Sitting then in the prison he wrote the letter to the Philippians from that so great distance. For such as this is the love that is according to God:31 it is interrupted by no one of human things, since it has its roots from above in the heavens32 and its recompense. And what says he? “Now I desire that ye should know, brethren”33 Seest thou solicitude for his scholars? seest thou a teacher’s carefulness? Hear too of loving affection of scholars towards their teacher, that thou mayest know that this was what made them strong and unconquerable—the being bound together with one another. For if “Brother helped by brother is as a strong city;”34 far more so many bound together by the bonds of love would have entirely repulsed the plotting of the wicked demon. That indeed then Paul was bound up with the disciples, requires not even when in bonds he anxiously cared for them, and each day, he was also dying for them, burning with his longing.
6. And that the disciples too were bound up with Paul with all perfectness;35 and that not men only, but women also, hear what he says about Phoebe. “Now I commend36 to you Phoebe the sister, being a deaconess of the Church which is in Cenchreae; that ye may receive her in the Lord worthily of the saints, and stand by her, in whatever matter she may require you, since37 she has proved a helper38 of many; and of me myself.”39 But in this instance he bore witness to her of her zeal so far as help went(only:)40 but Priscilla and Aquilla went as far even as death for Paul’s sake; and about them he thus writes, saying,“Aquila and Priscilla salute you, who for my life’s sake laid down their own neck;”41 for death clearly. And about another again writing to these very persons he says, “Because he went as far as death; having counselled ill for his life, in order that he might supply your deficiency in your service towards me.”42 Seest thou how they loved their teacher? how they regarded his rest43 before their own life? On this account no one surpassed them then. Now this I say, not that we may hear only, but that we may also imitate; and not to the ruled only, but also to those who rule is what we say addressed; in order that both scholars may display much solicitude about their teachers, and the teachers may have the same loving affection as Paul about those placed under them; not those present only, but also those who are far off. For also Paul, dwelling in the whole world just as in one house, thus continually took thought for the salvation of all; and having dismissed every thing of his own; bonds and troubles and stripes and straits, watched over and inquired into each day, in what state the affairs of the disciples were; and often for this very purpose alone sent, now Timothy, and now Tychicus; and about him he says, “That he may know your circumstances, and encourage your hearts:”44 and about Timothy; “I have sent him, being no longer able to contain myself; lest in someway the tempter have tempted you.”45 And Titus again elsewhere, and another to another place. For since he himself, by the compulsion of his bonds being often detained in one place, was unable to meet those who were his vitals, he met them through the disciples.
7. And then therefore being in bonds he writes to the Philippians, saying, “Now I desire that ye should know, brethren,”46 calling the disciples brethren. For such a thing as this is love; it casts out all inequality, and knows not superiority and dignity; but even if one be higher than all, he descends to the lowlier position of all; just what Paul also used to do. But let us hear what it is that he desires they should know. “That the things which happened unto me,” he says, “have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel.”47 Tell me, how and in what way? Hast thou then been released from thy bonds? hast thou then put off thy chain? and dost thou with free permission preach in the city? hast thou then, having gone into an assembly, drawn out many long discourses about the faith, and departed after gaining many disciples? hast thou then raised the dead and been made an object of wonder? hast thou then cleansed lepers, and all were astounded? hast thou driven away demons, and been exalted? No one of these things, he says. How then did the furtherance of the gospel take place? tell me. “So that my bonds,” he says, “have become openly known in the whole Court, and to all the rest.”48 What sayest thou? this then, this was the furtherance, this the advance, this the increase of the proclamation—that all knew that thou wast bound. Yes, he says: Hear at least what comes next, that thou mayest learn that the bonds not only proved no hindrance, but also a ground of greater freedom of speech. “So that several49 of the brethren in the Lord, in reliance on my bonds, more abundantly dare fearlessly to speak the word.”50 What sayest thou, O Paul? have thy bonds inspired not anxiety but confidence? not fear but earnest longing? The things mentioned have no consistency.51 I too know it. For neither did these things take place according to the consistency of human affairs, he means,52 but what came about was above nature, and the successes were of divine grace. On this account what used to cause anxiety to all others, that to him afforded confidence. For also if any one having taken the leader of an army and confined him, have made this publicly known, he throws the whole camp into flight; and if any one have carried a shepherd away from the flock, the security with which he drives off the sheep is great. But not in Paul’s case was it thus, but the contrary entirely. For the leader of the army was bound, and the soldiers became more forward in the spirit; and the confidence with which they sprung upon their adversaries was greater: the shepherd was in confinement, and the sheep were not consumed, nor even scattered.
