Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.30 Homily XXXIX-XL

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Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.30 Homily XXXIX-XL



TOPIC: Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 110.01.30 Homily XXXIX-XL

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Homily XXXIX.

Matthew Chapter 12, Verse 1

"At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His disciples were a hungered, and began to pluck thehyperlink ears of corn, and to eat." But Luke saith, "On a double Sabbath."hyperlink Now what is a double Sabbath? When the cessation from toil is twofold, both that of the regular Sabbath, and that of another feast coming upon it. For they call every cessation from toil, a sabbath.

But why could He have led them away from it, who foreknew all, unless it had been His will that the Sabbath should be broken? It was His will indeed, but not simply so; wherefore He never breaks it without a cause, but giving reasonable excuses: that He might at once bring the law to an end, and not startle them. But there are occasions on which He even repeals it directly, and not with circumstance: as when He anoints with the clay the eyes of the blind man;hyperlink as when He saith, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."hyperlink And He doth so, by this to glorify His own Father, by the other to soothe the infirmity of the Jews. At which last He is laboring here, putting forward as a plea the necessity of nature; although in the case of acknowledged sins, that could not of course ever be an excuse. For neither may the murderer make his anger a plea, nor the adulterer allege his lust, no, nor any other excuse; but here, by mentioning their hunger, He freed them from all blame.

But do thou, I pray thee, admire the disciples, how entirely they control themselves, and make no account of the things of the body, but esteem the table of the flesh a secondary thing, and though they have to struggle with continual hunger, do not even so withdraw themselves. For except hunger had sorely constrained them, they would not have done so much as this.

What then do the Pharisees? "When they saw it," it is said, "they said unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the Sabbath day."hyperlink

Now here indeed with no great vehemence yet surely that would have been consistent in them),-nevertheless they are not vehemently provoked, but simply find fault. But when He stretched out the withered hand and healed it,hyperlink then they were so infuriated, as even to consult together about slaying and destroying Him. For where nothing great and noble is done, they are calm; but where they see any made whole, they are savage, and fret themselves, and none so intolerable as they are: such enemies are they of the salvation of men.

How then doth Jesus defend His disciples? "Have ye not read," saith He, "what David did in the temple,hyperlink when he was an hungered, himself and all they that were with him? how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the show-bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?"hyperlink

Thus, whereas in pleading for His disciples, He brings forward David; for Himself, it is the Father.hyperlink

And observe His reproving manner: "Have ye not read what David did?" For great indeed was that prophet's glory, so that Peter also afterwards pleading with the Jews, spake on this wise, "Let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried."hyperlink

But wherefore doth He not call him by the name of his rank, either on this occasion or afterwards? Perhaps because He derived His race from him.

Now had they been a candid sort of persons, He would have turned His discourse to the disciples' suffering from hunger; but abominable as they were and inhuman, He rather rehearses unto them a history.

But Mark saith, "In the days of Abiathar the High Priest:"hyperlink not stating what was contrary to the history, but implying that he had two names; and adds that "he gave unto him,"hyperlink indicating that herein also David had much to say for himself, since even the very priest suffered him; and not only suffered, but even ministered unto him. For tell me not that David was a prophet, for not even so was it lawful, but the privilege was the priests': wherefore also He added, "but for the priests only." For though he were ten thousand times a prophet, yet was he not a priest; and though he were himself a prophet, yet not so they that were with him; since to them too we know that he gave.

"What then," it might be said, "were they all one with David?" Why talk to me of dignity, where there seems to be a transgression of the law, even though it be the constraint of nature? Yea, and in this way too He hath the more entirely acquitted them of the charges, in that he who is greater is found to have done the same.

"And what is this to the question," one may say; "for it was not surely the Sabbath, that he transgressed?" Thou tellest me of that which is greater, and which especially shows the wisdom of Christ, that letting go the Sabbath, He brings another example greater than the Sabbath. For it is by no means the same, to break in upon a day, and to touch that holy table, which it was not lawful for any man to touch. Since the Sabbath indeed hath been violated, and that often; nay rather it is continually being violated, both by circumcision, and by many other works; and at Jerichohyperlink too one may see the same to have happened; but this happened then only. So that He more than obtains the victory. How then did no man blame David, although there was yet another ground of charge heavier than this, that of the priests' murder, which had its origin from this? But He states it not, as applying himself to the present subject only.

