Golden Chain 10145
THEOPHYL. The Pharisees sought indeed to catch Jesus in His talk, that they might lead away the people from Him. But this design of theirs is reversed. For the people came all the more to Him gathered together by thousands, and so desirous to attach themselves to Christ, that they pressed one upon another. So mighty a thing is truth, so feeble every where deceit. Whence it is said, And when there were gathered together a great multitude, insomuch that they bode upon one another, he began to say to his disciples, Beware you of the leaven of tile Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
CYRIL; For they were false accusers; therefore Christ warned His disciples against them.
GREG. NAZ. When leaven is praised it is as composing the bread of life, but when blamed it signifies a lasting and bitter maliciousness.
THEOPHYL. He calls their hypocrisy leaven, as perverting and corrupting the intentions of the men in whom it has sprung up. For nothing so changes the characters of men as hypocrisy.
BEDE; For as a little leaven leavens a whole lump of meal, so hypocrisy will rob the mind of all the purity and integrity of its virtues.
AMBROSE; Our Lord has introduced a most forcible argument for preserving simplicity, and being zealous for the faith, that we should not after the manner of faithless Jews put one thing in practice, while in words we pretend another, namely, that at the last day the hidden thoughts accusing or else excusing one another, shall be seen to reveal the secrets of our mind. Whence it is added, There is nothing hid which shall not be revealed.
ORIGEN; He either then says this concerning that time when God shall judge the secrets of men, or He says it because however much a man may endeavor to hide the good deeds of another by discredit, good of its own nature cannot be concealed.
CHRYS. As if He says to His disciples, Although now some call you deceivers and wizards, time shall reveal all things and convict them of calumny, while it makes known your virtue. Therefore whatsoever things I have spoken to you in the small corner of Palestine, these boldly and with open brow, casting away all fear, proclaim to the whole world. And therefore He adds, Whatsoever you have spoken in darkness shall be heard in light.
BEDE; Or He says this, because all the things which the Apostles of old spoke and suffered amid the darkness of oppression and the gloom of the prison, are now that the Church is made known through the world and their acts are read, publicly proclaimed. The words, shall be proclaimed on the housetops, are spoken according to the manner of the country of Palestine, where they are accustomed to live on the housetops. For their roofs were not after our way raised to a point, but flat shaped, and level at the top. Therefore He says, proclaimed on the housetops; that is, spoken openly in the hearing of all men.
THEOPHYL. Or this is addressed to the Pharisees; as if He said, O Pharisees, what you have spoken in darkness, that is, all your endeavors to tempt me in the secrets of your hearts, shall be heard in the light, for I am the light, and in My light shall be known whatsoever your darkness devises. And what you have spoken in the ear and in closets, that is, whatsoever in whispers you have poured into one another's ears, shall be proclaimed on the housetops, that is, was as audible to me as if it had been cried aloud on the housetops. Herein also you may understand that the light is the Gospel, but the housetop the lofty souls of the Apostles. But whatever things the Pharisees plotted together, were afterwards divulged and heard in the light of the Gospel, the great Herald, the Holy Spirit, presiding over the souls of the Apostles.
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AMBROSE; Since unbelief springs from two causes, either from a deeply-seated malice or a sudden fear; lest any one from terror should be compelled to deny the God whom he acknowledges in his heart, He well adds, And I say to you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, &c.
CYRIL; For it is not absolutely to every one that this discourse seems to apply, but to those who love God with their whole heart to whom it belongs to say, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? But they who are not such, are tottering, and ready to fall down. Moreover out Lord says, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. How then is it not most ungrateful to Christ not to repay Him what we receive?
AMBROSE; He tells us also, that that death is not terrible for which at a far more costly rate of interest immortality is to be purchased.
CYRIL; We must then consider that crowns and honors are prepared for the labors of those upon whom men are continually venting forth their indignation, and to them the death of the body is the end of their persecutions. Whence He adds, And after this have nothing more that they can do.
BEDE; Their rage then is but useless raving, who cast the lifeless limbs of martyrs to be torn in pieces by wild beasts and birds, seeing that they can in no wise prevent the omnipotence of God from quickening and bringing them to life again.
