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Fr. Lapide’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 21, 2017

1Co 15:12  Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 

How do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? Cerinthus with his followers are meant here. He was the first heresiarch after Simon Magus to deny, in S. Paul’s time, the resurrection. See Eusebius (Hist. lib. vii. c. 23, and lib. iii. c. 28) and Epiphanius (Hæres. 28). Cerinthus was a champion of Judaism, and, founding his opinions on Jewish traditions, he referred all the prophecies about the Church and the Gospel law to an earthly kingdom, and to riches, and to bodily pleasures. In the same way he afterwards perverted the meaning of Rev. xx. 4, and became the parent of the Chiliasts, or the Millennarian heretics. Some think from this that he was the author of the Apocalypse, and that it should therefore be rejected.

S. Ignatius, in his epistle to the Churches of Smyrna and Tralles, censures this error and its author. Hymenæus and Philetus (2 Tim 2:17) also denied the resurrection.

1Co 15:16  For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again.

No commentary is offered in this verse.

1Co 15:17  And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain: for you are yet in your sins.

It rightly follows that, if Christ has not risen (verse 16), we are still in our sins; for 1. if Christ has not risen, therefore faith in a risen Christ, which is the basis of justification, is false; but a false faith cannot be the beginning and foundation of remission of sins and of true sanctification. 2. If Christ remained in death, He was overcome by it, and His death was ineffectual for the remission of sins; for if by His resurrection He could not overcome death, then He could not overcome sin, for it is more difficult and a heavier task to overcome this than to overcome death. If this be so, sin is not fully abolished, if its penalty death is not. 3. The resurrection of Christ is the cause of our justification. (Rom 4:25). Now the cause being removed, the effect is removed. If, then, the resurrection of Christ is not a fact, neither is our justification from sins, and consequently we are still in our former sins.

1Co 15:18  Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished, i.e., who have died in faith, hope, and charity. If the body is not to rise again, but perishes outright at death, the soul too will perish: it cannot exist for ever without the body, for its nature is the “form” of the body. Unless, then, God take away by violence from the soul its nature and natural condition, He must restore to it its body.

1Co 15:19  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 

If in this life only we have hope in Christ. 1. The word “hope” here signifies, not the act of hope, for this exists in this life only, but the object of hope or the thing hoped for. If our only hope in Christ is for the goods of this life, then are we the most miserable of men; we are the most foolish also, because we rely on an empty hope of the resurrection, which is never to happen, and suffer fastings, mortifications, persecutions, and other hardships, and we resign the pleasure of the world and the flesh which others indulge in. Although, then, we are more happy than they, because of the good that is the fruit of the virtue of abstinence, of charity, and of an unclouded conscience, yet we are more miserable than they, so far as our hope in Christ is concerned, nay, we are fools for relying on a baseless hope. So Anselm and Chrysostom. The Apostle does not say “we are worse,” but “miserable;” for it is a miserable thing to afflict ourselves for virtue’s sake, and yet not obtain the prize; but the prize of Christian virtue is the resurrection.

It may be said that the soul can have its reward and be blessed without its body rising again. My answer to this is: God might have so arranged things that the soul alone should be rewarded with the Beatific Vision, but He did not so will it. As a matter of fact He willed that if the soul be beatified, so shall the body; if the body is not, neither will the soul; otherwise Christ would not have completely overcome sin, which reigns by death over soul and body alike.

2. It was the opinion of men at that time that if the immortality of the soul be proved, the resurrection of the body must be at once admitted, because of the close connection between them. The soul has a natural longing after the body, and cannot exist without it unless by violence. Therefore the resurrection, so far as concerns the essence and the needs of human nature, is a natural process, though its mode of execution be supernatural. Nor can the soul when once separated be again united to the body by any created force, but only by the supernatural power of God. Paul, then, from the denial of the resurrection and happiness of the body, rightly infers, according to the common opinion of men, as well as the nature and truth of things, the denial of the immortality and bliss of the soul; and so it is no wonder if Christians are not to rise again, that they should be of all men most miserable.

1Co 15:20 But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep:

But now is Christ risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that slept. (1.) Christ was and is the first of those that rise again, both in order of dignity and of merit. (2.) He was first in the Divine will and intention. (3.) First causally, for by Him we shall all rise again. (4.) Temporally, for Christ was the first in time to rise to everlasting life; for though some before Him were raised to life by Elijah and Elisha, yet they rose to this mortal life only, and again died; but Christ was the first to rise to the eternal life of bliss and glory. So Chrysostom, Anselm, Ambrose, Theophylact, Theodoret, and others. The word for firstfruits properly signifies this, and implies others to follow. So is Christ called the “first-begotten of the dead,” i.e., rising before all others, and, as it were, being born again from the dead.

It seems from this to be a point de fide that no one rose before Christ to everlasting life. Those, therefore, who at the death of Christ are said to have arisen (S. Mat_27:52), rose after Him in the way of nature, if not of time, for their resurrection depended on Christ’s as its cause. Francis Suarez points out this (p. 3. qu. 53, art. 3).

The earliest fruit of the earth, which under the Old Law was to be offered to God, was called the “firstfruits;” so Christ, after His resurrection, was offered to God as the firstfruits of the earth, into which He had been cast as a corn of wheat, and from which He sprang forth again in the new birth of the resurrection.

1Co 15:21 For by a man came death: and by a man the resurrection of the dead.

For by a man cameth death. Adam brought death on all men, Christ resurrection. The word since gives the reason why Christ is called the firstfruits of them that rise, viz., because by Christ, as a leader of the first rank of God’s army and the subduer of death, the resurrection of the dead was brought into the world.

1Co 15:22 And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

The question may be asked whether even the wicked are to rise again and be endowed with life through Christ and His merits. S. Augustine (Ep. 28) says no, because their resurrection, being to condemnation, is better called death than life.  S. Thomas also says that Christ is the efficient cause of resurrection to all men, but the meritorious cause to the good alone.

But my answer is that Christ is the cause of the resurrection of all, even of the wicked:

1. Because Christ wished by His resurrection to abolish the power of death over the whole human race entirely, and therefore the wicked are included, not as wicked, but as men, abstracting their wickedness. See S. Ambrose (de Resurr. c. 21), and still more clearly S. Cyril (in Joann. lib. iv. c. 12).

2. Christ merited resurrection for the wicked, even as wicked, that He might inflict just punishment on His enemies, that His glory might be increased by the eternal punishment of His enemies. But these meanings are beside the scope of the passage. The Apostle is treating of the blessed resurrection of the saints, not of the resurrection of the wicked to misery.

We may here recapitulate the six methods by which the Apostle has proved that Christ rose again, that so he might prove that we too should rise.

1. From the testimony of those who saw Him alive after He rose, viz., Peter, Paul, James, the other Apostles, and the five hundred brethren (ver. 5).

2. If Christ is not risen, then the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of Christians are alike vain (ver. 14).

3. If Christ is not risen, we are still in our sins. This is proved by the fact that faith that justifies and expiates our sins is the same by which we believe that Christ died and rose again for us (ver. 17).

4. If Christ is not risen, then have ill perished who have fallen asleep in Christ, and have been destroyed both in body and soul; for the soul cannot live for ever without the body (ver. 18).

5. If we serve Christ only in this short life, and under His law have no hope of resurrection, then are we of all men most miserable (ver. 19).

6. By Adam all die, therefore through Christ shall all rise again, and be quickened. For Christ has done us as much good as Adam did harm: He came, not only that He might repair all the falls and loss of Adam and his descendants, but that He might lift us up to a higher state.(ver. 21).

1Co 15:23 But every one in his own order: the firstfruits, Christ: then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

But everyone in his own order. 1. According to Chrysostom, Theodoret and Theophylact this is the just among the blessed, the wicked among the reprobate.

2. According to the commentary ascribed to S. Jerome, this means that each shall rise higher and more blessed as he has been more holy here.

3. Œcumenius and Primasius explain it in this way. All who are to be quickened in Christ shall rise again in this order—Christ the first in time and dignity; secondly, the just shall rise; thirdly shall come the end of the world. This is the Apostle’s meaning, as appears from the next words. Cf. 1Th_4:16.

1Co 15:24 Afterwards the end: when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father: when he shall have brought to nought all principality and power and virtue.

afterwards the end. The end of the whole dispensation of Christ for the salvation of the human race, and it will consequently be the end of the age then existing, of time, of all generations, and all corruptions, and of the universe. So Anselm. For Christ is the end of the whole universe, and when those that He has chosen out of it are completed, then the universe will be ended also.

2. “The end” may, with Theodoret, be rendered “consummation,” i.e., the general resurrection of all, even of the wicked, when all things will come to an end.

When he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father. The kingdom is the Church of the faithful and congregation of the elect; not as though God did not now reign over it, for Christ says: “The kingdom of God is within you” (S. Luk_17:21), but because sin has somewhat of power over it, because the devil, death, and cares that attack mortals are found in it. In other words, Then cometh the end when Christ shall have presented, and as it were restored to His Father, the Church of the elect, which had been intrusted to His care and governance during the struggle of this life, that He might gloriously reign over it for ever. The Son shall as it were present it to His Father with the words: “Father, Thou didst send Me into the world, and after I ascended to heaven to be with Thee I have ruled these continuously, and protected them from the power and assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Lo, these that I bring are Thine. They are My possession, given Me by Thee; they are the fruit of My labour, won by My sweat and blood. This is Thy kingdom as it is Mine, and is now free and pure from every sin, temptation, and trouble, that Thou mayst reign gloriously over it for ever.” Cf. S. Ambrose and S. Augustine (de Trinitate, lib. i. c. 8 and 10).

To God, and the Father is a hendiadys, to signify that Christ as man will present His faithful ones to God, as Son to His Father.

When he shall have brought to nought all principality and power and virtue. When He shall have destroyed the power and dominion of the devils, so that they shall no longer be able to attack the Church, which is the kingdom of God. Cf. Eph_6:12, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact, Ambrose, Œcumenius.

Principalities, Powers, and Virtues are names of three angelic choirs (cf. Eph 1:21). It hence appears that some of them fell and became devils, and kept the same names, just as each kept the same nature, the same order, rank, and power, especially in their attacks on the Church.  S. Paul says then that, when Christ shall have destroyed all the rule of the devils, who are and are called Principalities and Dominions, so that they might no longer attack the Church, He will then hand over the Kingdom to His Father, and will be the end and consummation of all things.

S. Augustine (de Trinitate, lib. i.. c. 8) explains this passage of the good angels, and then the meaning will be. There will be no longer any necessity for the assistance of the angelic Principalities, Powers, and Dominions, and therefore their dispensation and guidance will be done away with in the Church. But the former meaning is truer, because the Apostle is speaking of the enemies of Christ, as is clear from the next verse.

1Co 15:25 For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.

Christ must rule the Church till God the Father puts all the devils and the wicked under Him. Till does not denote an end of His reign, for there is no doubt that when His enemies shall have been overcome Christ will reign more truly and for ever, though in another way and with other glory than now. Cf. S. Chrysostom. It signifies what may have been done before a certain event, not what was done afterwards. So Joseph (S. Matt 1:25) is said not to have known Mary his wife till she brought forth her Son, not as though he knew her afterwards, as the impure Helvidius insinuates, but that he did not know her before she conceived and gave birth; for S. Matthew merely wished to record a wonderful event that was naturally incredible, viz., the conception and birth of Christ from a virgin without a father. So Paul says here that even now, while the Church is struggling with her enemies, Christ reigns over her. Moreover, it follows from this that Christ will reign after the struggle and triumph, for S. Paul implies but does not state what is evident to all. S. Augustine (Sentences, n. 169) well says: “As long as we are struggling against sins there is no perfect peace; for those that oppose us are crushed in dangerous fight, and those have been overcome are not yet triumphed over in peaceful land where care cannot come, but are still kept down by a power that must ever be on its guard.”

1Co 15:26 And the enemy, death, shall be destroyed last:

That death which still reigns over the bodies of the saints will be altogether destroyed at the resurrection. The first enemy of Christ and His followers is the devil, who was conquered by Christ on the Cross. The second is sin, which, through the grace of Christ, is being conquered by Christians in this life. The third is death, which will be the last to be overcome, and that will he in the resurrection.

1Co 15:27 For he hath put all things under his feet. And whereas he saith: All things are put under him; undoubtedly, he is excepted, who put all things under him.

He hath put all things under His feet. God will in the resurrection put all men and angels, good and bad, under Christ. He speaks of the future as past, after the manner of the prophets.

And whereas he saith: All things are put under him (Jesus); undoubtedly, he (the Father) is excepted, who put all things under him (Jesus). S. Paul adds this lest any one should suppose that the Father has given everything to the Son in such a way as to deprive Himself of authority over them, for so the Father would be less than the Son and subject to Him. Sometimes among men, when fathers are getting old, they make a gift of their goods and offices to their sons, but not so God.

1Co 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

Then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him. Some understand this of His Godhead, as though Christ as God will show Himself to have received everything, and His very Godhead, from His Father, and will so declare Himself to His Father. But this is too bold a statement; for the Son is not, subject to the Father, because He has all that He has from the Father, but He is equal to Him in majesty and honour. Hence others often take this passage of Christ according to His human nature. (1.) With Chrysostom, He will show His subjection, and so all will see how perfect were the obedience and subjection of Christ here. (2.) Better, with Anselm, Christ will be subject as man, i.e., He will subject Himself and will offer Himself with His elect to the eternal praise of God, and to a participation in the Divine goodness, dominion, and glory. For this subjection of Christ is the same as is alluded to in ver. 24, where it is said that Christ shall hand over the kingdom to God the Father, that He may fully and gloriously reign over Him and His elect. This subjection of Christ and the saints to God is not mean and servile, but blessed and glorious. For God holds them in heaven who are subject to Him as sons, He rules over them, and blesses them, and makes them happy with the utmost height of glory. Well, then, is such subjection and service called reigning, and such service is much to be longed for with David (Ps. lxi. 1, Vulg.): “Shall not my soul be subject to God? for of Him cometh my salvation.” On the other hand the wicked, who will not submit themselves to God, will be by this very fact His enemies, and the most unhappy of all men. In this very word subject there seems to lurk a double application; and so Gregory of Nyssa says, in his sermon on these words: “Subjection to God is a separation from evil that is perfect and absolute on every side. Christ shall be subject to His Father in the resurrection, because in it all the elect and faithful members of Christ will be clear from all evil, and will receive a chief part of what is good, and will be most closely united with Deity, and with its eternity, power, and bliss; and then will God be all in all, since there will be no evil in those things that remain; for God cannot be in what is evil, but must be in all that is good. Christ then will be subject to His Father when His Church shall be, and shall be so set free from all evil; for the subjection of the Church is called the subjection of Christ.” (3.) The words shall be may be understood to denote merely a continued action. In other words, Christ shall persevere for ever in the subjection which He now is under to His Father. Hilary wrote on this sentence of the Apostle’s against the Arians (de Trin. lib. ii.), S. Jerome (Ep. to Principia). S. Augustine (de Trin. lib. i. c. 8), where he says: “Christ, in so far as He is God with the Father, has us as His subjects; in so far as He is a priest, He is subject even as we to His Father.”

That God may be all in all. Viz., as Anselm says, that God may have all power over all things and may show that as God He is everything to His elect, or in place of everything else; that He is our life, salvation, power, plenty, glory, honour, peace, and all things, and the end and satisfaction of our desires. So God will rule over all in all things, and will subject all things to Himself and His glory.

S. Augustine (de Civ. Dei. lib. xxii. c. 9) argues from this verse that the saints in heaven know our prayers and our state.

S. Jerome (Ep. ad Amandum) appropriately says: “What the Apostle means by saying that God shall be all in all is this: our Lord and Saviour is at present not all in all, but a part in each one, e.g., He is wisdom in Solomon, goodness in David, patience in Job, knowledge of the future in Daniel, faith in Peter, zeal in Phinehas and Paul, purity in John, and other things in other men. But when the end of all things comes, then He will be all in all, that each one of the saints may have all virtues, and Christ may be wholly in each one and in all.” From this passage S. Augustine says (de Trin. lib. i. c. 8) that some Christians thought that the humanity of Christ would reign till the day of judgment, but would then be changed into His Godhead, and they thought that this change is the subjection to the Father, of which S. Paul here speaks. This is both foolish and impossible, according to the faith and to nature.

Some who had given themselves up to the contemplative life, and who aimed at an impossible closeness of union with God, and fanatics, have argued from this and similar passages of Scripture, that at the resurrection all men and all created things will return to their Divine archetype as it existed in eternity in God, and so would have to be changed into God; that is to say, that then every creature will have to disappear into the depths of the uncreated being, i.e., into the Godhead. Gerson attacks this error at length, and accuses Ruisbrochius of holding it; but the latter clears himself from it, and attacks it in his turn (de Verâ Contempl. c. 19, and ad Samuel, i. 4).

But this passage of the Apostle’s lends no countenance to this error, but on the contrary opposes it. For if in the resurrection God will be all in all, all created things will be in existence still. Otherwise God would not be all in all, but only all in none, or in nothing. Moreover, we can explain by similitudes how God will be all in all to the blessed. (1.) As a few drops of water poured into a large cask of very strong wine are at once swallowed up by the wine and incorporated with it, so the blessed, through love and the beatific vision, will as it were lose themselves in God, and seem swallowed up and incorporated by God as their greatest good, loved above all things. (2.) As the light of the sun fills all the air, so that it seems no longer to be air but light, in the same way God will so fill the blessed with the light of His glory that they will seem to be, not so much men as gods. (3.) As iron seems to be ignited by fire and to be changed into fire, so will the blessed be so kindled by their love and enjoyment of God, that they will seem transformed into God. (4.) As a large vessel of sugar or honey, when poured into a little porridge, makes it not only sweet as honey, but as if it were sugar or honey, so does God by His sweetness so inebriate and fill with sweetness the blessed that they seem to be very sweetness; for God is a sea of sweetness and an ocean of joy and consolation. (5.) As most sweet strains of music fill the ears of all who hear them and ravish their minds, or as a diamond, ruby, or emerald fills and dazzles the eyes of all who look upon it, so does God ravish, delight, and fill the minds of all the blessed. (6.) As a mirror exhibits, represents, and contains the faces and appearance of everything placed before it, so that they all seem to exist, live, and move in the mirror, so do all the blessed live, move, and have their being in God; for God is a most bright and glowing mirror of everything.

Lastly, S. Bernard (Serm. xi. in Cant.) devoutly and beautifully says: “Who can understand how great sweetness is contained in the one short saying, ‘God shall be all in all?’ To say nothing of the body, I see in the soul three things—reason, will, and memory, and these three are the soul. How much of its integrity and perfection is lacking to each of these in this present life is known to every one who walks in the Spirit. Why is this, except that God is not yet all in all? Hence is it that the reason is so often deceived in its judgments, and the will weakened by a fourfold disturbing cause, and the memory clouded over by manifold causes of forgetfulness. To this threefold vanity a noble creature has beech made subject, not willingly, but in hope. For He that filleth the desire of the soul with good things will Himself be to the reason fulness of light, to the will a multitude of peace, to the memory eternal continuity. 0 Truth! 0 Love! 0 Eternity! 0 Trinity, blessed and blessing, to thee does my miserable trinity, after a wonderful fashion, aspire, since it is a miserable exile apart from Thee. . . . Put thy trust in God, for I will yet praise Him, when my reason knows no error, my will no grief, and my memory no fear; and when we enjoy that wondrous calm, that perfect sweetness, that eternal security which we hope for, God, as Truth, will give the first, as Charity the second, as Power the third, that He may be all in all, when the reason receives unclouded light, when the will obtains unbroken peace, and the memory drinks for ever of an inexhaustible Fountain. May you see all this, and rightly attribute it, first to the Son, then to the Spirit, and lastly to the Father.”

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Father MacEvilly’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-26

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 21, 2017

Text in purple indicates Fr. MacEvilly’s paraphrasing of the scripture he is commenting upon.

1 Co 15:12 Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

If, then, it be a matter preached by all the Apostles, and confirmed by your faith, that Christ has risen; how comes it that some amongst you say, that there is no such thing as the resurrection of the dead, the necessary consequence of the Resurrection of Christ?

The fact of Christ’s Resurrection, proves the possibility of such a thing taking place; and hence, destroys the argument against the general resurrection of all, on the ground of its impossibility.

QUERITUR.—How does the resurrection of all follow, in the mind of the Apostle, as a necessary consequence from the Resurrection of Christ, in such a way, that if you deny the consequent, therefore the dead will arise, you destroy the antecedent—viz., Christ has arisen. The same reason would not appear to hold for Christ and the other dead. He had greater power, neither did he see corruption, and the corruption of the dead bodies was the great difficulty in the minds of the philosophers against the doctrine of the resurrection.

RESP.—The reasoning of the Apostle, deducing from the Resurrection of Christ, the general resurrection of all mankind, is founded on the end and object of Christ’s Resurrection. The object of his Resurrection was to obtain a signal victory over death, and entirely to overcome death introduced by sin into the human race. It was only after securing this happy consummation, he could sing the song of triumph over prostrate death, referred to in verse 55, of this chapter. Now, he would not have overcome death in this perfect way, unless all mankind arose again. For, in what does death consist? How had it effected a triumph over the human race? Was it not in the separation of the soul from the body? So must, therefore, the victory over death consist in their reunion. Now, this is the Resurrection. Hence, unless all mankind were to arise again, Christ would not have secured the end of his own glorious Resurrection.

1Co 15:16  For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again.
For if they will not arise, neither has Christ arisen.
1Co 15:17  And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain: for you are yet in your sins.
And, if Christ be not risen, your faith is vain in the remission of your sins; for your sins are still unremitted.

The consequence of Christ not having arisen would be, that their faith, as regards the remission of their past sins, would be in vain, or of no benefit, since they are still in their sins: for, Christ rose for our justification. Hence, if he did not arise, we are not justified, nor are our sins remitted. The Greek reading of this verse omits the causal particle “for,” which, in our reading, assigns the following words:—“You are yet in your sins,” as a reason why “their faith is vain.” According to the Greek reading, these latter words only express an inference drawn from the words, “your faith is vain;” and hence, you are still in your sins, since faith is necessary for justification.

1Co 15:18  Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
Another inconvenient consequence flowing from a denial of Christ’s Resurrection would be, that those who have died professing the Christian religion, are lost eternally, since they died professing a false faith, and, without faith, it is impossible to please God.
1Co 15:19  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
And if our hopes in Christ are to be confined to the present life, we are the most miserable of men, having been debarred by our religion from certain pleasures, in which others, less observant of religious ordinances, freely indulge.

“We are the most miserable of all men,” since, from a false and delusive hope of a resurrection never to take place, unless Christ has arisen, we submit to the greatest corporal austerities and self-denial.

Objection.—What, if the dead will never arise? Is not the soul immortal? May not this more noble part of man, which is capable of felicity, as appears from the examples of the saints now reigning in glory without their bodies, enjoy supreme felicity—enjoy the promises of Christ, even though the body never arise? How, then, are the conclusions of the Apostle warranted?