2. Afterwards again He refutes it in another way also. For as at first He brought in David, by the dignity of the person quelling their pride; so when He had stopped their mouths, and had put down their boasting, then He adds also the more appropriate refutation. And of what sort is this? "Know ye not, that in the temple the priests profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?"hyperlink For in that other instance indeed, saith He, the emergency made the relaxation, but here is the relaxation even without emergency. He did not however at once thus refute them but first by way of permission, afterwards as insisting upon his argument. Because it was meet to draw the stronger inference last, although the former argument also had of course its proper weight.

For tell me not, that it is not freeing one's self from blame, to bring forward another who is committing the same sin. For when the doer incurs no blame, the act on which he hath ventured becomes a rule for others to plead.

Nevertheless He was not satisfied with this, but subjoins also what is more decisive, saying that the deed is no sin at all; and this more than anything was the sign of a glorious victory, to point to the law repealing itself, and in two ways doing so, first by the place, then by the Sabbath; or rather even in three ways, in that both the work is twofold. that is done, and with it goes also another thing, its being done by the priests; and what is yet more, that it is not even brought as a charge. "For they," saith He, "are blameless."

Seest thou how many points He hath stated? the place; for He saith, "In the temple;" the persons, for they are "the priests;" the time, for He saith, "the Sabbath;" the act itself, for "they profane;" (He not having said, "they break," but what is more grievous, "they profane;") that they not only escape punishment, but are even free from blame, "for they," saith He, "are blameless."

Do not ye therefore account this, He saith, like the former instance. For that indeed was done both but once, and not by a priest, and was of necessity; wherefore also they were deserving of excuse; but this last is both done every Sabbath, and by priests, and in the temple, and according to the law. And therefore again not by favor, but in a legal way, they are acquitted of the charges. For not at all as blaming them did I so speak, saith He, nor yet as freeing them from blame in the way of indulgence, but according to the principle of justice.

And He seems indeed to be defending them, but it is His disciples whom He is clearing of the alleged faults. For when He saith, "those are blameless," He means, "much more are these."

"But they are not priests." Nay, they are greater than priests. For the Lord of the temple Himself is here: the truth, not the type. Wherefore He said also,

"But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple."hyperlink

Nevertheless, great as the sayings were which they heard, they made no reply, for the salvation of men was not their object.

Then, because to the hearers it would seem harsh, He quickly draws a veil over it, giving His discourse, as before, a lenient turn, yet even so expressing Himself with a rebuke. "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have: mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless."hyperlink

Seest thou how again He inclines His speech to lenity, yet again shows them to be out of the reach of lenity? "For ye would not have condemned," saith He, "the guiltless." Before indeed He inferred the same from what is said of the priests, in the words, "they are guiltless;" but here He states it on His own authority; or rather, this too is out of the law, for He was quoting a prophetic saying.hyperlink

3. After this He mentions another reason likewise; "For the Son of man," saith He, "is Lord of the Sabbath day;"hyperlink speaking it of Himself. But Mark relates Him to have said this of our common nature also; for He said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."hyperlink

Wherefore then was he punished that was gathering the sticks?hyperlink Because if the laws were to be despised even at the beginning, of course they would scarcely be observed afterwards.

For indeed the Sabbath did at the first confer many and great benefits; for instance, it made them gentle towards those of their household, and humane; it taught them God's providence and the creation, as Ezekiel saith;hyperlink it trained them by degrees to abstain from wickedness, and disposed them to regard the things of the Spirit.

For because they could not have borne it,hyperlink if when He was giving the law for the Sabbath, He had said, "Do your good works on the Sabbath, but do not the works which are evil," therefore He restrained them from all alike for, "Ye must do nothing at all," saith He: and not even so were they kept in order. But He Himself, in the very act of giving the law of the Sabbath, did even therein darkly signify that He will have them refrain from the evil works only, by the saying, "Ye must do no work, except what shall be done for your life."hyperlink And in the temple too all went on, and with more diligence and double toil.hyperlink Thus even by the very shadow He was secretly opening unto them the truth.

