Augustine on the Psalms. Psalms 99 - 103
1. Beloved brethren, it ought already to be known to you, as sons of the Church, and well. instructed in the school of Christ through all the books of our ancient fathers, who wrote the words of God and the great things of God, that their wish was to consult for our good, who were to live at this period, believers in Christ; who, at a seasonable time came unto us, the first time, in humility; at the second, destined to come in exaltation. ...For thus it is said in the Psalms: "Truth shall flourish out of the earth: and righteousness hath looked down from heaven."(3) Now, therefore, our whole design is, when we hear a Psalm, a Prophet, or the Law, all of which was written before our Lord Jesus Christ came in the flesh, to see Christ there, to understand Christ there. Attend therefore, beloved, to this Psalm, with me, and let us herein seek Christ; certainly He will appear to those who seek Him, who at first appeared to those who sought Him not; and He will not desert those who long for Him, who redeemed those who neglected Him. Behold, the Psalm beginneth concerning Him: of Him it is said:--
2. "The Lord is King, be the people angry" (ver. 1). For our Lord Jesus Christ began to reign, began to be preached, after He arose from the dead and ascended into heaven, after He had filled His disciples with the confidence of the Holy Spirit, that they should not fear death, which He had already killed in Himself. Our Lord Christ began then to be preached, that they who wished for salvation might believe in Him; and the peoples who worshipped idols were angry. They who worshipped what they had made were angry, because He by whom they were made was declared. He announced, in fact, through His disciples, Himself, who wished them to be converted unto Him by whom they were made, and to be turned away froth those things which they had made themselves. They were angry with their Lord in behalf of their idols, they who even if they were angry with their slave on their idol's account, were to be condemned. For their slave was better than their idol: for God made their slave, the carpenter made their idol. They were so angry in their idol's behalf, that they feared not to be angry with their Lord. But the words, "be they angry," are a prediction, not a command; for in a prophecy it is that this is said, "The Lord is King, be the people angry." Some good resulteth even from the enraged people: let them be angry, and in their anger let the Martyrs be crowned. ... Ye heard when Jeremiah was being read before the reading of the Apostle,(4) if ye listened; ye saw therein the times in which we now live. He said, "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, let them perish from the earth, and from under the heaven."(5) He said not, The gods that have not made the heavens and earth, let them perish from the heaven and from the earth; because they never were in heaven: but what did he say? "Let them perish from the earth, and from under the heaven." As if, while the word earth was repeated, the repetition of the word heaven were wanting (because they never were in heaven): he repeateth the earth twice, since it is under heaven. "Let them perish from the earth, and from under the heaven," from their temples. Consider if this be not now taking place; if in a great measure it hath not already happened: for what, or how much, hath remained? The idols remained rather in the hearts of the pagans, than in the niches of the temples.
3. "He who sitteth between the cherubims:" thou dost understand, "He is King: let the earth be stirred up." ... The Cherubim is the seat of God, as the Scripture showeth us, a certain exalted heavenly throne, which we see not; but the Word of God knoweth it, knoweth it as His own seat: and the Word of God and the Spirit of God hath Itself revealed to the servants of God where God sitteth. Not that God doth sit, as doth man; but thou, if thou dost wish that God sit in thee, if thou wilt be good, shalt be the seat of God; for thus is it written, "The soul of the righteous is the seat of wisdom."(6) For a throne is in our language called a seat. For some, conversant with the Hebrew tongue, have interpreted cherubim in the Latin language (for it is a Hebrew term) by the words, fulness of knowledge. Therefore, because God surpasseth all knowledge, He is said to sit above the fulness of knowledge. Let there be therefore in thee fulness of knowledge, and even thou shalt be the throne of God. ... He knoweth all things: for our hairs are numbered before God.(7) But the fulness of knowledge which He willed man to know is different from this; the knowledge which He willed thee to have, pertaineth to the law of God. And who can, thou mayest perhaps say unto me, perfectly know the Law, so that he may have within himself the fullness of the knowledge of the Law, and be able to be the seat of God? Be not disturbed; it is briefly told thee what thou hast, if thou dost wish to have the fulness of knowledge, and to become the throne of God: for the Apostle saith, "Love is the fulfilling of the Law.", What followeth then? Thou hast lost the whole of thine excuse. Ask thine heart; see whether it hath love. If there be love there, there is the fulfilment of the Law there also; already God dwelleth in thee, thou hast become the throne of God. "Be the people angry;" what can the angry people do against him who hath become the throne of God? Thou givest heed unto them who rage against thee: Who is it that sitteth within thee, thou givest not heed. Thou art become a heaven, and learest thou the earth? For the Scripture saith in another passage, that the Lord our God doth declare, "The heaven is My throne."(2) If therefore even thou by having the fulness of knowledge, and by having love, hast been made the throne of God, thou hast become a heaven. For this heaven which we look up to with these eyes of ours, is not very precious before God. Holy souls are the heaven of God; the minds of the Angels, and all the minds of His servants, are the heaven of God.
4. "The Lord is great in Sion, and high above all people" (ver. 2). ...He whom I spoke to thee of as above the Cherubims, is great in Sion. Ask thou now, what is Sion? We know Sion to be the city of God. The city of Jerusalem is called Sion; and is so called according to a certain interpretation, for that Sion signifieth watching, that is, sight and contemplation; for to watch is to look forward to, or gaze upon, or strain the eyes to see. Now every soul is a Sion, if it trieth to see that light which is to be seen. For if it shall have gazed upon a light of its own, it is darkened; if upon His, it is enlightened. But, now that it is clear that Sion is the city of God; what is the city of God, but the Holy Church? For men who love one another, and who love their God who dwelleth in them, constitute a city unto God. Because a city is held together by some law; their very law is Love; and that very Love is God: for openly it is written, "God is Love."(3) He therefore who is full of Love, is full of God; and many, full of love, constitute a city full of God. That city of God is called Sion; the Church therefore is Sion. In it God is great. ...
5. Do ye imagine, brethren, that they whose instruments re-echoed yesterday, are not angry with our fastings? But let us not be angry with them, but let us fast for them. For the Lord our God who sitteth in us hath said, He hath Himself commanded us to pray for our enemies, to pray for them that persecute us:(4) and as the Church doth this, the persecutors are almost extinct. ... The drunken man doth not offend himself, but he offendeth the sober man. Show me a man who is at last happy in God, liveth gravely, sigheth for that everlasting peace which God hath promised him; and see that when he hath seen a man dancing to an instrument, he is more grieved for his madness, than for a man who is in a frenzy from a fever. If then we know their evils, considering that we also have been freed from those very evils, let us grieve for them; and if we grieve for them, let us pray for them; and that we may be heard, let us fast for them. For we do not keep our own fasts in their holidays. Different are the fasts which we celebrate through the days of the approaching Passover, through different seasons which are fixed for us in Christ: but through their holidays we fast for this reason, that when they are rejoicing, we may groan for them. For by their joy they excite our grief, and cause us to remember how wretched they are as yet. But since we see many freed thence, where we also have been, we ought not to despair even of them. And if they are still enraged, let us pray; and if still a particle of earth that hath remained behind be stirred up against us, let us continue in lamentation for them, that to them also God may grant understanding, and that with us they may hear those words, in which we are at this moment rejoicing.
6. All these very people, over whom Thou art great in Sion, "Let them confess unto Thy Name, which is great" (ver. 3). Thy Name was little when they were enraged: it hath become great; let them now confess. In what sense do we say, that the Name of Christ was little, before it was spread abroad to so great an extent? Because His report is meant by His Name. His Name was small; already it hath become great. What nation is there that hath not heard of the Name of Christ? Therefore let now the people confess unto Thy Name, which is great, who before were enraged with Thy little Name. Wherefore shall they confess? Because it is "wonderful and holy." Thy very Name is wonderful and holy. He is so preached as crucified, so preached as humbled, so preached as judged, that He may come exalted, that He may come living, that He may come to judge in power. He spareth at present the people who blaspheme Him, because "the long-suffering of God leadeth to repentance."(5) For He who now spareth, will not always spare: nor will He, who is now being preached that He may be feared, fail to come to judge. He will come, my brethren, He will come let us fear Him, and let us live so that we may be found on His right hand. For He will come, and will judge, so as to place some on the left hand, some on the right.(1) And He doth not act in an uncertain manner, so as to err perchance betwixt men, so that he who should be set on the right hand, be set on the left; or that he who ought to stand on the left, by a mistake of God should stand on the right: He cannot err, so as to place the evil where He ought to set the good; nor to place the good, where He should have set the evil. If He cannot err, we err, if we fear not; but if we have feared in this life, we shall not then have what to fear for. "For the King's honour loveth judgment." ...
7. "Thou hast prepared equity; Thou hast wrought judgment and righteousness in Jacob." For we too ought to have judgment, we ought to have righteousness; but He worketh in us judgment and righteousness, who created us in whom He might work them. How ought we too to have judgment and righteousness? Thou hast judgment, when thou dost distinguish evil from good: and righteousness when thou followest the good, and turnest aside from the evil. By distinguishing them, thou hast judgment; by doing, thou hast righteousness. "Eschew evil,' he saith, "and do good; seek peace, and ensue it."(2) Thou shouldest first have judgment, then righteousness. What judgment? That thou mayest first judge what is evil, and what is good. And what righteousness? That thou mayest shun evil, and do good. But this thou wilt not gain from thyself; see what he hath said, "Thou hast wrought judgment and righteousness in Jacob."
8. "O magnify the Lord our God" (ver. 5). Magnify Him truly, magnify Him well. Let us praise Him, let us magnify Him who hath wrought the very righteousness which we have; who wrought it in us, Himself. For who but He who justified us, wrought righteousness in us? For of Christ it is said, "who justifieth the ungodly."(3) ... "And fall down before(4) His footstool: for He is holy." What are we to fall down before? His footstool. What is under the feet is called a footstool, in Greek upopodion, in Latin Scabellum or Suppedaneum. But consider, brethren, what he commandeth us to fall down before. In another passage of the Scriptures it is said, "The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool."(5) Doth he then bid us worship the earth, since in another passage it is said, that it is God's footstool? How then shall we worship the earth, when the Scripture saith openly, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God"?(6) Yet here it saith, "fall down before His footstool:" and, explaining to us what His footstool is, it saith, "The earth is My footstool." I am in doubt; I fear to worship the earth, lest He who made the heaven and the earth condemn me; again, I fear not to worship the footstool of my Lord, because the Psalm biddeth me, "fall down before His footstool." I ask, what is His footstool? and the Scripture telleth me, "the earth is My footstool." In hesitation I turn unto Christ, since I am herein seeking Himself: and I discover how the earth may be worshipped without impiety,(7) how His footstool may be worshipped without impiety. For He took upon Him earth from earth; because flesh is from earth, and He received flesh from the flesh of Mary. And because He walked here in very flesh, and gave that very flesh to us to eat for our salvation; and no one eateth that flesh, unless he hath first worshipped: we have found out in what sense such a footstool of our Lord's may be worshipped, and not only that we sin not in worshipping it, but that we sin in not worshipping. But doth the flesh give life? Our Lord Himself, when He was speaking in praise of this same earth, said, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing." ... But when our Lord praised it, He was speaking of His own flesh, and He had said, "Except a man eat My flesh, he shall have no life in him."(8) Some disciples of His, about seventy? were offended, and said, "This is an hard saying, who can hear it?" And they went back, and walked no more with Him. It seemed unto them hard that He said, "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, ye have no life in you:" they received it foolishly, they thought of it carnally, and imagined that the Lord would cut off parts from His body, and give unto them; and they said, "This is a hard saying." It was they who were hard, not the saying; for unless they had been hard, and not meek, they would have said unto themselves, He saith not this without reason, but there must be some latent mystery herein. They would have remained with Him, softened, not hard: and would have learnt that from Him which they who remained, when the others departed, learnt. For when twelve disciples had remained with Him, on their departure, these remaining followers suggested to Him, as if in grief for the death of the former, that they were offended by His words, and turned back. But He instructed them, and saith unto them, "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, but the flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I have spoken unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."(10) Understand spiritually what I have said; ye are not to eat this body which ye see; nor to drink that blood which they who will crucify Me shall pour forth. I have commended unto you a certain mystery; spiritually understood, it will quicken. Although it is needful that this be visibly celebrated, yet it must be spiritually understood.(1) 9. "Moses and Aaron among His priests, and Samuel among such as call upon His Name: these called upon the Lord, and He heard them" (ver. 6). "He spake unto them out of the cloudy pillar" (ver. 7). ...Of Moses it is not there stated that he was a priest, But if he was not this, what was he? Could he be anything greater than a priest? This Psalm declareth that he also was himself a priest: "Moses and Aaron among His priests." They therefore were the Lord's priests. Samuel is read of later in the Book of Kings: this Samuel is in David's times; for he anointed the holy David. Samuel from his infancy grew up in the temple. ... He mentioneth these: and by these desireth us to understand all the saints. Yet why hath he here named those? Because we said that we ought here to understand Christ. Attend, holy brethren. He said above, "O magnify the Lord our God: and fall down before His footstool, for He is holy:" praising some one, that is, our Lord Jesus Christ; whose footstool is to be worshipped, because He assumed flesh, in which He was to appear before the human race; and wishing to show unto us that the ancient fathers also had preached of Him, because our Lord Jesus Christ is Himself the True Priest, he mentioned these, because God spake unto them out of the cloudy pillar. What meaneth, "out of the cloudy pillar"? He was speaking figuratively. For if He spoke in some cloud, those obscure words predicted some one unknown, yet to be manifest. This unknown one is no longer unknown; for He is known by us, our Lord Jesus Christ. ... He who first spoke out of the cloudy pillar, hath in Person spoken unto us m His footstool; that is, on earth, when He had assumed the flesh, for which reason we worship His footstool, for He is holy. He Himself used to speak out of the cloud, which was not then understood: He hath spoken in His own footstool, and the words of His cloud have been understood. "They kept His testimonies, and the law that He gave them." ... "Thou heardest them," he saith, "O Lord our God: Thou wast forgiving to them, O God" (ver. 8). God is not said to be forgiving toward anything but sins: when He pardoneth sins, then He forgiveth. And what had He in them to punish, so that He was forgiving in pardoning them? He was forgiving in pardoning their sins, He was also forgiving in punishing them. For what followeth? "And punishedst all their own affections." Even in punishing them Thou wast forgiving toward them: for not in remitting, but also in punishing their sins, hast Thou been forgiving. Consider, my brethren, what be hath taught us here: attend. God is angry with him whom, when he sinneth, He scourgeth not: for unto him to whom He is truly forgiving, He not only remitteth sins, that they may not injure him in a future life; but also chasteneth him, that he delight not in continual sin.
