Chrysostom Colossians 700
700 or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s. Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshiping of the Angels, dwelling in the things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body being supplied and knit together, through the joints and bands, increaseth with the increase of God.” Col 2,16-19
701 Having first said darkly, “Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you after the tradition of men” (Col 2,8); and again, further back, “This, I say, that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech” (Col 2,4); thus preoccupying their soul, and working in it anxious thoughts; next, having inserted those benefits, and increased this effect, he then brings in his reproof last, and says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or a new moon, or a sabbath day.” Seest thou how he depreciates them? If ye have obtained such things, he saith, why make yourselves accountable for these petty matters? And he makes light of them, saying, “or in the part of a feast day,” for in truth they did not retain the whole of the former rule, “or a new moon, or a sabbath day.” He said not, “Do not then observe them,” but, “let no man judge you.” He showed that they were transgressing, and undoing, but he brought his charge against others. Endure not those that judge you, he saith, nay, not so much as this either, but he argues with those persons, almost stopping their mouths, and saying, Ye ought not to judge. But he would not have reflected on these. He said not “in clean and unclean,” nor yet “in feasts of Tabernacles, and unleavened bread, and Pentecost,” but “in part of a feast”: for they ventured not to keep the whole; and if they did observe it, yet not so as to celebrate the feast. “In part,” he saith, showing that the greater part is done away. For even if they did keep sabbath, they did not do so with precision. “Which are a shadow of the things to come”; he means, of the New Covenant; “but the body” is “Christ’s.” Some persons here punctuate thus “but the body” is “of Christ,” i.e. the truth is come in with Christ: others thus; “The Body of Christ let no man adjudge away from you,” that is, thwart you of it. The term katabrabeuqhnai, is employed when the victory is with one party, and the prize with another, when though a victor thou art thwarted. Thou standest above the devil and sin; why dost thou again subject thyself to sin? Therefore he said that “he is a debtor to fulfill the whole law” (Ga 5,3); and again, “Is Christ” found to be “the minister of sin” (Ga 2,17)? which he said when writing to the Galatians. When he had filled them with anger through saying, “adjudge away from you,” then he begins; “being a voluntary,” he saith, “in humility and worshiping of Angels, intruding into things he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind.” How “in humility,” or how “puffed up”? He shows that the whole arose out of vainglory. But what is on the whole the drift of what is said? There are some who maintain that we must be brought near by Angels, not by Christ, that were too great a thing for us. Therefore it is that he turns over and over again what has been done by Christ, “through the Blood of His Cross” (c. i. 20); on this account he says that “He suffered for us”; that “He loved us.” (1P 2,21). And besides in this very same thing, moreover, they were elevated afresh. And he said not “introduction by,” but “worshiping of” Angels. “Intruding into things he hath not seen.” (Ep 2,4). For he hath not seen Angels, and yet is affected as though he had. Therefore he saith, “Puffed up by his fleshly mind vainly,” not about any true fact. About this doctrine, he is puffed up, and puts forward a show of humility. By his carnal mind, not spiritual; his reasoning is of man. “And not holding fast the Head,” he saith, “from whom all the body.” All the body thence hath its being, and its well-being. Why, letting go the Head, dost thou cling to the members? If thou art fallen off from it, thou art lost. “From whom all the body.” Every one, be he who he may, thence has not life only,but also even connection. All the Church, so long as she holds The Head, increaseth; because here is no more passion of pride and vainglory, nor invention of human fancy.
(Mark that “from whom,” meaning the Son. “Through the joints and bands,” he says, “being supplied, and knit together, increases with the increase of God”; he means, that which is according to God, that of the best life.
Col 2,20. “If ye died with Christ.”
(He puts that in the middle, and on either side, expressions of greater vehemence. “If ye died with Christ from the elements of the world,” he saith, “why as though living in the world do ye subject yourselves to ordinances?” This is not the consequence, for what ought to have been said is, “how as though living are ye subject to those elements?” But letting this pass, what saith he?
Col 2,21-22. “Handle not, nor taste, nor touch; all which things are to perish with the using; after the precepts and doctrines of men.”
702 Ye are not in the world, he saith, how is it ye are subject to its elements? how to its observances? And mark how he makes sport of them, “touch not, handle not, taste not,” as though they were cowards and keeping themselves clear of some great matters, “all which things are to perish with the using.” He has taken down the swollenness of the many, and added, “after the precepts and doctrines of men.” What sayest thou? Dost thou speak even of the Law? Henceforth it is but a doctrine of men, after the time is come. Or, because they adulterated it, or else, he alludes to the Gentile institutions. The doctrine, he says, is altogether of man.
Col 2,23. “Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.”“Show,” he saith; not power, not truth. So that even though they have a show of wisdom, let us turn away from them. For he may seem to be a religious person, and modest, and to have a contempt for the body.
“Not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” For God hath given it honor, but they use it not with honor. Thus, when it is a doctrine, he knows how to call it honor. They dishonor the flesh, he says, depriving it, and stripping it of its liberty, not giving leave to rule it with its will. God hath honored the flesh.
Col 3,1. “If then ye were raised together with Christ.”
(He brings them together, having above established that He died. Therefore he saith, “If then ye were raised together with Christ, seek the things that are above.” No observances are there. “Where Christ is seated on the right hand of God.” Wonderful! Whither hath he led our minds aloft! How hath he filled them with mighty aspiration! It was not enough to say, “the things that are above,” nor yet, “where Christ is,” but what? “seated on the right hand of God.” From that point he was preparing them henceforward to see the earth.
Col 3,2-4. “Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are upon the earth. For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory.”
This is not your life, he saith, it is some other one. He is now urgent to remove them, and insists upon showing that they are seated above, and are dead; from both considerations establishing the position, that they are not to seek the things which are here. For whether ye be dead, ye ought not to seek them; or Whether ye be above, ye ought not to seek them. Doth Christ appear? Neither doth your life. It is in God, above. What then? When shall we live? When Christ shall be manifested, who is your life; then seek ye glory, then life, then enjoyment.
This is to prepare the way for drawing them off from pleasure and ease. Such is his wont: when establishing one position, he darts off to another; as, for instance, when discoursing of those who at supper were beforehand with one another, he all at once falls upon the observance of the Mysteries. For he hath a great rebuke when it is administered unsuspected. “It is hid,” he saith, from you. “Then shall ye also with Him be manifested.” So that, now, ye do not appear. See how he hath removed them into the very heaven. For, as I said, he is always bent upon showing that they have the very same things which Christ hath; and through all his Epistles, the tenor is this, to show that in all things they are partakers with Him. Therefore he uses the terms, Head, and Body, and does everything to convey this to them.
If therefore we shall then be manifested, let us not grieve, when we enjoy not honor: if this life be not life, but it be hidden, we ought to live this life as though dead. “Then shall ye also,” he saith, “with Him be manifested in glory.” “In glory,” he said, not merely “manifested.” For the pearl too is hidden so long as it is within the oyster. If then we be treated with insult, let us not grieve; or whatever it be we suffer; for this life is not our life, we are strangers and sojourners. “For ye died,” he saith. Who is so witless, as for a corpse, dead and buried, either to buy servants, or build houses, or prepare costly raiment? None. Neither then do ye; but as we seek one thing only, namely, that we be not in a naked state, so here too let us seek one thing and no more. Our first man is buried: buried not in earth, but in water; not death-destroyed, but buried by death’s destroyer, not by the law of nature, but by the governing command that is stronger than nature. For what has been done by nature, may perchance be undone; but what has been done by His command, never. Nothing is more blessed than this burial, whereat all are rejoicing, both Angels, and men, and the Lord of Angels. At this burial, no need is there of vestments, nor of coffin, nor of anything else of that kind. Wouldest thou see the symbol of this? I will show thee a pool wherein the one was buried, the other raised; in the Red Sea the Egyptians were sunk beneath it, but the Israelites went up from out of it; in the same act he buries the one, generates the other.
703 Marvel not that generation and destruction take place in Baptism; for, tell me, dissolving and cementing, are they not opposite? It is evident to all. Such is the effect of fire; for fire dissolves and destroys wax, but it cements together metallic earth, and works it into gold. So in truth here also, the force of the fire, having obliterated the statue of wax, has displayed a golden one in its stead; for in truth before the Bath we were of clay, but after it of gold. Whence is this evident? Hear him saying, “The first man is of the earth, earthy, the second man is the Lord from heaven.” (1Co 15,47). I spoke of a difference as great as that between clay and gold; but greater still do I find the difference between heavenly and earthy; not so widely do clay and gold differ, as do things earthy and heavenly. Waxen we were, and clay-formed. For the flame of lust did much more melt us, than fire doth wax, and any chance temptation did far rather shatter us than a stone doth things of clay. And, if ye will, let us give an outline of the former life, and see whether all was not earth and water, and full of fluctuation and dust, and instability, and flowing away.
And if ye will, let us scrutinize not the former things, but the present, and see whether we shall not find everything that is, mere dust and water. For what wilt thou tell me of? authority and power? for nothing in this present life is thought to be more enviable than these. But sooner may one find the dust when on the air stationary, than these things; especially now. For to whom are they not under subjection? To those who are lovers of them; to eunuchs; to those who will do anything for the sake of money; to the passions of the populace; to the wrath of the more powerful. He who was yesterday up high on his tribunal, who had his heralds shouting with thrilling voice, and many to run before, and haughtily clear the way for him through the forum, is to-day mean and low,and of all those things bereft and bare, like dust blast-driven, like a stream that hath passed by. And like as the dust is raised by our feet, so truly are magistracies also produced by those who are engaged about money, and in the whole of life have the rank and condition of feet; and like as the dust when it is raised occupies a large portion of the air, though itself be but a small body, so too doth power; and like as the dust blindeth the eyes, so too doth the pride of power bedim the eyes of the understanding.
But what? Wilt thou that we examine that object of many prayers, wealth? Come, let us examine it in its several parts. It hath luxury, it hath honors, it hath power. First then, if thou wilt, let us examine luxury. Is it not dust? yea, rather, it goeth by swifter than dust, for the pleasure of luxurious living reacheth only to the tongue, and when the belly is filled, not to the tongue even. But, saith one, honors are of themselves pleasant things. Yet what can be less pleasant than that same honor, when it is rendered with a view to money? When it is not from free choice and with a readiness of mind, it is not thou that reapest the honor, but thy wealth. So that this very thing makes the man of wealth, most of all men, dishonored. For, tell me; suppose all men honored thee, who hadst a friend; the while confessing that thou, to be sure, wert good for nothing, but that they were compelled to honor thee on his account; could they possibly in any other way have so dishonored thee? So that our wealth is the cause of dishonor to us, seeing it is more honored than are its very possessors, and a proof rather of weakness than of power. How then is it not absurd that we are not counted of as much value as earth and ashes, (for such is gold,) but that we are honored for its sake? With reason. But not so he that despiseth wealth; for it were better not to be honored at all, than so honored. For tell me, were one to say to thee, I think thee worthy of no honor at all, but for thy servants’ sakes I honor thee, could now anything be worse than this dishonor? But if to be honored for the sake of servants, who are partakers of the same soul and nature with ourselves, be a disgrace, much more then is it such, to be honored for the sake of meaner things, such as the walls and courts of houses, and vessels of gold, and garments. A scorn indeed were this, and shame; better die than be so honored. For, tell me, if thou wert in peril in this thy pride, and some low and disgusting person were to be willing to extricate thee from thy peril, what could be worse than this? What ye say one to another about the city, I wish to say to you. Once on a time our city gave offense to the Emperor, and he gave orders that the whole of it should utterly be destroyed, men, children, houses, and all. (For such is the wrath of kings, they indulge their power as much as ever they choose, so great an evil is power) It was then in the extremest of perils. The neighboring city, however, this one on the sea-coast, went and besought the king in our behalf: upon which the inhabitants of our city said that this was worse than if the city had been razed to the ground. So, to be thus honored is worse than being dishonored. For see whence honor hath its root. The hands of cooks procure us to be honored, so that to them we ought to feel gratitude; and swineherds supplying us with a rich table, and weavers, and spinners, and workers in metal, and confectioners, and table furnishers.
