Chrysostom Th 1000
1000 and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them exceeding highly in love for their work’s sake. Be at peace among yourselves.”
1001 It must needs happen that a ruler should have many occasions of enmities. As physicians are compelled to give much trouble to the sick, preparing for them both diet and medicines that are not pleasant indeed, but attended with benefit; and as fathers are often annoying to their children: so also are teachers, and much more. For the physician, though he be odious to the sick man, yet has the relations and friends on good terms with him, nay, and often the sick man himself. And a father also, both from the force of nature and from external laws, exercises his dominion over his son with great ease; and if he should chastise and chide his son against his will, there is no one to prevent him, nor will the son himself be able to raise a look against him. But in the case of the Priest there is a great difficulty. For in the first place, he ought to be ruling people willing to obey, and thankful to him for his rule; but it is not possible that this should soon come to pass. For he who is convicted and reproved, be he what he may, is sure to cease from being thankful, and to become an enemy. In like manner he will act who is advised, and he who is admonished and he who is exhorted. If therefore I should say, empty out wealth on the needy, I say what is offensive and burdensome. If I say, chastise thine anger, quench thy wrath, check thine inordinate desire, cut off a small portion of thy luxury, all is burdensome and offensive. And if I should punish one who is slothful, or should remove him from the Church, or exclude him from the public prayers, he grieves, not because he is deprived of these things, but because of the public disgrace. For this is an aggravation of the evil, that, being interdicted from spiritual things, we grieve not on account of our deprivation of these great blessings, but because of our disgrace in the sight of others. We do not shudder at, do not dread, the thing itself.
For this reason Paul from one end to the other discourses largely concerning these persons. And Christ indeed has subjected them with so strict a necessity, that He says, “The Scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat. All things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works.” (Mt 23,2-3) And again, when He healed the leper, He said, “Go thy way, show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.” (Mt 8,4) And yet Thou sayest, “Ye make him twofold more a son of hell than yourselves.” (Mt 23,15) For this reason I said, answers He, “Do not the things which they do.” Therefore he hath shut out all excuse from him that is under rule. In his Epistle to Timothy also this Apostle said, “Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor.” (1Tm 5,17) And in his Epistle to the Hebrews also he said, “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit to them.” (He 13,17) And here again, “But we beseech you, brethren, to know them that labor among you, and are over you in the Lord.” For since he had said, “build each other up,” lest they should think that he raised them to the rank of teachers, he has added, See, however, that I gave leave to you also to edify one another, for it is not possible for a teacher to say everything. “Them that labor among you,” he says, “and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you.” And how, he says, is it not absurd? If a man stand up for thee before a man, thou doest anything, thou confessest thyself much indebted; but he stands up for thee before God, and thou dost not own the favor. And how does he stand up for me? thou sayest. Because he prays for thee, because he ministers to thee the spiritual gift that is by Baptism, he visits, he advises and admonishes thee, he comes at midnight if thou callest for him; he is nothing else than the constant subject of thy mouth, and he bears thy injurious speeches. What necessity had he? Has he done well or ill? Thou indeed hast a wife, and livest luxuriously, and choosest a life of commerce. But from this the Priest has hindered himself by his occupation; his life is no other than to be employed about the Church. “And to esteem them,” he says, “exceeding highly in love for their work’s sake; be at peace with them.” Seest thou how well he is aware that unpleasant feelings arise? He does notmerely say “love,” but “very highly,” as children love their fathers. For through them ye were begotten by that eternal generation: through them you have obtained the kingdom: through their hands all things are done, through them the gates of heaven are opened to you. Let no one raise divisions, let no one be contentious. He who loves Christ, whatever the Priest may be, will love him, because through him he has obtained the awful Mysteries. Tell me, if wishing to see a palace resplendent with much gold, and radiant with the brightness of precious stones, thou couldest find him who had the key, and he being called upon immediately opened it, and admitted thee within, wouldest thou not prefer him above all men? Wouldest thou not love him as dearly as thine eyes? Wouldest thou not kiss him? This man hath opened heaven to thee, and thou dost not kiss him, nor pay him court. If thou hast a wife, dost thou not love him above all, who procured her for thee? So if thou lovest Christ, if thou lovest the kingdom of heaven, acknowledge through whom thou obtainedst it. On this account he says, “for their work’s sake, be at peace with them.”
1Th 5,14. “And we exhort you, brethren, admonish the disorderly, encourage the faint-hearted, support the weak, be long suffering toward all.”
1002 Here he addresses those who have rule. Admonish, he says, “the disorderly,” not of imperiousness, he says, nor of self-will rebuke them, but with admonition. “Encourage the fainthearted, support the weak, be longsuffering toward all.” For he who is rebuked with harshness, despairing of himself, becomes more bold in contempt. On this account it is necessary by admonition to render the medicine sweet. But who are the disorderly? All those who do what is contrary to the will of God. For this order of the Church is more harmonious than the order of an army; so that the reviler is disorderly, the drunkard is disorderly, and the covetous, and all who sin; for they walk not orderly in their rank, but out of the line, wherefore also they are overthrown? But there is also another kind of evils, not such as this indeed, but itself also a vice, little mindedness. For this is destructive equally with sloth. He who cannot bear an insult is feeble-minded. He who cannot endure trial is feeble-minded. This is he who is sown upon the rock. There is also another sort, that of weakness. “Support the weak,” he says; now weakness occurs in regard to faith. But observe how he does not permit them to be despised. And elsewhere also in his Epistles he says, “Them that are weak in the faith receive ye.” (Rm 14,1) For in our bodies too we do not suffer the weak member to perish. “Be longsuffering toward all,” he says. Even toward the disorderly? Yes, certainly. For there is no medicine equal to this, especially for the teacher, none so suitable to those who are under rule. It can quite shame and put out of countenance him that is fiercer and more shameless than all men.
1Th 5,15. “See that none render unto any one evil for evil.”
If we ought not to render evil for evil, much less evil for good; much less, when evil has not been previously done, to render evil, Such an one, you say, is a bad man, and has aggrieved me, and done me much injury. Do you wish to revenge yourself upon him? Do not retaliate. Leave him unpunished. Well, is this the stopping-place? By no means;
“But alway follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all.”
This is the higher philosophy, not only not to requite evil with evil, but to render good for evil. For this is truly revenge that brings harm to him and advantage to thyself, or rather great advantage even to him, if he will. And that thou mayest not think that this is said with respect to the faithful, therefore he has said, “both one toward another and toward all.”
1Th 5,16. “Rejoice alway.”
This is said with respect to the temptations that bring in affliction. Hear ye, as many as have fallen into poverty, or into distressing circumstances. For from these joy is engendered. For when we possess such a soul that we take revenge on no one, but do good to all, whence, tell me, will the sting of grief be able to enter into us? For he who so rejoices in suffering evil, as to requite even with benefits him that has done him evil, whence can he afterwards suffer grief? And how, you say, is this possible? It is possible, if we will. Then also he shows the way.
1Th 5,17-18. “Pray without ceasing; In every thing giving thanks: for this is the will of God.”
Always to give thanks, this is a mark of a philosophic soul. Hast thou suffered any evil? But if thou wilt, it is no evil. Give thanks to God, and the evil is changed into good. Say thou also as Jb said, “Blessed be the name of the Lord for ever.” (Jb 1,21) For tell me, what such great thing hast thou suffered? Has disease befallen thee? Yet it is nothing strange. For our body is mortal, and liable to suffer. Has a want of possessions overtaken thee? But these also are things to be acquired, and again to be lost, and that abide here. But is it plots and false accusations of enemies? But it is not we that are injured by these, but they who are the authors of them. “For the soul,” he says, “that sinneth, itself shall also die.” (Ez 18,4) And he has not sinned who suffers the evil, but he who has done the evil.
Upon him therefore that is dead you ought not to take revenge, but to pray for him that you may deliver him from death. Do you not see how the bee dies upon the sting? By that animal God instructs us not to grieve our neighbors. For we ourselves receive death first. For by striking them perhaps we have pained them for a little time, but we ourselves shall not live any longer, even as that animal will not. And yet the Scripture commends it, sating that it is a worker, whose work kings and private men make use of for their health. (Si 11,3) But this does not preserve it from dying, but it must needs perish. And if its other excellence does not deliver it when it does injury, much less will it us.
1003 For indeed it is the part of the fiercest beasts, when no one has injured thee, to begin the injury, or rather not even of beasts. For they, if thou permittest them to feed in the wilderness, and dost not by straitening them reduce them to necessity, will never harm thee, nor come near thee, nor bite thee, but will go their own way.
