Early Church Fathers
1. We have been born into this world, and added to the people of God, at that period wherein already the herb from a grain of mustard seed hath spread out its branches; wherein already the leaven, which at first was contemptible, hath leavened three measures, that is, the whole round world repeopled by the three sons of Noe: for from East and West and North and South shall come they that shall sit down with the Patriarchs, while those shall have been driven without, that have been born of their flesh and have not imitated their faith. Unto his glory then of Christ's Church our eyes we have opened; and that barren one, for whom joy was proclaimed and foretold, because she was to have more sons than she that had the husband? her we have found to be such an one as hath forgotten the reproaches and infamy of her widowhood: and so we may perhaps wonder when we chance to read in any prophecy the words of Christ's humiliation, or our own. And it may be, that we are less affected by them; because we have not come at that time when these things were read with zest, in that tribulation abounded. But again if we think of the abundance of tribulations, and observe the way wherein we are walking (if indeed we do walk in it), how narrow it is, and how through straits and tribulations it leadeth unto rest everlasting, and how that very thing which in human affairs is called felicity, is more to be feared than misery; since indeed misery ofttimes doth bring out of tribulation a good fruit, but felicity doth corrupt the soul with a perverse security, and giveth place for the Devil the Tempter-when, I say, we shall have judged prudently and rightly, as the salted victim did, that "human life upon earth is trial," and that no one is at all secure, nor ought to be secure, until he be come to that country, whence no one that is a friend goeth forth, into which no one that is an enemy is admitted, even now in the very glory of the Church we acknowledge the voices of our tribulation: and being members of Christ, subject to our Head in the bond of love, and mutually supporting one another, we will say from the Psalms, that which here we have found the Martyrs said, who were before us; that tribulation is common to all men from the beginning even unto the end. ...
2. The Title of the Psalm is: "Unto the end, in behalf of those that shall be changed, to David himself." Now of the change for the better hear thou; for change either is for the worse or for the better. ...That we have been changed then for the worse, to ourselves let us ascribe: that for the better we are changed, let us praise God. "For those," then, "that shall be changed," this Psalm is. But whence hath this change been made but by the Passion of Christ? The very word Pascha in Latin is interpreted passage. For Pascha is not a Greek word but a Hebrew. It soundeth indeed in the Greek language like Passion, because pasxein signifieth to suffer: but if the Hebrew expression be examined, it pointeth to something else. Pascha doth intimate passage. Of which even John the Evangelist hath admonished us, who (just before the Passion when the Lord was coming to the supper wherein He set forth the Sacrament of His Body and Blood) thus speaketh: "But when there had come the hour, wherein Jesus was to pass from this world to the Father." He hath expressed then the "passage" of the Pascha. But unless He passed Himself hence to the Father, who came for our sake, how should we have been able to pass hence, who have not come down for the sake of taking up anything, but have fallen? But He Himself fell not; He but came down, in order that He might raise up him that had fallen. The passage therefore both of Him and of us is hence to the Father, from this world to the kingdom of Heaven, from life mortal to life everlasting, from life earthly to life heavenly, from life corruptible to life incorruptible, from intimacy with tribulations to perpetual security. Accordingly, "In behalf of them that shall be changed," the Psalm's title is. The cause therefore of our change, that is, the very Passion of the Lord and our own voice in tribulations in the text of the Psalm let us observe, let us join in knowing, join in groaning, and in hearing, in joint-knowing, joint-groaning, let us be changed, in order that there may be fulfilled in us the Title of the Psalm, "In behalf of them that shall be changed."
3. "Save me, O God, for the waters have entered in even unto my soul" (ver. 1). That grain is despised now, that seemeth to give forth humble words. In the garden it is buried, though the world will admire the greatness of the herb, of which herb the seed was despised by the Jews. For in very deed observe ye the seed of the mustard, minute, dull coloured, altogether despicable, in order that therein may be fulfilled that which hath been said, We have seen Him, and He had neither form nor comeliness. But He saith, that waters have come in even unto His soul; because those multitudes, which under the name of waters He hath pointed out, were able so far to prevail as to kill Christ. ...Whence then doth He so cry out, as though He were suffering something against His will, except because the Head doth prefigure the Members? For He suffered because He willed: but the Martyrs even though they willed not; for to Peter thus He foretold his passion: "When thou shalt be old," He saith, "another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wilt not." For though we desire to cleave to Christ, yet we are unwilling to die: and therefore willingly or rather patiently we suffer, because no other passage is given us, through which we may cleave to Christ. For if we could in any other way arrive at Christ, that is, at life everlasting, who would be willing to die? For while explaining our nature, that is, a sort of association of soul and body, and in these two parts a kind of intimacy of gluing and fastening together, the Apostle saith, that "we have a House not made with hands, everlasting in the Heavens:" that is, immortality prepared for us, wherewith we are to be clothed at the end, when we shall have risen from the dead; and he saith, "Wherein we are not willing to be stripped, but to be clothed upon, that the mortal may be swallowed up of life." If it might so be, we should so will, he saith, to become immortal, as that now that same immortality might come, and now as we are it should change us, in order that this our mortal body by life should be swallowed up, and the body should not be laid aside through death, so as at the end again to have to be recovered. Although then from evil to good things we pass, nevertheless the very passage is somewhat bitter, and hath the gall which the Jews gave to the Lord in the Passion, hath something sharp to be endured, whereby they are shown that gave Him vinegar to drink. ...For here both sweet are temporal pleasures, and bitter are temporal tribulations: but who would not drink the cup of tribulation temporal, fearing the fire of hell; and who would not contemn the sweetness of the world, longing for the sweetness of life eternal? From hence that we may be delivered let us cry: lest perchance amidst oppressions we consent to iniquity, and truly irreparably we be swallowed up.
4. "Fixed I am in the clay of the deep, and there is no substance" (ver. 2). What called the clay? Is it those very persons that have persecuted? For out of clay man hath been made. But these men by falling from righteousness have become the clay of the deep, and whosoever shall not have consented to them persecuting and desiring to draw him to iniquity, out of his clay doth make gold. For the clay of the same shall merit to be converted into a heavenly form, and to be made associate of those of whom saith the Title of the Psalm, "in behalf of them that shall be changed." But at the time when these were the clay of the deep. I stuck in them: that is, they held Me, prevailed against Me, killed Me. "Fixed" then "I am in the clay of the deep, and there is no substance." What is this, "there is no substance "? Can it be that clay itself is not a substance? What is then, "fixed I am"? Can it be that Christ hath thus stuck? Or hath He stuck, and was not, as hath been said in the book of Job, "the earth delivered into the hands of the ungodly man"? Was He fixed in body, because it could be held, and suffered even crucifixion? For unless with nails He had been fixed, crucified He had not been. Whence then "there is no substance"? Is that clay not a substance? But we shall understand, if it be possible, what is, "and there is no substance," if first we shall have understood what is a substance. For there is substance spoken of even of riches, as we say, he hath substance, and he hath lost substance. ...
5. God is a sort of substance: for that which is no substance, is nothing at all. To be a substance then is to be something. Whence also in the Catholic Faith against the poisons of certain heretics thus we are builded up, so that we say, Father and Son and Holy Spirit are of one substance. What is, of one substance? For example, if gold is the Father, gold is also the Son, gold also the Holy Spirit. Whatever the Father is because He is God, the same is the Son, the same the Holy Spirit. But when He is the Father, this is not what He is. For Father He is called not in reference to Himself, but in reference to the Son: but in reference to Himself God He is called. Therefore in that He is God, by the same He is a substance. And because of the same substance the Son is, without doubtthe Son also is God. But yet in that He is Father, because it is not the name of the substance, but is referred to the Son; we do not say that the Son is Father in the same manner as we say the Son is God. Thou askest what the Father is; we answer, God. Thou askest what is the Father and the Son: we answer, God. If questioned of the Father alone, answer thou God: if questioned of both, not Gods, but God, answer thou. We do not reply as in the case of men, when thou inquirest what is father Abraham, we answer a man; the substance of him serveth for answer: thou inquirest what is his son Isaac, we answer, a man; of the same substance are Abraham and Isaac: thou inquirest what is Abraham and Isaac, we answer not man, but men. Not so in things divine. For so great in this case is the fellowship of substance, that of equality it alloweth, plurality alloweth not. If then it shall have been said to thee, when thou tellest me that the Son is the same as the Father, in fact the Son also is the Father; answer thou, according to the substance I have told thee that the Son is the same as the Father, not according to that term which is used in reference to something else. For in reference to Himself He is called God, in reference to the Father is called Son. And again, the Father in reference to Himself is called God, in reference to the Son He is called Father. The Father as He is called in reference to the Son, is not the Son: the Son as He is called in reference to the Father, is not the Father: what the Father is called in reference to Himself and the Son in reference to Himself, the same is Father and Son, that is, God. What is then, "there is no substance"? After this interpretation of substance, how shall we be able to understand this passage of the Psalm, "Fixed I am in the clay of the deep, and there is no substance"? God made man, He made substance; and O that he had continued in that which God made Him! If man had continued in that which God made him, in him would not have been fixed He whom God begot. But moreover because through iniquity man fell from the substance wherein he was made (for iniquity itself is no substance; for iniquity is not a nature which God formed, but a perverseness which man made); the Son of God came to the clay of the deep, and was fixed; and that was no substance wherein He was fixed, because in the iniquity of them He was fixed. "All things by Him were made, and without Him there was made nothing." All natures by Him were made, iniquity by Him was not made, because iniquity was not made. Those substances by Him were made, which praise Him. The whole creation praising God is commemorated by the, three children in the furnace, and from things earthly to things heavenly, or from things heavenly to things earthly reacheth the hymn of them praising God. Not that all these things have sense to praise; but because all things being well meditated upon, do beget praise, and the heart by considering creation is fulfilled to overflowing with a hymn to the Creator. All things do praise God, but only the things which God hath made. Do ye observe in that hymn that covetousness praiseth God? There even the serpent praiseth God, covetousness praiseth not. For all creeping things are there named in the praise of God: there are named all creeping things; but there are not there named any vices. For vices out of ourselves and out of our own will we have: and vices are not a substance. In these was fixed the Lord, when He suffered persecution: in the vice of the Jews, not in the substance of men which by Him was made.
6. "I have come into the depth of the sea, and the tempest hath made Me to sink down." Thanks to the mercy of Him who came into the depth of the sea, and vouchsafed to be swallowed by the sea whale, but was vomited forth the third day. He came into the depth of the sea, in which depth we were thrust down, in which depth we had suffered shipwreck: He came thither Himself, and the tempest made Him to sink down: for there He suffered waves, those very men; tempests, the voices of men saying, "Crucify, Crucify." Though Pilate said, I find not any cause in this Man why He should be killed: there prevailed the voices of them, saying, "Crucify, Crucify." The tempest increased, until He was made to sink down that had come into the depth of the sea. And the Lord suffered in the hands of the Jews that which He suffered not when upon the waters He was walking: the which not only He had not suffered Himself, but had not allowed even Peter to suffer it.
7. "I have laboured, crying, hoarse have become my jaws" (ver. 3). Where was this? When was this? Let us question the Gospel. For the Passion of our Lord in this Psalm we perceive. And, indeed, that He suffered we know; that there came in waters even unto His Soul, because peoples prevailed even unto His death, we read, we believe; in the tempest that He was sunk down, because tumult prevailed to His killing, we acknowledge: but that He laboured in crying, and that His jaws were made hoarse, not only we read not, but even on the contrary we read, that He answered not to them a word, in order that there might be fulfilled that which in another Psalm hath been said, "I have become as it were a man not hearing, and having not in his mouth reproofs." And that which in Isaiah hath been prophesied, "like a sheep to be sacrificed He was led, and like a lamb before one shearing Him, so He opened not His mouth." If He became like a man not hearing, and having not in His mouth reproofs, how did He labour crying, and how were His jaws made hoarse? Is it that He was even then silent, because He was hoarse with having cried so much in vain? And this indeed we know to have been His voice on the Cross out of a certain Psalm:' "0 God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" But how great was that voice, or of how long duration, that in it His jaws should have become hoarse? Long while He cried, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees:" long while He cried, "Woe unto the world because of offences." And truly hoarse in a manner He cried, and therefore was not understood, when the Jews said, What is this that He saith? "Hard is this saying, who is able to hear it?" We know not what He saith. He said all these words: but hoarse were His jaws to them that understood not His words. "Mine eyes have failed from hoping in My God." Far be it that this should be taken of the person of the Head: far be it that His eyes should have failed from hoping in His God: in whom rather there was God reconciling the world to Himself, and Who was the Word made flesh and dwelled in us, so that not only God was in Him, but also He was Himself God. Not so then: the eyes of Himself, our Head, failed not from hoping in His God: but the eyes of Him have failed in His Body, that is, in His members. This voice is of the members, this voice is of the Body, not of the Head. How then do we find it in His Body and members?...
