Early Church Fathers
1. Your Love remembereth, that in two Psalms, which have been already treated of, we have stirred up our soul to bless the Lord, and with godly chant have said, "Bless thou, O my soul, the Lord." If therefore we have stirred up our soul in those Psalms to bless the Lord, in this Psalm is well said, "May God have pity on us, and bless us" (ver. 1). Let our soul bless the Lord, and let God bless us. When God blesseth us, we grow, and when we bless the Lord, we grow, to us both are profitable. He is not increased by our blessing, nor is He lessened by our cursing. He that curseth the Lord, is himself lessened: he that blesseth the Lord, is himself increased. First, there is in us the blessing of the Lord, and the consequence is that we also bless the Lord. That is the rain, this the fruit. Therefore there is rendered as it were fruit to God the Husbandman, raining upon and tilling us. Let us chant these words with no barren devotion, with no empty voice, but with true heart. For most evidently God the Father hath been called a Husbandman. The Apostle saith, "God's husbandry ye are, God's building ye are." In things visible of this world, the vine is not a building, and a building is not a vineyard: but we are the vineyard of the Lord, because He tilleth us for fruit; the building of God we are, since He who tilleth us, dwelleth in us. And what saith the same Apostle? "I have planted, Apollos hath watered, but the increase God hath given. Therefore neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth, but He that giveth the increase, even God." He it is therefore that giveth the increase. Are those perchance the husbandmen? For a husbandman he is called that planteth, that watereth: but the Apostle hath said, "I have planted, Apollos hath watered." Do we enquire whence himself hath done this? The Apostle maketh answer, "Yet not I, but the Grace of God with me." Therefore whithersoever thou turn thee, whether through Angels, thou wilt find God thy Husbandman; whether through Prophets, the Same is thy Husbandman; whether through Apostles, the very Same acknowledge to be thy Husbandman. What then of us? Perchance we are the labourers of that Husbandman, and this too with powers imparted by Himself, and by Grace granted by Himself. ...
2. "Lighten His countenance upon us." Thou wast perchance going to enquire, what is "bless us"? In many ways men would have themselves to be blessed of God: one would have himself to be blessed, so that he may have a house full of the necessary things of this life; another desireth himself to be blessed, so that he may obtain soundness of body without flaw; another would have himself to be blessed, if perchance he is sick, so that he may acquire soundness; another longing for sons, and perchance being sorrowful because none are born, would have himself to be blessed so that he may have posterity. And who could number the divers wishes of men desiring themselves to be blessed of the Lord God? But which of us would say, that it was no blessing of God, if either husbandry should bring him fruit, or if any man's house should abound in plenty of things temporal, or if the very bodily health be either so maintained that it be not lost, or, if lost, be regained?...
3. "Every soul that is blessed is simple," not cleaving to things earthly nor with glued wings grovelling, but beaming with the brightness of virtues, on the twin wings of twin love doth spring into the free air; and seeth how from her is withdrawn that whereon she was treading, not that whereon she was resting, and she saith securely, "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away; as it hath pleased the Lord, so hath been done: be the name of the Lord blessed." ...But let not perchance any weak man say, when shall I be of so great virtue, as was holy Job? The mightiness of the tree thou wonderest at, because but now thou hast been born: this great tree, whereat thou wonderest, under the branches and shade whereof thou coolest thyself, hath been a switch. But dost thou fear lest there be taken away from thee these things, when such thou shalt have become? Observe that they are taken away from evil men also. Why therefore dost thou delay conversion? That which thou fearest when good to lose, perchance if evil thou wilt lose still. If being good thou shalt have lost them, there is by thee the Comforter that hath taken them away: the coffer is emptied of gold; the heart is full of faith: without, poor thou art, but within, rich thou art: thy riches with thee thou carriest, which thou wouldest not lose, even if naked from shipwreck thou shouldest escape. Why doth not the loss, that perchance, if evil, thou wilt lose, find thee good; forasmuch as thou seest evil men also suffer loss? But with greater loss they are stricken: empty is the house, more empty the conscience is. Whatsoever evil man