« Prev Matthew XXV. 1-30. Next »

Homily LXXVIII.

Matt. XXV. 1-30.28552855   [The passage, as here given, corresponds with that prefixed to the Homily in Field’s text. There are some omissions, and some variations from the received text. It seemed unnecessary to annotate it to any extent, since the variations appear in the rendering. In Migne’s edition, the citation ends with the words, “while the bridegroom tarried.”—R.]

“Then shall the kingdom of Heaven,” He saith, “be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. But five of them were wise, and the other five foolish, which took not,” He saith, “oil.”

“Then, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him. And the five arose, and being in perplexity, said to the wise, Give us of your oil. But they consented not, saying, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; go to them that sell, and buy.”

“And while they were gone for this, the bridegroom came, and those went in; but these came afterwards, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But He answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know not the day, nor the hour.”

“Then He spake again another parable. A man travelling into a far country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods; to one five talents, to another two, to another one, to every man according to his several ability, and took his journey. Then, when the two had brought him the double, he that had been entrusted with the one talent brought it alone, and being blamed saith, I knew that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed; and I 452 was afraid, and hid thy talent; lo! there thou hast that is thine. His Lord answered and said, Thou wicked servant, thou knewest that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not strawed: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I might have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents. For to him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

These parables are like the former parable of the faithful servant, and of him that was ungrateful and devoured his Lord’s goods. For there are four in all, in different ways admonishing us about the same things, I mean about diligence in almsgiving, and about helping our neighbor by all means which we are able to use, since it is not possible to be saved in another way. But there He speaks more generally of all assistance which should he rendered to one’s neighbor; but as to the virgins, he speaketh particularly of mercifulness in alms, and more strongly than in the former parable. For there He punishes him that beats, and is drunken, and scatters and wastes his lord’s goods, but here even him that doth not help, nor spends abundantly his goods upon the needy. For they had oil indeed, but not in abundance, wherefore also they are punished.

But wherefore doth He set forth this parable in the person of the virgins, and doth not merely suppose any person whatever? Great things had He spoken of virginity, saying, “There are eunuchs, who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of Heaven’s sake;” and, “He that is able to receive, let him receive it.”28562856   Matt. xix. 12. He knew also that the generality of men would have a great opinion of it. For indeed the work is by nature great, and is shown so by this, that neither under the old dispensation was it fulfilled by these ancient and holy men, nor under the new was it brought under the compulsion of the law. For He did not command this, but left it to the choice of his hearers. Wherefore Paul also said “Now, concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord.”28572857   1 Cor. vii. 25.“For though I praise him that attains thereto, yet I constrain not him that is not willing, neither do I make the thing an injunction.” Since then the thing is both great in itself and hath great honor with the multitude, lest any one attaining to this should feel as though he had attained to all, and should be careless about the rest, He putteth forth this parable sufficient to persuade them, that virginity, though it should have everything else, if destitute of the good things arising out of almsgiving, is cast out with the harlots, and He sets the inhuman and merciless with them. And most reasonably, for the one was overcome by the love of carnal pleasure, but these28582858   α δ.of money. But the love of carnal pleasure and of money are not equal, but that of carnal pleasure is far keener and more tyrannical. And the weaker the antagonist, the less excusable are these28592859   α νικηθεσαι.that are overcome thereby. Therefore also He calls them foolish, for that having undergone the greater labor, they have betrayed all for want of the less. But by lamps here, He meaneth the gift itself of virginity, the purity of holiness; and by oil, humanity, almsgiving, succor to them that are in need.

“Then, while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” He shows that the time intervening will not be short, leading His disciples away from the expectation that His kingdom was quite immediately to appear. For this indeed they hoped, therefore He is continually holding them back from this hope. And at the same time He intimates this too, that death is a sleep. For they slept, He saith.

“And about midnight there was a cry made.” Either He was continuing the parable, or again He shows that the resurrection will be at night. But the cry Paul also indicates, saying, “With a shout, with a voice of an archangel, with the last trump, He shall come down from Heaven.”28602860   1 Thess. iv. 16 (comp. 1 Cor. xv. 52). And what mean the trumpets, and what saith the cry? “The bridegroom cometh.” When therefore they had trimmed their lamps, the foolish say unto the wise, “Give us of your oil.” Again He calls them foolish, showing that nothing can be more foolish than they who are wealthy here, and depart naked thither, where most of all we have need of humanity, where we want much oil. But not in this respect only were they foolish, but also because they looked to receive it there, and sought it out of season; and yet nothing could be more humane than those virgins, 453 who for this especially were approved. Neither do they seek for it all, for, “Give us,” they say, “of your oil;” and the urgency of their need is indicated; “for our lamps,” they say, “are going out.” But even so they failed, and neither the humanity of those whom they asked, nor the easiness of their request, nor their necessity and want, made them obtain.

