Chrysostom Philippians 1200
1200 but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prizeof the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Ph 3,13-17)
1201 Nothing so renders our real excellences vain and puffs them away, as to be remembering the good deeds we have done; for this produces two evils, it both renders us remiss, and raises us to haughtiness. Wherefore see how Paul, since he knew our nature to be easily inclined to remissness, though he had given great praise to the Philippians, now subdues their mind by many other things above, but chiefly by his resent words. And what are they? “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended.” But if Paul had not as yet apprehended, and is not confident about the Resurrection and things to come, hardly should they be so, who have not attained the smallest proportion of his excellence. That is, I consider that I have not as yet apprehended all virtue, as if one were speaking of a runner. Not as yet, saith he, have I completed all. And if in another place he saith, “I have fought the good fight” (2Tm 4,7), but here, “I count myself not as yet to have apprehended ”; any one who reads carefully will well know the reason both of those, and of the present words; (for it is not necessary to dwell continually on the same point;) and that he spoke these words at a much earlier date, but the others near his death. But I am solely engaged on “one thing,” says he, “in stretching forward to the things which are before.” But “one thing,” says he, “forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” For what made him reach forward unto the things which are before, was his forgetting the things that are behind. He then, who thinks that all is accomplished, and that nothing is wanting to him for the perfecting of virtue, may cease running, as having apprehended all. But he who thinks that he is still distant from the goal, will never cease running. This then we should always consider, even though we have wrought ten thousand good deeds; for if Paul, after ten thousand deaths, after so many dangers, considered this, how much more should we? For I fainted not, saith he, although I availed not, after running so much; nor did I despair, but I still run, I still strive. This thing only I consider, that I may in truth advance. Thus too we should act, we should forget our successes, and throw them behind us. For the runner reckons not up how many circuits he hath finished, but how many are left. We too should reckon up, not how far we are advanced in virtue, but how much remains for us. For what doth that which is finished profit us, when that which is deficient is not added? Moreover he did not say, I do not reckon up, but I do not even remember. For we thus become eager, when we apply all diligence to what is left, when we give to oblivion everything else. “Stretching forward,” saith he; before we arrive, we strive to obtain. For he that stretches forward is one who, though his feet are running, endeavors to outstrip them with the rest of his body, stretching himself towards the front, and reaching out his hands, that he may accomplish somewhat more of the course. And this comes from great eagerness, from much warmth; thus the runner should run with great earnestness, with so great eagerness, without relaxation. As far as one who so runs differs from him who lies supine, so far doth Paul differ from us. He died daily, he was approved daily, there was no season, there was no time in which his course advanced not. He wished not to take, but to snatch the prize; for in this way we may take it. He who giveth the prize standeth on high, the prize is laid up on high.
1202 See how great a distance this is that must be run over! See how great an ascent! Thither we must fly upwith the wings of the Spirit, otherwise it is impossible to surmount this height. Thither must we go with the body, for it is allowed. “For our citizenship is in heaven” (Ph 3,20), there is the prize; seest thou the runners, how they live by rule, how they touch nothing that relaxes their strength, how they exercise themselves every day in the palaestra, under a master, and by rule? Imitate them, or rather exhibit even greater eagerness, for the prizes are not equal: many are those who would hinder you; live by rule: many are the things which relax your strength; make its feet agile: for it is possible so to do, it comes not naturally, but by our will. Let us bring it to lightness, lest our swiftness of foot be hindered by the weight of other things. Teach thy feet to be sure, for there are many slippery places, and if thou fallest, straightway thou losest much. But yet if thou fall, rise up again. Even thus mayst thou obtain the victory. Never attempt slippery things, and thou wilt not fall; walk upon firm ground, up with thy head, up with thine eyes; these commands the trainers give to those who run. Thus thy strength is supported; but if thou stoopest downward, thou fallest, thou art relaxed. Look upward, where the prize is; the sight of the prize increaseth the determination of our will. The hope of taking it suffereth not to perceive the toils, it maketh the distance appear short. And what is this prize? No palm branch; but what? The kingdom of heaven, everlasting rest, glory together with Christ, the inheritance, brotherhood, ten thousand good things, which it is impossible to name. It is impossible to describe the beauty of that prize; he who hath it alone knoweth it, and he who is about to receive it. It is not of gold, it is not set with jewels, it is far more precious. Gold is mire, in comparison with that prize, precious stones are mere bricks in comparison with its beauty. If thou hast this, and takest thy departure to heaven, thou wilt be able to walk there with great honor; the angels will reverence thee, when thou bearest this prize, with much confidence wilt thou approach them all. “In Christ Jesus.” See the humility of his mind; this I do, saith he, “in Christ Jesus,” for it is impossible without an impulse from Him to pass over so vast an interval: we have need of much aid, of a mighty alliance; He hath willed that thou shouldest struggle below, on high He crowns thee. Not as in this world; the crown is not here, where the contest is; but the crown is in that bright place. See ye not, even here, that the most honored of the wrestlers and charioteers are not crowned in the course below, but the king calls them up, and crowns them there? Thus too is it here, in heaven thou receivest the prize.
