Chrysostom on 1Cor 3000
3000 and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ. (1Co 12,12-20)
3001 After soothing them from the considerations that the thing given was of free favor; that they received all from “one and the self-same Spirit;” that it was given “to profit withal,” that even by the lesser gifts a manifestation was made; and withal having also stopped their mouth from the duty of yielding to the authority of the Spirit: (“for all these,” saith he, “worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will;” wherefore it is not right to be over-curious:) he proceeds now to soothe them in like manner from another common example, and betakes himself to nature itself, as was his use to do.
For when he was discoursing about the hair of men and women, after all the rest he drew matter thence also to correct them, saying, “Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a dishonor to him? but if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her?” (1Co 11,14-15) And when he spake concerning the idol-sacrifices, forbidding to touch them, he drew an argument from the examples also of them that are without, both making mention of the Olympic games, where he saith, “they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize:” (1Co 9,24) and confirming these views from shepherds and soldiers and husbandmen. Wherefore he brings forward here also a common example by which he presses on and fights hard to prove that no one was really put in a worse condition: a thing which was marvellous and surprising to be able to show, and calculated to refresh the weaker sort, I mean, the example of the body. For nothing so consoles the person of small spirit and inferior gifts, or so persuades him not to grieve, as the being convinced that he is not left with less than his share. Wherefore also Paul making out this point, thus expresses himself: “for as the body is one and hath many members. “
Seest thou his exact consideration? He is pointing out the same thing to be both one and many. Wherefore also he adds, pressing the point more vigorously, “and all the members of the one body, being many, are one body.” He said not, “being many, are of one body,” but “the one body itself is many:” and those many members are this one thing. If therefore the one is many, and the many are one, where is the difference? where the superiority? where the disadvantage? For all, saith he, are one: and not simply one, but being strictly considered in respect of that even which is principal, 1,e., their being a body, they are found all to be one: but when considered as to their particular natures, then the difference comes out, and the difference is in all alike. For none of them by itself can make a body, but each is alike deficient in the making a body, and there is need of a coining together since when the manybecome one, then and not till then is there one body. Wherefore also covertly intimating this very thing, he said, “And all the members of the one body, being many, are one body.” And he said not, “the superior and the inferior,” but “being many,” which is common to all.
And how is it possible that they should be one? When throwing out the difference of the members, thou considerest the body. For the same thing which the eye is, this also is the foot in regard of its being a member and constituting a body. For there is no difference in this respect. Nor canst thou say that one of the members makes a body of itself, but another does not. For they are all equal in this, for the very reason that they are all one body.
But having said this and having shown it clearly from the common judgment of all, he added, “so also is Christ.” And when he should have said, “so also is the Church,” for this was the natural consequent he doth not say it but instead of it places the name of Christ, carrying the discourse up on high and appealing more and more to the hearer’s reverence. But his meaning is this: “So also is the body of Christ, which is the Church.” For as the body and the head are one man, so he said that the Church and Christ are one. Wherefore also he placed Christ instead of the Church, giving that name to His body. “As then,” saith he, “our body is one thing though it be composed of many: so also in the Church we all are one thing. For though the Church be composed of many members, yet these many form one body.”
[2.] Thus having, you see, recovered and raised up by this common example him who thought himself depreciated, again he leaves the topic of common experience, and comes to another, a spiritual one, bringing greater consolation and indicative of great equality of honor. What then is this?
1Co 12,13. “For in one Spirit, saith he, were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free.”
Now his meaning is this: that which established us to become one body and regenerated us, is one Spirit: for not in one Spirit was one baptized, and another another. And not only is that which hath baptized us one, but also that unto which He baptized us, i.e., for which He baptized us, is one. For we were baptized not that so many several bodies might be formed, but that we might all preserve one with another the perfect nature of one body: i.e., that we might all be one body, into the same were we baptized.
3002 (So that both He who formed it is one, and that into which He formed it is one. And he said not, “that we might all come to be of the same body; “but, “that we might all be one body.” For he ever strives to use the more expressive phrases. And well said he, “we all,” adding also himself. “For not even I, the Apostle, have any more than thou in this respect,” saith he. “For thou art the body even as I, and I even as thou, and we have all the same Head and have passed through the same birth-pains. Wherefore we are also the same body.” “And why speak I,” saith he, “of the Jews? since even the Gentiles who were so far off from us, He hath brought into the entireness of one body.” Wherefore having said, “we all,” he stopped not here, but added, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free.” Now if, having before been so far off, we were united and have become one, much more after that we have become one, we can have no right to grieve and be dejected. Yea, the difference, in fact, hath no place. For if to Greeks and Jews, to bond and free, He hath vouchsafed the same blessings, how can it be that after so vouchsating He divides them, now that He hath bestowed a greater perfection of unity by the supply of His gifts?
