Chrysostom on Depression


Why then – with regard to other griefs – are you cast down, O man? Since, if for sins which is the only place where grief is beneficial excess works much mischief, much more so does it for all other things. Why do you grieve? Have you lost money? Well, think of those who are not even filled with bread, and you shall indeed speedily obtain consolation. And in each of the things that are grievous to you, do not mourn the things that have happened; instead, for the disasters that have not happened, give thanks. Have you had money and lost it? Do not weep for the loss, but give thanks for the time when you enjoyed it. Say like Job, “Have we received good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) And together with that, use this argument also: even if you did lose your money and yet your body is still sound, give thanks that in spite of your poverty at least your body is not maimed.

But has your body also endured some outrage? Even this is not the bottom of human calamities, but in the middle of the cask you are—so-to-speak—carried along. For many, along with poverty and maiming, both wrestle with a demon and wander in deserts. Again, others endure other things more grievous than these. But may it never be our lot to suffer all that it is possible for one to bear. Considering these things then, let us bear in mind them that suffer worse, and not be vexed at any of these things. However, only when thou sin, then sigh, then weep. In that case I do not forbid you, rather I enjoin you; although even then do so with moderation, remembering that there is returning and reconciliation.

But do you still grieve, why? Do you see others in luxury and yourself in poverty; and another in goodly robes, and in preeminence? Do not look, however, at these things alone, but also on the miseries that arise out of them. And in your poverty too, consider not simply the beggary, but also the pleasure arising therefrom. For wealth has indeed a cheerful mask, but its inward parts are full of gloom; and yet poverty has the reverse. And if you would unfold each man’s conscience, in the soul of the poor you will see great security and freedom; but in that of the rich, confusions, disorders, tempests. And if you grieve, seeing one who is rich, know that he too is vexed even more than you when he beholds one richer than himself. And as you fear him, even so does he another, thus he has no advantage over thee in this. Are you vexed to see him in a governing office, because you are simply a citizen and one of the governed? Recollect then the day of his ceasing to hold office; and even before that day what his office entails: the tumults, the perils, the fatigues, the flatteries, the sleepless nights, and many other miseries.

These things we say to those who have no mind for high morality: since if you understood this, there are other and greater things whereby we may comfort you. But for the present we must use the coarser topics to convince you. Therefore when you see one that is rich, think of one that is richer than he, and you will then see him in the same condition as yourself. And after him, look also on him that is poorer than thyself, and consider how many have gone to bed hungry, and have lost their patrimony, and live in a dungeon, and pray for death every day. For neither doth poverty breed sadness, nor wealth pleasure, but our own thoughts are accustomed to produce both the one and the other in us. And consider, beginning from beneath: the scavenger grieves and is vexed that he cannot be rid of his business which is so wretched and esteemed so disgraceful. But if you rid him of this, and cause him – with security – to have plenty of the necessaries of life, he will grieve again that he hath not more than he wants. And if thou grant him more, he will wish to double them again, and will therefore vex himself no less than before. And if you will give him double or triple, he will be out of heart again because he hath no part in the state. If you provide him with this also, he will count himself wretched because he is not one of the highest officers of state. And when he has obtained this honor, he will mourn that he is not a ruler; and when he shall be ruler, that it is not of a whole nation. And when of a whole nation, that it is not of many nations; and when of many nations, then that he is not king. And if such were made a king, then he will grieve that he is not so alone; and if alone, that he is not also of barbarous nations; and if of barbarous nations, that he is not even of the whole world. And if of the whole world, why not likewise of another world? And so his course of thought going on without end does not allow him ever to be pleased. Do you see how even if from being mean and poor you would make a man a king, you do not remove his dejection, without first correcting his turn of thought, enamored as it is of having more?

Come, let me also show you the contrary, that even if from a higher station you should bring down to a lower one a man who has prudence, you wilt not cast him into dejection and grief. And if you will, let us descend the same ladder, and bring down the governor from his throne and in supposition deprive him of that dignity. I say that he will not on this account vex himself, if he should choose to bear in mind the things of which I have spoken. He will not consider the things of which he hath been deprived, but rather that which he still has, and the glory arising from his office. But if thou take away this also, he will consider those who are in private stations and have never ascended to such a position, and for consolation his riches will suffice him. And if you also cast him out again from this, he will look to them that have a moderate estate. And if you would take away even moderate wealth, and allow him to partake only of necessary food, he may think upon those who do not even have this, but wrestle with incessant hunger and live in prison. And even if thou should bring him into that prison-house, when he reflects on them that lie under incurable diseases and irremediable pains, even there he will see himself to be in much better circumstances.

And just as the scavenger mentioned before will not reap any cheerfulness even on being made a king, so neither will the prudent man ever vex himself even if he becomes a prisoner. It is not then wealth that is the foundation of pleasure, nor poverty of sadness. Rather it is our own judgment, and the fact, that the eyes of our mind are not pure; nor are they fixed on any one place and abide there, but without limit they flutter abroad. And just as healthy bodies, if they are nourished with bread alone, are in good and vigorous condition, while those that are sickly, even if they enjoy a plentiful and varied diet, become so much the weaker; so also it is accustomed to happen in regard to the soul. The mean spirited, not even in a diadem and unspeakable honors can be happy; but the self-denying, even in bonds and fetters and poverty, will enjoy a pure pleasure.

Bearing these things in mind then, let us ever look to them that are beneath us. There is to be found, I grant, another consolation, one of a high strain in morality, and mounting above the grossness of the multitude. What is this? That wealth is nothing, poverty is nothing, disgrace is nothing, honor is nothing; but for a brief time and only in words do they differ from each other. And along with this there is another soothing topic even greater than it: the consideration of the things to come, both evil and good; the things which are really evil and really good, and being comforted by them. But since many, as I said, stand aloof from these doctrines; therefore were we compelled to dwell on others, so that in course we might lead them on to receive that which has been said before.

Taking all these things into account, let us by every means frame ourselves aright, and we shall never grieve at these unexpected things. For just as if we should see men rich in a picture, we would not say they were to be envied, likewise on seeing poor men so depicted we should [not?] call them wretched and pitiable. Yet those paintings are surely will outlast those whom we consider wealthy; since one abides rich in the painting longer than in the nature of the things themselves. For the one often lasts, appearing such, even to a hundred years; but the other sometimes – not having had so much as a fraction of this – has been suddenly stripped of all.

