Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 120 - 131
1. The Psalm which we have just heard chanted, and have responded to with our voices, is short, and very profitable. Ye will not long toil in hearing, nor will ye toil fruitlessly in working. For it is, according to the title prefixed to it, "A song of degrees."(3) Degrees are either of ascent or of descent. But degrees, as they are used in this Psalm, are of ascending. ... There are therefore both those who ascend and those who descend on that ladder.(4) Who are they that ascend? They who progress towards the understanding of things spiritual. Who are they that descend? They who, although, as far as men may, they enjoy the comprehension of things spiritual: nevertheless, descend unto the infants, to say to them such things as they can receive, so that, after being nourished with milk, they may become fitted and strong enough to take spiritual meat. ...
2. When therefore a man hath commenced thus to order his ascent; to speak more plainly, when a Christian hath begun to think of spiritual amendment, he beginneth to suffer the tongues of adversaries. Whoever hath not yet suffered from them, hath not yet made progress; whoever suffereth them not, doth not. even endeavour to improve. Doth he wish to know what we mean? Let him at the same time experience what is reported of us. Let him begin to improve, let him begin to wish to ascend, to wish to despise earthly, fragile, temporal objects, to hold worldly happiness for nothing, to think of God alone, not to rejoice in gain, not to pine at losses, to wish even to sell all his substance, and distribute it among the poor, and to follow Christ; let us see how he suffereth the tongues of detractors and of constant opponents, and--a still greater peril--of pretended counsellors, who lead him astray from salvation. ... He then, who will ascend, first of all prayeth God against these very tongues: for he saith, "When I was in trouble, I called on the Lord; and He heard me" (ver. 1). Why did He hear him? That He might now place him at the steps of ascent.
3. "Deliver my soul, O Lord, from unrighteous lips, and from a deceitful tongue" (ver. 2). What is a deceitful tongue? A treacherous tongue, one that hath the semblance of counsel, and the bane of real mischief. Such are those who say, And wilt thou do this, that nobody doth? Wilt thou be the only Christian? ... Some deter by dissuasion, others discourage yet more by their praise. For since such is the life that hath for some time been diffused over the world, so great is the authority of Christ, that not even a pagan ventureth to blame Christ.(5) He who cannot be censured is read. They cannot contradict Christ, they cannot contradict the Gospel, Christ cannot be censured; the deceitful tongue turneth itself to praise as an hindrance. If thou praisest, exhort. Why dost thou discourage with thy praise? ... Thou turnest thyself to another mode of dissuasion, that by false praise thou mayest turn me away from true praise;(6) nay, that by praising Christ thou mayest keep me away from Christ, saying, What is this? Behold these men have done this: thou, perhaps, wilt not be able: thou beginnest to ascend, thou fallest. It seemeth to warn thee: it is the serpent, it is the deceitful tongue, it hath poison. Pray against it, if thou wishest to ascend.
4. And thy Lord saith unto thee, "What shall be given thee, or what shall be set before thee, against the deceitful tongue?" (ver. 3). What shall be given thee, that is, as a weapon to oppose to the deceitful tongue, to guard thyself against the deceitful tongue? "Or what shall be set before thee?" He asketh to try thee: for He will answer His own question. For He answers following up his own inquiry, "even sharp arrows of the Mighty One, with coals that desolate, or that lay waste" (ver. 4). They that desolate, or that lay waste (for it is variously written in different copies), are the same, because by laying waste, as ye may observe, they easily lead unto desolation. What are these coals? First, beloved brethren, understand what are arrows. The "sharp arrows of the Mighty One," are the words of God. ... What then are the "coals that lay waste?" It is not enough to plead with words against a deceitful tongue and unrighteous lips: it is not enough to plead with words; we must plead with examples also. ... The word coals, then, is used to express the examples of many sinners converted to the Lord. Thou hearest men wonder, and say, I knew that man, how addicted he was to drinking, what a villain, what a lover of the circus, or of the amphitheatre, what a cheat: now how he serveth God, how innocent he hath become! Wonder not; he is a live coal. Thou rejoicest that he is alive, whom thou wast mourning as dead. But when thou praisest the living, if thou knowest how to praise, apply him to the dead, that he may be inflamed; whosoever is still slow to follow God, apply to him the coal which was extinguished, and have the arrow of God's word, and the coal that layeth waste, that thou mayest meet the deceitful tongue and the lying lips.
5. "Alas, that my sojourning is become far off!" (ver. 5). It hath departed far from Thee: my pilgrimage hath become a far one. I have not yet reached that country, where I shall live with no wicked person; I have not yet reached that company of Angels, where I shall not fear offences. But why am I not as yet there? Because sojourning is pilgrimage. He is called a sojourner who dwells in a foreign land, not in his own country. And when is it far off? Sometimes, my brethren, when a man goeth abroad, he liveth among better persons, than he would perhaps live with in his own country: but it is not thus, when we go afar from that heavenly Jerusalem. For a man changeth his country, and this foreign sojourn is sometimes good for him; in travelling he findeth faithful friends, whom he could not find in his own country. He had enemies, so that he was driven from his country; and when he travelled, he found what he had not in his country. Such is not that country Jerusalem, where all are good: whoever travelleth away from thence, is among the evil; nor can he depart from the wicked, save when he shall return to the company of Angels, so as to be where he was before he travelled. There all are righteous and holy, who enjoy the word of God without reading, without letters: for what is written to us through pages,(1) they perceive there through the Face of God. What a country! A great country indeed, and wretched are the wanderers from that country.
6. But what he saith, "My pilgrimage hath been made distant," are the words of those, that is, of the Church herself, who toileth on this earth. It is her voice, which crieth out from the ends of the earth in another Psalm, saying, "From the ends of the earth have I cried unto Thee.(2) ... Where then doth he groan, and among whom doth he dwell? "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar." Since this is a Hebrew word, beyond doubt ye have not understood it. What meaneth, "I have had my habitation among the tents of Kedar"? "Kedar," as far as we remember of the interpretation of Hebrew words, signifieth darkness. "Kedar" rendered into Latin is called tenebrae. Now ye know that Abraham had two sons, whom indeed the Apostle mentioneth,(3) and declareth them to have been types of the two covenants. ... Ishmael therefore was in darkness, Isaac in light. Whoever here also seek earthly felicity in the Church, from God, shall belong to Ishmael. These are the very persons who gainsay the spiritual ones who are progressing, and detract from them, and have deceitful tongues and unrighteous lips. Against these the Psalmist, when ascending, prayed, and hot coals that lay waste, and swift and sharp arrows of the Mighty One, were given him for his defence. For among these he still liveth, until the whole floor be winnowed: he therefore said, "I have dwelt among the tents of Kedar." The tents of Ishmael are called those of Kedar. Thus the book of Genesis hath it: thus it hath, that Kedar belongeth unto Ishmael.(4) Isaac therefore is with Ishmael: that is, they who belong unto Isaac, live among those who belong unto Ishmael.(5) These wish to rise above, those wish to press them downwards: these wish to fly unto God, those endeavour to pluck their wings. ...
7. "My soul hath wandered much" (ver. 6). Lest thou shouldest understand bodily wandering, he hath said that the soul wandered. The body wandereth in places, the soul wandereth in its affections. If thou love the earth, thou wanderest from God: if thou lovest God, thou risest unto God. Let us be exercised in the love of God, and of our neighbour, that we may return unto charity. If we fall towards the earth, we wither and decay. But one descended unto this one who had fallen, in order that he might arise. Speaking of the time of his wandering, he said that he wandered in the tents of Kedar. Wherefore? Because "my soul hath wandered much." He wandereth there where he ascendeth. He wandereth not in the body, he riseth not in the body. But wherein doth he ascend? "The ascent," he saith, "is in the heart."(6)
8. "With them that hated peace, I was peaceful" (ver. 7). But howsoever ye may hear, most beloved brethren, ye will not be able to prove how truly ye sing, unless ye have begun to do that which ye sing. How much soever I say this, in whatsoever ways I may expound it, in whatsoever words I may turn it, it entereth not into the heart of him in whom its operation is not. Begin to act, and see what we speak. Then tears flow forth at each word, then the Psalm is sung, and the heart doeth what is sung in the Psalm. ... Who are they who hate peace? They who tear asunder unity. For had they not hated peace, they would have abode in unity. But they separated themselves, forsooth on this account, that they might be righteous, that they might not have the ungodly mixed with them. These words are either ours or theirs: decide whose. The Catholic Church saith, Unity must not be lost, the Church of God must not be cut off.(1) God will judge afterwards of the wicked and the good. ... This we also say: Love ye peace, love ye Christ. For if they, love peace, they love Christ. When therefore we say, Love ye peace, we say this, Love ye Christ. Wherefore? For the Apostle saith of Christ, "He is our peace, who hath made both one."(2) If Christ is therefore peace, because He hath made both one: why have ye made two of one? How then are ye peace-makers, if, when Christ maketh one of two, ye make two of one? But since we say these things, we are peace-makers with them that hate peace; and yet they who hate peace, when we spake to them, made war on us for nought.
1. ... Let them "lift up their eyes to the hills whence cometh their help" (ver. 1). What meaneth, The hills have been lightened? The San of righteousness hath already risen, the Gospel hath been already preached by the Apostles, the Scriptures have been preached, all the mysteries have been laid open, the veil hath been rent, the secret place of the temple hath been revealed: let them now at length lift their eyes up to the hills, whence their help cometh. ... "Of His fulness have all we received,"(4) he saith. Thy help therefore is from Him, of whose fulness the hills received, not from the hills;(5) towards which,(6) nevertheless, save thou lift thine eyes through the Scriptures, thou wilt not approach, so as to be lighted by Him.(7)
2. Sing therefore what followeth; if thou wish to hear how thou mayest most securely set thy feet on the steps, so that thou mayest not be fatigued in that ascent, nor stumble and fall: pray in these words: "Suffer not my foot to be moved!" (ver. 3). Whereby are feet moved; whereby was the foot of him who was in Paradise moved? But first consider whereby the feet of him who was among the Angels were moved: who when his feet were moved fell, and from an Angel became a devil: for when his feet were moved he fell. Seek whereby he fell: he fell through pride. Nothing then moveth the feet, save pride: nothing moveth the feet to a fall, save pride. Charity moveth them to walk and to improve and to ascend; pride moveth them to fall. ... Rightly therefore the Psalmist, hearing how he may ascend and may not fall, prayeth unto God that he may profit from the vale of misery, and may not fail in the swelling of pride, in these words, "Suffer not my feet to be moved!" And He replieth unto him, "Let him that keepeth thee not sleep." Attend, my beloved. It is as if one thought were expressed in two sentences; the man while ascending and singing "the song of degrees," saith, "Suffer not my foot to be moved:" and it is as if God answered, Thou sayest unto Me, Let not my feet be moved: say also," Let Him that keepeth thee not sleep," and thy foot shall not be moved.
3. Choose for thyself Him, who will neither sleep nor slumber, and thy foot shall not be moved. God is never asleep: if thou dost wish to have a keeper who never sleepeth, choose God for thy keeper. "Suffer not my feet to be moved," thou sayest: well, very well: but He also saith unto thee, "Let not him that keepeth thee slumber." Thou perhaps wast about to turn thyself unto men as thy keepers, and to say, whom shall I find who will not sleep? what man will not slumber? whom do I find? whither shall I go? whither shall I return? The Psalmist telleth thee: "He that keepeth Israel, shall neither slumber nor sleep" (ver. 4). Dost thou wish to have a keeper who neither slumbereth nor sleepeth? Behold, "He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep:" for Christ keepeth Israel. Be thou then Israel. What meaneth Israel? It is interpreted, Seeing God. And how is God seen? First by faith: afterwards by sight. If thou canst not as yet see Him by sight, see Him by faith. ... Who is there, who will neither slumber nor sleep? when thou seekest among men, thou art deceived; thou wilt never find one. Trust not then in any man: every man slumbereth, and will sleep. When doth he slumber? When he beareth the flesh of weakness. When will he sleep? When he is dead. Trust not then in man. A mortal may slumber, he sleepeth in death. Seek not a keeper among men.
4. And who, thou askest, shall help me, save He who slumbereth not, nor sleepeth? Hear what followeth: "The Lord Himself is thy keeper" (ver. 5). It is not therefore man, that slumbereth and sleepeth, but the Lord, that keepeth thee. How doth He keep thee? "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand." ... It seemeth to me to have a hidden sense: otherwise he would have simply said, without qualification, "The Lord will keep thee," without adding," on thy right hand." For how? Doth God keep our right hand, and not our left? Did He not create the whole of us? Did not He who made our right hand, make our left hand also? Finally, if it pleased Him to speak of the right hand alone, why said He, "on the hand of thy right hand," and not at once "upon thy right hand"? Why should He say this, unless He were keeping somewhat here hidden for us to arrive at by knocking? For He would either say, "The Lord shall keep thee," and add no more; or if He would add the right hand, "The Lord shall keep thee upon thy right hand;" or at least, as He added "hand," He would say, "The Lord shall keep thee upon thy hand, even thy right hand,"(1) not "upon the hand of thy right hand." ...
5. I ask you, how ye interpret what is said in the Gospel, "Let not your left hand know what your right hand doeth"?(2) For if ye understand this, ye will discover what is your right hand, and what is your left: at the same time ye will also understand that God made both hands, the left and the right; yet the left ought not to know what the right doeth. By our left hand is meant all that we have in a temporal way; by our right hand is meant, whatever our Lord promiseth us that is immutable and eternal. But if He who will give everlasting life, Himself also consoleth our present life by these temporal blessings, He hath Himself made our right hand and our left. ...
6. Let us now come to this verse of the Psalm: "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand" (ver. 5). By hand he meaneth power. How do we prove this? Because the power of God also is styled the hand of God. ... Whereof John saith, "He gave unto them power to become the sons of God."(3) Whence hast thou received this power? "To them," he saith, "that believe in His Name." If then thou believest, this very power is given thee, to be among the sons of God. But to be among the sons of God, is to belong to the right hand. Thy faith therefore is the hand of thy right hand: that is, the power that is given thee, to be among the sons of God, is the hand of thy right hand. ...