Resp.—Some say the Apostle is here combatting such persons (viz., those of the Sadducean persuasion), as denied the immortality of the soul, and the existence of spirits; and hence, he takes the resurrection of the dead in an extended sense, to comprise the resurrection or immortality of the soul, as in Matthew, 22:31. It may, however, be given as a general answer, that the Apostle considers not the immortality, but merely the happiness of the soul, which can never be obtained by persons dying in a false faith, such as ours would be if Christ had not risen. The heretics, whom the Apostle here combats, did not deny the divinity of the Christian religion; and hence it is, that he grounds his arguments in favour of the resurrection, on the inconvenience which the denial of this fundamental article would cause to the Christian religion. It may be also said, in reply to the objection from the immortality of the soul, that the Apostle considers the present order of things, consequent on the decree of God—that the merits of Christ should prove of no avail to us, unless he arose and overcame death in us. If, then, Christ had not arisen, and if we were not to rise again, the merits of Christ would be of no avail to us, nor would our souls be happy, since a reunion with our bodies was decreed by God, as a condition of their eternal happiness.

1 Co 15:20  But now Christ is risen from the dead, the firstfruits of them that sleep:

(Such, then, being the absurd consequences of the denial of Christ’s Resurrection), we must firmly believe that Christ has arisen, as the first-fruits among the dead, both in time and dignity, and thus consecrating, by his Resurrection, the general resurrection of all.

“The first-fruits of them that sleep.” The common Greek has, απαρχη εγενετο, became the first-fruits, &c. The word, became, is cancelled by the best critics on the authority of the chief MSS. The fact of his being “the first-fruits” supposes, that others will follow, whose resurrection is consecrated by his—as “the first-fruits” among the Jews consecrated the rest of the harvest.

QUESTION—Did not the dead, who arose at Christ’s death, arise before him?

RESPONSE—The common opinion is, that St. Matthew, in recounting the several phenomena that occurred at Christ’s death, mentions by anticipation, that “the bodies of the saints arose … and appeared to many.”—(Matt. 27 verses 52, 53). It is commonly held that there is an inversion of the order of time in the account left us by St. Matthew, and that the dead arose, only at Christ’s Resurrection.

1Co 15:21  For by a man came death: and by a man the resurrection of the dead.

And that our resurrection should be consecrated in his merits, is quite congruous; for, as by one man came death; so by one man, the destruction of death, which is effected by the resurrection.

1Co 15:22  And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

And, as in Adam, all die; so also in Christ, shall all who are vivified, be vivified.

1Co 15:23  But every one in his own order: the firstfruits, Christ: then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

But each man shall rise in the class to which his merits during life will have entitled him; a greater degree of glory shall fall to the lot of certain saints beyond others. Christ shall be first; next, those who are of Christ, who have believed in his visible coming to judge mankind—a truth intimately connected with the resurrection.

The Apostle does not treat of the resurrection of the wicked, which is unto eternal misery, and is rather a curse than a blessing. It was sufficient for his purpose to prove the resurrection of the just. Besides, all the inconvenient consequences resulting in the mind of the Apostle from a denial of the Resurrection of Christ, regard the good. The words, “who have believed,” are not in the Greek, which runs thus: ἔπειτα οί τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐν τῇ παρουσία αὐτοῦ.

1Co 15:24  Afterwards the end: when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father: when he shall have brought to nought all principality and power and virtue.

Afterwards, the end of all things, when, after having triumphed over the different orders of devils, he will present to God the Father, the whole assemblage of his elect, and refer to him all the glory of his triumphs.

1Co 15:25  For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.

But in the mean time, even while his enemies are not perfectly subdued, he shall reign until God the Father shall have placed his enemies under his feet, that is, until the end of the world.

The Apostle adds this, lest it might be imagined for an instant, that Christ would not reign in the interim; for, that he would afterwards reign, there could be no doubt whatever.

In this verse is adduced a new argument in proof of the resurrection, grounded on the supreme dominion of Christ, and the absolute subjection of all things to him; hence, death is subject to him; it shall, therefore, be vanquished as one of his enemies, and its power destroyed by the resuscitation of all men, with their souls and bodies reunited.

1Co 15:26  And the enemy, death, shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet. And whereas he saith:

And the last enemy whom he shall vanquish is death. For, that death shall be vanquished is clear from the Psalmist:—He hath put all things under his feet, which words mystically refer to the total subjection of all things to Christ.

“He hath put all things,” &c. The 8th Psalm, from which these words are taken, literally refers to the benefits conferred on Adam and his posterity, and to the dominion which man enjoys over all terrestrial creatures. In its mystic signification—which is employed here—it refers to the total subjection of all things to Christ, which subjection shall be perfected in the General Resurrection.—(See, also, Hebrews, 2:8).

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Christ, Notes on 1 Corinthians, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Father Callan’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on October 21, 2017

Text in red are my additions. At the end of the post I’ve included a list of suggested resources relating to this letter.

THE NECESSITY OF BELIEVING IN THE RESURRECTION OF CHRIST
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:12-20a

Before coming to the main theme of the present chapter, which is the resurrection of the just, and of all the dead, St. Paul wishes still further to strengthen and enlighten the belief of the Corinthians in Christ’s glorious Resurrection, for it is upon this latter that he will base his great argument for the truth of the former. Therefore, after having cited in the preceding section what he considers to be the best witnesses for our Saviour’s corporal Resurrection, he proceeds now to show the dire consequences that would necessarily follow if Christ were not truly risen. In such an event both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of Christians would be without foundation. Wherefore, he concludes, we must accept the Resurrection of Christ.

12. Now if Christ be preached, that he arose again from the dead, how do some among you say, that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13. But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen again.

These verses show that some among the Corinthians denied the resurrection of the dead, but they imply that those same sceptics believed that Christ was truly risen; otherwise St. Paul’s argument here would avail nothing against those who thought corporal resurrection was absurd and impossible (against MacR.). If they admitted, as seems evident, that Christ was risen, then it is possible for others to rise; and since the faithful form one mystical body of which Christ is the head (1 Cor 6:15; 12:27), their resurrection must naturally follow upon His. It is unseemly that the head should live without the body. Moreover, Christians, by reason of their union and fellowship with Christ, have become the adopted children of God, having a right to share in Christ’s inheritance and in the glory and honor, of body as well as soul, which is His. Thus the admitted Resurrection of Christ makes necessary the further admission that His members will also rise.

If it be objected that this argument proves only the resurrection of the just, of Christians who are united with Christ, we may reply with St. Chrysostom and St. Thomas that St. Paul was writing to, and arguing against those among the faithful of Corinth who denied the resurrection, but who did not consider that they thereby ceased to be Christians, united to Christ.

14. And if Christ be not risen again, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
15. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God: because we have given testimony against God, that he hath raised up Christ; whom he hath not raised up if the dead rise not again.

Terrible consequences would follow, if Christ were not risen again, (a) Both the preaching of the Apostles and the faith of their converts would be vain, i.e., without foundation, because Christ pointed to His Resurrection as the supreme proof of His Divinity and Messiahship (Matt 12:38 ff.; John 2:18 ff.); and if He be not truly risen, then we must conclude that He was a false prophet and has deceived both preachers and believers, and that there is no reason for either the Gospel or faith. The Apostles always proved the divine origin and authority of their preaching by appealing to the Resurrection of Jesus, holding that God would not have raised Him from the dead had He not been all He claimed to be, and had His doctrine not been true (Acts 1:22; 2:24, 32; 3:15, 21; 4:10, 33; 5:30; 10:37; 17:31 ; Rom 1:4; 4:24, etc.).

(b) The Apostles would be false witnesses of God, because they have attributed to Him something He never did, namely, the raising of Christ from the grave. And if it is an evil thing falsely to attribute something of grave moment to another human being, what a serious offence it would be to bear similar false witness to God!

Again, both in verse 14 and in verse 15 should be omitted, as not represented in the Greek.

16. For if the dead rise not again, neither is Christ risen again.

For if the dead, etc., a solemn repetition of the conclusion stated above, in verse 13, from which still further evils would result.

Again in this and in the following verse should also be taken out.

17. And if Christ be not risen again, your faith is vain, for you are yet in your sins.
18. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ, are perished.

Your faith is vain, i.e., useless to you, for you could not be redeemed and freed from your sins by an impostor who claimed to be the true Messiah and Saviour of the world.

Then they also, etc. In the event that Christ is not truly risen, then those that died believing in Him and hoping for the remission of their sins through His redeeming merits, have died with their sins still upon them and are lost forever.

19. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, faith in Him is not only useless for the living and the dead, but it is also a great detriment to Christians. If all our faith in Christ does for us is to give us in the present life a groundless hope of something false, causing us to deny ourselves many things which unbelievers enjoy, and bringing upon us numberless persecutions, then indeed we are of all men more to be pitied (ελεεινοτεροι, translated above as “most miserable”) than others.

20a. But now Christ is risen from the dead.

But all these terrible consequences that have just been described are false, because Christ is truly risen from the dead, and neither our preaching nor your faith is vain.

Christ’s resurrection includes the resurrection of all men
A Summary of 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

The Resurrection of Christ is connected with that of others as the first-fruits are connected with those that follow, which they precede in order of time and dignity (St. Thomas). As the spiritual death of Adam involved the physical and spiritual death of all his descendants, so the corporal Resurrection of our Lord involves the corporal resurrection of all the just. After He shall have conquered all the enemies of God and man, Christ, the representative man, will assume for Himself and for all the faithful the position which befits Him as man, that God may be all in all.

20a. But now Christ is risen from the dead.

But all these terrible consequences that have just been described (in verses 14-19) are false, because Christ is truly risen from the dead, and neither our preaching nor your faith is vain.

20b.  the first-fruits of them that sleep:

The first-fruits, etc. Christ was the first man to rise from the dead, but He is only the “first-fruits,” which shows there will be other fruits of the same kind. He is the model and pattern according to which all the just will rise. As the first-fruits of the harvest suppose the harvest, so the Resurrection of Jesus implies the harvest of the general resurrection of all the saved. The earth is the vast field in which our bodies like seed are planted, and since the first-fruits have already appeared, we can hope that soon the harvest will come.

Others, like Lazarus, who were called back to life before the Resurrection of Christ, were not raised to immortal life. Even those whom St. Matthew (Matt 27:52 ff.) speaks of as having come forth from their graves at the time of the crucifixion did not rise till after Christ had risen, and it is not certain that they did not die again.

21. For by a man came death, and by a man the resurrection of the dead.
22. And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.

These verses show how Christ is the first-fruits of the dead. There exists the same relation between our Lord’s Resurrection and that of the just, as between the death of Adam and that of his descendants. As Adam was the father of fallen humanity, so Christ is the Father of regenerated humanity. By one man human nature was corrupted and despoiled of its gift of immortality, and so it was becoming that by one other man human nature should be restored, in the resurrection of the body, to its primitive state and dignity. Therefore, as all those who are born of Adam are condemned to death, so all they who are reborn in Christ shall be regenerated unto immortal life for body as well as soul.

So also in Christ, etc. Most modern interpreters, like Cornely, Le Camus, Bisping, etc., understand these words to refer only to the just, because there is question, they say, only of a glorious and immortal resurrection like that of Christ’s. Others, however, hold with St. Thomas that the Apostle is speaking of the resurrection of all,—of the good to a life of glory, of the bad to an existence of misery and shame (John 5:28 ff.; Dan 12:2).

Came of verse 21 is not represented in the Greek, although it is to be understood.

23. But every one in his own order: the first-fruits Christ, then they that are of Christ, who have believed in his coming.

All shall rise again, but each in his own order of time and according to his dignity. Christ has risen first, preceding all others in time and dignity, and becoming the model of the resurrection of all the saved. Then they that are of Christ, i.e., the just, shall rise at His second coming (1 Thess 4:15).

Who have believed (Vulg., qui crediderunt) should be omitted, as wanting in all the best MSS. and in the early editions of the Vulg.

24. Afterwards the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God and the Father, when he shall have brought to nought all principality, and power, and virtue.

Afterwards the end, i.e., after the resurrection shall come the end of the present world, the present order of things (Matt 24:14; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9), which shall be replaced by “a new heaven and a new earth” (Rev 21:1).

When he, i.e., when Christ, the Redeemer, shall have delivered up, better, “shall hand over” (παραδιδω, pres. subj., according to the best MSS., instead of παραδω, the aorist subj.), the kingdom, i.e., the Messianic Kingdom of the Church Militant, to God the Father, who as Creator is Lord of all creatures. Although as God Christ is also Creator and equal to the Father, as man He is in a particular way the Lord of the Messianic Kingdom, the Church, which He has purchased with His blood. It is the militant part of this Messianic Kingdom which Christ as man is here said to hand over to His Father at the end of the world, as a conqueror hands over to his sovereign the fruits of the victory he has won. Obviously Christ as God will not cease to reign equally with the Father and the Holy Ghost after the victory is won. But He will not surrender to His Father the Church Militant, until it is in peace, that is, until He has vanquished and brought to nothing all the enemies of God, demons and evil men, who have opposed and persecuted His Church.

The present subjunctive, the better reading, emphasize Christ’s action

Principality . . . power . . . virtue, i.e., all rule, authority and power that is opposed to God and Christ’s Kingdom, the Church.

25. For he must reign, until he hath put all his enemies under his feet.

For he must reign, etc., i.e., according to the decrees of God, Christ must govern and guide His Church, combat His enemies, and help the faithful, until He has triumphed over all the adversaries of His Kingdom, as was foretold in Psalm 110:1. In the Psalm it is God the Father who is represented as saying to Christ: “Sit at my right hand, until,” etc., but the Apostle is here plainly alluding to this Psalm and applying it to Christ, whose rule over the Church Militant will cease when the struggle finally gives way to victory. Of Christ’s eternal reign with the Father and the Holy Ghost in the Church Triumphant (Luke 1:32, 33; Dan 7:1414) there is no question here.

26. And the enemy death shall be destroyed last: For he hath put all things under his feet. And whereas he saith,
27. All things are put under him ; undoubtedly, he is excepted, who put all things under him.

Now St. Paul alludes to Psalm 8:8 to show that in the resurrection death will be the last enemy to be destroyed. Literally the Psalm refers to man in the state of innocence, who was lord over visible creation; but in a mystical sense it points to the perfect man, Jesus Christ, the head of the human race.

Death is called the last enemy because, by retaining the bodies of mankind in the dust of the earth, it does an injury to the elect and keeps back their complete happiness after all other enemies have been rendered powerless. Christ, by His Resurrection, has thus conquered death in His own case, but the victory over this dread enemy will not be complete until the bodies of all the dead shall have been reclaimed in the general resurrection.

The resurrection of all the dead, good and bad, is argued from this verse, because if the triumph over death is to be complete, the bodies of all the dead must rise again.

And whereas he saith. These words should be connected with verse 27, as in the Greek. A better translation would be: “When he shall have said” (οταν δε ειπη) , i.e., when God the Father shall say at the end of the world that all things have been subjected to the Son, we must not understand the Father Himself to be included among the things subjected. Some interpreters supply αὐτός (autos = Him) from the last sentence, and understand Christ to be announcing the subjugation of all things to Him to whom it is owing (Lias).

28. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

And when all things, etc., i.e., when all the enemies of the Church Militant shall have been conquered by Christ and the general resurrection takes place, then the Son, etc., i.e., then Christ also, as man, shall subject Himself, together with His redeemed Kingdom, the multitude of the elect, to His Father, without, however, forfeiting His own Kingship over His adoring subjects.

As man Christ has always, from the first moment of the Incarnation, been subject to and less than the Father, His humanity has been less than His Divinity, and less than the Holy Ghost; but in the resurrection when, together with the elect, His victorious army, He gives Himself over to the Father, His subjection will be greater in its extension and fulness (cf. Rickaby.).

That God may be all in all. The purpose of this final and universal subjection of Christ and His elect to the Father is that in the Church Triumphant God the Father may be recognized and glorified as the Lord of all, and as the author and primal source of all the blessings conferred upon Christ Himself, and through Christ upon the Church and the body of the elect; and that thus He may be all in all, i.e., may reign perfectly over all, rendering all perfectly and consummately happy.

Suggested Readings and Resources on First Corinthians: Should not be construed as an endorsement of everything one might find in them. Resources marked !!! are free, most are for purchase.

!!! In the Footsteps of St Paul. 13 part, (one-half hour each) online audio presentation by Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN.

!!! St Irenaeus Ministries Study on 1 Corinthians. 18 part online audio series (parts vary in length). Scroll down to find. The site contains many other full and partial studies of various books of the Bible, including Second Corinthians, Hebrews, Romans, Matthew, Luke.

!!! The Gospel According to St Paul. Six part online audio study of 1 Corinthians by Dr. Scott Hahn. Some parts are hard to hear and may require headphones or an earpiece.

!!! St Thomas Aquinas’ Lectures on First Corinthians. Online text, but the commentary on 7:1`5-10:33 is missing.

Father Kenneth Baker’s Sermons on St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Downloadable audio for purchase.

First Corinthians (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture Series). By Fr. George Montague. The CCSS is a new, fine series of commentaries on the New Testament from a Catholic perspective. You can view the preface for the entire series here.

First Corinthians (Sacra Pagina Series). By Fr. Raymond F. Collins. In depth, scholarly, not for the average person in the pew.

First Corinthians (Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries Series). By Father Joseph Fitzmyer. Scholarly, technical. You can search inside this book by placing your browser on the photo, then click “surprise me”.

Seven Pauline Letters. By Peter F. Ellis. Text and commentary on seven of St Paul’s letters, including First Corinthians. Succinct commentaries, very readable.

St Paul to the Corinthians (Ignatius Catholic Bible Study Series). By Dr. Scott Hahn and Mitch Curtis. A good place for the beginner to begin his study of the two letters to Corinth. The Ignatius Catholic Bible Study on the NT is now available in a single volume. The first volume in the OT series is now available (Genesis).

St Paul’s Letters to the Corinthians (Navarre Bible Commentary Series). Extremely popular and well written. This series was the brain child of St Jose Marie Escriva.

Invitation to the New Testament Epistles (Doubleday New Testament Commentary Series). By Fr. Eugene LaVerdierre. Based upon the Jerusalem Bible Translation. A basic commentary written in popular style. This volume is on 1 & 2 Thessalonians; 1 & 2, Corinthians; Philippians; Philemon.

Posted in Bible, Catholic, Catholic lectionary, Christ, Notes on 1 Corinthians, Notes on the Lectionary, Scripture | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect, yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to naught; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory.

Darkness seems to be more suitable than light to those that are diseased in their eyesight: wherefore they betake themselves by preference to some room that is thoroughly shaded over. This also is the case with the wisdom which is spiritual. As the wisdom which is of God seemed to be foolishness unto those without: so their own wisdom, being foolishness indeed, was accounted by them wisdom. The result has been just as if a man having skill in navigation were to promise that without a ship or sails he would pass over a boundless tract of sea, and then endeavor by reasonings to prove that the thing is possible; but some other person, ignorant of it all, committing himself to a ship and a steersman and sailors, were thus to sail in safety. For the seeming ignorance of this man is wiser than the wisdom of the other. For excellent is the art of managing a ship; but when it makes too great professions it is a kind of folly. And so is every art which is not contented with its own proper limits. Just so the wisdom which is without [were wisdom indeed1] if it had had the benefit of the spirit. But since it trusted all to itself and supposed that it wanted none of that help, it became foolishness, although it seemed to be wisdom. Wherefore having first exposed it by the facts, then and not till then he calls it foolishness; and having first called the wisdom of God folly, according to their reckoning, then and not till then he shews it to be wisdom. (For after our proofs, not before, we are best able to abash the gainsayers.)

His words then are, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect:” for when I, accounted foolish and a preacher of follies, get the better of the wise, I overcome wisdom, not by foollishness but by a more perfect wisdom; a wisdom, too, so ample and so much greater, that the other appears foolishness. Wherefore having before called it by a name such as they named it at that time, and having both proved his victory from the facts, and shewn the extreme foolishness of the other side: he thenceforth bestows upon it its right name, saying, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect.” “Wisdom” is the name he gives to the Gospel, to the method of salvation, the being saved by the Cross. “The perfect,” are those who believe. For indeed they are “perfect,” who know all human things to be utterly helpless, and who overlook them from the conviction that by such they are profited nothing: such Were the true believers.

“But not a wisdom of this world.” For where is the use of the wisdom which is without, terminating here and proceeding no further, and not even here able to profit its possessors?

Now by the “rulers of the world,” here, he means not certain demons, as some suspect2, but those in authority, those in power, those who esteem the thing worth contending about, philosophers, rhetoricians and writers of speeches (λογογράφους). For these were the dominant sort and often became leaders of the people.

“Rulers of the world” he calls them, because beyond the present world their dominion extends not. Wherefore, he adds further, “which are coming to nought;” disparaging it both on its own account, and from those who wield it. For having shewn that it is false, that it is foolish, that it can discover nothing, that it is weak, he shews moreover that it is but of short duration.

[2.] “But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery.” What mystery? For surely Christ saith, (St. Matt. 10:27. ὴκούσατε rec. text ακούετε.) “What ye have heard in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” How then does he call it “a mystery?” Because that neither angel nor archangel, nor any other created power knew of it before it actually took place. Wherefore he saith, (Ephes. 3:10) “That now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” And this hath God done in honor to us, so that they not without us should hear the mysteries. For we, too, ourselves, whomsoever we make our friends, use to speak of this as a sure proof of friendship towards them, that we tell our secrets to no one in preference to them. Let those hear who expose to shame3 the secrets of the Gospel, and unto all indiscriminately display the “pearls” and the doctrine, and who cast “the holy things” unto “dogs,” and “swine,” and useless reasonings. For the Mystery wants no argumentation; but just what it is, that only is to be declared. Since it will not be a mystery, divine and whole in all its parts, when thou addest any thing to it of thyself also.

And in another sense, too, a mystery is so called; because we do not behold the things which we see, but some things we see and others we believe. For such is the nature of our Mysteries. I, for instance, feel differently upon these subjects from an unbeliever. I hear, “Christ was crucified;” and forthwith I admire His loving-kindness unto men: the other hears, and esteems it weakness. I hear, “He became a servant;” and I wonder at his care for us: the other hears, and counts it dishonor. I hear, “He died;” and am astonished at His might, that being in death He was not holden, but even broke the bands of death: the other hears, and surmises it to be helplessness. He hearing of the resurrection, saith, the thing is a legend; I, aware of the facts which demonstrate it, fall down and worship the dispensation of God. He hearing of a layer, counts it merely as water: but I behold not simply the thing which is seen, but the purification of the soul which is by the Spirit. He considers only that my body hath been washed; but I have believed that the soul also hath become both pure and holy; and I count it the sepulchre, the resurrection, the sanctification, the righteousness, the redemption, the adoption, the inheritance, the kingdom of heaven, the plenary effusion (χορηγίαν) of the Spirit. For not by the sight do I judge of the things that appear, but by the eyes of the mind. I hear of the “Body of Christ:” in one sense I understand the expression, in another sense the unbeliever.

