Chrysostom on 1Cor 2400
2400 but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it. (1Co 10,13-25)
2401 Thus, because he terrified them greatly, relating the ancient examples, and threw them into an agony, saying, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall; “though they had borne many temptations, and had exercised themselves many times therein; for “I was with you,” saith he, “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling:” (1Co 2,3) lest they should say, “Why terrify and alarm us? we are not unexercised in these troubles, for we have been both driven and persecuted, and many and continual dangers have we endured:” repressing again their pride, he says, “there hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear,” i.e.,small, brief, moderate. For he uses the expression “man can bear,’’ in respect of what is small; as when he says, “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.” (Rm 6,19) “Think not then great things,” saith he, “as though ye had overcome the storm. For never have ye seen a danger threatening death nor a temptation intending slaughter:” which also he said to the Hebrews, “ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.” (He 12,4)
Then, because he terrified them, see how again he raises them up, at the same time recommending moderation; in the words, “God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” There are therefore temptations which we are not able to bear. And what are these? All, so to speak. For the ability lies in God’s gracious influence; a power which we draw down by our own will. Wherefore that thou mayest know and see that not only those which exceed our power, but not even these which are “common to man” is it possible without assistance from God easily to bear, he added,
“But will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.”
For, saith he, not even those moderate temptations, as I was remarking, may we bear by our own power: but even in them we require aid from Him in our warfare that we may pass through them, and until we have passed, bear them. For He gives patience and brings on a speedy release; so that in this way also the temptation becomes bearable. This he covertly imtimates, saying, “will also make the way of escape, that ye may be able to bear it:” and all things he refers to Him.
[2.] 1Co 10,14. “Wherefore, my brethren, flee from idolatry.”
Again he courts them by the name of kindred, and urges them to be rid of this sin with all speed. For he did not say, simply, depart, but “flee;” and he calls the matter “idolatry,” and no longer bids them quit it merely on account of the injury to their neighbor, but signifies that the very thing of itself is sufficient to bring a great destruction.
1Co 10,15. “I speak as to wise men: judge ye what I say.”
Because he hath cried out aloud and heightened the accusation, calling it idolatry; that he might not seem to exasperate them and to make his speech disgusting, in what follows he refers the decision to them, and sets his judges down on their tribunal with an encomium. “For I speak as to wise men,” saith he: which is the mark of one very confident of his own rights, that he should make the accused himself the judge of his allegations.
Thus also he more elevates the hearer, when he discourses not as commanding nor as laying down the law, but as advising with them and as actually pleading before them. For with the Jews, as more foolishly and childishly disposed, God did not so discourse, nor did He in every instance acquaint them with the reasons of the commands, but merely enjoined them; but here, because we have the privilege of great liberty, we are even admitted to be counsellors. And he discourses as with friends, and says, “I need no other judges, do ye yourselves pass this sentence upon me, I take you for arbiters.”
[3.] 1Co 10,16. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the Blood of Christ?”
What sayest thou, O blessed Paul? When thou wouldest appeal to the hearer’s reverence, when thou art making mention of awful mysteries, dost thou give the title of “cup of blessing” to that fearful and most tremendous cup? “Yea,” saith he; “and no mean title is that which was spoken. For when I call it ‘blessing,’ I mean thanksgiving, and when I call it thanksgiving I unfold all the treasure of God’s goodness, and call to mind those mighty gifts.” Since we too, recounting over the cup the unspeakable mercies of God and all that we have been made partakers of, so draw near to Him, and communicate; giving Him thanks that He hath delivered from error the whole race of mankind; that being afar off, He made them nigh; that when they had no hope and were without God in the world, He constituted them His own brethren and fellow-heirs. For these and all such things, giving thanks, thus we approach. “How then are not your doings inconsistent,” saith he, “O ye Corinthians; blessing God for delivering you from idols, yet running again to their tables?”
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion of the Blood of Christ?”. Very persuasively spake he, and awfully. For what he says is this: “This which is in the cup is that which flowed from His side, and of that do we partake.” But he called it a cup of blessing, because holding it in our hands, we so exalt Him in our hymn, wondering, astonished at His unspeakable gift, blessing Him, among other things, for the pouring out of this self-same draught that we might not abide in error: and not only for the pouring it out, but also for the imparting thereof to us all. “Wherefore if thou desire blood,” saith He, “redden not the altar of idols with the slaughter of brute beasts, but My altar with My blood.” Tell me, What can be more tremendous than this? What more tenderly kind?
2402 This also lovers do. When they see those whom they love desiring what belongs to strangers and despising their own, they give what belongs to themselves, and so persuade them to withdraw themselves from the gifts of those others. Lovers, however, display this liberality in goods and money and garments, but in blood none ever did so. Whereas Christ even herein exhibited His care and fervent love for us. And in the old covenant, because they were in an imperfect state, the blood which they used to offer to idols He Himself submitted to receive, that He might separate them from those idols; which very thing again was a proof of His unspeakable affection: but here He transferred the service to that which is far more awful and glorious, changing the very sacrifice itself, and instead of the slaughter of irrational creatures, commanding to offer up Himself.