7. "May the Lord shield thee upon the hand of thy right hand" (ver. 6). I have said, and I believe ye have recognised it. For had ye not recognised it, and that from the Scriptures, ye would not signify your understanding of it by your voices.(4) Since then ye have understood, brethren, consider what followeth; wherefore the Lord shieldeth thee "upon the hand of thy right hand," that is, in thy faith, wherein we have received "power to become the sons of God," and to be on His right hand: wherefore should God shield us? On account of offences. Whence come offences? Offences are to be feared from two quarters, for there are two precepts upon which the whole Law hangeth and the Prophets, the love of God and of our neighbour.(5) The Church is loved for the sake of our neighbour, but God for the sake of God. Of God, is understood the sun figuratively: of the Church, is understood the moon figuratively. Whoever can err, so as to think otherwise of God than he ought, believing not the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost to be of one Substance, has been deceived by the cunning of heretics, chiefly of the Arians. If he hath believed anything less in the Son or in the Holy Spirit than in the Father, he hath suffered an offence in God; he is scorched by the sun. Whoever again believeth that the Church existeth in one province only,(6) and not that she is diffused over the whole world, and whoso believeth them that say, "Lo here," and "Lo there, is Christ,"(7) as ye but now heard when the Gospel was being read; since He who gave so great a price, purchased the whole world: he is offended, so to speak, in his neighbour, and is burnt by the moon. Whoever therefore erreth in the very Substance of Truth, is burnt by the sun, and is burnt through the day; because he erreth in Wisdom itself. ... God therefore hath made one sun, which riseth upon the good and the evil, that sun which the good and the evil see; but that Sun is another one, not created, not born, through whom all things were made;(8) where is the intelligence of the Immutable Truth: of this the ungodly say, "the Sun rose not upon us."(9) Whosoever erreth not in Wisdom itself, is not burnt by the sun. Whosoever erreth not in the Church, and in the Lord's Flesh, and in those things which were done for us in time, is not burnt by the moon. But every man although he believeth in Christ, erreth either in this or that respect, unless what is here prayed for, "The Lord is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand," is realized in him. He goeth on to say, "So that the sun shall not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night" (ver. 6). Thy defence, therefore, is upon the hand of thy right hand for this reason, that the sun may not burn thee by day, nor the moon by night. Understand hence, brethren, that it is spoken figuratively. For, in truth, if we think of the visible sun, it burneth by day: doth the moon burn by night? But what is burning? Offence. Hear the Apostle's words: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?"(1)
8. "For the Lord shall preserve thee from all evil" (ver. 7). From offences in the sun, from offences in the moon, from all evil shall He preserve thee, who is thy defence upon the hand of thy right hand, who will not sleep nor slumber. And for what reason? Because we are amid temptations: "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil. The Lord preserve thy soul:" even thy very soul. "The Lord preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time forth for evermore" (ver. 8). Not thy body; for the Martyrs were consumed in the body: but "the Lord preserve thy soul;" for the Martyrs yielded not up their souls. The persecutors raged against Crispina,(2) whose birthday we are to-day celebrating; they were raging against a rich and delicate woman: but she was strong, for the Lord was her defence upon the hand of her right hand. He was her Keeper. Is there any one in Africa, my brethren, who knoweth her not? For she was most illustrious, noble in birth, abounding in wealth: but all these things were in her left hand, beneath her head. An enemy advanced to strike her head, and the left hand was presented to him, which was under her head. Her head was above, the right hand embraced her from above.(3) ...
1. As impure love inflames the mind, and summons the soul destined to perish to lust for earthly things, and to follow what is perishable, and precipitates it into lowest places, and sinks it into the abyss; so holy love raiseth us to heavenly things, and inflames us to what is eternal, and excites the soul to those things which do not pass away nor die, and from the abyss of hell raiseth it to heaven. Yet all love hath a power of its own, nor can love in the soul of the lover be idle; it must needs draw it on. But dost thou wish to know of what sort love is? See whither it leadeth. ...
2. This Psalm is a "Song of degrees;"(5) as we have often said to you, for these degrees(6) are not of descent, but of ascent. He therefore longeth to ascend. And whither doth he wish to ascend, save into heaven? What meaneth, into heaven? Doth he wish to ascend that he may be with the sun, moon, and stars? Far be it! But there is in heaven the eternal Jerusalem, where are our fellow-citizens, the Angels: we are wanderers on earth from these our fellow-citizens. We sigh in our pilgrimage; we shall rejoice in the city. But we find companions in this pilgrimage, who have already seen this city herself; who summon us to run towards her. At these he also rejoiceth, who saith, "I rejoiced in them who said unto me, We will go into the house of the Lord" (ver. 1 ). ...
3. "Our feet were standing in the courts of Jerusalem" (ver. 2). ... Consider what thou wilt be there; and although thou art as yet on the road, place this before thine eyes, as if thou wert already standing, as if thou wert already rejoicing without ceasing among the Angels; as if that which is written were realized in thee: "Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be alway praising Thee."(7) "Our feet stood in the courts of Jerusalem." What Jerusalem? This earthly Jerusalem also is wont to be called by the name: though this Jerusalem is but the shadow of that. And what great thing is it to stand in this Jerusalem, since this Jerusalem hath not been able to stand, but hath been turned into a ruin? Doth then the Holy Spirit pronounce this, out of the kindled heart of the loving Psalmist, as a great thing? Is not it that Jerusalem, unto whom the Lord said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets," etc.(8) What great thing then did he desire; to stand among those who slew the Prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto them? God forbid that he should think of that Jerusalem, who so loveth, who so burneth, who so longeth to reach that Jerusalem, "our Mother,"(9) of which the Apostle saith, that She is "eternal in the Heavens."(10)
4. "Jerusalem that is being built as a city" (ver. 3). Brethren, when David was uttering these words, that city had been finished, it was not being built. It is some city he speaketh of, therefore, which is now being built, unto which living stones run in faith, of whom Peter saith, "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house;"(11) that is, the holy temple of God. What meaneth, ye are built up as lively stones? Thou livest, if thou believest: but if thou believest, thou art made a temple of God; for the Apostle Paul saith, "The temple of God is holy, which temple are ye."(1) This city is therefore now in building; stones are cut down from the hills by the hands of those who preach truth, they are squared that they may enter into an everlasting structure. There are still many stones in the hands of the Builder: let them not fall from His hands, that they may be built perfect into the structure of the temple. This, then, is the "Jerusalem that is being built as a city:" Christ is its foundation. The Apostle Paul saith, "Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Christ Jesus."(2) When a foundation is laid on earth, the walls are built above, and the weight of the walls tends towards the lowest parts, because the foundation is laid at the bottom. But if our foundation be in heaven, let us be built towards heaven. Bodies have built the edifice of this basilica,(3) the ample size of which ye see; and since bodies have built it, they placed the foundation lowest: but since we are spiritually built, our foundation is placed at the highest point. Let us therefore run thither, where we may be built. ... But what Jerusalem do I speak of? Is it that, he asketh, which ye see standing, raised on the structure of its walls? No; but the "Jerusalem which is being built as a city." Why not, a city, instead of, "as a city;" save because those walls, so built in Jerusalem, were a visible city, as it is by all called a city, literally; but this is being built "as a city," for they who enter it are like living stones; for they are not literally stones? Just as they are called stones, and yet are not so: so the city styled "as a city," is not a city; for he said, "is being built." For by the word building, he meant to be understood the structure, and cohesion of bodies and walls. For a city(4) is properly understood of the men that inhabit there. But in saying "is building," he showed us that he meant a town. And since a spiritual building hath some resemblance to a bodily building, therefore it "is building as a city."
5. But let the following words remove all doubt that we ought not to understand carnally the words, "Whose partaking is in the same."(5) ... What meaneth, "the same"? What is ever in the same state; not what is now in one state, now in another. What then is, "the same," save that which is? What is that which is? That which is everlasting. ... Behold "The Same: I AM THAT I AM, I AM." Thou canst not understand; it is much to understand, it is much to apprehend. Remember what He, whom thou canst not comprehend, became for thee. Remember the flesh of Christ, towards which thou wast raised when sick, and when left half dead from the wounds of robbers, that thou mightest be brought to the Inn, and there mightest be cured.(6) Let us therefore run unto the Lord's house, and reach the city where our feet may stand; the city "that is building as a city: whose partaking is in The Same." ...
6. That city "which partaketh in the same," partaketh in its stability: justly therefore, since he is made a sharer in its stability, saith he who runneth thither. For all things there stand where nought passeth by. Dost thou too wish to stand there and not to pass by? Run thither. Nobody hath "the same" from himself. ...
7. "For thither the tribes went up" (ver. 4). We were asking whither he ascendeth who hath fallen; for we said, it is the voice of a man who is ascending, of the Church rising. Can we tell whither it ascendeth? whither it goeth? whither it is raised? "Thither," he saith, "the tribes went up." Whither? To "partaking in the Same." But what are the tribes? Many know, many know not. For if we use the word "curies" in its proper sense, we understand nothing, save the "curies" which exist in each particular city, whence the terms "curiales" and" decuriones," that is, the citizens of a curia or a decuria; and ye know that each city hath such curies. But there are, or were at one time, curies of the people in those cities, and one city hath many curies, as Rome hath thirty-five curies of the people? These are called tribes. The people of Israel had twelve of these, according to the sons of Jacob.
8. There were twelve tribes of the people of Israel: but there were good, and there were bad among them. For how evil were those tribes which crucified our Lord! How good those who recognised the Lord! Those tribes then who crucified the Lord, were tribes of the devil. When therefore he here said, "For thither the tribes go up;" that thou mightest not understand all the tribes, he added, "even the tribes of the Lord." ... What are the tribes of the Lord? "A testimony unto Israel." Hear, brethren, what this meaneth. "A testimony to Israel:" that is, whereby it may be known that it is truly Israel. ... He is such in whom there is no guile. And what did the Lord say, when He saw Nathanael? "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."(8) If therefore he is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile, those tribes go up to Jerusalem, in whom there is no guile. ... Wherefore do they go up? "To confess unto Thy Name, O Lord.": It could not be more nobly expressed. As pride presumeth, so doth humility confess. As he is a presumer, who wishes to appear what he is not, so is he a confessor, who does not wish that to be seen which himself is, and loves That which He is. To this therefore do Israelites go up, in whom is no guile, because they are truly Israelites, because in them is the testimony of Israel.
9. "For there were seated seats for judgment" (ver. 5). This is a wonderful riddle, a wonderful question, if it be not understood. He calleth those seats, which the Greeks call thrones. The Greeks call chairs thrones, as a term of honour. Therefore, my brethren, it is not wonderful if even we should sit on seats, or chairs; but that these seats themselves should sit, when shall we be able to understand this? As if some one should say: let stools or chairs sit here. We sit on chairs, we sit on seats, we sit on stools; the seats themselves sit not. What then meaneth this, "For there were seated seats for judgment"? ... If therefore heaven be the seat of God, and the Apostles are heaven; they themselves are become the seat of God, the throne of God. It is said in another passage:(1) "The soul of the righteous is the throne of wisdom." A great truth, a great truth, is declared; the throne of wisdom is the soul of the righteous; that is, wisdom sitteth in the soul of the righteous as it were in her chair, in her throne, and thence judgeth whatsoever she judgeth. There were therefore thrones of wisdom, and therefore the Lord said unto them, "Ye shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(2) So they also shall sit upon twelve seats, and they are themselves the seats of God; for of them it is said," For there were seated seats." Who sat? "Seats." And who are the seats? They of whom it is said, "The soul of the righteous is the seat of wisdom." Who are the seats? The heavens. Who are the heavens? Heaven. What is heaven? That of which the Lord saith, "Heaven is My seat."(3) The righteous then themselves are the seats; and have seats; and seats shall be seated in that Jerusalem. For what purpose? "For judgment." Ye shall sit, He saith, on twelve thrones, O ye thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Judging whom? Those who are below on earth. Who will judge? They who have become heaven. But they who shall be judged, will be divided into two bodies: one will be on the right hand, the other on the left. ...
10. He at once addeth, as unto the seats themselves, "Enquire ye the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem" (ver. 6). O ye seats, who now sit unto judgment, and are made the seats of the Lord who judgeth (since they who judge, enquire; they who are judged, are enquired of), "Enquire ye," he saith," the things that are for the peace of Jerusalem." What will they find by asking? That some have done deeds of charity, that others have not. Those whom they shall find to have done deeds of charity, they will summon them unto Jerusalem; for these deeds are "for the peace of Jerusalem." Love is a powerful thing, my brethren, love is a powerful thing. Do ye wish to see how powerful a thing love is? ... If charity be destitute of means, so that it cannot find what to bestow upon the poor, let it love: let it give "one cup of cold water;"(4) as much shall be laid to its account, as to Zaccheus who gave half his patrimony to the poor.s Wherefore this? The one gave so little, the other so much, and shall so much be imputed to the former? Just so much. For though his resources are unequal, his charity is not unequal.
11. ... "And plenteousness," he addeth, "for them that love thee." He addresses Jerusalem herself, They have plenteousness who love her. Plenteousness after want: here they are destitute, there they are affluent; here they are weak, there they are strong; here they want, there they are rich. How have they become rich? Because they gave here what they received from God for a season, and received there what God will afterwards pay back for evermore. Here, my brethren, even rich men are poor. It is a good thing for a rich man to acknowledge himself poor: for if he think himself full, that is mere puffing, not plenteousness. Let him own himself empty, that he may be filled. What hath he? Gold. What hath he not yet? Everlasting life. Let him consider what he hath, and see what he hath not. Brethren, of that which he hath, let him give, that he may receive what he hath not; let him purchase out of that which he hath, that which he hath not, "and plenteoushess for them that love thee."
