Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.44 Homily LXV-LXVI

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Church Fathers: Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 110.01.44 Homily LXV-LXVI



TOPIC: Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 110.01.44 Homily LXV-LXVI

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Homily LXV.

Matthew Chapter 20, Verse 17-Matthew Chapter 20, Verse 19

"And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the Scribes, and they shall condemn Him to death, and shall deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify Him; and the third day He shall be raised."

He goeth not up at once to Jerusalem when He is come out of Galilee, but having first wrought miracles, and having stopped the mouths of Pharisees, and having discoursed with His disciples of renouncing possessions: for, "if thou wilt be perfect," saith He, "sell that thou hast: "hyperlink and of virginity, "He that is able to receive, let him receive it:"hyperlink and of humility, "For except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven:"hyperlink and of a recompense of the things here, "For whoso hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, shall receive an hundredfold in this world:"hyperlink and of rewards there, "For he shall also inherit," it is said, "eternal life:" then He assails the city next, and being on the point of going up, discourses again of His passion. For since it was likely that they, because they were not willing this should come to pass, would forget it, He is continually putting them in remembrance, exercising their mind by the frequency with which He reminded them, and diminishing their pain.

But He speaks with them "apart," necessarily; for it was not meet that His discourse about these things should be published to the many; neither that it should be spoken plainly, for no advantage arose from this. For if the disciples were confounded at hearing these things, much more the multitude of the people.

What then? was it not told to the people? you may say. It was indeed told to the people also, but not so plainly. For, "Destroy," saith lie, "this Temple, and in three days I will raise it up;"hyperlink and, "This generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas; "hyperlink and again, "Yet a little while am I with you, and ye shall seek me, and shall not find me."hyperlink

But to the disciples not so, but as the other things He spake unto them more plainly, so also spake He this too. And for what purpose, if the multitude understood not the force of His sayings, were they spoken at all? That they might learn after these things, that fore-knowing it, He came to His passion, and willing it; not in ignorance, nor by constraint But to the disciples not for this cause only did He foretell it; but, as I have said, in order that having been exercised by the expectation, they might more easily endure the passion, and that it might not confound them by coming upon them without preparation. So for this cause, while at the beginning He spake of His death only, when they were practised and trained to hear of it, He adds the other circumstances also; as, for instance, that they should deliver Him to the Gentiles, that they should mock and scourge Him; as well on this account, as in order that when they saw the mournful events come to pass, they might expect from this the resurrection also. For He who had not cloaked from them what would give pain, and what seemed to be matter of reproach, would reasonably be believed about good things too.

But mark, I pray thee, how with regard to the time also He orders the thing wisely. For neither at the beginning did He tell them, lest He should disquiet them, neither at the time itself, lest by this again He should confound them; but when they had received sufficient proof of His power, when He had given them promises that were very great concerning life everlasting, then He introduces also what He had to say concerning these things, once and twice and often interweaving it with His miracles and His instructions.

But another evangelist saith, that He brought in the prophets also as witnesses;hyperlink and another again saith, that even they themselves understood not His words, but the saying was hid from them, and that they were amazed as they followed Him.hyperlink

Surely then, one may say, the benefit of the prediction is taken away. For if they knew not what they were hearing, neither could they look for the event, and not looking for it, neither could they be exercised by their expectations.

But I say another thing also more perplexing than this: If they did not know, how were they sorry. For another saith, they were sorry. If therefore they knew it not, how were they sorry? How did Peter say, "Be it far from Thee. this shall not be unto Thee?"hyperlink

What then may we say? That He should die indeed they knew, albeit they knew not clearly the mystery of the Incarnation.hyperlink Neither did they know clearly about the resurrection, neither what He was to achieve; and this was hid from them.

For this cause also they felt pain. For some they had known to have been raised again by other persons, but for any one to have raised up himself again, and in such wise to have raised himself as not to die any more, they had never known.

This then they understood not, though often said; nay nor of this self-same death did they clearly know what it was, and how it should come on Him. Wherefore also they were amazed as they followed Him, but not for this cause only; but to me at least He seems even to amaze them by discoursing of His passion.

2. Yet none of these things made them take courage, and this when they were continually hearing about His resurrection. For together with His death this also especially troubled them, to hear that men should "mock and scourge Him," and the like. For when they considered His miracles, the possessed persons whom He had delivered, the dead whom He had raised, all the other marvellous works which He was doing, and then heard these things, they were amazed, if He who doeth these works is thus to suffer. Therefore they fell even into perplexity, and now believed. now disbelieved, and could not understand His sayings. So far at least were they from understanding clearly what He said, that the sons of Zebedee at the same time came to Him, and spake to Him of precedence. "We desire," it is said, "that one should sit on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left "hyperlink How then doth this evangelist 'say, that their mother came to Him? It is probable both things were done. I mean, that they took their mother with them, with the purpose of making their entreaty stronger, and in this way to prevail with Christ.

For in proof that this is true, as I say, and the request was rather theirs, and that being ashamed they put forward their mother, mark how Christ directs His words to them.

But rather let us learn, first, what do they ask, and with what disposition, and whence they were moved to this? Whence then were they moved to this? They saw themselves honored above the rest, and expected from that they should obtain this request also. But what can it be they ask? Hear another evangelist plainly declaring this. For, "Because He was nigh," it is said, "to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately appear,"hyperlink they asked these things. For they supposed that this was at the doors, and visible, and that having obtained what they asked, they would undergo none of the painful things. For neither for its own sake only did they seek it, but as though they would also escape the hardships.

