Chrysostom hom. on Mt 72
72 Mt 23,1-3
“Then spake Jesus to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you do, that do;1 but do not after their works.”
Then. When? When He had said these things, when He had stopped their mouths; when He had brought them that they should no more dare to tempt Him; when He had shown their state incurable.
And since He had made mention of “the Lord” and “my Lord,”2 He recurs again to the law. And yet the law said nothing of this kind, but, “The Lord thy God is one Lord.”2 But Scripture calls the whole Old Testament the law.
But these things He saith, showing by all thinks His full agreement with Him that begat Him. For if He were opposed, He would have said the opposite about the law; but now He commands so great reverence to be shown towards it, that, even when they that teach it are depraved, He charges them to hold to it. But here He is discoursing about their life and morals, since this was chiefly the cause of their unbelief, their depraved life, and the love of glory. To amend therefore His hearers; that which in the first place most contributes to salvation, not to despise our teachers, neither to rise up against our priests, this doth He command with superabundant earnestness. But He does not only command it, but also Himself doth it. For though they were depraved, He doth not depose them from their dignity; to them rendering their condemnation heavier, and to His disciples leaving no cloke for disobedience.
I mean, that lest any one should say, that because my teacher is bad, therefore am I become more remiss, He takes away even this pretext. So much at any rate did He establish their authority, although they were wicked men, as even after so heavy an accusation to say, “All whatsoever they command you to do, do.” For they speak not their own words, but God’s, what He appointed for laws by Moses. And mark how much honor He showed towards Moses, again showing His agreement with the Old Testament; since indeed even by this doth He make them objects of reverence. “For they sit,” He saith, “on Moses’ seat.” For because He was not able to make them out worthy of credit by their life, He doth it from the grounds that were open to Him, from their seat, and their succession from him. But when thou hearest all, do not understand all the law, as, for instance, the ordinances about meats, those about sacrifices, and the like for how was He to say so of these things, which He had taken away beforehand? but He meant all things that correct the moral principle, and amend the disposition, and agree with the laws of the New Testament, and suffer them not any more to be under the yoke of the law.
Wherefore then doth He give these things divine authority, not from the law of grace, but from Moses? Because it was not yet time, before the crucifixion, for these things to be plainly declared.
But to me He seems, in addition to what has been said, to be providing for another object, in saying these things. For since He was on the point of accusing them, that He might not seem in the sight of the foolish to set His heart on this authority of theirs, or for enmity to be doing these things, first He removed this thought, and having set himself clear from suspicion, then begins His accusation. And for what intent doth He convict them, and run out into a long discourse against them? To set the multitude on their guard, so that they might not fall into the same sins. For neither is dissuading like pointing out those that have offended; much as recommending what is right, is not like bringing forward those that have done well. For this cause also He is beforehand in saying, “Do not after their works.” For, lest they should suppose, because of their listening to them, they ought also to imitate them, He uses this means of correction, and makes what seems to be their dignity a charge against them. For what can be more wretched than a teacher, when the preservation of his disciples is, not to give heed to his life? So that what seemeth to be their dignity is a most heavy charge against them, when they are shown to live such a life, as they that imitate are ruined.
For this cause He also falls upon His accusations against them, but not for this only, but that He might show, that both their former unbelief wherewith they had not believed, and the crucifixion after this, which they dared to perpetrate, were not a charge against Him who was crucified and disbelieved, but against their perverseness.
But see whence He begins, and whence He aggravates His blame of them. “For they say,” He saith, and do not.” For every one is worthy of blame in transgressing the law, but especially he that bears the authority of teaching, for doubly and triply doth he deserve to be condemned. For one cause, because he transgresses; for another, that as he ought to amend others, and then halteth, he is worthy of a double punishment, because of his dignity; and in the third place, that he even corrupts the more, as committing such transgression in a teacher’s place.
And together with these He mentions also another charge against them, that they are harsh to those accountable to them.
“For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they will not move them with their finger.”3 He mentions here a twofold wickedness, their requiring great and extreme strictness of life, without any indulgence, from those over whom they rule, and their allowing to themselves great security; the opposite to which the truly good ruler ought to hold; in what concerns himself, to be an unpardoning and severe judge, but in the matters of those whom he rules, to be gentle and ready to make allowances; the contrary to which was the conduct of these men.
