homily_17_from_fathers_of_the_church

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Unformatted text preview: {flow \ flflms 0/ ’l/thr Chili».qu / HOMILY17 “They heard the sound of the Lord God as he strolled in the garden in the evening.“ ' E HAVE SAID ENOUGH, I would think, as far as our abili- \ ties lie, in giving our explanation lately of the tree, to 7 ,7 teach you, dearly beloved, what was the reason why Sacred Scripture called it the knowledge of good and evil. So today I want to proceed to what follows, so that you may learn God’s unspeakable love and the degree of considerateness he employs in his care for our race. Everything, you see, he made and arranged so that this rational being created by him had the good fortune to be of the greatest importance, and far from being in any way inferior to the life of the angels, en— joyed in the body their immunity from suffering. (2) When, however, he saw them both through negligence transgress the commands he had given them, despite the warnings he had conveyed by threatening them (134d) and putting them more on the alert, he did not stop loving them at that point. Instead, faithful to his own goodness, he is like a loving father who sees his own son through negligence com- mitting things unworthy of his upbringing and being reduced from his eminent position to the utmost depravity: he is stirred to the depths of his being as a father, yet, far from ceasing to care for him, he displays further concern for him in his desire to extricate him gradually from his abasement and return him to his previous position of dignity. Well, in just the same way does the good God, too, have pity on man for the plot to which he fell victim with his wife after being deceived and accepting the devil’s advice through the serpent. Like a 1. On 3.8. 222 HOMILY 17 223 doctor treating a sick and suffering patient confined to bed, who needs much healing and the doctor's attention, he goes immediately to his side. (3) In order, however, that you may learn (135a) God’s in- effable considerateness, from the words themselves you must listen to the reading. “They heard the sound of the Lord God,” the text says, “as he strolled in the garden in the eve- ning; both Adam and his wife hid from the Lord’s presence amongst the trees of the garden.” Let us not, dearly beloved, pass heedlessly by the words from Sacred Scripture, nor re- main at the level of their expression, but consider that the or- dinariness of their expression occurs with our limitations in mind and that everything is done in a manner befitting God for the sake of our salvation.2 I mean, tell me this: were we prepared to follow the drift of the words without taking what is said in a sense befitting God, how could many absurdities be avoided? See now, let us consider this from the very beginning of the reading: “They heard the sound (135b) of the Lord God,” the text says, “as he strolled in the garden in the eve- ning, and they hid.” What are you saying—God strolls? Are we assigning feet to him? Have we no exalted conception of him? No, God doesn’t stroll—perish the thought: how could he, present as he is everywhere and filling everything with his presence? Can he, for whom heaven is his throne and earth his footstool, be confined to the garden? What right-minded person could say this? (4) So what is the meaning of this statement, “They heard the sound of the Lord God as he strolled in the garden in the evening”? He wanted to provide them with such an experi- ence as would induce in them a state of anguish, which in fact happened: they had so striking an experience that they tried to hide from the presence of God. Sin, you see, appeared and 2. For an Antiochene like Chrysostom, anthropomorphisms represented a particular challenge to the delicate balance of the two correlatives to his theol- ogy of the Word—divine transcendence and considerateness for human lim- itations. This particularly striking example of anthropomorphism of On 3.8 illustrated the latter eminently, but Chrysostom urges his congregation not to take it so simplistically as to impugn that other factor, the transcendence of the divine author. 224 ST.]OHN CHRYSOS'I‘OM transgression, and they were covered in confusion. After all, that incorruptible judge—conscience, I mean—in taking a stand against the accused (135C) cried out in unmistakable tones, levelled its accusation, brought forward evidence, and as if before their very eyes wrote down details of their sins in all their magnitude. For this reason, you see, the loving Lord from on high, in forming human beings right from the be- ginning, implanted conscience in them as a tireless accuser, proof against dissuasion and deception at any time. (5) Even if someone were able to escape the notice of all hu- man beings in committing sin and perpetrating improper conduct, he could not escape that accuser; he would go his wicked way with this accuser ever present within him to trouble him, tear at him and Hay him, never resting, be it in public, in company, at table, sleeping or rising, demanding justice for felonies committed, bringing into'focus the im- propriety of sin (135d) and the punishment due to it. Like a skilful physician it does not cease from applying its remedies; and should it find itself rebuffed, it does not take no for an answer but continues its ministrations unremittingly. This, after all, is its role, to make memory proof against dissuasion and not permit us to lay our sins to rest but keep them in focus so that even by this means it may make us reluctant to fall into the same ones again. You see, if we find an ally in con- science and get assistance from it as the forthright accuser in- nate within us, our scourge, tearing at our Vitals, bringing more weight to bear on us than a public executioner, and yet in many cases we still fall victims to our indifference, to what extremes would we not be taken if we were deprived of such assistance? (6) This, then, is the reason why (13621) in the present case the first-formed human being immediately hides on receiving this impression and realizing the presence of the Lord. Why so, tell me? Because he saw that stem accuser—conscience, 1 mean—taking his position against him. He had no one else as prosecutor and witness of his felonies with the sole exception of the one that he carried around within him. They were, however, taught through their nakedness the magnitude of HOMILY 17 225 the sins they had committed by the removal of the glory that had previously draped them like a garment, as well as by the accusation of conscience. So since they were covered in confu- sion after that grievous sin, they tried to hide. “They heard the sound of the Lord God,” the text says, “as he strolled in the garden in the evening; both