But what now do we learn from hence? That no man can protect us there, if we are betrayed by our works, not because he will not, but because he cannot. For these too take refuge in the impossibility. This the blessed Abraham also indicated, saying, “Between us and you there is a great gulf,”28612861   Luke xvi. 26.so that not even when willing is it permitted them to pass it.

“But go to them that sell, and buy.” And who are they that sell? The poor. And where are these? Here, and then should they have sought them, not at that time.

2. Seest thou what great profit arises to us from the poor? shouldest thou take them away, thou wouldest take away the great hope of our salvation. Wherefore here must we get together the oil, that it may be useful to us there, when the time calls us. For that is not the time of collecting it, but this. Spend not then your goods for nought in luxury and vainglory. For thou wilt have need of much oil there.

Having heard these things, those virgins went their way; but they profited nothing. And this He saith, either pursuing the parable, and working it up; or also by these things showing, that though we should become humane after our departure, we shall gain nothing from thence towards our escape. Therefore neither did their forwardness avail these virgins, because they went to them that sell not here, but there; nor the rich man, when he became so charitable, as even to be anxious about his relations. For he that was passing by him that was laid at the gate, is eager to rescue from perils and from hell them whom he did not so much as see, and entreats that some be sent to tell them these things. But nevertheless, he derived no benefit from thence, as neither did these virgins. For when they having heard these things went their way, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with Him, but the others were shut out. After their many labors, after their innumerable toils, and that intolerable fight, and those trophies which they had set up over the madness of natural appetite, disgraced, and with their lamps gone out, they withdrew, bending down their faces to the earth. For nothing is more sullied than virginity not having mercy; so that even the multitude are wont to call the unmerciful dark. Where then was the profit of virginity, when they saw not the bridegroom? and not even when they had knocked did they obtain, but they heard that fearful saying, “Depart, I know you not.”28622862   Matt. xxv. 12. And when He hath said this, nothing else but hell is left, and that intolerable punishment; or rather, this word is more grievous even than hell. This word He speaks to them also that work iniquity.28632863   See Matt. vii. 23.

“Watch therefore, for ye know not the day nor the hour.”28642864   Matt. xxv. 13. Seest thou how continually He adds this, showing how awful our ignorance concerning our departure hence? Where now are they, who throughout all their life are remiss, but when they are blamed by us, are saying, At the time of my death, I shall leave money to the poor. Let them listen to these words, and be amended. For indeed at that time many have failed of this, having been snatched away at once, and not permitted so much as to give charge to their relations touching what they wished to be done.

This parable was spoken with respect to mercy in alms; but the one that comes after this, to them that neither in money, nor in word, nor in protection, nor in any other things whatever, are willing to assist their neighbors, but withhold all.

And wherefore can it be that this parable brings forward a king, but that a bridegroom? That thou mightest learn how close Christ is joined unto the virgins that strip themselves of their possessions; for this indeed is virginity. Wherefore Paul also makes this as a definition of the thing. “The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord;”28652865   1 Cor. vii. 34, 35.such are his words: and, “For that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction. These things we advise,” he saith.

And if in Luke the parable of the talents is otherwise put, this is to be said, that the one is really different from the other. For in that, from the one capital different degrees of increase were made, for from one pound one brought five, another ten; wherefore neither did they obtain the same recompense; but here, it is the contrary, and the crown is accordingly equal. For he that received two gave two, and he that had received the five again in like manner; but there since from the same beginning one made the greater, 454 one the less, increase; as might be expected, in the rewards also, they do not enjoy the same.

But see Him everywhere, not requiring it again immediately. For in the case of the vineyard, He let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country; and here He committed to them the talents, and took His journey, that thou mightest learn His long-suffering. And to me He seems to say these things, to intimate the resurrection. But here it is no more a vineyard and husbandmen, but all servants. For not to rulers only, nor to Jews, but to all, doth He address His discourse. And they who bring a return unto Him confess frankly, both what is their own, and what their Master’s. And the one saith, Lord, “Thou gavest me five talents;” and the other saith, “two,” indicating that from Him they received the source of their gain, and they are very thankful, and reckon all to Him.