2. For such are all they who practise self restraint in mere words, unpardoning and grievous to bear as having no experience of the difficulty in actions. And this itself too is no small fault, and in no ordinary way increases the former charge.
But do thou mark, I pray thee, how He aggravates this accusation also. For He did not say, “they cannot,” but, “they will not.” And He did not say, “to bear,” but, “to move with a finger,” that is, not even to come near them, nor to touch them.
But wherein are they earnest, and vigorous? In the things forbidden. For, “all their works they do,” He saith, “to be seen of men.”4 These things He saith, accusing them in respect of vainglory, which kind of thing was their ruin. For the things before were signs of harshness and remissness, but these of the mad desire of glory. This drew them off from God, this caused them to strive before other spectators, and ruined them. For whatever kind of spectators any one may have, since it hath become his study to please these, such also are the contests he exhibits And he that wrestles among the noble, such also are the conflicts he takes in hand, but he among the cold and supine, himself also becomes more remiss. For instance, hath any one a beholder that delights in ridicule? he himself too becomes a mover of ridicule, that he may delight the spectator: hath another one who is earnest minded, and practises self-government? he endeavors himself to be such as he is, since such is the disposition of him who praises him.
But see again that here too the charge is with aggravation. For neither is it that they do some things in this way, some in another way, but all things absolutely this way.
Then, having blamed them for vainglory, He shows that it is not even about great and necessary things they are vainglorious (for neither had they these, but were destitute of good works), but for things without warmth or worth, and such as were certain proofs of their baseness, the phylacteries, the borders; of their garments. “For they make broad their phylacteries,” He saith, “and enlarge the borders of their garments.”5
And what are these phylacteries, and these borders? Since they were continually forgetting God’s benefits, He commanded His marvellous works to be inscribed on little tablets, and that these should be suspended from their hands (wherefore also He said, “They shall be immoveable in thine eyes”),6 which they called phylacteries; as many of our women now wear Gospels hung from their necks. And in order that by another thing again they may be reminded, like as many often do, binding round their finger with a piece of linen or a thread, as being likely to forget, this God enjoined them as children to do, “to sew a ribbon of blue on their garments, upon the fringe that hung round their feet, that they might look at it, and remember the commandments;”7 and they were called “borders.”
In these things then they were diligent, making wide the strips of the tablets, and enlarging the borders of their garments; which was a sign of the most extreme vanity. For wherefore art thou vainglorious, and dost make these wide? what, is this thy good work? what cloth it profit thee at all, if thou gain not the good results from them. For God seeks not the enlarging of these and making them wide, but our remembering His benefits. But if for almsgiving and prayer, although they be attended with labor, and be good deeds on our parts, we must not seek vainglory, how dost thou, O Jew, pride thyself in these things, which most of all convict thy remissness.
But they not in these only, but in other little things, suffered from this disease.
For, “they love,” He saith, “the uppermost rooms8 at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi.”9 For these things, although one may think them small, yet are they a cause of great evils. These things have overthrown both cities and churches.
And it comes upon me now even to weep, when I hear of the first seats, and the greetings, and consider how many ills were hence engendered to the churches of God, which it is not necessary to publish to you now; nay rather as many as are aged men do not even need to learn these things from us.10
But mark thou, I pray thee, how vainglory prevailed; when they were commanded not to be vainglorious, even in the synagogues, where they had entered to discipline others.
For to have this feeling at feasts, to howsoever great a degree, doth not seem to be so dreadful a thing; although even there the teachers ought to be held in reverence, and not in the church only, but everywhere. And like as a man, wherever he may appear, is manifestly distinguished from the brutes; so also ought the teacher, both speaking and holding his peace, and dining, and doing whatever it may be, to be distinguished as well by his gait, as by his look, and by his garb, and by all things generally. But they were on every account objects of ridicule, and in every respect disgraced themselves, making it their study to follow what they ought to flee. For they love them, it is said; but if the loving them be a matter of blame, what a thing must the doing them be; and to hunt and strive after them, how great an evil.
3. The other things then He carried no further than to accuse them, as being small and trifling, and as though His disciples. needed not at all to be corrected about these matters; but what was a cause of all the evils, even ambition, and the violent seizing of the teacher’s chair, this He brings forward, and corrects with diligence, touching this vehemently and earnestly charging them.
