Early Church Fathers
1. Thanks to the "Corn of wheat," because He willed to die and to be multiplied: thanks to the only Son of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who disdained not to undergo our death, in order that He might make us worthy of His life. Behold Him that was single until He went hence; as He said in another Psalm, "Single I am until I go hence;" for He was a single corn of wheat in such sort as that He had in Himself a great fruitfulness of increase; in how many corns imitating the Passion of Him we exult, when we celebrate the nativities of the Martyrs! Many therefore members of Him, under one Head our Saviour Himself, being bound together in the bond of love and peace (as ye judge it fit that ye know, for ye have often heard), are one man: and of the same, as of one man, the voice is ofttimes heard, in the Psalms, and thus one crieth as though it were all, because all in one are one. ...
2. There is then in this Psalm the voice of men troubled, and so indeed of Martyrs amid sufferings in peril, but relying on their own Head. Let us hear them, and speak with them out of sympathy of heart, though it be not with similarity of suffering. For they are already crowned, we are still in peril: not that such sort of persecutions do vex us as have vexed them, but worse perchance in the midsts of all kinds of so great scandals. For our own times do more abound in that woe, which the Lord cried: "Woe to the world because of scandals." And, "Because iniquity hath abounded, the love of man shall wax cold." For not even that holy Lot at Sodom suffered corporal persecution from any one, or had it been told him that he should not dwell there: the persecution of him were the evil doings of the Sodomites. Now then that Christ sitteth in Heaven, now that He is glorified, now that necks of kings are made subject to His yoke, and their brows placed beneath His sign, now that not any one remaineth to dare openly to trample upon Christians, still, however, we groan amid instruments and singers, still those enemies of the Martyrs, because with words and steel they have no power, with their own wantonness do persecute them. And O that we were sorrowing for Heathens alone: it would be some sort of comfort, to wait for those that not yet have been signed with the Cross of Christ; when they should be signed, and when, by His authority attached, they should cease to be mad. We see besides men wearing or their brow the sign of Him, at the same time on that same brow wearing the shamelessness of wantonness, and on the days and celebrations of the Martyrs not exulting but insulting. And amid these things we groan, and this is our persecution, if there is in us the love which saith, "Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I burn not?" Not any servant of God, then, is without persecution: and that is a true saying which the Apostle saith, "But even all men that will to live godly in Christ, shall suffer persecution." . ...
3. "O God, to my aid make speed" (ver. 1). For need we have for an everlasting aid in this world. But when have we not? Now however being in tribulation, let us especially say, "O God, to my aid make speed." "Let them be confounded and fear that seek my soul." Christ is speaking: whether Head speak or whether Body speak; He is speaking that hath said, "Why persecutest thou Me?" He is speaking that hath said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of Mine, to Me ye have done it." The voice then of this Man is known to be of the whole man, of Head and of Body: that need not often be mentioned, because it is known. "Be they confounded," he saith, "and fear that seek my soul." In another Psalm He saith, "I was looking unto the right and saw, and there was not one that would know Me: flight hath perished from Me, and there is not one to seek out My soul." There of persecutors He saith, that there was not one to seek out His soul: but here, "Let them be confounded and fear that seek My soul."... And where is that which thou hast heard from thy Lord, "Love ye your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute you"? Behold thou sufferest persecution, and cursest them from whom thou sufferest: how dost thou imitate the Passions of thy Lord that have gone before, hanging on the cross and saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." To persons saying such things the Martyr replieth and saith, thou hast set before me the Lord, saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do:" understand thou my voice also, in order that it may be thine too: for what have I said concerning mine enemies? "Let them be confounded and fear." Already such vengeance hath been taken on the enemies of the Martyrs. That Saul that persecuted Stephen, he was confounded and feared. He was breathing out slaughters, he was seeking some to drag and slay: a voice having been heard from above, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me," he was confounded and laid low, and he was raised up to obedience, that had been inflamed unto persecuting. This then the Martyrs desire for their enemies, "Let them be confounded and fear." For so long as they are not confounded and fear, they must needs defend their actions: glorious they think themselves, because they hold, because they bind, because they scourge, because they kill, because they dance, because they insult, and because of all these doings they be some time confounded and fear. For if they be confounded, they will also be converted: because converted they cannot be, unless they shall have been confounded and shall have feared. Let us then wish these things to our enemies, let us wish them without fear. Behold I have said, and let me have said it with you, may all that still dance and sing and insult the Martyrs "be confounded and fear :" at last within these walls confounded may they beat their breasts!