[4.] “The bread which we break, is it not a communion of the Body of Christ?” Wherefore said he not, the participation? Because he intended to express something more and to point out how close was the union: in that we communicate not only by participating and partaking, but also by being united. For as that body is united to Christ, so also are we united to him by this bread.
But why adds he also, “which we break?” For although in the Eucharist one may see this done, yet on the cross not so, but the very contrary. For, “A bone of Him,” saith one, “shall not be broken.” But that which He suffered not on the cross, this He suffers in the oblation for thy sake, and submits to be broken, that he may fill all men.
Further, because he said, “a communion of the Body,” and that which communicates is another thing from that whereof it communicates; even this which seemeth to be but a small difference, he took away. For having said, “a communion of the Body,” he sought again to express something nearer. Wherefore also he added,
1Co 10,17. “For we, who are many, are one bread, one body.” “For why speak I of communion?” saith he, “we are that self-same body.” For what is the bread? The Body of Christ. And what do they become who partake of it? The Body of Christ: not many bodies, but one body. For as the bread consisting of many grains is made one, so that the grains no where appear; they exist indeed, but their difference is not seen by reason of their conjunction; so are we conjoined both with each other and with Christ: there not being one body for thee, and another for thy neighbor to be nourished by, but the very same for all. Wherefore also he adds,
“For we all partake of the one bread.” Now if we are all nourished of the same and all become the same, why do we not also show forth the, same love, and become also in this respect one? For this was the old way too in the time of our forefathers: “for the multitude of them that believed,” saith the text, “were of one heart and soul.” (Ac 4,32) Not so, however, now, but altogether the reverse. Many and various are the contests betwixt all, and worse than wild beasts are we affected towards each other’s members. And Christ indeed made thee so far remote, one with himself: but thou dost not deign to be united even to thy brother with due exactness, but separatest thyself, having had the privilege of so great love and life from the Lord. For he gave not simply even His own body; but because the former nature of the flesh which was framed out of earth, had first become deadened by sin and destitute of life; He brought in, as one may say, another sort of dough and leaven, His own flesh, by nature indeed the same, but free from sin and full of life; and gave to all to partake thereof, that being nourished by this and laying aside the old dead material, we might be blended together unto that which is living and eternal, by means of this table.
[5.] 1Co 10,18. “Behold Israel after the flesh: have not they which eat the sacrifices communion with the altar?”
Again, from the old covenant he leads them unto this point also. For because they were far beneath the greatness of the things which had been spoken, he persuades them both from former things and from those to which they were accustomed. And he says well, “according to the flesh,” as though they themselves were according to the Spirit. And what he says is of this nature: “even from persons of the grosset sort ye may be instructed that they who eat the sacrifices, have communion with the altar.” Dost thou see how he intimates that they who seemed to be perfect have not perfect knowledge, if they know not even this, that the result of these sacrifices to many oftentimes is a certain communion and friendship with devils, the practice drawing them on by degrees? For if among men the fellowship of salt and the table becomes an occasion and token of friendship, it is possible that this may happen also in the case of devils.
But do thou, I pray, consider, how with regard to the Jews he said not, “they are par-takers with God,” but, “they have communion with the altar;” for what was placed thereon was burnt: but in respect to the Body of Christ, not so. But how? It is “a Communion of the Lord’s Body.” For not with the altar, but with Christ Himself, do we have communion.
But having said that they have “communion with the altar,” afterwards fearing lest he should seem to discourse as if the idols had any power and could do some injury, see again how he overthrows them, saying,
1Co 10,19. “What say I then? That an idol is any thing? or that a thing sacrificed to idols is any thing?”
2403 As if he had said, “Now these things I affirm, and try to withdraw you from the idols, not as though they could do any injury or had any power: for an idol is nothing; but I wish you to despise them.” “And if thou wilt have us despise them,” saith one, “wherefore dost thou carefully withdraw us from them?” Because they are not offered to thy Lord.
1Co 10,20. “For that which the Gentiles sacrifice,” saith he, “they sacrifice to demons, and not to God.”
Do not then run to the contrary things. For neither if thou wert a king’s son, and having the privilege of thy father’s table, shouldest leave it and choose to partake of the table of the condemned and the prisoners in the dungeon, would thy father permit it, but with great vehemence he would withdraw thee; not as though the table could harm thee, but because it disgraces thy nobility and the royal table. For verily these too are servants who have offended; dishonored, condemned, prisoners reserved for intolerable punishment, accountable for ten thousand crimes. How then art thou riot ashamed to imitate the gluttonous and vulgar crew, in that when these condemned persons set out a table, thou runnest thither and partakest of the viands? Here is the cause why I seek to withdraw thee. For the intention of the sacrificers, and the person of the receivers, maketh the things set before thee unclean.
