Early Church Fathers
Sermon LXXIII. [CXXIII. Ben.]
On the words of the gospel, John ii. 2, "and Jesus also was bidden, and his disciples, to the marriage."
1. Ye know, Brethren, for ye have learnt it as believing in Christ, and continually too do we by our ministry impress it upon you, that the humility of Christ is the medicine of man's swollen pride. For man would not have perished, had he not been swollen up through pride. For "pride," as saith the Scripture, "is the beginning of all sin."1 Against the beginning of sin, the beginning of righteousness was necessary. If then pride be the beginning of all sin, whereby should the swelling of pride be cured, had not God vouchsafed to humble Himself? Let man blush to be proud, seeing that God hath humbled Himself. For when man is told to humble himself, he disdains it; and when men are injured, it is pride that makes them wish to be avenged. Forasmuch as they disdain to humble themselves, they wish to be avenged; as if another's punishment could be any profit to any man. One who has been hurt and suffered wrong wishes to be avenged; be seeks his own remedy from another's punishment, and gains a great torment. The Lord Christ therefore vouchsafed to humble Himself in all things, showing us the way; if we but think meet to walk thereby.
2. Among His other acts, lo, the Virgin's Son comes to the marriage; who being with the Father instituted marriage. As the first woman, by whom came sin, was made of a man without a woman; so the Man by whom sin was done away, was made of a woman without a man. By the first we fell, by the other we rise. And what did He at this marriage? Of water He made wine. What greater sign of power? He who had power to do such things, vouchsafed to be in need. He who made of water wine could also have of stones made bread. The power was the same; but then the devil tempted Him, therefore Christ did it not. For ye know that when the Lord Christ was tempted, the devil suggested this to Him. For He was an hungred, since this too He vouchsafed to be, since this too made part of His Humiliation. The Bread was hungry, as the Way fainted, as saving Health was wounded, as the Life died. When then He was an hungred as ye know, the tempter said to Him, "If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread."2 And He made answer to the tempter, teaching thee to answer the tempter. For to this end does the general fight, that the soldiers may learn. What answer did He make? "Man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word of God."3 And He did not make bread of the stones, who of course could as easily have done it, as He made of water wine. For it is an exercise of the same power to make bread of stone; but He did it not, that He might despise the tempter's will. For no otherwise is the tempter overcome, but by being despised. And when He had overcome the devil's temptation, "Angels came and ministered to Him."4 He then who had so great power, why did He not do the one, and do the other? Read, yea, recollect what thou hast just heard, when He did this, when, that is, He made of the water wine; what did the Evangelist add? "And His disciples believed on Him."5 Would the devil on the other occasion have believed on Him?
3. He then who could do so great things, was hungry, and athirst, was wearied, slept, was apprehended, beaten, crucified, slain. This is the way; walk by humility, that thou mayest come to eternity. Christ-God is the Country whither we go; Christ-Man is the Way whereby we go. To Him we go, by Him we go; why fear we lest we go astray? He departed not from the Father; and came to us. He sucked the breasts, and He contained the world. He lay in the manger, and He fed the Angels. God and Man, the same God who is Man, the same Man who is God. But not God in that wherein He is Man, God, in that He is the Word; Man, in that the Word was made Flesh; by at once continuing to be God, and by assuming man's Flesh; by adding what He was not, not losing what He was. Therefore henceforward, having now suffered in this His humiliation, dead, and buried, He has now risen again, and ascended into heaven, there He is, and sitteth at the right Hand of the Father: and here He is needy in His poor. Yesterday too I set this forth to your Affection by occasion of what He said to Nathanael, "Thou shalt see a greater thing than this. For I say unto you, Ye shall see Heaven open, and the Angels of God ascending and descending unto the Son of Man."6 We searched out what this meant, and spake at some length; must we recapitulate the same to-day? Let those who were present remember; yet I will briefly run over it.
4. He would not say, "ascending unto the Son of Man," unless He were above; He would not say, "descending unto the Son of Man," unless He were also below. He is at once above, and below; above in Himself, below in His; above with the Father, below in us. Whence also was that Voice to Saul, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"7 He would not say, "Saul, Saul," unless that He was above. But Saul was not persecuting Him above. He then who was above would not have said, "Why persecutest thou me?" unless He were below also. Fear Christ above; recognise Him below. Have Christ above bestowing His bounty, recognise Him here in need. Here He is poor, there He is rich. That Christ is poor here, He tells us Himself for me, "I was an hungred, I was thirsty, I was naked, I was a stranger, I was in prison."8 And to some He said, "Ye have ministered unto Me," and to some He said, "Ye have not ministered unto Me." Lo, we have proved Christ poor; that Christ is Rich, who knows not? And even here it was a property of these riches to turn the water into wine. If he who has wine is rich, how rich is He who maketh wine? So then Christ is rich and poor; as God, rich; as Man, poor. Yea rich too now as Very Man He hath ascended into heaven, sitteth at the right Hand of the Father; yet still He is poor and hungry here, thirsty, and naked.
5. What art thou? Rich, or poor? Many tell me, I am poor; and they tell the truth. I recognise some poor having something, and some having want. But some have much gold and silver. O that they would acknowledge themselves poor! Poor they will acknowledge themselves, if they acknowledge the poor about them. For how is it? How much soever thou hast, thou rich man whosoever thou art, thou art God's beggar. The hour of prayer comes, and there I prove thee. Thou makest thy petition. How art thou not poor, who makest thy petition? I say more, Thou makest petition for bread. Wilt thou not have to say, "Give us our daily bread "?9 Thou, who askest for daily bread, art thou poor, or rich? And yet Christ saith to thee, "Give Me of that which I have given thee. For what didst thou bring here, when thou camest hither? All things that I created, thyself created hast found here; nothing didst thou bring, nothing shalt thou take away. Why wilt thou not give Me of Mine Own? For thou art full, and the poor man is empty. Look at your first origin; naked were ye both born. Thou too then wast born naked. Great store hast thou found here; didst thou bring ought with thee? I ask for Mine Own; give, and I will repay. Thou hast found Me a bountiful giver, make Me at once thy debtor. It is not enough to say, `Thou hast found Me a bountiful giver, make Me at once thy debtor;' let Me regard thee as lending upon interest. Thou givest me but little, I will repay more. Thou givest me earthly things, I will repay heavenly. Thou givest me temporal things, I will restore eternal. I will restore thee to thyself, when I shall have restored thee unto Me."