Orthodox Church Fathers: Patristic Christian Theology Classics Search Engine

Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Tractate XLIII.

Tractate XLIII.

1. In that lesson of the holy Gospel which has been read to-day, from power we learn patience. For what are we as servants to the Lord, as sinners to the Just One, as creatures to the Creator? Howbeit, just as in what we are evil, we are so of ourselves; so in whatever respects we are good, we are so of Him, and through Him. And nothing does man so seek as he does power. He has great power in the Lord Christ; but let him first imitate His patience, that he may attain to power. Who of us would listen with patience if it were said to him, "Thou hast a devil"? as was said to Him, who was not only bringing men to salvation, but also subjecting devils to His authority.

2. For when the Jews had said, "Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?" of these two charges cast at Him, He denied the one, but not the other. For He answered and said, "I have not a devil" He did not say, I am not a Samaritan; and yet the two charges had been made. Although He returned not cursing with cursing, although He met not slander with slander, yet was it proper for Him to deny the one charge and not to deny the other. And not without a purpose, brethren. For Samaritan means keeper.1 He knew that He was our keeper. For "He that keepeth Israel neither slumbereth nor sleepeth;"2 and, "Except the Lord keep the city, they wake in vain who keep it."3 He then is our Keeper who is our Creator. For did it belong to Him to redeem us, and would it not be His to preserve us? Finally, that you may know more fully the hidden reason4 why He ought not to have denied that He was a Samaritan, call to mind that well-known parable, where a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who wounded him severely, and left him half dead on the road. A priest came along and took no notice of him. A Levite came up, and he also passed on his way. A certain Samaritan came up - He who is our Keeper. He went up to the wounded man. He exercised mercy, and did a neighbor's part to one whom He did not account an alien.5 To this, then, He only replied that He had not a devil, but not that He was not a Samaritan.

3. And then after such an insult, this was all that He said of His own glory: "But I honor," said He, "my Father, and ye dishonor me." That is, I honor not myself, that ye may not think me arrogant. I have One to honor; and did ye recognize me, just as I honor the Father, so would ye also honor me. I do what I ought; ye do not what ye ought.

4. "And I," said He, "seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth." Whom does He wish to be understood but the Father? How, then, does He say in another place, "The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son,"6 while here He says, "I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth"? If, then, the Father judgeth, how is it that He judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son?

5. In order to solve this point, attend. It may be solved by [quoting] a similar mode of speaking. Thou hast it written, "God tempt not any man;"7 and again thou hast it written, "The Lord your God tempt you, to know whether you love Him."8 Just the point in dispute, you see. For how does God tempt not any man, and how does the Lord your God tempt you, to know whether ye love Him? It is also written, "There is no fear in love but perfect love casteth out fear;"9 and in another place it is written, "The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever."10 Here also is the point in dispute. For how does perfect love cast out fear, if the fear of the Lord, which is clean, endureth for ever?

6. We are to understand, then, that there are two kinds of temptation: one, that deceives; the other, that proves. As regards that which deceives, God tempteth not any man; as regards that which proves, the Lord your God tempteth you, that He may know whether ye love Him. But here again, also, there arises another question, how He tempteth that He may know, from whom, prior to the temptation, nothing can be hid. It is not that God is ignorant; but it is said, that He may know, that is, that He may make you to know. Such modes of speaking are found both in our ordinary conversation, and in writers of eloquence. Let me say a word on our style of conversation. We speak of a blind ditch, not because it has lost its eyes, but because by lying hid it makes us blind to its existence. One speaks of "bitter lupins." that is, "sour;" not that they themselves are bitter, but because they occasion bitterness to those who taste them.11 And so there are also expressions of this sort in Scripture. Those who take the trouble to attain a knowledge of such points have no trouble in solving them. And so "the Lord your God tempts you, that He may know." What is this, "that He may know"? That He may make you to know "if you love Him." Job was unknown to himself, but he was not unknown to God. He led the tempter into [Job], and brought him to a knowledge of himself.

