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.