Writings of John Chrysostom. Letter to a Young Widow

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St. Chrysostom:

Letter to a Young Widow

Translated by Rev. W. R. W. Stephens, M.A., Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral, and Rector of Woolbeding, Sussex.

Published in 1886 by Philip Schaff, New York: Christian Literature Publishing Co.

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Introduction to the Letter to a Young Widow

The date of the following letter can be determined within very narrow limits. It contains a reference (c. 5) to the defeat and death of the Emperor Valens in the battle with the Goths at Hadrianople, in a.d. 378, as a recent event. The Emperor who is described as having incessantly engaged in war ever since his accession (c. 4) must be Theodosius, who succeeded Valens, and as the Goths are said to be still overrunning large regions with impunity, and insolently mocking the timidity of the imperial troops (ib.) the letter must have been written prior to the crushing defeat which Theodosius inflicted on them in 382. The whole epistle is deeply tinged with that profound sense of the unhappiness and instability of human life which the moral corruption of society and recent calamities of the empire impressed with peculiar force on the minds of men; producing too often amongst Pagans either a cynical gloom or reckless indifference, but leading Christians to cling more closely and earnestly to the hopes and consolations of the Gospel.


Letter to a Young Widow.

1. That you have sustained a severe blow, and that the weapon directed from above has been planted in a vital part all will readily admit, and none even of the most rigid moralists will deny it; but since they who are stricken with sorrow ought not to spend their whole time in mourning and tears, but to make good provision also for the healing of their wounds, lest, if they be neglected their tears should aggravate the wound, and the fire of their sorrow become inflamed, it is a good thing to listen to words of consolation, and restraining for a brief season at least the fountain of thy tears to surrender thyself to those who endeavour to console thee. On this account I abstained from troubling you when your sorrow was at its height, and the thunderbolt had only just fallen upon you; but having waited an interval and permitted you to take your fill of mourning, now that you are able to look out a little through the mist, and to open your ears to those who attempt to comfort you, I also would second the words of your handmaids by some contributions of my own. For whilst the tempest is still severe, and a full gale of sorrow is blowing, he who exhorts another to desist from grief would only provoke him to increased lamentations and having incurred his hatred would add fuel to the flame by such speeches besides being regarded himself as an unkind and foolish person. But when the troubled water has begun to subside, and God has allayed the fury of the waves, then we may freely spread the sails of our discourse. For in a moderate storm skill may perhaps play its part; but when the onslaught of the wind is irresistible experience is of no avail. For these reasons I have hitherto held my peace, and even now have only just ventured to break silence because I have heard from thy uncle that one may begin to take courage, as some of your more esteemed handmaids are now venturing to discourse at length upon these matters, women also outside your own household, who are your kinsfolk, or are otherwise qualified for this office. Now if you allow them to talk to you I have the greatest hope and confidence that you will not disdain my words but do your best to give them a calm and quiet hearing. Under any circumstances indeed the female sex is the more apt to be sensitive to suffering; but when in addition there is youth, and untimely widowhood, and inexperience in business, and a great crowd of cares, while the whole life previously has been nurtured in the midst of luxury, and cheerfulness and wealth, the evil is increased many fold, and if she who is subjected to it does not obtain help from on high even an accidental thought will be able to unhinge her. Now I hold this to be the foremost and greatest evidence of God's care concerning thee; for that thou hast not been overwhelmed by grief, nor driven out of thy natural condition of mind when such great troubles suddenly concurred to afflict thee was not due to any human assistance but to the almighty hand the understanding of which there is no measure, the wisdom which is past finding out, the "Father of mercies and the God of all comfort." [334] "For He Himself" it is said "hath smitten us, and He will heal us; He will strike, and He will dress the wound and make us whole." [335]

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For as long as that blessed husband of thine was with thee, thou didst enjoy honour, and care and zealous attention; in fact you enjoyed such as you might expect to enjoy from a husband; but since God took him to Himself He has supplied his place to thee. And this is not my saying but that of the blessed prophet David for he says "He will take up the fatherless and the widow," [336] and elsewhere he calls Him "father of the fatherless and judge of the widow;" [337] thus in many passages thou wilt see that He earnestly considereth the cause of this class of mankind.

2. But lest the continual repetition of this name of widow should upset thy soul, and disconcert thy reason, having been inflicted on thee in the very flower of thy age, I wish first of all to discourse on this point, and to prove to you that this name of widow is not a title of calamity but of honour, aye the greatest honour. For do not quote the erroneous opinion of the world as a testimony, but the admonition of the blessed Paul, or rather of Christ. For in his utterances Christ was speaking through him as he himself said "If ye seek a proof of Christ who is speaking in me?" [338] What then does he say? "Let not a widow be enrolled under threescore years of age" and again "but the younger widows refuse" [339] intending by both these sayings to indicate to us the importance of the matter. And when he is making regulations about bishops he nowhere prescribes a standard of age, but in this case he is very particular on the point, and, pray, why so? not because widowhood is greater than priesthood, but because widows have greater labour to undergo than priests, being encompassed on many sides by a variety of business public and private. For as an unfortified city lies exposed to all who wish to plunder it, so a young woman living in widowhood has many who form designs upon her on every side not only those who aim at getting her money but also those who are bent upon corrupting her modesty. And besides these we shall find that she is subjected to other conditions also likely to occasion her fall. For the contempt of servants their negligence of business, the loss of that respect which was formerly paid, the sight of contemporaries in prosperity, and often the hankering after luxury, induce women to engage in a second marriage. Some there are who do not choose to unite themselves to men by the law of marriage, but do so secretly and clandestinely. And they act thus in order to enjoy the praise of widowhood; thus it is a state which seems to be not reproached, but admired and deemed worthy of honour among men, not only amongst us who believe, but even amongst unbelievers also. For once when I was still a young man I know that the sophist who taught me [340] (and he exceeded all men in his reverence for the gods) expressed admiration for my mother before a large company. For enquiring, as was his wont, of those who sat beside him who I was, and some one having said that I was the son of a woman who was a widow, he asked of me the age of my mother and the duration of her widowhood, and when I told him that she was forty years of age of which twenty had elapsed since she lost my father he was astonished and uttered a loud exclamation, and turning to those present "Heavens!" cried he "what women there are amongst the Christians." So great is the admiration and praise enjoyed by widowhood not only amongst ourselves, but also a amongst those who are outside the Church. And being aware of all this the blessed Paul said "Let not a widow be enrolled under threescore years of age." And even after this great qualification of age he does not permit her to be ranked in this sacred society but mentions some additional requisites "well reported of for good works, if she have brought up children if she have lodged strangers if she have washed the saints feet if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work." [341] Heavens! what testing and scrutiny! how much virtue does he demand from the widow, and how precisely does he define it! which he would not have done, had he not intended to entrust to her a position of honour and dignity. And "the younger widows" he says "refuse;" and then he adds the reason: "for when they have waxed wanton against Christ they will marry." [342] By this expression he gives us to understand that they who have lost their husbands are wedded to Christ in their stead. Observe how he asserts this by way of indicating the mild and easy nature of this union; I refer to the passage "when they have waxed wanton against Christ they will marry," as if He were some gentle husband who did not exercise authority over them, but suffered them to live in freedom. Neither did Paul confine his discourse on the subject to these remarks, but also in another place again he has manifested great anxiety about it where he says "Now she who liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth; but she who is a widow indeed and desolate hath set her hope in God, and continueth in prayers and supplications day and night." [343] And writing to the Corinthians he says "But she is more blessed if she abide thus." [344] You see what great praise is bestowed upon widowhood, and this in the New Testament, when the beauty of virginity also was clearly brought to light. Nevertheless even the lustre of this state could not obscure the glories of widowhood, which shines on brightly all the same, keeping its own value. When then we make mention of widowhood from time to time, do not be cast down, nor consider the matter a reproach; for if this be a matter of reproach, far more so is virginity. But this is not the case; no! God forbid. For inasmuch as we all admire and welcome women who live continently whilst their husbands are yet alive must we not be delighted with those who manifest the same good feeling concerning their husbands when they have departed this, life, and praise them accordingly? As I was saying then, as long as you lived with the blessed Therasius you enjoyed honour and consideration such as is natural for a wife to receive from a husband; but now in his place you have God who is the Lord of all, who hath of old been thy protector and will be so now still more and with yet greater earnestness; and as I have already said He hath displayed no slight token of his providential care by having preserved thee whole and unharmed in the midst of such a furnace of anxiety and sorrow, and not suffering thee to undergo anything undesirable. Now if He has not permitted any shipwreck to take place in the midst of so much rough water, much more will He preserve thy soul in calm weather and lighten the burden of thy widowhood, and the consequences of it which seem to be so terrible.

