Chrysostom Philippians 200
200 in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offense unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Ph 1,8-19
201 He calls not God to witness as though he should be doubted, but does this from his great affection, and his exceeding persuasion and confidence; for after saying that they had fellowship with him, he adds this also, “in the tender mercies of Christ,” lest they should think that his longing for them was for this cause, and not simply for their own sake. And what mean these words, “in the tender mercies of Christ”? They stand for “according to Christ.” Because ye are believers, because ye love Christ, because of the love that is according to Christ. He does not say “love,” but uses a still warmer expression, “the tender mercies of Christ,” as though he had said, “having become as a father to you through the relationship which is in Christ.” For this imparts to us bowels warm and glowing. For He gives such bowels to His true servants. “In these bowels,” saith He, as though one should say, “I love you with no natural bowels, but with warmer ones, namely, those of Christ.” “How I long after you all.” I long after all, since ye are all of this nature; I am unable in words to represent to you my longing; it is therefore impossible to tell. For this cause I leave it to God, whose range is in the heart, to know this. Now had he been flattering them, he would not have called God to witness, for this cannot be done without peril.
Ph 1,9. “And this,” saith he, “I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more.” For this is a good of which there is no satiety; for see, being so loved he wished to be loved still more, for he who loves the object of his love, is willing to stay at no point of love, for it is impossible there should be a measure of so noble a thing. Paul desires that the debt of love should always be owing; “Owe no man any thing, save to love one another.” (Rm 13,8). The measure of love is, to stop nowhere; “that your love,” says he, “may abound yet more and more.” Consider the character of the expression, “that it may abound yet more and more,” he says, “in knowledge and all discernment.” He does not extol friendship merely, nor love merely, but such as comes of knowledge; that is, Ye should not apply the same love to all: for this comes not of love, but from want of feeling. What means he by “in knowledge”? He means, with judgment, with reason, with discrimination. There are who love without reason, simply and any how, whence it comes that such friendships are weak. He says, “in knowledge and all discernment, that ye may approve the things that are excellent,” that is, the things that are profitable. This I say not for my own sake, says he, but for yours, for there is danger lest any one be spoiled by the love of the heretics; for all this he hints at, and see how he brings it in. Not for my own sake, says he, do I say this, but that ye may be sincere, that is, that ye receive no spurious doctrine under the pretence of love. How then, says he, “If it be possible, live peaceably with all men”? “Live peaceably” (Rm 12,18), he says, not, Love so as to be harmed by that friendship; for he says, “if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; that ye may be sincere” (Mt 5,29), that is, before God, “and without offence,” that is, before men, for many men’s friendships are often a hurt to them. Even though it hurts thee not, says he, still another may stumble thereat. “Unto the day of Christ”; i.e. that ye may then be found pure, having caused no one to stumble.
Ph 1,11. “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are through Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God;” i.e. holding, together with true doctrine, an upright life.
And not merely upright, but “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” For there is indeed a righteousness not according to Christ, as, for example, a moral life. “Which are through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Seest thou that I speak not of mine own: glory, but the righteousness of God; and oftentimes he calls mercy itself too righteousness; let not your love, he says, indirectly injure you, by hindering your perception of things profitable, and take heed lest you fall through your love to any one. For I would indeed that your love should be increased, but not so that ye should be injured by it. And I would not that it should be simply of prejudice, but upon proof whether I speak well or no. He says not, that ye may take up my opinion, but that ye may “prove” it. He does not say outright, join not yourself to this or that man, but, I would that your love should have respect to what is profitable, not that ye should be void of understanding. For it is a foolish thing if ye work not righteousness for Christ’s sake and through Him. Mc the words, “through Him.” Does he then use God as a mere assistant? Away with the thought. Not that I may receive praise, says he, but that God may be glorified.
202 Ph 1,12-13. “Now I would have you know, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the progress of the Gospel, so that my bonds became manifest in Christ throughout the whole praetorian guard, and to all the rest.”
It was likely they would grieve when they heard he was in bonds, and imagine that the preaching was at a stand. What then? He straightway destroys this suspicion. And this also shows his affection, that he declares the things which had happened to him, because they were anxious. What say you? you are in bonds! you are hindered! how then does the Gospel advance? He answers, “so that my bonds in Christ became manifest in all the praetorium.” This thing not only did not silence the rest, nor affright them, but contrariwise rather encouraged them. If then they who were near the dangers were not only nothing hurt, but even received greater confidence, much more should you. Had he when in bonds taken it hardly, and held his peace, it were probable that they would be affected in like sort. But as he spoke more boldly when in bonds, he gave them more confidence than if he had not been bound. And how have his bonds “turned to the progress of the Gospel”? So God in His dispensation ordered, he means, that my bonds were not hid, my bonds which were “in” Christ, which were “for” Christ.
“In the whole praetorium.” For up to that time they so called the palace. And in the whole city, says he.
Ph 1,14. “And that most of the brethren in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word without fear.”
This shows that they were of good courage even before, and spoke with boldness, but much more now. If others then, says he, are of good courage through my bonds, much more am I; if I am the cause of confidence to others, much more to myself. “And most of the brethren in the Lord.” As it was a great thing to say, My bonds gave confidence to them, he therefore adds beforehand, “in the Lord.” Do you see how, even when he sees himself constrained to speak great things, he departs not from moderation? “Are more abundantly bold,” he says, “to speak the word without fear”; the words “more abundantly” show that they had already begun.
Ph 1,15. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife, and some also of good will.”
And what this means is worth enquiry. Since Paul was under restraint, many of the unbelievers, willing to stir up more vehemently the persecution from the Emperor, themselves also preached Christ, in order that the Emperor’s wrath might be increased at the spread of the Gospel, and all his anger might fall on the head of Paul. From my bonds then two lines of action have sprung. One party took great courage thereat; the other, from hope to work my destruction, set themselves to preach Christ; “some of them through envy,” that is, envying my reputation and constancy, and from desire of my destruction, and the spirit of strife, work with me; or that they themselves may be esteemed, and from the expectation that they will draw to themselves somewhat of my glory. “And some also of good will,” that is, without hypocrisy, with all earnestness.
Ph 1,16. “The one proclaim Christ of faction not sincerely.”
That is, not with pure motives, nor from regard to the matter itself; but why? “thinking to add affliction to my bonds.” As they think that I shall thus fill into greater peril, they add affliction to affliction. O cruelty! O devilish instigation! They saw him in bonds, and cast into prison, and still they envied him. They would increase his calamities, and render him subject to greater anger: well said he, “thinking,” for it did not so turn out. They thought indeed to grieve me by this; but I rejoiced that the Gospel was furthered.
Ph 1,17. “But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the Gospel.”
What means, “that I am set for the defense of the Gospel”? It is, They are preparing for the account which I must give to God, and assisting me.
What is meant by “for the defense”? I have been appointed to preach, I must give account, and answer for the work to which I have been appointed; they assist me, that my defense may be easy; for if there be found many who have been instructed and have believed, my defense will be easy. So it is possible to do a good work, from a motive which is not good. And not only is there no reward in store for such an action, but punishment. For as they preached Christ from a desire to involve the preacher of Christ in greater perils, not only shall they receive no reward, but shall be subject to vengeance and punishment. “And some of love.” That is, they know that I must give account for the Gospel.
Ph 1,18. “What then? only that every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.”
But see the wisdom of the Man. He did not vehemently accuse them, but mentioned the result; what difference does it make to me, says he, whether it be done in this or that way? only that every way, “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed.” He did not say, “Let him be proclaimed,” as some suppose, stating that he opens the way for the heresies, but, “He is proclaimed.” For in the first place he did not lay down the law and say, as if laying down the law, “Let Him be proclaimed,” but he reported what was taking place; secondly, if he even spoke as laying down the law, not even thus would he be opening the way for the heresies.
203 For let us examine the matter. For even if he gave permission to preach as they preached, not even thus was he opening the way for the heresies. How so? In that they preached healthfully; though the aim and purpose on which they acted was corrupted, still the preaching itself was not changed, and they were forced so to preach. And why? Because, had they preached otherwise than as Paul preached, had they taught otherwise than as he taught, they would not have increased the wrath of the Emperor. But now by furthering his preaching, by teaching in the same way, and making disciples as he did, they had power to exasperate the Emperor, when he saw the multitude of the disciples numerous. But then some wicked and senseless man, taking hold of this passage, says, Verily they would have done the contrary, they would have driven off those who had already believed, instead of making believers to abound, had they wished to annoy him. What shall we answer? That they looked to this thing only, how they might involve him in present danger, and leave him no escape; and thus they thought to grieve him, and to quench the Gospel, rather than in the other way.
By that other course they would have extinguished the wrath of the Emperor, they would have let him go at large and preach again; but by this course they thought that because of him all would be ruined, could they but destroy him. The many however could not have this intention, but certain bitter men alone.