“And were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
1Co 12,14. “For the body is not one member, but many.” i.e., We are come to the same initiation, we enjoy the same Table. And why said he not, “we are nourished by the same body and drink the same blood?” Because by saying “Spirit,” he declared them both, as well the flesh as the blood. For through both are we “made to drink of the Spirit.”
But to me he appears now to speak of that visitation of the Spirit which takes place in us after Baptism and before the Mysteries. And he said, “We were made to drink,” because this metaphorical speech suited him extremely well for his proposed subject: as if he had said respecting plants and a garden, that by the same fountain all the trees are watered, or by the same water; so also here, “we all drank the same Spirit, we enjoyed the same grace,” saith he.
If now one Spirit both formed us and gathered us all together into one body; for this is the meaning of, “we were baptized into one body: “and vouchsafed us one table, and gave us all the same watering, (for this is the meaning of, “we were made to drink into one Spirit,”) and united persons so widely separated; and if many things then become a body when they are made one: why, I pray, art thou continually tossing to and from their difference? But if thou sayest, “Because there are many members and diverse,” know that this very thing is the wonder and the peculiar excellency of the body, when the things which are many and diverse make one. But if they were not many, it were not so wonderful and incredible that they should be one body; nay, rather they would not be a body at all.
[3.] This however he states last; but for the present he goes to the members themselves, saying thus:
1Co 12,15. “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”
1Co 12,16. “And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”
For if the one being made inferior and the other superior, doth not allow their being of the body, the whole is done away. Do not say therefore, “I am not the body, because I am inferior.” For the foot also hath the inferior post, yet is it of the body: for the being or not being part of the body, is not from the one lying in this place and the other in that; (which is what constitutes difference of place;) but from the being conjoined or separated. For the being or not being a body, arises from the having been made one or not. But do thou, I pray, mark his considerate way, how he applies their words to our members. For as he said above, “These things have I in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos,” (1Co 4,6) just so likewise here, to make his argument free from invidiousness and acceptable, he introduces the members speaking: that when they shall hear nature answering them, being thus convicted by experience herself and by the general voice, they may have nothing further to oppose. “For say, if you will,” saith he, “this very thing, murmur as you please, you cannot be out of the body. For as the law of nature, so much moredoth the power of grace guard all things and preserve them entire.” And see how he kept to the rule of having nothing superfluous; not working out his argument on all the members, but on two only and these the extremes; having specified both the most honorable of all, the eye, and the meanest of all, the feet. And he doth not make the foot to discourse with the eye, but with the hand which is mounted a littleabove it; and the ear with the eyes. For because we are wont to envy not those who are very far above us, but those who are a little higher, therefore he also conducts his comparison thus.
1Co 12,17. “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?”
Thus, because, having fallen upon the difference of the members, and having mentioned feet, and hands, and eyes, and ears, he led them to the consideration of their own inferiority and superiority: see how again he consoles them, intimating that so it was expedient: and that their being many and diverse, this especially causeth them to be a body. But if they all were some one, they would not ben body. Wherefore, he saith, “If they were all one member, where were the body?” This however, he mentions not till afterwards; but here he points out also something more; that besides the impossibility of any one being a body, it even takes away the being of the rest.
“For if the whole were hearing, where were the smelling,” saith he.
3003 [4.] Then because after all they were yet disturbed: that which he had done above, the same he doth also now. For as there he first alleged the expediency to comfort them and afterwards stopped their mouths, vehemently saying, “But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one man severally even as He will:” so also here having stated reasons for which he showed that it was profitable that all should so be, he refers the whole again to the counsel of God, saying,
1Co 12,18. “But now God hath set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased Him.”
Even as he said of the Spirit, “as He will,” so also here, “as it pleased Him.” Now do not thou seek further into the cause, why it is thus and why not thus. For though we have ten thousand reasons to give, we shall not be so able to show them that it is well done, as when we say, that as the best Artificer pleased, so it came to pass. For as it is expedient, so He wills it. Now if in this body of ours we do not curiously enquire about the members, much more in the Church. And see his thoughtfulness in that he doth not state the difference which arises from their nature nor that from their operation, but that from their local situation. For “now,” saith he, “God hath set the members each one of them in the body even as it pleased Him.” And he said well, “each one,” pointing out that theuse extends to all, For thou canst not say,“This He hath Himself placed but not that: but every one according to His will, so it is situated.” So that to the foot also it is profitable that it should be so stationed, and not to the head only: and if it should invert the order and leaving its own place, should go to another, though it might seem to have bettered its condition, it would be the undoing and ruin of the whole. For it both falls from its own, and reaches not the other station).