CHRYS. Observe how our Lord makes His disciples superior to all, by exhorting them to despise that very death which is terrible to all. At the same time also he brings them proofs of the immortality of the soul: adding, I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he has killed has power to cast into hell.
AMBROSE; For our natural death is not the end of punishment; and therefore He concludes that death is the cessation of bodily punishment, but the punishment of the soul is everlasting. And God alone is to be feared, to whose power nature prescribes not, but is herself subject; adding, Yes, I say to you, Fear him.
THEOPHYL. Here observe, that upon sinners death is sent as a punishment, since they are here tormented by destruction, and afterwards thrust down into hell. But if you will sift the words you will understand something farther. For He says not, "Who casts into hell," but has power to cast. For not every one dying in sin is forthwith thrust down into hell, but there is sometimes pardon given for the sake of the offerings and prayers which are made for the dead.
AMBROSE; Our Lord then had instilled the virtue of simplicity, had awakened a courageous spirit. Their faith alone was wavering, and well did He strengthen it by adding with respect to things of less value, Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings? and not one of them is forgotten before God. As if He said, If God forgets not the sparrows, how can He man?
BEDE; The dipondius is a coin of the lightest weight, and equal to two asses.
GLOSS. Now that which in number is one is in weight an ass, but that which is two is a dipondius.
AMBROSE; But perhaps some one will say, How is it that the Apostle says, Does the Lord care for oxen? whereas an ox is of more value than a sparrow; but to care for is one thing, to have knowledge another.
ORIGEN; Literally, hereby is signified the quickness of the Divine foresight, which reaches even to the least things. But mystically, the five sparrows justly represent the spiritual senses, which have perception of high and heavenly things: beholding God, hearing the Divine voice, tasting of the bread of life, smelling the perfume of Christ's anointing, handling the Word of Life. And these being sold for two farthings, that is, being lightly esteemed by those who count as perishing whatever is of the Spirit, are not forgotten before God. But God is said to be forgetful of some because of their iniquities.
THEOPHYL. Or these five senses are sold for two farthings, that is, the New and Old Testament, and are therefore not forgotten by God. Of those whose senses are given up to the word of life that they may be fit for the spiritual food, the Lord is ever mindful.
AMBROSE; Or else; A good sparrow is one which nature has furnished with the power of flying; for nature has given us the grace of flying, pleasure has taken it away, which loads with meats the soul of the wicked, and molds it towards the nature of a fleshly mass. The five senses of the body then, if they seek the food of earthly alloy, cannot fly back to the fruits of higher actions. A bad sparrow therefore is one which has lost its habit of flying through the fault of earthly groveling; such are those sparrows which are sold for two farthings, namely, at the price of worldly luxury. For the enemy sets up his, as it were, captive slaves, at the very lowest price. But the Lord, being the fit judge of His own work, has redeemed at a great price us, His noble servants, whom He has made in His own image.
CYRIL; It is His care then diligently to know the life of the saints. Whence it follows, But the hairs of your heads are all numbered; by which He means, that of all things which relate to them He has most accurate knowledge, for the numbering manifests the minuteness of the care exercised.
AMBROSE; Lastly, the numbering of the hairs is not to be taken with reference to the act of reckoning, but to the capability of knowing. Yet they are well said to be numbered, because those things which we wish to preserve we number.
CYRIL; Now mystically, indeed, the head of a man is his understanding, but his hairs the thoughts, which are open to the eye of God.
THEOPHYL. Or, by the head of each of the faithful, you must understand a conversation meet for Christ, but by his hair, the works of bodily mortification which are numbered by God, and are worthy of the Divine regard.
AMBROSE; If then such is the majesty of God, that a single sparrow or the number of our hair is not beside His knowledge, how unworthy is it to suppose that the Lord is either ignorant of the hearts of the faithful, or despises them so as to account them of less value. Hence He proceeds to conclude, Fear not then, you are of more value than many sparrows.
BEDE; We must not read, You are more, which relates to the comparison of number, but you are of more value, that is, of greater estimation in the sight of God.