Wherefore also Christ in the first place leads them off from these thoughts, commanding them to await slaughter and dangers, and the utmost tenors. For, "Are ye able," saith He, "to drink of the cup that I drink of?"hyperlink

But let no man be troubled at the apostles being in such an imperfect state. For not yet was the cross accomplished, not yet the grace of the Spirit given. But if thou wouldest learn their virtue, notice them after these things, and thou wilt see them superior to every passion. For with this object He reveals their deficiencies, that after these things thou mightest know what manner of men they became by grace.

That then they were asking, in fact, for nothing spiritual, neither had a thought of the kingdom above, is manifest from hence. But let us see also, how they come unto Him, and what they say. "We would," it is said, "that whatsoever we shall desire of Thee, Thou shouldest do it for us."hyperlink

And Christ saith to them, "What would ye? "hyperlink not being ignorant, but that He may compel them to answer, and lay open the wound, and so apply the medicine. But they out of shame and confusion of face, because under the influence of a human passion they were come to do this, took Him privately apart from the disciples, and asked Him. For they went before, it is said, so that it might not be observable to them, and so said what they wished. For it was their desire, as I suppose, because they heard, "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, to have the first place of these seats. And that they had an advantage over the others, they knew, but they were afraid of Peter, and say, "Command, that one sit on Thy right hand, one on Thy left;" and they urge Him, saying, "Command."

What then saith He? Showing, that they asked nothing spiritual, neither, if they had known again what they were asking, would they have ventured to ask for so much, He saith, "Ye know not what ye ask," how great, how marvellous, how surpassing even the powers above. After that He adds, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?"hyperlink Seest thou, how He straightway drew them off from their suspicion, by framing His discourse from the contrary topics? For ye, He saith, talk to me of honor and crowns, but I to you of conflicts and labors. For this is not the season for rewards, neither shall that glory of mine appear now, but the present time is one of slaughter, and wars, and dangers.

And see how by the form of His question, He both urges and attracts them. For He said not, "Are ye able to be slain?" "Are ye able to pour forth your blood?" but how? "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then to attract them to it, He saith, "Which I shall drink of," that by their fellowship with Him in it they might be made more ready.

And a baptism again calls He it; showing that great was the cleansing the world was to have from the things that were being done.

"They say unto Him, We are able."hyperlink Out of their forwardness they straightway undertook it, not knowing even this which they were saying, but looking to hear what they had asked.

What then saith He? "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with."hyperlink Great blessings did He foretell to them. His meaning is, ye shall be counted worthy of martyrdom, and shall suffer these things which I suffer; ye shall close your life by a violent death, and in these things ye shall be partakers with me; "But to sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father."

3. Having first elevated their souls, and made them of a higher character, and having rendered them such as sorrow could not subdue, then He reproves their request.

But what can be this present saying? For indeed there are two points that are subjects of inquiry to many: one, if it be prepared for any to sit on His right hand; and then, if the Lord of all hath not power to bestow it on them for whom it is prepared.

What then is the saying? If we solve the former point, then the second also will be clear to the inquirers. What then is this? No one shall sit on His right hand nor on His left. For that throne is inaccessible to all, I do not say to men only, and saints, and apostles, but even to angels, and archangels, and to all the powers that are on high.

At least Paul puts it. as a peculiar privilege of the Only-Begotten, saying, "To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on my right hand?hyperlink And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits;" but unto the Son, 'Thy throne, O God.'"hyperlink

How then saith He, "To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give," as though there are some that should sit there? Not as though there are; far from it; but He makes answer to the thoughts of them who ask the favor, condescending to their understanding. For neither did they know that lofty throne, and His sitting at the right hand of the Father; how should they, when even the things that were much lower than these, and were daily instilled into them, they understood not? but they sought one thing only, to enjoy the first honors, and to stand before the rest, and that no one should stand before them with Him; even as I have already said before, that, since they heard of twelve thrones, in ignorance what the saying could mean, they asked for the first place.

What therefore Christ saith is this: "Ye shall die indeed for me, and shall be slain for the sake of the gospel, and shall be partakers with me, as far as regards the passion: but this is not sufficient to secure you the enjoyment of the first seat, and to cause that ye should occupy the first place. For if any one else should come, together with the martyrdom, possessed of all the other parts of virtue far more fully than you, not because I love you now, and prefer you to the rest, therefore. shall I set aside him that is distinguished by his good works, and give the first honors to you."

But thus indeed He did not say it, so as not to pain them, but darkly He intimates the self-same thing, saying, "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on my right hand and on my left, this is not mine to give, but it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared."

But for whom is it prepared? For them who could become distinguished by their works. Therefore He said not, It is not mine to give, but my Father's, lest any should say that He was too weak, or wanting in vigor for their recompense; but how? It is not mine, but of those for whom it is prepared. And in order that what I say may be more explain, let us work it on an illustration, and let us suppose there was some master of the games, then that many excellent combatants went down to the contest, and that some two of the combatants that were most nearly connected with the master of the games were to come to him and say, "Cause us to be crowned and proclaimed," confiding in their good-will and friendship with him; and that he were to say to them, "This is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared, by their labors, and their toils;" should we indeed condemn him as powerless? By no means, but we should approve him for his justice, and for having no respect of persons. Like then as we should not say that he did not give the crown from want of vigor, but as not wishing to corrupt the law of the games, nor to disturb the order of justice; in like manner now should I say Christ said this, from every motive to compel them, after the grace of God, to set their hopes of salvation and approval on the proof of their own good works.