[5.] 1Co 12,19. “And if they were all one member, where were the body?” 1Co 12,20. “But now are they many members, but one body.”Thus having silenced them sufficiently by God’s own arrangement, again he states reasons. And he neither doth this always nor that, but alternates and varies his discourse. Since on the one hand, he who merely silences, confounds the hearer, and he, on the contrary, who accustoms him to demand reasons for all things, injures him in the matter of faith; for this cause then Paul is continually practising both the one and the other, that they may both believe and may not be confounded; and after silencing them, he again gives a reason likewise. And mark his earnestness in the combat and the completeness of his victory. For from what things they supposed themselves unequal in honor because in them there was great diversity, even from these things he shows that for this very reason they are equal in honor. How, I will tell you.“If all were one member,” saith he, “where were the body?”Now what he means is, If there were not among you great diversity, ye could not be a body; and not being a body, ye could not be one; and not being one, ye could not be equal in honor. Whence it follows again that if ye were all equal in honor, ye were not a body; and not being a body, ye were not one; and not being one, how could ye be equal in honor? As it is, however, because ye are not all endowed with some one gift, therefore are yea body; and being a body, ye are all one, and differ nothing from one another in this that ye are a body. So that this very difference is that which chiefly causeth your equality in honor. And accordingly he adds, “But now they are many members, yet one body.”
[6.] These things then let us also consider and cast out all envy, and neither grudge against them that have greater gifts nor despise them that possess the lesser. For thus had God willed: let us then not oppose ourselves. But if thou art still disturbed, consider that thy work is oft-times such as thy brother is unable to perform. So that even if thou art inferior, yet in this thou hast the advantage: and though he be greater, he is worse off in this respect; and so equality takes place. For in the body even the little members seem to contribute no little, but the great ones themselves are often injured by them, I mean by their removal. Thus what in the body is more insignificant than the hair? Yet if thou shouldest remove this, insignificant as it is, from the eyebrows and the eyelids, thou hast destroyed all the grace of the countenance, and the eye will no longer appear equally beautiful. And yet the loss is of a trifle; but notwithstanding even thus all the comeliness is destroyed. And not the comeliness only, but much also of the use of the eyes. The reason is that every one of our members hath both a working of its own and one which is common; and likewise there is in us a beauty which is peculiar and another which is common. And these kinds of beauty appear indeed to be divided, but they. are perfectly bound together, and whenone is destroyed, the other perishes also alongwith it. To explain myself: let there be bright eyes, and a smiling cheek, and a red lip, and straight nose, and open brow; nevertheless, ifthou mar but the slightest of these, thou hast marred the common beauty of all; all is full of dejection; all will appear foul to look on, which before was so beautiful: thus if thou shouldest crush only the tip of the nose thou hast brought great deformity upon all: and yet it is the maiming of but a single member. And likewise in the hand, if thou shouldest take away the nail from one finger, thou wouldest see the same result. If now thou wouldest see the same taking place in respect of their function also, take away one finger, and thou wilt see the rest less active and no longer performing their part equally.
3004 Since then the less of a member is a common deformity, and its safety beauty to all, let us not be lifted up nor trample on our neighbors. For through that small member even the great one is fair and beautiful, and by the eyelids, slight as they are, is the eye adorned. So that he who wars with his brother wars with himself: for the injury done reaches not only unto that one, but himself also shall undergo no small loss.
[7.] That this then may not be, let us care for our neighbors as for ourselves, and let us transfer this image of the body now also to the Church, and be careful for all as for our own members. For in the Church ere are membersmany and diverse: and some are more honorable and some more deficient. For example, there are choirs of virgins, there are assemblies of widows, there are fraternities of those whoshine in holy wedlock; in short, many are the degrees of virtue. And in almsgiving again in like manner. For some empty themselves of all their goods: others care for a competency alone and seek nothing more than necessaries; others give of their superfluity: nevertheless, all these adorn one another; and if the greater should set at nought the less, he would in the greatest degree injure himself. Thus, suppose a virgin to deal scornfully with a married woman, she hath cut off no small part of her reward; and he again that emptied himself of all should he upbraid him that hath not done so, hath emptied himself of much of the fruit of his labors. And why speak I of virgins, and widows, and men without possessions? What is meaner than those who beg? and yet even these fulfill a most important office in the Church, clinging to the doors of the sanctuary and supplying one of its greatest ornaments: and without these there could be no perfecting the fulness of the Church. Which thing, as it seems, the Apostles also observing made a law from the beginning, as in regard to all other things, so also that there should be widows: and so great care did they use about the matter as also to set over them seven deacons. For as bishops and presbyters and deacons and virgins and continent persons, enter into my enumeration, where I am reckoning up the members of the Church, so also do widows. Yea, and it is no mean office which they fill. For thou indeed comest here when thou wilt: but these both day and night sing psalms and attend: not for alms only doing this; since if that were their object, they might walk in the market place and beg in the alleys: but there is in them piety also in no small degree. At least, behold in what a furnace of poverty they are; yet never shall thou hear a blasphemous word from them nor an impatient one, after the manner of many rich men’s wives. Yet some of them often lie down to their rest in hunger, and others continue constantly frozen by the cold; nevertheless, they pass their time in thanksgiving and giving glory. Though you give but a penny, they give thanks and implore ten thousand blessings on the giver; and if thou give nothing they do not complain, but even so they bless, and think themselves happy to enjoy their daily food.