And just as children, looking on their books, know not the meaning of the letters, neither know what they see; yea more, if even a grown man be unskilful in letters, the same thing will befall him; but the skilful will find much meaning stored up in the letters, even complete lives and histories: and an epistle in the hands of one that is unskilful will be accounted but paper and ink; but he that knows how to read will both hear a voice, and hold converse with the absent, and will reply whatsoever he chooses by means of writing: so it is also in regard of the Mystery. Unbelievers albeit they hear, seem not to hear: but the faithful, having the skill which is by the Spirit, behold the meaning of the things stored therein. For instance, it is this very thing that Paul signified, when he said that even now the word preached is hidden: for “unto them that perish,” he saith, “it is hidden.” (2 Cor. 4:3)

In another point of view, the word indicates also the Gospel’s being contrary to all expectation. By no other name is Scripture wont to call what happens beyond all hope and above all thought of men. Wherefore also in another place, “My mystery is for Me4,” and for Mine. And Paul again, (1 Cor. 15:51) “Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

[3.] And though it be everywhere preached, still is it a mystery; for as we have been commanded, “what things we have heard in the ear, to speak upon the house tops,” so have we been also charged, “not to give the holy things unto dogs nor yet to cast our pearls before swine.” (St. Matt. 7:9) For some are carnal and do not understand: others have a veil upon their hearts and do not see: wherefore that is above all things a mystery, which everywhere is preached, but is not known of those who have not a right mind; and is revealed not by wisdom but by the Holy Ghost, so far as is possible for us to receive it. And for this cause a man would not err, who in this respect also should entitle it a mystery, the utterance whereof is forbidden. (ὰπόῤῥητον) For not even unto us, the faithful, hath been committed entire certainty and exactness. Wherefore Paul also said, (ch. 13:9) “We know in part, and we prophesy in part: for now we see in a mirror darkly; but then face to face.”

[4.] For this cause he saith, “We speak wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory. Hidden:” that is, that no one of the powers above hath learnt it before us; neither do the many know it now.

“Which he fore-ordained unto our glory” and yet, elsewhere he saith, “unto his own glory,” for he considereth our salvation to be His own glory: even as also He calleth it His own riches, (vid. Ephes. 3:8) though He be Himself rich in good and need nothing in order that He may be rich.

“Fore-ordained,” he saith, pointing out the care had of us. For so those are accounted most both to honor and to love us, whosoever shall have laid themselves out to do us good from the very beginning: which indeed is what fathers do in the case of children. For although they give not their goods until afterwards, yet at first and from the beginning they had predetermined this. And this is what Paul is earnest to point out now; that God always loved us even from the beginning and when as yet we were not. For unless He had loved us, He would not have fore-ordained our riches. Consider not then the enmity which hath come between; for more ancient than that was the friendship.

As to the words, “before the worlds,” (πρὸ τῶν αὶώνων) they mean eternal. For in another place also He saith thus, “Who is before the worlds.” The Son also, if you mark it, will be found to be eternal in the same sense. For concerning Him he saith, (Heb. 1:2) “By Him He made the worlds;” which is equivalent to subsistence before the worlds; for it is plain that the maker is before the things which are made.

[5.] Ver. 8. “Which none of the rulers of this world knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

Now if they knew not, how said He unto them, (St. John 7:28) “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am?” Indeed, concerning Pilate the Scripture saith, he knew not. (vid. St. John 19:9) It is likely also that neither did Herod know. These, one might say, are called rulers of this world: but if a man were to say that this is spoken concerning the Jews also and the Priests, he would not err. For to these also He saith, (St. John 8:19) “Ye know neither Me nor My Father.” How then saith He a little before, “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am?” However, the manner of this way of knowledge and of that hath already been declared in the Gospel; (Hom. 49. on St. John,) and, not to be continually handling the same topic, thither do we refer our readers.

What then? was their sin in the matter of the Cross forgiven them? For He surely did say, “Forgive them.” (Luke 23:34) If they repented, it was forgiven. For even he who set countless assailants on Stephen and persecuted the Church, even Paul, became the champion of the Church. Just so then, those others also who chose to repent, had forgiveness: and this indeed Paul himself meant, when he exclaims, (Rom. 11:11, 12.). “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid.” “I say then, hath God cast away His people whom He foreknew? God forbid.” Then, to shew that their repentance was not precluded, he brought forward as a decisive proof his own conversion, saying, “For I also am an Israelite.”

As to the words, “They knew not;” they seem to me to be said here not concerning Christ’s Person, but only concerning the dispensation hidden in that event: (περὶ αὐτῆς τοῦ πράγματος τῆς οἰκονομὶας,) as if he had said, what meant “the death,” and the “Cross,” they knew not. For in that passage also He said not, “They know not Me,” but, “They know not what they do;” that is, the dispensation which is being accomplished, and the mystery, they are ignorant of. For they knew not that the Cross is to shine forth so brightly; that it is made the salvation of the world, and the reconciliation of God unto men; that their city should be taken; and that they should suffer the extreme of wretchedness.

By the name of “wisdom,” he calls both Christ, and the Cross and the Gospel. Opportunely also he called Him, “The Lord of glory.” For seeing that the Cross is counted a matter of ignominy, he signifies that the Cross was great glory: but that there was need of great wisdom in order not only to know God but also to learn this dispensation of God: and the wisdom which was without turned out an obstacle, not to the former only, but to the latter also.

[6.] Ver. 9. “But as it is written, Things which eye saw not and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love Him.”

Where are these words written? Why, it is said to have been “written,” then also, when it is set down, not in words, but in actual events, as in the historical books5; or when the same meaning is expressed, but not in the very same words, as in this place: for the words, “They to whom it was not told about Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand,” (Is. 52:15; Sept. Comp. Rom. 15:21; Is. 64:4) are the same with “the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” Either then this is his meaning, or probably it was actually written in some books, and the copies have perished. For indeed many books were destroyed, and few were preserved entire even in the first captivity. And this is plain, in those which remain to us.6 For the Apostle saith (Acts 3:24) “From Samuel and the Prophets which follow after they have all spoken concerning Him:” and these their words are not entirely extant. Paul, however, as being learned in the law and speaking by the Spirit, would of course know all with accuracy. And why speak I of the captivity? Even before the captivity many books had disappeared; the Jews having rushed headlong to the last degree of impiety: and this is plain from the end of the fourth book of Kings, (2 Kings 22:8. 2 Chron. 34:14) for the book of Deuteronomy could hardly be found, having been buried somewhere in a dunghill7.

And besides, there are in many places double prophecies, easy to be apprehended by the wiser sort; from which we may find out many of the things which are obscure.

[7.] What then, hath “eye not seen what God prepared?” No. For who among men saw the things which were about to be dispensed? Neither then hath “the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man.” How is this? For if the Prophets spoke of it, how saith he, “Ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man?” It did not enter; for not of himself alone is he speaking, but of the whole human race. What then? The Prophets, did not they hear? Yes, they heard; but the prophetic ear was not the ear “of man:” for not as men heard they, but as Prophets. Wherefore he said, (Is. 50:4, Sept.) “He hath added unto me an ear to hear,” meaning by “addition” that which was from the Spirit. Froth whence it was plain that before hearing it had not entered into the heart of man. For after the gift of the Spirit the heart of the Prophets was not the heart of man, but a spiritual heart; as also he saith himself, “We have the mind of Christ” (v. 16) as if he would say, “Before we had the blessing of the Spirit and learnt the things which no man can speak, no one of us nor yet of the Prophets conceived them in his mind. How should we? since not even angels know them. For what need is there to speak,” saith he, “concerning ‘the rulers of this world,’ seeing that no man knew them, nor yet the powers above?”

What kind of things then are these? That by what is esteemed to be the foolishness of preaching He shall overcome the world, and the nations shall be brought in, and there shall be reconciliation of God with men, and so great blessings shall come upon us!

How then have we “known? Unto us,” he saith, “God hath revealed them by His Spirit;” not by the wisdom which is without; for this like some dishonored handmaid hath not been permitted to enter in, and stoop down and look into (see St. John 20:5) the mysteries pertaining to the Lord. Seest thou how great is the difference between this wisdom and that? The things which angels knew not, these are what she hath taught us: but she that is without, hath done the contrary. Not only hath she failed to instruct, but she hindered and obstructed, and after the event sought to obscure His doings, making the Cross of none effect. Not then simply by our receiving the knowledge, does he describe the honor vouchsafed to us, nor by our receiving it with angels, but, what is more, by His Spirit conveying it to us.

[7.] Then to show its greatness, he saith, If the Spirit which knoweth the secret things of God had not revealed them, we should not have learned them. Such an object of care was this whole subject to God, as to be among His secrets. Wherefore we needed also that Teacher who knoweth these things perfectly; for “the Spirit,” (v. 10, 11, 12) saith he, “searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.” For the word “to search” is here indicative not of ignorance, but of accurate knowledge: it is the very same mode of speaking which he used even of God, saying, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:27) Then having spoken with exactness concerning the knowledge of the Spirit, and having pointed out that it is as fully equal to God’s knowledge, as the knowledge of a man itself to itself; and also, that we have learned all things from it and necessarily from it; he added, “which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Seest thou to what point he exalted us because of the Teacher’s dignity? For so much are we wiser than they as there is difference between Plato and the Holy Spirit; they having for masters the heathen rhetoricians; but we, the Holy Spirit.

[8.] But what is this, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual?” When a thing is spiritual and of dubious meaning, we adduce testimonies from the things which are spiritual. For instance, I say, Christ rose again—was born of a Virgin; I adduce testimonies and types and demonstrations; the abode of Jonah in the whale and his deliverance afterwards; the child-bearing of the barren, Sarah, Rebecca, and the rest; the springing up of the trees which took place in paradise (Gen. 2:5) when there had been no seeds sown, no rains sent down, no furrow drawn along. For the things to come were fashioned out and figured forth, as in shadow, by the former things, that these which are now might be believed when they came in. And again we shew, how of the earth was man, and how of man alone the woman; and this without any intercourse whatever; how the earth itself of nothing, the power of the Great Artificer being every where sufficient for all things. Thus “with spiritual things” do I “compare spiritual,” and in no instance have I need of the Wisdom which is without—neither its reasonings nor its embellishments. For such persons do but agitate the weak understanding and confuse it; and are not able to demonstrate clearly any one of the things which they affirm, but even have the contrary effect. They rather disturb the mind and fill it with darkness and much perplexity. Wherefore he saith, “with spiritual things comparing spiritual.”8 Seest thou how superfluous he sheweth it to be? and not only superfluous, but even hostile and injurious: for this is meant by the expressions, “lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect,” and, “that our (‘your faith,’ rec. text) faith should not stand in the wisdom of men.” And he points out here, that it is impossible for those who confidently entrust every thing to it, to learn any useful thing: for

[9.] Ver. 14. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”

It is necessary then to lay it aside first. “What then,” some man will say; “is the wisdom from without stigmatized? And yet it is the work of God.” How is this clear? since He made it not, but it was an invention of thine. For in this place he calls by the term “wisdom” curious research and superfluous elegance of words. But should any one say that he means the human understanding; even in this sense the fault is thine. For thou bringest a bad name upon it, who makest a bad use of it; who to the injury and thwarting of God demandest from it things which indeed it never had. Since then thou boastest therein and fightest with God, He hath exposed its weakness. For strength of body also is an excellent thing, but when Cain used it not as he ought, God disabled him and made him tremble (Gen. 4:12, 14. Sept. “sighing and trembling,” rec. ver. “fugitive and vagabond.”) Wine also is a good thing; but because the Jews indulged in it immoderately, God prohibited the priests entirely from the use of the fruit9. And since thou also hast abused wisdom unto the rejecting of God, and hast demanded of it more than it can do of its own strength; in order to withdraw thee from human hope, he hath shewed thee its weakness.

For (to proceed) he is “a natural man, who attributes every thing to reasonings of the mind and considers not that he needs help from above; which is a mark of sheer folly. For God bestowed it that it might learn and receive help from Him, not that it should consider itself sufficient unto itself. For eyes are beautiful and useful, but should they choose to see without light, their beauty profits them nothing; nor yet their natural force, but even doth harm. So if you mark it, any soul also, if it choose to see without the Spirit, becomes even an impediment unto itself.

“How then, before this,” it will be said, “did she see all things of herself?” Never at any time did she this of herself but she had creation for a book set before her in open view. But when men having left off to walk in the way which God commanded them, and by the beauty of visible objects to know the Great Artificer, had entrusted to disputations the leading-staff of knowledge; they became weak and sank in a sea of ungodliness; for they presently brought in that which was the abyss of all evil, asserting that nothing was produced from things which were not, but from uncreated matter; and from this source they became the parents of ten thousand heresies.

Moreover, in their extreme absurdities they agreed; but in those things wherein they seemed to dream out something wholesome, though it were only as in shadows, they fell out with one another; that on both sides they might be laughed to scorn. For that out of things which are not nothing is produced, nearly all with one accord have asserted and written; and this with great zeal. In these absurdities then they were urged on by the Devil. But in their profitable sayings, wherein they seemed, though it were but darkly, (ἐν αἰνίγματι,) to find some part of what they sought, in these they waged war with one another: for instance, that the soul is immortal; that virtue needs nothing external; and that the being good or the contrary is not of necessity nor of fate.

Dost thou see the craft of the Devil? If any where he saw men speaking any thing corrupt, he made all to be of one mind; but if any where speaking any thing sound, he raised up others against them; so that the absurdities did not fail, being confirmed by the general consent, and the profitable parts died away, being variously understood. Observe how in every respect the soul is unstrung, (ἄτονος) and is not sufficient unto herself. And this fell out as one might expect. For if, being such as she is, she aspire to have need of nothing and withdraw herself from God; suppose her not fallen into that condition, and into what extreme madness would she not have insensibly sunk? If, endowed with a mortal body, she expected greater things from the false promise of the Devil—(for, “Ye shall be,” said he, “as gods” Gen. 3:4)—to What extent would she not have cast herself away, had she received her body also, from the beginning, immortal. For, even after that, she asserted herself to be unbegotten and of the essence of God, through the corrupt mouth of the Manicheans10, and it was this distemperature which gave occasion to her invention of the Grecian gods. On this account, as it seems to me, God made virtue laborious, with a view to bow down the soul and to bring it to moderation. And that thou mayest convince thyself that this is true, (as far as from trifles one may guess at any thing great,) let us learn it from the Israelites. They, it is well known, when they led not a life of toil but indulged in relaxation, not being able to bear prosperity, fell away into ungodliness. What then did God upon this? He laid upon them a multitude of laws with a view to restrain their licence. And to convince you that these laws contribute not to any virtue, but were given to them as a sort of curb, providing them with an occasion of perpetual labor; hear what saith the prophet concerning them; “I gave them statutes which were not good.” Ezek. 20:25. What means, “not good?” Such as did not much contribute towards virtue. Wherefore he adds also, “and ordinances whereby they shall not live.”

[10.] “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”

For as with these eyes no man could learn the things in the heavens; so neither the soul unaided the things of the Spirit. And why speak I of the things in heaven? It receives not even those in earth, all of them. For beholding afar off a square tower, we think it to be round; but such an opinion is more deception of the eyes: so also we may be sure, when a man by means of his understanding alone examines the things which are afar off much ridicule will ensue. For not only will he not see them such as indeed they are, but will even account them the contraries of what they are. Wherefore he added, “for they are foolishness unto him” But this comes not of the nature of the things, but of his infirmity, unable as he is to attain to their greatness through the eyes of his soul.

[11.] Next, pursuing his contrast, he states the cause of this, saying, “he knoweth not because they are spiritually discerned:” i.e. the things asserted require faith, and to apprehend them by reasonings is not possible, for their magnitude exceeds by a great deal the meanness of our understanding. Wherefore he saith, “but he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” For he that has sight, beholds himself all things that appertain to the man that has no sight; but no sightless person discerns what the other is about. So also in the case before us, our own matters and those of unbelievers, all of them we for our part know; but ours, they know not henceforth any more. We know what is the nature of things present, what the dignity of things to come; and what some day shall become of the world when this state of things shall be no more, and what sinners shall suffer, and the righteous shall enjoy. And that things present are nothing worth, we both know, and their meanness we expose; (for to “discern” is also to expose;) (ἀνακρίνειν, ἐλέγχειν) and that the things to come are immortal and immoveable. All these things are known to the spiritual man; and what the natural man shall suffer when he is departed into that world; and what the faithful shall enjoy when he hath fulfilled his journey from this: none of which are known to the natural man.

[12.] Wherefore also, subjoining a plain demonstration of what had been affirmed, he saith, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” That is to say, the things which are in the mind of Christ, these we know, even the very things which He willeth and hath revealed. For since he had said, “the Spirit had revealed them;” lest any one should set aside the Son, he subjoins that Christ also shewed us these things. Not meaning this, that all the things which He knoweth, we know; but that all the things Which we know are not human so as to be open to suspicion, but of His mind and spiritual.

For the mind which we have about these things we have of Christ; that is, the knowledge which we have concerning the things of the faith is spiritual; so that with reason we are “judged of no man.” For it is not possible that a natural man should know divine things, Wherefore also he said, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord?” implying that our own mind which we have about these things, is His mind. And this, “that he may instruct Him,” he hath not added without reason, but with reference to what he had just now said, “the spiritual man no one discerneth.” For if no man is able to know the mind of God, much less can he teach and correct it. For this is the meaning of, “that he may instruct Him.”

Seest thou how from every quarter he repels the wisdom which is without, and shews that the spiritual man knoweth more things and greater? For seeing that those reasons, “That no flesh should glory;” and, “For this cause hath He chosen the foolish things, that He might confound the wise men;” and, “Lest the Cross of Christ should be made void:” seemed not to the unbelievers greatly worthy of credit, nor yet attractive, or necessary, or useful, he finishes by laying down the principal reason; because in this way we most easily see from Whom we may have the means of learning even high things, and things secret, and things which are above us. For reason was absolutely made of none effect by our inability to apprehend through Gentile wisdom the things above us.

You may observe, too, that it was more advantageous to learn in this way from the Spirit. For that is the easiest and clearest of all teaching.

“But we have the mind of Christ.” That is, spiritual, divine, that which hath nothing human. For it is not of Plato, nor of Pythagoras, but it is Christ Himself, putting His own things into our mind.

This then, if naught else, let us revere, O beloved, and let our life shine forth as most excellent; since He also Himself maketh this a sure proof of great friendship, viz. the revealing His secrets unto us: where He saith, (St. John 15:15) “Henceforth I call you not servants, for all ye are My friends; for all things which I have heard from My Father I have told unto you:” that is, I have had confidence towards you. Now if this by itself is a proof of friendship, namely, to have confidence: when it appears that He has not only confided to us the mysteries conveyed by words, (τὰ διὰ ῥημάτων μυστηρία) but also imparted to us the same conveyed by works, (διὰ τῶν ἒργων, i.e. sacramental actions) consider how vast the love of which this is the fruit. This, if nothing else, let us revere; even though we will not make any such great account of hell, yet let it be more fearful than hell to be thankless and ungrateful to such a friend and benefactor. And not as hired servants, but as sons and freemen, let us do all things for the love of our Father; and let us at last cease from adhering to the world that we may put the Greeks also to shame. For even now desiring to put out my strength against them, I shrink from so doing, lest haply, surpass them as we may by our arguments and the truth of what we teach, we bring upon ourselves much derision from the comparison of our way of life; seeing that they indeed, cleaving unto error and having no such conviction, abide by philosophy, but we do just the contrary. However, I will say it. For it may be, it may be that in practising how to contend against them, we shall long as rivals to become better than they in our mode of life also.

[14.] I was saying not long ago, that it would not have entered the Apostles’ thoughts to preach what they did preach, had they not enjoyed Divine Grace; and that so far from succeeding, they would not even have devised such a thing. Well then, let us also to-day prosecute the same subject in our discourse; and let us shew that it was a thing impossible so much as to be chosen or thought of by them, if they had not had Christ among them: not because they were arrayed, the weak against the strong, not because few against many, not because poor against rich, not because unlearned against wise, but because the strength of their prejudice, too, was great. For ye know that nothing is so strong with men as the tyranny of ancient custom. So that although they had not been twelve only, and not so contemptible, and such as they really were, but another world as large as this, and with an equivalent number arrayed on their side, or even much greater; even in this case the result would have been hard to achieve. For the other party had custom on their side, but to these their novelty was an obstacle. For nothing so much disturbs the mind, though it be done for some beneficial purpose, as to innovate and introduce strange things, and most of all when this is done in matters relating to divine worship and the glory of God. And how great force there is in this circumstance I will now make plain; first having made the following statement that there was added also another difficulty with regard to the Jews. For in the case of the Greeks, they destroyed both their gods and their doctrines altogether; but not so did they dispute with the Jews, but many of their doctrines they abolished, while the God who had enacted the same they bade them worship. And affirming that men should honor the legislator, they said, “obey not in all respects the law which is of Him;” for instance, in the keeping the Sabbath, or observing circumcision, or offering sacrifices, or doing any other like thing. So that not only was custom an impediment, but also the fact, that when they bade men worship God, they bade them break many of His laws.

[15.] But in the case of the Greeks great was the tyranny of custom. For if it had been a custom of ten years only, I say not of such a length of time, and if it had preoccupied but a few men, I say not the whole world, when these persons made their approaches; even in this case the revolution would have been hard to effect. But now sophists, and orators, and fathers, and grandfathers, and many more ancient than all these, had been preoccupied by the error: the very earth and sea, and mountains and groves, and all nations of Barbarians, and all tribes of the Greeks, and wise men and ignorant, rulers and subjects, women and men, young and old, masters and slaves, artificers and husbandmen, dwellers in cities and in the country; all of them. And those who were instructed would naturally say, “What in the world is this? Have all that dwell in the world been deceived? both sophists and orators, philosophers and historians, the present generation and they who were before this, Pythagoreans, Platonists, generals, consuls, kings, they who in all cities from the beginning were citizens and colonists, both Barbarians and Greeks? And are the twelve fishermen and tent-makers and publicans wiser than all these? Why, who could endure such a statement?” However, they spake not so, nor had it in their mind, but did endure them, and owned that they were wiser than all. Wherefore they overcame even all. And custom was no impediment to this, though accounted invincible when she hath acquired her full swing by course of time.

And that thou mayest learn how great is the strength of custom, it hath oftentimes prevailed over the commands of God. And why do I say, commands? Even over very blessings. For so the Jews when they had manna, required garlic; enjoying liberty they were mindful of their slavery; and they were continually longing for Egypt, because they were accustomed to it. Such a tyrannical thing is custom.

If thou desire to hear of it from the heathens also; it is said that Plato, although well aware that all about the gods was a sort of imposture, condescended to all the feasts and all the rest of it, as being unable to contend with custom; and as having in fact learnt this from his master. For he, too, being suspected of some such innovation, was so far from succeeding in what he desired that he even lost his life; and this, too, after making his defence. And how many men do we see now by prejudice held in idolatry, and having nothing plausible to say, when they are charged with being Greeks, but alleging the fathers, and grandfathers, and great grandfathers. For no other reason did some of the heathens call custom, second nature. But when doctrines are the subject-matter of the custom, it becomes yet more deeply rooted. For a man would change all things more easily than those pertaining to religion. The feeling of shame, too, coupled with custom, was enough to raise an obstacle; and the seeming to learn a new lesson in extreme old age, and that of those who were not so intelligent. And why wonder, should this happen in regard of the soul, seeing that even in the body custom hath great force?

[16.] In the Apostles’ case, however, there was yet another obstacle, more powerful than these; it was not merely changing custom so ancient and primitive, but there were perils also under which the change was effected. For they were not simply drawing men from one custom to another, but from a custom, wherein was no fear to an undertaking which held out threats of danger. For the believer must immediately incur confiscation, persecution, exile from his country; must suffer the worst ills, be hated of all men, be a common enemy both to his own people and to strangers. So that even if they had invited men to a customary thing out of novelty, even in this case it would have been a difficult matter. But when it was from a custom to an innovation, and with all these terrors to boot, consider how vast was the obstacle!

