4. Having then mentioned all His forefathers, and ending with Joseph,
he did not stop at this, but added, "Joseph the husband of Mary;" intimating
that it was for her sake he traced his genealogy also. Then, lest when
thou hast heard of the "husband of Mary," thou shouldest suppose that Christ
was born after the common law of nature, mark, how he sets it right by
that which follows. "Thou hast heard," saith he, "of an husband, thou hast
heard of a mother, thou hast heard a name assigned to the child, therefore
hear the manner too of the birth. "The birth of Jesus Christ was on this
wise."10 "Of what kind of birth art thou telling me, I pray thee, since
thou hast already mentioned His ancestors?" "I still wish to tell thee
the manner also of His birth." Seest thou, how he wakens up the hearer?
For as though he were about to speak of something unusual,11 he promises
to tell also the manner thereof.
And observe a most admirable order in the things he hath mentioned.
For he did not proceed directly to the birth, but puts us in mind first,
how many generations he was from Abraham, how many from David, and from
the captivity of Babylon; and thus he sets the careful hearer upon considering
the times, to show that this is the Christ who was preached by the prophets.
For when thou hast numbered the generations, and hast learnt by the time
that this is He, thou wilt readily receive likewise the miracle which took
place in His birth. Thus, being about to tell of a certain great thing,
His birth of a virgin, he first shadows over the statement, until he hath
numbered the generations, by speaking of "an husband of Mary;" or rather
he doth even put in short space12 the narration of the birth itself, and
then proceeds to number also the years, reminding the hearer, that this
is He, of whom the patriarch jacob had said, He should then at length come,
when the Jewish rulers had come to an end; of whom the prophet Daniel had
proclaimed beforehand, that He should come after those many weeks. And
if any one, counting the years spoken of to Daniel by the angel in a number
of weeks, would trace down the time from the building of the city to His
birth, by reckoning he will perceive the one to agree with the other.13
5. How then was He born, I pray thee? "When as His mother Mary was espoused:"14
He saith not "virgin," but merely "mother;" so that his account is easy
to be received. And so having beforehand prepared the hearer to look for
some ordinary piece of information, and by this laying hold of him, after
all he amazes him by adding the marvellous fact, saying, "Before they came
together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." He saith not, "before
she was brought to the bridegroom's house;" for indeed she was therein.
It being the way of the ancients for the most part to keep their espoused
wives in their house:15 in those parts, at least, where one may see the
same practised even now. Thus also Lot's sons-in-law were in his house
with him. Mary then herself likewise was in the house with Joseph.
And wherefore did she not conceive before her espousal? It was, as I
said at first, that what had been done might be concealed awhile, and that
the Virgin might escape every evil suspicion. For when he, who had most
right of all to feel jealousy, so far from making her a show, or degrading
her, is found even receiving and cherishing her after her conception; it
was quite clear that, unless he had fully persuaded himself that what was
done was of the operation of the Holy Spirit, he would not have kept her
with him, and ministered to her in all other things. And most properly
hath he said, that "she was 'found' with child," the sort of expression
that is wont to be used with respect to things strange, and such as happen
beyond all expectation, and are unlooked for.
Proceed therefore no further, neither require anything more than what
hath been said; neither say thou, "But how was it that the Spirit wrought
this of a virgin?" For if, when nature is at work, it is impossible to
explain the manner of the formation; how, when the Spirit is working miracles,
shall we be able to express these? And lest thou shouldest weary the evangelist,
or disturb him by continually asking these things, he hath said who it
was that wrought the miracle, and so withdrawn himself. "For I know," saith
he, "nothing more, but that what was done was the work of the Holy Ghost."
6. Shame on them who busy themselves touching the generation on high.
For if this birth, which hath witnesses without number, and had been proclaimed
so long a time before, and was manifested and handled with hands, can by
no man be explained; of what excess of madness do they come short who make
themselves busy and curious touching that unutterable generation? For neither
Gabriel nor Matthew was able to say anything more, but only that it was
of the Spirit; but how, of the Spirit, or in what manner, neither of them
hath explained; for neither was it possible.
Nor think that thou hast learnt all, by hearing "of the Spirit;" nay,
for we are ignorant of many things, even when we have learnt this; as,
for instance, how the Infinite is in a womb, how He that contains all things
is carried, as unborn, by a woman; how the Virgin bears, and continues
a virgin. How, I pray thee, did the Spirit frame that Temple? how did He
take not all the flesh from the womb, but a part thereof, and increased
it, and fashioned it? For that He did come forth of the Virgin's flesh,
He hath declared by speaking of "that which was conceived in her;"16 and
Paul, by saying, "made of a woman;" whereby he stops the mouths of them17
that say, Christ came among us as through some conduit. For, if this were
so, what need of the womb? If this were so, He hath nothing in common with
us, but that flesh is of some other kind, and not of the mass which belongs
to us. How then was He of the root of Jesse? How was He a rod? how Son
of man? how was Mary His mother? how was He of David's seed? how did he
"take the form of a servant?"18 how "was the Word made flesh?"19 and how
saith Paul to the Romans, "Of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came,
who is God over all?"20 Therefore that He was of us, and of our substance,21
and of the Virgin's womb, is manifest from these things, and from others
beside; but how, is not also manifest. Do not either thou then inquire;
but receive what is revealed, and be not curious about what is kept secret.
