cease admonishing? Did He hold His peace? Doth He not say each day, "Ye cannot serve God, and mammon"(1) and with many, the superfluity and the tyranny of wealth yet increases? Doth He not cry aloud each day, "Forgive, and ye shall have forgiveness,"(2) and we become wild beasts more and more? Doth He not continually admonish to restrain desire, and to keep the mastery over wicked lust, and many wallow worse than swine in this sin? But nevertheless, He ceases not speaking.
Wherefore then do we not consider these things with ourselves, and say that even with us God reasons, and abstains not from doing this, although we disobey Him in many things?
Therefore He said that, "Few are the saved."(3) For if virtue in ourselves suffices not for our salvation, but we must take with us others too when we depart; when we have saved neither ourselves, nor others, what shall we suffer? Whence shall we have any more a hope of salvation?
But why do I blame for these things, when not even of them that dwell with us do we take any account, of wife, and children, and servants, but we have care of one thing instead of another, like drunken men, that our servants may be more in number, and may serve us with much diligence, and that our children may receive from us a large inheritance, and that our wife may have ornaments of gold, and costly garments, and wealth; and we care not at all for themselves, but for the things that belong to them. For neither do we care for our own wife, nor provide for her, but for the things that belong to the wife; neither for the child, but for the things of the child.
And we do the same as if any one seeing a house in a bad state, and the walls giving way, were to neglect to raise up these, and to make up great fences round it without; or when a body was diseased, were not to take care of this, but were to weave for it gilded garments; or when the mistress was ill, were to give heed to the maidservants, and the looms, and the vessels in the house, and mind other things, leaving her to lie and moan.
For this is done even now, and when our soul is in evil and wretched case, and angry, and reviling, and lusting wrongly, and full of vainglory, and at strife, and dragged down to the earth, and torn by so many wild beasts, we neglect to drive away the passions from her, and are careful about house and servants. And while if a bear has escaped by stealth, we shut up our houses, and run along by the narrow passages, so as not to fall in with the wild beast; now while not one wild beast, but many such thoughts are tearing in pieces the soul, we have not so much as a feeling of it. And in the city we take so much care, as to shut up the wild beasts in solitary places and in cages, and neither at the senate house of the city, nor at the courts of justice, nor at the king's palace, but far off somewhere at a distance do we keep them chained; but in the case of the soul, where the senate house is, where the King's palace, where the court of justice is, the wild beasts are let loose, crying and making a tumult about the mind itself and the royal throne. Therefore all things are turned upside down, and all is full of disturbance, the things within, the things without, and we are in nothing different from a city thrown into confusion from being overrun by barbarians; and what takes place in us is as though a serpent were setting on a brood of sparrows, and the sparrows, with their feeble cries, were flying about every way affrighted, and full of trouble, without having any place whither to go and end their consternation.
7. Wherefore I entreat, let us kill the serpent, let us shut up the wild beasts, let us stifle them, let us slay them, and these wicked thoughts let us give over to the sword of the Spirit, lest the prophet threaten us also with such things as he threatened Judea, that "The wild asses shall dance there, and porcupines, and serpents."(4)
For there are, there are even men worse than wild asses, living as it were in the wilderness, and kicking; yea the more part of the youth amongst us is like this. For indeed having wild lusts they thus leap, they kick, going about unbridled, and spend their diligence on no becoming object.
And the fathers are to blame, who while they constrain the horsebreakers to discipline their horses with much attention, and suffer not the youth of the colt to go on long untamed, but put upon it both a rein, and all the rest, from the beginning; but their own young ones they overlook, going about for a long season unbridled, and without temperance; disgracing themselves, by fornications, and gamings, and continuings in the wicked theatres, when they ought before fornication to give him to a wife, to a wife chaste, and highly endued with wisdom; for she will both bring off her husband from his most disorderly course of life, and will be instead of a rein to the colt.
For indeed fornications and adulteries come not from any other cause, than from young men's being unrestrained. For if he have a prudent wife, he will take care of house and honor and character. "But he is young," you say. I know it too. For if Isaac was forty years old when he took his bride, passing all that time of his life in virginity, much more ought young men under grace to practise this self-restraint. But oh what grief! Ye do not endure to take care of their chastity, but ye overlook their disgracing, defiling themselves, becoming accursed; as though ye knew not that the profit of marriage is to preserve the body pure, and if this be not so, there is no advantage of marriage. But ye do the contrary; when they are filled with countless stains, then ye bring them to marriage without purpose and without fruit.
"Why I must wait," thou wilt say, "that he may become approved, that he may distinguish himself in the affairs of the state." but of the soul ye have no consideration, but ye overlook it as a cast-away. For this reason all things are full of confusion, and disorder, and trouble, because this is made a secondary matter, because necessary things are neglected, but the unimportant obtain much forethought.
Knowest thou not, that thou canst do no such kindness to the youth, as to keep him pure from whorish uncleannness? For nothing is equal to the soul. Because, "What is a man profited," saith He, "if he shall gain the whole world, but lose his own soul."(1) But because the love of money hath overturned and cast down all, and hath thrust aside the strict fear of God, having seized upon the souls of men. like some rebel chief upon a citadel; therefore we are careless both of our children's salvation, and of our own, looking to one object only, that having become wealthier, we may leave riches to others, and these again to others after them, and they that follow these to their posterity, becoming rather a kind of passers on of our possessions and of our money, but not masters.
Hence great is our folly; hence the free are less esteemed than the slaves. For slaves we reprove, if not for their sake, yet for our own; but the free enjoy not the benefit even of this care, but are more vile in our estimation than these slaves. And why do I say, than our slaves? For our children are less esteemed than cattle; and we take care of horses and asses rather than of children. And should one have a mule, great is his anxiety to find the best groom, and not one either harsh, or dishonest, or drunken, or ignorant of his art; out if we have set a tutor(2) over a child's soul, we take at once, and at random, whoever comes in our way. And yet than this art there is not another greater. For what is equal to training the soul, and forming the mind of one that is young? For he that hath this art, ought to be more exactly observant than any painter and any sculptor.(3)
But we take no account of this, but look to one thing only, that he may be trained as to his tongue. And to this again we have directed our endeavors for money's sake. For not that he may be able to speak, but that he may get money, does he learn speaking; since if it were possible to grow rich even without this, we should have no care even for this.
Seest thou how great is the tyranny of riches? how it has seized upon all things, and having bound them like some slaves or cattle, drags them where it will?
But what are we advantaged by such accusations against it? For we indeed shoot at it in words, but it prevails over us in deeds. Nevertheless, not even so shall we cease to shoot at it with words from our tongue. For if any advance is made, both we are gainers and you; but if you continue in the same things, all our part at least hath been performed.
But may God both deliver you from this disease, and cause us to glory in you, for to Him be glory, and dominion, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LX: MATT. XVIII. 15.
"If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault(2) between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."
For, since He had used vehement language against them that cause offense, and on every hand had moved them to fear; in order that the offended might not in this way on the other hand become supine. neither supposing all to be cast upon others, should be led on to another vice, soften in themselves, and desiring to be humored in everything, and run upon the shoal of pride; seest thou how He again checks them also, and commands the telling of the faults to be between the two alone, lest by the testimony of the many he should render his accusation heavier, and the other, become excited to opposition, should continue incorrigible.
Wherefore He saith, "Between thee and him alone," and, "If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother." What is, "If he shall hear thee?" If he shall condemn himself, if he shall be persuaded that he has done wrong.
"Thou hast gained thy brother." He did not say, Thou hast a sufficient revenge, but, "Thou hast gained thy brother," to show that there is a common loss from the enmity. For He said not, "He hath gained himself only," but, "thou too hast gained him," whereby He showed that both the one and the other were losers before this, the one of his brother, the other of his own salvation.
This, when He sat on the mount also, He advised; at one time bringing him who has given the pain to him that had been pained, and saying, "Be reconciled to thy brother,"(3) and at another commanding him that had been wronged to forgive his neighbor. For He taught men to say, "Forgive us our debts, like as we forgive our debtors."(4)
But here He is devising another mode. For not him that gave the pain, doth He now call upon,(5) but him that was pained He brings to this one. For because this who hath done the wrong would not easily come to make excuse, out of shame, and confusion of face, He draws that other to him, and not merely so, but in such way as also to correct what hath been done. And He saith not, "Accuse," nor "Charge him," nor "Demand satisfaction, and an account," by. "Tell him of his fault,"(6) saith He. For he is held in a kind of stupor through anger and shame with which he is intoxicated; and thou, who art in health, must go thy way to him that is ill, and make the tribunal private, and the remedy such as may be readily received. For to say, "Tell him of his fault," is nothing else than "Remind him of his errors" tell him what thou hast suffered at his hand, which very thing, if it be done as it ought, is the part of one making excuse for him, and drawing him over earnestly to a reconciliation.
What then, if he should disobey, and be disposed to abide in hardness? "Take with thyself yet one or two, that in the mouth of two witnesses every word may be established."(7) For the more he is shameless, and bold, the more ought we to be active for his cure, not in anger and indignation. For the physician in like manner, when he sees the malady obstinate, doth not give up nor grow impatient, but then makes the more preparation; which He commands us to do in this case too.
For since thou appearedst to be too weak alone, make thyself more powerful by this addition. For surely the two are sufficient to convict him that hath sinned. Seest thou how He seeketh not the good of him that hath been pained only, but of him also that hath given the pain. For the person injured is this one who is taken captive by his passion, he it is that is diseased, and weak, and infirm. Wherefore He often sends the other to this one, now alone, and now with others; but if he continue in it, even with the church. For, "Tell it," saith He, "to the Church."(8) For if He were seeking this one's advantage only, He would not have commanded to pardon, seventy times seven, one repenting. He would not so often have set so many over him to correct his passion; but if he had remained incorrigible after the first conference would have let him be; but now once, and twice, and thrice, He commands to attempt his cure, and now alone and now with two, now with more.
Wherefore, with respect to them that are without He saith no such thing, but, "If any one smite thee," He saith, "on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,"(1) but here not in such wise. For what Paul meaneth, saying, "What have I to do to judge them also that are without?"(2) but the brethren he commands both to tell of their faults, and to avoid them, and to cut them off, not being obedient, that they may be ashamed; this Himself also doeth here, making these laws about the brethren; and He sets three(3) over him for teachers and judges, to teach him the things that are done at the time of his drunkenness. For though it be himself that hath said and done all those unreasonable things, yet he will need others to teach him this, like as the drunken man. For anger and sin is a more frantic thing(4) than any drunkenness, and puts the soul in greater distraction.
Who, for instance, was wiser than David? Yet for all that, when he had sinned he perceived it not, his lust keeping in subjection all his reasoning powers, and like some smoke filling his soul. Therefore he stood in need of a lantern from the prophet, and of words calling to his mind what he had done. Wherefore here also He brings these to him that hath sinned, to reason with him about the things he had done.
2. But for what reason doth He command this one to tell him of his fault, and not another? Because this man he would endure more quietly, this, who hath been wronged, who hath been pained, who hath been despitefully used. For one doth not bear in. the same way being told by another of one's fault concerning him that hath been insulted, as by the insulted person himself, especially when this person is alone convicting him. For when he who should demand justice against him, even this one appears to be caring for his salvation, this will have more power than anything in the world to shame him.
Seest thou how this is done not for the sake of just punishment, but of amendment? Therefore He doth not at once command to take with him the two, but when himself hath failed; and not even then doth He send forth a multitude against him; but makes the addition no further than two, or even one; but when he has contemned these too, then and not till then He brings him out to the church.
So much earnestness doth He show, that our neighbor's sins be not exposed by us. And indeed He might have commanded this from the first, but that this might not be, He did not command it, but after a first and second admonition He appoints this.
But what is, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established?" Thou hast a sufficient testimony. His meaning is, that thou hast done all thy part, that thou hast left undone none of the things which it pertained to thee to do.
"But if he shall neglect to hear them also, tell it to the church," that is, to the rulers of it; "but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican." For after this such a one is incurably diseased.
But mark thou, I pray thee, how everywhere He putteth the publican for an example of the greatest wickedness. For above too He saith, "Do not even the publicans the same?"(5) And further on again, "Even the publicans and the harlots shall go before you into the Kingdom of Heaven,"(6) that is, they who are utterly reprobated and condemned. Let them hearken, who are rushing upon unjust gains, who are counting up usuries upon usuries.
But why did He set him with these? To soothe the person wronged, and to alarm him. Is this only then the punishment? Nay, but hear also what follows. "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven."(7) And He did not say to the ruler of the church, "Bind such a man," but, "If thou bind," committing the whole matter to the person himself, who is aggrieved, and the bonds abide indissoluble. Therefore he will suffer the utmost ills; but not he who hath brought him to account is to blame, but he who hath not been willing to be persuaded.
Seest thou how He hath bound him down with twofold constraint, both by the vengeance here, and by the punishment hereafter? But these things hath He threatened, that these circumstances may not arise, but that fearing, at once the being cast out of the church, and the danger from the bond, and the being bound in Heaven, he may become more gentle. And knowing these things, if not at the beginning, at any rate in the multitude of the tribunals he will put off his anger. Wherefore, I tell you, He hath set over him a first, and a second, and a third court,(1) so that though he should neglect to hear the first, he may yield to the second; and even if he should reject that, he may fear the third; and though he should make no account of this, he may be dismayed at the vengeance to come, and at the sentence and judgment to proceed from God.
"And again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."(2)
Seest thou how by another motive also He puts down our enmities, and takes away our petty dissensions,(3) and draws us one to another, and this not from the punishment only which hath been mentioned, but also from the good things which spring from charity? For having denounced those threats against contentiousness, He putteth here the great rewards of concord, if at least they who are of one accord do even prevail with the Father, as touching the things they ask, and have Christ in the midst of them.
"Are there then indeed nowhere two of one accord?" Nay, in many places, perchance even everywhere. "How then do they not obtain all things?" Because many are causes of their failing. For either they often ask things inexpedient. And why marvellest thou, if this is the case with some others, whereas it was so even with Paul, when he heard. "My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is perfected in weakness."(4) Or they are unworthy to be reckoned with them that heard these words, and contribute not their own part, but He seeks for such as are like them; therefore He saith "of you," of the virtuous, of them that show forth an angelic rule of life.(5) Or they pray against them that have aggrieved them, seeking for redress and vengeance; and this kind of thing is forbidden, for, "Pray," saith He, "for your enemies."(6) Or having sins unrepented they ask mercy, which thing it is impossible to receive, not only if themselves ask it, but although others having much confidence towards God entreat for them, like as even Jeremiah praying for the Jews did hear, "Pray not thou for this people, because I will not hear thee."(7)
But if all things are there, and thou ask things expedient, and contribute all thine own part, and exhibit an apostolical life, and have concord and love towards thy neighbor, thou wilt obtain on thy entreaty; for the Lord is loving towards man.
3. Then because He had said, "Of my Father," in order that He might show that it is Himself that giveth, and not He who begat Him only, He added, "For wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
What then? are there not two or three gathered together in His name? There are indeed, but rarely. For not merely of the assembling doth He speak, neither this doth He require only; but most surely, as I said before also, the rest of virtue too together with this, and besides, even this itself He requires with great strictness. For what He saith is like this, "If any holds me the principal ground of his love to his neighbors, I will be with Him, if he be a virtuous man in other respects."
But now we see the more part having other motives of friendship. For one loves, because he is loved, another because he hath been honored, a third because such a one has been useful to him in some other worldly matter, a fourth for some other like cause; but for Christ's sake it is a difficult thing to find any one loving his neighbor sincerely, and as he ought to love him. For the more part are bound one to another by their worldly affairs. But Paul did not love thus, but for Christ's sake; wherefore even when not loved in such wise as he loved, he did not cease his love, because he had planted a strong root of his affection; but not so our present state, but on inquiry we shall find with most men anything likely to produce friendship rather than this. And if any one bestowed on me power in so great a multitude to make this inquiry, I would show the more part bound one to another by worldly motives.
And this is evident from the causes that work enmity. For because they are bound one to another by these temporal(8) motives, therefore they are neither fervent towards one another, nor constant, but insult, and loss of money, and envy, and love of vainglory, and every such thing coming upon them, severs the love-tie. For it finds not the root spiritual. Since if indeed it were such, no worldly thing would dissolve things spiritual. For love for Christ's sake is firm, and not to be broken, and impregnable, and nothing can tear it asunder; not calumnies, not dangers, not death, no other thing of this kind. For though he suffer ten thousand things, who thus loves; looking to the ground of his love, he will not desist. For he who loves because of being loved, should he meet with anything painful, puts an end to his love; but he who is bound by this, will never desist.
Wherefore Paul also said, "Charity never faileth."(1) For what hast thou to say? That when honored he insults? that receiving benefits he was minded to slay thee? But even this works upon thee to love more, if thou lovest for Christ's sake. For what things are in the rest subversive of love, these here become apt to produce it. How? First, because such a one is to thee a cause of rewards; secondly, because he that is so disposed stands in need of more succor, and much attention. Therefore I say, he who thus loves inquires not about race, nor country, nor wealth, nor his love to himself, nor any other such matter, but though he be hated, though he be insulted, though he be slain, continues to love, having as a sufficient ground for love, Christ; wherefore also he stands steadfast, firm, not to be overthrown, looking unto Him.
For Christ too so loved his enemies, having loved the obstinate, the injurious, the blasphemers, them that hated Him, them that would not so much as see Him; them that were preferring wood and stones to Him, and with the highest love beyond which one cannot find another. "For greater love hath no man than this," He saith, "that one lay down his life for his friends."(2)
And those even that crucified Him, and acted in so many instances with contumely against Him, see how He continues to treat with kindness. For even to His Father He speaks for them, saying, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do."(3) And He sent His disciples moreover, after these things, unto them.
This love then let us also imitate, unto this let us look, that being followers of Christ, we may attain both unto the good things here, and unto those to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXI: MATT. XVIII.
"Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times. but, Until seventy times seven."(1)
PETER supposed he was saying something great, wherefore also as aiming at greatness he added, "Until seven times?" For this thing, saith he, which Thou hast commanded to do, how often shall I do? For if he forever sins, but forever when reproved repents, how often dost thou command us to bear with this man? For with regard to that other who repents not, neither acknowledges his own faults, Thou hast set a limit, by saying, "Let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican;" but to this no longer so, but Thou hast commanded to accept him.
