from Homily XV.
[4.] Ver. 11. "But Christ being come an High Priest of good things
that are come by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands."
Here he means the flesh. And well did he say, "greater and more perfect,"
since God The Word and all the power of The Spirit dwells therein; "For
God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto Him]." (John iii. 34.) And "more
perfect," as being both unblamable, and setting right greater things.
"That is, not of this creation." See how [it was] "greater." For it
would not have been "of the Spirit" (Matt. i. 20), if man had constructed
it. Nor yet is it "of this creation"; that is, not of these created things,
but spiritual, of the Holy Ghost.
Seest thou how he calls the body tabernacle and veil and heaven. "By
a greater and more perfect tabernacle. Through the veil, that is, His flesh."
(Heb. x. 20.) And again, "into that within the veil." (Heb. vi. 19.) And
again, "entering into the Holy of Holies, to appear before the face of
God." (Heb. ix. 24.) Why then doth he this? According as one thing or a
different one is signified. I mean for instance, the Heaven is a veil,
for as a veil it walls off the Holy of Holies; the flesh [is a veil] hiding
the Godhead; and the tabernacle likewise holding the Godhead. Again, Heaven
[is] a tabernacle: for the Priest is there within.
"But Christ" (he says) "being come an High Priest ": he did not say,
"become," but "being come," that is, having come for this very purpose,
not having been successor to another. He did not come first and then become
[High Priest], but came and became at the same time. And he did not say
"being come an High Priest" of things which are sacrificed, but "of good
things that are come," as if his discourse had not power to put the whole
Ver. 12. "Neither by the blood," he says, "of goats and calves"
(All things are changed) "but by His own Blood" (he says) "He
entered in once for all into the Holy Place." See thus he called Heaven.
"Once for all" (he says) "He entered into the Holy Place, having obtained
eternal redemption." And this [expression] "having obtained," was [expressive]
of things very difficult, and that are beyond expectation, how by one entering
in, He "obtained everlasting redemption."
[5.] Next [comes] that which is calculated to persuade.
Ver. 13, 14. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes
of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the
flesh; how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit
offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works,
to serve the living God."
For (he says) if "the blood of bulls" is able to purify the flesh, much
rather shall the Blood of Christ wipe away the defilement of the soul.
For that thou mayest not suppose when thou hearest [the word] "sanctifieth,"
that it is some great thing, he marks out and shows the difference between
each of these purifyings, and how the one of them is high and the other
low. And says it is [so] with good reason, since that is "the blood of
bulls," and this "the Blood of Christ."
Nor was he content with the name, but he sets forth also the manner
of the offering. "Who" (he says) "through the Holy Spirit offered Himself
without spot to God," that is, the victim was without blemish, pure from
sins. For this is [the meaning of] "through the Holy Spirit," not through
fire, nor through any other things.
"Shall purge your conscience" (he says) "from dead works." And well
said he "from dead works"; if any man touched a dead body, he was polluted;
and here, if any man touch a "dead work," he is defiled through his conscience.
"To serve" (he says) "the Living and true God." Here he declares that it
is not [possible] while one has "dead works to serve the Living and true
God," for they are both dead and false; and with good reason [he says this].
[6.] Let no man then enter in here with "dead works." For if it was
not fit that one should enter in who had touched a dead body, much more
one that hath "dead works": for this is the most grievous pollution. And
"dead works" are, all which have not life, which breathe forth an ill odor.
For as a dead body is useful to none of the senses, but is even annoying
to those who come near it, so sin also at once strikes the reasoning faculty,
and does not allow the understanding itself to be calm, but disturbs and
And it is said too that a plague at its very commencement corrupts the
living bodies; such also is sin. It differs in nothing from a plague, not
[indeed] corrupting the air first, and then the bodies, but darting at
once into the soul. Seest thou not how persons affected with the plague,
are inflamed: how they writhe about, how they are full of an ill scent,
how disfigured are their countenances: how wholly unclean they are? Such
are they also that sin, though they see it not. For, tell me, is not he
who is possessed by the desire of riches or carnal lust, worse than any
one that is in a fever? Is he not more unclean than all these, when he
does and submits to all shameless things?