For what saith He? “Bat be not ye called Rabbi.” Then follows the cause also; “For one is your master, and all ye are brethren;”11 and one hath nothing more than another, in respect of his knowing nothing from himself. Wherefore Paul also saith, “For who is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers?”12 He said not masters. And again, “Call not, father,”13 not that they should not call, but they may know whom they ought to call Father, in the highest sense. For like as the master is not a master principally; so neither is the father. For He is cause of all, both of the masters, and of the fathers.
And again He adds, “Neither be ye called guides, for one is your guide, even Christ;”14 and He said not, I. For like as above He said, “What think ye of Christ?”15 and He said not, “of me,” so here too.
1 [The Greek text in this clause differs somewhat both from the received and from that followed in the R. V.—R.]
2 [kurivou kai; kurivou, referring to the two uses of the word in the OldTestament passage cited in Mt 22,44, but not in precise terms.—R.]
3 Dt 6,4.
4 Mt 23,4, Mt 437
5 Mt 23,5.
6 Dt 6,8 so LXX. A. V. “as frontlets between.”
7 Nb 15,38-39. [The passage is freely given from the LXX.]
8 [R. V. “the chief place.”]
9 With the oldest New Testament Mss. the word “Rabbi” is not re peated.—R.]
10 This passage has afforded grounds for a conjecture as to the date of the Homily, but the language is too general to prove anything; see Montfaucon’s Preface).
11 Mt 23,8.
12 1Co 3,5.
13 Mt 23,9.
14 Mt 23,10. [The word kaqhghthv" is rendered “Master” in our English versions, but “guide” is more literal; “the Christ” (R. V)., is preferable, especially in view of the context here.—R.]
But I should be glad to ask here, what they would say, who are repeatedly applying the term one, one, to the Father alone, to the rejection of the Only-begotten. Is the Father guide? All would declare it, and none would gainsay it. And yet “one,” He saith, “is your guide, even Christ.” For like as Christ, being called the one guide, casts not out the Father from being guide; even so the Father, being called Master, doth not cast out the Son from being Master. For the expression, one, one, is spoken in contra-distinction to men, and the rest of the creation.
Having warned them therefore against this grievous pest, and amended them, He instructs also how they may escape it; by humility. Wherefore He adds also, “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. For whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased, and whosoever shall abase himself shall be exalted.”16
For nothing is equal to the practice of modesty, wherefore He is continually reminding them of this virtue, both when He brought the children into the midst, and now. And, when on the mount, beginning the beatitudes, He began from hence. And in this place, He plucks it up by the roots hereby, saying, “He that abaseth himself shall be exalted.”
Seest thou how He draws off the hearer right over to the contrary thing. For not only doth He forbid him to set his heart upon the first place, but requires him to follow after the last. For so shalt thou obtain thy desire, He saith. Wherefore he that pursues his desire for the first, must follow after the last place. “For he that abaseth himself shall be exalted.”
And where shall we find this humility? Will ye that we go again to the city of virtue, the tents of the holy men, the mountains. I mean, and the groves? For there too shall we see this height of humility.
For men, some illustrious from their rank in the world, some from their wealth, in every way put themselves down, by their vesture, by their dwelling, by those to whom they minister; and, as in written characters, they throughout all things inscribe humility.
And the things that are incentives of arrogance, as to dress well, and to build houses splendidly, and to have many servants, things which often drive men even against their will to arrogance; these are all taken away. For they themselves light their fire, they themselves cleave the logs, themselves cook, themselves minister to those that come there.
No one can be heard insulting there, nor seen insulted, nor commanded, nor giving commands; but all are devoted to those that are waited on, and every one washes the strangers’ feet, and there is much contention about this. And he doeth it, not inquiring who it is, neither if he be a slave, nor if he be free; but in the case of every one fulfills this service. No man there is great nor mean. What then? Is there confusion? Far from it, but the highest order. For if any one be mean, he that is great seeth not this, but hath accounted himself again to be inferior even to him, and so becomes great.
There is one table for all, both for them that are served, and for them that serve; the same food, the same clothes, the same dwellings, the same manner of life. He is great there, who eagerly seizes the mean task. There is not mine and thine, but this expression is exterminated, that is a cause of countless wars.