“And I would not that ye should have communion with demon.” Perceivest thou the kindness of a careful father? Perceivest thou also the very word, what force it hath to express his feeling? “For it is my wish,” saith he, “that you have nothing in common with them.”
[6.] Next, because he brought in the saying by way of exhortation, lest any of the grosser sort should make light of it as having license, because he said, “I would not,” and, “judge ye;” he positively affirms in what follows and lays down the law, saying,
1Co 10,21. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of demons: ye cannot partake of the Lord’s table, and of the table of demons.”
And he contents himself with the mere terms, for the purpose of keeping them away. Then, speaking also to their sense of shame,
1Co 10,22. “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than He?” i.e.,” Are we tempting Him, whether He is able to punish us, and irritating Him by going over to the adversaries and taking our stand with His enemies?” And this he said, reminding them of an ancient history and of their fathers’ transgression. Wherefore also he makes use of this expression, which Moses likewise of old used against the Jews, accusing them of idolatry in the person of God. “For they,” saith He,“moved Me to jealousy with that which is notGod; they provoked Me to anger with their idols.” (Dt 32,21)
Are we stronger than He?” Dost thou see how terribly, how awfully he rebukes them, thoroughly shaking their very nerves, and by his way of reducing them to an absurdity, touching them to the quick and bringing down their pride? “Well, but why,” some one will say, “did he not set down these things at first, which would be most effectual to withdraw them?” Because it is his custom to prove his point by many particulars, and to place the strongest last, and to prevail by proving more than was necessary. On this account then, he began from the lesser topics, and so made his way to that which is the sum of all evils: since thus that last point also became more easily admitted, their mind having been smoothed down by the things said before.
1Co 10,23-24. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbor’s good.”
Seest thou his exact wisdom? Because it was likely that they might say, “I am perfect and master of myself, and it does me no harm to partake of what is set before me;” “Evenso,” saith he, “perfect thou art and master of thyself; do not however look to this, but whether the result involve not injury, nay subversion.” For both these he mentioned, saying, “All things are not expedient, all things edify not;” and using the former with reference to one’s self, the latter, to one’s brother: since the clause, “are not expedient,” is a covert intimation of the ruin of the person to whom he speaks; but the clause, “edify not,” of the stumbling block to the brother.
Wherefore also he adds, “Let no man seek his own;” which he every where through the whole Epistle insists upon and in that to the Romans; when he says, “For even Christ pleased not Himself:” (Rm 15,3) and again, “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit.” (1Co 10,33) And again in this place; he does not, however, fully work it out here. That is, since in what had gone before he had established it at length, and shown that he no where “seeks his own,” but both “to the Jews became as a Jew and to them that are without law as without law,” and used not his own “liberty” and “right” at random, but to the profit of all, serving all; he here broke off, content with a few words, by these few guiding them to the remembrance of all which had been said.
[7.] These things therefore knowing, let us also, beloved, consult for the good of the brethren and preserve unity with them. For to this that fearful and tremendous sacrifice leads us, warning us above all things to approach it with one mind and fervent love, and thereby becoming eagles, so to mount up to the very heaven, nay, even beyond the heaven. “For wheresoever the carcase is,” saith He, “there also will be the eagles,” (St. Mt 24,28) calling His body a carcase by reason of His death. For unless He had fallen, we should not have risen again. But He calls us eagles, implying that he who draws nigh to this Body must be on high and have nothing common with the earth, nor wind himself downwards and creep along; but must ever be soaring heavenwards, and look on the Sun of Righteousness, and have the eye of his mind quick-sighted. For eagles, not daws, have a right to this table. Those also shall then meet Him descending from heaven, who now worthily have this privilege, even as they who do so unworthily, shall suffer the extremest torments.
2404 For if one would not inconsiderately receive a king—(why say I a king? nay were, it but a royal robe, one would not inconsiderately touch it with unclean hands;)—though he should be in solitude, though alone, though no man were at hand: and yet the robe is nought but certain threads spun by worms: and if thou admirest the dye, this too is the blood of a dead fish; nevertheless, one would not choose to venture on it with polluted hands: I say now, if even a man’s garment be what one would not venture inconsiderately to touch, what shall we say of the Body of Him Who is God over all, spotless, pure, associate with the Divine Nature, the Body whereby we are, and live; whereby the gates of hell were broken down and the sanctuaries of heaven opened? how shall we receive this with so great insolence? Let us not, I pray you, let us not slay ourselves by our irreverence, but with all awfulness and purity draw nigh to It; and when thou seest It set before thee, say thou to thyself, “Because of this Body am I no longer earth and ashes, no longer a prisoner, but free: because of this I hope for heaven, and to receive the good things therein, immortal life, the portion of angels, converse with Christ; this Body, nailed and scourged, was more than death could stand against; this Body the very sun saw sacrificed, and turned aside his beams; for this both the veil was rent in that moment, and rocks were burst asunder, and all the earth was shaken. This is even that Body, the blood-stained, the pierced, and that out of which gushed the saving fountains, the one of blood, the other of water, for all the world.”