8. Who ever saw, who ever heard of, the scholars taking greater encouragement in the dangers of their teachers? How was it that they feared not? How was it that they feared not? how was it that they were not terrified? how was it that they did not say to Paul, “Physician, heal thyself,”53 deliver thyself from thy manifold perils, and then thou will be able to procure for us those countless good things? How was it they did not say these things? How! It was because they had been schooled, from the grace of the Spirit, that these things took place not out of weakness, but out of the permission of the Christ; in order that the truth might shine abroad more largely; through bonds and imprisonments and tribulations and straits increasing and rising, to a greater volume. Thus is the power of Christ in weakness perfected.54 For indeed if his bonds had crippled Paul55 and made him cowardly; either himself or those belonging to him; one could not but feel difficulty; but if rather they prepared him into greater renown, one must be astounded and marvel, how through a thing involving dishonour glory was procured for the disciple—through a thing inspiring cowardice confidence and encouragement resulted to them all. For who was not astounded at him then, seeing him encircled with a chain? Then demons took to flight all the more, when they saw him spending his time in a prison. For not so splendid does the diadem make a royal head, as the chain his hands; not owing to their proper nature, but owing to the grace that darted brightness on them.56 On this account it was that great encouragement resulted to the disciples. For also they saw his body indeed bound, but his tongue not bound, his hands indeed tightly manacled,57 but his voice unshackled, and transversing the whole world more swiftly than the solar ray. And this became to them an encouragement; learning as they did from the facts that no one of present things is to be dreaded. For when the soul has been genuinely imbued by divine longing and love, it pays regard to no one of things present; but just as those who are mad venture themselves against fire and sword and wild beasts and sea and all else, so these too, maddened with a most noble and most spiritual frenzy, a frenzy arising from sanity,58 used to laugh at all things that are seen. On this account, seeing their teachers bound, they the more exulted, the more prided themselves; by facts giving to their adversaries a demonstration that on all sides they were impregnable and indomitable.
9. Then therefore, when matters were in this state, some of the enemies of Paul, desiring to fan up the war to greater vehemence, and to make the hatred of the tyrant, which was felt towards him greater, pretended that they themselves also preached; (and they did preach the right and sound faith,) for the sake of the doctrine advancing more rapidly: and this they did, not with the desire to disseminate the faith; but in order that Nero, having learnt that the preaching was increasing and the doctrine advancing, might the sooner have Paul led away to execution59 There were therefore two schools; that of Paul’s scholars and that of Paul’s enemies; the one preaching out of sincerity, and the others out of love of contention and the hatred they felt towards Paul. And by way of declaring this he said, “Some indeed through envy and strife are preaching Christ,” (pointing out those his enemies) “but some also through good pleasure;”60 saying this about his own scholars61 Then next about those; “Some indeed out of contentiousness,” (his enemies,) not purely, not soundly, but, “thinking that they are thereby bringing pressure upon my bonds;62 but the others out of love;” (this again about his own brethren;) “knowing that I am set63 ’for the defence of the gospel.” For what? Nevertheless, in any way; whether in pretence or in sincerity, Christ is being announced.”64 So that vainly and to no purpose is this saying taken in reference to heresies. For those who then were preaching were not preaching corrupt doctrine; but sound and right belief. For if they were preaching corrupt doctrine, and were teaching other things contrary to Paul, what they desired was certain not to succeed to them. Now what did they desire? That the faith having grown, and the disciples of Paul having become numerous, it should rouse Nero to greater hostility. And if they were preaching different doctrines, they would not have made the disciples of Paul numerous; and by not doing so,65 they would not have exasperated the tyrant. He does not therefore say this—that they were bringing in corrupt doctrines—but that the motive from which they were preaching, this was corrupt. For it is one thing to state the pretext66 of their preaching itself was not sound. For the preaching does not become sound when the doctrine is laden with deception; and the pretext does not become sound when the preaching indeed is sound, but they who preach do not preach for the sake of God, but either with a view of enmity, or with a view to the favour of others.