3. Now if it is not the name of widow which distresses you, but the loss of such a husband I grant you that all the world over amongst men engaged in secular affairs there have been few like him, so affectionate, so gentle, so humble, so sincere, so understanding, so devout. And certainly if he had altogether perished, and utterly ceased to be, it would be right to be distressed, and sorrowful; but if he has only sailed into the tranquil haven, and taken his journey to Him who is really his king, one ought not to mourn but to rejoice on these accounts. For this death is not death, but only a kind of emigration and translation from the worse to the better, from earth to heaven, from men to angels, and archangels, and Him who is the Lord of angels and archangels. For here on earth whilst he was serving the emperor there were dangers to be expected and many plots arising from men who bore ill-will, for in proportion as his reputation increased did the designs also of enemies abound; but now that he has departed to the other world none of these things can be suspected. Wherefore in proportion as you grieve that God has taken away one who was so good and worthy you ought to rejoice that he has departed in much safety and honour, and being released from the trouble which besets this present season of danger, is in great peace and tranquillity. For is it not out of place to acknowledge that heaven is far better than earth, and yet to mourn those who are translated from this world to the other? For if that blessed husband of thine had been one of those who lived a shameful life contrary to what God approved it would have been right to bewail and lament for him not only when he had departed, but whilst he was still living; but inasmuch as he was one of those who are the friends of God we should take pleasure in him not only whilst living, but also when he has been laid to rest. And that we ought to act thus thou hast surely heard the words of the blessed Paul "to depart and to be with Christ which is far better." [345] But perhaps you long to hear your husband's words, and enjoy the affection which you bestowed upon him, and you yearn for his society, and the glory which you had on his account, and the splendour, and honour, and security, and all these things being gone distress and darken your life. Well! the affection which you be stowed on him you can keep now just as you formerly did.

For such is the power of love, it embraces, and unites, and fastens together not only those who are present, and near, and visible but also those who are far distant; and neither length of time, nor separation in space, nor anything else of that kind can break up and sunder in pieces the affection of the soul. But if you wish to behold him face to face (for this I know is what you specially long for) keep thy bed in his honour sacred from the touch of any other man, and do thy best to manifest a life like his, and then assuredly thou shalt depart one day to join the same company with him, not to dwell with him for five years as thou didst here, nor for 20, or 100, nor for a thousand or twice that number but for infinite and endless ages. For it is not any physical relation, but a correspondence in the way of living which qualifies for the inheritance of those regions of rest. For if it was identity of moral constitution which brought Lazarus although a stranger to Abraham into the same heavenly bosom with him, and qualifies many from east and west to sit down with him, the place of rest will receive thee also with the good Therasius, if thou wilt exhibit the same manner of life as his, and then thou shalt receive him back again no longer in that corporeal beauty which he had when he departed, but in lustre of another kind, and splendour outshining the rays of the sun. For this body, even if it reaches a very high standard of beauty is nevertheless perishable; but the bodies of those who have been well pleasing to God, will be invested with such glory as these eyes cannot even look upon. And God has furnished us with certain tokens, and obscure indications of these things both in the Old and in the New Dispensation. For in the former the face of Moses shone with such glory as to be intolerable to the eyes of the Israelites, and in the New the face of Christ shone far more brilliantly than his. For tell me if any one had promised to make your husband king of all the earth, and then had commanded you to withdraw for twenty years on his account, and had promised after that to restore him to you with the diadem and the purple, and to place you again in the same rank with him, would you not have meekly endured the separation with due self-control? Would you not have been well pleased with the gift, and deemed it a thing worth praying for? Well then submit to this now, not for the sake of a kingdom on earth, but of a kingdom in Heaven; not to receive him back clad in a vesture of gold but robed in immortality and glory such as is fitting for them to have who dwell in Heaven. And if you find the trial very unbearable owing to its long duration, it may be that he will visit you by means of visions and converse with you as he was wont to do, and show you the face for which you yearn: let this be thy consolation taking the place of letters, though indeed it is far more definite than letters. For in the latter case there are but lines traced with the pen to look upon, but in the former you see the form of his visage, and his gentle smile, his figure and his movements, you hear his speech and recognize the voice which you loved so well.

4. But since you mourn also over the loss of security which you formerly enjoyed on his account, and perhaps also for the sake of those great hopes of distinction which were dawning (for I used to hear that he would speedily arrive at the dignity of præfect, and this, I fancy, it is which more especially upsets and distresses thy soul) consider I pray the case of those who have been in a higher official position than his, and yet have brought their life to a very pitiable end. Let me recall them to your memory: you probably know Theodore of Sicily by reputation: [346] for he was one of the most distinguished men; he surpassed all in bodily stature and beauty as well as in the confidence which he enjoyed with the Emperor, and he had more power than any member of the royal household, but he did not bear this prosperity meekly, and having entered into a plot against the Emperor he was taken prisoner and miserably beheaded; and his wife who was not a whit inferior to thy noble self in education and birth and all other respects was suddenly stripped of all her possessions, deprived even of her freedom also, and enrolled amongst the household slaves, and compelled to lead a life more pitiable than any bondmaid, having this advantage only over the rest that owing to the extreme severity of her calamity she moved to tears all who beheld her. And it is said also that Artemisia who was the wife of a man of high reputation, since he also aimed at usurping the throne, was reduced to this same condition of poverty, and also to blindness; for the depth of her despondency, and the abundance of her tears destroyed her sight; and now she has need of persons to lead her by the hand, and to conduct her to the doors of others that she may obtain the necessary supply of food. [347] And I might mention many other families which have been brought down in this way did I not know thee to be too pious and prudent in disposition to wish to find consolation for thy own calamity out of the misfortunes of others. And the only reason why I mentioned those instances to which I referred just now was that you might learn that human things are nothingness but that truly as the prophet says "all the glory of man is as the flower of grass." [348] For in proportion to men's elevation and splendour is the ruin wrought for them, not only in the case of those who are under rule, but also of the rulers themselves. For it would be impossible to find any private family which has been immersed in such great calamities as the ills in which the imperial house has been steeped. For untimely loss of parents, and of husbands, and violent forms of death, more outrageous and painful than those which occur in tragedies, especially beset this kind of government.