Wouldest thou from another source also learn its power? Ask of her diseased with an issue of blood, who laid hold not of Itself, but of the garment with which It was clad; nay not of the whole of this, but of the hem: ask of the sea, which bare It on its back: ask even of the Devil himself, and say, “Whence hast thou that incurable stroke? whence hast thou no longer any power? Whence art thou captive? By whom hast thou been seized in thy flight?” And he will give no other answer than this, “The Body that was crucified.” By this were his goads broken in pieces; by this was his head crushed; by this were the powers and the principalities made a show of. “For,” saith he, “having put off from himself principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col 2,15)
Ask also Death, and say, “whence is it that thy sting hath been taken away? thy victory abolished? thy sinews cut out? and thou become the laughing-stock of girls and children, who wast before a terror even to kings and to all righteous men?” And he will ascribe it to this Body. For when this was crucified, then were the dead raised up, then was that prison burst, and the gates of brass were broken, and the dead were loosed, and the keepers of hell-gate all cowered in fear. And yet, had He been one of the many, death on the contrary should have become more mighty; but it was not so. For He was not one of the many. Therefore was death dissolved. And as they who take food which they are unable to retain, On account of that vomit up also what was before lodged in them; so also it happened unto death. That Body, which he could not digest, he received: and therefore had to cast forth that which he had within him. Yea, he travailed in pain, whilst he held Him, and was straitened until He vomited Him up. Wherefore saith the Apostle, “Having loosed the pains of death.” (Ac 11,24) For never woman labouring of child was so full of anguish as he was torn and racked in sunder, while he held the Body of the Lord. And that which happened to the Babylonian dragon, when, having taken the food it burst asunder in the midst this also happened unto him. For Christ came not forth again by the mouth of death, but having burst asunder and ripped up in the very midst, the belly of the dragon, thus from His secret chambers (Ps 19,5) right gloriously He issued forth and flung abroad His beams not to this heaven alone, but to the very throne most high. For even thither did He carry it up.
This Body hath He given to us both to hold and to eat; a thing appropriate to intense love. For those whom we kiss vehemently, we oft-times even bite with our teeth. Wherefore also Job, indicating the love of his servants towards him, said, that they ofttimes, out of their great affection towards him, said, “Oh! that we were filled with his flesh!” (Jb 31,31) Even so Christ hath given to us to be filled with His flesh, drawing us on to greater love.
2405 [8.] Let us draw nigh to Him then with fervency and with inflamed love, that we may not have to endure punishment. For in proportion to the greatness of the benefits bestowed on us, so much the more exceedingly are we chastised when we show ourselves unworthy of the bountifulness. This Body, even lying in a manger, Magi reverenced. Yea, men profane and barbarous, leaving their country and their home, both set out on a long journey, and when they came, with fear and great trembling worshipped Him. Let us, then, at least imitate those Barbarians, we who are citizens of heaven. For they indeed when they saw Him but in a manger, and in a hut, and no such thing was in sight as thou beholdest now, drew nigh with great awe; but thou beholdest Him not in the manger but on the altar, not a woman holding Him in her arms, but the priest standing by, and the Spirit with exceeding bounty hovering over the gifts set before us. Thou dost not see merely this Body itself as they did, but thou knowest also Its power, and the whole economy, and art ignorant of none of the holy things which are brought to pass by It, having been exactly initiated into all.
Let us therefore rouse ourselves up and be filled with horror, and let us show forth a reverence far beyond that of those Barbarians; that we may not by random and careless approaches heap fire upon our own heads. But these things I say, not to keep us from approaching, but to keep us from approaching without consideration. For as the approaching at random is dangerous, so the not communicating in those mystical suppers is famine and death. For this Table is the sinews of our soul, the bond of our mind, the foundation of our confidence, our hope, our salvation, our light, our life. When with this sacrifice we depart into the outer world, with much confidence we shall tread the sacred threshold, fenced round on every side as with a kind of golden armor.
And why speak I of the world to come? Since here this mystery makes earth become to thee a heaven. Open only for once the gates of heaven and look in; nay, rather not of heaven, but of the heaven of heavens; and then thou wilt behold what I have been speaking of. For what is there most precious of all, this will I show thee lying upon the earth. For as in royal palaces, what is most glorious of all is not walls, nor golden roofs, but the person of the king sitting on the throne; so likewise in heaven the Body of the King. But this, thou art now permitted to see upon earth. For it is not angels, nor archangels, nor heavens and heavens of heavens, that I show thee, but the very Lord and Owner of these. Perceivest thou how that which is more precious than all things is seen by thee on earth; and not seen only, but also touched; and not only touched, but likewise eaten; and after receiving It thou goest home?