10. He therefore does not say this—that they were bringing in heresies; but that it was not from a right motive, nor through piety67 that they were preaching what they did preach. For it was not they might increase the gospel that they were doing this; but that they might wage war against him, and throw him into greater danger—on this account he accuses them. And see how with exactitude he laid it.68 “Thinking,” he says, “that they were putting pressure upon my bonds.”69 He did not say, putting, but “thinking they were putting upon,” that is supposing, by way of pointing out that even if they so supposed, still he himself was not in such a position; but that he even rejoiced on account of the advance of the preaching. He added therefore saying, “But in this I both rejoice and will rejoice:”70 whereas if he held their doctrines deception, and they were bringing in heresies, Paul could not possibly rejoice. But since the doctrine was sound and of genuine percentage, on this account he says,“I rejoice and will rejoice.” For what if they71 are destroying themselves by doing this out of contentiousness? Still, even unwillingly, they are strengthening my cause. Seest thou how great is Paul’s power? how he is caught by no one of the devil’s machinations? And not only is he not caught; but also by these themselves he subdues him. For great indeed is both the devil’s craftiness,72 and the wickedness of those who minister to him; for under pretence of being of the same mind, they desired to extinguish the proclamation73 But“he who seizes the cunning in their craftiness”74 did not permit that this should take place then. By way of declaring this very thing at least Paul said,“But the continuing in the flesh is the more necessary for your sake; and this I confidently know, that I shall continue and remain in company with you all.”75 For those men indeed set their mind on casting me out of the present life, and are ready to endure anything for this object: but God does not permit it on your account.
11. These things therefore, all of them, remember with exactness in order that you may be able with all wisdom to correct those who use the Scriptures without reference to circumstances76 and at hap-hazard, and for the destruction of their neighbours. And we shall be able both to remember what has been said, and to correct others, if we always betake ourselves to prayers as a refuge, and beseech the God who gives the word of wisdom to grant both intelligence in hearing, and a careful and unconquerable guardianship of this spiritual deposit in our hands. For things which often we have not strength to perform successfully from our own exertions, these we shall have power to accomplish easily through prayers which are persevering. For always and without intermission it is a duty to pray, both for him who is in affliction, and him who is in dangers, and him who is in prosperity—for him who is in relief and much prosperity, that these may remain unmoved and without vicissitude, and may never change; and for him who is in affliction and his many dangers, that he may see some favourable change brought about to him, and be transported into a calm of consolation. Art thou in a calm? Then beseech God that this calm may continue settled to thee. Hast thou seen a storm risen up against thee? Beseech God earnestly77 to cause the billow to pass, and to make a calm out of the storm. Hast thou been heard? Be heartily thankful for this; because thou hast been heard. Hast thou not been heard? Persevere,78 in order that thou mayest be heard. For even if God at any time delay the giving, it is not in hatred and aversion;79 but from the desire by the deferring of the giving perpetually to retain thee with himself; just in the way also that affectionate fathers do;80 for they also adroitly manage the perpetual and assiduous attendance of children who are rather indolent by the delay of the giving. There is to thee no need of mediators in audience with God; nor of that much canvassing;81 nor of the fawning upon others; but even if thou be destitute, even if bereft of advocacy, alone, by thyself, having called on God for help, thou wilt in any case succeed82 He is not so wont to assent when entreated by others on our behalf, as by ourselves who are in need; even if we be laden with ten thousand evil deeds. For if in the case of men, even if we have come into countless collissions with them, when both at dawn and at mid-day and in the evening we show ourselves to those who are aggrieved against us, by the unbroken continuance and the persistent meeting and interview we easily demolish their enmity—far more in the case of God would this be effected.
12. But thou art unworthy. Become worthy by thy assiduity. For that it both is possible that the unworthy should become worthy from his assiduity; and that God assents more when called on by ourselves than by others; and that he often delays the giving, not from the wish that we should be utterly perplexed, nor to send us out83 with empty hands; but in order that he may become the author of greater good things to us—these three points I will endeavour to make evident by the parable which has to-day been read to you. The woman of Chanaan had come to Christ praying on behalf of a daughter possessed by a demon, and crying out with much earnestness84 (it says,85 “Have pity on me, Lord, my daughter is badly possessed by a demon.” See, the woman of a strange nation, and a barbarian, and outside of the Jewish commonwealth. For indeed what else (was she) than a dog, and unworthy of the receiving her request? For “it is not,” he says, “good to take the children’s bread, and to give it to the dogs.” But, all the same, from her assiduity, she became worthy. For not only did he admit her into the nobility of children, dog as she was; but also he sent her off with that high encomium saying, “O woman great is thy faith; be it done to thee as thou wilt.”86 Now then the Christ says, “great is thy faith,” seek thou no other demonstration of the greatness of soul which was in the woman. Seest thou how, from her assiduity the woman, being unworthy, became worthy? Desirest thou also to learn that we accomplish (our wish) by calling on him by ourselves more than by others? She cried out, and the disciples having come to him say, “Let her go away, for she is crying after us:”87 and to them he says, “I am not sent, unless to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”88 But when she had come to him by herself and continued crying, and saying, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs eat from the table of their masters,”89 then he granted the favour and says, “Be it done unto thee as thou wilt.” Seest thou how, when they were entreating him, he repelled; but when she who needed the gift herself cried out, he assented? For to them he says, “I am not sent, unless to the lost sheep of the house of Israel;” but to her90 he said, “Great is thy faith; be it done unto thee as thou wilt.” Again, at the beginning and in the prelude of her request he answered nothing; but when both once and twice and thrice she had come to him, then he granted the boon; by the issue making us believe that he had delayed the giving, not that be might repel her91 but that he might display to us all the woman’s endurance. For if he had delayed in order that he might repel her, he would have not granted it even at the end; but since he was waiting to display to all her spiritual wisdom, on this account he was silent.92 For if he had granted it immediately and at the beginning, we should not have known the woman’s virtue.93 “Let her go”94 it says, “because she is clamouring behind us.” But what (says) the Christ? “Ye hear a voice, but I see the mind: I know what she is going to say. I choose not to permit the treasure hidden in her mind to escape notice; but I am waiting and keeping silence; in order that having discovered it I may lay it down in publicity, and make it manifest to all.
