2. Yet none of these things made them take courage, and this when they
were continually hearing about His resurrection. For together with His
death this also especially troubled them, to hear that men should "mock
and scourge Him," and the like. For when they considered His miracles,
the possessed persons whom He had delivered, the dead whom He had raised,
all the other marvellous works which He was doing, and then heard these
things, they were amazed, if He who doeth these works is thus to suffer.
Therefore they fell even into perplexity, and now believed. now disbelieved,
and could not understand His sayings. So far at least were they from understanding
clearly what He said, that the sons of Zebedee at the same time came to
Him, and spake to Him of precedence. "We desire," it is said, "that one
should sit on Thy right hand, and one on Thy left " How then doth this
evangelist 'say, that their mother came to Him? It is probable both things
were done. I mean, that they took their mother with them, with the purpose
of making their entreaty stronger, and in this way to prevail with Christ.
For in proof that this is true, as I say, and the request was rather
theirs, and that being ashamed they put forward their mother, mark how
Christ directs His words to them.
But rather let us learn, first, what do they ask, and with what disposition,
and whence they were moved to this? Whence then were they moved to this?
They saw themselves honored above the rest, and expected from that they
should obtain this request also. But what can it be they ask? Hear another
evangelist plainly declaring this. For, "Because He was nigh," it is said,
"to Jerusalem, and because they thought the kingdom of God should immediately
appear," they asked these things. For they supposed that this was at the
doors, and visible, and that having obtained what they asked, they would
undergo none of the painful things. For neither for its own sake only did
they seek it, but as though they would also escape the hardships.
Wherefore also Christ in the first place leads them off from these thoughts,
commanding them to await slaughter and dangers, and the utmost tenors.
For, "Are ye able," saith He, "to drink of the cup that I drink of?"
But let no man be troubled at the apostles being in such an imperfect
state. For not yet was the cross accomplished, not yet the grace of the
Spirit given. But if thou wouldest learn their virtue, notice them after
these things, and thou wilt see them superior to every passion. For with
this object He reveals their deficiencies, that after these things thou
mightest know what manner of men they became by grace.
That then they were asking, in fact, for nothing spiritual, neither
had a thought of the kingdom above, is manifest from hence. But let us
see also, how they come unto Him, and what they say. "We would," it is
said, "that whatsoever we shall desire of Thee, Thou shouldest do it for
And Christ saith to them, "What would ye? " not being ignorant, but
that He may compel them to answer, and lay open the wound, and so apply
the medicine. But they out of shame and confusion of face, because under
the influence of a human passion they were come to do this, took Him privately
apart from the disciples, and asked Him. For they went before, it is said,
so that it might not be observable to them, and so said what they wished.
For it was their desire, as I suppose, because they heard, "Ye shall sit
on twelve thrones, to have the first place of these seats. And that they
had an advantage over the others, they knew, but they were afraid of Peter,
and say, "Command, that one sit on Thy right hand, one on Thy left;" and
they urge Him, saying, "Command."
What then saith He? Showing, that they asked nothing spiritual, neither,
if they had known again what they were asking, would they have ventured
to ask for so much, He saith, "Ye know not what ye ask," how great, how
marvellous, how surpassing even the powers above. After that He adds, "Are
ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with
the baptism that I am baptized with?" Seest thou, how He straightway drew
them off from their suspicion, by framing His discourse from the contrary
topics? For ye, He saith, talk to me of honor and crowns, but I to you
of conflicts and labors. For this is not the season for rewards, neither
shall that glory of mine appear now, but the present time is one of slaughter,
and wars, and dangers.
And see how by the form of His question, He both urges and attracts
them. For He said not, "Are ye able to be slain?" "Are ye able to pour
forth your blood?" but how? "Are ye able to drink of the cup?" Then to
attract them to it, He saith, "Which I shall drink of," that by their fellowship
with Him in it they might be made more ready.
And a baptism again calls He it; showing that great was the cleansing
the world was to have from the things that were being done.