4. And why dost thou marvel, if there be one manner of life and table and dress for all, since indeed there is even one soul to all, not in substance only (for this is with all men also), but in love? how then should it ever be lifted up itself against itself? There is no wealth and poverty there, honor and dishonor; how then should haughtiness and arrogance find an entrance? For they are indeed little and great in respect of their virtue; but, as I have said, no one seeth this. He that is little, feels not pain, as despised; for neither is there any one to despise him; and should any one spurn him, this above all are they taught, to be despised, to be spurned, to be set at nought, in word and in deed. And with the poor and maimed do they associate, and their tables are full of these guests; so that for this are they worthy of the heavens. And one tends the wounds of the mutilated, another leads the blind by the hand, a third bears him that is lamed of his leg.
There is no multitude of flatterers or parasites there; or rather they know not even what flattery is; whence then could they be lifted up at any time? For there is great equality amongst them, wherefore also there is much facility for virtue.
For by these are they of an inferior sort better instructed, than if they were compelled to give up the first place to them.
For like as the impetuous man derives instruction from him that is smitten, and submits to it; so the ambitious from him that claims not glory, but despises it. This they do there abundantly, and as the strife is great with us to obtain the first place, so great is it with them not to obtain it, but utterly to refuse it; and great is their earnest desire who shall have the advantage in honoring, not in being honored.
And besides, even their very employments persuade them to practise moderation, and not to be high-swollen. For who, I pray thee, digging in the earth, and watering, and planting, or making baskets, or weaving sackcloth, or practising any other handy works, will ever be proud? Who dwelling in poverty and wrestling with hunger, will ever be sick of this disease? There is not one. Therefore humility is easy to them. And like as here, it is a hard thing to be lowly minded, for the multitude of them who applaud and admire us, so there it is exceedingly easy.
And that man gives heed only to the wilderness, and sees birds flying, and trees waving, and a breeze blowing, and streams rushing through glens. Whence then should he be lifted up who dwells in solitude so great?
Not however that therefore we have from this an excuse, in that we are proud when living in the midst of men. For surely Abraham, when amidst Canaanites, said, “I am but dust and ashes;”17 and David, when in the midst of camps,18 “I am a worm, and no man;”19 and the apostle, in the midst of the world, “I am not meet to be called an apostle.”20 What comfort shall we have then; what plea, when even, having such great examples, we do not practise moderation? For even as they are worthy of countless crowns, having been the first that went the way of virtue, even so are we deserving of countless punishments, who not even after those that are departed, and are set before us in books, no nor even after these that are living, and held in admiration through their deeds, are drawn on to the like emulation.
For what couldest thou say, for not being amended? Art thou ignorant of letters, and hast not looked into the Scriptures that thou mightest learn the virtues of them of old? To say the truth, this is itself blameworthy, when the church is constantly standing open, not to enter in, and partake of those sacred streams.
However, although thou know not the departed by the Scriptures, these living men thou oughtest to see. But is there no one to lead thee? Come to me, and I will show thee the places of refuge of these holy men; come and learn thou of them something useful. Shining lamps are these in every part of the earth; as walls are they set about the cities. For this cause have they occupied the deserts, that they may instruct thee to despise the tumults in the midst of the world.
For they, as being strong, are able even in the midst of the raging of the waters to enjoy a calm; but thou, who art leaky on every side, hast need of tranquility, and to take breath a little, after the successive waves. Go then there continually, that, having purged away the abiding stain by their prayers and admonitions, thou mayest both pass in the best manner the present life, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom and with whom, be unto the Father, together with the Holy Ghost, glory, might, honor, now and ever, and world with. out end. Amen.
15 Mt 22,42. [R. V., “the Christ.”]
16 Mt 23,11-12. [R. V. “humbled,” and “humble.” The A. V here uses both “abase” and “humble.”—R..]
17 Gn 18,27.
18 Or. “courts.” [stratopevdoi"; in earlier Greek “camps,” but in Byzantine Greek applied to the suite of the Emperor.—R.]
19 Ps 22,6.
20 1Co 15,9.
73 Mt 23,14
“Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers: therefore ye shall receive greater damnation.”
After this, next He derides them for gluttony: and the grievous thing was, that not from rich men’s goods, but from the poor they indulged their own belly, and aggravated their poverty, which they should have relieved. For neither did they merely eat, but devoured.
Moreover also the manner of their overreaching was yet more grievous, “for a pretense making long prayers.”
