Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.64 Letter LXIII Part 2

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Church Fathers: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10: 30.01.64 Letter LXIII Part 2

TOPIC: Post-Nicene Fathers Vol 10 (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 30.01.64 Letter LXIII Part 2

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59. But what does this signify, that after Aaron was dead, the Lord commanded, not the whole people, but Moses alone, who is amongst the priests, to clothe Aaron's son Eleazar with the priest's garments, except that we should understand that priest must consecrate priest, and himself clothe him with the vestments, that is, with priestly virtues; and then, if he has seen that nothing is wanting to him of the priestly garments, and that all things are perfect, should admit him to the sacred altars. For he who is to supplicate for the people ought to be chosen of God and approved by the priests, lest there be anything which might give serious offence in him whose office it is to intercede for the offences of others. For the virtue of a priest must be of no ordinary kind, since he has to guard not only from nearness to greater faults, but even the very least. He must also be prompt to have pity, not recall a promise, restore the fallen, have sympathy with pain, preserve meekness, love piety, repel or keep down anger, must be as it were a trumpet to excite the people to devotion, or to soothe them to tranquillity.

60. It is an old saying: Accustom yourself to be consistent, that your life may set forth as it were a picture, always preserving the same representation which it has received. How can he be consistent who at one time is inflamed by anger, at another blazes up with fierce indignation, whose face now burns, and now again is changed to paleness, varying and changing colour every moment? But let it be so, let it be natural for one to be angry, or that there is generally a cause, it is a man's duty to restrain anger, and not to be carried away like a lion by fury, so as not to know to be quieted, not to spread tales, nor to embitter family quarrels; for it is written: "A wrathful man diggeth up sin"hyperlink He will not be consistent who is double-minded; he cannot be consistent who cannot restrain himself when angry, as to which David well says: "Be ye angry and sin not."hyperlink He does not govern his anger, but indulges his natural disposition, which a man cannot indeed prevent but may moderate. Therefore even though we are angry, let our passion admit only such emotion as is according to nature, not sin contrary to nature. For who would endure that he should not be able to govern himself, who has undertaken to govern others?

61. And so the Apostle has given a pattern, saying that a bishop must be blameless,hyperlink and in another place: "A bishop must be without offence, as a steward of God, not proud, not soon angry, not given to wine, not a striker, not greedy of filthy lucre."hyperlink For how can the compassion of a dispenser of alms an the avarice of a covetous man agree together?

62. I have set down these things which I have been told are to be avoided, but the Apostle is the Master of virtues, and he teaches that gainsayers are to be convicted with patience,hyperlink who lays down that one should be the husband of a single wife,hyperlink not in order to exclude him from the right of marriage (for this is beyond the force of the precept), but that by conjugal chastity he may preserve the grace of his baptismal washing; nor again that he may be induced by the Apostle's authority to beget children in the priesthood; for the speaks of having children, not of begetting them, or marrying again.

63. And I have thought it well not to pass by this point, because many contend that having one wife is said of the time after Baptism; so that the fault whereby any obstacle would ensue would be washed away in baptism. And indeed all faults and sins are washed away; so that if anyone have polluted his body with very many whom he has bound to himself by no law of marriage, all the sins are forgiven him, but if any one have contracted a second marriage it is not done away; for sin not law is loosed by the laver, and as to baptism there is no sin but law. That then which has to do with law is not remitted as though it were sin, but is retained. And the Apostle has established a law, saying: "If any man be without reproach the husband of one wife."hyperlink So then he who is without blame the husband of one wife comes within the rule for undertaking the priestly office; he, however, who has married again has no guilt of pollution, but is disqualified for the priestly prerogative.

64. We have stated what is according to the law, let us state in addition what is according to reason. But first we must notice that not only has the Apostle laid down this rule concerning a bishop or priest, but that the Fathers in the Nicene Councilhyperlink added that no one who has contracted a second marriage ought to be admitted amongst the clergy at all. For how can he comfort or honour a widow, or exhort her to preserve her widowhood, and the faith pledged to her husband, which he himself has not kept in regard to his former marriage? Or what difference would there be between people and priest, if they were bound by the same laws? The life of a priest ought to excel that of others as does his grace, for he who binds others by his precepts ought himself to keep the precepts of the law.