4. "Let them be turned away backward and blush that think evil things to me" (ver. 2). At first there was the assault of them persecuting, now there hath remained the malice of them thinking. In fact, there are in the Church distinct seasons of persecutions following one another. There was made an assault on the Church when kings were persecuting: and because kings had been foretold as to persecute and as to believe, when one had been fulfilled the other was to follow. There came to pass also that which was consequent; kings believed, peace was given to the Church, the Church began to be set in the highest place of dignity, even on this earth, even in this life: but there is not wanting the roar of persecutors, they have turned their assaults into thoughts. In these thoughts, as in a bottomless pit, the devil hath been bound, he roareth and breaketh not forth. For it hath been said concerning these times of the Church, "The sinner shall see, and shall be angry." And shall do what? That which he did at first? Drag, bind, smite? He doeth not this. What then? "With his teeth he shall gnash, and shall pine away." And with these men the Martyr is, as it were, angry, and yet for these men the Martyr prayeth. For in like manner as he hath wished well to those men concerning whom he hath said, "Let them be confounded and fear that seek my soul:" so also now, "Let them be turned backward, and blush, that think evil things to me." Wherefore? In order that they may not go before, but follow. For he that censureth the Christian religion, and on his own system willeth to live, willeth as it were to go before Christ, as though He indeed had erred and had been weak and infirm, because He either willed to suffer or could suffer in the hands of the Jews; but that he is a clever man for guarding against all these things; in shunning death, even in basely lying to escape death, and slaying his soul that he may live in body, he thinketh himself a man of singular and prudent measures. He goeth before in censuring Christ, in a manner he outstrippeth Christ: let him believe in Christ, and follow Christ. For that which had been desired but now for persecutors thinking evil things, the same the Lord Himself said to Peter. Now in a certain place Peter willed to go before the Lord. ...A little before, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father which is in Heaven:" now in a moment, "Go back behind Me, Satan." What is, "Go back behind Me"? Follow Me. Thou wiliest to go before Me, thou wiliest to give Me counsel, it is better that thou follow My counsel: this is, "go back," go back behind Me. He is silencing one outstripping, in order that he may go backward; and He is calling him Satan, because he willeth to go before the Lord. A little before, "blessed;" now, "Satan." Whence a little before, "blessed"? Because, "to thee," He saith, "flesh and blood hath not revealed it, but My Father which is in Heaven." Whence now, "Satan"? Because "thou savourest not," He saith, "the things which are of God, but the things which are of men." Let us then that would duly celebrate the nativities of the Martyrs, long for the imitation of the Martyrs; let us not wish to go before the Martyrs, and think ourselves to be of better understanding than they, because we shun sufferings in behalf of righteousness and faith which they shunned not. Therefore be they that think evil things, and in wantonness feed their hearts, "turned backward and blush." Let them hear from the Apostle afterwards saying, "But what fruit had ye some time in those things at which ye now blush?"
