(NOTE: The electronic text obtained from The Electronic Bible Society was
not completely corrected. EWTN has corrected all discovered errors.)
Transliteration of Greek words: All phonetical except: w = omega; h serves
three puposes: 1. = Eta; 2. = rough breathing, when appearing initially
before a vowel; 3. = in the aspirated letters theta = th, phi = ph, chi =
ch. Accents are given immediately after their corresponding vowels: acute =
' , grave = `, circumflex = ^. The character ' doubles as an apostrophe,
ST. JOHN CHRYSTOSTOM
HOMILIES 37-48 ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW
[Translated by Rev. Sir George Prevost, Baronet, M.A.
of Oriel College, Oxford.]
HOMILY XXXVII: MATT. X. 7, 8, 9.
"And as they departed, Jesus began to say unto the multitudes concerning
John, What went ye out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken with the
wind? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment;
behold, they that wear soft clothing are makings' houses. But what went ye
out for to see? A prophet?(1) yea, I say unto you, and more than a
For the matter indeed of John's disciples had been ordered well, and
they were gone away assured by the miracles which had just been performed;
but there was need after that of remedy as regarded the people. For
although they could not suspect anything of the kind of their own master,
the common people might from the inquiry of John's disciples form many
strange suspicions, not knowing the mind with which he sent his disciples.
And it was natural for them to reason with themselves, and say, "He that
bore such abundant witness, hath he now changed his persuasion, and doth he
doubt whether this or another be He that should come? Can it be, that in
dissension with Jesus he saith this? that the prison hath made him more
timid? that his former words were spoken vainly, and at random?" It being
then natural for them to suspect many such things, see how He corrects
their weakness, and removes these their suspicions. For "as they departed,
He began to say to the multitudes." Why, "as they departed?" That He might
not seem to be flattering the man.
And in correcting the people, He doth not publish their suspicion, but
adds only the solution of the thoughts that were mentally disturbing them:
signifying that He knew the secrets of all men. For He saith not, as unto
the Jews, "Wherefore think ye evil?"(2) Because if they had it in their
minds, not of wickedness did they so reason, but of ignorance on the points
that had been spoken of. Wherefore neither doth He discourse unto them in
the way of rebuke, but merely sets right their understanding, and defends
John, and signifies that he is not fallen away from his former opinion,
neither is he changed, not being at all a man easily swayed and fickle, but
steadfast and sure, and far from being such as to betray the things
committed unto him.
And in establishing this, He employs not at first his own sentence, but
their former testimony, pointing out how they bare record of his firmness,
not by their words only, but also by their deeds.
Wherefore He saith, "What went ye out into the wilderness to see?" as
though He had said, Wherefore did ye leave your cities, and your houses,
and come together all of you into the wilderness? To see a pitiful and
flexible kind of person? Nay, this were out of all reason, this is not what
is indicated by that earnestness, and the concourse of all men unto the
wilderness. So much people and so many cities would not have poured
themselves out with so great zeal towards the wilderness and the river
Jordan at that time, had ye not expected to see some great and marvellous
one, one firmer than any rock. Yea, it was not "a reed" surely, that "ye
went out to see shaken by the wind:" for the flexible and such as are
lightly brought round, and now say one thing, now another, and stand firm
in nothing, are most like that.
And see how He omits all wickedness, and mentions this, which then
especially haunted(3) them; and removes the suspicion of lightness.
"But what went ye out for to see? a man clothed in soft raiment?
Behold, they that wear soft clothing are in kings' houses."(4)
Now His meaning is like this: He was not of himself a waverer; and this
ye yourselves showed by your earnestness. Much less could any one say this,
that he was indeed firm, but having made himself a slave to luxury, he
afterwards became languid. For among men, some are such as they are of
themselves, others become so; for instance, one man is passionate by
nature, and another from having fallen into a long illness gets this
infirmity. Again, some men are flexible and fickle by nature, while others
become so by being slaves to luxury, and by living effeminately. "But
John," saith He, "neither was such a character by nature, for neither was
it a reed that ye went out to see; nor by giving himself to luxury did he
lose the advantage he possessed." For that he did not make himself a slave
to luxury, his garb shows, and the wilderness, and the prison. Since, had
he been minded to wear soft raiment, he would not have lived in the
wilderness, nor in the prison, but in the king's courts: it being in his
power, merely by keeping silence, to have enjoyed honor without limit. For
since Herod so reverenced him, even when he had rebuked him, and was in
chains, much more would he have courted him, had he held his peace. You
see, he had indeed given proof of his firmness and fortitude; and how could
he justly incur suspicions of that kind?
2. When therefore as well by the place, as by his garments, and by
their concourse unto Him, He had delineated his character, He proceeds to
bring in the prophet. For having said, "Why went ye out? To see a prophet?
Yea I say unto you, and more than a prophet;"(1) He goes on, "For this is
he of whom it is written,(2) Behold, I send my messenger before Thy face,
which shall prepare Thy way before Thee."(3) Having before set down the
testimony of the Jews, He then applies that of the prophets; or rather, He
puts in the first place the sentence of the Jews, which must have been a
very strong demonstration, the witness being borne by his enemies;
secondly, the man's life; thirdly, His own judgment; fourthly, the prophet;
by all means stopping their mouths.
Then lest they should say, "But what if at that time indeed he were
such an one, but now is changed?" He added also what follows; his garments,
his prison, and together with these the prophecy.
Then having said, that he is greater than a prophet, He signifies also
in what he is greater. And in what is he greater? In being near Him that
was come. For, "I send," saith He, "my messenger before Thy face;" that is,
nigh Thee. For as with kings, they who ride near the chariot, these are
more illustrious than the rest, just so John also appears in his course
near the advent itself. See how He signified John's excellency by this
also; and not even here doth He stop, but adds afterwards His own suffrage
as well, saying, "Verily I say unto you, among them that rare born of
women, there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist."(4)
Now what He said is like this: "woman hath not borne a greater than
this man." And His very sentence is indeed sufficient; but if thou art
minded to learn from facts also, consider his table, his manner of life,
the height of his soul.(5) For he so lived as though he were in heaven: and
having got above the necessities of nature, he travelled as it were a new
way, spending all his time in hymns and prayers, and holding inter course
with none among men, but with God alone continually. For he did not so much
as see any of his fellow-servants, neither was he seen by any one of them;
he fed not on milk, he enjoyed not the comfort of bed, or roof, or market,
or any other of the things of men; and yet he was at once mild and earnest.
Hear, for example, how considerately he reasons with his own disciples,
courageously with the people of the Jews, how openly with the king. For
this cause He said also, "There hath not risen among them that are born of
women a greater than John the Baptist."
3. But lest the exceeding greatness of His praises should produce a
sort of extravagant feeling, the Jews honoring John above Christ; mark how
He corrects this also. For as the things which edified His own disciples
did harm to the multitudes, they supposing Him an easy kind of person; so
again the remedies employed for the multitudes might have proved more
mischievous, they deriving from Christ's words a more reverential opinion
of John than of Himself.
Wherefore this also, in an unsuspected way, He corrects by saying, "He
that is less,(6) in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he." Less in age,
and according to the opinion of the multitude, since they even called Him
"a gluttonous man and a winebibber;"(7) and, "Is not this the carpenter's
son?"(8) and on every occasion they used to make light of Him.
"What then?" it may be said, is it by comparison that He is greater
than John?" Far from it. For neither when John saith, He is mightier than
I,"(9) doth he say it as comparing them; nor Paul, when remembering Moses
he writes, For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses,"(10)
doth he so write by way of comparison; and He Himself too, in saying,
Behold, a greater than Solomon is here,"(1) speaks not as making a
Or if we should even grant that this was said by Him in the way of
comparison, this was done in condescension,(2) because of the weakness of
the hearers. For the men really had their gaze very much fixed upon John;
and then he was rendered the more illustrious both by his imprisonment, and
by his plainness of speech to the king; and it was a great point for the
present, that even so much should be received among the multitude. And so
too, the Old Testament uses in the same way to correct the souls of the
erring, by putting together in a way of comparison things that cannot be
compared; as when it saith, "Among the gods there is none like unto Thee, O
Lord:"(3) and again, "There is no god like our God."(4)
Now some affirm, that Christ said this of the apostles, others again,
of angels.(5) Thus, when any have turned aside from the truth, they are
wont to wander many ways. For what sort of connexion hath it, to speak
either of angels or of apostles? And besides, if He were speaking of the
apostles, what hindered his bringing them forward by name? whereas, when He
is speaking of Himself, He naturally conceals His person, because of the
still prevailing suspicion, and that He may not seem to say anything great
of Himself; yea, and we often find Him doing so.
But what is, "In the kingdom of heaven?" Among spiritual beings, and
all them that are in heaven.
And moreover His saying, "There hath not risen among them that are born
of women a greater than John," suited one contrasting John with Himself,
and thus tacitly excepting Himself. For though He too were born of a woman,
yet not as John, for He was not a mere man, neither was He born in like
manner as a man, but by a strange and wondrous kind of birth.
4. "And from the days of John the Baptist," saith He, "until now, the
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."(6)
And what sort of connexion may this have with what was said before?
Much, assuredly, and in full accordance therewith. Yea, by this topic also
He proceeds to urge and press them into the faith of Himself; and at the
same time likewise, He is speaking in agreement with what had been before
said by John. "For if all things are fulfilled even down to John, I am "He
that should come."
"For all the prophets," saith He, "and the law prophesied until
For the prophets would not have ceased, unless I were come. Expect
therefore nothing further, neither wait for any one else. For that I am He
is manifest both from the prophets ceasing, and from those that every day
"take by force" the faith that is in me. For so manifest is it and certain,
that many even take it by force. Why, who hath so taken it? tell me. All
who approach it with earnestness of mind.
Then He states also another infallible sign, saying, "If ye will
receive it, he is Elias, which was for to come." For "I will send you," it
is said, "Elias the Tishbite, who shall turn the heart of the father to the
children."(8) This man then is Elias, if ye attend exactly, saith He. For
"I will send," saith He, "my messenger before Thy face."(9)
And well hath He said, "If ye will receive it," to show the absence of
force. For I do not constrain, saith He. And this He said, as requiring a
candid mind, and showing that John is Elias, and Elias John. For both of
them received one ministry, and both of them became forerunners. Wherefore
neither did He simply say, "This is Elias," but, "If ye are willing to
receive it, this is he," that is, if with a candid mind ye give heed to
what is going on. And He did not stop even at this, but to the words, "This
is Elias, which was for to come," He added, to show that understanding is
needed, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."(10)
Now He used so many dark sayings, to stir them up to inquiry. And if
not even so were they awakened, much more, had all been plain and clear.
For this surely no man could say, that they dared not ask Him, and that He
was difficult of approach. For they that were asking him questions, and
tempting Him about common matters, and whose mouths were stopped a thousand
times, yet they did not withdraw from Him; how should they but have
inquired of Him, and besought Him touching the indispensable things, had
they indeed been desirous to learn? For if concerning the matters of the
law they asked, "Which is the first commandment," and all such questions,
although there was of course no need of His telling them that; how should
they but ask the meaning of what He Himself said, for which also He was
bound to give account in His answers? And especially when it was He Himself
that was encouraging and drawing them on to do this. For by saying, "The
violent take it by force," He stirs them up to earnestness of mind; and by
saying, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear," He doth just the same
5. "But whereunto shall I liken this generation?" saith He," "It is
like unto children sitting in the market place, and saying, We have piped
unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not
lamented."(1) This again seems to be unconnected with what came before, but
it is the most natural consequence thereof. Yea, He still keeps to the same
point, the showing that John is acting in harmony with Himself, although
the results were opposite; as indeed with respect to his inquiry also. And
He implies that there was nothing that ought to have been done for their
salvation, and was omitted; which thing the prophet(2) saith of the
vineyard; "What ought I to have done to this vineyard, and have not done
it? For whereunto," saith He, "shall I liken this generation? It is like
unto children sitting in the market, and saying, We have piped unto you,
and ye have not danced, we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a
devil.(3) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a
man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners."(4)
Now what He saith is like this: We have come each of us an opposite
way, I and John; and we have done just as if it were some hunters with a
wild beast that was hard to catch, and which might by two ways fall into
the toils; as if each of the two were to cut it off his several way, and
drive it, taking his stand opposite to the other; so that it must needs
fall into one of the two snares. Mark, for instance, the whole race of man,
how it is astonished at the wonder of men's fasting, and at this hard and
self-denying life. For this reason it had been so ordered, that John should
be thus brought up from his earliest youth, so that hereby (among other
things) his sayings might obtain credit.
But wherefore, it may be asked, did not He Himself choose that way? In
the first place He did also Himself proceed by it, when He fasted the forty
days, and went about teaching, and not having where to lay His head.
Nevertheless He did also in another mode accomplish this same object, and
provide for the advantage thence accruing. For to be testified of by him
that came this way was the same thing, or even a much greater thing than to
have come this way Himself.
And besides, John indeed exhibited no more than his life and
conversation; for "John," it is said, "did no sign,"(5) but He Himself had
the testimony also from signs and from miracles. Leaving therefore John to
be illustrious by his fasting, He Himself came the opposite way, both
coming unto publicans' tables, and eating and drinking.
Let us ask the Jews then, "Is fasting a good thing, and to be admired?
you should then have obeyed John, and received him, and believed his
sayings. For so would those sayings have led you towards Jesus. Is fasting,
on the other hand, a thing grievous, and burdensome? then should you have
obeyed Jesus, and have believed in Him that came the opposite way. Thus,
either way, ye would have found yourselves in the kingdom." But, like an
intractable wild beast, they were speaking evil of both. The fault is not
then theirs who were not believed, but they are to be blamed who did not
believe. For no man would ever choose to speak evil of opposite things, any
more than he would on the other hand commend them. I mean thus: he that
approves the cheerful and free character, will not approve him that is sad
and grave; he that commends the man of a sad countenance will not commend
the cheerful man. For it is a thing impossible to give your vote both ways
at once. Therefore also He saith, "We have piped unto you, and ye have not
danced;" that is, "I have exhibited the freer kind of life, and ye obeyed
not:" and, "We have mourned, and ye have not lamented;" that is, "John
followed the rugged and grave life, and ye took no heed." And He saith not,
"he this, I that," but the purpose of both being one, although their modes
of life were opposite, for this cause He speaks of their doings as common.
Yea, for even their coming by opposite ways arose out of a most exact
accordance, such as continued looking to one and the same end. What sort of
excuse then can ye have after all this?
Wherefore He subjoined, "And wisdom is justified of her children;"(1)
that is, though ye be not persuaded, yet with me after this ye cannot find
fault. As the prophet saith touching the Father, "That Thou mightest be
justified in Thy sayings."(2) For God, though He should effect nothing more
by His care over us, fulfills all His part, so as to leave to them that
will be shameless not so much as a shadow of excuse for uncandid doubt.
And if the similitudes be mean, and of an ill sound, marvel not, for He
was discoursing with a view to the weakness of His hearers. Since Ezekiel
too mentions many similitudes like them, and unworthy of God's majesty.(3)
But this too especially becomes His tender care.
And mark them, how in another respect also they are carried about into
contradictory opinions. For whereas they had said of John, "he hath a
devil,"(4) they stopped not at this, but said the very same again
concerning Him,(5) taking as He did the opposite course; thus were they
forever carried about into conflicting opinions.
But Luke herewith sets down also another and a heavier charge against
them, saying, "For the publicans justified God, having received the baptism
6. Then He proceeds to upbraid the cities now that wisdom hath been
justified; now that He hath shown all to be fully performed. That is,
having failed to persuade them, He now doth but lament over them; which is
more than terrifying For He had exhibited both His teaching by His words,
and His wonder-working power by His signs. But forasmuch as they abode in
their own unbelief, He now does but upbraid.
For "then," it is said, "began Jesus to upbraid the cities, wherein
most of His mighty works were done, because they repented not; saying, Woe
unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida(7)
Then, to show thee that they are not such by nature, He states also the
name of the city out of which proceeded five apostles. For both Philip, and
those two pairs of the chief apostles, were from thence.(8)
"For if," saith He, "the mighty works which were done in you had been
done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, at the
day of judgment, than for you. And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto
heaven, shalt be brought down to hell,(9) for if the mighty works which
have been done in thee had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until
this day. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of
Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee."(10)
And He adds not Sodom with the others for nought, but to aggravate the
charge against them. Yea, for it is a very great proof of wickedness, when
not only of them that now are, but even of all those that ever were wicked,
none are found so bad as they.
Thus elsewhere also He makes a comparison, condemning them by the
Ninevites, and by the Queen of the south; there, however, it was by them
that did right, here, even by them that sinned; a thing far more grievous.
With this law of condemnation, Ezekiel too was acquainted: wherefore also
he said to Jerusalem, "Thou hast justified thy sisters in all thy
sins."(11) Thus everywhere is He wont to linger in the Old Testament, as in
a favored place. And not even at this doth He stay His speech, but makes
their fears yet more intense, by saying, that they should suffer things
more grievous than Sodomites and Tyrians, so as by every means to gather
them in, both by bewailing, and by alarming them.
7. To these same things let us also listen: since not for the
unbelievers only, but for us also, hath He appointed a punishment more
grievous than that of the Sodomites, if we will not receive the strangers
that come in unto us; I mean, when He commanded to shake off the very dust:
and very fitly. For as to the Sodomites, although they committed a great
transgression, yet it was before the law and grace; but we, after so much
care shown towards us, of what indulgence should we be worthy, showing so
much inhospitality, and shutting our doors against them that are in need,
and before our doors our ears? or rather not against the poor only, but
against the apostles themselves? For therefore we do it to the poor,
because we do it to the very apostles. For whereas Paul is read, and thou
attendest not; whereas John preaches, and thou hearest not: when wilt thou
receive a poor man, who wilt not receive an apostle?
In order then that both our houses may be continually open to the one,
and our ears to the others, let us purge away the filth from the ears of
our soul. For as filth and mud close up the ears of our flesh, so do the
hatlot's songs, and worldly news, and debts, and the business of usury and
loans, close up the ear of the mind, worse than any filth; nay rather, they
do not close it up only, but also make it unclean. And they are putting
dung in your ears, who tell you of these things. And that which the
barbarian threatened, saying, "Ye shall eat your own dung," and what
follows;(1) this do these men also make you undergo, not in word, but in
deeds; or rather, somewhat even much worse. For truly those songs are more
loathsome even than all this; and what is yet worse, so far from feeling
annoyance when ye hear them, ye rather laugh, when ye ought to abominate
them and fly.
But if they be not abominable, go down unto the stage, imitate that
which thou praisest; or rather, do thou merely take a walk with him that is
exciting that laugh. Nay, thou couldest not bear it. Why then bestow on him
so great honor? Yea, while the laws that are enacted by the Gentiles would
have them to be dishonored, thou receivest them with thy whole city, like
ambassadors and generals, and dost convoke all men, to receive dung in
their ears. And thy servant, if he say anything filthy in thy hearing, will
receive stripes in abundance; and be it a son, a wife, whoever it may, that
doth as I have said, thou callest the act an affront; but if worthless
fellows, that deserve the scourge, should invite thee to hear the filthy
words, not only art thou not indignant, thou dost even rejoice and applaud.
And what could be equal to this folly?
But dost thou thyself never utter these base words? Why what is the
profit? or rather, this very fact, whence is it manifest? For if thou didst
not utter these things, neither wouldest thou at all laugh at hearing them,
nor wouldest thou run with such zeal to the voice that makes thee ashamed.
For tell me, art thou pleased at hearing men blaspheme? Dost thou not
rather shudder, and stop thine ears? Surely I think thou dost. Why so?
Because thou blasphemest not thyself. Just so do thou act with respect to
filthy talking also; and if thou wouldest show us clearly, that thou hast
no pleasure in filthy speaking, endure not so much as to hear them. For
when wilt thou be able to become good, bred up as thou art with such sounds
in thine ears? When wilt thou venture to undergo such labors as chastity
requires, now that thou art falling gradually away through this laughter,
these songs, and filthy words? Yea, it is a great thing for a soul that
keeps itself pure from all this, to be able to become grave and chaste; how
much more for one that is nourished up in such hearings? Know ye not, that
we are of the two more inclined to evil? While then we make it even an art,
and a business, when shall we escape that furnace?
8. Heardest thou not what Paul saith, "Rejoice in the Lord?"(2) He said
not, "in the devil." When then wilt thou be able to hear Paul? when, to
gain a sense of thy wrong actions? drunken as thou art, ever and
incessantly, with the spectacle I was speaking of. For thy having come here
is nothing wonderful nor great; or rather it is wonderful. For here thou
comest any how, and so as just to satisfy a scruple,(3) but there with
diligence and speed, and great readiness. And it is evident from what thou
bringest home, on returning thence.
For even all the mire that is there poured out for you, by the
speeches, by the songs, by the laughter, ye collect and take every man to
his home, or rather not to his home only, but every man even into his own
And from things not worthy of abhorrence thou turnest away; while
others which are to be abhorred, so far from hating, thou dost even court.
Many, for instance, on coming back from tombs, are used to wash themselves,
but on returning from theatres they have never groaned, nor poured forth
any fountains of tears; yet surely the dead man is no unclean thing,
whereas sin induces such a blot, that not even with ten thousand fountains
could one purge it away, but with tears only, and with confessions. But no
one hath any sense of this blot. Thus because we fear not what we ought,
therefore we shrink from what we ought not.
And what again is the applause? what the tumult, and the satanical
cries, and the devilish gestures? For first one, being a young man, wears
his hair long behind, and changing his nature into that of a woman, is
striving both in aspect, and in gesture, and in garments, and generally in
all ways, to pass into the likeness of a tender damsel.(1) Then another who
is grown old, in the opposite way to this, having his hair shaven, and with
his loins girt about, his shame cut off before his hair, stands ready to be
smitten with the rod, prepared both to say and do anything. The women
again, their heads uncovered, stand without a blush, discoursing with a
whole people, so complete is their practice in shamelessness; and thus pour
forth all effrontery and impurity into the souls of their hearers. And
their one study is, to pluck up all chastity from the foundations, to
disgrace our nature, to satiate the desire of the wicked demon. Yea, and
there are both foul sayings, and gestures yet fouler; and the dressing of
the hair tends that way, and the gait, and apparel, and voice, and flexure
of the limbs; and there are turnings of the eyes, and flutes, and pipes,
and dramas, and plots; and all things, in short, full of the most extreme
impurity. When then wilt thou be sober again, I pray thee, now that the
devil is pouring out for thee so much of the strong wine of whoredom,
mingling so many cups of unchastity? For indeed both adulteries and stolen
marriages are there. and there are women playing the harlot, men
prostituting, youths corrupting themselves: all there is iniquity to the
full, all sorcery, all shame. Wherefore they that sit by should not laugh
at these things, but weep and groan bitterly.
"What then? Are we to shut up the stage?" it will be said, "and are all
things to be turned upside down at thy word?" Nay, but as it is, all things
are turned upside down. For whence are they, tell me, that plot against our
marriages? Is it not from this theatre? Whence are they that dig through
into chambers? Is it not from that stage? Comes it not of this, when
husbands are insupportable to their wives? of this, when the wives are
contemptible to their husbands? of this, that the more part are adulterers?
So that the subverter of all things is he that goes to the theatre; it is
he that brings in a grievous tyranny. "Nay," thou wilt say, "this is
appointed by the good order of the laws." Why, to tear away men's wives,
and to insult young boys, and to overthrow houses, is proper to those who
have seized on citadels.(2) "And what adulterer," wilt thou say, "hath been
made such by these spectacles?" Nay, who hath not been made an adulterer?
And if one might but mention them now by name, I could point out how many
husbands those harlots have severed from their wives, how many they have
taken captive, drawing some even from the marriage bed itself, not
suffering others so much as to live at all in marriage.
"What then? I pray thee, are we to overthrow all the laws?" Nay, but it
is overthrowing lawlessness, if we do away with these spectacles, For hence
are they that make havoc in our cities; hence, for example, are seditions
and tumults. For they that are maintained by the dancers, and who sell
their own voice to the belly, whose work it is to shout, and to practise
everything that is monstrous, these especially are the men that stir up the
populace, that make the tumults in our cities. For youth, when it hath
joined hands with idleness, and is brought up in so great evils, becomes
fiercer than any wild beast. The necromancers too, I pray thee, whence are
they? Is it not from hence, that in order to excite the people who are
idling without object, and make the dancing men have the benefit of much
and loud applause, and fortify the harlot women against the chaste, they
proceed so far in sorcery, as not even to shrink from disturbing the bones
of the dead? Comes it not hence, when men are forced to spend without limit
on that wicked choir of the devil? And lasciviousness, whence is that, and
its innumerable mischiefs? Thou seest, it is thou who art subverting our
life, by drawing men to these things, while I am recruiting it by putting
"Let us then pull down the stage," say they. Would that it were
possible to pull it down; or rather, if ye be willing, as far as regards
us, it is pulled down, and digged up. Nevertheless, I enjoin no such thing.
Standing as these places are, I bid you make them of no effect; which thing
were a greater praise than pulling them down.
9. Imitate at least the barbarians, if no one else; for they verily are
altogether clean from seeking such sights. What excuse then can we have
after all this, we, the citizens of Heaven, and partners in the choirs of
the cherubim, and in fellowship with the angels, making ourselves in this
respect worse even than the barbarians, and this, when innumerable other
pleasures, better than these, are within our reach?
Why, if thou desirest that thy soul may find delight, go to pleasure
grounds, to a river flowing by, and to lakes, take notice of gardens,
listen to grasshoppers as they sing, be continually by the coffins of
martyrs, where is health of body and benefit of soul, and no hurt, no
remorse after the pleasure, as there is here.
Thou hast a wife, thou hast children; what is equal to this pleasure?
Thou hast a house, thou hast friends, these are the true delights: besides
their purity, great is the advantage they bestow. For what, I pray thee, is
sweeter than children? what sweeter than a wife, to him that will be chaste
To this purpose, we are told, that the barbarians uttered on some
occasion a saying full of wise severity. I mean, that having heard of these
wicked spectacles, and the unseasonable delight of them; "why the Romans,"
say they, "have devised these pleasures, as though they had not wives and
children;" implying that nothing is sweeter than children and wife, if thou
art willing to live honestly.
"What then," one may say, "if I point to some, who are nothing hurt by
their pastime in that place?" In the first place, even this is a hurt, to
spend one's time without object or fruit, and to become an offense to
others For even if thou shouldest not be hurt, thou makest some other more
eager herein. And how canst thou but be thyself hurt, giving occasion to
what goes on? Yea, both the fortune-teller, and the prostitute boy, and the
harlot woman, and all those choirs of the devil, cast upon thy head the
blame of their proceedings. For as surely as, if there were no spectators,
there would be none to follow these employments; so, since there are, they
too have their share of the fire due to such deeds. So that even if in
chastity thou weft quite unhurt (a thing impossible), yet for others' ruin
thou wilt render a grievous account; both the spectators', and that of
those who assemble them.
And in chastity too thou wouldest profit more, didst thou refrain from
going thither. For if even now thou art chaste, thou wouldest have become
chaster by avoiding such sights. Let us not then delight in useless
argument, nor devise unprofitable apologies: there being but one apology,
to flee from the Babylonian furnace, to keep far from the Egyptian harlot,
though one must escape her hands naked.(1)
For so shall we both enjoy much delight, our conscience not accusing
us, and we shall live this present life with chastity, 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, now and ever, and world without end.
HOMILY XXXVIII: MATT. XI. 25, 26.
"At that time Jesus answered and said, I make acknowledgment unto Thee,(1)
O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth; because Thou hast hid these things from
the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father,
for so it seemed good in Thy sight."(2)
Seest thou, how many ways He leads them on to the faith? First,(3) by
His praises of John. For by pointing to him as a great and marvellous one,
He proved likewise all his sayings credible, whereby he used to draw them
on to the knowledge of Him. Secondly,(4) by saying, "The kingdom of Heaven
suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force;" for this is the
language of one who is pressing and urging them. Thirdly,(5) by signifying
that the number of the prophets was finished; for this too manifested
Himself to be the person that was announced beforehand by them.
Fourthly,(6) by pointing out that whatsoever things should be done by him,
were all accomplished; at which time also He made mention of the parable of
the children. Fifthly, by His upbraiding them that had not believed, and by
His alarming and threatening them greatly.(1) Sixthly, by His giving thanks
for them that believed. For the expression, "I make acknowledgment to
Thee," here is, "I thank Thee." "I thank Thee," He saith, "because Thou
hast hid these things from the wise and prudent."
What then? doth He rejoice in destruction, and in the others not having
received this knowledge? By no means; but this is a most excellent way of
His to save men, His not forcing them that utterly reject, and are not
willing to receive His sayings; that, since they were not bettered by His
call, but fell back, and despised it, His casting them out might cause them
to fall into a longing for these things. And so likewise the attentive
would grow more earnest.
And while His being revealed to these was fit matter of joy, His
concealment from those was no more of joy but of tears. Thus at any rate He
acts, where He weeps for the city. Not therefore because of this doth He
rejoice, but because what wise men knew not, was known to these. As when
Paul saith, "I thank God, that ye were servants of sin, but ye obeyed from
the heart the form of doctrine which was delivered unto
You see, neither doth Paul therefore rejoice, because they were
"servants of sin," but because being such, they had been so highly favored.
Now by the "wise," here, He means the Scribes, and the Pharisees. And
these things He saith, to make the disciples more earnest, and to show what
had been vouchsafed to the fishermen, when all those others had missed of
it. And in calling them "wise," He means not the true and commendable
wisdom, but this which they seemed to have through natural shrewdness.
Wherefore neither did He say, "thou hast revealed it to fools." but "to
babes;" to unsophisticated, that is, to simple-minded men; and He implies
that so far from their missing these privileges contrary to their desert,
it was just what might be expected. And He instructs us throughout, to be
free from pride, and to follow after simplicity. For this cause Paul also
expressed it with more exceeding earnestness, writing on this wise: "If any
man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that
he may be wise."(3) For thus is God's grace manifested.
But wherefore doth He give thanks to the Father, although of course it
was Himself who wrought this? As He prays and intercedes with God, showing
His great love towards us, in the same way doth He this too: for this also
is of much love. And He signifies, that not from Him only had they fallen
away, but also from the Father. Thus, what He said, speaking to His
disciples, "Cast not the holy things unto dogs,"(4) this He Himself
anticipated them in performing.
Moreover He signifies hereby both His own principal(5) will, and that
of the Father; His own, I say, by His giving thanks and rejoicing at what
had taken place; His Father's, by intimating that neither had He done this
upon entreaty, but of Himself upon His own will; "For so," saith He, "it
seemed good in Thy sight:" that is, "so it pleased Thee."
And wherefore was it hidden from them? Hear Paul, saying, that "Seeking
to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves to
the righteousness of God."(6) Consider now how it was likely the disciples
should(7) be affected, hearing this; that what wise men knew not, these
knew, and knew it continuing babes, and knew it by God's revelation. But
Luke saith, that "at the very hour," when the seventy came telling Him
about the devils, then He "rejoiced" and spake these things,(8) which,
besides increasing their diligence, would also dispose them to be modest.
That is, since it was natural for them to pride themselves on their driving
away devils, on this among other grounds He refrains them; that it was a
revelation, whatever had been done, no diligence on their part. Wherefore
also the scribes, and the wise men, thinking to be intelligent for
themselves, fell away through their own vanity. Well then, if for this
cause it was hidden from them, "do you also," saith He, "fear, and continue
babes." For this caused you to have the benefit of the revelation, as
indeed on the other hand the contrary made them be deprived of it. For by
no means, when He saith, "Thou hast hid," doth He mean that it is all God's
doing: but as when Paul saith, "He gave them over to a reprobate mind,"(1)
and, "He hath blinded their minds,"(2) it is not meant to bring Him in as
the doer of it, but those who gave the occasion: so here also He uses the
expression, "Thou hast hid."
For since He had said, "I thank(3) Thee, because Thou hast hid them,
and hast revealed them unto babes;" to hinder thy supposing that as being
Himself deprived of this power, and unable to effect it, so He offers
thanks, He saith,
"All things are delivered unto me of my Father."(4) And to them that
are rejoicing, because the devils obey them, "Nay, why marvel," saith
He.(5) "that devils yield to you? All things are mine; "All things are
delivered unto me."
But when thou hearest, "they are delivered," do not surmise anything
human. For He uses this expression, to prevent thine imagining two
unoriginate Gods. Since, that He was at the same time both begotten, and
Lord of all, He declares in many ways, and in other places also.
2. Then He saith what is even greater than this, lifting up thy mind;
"And no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the
Father, but the Son." Which seems indeed to the ignorant unconnected with
what went before, but hath full accordance therewith. As thus: having said,
"All things are delivered unto me of my Father," He adds, "And what
marvel," so He speaks, "if I be Lord of all? I who have also another
greater privilege, the knowing the Father, and being of the same
substance." Yea, for this too He covertly signifies by His being the only
one who so knew Him. For this is His meaning, when He saith, "No man
knoweth the Father but the Son."
And see at what time He saith this. When they by His works had received
the certain proof of His might, not only seeing Him work miracles, but
endowed also in His name with so great powers. Then, since He had said,
"Thou hast revealed them unto babes," He signifies this also to pertain to
Himself; for "neither knoweth any man the Father," saith He, "save the Son,
and he to whomsoever the Son is willing(6) to reveal Him;(7) not "to
whomsoever He may be enjoined," "to whomsoever He may be commanded." But if
He reveals Him, then Himself too. This however He let pass as acknowledged,
but the other He hath set down. And everywhere He affirms this; as when He
saith, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me."(8)
And thereby he establishes another point also, His being in harmony and
of one mind with Him. "Why," saith He, "I am so far from fighting and
warring with Him, that no one can even come to Him but by me." For because
this most offended them, His seeming to be a rival God, He by all means
doth away with this; and interested Himself about this not less earnestly,
but even more so, than about His miracles.
But when He saith, "Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son,"
He means not this, that all men were ignorant of Him, but that with the
knowledge wherewith He knows(9) Him, no man is acquainted with Him; which
may be said of the Son too.(10) For it was not of some God unknown, and
revealed to no man, that He was so speaking, as Marcion saith;(11) but it
is the perfection of knowledge that He is here intimating, since neither do
we know the Son as He should be known; and this very thing, to add no more,
Paul was declaring, when he said, "We know in part, and we prophesy in
3. Next, having brought them by His words to an earnest desire, and
having signified His unspeakable power, He after that invites them, saying.
"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest."(13) Not this or that person, but all that are in anxiety, in
sorrows, in sins. Come, not that I may call you to account, but that I may
do away your sins; come, not that I want your honor, but that I want your
salvation. "For I," saith He, "will give you rest." He said not, "I will
save you," only; but what was much more, "I will place you in all
"Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in
heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my
burden is light."(14) Thus, "be not afraid," saith He, "hearing of a yoke,
for it is easy: fear not, because I said, "a burden," for it is light.
And how said He before, "The gate is narrow and the way strait?"(1)
Whilst thou art careless, whilst thou art supine; whereas, if thou duly
perform His words, the burden will be light; wherefore also He hath now
called it so.
But how are they duly performed? If thou art become lowly, and meek,
and gentle. For this virtue is the mother of all strictness of life.
Wherefore also, when beginning those divine laws, with this He began.(2)
And here again He doeth the very same, and exceeding great is the reward He
appoints. "For not to another only dost thou become serviceable; but
thyself also above all thou refreshest," saith He. "For ye shall find rest
unto your souls."
Even before the things to come, He gives thee here thy recompense, and
bestows the prize already, making the saying acceptable, both hereby, and
by setting Himself forward as an example. For, "Of what art thou afraid?"
saith He, "lest thou shouldest be a loser by thy low estate? Look to me,
and to all that is mine; learn of me, and then shalt thou know distinctly
how great thy blessing." Seest thou how in all ways He is leading them to
humility? By His own doings: "Learn of me, for I am meek." By what
themselves are to gain; for, "Ye shall find," saith He," rest unto your
souls." By what He bestows on them; for, "I too will refresh you," saith
He. By rendering it light; "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
So likewise doth Paul, saying, "For the present light affliction, which is
but for a moment, worketh a far more exceeding and eternal weight of
And how, some one may say, is the burden light, when He saith, "Except
one hate father and mother;" and, "Whosoever taketh not up his cross, and
followeth after me, is not worthy of me:" and, "Whosoever forsaketh not all
that he hath, cannot be my disciple:"(4) when He commands even to give up
our very life?(5) Let Paul teach thee, saying, "Who shall separate us from
the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or
famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?(6)" And that, "The sufferings of
this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall
be revealed in us."(7) Let those teach thee, who return from the council of
the Jews after plenty of stripes, and "rejoice that they were counted
worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ."(8) And if thou art still
afraid and tremblest at hearing of the yoke and the burden, the fear comes
not of the nature of the thing, but of thy remissness; since if thou art
prepared, and in earnest, all will be easy to thee and light. Since for
this cause Christ also, to signify that we too must needs labor ourselves,
did not mention the gracious things only, and then hold His peace, nor the
painful things only, but set down both. Thus He both spake of "a yoke," and
called it "easy;" both named a burden, and added that it was "light;" that
thou shouldest neither flee from them as toilsome, nor despise them as over
But if even after all this, virtue seem to thee an irksome thing,
consider that vice is more irksome. And this very thing He was intimating,
in that He said not first, "Take my yoke upon you," but before that, "Come,
ye that labor and are heavy laden;" implying that sin too hath labor, and a
burden that is heavy and hard to bear. For He said not only, "Ye that
labor," but also, "that are heavy laden." This the prophet too was speaking
of, when in that description of her nature, "As an heavy burden they
weighed heavy upon me."(9) And Zacharias too, describing her, saith she is
"A talent of lead."(10)
And this moreover experience itself proves. For nothing so weighs upon
the soul, and presses it down, as consciousness of sin; nothing so much
gives it wings, and raises it on high, as the attainment of righteousness
And mark it: what is more grievous, I pray thee, than to have no
possessions? to turn the cheek, and when smitten not to smite again? to die
by a violent death? Yet nevertheless, if we practise self-command, all
these things are light and easy, and pleasurable.
But be not disturbed; rather let us take up each of these, and inquire
about it accurately; and if ye will, that first which many count most
painful. Which then of the two, tell me, is grievous and burdensome, to be
in care for one belly, or to be anxious about ten thousand? To be clothed
with one outer garment, and seek for nothing more; or having many in one's
house, to bemoan one's self every day and night in fear, in trembling,
about the preservation of them, grieved, and ready to choke about the loss
of them; lest one should be moth-eaten, lest a servant purloin and go off
4. But whatever I may say, my speech will present no such proof as the
actual trial. Wherefore I would there were present here with us some one of
those who have attained unto that summit of self-restraint, and then you
would know assuredly the delight thereof; and that none of those that are
enamored of voluntary poverty would accept wealth, though ten thousand were
to offer it.
But would these, say you, ever consent to become poor, and to cast away
the anxieties which they have? And what of that? This is but a proof of
their madness and grievous disease, not of anything very pleasurable in the
thing. And this even themselves would testify to us, who are daily
lamenting over these their anxieties, and accounting their life to be not
worth living. But not so those others; rather they laugh, leap for joy, and
the wearers of the diadem do not so glory, as they do in their poverty.
Again, to turn the cheek is, to him that gives heed, a less grievous
thing than to smite another; for from this the contest hath beginning, in
that termination: and whereas by the former thou hast kindled the other's
pile too, by the latter thou hast quenched even thine own flames. But that
not to be burnt is a pleasanter thing than to be burnt, surely plain to
every man. And if this hold in regard of bodies, much more in a soul.
And whether is lighter, to contend, or to be crowned? to fight, or to
have the prize? and to endure waves, or to run into harbor? Therefore also,
to die is better than to live. For the one withdraws us from waves and
dangers, while the other adds unto them, and makes a man subject to
numberless plots and distresses, which have made life not worth living in
And if thou disbelievest our sayings, hearken to them that have seen
the countenances of the martyrs in the time of their conflicts, how when
scourged and flayed, they were exceeding joyful and glad, and when exposed
upon hot irons, rejoiced, and were glad of heart, more than such as lie
upon a bed of roses. Wherefore Paul also said, when he was at the point of
departing hence, and closing his life by a violent death, joy, and rejoice
with you all; for the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me."(1)
Seest thou with what exceeding strength of language he invites the whole
world to partake in his gladness? So great a good did he know his departure
hence to be, so desirable, and lovely, and worthy of prayer, that
formidable thing, death.
5. But that virtue's yoke is sweet and light, is manifest many other
ways also; but to conclude, if you please, let us look also at the burdens
of sin. Let us then bring forward the covetous, the retailers and second-
hand dealers in shameless bargains. What now could be a heavier burden than
such transactions? how many sorrows, how many anxieties, how many
disappointments, how many dangers, how many plots and wars, daily spring up
from these gains? how many troubles and disturbances? For as one can never
see the sea without waves, so neither such a soul without anxiety, and
despondency, and fear, and disturbance; yea, the second overtakes the
first, and again others come up, and when these are not yet ceased, others
come to a head.
Or wouldest thou see the souls of the revilers, and of the passionate?
Why, what is worse than this torture? what, than the wounds they have
within? what, than the furnace that is continually burning, and the flame
that is never quenched?
Or of the sensual, and of such as cleave unto this present life? Why,
what more grievous than this bondage? They live the life of Cain, dwelling
in continual trembling and fear at every death that happens; the kinsmen of
the dead mourn not so much, as these do for their own end.
What again fuller of turmoil, and more frantic, than such as are puffed
up with pride? "For learn," saith He, "of me, for I am meek and lowly in
heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Because long-suffering is
the mother of all good things.
Fear thou not therefore, neither start away from the yoke that lightens
thee of all these things, but put thyself under it with all forwardness,
and then thou shalt know well the pleasure thereof. For it doth not at all
bruise thy neck, but is put on thee for good order's sake only, and to
persuade thee to walk seemly, and to lead thee unto the royal road, and to
deliver thee from the precipices on either side, and to make thee walk with
ease in the narrow way.
Since then so great are its benefits, so great its security, so great
its gladness, let us with all our soul, with all our diligence, draw this
yoke; that we may both here "find rest unto our souls," 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, now and ever, and world without end.
HOMILY XXXIX: MATT. XII. 1.
"At that time Jesus went on the Sabbath day through the corn; and His
disciples were a hungered, and began to pluck the(1) ears of corn, and to
But Luke saith, "On a double Sabbath."(2) Now what is a double Sabbath?
When the cessation from toil is twofold, both that of the regular Sabbath,
and that of another feast coming upon it. For they call every cessation
from toil, a sabbath.
But why could He have led them away from it, who foreknew all, unless
it had been His will that the Sabbath should be broken? It was His will
indeed, but not simply so; wherefore He never breaks it without a cause,
but giving reasonable excuses: that He might at once bring the law to an
end, and not startle them. But there are occasions on which He even repeals
it directly, and not with circumstance: as when He anoints with the clay
the eyes of the blind man;(3) as when He saith, "My Father worketh
hitherto, and I work."(4) And He doth so, by this to glorify His own
Father, by the other to soothe the infirmity of the Jews. At which last He
is laboring here, putting forward as a plea the necessity of nature;
although in the case of acknowledged sins, that could not of course ever be
an excuse. For neither may the murderer make his anger a plea, nor the
adulterer allege his lust, no, nor any other excuse; but here, by
mentioning their hunger, He freed them from all blame.
But do thou, I pray thee, admire the disciples, how entirely they
control themselves, and make no account of the things of the body, but
esteem the table of the flesh a secondary thing, and though they have to
struggle with continual hunger, do not even so withdraw themselves. For
except hunger had sorely constrained them, they would not have done so much
What then do the Pharisees? "When they saw it," it is said, "they said
unto Him, Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the
Now here indeed with no great vehemence yet surely that would have been
consistent n them),--nevertheless they are not vehemently provoked, but
simply find fault. But when He stretched out the withered hand and healed
it,(6) then they were so infuriated, as even to consult together about
slaying and destroying Him. For where nothing great and noble is done, they
are calm; but where they see any made whole, they are savage, and fret
themselves, and none so intolerable as they are: such enemies are they of
the salvation of men.
How then doth Jesus defend His disciples? "Have ye not read," saith He,
"what David did in the temple,(7) when he was an hungered, himself and all
they that were with him? how he entered into the house of God, and did eat
the show-bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which
were with him, but only for the priests?"(8)
Thus, whereas in pleading for His disciples, He brings forward David;
for Himself, it is the Father.(9)
And observe His reproving manner: "Have ye not read what David did?"
For great indeed was that prophet's glory, so that Peter also afterwards
pleading with the Jews, spake on this wise, "Let me freely speak unto you
of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried."(10)
But wherefore doth He not call him by the name of his rank, either on
this occasion or afterwards? Perhaps because He derived His race from him.
Now had they been a candid sort of persons, He would have turned His
discourse to the disciples' suffering from hunger; but abominable as they
were and inhuman, He rather rehearses unto them a history.
But Mark saith, "In the days of Abiathar the High Priest:"(11) not
stating what was contrary to the history, but implying that he had two
names; and adds that "he gave unto him,"(1) indicating that herein also
David had much to say for himself, since even the very priest suffered him;
and not only suffered, but even ministered unto him. For tell me not that
David was a prophet, for not even so was it lawful, but the privilege was
the priests': wherefore also He added, "but for the priests only." For
though he were ten thousand times a prophet, yet was he not a priest; and
though he were himself a prophet, yet not so they that were with him; since
to them too we know that he gave.
"What then," it might be said, "were they all one with David?" Why talk
to me of dignity, where there seems to be a transgression of the law, even
though it be the constraint of nature? Yea, and in this way too He hath the
more entirely acquitted them of the charges, in that he who is greater is
found to have done the same.
"And what is this to the question," one may say; "for it was not surely
the Sabbath, that he transgressed?" Thou tellest me of that which is
greater, and which especially shows the wisdom of Christ, that letting go
the Sabbath, He brings another example greater than the Sabbath. For it is
by no means the same, to break in upon a day, and to touch that holy table,
which it was not lawful for any man to touch. Since the Sabbath indeed hath
been violated, and that often; nay rather it is continually being violated,
both by circumcision, and by many other works; and at Jericho(2) too one
may see the same to have happened; but this happened then only. So that He
more than obtains the victory. How then did no man blame David, although
there was yet another ground of charge heavier than this, that of the
priests' murder, which had its origin from this? But He states it not, as
applying himself to the present subject only.
2. Afterwards again He refutes it in another way also. For as at first
He brought in David, by the dignity of the person quelling their pride; so
when He had stopped their mouths, and had put down their boasting, then He
adds also the more appropriate refutation. And of what sort is this? "Know
ye not, that in the temple the priests profane the Sabbath, and are
blameless?"(3) For in that other instance indeed, saith He, the emergency
made the relaxation, but here is the relaxation even without emergency. He
did not however at once thus refute them but first by way of permission,
afterwards as insisting upon his argument. Because it was meet to draw the
stronger inference last, although the former argument also had of course
its proper weight.
For tell me not, that it is not freeing one's self from blame, to bring
forward another who is committing the same sin. For when the doer incurs no
blame, the act on which he hath ventured becomes a rule for others to
Nevertheless He was not satisfied with this, but subjoins also what is
more decisive, saying that the deed is no sin at all; and this more than
anything was the sign of a glorious victory, to point to the law repealing
itself, and in two ways doing so, first by the place, then by the Sabbath;
or rather even in three ways, in that both the work is twofold. that is
done, and with it goes also another thing, its being done by the priests;
and what is yet more, that it is not even brought as a charge. "For they,"
saith He, "are blameless."
Seest thou how many points He hath stated? the place; for He saith, "In
the temple;" the persons, for they are "the priests;" the time, for He
saith, "the Sabbath;" the act itself, for "they profane;" (He not having
said, "they break," but what is more grievous, "they profane;") that they
not only escape punishment, but are even free from blame, "for they," saith
He, "are blameless."
Do not ye therefore account this, He saith, like the former instance.
For that indeed was done both but once, and not by a priest, and was of
necessity; wherefore also they were deserving of excuse; but this last is
both done every Sabbath, and by priests, and in the temple, and according
to the law. And therefore again not by favor, but in a legal way, they are
acquitted of the charges. For not at all as blaming them did I so speak,
saith He, nor yet as freeing them from blame in the way of indulgence, but
according to the principle of justice.
And He seems indeed to be defending them, but it is His disciples whom
He is clearing of the alleged faults. For when He saith, "those are
blameless," He means, "much more are these."
"But they are not priests." Nay, they are greater than priests. For the
Lord of the temple Himself is here: the truth, not the type. Wherefore He
"But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the
Nevertheless, great as the sayings were which they heard, they made no
reply, for the salvation of men was not their object.
Then, because to the hearers it would seem harsh, He quickly draws a
veil over it, giving His discourse, as before, a lenient turn, yet even so
expressing Himself with a rebuke. "But if ye had known what this meaneth, I
will have: mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the
Seest thou how again He inclines His speech to lenity, yet again shows
them to be out of the reach of lenity? "For ye would not have condemned,"
saith He, "the guiltless." Before indeed He inferred the same from what is
said of the priests, in the words, "they are guiltless;" but here He states
it on His own authority; or rather, this too is out of the law, for He was
quoting a prophetic saying.(3)
3. After this He mentions another reason likewise; "For the Son of
man," saith He, "is Lord of the Sabbath day;"(4) speaking it of Himself.
But Mark relates Him to have said this of our common nature also; for He
said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."(5)
Wherefore then was he punished that was gathering the sticks?(6)
Because if the laws were to be despised even at the beginning, of course
they would scarcely be observed afterwards.
For indeed the Sabbath did at the first confer many and great benefits;
for instance, it made them gentle towards those of their household, and
humane; it taught them God's providence and the creation, as Ezekiel
saith;(7) it trained them by degrees to abstain from wickedness, and
disposed them to regard the things of the Spirit.
For because they could not have borne it,(8) if when He was giving the
law for the Sabbath, He had said, "Do your good works on the Sabbath, but
do not the works which are evil," therefore He restrained them from all
alike for, "Ye must do nothing at all," saith He: and not even so were they
kept in order. But He Himself, in the very act of giving the law of the
Sabbath, did even therein darkly signify that He will have them refrain
from the evil works only, by the saying, "Ye must do no work, except what
shall be done for your life."(9) And in the temple too all went on, and
with more diligence and double toil.(10) Thus even by the very shadow He
was secretly opening unto them the truth.
Did Christ then, it will be said, repeal a thing so highly profitable?
Far from it; nay, He greatly enhanced it. For it was time for them to be
trained in all things by the higher rules, and it was unnecessary that his
hands should be bound, who was freed from wickedness, winged for all good
works; or that men should hereby learn that God made all things; or that
they should so be made gentle, who are called to imitate God's own love to
mankind (for He saith, "Be ye merciful, as your Heavenly Father");(11) or
that they should make one day a festival, who are commanded to keep a feast
all their life long; ("For let us keep the feast," it is said, "not with
old leaven, neither with leaven of malice and wickedness; but with
unleavened bread of sincerity and truth");(12) as neither need they stand
by an ark and a golden altar, who have the very Lord of all for their
inmate, and in all things hold communion with Him; by prayer, and by
oblation, and by scriptures, and by almsgiving, and by having Him within
them. Lo now, wily is any Sabbath required, by him who is always keeping
the feast, whose conversation is in Heaven?
4. Let us keep the feast then continually, and do no evil thing; for
this is a feast: and let our spiritual things be made intense, while our
earthly things give place: and let us rest a spiritual rest, refraining our
hands from covetousness; withdrawing our body from our superfluous and
unprofitable toils, from such as the people of the Hebrews did of old
endure in Egypt. For there is no difference betwixt us who are gathering
gold, and those that were bound in the mire, working at those bricks, and
gathering stubble, and being beaten. Yea, for now too the devil bids us
make bricks, as Pharaoh did then. For what else is gold, than mire? and
what else is silver, than stubble? Like stubble, at least, it kindles the
flame of desire; like mire, so doth gold defile him that possesses it.
Wherefore He sent us, not Moses from the wilderness, but His Son from
Heaven. If then, after He is come, thou abide in Egypt, thou wilt suffer
with the Egyptians: but if leaving that land thou go up with the spiritual
Israel, thou shalt see all the miracles.
Yet not even this suffices for salvation. For we must not only be
delivered out of Egypt, but we must also enter into the promise. Since the
Jews too, as Paul saith, both went through the Red Sea,(13) and ate manna,
and drank spiritual drink, but nevertheless they all perished.
Lest then the same befall us also, let us not be slow, neither draw
back; but when thou hearest wicked spies even now bringing up an evil
report against the strait and narrow way, and uttering the same kind of
talk as those spies of old, let not the multitude, but Joshua, be our
pattern, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh; and do not thou give up, until
thou have attained the promise, and entered into the Heavens.
Neither account the journey to be difficult. "For if when we were
enemies, we were reconciled to God, much more, being reconciled, shall we
be saved."(1) "But this way," it will be said, "is strait and narrow."
Well, but the former, through which thou hast come, is not strait and
narrow only, but even impassable, and full of savage wild beasts. And as
there was no passing through the Red Sea, unless that miracle had been
wrought, so neither could we, abiding in our former life, have gone up into
Heaven, but only by baptism intervening. Now if the impossible hath become
possible, much more will the difficult be easy.
"But that," it will be said, "was of grace only." Why, for this reason
especially thou hast just cause to take courage. For if, where it was grace
alone, He wrought with you; will He not much more be your aid, where ye
also show forth laborious works? If He saved thee, doing nothing, will He
not much more help thee, working?
Above(2) indeed I was saying, that from the impossibilities thou
oughtest to take courage about the difficulties also; but now I add this,
that if we are vigilant, these will not be so much as difficult. For mark
it: death is trodden under foot, the devil hath fallen, the law of sin is
extinguished, the grace of the Spirit is given, life is contracted into a
small space, the heavy burdens are abridged.
And to convince thee hereof by the actual results, see how many have
overshot the injunctions of Christ; and art thou afraid of that which is
just their measure? What plea then wilt thou have, when others are leaping
beyond the bounds, and thou thyself too slothful for what is enacted?
Thus, thee we admonish to give alms of such things as thou hast, but
another hath even stripped himself of all his possessions: thee we require
to live chastely with thy wife, but another hath not so much as entered
into marriage: and thee we entreat not to be envious, but another we find
giving up even his own life for charity: thee again we entreat to be
lenient in judgments, and not severe to them that sin, but another, even
when smitten, hath turned the other cheek also.
What then shall we say, I pray thee? What excuse shall we make, not
doing even these things, when others go so far beyond us? And they would
not have gone beyond us, had not the thing been very easy. For which pines
away, he who envies other men's blessings, or he who takes pleasure with
them, and rejoices? Which eyes all things with suspicion and continual
trembling, the chaste man, or the adulterer? Which is cheered by good
hopes, he that spoils by violence, or he that shows mercy, and imparts of
his own to the needy?
Let us then bear in mind these things, and not be torpid in our career
for virtue's sake; but having stripped ourselves with all readiness for
these glorious wrestlings, let us labor for a little while, that we may win
the perpetual and imperishable crowns; unto which may we all attain, by the
grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and
might forever and ever. Amen.
HOMILY XL: MATT, XII. 9, 10.
"And when He was departed thence, He went into their synagogue: and,
behold, a man which had his hand withered."
AGAIN He heals on a Sabbath day, vindicating what had been done by His
disciples. And the other evangelists indeed say, that He "set" the man "in
the midst," and asked them, "If it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath
See the tender bowels of the Lord. "He set him in the midst," that by
the sight He might subdue them; that overcome by the spectacle they might
cast away their wickedness, and out of a kind of shame towards the man,
cease from their savage ways. But they, ungentle and inhuman, choose rather
to hurt the fame of Christ, than to see this person made whole: in both
ways betraying their wickedness; by their warring against Christ, and by
their doing so with such contentiousness, as even to treat with despite His
mercies to other men.
And while the other evangelists say, He asked the question, this one
saith, it was asked of Him. "And they asked Him," so it stands, "saying, Is
it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days? that they might accuse Him."(2) And
it is likely that both took place. For being unholy wretches, and well
assured that He would doubtless proceed to the healing, they hastened to
take Him beforehand with their question, thinking in this way to hinder
Him. And this is why they asked, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath
days?" not for information, but that "they might accuse Him." Yet surely
the work was enough, if it were really their wish to accuse Him; but they
desired to find a handle in His words too, preparing for themselves
beforehand an abundance of arguments.
But He in His love towards man doth this also: He answers them,
teaching His own meekness, and turning it all back upon them; and points
out their inhumanity. And He "setteth" the man "in the midst;" not in fear
of them, but endeavoring to profit them, and move them to pity.
But when not even so did He prevail with them, then was He grieved, it
is said, and wroth with them for the hardness of their heart, and He saith,
"What man is there among you that shall have one sheep, and if this
fall into a pit on the Sabbath days, will he not lay hold of it, and lift
it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep?(3) Wherefore it is
lawful to do well(4) on the Sabbath days."(5)
Thus, lest they have ground of obstinacy, and of accusing him again of
transgression, He convicts them by this example. And do thou mark, I pray
thee, how variously and suitably in each case, He introduces His pleas for
the breaking of the sabbath. Thus, first, in the case of the blind man,(6)
He cloth not so much as defend Himself to them, when He made the clay: and
yet then also were they blaming Him; but the manner of the creation was
enough to indicate the Lord and Owner(7) of the law. Next, in the case of
the paralytic, when he carried his bed, and they were finding fault,(8) He
defends Himself, now as God, and now as man; as man, when He saith, "If a
man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law should not be
broken;" (and He said not "that a man should be profiled"); "are ye angry
at me, because I have made a man every whir whole on the Sabbath day?"(9)
As God again, when He saith, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work."(10)
But when blamed for His disciples, He said, "Have ye not read what
David did, when he was an hungered, himself and they that were with him,
how he entered into the house of God, and did eat the show-bread? He brings
forward the priests also.
And here again; "Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do
evil?(12) Which of you shall have one sheep?" For He knew their love of
wealth, that they were all taken up with it, rather than with love of
mankind. And indeed the other evangelist. saith,(1) that He also looked
about upon them when asking these questions, that by His very eye He might
win them over; but not even so did they become better.
And yet here He speaks only; whereas elsewhere in many cases He heals
by laying on of hands also. But nevertheless none of these things made them
meek; rather, while the man was healed, they by his health became worse.
For His desire indeed was to cure them before him, and He tried
innumerable ways of healing, both by what He did in their presence, and by
what He said: but since their malady after all was incurable, He proceeded
to the work. "Then saith He to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he
stretched it forth, and it was restored whole, like as the other."(2)
2. What then did they? They go forth, it is said, and take counsel
together to slay Him. For "the Pharisees," saith the Scripture, "went out
and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him."(3) They had
received no injury, yet they went about to slay Him. So great an evil is
envy. For not against strangers only, but even against our own, is it ever
warring. And Mark saith, they took this counsel with the Herodians.(4)
What then doth the gentle and meek One? He withdrew, on being aware of
it. "But when Jesus knew their devices,(5) He withdrew Himself," it is
said, "from them"(6) Where now are they who say, miracles ought to be done?
Nay, by these things He signified, that the uncandid soul is not even
thereby persuaded; and He made it plain that His disciples too were blamed
by them without cause. This however we should observe, that they grow
fierce especially at the benefits done to their neighbors; and when they
see any one delivered either from disease or from wickedness, then is the
time for them to find fault, and become wild beasts. Thus did they
calumniate Him, both when He was about to save the harlot, and when He was
eating with publicans, and now again, when they saw the hand restored.
But do thou observe, I pray thee, how He neither desists from His
tender care over the infirm, and yet allays their envy. "And great
multitudes(7) followed Him, and He healed them all; and He charged them
that were healed, that they should make Him known to no man."(8) Because,
while the multitudes everywhere both admire and follow Him, they desist not
from their wickedness.
Then, lest thou shouldest be confounded at what is going on, and at
their strange frenzy, He introduces the prophet also, foretelling all this.
For so great was the accuracy of the prophets, that they omit not even
these things, but foretell His very journeyings, and changes of place, and
the intent with which He acted therein; that thou mightest learn, how they
spake all by the Spirit. For if the secrets of men cannot by any art be
known, much more were it impossible to learn Christ's purpose, except the
Spirit revealed it.(9)
What then saith the prophet? Nay, it is subjoined: "That it might be
fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the Prophet, saying, Behold my
servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased. I
will put my Spirit upon Him, and He shall show judgment to the Gentiles. He
shall not strive nor cry,(10) neither shall any man hear His voice in the
streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not
quench, till He send forth judgment unto victory. And in His name shall the
The prophet celebrates His meekness, and His unspeakable power, and
opens to the Gentiles "a great door and effectual;" he foretells also the
ills that are to overtake the Jews, and signifies His unanimity with the
Father. For "behold," saith He, "my servant, whom I have chosen, my
beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased." Now if He chose Him, not as an
adversary doth Christ set aside the law, nor as being an enemy of the
lawgiver, but as having the same mind with Him, and the same objects.
Then proclaiming His meekness, he saith, "He shall not strive nor cry."
For His desire indeed was to heal in their presence; but since they thrust
Him away, not even against this did He contend.
And intimating both His might, and their weakness, he saith, "A bruised
reed shall He not break." For indeed it was easy to break them all to
pieces like a reed, and not a reed merely, but one already bruised.
"And smoking flax shall He not quench." Here he sets forth both their
anger that is kindled, and His might that is able to put down their anger,
and to quench it with all ease; whereby His great mildness is signified.
What then? Shall these things always be? And will He endure them
perpetually, forming such frantic plots against Him? Far from it; but when
He hath performed His part, then shall He execute the other purposes also.
For this He declared by saying "Till He send forth judgment unto victory:
and in His name shall the Gentiles trust." As Paul likewise saith, "Having
in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is
But what is, "when He sends forth judgment unto victory?" When He hath
fulfilled all His own part, then, we are told, He will bring down upon them
His vengeance also, and that a perfect vengeance. Then shall they suffer
His terrors, when His trophy is gloriously set up, and the ordinances that
proceed from Him have prevailed, and He hath left them no plea of
contradiction, however shameless. For He is wont to call righteousness,
But not to this will His dispensation be confined, to the punishment of
unbelievers only, but He will also win to Himself the whole world.
Wherefore He added, "And in His name shall the Gentiles trust."
Then, to inform thee that this too is according to the purpose of the
Father, in the beginning the prophet had assured us of this likewise,
together with what had gone before; saying, "My well-beloved, in whom my
soul is well pleased." For of the well- beloved it is quite evident that He
did these things also according to the mind of the beloved.(2)
3. "Then they brought unto Him one possessed with a devil, blind and
dumb, and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and
O wickedness of the evil spirit! he had barred up both entrances,
whereby that person should have believed, as well sight as hearing;
nevertheless, both did Christ open.
"And all the people were amazed, saying, Is not this the Son of
David?(4) But the Pharisees said, This fellow doths not cast out devils,
but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils."(6)
And yet what great thing had been said? Nevertheless, not even this did
they endure: to such a degree, as I have already remarked, are they ever
stung by the good works done to their neighbors, and nothing grieves them
so much as the salvation of men. And yet He had actually retired, and had
given room for their passion to subside; but the evil was again rekindled,
because a benefit was again conferred; and the evil spirit was not so
indignant as they. For he indeed departed from the body, and gave place and
fled away, uttering no sound; but these were endeavoring now to slay, now
to defame Him. That is, their first aim not succeeding, they would fain
hurt His good name.
Such a thing is envy, than which no worse evil can exist. For the
adulterer indeed enjoys some pleasure, such as it is, and in a short time
accomplishes his proper sin; but the envious man punishes himself, and
takes vengeance upon himself more than on the person whom he envies, and
never ceases from his sin, but is continually engaged in the commission
thereof. For as a sow in mire, and evil spirits in our hurt, so also doth
he delight in his neighbor's ills; and if anything painful take place, then
is he refreshed, and takes breath; accounting the calamities of others his
own joys, and the blessings of others his own ills; and he considers not
what pleasure may accrue to himself, but what pain to his neighbor. These
men therefore were it not meet to stone and beat to death, like mad dogs,
like destroying demons, like the very furies?
For as beetles feed on dung, so do these men on the calamities of
others, being a sort of common foes and enemies of our nature. And whereas
the rest of mankind pity even a brute when it is killed, dost thou, on
seeing a man receive benefits, become like a wild beast, tremble, and turn
pale? Why, what can be worse than this madness? Therefore, you see,
whoremongers and publicans were able to enter into the kingdom, but the
envious, being within it, went out: For "the children of the kingdom," it
is said, "shall be cast out."(7) And the former, once freed from their
present wickedness, attained to things which they never looked for, while
these latter lost even the good things which they had; and very reasonably.
For this turns a man into a devil, this renders one a savage demon. Thus
did the first murder arise; thus was nature forgotten; thus the earth
defiled; thus afterwards did it open its mouth, to receive yet living, and
utterly destroy, Dathan, and Korah, and Abiram, and all that multitude.(8)
4. But to declaim against envy, one may say, is easy; but we ought to
consider also how men are to be freed from the disease. How then are we to
be rid of this wickedness? If we bear in mind, that as he who hath
committed fornication cannot lawfully enter the church, so neither he that
envies; nay, and much less the latter than the former. For as things are,
it is accounted even an indifferent thing; wherefore also it is little
thought of; but if its real badness be made evident, we should easily
refrain from it.
Weep then, and groan; lament, and entreat God. Learn to feel and to
repent for it, as for a grievous sin. And if thou be of this mind, thou
wilt quickly be rid of the disease.
And who knows not, one may say, that envy is an evil thing? No one
indeed is ignorant of it: yet they have not the same estimation of this
passion as of adultery and fornication. When, at least, did any one condemn
himself bitterly for having envied? when did he entreat God concerning this
pest, that He would be merciful to him? No man at any time: but if he shall
fast and give a little money to a poor man, though he be envious to the
thousandth degree, he counts himself to have done nothing horrid, held as
he is in subjection by the most accursed passion of all. Whence, for
example, did Cain become such as he was? Whence Esau? Whence the children
of Laban? Whence the sons of Jacob? Whence Korah Dathan, and Abiram, with
their company? Whence Miriam? Whence Aaron? Whence the devil himself?
Herewith consider this also; that thou injurest not him whom thou
enviest, but into thyself thou art thrusting the sword. For wherein did
Cain injure Abel? Did he not even against his own will send him the more
quickly into the kingdom? but himself he pierced through with innumerable
evils. Wherein did Esau harm Jacob? Did not Jacob grow wealthy, and enjoy
unnumbered blessings; while he himself both became an outcast from his
father's house, and wandered in a strange land, after that plot of his?(1)
And wherein did Jacob's sons again make Joseph the worse, and this, though
they proceeded even unto blood? had not they to endure famine, and
encounter peril to the utmost, whereas he became king of all Egypt? For the
more thou enviest, the more dost thou become a procurer of greater blessing
to the object of thine envy. For there is a God who beholds these things;
and when He sees him injured, that doeth no injury, him He exalts the more,
and so makes him glorious, but thee He punishes.
For if them that exult over their enemies, He suffer not to go
unpunished ("For rejoice not," it is said, "when thine enemies fall, lest
at any time the Lord see it, and it displease Him"(2)); much more such as
envy those who have done no wrong.
Let us then extirpate the many-headed wild beast. For in truth many are
the kinds of envy. Thus, if he that loves one that is a friend to him hath
no more than the publican,(3) where shall he stand who hates him that doeth
him no wrong? and how shall he escape hell,(4) becoming worse than the
heathens? Wherefore also I do exceedingly grieve, that we who are commanded
to copy the angels, or rather the Lord of the angels, emulate the devil.
For indeed there is much envy, even in the church; and more among us, than
among those under authority. Wherefore we must even discourse unto
5. Tell me then, why dost thou envy thy neighbor? Because thou seest
him reaping honor, and words of good report? Then dost thou not bear in
mind how much evil honors bring on the unguarded? lifting them up to pride,
to vainglory, to arrogance, to contemptuousness; making them more careless?
and besides these evils, they wither also lightly away. For the most
grievous thing is this, that the evils arising therefrom abide immortal,
but the pleasure at the moment of its appearing, is flown away. For these
things then dost thou envy? tell me.
"But he hath great influence with the Ruler, and leads and drives all
things which way he will, and inflicts pain on them that offend him, and
benefits his flatterers, and hath much power." These are the sayings of
secular persons, and of men that are riveted to the earth. For the
spiritual man nothing shall be able to hurt.
For what serious harm shall he do to him? vote him out of his office?
And what of that? For if it be justly done, he is even profited; for
nothing so provokes God, as for one to hold the priest's office unworthily.
But if unjustly, the blame again falls on the other, not on him; for he who
hath suffered anything unjustly, and borne it nobly, obtains in this way
the greater confidence towards God.
Let us not then aim at this, how we may be in places of power, and
honor, and authority, but that we may live in virtue and self denial. For
indeed places of authority persuade men to do many things which are not
approved of God; and great vigor of soul is needed, in order to use
authority aright. For as he that is deprived thereof, practises self
restraint, whether with or against his will, so he that enjoys it is in
some such condition, as if any one living with a graceful and beautiful
damsel were to receive rules never to look upon her unchastely. For
authority is that kind of thing. Wherefore many, even against their will,
hath it induced to show insolence; it awakens wrath, and removes the bridle
from the tongue, and tears off the door of the lips; fanning the soul as
with a wind, and sinking the bark in the lowest depth of evils. Him then
who is in so great danger dost thou admire, and sayest thou he is to be
envied? Nay, how great madness is here! Consider, at any rate (besides what
we have mentioned), how many enemies and accusers, and how many flatterers
this person hath besieging him. Are these then, I pray thee, reasons for
calling a man happy? Nay, who can say so?
"But the people," you say, "hold high account of him." And what is
this? For the people surely is not God, to whom he is to render account: so
that in naming the people, thou art speaking of nothing else than of other
breakers, and rocks, and shoals, and sunken ridges. For to be in favor with
the people, the more it makes a man illustrious, the greater the dangers,
the cares, the despondencies it brings with it. For such an one has no
power at all to take breath or stand still, having so severe a master. And
why say I, "stand still and take breath"? Though such an one have never so
many good works, hardly doth he enter into the kingdom. For nothing is so
wont to overthrow(1) men, as the honor which comes of the multitude, making
them cowardly, ignoble, flatterers, hypocrites.
Why, for instance, did the Pharisees say that Christ was possessed? Was
it not because they were greedy of the honor of the multitude?
And whence did the multitude pass the right judgment on Him? Was it not
because this disease had no hold on them? For nothing, nothing so much
tends to make men lawless and foolish, as gaping after the honor of the
multitude. Nothing makes them glorious and immoveable, like despising the
Wherefore also great vigor of soul is needed for him who is to hold out
against such an impulse, and so violent a blast. For as when things are
prosperous, he prefers himself to all, so when he undergoes the contrary,
he would fain bury himself alive: and this is to him both hell, and the
kingdom, when he hath come to be overwhelmed by this passion.
Is all this then, I pray thee, matter of envyings, and not rather of
lamentations and tears? Every one surely can see. But thou doest the same,
in envying one in that kind of credit, as if a person, seeing another bound
and scourged and torn by innumerable wild beasts, were to envy him his
wounds and stripes. For in fact, as many men as the multitude comprises, so
many bonds also, so many tyrants hath he: and, what is yet more grievous,
each of these hath a different mind: and they all judge whatever comes into
their heads concerning him that is a slave to them, without examining into
anything; but whatever is the decision of this or that person, this they
What manner of waves then, what tempest so grievous as this? Yea, such
a one is both puffed up in a moment by the pleasure, and is under water
again easily, being ever in fluctuation, in tranquillity never. Thus,
before the time of the assembly, and of the contests in speaking, he is
possessed with anxiety and fear; but after the assembly he is either dead
with despondency, or rejoices on the contrary without measure; a worse
thing than sorrow. For that pleasure is not a less evil than sorrow is
plain from the effect it has on the soul; how light it makes it, and
unsteady, and fluttering.
And this one may see even from those of former times. When, for
instance, was David to be admired; when he rejoiced, or when he was in
anguish? When, the people of the Jews? groaning and calling upon God, or
exulting in the wilderness, and worshipping the calf? Wherefore Solomon
too, who best of all men knew what pleasure is, saith, "It is better to go
to the house of mourning, than to the house of laughter."(2) Wherefore
Christ also blesses the one, saying, "Blessed are they that mourn,"(3) but
the other sort He bewails, saying, "Woe unto you that laugh, for ye shall
weep."(4) And very fitly. For in delight the soul is more relaxed and
effeminate, but in mourning it is braced up, and grows sober, and is
delivered from the whole swarm of passions, and becomes higher and
Knowing then all these things, let us shun the glory that comes from
the multitude, and the pleasure that springs therefrom, that we may win the
real and everlasting glory; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and
love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might,
forever and ever. Amen.
HOMILY XLI.: MATT. XII. 25, 26.
"And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided
against itself shall be brought to desolation; and every city or house
divided against itself, shall not stand: and if Satan cast out Satan, he is
divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?"
Even before now they had accused Him of this, that "by Beelzebub He
casteth out the devils."(1) But whereas then He did not rebuke them,
allowing them both to know His power by His more numerous miracles, and by
His teaching to learn His majesty: now, since they continued saying the
same, He proceeds also to rebuke them, showing His Godhead by this first,
that He made their secrets public; and secondly, by the very act of casting
out the devils with ease.
And indeed the accusation too was very shameless. Because, as I have
said, envy seeks not what to say, but only that it may say somewhat. Yet
for all that, not even so did Christ despise them, but defends Himself with
the forbearance proper to Him, teaching us to be meek to our enemies; and
though they say such things, as we are neither conscious of, nor have they
any the least probability, not to be disturbed, nor troubled, but with all
long suffering to render them an account. This then He did most especially
on that very occasion, affording the strongest proof, that the things were
false that were said by them. For neither was it a demoniac's part to
exhibit so much meekness; it was not a demoniac's part to know men's
For, in truth, both because of the exceeding impudence of such a
suspicion, and because of the fear of the multitude, they durst not
publicly make these charges, but were turning them in their mind. But He,
to show them that He knew all that likewise, doth not set down the
accusation, nor doth He expose their wickedness; but the refutation He
adds, leaving it to the conscience of them that bad said it to convict
them. For on one thing only was He bent, to do good to them that were
sinning, not to expose them.
Yet surely, if He had been minded to extend his speech in length, and
to make them ridiculous, and withal to have exacted of them also the most
extreme penalty, there was nothing to hinder Him. Nevertheless He put aside
all these things, and looked to one object only, not to render them more
contentious, but more candid, and so to dispose them better toward
How then doth He plead with them? Not by allegation out of the
Scriptures (for they would not so much as attend, but were sure rather to
distort their meaning), but by the events of ordinary life. For "every
kingdom," saith He, "divided against itself shall not stand; and a city and
a house, if it be divided, is soon dissolved."(2)
For the wars from without are not so ruinous as the civil ones. Yea,
and this is the case in bodies too; it is the case even in all things; but
for this time He takes His illustration from those that are more publicly
And yet, what is there more powerful on earth than a kingdom? Nothing,
but nevertheless it perishes if in dissension. And if in that case one
throw the blame on the great burden of the affairs thereof, as breaking
down by its own weight; what wouldest thou say of a city? and what of a
house? Thus, Whether it be a small thing, or a great, if at dissension with
itself, it perishes. If then I, having a devil, do by him cast out the
devils, there is dissension and fighting among devils, and they take their
stand one against another. But if they stand one against another, their
strength is wasted and destroyed. "For if Satan cast out Satan" (and He
said not "the devils," implying their great unanimity one with another),
"he is then divided against himself;" so He speaks. But if he be divided,
he is become weaker, and is ruined; and if he be ruined, how can he cast
Seest thou how great the absurdity of the accusation, how great the
folly, the inconsistency? Since it is not for the same persons to say
first, that He stands, and casts out devils, and then to say, that He
stands by that, which it was likely would be the cause of His undoing.
2. This then being the first refutation, the next after it is that
which relates to the disciples. For not always in one way only, but also in
a second and third, He solves their objections, being minded most
abundantly to silence their shamelessness. Which sort of thing He did also
with respect to the Sabbath, bringing forward David, the priests, the
testimony that saith, "I will have mercy, and not sacrifice," the cause of
the Sabbath, for which it was ordained; "for the Sabbath," saith He," was
for man."(1) This then He doth in the present case also: where after the
first He proceeds to a second refutation, plainer than the former.
"For if I," saith He, "by Belezebub cast out devils, by whom do your
sins cast them out?"(2)
See here too His gentleness. For He said not, "my disciples," nor, "the
apostles," but "your sons;" to the end that if indeed they were minded to
return to the same nobleness(3) with them, they might derive hence a
powerful spring that way; but if they were uncandid, and continued in the
same course, they might not thenceforth be able to allege any plea, though
ever so shameless.
But what He saith is like this, "By whom do the apostles cast them
out?" For in fact they were doing so already, because they had received
authority from Him, and these men brought no charge against them; their
quarrel not being with the acts, but with the person only. As then it was
His will to show that their. sayings arose only from their envy against
Him, He brings forward the apostles; thus: If I so cast them out, much more
those, who have received their authority from me. Nevertheless, no such
thing have ye said to them. How then bring ye these charges against me, the
author of their doings, while acquitting them of the accusations? This,
however, will not free you from your punishment, rather it will condemn you
the more. Therefore also He added, "They shall be your judges." For when
persons from among you, and having been practised in these things, both
believe me and obey, it is most clear that they will also condemn those who
are against me both in deed and word.
"But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God
is come unto you."(4)
What means "the Kingdom"? "My coming." See how again He conciliates and
soothes them, and draws them to the knowledge of Himself, and signifies
that they are warring with their own good, and contentious against their
own salvation. "For whereas ye ought to rejoice," saith He, "and leap for
joy, that One is come bestowing those great and unutterable blessings,
hymned of old by the prophets, and that the time of your prosperity is at
hand; ye do the contrary; so far from receiving the blessings, you do even
speak ill of them, and frame accusations that have no real being."
Now Matthew indeed saith, "If I by the Spirit of God cast out"; but
Luke, "If I by the finger of God cast out the devils:"(5) implying that to
cast out devils is a work of the greatest power, and not of any ordinary
grace. And He means indeed that from these things they should infer and
say, If this be so, then the Son of God is come. This, however, He saith
not, but in a reserved way, and so as not to be galling to them, He darkly
intimates it by saying, "Then the kingdom of God is Come unto you."
Seest thou exceeding wisdom? By the very things which they were
blaming, He showed His presence shining forth.
Then, to conciliate them, He said not simply, "The Kingdom is come,"
but, "unto you,"(6) as though He had said, To you the good things are come;
wherefore then feel displeased at your proper blessings? why war against
your own salvation? This is that time, which the prophets long ago
foretold: this, the sign of that advent which was celebrated by them, even
these things being wrought by divine power. For the fact indeed, that they
are wrought, yourselves know; but that they are wrought by divine power,
the deeds themselves cry out. Yea, and it is impossible that Satan should
be stronger now; rather he must of absolute necessity be weak. But it
cannot be, that he who is weak should, as though he were strong, cast out
the strong devil.
Now thus speaking He signified the power of charity, and the weakness
of separation and contentiousness. Wherefore He was Himself also
continually charging His disciples, on every occasion, concerning charity,
and teaching them that the devil, to subvert it, leaves nothing undone.
3. Having then uttered His second refutation, He adds also a third,
"How can one enter into the strong man's house, and spoil his goods,
except he first bind the strong man, and then spoil his goods?"(7)
For that Satan cannot possibly cast out Satan is evident from what hath
been said; but that neither in any other way is it possible to cast him
out, except one first get the better of him, this too is acknowledged by
What then is established hereby? The former statement, with more
abundant evidence. "Why, I am so far," saith He, "from using the devil as
an ally, that I make war upon him, and bind him; and an infallible proof
thereof is the plundering of his goods." See how the contrary is proved, of
what they were attempting to establish. For whereas they wished to show,
that not by His own power doth He cast out devils, He shows that not only
the devils, but even their very chief leader is held by Him bound with all
authority; and that over him, before them, did He prevail by His own power.
And this is evident from the things that are done. For if he be the prince,
and they subjects, how, except he were worsted, and made to bow down, could
they have been spoiled?
And here His saying seems to me to be a prophecy likewise. For not
only, I suppose, are the evil spirits the goods of the devil, but also the
men that are doing his works. Therefore to declare that He doth not only
cast out devils, but also will drive away all error from the world, and
will put down his sorceries, and make all his arts useless, He said these
And He said not, He will take away, but "He will spoil," to express
what is done with authority. But He calls him "strong," not because he is
so by nature, God forbid, but declaring his former tyranny, which arose
from our remissness.
4. "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not
with me scattereth abroad."(1)
Behold also a fourth refutation. For what is my desire? saith He. To
bring men to God, to teach virtue, to proclaim the kingdom. What, that of
the devil, and the evil spirits? The contrary to these. How then should he
that gathers not with me, nor is at all with me, be likely to co-operate
with me? And why do I say co-operate? Nay, on the contrary, his desire is
rather to scatter abroad my goods. He then who is so far from cooperating
that he even scatters abroad, how should he have exhited such unanimity
with me, as with me to cast out the devils?
Now it is a natural surmise that He said this not of the devil only,
but Himself also of Himself, as being for His part against the devil, and
scattering abroad his goods. And how, one may say, is he that is not with
me against me? By this very fact, of his not gathering. But if this be
true, much more he that is against him. For if he that doth not co-operate
is an enemy, much more he that wages war.
But all these things He saith, to indicate His enmity against the
devil, how great and unspeakable it is. For tell me, if thou must go to war
with any one, he that is not willing to fight on thy side, by this very
fact is he not against thee? And if elsewhere He saith, "He that is not
against you is for you,"(2) it is not contrary to this. For here He
signified one actually against them, but there He points to one who in part
is on their side: "For they cast out devils," it is said "in Thy name."(3)
But to me He seems here to be hinting also at the Jews, setting them on
the devil's side. For they too were against Him, and were scattering what
He gathered. As to the fact that He was hinting at them also, He declared
it by speaking thus,
"Therefore I say unto you, that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall
be forgiven unto men."(4)
5. Thus having defended Himself, and refuted their objection, and
proved the vanity of their shameless dealings, He proceeds to alarm them.
For this too is no small part of advice and correction, not only to plead
and persuade, but to threaten also; which He doth in many passages, when
making laws and giving counsel.
And though the saying seem to have much obscurity, yet if we attend,
its solution will prove easy.
First then it were well to listen to the very words: "All manner of sin
and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy of the Holy
Ghost shall not be forgiven unto them. And whosoever speaketh a word
against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh
against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this
world, neither in the world to Come. "(5)
What now is it that He affirms? Many things have ye spoken against me;
that I am a deceiver, an adversary of God. These things I forgive you on
your repentance, and exact no penalty of you; but blasphemy against the
Spirit shall not be forgiven, no, not to those who repent. And how can this
be right? For even this was forgiven upon repentance. Many at least of
those who said these words believed afterward, and all was forgiven them.
What is it then that He saith? That this sin is above all things
unpardonable. Why so? Because Himself indeed they knew not, who He might
be, but of the Spirit they received ample experience. For the prophets also
by the Spirit said whatever they said; and indeed all in the Old Testament
had a very high notion of Him.
What He saith, then, is this: Be it so: ye are offended at me, because
of the flesh with which I am encompassed: can ye say of the Spirit also, We
know it not? And therefore is your blasphemy unpardonable, and both here
and hereafter shall ye suffer punishment. For many indeed have been
punished here only (as he who had committed fornication,(1) as they who
partook unworthily of the mysteries,(1) amongst the Corinthians); but ye,
both here and hereafter.
Now as to your blasphemies against me, before the cross, I forgive
them: and the daring crime too of the cross itself; neither shall ye be
condemned for your unbelief alone. (For neither had they, that believed
before the cross, perfect faith. And on many occasions He even charges them
to make Him known to no man before the Passion; and on the cross He said
that this sin was forgiven them.) But as to your words touching the Spirit,
they wilt have no excuse. For in proof that He is speaking of what was said
of Him before the crucifixion, He added, "Whosoever shall speak a word
against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak
against the Holy Ghost," there is no more forgiveness. Wherefore? Because
this is known to you; and the truths are notorious which you harden
yourselves against. For though ye say that ye know not me; yet of this
surely ye are not ignorant, that to cast out devils, and to do cures, is a
work of the Holy Ghost. It is not then I only whom ye are insulting, but
the Holy Ghost also. Wherefore your punishment can be averted by no
prayers, neither here nor there.
For so of men, some are punished both here, and there, some here only,
some there only, others neither here nor there. Here and there, as these
very men (for both here did they pay a penalty, when they suffered those
incurable ills at the taking of their city, and there shall they undergo a
very grievous one), as the inhabitants of Sodom; as many others. There
only, as the rich man who endured the flames,(2) and had not at his command
so much as a drop of water. Here, as he that had committed fornication
amongst the Corinthians. Neither here nor there, as the apostles, as the
prophets, as the blessed Job; for their sufferings were not surely in the
way of punishment, but as contests and wrestlings.
Let us labor, therefore, to be of the same part with these: or if not
with these, at least with them that wash away their sins here. For fearful
indeed is that other judgment, and inexorable the vengeance, and incurable
6. But if thou desire not to be punished even here, pass judgment on
thyself, exact thine own penalty. Listen to Paul, when he saith, "If we
would judge ourselves, we should not be judged."(3) If thou do this,
proceeding in order thou shall even arrive at a crown.
But how are we to exact our own penalty? one may ask. Lament, groan
bitterly, humble, afflict thyself, call to remembrance thy sins in their
particulars. This thing is no small torture to a man's soul. If any man
hath been in a state of contrition, he knows that the soul is punished by
this more than anything. If any hath been living in remembrance of sins, he
knows the anguish thence arising. Therefore doth God appoint righteousness
as a reward for such repentance, saying, "Be thou first to tell thy sins,
that thou mayest be justified."(4) For it is not, it is not indeed, a small
step towards amendment, to lay together all our sins, and to be continually
revolving and reckoning them up with their particulars. For he that is
doing this will be so heart-broken, as not to think himself worthy so much
as to live; and he that thinks thus, will be tenderer than any wax. For
tell me not of acts of fornication only, nor of adulteries, nor of these
things that are manifest, and acknowledged amongst all men: but lay
together also thy secret crafts, and thy false accusations, and thine evil
speakings, and thy vain gloryings, and thine envy, and all such things. For
neither will these bring a trifling punishment. For the reviler too shall
fall into hell; and the drunkard hath no part in the kingdom; and he that
lovest not his neighbor so offends God, as to find no help even in his own
martyrdom; and he that neglects his own hath denied the faith, and he who
overlooks the poor is sent into the fire.
Account not then these things to be little, but put all together, and
write them as in a book. For if thou write them down, God blots them out;
even as on the other hand, if thou omit writing them, God both inscribes
them, and exacts their penalty. It were then far better for them to be
written by us, and blotted out above, than on the contrary, when we have
forgotten them, for God to bring them before our eyes in that day.
Therefore that this may not be so, let us reckon up all with
strictness, and we shall find ourselves answerable for much. For who is
clear from covetousness? Nay, tell me not of the quantity, but since even
in a small amount we shall pay the same penalty, consider this and repent.
Who is rid of all insolence? Yet this casts into hell. Who hath not
secretly spoken evil of his neighbor? Yet this deprives one of the
Kingdom.(1) Who hath not been self-willed? Yet this man is more unclean
than all. Who hath not looked with unchaste eyes? Yet this is a complete
adulterer. Who hath not been "angry with his brother without a cause"? Yet
such an one is "in danger of the council." Who hath not sworn? Yet this
thing is of the evil one. Who hath not forsworn himself? but this man is
something more than of the evil one. Who hath not served mammon? but this
man is fallen away from the genuine service of Christ.
I have also other things greater than these to mention: but even these
are enough, and able, if a man be not made of stone, nor utterly past
feeling, to bring him to compunction. For if each one of them casts into
hell, what will they not bring to pass when all are met together?
How then can one be saved? it may be asked. By application of the
countervailing remedies: alms, prayers, compunction, repentance, humility,
a contrite heart, contempt of possessions. For God hath marked out for us
innumerable ways of salvation, if we be willing to attend. Let us then
attend, and let us every way cleanse out our wounds, showing mercy,
remitting our anger against them that have displeased us, giving thanks for
all things to God, fasting according to our power, praying sincerely,
"making unto ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness."(2) For so
shall we be able to obtain pardon for our offenses, and to win the promised
good things; whereof may we all be counted worthy, by the grace and love
toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and
HOMILY XLII: MATT. XII. 33
"Either make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree
corrupt, and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit."
AGAIN in another way He shames them, and is not content with His former
refutations. But this He doth, not freeing Himself from accusations, (for
what went before was quite enough), but as wishing to amend them.
Now His meaning is like this: none of you hath either found fault about
the persons healed, as not being healed; nor hath said, that it is an evil
thing to deliver one from a devil. For though they had been ever so
shameless, they could not have said this.
Since therefore they brought no charge against the works, but were
defaming the Doer of them, He signifies that this accusation is against
both the common modes of reasoning, and the congruity of the circumstances.
A thing of aggravated shamelessness, not only to interpret maliciously, but
also to make up such charges as are contrary to men's common notions.
And see how free He is from contentiousness. For He said not, "Make the
tree good, forasmuch as the fruit also is good;" but, most entirely
stopping their mouths, and exhibiting His own considerateness, and their
insolence, He saith, Even if ye are minded to find fault with my works, I
forbid it not at all, only bring not inconsistent and contradictory
charges. For thus were they sure to be most clearly detected, persisting
against what was too palpable. Wherefore to no purpose is your
maliciousness, saith He, and your self-contradictory statements. Because in
truth the distinction of the tree is shown by the fruit, not the fruit by
the tree; but ye do the contrary. For what if the tree be the origin of the
fruit; yet it is the fruit that makes the tree to be known. And it were
consistent, either in blaming us to find fault with our works too, or
praising these, to set us who do them free from these charges. But now ye
do the contrary; for having no fault to find with the works, which is the
fruit, ye pass the opposite judgment upon the tree, calling me a demoniac;
which is utter insanity.
Yea, and what He had said before,(1) this He establishes now also; that
a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, nor again can the converse be.
So that their charges were against all consistency and nature.
Then since He is arguing not for Himself, but for the Spirit, He hath
dealt out His reproof even as a torrent, saying, "O generation of vipers,
how can ye, being evil, speak good things?"(2)
Now this is at once to accuse, and to give demonstration of His own
sayings from their case. For behold, saith He, ye being evil trees, cannot
bring forth good fruit. I do not then marvel at your talking thus: for ye
were both ill nurtured, being of wicked ancestors, and ye have acquired a
And see how carefully, and without any hold for exception, He hath
expressed His accusations: in that He said not, "How can ye speak good
things, being a generation of vipers? (for this latter is nothing to the
former): but, "How can ye, being evil, speak good things?"
But He called them "broods of vipers," because they prided themselves
on their forefathers. To signify therefore that they had no advantage
thereby, He both casts them out from their relationship to Abraham, and
assigns them forefathers of kindred disposition, having stripped them of
that ground of illustriousness.
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Here again
He indicates His Godhead, which knew their secrets: and that not for words
only, but also for wicked thoughts, they shall suffer punishment; and that
He knows it all, as God. And He saith, that it is possible even for men to
know these things; for this is a natural consequence, that when wickedness
is overflowing within, its words should be poured forth through the lips.
So that when thou hearest a man speak wicked words, do not suppose only so
much wickedness to be in him as the words display, but conjecture the
fountain to be much more abundant; for that which is spoken outwardly, is
the superabundance of that which is within.
See how vehemently He reprehends them. For if what they had said is so
evil, and is of the very mind of the devil, consider the root and well-
spring of their words, how far that must reach. And this is naturally the
case; for while the tongue through shame often pours not forth all its
wickedness at once, the heart having no human witness, fearlessly gives
birth to whatever evils it will; for of God it hath not much regard.(3)
Since then men's sayings come to examination: and are set before all, but
the heart is concealed; therefore the evils of the former grow less, while
those of the latter increase. But when that within is multiplied, all that
hath been awhile hidden comes forth with a violent gushing. And as persons
vomiting strive at first to keep down the humors that force their way out,
but, when they are overcome, cast forth much abomination; so do they that
devise evil things, and speak ill of their neighbors.
"A good man out of his good treasure," saith He, "bringeth forth good
things, and an evil man out of his evil treasure bringeth forth evil
For think not by any means, saith He, that it is so in respect of
wickedness only, for in goodness also the same occurs: for there too the
virtue within is more than the words without. By which He signified, that
both they were to be accounted more wicked than their words indicated, and
Himself more perfectly good than His sayings declared. And He calls it "a
treasure," indicating its abundance.
Then again He fences them in with great terror. For think not at all,
saith He, that the thing stops at this, that is, at the condemnation of the
multitude; nay, for all that do wickedly in such things shall suffer the
utmost punishment. And He said not, "ye," partly in order to instruct our
whole race, partly to make His saying the less burdensome.
"But I say unto you," this is His word, "that every idle word that men
shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment."(1)
And that is idle, which is not according to the fact, which is false,
which hath in it unjust accusation; and some say, that which is vain also,
for instance, provoking inordinate laughter, or what is filthy, and
immodest, and coarse.
"For by thy words thou shall be justified, and by thy words thou shall
Seest thou how far the tribunal is from invidiousness? how favorable
the account required? For not upon what another hath said of thee, but from
what thou hast thyself spoken, will the Judge give His sentence; which is
of all things the very fairest: since surely with thee it rests, either to
speak, or not to speak.
2. Wherefore not those that are slandered, but the slanderers, have
need to be anxious and to tremble. For the former are not constrained to
answer for themselves touching the evil things which are said of them, but
the latter will, for the evil they have spoken; and over these impends the
whole danger. So that the persons censured should be without anxiety, not
being to give account of the evil that others have said; but the censurers
have cause to be in anxiety, and to tremble, as being themselves to be
dragged before the judgment-seat in that behalf. For this is indeed a
diabolical snare, and a sin having in it no pleasure, but harm only. Yea,
and such an one is laying up an evil treasure in his soul. And if he that
hath an evil humor in him doth himself first reap the fruits of the malady,
much more he that is treasuring up in himself what is more bitter than any
bile, I mean, wickedness, will suffer the utmost evils, gathering unto
himself a grievous disease. And it is evident from the things that He
vomits out. For if they pain others so much, far more the soul that gives
Thus the plotter destroys himself first; just as he that treads(3) on
fire burns up himself, and he that smites adamant spites himself, and he
that kicks against the pricks draws blood from himself. For somewhat of
this kind is he that knows how to suffer wrong, and to bear it manfully; he
is adamant, and the pricks, and fire; but he that hath used himself to do
wrong is feebler than any clay.
Not therefore to suffer wrong is evil, but to do it, and not to know
how to bear being wronged. For instance, how great wrongs did David endure!
How great wrongs(4) did Saul commit! Which then was the stronger and
happier? which the more wretched and miserable? was it not he that did
wrong? And mark it. Saul had promised, if David should slay the Philistine,
to take him for his son-in law, and to give him his daughter with great
favor. He slew the Philistine; the other broke his engagements, and so far
from bestowing her, did even go about to slay him. Which then became the
more glorious? Was not the one choking with despair and the evil demon,
while the other shone brighter than the sun with his trophies, and his
loyalty to God? Again, before the choir of the women, was not me one
suffocated with envy, while the other enduring all in silence, won all men,
and bound them unto himself? And when he had even gotten him into his
hands, and spared him, which again was happy? and which wretched? which was
the weaker? which the more powerful? Was it not this man, who did not
avenge himself even justly? And very naturally. For the one had armed
soldiers, but the other, righteousness, that is more mighty than ten
thousand armies, for his ally and helper. And for this reason, though
unjustly conspired against, he endured not to slay him even justly. For he
knew by what had taken place before, that not to do evil, but to suffer
evil, this is what makes men more powerful. So it is with bodies also, so
also with trees.
And what did Jacob? Was he not injured by Laban, and suffered evil?
Which then was the stronger? he that had gotten the other into his hands,
and durst not touch him, but was afraid and trembling;(5) or he whom we see
without arms and soldiers proving more terrible to him than innumerable
But that I may give you another demonstration of what I have said,
greater than this, let us again in the instance of David himself try the
reasoning on the opposite side. For this man who being injured was so
strong, afterwards upon committing an injury became on the contrary the
weaker party. At least, when he had wronged Uriah, his position was changed
again, and the weakness passed to the wrong doer, and the might to the
injured; for he being dead laid waste the other's house. And the one being
a king, and alive, could do nothing, but the other, being but a soldier,
and slain, turned upside down all that pertained to his adversary.
Would ye that in another way also I should make what I say plainer? Let
us look into their case, who avenge themselves even justly. For as to the
wrong doers, that they are the most worthless of all men, warring against
their own soul; this is surely plain to every one.
But who avenged himself justly, yet kindled innumerable ills, and
pierced himself through with many calamities and sorrows? The captain of
David's host. For he both stirred up a grievous war, and suffered
unnumbered evils; not one whereof would have happened, had he but known how
to command himself.(1)
Let us flee therefore from this sin, and neither in words nor deeds do
our neighbors wrong. For He said not, If thou slander, and summon a court
of justice, but simply, If thou speak evil, though within thyself, even so
shall thou suffer the utmost punishment. Though it be true which thou hast
said, though thou have spoken upon conviction, even so shall vengeance come
upon thee. For not according to what the other hath done, but according to
what thou hast spoken, will God pass sentence; "for by thy words thou shall
be condemned," saith He. Art thou not told that the Pharisee also spake the
truth, and affirmed what was manifest to all men, without discovering what
was hidden? Nevertheless, he paid the utmost penalty.
But if we ought not to accuse men of things which are acknowledged,
much less of those which are disputed; nay, for the offender hath a judge.
Do not now, I warn thee, seize upon the privilege of the Only Begotten. For
Him is the throne of judgment reserved.
3. Wouldest thou however be a judge? Thou hast a court of judgment
which hath great profit, and bears no blame. Make consideration, as judge,
to sit down upon thy conscience, and bring before it all thy
transgressions, search out the sins of thy soul, and exact with strictness
the account thereof, and say, "wherefore didst thou dare to do this and
that?" And if she shun these, and be searching into other men's matters,
say to her, "Not about these am I judging thee, not for these art thou come
here to plead. For what, if such a one be a wicked man? Thou, why didst
thou commit this and that offense? Answer for thyself, not to accuse; look
to thine own matters, do not those of others." And be thou continually
urging her to this anxious trial. Then, if she have nothing to say, but
shrink back, wear her out with the scourge, like some restless and unchaste
handmaid. And this tribunal do thou cause to sit every day, and picture the
river of fire, the venomous worm, the rest of the torments.
And permit her not to be with the devil any more, nor bear with her
shameless sayings, "he comes to me, he plots against me, he tempts me;" but
tell her, "If thou weft not willing, all that would be to no purpose." And
if she say again, "I am entangled with a body, I am clothed with flesh, I
dwell in the world, I abide on earth;" tell her, "All these are excuses and
pretexts. For such an one too was encompassed with flesh, and such another
dwelling in the world, and abiding on earth, is approved; and thou thyself
too, when thou doest well, doest it encompassed with flesh." And if she be
pained at hearing this, take not off thine hand; for she will not die, if
thou smite her, but thou wilt save her from death. And if she say again,
"Such an one provoked me," tell her, "But it is in thy power not to be
provoked; often at least thou hast restrained thine anger." And if she say,
"The beauty of such a woman moved me;" tell her, "Yet wast thou able to
have mastered thyself." Bring forward those that have got the better, bring
forward the first woman, who said, "The serpent beguiled me,(2) and yet was
not acquitted of the blame.
And when thou art searching out these things, let no man be present,
let no man disturb thee; but as the judges sit under curtains to judge, so
do thou too, instead of curtains, seek a time and place of quiet. And when
after thy supper thou art risen up, and art about to lie down, then hold
this thy judgment; this is the time convenient for thee, and the place, thy
bed, and thy chamber. This the prophet likewise commanded, saying, "For the
things which ye say in your hearts, be ye moved to compunction upon your
beds."(3) And for small offenses require great satisfaction, that unto the
great thou mayest never even approach. If thou do this every day, thou wilt
with confidence stand at that fearful judgment-seat.
In this way Paul became clean; therefore also he said, "For if we
judged ourselves, we should not be judged."(4) Thus did Job cleanse his
sons.(5) For he that offered sacrifices for secret sins, much more did he
require an account of such as were manifest.
4. But we do not so, but altogether the contrary. For as soon as we are
laid down to rest, we rather think over all our worldly maters; and some
introduce unclean thoughts, some usuries, and contracts, and temporal
And if we have a daughter, a virgin, we watch her strictly; but that
which is more precious to us than a daughter, our soul, her we suffer to
play the harlot and defile herself, introducing to her innumerable wicked
thoughts. And whether it be the love of covetousness, or that of luxury, or
that of fair persons, or that of wrath, or be it what you will else that is
minded to come in, we throw open the doors, and attract and invite it, and
help it to defile our soul at its leisure. And what can be more barbarous
than this, to overlook our soul that is more precious than all, abused by
so many adulterers, and so long companying with them, even until they are
sated? which will never be. So it is, therefore, that when sleep overtakes
us, then only do they depart from her; or rather not even then, for our
dreams and imaginations furnish her with the same images. Whence also, when
day is come, the soul stored with such images often falls away to the
actual performance of those fancies.
And thou, while into the apple of thine eye thou sufferest not so much
as a grain of dust to enter, dost thou pass unnoticed thy soul, gathering
to itself a heap of so great evils? When shall we then be able to clear out
this filth, which we are daily laying up within us? when to cut up the
thorns? when to sow the seed? Knowest thou not that henceforth the time of
harvest is at hand? But we have not yet so much as ploughed our fields. If
then the husbandman should come and find fault, what shall we say? and what
answer shall we make? That no man gave us the seed? Nay, this is sown
daily. That no man, then, hath cut up the thorns? Nay, every day we are
sharpening the sickle. But do the necessary engagements of life distract
thee? And why hast thou not crucified thyself to the world? For if he that
repays that only, which is given him, is wicked, because he did not double
it; he that hath wasted even this, what will be said to him? If that person
was bound, and cast out where is gnashing of teeth, what shall we have to
suffer, who, when numberless motives are drawing us toward virtue, shrink
back and are unwilling?
For what is there, that hath not enough in it to persuade thee? Seest
thou not the vileness of the world, the uncertainty of life, the toil, the
sweat, for things present? What? is it the case that virtue must be toiled
for, but may vice be had without toil? If then both in the one and in the
other there is toil, why didst thou not choose this, which hath so great
Or rather, there are some parts of virtue, which are free even from
toil. For what kind of toil is it, not to calumniate, not to lie, not to
swear, to lay aside our anger against our neighbor? Nay, on the contrary,
to do these things is toilsome, and brings much anxiety.
What plea then shall we have, what excuse, not doing right even in
these matters? For hereby it is plain, that out of remissness and sloth the
more toilsome duties also altogether escape us.
All these things let us consider; let us flee vice, let us choose
virtue, that we may attain both unto the good things that are present, and
unto those that are to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord
Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
HOMILY XLIII: MATT. XII. 38, 39.
"Then certain of the Scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, Master, we
would see a sign from Thee. But He answered and said;(1) An evil and
adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be
given to it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonas."
COULD then anything be more foolish than these men (not more impious
only), who after so many miracles, as though none had been wrought, say,
"We would see a sign from Thee?" With what intent then did they so speak?
That they might lay hold of Him again. For since by His words He had
stopped their mouths, once and twice and often, and had checked their
shameless tongue, they come to His works again. At which also the
evangelist marvelling again, said,
"Then certain of the scribes answered Him, asking a sign."
"Then," when? When they ought to be stooping before Him, to admire, to
be amazed and give way, "then" they desist not from their wickedness.
And see their words too, teeming with flattery and dissimulation. For
they thought to draw Him towards them in that way. And now they insult, now
they flatter Him; now calling Him a demoniac, now again "Master," both out
of an evil mind, how contrary soever the words they speak.
Wherefore also He rebukes them severely. And when they were questioning
Him roughly and insulting Him, He reasoned with them gently; when they were
flattering; reproachfully, and with great severity; implying that He is
superior to either passion, and is neither at the one time moved to anger,
nor at the other softened by flattery. And see His reproach, that it is not
merely hard words, but contains a demonstration of their wickedness. For
what saith He?
"An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign." Now what He
saith is to this effect: What marvel if ye behave so to me who have been
hitherto unknown to you when even to the Father, of whom ye have had so
much experience, ye have done the very same? forsaking Him, ye have run
unto the devils, drawing to yourselves wicked lovers. With this Ezekiel too
was continually upbraiding them.(1)
Now by these sayings He signified Himself to be of one accord with His
Father, and them to be doing nothing new; He was also unfolding their
secrets, how with hypocrisy and as enemies they were making their demand.
