Chrysostom on 1Cor 2700
2700 that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse. (1Co 11,17-27)
2701 IT is necessary in considering the present charge to state also first the occasion of it. For thus again will our discourse be more intelligible. What then is this occasion?
As in the case of the three thousand who believed in the beginning, all had eaten their meals in common and had all things common; such also was the practice at the time when the Apostle wrote this: not such indeed exactly; but as it were a certain outflowing of that communion which abode among them descended also to them that came after. And because of course some were poor, but others rich, they laid not down all their goods in the midst, but made the tables open on stated days, as it should seem; and when the solemn service was completed, after the communion of the Mysteries, they all went to a common entertainment, the rich bringing their provisions with them, and the poor and destitute being invited by them, and all feasting in common. But afterward this custom also became corrupt. And the reason was, their being divided and addicting themselves, some to this party, and others to that, and saying, “I am of such a one,” and “I of such a one; “which thing also to correct he said in the beginning of the: Epistle, “For it hath been signified unto me concerning you, my brethren, by them which are of the household of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I mean, that each one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas.” Not that Paul was the person to whom they were attaching themselves; for he would not have borne it: but wishing by concession to tear up this custom from the root, he introduced himself, indicating that if any one had inscribed upon himself even his name when breaking off from the common body, even so the thing done was profane and extreme wickedness. And if in his case it were wickedness, much more in the case of those who were inferior to him.
[2.] Since therefore this custom was broken through, a custom most excellent and most useful; (for it was a foundation of love, and a comfort to poverty, and a corrective of riches, and an occasion of the highest philosophy, and an instruction of humility:) since however he saw so great advantages in a way to be destroyed, he naturally addresses them with severity, thus saying: “But in giving you this charge, I praise you not.” For in the former charge, as there were many who kept (the ordinances), he began otherwise, saying thus: “Now I praise you that ye remember me in all things:” but here contrariwise, “But in giving you this charge, I praise you not.” And here is the reason why he placed it not after the rebuke of them that eat the idol-sacrifices. But because that was unusually harsh he interposes the discourse about wearing of long hair, that he might not have to pass from one set of vehement reproofs to others again of an invidious kind and so appear too harsh: and then he returns to the more vehement tone, and says, “But in giving you this charge, I praise you not.” What is this? That which I am about to tell you of. What is, “giving you this charge, I praise you not?” “I do not approve you,” saith he, “because ye have reduced me to the necessity of giving advice: I do not praise you, because ye have required instruction in regard to this, because ye have need of an admonition from me.” Dost thou perceive how from his beginning he signifieth that what was done was very profane? For when he that errs ought not to require so much as a hint to prevent his erring, the error would seem to be unpardonable.
And why dost thou not praise? Because “ye come together,” saith he, “not for the better but for the worse;” i.e., because ye do not go forward unto virtue. For it were meet that your liberality should increase and become manifold, but ye have taken rather from the custom which already prevailed, and have so taken from it as even to need warning from me, in order that ye may return to the former order.
Further, that he might not seem to say these things on account of the poor only, he doth not at once strike in to the discourse concerning the tables, lest he render his rebuke such as they might easily come to think slightly of, but he searches for an expression most confounding and very fearful. For what saith he?
1Co 11,18. “For first of all, when ye come together in the Church, I hear that divisions exist among you.
And he saith not, “For fear that you do not sup together in common;” “for I hear that you feast in private, and not with the poor:” but what was most calculated thoroughly to shake their minds, that he set down, the name of division, which was the cause of this mischief also: and so he reminded them again of that which was said in the beginning of the Epistle, and was “signified by them of the house of Chloe.” (c. 1,11). “And I partly believe it.”
2702 Thus, lest they should say, “But what if the accusers speak falsely?” he neither saith, “I believe it,” lest he should rather make them reckless; nor again, on the other hand, “I disbelieve it,” lest he Should seem to reprove without cause, but, “I partly believe it,” saith he, i.e., “I believe it in a small part;” making them anxious and inviting them to return to correction.
[3.] 1Co 11,19. “For there must be also factions among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.”
By “factions,” here he means those which concern not the doctrines, but these present divisions. But even if he had spoken of the doctrinal heresies, not even thus did he give them any handle. For Christ Himself said, “it must needs be that occasions of stumbling come,” (Mt 18,7) not destroying the liberty of the will nor appointing any necessity and compulsion over man’s life, but foretelling what would certainly ensue from the evil mind of men; which would take place, not because of his prediction, but because the incurably disposed are so minded. For not because he foretold them did these things happen: but because they were certainly about to happen, therefore he foretold them. Since, if the occasions of stumbling were of necessity and not of the mind of them that bring them in, it was superfluous His saying, “Woe to that man by whom the occasion cometh.” But these things we discussed more at length when we were upon the passage itself; now we must proceed to what is before us.