10. Come, my brethren; if we ask how these were punished, the Lord will aid me to tell you. Let us consider these three persons, Moses, Aaron, and Samuel: and how they were punished, since he said, "Thou hast punished all their own affections:" meaning those affections of theirs, which the Lord knew in their hearts, which men knew not. For they were living in the midst of the people of God, without complaint from man. But what do we say? That perhaps the early life of Moses was sinful; for he fled from Egypt, after slaying a man.(2) The early life of Aaron also was such as would displease God; for he allowed a maddened and infatuated people to make an idol to worship;(3) and an idol was made for God's people to worship. What sin did Samuel, who was given up when an infant to the temple? He passed all his life amid the holy sacraments of God: from childhood the servant of God. Nothing was ever said of Samuel, nothing by men. Perhaps God knew of somewhat there to chasten; since even what seemeth perfect unto men, unto that Perfection is still imperfect. Artists show many of their works to the unskilful; and when the unskilful have pronounced them perfect, the artists polish them still further, as they know what is still wanting to them, so that men wonder at things they had imagined already perfect having received so much additional polish. This happeneth in buildings, and in paintings, and in embroidery, and almost in every species of art. At first they judge it to be already in a manner perfect, so that their eyes desire nothing further: but the judgment of the inexperienced eye is one, and that of the rule of art another. Thus also these Saints were living before the eyes of God, as if faultless, as if perfect, as if Angels: but He who punished all their own affections, knew what was wanting in them. But He punished them not in anger, but in mercy: He punished them that He might perfect what He had begun, not to condemn what He had cast away. God therefore punished all their affections. How did He punish Samuel? where is this punishment? ... What was said unto Moses was a type, not a punishment. What punishment is death to an old man? What punishment was it, not to enter into that land, into which unworthy men entered? But what is said of Aaron? He also died an old man: his sons succeeded him in the priesthood: his son afterwards ruled in the priesthood: how did He punish Aaron also ?(1) Samuel also died a holy old man, leaving his sons as his successors.(2) I seek for the punishment inflicted upon them, and according to men I find it not: but according to what I know the servants of God suffer every day, they were day by day punished. Read ye, and see the punishments, and ye also who are advanced bear the punishments. Every day they suffered from the obstinate people, every day they suffered from the ungodly livers; and were compelled to live among those whose lives they daily censured. This was their punishment. He unto whom it is small hath not advanced far; for the ungodliness of others tormenteth thee in proportion as thou hast departed far from thine own . ...
11. "O magnify the Lord our God!" (ver. 9). Again we magnify Him. He who is merciful even when He striketh, how is He to be praised, how is He to be magnified? Canst thou show this unto thy son, and cannot God? For thou art not good when thou dost caress thy son, and evil when thou strikest him. Both when thou dost caress him thou art a father, and when thou strikest him, thou art his father: thou dost caress him, that he may not faint; thou: strikest him, that he may not perish. "O magnify the Lord our God, and worship Him upon, His holy hill: for the Lord our God is holy." As he said above, "O magnify the Lord our God and fall down before His footstool: "(3) now we have understood what it is to worship His footstool: thus also but now after he had magnified the Lord our God, that no man might magnify Him apart from His hill, he hath also praised His hill. What is His hill? We read elsewhere concerning this hill, that a stone was cut from the hill without hands, and shattered all the kingdoms of the earth, and the stone itself increased. This is the vision of Daniel which I am relating. This stone which was cut from the hill without hands increased, and "became," he saith, "a great mountain, and filled the whole face of the earth."(4) Let us worship on that great mountain, if we desire to be heard. Heretics s do not worship on that mountain, because it hath filled the whole earth; they have stuck fist on part of it, and have lost the whole. If they acknowledge the Catholic Church, they will worship on this hill with us. For we already see how that stone that was cut from the mountain without hands hath increased, and how great tracts of earth it hath prevailed over, and unto what nations it hath extended. What is the mountain whence the stone was hewn without hands? The Jewish kingdom, in the first place; since they worshipped one God. Thence was hewn the stone, our Lord Jesus Christ . ...That stone then was born of the mountain without hands: it increased, and by its increase broke all the kingdoms of the earth. It hath become a great mountain, and hath filled the whole face of the earth. This is the Catholic Church, in whose communion rejoice that ye are. But they who are not in her communion, since they worship and praise God apart from this same mountain, are not heard unto eternal life; although they may be heard unto certain temporal things. Let them not flatter themselves, because God heareth them in some things: for He heareth Pagans also in some things. Do not the Pagans cry unto God, and it raineth ? Wherefore ? Because He maketh His sun to rise over the good and the bad, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust.(6) Boast not therefore, Pagan, that when thou criest unto God, God sendeth rain, for He sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust. He hath heard thee in temporal things: He heareth thee not in things eternal, unless thou hast worshipped in His holy hill. "Worship Him upon His holy hill: for the Lord our God is holy." ...
1. Ye heard the Psalm, brethren, while it was being chanted: it is short, and not obscure: as if I had given you an assurance, that ye should not fear fatigue . ...
2. The title of this Psalm is, "A Psalm of confession." The verses are few, but big with great subjects; may the seed bring forth within your hearts, the barn be prepared for the Lord's harvest.
3. "Jubilate," therefore, "unto the Lord, all ye lands" (ver. 1). This Psalm giveth this exhortation to us, that we jubilate unto the Lord. Nor doth it, as it were, exhort one particular corner of the earth, or one habitation or congregation of men; but since it is aware that it hath sown blessings on every side, on every side it doth exact jubilance. Doth all the earth at this moment hear my voice? And yet the whole earth hath heard this voice. All the earth is already jubilant in the Lord; and what is not as yet jubilant, will be so. For blessing, extending on every side, when the Church was commencing to spread from Jerusalem throughout all nations,(1) everywhere overturneth ungodliness, and everywhere buildeth up piety: the good are mingled with the wicked throughout all lands. Every land is full of the discontented murmurs of the wicked, and of the jubilance of the good. What then is it, "to jubilate"? For the title of the present Psalm especially maketh us give good heed to this word, for it is entitled, "A Psalm of confession." What meaneth, to jubilate with confession ? It is the sentiment thus expressed in another Psalm: "Blessed is the people that understandeth jubilance." Surely that which being understood maketh blessed is something great. May therefore the Lord our God, who maketh men blessed, grant me to understand what to say, and grant you to understand what ye hear: "Blessed is the people that understandeth jubilance."(2) Let us therefore run unto this blessing, let us understand jubilance, let us not pour it forth without understanding. Of what use is it to be jubilant and obey(3) this Psalm, when it saith, "Jubilate unto the Lord, all ye lands," and not to understand what jubilance is, so that our voice only may be jubilant, our heart not so ? For the understanding is the utterance of the heart.(4)
4. I am about to say what ye know. One who jubilates, uttereth not words, but it is a certain sound of joy without words: for it is the expression of a mind poured forth in joy, expressing, as far as it is able, the affection, but not compassing the feeling. A man rejoicing in his own exultation, after certain words which cannot s be uttered or understood, bursteth forth into sounds of exultation without words, so that it seemeth that he indeed doth rejoice with his voice itself, but as if filled with excessive joy cannot express in words the subject of that joy... . Those who are engaged at work in the fields are most given to jubilate; reapers, or vintagers, or those who gather any of the fruits of the earth, delighted with the abundant produce, and rejoicing in the very richness and exuberance of the soil, sing in exultation; and among the songs which they utter in words, they put in certain cries without words in the exultation of a rejoicing mind; and this is what is meant by jubilating.(6)...
5. When then are we jubilant? When we praise that which cannot be uttered. For we observe the whole creation, the earth and the sea, and all things that therein are: we observe that each have their sources and causes, the power of production, the order of birth, the limit of duration, the end in decease, that successive ages run on without any confusion, that the stars roll, as it seemeth, from the East to the West, and complete the courses of the years: we see how the months are measured, how the hours extend; and in all these things a certain invisible element, I know not what, but some principle ? of unity, which is termed spirit or soul, present in all living things, urging them to the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, and the preservation of their own safety; that man also hath somewhat in common with the Angels of God; not with cattle, such as life, hearing, sight, and so forth; but somewhat which can understand God, which peculiarly doth belong to the mind, which can distinguish justice and injustice, as the eye discerneth white from black. In all this consideration of creation, which I have run over as I could, let the soul ask itself: Who created all these things ? Who made them ? Who made among them thyself? ... I have observed the whole creation, as far as I could. I have observed the bodily creation in heaven and on earth, and the spiritual in myself who am speaking, who animate my limbs, who exert voice, who move the tongue, who pronounce words, and distinguish sensations. And when can I comprehend myself in myself? How then can I comprehend what is above myself? Yet the sight of God is promised to the human heart, and a certain operation of purifying the heart is enjoined; this is the counsel of Scripture. Provide the means of seeing what thou lovest, before thou try to see it. For unto whom is it not sweet to hear of God and His Name, except to the ungodly, who is far removed, separated from Him? ...
6. Be therefore like Him in piety, and earnest in meditation: for "the invisible things of Him are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made;"(8) look upon the things that are made, admire them, seek their author. If thou art unlike, thou wilt turn back; if like, thou wilt rejoice. And when; being like Him, thou shalt have begun to approach Him, and to feel God, the more love increaseth in thee, since God is love, thou wilt perceive somewhat which thou wast trying to say, and yet couldest not say. Before thou didst feel God, thou didst think that thou couldest express God; thou beginnest to feel Him, and then feelest that what thou dost feel thou canst not express. But when thou hast herein found that what thou dost feel cannot be expressed, wilt thou be mute, wilt thou not praise God ? Wilt thou then be silent in the praises of God, and wilt thou not offer up thanksgivings unto Him who hath willed to make Himself known unto thee ? Thou didst praise Him when thou wast seeking, wilt thou be silent when thou hast found Him? By no means; thou wilt not be ungrateful. Honour is due to Him, reverence is due to Him, great praise is due to Him. Consider thyself, see what thou art: earth and ashes; look who it is hath deserved to see, and What; consider who thou art, What to see, a man to see GOD! I recognise not the man's deserving, but the mercy of God. Praise therefore Him who hath mercy . ...
7. "Serve the Lord with gladness." All servitude is full of bitterness: all who are bound to a lot of servitude both are slaves, and discontented. Fear not the servitude of that Lord: there will be no groaning there, no discontent, no indignation; no one seeketh to be sold to another master, since it is a sweet service, because we are all redeemed. Great happiness, brethren, it is, to be a slave in that great house, although in bonds. Fear not, bound slave, confess unto the Lord: ascribe thy bonds to thine own deservings; confess in thy chains, if thou art desirous they be changed into ornaments. ... At the same time thou art slave, and free; slave, because thou art created such; free, because thou art loved by God, by whom thou wast created: yea, free indeed, because thou lovest Him by whom thou wast made. Serve not with discontent; for thy murmurs do not tend to release thee from serving, but to make thee a wicked servant. Thou art a slave of the Lord, thou art a freedman of the Lord: seek not so to be emancipated as to depart from the house of Him who frees thee. ...