"They say unto Him, We are able." Out of their forwardness they straightway
undertook it, not knowing even this which they were saying, but looking
to hear what they had asked.
What then saith He? "Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized
with the baptism that I am baptized with." Great blessings did He foretell
to them. His meaning is, ye shall be counted worthy of martyrdom, and shall
suffer these things which I suffer; ye shall close your life by a violent
death, and in these things ye shall be partakers with me; "But to sit on
my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it shall be given
to them for whom it is prepared of my Father."
3. Having first elevated their souls, and made them of a higher character,
and having rendered them such as sorrow could not subdue, then He reproves
But what can be this present saying? For indeed there are two points
that are subjects of inquiry to many: one, if it be prepared for any to
sit on His right hand; and then, if the Lord of all hath not power to bestow
it on them for whom it is prepared.
What then is the saying? If we solve the former point, then the second
also will be clear to the inquirers. What then is this? No one shall sit
on His right hand nor on His left. For that throne is inaccessible to all,
I do not say to men only, and saints, and apostles, but even to angels,
and archangels, and to all the powers that are on high.
At least Paul puts it. as a peculiar privilege of the Only-Begotten,
saying, "To which of the angels said He at any time, Sit thou on my right
hand? And of the angels He saith, who maketh His angels spirits;" but unto
the Son, 'Thy throne, O God.'"
How then saith He, "To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine
to give," as though there are some that should sit there? Not as though
there are; far from it; but He makes answer to the thoughts of them who
ask the favor, condescending to their understanding. For neither did they
know that lofty throne, and His sitting at the right hand of the Father;
how should they, when even the things that were much lower than these,
and were daily instilled into them, they understood not? but they sought
one thing only, to enjoy the first honors, and to stand before the rest,
and that no one should stand before them with Him; even as I have already
said before, that, since they heard of twelve thrones, in ignorance what
the saying could mean, they asked for the first place.
What therefore Christ saith is this: "Ye shall die indeed for me, and
shall be slain for the sake of the gospel, and shall be partakers with
me, as far as regards the passion: but this is not sufficient to secure
you the enjoyment of the first seat, and to cause that ye should occupy
the first place. For if any one else should come, together with the martyrdom,
possessed of all the other parts of virtue far more fully than you, not
because I love you now, and prefer you to the rest, therefore. shall I
set aside him that is distinguished by his good works, and give the first
honors to you."
But thus indeed He did not say it, so as not to pain them, but darkly
He intimates the self-same thing, saying, "Ye shall drink indeed of my
cup, and ye shall be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with;
but to sit on my right hand and on my left, this is not mine to give, but
it shall be given to those for whom it is prepared."
But for whom is it prepared? For them who could become distinguished
by their works. Therefore He said not, It is not mine to give, but my Father's,
lest any should say that He was too weak, or wanting in vigor for their
recompense; but how? It is not mine, but of those for whom it is prepared.
And in order that what I say may be more explain, let us work it on an
illustration, and let us suppose there was some master of the games, then
that many excellent combatants went down to the contest, and that some
two of the combatants that were most nearly connected with the master of
the games were to come to him and say, "Cause us to be crowned and proclaimed,"
confiding in their good-will and friendship with him; and that he were
to say to them, "This is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them
for whom it is prepared, by their labors, and their toils;" should we indeed
condemn him as powerless? By no means, but we should approve him for his
justice, and for having no respect of persons. Like then as we should not
say that he did not give the crown from want of vigor, but as not wishing
to corrupt the law of the games, nor to disturb the order of justice; in
like manner now should I say Christ said this, from every motive to compel
them, after the grace of God, to set their hopes of salvation and approval
on the proof of their own good works.
Therefore He saith, "For whom it is prepared." For what, saith He, if
others should appear better than you? What, if they should do greater things?
For shall ye, because ye have become my disciples, therefore enjoy the
first honors, if ye yourselves should not appear worthy of the choice?