Now that he said these things of these factions relating to the tables, and that contention and division, he made manifest also from what follows. For having said, “I hear that there are divisions among you,” he stopped not here, but signifying what divisions he means he goes on to say, “each one taketh before other his own supper;” and again, “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the Church of God?” However, that of these he was speaking is evident. And if he call them divisions, marvel not. For, as I said, he wishes to touch them by the expression: whereas had they been divisions of doctrine, he would not have discoursed with them thus mildly. Hear him, for instance, when he speaks of any such thing, how vehement lie is both in assertion and in reproof: in assertion, as when he says, “If even an angel preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed;” (Ga 1,8) but in reproof, as when he says, “Whosoever of you would be justified by the law, ye are fallen away from grace.” (Ga 5,4) And at one time he calls the corrupters “dogs,” saying, “Beware of dogs:” (Ph 3,2) at another, “having their consciences seared with a hot iron.” (1Tm 4,2) And again, “angels of Satan:” (2Co 11,14-15) but here he said no such thing, but spoke in a gentle and subdued tone).
But what is, “that they which are approved may be made manifest among you?” That they may shine the more. And what he intends to say is this, that those who are unchangeable and firm are so far from being at all injured hereby, but even shows them the more, and that it makes them more glorious. For the word, “that,” is not every where indicative of cause, but frequently also of the event of things. Thus Christ Himself uses it, when He saith, “For judgement I am come into this world; that they which see not may see, and that they which see may be made blind.” (Jn 9,39) Dawnso likewise Paul in another place, when discoursing of the law, he writes, “And the Law came in beside, that the trespass might abound.” (Rm 5,20) But neither was the law given to this end that the trespasses of the Jews might be increased: (though this did ensue:) nor did Christ come for this end that they which see might be made blind, but for the contrary; but the result was such. Thus then also here must one understand the expression, “that they which are approved may be made manifest.” For not at all with this view came heresies into being, that “they which are approved may be made manifest,” but on these heresies taking place such was the result. Now these things he said to console the poor, those of them who nobly bore that sort of contempt. Wherefore he said not, “that they may become approved,” but, “that they which are approved may be made manifest; showing that before this also they were such, but they were mixed up with the multitude, and while enjoying such relief as was afforded them by the rich, they were not very conspicuous: but now this strife and contentiousness made them manifest, even as the storm shows the pilot. And he said not, “that ye may appear approved,” but, “that they which are approved may be made manifest, those among you who are such.” For neither when he is accusing doth he lay them open, that he may not render them more reckless; nor when praising, that he may not make them more boastful; but he leaves both this expression and that in suspense, allowing each man’s own conscience to make the application of what he saith.
Nor doth he here seem to me to be comforting the poor only, but those also who were not violating the custom. For it was likely that there were among them also those that observed it.
And this is why he said, “I partly believe it.” Justly then doth he call these “approved,” who not only with the rest observed the custom, but even without them kept this good law undisturbed. And he doth this, studying by such praises to render both others and these persons themselves more forward.
[4.] Then at last he adds the very form of offence. And what is it?
1Co 11,20. “When ye assemble yourselves together,” saith he, “it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper.”
Seest thou how effectually appealing to their shame, even already by way of narrative he contrives to give them his counsel? “For the appearance of your assembly,” saith he, “is different. It is one of love and brotherly affection. At least one place receives you all, and ye are together in one flock. But the Banquet, when you come to that, bears no resemblance to the Assembly of worshippers.” And he said not, “When ye come together, this is not to eat in common;’ “this is not to feast with one another;” but otherwise again and much more fearfully he reprimands them, saying, “it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper,” sending them away now from this point to that evening on which Christ delivered the awful Mysteries. Therefore also he called the early meal “a supper.” For that supper too had them all reclining at meat together: yet surely not so great was the distance between the rich and the poor as between the Teacher and the disciples. For that is infinite. And why say I the Teacher and the disciples? Think of the interval between the Teacher and the traitor: nevertheless, the Lord Himself both sat at meat with them and did not even cast him out, but both gave him his portion of salt and made him par-taker of the Mysteries.
2703 Next he explains how “it is not possible to eat the Lord’s Supper.”
1Co 11,21. “For in your eating, each one taketh before other his own supper,” saith he, “and one is hungry, and another is drunken.”
Perceivest thou how he intimates that they were disgracing themselves rather? For that which is the Lord’s, they make a private matter: so that themselves are the first to suffer indignity, depriving their own table of its greatest prerogative. How and in what manner? Because the Lord’s Supper, i.e. the Master’s, ought to be common. For the property of the master belongs not to this servant without belonging to that, but in common to all. So that by “the Lord’s” Supper he expresses this, the “community” of the feast. As if he had said, “If it be thy master’s, as assuredly it is, thou oughtest not to withdraw it as private, but as belonging to thy Lord and Master to set it in common before all. For this is the meaning of, ‘the Lord’s.’ But now thou dost not suffer it to be the Lord’s, not suffering it to be common but feasting by thyself.” Wherefore also he goes on to say,
“For each one taketh before other his own supper.” And he said not, “cutteth off,” but “taketh before,” tacitly censuring them both for greediness and for precipitancy. This at least the sequel also shows. For having said this, he added again, “and one is hungry, and another is drunken,” each of which showed a want of moderation, both the craving and the excess. See also a second fault again whereby those same persons are injured: the first, that they dishonor their supper: the second, that they are greedy and drunken; and what is yet worse, even when the poor are hungry. For what was intended to be set before all in common, that these men fed on alone, and proceeded both to surfeiting and to drunkenness. Wherefore neither did he say, “one is hungry, and another is filled:” but, “is drunken.” Now each Of these, even by itself, is worthy of censure: forit is a fault to be drunken even without despising the poor; and to despise the poor withoutbeing drunken, is an accusation. When both then are joined together at the same time, consider how exceeding great is the transgression.
