« Prev Chapter 3 Next »

3. Ye are silent as ye listen to these things. Much rather would I have silence than applause. Applause and praises tend to my own glory; but silence tends to make you wiser. I know that what has been said causes pain, but it brings also great and inexpressible advantage. That rich man, if he had had some one to admonish him of these things, and had not had those flatterers counselling him always with a view to favour, and encouraging him in luxury, would not have come to the place of punishment; 6 he would not have endured those insupportable tortures, he would not afterwards have repented so inconsolably. But since all his associates spoke with a view to favour, they betrayed him to the fire. Oh that we could at all times and constantly act wisely with respect to these things, and speak thus concerning future punishment! "In all thy words," it is said, "remember thy latter end, and thou wilt never sin," (Ecclus. vii. 36.) And again, "Prepare thy work for going forth, and make ready for thy journey," (Prov. xxiv. 27, LXX.) If thou hast defrauded any one of anything, restore it, and say with Zacchaeus "I restore him fourfold," (Luke xix. 8.) If thou hast slandered any, if thou hast been any one's enemy, be reconciled before thou comest before the Judge. Settle every affair here, that thou mayest see that tribunal with untroubled mind. As long as we are here we 46 have good hope, but when we come there, we no longer have it in our power to repent nor to cleanse ourselves from our sins. Wherefore it is necessary to be always ready for our going thither. For what if this evening it should seem good to the Lord to call us? What if He should do so to-morrow? The future is left uncertain, that we may be constantly striving and prepared for departure. Thus then Lazarus was at all times submissive and patient, and therefore he was led away with such honour. The rich man also died and was buried: his soul also was buried in the body as in a tomb, and bore about its sepulchre, the flesh. Having fettered his soul by drinking and gluttony as by a chain, he had thus made it inactive and dead.

Beloved, do not carelessly pass by this word "he was buried;" but let us think of the tables inlaid with silver, the couches, the carpets, the vestments, all the ornaments throughout the house, the unguents, the perfumes, the abundance of wine, the variety of meats, the confections, the cooks, the flatterers, the attendants, the household slaves, and all the rest of the display, all burnt up and come to nought. All is ashes, all cinders and dust, lamentations and mourning; no one any longer able to help him, or to bring back the departing soul. Then was made manifest the real power of gold, and of all the rest of his wealth. From all that crowd of attendants, he departed naked and alone, not being able out of all that abundance to carry anything away; but he went away destitute and deserted. No one of all his servants, no one of his supporters was at hand to rescue him from punishment, but led away from all these, he is alone taken 47 to bear those insupportable penalties. Truly "all flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower fadeth; but the word of the Lord abideth for ever," (Isa. xl. 6, 7.) Death came and withered all those things, and seizing the man himself as a captive, led him away downcast, filled with shame, speechless, trembling, afraid; him who had, as in a dream, enjoyed all that luxury. And after this, the rich man became a suppliant of the poor man, and required a supply from the table of him who once was famishing, and who lay at his gate, licked by dogs. Affairs were now reversed. All men now learned which was the rich man and which the poor, and that Lazarus was one of the most wealthy of men, and the rich man one of the most destitute. Just as in a play, certain men enter, wearing masks of kings and generals, and physicians and orators, and sophists and soldiers, being themselves in reality none of these; thus also, with respect to the present life, both poverty and wealth are only masks. As, therefore, when sitting in the theatre, you see one of the players on the stage, having on the mask of a king, you do not think him happy, nor think him really a king; neither would you wish to become like him; but since you know that he is some common man or other----a rope-maker, perhaps, or a worker in brass, or some one else of that sort, you do not think him happy because of his mask and his dress, nor do you judge of his condition in life by these things, but you rather look down upon him because of his insignificance in other respects. Thus in truth also, here in this present life, it is as if we were sitting in a theatre, and looking at the players on the 48 stage. Do not, when you see many abounding in wealth, think that they are in reality wealthy, but dressed up in the semblance of wealth. And as one man, representing on the stage a king or a general, often may prove to be a household servant, or one of those who sell figs or grapes in the market; thus the rich, man may often chance to be the poorest of all. For if you remove his mask and examine his conscience, and enter into his inner mind, you will find there great poverty as to virtue, and ascertain that he is the meanest of men. As also, in the theatre, as evening closes in, and the spectators depart, those who come forth divested of their theatrical ornaments, who seemed to all to be kings and generals, now are seen to be whatever they are in reality; even so with respect to this life, when death comes, and the theatre is deserted, when all, having put off their masks of wealth or of poverty, depart hence, being judged only by their works, they appear, some really rich, some poor; some in honour, some in dishonour. Thus it often happens, that one of those who are here the most wealthy, is there most poor, as it was also in the case of this rich man. For when evening, that is, death, came, and he went out from the theatre of the present life, and put off his mask, he was seen there to be poorest of all, even so poor as not to possess a drop of water, but obliged to beg for this, and not gain the object of his petition. What could be more abject than poverty like this? And hear how having lifted up his eyes, he said to Abraham, "Father, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue," (Luke xvi. 24.) Do you see how great his tribulation is? Him 49 whom he passed by when he was close at hand, he now calls to when far off; him upon whom he often, in going out and coming in, did not bestow a glance, he now, when far off, regards steadfastly.

