Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke (1859) Sermons 99-109. (Luke 13:22-16:13) pp. 460-516.
13:22-30. And He went about among the cities and villages teaching; and journeyed towards Jerusalem. And one said unto Him, Lord, are they few that be saved? And He said unto them; Strive to enter in at the strait door: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able, directly that the master of the house arises, and shuts the door: and you begin to stand outside, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, open to us; and He shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence you are. Then you will begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in Your presence, and You have taught in our streets: and He will say, I tell you, I know you not, whence you are; depart from me, all you workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down to meat in the kingdom of God. And lo! there are last that shall be first, and first that shall be last.
A SHIP is guided to the right port by means of the helm; but the word of God pilots the soul of man, and leads him without risk of error to every thing that is necessary for salvation. For so spoke one of the holy prophets; "Take with you words:" even those which are inspired by the Holy Spirit: for no man of sense will say, that it means the words of the wise of this world. For their words lead men unto the pit of destruction, by bringing polytheism into the world, and by inciting unto carnal pleasure, and to the desire of the world's vain distractions: but the words of God point out the pathway to a better life, and beget in us an earnestness which makes us cheerfully advance unto the duty of performing all those things, by means of which we are made partakers of eternal life. |461
Let us listen therefore to the Saviour's words, which He addressed unto those who wanted to learn, whether they be few who are saved: and to whom the Saviour answered, "Strive to enter in by the strait door." Now this reply may seem perhaps, to wander from the scope of the question. For the man wanted to learn, whether they be few who are saved: but He described unto him the way whereby he might be saved himself, saying, "Strive to enter in by the strait door." What reply then do we make to this objection? We answer as follows; that it was the custom of our common Saviour Christ to meet His questioners, not of course according to what might seem good to them, but as having regard to what was useful and necessary for His hearers. And this He especially did when any one wanted to learn what was superfluous and un-edifying. For what good was there in wishing to learn, whether there be many or few that be saved? What benefit resulted from it to the hearers? On the contrary it was a necessary and valuable thing to know in what way a man may attain to salvation. He is purposely silent therefore with respect to the useless question which had been asked Him, but proceeds to speak of what was essential, namely, of the knowledge necessary for the performance of those duties by which men can enter in at the strait and narrow door. For this He has also taught us in another place, saying; "Enter in at the strait door: for wide is the door, and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are they that go in thereby. For strait is the door, and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few are they that find it."
Now I consider it my duty to mention why the door is narrow, through which a man goes unto life. Whosoever then would enter must of necessity first before everything else possess an upright and uncorrupted faith: and, secondly, a spotless morality, in which is no possibility of blame, according to the measure of human righteousness. For so the prophet David also somewhere says, very excellently framing his supplications unto God, " Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness; and according to my innocency requite me." For the innocency and righteousness of the holy angels, being in proportion to their nature and glory, is entirely distinct from that which belongs to the inhabitants of earth: for theirs is of |462 a lower kind, and inferior in every respect, just as they are inferior to them also in nature. Nevertheless those who wish to live holily cannot do so without labour: for constantly, so to speak, the pathway that leads unto virtue is rugged and steep, and for most men too difficult to walk upon. For labours spring up before us and we have need altogether of fortitude and patience, and nobleness of conduct: yes, moreover, and of a mind that cannot be prevailed upon dissolutely to take part in base pleasures, or to be led by irrational impulses into carnal lust. He who has attained unto this in mind and spiritual fortitude will enter easily by the strait door, and run along the narrow way. For it is written, that "by labours a man labours for himself, and violently gains the mastery over his destruction." You hear how the prophet plainly says, that he gains the mastery over his destruction by violence; for as the Lord himself again said, "The kingdom of heaven is gained by violence, and the violent seize it."
"For wide is the door, and broad the way that brings down many to destruction." And what are we to understand by its broadness? It means an unrestrained tendency to carnal lust; a base and pleasure loving life; luxurious feastings, and revellings and banquetings, and unresisted inclinations unto every thing which is condemned by the law, and displeasing to God: a stiff-necked mind that will not bow to the yoke of the law: a life accursed, and relaxed in all dissoluteness, thrusting from it the divine law, and utterly unmindful of the sacred commandments: wealth and the vices that spring from it, scorn and pride, and the vain imagining of transitory boastings. From all such things must those withdraw who would enter in by the strait door, and be with Christ, and keep festival with Him.
And that such as are not thus minded cannot walk upon this way, He showed at once by a plain example. For those who were too late, and so to say, did not arrive at the feast, their lot was to be at once rejected. "For when," He says, "the master of the house enters in, and shuts the door, and they begin to say from without, Lord, open to us; he will say, I know you not whence you are." For in the character as it were of some householder, who has gathered many of his neighbours to his house and table, and has afterwards entered |463 in with his guests and closed the door, He says that those who subsequently knock, shall have for answer, "I know you not whence you are:" and though, He says, you importune, saying, "we have eaten before You and drunk; and You have taught in our streets; you shall hear none the less, I know you not whence you are. Depart far from Me, all you workers of iniquity." For the light has no communion at all with the darkness: nor can any one he near unto the perfectly pure God who is held by the pollutions of sin, and whose stain is not yet washed away.
We must however next inquire who we are to understand by those who say unto Christ, 'We have eaten and drunk in Your presence, and You have taught in our streets? Such an assertion then would suit the Israelites, to whom also Christ said, "you shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves cast out." But how then were they eating and drinking before God? I answer, by performing the service enacted in the law: for when offering unto God sacrifices by the shedding of blood, they ate and made merry. And they heard also in their synagogues the writings of Moses, interpreting God's messages: for constantly he prefaced his words with, 'Thus says the Lord.' These then are they who say, "We have eaten and drunk in Your presence, and You have taught in our streets." But the worship by the shedding of blood is not sufficient for justification, nor verily does a man wash away his stains by having become a hearer of the divine laws, if he does nothing of what has been commanded.
And in another way, as long as they refused to accept the faith, which justifies the wicked, nor would follow the evangelic commands, by means of which it is possible to practice the excellent and elect life, how could they enter the kingdom of God? The type therefore profits not: for it justifies no man, and it is a thing impossible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away sins. |464
With the above-named, you may number certain others also as able to say to the Judge of all, "we have eaten and drunk in Your presence, and You have taught in our streets." And who again are these? Many have believed in Christ, and celebrate the holy festivals in His honour; and frequenting the churches they also hear the doctrines of the Gospel: but they lay up in their mind of the truths of Scripture absolutely nothing. And it is with difficulty that the practice of virtue is brought with them even to this extent, while of spiritual fruitfulness their heart is quite bare. These too shall weep bitterly, and gnash their teeth; for the Lord shall deny them also. For He has said, that "not every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of My Father Who is in heaven."
But that the Jews were about to fall utterly from their rank of being in a spiritual sense His household, and that the multitude of the Gentiles should enter in their stead, He showed by saying, that "there shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, many who received the call, and shall rest with the saints; but they shall be driven away: and whereas they once had the first rank, they shall now take the second, by reason of others being preferred before them." Which also happened; for the Gentiles have been honoured far above the Jewish herd. For it was guilty both of disobedience and of the murder of the Lord: but they honoured the faith that is in Christ; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |465
13:31-35. That same hour there drew near certain Pharisees, saying unto Him, Depart, and go hence: for Herod desires to kill you. And He said unto them, Go you, and tell this fox, Behold I cast out devils, and I do cures today and tomorrow, and on the third I shall be perfected. Nevertheless I must walk today and tomorrow and the day afterward: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered your children, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not. Behold your house is abandoned for you: and I say unto you, that you shall not see Me, until you say, Blessed is He That comes in the name of the Lord.
THE Pharisaic crew was always, so to speak, wicked and designing, and eager for fraud, gnashing their teeth at Christ, whenever He was regarded with admiration, and with their heart consumed by the fire of envy. And yet how was it not rather their duty as being the people's guides, and set over the ordinary multitude, to lead them on unto the confession of Christ's glory, as being the purpose both of the enactment of the law, and of the preaching of the holy prophets. But this in their great wickedness they did not do: yes! rather in every way they resisted Him, and provoked Him incessantly to anger; and therefore Christ said unto them, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for you have taken away the key of knowledge: you enter not in yourselves, and those that were entering you have hindered." For one can see that they had fallen into such a state of malice, and into a disposition so contrary to the love of God, that they were not willing for Him even to dwell in Jerusalem, lest He should benefit men, partly by filling them with wonder at His divine miracles, and partly by shedding upon them the light of the |466 accurate vision of God by means of the teaching of truths superior to those of the law.
Such are the thoughts to which we are here led by the purport of the lessons now set before us. "For in that same hour, it says, certain Pharisees drew near, and said unto Him, Depart and go hence: for Herod desires to kill You." Come, then, and let us fix the scrutinizing eye of the mind on what is hero said by them. Let us accurately examine which of the two is the case, whether the speakers are to be reckoned among those who love Him, or among those who would oppose Him. But, as it appears, there is no difficulty whatsoever in perceiving that they were His thorough opponents. For Christ, for instance, raised the dead from the grave, employing therein a power such as belongs to God: for He cried, "Lazarus, come forth:" and to the widow's son, "Young man, I say unto you, arise." But they made the miracle food for their envy, and even said, when gathered together, "What do we, because this man does many miracles? If we thus leave Him alone, the Romans will come, and take away our people and our land." And then, even then, it was that Caiaphas, planning wicked murder against Him, said; "As for you, you know nothing at all, that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and not that the whole people perish."
And they resisted Him also in other ways; at one time treating Him with scorn, and mocking His miraculous power, and venturing even to accuse His godlike authority, saying, that whatever was done was wrought by the help of Beelzebub: and at another even endeavouring to give Him up to Caesar's satellites. For as though He prohibited the Israelites from paying tax unto Caesar, they drew near to Him in treachery and guile, saying, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not?" Can those then who laid for Him all kinds of snares; who, in their audacity and hardihood, did not even abstain from murder; who, being cunning for wickedness, attacked Him with remorseless violence, and readily practised all such arts as those do who hate utterly; how, I say, can such be reckoned among those who love Him?