Meditating then on all these things, let us from all quarters build up cheerfulness as a defense against our irrational sorrow, so that in this way we may both pass the present life with pleasure, and obtain the good things to come, through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, with Whom to the Father, with the Holy Spirit, be glory, power, and honor, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Chrysostom on Sorrow

Let us not be distressed at the evils that happen to us.  This is sobriety of mind.  “In the season of temptation,” he says, “Make not haste.”(Ecclesiasticus 2:2)  Many have their several griefs at home, and we share in each other’s sorrows, though not in their sources.  For one is unhappy on account of his wife, another on account of his child, or his servant, another of his friend, another of his enemy, another of his neighbor, another from some loss.  And various are the causes of sorrow, so that we can find no one free from trouble and unhappiness of some kind or other, but some have greater sorrows and some less.  Let us not therefore be impatient, nor think ourselves only to be unhappy.
For there is no such thing in this mortal life as being exempt from sorrow.  If not today, yet tomorrow; if not tomorrow, yet some later day trouble comes.  For as one cannot sail over a long sea, and not feel disquietude, so it is not possible to pass through this life, without experience of sorrow.  Yes, even though you name a rich man; for by virtue of the fact that he is rich he has many occasions of inordinate desires.  Although he may be the king himself, since he too is ruled by many, and cannot do all that he would like to do.  Many favors he grants contrary to his wishes, and more than all men is obliged to do against his preference.  How is it so?  Because he has many about him who wish to receive his gifts.  And just think how great is his grief, when he is desirous to effect something, but is unable, either from fear or suspicion, or hindered by enemies or by friends.  Often when he has succeeded in achieving some end, he loses all the pleasure of it, from many becoming at enmity with him.
Again, do you think that they are free from grief, who live a life of ease?  It is impossible.  As a man cannot escape death, so neither can he escape sorrow.  How many troubles must they endure, which we cannot express in words, and which they only can know by experience!  How many have prayed a thousand times to die, in the midst of their wealth and luxury!  For luxury by no means puts men out of the reach of grief; it is rather the very thing to produce sorrows, diseases, and uneasiness, often when there is no real ground for it.  For when such is the habit of the soul, it is apt to grieve even without a cause.  Physicians say that from a weak state of the stomach arise sorrows without any occasion; and does not the like happen to ourselves, to feel uneasy, without knowing any cause for it?  In short, we can find no one who is exempted from sorrow.  And if he has less occasion for grief than ourselves, yet he thinks otherwise, for he feels his own sorrows, more than those of other men.  It is as those who suffer pain in any part of their bodies, think that their sufferings exceed their neighbor’s.  He that has a disease of the eye thinks there is nothing so painful, and he that has a disorder in the stomach, considers that the sorest of diseases, and each thinks that the illness with which he is afflicted is the worst of sufferings.
So it is with sorrow, each thinks his own present grief the most severe.  For of this he judges by his own experience.  He that is childless considers nothing so sad as to be without children; he that is poor, and has many children, complains of the extreme evils of a large family.  He who has but one, looks upon this as the greatest misery, because that one, being pampered, and never corrected, becomes willful, and brings grief upon his father.  He who has a beautiful wife, thinks nothing so bad as having a beautiful wife, because it is the occasion of jealousy and intrigue.  He who has an ugly one, thinks nothing worse than having a plain wife, because it is constantly disagreeable.  The private man thinks nothing more mean, more useless, than his mode of life.  The soldier declares that nothing is more toilsome, more perilous, than warfare; that it would be better to live on bread and water than endure such hardships.  He that is in power thinks there can be no greater burden than to attend to the necessities of others.  He that is subject to that power, thinks nothing more servile than living at the beck of others.  The married man considers nothing worse than a wife, and the cares of marriage.  The unmarried declares there is nothing so wretched as being unmarried, and wanting the repose of a home.  The merchant thinks the husbandman happy in his security.  The husbandman thinks the merchant so in his wealth.  In short, all mankind is somehow hard to please, and discontented and impatient.  When condemning the whole race, the Psalmist says, “Man is a thing of nought” (Ps. 144:4), implying that the whole kind is a wretched unhappy creature.  How many long for old age!  How many think youth a happy time!  Thus each different period has its unhappiness.  When we find ourselves censured on account of our youth, we say, why are we not old?  And when our heads are hoary, we ask whither has our youth flown?  Numberless, in short, are the occasions of sorrow.  There is one path only by which this unevenness can be escaped.  It is the path of virtue.  Yet that too has its sorrows, only they are sorrows not unprofitable, but productive of gain and advantage.  For if any one has sinned he washes away his sin by the compunction that comes of his sorrow.  Or, if he has grieved in sympathizing with a fallen brother, this is not without its recompense.  For sympathy with those that are in misery gives us great confidence towards God.
Hear therefore what philosophy is taught by the example of Paul:  “Weep with them that weep;” and again, “Condescend to men of low estate.”  (Rom. 12:15-16)  For, by the communication of sorrow, the extreme burden of it is lightened.   For as in the case of a heavy load, he that bears part of the weight relieves him who was bearing it alone, so it is in all other things.  Amen.

A Final Word from Chrysostom on Anger

A Final Word on Anger from Chrysostom
“He that is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”  (Matt. 5:22); so does our Lord speak.  Thus He has not altogether taken the thing away; first because it is not possible, being a man to be freed from passions.  We may indeed get dominion over them, but to be altogether without them is out of the question.  Next, because this passion is even useful, if we know how to use it at the suitable time.  See, for instance, what great good was wrought by the anger of Paul which he exercised against the Corinthians, on that well known occasion (see I Corinthians Chapter 5); and how it delivered them from a grievous pest.  In the same manner he recovered the people of Galatia, who had slipped aside, and others also besides these.
What then is the proper time for anger?  When we are not avenging ourselves, but checking others in their lawless freaks, or forcing them to attend in their negligence.  And what is the unsuitable time?  When we do so as avenging ourselves, which Paul also forbidding said, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath.”  (Rom. 12:19)  Also when we are contending for riches:  yes, for this he has also taken away when he says, “Why not rather suffer wrong?  Why not rather be defrauded?”  (I Cor. 6:7)  For just as the taking of vengeance is superfluous, so the other type is necessary and profitable.  But most men do the contrary; they become like wild beasts when they are injured.  But they are remiss and cowardly when they see despite done to another or another breaking the laws of God, both which are the opposite of the laws of the Gospel.
Being angry then is not transgression, but being so out of place.  For this cause the prophet has also said, “Be ye angry and sin not.”  (Ps. 4:5)  And this is how anger is meant to be:  however provoked, not to forsake gentleness, and however at rest and quiet, to be on the alert against evil thoughts.  To acknowledge the friend, and not for any beating to forsake him, and for all his caressing, to fly at the intruder.  Anger must be under control and not overthrow the reasoning of the mind.  Such good order may we all attain through the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ to Whom be glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages.  Amen.

