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[1.] At all times indeed, but especially then when I reflect upon the achievements of the saints, it comes over me to feel despondency concerning my own condition,3338
For consider, I beseech you, Elijah, to whom our discourse has come round to-day, for he speaks of him in this passage, and in him his examples end: which [example] was appropriate to their case. And having spoken of what befell the Apostles, that “they were slain with the sword, were stoned,” he goes back again to Elijah, who suffered the same things with them. (See 2 Kings i. 8.) For since it was probable that they would not as yet hold the Apostles in so great estimation, he brings his exhortation and consolation from him who had been taken up [into Heaven] and who was held in special admiration.
They had not even raiment, he says, through the excess of affliction, no city, no house, no lodging-place; the same which Christ said, “but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” ( Matt. viii. 20.) Why do I say “no lodging-place”? No standing-place: for not even when they had gained the wilderness, were they at rest. For he said not, They sat down in the wilderness, but even when they were there, they fled, and were driven thence, not out of the inhabited world only, but even out of that which was uninhabitable. And he reminds them of the places where they were set, and of things which there befell [them].
Then next, he says, they bring accusations against you for Christ’s sake. What accusation had they against Elijah, when they drove him out, and persecuted him, and compelled him to struggle with famine? Which these [Hebrews] were then suffering. At least, the brethren, it is said, decided to send [relief] to those of the disciples who were afflicted. “Every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren that dwelt in Judea” ( Acts xi. 29 ), which was [the case] of these also.
But “They wandered about,” what is this? “Wandering,” he says, “in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth,” like exiles and outcasts, as persons taken in the basest [of crimes], as those not worthy to see the sun, they found no refuge from the wilderness, but must always be flying, must be seeking hiding-places, must bury themselves alive in the earth, always be in terror.
[2.] What then is the reward of so great a change?3340
They have not yet received it, but are still waiting; and after thus dying in so great tribulation, they have not yet received it. They gained their victory so many ages ago, and have not yet received [their reward]. And you who are yet in the conflict, are you vexed?
Do you also consider what a thing it is, and how great, that Abraham should be sitting, and the Apostle Paul, waiting till thou hast been perfected, that then they may be able to receive their reward. For the Saviour has told them before that unless we also are present, He will not give it them. As an affectionate father might say to sons who were well approved, and had accomplished their work, that he would not give them to eat, unless their brethren came. And art thou vexed, that thou hast not yet received the reward? What then shall Abel do, who was victor before all, and is sitting uncrowned? And what Noah? And what, they who lived in those [early] times: seeing that they wait for thee and those after thee?
Dost thou see that we have the advantage of them? For “God” (he says) “has provided some better thing for us.” In order that they might not seem to have the advantage of us from being crowned before us, He appointed one time of crowning for all; and he that gained the victory so many years before, receives his crown with thee. Seest thou His tender carefulness?
And he did not say, “that they without us might not be crowned,” but “that they without us might not be made perfect”; so that at that time they appear perfect also. They were before us as regards the conflicts, but are not before us as regards the crowns. He wronged not them, but He honored us. For they also wait for the brethren. For if we are “all one body,” the pleasure becomes greater to this body, when it is crowned altogether, and not part by part. For the righteous are also worthy of admiration in this, that they rejoice in the welfare of their brethren, as in their own. So that for themselves also, this is according to their wish, to be crowned along with their own members. To be glorified all together, is a great delight.
[3.] ( C. xii. 1 ) “Wherefore” (he says) “we also being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” In many places the Scripture derives its consolation in evils from corresponding things. As when the prophet says, “From burning heat, and from storm, and rain.” ( Isa. iv. 6.) This at least he says here also, that the memory of those holy men, reestablishes and recovers the soul which had been weighed down by woes, as a cloud does him who is burnt by the too hot rays [of the sun.]
And he did not say, “lifted on high above us,” but, “compassing us about,” which was more than the other; so that we are in greater security.
What sort of “cloud”? “A load of witnesses.”3341
“Laying aside all things.” “All”: what? That is, slumber, indifference, mean reasonings, all human things.
