Knowing these things then, let us not be depressed, when adverse affairs meet us, but then let us be more strong, then more powerful; “for tribulation worketh patience.” Let us not grieve for the calamities which befall us, but let us in all things give thanks unto God!
13. We have completed the second week of the fast, but this we should not consider; for going through the fast does not consist in merely going through the time, but in going through it with amendment of manners. Let us consider this; whether we have become more diligent; whether we have corrected any of our defects; whether we have washed away our sins? It is common for every one to ask in Lent, how many weeks each has fasted; and some may be heard saying that they have fasted two, others three, and others that they have fasted the whole of the weeks. But what advantage is it, if we have gone through the fast devoid of good works? If another says, “I have fasted the whole of Lent,” do thou say, “I had an enemy, but I was reconciled; I had a custom of evil-speaking, but I put a stop to it; I had a custom of swearing, but I have broken through this evil practice.” It is of no advantage to merchants, to have gone over a great extent of ocean, but to have sailed with a freight and much merchandise. The fast will profit us nothing, if we pass through it as a mere matter of course, without any result. If we practise a mere abstinence from meats, when the forty days are past, the fast is over too. But if we abstain from sins, this still remains, even when the fast has gone by, and will be from this time a continual advantage to us; and will here render us no small recompense, before we attain unto the kingdom of heaven. For as he who is living in iniquity, even before hell, hath punishment, being stung by his conscience; so the man who is rich in good works, even before the kingdom, will have the benefit of exceeding joy, in that he is nourished with blessed hopes.
14. Therefore Christ says, “I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” A brief saying, but one that hath in it much consolation. What then is this, “your joy no man taketh?” if thou hast money, many are able to take away the joy that comes of thy wealth; as, for instance, a thief, by digging through the wall; a servant by carrying off what was entrusted to him; an emperor by confiscation; and the envious man by contumely. Should you possess power, there are many who are able to deprive you of the joy of it. For when the conditions of office are at an end, the conditions of pleasure will also be ended. And in the exercise of office itself too, there are many accidents occurring, which by bringing difficulty and care, strike at the root of thy satisfaction. If thou hast bodily strength, the assaults of disease put a stop to joy from that source. If thou hast beauty and bloom, the approach of old age withers it, and takes away that joy. Or if thou enjoyest a sumptuous table, when evening comes on the joy of the banquet is at an end; for every thing belonging to this life is liable to damage, and is unable to afford us a lasting pleasure; but piety and the virtue of the soul is altogether the reverse of this. If thou hast done an alms, no one is able to take away this good work. Though an army, or kings, or myriads of calumniators and conspirators, were to beset thee on all sides, they could not take away the possession, once deposited in heaven; but the joy thereof continually abideth; for it is said, “He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness endureth for ever.” And very justly; for in the storehouses of heaven it is laid up, where no thief breaks in, nor robber seizes, nor moth devours. If thou pourest out continued and fervent prayers, no man will be able to spoil thee of the fruit of them; for this fruit too is rooted in the heavens; it is out of the way of all injury, and remains beyond mortal reach. If when evil-treated thou has done a kind action; if thou hast borne with patience to hear thyself evil spoken of; if thou hast returned blessings for reproaches; these are good works that abide continually, and the joy of them no man taketh away; but as often as thou rememberest these, thou art glad and rejoicest, and reapest large fruits of pleasure. So also, indeed, if we succeed in avoiding oaths; and persuade our tongue to abstain from this pernicious practice, the good work will be finished in a short time, but the delight arising from it will be continuous and unfailing.