Ph 3,15. “Let us, therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded,” saith he. “And if in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you.” What sort of thing? That we should “forget the things which are behind.” Wherefore it belongs to him who is perfect not to consider himself perfect. How therefore sayest thou, “as many as are perfect”? For tell me, are we minded as thou art? For if thou hast not attained nor art perfected, how dost thou command those that are perfect to be so minded as thou art, who art not yet perfect? Yea, for this, saith he, is perfection. And “if ye are in anything otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you.” That is, if any one considers that he has attained all excellence. He puts them on their guard, not by speaking directly, but what saith he? “If in anything ye are otherwise minded, even this shall God reveal unto you.” See how humbly he saith this! God shall teach you, i.e. God shall persuade you, not teach you; for Paul was teaching, but God shall lead them on. And he said not, shall lead you on, but “shall reveal,” that this may rather seem to spring from ignorance. These words were spoken not concerning doctrines, but concerning perfection of life, and our not considering ourselves to be perfect, for he who considers that he hath apprehended all, hath nothing.
Ph 3,16. “Only, whereunto we have already attained, by that same rule let us walk, let us mind the same thing.”
“Only, whereunto we have attained.” What means this? Let us hold fast, he saith, that in which we have succeeded; love, concord, and peace: for in this we have succeeded. “Whereto we have attained: to walk by the same rule, to mind the same thing.” “Whereunto we have attained,” i.e. in this we have already succeeded. Seest thou, that he wills that his precepts should be a rule to us? And a rule admits neither addition, nor subtraction, since that destroys its being a rule. “By the same rule,” i.e. by the same faith, within the same limits.
Ph 3,17. “Brethren, be ye imitators of me, and mark them which so walk even as ye have us for an ensample.”
(He had said above, “beware of dogs,” from such he had led them away; he brings them near to these whom they ought to imitate. If any one, saith he, wishes to imitate me, if any one wishes to walk the same road, let him take heed to them; though I am not present, ye know the manner of my walk, that is, my conduct in life. For not by words only did he teach, but by deeds too; as in the chorus, and the army, the rest must imitate the leader of the chorus or the army, and thus advance in good order. For it is possible that the order may be dissolved by sedition.