12. "Peace be in thy strength" (ver. 7). O Jerusalem, O city, who art being built as a city, whose partaking is in "The Same:" "Peace be in thy strength:" peace be in thy love; for thy strength is thy love. Hear the Song of songs: "Love is strong as death."(6) A great saying that, brethren,." Love is strong as death." The strength of charity could not be expressed in grander terms than these, "Love is strong as death." For who resisteth death, my brethren? Consider, my brethren. Fire, waves, the sword, are resisted: we resist principalities, we resist kings; death cometh alone, who resisteth it? There is nought more powerful than it. Charity therefore is compared with its strength, in the words, "Love is strong as death." And since this love slayeth what we have been, that we may be what we were not; love createth a sort of death in us. This death he had died who said, "The world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world:"(1) this death they had died unto whom he said, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."(2) Love is strong as death. ...
13. Thus as he was here speaking of charity, he addeth, "For my brethren and companions' sake, I spoke peace of thee" (ver. 8). O Jerusalem, thou city whose partaking is in The Same, I in this life and on this earth, I poor, he saith, I a stranger and groaning, not as yet enjoying to the full thy peace, and preaching thy peace; preach it not for my own sake, as the heretics, who seeking their own glory, say, Peace be with you: and have not the peace which they preach to the people. For if they had peace, they would not tear asunder unity. "I," he saith, "spoke peace of thee." But wherefore? "For my brethren and companions' sake:" not for my own honour, not for my own money, not for my life; for, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." But, "I spoke peace of thee, for my brethren and companions' sakes." For he wished to depart, and to be with Christ: but, since he must preach these things to his companions and his brethren, to abide in the flesh, he addeth, is more needful for you.(3)
14. "Because of the house of the Lord my God, I have sought good things for thee" (ver. 9). Not on my own account have sought good things, for then I should not seek for thee, but for myself; and so should I not have them, because I should not seek them for thee; but, "Because of the house of the Lord my God," because of the Church, because of the Saints, because of the pilgrims; because of the poor, that they may go up; because we say to them, we will go into the house of the Lord: because of the house of the Lord my God itself, I have sought good things for Thee. These long and needful words gather ye, brethren, eat them, drink them, and grow strong, run, and seize.
1. ... Let this singer ascend; and let this man sing from the heart of each of you, and let each of you be this man, for when each of you saith this, since ye are all one in Christ, one man saith this; and saith not, "Unto Thee, O Lord, have" we "lift up" our "eyes;" but, "Unto Thee, O Lord, have I lift up mine eyes" (ver. 1 ). Ye ought indeed to imagine that every one of you is speaking; but that One in an especial sense speaketh, who is also spread abroad over the whole world. ...
What maketh the heart of a Christian heavy? Because he is a pilgrim, and longeth for his country. If thy heart be heavy on this score, although thou hast been prosperous in the world, still thou dost groan: and if all things combine to render thee prosperous, and this world smile upon thee on every side, thou nevertheless groanest, because thou seest that thou art set in a pilgrimage; and feelest that thou hast indeed happiness in the eyes of fools, but not as yet after the promise of Christ: this thou seekest with groans, this thou seekest with longings, and by longing ascendest, anti while thou ascendest dost sing the Song of Degrees.
2. ... Where then are the ladders? For we behold so great an interval between heaven and earth, there is so wide a separation, and so great a space of regions between: we wish to climb thither, we see no ladder; do we deceive ourselves, because we sing the Song of Degrees, that is, the Song of ascent? We ascend unto heaven, if we think of God, who hath made ascending steps in the heart. What is to ascend in heart? To advance towards God. As every man who faileth, doth not descend, but falleth: so every one who profiteth doth ascend: but if he so profit, as to avoid pride: if he so ascend as not to fall: but if while he profiteth he become proud, in ascending he again falleth. But that he may not be proud, what ought he to do? Let him lift up his eyes unto Him who dwelleth in heaven, let him not heed himself. ...
3. If, my brethren, we understand by heaven the firmament which we see with our bodily eyes, we shall indeed so err, as to imagine that we cannot ascend thither without ladders, or some scaling machines: but if we ascend spiritually, we ought to understand heaven spiritually: if the ascent be in affection, heaven is in righteousness. What is then the heaven of God? All holy souls, all righteous souls. For the Apostles also, although they were on earth in the flesh, were heaven; for the Lord, enthroned in them, traversed the whole world. He then dwelleth in heaven. How?. ... How long are they the temple according to faith? As long as Christ dwelleth in them through faith; as the Apostle saith, "That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith." But they are already heaven in whom God already dwelleth visibly, who see Him face to face; all the holy Apostles, all the holy Virtues, Powers, Thrones, Lordships, that heavenly Jerusalem, wanderers from whence we groan, and for which we pray with longing; and there God dwelleth. Thither hath the Psalmist lifted up his faith, thither he riseth in affection, with longing hopes: and this very longing causeth the soul to purge off' the filth of sins, and to be cleansed from every stain, that itself also may become heaven; because it hath lifted up its eyes unto Him who dwelleth in heaven. For if we have determined that that heaven which we see with our bodily eyes is the dwelling of God, the dwelling of God will pass away; for "heaven and earth will pass away."(2) Then, before God created heaven and earth, where did He dwell? But some one saith: and before God made the Saints, where did He dwell? God dwelt in Himself, he dwelt with Himself, and God is with Himself. And when He deigneth to dwell in the Saints, the Saints are not the house of God in such wise, as that God should fall when it is withdrawn. For we dwell in a house in one way, in another way God dwelleth in the Saints. Thou dwellest in a house: if it be withdrawn, thou fallest: but God so dwelleth in the Saints, that if He should Himself depart, they fall. ...
4. What then followeth, since he hath said, "Unto Thee do I lift up mine eyes"? (ver. 2). How hast thou lifted up thine eyes? "Behold, even as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress: even so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until He have mercy upon us." We are both servants, and a handmaiden: He is both our Master and our Mistress. What do these words mean? What do these similitudes mean? It is not wonderful if we are servants, and He our Master; but it is wonderful if we are a maiden, and He our Mistress. But not even our being a maiden is wonderful; for we are the Church: nor is it wonderful that He is our Mistress; for He is the Power and the Wisdom of God. ... When therefore thou hearest Christ, lift up thine eyes to the hands of thy Master; when thou hearest the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, lift up thine eyes to the hands of thy Mistress; for thou art both servant and handmaiden; servant, for thou art a people;(3) handmaiden(4) for thou art the Church. But this maiden hath found great dignity with God; she hath been made a wife. But until she come unto those spiritual embraces, where she may without apprehension enjoy Him whom she hath loved, and for whom she hath sighed in this tedious pilgrimage, she is betrothed: and hath received a mighty pledge, the blood of the Spouse for whom she sigheth without fear. Nor is it said unto her, Do not love; as it is sometimes said to any betrothed virgin, not as yet married: and is justly said, Do not love; when thou hast become a wife, then love: it is rightly said, because it is a precipitate and preposterous thing, and not a chaste desire, to love one whom she knoweth not whether she shall marry. For it may happen that one man may be betrothed to her, and another man marry her. But as there is no one else who can be preferred to Christ, let her love without apprehension: and before she is joined unto Him, let her love, and sigh from a distance and from her far pilgrimage. ...
5. "For we have been much filled with contempt" (ver. 3). All that will live piously according to Christ, must needs suffer reproof,(5) must needs be despised by those who do not choose to live piously, all whose happiness is earthly. They are derided who call that happiness which they cannot see with their eyes, and it is said to them, What believest thou, madman? Dost thou see what thou believest? Hath any one returned from the world below, and reported to thee what is going on there? Behold I see and enjoy what I love. Thou art scorned, because thou dost hope for what thou seest not; and he who seemeth to hold what he seeth, scorneth thee. Consider well if he doth really hold it. ... I have my house, he hath boasted himself. Thou askest, what house of his own? That which my father left me. And whence did he derive this house? My grandfather left it him. Go back even to his great grandfather, then to his great grandfather's father, and he can no longer tell their names. Art thou not rather terrified by this thought, that thou seest many have passed through this house, and that none of them hath carried it away with him to his everlasting home? Thy father left it: he passed through it: thus thou also wilt pass by. If therefore thou hast a mere passing stay in thy house, it is an inn for passing guests, not an habitation for permanent abode. Yet since we hope for those things which are to come, and sigh for future happiness, and since it hath not yet appeared what we shall be, although we are already "sons of God;"(6) for "our life is hidden with Christ in God:"(7) "we are utterly despised," by those who seek or enjoy happiness in this world.
6. "Our soul is filled exceedingly; a reproach to the wealthy, and a contempt to the proud" (ver. 4). We were asking who were "the wealthy:" he hath expounded to thee, in that he hath said, "the proud." "Reproach" and "contempt "are the same: and "wealthy" is the same with "proud." It is a repetition of the sentence, "a reproach to the wealthy, and a contempt to the proud." Why are the proud wealthy? Because they wish to be happy here. Why? since they themselves too are miserable, are they wealthy? But perhaps when they are miserable, they do not mock us. Listen, my beloved. Then perchance they mock when they are happy, when they boast themselves in the pomp of their riches! when they boast themselves in the inflated state of false honours: then they mock us, and seem to say, Behold, it is well with me: I enjoy the good things before me: let those who promise what they cannot show depart from me: what I see, I hold; what I see, I enjoy; may I fare well in this life. Be thou more secure; for Christ hath risen again, and hath taught thee what He will give in another life: be assured that He giveth it. But that man mocketh thee, because he holdeth what he hath. Bear with his mockeries, and thou wilt laugh at his groans: for afterwards there will come a season when these very persons will say, "This was he whom we had sometimes in derision."(1)
7. To this we must add, that sometimes those also who are beneath the scourge of temporal unhappiness, mock us. ... Did not the robber a mock, who was crucified with our crucified Lord? If therefore they who are not wealthy mock us, why doth the Psalm say, "A reproach to the wealthy"? If we carefully sift the matter, even these (the unfortunate) are wealthy. How are they wealthy? Yea; for if they were not wealthy, they would not be proud. For one man is wealthy in money, and proud on that score: another is wealthy in honours, and is proud on that account: another imagines himself wealthy in righteousness, and hence his pride, which is worse. They who seem not to be wealthy in money, seem to themselves to be wealthy in righteousness towards God; and when calamity overtakes them, they justify themselves, accuse God, and say, What wrong have I been guilty of, or, what have I done? Thou repliest: Look back, call to mind thy sins, see if thou hast done nothing. He is somewhat touched in conscience, and returneth to himself, and thinketh of his evil deeds; and when he hath thought of his evil deeds, not even then doth he choose to confess that he deserves his sufferings; but saith, Behold, I have clearly done many things; but I see that many have done worse, and suffer no evil. He is righteous against God. He also therefore is wealthy: he hath his breast puffed out with righteousness; since God seemeth to him to do ill, and he seemeth to himself to suffer unjustly. And if thou gavest him a vessel to pilot, he would be shipwrecked with it: yet he wishes to deprive God of the government of this world, and himself to hold the helm of Creation, and to distribute among all men pains and pleasures, punishments and rewards. Miserable soul! yet why do ye wonder? He is wealthy, but wealthy in iniquity, wealthy in malignity; but is more wealthy in iniquity, in proportion as he seemeth to himself to be wealthy in righteousness.
8. But a Christian ought not to be wealthy, but ought to acknowledge himself poor; and if he hath riches, he ought to know that they are not true riches, so that he may desire others. ... And what is the wealth of our righteousness? How much soever righteousness there may be in us, it is a sort of dew compared to that fountain:(3) compared to that plenteousness it is as a few drops, which may soften our life, and relax our hard iniquity. Let us only desire to be filled with the full fountain of righteousness, let us long to be filled with that abundant richness, of which it is said in the Psalm, "They shall be satisfied with the plenteousness of Thy house: and Thou shalt give them drink out of the torrent of Thy pleasure."(4) But while we are here, let us understand ourselves to be destitute and in want; not only in respect of those riches which are not the true riches, but of salvation itself. And when we are whole, let us understand that we are weak. For as long as this body hungers and thirsts, as long as this body is weary with watching, weary with standing, weary with walking, weary with sitting, weary with eating; whithersoever it turneth itself for a relief from weariness, there it discovereth another source of fatigue: there is therefore no perfect soundness, not even in the body itself. Those riches are then not riches, but beggary; for the more they abound, the more doth destitution and avarice increase. ... Let then our whole hunger, our whole thirst, be for true riches, and true health, and true righteousness. What are true riches? That heavenly abode in Jerusalem. For who is called rich on this earth? When a rich man is praised, what is meant? He is very rich: nothing is wanting to him. That surely is the praise of him that praiseth the other: for it is not this, when it is said, He wants nothing. Consider if he really want nothing. If he desires nothing, he wants nothing: but if he still desires more than what he hath, his riches have increased in such wise, that his wants have increased also. But in that City there will be true riches, because there will be nothing wanting to us there; for we shall not be in need of anything, and there will be true health. ...
1. Ye already well know, dearest brethren, that a "Song of Degrees," is a song of our ascent: and that this ascent is not effected by the feet of the body, but by the affections of the heart. This we have repeatedly reminded you of: and we need not repeat it too often, that there may be room for saying what hath not yet been said. This Psalm, therefore, which ye have now heard sung for you,(1) is inscribed, "A Song of Degrees." This is its title. They sing therefore while ascending: and sometimes as it were one man singeth, sometimes as it were many; because many are one, since Christ is One, and in Christ the members of Christ constitute one with Christ, and the Head of all these members is in heaven. But although the body toileth on earth, it is not cut off from its Head; for the Head looketh down from above, and regardeth the body.(2) ... Whether therefore one or many sing; many men are one man, because it is unity; and Christ, as we have said, is One, and all Christians are members of Christ.
2. ... Certain members indeed of that body of which we also are, which can sing in truth, have gone before us. And this the holy Martyrs have sung: for they have already escaped, and are with Christ in joy about to receive at last incorruptible bodies, the very same which were at first corruptible, wherein they have suffered pains; of the same there will be made for them ornaments of righteousness. Therefore whether they in reality, or we in hope, joining our affections with their crowns, and longing for such a life as we have not here, and shall never gain unless we have longed for it here, let us all sing together, and say, "If the Lord Himself had not been in us." ...