7. What then of the two fears? There is a servile fear, and there is a clean [chaste] fear: there is the fear of suffering punishment, there is another fear of losing righteousness. That fear of suffering punishment is slavish. What great thing is it to fear punishment? The vilest slave and the cruelest robber do so. It is no great thing to fear punishment, but great it is to love righteousness. Has he, then, who loves righteousness no fear? Certainly he has; not of incurring of punishment, but of losing righteousness. My brethren, assure yourselves of it, and draw your inference from that which you love. Some one of you is fond of money. Can I find any one, think you, who is not so? Yet from this very thing which he loves he may understand my meaning. He is afraid of loss: why is he so? Because he loves money. In the same measure that he loves money, is he afraid of losing it. So, then, some one is found to be a lover of righteousness, who at heart is much more afraid of its loss, who dreads more being stripped of his righteousness, than thou of thy money. This is the fear that is clean-this [the fear] that endureth for ever, It is not this that love makes away with, or casteth out, but rather embraces it, and keeps it with it, and possesses it as a companion. For we come to the Lord that we may see Him face to face. And there it is this pure fear that preserves us; for such a fear as that does not disturb, but reassure. The adulterous woman fears the coming of her husband, and the chaste one fears her husband's departure.

8. Therefore, as, according to one kind of temptation, "God tempteth not any man;" but according to another, "The Lord your God tempteth you;" and according to one kind of fear, "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear;" but according to another, "the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever;"-so also, in this passage, according to one kind of judgment, "the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;" and according to another, "I," said He, "seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth."

9. This point may also be solved from the word itself. Thou hast penal judgment spoken of in the Gospel: "He that believeth not is judged12 already;" and in another place, "The hour is coming, when those who are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment."13 You see how He has put judgment for condemnation and punishment. And yet if judgment were always to be taken for condemnation, should we ever have heard in the psalm, "Judge me, O God"? In the former place, judgment is used in the sense of inflicting pain; here, it is used in the sense of discernment.14 How so? Just because so expounded by him who says, "Judge me, O God." For read, and see what follows. What is this "Judge me, O God," but just what he adds, "and discern15 my cause against an unholy nation"?16 Because then it was said, "Judge me, O God, and discern [the true merits of] my cause against an unholy nation;" similarly now said the Lord Christ, "I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth." How is there "one that seeketh and judgeth"? There is the Father, who discerns and distinguishes l between my glory and yours. For ye glory in the spirit of this present world. Not so do I who say to the Father, "Father, glorify Thou me with that glory which I had with Thee before the world was."17 What is "that glory"? One altogether different from human inflation. Thus doth the Father judge. And so to "judge" is to "discern."18 And what does He discern? The glory of His Son from the glory of mere men; for to that end is it said, "God, Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows."19 For not because He became man is He now to be compared with us. We, as men, are sinful, He is sinless; we, as men, inherit from Adam both death and delinquency, He received from the Virgin mortal flesh, but no iniquity. In fine, neither because we wish it are we born, nor as long as we wish it do we live, nor in the way that we wish it do we die: but He, before He was born, chose of whom He should be born; at His birth He brought about the adoration of the Magi; He grew as an infant, and showed Himself God by His miracles, and surpassed man in His weakness. Lastly, He chose also the manner of His death, that is, to be hung on the cross, and to fasten the cross itself on the foreheads of believers, so that the Christian may say, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."20 On the very cross, when He pleased, He made His body be taken down, and departed; in the very sepulchre, as long as it pleased Him, He lay; and, when He pleased, He arose as from a bed. So, then, brethren, in respect to His very form as a servant (for who can speak of that other form as it ought to be spoken of, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God"?)-in respect, I say, to His very form as a servant, the difference is great between the glory of Christ and the glory of other men. Of that glory He spoke, when the devil-possessed heard Him say, "I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth."

10. But what sayest Thou, O Lord, of Thyself? "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death." Ye say, "Thou hast a devil." I call you to life: keep my word and ye shall not die. They heard, "He shall never see death who keepeth my word," and were angry, because already dead in that death from which they might have escaped. "Then said the Jews, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death." See how Scripture speaks: "He shall not see," that is, "taste of death." "He shall see death-he shall taste of death." Who seeth? Who tasteth? What eyes has a man to see with when he dies? When death at its coming shuts up those very eyes from seeing aught, how is it said, "he shall not see death"? With what palate, also, and with what jaws can death be tasted, that its savor may be discovered? When it taketh every sense away, what will remain in the palate? But here, "he will see," and "he will taste," are used for that which is really the case, he will know by experience.