How often then ought I to bear with him, being told his faults, and repenting? Is it enough for seven times?
What then saith Christ, the good God, who is loving towards man? "I say not unto thee, until seven times, but, until seventy times seven," not setting a number here, but what is infinite and perpetual and forever. For even as ten thousand times signifies often, so here too. For by saying, "The barren hath borne seven,"(1) the Scripture means many. So that He hath not limited the forgiveness by a number, but hath declared that it is to be perpetual and forever.
This at least He indicated by the parable that is put after. For that He might not seem to any to enjoin great things and hard to bear, by saying, "Seventy times seven," He added this parable, at once both leading them on to what He had said, and putting down him who was priding himself upon this, and showing the act was not grievous, but rather very easy. Therefore let me add, He brought forward His own love to man, that by the comparison, as He saith, thou mightest learn, that though thou forgive seventy times seven, though thou continually pardon thy neighbor for absolutely all his sins, as a drop of water to an endless sea, so much, or rather much more, doth thy love to man come short in comparison of the boundless goodness of God, of which thou standest in need, for that thou art to be judged, and to give an account.
Wherefore also He went on to say, "The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.(2) And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay,(3) he commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his children, and all that he had."(4)
Then after this man had enjoyed the benefit of mercy, he went out, and "took by the throat his fellow-servant, which owed him an hundred pence;"(5) and having by these doings moved his lord, he caused him to cast him again into prison, until he should pay off the whole.
Seest thou how great the difference between sins against man and against God? As great as between ten thousand talents, and a hundred pence, or rather even much more. And this arises both from the difference of the persons, and the constant succession of our sins. For when a man looks at us, we stand off and shrink from sinning: but when God sees us every day, we do not forbear, but do and speak all things without fear.
But not hereby alone, but also from the benefit and from the honor of which we have partaken, our sins become more grievous.
And if ye are desirous to learn how our sins against Him are ten thousand talents. or rather even much more, I will try to show it briefly. But I fear test to them that are inclined to wickedness, and love continually to sin, I should furnish still greater security, or should drive the meeker sort to despair, and they should repeat that saying of the disciples, "who can be saved?"(6)
Nevertheless for all that I will speak, that I may make those that attend more safe, and more meek. For they that are incurably diseased, and past feeling, even without these words of mine, do not depart from their own carelessness, and wickedness; and if even from hence they derive greater occasion for contempt, the fault is not in what is said, but in their insensibility; since what is said surely is enough both to restrain those that attend to it, and to prick their hearts; and the meeker sort, when they see on the one hand the greatness of their sins, and learn also on the other hand the power of repentance, will cleave to it the more, wherefore it is needful to speak.
I will speak then, and will set forth our sins, both wherein we offend against God, and wherein against men, and I will set forth not each person's own, but what are common; but his own let each one join to them after that from his conscience.
And I will do this, having first set forth the good deeds of God to us. What then are His good deeds? He created us when we were not, and made all things for our sakes that are seen, Heaven, sea, air, all that in them is, living creatures, plants, seeds; for we must needs speak briefly for the boundless ocean of the works. Into us alone of all that are on earth He breathed a living soul such as we have, He planted a garden, He gave a help-meet, He set us over all the brutes, He crowned us with glory and honor.
After that, when man had been unthankful towards his benefactor, He vouchsafed unto him a greater gift.
2. For look not to this only, that He cast him out of paradise, but mark also the gain that arose from thence. For after having cast him out of paradise, and having wrought those countless good works, and having accomplished His various dispensations, He sent even His own Son for the sake of them that had been benefited by Him and were hating Him, and opened Heaven to us, and unfolded paradise itself, and made us sons, the enemies, the unthankful.
Wherefore it were even seasonable now to say, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"(7)
And He gave us also a baptism of the remission of sins, and a deliverance from vengeance, and an inheritance of a kingdom, and He promised numberless good things on our doing what is right, and stretched forth His hand, and shed abroad His Spirit into our hearts.
What then? After so many and such great blessings, what ought to be our disposition; should we indeed, even if each day we died for Him who so loves us, make due recompense, or rather should we repay the smallest portion of the debt? By no means, for moreover even this again is turned to our advantage.
How then are we disposed, whose disposition ought to be like this? Each day we insult His law. But be ye not angry, if I let loose my tongue against them that sin, for not you only will I accuse, but myself also.
Where then would ye that I should begin? With the slaves, or with the free? with them that serve in the army, or with private persons? with the rulers, or with the subjects? with the women, or with the men? with the aged men, or with the young? with what age? with what race? with what rank? with what pursuit?
Would ye then that I should make the beginning with them that serve as soldiers? What sin then do not these commit every day, insulting, reviling, frantic, making a gain of other men's calamities, being like wolves, never clear from offenses, unless one might say the sea too was without waves. What passion doth not trouble them? what disease cloth not lay siege to their soul?
For to their equals they show a jealous disposition, and they envy, and seek after vainglory; and to those that are subject to them, their disposition is covetous; but to them that have suits, and run unto them as to a harbor, their conduct is that of enemies and perjured persons. How many robberies are there with them! How many frauds! How many false accusations, and meannesses! how many servile flatteries!
Come then, let us apply in each case the law of Christ. "He that saith to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.(1) He that hath looked on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her.(2) Unless one humble himself as the little child, he shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."(3)
But these even study haughtiness, becoming towards them that are subject to them, and are delivered into their hands, and who tremble at them, and are afraid of them, more fierce than a wild beast; for Christ's sake doing nothing, but all things for the belly, for money, for vainglory.
Can one indeed reckon up in words the trespass of their actions? What should one say of their decisions, their laughter, their unseasonable discourses, their filthy language? But about covetousness one cannot so much as speak. For like as the monks on the mountains know not even what covetousness is, so neither do these; but in an opposite way to them, For they indeed, because of being far removed from the disease, know not the passion, but these, by reason of being exceedingly intoxicated with it, have not so much as a perception how great the evil is. For this vice hath so thrust aside virtue and tyrannises, that it is not accounted so much as a heavy charge with those madmen.
But will ye, that we leave these, and go to others of a gentler kind? Come then, let us examine the race of workmen and artisans. For these above all seem to live by honest labors, and the sweat of their own brow. But these too, when they do not take heed to themselves, gather to themselves many evils from hence. For the dishonesty that arises from buying and selling they bring into the work of honest labor, and add oaths, and perjuries, and falsehoods to their covetousness often, and are taken up with worldly things only, and continue riveted to the earth; and while they do all things that they may get money, they do not take much heed that they may impart to the needy, being always desirous to increase their goods. What should one say of the revilings that are uttered touching such matters, the insults, the loans, the usurious gains, the bargains full of much mean trafficking, the shameless buyings and sellings.
3. But will ye that we leave these too, and go to others who seem to be more just? Who then are they? They that are possessed of lands, and reap the wealth that springs from the earth. And what can be more unjust than these? For if any one were to examine how they treat their wretched and toil-worn laborers, he will see them to be more cruel than savages. For upon them that are pining with hunger, and toiling throughout all their life, they both impose constant and intolerable payments, and lay on them laborious burdens, and like asses or mules, or rather like stones, do they treat their bodies, allowing them not so much as to draw breath a little, and when the earth yields, and when it doth not yield, they alike wear them out, and grant them no indulgence. And what can be more pitiable than this, when after having labored throughout the whole winter, and being consumed with frost and rain, and watchings, they go away with their hands empty, yea moreover in debt, and fearing and dreading more that this famine and shipwreck, the torments of the overlookers,(1) and their dragging them about, and their demands, and their imprisonments, and the services from which no entreaty can deliver them!
Why should one speak of the merchandise which they make of them, the sordid gains which they gain by them, by their labors and their sweat filling winepresses, and wine vats, but not suffering them to take home so much as a small measure, but draining off the entire fruits into the casks of their wickedness, and flinging to them for this a little money?
And new kinds of usuries also do they devise, and not lawful even according to the laws of the heathens, and they frame contracts for loans full of many a curse. For not the hundredth part of the sum, but the half of the sum they press for and exact; and this when he of whom it is exacted has a wife, is bringing up children, is a human being, and is filling their threshing floor, and their wine-press by his own toils.
But none of these things do they consider. Wherefore now it were seasonable to bring forward the prophet and say, "Be astonished, O Heaven, and be horribly afraid, O earth,"(2) to what great brutality hath the race of man been madly carried away!(3)
But these things I say, not blaming crafts, nor husbandry, nor military service,(4) but ourselves. Since Cornelius also was a centurion, and Paul a worker in leather, and after his preaching practised his craft, and David was a king, and Job enjoyed the possession of land and of large revenues, and there was no hindrance hereby to any of these in the way of virtue.
Bearing in mind all these things, and considering the ten thousand talents, let us at least hence hasten to remit to our neighbors their few and trifling debts. For we too have an account to give of the commandments wherewith we have been trusted, and we are not able to pay all, no not whatever we may do. Therefore God hath given us a way to repayment both ready and easy, and which is able to cancel all these things, I mean, not to be revengeful.
In order then that we may learn this well, let us hear the whole parable, going on regularly through it. "For there was brought unto Him," it saith, "one which owed ten thousand talents, and when he had not to pay, He commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and his children." Wherefore, I pray thee? Not of cruelty, nor of inhumanity (for the loss came back again upon himself, for she too was a slave), but of unspeakable tenderness.
For it is His purpose to alarm him by this threat, that He might bring him to supplication, not that he should be sold. For if He had done it for this intent, He would not have consented to his request, neither would He have granted the favor.
Wherefore then did He not do this, nor forgive the debt before the account? Desiring to teach him, from how many obligations He is delivering him, that in this way at least he might become more mild towards his fellow servant. For even if when he had learnt the weight of his debt, and the greatness of the forgiveness, he continued taking his fellow-servant by the throat; if He had not disciplined him beforehand with such medicines, to what length of cruelty might he not have gone?
What then saith the other? "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And his Lord was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt."(6)
Seest thou again surpassing benevolence? The servant asked only for delay and putting off the time, but He gave more than he asked, remission and forgiveness of the entire debt. For it had been his will to give it even from the first, but he did not desire the gift to be his only, but also to come of this man's entreaty, that he might not go away uncrowned. For that the whole was of him, although this other fell down to him and prayed, the motive of the forgiveness showed, for "moved with compassion" he forgave him. But still even so he willed that other also to seem to contribute something, that he might not be exceedingly covered with shame, and that he being schooled in his own calamities, might be indulgent to his fellow-servant.
4. Up to this point then this man was good and acceptable; for he confessed, and promised to pay the debt, and fell down before him, and entreated, and condemned his own sins, and knew the greatness of the debt. But the sequel is unworthy of his former deeds. For going out straightway, not after a long time but straightway, having the benefit fresh(1) upon him, he abused to wickedness the gift, even the freedom bestowed on him by his master.
For, "he found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest."(2)
Seest thou the master's benevolence? Seest thou the servant's cruelty? Hear, ye who do these things for money. For if for sins we must not do so, much more not for money.
What then saith the other? "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all."(3) But he did not regard even the words by which he had been saved (for he himself on saying this was delivered from the ten thousand talents), and did not recognize so much as the harbor by which he escaped shipwreck; the gesture of supplication did not remind him of his master's kindness, but he put away from him all these things, from covetousness and cruelty and revenge, and was more fierce than any wild beast, seizing his fellow- servant by the throat.
What doest thou, O man? perceivest thou not, thou art making the demand upon thyself, thou an thrusting the sword into thyself, and revoking the sentence and the gift? But none of these things did he consider, neither did he remember his own state, neither did he yield; although the entreaty was not for equal objects.
For the one besought for ten thousand talents, the other for a hundred pence; the one his fellow-servant, the other his lord; the one received entire forgiveness, the other asked for delay, and not so much as this did he give him, for "he cast him into prison."
"But when his fellow-servants saw it, they accused him to their lord." Not even to men is this well-pleasing, much less to God. They therefore who did not owe, partook of the grief.
What then saith their lord? "O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst(4) me; shouldest not thou also have had compassion, even as I had pity on thee?"(5)
See again the lord's gentleness. He pleads with him, and excuses himself, being on the point of revoking his gift; or rather, it was not he that revoked it, but the one who had received it. Wherefore He saith, "I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant?" For even if the thing cloth seem to thee hard; yet shouldest thou have looked to the gain, which hath been, which is to be. Even if the injunction be galling, thou oughtest to consider the reward; neither that he hath grieved thee, but that thou hast provoked God, whom by mere prayer thou hast reconciled. But if even so it be a galling thing to thee to become friends with him who hath grieved thee, to fall into hell is far more grievous; and if thou hadst set this against that, then thou wouldest have known that to forgive is a much lighter thing.
And whereas, when he owed ten thousand talents, he called him not wicked, neither reproached him, but showed mercy on him; when he had become harsh to his fellow- servant, then he saith, "O thou wicked servant."
Let us hearken, the covetous, for even to us is the word spoken. Let us hearken also, the merciless, and the cruel, for not to others are we cruel, but to ourselves. When then thou art minded to be revengeful, consider that against thyself art thou revengeful, not against another; that thou art binding up thine own sins, not thy neighbors. For as to thee, whatsoever thou mayest do to this man, thou doest as a man and in the present life, but God not so, but more mightily will He take vengeance on thee, and with the vengeance hereafter.
"For He delivered him over till he should pay that which was due," that is, for ever; for he will never repay. For since thou art not become better by the kindness shown thee, it remains that by vengeance thou be corrected.
And yet, "The graces and the gifts are without repentance,"(6) but wickedness has had such power as to set aside even this law. What then can be a more grievous thing than to be revengeful, when it appears to overthrow such and so great a gift of God.
And he did not merely "deliver" him, but "was wroth." For when he commanded him to be sold, his were not the words of wrath (therefore neither did he do it), but a very great occasion for benevolence; but now the sentence is of much indignation, and vengeance, and punishment.
What then means the parable? "So likewise shall my Father do also unto you," He saith, "if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."(7)
He saith not "your Father," but "my Father." For it is not meet for God to be called the Father of such a one, who is so wicked and malicious.
5. Two things therefore doth He here require, both to condemn ourselves for our sins, and to forgive others; and the former for the sake of the latter, that this may become more easy (for he who considers his own sins is more indulgent to his fellow-servant); and not merely to forgive with the lips, but from the heart.
Let us not then thrust the sword into ourselves by being revengeful. For what grief hath he who hath grieved thee inflicted upon thee, like thou wilt work unto thyself by keeping thine anger in mind, and drawing upon thyself the sentence from God to condemn thee? For if indeed thou art watchful, and keepest thyself under control, the evil will come round upon his head, and it will be he that will suffer harm; but if thou shouldest continue indignant, and displeased, then thyself wilt undergo the harm not from him, but from thyself.
Say not then that he insulted thee, and slandered thee, and did unto thee ills beyond number; for the more thou tellest, so much the more dost thou. declare him a benefactor. For he hath given thee an opportunity to wash away thy sins; so that the greater the injuries he hath done thee, so much more is he become to thee a cause of a greater remission of sins.
For if we be willing, no one shall be able to injure us, but even our enemies shall advantage us in the greatest degree. And why do I speak of men? For what can be more wicked than the devil; yet nevertheless, even hence have we a great opportunity of approving ourselves; and Job showeth it. But if the devil hath become a cause of crowns, why art thou afraid of a man as an enemy?
See then how much thou gainest, bearing meekly the spiteful acts of thine enemies. First and greatest, deliverance from sins; secondly, fortitude and patience; thirdly, mildness and benevolence; for he that knoweth not how to be angry with them that grieve him, much more will he be ready to serve them that love him. Fourthly, to be free from anger continually, to which nothing can be equal. For of him that is free from anger, it is quite clear that he is delivered also from the despondency hence arising, and will not spend his life on vain labors and sorrows. For he that knows not how to hate, neither cloth he know how to grieve, but will enjoy pleasure, and ten thousand blessings.
So that we punish ourselves by hating others, even as on the other hand we benefit ourselves by loving them.
Besides all these things, thou wilt be an object of veneration even to thy very enemies, though they be devils; or rather, thou wilt not so much as have an enemy whilst thou art of such a disposition.
But what is greater than all, and first, thou gainest the favor of God. Shouldest thou have sinned, thou wilt obtain pardon; shouldest thou have done what is right, thou wilt obtain a greater confidence. Let us accomplish therefore the hating no one, that God also may love us, that, though we be in debt for ten thousand talents, He may have compassion and pity us.
But hast thou been injured by him? Pity him then, do not hate him; weep and mourn, do not turn away from him. For thou art not the one that hath offended against God, but he; but thou hast even approved thyself, if thou endure it. Consider that Christ, when about to be crucified, rejoiced for Himself, but wept for them that were crucifying Him. This ought to be our disposition also; and the more we are injured, so much the more should we lament for them that are injuring us. For to us many are the benefits hence arising, but to them the opposites.
But did he insult thee, and strike thee before all? Then bath he disgraced and dishonored himself before all, and hath opened the mouths of a thousand accusers, and for thee hath he woven more crowns, and gathered for thee many to publish thy forbearance.
But did he slander thee to others? And what is this? God is the one that is to demand the account, not they that have heard this. For to himself hath he added occasion of punishment, so that not only for his own sins he should give account, but also of what he said of thee. And upon thee hath he brought evil report with men, but he himself hath incurred evil report with God.
And if these things are not sufficient for thee, consider that even thy Lord(1) was evil reported of both by Satan and by men, and that to those most loved by Him; and His Only-Begotten the same again. Wherefore He said, "If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more shall they call them of His household."(2)
And that wicked demon did not only slander Him, but was also believed, and slandered Him not in ordinary matters, but with the greatest reproaches and accusations. For he affirmed Him to be possessed, and to be a deceiver, and an adversary of God.