Therefore He saith, "For whom it is prepared." For what, saith He, if others should appear better than you? What, if they should do greater things? For shall ye, because ye have become my disciples, therefore enjoy the first honors, if ye yourselves should not appear worthy of the choice?

For that He Himself hath power over the whole, is manifest from His having the entire judgment. For to Peter too He speaks thus, "I will give thee the keys of the Heavens."hyperlink And Paul also makes this clear where he saith, "Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me in that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also which have loved His appearing.", But the appearing was of Christ. But that no one will stand before Paul, is surely clear to every one.

And if He hath expressed these things somewhat obscurely, marvel not. For to lead them on by hidden instruction.hyperlink not to be rudely pressing Him without object or cause for the first honors (for from a human passion they felt this), and not wishing to give them pain, by the obscurity He effects both these objects.

"Then were the ten moved with indignation with respect to the two." Then. When.) When He had reproved them. So long as the judgment was Christ's, they were not moved with indignation; but seeing them preferred, they were contented, and held their peace, out of reverence and honor to their Master.

And if they were vexed in mind, yet they dared not utter this. And when they had some feeling of human weakness towards Peter, at the time that He gave the didrachmas, they did not give way to anger, but asked only, "Who then is greatest?" But since here the request was the disciples', they are moved with indignation. And not even here are they straightway moved with indignation, when they asked, but when Christ had reproved them, and had said they should not enjoy the first honors, unless they showed themselves worthy of these.

4. Seest thou how they were all in an imperfect state, when both these were lifting themselves up above the ten, and those envying the two? But, as I said, show me them after these things, and thou wilt see them delivered from all these passions. Hear at least how this same John, he who now came to Him for these things, everywhere gives up the first place to Peter, both in addressing the people, and in working miracles, in the Acts of the Apostles.

And he conceals not Peter's good deeds, but relates both the confession, which he openly made when all were silent,hyperlink and his entering into the tomb,hyperlink and puts the apostle before himself. For, because both continued with Him at His crucifixion, taking away the ground of his own commendation, he saith, "That disciple was known unto the high priest."hyperlink

But James survived not a long time, but from the beginning he was so greatly filled with warmth, and so forsook all the things of men, and mounted up to an height unutterable, as straightway to be slain. Thus, in all respects, they after these things became excellent.hyperlink

But then, "they were moved with indignation." What then saith Christ? "He called them unto Him, and said, The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them."hyperlink For, as they were disturbed and troubled, He soothes them by His call before His word, and by drawing them near Him. For the two having separated themselves from the company of the ten, had stood nearer Him, pleading their own interests. Therefore He brings near Him these also, by this very act, and by exposing and revealing it before the rest, soothing the passion both of the one and of the other.

And not as before, so now also doth He check them. For whereas before He brings little children into the midst, and commands to imitate their simplicity and lowliness; here He reproves them in a sharper way from the contrary side, saying, "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominionhyperlink over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so among you;hyperlink but he that will be great among you, let this man be minister to all; and he that will be first, let him be last of all;"hyperlink showing that such a feeling as this is that of heathens, I mean, to love the first place. For the passion is tyrannical, and is continually hindering even great men; therefore also it needs a severer stripe. Whence He too strikes deeper into them, by comparison with the Gentiles shaming their inflamed soul, and removes the envy of the one and the arrogance of the other, all but saying, "Be not moved with indignation, as insulted. For they harm and disgrace themselves most, who on this wise seek the first places, for they are amongst the last. For matters with us are not like matters without. 'For the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,' but with me the last, even he is first."

"And in proof that I say not these things without cause, by the things which I do and suffer, receive the proof of my sayings. For I have myself done something even more. For being King of the powers above, I was willing to become man, and I submitted to be despised, and despitefully entreated. And not even with these things was I satisfied, but even unto death did I come. Therefore," He saith,

"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."hyperlink "For not even at this did I stop," saith He, "but even my life did I give a ransom; and for whom? For enemies. But thou if thou art abused, it is for thyself, but I for thee."

Be not then afraid, as though thine honor were plucked down. For how much soever thou humblest thyself, thou canst not descend so much as thy Lord. And yet His descent hath become the ascent of all, and hath made His own glory shine forth. For before He was made man, He was known amongst angels only; but after He was made man and was crucified, so far from lessening that glory, He acquired other besides, even that from the knowledge of the world.

Fear not then, as though thine honor were put down, if thou shouldest abase thyself, for in this way is thy glory more exalted, in this way it becomes greater. This is the door of the kingdom. Let us not then go the opposite way, neither let us war against ourselves. For if we desire to appear great, we shall not be great, but even the most dishonored of all.

Seest thou how everywhere He urges them by the opposite things, giving them what they desire? For in the preceding parts also we have shown this in many instances, and in the cases of the covetous, and of the vain-glorious, He did thus. For wherefore, He saith, dost thou give alms before men? That thou mayest enjoy glory? Thou must then not do so, and thou shall surely enjoy it. Wherefore dost thou lay up treasures? That thou mayest be rich? Thou must then not lay up treasures, and thou shalt be rich. Even so here too, wherefore dost thou set thy heart on the first places? That thou mayest be before others? Choose then the last place, and then thou wilt enjoy the first. So that if it be thy will to become great, seek not to become great, and then thou wilt be great. For the other is to be little.

5. Seest thou how He drew them off from the disease, by showing them both from thence failing of their object, and from hence gaining, that they might flee the one, and follow after the other.