“And the sin which doth [so] easily beset us”; εὐπερίστατον, that is either, “which easily circumvents us,” or “what can easily be circumvented,”3342
“Let us run with patience” (he says) “the race that is set before us.” He did not say, Let us contend as boxers, nor, Let us wrestle, nor, Let us do battle: but, what was lightest of all, the [contest] of the foot-race, this has he brought forward. Nor yet did he say, Let us add to the length of the course; but, Let us continue patiently in this, let us not faint. “Let us run” (he says) “the race that is set before us.”
[4.] In the next place as the sum and substance of his exhortation, which he puts both first and last, even Christ. ( Ver. 2 ) “Looking” (he says) “unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith”; The very thing which Christ Himself also continually said to His disciples, “If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household?” ( Matt. x. 25.) And again, “The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord.” ( Matt. x. 24.)
“Looking” (he says), that is, that we may learn to run. For as in all arts and games, we impress the art upon our mind by looking to our masters, receiving certain rules through our sight, so here also, if we wish to run, and to learn to run well, let us look to Christ, even to Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith.” What is this? He has put the Faith within us. For He said to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” ( John xv. 16 ); and Paul too says, “But then shall I know, even as also I have been known.”3343
“Who,” he says, “for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame.” That is, it was in His power not to suffer at all, if He so willed. For “He did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth” ( 1 Pet. ii. 22 ); as He also says in the Gospels, “The Prince of the world cometh and hath nothing in Me.” ( John xiv. 30.) It lay then in His power, if so He willed, not to come to the Cross. For, “I have power,” He says, “to lay down My life; and I have power to take it again.” ( John x. 18.) If then He who was under no necessity of being crucified, was crucified for our sake, how much more is it right that we should endure all things nobly!
“Who for the joy that was set before Him” (he says) “endured the cross, despising the shame.” But what is, “Despising the shame”? He chose, he means, that ignominious death. For suppose that He died. Why [should He] also [die] ignominiously? For no other reason, but to teach us to make no account of glory from men. Therefore though under no obligation He chose it, teaching us to be bold against it, and to set it at nought. Why did he say not “pain,” but “shame”? Because it was not with pain3344
What then is the end? “He is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Seest thou the prize which Paul also says in an epistle, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow.” ( Philip. ii. 9, 10.) He speaks in respect to the flesh.3345
[5.] Wherefore let us also, whenever we suffer anything of this kind, before the Apostles consider Christ. Why? His whole life was full of insults. For He continually heard Himself called mad, and a deceiver, and a sorcerer; and at one time the Jews said, “Nay,” (it says) “but He deceiveth the people.” ( John vii. 12.) And again, “That deceiver said while He was yet alive, after three days I will rise again.” ( Matt. xxvii. 63.) As to sorcery too they calumniated Him, saying, “He casteth out the devils by Beelzebub.” ( Matt. xii. 24.) And that “He is mad and hath a devil.” ( John x. 20.) “Said we not well” (it says) “that He hath a devil and is mad?” ( John viii. 48.)
And these things He heard from them, when doing them good, performing miracles, showing forth the works of God. For indeed, if He had been so spoken of, when He did nothing, it would not have been so wonderful: But [it is wonderful] that when He was teaching what pertained to Truth He was called “a deceiver,” and when He cast out devils, was said to “have a devil,” and when He was overthrowing all that was opposed [to God], was called a sorcerer. For these things they were continually alleging against Him.
And if thou wouldst know both the scoffs3346
Wouldst thou see also the ironical jeerings they made? Coming, it says, to the very cross they worshiped Him; and they struck Him and buffeted Him, and said, “Tell us who it is that smote Thee” ( Matt. xxvi. 68 ); and they brought vinegar to Him, and said, “If Thou be the Son of God, come down from the Cross.” ( Matt. xxvii. 40.) And again, the servant of the High Priest struck Him with the palm of his hand; and He says, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smiteth thou Me?” ( John xviii. 23.) And in derision they put a robe about Him; and they spat in His face; and they were continually applying their tests, tempting Him.