What then saith the Master? “Well done, thou good” (for this is goodness to look to one’s neighbor) “and faithful servant; thou wast faithful over few things, I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord,”28662866   Matt. xxv. 23.meaning by this expression all blessedness.

But not so that other one, but how? “I knew that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou sowedst not, and gathering where thou strawedst not: and I was afraid, and hid thy talent: lo, there thou hast that is thine.”28672867   Matt. xxv. 24, 25. What then the Master? “Thou oughtest to have put my money to the exchangers,”28682868   Matt. xxv. 27. [R.V., “bankers.”]that is, “that oughtest to have spoken, to have admonished, to have advised.” But are they disobedient? Yet this is nought to thee.

What could be more gentle than this? For men indeed do not so, but him that hath put out the money at usury, even him do they make also responsible to require it again. But He not so; but, Thou oughtest, He saith, to have put it out, and to have committed the requiring of it again to me. And I should have required it with increase; by increase upon the hearing, meaning the showing forth of the works. Thou oughtest to have done that which is easier, and to have left to me what is more difficult. Forasmuch then as he did not this, “Take,” saith He, “the talent from him, and give it to him that hath ten talents.28692869   [R.V., “the ten talents.”] For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”28702870   Matt. xxv. 28, 29. What then is this? He that hath a gift of word and teaching to profit thereby, and useth it not, will lose the gift also; but he that giveth diligence, will gain to himself the gift in more abundance; even as the other loseth what he had received. But not to this is the penalty limited for him that is slothful, but even intolerable is the punishment, and with the punishment the sentence, which is full of a heavy accusation. For “cast ye,” saith He, “the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”28712871   Matt. xxv. 30. [R.V., “cast ye out,” etc.] Seest thou how not only the spoiler, and the covetous, nor only the doer of evil things, but also he that doeth not good things, is punished with extreme punishment.

Let us hearken then to these words. As we have opportunity, let us help on our salvation, let us get oil for our lamps, let us labor to add to our talent. For if we be backward, and spend our time in sloth here, no one will pity us any more hereafter, though we should wail ten thousand times. He also that had on the filthy garments condemned himself, and profited nothing. He also that had the one talent restored that which was committed to his charge, and yet was condemned. The virgins again entreated, and came unto Him and knocked, and all in vain, and without effect.

Knowing then these things, let us contribute alike wealth, and diligence, and protection,28722872   προστασαν .and all things for our neighbor’s advantage. For the talents here are each person’s ability, whether in the way of protection, or in money, or in teaching, or in what thing soever of the kind. Let no man say, I have but one talent, and can do nothing; for thou canst even by one approve thyself. For thou art not poorer than that widow; thou art not more uninstructed than Peter and John, who were both “unlearned and ignorant men;”28732873   Acts iv. 13.but nevertheless, since they showed forth a zeal, and did all things for the common good, they attained to Heaven. For nothing is so pleasing to God, as to live for the common advantage.

For this end God gave us speech, and hands, and feet, and strength of body, and mind, and understanding, that we might use all these things, both for our own salvation, and for our neighbor’s advantage. For not for hymns only and thanksgivings is our speech serviceable to us, but it is profitable also for instruction and admonition. And if indeed we used it to this end, we should be imitating our Master; but if for the opposite ends, the devil. Since Peter also, when he 455 confessed the Christ, was blessed, as having spoken the words of the Father; but when he refused the cross, and dissuaded it, he was severely reproved, as savoring the things of the devil. But if where the saying was of ignorance, so heavy is the blame, when we of our own will commit many sins, what favor shall we have?

Such things then let us speak, that of themselves they may be evidently the words of Christ. For not only if I should say, “Arise, and walk;”28742874   Matt. ix. 5.neither if I should say, “Tabitha, arise,”28752875   Acts ix. 40.then only do I speak Christ’s words, but much more if being reviled I bless, if being despitefully used I pray for him that doeth despite to me. Lately indeed I said, that our tongue is a hand laying hold on the feet of God; but now much more do I say, that our tongue is a tongue imitating the tongue of Christ, if it show forth the strictness that becometh us, if we speak those things which He wills. But what are the things which He wills us to speak? Words full of gentleness and meekness, even as also He Himself used to speak, saying to them that were insulting Him, “I have not a devil;”28762876   John viii. 49. [Greek, “demon.”]and again, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil.”28772877   John xviii. 23. If thou also speak in this way; if thou speak for thy neighbor’s amendment, thou wilt obtain a tongue like that tongue. And these things God Himself saith; “For he that bringeth out the precious from the vile, shall be as my mouth;”28782878   Jer. xv. 19.such are His words.