704 Were it not then better not to be honored at all, than to be beholden to these for the honor? And besides this, moreover, I will endeavor to prove clearly that opulence is a condition full of dishonor; it embases the soul; and what is more dishonorable than this? For tell me, suppose one had a comely person, and passing all in beauty, and wealth were to go to him and promise to make it ugly, and instead of healthy, diseased, instead of cool, inflamed; and having filled every limb with dropsy, were to make the countenance bloated, and distend it all over; and were to swell out the feet, and make them heavier than logs, and to puff up the belly, and make it larger than any tun; and after this, it should promise not even to grant permission to cure him, to those who should be desirous of doing so, (for such is the way with power,) but would give him so much liberty as to punish any one that should approach him to withdraw him from what was harming him; well then, tell me, when wealth works these effects in the soul, how can it be honorable?
But this power is a more grievous thing than the disease itself; as for one in disease not to be obedient to the physician’s injunctions is a more serious evil than the being diseased; and this is the case with wealth, seeing it creates inflammation in every part of the soul, and forbids the physicians to come near it. So let us not felicitate these on the score of their power, but pity them; for neither were I to see a dropsical patient lying, and nobody forbidding him to take his fill of whatever drinks he pleased and of meats that are harmful, would I felicitate him because of his power. For not in all cases is power a good thing, nor are honors either, for these too fill one with much arrogance. But if thou wouldest not choose that the body should along with wealth contract such a disease, how comest thou to overlook the soul, and when contracting not this scourge alone, but another also? For it is on fire all over with burning fevers and inflammations, and that burning fever none can quench, for wealth will not allow of this, having persuaded it that those things are gains, which are really losses, such as not enduring any one and doing everything at will. For no other soul will one find so replete with lusts so great and so extravagant, as theirs who are desirous of being rich. For what silly trifles do they not picture to themselves! One may see these devising more extravagant things than limners of hippocentaurs, and chimaeras, and dragon-footed things, and Scyllas, and monsters. And if one should choose to give a picture of one lust of theirs, neither Scylla, nor chimaera, nor hippocentaur will appear anything at all by the side of such a prodigy; but you will find it to contain every wild beast at once.
And perchance some one will suppose that I have been myself possessed of much wealth, seeing I am so true to what really comes of it. It is reported of one (for I will first confirm what I have said from the legends of the Greeks)—it is reported amongst them of a certain king, that he became so insolent in luxury, as to make a plane tree of gold, and a sky above it, and there sate, and this too when invading a people skilled in warfare. Now was not this lust hippocentaurean, was it not Scyllaean? Another, again, used to cast men into a wooden bull. Was not this a very Scylla? And even him, the king I just mentioned, the warrior, wealth made, from a man a woman, from a woman, what shall I say? a brute beast, and yet more degraded than this for the beasts, if they lodge under a tree, take up with nature, and seek for nothing further; but the man in question overshot the nature even of beasts.
What then can be more senseless than are the wealthy? And this arises from the greediness of their desires. But, are there not many that admire him? Therefore truly do they share in the laughter he incurs. That displayed not his wealth but his folly. How much better than that golden plane tree is that which the earth produceth! For the natural is more grateful than the unnatural. But what meant that thy golden heaven, O senseless one? Seest thou how wealth that is abundant maketh men mad? How it inflamed them? I suppose he knows not the sea even, and perchance will presently have a mind to walk upon it. Now is not this a chimaera? is it not a hippocentaur? But there are, at this time also, some who fall not short even of him, but are actually much more senseless. For in point of senselessness, wherein do they differ, tell me, from that golden plane tree, who make silver jars, pitchers, and scent bottles? And wherein do those women differ, (ashamed indeed I am, but it is necessary to speak it,) who make chamber utensils of silver? It is ye should be ashamed, that are the makers of these things. When Christ is famishing, dost thou so revel in luxury? yea rather, so play the fool! What punishment shall these not suffer? And inquirest thou still, why there are robbers? why murderers? why such evils? when the devil has thus made you ridiculous. For the mere having of silver dishes indeed, this even is not in keeping with a soul devoted to wisdom, but is altogether a piece of luxury; but the making unclean vessels also of silver, is this then luxury? nay, I will not call it luxury, but senselessness; nay, nor yet this, but madness; nay rather, worse than even madness.
705 I know that many persons make jokes at me for this; but I heed them not, only let some good result from it. In truth, to be wealthy does make people senseless and mad. Did their power reach to such an excess, they would have the earth too of gold, and walls of gold, perchance the heaven too, and the air of gold. What a madness is this, what an iniquity, what a burning fever! Another, made after the image of God, is perishing of cold; and dost thou furnish thyself with such things as these? O the senseless pride! What more would a madman have done? Dost thou pay such honor to thine excrements, as to receive them in silver? I know that ye are shocked at hearing this; but those women that make such things ought to be shocked, and the husbands that minister to such distempers. For this is wantonness, and savageness, and inhumanity, and brutishness, and lasciviousness. What Scylla, what chimaera, what dragon, yea rather what demon, what devil would have acted on this wise? What is the benefit of Christ? what of the Faith? when one has to put up with men being heathens, yea rather, not heathens, but demons? If to adorn the head with gold and pearls be not right; one that useth silver for a service so unclean, how shall he obtain pardon? Is not the rest enough, although even it is not bearable, chairs and footstools all of silver? although even these come of senselessness. But everywhere is excessive pride; everywhere is vainglory. Nowhere is it use, but everywhere excess.