Why then did they draw near, saying, "Depart hence: for |467 "Herod wishes to kill You:" and what object had they in so doing? The Evangelist tells us this, by saying, "That same hour they drew near to Him." And what is the meaning of this carefulness of language? Why was there this exactitude? or what hour does he mean as that in which the Pharisees said these things to Jesus? He was occupied in teaching the Jewish multitudes, when some one asked Him whether there be many that are saved. He passed by the question, however, as unprofitable, and turned to that which was fitting for Him to tell, the way, namely, by which men must walk to become heirs of the kingdom of heaven. For He said, "Strive to enter in at the strait door: and told them that if they refuse so to do, they will see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and themselves cast out." And He added thereunto, that "whereas they had been the first, they should be the last," upon the calling namely of the heathen. These remarks goaded the mind of the Pharisees unto anger: they saw the multitudes already repenting, and receiving with eagerness faith in Him; and that they needed now but a little more instruction to learn His glory and the great and adorable mystery of the incarnation. As being likely therefore to lose their office of being chiefs of the people, and as already fallen and expelled from their authority over them, and deprived of their profits,----for they were fond of wealth, and covetous, and given to lucre,----they made pretence of loving Him, and even drew near, and said, "Depart and go hence: for Herod desires to kill You." But, O stonyhearted Pharisee, had you been wise; had you been well acquainted with the law of the most wise Moses; had you really fixed your mind upon the declarations of the holy profits; it could not have escaped you that there was no possibility of your being undetected in feigning a false show of affection, while your mind was full of gall. He was not a mere man, and one of those like unto us, and so liable to deception; but God in our likeness: God Who understands everything, and "knows secrets," as it is written, and "tries the hearts and reins;" "to Whom all things are naked, and spread open," and from Whom nothing is hid. But you knew not this precious and mighty mystery: you thought that |468 you could deceive even Him Who says; "Who is this that hides from Me his mind, and shuts up words in his heart, and thinks that from Me he hides them?"
What then does Christ answer to these things? He replied to them gently, and with His meaning veiled, as was His wont: "Go and tell, He says, this fox." Attend closely to the force of the expression: for the words used seem forsooth to be directed, and to have regard, as it were, to the person of Herod: but they really rather refer to the craftiness of the Pharisees. For while He would naturally have said, "Tell that fox," He does not do so, but using very skilfully a middle sort of expression, He, so to speak, pointed to the Pharisee, who was close beside Him, and said, "this fox." And He compares the man to a fox: for it is constantly a very crafty animal, and, if I may so speak, malicious, such as were the Pharisees.
But what did He bid them say? "Behold, I cast out devils, and do cures today and tomorrow, and the third I shall be perfected." You see that He declares His intention of performing what He knew would grieve the troop of Pharisees: for they drive Him from Jerusalem, lest by the display of miracles He should win many unto faith in Him. But inasmuch as their purpose herein did not escape Him as being God, He declares His intention of performing what they hated, and says, that "He shall also rebuke unclean spirits, and deliver the sick from their sufferings, and be perfected;" which means, that of His own will He would endure the passion upon the cross, for the salvation of the world. He knew, therefore, as it appears, both how and when He would endure death in the flesh.
The Pharisees, however, imagined that the power of Herod would terrify Him, and humble Him unto mean fears, although He is Lord of powers, and begets in us spiritual bravery by His words, "Fear not them who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul," And that He too makes no account of the violence of men He showed, saying, "But I must walk today and tomorrow and the day after." And in saying, "I must," He does not imply that an inevitable necessity, so to speak, was laid upon Him, but rather that by the power of |469 His own will, freely and without danger He would go wherever He chose, and traverse Judaea without any one opposing Him or plotting Him ill, until of His own accord He received His consummation upon the precious cross.
Let not therefore those murderers of the Lord pride themselves, or superciliously vaunt themselves against Him. You did not win a victory over One Who fled from suffering. You didst not seize One unwilling. You didst not prevail over One Who refused to be caught in the meshes of your craftiness. Of His own will He consented to suffer, as being well assured that by the death of His flesh He would abolish death, and return again to life. For He arose from the dead, having raised up with Him the whole nature of man, and having fashioned it anew unto the life incorruptible.
But He shows that Jerusalem is guilty of the blood of many saints, declaring, "that it is not possible for a prophet to perish out of her." And what follows from this? That they were about to fall from being members of God's spiritual family; that they were about to be rejected from the hope of the saints, and entirely deprived of the inheritance of those blessings which are in store for them who have been saved by faith. For that they were forgetful of God's gifts, and intractable, and slothful unto everything that might have profited them, He showed, saying; "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto her, how often would I have gathered your sons, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not: behold your house is abandoned unto you." For He taught them by the most wise Moses, and ordained for them the law to direct them in their conduct, and be their ruler and guide in the life worthy of admiration, and which though it was but as yet in shadows, nevertheless possessed the type of the true worship: He admonished them by the holy prophets: He would have had them under His wings, under the protection, that is, of His power: but they lost blessings thus valuable by being evil-disposed and ungrateful, and despisers.
"But," says He, "you shall not see Me henceforth until you say, Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord." And what again is this? The Lord withdrew from Jerusalem, |470 and left as unworthy of His presence those who said, "Depart and go hence." And afterwards having traversed Judaea, and saved many, and performed miracles which no words can adequately describe, He returned again to Jerusalem. And then it was, even then, that He sat upon a foal and an ass, while vast multitudes and young children, holding up branches of palm-trees, went before Him, praising Him, and saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David. Blessed is He That comes in the Name of the Lord." Having left them therefore as being unworthy, He says that He will then barely be seen by them when the time of His passion has arrived. For then again He went up to Jerusalem, and entered amid praises, and at that very time endured His saving passion in our behalf, that by suffering He might save, and renew unto incorruption the inhabitants of the earth. For God the Father has saved us by Christ: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |471
14:1-6. And it came to pass, when He had gone into the house of one of the chief Pharisees on the sabbath day to eat bread, that they watched Him. And behold there was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke unto the lawyers and Pharisees, saying; Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath day or no? And they were silent. And He took him, and healed him, and sent him away. And He answered them, saying; Which of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a pit, and will not immediately draw him out on the sabbath day? And they could not return Him an answer to these things.
AGAIN the Lord works miracles, and exercising a divine and supreme power, performs His accustomed acts, and manifests His glory. He benefits then in more ways than one the intractable and contentious Pharisee. For just as maladies of more than usual violence will not yield to the skill of physicians, but require the main force of persons of blunter feelings: so also the human mind, that has turned aside to wickedness, rejects all that could benefit it, directly that it has once become the victim of an uncontrollable tendency to disobedience, being brought into this state by unreproved departures from the right path. 1
And that this is undeniably true, any one may see who will give his attention to the lessons here set before us. For a Pharisee, of higher rank than usual, invited Jesus to a banquet: and He, although He knew their malice, went with him, and dined in their company. And He submitted to this act of condescension, not to honour His inviter, but rather to benefit those in whose company He was, by such words and miraculous deeds as might lead them to the acknowledgment of the true service, even that which is taught us by the gospel. For He |472 know that even against their will He would make them eyewitnesses both of His power, and of His more than human glory, if perchance even so they might believe that He is God and the Son of God, Who assumed indeed our likeness, but continued unchanged, nor ceased to be that which He had been.
He became the guest then of His inviters, to fulfil, as I said, a necessary duty: "but they, it says, watched Him." And for what reason did they watch Him, and on what account? To see forsooth whether He would disregard the honour due to the law, and so do something or other forbidden on the sabbath day. But, O senseless Jew, understand that the law was a shadow and type, waiting for the truth: and the truth was Christ, and His commandments. Why then do you arm the typo against the truth? why do you set the shadow in array against the spiritual interpretation? Keep your sabbath rationally: but if you will not consent so to do, then art you cut off from that sabbath keeping which is well pleasing to God, and know not the true rest, which He requires of us Who of old spoke the law of Moses. Let us cease from our sins; let us rest from our offences; let us wash away our stains; let us abandon the impure love of the flesh; let us flee far from covetousness and extortion; and from disgraceful gains, and the love of lucre. Let us first gather provisions for our souls for the way, the meat that will suffice us in the world to come: and let us apply ourselves to holy works, thereby keeping the sabbath rationally. Those whose office it was to minister among you according to the law used to offer unto God the appointed sacrifices, even upon the sabbath: they slew the victims in the temple, and performed those acts of service which were laid upon them: and no man rebuked them, and the law itself was silent. It did not therefore forbid men ministering upon the sabbath. This then was a type for us: for, as I said, it is our duty, keeping the sabbath in a rational manner, to please God by a sweet spiritual savour. And, as I have already before said, we render this when ceasing from sins, we offer unto God as a sacred oblation a life holy and worthy of admiration, steadily advancing unto all virtue. For this is the spiritual sacrifice well pleasing unto God.
But if, having nought of this in your mind, you cleave |473 solely to the grossness of the legal Scripture, abandoning the truth as something you can not attain to, listen unto God, Who tells you by the voice of the prophet Isaiah; "The heart of this people is waxed gross, their eyes they have closed, and made their ears heavy, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." For how were not they heavy and without understanding, and of a mind past helping, who when they might have perceived that He was the Christ by His teaching being superior to the law, and by the wonderful works that He wrought, were obdurate, and regarded only their own preconceived idea of what was right: or rather that only which brought them down to the pit of destruction?