8. I will, therefore, saith he, live separate with a few good men: why should I live in common with crowds ? Well: those very few good men, from what crowds have they been strained out ? If however these few are all good: it is, nevertheless, a good and praiseworthy design in man, to be with such as have chosen a quiet life; distant from the bustle of the people, from noisy crowds, from the great waves of life, they are as if in harbour. Is there therefore here that joy ? that jubilant gladness which is promised ? Not as yet; but still groans, still the anxiety of temptations. For even the harbour hath an entrance somewhere or other; if it had not, no ship could enter it; it must therefore be open on some side: but at times on this open side the wind rusheth in; and where there are no rocks, ships dashed together shatter one another. Where then is security, if not even in harbour? And yet it must be confessed, it is true, that persons in harbour are in their degree much better off than when afloat on the main. Let them love one another, as ships in harbour, let them be bound together happily; let them not dash against one another: let absolute equality be preserved there constancy in love; and when perchance the wind rusheth in from the open side, let there be careful piloting there. Now what will one who perchance presideth over such places, nay, who serveth his brethren, in what are called monasteries, tell me ? I will be cautious: I will admit no wicked man. How wilt thou admit no evil one ? ... Those who are about to enter, do not know themselves; how much less dost thou know them? For many have promised themselves that they were about to fulfil that holy life, which has all things in common, where no man calleth anything his own, who have one soul and one heart in God:(1) they have been put into the furnace, and have cracked. How then knowest thou him who is unknown even to himself? ... Where then is security? Here nowhere; in this life nowhere, except solely in the hope of the promise of God. But there, when we shall reach thereunto, is complete security, when the gates are shut, and the bars of the gates of Jerusalem made fast;(2) there is truly full jubilance, and great delight. Only do not thou feel secure m praising any sort of life: "judge no man blessed before his death."(3)
9. By this means men are deceived, so that they either do not undertake, or rashly attempt, a better life; because, when they choose to praise, they praise without mention of the evil that is mixed with the good: and those who choose to blame, do so with so envious and perverse a mind, as to shut their eyes to the good, and exaggerate only the evils which either actually exist there, or are imagined. Thus it happeneth, that when any profession hath been ill. that is, incautiously, praised, if it hath invited men by its own reputation, they who betake themselves thither discover some such as they did not believe to be there; and offended by the wicked recoil from the good. Brethren, apply this teaching to your life, and hear in such a manner that ye may live. The Church Of God, to speak generally, is magnified: Christians, and Christians alone, are called great, the Catholic (Church) is magnified; all love each other; each and all do all they can for one another; they give themselves up to prayers, fastings, hymns; throughout the whole world, with peaceful unanimity God is praised. Some one perhaps heareth this, who is ignorant that nothing is said of the wicked who are mingled with them; he cometh, invited by these praises, findeth bad men mixed with them, who were not mentioned to him before he came; he is offended by false Christians, he flieth from true Christians. Again, men who hate and slander them, precipitately blame them: asking, what sort of men are Christians? Who are Christians? Covetous men, usurers. Are not the very persons who fill the Churches on holidays the same who during the games and other spectacles fill the theatres and amphitheatres? They are drunken, gluttonous, envious, slanderers of each other. There are such, but not such only. And this slanderer in his blindness saith nothing of the good: and. that praiser in his want of caution is silent about the bad . ... Thus also in that common life of brethren, which exists in a monastery: great and holy men live therein, with daily hymns, prayers, praises of God; their occupation is reading; they labour with their own hands, and by this means support themselves;(1) they seek nothing covetously; whatever is brought in for them by pious brethren, they use with contentedness and charity; no one claimeth as his own what another hath not; all love, all forbear one another mutually. Thou hast praised them; thou hast praised; he who knoweth not what is going on within, who knoweth not how, when the wind entereth, ships even in harbour dash against one another, entereth as if in hope of security, expecting to find no man to forbear; he findeth there evil brethren, who could not have been found evil, if they had not been admitted (and they must be at first tolerated, lest they should perchance reform; nor can they easily be excluded, unless they have first been endured): and becometh himself impatient beyond endurance. Who asked me here ? I thought that love was here. And irritated by the perversity of some few men, since he hath not persevered in fulfilling his vow, he becometh a deserter of so holy a design, and guilty of a vow he hath never discharged. And then, when he hath gone forth himself too, he also becometh a reproacher, and a slanderer; and records those things only (sometimes real), which he asserts that he could not have endured. But the real troubles of the wicked ought to be endured for the society of the good. The Scripture saith unto him: "Woe unto those that have lost patience."(2) And what is more, he belcheth abroad the evil savour of his indignation, as a means to deter them who are about to enter; because, when he had entered himself, he could not persevere. Of what sort are they? Envious, quarrelsome, men who forbear no man, covetous; saying, He did this there, and he did that there. Wicked one, why art thou silent about the good ! Thou sayest enough of those whom thou couldest not endure: thou sayest nothing of those who endured thy wickedness . ...
10. "O serve the Lord with gladness" (ver. 2): he addresseth you, whoever ye are who endure all things in love, and rejoice in hope. "Serve the Lord," not in the bitterness of murmuring, but in the "gladness of love." "Come before His presence with rejoicing." It is easy to rejoice outwardly: rejoice before the presence of God. Let not the tongue be too joyful: let the conscience be joyful. "Come before His presence with a song."
11. "Be ye sure that the Lord He is God" (ver. 3). Who knoweth not that the Lord, He is God ? But He speaketh of the Lord, whom men thought not God: "Be ye sure that the Lord He is God." Let not that Lord become vile in your sight: ye have crucified Him, scourged Him, spit upon Him, crowned Him with thorns, clothed Him in a dress of infamy, hung Him upon the Cross, pierced Him with nails, wounded Him with a spear, placed guards at His tomb; He is God. "It is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves." It is He that hath made us: "and without Him was not anything made that was made."(3) What reason have ye for exultation, what reason have ye for pride? Another made you; the Same who made you, suffereth from you. But ye extol yourselves, and glory in yourselves, as if ye were created by yourselves. It is good for you that He who made you, make you perfect . ... "We are His people, and the sheep of His pasture." Sheep and one sheep. These sheep are one sheep: and how loving a Shepherd we have! He left the ninety and nine, and descended to seek the one, He bringeth it back on His own shoulders(4) ransomed by His own blood. That Shepherd dieth without fear for the sheep, who on His resurrection regaineth His sheep.
12. "Enter into His gates with confession" (ver. 3). At the gates is the beginning: begin with confession. Thence is the Psalm entitled, "A Psalm of Confession:" there be joyful. Confess that ye were not made by yourselves, praise Him by whom ye were made. Let thy good come from Him, in departing from whom thou hast caused thine evil. "Enter into His gates with confession." Let the flock enter into the gates: let it not remain outside, a prey for wolves. And how is it to enter? "With confession." Let the gate, that is, the commencement for thee, be confession. Whence it is said in another Psalm, "Begin unto the Lord with confession."(5) What he there calleth "Begin," here he calleth "Gates." "Enter into His gates in confession." What? And when we have entered, shall we not still confess? Always confess Him: thou hast always what to confess for. It is hard in this life for a man to be so far changed, that no cause for censure be discoverable in him: thou must needs blame thyself, lest He who shall condemn blame thee. Therefore even when thou hast entered His courts, then also confess. When will there be no longer confession of sins? In that rest, in that likeness to the Angels. But consider what I have said: there will there be no confession of sins. I said not, there will be no confession: for there will be confession of praise. Thou wilt ever confess, that He is God, thou a creature; that He is thy Protector, thyself protected. In Him thou shalt be as it were hid.' "Go into His courts with hymns; and confess unto Him." Confess in the gates; and when ye have entered the courts, confess with hymns. Hymn are praises. Blame thyself, when thou art entering; when thou hast entered, praise Him. "Open me the gates of righteousness," he saith in another Psalm, "that I may go into them, and confess unto the Lord."(2) Did he say, when I have entered, I will no longer confess ? Even after his entrance, he will confess. For what sins did our Lord Jesus Christ confess, when He said, "I confess unto Thee, O Father"?(3) He confessed in praising Him, not in accusing Himself. "Speak good of His Name."
13. "For the Lord is pleasant" (ver. 4). Think not that ye faint in praising Him. Your praise of Him is like food: the more ye praise Him, the more ye acquire strength, and He whom ye praise becometh the more sweet. "His mercy is everlasting." For He will not cease to be merciful, after He hath freed thee: it belongeth to His mercy to protect thee even unto eternal life. "His mercy," therefore, "is to everlasting: and His truth from generation to generation" (ver. 5). Understand by" from generation to generation," either every generation, or in two generations, the one earthly, the other heavenly. Here there is one generation which produceth mortals; another which maketh such as are everlasting. His Truth is both here, and there. Imagine not that His truth is not here, if His truth were not here, he would not say in another Psalm: "Truth is risen out of the earth;"(4) nor would Truth Itself say, Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."(5)
1. In this Psalm, we ought to seek in the whole body of it what we find in the first verse: "Mercy and judgment will I sing unto Thee, O Lord" (ver. 1). Let no man flatter himself that he will never be punished through God's mercy; for there is judgment also; and let no man who hath been changed for the better dread the Lord's judgment, seeing that mercy goeth before it. For when men judge, sometimes overcome by mercy, they act against justice; and mercy, but not justice, seemeth to be in them: while sometimes, when they wish to enforce a rigid judgment, they lose mercy. But God neither loseth the severity of judgment in the bounty of mercy, nor in judging with severity loseth the bounty of mercy. Suppose we distinguish these two, mercy and judgment, by time; for possibly, they are not placed in this order without a meaning, so that he said not "judgment and mercy," but "mercy and judgment:" so that if we distinguish them by succession in time, perhaps we find that the present is the season for mercy, the future for judgment. How is it that the season of mercy cometh first? Consider first how it is with God, that thou also mayest imitate the Father, in so far as He shall permit thee . ... "He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Behold mercy. When thou seest the just and the unjust behold the same sun, enjoy the same light, drink from the same founts, satisfied with the same rain, blessed with the same fruits of the earth, inhale this air in the same way, possess equally the world's goods; think not that God is unjust, who giveth these things equally to the just and the unjust. It is the season of mercy, not as yet of judgment. For unless God spared at first through mercy, He would not find those whom He could crown through judgment. There is therefore a season for mercy, when the long-suffering of God calleth sinners to repentance.
2. Hear the Apostle distinguishing each season, and do thou also distinguish it. ... "Thinkest thou," he saith, "O man, that judgest them that do such things, and doest the same, that thou shall escape the judgment of God?" And as if we were to reply, Why do I commit such sins daily, and no evil occurreth unto me? he goeth on to show to him the season of mercy: "Despisest thou the riches of His goodness, and forbearance, and long-suffering?" And he did indeed despise them; but the Apostle hath made him anxious. "Not knowing," he saith, "that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance ?"(7) Behold the season of mercy. But that he might not think this would last for ever, how did he in the next verse raise his fears? Now hear the season of judgment; thou hast heard the season of mercy, on which account, "mercy and judgment will I sing unto Thee, O Lord:" "But thou," saith the Apostle, "after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds."(1) Lo, "mercy and judgment." But he hath threatened concerning judgment: is therefore the judgment of God to be feared only, and not to be loved ? To be feared by the wicked on account of punishment, to be loved by the good on account of the crown. Because then the Apostle hath alarmed the wicked in the testimony which I have quoted, hear where he giveth hope concerning judgment to the good. He puts forth himself, and shows in himself too the season of mercy. For unless he found a period of mercy, in what condition would judgment find him? A blasphemer, a persecutor, an injurer of others. For he thus speaketh, and praiseth the season of mercy, in which season we are now living: "I who was before," he saith, "a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy." But perhaps he only hath obtained mercy? Hear how he cheereth us: "That in me," he saith, "first, Christ Jesus might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting."(2) What meaneth, "that He might show forth all long-suffering"? That every sinner and wicked man might see that Paul received pardon, and might not despair of himself? Lo, he hath instanced himself, and thereby cheered others also . ... But did Paul alone deserve this? For I had asserted, that as he raised our fears by the former testimony, so did he encourage us by the latter. When he said, "The Lord, the righteous Judge, shall render to me at that day:" he addeth, "and not to the only, but unto all them also that love His appearing"(3) and His kingdom. Since therefore, brethren, we have a season of mercy, let us not on that account flatter, or indulge ourselves, saying, God spareth ever . ...
3. "I will sing to the harp, and will have understanding, in the spotless way. When Thou shall come unto me" (ver. 2). Except in the spotless way, thou canst neither sing to the harp, nor understand. If thou dost wish to understand, sing in the spotless way, that is, work with cheerfulness before thy God. What is the spotless way? Hear what followeth: "I walked in innocence, in the midst of my house." This spotless way beginneth from innocence, and it endeth also in innocence. Why seek many words? Be innocent: and thou hast perfected righteousness . ...But who is innocent? He who white he hurteth not another, injureth not himself. For he who hurteth himself, is not innocent. Some one saith: Lo, I have not robbed any one, I have not oppressed any one: I will live happily on my own substance, the fruits of my virtuous toil; I wish to have fine banquets, I wish to spend as much as pleaseth me, to drink with those whom I like as much as I please; whom have I robbed, whom have I oppressed, who hath complained of me? He seemeth innocent. But if he corrupt himself, if he overthrow the temple of God within himself, why hope that he will act with mercy toward others, and spare the wretched? Can that man be merciful to others, who unto himself is cruel? The whole of righteousness, therefore, is reduced to the one word, innocence. But the lover of iniquity, hateth his own soul. When he loved iniquity, he fancied he was injuring others. But consider whether he was injuring others: "He who loveth iniquity," he saith, "hateth his own soul."(4) He therefore who wishes to injure another, first injureth himself; nor doth he walk, since there is no room. For all wickedness suffereth from narrowness: innocence alone is broad enough to walk in. "I walked in the innocence of my heart, in the midst of my house." By the middle of his house, he either signifieth the Church herself; for Christ walketh in her: or his own heart; for our inner house is our heart: as he hath explained in the above words, "in the innocence of my heart." What is the innocence. of the heart? The middle of his house? Whoever hath a bad house in this, is driven out of doors. For whoever is oppressed within his heart by a bad conscience, just as any man in consequence of the overflow of a waterspout or of smoke goeth out of his house, suffereth not himself to dwell therein; so he who hath not a quiet heart, cannot happily dwell in his heart. Such men go out of themselves in the bent of their mind, and delight themselves with things without, that affect the body; they seek repose in trifles, in spectacles, in luxuries, in all evils. Wherefore do they wish themselves well without ? Because it is not well with them within, so that they may rejoice in a good conscience . ...
4. "I set no wicked thing before my eyes" (ver. 3) . ... I did love no wicked thing. And he explaineth this same wicked thing: "I hated them that do unfaithfulness." Attend, my brethren. If ye walk with Christ in the midst of His house, that is, if either in your heart ye have a good repose, or in the Church herself proceed on a good journey in the way of godliness; ye ought not to hate those unfaithful only who are without, but whomsoever also ye may have found within. Who are the unfaithful? They who hate the law of God; who hear, and do it not, are called unfaithful. Hate the doers of unfaithfulness, repel them from thee. But thou shouldest hate the unfaithful, not men: one man who is unfaithful, hath, ye see, two names, man, and unfaithful: God made him man, he made himself unfaithful; love in him what God made, persecute in him what he made himself. For when thou shalt have persecuted his unfaithfulness, thou killest the work of man, and freest the work of God. "I hated the doers of unfaithfulness."
5. "The wicked heart hath not cleaved unto me." ... The heart of a man, who wisheth not anything contrary to any that God wisheth, is called straight . ... If therefore the righteous heart followeth God, the crooked heart resisteth God. Suppose something untoward happeneth to him, he crieth out, "God, what have I done unto Thee? What sin have I committed?" He wisheth himself to appear just, God unjust. What is so crooked as this? It is not enough that thou art crooked thyself: thou must think thy rule crooked also. Reform thyself, and thou findest Him straight, in departing from whom thou hast made thyself crooked. He doth justly, thou unjustly; and for this reason thou art perverse, since thou callest man just, and God unjust. What man dost thou call just? Thyself. For when thou sayest, "What have I done unto Thee?" thou thinkest thyself just. But let God answer thee: "Thou speakest truth: thou hast done nothing to Me: thou hast done all things unto thyself; for if thou hadst done anything for Me, thou wouldest have done good. For whatever is done well, is done unto Me; because it is done according to My commandment; but whatever of evil is done, is done unto thee, not unto Me; for the wicked mar doth nothing except for his own sake, since it is not what I command." When ye see such men, brethren, reprove them, convince and correct them: and if ye cannot reprove or correct them, consent not to them.