Then “and therein,” says he, “I rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” What means, “yea, I will rejoice”? Even if this be done still more, he means. For they coöperate with me even against their will; and will receive punishment for their toil, whilst I, who contributed nothing thereto, shall receive reward. Is there anything beyond this villainy of the Devil, to contrive the punishment of the preaching, and vengeance for the toils? Seest thou with how many evils he pierces through his own! How else would a hater and an enemy of their salvation have arranged all this? Seest thou how he who wages war against the truth has no power, but rather wounds himself, as one who kicks against the goads?
Ph 1,19. “For I know,” says he, “that this shall turn to my salvation through your supplication, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”
Nothing is more villainous than the Devil. So does he everywhere involve his own in unprofitable toils, and rends them. Not only does he not suffer them to obtain the prizes, but he even subjects them to punishment.
For not only does he command them the preaching of the Gospel, but likewise fasting and virginity, in such sort as will not only deprive them of their reward, but will bring down heavy evil on those who pursue that course. Concerning whom he says elsewhere, also, “Branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron.” (1Tm 4,2).
Wherefore, I beseech you, let us give thanks to God for all things, since he hath both lightened our toil, and increased our reward. For such as among them live in virginity enjoy not the rewards, which they do who among us live chastely in wedlock; but they who live as virgins among the heretics are subject to the condemnation of the fornicators. All this springs from their not acting with a right aim, but as accusing God’s creatures, and His unspeakable Wisdom.
Let us not then be sluggish. God hath placed before us contests within measure, having no toil. Yet let us not despise them for this. For if the heretics put themselves to the stretch in unprofitable toils, what excuse shall we have if we will not endure those which are less, and which have a greater reward? For which of Christ’s ordinances is burdensome? which is grievous? Art thou unable to live a virgin life? Thou art permitted to marry. Art thou unable to strip thyself of all thou hast? Thou art permitted to supply the needs of others from what thou hast. Let “your abundance be a supply for their want.” (2Co 8,14). These things indeed appear burdensome. What things? I mean to despise money, and to overcome the desires of the body. But His other commands require no cost, no violence. For tell me, what violence is there in speaking no ill, in simply abstaining from slander? What violence is there in envying not another man’s goods? What violence in not being led away by vain-glory? To be tortured, and endure it, is the part of strength. The exercise of philosophy is the part of strength. To bear poverty through life is the part of strength. It is the part of strength to wrestle with hunger and thirst. Where none of these things are, but where you may enjoy your own, as becomes a Christian, without envying others, what violence is there?
From this source springs envy; nay, rather all evils spring from no other source than this, that we cleave to things present. For did you hold money and the glory of this world to be nought, you would not cast an evil eye on its possessors.
204 But since you gape at these things, and idolize them, and are flattered by them, for this reason envy troubles you, and vain-glory; it all springs from idolizing the things of the present life. Art thou envious because another man is rich? Nay, such an one is an object for pity and for tears. But you laugh and answer straight, I am the object for tears, not he! Thou also art an object for tears, not because thou art poor, but because thou thinkest thyself wretched. For we weep for those who have nothing the matter, and are discontented, not because they have anything the matter, but because, without having, they think they have. For example: if any one, cured of a fever, still is restless and rolls about, lying in health on his bed, is he not more to be wept for than those in fever, not that he has a fever, for he has none, but because having no sickness he still thinks he has? And thou art an object for tears just because thou thinkest thyself wretched, not for thy poverty. For thy poverty thou art to be thought happy.