But what was the miracle of which they were spectators? There was a certain man before Him who had the dropsy: the Lord therefore asks the lawyers and Pharisees, whether it is lawful to heal on the sabbath day or not? "But they, it says, were silent." But why, O lawyer, were you silent? Quote something from the scriptures; show that the law of Moses ever blamed the doing good on the sabbath: prove to us that it wishes us to be hardhearted and unmerciful, because of the rest for our bodies;----that it forbids kindness, in order that we may honour the sabbath. But this you can not prove from any part of it. And as they were silent from malice, Christ refutes their immitigable shamelessness by the convincing arguments which He uses. For "whose son of yours," He says, "or whose ox shall fall into a pit, and he will not immediately draw him out on the sabbath day?" If the law forbids the showing mercy on the sabbath, why do you yourself take compassion on that which has fallen into the pit? Trouble not yourself about your son's danger upon the sabbath; rebuke the sting of natural affection, which incites you to feel a father's love. Commit your child with joy to the grave, that you may honour the Giver of the law, as knowing that He |474 is harsh and unmerciful. Let your friend be in danger, but pay not you the slightest heed thereto: nay though you hear a young child weeping, and asking for help, say to it, Die: such is the will of the law. But you will not assent to such reasonings; you will stretch out your hand to one who is distressed, esteeming him of more account than the honour due to the law, or rather than a senseless rest, even if you will not as yet acknowledge that the sabbath ought to be kept in a spiritual manner. The God of all ceases not to be kind: He is good and loving unto men: He instituted not the law of Moses as the mediator of harshness, nor appointed it as a teacher of cruelty, but rather to lead you on to the love of your neighbour. How you was it fitting that a commandment thus venerable and worthy of admiration should by the will of God lose its force upon the sabbath day? Why therefore were you silent, O lawyer? Confessedly because you had nothing to say. For the force of truth is something great, and invincible, able to confound the envious mind, and to muzzle the faultfinding tongue.
Paying then no further heed to the envyings of the Jews, He delivers from his malady the man afflicted with the dropsy, and tyrannized over by an incurable disease. You have seen O Jew, the miracle: extol then the Worker of it. Understand His might, and the gloriousness of His dominion: acknowledge that He is God: offer Him your faith: be not obdurate; but as the prophet Jeremiah says, "Rend your hearts, and not your garments." Expand your mind: open the eye of yours heart: understand that the acts which He works are those of Deity, even though in appearance He be a man like unto us. Recognize therefore Him Who for our sakes bore our likeness, but even so was far above us: or rather far above all creation by His ineffable generation from God the Father. For He is the Son of Him Who transcends all, but though He was Lord He |475 took the form of the slave, that He might make the slave like unto Himself: yet He did not cease to be God, but remains the Same, Whom angels worship, and principalities, and thrones, and lordships. The Seraphim praise Him: and let us also serve Him in faith, mounting upward by His aid to the lot of the saints; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |476
14:7-11. And He spoke a parable unto them which were bidden preventing how they chose the foremost seats: saying unto them, When you are bidden of any one, seat not yourself at the head of the seat, lest a more honourable man than you be bidden of him; and when he that bade you and him comes, he say to you, Give this man place; and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are bidden, go seat yourself in the lowest place, that when he that bade you comes, he may say unto you Friend, go up higher; then shall you have honour before all who sit with you at meat. For whosoever exalts himself shall be abased, and He that humbles himself shall be exalted.
NEVER does the Saviour cease from doing some act or other replete with benefit, guiding by admonitions and counsels all who draw near unto Him into propriety of conduct, and teaching them that sobriety which becomes saints, that as Paul says, "the man of God may be perfect, complete unto every good work." Seizing therefore every opportunity, however slight, for His words, He wove for us admonitions well worthy of our attention, therein resembling an active husbandman; for whatsoever is liable to blame and reprehension, and covers with utter infamy those who are guilty of it, this He cuts away from our minds, and plants, so to speak, every fruit of virtue: for "we, as Scripture says, are God's husbandry."
What benefit then He has here too discovered for us, we learn from the passage now read. For He was dining on the sabbath day with one of the Pharisees, at his special request. |477
And his purpose in so doing, and motive we explained unto you when last we met together. But inasmuch as He saw certain of those who were invited foolishly seizing the uppermost seats as a thing of importance, and worth the taking, and that they were eager after vainglory, for the benefit both of them and us He utters an urgent warning, saying; "When you are bidden of any one, seat not yourself at the head of the seat, lest a more honourable man than you be bidden of him, and when he that bade you and him comes, he say unto you, Give this man place; and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place."
Now such things may seem perchance to some to be but trifling matters, and not worthy of much attention. But when any one fixes upon them the eye of his mind, he will then learn, from what blame they deliver a man, and how great orderliness they produce in him. For in the first place to hurry inconsiderately after honours neither suitable,, nor due to us, shows us to be foolish, rude, and arrogant, seizing what is not fitting for us, but for others rather, who are greater than and superior to ourselves. Whoever he is that thus acts, is hated, and often too becomes an object of ridicule, when he has to restore to others, and that often against his will, the honour which in no respect belongs unto him. "For when, He says, a more honourable man than you comes, he that bade you and him will say, Give this man place." O! what great ignominy is there in having so to do! It is like a theft, so to speak, and the restitution of the stolen goods. He must restore what he has seized; for he had no right to take it. But the modest and praiseworthy man, who might without fear of blame have claimed the dignity of sitting among the foremost, seeks it not, but yields to others what might be called his own, that he may not even seem to be overcome by vainglory; and such an one shall receive honour as his due: for he shall hear, He says, him who bade him say, "Come up hither."
A modest mind therefore is a great and surpassing good: for it delivers those who possess it from blame and contempt, and from the charge of vaingloriousness. 'But yes! says the lover of vainglory, I wish to be illustrious and renowned, and not despised and neglected, and numbered among the |478 unknown.' If however you desire this transitory and human glory, you are wandering away from the right path, by which you might become truly illustrious, and attain to such praise as is worthy of emulation. For it is written, "All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass." And the prophet David also blames those who love temporal honours; for he also thus spoke of them, "Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withers before it is plucked up." For just as the grass that springs up upon the housetops has no deep fixed root, and for this reason is easily parched up; so he who values worldly honour, after he has been for a short time conspicuous, and, so to speak, in flower, sinks at last into nothingness.
If then any one wish to be set above others, let him win it by the decree of heaven, and be crowned by those honours which God bestows. Let him surpass the many by having the testimony of glorious virtues; but the rule of virtue is a lowly mind that loves not boasting: yes! it is humility. And this the blessed Paul also counted worthy of all esteem: for he writes to such as are eagerly desirous of saintly pursuits, "Love humility." And' the disciple of Christ praises it, thus writing; "Let the poor brother glory in his exaltation: and the rich in his humiliation, because as the flower of the grass he passes away." For the moderate and bridled mind is exalted with God: for "God, it says, will not despise the contrite and abased heart."
But whosoever thinks great things of himself, and is supercilious, and elate in mind, and prides himself on an empty loftiness, is rejected and accursed. He follows a course the contrary of Christ's, Who said; "Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart." "For the Lord, it says, resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." The wise Solomon also shows in many places the safety of the humble mind; at one time saying, "Exalt not yourself, that you fall not:" and at another time, he figuratively declares the same thing; "He that makes his house high, seeks an overthrow." Such a one is hated of God, and very justly, as having mistaken himself, and senselessly aimed above the limits of his nature. For upon what ground, I pray, does man upon earth think great things of himself? For certainly his mind is weak, and |479 easily led into base pleasures: his body is tyrannized over by corruption and death: and the duration of his life is short and limited. Nor is this all, for naked were we born, and therefore riches, and wealth, and worldly honour come to us from without, and are not really ours: for they belong not to the properties of our nature. For what reason therefore is the mind of man puffed up? What is there to exalt it to superciliousness and boasting? Were any one but to regard his state with understanding eyes, he would then become like Abraham, who mistook not his nature, and called himself "dust and ashes." And like another also who says; "Quit man who is rottenness, and the son of man who is a worm." But he who is a worm and rottenness; this dust and ashes: this very nothingness becomes great and admirable and honourable before God, by knowing himself; for so he is crowned by God with honour and praise: for the Saviour of all and Lord gives grace to the humble: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |480
14:12-14. Then said He also to him that bade Him, When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbours; lest they also bid you again, and a recompense be made you. But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you shall be blessed, because they cannot recompense you: for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
REMARKABLE indeed is the beauty of the mind of man: and it shows itself in various ways, and is conspicuous in a diversity of manners. For just as those who are skilled in delineating forms in pictures cannot by one colour attain to perfect beauty in their painting, but rather use various and many kinds of hues; so also the God of all, Who is the Giver and Teacher of spiritual beauty, adorns our souls with that manifold virtue which consists in all saintlike excellence of living, in order to complete in us His likeness. For in His rational creatures the best and most excellent beauty is the likeness of God, which is wrought in us by the exact vision of God, and by virtue perfected by active exertion. Consider therefore how our Lord Jesus Christ makes our souls beautiful by every spiritual adornment. For here He had commanded the Pharisees and lawyers, or rather, the Scribes, to think lowly of themselves, and to cultivate a mind free from the love of vainglory, bidding them not to seize upon the foremost seats. For He was dining with them, that being in their company He might benefit them even against their will. And after them He next addressed him who had invited them, and assembled them to the entertainment, saying, "When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen nor your rich neighbours: but rather the lame, and the blind, and the maimed."
Would He then produce in us a morose state of mind? Is it His will that we be unsociable, and unloving, so as not even to deem our friends and relatives worthy of that affection which |481 especially is fitting and due to them? Are we to pay no regard to those who are near us in affection and love? Does He forbid the rights of hospitality? But how is it not absurd and ignorant to imagine that He contradicts His own laws? What then does He wish to teach? Something perhaps like what follows; Those who possess great store of wealth make much account, so to speak, of a constant display and ostentation. For oftentimes they bring men to banquet with them, and make entertainments at vast cost, with curiously prepared viands, and such as do not escape the blame of prodigality. And this it is their custom to do, in order to gain the praises and applause of their guests. And in receiving the praises of their flatterers, as the wages, so to speak, of their extravagance, they rejoice greatly, as though they had gained something of value. For it is the habit of flatterers to praise oven those things which deserve blame.