shall have lost these things, hath nothing to hold by without, hath nothing within whereon he may rest. He fleeth when he hath suffered loss from the place where before the eyes of men with the display of riches he used to vaunt himself; now in the eyes of men to vaunt himself he is not able: to himself within he returneth not, because he hath nothing. He hath not imitated the ant, he hath not gathered to himself grains, while it was summer. What have I meant by, while it was summer? While he had quietude of life, while he had this world's prosperity, when he had leisure, when happy he was being called by all men, his summer it was. He should have imitated the ant, he should have heard the Word of God, he should have gathered together grains, and he should have stored them within. There had come the trial of tribulation, there had come upon him a winter of numbness, tempest of fear, the cold of sorrow, whether it were loss, or any danger to his safety, or any bereavement of his family; or any dishonour and humiliation; it was winter; the ant falleth back upon that which in summer she hath gathered together; and within in her secret store, where no man seeth, she is recruited by her summer toils. When for herself she was gathering together these stores in summer, all men saw her: when on these she feedeth in winter, no one seeth. What is this? See the ant of God, he riseth day by day, he hasteneth to the Church of God, he prayeth, he heareth lection, he chanteth hymn, he digesteth that which he hath heard, with himself he thinketh thereon, he storeth within grains gathered from the threshing-floor. They that providently hear those very things which even now are being spoken of, do thus, and by all men are seen to go forth to the Church, go back from Church, to hear sermon, to hear lection, to choose a book, open and read it: all these things are seen, when they are done. That ant is treading his path, carrying and storing up in the sight of men seeing him. There cometh winter sometime, for to whom cometh it not? There chanceth loss, there chanceth bereavement: other men pity him perchance as being miserable, who know not what the ant hath within to eat, and they say, miserable he whom this hath befallen, or what spirits, dost thou think, hath he whom this hath befallen? how afflicted is he? He measureth by himself, hath compassion according to his own strength; and thus he is deceived: because the measure wherewith he measureth himself, he would apply to him whom he knoweth not. ...O sluggard, gather in summer while thou art able; winter will not suffer thee to gather, but to eat that which thou shalt have gathered. For how many men so suffer tribulation, that there is no opportunity either to read anything, or to hear anything, and they obtain no admittance, perchance, to those that would comfort them. The ant hath remained in her nest, let her see if she hath gathered anything in summer, whereby she may recruit herself in winter.
4. ...There is a double interpretation, both must be given: "lighten," he saith, "Thy face upon us," show to us Thy countenance. For God doth not ever light His countenance, as if ever it had been without light: but He lighteth it upon us, so that what was hidden from us, is opened to us, and that which was, but to us was hidden, is unveiled upon us, that is, is lightened. Or else surely it is, "Thy image lighten upon us:" so that he said this, in "lighten Thy countenance upon us:" Thou hast imprinted Thy countenance upon us; Thou hast made us after Thine image and Thy likeness, Thou hast made us Thy coin; but Thine image ought not in darkness to remain: send a ray of Thy wisdom, let it dispel our darkness, and let there shine in us Thy image; let us know ourselves to be Thine image, let us hear what hath been said in the Song of Songs, "If Thou shalt not have known Thyself, O Thou fair one among women." For there is said to the Church, "If Thou shalt not have known Thyself." What is this? If Thou shalt not have known Thyself to have been made after the image of God. O Soul of the Church, precious, redeemed with the blood of the Lamb immaculate, observe of how great value Thou art, think what hath been given for Thee. Let us say, therefore, and let us long that He "may lighten His face upon us." We wear His face: in like manner as the faces of emperors are spoken of, truly a kind of sacred face is that of God in His own image: but unrighteous men know not in themselves the image of God. In order that the countenance of God may be lightened upon them, they ought to say what? "Thou shalt light my candle, O Lord my God, Thou shalt light my darkness." I am in the darkness of sins, but by the ray of Thy wisdom dispelled be my darkness, may Thy countenance appear; and if perchance through me it appeareth somewhat deformed, by Thee be there reformed that which by Thee hath been formed.