But you being a rational man, honored with so much rule and honor and glory, do not even imitate the beasts in your conduct to your fellow-creature, but you injure your brother, and devour him. And how will you be able to excuse yourself? Do you not hear Paul saying, “Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? Nay, but ye yourselves do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” (1Co 6,7-8) Do you see that suffering wrong consists in doing wrong, but that to suffer wrongfully is to receive a benefit? For tell me, if any one were to revile his rulers, if he were to insult those in power, whom does he injure? Himself, or them? Clearly himself. Then he who insults a ruler insults not him, but himself—and he that insults a Christian does he not through him insult Christ? By no means, thou sayest. What sayest thou? He that casts a stone at the images of the king (Emperor), at whom does he cast a stone? is it not at himself? Then does he who casts a stone at the image of an earthly king, cast a stone at himself, and does not he who insults the image of God (for man is the image of God) injure himself?
How long shall we love riches? For I shall not cease exclaiming against them: for they are the cause of everything. How long do we not get our fill of this insatiable desire? What is the good of gold? I am astonished at the thing! There is some enchantment in the business, that gold and silver should be so highly valued among us. For our own souls indeed we have no regard, but those lifeless images engross much attention. Whence is it that this disease has invaded the world? Who shall be able to effect its destruction? What reason can cut off this evil beast, and destroy it with utter destruction? The desire is deep sown in the minds of men, even of those who seem to be religious. Let us be put to shame by the commands of the Gospel. Words only lie there in Scripture, they are nowhere shown by works.
And what is the specious plea of the many? I have children, one says, and I am afraid lest I myself be reduced to the extremity of hunger and want, lest I should stand in need of others. I am ashamed to beg. For that reason therefore do you cause others to beg? I cannot, you say, endure hunger. For that reason do you expose others to hunger? Do you know what a dreadful thing it is to beg, how dreadful to be perishing by hunger? Spare also your brethren! Are you ashamed, tell me, to be hungry, and are you not ashamed to rob? Are you afraid to perish by hunger, and not afraid to destroy others? And yet to be hungry is neither a disgrace nor a crime; but to cast others into such a state brings not only disgrace, but extreme punishment.
All these are pretenses, words, trifles. For that it is not on account of your children that you act thus, they testify who indeed have no children, nor will have, but who yet toil and harass themselves, and are busy in acquiring wealth, as much as if they had innumerable children to leave it to. It is not the care for his children that makes a man covetous, but a disease of the soul. On this account many even who have not children are mad about riches, and others living with a great number of children even despise what they have. They will accuse thee in that Day. For if the necessities of children compelled men to accumulate riches, they also must necessarily have the same longing, the same lust. And if they have not, it is not from the number of children that we are thus mad, but from the love of money. And who are they, you say, who having children, yet despise riches? Many, and in many places. And if you will allow me, I will speak also of instances among the ancients.
Had not Jacob twelve children? Did he not lead the life of a hireling? Was he not wronged by his kinsman? and did he not often disappoint him? And did his number of children ever compel him to have recourse to any dishonest counsel? What was the case with Abraham? With Isaac, had he not also many other children? What then? Did he not possess all he had for the benefit of strangers? Do you see, how he not only did not do wrong, but even gave up his possessions, not only doing good, but choosing to be wronged by his nephew? For to endure being robbed for the sake of God is a much greater thing than to do good. Why? Because the one is the fruit of the soul and of free choice, whence also it is easily performed but the other is injurious treatment and violence. And a man will more easily throw away ten thousand talents voluntarily, and will not think that he has suffered any harm, than he will bear meekly being robbed of three pence against his will. So that this rather is philosophy of soul. And this, we see, happened in the case of Abraham. “For Lot,” it is said, “beheld all the plain; and it was well watered as the garden of God, and he chose it.” (Gn 13,10-11) And Abraham said nothing against it. Seest thou, that he not only did not wrong him, but he was even wronged by him? Why, O man, dost thou accuse thine own children? God did not give us children for this end, that we should seize the possessions of others. Take care, lest in saying this thou provoke God. For if thou sayest that thy children are the causes of thy grasping and thine avarice, I fear lest thou be deprived of them, as injuring and ensnaring thee. God hath given thee children that they may support thine old age, that they may learn virtue from thee.