When therefore thy tongue is as Christ’s tongue, and thy mouth is become the mouth of the Father, and thou art a temple of the Holy Ghost, then what kind of honor could be equal to this? For not even if thy mouth were made of gold, no nor even of precious stones, would it shine like as now, when lit up with the ornament of meekness. For what is more lovely than a mouth that knoweth not how to insult, but is used to bless and give good words? But if thou canst not bear to bless him that curses thee, hold thy peace, and accomplish but this for the time; and proceeding in order, and striving as thou oughtest, thou wilt attain to that other point also, and wilt acquire such a mouth, as we have spoken of.

4. And do not account the saying to be rash. For the Lord is loving to man, and the gift cometh of His goodness. It is rash to have a mouth like the devil, to have a tongue resembling that of an evil demon, especially for him that partakes of such mysteries, and communicates of the very flesh of the Lord. Reflecting then on these things, become like Him, to the utmost of thy power. No longer then will the devil be able so much as to look thee in the face, when thou art become such a one as this. For indeed he recognizes the image of the King, he knows the weapons of Christ, whereby he was worsted. And what are these? Gentleness and meekness. For when on the mountain Christ overthrew and laid low the devil who was assaulting him, it was not by making it known that He was Christ, but He entrapped him by these sayings, He took him by gentleness, he turned him to flight by meekness. Thou also must do this; shouldest thou see a man become a devil, and coming against thee, even so do thou likewise overcome. Christ gave thee also power to become like Him, so far as thy ability extends. Be not afraid at hearing this. The fear is not to be like Him. Speak then after His manner, and thou art become in this respect such as He, so far as it is possible for one who is a man to become so.

Wherefore greater is he that thus speaks, than he that prophecies. For this is entirely a gift, but in the other is also thy labor and toil. Teach thy soul to frame thee a mouth like to Christ’s mouth. For it can create such things, if it will; it knows the art, if it be not remiss. And how is such a mouth made? one may ask. By what kind of colorings? by what kind of material? By no colorings, indeed, or material; but by virtue only, and meekness, and humility.

Let us see also how a devil’s mouth is made; that we may never frame that. How then is it made? By curses, by insults, by envy, by perjury. For when any one speaks his words, he takes his tongue. What kind of excuse then shall we have; or rather, what manner of punishment shall we not undergo; when this our tongue, wherewith we are allowed to taste of the Lord’s flesh, when this, I say, we overlook, speaking the devil’s words?

Let us not overlook it, but let us use all diligence, in order to train it to imitate its Lord. For if we train it to this, it will place us with great confidence at Christ’s judgment seat. Unless any one know how to speak thus, the judge will not so much as hear him. For like as when the judge chances to be a Roman, he will not hear the defense of one who knows not how to speak thus; so likewise Christ, unless thou speak after His fashion, will not hear thee, nor give heed.

Let us learn therefore to speak in such wise as our Judge is wont to hear; let it be 456 our endeavor to imitate that tongue. And shouldest thou fall into grief, take heed lest the tyranny of despondency pervert thy tongue, but that thou speak like Christ. For He too mourned for Lazarus and Judas. Shouldest thou fall into fear, seek again to speak even as He. For He Himself fell into fear for thy sake, with regard to His manhood.28792879   κατ τν τ οκονομα λγονἐρφια, hædos, not capras; St. Jerome.the other sheep, that He might indicate the unfruitfulness of the one, for no fruit will come from kids; and the great profit from the other, for indeed from sheep great is the profit, as well from the milk, as from the wool, and from the young, of all which things the kid28802880   ἔριφο.is destitute.

But while the brutes have from nature their unfruitfulness, and fruitfulness, these have it from choice, wherefore some are punished, and the others crowned. And He doth not punish them, until He hath pleaded with them; wherefore also, when He hath put them in their place, He mentions the charges against them. And they speak with meekness, but they have no advantage from it now; and very reasonably, because they passed by a work so much to be desired. For indeed the prophets are everywhere saying this, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice,”28812881   Hosea vi. 6.and the lawgiver by all means urged them to this, both by words, and by works; and nature herself taught it.