And again, another thing, not less than those mentioned, was added to make the change difficult. For besides the custom and the dangers, these precepts were both more burdensome, and those from which they withdrew men were easy and light. For their call was from fornication unto chastity; from love of life unto sundry kinds of death; from drunkenness unto fasting; from laughter unto tears and compunction; from covetousness unto utter indigence; from safety unto dangers: and throughout all they required the strictest circumspection. For, “Filthiness,” (Ephes. 5:4) saith he, “and foolish talking, and jesting, let it not proceed out of your mouth.” And these things they spake unto those who knew nothing else than how to be drunken and serve their bellies; who celebrated feasts made up of nothing but of “filthiness” and laughter and all manner of revellings (κωμῳδίας άπάσης.) So that not only from the matter pertaining to severity of life were the doctrines burthensome, but also from their being spoken unto men who had been brought up in careless ease, and “filthiness.” and “foolish talking,” and laughter and revellings. For who among those who had lived in these things, when he heard, (Matt. 10:38) “If a man take not up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me;” and, (Ibid. 34) “I came not to send peace but a sword, and to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter at variance with her mother,” would not have felt himself chilled all over (ἐνάρκησε)? And who, when he heard, “If a man bid not farewell to home and country and possessions, he is not worthy of Me,” would not have hesitated, would not have refused? And yet there were men, who not only felt no chill, neither shrunk away when they heard these things, but ran to meet them and rushed upon the hardships, and eagerly caught at the precepts enjoined. Again, to be told, “For every idle word we shall give account;” (Matt. 12:36) and, “whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her as soon as seen;” (Matt. 5:28, 25) and, “whosoever is angry without cause shall fall into hell;”—which of the men of that day would not these things have frightened off? And yet all came running in, and many even leaped over the boundaries of the course. What then was their attraction? Was it not, plainly, the power of Him who was preached? For suppose that the case were not as it is, but just contrary11, that this side was the other, and the other this; would it have been easy, let me ask, to hold fast and to drag on those who resisted? We cannot say so. So that in every way that power is proved divine which wrought so excellently. Else how, tell me, did they prevail with the frivolous and the dissolute, urging them toward the severe and rough course of life?

[17.] Well; such was the nature of the precepts. But let us see whether the doctrine was attractive. Nay, in this respect also there was enough to frighten away the unbelievers. For what said the preachers? That we must worship the crucified, and count Him as God, who was born of a Jewish woman. Now who would have been persuaded by these words, unless divine power had led the way? That indeed He had been crucified and buried, all men knew; but that He had risen again and ascended, no one save the Apostles had seen.

But, you will say, they excited them by promises and deceived them by an empty sound of words. Nay, this very topic most particularly shews (even apart from all that has been said) that our doctrines are no deceit. For all its hardships took place here, but its consolations they were to promise after the resurrection. This very thing then, for I repeat it, shews that our Gospel is divine. For why did no one of the believers say, “I close not with this, neither do I endure it? Thou threatenest me with hardships here, and the good things thou promisest after the resurrection. Why, how is it plain that there will be a resurrection? Which of the departed hath returned? Which of those at rest hath risen again? Which of these hath said what shall be after our departure hence?” But none of these things entered into their minds; rather they gave up their very lives for the Crucified. So that this bare fact was more than anything a proof of great power; first, their working conviction at once, touching matters so important, in persons that had never in their lives before heard of any such thing; secondly, that they prevailed on them to take the difficulties upon trial, and to account the blessings as matter of hope. Now if they had been deceivers they would have done the contrary: their good things they would have promised as of this world (ἐντεῦθεν, so St. John 18:36); the fearful things they would not have mentioned, whether they related to the present life or the future. For so deceivers and flatterers act. Nothing harsh, nor galling, nor burdensome, do they hold out, but altogether the contrary. For this is the nature of deceit.

[18.] But “the folly,” it will be said, “of the greater part caused them to believe what they were told.” How sayest thou? When they were under Greeks, they were not foolish; but when they came over to us, did their folly then begin? And yet they were not men of another sort nor out of another world, that the Apostles took and persuaded: they were men too who simply held the opinions of the Greeks, but ours they received with the accompaniment of dangers so that if with better reason they had maintained the former, they would not have swerved from them, now that they had so long time been educated therein; and especially as not without danger was it possible to swerve. But when they came to know from the very nature of the things that all on that side was mockery and delusion, upon this, even under menaces of sundry deaths, they sprang off (ἀπεπήδησαν) from their customary ways, and came over voluntarily unto the new; inasmuch as the latter doctrine was according to nature, but the other contrary to nature.

But “the persons convinced,” it is said, “were slaves, and woman, and nurses, and midwives, and eunuchs.” Now in the first place, not of these alone doth our Church consist; and this is plain unto all. But be it of these; this is what especially makes the Gospel worthy of admiration; that such doctrines as Plato and his followers could not apprehend, the fishermen had power on a sudden to persuade the most ignorant sort of all to receive. For if they had persuaded wise men only, the result would not have been so wonderful; but in advancing slaves, and nurses, and eunuchs unto such great severity of life as to make them rivals to angels, they offered the greatest proof of their divine inspiration. Again; had they enjoined I know not what trifling matters, it were reasonable perhaps to bring forward the conviction wrought in these persons, to show the trifling nature of the things which were spoken: but if things great, and high, and almost transcending human nature, and requiring high thoughts, were the matter of their lessons of wisdom; the more foolishness thou showest in those who were convinced, by so much the more dost thou shew clearly that they who wrought the conviction were wise and filled with divine grace.

But, you will say, they prevailed on them through the excessive greatness of the promises. But tell me, is not this very thing a wonder to thee, how they persuaded men to expect prizes and recompenses after death? For this, were there nothing else, is to me matter of amazement. But this, too, it will be said, came of folly. Inform me wherein is the folly of these things: that the soul is immortal; that an impartial tribunal will receive us after the present life; that we shall render an account of our deeds and words and thoughts unto God that knoweth all secrets; that we shall see the evil undergoing punishment, and the good with crowns on their heads. Nay, these things are not of folly, but the highest instruction of wisdom. The folly is in the contrary opinions to these.

[19.] Were this then the only thing, the despising of things present, the setting much by virtue, the not seeking rewards here, but advancing far beyond in hopes, and the keeping the soul so intent and faithful as by no present terror to be hindered in respect of the hope of what shall be; tell me, to what high philosophy must this belong? But would you also learn the force of the promises and predictions in themselves, and the truth of those uttered both before and after this present state of things? Behold, I shew you a golden chain, woven cunningly from the beginning! He spake some things to them about Himself, and about the churches, and about the things to come; and as He spake, He wrought mighty works. By the fulfilment therefore of what He said, it is plain that both the wonders wrought were real, and the future and promised things also.

But that my meaning may be yet plainer, let me illustrate it from the actual case. He raised up Lazarus by a single word merely, and shewed him alive. Again, He said, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church (St. Matt. 16:18) and, “He that forsaketh father or mother, shall receive an hundred-fold in this life, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (ib. 19:29) The miracle then is one, the raising of Lazarus; but the predictions are two; made evident, the one here, the other in the world to come. Consider now, how they are all proved by one another. For if a man disbelieve the resurrection of Lazarus, from the prophecy uttered about the Church let him learn to believe the miracle. For the word spoken so many years before, came to pass then, and received accomplishment: for “the gates of Hades prevailed not against the Church.” You see that He who spake truth in the prophecy, it is clear that he also wrought the miracle: and He who both wrought the miracle and brings to accomplishment the words which He spake, it is clear that He speaks the truth also in the predictions of things yet to come, when He saith, “He who despiseth things present shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” For the things which have been already done and spoken, He hath given as the surest pledges of those which shall hereafter come to pass.

Of all these things then, and the like to these, collecting them together out of the Gospels, let us tell them, and so stop their mouths. But if any one say, Why then was not error completely extinguished? this may be our answer: Ye yourselves are to blame, who rebel against your own salvation. For God hath so ordered this matter (ᾠκονόμησεν,) that not even a remnant of the old impiety need be left.

[20.] Now, briefly to recount what has been said: What is the natural course of things? That the weak should be overcome by the strong, or the contrary? Those who speak things easy, or things of the harsher sort? those who attract men with dangers, or with security? innovators, or those who strengthen custom? those who lead into a rough, or into a smooth way? those who withdraw men from the institutions of their fathers, or those who lay down no strange laws? those who promise all their good things after our departure from this world, or those who flatter in the present life? the few to overcome the many, or the many the few?

But you, too, saith one, gave promises pertaining to this life. What then have we promised in this life? The forgiveness of sins and the laver of regeneration. Now in the first place, baptism itself hath its chief part in things to come; and Paul exclaims, saying, (Col. 3:4) “For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God: when your life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory.” But if in this life also it bath advantages, as indeed it hath, this also is more than all a matter of great wonder, that they had power to persuade men who had done innumerable evil deeds, yea such as no one else had done, that they should wash themselves clean of all, and they should give account of none of their offences. So that on this very account it were most of all meet to wonder that they persuaded Barbarians to embrace such a faith as this, and to have good hopes concerning things to come; and having thrown off the former burden of their sins, to apply themselves with the greatest zeal for the time to come to those toils which virtue requires, and not to gape after any object of sense, but rising to a height above all bodily things, to receive gifts purely spiritual: yea, that the Persian, the Sarmatian, the Moor, and the Indian should be acquainted with the purification of the soul, and the power of God, and His unspeakable mercy to men, and the severe discipline of faith, and the visitation of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of bodies, and the doctrines of life eternal. For in all these things, and in whatever is more than these, the fishermen, initiating by Baptism divers races of Barbarians, persuaded them (φιλοσοφεῖν) to live on high principles.

Of all these things then, having observed them accurately, let us speak unto the Gentiles, and again, let us shew them the evidence of our lives: that by both means we ourselves may be saved and they drawn over by our means unto the glory of God. For unto Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

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St Augustine’s Sermon on John 5:25 and 1 Cor 3:9

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 11, 2017

On the words of the gospel, John 5:25, “verily, verily, i say unto you, the hour cometh, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the son of god; and they that hear shall live,” etc.; and on the words of the apostle, “things which eye saw not,” etc., 1 Cor. 2:9.

[I] 1. Our hope, Brethren, is not of this present time, nor of this world, nor in that happiness whereby men are blinded that forget God. This ought we above all things to know, and in a Christian heart hold fast, that we were not made Christians for the good things of the present time, but for something else which God at once promiseth, and man doth not yet comprehend. For of this good it is said, “That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.”5 Because then this good, so great, so excellent, so ineffable, fell not in with man’s understanding, it required God’s promise. For what hath been promised him, man blind of heart doth not now comprehend; nor can it be shown to him at present, what he will one day be to whom the promise is given. For so an infant child, if he could understand the words of one speaking, when himself could neither speak, nor walk, nor do anything, but feeble as we see he is, unable to stand,6 requiring the assistance of others, were able only to understand him who should speak to him and tell him, “Lo, as thou seest me walking, working, speaking, after a few years thou shall be as I am;” as he considered himself and the other, though he would see what was promised; yet considering his own feebleness, would not believe, and yet he would see what was promised. But with us infants, as it were, lying in this flesh and feebleness, that which is promised is at once great and is not seen; and so faith is aroused whereby we believe that we do not see, that we may attain7 to see what we believe. Whosoever derideth this faith, so as to think that he is not to believe in that he doth not see; when that shall come which he believed not, is put to shame: being confounded is separated, being separated, is condemned. But whoso shall have believed, is put aside at the right hand, and shall stand with great confidence and joy among those to whom it shall be said, “Come, blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”8 But the Lord made an end when He spake these words, thus, “These shall go into everlasting burning, but the righteous into life eternal.”1 This is the life eternal which is promised us.

2. Because men love to live on this earth, life is promised them; and because they exceedingly fear to die, eternal life is promised them. What dost thou love? To live. This shalt thou have. What dost thou fear? To die. Thou shalt not suffer it. This seemed to be enough for human infirmity, that it should be said, “Thou shalt have eternal life.” This the mind of man can comprehend, by its present condition it can in some sort comprehend what is to be. But by the imperfection of its present condition how far can it comprehend it? Because he lives, and does not wish to die; he loves eternal life, he wishes to live always, never to die. But they who shall be tormented in punishments, have even a wish to die, and cannot. It is no great thing then to live long, or to live for ever; but to live blessedly is a great thing. [II] Let us love eternal life, and hereby may we know how greatly we ought to labour for eternal life, when we see men who love the present life, which lasts but for a time and must be brought to an end, labour so for it, that when the fear of death comes, they will do whatever they can, not to put away, but to put off death. How does a man labour, when death threatens, by flight, by concealment, by giving all he has, and redeeming himself, by toil, by endurance of torments and uneasinesses, by calling in physicians, and whatever else a man can do? See, how that after exhausting all his labour and his means, he is but able to contrive to live a little longer; to live always, he is not able. If then men strive with so great labour, with so great efforts, so great a cost, such earnestness, such watchfulness, such carefulness, that they may live a little longer; how should they strive that they may live for ever? And if they are called wise, who by all means strive to put off death, and live a few days, that they lose not a few days: how foolish are they who so live as to lose the day eternal!

3. This then only can be promised us, that this gift of God may in whatever measure be sweet to us, from this which we have at present; seeing that it is of His gift we have it, that we live, that we are in health. When then eternal life is promised, let us set before our eyes a life of such a kind, as to remove from it everything unpleasant which we suffer here. For it is easier for us to find what is not there, than what is there. Lo, here we live; we shall live there also. Here we are in health when we are not sick, and there is no pain in the body; there we shall be in health also. And when it is well with us in this life, we suffer no scourge; we shall suffer none there also. Suppose then a man here below living, in sound health, suffering no scourge; if any one were to grant him that he should be for ever so, and that this good estate should never cease, how greatly would he rejoice? how greatly be transported? how would he not contain himself in joy without pain, without torment, without end of life? If God had promised us this only, which I have mentioned, which I have just now in such words as I was able, described and set forth; at what a price ought it to be purchased if it were to be sold, how great a sum ought to be given to buy it? [III] Would all that thou hadst suffice, even though thou shouldest possess the whole world? And yet it is to be sold; buy it if thou wilt. And be not much disquieted for a thing so great, because of the largeness of the price. Its price is no more than what thou hast. Now to procure any great and precious thing, thou wouldest get ready gold, or silver, or money, or any increase of cattle, or fruits, which might be produced in thy possessions, to buy this I know not what great and excellent thing, whereby to live in this earth happily. Buy this too, if thou wilt. Do not look for what thou hast, but for what thou art. The price of this thing is thyself. Its price is what thou art thyself. Give thine own self, and thou shalt have it. Why art thou troubled? why disquieted? What? Art thou going to seek for thine own self, or to buy thyself? Lo, give thine own self as thou art, such as thou art to that thing, and thou shalt have it. But you will say, “I am wicked, and perhaps it will not accept me.” By giving thyself to it, thou wilt be good. The giving thyself to this faith and promise, this is to be good. And when thou shalt be good, thou wilt be the price of this thing; and shalt have, not only what I have mentioned, health, safety, life, and life without end; thou shalt not only have this, I will take away other things yet. There shall there be no weariness, and sleeping; there shall there be no hunger, and thirst; there shall there be no growing, and growing old; because there shall be no birth either where the numbers remain entire. The number that is there is entire; nor is there any need for it to be increased, seeing there is no chance of diminution there. Lo, how many things have I taken away, and I have not yet said what shall be there. Lo, already there is life, and safety; no scourge, no hunger, no thirst, no failing, none of these; and yet I have not said, “what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath ascended into the heart of man.” For if I have said it, it is false that is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man.” For whence should it ascend into my heart, that I should say “that which hath not ascended into the heart of man”? It is believed, and not seen; not only not seen, but not even expressed. How then is it believed, if it is not expressed? Who believes what he doth not hear? But if he hear it that he may believe, it is expressed; if expressed, it is thought of; if thought of and expressed, then it entereth into the ears of men. And because it would not be expressed if it were not thought of, it hath ascended also into the heart of man. Lo, already the mere proposing of so great a thing disturbs us, that we cannot put it forth clearly in words. Who then can explain the thing itself?

[IV] 4. Let us attend to the Gospel; just now the Lord was speaking, and let us do what He said. “He that believeth in Me,” saith He, “passeth from death unto life, and cometh not into judgment. Verily I say unto you, that the hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that bear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”1 By begetting Him He gave it; in that He begat, He gave it. For the Son is of the Father, not the Father of the Son; but the Father is the Father of the Son, and the Son is the Son of the Father. I say the Son is begotten of the Father, not the Father of the Son; and the Son was always, always therefore begotten. Who can comprehend this “always begotten”? For when any man hears of one begotten, it occurs to him; “Therefore there was a time, when he who was begotten was not.” What say we then? Not so; there was no time before the Son, for that “all things were made by Him.”2 If all things were made by Him, times also were made by Him; how could times be before the Son, by whom times were made? Take away then all times, the Son was with the Father always. If the Son were with the Father always, and yet the Son, He was begotten always; if begotten always, He who was begotten was always with Him That begat Him.

5. You will say, “This have I never seen, one begetting, and always with him whom be begat; but he that begat came first, and he that was begotten followed in time.” You say well, “I have never seen this;” for this appertains to “that which eye hath not seen.” Do you ask how it may be expressed? It cannot be expressed; “For the ear hath not heard, neither hath it ascended unto the heart of man.” Be it believed and adored, when we believe, we adore; when we adore, we grow; when we grow, we comprehend. For as yet whilst we are in this flesh, as long as we are absent from the Lord, we are, with respect to the Holy Angels who see these things, infants to be suckled by faith, hereafter to be fed by sight. For so saith the Apostle, “As long as we are in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight.”3 We shall some day come to sight, which is thus promised us by John in his Epistle; “Dearly beloved, we are the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be.”4 We are the sons of God now by grace, by faith, by the Sacrament, by the Blood of Christ, by the redemption of the Saviour; “We are the sons of God, and it hath not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

[V] 6. Lo, unto the comprehending of what are we being nourished up; lo, unto the embracing and the feeding on what are we being nourished up; yet so as that that which is fed on is not diminished, and he that feedeth is supported. For now food supports us by eating it; but the food which is eaten, is diminished; but when we shall begin to feed on Righteousness, to feed on Wisdom, to feed on that Food Immortal, we are at once supported, and That Food is not diminished. For if the eye knows how to feed on light, and yet doth not diminish the light; for the light will be no less because it is seen by more; it feeds the eyes of more, and yet is as great as it was before: both they are fed, and it is not diminished; if God hath granted this to the light which He hath made for the eyes of the flesh, what is He Himself, the Light for the eyes of the heart? If then any choice5 food were praised to thee, on which thou wast to dine, thou wouldest prepare the stomach; God is praised to thee, prepare the heart.

7. Behold what thy Lord saith to thee: “The hour shall come,” saith He, “and now is.” “The hour shall come,” yea, that very hour, “now is, when”—what? “when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God, and they that shall hear shall live.” They then that shall not hear, shall not live. What is, “They that shall hear”? They that shall obey. What is, “They that shall hear”? They that shall believe and obey, they shall live. So then before they believed and obeyed, they lay dead; they walked, and were dead. What availed it to them, that they walked, being dead? And yet if any among them were to die a bodily death, they would run, get ready the grave, wrap him up, carry him out, bury him, the dead, the dead; of whom it is said, “Let the dead bury their dead.”6 Such dead as these are in such wise raised by the Word of God, as to live in faith. They who were dead in unbelief, are aroused by the Word. Of this hour said the Lord, “The hour shall come, and now is.” For with His Own Word did He raise them that were dead in unbelief; of whom the Apostle says, “Arise thou that sleepest, and rise up from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”1 This is the resurrection of hearts, this is the resurrection of the inner man, this is the resurrection of the soul.

[VI] 8. But this is not the only resurrection, there remains a resurrection of the body also. Whoso riseth again in soul, riseth again in body to his blessedness. For in soul all do not rise again; in body all are to rise again. In soul, I say, all do not rise again; but they that believe and obey; for, “They that shall hear shall live.” But as the Apostle says, “All men have not faith.”2 If then all men have not faith, all men do not rise again in soul. When thy hour of the resurrection of the booty shall come, all shall rise again; be they good or bad, all shall rise again. But whoso first riseth again in soul, to his blessedness riseth again in body; whoso doth not first rise again in soul, riseth again in body to his curse. Whoso riseth again in soul, riseth again in body unto life; whoso riseth not again in soul, riseth again in body unto punishment. Seeing then that the Lord hath impressed upon us this resurrection of souls, unto which we ought all to hasten, and to labour that we may live therein, and living persevere even unto the end, it remained for Him to impress upon us the resurrection of bodies also, which is to be at the end of the world. Now hear how He hath impressed this too.

9. When He had said, “Verily I say unto you, The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead,” that is, the unbelievers, “shall hear the Voice of the Son of God,” that is, the Gospel, “and they that shall hear,” that is, that shall obey, “shall live,” that is, shall be justified, and shall be unbelievers no longer; when, I say, He had said this, forasmuch as He saw that we had need to be instructed as to the resurrection of the flesh also, and were not to be left thus, He went on and said, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.” This refers to the resurrection of souls, to the quickening of souls. Then He added, “And hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” This Son of God, is Son of Man. For if the Son of God had continued the Son of God, and had not been made the Son of Man, He would not have delivered the sons of men. He who had made man, was Himself made that which He made, that what He made might not perish. But He was in such wise made the Son of Man, as to continue the Son of God. For He was made Man by assuming that which He was not, not by losing That which He was; continuing God, He was made Man. He took thee, He was not consumed in thee. As such then came He to us, the Son of God, and Son of Man, the Maker and the Made, the Creator and the Created; the Creator of His mother, Created of His mother; such came He to us. In respect of His being the Son of God, He saith, “The hour shall come, and now is, when the dead shall hear the Voice of the Son of God.” He did not say, “Of the Son of Man;” for He was impressing the truth, wherein He is equal to the Father. “And they that shall hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;” not by participation, but “in Himself.” For we have not life in ourselves; but in our God. But He, the Father, hath life in Himself; and He begat such a Son as should have life in Himself; not be made a partaker of life, but Himself be Life, of which life we I should be partakers; that is, should have life in Himself, and Himself be Life. But that He should be made the Son of Man, He took from us. Son of God in Himself; that He should be the Son of Man, He took from us. Son of God of That which is His Own, Son of Man of ours. That which is the less, took He from us; That which is the more, gave He to us. For thus He died in that He is the Son of Man, not in that He is the Son of God. Yet the Son of God died; but He died in respect to the flesh, not in respect to “the Word which was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”3 So then in that He died, He died of that which was ours; in that we live, we live of That which is His. He could not die of That which was His own, nor could we live of that which is our own. As God then, as the Only-Begotten, as equal with Him who begat Him, did the Lord Jesus impress this upon us, that if we hear, we shall live.

[VII] 10. But, saith He, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” So then that Form is to come to judgment. The Form of Man is to come to judgment; therefore He said, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” The Judge here shall be the Son of Man; here shall That Form judge which was judged. Hear and understand: the Prophet had said this already, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”4 That Very Form shall they see which they smote with a spear. He shall sit as Judge, Who stood at the judge’s seat. He shall condemn the real criminals, Who was made a criminal falsely. He shall come Himself, That Form shall come. This you find in the Gospel too; when before the eyes of His disciples He was going into heaven, they stood and looked on, and the Angelic voice spake, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye,” etc. “This Jesus shall come in like manner as ye see Him going into heaven.”1 What is, “shall come in like manner”? Shall come in this Very Form. For “He hath given Him power to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” Now see on what principle this was behoveful and right, that they who were to be judged might see the Judge. For they who were to be judged were both good and bad. “But blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”2 It remained that in the Judgment the Form of the servant should be manifested both to good and bad, the Form of God be reserved for the good alone.