ATHAN. Now I ask the Arians, if God, as if disdaining to make all other things, made only His Son, but deputed all things to His Son; how is it that He extends His providence even to such trifling things as our hair, and the sparrows? For upon whatever things He exercises His providence, of these is He the Creator by His own word.
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BEDE; It was said above, that every hidden work and word is to be revealed, but He now declares that this revelation is to take place in the presence of the heavenly city and the eternal Judge and King; saying, But I say to you, Whosoever shall confess me, &c.
AMBROSE; He has also well introduced faith, stimulating us to its confession, and to faith itself He has placed virtue as a foundation. For as faith is the incentive to fortitude, so is fortitude the strong support of faith.
CHRYS. The Lord is not then content with an inward faith, but requires an outward confession, urging us to confidence and greater love. And since this is useful for all, He speaks generally, saying, Whosoever shall confess me, &c.
CYRIL; Now Paul says, If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. The whole mystery of Christ is conveyed in these words. For we must first confess that the Word born of God the Father, that is, the only-begotten Son of His substance, is Lord of all, not as one who had gained His Lordship from without and by stealth, but who is in truth by His nature Lord, as well as the Father. Next we must confess that God raised Him from the dead, who was Himself truly made man, and suffered in the flesh for us; for such He rose from the dead. Whoever then will so confess Christ before men, namely, as God and the Lord, Christ will confess him before the angels of God at that time when He shall descend with the holy angels in the glory of His Father at the end of the world.
EUSEB. But what will be more glorious than to have the only-begotten Word of God Himself to bear witness in our behalf at the divine judgment, and by His own love to draw forth as a recompense for confession, a declaration upon that soul to whom He bears witness. For not as abiding without him to whom He bears witness, but as dwelling in him and filling him with light, He will give His testimony. But having confirmed them with good hope by so great promises, He again rouses them by more alarming threats, saying, But he that denies me before men, shall be denied before the Angels of God.
CHRYS. Both in condemnation a greater punishment is announced, and in blessing a greater reward; as if He said, Now you confess and deny, but I then, for a far greater recompense of good and evil awaits them in the world to come.
EUSEB. He rightly declares this threatening, in order that none should refuse to confess Him by reason of the punishment, which is to be denied by the Son of God, to be disowned by Wisdom, to fall away from life, to be deprived of light, and to lose every blessing; but all these things to suffer before God the Father who is in heaven, and the Angels of God.
CYRIL; Now they who deny are first indeed those who in time of persecution renounce the faith. Besides these, there are heretical teachers also, and their disciples.
CHRYS. There are other modes also of denying which St. Paul describes, saying, They profess that they know God, but in works they deny him. And again, If any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. Also, Flee from covetousness, which is idolatry. Since then there are so many modes of denial, it is plain that there are many likewise of confession, which whosoever has practiced, shall hear that most blessed voice with which Christ greets all who have confessed Him. But mark the precaution of the words. For in the Greek he says, Whosoever shall confess in Me, showing that not by his own strength, but by the aid of grace from above, a man confesses Christ. But of him who denies, He said not "in Me," but me. For though being destitute of grace he denies, he is nevertheless condemned, because the destitution is owing to him who is forsaken, or he is forsaken for his own fault.
BEDE; But lest from what He says, that those who have denied Him are to be denied, it should be supposed that the condition of all was alike, that is, both of those who deny deliberately, and those who deny from infirmity or ignorance, He immediately added, And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him.
CYRIL; But if our Savior means to imply, that if any injurious word is spoken by us against a common man, we shall obtain pardon if we repent, there is no difficulty in the passage, for since God is by nature merciful, He restores those who are willing to repent. But if the words are referred to Christ how is he not to be condemned who speaks a word against Him?
AMBROSE; Truly by the Son of Man we understand Christ, Who by the Holy Spirit was born of a virgin, seeing that His only parent on earth is the Virgin. What then, is the Holy Spirit greater than Christ, that they who sin against Christ should obtain pardon, while they who offend against the Holy Spirit are not thought worthy to obtain it? But where there is unity of power there is no question of comparison.