13. Having therefore learned all these things, even if we be in sins, and unworthy of receiving, let us not despair; knowing, that by assiduity of soul we shall be able to become worthy of the request. Even if we be unaided by advocate and destitute, let us not faint; knowing that it is a strong advocacy—the coming to God one’s self by one’s self with much eagerness. Even if he delay and defer with respect to the giving, let us not be dispirited; having learned that the putting it off and delay is a sure proof of caring and love for mankind. If we have thus persuaded ourselves; and with a soul deeply pained and fervent, and thoroughly roused purpose; and such as that with which the woman of Chanaan approached, we too come to him, even if we be dogs; even if we have done anything whatever dreadful; we shall both rebut95 our own crimes, and obtain so great liberty of speech96 as also to be advocates for others; in the way in which also this woman of Chanaan not only herself enjoyed liberty of speech and ten thousand encomiums but had power to snatch her dear daughter97 out of her intolerable sufferings. For nothing—nothing is more powerful than prayer when fervent and genuine. This both disperses present dangers, and rescues from the penalties which take place at that hour.98 That therefore we may both complete our passage through the present life with ease,99 and depart thither100 with confidence, with much zeal and eagerness let us perform this perpetually. For thus shall we be able both to attain the good things which are laid up, and to enjoy those excellent hopes; which God grant that we may all attain; by the grace and loving kindness and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ—with whom to the Father together with the Holy Spirit be glory, honour, dominion, to the ages of the ages.101 Amen.
Instructions to Catechumens
Translated with Introduction, and Notes by Rev. W. R. W. Stephens, M.a., Prebendary of Chichester, and Rector of Woolbeding, Sussex.
Assisted by Rev. T. P. Brandram, M.a.,rector of Rumboldswhyke, Chichester.
To those about to be illuminated; and for what reason the laver is said to be of regeneration and not of remission of sins; and that it is a dangerous thing not only to forswear oneself, but also to take an oath, even though we swear truly.
1. How delightful and lovable is our band of young brethren! For brethren I call you, even now before you have been brought forth, and before your birth I welcome this relationship with you: For I know, I know dearly, to how great an honour you are about to be led, and to how great a dignity; and those who are about to receive dignity, all are wont to honor, even before the dignity is conferred, laying up for themselves beforehand by their attention good will for the future. And this also I myself now do. For ye are not about to be led to an empty dignity, but to an actual kingdom: and not simply to a kingdom, but to the kingdom of the Heavens itself. Wherefore I beseech and entreat you that you remember me when you come into that kingdom, and as Joseph said to the chief butler “Remember me when it shall be well with thee,” this also I say now to you, do ye remember me when it is well with you. I do not ask this in return for interpreting your dreams, as he; for I have not come to interpret dreams for you, but to discourse of matters celestial, and to convey to you glad tidings of such good things as “eye hath not seen, and ear hath not heard and which have entered not into the heart of man, such are the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Now Joseph indeed said to that chief butler,“yet three days and Pharaoh will restore thee to thy chief butlership.” But I do not say, yet three days and ye shall be set to pour out the wine of a tyrant, but yet thirty days, and not Pharaoh but the king of Heaven shall restore you to the country which is on high, Jerusalem, which is free—to the city which is in the heavens; and he said indeed, “Thou shalt give the cup into the hands of Pharaoh.” But I say not that you shall give the cup into the hands of the king, but that the king shall give the cup into your hand—that dread cup, full of much power, and more precious than any created thing. The initiated know the virtue of this cup, and you yourselves shall know it a little while hence. Remember me, therefore, when you come into that kingdom, when you receive the royal robe, when you are girt with the purple dipped in the master’s blood, when you will be crowned with the diadem, which has lustre leaping forth from it on all sides, more brilliant than the rays of the sun. Such are the gifts of the Bridegroom, greater indeed than your worth, but worthy of his lovingkindness.