Chrysostom hom. on Mt 8
8 Mt 2,11-16
“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother.”1
How then saith Luke, that He was lying in the manger? Because at the birth indeed she presently laid Him there (for, as was not unlikely, in that large assemblage for the taxing, they could find no house; which Luke also signifies, by saying, “Because there was no room, she laid Him” there); but afterwards she took Him up, and held Him on her knees. For no sooner was she arrived at Bethlehem than she brought her pangs to an end,2 that thou mayest thence also learn the whole dispensation, and that these things were not done at random, or by chance, but that they all were in course of accomplishment, according to some Divine foreknowledge, and prophetic order.
But what was it that induced them to worship? For neither was the Virgin conspicuous, nor the house distinguished, nor was any other of the things which they saw apt to amaze or attract them. Yet they not only worship, but also “open their treasures,” and “offer gifts;” and gifts, not as to a man, but as to God. For the frankincense and the myrrh were a symbol of this. What then was their inducement? That which wrought upon them to set out from home and to come so long a journey; and this was both the star, and the illumination wrought of God in their mind, guiding them by little and little to the more perfect knowledge. For, surely, had it not been so, all that was in sight being ordinary, they would not have shown so great honor.3 Therefore none of the outward circumstances was great in that instance, but it was a manger, and a shed, and a mother in poor estate; to set before thine eyes, naked and bare, those wise men’s love of wisdom,4 and to prove to thee, that not as mere man they approached Him, but as a God, and Benefactor. Wherefore neither were they offended by ought of what they saw outwardly, but even worshipped, and brought gifts; gifts not only free from Judaical grossness, in that they sacrificed not sheep and calves, but also coming nigh to the self-devotion of the Church, for it was knowledge and obedience and love that they offered unto Him.
“And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return unto Herod, they departed into their own country another way.”5
See from this also their faith, how they were not offended, but are docile, and considerate; neither are they troubled, nor reason with themselves, saying, “And yet, if this Child be great, and hath any might, what need of flight, and of a clandestine retreat? and wherefore can it be, that when we have come openly and with boldness, and have stood against so great a people, and against a king’s madness, the angel sends us out of the city as runaways and fugitives?” But none of these things did they either say or think. For this most especially belongs to faith, not to seek an account of what is enjoined, but merely to obey the commandments laid upon US.
2. “And when they were departed, behold, an angel appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt.”6
There is something here worth inquiring into, both touching the magi, and touching the Child; for if even they were not troubled, but received all with faith, it is worthy of examination on our part, why they and the young Child are not preserved, continuing there, but they as fugitives go into Persia, He with His mother into Egypt. But what? should He have fallen into the hands of Herod, and having fallen, not have been cut off? Nay, He would not have been thought to have taken flesh upon Him; the greatness of the Economy would not have been believed.
For if, while these things are taking place, and many circumstances are being ordered mysteriously after the manner of men, some have dared to say that His assumption of our flesh7 is a fable; in what degree of impiety would they not have been wrecked. had He done all in a manner becoming His Godhead, and according to His own power?
As to the wise men, He sends them off quickly, at once both commissioning them as teachers to the land of the Persians, and at the same time intercepting the madness of the king, that he might learn that he was attempting things impossible, and might quench his wrath, and desist from this his vain labor. For not alone openly to subdue His enemies, but also to deceive them with ease, is worthy of His power. Thus, for example, He deceived the Egyptians also in the case of the Jews, and having power to transfer their wench openly into the hands of the Hebrews He bids them do this secret y and with craft; and this surely, not less than the other miracles, made Him an object of terror to His enemies. At least, they of Ascalon, and all the rest, when they had taken the ark, and being smitten, did after that devise their countrymen not to fight, nor to set themselves against Him, with the other miracles brought this also forward, saying, “Wherefore harden ye your hearts, as Egypt and Pharaoh hardened? when He had mocked them, did He not after that send forth His people, and they departed?”8 Now this they said, as accounting this fresh one not inferior to those other signs that had been done openly, towards the demonstration of His power, and of His greatness. And the like ensued on this occasion too; a thing sufficient to astonish the tyrant. For consider what it was natural for Herod to feel, and how his very breath would be stopped, deceived as he was by the wise men, and thus laughed to scorn. For what, if he did not become better? It is not His fault, who mavellously ordered all this, but it is the excess of Herod’s madness, not yielding even to those things which had virtue9 to have persuaded him, and deterred him from his wickedness, but going on still further, to receive a yet sharper punishment for folly so great.
3. But wherefore, it may be said, is the young Child sent into Egypt? In the first place, the evangelist himself hath mentioned the cause, saying,” That it might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt have I called my Son.” And at the same time beginnings of fair hopes were thenceforth proclaimed before to the world. That is, since Babylon and Egypt, most in the whole earth, were burnt up with the flame of ungodliness, He, signifying from the first that He means to correct and amend both, and inducing men hereby to expect His bounties in regard of the whole world likewise, sent to the one the wise men, the other He Himself visited with His mother.
And besides what I have said, there is another lesson also, which we are hereby taught, tending not slightly to true self-command in us. Of what kind then is it? To look from the beginning for temptations and plots. See, for instance, how this was the case even at once from His swaddling clothes. Thus you see at His birth, first a tyrant raging, then flight ensuing, and departure beyond the border; and for no crime His mother is exiled into the land of the barbarians: that thou, hearing these things (supposing thee thought worthy to minister to any spiritual matter, and then to see thyself suffering incurable ills, and enduring countless dangers), shouldest not be greatly troubled, nor say, “What can this be? yet surely I ought to be crowned and celebrated, and be glorious and illustrious for fulfilling the Lord’s commandment:” but that having this example, thou mightest bear all things nobly, knowing that this especially is the order of all things spiritual, to have everywhere temptations in the same lot with them. See at least how this is the case not only with regard to the mother of the young Child, but also of those barbarians; since they for their part retire secretly in the condition of fugitives; and she again, who had never passed over the threshold of her house, is commanded to undergo so long a journey of affliction, on account of this wonderful birth, and her spiritual travail.