5. What followeth? "Let them be turned away forthwith blushing, that say to me, Well, well" (ver. 3). Two are the kinds of persecutors, revilers and flatterers. The tongue of the flatterer doth more persecute than the hand of the slayer: for this also the Scripture hath called a furnace. Truly when the Scripture was speaking of persecution, it said, "Like gold in a furnace it hath proved them" (speaking of Martyrs being slain), "and as the holocaust's victim it hath received them." Hear how even the tongue of flatterers is of such sort: "The proving," he saith, "of silver and of gold is fire; but a man is proved by the tongue of men praising him." That is fire, this also is fire: out of both thou oughtest to go forth safe. The censurer hath broken thee, thou hast been broken in the furnace like an earthen vessel. The Word hath moulded thee, and there hath come the trial of tribulation: that which hath been formed, must needs be seasoned; if it hath been well moulded, there hath come the fire to strengthen. Whence He said in the Passion, "Dried up like a potsherd hath been My virtue." For Passion and the furnace of tribulation had made Him stronger. ...
6. And what cometh to pass when they are all turned back and blush, whether it be they that seek my soul, or they that think evil things to me, or they that with perverse and feigned benevolence with tongue would soften the stroke which they inflict, when they shall have been themselves turned away and confounded; there shall come to pass what? "Let them exult and be joyous in Thee:" not in me, not in this man or in that man; but in whom they have been made light that were darkness. "Let them exult and be joyous in Thee, all that seek Thee" (ver. 4). One thing it is to seek God, another thing to seek man. "Let them be joyous that seek Thee." They shall not be joyous then that seek themselves, whom Thou hast first sought before they sought Thee. Not yet did that sheep seek the Shepherd, it had strayed from the flock, and He went down to it; He sought it, and carried it back upon His shoulders. Will He despise thee, O sheep, seeking Him, who hath first sought thee despising Him and not seeking Him? Now then begin thou to seek Him that first hath sought thee, and hath carried thee back on His shoulders. Do thou that which He speaketh of, "They that are My sheep hear My voice, and follow Me." If then thou seekest Him that first hath sought thee, and hast become a sheep of His, and thou hearest the voice of thy Shepherd, and followest Him; see what He showeth to thee of Himself, what of His Body, in order that as to Himself thou mayest not err, as to the Church thou mayest not err, that no one may say to thee, that is Christ which is not Christ, or that is the Church which is not the Church. For many men have said that Christ had no flesh, and that Christ hath not risen in His Body: do not thou follow the voices of them. Hear thou the voice of Himself the Shepherd, that was clothed with flesh, in order that He might seek lost flesh. He hath risen again, and He saith, "Handle ye and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see Me have." He showeth Himself to thee, the voice of Him follow thou. He showeth also the Church, that no one may deceive thee by the name of Church. "It behoved," He saith, "Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day, and that there should be preached repentance and remission of sins through all nations, beginning with Jerusalem." Thou hast the voice of Thy Shepherd, do not thou follow the voice of strangers: and a thief thou shalt not fear, if thou shalt have followed the voice of the Shepherd. But how shalt thou follow? If thou shalt neither have said to any man, as if it were by his own merit, Well, well: nor shalt have heard the same with joy, so that thy head be not made fat with the oil of a sinner. "Let all them exult and be joyous in Thee, that seek Thee; and let them say"-let them say what, that exult? "Be the Lord alway magnified!" Let all them say this, that exult and seek Thee. What? "Be the Lord alway magnified; yea, they that love Thy salvation." Not only, "Be the Lord magnified;" but also, "alway."... A sinner thou art, be He magnified in order that He may call; thou confessest, be He magnified in order that He may forgive: now thou livest justly, be He magnified in order that He may direct: thou perseverest even unto the end, be He magnified in order that He may glorify. "Be the Lord," then, "alway magnified; yea, they love His saving health." For from Him they have salvation, not from themselves. The saving health of the Lord our God, is the Saviour our Lord Jesus Christ: whosoever loveth the Saviour, confesseth himself to have been made whole; whosoever confesseth himself to have been made whole, confesseth himself to have been sick. Not their own saving health, as if they could save themselves of themselves: not as it were the saving health of a man, as though by him they could be saved. "Do not," he saith, "confide in princes, and in the sons of men, in whom there is no safety." Why so? "Of the Lord is safety, and upon Thy people is Thy blessing."