Next, having pointed out their profaneness, he adds his reprimand in what follows, with much anger, saying,
1Co 11,22. “What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the Church of God, and put them to shame that have not?”
Seest thou how he transferred the charge from the indignity offered to the poor to the Church, that his words might make a deeper impression of disgust? Here now you see is yet a fourth accusation, when not the poor only, but the Church likewise is insulted. For even as thou makest the Lord’s Supper a private meal, so also the place again, using the Church as a house. For it was made a Church, not that we who come together might be divided, but that they who are divided might be joined: and this act of assembling shows.
“And put them to shame that have not.” He said not, “and kill with hunger them that have not,” but so as much more to put them to the blush, “shame them;” to point out that it is not food which he cares for so much as the wrong done unto them. Behold again a fifth accusation, not only to overlook the poor but even to shame them. Now this he said, partly as treating with reverence the concerns of the poor, and intimating that they grieve not so for the belly as for the shame; and partly also drawing the hearer to compassion.
Having therefore pointed out so great impieties, indignity to the Supper, indignity to the Church, the contempt practised towards the poor; he relaxes again the tones of his reproof, saying, all of a sudden, “Shall I praise you? In this I praise you not.” Wherein erie might especially marvel at him that when there was need to strike and chide more vehemently after the proof of so great offences, he doeth the contrary rather, gives way, and permits them to recover breath. What then may the cause be? He had touched more painfully than usual in aggravating the charge, and being a most excellent physician, he adapts the incision to the wounds, neither cutting superficially those parts which require a deep stroke; (for thou hast heard him how he cut off among those very persons him that had committed fornication;) nor delivering over to the knife those things which require the milder sort of remedies. For this cause then here also he conducts his address more mildly, and in another point of view likewise, he sought especially to render them gentle to the poor: and this is why he discourses with them rather in a subdued tone.
[5.] Next, wishing also from another topic to shame them yet more, he takes again the points which were most essential and of them weaves his discourse.
1Co 11,23. “For I received of the Lord,” saith he, “that which also I delivered unto you: how that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread:”
1Co 11,24. “And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.”
Wherefore doth he here make mention of the Mysteries? Because that argument was very necessary to his present purpose. As thus: “Thy Master,” saith he, “counted all worthy of the same Table, though it be very awful and far exceeding the dignity of all: but thou considerest them to be unworthy even of thine own, small and mean as we see it is; and while they have no advantage over thee in spiritual things, thou robbest them in the temporal things. For neither are these thine own.”
However, he doth not express himself thus, to prevent his discourse becoming harsh: but he frames it in a gentler form, saying, that “the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread.”
And wherefore doth he remind us of the time, and of that evening, and of the betrayal? Not indifferently nor without some reason, but that he might exceedingly fill them with compunction, were it but from consideration of the time. For even if one be a very stone, yet when he considers that night, how He was with His disciples, “very heavy,” how He was betrayed, how He was bound, how He was led away, how He was judged, how He suffered all the rest in order, he becometh softer than wax, and is withdrawn from earth and all the pomp of this world. Therefore he leads us to the remembrance of all those things, by His time, and His table, and His betrayal, putting us to shame and saying, “Thy Master gave up even Himself for thee: and thou dost not even share a little meat with thy brother for thine own sake.”
2704 But how saith he, that “he received it from the Lord?” since certainly he was not present then but was one of the persecutors. That thou mayest know that the first table had no advantage above that which cometh after it. For even to-day also it is He who doeth all, and delivereth it even as then.
And not on this account only doth he remind us of that night, but that he may also in another way bring us to compunction. For as we particularly remember those words which we hear last from those who are departing; and to their heirs if they should venture to transgress their commands, when we would put them to shame we say, “Consider that this was the last word that your father uttered to you, anal until the evening when he was just about to breathe his last he kept. repeating these injunctions:” just so Paul, purposing hence also to make his argument full of awfulness; “Remember,” saith he, “that this was the last mysterious rite He gave unto you, and in that night on which He was about to be slain for us, He commanded these things, and having delivered to us that Supper after that He added nothing further.”
Next also he proceeds to recount the very things that were done, saying, “He took bread, and, when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My Body, which is broken for you.” If therefore thou comest fora sacrifice of thanksgiving, do thou on thy part nothing unworthy of that sacrifice: by no means either dishonor thy brother, or neglect him in his hunger; be not drunken, insult not the Church. As thou comest giving thanks for what thou hast enjoyed: so do thou thyself accordingly make return, and not cut thyself off from thy neighbor. Since Christ for His part gave equally to all, saying, “Take, eat.” He gave His Body equally, but dost not thougive so much as the common bread equally? Yea, it was indeed broken for all alike, and became the Body equally for all.
What sayest thou? Art thou making a remembrance of Christ, and despisest thou the poor and tremblest not? Why, if a son or brother had died and thou wert making a remembrance of him, thou wouldst have been smitten by thy conscience, hadst thou not fulfilled the custom and invited the poor: and when thou art making remembrance of thy Master, dost thou not so much as simply give a portion of the Table?