But mark them, how they are destitute not of one or two things only, but of all. For not only did they fail to feed the hungry, or clothe the naked; but not even did they visit the sick, which was an easier thing.

And mark how easy are His injunctions. He said not, “I was in prison, and ye set me free; I was sick, and ye raised me up again;” but, “ye visited me,” and, “ye came unto me.” And neither in hunger is the thing commanded grievous. For no costly table did He seek, but what is needful only, and His necessary food, and He sought in a suppliant’s garb, so that all things were enough to bring punishment on them; the easiness of the request, for it was bread; the pitiable character of Him that requesteth, for He was poor; the sympathy of nature, for He was a man; the desirableness of the promise, for He promised a kingdom; the fearfulness of the punishment, for He threatened hell. The dignity of the one receiving, for it was God, who was receiving by the poor; the surpassing nature of the honor, that He vouchsafed to condescend so far; His just claim for what they bestowed, for of His own was He receiving. But against all these things covetousness once for all blinded them that were seized by it; and this though so great a threat was set against it.

For further back also He saith, that they who receive not such as these shall suffer more grievous things than Sodom; and here He saith, “Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not unto me.”28822882   Matt. xxv. 45; comp. verse 40. [“My brethren” is added here from verse 40. The order of words varies from that found in that verse.—R.] What sayest Thou? they are Thy brethren; and how dost Thou call them least. Why, for this reason they are brethren, because they are lowly, because they are poor, because they are outcast. For such doth He most invite to brotherhood, the unknown, the contemptible, not meaning by these the monks only, and them that have occupied the mountains, but every believer; though he be a secular person, yet if he be hungry, and famishing, and naked, and a stranger, His will is he should have the benefit of all this care. For baptism renders a man a brother, and the partaking of the divine mysteries.

2. Then, in order that thou mayest see in another way also the justice of the sentence, He first praises them that have done right, and saith, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before 457 the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat,” and all that follows.28832883   Matt. xxv. 34–40. For that they may not say, we had it not, He condemns them by their fellow-servants; like as the virgins by the virgins, and the servant that was drunken and gluttonous by the faithful servant, and him that buried his talent, by them that brought the two, and each one of them that continue in sin, by them that have done right.

And this comparison is sometimes made in the case of an equal, as here, and in the instance of the virgins, sometimes of him that hath advantage, as when he said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise up and shall condemn this generation, because they believed at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here;” and, “The queen of the south shall condemn this generation, because she came to hear the wisdom of Solomon;”28842884   Matt. xii. 41, 42.and of an equal again, “They shall be your judges;”28852885   Matt. xii. 27.and again of one at advantage, “Know ye not, that we shall judge angels, how much more things that pertain to this life?”28862886   1 Cor. vi. 3.

And here, however, it is of an equal; for he compares rich with rich, and poor with poor. And not in this way only doth He show the sentence justly passed, by their fellow-servants having done what was right when in the same circumstances, but also by their not being obedient so much as in these things in which poverty was no hindrance; as, for instance, in giving drink to the thirsty, in looking upon him that is in bonds, in visiting the sick. And when He had commended them that had done right, He shows how great was originally His bond of love towards them. For, “Come,” saith He, “ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” To how many good things is this same equivalent, to be blessed, and blessed of the Father? And wherefore were they counted worthy of such great honors? What is the cause? “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink;” and what follows.

Of what honor, of what blessedness are these words? And He said not, Take, but, “Inherit,” as one’s own, as your Father’s, as yours, as due to you from the first. For, before you were, saith He, these things had been prepared, and made ready for you, forasmuch as I knew you would be such as you are.

And in return for what do they receive such things? For the covering of a roof, for a garment, for bread, for cold water, for visiting, for going into the prison. For indeed in every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that. For surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not for this only, but the one to be loosed, the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But He, being gracious, requires only what is within our power, or rather even less than what is within our power, leaving to us to exert our generosity in doing more.

