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ST. JOHN CHRYSTOSTOM
HOMILIES 49-57 ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW
[Translated by Rev. Sir George Prevost, Baronet, M.A.
of Oriel College, Oxford.]
HOMILY XLIX: MATT. XIV. 13.
"But when Jesus heard of it, He departed thence by ship into a desert place
apart; and when the multitudes had heard thereof, they followed Him on foot
out of all the cities."
SEE Him on every occasion "departing,"(2) both when John was delivered
up,(3) and when he was slain, and when the Jews heard that He was making
more disciples.(4) For it is His will ordinarily to conduct things after
the manner of a man, the time not yet calling Him to reveal His Godhead
plainly. Wherefore also He bade His disciples "tell no man that He is the
Christ;"(5) for His will was that this should be better known after His
resurrection. Wherefore upon those of the Jews that were for a time
obstinate in their unbelief He was not very severe, but even disposed to be
indulgent to them.
And on retiring, He departs not into a city, but into a wilderness, and
in a vessel, so that no man should follow.
But do thou mark, I pray thee, how the disciples of John had now come
to be more attached to Jesus. For it was they that told Him of the event;
for indeed they have left all, and take refuge henceforth in Him. Thus,
besides their calamity, His provision before made in that answer(1) did no
But wherefore did He not retire before they brought Him the tidings,
when yet He knew the fact before they reported it? To signify all means the
reality of His economy.(2) For not by His appearance only, but by His
actions He would have this confirmed, because He knew the devil's craft,
and that he would leave nothing undone to destroy this doctrine.
He then for this end retires; but the multitudes not even so withdraw
themselves from Him, but they follow, riveted to Him, and not even John's
tragical end alarmed them. So great a thing is earnest desire, so great a
thing is love; in such wise doth it overcome and dispel all dangers.
Therefore they straightway also received their reward. For "Jesus," it
is said, "went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with
compassion toward them, and He healed their sick."(3)
For great as their assiduity was, yet nevertheless His doings exceeded
what any diligence could earn. Wherefore He sets forth also His motive for
so healing them, His mercy, intense mercy: and He healeth all.
And He requires not faith here. For both by coming to Him, and by
leaving their cities, and by diligently seeking Him, and by abiding with
Him even when hunger was pressing, they display their own faith.
But He is about to feed them also. And He doth not this of Himself, but
waits to be entreated; on every occasion, as I have said, maintaining this
rule, not to spring onward to His miracles, preventing them, but upon some
And why did none of the multitude come near and speak for them? They
reverenced Him exceedingly, and felt not even their hunger, through their
longing to stay with Him. Neither indeed do His disciples, when they were
come to Him, say, "Feed them;" for as yet they were rather in an imperfect
state; but what?
"And when it was evening,' it is said, "His disciples came to Him,
saying, This is a desert place, and the time is now passed; send the
multitude away, that they may go and buy themselves victuals."(5)
For if even after the miracle they forgot what had been done, and after
the baskets, supposed Him to be speaking of loaves, when He gave the name
of "leaven" to the doctrine of the Pharisees;(6) much less, when they had
never yet had experience of such a miracle, would they have expected any
such thing. And yet He had made a beginning by actually healing many sick;
but nevertheless, not even from this did they expect the miracle of the
loaves; so imperfect were they as yet.
But mark thou, I pray, the Teacher's skill, how distinctly He summons
them on towards believing. For He said not at once, "I feed them;" which
indeed would not have been easily received; but what?
"But Jesus," so it is written, "said unto them, "They need not depart;
give ye them to eat."(7)
He said not, "I give them," but, "Give ye them;" for as yet their
regard to Him was as to a man. But they not even so are awakened, but still
reason as with a man, saying,
"We have but five loaves, and two fishes."(8)
Wherefore Mark also saith, "They understood not the saying, for their
heart was hardened."(9)
They continuing therefore to crawl on the ground, then at length He
brings in His own part, and saith, "Bring them hither to me." For although
the place be desert, yet He that feeds the world is here; and although the
time be now past, yet He that is not subject to time is discoursing with
But John saith also, that they were "barley loaves,"(10) not mentioning
it without object, but teaching us to trample under foot the pride of
costly living. Such was the diet of the prophets also.(11)
2. "He took therefore the five loaves, and the two fishes, and
commanded the multitude," it is said, "to sit down upon the grass, and
looking up to Heaven, He blessed, and brake, and gave to His disciples, and
the disciples to the multitude.(12) And they did all eat and were filled,
and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full. And
they that had eaten were about five thousand men, beside women and
Wherefore did He look up to Heaven, and bless? It was to be believed of
Him, both that He is of the Father, and that He is equal to Him. But the
proofs of these things seemed to oppose one another. For while His equality
was indicated by His doing all with authority, of His origin from the
Father they could no otherwise be persuaded, than by His doing all with
great lowliness, and with reference to Him, and invoking Him on His works.
Wherefore we see that He neither did these actions only, nor those, that
both might be confirmed; and now He works miracles with authority, now with
Then again, that what He did might not seem an inconsistency, in the
lesser things He looks up to Heaven, but in the greater doth all with
authority; to teach thee in the lesser also, that not as receiving power
from elsewhere, but as honoring Him that begat Him, so He acts. For
example: when He forgave sins, and opened paradise, and brought in the
thief, and most utterly set aside the old law, and raised innumerable dead,
and bridled the sea, and reproved the unuttered thoughts of men, and
created an eye;--which are achievements of God only and of none else;--we
see Him in no instance praying: but when He provided for the loaves to
multiply themselves, a far less thing than all these, then He looks up to
Heaven; at once establishing these truths which I have spoken of, and
instructing us not to touch a meal, until we have given thanks to Him who
giveth us this food.
And why doth He not make it of things that are not? Stopping the mouth
of Marcion, and of Manichaens, who alienate His creation from Him, and
teaching by His very works, that even all the things that are seen are His
works and creatures, and signifying that it is Himself who gives the
fruits, who said at the beginning, "Let the earth put forth the herb of
grass," and "Let the waters bring forth things moving with living
For this is not at all a less work than the other. For though those
were made of things that are not, yet nevertheless were they of water; and
it was no greater thing to produce fruits out of the earth, and moving
things with life out of the water, than out of five loaves to make so many;
and of fishes again, which was a sign that He was ruler both of the earth
and of the sea.
Thus, since the sick were constantly the subject of His miracles, He
works also a general benefit, that the many might not be spectators only of
what befell others, but themselves also partakers of the gift.
And that which in the wilderness seemed to the Jews marvellous, (they
said at least, "Can He give bread also? or prepare a table in the
wilderness?)"(2) this He shows forth in His works. With this view also He
leads them into the wilderness, that the miracle might be very far beyond
suspicion, and that no one might think that any village lying near
contributed ought to the meal. For this reason He mentions the hour also,
not the place only.
And another thing too we learn, the self-restraint of the disciples
which they practised in necessary things, and how little they accounted of
food. For being twelve, they had five loaves only and two fishes; so
secondary to them were the things of the body: so did they cling to the
things spiritual only.
And not even that little did they hold fast, but gave up even it when
asked. Whereby we should be taught, that though we have but little, this
too we ought to give up to them that are in need. Thus, when commanded to
bring the five loaves, they say not, "and whence are we to have food?
whence to appease our own hunger?" but they obey at once.
And besides what I have mentioned, to this end, as I at least think, He
makes it out of the materials which they had, namely, that He might lead
them to faith; for as yet they were rather in a weak state.(3)
Wherefore also "He looks up to Heaven." For of the other miracles they
had many examples, but of this none.(3)
3. "He took the loaves," therefore, "and brake them, and gave them by
His disciples," hereby to honor them; and not in honor to them only, but
also that, when the miracle had been done they might not disbelieve it, nor
forget it when it had past, their own hands bearing them witness.(3)
Wherefore also He suffers the multitudes first to have a sense of
hunger, and waits for these to come to Him first and ask Him, and by them
makes the people sit down, and by them distributes; being minded by their
own confessions and actions to prepossess them every one.(3)
Therefore also, from them He receives the loaves, that the testimonies
of what was doing might be many, and that they might have memorials of the
miracle. For if even after these occurrences they forgot,(4) what would not
have been their case, had He omitted those provisions?
And He commands them to sit down on the trampled grass, instructing the
multitudes in self-denial. For His will was not to feed their bodies only,
but also to instruct their souls. As well by the place therefore, as by His
giving them nothing more than loaves and fishes, and by setting the same
before all, and making it common, and by affording no one more than
another, He was teaching them humility, and temperance, and charity, and to
be of like mind one towards another, and to account all things common.
"And He brake and gave to the disciples, and the disciples to the
multitude." The five loaves He brake and gave, and the five multiplied
themselves in the hands of the disciples. And not even here doth He stay
the miracle, but He made them even to exceed; to exceed, not as whole
loaves, but as fragments; to signify that of those loaves these were
remains, and in order that the absent might learn what had been done.
For this purpose indeed He suffered the multitudes to hunger, that no
one might suppose what took place to be illusion.
For this also He caused just twelve baskets to remain over, that Judas
also might bear one. For He was able indeed to have appeased their hunger,
but the disciples would not have known His power, since in Elijah's case
also this took place.(1)
At all events, so greatly were the Jews amazed at Him for this, that
they wished even to make Him a king,(2) although with regard to the other
miracles they did not so in any instance.
What reasoning now may set forth, how the loaves multiplied(3)
themselves; how they flowed together in the wilderness; how they were
enough for so many (for there were "five thousand men beside women and
children;" which was a very great commendation of the people, that both
women and men attended Him); how the remnants had their being (for this
again is not less than the former), and became so abundant, that the
baskets were equal in number to the disciples, and neither more nor less?
Having then taken the fragments, He gave them not to the multitudes,
but to the disciples, and that, because the multitudes were in a more
imperfect state than the disciples.
And, having wrought the miracle, "straightway He constrained His
disciples to get into a ship, and to go before Him unto the other side,
while He sent the multitudes away."(4)
For even if He had seemed, when in sight, to be presenting an illusion,
and not to have wrought a truth; yet surely not in His absence also. For
this cause then, submitting His proceedings to an exact test, He commanded
those that had got the memorials, and the proof of the miracles, to depart
And besides this, when He is doing great works, He disposes elsewhere
of the multitudes and the disciples, instructing us in nothing to follow
after the glory that comes from the people, nor to collect a crowd about
Now by saying, "He constrained them," He indicates the very close
attendance of the disciples.
And His pretext indeed for dismissing them was the multitude, but He
was Himself minded to go up into the mountain; and He did this, instructing
us neither to be always in intercourse with multitudes, nor always to fly
from the crowd, but each of the two as may be expedient, and giving each
duly his turn.
4. Let us learn therefore ourselves also to wait upon Jesus; but not
for His bounty in things sensible, lest we be upbraided like the Jews. For
"ye seek me," saith He, "not because ye saw the miracles,(5) but because ye
did eat of the loaves, and were filled."(6) Therefore neither doth He work
this miracle continually, but a second time only; that they might be taught
not to be slaves to their belly, but to cling incessantly to the things of
To these then let us also cling, and let us seek the heavenly bread,
and having received it, let us cast away all worldly care. For if those men
left houses, and cities, and kinsmen, and all, and abode in the wilderness,
and when hunger was pressing, withdrew not; much more ought we, when
approaching such a table, to show forth a more abundant self-command, and
to set our love on the things of the Spirit, and to seek the things of
sense as secondary to these.
Since even they were blamed, not because they sought Him for the bread,
but because it was for this only they sought Him, and for this primarily.
For should any one despise the great gifts, but cling to the small, and to
those which the giver would have him despise. He loses these latter too: as
on the other hand, if we love those, He adds these also. For these are but
an appendage to the others; so vile are they and trifling, compared with
those, although they be great. Let us not therefore spend our diligence on
them, but account both the acquisition and loss of them alike indifferent,
even as Job also neither clung to them when present, nor sought them
absent. For on this account, they are called chrh'mata, (1) not that we
should bury them in the earth, but that we should use them aright.
And as of artisans every one hath his peculiar skill, even so the rich
man, as he knows not how to work in brass, nor to frame ships, nor to
weave, nor to build houses, nor any such thing;--let him learn then to use
his wealth aright, and to pity the poor; so shall he know a better art than
For indeed this is above all those arts. Its workshop is builded in
Heaven. It hath its tools not of iron and brass, but of goodness and of a
right will. Of this art Christ is the Teacher, and His Father. "For be ye
merciful," saith He, "as your Father which is in Heaven."(2)
And what is indeed marvellous, being so much superior to the rest, it
needs no labor, no time for its perfection; it is enough to have willed,
and the whole is accomplished.
But let us see also the end thereof, what it is. What then is the end
of it? Heaven, the good things in the heavens, that unspeakable glory, the
spiritual bride-chambers, the bright lamps, the abiding with the
Bridegroom; the other things, which no speech, nor even understanding, is
able to set forth.
So that herein likewise great is its difference from all others. For
most of the arts profit us for the present life, but this for the life to
5. But if it so far excels the arts that are necessary to us for the
present, as medicine, for instance, and house-building, and all others like
them: much more the rest, which if any one were nicely to examine, he would
not even allow them to be arts. Wherefore I at least would not call those
others, as they are unnecessary, so much as arts at all. For wherein is
delicate cookery and making sauces profitable to us? Nowhere: yea, they are
greatly unprofitable and hurtful, doing harm both to body and soul, by
bringing upon us the parent of all diseases and sufferings, luxury,
together with great extravagance.(3)
But not these only, but not even painting, or embroidery, would I for
one allow to be an art, for they do but throw men into useless expense. But
the arts ought to be concerned with things necessary and important to our
life, to supply and work them up. For to this end God gave us skill at all,
that we might invent methods, whereby to furnish out our life. But that
there should be figures(4) either on walls, or on garments, wherein is it
useful, I pray thee? For this same cause the sandal-makers too, and the
weavers, should have great retrenchments made in their art. For most things
in it they have carried into vulgar ostentation,(5) having corrupted its
necessary use, and mixed with an honest art an evil craft; which has been
the case with the art of building also. But even as to this, so long as it
builds houses and not theatres, and labors upon things necessary, and not
superfluous, I give the name of an art; so the business of weaving too, as
long as it makes clothes, and coverlids, but does not imitate the spiders,
and overwhelm men with much absurdity, and unspeakable effeminacy, so long
I call it an art.
And the sandal-makers' trade, so long as it makes sandals, I will not
rob of the appellation of art; but when it perverts men to the gestures of
women, and causes them by their sandals to grow wanton and delicate, we
will set it amidst the things hurtful and superfluous, and not so much as
name it an art.
And I know well, that to many I seem over-minute in busying myself
about these things; I shall not however refrain for this. For the cause of
all our evils is this, such faults being at all counted trifling, and
And what sin, say you, can be of less account than this, of having an
ornamented and glittering sandal, which fits the foot; if indeed it seem
right at all to denominate it a sin?
Will ye then that I let loose my tongue upon it, and show its
unseemliness, how great it is? and will ye not be angry? Or rather, though
ye be angry, I care not much. Nay, for yourselves are to blame for this
folly, who do not so much as think it is a sin, and hereby constrain us to
enter upon the reproof of this extravagance. Come then, let us examine it,
and let us see what sort of an evil it is. For when the silken threads,
which it is not seemly should be even inwoven in your garments, these are
sewn by you into your shoes, what reproach, what derision do these things
And if thou despise our judgments, hear the voice of Paul, with great
earnestness forbidding these things, and then thou wilt perceive the
absurdity of them. What then saith he? "Not with braided hair, or gold, or
pearls, or costly array."(6) Of what favor then canst thou be worthy; when,
in spite of Paul's prohibiting the married woman to have costly clothing,
thou extendest this effeminacy even to thy shoes, and hast no end of
contrivances for the sake of this ridicule and reproach? Yes: for first a
ship is built, then rowers are mustered, and a man for the prow, and a
helmsman, and a sail is spread, and an ocean traversed, and, leaving wife
and children and country, the merchant commits his very life to the waves,
and comes to the land of the barbarians, and undergoes innumerable dangers
for these threads, that after it all thou mayest take them, and sew them
into thy shoes, and ornament the leather. And what can be done worse than
But the old ways are not like these, but such as become men. Wherefore
I for my part expect that in process of time the young men amongst us will
wear even women's shoes, and not be ashamed. And what is more grievous,
men's fathers seeing these things are not much displeased, but do even
account it an indifferent matter.
Would ye that I should add what is still more grievous; that these
things are done even when there are many poor? Would ye that I bring before
you Christ, an hungered, naked, wandering everywhere, in chains? And how
many thunderbolts must ye not deserve, overlooking Him in want of necessary
food, and adorning these pieces of leather with so much diligence? And He
indeed, when He was giving law to His disciples, would not so much as
suffer them to have shoes at all, but we cannot bear to walk, I say not
barefooted, but even with feet shod as they ought to be.
7. What then can be worse than this unseemliness, this absurdity? For
the thing marks a soul, in the first place effeminate, then unfeeling and
cruel, then curious and idly busy. For when will he be able to attend to
any necessary matter, who is taken up with these superfluous things? when
will such a youth endure to take heed to his soul, or to consider so much
as that he hath a soul? Yes, he surely will be a trifler who cannot help
admiring such things; he cruel, who for their sake neglects the poor; he
void of virtue, who spends all his diligence on them.
For he that is curious about the beauty of threads, and the bloom of
colors, and the tendrils made of such woven work, when will he be able to
look upon the heaven? when will he admire the beauty there, who is excited
about a kind of beauty that belongs to pieces of leather, and who is
bending to the earth? And whereas God hath stretched out the Heaven, and
lighted up the sun, drawing thy looks upwards; thou constrainest thyself to
look downwards, and to the earth, like the swine, and obeyest the devil.
For indeed this wicked demon hath devised this unseemliness, to draw thee
off from that beauty. For this intent hath he drawn thee this way; and God,
showing Heaven, is outvied by a devil showing certain skins, or rather not
even skins (for indeed these too are God's works), but effeminacy and a bad
kind of skill.
And the young man goes about bending down towards the earth, he that is
required to seek wisdom concerning the things in Heaven; priding himself
more on these trifles than if he had accomplished some great and good work,
and walking on tiptoe in the forum, and hereby begetting to himself
superfluous sorrows and distresses, lest he should stain them with the mud
when it is winter; lest he should cover them with the dust, when summer is
What sayest thou, O man? Hast thou cast thy whole soul into the mire
through this extravagance, and dost thou overlook it trailing on the
ground, and art thou so anxious about a pair of shoes? Mark their use, and
respect the verdict thou passest on them. For to tread on mud and mire, and
all the spots on the pavement, for this were thy shoes made. Or if thou
canst not bear this, take and hang them from thy neck, or put them on thy
And ye indeed laugh at hearing this. But I am inclined to weep for
these men's madness, and their earnest care about these matters. For in
truth they would rather stain their body with mud, than those pieces of
Triflers then they become in this way, and fond of money again in
another way. For he that has been used to be frantic and eager upon such
matters, requires also for his clothes and for all other things much
expense, and a large income.
And if he have a munificent father, his thraldom becomes worse, his
absurd fancy more intense; but if a parsimonious one, he is driven to other
unseemliness, by way of getting together a little money for such expenses.
Hence many young men have even sold their manhood, and have become
parasites to the rich, and have undertaken other servile offices,
purchasing thereby the fulfillment of such desires.
So then, that this man is sure to be at once fond of money, and a
trifler, and about important things the most indolent of all men, and that
he will be forced to commit many sins, is hereby evident. And that he is
cruel and vainglorious, neither this will any one gainsay: cruel, in that
when he sees a poor man, through the love of finery he makes as though he
did not even see him, but while he is decking out these things with gold,
overlooks him perishing of hunger; vainglorious, since even in such little
matters he trains himself to hunt after the admiration of the beholders.
For I suppose no general prides himself so much on his legions and
trophies, as our profligate youths on the decking out of their shoes, on
their trailing garments, on the dressing of their hair; yet surely all
these are works of other persons, in their trades. But if men do not cease
from vain boasting in the works of others, when will they cease from it in
8. Shall I mention yet other things more grievous than these? or are
even these enough for you? Well then; I must end my speech here; since even
this have I said, because of the disputatious, who maintain the thing not
to be so very wrong.
And although I know that many of the young will not so much as attend
to what I have said, being once for all intoxicated with this fancy, I yet
ought not therefore to keep silence. For such fathers as have
understanding, and are as yet sound, will be able to force them, even
against their will, to a becoming decency.
Say not then, "this is of no consequence, that is of no consequence;"
for this, this hath ruined all. For even hereby ought you to train them,
and by the things which seem trifling to make them grave, great of soul,
superior to outward habiliments; so shall we find them approved in the
great things also. For what is more ordinary than the learning of letters?
nevertheless thereby do men become rhetoricians,(1) and sophists, and
philosophers, and if they know not their letters, neither will they ever
have that knowledge.
And this we have spoken not to young men only, but to women also, and
to young damsels. For these too are liable to the like charges, and much
more, inasmuch as seemliness is a thing appropriate to a virgin.
What has been said therefore to the others; do ye account to have been
said to you also, that we may not repeat again the same things.
For it is full time now to close our discourse with prayer. All of you
then pray with us, that the young men of the church above all things may be
enabled to live orderly, and to attain an old age becoming them. Since for
those surely who do not so live, it were well not to come to old age at
all. But for them that have grown old even in youth, I pray that they may
attain also to the very deep of gray hairs, and become fathers of approved
children, and may be a joy to them that gave them birth, and above all
surely to the God that made them, and may exterminate every distempered
fancy, not that about their shoes, nor about their clothes only, but every
other kind also.
For as untilled land, such is also youth neglected, bringing forth many
thorns from many quarters. Let us then send forth on them the fire of the
Spirit, and burn up these wicked desires, and let us break up our fields,
and make them ready for the reception of the seed, and the young men
amongst us let us exhibit with soberer minds than the old elsewhere. For
this in fact is the marvellous thing, when temperance shines forth in
youth; since he surely that is temperate in old age cannot have a great
reward, having in perfection the security from his age. But what is
wonderful, is to enjoy a calm amidst waves, and in a furnace not to be
burnt, and in youth not to run wanton.
With these things then in our minds, let us emulate that blessed
Joseph, who shone through all these trials, that we may attain unto the
same crowns with him; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love
towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be glory unto the Father,
together with the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY L: MATT. XIV. 23, 24.
"And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into the mountain
apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the
ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves:(1) for the wind
For what purpose doth He go up into the mountain? To teach us, that
loneliness and retirement is good, when we are to pray to God. With this
view, you see, He is continually withdrawing into the wilderness, and there
often spends the whole night in prayer, teaching us earnestly to seek such
quietness in our prayers, as the time and place may confer. For the
wilderness is the mother of quiet; it is a calm and a harbor, delivering us
from all turmoils.
He Himself then went up thither with this object, but the disciples are
tossed with the waves again, and undergo a storm, equal even to the former.
But whereas before they had Him in the ship when this befell them, now they
were alone by themselves. Thus gently and by degrees He excites and urges
them on for the better, even to the bearing all nobly. Accordingly we see,
that when they were first near that danger, He was present, though asleep,
so as readily to give them relief; but now leading them to a greater degree
of endurance, He doth not even this, but departs, and in mid sea permits
the storm to arise, so that they might not so much as look for a hope of
preservation from any quarter; and He lets them be tempest-tost all the
night, thoroughly to awaken, as I suppose, their hardened heart.