65. How I resisted my ordination, and lastly, when I was compelled, endeavoured that it might at least be deferred, but the prescribed rule did not prevail against the popular eagerness. Yet the Western Bishops approved of my ordination by their decision, the Eastern by an example of the same kind.hyperlink And yet the ordination of a neophyte is forbidden, lest he should be lifted up by pride.hyperlink If the ordination was not postponed it was because of constraint, and if humility suitable to the priestly office be not wanting, where there is no reason blame will not be imputed to him.

66. But if so much consideration is needed in other churches for the ordination of a bishop, how much care is required in the Church of Vercellae, where two things seem to be equally required of the bishop, monastic rule and church discipline? For Eusebius of holy memory was the first in Western lands to bring together these differing matters, both while living in the city observing the rules of the monks, and ruling the Church with fasting and temperance. For the grace of the priesthood is much increased if the bishop constrain young men to the practice of abstinence, and to the rule of purity; and forbid them though living in the city, the manners and mode of life of the city.

67. From such a rule sprang those great men, Elijah, Elisha, John the son of Elizabeth, who clothed in sheepskins, poor and needy, and afflicted with pain, wandered in deserts,hyperlink in hollows and thickets of mountains, amongst pathless rocks, rough caves, pitfalls and marshes, of whom the world was not worthy. From the same, Daniel, Ananias, Azarias, and Misael,hyperlink who were brought up in the royal palace, were fed meagrely as though in the desert, with coarse food, and ordinary drink. Rightly did those royal slaves prevail over kingdoms, despise captivity, shaking off its yoke, subdue powers, conquer the elements, quench the nature of fire, dull the flames, blunt the edge of the sword, stop the mouths of lions;hyperlink they were found most strong when esteemed to be most weak, and did not shrink from the mockings of men, because they looked for heavenly rewards; they did not dread the darkness of the prison, on whom was shining the beauty of eternal light.

68. Following these, holy Eusebius went forth out of his country, and from his own relatives, and preferred a foreign wandering to ease at home. For the faith also he preferred and chose the hardships of exile, in conjunction with Dionysiushyperlink of holy memory, who esteemed a voluntary exile above an Emperor's friendship. And so these illustrious men, surrounded with arms, closed in by soldiers, when torn away from the larger Church, triumphed over the imperial power, because by earthly shame they purchased fortitude of soul, and kingly power; they from whom the band of soldiers and the din of arms could not tear away the faith subdued the raging of the brutal mind, which was unable to hurt the saints. For, as you read in Proverbs, "the king's wrath is as the wrath of a lion."hyperlink

69. He confessed that he was overcome when he asked them to change their determination, but they thought their pen stronger than swords of iron. Then it was unbelief which was wounded so that it fell, not the faith of the saints; they did not desire a tomb in their own country, for whom was reserved a home in the heavens. They wandered over the whole earth, "having nothing and yet possessing all things."hyperlink Wherever they were sent, they esteemed it a place full of delights, for nothing wanting to them in whom the riches of faith abounded. Lastly, they enriched others, being themselves poor as to earthly means, rich in grace. They were tried but not killed, in fasting, in labours, in watchings, in vigils. Out of weakness they came forth strong. They did not wait for the enticements of pleasure who were satiated by fasting; the burning summer did not parch those whom the hope of eternal grace refreshed, nor did the cold of icy regions break them down, whose devotion was ever budding afresh with glowing devotion; they feared not the chains of men whom Jesus had set free; they desired not to be rescued from death, who expected to be raised again by Christ.

70. And at last holy Dionysius requested in his prayers, that he might end his life in exile, for fear that he might, if he returned home, find the minds of the people or the clergy disturbed through the teaching or practice of the unbelievers, and he obtained this favour, so that he bore with him the peace of the Lord with a quiet mind. Thus as holy Eusebius first raised the standard of confessorship, so blessed Dionysius in his exile gave up his life with honour higher even than martyrs.

71. Now this patience in holy Eusebius grew strong by the discipline of the monastery, and from the custom of hard endurance he derived the power of enduring hardships. For who doubts that in stricter Christian devotion these two things are the most excellent, the offices of the clergy and the rule of the monks? The former is a discipline which accustoms to courteousness and good morals, the latter to abstinence and patience; the former as it were on an open stage, the latter in secret; the one is visible, the other hidden. And so he who was a good athlete said: "We are made a spectacle to this world and to Angels."hyperlink Worthy indeed was he to be gazed upon by Angels, when he was striving to attain the prize of Christ, when he was striving to lead on earth the life of Angels, and overcome the wickedness of spirits in heaven, for he wrestled with spiritual wickedness.hyperlink Rightly did the world gaze upon him, that it might imitate him.