7. "And Joseph her husband, being," saith he "a just man, and not willing
to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily."22
Having said that it was of the Holy Ghost, and without cohabitation,
he establishes his statement in another way again.23 Lest any one should
say, "Whence doth this appear? Who hath heard, who hath seen any such thing
ever come to pass?"-or lest you should suspect the disciple as inventing
these things to favor his Master;-he introduces Joseph as contributing,
by what he underwent, to the proof of the things mentioned; and by his
narrative all but says, "If thou doubt, me, and if thou suspect my testimony,
believe her husband." For "Joseph," saith he, "her husband, being a just
man." By "a just man" in this place he means him that is virtuous in all
things. For both freedom from covetousness is justice, and universal virtue
is also justice;24 and it is mostly in this latter sense that the Scripture
uses the name of justice; as when it saith, "a man that was just and true;"25
and again, "they were both just."26 Being then "just," that is good and
considerate, "he was minded to put her away privily." For this intent he
tells what took place before Joseph's being fully informed, that thou mightest
not mistrust what was done after he knew. However, such a one was not liable
to be made a public example only, but that she should also be punished
was the command of the law. Whereas Joseph remitted not only that greater
punishment, but the less likewise, namely, the disgrace. For so far from
punishing, he was not minded even to make an example of her. Seest thou
a man under self-restraint, and freed from the most tyrannical of passions.
For ye know how great a thing jealousy is: and therefore He said, to whom
these things are clearly known, "For full of jealousy is the rage of a
husband;"27 "he will not spare in the day of vengeance:" and "jealousy
is cruel as the grave."28 And we too know of many that have chosen to give
up their lives rather than fall under the suspicion of jealousy. But in
this case it was not so little as suspicion, the burden of the womb entirely
convicting her. But nevertheless he was so free from passion as to be unwilling
to grieve the Virgin even in the least matters. Thus, whereas to keep her
in his house seemed like a transgression of the law, but to expose and
bring her to trial would constrain him to deliver her to die; he doth none
of these things, but conducts himself now by a higher rule than the law.
For grace being come, there must needs henceforth be many tokens of that
exalted citizenship. For as the sun, though as yet he show not his beams,
doth from afar by his light illumine more than half29 the world; so likewise
Christ, when about to rise from that womb, even before He came forth, shone
over all the world. Wherefore, even before her travail, prophets danced
for joy, and women foretold what was to come, and John, when he had not
yet come forth from the belly, leaped from the very womb. Hence also this
man exhibited great self-command, in that he neither accused nor upbraided,
but only set about putting her away.
8. The matter then being in this state, and all at their wits' end,30
the angel comes to solve all their difficulties. But it is worth inquiring,
why the angel did not speak sooner, before the husband had such thoughts:
but, "when he thought on it," not until then, he came; for it is said,
"While he thought on these things, the angel" comes. And yet to her he
declares the good tidings even before she conceived. And this again contains
another difficulty; for even though the angel had not spoken, wherefore
was the Virgin silent, who had been informed by the angel; and why, when
she saw her betrothed husband in trouble, did she not put an end to his
Wherefore then did not the angel speak before Joseph became troubled.
For we must needs explain the former difficulty first. For what reason
then did he not speak? Lest Joseph should be unbelieving, and the same
happen to him as to Zacharias. For when the thing was visible, belief was
thenceforth easy; but when it had not yet a beginning, it was not equally
easy to receive his saying. For this reason the angel spake not at the
first, and through the same cause the Virgin too held her peace. For she
did not think to obtain credit with her betrothed husband, in declaring
to him a thing unheard of, but rather that she should provoke him the more,
as though she were cloking a sin that had been committed. Since if she
herself, who was to receive so great a favor, is affected somewhat after
the manner of man, and saith, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"31
much more would he have doubted; and especially when hearing it from the
woman who was under suspicion. Wherefore the Virgin saith nothing to him,
but the angel, the time demanding it, presents himself to him.
9. Why then, it may be asked, did he not so in the Virgin's case also,
and declare the good tidings to her after the conception? Lest she should
be in agitation and great trouble. For it were likely that she, not knowing
the certainty, might have even devised something amiss touching herself,
and have gone on to strangle or to stab herself, not enduring the disgrace.