Adam and his wife hid from the Lord’s presence in the middle of the garden.” (7) Nothing is worse than sin, dearly beloved: once it ap- pears (136b) it not merely fills us with shame but also robs of their senses people previously sensible and full of great intelli- gence. I mean, consider, I ask you, the depth of folly now dis- played by this person previously endowed with intelligence, who had demonstrated the intelligence granted him in the ac- tions he performed, and who had given vent to such inspired utterances. “Hearing the sound of the Lord God," the text says, “as he strolled in the garden in the evening, he and his wife hid from the Lord’s presence amongst the trees of the garden.” What depths of folly does this not reveal—for this man to endeavor to hide from the God who is present every- where, the Creator who brings all things from non-being into being, who knows things that lie hidden, who alone fashions people’s hearts and understands all their works,3 who tests hearts and minds,‘ who understands the movements of our heart?)5 (136C) But do not wonder, dearly beloved. For that is the nature of sinners. Even if they are not able to hide, they try earnestly to hide. That you may know that they did this because they had been denuded of their glory, unable to en— dure the shame which enveloped them after their sin, con- sider where they hid themselves: In the midst of paradise. just like heedless slaves and ones due for a whipping, when they are unable to hide from their master, try to run hither and thither into the corners of the house when their minds are shaking with fear, likewise these two ran around in that abode, that is in Paradise, but without finding any escape. (8) It is not without purpose, however, that the time is speci- 3. Ps 33.15. 4. P5 7.9. 5. Cf. Ps 43.22. 226 ST.jOHN CHRYSOSTOM fied: “They heard the sound of the Lord God," the text says, remember, “as he strolled in the garden in the evening.” The purpose was for you to learn the Lord’s loving kindness, that he didn’t postpone action in the slightest; instead, once he saw what had happened and sized up the gravity of the ulcer, he at once set in motion the healing process (136d) lest the ulcer spread and open up an incurable wound. So he moved to catch it at an early stage and at once took action against the spread of the ulcer, not for a moment leaving the victim de- prived of his prompt attention, out of fidelity to his own good— ness. What I mean is that the enemy of our salvation had dis- played such rage in his unfailing envy of our advantages that he concocted his plot from the very beginning and, through his disastrous advice, he robbed those two of their wonder- ful way of life. But God, ever anxious to try something new, watching over our affairs in his wisdom, saw, on the one hand, the malice practiced by the devil and, on the other hand, the man’s negligence, which was the means of covering him in such shame once he had been prevailed on by his wife; so God takes his position as a gentle and lovingjudge presiding over a tribunal that causes fear and trembling, and conducts his ex- amination in detail—teaching us through this approach not (137a) to condemn our fellows before we have conducted a detailed examination. (9) So let us listen, if you don’t mind, to the questions the judge asks, what replies the accused make, the severity of the sentence they receive, and the extent of the condemnation judged appropriate for the one who delivered such dreadful advice to them. Keep your mind alert, I beg you, and with great trepidation heed what is said. After all, we watch an earthlyjudge seated on his lofty tribunal summoning the ac- cused into the court, flailing them and inflicting other punish- ments on them, and in much trembling we insist on standing by to hear what thejudge says and the accused in his turn re- plies. So much the more in this case is it proper that we should do this, watching the Creator of our race doing justice to those created by him. If, however, (137b) you attend with pre- cision, you will see how great is the difference between God’s HOMILY 17 227 loving kindness and human beings‘ severity towards their fellows. (10) “The Lord God called Adam and said to him, ‘Adam, where are you?” From the very enquiry it behooves us to marvel at God’s surpassing love, not so much that he called him, but that he personally called him—something human beings would never stoop to in the case of their fellows who share the same nature with themselves. I mean, you know that when they take their seat on the lofty tribunal and do justice to those guilty of felonies, they don’t consider the accused worthy of having a reply made in their own person; conse- quently, they let them see how much disrepute they have in- curred through committing these crimes. While the judge makes his response somebody else stands up and relays the words of the judge to the accused, and in turn reports his words to the judge. (137C) Such you would see to be the prac- tice of judges the world over. With God, however, this is not the case. Instead? He calls personally: “The Lord God called Adam," the text says, “and said to him, ‘Adam, where are you?” (1 1) See how much force lies concealed in this brief expres- sion. You see, the very act of calling is a mark of great love beyond all telling, as it is a mark of great goodness to give an opportunity of reply to the accused in his shame, who dares not open his mouth or loosen his tongue. Yet, along with this loving kindness, the question, “‘Where are you?” is also very telling. In other words, it is as if he hinted to him in these words, What has happened? I left you in one condition, whereas now I find you in another; I left you clad in glory, whereas now I find you in nakedness. (i2) “ ‘Where are you?" How did this happen to you? Who has brought you to this changed condition? (137d) What kind of robber and brigand has robbed you like this in an instant of all the substance of your wealth and cast you into such indi- gence? Whence has come the nakedness you are experienc- ing? Who is responsible for depriving you of that wonderful 6. (In 3.9. 