3. "If the Lord Himself had not been in us, now may Israel say" (ver. 1 ). ... When? "When men rose up against us" (ver. 2). Marvel not: they have been subdued: for they were men; but the Lord was in us, man was not in us: for men rose up against us. Nevertheless men would crush other men, unless in those men who could not be crushed, there were not man, but the Lord. For what could men do to you, while ye rejoiced, and sang, and securely held everlasting bliss? what could men do to you when they rose against you, if the Lord had not been on your side? what could they do? "Perchance they had swallowed us up quick" (ver. 3). "Swallowed us up:"(3) they would not first have slain us, and so have swallowed us up. O inhuman, O cruel men'! The Church swalloweth not thus.(4) To Peter it was said," Kill and eat:"(5) not, Swallow quick. Because no man entereth into the body of the Church, save he be slain first? What he was dieth, that he may be what he was not. Otherwise, he who is not slain, and is not eaten by the Church, may be in the visible number of the people: but he cannot be in the number of the people which is known to God, whereof the Apostle saith, "The Lord knoweth who are His,"(7) save he be eaten; and eaten he cannot be, save he first be slain. The Pagan cometh, still in him idolatry liveth; he must be grafted among the members of Christ: that he may be engrafted, he must needs be eaten; but he cannot be eaten by the Church, save first he be slain. Let him renounce the world, then is he slain; let him believe in God, then is he eaten. ... But they in whom the Lord is, are slain and die not. But they who consent(8) aud live, are swallowed quick, when swallowed up they die. But they who have suffered, and have not yielded to tribulations, rejoice and say, "If the Lord had not been in us," etc.
4. ... "When their fury was enraged upon us." They are now in anger, they now openly rage: "perchance the water had drowned us" (ver. 4). By water he meaneth ungodly nations: and we shall see what sort of water in the following verses. Whoever had consented unto them, water would have overwhelmed him. For he would die by the death of the Egyptians, he would not pass through after the example of the Israelites. For ye know, brethren, that the people of Israel passed through the water, by which the Egyptians were overwhelmed.(9) But what sort of water is this? It is a torrent, it flows with violence, but it will pass by. ... Hence He, our Head, first drinketh, of whom it is said in the Psalms, "He shall drink of the torrent in the way: therefore shall He lift up His head." For our Head is already exalted, because He drank of the torrent by the way; for our Lord hath suffered. If therefore our Head hath been already raised up, why doth the body fear the torrent? Without doubt, because the Head hath been raised, the body also will say hereafter, "Our soul hath passed over the torrent. Perhaps our soul hath passed over the water without substance" (ver. 5). Behold, what sort of water he was speaking of, The water perchance had overwhelmed us." But what meaneth, "without substance"?
5. In the first place, what meaneth,(10) "Perchance our soul hath passed over"? (ver. 5). Understand however the meaning to be this: "Thinkest thou our soul hath passed over?" and why do they say, "Thinkest thou"? Because the greatness of the danger maketh it hardly credible that he hath escaped. They have endured a great death: they have been in great dangers; they have been so much oppressed, that they almost gave consent while alive, and were all but swallowed up alive: now therefore that they have escaped, now that they are secure, but still remember the danger, the great danger, say, "Thinkest thou our soul hath passed over the water without substance?"
6. What is the water without substance, save the water of sins without substance? For sins have not substance: they have destitution, not substance; they have want, not substance. In that water without substance, the younger son lost the whole of his substance. ... Dost thou wish to see how the water is without substance? Take away with thee to the world below what thou hast acquired: what wilt thou do? Thou hast acquired gold: thou hast lost thy faith: after a few days thou leavest this life; thou canst not take away with thee the gold thou hast acquired by the loss of thy good faith; thy heart, destitute of faith, goeth forth into punishment--thy heart, which if full of faith, would go forth unto a crown. Behold, what thou hast done is nothing: and thou hast offended God for nothing.
7. Men hear that common proverb; and the proverbs of God slumber in them. What proverb? "Better in hand than in hope."(1) Unhappy man, what hast thou in hand? Thou sayest, "Better in hand" Hold it so as not to lose it, and then say, "Better in hand." But if thou holdest it not, why dost thou not hold fast that which thou canst not lose? What then hast thou in hand? Gold. Keep it in hand, therefore: if thou hast it in hand, let it not be taken away without thy consent. But if through gold also thou art carried where thou wishest not, and if a more powerful robber seeketh thee, because he findeth thee a less powerful robber; if a stronger eagle pursue thee, because thou hast carried off a hare before him: the lesser was thy prey, thou wilt be a prey unto the greater. Men see not these things in human affairs: by so much avarice are they blinded. ...
8. Let them escape the water without substance, and say, "Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us over for a prey unto their teeth" (ver. 6). For the hunters were following, and had placed a bait in their trap. What bait? The sweetness of this life, so that each man for the sake of the sweetness of this life may thrust his head into iniquity, and be caught in the trap. Not they, in whom the Lord was, they who say, "If the Lord Himself had not been in us;" they have not been taken in the trap. Let the Lord be in thee, and thou wilt not be taken in the trap.
9. "Our soul is escaped, even as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers" (ver. 7). Because the Lord was in the soul itself, therefore hath that soul escaped, even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler. Why like a bird? Because it had fallen heedlessly, like a bird; and it could say afterwards, God will forgive me. Unstable bird, rather set thy feet firm upon the rock: go not into the trap. Thou wilt be taken, consumed, crushed. Let the Lord be in thee, and He will deliver thee from greater threats, from the snare of the fowlers. As if thou wert to see a bird about to fall into a snare, thou makest a greater noise that it may fly away from the net; so also, when perhaps some even of the Martyrs were stretching out their neck after the enjoyment of this life, the Lord, who was in them, made the noise of hell, and the bird was delivered from the snare of the fowlers. The snare was the sweetness of this life: they were not entangled in the snare, and were slain; by their slaughter the net was broken; no longer did the sweetness of this life remain, that they might again be entangled by it, but it was crushed. Was the bird also crushed? Far be it! for it was not in the snare: "The snare is broken, and we are delivered."
10. ... "Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth" (ver. 8). For if this were not our help, the snare would not indeed remain for ever; but when the bird was once taken, it would be crushed. For this life will pass away; and they who shall have been taken in by its pleasures, and through these pleasures have offended God, will pass away with this life. For the snare will be broken; be ye assured of this: all the sweetness of this present life will no longer exist, when the lot assigned to it hath been fulfilled; but we must not be enthralled by it, so that when the net is broken, thou mayest then rejoice and say, "The snare is broken, and we are delivered." But lest thou think that thou canst do this of thy own strength, consider whose work thy deliverance is (for if thou art proud, thou fallest into the snare), and say, "Our help standeth in the Name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth." ...
1. This Psalm, belonging to the number of the Songs of Degrees, teacheth us, while we ascend and raise our minds unto the Lord our God in loving charity and piety, not to fix our gaze upon men who are prosperous in this world, with a happiness that is false and unstable, and altogether seductive; where they cherish nothing save pride, and their heart freezeth up against God, and is made hard against the shower of His grace, so that it beareth not fruit. ...
2. "They that put their trust in the Lord shall be even as the mount Sion: they shall not be removed for ever" (ver. 1).
3. Who are these? "They shall stand fast for ever, who dwell in Jerusalem" (ver. 2). If we understand this earthly Jerusalem, all who dwelt therein have been excluded by wars and by the destruction of the city: thou now seekest a Jew in the city of Jerusalem, and findest him not. Why then will "they that dwell in Jerusalem not be moved for ever," save because there is another Jerusalem, of which ye are wont to hear much? She is our mother, for whom we sigh and groan in this pilgrimage, that we may return unto her. ... They then who dwell therein "shall never be moved." But they who dwelt in that earthly Jerusalem, have been moved; first in heart, afterwards by exile. When they were moved in heart and fell, then they crucified the King of the heavenly Jerusalem herself; they were already spiritually without, and shut out of doors their very King. For they cast Him out without their city, anti crucified Him without.(1) He too cast them out of His city, that is, of the everlasting Jerusalem, the Mother of us all, who is in Heaven.
4. What is this Jerusalem? He briefly describes it. "The mountains stand around Jerusalem" (ver. 2). Is it anything great, that we are in a city surrounded by mountains? Is this the whole of our happiness, that we shall have a city which mountains surround? Do we not know what mountains are? or what are mountains save swellings of the earth? Different then from these are those mountains that we love, lofty mountains, preachers of truth, whether Angels, or Apostles, or Prophets. They stand around Jerusalem; they surround her, and, as it were, form a wall for her. Of these lovely and delightful mountains Scripture constantly speaketh. ... They are the mountains of whom we sing: "I lifted up mine eyes unto the mountains, from whence my help shall come:"(2) because in this life we have help from the holy Scriptures.(3) And through the mountains that receive peace, the little hills received righteousness: for what saith he of the mountains themselves? He said not, they have peace from themselves, or they make peace, or generate peace; but, they receive peace. The Lord is the source, whence they receive peace. So therefore lift up thine eyes to the mountains for the sake of peace, that thy help may come from the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth. Again, the Holy Spirit mentioning these mountains saith this: "Thou dost light them wonderfully from Thy everlasting mountains."(4) He said not, the mountains light them: but, Thou lightest them from Thy everlasting mountains: through those mountains whom Thou hast willed to be everlasting, preaching the Gospel, Thou lighting them, not the mountains. Such then are the "mountains that stand around Jerusalem."
5. And that ye may know what sort of mountains these be that stand around Jerusalem; where Scripture hath mentioned good mountains, very rarely, and hardly, and perhaps never, doth it fail instantly to mention the Lord also, or allude to Him at the same moment, that our hopes rest not in the mountains. ... Lest thou again shouldest tarry in the mountains, he at once addeth," Even so the Lord standeth round about His people:" that thy hope might not lie in the mountains, but in Him who lighteth the mountains.(5) For when He dwelleth in the mountains, that is, in the Saints, He Himself is round about His people; and He hath Himself walled His people with a spiritual fortification, that it may not be moved for evermore. But when Scripture speaketh of evil mountains, it addeth not the Lord unto them. Such mountains, we have already told you often, signify certain mighty, but evil, souls. For ye are not to suppose, brethren, that heresies could be produced through any little souls. None save great men have been the authors of heresies; but in proportion as they were mighty, so were they evil, mountains. For they were not such mountains as would receive peace, that the hills might receive righteousness; but they received dissension from their father the devil. There were therefore mountains: beware thou fly not to such mountains. For men will come, and say unto thee, There is a great hero, there is a great man! How great was that Donatus! How great is Maximian! and a certain Photinus, what a great man he was! And Arius too, how illustrious he was! All these I have mentioned are mountains, but mountains that cause shipwreck.(6) ...
6. But love such mountains, in whom the Lord is. Then do those very mountains love thee, if thou hast not placed hope in them.(5) See, brethren, what the mountains of God are. Thence they are so called in another passage: "Thy righteousness is like the mountains of God."(1) Not their righteousness, but "Thy righteousness." Hear that great mountain the Apostle. "That I may be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ."(2) But they who have chosen to be mountains through their own righteousness, as certain Jews or Pharisees their rulers, are thus blamed: "Being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God."(3) But they who have submitted themselves are exalted in such a manner as to be humble. In that they are great, they are mountains; in that they submit themselves unto God, they are valleys: and in that they have the capacity of piety, they receive the plenteousness of peace, and transmit the copious irrigation to the hills, only beware, at present, what mountains thou lovest. If thou wish to be loved by good mountains, place not thy trust even in good mountains. For how great a mountain was Paul? where is one like him found? We speak of the greatness of men. Can any one readily be found of so great grace? Nevertheless, he feared lest that bird should place trust in him: and what doth he say: "Was Paul crucified for you?"(4) But lift up your eyes unto the mountains, whence help may come unto you: for, "I have planted, Apollos hath watered:" but, your help cometh from the Lord, who hath made Heaven and earth; for, "God gave the increase."(5) "The mountains," therefore, "stand around Jerusalem." But as "the mountains stand around Jerusalem, even so standeth the Lord round about His people, from this time forth for evermore." If therefore the mountains stand around Jerusalem, and the Lord standeth round about His people, the Lord bindeth His people into one bond of love and peace, so that they who trust in the Lord, like the mount Sion, may not be moved for evermore: and this is, "from this time forth for evermore."
7. "For the Lord will not leave the rod of the ungodly upon the lot of the righteous, lest the righteous put forth their hands unto wickedness" (ver. 3). At present indeed the righteous suffer in some measure, and at present the unrighteous sometimes tyrannize over the righteous. In what ways? Sometimes the unrighteous arrive at worldly honours: when they have arrived at them, and have been made either judges or kings; for God doth this for the discipline of His folk, for the discipline of His people; the honour due to their power must needs be shown them. For thus hath God ordained His Church, that every power ordained in the world may have honour, and sometimes from those who are better than those in power. For the sake of illustration I take one instance; hence calculate the grades of all powers. The primary and every day relation of authority between man and man is that between master and slave. Almost all houses have a power of this sort. There are masters, there are also slaves; these are different names, but men and men are equal names.(6) And what saith the Apostle, teaching that slaves are subject to their masters? "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh:" for there is a Master according to the Spirit. He is the true and everlasting Master; but those temporal masters are for a time only. When thou walkest in the way, when thou livest in this life, Christ doth not wish to make thee proud. It hath been thy lot to become a Christian, and to have a man for thy master: thou wast not made a Christian, that thou mightest disdain to be a servant. For when by Christ's command thou servest a man, thou servest not the man, but Him who commanded thee. He saith this also: "Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh."(7) Behold, he hath not made men free from being servants, but good servants from bad servants. How much do the rich owe to Christ, who orders their house for them! so that if thou hast had an unbelieving servant, suppose Christ convert him, and say not to him, Leave thy master, thou hast now known Him who is thy true Master: he perhaps is ungodly and unjust, thou art now faithful and righteous: it is unworthy that a righteous and faithful man should serve an unjust and unbelieving master. He spoke not thus unto him, but rather, Serve him: and to confirm the servant, added, Serve as I served; I before thee served the unjust. ... If the Lord of heaven and earth, through whom all things were created, served the unworthy, asked mercy for His furious persecutors, and, as it were, showed Himself as their Physician at His Advent (for physicians also, better both in art and health, serve the sick): how much more ought not a man to disdain, with his whole mind, and his whole good will, with his whole love to serve even a bad master! Behold, a better serveth an inferior, but for a season. Understand what I have said of the master and slave, to be true also of powers and kings, of all the exalted stations of this world. For sometimes they are good powers, and fear God; sometimes they fear not God. Julian was an infidel Emperor, an apostate, a wicked man, an idolater; Christian soldiers served an infidel Emperor; when they came to the cause of Christ, they acknowledged Him only who was in heaven. If he called upon them at any time to worship idols, to offer incense; they preferred God to him: but whenever he commanded them to deploy into line, to march against this or that nation, they at once obeyed. They distinguished their everlasting from their temporal master; and yet they were, for the sake of their everlasting Master, submissive to their temporal master.