For such is the nature of the fear, which the time concurs with the
rough weather in producing. And together with the compunction, He cast them
also into a greater longing for Himself, and a continual remembrance of
Accordingly, neither did He present Himself to them at once. For, "in
the fourth watch," so it is said, "of the night, He went unto them, walking
upon the sea;"(2) instructing them not hastily to seek for deliverance;
from their pressing dangers, but to bear all occurrences manfully. At all
events, when they looked to be delivered, then was their fear again
"When the disciples," it is said, "saw Him walking on the sea, they
were troubled, saying, It is a spirit: and they cried out for fear."(3)
Yea, and He constantly doth so; when He is on the point of removing our
terrors, He brings upon us other worse things, and more alarming: which we
see took place then also. For together with the storm, the sight too
troubled them, no less than the storm. Therefore neither did He remove the
darkness, nor straightway make Himself manifest, training them, as I said,
by the continuance of these fears, and instructing them to be ready to
endure. This He did in the case of Job also; for when He was on the point
of removing the terror and the temptation, then He suffered the end to grow
more grievous; I mean not for his children's death, or the words of his
wife, but because of the reproaches, both of his servants and of his
friends. And when He was about to rescue Jacob from his affliction in the
strange land, He allowed his trouble to be awakened and aggravated: in that
his father-in-law first overtook him and threatened death, and then his
brother coming immediately after, suspended over him the extremest danger.
For since one cannot be tempted both for a long time and severely; when
the righteous are on the point of coming to an end of their conflicts, He,
willing them to gain the more, enhances their struggles. Which He did in
the case of Abraham too, appointing for his last conflict that about his
child. For thus even things intolerable will be tolerable, when they are so
brought upon us, as to have their removal near, at the very doors.
So did Christ at that time also, and did not discover Himself before
they cried out. For the more intense their alarm, the more did they welcome
His coming. Afterward when they had exclaimed, it is said,
"Straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer, it is I;
be not afraid."(1)
This word removed their fear, and caused them to take confidence. For
as they knew Him not by sight, because of His marvellous kind of motion,
and because of the time, He makes Himself manifest by His voice.
2. What then saith Peter, everywhere ardent, and ever starting forward
before the rest?
"Lord, if it be Thou," saith he, "bid me come unto Thee on the
He said not, "Pray and entreat," but, "bid." Seest thou how great his
ardor, how great his faith? Yet surely he is hereby often in danger, by
seeking things beyond his measure. For so here too he required an
exceedingly great thing, for love only, not for display. For neither did he
say, "Bid me walk on the water," but what? "Bid me come unto Thee." For
none so loved Jesus.
This he did also after the resurrection; he endured not to come with
the others, but leapt forward.(3) And not love only, but faith also doth he
display. For he not only believed that He was able Himself to walk on the
sea, but that He could lead upon it others also; and he longs to be quickly
"And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he
walked on the water, and came(4) to Jesus. But when he saw the wind
boisterous,(5) he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying,
Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught
him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou
This is more wonderful than the former. Therefore this is done after
that. For when He had shown that He rules the sea, then He carries on the
sign to what is yet more marvellous. Then He rebuked the winds only; but
now He both walks Himself, and permits another to do so; which thing if He
had required to be done at the beginning, Peter would not have so well
received it, because he had not yet acquired so great faith.
Wherefore then did Christ permit him? Why, if He had said, "thou canst
not," Peter being ardent would have contradicted Him again. Wherefore by
the facts He convinces him, that for the future he may be sobered.
But not even so doth he endure. Therefore having come down, he becomes
dizzy; for he was afraid. And this the surf caused, but his fear was
wrought by the wind.
But John saith, that "they willingly received Him into the ship; and
immediately the ship was at the land whither they went,"(7) relating this
same circumstance. So that when they were on the point of arriving at the
land, He entered the ship.
Peter then having come down from the ship went unto Him, not rejoicing
so much in walking on the water, as in coming unto Him. And when he had
prevailed over the greater, he was on the point of suffering evil from the
less, from the violence of the wind, I mean, not of the sea. For such a
thing is human nature; not seldom effecting great things, it exposes itself
in the less; as Elias felt toward Jezebel, as Moses toward the Egyptian, as
David toward Bathsheba. Even so then this man also; while their fear was
yet at the height, he took courage to walk upon the water, but against the
assault of the wind he was no longer able to stand; and this, being near
Christ. So absolutely nothing doth it avail to be near Christ, not being
near Him by faith.
And this also showed the difference between the Master and the
disciple, and allayed the feelings of the others. For if in the case of the
two brethren they had indignation, much more here; for they had not yet the
Spirit vouchsafed unto them.
But afterwards they were not like this. On every occasion, for example,
they give up the first honors to Peter, and put him forward in their
addresses to the people, although of a rougher vein than any of them.(8)
And wherefore did He not command the winds to cease, but Himself
stretched forth His hand and took hold of him? Because in him faith was
required. For when our part is wanting, then God's part also is at a stand.
Signifying therefore that not the assault of the wind, but his want of
faith had wrought his overthrow, He saith, "Wherefore didst thou doubt, O
thou of little faith?" So that if his faith had not been weak, he would
have stood easily against the wind also. And for this reason, you see, even
when He had caught hold of Him, He suffers the wind to blow, showing that
no hurt comes thereby, when faith is steadfast.
And as when a nestling has come out of the nest before the time, and is
on the point of falling, its mother bears it on her wings, and brings it
back to the nest; even so did Christ.
"And when they were come into the ship, then the wind ceased."(1)
Whereas before this they had said, "What manner of man is this, that
even the winds and the sea obey Him!"(2) now it is not so. For "they that
were in the ship," it is said, "came and worshipped Him, saying, Of a truth
Thou art Son of God."(3) Seest thou, how by degrees he was leading them all
higher and higher? For both by His walking on the sea, and by His
commanding another to do so, and preserving him in jeopardy; their faith
was henceforth great. For then indeed He rebuked the sea, but now He
rebukes it not, in another way signifying His power more abundantly.
Wherefore also they said, "Of a truth Thou art Son of God."
What then? Did He rebuke them on their so speaking? Nay, quite the
contrary, He rather confirmed what they said, with greater authority
healing such as approached Him, and not as before.
"And when they were gone over," so it is said, "they came into the land
of Gennesaret. And when the men of that place had knowledge of Him, they
sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto Him all that
were diseased; and besought Him that they might touch the hem of His
garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole."(4)
For neither did they approach Him as before, dragging Him into their
houses, and seeking a touch of His hand, and directions from Him in words;
but in a far higher strain, and with more of self-denial, and with a more
abundant faith did they try to win themselves a cure; for she that had the
issue of blood taught them all to be severe in seeking wisdom.
And the evangelist, implying also that at long intervals He visited the
several neighborhoods, saith, "The men of that place took knowledge of Him,
and sent out into the country round about, and brought unto Him them that
were diseased." But yet the interval, so far from abolishing their faith,
made it even greater, and preserved it in vigor.
3. Let us also then touch the hem of His garment, or rather, if we be
willing, we have Him entire. For indeed His body is set before us now, not
His garment only, but even His body; not for us to touch it only, but also
to eat, and be filled. Let us now then draw near with faith, every one that
hath an infirmity. For if they that touched the hem of His garment drew
from Him so much virtue, how much more they that possess Him entire? Now to
draw near with faith is not only to receive the offering, but also with a
pure heart to touch it; to be so minded, as approaching Christ Himself. For
what, if thou hear no voice? Yet thou seest Him laid out; or rather thou
dost also hear His voice, while He is speaking by the evangelists.
Believe, therefore, that even now it is that supper, at which He
Himself sat down. For this is in no respect different from that. For
neither doth man make this and Himself the other; but both this and that is
His own work. When therefore thou seest the priest delivering it unto thee,
account not that it is the priest that doeth so, but that it is Christ's
hand that is stretched out.
Even as when he baptizes, not he doth baptize thee, but it is God that
possesses thy head with invisible power, and neither angel nor archangel
nor any other dare draw nigh and touch thee; even so now also. For when God
begets, the gift is His only. Seest thou not those who adopt to themselves
sons here, how they commit not the act to slaves, but are themselves
present at the judgment-seat? Even so neither hath God committed His gift
to angels, but Himself is present, commanding and saying, "Call no man
Father on earth;"(5) not that thou shouldest dishonor them that gave thee
birth, but that thou shouldest prefer to all those Him that made thee, and
enrolled thee amongst His own children. For He that hath given the greater,
that is, hath set Himself before thee, much more will He not think scorn to
distribute unto thee of His body. Let us hear therefore, both priests and
subjects, what we have had vouchsafed to us; let us hear and tremble. Of
His own holy flesh He hath granted us our fill; He hath set before us
What excuse shall we have then, when feeding on such food, we commit
such sins? when eating a lamb, we become wolves? when feeding on a sheep,
we spoil by violence like the lions?
For this mystery He directs to be always clear, not from violence only,
but even from bare enmity. Yea, for this mystery is a mystery of peace; it
allows us not to cling to wealth. For if He spared not Himself for us, what
must we deserve, sparing our wealth, and being lavish of a soul, in behalf
of which He spared not Himself?
Now upon the Jews God every year bound in their feasts a memorial of
His peculiar favors to them: but for thee, every day, as I may say, through
Be not therefore ashamed of the cross: for these are our venerable
things, these our mysteries; with this gift do we adorn ourselves, with
this we are beautified.
And if I say, He stretched out the heaven, He spread out the earth and
the sea, He sent prophets and angels, I say nothing in comparison. For the
sum of His benefits is this, that "He spared not His own Son,"(1) in order
to save His alienated servants.
4. Let no Judas then approach this table, no Simon; nay, for both these
perished through covetousness. Let us flee then from this gulf; neither let
us account it enough for our salvation, if after we have stripped widows
and orphans, we offer for this table a gold and jewelled cup. Nay, if thou
desire to honor the sacrifice, offer thy soul, for which also it was slain;
cause that to become golden; but if that remain worse than lead or potter's
clay, while the vessel is of gold, what is the profit?
Let not this therefore be our aim, to offer golden vessels only, but to
do so from honest earnings likewise. For these are of the sort that is more
precious even than gold, these that are without injuriousness. For the
church is not a gold foundry nor a workshop for silver, but an assembly of
angels. Wherefore it is souls which we require, since in fact God accepts
these for the souls' sake.
That table at that time was not of silver nor that cup of gold, out of
which Christ gave His disciples His own blood; but precious was everything
there, and awful, for that they were full of the Spirit.(2)
Wouldest thou do honor to Christ's body Neglect Him not when naked; do
not while here thou honorest Him with silken garments, neglect Him
perishing without of cold and nakedness. For He that said, "This is my
body," and by His word confirmed the fact, "This same said, "Ye saw me an
hungered, and fed me not;" and, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the
least of these, ye did it not to me."(3) For This indeed needs not
coverings, but a pure soul; but that requires much attention.
Let us learn therefore to be strict in life, and to honor Christ as He
Himself desires. For to Him who is honored that honor is most pleasing,
which it is His own will to have, not that which we account best. Since
Peter too thought to honor Him by forbidding Him to wash his feet, but his
doing so was not an honor, but the contrary.
Even so do thou honor Him with this honor, which He ordained, spending
thy wealth on poor people. Since God hath no need at all of golden vessels,
but of golden souls.
And these things I say, not forbidding such offerings to be provided;
but requiring you, together with them, and before them, to give alms. For
He accepts indeed the former, but much more the latter. For in the one the
offerer alone is profited, but in the other the receiver also. Here the act
seems to be a ground even of ostentation; but there all is mercifulness,
and love to man.
For what is the profit, when His table indeed is full of golden cups,
but He perishes with hunger? First fill Him, being an hungered, and then
abundantly deck out His table also. Dost thou make Him a cup of gold, while
thou givest Him not a cup of cold water? And what is the profit? Dost thou
furnish His table with cloths bespangled with gold, while to Himself thou
affordest not even the necessary covering? And what good comes of it? For
tell me, should you see one at a loss for necessary food, and omit
appeasing his hunger, while you first overlaid his table with silver; would
he indeed thank thee, and not rather be indignant? What, again, if seeing
one wrapped in rags, and stiff with cold, thou shouldest neglect giving him
a garment, and build golden columns, saying, "thou weft doing it to his
honor," would he not say that thou wert mocking, and account it an insult,
and that the most extreme?
Let this then be thy thought with regard to Christ also, when He is
going about a wanderer, and a stranger, needing a roof to cover Him; and
thou, neglecting to receive Him, deckest out a pavement, and walls, and
capitals of columns, and hangest up silver chains by means of lamps,(4) but
Himself bound in prison thou wilt not even look upon.
5. And these things I say, not forbidding munificence in these matters,
but admonishing you to do those other works together with these, or rather
even before these. Because for not having done these no one was ever
blamed, but for those, hell is threatened, and unquenchable fire, and the
punishment with evil spirits. Do not therefore while adorning His house
overlook thy brother in distress, for he is more properly a temple than the
And whereas these thy stores will be subject to alienations both by
unbelieving kings, and tyrants, and robbers; whatever thou mayest do for
thy brother, being hungry, and a stranger, and naked, not even the devil
will be able to despoil, but it will be laid up in an inviolable treasure.
Why then doth He Himself say, "The poor always ye have with you, but me
ye have not always?"(1) Why, for this reason most of all should we give
alms, that we have Him not always an hungered, but in the present life
only. But if thou art desirous to learn also the whole meaning of the
saying, understand that this was said not with a view to His disciples,
although it seem so, but to the woman's weakness. That is, her disposition
being still rather imperfect, and they doubting about her; to revive her He
said these things. For in proof that for her comfort He said it, He added,
"Why trouble ye the woman?"(2) And with regard to our having Him really
always with us, He saith, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of
the world."(3) From all which it is evident, that for no other object was
this said, but that the rebuke of the disciples might not wither the faith
of the woman, just then budding.
Let us not then bring forward these things now, which were uttered
because of some economy, but let us read all the laws, those in the New and
those in the Old Testament, that are set down about almsgiving, and let us
be very earnest about this matter. For this cleanses from sin. For "give
alms, and all things will be clean unto you."(4) This is a greater thing
than sacrifice. "For I will have mercy, and not sacrifice."(5) This opens
the heavens. For "thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial
before God."(6) This is more indispensable than virginity: for thus were
those virgins cast out of the bridechamber; thus were the others brought
All which things let us consider, and sow liberally, that we may reap
in more ample abundance, and attain unto the good things to come, by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory
HOMILY LI: MATT. XV. I.
"Then came to Jesus Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
Why do Thy disciples," etc.(1)
THEN; when? when He had wrought His countless miracles; when He had
healed the infirm by the touch of the hem of His garment. For even with
this intent doth the evangelist mark the time, that He might signify their
unspeakable wickedness, by nothing repressed.
But what means, "The Scribes and Pharisees, which were of
Jerusalem?"(2) In every one of the tribes were they scattered abroad, and
divided into twelve parts; but they who occupied the chief city were worse
than the others, as both enjoying more honor, and having contracted much
But mark, I pray thee, how even by the question itself they are
convicted; in not saying, "Why do they transgress the law of Moses," but,
"the tradition of the elders." Whence it is evident that the priests were
inventing many novelties, although Moses, with much terror and with much
threatening, had enjoined neither to add nor take away. "For ye shall not
add," saith he, "unto the word which I command you this day, and ye shall
not take away from it."(3)
But not the less were they innovating; as in this instance, that one
ought not to eat with unwashen hands, that we must wash cups and brazen
vessels, that we must wash also ourselves. Thus, when men were henceforth,
as time advanced, to be freed from their observances, at that very time
they bound them with the same in more and more instances, fearing lest any
one should take away their power, and wishing to strike more dread, as
though they were themselves also lawgivers. The thing in fact proceeded so
far in enormity, that while their own commandments were kept, those of God
were transgressed; and they so far prevailed, that the matter had actually
become a ground of accusation. Which was a twofold charge against them, in
that they both invented novelties, and were so strict exactors on their own
account, while of God they made no reckoning.
And omitting to speak of the other things, the pots and the brazen
vessels (for it was too ridiculous), what seemed more reasonable than the
rest, that they bring forward, wishing, as seems at least to me, in that
way to provoke Him to anger. Wherefore also they made mention of the
elders, in order that He, as setting them at nought, might give occasion
But it were meet first to inquire, why the disciples ate with unwashen
hands. Wherefore then did they so eat? Not as making a point of it, but as
overlooking henceforth the things that are superfluous, and attending to
such as are necessary; having no law to wash or not to wash, but doing
either as it happened. For they that despised even their own necessary
food, how were they to hold these things worth much consideration? This
then having often happened unintentionally,--for instance, when they ate in
the wilderness, when they plucked the ears of corn,--is now put forward as
a charge by these persons, who are always transgressing in the great
things, and making much account of the superfluous.
2. What then saith Christ? He did not set Himself against it, neither
made He any defense, but straightway blames them again, plucking down their
confidence, and signifying that he who commits great sins ought not to be
strict with others concerning small matters. "What? when you ought to be
blamed," saith He, "do ye even blame?"
But do thou observe, how when it is His will to set aside any of the
things enjoined by the law, He does it in the form of an apology; and so He
did in that case. For by no means doth He proceed at once to transgress it,
nor doth He say, "It is nothing;" for surely He would have made them more
audacious; but first He clean cuts away their boldness, bringing forward
the far heavier charge, and directing it upon their head. And He neither
saith, "they do well in transgressing it," lest He should give them a hold
on Him; nor doth He speak ill of their proceeding, lest He should confirm
the law: nor again, on the other hand, doth He blame the elders, as lawless
and unholy men; for doubtless they would have shunned Him as a reviler and
injurious: but all these things He gives up, and proceeds another way. And
He seems indeed to be rebuking the persons themselves who had come to Him,
but He is reprehending them that enacted these laws; nowhere indeed making
mention of the elders, but by His charge against the Scribes casting down
them also, and signifying that their sin is twofold, first in disobeying
God, next in doing so on men's account; as though He had said, "Why this,
this hath ruined you, your obeying the elders in all things."
Yet He saith not so, but this is just what He intimates, by answering
them as follows:
"Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by(1) your tradition?
For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, He that
curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever
shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou
mightest be profited by me, and(2) honor not his father or his mother(3)--
And ye have made void the commandment(4) of God by your tradition.(5)
And He said not, "the eiders' tradition," but "your own." And, "ye
say;" again He said not, "the elders say:" in order to make His speech less
galling. That is, because they wanted to prove the disciples transgressors
of the law, He signifies that they themselves are doing so, but that these
are free from blame. For of course that is not a law, which is enjoined by
men (wherefore also He calls it "a tradition"), and especially by men that
are transgressors of the law.
And since this had no shade of contrariety to the law, to command men
to wash their hands, He brings forward another tradition, which is opposed
to the law. And what He saith is like this. "They taught the young, under
the garb of piety, to despise their fathers." How, and in what way? "If one
of their parents said to his child, Give me this sheep that thou hast, or
this calf, or any such thing, they used to say, 'This is a gift to God,
whereby thou wouldest be profited by me, and thou canst not have it.' And
two evils hence arose: on the one hand they did not bring them to God, on
the other they defrauded their parents under the name of the offering,
alike insulting their parents for God's sake, and God for their parents'
sake." But He doth not say this at once, but first rehearses the law, by
which He signifies His earnest desire that parents should be honored. For,
"honor," saith He, "thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest live long
upon the earth."(1) And again, "He that curseth father or mother, let him
die the death."(2)
But He, omitting the first, the reward appointed for them that honor
their parents, states that which is more awful, the punishment, I mean,
threatened to such as dishonor them; desiring both to dismay them, and to
conciliate such as have understanding; and He implies them to be for this
worthy of death. For if he who dishonors them in word is punished, much
more ye, who do so in deed, and who not only dishonor, but also teach it to
others. "Ye then who ought not so much as to live, how find ye fault with
"And what wonder is it, if ye offer such insults to me, who am as yet
unknown, when even to the Father ye are found doing the like?" For
everywhere He both asserts and implies, that from Him they began with this
But some do also otherwise interpret, "It is a gift, by whatsoever thou
mightest be profited by me;" that is, I owe thee no honor, but it is a free
gift from me to thee, if indeed I do honor thee. But Christ would not have
mentioned an insult of that sort.
And Mark again makes this plainer, by saying, "It is Corban, by
whatsoever thou mightest be profiled by me;"(3) which means, not a gift and
present, but properly an offering.
Having then signified that they who were trampling on the law could not
be justly entitled to blame men for transgressing a command of certain
elders, He points out this same thing again from the prophet likewise.
Thus, having once laid hold of them severely, He proceeds further: as on
every occasion He doth, bringing forward the Scriptures, and so evincing
Himself to be in accordance with God.
And what saith the prophet? "This people honoreth me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching
for doctrines the commandments of men."(4)
Seest thou a prophecy in exact accordance with His sayings, and from
the very first proclaiming beforehand their wickedness? For what Christ
laid to their charge now, of this Isaiah also spake from the very first;
that the words of God they despise, "for in vain do they worship me," saith
He; but of their own they make much account, "teaching," saith He, "for
doctrines the commandments of men." Therefore with reason the disciples
keep them not.
3. Having, you see, given them their mortal blow; and from the facts
first, then from their own suffrage, then from the prophet having
aggravated the charge, with them indeed He discourses not at all,
incorrigibly disposed as they are now come to be, but directs His speech to
the multitudes, so as to introduce His doctrine, great and high, and full
of much strictness; and taking occasion from the former topic, He proceeds
to insert that which is greater, casting out also the observance of meats.
But see when. When He had cleansed the leper, when He had repealed the
Sabbath, when He had shown Himself King of earth and sea, when He had made
laws, when He had remitted sins, when He had raised dead men, when He had
afforded them many proofs of His Godhead, then He discourses of meats.
For indeed all the religion of the Jews is comprised in this; if thou
take this away, thou hast even taken away all. For hereby He signifies,
that circumcision too must be abrogated. But of Himself He doth not
prominently introduce this (forasmuch as that was older than the other
commandments, and had higher estimation), but He enacts it by His
disciples. For so great a thing was it, that even the disciples after so
long a time being minded to do it away, first practise it, and so put it
But see how He introduces His law: how "He called the multitude, and
said unto them, Hear and understand."(6)
Thus He doth by no means simply reveal it to them, but by respect and
courtesy, first, He makes His saying acceptable (for this the evangelist
declares by saying, "He called them unto Him"): and secondly, by the time
also; in that after their refutation, and His victory over them, and the
accusation by the prophet, then He begins His legislation, when they too
would more easily receive His sayings.
And He doth not merely call them unto Him, but also makes them more
attentive. For "understand," saith He, that is, "consider, rouse
yourselves; for of that sort is the law now about to be enacted. For if
they set aside the law, even unseasonably, for their own tradition, and ye
hearkened; much more ought ye to hearken unto me, who at the proper season
am leading you unto a higher rule of self restraint."
And He did not say, "The observance of meats is nothing, neither that
Moses had given wrong injunctions, nor that of condescension He did so;"
but in the way of admonition and counsel, and taking His testimony from the
nature of the things, He saith: "Not the things that go into the mouth,
defile the man, but the things that go out of the mouth;"(1) resorting to
nature herself both in His enactment and in His demonstration. Yet they
hearing all this, made no reply, neither did they say, "What sayest Thou?
When God hath given charges without number concerning the observance of
meats, dost thou make such laws?" But since He had utterly stopped their
mouths, not by refuting them only, but also by publishing their craft, and
exposing what was done by them in secret, and revealing the secrets of
their mind; their mouths were stopped, and so they went away.
But mark, I pray thee, how He doth not yet venture distinctly to set
Himself with boldness against the meats. Therefore neither did He say "the
meats," but, "the things that enter in defile not the man;" which it was
natural for them to suspect concerning the unwashen hands also. For He
indeed was speaking of meats, but it would be understood of these matters
Why, so strong was the feeling of scruple about the meats, that even
after the resurrection Peter said, "Not so, Lord, for I have never eaten
anything common or unclean."(2) For although it was for the sake of others
that He said this, and in order to leave Himself a justification against
his censurers, by pointing out that he actually remonstrated, and not even
so was excused, nevertheless it implies the depth of their impression on
Wherefore you see He Himself also at the beginning spake not openly
concerning meats, but, "The things that go into the mouth;" and again, when
He had seemed afterwards to speak more plainly, He veiled it by His
conclusion, saying, "But to eat with unwashen hands defileth not the
man:"(3) that He might seem to have had His occasion from thence, and to be
still discoursing of the same. Therefore He said not, "To eat meats
defileth not a man," but is as though He were speaking on that other topic;
that they may have nothing to say against it.