More on Anger from Chrysostom

More on Anger from Chrysostom

“Then were assembled together the chief priests and the scribes and the elders of the people, in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety, and kill him. But they said, not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar among the people.” (Matt. 26:3-5)

Yet in spite of this, boiling with anger they changed their purpose again. For although they had said, “Not at the feast time;” when they found the traitor they did not wait, but slew Him on the feast. But O loving kindness! Those that were so depraved, so refractory, and full of countless evils, He again saves, and sends the apostles to be slain on their behalf, and the apostles, in spite of this continue to entreat them to repent and turn to Him, “For we are ambassadors for Christ” (II Cor. 5:20) .

Having such patterns as these, I do not say let us die for our enemies, although we should even do this. Since we are too feeble for this, I say for the present, at least let us not look with an evil eye upon our friends and let’s not envy our benefactors. For the present I don’t say let us do good to those that treat us evil, though I desire even this; but since you are too gross for this, at least do not avenge yourselves. For what is our condition? We actually set ourselves in opposition to the commandments enjoined. It is not without purpose that these things have been recorded; but in order that we might imitate His loving-kindness. For indeed in the garden He cast them to the ground and restored the servant’s ear, and discoursed with forbearance. He also has shown forth great miracles: when uplifted on the Cross He turned aside the rays of the sun, burst the rocks, raised the dead, frightened by dreams the wife of Pilate who judged Him. At the very judgment He showed forth all meekness (which had no less power than the miracles to win them over). He forewarned them of countless things in the judgment hall; on the very Cross He cried aloud, “Father forgive them their sin” (Luke 23:34 freely cited).

And when buried, how many things did our Lord do for their salvation? And having endured all this from them, didn’t He immediately call the Jews? Didn’t He give them remission of sins? Didn’t He set before them countless blessings? What can be equal to this tenderness?

On hearing these things let us with shame hide our faces, to think that we are so far removed from Him Whom we are commanded to imitate. Let us at least see how great is the distance between He and us (if it is possible), that we may at any rate condemn ourselves, for warring with those on behalf of whom Christ gave His life, and be unwilling to be reconciled with them, whom in order that He might reconcile them to us did not refuse to be slain.

Has anyone spoken ill of you and disgraced you? Consider that you have also done so to others. How then will you obtain pardon, you, who refuse to show kindness to others and be reconciled? But are you guiltless and have spoken ill of no one? But you have heard others so speaking and have allowed it. Neither is this guiltless. Do you desire to learn what a good thing it is not to remember injuries and how this more than anything pleases God? Those who gloat over others whom He chastises, He punishes. And yet they are justly chastised; but you should not rejoice in this. So the prophet having brought many accusations against the sinful, added this also, saying, “They felt nothing for the affliction of Joseph” (Amos 6:6), and again, “She that inhabited Enan, came not forth to lament for the place near her.” (Micah 1:2 Sept.)

And yet both Joseph and the neighbors of these others, were chastised according to the purpose of God; nevertheless it is His will that we sympathize even with these. Consider that we who are evil, when we are punishing a servant, if we should see one of his fellow slaves laughing, we are provoked the more and turn our anger against him. So then, much more will God punish those that exult over those whom He chastises. But if it is not right to trample upon those that are chastised by God, then much more with those that have sinned against us. For this is love’s sign, and God prefers love to all things; and those virtues are very precious which preserve love. But nothing maintains it so much as forgetting the wrongs of those that have sinned against us.

Behold doesn’t God drive him that has done the wrong to him that is wronged? Doesn’t He send him from the altar to the other, and after the reconciliation invite him to the table? (Matt. 5:23-26) But do not use this as a pretext to wait for him to come, for then you have lost an opportunity to please God. Especially with this intent does He appoint to you an unspeakable reward, in order that you may be anxious to precede the other, since if you are reconciled by his entreaties, the amity is no longer the result of your fulfillment of the divine command, but of the other party’s diligence. You also will go away uncrowned, while he receives the reward.

But do you have an enemy, and aren’t you ashamed? Why, isn’t the devil enough for us, that we bring upon ourselves those of our own race also? I wish that even he had not been minded to war against us; I wish that not even he were a devil! Don’t you know how great the pleasure is after reconciliation?

Does it matter that if in our enmity it doesn’t appear great? That it is sweeter to love him that does us wrong than to hate him, you shall thoroughly learn this after the enmity is vanquished. Why then do we imitate the mad warring against one another, devouring our own flesh? Listen and hear that even in the Old Testament there was a great concern for this, “The ways of the revengeful men are unto death.” (Prov. 12:28 Sept.) “One man keepeth anger against another and doth he seek healing from God.” (Eccles.28:3) And yet He allowed, “An eye for an eye” and “tooth for tooth,” how then does He find fault? Because He allowed those things not that we should do them to one another, but that through the fear of suffering we might abstain from committing crime. And besides, those acts are fruits of short-lived anger, but to remember injuries is the part of a soul that exercises itself in evil.

Let us therefore be babes in malice, and flee wickedness, and lay hold of virtue, so that we may attain also to the good things to come; through the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ to Whom be glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

St. John Chrysostom on Anger

St. John Chrysostom

On Anger

“But the Jews came there from Antioch and Iconium and having persuaded the people, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead. But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city; and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.” (Acts 14:19-21)

Believe me, there are things worse than what Paul suffered that one may endure now. Those enemies wounded him with stones; but there is a wounding with words that is even worse than stones. What then must we do? The same thing that he did. He did not hate those that cast stones at him, but after they dragged him out of the city, he entered it again, that he might become a benefactor to those who had done him such wrongs. If you also bear with one who harshly insults you and has done you wrongs, then you too have been stoned. Make no excuse for vengeance saying, “I have done him no harm yet he has wronged me.” For what harm did Paul do that he should be stoned? He was announcing a kingdom, he was bringing men away from error, and bringing them to God; these benefits are worthy of crowns, of a proclamation by the voice of heralds, worthy of a thousand good things, not of stones. And yet, far from resenting, he did just the contrary. This is a splendid victory. “And they dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead”, it says in the Acts. Those who wrong us, they also drag us. But do not be angry, on the contrary, preach the word with gentleness.

Has someone insulted you? Be silent, and bless if you can and in so doing you also have preached the word, because you have given a lesson of gentleness, a lesson of meekness. I know that many do not ache as much under wounds, as they do under the blow that is inflicted by words, as indeed the one wound the body receives but the other is received by the soul. Yet let us not grieve, rather let us endure the pain. Don’t you see the prize fighters, how with heads sorely battered, they bite their teeth into their lips, and so bear their pain kindly? There is no need for us to grind the teeth or to bite the lips. Remember your master, and by this remembrance you have at once applied the remedy. Remember Paul: reflect that you the beaten have conquered the beater; and he, the beater, is defeated; and by this you have a complete cured. By such reflections you have turned the scale in a moment and you have achieved all. Do not be carried away by passion; do not even move and you have extinguished the whole fire. What great eloquence of persuasion there is in suffering anything for Christ! You do not preach the word of faith but you preach the word of patience.