8. But will it be thus always, that the ungodly have power over the righteous? It will not be so. The rod of the ungodly is felt for a season upon the lot of the righteous; but it is not left there, it will not be there for ever. A time will come, when Christ, appearing in his glory, shall gather all nations before Him.(1) And thou wilt see there many slaves among the sheep, and many masters among the goats; and again many masters among the sheep, many slaves among the goats. For all slaves are not good--do not infer this from the consolation we have given to servants--nor are all masters evil, because we have thus repressed the pride of masters. There are good masters who believe, and there are evil: there are good servants who believe, and there are evil. But as long as good servants serve evil masters, let them endure for a season. "For God will not leave the rod of the ungodly upon the lot of the righteous." Why will He not? "Lest the righteous put forth their hand unto wickedness:" that the righteous may endure for a season the domination of the ungodly, and may understand that this is not for ever, but may prepare themselves to possess their everlasting heritage. ...
9. And he therefore addeth, "Do well, O Lord, unto those that are good and true of heart" (ver. 4). They who are fight in heart, of whom I was speaking a little before,--they who follow the will of God, not their own will,--reflect upon this. But they who wish to follow God, allow Him to go before, and themselves to follow; not themselves to go before, and Him to follow; and in all things they find Him good, whether chastening, or consoling, or exercising, or crowning, or cleansing, or enlightening; as the Apostle saith, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God."(2)
10. Whence the Psalmist at once addeth: "As for such as turn aside, the Lord shall lead them forth unto strangling with the workers of unrighteousness" (ver. 5): that is, those whose deeds they have imitated; because they took delight in their present pleasures, and did not believe in their punishments to come. What then shall they have, who are righteous in heart, and who turn not back? Let us now come to the heritage itself, brethren, for we are sons. What shall we possess? What is our heritage? what is our country: what is it called? Peace. In this we salute you, this we announce to you, this the mountains receive, and the little hills receive as righteousness.(3) Peace is Christ: "for He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us."(4) Since we are sons, we shall have an inheritance. And what shall this inheritance be called, but peace? And consider that they who love not peace are disinherited. Now they who divide unity, love not peace. Peace is the possession of the pious, the possession of heirs. And who are heirs? Sons. ... Since then Christ the Son of God is peace, He therefore came to gather together His own, and to separate them from the wicked. From what wicked men? From those who hate Jerusalem, who hate peace, who wish to tear unity asunder, who believe not peace, who preach a false peace to the people, and have it not. To whom answer is made, when they say,(5) "Peace be with you," "And with thy spirit:" but they speak falsely, and they hear falsely. Unto whom do they say, Peace be with you? To those whom they separate from the peace of the whole earth. And unto whom is it said, "And with thy spirit"? To those who embrace dissensions, and who hate peace. For if peace were in their spirit, would they not love unity, and leave dissensions? Speaking then false words, they hear false words. Let us speak true words, and hear true words. Let us be Israel, and let us embrace peace; for Jerusalem is a vision of peace, and we are Israel, "and peace is upon Israel."
1. ... How man had come into captivity, let us ask the Apostle Paul. ... For he saith: "For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin."(7) Behold whence we became captives; because we were sold trader sin. Who sold us? We ourselves, who consented to the seducer. We could sell ourselves; we could not redeem ourselves. We sold ourselves by consent of sin, we are redeemed in the faith of righteousness. For innocent blood was given for us, that we might be redeemed. Whatsoever blood he shed in persecuting the righteous, what kind of blood did he shed? Righteous men's blood, indeed, he shed; they were Prophets, righteous men, our fathers, and Martyrs. Whose blood he shed, yet all coming of the offspring of sin. One blood he shed of Him who was not justified,(8) but born righteous: by shedding that blood, he lost those whom he held. For they for whom innocent blood was given were redeemed, and, turned back from their captivity, they sing this Psalm.
2. "When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion, we became as those that are comforted" (ver. 1). He meant by this to say, we became joyful. When? "When the Lord turned back the captivity of Sion." What is Sion? Jerusalem, the same is also the eternal Sion. How is Sion eternal, how is Sion captive? In angels eternal, in men captive. For not all the citizens of that city are captives, but those who are away from thence, they are captives. Man was a citizen of Jerusalem, but sold under sin he became a pilgrim. Of his progeny was born the human race, and the captivity of Sion filled all lands. And how is this captivity of Sion a shadow of that Jerusalem? The shadow of that Sion, which was granted to the Jews, in an image, in a figure, was in captivity in Babylonia, and after seventy years that people turned back to its own city.(1) ... But when all time is past, then we return to our country, as after seventy years that people returned from the Babylonish captivity, for Babylon is this world; since Babylon is interpreted "confusion." ... So then this whole life of human affairs is confusion, which belongeth not unto God. In this confusion, in this Babylonish land, Sion is held captive. But "the Lord hath turned back the captivity of Sion." "And we became," he saith, "as those that are comforted." That is, we rejoiced as receiving consolation. Consolation is not save for the unhappy, consolation is not save for them that groan, that mourn. Wherefore, "as those that are comforted," except because we are still mourning? We mourn for our present lot, we are comforted in hope: when the present is passed by, of our mourning will come everlasting joy, when there will be no need of consolation, because we shall be wounded with no distress. But wherefore saith he "as" those that are comforted, and saith not comforted? This word "as," is not always put for likeness: when we say "As," it sometimes refers to the actual case, sometimes to likeness: here it is with reference to the actual case. ... Walk therefore in Christ, and sing rejoicing, sing as one that is comforted; because He went before thee who hath commanded thee to follow Him.
3. "Then was our mouth filled with joy, and our tongue with exultation" (ver. 2). That mouth, brethren, which we have in our body, how is it "filled with joy"? It useth not to be "filled," save with meat, or drink, or some such thing put into the mouth. Sometimes our mouth is filled; and it is more that we say. to your holiness? when we have our mouth full, we cannot speak. But we have a mouth within, that is, in the heart, whence whatsoever proceedeth, if it is evil, defileth us, if it is good, cleanseth us. For concerning this very mouth ye heard when the Gospel was read. For the Jews reproached the Lord, because His disciples ate with unwashen hands.(3) They reproached who had cleanness without; and within were full of stains. They reproached, whose righteousness was only in the eyes of men. But the Lord sought our inward cleanness, which if we have, the outside must needs be clean also. "Cleanse," He saith, "the inside," and "the outside shall be clean also."(4)
4. But let us return to what was just now read from the Gospel, relating to the verse before us, "Our mouth was filled with joy, and our tongue with delight:" for we are inquiring what mouth and what tongue. Listen, beloved brethren. The Lord was scoffed at, because His disciples ate with unwashed hands. The Lord answered them as was fitting, and said unto the crowds whom He had called unto Him, "Hear ye all, and understand: not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."(5) What is this? when He said, what goeth into the mouth, He meant only the mouth of the body. For meat goeth in, and meats defile not a man; because, "All things are clean to the clean;" and, "every creature of God is good, and none to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving."(6) ...
5. Guard the mouth of thy heart from evil, and thou wilt be innocent: the tongue of thy body will be innocent, thy hands will be innocent; even thy feet will be innocent, thy eyes, thy ears, will be innocent; all thy members will serve under righteousness, because a righteous commander hath thy heart. "Then shall they say among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them."
6. "Yea, the Lord hath done great things for us already, whereof we rejoice" (ver.3). Consider, my brethren, if Sion doth not at present say this among the heathen, throughout the whole world; consider if men are not running unto the Church. In the whole world our redemption is received; Amen is answered. The dwellers in Jerusalem, therefore, captive, destined to return, pilgrims, sighing for their country, speak thus among the heathen. What do they say? "The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we rejoice." Have they done anything for themselves? They have done ill with themselves, for they have sold themselves under sin. The Redeemer came, and did the good things for them.
7. "Turn our captivity, O Lord, as the torrents in the south" (ver. 4). Consider, my brethren, what this meaneth. ... As torrents are turned in the south, so turn our captivity. In a certain passage Scripture saith, in admonishing us concerning good works, "Thy sins also shall melt away, even as the ice in fair warm weather."(1) Our sins therefore bound us. How? As the cold bindeth the water that it run not. Bound with the frost of our sins, we have frozen. But the south wind is a warm wind: when the south wind blows, the ice melts, and the torrents are filled. Now winter streams are called torrents; for filled with sudden rains they run with great force. We had therefore become frozen in captivity; our sins bound us: the south wind the Holy Spirit hath blown: our sins are forgiven us, we are released from the frost of iniquity; as the ice in fair weather, our sins are melted. Let us run unto our country, as the torrents in the south. ...
8. For the next words are, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy"(ver. 5). In this life, which is full of tears, let us sow. What shall we sow? Good works. Works of mercy are our seeds: of which seeds the Apostle saith, "Let us not be weary in well doing; for in due season we shall reap if we faint not."(2) Speaking therefore of almsgiving itself, what saith he? "This I say; he that soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly."(3) He therefore who soweth plentifully, shall reap plentifully: he who soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he that soweth nothing, shall reap nothing. Why do ye long for ample estates, where ye may sow plentifully? There is not a wider field on which ye can sow than Christ, who hath willed that we should sow in Himself. Your soil is the Church; sow as much as ye can. But thou hast not enough to do this. Hast thou the will?(4) As what thou hadst would be nothing, if thou hadst not a good will; so do not despond, because thou hast not, if thou hast a good will. For what dost thou sow? Mercy. And what wilt thou reap? Peace. Said the Angels, Peace on earth unto rich men? No, but, "Peace on earth unto men of a good will."(5) Zacchæus had a strong will, Zacchæus had great charity.(6) ... Did then that widow who cast her two farthings into the treasury, sow little? Nay, as much as Zacchæus. For she had narrower means, but an equal will. She gave her two mites(7) with as good a will as Zacchæus gave the half of his patrimony. If thou consider what they gave, thou wilt find their gifts different; if thou look to the source, thou wilt find them equal; she gave whatever she had, and he gave what he had. ... But if they are beggars whose profession is asking alms, in trouble they also have what to bestow upon one another. God hath not so forsaken them, but that they have wherein they may be tried by their bestowing of alms. This man cannot walk; he who can walk, lendeth his feet to the lame; he who seeth, lendeth his eyes to the blind; and he who is young and sound, lendeth his strength to the old or the infirm, carrieth him: the one is poor, the other is rich.
9. Sometimes also the rich man is found to be poor, and something is bestowed upon him by the poor. Somebody cometh to a river, so much the more delicate as he is more rich; he cannot pass over: if he were to pass over with bare limbs, he would catch cold, would be ill, would die: a poor man more active in body cometh up: he carries the rich man over; he giveth alms unto the rich. Think not therefore those only poor, who have not money. ...Thus love ye, thus be ye affectioned unto one another. Attend not solely to yourselves: but to those who are in want around you. But because these things take place in this life with troubles and cares, faint not. Ye sow in tears, ye shall reap in joy.
10. How, my brethren? When the farmer goeth forth with the plough, carrying seed, is not the wind sometimes keen, and doth not the shower sometimes deter him? He looketh to the sky, seeth it lowering, shivers with cold, nevertheless goeth forth, and soweth. For he feareth lest while he is observing the foul weather, and awaiting sunshine, the time may pass away, and he may not find anything to reap. Put not off, my brethren; sow in wintry weather, sow good works, even while ye weep; for, "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy." They sow their seed, good will, and good works. "They went on their way and wept, casting their seed" (ver. 6). Why did they weep? Because they were among the miserable, and were themselves miserable. It is better, my brethren, that no man should be miserable, than that thou shouldest do alms. ... Nevertheless, as long as there are objects for its exercise, let us not fail amid those troubles to sow our seed. Although we sow in tears, yet shall we reap in joy. For in that resurrection of the dead, each man shall receive his own sheaves, that is, the produce of his seed, the crown of joys and of delight. Then will there be a joyous triumph, when we shall laugh at death, wherein we groaned before: then shall they say to death, "O death, where is thy strife? O death, where is thy sting?"(8) But why do they now rejoice? Because. "they bring their sheaves with them."
11. In this Psalm we have chiefly exhorted you to do deeds of alms, because it is thence that we ascend; and ye see that he who ascendeth, singeth the song of steps. Remember: do not love to descend, instead of to ascend, but reflect upon your ascent: because he who descended from Jerusalem to Jericho fell among thieves.(1) ... The Samaritan as He passed by slighted us not: He healed us, He raised us upon His beast, upon His flesh; He led us to she inn, that is, the Church; He entrusted us to the host, that is, to the Apostle; He gave two pence, whereby we might be healed,(2) the love of God, and the love of our neighbour. The Apostle spent more; for, though it was allowed unto all the Apostles to receive, as Christ's soldiers, pay from Christ's subjects,(3) that Apostle, nevertheless, toiled with his own hands, and excused the subjects the maintenance owing to him.(4) All this hath already happened: if we have descended, and have been wounded; let us asscend, let us sing, and make progress, in order that we may arrive.