4. When therefore they had heard these things, "the Pharisees," it is
said, "were offended,"(4) not the multitudes. For "His disciples," so it is
said, "came and said unto Him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were
offended, when they heard the saying?" Yet surely nothing had been said
What then saith Christ? He did not remove the offense in respect of
them, but reproved them, saying, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath
not planted, shall be rooted up."(5) For He is wont both to despise
offenses, and not to despise them. Elsewhere, for example, He saith, "But
lest we should offend them, cast an hook into the sea:"(6) but here He
saith, "Let them alone, they be blind leaders of the blind: and if the
blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."(7)
But these things His disciples said, not as grieving for those men
only, but as being themselves also slightly perplexed. But because they
durst not say so in their own person, they would fain learn it by their
telling Him of others. And as to its being so, hear how after this the
ardent and ever-forward Peter came to Him, and saith, "Declare unto us this
parable,"(8) discovering the trouble in his soul, and not indeed venturing
to say openly, "I am offended," but requiring that by His interpretation he
should be freed from his perplexity; wherefore also he was reproved.
What then saith Christ? "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not
planted, shall be rooted up."
This, they that are diseased with the Manichaean pest affirm to be
spoken of the law; but their months are stopped by what had been said
before. For if He was speaking of the law, how doth He further back defend
it, and fight for it, saying, "Why do ye transgress the commandments of God
for your tradition?" And how doth He bring forward the prophet? But of
themselves and of their traditions He so speaks. For if God said, "Honor
thy father and thy mother," how is not that of God's planting, which was
spoken by God?
And what follows also indicates, that of themselves it was said, and of
their traditions. Thus He added, "They are blind leaders of the blind."
Whereas, had He spoken it of the law, He would have said, "It is a blind
leader of the blind." But not so did He speak, but, "They are blind leaders
of the blind:" freeing it from the blame, and bringing it all round upon
Then to sever the people also from them, as being on the point of
falling into a pit by their means, He saith, "If the blind lead the blind,
both shall fall into the ditch."
It is a great evil merely to be blind, but to be in such a case and
have none to lead him, nay, to occupy the place of a guide, is a double and
triple ground of censure. For if it be a dangerous thing for the blind man
not to have a guide, much more so that he should even desire to be guide to
What then saith Peter? He saith not, "What can this be which Thou hast
said?" but as though it were full of obscurity, he puts his question. And
he saith not, "Why hast thou spoken contrary to the law?" for he was
afraid, lest he should be thought to have taken offense, but asserts it to
be obscure. However, that it was not obscure, but that he was offended, is
manifest, for it had nothing of obscurity.
Wherefore also He rebukes him, saying, "Are ye also yet without
understanding?"(1) For as to the multitude, they did not perhaps so much as
understand the saying; but themselves were the persons offended. Wherefore,
whereas at first, as though asking in behalf of the Pharisees, they were
desirous to be told; when they heard Him denouncing a great threat, and
saying, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be
rooted up," and," They are blind leaders of the blind," they were silenced.
But he, always ardent, not even so endures to hold his peace, but saith,
"Declare unto us this parable."(2)
What then saith Christ? With a sharp rebuke He answers, "Are ye also
yet without understanding? Do ye not yet understand?"
But these things He said, and reproved them, in order to cast out their
prejudice; He stopped not however at this, but adds other things also,
saying, "That whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and
is cast out into the draught; but those things which proceed out of the
mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the
heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts,
blasphemies, false-witnessings: and these are the things that defile the
man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not the man."(3)
Seest thou how sharply He deals with them, and in the way of rebuke?
Then He establishes His saying by our common nature, and with a view to
their cure. For when He saith, "It goeth into the belly, and is cast out
into the draught," he is still answering according to the low views of the
Jews. For He saith, "it abides not, but goes out:" and what if it abode? it
would not make one unclean. But not yet were they able to hear this.
And one may remark, that because of this the lawgiver allows just so
much time, as it may be remaining within one, but when it is gone forth, no
longer. For instance, at evening He bids you wash yourself, and so be
clean; measuring the time of the digestion, and of the excretion.(4) But
the things of the heart, He saith, abide within, and when they are gone
forth they defile, and not when abiding only. And first He puts our evil
thoughts, a kind of thing which belonged to the Jews; and not as yet doth
He make His refutation from the nature of the things, but from the manner
of production from the belly and the heart respectively, and from the fact
that the one sort remains, the other not; the one entering in from without,
and departing again outwards, while the others are bred(5) within, and
having gone forth they defile, and then more so, when they are gone forth.
Because they were not yet able, as I said, to be taught these things with
all due strictness.
But Mark saith, that "cleansing the meats,"(6) He spake this. He did
not however express it, nor at all say, "but to eat such and such meats
defileth not the man," for neither could they endure to be told it by Him
thus distinctly. And accordingly His conclusion was, "But to eat with
unwashen hands defileth not the man."(1)
5. Let us learn then what are the things that defile the man; let us
learn, and let us flee them. For even in the church we see such a custom
prevailing amongst the generality, and men giving diligence to come in
clean garments, and to have their hands washed; but how to present a clean
soul to God, they make no account.
And this I say, not forbidding them to wash hands or mouth; but willing
men so to wash as is meet, not with water only, but instead of water, with
all virtues. For the filth of the mouth is evil speaking, blasphemy,
reviling, angry words, filthy talking, laughter, jesting: if then thou art
conscious to thyself of uttering none of them, neither of being defiled
with this filth, draw near with confidence; but if thou hast times out of
number received these stains, why dost thou labor in vain, washing thy
tongue indeed with water, but bearing about on it such deadly and hurtful
filth? For tell me, hadst thou dung on thy hands, and mire, wouldest thou
indeed venture to pray? By no means. And yet this were no hurt; but that is
ruin. How then art thou reverential in the different things, but in the
What then? should not we pray? saith one. We should indeed, but not
while defiled, and having upon us mire of that sort.
"What then, if I have been overtaken?" saith one. Cleanse thyself.
"How, and in what way?" Weep, groan, give alms, apologize to him that is
affronted, reconcile him to thyself hereby, wipe clean thy tongue, lest
thou provoke God more grievously. For so if one had filled his hands with
dung, and then should lay hold of thy feet, entreating thee, far from
hearing him, thou wouldest rather spurn him with thy foot; how then durst
thou in such sort draw nigh to God? Since in truth the tongue is the hand
of them that pray, and by it we lay hold on the knees of God. Defile it not
therefore, lest to thee also He say, "Though ye make many prayers, I will
not hearken."(2) Yea, and "in the power of the tongue are death and
life;"(3) and, "By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou
shalt be condemned."(4)
I bid thee then watch thy tongue more than the apple of thine eye. The
tongue is a royal steed. If then thou put a bridle on it, and teach it to
pace orderly, the King will rest and take His seat thereon; but if thou
suffer it to rush about unbridled and leap wantonly, it becomes a beast for
the devil and bad spirits to ride on. And while thou, fresh from the
company of thine own wife, darest not pray, although this is no blame at
all; dost thou lift up thine hands, fresh from reviling and insult, which
brings after it no less than hell, before thou hast well cleansed thyself?
And how dost thou not shudder? tell me. Hast thou not heard Paul, saying,
"Marriage is honorable, and the bed undefiled?"(5) But if on rising from
the undefiled bed, thou darest not draw nigh in prayer, how dost thou
coming from the bed of the devil call on that awful and terrible name? For
it is truly the devil's bed, to wallow in insults and reviling. And like
some wicked adulterer, wrath dailies with us in great delight, casting into
us deadly seed, and making us give birth to diabolical enmity, and doing
all things in a way opposite to marriage. For whereas marriage causes the
two to become one flesh, wrath severs into many parts them that were
united, and cleaves and cuts in pieces the very soul.
That thou mayest therefore with confidence draw nigh to God, receive
not wrath, when it comes in upon thee, and desires to be with thee, but
drive it away like a mad dog.
For so Paul too commanded: his phrase being, "lifting up holy hands
without wrath and disputing."(6) Dishonor not then thy tongue, for how will
it entreat for thee, when it hath lost its proper confidence? but adorn it
with gentleness, with humility, make it worthy of the God who is entreated,
fill it with blessing, with much almsdoing. For it is possible even with
words to do alms. "For a word is a better thing than a gift,"(7) and
"answer the poor man peaceably with meekness."(8) And all the rest of thy
time too adorn it with the rehearsing of the laws of God; "Yea, let all thy
communication be in the law of the Most High."(9)
Having thus adorned ourselves, let us come to our King, and fall at His
knees,(10) not with the body only, but also with the mind. Let us consider
whom we are approaching, and on whose behalf, and what we would accomplish.
We are drawing nigh unto God, whom the seraphim behold and turn away their
faces, not bearing His brightness; at sight of whom the earth trembles. We
draw nigh unto God, "who dwelleth in the light, which no man can approach
unto."(11) And we draw nigh unto Him for deliverance from hell, for
remission of sins, for escape from those intolerable punishments, for
attaining to the Heavens, and to the good things that are there. Let us, I
say, fall down before Him both in body and in mind, that He may raise us up
when we are down; let us converse with all gentleness and meekness.
And who is so wretched and miserable, one may say, as not to become
gentle in prayer? He that prays with an imprecations and fills himself with
wrath, and cries out against his enemies.
6. Nay, if thou wilt accuse, accuse thyself. If thou wilt whet and
sharpen thy tongue, let it be against thine own sins. And tell not what
evil another hath done to thee, but what thou hast done to thyself; for
this is most truly an evil; since no other will really be able to injure
thee, unless thou injure thyself. Wherefore, if thou desire to be against
them that wrong thee, approach as against thyself first; there is no one to
hinder; since by coming into court against another, thou hast but the
greater injury to go away with.
And what injury at all hast thou really to mention? That such an one
insulted and spoiled thee by violence, and encompassed thee with dangers?
Nay, this is receiving not injury, but if we be sober, the very greatest
benefit; the injured being he that did such things, not he that suffered
them. And this is more than any one thing the cause of all our evils, that
we do not so much as know at all who is the injured, and who the injurious
person. Since if we knew this well, we should not ever injure ourselves, we
should not pray against another, having learnt that it is impossible to
suffer ill of another. For not to be spoiled, but to spoil, is an evil.
Wherefore, if thou hast spoiled, accuse thyself; but if thou hast been
spoiled, rather pray for him that spoiled thee, because he hath done thee
the greatest good. For although the intent of the doer was not such, yet
thou hast received the greatest benefit, if thou hast endured it nobly. For
him, both men, and the laws of God declare to be wretched, but thee, the
injured party, they crown, and proclaim thy praise.
For so if any one sick of a fever had violently taken from any other a
vessel containing water, and had had his fill of his pernicious desire, we
should not say that the despoiled had been injured, but the spoiler; for he
has aggravated his fever, and made his disease more grievous. Now in this
way I bid thee reason concerning him also that loves wealth and money. For
he too, having a far worse fever than the other, has by this rapine fanned
the flame in himself.
Again, were some madman to snatch a sword from any one, and destroy
himself, which again is the injured? He that hath been robbed, or the
robber? It is quite clear, he that did the robbery.
Well then, in the case of seizing property also, let us give the same
suffrage. For what a sword is to a madman, much the same is wealth to a
covetous man; nay, it is even a worse thing. For the madman, when he has
taken the sword, and thrust it through himself, is both delivered from his
madness, and hath no second blow to receive; but the lover of money
receives daily ten thousand wounds more grievous than his, without
delivering himself from his madness, but aggravating it more exceedingly:
and the more wounds he receives, the more doth he give occasion for other
more grievous blows.
Reflecting then on these things, let us flee this sword; let us flee
the madness; though late, let us become temperate. For this virtue too
ought to be called temperance, not less than that which is used to be so
called among all men. For whereas there the dominion of one lust is to be
struggled against, here we have to master many lusts, and those of all
Yea, nothing, nothing is more foolish(1) than the slave of wealth. He
thinks he overcomes when he is overcome. He thinks he is master, when he is
a slave, and putting bonds on himself, he rejoices; making the wild beast
fiercer, he is pleased; and becoming a captive, he prides himself, and
leaps for joy; and seeing a dog rabid and flying at his soul, when he ought
to bind him and weaken him by hunger, he actually supplies him with
abundance of food, that he may leap upon him more fiercely, and be more
Reflecting then on all these things, let us loose the bonds, let us
slay the monster, let us drive away the disease, let us cast out this
madness; that we may enjoy a calm and pure health, and having with much
pleasure sailed into the serene haven, may attain unto the eternal
blessings; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man
of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, now and always, and
world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LII: MATT. XV. 21, 22.
"And Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto
Him,(1) saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is
grievously vexed with a devil."
BUT Mark saith, that "He could not be hid,"(2) though He had entered
into the house. And why did He go at all into these parts? When He had set
them free from the observance of meats, then to the Gentiles also He goes
on to open a door, proceeding in due course; even as Peter, having been
first directed to annul this law, is sent to Cornelius.(3)
But if any one should say, "How then, while saying to His disciples,
"Go not into the way of the Gentiles,"(4) doth He Himself admit her?"
first, this would be our reply, that what He enjoined upon His disciples,
He was not Himself also tied to; secondly, that not in order to preach did
He depart; which indeed Mark likewise intimating said, He even hid Himself,
yet was not concealed.
For as His not hastening to them first was a part of the regular course
of His proceedings, so to drive them away when coming to Him was unworthy
of His love to man. For if the flying ought to be pursued, much more ought
the pursuing not to be avoided.
See at any rate how worthy this woman is of every benefit. For she
durst not even come to Jerusalem, fearing, and accounting herself unworthy.
For were it not for this, she would have come there, as is evident both
from her present earnestness, and from her coming out of her own coasts.
And some also taking it as an allegory say, that when Christ came out
of Judea, then the church ventured to approach Him, coming out herself also
from her own coasts. For it is said, "Forget thine own people and thy
father's house."(5) For both Christ went out of His borders, and the woman
out of her borders, and so it became possible for them to fall in with each
other: thus He saith, "Behold a woman of Canaan coming out of her own
The evangelist speaks against the woman, that he may show forth her
marvellous act, and celebrate her praise the more. For when thou hearest of
a Canaanitish woman, thou shouldest call to mind those wicked nations, who
overset from their foundations the very laws of nature. And being reminded
of these, consider also the power of Christ's advent. For they who were
cast out, that they might not pervert any Jews, these appeared so much
better disposed than the Jews, as even to come out of their coasts, and
approach Christ; while those were driving Him away, even on His coming unto
2. Having then come unto Him, she saith nothing else, but "Have mercy
on me," and by her cry brings about them many spectators. For indeed it was
a pitiful spectacle to see a woman crying aloud in so great affliction, and
that woman a mother, and entreating for a daughter, and for a daughter in
such evil case: she not even venturing to bring into the Master's sight her
that was possessed, but leaving her to lie at home, and herself making the
And she tells her affliction only, and adds nothing more; neither doth
she drag the physician to her house, like that nobleman, saying, "Come and
lay thy hand upon her," and, "Come down ere my child die."(6)
But having described both her calamity, and the intensity of the
disease, she pleads the Lord's mercy, and cries aloud; and she saith not,
"Have mercy on my daughter," but, "Have mercy on me." For she indeed is
insensible of her disease, but it is I that suffer her innumerable woes; my
disease is with consciousness, my madness with perception of itself.
2. "But He answered her not a word."(7)
What is this new and strange thing? the Jews in their perverseness He
leads on, and blaspheming He entreats them, and tempting Him He dismisses
them not; but to her, running unto Him, and entreating, and beseeching Him,
to her who had been educated neither in the law, nor in the prophets, and
was exhibiting so great reverence; to her He doth not vouchsafe so much as
Whom would not this have offended, seeing the facts so opposite to the
report? For whereas they had heard, that He went about the villages
healing, her, when she had come to Him, He utterly repels. And who would
not have been moved by her affliction, and by the supplication she made for
her daughter in such evil case? For not as one worthy, nor as demanding a
due, not so did she approach Him, but she entreated that she might find
mercy, and merely gave a lamentable account of her own affliction; yet is
she not counted worthy of so much as an answer.
Perhaps many of the hearers were offended, but she was not offended.
And why say I, of the hearers? For I suppose that even the very disciples
must have been in some degree affected at the woman's affliction, and have
been greatly troubled, and out of heart.
Nevertheless not even in this trouble did they venture to say, "Grant
her this favor," but, "His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send
her away, for she crieth after us." For we too, when we wish to persuade
any one, oftentimes say the contrary.
But Christ saith, "I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house
What then did the woman, after she heard this? Was she silent, and did
she desist? or did she relax her earnestness? By no means, but she was the
more instant. But it is not so with us; rather, when we fail to obtain, we
desist; whereas it ought to make us the more urgent.
And yet, who would not have been driven to perplexity by the word which
was then spoken? Why His silence were enough to drive her to despair, but
His answer did so very much more. For together with herself, to see them
also in utter perplexity that were pleading with her, and to hear that the
thing is even impossible to be done, was enough to cast her into
Yet nevertheless the woman was not perplexed, but on seeing her
advocates prevail nothing, she made herself shameless with a goodly
For whereas before this she had not ventured so much as to come in
sight (for "she crieth," it is said, "after us"), when one might expect
that she should rather depart further off in utter despair, at that very
time she comes nearer, and worships, saying, "Lord, help me."(2)
What is this, O woman? Hast thou then greater confidence than the
apostles? more abundant strength? "Confidence and strength," saith she, "by
no means; nay, I am even full of shame. Yet nevertheless my very
shamelessness do I put forward for entreaty; He will respect my
confidence." And what is this? Heardest thou not Him saying, "I am not sent
but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel? "I heard," saith she, "but
He Himself is Lord." Wherefore neither did she say, "Entreat and beseech,"
but, "Help me."
3. What then saith Christ? Not even with all this was He satisfied, but
He makes her perplexity yet more intense again, saying,
"It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to the
And when He vouchsafed her a word, then He smote her more sharply than
by His silence. And no longer doth He refer the cause to another, nor say,
"I am not sent," but the more urgent she makes her entreaty, so much the
more doth He also urge His denial. And He calls them no longer "sheep," but
"children," and her "a dog."
What then saith the woman? Out of His own very words she frames her
plea. "Why, though I be a dog," said she, "I am not an alien."
Justly did Christ say, "For judgment am I come."(4) The woman practises
high self- command, and shows forth all endurance and faith, and this,
receiving insult; but they, courted and honored, requite it with the
For, "that food is necessary for the children," saith she, "I also
know; yet neither am I forbidden, being a dog. For were it unlawful to
receive, neither would it be lawful to partake of the crumbs; but if,
though in scanty measure, they ought to be partakers, neither am I
forbidden, though I be a dog; nay, rather on this ground am I most surely a
partaker, if I am a dog."
With this intent did Christ put her off, for He knew she would say
this; for this did He deny the grant, that He might exhibit her high self-
For if He had not meant to give, neither would He have given
afterwards, nor would He have stopped her mouth again. But as He doth in
the case of the centurion, saying, "I will come and heal him,"(5) that we
might learn the godly fear of that man, and might hear him say, "I am not
worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof;"(1) and as He doth in the
case of her that had the issue of blood, saying, "I perceive that virtue
hath gone out of me,"(2) that He might make her faith manifest; and as in
the case of the Samaritan woman, that He might show how not even upon
reproof she desists:(3) so also here, He would not that so great virtue in
the woman should be hid. Not in insult then were His words spoken, but
calling her forth, and revealing the treasure laid up in her.
But do thou, I pray thee, together with her faith see also her
humility. For He had called the Jews "children," but she was not satisfied
with this, but even called them "masters;" so far was she from grieving at
the praises of others.
"Why, the dogs also,"(4) saith she, "eat of the crumbs that fall from
their master's table."(5)
Seest thou the woman's wisdom, how she did not venture so much as to
say a word against it, nor was stung by other men's praises, nor was
indignant at the reproach? Seest thou her constancy? He said, "It is not
meet," and she said, "Truth, Lord;" He called them "children," but she
"masters;" He used the name of a dog, but she added also the dog's act.
Seest thou this woman's humility?
Hear the proud language of the Jews. "We be Abraham's seed, and were
never in bondage to any man;"(6) and, "We be born of God."(7) But not so
this woman, rather she calls herself a dog, and them masters; so
for this she became a child. What then saith Christ? "O woman, great is thy
Yea, therefore did He put her off, that He might proclaim aloud this
saying, that He might crown the woman.
"Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Now what He saith is like this:
"Thy faith indeed is able to effect even greater things than these;
nevertheless, Be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
This was akin to that voice that said, "Let the Heaven be, and it
"And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Seest thou how this woman too contributed not a little to the healing
of her daughter? For to this purpose neither did Christ say, "Let thy
little daughter be made whole," but, "Great is thy faith, be it unto thee
even as thou wilt;" to teach thee that the words were not used at random,
nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith.
The certain test, however, and demonstration thereof, He left to the
issue of events. Her daughter accordingly was straightway healed.
But mark thou, I pray thee, how when the apostles had failed, and had
not succeeded, this woman had success. So great a thing is assiduity in
prayer. Yea, He had even rather be solicited by us, guilty as we are, for
those who belong to us, than by others in our behalf. And yet they had more
liberty to speak; but she exhibited much endurance.
And by the issue He also excused Himself to His disciples for the
delay, and showed that with reason He had not assented to their request.
4. "And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of
Galilee; and went up into the mountain, and sat down there. And great
multitudes came unto Him, having with them those that were lame, blind,
maimed, dumb; and cast them(10) at His feet; and He healed them, insomuch
that the multitudes wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed
to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see, and they glorified the
God of Israel."(11)
Now He goes about Himself, now sits awaiting the diseased, and hath the
lame brought up unto the mountain. And no longer do they touch so much as
His garment, but advance a higher step, being cast at His feet: and they
showed their faith doubly, first, by going up into the mountain though
lame, then by wanting nothing else but to be cast at His feet only.
And great was the marvel and strange, to see them that were carried
walking, the blind needing not any to lead them by the hand. Yea, both the
multitude of the healed, and the facility of their cure amazed them.
Seest thou, how the woman indeed He healed with so much delay, but
these immediately? not because these are better than she is, but because
she is more faithful than they. Therefore, while in her case He defers and
delays, to manifest her constancy; on these He bestows the gift
immediately, stopping the mouths of the unbelieving Jews, and cutting away
from them every plea. For the greater favors one hath received, so much the
more is he liable to punishment, if he be insensible, and the very honor
make him no better. Therefore you see the rich also proving wicked, are
more punished than the poor, for not being softened even by their
prosperity. For tell me not that they gave alms. Since if they gave not in
proportion to their substance, not even so shall they escape; our alms
being judged not by the measure of our gifts, but by the largeness(1) of
our mind. But if these suffer punishment, much more they that are eager
about unnecessary things; who build houses of two and three stories, but
despise the hungry; who give heed to covetousness, but neglect alms-giving.
5. But since the discourse hath fallen on almsgiving, come then, let us
resume again to-day that argument, which I was making three days ago
concerning benevolence, and left unfinished. Ye remember, when lately I was
speaking of vanity about your shoes, and of that empty trouble, and the
luxury of the young, that it was from almsgiving that our discourse passed
on to those charges against you. What were the matters then at that time
brought forward? That almsgiving is a kind of art, having its workshop in
Heaven, and for its teacher, not man, but God. Then inquiring what is an
art, and what not an art, we came upon fruitless labors, and evil devices,
amongst which we made mention also of this art concerning men's shoes.
Have ye then recalled it to mind? Come now, let us to-day also resume
what we then said, and let us show how almsgiving is an art, and better
than all arts. For if the peculiarity of art is to issue in something
useful, and nothing is more useful than almsgiving, very evidently this is
both an art, and better than all arts. For it makes for us not shoes, nor
doth it weave garments, nor build houses that are of clay; but it procures
life everlasting, and snatches us from the hands of death, and in either
life shows us glorious, and builds the mansions that are in Heaven, and
those eternal tabernacles.