17. And now, it is time that you should be teachers and guides of others; that friends should undertake to instruct and lead on their neighbours; servants their fellow-servants; and youths those of their own age. What if any one had promised thee a single piece of gold for every man who was reformed, wouldest thou not then have used every exertion, and been all day long sitting by them, persuading and exhorting. Yet now God promises thee not one piece of gold, nor ten, or twenty, or a hundred, or a thousand; no, nor the whole earth, for thy labours, but He gives thee that which is greater than all the world, the kingdom of heaven; and not only this, but also another thing besides it. And what kind of thing is that? “He who taketh forth the precious from the vile,” saith He, “shall be as my mouth.” What can be equal to this in point of honour or security? What kind of excuse or pardon can be left to those, who after so great a promise neglect their neighbour’s safety? Now if you see a blind man falling into a pit, you stretch forth a hand, and think it a disgraceful thing to overlook one who is about to perish? But daily beholding all thy brethren precipitated into the wicked custom of oaths, dost thou not dare even to utter a word? Thou hast spoken once, perhaps, and he hath not heard. Speak therefore twice, and thrice, and as often as it may be, till thou hast persuaded him. Every day God is addressing us, and we do not hear; and yet He does not leave off speaking. Do thou, therefore, imitate this tender care towards thy neighbour. For this reason it is that we are placed with one another; that we inhabit cities, and that we meet together in churches, in order that we may bear one another’s burdens, that we may correct one another’s sins. And in the same manner as persons inhabiting the same shop, carry on a separate traffic, yet put all afterwards into the common fund, so also let us act. Whatever advantages each man is able to confer upon his neighbour, let him not grudge, nor shrink from doing it, but let there be some such kind of spiritual commerce, and reciprocity; in order that having deposited every thing in the common store, and obtained great riches, and procured a large treasure, we may be all together partakers of the kingdom of heaven; through the grace and loving-kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom and with Whom, to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, be glory, both now and ever, and world without end. Amen.
Of the Commissioners(Hellebichus Commander of the Troops, and Caesarius Master of the Offices ) sent by the Emperor Theodosius for the inquisition of the offenders, on account of the overturning of the Statues.
1. Most opportunely have we all this day sung together, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things.” For marvellous, and beyond all expectation, are the things which have happened? A whole city, and so great a population, when just about to be overwhelmed—to sink under the waves, and to be utterly and instantly destroyed—He hath entirely rescued from shipwreck in a single moment of time! Let us give thanks then, not only that God hath calmed the tempest, but that He suffered it to take place; not only that He rescued us from shipwreck, but that He allowed us to fall into such distress; and such an extreme peril to hang over us. Thus also Paul bids us “in every thing give thanks.” But when he says, “In every thing give thanks,” he means not only in our deliverance from evils, but also at the time when we suffer those evils. “For all things work together for good to them that love God.” Let us be thankful to Him for this deliverance from trials; and let us never forget them. Let us devote ourselves to prayer, to continual supplications, and to much piety.
2. When the sad conflagration of these calamities was first kindled, I said, that it was a season not for doctrine, but for prayer. The very same thing I now repeat, when the fire has been extinguished—that it is now especially, and more than before, a time for prayer; that now is the season especially for tears and compunction, for an anxious soul, for much diligence, and for much caution. For at that time the very nature of our tribulation restrained us, however unwillingly, and disposed us to sobriety; and led us to become more religious; but now when the bridle is removed, and the cloud has passed away, there is fear lest we should fall back again into sloth, or become relaxed by this respite; and lest one should have reason to say of us too, “When He slew them, then they sought Him, and returned, and enquired early after God.” Wherefore also Moses admonished the Jews, saying, “When thou shalt have eaten, and drunk, and art full, remember the Lord thy God.” The goodness of your disposition will now be rendered manifest, if you continue in the practice of the same piety. For at that time, many imputed your earnestness to fear, and the approach of calamity; but now, it will be purely your own achievement, if you still persevere in maintaining this earnestness. Since with a boy too, as long as he is guided by some tutor whom he fears, if he lives with sobriety and meekness, there is nothing to admire, for all persons ascribe the sobriety of the stripling to his fear of the tutor. But when he remains in the same seemly behaviour, after the restraint from that quarter is done away with, all persons give him credit too for the sobriety that was seen in his earlier age. Thus also let us act; let us continue in the same state of godly fear, in order that for our former diligence too we may gain much praise from God.