Now passing over ancient times, of those who have reigned in our own generation, nine in all, only two have ended their life by a natural death; and of the others one was slain by a usurper, [349] one in battle, [350] one by a conspiracy of his household guards, [351] one by the very man who elected him, and invested him with the purple, [352] and of their wives some, as it is reported, perished by poison, others died of mere sorrow; while of those who still survive one, who has an orphan son, is trembling with alarm lest any of those who are in power dreading what may happen in the future should destroy him; [353] another has reluctantly yielded to much entreaty to return from the exile into which she had been driven by him who held the chief power. [354] And of the wives of the present rulers the one who has recovered a little from her former calamities has much sorrow mingled with her joy because the possessor of power is still young and inexperienced and has many designing men on all sides of him; [355] and the other is ready to die of fear, and spends her time more miserably than criminals condemned to death because her husband ever since he assumed the crown up to the present day has been constantly engaged in warfare and fighting, and is more exhausted by the shame and the reproaches which assail him on all sides than by actual calamities. [356] For that which has never taken place has now come to pass, the barbarians leaving their own country have overrun an infinite space of our territory, and that many times over, and having set fire to the land, and captured the towns they are not minded to return home again, but after the manner of men who are keeping holiday rather than making war, they laugh us all to scorn; [357] and it is said that one of their kings declared that he was amazed at the impudence of our soldiers, who although slaughtered more easily than sheep still expect to conquer, and are not willing to quit their own country; for he said that he himself was satiated with the work of cutting them to pieces. Imagine what the feelings of the Emperor and his wife must be on hearing these words!

5. And since I have made mention of this war, a great crowd of widows has occurred to me, who in past times derived very great lustre from the honour enjoyed by their husbands, but now are all arrayed in a dark mourning robe and spend their whole time in lamentation. For they had not the advantage which was enjoyed by thy dear self. For thou, my excellent friend, didst see that goodly husband of thine lying on his bed, and didst hear his last words, and receive his instructions as to what should be done about the affairs of the family, and learn how by the provisions of his will they were guarded against every kind of encroachment on the part of rapacious and designing men. And not only this, but also when he was yet lying dead thou didst often fling thyself upon the body, and kiss his eyes, and embrace him, and wail over him, and thou didst see him conducted to burial with much honour, and didst everything necessary for his obsequies, as was fitting, and from frequent visits to his grave thou hast no slight consolation of thy sorrow. But these women have been deprived of all these things, having all sent out their husbands to war in the hope of receiving them back again, instead of which it has been their lot to receive the bitter tidings of their death. Neither has any one come back to them with the bodies of their slain, or bringing anything save a message describing the manner of their death. And some there are who have not even been vouchsafed this record, or been enabled to learn how their husbands fell, as they were buried beneath a heap of slain in the thick of battle.

And what wonder if most of the generals perished thus, when even the Emperor himself having been blockaded in a certain village with a few soldiers did not dare to go out and oppose the assailants, but remained inside and when the enemy had set fire to the building was burnt to death together with all that were therein, not men only, but horses, beams and walls, so that the whole was turned into a heap of ashes? And this was the tale which they who departed to war with the Emperor brought back to his wife in place of the Emperor himself. [358] For the splendours of the world differ in no-wise whatever from the things which happen on the stage, and the beauty of spring flowers. For in the first place they flee away before they have been manifested; and then, even if they have strength to last a little while, they speedily become ready to decay. For what is more worthless than the honour and glory which is paid by the multitude? what fruit has it? what kind of profit? what serviceable end does it meet? And would that this only was the evil! but in fact besides failing to get anything good from the possession, he who owns this most cruel mistress is continually forced to bear much which is painful and injurious; for mistress she is of those who own her, and in proportion as she is flattered by her slaves does she exalt herself against them, and ties them down by increasingly harsh commands; but she would never be able to revenge herself on those who despise and neglect her; so much fiercer is she than any tyrant and wild beast. For tyrants and wild animals are often mollified by humouring, but her fury is greatest when we are most complaisant to her, and if she finds any one who will listen to her, and yield to her in everything there is no kind of command from which in future she can be induced to abstain. Moreover she has also another ally whom one would not do wrong to call her daughter. For after she herself has grown to maturity and fairly taken root amongst us, she then produces arrogance, a thing which is no less able than herself to drive the soul of those who possess it into headlong ruin.

6. Tell me then dost thou lament this that God hath reserved thee from such a cruel bondage, and that He has barred every avenue against these pestilential diseases? For whilst thy husband was living they ceased not continually assaulting the thoughts of thy heart, but since his death they have no starting point whence they can lay hold of thy understanding. This then is a discipline which ought to be practised in future--to abstain from lamenting the withdrawal of these evils, and from hankering after the bitter tyranny which they exercise. For where they blow a heavy blast they upset all things from the foundation and shatter them to pieces; and just as many prostitutes, although by nature ill favoured and ugly, do yet by means of enamels and pigments excite the feelings of the youthful whilst they are still tender, and when they have got them under their control treat them more insolently than any slave; so also do these passions, vainglory and arrogance, defile the souls of men more than any other kind of pollution.

On this account also wealth has seemed to the majority of men to be a good thing; at least when it is stripped of this passion of vainglory it will no longer seem desirable. At any rate those who have been permitted to obtain in the midst of their poverty popular glory have no longer preferred wealth, but rather have despised much gold when it was bestowed upon them. And you have no need to learn from me who these men were, for you know them better than I do, Epaminondas, Socrates, Aristeides, Diogenes, Krates who turned his own land into a sheep walk. [359] The others indeed, inasmuch as it was not possible for them to get rich, saw glory brought to them in the midst of their poverty, and straightway devoted themselves to it, but this man threw away even what he possessed; so infatuated were they in the pursuit of this cruel monster. Let us not then weep because God has rescued us from this shameful thraldom which is an object of derision and of much reproach; for there is nothing splendid in it save the name it bears, and in reality it places those who possess it in a position which belies its appellation, and there is no one who does not laugh to scorn the man who does anything with a view to glory. For it is only he who has not an eye to this who will be enabled to win respect and glory; but he who sets a great value on popular glory, and does and endures everything for the sake of obtaining it is the very man who will fail to attain it, and be subjected to all the exact opposites of glory, ridicule, and accusation, scoffing, enmity and hatred. And this is wont to happen not only among men, but also among you women, and indeed more especially in your case. For the woman who is unaffected in mien, and gait, and dress, and seeks no honour from any one is admired by all women, and they are ecstatic in their praise and call her blessed, and invoke all manner of good things upon her; but a vain-glorious woman they behold with aversion and detestation, and avoid her like some wild beast and load her with infinite execrations and abuse. And not only do we escape these evils by refusing to accept popular glory, but we shall gain the highest advantages in addition to those which have been already mentioned, being trained gradually to loosen our hold of earth and move in the direction of heaven, and despise all worldly things. For he who feels no need of the honour which comes from men, will perform with security whatever good things he does, and neither in the troubles, nor in the prosperities of this life will he be very seriously affected; for neither can the former depress him, and cast him down, nor can the latter elate and puff him up, but in precarious and troubled circumstances he himself remains exempt from change of any kind. And this I expect will speedily be the case with your own soul, and having once for all torn yourself away from all worldly interests you will display amongst us a heavenly manner of life, and in a little while will laugh to scorn the glory which you now lament, and despise its hollow and vain mask. But if you long for the security which you formerly enjoyed owing to your husband, and the protection of your property, and immunity from the designs of any of those persons who trample upon the misfortunes of others "Cast thy care upon the Lord and He will nourish thee." [360] "For look," it is said, "to past generations and see, who ever placed his hope on the Lord and was put to shame, or who ever called upon Him, and was neglected, or who ever remained constant to His commandments and was forsaken?" [361] For He who has alleviated this intolerable calamity, and placed you even now in a state of tranquillity will also avert impending evils; for that you will never receive another blow more severe than this you would yourself admit. Having then so bravely borne present troubles, and this when you were inexperienced, you will far more easily endure future events should any of the things contrary to our wishes, which God forbid, occur. Therefore seek Heaven, and all things which conduce to life in the other world, and none of the things here will be able to harm thee, not even the world-ruler of darkness himself, if only we do not injure ourselves. For if any one deprives us of our substance, or hews our body in pieces, none of these things concern us, if our soul abides in its integrity.