11. For what is it that the good are to receive? Behold I am now expressing that which I did not express a little above; and yet in expressing I do not express it. For I said that there we shall be in sound health, shall be safe, shall be living, shall be without scourges, without hunger and thirst, without failing, without loss of our eyes. All this I said; but what we shall have more, I said not. [VIII] We shall see God. Now this will be so great, yea so great a thing will it be, that in comparison of it, all the rest is nothing. I said that we shall be living, that we shall be safe and sound, that we shall suffer no hunger and thirst, that we shall not fall into weariness, that sleep will not oppress us. All this, what is it to that happiness, whereby we shall see God? Because then God cannot be now manifested as He is, whom nevertheless we shall see; therefore, “what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,”3 this the good shall see, this shall the godly see, this the merciful shall see, this shall the faithful see, this shall they see who shall have a good lot in the resurrection of the body, for that they have had a good obedience in the resurrection of the heart.

12. Shall then the wicked man see God too? of whom Isaiah saith, “Let the ungodly be taken away, that he see not the Glory of God.”4 Both the ungodly and the godly then shall see that Form; and when the sentence, “Let the ungodly be taken away that he see not the Glory of God,” shall have been pronounced; it remains that as to the godly and the good, that be fulfilled which the Lord Himself promised, when He was here in the flesh, and seen not by the good only, but by the evil also. He spake amongst the good and evil, and was seen of all, as God, hidden, as Man, manifested; as God ruling men, as Man appearing among men: He spake, I say, among them, and said, “Whoso loveth Me, keepeth My commandments; and he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him.”5 And as if it were said to Him, And what wilt Thou give him? And “I will,” He saith, “manifest Myself to him.” When did He say this? When He was seen by men. When did He say this? When He was seen even by them, by whom He was not loved. How then was He to manifest Himself to them that loved Him, save in Such a Form, as they who loved Him then saw not? Therefore, seeing that the Form of God was being reserved, the Form of man manifested; by the Form of man, speaking to men, conspicuous and visible, He manifested Himself to all, both good and bad, He reserved Himself for them that loved Him.

[IX] 13. When is He to manifest Himself to them that love Him? After the resurrection of the body, when “the ungodly shall be taken away that he see not the Glory of God.” For then “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.”6 This is life eternal. For all that we said before is nothing to that life. That we live, what is it? That we are in health, what is it? That we shall see God, is a great thing. This is life eternal; this Himself hath said, “But this is life eternal, that they may know Thee the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.”7 This is life eternal, that they may know, see, comprehend, acquaint themselves with what they had believed, may perceive that which they were not yet able to comprehend. Then may the mind see what “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it ascended into the heart of man;” this shall be said to them at the end, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom which hath been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”8 Those wicked ones then shall go into everlasting burning. But the righteous, whither? Into life eternal? What is life eternal? “This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

[X] 14. Speaking then of the future resurrection of the body, and not leaving us thus, He saith, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not at this, for the hour shall come.” He did not add in this place, “and now is;” because this hour shall be hereafter, because this hour shall be at the end of the world, because this shall be the last hour, shall be at the last trump. “Marvel not at this,” because I have said, “He hath given Him power to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man. Marvel not.” For this reason have I said this, because it behoves Him as Man to be judged by men. And what men shall He judge? Those whom He finds alive? Not only those, but what? “The hour shall come, when they that are in the graves.”1 How did He express those that are dead in the flesh? “They who are in the graves,” whose corpses lie buried, whose ashes are covered up, whose bones are dispersed, whose flesh is flesh no more, and yet is entire to God. “The hour shall come, when all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth.” Be they good or bad, they shall hear the Voice, and shall come forth. All the bands of the grave2 shall be burst asunder; all that was lost, yea rather was thought to be lost, shall be restored. For if God made man who was not, can He not re-fashion that which was?

[XI] 15. I suppose when it is said, “God shall raise the dead again,” no incredible thing is said; for it is of God, not of man, that it is said. It is a great thing which shall be done, yea, an incredible thing that shall be done. But let it not be incredible, for see, who It is That doeth it. He it is said shall raise thee, Who created thee. Thou wast not, and thou art; and once made, shalt thou not be? God forbid thou shouldest think so! God did something more marvellous when He made that which was not; and nevertheless He did make that which was not; and shall it be disbelieved that He is able to re-fashion that which was, by those very persons whom He made what they were not? Is this the return we make to God, we who were not, and were made? Is this the return we make Him, that we will not believe that He is able to raise again what He hath made? Is this the return which His creature renders Him? “Have I therefore,” God saith to thee, “made thee, O man, before thou wast, that thou shouldest not believe Me, that thou shall be what thou wast, who hast been able to be what thou wast not?” But you will say, “Lo, what I see in the tomb, is dust, ashes, bones; and shall this receive life again, skin, substance, flesh, and rise again? what? these ashes, these bones, which I see in the tomb?” Well. At least thou seest ashes, thou seest bones in the tomb; in thy mother’s womb there was nothing. This thou seest, ashes at least there are, and bones; before that thou wast, there was neither ashes, nor bones; and yet thou wast made, when thou wast not at all; and dost thou not believe that these bones (for in whatever state, of whatever kind they are, yet they are), shall receive the form again which they had, when thou hast received what thou hadst not? Believe; for if thou shalt believe this, then shall thy soul be raised up. And thy soul shall be raised up “now;” “The hour shall come, and now is;” then to thy blessing shall thy flesh rise again, “when the hour shall come, that all that are in the graves shall hear His Voice, and shall come forth.” For thou must not at once rejoice, because thou dost hear “and come forth;” hear what follows, “They that have done good unto the resurrection of life; but they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation.”3 Turning to the Lord, etc.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2017

HOMILY VII

Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect, yet a wisdom not of this world, nor of the rulers of this world, which are coming to naught; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden, which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory.

Darkness seems to be more suitable than light to those that are diseased in their eyesight: wherefore they betake themselves by preference to some room that is thoroughly shaded over. This also is the case with the wisdom which is spiritual. As the wisdom which is of God seemed to be foolishness unto those without: so their own wisdom, being foolishness indeed, was accounted by them wisdom. The result has been just as if a man having skill in navigation were to promise that without a ship or sails he would pass over a boundless tract of sea, and then endeavor by reasonings to prove that the thing is possible; but some other person, ignorant of it all, committing himself to a ship and a steersman and sailors, were thus to sail in safety. For the seeming ignorance of this man is wiser than the wisdom of the other. For excellent is the art of managing a ship; but when it makes too great professions it is a kind of folly. And so is every art which is not contented with its own proper limits. Just so the wisdom which is without [were wisdom indeed1] if it had had the benefit of the spirit. But since it trusted all to itself and supposed that it wanted none of that help, it became foolishness, although it seemed to be wisdom. Wherefore having first exposed it by the facts, then and not till then he calls it foolishness; and having first called the wisdom of God folly, according to their reckoning, then and not till then he shews it to be wisdom. (For after our proofs, not before, we are best able to abash the gainsayers.)

His words then are, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect:” for when I, accounted foolish and a preacher of follies, get the better of the wise, I overcome wisdom, not by foollishness but by a more perfect wisdom; a wisdom, too, so ample and so much greater, that the other appears foolishness. Wherefore having before called it by a name such as they named it at that time, and having both proved his victory from the facts, and shewn the extreme foolishness of the other side: he thenceforth bestows upon it its right name, saying, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among the perfect.” “Wisdom” is the name he gives to the Gospel, to the method of salvation, the being saved by the Cross. “The perfect,” are those who believe. For indeed they are “perfect,” who know all human things to be utterly helpless, and who overlook them from the conviction that by such they are profited nothing: such Were the true believers.

“But not a wisdom of this world.” For where is the use of the wisdom which is without, terminating here and proceeding no further, and not even here able to profit its possessors?

Now by the “rulers of the world,” here, he means not certain demons, as some suspect2, but those in authority, those in power, those who esteem the thing worth contending about, philosophers, rhetoricians and writers of speeches (λογογράφους). For these were the dominant sort and often became leaders of the people.

“Rulers of the world” he calls them, because beyond the present world their dominion extends not. Wherefore, he adds further, “which are coming to nought;” disparaging it both on its own account, and from those who wield it. For having shewn that it is false, that it is foolish, that it can discover nothing, that it is weak, he shews moreover that it is but of short duration.

[2.] “But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery.” What mystery? For surely Christ saith, (St. Matt. 10:27. ὴκούσατε rec. text ακούετε.) “What ye have heard in the ear, proclaim upon the housetops.” How then does he call it “a mystery?” Because that neither angel nor archangel, nor any other created power knew of it before it actually took place. Wherefore he saith, (Ephes. 3:10) “That now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God.” And this hath God done in honor to us, so that they not without us should hear the mysteries. For we, too, ourselves, whomsoever we make our friends, use to speak of this as a sure proof of friendship towards them, that we tell our secrets to no one in preference to them. Let those hear who expose to shame3 the secrets of the Gospel, and unto all indiscriminately display the “pearls” and the doctrine, and who cast “the holy things” unto “dogs,” and “swine,” and useless reasonings. For the Mystery wants no argumentation; but just what it is, that only is to be declared. Since it will not be a mystery, divine and whole in all its parts, when thou addest any thing to it of thyself also.

And in another sense, too, a mystery is so called; because we do not behold the things which we see, but some things we see and others we believe. For such is the nature of our Mysteries. I, for instance, feel differently upon these subjects from an unbeliever. I hear, “Christ was crucified;” and forthwith I admire His loving-kindness unto men: the other hears, and esteems it weakness. I hear, “He became a servant;” and I wonder at his care for us: the other hears, and counts it dishonor. I hear, “He died;” and am astonished at His might, that being in death He was not holden, but even broke the bands of death: the other hears, and surmises it to be helplessness. He hearing of the resurrection, saith, the thing is a legend; I, aware of the facts which demonstrate it, fall down and worship the dispensation of God. He hearing of a layer, counts it merely as water: but I behold not simply the thing which is seen, but the purification of the soul which is by the Spirit. He considers only that my body hath been washed; but I have believed that the soul also hath become both pure and holy; and I count it the sepulchre, the resurrection, the sanctification, the righteousness, the redemption, the adoption, the inheritance, the kingdom of heaven, the plenary effusion (χορηγίαν) of the Spirit. For not by the sight do I judge of the things that appear, but by the eyes of the mind. I hear of the “Body of Christ:” in one sense I understand the expression, in another sense the unbeliever.

And just as children, looking on their books, know not the meaning of the letters, neither know what they see; yea more, if even a grown man be unskilful in letters, the same thing will befall him; but the skilful will find much meaning stored up in the letters, even complete lives and histories: and an epistle in the hands of one that is unskilful will be accounted but paper and ink; but he that knows how to read will both hear a voice, and hold converse with the absent, and will reply whatsoever he chooses by means of writing: so it is also in regard of the Mystery. Unbelievers albeit they hear, seem not to hear: but the faithful, having the skill which is by the Spirit, behold the meaning of the things stored therein. For instance, it is this very thing that Paul signified, when he said that even now the word preached is hidden: for “unto them that perish,” he saith, “it is hidden.” (2 Cor. 4:3)

In another point of view, the word indicates also the Gospel’s being contrary to all expectation. By no other name is Scripture wont to call what happens beyond all hope and above all thought of men. Wherefore also in another place, “My mystery is for Me4,” and for Mine. And Paul again, (1 Cor. 15:51) “Behold, I shew you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.”

[3.] And though it be everywhere preached, still is it a mystery; for as we have been commanded, “what things we have heard in the ear, to speak upon the house tops,” so have we been also charged, “not to give the holy things unto dogs nor yet to cast our pearls before swine.” (St. Matt. 7:9) For some are carnal and do not understand: others have a veil upon their hearts and do not see: wherefore that is above all things a mystery, which everywhere is preached, but is not known of those who have not a right mind; and is revealed not by wisdom but by the Holy Ghost, so far as is possible for us to receive it. And for this cause a man would not err, who in this respect also should entitle it a mystery, the utterance whereof is forbidden. (ὰπόῤῥητον) For not even unto us, the faithful, hath been committed entire certainty and exactness. Wherefore Paul also said, (ch. 13:9) “We know in part, and we prophesy in part: for now we see in a mirror darkly; but then face to face.”

[4.] For this cause he saith, “We speak wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God fore-ordained before the worlds unto our glory. Hidden:” that is, that no one of the powers above hath learnt it before us; neither do the many know it now.

“Which he fore-ordained unto our glory” and yet, elsewhere he saith, “unto his own glory,” for he considereth our salvation to be His own glory: even as also He calleth it His own riches, (vid. Ephes. 3:8) though He be Himself rich in good and need nothing in order that He may be rich.

“Fore-ordained,” he saith, pointing out the care had of us. For so those are accounted most both to honor and to love us, whosoever shall have laid themselves out to do us good from the very beginning: which indeed is what fathers do in the case of children. For although they give not their goods until afterwards, yet at first and from the beginning they had predetermined this. And this is what Paul is earnest to point out now; that God always loved us even from the beginning and when as yet we were not. For unless He had loved us, He would not have fore-ordained our riches. Consider not then the enmity which hath come between; for more ancient than that was the friendship.

As to the words, “before the worlds,” (πρὸ τῶν αὶώνων) they mean eternal. For in another place also He saith thus, “Who is before the worlds.” The Son also, if you mark it, will be found to be eternal in the same sense. For concerning Him he saith, (Heb. 1:2) “By Him He made the worlds;” which is equivalent to subsistence before the worlds; for it is plain that the maker is before the things which are made.

[5.] Ver. 8. “Which none of the rulers of this world knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.”

Now if they knew not, how said He unto them, (St. John 7:28) “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am?” Indeed, concerning Pilate the Scripture saith, he knew not. (vid. St. John 19:9) It is likely also that neither did Herod know. These, one might say, are called rulers of this world: but if a man were to say that this is spoken concerning the Jews also and the Priests, he would not err. For to these also He saith, (St. John 8:19) “Ye know neither Me nor My Father.” How then saith He a little before, “Ye both know Me, and ye know whence I am?” However, the manner of this way of knowledge and of that hath already been declared in the Gospel; (Hom. 49. on St. John,) and, not to be continually handling the same topic, thither do we refer our readers.

What then? was their sin in the matter of the Cross forgiven them? For He surely did say, “Forgive them.” (Luke 23:34) If they repented, it was forgiven. For even he who set countless assailants on Stephen and persecuted the Church, even Paul, became the champion of the Church. Just so then, those others also who chose to repent, had forgiveness: and this indeed Paul himself meant, when he exclaims, (Rom. 11:11, 12.). “I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid.” “I say then, hath God cast away His people whom He foreknew? God forbid.” Then, to shew that their repentance was not precluded, he brought forward as a decisive proof his own conversion, saying, “For I also am an Israelite.”

As to the words, “They knew not;” they seem to me to be said here not concerning Christ’s Person, but only concerning the dispensation hidden in that event: (περὶ αὐτῆς τοῦ πράγματος τῆς οἰκονομὶας,) as if he had said, what meant “the death,” and the “Cross,” they knew not. For in that passage also He said not, “They know not Me,” but, “They know not what they do;” that is, the dispensation which is being accomplished, and the mystery, they are ignorant of. For they knew not that the Cross is to shine forth so brightly; that it is made the salvation of the world, and the reconciliation of God unto men; that their city should be taken; and that they should suffer the extreme of wretchedness.

By the name of “wisdom,” he calls both Christ, and the Cross and the Gospel. Opportunely also he called Him, “The Lord of glory.” For seeing that the Cross is counted a matter of ignominy, he signifies that the Cross was great glory: but that there was need of great wisdom in order not only to know God but also to learn this dispensation of God: and the wisdom which was without turned out an obstacle, not to the former only, but to the latter also.

[6.] Ver. 9. “But as it is written, Things which eye saw not and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love Him.”

Where are these words written? Why, it is said to have been “written,” then also, when it is set down, not in words, but in actual events, as in the historical books5; or when the same meaning is expressed, but not in the very same words, as in this place: for the words, “They to whom it was not told about Him shall see, and they who have not heard shall understand,” (Is. 52:15; Sept. Comp. Rom. 15:21; Is. 64:4) are the same with “the things which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard.” Either then this is his meaning, or probably it was actually written in some books, and the copies have perished. For indeed many books were destroyed, and few were preserved entire even in the first captivity. And this is plain, in those which remain to us.6 For the Apostle saith (Acts 3:24) “From Samuel and the Prophets which follow after they have all spoken concerning Him:” and these their words are not entirely extant. Paul, however, as being learned in the law and speaking by the Spirit, would of course know all with accuracy. And why speak I of the captivity? Even before the captivity many books had disappeared; the Jews having rushed headlong to the last degree of impiety: and this is plain from the end of the fourth book of Kings, (2 Kings 22:8. 2 Chron. 34:14) for the book of Deuteronomy could hardly be found, having been buried somewhere in a dunghill7.

And besides, there are in many places double prophecies, easy to be apprehended by the wiser sort; from which we may find out many of the things which are obscure.

[7.] What then, hath “eye not seen what God prepared?” No. For who among men saw the things which were about to be dispensed? Neither then hath “the ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man.” How is this? For if the Prophets spoke of it, how saith he, “Ear hath not heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man?” It did not enter; for not of himself alone is he speaking, but of the whole human race. What then? The Prophets, did not they hear? Yes, they heard; but the prophetic ear was not the ear “of man:” for not as men heard they, but as Prophets. Wherefore he said, (Is. 50:4, Sept.) “He hath added unto me an ear to hear,” meaning by “addition” that which was from the Spirit. Froth whence it was plain that before hearing it had not entered into the heart of man. For after the gift of the Spirit the heart of the Prophets was not the heart of man, but a spiritual heart; as also he saith himself, “We have the mind of Christ” (v. 16) as if he would say, “Before we had the blessing of the Spirit and learnt the things which no man can speak, no one of us nor yet of the Prophets conceived them in his mind. How should we? since not even angels know them. For what need is there to speak,” saith he, “concerning ‘the rulers of this world,’ seeing that no man knew them, nor yet the powers above?”

What kind of things then are these? That by what is esteemed to be the foolishness of preaching He shall overcome the world, and the nations shall be brought in, and there shall be reconciliation of God with men, and so great blessings shall come upon us!

How then have we “known? Unto us,” he saith, “God hath revealed them by His Spirit;” not by the wisdom which is without; for this like some dishonored handmaid hath not been permitted to enter in, and stoop down and look into (see St. John 20:5) the mysteries pertaining to the Lord. Seest thou how great is the difference between this wisdom and that? The things which angels knew not, these are what she hath taught us: but she that is without, hath done the contrary. Not only hath she failed to instruct, but she hindered and obstructed, and after the event sought to obscure His doings, making the Cross of none effect. Not then simply by our receiving the knowledge, does he describe the honor vouchsafed to us, nor by our receiving it with angels, but, what is more, by His Spirit conveying it to us.

[7.] Then to show its greatness, he saith, If the Spirit which knoweth the secret things of God had not revealed them, we should not have learned them. Such an object of care was this whole subject to God, as to be among His secrets. Wherefore we needed also that Teacher who knoweth these things perfectly; for “the Spirit,” (v. 10, 11, 12) saith he, “searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.” For the word “to search” is here indicative not of ignorance, but of accurate knowledge: it is the very same mode of speaking which he used even of God, saying, “He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:27) Then having spoken with exactness concerning the knowledge of the Spirit, and having pointed out that it is as fully equal to God’s knowledge, as the knowledge of a man itself to itself; and also, that we have learned all things from it and necessarily from it; he added, “which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” Seest thou to what point he exalted us because of the Teacher’s dignity? For so much are we wiser than they as there is difference between Plato and the Holy Spirit; they having for masters the heathen rhetoricians; but we, the Holy Spirit.

[8.] But what is this, “comparing spiritual things with spiritual?” When a thing is spiritual and of dubious meaning, we adduce testimonies from the things which are spiritual. For instance, I say, Christ rose again—was born of a Virgin; I adduce testimonies and types and demonstrations; the abode of Jonah in the whale and his deliverance afterwards; the child-bearing of the barren, Sarah, Rebecca, and the rest; the springing up of the trees which took place in paradise (Gen. 2:5) when there had been no seeds sown, no rains sent down, no furrow drawn along. For the things to come were fashioned out and figured forth, as in shadow, by the former things, that these which are now might be believed when they came in. And again we shew, how of the earth was man, and how of man alone the woman; and this without any intercourse whatever; how the earth itself of nothing, the power of the Great Artificer being every where sufficient for all things. Thus “with spiritual things” do I “compare spiritual,” and in no instance have I need of the Wisdom which is without—neither its reasonings nor its embellishments. For such persons do but agitate the weak understanding and confuse it; and are not able to demonstrate clearly any one of the things which they affirm, but even have the contrary effect. They rather disturb the mind and fill it with darkness and much perplexity. Wherefore he saith, “with spiritual things comparing spiritual.”8 Seest thou how superfluous he sheweth it to be? and not only superfluous, but even hostile and injurious: for this is meant by the expressions, “lest the Cross of Christ be made of none effect,” and, “that our (‘your faith,’ rec. text) faith should not stand in the wisdom of men.” And he points out here, that it is impossible for those who confidently entrust every thing to it, to learn any useful thing: for

[9.] Ver. 14. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”

It is necessary then to lay it aside first. “What then,” some man will say; “is the wisdom from without stigmatized? And yet it is the work of God.” How is this clear? since He made it not, but it was an invention of thine. For in this place he calls by the term “wisdom” curious research and superfluous elegance of words. But should any one say that he means the human understanding; even in this sense the fault is thine. For thou bringest a bad name upon it, who makest a bad use of it; who to the injury and thwarting of God demandest from it things which indeed it never had. Since then thou boastest therein and fightest with God, He hath exposed its weakness. For strength of body also is an excellent thing, but when Cain used it not as he ought, God disabled him and made him tremble (Gen. 4:12, 14. Sept. “sighing and trembling,” rec. ver. “fugitive and vagabond.”) Wine also is a good thing; but because the Jews indulged in it immoderately, God prohibited the priests entirely from the use of the fruit9. And since thou also hast abused wisdom unto the rejecting of God, and hast demanded of it more than it can do of its own strength; in order to withdraw thee from human hope, he hath shewed thee its weakness.

For (to proceed) he is “a natural man, who attributes every thing to reasonings of the mind and considers not that he needs help from above; which is a mark of sheer folly. For God bestowed it that it might learn and receive help from Him, not that it should consider itself sufficient unto itself. For eyes are beautiful and useful, but should they choose to see without light, their beauty profits them nothing; nor yet their natural force, but even doth harm. So if you mark it, any soul also, if it choose to see without the Spirit, becomes even an impediment unto itself.

“How then, before this,” it will be said, “did she see all things of herself?” Never at any time did she this of herself but she had creation for a book set before her in open view. But when men having left off to walk in the way which God commanded them, and by the beauty of visible objects to know the Great Artificer, had entrusted to disputations the leading-staff of knowledge; they became weak and sank in a sea of ungodliness; for they presently brought in that which was the abyss of all evil, asserting that nothing was produced from things which were not, but from uncreated matter; and from this source they became the parents of ten thousand heresies.