72. The one life, then, is on the open arena, the other hidden as in a cave; the one is opposed to the confusion of the world, the other to the desires of the flesh; the one subdues, the other shuns the pleasures of the body; the one was more agreeable, the other more safe; the one ruling, the other restraining itself, in order to be wholly Christ's, for to the perfect it is said: "He who will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me."hyperlink Now he follows Christ who is able to say: "It is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me."hyperlink

73. Paul denied himself, when, knowing that chains and tribulations awaited him in Jesusalem, he willingly offered himself to danger, saying: "Nor do I count my life dear to myself, if only I can accomplish my course, and the ministry of the Word, which I have received of the Lord Jesus."hyperlink And at last, though many were standing round, weeping and beseeching him, he did not change his mind, so stern a censor of itself is ready faith.

74. The one then contends, the other retires; the one overcomes incitements, the other flees from them; by the one the world is triumphed over, the other rejoices over it; to the one the world is crucified, or itself is crucified to the world,hyperlink to the other it is unknown; the one endures more frequent temptations, and so has the greater victory, the other falls less often, and keeps guard more easily.

75. Elijah himself too, that the word spoken by his mouth might be confirmed, was sent by the Lord to hide himself by the brook Cherith.hyperlink Ahab threatened, Jezebel threatened, Elijah was afraid and rose up, and then "went in the strength of that spiritual meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God;"hyperlink and entered into a cave and rested there; and afterwards was sent to anoint kings. He was then inured to patience by dwelling in solitude, and, as though fed to the fatness of virtue by the homely food, went on more strong.

76. John, too, grew up in the desert, and baptized the Lord, and there first practised constancy, that afterwards he might rebuke kings.

77. And since in speaking of holy Elijah's dwelling in the desert, we have passed by without notice the names of places which were not given without a purpose, it seems well to go back to what they signify. Elijah was sent to the brook Cherith, and there the ravens nourished him, bringing him bread in the morning, for it "strengthens man's heart."hyperlink For how should the prophet be nourished except by mystical food? At evening flesh was supplied. Understand what you read, for Cherith means "understanding," Horeb signifies "heart" or "as a heart," Beersheba also is interpreted "the well of the seventh," or "of the oath."

78. Elijah went first to Beersheba, to the mysteries and sacraments of the divine and holy Law, next he is sent to the brook, to the stream of the river which makes glad the City of God.hyperlink You perceive the two Testaments of the One Author; the old Scripture as a well deep and obscure, whence you can only draw with labour; it is not full, for He Who was to fill it was not yet come, Who afterwards said: "I am come not to destroy but to fulfil the Law."hyperlink And so the Saint is bidden of the Lord to pass over to the stream, for he who has drunk of the New Testament, not only is a river, but also "from his belly shall flow rivers of living water,"hyperlink rivers of understanding, rivers of meditation, spiritual rivers, which, however, dried up in the times of unbelief, lest the sacrilegious and unbelieving should drink.

79. At that place the ravens recognized the Prophet of the Lord, whom the Jews did not recognize. The ravens fed him, whom that royal and noble race were persecuting. What is Jezebel, who persecuted him but the Synagogue, vainly fluent, vainly abounding in the Scriptures, which it neither keeps nor understands? What ravens fed him but those whose young call upon Him, to whose cattle He gives food as we read; "to the young ravens that call upon Him."hyperlink Those ravens knew whom they were feeding, who were close upon understanding, and brought food to that stream of sacred knowledge.

80. He feeds the prophet, who understands and keeps the things that are written. Our faith gives him sustenance, our progress gives him nourishment; he feeds upon our minds and senses, his discourse is nourished by our understanding. In the morning we give him bread, who, being placed in the light of the Gospel, bestow on him the settled strength of our hearts. By these things he is nourished, by these he is strong, with these he fills the mouths of those who fast, to whom the unbelief of the Jews supplied no food of faith. To them every prophetic utterance is but fasting diet, the interior richness of which they do not see; empty and thin, such as cannot fatten their jaws.