This suffers not our lamps to go out, nor that we should appear at the
marriage having filthy garments, but washes them, and renders them purer
than snow. "For though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as
snow."(2) It suffers us not to fall, where that rich man fell, nor to hear
those fearful words, but it leads us into the bosom of Abraham.
And indeed of the arts of this life, each severally takes and keeps one
good work; as agriculture the feeding us; weaving the clothing us; or
rather not so much as this; for it is in no wise sufficient alone to
contribute to us its own part. And, if thou wilt, let us try agriculture
first. Why, if it hath not the smith's art, that it may borrow from it
spade, and ploughshare, and sickle, and axe, and other things besides; and
that of the carpenter, so as both to frame a plough, and to prepare a yoke
and a cart to bruise the ears; and the currier's, to make also the leathern
harness; and the builder's, to build a stable for the bullocks that plough,
and houses for the husbandmen that sow; and the woodman's, to cut wood; and
the baker's after all these, it is found nowhere.
So also the art of weaving, when it produces anything, calls many arts,
together with itself, to assist it in the works set before it; and if they
be not present and stretch forth the hand, this too stands, like the
former, at a loss. And indeed every one of the arts stands in need of the
But when alms is to be given, we want nothing else, but the disposition
only is required. And if thou say that money is needed, and houses and
clothes and shoes; read those words of Christ, which He spake concerning
the widow,(3) and cease from this anxiety. For though thou be exceedingly
poor, and of them that beg, if thou cast in two mites, thou hast effected
all; though thou give but a barley cake, having only this, thou art arrived
at the end of the art.
This science then let us receive, and bring to perfection. For truly it
is a better thing to know this, than to be a king, and to wear a diadem.
For this is not its only advantage, that it needs not other things, but it
is also able to accomplish a variety of objects, both many and of all
kinds. Thus, it both builds houses that continue forever in Heaven; and
teaches them that have brought it to perfection, how they may escape the
never-dying death; and bestows on thee treasures that are never spent, but
escape all injury, both from robbers, and from worms, and from moths, and
And yet, were it but for the preservation of wheat that any one had
taught thee this, what wouldest thou not have given, to be able to preserve
thy grain unconsumed for many years? But behold, this teaches thee the same
not concerning wheat only, but concerning all things, and shows how both
thy goods and thy soul and thy body may remain unconsumed.
And why should we rehearse particularly all the good effects of this
art? For this teaches thee how thou mayest become like God, which is the
sum of all good things whatsoever.
Seest thou how the work thereof is not one, but many? Without needing
any other art, it builds houses, it weaves garments, it stores up treasures
which cannot be taken from us, it makes us get the better of death, and
prevail over the devil; it renders us like God.
What now can be more profitable than this art? For while the other
arts, as well as what I have mentioned, both end with our present life, and
when the artists are diseased, are found nowhere; and their works have no
power to endure, and they need much labor and time, and innumerable other
things; this one, when the world hath passed away, then it becomes more
than ever conspicuous; when we are dead, then it shines out brighter than
ever, and exhibits the works which it hath accomplished. And neither time
nor labor, nor any such travail, doth it need; but is active even in thy
sickness, and in thine old age, and migrates with thee into the life to
come, and never forsakes thee. This makes thee to surpass in ability both
sophists and rhetoricians. For such as are approved in those arts have many
to envy them, but they who shine in this have thousands to pray for them.
And those indeed stand at men's judgment seat, pleading for them that are
wronged, and often too for them that do wrong; but this virtue stands by
the judgment seat of Christ, not only pleading, but persuading the judge
Himself to plead for him that is judged, and to give sentence in his favor:
though his sins have been very many, almsgiving doth both crown and
proclaim him. For "give alms, and all things shall be clean."(1)
And why do I speak of the things to come? Since in our present life,
should we ask men which they would rather, that there should be many
sophists and rhetoricians, or many that give alms, and love their fellow
men, thou wilt hear them choose the latter; and very reasonably. For if
oratory were taken away, our life will be nothing the worse; for indeed
even before this, it had continued a long time; but if thou take away the
showing of mercy, all is lost and undone. And as men could not sail on the
sea, if harbors and roadsteads were blocked up; so neither could this life
hold together, if thou take away mercy, and compassion, and love to man.
6. Therefore God hath not at all left them to reasoning only, but many
parts thereof He hath implanted by the absolute power of nature herself.
Thus do fathers pity children, thus mothers, thus children parents; and not
in the case of men only, but of all the brutes also; thus brothers pity
brothers, and kinsmen, and connexions; thus man pities man. For we have
somewhat even from nature prone to mercy.
Therefore also we feel indignation in behalf of them that are wronged,
and seeing men killed we are overcome, and beholding them as they mourn, we
weep. For because it is God's will that it should be very perfectly
performed, He commanded nature to contribute much hereunto, signifying that
this is exceedingly the object of His care.
Considering then these things, let us bring both ourselves and our
children and them that pertain to us unto the school of mercy, and this
above all things let man learn, since even this is man. "For a man is a
great thing, and a merciful man a precious thing;"(2) so that unless one
hath this, one hath fallen away even from being a man. This renders them
wise. And why marvel at this being man? This is God. For, "be ye," saith
He, "merciful as your Father?"(3)
Let us learn therefore to be merciful on all accounts, but chiefly,
because we too need much mercy. And let us reckon ourselves as not even
living, at such time as we are not showing mercy. But by mercy, I mean that
which is free from covetousness. For if he that is contented with his own,
and imparts to no man, is not merciful, how is he that takes the goods of
other men merciful, though he give without limit? For if merely to enjoy
one's own be inhumanity, much more to defraud others. If they that have
done no wrong are punished, because they imparted not, much more they, who
even take what is others.
Say not therefore this, "One is injured, another receives mercy." For
this is the grievous thing. Since it were meet that the injured should be
the same with the receiver of the mercy: but now, while wounding some, thou
art healing them whom thou hast not wounded, when thou oughtest to heal the
same; or rather not so much as to wound them. For he is not humane who
smites and heals, but he that heals such as have been smitten by others.
Heal therefore thine own evil acts, not another's; or rather do not smite
at all, nor cast down (for this is the conduct of a mocker), but raise up
them that are cast down.
For neither is it possible by the same measure of almsgiving to cure
the evil result of covetousness. For if thou hast unjustly gotten a
farthing, it is not a farthing that thou needest again for almsgiving, to
remove the sin that comes of thine unjust gain, but a talent. Therefore the
thief being taken pays fourfold, but he that spoils by violence is worse
than he that steals. And if this last ought to give fourfold(1) what he
stole, the extortioner should give tenfold and much more; and it is much if
even so he can make atonement for his injustice; for of almsgiving not even
then will he receive the reward. Therefore saith Zacchaeus, "I will restore
what I have taken by false accusation fourfold, and the half of my goods I
will give to the poor."(2) And if under the law one ought to give fourfold,
much more under grace; if he that steals, much more he that spoils by
violence. For besides the damage, in this case the in-suit too is great. So
that even if thou give an hundredfold, thou hast not yet given the whole.
Seest thou how not without cause I said, If thou take but a farthing by
violence, and pay back a talent, scarcely even so dost thou remedy it? But
if scarcely by doing this; when thou reversest the order, and hast taken by
violence whole fortunes, yet bestowest but little, and not to them either
that have been wronged, but to others in their stead; what kind of plea
wilt thou have? what favor? what hope of salvation?
Wouldest thou learn how bad a deed thou doest in so giving alms? Hear
the Scripture that saith, "As one that killeth the son before his father's
eyes, so is he that bringeth a sacrifice of the goods of the poor."(3)
This denunciation then let us write in our minds before we depart, this
let us write on our walls, this on our hands, this in our conscience, this
everywhere; that at least the fear of it being vigorous in our minds, may
restrain our hands from daily murders. For extortion is a more grievous
thing than murder, consuming the poor man by little and little.
In order then that we may be pure from this pollution, let us exercise
ourselves in these thoughts, both by ourselves and to one another. For so
shall we both be more forward to show mercy, and receive undiminished the
reward for it, and enjoy the eternal good things, by the grace and love
towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory and might with the
Father, and the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LIII: MATT. XV. 32.
"But Jesus called His disciples unto Him, and said, I have compassion on
the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have
nothing to eat: and I will(1) not send them away fasting, lest they faint
in the way."
BOTH above, when going to do this miracle, He first healed them that
were maimed in body, and here He doth the self-same thing; from the healing
of the blind and the lame, He goes on to this again.
But why might it be, that then His disciples said, "Send away the
multitude," but now they said not so; and this, though three days had past?
Either being themselves improved by this time, or seeing that the people
had no great sense of hunger; for they were glorifying God for the things
that were done.
But see how in this instance too He doth not proceed at once to the
miracle, but calls them forth thereunto. For the multitudes indeed who had
come out for healing durst not ask for the loaves; but He, the benevolent
and provident one, gives even to them that ask not, and saith unto His
disciples, "I have compassion, and will not send them away fasting."
For lest they should say that they came having provisions for the way,
He saith, "They continue with me now three days;" so that even if they came
having any, it is all spent. For therefore He Himself did not this on the
first and second day, but when all had been consumed by them, in order that
having first been in want, they might more eagerly accept His work.
Therefore He saith, "Lest they faint in the way;" implying both their
distance to be great, and that they had nothing left.
"Then, if thou art not willing to send them away fasting, wherefore
dost thou not work the miracle?" That by this question and by their answer
He might make the disciples more heedful, and that they might show forth
their faith, coming unto Him, and saying, "Make loaves."
But not even so did they understand the motive of His question;
wherefore afterwards He saith to them, as Mark relates, "Are your hearts so
hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not?"(1)
Since, if this were not so, wherefore doth He speak to the disciples,
and signify the multitude's worthiness to receive a benefit, and add also
the pity He Himself feels?
But Matthew saith, that after this He also rebuked them, saying, "O ye
of little faith, do ye not yet understand, nor remember the five loaves of
the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? nor the seven loaves of
the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?"(2) So completely do
the evangelists harmonize one with another.
What then say the disciples? Still they creep on the ground, although
He had done so very many things in order that that miracle might be kept in
memory; as by His question, and by the answer, and by making them minister
herein, and by distributing the baskets; but their state of mind was yet
Wherefore also they say to Him, "Whence should we have so many loaves
in the wilderness?"(3)
Both before this, and now, they make mention of the wilderness;
themselves in a weak way of argument so speaking, yet even hereby putting
the miracle above suspicion. That is, lest any should affirm (as I have
indeed already said), that they obtained it from some neighboring village,
the place is acknowledged, that the miracle may be believed. With this
view, both the former miracle and this He works in a wilderness, at a great
distance from the villages.
The disciples, considering none of all this, said, "Whence should we
have so many loaves in a wilderness?" For they thought verily He had said
it as purposing next to enjoin them to feed the people; most foolishly;
since with this intent He had said, and that lately, "Give ye them to
eat,"(4) that He might bring them to an urgent need of entreating Him.
But now He saith not this, "Give ye them to eat," but what? "I have
compassion on them, and will not send them away fasting;" bringing the
disciples nearer, and provoking them more, and granting them clearer sight,
to ask these things of Him. For in truth they were the words of one
signifying that He hath power not to send them away fasting; of one
manifesting His authority. For the expression, "I will not," implies such a
purpose in Him.
2. Since however they still spake of the multitude merely, and the
place, and the wilderness (for "whence," it is said, "should we have in a
wilderness so many loaves, as to fill so great a multitude"?); and not even
so understood what He said, He proceeds to contribute His own part, and
saith unto them,
"How many loaves have ye? And they say, Seven, and a few little
And they no more say, "But what are these among so many?"(6) as they
had said before. So that although they reached not His whole meaning, yet
nevertheless they became higher by degrees. For so He too, arousing their
mind hereby, puts the question much as He had done before, that by the very
form of the inquiry He might remind them of the works already done.
But as thou hast seen their imperfection hereby, so do thou observe the
severity of their spirit, and admire their love of truth, how, writing
themselves, they conceal not their own defects, great as they were. For it
was no small blame to have presently forgotten this miracle, which had so
recently taken place; wherefore they are also rebuked.
And herewith consider also their strictness in another matter, how they
were conquerors of their appetite; how disciplined to make little account
of their diet. For being in the wilderness and abiding there three days,
they had seven loaves.
Now all the rest He doth as on the former occasion; thus He both makes
them sit down on the ground, and He makes the loaves multiply themselves in
the hands of the disciples. For, "He commanded," it is said, "the multitude
to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves, and the fishes,
and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to
But when we come to the end, there is a difference.
For, "they did all eat," so it is said, "and were filled, and they took
up of the broken meat that was left,(2) seven baskets full. And they that
did eat were four thousand men, besides women and children."(3)
But why at the former time, when there were five thousand, did twelve
baskets full remain over and above, whereas here, when there were four
thousand, it was seven baskets full? For what purpose, I say, and by what
cause, were the remnants less, the guests not being so many?
Either then one may say this, that the baskets on this last occasion(4)
were greater than those used before,(5) or if this were not so, lest the
equality of the miracle should again cast them into forgetfulness, He
rouses their recollection by the difference, that by the variation they
might be reminded of both one and the other. Accordingly, in that case, He
makes the baskets full of fragments equal in number to His disciples, in
this, the other baskets equal to the loaves; indicating even hereby His
unspeakable power, and the ease wherewith He exercised His authority, in
that it was possible for Him to work such miracles, both in this way and in
the other. For neither was it of small power, to maintain the exact number,
both then and now; then when there were five thousand, now when there were
four thousand; and not suffer the remnants to be more than the baskets used
on the one occasion or on the other, although the number of the guests was
And the end again was like the former. For as then He left the
multitude and withdrew in a ship, so also now; and John also saith this.(6)
For since no sign did so work upon them to follow Him, as the miracle of
the loaves; and they were minded not only to follow Him, but also to make
Him a king;(7) avoiding all suspicion of usurping royalty, He hastens away
after this work of wonder: and He doth not even go away afoot, lest they
should follow Him, but by entering into a ship.
"And He sent away the multitudes," so it saith, "and went on board the
ship, and came into the coasts of Magdala."(8)
3. "And the Pharisees and Sadducees came and(9) desired Him to show
them a sign from Heaven. But He saith, When it is evening, ye say, Fair
weather, for the sky is red; and in the morning, Foul weather today, for
the sky is red and lowering. Ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye
not the signs of the times?(10) A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh
after a sign, and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the
prophet Jonas. And He left them, and departed."(11)
But Mark saith, that when they were come unto Him, and were
questioning with Him, "He sighed deeply in His spirit, and saith, Why doth
this generation seek after a sign?"(12)
And yet surely their inquiry was deserving of anger and great
displeasure; yet nevertheless the benevolent and provident One is not
angry, but pities and bewails them as incurably diseased, and after so full
a demonstration of His power, tempting Him.
For not in order to believe did they seek, but to lay hold of Him.
Since had they come unto Him as ready to believe, He would have given it.
For He who said to the woman, "It is not meet,"(13) and afterwards gave,
much more would He have shown His bounty to these.
But since they did not seek to believe, therefore He also calls them
hypocrites, because in another place they said one thing, and meant
another. Yea, had they believed, they would not even have asked. And from
another thing too it is evident that they believed not; that when reproved
and exposed, they abode not with Him, nor said, "We are ignorant and seek
But for what sign from Heaven were they asking? Either that He should
say the sun, or curb the moon, or bring down thunderbolts, or work a change
in the air, or some other such thing.
What then saith He to all this? "Ye can discern the face of the sky,
but can ye not discern the signs of the times?"(14)
See His meekness and moderation. For not even as before did He refuse
merely, and say, "There shall none be given them," but He states also the
cause why He gives it not, even though they were not asking for
What then was the cause? "Much as in the sky," saith He, "one thing is
a sign of a storm, another of fair weather, and no one when he saw the sign
of foul weather would seek for a calm, neither in calm and fair weather for
a storm; so should you reckon with regard to me also. For this present time
of my coming, is different from that which is to come. Now there is need of
these signs which are on the earth, but those in Heaven are stored up
against that time. Now as a physician am I come, then I shall be here as a
judge; now to seek that which is gone astray, then to demand an account.
Therefore in a hidden manner am I come, but then with much publicity,
folding up the heaven, hiding the sun, not suffering the moon to give her
light. Then 'the very powers of the heavens shall be shaken,(1) and the
manifestation of my coming shall imitate lightning that appears at once to
all.(2) But not now is the time for these signs; for I am come to die, and
to suffer all extremities."
Heard ye not the prophet, saying, "He shall not strive nor cry, neither
shall His voice be heard without?"(3) and another again, "He shall come
down as rain upon a fleece of wool?"(4)
And if men speak of the signs in Pharaoh's time, there was an enemy
then from whom deliverance was needed, and it all took place in due course.
But to Him that came among friends there was no need of those signs.
"And besides, how shall I give the great signs, when the little are not
believed?" Little, I mean, as regards display, since in power these latter
were much greater than the former. For what could be equal to remitting
sins, and raising the dead, and driving away devils, and creating a body,
and ordering all other things aright?
But do thou see their hardened heart, how on being told, that "no sign
should be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonas," they do not ask.
And yet, knowing both the prophet, and all that befell him, and having been
told this a second time, they ought to have inquired and learnt what the
saying could mean; but, as I said, there is no desire of information in
these their doings. For this cause "He also left them, and departed."
4. "And when His disciples," so it is said, "were come to the other
side, they forgot to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and
beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees."(5)
And why said He not plainly, Beware of their teaching? His will is to
remind them of what had been done, for He knew they had forgotten. But for
accusing them at once there seemed to be no reasonable ground, but to take
the occasion from themselves, and so to reprove them, would make the charge
admissible. "And why did He not then reprove them, when they said, 'Whence
should we have so many loaves in the wilderness?' for it seemed a good time
then to say what He says here." That He might not seem to rush hastily on
the miracle. And besides, He would not blame them before the multitude, nor
seek honor in their presence. And now too the accusation had greater
reason, for that after repetition of the miracle they were so minded.
Wherefore also He works another miracle, and then and not till then He
reproves; I mean, He brings forward what they were reasoning in their
hearts. But what were their reasonings? "Because," so it is said, "we have
taken no bread."(6) For as yet they were full of trepidation about the
purifications of the Jews, and the observances of meats.
Wherefore on all accounts He attacks them even with severity, saying,
"Why reason ye in yourselves, O ye of little faith, because ye have brought
no bread?(7) Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your heart
hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? Having ears, hear ye not?(8) Do ye not
remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took
up? neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye
Seest thou intense displeasure? For nowhere else doth He appear to have
so rebuked them. Wherefore then doth He so? In order again to cast out
their prejudice about the meats. I mean that with this view, whereas then
He had only said, "Perceive ye not, neither understand?" in this place, and
with a strong rebuke, He saith, "O ye of little faith."(10)
For not everywhere is lenity a good thing. And as He used to allow them
freedom of speech, so doth He also reprove, by this variety providing for
their salvation. And mark thou at once His reproof, bow strong, and His
mildness. For all but excusing Himself to them for His severe reproofs to
them, He saith, "Do ye not yet consider the five loaves, and how many
baskets ye took up; and the seven loaves, and how many baskets ye took up?"
And to this end He sets down also the numbers, as well of the persons fed
as of the fragments, at once both bringing them to recollection of the
past, and making them more attentive to the future.
And to teach thee how great the power of His reproof, and how it roused
up their slumbering mind, hear what saith the evangelist. For Jesus having
said no more, but having reproved them, and added this only, "How is it
that ye do not understand, that I spake it not to you concerning bread that
ye should beware, but of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees;"(1) He
subjoined, saying, "Then understood they that He bade them not beware of
the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and
Sadducees,"(2) although He had not uttered that interpretation.
See how much good His reproof wrought. For it both led them away from
the Jewish observances, and when they were remiss, made them more heedful,
and delivered them from want of faith;(3) so that they were not afraid nor
in alarm, if at any time they seemed to have few loaves; nor were they
careful about famine, but despised all these things.
5. Neither let us then for our part be in all ways flattering those
under our charge, nor seek to be flattered of them that have the rule over
us. Since, in truth, the soul of men stands in need of medicines in both
these kinds. Therefore even in the whole world we may see that God doth so
order things, now doing this, now the other, and permits neither our good
things to be permanent, nor our adversities to be by themselves. Yea, as
now it is night, now day, and now winter, now summer; so also within us,
now pain, now pleasure, now sickness, and now health. Let us not then
marvel when we are sick, since rather when we are in health we should
marvel. Neither let us be troubled when we are in sorrow, since when we are
glad rather it is reasonable to be troubled; all coming to pass according
to nature and in order. And why marvel, if in thy case so it be, when even
in regard of those saints one may see this happening?
And that thou mayest learn it, the life which thou accountest to be
most full of pleasure and free from troubles, that let us bring forward.
Wilt thou that we examine Abraham's life from the beginning? What then at
the very first was said to him? "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy
kindred."(4) Didst thou see what a painful thing is enjoined him? But look
also on the good coming after it: "And come hither unto a land that I will
show thee, and I will make thee a great nation."
What then? after he had come to the land, and reached the harbor, did
his troubles cease? By no means; but others again, more grievous than the
former, succeed, a famine, and a removal, and a violent seizure of his
wife; and after these other prosperities befell him, the plague upon
Pharaoh, and her liberation, and the honor, and those many gifts, and the
return to his house. And the subsequent events too all form the same kind
of chain, prosperities and troubles entwined together.
And the like befell the apostles too. Wherefore also Paul said, "Who
comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them
which are in any trouble."(5) "What then is this to me," some one will say,
"who am always in sorrow?" Be not uncandid, nor unthankful; nay, it is out
of the question for one to be in troubles always, nature being unequal to
it; but because we want to be always in joy, therefore we account ourselves
always in sorrow. Not however on this account alone, but because we
presently forget our advantages and blessings, but are always remembering
our troubles, therefore we say we are in sorrow. Whereas it is impossible,
being a man, to be always in sorrow.
6. And if ye will, let us examine both the life of luxury, so delicate
and dissipated, and the other, so grievous and galling, and painful. For we
will show you that both the former hath sorrows, and the latter
refreshments Nay, be not disturbed. Let there be set before us a man who is
in bonds, and another who is a king, youthful, an orphan, having succeeded
to a great substance; and let there also be set before us one toiling for
hire through the whole day, and another living in luxury continually.
Wilt thou then that we tell first the vexations of that one, who lives
in luxury? Consider how his mind must naturally be rocked as with a
tempest, when he longs for a glory beyond him, when he is despised by his
servants, when he is insulted by his inferiors, when he hath ten thousand
to accuse him, and to blame his costly living. And all the rest too, which
is likely to occur in such wealth, one cannot even tell; the vexations, the
affronts, the accusations, the losses, the devices of the envious, who,
because they cannot transfer his wealth to themselves, drag and tear in
pieces the young man on every side, and excite against him storms without
Wilt thou have me tell also of the pleasure of this other, the hired
laborer? From all this he is free; though one insult him, he grieves not,
for he counts not himself greater than any; he is not in fear about wealth,
he eats with pleasure, he sleeps with great comfort. Not so luxurious are
the drinkers of Thasian wine, as he in going to fountains, and enjoying
those springs. But the state of the other is not such.
Now if what I have said suffice thee not, to make my victory more
complete. come let us compare the king and the prisoner, and thou wilt
often see the latter in pleasure and sporting and leaping, while the former
with his diadem and purple robe is in despair, and hath innumerable cares,
and is dead with fear.
For we may not, we may not find any one's life without sorrow, nor
again without its share of pleasure; for our nature would not have been
equal to it, as I have already said. But if one joys more, and another
grieves more, this is due to the person himself that grieves, being mean of
soul, not to the nature of the case. For if we would rejoice continually,
we have many means thereto.
Since, had we once laid hold on virtue, there would be nothing to
grieve us any more. For she suggests good hopes to them that possess her,
and makes them well pleasing to God, and approved among men, and infuses
unspeakable delight. Yea, though in doing right virtue hath toil, yet doth
it fill the conscience with much gladness, and lays up within so great
pleasure, as no speech shall be able to express.