I am afraid lest, under the impulse of this madness, the race of woman should go on to assume some portentous form: for it is likely that they will wish to have even their hair of gold. Else declare that ye were not at all affected by what was said, nor were excited greatly, and fell a longing, and had not shame withheld you, would not have refused. For if they dare to do what is even more absurd than this, much more, I think, will they long for their hair, and lips, and eyebrows, and every part to be overlaid with molten gold.
But if ye are incredulous, and think I am speaking in jest, I will relate what I have heard, or rather what is now existing. The king of the Persians wears his beard golden; those who are adepts at such work winding leaf of gold about his hairs as about the woof, and it is laid up as a prodigy.
Glory to Thee, O Christ; with how many good things hast Thou filled us! How hast Thou provided for our health! From how great monstrousness, from how great unreasonableness, hast Thou set us free! Mark! I forewarn you, I advise no longer; but I command and charge; let him that wills, obey, and him that wills not, be disobedient; that if ye women do continue thus to act, I will not suffer it, nor receive you, nor permit you to pass across this threshold. For what need have I of a crowd of distempered people? And what if, in my training of you, I do not forbid what is not excessive? And yet Paul forbade both gold and pearls. (1Tm 2,9). We are laughed at by the Greeks, our religion appears a fable.
And to the men I give this advice: Art thou come to school to be instructed in spiritual philosophy? Divest thyself of that pride! This is my advice both to men and women; and if any act otherwise, henceforward I will not suffer it. The disciples were but twelve, and hear what Christ saith unto them, “Would ye also go away?” (Jn 6,67). For if we go on for ever flattering you, when shall we reclaim you? when shall we do you service? “But,” saith one, “there are other sects, and people go over.” This is a cold argument, “Better is one that doeth the will of the Lord, than ten thousand transgressors.” (Si 16,3). For, what wouldest thou choose thyself, tell me; to have ten thousand servants that were runaways and thieves, or a single one that loved thee? Lo! I admonish and command you to break up both those gay deckings for the face, and such vessels as I have described, and give to the poor, and not to be so mad.
Let him that likes quit me at once; let him that likes accuse me, I will not suffer it in any one. When I am about to be judged at the Tribunal of Christ, ye stand afar off, and your favor, while I am giving in my account. “Those words have ruined all! he says, ‘let him not go and transfer himself to another sect!’ Nay! he is weak! condescend to him!” To what point? Till when? Once, and twice, and thrice, but not perpetually.
Lo! I charge you again, and protest after the pattern of the blessed Paul, “that if I come again I will not spare.” (2Co 13,2). But when ye have done as ye ought, then ye will know how great the gain is, how great the advantage. Yes! I entreat and beseech you, and would not refuse to clasp your knees and supplicate you in this behalf. What softness is it! What luxury, what wantonness! This is not luxury, but wantonness. What senselessness is it! What madness! So many poor stand around the Church; and though the Church has so many children, and so wealthy, she is unable to give relief to even one poor person; “but one is hungry, and another is drunken” (1Co 11,21); one voideth his excrement even into silver, another has not so much as bread! What madness! what brutishness so great as this? May we never come to the proof, whether we will prosecute the disobedient, nor to the indignation which allowing these practices would cause us; but that willingly and with patience we may avoid all this, that we may live to God’s glory, and be delivered from, the punishment in the other world, and may obtain the good things promised to those who love Him, through the grace and love toward man, &c.
800 fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry; for which things’ sake, cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience; in the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in these things.” Col 3,5-7
I Know that many are offended by the foregoing discourse, but what can I do? ye heard what the Master enjoined. Am I to blame? what shall I do? See ye not the creditors, when debtors are obstinate, how they wear collars? Heard ye what Paul proclaimed today? “Mortify” he saith, “your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” What is worse than such a covetousness? This is worse than any desire. This is still more grievous than what I was speaking of, the madness, and the silly weakness about silver. “And covetousness,” he saith, “which is idolatry.” See in what the evil ends. Do not, I pray, take what I said amiss, for not by my own good-will, nor without reason, would I have enemies; but I was wishful ye should attain to such virtue, as that I might hear of you the things I ought. So that I said it not for authority’s sake, nor of imperiousness, but out of pain and of sorrow. Forgive me, forgive! I have no wish to violate decency by discoursing upon such subjects, but I am compelled to it.
Not for the sake of the sorrows of the poor do I say these things, but for your salvation; for they will perish, will perish, that have not fed Christ. For what, if thou dost feed some poor man? still so long as thou livest so voluptuously and luxuriously, all is to no purpose. For what is required is, not the giving much, but not too little for the property thou hast; for this is but playing at it.
“Mortify therefore your members,” he saith, “which are upon the earth.” What sayest thou? Was it not thou that saidst, “Ye are buried; ye are buried together with Him; ye are circumcised: we have put off the body of the sins of the flesh” (id 2,11-12; Rm 6,4); how then again sayest thou, “Mortify”? Art thou sporting? Dost thou thus discourse, as though those things were in us? There is no contradiction; but like as if one, who has clean scoured a statue that was filthy, or rather who has recast it, and displayed it bright afresh, should say that the rust was eaten off and destroyed, and yet should again recommend diligence in clearing away the rust, he doth not contradict himself, for it is not that rust which he scoured off that he recommends should be cleared away, but that which grew afterwards; so it is not that former putting to death he speaks of, nor those fornications, but those which do afterwards grow.
(He said that this is not our life, but another, that which is in heaven. Tell me now. When he said, Mortify your members that are upon the earth, is then the earth also accused? or does he speak of the things upon the earth as themselves sins? “Fornication, uncleanness,” he saith. He has passed over the actions which it is not becoming even to mention, and by “uncleanness” has expressed all together.
“Passion,” he said, “evil desire.”
Lo! he has expressed the whole in the class. For envy, anger, sorrow, all are “evil desire.”
“And covetousness,” he saith, “which is idolatry. For which things’ sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience.”
By many things he had been withdrawing them; by the benefits which are already given, by the evils to come from which we had been delivered, being who, and wherefore; and all those considerations, as, for instance, who we were, and in what circumstances, and that we were delivered therefrom, how, and in what manner, and on what terms. These were enough to turn one away, but this one is of greater force than all; unpleasant indeed to speak of, not however to disservice, but even serviceable. “For which things’ sake cometh,” he saith, “the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience.” He said not, “upon you,” but, “upon the sons of disobedience.”
“In the which ye also walked aforetime, when ye lived in them.” In order to shame them, he saith, “when ye lived in them,” and implying praise, as now no more so living: at that time they might.
Col 3,8. “But now put ye also away all these.”
(He speaks always both universally and particularly; but this is from earnestness.
Col 3,8-9. “Anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking out of your mouth. Lie not one to another.”
“Shameful speaking,” he saith, “out of your mouth,” clearly intimating that it pollutes it.
Col 3,9-10. “Seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, which is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of Him that created him.”
It is worth enquiring here, what can be the reason why he calls the corrupt life, “members,” and “man,” and “body,” and again the virtuous life, the same. And if “the man” means “sins,” how is it that he saith, “with his doings”? For once he said, “the old man,” showing that this is not man, but the other. The moral choice doth rather determine one than the substance, and is rather “man” than the other. For his substance casteth him not into hell, nor leadeth him into the kingdom, but men the themselves: and we neither love nor hate any one so far as he is man, but so far as he is such or such a man. If then the substance be the body, and in either sort cannot be accountable, how doth he say that it is evil? But what is that he saith, “with his doings”? He means the choice, with the acts. And he calleth him “old,” on purpose to show his deformity, and hideousness, and imbecility; and “new,” as if to say, Do not expect that it will be with this one even as with the other, but the reverse: for ever as he farther advances, he hasteneth not on to old age, but to a youthfulness greater than the preceding. For when he hath received a fuller knowledge, he is both counted worthy of greater things, and is in more perfect maturity, in higher vigor; and this, not from youthfulness alone, but from that “likeness” also, “after” which he is. Lo! the best life is styled a creation, after the image of Christ: for this is the meaning of, “after the image of Him that created him,” for Christ too came not finally to old age, but was so beautiful as it is not even possible to tell.
Col 3,11. “Where there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman: but Christ is all, and in all.”
Lo! here is a third encomium of this “man.” With him, there is no difference admitted either of nation, or of rank, or of ancestry, seeing he hath nothing of externals, nor needeth them; for all external things are such as these, “circumcision, and uncircumcision, bondman, freeman, Greek,” that is, proselyte, “and Jew,” from his ancestors. If thou have only this “man,” thou wilt obtain the same things with the others that have him.
“But Christ,” he saith, “is all, and in all”: Christ will be all things to you, both rank, and descent, “and” Himself “in you all.” Or he says another thing, to wit, that ye all are become one Christ, being His body.
802 Col 3,12. “Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved.”
(He shows the easiness of virtue, so that they might both possess it continually, and use it as the greatest ornament. The exhortation is accompanied also with praise, for then its force is greatest. For they had been before holy, but not elect; but now both “elect, and holy, and beloved.”
“A heart of compassion.” He said not “mercy,” but with greater emphasis used the two words. And he said not, that it should be as towards brethren, but, as fathers towards children. For tell me not that he sinned, therefore he said “a heart.” And he said not “compassion,” lest he should place them in light estimation, but “a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”
Again, he speaks after the class, and he always does it; for from kindness comes humbleness of mind, and from this, longsuffering. “Forbearing,” he saith, “one another,” that is, passing things over And see, how he has shown it to be nothing, by calling it a “complaint,” and saying, “even as Christ forgave you.” Great is the example! and thus he always does; he exhorts them after Christ. “Complaint,” he calls it. In these words indeed he showed it to be a petty matter; but when he has set before us the example, he has persuaded us that even if we had serious charges to bring, we ought to forgive. For the expression, “Even as Christ,” signifies this, and not this only, but also with all the heart; and not this alone, but that they ought even to love. For Christ being brought into the midst, bringeth in all these things, both that even if the matters be great, and even if we have not been the first to injure, even if we be of great, they of small account, even if they are sure to insult us afterwards, we ought to lay down our lives for them, (for the words, “even as,” demand this;) and that not even at death only ought one to stop, but if possible, to go on even after death.
Col 3,14. “And above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness.”
Dost thou see that he saith this? For since it is possible for one who forgives, not to love; yea, he saith, thou must love him too, and he points out a way whereby it becomes possible to forgive. For it is possible for one to be kind, and meek, and humbleminded, and longsuffering, and yet not affectionate. And therefore, he said at the first, “A heart of compassion,” both love and pity. “And above all these things, love, which is the bond of perfectness.” Now what he wishes to say is this; that there is no profit in those things, for all those things fall asunder, except they be done with love; this it is which clenches them all together; whatsoever good thing it be thou mentionest, if love be away, it is nothing, it melts away. And it is as in a ship, even though her rigging be large, yet if there be no girding ropes, it is of no service;and in an house, if there be no tie beams, it is the same; and in a body, though the bones be large, if there be no ligaments, they are of no service. For whatsoever good deeds any may have, all do vanish away, if love be not there. He said not that it is the summit, but what is greater, “the bond”; this is more necessary than the other. For “summit” indeed is an intensity of perfectness, but “bond” is the holding fast together of those things which produce the perfectness; it is, as it were, the root.