1004 For God on this account hath willed that mankind should thus be held together, providing for two most important objects: on the one hand, appointing fathers to be teachers, and on the other, implanting great love. For if men were merely to come into being, no one would have any relation towards any other. For if now, when there are the relations of fathers, and children, and grandchildren, many do not regard many, much more would it then be the case. On this account God hath given thee children. Do not therefore accuse the children.
But if they who have children have no excuse, what can they say for themselves, who having no children wear themselves out about the acquisition of riches? But they have a saying for themselves, which is destitute of all excuse. And what is this? That, instead of children we may have, thor say, may have our riches as a memorial. This is truly ridiculous. Instead ofchildren, one says, my house becomes the immortal memorial of my glory. Not of thy glory, O man, will it be the memorial, but of thy covetousness. Dost thou not see how many now as they pass the magnificent houses say one to another, What frauds, what robberies such an one committed, that he might build this house, and now he is become dust and ashes, and his house has passed into the inheritance of others! It is not of thy glory then that thou leavest a memorial, but of thy covetousness. And thy body indeed is concealed in the earth, but thou dost not permit the memorial of thy covetousness to be concealed, as it might have been by length of time, but causest it to be turned up and disinterred through thy house. For as long as this stands, bearing thy name, and called such an one’s, certainly the mouths of all too must needs be opened against thee. Dost thou see that it is better to have nothing than to sustain such an accusation?
And these things indeed here. But what shall we do There? tell me, having so much at our disposal here, if we have imparted to no one of our possessions, or at least very little; how shall we put off our dishonest gains? For he that wishes to put off covetous gain, does not give a little out of a great deal, but many times more than he has robbed, and he ceases from robbing. Hear what Zacchaeus says, “And for as many things as I have taken wrongfully, I restore fourfold.” (Lc 19,8) But thou, taking wrongfully ten thousand talents, if thou give a few drachmas, thinkest thou hast restored the whole, and art affected as if thou hadst given more. And even this grudgingly. Why? Because thou oughtest both to have restored these, and to have added other out of thine own private possessions. For as the thief is not excused when he gives back only what he has stolen, but often he has added even his life; and often he compounds upon restoring many times as much: so also should the covetous man. For the covetous man also is a thief and a robber, far worse than the other, by how much he is also more tyrannical. He indeed by being concealed, and by making his attack in the night, cuts off much of the audacity of the attempt, as if he were ashamed, and feared to sin. But the other having no sense of shame, with open face in the middle of the market-place steals the property of all, being at once a thief and a tyrant. He does not break through walls, nor extinguish the lamp, nor open a chest, nor tear off seals. But what? He does things more insolent than these, in the sight of those who are injured he carries things out by the door, he with confidence opens everything, he compels them to expose all their possessions themselves. Such is the excess of his violence. This man is more wicked than those, inasmuch as he is more shameless and tyrannical. For he that has suffered by fraud is indeed grieved, but he has no small consolation, that he who injured him was afraid of him. But he who together with the injury he suffers is also despised, will not be able to endure the violence. For the ridicule is greater. Tell me, if one committed adultery with a woman in secret, and another committed it in the sight of her husband, who grieved him the most, and was most apt to wound him. For he indeed, together with the wrong he has done, treated him also with contempt. But the former, if he did nothing else, showed at least that he feared him whom he injured. So also in the case of money. He that takes it secretly, does him honor in this respect, that he does it secretly; but he who robs publicly and openly, together with the loss adds also the shame.
Let us therefore, both poor and rich, cease from taking the property of others. For my present discourse is not only to the rich, but to the poor also. For they too rob those who are poorer than themselves. And artisans who are better off, and more powerful, outsell the poorer and more distressed, tradesmen outsell tradesmen, and so all who are engaged in the market-place. So that I wish from every side to take away injustice. For the injury consists not in the measure of the things plundered and stolen, but in the purpose of him that steals. And that these are more thieves and defrauders, who do not despise little gains, I know and remember that I have before told you, if you also remember it. But let us not be over exact. Let them be equally bad with the rich. Let us instruct our mind not to covet greater things, not to aim at more than we have. And in heavenly things let our desire of more never be satiated, but let each be ever coveting more. But upon earth let every one be for what is needful and sufficient, and seek nothing more, that so he may be able to obtain the real goods, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, strength, honor, now and always, and world without end. Amen.