8. Thus "there have been multiplied above the hairs of My head they that hate Me gratis" (ver. 4). How multiplied? So as that they might add to themselves even one out of the twelve "There have been multiplied above the hairs of My head they that hate Me for nought." With the hairs of His head He hath compared His enemies. With reason they were shorn when in the place of Calvary He was crucified. Let the members accept this voice, let them learn to be hated gratis. For now, O Christian, if it must needs be that the world hate thee, why dost thou not make it hate thee gratis, in order that in the Body of thy Lord and in this Psalm sent before concerning Him, thou mayest acknowledge thy own voice? How shall it come to pass that the world hate thee gratis? If thou no wise huttest any one, and art still hated: for this is gratis, without cause...
9. "O God, Thou hast known mine improvidence" (ver. 5). Again out of the mouth of the Body. For what improvidence is there in Christ? Is He not Himself the Virtue of God, and the Wisdom of God? Doth He call this His improvidence, whereof the Apostle speaketh, "the foolishness of God is wiser than men"? Mine improvidence, that very thing which in Me they derided that seem to themselves to be wise, Thou hast known why it was done. For what was so much like improvidence, as, when He had it in His power with one word to lay low the persecutors, to suffer Himself to be held, scourged, spit upon, buffeted, with thorns to be crowned, to the tree to be nailed? It is like improvidence, it seemeth a foolish thing; but this foolish thing excelleth all wise men. Foolish indeed it is: but even when grain falleth into the earth, if no one knoweth the custom of husbandmen, it seemeth foolish... Improvidence it appeareth; but hope maketh it not to be improvidence. He then spared not Himself: because even the Father spared Him not, but delivered Him up for us all. And of the Same, "Who loved me," saith the Apostle, "and delivered up Himself for me:" for except a grain shall have fallen into the land so that it die, fruit, He saith, it will not yield. This is the improvidence. "And my transgressions from Thee are not concealed." It is plain, clear, open, that this must be perceived to be out of the mouth of the Body. Transgressions none had Christ: He was the bearer of transgressions, but not the committer. "Are not concealed:" that is, I have confessed to Thee, all my transgressions, and before my mouth Thou hast seen them in my thought, hast seen the wounds which Thou wast to heal. But where? Even in the Body, in the members: in those believers out of whom there was now cleaving to Him that member, who was confessing his sins.
10. "Let them not blush in Me, that wait for Thee, O Lord, Lord of virtues" (ver. 6). Again, the voice of the Head, "Let them not blush in Me:" let it not be said to them, Where is He on whom ye were relying? Let it not be said to them, Where is He that was saying to you, Believe yet God, and in Me believe? "Let them not blush in Me, that wait for Thee," O Lord, Lord of virtues. Let them not be confounded concerning Me, that seek Thee, O God of Israel." This also may be understood of the Body, but only if thou consider the Body of Him not one man: for in truth one man is not the Body of Him, but a small member, but the Body is made up of members. Therefore the full Body of Him is the whole Church. With reason then saith the Church, "Let them not blush in Me, that wait for Thee, O Lord, Lord of virtues."...
11. "For because of Thee I have sustained upbraiding, shamelessness hath covered my face" (ver. 7). No great thing is that which is spoken of in "I have sustained:" but that which is spoken of in "for Thy sake I have sustained," is. For if thou sustainest because thou hast sinned; for thine own sake thou sustainest, not for the sake of God. For to you what glory is there, saith Peter, if sinning ye are punished, and ye bear it? But if thou sustainest because thou hast kept the commandment of God, truly for the sake of God thou sustainest; and thy reward remaineth for everlasting, because for the sake of God thou hast sustained revilings. For to this end He first sustained in order that we might learn to sustain... "Shamelessness hath covered my face." Shamelessness is what? Not to be confused. Lastly, it seemeth to be as it were a fault, when we say, the man is shameless. Great is the shamelessness of the man, that he doth not blush. Therefore shamelessness is a kind of folly. A Christian ought to have this shamelessness, when he cometh among men to whom Christ is an offence. If he shall have blushed because of Christ, he will be blotted out from the book of the living. Thou must needs therefore have shamelessness when Thou art reviled because of Christ; when they say, Worshipper of the Crucified, adorer of Him that died ill, venerator of Him that was slain! here if thou shalt blush thou art a dead man. For see the sentence of Him that deceiveth no one. "He that shall have been ashamed of Me before men, I will also be ashamed of him before the Angels of God." Watch therefore thyself whether there be in thee shamelessness; be thou boldfaced, when thou hearest a reproach concerning Christ; yea be boldfaced. Why fearest thou for thy forehead which thou hast armed with the sign of the Cross? ...
12. "An alien I have become to My brethren, and a stranger to the sons of My mother" (ver. 8). To the sons of the Synagogue He became a stranger... Why so? Why did they not acknowledge? Why did they call Him an alien? Why did they dare to say, we know not whence He is? "Because the zeal of Thine House hath eaten Me up:" that is, because I have persecuted in them their own iniquities, because I have not patiently borne those whom I have rebuked, because I have sought Thy glory in Thy House, because I have scourged them that in the Temple dealt unseemly: in which place also there is quoted, "the zeal of Thine House hath eaten Me up." Hence an alien, hence a Stranger; hence, we know not whence He is. They would have acknowledged whence I am, if they had acknowledged that which Thou hast commanded. For if I had found them keeping Thy commandments, the zeal of Thine House would not have eaten Me up. "And the reproaches of men reproaching Thee haven fallen upon Me." Of this testimony Paul the Apostle hath also made use (there hath been read but now the very lesson), and saith, "Whatsoever things aforetime have been written, have been written that we might be instructed." ... Why "Thee"? Is the Father reproached, and not Christ Himself? Why have "the reproaches of men reproaching Thee fallen upon Me"? Because, "he that hath known Me, hath known the Father also:" because no one hath reviled Christ without reviling God: because no one honoureth the Father, except he that honoureth the Son also.
13. "And I have covered in fasting My Soul, and it became to Me for a reviling" (ver. 10). His fasting was, when there fell away all they that had believed in Him; because also it was His hunger, that men should believe in Him: because also it was His thirst, when He said to the woman, I thirst, "give Me to drink:" yea for her faith He was thirsting. And from the Cross when He was saying, "I thirst," He was seeking the faith of them for whom He had said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But what did those men give to drink to Him thirsty? Vinegar. Vinegar is also called old. With reason of the old man they gave to drink, because they willed not to be new. Why willed they not to become new? Because to the title of this Psalm whereon is written, "For them that shall be changed," they belonged not. Therefore, "I have covered in fasting My Soul." Lastly, He put from Him even the gall which they offered: He chose rather to fast than to accept bitterness. For they enter not into His Body that are embittered, whereof in another place a Psalm saith, "They that are embittered shall not be exalted in themselves." Therefore, "I have covered in fasting My Soul: and it became to Me for a reviling." This very thing became to Me for a reviling, that I consented not to them, that is, from them I fasted. For he that consenteth not to men seducing to evil, fasteth from them; and through this fasting earneth reviling, so that he is upbraided because he consenteth not to the evil thing.
14. "And I have set sackcloth my garment" (ver. 11). Already before we have said something of the sackcloth, from whence there is this, "But I, when they were troubling Me, was covering myself with sackcloth, and was humbling My Soul in fasting. I have set sackcloth for My garment:" that is, have set against them My flesh, on which to spend their rage, I have concealed My divinity. "Sackcloth," because mortal the flesh was: in order that by sin He might condemn sin in the flesh. "And I have set sackcloth my garment: and I have been made to them for a parable," that is, for a derision. It is called a parable, whenever a comparison is made concerning some one, when he is evil spoken of. "So may this man perish," for example, "as that man did," is a parable: that is, a comparison and likeness in cursing. "I have been made to them," then, "for a parable."
15. "Against Me were reviling they that were sitting in the gate" (ver. 12). "In the gate" is nothing else but in public. "And against Me they were chanting, they that were drinking wine." Do ye think, brethren, that this hath befallen Christ alone? Daily to Him in His members it happeneth: whenever perchance it is necessary for the servant of God to forbid excess of wine and luxuries in any village or town, where there hath not been heard the Word of God, it is not enough that they sing, nay more even against him they begin to sing, by whom they are forbidden to sing. Compare ye now His fasting and their wine.
16. "But I with My prayer with Thee, O Lord" (ver. 13). But I was with Thee. But how? With Thee by praying. For when thou art evil spoken of, and knowest not what thou mayest do; when at thee are hurled reproaches, and thou findest not any way of rebuking him by whom they are hurled; nothing remaineth for thee but to pray. But remember even for that very man to pray. "But I with my prayer with Thee, O Lord. It is the time of Thy good pleasure, O God." For behold the grain is being buried, there shall spring up fruit. "It is the time of Thy good pleasure, O God." Of this time even the Prophets have spoken, whereof the Apostle maketh mention: "Behold now the time acceptable, behold now the day of salvation." "It is the time of Thy good pleasure, O God. In the multitude of Thy mercy." This is the time of good pleasure, "in the multitude of Thy mercy." For if there were not a multitude of Thy mercy, what should we do for the multitude of our iniquity? "In the multitude of Thy mercy; Hearken to me in the truth of Thy Salvation." Because He hath said, "of Thy mercy," he hath added truth also: for "mercy and truth" are all the ways of the Lord. Why mercy? In forgiving sins. Why truth? In fulfilling the promises.
17. "Save Thou Me from the mire, that I may not stick" (ver. 14). From that whereof above he had spoken, "Fixed I am in the clay of the deep, and there is no substance." Furthermore, since ye have duly received the exposition of that expression, in this place there is nothing further for you to hear particularly. From hence he saith that he must be delivered, wherein before he said that he was fixed: "Save Thou Me from the mire, that I may not stick." And he explaineth this himself: "Let Me be rescued from them that hate Me." They were themselves therefore the clay wherein he had stuck. But the following perchance suggesteth itself. A little before he had said, Fixed I am; now he saith, Save Thou Me from the mire, that I may not stick:" whereas after the meaning of what was said before he ought to have said, Save Thou Me from the mire where I had stuck, by rescuing Me, not by causing that I stick not. Therefore He had stuck in flesh, but had not stuck in spirit. He saith this, because of the infirmity of His members. Whenever perchance thou art seized by one that urgeth thee to iniquity, thy body indeed is taken, in regard to the body thou art fixed in the clay of the deep: but so long as thou consentest not, thou hast not stuck; but if thou consentest, thou hast stuck. Let then thy prayer be in that place, in order that as thy body is now held, so thy soul may not be held, so thou mayest be free in bonds.
18. "Let not the tempest of waters drown Me" (ver. 15). But already he had been drowned. "I have come into the depth of the sea," thou hast said, and "the tempest hath drowned Me," thou hast said. It hath drowned after the flesh, let it not drown after the Spirit. They to whom was said, If they shall have persecuted you in one city, flee ye into another; had this said to them, that neither in flesh they should stick, nor in spirit. For we must not desire to stick even in flesh; but as far as we are able we ought to avoid it. But if we shall have stuck, and shall have fallen into the hands of sinners: then in body we have stuck, we are fixed in the clay of the deep, it remaineth to entreat for the soul that we stick not, that is, that we consent not, that the tempest of water drown us not, so that we go into the deep of the clay. "Neither let the deep swallow Me, nor the pit close her mouth upon Me." What is this, brethren? What hath he prayed against? Great is the pit of the depth of human iniquity: every one, if he shall have fallen into it, will fall into the deep. But yet if a man being there placed confesseth his sins to his God, the pit will not shut her mouth upon him: as is written in another Psalm, "From the depths I have cried to Thee, O Lord; Lord, hearken unto my voice." But if there is done in him that which another passage of Scripture saith, "When a sinner shall have come into the depth of evil things, he will despise," upon him the pit hath shut her mouth. Why hath she shut her mouth? Because she hath shut his mouth. He hath lost confession, really dead he is, and there is fulfilled in him that which elsewhere is spoken of, "From a dead man, as from one that is not, there perisheth confession." ...