And of the Gentiles, too, He for this cause reminded them, that in this way again He might show the thing to be disgraceful and to be abhorred.

For the arrogant is of necessity base, and, on the contrary, the lowly-minded is high. For this is the height that is true and genuine, and exists not in name only, nor in manner of address. And that which is from without is of necessity and fear, but this is like to God's. Such a one, though he be admired by no one, continues high; even as again the other, though he be courted by all, is of all men the basest. And the one is an honor rendered of necessity, whence also it easily passes away; but the other is of principle, whence also it continues steadfast. Since for this we admire the saints also, that being greater than all, they humbled themselves more than all. Wherefore even to this day they continue to be high, and not even death hath brought down that height.

And if ye be minded, let us by reasonings also inquire into this very thing. Any one is said to be high, either when he is so by greatness of stature, or when he hath chanted to be set on a high place, and low in like manner, from the opposite things.

Let us see then who is like this, the boaster, or he that keeps within measure, that thou mayest perceive that nothing is higher than lowliness of mind, and nothing lower than boastfulness.

The boaster then desires to be greater than all, and affirms no one to be equal in worth with him; and how much soever honor he may obtain, he sets his heart on more and claims it, and accounts himseif to have obtained none, and treats men with utter contempt, and yet seeks after the honor that comes from them; than which what can be more unreasonable? For this surely is like an enigma. By those, whom he holds in no esteem, he desires to be glorified.

Seest thou how he who desires to be exalted falls down and is set on the ground? For that he accounts all men to be nothing compared with himself, he himself declares, for this is boasting. Why then dost cast thyself upon him who is nothing? why dost thou seek honor of him? Why dost thou lead about a with thee such great multitudes?

Seest thou one low, and set on a low place. Come then, let us inquire about the high man. This one knows what man is, and that man is a great thing, and that he himself is last of all, and therefore whatever honor he may enjoy, he reckons this great, so that this one is consistent with himself and is high, and shifts not his judgment; for whom he accounts great, the honors that come from them he esteems great also, though they should chance to be small, because he accounts those who bestow them to be great. But the boastful man accounts them that give the honors to be nothing, yet the honors bestowed by them he reckons to be great.

Again, the lowly man is seized by no passion, no anger can much trouble this man, no love of glory, no envy, no jealousy: and what can be higher than the soul that is delivered from these things? But the boastful man is held in subjection by all these things, like any worm crawling in the mire, for jealousy and envy and anger are forever troubling his soul.

Which then is high? He that is superior to his passions, or he that is their slave? He that trembles at them and is afraid of them, or he that is unsubdued, and never taken by them? Which kind of bird should we say flies higher? that which is higher than the hands and the arrows of the hunter, or that which does not even suffer the hunters to need an arrow, from his flying along the ground, and from not being able ever to elevate himself? Is not then the arrogant man like this? for indeed every net readily catches him as crawling on the ground.

6. But if thou wilt, even from that wicked demon prove thou this. For what can be baser than the devil, because he had exalted himseif; what higher than the man who is willing to abase himself? For the former crawls on the ground under our heel (For, "ye tread," He saith,hyperlink "upon serpents and scorpions"), but the latter is set with the angels on high.

But if thou desirest to learn this from the example of haughty men also, consider that barbarian king, that led so great an army, who knew not so much as the things that are manifest to all; as, for instance, that stone was stone, and the images, images; wherefore he was inferior even to these. But the godly and faithful are raised even above the sun; than whom what can be higher, who rise above even the vaults of heaven, and passing beyond angels, stand by the very throne of the king.

And that thou mayest learn in another way their vileness; who will be abased? He who has God for his ally, or he with whom God is at war? It is quite plain that it is he with whom He is at war. Hear then touching either of these what saith the Scripture. "God res steth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."hyperlink

Again, I will ask you another thing also. Which is higher? He who acts as a priest to God and offers sacrifice? or he who is somewhere far removed from confidence towards Him? And what manner of sacrifice doth the lowly man offer? one may say. Hear David saying, "The sacrifice of God is a contrite spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise."hyperlink

Seest thou the purity of this man? Behold also the uncleanness of the other; for "every one that is proud in heart is unclean before God."hyperlink Besides, the one hath God resting upon him, ("For unto whom will I look," saith He, "but to him that is meek and quiet, and trembleth at my words"),hyperlink but the other crawls with the devil, for he that is lifted up with pride shall suffer the devil's punishment. Wherefore Paul also said, "Lest, being lifted up with pride, he should fall into the condemnation of the devil."hyperlink

And the thing opposite to what he wishes, befalls him. For his wish is to be arrogant, that he may be honored; but the most contemned of all is this character. For these most of all are laughing stocks, foes and enemies to all men, the most easy to be subdued by their enemies, the men that easily fall into anger, the unclean before God.

What then can be worse than this, for this is the extremity of evils? And what is sweeter than the lowly, what more blessed, since, they are longed after, and beloved of God? And the glory too that cometh of men, these do most of all enjoy, and all honor them as fathers, embrace them as brothers, receive them as their own members.