But what is it which He saith, “This cup is the New Covenant?” Because there was also a cup of the Old Covenant; the libations and the blood of the brute creatures. For after sacrificing, they used to receive the blood in a chalice and bowl and so pour it out. Since then instead of the blood of beasts He brought in His own Blood; lest any should be troubled on hearing this, He reminds them of that ancient sacrifice.
[6.] Next, having spoken concerning that Supper, he connects the things present with the things of that time, that even as on that very evening and reclining on that very couch and receiving from Christ himself this sacrifice, so also now might men be affected; and he saith,
1Co 11,26. “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye proclaim the Lord’s death till He come.”
For as Christ in regard to the bread and the cup said, “Do this in remembrance of Me,” revealing to us the cause of the giving of the Mystery, and besides what else He said, declaring this to be a sufficient cause to ground our religious fear upon:—(for when thou considerest what thy Master hath suffered for thee, thou wilt the better deny thyself:)—so also Paul saith here: “as often as ye eat ye do proclaim His death.” And this is that Supper. Then intimating that it abides unto the end, he saith, “till He come.”
1Co 11,27. “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread and drink the cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the Body and the Blood of the Lord.”
Why so? Because he poured it out, and makes the thing appear a slaughter and no longer a sacrifice. Much therefore as they who then pierced Him, pierced Him not that they might drink but that they might shed His blood: so likewise doth he that cometh for it unworthily and reaps no profit thereby. Seest thou how fearful he makes his discourse, and inveighs against them very exceedingly, signifying that if they are thus to drink, they partake unworthily of the elements? For how can it be other than unworthily when it is he who neglects the hungry? who besides overlooking him puts him to shame? Since if not giving to the poor casteth one out of the kingdom, even though one should be a virgin; or rather, not giving liberally: (for even those virgins too had oil, only they had it not abundantly:) consider how great the evil will prove, to have wrought so many impieties?
2705 “What impieties?” say you. Why sayest thou, what impieties? Thou hast partaken of such a Table and when thou oughtest to be more gentle than any and like the angels, none so cruel as thou art become. Thou hast tasted the Blood of the Lord, and not even thereupon dost thou acknowledge thy brother. Of what indulgence then art thou worthy? Whereas if even before this thou hadst not known him, thou oughtest to have come to the knowledge of him from the Table; but now thou dishonorest the Table itself; he having been deemed worthy to partake of it and thou not judging him worthy of thy meat. Hast thou not heard how much he suffered who demanded the hundred pence? how he made void the gift vouchsafed to him? Doth it not come into thy mind what thou wert and what thou hast become? Dost thou not put thyself in remembrance that if this man be poor in possessions, thou wast much more beggarly in good works, being full of ten thousand sins? Notwithstanding, God delivered thee from all those and counted thee worthy of such a Table: but thou art not even thus become more merciful: therefore of course nothing else remaineth but that thou shouldest be “delivered to the tormentors.”
[7.] These words let us also listen to, all of us, as many as in this place approach with the poor to this holy Table, but when we go out, do not seem even to have seen them, but are both drunken and pass heedlessly by the hungry; the very things whereof the Corinthians were accused. And when is this done? say you. At all times indeed, but especially at the festivals, where above all times it ought not so to be. Is it not so, that at such times, immediately after Communion, drunkenness succeeds and contempt of the poor? And having partaken of the Blood, when it were a time for thee to fast and watch, thou givest thyself up towine and revelling. And yet if thou hast by chance made thy morning meal on any thing good, thou keepest thyself lest by any otherunsavory viand thou spoil the taste of the former: and now that thou hast been feasting on the Spirit thou bringest in asatanical luxury.Consider, when the Apostles partook of that holy Supper, what they did: did they not betake themselves to prayers and singing of hymns? to sacred vigils? to that long work of teaching, so full of all self-denial? For then He related and delivered to them those great and wonderful things, when Judas had gone out to call them who were about to crucify Him. Hast thou not heard how the three thousand also who partook of the Communion continued even in prayer and teaching, not in drunken feasts and revellings? But thou before thou hast partaken fastest, that in a certain way thou mayest appear worthy of the Communion: but when thou hast partaken, and thou oughtest to increase thy temperance, thou undoest all. And yet surely it is not the same to fast before this and after it. Since although it is our duty to be temperate at both times, yet most particularly after we have received the Bridegroom. Before, that thou mayest become worthy of receiving: after, that thou mayest not be found unworthy of what thou hast received.
“What then? ought we to fast after receiving?” I say not this, neither do I use any compulsion. This indeed were well: however, I do not enforce this, but I exhort you not to feast to excess. For if one never ought to live luxuriously, and Paul showed this when he said, “she that giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1Tm 5,6); much more will she then be dead. And if luxury be death to a woman, much more to a man: and if this done at another time is fatal, much more after the communion of the Mysteries. And dost thou having taken the bread of life, do an action of death and not shudder? Knowest thou not how great evils are brought in by luxury? Unseasonable laughter, disorderly expressions, buffoonery fraught with perdition, unprofitable trifling, all the other things, which it is not seemly even to name. And these things thou doest when thou hast enjoyed the Table of Christ, on that day on which thou hast been counted worthy to touch His flesh with thy tongue. What then is to be done to prevent these things? Purify thy right hand, thy tongue, thy lips, which have become a threshold for Christ to tread upon. Consider the time in which thou didst draw near and set forth a material table, raise thy mind to that Table, to the Supper of the Lord, to the vigil of the disciples, in that night, that holy night. Nay, rather should one accurately examine, this very present state is night. Let us watch then with the Lord, let us be pricked in our hearts with the disciples. It is the season of prayers, not of drunkenness; ever indeed, but especially during a festival. For a festival is therefore appointed, not that we may behave ourselves unseemly, not that we may accumulate sins, but rather that we may blot out those which exist.