For wondrous indeed was that Virgin, and Luke points out her excellency,
saying, that when she heard the salutation, she did not straightway pour
herself out,32 neither did she accept the saying, but "was troubled," seeking
"what manner of salutation this might be."33 Now she who was of such perfect
delicacy would even have been distracted with dismay at the thought of
her shame, not expecting, by whatever she might say, to convince any one
who should hear of it, but that what had happened was adultery. Therefore
to prevent these things, the angel came before the conception. Besides
that, it was meet that womb should be free from trouble which the Maker
of all things entered; and the soul rid of all perturbation, which was
thought worthy to become the minister of such mysteries. For these reasons
He speaks to the Virgin before the conception, but to Joseph at the time
And this many of the simpler sort, not understanding, have said there
is a discordance; because Luke saith it was Mary to whom he declared the
good tidings, but Matthew, that it was Joseph; not knowing that both took
place. And this sort of thing it is necessary to bear in mind throughout
the whole history; for in this way we shall solve many seeming discordances.
10. The angel then comes, when Joseph is troubled. For in addition to
the causes mentioned, with a view also to the manifestation of his self-command,
he defers his coming. But when the thing was on the point of taking place,
then at last he presents himself. "While he thought on these things, an
angel appeareth to Joseph in a dream."34
Seest thou the mildness of the husband? So far from punishing, he did
not even declare it to any one, no not even to her whom he suspected, but
was thinking it over with himself, as aiming to conceal the cause even
from the Virgin herself. For neither is it said that he was minded to "cast
her out," but to "put her away," so very mild and gentle was the man. "But
while he is thinking on these things, the angel appeareth in a dream."
And why not openly, as to the shepherds, and to Zacharias, and to the
Virgin? The man was exceedingly full of faith, and needed not this vision.
Whereas the Virgin, as having declared to her very exceeding good tidings,
greater than to Zacharias, and this before the event, needed also a marvellous
vision; and the shepherds, as being by disposition rather dull and clownish.35
But this man, after the conception,36 when his soul was actually possessed
with that evil suspicion, and ready to exchange it for good hopes, if there
appeared any one to guide that way, readily receives the revelation. Wherefore
he hath the good tidings declared to him after his suspicion, that this
selfsame thing might be to him a convincing proof of the things spoken.
I mean, that the fact of his having mentioned it to no one, and his hearing
the angel say the very things which he thought in his mind, this afforded
him an unquestionable sign that one had come from God to say it. For to
Him alone it belongs to know the secrets of the heart.
Mark only, what a number of results are here. The man's self-command
is thoroughly shown; the word spoken in season contributes to his faith,
and the history is freed from suspicion, in that it shows him to have felt
what it was likely a husband would feel.
10. How then doth the angel assure him? Hear and marvel at the wisdom
of his words. For being come he saith, "Joseph, thou son of David, fear
not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." He straightway puts him in mind of
David, of whom the Christ was to spring, and he doth not suffer him to
be greatly perturbed, by the title of his forefathers, reminding him of
the promise made to the whole race. Else wherefore doth he call him "Son
"Fear not:" and yet in another case God doeth not so, but when one was
devising about a certain woman what he ought not, He spake the word more
in a way of rebuke, and with a threat. And yet there too, the act was
of ignorance, for not with knowledge did that person take Sarah; yet nevertheless
He rebuked him: but here mildly. For exceeding great were the mysteries
He was dispensing, and wide the interval between the two men; wherefore
neither was there need of rebuke.
But by saying, "fear not," he signifies him to have been afraid, lest
he should give offense to God, as retaining an adulteress; since, if it
had not been for this, he would not have even thought of casting her out.
In all ways then he points out that the angel came from God, bringing forward
and setting before him all, both what he thought to do, and what he felt
in his mind.
Now having mentioned her name, he stayed not at this, but added also,
"thy wife;" whereas he would not have called her so, if she had been corrupted.
And here he calls her that is espoused "a wife;" as indeed the Scripture
is wont to call betrothed husbands sons-in-law even before marriage.
But what means, "to take unto thee?" To retain her in his house, for
in intention she had been now put away by him. "Her, being put away, do
thou retain," saith he, "as committed unto thee by God, not by her parents.
And He commits her not for marriage; but to dwell with thee; and by my
voice doth He commit her." Much as Christ Himself afterwards committed
her to His disciple, so even now unto Joseph.
12. Then having obscurely signified the matter in hand, he mentioned
not the. evil suspicion; but, in a manner more reverent and seemly, by
telling the cause of travail he removed this also; implying that the very
thing which had made him afraid, and for which he would have cast her out,-this
very thing, I say, was a just cause why he should take her and retain her
in his house. Thus more than entirely doing away with his distress.
"For she is not only free," saith he, "from unlawful intercourse, but even
above all nature is her conception. Not only therefore put away thy fear,
but even rejoice more exceedingly, 'for that which is conceived in her
is of the Holy Ghost.'"
A strange thing it was which he spake of, surpassing man's reason, and
above all the laws of nature. How then is he to believe, to whom such tidings
are altogether new? "By the things that are past," saith he, "by the revelations."
For with this intent he laid open all things that were in his mind, what
he felt, what he feared, what he was resolved to do;-that by these he might
assure himself of this point.