For that He Himself hath power over the whole, is manifest from His
having the entire judgment. For to Peter too He speaks thus, "I will give
thee the keys of the Heavens." And Paul also makes this clear where he
saith, "Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which
the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me in that day; and not to me
only, but unto all them also which have loved His appearing.", But the
appearing was of Christ. But that no one will stand before Paul, is surely
clear to every one.
And if He hath expressed these things somewhat obscurely, marvel not.
For to lead them on by hidden instruction. not to be rudely pressing Him
without object or cause for the first honors (for from a human passion
they felt this), and not wishing to give them pain, by the obscurity He
effects both these objects.
"Then were the ten moved with indignation with respect to the two."
Then. When.) When He had reproved them. So long as the judgment was Christ's,
they were not moved with indignation; but seeing them preferred, they were
contented, and held their peace, out of reverence and honor to their Master.
And if they were vexed in mind, yet they dared not utter this. And when
they had some feeling of human weakness towards Peter, at the time that
He gave the didrachmas, they did not give way to anger, but asked only,
"Who then is greatest?" But since here the request was the disciples',
they are moved with indignation. And not even here are they straightway
moved with indignation, when they asked, but when Christ had reproved them,
and had said they should not enjoy the first honors, unless they showed
themselves worthy of these.
4. Seest thou how they were all in an imperfect state, when both these
were lifting themselves up above the ten, and those envying the two? But,
as I said, show me them after these things, and thou wilt see them delivered
from all these passions. Hear at least how this same John, he who now came
to Him for these things, everywhere gives up the first place to Peter,
both in addressing the people, and in working miracles, in the Acts of
And he conceals not Peter's good deeds, but relates both the confession,
which he openly made when all were silent, and his entering into the tomb,
and puts the apostle before himself. For, because both continued with Him
at His crucifixion, taking away the ground of his own commendation, he
saith, "That disciple was known unto the high priest."
But James survived not a long time, but from the beginning he was so
greatly filled with warmth, and so forsook all the things of men, and mounted
up to an height unutterable, as straightway to be slain. Thus, in all respects,
they after these things became excellent.
But then, "they were moved with indignation." What then saith Christ?
"He called them unto Him, and said, The princes of the Gentiles exercise
dominion over them." For, as they were disturbed and troubled, He soothes
them by His call before His word, and by drawing them near Him. For the
two having separated themselves from the company of the ten, had stood
nearer Him, pleading their own interests. Therefore He brings near Him
these also, by this very act, and by exposing and revealing it before the
rest, soothing the passion both of the one and of the other.
And not as before, so now also doth He check them. For whereas before
He brings little children into the midst, and commands to imitate their
simplicity and lowliness; here He reproves them in a sharper way from the
contrary side, saying, "The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over
them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but it shall not
be so among you; but he that will be great among you, let this man be minister
to all; and he that will be first, let him be last of all;" showing that
such a feeling as this is that of heathens, I mean, to love the first place.
For the passion is tyrannical, and is continually hindering even great
men; therefore also it needs a severer stripe. Whence He too strikes deeper
into them, by comparison with the Gentiles shaming their inflamed soul,
and removes the envy of the one and the arrogance of the other, all but
saying, "Be not moved with indignation, as insulted. For they harm and
disgrace themselves most, who on this wise seek the first places, for they
are amongst the last. For matters with us are not like matters without.
'For the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,' but with
me the last, even he is first."
"And in proof that I say not these things without cause, by the things
which I do and suffer, receive the proof of my sayings. For I have myself
done something even more. For being King of the powers above, I was willing
to become man, and I submitted to be despised, and despitefully entreated.
And not even with these things was I satisfied, but even unto death did
I come. Therefore," He saith,
"Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,
and to give His life a ransom for many." "For not even at this did I stop,"
saith He, "but even my life did I give a ransom; and for whom? For enemies.
But thou if thou art abused, it is for thyself, but I for thee."