1203 The Apostles therefore were a type, and kept throughout a certain archetypal model. Consider how entirely accurate their life was, so that they are proposed as an archetype and example, and as living laws. For what was said in their writings, they manifested to all in their actions. This is the best teaching; thus he will be able to carry on his disciple. But if he indeed speaks as a philosopher, yet in his actions doth the contrary, he is no longer a teacher. For mere verbal philosophy is easy even for the disciple: but there is need of that teaching and leading which comes of deeds. For this both makes the teacher to be reverenced, and prepares the disciple to yield obedience. How so? When one sees him delivering philosophy in words, he will say he commands impossibilities; that they are impossibilities, he himself is the first to show, who does not practice them. But if he sees his virtue fully carried out in action, he will no longer be able to speak thus. Yet although the life of our teacher be careless, let us take heed to ourselves, and let us listen to the words of the prophet; “They shall be all taught of God.” (Is 54,13) “And they shall teach no more every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me from the least of them to the greatest of them.” (Jr 31,34) Hast thou a teacher who is not virtuous? Still thou hast Him who is truly a Teacher, whom alone thou shouldest call a Teacher. Learn from Him: He hath said, “Learn of Me, for I am meek.” (Mt 11,29) Take not heed, then, to thy teacher, but to Him and to His lessons. Take thence thy examples, thou hast a most excellent model, to it conform thyself. There are innumerable models laid before thee in the Scriptures of virtuous lives; whichsoever thou wilt, come, and after the Master find it in the disciples. One hath shown forth through poverty, another through riches; for example, Elijah through poverty, Abraham through riches. Go to that example, which thou esteemest most easy, most befitting thyself to practice. Again, one by marriage, the other by virginity; Abraham by marriage, the other by virginity. Follow whichever thou wilt: for both lead to heaven. One shone forth by fasting, as John, another without fasting, as Jb Again, this latter had a care for his wife, his children, his daughters, his family, and possessed great wealth; the other possessed nothing but the garment of hair. And why do I make mention of family, or wealth, or money, when it is possible that even one in a kingdom should lay hold on virtue, for the house of a king would be found more full of trouble than any private family. David then shone forth in his kingdom; the purple and the diadem rendered him not at all remiss. To another it was entrusted to preside over a whole people, I mean Moses, which was a more difficult task, for there the power was greater, whence the difficulty too became greater. Thou hast seen men approved in wealth, thou hast seen them in poverty also, thou hast seen them in marriage, thou hast seen them in virginity too; on the contrary, behold some lost in marriage and in virginity, in wealth and in poverty. For example, many men have perished in marriage, as Samson, yet not from marriage, but from their own deliberate choice. Likewise in virginity, as the five virgins. In wealth, as the rich man, who disregarded Lazarus: in poverty, innumerable poor men even now are lost. In a kingdom, I can point to many who have perished, and in ruling the people. Wouldest thou see men saved in the rank of a soldier? there is Cornelius; and in the government of a household? there is the eunuch of the Ethiopian Queen. Thus is it universally. If we use our wealth as is fit, nothing will destroy us; but if not, all things will destroy us, whether a kingdom, or poverty, or wealth. But nothing will have power to hurt the man, who keeps well awake.
For tell me, was captivity any harm? None at all. For consider, I pray thee, Joseph, who became a slave, and preserved his virtue. Consider Daniel, and the Three Children, who became captives, and how much the more they shone forth, for virtue shineth everywhere, is invincible, and nothing can put hindrances in its way. But why make I mention of poverty, and captivity, and slavery; and hunger, and sores, and grievous disease? For disease is, more hard to endure than slavery. Such was Lazarus, such was Job, such was also Timothy, straitened by “often infirmities.” (1Tm 5,23). Thou seest that nothing can obtain the mastery over virtue; neither wealth, nor poverty, nor dominion, nor subjection, nor the preëminence in affairs, nor disease, nor contempt, nor abandonment. But having left all these things below, and upon the earth, it hastens towards Heaven. Only let the soul be noble, and nought can hinder it from being virtuous. For when he who works is in vigor, nothing external can hinder him; for as in the arts, when the artificer is experienced and persevering, and thoroughly acquainted with his art, if disease overtakes him, he still hath it; if he became poor, he still hath it; whether he hath his tools in his hand or hath them not, whether he works or worketh not, he loseth not at all his art: for the science of it is contained within him. Thus too the virtuous man, who is devoted to God, manifests his art, if you cast him into wealth, or if into poverty, if into disease, if into health, if into dishonor, if into great honor.
1204 Did not the Apostles work in every state, “By glory and dishonor, by good report and evil report”? (2Co 6,8). This is an athlete, to be prepared for everything; for such is also the nature of virtue.
If thou sayest, I am not able to preside over many, I ought to lead a solitary life; thou offerest an insult to virtue, for it can make use of every state, and shine through all: only let it be in the soul. Is there a famine?/ or is there abundance? It shows forth its own strength, as Paul saith, “I know how to abound, and how to be in want.” (Ph 4,12 Ac 28,30). Was he required to work? He was not ashamed, but wrought two years. Was hunger to be undergone? He sank not under it, nor wavered. Was death to be borne? He became not dejected, through all he exhibited his noble mind and art. Him therefore let us imitate, and we shall have no cause of grief: for tell me, what will have power to grieve such an one? Nothing. As long as no one deprives us of this art, this will be the most blessed of all men, even in this life as well as in that to come. For suppose the good man hath a wife and children, and riches, and great honor, with all these things he remaineth alike virtuous. Take them away, and again in like sort he will be virtuous, neither overwhelmed by his misfortunes, nor puffed up by prosperity, but as a rock standeth equally unmoved in the raging sea and in calm, neither broken by the waves nor influenced at all by the calm, thus too the solid mind stands firm both in calm and in storm. And as little children, when sailing in a ship, are tossed about, whilst the pilot sits by, laughing and undisturbed, and delighted to see their confusion; thus too the soul which is truly wise, when all others are in confusion, or else are inopportunely smiling at any change of circumstance, sits unmoved, as it were, at the tiller and helm of piety. For tell me, what can disturb the pious soul? Can death? This is the beginning of a better life. Can poverty? This helps her on toward virtue. Can disease? She regards not its presence. She regards neither ease, nor affliction; for being beforehand with it, she hath afflicted herself. Can dishonor? The world hath been crucified to her. Can the loss of children? She fears it not, when she is fully persuaded of the Resurrection. What then can surprise her? None of all these things. Doth wealth elevate her? By no means, she knoweth that money is nothing. Doth glory? She hath been taught that “all the glory of man is as the flower of grass.” (Is 40,6). Doth luxury? She hath heard Paul say, “She that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth.” (1Tm 5,6). Since then she is neither inflamed nor cramped, what can equal such health as this?
Other souls, meanwhile, are not such, but change more frequently than the sea, or the cameleon, so that thou hast great cause to smile, when thou seest the same man at one time laughing, at another weeping, at one time full of care, at another beyond measure relaxed and languid. For this cause Paul saith, “Be not fashioned according to this world.” (Rm 12,2). For we are citizens of heaven, where there is no turning. Prizes which change not are held out to us. Let us make manifest this our citizenship, let us thence already receive our good things. But why do we cast ourselves into the Euripus, into tempest, into storm, into foam? Let us be in calm. It all depends not on wealth, nor on poverty, nor honor, nor dishonor, nor on sickness, nor on health, nor on weakness, but on our own soul. If it is solid, and well-instructed in the science of virtue, all things will be easy to it. Even hence it will already behold its rest, and that quiet harbor, and, on its departure, will there attain innumerable good things, the which may we all attain, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, dominion, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
1300 and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is perdition, whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself.” (Ph 3,18-4,3)
1301 Nothing is so incongruous in a Christian, and foreign to his character, as to seek ease and rest; and to be engrossed with the present life is foreign to our profession and enlistment. Thy Master was crucified, and dost thou seek ease? Thy Master was pierced with nails, and dost thou live delicately? Do these things become a noble soldier? Wherefore Paul saith, “Many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Since there were some who made a pretense of Christianity, yet lived in ease and luxury, and this is contrary to the Cross: therefore he thus spoke. For the cross belongs to a soul at its post for the fight, longing to die, seeking nothing like ease, whilst their conduct is of the contrary sort. So that even if they say, they are Christ’s, still they are as it were enemies of the Cross. For did they love the Cross, they would strive to live the crucified life. Was not thy Master hung upon the tree? Do thou otherwise imitate Him. Crucify thyself, though no one crucify thee. Crucify thyself, not that thou mayest slay thyself, God forbid, for that is a wicked thing, but as Paul said, “The world hath been crucified unto me and I unto the world.” (Ga 6,14). If thou lovest thy Master, die His death. Learn how great is the power of the Cross; how many good things it hath achieved, and doth still: how it is the safety of our life. Through it all things are done. Baptism is through the Cross, for we must receive that seal. The laying on of hands is through the Cross. If we are on journeys, if we are at home, wherever we are, the Cross is a great good, the armor of salvation, a shield which cannot be beaten down, a weapon to oppose the devil; thou bearest the Cross when thou art at enmity with him, not simply when thou sealest thyself by it, but when thou sufferest the things belonging to the Cross. Christ thought fit to call our sufferings by the name of the Cross. As when he saith, “Except a man take up his cross and follow Me” (Mt 16,24), i.e. except he be prepared to die.