For which of the things in our present life seems to thee pleasant? A
sumptuous table, and health of body, and glory, and wealth? Nay, these
delights, if thou set them by that pleasure, will prove the bitterest of
all things, compared thereunto. For nothing is more pleasurable than a
sound conscience, and a good hope.
7. And if ye would learn this, let us inquire of him who is on the
point of departing hence, or of him that is grown old; and when we have
reminded him of sumptuous banqueting which he hath enjoyed, and of glory
and honor, and of good works which he hath some time practised and wrought,
let us ask in which he exults the more; and we shall see him for the other
ashamed, and covering his face, but for these soaring and leaping with joy.
So Hezekiah, too, when he was sick, called not to mind sumptuous
feasting, nor glory, nor royalty, but righteousness. For "remember," saith
he, "how I walked before Thee in an upright way."(1) See Paul again for
these things leaping with joy, and saying, "I have fought the good fight, I
have finished my course, I have kept the faith."(2) "Why, what had he to
speak of besides?" one may say. Many things, and more than these; even the
honors wherewith he was honored, what attendance and great respect he had
enjoyed. Hearest thou not him saying, "Ye received me as an angel of God,
as Christ Jesus"? and, "If it were possible, ye would have plucked out your
eyes, and given them to me"?(3) and that "Men had laid down their neck for
his life"?(4) But none of those things doth he bring forward, but his
labors, and perils, and his crowns in requital for them; and with much
reason. For while the one sort are left here, the other migrate with us;
and for those we shall give account, but for these we shall ask reward.
Know ye not in the day of death how sins make the soul shrink? how they
stir up the heart from beneath? At that time therefore, when such things
are happening, the remembrance of good works stands by us, like a calm in a
storm, and comforts the perturbed soul.
For if we be wakeful, even during our life this fear will be ever
present with us; but, insensible as we are, it will surely come upon us
when we are cast out from hence. Because the prisoner too is then most
grieved, when they are leading him out to the court; then most trembles,
when he is near the judgment-seat, when he must give his account. For the
same kind of reason most persons may be then heard relating horrors, and
fearful visions, the sight whereof they that are departing may not endure,
but often shake their very bed with much vehemence, and gaze fearfully on
the bystanders, the soul urging itself inwards, unwilling to be torn away
from the body, and not enduring the sight of the coming angels. Since if
human beings that are awful strike terror into us beholding them; when we
see angels threatening, and stern powers, among our visitors; what shall we
not suffer, the soul being forced from the body, and dragged away, and
bewailing much, all in vain? Since that rich man too, after his departure,
mourned much, but derived no profit therefrom.
All these things then let us picture to ourselves, and consider, test
we too suffer the same, and thus let us keep the fear thence arising in
vigor; that we may escape the actual punishment, and attain unto the
eternal blessings; unto which God grant we may all attain, by the grace and
love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be glory unto the
Father, together with the Holy and Life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and
world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LIV: MATT. XIV. 13.
"Now when Jesus had gone forth into the coasts(1) of Caesarea Philippi, He
asked His disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?"(2)
WHEREFORE hath he mentioned the founder of the city? Because there was
another besides, Caesarea Stratonis. But not in that, but in this doth He
ask them, leading them far away from the Jews, so that being freed from all
alarm, they might speak with boldness all that was in their mind.
And wherefore did He not ask them at once their own opinion, but that
of the people? In order that when they had told the people's opinion, and
then were asked, "But whom(3) say ye that I am?" by the manner of His
inquiry they might be led up to a sublimer notion, and not fall into the
same low view as the multitude. Accordingly He asks them not at all in the
beginning of His preaching, but when He had done many miracles, and had
discoursed with them of many and high doctrines, and had afforded so many
clear proofs of His Godhead, and of His unanimity with the Father, then He
puts this question to them.
And He said not, "Whom say the Scribes and Pharisees that I am?" often
as these had come unto Him, and discoursed with Him; but, "Whom do men say
that I am?" inquiring after the judgment of the people, as unbiassed. For
though it was far meaner than it should be, yet was it free from malice,
but the other was teeming with much wickedness,
And signifying how earnestly He desires His Economy(4) to be confessed,
He saith, "The Son of Man;" thereby denoting His Godhead, which He doth
also in many other places. For He saith, "No man hath ascended up to
Heaven, but the Son of Man, which is in Heaven."(5) And again, "But when ye
shall see the Son of Man ascend up, where He was before."(6)
Then, since they said, "Some John the Baptist, some Elias, some
Jeremias, or one of the prophets,"(7) and set forth their mistaken opinion,
He next added, "But whom say ye that I am?"(8) calling them on by His
second inquiry to entertain some higher imagination concerning Him, and
indicating that their former judgment falls exceedingly short of His
dignity. Wherefore He seeks for another judgment from themselves, and puts
a second question, that they might not fall in with the multitude, who,
because they saw His miracles greater than human, accounted Him a man
indeed, but one that had appeared after a resurrection, as Herod also
said.(9) But He, to lead them away from this notion, saith, "But whom say
ye that I am?" that is, "ye that are with me always, and see me working
miracles, and have yourselves done many mighty works by me."
5. What then saith the mouth of the apostles, Peter, the ever fervent, the
leader of the apostolic choir?(1) When all are asked, he answers. And
whereas when He asked the opinion of the people, all replied to the
question; when He asked their own, Peter springs forward, and anticipates
them, and saith, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."(2)
What then saith Christ? "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and
blood hath not revealed it unto thee."(3)
Yet surely unless he had rightly confessed Him, as begotten of the very
Father Himself, this were no work of revelation; had he accounted our Lord
to be one of the many, his saying was not worthy of a blessing. Since
before this also they said, "Truly He is Son of God,"(4) those, I mean, who
were in the vessel after the tempest, which they saw, and were not blessed,
although of course they spake truly. For they confessed not such a Sonship
as Peter, but accounted Him to be truly Son as one of the many, and though
peculiarly so beyond the many, yet not of the same substance.
And Nathanael too said, "Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the
King of Israel;" and so far from being blessed, he is even reproved by Him,
as having said what was far short of the truth. He replied at least,
"Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou?
thou shalt see greater things than these."(6)
Why then is this man blessed? Because he acknowledged Him very Son.
Wherefore you see, that while in those former instances He had said no such
thing, in this case He also signifies who had revealed it. That is, lest
his words might seem to the many (because he was an earnest lover of
Christ) to be words of friendship and flattery, and of a disposition to
show favor to Him, he brings forward the person who had made them ring(7)
in his soul; to inform thee that Peter indeed spake, but the Father
suggested, and that thou mightest believe the saying to be no longer a
human opinion, but a divine doctrine.
And wherefore doth He not Himself declare it, nor say, "I am the
Christ," but by His question establish this, bringing them in to confess
it? Because so to do was both more suitable to Him, yea necessary at that
time, and it drew them on the more to the belief of the things that were
Seest thou how the Father reveals the Son, how the Son the Father? For
"neither knoweth any man the Father," saith He, "save the Son, and he to
whomsoever the Son will reveal Him."(8) It cannot therefore be that one
should learn the Son of any other than of the Father; neither that one
should learn the Father of any other than of the Son. So that even hereby,
their sameness of honor and of substance is manifest.
3. What then saith Christ? "Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou
shalt be called Cephas."(9) "Thus since thou hast proclaimed my Father, I
too name him that begat thee;" all but saying, "As thou art son of Jonas,
even so am I of my Father." Else it were superfluous to say, "Thou art Son
of Jonas;" but since he had said, "Son of God," to point out that He is so
Son of God, as the other son of Jonas, of the same substance with Him that
begat Him, therefore He added this, "And I say unto thee, Thou art Peter,
and upon this rock will I build my Church;"(10) that is, on the faith of
his confession. Hereby He signifies that many were now on the point of
believing, and raises his spirit, and makes him a shepherd. "And the gates
of hell" shall not prevail against it." "And if not against it, much more
not against me. So be not troubled because thou art shortly to hear that I
shall be betrayed and crucified."
Then He mentions also another honor. "And I also(12) will give thee the
keys of the heavens."(13) But what is this, "And I also will give thee?"
"As the Father hath given thee to know me, so will I also give thee."
And He said not, "I will entreat the Father" (although the
manifestation of His authority was great, and the largeness of the gift
unspeakable), but, "I will give thee." What dost Thou give? tell me. "The
keys of the heavens, that whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth, shall be
bound in Heaven,(14) and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be
loosed in Heaven." How then is it not "His to give to sit on His right
hand, and on His left,"(15) when He saith, "I will give thee"?
Seest thou how He, His own self, leads Peter on to high thoughts of
Him, and reveals Himself, and implies that He is Son of God by these two
promises? For those things which are peculiar to God alone, (both to
absolve sins, and to make the church incapable of overthrow in such
assailing waves, and to exhibit a man that is a fisher more solid than any
rock, while all the world is at war with him), these He promises Himself to
give; as the Father, speaking to Jeremiah, said, He would make him as "a
brazen pillar, and as a wall;"(1) but him to one nation only, this man in
every part of the world.
I would fain inquire then of those who desire to lessen the dignity of
the Son, which manner of gifts were greater, those which the Father gave to
Peter, or those which the Son gave him? For the Father gave to Peter the
revelation of the Son; but the Son gave him to sow that of the Father and
that of Himself in every part of the world; and to a mortal man He
entrusted the authority over all things in Heaven, giving him the keys; who
extended the church to every part of the world, and declared it to be
stronger than heaven. "For heaven and earth shall pass away, but my word
shall not pass away."(2) How then is He less, who hath given such gifts,
hath effected such things?
And these things I say, not dividing the works of Father and Son ("for
all things are made by Him, and without Him was nothing made which was
made"):(3) but bridling the shameless tongue of them that dare so to speak.
But see, throughout all, His authority: "I say unto thee, Thou art
Peter; I will build the Church; I will give thee the keys of Heaven."
4. And then, when He had so said, "He charged them that they should
tell no man that He was the Christ."(5)
And why did He charge them? That when the things which offend are taken
out of the way, and the cross is accomplished, and the rest of His
sufferings fulfilled, and when there is nothing any more to interrupt and
disturb the faith of the people in Him, the right opinion concerning Him
may be engraven pure and immovable in the mind of the hearers. For, in
truth, His power had not yet clearly shone forth. Accordingly it was His
will then to be preached by them, when both the plain truth of the facts,
and the power of His deeds were pleading in support of the assertions of
the apostles. For it was by no means the same thing to see Him in
Palestine, now working miracles, and now insulted and persecuted (and
especially when the very cross was presently to follow the miracles that
were happening); and to behold him everywhere in the world, adored and
believed, and no more suffering anything, such as He had suffered.
Therefore He bids them "tell no man." For that which hath been once
rooted and then plucked up, would hardly, if planted, again be retained
among the many; but that which, once fixed, hath remained immovable, and
hath suffered injury from no quarter, easily mounts up, and advances to a
And if they who had enjoyed the benefit of many miracles, and had had
part in so many unutterable mysteries, were offended by the mere hearing of
it; or rather not these only, but even the leader(6) of them all, Peter;
consider what it was likely the common sort should feel, being first told
that He is the Son of God, then seeing Him even crucified and spit upon,
and that without knowledge of the secret of those mysteries, or
participation in the gift of the Holy Ghost. For if to His disciples He
said, "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now;"(7)
much more would the rest of the people have utterly failed, had the
chiefest of these mysteries been revealed to them before the proper time.
Accordingly He forbids them to tell.
And to instruct thee how great a thing it was, their afterwards
learning His doctrine complete, when the things that offend had passed by;
learn it from this same leader of theirs. For this very Peter, he who after
so many miracles proved so weak as even to deny Him, and to be in fear of a
mean damsel; after the cross had come forth, and he had received the
certain proofs of the resurrection, and there was nothing more to offend
and trouble him, retained the teaching of the Spirit so immovable, that
more vehemently than a lion he sprang upon the people of the Jews, for all
the dangers and innumerable deaths which were threatened.
With reason then did He bid them not tell the many before the
crucifixion, since not even to them that were to teach did He venture to
commit all before the crucifixion. "For I have many things to say unto
you," saith He, "but ye cannot bear them now."
And of the things too that He did say, they do not understand many,
which He did not make plain before the crucifixion. At least when He was
risen from the dead, then and not before they knew some of His sayings.
5. "From that time forth began He to show unto them that He must
suffer.(8) From that time." What time? When He had fixed the doctrine in
them; when He had brought in the beginning of the Gentiles.(1)
But not even so did they understand what He said. "For the saying," it
is said, "was hid from them; "(2) and they were as in a kind of perplexity,
not knowing that He must rise again. Therefore He rather dwells on the
difficulties, and enlarges His discourse, that He may open their mind, and
they may understand what it can be that He speaks of.
"But they understood not, but the saying was hid from them, and they
feared to ask this; "(3) not whether He should die, but how, and in what
manner, and what this mystery could be. For they did not even know what was
this same rising again, and supposed it much better not to die. Therefore,
the rest being troubled and in perplexity, Peter again, in his ardor, alone
ventures to discourse of these things; and not even he openly, but when he
had taken Him apart; that is, having separated himself from the rest of the
disciples; and he saith, "Be it far from Thee, Lord, this shall not be unto
Thee."(4) What ever is this? He that obtained a revelation, he that was
blessed, hath he so soon fallen away, and suffered overthrow, so as to fear
His passion? And what marvel, that one who had not on these points received
any revelation, should have that feeling? Yea, to inform thee that not of
himself did he speak those other things either, see in these matters that
were not revealed to him how he is confounded and overthrown, and being
told ten thousand times, knows not what the saying can mean.
For that He is Son of God he had learnt, but what the mystery of the
cross and of the resurrection might be, was not yet manifest to him: for
"the saying," it is said, "was hid from them."
Seest thou that with just cause He bade them not declare it to the
rest? For if it so confounded them, who must needs be made aware of it,
what would not all others have felt?
6. He however, to signify that He is far from coming to the passion
against His will, both rebuked Peter, and called him Satan.
Let them hear, as many as are ashamed of the suffering of the cross of
Christ. For if the chief apostle, even before he had learnt all distinctly,
was called Satan for feeling this, what excuse can they have, who after so
abundant proof deny His economy? I say., when he who had been so blessed,
who made such a confession, has such words addressed to him; consider what
they will suffer, who after all this deny the mystery of the cross.
And He said not, "Satan spake by thee," but, "Get thee behind me,
Satan."(5) For indeed it was a desire of the adversary that Christ should
not suffer. Therefore with such great severity did He rebuke him, as
knowing that both he and the rest are especially afraid of this, and will
not easily receive it.
Therefore He also reveals the thoughts of his mind, saying, "Thou
savorest(6) not the things that be of God, but those that be of men."
But what means, "Thou savorest(6) not the things that be of God, but
those that be of men"? Peter examining the matter by human and earthly
reasoning, accounted it disgraceful to Him and an unmeet thing. Touching
him therefore sharply,(7) He saith, "My passion is not an unmeet thing, but
thou givest this sentence with a carnal mind; whereas if thou hadst
hearkened to my sayings in a godly manner, disengaging thyself from thy
carnal understanding, thou wouldest know that this of all things most
becometh me. For thou indeed supposest that to suffer is unworthy of me;
but I say unto thee, that for me not to suffer is of the devil's mind;" by
the contrary statements repressing his alarm.
Thus as John, accounting it unworthy of Christ to be baptized by him,
was persuaded of Christ to baptize Him, He saying, "Thus it becometh
us,"(8) and this same Peter too, forbidding Him to wash his feet, by the
words, "Thou hast no part with me, unless I wash thy feet; "(9) even so
here too He restrained him by the mention of the opposite, and by the
severity of the reproof repressed his fear of suffering.
7. Let no man therefore be ashamed of the honored symbols of our
salvation, and of the chiefest of all good things, whereby we even live,
and whereby we are; but as a crown, so let us bear about the cross of
Christ. Yea, for by it all things are wrought, that are wrought among us.
Whether one is to be new-born, the cross is there; or to be nourished with
that mystical food, or to be ordained, or to do anything else, everywhere
our symbol of victory is present. Therefore both on house, and walls, and
windows, and upon our forehead, and upon our mind, we inscribe it with much
For of the salvation wrought for us, and of our common freedom, and of
the goodness of our Lord, this is the sign. "For as a sheep was He led to
the slaughter."(1) When therefore thou signest thyself, think of the
purpose of the cross, and quench anger, and all the other passions. When
thou signest thyself, fill thy forehead with all courage, make thy soul
free. And ye know assuredly what are the things that give freedom.
Wherefore also Paul leading us there, I mean unto the freedom that beseems
us, did on this wise lead us unto it, having reminded us of the cross and
blood of our Lord. "For ye are bought," saith he, "with a price; be not ye
the servants of men."(2) Consider, saith he, the price that hath been paid
for thee, and thou wilt be a slave to no man; by the price meaning the
Since not merely by the fingers ought one to engrave it, but before
this by the purpose of the heart with much faith. And if in this way thou
hast marked it on thy face, none of the unclean spirits will be able to
stand near thee, seeing the blade whereby he received his wound, seeing the
sword which gave him his mortal stroke. For if we, on seeing the places in
which the criminals are beheaded, shudder; think what the devil must
endure, seeing the weapon, whereby Christ put an end to all his power, and
cut off the head of the dragon.
Be not ashamed then of so great a blessing, lest Christ be ashamed of
thee, when He comes with His glory, and the sign appears before Him,
shining beyond the very sunbeam.(3) For indeed the cross cometh then,
uttering a voice by its appearance, and pleading with the whole world for
our Lord, and signifying that no part hath failed of what pertained to Him.
This sign, both in the days of our forefathers and now, hath opened
doors that were shut up;(4) this hath quenched poisonous drugs;(5) this
hath taken away the power of hemlock:, this hath healed bites of venomous
beasts. For if it opened the gates of hell, and threw wide the archways of
Heaven, and made a new entrance into Paradise, and cut away the nerves of
the devil; what marvel, if it prevailed over poisonous drugs, and venomous
beasts, and all other such things.
This therefore do thou engrave upon thy mind, and embrace the salvation
of our souls. For this cross saved and converted the world, drove away
error, brought back truth, made earth Heaven, fashioned men into angels.
Because of this, the devils are no longer terrible, but contemptible;
neither is death, death, but a sleep; because of this, all that warreth
against us is cast to the ground, and trodden under foot.
If any one therefore say to thee, Dost thou worship the crucified? say,
with your voice all joy, and your countenance gladdened, "I do both worship
Him, and will never cease to worship." And if he laugh, weep for him,
because he is mad. Thank the Lord, that He hath bestowed on us such
benefits, as one cannot so much as learn without His revelation from above.
Why, this is the very reason of his laughing, that "the natural man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit."(6) Since our children too feel
this, when they see any of the great and marvellous things; and if thou
bring a child into the mysteries, he will laugh. Now the heathen are like
these children; or rather they are more imperfect even than these;
wherefore also they are more wretched, in that not in an immature age, but
when full grown, they have the feelings of babes; wherefore neither are
they worthy of indulgence.
But let us with a clear voice, shouting both loud and high, cry out and
say (and should all the heathen be present, so much the more confidently),
that the cross is our glory, and 'the sum of all our blessings, and our
confidence, and all our crown. I would that also with Paul I were able to
say, "By which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world; "(7)
but I cannot, restrained as I am by various passions.
8. Wherefore I admonish both you, and surely before you myself, to be
crucified to the world, and to have nothing in common with the earth, but
to set your love on your country above, and the glory and the good things
that come from it. For indeed we are soldiers of a heavenly King, and are
clad with spiritual arms. Why then take we upon ourselves the life of
traders, and mountebanks, nay rather of worms? For where the King is, there
should also the soldier be. Yea, we are become soldiers, not of them that
are far off, but of them that are near. For the earthly king indeed would
not endure that all should be in the royal courts, and at his own side, but
the King of the Heavens willeth all to be near His royal throne.
And how, one may say, is it possible for us, being here, to stand by
that throne? Because Paul too being on earth was where the seraphim, where
the cherubim are; and nearer to Christ, than these the body guards to the
king. For these turn about their faces in many directions, but him nothing
beguiled nor distracted, but he kept his whole mind intent upon the king.
So that if we would, this is possible to us also.
For were He distant from us in place, thou mightest well doubt, but if
He is present everywhere, to him that strives and is in earnest He is near.
Wherefore also the prophet said, "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with
me;(1)" and God Himself again, "I am a God nigh at hand, and not a God afar
off."(2) Then as our sins separate us from Him, so do our righteousnesses
draw us nigh unto Him. "For while thou art yet speaking," it is said, "I
will say, Here I am."(3) What father would ever be thus obedient to his
offspring? What mother is there, so ready, and continually standing, if
haply her children call her? There is not one, no father, no mother: but
God stands continually waiting, if any of his servants should perchance
call Him; and never, when we have called as we ought, hath He refused to
hear. Therefore He saith, "While thou art yet speaking," I do not wait for
thee to finish, and I straightway hearken.
9. Let us call Him therefore, as it is His will to be called. But what
is this His will? "Loose," saith He, "every band of iniquity, unloose the
twisted knots of oppressive covenants, tear in pieces every unjust
contract. Break thy bread to the hungry, and bring in the poor that are
cast out to thy house. If thou seest one naked, cover him, and them that
belong to thy seed thou shalt not overlook. Then shall thy light break
forth in the morning, and thine healings shall spring forth speedily, and
thy righteousness shall go before thee, and the glory of the Lord shall
cover thee. Then thou shalt call upon me, and I will give ear unto thee;
whilst thou art yet speaking, I will say, Lo! here I am."(4)
And who is able to do all this? it may be asked. Nay, who is unable, I
pray thee? For which is difficult of the things I have mentioned? Which is
laborious? Which not easy?
Why, so entirely are they not possible only, but even easy, that many
have actually overshot the measure of those sayings, not only tearing in
pieces unjust contracts, but even stripping themselves of all their goods;
making the poor welcome not to roof and table, but even to the sweat of
their body, and laboring in order to maintain them; doing good not to
kinsmen only, but even to enemies.
But what is there at all even hard in these sayings? For neither did
He say, "Pass over the mountain, go across the sea, dig through so many
acres of land, abide without food, wrap thyself in sackcloth;" but, "Impart
to the poor? impart of thy bread, cancel the contracts unjustly made."
What is more easy than this? tell me. But even if thou account it
difficult, look, I pray thee, at the rewards also, and it shall be easy to
For much as our emperors at the horse races heap together before the
combatants crowns, and prizes, and garments, even so Christ also sets His
rewards in the midst of His course, holding them out by the prophet's
words, as it were by many hands. And the emperors, although they be ten
thousand times emperors, yet as being men, and the wealth which they have
in a course of spending, and their munificence of exhaustion, are ambitious
of making the little appear much; wherefore also they commit each thing
severally into the hand of the several attendants, and so bring it forward.
But our King contrariwise, having heaped all together (because He is very
rich, and doeth nothing for display), He so brings it forward, and what He
so reaches out is indefinitely great, and will need many hands to hold it.
And to make thee aware of this, examine each particular of it carefully.
"Then," saith He, "shall thy light break forth in the morning."(6) Doth
not this gift appear to thee as some one thing? But it is not one; nay, for
it hath many things in it, both prizes, and crowns, and other rewards. And,
if ye are minded, let us take it to pieces and show all its wealth, as it
shall be possible for us to show it; only do not ye grow weary.
And first, let us learn the meaning of "It shall break forth." For He
said not at all, "shall appear," but" shall break forth;" declaring to us
its quickness and plentifulness, and how exceedingly He desires our
salvation, and how the good things themselves travail to come forth, and
press on; and that which would check their unspeakable force shall be
nought; by all which He indicates their plentifulness, and the infinity of
His abundance. But what is "the morning." It means, "not after being in
life's temptations, neither after our evils have come upon us;" nay, it is
quite beforehand with them. For as in our fruits, we call that early, which
has shown itself before its season; so also here again, declaring its
rapidity, he has spoken in this way, much as above He said, "Whilst thou
art yet speaking, I will say, Lo! here I am."