But why does he now look at him? Very often, perhaps, the rich man had said, "What need have I of piety and goodness? All things flow to me as from a perennial fountain. I enjoy great honour, great prosperity. I suffer no unwished-for casualty. Why should I strive after goodness? This poor man, though he lives in piety and goodness, suffers a thousand ills." Many in these days often say such things. In order, therefore, that these false notions might be completely rooted out, it is shown to the rich man, that for wickedness there is in store punishment, and for righteous toil, a crown and honour. And not only on this account did the rich man then see the poor man, but also that the rich man should endure the same that the poor man had endured, and in a higher degree. As therefore, in the case of the poor man, his being laid at the gate of the rich man, and thus seeing the prosperity of another, had made his affliction much heavier, thus also, in the case of the rich man, it made his pain greater, that he, now lying in the place of punishment, 7 also sees the bliss of Lazarus; so that, not only by the very nature of torture, but by the contrast with the other's honour, he should bear more insufferable punishment. And as God, when He drove Adam forth from Paradise, caused him to dwell opposite to Paradise, that the constant sight, ever renewing his grief, might produce in him a sense of his falling away from good; 50 thus also did He place this man within sight of Lazarus, that he might see of what he had deprived himself. "I sent to thee," He might say, "this poor man Lazarus to thy gate, that he might be to thee a teacher of virtue, and an oportunity for the exercise of benevolence. Thou didst overlook the gain; thou wert not willing to use aright this means of salvation. From henceforth find it to be a cause of increased pain and punishment."

We learn from this that all those whom we have de-spitefully treated or wronged will then meet us face to face. Still this man was not in any way wronged by the rich man: for the rich man did not seize any of his property; yet he bestowed not upon him any of his own. And since he did not bestow anything on him, he had the neglected poor man for his accuser. What mercy can he expect who has robbed other men's goods, when he is surrounded by all those whom he has injured! No need is there of witnesses, none of accusers, none of evidences or proofs; but the very deeds themselves, whatsoever we have committed, will then be placed before our own eyes.

Behold, then, it is said, the man and his works. This also is robbery----not to impart our good things to others. Very likely it may seem to you a strange saying; but wonder not at it, for I will, from the Divine Scriptures, bring testimony showing that not only robbery of other men's goods, but also the not imparting our own good things to others,----that this also is robbery, and covetous-ness, and fraud. What then is this testimony? God, rebuking the Jews, speaks thus through the prophet: "The earth has brought forth her fruit, and ye have not brought in the tithes; but the plunder of the poor is in 51 your houses," (Mal. iii. 10.) Since, it is said, ye have not given the customary oblations, ye have robbed the poor. This is said in order to show to the rich that they possess things which belong to the poor, even if their property be gained by inheritance,----in fact, from what source soever their substance be derived. And, again, in another place, it is said, "Do not deprive the poor of life," (Ecclus. iv. 1.) Now, he who deprives, deprives some other man of property. It is said to be deprivation when we retain things taken from others. And in this way, therefore, we are taught that if we do not bestow alms, we shall be treated in the same way as those who have been extortioners. Our Lord's things they are, from whencesoever we may obtain them. And if we distribute to the needy we shall obtain for ourselves great abundance. And for this it is that God has permitted you to possess much,----not that you should spend it in fornication, in drunkenness, in gluttony, in rich clothing, or any other mode of luxury, but that you should distribute it to the needy. And just as if a receiver of taxes, having in charge the king's property, should not distribute it to those for whom it is ordered, but should spend it for his own enjoyment, he would pay the penalty and come to ruin; thus also the rich man is, as it were, a receiver of goods which are destined to be dispensed to the poor----to those of his fellow-servants who are in want. If he then should spend upon himself more than he really needs, he will pay hereafter a heavy penalty. For the things he has are not his own, but are the things of his fellow-servants.

« Prev Chapter 3 Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |