For he who does not receive at once, is the more kindled through God’s delay and patience, and the more desirous of the good things of heaven, and every day adds to his longing and diligence, his running and striving, and every disposition of virtue, his hunger and thirst after that which is good, not slacking for the sinful suggestions which are present in the soul, or turning aside to despise or forget or despair; nor again under pretence of patience will he give himself over to slackness, using this argument, that “Some day or other I shall receive the grace of God,” and from this enticed by sin into carelessness.
Truly among them that are born of women there is none greater than John the Baptist. He is the fulfilment of all the prophets. All the prophets prophesied of the Lord, showing His coming afar off: John prophesied of the Saviour and showed Him before all eyes, crying aloud and saying, Behold the Lamb of God! What a sweet and beautiful voice of him who shews then and there Him whom he heralded! Greater than John is none of them that are born of women. But he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Know, O man, thy nobility and thy dignity, how honourable thou art, the brother of Christ, the friend of the King, the bride of the heavenly Bridegroom. He who has learned to know the dignity of his own soul, is in a position to know the power and the mysteries of the Godhead, and thereby to be the more humbled; since by the power of God a man beholds the greatness of his own fall. But as He passed through passion and cross before He was glorified and sat down on the Father’s right hand, so thou also must suffer with Him, be crucified with Him, and so ascend and sit with Him, and be joined with the body of Christ, and reign for ever with Him in that world—if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together.
Concerning the worth and value, the power and efficiency of the immortal soul, and how it is tempted by Satan and obtains deliverance from the temptations. It contains also some questions full of very great instruction.
This Homily teaches that no man, without being strengthened by Christ, is capable of overcoming the stumbling-blocks of the evil one, and what those who desire the divine glory must do. It teaches also that through Adam’s disobedience we came down into bondage to carnal passions, from which we are delivered by the mystery that is in the cross. It instructs us besides that the power of tears and of the divine fire is great.
So ought one to perceive the grace and power of God by the virtues, by kindness, by goodness, by cheerfulness, by gaiety, by divine gladness, in order to be likened to and mingled with the good and divine nature.
The soul, which since the transgression is wild and in no subjection, roams in the desert of the world with the wild beasts, which are the spirits of wickedness, in sin withholding service. But when it hears the word of God, and believes, it is bridled by the Spirit, and puts away its wild ways and the fleshly mind, being guided by Christ its rider. Then it gets into distress, and the process of taming, and difficulty, that it may be proved, in order that by degrees it may be brought into subjection by the Spirit, the sin that is in it diminishing by degrees and disappearing. Thus the soul, putting on the breastplate of righteousness, and the helmet of salvation, and the shield of faith, and the sword of the Spirit, is taught to war against its enemies. Thus, being armed with the Spirit of the Lord, it contends against the spirits of wickedness, and quenches the fiery darts of the wicked one.
Concerning the twofold state of those who depart out of this life.
When man transgressed the commandment, and was exiled from Paradise, he was bound down in two ways and with two different chains. One was in this life, in the affairs of this life, and in the love of the world, that is to say, the love of fleshly pleasures and lusts, of wealth, and glory, and possessions, of wife and children, of kinsfolk, of country, of particular places, of clothes, and of all other things of sense, from which the word of God bids him be loosed by his own free choice—since what binds every man to the things of sense is his own consent—in order that, having loosed and emancipated himself from all these, he may be able to master the commandment perfectly. But besides this, in the hidden region, the soul is hedged and hemmed and walled round, and bound with chains of darkness by the spirits of wickedness, unable to love the Lord as it would, or to believe as it would, or to pray as it would. On all sides, both in things manifest and in things hidden, contrariety has come down to us from the transgression of the first man.
Had not that blind man cried out, had not that sick woman come to the Lord, they would not have found cure; so, unless a man comes to the Lord of his own free will and with whole purpose of heart, and petitions Him with assurance of faith, he finds no cure. Why was it that they were at once cured on believing, while we have not yet seen truly clear, and have not been cured of the hidden affections? And yet the Lord takes more thought for the immortal soul than for the body,—the soul which, if it once gains clear sight, according to him who says, Open thou mine eyes shall never again be blinded, and once cured shall never have wrecked health. If the Lord came upon earth and took such care of perishable bodies, how much more of the immortal soul, made after His own likeness? It is because of our unbelief, because of our divided mind, because we do not love Him with all the heart, nor really believe Him, that we have not yet found the spiritual cure and salvation. Let us then believe Him, and come to Him in reality, that He may speedily work in us the true cure. He has promised to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him, and to open to them that knock, and to be found of them that seek, and He that has made the promise cannot lie. To Him be glory and might for ever. Amen.
The Spirit Himself bestows these things upon him, and teaches him true prayer, true charity, true meekness, to which before he forced himself, and sought for them, and cared for them, and meditated upon them, and they were given him; and having thus grown up and been perfected in God, he is permitted to become an heir of the kingdom. The humble never falls. Whence indeed could he fall, being lower than all? A proud mind is a great humiliation; a humble mind is a great exaltation and honour and dignity. Let us therefore force and compel ourselves to humility, though our heart may dislike it, and to meekness, and to charity, praying and beseeching God in faith, hope, and charity incessantly with such an expectancy and aim, that He would send His Spirit into our hearts, that we may pray and worship God in spirit and in truth.
For this reason we should first seek from God with labour of heart and in faith, that He would grant us to find His wealth, the true treasure of Christ, in our hearts, in the power and effectual working of the Spirit. In this way, first finding in ourselves the Lord to be our profit and salvation and eternal life, we may then profit others also, as is possible and attainable, drawing upon Christ, the treasure within, for all goodness of spiritual words, and setting forth mysteries of heaven. For thus it pleased the goodness of the Father to dwell in every one who believes and asks of Him.