81. Perhaps they brought him flesh in the evening, as it were stronger food, such as the Corinthians, whose minds were weak, could not take, and were therefore fed by the Apostle with milk.hyperlink So, stronger meat was brought in the evening of the world, in the morning bread. And so, because the Lord commanded this food to be supplied, that word of prophecy may be suitably addressed to Him in this place: "Thou wilt give joy in the outgoings of morning and evening;"hyperlink and, farther on: "Thou hast prepared their food, for so is its preparation."hyperlink

82. But I think that enough has been said of the Master, let us now go on to the lives of the disciples, who have given themselves to His praise and celebrate it with hymns day and night. For this is the service of the Angels, to be always occupied in the praises of God, to propitiate and entreat the Lord with frequent prayers. They attend to reading, or occupy their minds with continual labours, and separated from the companionship of women, afford safe protection to each other. What a life is this, in which is nothing to fear, much to imitate! The pain of fasting is compensated by tranquillity of mind, is lightened by practice, aided by leisure, or beguiled by occupation; is not burdened with worldly cares, nor occupied with uncongenial troubles, nor weighed down with the distractions of the city.

83. You perceive what kind of teacher must be found for the preservation or teaching of this gift, and we can find him, if you assist by unanimity, if you forgive one another should any one think himself injured by another. For it is not the only kind of justice, not to injure him who has not injured us, but also to forgive him who has most injured us. We are often injured by the fraud of another, by the guile of a neighbour; do we consider it a mark of virtue, to avenge guile by guile, or to repay fraud by fraud? For if justice is a virtue it should be free from offence, and should not repel wickedness by wickedness. For what virtue is it that the same thing should be done by you which you yourself punish in another? That is the spreading of wickedness not its punishment, for it makes no difference whom one injures, whether a just man or an unjust, seeing one ought not to injure anyone. Nor does it make any difference in what way one bears ill will, whether from a desire of revenging oneself, or from a wish to injure, since in neither case is ill will free from blame. For to bear ill will is the same thing as to be unjust, and so it is said to thee: "Bear not ill will amongst those that bear ill will, and emulate not those that do unrighteousness;"hyperlink and above; "I have hated the congregation of them that bear ill will."hyperlink He clearly comprehends all and makes no exception, he lays hold of ill will and asks not the cause.

84. But what better pattern can there be than that of Divine justice? For the Son of God says: "Love your enemies;"hyperlink and again: "Pray for those that persecute you and speak against you."hyperlink So far does He remove the desire of vengeance from the perfect that He commands charity towards those who injure them. And since He had said in the Old Testament: "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay."hyperlink He says in the Gospel, that we are to pray for those who have injured us, that He Who has said that He will avenge, may not do so; for it is His will to pardon at your desire with which according to His promise He agrees. But if you seek for you know that the unjust is more severely punished by his own convictions than by judicial severity.

85. And since no one can be without some adversities, let us take care that they do not happen to us through our own fault. For no one is more severely condemned by the judgment of others, than a foolish man, who is the cause of his misfortunes, is condemned by his own. For which reason we should decline matters which are full of trouble and contention, which have no advantage, but cause hindrances. Although we ought to take care not to have to repent our decisions or acts. For it is the part of a prudent man to look forward, so as not often to have to repent, for never to repent belongs to God alone. But what is the fruit of righteousness, but tranquillity of mind? Or what is to live righteously but to live with tranquility? Such as is the pattern of the master, such is the condition of the whole house. But if these things are requisite in a house, how much more in the Church, "where we, both rich and poor, bond and free, Greek anti Scythian, noble and common, are all one in Christ Jesus."hyperlink

86. Let no man suppose that because he is rich, more deference is to be paid him. In the Church he is rich who is rich in faith, for the faithful has a whole world of riches. What wonder is it if the faithful possesses the world, who possesses the inheritance of Christ, which is of more value than the world? "Ye were redeemed with the Precious Blood,"hyperlink was certainly said to all, not to the rich only. But if you will be rich, obey him who says: "Be ye holy in all your conversation."hyperlink He is speaking not to the rich only but to all; for He judges without respect of persons, as the Apostle His faithful witness says. And therefore says he: "Spend the time of your sojourning here,"hyperlink not in luxury, or fastidiousness, nor haughtiness of heart, but in fear. On this earth you have time not eternity, do you use the time as those who must pass hence.

87. Do not trust in riches; for all such things are left here, faith alone will accompany you. And righteousness indeed will go with you if faith has led the way. Why do riches entice you? "Ye were not redeemed with gold and silver," with possessions, or silk garments, "from your vain conversation, but with the precious Blood of Christ."hyperlink He then is rich who is an heir of God, a joint heir with Christ. Despise not the poor man, he has made you rich. "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him."hyperlink Do not reject a poor man, Christ when He was rich became poor, and became poor because of you, that by His poverty He might make you rich.hyperlink Do not then as though rich exalt yourself, He sent forth His apostles without money.