Col 3,15. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful.”
803 “The peace of God.” This is that which is fixed and steadfast. If on man’s account indeed thou hast peace, it quickly comes to dissolution, but if on God’s account, never. Although he had spoken of love universally, yet again he comes to the particular. For there is a love too which is immoderate; for instance, when out of much love one makes accusations without reason, and is engaged in contentions, and contracts aversions. Not this, saith he, not this do I desire; not overdoing things, but as God made peace with you, so do ye also make it. How made He peace? Of His own will, not having received anything of you. What is this? “Let the peace of God rule in your hearts.” If two thoughts are fighting together, set not anger, set not spitefulness to hold the prize, but peace; for instance, suppose one to have been insulted unjustly; of the insult are born two thoughts, the one bidding him to revenge, the other to endure; and these wrestle with one another: if the Peace of God stand forward as umpire, it bestows the prize on that which bids endure, and puts the other to shame. How? by persuading him that God is Peace, that He hath made peace with us. Not without reason he shows the great struggle there is in the matter. Let not anger, he saith, act as umpire, let not contentiousness, let not human peace, for human peace cometh of avenging, of suffering no dreadful ill. But not this do I intend, he saith, but that which He Himself left.
(He hath represented an arena within, in the thoughts, and a contest, and a wrestling, and an umpire. Then again, exhortation, “to the which ye were called,” he saith, that is, for the which ye were called. He has reminded them of how many good things peace is the cause; on account of this He called thee, for this He called thee, so as to receive a worthy prize. For wherefore made He us “one body”? Was it not that she might rule? Was it not that we might have occasion of being at peace? Wherefore are we all one body? and now are we one body? Because of peace we are one body, and because we are one body, we are at peace. But why said he not, “Let the peace of God be victorious,” but “be umpire”? He made her the more honorable. He would not have the evil thought to come to wrestle with her, but to stand below. And the very name “prize” cheered the hearer. For if she have given the prize to the good thought, however impudently the other behave, it is thereafter of no use. And besides, the other being aware that, perform what feats he might, he should not receive the prize; however he might puff, and attempt still more vehement onsets, would desist as laboring without profit. And he well added, “And be ye thankful.” For this is to be thankful, and very effectively, to deal with his fellow-servants as God doth with himself, to submit himself to the Master, to obey; to express his gratitude for all things, even though one insult him, or beat him.
For in truth he that confesses thanks due to God for what he suffers, will not revenge himself on him that has done him wrong, since he at least that takes revenge, acknowledges no gratitude. But let not us follow him (that exacted) the hundred pence, lest we hear, “Thou wicked servant,” for nothing is worse than this ingratitude. So that they who revenge are ungrateful.
But why did he begin his list with fornication? For having said, “Mortify your members which are upon the earth” (c. 3,5), he immediately says, “fornication”; and so he does almost everywhere. Because this passion hath the greatest sway. For even when writing his Epistle to the Thessalonians he did the same. (1Th 4,3) And what wonder? since to Timothy even he saith, “Keep thyself pure” (1Tm 5,22); and again elsewhere, “Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification,” without which “no man shall see the Lord.” (He 12,14). “Put to death,” he says, “your members.” Ye know of what sort that is which is dead, namely, hated, loathed, dropping to decay. If thou put anything to death, it doth not when dead continue dead, but presently is corrupted, like the body. Extinguish then the heat; and nothing that is dead will continue. He shows one having the same thing in hand, which Christ wrought in the Laver; therefore also he calleth them “members,” as though introducing some champion, thus advancing his discourse to greater emphasis. And he well said, “Which are upon the earth,” for here they continue, and here they are corrupted, far rather than these our members. So that not so truly is the body of the earth, as sin is earthly, for the former indeed appears even beautiful at times, but those members never. And those members lust after all things that are upon the earth. If the eye be such, it seeth not the things in the heavens; if the ear, if the hand, if thou mention any other member whatsoever. The eye seeth bodies, and beauties, and riches; these are the things of earth, with these it is delighted: the ear with soft strains, and harp, and pipe, and filthy talking; these are things which are concerned with earth.
When therefore he has placed his hearers above, near the throne, he then says, “Mortify your members which are upon the earth.” For it is not possible to stand above with these members; for there is nothing there for them to work upon. And this clay is worse than that, for that clay indeed becometh gold, “for this corruptible,” he saith, “must put on incorruption” (1Co 15,53), but this clay can never be retempered more. So that these members are rather “upon the earth” than those. Therefore he said not, “of the earth,” but, “which are upon the earth,” for it is possible that these should not be upon the earth. For it is necessary that these should be “upon the earth,” but that those should, is not necessary. For when the ear hears nothing of what is here uttered, but only in the heavens, when the eye sees nothing of what is here, but only what is above, it is not “upon the earth”; when the mouth speaketh nothing of the things here, it is not “upon the earth”; when the hand doeth no evil thing—these are not of things “upon the earth,” but of those in the heavens.
804 (So Christ also saith, “If thy right eye causeth thee to stumble,” that is, if thou lookest unchastely, “cut it out” (Mt 5,29), that is, thine evil thought. And he (Paul) seems to me to speak of “fornication, uncleanness, passion, desire” as the same, namely fornication: by means of all these expressions drawing us away from that thing. For in truth this is “a passion”; and like as the body is subject to any affection, either to fever or to wounds, so also is it with this. And he said not Restrain, but “Mortify” (put to death), so that they never rise up more, and “put them away.” That which is dead, we put away; for instance, if there be callosities in the body, their body is dead, and we put it away. Now, if thou cut into that which is quick, it produces pain, but if into that which is dead, we are not even sensible of it. So, in truth, is it with the passions; they make the soul unclean; they make the soul, which is immortal, passible.