Make thy soul clean then, prepare thy mind for the reception of these mysteries. For if thou wert entrusted to carry a king’s child with the robes, the purple, and the diadem, thou wouldest cast away all things which are upon the earth. But now that it is no child of man how royal soever, but the only-begotten Son of God Himself, Whom thou receivedst; dost thou not thrill with awe, tell me, and cast away all the love of all worldly things, and have no bravery but that wherewith to adorn thyself? or dost thou still look towards earth, and love money, and pant after gold? What pardon then canst thou have? what excuse? Knowest thou not that all this worldly luxury is loathsome to thy Lord? Was it not for this that on His birth He was laid in a manger, and took to Himself a mother of low estate? Did He not for this say to him that was looking after gain, “But the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head?” (St. Mt 8,20)
And what did the disciples? Did they not observe the same law, being taken to houses of the poor and lodged, one with a tanner, another with a tent-maker, and with the seller of purple? For they inquired not after the splendor of the house, but for the virtues of men’s souls.
These therefore let us also emulate, hastening by the beauty of pillars and of marbles, and seeking the mansions which are above; and let us tread under foot all the pride here below with all love of money, and acquire a lofty mind. For if we be sober-minded, not even this whole world is worthy of us, much less porticoes and arcades. Wherefore, I beseech you, let us adorn our souls, let us fit up this house which we are also to have with us when we depart; that we may attain even to the eternal blessings, through the grace and mercy, &c).
2500 asking no question for conscience sake. (1Co 10,25-33 1Co 11,1)
2501 Having said that “they could not drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of the devils,” and having once for all led them away from those tables, by Jewish examples, by human reasonings, by the tremendous Mysteries, by the rites solemnized among the idols; and having filled them with great fear; that he might not by this fear drive again to another extreme, and they be forced, exercising a greater scrupulosity than was necessary, to feel alarm, lest possibly even without their knowledge there might come in some such thing either from the market or from some other quarter; to release them from this strait, he saith, “Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, eat, asking no question.” “For,” saith he, “if thou eat in ignorance and not knowingly, thou art not subject to the punishment: it being thenceforth a matter not of greediness, but of ignorance.”
Nor doth he free the man only from this anxiety, but also from another, establishing them in thorough security and liberty. For he cloth not even suffer them to “question;” i.e., to search and enquire, whether it be an idol-sacrifice or no such thing; but simply to eat every thing which comes from the market, not even acquainting one’s self with so much as this, what it is that is act before us. So that even he that eateth, if in ignorance, may be rid of anxiety. For such is the nature of those things which are not in their essence evil, but through the man’s intention make him unclean. Wherefore he saith, “asking no question.”
1Co 10,26. “For to the Lord belongeth the earth and the fulness thereof.” Not to the devils. Now if the earth and the fruits and the beasts be all His, nothing is unclean: but it becomes unclean otherwise, from our intention and our disobedience. Wherefore he not only gave permission, but also,
1Co 10,27. “If one of them that believe not biddeth you,” saith he, “to a feast, and you are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.”
See again his moderation. For he did not command and make a law that they should withdraw themselves, yet neither did he forbid it. And again, should they depart, he frees them from all suspicion. Now what may be the account of this? That so great curiousness might not seem to arise from any fear and cowardice. For he who makes scrupulous enquiry doth so as being in dread: but he who, on hearing the fact, abstains, abstains as out of contempt and hatred and aversion. Wherefore Paul, purposing to establish both points, saith, “Whatsoever is set before you, eat.”
1Co 10,28. “But if any man say unto you, This hath been offered in sacrifice unto idols; eat not, for his sake that showed it.”
Thus it is not at all for any power that they have but as accursed, that he bids abstain from them. Neither then, as though they could injure you, fly from them, (for they have no strength;) nor yet, because they have no strength, indifferently partake: for it is the table of beings hostile and degraded. Wherefore he said, “eat not for his sake that showed it, and for conscience sake. For the earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof.”()
Seest thou how both when he bids them eat and when they must abstain, he brings forward the same testimony? “For I do not forbid,” saith he, “for this cause as though they belonged to others: (“for the earth is the Lord’s:”) but for the reason I mentioned, for conscience sake; i.e., that it may not be injured.” Ought one therefore to inquire scrupulously? “Nay” saith he “for I said not thy conscience, but his. For I have already said,‘for his sake that showed it.”’ And again, 5,29, “Conscience, I say, not thine own, but the other’s.”