Wouldest thou see also the accusations, some secret, some open, some from disciples? “Will ye also go away?” ( John vi. 67 ) He says. And that saying, “Thou hast a devil” ( John viii. 48; vii. 20 ), was uttered by those who already believed. Was He not continually a fugitive, sometimes in Galilee, and sometimes in Judea? Was not His trial great, even from the swaddling clothes? When He was yet a young child, did not His mother take Him and go down into Egypt? For all these reasons he says, “Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our Faith who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
[6.] Ver. 3. “For consider,” saith he, “Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” For if the sufferings of those near us arouse us, what earnestness will not those of our Master give us! What will they not work in us!
And passing by all [else], he expressed the whole by the [word] “Contradiction”; and by adding “such.” For the blows upon the cheek, the laughter, the insults, the reproaches, the mockeries, all these he indicated by “contradiction.” And not these only, but also the things which befell Him during His whole life, of teaching.
For a great, a truly great consolation are both the sufferings of Christ, and those of the Apostles. For He so well knew that this is the better way of virtue, as even to go that way Himself, not having need thereof: He knew so well that tribulation is expedient for us, and that it becomes rather a foundation for repose. For hear Him saying, “If a man take not his cross, and follow after Me, he is not worthy of Me.” ( Matt. x. 38.) If thou art a disciple, He means, imitate the Master; for this is [to be] a disciple. But if while He went by [the path of] affliction, thou [goest] by that of ease, thou no longer treadest the same path, which He trod, but another. How then dost thou follow, when thou followest not? How shalt thou be a disciple, not going after the Master? This Paul also says, “We are weak, but ye are strong; we are despised, but ye are honored.” ( 1 Cor. iv. 10.) How is it reasonable, he means, that we should be striving after opposite things, and yet that you should be disciples and we teachers?
What then, you say, if it overthrow and destroy? Affliction does not do this, but our own slothfulness. How (you say)? If we are sober and watchful, if we beseech God that He would not “suffer us to be tempted above that we are able” ( 1 Cor. x. 13 ), if we always hold fast to Him, we shall stand nobly, and set ourselves against our enemy. So long as we have Him for our helper, though temptations blow more violently than all the winds, they will be to us as chaff and a leaf borne lightly along. Hear Paul saying, “In all these things” (are his words) “we are more than conquerors.” ( Rom. viii. 37.) And again, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” ( Rom. viii. 18.) And again, “For the light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” ( 2 Cor. iv. 17.)
[8.] These things let us take into our mind, beloved, let us consider them, let us hold them in remembrance, and then we shall never faint, though we be wronged, though we be plundered, though we suffer innumerable evils. Let it be granted us to be approved in Heaven, and all things [are] endurable. Let it be granted us to fare well there, and things here are of no account. These things are a shadow, and a dream; whatever they may be, they are nothing either in nature or in duration, while those are hoped for and expected.
For what wouldst thou that we should compare with those fearful things? What with the unquenchable fire? With the never-dying worm? Which of the things here canst thou name in comparison with the “gnashing of teeth,” with the “chains,” and the “outer darkness,” with the “wrath,” the “tribulation,” the “anguish”? But as to duration? Why, what are ten thousand years to ages boundless and without end? Not so much as a little drop to the boundless ocean.
But what about the good things? There, the superiority is still greater. “Eye hath not seen,” (it is said,) “ear hath not heard, neither have, entered into the heart of man” ( 1 Cor. ii. 9 ), and these things again shall be during boundless ages. For the sake of these then were it not well to be cut [by scourging] times out of number, to be slain, to be burned, to undergo ten thousand deaths, to endure everything whatsoever that is dreadful both in word and deed? For even if it were possible for one to live when burning in the fire, ought one not to endure all for the sake of attaining to those good things promised?
[9.] But why do I trifle in saying these things to men who do not even choose to disregard riches, but hold fast to them as though they were immortal? And if they give a little out of much, think they have done all? This is not Almsgiving. For Almsgiving is that of the Widow who emptied out “all her living.” ( Mark xii. 44.) But if thou dost not go on to contribute so much as the widow, yet at least contribute the whole of thy superfluity: keep what is sufficient, not what is superfluous.
