Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom.: Homily XLVII
Matt. 13:34, 35.
“All these things spake Jesus unto the multitudes in parables, and without a parable spake He not 1836 unto them; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things that have been kept secret 1837 from the foundation of the world.” 1838
But Mark saith, “As they were able to hear it, He spake the word unto them in parables.” 1839
Then pointing out that He is not making a new thing, He brings in the Prophet also, proclaiming beforehand this His manner of teaching. And to teach us the purpose of Christ, how He discoursed in this manner, not that they might be ignorant, but that He might lead them to inquiry, he added, “And without a parable spake He nothing unto them.” Yet surely He did say many things without a parable; but then nothing. And for all this no man asked Him questions, whereas the Prophets, we know, they were often questioning: as Ezekiel, 1840 for instance; as many others: but these did no such thing. Yet surely His sayings were enough to cast them into perplexity, and to stir them up to the inquiry; for indeed a very sore punishment was threatened by those parables: however, not even so were they moved.
Wherefore also He left them and went away. For,
“Then,” saith he, “Jesus sent the multitudes away, 1841 and went into His house.” 1842
And not one of the Scribes follows Him; whence it is clear that for no other purpose did they follow, than to take hold of Him. 1843 But when they marked not His sayings, thenceforth He let them be.
“And His disciples come unto Him, asking Him concerning the parable of the tares;” 1844 although at times wishing to learn, and afraid 1845 to ask. Whence then arose their confidence in this instance? They had been told, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven;” and they were emboldened. Wherefore also they ask in private; not as grudging the multitude, but observing their Masters law. For, “To these,” saith He, “it is not given.”
And why may it be that they let pass the parable of the leaven, and of the mustard seed, and inquire concerning this? They let those pass, as being plainer; but about this, as having an affinity to that before spoken, and as setting forth something more than it, they are desirous to learn (since He would not have spoken the same to them a second time); for indeed they saw how severe was the threatening therein uttered. 1846 Wherefore neither doth He blame them, but rather completes His previous statements.
And, as I am always saying, the parables must not be explained throughout word for word, since many absurdities will follow; this even He Himself is teaching us here in thus interpreting this parable. Thus He saith not at all who the servants are that came to Him, but, implying that He brought them in, for the sake of some order, and to make up the picture, He omits that part, and interprets those that are most urgent and essential, and for the sake of which the parable was spoken; signifying Himself to be Judge and Lord of all.
“And He answered,” so it is said, “and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, the good seed, these are the children of the kingdom, but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that soweth them is the devil; and the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of Man shall send His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; 1847 p. 286 and shall cast them into the furnace of fire, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” 1848
For whereas He Himself is the sower, and that of His own field, and out of His own kingdom He gathers, it is quite clear that the present world also is His.
But mark His unspeakable love to man, and His leaning to bounty, and His disinclination to punishment; in that, when He sows, He sows in His own person, but when He punishes, it is by others, that is, by the angels.
“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Not because it will be just so much only, but because this star is surpassed in brightness by none that we know. He uses the comparisons that are known to us.
And yet surely elsewhere He saith, the harvest is already come; as when He saith of the Samaritans, “Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” 1849 And again, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” 1850 How then saith He there, that the harvest is already come, while here He said, it is yet to be? According to another signification.
And how having elsewhere said, “One soweth, and another reapeth,” 1851 doth He here say, it is Himself that soweth? Because there again, He was speaking, to distinguish the apostles, not from Himself, but from the prophets, and that in the case of the Jews and Samaritans. Since certainly it was He who sowed through the prophets also.
And at times He calls this self-same thing both harvest and sowing, naming it with relation, now to one thing, now to another. Thus when He is speaking of the conviction and obedience of His converts, 1852 He calls the thing “a harvest,” as though He had accomplished all; but when He is seeking after the fruit of their hearing, He calls it seed, and the end, harvest.
And how saith He elsewhere, that “the righteous are caught up first?” 1853 Because they are indeed caught up first, but Christ being come, those others are given over to punishment, and then the former depart into the kingdom of heaven. For because they must be in heaven, but He Himself is to come and judge all men here; having passed sentence upon these, like some king He rises with His friends, leading them to that blessed portion. Seest thou that the punishment is twofold, first to be burnt up, and then to fall from that glory?