And behold a wonder again. Palestine plots, and Egypt receives and preserves Him that is the object of the plots. For, as it appears, not only in the instance of the sons of the patriarch10 did types take place, but also in our Lord’s own case. In many instances, we are sure, His doings at that time were prophetic declarations of what was to happen afterwards; as, for example, in the matter of the ass and the colt.11
4. Now the angel having thus appeared, talks not with Mary, but with Joseph; and what saith he? “Arise, and take the young Child and His mother.” Here, he saith not any more, “thy wife,” but “His mother.” For after that the birth had taken place, and the suspicion was done away, and the husband appeased, thenceforth the angel talks openly, calling neither child nor wife his, but “take the young Child and His mother, and flee into Egypt;” and he mentions the cause of the flight: “For Herod,” saith he, “will seek the young Child’s life.”
Joseph, when he had heard these things, was not offended, nether did he say. “The thing is hard to understand: Didst thou not say just now, that He should ’save His people?’ and now He saves not even Himself: but we must fly, and go far from home, and be a long time away: the facts are contrary to the promise.” Nay, none of these things doth he say (for the man was faithful): neither is he curious about the time of his return; and this though the angel had put it indefinitely thus: “Be thou there until I tell thee.” But nevertheless, not even at this did he shudder, but submits and obeys, undergoing all the trials with joy.
And this because God, who is full of love to man, did with these hardships mingle things pleasant also; which indeed is His way with regard to all the saints, making neither their dangers nor their refreshment continual, but weaving the life of all righteous men, out of both the one and the other. This very thing He did here also: for consider, Joseph saw the Virgin with child; this cast him into agitation and the utmost trouble, for he was suspecting the damsel of adultery. But straightway the angel was at hand to do away his suspicion, and remove his fears; and seeing the young child born, he reaped the greatest joy. Again, this joy no trifling danger succeeds, the city being troubled, and the king in his madness seeking after Him that was born. But this trouble was again succeeded by another joy; the star, and the adoration of the wise men. Again, after this pleasure, fear and danger; “For Herod,” saith he, “is seeking the young Child’s life,” and He must needs fly and withdraw Himself as any mortal might: the working of miracles not being seasonable as yet. For if from His earliest infancy He had shown forth wonders, He would not have been accounted a Man.
Because of this, let me add, neither is a temple framed at once; but a regular conception takes place, and a time of nine months, and pangs, and a delivery, and giving suck, and silence for so long a space, and He awaits the age proper to manhood; that by all means acceptance might be won for the mystery of His Economy.
“But wherefore then,” one may say, “were even these signs wrought at the beginning?” For His mother’s sake; for the sake of Joseph and of Simeon, who was presently to depart; for the sake of the shepherds and of the wise men; for the sake of the Jews. Since they, had they been willing to mind diligently what was taking place, would from this event also have reaped no small advantage in regard of what was to come.
But if the prophets do not mention what relates to the wise men, be not troubled; for they neither foretold all things, nor were they silent touching all. For as without any warning to see those things coming to pass, would naturally occasion much astonishment and trouble; so also to have been informed of all would dispose the hearer to sleep, and would have left nothing for the evangelists to add.
5. And if the Jews should raise a question touching the prophecy, and say, that the words, “Out of Egypt have I called my Son,” were uttered concerning themselves; we would tell them, This is a law of prophecy, that in many cases much that is spoken of one set of persons is fulfilled in another; of which kind is that which is said touching Simeon and Levi, “I will divide them,” saith He, “in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel”12 And yet not in themselves did this come to pass, but in their descendants; and Noah’s saying again about Canaan, came to pass in the Gibeonites, Canaan’s descendants.13 And that concerning Jacob one may see to have so come to pass; for those blessings which say, “Be lord over thy brother, and let thy father’s sons worship thee,”14 had no accomplishment in himself (how could they, he being in fear and trembling, and worshipping his brother over and over again?15 ), but in his offspring they had The very same may be said in this case also. For which may be called the truer son of God, he that worships a calf, and is joined to Baalpeor16 and sacrifices his sons to devils? or He that is a Son by nature, and honors Him that begat Him? So that, except this man had come, the prophecy would not have received, its due fulfillment. It is worth observing, too, that the evangelist intimates the same by the phrase, “that it might be fulfilled;” implying that it would not have been fulfilled, unless He had come.
And this makes the Virgin also in no common degree glorious and distinguished; that the very thing which was the whole people’s sperm endowment in the way of praise, she also might thenceforth have for her own. I mean, that whereas they were proud of their coming up from Egypt, and used to boast of it (which indeed the prophet also was hinting at, when he said, “Have I not brought up the strangers from Cappadocia, and the Assyrians from the pit”17 ), He makes this pre-eminence belong to the Virgin likewise.
Rather, however, both the people and the patriarch, going down thither, and coming up thence, were together completing the type of this His return. Thus, as they went down to avoid death by famine, so He death by conspiracy. But whereas they on their arrival were for the time delivered from the famine, this man, when He had gone down, sanctified the whole land, by setting His foot thereon.