6. "When the wicked man departed from me, I knew him not" (ver. 4). I approved him not, I praised him not, he pleased me not. For we find the word "to know" occasionally used in Scripture, in the sense of "to be pleased." For what is hidden from God, brethren? Doth He know the just, and doth He not know the unjust ? What dost thou think of, that He doth not know ? I say not, what thinkest thou; but what wilt thou ever think, that He will not have seen beforehand? God knoweth all things, then; and yet in the end, that is in judgment after mercy, He saith of some persons: "I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity."(1) Was there any one He did not know? But what meaneth, "I never knew you"? I acknowledge you not in My ride. For I know the rule of My righteousness: ye agree not with it, ye have turned aside from it, ye are crooked. Therefore He said here also: "When the wicked man departed from Me, I knew him not." ... Therefore, "when the wicked man departed from me," that is, when the wicked man was unlike me, and was unwilling to imitate my paths, was unwilling in his wickedness to live as I had proposed myself for his imitation; "I knew him not." What meaneth, "I knew him not"? Not that I was ignorant of him, but that I did not approve him.
7. "Whose privily slandered his neighbour, him I persecuted"(ver. 5). Behold the righteous persecutor, not of the man, but of the sin. "With the proud eye, and the insatiable heart, I did not feed." What meaneth, "I did not feed with "? I did not eat in common with such. Attend, beloved; since ye are about to hear something wonderful. If he did not feed with this man, he did not eat with him; for to feed is to eat; how is it then that we find our Lord Himself eating with the proud ? It was not only with those publicans and sinners, for they were humble: for they acknowledged their weakness, and asked for the physician. We find that He ate with the proud Pharisees themselves. A certain proud man had invited Him: it was the same who was displeased because a sinning woman, one of ill repute in the city, approached the feet of our Lord . ... That Pharisee was proud: the Lord ate with him; what is it therefore that he saith? "With such an one I did not eat." How doth He enjoin unto us what He hath not done Himself? He exhorteth us to imitate Himself: we see that He ate with the proud; how cloth He forbid us to eat with the proud? We indeed, brethren, for the sake of reproof, abstain from communion with our brethren, and do not eat with them, that they may be reformed? We rather eat with strangers, with Pagans, than with those who hold with us, if we have seen that they live wickedly, that they may be ashamed, and amend; as the Apostle saith, "And if any man obey not our word by this Epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother."(2) For the sake of healing others we usually do this; but nevertheless we often eat with many strangers and ungodly men.
8. The pious heart hath its banquets, the proud heart hath its banquets: for it was on account of the food of the proud heart, that he said, "with an insatiable heart." How is the proud heart fed? If a man is proud, he is envious: otherwise it cannot be. Pride is the mother of enviousness: it cannot but generate it, and ever coexist with it. Every proud man is, therefore, envious: if envious, he feedeth on the misfortunes of others. Whence the Apostle saith, "But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed of one another."(1) Ye see them, then, eating: eat not with these: fly such banquets: for they cannot satisfy themselves with rejoicing in others' evils, because their hearts are insatiable. Beware thou art not caught in their feasts by the devil's noose . ... Just as birds feed at the trap, or fishes at the hook, they were taken, when they fed. The ungodly therefore have their own feasts, the godly also have theirs. Hear the feasts of the godly: "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.(2) If therefore the godly eateth the meat of righteousness, and the ungodly of pride; it is no wonder if he is insatiable in heart. He eateth the meat of iniquity: do not eat the meat of iniquity, and the proud in eye, and the insatiable in heart, eateth not with thee.
9. And whence wast thou fed? And what pleased thee, when he did not eat with thee? "Mine eyes," he saith, "were upon such as are faithful in the land, that they might sit with me" (ver. 6). That is, that with Me they might be seated.(3) In what sense are they "to sit "? "Ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel."(4) The faithful of the earth judge, for to them it is said, "Know ye not, that we shall judge angels?"(5) "Whoso walketh in a spotless way, he ministered unto me." To "Me," he saith, not to himself. For many minister the Gospel, but unto themselves; because they seek their own things, not the things of Jesus Christ.(6) ...
10. "The proud man hath not dwelt in the midst of my house" (ver. 7). Understand this of the heart. The proud did not dwell in my heart: no such dwelt in my heart: for he hurried away from me. None but the meek and peaceful dwelt in my heart; the proud dwelt not there, for the unrighteous one dwelleth not in the heart of the righteous. Let the righteous be distant from thee, I know not how many miles and stations:(7) ye dwell together, if ye have one heart. "The proud doer hath not dwelt in the midst of my house: he that speaketh unjust things hath not directed in the sight of my eyes." This is the spotless way, where we understand when the Lord cometh unto us.
11. "In the morning I destroyed all the ungodly that were in the land. That I may root out all wicked doers from the city of the Lord" (ver. 8). This is obscure. There are then wicked doers in the city of the Lord, and they at present, seemingly, spared. Why so? Because it is the season of mercy: but that of judgment will come; for the Psalm thus began, "Of mercy and judgment will I sing unto Thee, O Lord." ...
12. He at present spareth, He will then judge. But when will He judge? When night shall have passed away. For this reason He hath said: "In the morning." When the day shall at last have arrived, night having passed by. Why doth He spare them until the dawn ? Because it was night. What meaneth, it was night? Because it was the season for mercy: He was merciful, while the hearts of men were hidden. Thou seest some one living ill; thou endurest him: for thou knowest not of what sort he will prove to be; since it is night; whether he who to-day liveth ill, to-morrow may I live well; and whether he who to-day liveth well, to-morrow may be wicked. For it is night, and God endureth all men, since He is of long-suffering: He endureth them, that sinners may be converted unto Him. But they who shall not have reformed themselves in that season of mercy, shall be slain. And wherefore ? That they may be scattered abroad a from the city of the Lord, from the fellowship of Jerusalem, from the fellowship of the Saints, from the fellowship of the Church. But when shall they be slain? "At dawn." What meaneth, "at dawn"? When night shall have passed away. Wherefore now doth he spare? Because it is the season of mercy. Why doth He not always spare ? Because, "Mercy and judgment will I sing unto Thee, O Lord." Brethren, let no man flatter himself: all the doers of iniquity shall be slain; Christ shall slay them at the dawn, and shall destroy them from His city. But now while it is the time of mercy, let them hear Him. Everywhere He crieth out by the Law, by the Prophets, by the Psalms, by the Epistles, by the Gospels: see that He is not silent; that He spareth; that He granteth mercy; but beware, for the judgment will come.
1. Behold, one poor man prayeth, and prayeth not in silence. We may therefore hear him, and see who he is: whether it be not perchance He, of whom the Apostle saith, "Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich."(10) If it is He, then, how is He poor? For in what sense He is rich, who seeth not ? What then is richer than He, by whom riches were made, even those which are not true riches? For through Him we have even these riches, ability, memory, character, health of body, the senses, and the conformation of our limbs: for when these are safe, even the poor are rich. Through Him also are those greater riches, faith, piety, justice, charity, chastity, good conduct: for no man hath these, except through Him who justifieth the ungodly . ... Behold, how rich! In one so rich, how are we to recognise these words ? "I have eaten ashes as it were bread: and mingled my drink with weeping."(1) Have these so great riches come to this ? The former state is a very high one, this is a very lowly one . ... Yet still examine whether this poor man be He; since, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."(2) Reflect also upon these words: "I am Thy servant, and the Son of Thine handmaid."(3) Observe, this handmaid, chaste, a virgin, and a mother: for there He received our poverty, when He was clothed in the form of a servant, emptying Himself; lest thou shouldest dread His riches, and in thy beggarly state shouldest not dare approach Him. There, I say, He put on the form of a servant, there He was clothed with our poverty; there He made Himself poor, and us rich. We are now drawing near to understand these things of Him: nevertheless we may not as yet rashly pronounce . ...
2. Let him add poverty then to poverty: let Him transfigure unto Himself our humble body: let Him be our Head, we His limbs, let there be two in one flesh.(4) ... For He hath deigned to hold even us as His limbs. The penitent also are among His limbs. For they are not shut out, nor separated from His Church: nor would He make the Church His spouse, unless by words like these: "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." s Let us then hear what the head and the body prayeth, the bridegroom and bride, Christ and the Church,(6) both one Person; but the Word and the flesh are not both one thing; the Father and the Word are both one thing; Christ and the Church are both one Person, One perfect man in the form of His own fulness . ... Let us hear therefore Christ, poor within us and with us, and for our sakes. For the title itself indicates the poor one. Lastly, remember that I conjectured who that poor one was: let us hear His prayer, and recognise His Person; and mistake not, when thou shall have heard anything that cannot apply to His Head; it was for this reason that I have prefaced as I have, that whatever thou shall hear of this description, thou mayest understand as sounding from the weakness of the body, and recognise the voice of the members in the head. The title is, "A Prayer of the afflicted, when he was tormented, and poured out his prayer before the Lord." It is the same poor one who elsewhere saith: "From the ends of the earth will I call upon Thee, when my heart is in heaviness."(7) He is afflicted because He is also Christ; who in the Prophet's words calleth Himself both Bridegroom and Bride: "He hath bound on me the diadem as on a bridegroom, and as a bride hath adorned me with an ornament."(8) He called Himself Bridegroom, He called Himself Bride; wherefore this, unless Bridegroom applieth to the Head, Bride to the body? They are one voice then, because they are one flesh. Let us hear, and recognise ourselves in these words; and if we see that we are without, let us labour to be there.
3. "Hear my prayer, O Lord: and let my crying come unto Thee" (ver. 1). "Hear my prayer, O Lord," is the same as, "Let my crying come unto Thee:" the feeling of the suppliant is shown by the repetition. "Turn not Thy face away from me." When did God turn away His Face from His Son? when did the Father turn away His Face from Christ? But for the sake of the poverty of my members, "Turn not away Thy face from me: whatsoever day I am troubled, incline Thine ear unto me" (ver. 2) . ... Thou art in trouble this day, I am in trouble; another is in trouble to-morrow, I am in trouble; after this generation other descendants, who succeed your descendants, are in trouble, I am in trouble; down to the end of the world, whoever are in trouble in My body, I am in trouble . ... Peter prayed, Paul prayed, the rest of the Apostles prayed; the faithful prayed in those times, the faithful prayed in the following times, the faithful prayed in the times of the Martyrs, the faithful pray in our times, the faithful will pray in the times of our descendants. "Right soon:" for I now ask that which Thou art willing to grant. I ask not earthly things, as an earthly man; but redeemed at last from my former captivity, I long for the kingdom of heaven; "Hear me right soon:" for it is only to such a longing that Thou hast said, "Even while Thou art speaking, I will say, Here I am."(9) Wherefore dost thou call? in what tribulation? in what want? O poor one, before the gate of God all-rich, in what longing dost thou beg? from what destitution dost thou ask relief? from what want dost thou knock, that it may be opened unto thee?
4. "For my days are consumed away like smoke" (ver. 3). O days! if days: for where day is heard of, light is understood. "My days," my times; wherefore, "like smoke," unless from the puffing up of pride? ... See smoke, like pride, ascending, swelling, vanishing: deservedly therefore failing, and not stedfast. "And my bones are scorched up as it were in an oven." Both my bones, and my strength, not without tribulation, not without burning. The bones of the body of Christ, the strength of His body, is it anywhere greater than in the Holy Apostles ? And yet see that the bones are scorched. "Who is offended, and I burn not? "(1) They are brave, faithful, able interpreters and preachers of the word, living as they speak, speaking as they hear; they are clearly brave, yet all who suffer offences, are an oven to them. For there is love there, and more so in the bones. The bones are within all the flesh, and support all the flesh. But if any man suffer any offence, and endanger his soul; the bone is scorched in proportion as it loveth . ...
5. Look back to Adam, whence the human race sprung. For how but from him was misery propagated ? whence but from him is this hereditary poverty? Let him then, who in his own body was at one time in despair, now that he is set in Christ's body, say with hope, "My heart is smitten down, and withered like grass" (ver. 4). Deservedly, since all flesh is grass.(2) But how did this happen unto thee? "Since I have forgotten to eat my bread." For God had given His commandment for bread. For what is the bread of the soul? The serpent suggesting, and the woman transgressing, he touched the forbidden fruit,(3) he forgot the commandment: his heart was smitten as it deserved, and withered like grass, since he forgot to eat his bread. Having forgotten to eat bread, he drinketh poison: his heart is smitten, and withered like grass . ... Now eat that bread which thou hadst forgotten. But this very Bread hath come, in whose body thou mayest remember the voice of thy forgetfulness, and cry out in thy poverty, so that thou mayest receive riches. Now eat: for thou art in His body, who saith, "I am the living bread which came down from heaven."(4) Thou hadst forgotten to eat thy bread; but after His crucifixion, "all the ends of the earth shall be reminded, and be converted unto the Lord."(5) After forgetfulness, let remembrance come, let bread be eaten from heaven, that we may live; not manna, as they did eat, and died;(6) that bread, of which it is said, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness."(7)
6. "For the voice of my groaning, the bones cleave unto my flesh" (ver. 5). For many groan, and I also groan; even for this I groan, because they groan for a wrong cause. That man hath lost a piece of money, he groaneth: he hath lost faith, he groaneth not: I weigh the money and the faith, and I find more cause for groaning for him who groaneth not as he ought, or doth not groan at all. He committeth fraud, and rejoiceth. With what gain, with what loss? He hath gained money, he hath lost righteousness. For the latter reason, he who knoweth how to groan, groaneth; he who is near the head, who righteously clingeth to Christ's body, groaneth for this reason. But the carnal do not groan for this reason, and they cause themselves to be groaned for, because they do not groan for this reason; nor can we despise them, whether they groan not at all, or groan for the wrong cause. For we wish to correct them, we wish to amend them. we wish to reform them: and when we cannot, we groan; and when we groan, we are not separated from them . ...