Be not then afraid, as though thine honor were plucked down. For how
much soever thou humblest thyself, thou canst not descend so much as thy
Lord. And yet His descent hath become the ascent of all, and hath made
His own glory shine forth. For before He was made man, He was known amongst
angels only; but after He was made man and was crucified, so far from lessening
that glory, He acquired other besides, even that from the knowledge of
Fear not then, as though thine honor were put down, if thou shouldest
abase thyself, for in this way is thy glory more exalted, in this way it
becomes greater. This is the door of the kingdom. Let us not then go the
opposite way, neither let us war against ourselves. For if we desire to
appear great, we shall not be great, but even the most dishonored of all.
Seest thou how everywhere He urges them by the opposite things, giving
them what they desire? For in the preceding parts also we have shown this
in many instances, and in the cases of the covetous, and of the vain-glorious,
He did thus. For wherefore, He saith, dost thou give alms before men? That
thou mayest enjoy glory? Thou must then not do so, and thou shall surely
enjoy it. Wherefore dost thou lay up treasures? That thou mayest be rich?
Thou must then not lay up treasures, and thou shalt be rich. Even so here
too, wherefore dost thou set thy heart on the first places? That thou mayest
be before others? Choose then the last place, and then thou wilt enjoy
the first. So that if it be thy will to become great, seek not to become
great, and then thou wilt be great. For the other is to be little.
5. Seest thou how He drew them off from the disease, by showing them
both from thence failing of their object, and from hence gaining, that
they might flee the one, and follow after the other.
And of the Gentiles, too, He for this cause reminded them, that in this
way again He might show the thing to be disgraceful and to be abhorred.
For the arrogant is of necessity base, and, on the contrary, the lowly-minded
is high. For this is the height that is true and genuine, and exists not
in name only, nor in manner of address. And that which is from without
is of necessity and fear, but this is like to God's. Such a one, though
he be admired by no one, continues high; even as again the other, though
he be courted by all, is of all men the basest. And the one is an honor
rendered of necessity, whence also it easily passes away; but the other
is of principle, whence also it continues steadfast. Since for this we
admire the saints also, that being greater than all, they humbled themselves
more than all. Wherefore even to this day they continue to be high, and
not even death hath brought down that height.
And if ye be minded, let us by reasonings also inquire into this very
thing. Any one is said to be high, either when he is so by greatness of
stature, or when he hath chanted to be set on a high place, and low in
like manner, from the opposite things.
Let us see then who is like this, the boaster, or he that keeps within
measure, that thou mayest perceive that nothing is higher than lowliness
of mind, and nothing lower than boastfulness.
The boaster then desires to be greater than all, and affirms no one
to be equal in worth with him; and how much soever honor he may obtain,
he sets his heart on more and claims it, and accounts himself to have obtained
none, and treats men with utter contempt, and yet seeks after the honor
that comes from them; than which what can be more unreasonable? For this
surely is like an enigma. By those, whom he holds in no esteem, he desires
to be glorified.
Seest thou how he who desires to be exalted falls down and is set on
the ground? For that he accounts all men to be nothing compared with himself,
he himself declares, for this is boasting. Why then dost cast thyself upon
him who is nothing? why dost thou seek honor of him? Why dost thou lead
about a with thee such great multitudes?
Seest thou one low, and set on a low place. Come then, let us inquire
about the high man. This one knows what man is, and that man is a great
thing, and that he himself is last of all, and therefore whatever honor
he may enjoy, he reckons this great, so that this one is consistent with
himself and is high, and shifts not his judgment; for whom he accounts
great, the honors that come from them he esteems great also, though they
should chance to be small, because he accounts those who bestow them to
be great. But the boastful man accounts them that give the honors to be
nothing, yet the honors bestowed by them he reckons to be great.
Again, the lowly man is seized by no passion, no anger can much trouble
this man, no love of glory, no envy, no jealousy: and what can be higher
than the soul that is delivered from these things? But the boastful man
is held in subjection by all these things, like any worm crawling in the
mire, for jealousy and envy and anger are forever troubling his soul.