But of what manner of light is He speaking, and what can this light be?
Not this, that is sensible; but another far better, which shows us Heaven,
the angels, the archangels, the cherubim, the seraphim, the thrones, the
dominions, the principalities, the powers, the whole host, the royal
palaces, the tabernacles. For shouldest thou be counted worthy of this
light, thou shalt both see these, and be delivered from hell, and from the
venomous worm, and from the gnashing of teeth, and from the bonds that
cannot be broken, and from the anguish and the affliction, from the
darkness that hath no light, and from being cut asunder, and from the river
of fire, and from the curse, and from the abodes of sorrow; and thou shalt
depart, "where sorrow and woe are fled away,"(1) where great is the joy,
and the peace, and the love, and the pleasure, and the mirth; where is life
eternal, and unspeakable glory, and inexpressible beauty; where are eternal
tabernacles, and the untold glory of the King, and those good things,
"which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the
heart of man;" where is the spiritual bridechamber, and the apartments of
the heavens, and the virgins that bear the bright lamps, and they who have
the marriage garment; where many are the possessions of our Lord, and the
storehouses of the King.
Seest thou how great the rewards, and how many He hath set forth by one
expression, and how He brought all together?
So also by unfolding each of the expressions that follow, we shall find
our abundance great, and the ocean immense. Shall we then still delay, I
beg you; and be backward to show mercy on them that are in need? Nay, I
entreat, but though we must throw away all, be cast into the fire, venture
against the sword, leap upon daggers, suffer what you will; let us bear all
easily, that we may obtain the garment of the kingdom of Heaven, and that
untold glory; which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards man of
our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might, world without end. Amen.
HOMILY LV: MATT. XVI. 24.
"Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him
renounce himself,(1) and take up his cross and follow me."
THEN; when? When Peter said, 'Be it far from Thee, this shall not be
unto Thee; and was told, "Get thee behind me, Satan."(2) For He was by no
means satisfied with the mere rebuke, but, willing also more abundantly to
show both the extravagance of what Peter had said, and the benefit of His
passion, He saith, "Thy word to me is, "Be it far from Thee, this shall not
be unto Thee:" but my word to thee is, "Not only is it hurtful to thee, and
destructive, to hinder me and to be displeased at my Passion, but it will
be impossible for thee even to be saved, unless thou thyself too be
continually prepared for death."
Thus, test they should think His suffering unworthy of Him, not by the
former things only, but also by the events that were coming on, He teaches
them the gain thereof. Thus in John first, He saith," Except the corn of
wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it
bringeth forth much fruit;"(3) but here more abundantly working it out, not
concerning Himself only doth He bring forward the statement that it is meet
to die, but concerning them also. "For so great is the profit thereof, that
in your case also unwillingness to die is grievous, but to be ready for it,
This however He makes clear by what follows, but for the present He
works it out on one side only. And see how He also makes His discourse
unexceptionable: not saying at all, "whether you will, or no, you must
suffer this," but how? "If any man will come after me." "I force not, I
compel not, but each one I make lord of his own choice; wherefore also I
say, 'If any man will.' For to good things do I call you, not to things
evil, or burdensome; not to punishment and vengeance, that I should have to
compel. Nay, the nature of the thing is alone sufficient to attract you."
Now, thus saying, He drew them unto Him the more. For he indeed that
uses compulsion oftens turns men away, but he that leaves the hearer to
choose attracts him more. For soothing is a mightier thing than force.
Wherefore even He Himself said, "If any man will." "For great," saith He,
"are the good things which I give you, and such as for men even to run to
them of their own accord. For neither if one were giving gold, and offering
a treasure, would he invite with force. And if that invitation be without
compulsion, much more this, to the good things in the Heavens. Since if the
nature of the thing persuade thee not to run, thou art not worthy to
receive it at all, nor if thou shouldest receive it, wilt thou well know
what thou hast received."
Wherefore Christ compels not, but urges, sparing us. For since they
seemed to be murmuring much, being secretly disturbed at the saying, He
saith, "No need of disturbance or of trouble. If ye do not account what I
have mentioned to be a cause of innumerable blessings, even when befalling
yourselves, I use no force, nor do I compel, but if any be willing to
follow, him I call.
"For do not by any means imagine that this is your following of me; I
mean, what ye now do attending upon me. Ye have need of many toils, many
dangers, if ye are to come after me. For thou oughtest not, O Peter,
because thou hast confessed me Son of God, therefore only to expect crowns,
and to suppose this enough for thy salvation, and for the future to enjoy
security, as having done all. For although it be in my power, as Son of
God, to hinder thee from having any trial at all of those hardships; yet
such is not my will, for thy sake, that thou mayest thyself too contribute
something, and be more approved."
For so, if one were a judge at the games, and had a friend in the
lists, he would not wish to crown him by favor only, but also for his own
toils; and for this reason especially, because he loves him. Even so Christ
also; whom He most loves, those He most of all will have to approve
themselves by their own means also, and not from His help alone.
But see how at the same time He makes His saying not a grievous one.
For He cloth by no means compass them only with His terror, but He also
puts forth the doctrine generally to the world, saying, "If any one will,"
be it woman or man, ruler or subject, let him come this way.
5. And though he seem to have spoken but one single thing, yet His
sayings are three, "Let him renounce himself," and "Let him bear his
cross," and "Let him follow me;" and two of them are joined together, but
the one is put by itself.
But let us see first what it can be to deny one's self. Let us learn
first what it is to deny another, and then we shall know what it may be to
deny one's self. What then is it to deny another? He that is denying
another,--for example, either brother, or servant, or whom you will,--
should he see him either beaten, or bound, or led to execution, or whatever
he may suffer, stands not by him, doth not help him, is not moved, feels
nothing for him, as being once for all alienated from him. Thus then He
will have us disregard our own body, so that whether men scourge, or
banish, or burn, or whatever they do, we may not spare it. For this is to
spare it. Since fathers too then spare their offspring, when committing
them to teachers, they command not to spare them.
So also Christ; He said not, "Let him not spare himself," but very
strictly, "Let him renounce himself;" that is, let him have nothing to do
with himself, but give himself up to all dangers and conflicts; and let him
so feel, as though another were suffering it all.
And He said not, "Let him deny,"(1) but "Let him renounce;"(2) even by
this small addition intimating again, how very far it goes. For this latter
is more than the former.
"And let him take up his cross." This arises out of the other. For to
hinder thy supposing that words, and insults, and reproaches are to be the
limits of our self- renunciation, He saith also how far one ought to
renounce one's self; that is, unto death, and that a reproachful death.
Therefore He said not, "Let him renounce himself unto death," but, "Let him
take up his cross;" setting forth the reproachful death; and that not once,
nor twice, but throughout all life one ought so to do. "Yea," saith He,
"bear about this death continually, and day by day be ready for slaughter.
For since many have indeed contemned riches, and pleasure, and glory, but
death they despised not, but feared dangers; I," saith He, "will that my
champion should wrestle even unto blood, and that the limits of his course
should reach unto slaughter; so that although one must undergo death, death
with reproach, the accursed death, and that upon evil surmise, we are to
bear all things nobly, and rather to rejoice in being suspected."
"And let him follow me." That is, it being possible for one to suffer,
yet not to follow Him, when one doth not suffer for Him (for so robbers
often suffer grievously, and violaters of tombs, and sorcerers); to hinder
thy supposing that the mere nature of thy calamities is sufficient, He adds
the occasion of these calamities.
And what is it? In order that, so doing and suffering, thou mayest
follow Him; that for Him thou mayest undergo all things; that thou mayest
possess the other virtues also. For this too is expressed by "Let him
follow me;" so as to show forth not fortitude only, such as is exercised in
our calamities, but temperance also, and moderation, and all self-
restraint. This being properly "to follow," the giving heed also to the
other virtues, and for His sake suffering all.
For there are who follow the devil even to the endurance of all this,
and for his sake give up their own lives; but we for Christ, or rather for
our own sakes: they indeed to harm themselves both here and there; but we,
that we may gain both lives.
How then is it not extreme dullness, not to show forth even the same
fortitude with them that perish; and this, when we are to reap from it so
many crowns? Yet with us surely Christ Himself is present to be our help,
but with them no one.
Now He had indeed already spoken this very injunction, when He sent
them, saying, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (for, saith He, "I send
you as sheep in the midst of wolves," and, "ye shall be brought before
kings and governors")(1) but now with more intensity and severity. For then
He spake of death only, but here He hath mentioned a cross also, and a
continual cross. For "let him take up," saith He, "his cross;" that is,"
let him carry it continually and bear it." And this He is wont to do in
everything; not in the first instance, nor from the beginning, but quietly
and gradually, bringing in the greater commandments, that the hearers may
not count it strange.
3. Then, because the saying seemed to be vehement, see how He softens
it by what follows, and sets down rewards surpassing our toils; and not
rewards only, but also the penalties of vice: nay, on these last He dwells
more than on those, since not so much His bestowing blessings, as His
threat of severities, is wont to bring ordinary men to their senses. See at
least how He both begins here from this, and ends in this.
"For whosoever will save his life shall lose it," saith He, "but
whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, shall find it. For what is a man
profiled,' if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or
what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"(3)
Now what He saith is like this: "not as unsparing towards you, but
rather as exceedingly sparing you, I enjoin these things. For he who spares
his child, ruins it; but he who spares it not, preserves." To which effect
also a certain wise man said, "If thou beat thy son with a rod, he shall
not die, but thou shall deliver his soul from death."(4) And again, "He
that refresheth his son, shall bind up his wounds."(5)
This takes place in the camp also. For if the general, sparing the
soldiers, commands them to remain within the place always, he will destroy
with them the inhabitants too.
"In order then that this may not happen in your case also," saith He,
"ye must be arrayed against continual death. For now too a grievous war is
about to be kindled. Sit not therefore within, but go forth and fight; and
shouldest thou fall in thy post, then hast thou obtained life." For if in
the visible wars he that in his post meets slaughter, is both more
distinguished than the rest, and more invincible, and more formidable to
the enemy; although we know that after death the king, in behalf of whom he
takes his station, is not able to raise him up again: much more in these
wars, when there are such hopes of resurrection besides, will he who
exposes his own life unto death, find it; in one sense, because he will not
be quickly taken; in a second, because even though he fall, God(6) will
lead his life on to a higher life.
4. Then, because he had said, "He who will save shall lose it, but
whosoever shall lose shall save it," and on that side had set salvation and
destruction, and on this salvation and destruction; to prevent any one's
imagining the one destruction and salvation to be all the same with the
other, and to teach thee plainly that the difference between this salvation
and that is as great as between destruction and salvation; from the
contraries also He makes an inference once for all to establish these
points. "For what is a man profited,"(1) saith He, "if he gain the whole
world, and lose his own soul ?"
Seest thou how the wrongful preservation of it is destruction, and
worse than all destruction, as being even past remedy, from the want of
anything more to redeem it? For "tell me not this," saith He, "that he that
hath escaped such dangers hath saved his life; but together with his life
put also the whole world, yet what profit hath he thereby, if the soul
For tell me, shouldest thou see thy servants in luxury, and thyself in
extreme calamity, wilt thou indeed profit aught by being master? By no
means. Make this reckoning then with regard to thy soul also, when the
flesh is in luxury and wealth, and she awaiting the destruction to come.
"What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?"(2)
Again, He dwells upon the same point. What? hast thou another soul to
give for this soul? saith He. Why, shouldest thou lose money, thou wilt be
able to give money; or be it house, or slaves, or any other kind of
possession, but for thy soul, if thou lose it, thou wilt have no other soul
to give: yea, though thou hadst the world, though thou wast king of the
whole earth, thou wouldest not be able, by paying down all earthly goods,
with the earth itself, to redeem but one soul.
And what marvel, if it be so with the soul? Since even in the body one
may see that so it turns out. Though thou wear ten thousand diadems, but
have a body sickly by nature, and incurable, thou wilt not be able, not by
giving all thy kingdom, to recover this body, not though thou add
innumerable persons, and cities, and goods.
Now thus I bid thee reason with regard to thy soul also; or rather even
much more with regard to the soul; and do thou, forsaking all besides,
spend all thy care upon it. Do not then while taking thought about the
things of others, neglect thyself and thine own things; which now all men
do, resembling them that work in the mines. For neither do these receive
any profit from this labor, nor from the wealth; but rather great harm,
both because they incur fruitless peril, and incur it for other men,
reaping no benefit from such their toils and deaths. These even now are
objects of imitation to many, who are digging up wealth for others; or
rather we are more wretched even than this, inasmuch as hell itself awaits
us after these our labors. For they indeed are staid from those toils by
death, but to us death proves a beginning of innumerable evils.
But if thou say, thou hast in thy wealth the fruit of thy toils: show
me thy soul gladdened, and then I am persuaded. For of all things in us the
soul is chief. And if the body be fattened, while she is pining away, this
prosperity is nothing to thee (even as when the handmaiden is glad, the
happiness of the maidservant is nothing to her mistress perishing, nor is
the fair robe anything compared with the weak flesh); but Christ will say
unto thee again, "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?" on
every hand commanding thee to be busied about that, and to take account of
5. Having alarmed them therefore hereby, He comforts them also by His good
"For the Son of Man shall come," saith He, "in the glory of His Father
with His holy angels, and then He shall reward every man according to his
Seest thou how the glory of the Father and of the Son is all one? But
if the glory be one, it is quite evident that the substance also is one.
For if in one substance there be a difference of glory ("for there is one
glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the
stars; for one star differeth from another star in glory;"(4) although the
substance be one), how may the substance of those differ, whereof the glory
is one? For He said not at all, "In glory such as the Father's," whereby
thou mightest suppose again some variation; but implying entire perfection,
"In that same glory," saith He, "will He come;" for it to be deemed one and
"Now, why fear, O Peter" (so He speaks), "on being told of death? Why,
then shalt thou see me in the glory of the Father. And if I am in glory, so
are ye; your interests are no wise limited to the present life, but another
sort of portion will take you up, a better one." Nevertheless, when He had
spoken of the good things, He stayed not at this, but mingled the fearful
things also, bringing forward that judgment-seat, and the inexorable
account, and the inflexible sentence, and the judgment that cannot be
He suffered not however His discourse to appear only dismal, but
tempered it also with good hopes. For neither did He say, "then shall He
punish them that sinned," but, "He shall reward every man according to his
doings."(1) And this He said, reminding not only the sinners of punishment,
but also them that have done well of prizes and crowns.
6. And He indeed spake it, in part to refresh the good, but I ever
shudder at hearing it, for I am not of them that are crowned, and I suppose
that others also share with us in our fear and anxiety. For whom is this
saying not enough to startle, when he hath entered into his own conscience;
and to make him shudder, and convince him that we have need of sackcloth,
and of prolonged fasting, more than the people of the Ninevites? For not
for an overthrow of a city, and the common end, are we concerned, but for
eternal punishment, and the fire that is never quenched.
Wherefore also I praise and admire the monks that have occupied the
desert places, as for the rest, so for this saying. For they after having
made their dinners, or rather after supper (for dinner they know not at any
time, because they know that the present time is one of mourning and
fasting); after supper then, in saying certain hymns of thanksgiving unto
God, they make mention of this expression also. And if ye would hear the
very hymns themselves, that ye too may say them continually, I will
rehearse to you the whole of that sacred song. The words of it then stand
as follows: "Blessed God, who feedest me from my youth up, who givest food
to all flesh; fill our hearts with joy and gladness, that always having all
sufficiency we may abound unto every good work in Christ Jesus our Lord;
with whom be unto Thee glory, honor and might, with the Holy Spirit,
forever. Amen. Glory to Thee, O Lord, glory to Thee, O Holy One, glory to
Thee. O King, that Thou hast given us meat to make us glad. Fill us with
the Holy Ghost, that we may be found well-pleasing before Thee, not being
ashamed, when Thou renderest to every man according to his works."
Now this hymn is in all parts worthy of admiration, but especially the
above ending of it. That is, because meals and food are wont to dissipate
and weigh down, they put this saying as a kind of bridle upon the soul, at
the time of indulgence reminding it of the time of judgment. For they have
learnt what befell Israel through a costly table. "For my beloved," saith
He, "ate, and waxed fat, and kicked."' Wherefore also Moses said, "When
thou shalt have eaten and drunk and art full, remember the Lord thy
For after that feast, then they ventured on those acts of lawless
Do thou therefore also look to it, lest something like it befall thee.
For though thou sacrifice not to stone nor to gold, either sheep or
bullocks, see lest to wrath thou sacrifice thine own soul, lest to whoredom
or other like passions, thou sacrifice thine own salvation. Yea--on this
account, you see, they being afraid of these downfalls, when they have
enjoyed their meal, or rather fasting (for their meal is in fact fasting),
remind themselves of the terrible judgment-seat, and of that day. And if
they who correct themselves both with fasting, and with nights spent on the
ground, with watchings, and with sackcloth, and with ten thousand means, do
yet require also this reminding, when will it be possible for us to live
virtuously; who set forth tables loaded with innumerable wrecks, and do not
so much as pray at all, neither in the beginning nor the end ?
7. Wherefore to put an end to these shipwrecks, let us bring before us
that hymn and unfold it all, that seeing the profit thereof, we too may
chant it constantly over our table, and quell the rude motions of the
belly, introducing both the manners and laws of those angels into our
houses. For you ought indeed to go there and reap these fruits; but since
ye are not willing, at least through our words, hear this spiritual melody,
and let every one after his meal say these words, beginning thus.
"Blessed God." For the apostolic law they straightway fulfill, that
commands, "Whatsoever we do in word or in deed, that we do it in the name
of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him."(4)
Next, the thanksgiving takes place not for that one day only, but for
all their life. For, "Who feedest me," it is said, "from my youth up." And
a lesson of self-command is drawn thence, that when God feeds, we must not
take thought. For if upon a king's promising thee to furnish thy daily food
out of his own stores, thou wouldest be of good hope for the future; much
more, when God gives, and all things pour upon thee as out of fountains,
shouldest thou be freed from all anxiety. Yea, and to this very intent they
so speak, that they may persuade both themselves, and those that are made
disciples by them, to put off all worldly care.
Then, not to have thee suppose that for themselves only they offer up
this thanksgiving, they further say, "Who givest food to all flesh," giving
thanks in behalf of all the world; and as fathers of the whole earth, so do
they offer up their praises for all, and train themselves to a sincere
brotherly love. For it is not even possible they should hate them, in
behalf of whom they thank God, that they are fed.
Seest thou both charity introduced by their thanksgiving, and worldly
care cast out, both by the preceding words, and by these? For if He feed
all flesh, much more them that are devoted to him; if them that are
entangled in worldly cares, much more them that are freed from the same.
To establish this, Christ Himself said, "How many sparrows do ye exceed
in value?"(1) And He said it, teaching them not to put their confidence in
wealth and land and seeds; for it is not these that feed us, but the word
Hereby they stop the mouths, both of the Manichaeans, and of them of
Valentinus, and of all that are diseased in their way. For sure this Being
is not evil, who sets his own stores before all, even before them that
Then comes the petition: "Fill our hearts with joy and gladness." With
what manner of joy then, doth it mean? the joy of this world? God forbid:
for had they meant this, they would not have occupied summits of mountains,
and deserts, nor wrapt themselves in sackcloth; but that joy they mean,
which hath nothing in common with this present life, the joy of angels, the
And they do not simply ask for it, but in great excess; for they say
not, "give," but, "fill," and they say not "us," but "our hears." For this
is especially a heart's joy; "For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
Thus, because sin brought in sorrow, they request that through joy
righteousness may be implanted in them, for no otherwise might joy be
"That, always having all sufficiency, we may abound unto every good
work."(4) See how they fulfill that word of the gospel which saith, "Give
us this day our daily bread," and how they seek even this for spiritual
ends. For their phrase is, "That we may abound unto every good work." They
said not, "That we may do our duty only," but "even more than what is
enjoined," for, "that we may abound," means this. And while of God they
seek sufficiency in things needful, themselves are willing to obey not in
sufficiency only, but with much abundance, and in all things. This is the
part of well- disposed servants, this of men strict in goodness, to abound
always, and in all things.
Then again reminding themselves of their own weakness, and that without
the influence from above nothing noble can be done; having said, "that we
may abound unto every good work," they add, "in Christ Jesus our Lord, with
whom unto Thee be glory, honor, and might forever. Amen;" framing this end
like their commencement by a thread of thanksgiving.
8. After this again, they seem to begin afresh, but they are keeping to
the same argument. As Paul also in the beginning of an epistle, having
closed with a doxology, where he says, "According to the will of our God
and Father, to whom be glory forever. Amen;"(5) begins the subject again on
which he was writing. And again in another place when he had said, "They
worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed
forever: Amen;"(6) he completed not his discourse, but begins again.
Therefore neither let us blame these our angels, as acting disorderly,
for that having closed with a doxology they begin again the sacred hymns.
For they follow apostolical laws, beginning from a doxology, and ending
therein, and after that end making a commencement again.
Wherefore they say, "Glory be to Thee, O Lord; glory be to Thee, O Holy
One; glory be to Thee, O King; that Thou hast given us food to make us
Since not for the greater things only, but also for the lesser, we
ought to give thanks. And they do give thanks for these also, putting to
shame the heresy of the Manichaeans, and of as many as affirm our present
life to be evil. For lest for their high self-command, and contempt of the
belly, thou shouldest suspect them as abhorring the meat, like the heretics
aforesaid, who choke themselves(7) to death; they by their prayer teach
thee, that not from abhorrence of God's creatures they abstain from most of
them, but as exercising self-restraint.
And see how after thanksgiving for His past gifts, they are importunate
also for the greater things, and dwell not upon the matters of this life,
but mount above the heavens, and say, "Fill us with the Holy Ghost." For it
is not even possible to approve one's self as one ought, not being filled
with that grace; as there is no doing anything noble or great, without the
benefit of Christ's influences.
As therefore when they had said, "That we may abound unto every good
work," they added, "In Christ Jesus;" so here also they say, "Fill us with
the Holy Ghost, that we may be found to have been well-pleasing before
Seest thou how for the things of this life they pray not, but give
thanks only; but for the things of the Spirit, they both give thanks and
pray. For, "seek ye," saith He, "the kingdom of heaven, and all these
things shall be added unto you. "(2)
And mark too another kind of severe goodness in them; their saying,
namely, "That we may be found to have been well-pleasing in Thy sight, not
being ashamed." For "we care not," say they, "for the shame that proceeds
from the many, but whatever men may say of us, laughing, upbraiding, we do
not so much as regard it; but our whole endeavor is not to be put to shame
then." But in these expressions, they bring in also the river of fire, and
the prizes, and the rewards.
They said not, "that we be not punished," but, "that we be not
ashamed."(3) For this is to us far more fearful than hell, to seem to have
offended our Lord."
But since the more part and the grosser sort are not in fear of this,
they add, "When Thou renderest to every man according to his works." Seest
thou how greatly these strangers and pilgrims have benefitted us, these
citizens of the wilderness, or rather citizens of the Heavens? For whereas
we are strangers to the Heavens, but citizens of the earth, these are just
And after this hymn, being filled with much compunction, and with many
and fervent tears, so they proceed to sleep, snatching just so much of it
as a little to refresh themselves. And again, the nights they make days,
spending them in thanksgivings and in the singing of psalms.
But not men only, but women also practise this self-denial, overcoming
the weakness of their nature by the abundance of their zeal.
Let us be abashed then at their earnestness, we who are men, let us
cease to be fastened to the things present, to shadow, to dreams, to smoke.
For the more part of our life is passed in insensibility.
For both the first period of our life is full of much folly, and that
again which travels on to old age, makes all the feeling that is in us
wither away, and small is the space between, that is able feelingly to
enjoy pleasure; or rather, not even that hath a pure participation thereof,
by reason of innumerable cares and toils, that harrass it.
Wherefore, I pray, let us seek the unmovable and eternal goods, and the
life that never has old age.