7. Now, once for all, if you wish your property to abide with you in security and yet further to increase I will show thee the plan, and the place where none of those who have designs upon it will be allowed to enter. What then is the place? It is Heaven. Send away thy possessions to that good husband of thine and neither thief, nor schemer, nor any other destructive thing will be able to pounce upon them. If you deposit these goods in the other world, you will find much profit arising from them. For all things which we plant in Heaven yield a large and abundant crop, such as might naturally be expected from things which have their roots in Heaven. And if you do this, see what blessings you will enjoy, in the first place eternal life and the things promised to those who love God, "which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have they entered into the heart of man," and in the second place perpetual intercourse with thy good husband; and you will relieve yourself from the cares and fears, and dangers, and designs, and enmity and hatred which beset you here. For as long as you are surrounded with this property there will probably be some to make attempts upon it; but if you transfer it to Heaven, you will lead a life of security and safety, and much tranquillity, enjoying independence combined with godliness. For it is very irrational, when one wishes to buy land, and is seeking for productive ground, if, Heaven being proposed to him instead of earth, and the possibility presented of obtaining an estate there he abides still on earth, and puts up with the toils that are connected with it; for it often disappoints our hopes.

But since thy soul is grievously upset and vexed on account of the expectation often entertained that thy husband would attain the rank of prefect, and the thought that he was untimely snatched away from that dignity consider first of all this fact, that even if this hope was a very well grounded one nevertheless it was only a human hope, which often falls to the ground; and we see many things of this kind happening in life, those which were confidently expected having remained unfulfilled, whereas those which never even entered the mind have frequently come to pass, and this we constantly see occurring everywhere in cases of governments and kingdoms, and inheritances, and marriages. Wherefore even if the opportunity were very near at hand, yet as the proverb says "between the cup and the lip there is many a slip" and the Scripture saith "from the morning until the evening the time is changed." [362]

So also a king who is here to-day is dead tomorrow; and again this same wise man illustrating the reversal of men's hopes says "many tyrants have sat down upon the ground, and one that was never thought of has worn the crown." [363] And it was not absolutely certain that if he lived he would arrive at this dignity; for that which belongs to the future is uncertain, and causes us to have various suspicions. For on what grounds was it evident that had he lived he would have attained that dignity and that things would not have turned out the other way, and that he would have lost the office he actually held either from falling a victim to disease, or from being exposed to the envy and ill will of those who wished to excel him in prosperity, or from suffering some other grievous misfortune. But let us suppose, if you please, that it was perfectly evident that in any case had he survived he would have obtained this high distinction; then in proportion to the magnitude of the dignity would have been the increased dangers, and anxieties, and intrigues which he must have encountered. Or put these even on one side, and let us suppose him to traverse that sea of difficulties safely, and in much tranquillity; then tell me what is the goal? not that which he has now reached; no, not that, but something different, probably unpleasant and undesirable. In the first place his sight of heaven, and heavenly things would have been delayed, which is no small loss to those who have put their trust in things to come; and in the next place, even had he lived a very pure life yet the length of his life and the exigencies of his high office would have prevented his departing in such a pure condition as has now been the case. In fact it is uncertain whether he might not have undergone many changes and given way to indolence before he breathed his last. For now we are confident that by the grace of God he has taken his flight to the region of rest, because he had not committed himself to any of those deeds which exclude from the kingdom of Heaven; but in that case after long contact with public business, he might probably have contracted great defilement. For it is an exceedingly rare thing for one who is moving in the midst of such great evils to hold a straight course, but to go astray, both wittingly and against his will, is a natural thing, and one which constantly occurs. But, as it is, we have been relieved from this apprehension, and we are firmly persuaded that in the great day he will appear in much radiance, shining forth near the King, and going with the angels in advance of Christ and clad with the robe of unutterable glory, and standing by the side of the King as he gives judgment, and acting as one of His chief ministers. Wherefore desisting from mourning and lamentation do thou hold on to the same way of life as his, yea even let it be more exact, that having speedily attained an equal standard of virtue with him, you may inhabit the same abode and be united to him again through the everlasting ages, not in this union of marriage but another far better. For this is only a bodily kind of intercourse, but then there will be a union of soul with soul more perfect, and of a far more delightful and far nobler kind.

Footnotes

[334] 2 Cor. i. 3. [335] Hosea vi. 2. [336] Ps. cxlvi. 9. [337] Ps. lxviii. 5. [338] 2 Cor. xiii. 3. [339] 1 Tim. v. 9, 11. [340] Libanius. [341] 1 Tim. v. 10. [342] 1 Tim. v. 11. [343] 1 Tim. v. 6, 5. [344] 1 Cor. vii. 40. [345] Phil. i. 33. [346] According to Ammianus Marcellinus, B. xxxiv., this Theodore was a native of Gaul. He is probably called Theodore of Sicily by Chrysostom because he attempted to make himself a tyrant in that island. He was executed for treason in the year 371. [347] I have not been able to discover any further information concerning Artemisia or her husband. [348] Is. xl. 5. [349] Constans by Magnentius. [350] Constantine the younger. [351] Jovian: there were several other versions of his death. See Gibbon, iv. 221 (Milman's edition). Chrysostom repeats this story in Homily XV., ad Philipp. [352] Gallus Cæsar (who never became Augustus) by Constantius. [353] Widow of Jovian, whose son Varronianus had been deprived of one eye (see Gibbon as above). [354] Doubtful, possibly first wife of Valentinian I., divorced from him and sent into exile. [355] Constantia, wife of Gratian. [356] Flacilla, wife of Theodosius. The two emperors who died natural deaths were Constantine the Great, and his son Constantius. Compare this mournful list with the celebrated passage in Shakespeare's Richard II., act III. sc. 2. "For Heaven's sake let's sit upon the ground And tell sad stories of the death of kings," etc. [357] See Introduction. [358] The best account of the destruction of the Emperor Valens and his army in the battle of Hadrianople A.D. 378, is to be found in Hodgkin's "Italy and her Invaders," vol. i. pp. 120-6 (Clarendon Press, Oxford). [359] Krates was a cynic philosopher, a disciple of Diogenes. He flourished about 330 B.C. He was heir to a large fortune, but bestowed the whole of it upon his native city Thebes. Diogenes Laertius relates many curious stories about him. [360] Ps. lv. 23. [361] Ecclus. ii. 10. [362] Ecclus. xviii. 26. [363] Ecclus. xi. 5. .