7. Behold, "Be the Lord magnified:" wilt thou never, wilt thou nowhere? In Him was something, in me nothing: but if in Him is whatsoever I am, be He, not I. But thou then what? "But I am needy and poor" (ver. 5). He is rich, He abounding, He needing nothing. Behold my light, behold whence I am illumined; for I cry, "Thou shalt illumine my candle, O Lord." What then of thee? "But I am needy and poor." I am like an orphan, my soul is like a widow destitute and desolate: help I seek, alway mine infirmity I confess. There have been forgiven me my sins, now I have begun to follow the commandments of God: still, however, I am needy and poor. Why still needy and poor? Because "I see another law in my members fighting against the law of my mind." Why needy and poor? Because, "blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness." Still I hunger, still I thirst: my fulness hath been put off, not taken away. "O God, aid Thou me." Most suitably also Lazarus is said to be interpreted, "one aided:" that needy and poor man, that was transported into the bosom of Abraham; and beareth the type of the Church, which ought alway to confess that she hath need of aid. This is true, this is godly. "I have said to the Lord, My God Thou art." Why? "For my goods Thou needest not." He needeth not us, we need Him: therefore He is truly Lord. For thou art not the very true Lord of thy servant: both are men, both needing God. But if thou supposest thy servant to need thee, in order that thou mayest give him bread; thou also needest thy servant, in order that he may aid thy labours. Each one of you doth need the other. Therefore neither of you is truly lord, and neither of you truly servant. Hear thou the true Lord, of whom thou art the true servant: "I have said to the Lord, My God Thou art." Why art Thou Lord? "Because my goods Thou needest not"? But what of thee? "But I am needy and poor." Behold the needy and poor: may God feed, may God alleviate, may God aid: "O God," he saith, "aid Thou me."
8. "My helper and deliverer art Thou; O Lord, delay not." Thou art the helper and deliverer: I need succour, help Thou; entangled I am, deliver Thou. For no one will deliver from entanglings except Thee. There stand round about us the nooses of divers cares, on this side and on that we are torn as it were with thorns and brambles, we walk a narrow way, perchance we have stuck fast in the brambles: let us say to God, "Thou art my deliverer." He that showed us the narrow way, hath taught us to follow it. ...
9. What is, "delay not"? Because many men say, it is a long time till Christ comes. What then: because we say, "delay not," will He come before He hath determined to come? What meaneth this prayer, "delay not"? May not Thy coming seem to me to be too long delayed. For to thee it seemeth a long time, to God it seemeth not long, to whom a thousand years are one day, or the three hours of a watch. But if thou shalt not have had endurance, late for thee it will be: and when to thee it shall be late, thou wilt be diverted from Him, and wilt be like unto those that were wearied in the desert, and hastened to ask of God the pleasant things which He was reserving for them in the Land; and when there were not given on their journey the pleasant things, whereby perchance they would have been corrupted, they murmured against God, and went back in heart unto Egypt: to that place whence in body they had been severed, in heart they went back. Do not thou, then, so, do not so: fear the word of the Lord, saying, "Remember Lot's wife." She too being on the way, but now delivered from the Sodomites, looked back; in the place where she looked back, there she remained: she became a statue of salt, in order to season thee. For to thee she hath been given for an example, in order that thou mayest have sense, mayest not stop infatuated on the way. Observe her stopping and pass on: observe her looking back, and do thou be reaching forth unto the things before, as Paul was. What is it, not to look back. "Of the things behind forgetful," he saith. Therefore thou followest, being called to the heavenly reward, whereof hereafter thou wilt glory. For the same Apostle saith, "There remaineth for me a crown of righteousness, which in that day the Lord, the just Judge, shall render to me."