228 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM garment you had the good fortune to wear? What is this sud- den transformation? What tempest has all at once in this way sunk all your precious cargo? What has happened to make you try to hide yourself from the one who has been so kind to you and placed you in a position of such importance? Who is it you are now endeavoring to avoid through fear? Surely, after all, no one has cause to accuse you? Surely, after all, no witnesses are testifying against you? Whence comes the fear and dread that overwhelms you? “‘I heard the sound,”’ the text says, “ ‘as you walked in the garden, I was afraid because I am naked, and I hid.”7 Whence comes the knowledge of your nakedness? Tell me: what is new and surprising? Who could ever have told you of this, (138a) unless you have become the guilty cause of your own shame, unless you have eaten from that one tree I told you not to eat from? (13) See the Lord’s loving kindness and the surpassing de- gree of his long-suffering. I mean, though being in a position to begrudge such a great sinner the right of reply and rather than to consign him at once to the punishment he had deter- mined on in anticipation of his transgressing, he shows pa- tience and withholds action: he asks a question, receives a re— ply, and questions him further as if inviting him to excuse himself so that he might seize the opportunity to display his characteristic love in regard to the sinner even despite his fall. He thus teaches us through this instance as well when we judge the guilty not to berate them harshly or display the sav- agery of wild beasts in their regard, but rather employ much long—suffering and mercy inasmuch as we are dispensing jus- tice to our own members, and out of a sense of kinship we should temper justice with love. (138b) After all, it is not with- out purpose that Sacred Scripture employs such great consid- erateness; instead, through the concreteness of the expres- sions it both teaches us God’s loving kindness and promotes our emulation so that we may imitate as far as human capacity allows the goodness of the Lord. “He said to him, ‘Who told you that you are naked—unless you have eaten from that one 7. On 3.10. HOMILY 17 229 tree I told you not to eat from?” Where could you have got the knowledge of this, he says, and be covered in such confu— sion, unless you have been so intemperate as to despise my command? (14) Notice, dearly beloved, the excess of God’s goodness, how, in this manner of one friend communing with another and remonstrating with him over transgression of his instruc- tions, he enters into dialog with Adam. “‘Who told you that you are naked—unless you have eaten from that one tree I told you not to eat from?” (138C) Even the phrase, “that one tree,” bears a slight nuance: Surely I didn’t inhibit your enjoy- ment? it is saying. Did I not relieve you of every need, give you authority over everything in the garden, and only instruct you to keep away from that one thing so that you might be in a position to know that you are subject to direction and re- quired to show some obedience? So what kind of terrible in- difference is this that, despite your having such great enjoy- ment, you could not bear to keep away from that one thing but rather hastened in that manner to violate the command given you by me and envelop yourself in so many excesses? (15) What good was that to you? Hadn’t I warned you of that in advance? Wasn’t it my intention to check you be- forehand with fear of punishment and so make you more cautious? Didn’t I tell you what would be likely to happen? Didn’t I for that reason forbid your eating that fruit so that you wouldn’t fall victim to those faults? Who could consider you deserving of excuse now that you’ve proved to be so un- responsive despite so many directions? (138d) Didn’t I thus instruct you in every detail, like a father to his own dear son, and teach you to keep away from this tree while being free to taste all the others lest it wreak havoc with all your endowments? (16) Perhaps, however, you have thought advice from an- other quarter acceptable and to be preferred to my com- mand, and followed it in the expectation of gaining greater 8. Gn 3.11—with some slight anacoluthon smoothed over in other LXX manuscripts. 230 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM advantages, and out of scorn for my command you were bold enough to eat from the tree. See what you suffered through that experiment: you discovered the disastrous effect of that advice. Do you see the loving kindness of thejudge? Do you see his mildness and long-suffering? Do you see his consider- ateness stretching beyond all thought and imagination? Do you see how through his question and the words, “‘Who told you that you are naked—unless you have eaten from that one tree I told you not to eat from?” he wanted to open to you the doors to excuse so that even in regard to such a sinful person (139a) he might show his characteristic love? So let us listen to the accused as well, and hear what he has to say in reply to this question. (17) “Adam said,” the text goes on, “ ‘The woman you gave me as my companion gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.’”" Pitiable words and full of much pity, and capable of mov- ing the Lord to clemency, He who is so gentle, overcoming our sins by his goodness. For when he had shaken his disposi- tion by a great display of tolerance and had shown him the magnitude of his sin, Adam all but preparing his own de- fense, said to Him, “‘the woman you gave me as my compan- ion.” (lggb) In other words, how could I have ever expected that I would have been so covered in confusion through the one you created with the very purpose of bringing me conso- lation from her person? You gave her to me, you led her to meet me. She—I know not under what impulse—in her turn gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it. (18) While this explanation seems to offer some excuse, it is in fact devoid of all defense. I mean, what defense can you lay claim to, he says, for forgetting my commands and judging the bauble given by your wife more important than words spoken by me? After all, even if your wife did give it to you, still my command and the fear of punishment were sufficient to dispose you to avoid tasting. I mean, surely you were not ignorant? Surely you weren’t unaware? With this in mind, out 9. On 3.12. HOMILY 17 231 of care for you, I spoke up with the aim of preventing your falling victim to these faults; and so, even if your wife pre- pared the way for your transgressing my command, neverthe— less you were not without guilt: you should have regarded (139C) my command as more worthy of trust, and, beyond dis- suading yourself alone from eating, you should have demon- strated the gravity of the sin to your wife as well. After all, you are head of your wife,” and she has been created for your sake; but you have inverted the proper order: not only have you failed to keep her on the straight and narrow but you have been dragged down with her, and whereas the rest of the body should follow the head, the contrary has in fact oc- curred, the head following the rest of the body, turning things upside down. Hence, since you have reversed the proper order completely, you now find yourself in that desperate situ- ation after being clad previously in such