[7.] For what is baser than a man who is in love with money? Whatever
things women that are harlots or on the stage refuse not to do neither
does he [refuse]. Rather it is likely that they would refuse [to do] a
thing, rather than he. He even submits to do things fit for slaves, flattering
those whom he ought not; again he is overbearing where he ought not to
be, being inconsistent in every respect. He will sit by flattering wicked
people, and oftentimes depraved old men, that are of much poorer and meaner
condition than himself; and will he insolent and overbearing to others
that are good and in all respects virtuous. Thou seest in both respects
the baseness, the shamelessness: he is both humble beyond measure, and
Harlots however stand in front of their house, and the charge against
them is that they sell their body for money: yet, one may say, poverty
and hunger compel them (although at the most this is no sufficient excuse:
for they might gain a livelihood by work). But the covetous man stands,
not before his house, but before the midst of the city, making over to
the devil not his body but his soul; so that he [the devil] is in his company,
and goes in unto him, as verily to a harlot: and having satisfied all his
lusts departs; and all the city sees it, not two or three persons only.
And this again is the peculiarity of harlots, that the), are his who
gives the gold. Even if he be a slave or a gladiator, or any person whatever,
yet if he offers their hire, they receive him. But the free, even should
they be more noble than all, they do not accept without the money. These
men also do the same. They turn away right thoughts when they bring no
money; but they associate with the abominable, and actually with those
that fight with wild beasts, for the sake of the gold, and associate with
them shamelessly and destroy the beauty of the soul. For as those women
are naturally of odious appearance and black, and awkward and gross, and
formless and ill-shaped, and in all respects disgusting, such do the souls
of these men become, not able to conceal their deformity by their outward
paintings. For when the ill look is extreme, whatever they may devise,
they cannot succeed in their feigning.
For that shamelessness makes harlots, hear the prophet saying, "Thou
wert shameless towards all; thou hadst a harlot's countenance." (Jer. iii.
3.) This may be said to the covetous also: "Thou wert shameless towards
all," not towards these or those, but "towards all." How? Such an one respects
neither father, nor son, nor wife, nor friend, nor brother, nor benefactor,
nor absolutely any one. And why do I say friend, and brother, and father?
He respects not God Himself, but all [we believe] seems to him a fable;
and he laughs, intoxicated by his great lust, and not even admitting into
his ears any of the things which might profit him.
But O! their absurdity! and then what things they say! "Woe to thee,
O Mammon, and to him that has thee not." At this I am torn to pieces with
indignation: for woe to those who say these things, though they say them
in jest. For tell me, has not God uttered such a threat as this, saying,
"Ye cannot serve two masters"? (Matt. vi. 24.) And dost thou set at nought
the threat? Does not Paul say that it is Idolatry, and does he not call
"the covetous man an Idolater"? (Eph. v. 5.)
[8.] And thou standest laughing, raising a laugh after the manner of
women of the world who are on the stage. This has overthrown, this has
cast down everything. Our affairs, both our business and our politeness,
are turned into laughing; there is nothing steady, nothing grave. I say
not these things to men of the world only; but I know those whom I am hinting
at. For the Church has been filled with laughter. Whatever clever thing
one may say, immediately there is laughter among those present: and the
marvelous thing is that many do not leave off laughing even during the
very time of the prayer.