But there is no one who contributes even his superabundance. For so long as thou hast many servants,3352
[10.] And how is it not a shame (you say) that a gentlewoman3356
Tell me who attracts the attention of those who are in the public places,3357
However, since it is impossible to draw you away from that, I am content for the present that you should learn that this [conduct] is no disgrace. Sin alone is a disgrace, which no one thinks to be a disgrace. Sin alone is a disgrace, which no one thinks to be a disgrace, but everything rather than this.
But my discourse is not addressed to women only, but also to men. For the rest of the things which we have are all superfluous; only the poor possess no superfluities; and perhaps they too from necessity: since, if it had been in their power, even they would not have abstained [from them]. Nevertheless, “whether in pretense or in truth” ( Philip. i. 18 ), so far they have no superfluities.
[12.] Let us then wear such clothes as are sufficient for our need. For what does much gold mean? To those on the stage these things are fitting, this apparel belongs to them, to harlots, to those who do everything to be looked at. Let her beautify herself, who is on the stage or the dancing platform. For she wishes to attract all to her. But a woman who professes godliness, let her not beautify herself thus, but in a different way. Thou hast a means of beautifying thyself far better than that. Thou also hast a theater:3361
For tell me, if a harlot putting aside her golden ornaments, and her robes, and her laughter, and her witty and unchaste talk, clothe herself with a cheap garment, and having dressed herself simply come [on the stage], and utter religious words, and discourse of chastity, and say nothing indelicate, will not all rise up? Will not this theater be dispersed? Will they not cast her out, as one who does not know how to suit herself to the crowd, and speaks things foreign to that Satanic theater? So thou also, if thou enter into the Theater of Heaven clad with her garments, the spectators will cast thee out. For there, there is no need of these garments of gold, but of different ones. Of what kind? Of such as the prophet names, “clothed in fringed work of gold, and in varied colors” ( Ps. xlv. 13 ), not so as to make the body white and glistering, but so as to beautify the soul. For the soul it is, which is contending and wrestling in that Theater. “All the glory of the King’s daughter is from within” ( Ps. xlv. 13 ), it says. With these do thou clothe thyself; for [so] thou both deliverest thyself from other evils innumerable, and thy husband from anxiety and thyself from care.
For so thou wilt be respected by thy husband, when thou needest not many things. For every man is wont to be shy towards those who make requests of him; but when he sees that they have no need of him, then he lets down his pride, and converses with them as equals. When thy husband sees that thou hast no need of him in anything, that thou thinkest lightly of the presents which come from him, then, even though he be very arrogant,3362
[13.] For what is more unreasonable, than to provide golden ornaments, to be worn in baths, and in market places? However, in baths and in market places it is perhaps no wonder, but that a woman should come into Church so decked out is very ridiculous. For, for what possible reason does she come in here wearing golden ornaments, she who ought to come in that she may hear [the precept] “that they adorn not themselves with gold, nor pearls, nor costly array”? ( 1 Tim. ii. 9.) With what object then, O woman, dost thou come? Is it indeed to fight with Paul, and show that even if he repeat these things ten thousand times thou regardest them not? Or is it as wishing to put us your teachers to shame as discoursing on these subjects in vain? For tell me; if any heathen and unbeliever, after he has heard the passage read where the blessed Paul says these things, having a believing wife, sees that she makes much account of beautifying herself, and puts on ornaments of gold, that she may come into Church and hear Paul charging [the women] that they adorn themselves, neither with “gold” ( 1 Tim. ii. 9 ), nor with “pearls,” nor with “costly array,” will he not indeed say to himself, when he sees her in her little room,3364
Nay even if thou wish to obtain glory from men, thou wilt obtain it thus. For we shall not wonder so much that the wife of a rich man wears gold and silk (for this is the common practice of them all), as when she is dressed in a plain and simple garment made merely of wool. This all will admire, this they will applaud. For in that adorning indeed of ornaments of gold and of costly apparel, she has many to share with her. And if she surpass one, she is surpassed by another. Yea, even if she surpass all, she must yield the palm to the Empress herself. But in the other case, she outdoes all, even the Emperor’s wife herself. For she alone in wealth, has chosen the [dress] of the poor. So that even if we desire glory, here too the glory is greater.