For even one dwelling in a city may imitate the self-denial of the
monks; yea, one who has a wife, and is busied in a household, may pray, and
fast, and learn compunction. Since they also, who at the first were
instructed by the apostles, though they dwelt in cities, yet showed forth
the piety of the occupiers of the deserts: and others again who had to rule
over workshops, as Priscilla and Aquila.
And the prophets too, all had both wives and households, as Isaiah, as
Ezekiel, as the great Moses, and received no hurt therefrom in regard of
These then let us also imitate, and continually offer thanksgiving to
God, continually sing hymns to Him; let us give heed to temperance, and to
all other virtues, and the self-denial that is practised in the deserts,
let us bring into our cities; that we may appear both well-pleasing before
God, and approved before men, and attain unto the good things to come, by
the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom and
with whom be unto the Father, glory, honor, and might, together with the
holy and life-giving Spirit, now and always and world without end. Amen.(4)
HOMILY LVI.: MATT. XVI. 28.
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, There are some of them that stand here,
which shall not taste of death, until they see the Son of Man coming in His
Thus, inasmuch as He had discoursed much of dangers and death, and of
His own passion, and of the slaughter of the disciples, and had laid on
them those severe injunctions; and these were in the present life and at
hand, but the good things in hope and expectation:--for example, "They save
their life who lose it;" "He is coming in the glory of His Father;" "He
renders His rewards: "--He willing to assure their very sight, and to show
what kind of glory that is wherewith He is to come, so far as it was
possible for them to learn it; even in their present life He shows and
reveals this; that they should not grieve any more, either over their own
death, or over that of their Lord, and especially Peter in His sorrow.
And see what He doth. Having discoursed of hell,(1) and of the kingdom
(for as well by saying, "He that findeth his life shall lose it, and
whosoever will lose it for my sake, shall find it; "(2) as by saying, "He
shall reward every man according to his works,"(3) He had manifested both
of these): having, I say, spoken of both, the kingdom indeed He shows in
the vision, but hell not yet.
Why so? Because had they been another kind of people, of a grosser
sort, this too would have been necessary; but since they are approved and
considerate, He leads them on the gentler way. But not therefore only doth
He make this disclosure, but because to Himself also it was far more
Not however that He passes over this subject either, but in some
places He almost brings even before our eyes the very realities of hell; as
when He introduces the picture of Lazarus, and mentions him that exacted
the hundred pence, and him that was clad in the filthy garments, and others
not a few.
2. "And after six days He taketh with Him Peter and James and John.(4)
Now another says, "after eight,"(5) not contradicting this writer, but
most fully agreeing with him. For the one expressed both the very day on
which He spake, and that on which He led them up; but the other, the days
between them only.
But mark thou, I pray thee, the severe goodness of Matthew, not
concealing those who were preferred to himself. This John also often doth,
recording the peculiar praises of Peter with great sincerity. For the choir
of these holy men was everywhere pure from envy and vainglory.
Having taken therefore the leaders, "He bringeth them up into a high
mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as
the sun, and His raiment was(6) white as the light. And there appeared unto
them Moses and Elias talking with Him.(7)
Wherefore doth He take with Him these only? Because these were superior
to the rest. And Peter indeed showed his superiority by exceedingly loving
Him; but John by being exceedingly loved of Him; and James again by his
answer which he answered with his brother, saying, "We are able to drink
the cup;(8) nor yet by his answer only, but also by his works; both by the
rest of them, and by fulfilling, what he said. For so earnest was he, and
grievous to the Jews, that Herod himself supposed that he had bestowed
herein a very great favor on the Jews, I mean in slaying him.
But wherefore doth He not lead them up straightway? To spare the other
disciples any feeling of human weakness: for which cause He omits also the
names of them that are to go up. And this, because the rest would have
desired exceedingly to have followed, being to see a pattern of that glory;
and would have been pained, as overlooked. For though it was somewhat in a
corporeal way that He made the disclosure, yet nevertheless the thing had
much in it to be desired.
Wherefore then doth He at all foretell it? That they might be readier
to seize the high meaning, by His foretelling it; and being filled with the
more vehement desire in that round of days, might so be present with their
mind quite awake and full of care.
3. But wherefore doth He also bring forward Moses and Elias? One might
mention many reasons. And first of all this: because the multitudes said He
was, some Elias, some Jeremias, some one of the old prophets, He brings the
leaders of His choir, that they might see the difference even hereby
between the servants and the Lord; and that Peter was rightly commended for
confessing Him Son of God.
But besides that, one may mention another reason also: that because men
were continually accusing Him of transgressing the law, and accounting Him
to be a blasphemer, as appropriating to Himself a glory which belonged not
to Him, even the Father's, and were saying, "This Man is not of God,
because He keepeth not the Sabbath day;"(1) and again, "For a good work we
stone Thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that Thou, being a man,
makest Thyself God:"(2) that both the charges might be shown to spring from
envy, and He be proved not liable to either; and that neither is His
conduct a transgression of the law, nor His calling Himself equal to the
Father an appropriation of glory not His own; He brings forward them who
had shone out in each of these respects: Moses, because he gave the law,
and the Jews might infer that he would not have overlooked its being
trampled on, as they supposed, nor have shown respect to the transgressor
of it, and the enemy of its founder: Elias too for his part was jealous for
the glory of God, and were any man an adversary of God, and calling himself
God, making himself equal to the Father, while he was not what he said, and
had no right to do so; he was not the person to stand by, and hearken unto
And one may mention another reason also, with those which have been
spoken of. Of what kind then is it? To inform them that He hath power both
of death and life, is ruler both above and beneath. For this cause He
brings forward both him that had died, and him that never yet suffered
But the fifth motive, (for it is a fifth, besides those that have been
mentioned), even the evangelist himself hath revealed. Now what was this?
To show the glory of the cross, and to console Peter and the others in
their dread of the passion, and to raise up their minds. Since having come,
they by no means held their peace, but "spake," it is said, "of the
glory(3) which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem;(4)" that is, of the
passion, and the cross; for so they call it always.
And not thus only did He cheer them, but also by the excellency itself
of the men, being such as He was especially requiring from themselves. I
mean, that having said, "If any man will come after me, let him take up his
cross, and follow me;" them that had died ten thousand times for God's
decrees, and the people entrusted to them, these persons He sets before
them. Because each of these, having lost his life, found it. For each of
them both spake boldly unto tyrants, the one to the Egyptian, the other to
Ahab; and in behalf of heartless and disobedient men; and by the very
persons who were saved by them, they were brought into extreme danger; and
each of them wishing to withdraw men from idolatry; and each being
unlearned; for the one was of a "slow tongue,"(5) and dull of speech, and
the other for his part also somewhat of the rudest in his bearing: and of
voluntary poverty both were very strict observers; for neither had Moses
made any gain, nor had Elias aught more than his sheepskin; and this under
the old law, and when they had not received so great a gift of miracles.
For what if Moses clave a sea? yet Peter walked on the water, and was able
to remove mountains, and used to work cures of all manner of bodily
diseases, and to drive away savage demons, and by the shadow of his body to
work those wonderful and great prodigies; and changed the whole world. And
if Elias too raised a dead man, yet these raised ten thousand; and this
before the spirit was as yet vouchsafed to them. He brings them forward
accordingly for this cause also. For He would have them emulate their
winning ways toward the people, and their presence of mind and
inflexibility; and that they should be meek like Moses, and jealous for God
like Elias, and full of tender care, as they were. For the one endured a
famine of three years for the Jewish people; and the other said, "If thou
wilt forgive them their sin, forgive; else blot me too out of the book,
which thou hast written."(6) Now of all this He was reminding them by the
For He brought those in glory too, not that these should stay where
they were, but that they might even surpass their limitary lines. For
example, when they said, "Should we command fire to come down from heaven,"
and made mention of Elias as having done so, He saith, "Ye know not what
manner of spirit ye are of;"(7) training them to forbearance by the
superiority in their gift.
And let none suppose us to condemn Elias as imperfect; we say not this;
for indeed he was exceedingly perfect, but in his own times, when the mind
of men was in some degree childish, and they needed this kind of schooling.
Since Moses too was in this respect perfect; nevertheless these have more
required of them than he. For "except your righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no ease enter into
the kingdom of Heaven."(1) For not into Egypt did they enter, but into the
whole world, worse disposed than the Egyptians; neither were they to speak
with Pharaoh, but to fight hand to hand with the devil, the very prince of
wickedness. Yea, and their appointed struggle was, both to bind him, and to
spoil all his goods; and this they did cleaving not the sea, but an abyss
of ungodliness, through the rod of Jesse,--an abyss having waves far more
grievous. See at any rate how many things there were to put the men in
fear; death, poverty, dishonor, their innumerable sufferings; and at these
things they trembled more than the Jews of old at that sea. But
nevertheless against all these things He persuaded them boldly to venture,
and to pass as along dry ground with all security.
To train them therefore for all this, He brought forward those who
shone forth under the old law.
4. What then saith the ardent Peter? "It is good for us to be here."(2)
For because he had heard that Christ was to go to Jerusalem and to suffer,
being in fear still and trembling for Him, even after His reproof, he durst
not indeed approach and say the same thing again, "Be it far from thee;(3)
but from that fear obscurely intimates the same again in other words. That
is, when he saw a mountain, and so great retirement and solitude, his
thought was, "He hath great security here, even from the place; and not
only from the place, but also from His going away no more unto Jerusalem."
For he would have Him be there continually: wherefore also he speaks of
"tabernacles." For "if this may be," saith he, "we shall not go up to
Jerusalem; and if we go not up, He will not die, for there He said the
scribes would set upon Him."
But thus indeed he durst not speak; but desiring however to order
things so, he said undoubtingly, "It is good for us to be here," where
Moses also is present, and Elias; Elias who brought down fire on the
mountain, and Moses who entered into the thick darkness, and talked with
God; and no one will even know where we are."
Seest thou the ardent lover of Christ? For look not now at this, that
the manner of his exhortation was not well weighed, but see how ardent he
was, how burning his affection to Christ. For in proof that not so much out
of fear for himself he said these things, hear what he saith, when Christ
was declaring beforehand His future death, and the assault upon Him: "I
will lay down my life for Thy sake.(4) Though I should die with Thee, yet
will I not deny Thee.(5)
And see how even in the very midst of the actual dangers he counselled
amiss(6) for himself. We know that when so great a multitude encompassed
them, so far from flying, he even drew the sword, and cut off the ear of
the high priest's servant. To such a degree did he disregard his own
interest, and fear for his Master. Then because he had spoken as affirming
a fact, he checks himself, and thinking, what if he should be again
reproved, he saith, "If Thou wilt, let us make(7) here three tabernacles,
one for Thee and one for Moses, and one for Elias."
What sayest thou, O Peter? didst thou not a little while since
distinguish Him from the servants? Art thou again numbering Him with the
servants? Seest thou how exceedingly imperfect they were before the
crucifixion? For although the Father had revealed it to him, yet he did not
always retain the revelation, but was troubled by his alarm; not this only,
which I have mentioned, but another also, arising from that sight. In fact,
the other evangelists, to declare this, and to indicate that the confusion
of his mind, with which he spake these things, arose from that alarm, said
as follows; mark, "He wist not what to say, for they were sore afraid;"(8)
but Luke after his saying, "Let us make three tabernacles," added, "not
knowing what he said."(9) Then to show that he was holden with great fear,
both he and the rest, he saith, "They were heavy with sleep, and when they
were awake they saw His glory;"(10) meaning by deep sleep here, the deep
stupor engendered in them by that vision. For as eyes are darkened by an
excessive splendor, so at that time also did they feel. For it was not, I
suppose, night, but day; and the exceeding greatness of the light weighed
down the infirmity of their eyes.
5. What then? He Himself speaks nothing, nor Moses, nor Elias, but He
that is greater than all, and more worthy of belief, the Father, uttereth a
voice out of the cloud.
Wherefore out of the cloud? Thus doth God ever appear. "For a cloud and
darkness are round about Him;"(1) and, "He sitteth on a light cloud;"(2)
and again, "Who maketh clouds His chariot;"(3) and, "A cloud received Him
out of their sight;"(4) and, "As the Son of Man coming in the clouds."(5)
In order then that they might believe that the voice proceeds from God,
it comes from thence.
And the cloud was bright. For "while he yet spake, behold, a bright
cloud overshadowed them; and, behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said,
This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him."(6)
For as, when He threatens, He shows a dark cloud;--as on Mount Sinai;
for "Moses," it is said, "entered into the cloud, and into the thick
darkness; and as a vapor, so went up the smoke;"(7) and the prophet said,
when speaking of His threatening, "Dark water in clouds of the air;"(8)--so
here, because it was His desire not to alarm, but to teach, it is a bright
And whereas Peter had said "Let us make three tabernacles," He showed a
tabernacle not made with hands. Wherefore in that case it was smoke, and
vapor of a furnace; but in this, light unspeakable and a voice.
Then, to signify that not merely concerning some one of the three was
it spoken, but; concerning Christ only; when the voice was uttered, they
were taken away. For by no means, had it been spoken merely concerning any
one of them, would this man have remained alone, the two being severed from
Why then did not the cloud likewise receive Christ alone, but all of
them together? If it had received Christ alone, He would have been thought
to have Himself uttered the voice. Wherefore also the evangelist, making
sure this same point, saith, that the voice was from the cloud, that is,
And what saith the voice? "This is my beloved Son." Now if He is
beloved, fear not thou, O Peter. For thou oughtest indeed to know His power
already, and to be fully assured touching His resurrection; but since; thou
knowest not, at least from the voice of the Father take courage. For if God
be mighty, as surely He is mighty, very evidently the Son is so likewise.
Be not afraid then of those fearful things.
But if as yet thou receive it not, consider at least that other fact,
that He is both a Son, and is beloved. For "This," it is said, "is My
beloved Son." Now if He is beloved, fear not. For no one gives up one whom
he loves. Be not thou therefore confounded; though thou lovest Him beyond
measure, thou lovest Him not as much as He that begat Him.
"In whom I am well pleased." For not because He begat Him only, doth He
love Him, but because He is also equal to Him in all respects, and of one
mind with Him. So that the charm of love is twofold, or rather even
threefold, because He is the Son, because He is beloved, because in Him He
is well pleased.
But what means, "In whom I am well pleased ?" As though He had said,"
In whom I am refreshed, in whom I take delight;" because He is in all
respects perfectly equal with Himself, and there is but one will in Him and
in the Father, and though He continue a Son, He is in all respects one with
"Hear ye Him." So that although He choose to be crucified, you are not
to oppose Him.
6. "And when they heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore
afraid. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not
afraid. And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus
How was it that, when they heard these words, they were dismayed? And
yet before this also a like voice was uttered at Jordan, and a multitude
was present, and no one felt anything of the kind; and afterwards again,
when also they said, "It thundered, .... yet neither at that time did they
experience anything like this. How then did they fall down in the mount?
Because there was solitude, and height. and great quietness, and a
transfiguration full of awe, and a pure light, and a cloud stretched out;
all which things put them in great alarm. And the amazement came thick on
every side, and they fell down both in fear at once and in adoration.
But that the fear abiding so long might not drive out their
recollection, presently He puts an end to their alarm, and is seen Himself
alone, and commands them to tell no man this, until He is risen from the
For "as they came down from the mount, He charged them to tell the
vision to no man, until He were risen from the dead."(11) For the greater
the things spoken of Him, the harder to be received by the generality at
that time; and the offense also from the cross was the more increased
Therefore He bids them hold their peace; and not merely so, but He
again reminds them of the passion, and all but tells them also the cause,
for which indeed He requires them to keep silence. For He did not, you see,
command them never to tell any man, but "until He were risen from the
dead." And saying nothing of the painful part, He expresses the good only.
What then? Would they not afterwards be offended? By no means. For the
point required was the time before the crucifixion. Since afterwards they
both had the spirit vouchsafed them, and the voice that proceeded from the
miracles pleading with them, and whatsoever they said was thenceforth easy
to be received, the course of events proclaiming His might more clearly
than a trumpet, and no offense of that sort interrupting(1) what they were
7. Nothing then is more blessed than the apostles, and especially the
three, who even in the cloud were counted worthy to be under the same roof
with the Lord.
But if we will, we also shall behold Christ, not as they then on the
mount, but in far greater brightness. For not thus shall He come hereafter.
For whereas then, to spare His disciples, He discovered so much only of His
brightness as they were able to bear; hereafter He shall come in the very
glory of the Father, not with Moses and Elias only, but with the infinite
host of the angels, with the archangels, with the cherubim, with those
infinite tribes, not having a cloud over His head, but even heaven itself
being folded up.
For as it is with the judges; when they judge publicly, the attendants
drawing back the curtains show them to all; even so then likewise all men
shall see Him sitting, and all the human race shall stand by, and He will
make answers to them by Himself; and to some He will say, "Come, ye blessed
of my Father; for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; "(2) to others,"
Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a
few things, I will set thee over many things.(3)
And again passing an opposite sentence, to some He will answer, "Depart
into the everlasting fire, that is prepared for the devil and his
angels,"(4) and to others, "O thou wicked and slothful servants."(5) And
some He will "cut asunder," and "deliver to the tormentors;" but others He
will command to "be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness? And
after the axe the furnace will follow; and all out of the net, that is east
away, will fall therein.
"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun; "(7) or rather more
than the sun. But so much is said, not because their light is to be so much
and no more, but since we know no other star brighter than this, He chose
by the known example to set forth the future brightness of the saints.
Since on the mount too, when He says, "He did shine as the sun," for
the same cause did He so speak. For that the comparison did not come up to
His light, the apostles showed by falling down. For had the brightness not
been unalloyed, but comparable to the sun; they would not have fallen, but
would easily have borne it.
The righteous therefore will shine as the sun, and more than the sun in
that time; but the sinners shall suffer all extremities. Then will there be
no need of records, proofs, witnesses. For He who judges is Himself all,
both witness, and proof, and judge. For He knows all things exactly; "For
all things are naked and opened unto His eyes."(8)
No man will there appear rich or poor, mighty or weak, wise or unwise,
bond or free; but these masks will be dashed in pieces, and the inquiry
will be into their works only. For if in our courts, when any one is tried
for usurpation, or murder, whatever he may be, whether governor, or consul,
or what you will, all these dignities fleet away, and he that is convicted
suffers the utmost penalty; much more will it be so there.
8. Therefore that this may not be so, let us lay aside our filthy
garments, let us put on the armor of light, and the glory of God will wrap
us around. For what is even grievous in the injunctions? or what is there
not easy? Hear, for instance, the prophet speaking, and then thou shalt
know the easiness thereof. "Neither though thou bow as a collar thy neck,
and strew beneath thee sackcloth and ashes, not even so shalt thou call a
fast acceptable; but loose every bond of iniquity, unloose the twisted
knots of oppressive bargains."(9)
See a prophet's wisdom, how stating first whatever was irksome, and
removing it, he exhorts them to obtain salvation by the duties that are
easy; signifying, that God needs not toils, but obedience.
Then implying that virtue is easy, but vice grievous and galling, he
makes it out by the bare names; "For," saith he, "vice is a bond," and "a
twisted knot," but virtue is a disengagement and release from all these.
"Tear in sunder every unjust compact;" thus calling men's bills about
the interest due to them, and the sums they have lent.
"Set at liberty them that are bruised;' them that are afflicted. For
such a being is the debtor; when he sees his creditor, his mind is broken,
and he fears him more than a wild beast.
"Bring in the poor that are cast out to thy house; if thou seest one
naked, clothe him, and them that belong to thy seed thou shalt not
Now in our late discourse which we made unto you when declaring the
rewards, we showed the wealth arising from these acts; but now let us see
if any of the injunctions be grievous, and transcending our nature. Nay,
nothing of the kind shall we discover, but quite the contrary; that while
these courses are very easy, those of vice are full of labor. For what is
more vexatious than to be lending, and taking thought about usuries and
bargains, and demanding sureties, and fearing and trembling about
securities, about the principal, about the writings, about the interest,
about the bondsmen ?
For such is the nature of worldly things; yea, nothing is so unsound
and suspicious as that which is accounted security, and contrived for that
purpose; but to show mercy is easy, and delivers from all anxiety.
Let us not then traffic in other men's calamities, nor make a trade of
our benevolence. And I know indeed that many hear these words with
displeasure; but what is the profit of silence? For though I should hold my
peace, and give no trouble by my words, I could not by this silence deliver
you from your punishment; rather it has altogether the opposite result; the
penalty is enhanced, and not to you only, but to me also, doth such a
silence procure punishment. What then signify our gracious words, when in
our works they help us not, but rather do harm? What is the good of
delighting men in word, while we vex them in deed, bringing pleasure to the
ears, and punishment to the soul? Wherefore I must needs make you sorry
here, that we may not suffer punishment there.
9. For indeed a dreadful disease, beloved, dreadful and needing much
attendance, hath fallen on the church. Those, namely, who are enjoined not
even by honest labors to lay up treasures, but to open their houses to the
needy, make a profit of other men's poverty, devising a specious robbery, a
For tell me not of the laws that are without; since even the publican
fulfills the law that is without, but nevertheless is punished: which will
be the case with us also, unless we refrain from oppressing the poor, and
from using their need and necessity as an occasion for shameless
For to this intent thou hast wealth, to relieve poverty, not to make a
gain of poverty; but thou with show of relief makest the calamity greater,
and sellest benevolence for money. Sell it, I forbid thee not, but for a
heavenly kingdom. Receive not a small price for so good a deed, thy monthly
one in the hundred,(2) but that immortal life. Why art thou beggarly, and
poor, and mean, selling thy great things for a little, even for goods that
perish. when it should be for an everlasting kingdom? Why dost thou leave
God, and get human gains? Why dost thou pass by the wealthy one, and
trouble him that hath not? and leaving the sure paymaster make thy bargain
with the unthankful? The other longs to repay, but this even grudges in the
act of repaying. This hardly repays a hundredth part, but the other "an
hundredfold and eternal life." This with insults and revilings, but the
other with praises and auspicious words. This stirs up envy against thee,
but the other even weaves for thee crowns. This hardly here, but the other
both there and here.
Surely then is it not the utmost senselessness, not so much as to know
how to gain? How many have lost their very principal for the interest's
sake? How many have fallen into perils for usurious gains. How many have
involved both themselves and others in extreme poverty through their
unspeakable covetousness !
For tell me not this, that he is pleased to receive, and is thankful
for the loan. Why, this is a result of thy cruelty. Since Abraham too,(3)
contriving how his plan might take with the barbarians, did himself give up
his wife to them; not however willingly, but through fear of Pharaoh. So
also the poor man, because thou countest him not even worth so. much money,
is actually compelled to be thankful for cruelty.
And it seems to me as though, shouldest thou deliver him from dangers,
thou wouldest exact of him a payment for this deliverance. "Away," saith
he; "let it not be." What sayest thou? Delivering him from the greater
evil, thou art unwilling to exact money, and for the lesser dost thou
display so much inhumanity?
Seest thou not how great a punishment is appointed for the deed?
hearest thou not that even in the old law this is forbidden?(1) But what is
the plea of the many? "When I have received the interest, I give to the
poor;" one tells me. Speak reverently, O man; God desires not such
sacrifices. Deal not subtilly with the law. Better not give to a poor man,
than give from that source; for the money that hath been collected by
honest labors, thou often makest to become unlawful because of that wicked
increase; as if one should compel a fair womb to give birth to scorpions.
And why do I speak of God's law? Do not even ye call it "filth"? But if
ye, the gainers, give your voice so, consider what suffrage God will pass
And if thou wilt ask the Gentile lawgivers too, thou wilt be told that
even by them this thing is deemed a proof of the most utter shamelessness.
Those, for example, who are in offices of honor, and belong to the great
council, which they call the senate, may not legally disgrace themselves
with such gains; there being a law among them which prohibits the same.(2)
How then is it not a horrible thing, if thou ascribe not even so much
honor to the polity of Heaven, as the legislators to the council of the
Romans; but Heaven is to obtain less than earth, and thou art not ashamed
even of the very folly of the thing? For what could be more foolish than
this, unless one without! land, rain, or plough, were to insist upon
sowing?(3) Tares therefore, to be committed to the fire, do they reap, who
have devised this evil husbandry.