I know, indeed, that I say these things in vain, yet will I not cease to say them. For if ye do not all obey, yet surely ye will not all disobey; or rather, even though ye should all be disobedient, my reward will be greater, though yours will be more condemnation. However, that it may not be more, to this end I will not cease to speak. For perchance, perchance, by my perseverance I shall be able to reach you.
Wherefore I beseech you that we do not this to condemnation; let us nourish Christ, let us give Him drink, let us clothe Him. These things are worthy of that Table. Hast thou heard holy hymns? Hast thou seen a spiritual marriage? Hast thou enjoyed a royal Table? Hast thou been filled with the Holy Ghost? Hast thou joined in the choir of the Seraphim? Hast thou become partaker of the powers above? Cast not away so great a joy, waste not the treasure, bring not in drunkenness, the mother of dejection, the joy of the devil, the parent of ten thousand evils. For hence is a sleep like unto death, and heaviness of head, and disease, and obliviousness, and an image of dead men’s condition. Further, if thou wouldst not choose to meet with a friend when intoxicated, when thou hast Christ within, durst thou, tell me, to thrust in upon Him so great an excess?
But dost thou love enjoyment? Then, on this very account cease being drunken. For I, too, would have thee enjoy thyself, but with the real enjoyment, that which never fadeth. What then is the real enjoyment, ever blooming? Invite Christ to sup (Ap 2,20) with thee; give Him to partake of thine, or rather of His own. This bringeth pleasure without limit, and in its prime everlastingly. But the things of sense are not such; rather as soon as they appear they vanish away; and he that hath enjoyed them will be in no better condition than he who hath not, or rather in a worse. For the one is settled as it were in a harbor, but the other exposes himself to a kind of torrent, a besieging army of distempers, and hath not even any power to endure the first swell of the sea.
That these things be therefore not so, let us follow after moderation. For thus we shall both be in a good state of body, and we shall possess our souls in security, and shall be delivered from evils both present and future: from which may we all be delivered, and attain unto the kingdom, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, together with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
2800 and so let him eat of the bread, and drink of the cup. (1Co 11,28-34)
2801 What mean these words, when another object is proposed to us? This is Paul’s custom, as also I said before, not only to treat of those things which he had proposed to himself, but also if an argument incidental to his purpose occur, to proceed upon this also with great diligence, and especially when it relates to very necessary and urgent matters. Thus, when he was discoursing with married persons, and the question about the servants fell in his way, he handled it very strenuously and at great length. Again, when he was speaking of the duty of not going to law before those courts, then also having fallen upon the admonition respecting covetousness, he discoursed at length concerning this subject likewise. Now the same thing he hath also done here: in that having once found occasion to remind them of the Mysteries, he judged it necessary to proceed with that subject. For indeed it was no ordinary one. Wherefore also he discoursed very awfully concerning it, providing for that which is the sum of all good things, viz. their approaching those Mysteries with a pure conscience. Whence neither was he content with the things said before alone, but adds these also, saying,
“But let a man prove himself:” which also he saith in the second Epistle: “try your own selves, prove your own selves:” (2Co 13,5) not as we do now, approaching because of the season rather than from any earnestness of mind. For we do not consider how we may approach prepared, with the ills that were within us purged out, and full of compunction, but how we may come at festivals and whenever all do so. But not thus did Paul bid us come: he knoweth only one season of access and communion, the purity of a man’s conscience. Since if even that kind of banquet which the senses take cognizance of cannot be partaken of by us when feverish and full of bad humors, without risk of perishing: much more is it unlawful for us to touch this Table with profane lusts, which are more grievous than fevers. Now when I say profane lusts, I mean both those of the body, and of money, and of anger, and of malice, and, in a word, all that are profane. And it becomes him that approacheth, first to empty himself of all these things and so to touch that pure sacrifice. And neither if indolently disposed and reluctantly ought he to be compelled to approach by reason of the festival; nor, on the other hand, if penitent and prepared, should any one prevent him because it is not a festival. For a festival is a showing forth of good works, and a reverence of soul, and exactness of deportment. And if thou hast these things, thou mayest at all times keep festival and at all times approach. Wherefore he saith, “But let each man prove himself, and then let him approach.” And he bids not one examine another, but each himself, making the tribunal not a public one and the conviction without a witness.
[2.] 1Co 11,29. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself.”
What sayest thou, tell me? Is this Table which is the cause of so many blessings and teeming with life, become judgment? Not from its own nature, saith he, but from the will of him that approaches. For as His presence, which conveyed to us those great and unutterable blessings, condemned the more them that received it not: so also the Mysteries become provisions of greater punishment to such as partake unworthily.
But why doth he eat judgment to himself? “Not discerning the Lord’s body:” i.e., not searching, not bearing in mind, as he ought, the greatness of the things set before him; not estimating the weight of the gift. For if thou shouldest come to know accurately Who it is that lies before thee, and Who He is that gives Himself, and to whom, thou wilt need no other argument, but this is enough for thee to use all vigilance; unless thou shouldest be altogether fallen.