7. "I am become like a pelican in the wilderness, and like an owl among ruined walls" (ver. 6). Behold three birds and three places: the pelican, the owl, and the sparrow;(8) and the three places are severally, the wilderness, the ruined walls, and the house-top. The pelican in the wilderness, the owl in the ruined walls, and the sparrow in the house-top. In the first place we must explain, what the pelican signifieth: since it is born in a region which maketh it unknown to us. It is born in lonely spots, especially those of the river Nile in Egypt. Whatever kind of bird it is, let us consider what the Psalm intended to say of it. "It dwelleth," it saith, "in the wilderness." Why enquire of its form, its limbs, its voice, its habits ? As far as the Psalm telleth thee, it is a bird that dwelleth in solitude. The owl is a bird that loveth night. Parietinae, or ruins, as we call them, are walls standing without roof, without inhabitants, these are the habitation of the owl. And then as to the house-top and the sparrows, ye are familiar with them. I find, therefore, some one of Christ's body, a preacher of the word, sympathizing with the weak, seeking the gains of Christ, mindful of his Lord to come.(9) Let us see these three things from the office of His steward. Hath such a man come among those who are not Christians? He is a pelican in the wilderness. Hath he come among those who were Christians, and have relapsed? He is an owl in the ruined walls; for he forsaketh not even the darkness of those who dwell in night, he wisheth to gain even these. Hath he come among such as are Christians dwelling in a house, not as if they believed not, or as if they had let go what they had believed, but walking luke-warmly in what they believe? The sparrow crieth unto them, not in the wilderness, because they are Christians; nor in the ruined walls, because they have not relapsed; but because they are within the roof; under the roof rather, because they are under the flesh. The sparrow above the flesh crieth out, husheth not up the commandments of God, nor becometh carnal, so that he be subject to the roof. "What ye hear in the ear, that preach ye on the housetops."(1) There are three birds and three places; and one man may represent the three birds, and three men may represent severally the three birds; and the three sorts of places, are three classes of men: yet the wilderness, the ruined walls, and the house-top, are but three classes of men.
8. ... Let us not pass over what is said, or even read, of this bird, that is, the pelican; not rashly asserting anything, but yet not passing over what has been left to be read and uttered by those who have written it. Do ye so hear, that if it be true, it may agree; if false, it may not hold. These birds are said to slay their young with blows of their beaks, and for three days to mourn them when slain by themselves in the nest: after which they say the mother wounds herself deeply, and pours forth her blood over her young, bathed in which they recover life. This may be true, it may be false: yet if it be true, see how it agreeth with Him, who gave us life by His blood.(2) It agreeth with Him in that the mother's flesh recalleth to life her young with her blood; it agreeth well. For He calleth Himself a hen brooding over her young.(3) ... If, then, it be so truly, this bird doth closely resemble the flesh of Christ, by whose blood we have been called to life. But how may it agree with Christ, that the bird herself slays her own young ? Doth not this agree with it? "I will slay, and I will make alive: I will wound, and I will heal."(4) Would the persecutor Saul s have died, unless he were wounded from heaven; or would the preacher be raised up, unless by life given him from His blood? But let those who have written on the subject see to this; we ought not to allow our understanding of it to rest upon doubtful ground.(6) Let us rather recognise this bird in the wilderness; as the Psalm expresseth it, "A pelican in the solitude." I suppose that Christ born of a Virgin is here meant. He was born in loneliness, because He alone was thus born. After the nativity, we come to His Passion . ... Born in the wilderness, because alone so born; suffering in the darkness of the Jews as it were in night, in their sin, as it were in ruins: what next? "I have watched:" and "am become even as it were a sparrow, that sitteth alone upon the house-top" (ver. 7). Thou hadst then slept amid the ruins, and hadst said, "I laid me down, and slept."(7) What meaneth, "I slept"? Because I chose, I slept: I slept for love of night: but, "I rose again," followeth. Therefore "I watched," is here said. But after He watched, what did He? He ascended into heaven, He became as a sparrow by flying; that is, by ascending; "alone on the house-top;" that is, in heaven. He is therefore as the pelican by birth, as the owl by dying, as the sparrow by ascending again: there in the wilderness, as one alone; here in the ruined walls, as one slain by those who could not stand in the building; and here again watching and flying for our sakes alone on the house-top, He there intercedeth in our behalf.(8) For our Head is as the sparrow, His body as the turtle-dove. "For the sparrow hath found her an house." What house? In heaven, where He doth mediate for us. "And the turtle-dove a nest," the Church of God hath found a nest from the wood of His Cross, where "she may lay her young," her children.
9. "Mine enemies revile me all day, and they that praised me are sworn together against me" (ver. 8). With their mouth they praised, in their heart they were laying snares for me. Hear their praise: "Master, we know that Thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest Thou for any man. Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?"(9) And whence this evil repute, except because I came to make sinners my members, that by repentance they may be in my body? Thence is all the calumny, thence the persecution. "Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? They that be whole need not a physician, but they that be sick."(10) Would that ye were aware of your sickness, that ye might seek a physician; ye would not slay Him, and through your infatuated pride perish in a false health.
10. "I have eaten ashes as it were bread: and mingled my drink with weeping" (ver. 9). Because He chose to have among His members these kinds of men, that they should be healed and set free, thence is the evil repute. Now at this day what is the character of Pagan calumny against us? what, brethren, do ye conceive they tell us? Ye corrupt discipline, and pervert the morality of the human race. Why dost thou attack us; say why? what have we done? By giving, he replieth, to men room for repentance, by promising impunity for all sins: for this reason men do evil deeds, careless of consequences, because everything is pardoned them, when they are converted . ...And what is to become of thee, miserable man, if there shall be no harbour of impunity? If there is only licence for sinning, and no pardon for sins, where wilt thou be, whither wilt thou go? Surely even for thee did it happen, that that afflicted one ate ashes as it were bread, and mingled His drink with weeping. Doth not such a feast now please thee? But nevertheless, he replieth, men add to their sins under the hope of pardon. Nay, but they would add to them if they despaired of pardon. Dost thou not observe in what licentious cruelty gladiators live? whence this, except because, as destined for the sword and sacrifice, they choose to sate their lust, before they pour forth their blood?(1) Wouldest not thou also thus address thyself? I am already a sinner, already an unjust man, one already doomed to damnation, hope of pardon there is none: why should I not do whatever pleaseth me, although it be not lawful? why not fulfil, as far as I can, any longings I may have, if, after these, nothing but torments only be in store ? Wouldest thou not thus speak unto thyself, and from this very despair become still worse ? Rather than this, then, He who promiseth forgiveness, doth correct thee, saying, "As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live."(2) ... For in order that men might not live the worse from despair, He promised a harbour of forgiveness; again, that they might not live the worse from hope of pardon, He made the day of death uncertain: fixing both with the utmost providence, both as a refuge for the returning, and a terror to the loitering. Eat ashes as bread, and mingle thy drink with weeping; by means of this banquet thou shalt reach the table of God. Despair not; pardon hath been promised thee. Thanks be to God, he saith, because it is promised; I hold fast the promise of God. Now therefore live well. To-morrow, he replieth, I will live well. God hath promised the pardon; no one promised thee to-morrow . ...
11. "And that because of thine indignation and wrath: because thou hast taken me up, thou hast cast me down" (ver. 10). This is thy wrath, O Lord, in Adam: that wrath in which we were all born, which cleaveth unto us i by our birth; the wrath froth the stock of iniquity, the wrath from the mass of sin: according to what the Apostle saith, "We also were once the children of wrath, even as others." For He saith not, the wrath of God shall come upon him: but, "abideth upon him:" because that wrath in which he was born is not taken away. ... Man set in honour, is made in the image of God: raised up to this honour, lifted up from the dust, from the earth, he hath received a reasonable soul; by the vivacity of that very reason, he is placed before all beasts, cattle, birds that fly, and fishes.(3) For which of these hath reason to understand? Because none of them is created in the image of God . ...Therefore, "Because Thou has't taken me up, Thou hast cast me down:" punishment followeth me, because Thou hast given me a free choice. For if Thou hadst not given me a free choice, and for this reason didst not make me better than cattle, just condemnation would not follow me when I sinned. Thus Thou hast taken me up in giving me freedom of choice, and by Thy judgment Thou hast cast me down.
12. "My days have declined like a shadow" (ver. 11) . ... He had said above, "My days are consumed away like smoke;" and he now saith, "My days have declined like a shadow." In this shadow, day must be recognised; in this shadow, light must be discerned; lest afterward it be said in late and fruitless repentance, "What hath pride profiled us? or what good hath riches with our vaunting brought us ? All those things are passed away like a shadow."(4) Say at this season, all things will pass away like a shadow, and thou mayest not pass away like a shadow. "My days have declined like a shadow, and I am withered like grass." For he had said above, "my heart is smitten down, and I am withered like grass." But the grass bedewed with the Saviour's blood will flourish afresh. "I have withered like grass;" I, that is, man, after that disobedience; this I have suffered from Thy just judgment: but what art Thou?
13. For not because I have fallen, hast Thou grown old: for Thou art strong to set me free, who hast been strong to humble me. "But Thou, O Lord, endurest for ever: and Thy remembrance throughout all generations" (ver. 12). "Thy remembrance," because Thou dost not forget: "throughout all generations," forasmuch as we know the promise of life, both present and future.(5)
14. "Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Sion: for it is time that Thou have mercy upon her" (ver. 13). What time? "But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the Law." And where is Sion? "To redeem them that were under the Law."(6) First then were the Jews: for thence were the Apostles, thence those more than five hundred brethren,(7) thence that later multitude, who had but one heart and one soul toward God.(8) Therefore, "the time is come." What time? "Behold, now is the accepted time:behold, now is the day of salvation."(9) Who saith this? That Servant of God, that Builder, who said, "Ye are God's building."(10)
15. Here therefore what saith he? "For thy servants take pleasure in her stones" (ver. 14). In whose stones ? In the stones of Sion ? But there are those there that are not stones. Not stones of what? What then followeth? "and pity the dust thereof." I understand by the stones of Sion all the Prophets: there was the voice of preaching sent before, thence the ministry of the Gospel assumed, through their preaching Christ became known. Therefore thy servants have taken pleasure in the stones of Sion. But those faithless apostates from God, who: offended their Creator by their evil deeds, have returned to the earth, whence they were taken. They have become dust, they have become ungodly.(1) But wait, Lord; bear with us, Lord; be long-suffering, O Lord: let not the wind rush in, and sweep away this dust from the face of the earth. Let thy servants come, let them come, let them acknowledge in the stones thy voice, let them pity the dust of Sion, let them be formed in thy image: let the dust say, lest it perish, "Remember that we are but dust."(2) This of Sion: was not that which crucified the Lord, dust? What is worse, it was dust from the ruined walls; altogether dust it was, but nevertheless it was not in vain said of this dust, "Father, forgive them." From this very dust there came a wall of so many thousands who believed, and who laid the price of their possessions at the Apostles' feet. From that dust then there arose a human nature formed(3) and beautiful. Who among the heathen acted thus ? How few are there whom we admire for having done thus, compared with the many thousands of these converts? At first suddenly three, afterwards five thousand; all living in unity, all laying the price of their possessions, when they had sold them, at the Apostles' feet, that it might be distributed to each, as each had need, who had one soul and one heart toward God.(4) Who made this even of that very dust, but He who created Adam himself out of dust ? This then is concerning Sion, but not in Sion only:
16. "The heathen shall fear Thy Name, O Lord; and all the kings of the earth Thy Majesty" (ver. 15). Now that Thou hast pitied Sion, now that Thy servants have taken pleasure in her stones, by acknowledging the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets; now that they have pitied her dust; so that man is formed, or rather re-formed, in life out of dust; hence preaching hath increased among the heathen: let the heathen fear Thy Name, let another wall approach also from the heathen, let the Corner Stone s be recognised, let the two who come from different regions, but who no longer differ in belief, meet in close union.
17. "For the Lord shall build up Sion" (ver. 16). This work is going on now. O ye living stones, run to the work of building, not to ruin. Sion is in building, beware of the ruined walls: the tower is building, the ark is in building; remember the deluge. This work is in progress now; but when Sion is built, what will happen? "And He will appear in His glory." That He might build up Sion, that He might be a foundation in Sion, He was seen by Sion, but not in His glory: "we have seen Him, and He had no form nor comeliness."(6) But truly when He shall have come with His angels to judge,(7) shall they not look then upon Him whom they have pierced?(8) and they shall be put to confusion when too late, who refused confusion in early and healthful repentance.
18. "He hath turned Him unto the prayer of the poor destitute, and despised not their desire" (ver. 17). This is going on now in the building of Sion: the builders of Sion pray, they groan: He is the one poor, because the poor are many; because the thousands among so many nations are one in Him, because He is the unity of the peace of the Church, He is one, He is many: one, through love: many, on account of His extension. Therefore we now pray, we now run: now, if any man hath used to be otherwise, and lived differently, let him eat ashes as it were bread, and mingle his drink with weeping. Now is the time, when Sion is . in building: now the stones are entering into the structure: when the building is finished, and the house dedicated, why dost thou run, to ask when too late, to beg in vain, to knock to no purpose, doomed to abide without with the five foolish virgins?(9) Therefore now run.
19. "Let these things be written for those that come after" (ver. 18). When these words were written, they profited not so much those among whom they were written: for they were written to prophesy the New Testament, among men who lived according to the Old Testament. But God had both given that Old Testament, and had settled in that land of promise His own people. But since "Thy remembrance is from generation to generation," belongeth not to the ungodly, but to the righteous; "in our generation" belongeth to the Old Testament; while "in the other generation" belongeth to the New Testament; and since the New Testament announceth this that was prophesied, "Let these things be written for those that come after: and the people which shall be created, shall praise the Lord." Not the people which is created, but "the people which shall be created." What is clearer, my brethren? Here is prophesied that creation of which the Apostle saith: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."(1) "For he hath looked down from His lofty sanctuary." He hath looked down from on high, that He might come unto the humble: from on high He hath become humble, that He might exalt the humble . ...