Or rather, not by things past only, but like wise by things to come,
he wins him over. "And she shall bring forth," saith he, "' a Son, and
thou shall call His name Jesus." "For do not thou, because He is of
the Holy Ghost, imagine that thou art an alien to the ministry of this
dispensation. Since although in the birth thou hast no part, but the Virgin
abode untouched, nevertheless, what pertains to a father, not injuring
the honor of virginity, that do I give thee, to set a Name on that which
is born: for "thou shalt call Him." For though the offspring be not thine,
yet shalt thou exhibit a father's care towards Him. Wherefore I do straightway,
even from the giving of the name, connect thee with Him that is born."
Then lest on the other hand any one should from this suspect him to
be the father, hear what follows, with what exact care he states it. "She
shall bring forth," he saith, "a Son:" he doth not say, "bring forth to
thee," but merely "she shall bring forth," putting it indefinitely:
since not to him did she bring forth, but to the whole world.
13. For this cause too the angel came bringing His name from Heaven,
hereby again intimating that this is a wondrous birth: it being God Himself
who sends the name from above by the angel to Joseph. For neither was this
without an object, but a treasure of ten thousand blessings. Wherefore
the angel also interprets it, and suggests good hopes, in this way again
leading him to belief. For to these things we are wont to be more inclined,
and therefore are also fonder of believing them.
So having established his faith by all, by the past things, by the future,
by the present, by the honor given to himself, he rings in the prophet
also in good time, to give his suffrage in support of all these. But before
introducing him, he proclaims beforehand the good things which were to
befall the world through Him. And what are these? Sins removed and done
away. "For He shall save His people from their sins."
Here again the thing is signified to be beyond all expectation. For
not from visible wars, neither from barbarians, but what was far greater
than these, from sins, he declares the glad tidings of deliverance; a work
which; had never been possible to any one before.
But wherefore, one may ask, did he say, "His people," and not add the
Gentiles also? That he might not startle the hearer yet a while. For to
him that listens with understanding he darkly signified the Gentiles too.
For "His people" are not the Jews only, but also all that draw nigh and
receive the knowledge that is from Him.
And mark how he hath by the way discovered to us also His dignity, by
calling the Jewish nation "His people." For this is the word of one implying
nought else, but that He who is born is God's child, and that the King
of those on high is the subject of his discourse. As neither doth forgiving
sins belong to any other power. but only to that single essence.
14. Forasmuch then as we have partaken of so great a gift, let us do
everything not to dishonor such a benefit. For if even before this honor,
what was done was worthy of punishment, much more now, after this unspeakable
benefit. And this I say not now for no cause. but because I see many
after their baptism living more carelessly than the uninitiated, and having
nothing peculiar to distinguish them in their way of life. It is, you see,
for this cause, that neither in the market nor in the Church is it possible
to know quickly who is a believer and who an unbehever; unless one be present
at the time of the mysteries, and see the one sort put out, the others
remaining within. Whereas they ought to be distinguished not by their place,
but by their way of life. For as men's outward dignities are naturally
to be discovered by the outward signs with which they are invested, so
ours ought to be discernible by the soul. That is, the believer ought to
be manifest not by the gift only, but also by the new life. The believer
ought to be the light and. salt of the world. But when thou dost not give
light even to thyself. neither bind up thine own gangrene, what remains,
whereby we are to know thee? Because thou hast entered the holy waters?
Nay, this to thee becomes a store of punishment. For greatness of honor
is, to them who do not choose to live worthy of the honor, an increase
of vengeance. Yea, the believer ought to shine forth not only by what he
hath received from God, but also by what he himself hath contributed; and
should be discernible by everything, by.his gait, by his look, by his garb,
by his voice. And this I have said, not that display, but that the profit
of beholders, may be the rule by which we frame ourselves.
15. But now, what things soever I might seek to recognize thee by, I
find thee in all points distinguished by the contraries of the same. For
whether by thy place I would fain discern thee, I see thee spending thy
day in horse races, and theatres, and scenes of lawlessness, in the wicked
assemblies in the market places, and in companies of depraved men; or by
the fashion of thy countenance, I see thee continually laughing to excess,
and dissolute as a grinning and abandoned harlot; or by thy clothes,
I see thee in no better trim than the people on the stage; or by thy followers,
thou art leading about parasites and flatterers; or by thy words, I hear
thee say nothing wholesome, nothing necessary, nothing of moment to our
life; or by thy table, yet heavier from thence will the charge against
By what then, tell me, am I to recognize the believer in thee, while
all the things I . have mentioned give the contrary sentence? And why do
I say, the believer? since I can not clearly make out whether thou art
a man. For when thou art like an ass, kicking, and like a bull, wantoning,
and like a horse neighing after women; when thou dost play the glutton
like the bear, and pamper thy flesh as the mule, and bear malice like the
camel; when thou dost raven as a wolf, art wrathful as a serpent, stingest
like a scorpion, and art crafty as a fox, treasurest the poison of wickedness
like an asp or a viper, and warrest against thy brethren like that evil
demon ;-how shall I be able to number thee with men, not seeing in thee
the marks of man's nature. Why, whilst I am seeking the difference of catechumen
and believer, I come near not to find even the difference between a man
and a will beast. For what shall I call thee? a wild beast? Nay, the wild
beasts are possessed by some one of these defects, but thou heapest all
together, and far surpassest their brutishness. Shall I then call thee
a devil? Nay, a devil is not a slave to the dominion of the belly, neither
doth he set his love on riches. When therefore thou hast more faults than
either wild beasts or devils, how, I pray thee, shall we call thee a man?