For what good is there in such prodigal abundance beyond what necessity requires? For as Christ Himself somewhere said, "Few things are needful, or one," for the necessary appeasing of the wants of the body. That we may escape therefore the danger of losing the reward of our outlay, by expending our wealth in such pursuits as will bear good fruit, He has commanded us to invite the poor, and the maimed, and the blind, and those who are suffering under other bodily maladies; that by our liberality in so doing, we may attain to the hope that comes from above from God.
The lesson therefore which He teaches us is love unto the poor, which is a thing precious in the sight of God. Do you feel pleasure in being praised when you have any friends of relatives feasting with you? I tell you of something far better: angels shall praise your bounty, and the rational powers above, and holy men as well: and He too shall accept it Who transcends all, and Who loves mercy and is kind. Lend unto Him fearing nothing, and you shall receive with usury whatever you gave: "for he, it says, who has pity on the poor lends unto God." He acknowledged the loan, and promises repayment. "For when the Son of man, He says, shall come in the glory of His Father, with the holy angels, and shall sit upon the throne of His glory, He shall set the sheep upon His right hand, and the goats upon His left. |482
And He shall say to them on His right hand, Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me meat: I was thirsty and you gave Me drink: I was naked and you covered Me: sick and you visited Me: in prison, and you came unto Me. And to this He added, Verily I say unto you, that whatsoever you have done to one of these little ones, you have done unto Me." The outlay therefore is not unfruitful: rather shall compassion upon the poor make your wealth breathe forth a sweet savour. Purchase the grace that comes from God; buy for your friend the Lord of heaven and earth: for verily we oftentimes purchase men's friendship with large sums of gold, and if those of high rank are reconciled unto us, we feel great joy in offering them presents even beyond what we can afford, because of the honour which accrues to us from them. And yet these things are but transitory, and quickly fade away, and are like the phantasies of dreams.
But to be members of God's household, must we not count that as a thing worth the gaining; and esteem it as of the highest importance? For certainly after the resurrection from the dead we must stand in Christ's presence; and there a recompense shall of necessity be made to the compassionate and merciful: but a condemnation commensurate with their deeds shall be the lot of those who were harsh and without mutual love; for it is written, "that there is judgment without mercy for those who have showed no mercy." And if so, how is it not the proof and perfection of a sound mind, that before we descend to the pit of torment we should take forethought for our life? For come, and let us discuss this among ourselves. Suppose that for some cause or other which the law condemned they had dragged us before the judges, and so a sentence such as our offences deserved had been passed upon us after our conviction; should we not with pleasure offer up our wealth to escape from all torment and punishment? And how can there be any doubt of this? For oneself is better than possessions, and life than wealth. Now we are guilty of many sins, and must give an account to the Judge of whatsoever we have done; and why then do we not deliver ourselves from judgment and the everlasting fire while time permits? And the |483 way in which to deliver ourselves is to live in virtue;----to comfort the brethren who are grieved with poverty, and open our hand wide to all who are in need, and to sympathize with the sick.
For tell me what is harder than poverty, that implacable beast of prey, that bane which no admonition can charm away, that worst of maladies, or rather more cruel than any malady? We therefore must give a helping hand to those who are suffering under it: we must open wide to them our heart, and not pass by their lamentation. For suppose a savage beast of prey had sprung upon some wayfarer, would not any one who witnessed the occurrence seize up any thing that came to hand, a stone for instance, or stick, and drive away the beast that was mercilessly rending and tearing the man fallen beneath its blow? Who is so hardhearted and full of hatred to mankind as to pass by one thus miserably perishing? And must not you own, that poverty, as I said, is more cruel than any beast of prey? Aid therefore those who are fallen under it: incline yours ear to the poor, and listen to him, as it is written, "For he, it says, who stops his ears that he may not hear the feeble, he also shall cry, and there shall be none to listen." Give that you may receive: hear that you may be heard: sow your little that you may reap much. And besides, the pleasure of the body is short and temporary, and ends in rottenness: but almsgiving and charity to the poor crown those who practise them with glory from God, and lead them to that incorruptible happiness which Christ bestows on those who love Him: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |484
14: 15-24. And when one of them that reclined at table with Him heard these things, he said unto Him, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. But He said unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many. And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for lo! all things are ready. And they at once began all of them to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go to see it: I pray you permit me to be excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them: I pray you permit me to be excused. And another said, I have taken a wife, and therefore I cannot come. And when the servant returned, he told his lord these things. Then the master of the house was angry, and said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and marketplaces of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the blind, and the lame. And the servant said, Lord, what you command is done, and yet there is room. And the lord said to his servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper.
AGAIN, the purport of the lessons laid before us obliges me to say, that the fruit of good works is praiseworthy. For not unrewarded is the toil of the saints, as they strenuously labour to lead that life which is truly worthy of admiration both with God and men. For the wise Paul writes, "For God is not unrighteous to forget your labour and your love, which you have showed unto His Name." And again in another place he uses similar words, "For the lightness, he says, of our present affliction works for us abundantly and in a higher degree an eternal greatness of glory, when we look not at the things which are seen, but at those which are not seen; for the things which are seen are those of time, but the things which are not seen are for eternity." For the things of time are those of |485 earth; and these we say are what are here called "the things which are seen:" but those which are to come, and which at present are not seen, but consist in those hopes which, are with God, are stored up for us in mansions that cannot be shaken.
And who they are for whom these things are prepared, and unto whom they will be given, the Saviour has here shown, portraying as in a picture by the parable set before us, the nature and efficacy of the dispensation. It is necessary however for me first to say what was the occasion which led to this discourse.
Our Lord then was feasting at a certain Pharisee's, in company with many others assembled there, the friends of him who had bidden them to the entertainment, and the sharers of his sentiments. There again the Saviour of all, to benefit those who were gathered there,----for He loves mercy rather, and not honour and vainglory;----perfected him that invited them, by not permitting him to make lavish expense, or aim at what was beyond his means, to gain the praise of men. For He said, "When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, nor further, any others who are rich and your neighbours: but rather the poor, and the maimed, and the blind. For those, He said, who so act shall be blessed at the resurrection of the just." Upon which one of those who were reclining with them at meat, on hearing words thus excellent, said, "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God." Probably however this man was not as yet spiritual, but rather animal, nor fitted to understand correctly what was spoken by Christ: for he was not one of those who believed, nor had he as yet been baptized. For he supposed that the rewards of the saints, for their mutual labours of love, would be in things pertaining to the body. Because then they were too dull in heart to comprehend a precise idea, Christ frames for them a parable which with sufficient appositeness sets forth the nature of the dispensation about to be instituted for their sakes: and says, "A certain man made a great supper, and bade many. And he sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come, for lo! all things are ready."
And here let us first of all inquire, what was the reason why it is rather to a supper than a dinner that the guests were |486 invited; or rather, even before this, who is to be understood by the man who sent one to invite to the supper; and who also is the inviter, and who in fine they are who were invited, but despised the summons.
By the man therefore is to be understood God the Father. For similitudes are formed to represent the truth, and are by no means the truth themselves. He therefore, the Creator of the universe, and the Father of glory, made a great supper, that is, a festival for the whole world, in honour of Christ. In the last times then of the world, and. so to speak, at this our world's setting, the Son arose for us: at which time also He suffered death for our sakes, and gave us His flesh to eat, as being the bread from heaven, Which gives life to the world. Towards evening also, and by the light of torches, the lamb was sacrificed, according to the law of Moses. And therefore with good reason the invitation that is by Christ is called a supper.
And next, who is he that was sent, and who it also says was a slave? Perchance Christ Himself: for though God the Word is by nature God, and the very Son of God the Father, from Whom He was manifested, yet He emptied Himself, to take the form of a slave. As being therefore God of God He is Lord of all; but one may justly apply the appellation of a slave to the limits of His humanity. Yet though He had taken, as I said, the form of a slave, He was even so Lord as being God.
And when was He sent? At supper time, it says. For it was not at the commencement of this world that the only-begotten Word of the Father descended from heaven, and was in form like unto us; but rather when the Omnipotent Himself willed it, even in these latter times, as also we have already said.
And what was the nature of the invitation? "Come: for lo! all things are ready." For God the Father has prepared in Christ for the inhabitants of earth those gifts which are bestowed upon the world through Him, even the forgiveness of sins, the cleansing away of all defilement, the communion of the Holy Spirit, the glorious adoption as sons, and the kingdom of heaven. Unto these blessings Christ invited by the commandments of the gospel Israel before all others. For somewhere He has even said by the voice of the Psalmist; "But I have been set as a king by Him; that is, by God the Father; |487 upon Zion His holy mount, to preach the commandment of the Lord." And again, "I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
And their determination then, was it for their own good? Did they regard with admiration the gentleness of Him Who bade them, and the office of Him Who ministered the call? Not so: for "they began, it says, all of them at once to make excuse:" that is, as with one purpose, without any delay, they made excuse. "For the first said, I have bought a field, and I must needs go to see it: I pray you, permit me to be excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them: I pray you, permit me to be excused. And another said, I have taken a wife, and therefore I cannot come." You perceive that by senselessly giving themselves up to these earthly matters, they cannot see things spiritual; for being overcome by the love of the flesh, they are far from holiness, and are covetous and greedy after wealth. They seek those things which are below, but make no account, no not in the slightest degree, of those hopes which are stored up with God. Far better would it have been instead of earthly fields to gain the joys of paradise: and instead of transitory tillage, for this was the object of the yokes of oxen, to gather the fruits of righteousness. For it is written, "Sow for yourselves righteousness; gather as vintage the fruit of life." Was it not their duty rather, instead of the carnal procreation of children, to have chosen spiritual fruitfulness? For the one is subject unto death and corruption: the other is an eternal and abiding; affluence for the saints.
When then the householder heard their refusal, he was angry, it says; and commanded that from the streets and marketplaces of the city there should be gathered the poor, and the maimed, and the blind, and the lame. And who then are to be understood by those who for the sake, as I said, of lands, and tillage, and the carnal procreation of children, refused to come? Certainly it must be those, who stood at the head of the Jewish synagogue; men with wealthy purses, the slaves of covetousness, with their mind set on lucre, on which they lavished all their earnestness. For so to speak throughout |488 the whole of inspired Scripture, one may see them blamed for this very thing.