19. "Hearken unto me, O Lord, for sweet is Thy mercy" (ver. 16). He hath given this as a reason why He ought to be hearkened unto, because sweet is the mercy of God. ...To a man set in trouble the mercy of God must needs be sweet. Concerning this sweetness of the mercy of God see ye what in another place the Scripture saith: "Like rain in drought, so beautiful is the mercy of God in trouble." That which there he saith to be "beautiful," the same he saith here to be "sweet." Not even bread would be sweet, unless hunger had preceded. Therefore even when the Lord permitteth or causeth us to be in any trouble, even then He is merciful: for He doth not withdraw nourishment, but stirreth up longing. Accordingly what saith he now, "Hearken to me, O Lord, for sweet is Thy mercy"? Now do not Thou defer hearkening, in so great trouble I am, that sweet to me is Thy mercy. For to this end Thou didst defer to succour, in order that to me that wherewith Thou didst succour might be sweet: but now no longer is there cause why Thou must defer; my trouble hath arrived at the appointed measure of distress, let Thy mercy come to do the work of goodness. "After the multitude of Thy pities have regard unto me:" not after the multitude of my sins.
20. "Turn not away Thy face from Thy child" (ver. 17). And this is a commending of humility; "from Thy child," that is, "from Thy little one:" because now I have been rid of pride through the discipline of tribulation, "turn not away Thy face from Thy child." This is that beautiful mercy of God, whereof he spake above. For in the following verse he explaineth that whereof he spake: "For I am troubled, speedily hearken Thou unto me." What is "speedily"? Now there is no cause why Thou must defer it: I am troubled, my affliction hath gone before; let Thy mercy follow.
21. "Give heed to my soul, and redeem her," doth need no exposition: let us see therefore what followeth. "Because of mine enemies deliver me" (ver. 18). This petition is evidently wonderful, neither briefly to be touched upon, nor hastily to be skipped over; truly wonderful: "Because of mine enemies deliver me." What is, "Because of mine enemies deliver me"? ...I see no reason for this petition, "Because of mine enemies deliver me:" unless we understand it of something else, which when I shall have spoken by the help of the Lord, He shall judge in you, that dwelleth in you. There is a kind of secret deliverance of holy men: this for their own sakes is made. There is one public and evident: this is made because of their enemies, either for their punishment, or for their deliverance. For truly God delivered not the brothers in the book of Maccabees from the fires of the persecutor. ...But again the Three Children openly were delivered from the furnace of fire; because their body also was rescued, their safety was public. The former were in secret crowned, the latter openly delivered: all however saved. ...There is then a secret deliverance, there is an open deliverance. Secret deliverance doth belong to the soul, open deliverance to the body as well. For in secret the soul is delivered, openly the body. Again, if so it be, in this Psalm the voice of the Lord let us acknowledge: to the secret deliverance doth belong that whereof he spake above, "Give heed to my soul, and redeem her." There remaineth the body's deliverance: for on His arising and ascending into the Heavens, and sending the Holy Ghost from above, there were converted to His faith they that at His death did rage, and out of enemies they were made friends through His grace, not through their righteousness. Therefore he hath continued, "Because of mine enemies deliver me. Give heed to my soul," but this in secret: but "because of mine enemies deliver" even my body. For mine enemies it will profit nothing if soul alone Thou shalt have delivered; that they have done something, that they have accomplished something, they will believe. "What profit is there in my blood, while I go down into corruption?" Therefore "give heed to my soul, and redeem her," which Thou alone knowest: secondly also, "because of mine enemies deliver me," that my flesh may not see corruption.
22. "Thou knowest my reproach, and my confusion, and my shame" (ver. 19). What is reproach? What is confusion? What shame? Reproach is that which the enemy casteth in the teeth. Confusion is that which gnaweth the conscience. Shame is that which causeth even a noble brow to blush, because of the upbraiding with a pretended crime. There is no crime; or even if there is a crime, it doth not belong to him, against whom it is alleged: but yet the infirmity of the human mind ofttimes is made ashamed even when a pretended crime is alleged; not because it is alleged, but because it is believed. All these things are in the Body of the Lord. For confusion in Him could not be, in whom guilt was not found. There was alleged as a crime against Christians, the very fact that they were Christians. That indeed was glory: the brave gladly received it, and so received it as that they blushed not at all for the Lord's name. For fearlessness had covered the face of them, having the effrontery of Paul, saying, "for I blush not because of the Gospel: for the virtue of God it is for salvation to every one believing." O Paul, art not thou a venerator of the Crucified? Little it is, he saith, for me not to blush for it: nay, therein alone I glory, wherefore the enemy thinketh me to blush. "But from me far be it to glory, save in the Cross of Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world is crucified, and I to the world." At such a brow as this then reproach alone could be hurled. For neither could there be confusion in a conscience already made whole, nor shame in a brow so free. But when it was being alleged against certain that they had slain Christ, deservedly they were pricked through with evil conscience, and to their health confounded and converted, so that they could say, "Thou hast known my confusion." Thou therefore, O Lord, hast known not only my reproach but also my confusion, in certain shame also: who, though in me they believe, publicly blush to confess me before ungodly men, human tongue having more influence with them than promise divine. Behold ye therefore them: even such are commended to God, not that so He may leave them, but that by aiding them He may make them perfect. For a certain man believing and wavering hath said, "I believe, O Lord, help Thou mine unbelief."