But to the others He saith, “Depart from me, ye cursed,” (no longer of the Father; for not He laid the curse upon them, but their own works), “into the everlasting fire, prepared,” not for you, but “for the devil and his angels.” For concerning the kingdom indeed, when He had said, “Come, inherit the kingdom,” He added, “prepared for you before the foundation of the world;” but concerning the fire, no longer so, but, “prepared for the devil.” I, saith He, prepared the kingdom for you, but the fire no more for you, but “for the devil and his angels;” but since ye cast yourselves therein, impute it to yourselves. And not in this way only, but by what follows also, like as though He were excusing Himself to them, He sets forth the causes.

“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat.” For though He that came to thee had been thine enemy, were not His sufferings enough to have overcome and subdued even the merciless? hunger, and cold, and bonds, and nakedness, and sickness, and to wander everywhere houseless? These things are sufficient even to destroy enmity. But ye did not these things even to a friend, being at once friend, and benefactor, and Lord. Though it be a dog we see hungry, often we are overcome; and though we behold a wild beast, we are subdued; but seeing the Lord, art thou not subdued? And wherein are these things worthy of defense?

For if it were this only, were it not sufficient for a recompense? (I speak not of hearing such a voice, in the presence of the world, from Him that sitteth on the Father’s throne, and of obtaining the kingdom), but were not the very doing it sufficient for a reward? But now even in the presence of the world, and at the appearing of that unspeakable glory, He proclaims and crowns thee, and acknowledges thee as His sustainer and host, and is not ashamed of saying such things, that He may make the crown brighter for thee.

So for this cause, while the one are punished justly, the others are crowned by grace. For though they had done ten thousand 458 things, the munificence were of grace, that in return for services so small and cheap, such a heaven, and a kingdom, and so great honor, should be given them.

“And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings,28872887   [R.V., “words;” the word “all” is omitted.—R.] He said unto His disciples, Ye know that after two days is the passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed to be crucified.”28882888   Matt. xxvi. 1, 2. In good season again doth He speak of the passion, when He had reminded them of the kingdom, and of the recompense there, and of the deathless punishment; as though He had said, Why are ye afraid at the dangers that are for a season, when such good things await you?

3. But mark thou, I pray thee, how He hath in all His first sayings after a new manner worked up and thrown into the shade what was most painful to them. For He said not, Ye know that after two days I am betrayed, but, “Ye know that after two days is the passover,”28892889   [A clause is omitted here: “and then He brings in ‘is delivered up to be crucified.’” But some editors read: “‘And the Son of Man is delivered up,’ and then He brings in ‘to be crucified.’” For the latter reading there is no good authority.—R.]to show that what is done is a mystery and that a feast and celebration is being kept for the salvation of the world, and that with foreknowledge He suffered all. So then, as though this were sufficient consolation for them, He did not even say anything to them now about a resurrection; for it was superfluous, after having discoursed so much about it, to speak of it again. And moreover, as I said, He shows that even His very passion is a deliverance from countless evils, having by the passover reminded them of the ancient benefits in Egypt.

“Then were assembled together the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill Him. But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.”28902890   Matt. xxvi. 3–5. [This passage contains some peculiar variations: in verse 3, “in the palace” (court) is substituted for “unto;” in verse 4, the more probable reading should be rendered, “were consulting” (or taking counsel together). Verse 5 shows no variations but should be rendered as in the R.V., “Not during the feast, lest a tumult arise among the people.” The comments show that Chrysostom understood the verse as referring to the entire festival.—R.]

Seest thou the unspeakable corruption of the Jewish state? Attempting unlawful acts, they come to the high priest, desiring to obtain their authority from that quarter, whence they ought to have found hindrance.

And how many high priests were there? For the law wills there should be one, but then there were many. Whence it is manifest, that the Jewish constitution had begun to dissolve. For Moses, as I said, commanded there should be one, and that when he was dead there should be another, and by the life of this person He measured the banishment of them that had involuntarily committed manslaughter. How then were there at that time many high priests? They were afterwards made for a year. And this the evangelist declared, when he was speaking of Zacharias, saying, that he was of the course of Abia. Those therefore doth he here call high priests, who had been high priests.

What did they consult together? That they might seize Him secretly, or that they might put Him to death? Both; for they feared the people. Wherefore also they waited for the feast to be past; for “they said, Not on the feast day.”28912891   [“Not during the feast.”] For the devil, lest he should make the passion conspicuous, was not willing it should take place at the passover; but they, lest there should be an uproar. Mark them then ever fearing, not the ills from God, neither lest any greater pollution should arise to them from the season, but in every case the ills from men.