20. "Out of the heaven did the Lord look down upon the earth" (ver. 19): "that He might hear the mournings of such as are in fetters, and deliver the children of such as are put to death" (ver. 20). We have found it said in another Psalm, "O let the sorrowful sighs of the fettered come before Thee;"(2) and in a passage where the voice of the martyrs was meant. Whence are the martyrs in fetters?... But God had bound them with these fetters, hard indeed and painful for a season, but endurable on account of His promises, unto whom it is said, "On account of the words of Thy lips, I have kept hard ways." We must indeed groan in these fetters in order to gain the mercy of God. These fetters must not be shunned, in order to gain a destructive freedom and the temporal and brief pleasure of this life, to be followed by perpetual bitterness. Accordingly Scripture,(3) that we may not refuse the fetters of wisdom, thus addresseth us: "... Then shall her fetters be a strong defence for thee, and her chains a robe of glory." Let the fettered therefore cry out, as long as they are in the chains of the discipline of God, in which the martyrs have been tried: the fetters shall be loosed, and they shall fly away, and these very fetters shall afterwards be turned into an ornament. This hath happened with the martyrs. For what have the persecutors effected by killing them, except that their fetters were thereby loosed, and turned into crowns?... The remission of sins, is the loosing. For what would it have profited Lazarus, that he came forth from the tomb, unless it were said to him, "loose him, and let him go"?(4) Himself indeed with His voice aroused him from the tomb, Himself restored his life by crying unto him, Himself overcame the mass of earth that was heaped upon the tomb, and he came forth bound hand and foot: not therefore with his own feet, but by the power of Him who drew him forth. This taketh place in the heart of the penitent: when thou hearest a man is sorry for his sins, he hath already come again to life; when thou hearest him by confessing s lay bare his conscience, he is already drawn forth from the tomb, but he is not as yet loosed. When is he loosed, and by whom is he loosed? "Whatsoever thou shall loose on earth," He saith, "shall be loosed in Heaven.(6) Forgiveness of sins may justly be granted by the Church: but the dead man himself cannot be aroused except by the Lord crying within him; for God doth this within him. We speak to your ears: how do we know what may be going on in your hearts? But what is going on within, is not our doing, but His.(7)
21. "That the name of the Lord may be declared in Sion" (ver. 21). For at first, when the fettered were appointed unto death, the Church Was oppressed: since these tribulations the Name of the Lord has been declared in Sion, with great freedom, in the Church herself. For she is Sion: not that one spot, at first proud, afterwards taken captive; but the Sion whose shadow was that Sion, which signifieth a watchtower; because when placed in the flesh, we see into the things before us, extending ourselves not to the present which is now, but to the future. Thus it is a watch-tower: for every watcher gazes far. Places where guards are set, are termed watch-towers: these are set on rocks, on mountains, in trees, that a wider prospect may be commanded from a higher eminence. Sion therefore is a watch-tower, the Church is a watch-tower . ... If therefore the Church be a watch-tower, the Name of the Lord is already declared there. Not the Lord's Name only is declared in that Sion, but "His praise," He saith, "in Jerusalem."
22. And how is it declared? "In the nations gathering together in one, and the kingdoms, that they may serve the Lord" (ver. 22). How is this accomplished, unless by the blood of the slain? How accomplished, but by the groans of the fettered? Those therefore who were in tribulation and humility have been heard; that in our times the Church might be in the great glory which we see her in, so that the very kingdoms which then persecuted her, now serve the Lord.
23. "She answered Him in the way of His strength" (ver. 23) . ... The preceding words show, that either "His praise," or "Jerusalem," answered: for it was said, "And His praise in Jerusalem; in the nations gathering together in one, and the kingdoms, that they may serve the Lord. Respondit ei." We cannot say, "the kingdoms answered," for he would have said responderunt. Respondit ei. We cannot say, "the nations answered," for he would have said, responderunt (in the plural). Since then it is Respondit ei, in the singular, we look for the singular number above, and find that the Words, "His praise," and "Jerusalem," are the only words in which we find it. But since it is doubtful, whether it be "His praise," or "Jerusalem," let us expound it each way. How did "His praise" answer Him? When they who are called by Him thank Him. For He calleth, we answer; not by our voice, but by our faith; not by our tongue, but by our life . ... From His elect and holy men, Jerusalem also answereth Him. For Jerusalem also was called: and the first Jerusalem refused to hear, and it was said unto her, "Behold, thy house shall be left unto the desolate."(1) ... But that Jerusalem, of whom it was written, "Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear,"(2) "She hath answered Him." What meaneth, "She hath answered Him"? She despiseth Him not when He called. He sent rain, She gave fruit.
24. "She answered Him:" but where? "in the path of His strength." ... The Church therefore answered Him not in the way of weakness; because after His resurrection He called the Church from the whole world, no longer weak upon the cross, but strong in heaven. For it is not the praise of the Christian faith that they believe that Christ died, but that they believe that He arose from the dead. Even the Pagan believeth that He died; and maketh this a charge against thee, that thou hast believed in one dead. What then is thy praise ? It is that thou believest that Christ arose from the dead, and that thou dost hope that thou shalt rise from the dead through Christ: this is the praise of faith. "For if thou shall confess with thy mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and shall believe in thy heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shall be saved."(3) ... This is the faith of Christians. In this faith then, in which the Church is gathered, "She hath answered Him," She gave Him worship according to His commandments: "in the path of His strength," not in the path of His weakness.
25. How she answered Him, ye have already heard above. "In the gathering of the nations into one." Herein she answered Him, in unity: he who is not in unity, answereth Him not. For He is One, the Church is unity: none but unity answereth to Him who is One: ... Since some(4) were destined to say against her, She hath existed, and no longer doth exist; "Show me," He saith, "the shortness of my days," what is it, that I know not what apostates from me murmur against me? why is it that lost men contend that I have perished ? For they surely say this, that I have been, and no longer am: "Show me the shortness of my days." I do not ask from Thee about those everlasting days: they are without end, where I shall be; it is not those I ask of: I ask of temporal days; show unto me my temporal days; "show me the shortness," not the eternity, "of my days." Declare unto me, how long I shall be in this world: on account of those who say, "She hath been," and is no more: on account of those who say, The Scriptures are fulfilled, all nations have believed, but the Church hath become apostate, and hath perished from among all nations. ...
26. Seest thou not that there are still nations among whom the Gospel hath not been preached? Since then it is needful that what the Lord spoke shall be fulfilled, declaring unto the Church the shortness of my days, that this Gospel be preached in all nations, and then that the end may come, why is it that thou sayest that the Church hath already perished from among all nations, when the Gospel is being preached for this purpose, that it may be in all nations? Therefore the Church remaineth even unto the end of the world, in all nations; and this is the shortness of Her days, because all that is limited is short; so that She may pass into eternity from this brief existence. May heretics be lost,(5) may that which they are be lost, and may they be found, that they may be what they are not. Shortness of days will be unto the end of the world: shortness for this reason, because the whole of this season, I say not from this day unto the end of the world, but from Adam down to the end of the world, is a mere drop compared with eternity.
27. Let not therefore heretics flatter themselves against me, because I said, "the shortness of my days," as if they would not last down to the end of the world. For what hath he added? "O my God, take me not away in the midst of my days" (ver. 24). Deal Thou not with me according as heretics speak. Lead me on unto the end of the world, not only to the middle of my days; and finish my short days, that Thou mayest afterwards grant unto me eternal days. Wherefore then hast thou asked concerning the shortness of thy days? Wherefore? Dost thou wish to hear? "Thy years are in the generation of generations." This is why I asked concerning those short days, because although my days should endure unto the end of the world, yet they are short in comparison of Thy days. For "Thy years are in the generation of generations." Wherefore doth he not say, Thy years are unto worlds of worlds; for thus rather is eternity usually signified in the holy Scriptures; but he saith, "Thy years are in the generation of generations"? But what are thy years? what, but those which do not come, and then pass away? what, but they which come not, so as to cease again? For every day in this season so cometh as to cease again; every hour, every month, every year; nothing of these is stationary; before it hath come, it is to be; after it hath come, it will not be. Those everlasting years of thine, therefore, those years that are not changed, "are in the generation of generations." There is a "generation of generations;" in that shall thy years be. There is one such, and if we acknowledge it aright, we shall be in it, and the years of God shall be in us. How shall they be in us? Just as God Himself shall be in us: whence it is said, "That God may be all in all."(1) For the years of God, and God Himself, are not different: but the years of God are the eternity of God: eternity is the very substance of God, which hath nothing changeable; there nothing is past, as if it were no longer: nothing is future, as if it existed not as yet. There is nothing there but, Is: there is not there, Was, and Will be; because what was, is now no longer: and what will be, is not as yet: but whatever is there, simply Is . ... Behold this great I Am! What is man's being to this ? To this great I Am, what is man, whatever he be? Who can understand that To Be? who can share it? who can pant, aspire, presume that he may be there ? Despair not, human frailty! "I am," He saith, "the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Thou hast heard what I am in Myself: now hear what I am on thy account. This eternity then hath called us, and the Word burst forth from eternity. It is now eternity, it is now the Word, and no longer time.
28. ...From so many generations thou wilt gather together all the holy offspring of all generations, and wilt form one generation thence: "In" this "generation of generations are Thy years," that is, that eternity will be in that generation, which is collected from all generations, and reduced into one; this shall share in Thy eternity. Other generations are born for fulfilling their times, out of which this one is regenerated for ever; though changed it shall be endued with life, it shall be fitted to bear Thee, receiving strength from Thee.
29. "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth: and the Heavens are the work of Thy hands" (ver. 25). ... God laid the foundation of the earth, we know: the heavens are the works of His hands. For do not imagine that God doth one thing with His hand, another by His word. What He doth by His word, He doth by His hand: for He hath not distinct bodily members, who said, "I Am That I Am." And perhaps His Word is His hand, assuredly His hand is His power. For inasmuch as it is said, "Let there be a firmament,"(2) and there was a firmament; He is understood to have created it by His Word; but when He said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness;"(3) He seemeth to have created him by His hand. Hear therefore: "The heavens are the work of Thy hands." Lo, what He created by His word, He created also by His hands; because He created them through His excellence, through His power. Observe rather what He created, and seek not to know in what manner He created them. It is much to thee to understand how He created them, since He created thyself so, that thou mayest first be a servant obeying, and afterwards perhaps a friend understanding.(4)
30. "They shall perish, but Thou shall endure" (ver. 26). The Apostle Peter saith this openly: "By the word of God the heavens were of old," etc.(5) He hath said then that the heavens have already perished by the flood: and we know that the heavens perished as far as the extent of this atmosphere of ours. For the water increased, and filled the whole of that space in which birds fly; thus perished the heavens that are near the earth; those heavens which are meant when we speak of the birds of heaven. But there are heavens of heavens higher than these in the firmament: but whether these also shall perish by fire, or those only which perished also by the flood, is a much harder question among the learned, nor can it easily, especially in a limited space of time, be explained. Let us therefore dismiss or put it off; nevertheless, let us know that these things perish, and that God endureth . ...
31. Perhaps by the heavens we here may understand, without being far-fetched, the righteous themselves, the saints of God, abiding in whom God hath thundered in His commandments, lightened in His miracles, watered the earth with the wisdom of truth, for "The heavens have declared the glory of God."(6) But shall they perish? Shall they in any sense perish? In what sense ? As a garment? What is, as a garment? As to the body. For the body is the garment of the soul; since our Lord called it a garment, when He said, "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"(8) How then doth the garment perish? "Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day."(9) They then shall perish: but as to the body: "But Thou shalt endure." ... Such heavens therefore shall perish; not, however, for ever; they shall perish, that they may be changed. Doth not the Psalm say this? Read the following: "'They shall all wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shall Thou change them, and they shall be changed." Thou hearest of the garment, of the vesture, and dost thou understand anything but the body? We may therefore hope for the change of our bodies also, but from Him who was before us, and abideth after us. ... "But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail" (ver. 27). But what are we to those years with these beggarly years? and what are they? Yet we ought not to despair. He had already said in His great and exceeding Wisdom, "I Am That I Am;" and yet He saith to console us, "I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob:"(1) and we are Abraham's seed:(2) even we, although abject, although dust and ashes, trust in Him. We are servants: but for our sakes our Lord took the garb of a servant:(3) for us who are mortal the Immortal One deigned to die, for our sakes He showed His example of resurrection. Let us therefore hope that we may reach these lasting years, in which days are not spent in a revolution of the Sun, but what is abideth even as it is, because it alone truly Is.
32. "The children of Thy servants shall dwell there: and their seed shall stand fast for ages" (ver. 28): for the age of ages, the age of eternity, the age that abideth. But, "the children," he saith, "of Thy servants:" is it to be feared lest we be the servants of God, and our children, and not ourselves, dwell there? Or if we are the children of the servants, inasmuch as we are the Apostles' children, what are we to say? Can those children rising after have so unhappy a presumption, as to boast in their late succession, and so to venture to say, We shall be there; the Apostles will not be there? May this be far from their piety as children, from their faith as little ones, from their understanding when of age! The Apostles also will be there: rams go before, lambs follow. Wherefore then, "the children of Thy servants;" and not in brief, "Thy servants"? Both they are Thy servants, and their children are Thy servants; and the children of these, their grandsons, what are they but Thy servants? Thou wouldest include them all briefly, if Thou shouldest say, Thy servants shall dwell therein ... "The children of Thy servants," are the works of Thy servants; no one shall dwell there, but through his own works. What therefore meaneth, Their children shall dwell? Let no man boast that he shall dwell there, if he calleth himself God's servant, and hath not works; for none but children shall dwell there. What meaneth therefore, "The children of Thy servants shall dwell there"? Thy servants shall dwell there by their own works, Thy servants shall dwell there through their own children. Be not therefore barren, if thou dost wish to dwell there; send before the children whom thou mayest follow, by sending them before thee, not by burying them. Let thy children lead thee to the land of promise, the land of the living, not of the dying: whilst thou art living here in this pilgrimage, let them go before thee, let them receive thee. ...