88. And the first of them said: "Silver and gold have I none."hyperlink He glories in poverty as though shunning contamination. "Silver and gold," he says, "I have none,"-not gold and silver. He knows not their order in value who knows not the use of them. "Silver and gold have I none," but I have faith. I am rich enough in the Name of Jesus, "which is above every name."hyperlink I have no silver, neither do I require any; I have no gold, neither do I desire it, but I have what you rich men have not, I have what even you would consider to be of more value, and I give it to the poor, namely that I say in the Name of Jesus: "Be strengthened, ye weak hands, and ye feeble knees."hyperlink

89. But if you will be rich, you must be poor. Then shall you in all things be rich, if you are poor in spirit. It is not property which makes rich, but the spirit.

90. There are those who humble themselves in abundance of riches, and they act rightly and prudently, for the law of nature is sufficiently rich for all, according to which one may soon find what is more than enough; but for lust any abundance of riches is still penury. Again, no one is born poor but becomes so. Poverty then is not in nature but in our own feelings, and so to find oneself rich is easy for nature, but hard for lust. For the more a man has gained the more he thirsts for gain, and burns as it were with a kind of intoxication from his lusts.

91. Why do you seek for a heap of riches as though it were necessary? Nothing is so necessary as to know that this is not necessary. Why do you throw the blame on the flesh? It is not the belly in the body but avarice in the mind which makes a man insatiable. Does the flesh take away the hope of the future? Does the flesh destroy the sweetness of spiritual grace? Does the flesh hinder faith? Is it the flesh which attributes any weight to vain opinions as it were to insane masters? The flesh prefers frugal moderation, by which it is freed from burdens, is clothed with health, because it has laid aside its care and has obtained tranquillity.

92. But riches themselves are not blameable. For "the ransom of a man's life are his riches,"hyperlink since he that gives to the poor redeems his soul.hyperlink So that even in these material riches there is place for virtue. You are like steersmen in the vast sea. If a man steers his course well, he quickly passes over the sea so as to attain to the port, but one who knows not how to direct his property is drowned together with his freight. And so it is written: "The wealth of rich men is a most strong city."hyperlink

93. And what is that city but Jerusalem which is in heaven, in which is the kingdom of God? This is a good possession which brings eternal fruit. A good possession which is not left here, but is possessed there. He who possesses this says: "The Lord is my portion."hyperlink He says no_, My portion stretches and extends from this boundary to that. Nor does he say, My portion is amongst such and such neighbours, except perchance amongst the apostles, amongst the prophets, amongst the saints of the Lord, for this is the righteous man's portion. He does not say, My portion is in the meadows, or in the woods, or the plains, except perchance those wooded plains in which the Church is found, of which it is written: "We found it in the wooded plains."hyperlink He does not say, My portion consists of herds of horses, for "a horse is a vain thing for safety."hyperlink He does not say, My portion consists of herds of oxen, asses, or sheep; except perchance he reckons himself amongst those which know their Owner, and wishes to company with the ass which does not shun the cribhyperlink of Christ; and that Sheep is his portion which was led to the slaughter, and that Lamb which was dumb before the shearer, and opened not His mouth,hyperlink in Whose humiliation judgment has been exalted. Well does he say "before the shearer," for He laid aside what was additional, not His own essence, on the cross, when He laid aside His Body, but lost not His Divinity.

94. It is not then everyone who can say, "The Lord is my portion." The covetous man cannot, for covetousness draws near and says: Thou art my portion, I have thee in subjection, thou hast served me, thou hast sold thyself to me with that gold, by that possession thou hast adjudged thyself to me. The luxurious man says not: Christ is my portion, for luxury comes and says: Thou art my portion, I made thee mine in that banquet, I caught thee in the net of that feast, I hold thee by the bond of thy gluttony. Dost thou not know that thy table was more valued by thee than thy life? I refute thee by thine own judgment, deny if thou canst, but thou canst not. And in fine thou hast reserved nothing for thy life, thou hast spent it all for thy table. The adulterer cannot say: "The Lord is my portion;" for lust comes and says: I am thy portion, thou didst bind thyself to me in the love of that maiden, by a night with that harlot thou hast come under my laws and into my power. The traitor cannot say: "Christ is my portion," for at once the wickedness of his sin rushes on him and says: He is deceiving Thee, Lord Jesus, he is mine.