3. We had expected innumerable woes; that our property would be plundered, that the houses would have been burnt together with their inmates, that the city would have been plucked up from the midst of the world, that its very fragments would have been utterly destroyed, and that its soil would have been placed under the plough! But, lo! all these things existed only in expectation, and did not come into operation. And this is not the only wonder, that God hath removed so great a danger, but that He hath also greatly blessed us, and adorned our city; and by this trial and calamity hath made us more approved! But how, I will state. When those who were sent by the Emperor erected that fearful tribunal for making inquisition into the events which had taken place, and summoned every one to give account of the deeds which they had perpetrated, and various anticipations of death pervaded the minds of all, then the monks who dwelt on the mountain-tops shewed their own true philosophy. For although they had been shut up so many years in their cells, yet at no one’s entreaty, by no one’s counsel, when they beheld such a cloud overhanging the city, they left their caves and huts, and flocked together in every direction, as if they had been so many angels arriving from heaven. Then might one see the city likened to heaven, while these saints appeared everywhere; by their mere aspect consoling the mourners, and leading them to an utter disregard of the calamity. For who on beholding these would not deride death, would not despise life. And not only was this wonderful, but that when they drew nigh to the magistrates themselves, they spoke to them with boldness on behalf of the accused, and were all ready to shed their blood, and to lay down their heads, so that they might snatch the captured from the terrible events which they expected. They also declared that they would not depart until the judges should spare the population of the city, or send them themselves together with the accused to the Emperor. “He,” said they, “who rules over our portion of the world is a godly man, a believer, one who lives in the practice of piety. We therefore shall assuredly reconcile him. We will not give you leave, nor permit you to embrue the sword, or take off a head. But if ye do not desist, we also are quite resolved to die with them. We confess that the crimes committed are very heinous; but the iniquity of those deeds does not surpass the humanity of the Emperor.” One of them is also reported to have uttered another saying, full of wisdom, to this effect: “The Statues which have been thrown down are again set up, and have resumed their proper appearance; and the mischief was speedily rectified; but if ye put to death the image of God, how will ye be again able to revoke the deed! or how to reanimate those who are deprived of life, and to restore their souls to their bodies?” Many things too they said to them of the Judgment.
4. Who could but be astonished? Who could but admire the moral wisdom of these men? When the mother of one of the accused, uncovering her head, and exposing her grey hairs, laid hold of the horse of the judge by the bridle, and running beside him through the forum, thus entered with him the place of justice, we were all struck with astonishment, we all admired that exceeding tenderness and magnanimity. Ought we not, then, to have been much more impressed with wonder at the conduct of these men? For if she had even died for her son, it would have been nothing strange, since great is the tyranny of nature, and irresistible is the obligation arising from the maternal pangs! But these men so loved those whom they had not begotten, whom they had not brought up, yea rather, whom they had never seen, whom they had not heard of, whom they had never met, whom they knew only from their calamity, that if they had possessed a thousand lives, they would have chosen to deliver them all up for their safety. Tell me not that they were not slaughtered, that they did not pour forth their blood, but that they used as much boldness with their judges as it was likely that no other men would do, but such as had already renounced their own lives; and that with this sentiment they ran from the mountains to the tribunal. For, indeed, if they had not before prepared themselves against every sort of slaughter, they would not have been able to speak thus freely to the judges, or to have manifested such magnanimity. For they remained all day long sitting before the doors of the place of justice, being prepared to snatch from the hands of the executioners those who were about to be led off to punishment!
5. Where now are those who are clad in threadbare cloaks, and display a long beard, and carry staves in the right hand; the philosophers of the world, who are more abject in disposition than the dogs under the table; and do every thing for the sake of the belly? All these men then forsook the city, they all hasted away, and hid themselves in caves! But they only, who truly by works manifest the love of wisdom, appeared as fearlessly in the forum, as if no evil had overtaken the city. And the inhabitants of the city fled away to the mountains and to the deserts, but the citizens of the desert hastened into the city; demonstrating by deeds what, on the preceding days, I have not desisted from saying, that the very furnace will not be able to harm the man who leads a virtuous life. Such a thing is philosophy of soul, rising superior to all things, and to all prosperous or adverse events; for neither is it enfeebled by the former, nor beaten down and debased by the latter, but abides on the same level through the whole course of things, shewing its own native force and power! Who, indeed, was not convicted of weakness by the difficulty of the present crisis? Those who had held the first offices in our city, who were in places of power, who were surrounded with immense wealth, and who were in high favour with the Emperor, leaving their houses utterly deserted, all consulted their own safety, and all friendship and kindred were found worthless, and those whom they formerly knew,at this season of calamity, they desired not to know, and prayed to be unknown of them!But the monks, poor as they were, having nothing more than a mean garment, who had lived in the coarsest manner, who seemed formerly to be nobodies, men habituated to mountains and forests; as if they had been so many lions, with a great and lofty soul, whilst all were fearing and quaking, stood forth and relieved the danger, and that, not in the course of many days, but in a brief moment of time! And as distinguished warriors without coming into close conflict with their adversaries, but merely by making their appearance in the ranks, and shouting, put the foe to rout, so also these in one day descended, and said their say, and removed the calamity, and returned to their own tabernacles. So great is the moral wisdom that was brought among men by Christ.