1100 But prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
1101 A Thick mist, a darkness and cloud is spread over all the earth. And, showing this, the Apostle said, “For we were once darkness.” (Ep 5,8) And again, “Ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief.” Since therefore there is, so to speak, a moonless night, and we walk in that night, God hath given us a bright lamp, having kindled in our souls the grace of the Holy Spirit. But some who have received this light have rendered it more bright and shining, as, for instance, Paul and Peter, and all those Saints; while others have even extinguished it, as the five virgins, as those who have “made shipwreck concerning the faith,” asthe fornicator of Corinth, as the Galatians who were perverted.
On this account Paul says, “Quench not the Spirit,” that is, the gift of grace, for it is his custom so to call the gift of the Spirit. But this an impure life extinguishes. For as any one, who has sprinkled both water and dust upon the light of our lamp, extinguishes it, and if he does not this, but only takes out the oil—so it is also with the gift of grace. For if you have cast over it earthly things, and the cares of fluctuating matters, you have quenched the Spirit. And if you have done none of these things, but a temptation coming from some other quarter has vehemently assailed it, as some wind, and if the light be not strong, and it has not much oil, or you have not closed the opening, or have not shut the door, all is undone. But what is the opening? As in the lamp, so is it also in us: it is the eye and the ear. Suffer not a violent blast of wickedness to fall upon these, since it would extinguish the lamp, but close them up with the fear of God. The mouth is the door. Shut it, and fasten it, that it may both give light, and repel the attack from without. For instance, has any one insulted and reviled you? Do you shut the mouth; for if you open it, you add force to the wind. Do you not see in houses, when two doors stand directly opposite, and there is a strong wind, if you shut one, and there is no opposite draught, the wind has no power, but the greater part of its force is abated? So also now, there are two doors, thy mouth, and his who insults and affronts thee; if thou shuttest thy mouth, and dost not allow a draught on the other side, thou hast quenched the whole blast but if thou openest it, it will not be restrained. Let us not therefore quench it.
And the flame is often liable to be extinguished even when no temptation assails it. When the oil fails, when we do not alms, the Spirit is quenched. For it came to thee as an alms from God. Then He sees this fruit not existing in thee, and he abides not with an unmerciful soul. But the Spirit being quenched, ye know what follows, as many of you as have walked on a road in a moonless night. And if it is difficult to walk by night in a road from land to land, how is it safe in the road that leads from earth to heaven? Know ye not how many demons there are in the intervening space, how many wild beasts, how many spirits of wickedness? If indeed we have that light, they will be able to do us no hurt; but if we extinguish it, they soon take us captive, they soon rob us of everything. Since even robbers first extinguish the lamp, and so plunder us, For they indeed see in this darkness, since they do the works of darkness: but we are unaccustomed to that light. Let us not then extinguish it. All evil doing extinguishes that light, whether reviling, or insolence, or whatever you can mention. For as in the case of fire, everything that is foreign to its nature is destructive of it, but that kindles it which is congenial to it; whatever is dry, whatever is warm, whatever is fiery, kindles the flame of the Spirit. Let us not therefore overlay it with anything cold or damp; for these things are destructive of it.
But there is also another explanation. There were among them many indeed who prophesied truly, but some prophesied falsely. This also he says in the Epistle to the Corinthians, that on this account He gave “the discernings of spirits.” (1Co 12,10) For the devil, of his vile craft, wished through this gift of grace to subvert everything pertaining to the Church. For since both the demon and the Spirit prophesied concerning the future, the one indeed uttering falsehood, and the other truth, and it was not possible from any quarter to receive a proof of one or the other, but each spoke without being called to account, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had done, but when the time came they were convicted, He gave also the “discernings of spirits.” Since therefore then also among the Thessalonians many were prophesying, glancing at whom he says, “Neither by word, nor by epistle, as from us, as that the day of the Lord is now present” (2Th 2,2), he says this here. That is, do not, because there are false prophets among you, on their account prohibit also these, and turn away from them; “quench” them “not,” that is, “despise not prophesyings.”
1102 Seest thou that this is what he means by, “Prove all things”? Because he had said, “Despise not prophesyings,” lest they should think that he opened the pulpit to all, he says, “Prove all things,” that is, such as are really prophecies; “and hold fast that which is good. Abstain from every form of evil”; not from this or that, but from all; that you may by proof distinguish both the true things and the false, and abstain from the latter, and hold fast the former. For thus both the hatred of the one will be vehement and the love of the other arises, when we do all things not carelessly, nor without examination, but with careful investigation.