Moreover, in their extreme absurdities they agreed; but in those things wherein they seemed to dream out something wholesome, though it were only as in shadows, they fell out with one another; that on both sides they might be laughed to scorn. For that out of things which are not nothing is produced, nearly all with one accord have asserted and written; and this with great zeal. In these absurdities then they were urged on by the Devil. But in their profitable sayings, wherein they seemed, though it were but darkly, (ἐν αἰνίγματι,) to find some part of what they sought, in these they waged war with one another: for instance, that the soul is immortal; that virtue needs nothing external; and that the being good or the contrary is not of necessity nor of fate.

Dost thou see the craft of the Devil? If any where he saw men speaking any thing corrupt, he made all to be of one mind; but if any where speaking any thing sound, he raised up others against them; so that the absurdities did not fail, being confirmed by the general consent, and the profitable parts died away, being variously understood. Observe how in every respect the soul is unstrung, (ἄτονος) and is not sufficient unto herself. And this fell out as one might expect. For if, being such as she is, she aspire to have need of nothing and withdraw herself from God; suppose her not fallen into that condition, and into what extreme madness would she not have insensibly sunk? If, endowed with a mortal body, she expected greater things from the false promise of the Devil—(for, “Ye shall be,” said he, “as gods” Gen. 3:4)—to What extent would she not have cast herself away, had she received her body also, from the beginning, immortal. For, even after that, she asserted herself to be unbegotten and of the essence of God, through the corrupt mouth of the Manicheans10, and it was this distemperature which gave occasion to her invention of the Grecian gods. On this account, as it seems to me, God made virtue laborious, with a view to bow down the soul and to bring it to moderation. And that thou mayest convince thyself that this is true, (as far as from trifles one may guess at any thing great,) let us learn it from the Israelites. They, it is well known, when they led not a life of toil but indulged in relaxation, not being able to bear prosperity, fell away into ungodliness. What then did God upon this? He laid upon them a multitude of laws with a view to restrain their licence. And to convince you that these laws contribute not to any virtue, but were given to them as a sort of curb, providing them with an occasion of perpetual labor; hear what saith the prophet concerning them; “I gave them statutes which were not good.” Ezek. 20:25. What means, “not good?” Such as did not much contribute towards virtue. Wherefore he adds also, “and ordinances whereby they shall not live.”

[10.] “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit.”

For as with these eyes no man could learn the things in the heavens; so neither the soul unaided the things of the Spirit. And why speak I of the things in heaven? It receives not even those in earth, all of them. For beholding afar off a square tower, we think it to be round; but such an opinion is more deception of the eyes: so also we may be sure, when a man by means of his understanding alone examines the things which are afar off much ridicule will ensue. For not only will he not see them such as indeed they are, but will even account them the contraries of what they are. Wherefore he added, “for they are foolishness unto him” But this comes not of the nature of the things, but of his infirmity, unable as he is to attain to their greatness through the eyes of his soul.

[11.] Next, pursuing his contrast, he states the cause of this, saying, “he knoweth not because they are spiritually discerned:” i.e. the things asserted require faith, and to apprehend them by reasonings is not possible, for their magnitude exceeds by a great deal the meanness of our understanding. Wherefore he saith, “but he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” For he that has sight, beholds himself all things that appertain to the man that has no sight; but no sightless person discerns what the other is about. So also in the case before us, our own matters and those of unbelievers, all of them we for our part know; but ours, they know not henceforth any more. We know what is the nature of things present, what the dignity of things to come; and what some day shall become of the world when this state of things shall be no more, and what sinners shall suffer, and the righteous shall enjoy. And that things present are nothing worth, we both know, and their meanness we expose; (for to “discern” is also to expose;) (ἀνακρίνειν, ἐλέγχειν) and that the things to come are immortal and immoveable. All these things are known to the spiritual man; and what the natural man shall suffer when he is departed into that world; and what the faithful shall enjoy when he hath fulfilled his journey from this: none of which are known to the natural man.

[12.] Wherefore also, subjoining a plain demonstration of what had been affirmed, he saith, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” That is to say, the things which are in the mind of Christ, these we know, even the very things which He willeth and hath revealed. For since he had said, “the Spirit had revealed them;” lest any one should set aside the Son, he subjoins that Christ also shewed us these things. Not meaning this, that all the things which He knoweth, we know; but that all the things Which we know are not human so as to be open to suspicion, but of His mind and spiritual.

For the mind which we have about these things we have of Christ; that is, the knowledge which we have concerning the things of the faith is spiritual; so that with reason we are “judged of no man.” For it is not possible that a natural man should know divine things, Wherefore also he said, “For who hath known the mind of the Lord?” implying that our own mind which we have about these things, is His mind. And this, “that he may instruct Him,” he hath not added without reason, but with reference to what he had just now said, “the spiritual man no one discerneth.” For if no man is able to know the mind of God, much less can he teach and correct it. For this is the meaning of, “that he may instruct Him.”

Seest thou how from every quarter he repels the wisdom which is without, and shews that the spiritual man knoweth more things and greater? For seeing that those reasons, “That no flesh should glory;” and, “For this cause hath He chosen the foolish things, that He might confound the wise men;” and, “Lest the Cross of Christ should be made void:” seemed not to the unbelievers greatly worthy of credit, nor yet attractive, or necessary, or useful, he finishes by laying down the principal reason; because in this way we most easily see from Whom we may have the means of learning even high things, and things secret, and things which are above us. For reason was absolutely made of none effect by our inability to apprehend through Gentile wisdom the things above us.

You may observe, too, that it was more advantageous to learn in this way from the Spirit. For that is the easiest and clearest of all teaching.

“But we have the mind of Christ.” That is, spiritual, divine, that which hath nothing human. For it is not of Plato, nor of Pythagoras, but it is Christ Himself, putting His own things into our mind.

This then, if naught else, let us revere, O beloved, and let our life shine forth as most excellent; since He also Himself maketh this a sure proof of great friendship, viz. the revealing His secrets unto us: where He saith, (St. John 15:15) “Henceforth I call you not servants, for all ye are My friends; for all things which I have heard from My Father I have told unto you:” that is, I have had confidence towards you. Now if this by itself is a proof of friendship, namely, to have confidence: when it appears that He has not only confided to us the mysteries conveyed by words, (τὰ διὰ ῥημάτων μυστηρία) but also imparted to us the same conveyed by works, (διὰ τῶν ἒργων, i.e. sacramental actions) consider how vast the love of which this is the fruit. This, if nothing else, let us revere; even though we will not make any such great account of hell, yet let it be more fearful than hell to be thankless and ungrateful to such a friend and benefactor. And not as hired servants, but as sons and freemen, let us do all things for the love of our Father; and let us at last cease from adhering to the world that we may put the Greeks also to shame. For even now desiring to put out my strength against them, I shrink from so doing, lest haply, surpass them as we may by our arguments and the truth of what we teach, we bring upon ourselves much derision from the comparison of our way of life; seeing that they indeed, cleaving unto error and having no such conviction, abide by philosophy, but we do just the contrary. However, I will say it. For it may be, it may be that in practising how to contend against them, we shall long as rivals to become better than they in our mode of life also.

[14.] I was saying not long ago, that it would not have entered the Apostles’ thoughts to preach what they did preach, had they not enjoyed Divine Grace; and that so far from succeeding, they would not even have devised such a thing. Well then, let us also to-day prosecute the same subject in our discourse; and let us shew that it was a thing impossible so much as to be chosen or thought of by them, if they had not had Christ among them: not because they were arrayed, the weak against the strong, not because few against many, not because poor against rich, not because unlearned against wise, but because the strength of their prejudice, too, was great. For ye know that nothing is so strong with men as the tyranny of ancient custom. So that although they had not been twelve only, and not so contemptible, and such as they really were, but another world as large as this, and with an equivalent number arrayed on their side, or even much greater; even in this case the result would have been hard to achieve. For the other party had custom on their side, but to these their novelty was an obstacle. For nothing so much disturbs the mind, though it be done for some beneficial purpose, as to innovate and introduce strange things, and most of all when this is done in matters relating to divine worship and the glory of God. And how great force there is in this circumstance I will now make plain; first having made the following statement that there was added also another difficulty with regard to the Jews. For in the case of the Greeks, they destroyed both their gods and their doctrines altogether; but not so did they dispute with the Jews, but many of their doctrines they abolished, while the God who had enacted the same they bade them worship. And affirming that men should honor the legislator, they said, “obey not in all respects the law which is of Him;” for instance, in the keeping the Sabbath, or observing circumcision, or offering sacrifices, or doing any other like thing. So that not only was custom an impediment, but also the fact, that when they bade men worship God, they bade them break many of His laws.

[15.] But in the case of the Greeks great was the tyranny of custom. For if it had been a custom of ten years only, I say not of such a length of time, and if it had preoccupied but a few men, I say not the whole world, when these persons made their approaches; even in this case the revolution would have been hard to effect. But now sophists, and orators, and fathers, and grandfathers, and many more ancient than all these, had been preoccupied by the error: the very earth and sea, and mountains and groves, and all nations of Barbarians, and all tribes of the Greeks, and wise men and ignorant, rulers and subjects, women and men, young and old, masters and slaves, artificers and husbandmen, dwellers in cities and in the country; all of them. And those who were instructed would naturally say, “What in the world is this? Have all that dwell in the world been deceived? both sophists and orators, philosophers and historians, the present generation and they who were before this, Pythagoreans, Platonists, generals, consuls, kings, they who in all cities from the beginning were citizens and colonists, both Barbarians and Greeks? And are the twelve fishermen and tent-makers and publicans wiser than all these? Why, who could endure such a statement?” However, they spake not so, nor had it in their mind, but did endure them, and owned that they were wiser than all. Wherefore they overcame even all. And custom was no impediment to this, though accounted invincible when she hath acquired her full swing by course of time.

And that thou mayest learn how great is the strength of custom, it hath oftentimes prevailed over the commands of God. And why do I say, commands? Even over very blessings. For so the Jews when they had manna, required garlic; enjoying liberty they were mindful of their slavery; and they were continually longing for Egypt, because they were accustomed to it. Such a tyrannical thing is custom.

If thou desire to hear of it from the heathens also; it is said that Plato, although well aware that all about the gods was a sort of imposture, condescended to all the feasts and all the rest of it, as being unable to contend with custom; and as having in fact learnt this from his master. For he, too, being suspected of some such innovation, was so far from succeeding in what he desired that he even lost his life; and this, too, after making his defence. And how many men do we see now by prejudice held in idolatry, and having nothing plausible to say, when they are charged with being Greeks, but alleging the fathers, and grandfathers, and great grandfathers. For no other reason did some of the heathens call custom, second nature. But when doctrines are the subject-matter of the custom, it becomes yet more deeply rooted. For a man would change all things more easily than those pertaining to religion. The feeling of shame, too, coupled with custom, was enough to raise an obstacle; and the seeming to learn a new lesson in extreme old age, and that of those who were not so intelligent. And why wonder, should this happen in regard of the soul, seeing that even in the body custom hath great force?

[16.] In the Apostles’ case, however, there was yet another obstacle, more powerful than these; it was not merely changing custom so ancient and primitive, but there were perils also under which the change was effected. For they were not simply drawing men from one custom to another, but from a custom, wherein was no fear to an undertaking which held out threats of danger. For the believer must immediately incur confiscation, persecution, exile from his country; must suffer the worst ills, be hated of all men, be a common enemy both to his own people and to strangers. So that even if they had invited men to a customary thing out of novelty, even in this case it would have been a difficult matter. But when it was from a custom to an innovation, and with all these terrors to boot, consider how vast was the obstacle!

And again, another thing, not less than those mentioned, was added to make the change difficult. For besides the custom and the dangers, these precepts were both more burdensome, and those from which they withdrew men were easy and light. For their call was from fornication unto chastity; from love of life unto sundry kinds of death; from drunkenness unto fasting; from laughter unto tears and compunction; from covetousness unto utter indigence; from safety unto dangers: and throughout all they required the strictest circumspection. For, “Filthiness,” (Ephes. 5:4) saith he, “and foolish talking, and jesting, let it not proceed out of your mouth.” And these things they spake unto those who knew nothing else than how to be drunken and serve their bellies; who celebrated feasts made up of nothing but of “filthiness” and laughter and all manner of revellings (κωμῳδίας άπάσης.) So that not only from the matter pertaining to severity of life were the doctrines burthensome, but also from their being spoken unto men who had been brought up in careless ease, and “filthiness.” and “foolish talking,” and laughter and revellings. For who among those who had lived in these things, when he heard, (Matt. 10:38) “If a man take not up his cross and follow Me, he is not worthy of Me;” and, (Ibid. 34) “I came not to send peace but a sword, and to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter at variance with her mother,” would not have felt himself chilled all over (ἐνάρκησε)? And who, when he heard, “If a man bid not farewell to home and country and possessions, he is not worthy of Me,” would not have hesitated, would not have refused? And yet there were men, who not only felt no chill, neither shrunk away when they heard these things, but ran to meet them and rushed upon the hardships, and eagerly caught at the precepts enjoined. Again, to be told, “For every idle word we shall give account;” (Matt. 12:36) and, “whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her as soon as seen;” (Matt. 5:28, 25) and, “whosoever is angry without cause shall fall into hell;”—which of the men of that day would not these things have frightened off? And yet all came running in, and many even leaped over the boundaries of the course. What then was their attraction? Was it not, plainly, the power of Him who was preached? For suppose that the case were not as it is, but just contrary11, that this side was the other, and the other this; would it have been easy, let me ask, to hold fast and to drag on those who resisted? We cannot say so. So that in every way that power is proved divine which wrought so excellently. Else how, tell me, did they prevail with the frivolous and the dissolute, urging them toward the severe and rough course of life?

[17.] Well; such was the nature of the precepts. But let us see whether the doctrine was attractive. Nay, in this respect also there was enough to frighten away the unbelievers. For what said the preachers? That we must worship the crucified, and count Him as God, who was born of a Jewish woman. Now who would have been persuaded by these words, unless divine power had led the way? That indeed He had been crucified and buried, all men knew; but that He had risen again and ascended, no one save the Apostles had seen.

But, you will say, they excited them by promises and deceived them by an empty sound of words. Nay, this very topic most particularly shews (even apart from all that has been said) that our doctrines are no deceit. For all its hardships took place here, but its consolations they were to promise after the resurrection. This very thing then, for I repeat it, shews that our Gospel is divine. For why did no one of the believers say, “I close not with this, neither do I endure it? Thou threatenest me with hardships here, and the good things thou promisest after the resurrection. Why, how is it plain that there will be a resurrection? Which of the departed hath returned? Which of those at rest hath risen again? Which of these hath said what shall be after our departure hence?” But none of these things entered into their minds; rather they gave up their very lives for the Crucified. So that this bare fact was more than anything a proof of great power; first, their working conviction at once, touching matters so important, in persons that had never in their lives before heard of any such thing; secondly, that they prevailed on them to take the difficulties upon trial, and to account the blessings as matter of hope. Now if they had been deceivers they would have done the contrary: their good things they would have promised as of this world (ἐντεῦθεν, so St. John 18:36); the fearful things they would not have mentioned, whether they related to the present life or the future. For so deceivers and flatterers act. Nothing harsh, nor galling, nor burdensome, do they hold out, but altogether the contrary. For this is the nature of deceit.

[18.] But “the folly,” it will be said, “of the greater part caused them to believe what they were told.” How sayest thou? When they were under Greeks, they were not foolish; but when they came over to us, did their folly then begin? And yet they were not men of another sort nor out of another world, that the Apostles took and persuaded: they were men too who simply held the opinions of the Greeks, but ours they received with the accompaniment of dangers so that if with better reason they had maintained the former, they would not have swerved from them, now that they had so long time been educated therein; and especially as not without danger was it possible to swerve. But when they came to know from the very nature of the things that all on that side was mockery and delusion, upon this, even under menaces of sundry deaths, they sprang off (ἀπεπήδησαν) from their customary ways, and came over voluntarily unto the new; inasmuch as the latter doctrine was according to nature, but the other contrary to nature.

But “the persons convinced,” it is said, “were slaves, and woman, and nurses, and midwives, and eunuchs.” Now in the first place, not of these alone doth our Church consist; and this is plain unto all. But be it of these; this is what especially makes the Gospel worthy of admiration; that such doctrines as Plato and his followers could not apprehend, the fishermen had power on a sudden to persuade the most ignorant sort of all to receive. For if they had persuaded wise men only, the result would not have been so wonderful; but in advancing slaves, and nurses, and eunuchs unto such great severity of life as to make them rivals to angels, they offered the greatest proof of their divine inspiration. Again; had they enjoined I know not what trifling matters, it were reasonable perhaps to bring forward the conviction wrought in these persons, to show the trifling nature of the things which were spoken: but if things great, and high, and almost transcending human nature, and requiring high thoughts, were the matter of their lessons of wisdom; the more foolishness thou showest in those who were convinced, by so much the more dost thou shew clearly that they who wrought the conviction were wise and filled with divine grace.

But, you will say, they prevailed on them through the excessive greatness of the promises. But tell me, is not this very thing a wonder to thee, how they persuaded men to expect prizes and recompenses after death? For this, were there nothing else, is to me matter of amazement. But this, too, it will be said, came of folly. Inform me wherein is the folly of these things: that the soul is immortal; that an impartial tribunal will receive us after the present life; that we shall render an account of our deeds and words and thoughts unto God that knoweth all secrets; that we shall see the evil undergoing punishment, and the good with crowns on their heads. Nay, these things are not of folly, but the highest instruction of wisdom. The folly is in the contrary opinions to these.

[19.] Were this then the only thing, the despising of things present, the setting much by virtue, the not seeking rewards here, but advancing far beyond in hopes, and the keeping the soul so intent and faithful as by no present terror to be hindered in respect of the hope of what shall be; tell me, to what high philosophy must this belong? But would you also learn the force of the promises and predictions in themselves, and the truth of those uttered both before and after this present state of things? Behold, I shew you a golden chain, woven cunningly from the beginning! He spake some things to them about Himself, and about the churches, and about the things to come; and as He spake, He wrought mighty works. By the fulfilment therefore of what He said, it is plain that both the wonders wrought were real, and the future and promised things also.

But that my meaning may be yet plainer, let me illustrate it from the actual case. He raised up Lazarus by a single word merely, and shewed him alive. Again, He said, “The gates of Hades shall not prevail against the Church (St. Matt. 16:18) and, “He that forsaketh father or mother, shall receive an hundred-fold in this life, and shall inherit everlasting life.” (ib. 19:29) The miracle then is one, the raising of Lazarus; but the predictions are two; made evident, the one here, the other in the world to come. Consider now, how they are all proved by one another. For if a man disbelieve the resurrection of Lazarus, from the prophecy uttered about the Church let him learn to believe the miracle. For the word spoken so many years before, came to pass then, and received accomplishment: for “the gates of Hades prevailed not against the Church.” You see that He who spake truth in the prophecy, it is clear that he also wrought the miracle: and He who both wrought the miracle and brings to accomplishment the words which He spake, it is clear that He speaks the truth also in the predictions of things yet to come, when He saith, “He who despiseth things present shall receive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” For the things which have been already done and spoken, He hath given as the surest pledges of those which shall hereafter come to pass.

Of all these things then, and the like to these, collecting them together out of the Gospels, let us tell them, and so stop their mouths. But if any one say, Why then was not error completely extinguished? this may be our answer: Ye yourselves are to blame, who rebel against your own salvation. For God hath so ordered this matter (ᾠκονόμησεν,) that not even a remnant of the old impiety need be left.

[20.] Now, briefly to recount what has been said: What is the natural course of things? That the weak should be overcome by the strong, or the contrary? Those who speak things easy, or things of the harsher sort? those who attract men with dangers, or with security? innovators, or those who strengthen custom? those who lead into a rough, or into a smooth way? those who withdraw men from the institutions of their fathers, or those who lay down no strange laws? those who promise all their good things after our departure from this world, or those who flatter in the present life? the few to overcome the many, or the many the few?

But you, too, saith one, gave promises pertaining to this life. What then have we promised in this life? The forgiveness of sins and the laver of regeneration. Now in the first place, baptism itself hath its chief part in things to come; and Paul exclaims, saying, (Col. 3:4) “For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God: when your life shall be manifested, then shall ye also with Him be manifested in glory.” But if in this life also it bath advantages, as indeed it hath, this also is more than all a matter of great wonder, that they had power to persuade men who had done innumerable evil deeds, yea such as no one else had done, that they should wash themselves clean of all, and they should give account of none of their offences. So that on this very account it were most of all meet to wonder that they persuaded Barbarians to embrace such a faith as this, and to have good hopes concerning things to come; and having thrown off the former burden of their sins, to apply themselves with the greatest zeal for the time to come to those toils which virtue requires, and not to gape after any object of sense, but rising to a height above all bodily things, to receive gifts purely spiritual: yea, that the Persian, the Sarmatian, the Moor, and the Indian should be acquainted with the purification of the soul, and the power of God, and His unspeakable mercy to men, and the severe discipline of faith, and the visitation of the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection of bodies, and the doctrines of life eternal. For in all these things, and in whatever is more than these, the fishermen, initiating by Baptism divers races of Barbarians, persuaded them (φιλοσοφεῖν) to live on high principles.

Of all these things then, having observed them accurately, let us speak unto the Gentiles, and again, let us shew them the evidence of our lives: that by both means we ourselves may be saved and they drawn over by our means unto the glory of God. For unto Him be the glory for ever. Amen.

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6-12

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 28, 2017

2:6  But we speak a wisdom among the perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, who are being destroyed.
2:7  But we speak the wisdom of God, in mystery, which is hidden, which God predestined before the ages to your glory.
2:8  Which none of the princes of this world knew: for if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.

There is an inner or esoteric wisdom in the Christian faith, sublime and lofty mysteries of which St Paul here declares he was not ignorant, and of which he had freely spoken among the perfect, those whose fervor in faith enabled them to embrace and understand them.  It is possible that in these words he reflects somewhat upon the method of Apollo, who with the best intentions, may have somewhat rashly enlarged upon the sublimer truths of theology in the hearing of persons scarcely as yet able to understand them.  Modern commentators, and among them Cornelius a’ Lapide, join in mystery in verse 7 with the verb we speak; we speak of these things only in secret.  Theodoret, however, says: The meaning is not, we speak in mystery; but we tell to men the wisdom which is hid in mystery.  This seems more likely, for if the Apostle talked of these subjects only among the perfect, it would be unnecessary for him to add that he did so in mystery.

What is this hidden wisdom?  First, it is not of this world, secular and mundane; nor like the systems of philosophy accepted by the world.  Nor is it of the princes of this world, from the inspiration of demons and fallen spirits, who are so called in Jn 12:31.  Not a dark system of magian philosophy, the practice of divination and the magic art: all whcih were often imposed, in those days, upon the simplicity of the ignorant and credulous, and were even cultivated by the learned and powerful.  This power over the minds of men, founded in trickery and falsehood, it was one of the objects of the Gospel of Christ to overthrow, and its overthro was one of the results of the spread of the true faith.  Thr princes of this world are being destroyed.  If by the princes of this world is understood earthly rulers and great men, then these are continually passing away, as each dies in turn.