2. But wherefore doth He still go on, when the others have withdrawn, to speak to these also in parables? They had become wiser by His sayings, so as even to understand. At any rate, to them He saith afterwards,
“Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.” 1854 So completely, together with its other objects, did the parable effect this too, that it made them more clear sighted. What then saith He again?
“The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.” 1855
Much as in the other place, the mustard seed and the leaven have but some little difference from each other, so here also these two parables, that of the treasure and that of the pearl. This being of course signified by both, that we ought to value the gospel above all things. And the former indeed, of the leaven and of the mustard seed, was spoken with a view to the power of the gospel, and to its surely prevailing over the world; but these declare its value, and great price. For as it extends itself like mustard seed, and prevails like leaven, so it is precious like a pearl, and affords full abundance like a treasure. We are then to learn not this only, that we ought to strip ourselves of everything else, and cling to the gospel, but also that we are to do so with joy; and when a man is dispossessing himself of his goods, he is to know that the transaction is gain, and not loss.
Seest thou how both the gospel is hid in the world, and the good things in the gospel?
Except thou sell all, thou buyest not; except thou have such a soul, anxious and inquiring, thou findest not. Two things therefore are requisite, abstinence from worldly matters, and watchfulness. For He saith “One seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one of great price, sold all and bought it.” For the truth is one, and not in many divisions.
And much as he that hath the pearl knows p. 287 indeed himself that he is rich, but others know not, many times, that he is holding it in his hand (for there is no corporeal bulk); just so also with the gospel, they that have hold of it know that they are rich, but the unbelievers, not knowing of this treasure, are in ignorance also of our wealth.
3. After this, that we may not be confident in the gospel merely preached, nor think that faith only suffices us for salvation, He utters also another, an awful parable. Which then is this? That of the net.
“For the kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind; which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away.” 1856
And wherein doth this differ from the parable of the tares? For there too the one are saved, the other perish; but there, for choosing of wicked doctrines; and those before this again, for not giving heed to His sayings, but these for wickedness of life; who are the most wretched of all, having attained to His knowledge, and being caught, but not even so capable of being saved.
Yet surely He saith elsewhere, that the shepherd Himself separates them, but here He saith the angels do this; 1857 and so with respect to the tares. How then is it? At one time He discourses to them in a way more suited to their dullness, 1858 at another time in a higher strain.
And this parable He interprets without so much as being asked, but of His own motion He explained it by one part of it, and increased their awe. For lest, on being told, “They cast the bad away,” thou shouldest suppose that ruin to be without danger; by His interpretation He signified the punishment, saying, “They will cast them into the furnace.” 1859 And He declared the gnashing of teeth, and the anguish, that it is unspeakable.
Seest thou how many are the ways of destruction? By the rock, by the thorns, by the wayside, by the tares, by the net. Not without reason therefore did He say, “Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go away 1860 by it.” 1861
4. Having then uttered all this, and concluded His discourse in a tone to cause fear, and signified that these are the majority of cases (for He dwelt more on them). He saith,
“Have ye understood all these things? They say unto Him, Yea, Lord.” 1862
Then because they understood, He again praises them, saying,
“Therefore every Scribe, which is instructed in the Kingdom of Heaven, 1863 is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.” 1864
Wherefore elsewhere also He saith, “I will send you wise men and scribes.” 1865 Seest thou how so far from excluding the Old Testament, He even commends it, and speaks publicly in favor of it, calling it “a treasure”?
So that as many as are ignorant of the divine Scriptures cannot be “householders;” such as neither have of themselves, nor receive of others, but neglect their own case, perishing with famine. And not these only, but the heretics too, 1866 are excluded from this blessing. For they bring not forth things new and old. For they have not the old things, wherefore neither have they the new; even as they who have not the new, neither have they the old, but are deprived of both. For these are bound up and interwoven one with another.
Let us then hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the Scriptures, to what harm we are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty. For when are we to apply ourselves to the real practice of virtue, who do not so much as know the very laws according to which our practice should be guided? But while the rich, those who are mad about wealth, are constantly shaking out their garments, that they may not become moth-eaten; dost thou, seeing forgetfulness worse than any moth wasting thy soul, neglect conversing with books? dost thou not thrust away from thee the pest, adorn thy soul, look continually upon the image of virtue, and acquaint thyself with her members and her head? For she too hath a head and members more seemly than any graceful and beautiful body.