[2.] But perhaps some one may say, “The brethren indeed, as is natural, thou sparest, and dost not suffer us to taste for their sakes, lest their conscience being weak might be emboldened to eat the idol sacrifices. But if it be some heathen, what is this man to thee? Was it not thine own word, ‘What have I to do with judging them that are without?’ (1Co 5,12) Wherefore then dost thou on the contrary care for them?” “Not for him is my care,” he replies, “but in this case also for thee.” To which effect also he adds,
“For why is my liberty judged by another conscience?” meaning by “liberty,” that which is left without caution or prohibition. For this is liberty, freed from Jewish bondage. And what he means is this: “God hath made me free and above all reach of injury, but the Gentile knoweth not how to judge of my rule of life, nor to see into the liberality of my Master, but will condemn and say to himself, Christianity is a fable; they abstain from the idols, they shun demons, and yet cleave to the things offered to them: great is their gluttony.’““And what then?” it may be said. “What harm is it to us, should he judge us unfairly?” But how much better to give him no room to judge at all’. For if thou abstain, he will not even say this. “How,” say you, “will he not say it? For when he seeth me not making these inquiries, either in the shambles or in the banquet; what should hinder him from using this language and condemning me, as one who partakes without discrimination?” It is not so at all. For thou partakest, not as of idol-sacrifices, but as of things clean. And if thou makest no nice enquiry, it is that thou mayest signify that thou fearest not the things set before thee; this being the reason why, whether thou enterest a house of Gentiles or goest into the market, I suffer thee not to ask questions; viz. lest thou become timid and perplexed, and occasion thyself needless trouble.
1Co 10,30. “If I by grace partake, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks?” “Of what dost thou ‘by grace partake?’ tell me.” Of the gifts of God. For His grace is so great, as to render my soul unstained and above all pollution. For as the sun sending down his beams upon many spots of pollution, withdraws them again pure; so likewise and much more, we, living in the midst of the world remain pure, if we will, by how much the power we have is even greater than his.
2502 “Why then abstain?” say you. Not as though I should become unclean, far from it; but for my brother’s sake, and that I may not become a partaker with devils, and that I may not be judged by the unbeliever. For in this case it is no longer now the nature of the thing, but the disobedience and the friendship with devils which maketh me unclean, and the purpose of heart worketh the pollution. But what is, “why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? “I, for my part” saith he “give thanks to God that He hath thus set me on high, and above the low estate of the Jews, so that from no quarter am I injured. But the Gentiles not knowing my high rule of life will suspect the contrary, and will say, ‘Here are Christians indulging a taste for our customs; they are a kind of hypocrites, abusing the demons and loathing them, yet running to their tables; than which what can be more senseless? We conclude that not for truth’s sake, but through ambition and love of power they have betaken themselves to this doctrine.’ What folly then would it be that in respect of those things whereby I have been so benefited as even to give solemn thanks, in respect of these I should become the cause of evil-speaking?” “But these things, even as it is,” say you, “will the Gentile allege, when he seeth me not making enquiry.” In no wise. For all things are not full of idol-sacrifices so that he should suspect this: nor dost thou thyself taste of them as idol-sacrifices. But not then scrupulous overmuch, nor again, on the other hand, when any say that it is an idol-sacrifice, do thou partake. For Christ gave thee grace and set thee on high and above all injury from that quarter, not that thou mightest be evil spoken of, nor that the circumstance which hath been such a gain to thee as to be matter of special thanksgiving, should so injure others as to make them even blaspheme. “Nay, why,” saith he, “do I not say to the Gentile, ’I eat, I am no wise injured, and I do not this as one in friendship with the demons’?” Because thou canst not persuade him, even though thou shouldst say it ten thousand times: weak as he is and hostile. For if thy brother hath not yet been persuaded by thee, much less the enemy and the Gentile. If he is possessed by his consciousness of the idol-sacrifice, much more the unbeliever. And besides, what occasion have we for so great trouble?
“What then? whereas we have known Christ and give thanks, while they blaspheme, shall we therefore abandon this custom also?” Far from it. For the thing is not the same. For in the one case, great is our gain from bearing the reproach; but in the other, there will be no advantage. Wherefore also he said before, “for neither if we eat, are we the better; nor if we eat not, are we the worse.” (c. 8,8). And besides this too he showed that the thing was to be avoided, so that even on another ground ought they to be abstained from, not on this account only but also for the other reasons which he assigned.
[3.] 1Co 10,31. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
Perceivest thou how from the subject before him, he carried out the exhortation to what was general, giving us one, the most excellent of all aims, that God in all things should be glorified?
1Co 10,32. “Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews, or to Greeks, or to the Church of God:” i.e., give no handle to anyone: since in the case supposed, both thy brother is offended, and the Jew will the more hate and condemn thee, and the Gentile in like manner deride thee even as a gluttonous man and a hypocrite.
Not only, however, should the brethren receive no hurt from us, but to the utmost of our power not even those that are without. For if we are “light,” and “leaven,” and “luminaries,” and “salt,” we ought to enlighten, not to darken; to bind, not to loosen; to draw to ourselves the unbelievers, not to drive them away. Why then puttest thou to flight those whom thou oughtest to draw to thee?. Since even Gentiles are hurt, when they see us reverting to such things: for they know not our mind nor that our Soul hath come to be above all pollution of sense. And the Jews too, and the weaker brethren, will suffer the same.
Seest thou how many reasons he hath assigned for which we ought to abstain from the idol-sacrifices? Because of their unprofitableness, because of their needlessness, because of the injury to our brother, because of the evil-speaking of the Jew, because of the reviling of the Gentile, because we ought not to be partakers with demons, because the thing is a kind of idolatry.