23. "In Thy sight are all they that trouble Me" (ver. 20). Why I have reproach, Thou knowest; why confusion, Thou knowest; why shame, Thou knowest: therefore deliver Thou me because of mine enemies, because Thou knowest these things of me, they know not; and thus, because they are themselves in Thy sight, not knowing these things, they will not be able to be either confounded or corrected, unless openly Thou shalt have delivered me because of mine enemies. "Reproach my heart hath expected, and misery." What is, "hath expected"? Hath foreseen these things as going to be, hath foretold them as going to be. For He came not for any other purpose. If He had been unwilling to die, neither would He have willed to be born: for the sake of resurrection He did both. For there were two particular things known to us among mankind, but one thing unknown. For we knew that men were born and died: that they rose again and lived for everlasting we knew not. That He might show to us that which we knew not, He took upon Him the two things which we knew. To this end therefore He came. "Reproach my heart hath expected and misery." But the misery of whom? For He expected misery, but rather of the crucifiers, rather of the persecutors, that in them should be misery, in Him mercy. For pitying the misery of them even while hanging on the Cross, He saith, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." What then did it profit, that I expected? That is, what did it profit that I foretold? What did it profit that I said to this end I had come? I came to fulfil that which I said, "I waited for one that together should be made sorrowful, and there was not; and men comforting, and I found not:" that is, there was none. For that which in the former verse He said, "I waited for one that together should be made sorrowful," the same is in the following verse, "and men comforting." But that which in the former verse is, "and there was not;" the same in the following verse is, "and I found not." Therefore another sentence is not added, but the former is repeated. Which sentence if we reconsider, a question may arise. For were His disciples nowise made sorrowful when He was led to the Passion, when on the tree hanged, when dead? So much were they made sorrowful, that Mary Magdalene, who first saw Him, rejoicing told them as they were mourning what she had seen. The Gospel speaketh of these things: it is not our presumption, not our suspicion: it is evident that the disciples grieved, it is evident that they mourned. Strange women were weeping, when to the Passion He was being led, unto whom turning He saith, "Weep ye, but for yourselves, do not for Me." ... Peter certainly loved very much, and without hesitation threw himself to walk on the waves, and at the voice of the Lord he was delivered: and though following Him when led to the Passion, with the boldness of love, yet being troubled, thrice he denied Him. Whence, except because an evil thing it seemed to him to die? For he was shunning that which he thought an evil thing. This then even in the Lord he was lamenting, which he was himself shunning. On this account even before he had said, "Far be it from Thee, O Lord, merciful be Thou to Thyself: there shall not come to pass this thing:" at which time he merited to hear, "Satan;" after that he had heard, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona." Therefore in that sorrowfulness which the Lord felt because of those for whom He prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do:" no companion He found. "And I waited for one that together should be made sorrowful, and there was not." There was not at all. "And men comforting, and I found not." Who are men comforting? Men profiting. For they comfort us, they are the comfort of all preachers of the Truth.
24. "And they gave for My food gall, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink" (ver. 22). This was done indeed to the letter. And the Gospel declareth this to us. But we must understand, brethren, that the very fact that I found not comforters, that the very fact that I found not one that together should be made sorrowful, this was My gall, this to Me was bitter, this was vinegar: bitter because of grief, vinegar because of their old man. For we read, that to Him indeed gall was offered, as the Gospel speaketh; but for drink, not for food. Nevertheless, we must so take and consider that when fulfilled, which here had been before predicted, "They gave for My food gall:" and in that very action, not only in this saying, we ought to seek for a mystery, at secret things to knock, to enter the rent veil of the Temple, to see there a Sacrament, both in what there hath been said and in what there hath been done. "They gave," He saith, "for My food gall:" not the thing itself which they gave was food, for it was drink: but "for food they gave it." Because already the Lord had taken food, and into it there had been thrown gall. But He had taken Himself pleasant food, when He ate the Passover with His disciples: therein He showed the Sacrament of His Body. Unto this food so pleasant, so sweet, of the Unity of Christ, of which the Apostle maketh mention, saying, "For one bread, One Body, being many we are;" unto this pleasant food who is there that addeth gall, except the gainsayers of the Gospel, like those persecutors of Christ? For less the Jews sinned in crucifying Him walking on earth, than they that despise Him sitting in Heaven. That which then the Jews did, in giving above the food which He had already taken that bitter draught to drink, the same they do that by evil living bring scandal upon the Church: the same do embittered heretics, "But let them not be exalted in their own selves." They give gall after so delectable meat. But what doth the Lord? He admitteth them not to His Body. In this mystery, when they presented gall, the Lord Himself tasted, and would not drink. If we did not suffer them, neither at all should we taste: but because it is necessary to suffer them, we must needs taste. But because in the members of Christ such sort cannot be, they can be tasted, received into the Body they cannot be. "And they gave for My food gall, and in My thirst they gave Me vinegar to drink." I was thirsting, and vinegar I received: that is, for the faith of them I longed, and I found oldness.
25. "Let the table of them be made in their own presence for a trap" (ver. 23). Like the trap which for Me they set, in giving Me such a draught, let such a trap be for them. Why then, "in their own presence"? "Let the table of them be made for a trap," would have been sufficient. They are such as know their iniquity, and in it most obstinately do persevere: in their own presence there is made a trap for them. These are they that, being too destructive, "go down into Hell alive." Lastly, of persecutors what hath been said? Except that the Lord were in us, perchance alive they had swallowed us up. What is alive? Consenting to them, and knowing that we ought not to consent to them. Therefore in their own presence there is made a trap, and they are not amended. Even though in their own presence there is a trap, let them not fall into it. Behold they know the trap, and thrust out foot, and bow their necks to be caught. How much better were it to turn away from the trap, to acknowledge sin, to condemn error, to be rid of bitterness, to pass over into the Body of Christ, to seek the Lord's glory! But so much prevaileth presumption of mind, that even in their own presence the trap is, and they fall into it. "Let the eyes of them be darkened, that they see not," followeth here: that whereas without benefit they have seen, it may chance to them even not to see. "Let the table of them," therefore, "be made in their own presence for a trap." It is not from one wishing, but from one prophesying: not in order that it may come to pass, but because it will come to pass. This we have often remarked, and ye ought to remember it: lest that which the prescient mind saith in the Spirit of God, it should seem with ill will to imprecate. ...Let it then be done to them, "both for a requital and for a stumbling-block." And is this by any means unjust? It is just. Why? For it is "for a requital." For not anything would happen to them, which was not owed. "For a requital" it is done, "and for a stumbling-block:" for they are themselves a stumbling-block to themselves. "Let the eyes of them be darkened, that they see not, and the back of them alway bow Thou down" (ver. 24). This is a consequence. For they, whose eyes have been darkened that they see not, it followeth, must have their back bowed down. How so? Because when they have ceased to take knowledge of things above, they must needs think of things below. He that well heareth, "lift up the heart," a bowed back hath not. For with stature erect he looketh for the hope laid up for him in Heaven; most especially if he send before him his treasure, whither his heart followeth. But, on the other hand, they perceive not the hope of future life; already being blinded, they think of things below: and this is to have a bowed back: from which disorder the Lord delivered that woman. For Satan hath bound her eighteen years, and her that was bowed down He raised up: and because on the Sabbath He did it, the Jews were scandalized; suitably were they scandalized at her being raised up, themselves being bowed. "Pour forth upon them Thine anger, and let the indignation of Thine anger overtake them" (ver. 25), are plain words: but nevertheless, in "overtake them" we perceive them as it were fleeing. But whither are they to flee? Into Heaven? Thou art there. Into Hell? Thou art present. Their wings they will not take to fly straight: "Let the indignation of Thine anger overtake them," let it not permit them to escape.