1. Among all the Songs entitled the Song of degrees, this Psalm hath a further addition in the title, that it is "Solomon's." For thus it is entitled, "A Song of degrees of Solomon. It hath therefore aroused our attention, and caused us to enquire the reason of this addition, "of Solomon." For it is needless to repeat explanations of the other words, Song of degrees. ... Solomon was in his time David's son, a great man, through whom many holy precepts and healthful admonitions and divine mysteries have been wrought by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures. Solomon himself was a lover of women, and was rejected by God: and this lust was so great a snare unto him, that he was induced by women even to sacrifice to idols,(6) as Scripture witnesseth concerning him. But if, by his fall what was delivered through him were blotted out, it would be judged that he had himself delivered these precepts, and not that they were delivered through him. The mercy of God, therefore, and His Spirit, excellently wrought that whatever of good was declared through Solomon, might be attributed unto God; and the man's sin, unto the man. What marvel that Solomon fell among God's people? Did not Adam fall in Paradise? Did not an angel fall from heaven, and become the devil? We are thereby taught, that no hope must be placed in any among men. ... The name of Solomon is interpreted to mean peacemaker: now Christ is the True Peacemaker, of whom the Apostle saith, "He is our Peace, who hath made both one."(7) ...Since, therefore, He is the true Solomon; for that Solomon was the figure of this Peace maker, when he built the temple; that thou mayest not think he who built the house unto God was the true Solomon, Scripture showing unto thee another Solomon, thus commences this Psalm: "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it" (ver. 1). The Lord, therefore, buildeth the house, the Lord Jesus Christ buildeth His own house. Many toil in building: but, except He build, "their labour is but lost that build it." Who are they who toil in building it? All who preach the word of God in the Church, the ministers of God's mysteries. We are all running, we are all toiling, we are all building now; and before us others have run, toiled, and built: but" except the Lord build, their labour is but lost." Thus the Apostles seeing some fall bewailed these men, in that they had laboured in vain for them.(8) We, therefore, speak without, He buildeth within. We can observe with what attention ye hear us; He alone who knoweth your thoughts, knoweth what ye think. He Himself buildeth, He Himself admonisheth, He Himself openeth the understanding, He Himself kindleth your understanding unto faith; nevertheless, we also toil like workmen; but, "except the Lord build," etc.
2. But that which is the house of God is also a city. For the house of God is the people of God; for the house of God is the temple of God. ... This is Jerusalem: she hath guards: as she hath builders, labouring at her building up, so also hath she guards. To this guardianship these words of the Apostle relate: "I fear, lest by any means your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity which is in Christ."(9) He was guarding the Church. He kept watch, to the utmost of his power, over those over whom he was set. The Bishops also do this. For a higher place was for this reason given the Bishops, that they might be themselves the superintendents and as it were the guardians of the people. For the Greek word Episcopus, and the vernacular Superintendent, are the same; for the Bishop superintends, in that he looks over. As a higher place is assigned to the vinedresser in the charge of the vineyard, so also to the Bishops a more exalted station is alloted. And a perilous account is rendered of this high station, except we stand here with a heart that causeth us to stand beneath your feet in humility, and pray for you, that He who knoweth your minds may be Himself your keeper. Since we can see you both coming in and going out; but we are so unable to see what are the thoughts of your hearts, that we cannot even see what ye do in your houses. How then can we guard you? As men: as far as we are able, as far as we have received power. And because we guard you like men, and cannot guard you perfectly, shall ye therefore remain without a keeper? Far be it! For where is He of whom it is said, "Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain?" (ver. 1). We are watchful on our guard, but vain in our watchfulness, except He who seeth your thoughts guard you. He keepeth guard while ye are awake, He keepeth guard also whilst ye are asleep. For He hath once slept on the Cross, and hath risen again; He no longer sleepeth. Be ye Israel: for "the Keeper of Israel neither sleepeth nor slumbereth."(1) Yea, brethren, if we wish to be kept beneath the shadow of God's wings, let us be Israel. For we guard you in our office of stewards; but we wish to be guarded together with you. We are as it were shepherds unto you; but beneath that Shepherd we are fellow-sheep with you. We are as it were your teachers from this station; but beneath Him, the One Master, we are schoolfellows with you in this school.
3. If we wish to be guarded by Him who was humbled for our sakes, and who was exalted to keep us, let us be humble. Let no one assume anything unto himself. No man hath any good, except he hath received it from Him who alone is good. But he who chooseth to arrogate wisdom unto himself, is a fool. Let him be humble, that wisdom may come, and may enlighten him. But if, before wisdom cometh unto him, he imagine that he is wise; he riseth before light, and walketh in darkness. What doth he hear in this Psalm? "It is but lost labour that ye haste to rise up before dawn" (ver. 2). What meaneth this? If ye arise before light ariseth, ye must needs lose your labour, because ye will be in the dark. Our light, Christ, hath arisen; it is good for thee to rise after Christ, not to rise before Christ. Who rise before Christ? They who choose to prefer themselves to Christ. And who are they who wish to prefer themselves to Christ? They who wish to be exalted here, where He was humble. Let them, therefore, be humble here, if they wish to be exalted there, where Christ is exalted ....The Lord recalled the sons of Zebedee to humility, and said unto them, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of?"(2) I came to be humble: and are ye wishing to be exalted before Me? The way I go, do ye follow, He saith. For if ye choose to go this way where I do not go, your labour is lost, in rising before dawn. Peter too had risen before the light, when he wished to give the Lord advice, deterring Him from suffering for us .... But what did our Lord do? He caused him to rise after the Light: "Get thee behind Me, Satan."(3) He was Satan, because he wished to rise before Light. "Get thee behind Me:" that I may precede, thou mayest follow: where I go, there thou mayest go; and mayest not wish to lead Me, where thou wouldest go ....
4. And as if thou shouldest say, When shall we rise? we are ordered now to sit: when will be our rising? When the Lord's was. Look unto Him, who went before thee: for if thou heedest not Him, "it is lost labour for thee to rise before dawn." When was He raised? When He had died. Hope therefore for thine uplifting after thy death: have hope in the resurrection of the dead, because He rose again and ascended. But where did He sleep? On the Cross. When He slept on the Cross, He bore a sign, yea, He fulfilled what had been signified in Adam: for when Adam was asleep, a rib was drawn from him and Eve was created;(4) so also while the Lord slept on the Cross, His side was transfixed with a spear, and the Sacraments flowed forth,(5) whence the Church was born. For the Church the Lord's Bride was created from His side, as Eve was created from the side of Adam. But as she was made from his side no otherwise than while sleeping, so the Church was created from His side no otherwise than while dying. If therefore He rose not from the dead save when He had died, dost thou hope for exaltation save after this life? But that this Psalm might teach thee, in case thou shouldest ask, When shall I rise? perhaps before I have sat down? he addeth, "When He hath given His beloved sleep" (ver. 3 ). God giveth this when His beloved have fallen asleep; then His beloved, that is, Christ's, shall rise. For all indeed shall rise, but not as His beloved. There is a resurrection of all the dead; but what saith the Apostle? "We shall all rise, but we shall not all be changed."(6) They rise unto punishment: we rise as our Lord rose, that we may follow our Head, if we are members of Him. .. Hope for such a resurrection; and for the sake of this be a Christian, not for the sake of this world's happiness. For if thou wish to be a Christian for the sake of this world's happiness, since He thy Light sought not worldly happiness; thou art wishing to rise before the light; thou must needs continue in darkness. Be changed, follow thy Light; rise where(7) He rose again: first sit down, and thus rise, "when He giveth His beloved sleep."
5. As if thou shouldest ask again, who are the beloved? "Lo, children, (he reward of the fruit of the womb, are an heritage of the Lord-(8) (ver. 3). Since he saith, "fruit of the womb," these children have been born in travail. There is a certain woman, in whom what was said unto Eve," in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children," is shown after a spiritual manner. The Church beareth children, the Bride of Christ; and if she beareth them, she travaileth of them. In figure of her, Eve was called also "the Mother of all living."(1) He who said, "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again, until Christ be formed in you,"(2) was amongst the members of her who travaileth. But she travailed not in vain, nor brought forth in vain: there will be a holy seed at the resurrection of the dead: the righteous who are at present scattered over the whole world shall abound. The Church groaneth for them, the Church travaileth of them; but in that resurrection of the dead, the offspring of the Church shall appear, pain and groaning shall pass away ....
6. "Like as the arrows in the hand of the mighty one, even so are the children of those that are shot out" (ver. 4). Whence hath sprung this heritage, brethren? Whence hath sprung so numerous a heritage? Some have been shot out from the Lord's hand, as arrows, and have gone far, and have filled the whole earth, whence the Saints spring. For this is the heritage whereof it is said, "Desire of Me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession."(3) And how doth this possession extend and increase unto the world's uttermost parts? Because, "like as the arrows in the hand of the mighty one," etc. Arrows are shot forth from the bow, and the stronger the arm which hath sent it forth, the farther flieth the arrow. But what is stronger than the darting of the Lord? From His bow He sendeth forth His Apostles: there could not be a spot left where an arrow shot by so strong an arm would not reach; it hath reached Unto the uttermost parts of the earth. The reason it went no farther was, that there were no more of the human race beyond. For He hath such strength, that even if there were a spot beyond, whither the arrow could fly, He would dart the arrow thither. Such are the children of those who are shot forth as they that are shot forth.(4)...
7. Perhaps the Apostles themselves are styled the sons of those who have been shaken out, the sons of the Prophets. For the Prophets comprised closed and covered mysteries: they were shaken, that they might come forth thence manifestly .... Except the prophecy involved were sifted with diligence, would the concealed meanings come forth unto us? All these meanings were therefore closed before the Lord's advent. The Lord came, and shook out these hidden meanings, and they were made manifest; the Prophets were shaken out, and the Apostles were born. Since then they were born of the Prophets who had been shaken out, the Apostles are sons of those that were shaken out. They, placed as the arrows in the hand of the giant, have reached the uttermost parts of the earth ....The Apostles the sons of the Prophets have been like as the arrows in the hand of a mighty one. If He is mighty, He hath shaken them out with a mighty hand; if He hath shaken them out with a mighty hand, they whom He hath shaken forth have arrived even at the uttermost parts of the earth.
8. "Blessed is the man who hath filled his desire from them" (ver. 5). Well, my brethren, who filleth his desire from them? Who loveth not the world. He who is filled with the desire of the world, hath no room for that to enter which they have preached. Pour forth what thou carriest, and become fit for that which thou hast not. That is, thou desirest riches: thou canst not fill thy desire from them: thou desirest honours upon earth, thou desirest those things which God hath given even unto beasts of burden, that is, temporal pleasure, bodily health, and the like; thou wilt not fulfil thy desire from them .... "He shall not be ashamed, when he speaketh with his enemies in the gate." Brethren, let us speak in the gate, that is, let all know what we speak. For he who chooseth not to speak in the gate, wisheth what he speaketh to be hidden, and perhaps wisheth it to be hidden for this reason, that it is evil. If he be confident, let him speak in the gate; as it is said of Wisdom, "She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city."(5) As long as they hold unto righteousness in innocency, they shall not be ashamed: this is to preach at the gate. And who is he who preacheth at the gate? He who preacheth in Christ; because Christ is the gate whereby we enter into that city.(6) ... They, therefore, who speak against Christ, are without the gate; because they seek their own honours, not those of Christ. But he who preacheth in the gate, seeketh Christ's honour, not his own: and, therefore, he who preacheth in the gate, saith, Trust not in me; for ye will not enter through me, but through the gate. While they who wish men to trust in themselves, wish them not to enter through the gate: it is no marvel if the gate be closed against them, and if they vainly knock for it to be opened.(7)
1. Felix the Martyr,(2) truly Felix, i.e. "Happy" both in his name and his crown, whose birthday this is, despised the world. Was he, because he feared the Lord, thence happy, thence blessed, because his wife was as a fruitful vine upon the earth, and his children stood around his table? All these blessings he hath perfectly, but in the Body of Him who is here described; and, because he understood them in this sense, he scorned things present, that he might receive things future. Ye are aware, brethren, that he suffered not the death that other martyrs suffered. For he confessed, and was set aside for torments; on another day his body was discovered lifeless. They had closed the prison to his body, not to his spirit. The executioners found him gone; when they were preparing to torture, they spent their rage for nought. He was lying dead, without sense to them, that he might not be tortured; with sense with God, that he might be crowned. Whence was he also happy, brethren, not only in. name, but in the reward of everlasting life, if he loved these things.
2. "Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, and walk in His ways" (ver. 1). He speaketh to many; but since these many are one in Christ, in the next words he speaketh in the singular: "For thou shall eat the labours of thy fruits." ... When I speak of Christians in the plural, I understand one in the One Christ. Ye are therefore many, and ye are one; we are many, and we are one. How are we many, and yet one? Because we cling unto Him whose members we are; and since our Head is in heaven, that His members may follow...Let us therefore so hear this Psalm, as considering it to be spoken of Christ: and all of us who cling unto the Body of Christ, and have been made members of Christ, walk in the ways of the Lord; and let us fear the Lord with a chaste fear, with a fear that abideth for ever ....
3. "Thou shalt eat the labours of thy fruits" (ver. 2). And ye, O thou, ye many who are One, "Thou shall eat of the labours of thy fruits." He seemeth to speak perversely to those who understand not: for he should have said, thou shall eat the fruit of thy labours For many eat the fruit of their labours. They labour in the vineyard; they eat not the to; itself; but what ariseth from their labour they eat. They labour about trees that bear fruit who would eat labours? But the fruit of these labours, the produce of these trees; it is this that delighteth the husbandman. What meaneth, "Thou shall eat the labours of thy fruits "? At present we have toils: the fruits will come afterwards. But since their labours themselves are not without joy, on account of the hope whereof we have a little before spoken, "Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation;"(3) at present those very labours delight us, and make us joyful in hope. If therefore our toil has been what could be eaten, and could also delight us; what will be the fruit of our labour when eaten? "They who went weeping on their way, scattering their seed,"(4) did eat their labours; with how much greater pleasure will they eat the fruits of their labours, who "shall come again with joy, bearing their sheaves with them "? "Blessed art thou, and well shall it be with ... thee." "Blessed art thou," is of the present: "well shall it be with bee," is of the future. When thou eatest the labours of thy fruits, "blessed art thou;" when thou hast reached the fruit of thy labours, "well shall it be with thee." What hath he said? For if it be well with thee, thou wilt be happy: and if thou wilt be happy, thou wilt also have all well with thee. But there is a difference between hope and attainment. If hope be so sweet, how much sweeter will reality be?