Further, because he had said, “give no occasion of stumbling,” and he made them responsible for the injury done, both to the Gentiles and to the Jews; and the saying was grievous; see how he renders it acceptable and light, putting himself forward, and saying,
1Co 10,33. “Even as I also please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved.”
2503 1Co 11,1. “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
This is a rule of the most perfect Christianity, this is a landmark exactly laid down, this is the point that stands highest of all; viz. the seeking those things which are for the common profit: which also Paul himself declared, by adding, “even as I also am of Christ.” For nothing can so make a man an imitator of Christ as caring for his neighbors.Nay, though thou shouldest fast, though thou shouldest lie upon the ground, and even strangle thyself, but take no thought for thy neighbor; thou hast wrought nothing great, but still standest far from this Image, while so doing. However, in the case before us, even the very thing itself is naturally useful, viz; the abstaining from idol-sacrifices. But “I,” saith he, “have done many of those things which were unprofitable also: e.g., when I used circumcision, when I offered sacrifice; for these, were any one to examine them in themselves, rather destroy those that follow after them and cause them to fall from salvation: nevertheless, I submitted even to these on account of the advantage therefrom: but here is no such thing. For in that case, except there accrue a certain benefit and except they be done for others’ sake, then the thing becomes injurious: but in this, though there be none made to stumble, even so ought one to abstain from the things forbidden.
But not only to things hurtful have I submitted, but also to things toilsome For, “I robbed other Churches,” saith he, “taking wages of them; (2Co 11,8) and when it was lawful to eat and not to work, I sought not this, but chose to perish of hunger rather than offend another.” This is why he says, “I please all men in all things.” “Though it be against the law, though it be laborious and hazardous, which is to be done, I endure all for the profit of others. So then, being above all in perfection, he became beneath all in condescension.”
[4.] For no virtuous action can be very exalted, when it doth not distribute its benefit to others also: as is shown by him who brought the one talent safe, and was cut in sunder because he had not made more of it. And thou then, brother, though thou shouldest remain without food, though thou shouldest sleep upon the ground, though thou shouldest eat ashes and be ever wailing, and do good to no other; thou wilt do no great work. For so also those great and noble persons who were in the beginning made this their chiefest care: examine accurately their life, and thou wilt see clearly that none of them ever looked to his own things, but each one to the things of his neighbor, whence also they shone the brighter. For so Moses (to mention him first) wrought many and great wonders and signs; but nothing made him so great as that blessed voice which he uttered unto God, saying, “If Thou wilt forgive their sin,” forgive.’“but if not, blot me also out.” (Ex 32,32) Such too was David: wherefore also he said, “I the shepherd have sinned, and I have done wickedly, but these, the flock, what have they done? Let Thine hand be upon me and upon my father’s house.” (2S 24,17) So likewise Abraham sought not his own profit, but the profit of many. Wherefore he both exposed himself to dangers and besought God for those who in no wise belonged to him.
Well: these indeed so became glorious. But as for those who sought their own, consider what harm too they received. The nephew, for instance, of the last mentioned, because he listened to the saying, “If thou wilt go to the right, I will go to the left;” (Gn 13,9) and accepting the choice, sought his own profit, did not even find his own: but this region was burned up, while that remained untouched. Jonah again, not seeking the profit of many, but his own, was in danger even of perishing: and while the city stood fast, he himself was tossed about and overwhelmed in the sea. But when he sought the profit of many, then he also found his own. So likewise Jacob among the flocks, not seeking his own gain, had exceeding riches for his portion. And Joseph also, seeking the profit of his brethren, found his own. At least, being sent by his father, (Gn 37,14) I he said not, “What is this? Hast thou notheard that for a vision and certain dreams they even attempted to tear me in pieces, and I was held responsible for my dreams, and suffer punishment for being beloved of thee? What then will they not do when they get me in the midst of them?” He said none of these things, he thought not of them, but prefers the care of his brethren above all. Therefore he enjoyed also all the good things which followed, which both made him very brilliant and declared him glorious. Thus also Moses,—for nothing hinders that we should a second time make mention of him, and behold how he overlooked his own things and sought the things of others:—I say this Moses, being conversant in a king’s court, because he “counted the reproach of Christ (He 11,26) greater riches than the treasures of Egypt;” and having cast them even all out of his hands, became a partaker of the afflictions of the Hebrews;—so far from being himself enslaved, he liberated them also from bondage.
2504 Well: these surely are great things and worthy of an angelical life. But the conduct of Paul far exceeds this. For all the rest leaving their own blessings chose to be partakers in the afflictions of others: but Paul did a thing much greater. For it was not that he consented to be a partaker in others’ misfortunes, but he chose himself to be at all extremities that other men might enjoy blessings. Now it is not the same for one who lives in luxury to cast away his luxury and suffer adversity, as for one himself alone suffering adversity, to cause others to be in security and honor. For in the former case, though it be a great thing to exchange prosperity for affliction for your neighbor’s sake, nevertheless it brings some consolation to have partakers in the misfortune. But consenting to be himself alone in the distress that others may enjoy their good things,—this belongs to a much more energetic soul, and to Paul’s own spirit.