6. And why do I speak of the rich, and of those in authority? When those very persons who had been invested with power to judge the criminals; who acted with the highest authority, were entreated by these selfsame monks to grant a sentence of pardon, they said, they had no power over the result; for that it was unsafe and dangerous, not only to insult the Emperor, but even to dismiss those who had insulted him, when taken, without punishment. But these men were too powerful for any one to resist; and besieging them by magnanimity and perseverance, they induced these officers by their importunity to exercise a power which they had not received from the Emperor; and even succeeded in persuading the judges, when men had been manifestly convicted of the guilt, not to declare the sentence of condemnation, but to defer the final result to the decision of the Emperor; and they promised certainly to persuade him to grant a pardon to those who had transgressed against him; and they were about to set out on a journey to him. But the judges, reverencing the moral wisdom of these men, and being struck with their loftiness of spirit, did not permit them to undertake this long journey, but promised that if they should only receive their words in writing, they would themselves depart and successfully importune the Emperor to dismiss all anger (which, indeed, we are now expecting that he will). For when sentence should have been given, they, on being admitted into court, uttered words of the highest wisdom, and besought the Emperor by letters to shew mercy; and they reminded him of the Judgment, and said that they would lay down their own heads, if his mercy was not granted. And the judges took down these words in writing, and departed. This, more than the brightest crown, will adorn our city. And what has here taken place, the Emperor will now hear; yea, the great City will hear, and the whole world will hear, that the monks who dwell at the city of Antioch, are men who have displayed an apostolic boldness; and now when their letters are read at court, all men will admire their magnanimity; all men will call our city blessed; and we shall shake off our evil reputation; and it will be known every where, that what has happened was not the work of the inhabitants of the city, but of strangers and corrupt-minded men; and that this testimony of the monks will be a sufficient evidence of the character of the city.
7. Therefore, beloved, let us not be distressed, but let us entertain favourable hopes; for if their boldness toward men has been able to prevent such a danger, then what will not their boldness toward God effect? These things also let us tell the Greeks, when they dare to dispute with us respecting their philosophers! From hence it is manifest that their stories of former days are false, but that the things of old reported among us are true; that is, the things concerning John, and Paul, and Peter, and all the rest. For inasmuch as these monks have succeeded to the piety of those men, they have consequently exhibited their boldness. Inasmuch as they were brought up in the same laws, they have consequently imitated their virtues. So that we stand in no need of writings for the purpose of shewing the apostolical virtues, whilst the very facts cry aloud, and the masters are shewn forth by the scholars. We have no need of disputation to display the trifling of the Greeks, and the little-mindedness of their philosophers, whilst their deeds now loudly proclaim, as they did aforetime, that all with them is a fable, a stage-play, a piece of acting.
8. And the same magnanimity was displayed by the priests too, as well as the monks, and they shared among them the charge of our safety. One of them, indeed, proceeded to court, esteeming all things as secondary to the love of you; and being himself ready, if he could not persuade the Emperor, to lay down his own life. And these, who remained here, have displayed the same virtues as the monks themselves; and holding fast the judges with their own hands, they would not let them enter into the court, before they gave a promise respecting the result of the trial. And when they saw them making signs of refusal, they again exerted themselves with much boldness; and as soon as they saw that they did consent, embracing their feet and knees, and kissing their hands, they gave an exceeding proof of either virtue, of liberty and meekness. For that theirs was not the boldness of presumption, they plainly signified by their kissing the knees, and embracing the feet of the judges. Again, in proof that this was not flattery, nor a kind of fawning servility, nor the fruit of a slavish spirit, their former acts attested their boldness. And these are not the only good results we have reaped from the trial, but also an abundance of sobriety and meekness; and our city has become all at once a monastery. Not thus would any one have adorned it, had he erected golden statues in the forum, as it has now been adorned and distinguished, in producing those beautiful images of virtue, and displaying its true riches!