But these being base, and lovers of life, and lovers of their bodies, are enemies of the Cross. And every one, who is a friend of luxury, and of present safety, is an enemy of that Cross in which Paul makes his boast: which he embraces, with which he desires to be incorporated. As when he saith, “I am crucified unto the world, and the world unto me.” But here he saith, “I now tell you weeping.” Wherefore? Because the evil was urgent, because such deserve tears. Of a truth the luxurious are worthy of tears, who make fat that which is thrown about them, I mean the body, and take no thought of that soul which must give account. Behold thou livest delicately, behold thou art drunken, to-day and to-morrow, ten years, twenty, thirty, fifty, a hundred, which is impossible; but if thou wilt, let us suppose it. What is the end? What is the gain? Nought at all. Doth it not then deserve tears, and lamentations, to lead such a life; God hath brought us into this course, that He may crown us, and we take our departure without doing any noble action. Wherefore Paul weepeth, where others laugh, and live in pleasure. So sympathetic is he: such thought taketh he for all men. “Whose god,” saith he, “is the belly.” For this have they a God! That is, “let us eat and drink!” Dost thou see, how great an evil luxury is? to some their wealth, and to others their belly is a god. Are not these too idolaters, and worse than the common? And their “glory is in their shame.” (1Co 15,32). Some say it is circumcision. I think not so, but this is its meaning, they make a boast of those things, of which they ought to be ashamed. It is a fearful thing to do shameful actions; yet to do them, and be ashamed, is only half so dreadful. But where a man even boasts himself of them, it is excessive senselessness.
Do these words apply to them alone? And do those who are here present escape the charge? And will no one have account to render of these things? Does no one make a god of his belly, or glory in his shame? I wish, earnestly I wish, that none of these charges lay against us, and that I did not know any one involved in what I have said. But I fear lest the words have more reference to us than to the men of those times. For when one consumes his whole life in drinking and reveling, and expends some small trifle on the poor, whilst he consumes the larger portion on his belly, will not these words with justice apply to him?
1302 No words are more apt to call attention, or more cutting in reproof, than these: “Whose god is the belly, whose glory is in their shame.” And who are these? They, he says, who mind earthly things. “Let us build houses.” Where, I ask? On the earth, they answer. Let us purchase farms; on the earth again: let us obtain power; again on the earth: let us gain glory; again on the earth: let us enrich ourselves; all these things are on the earth. These are they, whose god is their belly; for if they have no spiritual thoughts, but have all their possessions here, and mind these things, with reason have they their belly for their god, in saying, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” And about thy body, thou grievest, tell me, that it is of earth, though thus thou art not at all injured. But thy soul thou draggest down to the earth, when thou oughtest to render even thy body spiritual; for thou mayest, if thou wilt. Thou hast received a belly, that thou mayest feed, not distend it, that thou mayest have the mastery over it, not have it as mistress over thee: that it may minister to thee for the nourishment of the other parts, not that thou mayest minister to it, not that thou mayest exceed limits. The sea, when it passes its bounds, doth not work so many evils, as the belly doth to our body, together with our soul. The former overfloweth all the earth, the latter all the body. Put moderation for a boundary to it, as God hath put the sand for the sea. Then if its waves arise, and rage furiously, rebuke it, with the power which is in thee. See how God hath honored thee, that thou mightest imitate Him, and thou wilt not; but thou seest the belly overflowing, destroying and overwhelming thy whole nature, and darest not to restrain or moderate it.
“Whose God,” he saith, “is their belly.” Let us see how Paul served God: let us see how gluttons serve their belly. Do not they undergo ten thousand such deaths? do not they fear to disobey whatever it orders? do not they minister impossibilities to it? Are not they worse than slaves? “But our citizenship,” says he, “is in Heaven.” Let us not then seek for ease here; there do we shine, where also our citizenship is. “From whence also,” saith he, “we wait for a Saviour,” the Lord Jesus Christ: “who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” By little and little he hath carried us up. He saith, “From Heaven” and “Our Saviour,” showing, from the place and from the Person, the dignity of the subject. “Who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation,” saith he. The body now suffereth many things: it is bound with chains, it is scourged, it suffereth innumerable evils; but the body of Christ suffered the same. This, then, he hinted at when he said, “That it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” Wherefore the body is the same, but putteth on incorruption. “Shall fashion anew.” Wherefore the fashion is different; or perchance he has spoken figuratively of the change.