wonderful splendor. So who could adequately lament the loss you have sustained of such great benefits? (19) But, all the same, even if all these things have befallen you, put the blame on no one else but yourself and your own neglect; after all, if you had not been willing, your wife would have been unable to bring you to this disastrous state. I mean, surely she didn’t urge you? Surely she didn’t inveigle you? Surely she didn’t deceive you? She merely gave (139d) you the fruit, and in an instant with such ease you were prevailed upon to taste it, without a thought to my command; instead, you thought you had been taken in by me and had not been permitted this food for this reason, lest you happen upon greater blessings. What grounds would you have for thinking you were deceived by me, the donor of such acts of kindness to you? What great kindness did this indicate, to take early precautions and clearly outline what you must abstain from so as notto fall into the excesses in which you have now im- mersed yourself? All these warnings, however, you gave no heed to, and so, behold, you have found out for yourself by 10. (If. 1 Cor 11.3. 232 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM experience the seriousness of these sins; so at this point don’t lay the blame on your wife alone, but on your own indif- ference as well. (20) Accordingly, when he had addressed himself at suffi- cient length to Adam, and the latter made excuses for his sins by transferring, as he thought, the guilt to his wife, behold (140a) the good Lord, how much considerateness he employs again and deems her also worthy of a response from him: “God said to the woman," the text goes on, “‘What is this you have done?” " You heard your husband, he says, transferring the responsibility to you and putting all the blame on you, given to him though you were as his helpmate and created for the purpose of providing him with comfort from your person inasmuch as you have the same being as he and share in the same nature. So why did you do this, 0 woman? For what rea- son did you become the cause of such dreadful shame to your- self and your husband? What advantage did you gain from such intemperance? What benefit came to you from the de- ception which you willingly embraced and made your hus- band sharer in? So what did the woman reply? “ ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”’ See her overcome by great fear and making excuses for her sins: (140b) just as her husband seemed to transfer the blame to his wife in the words, “‘My wife brought it and gave it to me and I ate it,”’ so she too, find- ing no way out admits what happened and says, “ ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” That evil creature, she says, brought that disaster upon us, his baleful advice led us to that shame, he deceived me and I ate. (21) Don’t pass these words by heedlessly, dearly beloved; instead, let us study them precisely and gain much benefit from them. I mean, a tribunal is a fearful thing, capable of arousing terror, and we must listen carefully to everything and lay up in our minds the great treasure to be gained from what is said. That is to say, notice the man also saying, “‘The woman you gave me as my companion gave it to me, and I ate it.’” No evidence of force, no evidence of pressure—only 11.Gn 3.13. HOMILY 17 233 choice and decision: (14cc) simply “gave,” not “forced” or “pressured.” She in turn in making her excuse didn’t say, The serpent forced me and I ate. Instead, what? “ ‘The serpent de- ceived me.”’ She had the choice of being deceived or not being deceived. “‘The serpent deceived me,’” she said. In other words, the enemy of our salvation, working through that evil creature, brought forward his advice and deceived her—not forcing or pressuring but through his deadly advice putting his deception into effect after finding the woman easily disposed to embrace the deception and thus deprived of any excuse. . (22) “‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate. Notice, more- over, the good Lord is satisfied with their words and doesn’t oblige them to say any more. You see, since he was not un- aware of the truth when he asked them, but rather knew, and knew very well, (140d) he shows considerateness for their limi- tations so as to demonstrate his own loving kindness, and he invites them to make admission of their faults. Hence he asks them nothing further. After all, of course, it was necessary to unmask the kind of deception; but to show us that his ques- tioning did not arise from ignorance, he is satisfied with their words. The woman, remember, in saying, “ ‘The serpent de- ceived me and I ate,”’ hinted at that deadly advice which she had accepted from the devil, namely, You will be like gods after eating it. Did you notice how precisely Adam was ques- tioned? With how much long-suffering the woman also was brought before the tribunal? How each of them made their excuse? Now, then, consider in this passage the surpassing de- gree of the judge’s ineffable love: when the woman said, “‘The serpent deceived me and I ate,"’ he doesn’t then grant the serpent a reply, nor (141a) give it opportunity for excuse, nor question it as he did the man and woman; instead, he ac- cepts the excuses from them and turns on that creature as the guilty party in all the evils.I2 Since, from his being God, and in 12. The risk of Antiochene accent on the literal becoming literalist and failing to acknowledge the figurative character of passages such as these seems to be realized in ChrysostOm’s commentary on these verses. See Intro- duction 16. 234 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM therefore knowing secret things, he was aware that the ser— pent was the means of achieving the devil’s advice and his envy shown in regard to human beings, his purpose was for you to discover his goodness in the way he addressed himself in their case (despite his knowledge of the facts), to Adam, on the one hand, in the words, “‘Where are you? Who told you you are naked?” and, on the other hand, to the woman in the words, “ ‘Why did you do it?” whereas in the case of this evil creature he did nothing of the sort. What did he say to him? “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this.’” Do you see the difference? While he said to the woman, “ ‘Why have you done it?”’, to the serpent he said, “‘Because you have done it.’" Because you have perpetrated this wicked- ness, he says, because you have adduced this deadly advice, because you have ministered to such envy, because you have whetted your hatred (141b) for this creature of mine, “‘Ac- cursed are you beyond all the beasts and all the wild animals of the earth. Upon your belly shall you grovel and slide, and eat dirt