Those then who were superior in station to the mass of the common people did not submit themselves to Christ, when, saying unto them, "Take My yoke upon you:" they rejected the invitation: they did not accept the faith; they remained away from the feast; and scorned the great supper by their hardened disobedience. For that the scribes and Pharisees did not believe in Christ, is manifest by what He says unto them, "You have taken away the key of knowledge: you enter not in yourselves: and those that are entering you have hindered." In their stead therefore those were called who were in the streets and market-places, who belonged, that is, to the Jewish common people, whose mind was sickly, and infirm, and dark, and halting: for such one may consider to be blind and lame. But they became strong and whole in Christ: they learnt to walk uprightly, and received the divine light into their mind. And that a multitude of the Jews not easy to number believed, one may learn from the Acts of the Apostles.
When then those, it says, who were in the streets had been called, he whose office it was to bid them to the supper said to the householder, "Still there is room. And the lord said to his servant. Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that no one of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper."
Here observe, I pray, the calling of the Gentiles after that the Israelites had entered by faith.. For in old time the Gentiles were boorish in mind, and uncultivated in understanding, and so to say, outside the city, as living in lawlessness, and more like cattle than men, and with little use of reason. And on this account he who invites to the supper is sent unto the highways, outside the city, and to the hedges in the fields: |489 moreover he is commanded by him who seat him not merely to invite, and offer them exhortation only, but even to compel them. And yet in all men faith is a voluntary act, and by attaining unto it of their own free will, men are acceptable unto God, and largely endowed with His gifts. How then are men compelled? Yes, this also was said advisedly. For it was necessary, absolutely necessary for the Gentiles, as being fettered by an intolerable tyranny, and fallen under the yoke of the devil, and caught, so to speak, in the indissoluble meshes of their sins, and utterly ignorant of Him Who by nature and verily is God, that their calling should be very urgent, resembling the use of force, that they might be able to look up unto God, and taste the sacred doctrines, and leave off their former error, and spring away as it were from the hand of Satan. For Christ also said, "No man can come unto Me except My Father Who sent Me drag him." But dragging implies that the calling is an act of power such as God only can exercise. And the blessed David is also found addressing God in similar terms respecting them, "With bridle and bit shall You restrain the jaws of those that draw not near unto You." You see how the God of all as with a bridle turns unto Himself those who fiercely have departed from Him: for He is good and loving unto mankind, and wills that all men should be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.
The chiefs therefore of the Israelitish populace remained aloof from the supper, as being obdurate and proud and disobedient, and scorned so surpassing an invitation, because they had turned aside to earthly things, and fixed their mind upon the vain distractions of this world. But the vulgar multitude was called in, and after them immediately and without delay the Gentiles. For when our Lord Jesus Christ arose from the dead, He cried out unto the holy apostles saying, " All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth: go make disciples of all nations, baptizing you them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: and teaching you them to observe all those things that I have commanded you: and lo! I am with you every day even unto the end of the world." |490
14:25-35. And great multitudes went with Him: and He turned and said unto them; Whosoever cometh unto Me, and hates not his father and his mother, and his wife, and his children, and his brethren, and his sisters: yes, and his own self also, he cannot be My disciple. And whosoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple. For which of you, that wishes to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, to see whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king going to make war with another king, sits not down first and consider, whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? And if he be not, while the other is yet afar off, he sends ambasssadors, and asks conditions of peace. So therefore every one of you that forsakes not all his possessions, cannot be My disciple. Halt therefore is good: but if the salt have no savour, with what shall it be seasoned? It is useful neither for the land, nor yet for the dunghill: they cast it out. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.
THOSE who command warlike armies, and have won for themselves martial glory, whenever the time for battle has arrived, instruct the troops under their orders in what way, arraying themselves manfully against the phalanxes of the enemy, they will gain a triumphant victory. And the Saviour of all, imitating the skilfulness of those here mentioned, very clearly shows unto all who would follow Him, the pathway of spiritual manfulness: that advancing with unrestrainable impetuosity unto every triumph of piety, and exerting a stern and irresistible earnestness, they may win by a just decree the right of being with Him, and following Him.
This lesson then clearly teaches us, what sort of persons He |491 would have us to be. "For whosoever comes unto Me, He says, and hates not his father and his mother, and his wife and his children, and his brethren, and his sisters, yes, and his own self also, cannot be My disciple." 'What then, O Lord, some perchance may say, do You despise the laws of natural affection? Do You command us to hate one another, and to disregard the love that is due to fathers from their sons, to wives from their husbands, to brethren from their brethren? Shall we make those enemies who are members of the same household; and those, whom it is our duty rather to love, must we count as foes, in order that we may be with you, and be able to follow you?'
This is not what the Saviour means. Away with so vain a a thought. For He Who commands even those who are violent enemies to be gentle, and forgiving to all who would do them wrong: for, "Love, He says, your enemies: and pray for them that spoil you:" how could He wish us to hate those who are born of the same family, and to disregard the honour due to parents, and think nothing of despising our brethren; yes! and our own children also, and even our own self? For He, Who has pronounced condemnation even upon those who disregard the law of mutual love, could not wish His friends to cherish a savage, and so to speak, a desperate state of minds. What however He does wish to teach in these commands is plain to those who can understand from what is said in another place expressly upon the same subject. "For he that loves, He says, father or mother more than Me, is not worthy of Me: and he that loves son or daughter more Me, is not worthy of Me." By adding then "more than Me," it is plain that He permits us to love, but not more than we do Him. For He demands for Himself our chief affection; and that very justly: for the love of God in those who are perfect in mind has something in it superior both to |492 the honour due to parents, and to the natural affection felt for children.
"We must explain however what the occasion was which directed our Lord's words to this subject. The passage then read from the Gospel at our last meeting described the celebration of a great supper, unto which many were invited by him who gave the feast. But they were men indifferent to it: for "they made excuse, it says, with one accord, and said, one that he had bought a field, and must needs go to see it: and another, that he had bought five yoke of oxen: and a third again, that he had married a wife:" and by employing these feigned excuses, they vexed him who invited them. We are therefore given most clearly to understand, that when God calls us unto Him, to make us partakers of His bounty, we must disregard the lusts that are of the flesh, and minister to the flesh, and set no value whatsoever upon the things of this world, but exerting all our force must advance unto those things which will never have to be abandoned, and which fill us with all blessedness, as God bestows with bounteous hand upon us His gifts, and like one welcoming us to a costly banquet, admits us to the right of rejoicing with the rest of the saints in the hope of future blessings. For the things of earth, are but of little value and last only for a time, and belong to the flesh solely, which is the victim of corruption: but those things which are divine and spiritual constantly and without ceasing accompany those who have once been counted worthy of receiving them, and reach onwards to unending worlds. What value therefore will men of sense set upon earthly farms, or the love of carnal pleasure, or the respect due to kinsmen in the flesh, if it be laid down that for love's sake unto Christ, we must disregard all these things that have been named? For many instances have there been of men desirous of a blameless life, who even after touching, so to speak, the dust of the palaestra, and making trial of the combats therein, and all but attaining to the right of receiving the crown of the heavenly calling, have been drawn backward, as it were, either from regard to relatives, or from being too weak to bear a struggle of endurance, or from being entangled in the snares of carnality, and foolishly preferring present pleasure to the |493 blessings laid up in hope. Many too the feav of death has terrified, and when the season called them unto persecutions, that being proved they might receive the crown of incorruption, they have denied the faith, have avoided, that is, the duty of suffering patiently, and having shown themselves weak and cowardly, have fallen from their steadfastness. To work in us therefore a mind incapable of being broken, and make us careless of every worldly matter for our love of Him, He commands us to hate even our relatives according to the flesh, and our own self also, if, as I have just said, the season call us thereto.
And next He uses two examples, to encourage unto an invincible fortitude those who are His friends, and to establish in an unwavering zeal those whose desire it is to attain to honours by patience and endurance. "For if, says He, any one wish to build a tower, he reckons first if he have means sufficient to finish it, lest when he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, men laugh at him." For those whose choice it is to lead a glorious and blameless life ought to store up beforehand in their mind a zeal sufficient thereunto, and to remember him who says, "My son, if you draw near to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for every temptation: make your heart straight, and endure.'" But those who have no such zeal, how will they be able to reach the mark that is set before them?
"Or what king, He says, wishing to make war with another king, does not consider with himself, whether with his ten thousand he can prevail over one who is more mighty than himself?" And what does this mean? "Our wrestle is not against blood and flesh, but against governments; against empires; against the worldholders of this darkness; against wicked spirits in the heavenly regions." We have too a crowd, as it were, of other enemies, the carnal mind, the law that rages in our members, passions of many kinds, the lust of pleasure, the lust of the flesh, the lust of wealth, and others: with these we must wrestle; this is our savage troop of enemies. How therefore shall we conquer? By believing that "in God we shall do valiantly, as Scripture says, and He shall bring to naught those that oppress us:" In this confidence one of the holy prophets said, "Behold the Lord helps |494 me: who shall make me ashamed?" And the divine David also sings, "The Lord is my light, and my Saviour: whom shall I fear? The Lord is the helper of my life, at whom shall I tremble?" For He is our strength, and by Him we shall gain victory: for He has given unto us to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy. As therefore He says, "Salt is good: but if the salt be tasteless, with what can it be seasoned? It is cast out," He says. Let there be therefore, He proceeds, salt in you," that is, the divine words which bring salvation: but which if we despise, we become without savour, and foolish, and utterly useless. Such things must the congregation of the saints cast out, by the gift unto them of mercy and love from Christ, the Saviour of us all; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |495
15:1-10. Now all the publicans and sinners used to draw near unto Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured, saying, This man receives sinners, and eats with them. And He spoke this parable unto them, saying, What man of you having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it. And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he has come home, he calls together his friends and his neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me: for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. Or what woman having ten drachms, if she lose one of them, does not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and search diligently till she find it. And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me: for I have found the drachm which I had lost. Likewise I say unto you, that there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner that repents.
YOU have no doubt attended here also to what has been read; you have wondered with me at the Saviour's words: have you also understood it thoroughly and spiritually, and fixed the searching eye of the mind upon its profounder interpretation? Has the sense of what has been said been caught by you? Or possibly has the word, after having rung in your hearing, flown away, and nothing settled there that would be to your profit. But as I imagine, in that you are believers, and love instruction, the Saviour illumines your understanding. For He it is "Who reveals the deep things of darkness, and puts the light of understanding in the hearts of those that love Him."
The two parables then that follow close upon one another depict to us an image of the divine gentleness, being both of |496 similar meaning, and, so to say, at concord with one another. But the senseless Jew is openly reproved, for refusing in every way to understand the great and profound mystery of the Incarnation. From him it was completely hidden, that God the Father sent the Son from heaven, not "to judge the world," as He Himself declares, but that the world might be saved through Him. In what manner then was it fitting for the world to be saved, which had been caught in the meshes of sin, and proved guilty of the charge of wickedness, and that was subject to a cruel tyrant, even Satan? Was it by demanding of it punishment, for having fallen into transgression and sin? Or was it not rather by helping it, in that God is long-suffering, and ready, so to speak, to cover over in forgetfulness those things wherein man had transgressed, and to renew unto holiness of life those who know not how to live uprightly?
Tell me therefore, O Pharisee, why you murmur, because Christ disdained not to be with publicans and sinners, but purposely provided for them this means of salvation? To save men He yielded Himself to emptiness, and became in fashion like unto us, and clothed Himself in human poverty. And do you then blame the dispensation of the Only-begotten in the flesh? Do you find fault with His humbling Himself from above in heaven, Who transcends all? Nay, leave you not the very Incarnation without censure? And yet the holy prophets wondered at the beautiful skill of the mystery. For the prophet David in the Psalms declares, "Sing you with understanding: God has set a King over all the nations." And the prophet Habakkuk says, "That he heard His hearing, and was afraid: and that he considered also His doings, and was astonished." How therefore are you not ashamed of blaming those things which you ought to have admired? Would you have the Lord of all stern and inexorable, or good rather and kind to men? The family upon earth had gone astray: it had wandered from the hand of the chief shepherd: and therefore He Who feeds the flocks above in heaven, became like unto us, that He might make us also dwell in His folds:----that He might unite us to those who had never gone astray, and drive from us the beast of prey, and ward off like some impious band of robbers those impure demons, who had led astray all beneath the sky. |497
He sought therefore that which was lost: and, to show that the Jewish fault-finding on this account was vain, He says unto them, "What man of you having a hundred sheep, and having lost one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go to seek that which is lost. And if it chance to be found, he rejoices in it, He says, more than in those that went not astray." Understand from this, my beloved, the wide extent of the Saviour's kingdom, and the multitude past numbering of His subjects, and the skilful plan of the dispensation towards us. For the sheep, He says, are a hundred, so making the number of His subjects mount up to a multitude complete and altogether perfect. For constantly, so to speak, a hundred is a perfect number, being composed of ten times ten. And we have learnt also from the divinely-inspired Scripture, that a "thousand thousands minister to God, and ten thousand times ten thousand stand around His lofty throne." The sheep therefore are a hundred: and of them one has gone astray, even the family upon earth; which also the chief Shepherd of all sought, having left in the wilderness those ninety and nine. Was it therefore because He had no regard for the many, that mercy was shown to the one only? No! not because He had no regard for them; that were impossible: but because they are in security, guarded by His Almighty hand. It was right therefore that mercy should rather be shown to that which was lost, that evidently nothing might be wanting to that other multitude, but the one being restored thereto, the hundred might regain its beauty.
The search therefore after that which was lost was no act of contempt towards those who had not erred, but one of grace and mercy and love to mankind fit for the supreme and transcendent nature to bestow on His fallen creatures.
For come, and let us examine the matter by the help also of another example, in order that we may at all times defend the incomparable gentleness of Christ, the Saviour of us all. For let it be supposed that in one house there are many inmates, of |498 whom it so chances that one falls ill. For whom then are those skilled in healing summoned? Is it not for him only who has fallen ill? But it is not through any disregard of the many, that those who have been called in to heal attend only to him who is sick, and give him the benefit of their skill, as the time and his need require. In like manner therefore it was worthy, right worthy of God, Who rules over all, to stretch out His saving hand to that which had gone astray. The wild beast had seized it: it had led the family upon earth astray from the pasture, and had hurried it into all misery. The chief Shepherd saved it: for He sought that which had wandered, and has established for us a fold, unassailable and impregnable against wild boasts and robbers, even the Church; in admiration of which we may say, in the words of the prophet, "Behold, we have a strong and secure city: He will place (for us) a wall and rampart."
And the sense of the parable which immediately follows is exactly similar, in which, He says, that 'a woman who had ten drachms lost one of them, and having lit a lamp and found it, rejoiced greatly therein, and made it a reason for special joy.' By the former parable therefore, in which the wandering sheep signified the family upon earth, we learnt, that we are the property of God over all, in that He it is Who brought into existence those things which previously had no existence. For "He made us, and not we ourselves," as it is written. And "He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand." And by this second parable, in which that which was lost is compared to a drachma, and that again as one out of ten, that is of a perfect number, and of a sum complete in the reckoning;----for the number ten also is perfect, being the close of the series from the unit upwards;----it is clearly shown, that we are in the royal likeness and image, even that of God over all. For the drachma is, I suppose, the denarius, on which is stamped the royal likeness, |499 That we then who had fallen, and, so to speak, been lost, have been found by Christ, and transformed by holiness and righteousness into His image, how can any one doubt, when the blessed Paul has thus written, "But we all, with open face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as of the Lord the Spirit." And he sends to the Galatians also in these words, "My children, of whom I am again in labour, until Christ is formed in you."
A search then was made for that which had fallen, for which purpose the woman lighted a lamp. For we were found, as I said, by the wisdom of God the Father, Which is the Son, when the divine and intellectual light shone upon us, and the sun arose, and "the day star ascended, and the day dawned," according to the Scripture. For God also has somewhere said by one of the holy prophets of Christ the Saviour of us all, "My righteousness quickly approaches, and My mercy to be revealed, and My salvation shall burn as a lamp." And He says of Himself, at one time, "I am the light of the world:" and again at another, "I am come a light into this world: he that follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall possess the light of life." By the light therefore that which was lost is saved, and there was joy thereby to the powers above. For they rejoice even in one sinner that repents, as He has taught us Who knows all things. If they then keep festival over one who is saved, in unison altogether with the divine purpose, and laud with never-ceasing praises the Saviour's gentleness, with how great joy must they be filled, when all beneath the heaven is saved, and called by faith in Christ to the acknowledgment of the truth, having put off the pollutions of sin, and loosed its neck from the bonds of death, and escaped from blame, even the blame of its wandering and fall! For all these things we gain in Christ: by Whom, and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with, the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |500
15:11-32. And He said, A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of your goods that comes to me. And he divided unto them his substance. And not many days after, the younger son gathered every thing together, and journeyed into a far country, and there scattered his goods by riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land, and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he desired to fill his belly with the husks which the swine were eating: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my father have bread in abundance, and 1 perish here with hunger. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before you, and am no more 'worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants. And he arose and went to his father. And while He was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and his bowels yearned, and he ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And his son said unto him, My father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son. But his father said to his servants, Bring forth quickly the chief robe, and clothe him: and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and we will eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive: and was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.----Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard the sound of music and rejoicing. And he called one of the servants, and asked him what these things meant. And he said unto him, Your brother is come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and besought him. But |501 he answered and said to his father, Lo! all these years do I serve you, and never have transgressed your commandment, and you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But when this your son, who has, eaten up your wealth with harlots, is come, you have killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, My son, you are ever with me: and all that is mine is yours. But it was fitting to make merry and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and is alive: and was lost, and is found.
I HEAR one of the holy prophets trying to win unto repentance those who are far from God, and saying, "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God: for you have become weak in your iniquity. Take with you words, and return to the Lord our God." What sort of words then did he, under the influence of the Spirit, command them to take with them? Or were they not such as become those who wish to repent; such namely, as would appease God, Who is gentle, and loves mercy. For He even said by one of the holy prophets, "Return you returning children, and I will heal your breaches." And yet again by the voice of Ezekiel, "Return you altogether from your wickednesses, O house of Israel. Cast away from you all your iniquities which you have committed, that they be not to you for a punishment of iniquity. For I have no pleasure in the death of the sinner, as that he should turn from his evil way and live." And the same truth Christ here also teaches us, by this most beautifully composed parable, which I will now to the best of my ability endeavour to discuss, briefly gathering up its broad statements, and explaining and defending the ideas which it contains.
It is the opinion then of some, that by the two sons are signified the holy angels, and we the dwellers upon earth: and that the elder one, who lived soberly, represents the company of the holy angels, while the younger and profligate son is the human race. And there are some among us who give it a different explanation, arguing that by the elder and well conducted son is signified Israel after the flesh: while by the other, whose choice it was to live in the lust of pleasures, and who removed far from his father, is depicted the company of |502 the Gentiles. With these explanations I do not agree: but I would have him who loves instruction, search after that which is true and unobjectionable. What then I say is as follows, "giving occasions to the wise, and to the just offering knowledge," as Scripture commands: for they will examine for a fitting meaning the explanations proposed to them. If then we refer the upright son to the person of the holy angels, we do not find him speaking such words as become them, nor sharing their feelings towards repentant sinners, who turn from an impure life to that conduct which is worthy of admiration. For the Saviour of all and Lord says, that "there is joy in heaven before the holy angels over one sinner that repents." But the son, who is described to us in the present parable as being acceptable unto his father, and leading a blameless life, is represented as being angry, and as even having proceeded so far in his unloving sentiments as to find fault with his father for his natural affection for him who was saved. "For he would not, it says, go into the house," being vexed at the reception of the penitent almost before he had come to his senses, and because there had even been slain the calf in his honour, and his father had made for him a feast. But this, as I said, is at variance with the feelings of the holy angels: for they rejoice and praise God when they see the inhabitants of the earth being saved. For so when the Son submitted to be born in the flesh of a woman at Bethlehem, they carried the joyful news to the shepherds, saying, "Fear you not: for behold I bring you glad tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people, that there is born to you today in the city of David a Saviour Who is Christ the Lord." And crowning with lauds and praises Him Who was born, they said, "Glory to God in the highest, and upon earth peace, and among men good-will."
But if any one say, that Israel according to the flesh is meant by the virtuous and sober son, we are again prevented from assenting to this opinion by the fact, that in no way whatsoever is it fitting to say of Israel that he chose a blameless life. For throughout the whole of the inspired Scripture, so to say, we may see them accused of being rebels and disobedient. For they were told by the voice of Jeremiah, "What fault have your fathers found in Me, that they have |503 wandered far from Me, and have gone after vanities, and become vain?" And in similar terms God somewhere spoke by the voice of Isaiah, "This people draws near unto Me; with their lips they honour Me, but their heart is very far from Me: but in vain do they fear Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." And how then can any one apply to those who are thus blamed the words used in the parable of the virtuous and sober son? For he said, "Lo! all these years do I serve you, and never have I transgressed your commandment." But they would not have been blamed for their mode of life, had it not been that transgressing the divine commandments, they betook themselves to a careless and polluted mode of life.
And yet again,----for I think it right to mention this also,----some would refer to the person of our Saviour that fatted calf which the father killed when his son was called unto conversion. But how then could the virtuous son, who is described as wise and prudent, and constant in his duty, and whom some even refer to the person of the holy angels, treat it as a reason for anger and vexation that the calf was slain? For one can find no proof of the powers above being grieved when Christ endured death in the flesh, and, so to speak, was slain in our behalf. Rather they rejoiced, as I said, in seeing the world saved by His holy blood. And what reason too had the virtuous son for saying "you never gave me a kid." For what blessing is wanting to the holy angels, inasmuch as the Lord of all has bestowed upon them with bounteous hand a plentiful supply of spiritual gifts? Or of what sacrifice stood they in need as regards their own state? For there was no necessity for the Emmanuel to suffer also in their behalf. But if any one imagine, as I have already said before, that the carnal Israel is meant by the virtuous and sober son, how can he say with truth "you never gave me a kid?" For whether we call it calf or kid, Christ is to be understood as the sacrifice offered for sin. But He was sacrificed, not for the Gentiles only, but that He might also redeem Israel, who by reason of his frequent transgression of the law had brought upon |504 himself great blame. And the wise Paul bears witness to this, saying, "For this reason Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people by His blood, suffered outside the gate."
What then is the object of the parable? Let us examine the occasion which led to it; for so we shall learn the truth. The blessed Luke therefore had himself said a little before of Christ the Saviour of us all, "And all the publicans and sinners drew near unto Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and Scribes murmured saying, This man receives sinners and eats " with them." As therefore the Pharisees and Scribes made this outcry at His gentleness and love to man, and wickedly and impiously blamed Him for receiving and teaching men whose lives were impure, Christ very necessarily set before them the present parable, to show them clearly this very thing, that the God of all requires even him who is thoroughly steadfast, and firm, and who knows how to live holily, and has attained to the highest praise for sobriety of conduct, to be earnest in following His will, so that when any are called unto repentance, even if they be men highly blameable, he must rejoice rather, and not give way to an unloving vexation on their account.
For we also sometimes experience something of this sort. For some there are who live a perfectly honourable and consistent life, practising every kind of virtuous action, and abstaining from every thing disapproved by the law of God, and crowning themselves with perfect praises in the sight of God and of men: while another is perhaps weak and trodden down, and humbled unto every kind of wickedness, guilty of base deeds, loving impurity, given to covetousness, and stained with all evil. And yet such a one often in old age turns unto God, and asks the forgiveness of his former offences: he prays for mercy, and putting away from him his readiness to fall into sin, sets his affection on virtuous deeds. Or even perhaps when about to close his mortal life, he is admitted to divine baptism, and puts away his offences, God being merciful unto him. And perhaps sometimes persons are indignant at |505 this, and even say, 'This man, who has been guilty of such and such actions, and has spoken such and such words, has not paid unto the judge the retribution of his conduct, but has been counted worthy of a grace thus noble and admirable: he has been inscribed among the sons of God, and honoured with the glory of the saints.' Such complaints men sometimes give utterance too from an empty narrowness of mind, not conforming to the purpose of the universal Father. For He greatly rejoices when He sees those who were lost obtaining salvation, and raises them up again to that which they were in the beginning, giving them the dress of freedom, and adorning them with the chief robe, and putting a ring upon their hand, even the orderly behaviour which is pleasing to God and suitable to the free.
It is our duty, therefore, to conform ourselves to that which God wills: for He heals those who are sick; He raises those who are fallen; He gives a helping hand to those who have stumbled; He brings back him who has wandered; He forms anew unto a praiseworthy and blameless life those who were wallowing in the mire of sin; He seeks those who were lost; He raises as from the dead those who had suffered the spiritual death. Let us also rejoice: let us, in company with the holy angels, praise Him as being good, and loving unto men; as gentle, and not remembering evil. For if such is our state of mind, Christ will receive us, by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |506
16:1-9. And He said unto His disciples, There was a certain rich man, who had a steward, and they accused him of scattering his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, What is this that I hear of you? Give up the account of your stewardship: for you can be no longer steward. And the steward said within himself What shall I do, for my lord takes away from me the stewardship? I cannot dig: and to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that when I am removed from the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called each one of his lord's debtors, and said unto the first; How much do you owe unto my lord? And he said, A hundred baths of oil. And he said unto him, Take your writing, and sit down, and write fifty quickly. And afterwards he spoke to the second, And how much do you owe? And he said, A hundred cors 2 of wheat. And he said unto him, Take your writing, and write eighty. And the lord praised the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are wise in their generation more than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make for yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon: that when it has failed, they may receive you into eternal tabernacles.
OUR Lord Jesus Christ, revealing His glory to the Jewish multitudes, or rather to all those who have believed on Him, said; "I am the light of the world:" and again, "I am come a light into this world." For He fills the mind of those who fear Him with a divine and intellectual light, that they may |507 not wander from the right way by walking in gloom and darkness; but may rather know how to advance uprightly in every good work, and in whatsoever aids a man in leading a saintly life. He would have us therefore to be good, and ready to communicate, loving one another, and merciful, and adorned with the honours of charity. Most wisely therefore did He prepare for us the present parable: which we being anxious to explain to the best of our ability, of necessity speak as follows to those who love instruction.
The parables then indirectly and figuratively explain to us much that is for our edification, provided only we consider their meaning in a brief and summary manner. For we are not to search into all the parts of the parable in a subtle and prying way, lest the argument by its immoderate length weary with superfluous matter even those most fond of hearing, and tire men with a crowd of words. For if, for instance, any one were to undertake to explain, who is to be regarded by us as the man who had a steward, who was accused unto him; or who possibly it is that accused him; and who too those are who owed the debts, and subtracted a portion from them; and for what reason one is said to have owed oil, and the other wheat; he will render his discourse at once obscure and redundant. All the parts of the parable therefore are not necessarily and in every respect useful for the explanation of the things signified, but, so to speak, have been taken to form an image of some important matter, which figuratively sets forth some lesson for the profit of the hearers.
The sense therefore of the present parable is something like the following: "The God of all wills that all men should be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." For this reason "He also gave the law for a help," according to the expression of the prophet. And the law in such passages we say means, not of course that which was ministered by Moses, but rather the whole inspired Scripture, by means of which we learn the path which leads straight unto every good and saving thing. The Lord of all therefore requires us to be thoroughly constant in our exertions after virtue, and to fix our desires upon the better and holy life, setting ourselves free |508 from the distractions of the world, and from all love of riches, and of the pleasure which wealth brings, that we may serve Him continually, and with undivided affections. For He also says by the harp of the Psalmist; "Be constant, and know that I am God." And further, by His own mouth, the Saviour of all says to those who possess worldly riches, "Sell your possessions, and give alms: make for you purses that grow not old: a treasure for ever, unfailing in heaven." Now the commandment is indeed for our salvation, but the mind of man is very weak, fixed constantly, so to speak, upon things which are of earth chiefly, and unwilling to withdraw itself from the delight of riches. It loves vain boasting; is soothed much by the praises of flatterers; longs for beautiful equipments, and counts nothing better than temporal honour. And knowing this, the Saviour has Himself somewhere said of them, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" And further, "that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man into the kingdom of God." For as long as a man lives in wealth and pleasure, he is careless about piety to God. For wealth renders men contemptuous, and sows in the minds of those that possess it the seeds of all voluptuousness.
Is there then no way of salvation for the rich, and no means of making them partakers of the hope of the saints? Have they fallen completely from God's grace? Is hell and the fire necessarily prepared for them, such as is the fitting lot of the devil and his angels? Not so: for lo! the Saviour has shown them a means of salvation in the present parable. They have been entrusted with worldly wealth by the merciful permission of Almighty God: according nevertheless to His intention |509 they have been appointed stewards for the poor. But they discharge not their stewardship rightly, in that they scatter, so to speak, what has been given them of the Lord: for they waste it solely on their pleasures, and purchase temporal honours, not remembering God, Who says, "You shall open wide your mercy unto your brother, even to him that has need of you." Nor moreover Christ Himself, the Saviour of us all, Who says, "Be you merciful, even as your Father Who is in heaven is merciful.'' But they, as I said, make no account whatsoever of showing mercy to their brethren, but study only their own pride. And this it is which accuses them before the Lord of all. And of course upon the approach of death they must cease from their stewardship, withdrawing them as it does from human affairs. For the net of death no man can escape from. What therefore would Christ have them to do? It is, that while they are yet in this world, if they are unwilling to divide all their wealth among the poor, that at least they should gain friends by a part of it; and numerous witnesses to their charitableness, even those who have received well at their hands: that when their earthly wealth fails them, they may gain a place in their tabernacles. For it is impossible for love to the poor ever to remain unrewarded. Whether therefore a man give away all his wealth, or but a part, he will certainly benefit his soul.