This is what the hidden wisdom is not.  It is, the wisdom of God, and therefore true; and it is hidden in the mystery: that is, the mystery of the incarnation; the splendor of God hidden in the flesh.  Christ, therefore, is the wisdom of Go hidden in mystery.  Not that St Paul concealed from any one the great mystery of the incarnation, which was, on the contrary, the center of all his preaching, ad the most important part of the message he had to deliver: but he treated it in a different manner, according to the capacity of his hearers, as he explains below.  The incarnation, death, and passion, and resurrection of Christ, were proclaimed to all men, as the ground of their redemption.  But the full intent, meaning, and end of Christ’s incarnation, the full significance of the adoption of the sons of God; possibly a prophetic view of the victory of the faith in the coming time; these perhaps were among the sublime mysteries of which the apostle spoke among the perfect, but which all could not at first comprehend.  And this further, that God has foreordained this mystery, from the beginning of time, for our glory-our glorification by the gift of the Spirit of God now, and in eternal life hereafter.  That God was hidden, and as it were annihilated, in the flesh, for the glory of that flesh which he assumed, that is for us human beings, was one of those mysteries which none of the princes of this world knew.  The powers of darkness did not comprehend, and would not believe, the depth of humility and charity in the character of God, which rendered this possible.  Had they known it, they would not have crucified him; because it was his cross which was the instrument of his victory, and gave him his irresistible power over the hearts of men.  Rather than this, they would have allowed him to reign in earthly power and glory, in which case he could not have so completely overthrown their empire among men.  It must be admitted, however, that this interpretation of verse 8 is open to some difficulty, since it implies that the Devil was either ignorant of, or would not believe, the Deity of Christ.  It may be more simple to understand by the princes of this world, in this verse, earthly rulers, as in the expression of St Peter, in Acts 3:17: I know that in ignorance you did it, as also your princes.  If Herod and Pontius Pilate had known that Jesus was the creator of the world, it is hardly to be believed that they would have put him to death,  Not that their ignorance of this truth was sufficient to excuse them, after the miracles Christ had wrought, and the evidence they had of his innocence and sanctity.

2:9  But as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has ascended into the heart of man what God has prepared for those who love him:
2:10  But to us God has revealed by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
2:11  For who among men knows what belongs to a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him?  So also what belongs to God, no one knoweth, but the Spirit of God.
2:12  But we have received not the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God; that we may know what is given to us of God:

See Isaiah 64:3 (64:4 in some translations): “From the beginning of the world they have not heard, nor received with their ears, eye hath not seen, O God, without thee, what thou hast prepared for those who wait for thee.”  That is, the great mystery of the Incarnation, beyond human intelligence and expectation; not to be understood or believed without thee, otherwise than by God’s revelation.  And in the Incarnation is included its result, the salvation and ultimate glory of man.  This the Spirit of God has revealed to us, and no other could reveal.  As none knows the secret of a human heart, other than his own, so only the Spirit of God knows, and he knows fully, all the secrets of God.  And this Spirit we have received, no earthly spirit, but the spirit coessential and consubstantial with God (St Athanasius, Theophylact), under whose teaching we know the full extent of the great gifts which have been given to us of God, his Son to redeem us, his Spirit to sanctify us.  And of these mysteries and gifts of God we speak, not in philosophical language, but in words taught us by the Spirit of God.

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St John Chrsostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 26, 2017

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
NOTHING was ever more prepared for combat than the spirit of Paul; or rather, I should say, not his spirit, (for he was not himself the inventor of these things,) but, nothing was ever equal to the grace working within him, which overcometh all things. For sufficient indeed is what had been said before to cast down the pride of the boasters about wisdom; nay, even a part of it had been enough. But to enhance the splendor of the victory, he contends anew for the points which he had been affirming; trampling upon the prostrate foe. Look at it in this way. He had brought forward the prophecy which saith, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” He had shewn the wisdom of God, in that by means of what seemed to be foolishness, He destroyed the philosophy of the Gentiles; he had shewn that the “foolishness of God is wiser than men;” he had shewn that not only did He teach by untaught persons, but also chose untaught persons to learn of Him. Now he sheweth that both the thing itself which was preached, and the manner of preaching it, were enough to stagger people; and yet did not stagger them. As thus: “not only,” saith he, “are the disciples uneducated, but I myself also, who am the preacher.”

Therefore he saith, “And I, brethren,” (again he useth the word “brethren,” to smooth down the harshness of the utterance,)” came not with excellency of speech, declaring unto you the testimony of God.” “What then? tell me, hadst thou chosen to come ‘with excellency,’ wouldest thou have been able?” “I, indeed, had I chosen, should not have been able; but Christ, if He had chosen, was able. But He would not, in order that He might render His trophy more brilliant.” Wherefore also in a former passage, shewing that it was His work which had been done, His will that the word should be preached in an unlearned manner, he said, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel; not with wisdom of words.” But far greater, yea, infinitely greater, than Paul’s willing this, is the fact that Christ willed it.

“Not therefore,” saith he, “by display of eloquence, neither armed with arguments from without, do I declare the testimony of God.” He saith not “the preaching,” but “the testimony1 of God;” which word was itself sufficient to withhold him. For he went about preaching death: and for this reason he added, “for I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” This was the meaning he meant to convey, that he is altogether destitute of the wisdom which is without; as indeed he was saying above,” I came not with excellency of speech:” for that he might have possessed this also is plain; for he whose garments raised the dead and whose shadow expelled diseases2, much more was his soul capable of receiving eloquence. For this is a thing which may be taught: but the former transcendeth all art. He then who knows things beyond the reach of art, much more must he have had strength for lesser things. But Christ permitted not; for it was not expedient. Rightly therefore he saith, “For I determined not to know any thing:” “for I, too, for my part have just the same will as Christ.”

And to me it seems that he speaks to them in a lower tone even than to any others, in order to repress their pride. Thus, the expression, “I determined to know nothing,” was spoken in contradistinction to the wisdom which is without. “For I came not weaving syllogisms nor sophisms, nor saying unto you anything else than” Christ was crucified.” They indeed have ten thousand things to say, and concerning ten thousand things they speak, winding out long courses of words, framing arguments and syllogisms, compounding sophisms without end. But I came unto you saying no other thing than “Christ was crucified,” and all of them I outstripped: which is a sign such as no words can express of the power of Him whom I preach.”

[2.] Ver. 3. “And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
This again is another topic: for not only are the believers unlearned persons; not only is he that speaketh unlearned; not only is the manner of the teaching of an unlearned cast throughout; not only was the thing preached of itself enough to stagger people; (for the cross and death were the message brought;) but together with these there were also other hindrances, the dangers, and the plots, and the daily fear, and the being hunted about. For the word “weakness,” with him in many places stands for the persecutions: as also elsewhere. “My weakness which I had in my flesh ye did not set at nought:” (Gal. 4:13, 14) and again, “If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern my weakness.” (2 Cor. 11:30) What [weakness]? “The governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes, desirous to apprehend me.” (2 Cor. 11:32) And again, “Wherefore I take pleasure in weakness:” (2 Cor. 12:10) then, saying in what, he added, “In injuries, in necessities, in distresses.” And here he makes the same statement; for having said, “And I was in weakness,” etc. he did not stop at this point, but explaining the word “weakness,” makes mention of his dangers. He adds again, “and in fear, and in much trembling, I was with you.”
“How sayest thou? Did Paul also fear dangers?” He did fear, and dreaded them excessively; for though he was Paul, yet he was a man. But this is no charge against Paul, but infirmity of human nature; and it is to the praise of his fixed purpose of mind that when he even dreaded death and stripes, he did nothing wrong because of this fear. So that they who assert that he feared not stripes, not only do not honor him, but rather abridge greatly his praises. For if he feared not, what endurance or what self-restraint was there in bearing the dangers? I, for my part, on this account admire him; because being in fear, and not simply in “fear,” but even in “trembling” at his perils, he so ran as ever to keep his crown; and gave not in for any danger, in his task of purging out3 the world, and everywhere both by sea and land sowing the Gospel.

[3.] Ver. 4. “And my speech and my preaching was not in persuasive words of wisdom:” that is, had not the wisdom from without. Now if the doctrine preached had nothing subtle, and they that were called were unlearned, and he that preached was of the same description, and thereto was added persecution, and trembling, and fear; tell me, how did they overcome without Divine power? And this is why, having said, “My speech and my preaching was not in persuasive words of wisdom,” he added, “but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.”

Dost thou perceive how “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness stronger?” They for their part, being unlearned and preaching such a Gospel, in their chains and persecution overcame their persecutors. Whereby? was it not by their furnishing that evidence which is of the Spirit? For this indeed is confessed demonstration. For who, tell me, after he had seen dead men rising to life and devils cast out, could have helped admitting it?

But seeing that there are also deceiving wonders, such as those of sorcerers, he removes this suspicion also. For he said not simply “of power,” but first, “of the Spirit,” and then, “of power:” signifying that the things done were spiritual.

It is no disparagement, therefore, that the Gospel was not declared by means of wisdom; rather it is a very great ornament. For this, it will be allowed, is the clearest token of its being divine and having its roots from above, out of the heavens. Wherefore he added also,

Ver. 5. “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”
Seest thou how clearly in every way he hath set forth the vast gain of this “ignorance,” and the great loss of this “wisdom?” For the latter made void the Cross, but the former proclaimed the power of God: the latter, besides their failing to discover any of those things which they most needed, set them also upon boasting of themselves; the former, besides their receiving the truth, led them also to pride themselves in God. Again, wisdom would have persuaded many to suspect that the doctrine was of man: this clearly demonstrated it to be divine, and to have come down from heaven. Now when demonstration is made by wisdom of words, even the worse oftentimes overcome the better, having more skill in words; and falsehood outstrips the truth. But in this case it is not so: for neither doth the Spirit enter into an unclean soul, nor, having entered in, can it ever be subdued; even though all possible cleverness of speech assail it. For the demonstration by works and signs is for more evident than that by words.

[4.] But some one may say perhaps, “If the Gospel is to prevail and hath no need of words, lest the Cross be made of none effect; for what reason are signs withholden now?” For what reason? Speakest thou in unbelief and not allowing that they were done even in the times of the Apostles, or dost thou truly seek to know? If in unbelief, I will first make my stand against this. I say then, If signs were not done at that time, how did they, chased, and persecuted, and trembling, and in chains, and having become the common enemies of the world, and exposed to all as a mark for ill usage, and with nothing of their own to allure, neither speech, nor show, nor wealth, nor city, nor nation, nor family, nor pursuit (ἐπιτήδευμα,) nor glory, nor any such like thing; but with all things contrary, ignorance, meanness, poverty, hatred, enmity, and setting themselves against whole commonwealths, and with such a message to declare; how, I say, did they work conviction? For both the precepts brought much labor, and the doctrines many dangers. And they that heard and were to obey, had been brought up in luxury and drunkenness, and in great wickedness. Tell me then, how did they convince? Whence had they their credibility? For, as I have just said, If without signs they wrought conviction, far greater does the wonder appear. Do not then urge the fact that signs are not done now, as a proof that they were not done then. For as then they were usefully wrought; so now are they no longer so wrought.

Nor doth it necessarily follow from discourse being the only instrument of conviction, that now the “preaching” is in “wisdom.” For both they who from the beginning sowed the word were unprofessional (ὶδιῶται) and unlearned, and spake nothing of themselves; but what things they received from God, these they distributed to the world: and we ourselves at this time introduce no inventions of our own; but the things which from them we have received, we speak unto all. And not even now persuade we by argumentation; but from the Divine Scriptures and from the miracles done at that time we produce the proof of what we say. On the other hand, even they at that time persuaded not by signs alone, but also by discoursing. And the signs and the testimonies out of the Old Scriptures, not the cleverness of the things said, made their words appear more powerful.

[5.] How then, you will say, is it that signs were expedient then, and now inexpedient? Let us suppose a case, (for as yet I am contending against the Greek, and therefore I speak hypothetically of what must certainly come to pass,) let us, I say, suppose a case; and let the unbeliever consent to believe our affirmations, though it be only by way of concession: (κἄν κατὰ συνδρομήν) for instance, That Christ will come. When then Christ shall come and all the angels with Him, and be manifested as God, and all things made subject unto Him; will not even the Greek believe? It is quite plan that he will also fall down and worship, and confess Him God, though his stubbornness exceed all reckoning. For who, at sight of the heavens opened and Him coming upon the clouds, and all the congregation of the powers above spread around Him, and rivers of fire coming on, and all standing by and trembling, will not fall down before Him, and believe Him God? Tell me, then; shall that adoration and knowledge be accounted unto the Greek for faith? No, on no account. And why not? Because this is not faith. For necessity hath done this, and the evidence of the things seen, and it is not of choice, but by the vastness of the spectacle the powers of the mind are dragged along. It follows that by how much the more evident and overpowering the course of events, by so much is the part of faith abridged. For this reason miracles are not done now.

And that this is the truth, hear what He saith unto Thomas (St. John 20:29) “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Therefore, in proportion to the evidence wherewith the miracle is set forth is the reward of faith lessened. So that if now also miracles were wrought, the same thing would ensue. For that then we shall no longer know Him by faith, Paul hath shewn, saying, “For now we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7. νῦν not in the received text.) As at that time, although thou believe, it shall not be imputed unto thee, because the thing is so palpable; so also now, supposing that such miracles were done as were formerly. For when we admit things which in no degree and in no way can be made out by reasoning, then it is faith. It is for this that hell is threatened, but is not shewn: for if it were shewn, the same would again ensue.

[6.] Besides, if signs be what thou seekest after, even now thou mayest see signs, although not of the same kind; the numberless predictions and on an endless variety of subject: the conversion of the world, the self-denying (φιλοσοφίαν) course of the Barbarians, the change from savage customs, the greater intenseness of piety. “What predictions?” you will say. “For all the things just mentioned were written after the present state of things had begun.” When? Where? By whom? Tell me. How many years ago? Will you have fifty, or an hundred? They had not then, a hundred years ago, anything written at all. How then did the world retain the doctrines and all the rest, since memory would not be sufficient? How knew they that Peter was crucified? (ἀνεσκολοπίσθη) How could it have entered the minds of men who came after the events had taken place to foretell, for instance, that the Gospel should be preached in every part of the whole world? that the Jewish institutions should cease, and never return again? And they who gave up their lives for the Gospel, how would they have endured to see the Gospel adulterated? And how would the writers have won credit, miracles having ceased? And how could the writings have penetrated to the region of Barbarians, and of Indians, and unto the very bounds of the ocean, if the relators had not been worthy of credit? The writers, too, who were they? When, how, and why, did they write at all? Was it to gain glory to themselves? Why then inscribed they the books with other men’s names? “Why, from a wish to recommend the doctrine.” As true, or as false? For if you say, they stock to it, as bring false; their joining it at all was out of all likelihood: but if as being truth, there was no need of inventions such as you speak of. And besides, the prophecies are of such a kind, as that even until now time has been unable to force aside the predicted course of things: (ὡς μὴ δυνάσθαι βιαζὲσθαι κρόνω τα εἰρημένα) for the destruction indeed of Jerusalem took place many years ago; but there are also other predictions which extend along from that time until His coming; which examine as you please: for instance, this, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world: (St. Matt. 28:20) and, “Upon this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it:” (St. Matt. 16:18) and, “This Gospel shall be preached unto all nations:” (St. Matt. 24:14) and that which the woman which was an an harlot did:4 and many others more than these. Whence then the truth of this prediction if indeed it were a forgery? How did “the gates of hell” not “prevail” against “the Church?” How is Christ always “with us?” For had He not been “with us,” the Church would not have been victorious. How was the Gospel spread abroad in every part of the world? They also who have spoken against us are enough to testify the antiquity of the books; I mean, such as Celsus5 and he of Batanea6, who came after him. For they, I suppose, were not speaking against books composed after there time.

[7.] And besides, there is the whole world which with one consent hath received the Gospel. Now there could not have been so great agreement from one end of the earth to the other, unless it had been the Grace of the Spirit; but the authors of the forgery would have been quickly found out. Neither could so great excellencies have originated from inventions and falsehoods. Dost thou not see the whole world coming in; error extinguished; the austere wisdom (φιλοσυφίαν) of the old monks shining brighter than the sun; the choirs of the virgins; the piety among Barbarians; all men serving under one yoke? For neither by us alone were these things foretold, but also from the beginning, by the Prophets. For you will not, I trow, cavil at their predictions also: for the books are with their enemies, and through the zeal of certain Greeks they have been transferred into the Greek tongue. Many things then do these also foretell concerning these matters, shewing that it was God who should come among us.

[8.] Why then do not all believe now? Because things have degenerated: and for this we are to blame. (For from hence the discourse is addressed unto us also.) For surely not even then did they trust to signs alone, but by the mode of life also many of the converts were attracted. For, “Let your light so shine before men,” saith He, “that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (St. Matt. 5:16) And, “They were all of one heart and one soul, neither said any man that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common; and distribution was made unto every man, according as he had need.”; (Acts 4:32, 35) and they lived an angelic life. And if the same were done now, we should convert the whole word, even without miracles. But in the meanwhile, let those who will be saved attend to the Scriptures; for they shall find there both these noble doings, and those which are greater than these. For it may be added that the Teachers themselves surpassed the deeds of the others; living in hunger, in thirst, and nakedness. But we are desirous of enjoying great luxury, and rest, and ease; not so they: they cried aloud, “Even unto the present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place. (1 Cor. 4:11) And some ran from Jerusalem unto Illyricum, (Rom. 15:19) and another unto the country of the Indians, and another unto that of the Moors, and this to one part of the world, that to another. Whereas we have not the courage to depart even out of our own country; but seek for luxurious living and splendid houses and all other superfluities. For which of us ever was famished for the word of God’s sake? Which ever abode in a wilderness? Which ever set out on a distant peregrination? Which of our teachers lived by the labor of his hands to assist others? Which endured death daily? Hence it is that they also who are with us have become slothful. For suppose that one saw soldiers and generals struggling with hunger, and thirst, and death, and with all dreadful things, and bearing cold and dangers and all like lions, and so prospering; then afterwards, relaxing that strictness, and becoming enervated, and fond of wealth, and addicted to business and bargains, and then overcome by their enemies it were extreme folly to seek for the cause of all this. Now let us reason thus in our own case and that of our ancestors; for we too have become weaker than all, and are nailed down unto this present life.

And if one be found having a vestige of the ancient wisdom, leaving the cities and the market-places, and the society of the world, and the ordering of others, he betakes himself to the mountains: and if one ask the reason of that retirement, he invents a plea which cannot meet with allowance. For, saith he, “lest I perish too, and the edge of my goodness be taken off, I start aside.” Now how much better were it for thee to become less keen, and to gain others, than abiding on high to neglect thy perishing brethren?

When, however, the one sort are careless about virtue, and those who do regard it withdraw themselves far from our ranks, how are we to subdue our enemies? For even if miracles were wrought now, who would be persuaded? Or who of those without would give heed unto us, our iniquity being thus prevalent? For so it is, that our upright living seems unto the many the more trustworthy argument of the two: miracles admitting of a bad construction on the part of obstinate bad men: whereas a pure life will have abundant power to stop the mouth of the devil himself.

[9.] These things I say, both to governors and governed; and, before all others, unto myself; to the end that the way of life shown forth in us may be truly admirable, that taking our appropriate stations, we may look down on all things present; may despise wealth, and not despise hell; overlook glory, and not overlook salvation; endure toil and labor here, lest we fall into punishment there. Thus let us wage war with the Greeks; thus let us take them captive with a captivity better than liberty.

But while we say these things without intermission, over and over, they occur very seldom. Howbeit, be they done or not, it is right to remind you of them continually. For if some are engaged in deceiving by their fair speech, so much more is it the duty of those who allure back unto the truth, not to grow weary of speaking what is profitable. Again: if the deceivers make use of so many contrivances—spending as they do money, and applying arguments, and undergoing dangers, and making a parade of their patronage—much more should we, who are winning men from deceit, endure both dangers and deaths, and all things; that we may both gain ourselves and others, and become to our enemies irresistible, and so obtain the promised blessings, through the grace and loving-kindness, etc.

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St John Chrysostom’s Homiletic Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 25, 2017

For behold1 your calling, brethren, that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called;] but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise.
HE hath said that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men;” he hath shewed that human wisdom is cast out, both by the testimony of the Scriptures and by the issue of events; by the testimony, where he says, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;” by the event, putting his argument in the form of a question, and saying, “Where is the wise? Where the Scribe?” Again; he proved at the same time that the thing is not new, but ancient, as it was presignified and foretold from the beginning. For, “It is written,” saith he, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise.” Withal he shews that it was neither inexpedient nor unaccountable for things to take this course: (for, “seeing that in the wisdom of God the world,” saith he, “knew not God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of preaching to save them which believe:”) and that the Cross is a demonstration of ineffable power and wisdom, and that the foolishness of God is far mightier than the wisdom of man. And this again he proves not by means of the teachers, but by means of the disciples themselves. For, “Behold your calling,” saith he: that not only teachers of an untrained sort, but disciples also of the like class, were objects of His choice; that He chose “not many wise men” (that is his word) “according to the flesh.” And so that of which he is speaking is proved to surpass both in strength and wisdom, in that it convinces both the many and the unwise: it being extremely hard to convince an ignorant person, especially when the discourse is concerning great and necessary things. However, they did work conviction. And of this he calls the Corinthians themselves as witnesses. For, “behold your calling, brethren,” saith he: consider; examine: for that doctrines so wise, yea, wiser than all, should be received by ordinary men, testifies the greatest wisdom in the teacher.

[2.] But what means, “according to the flesh?” According to what is in sight; according to the life that now is; according to the discipline of the Gentiles. Then, leg he should seem to be at variance with himself, (for he had convinced both the Proconsul, (Acts 13:12) and the Areopagite, (Acts 17:34) and Apollos; (Acts 18:26: through Aquila and Priscilla) and other wise men, too, we have seen coming over to the Gospel;) he said not, No wise man, but, “Not many wise men.” For he did not designedly (ἀποκεκληρωμένως) call the ignorant and pass by the wise, but these also he received, yet the others in much larger number. And why? Because the wise man according to the flesh is full of extreme folly; and it is he who especially answers to the term “foolish,” when he will not cast away his corrupt doctrine. And as in the case of a physician who might wish to teach certain persons the secrets of his art, those who know a few things, having a bad and perverse mode of practicing the art which they make a point of retaining, would not endure to learn quietly, but they who knew nothing would most readily embrace what was said: even so it was here. The unlearned were more open to conviction, for they were free from the extreme madness of accounting themselves wise. For indeed the excess of folly is in these more than any, these, I say, who commit unto reasoning things which cannot be ascertained except by faith. Thus, suppose the smith by means of the tongs drawing out the red-hot iron; if any one should insist on doing it with his hand, we should vote him guilty of extreme folly: so in like manner the philosophers who insisted on finding out these things for themselves disparaged the faith. And it was owing to this that they found none of the things they sought for.

“Not many mighty, not many noble;” for these also are filled with pride. And nothing is so useless towards an accurate knowledge of God as arrogance, and being nailed down (προσηλῶσθαι) to wealth: for these dispose a man to admire things present, and make no account of the future; and they stop up the ears through the multitude of cares: but “the foolish things of the world God chose:” which thing is the greatest sign of victory, that they were uneducated by whom He conquers. For the Greeks feel not so much shame when they are defeated by means of the “wise,” but are then confounded, when they see the artisan and the sort of person one meets in the market more of a philosopher than themselves. Wherefore also he said himself, “That He might put to shame the wise.” And not in this instance alone hath he done this, also in the case of the other advantages of life. For, to proceed, “the weak things of the world He chose that He might put to shame the strong.” For not unlearned persons only, but needy also, and contemptible and obscure He called, that He might humble those who were in high places.

