Chrysostom Philippians 1504
1504 Ph 4,19. “And may my God fulfill every need of yours, according to His riches in glory, in Christ Jesus.”
Behold how he invokes blessings upon them, as poor men do. But if even Paul blesseth those who give, much more let us not be ashamed to do this when we receive. Let us not receive as though we ourselves had need, let us not rejoice on our own account, but on that of the givers. Thus we too who receive shall have a reward, if we rejoice for their sake. Thus we shall not take it hardly, when men do not give, but rather shall grieve for their sake. So shall we render them more zealous, if we teach them, that not for our own sake do we so act; “but may my God” fulfill every need of yours, or every grace, or every joy. If the second be true, “every grace,” he meaneth not only the alms, which are of earth, but every excellency. If the first, “your every need,” which I think too should rather be read, this is what he means to show. As he had said, “ye lacked opportunity,” he here maketh an addition, as he doth in the Epistle to the Corinthians, saying, “And He that supplieth seed to the sower, may He supply bread for food, and multiply your seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.” (2Co 9,10). He invokes blessings upon them, that they may abound, and have wherewith to sow. He blesseth them too, not simply that they might abound, but “according to His riches,” so that this too is done in measured terms. For had they been as he was, so truly wise, so crucified, he would not have done this; but since they were men that were handicraftsmen, poor, having wives, bringing up children, ruling their families, and who had given these very gifts out of small possessions, and had certain desires of the things of this world, he blesseth them appropriately. For it is not unseemly to invoke sufficiency and plenty upon those who thus use them. See too what he said. He said not, May He make you rich, and to abound greatly; but what said he? “May He fulfill every need of yours,” so that ye may not be in want, but have things for your necessities. Since Christ too, when He gave us a form of prayer, inserted also this in the prayer, when He taught us to say,
“Give us this day our daily bread.” (Mt 6,11)
“According to His riches.” That is, according to His free gift, i.e. it is easy to Him, and possible, and quickly. And since I have spoken of need, do not think that he will drive you into straits. Wherefore he added, “according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” So shall all things abound to you, that you may have them to His glory. Or, ye are wanting in nothing; (for it is written, “great grace was upon them all, neither was there any that lacked.”) (Ac 4,33) Or, so as to do all things for His glory, as if he had said, that ye may use your abundance to His glory.
Ph 4,20. “Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” For the glory of which he speaks belongs not only to the Son, but to the Father too, for when the Son is glorified, then is the Father also. For when he said, This is done to the glory of Christ, lest any one should suppose that it is to His glory alone, he continued, “Unto our God and Father be the glory,” that glory which is paid to the Son.
Ph 4,21. “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus.” This also is no small thing. For it is a proof of great good will, to salute them through letters. “The brethren which are with me salute you.” And yet thou saidst that thou hast “no one like-minded, who will care truly for your state.” How then sayest thou now, “The brethren which are with me”? He either saith, “The brethren which are with me,” because he hath no one like-minded of those who are with him, (where he doth not speak of those in the city, for how were they constrained to undertake the affairs of the Apostles?) or that he did not refuse to call even those brethren.
Ph 4,22-23. “All the saints salute you, especially they that are of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
(He elevated them and strengthened them, by showing that his preaching had reached even to the king’s household. For if those who were in the king’s palace despised all things for the sake of the King of Heaven, far more ought they to do this. And this too was a proof of the love of Paul, and that he had told many things of them, and said great things of them, whence he had even led those who were in the palace to a longing for them, so that those who had never seen them saluted them. Especially because the faithful were then in affliction, his love was great. And those who were absent from each other were closely conjoined together as if real limbs. And the poor man was similarly disposed toward the rich, and the rich toward the poor, and there was no preëminence, in that they were all equally hated and cast out, and that for the same cause. For as, if captives taken from divers cities should arise and come to the same towns, they eagerly embrace each other, their common calamity binding them together; thus too at that time they had great love one toward another, the communion of their afflictions and persecutions uniting them.