Why enviest thou the rich man? Is it because he has subjected himself to many cares? to a harder slavery? because he is bound like a dog, with ten thousand chains—namely, his riches? Evening overtakes him, night overtakes him, but the season of rest is to him a time of trouble of anguish, of pain, of anxiety. There is a noise he straightway jumps up. Has his neighbor been plundered? He who has lost nothing cares more for it than the loser. For that man has lost once, but having endured the pain he lays aside his care; but the other has it always with him. Night comes on, the haven of our ills, the solace of our woes, the medicine of our wounds. For they who are weighed down by excess of grief, often give no ear to their friends, to their relations, to their intimates,—ofttimes not even to a father when he would give comfort, but take their very words amiss; but when sleep bids them rest, none has the power to look him in the face. For worse than any burning does the bitterness of grief afflict our souls. And as the body, when parched and worn down by struggling against the violence of the sunbeams, is brought to a caravansary with many fountains, and the soothing of a gentle breeze, so does night hand over our soul to sleep. Yea, rather, I should say, not night nor sleep does this, but God, who knoweth our toil-worn race, has wrought this, while we have no compassion on ourselves, but, as though at enmity with ourselves, have devised a tyranny more powerful than natural want of rest—the sleeplessness which comes of wealth. For it is said, “The anxieties of wealth drive away sleep.” (Si 31,1). See how great is the care of God. But He hath not committed rest to our will, nor our need of sleep to choice, but hath bound it up in the necessities of nature, that good may be done to us even against our wills. For to sleep is of nature. But we, as mighty haters of ourselves, like enemies and persecutors of others, have devised a tyranny greater than this necessity of nature that, namely, which comes of money. Has day dawned? Then such an one is in dread of the informers. Hath night overtaken him? He trembles at robbers. Is death at hand? The thought that he must leave his goods to others preys upon him worse than death. Hath he a son? His desires are increased; and then he fancies himself poor. Has he none? His pains are greater. Deemest thou him blessed who is unable to receive pleasure from any quarter? Can you envy him thus tempest-tossed, while you yourself are placed in the quiet haven of poverty? Of a truth this is the imperfection of human nature; that it bears not its good nobly, but casts insults on its very prosperity.
And all this on earth; but when we depart thither, listen what the rich man, who was lord of innumerable goods, as you say (since for my part I call not these things good, but indifferent), listen to what this lord of innumerable goods says, and of what he stands in need: “Father Abraham,” he exclaims, “send Lazarus, that with the tip of his finger he may drop water on my tongue, for I am scorched in this flame.” For even if that rich man had endured none of the things I have mentioned, if he had passed his whole life without dread and care—why say I his whole life? rather that one moment (for it is a moment, our whole life is but one moment, compared with that eternity which has no end)—if all things had turned out according to his desire; must he not be pitied for these words, yea, rather, for this state of things? Was not your table once deluged with wine? Now you are not master even of a drop of water, and that, too, in your greatest need. Did not you neglect that poor man full of sores? But now you ask a sight of him, and no one gives leave. He lay at your gate; but now in Abraham’s bosom. You then lay under your lofty ceiling; but now in the fire of hell.
205 These things let the rich men hear. Yea, rather not the rich, but the pitiless. For not in that he was rich was he punished, but because he showed no pity; for it is possible that a man who is at the same time rich and pitiful, should meet with every good. And for this cause the rich man’s eyes were fixed on no one else, but on him alone, who then begged his alms; that he might learn from memory of his former actions, that his punishment was just. Were there not ten thousand poor men who were righteous? But he, who then lay at his gate, alone is seen by him, to instruct him and us, how great a good it is to put no trust in riches. His poverty hindered not the one in obtaining the kingdom; his riches helped not the other to avoid hell. Where is the point at which a man is poor? where is the point at which he is reduced to beggary? He is not, he is not poor, who has nought, but he who desires many things! He is not rich who has large possessions, but he who stands in need of nothing. For what profit is there to possess the whole world, and yet live in greater despondency than he who has nothing? Their dispositions make men rich and poor, not the abundance or the want of money. Would you, who are a poor man, become rich? You may have your will, and no one can hinder you. Despise the world’s wealth, think it nought, as it is nought. Cast out the desire of wealth, and you are straightway rich. He is rich who does not desire to become rich; he who is unwilling to be poor, is the poor man. As he is the diseased man, who even in health bemoans his case, and not the man who bears his disease more lightly than perfect health, so also he is poor who cannot endure poverty, but in the midst of wealth thinks himself poorer than the poor; not he who bears his poverty more lightly than they their riches, for he is a richer man.
For tell me, wherefore learest thou poverty? wherefore tremblest thou? is it not by reason of hunger? is it not for thirst? is it not for cold? Is it not indeed for these things? There is not, there is not any one who is ever destitute in these things! “For look at the generations of old, and see, did ever any one trust in the Lord, and was forsaken? or did any one hope in Him, and was made ashamed?” (Si 2,11).