95. We have an example of this, for when Judas had received the bread from Christ the devil entered into his heart, as though claiming his own property, as though retaining his right to his own portion, as though saying: He is not Thine but mine; clearly he is my servant, Thy betrayer, plainly he is mine. He sits at table with Thee, and serves me; with Thee he feasts, but is fed by me; from Thee he receives bread, from me money; with Thee he drinks, and has sold Thy Blood to me. And he proved how truly he spoke. Then Christ departed from him, Judas also himself left Jesus and followed the devil.

96. How many masters has he who has forsaken the One! But let us not forsake Him. Who would forsake Him Whom they follow bound with chains indeed, but chains of love, which set free and do not bind, those chains in which they who are bound boast, saying: "Paul the bondservant of Jesus Christ, and Timothy."hyperlink It is more glorious for us to be bound by Him, than to be set free and loosed from others. Who then would flee from peace? Who would flee from salvation? Who would flee from mercy? Who would flee from redemption?

97. You see, my sons, what has been the end of those who followed these things, how being dead they yet work. Let us study to gain the diligence of those the glory of whose virtues we admire, and what we praise in others, let us silently recognize in ourselves. Nothing effeminate, nothing feeble attains to praise. "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."hyperlink The fathers ate the lamb in haste. Faith hastens, devotion is quick, hope is active, it loves not objections of the mind, but to pass from fruitless ease to the fruits of toil. Why do you put off till tomorrow? You can gain to-day; and must guard against not attaining the one and losing the other. The loss even of one hour is no slight one, one hour is a portion of our whole life.

98. There are young persons who desire quickly to attain to old age, so as no longer to be subject to the will of their elders; and there are also old men who would wish if they could to return again to youth. And I approve of neither desire, for the young, disdainful of things present, as it were ungratefully desire a change in their way of living, the old wish for its lengthening, whereas youth can grow old in character, and old age grow green with action. For it is discipline as much as age which brings amendment of character. How much the more then ought we to raise our hopes to the kingdom of God, where will be newness of life, and where will be a change of grace not of age!

99. Reward is not obtained by ease or by sleep. The sleeper does no work, ease brings no profit, but rather loss. Esau by taking his ease lost the blessing of the first-born, for he preferred to have food given to him rather than to seek it. Industrious Jacob found favour with each parent.

100. And yet although Jacob was superior in virtue and favour, he yielded to his brother's anger, who grieved that his younger brother was preferred to him. And so it is written: "Give place to wrath,"hyperlink lest the wrath of another draw you also into sin, when you wish to resist, and to avenge yourself. You can put away sin both from him and from yourself, if you think well to yield. Imitate the patriarch who by his mother's counsel went far away. And who was the mother? Rebecca, that is, Patience. For who but Patience could have given this counsel? The mother loved her son, but preferred that he should be cut off from herself rather than from God. And so because the mother was good, she benefited both her sons, but to the youngest she gave a blessing which he could keep; yet she preferred not one son to the other as sons; but the active to the easy-going, the faithful to the unbelieving.

101. And so since he was separated from his parents through piety not on account of impiety, he talked with God, he increased in riches, in children, and in favour. Nor was he elated by these things when he met his brother; but humbly bowed down to him, not indeed considering him the pitiless, the furious, the degenerate, but Him Whom he reverenced in him. And so he bowed down seven times, which is the number of remission, for he was not bowing down to man, but to Him Whom he foresaw in the Spirit, as hereafter to come in human flesh to take away the sins of the world.hyperlink And this mystery is unfolded to you in the answer given to Peter, when he said: "If my brother trespass against me how often shall I forgive him? Until seven times?"hyperlink You see that remission of sins is a type of that great Sabbath, of that rest of everlasting grace, and therefore is given by contemplation.

102. But what is the meaning of his having arranged his wives and children and all his servants, and ordered that they should bow down to the earth? It was certainly not to the element of earth, which is often filled with blood, in which is the workshop of all crimes, which often is rough with huge rocks, or broken cliffs, or barren and hungry soil, but as to that Flesh which is to be for our salvation. And perchance this is that mystery which the Lord taught, when He said: "Not only seven times, but even seventy times seven."hyperlink

103. Do you then forgive injuries done to you that you may be children of Jacob. Be not provoked as was Esau. Imitate holy David, who as a good master left us what we should follow, saying: "Instead of loving me they spake against me, but I prayed,"hyperlink and when he was reviled, he prayed. Prayer is a good shield, wherewith contumely is kept away, cursing is repelled and often is turned back on those who utter it, so that they are wounded by their own weapons. "Let them curse," he says, "but bless Thou."hyperlink The curse of man is to be sought for, which procures the blessing of the Lord.