At least it is observable how, in the midst of His humiliations, the tokens of His Godhead are disclosed. Thus, first of all, the angel saying, “Flee into Egypt,” did not promise to journey with them, either in their descent or return; intimating that they have a great fellow-traveller, the Child that had been born; such an one as actually changed all things immediately on His appearing, and wrought so that His enemies should minister in many ways to this Economy. Thus magi and barbarians, leaving the superstition of their fathers, are come to worship: thus Augustus ministers to the birth at Bethlehem by the decree for the taxing; Egypt receives and preserves Him, driven from His home, and plotted against, and obtains a sort of first impulse towards her union unto Him; so that when in after-time she should hear Him preached by the apostles, she might have this at least to glory of, as having received Him first. And yet this privilege did belong unto Palestine alone; but the second proved more fervent than the first.
6. And now, shouldest thou come unto the desert of Egypt, thou wilt see this desert become better than any paradise, and ten thousand choirs of angels in human forms, and nations of martyrs, and companies of virgins, and all the devil’s tyranny put down, while Christ’s kingdom shines forth in its brightness. And the mother of poets, and wise men, and magicians,18 the inventor of every kind of sorcery, and propagator thereof among all others, her thou wilt see now taking pride in the fishermen, and treating all those with contempt, but carrying about everywhere the publican, and the tentmaker, and protecting herself with the cross; and these good things not in the cities only, but also in the deserts more than in the cities; since in truth everywhere in that land may be seen the camp of Christ, and the royal flock, and the polity of the powers above. And these rules one may find in force, not among men only, but also in woman’s nature. Yea, they, not less than men, practise that search of wisdom, not taking shield, and mounting horse, as the Grecians’ grave lawgivers and philosophers direct, but another and far severer fight are they undertaking. For the war against the devil and his powers is common to them and to the men, and in no respect doth the delicacy of their nature become an impediment in such conflicts, for not by bodily constitution, but by mental choice, are these struggles decided. Wherefore women in many cases have actually been more forward in the contest than men, and have set up more brilliant trophies. Heaven is not so glorious with the varied choir of the stars, as the wilderness of Egypt, exhibiting to us all around the tents of the monks.
Whoever knows that ancient Egypt, her that fought against God in frenzy, her that was the slave of cats, that feared and dreaded onions; this man will know well the power of Christ. Or rather, we have no need of ancient histories; for even yet there remain relics of that senseless race, for a specimen of their former madness. Nevertheless, these who of old broke out all of them into so great madness, now seek to be wise touching heaven, and the things above heaven, and laugh to scorn the customs of their fathers, and acknowledge the wretchedness of their ancestors, and hold the philosophers in no estimation: having learnt by the real facts. that all that was theirs19 were but inventions of sottish old women, but the real philosophy, and worthy of heaven, is this, which was declared unto them by the fishermen. And for this very cause, together with their so great exactness in doctrine, they exhibit also by their life that extreme seriousness. For when they have stripped themselves of all that they have, and are crucified to the whole world, they urge their course on again yet farther, using the labor of their body for the nourishment of them that be in need. For neither, because they fast and watch, do they think it meet to be idle by day; but their nights they spend in the holy hymns and in vigils, and their days in prayers, and at the same time in laboring with their own hands imitating the zeal of the apostle. For if he when the whole world was looking unto him for the sake of nourishing them that were in need, both occupied a workshop, and practised a craft, and being thus employed did not so much as sleep by night; how much more, say they, is it meet that we, who have taken up our abode in the wilderness, and have nothing to do with the turmoils in the cities, should use the leisure of our quiet for spiritual labors!
Let us then be ashamed all of us, both they that are rich, and they that are poor, when those having nothing at all but a body only and hands, force their way on and strive eagerly to find thence a supply for the poor; while we, having endless stores within, touch not even our superfluities for these objects. What kind of plea shall we have then, I pray thee? and what sort of excuse?
Yet further consider, how of old these Egyptians were both avaricious, and gluttonous, together with their other vices. For there were the flesh-pots20 which the Jews remember; there, the great tyranny of the belly. Nevertheless, having a willing mind, they changed: and having caught fire from Christ, they set off at once on their voyage towards heaven; and though more ardent than the rest of mankind, and more headstrong, both in anger, and in bodily pleasures, they imitate the incorporeal powers in meekness, and in the rest of that freedom from passions which pertains unto self-denial.
7. Now if any man hath been in the country, he knows what I say. But if he have never entered those tabernacles, let him call to mind him who even until now is in the mouths of all men,—him whom, after the apostles, Egypt brought forth,—the blessed and great Antony; and let him put it to himself, “This man, too, was born in the same country with Pharaoh; nevertheless he was not thereby damaged, but both had a divine vision vouchsafed him, and showed forth such a life as the laws of Christ require.” And this any man shall know perfectly, when he hath read the book that contains the history of that man’s life;21 in which also he will perceive much prophecy. I allude to his prediction about those infected with the errors of Arius, and his statement of the mischief that would arise from them; God even then having shown them to him. and sketched out before his eyes all that was coming A thing which most especially (among the rest) serves to demonstrate the truth, that no person, belonging to the heresies without, hath such a man to mention. But, not to depend on us for this information, look earnestly into what is written in that book, and ye will learn all exactly, and thence be instructed in much self-denial.
And this advice I give, that we not merely peruse what is written there, but that we also For if we will take heed to ourselves, none of these things shall be an hindrance to us, since even Abraham had an ungodly father,22 but he inherited not his wickedness; and Hezekiah, Ahaz: yet nevertheless he became dear to God. And Joseph too when in the midst of Egypt, adorned himself with the crowns of temperance; and the Three Children no less in the midst of Babylon, and of the palace, when a table like those at Sybaris was set before them, showed the highest self-denial; and Moses also in Egypt, and Paul in the whole world; but nothing was to any one of these an hindrance in the race of virtue.
Let us then, bearing in mind all these things, put out of the way these our superfluous pleas and excuses, and apply ourselves to those toils which the cause of virtue requires. For thus shall we both attract to ourselves more favor from God, and persuade Him to assist us in our struggles, and we shall obtain the eternal blessings; unto which God grant that we may all attain, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and victory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 [The entire verse is given in Field’s Greek text ; the Homily covers verses 11–15.—R.]
2 wjdi`na" e[lusen. Comp. Ac 2,24.3).
4 Mt 2,12.
5 Mt 2,13.
6 [th`" sarkov".]
7 1S 6,6, LXX).
8 [toi`" dunamevnoi".]
9 i.e., of Jacob).
10 The received mystical interpretation of our Lord’s final entry into Jerusalem represented the ass as the type of the Jewish converts, and the colt, of the Gentile Church. See hereafter, Horn. LXVI., and comp. Origen on St. Mt t. 16, 15; St.Amb. in Luc. lib. 9, 4–14; St. Just. Mart. Dial. cum. Tryph.c. 53. The interpretation to which St. Chrysostom points of the flight into Egypt, is probably the same with that of St. Hilary on this place. “Joseph is admonished by the angel to take the young child into Egypt: Egypt full of idols, and given to the worship of all kinds of portents for gods. Accordingly, after the persecution by the Jews, and the assent of that profane multitude to His murder, Christ passes over to the nations, sold as they were to the vainest superstitions. He leaves Jewry, and is carried into the world which knows Him not: while Bethlehem, i.e., Jud’a, overflows with the blood of martyrs. As to Herod’s rage and his murdering the infants, it is the type of the Jewish people raging against the Christians, under the notion that by the slaughter of the blessed m artyrs they blot out Christ’s name from the faith and profession of all men.” p.613, ed. Ben. Paris, 1693).
11 Gn 49,7.
12 Gn 9,25 Jos 9,27.
13 Gn 27,19.
14 Gn 33,3.
15 [The reference is to Nb 25,3. But as usual, the LXX.form of the name is cited: beelfegevr.—R.]
16 Am 9,7. “The Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir,” He [The LXX. has tou;" ajllofuvlou" (here rendered “the strangers”) the usual term for designating “the Philistines.” Comp. 1 and 2 Samuel, passim (in Lxx)..—R.]
17 [sofw`n kai; mavgwn. The translator has rendered mavgoi sometimes by “wise men,” and sometimes by magi. Probably the term here refers more exactly to “magicians.”—R.]
18 [ta; ejkeivnwn, i.e.those things taught by the heathen philosophers of Egypt.—R.]
19 Ac 20,34 1Th 2,9.
20 Ex 16,3.
21 In the works of St. Athanasius).
22 Jos 24,2.
9 Mt 2,16-23
“Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth.”
Yet surely it was a case not for anger, but for fear and awe: he ought to have perceived that he was attempting impossible things. But he is not refrained. For when a soul is insensible and incurable, it yields to none of the medicines given by God. See for example this man following up his former efforts,1 and adding many murders to one, and hurried down the steep any whither. For driven wild by this anger, and envy, as by some demon, he takes account of nothing, but rages even against nature herself, and his anger against the wise men who had mocked him he vents upon the children that had done no wrong: venturing then in Palestine upon a deed akin to the things that had been done in Egypt. For he “sent forth,” it is said, “and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in alI the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.”
Here attend to me carefully. Because many things are uttered by many very idly touching these children, and the course of events is charged with injustice, and some of these express their perplexity about it in a more moderate way, others with more of audaciousness and frenzy. In order then that we may free these of their madness and those of their perplexity, suffer us to discourse a little upon this topic. Plainly, then, if this be their charge, that the children were left to be slain, they should find fault likewise with the slaughter of the soldiers that kept Peter.2 For as here, when the young child had fled, other children are massacred in the place of Him who was sought; even so then, too, Peter having been delivered from his prison and chains by the angel, one of like name with this tyrant, and like temper too, when he had sought him, and found him not, slew instead of him the soldiers that kept him.
“But what is this? it may be said; “why this is not a solution, but an enhancement of our difficulty.” I know it too, and for this intent I bring forward all such cases, that to all I may adduce one and the same solution. What then is the solution of these things? or what fair account of them can we give? That Christ was not the cause of their slaughter, but the king’s cruelty; as indeed neither was Peter to those others, but the madness of Herod. For if he had seen the wall broken through, or the doors overthrown, he might, perhaps, have had ground to accuse the soldiers that kept the apostle, of neglect; but now when all things continued in due form,3 and the doors were thrown wide open, and the chains fastened to the hands of them that kept him (for in fact they were bound unto him), he might have inferred from these things (that is, if he had been strictly doing a judge’s office on the matters before him), that the event was not of human power or craft, but of some divine and wonder-working power; he might have adored the doer of these things, instead of waging war with the sentinels. For God had so done all that He did, that so far from exposing the keepers, He was by their means leading the king unto the truth. But if he proved senseless, what signifies to4 the skillful Physician of Souls, managing all things to do good, the insubordination of him that is diseased?