For every one is worthy of vengeance who doeth any evil thing; but he that is deriving even the reason for so doing from godliness, and is using this cloke for his wickedness, is justly liable to a far more grievous punishment. And wherefore did He not depose them? Because the time suffered it not as yet. So therefore He lets them alone for a time, but by His sayings, He secures that the people be not deceived, lest, through the dignity of those men, they be drawn on to the same emulation.
For as He had said, “Whatsoever they bid you do, that do;” He shows how many things they do amiss, lest from thence He should be supposed amongst the unwise to commit all to them.
“Woe unto you, for ye shut up the kingdom against men; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”1 But if to profit no one be a charge against a man, even to hurt and hinder, what plea hath that? But what means, “them that are entering in?” Them that are fit for it. For when they were to lay injunctions on others, they used to make the burdens intolerable, but when they themselves were to do any of the things required, on the contrary, so far from doing anything, they went much beyond this in wickedness, they even used to corrupt others. These are they that are called pests,2 who make their employment the ruin of others, standing right contrary to teachers. For if it be the part of a teacher to save that which is perishing, to destroy that which is on the point of being saved is that of a destroyer.
After this, again another charge: compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves;”3 that is, not even the fact that hardly ye have taken him, and with endless toils, induces you to be sparing towards him, although of the things we have hardly acquired, we are more sparing, but you not even this renders more gentle.
Here He lays to their charge two things; one, that they are unprofitable for the salvation of the many, and need much toil in order to win over even one; another, that they were remiss in the preservation of him whom they had gained, or rather that they were not only careless, but even traitors, by their wickedness in their life corrupting him, and making him worse. For when the disciple sees his teachers to be such as these, he becomes worse than they. For he stops not at his teacher’s wickedness; but as when his teacher is virtuous, he imitates him, so when he is bad, he even goes beyond him, by reason of our proneness to what is evil.
And He calls him “a child of hell,” that is, a very hell. And He said “twofold more than you,” that He might both alarm those, and make these feel the more severely, because they are teachers of wickedness. And not this only, but because they labor to instill into their disciples a greater wickedness, hardening them to a much greater depravity than they have, and this is above all a mark of a depraved soul.
Then He derides them for folly also, because they bade them disregard the greater commandments. And yet before He had said the opposite, that “they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne.” But these things too they did again and were doing everything for the corruption of those who were subject to them, in little things requiring strictness, and despising the great.
“For ye pay tithe,” He saith, “of mint and anise, and have omitted4 the weightier matters of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith. These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone.”5
1 [ This verse is omitted in the best authoritites, and its position varies in the later Mss. and versions which give it. In this Homily it is placed before our verse 23. It is well attested in Mc 12,40, and Lc 20,47—R.]
2 Mt 23,13. [See note 1. “Of heaven” is omitted here, but in none of our New Testament authorities.—R.]
4 Mt 23,15. [R. V., “a son of hell,” with the margin, Greek, “Gehenna.” ]
Here then He naturally saith it, where it is tithe and almsgiving, for what doth it hurt to give alms? But not to keep the law; for neither doth it say thus. Therefore here indeed He saith, “These ought ye to have done;” but where He is speaking about clean and unclean, He no longer adds this, but makes a distinction, and shows that the inward purity is necessarily followed by the outward, but the converse is no longer so.
For where there is a plea of love to man, He passes it over lightly, for this very reason, and because it was not yet time expressly and plainly to revoke the things of the law. But where it is an observance of bodily purification, He overthrows it more plainly.
So, therefore, while with respect to alms He saith, “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone,” touching purifications He speaks not on this wise, but what? “Ye make clean,” He saith, “the outside of the cup and the platter, but within they are full of extortion, and injustice. Cleanse that which is within the cup, that the outside may be clean also.”6 And He took it from a thing confessed and manifest, from a cup and platter.
2. Then, to show that there is no harm arising from despising bodily cleansings, but very great vengeance from not regarding the purifications of the soul, which is virtue, He called these “a gnat,” for they are small and nothing, but those other a camel, for they were beyond what men could bear. Wherefore also He saith, “Straining at the gnat, and swallowing the camel.”7 For indeed the one were enacted for the sake of the other, I mean of mercy and judgment; so that not even then did they profit being done alone. For whereas the little things were mentioned for the sake of the great, and after that these last were neglected, and labor was spent on those alone, nothing was gained even then by this. For the greater followed not the lesser, but the lesser were sure to follow these greater.
But these things He saith to show, that even before grace was come, these were not among the principal things, or amongst those upon which men should spend their labor, but the matters required were different. But if before the grace they were so, much more when high commandments had come, were these things unprofitable, and it was not meet to practise them at all.
In every case then is vice a grievous thing, but especially when it does not so much as think it needs amendment; and it is yet more grievous, when it thinks itself sufficient even to amend others; to express which Christ calls them “blind guides.” For if for a blind man not to think he needs a guide be extreme misery and wretchedness; when he wishes himself to guide others, see to what a gulf it leads.
But these things He said, by all intimating their mad desire of glory, and their exceeding frenzy concerning this pest. For this became a cause to them of all their evils, namely, that they did all things for display. This both led them away from the faith, and caused them to neglect what really is virtue, and induced them to busy themselves about bodily purifyings only, neglecting the purifications of the soul. So therefore to lead them into what really is virtue, and to the purifyings of the soul, He makes mention of mercy, and judgment, and faith. For these are the things that comprise our life, these are what purify the soul, justice, love to man, truth; the one inclining us to pardon8 and not suffering us to be excessively severe and unforgiving to them that sin (for then shall we gain doubly, both becoming kind to man, and hence meeting also ourselves with much kindness from the God of all), and causing us both to sympathize with them that are despitefully entreated, and to assist them; the other not suffering them to be deceitful, and crafty.
But neither when He saith, “These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the others undone,” doth He say it as introducing a legal observance; away with the thought;9 neither with regard to the platter and the cup, when He said, “Cleanse that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also,” doth He bring us unto the old regard for little things, but on the contrary indeed, He doth all things to show it to be superfluous. For He said not, Cleanse the outside of them also, but that which is within, and the outside is sure to follow.
And besides, neither is it concerning a cup and platter he is speaking, but of soul and body, by the outside meaning the body, by the inside the soul. But if with regard to the platter there be need of that which is within much more with regard to thee.
But ye do the contrary, saith He, observing things trifling and external, ye neglect what are great and inward: whence very great mischief arises, for that thinking ye have duly performed all, ye despise the other things; and despising them, ye do not so much as strive or attempt to perform them.
After this, He again derides them for vainglory, calling ’them “whited sepulchers.”10 and unto all adding, “ye hypocrites;” which thing is the cause of all their evils, and the origin of their ruin. And He did not merely call them whited sepulchers, but said, that they were full of uncleanness and hypocrisy. And these things He spake, indicating the cause wherefore they did not believe, because they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
But these things not Christ only, but the prophets also constantly lay to their charge, that they spoil, that their rulers judge not according to the rule of justice, and every where you may find the sacrifices indeed refused, but these things required. So that there is nothing strange, nothing new, neither in the lawgiving, nor in the accusation, nay not even in the comparison of the sepulchre. For the prophet makes mention thereof, neither did he call them merely a sepulchre, “but their throat an open sepulchre.”11
Such are many men now also, decking themselves indeed outwardly, but full of iniquity within. For now too there is many a mode, and many a care for outward purifications, but of those in the soul not so much as one. But if indeed any one should tear open each man’s conscience, many worms and much corruption would he find, and an ill savor beyond utterance; unreasonable and wicked lusts I mean, which are more unclean than worms.
3. But that “they” should be such persons is not “so” dreadful a thing (although it be dreadful), but that “you,” that have been counted worthy to become temples of God, should of a sudden have become sepulchers, having as much ill savor, this is extreme wretchedness. He in whom Christ dwells, and the Holy Spirit hath worked, and such great mysteries, that this man should be a sepulchre, what wretchedness is this? What mournings and lamentations doth this call for, when the members of Christ have become a tomb of uncleanness? Consider how thou wast born, of what things thou hast been counted worthy, what manner of garment thou hast received, how thou wast built a temple without a breach! how fair! not adorned with gold, neither with pearls, but with the spirit that is more precious than these.
Consider that no sepulchre is made in a city, so then neither shalt thou be able to appear in the city above. For if here this is forbidden, much more there. Or rather even here thou art an object of scorn to all, bearing about a dead soul, and not to be scorned only, but also to be shunned. For tell me. if any one were to go round, bearing about a dead body, would not all have rushed away? would not all have fled? Think this now likewise. For thou goest about, bearing a spectacle far more grievous than this, a soul deadened by sins, a soul paralyzed.