104. And for the rest, most dear brethren, consider that Jesus suffered without the gate, and do you go forth out of this earthly city, for your city is Jerusalem which is above. Let your conversation be there, that you may say: "But our conversation is in heaven."hyperlink Therefore did Jesus go forth out of the city, that you going out of this world may be above the world. Moses alone, who saw God, had his tabernacle without the camp when he talked with God;hyperlink and the blood indeed of the victims which were offered for sin, was brought to the altar, but the bodies were burnt without the camp;hyperlink for no one placed amidst the evil of this world can lay aside sin, nor is his blood accepted of God, except he go forth from the defilement of this body.

105. Love hospitality, whereby holy Abraham found favour, and received Christ as his guest, and Sarah already worn with age gained a son; Lot also escaped the fire of the destruction of Sodom. You too can receive Angels if you offer hospitality to strangers. What shall I say of Rahab who by this means found safety?

106. Compassionate those who are bound with chains, as though bound with them. Comfort those in sorrow; for, "It is better to go into the house of mourning than into the house of rejoicing."hyperlink From the one is gained the merit of a good work, from the other a lapse into sin. Lastly, in the one case you still hope for the reward, in the other you have already received it. Feel with those who are afflicted as if also afflicted with them.

107. Let a wife show deference, not be a slave to her husband; let her show herself ready to be ruled not coerced. She is not worthy of wedlock who deserves chiding. Let a husband also guide his wife like a steersman, honour her as the partner of his life, share with her as a joint heir of grace.

108. Mothers, wean your children, love them, but pray for them that they may long live above this earth, not on the earth but above it, for there is nothing long-lived on this earth, and that which lasts long is but short and very frail. Warn them rather to take up the Cross of the Lord than to love this life.

109. Mary, the mother of the Lord stood by her Son's Cross; no one has taught me this but the holy Evangelist St. John.hyperlink Others have related how the earth was shaken at the Lord's passion, the sky was covered with darkness, the sun withdrew itself;hyperlink that the thief was after a faithful confession received into paradise.hyperlink John tells us what the others have not told, how the Lord fixed on the Cross called to His mother, esteeming it of more worth that, victorious over His sufferings, He rendered her the offices of piety, than that lie gave her a heavenly kingdom. For if it be according to religion to grant pardon to the thief, it is a mark of much greater piety that a mother is honoured with such affection by her Son. "Behold," He says, "thy Son".... "Behold thy mother."hyperlink Christ testified from the Cross, and divided the offices of piety between the mother and the disciple. The Lord made not only a public but also a private testament, and John signed this testament of His, a witness worthy of so great a Testator. A good testament not of money but of eternal life, which was written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, Who says: "My tongue is the pen of a quickly writing scribe."hyperlink

110. Nor was Mary below what was becoming the mother of Christ. When the apostles fled, she stood at the Cross, and with pious eyes beheld her Son's wounds, for she did not look for the death of her Offspring, but the salvation of the world. Or perchance, because that "royal hall"hyperlink knew that the redemption of the world would be through the death of her Son, she thought that by her death also she might add something to the public weal. But Jesus did not need a helper for the redemption of all, Who saved all without a helper. Wherefore also He says: "I am become like a man without help, free among the dead."hyperlink He received indeed the affection of His mother, but sought not another's help.

111. Imitate her, holy mothers, who in her only dearly beloved Son set forth so great an example of maternal virtue; for neither have you sweeter children, nor did the Virgin seek the consolation of being able to bear another son.

112. Masters, command your servants not as being below you in rank, but as remembering that they are sharers of the same nature as yourselves. Servants, serve your masters with good will, for each ought patiently to support that to which he is born, and be obedient not only to good but also to froward masters. For what thanks has your service if you zealously serve good masters? But if you thus serve the froward also you gain merit; for the free also have no reward, if when they transgress they are punished by the judges, but this is their merit to suffer without transgressing. And so you, if contemplating the Lord Jesus you serve even difficult masters with patience, will have your reward. Since the Lord Himself suffered, the just at the hand of the unjust, and by His wonderful patience nailed our sins to His Cross, that he who shall imitate Him may wash away his sins in His Blood.