But hast thou also done good, and received evil? Nay, in respect of this most of all lament and grieve for him that hath done the wrong, but for thyself rather rejoice, because thou art become like God, "Who maketh the sun to rise upon evil and good."(1)
But if to follow God is beyond thee, although to him that watcheth not even this is hard; yet nevertheless if this seem to thee to be too great for thee, come let us bring thee to thy fellow-servants, to Joseph, who suffered countless things, and did good unto his brethren; to Moses, who after their countless plots against him, prayed for them; to the blessed Paul, who cannot so much as number what he suffered from them, and is willing to be accursed for them; to Stephen, who is stoned, and entreating this sin may be forgiven them. And having considered all these things, cast away all anger, that God may forgive us also all our trespasses by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXII: MATT. XIX. 1.
"And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, He departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of JudŠa beyond Jordan."
Having constantly left JudŠa on account of the envy of those men, now He frequents it from this time forth, because the passion was to be nigh at hand; He goeth not up, however, unto Jerusalem for a while, but "into the coasts of JudŠa."
"And," when He was come, "great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them."(1)
For neither in the teaching by words doth He continue always, nor in the wonderful working of signs, but He doeth now one now the other, variously working the salvation of them that were waiting upon Him and following Him, so as by the miracles to appear, in what He said, a Teacher worthy of belief, and by the teaching of His word to increase the profit from the miracles; and this was to lead them by the hand to the knowledge of God.
But do thou mark, I pray thee, this too, how the disciples pass over whole multitudes with one word, not declaring by name each of them that are healed. For they said not, that such a one, and such another, but that many, teaching us to be unostentatious. But Christ healed, benefiting both them, and by them many others. For the healing of these men's infirmity was to others a foundation for the knowledge of God.
But not so to the Pharisees, but even for this self-same thing they become more fierce, and come unto Him tempting Him. For because they could not lay hold of the works that were doing, they propose to Him questions. For they "came unto Him, and tempting Him said, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?"(2)
O folly! They thought to silence Him by their questions, although they had already received certain proof of this power in Him. When at least they argued much about the Sabbath, when they said, "He blasphemeth," when they said, "He hath a devil," when they found fault with His disciples as they were walking in the corn fields, when they argued about unwashen hands, on every occasion having sewed fast their mouths, and shut up their shameless tongue, He thus sent them away. Nevertheless, not even so do they keep off from Him. For such is wickedness, such is envy, shameless and bold; though it be put to silence ten thousand times, ten thousand times doth it assault again.
But mark thou, I pray thee, their craft also from the form of their question. For neither did they say unto Him, Thou didst command not to put away a wife, for indeed He had already discoursed about this law; but nevertheless they made no mention of those words; but took occasion from hence, and thinking to make their snare the greater, and being minded to drive Him to a necessity of contradicting the law, they say not, why didst Thou enact this or that? but as though nothing had been said, they ask, "Is it lawful expecting that He had forgotten having said it; and being ready if on the one hand He said, "It is lawful to put away," to bring against Him the things He Himself had spoken, and to say, How then didst Thou affirm the contrary? but if the same things now again as before, to bring against Him the words of Moses.
What then said He? He said not," tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?" although afterwards He saith this, but here He speaks not thus. Why can this be? In order that together with His power He might show forth His gentleness also. For He doth neither always keep silence, lest they should suppose they are hidden; nor doth He always reprove, in order that He may instruct us to bear all things with gentleness.
How then cloth He answer them? "Have ye not read, that He which made them at(1) the beginning, made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be(2) one flesh? So that they are no more twain but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."(3)
See a teacher's wisdom. I mean, that being asked, Is it lawful? He did not at once say, It is not lawful, lest they should be disturbed and put in disorder, but before the decision by His argument He rendered this manifest, showing that it is itself too the commandment of His Father, and that not in opposition to Moses did He enjoin these things, but in full agreement with him.
But mark Him arguing strongly not from the creation only, but also from His command. For He said not, that He made one man and one woman only, but that He also gave this command that the one man should be joined to the one woman. But if it had been His will that he should put this one away, and bring in another, when He had made one man, He would have formed many Women.
But now both by the manner of the creation, and by the manner of lawgiving, He showed that one man must dwell with one woman continually, and never break off from her.
And see how He saith, "He which made them at the beginning, made them male and female," that is, from one root they sprung. and into one body came they together, "for the twain shall be one flesh."
After this, to make it a fearful thing to find fault with this lawgiving, and to confirm the law, He said not, "Sever not therefore, nor put asunder," but, "What God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."
But if thou put forward Moses, I tell thee of Moses' Lord, and together with this, I rely upon the time also. For God at the beginning made them male and female; and this law is older (though it seem to have been now introduced by me), and with much earnestness established. For not merely did He bring the woman to the man, but also commanded to leave father and mother. And neither did He make it a law for him merely to come to the woman, but also "to cleave to her," by the form of the language intimating that they might not be severed. And not even with this was He satisfied, but sought also for another greater union, "for the twain," He saith, "shall be one flesh."
Then after He had recited the ancient law, which was brought in both by deeds and by words, and shown it to be worthy of respect because of the giver, with authority after that He Himself too interprets and gives the law, saying, "So that they are no more twain, but one flesh." Like then as to sever flesh is a horrible thing,(4) so also to divorce a wife is unlawful. And He stayed not at this, but brought in God also by saying, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," showing that the act was both against nature, and against law; against nature, because one flesh is dissevered; against law, because that when God hath joined and commanded it not to be divided, ye conspire to do this.
2. What then ought they to have done after this? Ought they not to have held their peace, and to have commended the saying? ought they not to have marvelled at His wisdom? ought they not to have stood amazed at His accordance with the Father? But none of these things do they, but as though they were contending for the law, they say, "How then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?"(5) And yet they ought not now to have brought this forward, but rather He to them; but nevertheless He doth not take advantage of them, nor doth He say to them, "I am not now bound by this," but He solves this too.
And indeed if He had been an alien from the old covenant, He would not have striven for Moses, neither would He haste argued positively from the things done once for all at the beginning; He would not have studied to show that His own precepts agreed with those of old.
And indeed Moses had given many other commandments besides, both those about meats, and those about the Sabbath; wherefore then do they nowhere bring him forward, as here? From a wish to enlist the multitude of the husbands against him. For this was considered a thing indifferent with the Jews, and all used to do so much as this. Accordingly it was for this reason that when so many things had been said on the mount, they remembered this commandment only now.
Nevertheless, unspeakable wisdom maketh a defense even for these things, and saith. "Moses for the hardness of your hearts" thus made the law. And not even him doth He suffer to remain under accusation, forasmuch as He had Himself given him the law; but delivers him from the charge, and turns the whole upon their head, as everywhere He doth.
For again when they were blaming His disciples for plucking the ears of corn, He shows themselves to be guilty; and when they were laying a trangression to their charge as to their not washing their hands, He shows themselves to be the transgressors, and touching the Sabbath also: both everywhere, and here in like manner.
Then because the saying was hard to bear, and brought on them much blame, He quickly directs back His discourse to that ancient law, saying as He had said before also, "But in the beginning it was not so," that is, God by His acts at the beginning ordained the contrary. For in order that they may not say, Whence is it manifest, that "for our hardness Moses said this?" hereby again He stoppeth their mouths. For if this were the primary law, and for our good, that other would not have been given at the beginning; God in creating would not have so created, He would not have said such things.
"But I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife except it be for fornication, and marry another, committeth adultery."(1) For since he had stopped their mouths, He then gives the law with His own authority, like as touching the meats, like as touching the Sabbath.
For with regard to the meats likewise, when He had overcome them, then, and not till then, He declared unto the multitude, that, "Not that which goeth in defileth the man; "(2) and with regard to the Sabbath, when He had stopped their mouths, He saith, "Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the Sabbath day;"(3) and here this self-same thing.
But what took place there, this happened here also. For as there, when the Jews had been put to silence the disciples were troubled, and came unto Him with Peter and said, "Declare unto us this parable;"(4) even so now also they were troubled and said, "If the case of the man be so, it is good not to marry."(5)
For now they understood the saying more than before. Therefore then indeed they held their peace, but now when there hath been gainsaying, and answering, and question, and learning by reply, and the law appeared more clear, they ask Him. And openly to contradict they do not dare, but they bring forward what seemed to be a grievous and galling result of it, saying, "If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry." For indeed it seemed to be a very hard thing to have a wife full of every bad quality, and to endure a wild beast perpetually shut up with one in the house. And that thou mayest learn that this greatly troubled them, Mark said,(6) to show it, that they spake to Him privately.
3. But what is, "If such be the case of a man with his wife?" That is, if to this end he is joined with her, that they should be one, or, on the other hand, if the man shall get to himself blame for these things, and always transgresses by putting away, it were easier to fight against natural desire and against one's self, than against a wicked woman.
What then saith Christ? He said not, "yea, it is easier, and so do," lest they should suppose that the thing is a law; but He subjoined, "Not all men receive it, but they to whom it is given,"(7) raising the thing, and showing that it is great, and in this way drawing them on, and urging them.
But see herein a contradiction. For He indeed saith this is a great thing; but they, that it is easier. For it was meet that both these things should be done, and that it should be at once acknowledged a great thing by Him, that it might render them more forward, and by the things said by themselves it should be shown to be easier, that on this ground too they might the rather choose virginity and continence. For since to speak of virginity seemed to be grievous, by the constraint of this law He drove them to this desire. Then to show the possibility of it, He saith, "There are some eunuchs, who were so born from their mother's womb, there are some eunuchs which were made eunuchs of men, and there be eunuchs which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven's sake,"(1) by these words secretly leading them to choose the thing, and establishing the possibility of this virtue, and all but saying, Consider if thou weft in such case by nature, or hadst endured this selfsame thing at the hands of those who inflict such wanton injuries, what wouldest thou have done, being deprived indeed of the enjoyment, yet not having a reward? Thank God therefore now, for that with rewards and crowns thou undergoest this, which those men endure without crowns; or rather not ever this, but what is much lighter, being supported both by hope, and by the consciousness of the good work, and not having the desire so raging like waves within thee.
For the excision of a member is not able to quell such waves, and to make a calm, like the curb of reason; or rather, reason only can do this.
For this intent therefore He brought in those others, even that He might encourage these, since if this was not what He was establishing, what means His saying concerning the other eunuchs? But when He saith, that they made themselves eunuchs, He means not the excision of the members, far from it, but the putting away of wicked thoughts. Since the man who hath mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul saith, "I would they were even cut off(2) which trouble you."(3) And very reasonably. For such a one is venturing on the deeds of murderers. and giving occasion to them that slander God's creation. and opens the mouths of the ManichŠans, and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate themselves amongst the Greeks. For to cut off our members hath been from the beginning a work of demoniacal agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon the work of God, treat they may mar this living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of our members, the more part of them may sin in security. as being irresponsible; and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the members, and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of good deeds.
These are the ordinances of the devil, bringing in, besides the things which we have mentioned, another wicked doctrine also, and making way beforehand for the arguments concerning destiny and necessity even from hence, and everywhere marring the freedom given to us of God. and persuading us that evil deeds are of nature, and hence secretly implanting many other wicked doctrines, although not openly. For such are the devil's poisons.
Therefore I beseech you to flee from such lawlessness. For together with the things I have mentioned. neither doth the force of lust become milder hereby, but even more fierce. For from another origin hath the seed that is in us its sources, and from another cause do its waves swell. And some say from the brain, some from the loins, this violent impulse hath its birth; but I should say from nothing else than from an ungoverned will and a neglected mind: if this be temperate, there is no evil result from the motions of nature.
Having spoken then of the eunuchs that are eunuchs for nought and fruitlessly, unless with the mind they too practise temperance, and of those that are virgins for Heaven's sake, He proceeds again to say, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it," at once making them more earnest by showing that the good work is exceeding in greatness, and not suffering the thing to be shut up in the compulsion of a law, because of His unspeakable gentleness. And this He said, when He showed it to be most possible, in order that the emulation of the free choice might be greater.
And if it is of free choice, one may say, how doth He say, at the beginning, "All men do not receive it, but they to whom it is given?" That thou mightest learn that the conflict is great, not that thou shouldest suspect any compulsory allotments. For it is given to those, even to the willing.
But He spake thus to show that much influence from above is needed by him who entereth these lists, whereof He that is willing shall surely partake. For it is customary for Him to use this form of speech when the good work done is great, as when He saith, "To you it is given to know the mysteries."
And that this is true, is manifest even from the present instance. For if it be of the gift from above only, and they that live as virgins contribute nothing themselves, for nought did He promise them the kingdom of Heaven, and distinguish them from the other eunuchs.
But mark thou, I pray, how from some men's wicked doings, other men gain. I mean, that the Jews went away having learnt nothing, for neither did they ask with the intent of learning, but the disciples gained even from hence.
4. "Then were there brought unto Him little children, that He should put His hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But He said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. And He laid His hands on them, and departed thence."(1)
And wherefore did the disciples repel the little children? For dignity. What then doth He? Teaching them to be lowly, and to trample under foot worldly pride, He doth receive them, and takes them in His arms, and to such as them promises the kingdom; which kind of thing He said before also.(2)
Let us also then, if we would be inheritors of the Heavens, possess ourselves of this virtue with much diligence. For this is the limit of true wisdom; to be simple with understanding; this is angelic life; yes, for the soul of a little child is pure from all the passions. Towards them who have vexed him he bears no resentment, but goes to them as to friends, as if nothing had been done; and how much soever he be beaten by his mother; after her he seeks, and her doth he prefer to all. Though thou show him the queen with a diadem, he prefers her not to his mother clad in rags, but would choose rather to see her in these, than the queen in splendor. For he useth to distinguish what pertains to him and what is strange to him, not by its poverty and wealth, but by friendship. And nothing more than necessary things doth he seek, but just to be satisfied from the breast, and then he leaves sucking. The young child is not grieved at what we are grieved, as at loss of money and such things as that, and he doth not rejoice again at what we rejoice, namely, at these temporal things, he is not eager about the beauty of persons.
Therefore He said, "of such is the kingdom of Heaven," that by choice we should practise these things, which young children have by nature. For since the Pharisees from nothing rise so much as out of craft and pride did what they did, therefore on every hand He charges the disciples to be single hearted, both darkly hinting at those men, and instructing these. For nothing so much lifts up unto haughtiness, as power and precedence. Forasmuch then as the disciples were to enjoy great honors throughout the whole world, He preoccupies their mind, not suffering them to feel anything after the manner of men, neither to demand honors from the multitude, nor to have men dear the way(3) before them.
For though these seem to be little things, yet are they a cause of great evils. The Pharisees at least being thus trained were carried on into the very summit of evil, seeking after the salutations, the first seats, the middle places,(4) for from these they were cast upon the shoal of their mad desire of glory, then from thence upon impiety. So therefore those men went away having drawn upon themselves a curse by their tempting, but he little children a blessing, as being freed from all these.
Let us then also be like the little children, and "in malice be we babes."(5) For it cannot be, it cannot be for one otherwise to see Heaven, but the crafty and wicked must needs surely be cast into hell.
5. And before hell too, we shall here suffer the utmost ills. "For if thou be evil," it is said, "thou alone shalt endure the evil; but if good, it is for thyself and for thy neighbor."(6) Mark, at any rate, how this took place in the former instances also. For neither was anything more wicked than Saul, nor more simple and single-hearted than David. Which therefore was the stronger? Did not David get him twice into his hands, and having the power to slay him, forebore? Had he not him shut up as in a net and prison, and spared him? And this when both others were urging him, and when he himself was able to accuse him of countless charges; but nevertheless he suffered him to go away safe. And yet the other was pursuing him with all his army, but he was, with a few desperate fugitives, wandering and changing from place to place; nevertheless the fugitive had the advantage of the king, forasmuch as the one came to the conflict with simplicity, the other with wickedness.
For what could be more wicked than that man, who when he was leading his armies, and bringing all his wars to a successful issue, and undergoing the labors of the victory and the trophies, but bringing the crowns to him, assayed to slay him?
6. Such is the nature of envy, it is ever plotting against its own honors, and wasting him that hath it, and encompassing him with countless calamities. And that miserable man, for instance, until David departed, burst not forth into that piteous cry, bewailing himself and saying, "I am sore distressed, and the Philistines make war against me, and the Lord is departed from me."(1) not in war, but was both in safety and in glory; for indeed unto the king passed the glory of the captain. For neither was the man disposed to usurpation, nor did he assay to depose the other from his throne, but for him did he achieve all things, and was earnestly attached to him, and this is evident even from what followed afterwards. For when indeed he was set under him, any one of them who do not search carefully might perhaps suppose these things to be by the usual custom of a subject; but after he had withdrawn himself out of Saul's kingdom, what then was there to restrain him, and to him even to slay? Had not the other beet evil towards him once, twice, and often? Was it not after having received benefits from him Was it not having nothing whereof to accuse him? Was not Saul's kingdom and safety danger and insecurity to himself? must he not needs wander and be a fugitive, and be in trembling for fear of the utmost ills, while the other is alive, and reigning? Nevertheless none of these things constrained him to stain his sword with blood, but when he saw him asleep, and bound, and alone, and in the midst of his own men, and had touched his head, and when there were many rousing him those who were urging him on, and refrained from the murder, and sent him away both safe and well; and as though he had been rather a body guard of his, and a shield-bearer, not an enemy, so did he chide the host for their treachery towards the king.(2)
What could be equal to this soul? What to that mildness? For this it is possible to see even by the things that have been mentioned but much more by what are done now. For when we have considered our vileness, then we shall know more perfectly the virtue of those saints. Wherefore I entreat you to hasten towards the emulation of them.
For indeed if thou lovest glory, and for this cause art plotting against thy neighbor, then shalt thou enjoy it more largely, when having spurned it, thou wilt abstain from the plotting. For like as to become rich(3) is contrary to covetousness, so is the loving of glory to the obtaining of glory. And if ye be minded, let us inquire into each. For since we have no fear of hell, nor much regard for the kingdom, come and even from the things present let us lead you on.
For who are they that are ridiculous? Tell me. Is it not they that are doing anything for the sake of glory from the multitude? And who are the objects of praise? Is it not they who spurn the praise of the multitude? Therefore if the love of vainglory be matter of reproach, and it cannot be concealed that the vainglorious man loves it, he will assuredly be an object of reproach, and the love of glory is become to him a cause of dishonor. And not in this respect only doth he disgrace himself, but also in that he is compelled to do many things shameful, and teeming with the utmost disgrace. And like as with respect to their gains men are wont to suffer harm more than anything from the disease of covetousness (they become at least the subjects of many tricks, and of small gains make great losses, wherefore this saying hath prevailed even to be a proverb); and as to the voluptuous man likewise, his passion becomes a hindrance to the enjoyment of his pleasure. These at least that are exceedingly given up thereto, and are the slaves of women these above all do women carry about as servants, and will never vouchsafe to treat them as men, buffeting, spurning them, leading, and taking them about everywhere, and giving themselves airs, and in everything merely giving them orders.