But, you may say of your adversary, “The more he sees my gentleness, the more he sets upon me.” Are you grieved because he increases your rewards? Will you say, “It is bad for him that he should go unpunished for this makes him unbearable“? This is a mere pretext of your own littleness of mind. “On the contrary: avenging yourself against him is certain to make him unbearable. If God had known that withholding revenge {i.e., patience, forbearance} makes the unjust man unbearable, then He would not have withheld revenge from him Himself – rather He would have said to us, ‘Avenge yourselves.’ But He knows that more good is accomplished through forbearance.”

Do not make for yourself a law contrary to God; but do as He bids you. You are not more kind than He Who made us. He has said, “Bear to be wronged”; and yet you say, “I requite wrong for wrong, so that my adversary may not become unbearable.” Do you have more care for him than God? Such talk is mere passion and ill temper, arrogance and setting up laws against God’s laws. For even if the man was hurt by our forbearance, wouldn’t it still be our duty to obey God? When God orders anything let us not make up a rule that is contrary. “A submissive answer,” we read, “turns away wrath” (Prov. 16:1), not one of opposition. If it profits you, it profits him also. If it hurts you who are expecting to set him aright, then how much more will it hurt him? “Physician heal thyself.” (Luke 4:23) Has one spoken ill of you? Commend him. Has he reviled you? Praise him. Has he plotted against you? Do him a favor. Requite him with contrary things, if you care in the least for your own salvation; and do not even wish to avenge your sufferings.

Perhaps you will say, “Although he has often met with long-suffering from me, he has become worse.” This is not your problem but his. Do you care to learn what wrongs God suffered? They cast down His altars, and slew His prophets (I Kings 19:10), yet He endured it all. Couldn’t He have launched a thunderbolt from above? But He would never do so! And when He had sent them His prophets and they killed them, He then sent His Son.(Matt. 21:37) Thus the greater the impieties they wrought, the greater were the benefits God bestowed upon them. And you too, if you see one who is exasperated, then yield the more to him, since this madness has greater need of soothing. The more grievous his abuse of you, the more meekness he needs from you—just as a gale when it blows strong requires yielding to, so also he who is in a passion. When the wild beast is most savage then we all flee; in the same way should we flee from him that is angry. Do not think that this is an honor shown to him; is it an honor we show to the wild beast or to the mentally ill, when we turn aside out of their way? By no means! It is a dishonor and scorn; or rather, it is not dishonor and scorn, but compassion and humanity. Wrath is a fire—a quick fire needing fuel. Do not supply fuel to the fire, and you have quickly extinguished the evil. Anger has no power in itself, it needs another to feed it; and so for you there is no excuse. Your adversary is possessed with passion, and doesn’t know what he is doing; but when you, seeing what he is, fall into the same evils, and are not brought to your right senses by the sight of his madness, what excuse can there be for you? Do you consider it an excuse to say, “I was not the first to begin?” This condemns us, that even at the sight of the other in that condition we were not brought to our right senses. Thus for this very thing you deserve punishment, that even after the warning of such a spectacle you did not restrain yourself.

He that is in a passion of anger is like a drunken man who is vomiting. But even more than a drunken man who is vomiting, the angry man’s veins are distended, his eyes inflamed, and his bowels racked. He vomits forth words far more filthy than that food; everything he utters is crude, nothing is duly digested, since his passion won’t allow it. But as with the drunk an excess of fumes make an uproar in the stomach and often it rejects all its contents; so too here, an excess of heat making a tumult in the soul does not allow him to conceal that which should be left unsaid, but things proper and improper to be spoken, he says all alike, not putting the hearers but himself to shame. Just as we get out of the way of those who vomit, so too let us depart from those who are angry. Such a man is as a swine that eats dung, for nothing is more stinking than the words they utter.

What then is more abominable than an abusive man? What filthier than the mouth that chews such food (that is, abusive language)? I had rather sit at table with a man who eats dirt, than one who speaks such words. Abusive men think they are disgracing others, while in fact they are disgracing themselves.
It is plain that they themselves undergo the disgrace, since more often than not they speak lies in their railings. And even if they speak the truth they disgrace themselves. How? Let me show you: Let us suppose, there is for instance, some notorious harlot and she has a fight with an abusive person. Then the latter casts up to her what she is, and she retorts upon him the same reproach: which of them is the most damaged by the words? Not the harlot—for being what the other calls her, she is just where she was before. The disgrace is to him; and that not from the harlot’s words, for they do not fit: but rather the disgrace comes from his own indecent railing. Therefore in thinking to disgrace her he has much more disgraced himself. He is more disgraced by calling her what she is, than he is by her calling him the thing that he is not.

And again let there be some hidden actions, and let them be known only by the person who is abusing. Then keeping it secret until now, let him openly parade the reproach; even so, he himself is more disgraced than the other. How? Because he makes himself the herald of wickedness and he acquires for himself the reputation of one not to be trusted, being unable to conceal anything confidential. And all men will at once accuse him saying, “You can’t tell him anything because with his quick temper he is sure to blab it all.” And they will avoid him as being not even human; they will hate him, and say that he is a wild beast, fierce and cruel. Yet the other one they will pardon rather than him.

We do not hate those that have wounds as much as we do those that compel them to uncover and show them. Therefore that man has not only disgraced the other, but himself as well and his hearers, and the common nature of all men. He has wounded the hearer, having done no good whatsoever. For this reason Paul says, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart grace to those who hear.” (Eph. 4:29)

Therefore I beseech you, considering how the wickedness of mocking others has come to such a great height, so that many even boast of it and consider it an art, let us return to our senses. Let us revive those who are sick of this madness; let us make our tongue gracious, and rid it of all evil speaking. Then being clean from sins, we may be able to draw down upon us the good will from above, and to have mercy vouchsafed unto us from God; through the grace and love towards mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ to Whom be glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Great Martyr Euphemia

This month the Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council. Therefore I thought I would go off on a tangent from the homilies of St. John Chrysostom and post a sermon on this event.