1Co 11,30. “For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and not a few sleep.”
Here he no longer brings his examples from others as he did in the case of the idol-sacrifices, relating the ancient histories and the chastise-merits in the wilderness, but from the Corinthians themselves; which also made the discours, apt to strike them more keenly. For whereas he was saying, “he eateth judgment to himself,”and, “he is guilty;” that he might not seem to speak mere words, he points to deeds also and calls themselves to witness; a kind of thing which comes home to men more than threatening, by showing that the threat has issued in some real fact. He was not however content with these things alone, but from these he also introduced and confirmed the argument concerning hell-fire, terrifying them in both ways; and solving an inquiry which is handled everywhere. I mean, since many question one with another, “whence arise the untimely deaths, whence the long diseases of men;” he tells them that these unexpected events are many of them conditional upon certain sins.
2802 “What then? They who are in continual health,” say you, “and come to a green old age, do they not sin?” Nay, who durst say this? “How then,” say you, “do they not suffer punishment?” Because there they shall suffer a severer one. But we, if we would, neither here nor there need suffer it.
1Co 11,31. “For if we discerned ourselves,” saith he, “we should not be judged.”
And he said not, “if we punished ourselves, if we were revenged on ourselves,” but if we were only willing to acknowledge our offence, to pass sentence on ourselves, to condemn the things done amiss, we should be rid of the punishment both in this world and the next. For he that condemns himself propitiates God in two ways, both by acknowledging his sins, and by being more on his guard for the future. But since we are not willing to do even this light thing, as we ought to do it, not even thus doth He endure to punish us with the world, but even thus spareth us, exacting punishment in this world, Where the penalty is for a season and the consolation great; for the result is both deliverance from sins, and a good hope of things to come, alleviating the present evils. And these things he saith, at the same time comforting the sick and rendering the rest more serious. Wherefore he saith,
1Co 11,32. “But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord.”
(He said not, we are punished, he said not, we have vengeance taken on us, but, “we are chastened.” For what is done belongs rather to admonition than condemnation, to healing than vengeance, to correction than punishment. And not so only but by the threat of a greater evil he makes the present light, saying, “that we may not be condemned with the world.” Seest thou how he brings in hell also and that tremendous judgment-seat, and signifies that that trial and punishment is necessary and by all means must be? for if the faithful, and such as God especially cares for, escape not without punishment in whatsoever things they offend, (and this is evident from things present,) much more the unbelieving and they who commit the unpardonable and incurable sins.
[3.] 1Co 11,33. “Wherefore when ye come together to eat, wait one for another.”
Thus, while their fear was yet at its height and the terror of hell remained, he chooses again to bring in also the exhortation in behalf of the poor, on account of which he said all these things; implying that if they do not this they must partake unworthily. But if the not imparting of our goods excludes from that Table, much more the violently taking away. And he said not, “wherefore, when ye come together, impart to them that need,” but, which has a more reverential sound, “wait one for another.” For this also prepared the way for and intimated that, and in a becoming form introduced the exhortation. Then further to shame them,
1Co 11,34. “And if any man is hungry, let him eat at home.”
By permitting, he hinders it, and more strongly than by an absolute prohibition. For he brings him out of the church and sends him to his house, hereby severely reprimanding and ridiculing them, as slaves to the belly and unable to contain themselves. For he said not, “if any despise the poor,” but, “if any hunger,” discoursing as with impatient children; as with brute beasts which are slaves to appetite. Since it would be indeed very ridiculous, if, because they were hungry they were to eat at home.
Yet he was not content with this, but added also another more fearful thing, saying, “that your coming together be not unto judgment:” that ye come not unto chastisement, unto punishment, insulting the Church, dishonoring your brother. “For for this cause ye come together,” saith he, “that ye may love one another, that ye may profit and be profited. But if the contrary happen, it were better for you to feed yourselves at home.”
This, however, he said, that he might attract them to him the more. Yea, this was the very purpose both of his pointing out the injury that would arise from hence, and of his saying that condemnation was no trifling one, and terrifying them in every way, by the Mysteries, by the sick, by those that had died, by the other things before mentioned.
Then also he alarms them again in another way, saying, “and the rest will I set in order whensoever I come:” with reference either to some other things, or to this very matter. For since it was likely that they would yet have some reasons to allege, and it was not possible to set all to rights by letter, “the things which I have charged you, let them be observed for the present,” saith he; “but if ye have any thing else to mention, let it be kept for my coming;” speaking either of this matter, as I said, or of some other things not very urgent. And this he doth that hence too he may render them more serious. For being anxious about his coming, they would correct the error. For the sojourning of Paul in any place was no ordinary thing: and to signify this he said, “some are puffed up, as though I would not come to you;” (1Co 4,18) and elsewhere again, “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Ph 2,12) And therefore neither did he merely promise that he would come, lest they should disbelieve him and become more negligent; but he also states a necessary cause for his sojourning with them, saying, “the rest I will set in order when I come; which implies, that the correction of the things that remained, even had he not in any case been desirous, would have drawn him thither.