26. "Let the habitation of them become forsaken" (ver. 26). This is now evident. For in the same manner as He hath mentioned not only a secret deliverance of His, saying, "Give heed to My soul, and redeem her;" but also one open after the body, adding, "because of mine enemies deliver me:" so also to these men He foretelleth how there are to be certain secret misfortunes, whereof a little before He was speaking. ...For the blindness of the Jews was secret vengeance: but the open was what? "Let their habitation become forsaken, and in their tabernacles let there not be any one to inhabit." There hath come to pass this thing in the very city Jerusalem, wherein they thought themselves mighty in crying against the Son of God, "Crucify, Crucify;" and in prevailing because they were able to kill Him that raised dead men. How mighty to themselves, how great, they seemed! There followed afterwards the vengeance of the Lord, stormed was the city, utterly conquered the Jews, slain were I know not how many thousands of men. No one of the Jews is permitted to come thither now: where they were able to cry against the Lord, there by the Lord they are not permitted to dwell. They have lost the place of their fury: and O that even now they would know the place of their rest! What profit to them was Caiaphas in saying, "If we shall have let go this man thus, there will come the Romans, and take away from us both place and kingdom"? Behold, both they did not let Him go alive, and He liveth: and there have come the Romans, and have taken from them both place and kingdom. But now we heard, when the Gospel was being read, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered together thy sons, as a hen her chickens under her wings, and thou wouldest not? Behold there is left to you your house forsaken." ...
27. Why so? "For Him whom Thou hast smitten they have themselves persecuted, and upon the pain of my wounds they have added" (ver. 27). How then have they sinned if they have persecuted one by God smitten? What sin is ascribed to their mind? Malice. For the thing was done in Christ which was to be. To suffer indeed He had come, and He punished him through whom He suffered. For Judas the traitor was punished, and Christ was crucified: but us He redeemed by His blood, and He punished him in the matter of his price. For he threw down the price of silver, for which by him the Lord had been sold; and he knew not the price wherewith he had himself by the Lord been redeemed. This thing was done in the case of Judas. But when we see that there is a sort of measure of requital in all men, and that not any one can be suffered to rage more than he hath received power to do: how have they "added," or what is that smiting of the Lord? Without doubt He is speaking in the person of him from whom He had received a body, from whom He had taken unto Him flesh, that is in the person of mankind, of Adam himself who was smitten with the first death because of his sin. Mortal therefore here are men born, as born with their punishment: to this punishment they add, whosoever do persecute men. For now here man would not have had to die, unless God had smitten him. Why then dost thou, O man, rage more than this? Is it little for a man that some time he is to die? Each one of us therefore beareth his punishment: to this punishment they would add that persecute us. This punishment is the smiting of the Lord. For the Lord smote man with the sentence: "What day ye shall have touched it," He saith, "with death ye shall die." Out of this death He had taken upon Him flesh, and our old man hath been crucified together with Him. By the voice of that man He hath said these words, "Him whom Thou hast smitten they have themselves persecuted, and upon the pain of My wounds they have added." Upon what pain of wounds? Upon the pain of sins they have themselves added. For sins He hath called His wounds. But do not look to the Head, consider the Body; according to the voice whereof hath been said by the Same in that Psalm, wherein He showed there was His voice, because in the first verse thereof He cried from the Cross, "God, My God, look upon Me, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" There in continuation He saith, "Afar from My safety are the words of Mine offences."...
28. "Lay Thou iniquity upon their iniquity" (ver. 28). What is this? Who would not be afraid? To God is said, "Lay Thou iniquity upon their iniquity." Whence shall God lay iniquity? For hath He iniquity to lay? For we know that to be true which hath been spoken through Paul the Apostle, "What then shall we say? Is there anywise iniquity with God? Far be it." Whence then, "Lay Thou iniquity upon iniquity"? How must we understand this? May the Lord be with us, that we may speak, and because of your weariness may be able to speak briefly. Their iniquity was that they killed a just Man: there was added another, that they crucified the Son of God. Their raging was as though against a man: but "if they had known, the Lord of Glory they had never crucified." They with their own iniquity willed to kill as it were a man: there was laid iniquity upon their own iniquity, so that the Son of God they should crucify. Who laid this iniquity upon them? He that said, "Perchance they will reverence My Son," Him I will send. For they were wont to kill servants sent to them, to demand rent and profit. He sent the Son Himself, in order that Him also they might kill. He laid iniquity upon their own iniquity. And these things did God do in wrath, or rather in just requital? For, "May it be done to them," He saith, "for a requital and for a stumbling-block." They had deserved to be so blinded as not to know the Son of God. And this God did, laying iniquity upon their iniquity; not in wounding, but in not making whole. For in like manner as thou increasest a fever, increasest a disorder, not by adding disorder, but by not relieving: so because they were of such sort as that they merited not to be healed, in their very naughtiness in a manner they advanced; as it is said, "But evil men and wicked doers advance for the worse:" and iniquity is laid upon their own iniquity. "And let them not enter in Thy righteousness." This is a plain thing.
