Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wednesday in Easter 7: Giving diligence

Opening Sentence
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Colossians 3:1

Collect of the Day
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Psalter: Psalm 101, 109

Lessons: Isaiah 4:2-6, Ephesians 4:1-16, Matthew 8:28-34

But how is it possible to walk worthily of it? With all lowliness. Such an one walks worthily. This is the basis of all virtue. If you be lowly, and bethink you what you are, and how you were saved, you will take this recollection as a motive to all virtue. You will neither be elated with bonds, nor with those very privileges which I mentioned, but as knowing that all is of grace, you will humble yourself. The lowly-minded man is able to be at once a generous and a grateful servant. For what have you, says he, that thou did not receive? 1 Corinthians 4:7 And again, hear his words, I labored more abundantly than they all; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10

With all lowliness, says he; not that which is in words, nor that which is in actions only, but even in one's very bearing and tone of voice: not lowly towards one, and rude towards another; be lowly towards all men, be he friend or foe, be he great or small. This is lowliness. Even in your good deeds be lowly; for hear what Christ says, Blessed are the poor in spirit; Matthew 5:3 and He places this first in order. Wherefore also the Apostle himself says, With all lowliness, and meekness, and long-suffering. For it is possible for a man to be lowly, and yet quick and irritable, and thus all is to no purpose; for oftentimes he will be possessed by his anger, and ruin all.

Forbearing, he proceeds, one another in love.

How is it possible to forbear, if a man be passionate or censorious? He has told us therefore the manner: in love, says he. If you, he would say, are not forbearing to your neighbor, how shall God be forbearing to you? If you bear not with your fellow-servant, how shall the Master bear with you? Wherever there is love, all things are to be borne.

Giving diligence , says he, to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Bind therefore your hands with moderation. Again that goodly name of bond. We had dismissed it, and it has of itself come back on us again. A goodly bond was that, and goodly is this one also, and that other is the fruit of this. Bind yourself to your brother. They bear all things lightly who are bound together in love. Bind yourself to him and him to you; you are lord of both, for whomsoever I may be desirous to make my friend, I can by means of kindliness accomplish it.

Giving diligence, he says; a thing not to be done easily, and not in every one's power.

Giving diligence, he proceeds, to keep the unity of the Spirit. What is this unity of Spirit? In the human body there is a spirit which holds all together, though in different members. So is it also here; for to this end was the Spirit given, that He might unite those who are separated by race and by different manners; for old and young, rich and poor, child and youth, woman and man, and every soul become in a manner one, and more entirely so than if there were one body. For this spiritual relation is far higher than the other natural one, and the perfectness of the union more entire; because the conjunction of the soul is more perfect, inasmuch as it is both simple and uniform. And how then is this unity preserved? In the bond of peace. It is not possible for this to exist in enmity and discord. For whereas there is, says he, among you jealousy and strife, are you not carnal, and walk after the manner of men? 1 Corinthians 3:3 For as fire when it finds dry pieces of wood works up all together into one blazing pile, but when wet does not act at all nor unite them; so also it is here. Nothing that is of a cold nature can bring about this union, whereas any warm one for the most part can. Hence at least it is that the glow of charity is produced; by the bond of peace, he is desirous to bind us all together. For just in the same way, he would say, as if you would attach yourself to another, you can do it in no other way except by attaching him to yourself; and if you should wish to make the tie double, he must needs in turn attach himself to you; so also here he would have us tied one to another; not simply that we be at peace, not simply that we love one another, but that all should be only even one soul. A glorious bond is this; with this bond let us bind ourselves together with one another and unto God. This is a bond that bruises not, nor cramps the hands it binds, but it leaves them free, and gives them ample play, and greater courage than those which are at liberty. The strong if he be bound to the weak, will support him, and not suffer him to perish: and if again he be tied to the indolent, him he will rather rouse and animate. Brother helped by brother, it is said, is as a strong city. This chain no distance of place can interrupt, neither heaven, nor earth, nor death, nor any thing else, but it is more powerful and strong than all things. This, though it issue from but one soul, is able to embrace numbers at once; for hear what Paul says, You are not straitened in us, but you are straitened in your own affections; be ye also enlarged. 2 Corinthians 6:12

Now then, what impairs this bond? Love of money, passion for power, for glory, and the like, loosens them, and severs them asunder. How then are we to see that they be not cut asunder? If these tempers be got rid of, and none of those things which destroy charity come in by the way to trouble us. For hear what Christ says, Matthew 24:12 Because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold. Nothing is so opposed to love as sin, and I mean not love towards God, but that towards our neighbor also. But how then, it may be said, are even robbers at peace? When are they, tell me? Not when they are acting in a spirit which is that of robbers; for if they fail to observe the rules of justice among those with whom they divide the spoil, and to render to every one his right, you will find them too in wars and broils. So that neither among the wicked is it possible to find peace: but where men are living in righteousness and virtue, you may find it every where. But again, are rivals ever at peace? Never. And whom then would you have me mention? The covetous man can never possibly be at peace with the covetous. So that were there not just and good persons, even though wronged by them, to stand between them, the whole race of them would be torn to pieces. When two wild beasts are famished, if there be not something put between them to consume, they will devour one another. The same would be the case with the covetous and the vicious. So that it is not possible there should be peace where virtue is not already put in practice beforehand. Let us form, if you please, a city entirely of covetous men, give them equal privileges, and let no one bear to be wronged, but let all wrong one another. Can that city possibly hold together? It is impossible. Again, is there peace among adulterers? No, not any two will you find of the same mind.