And if thou art not to be styled a man, how shall we address thee as a
16. And what is yet more grievous is this, that being in such evil case,
we have no idea whatever of the deformity of our own soul, nor discern
the hideousness thereof. And yet when thou art sitting at a hairdresser's,
and having thine hair cut, thou takest the mirror, and dost examine with
care the arrangement of thy locks, and askest them that stand by, and the
haircutter himself, if he hath well disposed what is on the forehead; and
being old, for so it often happens, art not ashamed of going wild with
the fancies of youth: while of our own soul, not only deformed, but transformed
into a wild beast, and made a sort of Scylla or Chimaera, according to
the heathen fable, we have not even a slight perception. And yet in this
case too there is a mirror, spiritual, and far more excellent, and more
serviceable than that other one; for it not only shows our own deformity,
but transforms it too, if we be willing, into surpassing beauty. This mirror
is the memory of good men, and the history of their blessed lives; the
reading of the Scriptures; the laws given by God. If thou be willing once
only to look upon the portraitures of those holy men, thou will both see
the foulness of thine own mind, and having seen this, wilt need nothing
else to be set free from that deformity. Because the mirror is useful for
this purpose also, and makes the change easy.
Let no man therefore continue in the form of the irrational creatures.
For if the slave doth not enter into the father's house, how wilt thou,
having become even a wild beast, be able to set thy foot within those vestibules?
And why say I, a wild beast? Nay, such a one is more unmanageable than
any wild beast. For they, although by nature savage, yet when they have
had the advantage of man's art, oftentimes grow tame; but thou who hast
changed their natural wildness into this unnatural gentleness, what sort
of plea wilt thou have, when thou hast trained thine own natural meekness
into the savageness that is contrary to nature? when that which is wild
by nature thou exhibitest in gentle mood, but presentest thyself, by nature
so gentle, unnaturally savage? and the lion thou tamest and makest tractable,
but thine own wrath thou renderest wilder than any lion. And yet in that
case there are two hindrances, first that the beast is deprived of reason,
and then that it is the most wrathful of all things; nevertheless by the
excellency of the wisdom given to thee of God, thou dost overcome even
nature. Thou therefore, who in who beasts art victorious over nature herself,
how is it that in thine own case together with nature thou givest up thine
admirable quality of free will also?
Further, if I were bidding thee make another man gentle, not even so
ought I to seem as one enjoining impossible things; however, thou mightest
then object that thou hast not the control of another's disposition, and
that it doth not altogether rest with thee. But now it is thine own wild
beast, and a thing which absolutely depends on thee. What plea then hast
thou? or what fair excuse wilt thou be able to put forth, turning as thou
art a lion into a man, and regardless that thou thyself art of a man becoming
a lion; upon the beast bestowing what is above nature, but for thyself
not even preserving what is natural? Yea, while the wild beasts are by
thine earnest endeavors advanced into our noble estate, thou art by thyself
cast down from the throne of the kingdom, and thrust out into their madness.
Thus, imagine, if thou wilt, thy wrath to be a kind of wild beast, and
as much zeal as others have displayed about lions, so much do thou in regard
of thyself, and cause that way of taking things to become gentle and
meek. Because this too hath grievous teeth and talons, and if thou tame
it not, it will lay waste all things. For not even lion nor serpent hath
such power to rend the vitals as wrath, with its iron talons continually
doing so. Since it mars, we see, not the body only, but the very health
likewise of the soul is corrupted by it, devouring, rending, tearing to
pieces all its strength, and making it useless for everything. For if a
man nourishing worms in his entrails, shall not be able so much as to breathe,
his inward parts all wasting away; how shall we. having so large a serpent
eating up all within us (it is wrath I mean), how, I say, shall we be able
to produce anything noble?
17. How then are we to be freed from this pest? If we can drink a potion
that is able to kill the worms within us and the serpents.' "And of what
nature," it will be asked, "may this potion be, that hath such power?"
The precious Blood of Christ, if it be received with full assurance,
(for this will have power to extinguish every disease); and together with
this the divine Scriptures carefully heard, and almsgiving added to our
hearing; for by means of all these things we shall be enabled to mortify
the affections that mar our soul. And then only shall we live; for now
surely we are in no better state than the dead: forasmuch as it cannot
be, that while those passions live, we should live too, but we must necessarily
perish. And unless we first kill them here, they will be sure to kill us
in the other life; or rather before that death they will exact of us, even
here, the utmost penalty. Yes, for every such passion is both cruel and
tyrannical and insatiable, and never ceases to devour us every day. For
"their teeth are the teeth of a lion," or rather even far more fierce.