Even so also than him that is arrogant and mad about glory, and accounts himself to be high, nothing is more base and dishonored. For the race of man is fond of contention, and against nothing else doth it set itself so much, as against a boaster, and a contemptuous man, and a slave of glory.
And he himself too, in order to maintain the fashion of his pride, exhibits the conduct of a slave to the common sort, flattering, courting them, serving a servitude more grievous than that of one bought for money.
Knowing then all these things, let us lay down these passions, that we may not both pay a penalty here, and there be punished without end. Let us become lovers of virtue. For so both before reaching the kingdom we shall reap the greatest benefits here, and when we are departed thither we shall partake of the eternal blessings; unto which God grant we may all attain by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXIII: MATT. XIX. 16.
"And, behold, one came and said unto Him, Good Master, by doing what, shall I inherit eternal life?"
SOME indeed accuse this young man, as one dissembling and ill-minded, and coming with a temptation to Jesus, but I, though I would not say he was not fond of money, and under subjection to his wealth, since Christ in fact convicted him of being such a character, yet a dissembler I would by no means call him, both because it is not safe to venture on things uncertain, and especially in blame, and because Mark hath taken away this suspicion; for he saith, that "having come running unto Him, and kneeling to Him, he besought Him," and that" Jesus beheld him, and loved him."(1)
But great is the tyranny of wealth, and it is manifest hence; I mean, that though we be virtuous as to the rest, this ruins all besides. With reason hath Paul also affirmed it to be the root of all evils in general. "For the love of money is the root of all evils,"(2) he saith.
Wherefore then doth Christ thus reply to him, saying, "There is none good?"(3) Because He came unto Him as a mere man, and one of the common sort, and a Jewish teacher; for this cause then as a man He discourses with him. And indeed in many instances He replies to the secret thoughts of them that come unto Him; as when He saith, "We worship we know what;"(4) and, "If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true."(5) When therefore He saith, "There is none good;" not as putting Himself out from being good doth He say this, far from it; for he said not, "Why dost thou call me good? I am not good;" but, "there is none good," that is, none amongst men.
And when He saith this self-same thing, He saith it not as depriving even men of goodness, but in contradistinction to the goodness of God. Wherefore also He added, "But one, that is, God;" and He said not, "but my Father" that thou mightest learn that He had not revealed Himself to the young man. So also further back He called men evil, saying, "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children."(6) For indeed there too He called them evil, not as condemning the whole race as evil (for by "ye," He means not "ye men"), but comparing the goodness that is in men with the goodness of God, He thus named it; therefore also He added, "How much more shall your Father give good things to them that ask Him?" And what was there to urge Him,(7) or what the profit that He should answer in this way? He leads him on by little and little, and teaches him to be far from all flattery, drawing him off from the things upon each, and fastening him upon God, and persuading him to seek after the things to come, and to know that which is really good, and the root and fountain of all things, and to refer the honors to Him.
Since also when He saith, "Call no one master upon each," it is in contradistinction to Himself He saith this, and that they might learn what is the chief sovereignty over all things that are. For neither was it a small forwardness the young man had shown up to this time in having fallen into such a desire; and when of the rest some were tempting, some were coming to Him for the cure of diseases, either their own or others, he for eternal life was both coming to Him, and discoursing with Him. For fertile was the land and rich, but the multitude of the thorns choked the seed. Mark at any rate how he is prepared thus far for obedience to the commandments. For "By doing what," he saith, "shall I inherit eternal life?" So ready was he for the performance of the things that should be told him. But if he had come unto Him, tempting Him, the evangelist would have declared this also to us, as He doth also with regard to the others, as in the case of the lawyer. And though himself had been silent, Christ could not have suffered him to lie concealed, but would have convicted him plainly, or at least would have intimated it, so that he should not seem to have deceived Him, and to be hidden, and thereby have suffered hurt.
If he had come unto Him tempting, he would not have departed sorrowing for what he heard. This was not at any rate ever the feeling of any of the Pharisees, but they grew fierce when their mouths were stopped. But not so this man; but he goeth away cast down, which is no little sign that not with an evil will he had come unto Him, but with one too feeble, and that he did indeed desire life, but was held in subjection by another and most grievous feeling.
Therefore when Christ said, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," he saith, "Which?" Not tempting, far from it, but supposing there were some others besides those of the law that should procure him life, which was like one who was very desirous. Then since Jesus mentioned those out of the law, he saith, "All these things have I kept from my youth up."(1) And neither at this did he stop, but again asks, "What lack I yet?" which itself again was a sign of his very earnest desire.(2)
What then saith Christ? Since He was going to enjoin something great, He setteth forth the recompenses, and saith, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come, and follow me."(3)
2. Seest thou how many prizes, how many crowns, He appoints for this race? If he had been tempting, He would not have told him these things. But now He both saith it, and in order to draw him on, He also shows him the reward to be great, and leaves it all to his own will, by all means throwing into the shade that which seemed to be grievous in His advice. Wherefore even before mentioning the conflicts and the toil, He shows him the prize, saying "If thou wilt be perfect," and then saith, "Sell that thou hast, and give to the poor," and straightway again the rewards, "Thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come, and follow me." For indeed to follow Him is a great recompense. "And thou shalt have treasure in Heaven."
For since his discourse was of money, even of all did He advise him to strip himself, showing that he loses not what he hath, but adds to his possessions, He gave him more than He required him to give up; and not only more, but also as much greater as Heaven is greater than earth, and yet more so.
But He called it a treasure, showing the plenteousness of the recompense, its permanency, its security, so far as it was possible by human similitudes to intimate it to the hearer. It is not then enough to despise wealth, but we must also maintain poor men, and above all things follow Christ; that is, do all the things that are ordered by Him, be ready for slaughter and daily death. "For if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."(4) So that to cast away one's money is a much less thing than this last commandment, to shed even one's very blood; yet not a little doth our being freed from wealth contribute towards this.
"But when the young man heard it, he went away sorrowful"(5) After this the evangelist, as it were to show that he hath not felt anything it was unlikely he should feel, saith, "For he had(6) great possessions." For they that have little are not equally held in subjection, as they that are overflowed with great affluence, for then the love of it becomes more tyrannical. Which thing I cease not always saying, that the increase of acquisitions kindles the flame more, and renders the getters poorer, inasmuch as it puts them in greater desire, and makes them have more feeling of their want.
See, for example, even here what strength did this passion exhibit. Him that had come to Him with joy and forwardness, when Christ commanded him to cast away his riches, it so overwhelmed and weighed down, as not to suffer him so much as to answer touching these things, but silenced and become dejected and sullen to go away.
What then saith Christ? "How hardly shall the rich enter into the kingdom of Heaven!"(7) blaming not riches but them that are held in subjection by them. But if the rich man "hardly," much more the covetous man. For if not to give one's own be an hindrance to entering the kingdom, even to take of other men's goods, think how much fire it heapeth up.
Why can it have been, however, that He said to His disciples, that "hardly shall a rich man enter in," they being poor men, and having no possessions? Instructing them not to be ashamed of their poverty, and, as it were, excusing Himself to them for suffering them to have nothing.
But having said it was hard; as He proceeds, He shows that it is even impossible, and not merely impossible, but even in the highest degree impossible; and this He showed by the comparison concerning the camel and the(1) needle.
"It is easier" saith He, "for a camel to enter in by the eye of a needle,(2) than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven."(3) Whence it is shown, that there is no ordinary reward for them that are rich, and are able to practise self command. Wherefore also He affirmed it to be a work of God, that He might show that great grace is needed for him who is to achieve this. At least, when the disciples were troubled, he said, He said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."(4)
And wherefore are the disciples troubled, being poor, yea, exceedingly poor? Wherefore then are they confounded? Being in pain about the salvation of the rest, and having a great affection for all, and having already taken upon themselves the tender bowels of teachers. They were at least in such trembling and fear for the whole world from this declaration, as to need much comfort.
Therefore, having first "beheld them, He said unto them, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God." For with a mild and meek look, having soothed their shuddering mind, and having put an end to their distress (for this the evangelist signified by saying, "He beheld them"), then by His words also He relieves them, bringing before them God's power, and so making them feel confidence.
But if thou wilt learn the manner of it likewise, and how what is impossible may become possible, hear. Born either for this end did He say, "The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God," that thou shouldest give it up, and abstain, as from things impossible; but that having considered the greatness of the good work, thou shouldest hasten to it readily, and having besought God to assist thee in these noble contests, shouldest attain unto life.
3. How then should this become possible? If thou cast away what thou hast, if thou empty thyself of thy wealth, if thou refrain from the wicked desire. For in proof that He does not refer it to God alone, but that to this end He said it, that thou shouldest know the vastness of the good work, hear what follows. For when Peter had said, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee," and had asked, "What shall we have therefore?" having appointed the reward for them; He added, "And every one who hath forsaken houses, or lands, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit eternal life."(5) Thus that which is impossible becometh possible. But how may this very thing be done, one may say, to forsake these? how is it possible for him that is once sunk in such lust of wealth, to recover himself? If he begin to empty himself of his possessions, and cut off what are superfluous. For so shall he both advance further, and shall run on his course more easily afterwards.
Do not then seek all at once, but gently, and by little and little, ascend this ladder, that leads thee up to Heaven.(6) For like as those in fevers having acrid bile abounding within them, when they cast in thereon meats and drinks, so far from quenching their thirst, do even kindle the flame; so also the covetous, when they cast in their wealth upon this wicked lust more acrid than that bile, do rather inflame it. For nothing so stays it as to refrain for a time from the lust of gain, like as acrid bile is stayed by abstinence and evacuations.
But this itself, by what means will it be done? one may say. If thou consider, that whilst rich, thou wilt never cease thirsting, and pining with the lust of more; but being freed from thy possessions, thou wilt be able also to stay this disease. Do not then encompass thyself with more, lest thou follow after things unattainable, and be incurable, and be more miserable than all, being thus frantic.
For answer me, whom shall we affirm to be tormented and pained? him that longs after costly meats and drinks, and is not able to enjoy them as he will, or him that hath not such a desire? It is quite clear one must say, him that desires, but cannot obtain what he desires. For this is so painful, to desire and not to enjoy, to thirst and not to drink, that Christ desiring to describe hell to us, described it in this way, and introduced the rich man thus tormented. For longing for a drop of water, and not enjoying it, this was his punishment. So then he that despises wealth quiets the desire, but he that desires to be rich(7) hath inflamed it more, and not yet doth he stay; but though he have got ten thousand talents, he desireth as much more; though he obtain these, again he aims at sea, and all to become gold for him, being mad with a kind of new and fearful madness, and one that can never thus be extinguished.
And that thou mightest learn, that not by addition but by taking away this evil is stayed; if thou hadst ever had an absurd desire to fly and to be borne through the air, how wouldest thou extinguish this unreasonable desire? By fashioning wings, and preparing other instruments, or by convincing the mind that it is desiring things impossible, and that one should attempt none of these things? It is quite plain, that by convincing the mind. But that, thou mayest say, is impossible. But this again is more impossible, to find a limit for this desire. For indeed it is more easy for men to fly, than to make this lust cease by an addition of more. For when the objects of desire are possible, one may be soothed by the enjoyment of them, but when they are impossible, one must labor for one thing, to draw ourselves off from the desire, as otherwise at least it is not possible to recover the soul.
Therefore that we may not have superfluous sorrows, let us forsake the love of money that is ever paining, and never endures to hold its peace, and let us remove ourselves to another love, which both makes us happy, and hath great facility, and let us long after the treasures above. For neither is the labor here so great, and the gain is unspeakable, and it is not possible for him to fail of them who is but in any wise watchful and sober, and despises the things present; even as on the other hand, as to him that is a slave to these last, and is utterly given up to them, it as altogether of necessity that he fail of those better riches.
4. Considering then all these things, put away the wicked desire of wealth. For neither couldest thou say this, that it gives the things present, though it deprive us of the things to come, albeit even if this were so, this were extreme punishment, and vengeance. But and before that hell, even here it casts thee into a more grievous punishment. For many houses hath this lust overthrown, and fierce wars hath it stirred up, and compelled men to end their lives by a violent death; and before these dangers it ruins the nobleness of the soul, and is wont often to make him that hath it cowardly, and unmanly, and rash, and false, and calumnious, and ravenous, and over-reaching, and all the worst things.
But seeing perhaps the brightness of the silver, and the multitude of the servants, and the beauty of the buildings, the court paid in the market-place, art thou bewitched thereby? What remedy then may there be for this evil wound? If thou consider how these things affect thy soul, how dark, and desolate, and foul they render it, and how ugly; if thou reckon with how many evils these things were acquired, with how many labors they are kept, with how many dangers: or rather they are not kept unto the end, but when thou hast escaped the attempts of all, death coming on thee is often wont to remove these things into the hand of thine enemies, and goeth and taketh thee with him destitute, drawing after thee none of these things, save the wounds and the sores only, which the soul received from these, before its departing. When then thou seest any one resplendent outwardly with raiment and large attendance, lay open his conscience, and thou shalt see many a cobweb within, and much dust. Consider Paul, Peter Consider John, Elias, or rather the Son of God Himself, who hath not where to lay His head. Be an imitator of Him, and of His servants, and imagine to thyself the unspeakable riches of these.
But if having obtained a little sight by these, thou shouldest be darkened again, as in any shipwreck when a storm hath come on, hear the declaration of Christ, which affirms, that it is impossible "for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of Heaven." And against this declaration set the mountains, and the earth, and the sea; and all things, if thou wilt, suppose(1) to be gold; for thou shalt see nothing equal to the loss arising to thee from thence. And thou indeed makest mention of acres of land, so many and so many, and of houses ten or twenty or even more, and of baths as many, and of slaves a thousand, or twice as many, and of chariots fastened with silver and overlaid with gold; but I say this, that if each one of you that are rich were to leave this poverty (for these things are poverty compared with what I am about to say), and were possessed of a whole world, and each of them had as many men as are now everywhere on land and sea, and each a world both sea and land, and everywhere buildings, and cities, and nations, and from every side instead of water, instead of fountains, gold flowed up for him, I would not say those who are thus rich are worth three farthings, when they are cast out of the kingdom
For if now aiming at riches that perish, when they miss them, they are tormented, if they should obtain a perception of those unspeakable blessings, what then will suffice for consolation for them? There is nothing Tell me not then of the abundance of their possessions, but consider how great loss the lovers of this abundance undergo in consequence thereof, for these things losing Heaven, and being in the same state, as if any one after being cast out of the highest honor in kings' courts, having a dung heap, were to pride himself on that. For the storing up of money differs nothing from that, or rather that is even the better. For that is serviceable both for husbandry, and for heating a bath, and for other such uses, but the buried gold for none of these things. And would it were merely useless; but as it is, it kindles moreover many furnaces for him that hath it, unless he use it rightly; countess evils at least spring therefrom.
Therefore they that are without used to call the love of money the citadel(1) of evils; but the blessed Paul spake much better and more vividly, pronouncing it "the root of all evils."(2)
Considering then all these things, let us emulate the things worthy of emulation, not gorgeous buildings not costly estates, but the men that have much confidence towards God, those that have riches in Heaven, the owners of those treasures, them that are really rich, them that are poor for Christ's sake, that we may attain unto the good things of eternity by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXIV: MATT. XIX. 27.
"Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have therefore?"
All which? O blessed Peter; the rod? the net? the boat? the craft? These thing dost thou tell me of, as all? Yea, saith he, but not for display do I say these things, but in order that by this question I may bring in the multitude of the poor. For since the Lord had said, "If thou wilt be perfect, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven;"(1) lest any one of the poor should say, What then? if I learn, that thou art made in no respect inferior by this: Peter asks, that thou mayest not learn from Peter and doubt (for indeed he was imperfect as yet, and void of the Spirit), but that, having received the declaration from Peter's Master, thou mayest be confident.
For like as we do (we make things our own often when speaking of the concerns of others), so did the apostle, when he put to Him this question in behalf of all the world. Since that at least he knew with certainty his own portion, is manifest from what had been said before; for he that had already received the keys of the Heavens, much more might feel confidence about the things hereafter.
But mark also how exactly his reply is according to Christ's demand. For He had required of the rich man these two things, to give that he had to the poor, and to follow Him. Wherefore he also expresses these two things, to forsake, and to follow. "For behold we have forsaken all," saith he, "and have followed Thee." For the forsaking was done for the sake of following, and the following was rendered easier by the forsaking, and made them feel confidence and joy touching the forsaking.
What then saith He? "Verily, I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(1) What then, one may say, shall Judas sit there? By no means How, then, doth He say, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones?" how shall the terms of the promise
Hear how, and on what principle. There is a law ordained of God, recited by Jeremiah, the prophet to the Jews, and in these words: "At what instant I shall speak a sentence concerning a nation and kingdom, to pluck up and destroy; if that nation turn from their evil deeds, I also will repent of the evils, which I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and kingdom to build and to plant it; and if they do evil in my sight, that they obey not my voice, I also will repent of the good, which I said I would do unto them."(2)
For the same custom do I observe with respect to the good things as well, saith He. For though I spake of building up, should they show themselves unworthy of the promise, I will no longer do it. Which sort of thing was done with respect to man upon his creation, "For the dread of you," it is said, "and the fear of you shall be on the wild beasts,"(3) and it came not to pass, for he proved himself unworthy of the sovereignty, even as did Judas also.
For in order that neither at the denunciations of punishment any men should despair and become more hardened, nor by the promises of good things be rendered causelessly more remiss, He remedies both these evils, by that which I have before mentioned, saying in this way: Though I should threaten, do not despair; for thou an able to repent, and to reverse the denunciation, like the Ninevites. Though I should promise any good thing, grow not remiss because of the promise. For shouldest thou appear unworthy, the fact of my having promised will not advantage thee, but will rather bring punishment. For I promise thee being worthy.