29. "Let them be blotted out from the book of the living" (ver. 29). For had they been some time written therein? Brethren, we must not so take it, as that God writeth any one in the book of life, and blotteth him out. If a man said, "What I have written I have written," concerning the title where it had been written, "King of the Jews:" doth God write any one, and blot him out? He foreknoweth, He hath predestined all before the foundation of the world that are to reign with His Son in life everlasting. These He hath written down, these same the Book of Life doth contain. Lastly, in the Apocalypse, what saith the Spirit of God, when the same Scripture was speaking of the oppressions that should be from Antichrist? "There shall give consent to him all they that have not been written in the book of life." So then without doubt they will not consent that have been written. How then are these men blotted out from that book wherein they were never written? This hath been said according to their own hope, because they thought of themselves that they were written. What is, "let them be blotted out from the book of life"? Even to themselves let it be evident, that they were not there. By this method of speaking hath been said in another Psalm, "There shall fall from Thy side a thousand, and tens of thousands from on Thy right hand:" that is, many men shall be offended, even out of that number who thought that they would sit with Thee, even out of that number who thought that they would stand at Thy right hand, being severed from the left-hand goats: not that when any one hath there stood, he shall afterwards fall, or when any one with Him hath sat, he shall be cast away; but that many men were to fall into scandal, who already thought themselves to be there, that is, many that thought that they would sit with Thee, many that hoped that they would stand at the right hand, will themselves fall. So then here also they that hoped as though by the merit of their own righteousness themselves to have been written in the book of God, they to whom is said, "Search the Scriptures, wherein ye think yourselves to have life eternal:" when their condemnation shall have been brought even to their own knowledge, shall be effaced from the book of the living, they shall know themselves not to be there. For the verse which followeth, explaineth what hath been said: "And with just men let them not be written." I have said then "Let them be effaced," according to their hope: but according to Thy justice I say what?
30. "Poor and sorrowful I am" (ver. 30). Why this? Is it that we may acknowledge that through bitterness of soul this poor One doth speak evil? For He hath spoken of many things to happen to them. And as if we were saying to Him, "Why such things?"-"Nay, not so much!" He answereth, "poor and sorrowful I am." They have brought Me to want, unto this sorrow they have set Me down, therefore I say these words. It is not, however, the indignation of one cursing, but the prediction of one prophesying. For He was intending to recommend to us certain things which hereafter He saith of His poverty and His sorrow, in order that we may learn to be poor and sorrowful. For, "Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven." And, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted." This therefore He doth Himself before now show to us: and so, "poor and sorrowful I am." The whole Body of Him saith this. The Body of Christ in this earth is poor and sorrowful. But let Christians be rich. Truly if Christians they are, they are poor; in comparison with the riches celestial for which they hope, all their gold they count for sand. "And the health of Thy countenance, O God, hath taken Me up." Is this poor One anywise forsaken? When dost thou deign to bring near to thy table a poor man in rags? But again, this poor One the health of the countenance of God hath taken up: in His countenance He hath hidden His need. For of Him hath been said, "Thou shalt hide them in the hiding place of Thy countenance." But in that countenance what riches there are would ye know? Riches here give thee this advantage, that thou mayest dine on what thou wilt, whenever thou wilt: but those riches, that thou mayest never hunger. "The health of Thy countenance, O God, hath taken Me up." For what purpose? In order that no longer I may be poor, no longer sorrowful? "I will praise the name of the Lord with a song, I will magnify Him in praise" (ver. 31). Now it hath been said, this poor One praiseth the name of the Lord with a song, he magnifieth Him in praise. When would He have ventured to sing, unless He had been refreshed from hunger? "I will magnify Him with praise." O vast riches! What jewels of God's praise hath he brought out of his inward treasures! These are my riches! "The Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken away." Then miserable he hath remained? Far be it. See the riches: "As it hath pleased the Lord, so hath been done, be the name of the Lord blessed."
31. "And it shall please God:" that I shall praise Him, shall please: "above a new calf, bearing horns and hoofs." More grateful to Him shall be the sacrifice of praise than the sacrifice of a calf. "The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me." "Immolate to God the sacrifice of praise." So then His praise going forth from my mouth shall please God more than a great victim led up to His altar. ...Therefore above this calf my praising shall please Thee, such as hereafter will be, after poverty and sorrow, in the eternal society of Angels, where neither adversary there shall be in battle to be tossed, nor sluggard from earth to be stirred up. "Let the needy see and rejoice" (ver. 32). Let them believe, and in hope be glad. Let them be more needy, in order that they may deserve to be filled: lest while they belch out pride's satiety, there be denied them the bread whereon they may healthily live. "Seek the Lord," ye needy, hunger ye and thirst; for He is Himself the living bread that came down from Heaven. "Seek ye the Lord, and your soul shall live." Ye seek bread, that your flesh may live: the Lord seek ye, that your soul may live.
32. "For the Lord hath hearkened to the poor" (ver. 33). He hath hearkened to the poor, and He would not have hearkened to the poor, unless they were poor. Wilt thou be hearkened to? Poor be thou: let sorrow cry out from thee, and not fastidiousness. "And His fettered ones He hath not despised." Being offended at His servants, He hath put them in fetters: but them crying from the fetters He hath not despised. What are these fetters? Mortality, the corruptibleness of the flesh are the fetters wherewith we have been bound. And would ye know the weight of these fetters? Of them is said, "The body which is corrupted weigheth down the soul." Whenever men in the world will to be rich, for these fetters they are seeking rags. But let the rags of the fetters suffice: seek so much as is necessary for keeping off want, but when thou seekest superfluities, thou longest to load thy fetters. In such a prison then let the fetters abide even alone. "Sufficient for the day be the evil thereof." "Let there praise Him heavens and earth, sea and all things creeping in them" (ver. 34). The true riches of this poor man are these, to consider the creation, and to praise the Creator. "Let there praise Him heavens and earth, sea and all things creeping therein." And doth this creation alone praise God, when by considering of it God is praised?
33. Hear thou another thing also: "for God shall save Sion" (ver. 35). He restoreth His Church, the faithful Gentiles He doth incorporate with His Only-Begotten; He beguileth not them that believe in Him of the reward of His promise. "For God shall save Sion; and there shall be builded the cities of Juda." These same are the Churches. Let no one say, when shall it come to pass that there be builded the cities of Juda? O that thou wouldest acknowledge the Edifice, and be a living stone, that thou mightest enter into Her. Even now the cities of Juda are being built. For Juda is interpreted confession. By confession of humility there are being builded the cities of Juda: in order that there may remain without the proud, who blush to confess. "For God shall save Sion." What Sion? Hear in the following words: "and the seed of His servants shall possess Her, and they that love His name shall dwell therein" (ver. 36). ...