And again, “Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them.” (Mt 6,26). No one can readily point us out any one who has perished by hunger and cold. Wherefore then dost thou tremble at poverty? Thou canst not say. For if thou hast necessaries enough, wherefore dost thou tremble at it? Because thou hast not a multitude of servants? This truly is to be quit of masters; this is continual happiness, this is freedom from care. Is it because your vessels, your couches, your furniture are not formed of silver? And what greater enjoyment than thine has he who possesses these things? None at all. The use is the same, whether they are of this or that material. Is it because thou art not an object of fear to the many? May you never become so! For what pleasure is it that any should stand in dread and fear of thee? Is it because thou art afraid of others? But thou canst not be alarmed. For “wouldest thou have no fear of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise from the same.” (Rm 13,3). Does any say, It is because we are subject to contempt, and apt to suffer ill? It is not poverty but wickedness which causes this; for many poor men have quietly passed through life, whilst rulers, and the rich, and powerful, have ended their days more wretchedly than all evil doers, than bandits, than grave-robbers. For what poverty brings in thy case, that doth wealth in theirs. For that which they who would ill-treat thee do through thy contemptible estate, they do to him from envy and the evil eye they cast upon him, and the latter still more than the former, for this is the stronger craving to ill-treat another. He who envies does everything with all his might and main, while the despiser ofttimes has even pity on the despised; and his very poverty, and utter want of power, has often been the cause of his deliverance.
And sometimes by saying to him, “A great deed it will be if you make away with such an one! If you slay one poor man, what vast advantage will you reap?” we may lulls soften down his anger. But envy sets itself against the rich, and ceases not until it has wrought its will, and has poured forth its venom. See you, neither poverty nor wealth is good in itself, but our own disposition. Let us bring it to a good tone, let us discipline it in true wisdom. If this be well affected, riches cannot cast us out of the kingdom, poverty will not make us come short. But we shall meekly bear our poverty, and receive no loss in respect to the enjoyment of future goods, nor even here on earth. But we shall both enjoy what is good on earth, and obtain the good things in heaven, which may we all obtain, through the grace and lovingkindness, &c.
300 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your supplication, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing shall I be put to shame, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.” Ph 1,18-20
301 None of the grievous things which are in this present life can fix their fangs upon that lofty soul, which is truly philosophic, neither enmity, nor accusations, nor slanders, nor dangers, nor plots. It flies for refuge as it were to a mighty fortress, securely defended there against all that attack it from this lower earth. Such was the soul of Paul; it had taken possession of a place higher than any fortress, the seat of spiritual wisdom, that is, true philosophy. For that of those without, i.e. the heathen, is mere words, and childish toys. But it is not of these we now speak, but at present concerning the things of Paul. That blessed one had both the Emperor for his enemy, and in addition, many other foes many ways afflicting him, even with bitter slander. And what says he? Not only do I not grieve nor sink beneath these things, but “I even rejoice, yea, and will rejoice,” not for a season, but always will I rejoice for these things. “For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation,” that which is to come, when even their enmity and jealousy towards me further the Gospel. “Through your supplication,” he adds, “and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ according to my earnest expectation and hope.” Behold the humble-mindedness of this blessed one; he was striving in the contest, he was now close to his crown, he had done ten thousand exploits, for he was Paul, and what can one add to this? still he writes to the Philippians, I may be saved “through your supplication,” I who have gained salvation through countless achievements. “And the supply,” saith he, “of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” It is as though he said, if I am thought worthy of your prayers, I shall also be thought worthy of more grace. For the meaning of “supply” is this, if the Spirit be supplied to me, be given to me more abundantly. Or he is speaking of deliverance, “unto salvation”; that is, I shall also escape the present as I did the former danger. Of this same matter he says, “At my first defense no one took my part, but all forsook me; may it not be laid to their account. But the Lord stood by me, and strengthened me.” (2Tm 4,16). This then he now predicts: “Through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope,” for thus do I hope. For that he may persuade us not to leave the whole matter to the prayers made for us, and contribute nothing ourselves, behold how he lays down his own part, which is Hope, the source of all good, as the Prophet says. “Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee.” (Ps 33,22) And as it is written in another place, “Look to the generations of old and see, did any one hope in the Lord, and was made ashamed?” (Si 2,10). And again,this same blessed one says, “Hope putteth not to shame.” (Rm 5,5). This is Paul’s hope, the hoping that I shall nowhere be put to shame.