The Fourth Ecumenical Council and the Great Martyr Euphemia

On this Sunday our Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council and a miracle of the Great Martyr Euphemia. The Martyrdom of St. Euphemia is also remembered by our Church in September. So let us talk a little bit about her life, and the miracle which occurred through her at the Fourth Ecumenical Council. St. Euphemia lived in Chalcedon, she was a daughter of rich parents who brought her up in the love of Christ. During persecutions under the Emperor Diocletian (late third/early fourth centuries) the Christians of Chalcedon took to hiding in groups outside of the city. She went into hiding with a group of 49 others. When they were found and arrested they were tortured for 20 days and remained firm in the faith. As St. Euphemia was the leader and spokesman of the group she was singled out for more brutal tortures. The proconsul ordered her limbs to be crushed with iron wheels but she remained unharmed, she was thrown into a furnace with flames 40 feet high, again she was unharmed. Finally she was thrown to wild beasts and gave up her soul with one bite of a bear, which is somewhat small compared to the other torments from which God delivered her.

But what about the Fourth Ecumenical Council which is commemorated today. What was it about and what happened there that was miraculous? This was the first of the Ecumenical Councils dealing with Christological controversies. The Orthodox proclaimed that Christ God is one Divine Person Who has two natures: the divine and human natures. The heretics erroneously stated that Christ God, although He was from two natures, He has one nature, the Divine nature, because the human nature was somehow swallowed up or absorbed into the Divine. But if that were true, what would it mean for us? The Orthodox see in such teaching an obliteration of our human person which is totally unacceptable. Since through argument the Orthodox could not convince the heretics of their error, the holy Patriarch Anatolius suggested that each of the two parties write a document containing the respective professions of faith and that the two scripts be place in the reliquary containing the relics of the Great Martyr Euphemia. So the two scrolls were placed on the saints chest, the casket was sealed and the fathers gave themselves over to prayer. Eight days later when it was opened they found the saint holding the Orthodox confession of faith as though she wanted to press it into her heart and the heretics scroll lay at her feet. Thus the saint confirmed our Orthodox faith.

But what does the Christology of our Orthodox Church means for us? What relation does it have with our life. Christ is fully God and fully man. As Apostle Paul writes: “for it pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell”. (Col. 1.19) So Christ God has a divine and human nature in one Divine Person. He is the Son of God or we can say God the Son. The Son of God became the son of man so that we might—as the Apostle Peter states—“become partakers of the divine nature”. (IIPet. 1:4) So we can participate in the Divine life, in the uncreated divine energy and still remain who we are, the particular person that we are remains intact. This is one reason why the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Council rejected the Christology of the heretics; for them it destroyed the Orthodox concept of grace and life in Christ for us.

One thing then that should be pointed out is that Orthodox Theology is not merely academic, studying Orthodox theology should not not just be learning the letter of the law. A contemporary author Harry Boosalis writes profoundly about this as follows:

The study of theology is primarily a spiritual process. The believer must first be exposed to, edified by and ultimately identify with the time-honored Tradition of the Church Fathers.

The Fathers offer a rich inheritance of spiritual tradition established by Christ Himself and passed on from the earliest days of the apostolic Church. Tradition is not confined to the annals of archaeology. Ultimately Holy Tradition is spiritual experience; it is personal participation in the life of divine grace. It is this two-thousand-year spiritual tradition that the believer participates in, and comes to call his own. (Taught by God, p. 15)

Elsewhere he writes:

The aim of Orthodox dogma is not to subject man to the confines of particular religious philosophy. Rather, dogma leads to therapy. It leads to the cure of fallen man.

However, it must be emphasized that dogmas in themselves do not heal man; they simply show the way. An intellectual acceptance of the letter of dogma is not an automatic guarantee of being healed. It is not a matter of simply agreeing with the wording; one must experience the spirit of Orthodox dogma by means of a living faith within the therapeutic life of the Church. Ibid. p. 52)

But what is our struggle? How does one experience the spirit of Orthodox dogma by means of a living faith within the therapeutic life of the Church.

Again I want to refer to Harry Boosalis who writes of this very nicely in another place when he tells us of man being created in the image and after the likeness of God.

For Orthodox anthropology, the term ‘image’ has a different meaning from the term ‘likeness’. ‘Image’ may be see as the potential inherent in man for sanctification, while ‘likeness’ refers to its perfection. Or, in other words, one could say ‘image’ implies ‘potentiality’, whereas ‘likeness’ implies ‘actuality’.

Man was not originally created in a state of completed perfection. He was, however, endowed with the unique freedom to choose either to live in pursuit of achieving his full potential, or else to digress toward the desecration and defacement of his true dignity as man. Only through the proper use of God-given freedom can man cooperate with divine grace in restoring the image of God within him and attain to the likeness with God for which he was created. (Orthodox Spiritual Life According to St. Silouan the Athonite, pp. 29-30)

So let us choose every day, in everything, and in every way to follow Christ our God, the Son of God Who became the Son of man; so that we might participate in His divine life. Amen.

Chrysostom on enmity

Chrysostom on Enmity

Here are presented excerpts from two homilies of St. John Chrysostom dealing with the passion of enmity. The first homily is on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, and the second concerns Onesimus, the runaway slave of Philemon.

Be angry but do not sin, do not let the sun go down on your anger, and

give no place to the devil.” (Eph. 4:26-7)

So then, to be at war with one another is “to give place to the devil”. While we all have need to be in close array, and to make our stand against him we have relaxed our enmity against him, and are giving a signal to turn against each other; for never has the devil such place as in our enmities. Numberless are the evils thereby. Stones in a dam, as long as they are closely fitted together and leave no opening, stand firm. However, if there is but a single needle’s passage through them, or a crevice no broader than a hair, this destroys and ruins all: so is it with the devil. As long as we are closely set and compacted together, he cannot introduce one of his wiles, but when he causes us to relax a little he rushes in like a torrent. In every case he needs only a beginning, and this is the thing which it is difficult to accomplish; but once it is accomplished, he makes room for himself on all sides. For now he opens the ear to slanders, and they who speak lies are the more trusted since they have enmity which acts as an advocate, rather than truth which judges justly. And just as where friendship is, even those evils which are true appear false; so where there is enmity, even the false appear true. There is a different mind, a different manner of judgment which does not hear fairly, but hears instead with great bias and partiality.

As in a balance, if lead is cast into the scale, it will drag down the whole, so is it also here; but the weight of enmity is far heavier than that of lead. Therefore let us, I beseech you, do all that we can to extinguish our enmities before the going down of the sun. For if you fail to master it on the very first day, both on the following, and oftentimes even for a year, you will be protracting it; and the enmity will thenceforward augment itself, and will no longer require anything to aid it. For by causing us to suspect that words spoken in one sense were meant in another, and the same with gestures, and indeed in everything, it infuriates and exasperates us. It makes us more distempered than madmen, not enduring either to utter a name, or even to hear it, but saying everything in revilement and abuse.