Let us then become lowly, that we may be high. For most utterly doth arrogance abase. This abased Pharaoh. For, "I know not," he saith, "the Lord,"hyperlink and he became inferior to flies and frogs, and the locusts, and after that with his very arms and horses was he drowned in the sea. In direct opposition to him, Abraham saith, "I am dust and ashes,"hyperlink and prevailed over countless barbarians, and having fallen into the midst of Egyptians, returned, bearing a trophy more glorious than the former, and, cleaving to this virtue, grew ever more high. Therefore he is celebrated everywhere, therefore he is crowned and proclaimed; but Pharaoh is both earth and ashes, and if there is anything else more vile than these. For nothing cloth God so abhor as arrogance. For this object hath He done all things from the beginning, in order that He might root out this passion. Because of this are we become mortal, and are in sorrows, and wailings. Because of this are we in toil, and sweat, and in labor continual, and mingled with affliction. For indeed out of arrogance did the first man sin, looking for an equality with God. Therefore, not even what things he had, did he continue to possess, but lost even these.

For arrogance is like this, so far from adding to us any improvement of our life, it subtracts even what we have; as, on the contrary, humility, so far from subtracting from what we have, adds to us also what we have not.

This virtue then let us emulate, this let us pursue, that we may both enjoy present honor, and attain unto the glory to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father glory and might, together with the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world without end. Amen.



Footnotes



1 Matt. xix. 21.

2 Matt. xix. 12.

3 Matt. xviii. 3.

4 Matt. xix. 29.

5 John ii. 19.

6 Matt. xii. 39.

7 John vii. 33, 34.

8 Luke xviii. 31.

9 Mark x. 32; comp. Mark ix. 32, and Luke xviii. 34.

10 Matt. xvi. 22.

11 Lit., "economy."

12 Matt. xx. 21. Comp. Mark x. 37.

13 Luke xix. 11.

14 Matt. xx. 22.

15 Mark x. 35.

16 Mark x.36.

17 [The longer reading is here accepted. The R. V. follows a briefer reading here and in verse 23.-R.]

18 Matt. xx. 22.

19 Matt. xx. 23. [The latter clause is omitted in the R. V.]

20 Heb. l. 13.

21 Heb. i. 7.8.

22 Matt. xvi. 19. [This peculiar reading and rendering is commented on in the note on Homily LIV. 3.-R.]

23 2 Tim. iv. 8.

24 oi0konomikw=j.

25 John vi. 68, 69.

26 John xx. 6.

27 John xviii. 15.

28 a!kroi.

29 Matt. xx. 25. ["Ye know that" omitted.]

30 [R. V., "lord it."]

31 [The form of this clause in Greek differs from that of all our New Testament Mss.-R.]

32 Matt. xx. 25-27. [The variations in text, especially in verse 27, are peculiar; compare with the A. V. and R. V.-R.]

33 Matt. xx. 28.

34 Luke x. 19. [Freely cited.]

35 James iv. 6.

36 Ps. Ii. 17. [LXX.]

37 Prov. xvi. 5. [LXX.]

38 Is. lxvi. 2.

39 1 Tim. iii. 6.

40 Exod. v. 2.



Homily LXVI.

Matthew Chapter 20, Verse 29 And Matthew Chapter 20, Verse 30

"And as they departed from Jericho, great multitudes followed Him. And, behold, two blind men sitting by the wayside, when they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David."

See whence He passed unto Jerusalem, and where He abode before this, with regard to which it seems to me especially worthy of inquiry, wherefore He went not away even long before this from thence unto Galilee, but through Samaria. But this we will leave to them that are fond of learning. For if any one were disposed to search the matter out carefully, he will find that John intimates it well, and hath expressed the cause.hyperlink

But let us keep to the things set before us, and let us listen to these blind men, who were better than many that see. For neither having a guide, nor being able to see Him when come near to them, nevertheless they strove to come unto Him, and began to cry with a loud voice, and when rebuked for speaking, they cried the more. For such is the nature of an enduring soul, by the very things that hinder, it is borne up.

But Christ suffered them to be rebuked, that their earnestness might the more appear, and that thou mightest learn that worthily they enjoy the benefits of their cure. Therefore He doth not so much as ask, "Do ye believe?" as He doth with many; for their cry, and their coming unto Him, sufficed to make their faith manifest.

Hence learn, O beloved, that though we be very vile and outcast, but yet approach God with earnestness, even by ourselves we shall be able to effect whatsoever we ask. See, for instance, these men, how, having none of the apostles to plead with them, but rather many to stop their mouths, they were able to pass over the hindrances, and to come unto Jesus Himself. And yet the evangelist bears witness to no confidence of lifehyperlink in them, but earnestness sufficed them instead of all.

These then let us also emulate. Though God defer the gift, though there be many withdrawing us, let us not desist from asking. For in this way most of all shall we win God to us. See at least even here, how not poverty, not blindness, not their being unheard, not their being rebuked by the multitude, not anything else, impeded their exceeding earnestness. Such is the nature of a fervent and toiling soul.

What then saith Christ? "He called them, and said, What will ye that I should do unto you? They say unto Him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened."hyperlink Wherefore cloth He ask them? Lest any one should think that when they wish to receive one thing, He giveth them another thing. For indeed it is usual with Him on every occasion, first to make manifest and discover to all the virtue of those He is healing, and then to apply the cure, for one reason, that He might lead on the others likewise to emulation; and for another, that He might show that they were enjoying the gift worthily. This, for instance, He did with respect to the Canaanitish woman also, this too in the case of the centurion, this again as to her that had the issue of blood, or rather that marvellous woman even anticipated the Lord's inquiry; but not so did He pass her by, but even after the cure makes her manifest. Such earnest care had He on every occasion to proclaim the good deeds of them that come to Him, and to show them to be much greater than they are,hyperlink which He doth here also.

Then, when they said what they wished, He had compassion on them, and touched them. For this alone is the cause of their cure, for which also He came into the world. But nevertheless, although it be mercy and grace, it seeks for the worthy.