Did Christ then, it will be said, repeal a thing so highly profitable? Far from it; nay, He greatly enhanced it. For it was time for them to be trained in all things by the higher rules, and it was unnecessary that his hands should be bound, who was freed from wickedness, winged for all good works; or that men should hereby learn that God made all things; or that they should so be made gentle, who are called to imitate God's own love to mankind (for He saith, "Be ye merciful, as your Heavenly Father");hyperlink or that they should make one day a festival, who are commanded to keep a feast all their life long; ("For let us keep the feast," it is said, "not with old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness; but with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth");hyperlink as neither need they stand by an ark and a golden altar, who have the very Lord of all for their inmate, and in all things hold communion with Him; by prayer, and by oblation, and by scriptures, and by almsgiving, and by having Him within them. Lo now, wily is any Sabbath required, by him who is always keeping the feast, whose conversation is in Heaven?

4. Let us keep the feast then continually, and do no evil thing; for this is a feast: and let our spiritual things be made intense, while our earthly things give place: and let us rest a spiritual rest, refraining our hands from covetousness; withdrawing our body from our superfluous and unprofitable toils, from such as the people of the Hebrews did of old endure in Egypt. For there is no difference betwixt us who are gathering gold, and those that were bound in the mire, working at those bricks, and gathering stubble, and being beaten. Yea, for now too the devil bids us make bricks, as Pharaoh did then. For what else is gold, than mire? and what else is silver, than stubble? Like stubble, at least, it kindles the flame of desire; like mire, so doth gold defile him that possesses it.

Wherefore He sent us, not Moses from the wilderness, but His Son from Heaven. If then, after He is come, thou abide in Egypt, thou wilt suffer with the Egyptians: but if leaving that land thou go up with the spiritual Israel, thou shalt see all the miracles.

Yet not even this suffices for salvation. For we must not only be delivered out of Egypt, but we must also enter into the promise. Since the Jews too, as Paul saith, both went through the Red Sea,hyperlink and ate manna, and drank spiritual drink, but nevertheless they all perished.

Lest then the same befall us also, let us not be slow, neither draw back; but when thou hearest wicked spies even now bringing up an evil report against the strait and narrow way, and uttering the same kind of talk as those spies of old, let not the multitude, but Joshua, be our pattern, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh; and do not thou give up, until thou have attained the promise, and entered into the Heavens.

Neither account the journey to be difficult. "For if when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God, much more, being reconciled, shall we be saved."hyperlink "But this way," it will be said, "is strait and narrow." Well, but the former, through which thou hast come, is not strait and narrow only, but even impassable, and full of savage wild beasts. And as there was no passing through the Red Sea, unless that miracle had been wrought, so neither could we, abiding in our former life, have gone up into Heaven, but only by baptism intervening. Now if the impossible hath become possible, much more will the difficult be easy.

"But that," it will be said, "was of grace only." Why, for this reason especially thou hast just cause to take courage. For if, where it was grace alone, He wrought with you; will He not much more be your aid, where ye also show forth laborious works? If He saved thee, doing nothing, will He not much more help thee, working?

Abovehyperlink indeed I was saying, that from the impossibilities thou oughtest to take courage about the difficulties also; but now I add this, that if we are vigilant, these will not be so much as difficult. For mark it: death is trodden under foot, the devil hath fallen, the law of sin is extinguished, the grace of the Spirit is given, life is contracted into a small space, the heavy burdens are abridged.

And to convince thee hereof by the actual results, see how many have overshot the injunctions of Christ; and art thou afraid of that which is just their measure? What plea then wilt thou have, when others are leaping beyond the bounds, and thou thyself too slothful for what is enacted?

Thus, thee we admonish to give alms of such things as thou hast, but another hath even stripped himself of all his possessions: thee we require to live chastely with thy wife, but another hath not so much as entered into marriage: and thee we entreat not to be envious, but another we find giving up even his own life for charity: thee again we entreat to be lenient in judgments, and not severe to them that sin, but another, even when smitten, hath turned the other cheek also.

What then shall we say, I pray thee? What excuse shall we make, not doing even these things, when others go so far beyond us? And they would not have gone beyond us, had not the thing been very easy. For which pines away, he who envies other men's blessings, or he who takes pleasure with them, and rejoices? Which eyes all things with suspicion and continual trembling, the chaste man, or the adulterer? Which is cheered by good hopes, he that spoils by violence, or he that shows mercy, and imparts of his own to the needy?