“Yes,” it is replied, “since whether they will or no, they must bear it.” Why, tell me? Wherefore hast thou uttered this bitter expression? Are there not shameful arts which bring gain to the aged, both men and women? Had they not power to support themselves by those means in great abundance, provided they had chosen to cast off all care of upright living? Seest thou not how many persons of that age, by becoming pimps and panders and by other such ministrations, both live, and live in luxury? Not so these, but they choose rather to perish of hunger than to dishonor their own life and betray their salvation; and they sit throughout the whole day, preparing a medicine of salvation for thee.
For do physician stretching out the hand to apply the knife, works so effectually to cut out the corruption from our wounds, as doth a poor man stretching out his right hand and receiving alms, to take away the scars which the wounds have left. And what is truly wonderful, they perform this excellent chirurgery without pain and anguish: and we who are set over the people and give you so much wholesome advice, do not more truly discourse than he doth, who sits before the doors of the church, by his silence and his countenance. For we too sound these things in your ears every day, saying, “Be not high-minded, O man; human nature is a thing that soon declines and is ready to fall away; our youth hastens on to old age, our beauty to deformity, our strength to weakness, our honor to contempt, our health falls away to sickness, our glory to meanness, our riches to poverty; our concerns are like a violent current that never will stand still, but keeps hastening down the steep.”
3005 The same advice do they also give and more than this, by their appearance and by their experience itself too, which is a yet plainer kind of advice. How many, for instance, of those who now sit without, were in the bloom of youth and did great things? How many of these loathsome looking persons surpassed many, both in vigor of body and in beauty of countenance? Nay, disbelieve it not nor deride. For surely, life is full of ten thousand such examples. For if from mean and humble persons many have oftentimes become kings, what marvel is it if from being greatand glorious, some have been made humble and mean? Since the former is much the more extraordinary: but the latter, of perpetual occurrence. So that one ought not to be incredulous that any of them ever flourished in arts, and arms, and abundance of wealth, but rather to pity them with great compassion and to fear for ourselves, lest we too should sometime suffer the same things. For we too are men and are subject to this speedy change.
[8.] But perchance some one of the thoughtless, and of those who are accustomed to scoff, will object to what hath been said, and willaltogether deride us, saying, “How long wilt l thou not cease continually introducing poor men and beggars in thy discourses, and prophesying to us of misfortunes, and denouncing poverty to come, and desiring to make us beggars?” Not from a desire to make beggars of you, O man, do I say these things, but hastening to open unto you the riches of heaven. Since he too, who to the healthy man makes mention of the sick and relates their anguish, saith it not to make him diseased, but to preserve him in health, by the fear of their calamities cutting off his remissness. Poverty seems to you to be a fearful thing and to be dreaded, even to the mere name of it. Yea, and therefore are we poor, because we are afraid of poverty; though we have ten thousand talents. For not he who hath nothing is poor, but he who shudders at poverty. Since in men’s calamities also it is not those who suffer great evils whom we lament and account wretched, but those who know not how to bear them, even though they be small. Whereas he that knows how to bear them is, as all know, worthy of praises and crowns. And to prove that this is so, whom do we applaud in the games? Those who are much beaten and do not vex themselves, but hold their head on high; or those who fly after the first strokes? Are not those even crowned by us as manly and noble; while we laugh at these as unmanly and cowards? So then let us do in the affairs of life. Him that bears all easily let us crown, as we do that noble champion; but weep over him that shrinks and trembles at his dangers, and who before he receives the blow is dead with fear. For so in the games; if any before he raised his hands, at the mere sight of his adversary extending his right hand, should fly, though he receive no wound, he will be laughed to scorn as feeble and effeminate and unversed in such struggles. Now this is like what happens to these who fear poverty, and cannot so much as endure the expectation of it.
Evidently then it is not we that make you wretched, but ye yourselves. For how can it be that the devil should not hence-forth make sport of thee, seeing thee even before the stroke afraid and trembling at the menace? Or rather, when thou dost but esteem this a threat, he will have no need so much as to strike thee any more, but leaving thee to keep thy wealth, by the expectation of its being taken away he will render thee softer than any wax. And because it is our nature (so to speak,) not to consider the objects of our dread so fearful after suffering, as before and while yet untried: therefore to prevent thee from acquiring even this virtue, he detains thee in the very height of fear; by the fear of poverty, before all experience of it, melting thee down as wax in the fire. Yea, and such a man is softer than any wax and lives a life more wretched than Cain himself. For the things which he hath in excess, he is in fear: for those which he hath not, in grief; and again, concerning what he hath he trembles, keeping his wealth within as a wilful runaway slave, and beset by I know not what various and unaccountable passions. For unaccountable desire, and manifold fear and anxiety, and trembling on every side, agitate them. And they are like a vessel driven by contrary winds from every quarter, and enduring many heavy seas. And how much better for such a man to depart than to be enduring a continual storm? Since for Cain also it were more tolerable to have died than to be for ever trembling.