But that they were worthy is manifest, both from what they cried out, and from the fact that, when they had received, they did not hasten away, as many do, being ungrateful after the benefits. Nay, they were not like this, but were both persevering before the gift, and after the gift grateful, for "they followed Him."

"And when He drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and was come to Bethphage, unto the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, saying, Go into the village over against you, and ye shall find an ass tied, and a coIt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he sendeth them. And this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Zechariah the prophet, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass."hyperlink

And yet He had often entered Jerusalem before, but never with so much circumstance. What then is the cause? It was the beginning then of the dispensation; and neither was He very well known, nor the time of His passion near; wherefore He mixed with them with less distinction, and more disguising Himseif. For He would not have been held in admiration, had He so appeared, and He would have excited them to greater anger. But when He had both given them sufficient proof of His power, and the cross was at the doors, He makes Himself then more conspicuous, and doeth with greater circumstance all the things that were likely to inflame them. For it was indeed possible for this to have been done at the beginning also; but it was not profitable nor expedient it should be so.

But do thou observe, I pray thee. how many miracles are done, and how many prophecies are fulfilled. He said, "Ye shall find an ass;" He foretold that no man should hinder them, but that all, when they heard, should hold their peace.

But this is no small condemnation of the Jews, if them that were never known to Him, neither had appeared before Him, He persuades to give up their own property, and to say nothing against it, and that by His disciples, while these, being present with Him at the working of His miracles, were not persuaded.

2. And do not account what was done to be a small thing. For who persuaded them, when their own property was taken from them, and that, when they were perhaps poor men and husbandmen, not to forbid it? Why say I not to forbid it? not to ask, or even if they asked, to hold their peace, and give it up. For indeed both things were alike marvellous, as well, if they said nothing, when their beasts were dragged away, or if having spoken, and heard, "The Lord hath need of them," they yielded and withstood not, and this when they see not Him, but His disciples.

By these things He teaches them, that it was in His power to have entirely hindered the Jews also, even against their will, when they were proceeding to attack Him, and to have made them speechless, but He would not.

And another thing again together with these doth He teach the disciples, to give whatever He should ask; and, though he should require them to yield up their very life, to give even this, and not to gainsay. For if even strangers gave up to Him, much more ought they to strip themselves of all things.

And besides what we have said, He was fulfilling also another prophecy, one which was twofold, one part in words, and another in deeds. And that in deeds was, by the sitting on the ass; and that by words, the prediction of Zacharias; because he had said, that the King should sit on an ass. And He, having sat and having fulfilled it, gave to the prophecy another beginning again, by what He was doing typifying beforehand the things to come.

How and in what manner? He proclaimed beforehand the calling of the unclean Gentiles, and that He should rest upon them, and that they should yield to Him and follow Him, and prophecy succeeded to prophecy.

But to me He seemeth not for this object only to sit on the ass, but also as affording us a standard of self-denial. For not only did He fulfill prophecies, nor did He only plant the doctrines of the truth, but by these very things He was correcting our practice for us, everywhere setting us rules of necessary use, and by all means amending our life.

For this cause, I say, even when He was to be born He sought not a splendid house, nor a mother rich and distinguished, but a poor woman, and one that had a carpenter as her betrothed husband; and is born in a shed, and laid in a manger: and choosing His disciples, He chose not orators and wise men, not rich men and nobly born, but poor men, and of poor families, and in every way undistinguished; and providing His table, at one time He sets before Himself barley loaves, and at another at the very moment commands the disciples to buy at the market. And making His couch, He makes it of grass, and putting on raiment, He clothes Himself in what is cheap, and in no respect different from the common sort; and a house He did not so much as possess. And if He had to go from place to place, He did this travelling on foot, and so travelling, as even to grow weary. And sitting, He requires no throne nor pillow, but sits on the ground, sometimes in the mountain, and sometimes by the well, and not merely by the well, but also alone, and talks with a Samaritan woman.

Again, setting measures of sorrow, when He had need to mourn, He weeps moderately, everywhere setting us rules, as I have said, and limits how far one ought to proceed, and not any further. So for this intent now also, since it happens that some are weak and have need of beasts to carry them, in this too He fixes a measure, showing that one ought not to yoke horses or mules to be borne by them, but to use an ass, and not to proceed further, and everywhere to be limited by the want.

But let us look also at the prophecy, that by words, that by acts. What then is the prophecy? "Behold, thy King cometh to thee, meek, and riding on an ass, and a young colt;"hyperlink not driving chariots, like the rest of the kings, not demanding tributes, not thrusting men off, and leading about guards, but displaying His great meekness even hereby.

Ask then the Jew, what King came to Jerusalem borne on an ass? Nay, he could not mention, but this alone.

But He did these things, as I said, signifying beforehand the things to come. For here the church is signified by the colt, and the new people, which was once unclean, but which, after Jesus sat on them, became clean. And see the image preserved throughout. I mean that the disciples loose the asses For by the apostles, both they and we were called; by the apostles were we brought near. But because our acceptance provoked them also to emulation, therefore the ass appears following the colt. For after Christ hath sat on the Gentiles, then shall they also come moving us to emulation.hyperlink And Paul declaring this, said, "That blindnesss in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel shall be saved."hyperlink For that it was a prophecy is evident from what is said. For neither would the prophet have cared to express with such great exactness the age of the ass, unless this had been so.

But not these things only are signified by what is said, but also that the apostles should bring them with ease. For as here, no man gainsaid them so as to keep the asses, so neither with regard to the Gentiles was any one able to prevent them, of those who were before masters of them.