V. 28. “And the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, and the things that are not, that he might bring to naught the things that are.” Now what doth He call things “that are not?” Those persons who are considered to be nothing because of their great insignificance. Thus hath He shown forth His great power, casting down the great by those who seem to be nothing. The same elsewhere he thus expresses, (2 Cor. 12:9) “For my strength is made perfect in weakness.” For a great power it is, to teach outcasts and such as never applied themselves to any branch of learning, how all at once to discourse wisely on the things which are above the heavens. For suppose a physician, an orator, or any one else: we then most admire him, when he convinces and instructs those completely uneducated. Now, if to instil into an uneducated man the rules of art be a very wonderful thing, much more things which pertain to so high philosophy.

[3.] But not for the wonder’s sake only, neither to shew His own power, hath He done this, but to check also the arrogant. And therefore he both said before, “That he might confound the wise and the strong, that He might bring to nought the things which are,” and here again,

V. 29. “That no flesh should glory in the presence of God.” For God doeth all things to this end, to repress vainglory and pride, to pull down boasting.” “Do you, too,” saith he, “employ yourselves in that work.” He doth all, that we may put nothing to our own account; that we may ascribe all unto God. And have ye given yourselves over unto this person or to that? And what pardon will ye obtain?”

For God Himself hath shown that it is not possible we should be saved only by ourselves: and this He did from the beginning. For neither then could men be saved by themselves; but it required their compassing the beauty of the heaven, and the extent of the earth, and the mass of creation besides; if so they might be led by the hand to the great artificer of all the works. And He did this, repressing beforehand the self-conceit which was after to arise. Just as if a master who had given his scholar charge to follow wheresoever he might lead, when he sees him forestalling, and desiring to barn all things of himself, should permit him to go quite astray; and when he hath proved him incompetent to acquire the knowledge, should thereupon at length introduce to him what himself has to teach: so God also commanded in the beginning to trace Him by the idea which the creation gives; but since they would not, He, after showing by the experiment that they are not sufficient for themselves, conducts them again unto Him by another way. He gave for a tablet, the world; but the philosophers studied not in those things, neither were willing to obey Him, nor to approach unto Him by that way which Himself commanded. He introduces another way more evident than the former; one that might bring conviction that man is not of himself alone sufficient unto himself. For then scruples of reasoning might be started, and the Gentile wisdom employed, on their part whom He through the creation was leading by the hand; but now, unless a man become a fool, that is, unless he dismiss all reasoning and all wisdom, and deliver up himself unto the faith, it is impossible to be saved. You see that besides making the way easy, he hath rooted up hereby no trifling disease, namely, in forbidding to boast, and have high thoughts: “that no flesh should glory:” for hence came the sin, that men insisted on being wiser than the laws of God; not willing so to obtain knowledge as He had enacted: and therefore they did not obtain it at all. So also was it from the beginning. He said unto Adam, “Do such a thing, and such another thou must not do.” He, as thinking to find out something more, disobeyed; and even what he had, he lost. He spake unto those that came after, “Rest not in the creature; but by means of it contemplate the Creator.” They, forsooth, as if making out something wiser than what had been commanded, set in motion windings innumerable. Hence they kept dashing against themselves and one another, and neither found God, nor concerning the creature had any distinct knowledge; nor had any meet and true opinion about it. Wherefore again, with a very high hand, (ἐκ πολλοῦ τοῦ περίοντος) lowering their conceit. He admitted the uneducated first, showing thereby that all men need the wisdom from above. And not only in the matter of knowledge, but also in all other things, both men and all other creatures He hath constituted so as to be in great need of Him; that they might have this also as a most forcible motive of submission and attachment, lest turning away they should perish. For this cause He did not suffer them to be sufficient unto themselves. For if even now many, for all their indigency, despise Him, were the case not so, whither would they not have wandered in haughtiness? So that He stayed them from boasting as they did, not from any grudge to them, but to draw them away from the destruction thence ensuing.

[4.] V. 30. “But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”

The expression “of Him,” I suppose he uses here, not of our introduction into being, but with reference to the faith: that is, to our having become children of God, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh.” (St. John 1:13) “Think not then, that having taken away our glorying, He left us so: for there is another, a greater glorying, His gift. For ye are the children of Him in whose presence it is not meet to glory, having become so through Christ.” And since he has said, “The foolish things of the world He chose, and the base,” he signifies that they are nobler than all, having God for their Father. And of this nobility of ours, not this person or that, but Christ is the cause, having made us wise, and righteous, and holy. For so mean the words, “He was made unto us wisdom.”

Who then is wiser than we are who have not the wisdom of Plato, but Christ Himself, God having so willed.
But what means, “of God?” Whenever he speaks great things concerning the Only-Begotten, he adds mention of the Father, lest any one should think that the Son is unbegotten. Since therefore he had affirmed His power to be so great, and had referred the whole unto the Son, saying that He had “become wisdom unto us, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption;”—through the Son again referring the whole to the Father, he saith, “of God.”
But why said he not, He hath made us wise, but “was made unto us wisdom?” To show the copiousness of the gift. As if he had said, He gave unto us Himself. And observe how he goes on in order. For first He made us wise by delivering from error, and then righteous and holy, by giving us the Spirit; and He hath so delivered us from all our evils as to be “of Him.” and this is not meant to express communication of bring, (οὐσιώσεως) but is spoken concerning the faith. Elsewhere we find him saying, “We were made righteousness in Him;” in these words, “Him who knew no sin He made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him;” (2 Cor. 5:21) but now he saith, “He hath been made righteousness unto us; so that whosoever will may partake plentifully.” For it is not this man or that who hath made us wise, but Christ. “He that glorieth,” therefore, “let him glory in Him,” not in such or such an one. From Christ have proceeded all things. Wherefore, having said, “Who was made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption,” he added, “that, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

For this cause also he had vehemently inveighed against the wisdom of the Greeks, to teach men this lesson, (τοῦτο αὐτὸ Savile; τούτῳ αὐτῶ Bened.) and no other: that (as indeed is no more than just) they should boast themselves in the Lord. For when of ourselves we seek the things which are above us, nothing is more foolish, nothing weaker than we are. In such case, a tongue well whetted we may have; but stability of doctrine we cannot have. Rather, reasonings, being alone, are like the webs of spider. For unto such a point of madness have some advanced as to say that there is nothing real in the whole of being: yea, they maintain positively that all things are contrary to what appears

Say not therefore that anything is from thyself, but in all things glory in God. Impute unto no man anything at any time. For if unto Paul nothing ought to be imputed much less unto any others. For, saith he, (ch. 3:6) “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” He that hath learnt to make his boast in the Lord, will never be elated, but will be moderate at all times, and thankful under all circumstances. But not such is the mind of the Greeks; they refer all to themselves; wherefore even of men they make gods. In so great shame hath desperate arrogance plunged them. (ἐξετραχήλισεν)

[5.] It is time then, in what remains, to go forth to battle against these. Recollect where we left our discourse on the former day. We were saying that it was not possible according to human cause and effect that fishermen should get the better of philosophers. But nevertheless it became possible: from whence it is clear that by grace it became so. We were saying that it was not possible for them even to conceive such great exploits: and we shewed that they not only conceived, but brought them to a conclusion with great ease. Let us handle, to-day, the same head of our argument: viz. From whence did it enter their thoughts to expect to overcome the world, unless they had seen Christ after He was risen? What? Were they beside themselves, to reckon upon any such thing inconsiderately and at random? For it goes even beyond all madness, to look, without Divine grace, for success in so great an undertaking. How did they succeed in it, if they were insane and frenzied? But if they were in their sober senses, as indeed the events shewed, how, but on receiving credible pledges from the heavens and enjoying the influence which is from above, did they undertake to go forth to so great wars, and to make their venture against earth and sea, and to strip and stand their ground so nobly, for a change in the customs of the whole world which had been so long time fixed, they being but twelve men?

And, what is more, what made them expect to convince their hearers, by inviting them to heaven and the mansions above? Even had they been brought up in honor, and wealth, and power, and erudition, not even so would it have been at all likely that they should be roused to so burthensome an undertaking. However, there would have been somewhat more of reason in their expectation. But as the case now stands, some of them had been occupied about lakes, some about hides2, some about the customs: than which pursuits nothing is more unprofitable towards philosophy, and the persuading men to have high imaginations: and especially when one hath no example to shew. Nay, they had not only no examples to make their success likely, but they had examples against all likelihood of success, and those within their own doors.3 (ἔναυλα) For many for attempting innovations had been utterly extinguished, I say not among the Greeks, for all that was nothing, but among the Jews themselves at that very time; who not with twelve men, but with great numbers had applied themselves to the work. Thus both Theudas and Judas, having great bodies of men, perished together with their disciples. And the fear arising from their examples was enough to control these, had they not been strongly persuaded that victory without divine power was out of the question.

Yea, even if they did expect to prevail, with what sort of hopes undertook they such great dangers, except they had an eye to the world to come? But let us suppose that they hoped for no less than victory; what did they expect to gain from the bringing all men unto Him, “who is not risen again,” as ye say? For if now, men who believe concerning the kingdom of heaven and blessings unnumbered with reluctance encounter dangers, how could they have undergone so many for nothing, yea rather, for evil? For if the things which were done did not take place, if Christ did not ascend into heaven; surely in their obstinate zeal to invent these things, and convince all the world of them, they were offending God, and must expect ten thousand thunderbolts from on high.

[6.] Or, in another point of view; if they had felt this great zeal while Christ was living, yet on His death they would have let it go out. For He would have seemed to them, had He not risen, as a sort of deceiver and pretender. Know ye not that armies while the general and king is alive, even though they be weak, keep together; but when those in such office have departed, however strong they may be, they are broken up?

Tell me then, what were the enticing arguments whereupon they acted, when about to take hold of the Gospel, and to go forth unto all the world? Was there any kind of impediment wanting to restrain them? If they had been mad, (for I will not cease repeating it,) they could not have succeded at all; for no one follows the advice of madmen. But if they succeeded as in truth they did succeed, and the event proves, then none so wise as they. Now if none were so wise as they, it is quite plain, they would not lightly have entered upon the preaching. Had they not seen Him after He was risen, what was there sufficient to draw them out unto this war? What which would not have turned them away from it? He said unto them, “After three days I will rise again,” and He made promises concerning the kingdom of heaven. He said, they should master the whole world, after they had received the Holy Spirit; and ten thousand other things besides these, surpassing all nature. So that if none of these things had come to pass, although they believed in Him while alive, after His death they would not have believed in Him, unless they had seen Him after He was risen. For they have said, “ ‘After three days,’ He said, ‘I will rise again,’ and He hath not arisen. He promised that He would give the Spirit, and He hath not sent Him. How then shall His sayings about the other world find credit with us, when His sayings about this are tried and found wanting?”

And why, if He rose not again, did they preach that He was risen? “Because they loved Him,” you will say. But surely, it was likely that they would hate Him afterwards, for deceiving and betraying them; and because, having lifted them up with innumerable hopes, and divorced them from house, and parents, and all things, and set in hostility against them the entire nation of Jews, He had betrayed them after all. And if indeed the thing were of weakness, they might have pardoned it; but now it would be deemed a result of exceeding malice. For He ought to have spoken the truth, and not have promised heaven, being a mortal man, as ye say. So that the very opposite was the likely line for them to take; to proclaim the deception, and declare Him a pretender and imposter. Thus again would they have been rid of all their perils; thus have put an end to the war. Moreover, seeing that the Jews gave money unto the soldiers to say that they stole the body, if the disciples had come forward and said, “We stole Him, He is not risen again,” what honor would they not have enjoyed? Thus it was in their power to be honored, nay, crowned. Why then did they for insults and dangers barter away these things, if it was not some Divine power which influenced them, and proved mightier than all these?

[7.] But if we do not yet convince, take this also into consideration; that had this not been so, though they were ever so well disposed, they would not have preached this Gospel in His name, but would have treated Him with abhorrence. For ye know that not even the names of those who deceive us in this sort are we willing to hear. But for what reason preached they also His name? Expecting to gain the mastery through Him? Truly the contrary was natural for them to expect; that even if they had been on the point of prevailing, they were ruining themselves by bringing forward the name of a deceiver. But if they wished to throw into the shade former events, their line was to be silent; at any rate, to contend for them earnestly was to excite more and more both of serious hostility and of ridicule. From whence then did it enter their thoughts to invent such things? I say, “invent:” for what they had heard, they had forgotten. But if, when there was no fear, they forgot many things, and some did not even understand, (as also the Evangelist himself saith,) now that so great a danger came upon them, how could it be otherwise than that all should fleet away from them? Why speak I of words? when even their love towards their Master Himself began gradually to fade away, through fear of what was coming: wherewith also He upraided them. For since, before this, they hung upon him, and were asking continually, “Whither goest Thou,” but afterwards on His drawing out His discourse to so great length, and declaring the terrors which at the very time of the Cross, and after the Cross should befal them, they just continued speechless and frozen through fear;—hear how He alleges to them this very point saying, “None of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart.” (St. John 16:5–6) Now if the expectation that He would die and rise again was such a grief to them, had they failed to see Him after He was risen, how could it be less than annihilation? Yea, they would have been fain to sink into the depths of the earth, what with dejection at being so deceived, and what with dread of the future, feeling themselves sorely straightened.

Again: from whence came their high doctrines? for the higher points, He said, they should hear afterwards. For, saith He, (St. John 16:12) “I have many things to speak unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” So that the things not spoken were higher. And one of the disciples was not even willing to depart with Him into Judea, when he heard of dangers, but said, “Let us also go that we may die with Him,” (St. John 11:16) taking it hardly4 because he expected that he should die. Now if that disciple, while he was with Him, expected to die and shrunk back on that account, what must he not have expected afterwards, when parted from Him and the other disciples, and when the exposure of their shameless conduct was so complete?

[8.] Besides, what had they to say when they went forth? For the passion indeed all the world knew: for He had been hanged on high, upon the frame of wood, (ἰκρίου) and in mid-day, and in a chief city, and at a principal feast and that from which it was least permitted that any should be absent. But the resurrection no man saw of those who were without: which was no small impediment to them in working conviction. Again, that He was buried, was the common talk of all: and that His disciples stole His body, the soldiers and all the Jews declared: but that He had risen again, no one of them who were without knew by sight. Upon what ground then did they expect to convince the world? For if, while miracles were taking place, certain soldiers were persuaded to testify the contrary, upon what ground did these expect without miracles to do the work of preachers, and without having a farthing to convince land and sea concerning the resurrection? Again, if through desire of glory they attempted this, so much the rather would they have ascribed doctrines each one to himself, and not to Him that was dead and gone. Will it be said, men would not have believed them? And which of the two was the likelier, being preached, to win their belief? He that was apprehended and crucified, or those who had escaped the hands of the Jews?

[9.] Next, tell me with what view were they to take such a course? They did not immediately, leaving Judæa, go into the Gentile cities, but went up and down within its limit. But how, unless they worked miracles, did they convince? For if such they really wrought, (and work them they did,) it was the result of God’s power. If on the other hand they wrought none and prevailed, much more wonderful was the event. Knew they not the Jews—tell me—and their evil practice, and their soul full of grudgings? For they stoned even Moses, (Numb. 14:10. comp. Exod. 17:4) after the sea which they had crossed on foot; after the victory, and that marvellous trophy which they raised without blood, by means of his hands, over the Egyptians who had enslaved them; after the manna; after the rocks, and the fountains of rivers which break out thence; after ten thousand miracles in the land of Egypt and the Red Sea and the wilderness. Jeremiah they cast into a pit, and many of the prophets they slew. Here, for example, what saith Elias, after that fearful famine, and the marvellous rain, and the torch which he brought down from heaven, and the strange holocaust; driven, as he was, to the very extreme edge of their country: “Lord, thy prophets they have killed, thine altars they have digged down, and I am left alone, and they seek my life.” (1 Kings 19:10) Yet were not those (who were so persecuted) disturbing any of the established rules. Tell me then, what ground had men for attending to these of whom we are speaking? For, on one hand, they were meaner persons than any of the prophets; on the other, they were introducing just such novelties as had caused the Jews to nail even their Master to the Cross.
And in another way, too, it seemed less unaccountable for Christ to utter such things than for them; for He, they might suppose, acted thus to acquire glory for himself; but these they would have hated even the more, as waging war with them in behalf of another.

[10.] But did the laws of the Romans help them? Nay, by these they were more involved in difficulties. For their language was, (St. John 19:12) “Whosoever maketh himself a king is not Cæsar’s friend.” So that this alone was a sufficient impediment to them, that of Him who was accounted an usurper they were first disciples, and afterwards desirous to strengthen His cause. What in the world then set them upon rushing into such great dangers? And by what statements about Him would they be likely to gain credit? that He was crucified? That He was born of a poor Jewish woman who had been betrothed to a Jewish carpenter? That He was of a nation hated by the world? Nay, all these things were enough not only to fail of persuading and attracting the hearers, but also to disgust every one; and especially when affirmed by the tent-maker and the fisherman. Would not the disciples then bear all these things in mind? Timid nature can imagine more than the reality, and such were their natures. Upon what ground then did they hope to succeed? Nay, rather, they had no hope, there being things innumerable to draw them aside, if so be that Christ had not risen. Is it not quite plain even unto the most thoughtless that unless they had enjoyed a copious and mighty grace, and had received pledges of the resurrection, they would have been unable, I say not, to do and undertake these things, but even so much as to have them in their minds? For if when there were so great hinderances, in the way of their planning, I say not of their succeeding, they yet both planned and brought to effect and accomplishing things greater than all expectation, every one, I suppose, can see that not by human power but by divine grace they wrought all things.

Now these arguments we ought to practice, not by ourselves only, but one with another; and thus also the discovery of what remains will be easier to us.

[11.] And do not, because thou art an artisan, suppose that this sort of exercise is out of your province; for even Paul was a tent-maker.

“Yes,” saith some one, “but at that time he was also filled with abundant grace, and out of that he spake all things.” Well; but before this grace, he was at the feet of Gamaliel; yea, moreover, and he received the grace, because of this, that he shewed a mind worthy of the grace; and after these things he again put his hand to his craft. Let no, one, therefore, of those who have trades be ashamed; but those, who are brought up to nothing and are idle, who employ many attendants, and are served by an immense retinue. For to be supported by continual hard work is a sort of asceticism. (φιλοσοφίας εἶδος comp. Hooker, E. P. V. lxxii. 18.) The souls of such men are clearer, and their minds better strung. For the man who has nothing to do is apter to say many things at random, and do many things at random; and he is busy all day long about nothing, a huge lethargy taking him up entirely. But he that is employed will not lightly entertain in himself any thing useless, in deed in words, or in thoughts; for his whole soul is altogether intent upon his laborious way of livelihood. Let us not therefore despise those who support themselves by the labor of their own hands; but let us rather call them happy on this account. For tell me, what thanks are due unto thee, when after having received thy portion from thy father, thou goest on not in any calling, but lavishing away the whole of it at random? Knowest thou not that we shall not all have to render the same account, but those who have enjoyed greater licence here, a more exact one; those who were afflicted with labor, or poverty, or any thing else of this kind, one not so severe? And this is plain from Lazarus and the rich man. For as thou, for neglecting the right use of the leisure, art justly accused; so the poor man, who having full employment hath spent his remnant of time upon right objects, great will be the crowns which he shall receive. But dost thou urge that a soldier’s duties should at least excuse thee; and dost thou charge them with thy want of leisure? The excuse cannot be founded in reason. For Cornelius was a centurion, yet in no way did the soldier’s belt impair his strict rule of life. But thou, when thou art keeping holiday with dancers and players, and making entire waste of thy life upon the stage, never thinkest of excusing thyself from such engagements by the necessity of military service or the fear of rulers: but when it is the Church to which we call you, then occur these endless impediments.

And what wilt thou say in the day, when thou seest the flame, and the rivers of fire, and the chains never to be broken; and shalt hear the gnashing of teeth? Who shall stand up for thee in that day, when thou shalt see him that hath labored with his own hand and hath lived uprightly, enjoying all glory; but thyself, who art now in soft raiment and redolent of perfumes, in incurable woe? What good will thy wealth and superfluity do thee? And the artisan—what harm will his poverty do him?

Therefore that we may not suffer then, let us fear what is said now, and let all our time be spent in employment on things which are really indispensable. For so, having propitiated God in regard of our past sins, and adding good deeds for the future, we shall be able to attain unto the kingdom of heaven: through the favor and loving-kindness, etc., etc.

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Father de Piconio’s Commentary on 1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Posted by Dim Bulb on December 10, 2016

In this chapter the Apostle, after greeting the Corinthian Christians, warns them against sects and divisions, and exhorts them to unity.

1.  Paul, called to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes.

Called to be an Apostle by the will of God. Not by my own will, or yours, like the self-appointed teachers of whom I have to complain.  St Thomas observes: Would to God all prelates could be said to be appointed by the will of God, and not his indignation and wrath, for the sins of those who are subject to them.

Our brother Sosthenes. He was the chief of the synagogue at Corinth, and was beaten by the pagans before the judgment seat of Gallio, in the tumult which preceded St Paul’s departure from Corinth, as related in Acts 18:17.  He then attached himself to the Apostle and accompanied him to Ephesus.  Being a person of influence and authority, well known in Corinth, he obtained the honor of being associated with St Paul in the title of this Epistle.

2.  To the Church of God which is at Corinth, sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, in every place, theirs and ours.

Called to be saints. Called effectually so as to be sanctified in Baptism.

With all who call upon the name of the Lord. It was thus a circular Epistle, addressed not only to the Corinthians, but to all Churches throughout the world.

3.  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace, from God our Father, from whom are all good gifts (James 1:17); and from our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are given to us great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:4).  He makes no mention of the Holy Spirit, because, St Thomas says, his presence is grace and peace.

4. I give thanks to my God always for you in the grace of God, which is given you in Christ Jesus.
5.  That in all things you are become rich in him, in every word, and in all knowledge.
6.  As the testimony of Christ is confirmed in you:
7.  So that there is nothing wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
8.  Who also will confirm you to the end without crime, in the day of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9.  God is faithful, by whom you have been called into the society of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

(vss 5-9).  That in all things you are become rich. This is the grace of God, given them in Jesus Christ, not that they are rich in worldly goods, as some of them were, but rich in the possession of Christ, in his faith, an din the communion of His Church, and of Christian hope; and rich also in every word, and in all knowledge, that is in the gift of languages, and in the knowledge of divine things, imparted by the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.  This is doubtless said with special reference to the more perfect among them.  There were others whom he addresses in a tone of charitable rebuke further on.  These gifts, he continues in verse 6, are a proof and testimony of the truth of the Gospel you have embraced.  There is no spiritual gift which God can confer on you, which he has not bestowed, until the second coming of Christ, for which you wait.  This has a side-reference to some who did not believe in the resurrection of the body, and the coming of Christ at the last day.  God give you the gift of perseverance, that you may be blameless on that day.  And this I hope, from confidence in God’s fidelity in his promises, who intended your salvation when he called you to the high dignity of association and communion with his Son Jesus Christ.  It would seem that at that period the Apostle expected a near approach of the coming of Christ, and the end of the world.

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