Sunday, June 3, 2012

Excerpt from Homily I on Pentecost by St. John Chrysostom

The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (http://images.icon-art.info/main/01300-01399/01318_hires.jpg)
  
Excerpt from Homily I on Pentecost by St. John Chrysostom (amateur translation)
Earth has become heaven for us today, not that the stars have descended to earth, but the apostles have ascended above the heavens, as the grace of the Spirit is poured forth. He made the world heaven, not by changing nature, but through correcting the choice. He found a publican, and prepared him to be an evangelist. He found a blasphemer, and made him an apostle. He found a thief, and brought him to Paradise. He found a harlot, and made her more chaste than a virgin. He found magi, and made them into evangelists. He cast out evil, and brought in virtue, which was provided for by the grace of God. Earth has become heaven. How is it, therefore, that I behold the apostles like stars? Stars in heaven, apostles above heaven. Think on things above, therefore, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. Stars from sensible fire, apostles from spiritual fire. Stars appear at night, but hide during the day; the apostles, however, night and day shine with their rays. Stars do not appear when the sun is shining; the apostles, however, at the shining of the Sun of righteousness, shine with their own lamps as a result. The stars will fall like leaves at the resurrection [at the Second Coming of Christ]; the apostles will be seized by the clouds in the resurrection. Among the stars there are some dimmer, others brighter; with the apostles, however, none is dimmer, but all are bright.
  
By seeing that these apostles are brighter than the stars, and lights of the world, as we said, we see that this is not just when they lived, but ever after they have died. For the grace of the saints is not cut short by death, nor is it lessened by one's end, nor is it dissolved in the earth, but bears witness to the reality. They were fishermen, and died fishermen. They worked with their nets, and the multitude that were saved by them bear witness. They were workers in the vineyard, and they left it, and the vine brought forth its leaves, and made fruit. For they were vine-workers, and fishermen, and pillars, and physicians, and soldiers, and teachers. They are pillars, for they held up the floor of the faith. They are harbors, for they drove back the waves of impiety. They are guides, for they lead the world from earth to heaven. They are shepherds, for they drove back the wolves, and saved the cattle. They were vine-workers, for they uprooted the thorns, and sowed the seeds of piety. They are physicians, for they cured our wounds. And that you might learn that these words are not folly, I offer all that Paul has done. Do you wish to see him as a planter? “I planted, Apollos watered”. (1 Corinthians 3:6) Do you wish to see a builder? “As a wise architect, I laid a foundation.” (1 Corinthians 3:10) Do you wish to see him as a wrestler? “Therefore I fight, not as one beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:26) Do you wish to see him as an athlete? “For we are not fighting against blood and flesh.” (Ephesians 6:12) Do you wish to see him as a traveler? “Proceeding from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum did I preach the Gospel of God. (Romans 15:19) We were girded with the breastplate of the faith. Do you wish to see him as a struggler? “I fought the good fight.” (2 Timothy 4:7) Do you wish to see him as one who gains a crown? “Therefore is laid for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Timothy 4:8) In all things, he truly made himself an imitator of his Master. And his Master, in essence, planned all things thus.
  
Why is this so? For our salvation. “Become a vine, and there was made a root. I am the vine, you are the branches. (John 15:5) You wished to walk, and I became for you the road. (John 14:6) You may enter and exit through me, and find pasture. Become a sheep, for I became the shepherd for you. I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep. (John 10:9-11) Become a sinner, and I become for you the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) Do you wish to eat? I become a table for you. Do you wish to drink? I become a cup for you. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood, dwells in me, and I in him. (John 6:56) Do you wish to be clothed? I become a garment for you. All those who have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27) Do you desire a bride born to you? I become your Bridegroom. He who has the bride, is the bridegroom. You desired, and I became man for you." For the pure virgin was betrothed to a man, while Christ stood by. The harlot was, and became a virgin. O new and strange things! From outside marriage virginity is dissolved, but spiritually the harlot received, and was made more chaste than a virgin. Study, O heretic, how the harlot is a virgin. I am unable to explain it, but I hold to the faith. All this has been worked by the grace of the Spirit. The grace was poured out, and appeared to them divided as tongues as of fire...
  
Greatly sought after therefore is the Church of Christ, not made safe with walls, but with walls of the faith. Through the Church the heaven is made to stand, and the sea is poured forth, and the air is extended, and the earth is founded, paradise is planted, the law is given, the prophets were sent forth, miracles are worked, the abyss is rent and afflicted, the rocks are separated, and again come together, manna is granted, and they plan to prepare a table. Through the Church the prophets, through the Church the apostles. And what more can I say? Through the Church the only-begotten Son of God became man, as Paul said: “He Who did not spare His own Son.” (Romans 8:32) The Son is not spared, that the Church might be spared. The blood of the Son is poured forth through the Church. It is watered through this blood. Therefore, it is impossible for the plants to wither, but to give forth leaves. It does not depend upon the needs of the seasons, nor is it a servant of the times, in summer bringing forth leaves, and in winter being naked. It does not have need of seasons, but it is planted by the Spirit...
  
Why, therefore, do temptations that approach the Church not hinder her? Is it not that her power might be shown? If none warred against her, some could say: “If she were warred against, she would be defeated.” Because of this she is left to be warred against, that she might not be deserted of battles and be ascribed victory. And the gates of hades, as He said, will not prevail of her, will not overtake her. (Matthew 16:18) They will fight her, but will not conquer her. The Church is battered by storms, but does not drown. She faces storms, but does not sink. She receives arrows, but does not receive wounds. She receives machinations, but does not catch fire. What therefore can I call the Church? One word transformed the fisherman, and made him as unquenchable fire. How many tyrants wished to conquer and make this word disappear, but were unable? For she is founded upon a rock. Think of how many tyrants, kings, rulers, drawn swords, teeth of beasts, dangerous deaths, cauldrons, furnaces [the Church endured]. And though the devil emptied his quiver, the Church was not hurt. Why? Because the Gates of hades will not overtake her. How many rulers fought the Church? Where are those who fought her? They have become silent and forgotten. The Church blossoms. Where is Claudius? Where is Augustus? Where is Nero? Where is Tiberius? Their names are small. And none of these is commemorated. Because they fought the Church, their memory is lost. The Church, however, shines brighter than the sun. Wherever she proceeds, to the Indians, to the Africans, to the Britains, to the world, you find “In the beginning was the Word” (John 1:1), and a virtuous life. Before this, however, cities were filled with impiety, and now the desert is filled with piety. Before this princesses danced, as the daughter of Herodias danced for Herod. Today, handmaidens do not shame themselves through doing this. Before this, mothers would dissolve their marriage at the throw of a dice. Today, virginity is worked ascetically. Before this, the fathers of the Goths shed blood; today they desire to shed their blood for the faith. Before this were the impious idiots. Today, pious kings and people. The king to be receives a crown, and receives a cross, in a timeless age, arrayed with the signs of wisdom, while inside the church one's kingdom is not recognized. Outside are spears, and inside are mysteries. Outside are shields, and inside mystagogies, Theodosios is the son, and the father is Theodosios. Above these, however, we thank God, to Whom belong the glory and the kingdom unto the ages of ages. Amen.
  
For another homily of St. John Chrysostom on Pentecost, see: http://preachersinstitute.com/2010/05/20/sermon-on-the-feast-of-pentecost/.

  
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!

No comments: