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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 30

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 30.—Whether Angels are to Be Reckoned Our Neighbors.

31.  There arises further in this connection a question about angels.  For they are happy in the enjoyment of Him whom we long to enjoy; and the more we enjoy Him in this life as through a glass darkly, the more easy do we find it to bear our pilgrimage, and the more eagerly do we long for its termination.  But it is not irrational to ask whether in those two commandments is included the love of angels also.  For that He who commanded us to love our neighbor made no exception, as far as men are concerned, is shown both by our Lord Himself in the Gospel, and by the Apostle Paul.  For when the man to whom our Lord delivered those two commandments, and to whom He said that on these hang all the law and the prophets, asked Him, “And who is my neighbor?” He told him of a certain man who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves, and was p. 531 severely wounded by them, and left naked and half dead. 1739   And He showed him that nobody was neighbor to this man except him who took pity upon him and came forward to relieve and care for him.  And the man who had asked the question admitted the truth of this when he was himself interrogated in turn.  To whom our Lord says, “Go and do thou likewise;” teaching us that he is our neighbor whom it is our duty to help in his need, or whom it would be our duty to help if he were in need.  Whence it follows, that he whose duty it would be in turn to help us is our neighbor.  For the name “neighbor” is a relative one, and no one can be neighbor except to a neighbor.  And, again, who does not see that no exception is made of any one as a person to whom the offices of mercy may be denied when our Lord extends the rule even to our enemies?  “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.” 1740

32.  And so also the Apostle Paul teaches when he says:  “For this, Thou shall not commit adultery, Thou shall not kill, Thou shall not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbor.” 1741   Whoever then supposes that the apostle did not embrace every man in this precept, is compelled to admit, what is at once most absurd and most pernicious, that the apostle thought it no sin, if a man were not a Christian or were an enemy, to commit adultery with his wife, or to kill him, or to covet his goods.  And as nobody but a fool would say this, it is clear that every man is to be considered our neighbor, because we are to work no ill to any man.

33.  But now, if every one to whom we ought to show, or who ought to show to us, the offices of mercy is by right called a neighbor, it is manifest that the command to love our neighbor embraces the holy angels also, seeing that so great offices of mercy have been performed by them on our behalf, as may easily be shown by turning the attention to many passages of Holy Scripture.  And on this ground even God Himself, our Lord, desired to be called our neighbor.  For our Lord Jesus Christ points to Himself under the figure of the man who brought aid to him who was lying half dead on the road, wounded and abandoned by the robbers.  And the Psalmist says in his prayer, “I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother.” 1742   But as the Divine nature is of higher excellence than, and far removed above, our nature, the command to love God is distinct from that to love our neighbor.  For He shows us pity on account of His own goodness, but we show pity to one another on account of His;—that is, He pities us that we may fully enjoy Himself; we pity one another that we may fully enjoy Him.


Footnotes

531:1739

Luke 10.29, foll.

531:1740

Matt. 5.44.

531:1741

Rom. 13:9, 10.

531:1742

Ps. 35.14.


Next: Chapter 31

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