How covetousness is said to be idolatry, we have oftentimes explained. For the things which do most of all lord it over the human race, are these, covetousness, and unchasteness, and evil desire. “For which things’ sake cometh,” he saith, “the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience.” Sons of disobedience, he calls them, to deprive them of excuse, and to show that it was because they would not be obedient, that they were in that condition. “In the which ye also,” he saith, “walked aforetime,” and (afterward) became obedient. He points them out as still in them, and praises them, saying, “But now do ye also put away all these, anger, wrath, malice, railing, shameful speaking.” But against others he advanceth his discourse. Under the head of “passion and railing” he means revilings, just as under “wrath” he means wickedness. And in another place, to shame them, he says, “for we are members one of another.” (Ep 4,25). He makes them out to be as it were manufacturers of men; casting away this one, and receiving that. He spoke of a man’s “members” (v. 5); here he saith, “all.” He spoke of his heart, wrath, mouth, blasphemy, eyes, fornication, covetousness, hands and feet, lying, the understanding itself, and the old mind. One royal form it hath, that, namely, of Christ. They whom he has in view, appear to me rather to be of the Gentiles. For like as earth, being but sand, even though one part be greater, another less, losing its own previous form, doth afterwards become gold; and like as wool, of whatever kind it be, receiveth another aspect, and hides its former one: so truly is it also with the faithful. “Forbearing,” he saith, “one another”; he showeth what is just. Thou forbearest him, and he thee; and so he says in the Epistle to the Galatians, “Bear ye one another’s burdens.” (Ga 6,2) “And be ye thankful,” he saith. For this is what he everywhere especially seeks; the chiefest of good things.
Give we thanks then in all things; whatever may have happened; for this is thankfulness. For to do so in prosperity indeed, is no great thing, for the nature of the circumstances of itself impels one thereto; but when being in extremities we give thanks, then it is admirable. For when, in circumstances under which others blaspheme, and exclaim discontentedly, we give thanks, see how great philosophy is here. First, thou hast rejoiced God; next, thou hast shamed the devil; thirdly, thou hast even made that which hath happened to be nothing; for all at once, thou both givest thanks, and God cuts short the pain, and the devil departs. For if thou have exclaimed discontentedly, he, as having succeeded to his wish, standeth close by thee, and God, as being blasphemed, leaveth thee, and thy calamity is heightened; but if thou have given thanks, he, as gaining nought, departs; and God, as being honored, requites thee with greater honor. And it is not possible, that a man, who giveth thanks for his evils should be sensible of them. For his soul rejoiceth, as doing what is right; forthwith his conscience is bright, it exults in its own commendation; and that soul which is bright, cannot possibly be sad of countenance. But in the other case, along with the misfortune, conscience also assails him with her lash; whilst in this she crowns, and proclaims him.
Nothing is holier than that tongue, which in evils giveth thanks to God; truly in no respect doth it fall short of that of martyrs; both are alike crowned, both this, and they. For over this one also stands the executioner to force it to deny God, by blasphemy; the devil stands over it, torturing it with executioner thoughts, darkening it with despondencies. If then one bear his griefs, and give thanks, he hath gained a crown of martyrdom. For instance, is her little child sick, and doth she give God thanks? this is a crown to her. What torture so bad that despondency is not worse? still it doth not force her to vent forth a bitter word. It dies: again she hath given thanks. She hath become the daughter of Abraham. For if she sacrificed not with her own hand, yet was she pleased with the sacrifice, which is the same; she felt no indignation when the gift was taken away.
805 Again, is her child sick? She hath made no amulets. It is counted to her as martyrdom, for she sacrificed her son in her resolve. For what, even though those things are unavailing, and a mere cheat and mockery, still there were nevertheless those who persuaded her that they do avail: and she chose rather to see her child dead, than to put up with idolatry. As then she is a martyr, whether it be in her own case, or in her son’s, that she hath thus acted; or in her husband’s, or in any other’s of her dearest; so is that other one an idolatress. For it is evident that she would have done sacrifice, had it been allowed her to do sacrifice; yea, rather, she hath even now performed the act of sacrifice. For these amulets, though they who make money by them are forever rationalizing about them, and saying, “we call upon God, and do nothing extraordinary,” and the like; and “the old woman is a Christian,” says he, “and one of the faithful”; the thing is idolatry. Art thou one of the faithful? sign the Cross; say, this I have for my only weapon; this for my remedy; and other I know none. Tell me, if a physician should come to one, and, neglecting the remedies belonging to his art, should use incantation, should we call that man a physician? By no means: for we see not the medicines of the healing art; so neither, in this case, do we see those of Christianity.
Other women again tie about them the names of rivers, and venture numberless things of like nature. Lo, I say, and forewarn you all, that if any be detected, I will not spare them again,whether they have made amulet, or incantation, or any other thing of such an art as this. What then, saith one, is the child to die? If he have lived through this means, he did then die, but if he have died without this, he then lived. But now, if thou seest him attaching himself to harlots, thou wishest him buried, and sayest, “why, what good is it for him to live?” but when thou seest him in peril of his salvation, dost thou wish to see him live? Heardest thou not Christ saying, “He that loseth his life, shall find it; and he that findeth it, shall lose it”? (Mt 16,25). Believest thou these sayings, or do they seem to thee fables? Tell me now, should one say, “Take him away to an idol temple, and he will live”; wouldest thou endure it? No! she replies. Why? “Because,” she saith, “he urges me to commit idolatry; but here, there is no idolatry, but simple incantation:” this is the device of Satan, this is that wiliness of the devil to cloak over the deceit, and to give the deleterious drug in honey. After he found that he could not prevail with thee in the other way, he hath gone this way about, to stitched charms, and old wives’ fables; and the Cross indeed is dishonored, and these charms preferred before it. Christ is cast out, and a drunken and silly old woman is brought in. That mystery of ours is trodden under foot, and the imposture of the devil dances.