A fish cannot live out of the water; no one can walk without feet, or see light without eyes, or speak without a tongue, or hear without ears. So without the Lord Jesus, and the working of divine power, no one can know the mysteries and wisdom of God, or be rich and a Christian. The wise, the warriors, the brave men, the philosophers of God, are those who are led and shepherded in the inner man by the divine power. The philosophers of the Greeks learn to make speeches; others are rude in speech, but rejoicing and exulting in the grace of God, men of piety. Let us judge which are the better. The kingdom of God, it says, is not in word, but in deed and in power.
Those who say that sin is not in man, are like people plunged under a deluge of many waters, who will not acknowledge it, but say, “We heard a sound of waters.” Plunged under the depth of the waves of evil, they say that sin is not in their mind or thoughts. There is a difference between those who have a theory and talk, but are not seasoned with the salt of heaven—who discourse of a royal table, but have never eaten or enjoyed it—and a man who has had a sight of the king himself, to whom the treasures have been opened, and he has entered in, and inherited them, and eaten and drunk of the costly viands.
This Homily teaches at large how the soul ought to behave herself in holiness and chastity and purity towards her Spouse Christ Jesus, the Saviour of the World. It contains also certain discussions full of great instruction, viz., whether at the resurrection all the members are raised up, and a great many more concerning Evil, and Grace, and Free Will, and the dignity of human nature.
All works visibly done in the world are done in hope, with a view to partaking of the results of the labour. If it were not for the assurance of enjoyment from the toil, no advantage would be gained. The husbandman sows in hope of fruits, and is supported under his labours by the expectation. He that plougheth, the apostle says, plougheth in hope. He that takes a wife, does it in hope of having heirs. The merchant commits himself to the sea and the risk of death for the sake of gain. So also in the Kingdom of Heaven a man gives himself up in hope that the eyes of his heart may be enlightened.
He who wishes to be a friend of God, and a brother and son of Christ, must do something more than other men, that is, to consecrate heart and mind themselves, and to stretch up his thoughts towards God. In this way God secretly gives life and help to the heart, and entrusts Himself to it. When a man gives God his secret things, that is, his mind and thoughts, not occupying himself elsewhere, nor wandering away, but putting constraint upon himself, then the Lord deems him worthy of mysteries, in greater sanctity and purity, and gives him heavenly food and spiritual drink.
If then, you seek the Lord in the depth, there you find Him. If you seek in the water, you find Him there, doing wonders. If you seek Him in the den, there you find Him between two lions, guarding the righteous Daniel. If you seek Him in fire, there you find Him, succouring His servants. If you seek Him in the mountain, there you find Him with Elias and Moses. He is everywhere—beneath the earth, and above the heavens, and within us as well. He is everywhere. So too your own soul is near you, and within you, and without you; for wherever you please, in countries far away, there your mind is, whether westward or eastward, or in the skies; there it is found.
It sometimes happens that Satan talks in the heart, “See how many wrong things thou hast done! See how many follies thy soul is filled with, and thou art weighed down with sins, that thou canst not be saved.” This he does, to reduce thee to despair, and to make thee think that thy repentance is not acceptable. For since by the transgression wickedness entered in, it talks with the soul every hour, like man with man. Answer him then thou, “I have the testimonies of the Lord in writing, that say, I desire not the death of the sinner, but his repentance, and that he should turn from his wickedness and live.” It was for this that He came down, to save sinners, to raise the dead, to quicken lost lives, to give light to those in darkness.
Souls that love truth and God, that long with much hope and faith to put on Christ completely, do not need so much to be put in remembrance by others, nor do they endure, even for a while, to be deprived of the heavenly desire and of passionate affection to the Lord; but being wholly and entirely nailed to the cross of Christ, they perceive in themselves day by day a sense of spiritual advance towards the spiritual Bridegroom.
If we have to be somewhat busied also in body, with the business laid upon us, and with obedience for God’s sake, let not the mind be parted from its love and quest and longing after the Lord; so that striving in such a mind, and journeying along the way of righteousness with an upright intention, and always taking heed to ourselves, we may obtain the promise of His Spirit.
A perfect Christian man, one completely free, I have not yet seen. Although one and another is at rest in grace, and enters into mysteries and revelations and into much sweetness of grace, still sin is yet present within. By reason of the exceeding grace and of the light that is in them, men consider themselves free and perfect; but inexperience deceives them. They are under the influence of grace, but I have never yet seen a man that is free. I myself at times have in part come to that measure, and I have learned to know that it does not constitute a perfect man.
This is what God has done to poor wretched man. He has given him to taste of another world, of other delicious food; He has shown him glories and royal beauties unspeakable and heavenly; and so the man, comparing those spiritual things with the things of this world, casts all away, and whether king, or princes, or wise men meet his eye, he turns his gaze to the heavenly treasure. For since God is love, man has received the heavenly and divine fire of Christ, and is at rest, and rejoices, and is there fast bound.
The true foundation of prayer is this, to concentrate attention, and to pray in great quietness and peace, so as to give no offence to those outside. Such a man, if he receives the grace of God upon his prayer, and continues to the last in his quietness, will edify other people more. For God is not the God of confusion, but of peace. Those who pray noisily are like the man who shouts to keep the rowers in time; they cannot pray everywhere, either in churches, or in villages; perhaps only in the deserts can they do it as they like. But those who pray quietly edify everybody everywhere. A man’s whole labour should be employed upon his thoughts; he must cut away the bush of evil thoughts which besets him, and urge himself to God, and not let his thoughts carry him where they like, but collect them when they wander in any direction, distinguishing natural thoughts from bad ones.