9. But it may be that the things which the Emperor hath decreed are painful. No! not even these are really burdensome, but have brought much advantage with them. For what is there, I ask, which is oppressive in any of them? that the Emperor hath shut up the Orchestra, that he hath forbidden the Hippodrome, that he hath closed and stopped up these fountains of iniquity. May they never again be opened! From thence did the roots of wickedness shoot forth to the injury of the city! From thence sprung those who blast its character; men who sell their voices to the dancers, and who for the sake of three obols prostitute their salvation to them, turning all things upside down! Art thou distressed, O beloved! for these things? Truly it were fitting that for these thou shouldest be glad, and rejoice, and express thy thanks to the Emperor, since his castigation hath proved a correction, his punishment a discipline, his wrath a means of instruction! But that the Baths are shut up? Neither is this an intolerable hardship, that those who lead a soft, effeminate, and dissolute life, should be brought back, though unwillingly, to the love of true wisdom.
10. But is it complained of, that the Emperor hath taken away the dignity of the city, and hath no more permitted it to be called a metropolis? But what was he to do? Could he praise what had been done, and acknowledge it as a favour? Then who would not have blamed him, for not shewing even the outward form of indignation? Seest thou not that fathers do many things of a similar nature towards their children? They turn away from them, and forbid them the table. This also hath the Emperor done by imposing such punishments as have nothing in them hurtful, but carry with them much correction. Think what we expected, and what has taken place, and then we shall especially discern the favour of God! Dost thou grieve that the dignity of the city is taken away? Learn what the dignity of a city is; and then thou wilt know clearly, that if the inhabitants do not betray it, no one else will be able to take away the dignity of a city! Not the fact that it is a metropolis; nor that it contains large and beautiful buildings; nor that it has many columns, and spacious porticoes and walks, nor that it is named in proclamations before other cities, but the virtue and piety of its inhabitants; this is a city’s dignity, and ornament, and defence; since if these things are not found in it, it is the most insignificant in the world, though it may enjoy unlimited honour from Emperors! Dost thou wish to learn the dignity of thy city? Dost thou wish to know its ancestry? I will tell it exactly; not only that thou mayest know, but that thou mayest also emulate. What then is after all the dignity of this city of ours? “It came to pass, that the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch.” This dignity, none of the cities throughout the world possesses, not even the city of Romulus herself! For this it can look the whole world in the face; on account of that love toward Christ, that boldness and virtue. Dost thou wish farther to hear of a different dignity and commendation belonging to this city? A grievous famine was once approaching, and the inhabitants of Antioch determined, as far as each person had the means, to send relief to the Saints dwelling at Jerusalem. Behold a second dignity, charity in a time of famine! The season did not make them niggardly, nor the expectation of the calamity backward in helping; but when all are apt to be scraping up what is not their own, then they distributed their own, not merely to those who were near, but also to those who were living afar off! Seest thou here the faith towards God, and the love towards their neighbour? Wouldest thou learn another dignity of this city? Certain men came down from Judaea to Antioch, defiling the doctrine preached, and introducing Jewish observances. The men of Antioch did not bear this novelty in silence. They did not hold their peace, but having come together, and made an assembly, they sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, and caused the Apostles to provide that pure doctrines, cleared from all Jewish imperfection, might be distributed throughout all parts of the world! This is the dignity of the city! this is its precedence! this makes it a metropolis, not in the earth, but in heaven; forasmuch as that all other honours are corruptible, and fleeting, and perish with the present life, and often come to their end before the close of it, as they have done in the present instance! To me, a city that hath not pious citizens is meaner than any village, and more ignoble than any cave.
11. And why do I speak of a city? For that thou mayest exactly understand that virtue alone is the ornament of the inhabitants, I will not speak to thee of a city, but I will endeavour to demonstrate this by bringing forward what is more venerable than any city—the Temple of God which was in Jerusalem. For this was the Temple in which were sacrifices and prayers and services; where was the Holy of Holies, and the Cherubim, the Covenant, and the golden pot; the great symbols of God’s providence towards that people; where oracles from heaven were constantly being received, where prophets became inspired, where the fashioning was not the work of human art, but proceeded from the wisdom of God, where the walls were on every side resplendent with much gold, and where, in surpassing excellence, costliness of material and perfection of art met together, and demonstrated that there was no other temple like this upon earth! Yea rather, not only the perfection of art, but also the wisdom of God assisted in that building. For Solomon had learned all, not intuitively and from himself, but from God; and having received the design of it from the heavens, he then marked it out and erected it. Nevertheless, this Temple, thus beautiful and marvellous and sacred, when those who used it were corrupted, was so dishonoured, despised, and profaned, that even before the captivity it was called “a den of robbers, a cave of hyaenas;” and afterwards it was delivered over to hands that were barbarous, polluted, and profane!