ATHAN. The ancients indeed, the learned Origen and the great Theognostus, describe this to be the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, when they who have been counted worthy of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Baptism, fall back into sin. For they say that for this reason they can not obtain pardon; as Paul says, It is impossible for those who have been made partakers of the Holy Ghost to renew them again, &c.
But each adds his own explanation. For Origen gives this as his reason; God the Father indeed penetrates and contains all things, but the power of the Son extends to rational things only; the Holy Spirit is only in those who partake of Him in the gift of Baptism. When then catechumens and heathens sin, they sin against the Son who abides in them, yet they may obtain pardon when they become worthy of the gift of regeneration. But when the baptized commit sin, he says that their offense touches the Spirit, after coming to whom they have sinned, and therefore their condemnation must be irrevocable.
But Theognostus says, that he who has gone beyond both the first and second threshold deserves less punishment, but he who has also passed the third, shall no more receive pardon. By the first and second threshold, he speaks of the doctrine of the Father and the Son, but by the third the partaking of the Holy Spirit. According to St. John, When the Spirit of truth is come, he will lead you into all truth. Not as though the doctrine of the Spirit was above that of the Son, but because the Son condescends to those who are imperfect, but the Spirit is the seal of those who are perfect. If then not because the Spirit is above the Son, blasphemy against the Spirit is unpardonable; but because remission of sin is indeed to the imperfect, but no excuse remains to the perfect, therefore since the Son is in the Father, He is in those in whom the Father and the Spirit are not absent, for the Holy Trinity cannot be divided. Besides this, if all things were made by the Son, and all things consist in Him, He will Himself be truly in all; so that it must needs be, that he who sins against the Son, sins against the Father also, and against the Holy Spirit. But holy Baptism is given in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And so they that sin after baptism commit blasphemy against the holy Trinity. But if the Pharisees had not received baptism, how did He condemn them as if they had spoken blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, of which they were not yet partakers, especially since He did not accuse them simply of sin, but of blasphemy? But these differ, for he who sins transgresses the Law, but he who blasphemes offends against the Deity Himself. But again, if to those who sin after baptism there is no remission of the punishment of their offenses, how does the Apostle pardon the penitent at Corinth; but he travails in birth of the backsliding Galatians until Christ be formed again in them.
And why also do we oppose Novatus, who does away with repentance after baptism? The Apostle to the Hebrews does not thus reject the repentance of sinners, but lest they should suppose that as according to the rites of the Law, under the veil of repentance there could be many and daily baptisms, he therefore warns them indeed to repent, but tells them that there could be only one renewal, namely, by Baptism. But with such considerations I return to the dispensation which is in Christ, who being God was made man; as very God raised the dead; as clothed with the flesh, thirsted, labored, suffered. When any then, looking to human things, see the Lord athirst or in suffering, and speak against the Savior as if against a man, they sin indeed, yet may speedily on repentance receive pardon, alleging as excuse the weakness of His body. And again when any, beholding the works of Deity, doubt concerning the nature of the body, they also sin grievously. But these too if they repent may be quickly pardoned, seeing that they have an excuse in the greatness of the works. But when they refer the works of God to the Devil, justly do they undergo the irrevocable sentence, because they have judged God to be the Devil, and the true God to have nothing more in His works than the evil spirits. To this unbelief then the Pharisees had come. For when the Savior manifested the works of the Father, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, and such like deeds, they said that these were the works of Beelzebub. As well might they say, looking at the order of the world and the providence exercised over it, that the world was created by Beelzebub. As long then as regarding human things they erred in knowledge, saying, Is not this the carpenter's son, and how knows this man things which he never learnt? He suffered them as sinning against the Son of man; but when they wax more furious, saying that the works of God are the works of Beelzebub, He no longer endured them. For thus also He endured their fathers so long as their murmurings were for bread and water; but when having found a calf, they impute to it the divine mercies they had received, they were punished. At first indeed multitudes of them were slain, afterwards He said indeed, Nevertheless, in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. Such then is the sentence passed upon the Pharisees, that in the flame prepared for the devil they shall be together with him everlastingly consumed. Not then to make comparison between a blasphemy spoken against Himself and the Holy Spirit said He these things, as if the Spirit were the greater, but each blasphemy being uttered against Him, He shows the one to be greater, the other less. For looking at Him as man they reviled Him, and said that His works were those of Beelzebub.