1505 Moral. For affliction is an unbroken bond, the increase of love, the occasion of compunction and piety. Hear the words of David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.” (Ps 119,71). And again another prophet, who saith, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.” (Lm 3,27) And again, “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord.” (Ps 94,12). And another who saith, “Despise not the chastening of the Lord.” (Pr 3,11). And “if thou come near to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation.” (Si 11,1). And Christ also said to His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.” (Jn 16,33). And again, “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.” (Jn 16,20). And again, “Narrow and straitened is the way.” (Mt 7,14). Dost thou see how tribulation is everywhere lauded, everywhere assumed as needful for us? For if in the contests of the world, no one without this receiveth the crown, unless he fortify himself by toil, by abstinence from delicacies, by living according to rule, by watchings, and innumerable other things, much more so here. For whom wilt thou name as an instance? The king? Not even he liveth a life free from care, but one burdened with much tribulation and anxiety. For look not to his diadem, but to his sea of cares, by which the crown is produced for him. Nor look to his purple robe, but to his soul, which is darker than that purple. His crown doth not so closely bind his brow, as care doth his soul. Nor look to the multitude of his spearmen, but to the multitude of his disquietudes. For it is not possible to find a private house laden with so many cares as a king’s palace. Violent deaths are each day expected, and a vision of blood is seen as they sit down to eat and drink. Nor can we say how oft he is disturbed in the night season, and leaps up, haunted with visions. And all this in peace; but if war should overtake him, what could be more piteous than such a life as this! What evils has he from those that are his own, I mean, those who are under his dominion. Nay, and of a truth the pavement of a king’s house is always full of blood, the blood of his own relations. And if ye will, I will also relate some instances, and ye will presently know; chiefly old occurrences—but also some things that have happened in our own times—yet still preserved in memory. One, it is said, having suspected his wife of adultery, bound her naked upon mules, and exposed her to wild beasts, though she had already been the mother to him of many princes. What sort of life, think ye, could that man have lived? For he would not have broken out into such vengeance, had he not been deeply affected with that distress. Moreover, this same man slew his own son, or rather his brother did so. Of his sons, the one indeed slew himself when seized by a tyrant, and another put to death his cousin, his colleague in the kingdom, to which he had appointed him; and saw his wife destroyed by pessaries, for when she bore not, a certain wretched and miserable woman (for such indeed she was who thought to supply the gift of God by her own wisdom) gave her pessaries, and destroyed the queen, and herself perished with her. And this man is said to have also killed his own brother. Another again, his successor, was destroyed by noxious drugs, and his cup was to him no longer drink, but death. And his son had an eye put out, from fear of what was to follow, though he had done no wrong. It is not befitting to mention how another ended his life miserably. And after them, one was burnt, like some miserable wretch, amongst horses, and beams, and all sorts of things, and left his wife in widowhood. For it is not possible to relate the woes which he was compelled to undergo in his lifetime. when he rose up in revolt. And hath not he who now rules, from the time he received the crown, been in toil, in danger, in grief, in dejection, in misfortune, exposed to conspiracies? Such is not the kingdom of heaven, but after it is received, there is peace, life, joy, delight. But as I said, life cannot be without pain. For if in the affairs of this world even he who is accounted most happy, if the king is burdened with so many misfortunes, what thinkest thou must be true of private life? I cannot say how many other evils there are! How many stories have ofttimes been woven on these subjects! For nearly all the tragedies of the stage, as well as the mythical stories, have kings for their subjects. For most of these stories are formed from true incidents, for it is thus they please. As for example, Thyestes’ banquet, and the destruction to all that family by their misfortunes.
1506 These things we know from the writers that are without: but if ye will, I will adduce instances from the Scripture too. Saul was the first king, and ye knew how he perished, after experiencing numberless ills. After him, David, Solomon, Abia, Hezekiah, Josiah, in like sort. For it is not possible, without affliction and toil, and without dejection of mind, to pass through the present life. But let us be cast down in mind, not for such things as these, for which kings grieve, but for those things, whence we (thus) have great gain. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret.” (2Co 7,10). On account of these things we should be grieved, for these things we should be pained, for these things we should be pricked at heart; thus was Paul grieved for sinners, thus did he weep. “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you in many tears.” (2Co 2,4). For when he had no cause of grief on his own account, he did so on account of others, or rather he accounted those things too to be his own, at least as far as grief went. Others were offended, and he burned; others were weak, and he was weak: such grief as this is good, is superior to all worldly joy. Him who so grieves I prefer to all men, or rather the Lord Himself pronounces them blessed, who so grieve, who are sympathizing. I do not so much admire him in dangers, or rather I do not admire him less for the dangers by which he died daily, yet this still more captivates me. For it came of a soul devoted to God, and full of affection: from the love which Christ Himself seeketh: from a brotherly and a fatherly sympathy, or rather, of one greater than both these. Thus we should be affected, thus weep; such tears as these are full of great delight; such grief as this is the ground of joy.
And say not to me: What do they for whom I grieve gain by my so doing? Though we no way profit them for whom we grieve, at all events we shall profit ourselves. For he who grieveth thus on account of others, much more will so do for himself; he who thus weepeth for the sins of others will not pass by his own transgressions unwept, or rather, he will not quickly sin. But this is dreadful, that when we are ordered so to grieve for them that sin, we do not even exhibit any repentance for our own sins, but when sinning remain without feeling, and have care for and take account of anything, rather than our own sins. For this cause we rejoice with a worthless joy, which is the joy of the world, and straightway quenched, and which brings forth griefs innumerable. Let us then grieve with grief which is the mother of joy, and let us not rejoice with joy which brings forth grief. Let us shed tears which are the seeds of great joy, and not laugh with that laughter, which brings forth the gnashing of teeth for us. Let us be afflicted with affliction, from which springs up ease, and let us not seek luxury, whence great affliction and pain is born. Let us labor a little time upon the earth, that we may have continual enjoyment in heaven. Let us afflict ourselves in this transitory life, that we may attain rest in that which is endless. Let us not be remiss in this short life, lest we groan in that which is endless.
See ye not how many are here in affliction for the sake of worldly things? Consider that thou also art one of them, and bear thy affliction and thy pain, feeding on the hope of things to come. Thou art not better than Paul or Peter, who never obtained rest, who passed all their life in hunger and thirst and nakedness. If thou wouldest attain the same things with them, why journeyest thou along a contrary road? If thou wouldest arrive at that City, of which they have been deemed worthy, walk along the path which leadeth thither. The way of ease leadeth not thither, but that of affliction. The former is broad, the latter is narrow; along this let us walk, that we may attain eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom, to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, be honor, might, power, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
[i]Roberts, Alexander and Donaldson, James, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series: Volume XIII, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc). 1997.
Chrysostom Philippians 1504