Let us then bear in mind these things, and not be torpid in our career for virtue's sake; but having stripped ourselves with all readiness for these glorious wrestlings, let us labor for a little while, that we may win the perpetual and imperishable crowns; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.



Footnotes



1 [With our best Mss. authorities, the article is omitted in the Homily. Comp. R. V., in loco.-R.]

2 deuteroprw/tw, Luke vi. 1,. [On the textual difficulty, see Tischendorf (viii.) and Westcott and Hort. The former retains it, giving the patristic comments upon it. The latter put it in the margin, regarding it as spurious.-R.]

3 John ix. 6, 14.

4 John v. 17. [R. V., "even until now," etc.]

5 Matt. xii. 2.

6 Matt. xii. 10, 14.

7 [e0n to| e9erw|, is inserted here (not in Homily XL.) by Chrysotom, but does not occur in any of our Mss. of the New Testament.

8 Matt. xii. 3, 4.

9 John v. 17.

10 Acts ii. 29.

11 Mark ii. 26. [The Homily readstou= a0rxiere/wj, which is to be thus rendered. The R. V. follows the best Mss. in rejecting tou=, rendering "when Abiathar was high priest ;" but gives the other reading in the margin.-R.]page 256

12 Abimelech, 1 Sam. xxi. 6.

13 Josh. vi. 15.

14 Matt. xii. 5.

15 As being done, in the holy place ; 2, on the holy day.

16 Matt. xii. 6. [R. V., "that one greater (Greek, a greater thing) than the temple is here."]

17 R. V. "desire".]

18 Matt. xii. 7.

19 Hosea vi. 6.

20 Matt. xii. 8.

21 Mark ii. 27.

22 Numb. xv. 32-36.

23 Ezek. xx. 12.

24 The meaning seems to be, it would have been too hard a trial of their religious discretion.

25 Exod. xii. i6, LXX.

26 Numb. xxviii. 9, 10.

27 Luke vi. 36.

28 1 Cor. v. 8.

29 1 Cor. x. 1, &c.



Homily XL.

Matthew Chapter 12, Verse 9 And Matthew Chapter 12, Verse 10

"And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: and, behold, a man which had his hand withered."

Again He heals on a Sabbath day, vindicating what had been done by His disciples. And the other evangelists indeed say, that He "set" the man "in the midst," and asked them, "If it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath days."hyperlink

See the tender bowels of the Lord. "He set him in the midst," that by the sight He might subdue them; that overcome by the spectacle they might cast away their wickedness, and out of a kind of shame towards the man, cease from their savage ways. But they, ungentle and inhuman, choose rather to hurt the fame of Christ, than to see this person made whole: in both ways betraying their wickedness; by their warring against Christ, and by their doing so with such contentiousness, as even to treat with despite His mercies to other men.

And while the other evangelists say, He asked the question, this one saith, it was asked of Him. "And they asked Him," so it stands, "saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse Him."hyperlink And it is likely that both took place. For being unholy wretches, and well assured that He would doubtless proceed to the healing, they hastened to take Him beforehand with their question, thinking in this way to hinder Him. And this is why they asked, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days?" not for information, but that "they might accuse Him." Yet surely the work was enough, if it were really their wish to accuse Him; but they desired to find a handle in His words too, preparing for themselves beforehand an abundance of arguments.

But He in His love towards man doth this also: He answers them, teaching His own meekness, and turning it all back upon them; and points out their inhumanity. And He "setteth" the man "in the midst;" not in fear of them, but endeavoring to profit them, and move them to pity.

But when not even so did He prevail with them, then was He grieved, it is said, and wroth with them for the hardness of their heart, and He saith,

"What man is there among you that shall have one sheep, and if this fall into a pit on the Sabbath days, will he not lay hold of it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep?hyperlink Wherefore it is lawful to do wellhyperlink on the Sabbath days."hyperlink

Thus, lest they have ground of obstinacy, and of accusing him again of transgression, He convicts them by this example. And do thou mark, I pray thee, how variously and suitably in each case, He introduces His pleas for the breaking of the sabbath. Thus, first, in the case of the blind man,hyperlink He cloth not so much as defend Himself to them, when He made the clay: and yet then also were they blaming Him; but the manner of the creation was enough to indicate the Lord and Ownerhyperlink of the law. Next, in the case of the paralytic, when he carried his bed, and they were finding fault,hyperlink He defends Himself, now as God, and now as man; as man, when He saith, "If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law should not be broken;" (and He said not "that a man should be profiled"); "are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whir whole on the Sabbath day?"hyperlink As God again, when He saith, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."hyperlink

But when blamed for His disciples, He said, "Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungered, himself and they that were with him, how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the show-bread? He brings forward the priests also.