But, you say, I do not please my husband [if I dress plainly]. It is not thy husband thou wishest to please, but the multitude of poor women; or rather not to please them, but to make them pine [with envy], and to give them pain, and make their poverty greater. How many blasphemies are uttered because of thee! ‘Let there be no poverty’ (say they). ‘God hates the poor.’ ‘God loves not those in poverty.’ For that it is not thy husband whom thou wishest to please, and for this reason thou deckest thyself out, thou makest plain to all by what thou thyself doest. For as soon as thou hast passed over the threshold of thy chamber,3367
[15.] Possibly you are annoyed at hearing what is said, and are indignant, saying, ‘He irritates husbands still more against their wives.’ I say this, not to irritate your husbands, but I wish that these things should be done by you willingly, for your own sakes, not for theirs; not to free them from envy but to free you from the parade of this life.
This beauty then let us cultivate; with these embellishments let us adorn ourselves, that we may pass into the Heavens, into the spiritual chambers, into the nuptial chamber that is undefiled. For this beauty is liable to be destroyed by anything; and when it lasts well, and neither disease nor anxiety impair it (which is impossible), it does not last twenty years. But the other is ever blooming, ever in its prime. There, there is no change to fear; no old age coming brings a wrinkle, no undermining disease withers it; no desponding anxiety disfigures it; but it is far above all these things. But this [earthly beauty] takes flight before it appears, and if it appears it has not many admirers. For those of well-ordered minds do not admire it; and those who do admire it, admire with wantonness.
[16.] Let us not therefore cultivate this [beauty], but the other: let us have that, so that with bright torches we may pass into the bridal chamber. For not to virgins only has this been promised, but to virgin souls. For had it belonged merely to virgins, those five would not have been shut out. This then belongs to all who are virgins in soul, who are freed from worldly imaginations: for these imaginations corrupt our souls. If therefore we remain unpolluted, we shall depart thither, and shall be accepted. “For I have espoused you,” he says, “to one husband, to present you a chaste virgin unto Christ.” ( 2 Cor. xi. 2.) These things he said, not with reference to Virgins, but to the whole body of the entire Church. For the uncorrupt soul is a virgin, though she have a husband: she is a virgin as to that which is Virginity indeed, that which is worthy of admiration. For this of the body is but the accompaniment and shadow of the other: while that is the True Virginity. This let us cultivate, and so shall we be able with cheerful countenance to behold the Bridegroom, to enter in with bright torches, if the oil do not fail us, if by melting down our golden ornaments we procure such oil as makes our lamps bright. And this oil is lovingkindness.
If we impart what we have to others, if we make oil therefrom, then it will protect us, and we shall not say at that time, “Give us oil, for our lamps are going out” ( Matt. xxv. 8 ), nor shall we beg of others, nor shall we be shut out when we are gone to them that sell, nor shall we hear that fearful and terrible voice, while we are knocking at the doors, “I know you not.” ( Matt. xxv. 12.) But He will acknowledge us, and we shall go in with the Bridegroom, and having entered into the spiritual Bride-chamber we shall enjoy good things innumerable.
And why do I say, ‘Let us put away our golden ornaments, and give to the needy’? For if ye ought even to sell yourselves, if ye ought to become slaves instead of free women, that so ye might be able to be with that Bridegroom, to enjoy that Beauty, [nay] merely to look on that Countenance, ought you not with ready mind to welcome all things? We look at and admire a king upon the earth, but when [we see] a king and a bridegroom both, much more ought we to welcome him with readiness. Truly these things are a shadow, while those are a reality. And a King and a Bridegroom in Heaven! To be counted worthy also to go before Him with torches, and to be near Him, and to be ever with Him, what ought we not to do? What should we not perform? What should we not endure? I entreat you, let us conceive some desire for those blessings, let us long for that Bridegroom, let us be virgins as to the true Virginity. For the Lord seeks after the virginity of the soul. With this let us enter into Heaven, “not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing” ( Eph. v. 27 ); that we may attain also to the good things promised, of which may we all be partakers through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, power, honor, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.