11. Thus spake the Lord (it is scarcely sufficient to say), as one dying to dying men; for "to the Lord also belong the issues from death,"21 as saith the psalm. Seeing, then, He was both speaking to those destined to die, and speaking as one appointed to death Himself, what mean His words, "He who keepeth my saying shall never see death;" save that the Lord saw another death, from which He was come to deliver us-the second death, death eternal, the death of hell,22 the death of damnation with the devil and his angels? This is real death; for that other is only a removal. What is that other death? The leaving of the body-the laying down of a heavy burden; provided another burden be not carried away, to drag the man headlong to hell. Of that real death then did the Lord say, "He who keepeth my saying shall never see death."

12. Let us not be frightened at that other death, but let us fear this one. But, what is very grievous, many, through a perverse fear of that other, have fallen into this. It has been said to some, Adore idols; for if you do it not, you shall be put to death: or, as Nebuchadnezzar said, If you do not, you shall be thrown into the furnace of flaming fire. Many feared and adored. Shrinking from death, they died. Through fear of the death which cannot be escaped, they fell into that which they might happily have escaped, had they not, unhappily, been afraid of that which is inevitable. As a man, thou art born-art destined to die. Whither wilt thou go to escape death? What wilt thou do to escape it? That thy Lord might comfort thee in thy necessary subjection to death, of His own good pleasure He condescended to die. When thou seest the Christ lying dead, art thou reluctant to die? Die then thou must; thou hast no means of escape. Be it today, be it tomorrow; it is to be-the debt must be paid. What, then, does a man gain by fearing, fleeing, hiding himself from discovery by his enemy? Does he get exemption from death? No, but that he may die a little later. He gets not security against his debt, but asks a respite. Put it off as long as you please, the thing so delayed will come at last. Let us fear that death which the three men feared when they said to the king, "God is able to deliver us even from that flame; and if not," etc.23 There was there the fear of that death which the Lord now threatens, when they said, But also if He be not willing openly to deliver us, He can crown us with victory in secret. Whence also the Lord, when on the eve of appointing martyrs and becoming the head-martyr Himself, said, "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do."How "have they no more that they can do"? What if, after having slain one, they threw his body to be mangled by wild beasts, and torn to pieces by birds? Cruelty seems still to have something it can do. But to whom is it done? He has departed. The body is there, but without feeling. The tenement lies on the ground, the tenant is gone. And so "after that they have no more that they can do;" for they can do nothing to that which is without sensation. "But fear Him who hath power to destroy both body and soul, in hell fire."24 Here is the death that He spake of when He said, "He that keepeth my saying shall never see death." Let us keep then, A brethren, His own word in faith, as those who are yet to attain to sight, when the liberty we receive has reached its fullness.

13. But those men, indignant, yet dead, andpredestinated to death eternal, answered with insults, and said, "Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets." But not in that death which the Lord meant to be understood was either Abraham dead or the prophets. For these were dead, and yet they live: those others were alive, and yet they had died. For, replying in a certain place to the Sadducees, when they stirred the question of the resurrection, the Lord Himself speaks thus: "But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read how the Lord said to Moses from the bush, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living."25 If, then, they live, let us labor so to live, that after death we may be able to live with them. "Whom makest thou thyself," they add, that thou sayest, "he shall never see death who keepeth my saying," when thou knowest that both Abraham is dead and the prophets?

14. "Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifieth me." He said this on account of their saying, "Whom makest thou thyself?" For He refers His glory to the Father, of whom it is that He is God. From this expression also the Arians sometimes revile our faith, and say, See, the Father is greater; for at all events He glorifies the Son. Heretic, hast thou not read of the Son Himself also saying that He glorifies His Father?26 If both He glorifieth the Son, and the Son glorifieth the Father, lay aside thy stubbornness, acknowledge the equality, correct thy perversity.

15. "It is." then, said He, "my Father that glorifieth me; of whom ye say, that He is your God: and ye have not known Him." See, my brethren, how He shows that God Himself is the Father of the Christ, who was announced also to the Jews. I say so for his reason, that now again there are certain heretics who say that the God revealed in the Old Testament is not the Father of Christ. but some prince or other, I know not what, of evil angels. There are Manicheans who say so; there are Marcionites who say so. There are also, perhaps, other heretics, whom t is either unnecessary to mention, or all of whom I cannot at present recall; yet there have not been wanting those who said this. Attend, then, that you may have something also to affirm against such. Christ the Lord calleth Him His Father whom they called their God, and did not know; for had they known [that God] Himself they would have received His Son. "But I," said He, "know Him." To those judging after the flesh He might have seemed from such words to be self-assuming, because He said, "I know Him." But see what follows: "If I should say that I know Him not, I shall be a liar like unto you." Let not, then, self-assumption be so guarded against as to cause the relinquishment of truth. "But I know Him, and keep His saying." The saying of the Father He was speaking as Son; and He Himself was the Word of the Father, that was speaking to men.