St. Chrysostom: Homilies on St. Ignatius and St. Babylas

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.


Introduction to the Homilies on St. Ignatius and St. Babylas

The following have been selected out of a large number delivered by Chrysostom on the festivals of saints and martyrs, not only because they are good samples of his discourses on such occasions, but also on account of the celebrity of the two saints in whose honour they were spoken. There is really very little known about Ignatius beyond the fact that he was Bishop of Antioch, and suffered martyrdom at Rome in the reign of Trajan about the year 110 a.d.: being torn to death by wild beasts in the colossal amphitheatre erected for the display of such inhuman sports by the emperors of the Flavian dynasty. The tradition that he was a disciple of St. John does not rest on any trustworthy evidence, but on the other hand there is nothing inherently impossible or even improbable in the supposition.

According to a tradition which cannot be traced back earlier than the latter part of the fourth century the reliques were translated from Rome to Antioch and deposited in the Christian cemetery outside the gates called the Daphnitic gate, because it led from the city to the famous suburb of Daphne, on which we shall have more to say presently. It is clear from the following eulogy that Chrysostom accepted this tradition, and his repeated invitation to his hearers to "come hither" to enjoy the beneficent influence of the saint seems to imply that his discourse was delivered in the "martyr," that is the chapel erected to contain the martyr's remains, not in the "Great Church" of Antioch where he commonly preached. In the next generation the reliques of the saint were again translated by the Emperor, the younger Theodosius, to the building which had been the temple of the "Fortune of Antioch," and then the illustrious Christian martyr was substituted for the mythical goddess on the tutelary genius of the city.

The fame of S. Babylas rivalled and for a time almost threatened to overshadow that of S. Ignatius. He had been Bishop of Antioch about 237 to 250. The heroic courage with which he had once repulsed the Emperor Philip from the church until he should have submitted to penance for some offence committed, and his martyrdom in the persecution under Decius were his original claims to popular veneration. But some later events shed a fresh lustre on his name. In the year 351 the Cæsar Gallus, brother of Julian, being resident in Antioch, transferred the reliques of Babylas from their resting place within the city to the beautiful suburb the garden or grove of Daphne. "In the history of this spot we have a singular instance of the way in which Grecian legend was transplanted into foreign soil. Daphne the daughter of the river-god Ladon were according to the Syrian version of the myth, overtaken by her lover Apollo near Antioch. Here it was, on the banks not of the Peneus but of the Oronete, that the maiden prayed to her mother earth to open her arms and shelter her from the pursuit of the amorous god, and that the laurel plant sprang out of the spot where she vanished from the eyes of her disappointed lover. The house of Seleucus Nicator, founder of the Syrian monarchy was said to have struck his hoof upon one of the arrows dropped by Apollo in the hurry of his pursuit; in consequence of which the king dedicated the place to the god. A temple was erected in his honour, ample in its proportions, sumptuous in its adornments; the internal walls were resplendent with polished marbles, the lofty ceiling was of cypress wood. The colossal image of the god, enriched with gold and gems, nearly reached the top of the roof. * * * With one hand the deity lightly touched the lyre which hung from his shoulders and in the other he held a golden dish, as if about to pour a libation on the earth "and supplicate the venerable mother to give to his arms the cold and beauteous Daphne." [364] The whole grove became consecrated to pleasure under the guise of festivity in honor of the god. * * * It contained everything which could gratify and charm the senses; the deep impenetrable shade of cypress trees, the delicious noise and coolness of falling waters, the fragrance of aromatic shrubs; there were also baths, and grottos, porticoes, and colonnades. Such materials for voluptuous enjoyment told with fatal effect upon the morals of a people addicted at all times to an immoderate indulgence in luxurious pleasure. [365] Daphne became one of those places where gross and shameless vice was practised under the sanction of religion. The intention of Cæsar Gallus in translating the reliques of Babylas to Daphne was as Chrysostom expresses it to "bring a physician to the sick;" to introduce a pure and Christian association into a spot hitherto consecrated to Pagan and licentious rites. The bones of the saint were laid near the shrine of Apollo, and the Christian church standing hard by the heathen temple was a visible warning to any Christian who might visit the place to abstain from deeds abhorrent to the faith for which the bishop had died. But the remains of the martyr were not permitted to rest in peace. When the Emperor Julian visited Antioch 362, he consulted the oracle of Apollo at Daphne respecting the issue of the expedition which he was about to make into Persia. But the oracle was dumb. At length the god yielded to the importunity of prayers and sacrifices so far as to explain the cause of his silence. He was offended by the proximity of dead men. "Break open the sepulchres, take up the bones, and carry them hence." No name was mentioned, but the demand was interpreted as referring to the remains of Babylas, and the wishes of the affronted deity were complied with. The Christians were commanded by Julian to remove the bones of their saint from the neighbourhood of Apollo's sanctuary. They obeyed, but what was intended to be a humiliation was converted into a triumph. The reliques were conveyed to their resting place within the city as in a kind of festive procession, accompanied by crowds along the whole way, four or five miles, chanting the words of the Psalm, "Confounded be all they that worship carved images and delight in vain gods." In vain were some of the Christians seized and tortured. The popularity of the saint grew in proportion as Julian tried to put it down; and the insults done to him were speedily avenged. A fire, mysterious in its origin, broke out soon after the removal of the martyr's reliques in the shrine of Apollo, consuming the roof of the building, and the statue of the god. At the time when Chrysostom preached, about twenty years later, the columns and walls were still standing, the melancholy wreck serving as a memorial and witness of the judgment which had fallen upon the place.

The remains of Babylas were not brought back to Daphne, but removed from the city to a magnificent church built to receive them on the other side of Orontes. Near the close of his discourse Chrysostom refers to the erection of this church and to the zeal of the Bishop Meletius in promoting it, who actually took part in the work with his own hands, as we are told that Hugh did in the building of the Minster at Lincoln. But although the body of the martyr rested elsewhere, his spirit and influence were supposed to inhabit in a special manner the spot where he had put the heathen deity to silence and shame, and to confer blessings on the pilgrims who resorted in crowds to his martyr in Daphne. The ruined and deserted temple indeed, and the well preserved Christian church thronged with worshippers, standing as they did side by side, formed a striking emblem of the two religions to which they were devoted--the one destined to crumble and vanish away, the other to endure and conquer.

Footnotes

[364] Gibbon, vol. iv. p. 111. Milman's ed. [365] Life of St. John Chrysostom, by W. R. W. Stephens, pp. 101-3, 3d ed.


Homilies on St. Ignatius and St. Babylas.

eulogy.

On the holy martyr Saint Ignatius, the god-bearer, [366] arch-bishop of Antioch the great, who was carried off to Rome, and there suffered martyrdom, and thence was conveyed back again to Antioch.

1. Sumptuous and splendid entertainers give frequent and constant entertainments, alike to display their own wealth, and to show good-will to their acquaintance. So also the grace of the Spirit, affording us a proof of his own power, and displaying much good-will towards the friends of God, sets before us successively and constantly the tables of the martyrs. Lately, for instance, a maiden quite young, and unmarried, the blessed martyr Pelagia, entertained us, with much joy. To-day again, this blessed and noble martyr Ignatius has succeeded to her feast. The persons are different: The table is one. The wrestlings are varied: The crown is one. The contests are manifold: The prize is the same. For in the case of the heathen contests, since the tasks are bodily, men alone are, with reason, admitted. But here, since the contest is wholly concerning the soul, the lists are open to each sex, for each kind the theatre is arranged. Neither do men alone disrobe, in order that the women may not take refuge in the weakness of their nature, and seem to have a plausible excuse, nor have women only quitted themselves like men, lest the race of men be put to shame; but on this side and on that many are proclaimed conquerors, and are crowned, in order that thou mayest learn by means of the exploits themselves that in Christ Jesus neither male nor female, [367] neither sex, nor weakness of body, nor age, nor any such thing could be a hindrance to those who run in the course of religion; if there be a noble readiness, and an eager mind, and a fear of God, fervent and kindling, be established in our souls. On this account both maidens and women, and men, both young and old, and slaves, and freemen, and every rank, and every age, and each sex, disrobe for those contests, and in no respect suffer harm, since they have brought a noble purpose to these wrestlings. The season then already calls us to discourse of the mighty works of this saint. But our reckoning is disturbed and confused, not knowing what to say first, what second, what third, so great a multitude of things calling for eulogy surrounds us, on every side; and we experience the same thing as if any one went into a meadow, and seeing many a rosebush and many a violet, and an abundance of lilies, and other spring flowers manifold and varied, should be in doubt what he should look at first, what second, since each of those he saw invites him to bestow his glances on itself. For we too, coming to this spiritual meadow of the mighty works of Ignatius, and beholding not the flowers of spring, but the manifold and varied fruit of the spirit in the soul of this man, are confused and in perplexity, not knowing to which we are first to give our consideration, as each of the things we see draws us away from its neighbours, and entices the eye of the soul to the sight of its own beauty. For see, he presided over the Church among us nobly, and with such carefulness as Christ desires. For that which Christ declared to be the highest standard and rule of the Episcopal office, did this man display by his deeds. For having heard Christ saying, the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep, [368] with all courage he did lay it down for the sheep.

He held true converse with the apostles and drank of spiritual fountains. What kind of person then is it likely that he was who had been reared, and who had everywhere held converse with them, and had shared with them truths both lawful and unlawful to utter, and who seemed to them worthy of so great a dignity? The time again came on, which demanded courage; and a soul which despised all things present, glowed with Divine love, and valued things unseen before the things which are seen; and he lay aside the flesh with as much ease as one would put off a garment. What then shall we speak of first? The teaching of the apostles which he gave proof of throughout, or his indifference to this present life, or the strictness of his virtue, with which he administered his rule over the Church; which shall we first call to mind? The martyr or the bishop or the apostle. For the grace of the spirit having woven a threefold crown, thus bound it on his holy head, yea rather a manifold crown. For if any one will consider them carefully, he will find each of the crowns, blossoming with other crowns for us.

2. And if you will, let us come first to the praise of his episcopate. Does this seem to be one crown alone? come, then, let us unfold it in speech, and you will see both two, and three, and more produced from it. For I do not wonder at the man alone that he seemed to be worthy of so great an office, but that he obtained this office from those saints, and that the hands of the blessed apostles touched his sacred head. For not even is this a slight thing to be said in his praise, nor because he won greater grace from above, nor only because they caused more abundant energy of the Spirit to come upon him, but because they bore witness that every virtue possessed by man was in him. Now how this is, I tell you. Paul writing to Titus once on a time--and when I say Paul, I do not speak of him alone, but also of Peter and James and John, and the whole band of them; for as in one lyre, the strings are different strings, but the harmony is one, so also in the band of the apostles the persons are different, but the teaching is one, since the artificer is one, I mean the Holy Spirit, who moves their souls, and Paul showing this said, "Whether therefore they, or I, so we preach." [369] This man, then, writing to Titus, and showing what kind of man the bishop ought to be, says, "For the bishop must be blameless as God's steward; not self-willed, not soon angry, no brawler, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but given to hospitality, a lover of good, sober-minded, just, holy, temperate, holding to the faithful word, which is according to the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in the sound doctrine, and to convict the gainsayers;" [370] and to Timothy again, when writing upon this subject, he says somewhat like this: "If a man seeketh the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. The bishop, therefore, must be without reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, orderly, given to hospitality, apt to teach, no brawler, no striker, but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money. Dost thou see what strictness of virtue he demands from the bishop? For as some most excellent painter from life, having mixed many colors, if he be about to furnish an original likeness of the royal form, works with all accuracy, so that all who are copying it, and painting from it, may have a likeness accurately drawn, so accordingly the blessed Paul, as though painting some royal likeness, and furnishing an original sketch of it, having mixed the different colors of virtue, has painted in the features of the office of bishop complete, in order that each of those who mount to that dignity, looking thereupon, may administer their own affairs with just such strictness.

Boldly, therefore, would I say that Ignatius took an accurate impression of the whole of this, in his own soul; and was blameless and without reproach, and neither self-willed, nor soon angry, nor given to wine, nor a striker, but gentle, not contentious, no lover of money, just, holy, temperate, holding to the faithful word which is according to the teaching, sober, sober-minded, orderly, and all the rest which Paul demanded. "And what is the proof of this?" says one. They who said these things ordained him, and they who suggest to others with so great strictness to make proof of those who are about to mount to the throne of this office, would not themselves have done this negligently. But had they not seen all this virtue planted in the soul of this martyr would not have entrusted him with this office. For they knew accurately how great danger besets those who bring about such ordinations, carelessly and hap-hazard. And Paul again, when showing this very thing to the same Timothy wrote and says, "Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins." [371] What dost thou say? Has another sinned, and do I share his blame and his punishment? Yes, says he, the man who authorizes evil; and just as in the case of any one entrusting into the hands of a raging and insane person a sharply pointed sword, with which the madman commits murder, that man who gave the sword incurs the blame; so any one who gives the authority which arises from this office to a man living in evil, draws down on his own head all the fire of that man's sins and audacity. For he who provides the root, this man is the cause of all that springs from it on every side. Dost thou see how in the meanwhile a double crown of the episcopate has appeared, and how the dignity of those who ordained him has made the office more illustrious, bearing witness to every exhibition of virtue in him?

3. Do you wish that I should also reveal to you another crown springing from this very matter? Let us consider the time at which he obtained this dignity. For it is not the same thing to administer the Church now as then, just as it is not the same thing to travel along a road well trodden, and prepared, after many wayfarers; and along one about to be cut for the first time, and containing ruts, and stones, and full of wild beasts, and which has never yet, received any traveller. For now, by the grace of God, there is no danger for bishops, but deep peace on all sides, and we all enjoy a calm, since the Word of piety has been extended to the ends of the world, and our rulers keep the faith with strictness. But then there was nothing of this, but wherever any one might look, precipices and pitfalls, and wars, and fightings, and dangers; both rulers, and kings, and people and cities and nations, and men at home and abroad, laid snares for the faithful. And this was not the only serious thing, but also the fact that many of the believers themselves, inasmuch as they tasted for the first time strange doctrines, stood in need of great indulgence, and were still in a somewhat feeble condition and were often upset. And this was a thing which used to grieve the teachers, no less than the fightings without, nay rather much more. For the fightings without, and the plottings, afforded much pleasure to them on account of the hope of the rewards awaiting them. On this account the apostles returned from the presence of the Sanhedrin rejoicing because they had been beaten; [372] and Paul cries out, saying: "I rejoice in my sufferings," [373] and he glories in his afflictions everywhere. But the wounds of those at home, and the falls of the brethren, do not suffer them to breathe again, but always, like some most heavy yoke, continually oppress and afflict the neck of their soul. Hear at least how Paul, thus rejoicing in sufferings, is bitterly pained about these. "For who, saith he, is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" [374] and again, "I fear lest when I come I shall find you not such as I would, and I be found of you such as ye would not," [375] and a little afterwards, "Lest when I come again to you, God humble me, and I shall mourn many of those who have sinned before, and have not repented of their uncleanness, and wantonness, and fornication which they have committed." [376] And throughout thou seest that he is in tears and lamentations on account of members of the household, and evermore fearing and trembling for the believers. Just as then we admire the pilot, not when he is able to bring those who are on board safe to shore when the sea is calm, and the ship is borne along by favourable winds, but when the deep is raging and the waves contending, and the passengers themselves within in revolt, and a great storm within and without besets those who are on board, and he is able to steer the ship with all security; so we ought to wonder at, and admire those who then had the Church committed to their hands, much more than those who now have the management of it; when there was a great war without and within, when the plant of the faith was more tender, and needed much care, when, as a newly-born babe, the multitude in the church required much forethought, and the greatest wisdom in any soul destined to nurse it; and in order that ye may more clearly learn, how great crowns they were worthy of, who then had the Church entrusted to them, and how great work and danger there was in undertaking the matter on the threshold and at the beginning, and in being the first to enter upon it, I bring forward for you the testimony of Christ, who pronounces a verdict on these things, and confirms the opinion which has been expressed by me. For when he saw many coming to him, and was wishing to show the apostles that the prophets toiled more than they, he says: "Others have laboured, and ye have entered into their labour." [377] And yet the apostles toiled much more than the prophets. But since they first sowed the word of piety, and won over the untaught souls of men to the truth, the greater part of the work is credited to them. For it is by no means the same thing for one to come and teach after many teachers, and himself to be the first to sow seeds. For that which has been already practised, and has become customary with many, would be easily accepted; but that which is now for the first time heard, agitates the mind of the hearers, and gives the teacher a great deal to do. This at least it was which disturbed the audience at Athens, and on this account they turned away from Paul, reproaching him with, "Thou bringest certain strange things to our ears." [378] For if the oversight of the Church now furnishes much weariness and work to those who govern it, consider how double and treble and manifold was the work then, when there were dangers and fighting and snares, and fear continually. It is not possible to set forth in words the difficulty which those saints then encountered, but he alone will know it who comes to it by experience.

4. And I will speak of a fourth crown, arising for us out of this episcopate. What then is this? The fact that he was entrusted with our own native city. For it is a laborious thing indeed to have the oversight of a hundred men, and of fifty alone. But to have on one's hands so great a city, and a population extending to two hundred thousand, of how great virtue and wisdom dost thou think there is a proof? For as in the care of armies, the wiser of the generals have on their hands the more leading and more numerous regiments, so, accordingly, in the care of cities. The more able of the rulers are entrusted with the larger and more populous. And at any rate this city was of much account to God, as indeed He manifested by the very deeds which He did. At all events the master of the whole world, Peter, to whose hands He committed the keys of heaven, whom He commanded to do and to bear all, He bade tarry here for a long period. Thus in His sight our city was equivalent to the whole world. But since I have mentioned Peter, I have perceived a fifth crown woven from him, and this is that this man succeeded to the office after him. For just as any one taking a great stone from a foundation hastens by all means to introduce an equivalent to it, lest he should shake the whole building, and make it more unsound, so, accordingly, when Peter was about to depart from here, the grace of the Spirit introduced another teacher equivalent to Peter, so that the building already completed should not be made more unsound by the insignificance of the successor. We have reckoned up then five crowns, from the importance of the office, from the dignity of those who ordained to it, from the difficulty of the time, from the size of the city, from the virtue of him who transmitted the episcopate to him. Having woven all these, it was lawful to speak of a sixth, and seventh, and more than these; but in order that we may not, by spending the whole time on the consideration of the episcopate, miss the details about the martyr, come from this point, let us pass to that conflict. At one time a grievous warfare was rekindled against the Church, and as though a most grievous tyranny overspread the earth, all were carried off from the midst of the market-place. Not indeed charged with anything monstrous, but because being freed from error, they hastened to piety; because they abstained from the service of demons, because they recognized the true God, and worshipped his only begotten Son, and for things for which they ought to have been crowned, and admired and honoured, for these they were punished and encountered countless tortures, all who embraced the faith, and much more they who had the oversight of the churches. For the devil, being crafty, and apt to contrive plots of this kind, expected that if he took away the shepherds, he would easily be able to scatter the flocks. But He who takes the wise in their craftiness, wishing to show him that men do not govern His church, but that it is He himself who everywhere tends those who believe on Him, agreed that this should be, that he might see, when they were taken away, that the cause of piety was not defeated, nor the word of preaching quenched, but rather increased; that by these very works he might learn both himself, and all those who minister to him, that our affairs are not of men, but that the subject of our teaching has its root on high, from the heavens; and that it is God who everywhere leads the Church, and that it is not possible for him who fights against God, ever to win the day. But the Devil did not only work this evil, but another also not less than this. For not only in the cities over which they presided, did he suffer the Bishops to be slaughtered; but he took them into foreign territory and slew them; and he did this, in anxiety at once to take them when destitute of friends, and hoping to render them weaker with the toil of their journey, which accordingly he did with this saint. For he called him away from our city to Rome, making the course twice as long, expecting to depress his mind both by the length of the way and the number of the days, and not knowing that having Jesus with him, as a fellow traveller, and fellow exile on so long a journey, he rather became the stronger, and afforded more proof of the power that was with him, and to a greater degree knit the Churches together. For the cities which were on the road running together from all sides, encouraged the athlete, and sped him on his way with many supplies, sharing in his conflict by their prayers, and intercessions. And they derived no little comfort when they saw the martyr hastening to death with so much readiness, as is consistent in one called to the realms which are in the heaven, and by means of the works themselves, by the readiness and by the joyousness of that noble man, that it was not death to which he was hastening, but a kind of long journey and migration from this world, and ascension to heaven; and he departed teaching these things in every city, both by his words, and by his deeds, and as happened in the case of the Jews, when they bound Paul, and sent him to Rome, and thought that they were sending him to death, they were sending a teacher to the Jews who dwelt there. This indeed accordingly happened in the case of Ignatius in larger measure. For not to those alone who dwell in Rome, but to all the cities lying in the intervening space, he went forth as a wonderful teacher, persuading them to despise the present life, and to think naught of the things which are seen, and to love those which are to come, to look towards heaven, and to pay no regard to any of the terrors of this present life. For on this and on more than this, by means of his works, he went on his way instructing them, as a sun rising from the east, and hastening to the west. But rather more brilliant than this, for this is wont to run on high, bringing material light, but Ignatius shone below, imparting to men's souls the intellectual light of doctrine. And that light on departing into the regions of the west, is hidden and straightway causes the night to come on. But this on departing to the regions of the west, shone there more brilliantly, conferring the greatest benefits to all along the road. And when he arrived at the city, even that he instructed in Christian wisdom. For on this account God permitted him there to end his life, so that this man's death might be instructive to all who dwell in Rome. For we by the grace of God need henceforward no evidence, being rooted in the faith. But they who dwelt in Rome, inasmuch as there was great impiety there, required more help. On this account both Peter and Paul, and this man after them, were all slain there, partly, indeed, in order that they might purify with their own blood, the city which had been defiled with blood of idols, and partly in order that they might by their works afford a proof of the resurrection of the crucified Christ, persuading those who dwell in Rome, that they would not with so much pleasure disdain this present life, did they not firmly persuade themselves that they were about to ascend to the crucified Jesus, and to see him in the heavens. For in reality it is the greatest proof of the resurrection that the slain Christ should show forth so great power after death, as to persuade living men to despise both country and home and friends, and acquaintance and life itself, for the sake of confessing him, and to choose in place of present pleasures, both stripes and dangers and death. For these are not the achievements of any dead man, nor of one remaining in the tomb but of one risen and living. Since how couldest thou account, when he was alive, for all the Apostles who companied with him becoming weaker through fear to betray their teachers and to flee and depart; but when he died, for not only Peter and Paul, but even Ignatius, who had not even seen him, nor enjoyed his companionship, showing such earnestness as to lay down life itself for his sake?