And just this one may say in the present case likewise. For, wherefore art thou wroth, O Herod, at bring mocked of the wise men? didst thou not know that the birth was divine? didst thou not summon the chief prices? didst thou not gather together the scribes? did not they, bring called, bring the prophet also with them into thy court of judgment, proclaiming these things beforehand from of old? Didst thou not see how the old things agreed with the new? Didst thou not hear that a star also ministered to these men? Didst thou not reverence the zeal of the barbarians? Didst thou not marvel at their boldness? Wast thou not horror-struck at the truth of the prophet? Didst thou not from the former things perceive the very last also? Wherefore didst thou not reason with thyself from all these things, that this event was not of the craft of the wise men, but of a Divine Power, duly dispensing all things? And even if thou wert deceived by the wise men, what is that to5 the young children, who have done no wrong?
3. “Yea,” saith one, “Herod thou hast full well deprived of excuse, and proved him blood-thirsty; but thou hast not yet solved the question about the injustice of what took place. For if he did unjustly, wherefore did God permit it?” Now, what should we say to this? That which I do not cease to say continually, in church, in the market-place and everywhere; that which I also wish you carefully to keep in mind, for it is a sort of rule for us, suited to every such perplexity. What then is our rule, and what our saying? That although there be many that injure, yet is there not so much as one that is injured. And in order that the fiddle may not disturb you too much, I add the solution too with all speed. I mean, that what we may suffer unjustly from any one, it tells either to the doing away of our sins, God so putting that wrong to our account; or unto the recompense of rewards.
And that what I may say may be clearer, let us conduct our argument in the way of illustration. As thus: suppose a certain servant who owes much money to his master, and then that this servant has been despitefully used by unjust men, and robbed of some of his goods. If then the master, in whose power it was to stay the plunderer and wrong doer, should not indeed restore that same property, but should reckon what was taken away towards what was owed him by his servant, is the servant then injured? By no means. But what if he should repay him even more? Has he not then even gained more than he has lost? Every one, I suppose, perceives it.
Now this same reckoning we are to make in regard of our own sufferings. For as to the fact, that in consideration of what we may suffer wrongfully, we either have sins done away, or receive more glorious crowns, if the amount of our sins be not so great: hear what Paul says concerning him that had committed fornication, “Deliver ye such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved.”6 “But what is this?” you may say, “for the discourse was about them that were injured by others, not about them that are corrected by their teachers.” I might answer, that there is no difference;7 for the question was, whether to suffer evil be not an indignity to the sufferer. But, to bring my argument nearer the very point inquired of; remember David, how, when he saw Shimei at a certain time assailing him, and trampling on his affliction, and pouring on him revilings without end, his captains desiring to slay him, he utterly forbade them, saying, “Let him curse, that the Lord may look upon mine abasement, and that he may requite me good for this cursing this day.”8 And in the Psalms too in his chanting, he said, “Consider mine enemies, that they are multiplied, and they hate me with unjust hatred,” and “forgive all my sins.”9 And Lazarus again for the same cause enjoyed remission, having in this life suffered innumerable evils. They therefore who are wronged, are not wronged if they bear nobly all that they suffer, yea, rather they gain even more abundantly, whether they be smitten of God, or scourged by the devil.
3. “But what kind of sin had these children,” it may be said, “that they should do it away? for touching those who are of full age, and have been guilty of many negligences, one might with show of reason speak thus: but they who so underwent premature death, what sort of sins did they by their sufferings put away?” Didst thou not hear me say, that though there were no sins, there is a recompense of rewards hereafter for them that suffer ill here? Wherein then were the young children hurt in being slain for such a cause, and borne away speedily into that waveless harbor? “Because,” sayest thou, “they would in many instances have achieved, had they lived, many and great deeds of goodness” Why, for this cause He lays up for them beforehand no small reward, the ending their lives for such a cause. Besides, if the children were to have been any great persons, He would not have suffered them to be snatched away beforehand. For if they that eventually will live in continual wickedness are endured by Him with so great long-sufferings, much more would He not have suffered these to be so taken off had He foreknown they would accomplish any great things.
And these are the reasons we have to give; yet these are not all; but there are also others more mysterious than these, which He knoweth perfectly, who Himself ordereth these things. Let us then give up unto Him the more perfect understanding of this matter, and apply ourselves to what follows, and in the calamities of others let us learn to bear all things nobly. Yea, for it was no little scene of woe, which then befall Bethlehem, the children were snatched from their mother’s breast, and dragged unto this unjust slaughter.
And if thou art yet faint-hearted, and not equal to controlling thyself in these things, learn the end of him who dared all this, and recover thyself a little. For very quickly was he overtaken by punishment for these things; and he paid the due penalty of such an abominable act, ending his life by a grievous death, and more pitiable than that which he now dared inflict;10 suffering also countless additional ills, which ye may know of by perusing Josephus’ account of these events. But, lest we should make our discourse long, and interrupt its continuity, we have not thought it necessary to insert that account in what we are saying.
4. “Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet,11 saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.”12
Thus having filled the hearer with horror by relating these things: the slaughter so violent and unjust, so extremely cruel and lawless; he comforts him again, by saying, Not from God’s wanting power to prevent it did all this take place, nor from any ignorance of His, but when He both knew it, and foretold it,13 and that loudly by His prophet. Be not troubled then, neither despond, looking unto His unspeakable providence, which one may most dearly see, alike by what He works, and by what He permits. And this He intimated in another place also, when discoursing to His disciples. I mean where, having forewarned them of the judgment seats, and executions, and of the wars of the world, and of the battle that knows no truce, to uphold their spirit and to comfort them He saith, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father which’ is in Heaven.”14 These things He said, signifying that nothing is done without His knowledge, but while He knows all, yet not in all doth He act. “Be not then troubled,” He saith, “neither be disturbed.” For if He know what ye suffer, and hath power to hinder it, it is quite clear that it is in His providence and care for you that He doth not hinder it. And this we ought to bear in mind in our own temptations also, and great will be the consolation we shall thence receive.