“According to my earnest expectation and hope,” says he, “that in nothing shall I be put to shame.” Do you see how great a thing it is to hope in God? Whatever happens, he says, I shall not be put to shame, i.e. they will not obtain the mastery, over me, “but with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body.” They forsooth expected to catch Paul in this snare, and to quench the preaching of the Gospel, as though their craftiness were of any power. This then, he says, shall not be so, I shall not now die, but “as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body.” How so? Ofttimes have I fallen into dangers, when all men gave us up, and what is more, when I myself did. For “we had the answer of death within ourselves” (2Co 1,9), but from all the Lord delivered me, so now too he shall be magnified in my body. What then? Lest any one should suppose and say, If you die, will He not then be magnified? Yes, he answers, I know He will; for this cause I did not say that my life alone shall magnify him, but my death too. At present he means “by life”; they will not destroy me; even did they so, Christ will even thus be magnified. How so? Through life, because He delivered me, but through my death, because even death itself could not persuade me to deny Him, since He gave me such readiness, and made me stronger than death. On the one hand because He freed me from peril; on the other, because He suffered me not to fear the tyranny of death: thus shall he be magnified through life and death. And this he says, not as though he were about to die, but lest on his death they should be affected as men are apt to be.
But that you may know these his words did not point to immediate death, the thought that pained them most, see how be relieves it by almost saying, These things I say, not as one about to die; wherefore he soon after adds, “And having this confidence I know that I shall abide, yea and abide with you all.”
302 “In nothing,” says he, “shall I be put to shame”; that is, death brings no shame to me, but rather great gain. Why so? Because I am not immortal, but I shall shine more brightly than if I were so, for it is not the same thing for one immortal, and for one who is mortal, to despise death; so that not even instant death is shame to me, yet shall I not die; “in nothing shall I be put to shame,” neither in life nor death. For I will bear either nobly, whether life or death. Well says he! This is the part of a Christian soul! but he adds, “with all boldness.” Seest thou how entirely I am freed from shame? For if the fear of death had cut short my boldness, death would have been worthy of shame, but if death at its approach cast no terror on me, no shame is here; but whether it be through life I shall not be put to shame, for I still preach the Preaching, or whether it be through death I shall not be put to shame; fear does not hold me back, since I still exhibit the same boldness. Do not, when I mention my bonds, think shame of the matter; so manifold good hath it caused to me, that it hath even given confidence to others. For that we should be bound for Christ, is no shame, but for fear of bonds to betray aught that is Christ’s, this is shame. When there is no such thing, bonds are even a cause of boldness. But since I have ofttimes escaped dangers, and have this to boast of to the unbelievers, do not straightway think I am put to shame, if now it should turn out otherwise. The one event no less than the other gives you boldness. Note how he brings this forward in his own person, which he does in many places, as in the Epistle to the Romans; “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel.” (Rm 1,16). And again in that to the Corinthians; “And these things I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos.” (1Co 4,6).—“Whether by life or by death”: this he says not as in ignorance, (for he knew that he was not then to die, but some time after); yet even now does he prepare their soul.
Ph 1,21. “For to me,” he says, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
For even in dying, he means, I shall not have died, for I have my life in myself: then would they truly have slain me, had they had power through this fear to cast faith out of my soul. But as long as Christ is with me, even though death overtake me, still I live, and in this present life, not this, but Christ is my life. Since, then, not even in the present life is it so, “but that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith;” so I say in that state also, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” (Ga 2,20). Such ought a Christian to be! I live not, he says, the common life. How livest thou then, O blessed Paul? Dost thou not see the sun, dost thou not breathe the common air? art thou not nourished with the same food as others? dost thou not tread the earth as we? needest thou not sleep, nor clothing, nor shoes? what meanest thou by, “I live not”? how dost thou not live? Why boastest thou thyself? No boasting is here. For if indeed the fact did not witness to him, a man might with some show have called it boasting; but if facts do witness, how is boasting here? Let us then learn how he lives not, for he himself says in another place, “I have been crucified to the world, and the world to me.” (Ga 6,14).Hear then how he says, “I no longer live.” And how he says, “to me to live is Christ.” The word “life” is much significant, beloved, as also the word “death.” There is this life of the body, there is the life of sin, as he himself elsewhere says, “But if we died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?” (Rm 6,2). It is then possible to live the life of sin. Attend diligently, I entreat you, lest my labor be vain. There is the life everlasting and immortal; with eternal life the heavenly; “for our citizenship” says he “is in heaven” (Ph 3,20). There is the life of the body whereof he speaks, “through him we live and move and have our being.” (Ac 17,28). He does not then deny that he lives the natural life, but that of sin, which all men live. He who desires not the present life, how does he live it? He who is hastening to another, how does he live this life? He who despiseth death, how does he live this life? He who desires nothing, how does he live it? For as one made of adamant, though he were struck a thousand blows, would never attend to it, no more would Paul. And “I live,” says he, “but no longer I,” that is, no longer the old man; as again elsewhere, “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me out of the body of this death!” (Rm 7,24). How too does he live who does nought for the sake of food, nought for the sake of clothing, nought for any of these present things? Such an one does not even live the natural life: he who takes thought for none of the things which sustain life, lives not. We live this life, whose every action regards it. But he lived not; he busied himself about nought of the things here. How then lived he? Just as we are accustomed to say, in common matters, such an one is not with me, when he does nothing that pertains to me. Again, in like sort, such a man lives not for me. Elsewhere he shows that he rejects not the natural life: “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Ga 2,20); i.e. a certain new life I live, an altered one.