Everywhere the devil leads the dance, he has entered into all, is master
of all. Christ is dishonored, is thrust aside; the Church is made no account
of. Do ye not hear Paul saying, Let "filthiness and foolish talking and
jesting" (Eph. v. 4) be put away from you? He places "jesting" along with
"filthiness," and dost thou laugh? What is "foolish talking"? that which
has nothing profitable. And dost thou, a solitary, laugh at all and relax
thy countenance? thou that art crucified? thou that art a mourner? tell
me, dost thou laugh? Where dost thou hear of Christ doing this? Nowhere:
but that He was sad indeed oftentimes. For even when He looked on Jerusalem,
He wept; and when He thought on the Traitor He was troubled; and when He
was about to raise Lazarus, He wept; and dost thou laugh? If he who grieves
not over the sins of others deserves to be accused, of what consideration
will he be worthy, who is without sorrow for his own sins, yea laughs at
them? This is the season of grief and tribulation, of bruising and bringing
matter [the body], of conflicts and sweatings, and dost thou laugh? Dost
not thou see how Sarah was rebuked? dost thou not hear Christ saying, "Woe
to them that laugh, for they shall weep"? (Luke vi. 25.) Thou chantest
these things every day, for, tell me, what dost thou say? "I have laughed?"
By no means; but what? "I labored in my groaning." (Ps. vi. 6.)
But perchance there are some persons so dissolute and silly as even
during this very rebuke to laugh, because forsooth we thus discourse about
laughter. For indeed such is their derangement, such their madness, that
it does not feel the rebuke.
The Priest of God is Standing, offering up the prayer of all: and art
thou laughing, having no fears? And while he is offering up the prayers
in trembling for thee, dost thou despise all? Hearest thou not the Scripture
saying, "Woe, ye despisers!" (cf. Acts xiii. 41 from Hab. i. 5); dost thou
not shudder? dost thou not humble thyself? Even when thou enterest a royal
palace, thou orderest thyself in dress, and look, and gait, and all other
respects: and here where there is the true Palace, and things like those
of heaven, dost thou laugh? Thou indeed, I know, seest [them] not, but
hear thou that there are angels present everywhere, and in the house of
God especially they stand by the King, and all is filled by those incorporeal
This my discourse is addressed to women also, who in the presence of
their husbands indeed do not dare readily to do this, and even if they
do it, it is not at all times, but during a season of relaxation, but here
they do it always. Tell me, O woman, dost thou cover thine head and laugh,
sitting in the Church? Didst thou come in here to make confession of sins,
to fall down before God, to entreat and to supplicate for the transgressions
thou hast wretchedly committed, and dost thou do this with laughter? How
then wilt thou be able to propitiate Him?
[9.] But (one says) what harm is there in laughter? There is no harm
in laughter; the harm is when it is beyond measure, and out of season.
Laughter has been implanted in us, that when we see our friends after a
long time, we may laugh; that when we see any persons downcast and fearful,
we may relieve them by our smile; not that we should burst out violently
and be always laughing. Laughter has been implanted in our soul, that the
soul may sometimes be refreshed, not that it may be quite relaxed. For
carnal desire also is implanted in us, and yet it is not by any means necessary
that because it is implanted in us, therefore we should use it, or use
it immoderately: but we should hold it in subjection, and not say, Because
it is implanted in us, let us use it.
Serve God with tears, that thou mayest be able to wash away your sins.
I know that many mock us, saying, "Tears directly." Therefore it is a time
for tears. I know also that they are disgusted, who say, "Let us eat and
drink, for to-morrow we die." (1 Cor. xv. 32.) "Vanity of vanities, all
is vanity." (Eccles. i. 2.) It is not I that say it, but he who had had
the experience of all things saith thus: "I builded for me houses, I planted
vineyards, I made me pools of water, [I had] men servants and women servants."
(Eccles. ii. 4, Eccles. ii. 6, Eccles. ii. 7.) And what then after all
these things? "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." (Eccles. xii. 8.)
Let us mourn therefore, beloved, let us mourn in order that we may laugh
indeed, that we may rejoice indeed in the time of unmixed joy. For with
this joy [here] grief is altogether mingled: and never is it possible to
find it pure. But that is simple and undeceiving joy: it has nothing treacherous,
nor any admixture. In that joy let us delight ourselves; that let us pursue
after. And it is not possible to obtain this in any other way, than by
choosing here not what is pleasant, but what is profitable, and being willing
to be afflicted a little, and bearing all things with thanksgiving. For
thus we shall be able to attain even to the Kingdom of Heaven, of which
may we all be counted worthy, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the
Father be glory, together with the Holy Ghost, now and for ever and world
without end, Amen.