Why, are there not many honest trades? in the fields, the flocks, the
herds, the breeding of cattle, in handicrafts, in care of property? Why
rave and be frantic, cultivating thorns for no good? What if the fruits of
the earth are subject to mischance; hail, and blight, and excessive rain?
yet not to such an extent as are money dealings. For in whatsoever cases of
that sort occur, the damage of course concerns the produce, but the
principal remains, I mean, the land. But herein many often have suffered
shipwreck in their principal; and before the loss too they are in continual
dejection. For never cloth the money-lender enjoy his possessions, nor find
pleasure in them; but when the interest is brought, he rejoices not that he
hath received gain, but is grieved that the interest hath not yet come up
to the principal. And before this evil offspring is brought forth complete,
he compels it also to bring forth,(4) making the interest principal, and
forcing it to bring forth its untimely and abortive brood of vipers. For of
this nature are the gains of usury; more than those wild creatures do they
devour and tear the souls of the wretched.(5) This "is the bond of
iniquity:" this "the twisted knot of oppressive bargains."
Yea, "I give," he seems to say, "not for thee to receive, but that thou
mayest repay more." And whereas God commands not even to receive what is
given (for "give," saith He, "to them from whom ye look not to
receive"),(6) thou requirest even more than is given, and what thou gavest
not, this as a debt, thou constrainest the receiver to pay.
And thou indeed supposest thy substance to be increased hereby, but
instead of substance thou art kindling the unquenchable fire.
That this therefore may not be, let us cut out the evil womb of
usurious gains, let us deaden these lawless travailings, let us dry up this
place of pernicious teeming, and let us pursue the true and great gains
only. "But what are these?" Hear Paul saying "Godliness with contentment is
Therefore in this wealth alone let us be rich, that we may both here
enjoy security, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and
love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might with
the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always, and world without end.
HOMILY LVII: MATT. XVII. 10.
"And His disciples asked Him, saying, Why then say the Scribes that Elias
must first come?"
NOT then from the Scriptures did they know this, but the Scribes used
to explain themselves, and this saying was reported abroad amongst the
ignorant people; as about Christ also.
Wherefore the Samaritan woman also said, "Messiah cometh; when He is
come, He will tell us all things: "and they themselves asked John, "Art
thou Elias, or the Prophet ?"(2) For the saying, as I said, prevailed, both
that concerning the Christ and that concerning Elias, not however rightly
interpreted by them.
For the Scriptures speak of two advents of! Christ, both this that is
past, and that which is to come; and declaring these Paul said, "The grace
of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared, teaching us, that, denying
ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, and righteously, and
godly."(3) Behold the one, hear how he declares the other also; for having
said these things, he added, "Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of
our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ."(4) And the prophets too mention
both; of the one, however, that is, of the second, they say Elias will be
the forerunner. For of the first, John was forerunner; whom Christ called
also Elias, not because he was Elias, but because he was fulfilling the
ministry of that prophet. For as the one shall be forerunner of the second
advent, so was the other too of the first. But the Scribes, confusing these
things and perverting the people, made mention of that other only to the
people, the second advent, and said, "If this man is the Christ, Elias
ought to have come beforehand." Therefore the disciples too speak as
follows, "How then say the Scribes, Elias must first come ?"
Therefore also the Pharisees sent unto John, and asked him, "Art thou
Elias?"(5) making no mention anywhere of the former advent.
What then is the solution, which Christ alleged? "Elias indeed cometh
then, before my second advent; and now too is Elias come;" so calling John.
In this sense Elias is come: but if thou wouldest seek the Tishbite, he
is coming. Wherefore also He said, "Elias truly cometh, and shall restore
all things."(6) All what things? Such as the Prophet Malachi spake of; for
"I will send you," saith He, "Elias the Tishbite, who shall restore the
heart of father to son, lest I come and utterly smite the earth."(7)
Seest thou the accuracy of prophetical language? how, because Christ
called John, Elias, by reasoning of their community of office, lest thou
shouldest suppose this to be the meaning of the prophet too in this place,
He added His country also, saying, "the Tishbite;"(8) whereas John was not
a Tishbite. And herewith He sets down another sign also, saying, "Lest I
come and utterly smite the earth," signifying His second and dreadful
advent. For in the first He came not to smite the earth. For, "I came not,"
saith He, "to judge the world, but to save the world."(9)
To show therefore that the Tishbite comes before that other advent,
which hath the judgment, He said this. And the reason too of his coming He
teaches withal. And what is this reason? That when He is come, he may
persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, and that they may not all utterly
perish at His coming. Wherefore He too, guiding them on to that
remembrance, saith, "And he shall restore all things;" that is, shall
correct the unbelief of the Jews that are then in being.
Hence the extreme accuracy of his expression; in that he said not, "He
will restore the heart of the son to the father," but "of the father to the
son."(10) For the Jews being fathers of the apostles, his meaning is, that
he will restore to the doctrines of their sons, that is, of the apostles,
the hearts of the fathers, that is, the Jewish people's mind.(11)
"But I say unto you, that Elias is come already, and they knew him not,
but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son
of Man suffer of them. Then they understood that He spake to them of
And yet neither the Scribes said this, nor the Scriptures; but because
now they were sharper and more attentive to His sayings, they quickly
caught His meaning.
And whence did the disciples know this? He had already told them, "He
is Elias, which was for to come;"(2) but here, that he hath come; and
again, that "Elias cometh and will restore all things." But be not thou
troubled, nor imagine that His statement wavers, though at one time He
said, "he will come," at another, "he hath come." For all these things are
true. Since when He saith, "Elias indeed cometh, and will restore all
things," He means Elias himself, and the conversion of the Jews which is
then to take place; but when He saith, "Which was for to come," He calls
John, Elias, with regard to the manner of his administration. Yea, and so
the prophets used to call every one of their approved kings, David;(3) and
the Jews, "rulers of Sodom,"(4) and "sons of Ethiopians;"(5) because of
their ways. For as the other shall be forerunner of the second advent, so
was this of the first.
2. And not for this only doth He call him Elias everywhere, but to
signify His perfect agreement with the Old Testament, and that this advent
too is according to prophecy.
Wherefore also He adds again, "He came, and they knew him not, but have
done unto him all things whatsoever they listed."(6) What means, "call
things whatsoever they listed?" They cast him into prison, they used him
despitefully, they slew him, they brought his head in a charger.
"Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them." Seest thou how
again He in due season reminds them of His passion, laying up for them
great store of comfort from the passion of John. And not in this way only,
but also by presently working great miracles. Yea, and whensoever He speaks
of His passion, presently He works miracles, both after those sayings and
before them; and in many places one may find Him to have kept this rule.
"Then," for instance, it saith, "He began to signify how that He must
go unto Jerusalem, and be killed, and suffer many things."(7) "Then:" when?
when He was confessed to be Christ, and the Son of God.
Again on the mountain, when He had shown them the marvellous vision,
and the prophets had been discoursing of His glory, He reminded them of His
passion. For having spoken of the history concerning John, He added,
"Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer of them."
And after a little while again, when He had cast out the devil, which
His disciples were not able to cast out; for then too, "As they abode in
Galilee," so it saith, "Jesus said unto them, The Son of Man shall be
betrayed into the hands of sinful(8) men, and they shall kill Him, and the
third day He shall rise again."(9)
Now in doing this, He by the greatness of the miracles was abating the
excess of their sorrow, and in every way consoling them; even as here also,
by the mention of John's death, He afforded them much consolation.
But should any one say, "Wherefore did He not even now raise up Elias
and send him, witnessing as He doth so great good of his coming?" we should
reply, that even as it was, while thinking Christ to be Elias, they did not
believe Him. For "some say," such are the words, "that Thou art Elias, and
others, Jeremias."(10) And indeed between John and Elias, there was no
difference but the time only. "Then how will they believe at that time?" it
may be said. Why, "he will restore all things," not simply by being
recognized, but also because the glory of Christ will have been growing
more intense up to that day, and will be among all clearer than the sun.
When therefore, preceded by such an opinion and expectation, he comes
making the same proclamation as John, and himself also announcing Jesus,
they will more easily receive his sayings. But in saying, "They knew him
not," He is excusing also what was done in His own case.(11)
And not in this way only doth He console them, but also by pointing out
that John's sufferings at their hands, whatever they are, are undeserved;
and by His throwing into the shade what would annoy them, by means of two
signs, the one on the mountain, the other just about to take place.
But when they heard these things, they do [not ask Him when Elias
cometh; being straitened either by grief at His passion, or by fear. For on
many occasions, upon seeing Him unwilling to speak a thing clearly, they
are silent, and so an end. For instance, when during their abode in Galilee
He said, "The Son of Man shall be betrayed, and they shall kill Him;"(1) it
is added by Mark, "That they understood not the saying, and were afraid to
ask Him;"(2) by Luke, "That it was hid from them, that they might not
perceive it, and they feared to ask Him of that saying."(3)
3. "And when they were come to the multitude, there came to Him a man,
kneeling down to Him, and saying, Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is
lunatic, and sore vexed;(4) for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft
into the water. And I brought him unto Thy disciples, and they could not
This man the Scripture signifies to be exceedingly weak in faith; and
this is many ways evident; from Christ's saying, "All things are possible
to him that believeth;"(6) from the saying of the man himself that
approached, "Help Thou mine unbelief:"(7) from Christ's commanding the
devil to "enter no more into him;"(8) and from the man's saying again to
Christ, "If Thou canst."(9) "Yet if his unbelief was the cause," it may be
said, "that the devil went not out, why doth He blame the disciples?"
Signifying, that even without persons to bring the sick in faith, they
might in many instances work a cure. For as the faith of the person
presenting oftentimes availed for receiving the cure, even from inferior
ministers; so the power of the doers oftentimes sufficed, even without
belief in those who came to work the miracle.
And both these things are signified in the Scripture. For both they of
the company of Cornelius by their faith drew unto themselves the grace of
the Spirit; and in the case of Eliseus(10) again, when none had believed, a
dead man rose again. For as to those that cast him down, not for faith but
for cowardice did they cast him, unintentionally and by chance, for fear of
the band of robbers, and so they fled: while the person himself that was
cast in was dead, yet by the mere virtue of the holy body the dead man
Whence it is clear in this case, that even the disciples were weak; but
not all; for the pillars(11) were not present there. And see this man's
want of consideration, from another circumstance again, how before the
multitude he pleads to Jesus against His disciples, saying, "I brought him
to Thy disciples, and they could not cure him."
But He, acquitting them of the charges before the people, imputes the
greater part to him. For, "O faithless and perverse generation," these are
His words, "how long shall I be with you?"(12) not aiming at his person
only, lest He should confound the man, but also at all the Jews. For indeed
many of those present might probably be offended, and have undue thoughts
But when He said, "How long shall I be with you," He indicates again
death to be welcome to Him, and the thing an object of desire, and His
departure longed for, and that not crucifixion, but being with them, is
He stopped not however at the accusations; but what saith He? "Bring
him hither to me."(13) And Himself moreover asks him, "how long time he is
thus;" both making a plea for His disciples, and leading the other to a
good hope, and that he might believe in his attaining deliverance from the
And He suffers him to be torn, not for display (accordingly, when a
crowd began to gather, He proceeded to rebuke him), but for the father's
own sake, that when he should see the evil spirit disturbed at Christ's
mere call, so at least, if in no other way, he might be led to believe the
And because he had said, "Of a child," and, "If thou canst help me,"
Christ saith, "To him that believeth, all things are possible,"(14) again
giving the complaint a turn against him. And whereas when the leper said,
"If Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,"(15) bearing witness to His
authority Christ commending him, and confirming His words, said, "I will,
be thou clean;" in this man's case, upon his uttering a speech in no way
worthy of His power,--" If Thou canst, help me,"--see how He corrects it,
as not rightly spoken. For what saith He? "If thou canst believe, all
things are possible to him that believeth."(16) What He saith is like this:
"Such abundance of power is with me, that I can even make others work these
miracles. So that if thou believe as one ought, even thou thyself art
able," saith He, "to heal both this one, and many others." And having thus
said, He set free the possessed of the devil.
But do thou not only from this observe His providence and His
beneficence, but also from that other time, during which He allowed the
devil to be in him. Since surely, unless the man had been favored with much
providential care even then, he would have perished long ago; for "it cast
him both into the fire," so it is said, "and into the water." And he that
dared this would assuredly have destroyed the man too, unless even in so
great madness God had out on him His strong curb: as indeed was the case
with those naked men that were running in the deserts and cutting
themselves with stones.
And if he call him "'a lunatic," trouble not thyself at all, for it is
the father of the possessed who speaks the word. How then saith the
evangelist also, "He heated many that were lunatic?"(1) Denominating them
according to the impression of the multitude. For the evil spirit, to bring
a reproach upon nature,(2) both attacks them that are seized, and lets them
go, according to the courses of the moon; not as though that were the
worker of it;--away with the thought;--but himself craftily doing this to
bring a reproach on nature. And an erroneous opinion hath gotten ground
among the simple, and by this name do they call such evil spirits, being
deceived; for this is by no means true.
4. "Then came His disciples unto Him apart, and asked Him, why they
could not themselves cast out the devil."(3) To me they seem to be in
anxiety and fear, lest haply they had lost the grace, with which they had
been entrusted. For they received power against unclean spirits.(4)
Wherefore also they ask, coming to Him apart; not out of shame (for if the
fact had gone abroad, and they were convicted, it were superfluous after
that to be ashamed of confessing it in words); but it was a secret and
great matter they were about to ask Him of. What then saith Christ?
"Because of your unbelief," saith He; "for if ye have faith as a grain of
mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove, and it shall remove;
and nothing shall be impossible unto you."(5) Now if you say, "Where did
they remove a mountain?" I would make this answer, that they did far
greater things, having raised up innumerable dead. For it is not at all the
same thing, to remove a mountain, and to remove death from a body. And
certain saints after them, far inferior to them, are said actually to have
removed mountains, when necessity called for it."(6) Whereby we see that
these also would have done the same, need calling on them. But if there was
then no need for it, do not thou find fault. And besides, He Himself said
not, "ye shall surely remove it," but "ye shall be able to do even this."
And if they did it not, it was not because they were unable (how could this
be, when they had power to do the greater things?), but because they would
not, there being no need.
And it is likely that this too may have been done, and not have been
written; for we know that not all the miracles they wrought were written.
Then however they were in a state by comparison very imperfect. What then?
Had they not at that time so much as this faith? They had not, for neither
were they always the same men, since even Peter is now pronounced blessed,
now reproved; and the rest also are mocked by Him for folly, when they
understood not His saying concerning the leaven.(7) And so it was, that
then also the disciples were weak, for they were but imperfectly minded
before the cross.
But by faith here He means that which related to the miracles, and
mentions a mustard seed, to declare its unspeakable power. For though in
bulk the mustard seed seem to be small, yet in power it is the strongest of
all things. To indicate therefore that even the least degree of genuine
faith can do great things, He mentioned the mustard seed; neither by any
means did He stop at this only, but added even mountains, and went on
beyond that. "For nothing," saith He, "shall be impossible to you."
But do thou herein also marvel at their self-denial, and the might of
the Spirit; their self-denial in not hiding their fault, and the might of
the Spirit in so leading on by degrees them who had not so much as a gram
of mustard seed, that rivers and fountains of faith sprang up within them.
"Howbeit, this kind goeth not out, but by prayer and fasting;"(8)
meaning the whole kind of evil spirits, not that of lunatics only.
Seest thou how He now proceeds to lay beforehand in them the foundation
of His doctrine about fasting? Nay, argue not with me from rare cases, that
some even without fasting have cast them out. For although one might say
this, in one or two instances, of them that rebuke the evil spirits, yet
for the patient it is a thing impossible, living luxuriously, to be
delivered from such madness: this thing being especially necessary for him
that is diseased in that way. "And yet, if faith be requisite," one may
say, "what need of fasting?" Because, together with our faith, that also
brings no small power. For it both implants much strictness, and of a man
makes one an angel, and fights against the incorporeal powers: yet not by
itself, but prayer too is needed, and prayer must come first.
5. See, at any rate, how many blessings spring from them both. For he
that is praying as he ought, and fasting, hath not many wants, and he that
hath not many wants, cannot be covetous; he that is not covetous, will be
also more disposed for almsgiving. He that fasts is light, and winged, and
prays with wakefulness, and quenches his wicked lusts, and propitiates God,
and humbles his soul when lifted up. Therefore even the apostles were
almost always fasting. He that prays with fasting hath his wings double,
and lighter than the very winds. For neither doth he gape, nor stretch
himself, nor grow torpid in prayer, as is the case with most men, but is
more vehement than fire, and rises above the earth. Wherefore also such a
one is most especially a hater and an enemy to the evil spirits. For
nothing is mightier than a man who prays sincerely. For if a woman(1) had
power to prevail with a savage ruler, one neither fearing God, nor
regarding man; much more will he prevail with God, who is continually
waiting upon Him, and controlling the belly, and casting out luxury. But if
thy body be too weak to fast continually, still it is not too weak for
prayer, nor without vigor for contempt of the belly. For although thou
canst not fast, yet canst thou avoid luxurious living; and even this is no
little thing, nor far removed from fasting, but even this is enough to
pluck down the devil's madness. For indeed nothing is so welcome to that
evil spirit, as luxury and drunkenness; since it is both fountain and
parent of all our evils. Hereby, for example, of old he drove the
Israelites to idolatry;(2) hereby he made the Sodomites to burn in unlawful
lust. For, "this," it is said, "was the iniquity of Sodom; in pride, and in
fullness of bread, and in banquetings they waxed wanton."(3) Hereby he hath
destroyed ten thousand others, and delivered them to hell.
For what evil doth not luxury work? It makes swine of men, and worse
than swine. For whereas the sow wallows in the mire and feeds on filth,
this man lives on food more abominable than that, devising forbidden
intercourse, and unlawful lusts.
Such an one is in no respect different from a demoniac, for like him he
is lost to shame, and raves. And the demoniac at any rate we pity, but this
man is the object of our aversion and hatred. Why so? Because he brings
upon himself a self-chosen madness, and makes his mouth, and his eyes, and
nostrils, and all, in short, mere sewers.
But if thou wert to see what is within him also, thou wilt behold his
very soul as in a kind of wintry frost, stiff and torpid, and in nothing
able to help its vessel through the excess of the storm.
I am ashamed to say how many ills men and women suffer from luxury, but
I leave it to their own conscience, which knows it all more perfectly. For
what is viler than a woman drunken, or at all led away(4) by wine? For the
weaker the vessel, the more entire the shipwreck, whether she be free or a
slave. For the free woman behaves herself unseemly in the midst of her
slaves as spectators, and the slave again in like manner in the midst of
the slaves, and they cause the gifts of God to be blasphemously spoken of
by foolish men.
For instance, I hear many say, when these excesses happen, "Would there
were no wine." O folly! O madness! When other men sin, dost thou find fault
with God's gifts? And what great madness is this? What? did the wine, O
man, produce this evil? Not the wine, but the intemperance of such as take
an evil delight in it. Say then, "Would there were no drunkenness, no
luxury;" but if thou say, "Would there were no wine," thou wilt say, going
on by degrees, "Would there were no steel, because of the murderers; no
night, because of the thieves; no light, because of the informers; no
women, because of adulteries;" and, in a word, thou wilt destroy all.
But do not so; for this is of a satanical mind; do not find fault with
the wine, but with the drunkenness; and when thou hast found this self-same
man sober, sketch out all his unseemliness, and say unto him, Wine was
given, that we might be cheerful, not that we might behave ourselves
unseemly; that we might laugh, not that we might be a laughingstock; that
we might be healthful, not that we might be diseased; that we might correct
the weakness of our body, not cast down the might of our soul.
God honored thee with the gift, why disgrace thyself with the excess
thereof? Hear what Paul saith, "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake,
and thine often infirmities"(5) But if that saint, even when oppressed with
disease, and enduring successive sicknesses, partook not of wine, until his
Teacher suffered him; what excuse shall we have, who are drunken in health?
To him indeed He said, "Use a little wine for thy stomach's sake;" but to
each of you who are drunken, He will say, "Use little wine, for thy
fornications, thy frequent filthy talking, for the other wicked desires to
which drunkenness is wont to give birth." But if ye are not willing, for
these reasons, to abstain; at least on account of the despondencies which
come of it, and the vexations, do ye abstain. For wine was given for
gladness, "Yea, wine," so it is said, "maketh glad the heart of man:"(1)
but ye mar even this excellence in it. For what kind of gladness is it to
be beside one's self, and to have innumerable vexations, and to see all
things whirling round, and to be oppressed with giddiness, and like those
that have a fever, to require some who may drench their heads with oil?(2)
6. These things are not said by me to all: or rather they are said to
all, not because all are drunken, God forbid; but because they who do not
drink take no thought of the drunken. Therefore even against you do I
rather inveigh, that are in health; since the physician too leaves the
sick, and addresses his discourse to them that are sitting by them. To you
therefore do I direct my speech, en-treating you neither to be at any time
over-taken by this passion, and to draw up(3) as by cords those who have
been so overtaken, that they be not found worse than the brutes. For they
indeed seek nothing more than what is needful, but these have become even
more brutish than they, overpassing the boundaries of moderation. For how
much better is the ass than these men? how much better the dog! For indeed
each of these animals, and of all others, whether it need to eat, or to
drink, acknowledges sufficiency for a limit, and goes not on beyond what it
needs; and though there are innumerable persons to constrain, it will not
endure to go on to excess.
In this respect then we are worse even than the brutes, by the judgment
not of them that are in health only, but even by our own. For that ye have
judged yourselves to be baser than both dogs and asses,(4) is evident from
thence: that these brutes thou dost not compel to partake of food, beyond
their measure; and should any one say, "Wherefore?" "Lest I should hurt
them," thou wilt reply. But upon thyself thou bestowest not so much as this
forethought. Thus thou accountest thyself viler even than they are, and
permittest thyself to be continually tossed as with a tempest.
For neither in the day of thy drunkenness only dost thou undergo the
harm of drunkenness, but also after that day. And as when a fever is passed
by, the mischievous consequences of the fever remain; so also when
drunkenness is past, the disturbance of intoxication is whirling round both
the soul and body; and while the wretched body lies paralyzed, like the
hull of a vessel after a shipwreck, the soul yet more miserable than it,
even when this is ended, stirs up the storm, and kindles the desire; and
when one seems to be sober, then most of all is he mad, imagining to
himself wine and casks, cups and goblets. And like as in a storm when the
raging of the waters hath ceased, the loss by reason of the storm remains;
so likewise here too. For as there of our freight, so here too is there a
casting away of nearly all our good things. Whether it be temperance, or
modesty, or understanding, or meekness, or humility, which the drunkenness
finds there, it casts all away into the sea of iniquity.
But in what follows there is no more any likeness. Since there indeed
upon the casting out the vessel is lightened, but here it is weighed down
the more. For in its former place of wealth it takes on board sand, and
salt water, and all the accumulated filth of drunkenness; enough to sink
the vessel at once, with the mariners and the pilot.
That we may not then suffer these things, let us deliver ourselves from
that tempest. It is not possible with drunkenness to see the kingdom of
Heaven. "Be not deceived," it is said, "no drunkards, no revilers, shall
inherit the kingdom of God."(5) And why do I speak of a kingdom? Why, with
drunkenness one cannot see so much as the things present. For in truth
drunkenness makes the days nights to us, and the light darkness. And though
their eyes be opened, the drunken see not even what is close at hand.
And this is not the only frightful things but with these things they
suffer also another most grievous punishment, continually undergoing
unreasonable despondencies, madness, infirmity, ridicule, reproach.
What manner of excuse is there for them that pierce themselves through
with so many evils? There is none.
Let us fly then from that pest, that we may attain both unto the good
things here, and unto those to come, by the grace and love towards man of
our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might with the Father and the
Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen.
Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published
by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in
1867. (LNPF I/X, Schaff). The digital version is by The Electronic Bible
Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.