And here again; "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil?hyperlink Which of you shall have one sheep?" For He knew their love of wealth, that they were all taken up with it, rather than with love of mankind. And indeed the other evangelist. saith,hyperlink that He also looked about upon them when asking these questions, that by His very eye He might win them over; but not even so did they become better.

And yet here He speaks only; whereas elsewhere in many cases He heals by laying on of hands also. But nevertheless none of these things made them meek; rather, while the man was healed, they by his health became worse.

For His desire indeed was to cure them before him, and He tried innumerable ways of healing, both by what He did in their presence, and by what He said: but since their malady after all was incurable, He proceeded to the work. "Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth, and it was restored whole, like as the other."hyperlink

2. What then did they? They go forth, it is said, and take counsel together to slay Him. For "the Pharisees," saith the Scripture, "went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him."hyperlink They had received no injury, yet they went about to slay Him. So great an evil is envy. For not against strangers only, but even against our own, is it ever warring. And Mark saith, they took this counsel with the Herodians.hyperlink

What then doth the gentle and meek One? He withdrew, on being aware of it. "But when Jesus knew their devices,hyperlink He withdrew Himself," it is said, "from them"hyperlink Where now are they who say, miracles ought to be done? Nay, by these things He signified, that the uncandid soul is not even thereby persuaded; and He made it plain that His disciples too were blamed by them without cause. This however we should observe, that they grow fierce especially at the benefits done to their neighbors; and when they see any one delivered either from disease or from wickedness, then is the time for them to find fault, and become wild beasts. Thus did they calumniate Him, both when He was about to save the harlot, and when He was eating with publicans, and now again, when they saw the hand restored.

But do thou observe, I pray thee, how He neither desists from His tender care over the infirm, and yet allays their envy. "And great multitudeshyperlink followed Him, and He healed them all; and He charged them that were healed, that they should make Him known to no man."hyperlink Because, while the multitudes everywhere both admire and follow Him, they desist not from their wickedness.

Then, lest thou shouldest be confounded at what is going on, and at their strange frenzy, He introduces the prophet also, foretelling all this. For so great was the accuracy of the prophets, that they omit not even these things, but foretell His very journeyings, and changes of place, and the intent with which He acted therein; that thou mightest learn, how they spake all by the Spirit. For if the secrets of men cannot by any art be known, much more were it impossible to learn Christ's purpose, except the Spirit revealed it.hyperlink

What then saith the prophet? Nay, it is subjoined: "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the Prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive nor cry,hyperlink neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the Gentiles trust."hyperlink

The prophet celebrates His meekness, and His unspeakable power, and opens to the Gentiles "a great door and effectual;" he foretells also the ills that are to overtake the Jews, and signifies His unanimity with the Father. For "behold," saith He, "my servant, whom I have chosen, my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased." Now if He chose Him, not as an adversary doth Christ set aside the law, nor as being an enemy of the lawgiver, but as having the same mind with Him, and the same objects.

Then proclaiming His meekness, he saith, "He shall not strive nor cry." For His desire indeed was to heal in their presence; but since they thrust Him away, not even against this did He contend.

And intimating both His might, and their weakness, he saith, "A bruised reed shall He not break." For indeed it was easy to break them all to pieces like a reed, and not a reed merely, but one already bruised.

"And smoking flax shall He not quench." Here he sets forth both their anger that is kindled, and His might that is able to put down their anger, and to quench it with all ease; whereby His great mildness is signified.

What then? Shall these things always be? And will He endure them perpetually, forming such frantic plots against Him? Far from it; but when He hath performed His part, then shall He execute the other purposes also. For this He declared by saying "Till He send forth judgment unto victory: and in His name shall the Gentiles trust." As Paul likewise saith, "Having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled."hyperlink

But what is, "when He sends forth judgment unto victory?" When He hath fulfilled all His own part, then, we are told, He will bring down upon them His vengeance also, and that a perfect vengeance. Then shall they suffer His terrors, when His trophy is gloriously set up, and the ordinances that proceed from Him have prevailed, and He hath left them no plea of contradiction, however shameless. For He is wont to call righteousness, "judgment."