Therefore even then in His discourse with His disciples He did not promise to them simply, for neither did He say, "you," only, but added, "which have followed me," that He might both cast out Judas, and draw towards Him those that should come afterwards. For neither to them only was it said, nor to Judas any more, when he had become unworthy.
Now to the disciplines He promised things to come, saying, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones," for. they were now of a higher stamp, and sought after none of the things of the present world, but to the rest He promises also what are here.
For "every one," He saith, "that hath forsaken brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, or house, for my names sake, shall receive an hundredfold in this world, and shall inherit eternal life,"(4)
For lest any after having heard the word "ye," should suppose this a thing peculiar to the disciples (I mean now the enjoying the greatest and first honors in the things to come), He extended the word, and spread the promise over the whole earth, and from the things present establishes the things to come also. And to the disciples also at the beginning, when they were in a more imperfect state, He reasoned from the things present. For when He drew them from the sea, and took them from their trade, and commanded them to forsake the ships, He made mention not of Heaven, not of thrones, but of the things here, saying, "I will make you fishers of men;" but when He had wrought them to be of higher views, then after that He discourses of the things to come also.
2, But what is, "Judging the twelve tribes of Israel?" This is, "condemning them." For they are not surely to sit as judges, but like as He said the Queen of the South should condemn that generation, and the Ninevites shall condemn them; so now these also. Therefore He said not, the nations, and the world, but the tribes of Israel. For since both the Jews alike and the apostles had been brought up under the same laws, and customs, and polity; when the Jews said, that for this cause they could not believe in Christ, because the law forbade to receive His commandments, by bringing forward these men, who had received the same law, and yet had believed, He condemns all those; like as even already He had said, "therefore they shall be your judges."(5)
And what great thing doth He promise them, it may be said, if what the Ninevites have and the Queen of the South, this these are to have also? In the first place He had promised them many other things before this, and after this doth promise them, and this alone is not their reward.
And besides even in this He intimated by the way something more than these things. For of those He simply said, The men of Nineveh shall rise up and condemn this generation,"(1) and, "The Queen of the South shall condemn it;" but concerning these, not merely thus, but how? "When the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of His glory, then shall ye also sit upon twelve thrones," saith He, declaring, that they also shall reign with Him, and partake of that glory. "For if we suffer," it is said, "we shall also reign with Him."(2) For neither do the thrones signify a sitting (in judgment), for He alone is the one that shall sit and judge, but honor and glory unspeakable did He intimate by the thrones.
To these then He spake of these things, but to all the rest of eternal life and an hundredfold here. But if to the rest, much more to these too, both these things, and the things in this life.
And this surely came to pass; for when they had left a fishing rod and a net, they possessed with authority the substances of all, the prices of the houses and the lands, and the very bodies of the believers. For often did they choose even to be slain for their sake, as Paul also bears witness to many, when he saith, "If it had been possible ye would have plucked out your eyes, and given them to me."(3) But when He saith, "Every one who hath forsaken wife," He saith not this, for marriages to be broken asunder for nought, but as He saith concerning one's life, "He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it,"(4) not that we should destroy ourselves, neither that while yet here we should part it from the body, but that we should prefer godliness to all things; this too He saith also with respect to wife and brethren.
But He seems to me here to intimate also the persecutions. For since there were many instances both of fathers urging their sons to ungodliness, and wives their husbands; when they command these things, saith He, let them be neither wives nor parents, even as Paul likewise said, "But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart."(5)
When He had then raised the spirit of all, and had persuaded them to feel confidence both with respect to themselves and to all the world, He added, that "Many that were first shall be last, and last first."(6) But this although it be spoken also without distinction concerning many others likewise, it is spoken also concerning these men and concerning the Pharisees, who did not believe, even as before also He had said, "Many shall come from east and west and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; but the children of the kingdom shall be cast out."(7)
Then He adds also a parable, as training those who had fallen short to a great forwardness.
"For the kingdom of Heaven," He said, "is like to a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with them for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard."
"And at the third hour he saw others standing idle, and to them too he said, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And about the sixth and ninth hours he did likewise. And about the eleventh hour, he saw others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? But they say unto him, No man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into my vineyard, and whatsoever is right, ye shall receive."
"So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the laborers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. And the first supposed that they should receive more, and they received likewise every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us that have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last also, even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? Thus the last shall be first, and the first last: for many are called, but few chosen."(8)
3. What is to us the intent of this parable? For the beginning doth not harmonize with what is said at the end, but intimates altogether the contrary. For in the first part He shows all enjoying the same, and not some cast out, and some brought in; yet He Himself both before the parable and after the parable said the opposite thing. "That the first shall be last, and the last first," that is, before the very first, those not continuing first, but having become last. For in proof that this is His meaning, He added, "Many are called, but few chosen," so as doubly both to sting the one, and to soothe and urge on the other.
But the parable saith not this, but that they shall be equal to them that are approved, and have labored much. "For thou hast made them equal unto us," it is said, "that have borne the burden and heat of the day."
What then is the meaning of the parable? For it is necessary to make this first clear, and then we shall clear up that other point. By a vineyard He meaneth the injunctions of God and His commandments: by the time of laboring, the present life: by laborers, them that in different ways are called to the fulfillment of the injunctions: by early in the morning, and about the third and ninth and eleventh hours, them who at different ages have drawn near to God, and approved themselves.
But the question is this, whether the first having gloriously approved themselves, and having pleased God, and having throughout the whole day shone by their labors, are possessed by the basest feeling of vice, jealousy and envy. For when they had seen them enjoying the same rewards, they say, "These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, that have borne the burden and heat of the day." And in these words, when they are to receive no hurt, neither to suffer diminution as to their own hire, they were indignant, and much displeased at the good of others, which was proof of envy and jealousy. And what is yet more, the good man of the house in justifying himself with respect to them, and in making his defense to him that had said these things, convicts him of wickedness and the basest jealousy, saying, "Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto the last even as unto thee. Is thine eye evil, because I am good?"
What then is it which is to be established by these things? For in other parables also this self-same thing may be seen. For the son who was approved is brought in, as having felt this self-same thing, when he saw his prodigal brother enjoying much honor, even more than himself. For like as these enjoyed more by receiving first, so he in a greater degree was honored by the abundance of the things given him; and to these things he that was approved bears witness.
What then may we say? There is no one who is thus justifying himself, or blaming others in the kingdom of Heaven; away with the thought! for that place is pure from envy and jealousy. For if when they are here the saints give their very lives for sinners, much more when they see them there in the enjoyment of these things, do they rejoice and account these to be blessings of their own. Wherefore then did He so frame His discourse? The saying is a parable, wherefore neither is it right to inquire curiously into all things in parables word by word,(1) but when we have learnt the object for which it was composed, to reap this, and not to busy one's self about anything further.
Wherefore then was this parable thus composed? what is its object to effect? To render more earnest them that are converted and become better men in extreme old age, and not to allow them to suppose they have a less portion. So it is for this cause He introduces also others displeased at their blessings, not to represent those men as pining or vexed, away with the thought! but to teach us that these have enjoyed such honor, as could even have begotten envy in others. Which we also often do, saying, "Such a one blamed me, because I counted thee worthy of much honor," neither having been blamed, nor wishing to slander that other, but hereby to show the greatness of the gift which this one enjoyed.
But wherefore can it have been that He did not hire all at once? As far as concerned Him, He did hire all; but if all did not hearken at once, the difference was made by the disposition of them that were called. For this cause, some are called early in the morning, some at the third hour, some at the sixth, some at the ninth, some at the eleventh, when they would obey.
This Paul also declared when he said, "When it pleased Him, who separated me from my mother's womb."(2) When did it please Him? When he was ready to obey. For He willed it even from the beginning, but because he would not have yielded, then it pleased Him, when Paul also was ready to obey. Thus also did He call the thief, although He was able to have called him even before, but he would not have obeyed. For if Paul at the beginning would not have obeyed, much more the thief.
And if they say, "No man hath hired us," in the first place as I said we must not be curious about all the points in the parables; but here neither is the good man of the house represented to say this, but they; but he cloth not convict them, that he might drive them to perplexity, but might win them over. For that He called all, as far as lay in Him, from the first even the parable shows, saying, that "He went out early in the morning to hire."
4. From everything then it is manifest to us, that the parable is spoken with reference to them who from earliest youth, and those who in old age and more tardily, lay hold on virtue; to the former, that they may not be proud, neither reproach those called at the eleventh hour; to the latter, that they may learn that it is possible even in a short time to recover all.
For since He had been speaking about earnestness, and the casting away of riches, and contempt of all one's possessions, but this needed much vigor of mind and youthful ardor; in order to kindle in them a fire of love, and to give vigor to their will, He shows that it is possible even for men coming later to receive the hire of the whole day.
But He doth not say it thus, lest again He should make them proud, but he shows that the whole is of His love to man, and because of this they shall not fail, but shall themselves enjoy the unspeakable blessings.
And this chiefly is what it is His will to establish by this parable. And if He adds, that, "So the last shall be first and the first last; for many are called, but few chosen," marvel not. For not as inferring it from the parable doth He say this, but His meaning is this, that like as this came to pass, so shall that come to pass. For here indeed the first did not become last, but all received the same contrary to hope and expectation. But as this result took place contrary to hope and contrary to expectation, and they that came before were equalled by them that followed, so shall that also come to pass which is more than this, and more strange, I mean, that the last should come to be even before the first, and that the first should be after these. So that that is one thing, and this another.
But He seems to me to say these, things, darkly hinting at the Jews, and amongst the believers at those who at first shone forth, but afterwards neglected virtue, and fell back; and those others again that have risen from vice, and have shot beyond many. For we see such changes taking place both with respect to faith and practice.
Wherefore I entreat you let us use much diligence both to stand in the right faith, and to show forth an excellent life. For unless we add also a life suitable to our faith, we shall suffer the extremest punishment.
And this the blessed Paul showed even from times of old, when he said, that "They did all eat the same spiritual meat, and did all drink the same spiritual drink: "and added, that they were not saved; "for they were overthrown in the Wilderness."(1) And Christ declared it even in the evangelists, when He brought in some that had cast out devils and prophesied, and are led away to punishment. And all His parables also, as that of the virgins, that of the net, that of the thorns, that of the tree not bringing forth fruit, demand virtue in our works. For concerning doctrines He discourses seldom, for neither doth the subject need labor, but of life often or rather everywhere, for the war about this is continual, wherefore also so is the labor.
And why do I speak of the whole code. For even a part of it overlooked brings upon one great evils; as, for instance, almsgiving overlooked casts into hell them that have come short in it; and yet this is not the whole of virtue, but a part thereof. But nevertheless both the virgins were punished for not having this, and the rich man was for this cause tormented, and they that have not fed the hungry, are for this condemned with the devil. Again, not to revile is a very small part of it, nevertheless this too casts out them that have not attained to it. "For he that saith to his brother, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire."(2) Again, even continence itself is a part, but nevertheless, without this no one shall see the Lord. For, "Follow peace," it is said. "and holiness(3) without which no man shall see the Lord."(4) And humility too in like manner is a part of virtue; but nevertheless though any one should fulfill other good works, but have not attained to this, he is unclean with God. And this is manifest from the Pharisee, who though abounding with numberless good works, by this lost all.
But I have also something more than these things to say again. I mean, that not only one of them overlooked shuts Heaven against us, but though it be done, yet not in due perfection and abundance, it produces the selfsame effect again. "For except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven."(5) So that though thou give alms, but not more than they, thou shalt not enter in.
And how much did they bestow in alms? one may ask. For this very thing, I am minded to say now, that they who do not give may be roused to give, and they that give may not pride themselves, but may make increase of their gifts. What then did they give? A tenth of all their possessions, and again another tenth, and after this a third, so that they almost gave away the third part, for three-tenths put together make up this. And together with these, first fruits, and first born, and other things besides, as, for instance, the offerings for sins, those for purification, those at feasts, those in the jubilee,(1) those by the cancelling of debts, and the dismissals of servants. and the lendings that were clear of usury. But if he who gave the third part of his goods, or rather the half (for those being put together with these are the half), if then he who is giving the half, achieves no great thing, he who doth not bestow so much as the tenth, of what shall he be worthy? With reason He said, "There are few that be saved."
5. Let us not, then, despise the care of our life. For if one portion of it despised brings so great a destruction, when on every hand we are subject to the sentence of condemnation, how shall we escape the punishment? and what manner of penalty shall we not suffer? and what manner of hope of salvation have we, one may ask, if each of the things we have numbered threatens us with hell? I too say this; nevertheless, if we give heed we may be saved, preparing the medicines of almsgiving, and attending to our wounds.
For oil does not so strengthen a body, as benevolence at once strengthens a soul, and makes it invincible to all and impregnable to the devil. For wheresoever he may seize us, his hold then slips, this oil not suffering his grasp to fix on our back.
With this oil therefore let us anoint ourselves continually. For it. is the cause of health, and a supply of light, and a source of cheerfulness. "But such a one," thou wilt say, "hath talents of gold so many and so many, and gives away nothing." And what is that to thee? For thus shalt thou appear more worthy of admiration, when in poverty thou an more munificent than he. It was on this ground Paul marvelled at the Macedonians, not because they gave, but because even though they were in poverty they gave.(2)
Look not then at these, but at the common Teacher of all, who "had not where to lay His head."(3) And why, you say, doth not this and that person do so? Do not judge another, but deliver thyself from the charge against thee. Since the punishment is greater when thou at the same time blamest others, and thyself doest not, when judging other men, thou art again thyself also subject to the same judgment. For if even them who do right He permits not to judge others, much more will He not permit offenders. Let us not therefore judge others, neither let us look to others who are taking their ease, but unto Jesus, and from thence let us draw our examples.
Why! have I been thy benefactor? Why! did I redeem thee, that thou lookest to me? It is another who hath bestowed these things on thee. Why dost thou let go thy Master, and look unto thy fellow-servant? Heardest thou not Him saying, "Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart?"(4) And again, "He that would be first amongst you, let him be servant of all:" and again, "Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister."(5) And after these things again, lest taking offense at them who are remiss amongst thy fellow-servants, thou continue in contemptuousness; to draw thee off from that, He saith, "I have made myself an example to you, that as I have done, ye should do also."(6) But hast thou no teacher of virtue amongst those persons that are with thee, neither such a one as to lead thee on to these things? More abundant then will be the praise, the commendation greater, when not even being supplied with teachers thou hast become one to be marvelled at.
For this is possible, nay very easy, if we be willing: and this they show, who first duly performed these things, as for instance, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedeck, Job, and all the men like them. To them it is needful to look every day, and not unto these, whom ye never cease emulating, and passing about their names in your assemblies. For nothing else do I hear you saying everywhere, but such words as these; "Such a one has bought so many acres of land; such a one is rich, he is building." Why dost thou stare, O man, at what is without? Why dost thou look to others? If thou art minded to look to others, look to them that do their duty, to them that approve themselves, to them that carefully fulfill the law, not to those that have become offenders, and are in dishonor. For if thou look to these, thou wilt gather hence many evil things, falling into remissness, into pride, into condemnation of others; but if thou reckon over them that do right, thou wilt lead thyself on unto humility, unto diligence, unto compunction, unto the blessings that are beyond number.
Hear what the Pharisee suffered, because he let pass them that do right, and looked to him that had offended; hear and fear.
See how David became one to be marvelled at, because he looked to his ancestors that were noted for virtue. "For I am a stranger," saith he, "and a sojourner, as all my fathers were."(1) For this man, and all that are like him, let pass them that had sinned, and thought of those who had approved themselves.
This do thou also. For thou art not set to judge of the negligences of which others have been guilty, nor to inquire into the sins which others are committing; thou art required to do judgment on thyself, not on others. "For if we judged ourselves," it is said, "we should not be judged, but when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord."(2) But thou hast reversed the order, of thyself requiring no account of offenses great or small, but being strict and curious about the offenses of others.
Let us no more do this, but leaving off this disorderly way, let us set up a tribunal in ourselves for the sins committed by ourselves, becoming ourselves accusers, and judges, and executioners for our offenses.
But if it be thy will to be busy about the things of other men also, busy thyself about their good works, not their sins, that both by the memory of our negligences and by our emulation for the good works they have done, and by setting before ourselves the judgment-seat from which no prayers can deliver, wounded each day by our conscience as by a kind of goad,(3) we may lead ourselves on to humility, and a greater diligence, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ; with whom be to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXV: MATT. XX. 17--19.
"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the Scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall be raised."
He goeth not up at once to Jerusalem when He is come out of Galilee, but having first wrought miracles, and having stopped the mouths of Pharisees, and having discoursed with His disciples of renouncing possessions: for, "if thou wilt be perfect," saith He, "sell that thou hast: "(1) and of virginity, "He that is able to receive, let him receive it:"(2) and of humility, "For except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven:"(3) and of a recompense of the things here, "For whoso hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, shall receive an hundredfold in this world:"(4) and of rewards there, "For he shall also inherit," it is said, "eternal life:" then He assails the city next, and being on the point of going up, discourses again of His passion. For since it was likely that they, because they were not willing this should come to pass, would forget it, He is continually putting them in remembrance, exercising their mind by the frequency with which He reminded them, and diminishing their pain.
But He speaks with them "apart," necessarily; for it was not meet that His discourse about these things should be published to the many; neither that it should be spoken plainly, for no advantage arose from this. For if the disciples were confounded at hearing these things, much more the multitude of the people.
What then? was it not told to the people? you may say. It was indeed told to the people also, but not so plainly. For, "Destroy," saith lie, "this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up;"(5) and, "This generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas; "(6) and again, "Yet a little while am I with you, and ye shall seek me, and shall not find me."(1)
But to the disciples not so, but as the other things He spake unto them more plainly, so also spake He this too. And for what purpose, if the multitude understood not the force of His sayings, were they spoken at all? That they might learn after these things, that fore-knowing it, He came to His passion, and willing it; not in ignorance, nor by constraint But to the disciples not for this cause only did He foretell it; but, as I have said, in order that having been exercised by the expectation, they might more easily endure the passion, and that it might not confound them by coming upon them without preparation. So for this cause, while at the beginning He spake of His death only, when they were practised and trained to hear of it, He adds the other circumstances also; as, for instance, that they should deliver Him to the Gentiles, that they should mock and scourge Him; as well on this account, as in order that when they saw the mournful events come to pass, they might expect from this the resurrection also. For He who had not cloaked from them what would give pain, and what seemed to be matter of reproach, would reasonably be believed about good things too.