AMBROSE; Thus it is thought by some that we should believe both the Son and the Holy Spirit to be the same Christ, preserving the distinction of Persons with the unity of the substance, since Christ both God and man is one Spirit, as it is written, The Spirit before our face, Christ the Lord; the same Spirit is holy, for both the Father is holy and the Son holy, and the Spirit holy. If then Christ is each, what difference is there except we e know that it is not lawful for us to deny the divinity of Christ?
BEDE; Or else; Whoso said that the works of the Holy Spirit are those of Beelzebub, it shall not be forgiven him either in the present world, or in that which is to come. Not that we deny that if he could come to repentance ho could be forgiven by God, hut that we believe that such a blasphemer as by the necessity of his deserts he would never come to forgiveness, so neither to the fruits themselves of a worthy repentance; according to that, He has blinded their eyes, so that they should not be converted, and I should heal them.
CYRIL; But if the Holy Spirit were a creature, and not of the divine substance of the Father and the Son, how does an injury committed against Him entail upon it so great a punishment as is denounced against those that blaspheme against God?
BEDE; Nor however are all they who say that the Spirit is not holy, or is not God, but is inferior to the Father and the Son, involved in the crime of unpardonable blasphemy, because they are led to do it through human ignorance, not a demoniacal hatred, as the rulers of tile Jews were.
AUG. Or if it were here said, "Who has spoken any blasphemy whatever against the Holy Spirit," we ought then to understand thereby "all blasphemy;" but because it was said, who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, let it be understood of him that blasphemed not in any way, but in such a manner that it can never be pardoned him. For so when it was said, The Lord tempts no man, that is not spoken of every, but only of a certain kind of temptation. Now what that kind of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is, let us see. The first blessing of believers is forgiveness of sins in the Holy Spirit. Against this free gift the impenitent heart speaks. Impenitence itself therefore is blasphemy against the Spirit, which is neither forgiven in this world, nor in that which is to come; for repentance gains that forgiveness in this world which is to avail in the world to come.
CYRIL; But the Lord after having inspired such great fear, and prepared men to resist those who depart from a right confession, commanded them for the rest to take no care what they should answer, because for those who are faithfully disposed, the Holy Spirit frames fit words, as their teacher, and dwelling within them. Whence it follows, And when they shall bring you into synagogues, take no thought how or what you shall answer.
GLOSS. Now he says, how, with respect to the manner of speaking, what with respect to the manner of intention. How you shall answer to those who ask, or what you shall say to those who wish to learn.
BEDE; For when we are led for Christ's sake before judges, we ought to offer only our will for Christ, but in answering, the Holy Spirit will supply His grace, as it is added, For the Holy Spirit will teach you, &c.
CHRYS. But elsewhere it is said, Be ready to answer every one who shall ask you for a reason of the hope that is in you. When indeed a contest or strife arises among friends, He bids us take thought, but when there are the terrors of a court of justice and fear on every side, He gives His own strength so as to inspire boldness and utterance, but not dismay.
THEOPHYL. Since then our weakness is twofold, and either from fear of punishment we shun martyrdom, or because we are ignorant and can not give a reason of our faith, he has excluded both; the fear of punishment in that He said, Fear not them which kill the body, but the fear of ignorance, when He said, Take no thought how or what you shall answer, &c.
AMBROSE; The whole of the former passage is given to prepare us for undergoing suffering for confessing the Lord, or for contempt of death, or for the hope of reward, or for denunciation of the punishment that will await him to whom pardon will never be granted. And since covetousness is generally wont to try virtue, for destroying this also, a precept and example is added, as it is said, And one of the company said to him, Speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me.
THEOPHYL. As these two brothers were contending concerning the division of their paternal inheritance, it follows that one meant to defraud the other; but our Lord teaches us that we ought not to be set on earthly things, and rebukes him that called Him to the division of inheritance; as it follows, And he said to him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?