So then, to return, there is no other reason for this, than that love has waxed cold; and the cause again why love has waxed cold, is that iniquity abounds. For this leads to selfishness, and divides and severs the body, and relaxes it and rends it to pieces. But where virtue is, it does the reverse. Because the man that is virtuous is also above money; so that were there ten thousand such in poverty they would still be peaceable; while the covetous, where there are but two, can never be at peace. Thus then if we are virtuous, love will not perish, for virtue springs from love, and love from virtue. And how this is, I will tell you. The virtuous man does not value money above friendship, nor does he remember injuries, nor does wrong to his neighbor; he is not insolent, he endures all things nobly. Of these things love consists. Again, he who loves submits to all these things, and thus do they reciprocally produce one another. And this indeed, that love springs from virtue, appears from hence, because our Lord when He says, because iniquity shall be multiplied, the love of the many shall wax cold, plainly tells us this. And that virtue springs from love, Paul tells us, saying, He that loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:10 So then a man must be one of the two, either very affectionate and much beloved, or else very virtuous; for he who has the one, of necessity possesses the other; and, on the contrary, he who knows not how to love, will therefore commit many evil actions; and he who commits evil actions, knows not what it is to love.

Moral. Let us therefore follow after charity; it is a safeguard which will not allow us to suffer any evil. Let us bind ourselves together. Let there be no deceit among us, no hollowness. For where friendship is, there nothing of the sort is found. This too another certain wise man tells us. Though you drew a sword at your friend, yet despair not: for there may be a returning again to favor. If you have opened your mouth against your friend, fear not; for there may be a reconciliation: except for upbraiding, or disclosing of secrets, or a treacherous wound: for for these things a friend will depart. Sirach 22:21-22 For disclosing, says he, of secrets. Now if we be all friends, there is no need of secrets; for as no man has any secret with himself and cannot conceal anything from himself, so neither will he from his friends. Where then no secrets exist, separation arising from this is impossible. For no other reason have we secrets, than because we have not confidence in all men. So then it is the waxing cold of love, which has produced secrets. For what secret have you? Do you desire to wrong your neighbor? Or, are you hindering him from sharing some benefit, and on this account concealest it? But, no, perhaps it is none of these things. What then, is it that you are ashamed? If so, then this is a token of want of confidence. Now then if there be love, there will be no revealing of secrets, neither any upbraiding. For who, tell me, would ever upbraid his own soul? And suppose even such a thing were done, it would be for some good; for we upbraid children, we know, when we desire to make them feel. And so Christ too on that occasion began to upbraid the cities, saying, Woe unto you, Chorazin! Woe unto you, Bethsaida! Luke 10:13 in order that He might deliver them from upbraidings. For nothing has such power to lay hold of the mind, or can more strongly arouse it, or brace it up when relaxed. Let us then never use upbraiding to one another merely for the sake of upbraiding. For what? Will you upbraid your friend on the score of money? Surely not, if at least you possess what you have in common. Will you then for his faults? No nor this, but you will rather in that case correct him. Or, as it goes on, for a treacherous wound; who in the world will kill himself, or who wound himself? No one.

Let us then follow after love; he says not simply let us love; but let us follow after love. 1 Corinthians 14:1 There is need of much eagerness: she is soon out of sight, she is most rapid in her flight; so many things are there in life which injure her. If we follow her, she will not outstrip us and get away, but we shall speedily recover her. The love of God is that which united earth to Heaven. It was the love of God that seated man upon the kingly throne. It was the love of God that manifested God upon earth. It was the love of God that made the Lord a servant. It was the love of God that caused the Beloved to be delivered up for His enemies, the Son for them that hated Him, the Lord for His servants, God for men, the free for slaves. Nor did it stop here, but called us to yet greater things. Yes, not only did it release us from our former evils, but promised, moreover, to bestow upon us other much greater blessings. For these things then let us give thanks to God, and follow after every virtue; and before all things, let us with all strictness practice love, that we may be counted worthy to attain the promised blessings; through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom, to the Father together with the Holy Ghost, be glory, might, and honor, now and for ever and ever. Amen.

John Chrysostom

Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken