Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, Homily XXXII By St. John Chrysostom, A.D. 347-407
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Who is there then to pray over us, since Paul hath departed? These who are the imitators of Paul. Only let us yield ourselves worthy of such intercession, that it may not be that we hear Paul’s voice here only, but that hereafter, when we are departed, we may be counted worthy to see the wrestler of Christ. Or rather, if we hear him here, we shall certainly see him hereafter, if not as standing near him, yet see him we certainly shall, glistening near the Throne of the king. Where the Cherubim sing the glory, where the Seraphim are flying, there shall we see Paul, with Peter, and as a chief and leader of the choir of the Saints, and shall enjoy his generous love. For if when here he loved men so, that when he had the choice of departing and being with Christ, he chose to be here, much more will he there display a warmer affection.
I love Rome even for this, although indeed one has other grounds for praising it, both for its greatness, and its antiquity, and its beauty, and its populousness, and for its power, and its wealth, and for its successes in war.
But let all this pass, and esteem it blessed on this account, that both in his lifetime he wrote to them, and loved them so, and talked with them whiles he was with us, and brought his life to a close there. Wherefore the city is more notable upon this ground, than upon all others together. And as a body great and strong, it hath as two glistening eyes the bodies of these Saints. Not so bright is the heaven, when the sun sends forth his rays, as is the city of Rome, sending out these two lights into all parts of the world. From thence will Paul be caught up, from thence Peter. Just bethink you, and shudder at the thought of what a sight Rome will see, when Paul ariseth suddenly from that deposit, together with Peter, and is lifted up to meet the Lord. What a rose will Rome send up to Christ! What two crowns will the city have about it! What golden chains will she be girded with! What fountains possess!
Therefore I admire the city, not for the much gold, not for the columns, not for the other display there, but for these pillars of the Church. Would that it were now given me to throw myself round the body of Paul, and be riveted to the tomb, and to see the dust of that body that “filled up that which was lacking” after “Christ”, that bore “the marks” that sowed the Gospel everywhere yea, the dust of that body through which he ran to and fro everywhere! the dust of that body through which Christ spoke, and the Light shone forth more brilliant than any lightning, and the voice started out, more awful than any thunder to the devils! through which he uttered that blessed voice, saying, “I could wish that myself were accursed, for my brethren”, through which he spake “before kings, and was not ashamed!” through which we come to know Paul through which also Paul’s Master! Not so awful to us is the thunder, as was that voice to the demons! For if they shuddered at his clothes, much more did they at his voice. This led them away captive, this cleansed out the world, this put a stop to diseases, cast out vice, lifted the truth on high, had Christ riding upon it, and everywhere went about with Him; and what the Cherubim were, this was Paul’s voice, for as He was seated upon those Powers, so was He upon Paul’s tongue. For it had become worthy of receiving Christ, by speaking those things only which were acceptable to Christ, and flying as the Seraphim to height unspeakable! for what more lofty than that voice which says, “For I am persuaded that neither Angels, nor Principalities, nor Powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus?”
What pinions doth not this discourse seem to thee to have? what eyes? It was owing to this that he said, “for we are not ignorant of his devices.” Owing to this did the devils flee not only at hearing him speak, but even at seeing his garments. This is the mouth, the dust whereof I would fain see, through which Christ spake the great and secret things, and greater than in His own person, (for as He wrought, so He also spake greater things by the disciples,) through which the Spirit gave those wondrous oracles to the world! For what good thing did not that mouth effect? Devils it drove out, sins it loosed, tyrants it muzzled, philosophers’ mouths it stopped, the world it brought over to God, savages it persuaded to learn wisdom, all the whole order of the earth it altered. Things in Heaven too it disposed what way it listed, binding whom it would, and loosing in the other world, “according unto the power given unto it.”
Nor is it that mouth only, but the heart too would fain see the dust of, which a man would not do wrong to call the heart of the world, and a fountain of countless blessings, and a beginning, and element of our life. For the spirit of life was furnished out of it all, and was distributed through the members of Christ, not as being sent forth by arteries, but by a free choice of good deeds. This heart was so large, as to take in entire cities, and peoples, and nations. “For my heart” he says, “is enlarged.”
Yet even a heart thus large, did this very charity that enlarged it many a time straiten and oppress. For he says, “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you.” I were desirous to see that heart even after its dissolution, which burned at each one that was lost, which travailed a second time with the children that had proved abortions, which saw God, (“for the pure in heart,” He says, “shall see God,”) which became a Sacrifice, (“for a sacrifice to God is a contrite heart,”) which was loftier than the heavens, which was wider than the world, which was brighter than the sun’s beam, which was warmer than fire, which was stronger than adamant, which sent forth rivers, (“for rivers,” it says, “of living water shall flow out of his belly”) wherein was a fountain springing up, and watering, not the face of the earth, but the souls of men, whence not rivers only, but even fountains of tears, issued day and night, which lived the new life, not this of ours, (for “I live,” he says, “yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” so Paul’s heart was His heart, and a tablet of the Holy Spirit, and a book of grace); which trembled for the sins of others, (for I fear, he says, lest by any means “I have bestowed labor upon you in vain; lest as the serpent beguiled Eve; lest when I come I should find you not such as I would;”) which both feared for itself, and was confiding too, (for I fear, he says, “lest by any means after having preached to others I myself should be a castaway,” And, “I am persuaded that neither angels nor powers shall be able to separate us;”) which was counted Worthy to love Christ as no other man loved Him: which despised death and hell, yet was broken down by brothers’ tears, (for he says, “what mean ye to weep and to break mine heart?”) which was most enduring, and yet could not bear to be absent from the Thessalonians by the space of an hour!
Fain would I see the dust of hands that were in a chain, through the imposition of which the Spirit was furnished, through which the divine writings were written, (for “behold how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand:” and again, “The salutation of me Paul with mine own hand,”) of those hands at the sight of which the serpent “fell off into the fire.”
Fain would I see the dust of those eyes which were blinded gloriously, which recovered their sight again for the salvation of the world; which even in the body were counted worthy to see Christ, which saw earthly things, yet saw them not, which saw the things which are not seen, which saw not sleep, which were watchful at midnight, which were not effected as eyes are.
I would also see the dust of those feet, which ran through the world and were not weary; which were bound in the stocks when the prison shook, which went through parts habitable or uninhabited, which walked on so many journeys. And why need I speak of single parts?
Fain would I see the tomb, where the armor of righteousness is laid up, the armor o [ light, the limbs which now live, but which in life were made dead; and in all whereof Christ lived, which were crucified to the world, which were Christ’s members, which were clad in Christ, were a temple of the Spirit, an holy building, “bound in the Spirit,” riveted to the fear of God, which had the marks of Christ. This body is a wall to that City, which is safer than all towers, and than thousands of battlements.
And with it is that of Peter. For he honored him while alive. For he “went up to see Peter.” and therefore even when departed grace deigned to give him the same abode with him. Fain would I see the spiritual Lion. For as a lion breathing forth fire upon the herds of foxes, so rushed he upon the clan of demons and philosophers, and as the burst of some thunderbolt, was borne down into the host of the devil. For he did not even come to set the battle in array against him, since he feared so and trembled at him, as that if he saw his shadow, and heard his voice, he fled even at a distance. And so did he deliver over to him the fornicator, though at a distance, and again snatched him out of his hands; and so others also, that they might be taught “not to blaspheme.” And consider how he sent forth his own liegemen against him, rousing them, suppling them. And at one time he says to the Ephesians, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers.” Then too he puts our prize in heavenly places. For we struggle not for things of the earth, he says, but for Heaven, and the things in the Heavens. And to others, he says, “Know ye not that we shall judge Angels? how much more the things of this life?”
Let us then, laying all this to heart, stand nobly; for Paul was a man, partaking of the same nature with us, and having everything else in common with us. But because he showed such great love toward Christ, he went up above the Heavens, and stood with the Angels. And so if we too would rouse ourselves up some little, and kindle in ourselves that fire, we shall be able to emulate that holy man. For were this impossible, he would never have cried aloud, and said, “Be ye imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
Let us not then admire him only, or be struck with him only, but imitate him, that we too may, when we depart hence, be counted worthy to see him, and to share the glory unutterable, which God grant that we may all attain to by the grace and love toward man of our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom, and with Whom, be glory to the Father, with the Holy Ghost, now and evermore. Amen.