But He doth not sit on the bare colt, but on the apostles' garments. For after they had taken the colt, they then gave up all, even as Paul also said, "I will very gladly spend and be spent for your souls."hyperlink

But mark how tractable the colt, how being unbroken, and having never known the rein, he was not restive, but went on orderly; which thing itself was a prophecy of the future, signifying the submissiveness of the Gentiles, and their sudden conversion to good order. For all things did that word work, which said, "Loose him, and bring him to me:" so that the unmanageable became orderly, and the unclean thenceforth clean.

3. But see the baseness of the Jews. He had wrought so many miracles, and never were they thus amazed at Him; but when they saw a multitude running together, then they marvel. "For all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? But the multitudes said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee."hyperlink And when they thought they were saying something great, even then were their thoughts earthly, and low, and dragging on the ground.hyperlink

But these things He did, not as displaying any pomp, but at once, as I have said, both fulfilling a prophecy, and teaching self-denial, and at the same time also comforting His disciples, who were grieving for His death, and showing them that He suffers all these things willingly. And mark thou, I pray thee, the accuracy of the prophet, how he foretold all things. And some things David, some things Zechariah, had proclaimed beforehand. Let us also do likewise, and let us sing hymns, and give up our garments to them that bear Him. For what should we deserve, when some clothe the ass on which He was set, and others strew the garments even under her feet; but we, seeing him naked, and not being even commanded to strip ourselves, but to spend of what is laid by, not even so are liberal? And when they indeed attend upon Him before and behind, but we, when He cometh unto us, send Him away, and thrust Him off and insult Him.

How sore a punishment do these things deserve, how great vengeance! Thy Lord cometh unto thee in need, and thou art not willing so much as to listen to His entreaty, but thou blamest and rebukest Him, and this, when thou hast heard such words as these. But if in giving one loaf, and a little money, thou art so mean, and haughty, and backward; if thou hadst to empty out all, what wouldest thou become?

Seest thou not those that show their magnificence in the theatre, how much they give away to the harlots? but thou givest not so much as the half, nay often not the smallest part. But the devil is exhorting to give to whom it may chance, procuring us hell, and thou givest; but Christ to the needy, promising a kingdom, and thou, far from giving, dost rather insult them, and thou choosest rather to obey the devil, that thou mightest be punished, than to submit to Christ, and be saved.

And what could be worse than this frenzy? One procures hell, the other a kingdom, and ye leave the latter, and run unto the former. And this ye send away, when He cometh unto you, that when he is far off, ye call unto you. And what you do is the same as if a king bearing a royal robe, and offering a diadem, did not win your choice, but a robber brandishing a sword at you, and threatening death, were to win it.

Considering these things then, beloved, let us discern the truth at length though late, and let us grow sober. For I am now ashamed of speaking of almsgiving, because that having often spoken on this subject, I have effected nothing worth the exhortation. For some increase indeed hath there been, but not so much as I wished. For I see you sowing, but not with a liberal hand. Wherefore I fear too lest ye also "reap sparingly."hyperlink

For in proof that we do sow sparingly, let us inquire, if it seem good, whichhyperlink are more numerous in the city, poor or rich; and which they, who are neitherhyperlink poor nor rich, but have a middle place. As, for instance, a tenth part is of rich, and a tenth of the poor that have nothing at all, and the rest of the middle sort.

Let us distribute then amongst the poor the whole multitude of the city, and ye will see the disgrace how great it is. For the very rich indeed are but few, but those that come next to them are many; again, the poor are much fewer than these. Nevertheless, although there are so many that are able to feed the hungry, many go to sleep in their hunger, not because those that have are not able with ease to succor them, but because of their great barbarity and inhumanity. For if both the wealthy, and those next to them, were to distribute amongst themselves those who are in need of bread and raiment, scarcely would one poor person fall to the share of fifty men or even a hundred. Yet nevertheless, though in such great abundance of persons to assist them, they are wailing every day. And that thou mayest learn the inhumanity of the others, when the church is possessed of a revenue of one of the lowest among the wealthy, and not of the very rich, consider how many widows it succors every day, how many virgins; for indeed the list of them hath already reached unto the number of three thousand. Together with these, she succors them that dwell in the prison, the sick in the caravansera, the healthy, those that are absent from their home, those that are maimed in their bodies, those that wait upon the altar; and with respect to food and raiment, them that casually come every day; and her substance is in no respect diminished. So that if ten men only were thus willing to spend, there would be no poor.

4. And what, it will be said, are our children to inherit? The principal remains, and the income again is become more abundant, the goods being stored up for them in Heaven.

But are ye not willing to do this? At least do it by the half, at least by the third part, at least by the fourth part at least by the tenth. For owing to God's favor, it were possible for our city to nourish the poor of ten cities.

And if ye will, let us make some calculationhyperlink in proof of this; or rather there is no need so much as of reckoning; for of itself the easiness of the thing is discernible. See at least, upon public occasions, how much one house hath often not been backward to spend, and hath not had so much as a little feeling of the expense, which service if each of the rich were willing to perform for the poor, in a brief moment of time he would have seized on Heaven.