2803 [4.] Hearing therefore all these things, let us both take great care of the poor, and restrain our appetite, and rid ourselves of drunkenness, and be careful worthily to partake of the Mysteries; and whatsoever we suffer, let us not take it bitterly, neither for ourselves nor for others; as when untimely death happen or long diseases. For this is deliverance from punishment, this is correction, this is most excellent admonition. Who saith this? He that hath Christ speaking in him.
But nevertheless even after this many of our women are so foolishly disposed as even to go beyond the unbelievers in the excess of their grief. And some do this blinded by their passion, but others for ostentation, and to avoid the censures of them that are without: who most of all are deprived of excuse, to my mind. For, “lest such a one accuse me,” saith she, “let God be my accuser: lest men more senseless than the brute beasts condemn me, let the law of the King of all be trampled under foot.” Why, how many thunderbolts do not these sayings deserve?
Again; If any one invite you to a funeral supper after your affliction there is no one to say any thing against it, because there is a law of men which enjoins such things: but when God by His law forbids your mourning, all thus contradict it. Doth not Jb come into thy mind, O woman? Rememberest thou not his words at the misfortune of his children, which adorned that holy head more than ten thousand crowns, and made proclamation louder than many trumpets? Dost thou make no account of the greatness of his misfortunes, of that unprecedented shipwreck, and that strange and portentous tragedy? For thou possibly hast lost one, or a second, or third: but he so many sons and daughters: and he that had many children suddenly became childless. And not even by degrees were his bowels wasted away: but at one sweep all the fruit of his body was snatched from him. Nor was it by the common law of nature, when they had come to old age, but by a death both untimely and violent: and all together, and when he was not present nor sitting by them, that at least by hearing their last words he might have some consolation for so bitter an end of theirs: but contrary to all expectation and without his knowing any thing of what took place, they were all at once overwhelmed, and their house became their grave and their snare.
And not only their untimely death, but many things besides there were to grieve him; such as their being all in the flower of their age, all virtuous and loving, all together, that not one of either sex was left, that it befel them not by the common law of nature, that it came after so great a loss, that when he was unconscious of any sin on his own part or on theirs, he suffered these things. For each of these circumstances is enough even by itself to disturb the mind: but when we find them even concurring together, imagine the height of those waves, how great the excess of that storm, And what in particular is greater and worse than his bereavement, he did not even know wherefore all these things happened. On this account then, having no cause to assign for the misfortune, he ascends to the good pleasure of God, and saith, “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away.:” as it pleased the Lord, even so it happened “blessed be the name of the Lord for ever.” (Jb 2,21) And these things he said, when he saw himself who had followed after all virtue in the last extremity; but evil men and impostors, prospering, luxurious, revelling on all sides. And he uttered no such word as it is likely that some of the weaker sort would have uttered, “Was it for this that I brought up my children and trained them with all exactness? For this did I open my house to all that passed by, that after those many courses run in behalf of the needy, the naked, the orphans, I might receive this recompense?” But instead of these, he offered up those words better than all sacrifice, saying, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.” If however he rent his clothes and shaved his head, marvel not. For he was a father and a loving father: and it was meet that both the compassion of his nature should be shown, and also the self-command of his spirit. Whereas, had he not done this, perhaps one would have thought this self-command to be of mere insensibility. Therefore he indicates both his natural affection and the exactness of his piety, and in his grief he was not overthrown.
[5.] Yea, and when his trial proceeded further, he is again adorned with other crowns on account of his reply to his wife, saying, “If we have received good at the hand of the Lord, shall we not endure evil?” (Jb 2,10) For in fact his wife was by this time the only one left, all his having been clean destroyed, both his children and his possessions and his very body, and she reserved to tempt and to ensnare him. And this indeed was the reason why the devil did not destroy her with the children, nor asked her death, because he expected that she would contribute much towards the ensnaring of that holy man. Therefore he left her as a kind of implement, and a formidable one, for himself. “For if even out of paradise,” saith he, “I cast mankind by her means, much more shall I be able to trip him up on the dunghill.”
2804 And observe his craft. He did not apply this stratagem when the oxen or the asses or the camels were lost, nor even when the house fell and the children were buried under it, but so long looking on the combatant, he suffers her to be silent and quiet. But when the fountain of worms gushed forth, when the skin began to putrify and drop off, and the flesh wasting away to emit most offensive discharge, and the hand of the devil was wearing him out with sharper pain than gridirons and furnaces and any flame, consuming on every side and eating away his body more grievously than any wild beast, and when a long time had been spent in this misery; then he brings her to him, seasoned and worn down. Whereas if she had approached him at the beginning of his misfortune, neither would she have found him so unnerved, nor would she have had it in her power so to swell out and exaggerate the misfortune by her words. But now when she saw him through the length of time thirsting for release, and desiring the termination of what pressed on him vehemently then doth she come upon him. For to show that he was quite worn down, and by this time had become unable even to draw breath, yea, and desired even to die, hear what he saith; “For I would I could lay hands on myself, or could request another and he should do it for me;” And observe, I pray, the wickedness of his wife, from what topic she at once begins: namely, from the length of time, saying, “How long wilt thou hold out?”