(He saith, “the body of our humiliation,” because it is now humbled, subject to destruction, to pain, because it seemeth to be worthless, and to have nothing beyond that of other animals. “That it may be conformed to the body of his glory.” What? shall this our body be fashioned like unto Him, who sitteth at the right hand of the Father, to Him who is worshiped by the Angels, before whom do stand the incorporeal Powers, to Him who is above all rule and power, and might? If then the whole world were to take up weeping and lament for those who have fallen from this hope, could it worthily lament? because, when a promise is given us of our body being made like to Him, it still departs with the demons. I care not for hell henceforth; whatever can be said, having fallen from so great glory, now and henceforth consider hell to be nothing to this falling away. What sayest thou, O Paul? To be made like unto Him? Yes, he answereth; then, lest you should disbelieve, he addeth a reason; “According to the working whereby He is able even to subject all things unto Himself.” He hath power, saith he, to subject all things unto Himself, wherefore also destruction and death. Or rather, He doth this also with the same power. For tell me, which requireth the greater power, to subject demons, and Angels, and Archangels, and Cherubim, and Seraphim, or to make the body incorruptible and immortal? The latter certainly much more than the former; he showed forth the greater works of His power, that you might believe these too. Wherefore, though ye see these men rejoicing, and honored, yet stand firm, be not offended at them, be not moved. These our hopes are sufficient to raise up even the most sluggish and indolent.
Ph 4,1. “Wherefore,” saith he, “my brethren, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved.”
“So.” How? Unmoved. See how he addeth praise after exhortation, “my joy and my crown,” not simply joy but glory too, not simply glory but my crown too. Which glory nought can equal, since it is the crown of Paul. “So stand fast in the Lord, my beloved,” i.e. in the hope of God).
1303 Ph 4,2-3. “I exhort Euodia, and exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yea, I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women.”
Some say Paul here exhorts his own wife; but it is not so, but some other woman, or the husband of one of them. “Help these women, for they labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life.” Seest thou how great a testimony he beareth to their virtue? For as Christ saith to his Apostles, “Rejoice not that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in the book of life” (Lc 10,20); so Paul testifieth to them, saying, “whose names are in the book of life.” These women seem to me to be the chief of the Church which was there, and he commendeth them to some notable man whom he calls his “yokefellow,” to whom perchance he was wont to commend them, as to a fellow-worker, and fellow-soldier, and brother, and companion, as he doth in the Epistle to the Romans, when he saith, “I commend unto you Phebe our sister, who is a servant of the Church that is at Cenchrea.” (Rm 16,1). “Yokefellow;” either some brother of theirs, or a husband of hers; as if he had said, Now thou art a true brother, now a true husband, because thou hast become a Member. “For they labored with me in the Gospel.” This protection came from home, not from friendship, but for good deeds. “Labored with me.” What sayest thou? Did women labor with thee? Yes, he answereth, they too contributed no small portion. Although many were they who wrought together with him, yet these women also acted with him amongst the many. The Churches then were no little edified, for many good ends are gained where they who are approved, be they men, or be they women, enjoy from the rest such honor. For in the first place the rest were led on to a like zeal; in the second place, they also gained by the respect shown; and thirdly, they made those very persons more zealous and earnest. Wherefore thou seest that Paul hath everywhere a care for this, and commendeth such men for consideration. As he saith in the Epistle to the Corinthians: “Who are the first-fruits of Achaia,” (1Co 16,15). Some say that the word “yokefellow,” (Syzygus,) is a proper name. Well, what? Whether it be so, or no, we need not accurately enquire, but observe that he gives his orders, that these women should enjoy much protection.
1304 All we have, saith he, is in the heavens, our Saviour, our city, whatever a man can name: “whence,” saith he, “we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” And this is an act of His kindness and love toward man. He Himself again cometh to us, he doth not drag us thither, but takes us, and so departs with us. And this is a mark of great honor; for if He came to us when we were enemies, much rather doth He now when we are become friends. He doth not commit this to the Angels, nor to servants, but Himself cometh to call us to His royal mansion. See, we also “shall be caught up in the clouds” (1Th 4,17), doing him honor.
