No art, no wealth of this world, but only the appearing of Christ, is able to cure man, whose great kinship with God this Homily sets forth.
1. He that has chosen the solitary life ought to consider all things that are concerned with this world as alien and strange to himself. One who in truth pursues the cross of Christ, denying all things, yea, and his own life also, ought to have his mind nailed to the love of Christ, esteeming the Lord before parents, brethren, wife, children, kindred, friends, possessions. This Christ set forth, when He said, “Every one that hath not left father, or mother, or brethren, or wife, or children, or lands, and followeth Me, is not worthy of Me.” In nothing else is salvation and peace found for men, as we have been told. How many kings have appeared of the race of Adam, possessing all the earth, thinking great things because of their royal power; and yet none of them, for all this kind of advantages, had the power to discern the evil which had invaded the soul in consequence of the first man’s transgression, and had darkened it, that it knew not the change which had passed over it—that the mind at first was pure and saw its Master, being in honour, and now, because of its banishment, is clothed with shame, the eyes of the heart being blinded, that it may not behold that glory, which our father Adam before his disobedience beheld.
2. There have been also divers kinds of wise men according to the world; of whom some have displayed excellence by means of philosophy; others have been admired for their expertness in sophistry, others have displayed oratorical skill; others have been men of letters and poets, and have composed histories according to the conventional plan. There have also been different kinds of artificers, who have practised the arts according to the world. Some have carved in wood all kinds of birds and fishes, and figures of men, and in those have endeavoured to display their excellence. Some have taken in hand to fashion portraits, statues in bronze and the like; others have erected great and beautiful buildings; others, mining the earth, bring up the silver and gold that perishes, others precious stones. Others, possessing personal beauties, were elated by the comeliness of their countenances and were the more enticed by Satan, and fell into sin. And all these artificers of whom I have spoken, being held by the serpent who dwells within, and not knowing the sin that abode with them, have been captives and slaves to the evil power, gaining no advantage from their science and their art.
3. The world, then, which is filled with all varieties, is like a rich man, who possesses splendid great houses, and gold and silver, and divers properties, and service of all sorts in abundance; and yet is oppressed by sufferings and sicknesses all at the same time, and all his kinsfolk stand beside him, with all his riches, unable to relieve him of his infirmities. No pursuit belonging to this life, not brethren, not wealth, not courage, nor all other things that we have mentioned, relieve of sin the soul which has been immersed by sin, and cannot discern things clearly. Only the appearing of Christ is able to cleanse soul and body. Let us then rid ourselves of all temporal care, and devote ourselves to the Lord, crying to Him night and day. This visible world, and the satisfaction found in it, appear to solace the body, but so much the more do they sharpen the maladies of the soul, and increase the mischief from which it suffers.
4. A certain prudent man, desiring to spare no pains in the inquiry, made it his business to gain an experience of all the things that come to pass in this world, if he might by chance profit by them. He had recourse to kings, potentates, rulers, and found no saving cure from that quarter to apply to his soul, and after spending a long time with them was none the better for it. He went again to the wise men of the world and the orators: he quitted them also in the same way, having gained no benefit from them. He made the tour of the painters, and of those who raise the gold and silver from the earth, and of all the artists, and was unable to discover any remedy for his own wounds. At last, taking leave of them, he began to seek God for himself, God who heals the diseases and maladies of the soul. But while he kept an eye upon himself and thought these matters over, his mind was found wandering among those very things from which he had ostensibly withdrawn because he hated them.
5. As some woman who in the world is rich and possesses much money, and a fine house, is bereft of protection, and those who set upon her to injure her and to lay her buildings waste are many; and she, not brooking the affront, goes about seeking a powerful man to marry her, well suited for the purpose and educated in all directions; and when after much anxiety she gains such a husband, she rejoices over him, and finds in him a strong wall; in the same way the soul, after the transgression, having been for a long time afflicted by the adverse power, and having fallen into great isolation, a widow and desolate, deserted by the heavenly Husband because of the transgression of the commandment, and made the sport of all the opposing powers; for they drove her out of her wits, bewildering her out of her heavenly understanding, so that she does not see what they have done to her, but thinks that she was made like that from the beginning; then, having learned, by being told, of her desolation and unprotected state, she groaned before the clemency of God, and found life and salvation—why? Because she returned to her kindred. For there is no tie of blood or suitableness like that between the soul and God, and between God and the soul.
God made the various kinds of birds—some to burrow in the ground, and to have their sustenance and satisfaction from thence; for some He ordained that they should dive under the waters, and have their life from thence. He fashioned two worlds—one above, for the ministering spirits, and appointed that they should have their social life there; the other below for men, under this atmosphere. He created also heaven and earth, sun and moon, waters, trees that bear fruit, all manner of races of animals. But in none of them does God find rest. All the creation is governed by Him; and yet He did not fix His throne in them, or establish communion with them, but was well pleased with man alone, entering into communion with him, and resting in him. Seest thou the kinship of God with man, and of man with God? Therefore the sagacious and prudent soul, after going the round of all created things, found no rest for herself, except in the Lord; and the Lord was well pleased’ in nothing except in man alone.
6. If you open your eyes towards the sun, you find his orb in the sky, but his light and his beams inclining to the earth, and all the power of its light and its radiance bearing down upon the earth. So also the Lord is seated at the right hand of the Father above all principality and power, but He keeps His eye intent upon the hearts of men on earth, that He may bring those who wait for the succour that He gives, up to where He is; because He says, Where I am, there shall My servant also be, and Paul again, He hath raised us up together with Him and made us sit together with Him at His right hand in heavenly places.
Animals without reason are much more sagacious than we. They are all joined each to its own kind, wild to wild, and sheep to their own species; and you—you do not ascend to your heavenly kin, which is the Lord, but give yourself over and consent in your thoughts to the thoughts of evil, making yourself an ally of sin, and fighting on its side against yourself, thus making yourself prey for the enemy to devour; as if a bird were caught by the eagle and eaten up, or a sheep by the wolf, or a child that knows nothing were to stretch out its hand to the serpent, and were bitten by it and killed. The parables have as it were their living counterparts in the spiritual reality.
7. As a wealthy maiden, betrothed to a husband, may receive ever so many presents before the marriage, ornaments, or dresses, or costly vessels, but is not satisfied until the time of the wedding comes and she is made one with him, so the soul, when it is engaged as a bride to the heavenly Bridegroom, receives as an earnest from the Spirit gifts of healings, it may be, or of knowledge, or of revelation, but it is not satisfied with these, until it attains the complete union, namely, charity, which can never change nor fail, which sets those who have longed for it free from passion and from agitation.
Or as a babe that is decked with pearls and costly clothes, when it is hungry, thinks nothing of the things that it wears, but despises them, and cares only for its nurse’s breast, how it may get the milk; so reckon it to be, I pray you, even with the spiritual gifts of God. To whom be glory for ever. Amen.