all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall watch for your head, and you shall watch for his heel.m '3 (23) Notice in this passage, I ask you, the order and se- quence illustrating God‘s loving kindness. I mean, he began directing his enquiries to the man, and then turned his atten- tion to the woman. When she mentioned who was the cause of her fall, he turned to the serpent: not deeming him worth a reply, he sentenced him to his punishment and extended it for all time; in the person of the serpent a lasting instruction was provided for everyone 'in future never again to accept that deadly (141C) advice nor be deceived by stratagems de- vised by him. (24) Perhaps, however, someone may say: ifthe devil worked 13. (in 3.14—15. The precise nature of the curse in v.14 emerges not so much from the vocabulary and syntax (which in the Heb. leads Speiser to suggest a translation “banned from" rather than “accursed beyond," and in Chrysostom’s LXX is still no clearer) as from the physical effects mentioned in the second half of the verse, as Chrysostom himself comments on below (Migne 1428), where the LXX somewhat embroiders the Heb. HOMILY 17 235 through the serpent to deliver his advice, why was such pun- ishment inflicted on that reptile? This happened as an ex- ample of God’s loving kindness beyond all telling: just as a lov- ing father punishes the man who killed his own son, and destroys the sword and dagger by which he committed the murder, smashing them into many pieces, in just the same way the good God, too, sentenced this creature to an eternal punishment, when like some sword, he served the purpose of the devil’s villainy so that we might reason from this evident and visible punishment to the depths of dishonor in which the devil also found himself. After all, if this creature who played the part of an instrument suffered such frustration, what kind of punishment is it likely that the devil received? (25) To be more accurate, however, we have already been instructed in this (141d) by Christ when he spoke through the holy Gospels to those standing at his left hand: “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” "‘ In other words, this fate has been prepared for him from ages past, and that unquenchable fire awaits him. So what could be more pitiful than the fate of those people who on account of neglect of their own salvation make themselves liable to that punishment prepared for that de- mon? You see, for proof that the kingdom has been prepared for us if we are willing to give evidence of virtue and fol- low the laws laid down by Christ, listen further to his words: “Come, blessed of my Father: inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” ‘5 Do you see the unquenchable fire prepared for the demon, on the one hand, and for us, on the other hand, the kingdom, provided our re- solve does not fail? (26) Accordingly, let us keep these things in mind and give heed to our way of living, (142a) avoiding evil and never fall- ing victim to the devil’s wiles. On the contrary, with good will and no slackening of effort let us keep before our eyes the punishment inflicted on the serpent so that we may hasten to- wards the goal of our judgment and see the greatness of God’s 14. Mt 25.41. i 15. Ib.34. 236 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM loving kindness. To draw a comparison: it often happens that when people notice a judge exercising his duties and sentenc- ing the accused, they stay there for the whole day and don’t leave until they see the judge rise. Much more should we in this instance watch the good God with greater enthusiasm to see how he imposes that severe penalty on the serpent, on the one hand, for the purpose of providing us, by the means of this corporeal creature which that wicked demon had used like some instrument, with an impression of the punishment the demon was due to receive; and how, on the other hand, in his clemency he imposes a due penalty on the woman and the man (142b)—or an admonition rather than a punishment— with the purpose of our observing everything precisely and marvelling at the concern of the loving God shown in regard to our nature. (27) So what does the text say? “The Lord God said to the serpent, ‘Because you have done this, accursed are you be- yond all the beasts and all the wild animals of the earth. Upon your belly shall you grovel and slide, and eat dirt all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall watch for your head, and you shall watch for his heel.”’ His anger is pro- found and intense, since profound also was the excess of the deception which the evil demon brought into play through that creature. “The Lord God said to the serpent, (142C) ‘Be- cause you have done this.m Because you were the means .of such villainy, he is saying, and put the deception into effect in this way by adducing the deadly advice and mixing the lethal potion; because you did this and intended to expel from my favor those creatures of mine, ministering to the purpose of that evil demon who had been cast down from heaven to earth for his envy and overweening arrogance—hence, because he used you as his instrument in these exploits, I inflict unremit- ting punishment on you, so that from what has befallen you he, too, may be in a position to know the extent of the punish- ment awaiting him, and that human beings to come may be instructed never to fall victim to his counsels nor give rein to his deceit lest they incur the same penalties. On this account HOMILY 17 237 you are accursed beyond all the wild animals since you did not employ your cunning as you ought, (142d) instead, the supe- riority over all the other animals that you enjoyed proved to be the cause of all these evils for you. “The serpent,” the text says, remember, “was the most cunning of all the beasts and wild animals of the earth.” ‘5 Hence you have become accursed beyond all the beasts and the wild animals of the earth. (28) Since, however, the curse was not perceptible to the senses nor visible to the naked eye, he accordingly inflicts on him a visible punishment so that we may have continually be- fore our eyes reminders of his punishment to contemplate. “‘Upon your belly shall you grove] and slide, and eat dirt all the days of your life,”’ because you took advantage of your physical form improperly, he is saying, even presuming to en- ter into conversation with the being I had created as rational. So just as the devil who worked through you, employing you as his instrument, had been cast down from heaven for setting his ambitions above his station, well, (143a) in just the same way I direct that you too assume a different physical shape, slide upon the earth and have that diet, so that in future you won’t be able to look upwards; instead, it will be your lot ever to be in this lowly position, and unlike all the other animals eat dirt. And not only this, but “‘I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.’” I’m not even content with this, that you slide on the earth: I will make the woman your implacable enemy, and not simply her, but her seed as well I will cause to be perpetually at odds with your seed. “‘He will watch for your head, and you will watch for his heel.”’ That is to say, I will supply him with such force that he will constantly threaten your head, whereas you will be trodden under his feet. (29) See, dearly beloved, (14gb) by means of the punish- ment against this creature, the extent of the care he reveals to us that he has for the human race. So much is evident even in regard to the serpent perceptible to our senses; yet it is also possible to anyone interested to study the sequel to this in 16. Cu 3.1. 238 ST._]OHN CHRYSOSTOM what is written, and to know that if this is the story of the ser- pent that is visible, ‘much more should the words be under- stood to refer also to the serpent perceptible only to the mind. I mean, this latter he also humbled and put under our feet, and caused us to trample on his head. Does he not indicate this to us in the words, “Walk on serpents and scorpions”'7? Then, lest we think these words refer to material serpents, he added, “and on all the power of the Enemy.” Do you observe from the punishment inflicted on the devil’s instrument God’s exceeding love? (30) Let us turn again, if you don’t mind, to the woman. You see, since (143C) it was the serpent that was the cause of the deception, accordingly he was the first to incur punishment; and since he deceived her first, and she then dragged her hus- band down with her, she is punished first, receiving that pun- ishment which carries with it lengthy admonition: “He said to the woman: ‘I will greatly aggravate the pain of your labor, in pain you will bear children; your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.” '8 See the Lord’s good- ness, how much mildness he employs despite such a terrible fall. “‘1 will greatly aggravate the pain of your labor.” My in- tention had been, he is saying, for you to have a life free of trouble and distress, rid of all pain and grief, filled with every pleasure and. with no sense of bodily needs despite your bodily condition. But since you misused such indulgence, (143d) and the abundance of good things led you into such ingratitude, accordingly I impose this curb on you to prevent your further running riot, and I sentence you to painful la- bor. “‘I will'greatly aggravate the pain of your labor, in pain you will bear children.”’ (31) I will ensure, he is saying, that the generation of chil- dren, a reason for great satisfaction, for you will begin with pain so that each time without fail you will personally have a reminder, through the distress and the pain of each birth, of the magnitude of this sin of disobedience, and may not in the 17. Lk 10.19. 18. ()n 3.16. - _ ___._..-.. -_ _ » -Wm-_.—-—w HOMILY 17 239 course of time allow the event to slip into oblivion, but may be enabled to realize that the deception was the cause of these ills. Hence “‘I will greatly aggravate the pain of your labor, in pain you will bear children.”’ In this passage he refers to the pangs of labor and in that great distress there is no avoiding (144a) carrying the child all those months like some load, feel- ing each twinge of pain that is caused by that, the twitching of its limbs, and the unbearable pangs known only to those who go through the experience. (32) Nevertheless, however, the loving God offered comfort with the pain, so that the satisfaction of bearing the child equally matched those pangs that tortured the womb all those months. I mean, women who are subjected to such distress, are so tormented by the bouts of pain, and, so to say, even de- spair of life itself, enjoy after the birth satisfaction even in their distress: as though forgetting all that has happened, they give themselves again to the bearing of children, accord- ing to the loving God’s providence for the maintenance of hu- man beings’ welfare. You see, the expectation of future bene- fits (144b) makes us always bear the distress of the present time with ease. w (33) You would see this trial affecting travellers as well, as they cross the mighty oceans and put up with shipwreck and pirates; despite those many dangers and the disappointment of their hopes they in no way give up, but rather press on to- wards the same goal. The same thing can be said also of farm- ers: when they dig deep furrows, till the earth with great care and sow the seed liberally, there frequently occurs drought or flooding, or at the conclusion of the harvesting rust descends on the crop and they lose hope; yet they still don’t give up at this point, but when better times come they resume their farming. (144C) And you would find this happening in the case of every occupation. (34) Well, in just the same way, woman too, in her turn, de- spite all those months, despite the unspeakable pains, despite the sleepless nights, despite the twitching of limbs, or through some slight accident she gives birth prematurely to the child 240 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM in an undeveloped state and unrecognizable, or if fully devel- oped yet handicapped, or unhealthy, or even in many cases stillborn, scarcely escaping risk to her own life—yet despite all this she puts up with the same trouble again, as though obliv- ious of all these pangs, and she undergoes the same process again. Why do I say the same process? Often it happens that the woman dies with the child, yet this event does not worry other women or induce them to avoid the experience—such being the pleasure and satisfaction God has combined to- gether with the pains.lg (35) Hence he said, “‘I will greatly aggravate the pain of your labor, in pain you will bear children.” This is what Christ also talked about with his disciples, showing them the intensity of the pain and the great degree of satisfaction, when he said, “A woman in labor suffers for the reason that her time has come;” (144d) then, wanting to bring home to us how the element of suffering is suddenly removed whereas its place is taken by joy and happiness, he said, “But when she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the distress for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”20 Do you see the exceeding care? Do you see punish- ment accompanied by admonition? “‘In pain you will bear children;’" then, “ ‘Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.” (36) As if to explain his reasons to the woman, the loving God said this, meaning, In the beginning I created you equal In esteem to your husband, and my intention was that in everything you would share with him as an equal, and as I en- trusted control of everything to your husband, so did I to you; but you abused your equality of status. Hence I subject you to your husband: “ ‘Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.”’ Because you abandoned your equal, who was sharer with you in the same nature (145a) and for whom you were created, and you chose to enter into conversa— . 19. For all Chrysostom’s sexism, he is not insensitive to the female condi- tion and can write feelingly of it. 20.jn 16.21. HOMILY 17 241 tion with that evil creature the serpent, and to take the advice he had to give, accordingly I now subject you to him in future and designate him as your master for you to recognize his lordship, and since you did not know how to rule, learn well how to be ruled. “ ‘Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will be your master.’” It is better that you be subject to him and fall under his lordship than that enjoying freedom and authority, you would be cast into the abyss. It would be more useful also for a horse to carry the bit and travel under direction than without this to fall down a cliff. Accordingly, considering what is advantageous, I want you to have yearn- ing for him and, like a body being directed by its head, to rec— ognize his lordship pleasurably. (37) I know that you are wearied by (145b) the excess of words, but stir yourselves a little, I beseech you, lest we leave the sentence incomplete and depart while the judge is still sit- ting. We are in fact close to the end now. So let us see what he says to the man after the woman, and what kind of punish- ment he inflicts on him. “Whereas to Adam he said: ‘Because you listened to your wife’s words and ate from this one tree I told you not to eat from, accursed shall be the soil as you till it. In pain may you eat from it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles let it yield you, and you are to eat the grass of the field. In the sweat of your brow may you eat your bread until you return to the soil whence you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you are to return.”"“ Great is the (145C) Lord’s care and beyond all telling displayed here for the human being—but let us listen precisely to each word spoken. “Whereas to Adam he said: ‘Because you listened to your wife’s words and ate from this one tree I told you not to eat from.” Since you listened to your wife, he is saying, and ate from the tree, and put the advice from her ahead of my com— mand and weren’t prepared to keep away from this one single tree which I told you not to eat from (surely, after all, I didn’t bid you keep away from many? one only, and yet you couldn’t 21. On 3.17—19, with a particular nuance—or misreading—by the LXX in “as you till it," which Chrysostom naturally retains. 242 ST.]OHN CHRYSOSTOM keep away from that, but forgot my commands and were overborne by your wife). Hence you are to learn through your very labors how much evil you have committed. (38) Let men give good heed, let women give good heed— the former, that they may have nothing to do with those people advising evil actions, and the latter, that they may ad- vise nothing of the sort. (145d) I mean, if Adam shifted the blame on to his wife and was still considered incapable of any excuse, what kind of defense could anyone offer in the claim, “It was on account of my wife that I sinned in this way and that, and committed this sin and that”? After all, the reason that she came under your dominion and you were declared her master was that she should follow your lead, not for the head to follow the feet. Frequently, however, it is possible to see the opposite occurring, that the one who is supposed to be in the position of head doesn’t even keep to the position of the feet, whereas she who is in the position of the feet is installed in the position of head. Hence also blessed Paul, the world’s teacher, foresaw all this and cried out, “How, after all, can you be sure, wife, whether you will save your husband? And how can you be sure, husband, whether you will save your wife?” Still, let a husband be very much on his guard so as to resist his wife’s inducement to harmful behavior, and let a wife (146a) keep fresh in mind the punishment Eve received for plying her husband with harmful advice, and not presume to offer such advice nor imitate Eve, but rather bring him to his senses by her example and encourage him to that kind of be- havior that will discharge herself and her husband of any punishment or penalty. (39) But let us return to the text before us. “Whereas to Adam he said: ‘Because you listened to your wife’s words and ate from this one tree I told you not to eat from.m Because, he is saying, you displayed such indifference about keeping the command given by me, and neither fear nor my intervening to decree the punishment liable to happen to you for eating the fruit was of any benefit, but in fact you ran headlong into 22. 1 Cor 7.16. HOMILY 17 243 such terrible wickedness that you were unable to keep away from that single tree despite such great enjoyment, accord- ingly “‘accursed shall be the soil (14Gb) as you till it.”’ See the Lord’s loving kindness, how he punishes the serpent one way and this rational being a different way: to the former he says, “‘Accursed are you beyond the earth,”’ whereas in this case he doesn’t speak in that way. What, then? “‘Accursed shall be the soil as you till it.”’ Appropriately, too. You see, since the soil had been produced for the sake of the human being so that he might thus be able to enjoy what sprang from it, accord- ingly in turn he places a curse on it on account of the human being’s sin; because the curse on it impairs in turn the human being’s relaxation and tranquillity, he says, “‘Accursed shall be the soil as you till it.”’ (40) Then, so that you may learn what “accursed” means, he added, “‘In pain may you eat from it all the days of your life.”’ See how each punishment is extended for a lifetime, so that not only may they personally be the better off for it, but that those destined to follow in future may learn from these very events whence the source of this punishment (146C) de- rived in their case: “‘In pain,”’ he says, may you eat from it all the days of your life."’ Then, to teach us more precisely the kind of curse and the cause of the pain, he added, “ ‘Thorns and thistles let it yield you.”’ Behold the reminders of the curse: thorns it will bring forth, he says, and thistles so as to give rise to great labor and discomfort, and I will ensure you pass the whole time with pain so that this experience may prove a brake on your getting ideas above your station and you may instead have a thought to your own make-up and never again bear to be deceived in these matters. (41) “ ‘You are to eat of the grass of the field. In the sweat of your brow may you eat your bread.m See how after his disobe— dience everything is imposed on him in an opposite way to his former life style: My intention in bringing you into the world, he is saying, was that you should live your life without pain or toil, difficulty or sweat, (146d) and that you should be in a state of enjoyment and prosperity, and not be subject to the needs of the body but be free from all such and have the good u: 244 ST. jOHN CHRYSOSTOM fortune to experience complete freedom. Since, however, such indulgence was of no benefit to you, accordingly I curse the ground so that it will not in future yield its harvest as be- fore without tilling and ploughing; instead, I invest you with great labor, toil and difficulty, and with unremitting pain and despair, and I am ensuring that everything you do is achieved only by sweat so that under pressure from these you may have continual guidance in keeping to limits and recognizing your own make-up. Nor will this continue for a short period or a brief space of time: it will last all your life. “‘In the sweat of your brow may you eat your bread until you return to the soil whence you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you are to return.”’ (147a) You will endure this as long as the span of your life is extended and you decompose into the material you were formed from. You see, even though in my loving kindness I endowed you with a bodily nature, yet your body being from the earth will in turn revert to the earth. mFor dust you are, and to dust you are to return.’” After all, to pre— vent this happening I said, “‘Do not touch the tree,m explain- ing that “ ‘on the day you eat ofit you will truly die.”’ You see, this was not my intention; on the contrary, everything on my part was carried through, but you appropriated it for your- self—so don’t attribute the blame to anyone else, but put it down to your own indifference. (42) At this point, however, a further question arises for us, which, if you don’t mind, we’ll dispose of immediately at this stage and bring the sermon to a close. God said, the text tells us, “ ‘On the day you eat from it you will truly die;”’ (147b) yet they are shown living for a great number of years after the disobedience and tasting the food. This seems to pose a prob- lem for those who read the subject matter superficially; if however you give your attention to it in the proper spirit, the verse is clear and offers no problem to the student. You see, even if they lived a long time, nevertheless from the time they heard the words, “‘Dust you are, and to dust you are to re- turn,” and received the sentence ofdeath, they became liable to death and you would say from that moment they were dead. So this is what Scripture is also implying when it says mm...) w 7. HOMILY 17 245 that “ ‘on the day you eat, you will truly die”’—that is to say, receive the sentence of being mortal from now on. I mean, just as in the case of human tribunals, when someone receives the sentence of beheading and is cast into prison, (147C) even if he stays there a long time his life is no better than that of dead people and corpses, being already dead by reason of his sentence, in just the same way they, too, from the day they re— ceived the sentence of mortality were dead by reason of their sentence, even if they lasted a long time. (43) I know that our words have been numerous and the thread of our teaching has been drawn out to great length. Hence, since by the grace of God and to the extent of our abil- ity we have proposed everything to you and brought to a con- clusion the subject matter we read about, let us at this point close the sermon. It would, in fact, have been possible for us to propose other matters, illustrating further that the imposi- tion of that very punishment and their being made liable to death was a mark of great depths of loving kindness. But in case we smother your thinking with a great surfeit of words, come now, let us encourage you as you leave here (147d) not to give your time to brainless gatherings or to improper gos- siping; instead, reflect privately and rehearse with one an- other what has been said, reminding yourselves of what the judge said in reply, what defense the guilty made, how the man shifted the blame on to the woman and she shifted it to the serpent, how God punished that creature and the fact that he inflicted on it the punishment that would be constant and lasting for all time, that in its regard he delivered a severe denunciation and thus demonstrated his care for those de- ceived. You see, from the fact that he punished their deceiver it is clear that he had practiced his deception on people very dear to God. Next recall from this text the sentence on the woman, and the punishment inflicted on her, or rather the admonition, and thus recall the words addressed to Adam, (i48a) remembering the sentence, “Dust you are, and to dust you are to return;’” {ind cause for wonder in this at God’s inef- fable love, that we, though coming from dust and decompos— ing into it, are deemed worthy, should we wish to embrace vir- /7 246 STJOHN CHRYSOSTOM tue and shun evil, of those unspeakable good things prepared for those who love him, “which eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have they entered man’s heart.”23 (44) Consequently, we ought to pay the Lord abundant thanks for his so generous favors and never consign them to oblivion; instead, through good works and careful avoidance of foul deeds let us win his approval and render him well dis- posed to us. I mean, how could we avoid the appearance of ingratitude if, while he who is God and immortal does not de- cline to take on himself our mortal nature and earthly charac- ter, (148b) free us from the ancient curse of death, lead us to highest heaven, honor us with his ancestral home and deem us worthy of being honored by all the heavenly host, whereas we are not ashamed to requite him in just the opposite way, glueing our immortal soul (so to say) on to our body and thus ensuring that it becomes earthly, perishable and impotent? Let us not, I beseech you, be so ungrateful to such a constant benefactor of ours; let us rather keep his laws and perform what he has decided and is well-pleasing to him, so that he may declare us worthy also of eternal goods. May we all be judged deserving of such goods, thanks to the grace and love of our Lord jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory, power and honor, now and forever for ages of ages. Amen. 23. 1 Cor 2.9; cf. Is 64.4; 65.17. _ ._ :‘m,~..‘..._r,_. ...
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