1. ... "Bless the Lord, O my soul! and all that is within me, His holy Name" (ver. 1). I suppose that he speaketh not of what is within the body; I do not suppose him to mean this, that our lungs and liver, and so forth, are to burst forth into the voice of blessing of the Lord. There are lungs in our breast indeed, like a kind of bellows, which send forth successive breathings, which breathing forth of the air inhaled is pressed out into voice and sound, when the words are articulated; nor can any utterance sound forth from our mouth, but what the pressed lungs have given vent to; but this is not the meaning here; all this relateth to the ears of men. God hath ears: the heart also hath a voice. A man speaketh to the things within him, that they may bless God, and saith unto them, "all that is within me bless His holy Name!" Dost thou ask the meaning of what is within thee? Thy soul itself. In saying then, "all that is within me, bless His holy Name," it only repeateth the above, "Bless the Lord, O my soul:" for the word "Bless," is understood. Cry out with thy voice, if there be a man to hear; hush thy voice, when there is no man to hear thee; there is never wanting one to hear all that is within thee. Blessing therefore hath already been uttered from our mouth, when we were chanting these very words. We sung as much as sufficed for the time, and were then silent: ought our hearts within us to be silent to the blessing of the Lord? Let the sound of our voices bless Him at intervals, alternately, let the voice of our hearts be perpetual. When thou comest to church to recite a hymn, thy voice soundeth forth the praises of God: thou hast sung as far as thou couldest, thou hast left the church; let thy soul sound the praises of God. Thou art engaged in thy daily work: let thy soul praise God. Thou art taking food; see what the Apostle saith: "Whether ye eat or drink, do all to the glory of God."(5) I venture to say; when thou sleepest, let thy soul praise the Lord. Let not thoughts of crime arouse thee, let not the contrivances of thieving arouse thee, let not arranged plans of corrupt dealing arouse thee. Thy innocence even when thou art sleeping is the voice of thy soul.
2. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His rewards" (ver. 2 ). But the rewards of the Lord cannot be before thine eyes unless thy sins are before thine eyes. Let not delight in past sin be before thine eyes, but let the condemnation of sin be before thine eyes: condemnation from thee, forgiveness from God. For thus God rewardeth thee, so that thou mayest say, "How shall I reward the Lord for all His rewards unto me?"(1) This it was that the martyrs considering (whose memory we are this day celebrating), and all the saints who have despised this life, and as ye have heard in the Epistle of St. John, laid down their lives for the brethren, which is the perfection of love,(2) even as our Lord saith: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends:"(3) this the holy martyrs, then, considering, despised their lives here, that they might find them there, following our Lord's words when He said, "He that loveth his life, shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake, shall keep it unto life eternal."(4) ... "Forget not," he saith, "all His rewards: "not awards, but "rewards."(5) For something else was due, and what was not due hath been paid. Whence also these words: "What," he asketh, "shall I reward the Lord for all His rewards unto me?" Thou hast rewarded good with evil; He rewardeth evil with good. How hast thou, O man, rewarded thy God with evil for good? Thou who hast once been a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,(6) hast rewarded blasphemies. For what good things? First, because thou art: but a stone also is. Next, because thou livest: but a brute also liveth. What reward wilt thou give the Lord, for His having created thee above all the cattle; and above all the fowls of the air, in His image and likeness?(7) Seek not how to reward Him: give back unto Him His own image: He requireth no more; He demandeth His own coin.(8) ...
3. Think thou, soul, of all the rewards of God, in thinking over all thy wicked deeds: for as many as are thy sins, so many are His rewards of good. And what present, what offering, what sacrifice, canst thou ever tender unto Him? ... What wilt thou reward the Lord with? For thou wast reflecting, and couldest not find: "I will receive the cup of salvation." What? hath not the Lord Himself given the cup of salvation? Reward Him from thine own, if thou canst. I would say, No, do it not; reward Him not from thine own; God doth not will to be rewarded from thine own. If thou rewardest Him from thine own, thou rewardest sin. For all that thou hast thou hast from Him: sins only thou hast of thine own. He doth not wish to be rewarded from thine, He doth will from His own. Just as, if thou shouldest bring to a husbandman, from the land which he hath sown, an ear of wheat, thou hast rewarded him from the husbandman's own produce; if thorns, that hast offered him of thine own. Reward truth, in truth praise the Lord: if thou shall choose to reward Him from thine own, thou wilt lie. He who speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own.(9) If he who speaketh a lie, speaketh of his own: so he who speaketh truth, speaketh of the Lord's. But what is to receive the cup of salvation, but to imitate the Passion of our Lord? ... I will receive the cup of Christ, I will drink of our Lord's Passion. Beware that thou fail not. But, "I will call upon the Name of the Lord." They then who failed, called not upon the Lord; they presumed in their own strength. Do thou so return, as remembering that thou art returning what thou hast received. So then let thy soul bless the Lord, as not to forget all His rewards.
4. Hear ye all His rewards. "Who forgiveth all thy sin: who healeth all thine infirmities" (ver. 3). Behold His rewards. What, save punishment, was due unto the sinner? What was due to the blasphemer, but the hell of burning fire? He gave not these rewards: that thou mayest not shudder with dread: and without love fear Him. ... But thou art a sinner. Turn again, and receive these His rewards: He "forgiveth all thy sin." ... Yet even after remission of sins the soul herself is shaken by certain passions; still is she amid the dangers of temptation, still is she pleased with certain suggestions; with some she is not pleased, and sometimes she consenteth unto some of those with which she is pleased: she is taken. This is infirmity: but He "healeth all thine infirmities." All thine infirmities shall be healed: fear not. They are great, thou wilt say: but the Physician is greater. No infirmity cometh before the Almighty Physician as incurable: only suffer thou thyself to be healed: repel not His hands; He knoweth how to deal with thee. Be not only pleased when He cherisheth thee, but also bear with Him when He useth the knife: bear the pain of the remedy, reflecting on thy future health. ... Thou dost not endure in uncertainty: He who promised thee health, cannot be deceived. The physician is often deceived: and promiseth health in the human body. Why is he deceived? Because he is not healing his own creature. God made thy body, God made thy soul. He knoweth how to restore what He hath made, He knoweth how to fashion again what He hath already fashioned: do thou only be patient beneath the Physician's hands: for He hateth one who rejects His hands. This doth not happen with the hands of a human physician. ...
5. "Who redeemeth thy life from corruption" (ver. 4). Behold, "the body which is corrupted, weigheth down the soul."(1) The soul then hath life in a corruptible body. What sort of life? It suffereth burdens, it beareth weights. How great obstacles are there to thinking of God Himself, as it is right that men should think of God, as if interrupting us from the necessity of human corruption? how many influences recall us, how many interrupt, how many withdraw the mind when fixed on high? what a crowd of illusions, what tribes of suggestions? All this in the human heart, as it were, teemeth with the worms of human corruption. We have set forth the greatness of the disease, let us also praise the Physician. Shall not He then heal thee, who made thee such as to be in health, hadst thou chosen to keep the law of health which thou hadst received? ... First think of thine own health. Sometimes a man is stricken in his own house, on his bed, with a more than usually manifest disorder; although this disorder too, which men dislike to contemplate, be plain; yet each man may be attacked with that sickness for which human physicians are sought, and may gasp with fever in his bed; perhaps he may wish to consider of his domestic affairs, to make some order or disposition relating to his estate or his house; at once he is recalled from such cares by the anxiety of his friends, plainly expressed around him, and he is advised to dismiss these subjects, and first to take thought for his health. This then is addressed unto thee, and to all men: if thou art not sick, think of other things: if thy very infirmity prove thee sick, first take heed of thy health. Christ is thy health: think therefore of Christ. Receive the cup of His saving Health, "who healeth all thine infirmities;" if thou shall choose, thou shall gain this Health. ... For thy life hath been redeemed from corruption: rest secure now: the contract of good faith hath been entered upon; no man deceives, no man circumvents, no man oppresses, thy Redeemer. He hath here made a barter, He hath already paid the price, He hath poured forth His blood. The only Son of God, I say, hath shed His blood for us: O soul, raise thyself, thou art of so great price. ..."He redeemeth thy life from corruption."
6. "Who crowneth thee with mercy and loving-kindness." Thou hadst perhaps begun to be in a manner proud, when thou didst hear the words, "He crowneth thee." I am then great, I have then wrestled. By whose strength? By thine, but supplied by Him. ... He crowneth thee, because He is crowning His own gifts, not thy deservings. "I laboured more abundantly than they all," said the Apostle; but see what he addeth: "yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."(2) ... It is then by His mercy that thou art crowned; in nothing be proud; ever praise the Lord; forget not all His rewards. It is a reward when thou, a sinner and an ungodly man, hast been called, that thou mayest be justified. It is a reward, when thou art raised up and guided, that thou mayest not fall. It is a reward, when strength is given thee, that thou mayest persevere unto the end. It is a reward, that even that flesh of thine by which thou wast oppressed riseth again and that not even a hair of thy head perisheth. It is a reward, that after thy resurrection thou art crowned. It is a reward, that thou mayest praise God Himself for evermore without ceasing. ...
7. After the battle, then, I shall be crowned; after the crown, what shall I do? "He who satisfieth thy longing with good things" (ver. 5). ... Seek thy own good, O soul. For one thing is good to one creature, another to another, and all creatures have a certain good of their own, to the completeness and perfection of their nature. There is a difference as to what is essential to each imperfect thing, in order that it may be made perfect; seek for thy own good. "There is none good but One, that is, God."(3) The highest good is thy good. What then is wanting unto him to whom the highest good is good? For there are inferior goods, which are good to different creatures respectively. What, brethren, is good unto the cattle, save to fill the belly, to prevent want, to sleep, to indulge themselves, to exist, to be in health, to propagate? This is good to them: and within certain bounds it hath an allotted measure of good, granted by God, the Creator of all things. Dost thou seek such a good as this? God giveth also this: but do not pursue it alone. Canst thou, a coheir of Christ, rejoice in fellowship with cattle? Raise thy hope to the good of all goods. He will be thy good, by whom thou in thy kind hast been made good, and by whom all things in their kind were made good. For God made all things very good. ...
8. When shall my longing be satisfied with good things? when, dost thou ask? "Thy youth shall be renewed as the eagle's." Dost thou then ask when thy soul is to be satisfied with good things? When thy youth shall be restored. And he addeth, as an eagle's. Something here lieth hidden; what however is said of the eagle, we will not pass over silently, since it is not foreign to our purpose to understand it. Let this only be impressed upon our hearts, that it is not said without cause by the Holy Spirit. For it hath intimated unto us a sort of resurrection. And indeed the youth of the eagle is restored, but not into immortality, for a similitude hath been given, as far as it could be drawn from a thing mortal to signify a thing immortal, not to demonstrate it. The eagle is said, after it becometh overpowered with bodily age, to be incapable of taking food from the immoderate length of its beak, which is always increasing. For after the upper part of its beak, which forms a crook above the lower part, hath increased from old age to an immoderate length, the length of this increase will not allow of its opening its mouth, so as to form any interval between the lower beak and the crook above. For unless there be such an opening, it hath no power of biting like a forceps, by which to shear off what it may put within its jaws. The upper part therefore increasing, and being too far hooked over, it cannot open its mouth, and take any food. This old age doth to it, it is weighed down with the infirmity of age, and becometh too weak from want of power to eat; two causes of infirmity assaulting it, old age, and want. By a natural device, therefore, in order in some measure to restore its youth, the eagle is said to dash and strike against a rock the upper lip of its beak, by the too great increase of which the opening for eating is closed: and by thus rubbing it against the rock, it breaketh off the weight of its old beak, which impeded its taking food. It cometh to its food, and everything is restored: it will be after its old age like a young eagle; the vigour of all its limbs returneth, the lustre of its plumage, the guidance of its wings, it flieth aloft as before, a sort of resurrection taketh place in it. For this is the object of the similitude, like that of the Moon, which after waning and being apparently intercepted, again is renewed, and becometh full; and signifieth to us the resurrection; but when it is full it doth not remain so; again it waneth, that the signification may never cease. Thus also what hath here been said of the eagle: the eagle is not restored unto immortality, but we are unto eternal life; but the similitude is derived from hence, that the rock taketh away from us what hindereth us. Presume not therefore on thy strength: the firmness of the rock rubbeth off thy old age: for that Rock was Christ.(1) In Christ our youth shall be restored like that of the eagle. ...
9. "The Lord executeth mercy and judgment for all them that are oppressed with wrong" (ver. 6). ... An adulterous woman is brought forward to be stoned according to the Law, but she is brought before the Lawgiver Himself. ... Our Lord, at the time she was brought before Him, bending His Head, began writing on the earth. When He bent Himself down upon the earth, He then wrote on the earth: before He bent upon the earth, He wrote not on the earth, but on stone. The earth was now something fertile, ready to bring forth from the Lord's letters. On the stone He had written the Law, intimating the hardness of the Jews: He wrote on the earth, signifying the productiveness of Christians. Then they who were leading the adulteress came, like raging waves against a rock: but they were dashed to pieces by His answer. For He said to them, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her."(1) And again bending His head, He began writing on the ground. And now each man, when he asked his own conscience, came not forward. It was not a weak adulterous woman, but their own adulterate conscience, that drove them back. They wished to punish, to judge; they came to the Rock, their judges were overthrown by the Rock.(3) ...