And not by this only, but by another and greater excellency doth he surpass all those before mentioned. That is, Abraham and all the rest exposed themselves to dangers in the present life, and all these were but asking for this kind of death once for all: but Paul prayed (Rm 9,3) that he might fall from the glory of the world to come for the sake of others’ salvation.()
I may mention also a third point of superiority. And what is this? That some of those, though they interceded for the persons who conspired against them, nevertheless it was for those with whose guidance they had been entrusted: and the same thing happened as if one should stand up for a wild and lawless son, but still a son: whereas Paul wished to be accursed in the stead of those with whose guardianship he was not entrusted. For to the Gentiles was he sent. Dost thou perceive the greatness of his soul and the loftiness of his spirit, transcending the very heaven? This man do thou emulate: but if thou canst not, at least follow those who shone in the old covenant. For thus shalt thou find thine own profit, if thou seekest that of thy neighbor. Wherefore when thou feelest backward to care for thy brother, considering that no otherwise canst thou be saved, at least for thine own sake stand thou up for him and his interests.
[5.] And although what hath been said is sufficient to convince thee that no otherwise is it possible to secure our own benefit: yet if thou wouldst also assure thyself of it by the examples of common life, conceive a fire happening any where to be kindled in a house, and then some of the neighbors with a view to their own interest refusing to confront the danger but shutting themselves up and remaining at home, in fear lest some one find his way in and purloin some part of the household goods; how great punishment will they endure? Since the fire will come on and burn down likewise all that is theirs; and because they looked not to the profit of their neighbor, they lose even their own besides. For so God, willing to bind us all to each other, hath imposed upon things such a necessity, that in the profit of one neighbor that of the other is bound up; and the whole world is thus constituted. And therefore in a vessel too, if a storm come on, and the steersman, leaving the profit of the many, should seek his own only, he will quickly sink both himself and them. And of each several art too we may say that should it look to its own profit only, life could never stand, nor even the art itself which so seeketh its own. Therefore the husbandman sows not so much corn only as is sufficient for himself, since he would long ago have famished both himself and others; but seeks the profit of the many: and the soldier takes the field against dangers, not that he may save himself, but that he may also place his cities in security: and the merchant brings not home so much as may be sufficient for himself alone, but for many others also.
Now if any say, “each man doeth this, not looking to my interest, but his own, for he engages in all these things to obtain for himself money and glory and security, so that in seeking my profit he seeks his own:” this also do I say and long since wished to hear from you, and for this have I framed all my discourse; viz. to signify that thy neighbor then seeks. his own profit, when he looks to thine. For since men would no otherwise make up their mind to seek the things of their neighbor, except they were reduced to this necessity; therefore God hath thus joined things together, and suffers them not to arrive at their own profit except they first travel through the profit of others.
Well then, this is natural to man, thus to follow after his neighbors’ advantage; but one ought to be persuaded not from this reason, but from what pleases God. For it is not possible to be saved, wanting this; but though thou shouldest exercise the highest perfection of the work and neglect others who are perishing, thou wilt gain no confidence towards God. Whence is this evident? From what the blessed Paul declared. “For if I bestow my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing,” (1Co 13,3) saith he. Seeth thou how much Paul requireth of us? And yet he that bestowed his goods to feed the poor, sought not his own good, but that of his neighbor. But this alone is not enough, he saith. For he would have it done with sincerity and much sympathy. For therefore also God made it a law that he might bring us into the bond of love. When therefore He demands so large a measure, and we do not render even that which is less, of what indulgence shall we be worthy?
“And how,” saith one, “did God say to Lot by the Angels, ‘Escape for thy life?”’ (Gn 19,17) Say, when, and why. When the punishment was brought near, not when there was an opportunity of correction but when they were condemned and incurably diseased, and old and young had rushed into the same passions, and henceforth they must needs be burned up, and in that day when the thunderbolts were about to be launched. And besides, this was not spoken of vice and virtue but of the chastisement inflicted by God. For what was he to do, tell me? Sit still and await the punishment, and without at all profiting them, be burned up? Nay, this were the extremest folly.
For I do not affirm this, that one ought to bring chastisement on one’s self without discrimination and at random, apart from the will of God. But when a man tarries long in sin, then I bid thee push thyself forward and correct him: if thou wilt, for thy neighbor’s sake: but if not, at least for thine own profit. It is true, the first is the better course: but if thou reachest not yet unto that height, do it even for this. And let no man seek his own that he may find his own; and bearing in mind that neither voluntary poverty nor martyrdom, nor any other thing, can testify in our favor, unless we have the crowning virtue of love; let us preserve this beyond the rest, that through it we may also obtain all other, both present and promised blessings; at which may we all arrive through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ; Whom be the glory world without end. Amen.
Chrysostom on 1Cor 2400