Now, if often even when there were no realities words alone have prevailed to unman a person, consider what it was likely he then should feel, when, besides these words, the things themselves also were galling him; and what, as it should seem, was worst of all, it was a wife also who spake thus, and a wife who had sunk down utterly and was giving herself up, and on this account was seeking to cast him also into desperation. However, that we may see more clearly the engine which was brought against that adamantine wall, let us listen to the very words. What then are these? “How long wilt thou hold out? saying, Lo! I wait a short time longer, expecting the hope of my salvation.” “Nay,” saith she, “the time hath exposed the folly of thy words, while it is protracted, yet shows no mode of escape.” And these things she said, not only thrusting him into desperation, but also reproaching and jesting upon him.
For he, ever consoling her as she pressed upon him, and putting her off, would speak as follows: “Wait a little longer, and there will soon be an end of these things.” Reproaching him therefore, she speaks: “Wilt thou now again say the same thing? For a long time hath now run by, and no end of these things hath appeared.” And observe her malice, that she makes no mention of the oxen, the sheep or the camels, as knowing that he was not very much vexed about these; but she goes at once to nature, and reminds him of his children. For on their death she saw him both rending his clothes and shaving off his hair. And she said not, “thy children are dead,” but very pathetically, “thy memorial is perished from the earth, “the thing for which thy children were desirable.” For if, even now after that the resurrection hath been made known children are longed for because they preserve the memory of the departed; much more then. Wherefore also her curse becomes from that consideration more bitter. For in that case, he that cursed, said not, “Let his children be utterly rooted out,” but, “his memorial from the earth.” “Thy sons and thy daughters.” Thus whereas she said, “the memorial,” she again accurately makes mention of either sex. “But if thou,” saith she, “carest not for these, at least consider what is mine.” “The pains of my womb, and labors which I have endured in vain with sorrow.” Now what she means is this: “I, who endured the more, am wronged for thy sake, and having undergone the toils I am deprived of the fruits.”
And see how she neither makes express mention of his loss of property, nor is silent about it and hurries by; but in that point of view in which it also might be most pathetically narrated, in that she covertly refers to it. For when she says, “I too am a vagabond and a slave, going about from place to place, from house to house,” she both hints at the loss and indicates her great distress: these expressions being such as even to enhance that misfortune. “For I come to the doors of others,” saith she; “nor do I beg only, but am a wanderer also and serve a strange and unusual servitude, going round everywhere and carrying about the tokens of my calamity, and teaching all men of my woes;” which is most piteous of all, to change house after house. And she stayed not even at these lamentations, but proceeded to say, “Waiting for the sun when it will set, and I shall rest from my miseries and the pains that encompass me, by which I am now straitened. “Thus, that which is sweet to others,” saith she, “to behold the light, this to me is grievous: but the night and the darkness is a desirable thing. For this only gives me rest from my toils, this becometh a comfort to my miseries. But speak somewhat against the Lord, and die.” Perceivest thou here too her crafty wickedness? how she did not even in the act of advising at once introduce the deadly counsel, but having first pitifully related her misfortunes and having drawn out the tragedy at length, she couches in a few words what she would recommend, and doth not even declare it plainly, but throwing a shade over that, she holds out to him the deliverance which he greatly longed for, and promises death, the thing which he then most of all desired.
2805 And mark from this also the malice of the devil: that because he knew the longing of Jb towards God, he suffers not his wife to accuse God, lest he should at once turn away from her as an enemy. For this cause she no where mentions Him, but the actual calamities she is continually harping on.
And do thou, besides what has been said, add the circumstance that it was a woman who gave this counsel, a wonderful orator to beguile the heedless. Many at least even without external accidents have been cast down by the counsel of woman alone.
[6.] What then did the blessed saint, and firmer than adamant? Looking bitterly upon her, by his aspect even before he spake, he repelled her devices: since she no doubt expected to excite fountains of tears; but he became fiercer than a lion, full of wrath and indignation, not on account of his sufferings, but on account of her diabolical suggestions; and having signified his anger by his looks in a subdued tone he gives his rebuke; for even in misfortune he kept his self-command. And what saith he? “Why speakest thou as one of the foolish women?” “I have not so taught thee,” saith he, “I did not so nurture thee; and this is why I do not now recognize even mine own consort. For these words are the counsel of a ‘foolish woman,’ and of one beside herself.” Seest thou not here an instance of wounding in moderation, and inflicting a blow just sufficient to cure the disease?
Then, after the infliction, he brings in advice sufficient on the other hand to console her, and very rational, thus speaking: “if we have received our good things at the hand of the Lord, shall we not endure our evils?” “For remember,” saith he, “those former things and make account of the Author of them, and thou wilt bear even these nobly.” Seest thou the modesty of the man? that he doth not at all impute his patience to his own courage, but saith it was part of the natural result of what happened. “For in return for what did God give us these former things? What recompense did he repay? None, but from mere goodness. For they were a gift, not a recompense; a grace, not a reward. Well then, let us bear these also nobly.”
This discourse let us, both men and women, have recorded, and let us engrave the words in our minds, both these and those before them: and by sketching upon our minds as in picture the history of their sufferings, I mean the loss of wealth, the bereavement of children, the disease of body, the reproaches, the mockings, the devices of his wife, the snare of the devil, in a word, all the calamities of that righteous man, and that with exactness, let us provide ourselves with a most ample port of refuge: that, enduring all things nobly and thankfully, we may both in the present life cast off all despondency, and receive the rewards that belong to this good way of taking things; by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, and honor, now and forever, world without end. Amen.
Chrysostom on 1Cor 2700