Lest we then for our part suffer these things, let us laugh to scorn the device of the devil, let us burst his cords asunder, let us sever the point of his terrible spear and fortify every approach. For if thou laugh at money, he hath not where to strike, he hath not where he may lay hold. Then hast thou rooted up the root of evils; and when the root is no more, neither will any evil fruit grow.
[9.] Well: these things we are always saying and never leave off saying them: but whether our sayings do any good, the day will declare, even that day which is revealed by fire, which trieth every man’s work, (1Co 3,13) which showeth what lamps are bright and what are not so. Then shall he who hath oil, and he who hath it not, be manifest. But may none then be found destitute of the comfort; rather may all, bringing in with them abundance of mercy, and having their lamps bright, enter in together with the Bridegroom.
Since nothing is more fearful and full of anguish than that voice which they who departed without abundant almsgiving shall then hear the Bridegroom, “I know you not.” (S. Mt 25,12) But may we never hear this voice, but rather that most pleasant and desirable one, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (S. Mt 25,34) For thus shall we live the happy life, and enjoy all the good things which even pass man’s understanding: unto which may we all attain, through the grace and mercy, &c).
3100 I have no need of thee: or again thehead to the feet, I have no need of you. (1Co 12,21-26)
3101 Having checked the envy of those in lower rank, and having taken off the dejection which it was likely that they would feel from greater gifts having been vouchsafed to others, he humbles also the pride of these latter who had received the greater gifts. He had done the same indeed in his discourse also with the former. For the statement that it was a gift and not an achievement was intended to declare this. But now he doth it again even more vehemently, dwelling on the same image. For from the body in what follows, and from the unity thence arising, he proceeds to the actual comparison of the members, a thing on which they,were especially seeking to be instructed. Since there was not so much power to console them in the circumstance of their being all one body, as in the conviction that in the very things wherewith they were endowed, they were not left greatly behind. And he saith, “The eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of thee: or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.”
For though the gift be less, yet is it necessary: and as when the one is absent, many functions are impeded, so also without the other there is a maim in the fulness of the Church And he said not,; “will not say,” but “cannot say.” So that even though it wish it, though it should actually say so, it is out of the question nor is the thing consistent with nature. For this cause having taken the two extremes, he makes trial of his argument in them, first in respect of the hand and the eye, and secondly, in respect of the head and feet, adding force to the example.
For what is meaner than the foot? Or what more honorable and more necessary than the head? For this, the head, more than any thing, is the man. Nevertheless, it is not of itself sufficient nor could it alone perform all things; since if this were so, our feet would be a superfluous addition).
[2.] And neither did he stop here, but seeks also another amplification, a kind of thing which he is always doing, contending not only to be on equal terms but even advancing beyond. Wherefore also he adds, saying,
1Co 12,22. “Nay, much rather those members of thebody, which seem to be more feeble are necessary:
1Co 12,23. “And those parts of the body which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.”
In every clause adding the term “body,” and thereby both consoling the one and checking the other. “For I affirm not this only,“saith he, “that the greater have need of theless, but that they have also much need. Sinceif there be any thing weak in us, if any thing dishonorable, this is both necessary and enjoys greater honor.” And he well said, “which seem,” and, “which we think;” pointing out that the judgment arises not from the nature of the things, but from the opinion of the many. For nothing in us is dishonorable, seeing it is God’s work. Thus what in us is esteemed less honorable than our genital members? Nevertheless, they enjoy greater honor. And the very poor, even if they have the rest of the body naked, cannot endure to exhibit those members naked. Yet surely this is not the condition of things dishonorable; but it was natural for them to be despised rather than the rest. For so in a house the servant who is dishonored, so far from enjoying greater attention, hath not even an equal share vouch-safed him. By the same rule likewise, if this member were dishonorable, instead of having greater privileges it ought not even to enjoy the same: whereas now it hath more honor for its portion: and this too the wisdom of God hath effected. For to some parts by their nature He hath given not to need it: but to others, not having granted it by their nature, He hath compelled us to yield it. Yet are they not therefore dishonorable. Since the animals too by their nature have a sufficiency, and need neither clothing nor shoes nor a roof, the greater part of them: yet not on this account is our body less honorable than they, because it needs all these things.
Yea rather, were one to consider accurately, these parts in question are even by nature itself both honorable and necessary. Which in truth Paul himself imitated, giving his judgment in their favor not from our care and from their enjoying greater honor, but from the very nature of the things.
Wherefore when he calls them “weak” and “less honorable,” he uses the expression, “which seem:” but when he calls them “necessary,” he no longer adds “which seem,” but himself gives his judgment, saying, “they are necessary;” and very properly. For they are useful to procreation of children and the succession of our race. Wherefore also the Roman legislators punish them that mutilate these members and make men eunuchs, as persons who do injury to our common stock and affront nature herself.