1Th 5,23. “And the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Observe the affection of the Teacher. After the admonition he adds a prayer; not only that, but even introduces it in his letter. For we need both counsel and prayer. For this reason we also first giving you counsel, then offer prayers for you. And this the Initiated know. But Paul indeed did this with good reason, having great confidence towards God, whereas we are confounded with shame, and have no freedom of speech. But because we were appointed to this we do it, being unworthy even to stand in His presence, and to hold the place of the lowest disciples. But because grace works even through the unworthy, not for our own sakes but for theirs who are about to be benefited, we contribute our parts.
“Sanctify you wholly,” he says, and may “your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” What does he here call the spirit? The gift of grace. For if we depart hence having our lamps bright, we shall enter into the bridechamber. But if they are quenched, it will not be so. For this reason he says “your spirit.” For if that remains pure, the other remains also. “And soul and body,” he says. For neither the one nor the other then admits anything evil.
1Th 5,24. “Faithful is He that calleth you, who will also do it.”
Observe his humility. For, because he had prayed, Think not, he says, that this happens from my prayers, but from the purpose, with which He called you. For if He called you to salvation, and He is true, He will certainly save you, in that He wills it.
1Th 5,25. “Brethren, pray for us also.” Strange! what humility is here! But he indeed said this for the sake of humility, but we, not from humility, but for the sake of great benefit, and wishing to gain some great profit from you, say, “Pray for us also.” For although you do not receive any great or wonderful benefit from us, do it nevertheless for the sake of the honor and the title itself. Some one has had children, and even if they had not been benefited by him, nevertheless, because he has been their father, he perhaps sets this before them, saying, “For one day I have not been called father by thee.” a On this account we too say, “Pray for us also.” I am not merely saying this, but really desiring your prayers. For if I have become responsible for this presidency over you all, and shall have to render an account, much more ought I to have the benefit of your prayers. On your account my responsibilities are greater, therefore the help also from you should be greater.
1Th 5,26. “Salute all the brethren with a holy kiss.”
Oh! what fervor! Oh! what mad passion is here! Because being absent he could not greet them with the kiss, he greets them through others, as when we say, Kiss him for me. So also do ye yourselves retain the fire of love. For it does not admit of distances, but even through long intervening ways it extends itself, and is everywhere present.
1Th 5,27. “I adjure you by the Lord that this Epistle be read unto all the holy brethren.”
And this command is rather from love, and not so much in the way of teaching; that with them also, he means, I may be conversing.
1Th 5,28. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”
And he does not merely command, but adjures them, and this from a fervent mind, that even though they should despise him, for the sake ofthe adjuration they may practice what is commanded. For men had a great dread of that appeal, but now that too is trampled under foot. And often when a slave is scourged, and adjures by God and His Christ, and says, “So may you die a Christian,” yet no one gives heed, no one regards it; but if he adjures him by his own son, immediately, though unwilling, and grinding his teeth, he gives up his anger. Again, another being dragged and led away through the middle of the market-place, in the presence both of Jews and Greeks, adjures him that leads him away with the most fearful adjurations, and no one regards it. What will not the Greeks say, when one of the faithful adjures a faithful man and a Christian, and no regard is paid to it, but we even despise him.
1103 Will you allow me to tell you a certain story which I myself have heard? For I do not say it of my own invention, but having heard it from a person worthy of credit. There was a certain maid-servant united to a wicked man, a vile run-away slave; she, when her husband having committed many faults was about to be sold by her mistress; (for the offenses were too great for pardon, and the woman was a widow, and was not able to punish him who was the plague of her house, and therefore resolved to sell him; then considering that it was an unholy thing to separate the husband from the wife, the mistress, although the girl was useful, to avoid separating her from him, made up her mind to sell her also with him;) then the girl seeing herself in these straits, came to a venerable person who was intimate with her mistress, and who also told it to me, and clasping her knees, and with a thousand lamentations, besought her to entreat her mistress in her behalf; and having wasted many words, at last she added this also, as thereby especially to persuade her, laying on her a most awful adjuration, and the adjuration was this, “So mayest thou see Christ at the Day of Judgment, as thou neglectest not my petition.” And having so said, she departed. And she who had been entreated, upon the intrusion of some worldly care, such as happens in families, forgot the matter. Then suddenly late in the afternoon, the most awful adjuration came into her mind, and she felt great compunction, and she went and with great earnestness asked, and obtained her request. And that very night she suddenly saw the heavens opened, and Christ Himself. But she saw Him, as far as it was possible for a woman to see Him. Because she at all regarded the adjuration, because she was afraid, she was thought worthy of this vision.