Who now will pity such a one? For when thou dost not pity thine own soul, how shall another pity him that is so cruel, such an enemy to himself?12 If any one, where thou didst sleep and eat, had buried a dead body, what wouldest thou not have done? but thou art burying a dead soul, not where thou dinest, nor where thou sleepest, but in the members of Christ: and art thou not afraid lest a thousand lightnings and thunderbolts be hurled from above upon thine head?
And how dost thou even dare to set foot in the churches of God, and in holy temples, having within thee the savor of so much abomination? For if one bearing a dead body into the king’s courts and burying it would have suffered the utmost punishment, thou setting thy foot in the sacred courts. and filling the house with so much ill savor, consider what a punishment thou wilt undergo.
Imitate that harlot who anointed with ointment the feet of Christ, and filled the whole house with the odor, the opposite to which thou doest to His house! For what though thou be not sensible of the ill savor? For this most of all is the grievous part of the disease; wherefore also thou art incurably diseased, and more grievously than they that are maimed in their bodies, and become fetid. For that disease indeed is both felt by the sick and is without any blame, nay even is deserving of pity; but this of hatred and punishment.
Since then both in this respect it is more grievous, and from the sick not being sensible of it as he ought to be; come, give thyself to my words, that I may teach thee plainly the mischief of it.
But first listen to what thou sayest in the Psalm, “Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as incense.”13 When then not incense, but a stinking smoke arises from thee, and from thy deeds, what punishment dost thou not deserve to undergo?
What then is the stinking smoke? Many come in gazing about at the beauty of women; others curious about the blooming youth of boys. After this, dost thou not marvel, how bolts are not launched, and all things are not plucked up from their foundations? For worthy both of thunderbolts and hell are the things that are done; but God, who is long-suffering, and of great mercy, forbears awhile His wrath, calling thee to repentance and amendment.
What doest thou, O man? Art thou curiously looking after women’s beauty, and dost thou not shudder at thus doing despite unto the temple of God? Doth the church seem to thee a brothel, and less honorable than the market-place. For in a market-place indeed thou art afraid and ashamed to appear to be looking after any woman, but in God’s temple, when God Himself is discoursing unto thee, and threatening about these things, thou art committing whoredom and adultery at the very time in which thou art being told not to do this. And dost thou not shudder, nor stand amazed?
These things do the spectacles of wantonness teach you, the pest that is so hard to put down, the deleterious sorceries, the grievous snares of the thoughtless, the pleasurable destruction of the unchaste
Therefore the prophet also blaming thee, said, “Thine eyes are not good, neither is thine heart.”14
It were better for such men to be blind; it were better to be diseased, than to abuse thine eyes for these purposes.
It were meet indeed that ye had within you the wall to part you from the women; but since ye are not so minded, our fathers thought it necessary by these boards15 to wall you off; since I hear from the eider ones, that of old there were not so much as these partitions; “For in Christ Jesus there is neither male nor female.”16 And in the apostle’s time also both men and women were together. Because the men were men, and the women women, but now altogether the contrary; the women have urged themselves into the manners of courtezans, but the men are in no better state than frantic horses.
Heard ye not, that the men and women were gathered together in the upper room, and that congregation was worthy of the heavens? And very reasonably. For even women then practised much self-denial, and the men gravity and chastity. Hear, for instance, the seller of purple saying, “If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come in, and abide with me.”17 Hear the women, who went about with the apostles, having taken unto themselves manly courage, Priscilla, Persis, and the rest; from whom our present women are as far removed as our men from their men.
4. For then indeed even travelling into far countries women brought not on themselves evil report; but now even though brought up in a chamber, they hardly escape this suspicion. But these things arise from their decking of themselves, and their luxury, Then the business of those women was to spread the word; but now to appear beauteous, and fair, and comely in countenance. This is glory to them, this salvation; but of lofty and great works they do not even dream.
What woman exerts herself to make her husband better? what man hath taken to himself this care to amend his wife? There is not one: but the woman’s whole study is upon the care of ornaments of gold, and raiment, and the other adornments of the person, and how to increase their substance; but the man’s both this, and others more than this, all however worldly.
Who, when about to marry, inquires about the disposition and nurture of the damsel? No one; but straightway about money, and possessions, and measures of property of various and different kinds; like as if he were about to buy something, or to settle some common contract.