But mark, I pray thee, how with regard to the time also He orders the thing wisely. For neither at the beginning did He tell them, lest He should disquiet them, neither at the time itself, lest by this again He should confound them; but when they had received sufficient proof of His power, when He had given them promises that were very great concerning life everlasting, then He introduces also what He had to say concerning these things, once and twice and often interweaving it with His miracles and His instructions.
But another evangelist saith, that He brought in the prophets also as witnesses;(2) and another again saith, that even they themselves understood not His words, but the saying was hid from them, and that they were amazed as they followed Him.(3)
Surely then, one may say, the benefit of the prediction is taken away. For if they knew not what they were hearing, neither could they look for the event, and not looking for it, neither could they be exercised by their expectations.
But I say another thing also more perplexing than this: If they did not know, how were they sorry. For another saith, they were sorry. If therefore they knew it not, how were they sorry? How did Peter say, "Be it far from Thee. this shall not be unto Thee?"(4)
What then may we say? That He should die indeed they knew, albeit they knew not clearly the mystery of the Incarnation.(5) Neither did they know clearly about the resurrection, neither what He was to achieve; and this was hid from them.
For this cause also they felt pain. For some they had known to have been raised again by other persons, but for any one to have raised up himself again, and in such wise to have raised himself as not to die any more, they had never known.
This then they understood not, though often said; nay nor of this self- same death did they clearly know what it was, and how it should come on Him. Wherefore also they were amazed as they followed Him, but not for this cause only; but to me at least He seems even to amaze them by discoursing of His passion.
2. Yet none of these things made them take courage, and this when they were continually hearing about His resurrection. For together with His death this also especially troubled them, to hear that men should "mock and scourge Him," and the like. For when they considered His miracles, the possessed persons whom He had delivered, the dead whom He had raised, all the other marvellous works which He was doing, and then heard these things, they were amazed, if He who doeth these works is thus to suffer. Therefore they fell even into perplexity, and now believed. now disbelieved, and could not understand His sayings. So far at least were they from understanding clearly what He said, that the sons of Zebedee at the same time came to Him, and spake to Him of precedence. "We desire," it is said, "that one should sit on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left "(6) How then doth this evangelist 'say, that their mother came to Him? It is probable both things were done. I mean, that they took their mother with them, with the purpose of making their entreaty stronger, and in this way to prevail with Christ.
For in proof that this is true, as I say, and the request was rather theirs, and that being ashamed they put forward their mother, mark how Christ directs His words to them.
But rather let us learn, first, what do they ask, and with what disposition, and whence they were moved to this? Whence then were they moved to this? They saw themselves honored above the rest, and expected from that they should obtain this request also. But what can it be they ask? Hear another evangelist plainly declaring this. For, "Because He was nigh," it is said, "to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear,"(1) they asked these things. For they supposed that this was at the doors, and visible, and that having obtained what they asked, they would undergo none of the painful things. For neither for its own sake only did they seek it, but as though they would also escape the hardships.
Wherefore also Christ in the first place leads them off from these thoughts, commanding them to await slaughter and dangers, and the utmost tenors. For, "Are ye able," saith He, "to drink of the cup that I drink of?"(2)
But let no man be troubled at the apostles being in such an imperfect state. For not yet was the cross accomplished, not yet the grace of the Spirit given. But if thou wouldest learn their virtue, notice them after these things, and thou wilt see them superior to every passion. For with this object He reveals their deficiencies, that after these things thou mightest know what manner of men they became by grace.
That then they were asking, in fact, for nothing spiritual, neither had a thought of the kingdom above, is manifest from hence. But let us see also, how they come unto Him, and what they say. "We would," it is said, "that whatsoever we shall desire of Thee, Thou shouldest do it for us."(3)
And Christ saith to them, "What would ye? "(4) not being ignorant, but that He may compel them to answer, and lay open the wound, and so apply the medicine. But they out of shame and confusion of face, because under the influence of a human passion they were come to do this, took Him privately apart from the disciples, and asked Him. For they went before, it is said, so that it might not be observable to them, and so said what they wished. For it was their desire, as I suppose, because they heard, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, to have the first place of these seats. And that they had an advantage over the others, they knew, but they were afraid of Peter, and say, "Command, that one sit on Thy right hand, one on Thy left;" and they urge Him, saying, "Command."
What then saith He? Showing, that they asked nothing spiritual, neither, if they had known again what they were asking, would they have ventured to ask for so much, He saith, "Ye know not what ye ask," how great, how marvellous, how surpassing even the powers above. After that He adds, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"(5) Seest thou, how He straightway drew them off from their suspicion, by framing His discourse from the contrary topics? For ye, He saith, talk to me of honor and crowns, but I to you of conflicts and labors. For this is not the season for rewards, neither shall that glory of mine appear now, but the present time is one of slaughter, and wars, and dangers.
And see how by the form of His question, He both urges and attracts them. For He said not, "Are ye able to be slain?" "Are ye able to pour forth your blood?" but how? "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then to attract them to it, He saith, "Which I shall drink of," that by their fellowship with Him in it they might be made more ready.
And a baptism again calls He it; showing that great was the cleansing the world was to have from the things that were being done.
"They say unto Him, We are able."(6) Out of their forwardness they straightway undertook it, not knowing even this which they were saying, but looking to hear what they had asked.
What then saith He? "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with."(7) Great blessings did He foretell to them. His meaning is, ye shall be counted worthy of martyrdom, and shall suffer these things which I suffer; ye shall close your life by a violent death, and in these things ye shall be partakers with me; "But to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father."
3. Having first elevated their souls, and made them of a higher character, and having rendered them such as sorrow could not subdue, then He reproves their request.
But what can be this present saying? For indeed there are two points that are subjects of inquiry to many: one, if it be prepared for any to sit on His right hand; and then, if the Lord of all hath not power to bestow it on them for whom it is prepared.
What then is the saying? If we solve the former point, then the second also will be clear to the inquirers. What then is this? No one shall sit on His right hand nor on His left. For that throne is inaccessible to all, I do not say to men only, and saints, and apostles, but even to angels, and archangels, and to all the powers that are on high.
At least Paul puts it. as a peculiar privilege of the Only-Begotten, saying, "To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on my right hand?(1) And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits;" but unto the Son, 'Thy throne, O God.'"(2)
How then saith He, "To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give," as though there are some that should sit there? Not as though there are; far from it; but He makes answer to the thoughts of them who ask the favor, condescending to their understanding. For neither did they know that lofty throne, and His sitting at the right hand of the Father; how should they, when even the things that were much lower than these, and were daily instilled into them, they understood not? but they sought one thing only, to enjoy the first honors, and to stand before the rest, and that no one should stand before them with Him; even as I have already said before, that, since they heard of twelve thrones, in ignorance what the saying could mean, they asked for the first place.
What therefore Christ saith is this: "Ye shall die indeed for me, and shall be slain for the sake of the gospel, and shall be partakers with me, as far as regards the passion: but this is not sufficient to secure you the enjoyment of the first seat, and to cause that ye should occupy the first place. For if any one else should come, together with the martyrdom, possessed of all the other parts of virtue far more fully than you, not because I love you now, and prefer you to the rest, therefore. shall I set aside him that is distinguished by his good works, and give the first honors to you."
But thus indeed He did not say it, so as not to pain them, but darkly He intimates the self-same thing, saying, "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on my right hand and on my left, this is not mine to give, but it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared."
But for whom is it prepared? For them who could become distinguished by their works. Therefore He said not, It is not mine to give, but my Father's, lest any should say that He was too weak, or wanting in vigor for their recompense; but how? It is not mine, but of those for whom it is prepared. And in order that what I say may be more explain, let us work it on an illustration, and let us suppose there was some master of the games, then that many excellent combatants went down to the contest, and that some two of the combatants that were most nearly connected with the master of the games were to come to him and say, "Cause us to be crowned and proclaimed," confiding in their good-will and friendship with him; and that he were to say to them, "This is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared, by their labors, and their toils;" should we indeed condemn him as powerless? By no means, but we should approve him for his justice, and for having no respect of persons. Like then as we should not say that he did not give the crown from want of vigor, but as not wishing to corrupt the law of the games, nor to disturb the order of justice; in like manner now should I say Christ said this, from every motive to compel them, after the grace of God, to set their hopes of salvation and approval on the proof of their own good works.
Therefore He saith, "For whom it is prepared." For what, saith He, if others should appear better than you? What, if they should do greater things? For shall ye, because ye have become my disciples, therefore enjoy the first honors, if ye yourselves should not appear worthy of the choice?
For that He Himself hath power over the whole, is manifest from His having the entire judgment. For to Peter too He speaks thus, "I will give thee the keys of the Heavens."(3) And Paul also makes this clear where he saith, "Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me in that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also which have loved His appearing.", But the appearing was of Christ. But that no one will stand before Paul, is surely clear to every one.
And if He hath expressed these things somewhat obscurely, marvel not. For to lead them on by hidden instruction.(5) not to be rudely pressing Him without object or cause for the first honors (for from a human passion they felt this), and not wishing to give them pain, by the obscurity He effects both these objects.
"Then were the ten moved with indignation with respect to the two." Then. When.) When He had reproved them. So long as the judgment was Christ's, they were not moved with indignation; but seeing them preferred, they were contented, and held their peace, out of reverence and honor to their Master.
And if they were vexed in mind, yet they dared not utter this. And when they had some feeling of human weakness towards Peter, at the time that He gave the didrachmas, they did not give way to anger, but asked only, "Who then is greatest?" But since here the request was the disciples', they are moved with indignation. And not even here are they straightway moved with indignation, when they asked, but when Christ had reproved them, and had said they should not enjoy the first honors, unless they showed themselves worthy of these.
4. Seest thou how they were all in an imperfect state, when both these were lifting themselves up above the ten, and those envying the two? But, as I said, show me them after these things, and thou wilt see them delivered from all these passions. Hear at least how this same John, he who now came to Him for these things, everywhere gives up the first place to Peter, both in addressing the people, and in working miracles, in the Acts of the Apostles.
And he conceals not Peter's good deeds, but relates both the confession, which he openly made when all were silent,(1) and his entering into the tomb,(2) and puts the apostle before himself. For, because both continued with Him at His crucifixion, taking away the ground of his own commendation, he saith, "That disciple was known unto the high priest."(3)
But James survived not a long time, but from the beginning he was so greatly filled with warmth, and so forsook all the things of men, and mounted up to an height unutterable, as straightway to be slain. Thus, in all respects, they after these things became excellent.(4)
But then, "they were moved with indignation." What then saith Christ? "He called them unto Him, and said, The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them."(5) For, as they were disturbed and troubled, He soothes them by His call before His word, and by drawing them near Him. For the two having separated themselves from the company of the ten, had stood nearer Him, pleading their own interests. Therefore He brings near Him these also, by this very act, and by exposing and revealing it before the rest, soothing the passion both of the one and of the other.
And not as before, so now also doth He check them. For whereas before He brings little children into the midst, and commands to imitate their simplicity and lowliness; here He reproves them in a sharper way from the contrary side, saying, "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion(6) over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so among you;(7) but he that will be great among you, let this man be minister to all; and he that will be first, let him be last of all;"(8) showing that such a feeling as this is that of heathens, I mean, to love the first place. For the passion is tyrannical, and is continually hindering even great men; therefore also it needs a severer stripe. Whence He too strikes deeper into them, by comparison with the Gentiles shaming their inflamed soul, and removes the envy of the one and the arrogance of the other, all but saying, "Be not moved with indignation, as insulted. For they harm and disgrace themselves most, who on this wise seek the first places, for they are amongst the last. For matters with us are not like matters without. 'For the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,' but with me the last, even he is first."
"And in proof that I say not these things without cause, by the things which I do and suffer, receive the proof of my sayings. For I have myself done something even more. For being King of the powers above, I was willing to become man, and I submitted to be despised, and despitefully entreated. And not even with these things was I satisfied, but even unto death did I come. Therefore," He saith,
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."(9) "For not even at this did I stop," saith He, "but even my life did I give a ransom; and for whom? For enemies. But thou if thou art abused, it is for thyself, but I for thee."
Be not then afraid, as though thine honor were plucked down. For how much soever thou humblest thyself, thou canst not descend so much as thy Lord. And yet His descent hath become the ascent of all, and hath made His own glory shine forth. For before He was made man, He was known amongst angels only; but after He was made man and was crucified, so far from lessening that glory, He acquired other besides, even that from the knowledge of the world.
Fear not then, as though thine honor were put down, if thou shouldest abase thyself, for in this way is thy glory more exalted, in this way it becomes greater. This is the door of the kingdom. Let us not then go the opposite way, neither let us war against ourselves. For if we desire to appear great, we shall not be great, but even the most dishonored of all.
Seest thou how everywhere He urges them by the opposite things, giving them what they desire? For in the preceding parts also we have shown this in many instances, and in the cases of the covetous, and of the vain- glorious, He did thus. For wherefore, He saith, dost thou give alms before men? That thou mayest enjoy glory? Thou must then not do so, and thou shall surely enjoy it. Wherefore dost thou lay up treasures? That thou mayest be rich? Thou must then not lay up treasures, and thou shalt be rich. Even so here too, wherefore dost thou set thy heart on the first places? That thou mayest be before others? Choose then the last place, and then thou wilt enjoy the first. So that if it be thy will to become great, seek not to become great, and then thou wilt be great. For the other is to be little.
5. Seest thou how He drew them off from the disease, by showing them both from thence failing of their object, and from hence gaining, that they might flee the one, and follow after the other.
And of the Gentiles, too, He for this cause reminded them, that in this way again He might show the thing to be disgraceful and to be abhorred.
For the arrogant is of necessity base, and, on the contrary, the lowly- minded is high. For this is the height that is true and genuine, and exists not in name only, nor in manner of address. And that which is from without is of necessity and fear, but this is like to God's. Such a one, though he be admired by no one, continues high; even as again the other, though he be courted by all, is of all men the basest. And the one is an honor rendered of necessity, whence also it easily passes away; but the other is of principle, whence also it continues steadfast. Since for this we admire the saints also, that being greater than all, they humbled themselves more than all. Wherefore even to this day they continue to be high, and not even death hath brought down that height.
And if ye be minded, let us by reasonings also inquire into this very thing. Any one is said to be high, either when he is so by greatness of stature, or when he hath chanted to be set on a high place, and low in like manner, from the opposite things.
Let us see then who is like this, the boaster, or he that keeps within measure, that thou mayest perceive that nothing is higher than lowliness of mind, and nothing lower than boastfulness.
The boaster then desires to be greater than all, and affirms no one to be equal in worth with him; and how much soever honor he may obtain, he sets his heart on more and claims it, and accounts himself to have obtained none, and treats men with utter contempt, and yet seeks after the honor that comes from them; than which what can be more unreasonable? For this surely is like an enigma. By those, whom he holds in no esteem, he desires to be glorified.
Seest thou how he who desires to be exalted falls down and is set on the ground? For that he accounts all men to be nothing compared with himself, he himself declares, for this is boasting. Why then dost cast thyself upon him who is nothing? why dost thou seek honor of him? Why dost thou lead about a with thee such great multitudes?
Seest thou one low, and set on a low place. Come then, let us inquire about the high man. This one knows what man is, and that man is a great thing, and that he himself is last of all, and therefore whatever honor he may enjoy, he reckons this great, so that this one is consistent with himself and is high, and shifts not his judgment; for whom he accounts great, the honors that come from them he esteems great also, though they should chance to be small, because he accounts those who bestow them to be great. But the boastful man accounts them that give the honors to be nothing, yet the honors bestowed by them he reckons to be great.
Again, the lowly man is seized by no passion, no anger can much trouble this man, no love of glory, no envy, no jealousy: and what can be higher than the soul that is delivered from these things? But the boastful man is held in subjection by all these things, like any worm crawling in the mire, for jealousy and envy and anger are forever troubling his soul.
Which then is high? He that is superior to his passions, or he that is their slave? He that trembles at them and is afraid of them, or he that is unsubdued, and never taken by them? Which kind of bird should we say flies higher? that which is higher than the hands and the arrows of the hunter, or that which does not even suffer the hunters to need an arrow, from his flying along the ground, and from not being able ever to elevate himself? Is not then the arrogant man like this? for indeed every net readily catches him as crawling on the ground.
6. But if thou wilt, even from that wicked demon prove thou this. For what can be baser than the devil, because he had exalted himself; what higher than the man who is willing to abase himself? For the former crawls on the ground under our heel (For, "ye tread," He saith,(1) "upon serpents and scorpions"), but the latter is set with the angels on high.
But if thou desirest to learn this from the example of haughty men also, consider that barbarian king, that led so great an army, who knew not so much as the things that are manifest to all; as, for instance, that stone was stone, and the images, images; wherefore he was inferior even to these. But the godly and faithful are raised even above the sun; than whom what can be higher, who rise above even the vaults of heaven, and passing beyond angels, stand by the very throne of the king.
And that thou mayest learn in another way their vileness; who will be abased? He who has God for his ally, or he with whom God is at war? It is quite plain that it is he with whom He is at war. Hear then touching either of these what saith the Scripture. "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."(2)
Again, I will ask you another thing also. Which is higher? He who acts as a priest to God and offers sacrifice? or he who is somewhere far removed from confidence towards Him? And what manner of sacrifice doth the lowly man offer? one may say. Hear David saying, "The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise."(3)
Seest thou the purity of this man? Behold also the uncleanness of the other; for "every one that is proud in heart is unclean before God."(4) Besides, the one hath God resting upon him, ("For unto whom will I look," saith He, "but to him that is meek and quiet, and trembleth at my words"),(5) but the other crawls with the devil, for he that is lifted up with pride shall suffer the devil's punishment. Wherefore Paul also said, "Lest, being lifted up with pride, he should fall into the condemnation of the devil."(6)
And the thing opposite to what he wishes, befalls him. For his wish is to be arrogant, that he may be honored; but the most contemned of all is this character. For these most of all are laughing stocks, foes and enemies to all men, the most easy to be subdued by their enemies, the men that easily fall into anger, the unclean before God.