But what, it may be said, hath Rachel to do with Bethlehem? For it saith, “Rachel weeping for her children.” And what hath Rama to do with Rachel? Rachel was the mother of Benjamin, and on his death, they buried her in the horse-course that was near this place.15 The tomb then being near, and the portion pertaining unto Benjamin her infant (for Rama was of the tribe of Benjamin), from the head of the tribe first, and next from the place of her sepulture, He naturally denominates her young children who were massacred.16 Then to show that the wound that befell her was incurable and cruel, He saith, “she would not be comforted because they are not.”
Hence again we are taught this, which I mentioned before, never to be confounded when what is happening is contrary to the promise of God. Behold, for instance, when He was come for the salvation of the people, or rather for the salvation of the world, of what kind were His beginnings. His mother, first, in flight; His birth-place is involved in irremediable calamities, and a murder is perpetrated of all murders the bitterest, and there is lamentation and great mourning, and willings everywhere. But be not trouble for He is wont ever to accomplish His own dispensations by their contraries, affording us from thence a very great demonstration of His power.
Thus did He lead on His own disciples also, and prepared them to do all their duty, bringing about things by their contraries, that the marvel might be greater. They, at any rate, being scourged and persecuted, and suffering terrors without end, did in this way get the better of them that were beating and persecuting them.
5. “But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph saying, Arise, and take the young Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel.”17
He no more saith “fly,” but “go.” Seest thou again after the temptation refreshment? then after the refreshment danger again? in that he was freed indeed from his banishment, and came back again to his own country; and beheld the murderer of the children brought to the slaughter;18 but when he hath set foot on his own country, he finds again a remnant of the former perils, the son of the tyrant living, and being king.
But how did Archelaus reign over Judaea, when Pontius Pilate was governor? Herod’s death had recently taken place, and the kingdom had not yet been divided into many parts; but as he had only just ended his life, the son for a while kept possession of the kingdom “in the room of his father Herod;” his brother also beating this name, which is the reason why the evangelist added, “in the room of his father Herod.”
It may be said, however, “if he was afraid to settle in Judaea on account of Archelaus, he had cause to fear Galilee also on account of Herod.” I answer, By his changing the place, the whole matter was thenceforward thrown into shade; for the whole assault was upon “Bethlehem and the coasts thereof.” Therefore now that the slaughter had taken place, the youth Archelaus had no other thought, but that the whole was come to an end, and that amongst the many, He that was sought had been destroyed. And besides, his father having come to such an end of his life before his eyes, he became for the future more cautious about farther proceedings, and about urging on that course of iniquity.
Joseph therefore comes to Nazareth, partly to avoid the danger, partly also delighting to abide in his native place. To give him the more courage, he receives also an oracle from the angel touching this matter. Luke, however, doth not say that he came there by Divine warning, but that when they had fulfilled all the purification, they returned to Nazareth.19 What then may one say? That Luke is giving an account of the time before the going down to Egypt, when he saith these things. For He would not have brought them down thither before the purification, in order that nothing should be done contrary to the law, but he waited for her to be purified, and to go to Nazareth, and that then they should go down to Egypt. Then, after their return, He bids them go to Nazareth. But before this they were not warned of God to go thither, but yearning after their native place, they did so of their own accord. For since they had gone up for no other cause but on account of the taxing, and had not so much as a place where to stay, when they had fulfilled that for which they had come up, they went down to Nazareth.20
6. We see here the cause why the angel also, putting them at ease for the future, restores them to their home. And not even this simply, but he adds to it a prophecy, “That it might be fulfilled,” saith he, “which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.”21
And what manner of prophet said this? Be not curious, nor overbusy. For many of the prophetic writings have been lost; and this one may see from the history of the Chronicles.22 For being negligent, and continually falling into ungodliness, some they suffered to perish, others they themselves burnt up23 and cut to pieces. The latter fact Jeremiah relates;24 the former, he who composed the fourth book of Kings, saying, that after 2R 22,8, etc) a long time the book of Deuteronomy was hardly found, buried somewhere and lost. But if, when there was no barbarian there, they so betrayed their books, much more when the barbarians had overrun them. For as to the fact, that the prophet had foretold it, the apostles themselves in many places call Him a Nazarene.26
1 1). toi`" protevroi" ejpagwnizovmenon. Comp. Jude 3).
2 Ac 12,19.
3 ejpi; schvmato").
4 [ti prov", “what is that to,” as in following paragraph .—R.]
5 [ tiv prov".]
6 1Co 5,5.
7 [Mavlista me;n oujden to; mevson.]
8 2S 16,11-12). [The citation varies from the spanstyle='texinput type="button" input type="button" input type="button" input type="button" input type="text" >>>>>t-transform:uppercase'>LXX., and the latter from the Hebrew: comp. R. V). in loco, where the LXX. is represented in the marginal note.—R.]
9 Ps 25,17-18.
10 See Josephus, A. J. 17,6, 5).
11 Jr 31,15.
12 Mt 2,17-18.
13 [proanakhruvttonto", “proclaiming beforehand,” a technical term of ecclesiastical Greek.—R.]
14 Mt 10,29.
15 Gn 35,19, Lxx. and Gn 48,7.
16 [“He recalls the young children who were massacred hers,” i. e., Rachel’s.—R.]
17 Mt 2,19-20.
18 sfagiasqevnta). [“Massacred,” a bold figure of speech.—R.]