5. "That we may know on earth Thy way" (ver. 2). "On earth," here, in this life, "we may know Thy way." What is, "Thy way"? That which leadeth to Thee. May we acknowledge whither we are going, acknowledge where we are as we go; neither in darkness we can do. Afar Thou art from men sojourning, a way to us Thou hast presented, through which we must return to Thee. "Let us acknowledge on earth Thy way." What is His way wherein we have desired, "That we may know on earth Thy way"? We are going to enquire this ourselves, not of ourselves to learn it. We can learn of it from the Gospel: "I am the Way," the Lord saith: Christ hath said, "I am the Way." But dost thou fear lest thou stray? He hath added, "And the Truth." Who strayeth in the Truth? He strayeth that hath departed from the Truth. The Truth is Christ, the Way is Christ: walk therein. Dost thou fear lest thou die before thou attain unto Him? "I am the Life: I am," He saith, "the Way and the Truth and the Life." As if He were saying, "What fearest thou? Through Me thou walkest, to Me thou walkest, in Me thou restest." What therefore meaneth, "We may know on earth Thy Way," but "we may know on earth Thy Christ"? But let the Psalm itself reply: lest ye think that out of other Scriptures there must be adduced testimony, which perchance is here wanting: by repetition he hath shown what signified, "That we may know on earth Thy Way:" and as if thou wast inquiring, "In what earth, what way?" "In all nations Thy Salvation." In what earth, thou art inquiring? Hear: "In all nations." What way art thou seeking? Hear: "Thy Salvation." Is not perchance Christ his Salvation? And what is that which the old Symeon hath said, that old man, I say, in the Gospel, preserved full of years even unto the infancy of the Word? For that old man took in his hands the Infant Word of God. Would He that in the womb deigned to be, disdain to be in the hands of an old man? The Same was in the womb of the virgin, as was in the hands of the old man, a weak infant both within the bowels, and in the old man's hand, to give us strength, by whom were made all things; and if all things, even His very mother. He came humble, He came weak, but clothed with a weakness to be changed into strength, because "though He was crucified of weakness, yet He liveth of the virtue of God," the Apostle saith. He was then in the hands of an old man. And what saith that old man? Rejoicing that now he must be loosed from this world, seeing how in his own hand was held He by whom and in whom his Salvation was upheld; he saith what? "Now Thou lettest go," he saith, "O Lord, Thy servant in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy Salvation." Therefore, "May God bless us, and have pity on us; may He lighten His countenance upon us, that we may know on earth Thy Way!" In what earth? "In all nations?" What Way? "Thy Salvation."
6. What followeth because the Salvation of God is known in all nations? "Let the peoples confess to Thee, O God" (ver. 3); "confess to Thee," he saith, "all peoples." There standeth forth a heretic, and he saith, In Africa I have peoples: and another from another quarter, And I in Galatia have peoples. Thou in Africa, he in Galatia: therefore I require one that hath them everywhere. Ye have indeed dared to exult at that voice, when ye heard, "Let the peoples confess to Thee, O God." Hear the following verse, how he speaketh not of a part: "Let there confess to Thee all peoples." Walk ye in the Way together with all nations; walk ye in the Way together with all peoples, O sons of peace, sons of the One Catholic Church, walk ye in the Way, seeing as ye walk. Wayfarers do this to beguile their toil. Sing ye in this Way; I implore you by that Same Way, sing ye in this Way: a new song sing ye, let no one there sing old ones: sing ye the love-songs of your fatherland, let no one sing old ones. New Way, new wayfarer, new song. Hear thou the Apostle exhorting thee to a new song: "Whatever therefore is in Christ is a new creature; old things have passed away, behold they have been made new." A new song sing ye in the way, which ye have learned "on the earth." In what earth? "In all nations." Therefore even the new song doth not belong to a part. He that in a part singeth, singeth an old song: whatever he please to sing, he singeth an old song, the old man singeth: divided he is, carnal he is. Truly in so far as carnal he is, so far he is old; and in so far as he is spiritual, so far new. See what saith the Apostle: "I could not speak to you as if to spiritual, but as if to carnal." Whence proverb he them carnal? "For while one saith, I am of Paul; but another, I of Apollos: are ye not," he saith, "carnal?" Therefore in the Spirit a new song sing thou in the safe way. Just as wayfarers sing, and ofttimes in the night sing. Awful round about all things do sound, or rather they sound not around, but are still around; and the more still the more awful; nevertheless, even they that fear robbers do sing. How much more safely thou singest in Christ! That way hath no robber, unless thou by forsaking the way fallest in the hands of a robber. ...Why fear ye to confess, and in your confession to sing a new song together with all the earth; in all the earth, in Catholic peace, dost thou fear to confess to God, lest He condemn thee that hast confessed? If having not confessed thou liest concealed, having confessed thou wilt be condemned. Thou fearest to confess, that by not confessing canst not be concealed: thou wilt be condemned if thou hast held thy peace, that mightest have been delivered, by having confessed. "O God, confess to Thee all peoples."