Therefore they do even so call marriage. For I have heard many say, such a man has contracted with such a woman, that is, has married. And they offer insult to the gifts of God, and as though buying and selling, so do they marry, and are giver in marriage.
And writings there are, requiring greater security than those about buying and selling. Learn how those of old married, and imitate them. How then did they marry? They inquired about ways of life, and morals, and virtue of the soul. Therefore they had no need of writings, nor of security by parchment and ink; for the bride’s disposition sufficed them in the place of all.
I therefore entreat you likewise not to seek after wealth and affluence, but a good disposition, and gentleness. Seek for a pious and self-denying damsel, and these will be to thee better than countless treasures. If thou seek the things of God, these others will come also; but if thou pass by those, and hasten unto these, neither will these follow.
But such a man, one will say, became rich by his wife! Art thou not ashamed of bringing forward such examples? I had ten thousand times sooner become a poor man, as I have heard many say, than gain wealth from a wife. For what can be more unpleasing than that wealth? What more painful than the abundance? What more shameful than to be notorious from thence, and for it to be said by all, such a man became rich by a wife? For the domestic discomforts I pass by, all that must needs result from hence, the wife’s pride, the servility, the strifes, the reproaches of the servants. “The beggar,” “the ragged one.” “the base one, and sprung of base.” “Why, what had he when he came in?” “Do not all things belong to our mistress?” But thou dost not care at all about these sayings, for neither art thou a freeman. Since the parasites likewise hear worse things than these, and are not pained wherefore neither are these, but rather pride themselves in their disgrace; and when we tell them of these things,”Let me have,” saith one of them, “something pleasant and sweet, and let it choke me.” Alas! the devil,what proverbs hath he brought into the world, of power to overturn the whole life of such persons. See at least this self-same devilish and pernicious saying; of how much ruin it is full. For it means nothing else than these words, Have thou no regard to what is honorable; have thou no regard to what is just; let all those things be cast aside, seek one thing alone, pleasure. Though the thing stifle thee, let it be thy choice; though all that meet thee spurn thee, though they smear thy face with mire, though they drive thee away as a dog, bear all. And what else would swine say, if they had a voice? What else would filthy dogs? But perhaps not even they would have said such things, as the devil hath persuaded men to rave.
Wherefore I entreat you, being conscious of the senselessness of such words as these, to flee such proverbs, and to choose out those in the Scriptures that are contrary to them.
But what are these? “Go not,” it is said, “after thy lusts, and refrain thyself from thine appetites.”18 And, touching an harlot again, it is said in opposition to this proverb, “Give not heed to a bad woman: for honey droppeth from the lips of a woman that is an harlot, which, for a season, is luscious unto thy throat; but afterwards thou shalt find it more bitter than gall, and sharper than a two-edged sword.”19 Unto these last then let us listen, not unto those. For hence indeed spring our mean, hence our slavish thoughts, hence men become brutes, because in everything they will follow after pleasure according to this proverb, which, even without arguments of ours, is of itself ridiculous. For after one is choked, what is the gain of sweetness?
Cease, therefore, to set up such great absurdity, and to kindle hell and unquenchable fire; and let us look steadfastly (at length though late) as we ought, unto the things to come, having put away the film on our eyes, that we may both pass the present life honestly, and with much reverence and godly fear, and attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory world without end. Amen.
5 [R. V., “have left undone.”]
6 Mt 23,23. [R. V., “to have left the others undone.”“And cummin” is omttted.—R.]
7 Mt 23,25-26. [The minor textual variations appear in the above English rendering.]
8 [Mt 23,24. R. V., correctly, “strain out the gnat,” etc.]
9 [The Oxford edition has “candor,” probably a misprint, since the Greek term is suggnwvmhn.—R.]
10 [The clause, “for this we showed before,” is omitted by the translator.—R.]
11 Mt 23,27.
12 Ps 5,9.
13 [polemion o[nta eJautw`/ kai; eJcqrovn.]
14 Ps 141,2.
15 Jr 22,17, LXX ).
17 Ga 3,28. [The passage is inexactly cited, the form being altered to correspond with the previous part of the verse. Comp.R.V.—R.]
18 Ac 16,15. [Two Mss. have a reading more exactly agreeing with the New Testament text.—R.]
19 Si 18,30.
Chrysostom hom. on Mt 72