BEDE; He who wills to impose the trouble of division of lands upon the Master who is commending the joys of heavenly peace, is rightly called man, according to that, whereas there is envying, strife, and divisions among you, are you not men?
CYRIL; Now the Son of God, when He was made like to us, was appointed by God the Father to be King and Prince upon his holy Mount of Sion, to make known the Divine command.
AMBROSE; Well then does He avoid earthly things who had descended for the sake of divine things, and deigns not to be a judge of strifes and arbiter of laws, having the judgment of the quick and dead and the recompensing of works. You should consider then, not what you seek, but from whom you ask it; and you should not eagerly suppose that the greater are to be disturbed by the less. Therefore is this brother deservedly disappointed who desired to occupy the steward of heavenly things with corruptible, seeing that between brothers no judge should intervene, but natural affection should be the umpire to divide the patrimony, although immortality not riches should be the patrimony which men should wait for.
BEDE; He takes occasion from this foolish petitioner to fortify both the multitudes and His disciples alike by precept and example against the plague of covetousness. Whence it follows, He said to them, Take heed, and beware of all covetousness; and he says, of all, because some things seem to be honestly done, but the internal judge decides with what intention they are done.
CYRIL; Or he says, of all covetousness, that is, great and little. For covetousness is unprofitable, as the Lord says, You shall build houses of hewn stone, and shall not dwell in them. And elsewhere, Yes ten acres of vineyards shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah. But also in another way it is unprofitable, as he shows, adding, For a man's life consists not in the abundance, &c.
THEOPHYL. This our Lord says to rebuke the motives of the covetous, who seem to heap up riches as if they were going to live for a long time. But will wealth ever make you long lived? Why then cost you manifestly undergo evils for the sake of an uncertain rest? For it is doubtful whether you ought to attain to an old age, for the sake of which you are collecting treasures.
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THEOPHYL. Having said that the life of man is not extended by abundance of wealth, he adds a parable to induce belief in this, as it follows, And he spoke a parable to them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.
BASIL; Not indeed about to reap any good from his plenty of fruits, but that the mercy of God might the more appear, which extends its goodness even to the bad; sending down His rain upon the just and the unjust. But what are the things wherewith this man repays his Benefactor? He remembered not his fellow-creatures, nor deemed that he ought to give of his superfluities to the needy. His barns indeed bursting from the abundance of his stores, yet was his greedy mind by no means satisfied. He was unwilling to put up with his old ones because of his covetousness, and not able to undertake new ones because of the number, for his counsels were imperfect, and his care barren. Hence it follows, And he thought. His complaint is like that of the poor. Does not the man oppressed with want say, What shall I do, whence can I get food, whence clothing? Such things also the rich man utters. For his mind is distressed on account of his fruits pouring out from his storehouse, lest perchance when they have come forth they should profit the poor; like the glutton who had rather burst from eating, than give any thing of what remains to the starving.
GREG. O adversity, the child of plenty. For saying, What shall I do, he surely betokens, that, oppressed by the success of his wishes, he labors as it were under a load of goods.
BASIL; It was easy for him to say, I will open my barn, I will call together the needy, but he has no thought of want, only of amassing; for it follows, And he said, This will I do, I will pull down my barns. You do well, for the storehouses of iniquity are worthy of destruction. Bull down your barns, from which no one receives comfort. He adds, I will build greater. But if you shall complete these, wilt you again destroy them? What more foolish than laboring on for ever. Your barns, if you will, are the home of the poor. But you will say, Whom do I wrong by keeping what is my own? For it follows also, And there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. Tell me what is yours, from whence did you get it and bring it into life? As he who anticipates the public games, injures those who are coming by appropriating to himself what is appointed for the common use, so likewise the rich who regard as their own the common things which they have forestalled. For if every one receiving what is sufficient for his own necessity would leave what remains to the needy, there would be no rich or poor.
CYRIL; Observe also in another respect the folly of his words, when he says, I will gather all my fruits, as if he thought that he had not obtained them from God, but that they were the fruits of his own labors.