303 And truly all these things he said to comfort the Philippians. Think not, says he, that I shall be deprived of this life, for neither whilst alive did I live this life, but that which Christ willed. For tell me? He who despises money, luxury, hunger, thirst, dangers, health, safety, does he live this life? He who has nothing here, and is ofttimes willing to cast life away, if need be, and clings not to it, does he live this life? By no means. This I must make dear to you by a kind of example. Let us imagine some one in great wealth, with many servants, and much gold, and who makes no use of all these things; is such an one rich for all his wealth? By no means. Let him see his children dissipating his property, strolling idly about; let him feel no concern for them; when beaten let him not even be pained; shall we call him a man of wealth? By no means; although his wealth is his own. “To me,” he says, “to live is Christ;” if you will enquire of my life, it is He. “And to die is gain.” Wherefore? Because I shall more clearly be present with Him; so that my death is rather a coming to life; they who kill me will work on me no dreadful thing, they will only send me onward to my proper life, and free me from that which is not mine. What then, while thou wert here, wert thou not Christ’s? Yes, and in a high degree.
Ph 1,22. “But if to live in the flesh,—if this is the fruit of my work, then what I shall choose I wot not.”
Lest any should say, If what you say is life, wherefore hath Christ left you here? “It is,” he says, “the fruit of my work;” so that it is possible to use to good purpose the present life, while not living it. Lest you should think that reproach is cast upon life. For if we gain no advantage here, wherefore do we not make away with ourselves, nor slay ourselves? By no means, he answers. It is open to us to profit even here, if we live not this, but another life. But perchance one will say, does this bear thee fruit? Yes! he answers. Where are now the heretics? Behold now; “to live in the flesh,” this is “the fruit of his work.” “That which I now live in the flesh, I live in faith;” therefore it is “the fruit of my work.”
“And what I shall choose I know not.” Marvelous! How great was his philosophy! How hath he both cast out the desire of the present life, and yet thrown no reproach upon it! For in that he saith, “to die is gain,” by this he hath cast out the desire, but in that he saith, “to live in the flesh is the fruit of my work,” here he shows that the present life also is needful, if we use it as need is, if we bear fruit; since if it be unfruitful, it is no longer life. For we despise those trees which bear no fruit, as though they were dry, and give them up to the fire. Life itself belongs to that middle class of indifferent things, whilst to live well or ill is in ourselves. We do not then hate life, for we may live well too. So even if we use it ill, we do not even then cast the blame on it. And wherefore? Because not itself, but the free choice of those who use it ill is to blame. For God hath made thee live, that thou mayest live to Him. But thou, by living through corruption unto sin, makest thyself accountable for all blame. What sayest thou, tell me. Thou knowest not what to choose? Here hath he revealed a great mystery, in that his departure was in his own power; for where choice is, there have we power. “What I shall choose,” says he, “I know not.” Is it in thine own power? Yes, he answers, if I would ask this grace of God.
Ph 1,23. “I am in a strait betwixt the two, having the desire.”
See the affection of this blessed one; in this way too he comforts them, when they see that he is master of his own choice, and that this is done not by man’s sin, but by the dispensation of God. Why mourn ye, says he, at my death? It had been far better to have passed away long since. “For to depart,” he says, “and to be with Christ, is very far better.”
Ph 1,24. “Yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for your sake.”
These words were to prepare them for his death when it came, that they might bear it nobly: this was to teach true wisdom. “It is good for me to depart and be with Christ,” for even death is a thing indifferent; since death itself is no ill, but to be punished after death is an ill. Nor is death a good, but it is good after our departure “to be with Christ.” What follows death is either good or ill.