But woe to the dissolute who bring reproach on the handy-works of God. For as many are wont to curse wine on account of the drunken, and womankind on account of the unchaste; so also they account these members base because of those who use them not as they ought. But improperly. For the sin is not allotted to the thing as a portion of its nature, but the transgression is produced by the will of him that ventures on it.
But some suppose that the expressions, “the feeble members,” and “less honorable,” and “necessary,” and “which enjoy more abundant honor,” are used by Paul of eyes and feet, and that he speaks of the eye as” more feeble,” and “necessary,” because though deficient in strength, they have the advantage in utility: but of the feet as the “less honorable:” for these also receive from us great consideration.
3102 [3.] Next, not to work out yet another amplification, he says,
1Co 12,24. “But our comely parts have no need:”
That is, lest any should say, “Why whatkind of speech is this, to despise the honorable and pay court to the less honored?” “we do not this in contempt,” saith he, “but because they ‘have no need.‘“And see how large a measure of praise he thus sets down in brief, and so hastens on: a thing most conveniently and usefully done. And neither is he content with this, but adds also the cause, saying, “But God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor unto that part which lacked:”
1Co 12,25. “That there should be no schism in the body.”
Now if He tempered it together, He did not suffer that which is more uncomely to appear. For that which is mingled becomes one thing, and it doth not appear what it was before: since otherwise we could not say that it was tempered. And see how he continually hastens by the defects, saying, “that which lacked.” He said not, “to that which is dishonorable,” “to that which is unseemly,” but, “to that which lacked, (“that which lacked;” how? by nature,) giving more abundant honor.” And wherefore? “That there should be no schism in the body.” Thus because, though they enjoyed an endless store of consolation, they nevertheless indulged grief as if they had received less than others, he signifies that they were rather honored. For his phrase is, “Giving more abundant honor to that which lacked.”
Next he also adds the reason, showing that with a view to their profit he both caused it to lack and more abundantly honored it. And what is the reason? “That there should be no schism,” saith he, “in the body.” (And he said not, “in the members,” but, “in the body.”) For there would indeed be a great and unfair advantage, if some members were cared for both by nature and by our forethought, others not even by either one of these. Then would they be cut off from one another, from inability to endure the connection. And when these were cut off, there would be harm done also to the rest. Seest thou how he points out, that of necessity “greater honor” is given to “that which lacketh?” “For had not this been so, the injury would have become common to all,” saith he. And the reason is, that unless these received great consideration on our part, they would have been rudely treated, as not having the help of nature: and this rude treatment would have been their ruin: their ruin would have divided the body; and the body having been divided, the other members also would have perished, which are far greater than these.
Seest thou that the care of these latter is connected with making provision for those? For they have not their being so much in their own nature, as in their being one, by virtue of the body. Wherefore if the body perish, they profit nothing by such health as they have sew erally. But if the eye remain or the nose, preserving its proper function, yet when the bond of union is broken there will be no use for them ever after; whereas, suppose this remaining, and those injured, they both support themselves through it and speedily return to health.
But perhaps some one may say, “this indeed in the body hath reason, that ‘that which lacketh hath received more abundant honor,’ but among men how may this be made out?” Why, among men most especially thou mayest see this taking place. For so they who came at the eleventh hour first received their hire; and the sheep that had wandered induced the shepherd to leave behind the ninety and nine and run after it, and when it was found, he bore and did not drive it; and the prodigal son obtained more honor than he who was approved; and the thief was crowned and proclaimed before the Apostles. And in the case of the talents also thou mayest see this happen: in that to him that received the five talents, and to him that received two, were vouchsafed the same rewards; yea, by the very circumstance that he received the two, he was the more favored with great providential care. Since had he been entrusted with the five, with his want of ability he would have fallen from the whole: but having received the two and fulfilled his own duty, he was thought worthy of the same with him that had gained the five, having so far the advantage, as with less labor to obtain the same crown. And yet he too was a man as well as the one that traded with the five. Nevertheless, his Master doth not in any wise call him to a strict account, nor compel him to do the same with his fellow-servant, nor doth he say, “Why canst thou not gain the five?” (though he might justly have said so,) but assigned him likewise his crown.
[4.] Knowing these things therefore, ye that are greater, trample not on the less, lest, instead of them, ye injure yourselves. For when they are cut off, the whole body is destroyed. Since, what else is a body than the existence of many members? As also Paul himself saith, that “the body is not one member, but many.” If therefore this be the essence of a body, let us take care that the many continue many. Since, unless this be entirely preserved, the stroke is in the vital parts; which is the reason also why the Apostle doth not require this only, their not being separated, but also their being closely united. For instance, having said, “that there be no schism in the body,” he was not content with this, but added, “that the members should have the same care one for another.” Adding this other cause also of the less enjoying more honor. For not only lest they should be separated one from another hath God so contrived it, but also that there may be abundant love and concord. For if each man’s being depends on his neighbor’s safety, tell me not of the less and the more: in this case there is no more and less. While the body continues you may see the difference too, but when it perishes, no longer. And perish it will, unless the lesser parts also continue. If now even the greater members will perish when the less are broken off, these ought to care in like manner for the less, and so as for themselves, inasmuch as in the safety of these the greater likewise remain. So then, shouldst thou say ten thousand times, “such member is dishonored and inferior,” still if thou provide not for it in like manner as for thyself, if thou neglect it as inferior, the injury will pass on to thyself. Wherefore he said not only, that “the members should care one for another,” but he added, “that they should have the same care one for another,” i.e., in like manner the small should enjoy the same providential care with great.