It is an act therefore that becomes the saints, and is worthy of perfect praises, and that wins the crowns above, to set no store by earthly wealth, but distributing it among those that are in need, to gather rather that which is in heaven, and obtain purses that grow not old, and possess a treasure that fails not: and next in order comes the employment of a sort of artifice, so as to obtain those for friends who are especially near unto God, by giving them some portion of their wealth, and comforting the many who are afflicted with poverty, that so they may share what is theirs. And something of this sort the very wise Paul also advises, saying unto those who love wealth: "Let your abundance be for their want, that their abundance also may be for your want."
It is our duty therefore, if we are right-minded; if we fix the eye of the mind on what will be hereafter; if we remember |510 the sacred Scripture, which says plainly, "that we shall all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive retribution for the things done by means of the body, according to that he has done, whether good or bad;" if we fear the cruel and unappeasable flame; to remember God, Who requires us to show mercy upon the brethren, to suffer with those that are sick, to open our hand wide to those that are in need, and to honour the saints, of whom Christ says, "He that receives you receives Me: and he that receives Me, receives Him That sent Me." For that mercy towards the brethren is not without profit and benefit, the Saviour Himself teaches us, saying; "Whosoever shall give only a cup of cold [water] to drink in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward." For the Saviour of all is bounteous in giving: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |511
16:10-13. He that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in little, is unjust also in much. If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will give you the true? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you, that which is your own? No servant can serve two lords: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will honour the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
THE most distinguished and experienced teachers, when they wish to fix any important doctrine deep in the minds of their disciples, omit no kind of reasoning able to throw light upon the chief object of their thoughts; at one time weaving arguments together, at another employing apposite examples, and so gathering from every quarter whatever is serviceable for their use. And this we find Christ also, Who is the Giver unto us of all wisdom, doing in many places. For oftentimes He repeats the very same arguments upon the subject, whatever it may be, that the mind of those who hear may be led on to an exact understanding of His words. For look again, I pray, at the purport of the lessons set before us: for so you will find our words to be true. "He that is faithful in little," He says, "is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in little, is unjust also in much."
Before, however, I proceed further, I think it would be useful to consider, what was the occasion of a discourse such as this, and from what root it sprung: for so the sense of what is |512 said will become very evident. Christ then was teaching the rich to feel especial delight in showing kindness to the poor, and in opening their hand to whoever are in need, so laying up treasures in heaven, and taking forethought for the riches that are in store. For He said, "Make for yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon: that when it has failed, they may receive you into eternal tabernacles." But as being God by nature, He well knew the slothfulness of the human mind in every earnest and good work. It escaped not His knowledge, that men, in their greediness after wealth, giving up their mind to the love of lucre, and being tyrannized over by this passion, become hard-hearted and unsympathizing with affliction, and show no kindness whatsoever to the poor, even though they have heaped up much wealth in their stores. That those therefore who are thus minded, have no share in God's spiritual gifts, He shows by most evident examples, and says, "He that is faithful in little, is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in little, is unjust also in much." O Lord, explain unto us the meaning: open You the eye of our heart. Listen therefore while He explains clearly and exactly what He said. "If therefore you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will give you the true? The little therefore is the unrighteous mammon: that is, worldly wealth, gathered often by extortion and covetousness. But those who know how to live virtuously, and thirst after the hope that is in store, and withdraw their mind from earthly things, and think rather of those things that are above, utterly disregard earthly wealth; for it offers nothing but pleasures, and voluptuousness, and base carnal lusts, and splendour that profits not, but is transitory and vain. And so one of the holy apostles teaches us, saying, "That all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of the world." But such things as these are absolutely nothing to those who lead a sober and virtuous life: for they are trifling, and temporary, and full of impurity, and provocative of the fire and judgment, and scarcely reaching to the end of the life of the body, even if they do not, when any danger suddenly befalls those that possess them, unexpectedly depart away. Christ's disciple therefore rebukes the rich, saying, "Come now, you rich men, weep, and lament over the miseries |513 that are coming upon you. Your wealth is decayed, your garments are motheaten. Your gold and your silver are rusted, and the rust of them shall be your testimony." How then are the gold and silver rusted? By being stored up in excessive abundance; and this very thing is the witness against them before the divine judgment seat, of their being unmerciful. For having gathered into their treasuries a great and unnecessary abundance, they made no account of those who were in need, although it was in their power, had they so wished, to do good easily to many; but they were not "faithful in the little."
But in what way men may become faithful, the Saviour Himself next taught us: and I will explain how. A certain Pharisee besought Him to eat bread with him on the sabbath day, and Christ consented: and having gone there, He sat down to meat: and there were many others also feasting with them. And none of them by any means resembled men who possessed nothing, but, on the contrary, they were all persons of distinction, and great haughtiness, and lovers of the foremost seats, and thirsting after vainglory, being clothed as it were in the pride of wealth. What then said Christ to His inviter? "When you make a dinner or a supper, call not your friends, nor your brethren, neither your kinsmen, nor your rich neighbours, lest they also invite you again, and a re-compense be made you. But when you make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind. And you shall be blessed, because they cannot recompense you; for you shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just." This then I think is a man's being faithful in little, that he have pity upon those who are in need, and distribute assistance from his means to such as are in extreme distress. But we, despising a way thus glorious and sure of reward, choose one dishonourable and without reward, by treating with contempt those who are in utter poverty, and refusing even sometimes to admit their words into our ears; while, on the other hand, we luxuriously provide a costly table, either for friends who live in pomp, or for those whose habit it is to praise and flatter, making our bounty an occasion for indulging our love of praise. But this was not God's purpose in permitting us to possess wealth. If therefore we are unfaithful in the little, by |514 not conforming ourselves to the will of God, and bestow the best portion of ourselves upon our pleasures and our boasts, how can we receive from Him that which is true? And what is this? The abundant bestowal of those divine gifts which adorn man's soul, and form in it a godlike beauty. This is the spiritual wealth, not that fattens the flesh, which is held by death, but rather that saves the soul, and makes it worthy of emulation, and honourable before God, and that wins for it true praises.
It is our duty therefore to be faithful unto God, pure in heart, merciful and kind, just and holy: for these things imprint in us the outlines of the divine likeness, and perfect us as heirs of eternal life. And this then is that which is true.
And that this is the purport and view of the Saviour's words, any one may readily learn from what follows. For He said, "If you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" And again, we say that which is another's is the wealth we possess. For we were not born with riches, but, on the contrary, naked; and can truly affirm in the words of Scripture, "that we neither brought anything into the world, nor can carry anything out. For the patient Job also has said something of this kind: "Naked was I born from my mother's womb; naked also shall I go onwards." It is therefore no man's own by right of nature that he is rich, and lives in abundant wealth: but it is a thing added on from without, and is a chance matter; and if it cease and perish, it in no respect whatsoever harms the definitions of human nature. For it is not by virtue of our being rich that wc are reasonable beings, and skilful in every good work: but it is the property of our nature to be capable of these things. That therefore, as I said, is another's which is not contained in the definitions of our nature, but, on the contrary, is manifestly added to us from without. But it is our own, and the property of human nature to be fitted for every good work: for as the blessed Paul writes, "We have been created unto good works, which God has before prepared, that we should walk in them."
When therefore any are unfaithful in that which is another's, in those things namely, which are added unto them from without, how shall they receive that which is their own? How, that is, shall they be made partakers of the good things which God |515 gives, which adorn the soul of man, and imprint upon it a divine beauty, spiritually formed in it by righteousness and holiness, and those upright deeds which are done in the fear of God.
Let such of us then as possess earthly wealth open our hearts to those who are in need; let us show ourselves faithful and obedient to the laws of God, and followers of our Lord's will in those things which are from without, and not our own, that we may receive that which is our own, even that holy and admirable beauty which God forms in the souls of men, fashioning them like unto Himself, according to what we originally were.
And that it is a thing impossible for one and the same person to divide himself between contraries, and still be able to live blamelessly, He shows by saying, "No man can serve two lords: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or he will honour the one, and despise the other." And this indeed is a plain and evident example, and very suitable for the elucidation of the subject before us. For that which follows is, so to speak, the conclusion of the whole argument: "for you cannot serve God and mammon." For if, He says, a man be a slave of two masters, of diverse and contrary wills, and whose minds are irreconcilable with one another, how can he please them both? For being divided in endeavouring to do that which each one approves, he is in opposition to the will of both: and so the same person must inevitably appear bad and good. If therefore, He says, he determine to be true to the one, he will hate the other, and set him of course at nought. It is not therefore possible to serve God and mammon. For the unrighteous mammon, by which wealth is signified, is a thing given up to voluptuousness, and liable to every reproach, engendering boasting, and the love of pleasure, making men stiff-necked, the friends of the wicked, and contemptuous: yes, what base vice does it not produce in them that possess it?
But the goodwill of God renders men gentle, and quiet, and lowly in their thoughts; long-suffering, and merciful, and of exemplary patience, not loving lucre, nor desirous of wealth, content with food only and raiment, and especially fleeing from "the love of money, which is the root of all evils:" joyfully |516 undertaking toils for piety's sake; fleeing from the love of pleasure, and earnestly shunning all feeling of wearisomeness in good works, while constantly they value, as that which wins them reward, the endeavour to live uprightly, and the practice of all soberness. This is that which is our own, and the true. This God will bestow on those who love poverty, and know how to distribute to those who are in need that which is another's, and comes from without, even their wealth, which also has the name of mammon.
May it then be far from the mind of each of us to be its slaves, that so we may freely and without hindrance bow the neck of our mind to Christ the Saviour of us all; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen.
1. y Cramer's Catena contains a summary of this Sermon, not found by Mai in his MSS.
2. p The bath contained about seven gallons and a half: while the cor was equal to ten baths.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, 2008. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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