And these things I have said, that we may not despise adjurations, especially when any entreat us for things that are good, as for alms, and for works of mercy. But now poor men, who have lost their feet, sit and see thee hastening by, and when they cannot follow thee with their feet, they expect to detain thee, as with a kind of hook, by the fear of an adjuration, and stretching out their hands, they adjure thee to give them only one or two pennies. But thou hastenest by, though adjured by thy Lord. And if he adjure thee by the eyes either of thy husband, who is gone abroad, or of thy son, or thy daughter, immediately thou yieldest, thy mind is transported, thou art warmed; but if he adjure thee by thy Lord, thou hastenest by. And I have known many women who, hearing indeed the name of Christ, have hastened by; but being commended for their beauty by those who came to them, have been melted and softened, and have stretched out their hand.
Yea thus they have reduced suffering and wretched beggars to this, even to deal in making sport! For when they do not touch their souls by uttering vehement and bitter words, they have recourse to this way by which they delight them exceedingly. And our great wickedness compels him that is in calamity or is straitened by hunger, to utter encomiums upon the beauty of those who pity him. And I wish this were all. But there is even another form worse than this. It compels the poor to be jugglers, and buffoons, and filthy jesters. For when he fastens on his fingers cups and bowls and cans, and plays on them as cymbals, and having a pipe, whistles on it those base and amorous melodies, and sings them at the top of his voice; and then many stand round, and some give him a piece of bread, some a penny, and others something else, and they detain him long, and both men and women are delighted; what is more grievous than this? Are not these things deserving of much groaning? They are indeed trifling, and are considered trifling, but they engender great sins in our character. For when any obscene and sweet melody is uttered, it softens the mind, and corrupts the very soul itself. And the poor man indeed who calls upon God, and invokes a thousand blessings upon us, is not vouchsafed a word from you; but he who instead of these things introduces sportive sallies, is admired.
And what has now come into my mind to say to you, that I will utter. And what is this? When you are involved in poverty and sickness, if from no other quarter, at least from those who beg, who wander through the narrow streets, learn to give thanks to the Lord. For they, spending their whole life in begging, do not blaspheme, are not angry, nor impatient, but make the whole narrative of their beggary in thanksgiving, magnifying God, and calling Him merciful. He indeed that is perishing with hunger, calls Him merciful, but you who are living in plenty, if you cannot get the possessions of all, call Him cruel. How much better is he! how will he condemn us! God has sent the poor through the world, as common teachers in our calamities, and consolation under them. Hast thou suffered anything contrary to thy wishes? yet nothing like what that poor man suffers. Thou hast lost an eye, but he both his. Thou hast long labored under disease, but he has one that is incurable. Thou hast lost thy children, but he even the health of his own body. Thou hast suffered a great loss, but thou art not yet reduced to supplicate from others. Give thanks to God. Thou seest them in the furnace of poverty, and begging indeed from all, but receiving from few. When thou art weary of praying, and dost not receive, consider how often thou hast heard a poor man calling upon thee, and hast not listened to him, and he has not been angry nor insulted thee. And yet thou indeed actest thus from cruelty; but God from mercy even declines to hear. If therefore thou, thyself from cruelty not hearing thy fellow-servant, expectest not to be found fault with, dost thou find fault with the Lord, who out of mercy does not hear His servant? Seest thou how great the inequality, how great the injustice?
1104 Let us consider these things constantly, those who are below us, those who are under greater calamities, and so we shall be able to be thankful to God. Life abounds with many such instances. And he who is sober, and willing to attend, gains no small instruction from the houses of prayer. For on this account the poor sit before the vestibule both in the churches and in the chapels of the Martyrs, that we may receive great benefit from the spectacle of these things. For consider, that when we enter into earthly palaces, we can see nothing of this kind; but men that are dignified and famous, and wealthy and intelligent, are everywhere hastening to and fro. But into the real palaces, I mean the Church, and the oratories of the Martyrs, enter the demoniacs, the maimed, the poor, the aged, the blind, and those whose limbs are distorted. And wherefore? That thou mayest be instructed by the spectacle of these things; in the first place that if thou hast entered drawing after thee any pride from without, having looked upon these, and laid aside thy arrogance, and become contrite in heart, so thou mayest go in, and hear the things that are said; for it is not possible that he who prays with an arrogant mind should be heard. That when thou seest an aged man, thou mayest not be elated at thy youth, for these old men were once young. That when thou boastest highly of thy warfare, or thy kingly power, thou mayest consider that from these are sprung those who are become illustrious in kings’ courts. That, when thou presumest upon thy bodily health, taking heed to these, thou mayest abate thy lofty spirit. For the healthy man who continually enters here will not be highminded on account of his bodily health; and the sick man will receive no slight consolation.