Hebrews ix. 15-18.-"And for this cause He is the Mediator of the
New Testament, that by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions
that were under the first Testament, they which are called might receive
the promise of an eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there
must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is
of force after men are dead, otherwise it is of no strength at all while
the testator liveth. Whereupon neither the first [testament] was dedicated
[1.] It was probable that many of those who were more weakly would especially
distrust the promises of Christ because He had died. Paul accordingly out
of a superabundance introduced this illustration, deriving it from common
custom. Of what kind is it? He says, "indeed, on this very account we ought
to be of good courage." On what account? Because testaments are established
and obtain their force when those who have made them are not living, but
dead. "And for this cause," he says, "He is the Mediator of the New Testament."
A Testament is made towards the last day, [the day] of death.
And a testament is of this character: It makes some heirs, and some
disinherited. So in this case also: "I will that where I am," Christ says,
"they also may be." (John xvii. 24.) And again of the disinherited, hear
Him saying, "I pray not for" all, "but for them that believe on Me through
their word." (John xvii. 20.) Again, a testament has relation both to the
testator, and to the legatees; so that they have some things to receive,
and some to do, So also in this case. For after having made promises innumerable,
He demands also something from them, saying, "a new commandment I give
unto you." (John xiii. 34.) Again, a testament ought to have witnesses.
Hear Him again saying, "I am one that bear witness of Myself, and He that
sent Me beareth witness of Me." (John viii. 18.) And again, "He shall testify
of Me" (John xv. 26), speaking of the Comforter. The twelve Apostles too
He sent, saying, "Bear ye witness before God."
[2.] "And for this cause" (he says) "He is the Mediator of the New Testament."
What is a "Mediator"? A mediator is not lord of the thing of which he is
mediator, but the thing belongs to one person, and the mediator is another:
as for instance, the mediator of a marriage is not the bridegroom, but
one who aids him who is about to be married. So then also here: The Son
became Mediator between the Father and us. The Father willed not to leave
us this inheritance, but was wroth against us, and was displeased [with
us] as being estranged [from Him]; He accordingly became Mediator between
us and Him, and prevailed with Him.
And what then? How did He become Mediator? He brought words from [Him]
and brought [them to us], conveying over what came from the Father to us,
and adding His own death thereto. We had offended: we ought to have died:
He died for us and made us worthy of the Testament. By this is the Testament
secure, in that henceforward it is not made for the unworthy. At the beginning
indeed, He made His dispositions as a father for sons; but after we had
become unworthy, there was no longer need of a testament, but of punishment.
Why then (he would say) dost thou think upon the law? For it placed
us in a condition of so great sin, that we could never have been saved,
if our Lord had not died for us; the law would not have had power, for
it is weak.
[3.] And he established this no longer from common custom only, but
also from what happened under the old [Testament]: which especially influenced
them. There was no one who died there: how then could that [Testament]
be firm? In the same way (he says). How? For blood was there also, as there
is blood here. And if it was not the blood of the Christ, do not be surprised;
for it was a type. "Whereupon," he says, "neither was the first [Testament]
dedicated without blood."
What is "was dedicated"? was confirmed, was ratified. The word "whereupon"
means "for this cause." It was needful that the symbol of the Testament
should be also that of death.
For why (tell me) is the book of the testament sprinkled? (Ver. 19,
20) "For" (he says) "when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people
according to the law, he took the blood of calves, with water, and scarlet
wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
saying, This is the blood of the testament, which God hath enjoined unto
you:" Tell me then why is the book of the testament sprinkled, and also
the people, except on account of the precious blood, figured from the first?
Why "with hyssop"? It is close and retentive And why the "water"? It shows
forth also the cleansing by water. And why the "wool"? this also [was used],
that the blood might be retained. In this place blood and water show forth
the same thing, for baptism is His passion.