For the lion, as soon as ever he is satisfied, is wont to leave the carcass
that hath fallen in his way; but these passions neither are satisfied,
nor do they leave the man whom they have seized, until they have set him
nigh the devil. For so great is their power, that the very service which
Paul showed forth to Christ, despising both hell and the kingdom for
His sake, even this same do they require of them whom they have seized.
For whether it be with the love of women, or of riches, or of glory, that
any one is entangled, he laughs at hell thenceforth, and despises the kingdom,
that he may work the will of these. Let us not then doubt Paul when he
saith that he so loved Christ. For when some are found so doing service
to their passions, how should that other afterwards seem incredible? Yea,
and this is the reason why our longing for Christ is feebler, because all
our strength is consumed on this love, and we rob, and defraud, and are
slaves to vainglory; than which what can be more worthless?
For though thou shouldest become infinitely conspicuous, thou wilt be
nothing better than the base: rather for this selfsame cause thou wilt
even be baser. For when they who are willing to give thee glory, and make
thee illustrious, do for this very cause ridicule thee, that thou desirest
the glory which comes of them, how can such instances fail to turn the
contrary way in regard of thee. For indeed this thing is among those which
attract censure. So that even as in the case of one desiring to commit
adultery or fornication, should any one praise or flatter him, by this
very act he becomes an accuser. rather than a commender of the person indulging
such desires: so with regard to him who is desirous of glory; when we all
praise, it is accusation rather than praise which we bestow on those who
wish to be made glorious.
18. Why then bring upon thyself that, from which the very opposite is
wont to befall thee. Yea, if thou wilt be glorified, despise glory; so
shall thou be more illustrious than any. Why feel as Nebuchadnezzar felt?
For he too set up an image, thinking from wood and from a senseless figure
to procure to himself an increase of fame, and the living would fain appear
more glorious by the help of that which hath no life. Seest thou the excess
of his madness; how, thinking to do honor, he rather offered insult, to
himself? For when it appears that he is relying rather on the lifeless
thing, than on himself and the soul that lives in him, and when for this
cause he advances the stock unto such high precedence, how can he be other
than ridiculous, endeavoring as he doth to adorn himself, not by his way
of living, but by planks of wood? Just as if a man should think proper
to give himself airs, because of the pavement of his house, and his beautiful
staircase rather than because he is a man. Him do many too amongst us imitate
now. For as he for his image, so some men claim to be admired for their
clothes, others for their house; or for their mules and chariots, and for
the columns in their house. For inasmuch as they have lost their being
as men, they go about gathering to themselves from other quarters such
glory as is full of exceeding ridicule.
But as to the noble and great servants of God, not by these means, but
by such as best became them, even by such did they shine forth. For captives
as they were, and slaves, and youths, and strangers, and stripped of all
resources of their own they proved at that time far more awful than he
who was invested with all these things. And while Nebuchadnezzar found
neither so great an image. nor satraps, nor captains of the host, nor endless
legions, nor abundance of gold, nor other pomp, enough to meet his desire,
and to show him great; to these, on the other hand, stripped of all this,
their high self-restraint alone was sufficient, and showed him that wore
the diadem and the purple, as much inferior in glory to those who had no
such thing, as the sun is more glorious than a pearl. For they were
led forth in the midst of the whole world, being at once youths, and captives,
and slaves, and straightway on their appearance the king darted fire from
his eyes, and captains, and deputies, and governors, and the whole amphitheatre
of the devil, stood around; and a voice of pipes from all sides, and of
trumpets, and of all music, borne up to Heaven, was sounding in their ears,
and the furnace burned up to a boundless height, and the flame reached
the very clouds, and all was full of terror and dismay. But none of these
things dismayed them, but they laughed it all to scorn, as they would children
mocking them, and exhibited their courage and meekness, and uttering a
voice clearer than those trumpets, they said, "Be it known unto thee, O
king." For they did Not wish to affront the king, no not so much as
by a word, but to declare their religion only. For which cause, neither
did they extend their speech to any great length, but set forth all briefly;
"For there is," say they, "a God in Heaven, who is able tO deliver us,"
"why showest thou me the multitude? why the furnace? why the sharpened
swords? why the terrible guards? our Lord is higher and more might, than
Then when they considered that it was possible that God might be willing
even to permit them to be burnt; lest, if this should come to pass, they
might seem to be speaking falsehoods; they add this also and say, "If this
happen not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we serve not thy gods."