Who then is to be found “the faithful and wise servant”? Who are they that are deemed worthy of such good things? How miserable are those who fail! For if we were forever to weep, should we do aught worthy of the occasion? For were you to make mention of hells innumerable, you would name nothing equal to that pain which the soul sustaineth, when all the world is in confusion, when the trumpets are sounding, when the Angels are rushing forward, the first, then the second, then the third, then ten thousand ranks, are pouring forth upon the earth; then the Cherubim, (and many are these and infinite;) the Seraphim; when He Himself is coming, with His ineffable glory; when those meet Him, who had gone to gather the elect into the midst; when Paul and his companions, and all who in his time had been approved, are crowned, are proclaimed aloud, are honored by the King, before all His heavenly host. For if hell did not exist, how fearful a thing it is, that the one part should be honored, and the other dishonored! Hell, I confess, is intolerable, yea, very intolerable, but more intolerable than it is the loss of the Kingdom. Consider; if any king, or the son of a king, having taken his departure, and been successful in innumerable wars, and become the object of admiration, should with his army entire, return to any city, in his chariot, with his trophies, with his innumerable ranks of golden shields, with his spearmen, his body-guard all about him, whilst the whole city was adorned with crowns, whilst all the rulers of the world accompanied him, and all the soldiery of foreign nations followed him as captives, then praefects, satraps, and in the presence of all the rulers, and all that splendor, he should receive the citizens who meet him, and kiss them, and stretch forth his hand, and give them freedom of access, and converse with them, all standing around, as with friends, and tell them that all that journey was undertaken for their sake, and should lead them into his palace, and give them a share of it, even if the rest should not be punished, to how great punishment would not this be equal? But if in the case of men it were a bitter thing to fall away from this glory, much more is it so with God, when all the heavenly Powers are present with the King, when the demons, bound, and bowing down their heads, and the devil himself is led along in chains, and all military force that opposeth itself, when the Powers of the heavens, when He Himself, cometh upon the clouds.
Believe me, I am not even able to finish my words, from the grief which lays hold of my soul at this relation. Consider of how great glory we shall be deprived, when it is in our power not to be deprived of it. For this is the misery, that we suffer these things, when it is in our power not to suffer them. When he receiveth the one part and leadeth them to His Father in heaven, and rejecteth the other, whom Angels take and drag against their will, weeping, and hanging down their heads, to the fire of hell, when they have first been made a spectacle to the whole world, what grief, think you, is there? Let us then make haste, while there is time, and take great thought of our own salvation. How many things have we to say like the rich man? If any one would now suffer us, we would take counsel of the things that are profitable! But no one doth suffer us. And that we shall so say, is clear, not from him alone, but from many others. And that you may learn this, how many men have been in fevers, and said, if we recover, we shall never again fall into the same state. Many such words we shall then say, but we shall be answered as the rich man was, that there is a gulf, that we have received our good things here. (Lc 16,25-26). Let us groan then, I entreat you, bitterly, rather let us not only groan, but pursue virtue too; let us lament now, for salvation, that we may not then lament in vain. Let us weep now, and not weep then, at our evil lot. This weeping is of virtue, that of unprofitable repentance; let us afflict ourselves now, that we may not then; for it is not the same thing to be afflicted here and there. Here, thou art afflicted for a little time, or rather thou dost not perceive thy affliction, knowing that thou art afflicted for thy good. But there, the affliction is more bitter, because it is not in hope, nor for any escape, but without limit, and throughout.
But may we all be freed from this, and obtain remission. But let us pray and be diligent, that we may obtain the remission. Let us be diligent, I entreat; for if we are diligent, we prevail even through our prayer: if we pray earnestly, God grants our request; but if we neither ask Him, nor do earnestly aught of this sort, nor work, how is it possible that we should ever succeed? By sleeping? Not at all. For it is much if even by running, and stretching forth, and being conformed to His death, as Paul said, we shall be able to succeed, not to say sleeping. “If by any means I may attain,” saith he. But if Paul said, “If by any means I may attain,” what shall we say? For it is not possible by sleeping to accomplish even worldly business, not to say spiritual. By sleeping, not even from friends can anything be received, far less from God. Not even fathers honor them who sleep, far less doth God. Let us labor for a little time, that we may have rest for ever. We must at all events be afflicted. If we are not afflicted here, it awaits us there. Why choose we not to be afflicted here, that there we may have rest, and obtain the unspeakable blessings, in Christ Jesus, with whom, to the Father together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, world without end. Amen.
Chrysostom Philippians 1200