What then, saith one, is the head of virtue? Humility. Wherefore Christ also begins with it, saying, “Blessed are the poor.” 1867 This head hath not locks and ringlets, but beauty, such as to gain Gods favor. For, “Unto whom shall I look,” saith He, “but unto him that is meek and humble, and trembleth at my words?” 1868 And, “Mine eyes are upon the meek of the earth.” 1869 And, “The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a contrite heart.” 1870 This head, instead of p. 288 locks, and flowing hair, bears sacrifices acceptable to God. It is a golden altar, and a spiritual place of sacrifice; 1871 “For a contrite spirit is a sacrifice to God.” 1872 This is the mother of wisdom. If a man have this, he will have the rest also.
Hast thou seen a head such as thou hadst never seen? Wilt thou see the face too, or rather mark it? Mark then for the present its color, how ruddy, and blooming, and very engaging; and observe what are its ingredients. “Well, and what are they?” Shame-facedness and blushing. Wherefore also some one saith, “Before a shamefaced man shall go favor.” 1873 This sheds much beauty over the other members also. Though thou mix ten thousand colors, thou wilt not produce such a bloom.
And if thou wilt see the eyes also, behold them exactly delineated with decency and temperance. Wherefore they become also so beautiful and sharpsighted, as to behold even the Lord Himself. For, “Blessed,” saith He, “are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” 1874
And her mouth is wisdom and understanding, and the knowledge of spiritual hymns. And her heart, acquaintance with Scripture, and maintenance of sound doctrines, and benevolence, and kindness. And as without this last there is no living, so without that other is never any salvation. Yea, for from that all her excellencies have birth. She hath also for feet and hands the manifestations of her good works. She hath a soul too, godliness. She hath likewise a bosom of gold, and firmer than adamant, even fortitude; and all may be taken captive more easily than that bosom may be riven asunder. And the spirit that is in the brain and heart, is charity. 1875
5. Wilt thou that in her actual deeds also I show thee her image? Consider, I pray thee, this very evangelist: although we have not his whole life in writing, nevertheless even from a few facts one may see his image shine forth.
First, as to his having been lowly and contrite, hear him, after his gospel, calling himself a publican; for his being also merciful, see him stripping himself of all and following Jesus; and as to his piety, it is evident from his doctrines. And his wisdom again it is easy to see from the gospel which he composed, and his charity 1876 (for he cared for the whole world); and the manifestation of his good works, from the throne on which he is to sit; 1877 and his courage too, “by his departing with joy from the presence of the council.” 1878
Let us imitate then this virtue, and most of all his humility and almsgiving, without which one cannot be saved. And this is shown by the five virgins, and together with them by the Pharisee. For without virginity indeed it is possible to see the kingdom, but without almsgiving it cannot be. For this is among the things that are essential, and hold all together. Not unnaturally then have we called it the heart of virtue. But this heart, unless it supply breath to all, is soon extinguished. In the same way then as the fountain also, if it confine its streams to itself, grows putrid; so it is with the rich also, when they keep their possessions to themselves. Wherefore even in our common conversation we say, “great is the consumption 1879 of wealth with such a man;” instead of saying, “great is the abundance, great the treasure.” For in truth there is a consumption, not of the possessors only, but of the riches themselves. Since both garments laid by spoil, and gold is cankered, and corn is eaten up, and the soul too of their owner is more than they all cankered and corrupted by the cares of them.
And if thou be willing to produce in the midst a misers soul; like a garment eaten by innumerable worms, and not having any sound part, even so wilt thou find it, perforated on all sides by cares; rotted, cankered by sins.
But not such the poor mans soul, the soul of him, I mean, that is voluntarily poor; but it is resplendent as gold, it shines like a pearl, and it blooms like a rose. For no moth is there, no thief is there, no worldly care, but as angels converse, so do they.