For had they said, "Sins are the cause of His not delivering us, should
He fail to deliver," they would not have been believed. Wherefore in this
place they are silent on that subject, though they speak of it in the furnace,
again and again alleging their sins. But before the king they say no such
thing; only, that though they were to be burnt, they would not give up
For it was not for rewards and recompenses that they did what they did,
but out of love alone; and yet they were in captivity too, and in slavery,
and had enjoyed no good thing. Yea, they had lost their country, and their
freedom, and all their possessions. For tell me not of their honors in
the king's courts, for holy and righteous as they were, they would have
chosen ten thousand times rather to have been beggars at home, and to have
been partakers of the blessings in the temple. "For I had rather," it is
said, "be an outcast in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents
of sinners." And "one day in thy courts is better than thousands." They
would have chosen then ten thousand times rather to be outcasts at home,
than kings in Babylon. And this is manifest, from what they declare even
in the furnace, grieving at their continuance in that country. For although
themselves enjoyed great honors, yet seeing the calamities of the rest
they were exceedingly vexed; and this kind of thing is most especially
characteristic of saints, that no glory, nor honor, nor anything else should
be more precious to them than their neighbor's welfare. See, for example,
how even when they were in a furnace, they made their supplication for
all the people. But we not even when at large bear our brethren in mind.
And again, when they were inquiring about the dreams? they were looking
"not to their own but the common good," for that they despised death
they showed by many things afterwards. But everywhere they put themselves
forward, as wishing to prevail with God by importunity. Next, as not
accounting themselves either to be sufficient, they flee to the Fathers;
but of themselves they said that they offer nothing more than "a contrite
19. These men then let us also imitate. Because now too there is set
up a golden i image, even the tyranny of Mammon. But let us not give heed
to the timbrels, nor to the flutes, nor to the harps, nor to the rest of
the pomp of riches; yea, though we must needs fall into a furnace of poverty,
let us choose it, rather than worship that idol, and there will be "in
the midst a moist whistling wind." Let us not then shudder at hearing
of "a furnace of poverty." For so too at that time they that fell into
the furnace were shewn the more glorious, but they that worshipped were
destroyed. Only then all took place at once, but in this case some part
will be accomplished here, some there, some both here and in the day that
is to come. For they that have chosen poverty, in order that they might
not worship mammon, will be more glorious both here and then, but they
that have been rich unjustly here, shall then pay the utmost penalty.
From this furnace Lazarus too went forth, not less glorious than those
children; but the rich man who was in the place of them that worshipped
the image, was condemned to hell. For indeed what we have now mentioned
was a type of this. Wherefore as in this instance they who fell into the
furnace suffered no hurt, but they who sat without were laid hold of with
great fierceness, so likewise shall it be then. The saints walking through
the river of fire shall suffer no pain, nay they will even appear joyous;
but they that have worshipped the image, shall see the fire rest upon them
fiercer than any wild beast, and draw them in. So that if any one disbelieves
hell, when he sees this furnace, let him from the things present believe
things to come, and fear not the furnace of poverty, but the furnace of
sin. For this is flame and torment, but that, dew and refreshment; and
by this stands the devil, by that, angels wafting aside the flame.
20. These things let them hear that are rich, that are kindling the
furnace of poverty. For though they shall not hurt those others, "the dew"
coming to their aid; yet themselves they will render an easy prey to the
flame, which they have kindled with their own hands.
Then, an angel went down with those children; now, let us go down with
them that are in the furnace of poverty, and by alms-deeds let us make
a "dewy air," and waft the flame quite aside, that we may be partakers
of their crowns also; that the flames of hell may likewise be scattered
by the voice of Christ saying, "Ye saw me an hungered, and fed me."
For that voice shall then be with us instead of a "moist wind whistling"
through the midst of the flame. Let us then go down with alms-giving, unto
the furnace of poverty; let us behold them that in self-restraint walk
therein, and trample on the burning coals; let us behold the marvel, strange
and beyond thought, a man singing praise in a furnace, a man giving thanks
in fire, chained unto extreme poverty, yet offering much praise to Christ.
Since they, who bear poverty with thankfulness, really become equal to
those children. For no flame is so terrible as poverty, nor so apt to set
us on fire. But those children were not set on fire; rather, on their giving
thanks to the Lord, their bonds too were at once loosed. So likewise now,
if when thou hast fallen into poverty, thou art thankful, both the bonds
are loosened, and the flame extinguished; or ú though it be not
extinguished (what is much more marvellous), it becomes a fountain stead
of a flame: which then likewise came to pass, and in the midst of a furnace
they enjoyed a pure dew. For the fire indeed it quenched not, but the burning
of those cast in it altogether hindered. This one may see in their case
also who live by the rules of wisdom, for they, even in poverty, feel
more secure than the rich.
Let us not therefore sit down without the furnace, feeling no pity towards
the poor; lest the same befall us as then befell those executioners. For
if thou shouldest go down to them, and take thy stand with the children,
the fire will no longer work thee any harm; but if thou shouldest sit above
and neglect them in the flame of their poverty, the flame will burn thee
up. Go down therefore into the fire, that thou mayest not be burnt up by
the fire; sit not down without the fire, lest the flame catch hold of thee.