What plea then will there be? what shadow of defense, when not even of the things from which we must assuredly be separated, when taken away from hence, not even of these do we impart to the needy with as much liberality as others to those on the stage, and this when we are to reap so many benefits therefrom? For we ought indeed, even though we were always to be here, not even so to be sparing of this good expenditure; but when after a little time, we are to be removed from hence, and dragged away naked from all, what kind of defense shall we have for not even out of our income giving to the hungry and distressed?hyperlink

For neither do I constrain thee to lessen thy possessions, not because I do not wish it, but because I see thee very backward. It is not then this I say, but spend of your fruits, and treasure up nothing from these. It is enough for thee to have the money of thine income pouring in on thee as from a fountain; make the poor sharers with thee, and become a good steward of the things given thee of God.

But I pay tribute, one may say. For this cause then dost thou despise, because in this case no one demands it of thee? And the other, who, should the earth bear, or should it not bear, takes by force, and extorts, thou darest not gainsay; but Him that is so mild, and then only demands, when the earth bears, thou answerest not even to a word? And who will deliver thee from those intolerable punishments? There is no one. For if, because in the other case a very sore punishment will ensue to thee for not giving, therefore thou becomest diligent about the payment, consider here too is one more sore; not to be bound, neither to be cast into prison, but to depart into the eternal fire.

For all reasons then let us pay these tributes first: for great is the facility, and greater the reward; and more abundant the gain, and worse the punishments to us if we are obstinate. For a punishment cometh upon us, which hath no end.

But if thou tell me of the soldier's fighting for thee with the barbarians, there is here too a camp, that of the poor, and a war, which the poor are waging for thee. For when they receive, by praying they make God propitious; and making Him propitious, they repulse, instead of barbarians, the assaults of the devils; they suffer not the evil one to be violent, neither to attack us continually, but they relax his might.

5. Seeing therefore these soldiers every day fighting in thy behalf with the devil by their supplications and prayers, demand of thyself this good contribution, their nourishment. For this King being mild hath not assigned thee any to demand it of thee, but desires thou shouldest give it willingly; though thou pay by little and little, He receives it; though being in difficulty, thou shouldest pay after a long time, He cloth not press him that hath not.

Let us not then despise His long-suffering; let us treasure up for ourselves, not wrath, but salvation; not death, but life; not punishment and vengeance, but honors and crowns. There is no need in this case to pay a hire for the conveyance of the things contributed; there is no need in this case to labor in turning them into money. If thou givest them up, the Lord Himself removes them into Heaven; He Himself makes the traffic the more gainful for thee.

There is no need here to find one to carry in what thou hast contributed; contribute only, and straightway it goeth up, not that others may be maintained as soldiers, but that it may remain for thee with great profit. For herehyperlink whatsoever thou mayest have given, it is not possible to recover; but there thou wilt receive them again with much honor, and shalt gain greater, and more spiritual gains. Here the gifts are a demand; there a loan, and money at interest, and a debt.

Yea farther, God hath given thee bonds. For" he that showeth mercy to a poor man," it is said, "lendeth to the Lord."hyperlink He gave thee also an earnest, and bail, and this being God! What sort of earnest? The things in the present life, the visible, the spiritual things, the foretaste of the things to come.

Why then dost thou delay, and why art thou backward, having received so many things already, looking for so many things?

For what thou hast received are these: He Himseif made thee a body, He Himself put in thee a soul, He honored with speech thee alone of the things on the earth, He gave thee the use of all the things that are seen, He bestowed on thee the knowledge of Himself, He gave up His Son for thee, He gave thee a baptism full of so many good things, He gave thee a holy table, He promised a kingdom, and the good things that cannot be told.

Having then received so many good things, having to receive so many, again I say the same thing, art thou making petty reckoning about perishing riches, and what excuse wilt thou have?

But art thou looking altogether at thy children? and dost draw back for the sake of these? Nay, rather teach them also to gain such gains. For if thou hadst money lent out and bearing interest, and thou hadst a grateful debtor, thou wouldest ten thousand times rather choose instead of the gold to leave the bond to thy child, so that he should have the large income from it, and not be constrained to go about, and seek for others to borrow it.

And now give this bond to thy children, and leave God a debtor to them. Thou dost not sell thy lands, and give to thy children, but leavest them, that the income may remain, and that they may have a greater increase of riches from thence; but this bond, which is more productive than any land or revenue, and bears so many fruits, this art thou afraid to leave to them? What great folly must this be, and frenzy. And this when thou knowest, that though thou shouldest leave it to them, thou thyself also shall again take it away with thee.

Of this nature are the things spiritual; they have great munificence. Let us not then be beggarly; neither be inhuman and savage towards ourselves, but let us traffic in that good merchandise; that we may both ourselves take it away with us when we depart, and leave it to our own children, and attain to the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.



Footnotes



1 John iv. 1, and x. 40-42.

2 par0r9hsi/an bi/ou. Claim of access on account of good life.

3 Matt. xx. 32, 33.

4 The words, "and to show them to be much greater than they are," are rejected by Montfaucon on the authority of two Mss. but defended by Mr. Field. [They are found in all the Mss. collated by the latter editor, with one exception.-R.] It seems to be true that our Lord sometirnes encouraged faith, and brought out good example, by putting on an action a higher meaning and intention than was at all fully formed in the mind of the doer.

5 Matt. xxi. 1-5. [The textual variations are reproduced in the above rendering. The most interesting variation is a0poste/llei ("he sendeth "), the reading attested in Mark xi. 3. It implies in the latter passage the promise to send back the colt to the owners.

6 Zech. ix. 9.

7 Or, "emulating us," parazhlou=ntej.

8 [ R. V., a hardening.]

9 Rom. xi. 25, 26.

10 2 Cor. xii. 15.

11 Matt. xxi. 10, 11. [The Greek text agrees with that