19 Lc 2,39.
20 [Of this there is no hint in the narrative; it is a harmonistic conjecture, with little to recommeud it.—R.]
21 Mt 2,23.
22 See 2Ch 9,29, where it is said that certain of the acts of Solomon were written in the book of Nathan the prophet, and in the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite; and in the visions of Iddo the Seer against Jeroboam the son of Nebat. See also ibid. xii. 15, and 13,22). [The explanation given above is as bold as it is ingenious.—R.]
23 [The Oxford edition reads “brought up ;” evidently a misprint for “burnt up” (katevkaion).—R.]8).
24 Jr 36,23.
26 See Ac 3,22 Ac 3,6 Ac 4,14 Ac 6,14, etc).
“Was not this then,” one may say, “casting a shade over the prophecy touching Bethlehem?” By no means: rather this very fact was sure greatly to stir up men, and to awaken them to the search of what was said of Him. Thus, for example, Nathanael too enters on the inquiry concerning Him, saying, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?”27 For the place was of little esteem; or rather not that place only, but also the whole district of Galilee. Therefore the Pharisees said, “Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no prophet”28 Nevertheless, He is not ashamed to be named even from thence, signifying that He needs not ought of the things of men; and His disciples also He choses out of Galilee; everywhere cutting off the pretexts of them who are disposed to be remiss, and giving tokens that we have no need of outward things, if we practise virtue. For this cause He doth not choose for Himself so much as a house; for “the Son of Man,” saith He,” hath not where to lay His head;”29 and when Herod is plotting against Him, He teeth, and at His birth is laid in a manger, and abides in an inn, and takes a mother of low estate; teaching us to think no such thing a disgrace, and from the first outset trampling under foot the haughtiness of man, and bidding us give ourselves up to virtue only.
7. For why dost thou pride thyself on thy country, when I am commanding thee to be a stranger to the whole world? (so He speaks); when thou hast leave to become such as that all the universe shall not be worthy of thee? For these things are so utterly contemptible, that they are not thought worthy of any consideration even amongst the philosophers of the Greeks, but are called Externals, and occupy the lowest place.
“But yet Paul” one may say, “allows them, saying on this wise, ‘As touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sake.’“30 But tell me, when, and of what things was he discoursing, and to whom? Why, to those of Gentile origin, who were puffing themselves up on their faith, and exalting themselves against the Jews, and so breaking them off the more: to quell the swelling pride of the one, and to win over the others, and thoroughly excite them to the same emulation. For when he is speaking of those noble and great men, hear how he saith, “They that say these things, show plainly that they seek a country; and truly if they had been mindful of that from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned: but now they desire another, a better country.”31 And again, “These all died in faith, not having obtained the promises, but having seen them afar off, and embraced them.”32 And John too said unto those that were coming to him, “Think not to say, We have Abraham to our father.”33 And Paul again, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel; neither they, which are the children of the flesh, are they the children of God.”34 For what were the sons of Samuel advantaged, tell me, by their father’s nobleness, when they were not heirs of their father’s virtue? And what profit had Moses’ sons, not having emulated his perfection?35 Therefore neither did they inherit the dominion; but whilst they enrolled him as their father, the rule of the people passed away to another, to him who had become his son in the way of virtue. And what harm was it to Timothy, that he was of a Greek father? Or what on the other hand again was Noah’s son profiled by the virtue of his father, when he became a slave instead of free? Seest thou, how little the nobleness of a father avails his children in the way of advocacy?36 For the wickedness of Ham’s disposition overcame the laws of nature, and cast him not only out of the nobility which he had in respect of his father, but also out of his free estate. And what of Esau? Was he not son of Isaac, and had he not his father to stand his friend? Yea, his father too endeavored and desired that he should partake of the blessings, and he himself for the sake of this did all that was commanded him. Nevertheless, because he was untoward,37 none of these things profited him; but although he was by birth fist, and had his father on his side doing everything for this object, yet not having God with him, he lost all.
But why do I speak of men? The Jews were sons of God, and gained nothing by this their high birth. Now if a man, having become a son of God, but filling to show forth an excellency meet for this noble birth, is even punished the more abundantly; why dost thou bring me forward the nobleness of ancestors remote or near? For not under the old covenant38 only, but even under the new, one may find this rule to have held. For “as many as received Him,” it is said “to them gave He power to become the sons of God.”39 And yet many of these children Paul hath affirmed to be nothing profited by their father; “For if ye be circumcised,” saith he, “Christ shall profit you nothing.”40 And if Christ be no help to those who will not take heed to themselves, how shall a man stand up in their behalf?
8. Let us not therefore pride ourselves either on high birth, or on wealth, but rather despise them who are so minded: neither let us be dejected at poverty. But let us seek that wealth, which consists in good works; let us flee that poverty, which causes men to be in wickedness, by reason of which also that rich man was poor;41 wherefore he had not at his command so much as a drop of water, and that, although he made much entreaty. Whereas, who can be so poor amongst us,42 as to want water enough even for comfort? There is none such For even they that are pining with extreme hunger, may have the comfort of a drop of water; and not of a drop only, but of refreshment too far more abundant. Not so that rich man, but he was poor even to this degree: and what was yet more grievous, he could not so much as soothe his poverty from any source. Why then do we gape after riches, since they bring us not into Heaven?