What then can be worse than this, for this is the extremity of evils? And what is sweeter than the lowly, what more blessed, since, they are longed after, and beloved of God? And the glory too that cometh of men, these do most of all enjoy, and all honor them as fathers, embrace them as brothers, receive them as their own members.
Let us then become lowly, that we may be high. For most utterly doth arrogance abase. This abased Pharaoh. For, "I know not," he saith, "the Lord,"(7) and he became inferior to flies and frogs, and the locusts, and after that with his very arms and horses was he drowned in the sea. In direct opposition to him, Abraham saith, "I am dust and ashes,"(8) and prevailed over countless barbarians, and having fallen into the midst of Egyptians, returned, bearing a trophy more glorious than the former, and, cleaving to this virtue, grew ever more high. Therefore he is celebrated everywhere, therefore he is crowned and proclaimed; but Pharaoh is both earth and ashes, and if there is anything else more vile than these. For nothing cloth God so abhor as arrogance. For this object hath He done all things from the beginning, in order that He might root out this passion. Because of this are we become mortal, and are in sorrows, and wailings. Because of this are we in toil, and sweat, and in labor continual, and mingled with affliction. For indeed out of arrogance did the first man sin, looking for an equality with God. Therefore, not even what things he had, did he continue to possess, but lost even these.
For arrogance is like this, so far from adding to us any improvement of our life, it subtracts even what we have; as, on the contrary, humility, so far from subtracting from what we have, adds to us also what we have not.
This virtue then let us emulate, this let us pursue, that we may both enjoy present honor, and attain unto the glory to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father glory and might, together with the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXVI: MATT, XX. 29, 30.
"And as they departed from Jericho, great multitudes followed Him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the wayside, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David."
SEE whence He passed unto Jerusalem, and where He abode before this, with regard to which it seems to me especially worthy of inquiry, wherefore He went not away even long before this from thence unto Galilee, but through Samaria. But this we will leave to them that are fond of learning. For if any one were disposed to search the matter out carefully, he will find that John intimates it well, and hath expressed the cause.(1)
But let us keep to the things set before us, and let us listen to these blind men, who were better than many that see. For neither having a guide, nor being able to see Him when come near to them, nevertheless they strove to come unto Him, and began to cry with a loud voice, and when rebuked for speaking, they cried the more. For such is the nature of an enduring soul, by the very things that hinder, it is borne up.
But Christ suffered them to be rebuked, that their earnestness might the more appear, and that thou mightest learn that worthily they enjoy the benefits of their cure. Therefore He doth not so much as ask, "Do ye believe?" as He doth with many; for their cry, and their coming unto Him, sufficed to make their faith manifest.
Hence learn, O beloved, that though we be very vile and outcast, but yet approach God with earnestness, even by ourselves we shall be able to effect whatsoever we ask. See, for instance, these men, how, having none of the apostles to plead with them, but rather many to stop their mouths, they were able to pass over the hindrances, and to come unto Jesus Himself. And yet the evangelist bears witness to no confidence of life(2) in them, but earnestness sufficed them instead of all.
These then let us also emulate. Though God defer the gift, though there be many withdrawing us, let us not desist from asking. For in this way most of all shall we win God to us. See at least even here, how not poverty, not blindness, not their being unheard, not their being rebuked by the multitude, not anything else, impeded their exceeding earnestness. Such is the nature of a fervent and toiling soul.
What then saith Christ? "He called them, and said, What will ye that I should do unto you? They say unto Him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened."(3) Wherefore cloth He ask them? Lest any one should think that when they wish to receive one thing, He giveth them another thing. For indeed it is usual with Him on every occasion, first to make manifest and discover to all the virtue of those He is healing, and then to apply the cure, for one reason, that He might lead on the others likewise to emulation; and for another, that He might show that they were enjoying the gift worthily. This, for instance, He did with respect to the Canaanitish woman also, this too in the case of the centurion, this again as to her that had the issue of blood, or rather that marvellous woman even anticipated the Lord's inquiry; but not so did He pass her by, but even after the cure makes her manifest. Such earnest care had He on every occasion to proclaim the good deeds of them that come to Him, and to show them to be much greater than they are,(4) which He doth here also.
Then, when they said what they wished, He had compassion on them, and touched them. For this alone is the cause of their cure, for which also He came into the world. But nevertheless, although it be mercy and grace, it seeks for the worthy.
But that they were worthy is manifest, both from what they cried out, and from the fact that, when they had received, they did not hasten away, as many do, being ungrateful after the benefits. Nay, they were not like this, but were both persevering before the gift, and after the gift grateful, for "they followed Him."
"And when He drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and was come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying, Go into the village over against you, and ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he sendeth them. And this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Zechariah the prophet, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."(1)
And yet He had often entered Jerusalem before, but never with so much circumstance. What then is the cause? It was the beginning then of the dispensation; and neither was He very well known, nor the time of His passion near; wherefore He mixed with them with less distinction, and more disguising Himself. For He would not have been held in admiration, had He so appeared, and He would have excited them to greater anger. But when He had both given them sufficient proof of His power, and the cross was at the doors, He makes Himself then more conspicuous, and doeth with greater circumstance all the things that were likely to inflame them. For it was indeed possible for this to have been done at the beginning also; but it was not profitable nor expedient it should be so.
But do thou observe, I pray thee. how many miracles are done, and how many prophecies are fulfilled. He said, "Ye shall find an ass;" He foretold that no man should hinder them, but that all, when they heard, should hold their peace.
But this is no small condemnation of the Jews, if them that were never known to Him, neither had appeared before Him, He persuades to give up their own property, and to say nothing against it, and that by His disciples, while these, being present with Him at the working of His miracles, were not persuaded.
2. And do not account what was done to be a small thing. For who persuaded them, when their own property was taken from them, and that, when they were perhaps poor men and husbandmen, not to forbid it? Why say I not to forbid it? not to ask, or even if they asked, to hold their peace, and give it up. For indeed both things were alike marvellous, as well, if they said nothing, when their beasts were dragged away, or if having spoken, and heard, "The Lord hath need of them," they yielded and withstood not, and this when they see not Him, but His disciples.
By these things He teaches them, that it was in His power to have entirely hindered the Jews also, even against their will, when they were proceeding to attack Him, and to have made them speechless, but He would not.
And another thing again together with these doth He teach the disciples, to give whatever He should ask; and, though he should require them to yield up their very life, to give even this, and not to gainsay. For if even strangers gave up to Him, much more ought they to strip themselves of all things.
And besides what we have said, He was fulfilling also another prophecy, one which was twofold, one part in words, and another in deeds. And that in deeds was, by the sitting on the ass; and that by words, the prediction of Zacharias; because he had said, that the King should sit on an ass. And He, having sat and having fulfilled it, gave to the prophecy another beginning again, by what He was doing typifying beforehand the things to come.
How and in what manner? He proclaimed beforehand the calling of the unclean Gentiles, and that He should rest upon them, and that they should yield to Him and follow Him, and prophecy succeeded to prophecy.
But to me He seemeth not for this object only to sit on the ass, but also as affording us a standard of self-denial. For not only did He fulfill prophecies, nor did He only plant the doctrines of the truth, but by these very things He was correcting our practice for us, everywhere setting us rules of necessary use, and by all means amending our life.
For this cause, I say, even when He was to be born He sought not a splendid house, nor a mother rich and distinguished, but a poor woman, and one that had a carpenter as her betrothed husband; and is born in a shed, and laid in a manger: and choosing His disciples, He chose not orators and wise men, not rich men and nobly born, but poor men, and of poor families, and in every way undistinguished; and providing His table, at one time He sets before Himself barley loaves, and at another at the very moment commands the disciples to buy at the market. And making His couch, He makes it of grass, and putting on raiment, He clothes Himself in what is cheap, and in no respect different from the common sort; and a house He did not so much as possess. And if He had to go from place to place, He did this travelling on foot, and so travelling, as even to grow weary. And sitting, He requires no throne nor pillow, but sits on the ground, sometimes in the mountain, and sometimes by the well, and not merely by the well, but also alone, and talks with a Samaritan woman.
Again, setting measures of sorrow, when He had need to mourn, He weeps moderately, everywhere setting us rules, as I have said, and limits how far one ought to proceed, and not any further. So for this intent now also, since it happens that some are weak and have need of beasts to carry them, in this too He fixes a measure, showing that one ought not to yoke horses or mules to be borne by them, but to use an ass, and not to proceed further, and everywhere to be limited by the want.
But let us look also at the prophecy, that by words, that by acts. What then is the prophecy? "Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and riding on an ass, and a young colt;"(1) not driving chariots, like the rest of the kings, not demanding tributes, not thrusting men off, and leading about guards, but displaying His great meekness even hereby.
Ask then the Jew, what King came to Jerusalem borne on an ass? Nay, he could not mention, but this alone.
But He did these things, as I said, signifying beforehand the things to come. For here the church is signified by the colt, and the new people, which was once unclean, but which, after Jesus sat on them, became clean. And see the image preserved throughout. I mean that the disciples loose the asses For by the apostles, both they and we were called; by the apostles were we brought near. But because our acceptance provoked them also to emulation, therefore the ass appears following the colt. For after Christ hath sat on the Gentiles, then shall they also come moving us to emulation.(2) And Paul declaring this, said, "That blindnesss in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved."(4) For that it was a prophecy is evident from what is said. For neither would the prophet have cared to express with such great exactness the age of the ass, unless this had been so.
But not these things only are signified by what is said, but also that the apostles should bring them with ease. For as here, no man gainsaid them so as to keep the asses, so neither with regard to the Gentiles was any one able to prevent them, of those who were before masters of them.
But He doth not sit on the bare colt, but on the apostles' garments. For after they had taken the colt, they then gave up all, even as Paul also said, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls."(5)
But mark how tractable the colt, how being unbroken, and having never known the rein, he was not restive, but went on orderly; which thing itself was a prophecy of the future, signifying the submissiveness of the Gentiles, and their sudden conversion to good order. For all things did that word work, which said, "Loose him, and bring him to me:" so that the unmanageable became orderly, and the unclean thenceforth clean.
3. But see the baseness of the Jews. He had wrought so many miracles, and never were they thus amazed at Him; but when they saw a multitude running together, then they marvel. "For all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? But the multitudes said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee."(6) And when they thought they were saying something great, even then were their thoughts earthly, and low, and dragging on the ground.(7)
But these things He did, not as displaying any pomp, but at once, as I have said, both fulfilling a prophecy, and teaching self-denial, and at the same time also comforting His disciples, who were grieving for His death, and showing them that He suffers all these things willingly.
And mark thou, I pray thee, the accuracy of the prophet, how he foretold all things. And some things David, some things Zechariah, had proclaimed beforehand. Let us also do likewise, and let us sing hymns, and give up our garments to them that bear Him. For what should we deserve, when some clothe the ass on which He was set, and others strew the garments even under her feet; but we, seeing him naked, and not being even commanded to strip ourselves, but to spend of what is laid by, not even so are liberal? And when they indeed attend upon Him before and behind, but we, when He cometh unto us, send Him away, and thrust Him off and insult Him.
How sore a punishment do these things deserve, how great vengeance! Thy Lord cometh unto thee in need, and thou art not willing so much as to listen to His entreaty, but thou blamest and rebukest Him, and this, when thou hast heard such words as these. But if in giving one loaf, and a little money, thou art so mean, and haughty, and backward; if thou hadst to empty out all, what wouldest thou become?
Seest thou not those that show their magnificence in the theatre, how much they give away to the harlots? but thou givest not so much as the half, nay often not the smallest part. But the devil is exhorting to give to whom it may chance, procuring us hell, and thou givest; but Christ to the needy, promising a kingdom, and thou, far from giving, dost rather insult them, and thou choosest rather to obey the devil, that thou mightest be punished, than to submit to Christ, and be saved.
And what could be worse than this frenzy? One procures hell, the other a kingdom, and ye leave the latter, and run unto the former. And this ye send away, when He cometh unto you, that when he is far off, ye call unto you. And what you do is the same as if a king bearing a royal robe, and offering a diadem, did not win your choice, but a robber brandishing a sword at you, and threatening death, were to win it.
Considering these things then, beloved, let us discern the truth at length though late, and let us grow sober. For I am now ashamed of speaking of almsgiving, because that having often spoken on this subject, I have effected nothing worth the exhortation. For some increase indeed hath there been, but not so much as I wished. For I see you sowing, but not with a liberal hand. Wherefore I fear too lest ye also "reap sparingly."(1)
For in proof that we do sow sparingly, let us inquire, if it seem good, which(2) are more numerous in the city, poor or rich; and which they, who are neither(2) poor nor rich, but have a middle place. As, for instance, a tenth part is of rich, and a tenth of the poor that have nothing at all, and the rest of the middle sort.
Let us distribute then amongst the poor the whole multitude of the city, and ye will see the disgrace how great it is. For the very rich indeed are but few, but those that come next to them are many; again, the poor are much fewer than these. Nevertheless, although there are so many that are able to feed the hungry, many go to sleep in their hunger, not because those that have are not able with ease to succor them, but because of their great barbarity and inhumanity. For if both the wealthy, and those next to them, were to distribute amongst themselves those who are in need of bread and raiment, scarcely would one poor person fall to the share of fifty men or even a hundred. Yet nevertheless, though in such great abundance of persons to assist them, they are wailing every day. And that thou mayest learn the inhumanity of the others, when the church is possessed of a revenue of one of the lowest among the wealthy, and not of the very rich, consider how many widows it succors every day, how many virgins; for indeed the list of them hath already reached unto the number of three thousand. Together with these, she succors them that dwell in the prison, the sick in the caravansera, the healthy, those that are absent from their home, those that are maimed in their bodies, those that wait upon the altar; and with respect to food and raiment, them that casually come every day; and her substance is in no respect diminished. So that if ten men only were thus willing to spend, there would be no poor.
4. And what, it will be said, are our children to inherit? The principal remains, and the income again is become more abundant, the goods being stored up for them in Heaven.
But are ye not willing to do this? At least do it by the half, at least by the third part, at least by the fourth part at least by the tenth. For owing to God's favor, it were possible for our city to nourish the poor of ten cities.
And if ye will, let us make some calculation(3) in proof of this; or rather there is no need so much as of reckoning; for of itself the easiness of the thing is discernible. See at least, upon public occasions, how much one house hath often not been backward to spend, and hath not had so much as a little feeling of the expense, which service if each of the rich were willing to perform for the poor, in a brief moment of time he would have seized on Heaven.
What plea then will there be? what shadow of defense, when not even of the things from which we must assuredly be separated, when taken away from hence, not even of these do we impart to the needy with as much liberality as others to those on the stage, and this when we are to reap so many benefits therefrom? For we ought indeed, even though we were always to be here, not even so to be sparing of this good expenditure; but when after a little time, we are to be removed from hence, and dragged away naked from all, what kind of defense shall we have for not even out of our income giving to the hungry and distressed?(1)
For neither do I constrain thee to lessen thy possessions, not because I do not wish it, but because I see thee very backward. It is not then this I say, but spend of your fruits, and treasure up nothing from these. It is enough for thee to have the money of thine income pouring in on thee as from a fountain; make the poor sharers with thee, and become a good steward of the things given thee of God.
But I pay tribute, one may say. For this cause then dost thou despise, because in this case no one demands it of thee? And the other, who, should the earth bear, or should it not bear, takes by force, and extorts, thou darest not gainsay; but Him that is so mild, and then only demands, when the earth bears, thou answerest not even to a word? And who will deliver thee from those intolerable punishments? There is no one. For if, because in the other case a very sore punishment will ensue to thee for not giving, therefore thou becomest diligent about the payment, consider here too is one more sore; not to be bound, neither to be cast into prison, but to depart into the eternal fire.
For all reasons then let us pay these tributes first: for great is the facility, and greater the reward; and more abundant the gain, and worse the punishments to us if we are obstinate. For a punishment cometh upon us, which hath no end.
But if thou tell me of the soldier's fighting for thee with the barbarians, there is here too a camp, that of the poor, and a war, which the poor are waging for thee. For when they receive, by praying they make God propitious; and making Him propitious, they repulse, instead of barbarians, the assaults of the devils; they suffer not the evil one to be violent, neither to attack us continually, but they relax his might.
5. Seeing therefore these soldiers every day fighting in thy behalf with the devil by their supplications and prayers, demand of thyself this good contribution, their nourishment. For this King being mild hath not assigned thee any to demand it of thee, but desires thou shouldest give it willingly; though thou pay by little and little, He receives it; though being in difficulty, thou shouldest pay after a long time, He cloth not press him that hath not.
Let us not then despise His long-suffering; let us treasure up for ourselves, not wrath, but salvation; not death, but life; not punishment and vengeance, but honors and crowns. There is no need in this case to pay a hire for the conveyance of the things contributed; there is no need in this case to labor in turning them into money. If thou givest them up, the Lord Himself removes them into Heaven; He Himself makes the traffic the more gainful for thee.
There is no need here to find one to carry in what thou hast contributed; contribute only, and straightway it goeth up, not that others may be maintained as soldiers, but that it may remain for thee with great profit. For here(2) whatsoever thou mayest have given, it is not possible to recover; but there thou wilt receive them again with much honor, and shalt gain greater, and more spiritual gains. Here the gifts are a demand; there a loan, and money at interest, and a debt.
Yea farther, God hath given thee bonds. For" he that showeth mercy to a poor man," it is said, "lendeth to the Lord."(3) He gave thee also an earnest, and bail, and this being God! What sort of earnest? The things in the present life, the visible, the spiritual things, the foretaste of the things to come.
Why then dost thou delay, and why art thou backward, having received so many things already, looking for so many things?
For what thou hast received are these: He Himself made thee a body, He Himself put in thee a soul, He honored with speech thee alone of the things on the earth, He gave thee the use of all the things that are seen, He bestowed on thee the knowledge of Himself, He gave up His Son for thee, He gave thee a baptism full of so many good things, He gave thee a holy table, He promised a kingdom, and the good things that cannot be told.
Having then received so many good things, having to receive so many, again I say the same thing, art thou making petty reckoning about perishing riches, and what excuse wilt thou have?
But art thou looking altogether at thy children? and dost draw back for the sake of these? Nay, rather teach them also to gain such gains. For if thou hadst money lent out and bearing interest, and thou hadst a grateful debtor, thou wouldest ten thousand times rather choose instead of the gold to leave the bond to thy child, so that he should have the large income from it, and not be constrained to go about, and seek for others to borrow it.
And now give this bond to thy children, and leave God a debtor to them. Thou dost not sell thy lands, and give to thy children, but leavest them, that the income may remain, and that they may have a greater increase of riches from thence; but this bond, which is more productive than any land or revenue, and bears so many fruits, this art thou afraid to leave to them? What great folly must this be, and frenzy. And this when thou knowest, that though thou shouldest leave it to them, thou thyself also shall again take it away with thee.
Of this nature are the things spiritual; they have great munificence. Let us not then be beggarly; neither be inhuman and savage towards ourselves, but let us traffic in that good merchandise; that we may both ourselves take it away with us when we depart, and leave it to our own children, and attain to the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LXVII: MATT. XXI. 12, 13.
"And Jesus went into the temple,(1) and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrow the tables of the money-changers and the seats of them that sold doves, and saith unto them, It is written, my house shall be called a house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves."(2)
This John likewise saith, but he in the beginning of his Gospel, this at the end. Whence it is probable this was done twice, and at different seasons.
And it is evident both from the times, and from their reply. For there He came at the very passover, but here much before. And there the Jews say, "What sign showest thou us?"(3) but here they hold their peace, although reproved, because He was now marvelled at amongst all men.
And this is a heavier charge against the Jews, that when He had done this not once only, but a second time, they continued in their trafficking, and said that He was an adversary of God, when they ought even from hence to have learnt His honor for His Father and His own might. For indeed He also wrought miracles, and they saw His words agreeing with His works.
But not even so were they persuaded, but "were sore displeased," and this while they heard the prophet crying aloud, and the children in a manner beyond their age proclaiming Him. Wherefore also He Himself sets up Isaiah against them as an accuser, saying, "My house shall be called a house of prayer.(4)
But not in this way only doth He show His authority, but also by His healing divers infirmities. "For the blind and the tame came unto Him, and He healed them,"(5) and His power and authority He indicates.
But they not even so would be persuaded, but together with the rest of the miracles hearing even the children proclaiming, were ready to choke, and say, "Hearest thou not what these say?(6) And yet it was Christ's part to have said this to them, "Hear ye not what these say?" for the children were singing to Him as to God.
What then saith He? Since they were speaking against things manifest, He applies His correction more in the way of reproof, saying, "Have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou hast perfected praise?" And well did He say, "Out of the mouth." For what was said was not of their understanding, but of His power giving articulation to their tongue yet immature.
And this was also a type of the Gentiles lisping, and sounding forth at once great things with understanding and faith.
And for the apostles also there was from hence no small consolation. For that they might not be perplexed, how being unlearned they should be able to publish the gospel, the children anticipate them, and remove all their anxiety, teaching them, that He would grant them utterance, who made even these to sing praises.
And not so only, but the miracle showed that He is Creator even of nature. The children then, although of age immature, uttered things that had a clear meaning, and were in accordance with those above, but the men things teeming with frenzy and madness. For such is the nature of wickedness.
Forasmuch then as there were many things to provoke them, from the multitude, from the casting out of the sellers, from the miracles, from the children, He again leaves them, giving room to the swelling passion, and not willing to begin His teaching, test boiling with envy they should be the more displeased at His sayings.
"Now in the morning as He returned into the city, He was an hungered."(1) How is He an hungered in the morning? When He permits the flesh, then it shows its feeling. "And when He saw a fig tree in the way, He came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only."(2) Another evangelist saith, "The time of figs was not yet;"(3) but if it was not time, how doth the other evangelist say, "He came, if haply He might find fruit thereon." Whence it is manifest that this belongs to the suspicion of His disciples, who were yet in a somewhat imperfect state. For indeed the evangelists in many places record the suspicions of the disciples.
Like as this then was their suspicion, so also was it too to suppose it was cursed for this cause, because of having no fruit. Wherefore then was it cursed? For the disciples' sakes, that they might have confidence. For because everywhere He conferred benefits, but punished no man; and it was needful that He should afford them a demonstrative proof of His power to take vengeance also, that both the disciples might learn, and the Jews, that being able to blast them that crucify Him, of His own will He submits, and does not blast them; and it was not His will to show forth this upon men; upon the plant did He furnish the proof of His might in taking vengeance. But when unto places, or unto plants, or unto brutes, any such thing as this is done, be not curious, neither say, how was the fig-tree justly dried up, if it was not the time of figs; for this it is the utmost trifling to say; but behold the miracle, and admire and glorify the worker thereof.
Since in the case also of the swine that were drowned, many have said this, working out the argument of justice; but neither there should one give heed, for these again are brutes, even as that was a plant without life.
Wherefore then was the act invested with such an appearance, and with this plea for a curse? As I said, this was the disciple's suspicion.
But if it was not yet time, vainly do some say the law is here meant. For the fruit of this was faith, and then was the time of this fruit, and it had indeed borne it; "For already(4) are the fields white to harvest," saith He; and, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labor."(5)
2. Not any therefore of these things doth He here intimate, but it is what I said, He displays His power to punish, and this is shown by saying, "The time was not yet," making it clear that of this special purpose He went, and not for hunger, but for His disciples' sake, who indeed marvelled exceedingly, although many miracles had been done greater; but, as I said, this was strange, for now first He showed forth His power to take vengeance. Wherefore not in any other, but in the moistest of all planted things did He work the miracle, so that hence also the miracle appeared greater.
And that thou mightest learn, that for their sakes this was done, that He might train them to feel confidence, hear what He saith afterwards. But what saith He? "Ye also shall do greater things, if ye are willing to believe and to be confident in prayer." Seest thou that all is done for their sake, so that they might not be afraid and tremble at plots against them? Wherefore He saith this a second time also, to make them cleave to prayer and faith. For not this only shall ye do, but also shall remove mountains; and many more things shall ye do, being confident in faith and prayer."(6)
But the boastful and arrogant Jews, wishing to interrupt His teaching, came unto Him, and asked, "By what authority doest thou these things?"(7) For since they could not object against the miracles, they bring forward against Him the correction of the traffickers in the temple. And this in John also they appear to ask, although not in these words, but with the same intent. For there too they say, "What sign showest thou unto us? seeing that thou doest these things." But there He answers them, saying, "Destroy this temple, and I in three days will raise it up,"(1) whereas here He drives them into a difficulty. Whence it is manifest, that then indeed was the beginning and prelude of the miracles, but here the end.
But what they say is this: Hast thou received the teacher's chair? Hast thou been ordained a priest, that thou didst display such authority? it is said. And yet He had done nothing implying arrogance, but had been careful for the good order of the temple, yet nevertheless having nothing to say, they object against this. And indeed when He cast them out, they did not dare to say anything, because of the miracles, but when He showed Himself, then they find fault with Him.
What then saith He? He doth not answer them directly, to show that, if they had been willing to see His authority, they could; but He asks them again, saying, "The baptism of John, whence is it? From heaven, or of men?"(2)
And what sort of inference is this? The greatest surely. For if they had said, from heaven, He would have said unto them, why then diet ye not believe him? For if they had believed, they would not have asked these things. For of Him John had said, "I am not worthy to loose the latchet of His shoe; and, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world;" and, "This is the Son of God;"(3) and, "He that cometh from above is above all;"(4) and, "His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor."(5) So that if they had believed him, there was nothing to hinder them from knowing by what authority Christ doeth these things.
After this, because they, dealing craftily, said, "We know not," He said not, neither know I, but what? "Neither tell I you."(6) For if indeed they had been ignorant it would have been requisite for them to be instructed; but since they were dealing craftily with good reason He answers them nothing.
And how was it they did not say that the baptism was of men? "They feared the people"(7) it is said. Seest thou a perverse heart? It, every case they despise God and do all things for the sake of men. For this man too they feared for their sakes not reverencing the saint(8) but on account of men? and they were not willing to believe in Christ, because of men, and all their evils were engendered to them from hence.
After this, He saith, "What think ye? A man had two sons; and he saith to the first, go, work to-day in the vineyard. But he answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir: and went not. Whether then of them twain did the will of his father? They say, the first."(10)
Again He convicts them by a parable, intimating both their unreasonable obstinacy, and the submissiveness of those who were utterly condemned by them. For these two children declare what came to pass with respect to both the Gentiles and the Jews. For the former not having undertaken to obey, neither having become hearers of the law, showed forth their obedience in their works; and the latter having said, "All that the Lord shall speak, we will do, and will hearken,"(11) in their works were disobedient. And for this reason, let me add, that they might not think the law would benefit them, He shows that this self-same thing condemns them, like as Paul also saith," Not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified."(12) For this intent, that He might make them even self-condemned, He causes the judgment to be delivered by themselves, like as He does also in the ensuing parable of the vineyard.
3. And that this might be done, He makes trial of the accusation in the person of an other. For since they were not willing to confess directly, He by a parable drives them on to what He desired.
But when, not understanding His sayings, they had delivered the judgment, He unfolds His concealed meaning after this, and saith, "Publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of Heaven before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans(13) believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterwards, that ye might believe him.(14)
For if He had said simply, harlots go before you, the word would have seemed to them to be offensive; but now, being uttered after their own judgment it appears to be not too hard.
Therefore He adds also the accusation. What then is this? "John came," He saith, "unto you," not unto them, and not this only, but; also "in the way of righteousness." "For neither with this can ye find fault, that he was some careless one, and of no profit; but both his life was irreprehensible, and his care for you great, and ye gave no heed to him."
And with this there is another charge also, that publicans gave heed; and with this, again another, that "not even after them did ye. For ye should have done so even before them, but not to do it even after them was to be deprived of all excuse;" and unspeakable was both the praise of the one, and the charge against the other. "To you he came, and ye accepted him not; he came not to them, and they receive him, and not even them did ye take for instructors."
See by how many things is shown the commendation of those, and the charge against these. To you he came, not to them. Ye believed not, this offended not them. They believed, this profited not you.
But the word, "go before you," is not as though these were following, but as having a hope, if they were willing. For nothing, so much as jealousy, rouses the grosser sort. Therefore He is ever saying, "The first shall be last, and the last first." Therefore He brought in both harlots and publicans, that they might provoke them to jealousy.
For these two indeed are chief sins, engendered of violent lust, the one of sexual desire, the other of the desire of money. And He indicates that this especially was hearing the law of God, to believe John. For it was not of grace only, that harlots entered in, but also of righteousness. For not, as continuing harlots, did they enter in, but having obeyed and believed, and having been purified and converted, so did they enter in.
Seest thou how He rendered His discourse less offensive, and more penetrating, by the parable, by His bringing in the harlots? For neither did He say at once, wherefore believed ye not John? but what was much more pricking, when, He had put forward the publicans and the harlots, then He added this, by the order of their actions convicting their unpardonable conduct, and showing that for fear of men they do all things, and for vainglory. For they did not confess Christ for fear, test they should be put out of the synagogue; and again, of John they dared not speak evil, and not even this from reverence, but for fear. All which things He convicted by His sayings, and with more severity afterwards did He go on to inflict the blow, saying, "But ye, when ye knew it, repented not afterwards, that ye might believe him."
For an evil thing it is not at the first to choose the good, but it is a heavier charge not even to be brought round. For this above all maketh many wicked, which I see to be the case with some now from extreme insensibility.
But let no one be like this; but though he be sunk down to the extremity of wickedness, let him not despair of the change for the better. For it is an easy thing to rise up out of the very abysses of wickedness.
Heard ye not how that harlot, that went beyond all in lasciviousness, outshone all in godly reverence. Not the harlot in the gospels do I mean, but the one in our generation, who came from Phoenice, that most lawless city. For she was once a harlot among us, having the first honors on the stage, and great was her name everywhere, not in our city only, but even as far as the Cilicians and Cappadocians. And many estates did she ruin, and many orphans did she overthrow; and many accused her of sorcery also, as weaving such toils not by her beauty of person only, but also by her drugs. This harlot once won even the brother of the empress, for mighty indeed was her tyranny.
But all at once, I know not how, or rather I do know well, for it was being so minded, and converting, and bringing down upon herself God's grace, she despised all those things, and having cast away the arts of the devils, mounted up to heaven.
And indeed nothing was more vile than she was, when she was on the stage; nevertheless, afterwards she outwent many in exceeding continence, and having clad herself with sackcloth, all her time she thus disciplined herself. On the account of this woman both the governor was stirred up, and soldiers armed, yet they had not strength to carry her off to the stage, nor to lead her away from the virgins that had received her.
This woman having been counted worthy of the unutterable mysteries, and having exhibited a diligence proportionate to the grace (given her) so ended her life, having washed off all through grace, and after her baptism having shown forth much self- restraint. For not even a mere sight of herself did she allow to those who were once her lovers, when they had come for this, having shut herself up, and having passed many years, as it were, in a prison. Thus "shall the last be first, and the first last;" thus do we in every case need a fervent soul, and there is nothing to hinder one from becoming great and admirable:
4. Let no man then of them that live in vice despair; let no man who lives in virtue slumber. Let neither this last be confident, for often the harlot will pass him by; nor let the other despair, for it is possible for him to pass by even the first. Hear what God saith unto Jerusalem, "I said, after she had committed all these whoredoms, Turn thou unto me, and she returned not."(1) When we have come back unto the earnest love of God, He remembers not the former things. God is not as man, for He reproaches us not with the past, neither doth He say, Why wast thou absent so long a time? when we repent; only let us approach Him as we ought. Let us cleave to Him earnestly, and rivet our hearts to His fear.
Such things have been done not under the new covenant only, but even under the old. For what was worse than Manasseh? but he was able to appease God. What more blessed than Solomon? but when he slumbered, he fell. Or rather I can show even both things to have taken place in one, in the father of this man, for he the same person became at different times both good and bad. What more blessed than Judas? but he became a traitor. What more wretched than Matthew? but he became an evangelist. What worse than Paul? but he became an apostle. What more to be envied than Simon? but he became even himself the most wretched of all.
How many other such changes wouldest thou see, both to have taken place of old, and now taking place every day? For this reason then I say, Neither let him on the stave despair, nor let him in the church be confident. For to this last it is said, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall;"(2) and to the other, "Shall not he that falleth arise?"(3) and, "Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees."(4) Again, to these He saith, "Watch;" but to those, "Awake, thou that sleepest and arise from the dead."(5) For these need to preserve what they have, and those to become what they are not; these to preserve their health, those to be delivered from their infirmity, for they are sick; but many even of the sick become healthy, and of the healthy many by remissness grow infirm.
To the one then He saith, "Behold, thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee;"(6) but to these, "Wilt thou be made whole? Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house."(7) For a dreadful, dreadful palsy is sin, or rather it is not palsy only, but also somewhat else more grievous. For such a one is not only in inactivity as to good works, but also in the active doing of evil works. But nevertheless, though thou be so disposed, and be willing to rouse thyself a little, all the terrors are at an end.
Though thou hast been so "thirty and eight years," and art earnest to become whole, there is no one to hinder thee. Christ is present now also, and saith, "Take up thy bed," only be willing to rouse thyself, despair not. Hast thou no man? but thou hast God. Hast thou no one to put thee into the pool? but thou hast Him who suffers thee not to need the pool. Hast thou had no one to cast thee in there? but thou hast Him that commands thee to take up thy bed.
Thou mayest not say, "While I am coming, another steppeth down before me."(8) For if it be thy will to go down into the fountain, there is none to hinder thee. Grace is not consumed, is not spent, it is a kind of fountain springing up constantly; by His fullness are we all healed both soul and body. Let us come unto it then even now. For Rahab also was a harlot, yet was she saved; and the thief was a murderer, yet he became a citizen of paradise; and while Judas being with his Master perished, the thief being on a cross became a disciple. Such are the wonderful works of God. Thus the magi approved themselves, thus the publican became an evangelist, thus the blasphemer an apostle.
5. Look at these things, and never despair, but be ever confident, and rouse thyself. Lay hold only on the way that leads thither, and thou wilt advance quickly. Shut not up the doors, close not up the entrance. Short is the present life, small the labor. But though it were great, not even so ought one to decline it. For if thou toil not at this most glorious toil that is spent upon repentance and virtue, in the world thou wilt assuredly toil and weary thyself in other ways. But if both in the one and the other there be labor, why do we not choose that which hath its fruit abundant, and its recompense greater.
Yet neither is this labor and that the same. For in worldly pursuits are continual perils, and losses one upon another, and the hope uncertain; great is the servility, and the expenditure alike of wealth, and of bodies, and of souls; and then the return of the fruits is far below our expectation, if perchance it should grow up.
For neither doth toil upon worldly matters everywhere bear fruit; nay but even, when it hath not failed, but has brought forth its produce even abundantly, short is the time wherein it continues.
For when thou art grown old, and hast no longer after that the feeling of enjoyment in perfection, then and not till then doth the labor bear thee its recompense. And whereas the labor was with the body in its vigor, the fruit and the enjoyment is with one grown old and languid, when time has dulled even the feeling, although if it had not dulled it, the expectation of the end suffers us not to find pleasure.
But in the other case not so, but the labor is in corruption and a dying body, but the crown in one incorruptible, and immortal, and having no end. And the labor is both first and short-lived; but the reward both subsequent and endless, that with security thou mayest take thy rest after that, looking for nothing unpleasant.
For neither mayest thou fear change any more or loss as here. What sort of good things, then, are these, which are both insecure, and short-lived, and earthly, and vanishing before they have appeared, and acquired with many toils? And what good things are equal to those, that are immovable, that grow not old, that have no toil, that even at the time of the conflicts bring thee crowns?
For he that despises money even here already receives his reward, being freed from anxiety, from rivalry, from false accusation, from plotting from envy. He that is temperate, and lives orderly, even before his departure, is crowned and lives in pleasure, being delivered from unseemliness, ridicule, dangers of accusation,(1) and the other things that are to be feared. All the remaining parts of virtue likewise make us a return here already.
In order therefore that we may attain unto both the present and the future blessings, let us flee from vice and choose virtue. For thus shall we both enjoy delight, and obtain the crowns to come, unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.