But they do not sit here only on this account, but that they may also make thee compassionate, and thou mayest be inclined to pity; that thou mayest admire the lovingkindness of God; for if God is not ashamed of them, but has set them in His vestibules, much less be thou ashamed; that thou mayest not be highminded on account of palaces upon earth. Be not ashamed, when called upon by a poor man; and if he should draw near, if he should catch thy knees, shake him not off. For these are certain admirable dogs of the Royal Courts. For I do not call them dogs as dishonoring them—far be it—but even highly commending them. They guard the King’s court. Therefore feed them. For the honor passes on to the King. There all is pride,—I speak of the palaces on earth—here all is humility. You learn especially from the very vestibules that human beings are nothing. From the very persons who sit before them, you are taught that God delights not in riches. For their sitting and assembling there is all but an admonition, sending forth a clear voice regarding the nature of all men, and saying that human things are nothing, that they are shadow and smoke. If riches were a good, God would not have seated the poor before His own vestibule. And if He admits rich people also, wonder not for He admits them not on this account, that they may continue rich, but that they may be delivered from their encumbrance. For hear what Christ says to them, “Ye cannot serve God and Mammon” (Mt 6,24); and again, “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven”; and again, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19,23-24) On this account He receives the rich, that they may hear these words, that they may long for the eternal riches, that they may covet things in heaven. And why dost thou wonder that He does not disdain to seat such at His vestibules? for He does not disdain to call them to His spiritual Table, and make them partakers of that Feast. But the maimed and the lame, the old man that is clothed in rags and filth, and has catarrh, comes to partake of that Table with the young and the beautiful, and with him even who is clothed in purple, and whose head is encircled with a diadem—and is thought worthy of the spiritual Feast, and both enjoy the same benefits, and there is no difference.
1105 Does then Christ not disdain to call them to His Table with the king (Emperor)—for both are called together—and thou perhaps disdainest even to be seen giving to the poor, or even conversing with them? Fie upon thy haughtiness and pride! See that we suffer not the same with the rich man formerly. He disdained even to look upon Lazarus, and did not allow him to share his roof or shelter, but he was without, cast away at his gate, nor was he even vouchsafed a word from him. But see how, when fallen into straits, and in want of his help, he failed to obtain it. For if we are ashamed of those of whom Christ is not ashamed, we are ashamed of Christ, being ashamed of His friends. Let thy table be filled with the maimed and the lame. Through them Christ comes, not through the rich. Perhaps thou laughest at hearing this; therefore, that thou mayest not think it is my word, hear Christ Himself speaking, that thou mayest not laugh, but shudder: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends nor thy brethren, nor thy kinsmen, nor rich neighbors; lest haply they also bid thee again, and a recompense be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, bid the poor, the maimed, the halt, the blind; and thou shalt be blessed; because they have not wherewith to recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed in the Resurrection of the just.” () And greater is thy glory even here, if thou lovest that. For from the former class of guests arise envy, and malice, and slanders, and revilings, and much fear lest anything unbecoming should occur. And thou standest like a servant before his master, if those who are invited are thy superiors, fearing their criticism and their lips. But in the case of these there is nothing of this sort, but whatever you bring them, they receive all with pleasure; and ample is the applause, brighter the glory, higher the admiration. All they that hear do not so much applaud the former, as the latter. But if thou disbelievest, thou who art rich, make the trial, thou who invitest generals and governors. Invite the poor, and fill thy table from them, and see if thou art not applauded by all, if thou art not loved by all, if all do not hold thee as a father. For of those feasts there is no advantage, but for these heaven is in store, and the good things of heaven—of which may we all be partakers, by the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen).
Chrysostom Th 1000