113. In fine, turn all to the Lord Jesus. Let your enjoyment of this life be with a good conscience, your endurance of death with the hope of immortality, your assurance of the resurrection through the grace of Christ; let truth be with simplicity, faith with confidence, abstinence with holiness, industry with soberness, conversation with modesty, learning without vanity; let there be soberness of doctrine, faith without the intoxication of heresy. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.


87 Prov. xv. 18.

88 Ps. iv. 4.

89 1 Tim. iii. 2.

90 Tit. i. 7.

91 Tit. i. 9.

92 Tit. i. 6.

93 1 Tim. iii. 2.

94 In concilio Nicoeni tractatus-"the Council of the Nicene tractate or creed," possibly. The reference is plain, though there are various readings, and tractatus may not mean the creed. The real difficulty is that in the 20 extant Canons of Nicaea, there is no reference of the kind, and there is no evidence that any are missing. Perhaps St. Ambrose is quoting from memory, or some faulty collection, and so other canons are wrongly spoken of as Nicene. On the subject comp. St. Ambr. de Off. I. 257, and Dict. Chr. Ant. art. "Digamy."

95 Nectarius, unbaptized and holding a civil office, was appointed to the see of Constantinople, on the resignation of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, during the sitting of the second oecumenical council at Constantinople.

96 1 Tim. iii. 6

97 Heb. xi. 37.

98 Dan. i. 16.

99 Heb. xi. 33, Heb. xi. 34.

100 The two Bishops, Eusebius of Vercellae and Dionysius of Milan, were banished by Valens, because in a council at Milan a.d. 355.

101 Prov. xix. 12.

102 2 Cor. vi. 10.

103 1 Cor. vi. 9.

104 Eph. vi. 12.

105 S. Matt. xvii. 24.

106 Gal. ii. 20.

107 Acts xx. 24.

108 Gal. vi. 14.

109 1 [3] Kings xvii. 3.

110 1 [3] Kings xix. 8.

111 Ps. civ. [ciii.] 15.

112 Ps. xlvi. [xlv.] 4.

113 S. Matt. v. 17.

114 S. John vii. 38.

115 Ps. cxlvii. [cxlvi.] 9.

116 1 Cor. iii. 2.

117 Ps. lxv. [lxiv.] 8.

118 Ps. lxv. [lxiv.] 9.

119 Ps. xxxvii. [xxxvi.] 1.

120 Ps. xxvi. [xxv.] 5.

121 S. Matt. v. 44.

122 S. Matt. v. 44.

123 Deut. xxxii. 35.

124 Col. iii. 11.

125 1 Pet. i. 18, 1 Pet. i. 19.

126 1 Pet. i. 15.

127 1 Pet. i. 17.

128 1 Pet. i. 18.

129 Ps. xxxiv. [xxxiii.] 6.

130 2 Cor. viii. 9.

131 Acts iii. 6.

132 Phil. ii. 9.

133 Isa. xxxv. 3.

134 Prov. xiii. 8.

135 Probably a reference to Dan. iv. 27 [LXX.].

136 Prov. x. 15.

137 Ps. lxxiii. [lxxii.] 26.

138 Ps. cxxxii. [cxxxi.] 6.

139 Ps. xxxiii. [xxxii.] 17.

140 Isa. i. 3.

141 Isa. liii. 7.

142 Phil. i. 1.

143 S. S. Matt. xi. 12.

144 Rom. xii. 19.

145 S. John i. 29.

146 S. Matt. xviii. 21.

147 S. Matt. xviii. 22.

148 Ps. cix. [cviii.] 4.

149 Ps. cix. [cviii.] 28.

150 Phil. iii. 20.

151 Ex. xxxiii. 7.

152 Ex. xxix. 12, Ex. xxix. 13.

153 Eccl. vii. 2.

154 S. John xix. 25.

155 S. Matt. xxvii. 45.

156 S. Luke xxiii. 43.

157 S. John xix. 27.

158 Ps. xlv. [xliv.] 1.

159 The expression "Aula regalisi" applied to the Blessed Virgin is also used by St. Ambrose, de Inst. Virg. XII. 79, and in the Hymn for the Nativity of our Lord-"Veni Redemptor gentium," verse 4-"Procedit e thalamo Suo, Pudoris aula Regia." The force is lost in the translation adopted in Hymns Ancient and Modern, No. 57, but is preserved in Dr. Neale's version, "Proceeding from His chamber free, The royal hall of chastity."-Hymnal Noted, No. 31.

160 Ps. lxxxviii. [lxxxvii.] 4, Ps. lxxxviii. [lxxxvii.] 5.