How then are we to allay this passion? How shall we extinguish this flame? By reflecting on our own sins and on how much we have to answer for to God. By considering that we are wreaking vengeance, not on an enemy, but on ourselves. By reflecting that we are delighting the devil, and that we are strengthening our enemy – our real enemy – and that for him we are doing wrong to our own members.

Do you desire to be revengeful and be at enmity? Be at enmity; but be at enmity with the devil, and not with your own member. It is for this purpose that God has armed us with anger: not that we should thrust the sword against our own bodies, but that we should baptize the whole blade in the devil’s breast. There bury the sword up to the hilt, yes, if you so desire, hilt and all, and never draw out again, but add yet another sword and another. And this actually comes to pass when we are merciful to those of our own spiritual family and peaceably disposed one towards another. Thus let us say to ourselves: let money perish, let glory and reputation perish; mine own member is dearer to me than they all….

In regard to his fellow men Paul never considered this—that it was the individual who had sinned and needed advocacy; but rather that it was a human being the living thing most precious to God, and for whose sake the Father had not spared even His Only-Begotten Son. Don’t tell me that this or that man is a runaway slave, or a robber or thief, or laden with countless faults. Nor that he is a beggar and abject, or of low value and worthy of no account, but consider that for his sake the Christ died and this suffices for you as a ground for all solicitude.

Consider what sort of person he must be, whom Christ valued at so high a price so as not to have spared even His own blood. If a king had chosen to sacrifice himself on anyone’s behalf, would we seek out another demonstration of that person being someone great and of deep interest to the king? I think not, for the King’s death would be sufficient to show his love for the one for whom he had died. But as it is not man, nor angel, not archangel, but the very Lord of the heavens Himself, the Only-Begotten Son of God Himself, Who –having clothed Himself with flesh freely gave Himself on our behalf. Shall we not do everything and take every trouble, so that the men that have been thus valued may enjoy every solicitude at our hands? Therefore let us not despise our brethren or look down upon them for any cause. But let us cast off such a shameful disposition and bring ourselves to compassion in order to persuade ourselves to care for our neighbors; and even more than this,let us ever look to the Master’s death, which He voluntarily suffered for our sake.


Chrysostom on Envy (continued)

Shortly after speaking of the virtue of love St. Paul tells us, “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15), for even this is a part of love. And yet this seems to be a small thing to rejoice with those that rejoice: nevertheless it is exceedingly great, and requires for it the spirit of wisdom. We may find many that perform the more irksome parts and yet lack vigor for this. For many weep with those who weep, but still do not rejoice with those who rejoice, but are in tears when others rejoice; now this comes from grudging and envy. The good deed then of rejoicing when our brother rejoices is not a small one, but even greater than the other. And perhaps not only greater than weeping with those who weep, but even greater than standing by those in danger. There are many at some time or another that have shared danger with those in danger; but were cut to the heart when they came to honor. So great is the tyranny of a grudging spirit. And yet one is a thing of toils and troubles and this of choice and temper only. Yet at the same time many who have endured the harder task have not accomplished the easier one, but mourn and consume away when they see others in honor, when a whole Church is benefited, by doctrine or in any other fashion.

And what can be worse than this? For such a one does not fight anymore with his brother but with the will of God. Now consider this and be rid of the disease. Why do you carry war into your own thoughts? Why fill your soul with trouble? Why work up a storm? Why turn things upside down? How will you be able in this state of mind, to ask forgiveness of sins? For if those that do not allow the things done against them to pass, the Lord does not forgive, what forgiveness shall He grant to those that go about to injure those who have done them no wrong? This is a proof of the utmost wickedness. Men of this kind are fighting side by side with the devil, against the Church, and perhaps even worse than he. For one can be on his guard against the devil. But envious men cloaking themselves under the mask of friendliness, secretly work destruction and labor under a disease not only unfit for pity, but even such as to merit much ridicule.

For why is it, tell me, O envious man, that you are pale and trembling and standing in fear? What evil has happened? Is it that your brother is in honor, and looked up to and in esteem? Why you ought to crown him with wreathes and to rejoice and to glorify God, because your very own member is looked up to and in honor! But are you dejected in that God is glorified? What madness does this not exceed? Do you see to what issue the war tends? But some will say, it is not because God is glorified, but because my brother is. Yet through him the glory ascends up to God: and so will the war from you. But it is not this, he will say, that grieves me, but I wish that God would be glorified in me. Well then! Rejoice at your brother’s being in honor, and then God is glorified again through you also, for when you are so disposed towards your brother, all will say, “Blessed be God that he has His household so minded, wholly freed from envy, and rejoicing together at one another’s goods! And why do I speak of your brother? For if he was your enemy and God glorified through him; you should make him a friend for this reason. But you make your friend an enemy because God is glorified by his being in honor.

And if anyone was to heal your body while in an evil plight, although he may have been an enemy; you would consider him from then on one of your best friends: and do you consider one that gladdens the countenances of Christ’s body, that is, the Church, and is your friend, to be an enemy? How else could you show war against Christ? For this cause, even if a man does miracles, has celibacy to show and fasting, and lying on bare ground, and does by these virtues advance even to the angels, yet he shall be most accursed of all, while he has this defect and shall be a greater breaker of the Law than the adulterer, the fornicator and thieves.

And that no one may condemn this language of hyperbole, I would like to put this question to you. If anyone was to come with fire and axe and were to destroy and burn this Temple and dig down this Altar, would not each one of you stone him as accursed and a lawbreaker? What then, if one was to bring in a flame more consuming than that fire, I mean envy, that does not ruin the buildings of stone or tear down an Altar of gold, but subverts and scornfully mars what is far more precious than walls or Altar; but those sheep for whom Christ shed His Blood, and for whom He commanded us both to do and suffer all things. What suffering would he deserve? Remind yourself that your Master sought your glory and not his own, but you are seeking not that of your Master’s but your own. And yet if you would seek His when your brother is honored then you would have yours also. But by seeking your glory before His, you will never gain even your own. And what ground do you have to covet glory in such solitude?

What then is the remedy? Let us all join in prayer and let us lift up our voice with one accord on their behalf as for those possessed, for indeed the envious are more wretched than the possessed since their madness is of choice. For this affliction needs prayer and much entreaty. For if he that does not love his brother, even though he “bestow all his goods to feed the poor and deliver up his body to be burned” (I Cor. 13:3) is in no way advantaged, consider what punishment the man deserves who wars with him who had not wronged him in anything. He is even worse than the pagans; for if to love them that love us does not give us any advantage over them, in what grade shall he be placed that envies them that love him? For envying is even worse than warring, since when the cause of the war is at end, he that wars puts an end to his hatred also; but the grudger wishes never to become a friend. And the one shows an open battle, the other in secret, and the one often has a reasonable cause to assign for the war, the other, nothing else but madness and a satanic spirit. To what then is one to compare a soul of this kind? to what viper? to what asp? to what canker-worm? to what scorpion? since there is nothing so accursed or so pernicious as a soul of this sort. For it is this, that has subverted the Churches, this that has conceived heresies. And it leads one to such a pitch of frenzy that even if his brother forgives him the fault and subjects himself to him, still his complaint is so incurable that even if thousands of medicines are applied it keeps sowing its own corruption.