Wouldest thou see the beauty of this soul? Wouldest thou acquaint thyself with the riches of poverty? He commands not men, but he commands evil spirits. He stands not at a kings side, but he hath taken his stand near to God. He is the comrade, not of men, but of angels. He hath not chests, two, or three, or twenty, but such an abundance as to account the whole world as nothing. He hath not a treasure, but heaven. He needs not slaves, or rather hath his passions for slaves, hath for slaves the motives 1880 that rule over kings. For that which commands him who wears the purple, that motive shrinks before him. 1881 And royalty, and gold, and all p. 289 such things, he laughs at, as at childrens toys; and like hoops, and dice, and heads, and balls, so doth he count all these to be contemptible. For he hath an adorning, which they who play with these things cannot even see.
What then can be superior to this poor man? He hath at least heaven for his pavement; but if the pavement be like this, imagine the roof! But hath he not horses and chariots? Why, what need hath he of these, who is to be borne upon the clouds, and to be with Christ?
Having these things then impressed on our minds, let us, both men and women, seek after that wealth, and the plenty that cannot be rifled; that we may attain also unto the kingdom of heaven, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and might forever and ever. Amen.
[R.V., “nothing,” following a reading accepted by Chrysostom, both here and in the comments. The received text has “not.”—R. ]285:1837
[R.V., “things hidden.”]285:1838
Comp. Ps. lxxviii. 2.285:1839
Matt. iv. 33.285:1840
Ezek. 12:9, Ezek. 24:19, Ezek. 37:18.285:1841
[R.V., “he left the multitudes.” Compare the previous sentence. But Chrysostom, with the rec. text inserts “Jesus.”—R.]285:1842
Matt. xiii. 36, the house (rec. text).285:1843
[Matt. xiii. 36, freely cited.]285:1845
Mark ix. 32.285:1846
This passage is translated according to a conjectural emendation of Mr. Field. [The Greek text seems to be corrupt here. The mss. readings yield no intelligible sense that can be considered correct.—R.]285:1847
Or, “produce lawlessness,” το ποιοντα τν νομαν, in which sense it seems more directly applicable to heretics, who may not be vicious in their own lives, but produce a contempt of Gods law by their false doctrines. Transl.286:1848
Matt. xiii. 37-43. [The long citation presents few textual variations of any kind, none that affect the sense.—R.]286:1849
John iv. 35.286:1850
Matt. 9:37, Luke 10:2.286:1851
John iv. 37.286:1852
1 Thess. iv. 17.286:1854
Matt. xiii. 51. [R.V., omits “Lord,” so the oldest mss. and the Vulgate.—R.]286:1855
Matt. xiii. 44-46. [Here also the Greek text presents few peculiarities; τ is omitted before ἀγρ in Matt. 13.44, as in a few mss. of the New Testament.—R.]287:1856
Matt. 13:47, 48. [R.V., “which, when it was filled, they drew upon the beach,” etc.]287:1857
Matt. xxv. 32.287:1858
Matt. xiii. 50.287:1860
ἀπερχμενοι, rec. text, εσερχμενοι .287:1861
Matt. vii. 13.287:1862
Matt. xiii. 51. [See note 7, p. 293.—R.]287:1863
[R.V., “hath been made a disciple to the Kingdom of Heaven.” Chrysostom reads ἐν, the received text has ε with the accusative.—R.]287:1864
Matt. xiii. 52.287:1865
Matt. xxiii. 34.287:1866
i.e., in particular the Manichæans, and other sects which deny the divinity of the Old Testament.287:1867
Matt. 5:3, Luke 6:20.287:1868
Is. lxvi. 2.287:1869
Ps. 101:6, Ps. 76:9.287:1870
Ps. xxxiv. 18.288:1871
βμο, θυσιαστριον. These two words are commonly used, the former in a bad, the other in a good sense, of Heathen, and Christian, or Jewish, altars respectively. This seems to be an invariable rule, as to the word βμο, in the Greek Bible except that it is used of the Jewish altar in the following places of the Apocrypha: Sir. 50:12, 14, 2 Macc. 2:19, 2 Macc. 13:8, which may suffice to show that it was occasionally employed, as by St. Chrysostom here, with no unholy association.288:1872
Ps. li. 17.288:1873
Matt. v. 8.288:1875
Luke xxii. 30.288:1878
Acts v. 41.288:1879
σψι, q.d. “the wear and tear.”288:1880
[The translator has omitted a clause: “and dares not face him,” κα ντιβλψαι ο τολμ.]
Next: Homily XLVIII
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