5. In order then that all who dwell in Rome might learn that these things are a reality, God allowed that there the saint should be perfected, [379] and that this was the reason I will guarantee from the very manner of his death. For not outside the walls, in a dungeon, nor even in a court of justice, nor in some corner, did he receive the sentence which condemned him, but in the midst of the theatre, while the whole city was seated above him, he underwent this form of martyrdom, wild beasts being let loose upon him, in order that he might plant his trophy against the Devil, beneath the eyes of all, and make all spectators emulous of his own conflicts. Not dying thus nobly only, but dying even with pleasure. For not as though about to be severed from life, but as called to a better and more spiritual life, so he beheld the wild beasts gladly. Whence is this manifest? From the words which he uttered when about to die, for when he heard that this manner of punishment awaited him, "may I have joy," said he, "of these wild beasts." [380] For such are the loving. For they receive with pleasure whatever they may suffer for the sake of those who are beloved, and they seem to have their desire satisfied when what happens to them is more than usually grievous. Which happened, therefore, in this man's case. For not by his death alone, but also by his readiness he studied to emulate the apostles, and hearing that they, after they had been scourged retired with joy, himself too wished to imitate his teachers, not only by his death, but by his joy. On this account he said, "may I have joy of thy wild beasts," and much milder than the tongue of the tyrant did he consider the mouths of these; and very reasonably. For while that invited him to Gehenna, their mouths escorted him to a kingdom. When, therefore, he made an end of life there, yea rather, when he ascended to heaven, he departed henceforward crowned. For this also happened through the dispensation of God, that he restored him again to us, and distributed the martyr to the cities. For that city received his blood as it dropped, but ye were honoured with his remains, ye enjoyed his episcopate, they enjoyed his martyrdom. They saw him in conflict, and victorious, and crowned, but ye have him continually. For a little time God removed him from you, and with greater glory granted him again to you. And as those who borrow money, return with interest what they receive, so also God, using this valued treasure of yours, for a little while, and having shown it to that city, with greater brilliancy gave it back to you. Ye sent forth a Bishop, and received a martyr; ye sent him forth with prayers, and ye received him with crowns; and not only ye, but all the cities which intervene. For how do ye think that they behaved when they saw his remains being brought back? What pleasure was produced! how they rejoiced! with what applause on all sides they beset the crowned one! For as with a noble athlete, who has wrestled down all his antagonists, and who comes forth with radiant glory from the arena, the spectators receive him, and do not suffer him to tread the earth, bringing him home on their shoulders, and besetting him with countless praises: so also the cities in order receiving this saint then from Rome, and bearing him upon their shoulders as far as this city, escorted the crowned one with praises, celebrating the champion, in song; laughing the Devil to scorn, because his artifice was turned against him, and what he thought to do against the martyr, this turned out for his behoof. Then, indeed, he profited, and encouraged all the cities; and from that time to this day he enriches this city, and as some perpetual treasure, drawn upon every day, yet not failing, makes all who partake of it more prosperous, so also this blessed Ignatius filleth those who come to him with blessings, with boldness, nobleness of spirit, and much courage, and so sendeth them home.

Not only to-day, therefore, but every day let us go forth to him, plucking spiritual fruits from him. For it is, it is possible for him who comes hither with faith to gather the fruit of many good things. For not the bodies only, but the very sepulchres of the saints have been filled with spiritual grace. For if in the case of Elisha this happened, and a corpse when it touched the sepulchre, burst the bands of death and returned to life again, [381] much rather now, when grace is more abundant, when the energy of the spirit is greater, is it possible that one touching a sepulchre, with faith, should win great power; thence on this account God allowed us the remains of the saints, wishing to lead by them us to the same emulation, and to afford us a kind of haven, and a secure consolation for the evils which are ever overtaking us. Wherefore I beseech you all, if any is in despondency, if in disease, if under insult, if in any other circumstance of this life, if in the depth of sins, let him come hither with faith, and he will lay aside all those things, and will return with much joy, having procured a lighter conscience from the sight alone. But more, it is not only necessary that those who are in affliction should come hither, but if any one be in cheerfulness, in glory, in power, in much assurance towards God, let not this man despise the benefit. For coming hither and beholding this saint, he will keep these noble possessions unmoved, persuading his own soul to be moderate by the recollection of this man's mighty deeds, and not suffering his conscience by the mighty deeds to be lifted up to any self conceit. And it is no slight thing for those in prosperity not to be puffed up at their good fortune, but to know how to bear their prosperity with moderation, so that the treasure is serviceable to all, the resting place is suitable, for the fallen, in order that they may escape from their temptations, for the fortunate, that their success may remain secure, for those in weakness indeed, that they may return to health, and for the healthy, that they may not fall into weakness. Considering all which things, let us prefer this way of spending our time, to all delight, all pleasure, in order that rejoicing at once, and profiting, we may be able to become partakers with these saints, both of their dwelling and of their home, through the prayers of the saints themselves, through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom be glory to the Father with the Holy Spirit, now and always forever and ever amen.

Footnotes

[366] "Theophoros." This was probably only a second name assumed by Ignatius, perhaps at the time of his conversion or baptism. Legendary interpretations of it afterwards arose, which varied according as it was understood in an active or passive sense, the "god-bearer" or the "god-borne." See Bishop Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers, vol. i., part ii., p. 25-28. [367] Gal. iii. 28. [368] John x. 11. [369] 1 Cor. xv. 11. [370] Titus i. 7-9. [371] 1 Tim. v. 22. [372] Acts v. 41. [373] Col. i. 24. [374] 2 Cor. xi. 29. [375] 2 Cor. xii. 20. [376] 2 Cor. xii. 21. [377] John iv. 38. [378] Acts xvii. 20. [379] Sc., suffer a martyr's death. [380] Quoted from Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans, c. v. [381] 2 Kings xiii. 21.


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