Yet for all this, boiling with anger, they changed their purpose again. For though they had said, “Not at the feast time;” when they found the traitor, they waited not for the time, but slew Him at the feast. But why did they take Him then? They were boiling with rage, as I said; and they expected then to find Him, and all things they did as blinded. For though He Himself made the greatest use of their wickedness for His own dispensation, they were not surely for this guiltless, but deserving of inflictions without number for their temper of mind. At least when all should be set free, even the guilty, then these men slew the guiltless, Him that had conferred on them countless benefits, and who for a time had neglected the Gentiles for their sake. But O loving-kindness! them that were thus depraved, them that were thus froward, and28922892   [The words in italics are not sustained by the mss. collated by Field.—R.]full of countless evils, He again saves, and sends the apostles to be slain in their behalf, and by the apostles makes entreaty. “For we are ambassadors for Christ.”28932893   2 Cor. v. 20. [R.V., “on behalf of Christ.”]

Having then such patterns as these, I say not, let us die for our enemies, for we ought to do even this; but since we are too feeble for this, I say for the present, at least let us not look with an evil eye upon our friends, let us not envy our benefactors. I say not for the present, let us do good to them that evil entreat us, for I desire even this; but 459 since you are too gross for this, at least avenge not yourselves. What is our condition, a scene, and acting? Wherefore can it be that ye set yourselves directly against the acts enjoined? It is not for nought that all else hath been written and how many things He did at the very cross sufficient to recall them to Him; but that thou mightest imitate His goodness, that thou mightest emulate His lovingkindness. For indeed He cast them to the ground, and restored the servant’s ear, and discoursed with forbearance; and great miracles did He show forth, when lifted up, turning aside the sunbeams, bursting the rocks, raising the dead, frightening by dreams the wife of him that was judging Him, at the very judgment showing forth all meekness (which was of power not less than miracles to gain them over), forewarning them of countless things in the judgment hall; on the very cross crying aloud, “Father, forgive them their sin.”28942894   Luke xxiii. 34. [Freely cited.] And when buried, how many things did He show forth for their salvation? And having risen again, did he not straightway call the Jews? did He not give them remission of sins? did He not set before them countless blessings? What can be more strange than this? They that crucified Him, and were breathing murder, after they crucified Him, became sons of God.

What can be equal to this tenderness? On hearing these things let us hide our faces, to think that we are so far removed from Him whom we are commanded to imitate. Let us at least see how great the distance, that we may at any rate condemn ourselves, for warring with these, in behalf of whom Christ gave His life, and not being willing to be reconciled to them, whom that He might reconcile He refused not even to be slain; unless this too be some expense, and outlay of money, which ye object in almsgiving.

4. Consider of how many things thou art guilty; and so far from being backward to forgive them that have injured thee, thou wilt even run unto them that have grieved thee, in order that thou mayest have a ground for pardon, that thou mayest find a remedy for thine own evil deeds.

The sons of the Greeks, who look for nothing great, have often shown self-command toward these: and thou who art to depart hence with such hopes, shrinkest, and art slow to act; and that which time effects, this thou endurest not to do before the time for God’s law, but willest this passion to be quenched without reward, rather than for a reward? For neither, if this should have arisen from the time, wilt thou have any advantage, but rather great will be the punishment, because, what time hath effected, this the law of God persuaded thee not to do.

But if thou sayest that thou burnest with the memory of the insult; call to mind if any good hath been done thee by him that hath offended thee, and how many ills thou hast occasioned to others.

Hath he spoken ill of thee, and disgraced thee? Consider also that thou hast spoken thus of others. How then wilt thou obtain pardon, which thou bestowest not on others? But hast thou spoken ill of no one? But thou hast heard men so speaking, and allowed it. Neither is this guiltless.

Wilt thou learn how good a thing it is not to remember injuries, and how this more than anything pleases God? Them that exult over persons, justly chastised by Himself, He punishes. And yet they are justly chastised; but thou shouldest not rejoice over them. So the prophet having brought many accusations, added this also, saying, “They felt nothing for the affliction of Joseph;”28952895   Amos vi. 6.and again, “She that inhabiteth Enan, came not forth to lament for the place near her.”28962896   Micah i. 11, LXX. And yet both Joseph (that is, the tribes that were sprung from him), and the neighbors of these others, were punished according to the purpose of God; nevertheless, it is His will that we sympathize even with these. For if we, being evil, when we are punishing a servant, if we should see one of his fellow slaves laughing, we at the same time are provoked the more, and turn our anger against him; much more will God punish them that exult over those whom He chastises. But if upon them that are chastised by God it is not right to trample, but to grieve with them, much more with them that have sinned against us. For this is love’s sign; love God prefers to all things. For as in the royal purple, those are precious amongst the flowers and dyes, which make up this robing; so here too, these virtues are the precious ones, which preserve love. But nothing maintains love so much as the not remembering them that have sinned against us.