But not to this will His dispensation be confined, to the punishment of unbelievers only, but He will also win to Himself the whole world. Wherefore He added, "And in His name shall the Gentiles trust."

Then, to inform thee that this too is according to the purpose of the Father, in the beginning the prophet had assured us of this likewise, together with what had gone before; saying, "My well-beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased." For of the well-beloved it is quite evident that He did these things also according to the mind of the beloved.hyperlink

3. "Then they brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb, and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw."hyperlink

O wickedness of the evil spirit! he had barred up both entrances, whereby that person should have believed, as well sight as hearing; nevertheless, both did Christ open.

"And all the people were amazed, saying, Is not this the Son of David?hyperlink But the Pharisees said, This fellow doths not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils."hyperlink

And yet what great thing had been said? Nevertheless, not even this did they endure: to such a degree, as I have already remarked, are they ever stung by the good works done to their neighbors, and nothing grieves them so much as the salvation of men. And yet He had actually retired, and had given room for their passion to subside; but the evil was again rekindled, because a benefit was again conferred; and the evil spirit was not so indignant as they. For he indeed departed from the body, and gave place and fled away, uttering no sound; but these were endeavoring now to slay, now to defame Him. That is, their first aim not succeeding, they would fain hurt His good name.

Such a thing is envy, than which no worse evil can exist. For the adulterer indeed enjoys some pleasure, such as it is, and in a short time accomplishes his proper sin; but the envious man punishes himself, and takes vengeance upon himself more than on the person whom he envies, and never ceases from his sin, but is continually engaged in the commission thereof. For as a sow in mire, and evil spirits in our hurt, so also doth he delight in his neighbor's ills; and if anything painful take place, then is he refreshed, and takes breath; accounting the calamities of others his own joys, and the blessings of others his own ills; and he considers not what pleasure may accrue to himself, but what pain to his neighbor. These men therefore were it not meet to stone and beat to death, like mad dogs, like destroying demons, like the very furies?

For as beetles feed on dung, so do these men on the calamities of others, being a sort of common foes and enemies of our nature. And whereas the rest of mankind pity even a brute when it is killed, dost thou, on seeing a man receive benefits, become like a wild beast, tremble, and turn pale? Why, what can be worse than this madness? Therefore, you see, whoremongers and publicans were able to enter into the kingdom, but the envious, being within it, went out: For "the children of the kingdom," it is said, "shall be cast out."hyperlink And the former, once freed from their present wickedness, attained to things which they never looked for, while these latter lost even the good things which they had; and very reasonably. For this turns a man into a devil, this renders one a savage demon. Thus did the first murder arise; thus was nature forgotten; thus the earth defiled; thus afterwards did it open its mouth, to receive yet living, and utterly destroy, Dathan, and Korah, and Abiram, and all that multitude.hyperlink

4. But to declaim against envy, one may say, is easy; but we ought to consider also how men are to be freed from the disease. How then are we to be rid of this wickedness? If we bear in mind, that as he who hath committed fornication cannot lawfully enter the church, so neither he that envies; nay, and much less the latter than the former. For as things are, it is accounted even an indifferent thing; wherefore also it is little thought of; but if its real badness be made evident, we should easily refrain from it.

Weep then, and groan; lament, and entreat God. Learn to feel and to repent for it, as for a grievous sin. And if thou be of this mind, thou wilt quickly be rid of the disease.

And who knows not, one may say, that envy is an evil thing? No one indeed is ignorant of it: yet they have not the same estimation of this passion as of adultery and fornication. When, at least, did any one condemn himself bitterly for having envied? when did he entreat God concerning this pest, that He would be merciful to him? No man at any time: but if he shall fast and give a little money to a poor man, though he be envious to the thousandth degree, he counts himself to have done nothing horrid, held as he is in subjection by the most accursed passion of all. Whence, for example, did Cain become such as he was? Whence Esau? Whence the children of Laban? Whence the sons of Jacob? Whence Korah Dathan, and Abiram, with their company? Whence Miriam? Whence Aaron? Whence the devil himself?