3103 Say not then, that such is an ordinary person, but consider he is a member of that body which holds together the whole: and as the eye, so also doth he cause the body to be a body. For where the body is builded up, there none hath anything more than his neighbor: since neither does this make a body, there being one part greater and another less, but their being many and diverse. For even as thou, because thou art greater, didst help to make up the body, so also he, because he is less. So that his comparative, deficiency, when the body is to be builded up, turns out of equal value with thee unto this noble contributions: yea, he avails as much as thyself. And it is evident from hence. Let there be no member greater or less, nor more and less honorable: but let all be eye or all head: will not the body perish? Every one sees it. Again, if all be inferior, the same thing will happen. So that in this respect also the less are proved equal.Yea, and if one must say something more, the purpose of the less being less is that the body may remain. So that for thy sake he is less, in order that thou mayest continue to be great. And here is the cause of his demanding the same care from all. And having said, “that the members may have the same care one for another,” he explains “the same thing” gain, by saying,
[5.] 1Co 12,26. “And whether one member suffereth all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”
“Yea, with no other view,” saith he, “did He make the care He requires common, establishing unity in so great diversity, but that of all events there might be complete communion. Because, if our care for our neighbor be the common safety, it follows also that our glory and our sadness must be common.” Three things therefore he here demands: the not being divided but united in perfection: the having like care for another: and the considering all that happens common. And as above he saith, “He hath given more abundant honor to that part which lacked,” because it needethit; signifying that the very inferiority was become an introduction to greater honor; so here he equalizes them in respect of the care also which takes place mutually among them. For “therefore did he cause them to partake of greater honor,” saith he, “that they might not meet with less care.” And not from hence only, but also by all that befalls them, good and painful, are the members bound to one another. Thus often when a thorn is fixed in the heel, the whole body feels it and cares for it: both the back is bent and the belly and thighs are contracted, and the hands coming forth as guards and servants draw out what was so fixed, and thehead stoops over it, and the eyes observe itwith much care. So that even if the foot hath inferiority from its inability to ascend, yet by its bringing down the head it hath an equality,and is favored with the same honor; and especially whenever the feet are the cause of thehead’s coming down, not by favor but by theirclaim on it. And thus, if by being the more honorable it hath an advantage; yet in that, being so it owes such honor and care to the lesser and likewise equal sympathy: by this it indicates great equality. Since what is meaner than the heel? what more honorable than the head? Yet this member reaches to that, and moves them all together with itself. Again if anything is the matter with the eyes, all complain and all are idle: and neither do the feet walk nor the hands work, nor doth the stomach enjoy its accustomed food; and yet the affection is of the eyes. Why dost thou cause the stomach to pine? why keep thy feet still? why bind thy hands? Because they are tied to the feet, and in an unspeakable manner the whole body suffers. For if it shared not in the suffering, it would not endure to partake of the care. Wherefore may have the same care one for another, he added, “whether one member suffereth, all the members suffer with it; or one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” “And how do they rejoice with it?” say you. The head is crowned, and the whole man is honored. The mouth speaks, and the eyes laugh and are delighted. Yet the credit belongs not to the beauty of the eyes, but to the tongue. Again if the eyes appear beautiful, the whole woman is embellished: as indeed these also, when a straight nose and upright neck and other members are praised, rejoice and appear cheerful: and again they shed tears in great abundance over their griefs and misfortunes, though themselves continue uninjured.
3104 [6.] Let us all then, considering these things, imitate the love of these members; let us not in any wise do the contrary, trampling on the miseries of our neighbor and envying his good things. For this is the part of madmen and persons beside themselves. Just as he that digs out his own eye hath displayed a very great proof of senselessness; and he that devours his own hand exhibits a clear evidence of downright madness.
Now if this be the case with regard to the members, so likewise, when it happeneth among the brethren, it fastens on us the reputation of folly and brings on no common mischief. For as long as he shines, thy comeliness also is apparent and the whole body is beautified. For not at all doth he confine the beauty to himself alone, but permits thee also to glory. But if thou extinguish him, thou bringest a common darkness upon the whole body, and the misfortune thou causest is common to all the members: as indeed if thou preservest him in brightness, thou preservest the bloom of the entire body. For no man saith, “the eye is beautiful:” but what? “such a woman is beautiful.” And if it also be praised, it comes after the common encomium. So likewise it happens in the Church. I mean, if there be any celebrated persons, the community reaps the good report of it. For the enemies are not apt to divide the praises, but connect them together. And if any be brilliant in speech, they do not praise him alone but likewise the whole Church. For they do not say only, “such a one is a wonderful man,” but what? “the Christians have a wonderful teacher:” and so they make the possession common.