Let us then escape from the disease for it is not at all possible, indeed it is not, to escape from the fire prepared for the devil unless we get free from this sickness. And free we shall become if we keep in mind how Christ loved us, and how He commanded us to love one another. Now what love did He show for us? He shed His precious Blood for us when we were enemies, and had done the greatest wrong to Him. Do this also in your brother’s case–for this is the end of His saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34); yet the measure could never come to stand. For it was in behalf of his enemies that He did this. And are you unwilling to shed your blood for your brother? Yet what Christ did was not as a debt! But you, if you do it are but fulfilling a debt. For He did it before us and we not even after His example. He did it for our salvation, we will not even do it for our own advantage. For He does not gain any advantage from our love to man, but the whole gain is accrued to us. Let us now therefore sow and till the seed of love in our hearts, that we may reap with great abundance and obtain everlasting goods through the grace and love toward mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ with Whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, honor and power now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Chrysostom on Envy

Chrysostom on Envy

Here are presented excerpts from two of St. John’s homilies which focus upon the Apostle Paul’s words: “Rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15), and concentrate on the subject of the passion of envy. This will be split into two posts.

Paul instructs us saying, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; and weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) He puts these two together since if those who weep with those who weep seem to share in the grief of those in sorrow, and do greatly gratify them, and remove the excess of their woe, much more do they also that rejoice with those who rejoice, make their pleasure greater. So if you see your brother in good esteem, do not say, “the esteem is his, why should I rejoice.” These are not the words of a brother, but of an enemy, repel such devilish thoughts. If you are right minded, the joy will not be his only but yours also. You even have the power of increasing it, if you are not downcast, but pleased, if you are cheerful, joyous. And that it is so, is evident from this: the envious envy not only those who are in good esteem, but also those who rejoice at their good esteem, so conscious are they that these are sharers of that good esteem. And also that they even try to rob them of their cause of rejoicing by belittling the achievements of the man held in honor. And these are those who rejoice the most in it. For the trophy bearer himself even blushes when praised exceedingly; but these with great pleasure pride themselves upon it. Do you not see how in the case of the athlete, that the one is crowned and the other not; but the grief and joy is among their fans, these are they that rejoice exceedingly, leaping in the aisles, all but tearing down the stadium.

See how beneficial a thing is not envying. The toil is another’s, the pleasure is yours. Another wears the crown and you leap. You are joyous. For tell me, in the case of the athlete, seeing it is another that has been victorious, why does the spectator leap? Because he knows well that what has been done is common. If there is a unity of spirit of spectators in the stadium where the athletes contest; if this simple unity in worldly games destroys all their existing difference – then what excuse shall we have at that last day, who have been united in the victory over death by Christ and have truly become members of one another, if we envy a brother or sister when we see them gain a victory over the devil or edify the Church, and the unbelievers are revealed to be more virtuous than us? For their common love of an athlete dissolves envy and is proved stronger than our love for Christ. But if in things without to make another’s good one’s own, is so great a good, then much more is it in the case of a victory over the devil; over us he breathes more furiously, evidently because we are more pleased. Wicked as he is and bitter, he still knows well that this pleasure is great. Would you like to tread him underfoot? Be glad and rejoice. Would you like to gladden him? Be downcast. The pain he has from your brother’s victory, you soothe by your sadness; you stand with him severed from your brother, you work greater mischief than he does. For it is not the same for one that is an enemy to do the deeds of an enemy, as for a friend to stand with an enemy; such a man is more detestable than an enemy. If your brother has gained a good reputation either by speaking or by brilliant or successful achievements then become a sharer in his reputation, show that you are members of one another.

“And how?” one may say, “for the reputation is not mine.” Never speak so. Compress your lips. Do not say or think so; but the very opposite, say, “He is one of my members, the glory passes on to the body.” “How is it,” one may say, “that those without are not so disposed concerning us?” It is your fault; when they see you do not consider his pleasure yours also, then neither do they. But if they saw you appropriating it, they would not dare to do so, but do you wish to become equally illustrious with him? You have not gained reputation by speaking; but by sharing in his joy you have gained greater renown than he. For love is a great thing, and the sum of all, you have received the crown this gives; he, that for oratory, you, that for exceeding love; he displayed force of words, but you by deeds have cast down envy, and have trodden underfoot the evil eye. So actually you should rather be the one crowned, your contest is more brilliant; you have not only trodden underfoot envy, but have done something greater yet. He has one crown only, but you two, and those both brighter than his one. What are these? One, that you have won against envy, another that you are encircled by love. For the sharing in his joy is the proof not only of our being free from envy, but also of being rooted in love.

He is often grievously troubled by some human passion, vainglory for instance; but you are free from every passion, for it is not through vainglory that you rejoice at another’s good. Tell me, has he edified the Church? Has he attracted more into the congregation? Praise him, again you have a twofold crown; you have struck down envy and have en-wreathed yourself with love. Yes, I implore and beseech you. Do you care to hear of a third crown also? Men here below applaud him, but you the angels above. For it is not the same thing to make a display of eloquence and to rule the passions. His praise is for a season, yours forever, his from men, yours from God; this man is crowned openly; but you are crowned in secret where your Father sees. If it was possible to peel off the body and to gaze upon the soul of each, I would have shown you that this is more dignified than the other, more resplendent.

Let us tread underfoot every impulse of envy, we shall benefit ourselves, beloved we shall en-wreathe ourselves with a crown. He that envies another fights against God, not with the one he envies. For when on seeing his brother given grace, his is grieved, and wishes the Church pulled down, he fights not against his brother but God. For tell me, if a fashion designer was to adorn a beauty queen and by this adorning and gracing her, gain for himself renown; and another person should wish her to be ill attired, and him to be unable to adorn her; against whom would he be plotting mischief? Against the designer or against the beauty queen? Likewise you who envy fight against the Church, you war with God. For, since with the good repute of your brother is interwoven also the Church’s profit, it follows that if the one is undone, the other shall be undone also. Moreover you judge God for having considered your brother worthy of His grace and to receive

honor. So therefore, you are doing a deed of Satan since you plot mischief against the body of Christ. Are you grieved with this man…wrongly when he has in no way wronged you; yes, but rather you are grieved with Christ. How has He wronged you that you will not allow His body to be decked with beauty? That you cannot stand to see His bride adorned?