Wherefore then, saith one, doth not God reprove the aid from such sources? He hath many times reproved, and yet hath not persuaded thee; He now leaveth thee to thine error, for It saith, “God gave them up unto a reprobate mind.” (Rm 1,28). These things, moreover, not even a Greek who hath understanding could endure. A certain demagogue in Athens is reported once to have hung these things about him: when a philosopher who was his instructor, on beholding them, rebuked him, expostulated, satirized, made sport of him. For in so wretched a plight are we, as even to believe in these things!
Why, saith one, are there not now those who raise the dead, and perform cures? Yes, then, why, I say: why are there not now those who have a contempt for this present life? Do we serve God for hire? When man’s nature was weaker, when the Faith had to be planted, there were even many such; but now he would not have us to hang upon these signs, but to be ready for death. Why then clingest thou to the present life? why lookest thou not on the future? and for the sake of this indeed canst bear even to commit idolatry, but for the other not so much as to restrain sadness? For this cause it is that there are none such now; because that (future) life hath seemed to us honorless, seeing that for its sake we do nothing, whilst for this there is nothing we refuse to undergo. And why too that other farce, ashes, and soot, and salt? and the old woman again brought in? A farce truly, and a shame! And then, “an eye,” say they, “hath caught the child.”
806 Where will these satanical doings end? How will not the Greeks laugh? how will they not gibe when we say unto them, “Great is the virtue of the Cross”; how will they be won, when they see us having recourse to those things, which themselves laugh to scorn? Was it for this that God gave physicians and medicines? What then? Suppose they do not cure him, but the child depart? Whither will he depart? tell me, miserable and wretched one! Will he depart to the demons? Will he depart to some tyrant? Will he not depart to heaven? Will he not depart to his own Lord? Why then grievest thou? why weepest thou? why mournest thou? why lovest thou thine infant more than thy Lord? Is it not through Him that thou hast this also? Why art thou ungrateful? Dost thou love the gift more than the Giver? “But I am weak,” she replies, “and cannot bear the fear of God.” Well, if in bodily evils the greater covers the less, much rather in the soul, fear destroyed fear, and sorrow, sorrow. Was the child beautiful? But be it what it may, not more beauteous is he than Isaac: and he too was an only one. Was it born in thine old age? So too was he. But is it fair? Well: however fair it may be, it is not lovelier than Moses (Ac 7,20), who drew even barbarian eyes unto a tender love of him, and this too at a time of life when beauty is not yet disclosed; and yet this beloved thing did the parents cast into the river. Thou indeed both seest it laid out, and deliverest it to the burying, and goest to its monument; but they did not so much as know whether it would be food for fishes, or for dogs, or for other beasts that prey in the sea; and this they did, knowing as yet nothing of the Kingdom, nor of the Resurrection.
But suppose it is not an only child; but that after thou hast lost many, this also hath departed. But not so sudden is thy calamity as was Job’s, and (his was) of sadder aspect? It is not when a roof has fallen in, it is not as they are feasting the while, it is not following on the tidings of other calamities.
But was it beloved by thee? But not more so than Joseph, the devoured of wild beasts; but still the father bore the calamity, and that which followed it, and the next to that. He wept; but acted not with impiety; he mourned, but he uttered not discontent, but stayed at those words, saying, “Joseph is not, Simeon is not, and will ye take Benjamin away? all these things are against me.” (Gn 42,36). Seest thou how the constraint of famine prevailed with him to be regardless of his children? and doth not the fear of God prevail with thee as much as famine?
Weep: I do not forbid thee: but aught blasphemous neither say nor do. Be thy child what he may, he is not like Abel; and yet nought of this kind did Adam say; although that calamity was a sore one, that his brother should have killed him. But I am reminded of others also that have killed their brothers; when, for instance, Absalom killed Amnon the eldest born (2S 13), and King David loved his child, and sat indeed in sackcloth and ashes, but he neither brought soothsayers, nor enchanters, (although there were such then, as Saul shows,) but he made supplication to God. So do thou likewise: as that just man did, so do thou also; the same words say thou, when thy child is dead, “I shall go to him, but he will not come to me.” (2S 12,23) This is true wisdom, this is affection. However much thou mayst love thy child, thou wilt not love so much as he did then. For even though his child were born of adultery, yet that blessed man’s love of the mother was at its height, and ye know that the offspring shares the love of the parents. And so great was his love toward it, that he even wished it to live, though it would be his own accuser, but still he gave thanks to God. What, thinkest thou, did Rebecca suffer, when his brother threatened Jacob, and she grieved not her husband, but bade him send her son away? (Gn 27,46 Gn 28,1). When thou hast suffered any calamity, think on what is worse than it; and thou wilt have a sufficient consolation; and consider with thyself, what if he had died in battle? what if in fire? And whatsoever our sufferings may be, let us think upon things yet more fearful, and we shall have comfort sufficient, and let us ever look around us on those who have undergone more terrible things, and if we ourselves have ever suffered heavier calamities. So doth Paul also exhort us; as when he saith, “Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin” (He 12,4): and again, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear.” (1Co 10,13). Be then our sufferings what they may, let us look round on what is worse; (for we shall find such,) and thus shall we be thankful. And above all, let us give thanks for all things continually; for so, both these things will be eased, and we shall live to the glory of God, and obtain the promised good things, whereunto may all we attain, through the grace and love toward man, &c.
Chrysostom Colossians 700