7. And because this confession leadeth not to punishment, he continueth and saith, "Let the nations rejoice and exult" (ver. 4). If robbers after confession made do wail before man, let the faithful after confessing before God rejoice. If a man be judge, the torturer and his fear exact from a robber a confession: yea sometimes fear wringeth out confession, pain extorteth it: and he that waileth in tortures, but feareth to be killed if he confess, supporteth tortures as far as he is able: and if he shall have been overcome by pain, he giveth his voice for death. Nowise therefore is he joyful; nowise exulting: before he confesseth the claw teareth him; when he hath confessed, the executioner leadeth him along a condemned felon: wretched in every case. But "let the nations rejoice and exult." Whence? Through that same confession. Why? Because good He is to whom they confess: He exacteth confession, to the end that He may deliver the humble; He condemneth one not confessing, to the end that He may punish the proud. Therefore be thou sorrowful before thou confessest; after having confessed exult, now thou wilt be made whole. Thy conscience had gathered up evil humours, with boil it had swollen, it was torturing thee, it suffered thee not to rest: the Physician applieth the fomentations of words, and sometimes He lanceth it, He applieth the surgeon's knife by the chastisement of tribulation: do thou acknowledge the Physician's hand, confess thou, let every evil humour go forth and flow away in confession: now exult, now rejoice, that which remaineth will be easy to be made whole. ..."Let the nations rejoice and exult, for Thou judgest the peoples in equity." And that unrighteous men may not fear, he hath added, "and the nations on the earth Thou directest." Depraved were the nations and crooked were the nations, perverse were the nations; for the ill desert of their depravity, and crookedness and perverseness, the Judge's coming they feared: there cometh the hand of the same, it is stretched out mercifully to the peoples, they are guided in order that they may walk the straight way; why should they fear the Judge to come, that have first acknowledged Him for a Corrector? To His hand let them give up themselves, Himself guideth the nations on the earth. But guided nations are walking in the Truth, are exulting in Him, are doing good works; and if perchance there cometh in any water (for on sea they are sailing) through the very small holes, through the crevices into the hold, pumping it out by good works, lest by more and more coming it accumulate, and sink the ship, pumping it out daily, fasting, praying, doing almsdeeds, saying with pure heart, "Forgive us our debts, as also we forgive our debtors" -saying such words walk thou secure, and exult in the way, sing in the way. Do not fear the Judge: before thou wast a believer, thou didst find a Saviour. Thee ungodly He sought out that He might redeem, thee redeemed will He forsake so as to destroy? "And the nations on earth Thou directest."
8. He exulteth, rejoiceth, exhorteth, he repeateth those same verses in exhortation. "The earth hath given her fruit" (ver. 6). What fruit? "Let all peoples confess to Thee." Earth it was, of thorns it was full; there came the hand of One rooting them up, there came a calling by His majesty and mercy, the earth began to confess; now the earth giveth her fruit. Would she give her fruit unless first she were rained on? Would she give her fruit, unless first the mercy of God had come from above? Let them read to me, thou sayest, how the earth being rained upon gave her fruit. Hear of the Lord raining upon her: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." He raineth, and that same rain is thunder; it terrifieth: fear thou Him thundering, and receive Him raining. Behold, after that voice of a thundering and raining God, after that voice let us see something out of the Gospel itself. Behold that harlot of ill fame in the city burst into a strange house into which she had not been invited by the host, but by One invited she had been called; called not with tongue, but by Grace. The sick woman knew that she had there a place, where she was aware that her Physician was sitting at meat. She has gone in, that was a sinner; she dareth not draw near save to the feet: she weepeth at His feet, she washeth with tears, she wipeth with hair, she anointeth with ointment. Why wonderest thou? The earth hath given her fruit. This thing, I say, came to pass by the Lord raining there through His own mouth; there came to pass the things whereof we read in the Gospel; and by His raining through His clouds, by the sending of the Apostles and by their preaching the truth, the earth more abundantly hath given her fruit, and that crop now hath filled the round world.
9. The fruit of the earth was first in Jerusalem. For from thence began the Church: there came there the Holy Spirit, and filled full the holy men gathered together in one place; miracles were done, with the tongues of all men they spake. They were filled full of the Spirit of God, the people were converted that were in that place, fearing and receiving the divine shower, by confession they brought forth so much fruit, that all their goods they brought together into a common stock, making distribution to the poor, in order that no one might call anything his own, but all things might be to them in common, and they might have one soul and one heart unto God. For there had been forgiven them the blood which they had shed, it had been forgiven them by the Lord pardoning, in order that now they might even learn to drink that which they had shed. Great in that place is the fruit: the earth hath given her fruit, both great fruit, and most excellent fruit. Ought by any means that earth alone to give her fruit? "May there bless us God, our God, may there bless us God" (ver. 7). Still may He bless us: for blessing in multiplication is wont most chiefly and properly to be perceived. Let us prove this in Genesis; see the works of God: God made light, and God made a division between light and darkness: the light He called day, and the darkness He called night. It is not said, He blessed the light. For the same light returneth and changeth by days and nights. He calleth the sky the firmament between waters and waters: it is not said, He blessed the sky: He severed the sea from the dry land, and named both, the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters sea: neither here is it said, God blessed. ...
10. How should we will that to us He come? By living well, by doing well. Let not things past please us; things present not hold us; let us not "close the ear" as it were with tail, let us not press down the ear on the ground; lest by things past we be kept back from hearing, lest by things present we be entangled and prevented from meditating on things future; let us reach forth unto those things which are before, let us forget things past. And that for which now we toil, for which now we groan, for which now we sigh, of which now we speak, which in part, however small soever, we perceive, and to receive are not able, we shall receive, we shall thoroughly enjoy in the resurrection of the just. Our youth shall be renewed as an eagle's, if only our old man we break against the Rock of Christ. Whether those things be true, brethren, which are said of the serpent, or those which are said of the eagle, or whether it be rather a tale of men than truth, truth is nevertheless in the Scriptures, and not without reason the Scriptures have spoken of this: let us do whatever it signifieth, and not toil to discover how far that is true. Be thou such an one, as that thy youth may be able to be renewed as an eagle's. And know thou that it cannot be renewed, except thine old man on the Rock shall have been broken off: that is, except by the aid of the Rock, except by the aid of Christ, thou wilt not be able to be renewed. Do not thou because of the pleasantness of the past life be deaf to the word of God: do not by things present be so held and entangled, as to say, I have no leisure to read, I have no leisure to hear. This is to press down the ear upon the ground. Do thou therefore not be such an one: but be such an one as on the other side thou findest, that is, so that thou forget things past, unto things before reach thyself out, in order that thine old man on the Rock thou mayest break off. And if any comparisons shall have been made for thee, if thou hast found them in the Scriptures, believe: if thou shalt not have found them spoken of except by report, do not very much believe them. The thing itself perchance is so, perchance is not so. Do thou profit by it, let that comparison avail for thy salvation. Thou art unwilling to profit by this comparison, by some other profit, it mattereth not provided thou do it: and, being secure, wait for the Kingdom of God, lest thy prayer quarrel with thee. For, O Christian man, when thou sayest, Thy Kingdom come, how sayest thou, "Thy kingdom come"? Examine thy heart: see, behold, "Thy kingdom come:" He crieth out to thee, "I come:" dost thou not fear? Often we have told Your Love: both to preach the truth is nothing, if heart from tongue dissent: and to hear the truth is nothing, if fruit follow not hearing. From this place exalted as it were we are speaking to you: but how much we are beneath your feet in fear, God knoweth, who is gracious to the humble; for the voices of men praising do not give us so much pleasure as the devotion of men confessing, and the deeds of men now righteous. And how we have no pleasure but in your advances, but by those praises how much we are endangered, He knoweth, whom we pray to deliver us from all dangers, and to deign to know and crown us together with you, saved from every trial, in His Kingdom.