For tell me, if any king among those upon earth had said, It is impossible for him that is rich to be distinguished at court, or to enjoy any honor; would ye not have thrown away every one his riches with contempt? So then, if they cast us out from such honor as is in the palaces below, they shall be worthy of all contempt: but, when the King of Heaven is day by day crying aloud and saying, “It is hard with them, to set foot on that sacred threshold;” shall we not give up all, and withdraw from our possessions, that with boldness we may enter into the kingdom? And of what consideration are we worthy, who are at great pains to encompass ourselves with the things that obstruct our way thither; and to hide them not only in chests, but even in the earth, when we might entrust them to the guard of the very Heavens? Since now surely thou art doing the same, as if any husbandman, having gotten wheat wherewith to sow a rich land, was to leave the land alone, and bury all the wheat in a pit, so as neither to enjoy it himself, nor for the wheat to come to ought, but decay and waste. But what is their common plea, when we accuse them of these things? It gives no little comfort, say they, to know that all is laid up for us in safety at home. Nay, rather not to know of its being laid up is a comfort. For even if thou art not afraid of famine, yet other more grievous things, on account of this store, must needs be a terror to thee: deaths, wars, plots laid against thee. And if a famine should ever befall us, the people again, constrained by the belly, takes weapon in hand against thy house. Or rather, in so doing, thou art first of all bringing famine into our cities, and next thou art forming for thine own house this gulf, more grievous than famine. For by stress of famine I know not any who have come to a speedy end; there being in fact many means in many quarters which may be devised to assuage that evil: but for possessions and riches, and the pursuits connected with them. I can show many to have come by their ruin, some in secret, some openly. And with many such instances the highways abound, with many the courts of law, and the market-places, But why speak I of the highways, the courts of law and the market-places? Why, the very sea thou mayest behold filled with their blood. For not over the land only, as it seems, hath this tyranny prevailed, but over the ocean also hath walked in festal procession with great excess. And one makes a voyage for gold, another, again, is stabbed for the same; and the same tyrannical power hath made one a merchant, the other a murderer.
What then can be less trustworthy than Mammon, seeing that for his sake one travels, and ventures, and is slain? “But who,” it is said, “will pity a charmer that is bitten with a serpent?”43 For we ought, knowing its cruel tyranny, to flee that slavery, and destroy that grievous longing. “But how,” saith one, “is this possible?” By introducing another longing, the longing for Heaven. Since he that desires the kingdom will laugh covetousness to scorn; he that is become Christ’s slave is no slave of mammon, but rather his lord; for him that flieth from him, he is wont to follow, and to fly from him that pursues. He honors not so much his pursuer as his despiser; no one doth he so laugh to scorn, as them that desire him; no doth he only laugh them to scorn, but wraps round them also innumerable bonds.
Be it ours then, however late, to loose these grievous chains. Why bring thy reasonable soul into bondage to brute matter, to the mother of those untold evils? But, oh the absurdity! that while we are warring against it in words, it makes war with us by deeds, and leads and carries us everywhere about, insulting us as purchased with money, and meet for the lash; and what can be more disgraceful and dishonorable than this?
Again: if we do not get the better of senseless forms of matter, how shall we have the advantage of the incorporeal powers? If we despise not vile earth and abject stones, how shall we bring into subjection the principalities and authorities? How shall we practise temperance? I mean, if silver dazzle and overpower us, when shall we be able to hurry by a fair face? For, in fact, some are so sold under this tyranny, as be moved somehow even at the mere show of the gold, and in playfulness to say, that the very eyes are the better for a gold coin coming in sight. But make not such jests, whoever thou art;44 for nothing so injures the eyes, both those of the body and those of the soul, as the lust of these things. For instance; it was this grievous longing that put out the lamps of those virgins, and cast them out of the bride chamber. This sight, which (as thou saidst) “doath good to the eyes,” suffered not the wretched Judas to hearken unto the Lord’s voice, but led him even to the halter, made him burst asunder in the midst; and, after all that, conducted him on to hell.
What then can be more lawless than this? what more horrible? I do not mean the substance of riches, but the unseasonable and frantic desire of them? Why, it even drops human gore, and looks murder, and is fiercer than any wild beast, tearing in pieces them that fall in its way, and what is much worse, it suffers them not even to have any sense of being so mangled. For reason would that those who are so treated should stretch forth their hand to them that pass by, and call them to their assistance, but these are even thankful for such rendings of their flesh, than which what can be more wretched?
Let us then, bearing in mind all these things, flee the incurable disease; let us heal the wounds it hath made, and withdraw ourselves from such a pest: in order that both here we may live a secure and untroubled life, and attain to the future treasure; unto which God grant that we may all attain,45 by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom unto the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
27 Jn 1,46.
28 Jn 7,52). [R. V. text: “Search, and see that out of Galilee ariseth no prophet.”R.]
29 Mt 8,10.
30 Rm 11,28). [The Oxford edition reads: “for the Fathers sake;” a misprint, conveying an incorrect sense.—R.1
31 He 11,14-15.
32 He 11,13). [R. V., more correctly: “having seen them and greeted them from afar.”—R.]8).
33 Mt 3,9.
35 [ajkrivbeisan, “strictness.”—R.]
36 [prostasivan, “advancement.” —R.]
38 [th`/ palaia`/, without a substantive, the technical term inecclesiastical Greek for the Old Testament.—R.]
39 Jn 1,12.
40 Ga 5,2.
41 Lc 16,24.
42 The words in italics are omitted in several Mss). [In four Mss and two versions the clause is wanting; see note at close of this Homily.—R.]
43 Si 12,13.
45 Om. in one or two Mss). [The clause in brackets is wanting in four Mss. and in two Versions; the identical authorities which omit the clause in sec. 8. The Oxford editor estimates the facts differently in the two instances, without any adequate reason.—R.]
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 8