Consider, I beseech you, the punishment, how grievously. You gladden your enemies and also the man in good esteem, who through your envy you desire to grieve, you rather gladden; by your envy you show that he is in good esteem, for otherwise you would not have envied him. And you show that you are in torment.  I am ashamed indeed to exhort you from such motives, but since our weakness is so great, let us be instructed even from these, and free ourselves from this destructive passion. Do you lament because he is in good esteem? Then why increase that esteem by envying? Do you desire to punish him? Why then do you show that you are grieved? Why punish yourself before him, whom you wish not to have well-esteemed? And in this again we punish ourselves, if we have discovered that he knows it. Although perhaps he is not pleased, but we thinking him to be so are grieved on that account. And any others also who see your grief will mock and laugh at you and only augment your dejection. Cease then your envying. Why inflict such wounds upon yourself?….to be continued

Chrysostom on Vain Glory

Now that we are in Great Lent and increasing our labors in the ascetic life of the Church, it seems good to go on to a passion which is like a destructive mold that grows upon our good works. Let us now listen to some words of St. John Chrysostom concerning the passion of vain glory. (The following is compiled from several of his sermons).

Terrible is the passion of vainglory, and many headed; for some set their heart on power for the sake of this, some on wealth, and some on strength. But, proceeding in order, it also goes on to almsgiving, fasting, prayers and teaching and – as I said – many are the heads of this monster. Yet for unbelievers to be vainglorious about worldly things is not surprising; however for us to be so about fasting, prayer and almsgiving is both strange and lamentable. But that we may not only blame, come let us tell the means, by which we shall avoid this. So how do we contend against this many-headed passion? For some are vainglorious of money, others of
dress, others of place of power, others of humanity and almsgiving, others
of wickedness, others of death, and others of life after death. For indeed, as I have said, this passion has many links and even goes beyond our life; for men in order that they may be held in admiration, have charged extravagant monuments to be built in their memory and have desired most elaborate funerals with the greatest number of those who lament. And what is even greater to marvel at is this: that even of opposite things is it made up (one man being poor for vainglory and another seeking to be rich, both for the same reason).

But do you desire to be held in honor among men? What is the gain? The gain is nothing but infinite loss. For these very people whom you call to be witnesses become robbers of your treasures that are in the heavens; or rather not these, but we ourselves spoil our own possessions and scatter what we have laid up above. O new calamity! This strange passion! Where neither moth corrupts nor thief breaks through and steals, vainglory scatters. This is the moth of those treasures above; this is the thief of our wealth in heaven. This steals away the riches that can’t be spoiled, this mars and corrupts all. Since the devil saw that the treasures above are impregnable to thieves, and to the worm, and to the other plots against them, by vainglory he steals away the wealth.

But do you desire glory? Does not that which is promised by the Receiver Himself satisfy you, that which comes from our gracious God? Have you no faith in His word and still set your heart on that which comes from men? Take heed lest you undergo the contrary, lest someone condemns you not as being virtuous but rather as making a display and seeking honor for yourself. Consider that the very person whose praise you seek will condemn you. If he is a friend he will at least inwardly accuse you; but if he is an enemy he will ridicule you before others also, and you will undergo the opposite of what you desire. For you indeed desire that he should call you a good man; but he will not call you this, but vainglorious, a man-pleaser, and other names far more grievous than these. On the other hand, if you hide it he will call you all that is the opposite of these. For God does not allow good to remain hidden; if you conceal it will be made known, in one way or another. Thus you will be held in even greater admiration and the gain will be more abundant.

Thus we see that the very purpose itself of making a display of ourselves in order to be glorified turns against us. For far from obtaining the credit of being virtuous, we receive even the contrary; and therefore the loss we undergo is great. For every motive then, let us abstain from this and set our love on God’s praise alone….

If you love glory and are plotting in every way to obtain it, then you will enjoy it the more abundantly if you turn your efforts from the seeking of glory to the uprooting of the love of glory from your heart. For just as becoming rich is contrary to covetousness, so is the loving of glory to the obtaining of glory. For the Heavenly Physician – seeing you sick with a terrible fever of passion – does not feed the flame by catering to your fatal desire but quenches it instead by giving poverty to the covetous, dishonor to the vainglorious, and in like manner ordering all things for the good of those who love Him. Now let us inquire into each, and since we have no fear of hell, nor much regard for the Kingdom, come, and even from the things present let us lead you on. For who are they that are ridiculous? Tell me isn’t it those who are doing anything for the sake of glory from the multitude? And who are the objects of praise? Isn’t it those who spurn the praise of the multitude? Therefore if the love of vainglory is a matter of reproach, and it cannot be concealed that a vainglorious man loves it, he will surely become an object of reproach, and the love of glory has become to him a cause of dishonor. Not in this respect only does he disgrace himself, but also in that he is compelled to do many shameful things, abounding with the utmost disgrace in the hope of acquiring the praise of the multitude. So then, there is no one more base and dishonored than he that is arrogant and mad about glory and considers himself to be high. The race of man is fond of contention and against nothing else does it set itself so much as against a boaster and a contemptuous man and a slave of glory. He also – in order to maintain the fashion of his pride – exhibits the conduct of a slave to the common people, flattering and courting everyone, serving a servitude more grievous than that of a slave bought for money.

If you are to pursue virtue, not for its own sake, but with an eye to receive praise from the common workman and people of the baser sort, seeking that the bad and those far removed from virtue may admire you – this is to act as one insulting virtue itself. You are calling the enemies of virtue to the display and sight of it; as if one was to choose to live continently, not for the sake of continence, but rather to make a show before prostitutes. Neither would you, it seems, choose virtue except for the sake of virtue’s enemies when in fact you ought to admire her on this very ground, namely that she has even her enemies to praise her.

Yet let us admire virtue as is fitting not for others but for her own sake. Since we too, when we are loved not for our own sake but for another’s, consider the thing an insult. In the same way reckon the case of virtue as well; and do not follow after her for the sake of others – no – do not for men’s sake obey God, but follow instead as men for God’s sake. Since, if you do the contrary – even though you may seem to follow virtue – you have provoked God equally with him who does not follow her. For just as he disobeyed by not doing, you have disobeyed by doing in an unlawful manner.

But let us not be so affected. Rather let us lay down this passion that we may not both pay a penalty here, and hereafter be punished without end. Let us become lovers of virtue so that before reaching the Kingdom we might reap the greatest benefits here, and when we having departed hence, we might partake of the eternal blessings there. Amen