Herewith consider this also; that thou injurest not him whom thou enviest, but into thyself thou art thrusting the sword. For wherein did Cain injure Abel? Did he not even against his own will send him the more quickly into the kingdom? but himself he pierced through with innumerable evils. Wherein did Esau harm Jacob? Did not Jacob grow wealthy, and enjoy unnumbered blessings; while he himself both became an outcast from his father's house, and wandered in a strange land, after that plot of his?hyperlink And wherein did Jacob's sons again make Joseph the worse, and this, though they proceeded even unto blood? had not they to endure famine, and encounter peril to the utmost, whereas he became king of all Egypt? For the more thou enviest, the more dost thou become a procurer of greater blessing to the object of thine envy. For there is a God who beholds these things; and when He sees him injured, that doeth no injury, him He exalts the more, and so makes him glorious, but thee He punishes.

For if them that exult over their enemies, He suffer not to go unpunished ("For rejoice not," it is said, "when thine enemies fall, lest at any time the Lord see it, and it displease Him"hyperlink ); much more such as envy those who have done no wrong.

Let us then extirpate the many-headed wild beast. For in truth many are the kinds of envy. Thus, if he that loves one that is a friend to him hath no more than the publican,hyperlink where shall he stand who hates him that doeth him no wrong? and how shall he escape hell,hyperlink becoming worse than the heathens? Wherefore also I do exceedingly grieve, that we who are commanded to copy the angels, or rather the Lord of the angels, emulate the devil. For indeed there is much envy, even in the church; and more among us, than among those under authority. Wherefore we must even discourse unto ourselves.

5. Tell me then, why dost thou envy thy neighbor? Because thou seest him reaping honor, and words of good report? Then dost thou not bear in mind how much evil honors bring on the unguarded? lifting them up to pride, to vainglory, to arrogance, to contemptuousness; making them more careless? and besides these evils, they wither also lightly away. For the most grievous thing is this, that the evils arising therefrom abide immortal, but the pleasure at the moment of its appearing, is flown away. For these things then dost thou envy? tell me.

"But he hath great influence with the Ruler, and leads and drives all things which way he will, and inflicts pain on them that offend him, and benefits his flatterers, and hath much power." These are the sayings of secular persons, and of men that are riveted to the earth. For the spiritual man nothing shall be able to hurt.

For what serious harm shall he do to him? vote him out of his office? And what of that? For if it be justly done, he is even profited; for nothing so provokes God, as for one to hold the priest's office unworthily. But if unjustly, the blame again falls on the other, not on him; for he who hath suffered anything unjustly, and borne it nobly, obtains in this way the greater confidence towards God.

Let us not then aim at this, how we may be in places of power, and honor, and authority, but that we may live in virtue and self denial. For indeed places of authority persuade men to do many things which are not approved of God; and great vigor of soul is needed, in order to use authority aright. For as he that is deprived thereof, practises self restraint, whether with or against his will, so he that enjoys it is in some such condition, as if any one living with a graceful and beautiful damsel were to receive rules never to look upon her unchastely. For authority is that kind of thing. Wherefore many, even against their will, hath it induced to show insolence; it awakens wrath, and removes the bridle from the tongue, and tears off the door of the lips; fanning the soul as with a wind, and sinking the bark in the lowest depth of evils. Him then who is in so great danger dost thou admire, and sayest thou he is to be envied? Nay, how great madness is here! Consider, at any rate (besides what we have mentioned), how many enemies and accusers, and how many flatterers this person hath besieging him. Are these then, I pray thee, reasons for calling a man happy? Nay, who can say so?

"But the people," you say, "hold high account of him." And what is this? For the people surely is not God, to whom he is to render account: so that in naming the people, thou art speaking of nothing else than of other breakers, and rocks, and shoals, and sunken ridges. For to be in favor with the people, the more it makes a man illustrious, the greater the dangers, the cares, the despondencies it brings with it. For such an one has no power at all to take breath or stand still, having so severe a master. And why say I, "stand still and take breath"? Though such an one have never so many good works, hardly doth he enter into the kingdom. For nothing is so wont to overthrowhyperlink men, as the honor which comes of the multitude, making them cowardly, ignoble, flatterers, hypocrites.

Why, for instance, did the Pharisees say that Christ was possessed? Was it not because they were greedy of the honor of the multitude?

And whence did the multitude pass the right judgment on Him? Was it not because this disease had no hold on them? For nothing, nothing so much tends to make men lawless and foolish, as gaping after the honor of the multitude. Nothing makes them glorious and immoveable, like despising the same.