4. Let us now come to the words, "Thy wife" (ver. 3): it is said unto Christ. His wife, therefore, is the Church: His Church, His wife, we ourselves are. "As a fruitful vineyard." But in whom is the vineyard fruitful? For we see many barren ones entering those walls; we see that many intemperate, usurious persons, slave dealers, enter these walls, and such as resort to fortune-tellers, go to enchanters and enchantresses when they have a headache. Is this the fruitfulness of the vine? Is this the fecundity of the wife? It is not. These are thorns, but the vineyard is not everywhere thorny. It hath a certain fruitfulness, and is a fruitful vine; but in whom? "Upon the sides of thy house." Not all are called the sides of the house. For I ask what are the sides. What shall I say? Are they walls, strong stones, as it were? If he were speaking of this bodily tenement, we should perhaps understand this by sides. We mean by the sides of the house, those who cling unto Christ. ...
5. "Thy children." The wife and the children are the same. In these carnal marriages and wedlocks, the wife is one, the children other: in the Church, she who is the wife, is the children also. For the Apostles belonged to the Church, and were among the members of the Church. They were therefore in His wife, and were His wife according to their own portion which they held in His members. Why then is it said concerning them, "When the Bridegroom shall be taken from them, then shall the children of the Bridegroom fast"?(1) She who is the wife, then, is the children also. I speak a wonderful thing, my brethren. In the words of the Lord, we find the Church to be both His brethren, and His sisters, and His mother.(2) ... For Mary was among the sides of His House, and His relatives coming of the kindred of the Virgin Mary, who believed on Him, were among the sides of His House; not in respect of their carnal consanguinity, but inasmuch as they heard the Word of God, and obeyed it. ... He added; "For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother."(3) "Brother," perhaps, on account of the male sex whom the Church hath: "sister," on account of the women whom Christ hath here in His members. How "mother," save that Christ Himself is in those Christians, whom the Church daily bringeth forth Christians through baptism? In those therefore in whom thou understandest the wife, in them thou understandest the mother, in them the children.
6. ... Such children ought therefore to be "around" the Lord's" table, like olive-branches."(4) A complete Vine it is, a great bliss: who would now refuse to be there? When thou seest any blasphemer have a wife, children, grandchildren, and thyself perchance without them, envy them not; discern that the promise hath been fulfilled in thee also, but spiritually. If therefore we have, why have we? Because we fear the Lord. "Lo, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord" (ver. 4). He is the man, who is also the men; and the men are one man; because many are one, because Christ is One.
7. "The Lord from out of Sion bless thee: and mayest thou see thee good things that are of Jerusalem" (ver. 5). Even to the birds was it said, "Be fruitful and multiply."(5) Dost thou wish to hold as a great blessing what was given unto birds? Who can be ignorant, that it was given indeed by the voice of God? But use these goods, if thou receive them; and rather think how thou mayest nourish those who have been born, than that others may be born. For it is not happiness to have children, but to have good ones. Labour in the task of nourishing them, if they be born; but if they be not born, give thanks unto God ....Thy children are infants: thou dost caress the infants: the infants caress thee: do they abide thus? But thou wishest they may grow, thou wishest that their age may increase. But consider that when one age cometh, another dieth. When boyhood cometh, infancy dieth; when youth cometh, boyhood dieth: when manhood cometh, youth dieth; when old age cometh, manhood dieth: when death cometh, all age dieth. As many successions of ages as thou wishest for, so many deaths of ages dost thou wish for. These things therefore "are" not. Finally, are children born unto thee to share life with thee on earth, or rather to shut thee out and to succeed thee? Rejoicest thou in those born to exclude thee? Boys when born speak somewhat like this to their parents: "Now then, begin to think of removing hence, let us too play our parts on the stage." For the whole life of temptation in the human race is a stage play;(6) for it is said, "Every man living is altogether vanity."(7) Nevertheless, if we rejoice in children who will succeed us; how much must we rejoice in children with whom we shall remain, and in that Father for whom we are born, who will not die, but that we may evermore live with Him? These are the good things of Jerusalem: for they "are." And how long shall I see the good things of Jerusalem? "All thy life long." If thy life be for ever, thou wilt see the good things of Jerusalem for evermore. ...
8. For, "if in this life only," saith the Apostle, "we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." s For what reason were the Martyrs condemned to beasts? What is that good? Can it be declared? by what means, or what tongue can tell it? or what ears can hear it? That indeed, "Neither ear hath heard, nor hath it entered into man's heart:"(9) only let us love, only let us grow in grace: ye see, then, that battles are not wanting, and that we fight with our lusts. We fight outwardly with unbelieving and disobedient men; we fight inwardly with carnal suggestions and perturbations: we everywhere as yet fight .... What sort of peace then is this? One from Jerusalem, for Jerusalem is interpreted, A vision of Peace. Thus then "mayest thou see the good things that are of Jerusalem," and that, "all thy life long--and mayest thou see," not only thy children, but, "thy children's children." What meaneth, Thy children? Thy works which thou here dost. Who are thy children's children? The fruits of thy works. Thou givest alms: these are thy children: for the sake of thine alms thou receivest everlasting life, these are thy children's children. "Mayest thou see thy children's children;" and there shall be "peace upon Israel" (ver. 6), the last words of the Psalm ....
1. The Psalm which we have sung is short: but as it is written in the Gospel of Zacchaeus that he was "little of stature,"(1) but mighty in works; as it is written of that widow who cast two mites into the treasury, little was the money, but great was her charity;(2) thus also this Psalm, if thou count the words, is short; if thou weigh the sentiments, is great. ... Let the Spirit of God speak, let It speak to us, let It sing to us; whether we wish or wish not to dance, let It sing. For as he who danceth, moveth his limbs to the time; so they who dance according to the commandment of God, in their works obey the sound. What therefore saith the Lord in the Gospel to those who refuse to do this? "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced: we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented."(3) Let Him therefore sing; we trust in God's mercy, for there will be those by whom He consoleth us. For they who are obstinate, continuing in wickedness, although they hear the Word of God, by their offences daily disturb the Church. Of such this Psalm speaketh; for thus it beginneth.
2. "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up" (ver. 1). The Church speaketh of those whom She endureth: and as if it were asked, "Is it now?" The Church is of ancient birth: since saints have been so called, the Church hath been on earth. At one time the Church was in Abel only, and he was fought against by his wicked and lost brother Cain.(4) At one time the Church was in Enoch alone: and he was translated from the unrighteous.(5) At one time the Church was in the house of Noah alone, and endured all who perished by the flood, and the ark alone swam upon the waves, and escaped to shore.(6) At one time the Church was in Abraham alone, and we know what he endured from the wicked. The Church was in his brother's son, Lot, alone, and in his house, in Sodore, and he endured the iniquities and perversities of Sodom, until God freed him from amidst them.(7) The Church also began to exist in the people of Israel: She endured Pharaoh and the Egyptians. The number of the saints began to be also in the Church, that is, in the people of Israel; Moses and the rest of the saints endured the wicked Jews, the people of Israel. We come unto our Lord Jesus Christ: the Gospel was preached in the Psalms.(8) ... For this reason, lest the Church wonder now, or lest any one wonder in the Church, who wisheth to be a good member of the Church, let him hear the Church herself his Mother saying to him, Marvel not at these things, my son: "Many a time have they fought against me from my youth up."
3. "Now may Israel say." She now seemeth to be speaking of herself: for she seemed not to have commenced herself, but to have answered. But to whom hath she replied? To them that think and say, How great evils do we endure, how great are the scandals that every day thicken, as the wicked enter into the Church, and we have to endure them? But let the Church reply through some, that is, through the voice of the stronger, let her reply to the complaints of the weak, and let the stable confirm the unstable, and the full-grown the infant, and let the Church say, "Many a time have they vexed me from my youth up" (ver. 2). Let the Church say this: let her not fear it. For what is the meaning of this addition, "From my youth up," after the words, "Many a time have they fought against me "? At present the old age of the Church is assailed: but let her not fear. Hath she then failed to arrive at old age, because they have not ceased to fight against her from her youth up? have they been able to blot her out? Let Israel comfort herself, let the Church console herself with past examples. Why have they fought against me?"For they could not prevail against me."
4. "Upon my back have sinners built; they have done their iniquity afar off (ver. 3). Why have they fought against me? Because "they could not prevail upon me." What is this? They could not build upon me. I consented not with them unto sin. For every wicked man persecuteth the good on this account, because the good man consenteth not with him to evil. Suppose he do some evil, and the Bishop censure him not, the Bishop is a good man: suppose the Bishop censure him, the Bishop is a bad man. Suppose he carry off anything, let the man robbed be silent, he is a good man: let him only speak and rebuke, even though he doth not reclaim his goods, he is everything bad. He is bad then who blameth the robber, and he is good who robbeth! ... Heed not that such an one speaketh to thee: it is a wicked man through whom It speaketh to thee; but the word of God, that speaketh to thee, is not wicked.(9) Accuse God: accuse Him, if thou canst!
5. Thou accusest a man of avarice, and he accuseth God on the ground that He made gold. Be not covetous. And God, thou repliest, should not make gold. This now remaineth, because thou canst not restrain thine evil deeds, thou accusest the good works of God: the Creator and Architect of the world displeaseth thee. He ought not to make the sun either; for many contend concerning the lights of their windows, and drag each other before courts of law. O if we could restrain our vices! for all things are good, because a good God made all things: and His works praise Him, when their goodness is considered by him who hath the spirit of considering them, the spirit of piety and wisdom.(1) ...
6. Lend not money at interest. Thou accusest Scripture which saith, "He that hath not given his money upon usury."(2) I wrote not this: it went not forth first from my mouth: hear God. He replieth: let not the clergy lend upon usury. Perchance he who speaketh to thee, lendeth not at interest: but if he do so lend, suppose that he doth so lend; doth He who speaketh through him lend at interest? If he doth what he enjoineth thee, and thou dost it not; thou wilt go into the flame, he into the kingdom. If he doth not what he enjoineth thee, and equally with thee doth evil deeds, and preaches duties which he doth not; ye will both equally go into the flames. The hay will burn; but "the word of the Lord abideth for evermore."(3) ...
7. "The righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners" (ver. 4) ....Which of us doth not fix his eyes upon the earth, like the Publican, and say, "Lord, be merciful unto me a sinner"?(4) If therefore all are sinners, and none is found without sin; all must fear the sword that hangs above their neck, because "the righteous Lord shall hew the necks of the sinners." I do not imagine, my brethren, of all sinners; but in the member which He striketh, He marks what sinners He striketh. For it is not said, The righteous Lord will hew the hands of the sinners; or their feet; but because proud sinners were meant to be understood, and all proud men carry lofty necks, and not only do evil deeds, but even refuse to acknowledge them to be such, and when they are rebuked, justify themselves:(5) ... as it is written in Job (he was speaking of an ungodly sinner), "he runneth against God, even upon his neck, upon the thick bosses of his bucklers; "(6) so he here nameth the neck, because it is thus thou exaltest thyself, and dost not fix thine eyes upon the ground, and beat thy breast. Thou shouldest cry unto Him, as it is cried in another Psalm, "I said, Lord, be merciful unto me, for I have sinned against Thee."(7) Since thou dost not choose to say this, but justifiest thy deeds against the Word of God; what followeth in Scripture cometh upon thee: the righteous Lord shall hew the necks of sinners.
8. "Let them be confounded and turned backward, as many as have evil will at Sion" (ver. 5). They who hate Sion, hate the Church: Sion is the Church. And they who hypocritically enter into the Church, hate the Church. They who refuse to keep the Word of God, hate the Church: "Upon my back have they built:" what will the Church do, save endure the burden even unto the end?
9. But what saith he of them? The next words are, "Let them be even as the grass of the house tops: that withereth before it be plucked up" (ver. 6). The grass of the house tops is that which groweth on house tops, on a tiled roof: it is seen on high, and hath not a root. How much better would it be if it grew lower, and how much more joyfully would it bloom? As it is, it riseth higher to a quicker withering. It hath not yet been plucked up, yet hath it withered: not yet have they received sentence from the judgment of God, and already they have not the sap of bloom. Observe their works, and see that they have withered. ... The reapers will come, but they fill not their sheaves from these. For the reapers will come, and will gather the wheat into the barn, and will bind the tares together, and cast them into the fire. Thus also is the grass of the house tops cleared off, and whatever is plucked from it, is thrown into the fire; because it had withered even before it was plucked up. The reaper filleth not his hands thence. His next words are, "Whereof the reaper filleth not his hand; neither he that bindeth up the sheaves his bosom" (ver. 7). And, "the reapers are the angels,"(8) the Lord saith.
10. "So that they who go by say not so much as, The blessing of the Lord be upon you we have blessed you in the name of the Lord" (ver. 8). For ye know, brethren, when men pass by others at work, it is customary to address them, "The blessing of the Lord be upon you."(9) And this was especially the custom in the Jewish nation. No one passed by and saw any one doing any work in the field, or in the vineyard, or in harvest, or anything of the sort; it was not lawful to pass by without a blessing .... Who are the passers by? They who have already passed hence to their country through this road, that is, through this life: the Apostles were passers by in this life, the Prophets were passers by. Whom did the Prophets and Apostles bless? Those in whom they saw the root of charity? But those whom they found lifted on high on their house tops, and proud in the bosses of their bucklers, they declared against these what they were doomed to become, but they gave them no blessing. Ye therefore who read in the Scriptures, find all those wicked men whom the Church beareth, who are declared cursed, pertain unto Antichrist, pertain unto the devil, pertain to the chaff, pertain to the tares .... But they who say, None save God sanctifieth, l nor is any man good save by the gift of God; they bless in the name of the Lord, not in their own name: because they are the friends of the bridegroom,' they refuse to be adulterers of the bride.