Therefore He called them "an evil generation," because they have been
always ungrateful towards their benefactors; because upon favors they
become worse, which belongs to extreme wickedness.
And He called it "adulterous," declaring both their former and their
present unbelief; whereby He implies Himself again to be equal to the
Father, if at least the not believing Him makes it "adulterous."
2. Then, after His reproach, what saith He? "There shall no sign be
given to it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet." Now is He striking the
first note of the doctrine of His resurrection, and confirming it by the
What then? one may say; was no sign given it? None was given to it on
asking. For not to bring in them did He work His signs (for He knew them to
be hardened), but in order to amend others. Either then this may be said,
or that they were not to receive such a sign as that was. For a sign did
befall them, when by their own punishment they learnt His power. Here then
He speaks as threatening, and with this very meaning obscurely conveyed: as
if He said, innumerable benefits have I showed forth, none of these hath
drawn you to me, neither were ye willing to adore my power. Ye shall know
therefore my might by the contrary tokens, when ye shall see your city cast
down to the ground, the walls also dismantled, the temple become a ruin;
when ye shall be cast out both from your former citizenship and freedom,
and shall again go about everywhere, houseless and in exile. (For all these
things came to pass after the cross.) These things therefore shall be to
you for great signs. And indeed it is an exceeding great sign, that their
ills remain unchanged; that although ten thousand have attempted it, no one
hath been able to reverse(2) the judgment once gone forth against them.
All this however He saith not, but leaves it to after time to make it
clear to them, but for the present He is making trial of(3) the doctrine of
His resurrection, which they were to come to know by the things which they
should afterwards suffer.
"For as Jonas," saith He, "was three days and three nights in the
whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in
the heart of the earth."(4) Thus, He said not indeed openly that He should
rise again, since they would have even laughed Him to scorn, but He
intimated it in such manner, that they might believe Him to have foreknown
it. For as to their being aware of it, they say to Pilate, "That deceiver
said," these are their words, "while He was yet alive, After three days I
will rise again;"(5) and yet we know His disciples were ignorant of this;
even as they had been beforehand more void of understanding than these:
wherefore also these became self- condemned.
But see how exactly He expresses it, even though in a dark saying. For
He said not, "In the earth," but, "In the heart of the earth;" that He
might designate His very sepulchre, and that no one might suspect a mere
semblance.(6) And for this intent too did He allow three days, that the
fact of His death might be believed. For not by the cross only doth He make
it certain, and by the sight of all men, but also by the time of those
days. For to the resurrection indeed all succeeding time was to bear
witness; but the cross, unless it had at the time many signs bearing
witness to it, would have been disbelieved; and with this disbelief would
have gone utter disbelief of the resurrection also. Therefore He calls it
also a sign. But had He not been crucified, the sign would not have been
given. For this cause too He brings forward the type, that the truth may be
believed. For tell me, was Jonah in the whale's belly a mere appearance?
Nay, thou canst not say so. Therefore neither was Christ in the heart of
the earth such. For surely the type is not in truth, and the truth in mere
appearance. For this cause we every where show forth His death, both in the
mysteries, and in baptism, and in all the rest. Therefore Paul also cries
with a clear voice, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of
our Lord Jesus Christ."(1)
Whence it is clear, that they who are diseased in Marcion's way are
children of the devil, blotting out these truths, to avoid the annulling
whereof Christ did so many things, while to have them annulled the devil
took such manifold pains: I mean, His cross and His passion.
3. Therefore He said elsewhere also, "Destroy this temple, and in three
days I will raise it up:"(2) and, "The days will come when the Bridegroom
shall be taken away from them:(3) and here, "There shall no sign be given
it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet:" declaring both that He should
die(4) for them, and that they would profit nothing; for this He afterwards
declared. Nevertheless, even with this knowledge He died: so great was His
For to hinder thy supposing that the result would be such with the Jews
as with the Ninevites; that they would be converted, and that as in their
case He established the tottering city, and converted the barbarians, so
these too should turn unto Him after His resurrection; hear how He declares
altogether the contrary. For that they should reap no good from hence in
respect of their own benefit, but rather suffer incurable ills, this too He
went on to declare by the parable of the evil spirit.
But for the present He is justifying their future sufferings,
signifying that they would suffer justly. For their calamities and their
desolation He represents by that similitude; but up to this time He is
indicating the justice of their having to suffer all these things: which
also in the Old Testament was His wont. Thus when about to destroy Sodom,
He first defended Himself to Abraham, by showing the desolation and
rareness of virtue, when indeed not even ten men were found in so many
cities, who had made it their rule to live chastely. And to Lot also in
like manner, He first signifies their inhospitality and their unnatural
lusts, and then He brings the fire on them. And with regard to the deluge
again He did the self-same thing, by His acts excusing Himself to Noah. And
also to Ezekiel in like manner, when He caused him dwelling in Babylon to
see men's evil deeds in Jerusalem. And yet again to Jeremiah, when He said,
"Pray not," excusing Himself He added, "Seest thou not what they do?"(6)
And everywhere He doeth the selfsame thing, as here also.
For what saith He? "The men of Nineveh shall rise up,(7) and shall
condemn this generation, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas,
and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."(8)
For he was a servant, but I am the Master; and he came forth from the
whale, but I rose from death; and he proclaimed destruction, but I am come
preaching the good tidings of the kingdom. And they indeed believed without
a sign, but I have exhibited many signs. And they indeed heard nothing more
than those words, but I have given a spring to every kind of self-denial.
And he came being ministered unto, but I the very Master and Lord of all am
come not threatening, not demanding an account, but bringing pardon. And
they were barbarians, but these have conversed with unnumbered prophets.
And of him no man had foretold, but of me all, and the facts agreed with
their words. And he indeed, when he was to go forth, ran away that he might
not be ridiculed; but I, knowing that I am both to be crucified and mocked,
am come. And while he did not endure so much as to be reproached for them
that were saved, I underwent even death, and that the most shameful death,
and after this I sent others again. And he was a strange sort of person,
and an alien, and unknown; but I a kinsman after the flesh, and of the same
forefathers. And many more topics too might any one collect, were he to
seek diligently for more.
But He stops not even at this, but adds also another example, saying,
"And the queen of the south shall rise up in judgment(1) with this
generation, and shall condemn them, because she came from the uttermost
parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold a greater than
Solomon is here."(2)
This was more than the former. For Jonah went unto them, but the queen
of the south waited not for Solomon to come to her, but went herself unto
him, although she was both a woman, and a barbarian, and at so great a
distance, no threat laid upon her, nor being in fear of death, but simply
through the love of wise words. "But behold even a greater than Solomon is
here." For in that case the woman came, but here I have come. And she
indeed rose up from the uttermost pans of the earth, but I go about cities
and villages. And his discourse was of trees and various kinds of wood,
which could do no great good to his visitor: but mine, of secret things,
and most awful mysteries.
4. When therefore He had condemned them, having proved most amply that
they were sinning inexcusably, and that their disobedience arose from their
own perverseness not from their Teacher's inability, and when He had
demonstrated this as well by many other arguments, as also by the
Ninevites, and by the queen: then He speaks also of the punishment that
should overtake them, darkly indeed, yet He doth speak of it, interweaving
an intense fear in His narration.
"For when," saith He, "the unclean spirit is gone out of the man, he
walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I
will return to my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he
findeth it empty, and swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with
himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and
dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Even
so shall it be also unto this generation."(3)
By this He signifies, that not only in the world to come, but here too
they should suffer most grievously. For since He had said, "The men of
Nineveh shall rise up in judgment, and shall condemn this generation;"
lest, on account of the postponement of the time, they should despise and
grow more careless, by this He brings His terror close upon them. Wherewith
the prophet Hosea likewise threatening them said, that they should be "even
as the prophet that is beside himself, the man that is carried away by a
spirit;", that is to say, as the madmen, and distracted by evil spirits,
even the false prophets. For here, by "a prophet that is beside himself,"
he means the false prophet, such as are the augurs. Much to the same effect
Christ also tells them, that they shall suffer the utmost evils.
Seest thou how from everything He urges them to attend to His sayings;
from things present, from things to come; by those who had approved
themselves (the Ninevites, I mean, and that queen), and by the offending
Tyrians and Sodomites? This did the prophets likewise, bringing forward the
sons of the Rechabites,(5) and the bride that forgetteth not her proper
ornament and her girdle,(6) and "the ox that knoweth his owner, and the ass
that remembereth his crib."(7) Even so here too, when He had by a
comparison set forth their perverseness, He speaks afterwards of their
What then can the saying mean? As the possessed, saith He, when
delivered from that infirmity, should they be at all remiss, draw upon
themselves their delusion more grievous than ever: even so is it with you.
For before also ye were possessed by a devil, when ye were worshipping
idols, and were slaying your sons to the devils, exhibiting great madness;
nevertheless I forsook you not, but cast out that devil by the prophets;
and again in my own person I am come, willing to cleanse you more entirely.
Since then you will not attend, but have wrecked yourselves in greater
wickedness (for to kill prophets was a crime not nearly so great and
grievous as to slay Him); therefore your sufferings will be more grievous
than the former, those at Babylon, I mean, and in Egypt, and under the
first Antiochus. Because what things befell them in the time of Vespasian
and Titus, were very far more grievous than those. Wherefore also He said,
"There shall be great tribulation, such as never was, neither shall be."(8)
But not this only doth the illustration declare, but that they should be
also utterly destitute of all virtue, and more assailable by the power of
the devils, than at that time. For then even although they sinned, yet were
there also among them such as acted uprightly, and God's providence was
present with them, and the grace of the Spirit, tending, correcting,
fulfilling all its part; but now of this guardianship too they shall be
utterly deprived; so He tells them; so that there is now both a greater
scarcity of virtue, and a more intense affliction, and a more tyrannical
operation of the devils.
Ye know accordingly even in our generation, when he who surpassed all
in impiety, I mean Julian, was transported with his fury, how they ranged
themselves with the heathens, how they courted their party. So that, even
if they seem to be in some small degree chastened now, the fear of the
emperors makes them quiet; since, if it were not for that, far worse than
the former had been their daring. For in all their other evil works they
surpass their predecessors; sorceries, magic arts, impurities, they exhibit
in great excess. And amongst the rest, moreover, strong as is the curb
which holds them down, they have often made seditions, and risen up against
kings, which has resulted in their being pierced through with the worst of
Where now are they that seek after signs? Let them hear that a
considerate mind is needed, and if this be wanting, signs are of no profit.
See, for instance, how the Ninevites without signs believed, while these,
after so many miracles, grew worse, and made themselves an habitation of
innumerable devils, and brought on themselves ten thousand calamities; and
very naturally. For when a man, being once delivered from his ills, fails
to be corrected, he will suffer far worse than before. Yea, therefore He
said, "he finds no rest," to indicate, that positively and of necessity
such an one will be overtaken by the ambush of the devils. Since surely by
these two things he ought to have been sobered, by his former sufferings,
and by his deliverance; or rather a third thing also is added, the threat
of having still worse to endure. But yet by none of these were they made
5. All this might be seasonably said, not of them only, but of us also,
when after having been enlightened,(1) and delivered from our former ills,
we again cleave unto the same wickedness, for more grievous also
thenceforth will be the punishment of our subsequent sins. Therefore to the
sick of the palsy also Christ said, "Behold, thou art made whole; sin no
more, lest a worse thing come unto thee;"(2) and this to a man who was
thirty-eight years in his infirmity. And what, one might ask, was he to
suffer worse than this? Something far worse, and more intolerable. For far
be it from us, that we should endure as much as we are capable of enduring.
For God is at no loss for inflictions. For according to the greatness of
His mercy, so also is His wrath.
With this He charges Jerusalem also by Ezekiel. "I saw thee," saith He,
"polluted in blood; and I washed thee, and anointed thee; and thou hadst
renown for thy beauty; and thou pouredst out thy fornications," saith He,
"on those who dwell near thee,"(3) wherefore also the more grievous are His
threatenings to thee when thou sinnest.
But from hence infer not thy punishment only, but also the boundless
longsuffering of God. How often at least have we put our hands to the same
evil deeds, and yet He suffers long! But let us not be sanguine, but fear;
since Pharaoh too, had he been taught by the first plague, would not have
experienced the later ones; he would not afterwards have been drowned, his
host and all together.
And this I say, because I know many, who like Pharaoh are even now
saying, "I know not God,"(4) and making those that are in their power
cleave to the clay and to the bricks. How many, though God bids them
assauge their "threatening,"(5) cannot bear so much as to relax the toil!
"But we have no Red Sea now, to pass through afterwards." But we have a
sea of fire, a sea not like that, either in kind or in size, but far
greater and fiercer, having its waves of fire, of some strange and horrible
fire. A great abyss is there, of most intolerable flame, Since everywhere
fire may be seen roving quickly round, like some savage wild beast. And if
here this sensible and material fire leaped like a wild beast out of the
furnace, and sprang upon those who were sitting without,(6) what will not
that other fire do to such as have fallen into it?
Concerning that day, hear the prophets, saying, "The day of the Lord is
incurable, full of anger and wrath."(7) For there will be none to stand by,
none to rescue, nowhere the face of Christ, so mild and calm. But as those
who work in the mines are delivered over to certain cruel men, and see none
of their friends, but those only that are set over them; so will it be then
also: or rather not so, but even far more grievous. For here it is possible
to go unto the king, and entreat, and free the condemned person: but there,
no longer; for He permits it not, but they continue in the scorching
torment,(8) and in so great anguish, as it is not possible for words to
tell. For if, when any are in flames here, no speech can describe their
sharp pangs, much less theirs, who suffer it in that place: since here
indeed all is over in a brief point of time, but in that place there is
burning indeed, but what is burnt is not consumed.
What then shall we do there? For to my self also do I say these things.
6. "But if thou," saith one, "who art our teacher, speakest so of
thyself, I care no more; for what wonder, should I be punished?" Nay, I
entreat, let no man seek this consolation; for this is no refreshment at
all. For tell me; was not the devil an incorporeal power? Was he not
superior to men? Yet he fell away. Is there any one who will derive
consolation from being punished along with him? By no means. What of all
who were in Egypt? did they not see those also punished who were in high
places, and every. house in mourning? Were they then hereby refreshed, and
comforted? No surely; and it is manifest by what they did afterwards, as
men tortured by some kind of fire, rising up together against the king, and
compelling him to cast out the people of the Hebrews.
Yea, and very unmeaning is this saying, to suppose that it gives
comfort to be punished with all men, to say, "As all, so I too." For why
should I speak of hell? Think, I pray you, of those that are seized with
gout, how, when they are racked by sharp pain, though you show them ten
thousand suffering worse, they do not so much as take it into their mind.
For the intensity of their anguish allows not their reason any leisure for
thinking of others, and so finding consolation. Let us not then feed
ourselves with these cold hopes. For to receive consolation from the ills
of our neighbors, takes place in ordinary sufferings; but when the torment
is excessive, and all our inward parts full of tempest, and the soul is now
come to be unable so much as to know itself, whence shall it derive
consolation? So that all these sayings are an absurdity, and fables of
foolish children. For this, of which thou speakest, takes place in
dejection, and in moderate dejection, when we are told, "the same thing
hath befallen such an one;" but sometimes not even in dejection: now if in
that case it hath no strength, much less in the anguish and burden
unspeakable, which "the gnashing of teeth" indicates.
And I know that I am galling you, and giving you pain by these words;
but what can I do? For I would fain not speak thus, but be conscious of
virtue both in myself, and in all of you; but since we are in sins, the
more part of us, who will grant me ability to pain you indeed, and to
penetrate the understanding of them that hear me? Then might I so be at
rest. But now I fear lest any despise my sayings, and their punishments
become the greater for their indifferent way of hearing. Since, when a
master utters a threat, should one of the fellow-servants hear and make
light of his menace, not without punishment would he hasten by him,
provoked as he is, but rather it would be a ground for increasing his
chastisement. Wherefore I entreat you, let us pierce our own hearts, when
we hear His sayings regarding hell. For nothing is more delightful than
this discourse, by how much nothing is more bitter than the reality. But
how delightful to be told of hell? one may ask. Because it were so far from
delight to fall into hell, which result, our words that appear so galling,
keep off. And before this they furnish another pleasure: in that they brace
up our souls, and make us more reverent, and elevate the mind, and give
wings to the thoughts, and cast out the desires that so mischievously beset
us; and the thing becomes a cure.
7. Wherefore, to proceed, together with the punishment let me speak
also of the shame. For as the Jews shall then be condemned by the
Ninevites, so we too by many that seem beneath us now.
Let us imagine then how great the mockery, how great the condemnation;
let us imagine, and cast some foundation at length, some door of
To myself I say these things, to myself first I give this advice, and
let no one be angry, as though he were condemned. Let us enter upon the
narrow way. How long shall it be luxury? how long sloth? Have we not had
enough of indolence, mirth, procrastination? Will it not be the same over
again, feasting, and surfeiting, and expense, and wealth, and acquisitions,
and buildings? And what is the end? Death. What is the end? Ashes, and
dust, and coffins, and worms.
Let us show forth then a new kind of life. Let us make earth, heaven;
let us hereby show the Greeks, of how great blessings they are deprived.
For when they behold in us good conversation, they will look upon the very
face of the kingdom of Heaven. Yea, when they see us gentle, pure from
wrath, from evil desire, from envy, from covetousness, rightly fulfilling
all our other duties, they will say, "If the Christians are become angels
here, what will they be after their departure hence? if where they are
strangers they shine so bright, how great will they become when they shall
have won their native land!" Thus they too will be reformed, and the word
of godliness "will have free course,(1) not less than in the apostles'
For if they, being twelve, converted entire cities and countries; were we
all to become teachers by our careful conduct, imagine how high our cause
will be exalted. For not even a dead man raised so powerfully attracts the
Greek, as a person practising self- denial. At that indeed he will be
amazed, but by this he will be profited. That is done, and is past away;
but this abides, and is constant culture to his soul.
Let us take heed therefore to ourselves, that we may gain them also. I
say nothing burdensome. I say not, do not marry. I say not, forsake cities,
and withdraw thyself from public affairs; but being engaged in them, show
virtue. Yea, and such as are busy in the midst of cities, I would fain have
more approved than such as have occupied the mountains. Wherefore? Because
great is the profit thence arising. "For no man lighteth a candle, and
setteth it under the bushel."(1) Therefore I would that all the candles
were set upon the candlestick, that the light might wax great.
Let us kindle then His fire; let us cause them that are sitting in
darkness to be delivered from their error. And tell me not, "I have a wife,
and children belonging to me, and am master of a household, and cannot duly
practise all this." For though thou hadst none of these, yet if thou be
careless, all is lost; though thou art encompassed with all these, yet if
thou be earnest, thou shall attain unto virtue. For there is but one thing
that is wanted, the preparation of a generous mind; and neither age, nor
poverty, nor wealth, nor reverse of fortune, nor anything else, will be
able to impede thee. Since in fact both old and young, and men having
wives, and bringing up children, and working at crafts, and serving as
soldiers, have duly performed all that is enjoined. For so Daniel was
young, and Joseph a slave, and Aquila wrought at a craft, and the woman who
sold purple was over a workshop, and another was the keeper of a prison,
and another a centurion, as Cornelius; and another in ill health, as
Timothy; and another a runaway, as Onesimus; but nothing proved an
hindrance to any of these, but all were approved, both men and women, both
young and old, both slaves and free, both soldiers and people.
Let us not then make vain pretexts, but let us provide a thoroughly
good mind, and whatsoever we may be, we shall surely attain to virtue, and
arrive at the good things to come; by the grace and love towards man of our
Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father, together with the Holy
Ghost. glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
HOMILY XLIV: MATT. XII. 46--49.
"While He yet talked to the people, behold, His mother and His brethren
stood without, desiring to speak with Him. Then one said unto Him, Behold,
Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But
He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is my mother, and(1) my
brethren? And He stretched forth His hand towards His disciples, and said,
Behold my mother and my brethren."
That which I was lately saying, that when virtue is wanting all things
are vain, this is now also pointed out very abundantly. For I indeed was
saying, that age and nature, and to dwell in the wilderness, and all such
things, are alike unprofitable, where there is not a good mind; but to-day
we learn in addition another thing, that even to have borne Christ in the
womb, and to have brought forth that marvellous birth, hath no profit, if
there be not virtue.
And this is hence especially manifest. "For while He yet talked to the
people," it is said, "one told Him, Thy mother and Thy brethren seek Thee.
But He saith, who is my mother, and who are my brethren?"
And this He said, not as being ashamed of His mother, nor denying her that
bare Him; for if He had been ashamed of her, He would not have passed
through that womb; but as declaring that she hath no advantage from this,
unless she do all that is required to be done. For in fact that which she
had essayed to do, was of superfluous vanity; in that she wanted to show
the people that she hath power and authority over her Son, imagining not as
yet anything great concerning Him; whence also her unseasonable approach.
See at all events both her self-confidence(1) and theirs.(2) Since when
they ought to have gone in, and listened with the multitude; or if they
were not so minded, to have waited for His bringing His discourse to an
end, and then to have come near; they call Him out, and do this before all,
evincing a superfluous vanity, and wishing to make it appear, that with
much authority they enjoin Him. And this too the evangelist shows that he
is blaming, for with this very allusion did he thus express himself, "While
He yet talked to the people;" as if he should say, What? was there no other
opportunity? Why, was it not possible to speak with Him in private?
And what was it they wished to say? For if it were touching the
doctrines of the truth, they ought to have propounded these things
publicly, and stated them before all, that the rest also might have the
benefit: but if about other matters that concerned themselves, they ought
not to have been so urgent. For if He suffered not the burial of a father,
lest the attendance on Him should be interrupted, much less ought they to
have stopped His discourse to the people, for things that were of no
importance. Whence it is clear, that nothing but vainglory led them to do
this; which John too declares, by saying, "Neither did His brethren believe
on Him;"(3) and some sayings too of theirs he reports, full of great folly;
telling us that they were for dragging Him to Jerusalem, for no other
purpose, but that they themselves might reap glory from His miracles. "For
if thou do these things," it is said, "show Thyself to the world. For there
is no man that doeth anything in secret, and seeketh himself to be
manifest;"(4) when also He Himself rebuked them, attributing it to their
carnal mind. That is, because the Jews were reproaching Him, and saying,
"Is not this the carpenter's son, whose father and mother we know? and His
brethren, are not they with us?"(5) they, willing to throw off the
disparagement caused by His birth, were calling Him to the display of His
For this cause He quite repels them, being minded to heal their
infirmity; since surely, had it been His will to deny His mother, He would
have denied her then, when the Jews were reproaching Him. But as it is, we
see that He takes so great care of her, as even at the very cross to commit
her to the disciple whom He loved most of all, and to give him a great
charge concerning her.
But now He doth not so, out of care for her, and for His brethren. I
mean, because their regard for Him was as towards a mere man, and they were
vainglorious, He casts out the disease, not insulting, but correcting them.
But do thou, I pray, examine not the words only, which contain a
moderate reproof, but also the unbecoming conduct of His brethren, and the
boldness wherewith they had been bold and who was the person reproving it,
no mere man, but the only- begotten Son of God; and with what purpose He
reproved; that it was not with intent to drive them to perplexity, but to
deliver them from the most tyrannical passion and to lead them on by little
and little to the right idea concerning Himself, and to convince her that
He was not her Son only, but also her Lord: so wilt thou perceive that the
reproof is in the highest degree both becoming Him and profitable to her,
and withal having in it much gentleness. For He said not, "Go thy way, tell
my mother, thou art not my mother," but He addresses Himself to the person
that told Him; saying, "Who is my mother?" together with the things that
have been mentioned providing for another object also. What then is that?
That neither they nor others confiding in their kindred, should neglect
virtue. For if she is nothing profited by being His mother, were it not for
that quality in her, hardly will any one else be saved by his kindred. For
there is one only nobleness, to do the will of God. This kind of noble
birth is better than the other, and more real.
2. Knowing therefore these things, let us neither pride ourselves on
children that are of good report, unless we have their virtue; nor upon
noble fathers, unless we be like them in disposition. For it is possible,
both that he who begat a man should not be his father, and that he who did
not beget him should be. Therefore in another place also, when some woman
had said, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee, and the paps which Thou hast
sucked;" He said not, "The womb bare me not, neither did I suck the paps,"
but this, "Yea rather, blessed are they that do the will of my Father."(1)
Seest thou how on every occasion He denies not the affinity by nature, but
adds that by virtue? And His forerunner too, in saying, "O generation of
vipers, think not to say, We have Abraham to our father,"(2) means not
this, that they were not naturally of Abraham, but that it profits them
nothing to be of Abraham, unless they had the affinity by character; which
Christ also declared, when He said, "If ye were Abraham's children, ye
would do the works of Abraham;"(3) not depriving them of their kindred
according to the flesh, but teaching them to seek after that affinity which
is greater than it, and more real.
This then He establishes here also, but in a manner less invidious, and
more measured, as became Him speaking to His mother. For He said not at
all, "She is not my mother, nor are those my brethren, because they do not
my will;" neither did He declare and pronounce judgment against them; but
He yet left in it their own power to choose, speaking with the gentleness
that becomes Him.
"For he that doeth," saith He, "the will of my Father, this is my
brother, and sister, and mother."(4)
Wherefore if they desire to be such, let them come this way. And when
the woman again cried out, saying, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee," He
said not, "She is not my mother," but, "If she wishes to be blessed, let
her do the will of my Father. For such a one is both brother, and sister,
Oh honor! oh virtue! Unto what a height doth she lead up him that
follows after her! How many women have blessed that holy Virgin, and her
womb, and prayed that they might become such mothers, and give up all! What
then is there to hinder? For behold, He hath marked out a spacious road for
us; and it is granted not to women only, but to men also, to be of this
rank, or rather of one yet far higher. For this makes one His mother much
more, than those pangs did. So that if that were a subject for blessing,
much more this, inasmuch as it is also more real. Do not therefore merely
desire, but also in the way that leads thee to thy desire walk thou with
3. Having then said these words, "He came out of the house." Seest
thou, how He both rebuked them, and did what they desired? Which He did
also at the marriage.(5) For there too He at once reproved her asking
unseasonably, and nevertheless did not gainsay her; by the former
correcting her weakness. by the latter showing His kindly feeling toward
His mother. So likewise on this occasion too, He both healed the disease of
vainglory, and rendered the due honor to His mother, even though her
request was unseasonable. For, "in the same day," it is said, "went Jesus
out of the house, and sat by the sea side."(6)
Why, if ye desire, saith He, to see and hear, behold I come forth and
discourse. Thus having wrought many miracles, He affords again the benefit
of His doctrine. And He "sits by the sea," fishing and getting into His net
them that are on the land.
But He "sat by the sea," not without a purpose; and this very thing the
evangelist has darkly expressed. For to indicate that the cause of His
doing this was a desire to order His auditory with exactness, and to leave
no one behind His back, but to have all face to face,
"And great multitudes," saith He, "were gathered together unto Him, so
that He went into a ship and sat, and the whole multitude stood on the
And having sat down there, He speaks by parables.
"And He spake," it says, "many things unto them in parables."(8)
And yet on the mount, we know, He did no such thing, neither did He
weave His discourse with so many parables, for then there were multitudes
only, and a simple people; but here are also Scribes and Pharisees.
But do thou mark, I pray thee, what kind of parable He speaks first,
and how Matthew puts them in their order. Which then doth He speak first?
That which it was most necessary to speak first, that which makes the
hearer more attentive. For because He was to discourse unto them in dark
sayings, He thoroughly rouses His hearers' mind first by His parable.
Therefore also another evangelist saith that He reproved them, because they
do not understand; saying, "How knew ye not the parable?"(2) But not for
this cause only doth He speak in parables, but that He may also make His
discourse more vivid, and fix the memory of it in them more perfectly, and
bring the things before their sight. In like manner do the prophets also.
4. What then is the parable? "Behold," saith He, "a sower(2) went forth
to sow." Whence went He forth, who is present everywhere, who fills all
things? or how went He forth? Not in place, but in condition and
dispensation to usward, coming nearer to us by His clothing Himself with
flesh. For because we could not enter, our sins fencing us out from the
entrance, He comes forth unto us. And wherefore came He forth? to destroy
the ground teeming with thorns? to take vengeance upon the husbandmen? By
no means; but to till and tend it, and to sow the word of godliness. For by
seed here He means His doctrine, and by land, the souls of men, and by the
What then comes of this seed? Three parts perish, and one is saved.
"And when He sowed, some seeds fell," He saith, "by the way side; and
the fowls came and devoured them up."(3)
He said not, that He cast them, but that "they fell."
"And some upon the rock, where they had not much earth; and forthwith
they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth; and when the sun was
up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
And some fell among the thorns, and the thorns sprang up, and choked them.
But others fell on the good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an
hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear let him
A fourth part is saved; and not this all alike, but even here great is
Now these things He said, manifesting that He discoursed to all without
grudging. For as the sower makes no distinction in the land submitted to
him, but simply and indifferently casts his seed; so He Himself too makes
no distinction of rich and poor, of wise and unwise, of slothful or
diligent, of brave or cowardly; but He discourses unto all, fulfilling His
part, although foreknowing the results; that it may be in His power to say,
"What ought I to have done, that I have not done?"(5) And the prophets
speak of the people as of a vine; "For my beloved," it is said, "had a
vineyard;"(6) and, "He brought a vine out of Egypt;"(7) but He, as of seed.
What could this be to show? That obedience now will be quick and easier,
and will presently yield its fruit.
But when thou hearest, "The sower went forth to sow," think it not a
needless repetition. For the sower frequently goes forth for some other act
also, either to plough, or to cut out the evil herbs, or to pluck up
thorns, or to attend to some such matter; but He went forth to sow.
Whence then, tell me, was the greater part of the seed lost? Not
through the sower, but through the ground that received it; that is, the
soul that did not hearken.
And wherefore doth He not say, Some the careless received, and lost it;
some the rich, and choked it, and some the superficial, and betrayed it? It
is not His will to rebuke them severely, lest He should cast them into
despair, but He leaves the reproof to the conscience of His hearers.
And this was not the case with the seed only, but also with the net;
for that too produced many that were unprofitable.
5. But this parable He speaks, as anointing His disciples, and to teach
them, that even though the lost be more than such as receive the word yet
they are not to despond. For this was the ease even with their Lord, and He
who fully foreknew that these things should be, did not desist from sowing.
And how can it be reasonable, saith one, to sow among the thorns, on
the rock, on the wayside? With regard to the seeds and the earth it cannot
be reasonable; but in the case of men's souls and their instructions, it
hath its praise, and that abundantly. For the husbandman indeed would
reasonably be blamed for doing this; it being impossible for the rock to
become earth, or the wayside not to be a wayside, or the thorns, thorns;
but in the things that have reason it is not so. There is such a thing as
the rock changing, and becoming rich land; and the wayside being no longer
trampled on, nor lying open to all that pass by, but that it may be a
fertile field; and the thorns may be destroyed, and the seed enjoy full
security. For had it been impossible, this Sower would not have sown. And
if the change did not take place in all, this is no fault of the Sower, but
of them who are unwilling to be changed: He having done His part: and if
they betrayed what they received of Him, He is blameless, the exhibitor of
such love to man.
But do thou mark this, I pray thee; that the way of destruction is not
one only, but there are differing ones, and wide apart from one another.
For they that are like the wayside are the coarse-minded,(1) and
indifferent, and careless; but those on the rock such as fail from weakness
For "that which is sown upon the stony places," saith He, "the same is
he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it. Yet hath he not
root in himself, but dureth for a while; but when tribulation or
persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended! When any
one," so He saith, "heareth the word of truth and understandeth it not,
then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth that which was sown out of his
heart. This is he that is sown by the wayside."(2)
Now it is not the same thing for the doctrine to wither away, when no
man is evil entreating, or disturbing its foundations, as when temptations
press upon one. But they that are likened to the thorns, are much more
inexcusable than these.
6. In order then that none of these things may befall us, let us by
zeal and continual remembrance cover up the things that are told us. For
though the devil do catch them away, yet it rests with us, whether they be
caught away; though the plants wither, yet it is not from the heat this
takes place (for He did not say, because of the heat it withered, but,
"because it had no root"); although His sayings are choked, it is not
because of the thorns, but of them who suffer them to spring up. For there
is a way, if thou wilt, to check this evil growth, and to make the right
use of our wealth. Therefore He said not, "the world," but "the care of the
world;" nor "riches," but "the deceitfulness of riches."
Let us not then blame the things, but the corrupt mind. For it is
possible to be rich and not to be deceived; and to be in this world, and
not to be choked with its cares. For indeed riches have two contrary
disadvantages; one, care, wearing us out, and bringing a darkness over us;
the other, luxury, making us effeminate.
And well hath He said, "The deceitfulness of riches." For all that
pertains to riches is deceit; they are names only, not attached to things.
For so pleasure and glory, and splendid array, and all these things, are a
sort of vain show, not a reality.
Having therefore spoken of the ways of destruction, afterwards He
mentions the good ground, not suffering them to despair, but giving a hope
of repentance, and indicating that it is possible to change from the things
before mentioned into this.
And yet if both the land be good, and the Sower one, and the seed the
same, wherefore did one bear a hundred, one sixty, one thirty? Here again
the difference is from the nature of the ground, for even where the ground
is good, great even therein is the difference. Seest thou, that not the
husbandman is to be blamed, nor the seed, but the land that receives it?
not for its nature, but for its disposition. And herein too, great is His
mercy to man, that He doth not require one measure of virtue, but while He
receives the first, and casts not out the second, He gives also a place to
And these things He saith, least they that followed Him should suppose
that hearing is sufficient for salvation. And wherefore, one may say, did
He not put the other vices also, such as lust, vainglory? In speaking of
"the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches," He set down all.
Yea, both vainglory and all the rest belong to this world, and to the
deceitfulness of riches; such as pleasure, and gluttony, and envy, and
vainglory, and all the like.
But He added also the "way" and the "rock," signifying that it is not
enough to be freed from riches only, but we must cultivate also the other
parts of virtue. For what if thou art free indeed from riches, yet are soft
and unmanly? and what if thou art not indeed unmanly, but art remiss and
careless about the hearing of the word? Nay, no one part is sufficient for
our salvation, but there is required first a careful hearing, and a
continual recollection; then fortitude, then contempt of riches, and
deliverance from all worldly things.
In fact, His reason for putting this before the other, is because the
one is first required (for "How shall they believe except they hear?"(3)
just as we too, except we mind what is said, shall not be able so much as
to learn what we ought to do): after that, fortitude, and the contempt of
7. Hearing therefore these things, let us fortify ourselves on all
sides, regarding His instructions, and striking our roots deep, and
cleansing ourselves from all worldly things. But if we do the one,
neglecting the other, we shall be nothing bettered; for though we perish
not in one way, yet shall we in some other. For what signifies our not
being ruined by riches, if we are by indolence: or not by indolence, if we
are by softness. For so the husbandman, whether this way or that way he
lose his crop, equally bewails himself. Let us not then soothe ourselves
upon our not perishing in all these ways, but let it be our grief, in
whichever way we are perishing.
And let us burn up the thorns, for they choke the word. And this is
known to those rich men, who not for these matters alone, but for others
also prove unprofitable. For having become slaves and captives of their
pleasures, they are useless even for civil affairs, and if for them, much
more for those of Heaven. Yea, and in two ways hereby our thoughts are
corrupted; both by the luxury, and by the anxiety too. For either of these
by itself were enough to overwhelm the bark; but when even both concur,
imagine how high the billow swells.
And marvel not at His calling our luxury, "thorns." For thou indeed art
not aware of it, being intoxicated with thy passion, but they that are in
sound health know that it pricks sharper than any thorn, and that luxury
wastes the soul worse than care, and causes more grievous pains both to
body and soul. For one is not so sorely smitten by anxiety, as by
surfeiting. Since when watchings, and throbbings of the temples, and
heaviness in the head, and pangs of the bowels, lay hold of such a man, you
may imagine how many thorns these surpass in grievousness. And as the
thorns, on whichever side they are laid hold of, draw blood from the hands
that seize them, just so doth luxury plague both feet, and hands, and head,
and eyes, and in general all our members; and it is withered also, and
unfruitful, like the thorn, and hurts much more than it, and in our vital
parts. Yea, it brings on premature old age, and dulls the senses, and
darkens our reasoning, and blinds the keen-sighted mind, and makes the body
tumid,(1) rendering excessive the deposition of that which is cast away,
and gathering together a great accumulation of evils; and it makes the
burden too great, and the load overwhelming; whence our falls are many and
continual, and our shipwrecks frequent.
For tell me, why pamper thy body? What? are we to slay thee in
sacrifice, to set thee on the table? The birds it is well for thee to
pamper: or rather, not so well even for them; for when they are fattened,
they are unprofitable for wholesome food. So great an evil is luxury, that
its mischief is shown even in irrational beings. For even them by luxury we
make unprofitable, both to themselves and to us. For their superfluous
flesh is indigestible, and the moister kind of corruption is engendered by
that kind of fatness. Whereas the creatures that are not so fed, but live,
as one may say, in abstinence, and moderate diet, and in labor and
hardship, these are most serviceable both to themselves and to others, as
well for food, as for everything else. Those, at any rate, who live on
them, are in better health; but such as are fed on the others are like
them, growing dull and sickly, and rendering their chain more grievous. For
nothing is so hostile and hurtful to the body, as luxury; nothing so tears
it in pieces, and overloads and corrupts it, as intemperance.
Wherefore above all may this circumstance make one amazed at them for
their folly, that not even so much care as others show towards their wine
skins, are these willing to evince towards themselves. For those the wine
merchants do not allow to receive more than is fit, lest they should burst;
but to their own wretched belly these men do not vouchsafe even so much
forethought, but when they have stuffed it and distended it, they fill all,
up to the ears, up to the nostrils, to the very throat itself, thereby
pressing into half its room the spirit, and the power that directs the
living being. What? was thy throat given thee for this end, that thou
shouldest fill it up to the very mouth, with wine turned sour, and all
other corruption? Not for this, O man, but that thou shouldest above all
things sing to God, and offer up the holy prayers, and read out the divine
laws, and give to thy neighbors profitable counsel. But thou, as if thou
hadst received it for this end, dost not suffer it to have leisure for that
ministry, so much as for a short season, but for all thy life subjectest it
to this evil slavery. And as if any man having had a lyre given him with
golden strings, and beautifully constructed, instead of awakening with it
the most harmonious music, were to cover it over with much dung and clay;
even so do these men. Now the word, dung, I use not of living, but of
luxurious living, and of that great wantonness. Because what is more than
necessary is not nourishment, but merely injurious. For in truth the belly
alone was made merely for the reception of food; but the month, and the
throat, and tongue, for other things also, far more necessary than these:
or rather, not even the belly for the reception of food simply, but for the
reception of moderate food. And this it makes manifest by crying out loudly
against us, when we tease it by this greediness; nor doth it clamor against
us only, but also avenging that wrong exacts of us the severest penalty.
And first it punishes the feet, that bear and conduct us to those wicked
revels, then the hands that minister to it, binding them together for
having brought unto it such quantities and kinds of provisions; and many
have distorted even their very mouth, and eyes, and head. And as a servant
receiving an order beyond his power, not seldom out of desperation becomes
insolent to the giver of the order: so the belly too, together with these
members, often ruins and destroys, from being over-strained, the very brain
itself. And this God hath well ordered, that from excess so much mischief
should arise; that when of thine own will thou dost not practise self-
restraint, at least against thy will, for fear of so great ruin, thou
mayest learn to be moderate.
Knowing then these things, let us flee luxury, let us study moderation,
that we may both enjoy health of body, and having delivered our soul from
all infirmity, may 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
forever and ever. Amen.
HOMILY XLV: MATT. XIII. 10, II.
"And the disciples came and said unto Him, Why speakest Thou unto them in
parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you' to
know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given."
We have good cause to admire the disciples, how, longing as they do to
learn, they know when they ought to ask. For they do it not before all: and
this Matthew shows by saying, "And they came." And, as to this assertion
not being conjecture, Mark hath expressed it more distinctly, by saying,
that "they came to Him privately."(2) This then His brethren and His mother
should also have done, and not have called Him out, and made a display.
But mark their kindly affection also, how they have much regard for the
others, and seek their good first, and then their own. "For why," it is
said, "speakest Thou unto them in parables?" They did not say, why speakest
thou-unto us in parables? Yea, and on other occasions also their kindliness
towards men appears in many ways; as when they say, "Send the multitude
away;"3 and, "Knowest thou that they were offended ?"(4)
What then saith Christ? "Because it is given unto you," so He speaks,
"to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not
given."(5) But this He said, not bringing in necessity, or any allotment(6)
made causelessly and at random, but implying them to be the authors of all
their own evils, and wishing to represent that the thing is a gift, and a
grace bestowed from above.
It by no means follows, however, because it is a gift, that therefore
free will is taken away; and this is evident from what comes after. To this
purpose, in order that neither the one sort may despair, nor the other grow
careless, upon being told that "it is given," He signifies the beginning to
be with ourselves.
"For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more
abundance; but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away, even that
which he seemeth to have." (7)
And although the saying be full of much obscurity, yet it indicates
unspeakable justice. For what He saith is like this: When any one hath
forwardness and zeal, there shall be given unto him all things on God's
part also: but if he be void of these, and contribute not his own share,
neither are God's gifts bestowed. For even "what he seemeth to have," so He
saith, "shall be taken away from him;" God not so much taking it away, as
counting him unworthy of His gifts. This we also do; when we see any one
listening carelessly, and when with much entreaty we cannot persuade him to
attend, it remains for us to be silent. For if we are still to go on, his
carelessness is aggravated. But him that is striving to learn, we lead on,
and pour in much.
And well said He, "Even that which he seemeth to have." For he hath not
really even this.
Then He also made what He had said more distinct, pointing out the
meaning of, "To him that hath, shall be given, but from him that hath not,
even that which he seemeth to have, shall be taken away."
"Therefore," saith He, "speak I to them in parables; because they
seeing see not."(1)
"It were meet then," one may say, "to have opened their eyes, if they
see not." Nay, if the blindness were natural, it were meet to open them;
but because it was a voluntary and self-chosen blindness, therefore He said
not simply, "They see not," but, "seeing, they see not;" so that the
blindness is of their own wickedness. For they saw even devils cast out,
and said, "By Beelzebub, prince of the devils, He casteth out the
devils."(2) They heard Him guiding them unto God, and evincing His great
unanimity with Him, and they say, "This man is not of God."(3) Since then
the judgment they pronounced was contrary both to their sight and hearing,
therefore, saith He, the very hearing do I take away from them. For they
derive thence no advantage, but rather greater condemnation. For they not
only disbelieved, but found fault also, and accused, and laid snares.
However, He saith not this, for it is not His will to give disgust in
accusing them. Therefore neither at the beginning did He so discourse to
them, but with much plainness; but because they perverted themselves,
thenceforth He speaks in parables.
2. After this, lest any one should suppose His words to be a mere
accusation, and lest men should say, Being our enemy He is bringing these
charges and calumnies against us; He introduces the prophet also,
pronouncing the same judgment as Himself.
"For in them is fulfilled," saith He, "the prophecy of Esaias, which
saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand, and seeing ye
shall see, and shall not perceive."(4)
Seest thou the prophet likewise, accusing them with this same accuracy?
for neither did He say, Ye see not, but "Ye shall see and not perceive;"
nor again, Ye shall not hear, but "Ye shall hear and not understand." So
that they first inflicted the loss on themselves, by stopping their ears,
by closing their eyes, by making their heart fat. For they not only failed
to hear, but also "heard heavily," and they did this, He saith,
"Lest at any time they should be converted, and I should heal them;"(5)
describing their aggravated wickedness, and their determined defection from
Him. And this He saith to draw them unto Him, and to provoke them, and to
signify that if they would convert(6) He would heal them: much as if one
should say, "He would not look at me, and I thank him; for if he had
vouchsafed me this, I should straightway have given in:" and this he saith,
to signify how he would have been reconciled. Even so then here too it is
said, "Lest at any time they should convert,(7) and I should heal them;"
implying that both their conversion was possible, and that upon their
repentance they might be saved, and that not for His own glory, but for
their salvation, He was doing all things.
For if it had not been His will that they should hear and be saved, He
ought to have been silent, not to have spoken in parables; but now by this
very thing He stirs them up, even by speaking under a veil. "For God
willeth not the death of the sinner, but that he should turn unto Him and
For in proof that our sin belongs not to nature, nor to necessity and
compulsion, hear what He saith to the apostles, "But blessed are your eyes,
for they see, and your ears, for they hear;"(9) not meaning this kind of
sight nor hearing, but that of the mind. For indeed these too were Jews,
and brought up in the same circumstances; but nevertheless they took no
hurt from the prophecy, because they had the root of His blessings well
settled in them, their principle of choice, I mean, and their judgment.
Seest thou that, "unto you it is given," was not of necessity? For
neither would they have been blessed, unless the well-doing had been their
own. For tell me not this, that it was spoken obscurely; for they might
have come and asked Him, as the disciples did: but they would not, being
careless and supine. Why say I, they would not? nay, they were doing the
very opposite, not only disbelieving, not only not hearkening, but even
waging war, and disposed to be very bitter against all He said: which He
brings in the prophet laying to their charge, in the words, "They heard
But not such were these; wherefore He also blessed them. And in another
way too He assures them again, saying,
"For verily I say unto you, many prophets and righteous men have
desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them, and to
hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them;"(1) my coming, He
means; my very miracles, my voice, my teaching. For here He prefers them
not to these depraved only, but even to such as have done virtuously; yea,
and He affirms them to be more blessed even than they. Why can this be?
Because not only do these see what the Jews saw not, but even what those of
old desired to see. For they indeed beheld by faith only: but these by
sight too, and much more distinctly.
Seest thou how again He connects the old dispensation with the new,
signifying that those of old not only knew the things to come but also
greatly desired them? But had they pertained to some strange and opposing
God, they would never have desired them.
"Hear ye therefore the parable of the sewer,"(2) saith He; and He
speaks what we before mentioned, of carelessness and attention, of
cowardice and fortitude, of wealth and voluntary poverty; pointing out the
hurt from the one, and the benefit from the other.
Then of virtue also He brings forward different forms. For being full
of love to man, He marked out not one only way, nor did He say, "unless one
bring forth an hundred, he is an outcast;" but he that brings forth sixty
is saved also, and not he only, but also the producer of thirty. And this
He said, making out salvation to be easy.
3. And thou then, art thou unable to practise virginity? Be chaste in
marriage. Art thou unable to strip thyself of thy possessions? Give of thy
substance. Canst thou not bear that burden? Share thy goods with Christ.
Art thou unwilling to yield Him up all? Give Him but the half, but the
third part. He is thy brother, and joint-heir, make Him joint-heir with
thee here too. Whatsoever thou givest Him, thou wilt give to thyself.
Hearest thou not what saith the prophet? "Them that pertain to thy seed
thou shalt not overlook."(3) But if we must not overlook our kinsmen, much
less our Lord, having towards thee, together with His authority as Lord,
the claim also of kindred, and many more besides. Yea, for He too hath made
thee a sharer in His goods, having received nothing of thee, but having
begun with this unspeakable benefit. What then can it be but extreme
senselessness, not even by this gift to be made kind towards men, not even
to give a return for a free gift, and less things for greater? Thus whereas
He hath made thee heir of Heaven, impartest thou not to Him even of the
things on earth? He, when thou hadst done no good work, but wert even an
enemy, reconciled thee: and dost thou not requite Him, being even a friend
Yet surely, even antecedently to the kingdom, and to all the rest, even
for the very fact of His giving, we ought to feel bound to Him. For so
servants too, when bidding their masters to a meal, account themselves not
to be giving but receiving; but here the contrary hath taken place: not the
servant the Lord, but the Lord hath first bidden the servant unto His own
table; and dost thou not bid Him, no not even after this? He first hath
introduced thee under His own roof; dost thou not take Him in, so much as
in the second place? He clad thee, being naked; and dost thou not even
after this receive Him being a stranger? He first gave thee to drink out of
His own cup, and dost thou not impart to Him so much as cold water? He hath
made thee drink of the Holy Spirit, and dost thou not even soothe His
bodily thirst? He hath made thee drink of the Spirit, when thou wast
deserving of punishment; and dost thou neglect Him even when thirsty, and
this when it is out of His own, that thou art to do all these things? Dost
thou not then esteem it a great thing, to hold the cup out of which Christ
is to drink, and to put it to His lips? Seest thou not that for the priest
alone is it lawful(4) to give the cup of His blood? But I am by no means
strict about this, saith He; but though thyself should give, I receive;
though thou be a layman, I refuse it not. And I do not require such as I
have given: for not blood do I seek, but cold water. Consider to whom thou
art giving drink, and tremble. Consider, thou art become a priest of
Christ, giving with thine own hand, not flesh but bread, not blood, but a
cup of cold water. He clothed thee with a garment of salvation, and clothed
thee by Himself; do thou at least by thy servant clothe Him. He made thee
glorious in Heaven, do thou deliver Him from shivering, and nakedness, and
shame. He made thee a fellow-citizen of angels, do thou impart to Him at
least of the covering of thy roof, give house-room to Him at least as to
thine own servant. "I refuse not this lodging and that, having opened to
thee the whole Heaven. I have delivered thee from a most grievous prison;
this I do not require again, nor do I say, deliver me; but if thou wouldest
look upon me only, when I am bound, this suffices me for refreshment. When
thou wert dead, I raised thee; I require not this again of thee, but I say,
visit me only when sick."
Now when His gifts are so great, and His demands exceeding easy, and we
do not supply even these; what deep of hell must we not deserve? Justly
shall we depart into the fire that is prepared for the devil and his
angels, being more insensible than any rock. For how great insensibility is
it, tell me, for us, who have received, and are to receive so much, to be
slaves of money, from which we shall a little while hence be separated even
against our will? And others indeed have given up even their life, and shed
their blood; and dost thou not even give up thy superfluities for Heaven's
sake, for the sake of so great crowns?
And of what favor canst thou be worthy? of what justification? who in
thy sowing of the earth, gladly pourest forth all, and in lending to men at
usury sparest nothing; but in feeding thy Lord through His poor art cruel
Having then considered all these things, and calculated what we have
received, what we are to receive, what is required of us, let us show forth
all our diligence on the things spiritual. Let us become at length mild and
humane, that we may not draw down on ourselves the intolerable punishment.
For what is there that hath not power to condemn us? Our having enjoyed so
many and such great benefits; our having no great thing required of us; our
having such things required, as we shall leave here even against our will;
our exhibiting so much liberality in our worldly matters. Why each one of
these, even by itself, were enough to condemn us; but when they all meet
together, what hope will there be of salvation?
In order then that we may escape all this condemnation, let us show
forth some bounty towards those who are in need. For thus shall we enjoy
all the good things, both here, and there; unto which may we all attain, by
the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory
and might forever and ever. Amen.
HOMILY XLVI: MATT. XIII. 24--30.
"Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is
likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept,
his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when
the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou
not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it tares? He said unto
them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then
that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather up
the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both therefore grow
together until the harvest."(1)
What is the difference between this, and the parable before it? There
He speaks of them that have not at all holden with Him, but have started
aside, and have thrown away the seed; but here He means the societies of
the heretics. For in order that not even this might disturb His disciples,
He foretells it also, after having taught them why He speaks in parables.
The former parable then means their not receiving Him; this, their
receiving corrupters. For indeed this also is a part of the devil's craft,
by the side of the truth always to bring in error, painting thereon many
resemblances, so as easily to cheat the deceivable. Therefore He calls it
not any other seed, but tares; which in appearance are somewhat like wheat.
Then He mentions also the manner of his device. For "while men slept,"
saith He. It is no small danger, which He hereby suspends over our rulers,
to whom especially is entrusted the keeping of the field; and not the
rulers only, but the subjects too.
And He signifies also that the error comes after the truth, which the
actual event testifies. For so after the prophets, were the false prophets;
and after the apostles, the false apostles; and after Christ, Antichrist
For unless the devil see what to imitate, or against whom to plot, he
neither attempts, nor knows how. Now then also, having seen that "one
brought forth a hundred, another sixty, another thirty," he proceeds after
that another way. That is, not having been able to carry away what had
taken root, nor to choke, nor to scorch it up, he conspires against it by
another craft, privily casting in his own inventions.
And what difference is there, one may say, between them that sleep, and
them that resemble the wayside? That in the latter case he immediately
caught it away; yea, he suffered it not even to take root; but here more of
his craft was needed.
And these things Christ saith, instructing us to be always wakeful.
For, saith He, though thou quite escape those harms, there is yet another
harm. For as in those instances "the wayside," and "the rock," and "the
thorns," so here again sleep occasions our ruin; so that there is need of
continual watchfulness. Wherefore He also said, "He that endureth to the
end, the same shall be saved."(1)
Something like this took place even at the beginning. Many of the
prelates, I mean, bringing into the churches wicked men, disguised
heresiarchs, gave great facility to the laying that kind of snare. For the
devil needs not even to take any trouble, when he hath once planted them
And how is it possible not to sleep? one may say. Indeed, as to natural
sleep, it is not possible; but as to that of our moral faculty, it is
possible. Wherefore Paul also said, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith."(2)
After this He points out the thing to be superfluous too, not hurtful
only; in that, after the land hath been tilled, and these is no need of
anything, then this enemy sows again; as the heretics also do, who for no
other cause than vainglory inject their proper venom.
And not by this only, but by what follows likewise, He depicts exactly
all their acting. For, "When the blade was sprung up, saith He, "and
brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also;" which kind of thing
these men also do. For at the beginning they disguise themselves; but when
they have gained much confidence, and some one imparts to them the teaching
of the word, then they pour out their poison.
But wherefore doth He bring in the servants, telling what hath been
done? That He may pronounce it wrong to slay them.
And He calls him "an enemy," because of his harm done to men. For
although the despite is against us, in its origin it sprang from his
enmity, not to us, but to God. Whence it is manifest, that God loves us
more than we love ourselves.
And see from another thing also, the malicious craft of the devil. For
he did not sow before this, because he had nothing to destroy, but when all
had been fulfilled, that he might defeat the diligence of the Husbandman;
in such enmity against Him did he constantly act.
And mark also the affection of the servants. I mean, what haste they
are in at once to root up the tares, even though they do it indiscreetly;
which shows their anxiety for the crop, and that they are looking to one
thing only, not to the punishment of that enemy, but to the preservation of
the seed sown. For of course this other is not the urgent consideration.
Wherefore how they may for the present extirpate the mischief, this is
their object. And not even this do they seek absolutely, for they trust not
themselves with it, but await the Master's decision, saying, "Wilt Thou?"
What then doth the Master? He forbids them, saying, "Lest haply ye root
up the wheat with them." And this He said, to hinder wars from arising, and
blood and slaughter. For it is not right to put a heretic to death, since
an implacable war would be brought into the world. By these two reasons
then He restrains them; one, that the wheat be not hurt; another, that
punishment will surely overtake them, if incurably diseased. Wherefore, if
thou wouldest have them punished, yet without harm to the wheat, I bid thee
wait for the proper season.
But what means, "Lest ye root up the wheat with them?" Either He means
this, If ye are to take up arms, and to kill the heretics, many of the
saints also must needs be overthrown with them; or that of the very tares
it is likely that many may change and become wheat. If therefore ye root
them up beforehand, ye injure that which is to become wheat, slaying some,
in whom there is yet room for change and improvement. He doth not therefore
forbid our checking heretics, and stopping their mouths, and taking away
their freedom of speech, and breaking up their assemblies and
confederacies, but our killing and slaying them.
But mark thou His gentleness, how He not only gives sentence and
forbids, but sets down reasons.
What then, if the tares should remain until the end? "Then I will say
to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in
bundles to burn them."(1) He again reminds them of John's words,(2)
introducing Him as judge; and He saith, So long as they stand by the wheat,
we must spare them, for it is possible for them even to become wheat but
when they have departed, having profiled nothing, then of necessity the
inexorable punishment will overtake them. "For I will say to the reapers,"
saith He, "Gather ye together first the tares." Why, "first?" That these
may not be alarmed, as though the wheat were carried off with them. "And
bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."(3)
2. "Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of
Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed."(4)
That is, since He had said, that of the crop three parts are lost, and
but one saved, and in the very part again which is saved so great damage
ensues; lest they should say, "And who, and how many will be the faithful?"
this fear again He removes, by the parable of the mustard seed leading them
on to belief, and signifying that in any case the gospel(5) shall be spread
Therefore He brought forward the similitude of this herb, which has a
very strong resemblance to the subject in hand; "Which indeed is the
least," He saith, "of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest
among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and
lodge in the branches thereof."(6)
Thus He meant to set forth the most decisive sign of its greatness.
"Even so then shall it be with respect to the gospel too," saith He. Yea,
for His disciples were weakest of all, and least of all; but nevertheless,
because of the great power that was in them, It hath been unfolded(7) in
every part of the world.
After this He adds the leaven to this similitude, saying,
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid
in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened."(8)
For as this converts the large quantity of meal into its own
quality,(9) even so shall ye convert the whole world.
And see His wisdom, in that He brings in things natural, implying that
as the one cannot fail to take place, so neither the other. For say not
this to me: "What shall we be able to do, twelve men, throwing ourselves
upon so vast a multitude?" Nay, for this very thing most of all makes your
might conspicuous, that ye mix with the multitude and are not put to
flight. As therefore the leaven then leavens the lump when it comes close
to the meal, and not simply close, but so as to be actually mixed with it
(for He said not, "put," simply, but "hid"); so also ye, when ye cleave to
your enemies, and are made one with them, then shall ye get the better of
them. And as the leaven, though it be buried, yet is not destroyed, but by
little and little transmutes all into its own condition; of like sort will
the event be here also, with respect to the gospel. Fear ye not then,
because I said there would be much injurious dealing: for even so shall ye
shine forth, and get the better of all.
But by "three measures," here, He meant many. for He is wont to take
this number for a multitude.
And marvel not, if discoursing about the kingdom, He made mention of a
little seed and of leaven; for He was discoursing with men inexperienced
and ignorant, and such as needed to be led on by those means. For so simple
were they, that even after all this, they required a good deal of
Where now are the children of the Greeks? Let them learn Christ's
power, seeing the verity of His deeds, and on either ground let them adore
Him, that He both foretold so great a thing, and fulfilled it. Yea, for it
is He that put the power into the leaven. With this intent He mingled also
with the multitude those who believe on Him, that we might impart unto the
rest of our wisdom. Let no one therefore reprove us for being few. For
great is the power of the gospel, and that which hath been once leavened,
becomes leaven again for what remains. And as a spark, when it hath caught
in timber, makes what hath been burnt up already increase the flame, and so
proceeds to the rest; even so the gospel likewise. But He said not fire,
but "leaven." Why might this be? Because in that case the whole effect is
not of the fire, but partly of the timber too that is kindled, but in this
the leaven doth the whole work by itself.
3. Now if twelve men leavened the whole world, imagine how great our
baseness, in that when we being so many are not able to amend them that
remain; we, who ought to be enough for ten thousand worlds, and to become
leaven to them. "But they," one may say, "were apostles." And what then?
Were they not partakers with thee? Were they not brought up in cities? Did
they not enjoy the same benefits? Did they not practise trades? What, were
they angels? What, came they down from Heaven.?
"But they had signs," it will be said. It was not the signs that made
them admirable. How long shall we use those miracles as cloaks for our own
remissness? Behold the choir of the Saints, that they shone not by those
miracles.(1) Why, many who had actually cast out devils, because they
wrought iniquity, instead of being admired, did even incur punishment.
And what can it be then, he will say, that showed them great? Their
contempt of wealth, their despising glory, their freedom from worldly
things. Since surely, had they wanted these qualities, and been slaves of
their passions, though they had raised ten thousand dead, so far from doing
any good, they would even have been accounted deceivers. Thus it is their
life, so bright on all sides, which also draws down the grace of the
What manner of miracle did John work, that he fixed on himself the
attention(2) of so many cities? For as to the fact that he did no wondrous
works, hear the evangelist, saying, "John did no miracle."(3) And whence
did Elias become admirable? Was it not from his boldness towards the king?
from his zeal towards God? from his voluntary poverty? from his garment of
sheep's skin, and his cave, and his mountains? For his miracles He did
after all these. And as to Job, what manner of miracle did he work in sight
of the devil, that he was amazed at him? No miracle indeed, but a life that
shone and displayed an endurance firmer than any adamant. What manner of
miracle did David, yet being young, that God should say, "I have found
David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart?"(4) And Abraham, and
Isaac, and Jacob, what dead body did they raise? what leper did they
cleanse? Knowest thou not that the miracles, except we be sober, do even
harm in many cases? Thus many of the Corinthians were severed one from
another; thus many of the Romans were carried away with pride; thus was
Simon cast out. Thus he, who at a certain time had a desire to follow
Christ, was rejected, when he had been told, "The foxes have holes, and the
birds of the air nests."(5) For each of these, one aiming at the wealth,
another at the glory, which the miracles bring, fell away and perished. But
care of practice, and love of virtue, so far from generating such a desire,
doth even take it away when it exists.
And Himself too, when He was making laws for His own disciples, what
said He? "Do miracles, that men may see you"? By no means. But what? "Let
your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify
your Father which is in Heaven."(6) And to Peter again He said not, "If
thou lovest me," "do miracles," but "feed my sheep."(7) And whereas He
everywhere distinguishes him with James and John above all the rest, for
what, I pray thee, did He distinguish them? For their miracles? Nay, all
alike cleansed the lepers, and raised the dead; and to all alike He gave
Whence then had these the advantage? From the virtue in their soul.
Seest thou how everywhere practice is required, and the proof by works?
"For by their fruits," saith He, "ye shall know them."(8) And what commends
our own life? Is it indeed a display of miracles, or the perfection of an
excellent conversation? Very evidently it is the second; but as to the
miracles, they both have their origin from hence, and terminate herein. For
both He that shows forth an excellent life, draws to Himself this gift, and
he that receives the gift, receives it for this end, that he may amend
other men's lives.
Since even Christ for this end wrought those miracles, that having made
Himself thereby credible, and drawn men unto Him, He might bring virtue
into our life. Wherefore also He lays more stress of the two on this. For
He is not at all satisfied with the signs only, but He also threatens hell,
and promises a kingdom, and lays down those startling laws, and all things
He orders to this end, that He may make us equal to the angels.
And why say I, that Christ doth all for this object? Why, even thou,
should one give thee thy choice, to raise dead men by His name, or to die
for His name; which I pray thee, of the two wouldest thou rather accept? Is
it not quite plain, the latter? and yet the one is a miracle, the other but
a work. And what, if one offered thee to make grass gold, or to be able to
despise all wealth as grass, wouldest thou not rather accept this latter?
and very reasonably. For mankind would be attracted by this more than any
way. For if they saw the grass changed into gold, they would covet
themselves also to acquire that power, as Simon did, and the love of money
would be increased in them; but if they saw us all contemning and
neglecting gold, as though it were grass, they would long ago have been
delivered from this disease.
4. Seest thou that our practice has more power to do good? By practice
I mean, not thy fasting, nor yet thy strewing sackcloth and ashes under
thee, but if thou despise wealth, as it ought to be despised; if thou be
kindly affectioned, if thou give thy bread to the hungry, if thou control
anger, if thou cast out vainglory, if thou put away envy. So He Himself
used to teach: for, "Learn of me," saith He, "for I am meek and lowly in
heart."(1) He did not say, "for I fasted," although surely He might have
spoken of the forty days, yet He saith not this; but, "I am meek and lowly
in heart." And again, when sending them out, He said not, "Fast," but, "Eat
of all that is set before you."(2) With regard to wealth, however, He
required of them great strictness, saying, "Provide not gold, or silver, or
brass, in your purses."(3)
And all this I say, not to depreciate fasting, God forbid, but rather
highly to commend it. But I grieve when other duties being neglected, ye
think it enough for salvation, having but the last place in the choir of
virtue. For the greatest thing is charity, and moderation, and almsgiving;
which hits a higher mark even than virginity.
Wherefore, if thou desire to become equal to the apostles, there is
nothing to hinder thee. For to have arrived at this virtue only suffices
for thy not at all falling short of them. Let no one therefore wait for
miracles.(4) For though the evil spirit is grieved, when he is driven out
of a body, yet much more so, when he sees a soul delivered from sin. For
indeed this is his great power.(5) This power caused Christ to die, that He
might put an end to it. Yea, for this brought in death; by reason of this
all things have been turned upside down. If then thou remove this, thou
hast cut out the nerves of the devil, thou hast "bruised his head," thou
hast put an end to all his might, thou hast scattered his host, thou hast
exhibited a sign greater than all signs.
The saying is not mine, but the blessed Paul's. For when he had said,
"Covet earnestly the best gifts, and yet show I unto you a more excellent
way;"(6) he did not speak next of a sign, but of charity, the root of all
our good things. If then we practise this, and all the self-denial that
flows from it. we shall have no need of signs; even as on the other hand,
if we do not practise it, we shall gain nothing by the signs.
Bearing in mind then all this, let us imitate those things whereby the
apostles became great. And whereby did they become great? Hear Peter,
saying, "Behold we have forsaken all. and followed Thee; what shall we have
therefore?"(7) Hear also Christ saying to them, Ye shall sit upon twelve
thrones," and, "every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or
father, or mother, shall receive an hundredfold in this world, and shall
inherit everlasting life."(8) From all worldly things, therefore, let us
withdraw ourselves, and dedicate ourselves to Christ, that we may both be
made equal to the apostles according to His declaration, and may enjoy
eternal life; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and love towards
man of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory and might forever and ever.
HOMILY XLVII: MATT. XIII. 34, 35.
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitudes in parables, and without a
parable spake He not(1) unto them; that it might be fulfilled which was
spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will
utter things that have been kept secret(2) from the foundation of the
But Mark saith, "As they were able to hear it, He spake the word unto
them in parables."(4)
Then pointing out that He is not making a new thing, He brings in the
Prophet also, proclaiming beforehand this His manner of teaching. And to
teach us the purpose of Christ, how He discoursed in this manner, not that
they might be ignorant, but that He might lead them to inquiry, he added,
"And without a parable spake He nothing unto them." Yet surely He did say
many things without a parable; but then nothing. And for all this no man
asked Him questions, whereas the Prophets, we know, they were often
questioning: as Ezekiel,(5) for instance; as many others: but these did no
such thing. Yet surely His sayings were enough to cast them into
perplexity, and to stir them up to the inquiry; for indeed a very sore
punishment was threatened by those parables: however, not even so were they
Wherefore also He left them and went away. For,
"Then," saith he, "Jesus sent the multitudes away,(6) and went into His
And not one of the Scribes follows Him; whence it is clear that for no
other purpose did they follow, than to take hold of Him.(8) But when they
marked not His sayings, thenceforth He let them be.
"And His disciples come unto Him, asking Him concerning the parable of
the tares;"(9) although at times wishing to learn, and afraid(10) to ask.
Whence then arose their confidence in this instance? They had been told,
"To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven;" and
they were emboldened. Wherefore also they ask in private; not as grudging
the multitude, but observing their Master's law. For, "To these," saith He,
"it is not given."
And why may it be that they let pass the parable of the leaven, and of
the mustard seed, and inquire concerning this? They let those pass, as
being plainer; but about this, as having an affinity to that before spoken,
and as setting forth something more than it, they are desirous to learn
(since He would not have spoken the same to them a second time); for indeed
they saw how severe was the threatening therein uttered.(11) Wherefore
neither doth He blame them, but rather completes His previous statements.
And, as I am always saying, the parables must not be explained
throughout word for word, since many absurdities will follow; this even He
Himself is teaching us here in thus interpreting this parable. Thus He
saith not at all who the servants are that came to Him, but, implying that
He brought them in, for the sake of some order, and to make up the picture,
He omits that part, and interprets those that are most urgent and
essential, and for the sake of which the parable was spoken; signifying
Himself to be Judge and Lord of all.
"And He answered," so it is said, "and said unto them, He that soweth
the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, the good seed,
these are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of
the wicked one; the enemy that soweth them is the devil; and the harvest is
the end of the world, and the reapers are angels. As there fore the tares
are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this
world. The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of
His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;(12) and
shall cast them into the furnace of fire, there shall be weeping and
gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the
kingdom of their Father."(1)
For whereas He Himself is the sower, and that of His own field, and out
of His own kingdom He gathers, it is quite clear that the present world
also is His.
But mark His unspeakable love to man, and His leaning to bounty, and
His disinclination to punishment; in that, when He sows, He sows in His own
person, but when He punishes, it is by others, that is, by the angels.
"Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of
their Father." Not because it will be just so much only, but because this
star is surpassed in brightness by none that we know. He uses the
comparisons that are known to us.
And yet surely elsewhere He saith, the harvest is already come; as when
He saith of the Samaritans, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for
they are white already to harvest"(2) And again, "The harvest truly is
plenteous, but the laborers are few."(3) How then saith He there, that the
harvest is already come, while here He said, it is yet to be? According to
And how having elsewhere said, "One soweth, and another reapeth,"(4)
doth He here say, it is Himself that soweth? Because there again, He was
speaking, to distinguish the apostles, not from Himself, but from the
prophets, and that in the case of the Jews and Samaritans. Since certainly
it was He who sowed through the prophets also.
And at times He calls this self-same thing both harvest and sowing,
naming it with relation, now to one thing, now to another. Thus when He is
speaking of the conviction and obedience of His converts,(5) He calls the
thing "a harvest," as though He had accomplished all; but when He is
seeking after the fruit of their hearing, He calls it seed, and the end,
And how saith He elsewhere, that "the righteous are caught up
first?"(6) Because they are indeed caught up first, but Christ being come,
those others are given over to punishment, and then the former depart into,
the kingdom of heaven. For because they must be in heaven, but He Himself
is to come and judge all men here; having passed sentence upon these, like
some king He rises with His friends, leading them to that blessed portion.
Seest thou that the punishment is twofold, first to be burnt up, and then
to fall from that glory?
2. But wherefore cloth He still go on, when the others have withdrawn,
to speak to these also in parables? They had become wiser by His sayings,
so as even to understand. At any rate, to them He saith afterwards,
"Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord."(7)
So completely, together with its other objects, did the parable effect this
too, that it made them more clear sighted. What then saith He again?
"The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which
when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he
hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a
merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of
great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it."(8)
Much as in the other place, the mustard seed and the leaven have but
some little difference from each other, so here also these two parables,
that of the treasure and that of the pearl. This being of course signified
by both, that we ought to value the gospel above all things. And the former
indeed, of the leaven and of the mustard seed, was spoken with a view to
the power of the gospel, and to its surely prevailing over the world; but
these declare its value, and great price. For as it extends itself like
mustard seed, and prevails like leaven, so it is precious like a pearl, and
affords full abundance like a treasure. We are then to learn not this only,
that we ought to strip ourselves of everything else, and cling to the
gospel, but also that we are to do so with joy; and when a man is
dispossessing himself of his goods, he is to know that the transaction is
gain, and not loss.
Seest thou how both the gospel is hid in the world, and the good things
in the gospel?
Except thou sell all, thou buyest not; except thou have such a soul,
anxious and inquiring, thou findest not. Two things therefore are
requisite, abstinence from worldly matters, and watchfulness. For He saith
"One seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one of great price, sold
all and bought it." For the truth is one, and not in many divisions.
And much as he that hath the pearl knows indeed himself that he is
rich, but others know not, many times, that he is holding it in his hand
(for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel, they that
have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing
of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth.
3. After this, that we may not be confident in the gospel merely
preached, nor think that faith only suffices us for salvation, He utters
also another, an awful parable. Which then is this? That of the net.
"For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the
sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to
shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad
And wherein doth this differ from the parable of the tares? For there
too the one are saved the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked
doctrines; and those Before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings,
but these for wickedness of life; who are the most wretched of all, having
attained to His knowledge, and being caught, but not even so capable of
Yet surely He saith elsewhere, that the shepherd Himself separates
them, but here He saith the angels do this;(2) and so with respect to the
tares. How then is it? At one time He discourses to them in a way more
suited to their dullness,(3) at another time in a higher strain.
And this parable He interprets without so much as being asked, but of
His own motion He explained it by one part of it, and increased their awe.
For lest, on being told, "They east the bad away," thou shouldest suppose
that ruin to be without danger; by His interpretation He signified the
punishment, saying, "They will cast them into the furnace."(4) And He
declared the gnashing of teeth, and the anguish, that it is unspeakable.
Seest thou how many are the ways of destruction? By the rock, by the
thorns, by the wayside, by the tares, by the net. Not without reason
therefore did He say, "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and
many there be which go away(5) by it." (6)
4. Having then uttered all this, and concluded His discourse in a tone
to cause fear, and signified that these are the majority of cases (for He
dwelt more on them). He saith,
"Have ye understood al! these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord."(7)
Then because they understood, He again praises them, saying,
"Therefore every Scribe, which is instructed in the Kingdom of
Heaven,(8) is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth
out of his treasure things new and old."(9)
Wherefore elsewhere also He saith, "I will send you wise men and
scribes."(10) Seest thou how so far from excluding the Old Testament, He
even commends it, and speaks publicly in favor of it, calling it "a
So that as many as are ignorant of the divine Scriptures cannot be
"householders;" such as neither have of themselves, nor receive of others,
but neglect their own case, perishing with famine. And not these only, but
the heretics too,(11) are excluded from this blessing. For they bring not
forth things new and old. For they have not the old things, wherefore
neither have they the new; even as they who have not the new, neither have
they the old, but are deprived of both. For these are bound up and
interwoven one with another.
Let us then hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the
Scriptures, to what harm we are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty. For
when are we to apply ourselves to the real practice of virtue, who do not
so much as know the very laws according to which our practice should be
guided? But while the rich, those who are mad about wealth, are constantly
shaking out, their garments, that they may not become moth-eaten; dost
thou, seeing forgetfulness worse than any moth wasting thy soul, neglect
conversing with books? dost thou not thrust away from thee the pest, adorn
thy soul, look continually upon the image of virtue, and acquaint thyself
with her members and her head? For she too hath a head and members more
seemly than any graceful and beautiful body.
What then, saith one, is the head of virtue? Humility. Wherefore Christ
also begins with it, saying, "Blessed are the poor."(12) This head hath not
locks and ringlets, but beauty, such as to gain God's favor. For, "Unto
whom shall I look," saith He, "but unto him that is meek and humble, and
trembleth at my words?"(13) And, "Mine eyes are upon the meek of the
earth."(14) And, "The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite
heart."(15) This head, instead of locks, and flowing hair, bears sacrifices
acceptable to God. It is a golden altar, and a spiritual place of
sacrifice;(1) "For a contrite spirit is a sacrifice to God."(2) This is the
mother of wisdom. If a man have this, he will have the rest also.
Hast thou seen a head such as thou hadst never seen? Wilt thou see the
face too, or rather mark it? Mark then for the present its color, how
ruddy, and blooming, and very engaging; and observe what are its
ingredients. "Well, and what are they?" Shame- facedness and blushing.
Wherefore also some one saith, "Before a shamefaced man shall go favor."(3)
This sheds much beauty over the other members also. Though thou mix ten
thousand colors, thou wilt not produce such a bloom.
And if thou wilt see the eyes also, behold them exactly delineated with
decency and temperance. Wherefore they become also so beautiful and
sharpsighted, as to behold even the Lord Himself. For, "Blessed," saith He,
"are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."(4)
And her mouth is wisdom and understanding, and the knowledge of
spiritual hymns. And her heart, acquaintance with Scripture, and
maintenance of sound doctrines, and benevolence, and kindness. And as
without this last there is no living, so without that other is never any
salvation. Yea, for from that all her excellencies have birth. She hath
also for feet and hands the manifestations of her good works. She hath a
soul too, godliness. She hath likewise a bosom of gold, and firmer than
adamant, even fortitude; and all may be taken captive more easily than that
bosom may be riven asunder. And the spirit that is in the brain and heart,
5. Wilt thou that in her actual deeds also I show thee her image?
Consider, I pray thee, this very evangelist: although we have not his whole
life in writing, nevertheless even from a few facts one may see his image
First, as to his having been lowly and contrite, hear him, after his
gospel, calling himself a publican; for his being also merciful, see him
stripping himself of all and following Jesus; and as to his piety, it is
evident from his doctrines. And his wisdom again it is easy to see from the
gospel which he composed, and his charity(6) (for he cared for the whole
world); and the manifestation of his good works, from the throne on which
he is to sit;(7) and his courage too, "by his departing with joy from the
presence of the council."(8)
Let us imitate then this virtue, and most of all his humility and
almsgiving, without which one cannot be saved. And this is shown by the
five virgins, and together with them by the Pharisee. For without virginity
indeed it is possible to see the kingdom, but without almsgiving it cannot
be. For this is among the things that are essential, and hold all together.
Not unnaturally then have we called it the heart of virtue. But this heart,
unless it supply breath to all, is soon extinguished. In the same way then
as the fountain also, if it confine its streams to itself, grows putrid; so
it is with the rich also, when they keep their possessions to themselves.
Wherefore even in our common conversation we say, "great is the
consumption(9) of wealth with such a man;" instead of saying, "great is the
abundance, great the treasure." For in truth there is a consumption, not of
the possessors only, but of the riches themselves. Since both garments laid
by spoil, and gold is cankered, and corn is eaten up, and the soul too of
their owner is more than they all cankered and corrupted by the cares of
And if thou be willing to produce in the midst a miser's soul; like a
garment eaten by innumerable worms, and not having any sound part, even so
wilt thou find it, perforated on all sides by cares; rotted, cankered by
But not such the poor man's soul, the soul of him, I mean, that is
voluntarily poor; but it is resplendent as gold, it shines like a pearl,
and it blooms like a rose. For no moth is there, no thief is there, no
worldly care, but as angels converse, so do they.
Wouldest thou see the beauty of this soul? Wouldest thou acquaint
thyself with the riches of poverty? He commands not men, but he commands
evil spirits. He stands not at a king's side, but he hath taken his stand
near to God. He is the comrade, not of men, but of angels. He hath not
chests, two, or three, or twenty, but such an abundance as to account the
whole world as nothing. He hath not a treasure, but heaven. He needs not
slaves, or rather hath his passions for slaves, hath for slaves the
motives(10) that rule over kings. For that which commands him who wears the
purple, that motive shrinks before him.(11) And royalty, and gold, and all
such things, he laughs at, as at children's toys; and like hoops, and dice,
and heads, and balls, so doth he count all these to be contemptible. For he
hath an adorning, which they who play with these things cannot even see.
What then can be superior to this poor man? He hath at least heaven for
his pavement; but if the pavement be like this, imagine the roof! But hath
he not horses and chariots? Why, what need hath he of these, who is to be
borne upon the clouds, and to be with Christ?
Having these things then impressed on our minds, let us, both men and
women, seek after that wealth, and the plenty that cannot be rifled; that
we may attain also unto the kingdom of heaven, by the grace and love
towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever
and ever. Amen.
HOMILY XLVIII: MATT. XIII. 53.
"And it came to pass, that, when Jesus had finished these parables, He
Wherefore said He, "these"? Because He was to speak others besides. And
wherefore, again, doth He depart? Desiring to sow the word everywhere.
"And when He was come into His own country, He taught them in their
And what doth he now call His country? As it seems to me, Nazareth.
"For He did not many mighty works there,"(2) it is said, but in Capernaum
He did miracles: wherefore He said also, "And thou, Capernaum, which art
exalted unto Heaven, shalt be brought down to hell; for if the mighty
works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have
remained until this day."(3)
But having come there, while He slackens somewhat in His miracles; so
as not to inflame them unto more envy, nor to condemn them more grievously,
by the aggravation of their unbelief: He yet puts forth a doctrine, having
no less of wonder in it than the miracles. For these utterly senseless men,
when they ought to have marvelled, and to have been amazed at the power of
His words, they on the contrary hold Him cheap, because of him who seemed
to be His father; yet we know they had many examples of these things in the
former times, and from fathers of no note had seen illustrious children.
For so David was the son of a certain mean husbandman, Jesse; and Amos, the
child of a goat herd, and himself a goat herd;(4) and Moses too, the
lawgiver, had a father very inferior to himself. When they therefore, for
this especially, ought to adore and be amazed, that being of such parents
He spake such things, it being quite manifest, that so it was not of man's
care, but of God's grace: yet they, what things they should admire Him for,
for those they despise Him.
He is moreover continually frequenting the synagogues, lest if He were
always abiding in the wilderness, they should the more accuse Him as making
a schism, and fighting against their polity. Being amazed therefore, and in
perplexity, they said, "Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these
powers?"(5) either calling the miracles powers, or even the wisdom itself.
"Is not this the carpenter's son?"(6) The greater then the marvel, and the
more abundant the ground of amaze. "Is not His mother called Mary, and His
brethren James, and Joses,(7) and Simon, and Judas? and His sisters, are
they not all with us? Whence hath this man these things? And they were
offended in Him."(8)
Seest thou that Nazareth was where He was discoursing? "Are not his
brethren," it is said, "such a one, and such a one?" And what of this? Why,
by this especially you ought to have been led on to faith. But envy you see
is a poor base thing, and often falls foul of itself. For what things were
strange and marvellous, and enough to have gained them over, these offended
What then saith Christ unto them? "A prophet," saith He, "is not
without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house: and He did
not," it is said, "many mighty works, because of their unbelief."(1) But
Luke saith, "And He did not there many miracles."(2) And yet it was to be
expected He should have done them. For if the feeling of wonder towards Him
was gaining ground (for indeed even there He was marvelled at), wherefore
did He not do them? Because He looked not to the display of Himself, but to
their profit. Therefore when this succeeded not, He overlooked what
concerned Himself, in order not to aggravate their punishment.
And yet see after how long a time He came to them, and after how great
a display of miracles: but not even so did they endure it, but were
inflamed again with envy.
Wherefore then did He yet do a few miracles? That they might not say,
"Physician, heal thyself."(3) That they might not say, "He is a foe and an
enemy to us, and overlooks His own;" that they might not say, "If miracles
had been wrought, we also should have believed." Therefore He both wrought
them, and stayed: the one, that He might fulfill His own part; the other,
that He might not condemn them the more.
And consider thou the power of His words, herein at least, that
possessed as they were by envy, they did yet admire. And as with regard to
His works, they do not find fault with what is done, but feign causes which
have no existence, slaying, "In Beelzebub He casteth out the devils;" even
so here too, they find no fault with the teaching, but take refuge in the
meanness of His race.
But mark thou, I pray thee, the Master's gentleness, how He reviles
them not, but with great mildness saith, "A prophet is not without honor,
save in his own country." And neither here did He stop, but added, "And in
his own house." To me it appears, that with covert reference to His very
own brethren, He made this addition.
But in Luke He puts examples also of this, saying, that neither did
Elias come unto His own, but to the stranger widow; neither by Eliseus was
any other leper healed, but the stranger Naaman;(4) and Israelites neither
received benefit, nor conferred benefit, but the foreigners. And these
things He saith, signifying in every instance their evil disposition, and
that in His case nothing new is taking place.
2. "At that time Herod the tetrarch heard of the fame of Jesus."(5) For
Herod the king, this man's father, he that slew the children, was dead.
But not without a purpose doth the evangelist signify the time, but to
make thee observe also the haughtiness of the tyrant, and his
thoughtlessness, in that not at the beginning did he inform himself about
Christ, but after a very long time.(6) For such are they that are in places
of power, and are encompassed with much pomp, they learn these things late,
because they do not make much account of them.
But mark thou, I pray thee, how great a thing virtue is, that he was
afraid of him even when dead, and out of his fear he speaks wisely even
concerning a resurrection.
"For he said," it is mentioned, "unto his servants, This is John, whom
I slew, he is risen from the dead, and therefore the mighty powers do work
in him."(7) Seest thou the intensity of his fear? for neither then did he
dare to publish it abroad, but he still speaks but to his own servants.
But yet even this opinion savored of the soldier, and was absurd. For
many besides had risen from the dead, and no one had wrought anything of
the kind. And his words seem to me to be the language both of vanity, and
of fear. For such is the nature of unreasonable souls, they admit often a
mixture of opposite passions.
But Luke affirms that the multitudes said, "This is Elias, or Jeremias,
or one of the old prophets,"(8) but he, as uttering forsooth something
wiser than the rest, made this assertion.
But it is probable that before this, in answer to them that said He was
John (for many had said this too), he had denied it, and said, "I slew
him," priding himself and glorying in it. For this both Mark and Luke
report that he said, "John I beheaded."(9) But when the rumor prevailed,
then he too saith the same as the people.
Then the evangelist relates to us also the history. And what might his
reason be for not introducing it as a subject by itself?(1) Because all
their labor entirely was to tell what related to Christ, and they made
themselves no secondary work besides this, except it were again to
contribute to the same end. Therefore neither now would they have mentioned
the history were it not on Christ's account, and because Herod said, "John
is risen again."
But Mark saith, that Herod exceedingly honored the man, and this, when
reproved.(2) So great a thing is virtue.
Then his narrative proceeds thus: "For Herod had laid hold on John, and
bound him, and put him in prison, for Herodias' sake, his brother Philip's
wife. For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. And
when he would have put him to death, he feared the people, because they
counted him as a prophet."(3)
And wherefore doth he not address his discourse at all to her, but to
the man? Because it depended more on him.
But see how inoffensive he makes his accusation, as relating a history
rather than bringing a charge.
4. "But when Herod's birth-day was kept,"(4) saith he, "the daughter of
Herodias danced before them,(5) and pleased Herod."(6) O diabolical revel!
O satanic spectacle! O lawless dancing! and more lawless reward for the
dancing. For a murder more impious than all murders was perpetrated, and he
that was worthy to be crowned and publicly honored, was slain in the midst,
and the trophy of the devils was set on the table.
And the means too of the victory were worthy of the deeds done. For,
"The daughter of Herodias," it is said, "danced in the midst, and
pleased Herod. Whereupon he swore(7) with an oath to give her whatsoever
she would ask. And she being before instructed of(8) her mother, said, Give
me here John Baptist's head in a charger."(9)
Her reproach is twofold; first, that she danced, then that she pleased
him, and so pleased him, as to obtain even murder for her re ward.
Seest thou how savage he was? how senseless? how foolish? in putting
himself under the obligation of an oath, while to her he gives full power
over her request. But when he saw the evil actually ensuing, "he was
sorry,"(10) it is said; and yet in the first instance he had put him in
bonds. Wherefore then is he sorry? Such is the nature of virtue, even
amongst the wicked admiration and praises are its due. But alas for her
madness! When she too ought to admire, yea, to bow down to him, for trying
to redress her wrong, she on the contrary even helps to arrange the plot,
and lays a snare, and asks a diabolical favor.
But he was afraid "for the oath's sake," it is said, "and them that sat
at meat with him." And how didst thou not fear that which is more grievous?
Surely if thou wast afraid to have witnesses of thy perjury, much more
oughtest thou to fear having so many witnesses of a murder so lawless.
But as I think many are ignorant of the grievance itself, whence the
murder had its origin, I must declare this too, that ye may learn the
wisdom of the lawgiver. What then was the ancient law, which Herod indeed
trampled on, but John vindicated? The wife of him that died childless was
to be given to his brother.(11) For since death was an incurable ill, and
all was contrived for life's sake; He makes a law that the living brother
should marry her, and should call the child that is born by the name of the
dead, so that his house should not utterly perish. For if the dead were not
so much as to leave children, which is the greatest mitigation of death,
the sorrow would be without remedy. Therefore you see, the lawgiver devised
this refreshment for those who were by nature deprived of children, and
commanded the issue to be reckoned as belonging to the other.
But when there was a child, this marriage was no longer permitted. "And
wherefore?" one may say, "for if it was lawful for another, much more for
the brother." By no means. For He will have men's consanguinity extended,
and the sources multiplied of our interest in each other.
Why then, in the case also of death without offspring, did not another
marry her? Because it would not so be accounted the child of the departed;
but now his brother begetting it, the fiction became probable. And besides,
any other man had no constraining call to build up the house of the dead,
but this had incurred the claim by relationship.
Forasmuch then as Herod had married his brother's wife, when she had a
child, therefore John blames him, and blames him with moderation, showing
together with his boldness, his consideration also.
But mark thou, I pray thee, how the whole theatre was devilish. For
first, it was made up of drunkenness and luxury, whence nothing healthful
could come. Secondly, the spectators in it were depraved, and he that gave
the banquet the worst transgressor of all. Thirdly, there was the
irrational pleasure. Fourthly, the damsel, because of whom the marriage was
illegal, who ought even to have hid herself, as though her mother were
dishonored by her, comes making a show, and throwing into the shade all
harlots, virgin as she was.
And the time again contributes no little to the reproof of this
enormity. For when he ought to be thanking God, that on that day He had
brought him to light, then he ventures upon those lawless acts. When one in
chains ought to have been freed by him, then he adds slaughter to bonds.
Hearken, ye virgins, or rather ye wives also, as many as consent to
such unseemliness at other person's weddings, leaping, and bounding, and
disgracing our common nature. Hearken, ye men too, as many as follow after
those banquets, full of expense and drunkenness, and fear ye the gulf of
the evil one. For indeed so mightily did he seize upon that wretched person
just then, that he sware even to give the half of his kingdom: this being
Mark's statement, "He sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I
will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom."(1)
Such was the value he set upon his royal power; so was he once for all
made captive by his passion, as to give up his kingdom for a dance.(2)
And why marvel at these things so happening then, since even now, after
the coming in of so high a wisdom, for a dance' sake many of these
effeminate young men give up their very souls, and that without constraint
of any oath? For being made captive by the pleasure, they are led like
sheep, wheresoever the wolf may drag them; which was then the case with
that frenzied man, who was guilty of two extreme acts of madness; first, in
making it depend on her that was so maddened, and intoxicated with her
passion, and shrinking from nothing; next, in making the deed fast with the
constraint of an oath.
5. But albeit he was so wicked, that base woman was more wicked than
all of them, both the damsel and the tyrant. For she was the very first
contriver of all the mischiefs, and the framer of the whole plot (she who
most of all ought to have been thankful to the prophet); since it was in
obedience to her that her daughter both disgraced herself, and danced, and
sought the murder; and Herod was entrapped by her.
Seest thou how justly Christ said, "He that loveth father or mother
more than me, is not worthy of me."(3) For had she kept this law, she would
not have trangressed so many laws, she would not have perpetrated this foul
For what could be worse than this brutal fierceness? to ask a murder by
way of a favor, a lawless murder, a murder in the midst of a banquet, a
murder publicly, and without shame? Since she went not unto him privately
to speak of these things, but publicly, and with her mask thrown off,
barefaced, and having got the devil to plead with her, in this guise she
saith whatever she saith. Yea, and he it was that caused her at all to get
credit by her dancing, and to catch Herod at that moment. For where dancing
is, there is the evil one. For neither did God give us feet for this end,
but that we may walk orderly: not that we may behave ourselves unseemly,
not that we may jump like camels (for even they too are disagreeable when
dancing, much more women), but that we may join the choirs of angels.
For if the body is base, thus making itself unseemly, much more the
soul. Like this is the dancing of the demons, like this, the jesting of
such as are servants of the demons.
And mark too the very mode of asking. "Give me here John Baptist's head
in a charger." Dost thou see her lost to all shame, become altogether the
devil's? She mentions his very office, and not even so does she hide her
face, but as if it were some viand she is speaking of, just so doth she ask
for that sacred and blessed head to be brought in a charger.
And she doth not so much as assign a cause, for neither had she one to
mention, but she claims simply to be complimented by the calamities of
others. And she said not, "Bring him in here, and slay him," for she could
not have endured his bold language even when he was about to die. Yea, and
she dreaded to hear his awful voice, even when enduring slaughter; for not
on the very point of being beheaded would he have kept silence. Therefore
she saith, "Give me here in a charger," for "I long to see that tongue
silent:" her object being, not simply to be rid of his reproofs, but also
to trample upon him, and deride him when fallen.
Yet God endured it, and neither discharged His thunderbolt from above
to scorch her shameless countenance, nor commanded the earth to open, and
receive that wicked revel; at once both crowning the righteous man more
signally, and leaving much consolation to them that hereafter suffer
6. Let us hearken therefore, as many as suffer ill, living in virtue,
at the hands of wicked men. For then too God endured that even he in the
wilderness, he in the leathern girdle, in the garment of hair, the prophet,
the man greater than all prophets, who had no superior among those born of
women, should actually be murdered, and that by an immodest damsel, and a
corrupt harlot, and all in vindicating the laws of God. These things then
let us consider, and bear all nobly, whatever we may suffer.
For then too this bloodthirsty and lawless woman, as far as she desired
to take vengeance on him that had grieved her, so far did she prevail, and
satiated all her anger, and God permitted it. And yet to her he had said
nothing, nor had he accused her, but he found fault with the man only. But
her conscience was a bitter accuser. Wherefore also she was led on in
frenzy to greater evils, being grieved, and stung, and she disgraced all at
once, herself, her daughter, her departed husband, her living paramour, and
tried to surpass her former acts. For "if thou art vexed," saith she, "at
his committing adultery, I make him a murderer also, and cause him to be
the slayer of his reprover."
Hearken, as many as are unduly excited about women.
Hearken, as many as proffer oaths about things uncertain, and give
others power for your own destruction, and dig a pit for your selves.
Yea, for so came this man's ruin. I mean, he surely expected her to ask
some request suitable to the feast, and that being a damsel, and asking a
favor at a banquet, and revel, and solemn assembly, she would ask something
cheerful, and gracious, and surely not a head; and he was deceived.
But nevertheless none of these things will be a plea for him. And what
if she had attained the spirit of the men that fight with wild beasts?
nevertheless he ought not to have been deceived, nor to have ministered to
such tyrannical injunctions.
For, in the first place, who would not have shuddered to see that
sacred head, dropping blood, set forth at the feast? But not so the lawless
Herod, nor the woman more accursed than he. For such is the nature of the
unchaste among women; none so audacious and so savage as they.
For if we shudder at hearing these things, what must we suppose of the
effect of that sight at the time? what of the feeling of those who sat with
him at meat, on seeing blood dropping from a newly-severed head in the
midst of the revel? But as for that blood- thirsty woman, and fiercer than
furies, she had no feeling at that spectacle, but even took delight in it,
yet if nothing else, surely the mere sight, it was to be expected, would
effectually turn her cold. But no such feeling had she, the murderess, and
full of thirst after prophets' blood.
For such is the nature of whoredom. It makes men not wanton only, but
murderous also. Those women at all events, who desire to commit adultery,
are prepared even for the slaying of their injured husbands, and not one
only, nor two, but ten thousand murders are they ready to venture upon. And
of this sort of tragic plots there are many witnesses.
Which thing she also did at that time, looking to be concealed after
this, and to hide her crime. The very contrary whereunto was the result;
for John's cry was heard more loudly after these things. But wickedness
looks to the present only, like fevered persons unseasonably asking for
cold water. For in fact, if she had not slain her accuser, her crime would
not have been so completely discovered. His disciples at least, when she
had thrown him into prison, said nothing of the kind; but when she had
slain him, then they were compelled to mention the cause also. For willing
as they were to have concealed the adulteress, and not inclined to expose
their neighbor's calamities; yet when they found themselves compelled to
give an account of it, then they tell the whole crime. For lest any one
should suspect that the cause of his slaughter was a discreditable one, as
in the case of Theudas and Judas,(1) they are constrained to tell the
occasion also of the murder. So that the more thou wouldest dissemble a sin
in this way, so much the more dost thou expose it. For sin is not hidden by
the addition of sin, but by repentance and confession.
7. But see the evangelist, how he relates all without invidiousness,
and as far as he can, absolutely makes out an excuse. Thus first in behalf
of Herod he saith, "For the oath's sake, and them which sat with him at
meat," and that "he was sorry;" then of the damsel, "Being before
instructed of her mother," and that "she brought the head to her mother;"
as though he had said, it was her command that she was fulfilling. Since
not for the sufferers but for the wrongdoers do all righteous men grieve,
since in fact these are they who properly speaking suffer ill. For neither
was John injured, but these the centrivers of such proceedings.
Them let us also imitate, and not trample upon our neighbors' sins, but
so far as is right, shadow them over. Let us take to ourselves a soul
severe in goodness. For so the very evangelist, speaking of a harlot and a
blood-stained woman, avoided harshness, as far as might be. For neither did
he say, "by the blood-stained and accursed woman," but "being before
instructed of her mother,"(1) using such names as have rather an innocent
But thou dost even insult and revile thy neighbor, and couldest never
endure to make mention of a brother that had grieved thee in such terms, as
he hath done of the harlot, but with much brutal fierceness, and re-
preaches, calling him the wicked one, the malefactor, the crafty, the feel,
and many other names more grievous than these. For so we make ourselves
more and more like wild beasts, and talk of him as of a man of monstrous
origin,(2) vilifying, reviling, insulting. But not so the saints; they on
the contrary mourn for such as sin, rather than curse them.
8. This then let us also do, and let us weep for Herodias, and for them
that imitate her. For many such revels now also take place, and though John
be not slain, yet the members of Christ are, and in a far more grievous
way. For it is not a head in a charger that the dancers of our time ask,
but the souls of them that sit at the feast. For in making them slaves, and
leading them to unlawful loves, and besetting them with harlots, they do
not take off the head, but slay the soul, making them adulterers, and
effeminate, and whoremongers.
For thou wilt not surely tell me, that when full of wine, and drunken,
and looking at a woman who is dancing and uttering base words, thou dost
not feel anything towards her, neither art hurried on to profligacy,
overcome by thy lust. Nay, that awful thing befails thee, that thou "makest
the members of Christ members of an harlot."(3)
For though the daughter of Herodias be not present, yet the devil, who
then danced in her person, in theirs also holds his choirs now, and departs
with the souls of those guests taken captive.
But if ye are able to keep clear of drunkenness, yet are ye partakers
of another most grievous sin; such revels being also full of much rapine.
For look not, I pray thee, on the meats that are set before them, nor on
the cakes; but consider whence they are gathered, and thou wilt see that it
is of vexation, and covetousness, and violence, and rapine.
"Nay, ours are not from such sources," one may say. God forbid they
should be: for neither do I desire it. Nevertheless, although they be clear
of these, not even so are our costly feasts freed from blame. Hear, at all
events, how even apart from these things the prophet finds fault with them,
thus speaking, "Woe to them that drink wine racked off, and anoint
themselves with the chief ointments."(4) Seest thou how He censures luxury
too? For it is not covetousness which He here lays to their charge, but
And thou eatest to excess, Christ not even for need; thou various
cakes, He not so much as dry bread; thou drinkest Thasian wine, but on Him
thou hast not bestowed so much as a cup of cold water in His thirst. Thou
art on a soft and embroidered bed, but He is perishing with the cold.
Wherefore, though the banquets be clear from covetousness, yet even so
are they accursed, because, while for thy part thou doest all in excess, to
Him thou givest not even His need; and that, living in luxury upon things
that belong to Him. Why, if thou wert guardian to a child, and having taken
possession of his goods, were to neglect him in extremities, thou wouldest
have ten thousand accusers, and wouldest suffer the punishment appointed by
the laws; and now having taken possession of the goods of Christ, and thus
consuming them for no purpose, dost thou not think thou wilt have to give
9. And these things I say not of those who introduce harlots to their
tables (for to them I have nothing to say, even as neither have I to the
dogs), nor of those who cheat some, and pamper others (for neither with
them have I anything to do, even as I have not with the swine and with the
wolves); but of those who enjoy indeed their own property, but do not
impart thereof to others; of those who spend their patrimony at random. For
neither are these clear from reprehension. For how, tell me, wilt thou
escape reproving and blame, while thy parasite is pampered, and the dog
that stands by thee, but Christ's worth appears to thee even not equal to
theirs? when the one receives so much for laughter's sake, but the other
for the Kingdom of Heaven not so much as the smallest fraction thereof. And
while the parasite, on saying something witty, goes away filled; this Man,
who hath taught us, what if we had not learnt we should have been no better
than the dogs,--is He counted unworthy of even the same treatment with such
Dost thou shudder at being told it? Shudder then at the realities. Cast
out the parasites, and make Christ to sit down to meat with thee. If He
partake of thy salt, and of thy table, He will be mild in judging thee: He
knows how to respect a man's table.(1) Yea, if robbers know this, much more
the Lord. Think, for instance, of that harlot, how at a table He justified
her, and upbraids Simon, saying, "Thou gavest me no kiss."(2) I say, if He
feed thee, not doing these things, much more will He reward thee, doing
them. Look not at the poor man, that he comes to thee filthy and squalid,
but consider that Christ by him is setting foot in thine house, and cease
from thy fierceness, and thy relentless words, with which thou art even
aspersing such as come to thee, calling them impostors, idle, and other
names more grievous than these.
And think, when thou art talking so, of the parasites; what kind of
works do they accomplish? in what respect do they profit thine house? Do
they really make thy dinner pleasant to thee? pleasant, by their being
beaten and saying foul words? Nay, what can be more unpleasing than this,
when thou smitest him that is made after God's likeness, and from thine
insolence to him gatherest enjoyment for thyself, making thine house a
theatre, and filling thy banquet with stage-players, thou who art well born
and free imitating the actors with their heads shaven?(3) For among them
too is laughter, and rude blows.
These things then dost thou call pleasure, I pray thee, which are
deserving of many tears, of much mourning and lamentation? And when it were
fit to urge them to a good life, to give timely advice, dost thou lead them
on to perjuries, and disorderly language, and call the thing a delight? and
that which procures hell, dost thou account a subject of pleasure? Yea, and
when they are at a loss for witty sayings, they pay the whole reckoning
wits oaths and false swearing. Are these things then worthy of laughter,
and not of lamentations and tears? Nay, who would say so, that hath
And this I say, not forbidding them to be fed, but not for such a
purpose. Nay, let their maintenance have the motive of kindness, not of
cruelty; let it be compassion, not insolence. Because he is a poor man,
feed him; because Christ is fed, feed him; not for introducing satanical
sayings, and disgracing his own life. Look not at him outwardly laughing,
but examine his conscience, and then thou wilt see him uttering ten
thousand imprecations against himself, and groaning, and wailing. And if he
do not show it, this also is due to thee.
10. Let the companions of thy meals then be men that are poor and free,
not perjured persons, nor stage-players. And if thou must needs ask of them
a requital for their food, enjoin them, should they see anything done that
is amiss, to rebuke, to admonish, to help thee in thy care over thine
household, in the government of thy servants. Hast thou children? Let these
be joint fathers to them, let them divide thy charge with thee, let them
yield thee such profits as God loveth. Engage them in a spiritual traffic.
And if thou see one needing protection, bid them succor, command them to
minister. By these do thou track the strangers out, by these clothe the
naked, by these send to the prison, put an end to the distresses of others.
Let them give thee, for their food, this requital, which profits both
thee and them, and carries with it no condemnation.
Hereby friendship also is more closely riveted. For now, though they
seem to be loved, yet for all that they are ashamed, as living without
object in thy house; but if they accomplish these purposes, both they will
be more pleasantly situated, and thou wilt have more satisfaction in
maintaining them, as not spending thy money without fruit; and they again
will dwell with thee in boldness and due freedom, and thy house, instead of
a theatre, will become to thee a church, and the devil will be put to
flight, and Christ will enter, and the choir of the angels. For where
Christ is, there are the angels too, and where Christ and the angels are,
there is Heaven, there is a light more cheerful than this of the sun.
And if thou wouldest reap yet another consolation through their means,
command them, when thou art at leisure, to take their books and read the
divine law. They will have more pleasure in so ministering to you, than in
the other way. For these things add respect both to thee and to them, but
those bring disgrace upon all together; upon thee as an insolent person and
a drunkard, upon them as wretched and gluttonous. For if thou feed in order
to insult them, it is worse than if thou hadst put them to death; but if
for their good and profit, it is more useful again than if thou hadst
brought them back from their way to execution. And now indeed thou dost
disgrace them more than thy servants, and thy servants enjoy more liberty
of speech, and freedom of conscience, than they do; but then thou wilt make
them equal to the angels.
Set free therefore both them and thine own self, and take away the name
of parasite, and call them companions of thy meals;(1) cast away the
appellation of flatterers, and bestow on them that of friends. With this
intent indeed did God make our friendships, not for evil to the beloved and
loving, but for their good and profit.
But these friendships are more grievous than any enmity. For by our
enemies, if we will, we are even profiled; but by these we must needs be
harmed, no question of it. Keep not then friends to teach thee harm; keep
not friends who are enamored rather of thy table than of thy friendship.
For all such persons, if thou retrench thy good living, retrench their
friendship too; but they that associate with thee for virtue's sake, remain
continually, enduring every change.
And besides, the race of the parasites doth often take revenge upon
thee, and bring upon thee an ill fame. Hence at least I know many
respectable persons to have got bad characters, and some have been evil
reported of for sorceries, some for adulteries and corrupting of youths.
For whereas they have no work to do, but spend their own life unprofitably;
their ministry is suspected by the multitude as being the same with that of
Therefore, delivering ourselves both from evil report, and above all
from the hell that is to come, and doing the things that are well-pleasing
to God, let us put an end to this devilish custom, that "both eating and
drinking we may do all things to the glory of God,"(2) and enjoy the glory
that cometh from Him; 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
ever, and 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.