Wherefore also great vigor of soul is needed for him who is to hold out against such an impulse, and so violent a blast. For as when things are prosperous, he prefers himself to all, so when he undergoes the contrary, he would fain bury himself alive: and this is to him both hell, and the kingdom, when he hath come to be overwhelmed by this passion.

Is all this then, I pray thee, matter of envyings, and not rather of lamentations and tears? Every one surely can see. But thou doest the same, in envying one in that kind of credit, as if a person, seeing another bound and scourged and torn by innumerable wild beasts, were to envy him his wounds and stripes. For in fact, as many men as the multitude comprises, so many bonds also, so many tyrants hath he: and, what is yet more grievous, each of these hath a different mind: and they all judge whatever comes into their heads concerning him that is a slave to them, without examining into anything; but whatever is the decision of this or that person, this they also confirm.

What manner of waves then, what tempest so grievous as this? Yea, such a one is both puffed up in a moment by the pleasure, and is under water again easily, being ever in fluctuation, in tranquillity never. Thus, before the time of the assembly, and of the contests in speaking, he is possessed with anxiety and fear; but after the assembly he is either dead with despondency, or rejoices on the contrary without measure; a worse thing than sorrow. For that pleasure is not a less evil than sorrow is plain from the effect it has on the soul; how light it makes it, and unsteady, and fluttering.

And this one may see even from those of former times. When, for instance, was David to be admired; when he rejoiced, or when he was in anguish? When, the people of the Jews? groaning and calling upon God, or exulting in the wilderness, and worshipping the calf? Wherefore Solomon too, who best of all men knew what pleasure is, saith, "It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of laughter."hyperlink Wherefore Christ also blesses the one, saying, "Blessed are they that mourn,"hyperlink but the other sort He bewails, saying, "Woe unto you that laugh, for ye shall weep."hyperlink And very fitly. For in delight the soul is more relaxed and effeminate, but in mourning it is braced up, and grows sober, and is delivered from the whole swarm of passions, and becomes higher and stronger.

Knowing then all these things, let us shun the glory that comes from the multitude, and the pleasure that springs therefrom, that we may win the real and everlasting glory; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, forever and ever. Amen.



Footnotes



1 See Mark iii. 3, 4, and Luke vi. 8, 9.

2 Matt. xii. 10.

3 [R. V., "How much, then, is a man of more value than a sheep!"]

4 [R. V. "to do good."]

5 Matt. xii. 3.

6 John ix. 6.

7 [to\n Despo/thn, not two titles, as the English rendering would suggest.-R.]

8 John v. 9, 10.

9 John vii. 23.

10 John v. 17.

11 Matt. xii. 3, 4.

12 [So Mark and Luke, but not Matthew.-R.]

13 Mark iii. 5; Luke vi. 10.

14 Matt. xii. 13.

15 Matt. xii. 14. [R. V., "took counsel," etc.]

16 Mark iii. 6.

17 ["Their devices" is borrowed from verse 25, where the Greek phrase occurs ("their thoughts," A. V.)-R.]

18 Matt. xii. 15.

19 [So Chrysostom, with the received text. Comp. R. V.-R.]

20 Matt. xii. 15, 16. ["To no man," peculiar to Chrysostom.-R.]

21 1Cor. ii. 11.

22 [R. V., "cry aloud."]

23 Mat,. xii. 17-21. see Isa. xlii. 1-4. [ R. V., "hope" for "trust".]

24 2 Cor. x. 6. [R. V., "being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be fulfilled."]

25 o9 a0gaphto\j-tou= filoume/nou. See Isa. v. 1. ["well beloved" answers to the former term, rendered "beloved" above.-R.]

26 Matt. xii. 22. ["Then was brought" (A. V. and R. V.), but the other form occors in the Homily. R. V. omits "both.".-R. ]

27 [R. V., "Is this the Son of David ?"]

28 [R. V., "this man."]

29 Matt. xii. 23, 24.

30 Matt. viii. 12.

31 Numb. xvi.

32 Gen. xxvii. 41.

33 Prov. xxiv. 17, 18.

34 Matt. v. 46.

35 [ge/ennan].

36 e0ktraxhlia/zein.

37 Eccles. vii. 2.