Which then is high? He that is superior to his passions, or he that
is their slave? He that trembles at them and is afraid of them, or he that
is unsubdued, and never taken by them? Which kind of bird should we say
flies higher? that which is higher than the hands and the arrows of the
hunter, or that which does not even suffer the hunters to need an arrow,
from his flying along the ground, and from not being able ever to elevate
himself? Is not then the arrogant man like this? for indeed every net readily
catches him as crawling on the ground.
6. But if thou wilt, even from that wicked demon prove thou this. For
what can be baser than the devil, because he had exalted himself; what
higher than the man who is willing to abase himself? For the former crawls
on the ground under our heel (For, "ye tread," He saith, "upon serpents
and scorpions"), but the latter is set with the angels on high.
But if thou desirest to learn this from the example of haughty men also,
consider that barbarian king, that led so great an army, who knew not so
much as the things that are manifest to all; as, for instance, that stone
was stone, and the images, images; wherefore he was inferior even to these.
But the godly and faithful are raised even above the sun; than whom what
can be higher, who rise above even the vaults of heaven, and passing beyond
angels, stand by the very throne of the king.
And that thou mayest learn in another way their vileness; who will be
abased? He who has God for his ally, or he with whom God is at war? It
is quite plain that it is he with whom He is at war. Hear then touching
either of these what saith the Scripture. "God res steth the proud, but
giveth grace unto the humble."
Again, I will ask you another thing also. Which is higher? He who acts
as a priest to God and offers sacrifice? or he who is somewhere far removed
from confidence towards Him? And what manner of sacrifice doth the lowly
man offer? one may say. Hear David saying, "The sacrifice of God is a contrite
spirit; a contrite and humbled heart God will not despise."
Seest thou the purity of this man? Behold also the uncleanness of the
other; for "every one that is proud in heart is unclean before God." Besides,
the one hath God resting upon him, ("For unto whom will I look," saith
He, "but to him that is meek and quiet, and trembleth at my words"), but
the other crawls with the devil, for he that is lifted up with pride shall
suffer the devil's punishment. Wherefore Paul also said, "Lest, being lifted
up with pride, he should fall into the condemnation of the devil."
And the thing opposite to what he wishes, befalls him. For his wish
is to be arrogant, that he may be honored; but the most contemned of all
is this character. For these most of all are laughing stocks, foes and
enemies to all men, the most easy to be subdued by their enemies, the men
that easily fall into anger, the unclean before God.
What then can be worse than this, for this is the extremity of evils?
And what is sweeter than the lowly, what more blessed, since, they are
longed after, and beloved of God? And the glory too that cometh of men,
these do most of all enjoy, and all honor them as fathers, embrace them
as brothers, receive them as their own members.
Let us then become lowly, that we may be high. For most utterly doth
arrogance abase. This abased Pharaoh. For, "I know not," he saith, "the
Lord," and he became inferior to flies and frogs, and the locusts, and
after that with his very arms and horses was he drowned in the sea. In
direct opposition to him, Abraham saith, "I am dust and ashes," and prevailed
over countless barbarians, and having fallen into the midst of Egyptians,
returned, bearing a trophy more glorious than the former, and, cleaving
to this virtue, grew ever more high. Therefore he is celebrated everywhere,
therefore he is crowned and proclaimed; but Pharaoh is both earth and ashes,
and if there is anything else more vile than these. For nothing cloth God
so abhor as arrogance. For this object hath He done all things from the
beginning, in order that He might root out this passion. Because of this
are we become mortal, and are in sorrows, and wailings. Because of this
are we in toil, and sweat, and in labor continual, and mingled with affliction.
For indeed out of arrogance did the first man sin, looking for an equality
with God. Therefore, not even what things he had, did he continue to possess,
but lost even these.
For arrogance is like this, so far from adding to us any improvement
of our life, it subtracts even what we have; as, on the contrary, humility,
so far from subtracting from what we have, adds to us also what we have
This virtue then let us emulate, this let us pursue, that we may both
enjoy present honor, and attain unto the glory to come, by the grace and
love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be unto the Father
glory and might, together with the Holy Ghost, now and always, and world
without end. Amen.