BASIL; But if you confess that those things have come to you from God, is God then unjust in distributing to us unequally. Why do you abound while another begs? unless that you should gain the rewards of a good stewardship, and be honored with the meed of patience. Are not you then a robber, for counting as your own what you have received to distribute? It is the bread of the famished which you receive, the garment of the naked which you hoard in your chest, the shoe of the barefooted which rots in your possession, the money of the penniless which you have buried in the earth. Wherefore then do you injure so many to whom you might be a benefactor.
CHRYS. But in this he errs, that he thinks those things good which are indifferent. For there are some things good, some evil, some between the two. The good are chastity, and humility, and the like, which when a man chooses he becomes good. But opposed to these are the evil, which when a man chooses he becomes bad; and there are the neutral, as riches, which at one time indeed are directed to good, as to almsgiving, at other times to evil, as to covetousness. And in like manner poverty at one time leads to blasphemy, at another to wisdom, according to the disposition of the user.
CYRIL; The rich man then builds barns which last not, but decay, and what is still more foolish, reckons for himself upon a long life; for it follows, And I will say to my Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years. But, O rich man, you have indeed fruits in your barns, but as for many years whence can you obtain them?
ATHAN. Now if any one lives so as to die daily, seeing that our life is naturally uncertain, he will not sin, for the greater fear destroys very much pleasure, but the rich man on the contrary, promising to himself length of life, seeks after pleasures, for he says Rest, that is, from toil, eat, drink, and be merry, that is, with great luxury.
BASIL; You are so careless with respect to the goods of the soul, that you ascribe the meats of the body to the soul. If indeed it has virtue, if it is fruitful in good works, if it clings to God, it possesses many goods, and rejoices with a worthy joy. But because you art altogether carnal and subject to the passions, you speak from your belly, not from your soul.
CHRYS. Now it behoves us not to indulge in delights which fattening the body make lean the soul, and bring a heavy burden upon it, and spread darkness over it, and a thick covering, because in pleasure our governing part which is the soul becomes the slave, but the subject part, namely the body, rules. But the body is in need not of luxuries but of food, that it may be nourished, not that it may be racked and melt away. For not to the soul alone are pleasures hurtful, but to the body itself, because from being a strong body it becomes weak, from being healthy diseased, from being active slothful, from being beautiful unshapely, and from youthful old.
BASIL; But he was permitted to deliberate in every thing, and to manifest his purpose, that be might receive a sentence such as his inclinations deserved. But while he speaks in secret, his words are weighed in heaven, from whence the answers come to him. For it follows, But God said to him, you fool, this night your soul shall they require of you. Hear the name of folly, which most properly belongs to you which not man has imposed, but God Himself.
GREG. The same night he was taken away, who had expected many years, that he indeed who had in gathering stores for himself looked a long time forward, should not see even tile next day.
CHRYS.; They shall require of you, for perhaps certain dread powers were sent to require it, since if when going from city to city we want a guide, much more will the soul when released from the body, and passing to a future life, need direction. On this account many times the soul rises and sinks into the deep again, when it ought to depart from the body. For the consciousness of our sins is ever pricking us, but most of all when we are going to be dragged before the awful tribunal. For when the whole accumulation of crimes is brought up again, and placed before the eyes, it astounds the mind. And as prisoners are always indeed sorrowful, but particularly at the time when they are going to be brought before the judge; so also the soul at this time is greatly tormented by sin and afflicted, but much more after it has been removed.
GREG; But in the night the soul was taken away which had gone forth in the darkness of its heart, being unwilling to have the light of consideration, so as to foresee what it might suffer. But He adds, Then whose shall those things be which you have provided
CHRYS. For here shall you leave those things, and not only reap no advantage from them, but carry a load of sins upon your own shoulders. And these things which you have laid up will for the most part come into the hands of enemies, but of thee shall an account of them be required. It follows, So is he that lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.
BEDE; For such a one is a fool, and will be taken off in the night. He then who wishes to be rich toward God, will not lay up treasures for himself, but distribute his possessions to the poor.
AMBROSE; For in vain he amasses wealth who knows not how to use it. Neither are these things ours which we cannot take away with us. Virtue alone is the companion of the dead, mercy alone follows us, which gains for the dead an everlasting habitation.
Golden Chain 10145