304 Let us then not simply grieve for the dead, nor joy for the living simply. But how? Let us grieve for sinners, not only when dying, but also while living. Let us joy for the just, not only while living, but also when dead. For those though living are dead, while these although dead, yet live: those even while here are to be pitied of all, because they are at enmity with God; the other even when they have departed Thither, are blessed, because they are gone to Christ. Sinners, wherever they are, are far from the King. Therefore they are subjects for tears; while the just, be they here, or be they there, are with the King; and there, in a higher and nearer degree, not through an entrance, or by faith, but “face to face.” (1Co 13,12).
Let us then not make wailings for the dead simply, but for those who have died in sins. They deserve wailing; they deserve beating of the breast and tears. For tell me what hope is there, when our sins accompany us Thither, where there is no putting off sins? As long as they were here, perchance there was great expectation that they would change, that they would become better; but when they are gone to Hades, where nought can be gained from repentance (for it is written, “In Sheol who shall give thee thanks?”) (Ps 6,5), are they not worthy of our lamentation? Let us wail for those who depart hence in such sort; let us wail, I hinder you not; yet in no unseemly way, not in tearing our hair, or baring our arms, or lacerating our face, or wearing black apparel, but only in soul, shedding in quiet the bitter tear. For we may weep bitterly without all that display. And not as in sport only. For the laments which many make differ not from sport. Those public mournings do not proceed from sympathy, but from display, from emulation and vainglory. Many women do this as of their craft. Weep bitterly; moan at home, when no one sees you; this is the part of true sympathy; by this you profit yourself too. For he who laments another in such sort, will be much the more earnest never to fall into the same sins. Sin henceforth will be an object of dread to thee. Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ in nowise from them, those who depart hence without the illumination, without the seal! they indeed deserve our wailing, they deserve our groans; they are outside the Palace, with the culprits, with the condemned: for, “Verily I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Mourn for those who have died in wealth, and did not from their wealth think of any solace for their soul, who had power to wash away their sins and would not. Let us all weep for these in private and in public, but with propriety, with gravity, not so as to make exhibitions of ourselves; let us weep for these, not one day, or two, but all our life. Such tears spring not from senseless passion, but from true affection. The other sort are of senseless passion. For this cause they are quickly quenched, whereas if they spring from the fear of God, they always abide with us. Let us weep for these; let us assist them according to our power; let us think of some assistance for them, small though it be, yet still let us assist them. How and in what way? By praying and entreating others to make prayers for them, by continually giving to the poor on their behalf. This deed hath some consolation; for hear the words of God Himself, when He says, “I will defend this city for Mine own sake, and for My servant David’s sake.” (2R 20,6). If the remembrance only of a just man had so great power when deeds are done for one, how great power will it not have? Not in vain did the Apostles order that remembrance should be made of the dead in the dreadful Mysteries. They know that great gain resulteth to them, great benefit; for when the whole people stands with uplifted hands, a priestly assembly, and that awful Sacrifice lies displayed, how shall we not prevail with God by our entreaties for them? And this we do for those who have departed in faith, whilst the catechumens are not thought worthy even of this consolation, but are deprived of all means of help save one. And what is this? We may give to the poor on their behalf. This deed in a certain way refreshes them. For God wills that we should be mutually assisted; else why hath He ordered us to pray for peace and the good estate of the world? why on behalf of all men? since in this number are included robbers, violaters of tombs, thieves, men laden with untold crimes; and yet we pray on behalf of all; perchance they may turn. As then we pray for those living, who differ not from the dead, so too we may pray for them. Jb offered sacrifice for his children, and freed them from their sins. “It may be,” said he, “that they have renounced God in their hearts.” (Jb 1,5). Thus does one provide for one’s children! He said not, as many do nowadays, I will leave them property; he said not, I will procure them honor; he said not, I will purchase an office; he said not, I will buy them land; but, “it may be that they have renounced God in their hearts.” For what profit is there in those things? None at all, in those that remain here. I will make the King of all things favorable to them, and then they will no more want any thing. “The Lord,” saith one, “is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” (Ps 23,4). This is great wealth, this is treasure. If we have the fear of God, we want nothing; if we have not this, though we have royalty itself, we are the poorest of all men. Nothing is like the man that feareth the Lord. For “the fear of the Lord,” it is said, “surpasseth all things.” (Si 25,11). This let us procure; let us do all things for its sake. If need be that we lay down our lives, if our body must be mangled, let us not spare them; let us do all, to obtain this fear. For thus shall we abound above all men; and shall obtain those good things to come in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom, &c).
Chrysostom Philippians 200