10. Execute mercy to(4) the wicked, not as being wicked. Do not receive the wicked, in so far forth as he is wicked: that is, do not receive him as if from inclination towards and love for his iniquity. For it is forbidden to give unto a sinner, and to receive sinners. Yet how is this, "Give unto every man that asketh of thee"? and this, "if thine enemy hunger, feed him"?(5) This is seemingly contradictory: but it is opened to those who knock in the name of Christ, and will be clear unto those who seek. "Help not a sinner:" and, "give not to the ungodly;"(6) and yet, "give unto every man that asketh of thee." But it is a sinner who asketh of me. Give, not as unto a sinner. When dost thou give as unto a sinner? When that which maketh him a sinner, pleaseth thee so that thou givest.(7) ... Let those who give to a man who fights with wild beasts, tell me why they give? Why doth he give to this man? He loveth that in him, in which consists his greatest sin; this he feedeth, this he clotheth in him, wickedness itself, made public by all witnessing it. Why doth the man give, who giveth to actors, or to charioteers, or to courtesans? Do not these very persons give to human beings? But it is not the nature of God's work that they attend to, but the iniquity of the human work. ... When therefore thou givest, thou givest to infamy, not to bravery. As then he who giveth to the fighter of beasts, giveth not to the man, but to a most infamous profession; for if he were only a man, and not a fighter of beasts, thou wouldest not give; thou honourest him in vice, not nature: so on the other hand, if thou give to the righteous, if thou give to the prophet, if thou give to the disciple of Christ anything of which he is in want, without thinking that he is Christ's disciple, that he is God's minister that he is God's steward; but art thinking in that case of some temporal advantage, for instance, that when perchance he shall be needful to thy cause, he may be bought for thee, because thou hast given him something; thou hast no more given to the righteous, if thou hast thus given, than he gave to the man, when he gave to the beast-fighter. The matter, then, most beloved, is quite open to us, and I conceive, that although it was obscure, it is now clear. It was to this that the Lord bound thee, when He said," He who hath received the righteous man." That were enough. But as the righteous may be received with another intention, ... He saith, "He who receiveth a righteous man in the name of a righteous man:"(1) that is, receiving him in consideration of his righteousness: ... that is, because he is Christ's disciple, because he is a steward of the Mystery:(2) "Verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward."(3) So understand, he who receiveth a sinner in the name of a sinner shall lose his reward.
11. ... On this account therefore be merciful without fear, extend love even unto thine enemies: punish those who chance to belong to thy government, restrain them with affection, with charity, in regard to their eternal salvation; lest while thou sparest the flesh, the soul perish. Do this: and though thou have to endure many,(4) over whom thou canst not exercise discipline, because thou hast no lawful authority over them; bear their injuries; be without apprehension. He will show mercy unto thee if thou shalt have been merciful: thou shalt be merciful, without the injuries thou sufferest losing their punishment; "To Me belongeth vengeance, I will repay,"(5) saith the Lord.
12. "He made His ways known unto Moses" (ver. 7). ...For the Law was given with this view, that the sick might be convinced of his infirmity, and pray for the physician. This is the hidden way of God. Thou hadst long ago heard, "Who healeth all thine infirmities." Their infirmities were as yet hidden in the sick; the five books were given to Moses: the pool was surrounded by five porches; he brought forth the sick, that they might lie there, that they might be made known, not that they might be healed. The five porches discovered, but healed not, the sick; the pool healed when one descended, and this when it was disturbed:(6) the disturbance of the pool was in our Lord's Passion. ... Since therefore this is a mystery there, he teacheth that the Law was given that sinners might be convinced of their sin, and call upon the Physician in order to receive grace. ... Therefore, as I had begun to say, because this is a great mystery in the Law, that it was given with this view, that by the increase of sin, the proud might be humbled, the humbled might confess, the confessing might be healed; these are the hidden ways, which He made known to Moses, through whom He gave the Law, by which sin should abound, that grace might more abound. ... "He hath made known His good pleasure unto the children of Israel." To all the children of Israel? To the true children of Israel; yea, to all the children of lsrael. For the treacherous, the insidious, the hypocrites, are not children of Israel. And who are the children of Israel? "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."(7)
13. "The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: long-suffering, and of great mercy" (ver. 8). Why so long-suffering? Why so great in mercy? Men sin and live; sins are added on, life continueth: men blaspheme daily, and "He maketh His sun to rise over the good and the wicked."(8) On all sides He calleth to amendment, on all sides He calleth to repentance, He calleth by the blessings of creation, He calleth by giving time for life, He calleth through the reader, He calleth through the preacher, He calleth through the innermost thought by the rod of correction, He calleth by the mercy of consolation: "He is long-suffering, and of great mercy." But take heed lest by ill using the length of God's mercy, thou treasure up for thyself, as the Apostle saith, wrath in the day of wrath. ... For some there are who prepare to turn, and yet put it off, and in them crieth out the raven's voice, "Cras! Cras!"(9) The raven which was sent from the ark, never returned.(10) God seeketh not procrastination in the raven's voice, but confession in the wailing of the dove. The dove, when sent forth, returned. How long, To-morrow! To-morrow!? Look to thy last morrow: since thou knowest not what is thy last morrow, let it suffice that thou hast lived up to this day a sinner. Thou hast heard, often thou art wont to hear, thou hast heard to-day also; daily thou hearest, and daily thou amendest not. ...
14. "He will not alway be chiding: neither keepeth He His anger for ever" (ver. 9). Since it is in consequence of His anger that we live in the scourges and corruption(1) of mortality: we have this in punishment for the first sin. ... Is it not through His anger, my brethren, that "in the sweat of thy face and in toil thou shalt eat bread, and the earth shall bear thorns and thistles unto thee"?(2) This was said to our forefathers. Or if our life is different from this; if thou canst, turn unto some pleasure, where thou mayest not feel thorns. Choose what thou hast wished, whether thou art covetous or luxurious; to name these two alone; add a third passion, that of ambition; how great thorns are there in the desire of honours? in the luxury of lusts how great thorns? in the ardour of covetousness how great thorns? What troubles are there in base loves? What terrible anxieties here in this life? I omit hell. Beware lest thou even now become a hell unto thyself. The whole of this, my brethren, is the result of His anger: and when thou hast turned thyself unto works of righteousness, thou canst not but toil upon earth; and toil endeth not before life endeth. We must toil on the way, that we may rejoice in our country. He therefore consoleth by His promises thy toil, thy labours, thy troubles, saying to thee, "He will not alway be chiding."
15. "He hath not dealt with us according to our sins" (ver. 10). Thanks unto God, because He hath vouchsafed this. We have not received what we were deserving of: "He hath not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our wickednesses." "For as the height of heaven above the earth, so hath the Lord confirmed His mercy toward them that fear Him" (ver. 11). Observe the heaven: everywhere on every side it covereth the earth, nor is there any part of the earth not covered by the heaven. Men sin beneath heaven: they do all evil deeds beneath the heaven; yet they are covered by the heaven. Thence is light for the eyes, thence air, thence breath, thence rain upon the earth for the sake of its fruits, thence all mercy from heaven. Take away the aid of heaven from the earth: it will fail at once. As then the protection of heaven abideth upon the earth, so doth the Lord's protection abide upon them that fear Him. Thou fearest God, His protection is above thee. But perhaps thou art scourged, and conceivest that God hath forsaken thee. God hath forsaken thee,(3) if the protection of heaven hath forsaken the earth.
16. "Look, how wide the east is from the west; so far hath He set our sins from us" (ver. 12). They who know the Sacraments know this; nevertheless, I only say what all may hear.(4) When sin is remitted, thy sins fall, thy grace riseth; thy sins are as it were on the decline, thy grace which freeth thee on the rise. "Truth springeth from the earth."(5) What meaneth this? Thy grace is born, thy sins fall, thou art in a certain manner made new. Thou shouldest look to the rising, and turn away from the setting.(6) Turn away from thy sins, turn unto the grace of God; when thy sins fall, thou riseth and profitest. ... One region of the heaven falleth, another riseth: but the region which is now rising will set after twelve hours. Not like this is the grace which riseth unto us: both our sins fall for ever, and grace abideth for ever.
17. "Yea, like as a father pitieth his own children, even so hath the Lord had mercy on them that fear Him" (ver. 13). Let Him be as angry as He shall will, He is our Father. But He hath scourged us, and afflicted us, and bruised us: He is our Father. Son, if thou bewailest, wail beneath thy Father; do not so with indignation, do not so with the puffing up of pride. What thou sufferest, whence thou mournest, it is medicine, not punishment; it is thy chastening, not thy condemnation. Do not refuse the scourge, if thou dost not wish to be refused thy heritage: do not think of what punishment thou sufferest in the scourge, but what place thou hast in the Testament.
18. "For He knoweth our forming"(7) (ver. 14): that is, our infirmity. He knoweth what He hath created, how it hath fallen, how it may be repaired, how it may be adopted, how it may be enriched. Behold, we are made of clay: "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven."(8) He sent even His own Son, Him who was made the second man, Him who was God before all things. For He was second in His coming, first in His returning: He died after many, He arose before all. "He knoweth our forming." What forming? Ourselves. Why sayest thou that He knoweth? Because He hath pitied. "Remember that we are but dust." Addressing God Himself, he saith, "Remember," as if God could forget: He perceiveth, He knoweth in such a manner that He cannot forget. But what meaneth," Remember"? Let thy mercy continue towards us. Thou knowest our forming; forget not our forming, lest we forget thy grace.
19. "Man, his days are but as grass" (ver. 15). Let man consider what he is; let not man be proud. "His days are but as grass." Why is the grass proud, that is now flourishing, and in a very short space dried up? Why is the grass proud that flourisheth only for a brief season, until the sun be hot? It is then good for us that His mercy be upon us, and from grass make gold. "For he flourisheth as a flower of the field." The whole splendour of the human race; honour, powers, riches, pride, threats, is the flower of the grass. That house flourisheth, and that family it great, that family flourisheth; and how many flourish, and how many years do they live! Many years to thee, are but a short season unto God. God doth not count, as thou dost. Compared with the length and long life of ages, all the flower of any house is as the flower of the field. All the beauty of the year hardly lasteth for the year. Whatever there flourisheth, whatever there is warmed with heat, whatever there is beautiful, lasteth not; nay, it cannot exist for one whole year. In how brief a season do flowers pass away, and these are the beauty of the herbs! This which is so very beautiful, this quickly falleth.(1) Inasmuch then as He knoweth as a father our forming, that we are but grass, and can only flourish for a time; He sent unto us His Word, and His Word, which abideth for evermore, He hath made a brother unto the grass which abideth not. Wonder not that thou shalt be a sharer of His Eternity; He became Himself first a sharer of thy grass. Will He who assumed from thee what was lowly, deny unto thee what is exalted in respect of thee?
20. "The wind shall go over on it, it shall not be; and the place thereof shall know it no more" (ver. 16). For he is not speaking of grass, but of that for whose sake even the Word became grass. For thou art man, and on thy account the Word became man. "All flesh is grass:" "and the Word was made flesh."(2) How great then is the hope of the grass, since the Word hath been made flesh? That which abideth for evermore, hath not disdained to assume grass, that the grass might not despair of itself.
21. In thy reflections therefore on thyself, think of thy low estate, think of thy dust: be not lifted up: if thou art anything better, thou wilt be so by His Grace, thou wilt be so by His mercy. For hear what followeth: "but the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever and ever upon them that fear Him" (ver. 17). Ye who fear not Him, will be grass, and in grass, and in torment with the grass: for the flesh shall arise unto the torment. Let those who fear Him rejoice, because His mercy is upon them.
22. "And His righteousness upon children's children" (ver. 18). He speaketh of reward, "upon children's children." How many servants of God are there who have not children, how much less children's children? But He calleth our works our children; the reward of works, our "children's children." "Even upon such as keep His covenant." Let men beware that all may not conceive what is here said to belong to themselves: let them choose, while they have the choice. "And keep in memory His commandments to do them." Thou wast already disposed to flatter thyself, and perhaps to recite to me the Psalter, which I have not by heart, or from memory to say over the whole Law. Clearly thou art better in point of memory than I, better than any righteous man who doth not know the Law word for word: but see that thou keep the commandments. But how shouldest thou keep them? Not by memory, but by life. "Such as keep in memory His commandments:" not, to recite them; but, "to do them." And now perhaps each man's soul is disturbed. Who remembereth all the commandments of God? who remembereth all the writings of God? Lo, I wish not only to hold them in my memory, but also to do them in my works: but who remembereth them all? Fear not: He burdeneth thee not: "on two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."(3)
23. "The Lord hath prepared His throne in heaven" (ver. 19). Who but Christ hath prepared His throne in heaven? He who descended and ascended, He who died, and rose from the dead, He who lifted up to heaven the manhood He had assumed, hath Himself prepared His throne in heaven. The throne is the seat of the Judge: observe therefore ye who hear, that "He hath prepared His throne in heaven." ... The kingdom is the Lord's, and He shall be the Governor among the people.(4) "And His kingdom shall rule over all."
24. "Bless ye the Lord, ye Angels of His, ye that are mighty in strength: ye that fulfil His word" (ver. 20). By the word of God, then, thou art not righteous, nor faithful, unless when thou dost it. "Ye that are mighty in strength, ye that fulfil His commandment, and hearken unto the voice of His words."
25. "Bless ye the Lord, all ye His hosts: ye servants of His that do His pleasure" (ver. 21). All ye angels, all ye that are mighty in strength: ye that do His word: all ye His hosts, ye servants of His that do His pleasure, do ye, ye bless the Lord. For all they who live wickedly, though their tongues be silent, by their lips do curse the Lord. What doth it profit if thy tongue singeth a hymn, while thy life breatheth sacrilege? By living ill thou hast set many tongues to blasphemy. Thy tongue is given to the hymn, the tongues of those who behold thee, to blasphemy. If then thou dost wish to bless the Lord, do His word, do His will. ...
26. "Bless ye the Lord, all ye works of His, in all places of His dominion" (ver. 22). Therefore in every place. Let Him not be blessed where He ruleth not: "in all places of His dominion." Let no man perchance say: I cannot praise the Lord in the East, because He hath departed unto the West; or, I cannot praise Him in the West, because He is in the East. "For neither from the east, nor from the west, nor yet from the desert hills. And why? God is the Judge."(1) He is everywhere, in such wise that everywhere He may be praised: He is in such wise on every side, that we may be joyful in Him on every side: He is in such wise blessed on every side, that on every side we may live well. ... "In every place of His dominion: bless thou the Lord, O my soul!" The last verse is the same as the first: blessing is at the head of the Psalm, blessing at the end; from blessing we set out, to blessing let us return, in blessing let us reign.(2)
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