For if it should find thee amongst the poor, it will depart from thee;
but if alienated from them, it will run upon thee quickly, and catch thee.
Do not therefore stand off from them that are cast in, but when the devil
gives command. to cast them that have not worshipped gold into the furnace
of poverty, be not thou of them that cast others in, but of them that are
cast in; that thou mayest be of 'the number of the saved, and not of the
burned. For indeed it is a most effectual dew, to be held in no subjection
by desire of wealth, to be associate with poor persons. These are wealthier
than all, who have trampled under foot the desire of riches. Forasmuch
as those children too, by despising the king at that time, became more
glorious than the king. And thou therefore, if thou despise the things
of the world, shalt become more honorable than all the world; like those
holy men, "of whom the world was not worthy."
In order then to become worthy of the things in Heaven, I bid thee laugh
to scorn things present. For in this way thou shalt both be more glorious
here, and enjoy the good things to come, by the grace and love towards
man of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory and might for ever and ever.
1 See St. Jerome in loc.
2 [St. Augustin's Harmony of ike Gospels, ii. 4; Nicene
Fathers, vol. vi. pp. 105, 106, where the sum of the names (forty) is given
a symbolical significance.-R.]
3 [But see Homily I.5,6, where the independence of the
evangelists is emphasized.-R.]
4 Exod. xii. 38; Jer. l. 37.
5 [Ei0 de\ kai\meta\ tau=ta he/gonen.]
6 "The tyrant commanded the sacred vessels to be delivered
up to the imperial treasury
Into the Temple of God then," at Antioch, "there entered,
along with Julian the Prefect of the East, Felix the Steward of the Imperial
And they say that Julian grievously insulted the sacred
table, and when Euzoius" (the Arian bishop) "endeavored to prevent him,
he gave him a blow on the temple
Julian, however, presently fell into a grievous disease,
and had his bowels wasted with a kind of mortification and so came to an
end of his life. Felix also for his part being afflicted with a scourge
from God, had to vomit blood night and day from his mouth until he also
wasted away". Theodoret. E H. iii. 8, 9,ed. Schulze. See also Sozom. E.
H. v.8. St. Chrys. Orat.in Babylam. t. v. p. 246 sub fin. where he says
that Felix "burst asunder."
7 Acts xii. 23, i. 18.
8 He mentions this miracle too with the former ones,
Hom. in Ps. cx. t. 5, 738; and in his first Hom. on St. Paul, t. 8, 44.
"The fountains among us, whose current is stronger than the rivers, shrank
suddenly and started back (a thing which never had orcurved to them before),
upon the Emperor's attempting to defile the place with sacrifices and libations".
9 qeori/an: the allegorical or mystical sense. See Suicer
on the word; and St. Just. Mart. Cohort. ad Gr'c. p.29. A. Ed. Morell.
See also in the Catena Aurea, from St. Jerome, the interpretation of the
names in our Lord's genealogy.
10 Matt. i. 18.
13 See the different opinionas of the Fathers on these
dates, in St. Jerome on Daniel ix.
14 Matt. i. 18.
15 Gen. xix. 8, 14.
16 Gal. iv. 4.
17 i. e., the Valentinians and some other Gnostics. Theodoret,
Ep. 145. "Valentinus, and Basilides, and Baedesanes, and Harmonius, and
those of their company, allow indeed the Virgin's conception and the birth,
but affirm that God the Word took nothing of the Virgin, but in a manner
made Himself a passage through her as through a conduit, and that in manifesting
Himself to men He was employing a mere phantom, and only seeming to be
a man; as He appeared to Abraham and certain other of the ancients." S.
Epiph.H'r. xxxi. 7. "They affirm that He brought down His body from Heaven,
and that as water through a conduit, so He passed through the Vtrgin Mary
taking nothing of His mother's womb, but having His body from Heaven, as
I said before". Comp. Massuet's 1st Dissert. prefixed to the Benedictine
Iren'ns, sec. 73. [Comp. the recovered work of Hippolytus (unknown when
the Oxford translation was made), Refutation of all Heresies. Book VI.,
VII., Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V. pp. et sqq.-R.]
18 Phil. ii. 7.
19 John 1. 14.
20 Rom. ix. 5.
22 Matt. i. 19.
23 [The punctuation of the translation has here been
conformed to that of the Geeek text.-R.]
24 See Arist. Eth. Nicom. v. I, 2.
25 Job i. 1.
26 Luke i. 6.
27 Prov.vi. 34.
28 Cant. viii. 6.
29 [to= pleon.]
30 [pa/ntwn e0n a0mhxania| kaqestwtwn.]
31 Luke i. 34.
32 [That is , did not give way to her feeling with loud
cry, whether of joy or grief.-R.]
33 Luke i. 29.
34 Matt. i. 20.
35 [a0groikikwteron, "more boorish."-R.]
36 to\n to/kon.