“Why? did not God guard the other side also? Why? did He not drive him that hath done the wrong to him that is wronged? Doth He not send him from the altar to the other, and so after the reconciliation invite him to the table?” But do not therefore wait for the other to come, since thus thou hast lost all. For to this intent most especially doth He appoint unto thee an unspeaka 460 ble reward, that thou mayest prevent the other, since, if thou art reconciled by his entreaties, the amity is no longer the result of the divine command, but of the other party’s diligence. Wherefore also thou goest away uncrowned, while he receives the rewards.

What sayest thou? Hast thou an enemy, and art thou not ashamed? Why is not the devil enough for us, that we bring upon ourselves those of our own race also? Would that not even he had been minded to war against us; would that not even he were a devil!

Knowest thou not how great the pleasure after reconciliation? For what, though in our enmity it appear not great? For that it is sweeter to love him that doth us wrong than to hate him, after the enmity is done away thou shalt be able to learn full well.

5. Why then do we imitate the mad, devouring one another, warring against our own flesh?

Hear even under the Old Testament, how great regard there was for this, “The ways of revengeful men are unto death.28972897   Prov. xii. 28, LXX. One man keepeth anger against another, and doth he seek healing of God?”28982898   Ecclus. xxviii. 3.“And yet He allowed, ‘eye for eye,’ and ‘tooth for tooth,’ how then doth He find fault?” Because He allowed even those things, not that we should do them one to another, but that through the fear of suffering, we might abstain from the commission of crime. And besides, those acts are the fruits of a short-lived anger, but to remember injuries is the part of a soul that practises itself in evil.

But hast thou suffered evil? yet nothing so great, as thou wilt do to thyself by remembering injuries. And besides, it is not so much as possible for a good man to suffer any evil. For suppose there to be any man, having both children and a wife, and let him practise virtue, and let him have moreover many occasions of being injured, as well abundance of possessions, as sovereign power, and many friends, and let him enjoy honor; only let him practise virtue, for this must be added, and let us in supposition lay plagues upon him. And let some wicked man come unto him, and involve him in losses. What then is that to him who accounts money nothing? Let him kill his children. What this to him, who learns to be wise touching the resurrection? Let him slay his wife; what is this to him who is instructed not to sorrow for them that are fallen asleep? let him cast him into dishonor. What this to him who accounts the things present, the flower of the grass? If thou wilt, let him also torture his body, and cast him into prison, what this to him that hath learnt, “Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed;”28992899   2 Cor. iv. 16. [R.V., “our outward man is decaying.”]and that “tribulation worketh approval?”29002900   Rom. v. 4. [R.V., “probation;” δοκιμν cannot be accurately rendered by any single English term.—R.]

Now I had undertaken that he should receive no harm; but the account as it proceeded hath shown that he is even advantaged, being renewed, and becoming approved.

Let us not then vex ourselves with others, injuring ourselves, and rendering our soul weak. For the vexation is not so much from our neighbors’ wickedness, as from our weakness. Because of this, should any one insult us, we weep, and frown; should any one rob us, we suffer the same like those little children, which the more clever of their companions provoke for nothing, grieving them for small causes; but nevertheless these too, if they should see them vexed, continue to tease them, but if laughing, they on the contrary leave off. But we are more foolish even than these, lamenting for these things, about which we ought to laugh.

Wherefore I entreat, let us let go this childish mind, and lay hold of Heaven. For indeed, Christ willeth us to be men, perfect men. On this wise did Paul also command, “Brethren, be not children in understanding,” he saith, “howbeit in malice be ye children.”29012901   1 Cor. xiv. 20. [R.V., “be not children in mind; howbeit in malice be ye babes.”]

Let us therefore be children29022902   [“babes.”]in malice, and flee wickedness, and lay hold on virtue, that we may attain also to the good things eternal, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, world without end. Amen.


« Prev Matthew XXV. 1-30. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



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