1. "Out of the deep have I called unto Thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice" (ver. 1). Jonas cried from the deep; from the whale's belly.(3) He was not only beneath the waves, but also in the entrails of the beast; nevertheless, those waves and that body prevented not his prayer from reaching God, and the beast's belly could not contain the voice of his prayer. It penetrated all things, it burst through all things, it reached the ears of God: if indeed we ought to say that, bursting through all things, it reached the ears of God, since the ears of God were in the heart of him who prayed. For where hath not he God present, whose voice is faithful? Nevertheless, we also ought to understand from what deep we cry unto the Lord. For this mortal life is our deep. Whoever hath understood himself to be in the deep, crieth out, groaneth, sigheth, until he be delivered from the deep, and come unto Him who sitteth above all the deeps. ... For they are very deep in the deep, who do not even cry from the deep. The Scripture saith, "When the wicked hath reached the depth of evils, he despiseth."(4) Now consider, brethren, what sort of deep that is, where God is despised. When each man seeth himself overwhelmed with daily sins, pressed down by heaps and weights, so to speak, of iniquities: if it be said unto him, Pray unto God, he laughs. In what manner? He first saith, If crimes were displeasing unto God, should I live? If God regarded human affairs, considering the great crimes which I have committed, should I not only live, but be prosperous? For this is wont to happen to those who are far in the deep, and are prosperous in their iniquities: and they are the more plunged in the deep, in proportion as they seem to be more happy; for a deceitful happiness is itself a greater unhappiness. ...
2. "Lord, hear my voice. O let Thine ears consider well the voice of my complaint" (ver. 2). Whence doth he cry? From the deep. Who is it then who crieth? A sinner. And with what hope doth he cry? Because He who came to absolve from sins, gave hope even to the sinner down in the deep. What therefore followeth after these words: "If Thou, Lord, wilt be extreme to mark what is amiss, O Lord, who may abide it?" (ver. 3). So, he hath disclosed from what deep he cried out. For he crieth beneath the weights and billows of his iniquities ....He said not, I may not abide it: but, "who may abide it?" For he saw that nigh the whole of human life on every side.was ever bayed at by its sins, that all consciences were accused by their thoughts, that a clean heart trusting in its own righteousness could not be found.
3. But wherefore is there hope? "For there is propitiation with Thee" (ver. 4). And what is this propitiation, except sacrifice? And what is sacrifice, save that which hath been offered for us? The pouring forth of innocent blood blotted out all the sins of the guilty: so great a price paid down redeemed all captives from the hand of the enemy who captured them. "With Thee," then, "there is propitiation." For if there were not mercy with Thee, if Thou chosest to be Judge only, and didst refuse to be merciful, Thou wouldest mark all our iniquities, and search after them. Who could abide this? Who could stand before Thee, and say, I am innocent? Who could stand in Thy judgment? There is therefore one hope: "for the sake of Thy law have I borne Thee, O Lord." What law? That which made men guilty. For a "law, holy, just, and good,"(5) was given to the Jews; but its effect was to make them guilty. A law was not given that could give life,(6) but which might show his sins to the sinner. For the sinner had forgotten himself, and saw not himself; the law was given him, that he might see himself. The law made him guilty, the Lawgiver freed him: for the Lawgiver is the Supreme Power.(7) ... There is therefore a law of the mercy of God, a law of the propitiation of God.(8) The one was a law of fear, the other is a law of love. The law of love giveth forgiveness to sins, blotteth out the past, warneth concerning the future; forsaketh not its companion by the way, becometh a companion to him whom it leadeth on the way. But it is needful to agree with the adversary, whilst thou art with him in the way.(9) For the Word of God is thine adversary, as long as thou dost not agree with it. But thou agreest, when it has begun to be thy delight to do what God's Word commandeth. Then he who was thine adversary becometh thy friend: so, when the way is finished, there will be none to deliver thee to the Judge. Therefore, "For the.sake of Thy law I have waited for Thee, O Lord," because thou hast condescended to bring in a law of mercy, to forgive me all my sins, to give me for the future warnings that I may not offend. ... "For the sake," therefore," of" this "law I have waited for Thee, O Lord." I have waited until Thou mayest come and free me from all need, for in my very need Thou hast not forsaken the law of mercy. ... "My soul hath waited for Thy word." ...
4. We therefore trust without fear on the word of Him who cannot deceive. "My soul hath trusted in the Lord, from the morning watch even unto night" (ver. 5). This morning watch is the end of night. We must therefore understand it so that we may not suppose we are to trust in the Lord for one day only. What do you conceive to be the sense, then, brethren? The words mean this: that the Lord, through whom our sins have been remitted, arose from the dead at the morning watch, so that we may hope that what went before in the Lord will take place in us. For our sins have been already forgiven: but we have not yet risen again: if we have not risen again, not as yet hath that taken place in us which went before in our Head. What went before in our Head? Because the flesh of that Head rose again; did the Spirit of that Head die? What had died in Him, rose again. Now He arose on the third day; and the Lord as it were thus speaketh to us: What ye have seen in Me, hope for in yourselves; that is, because I have risen from the dead, ye also shall rise again.
5. But there are who say, Behold, the Lord hath risen again; but must I hope on that account that I also may rise again? Certainly, on that account: for the Lord rose again in that which He assumed from thee. For He would not rise again, save He had died; and He could not have died, except He bore the flesh. What did the Lord assume from thee? The flesh. What was He that came Himself? The Word of God, who was before all things, through whom all things were made. But that He might receive something from thee, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us."(1) He received from thee, what He might offer for thee; as the priest receiveth from thee, what he may offer for thee, when thou wishest to appease God for thy sins. It hath already been done, it hath been done thus. Our Priest received from us what He might offer for us: for He received flesh from us, in the flesh itself He was made a victim, He was made a holocaust, He was made a sacrifice. In the Passion He was made a sacrifice; in the Resurrection He renewed that which was slain, and offered it as His first-fruits unto God, and saith unto thee, All that is thine is now consecrated: since such first-fruits have been offered unto God from thee; hope therefore that that will take place in thyself which went before in thy first-fruits.
6. Since He then rose with the morning watch, our soul began to hope from hence: and how far? "Even unto night;" until we die; for all our carnal death is as it were sleep. ...
7. And he returns to this," From the morning watch let Israel hope in the Lord." Not only "let Israel hope," but "from the morning watch let Israel hope." Do I then blame the hope of the world, when it is placed in the Lord? No; but there is another hope belonging to Israel. Let not Israel hope for riches as his highest good, not for health of body, not for abundance of earthly things: he will indeed have to suffer tribulation here, if it should be his lot to suffer any troubles for the sake of the truth. ...
8. "For with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption" (ver. 7). Admirable! This could not have been better said in its own place, on account of the words, "From the morning watch." Wherefore? Because the Lord rose again from the morning watch; and the body ought to hope for that which went before in the Head. But, lest this thought should be suggested: The Head might rise again, because It was not weighed down with sins, there was no sin in Him; what shall we do? Shall we hope for such a resurrection, as went before in the Lord, whilst we are weighed down by our sins? But see what followeth: "And He shall redeem Israel from all his sins" (ver. 8). Though therefore he was weighed down with his sins, the mercy of God is present to him. For this reason, He went before without sin, that He may blot out the sins of those that follow Him. Trust not in yourselves, but trust from the morning watch. ...
1. In this Psalm, the humility of one that is a servant of God and faithful is commended unto us, by whose voice it is sung; which is the whole body of Christ.(3) For we have often warned you, beloved, that it ought not to be received as the voice of one man singing, but of all who are in Christ's Body. And since all are in His Body, as it were one man speaketh: and he is one who also is many. ... Now he prayeth in the temple of God, who prayeth in the peace of the Church, in the unity of Christ's Body; which Body of Christ consisteth of many who believe in the whole world: and therefore he who prayeth in the temple, is heard. For he prayeth in the spirit and in truth,(4) who prayeth in the peace of the Church; not in that temple, wherein was the figure. ...
2. "Lord, my heart is not lifted up" (ver. 1). He hath offered a sacrifice. Whence do we prove that he hath offered a sacrifice? Because humility of heart is a sacrifice. ... If there is no sacrifice, there is no Priest. But if we have a High Priest in Heaven, who intercedeth with the Father for us (for He hath entered into the Holy of Holies, within the veil), ... we are safe, for we have a Priest; let us offer our sacrifice there. Let us consider what sacrifice we ought to offer; for God is not pleased with burnt-offerings, as ye have heard in the Psalm. But in that place he next showeth what he offereth: "The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, shall Thou not despise.(1)
3. "Lord, my heart was not lifted up, neither were mine eyes raised on high" (ver. 1); "I have not exercised myself in great matters, nor in wonderful things which are too high for me" (ver. 2). Let this be more plainly spoken and heard. I have not been proud: I have not wished to be known among men as for wondrous powers; nor have I sought anything beyond my strength, whereby I might boast myself among the ignorant. As that Simon the sorcerer wished to advance into wonders above himself, on that account the power of the Apostles more pleased him, than the righteousness of Christians. ... What is above my strength, he saith, I have not sought; I have not stretched myself out there, I have not chosen to be magnified there. How deeply this self-exaltation in the abundance of graces is to be feared, that no man may pride himself in the gift of God, but may rather preserve humility, and may do what is written: "The greater thou art, the more humble thyself, and thou shall find favour before the Lord:"(2) how deeply pride in God's gift should be feared, we must again and again impress upon you. ...
4. "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul, as one taken from his mother's breast, such the reward for my soul" (ver. 2). He seemeth as it were to have bound himself by a curse: ... as though he had been going to say, Let it so happen to me. "As one taken away from his mother's breast, may be my soul's reward." Ye know that the Apostle saith to some weak brethren, "I have fed you with milk, and not with meat; for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able."(3) There are weak persons who are not fit for strong meat; they wish to grasp at that which they cannot receive: and if they ever do receive, or seem to themselves to receive what they have not received, they are puffed up thereby, and become proud thereupon; they seem to themselves wise men. Now this happeneth to all heretics; who since they were animal and carnal, by defending their depraved opinions, which they could not see to be false, were shut out of the Catholic Church. ...
5. Another opinion indeed hath been entertained, and another sense in these words. ... It has been evidently explained, my brethren, where God would have us to be humble, where lofty. Humble, in order to provide against pride; lofty, to take in wisdom. Feed upon milk, that thou mayest be nourished; be nourished, so that thou mayest grow; grow, so that thou mayest eat bread. But when thou hast begun to eat bread, thou wilt be weaned, that is, thou wilt no longer have need of milk, but of solid food. This he seemeth to have meant: "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul:" that is, if I was not an infant in mind, I was in wickedness. In this sense, he said before, "Lord, my heart was not lifted up, nor mine eyes raised on high: I do not exercise myself in great matters, nor in wonderful things above me." Behold, in wickedness I am an infant. But since I am not an infant in understanding, "If I had not lowly thoughts, but have lifted up my soul," may that reward be mine which is given unto the infant that is weaned from his mother, that I may at length be able to eat bread.
6. This interpretation, also, brethren, displeaseth me not, since it doth not militate against the faith. Yet I cannot but remark that it is not only said, "As one taken away from milk, such may be my soul's reward;" but with this addition, "As one taken away from milk when upon his mother's breast, such may be my soul's reward." Here there is somewhat that induces me to consider it a curse. For it is not an infant, but a grown child that is taken away from milk; he who is weak in his earliest infancy, which is his true infancy, is upon his mother's breast: if perchance he hath been taken away from the milk, he perisheth. It is not without a reason then that it is added, "Upon his mother's breast." For all may be weaned by growing. He who groweth, and is thus taken away from milk, it is good for him; but hurtful for him who is still upon his mother's breast. We must therefore beware, my brethren, and be fearful, lest any one be taken away from milk before his time. ... Let him not therefore wish to lift up his soul, when perchance he is not fit to take meat, but let him fulfil the commandments of humility. He hath wherein he may exercise himself: let him believe in Christ, that he may understand Christ. He cannot see the Word, he cannot understand the equality of the Word with the Father, he cannot as yet see the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Word; let him believe this, and suck it. He is safe, because, when he hath grown, he will eat, which he could not do before he grew by sucking: and he hath a point to stretch towards. Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, and search not the things that are above thy strength; that is, things which thou art not as yet fit to understand. And what am I to do? thou repliest. Shall I remain thus? "But what things the Lord hath commanded thee, think thereupon always."(1) What hath the Lord commanded thee? Do works of mercy, part not with the peace of the Church, place not thy trust in man, tempt not God by longing for miracles. ...
7. For if ye be not exalted, if ye raise not your heart on high, if ye tread not in great matters that are too high for you, but preserve humility, God will reveal unto you what ye are otherwise minded in.(2) But if ye choose to defend this very thing, which ye are otherwise minded about, and with pertinacity assert it, and against the peace of the Church; this curse which he hath described is entailed upon you; when ye are upon your mother's breast, and are removed away from the milk, ye shall die of hunger apart from your mother's breast. But if ye continue in Catholic peace, if perchance ye are in anything otherwise minded than ye ought to be, God will reveal it to you, if ye be humble. Wherefore? Because "God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace unto the humble."(3)
8. This Psalm therefore concludeth to this purpose: "O Israel, trust in the Lord, from this time forth and even unto eternity"(4) (ver. 3). But the word seculum doth not always mean this world, but sometimes eternity; since eternity is understood in two ways; until eternity, that is, either evermore without end, or until we arrive at eternity. How then is it to be understood here? Until we arrive at eternity, let us trust in the Lord God; because when we have reached eternity, there will be no longer hope, but the thing itself will be ours.
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