[7.] And now let me ask, do heathens bind together, and dost thou divide and war with thine own body, and withstand thine own members? Knowest thou not that this overturns all? For even a “kingdom,” saith he, “divided against itself shall not stand.” (S. Mt 12,25)
But nothing so divides and separates as envy and jealousy, that grievous disease, and exempt from all pardon, and in some respect worse than “the root of all evils.” (1Tm 6,12) For the covetous is then pleased when himself hathreceived: but the envious is then pleased, whenanother hath failed to receive, not when himself hath received. For he thinks the misfortunes of others a benefit to himself, rather thanprosperity; going about a common enemy of mankind, and smiting the members of Christ, than which what can be more akin to madness? A demon is envious, but of men, not of any demon: but thou being a man enviest men, and with standest what is of thine own tribe and family, which not even a demon doth. And what pardon shalt thou obtain, what excuse? trembling and turning pale at sight of a brother in prosperity, when thou oughtest to crown thyself and to rejoice and exult.
If indeed thou wishest to emulate him, I forbid not that: emulate, but with a view to be like him who is approved: not in order to depress him but that thou mayest reach the same lofty point, that thou mayest display the same excellence. This is wholesome rivalry, imitation without contention: not to grieve at the good things of others but to be vexed at our own evils: the contrary to which is the result of envy. For neglecting its own evils, it pines away at the good fortune of other men. And thus the poor is not so vexed by his own poverty as by the plenty of his neighbor; than which what can be more grievous? Yea, in this respect the envious, as I before said, is worse than the covetous; the one rejoicing at some acquisition of his own, while the other finds his delight in some one else failing to receive.
Wherefore I beseech you, leaving this evil way, to change to a proper emulation, (for it is a violent thing, this kind of zeal, and hotter than any fire,) and to win thereby mighty blessings. Thus also Paul used to guide those which are my flesh, and may save some of them.” (Rm 11,14) For he whose emulation is like what Paul wished for doth not pine when he sees the other in reputation, but when he sees himself left behind: the envious not so, but at the sight of another’s prosperity. And he is a kind of drone, injuring other men’s labors; and himself never anxious to rise, but weeping when he sees another rising, and doing every thing to throw him down. To what then might one compare this passion? It seems to me to be like as if a sluggish ass and heavy with abundance of flesh, being yoked with a winged courser, should neither himself be willing to rise, and should attempt to drag the other down by the weight of his carcase. For so this man takes no thought nor anxiety to be himself rid of this deep slumber, but doth every thing to supplant and throw down him that is flying towards heaven, becoming an exact emulator of the devil: since he too, seeing man in paradise, sought not to change his own condition, but to cast him out of paradise. And again, seeing him seated in heaven and the rest hastening thither, he holds to the same plan, supplanting them who are hastening thither and hereby heaping up the furnace more abundantly for himself. For in every instance this happens: both he that is envied, if he be vigilant, becoming more eminent; and he that is envious, accumulating to himself more evils. Thus also Joseph became eminent thus Aaron the priest: the conspiracy of the envious caused God once and again to give His suffrage for him, and was the occasion of the rod’s budding. Thus Jacob attained his abundant wealth and all those other blessings. Thus the envious pierce themselves through with ten thousand evils. Knowing as we do all these things, let us flee such emulation. For wherefore, tell me, enviest thou? Because thy brother hath received spiritual grace? And from whom did he receive it? answer me. Was it not from God? Clearly then He is the object of the enmity to Which thou art committing thyself, He the bestower of the gift. Seest thou which way the evil is tending, and with what sort of a point it is crowning the heap of thy sins; and how deep the pit of vengeance which it is digging for thee?
Let us flee it, then, beloved, and neither envy others, nor fail to pray for our enviers and do all we can to extinguish their passion: neither let us feel as the unthinking do who being minded to exact punishment of them, do all in their power to light up their flame. But let not us do so; rather let us weep for them and lament. For they are the injured persons, having continual worm gnawing through their heart, and collecting a fountain of poison more bitter than any gall. Come now, let us beseech the merciful God, both to change their state of feeling and that we may never fall into that disease: since heaven is indeed inaccessible to him that hath this wasting sore, and before heaven too, even this present life is not worth living in. For not so thoroughly are timber and wool wont to be eaten through by moth and worm abiding therein, as doth the fever of envy devour the very bones of the envious and destroy all self-command in their soul.
In order then that we may deliver both ourselves and others from these innumerable woes, let us expel from within us this evil fever, this that is more grievous than any gangrene: that having regained spiritual strength, we may both finch the present course and obtain the future crowns; unto which may we all attain, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen).
Chrysostom on 1Cor 3000