16. "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw, and was glad." Abraham's seed, Abraham's Creator, bears a great testimony to Abraham. "Abraham rejoiced," He says, "to see my day." He did not fear, but "rejoiced to see it." For in him there was the love that casteth out fear.27 He says not, rejoiced because he saw; but "rejoiced that he might see." Believing, at all events, he rejoiced in hope to see with the understanding. "And he saw." And what more could the Lord Jesus Christ say, or what more ought He to have said? "And he saw," He says, "and was glad." Who can unfold this joy, my brethren? If those rejoiced whose bodily eyes were opened by the Lord, what joy was his who saw with the eyes of his soul the light ineffable, the abiding Word, the brilliance that dazzles the minds of the pious, the unfailing Wisdom, God abiding with the Father, and at some time come in the flesh and yet not to withdraw from the bosom of the Father? All this did Abraham see. For in saying "my day," it may be uncertain of what He spake; whether the day of the Lord in time, when He should come the flesh, or that day of the Lord which knows not a dawn, and knows no decline. But for my part I doubt not that father Abraham knew it all. And where shall I find it out? Ought the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ to satisfy us? Let us suppose that we cannot find it out, for perhaps it is difficult to say in what sense it is clear that Abraham "rejoiced to see the day" of Christ, "and saw it, and was glad." And though we find it not, can the Truth have lied? Let us believe the Truth, and cherish no doubt of Abraham's merited rewards.28 Yet listen to one passage that occurs to me meanwhile. When father Abraham sent his servant to seek a wife for his son Isaac, he bound him by this oath, to fulfill faithfully what he was commanded, and know also for himself what to do. For it was a great matter that was in hand when marriage was sought for Abraham's seed. But that the servant might apprehend what Abraham knew, that it was not offspring after the flesh he desired, nor anything of a carnal kind concerning his race that was referred to, he said to the servant whom he sent, "Put thy hand under my thigh, and swear by the God of heaven.29 What connection has the God of heaven with Abraham's thigh? Already you understand the mystery:30 by thigh is meant race. And what was that swearing, but the signifying that of Abraham's race would the God of heaven come in the flesh? Fools find fault with Abraham because he said, Put thy hand under my thigh. Those who find fault with Christ's flesh find fault with Abraham's conduct. But let us, brethren, if we acknowledge the flesh of Christ as worthy of veneration, despise not that thigh, but receive it as spoken of prophetically. For a prophet also was Abraham. Whose prophet? Of his own seed, and of his Lord. To his own seed he pointed in saying, "Put thy hand under my thigh." To his Lord he pointed in adding, "and swear by the God of heaven."

17. The angry Jews replied, "Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?" And the Lord: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was made, I am."31 Weigh the words, and get a knowledge of the mystery. "Before Abraham was made." Understand, that "was made" refers to human formation; but "am" to the Divine essence. "He was made," because Abraham was a Creature. He did not say, Before Abraham was, I was; but, "Before Abraham was made," who was not made save by me, "I am." Nor did He say this, Before Abraham was made I was made; for "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth;"32 and "in the beginning was the Word."33 "Before Abraham was made, I am." Recognize the Creator-distinguish the creature. He who spake was made the seed of Abraham; and that Abraham might be made, He Himself was before Abraham.

18. Hence, as if by the most open of all insults thrown at Abraham, they were now excited to greater bitterness. Of a certainty it seemed to them that Christ the Lord had uttered blasphemy in saying, "Before Abraham was made, I am." "Therefore took they up stones to cast at Him." To what could so great hardness have recourse, save to its like? "But Jesus" [acts] as man, as one in the form of a servant, as lowly, as about to suffer, about to die, about to redeem us with His blood; not as He who is-not as the Word in the beginning, and the Word with God. For when they took up stones to cast at Him, what great thing were it had they been instantly swallowed up in the gaping earth, and found the inhabitants of hell inplace of stones? It were not a great thingto God; but better was it that patience should be commended than power exerted. Therefore "He hid Himself" from them, that He might not be stoned. As man, He fled from the stones; but woe to those from whose stony hearts God has fled?

Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page