Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
For unto Angels He has not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? You made him a little lower than the Angels.
1. I could have wished to know for certain whether any hear with fitting earnestness the things that are said, whether we are not casting the seeds by the wayside: for in that case I should have made my instructions with more cheerfulness. For we shall speak, though no one hear, for the fear which is laid on us by our Saviour. For, says He, testify to this people; even if they hear not, you shall yourself be guiltless. See Ezekiel 3:19 If however I had been persuaded of your earnestness, I should have spoken not for fear only, but should have done it with pleasure also. For now indeed, even if no man hear, even if my work, so long as I fulfill my own part, brings no danger, still the labor is not altogether pleasant. For what profit is it, when though I be not blamed, yet no one is benefited? But if any would give heed we shall receive advantage not so much from avoiding punishment ourselves as from your progress.
How then shall I know this? Having taken notice of some of you, who are not very attentive, I shall question them privately, when I meet them. And if I find that they retain any of the things that have been spoken (I say not all, for this would not be very easy for you), but even if [they retain] a few things out of many, it is plain I should have no further doubts about the rest. And indeed we ought, without giving notice beforehand, to have attacked you when off your guard. However it will suffice, if even in this way I should be able to attain my purpose. Nay rather, even as it is, I can attack you when you are off your guard. For that I shall question you, I have forewarned you; but when I shall question you I do not as yet make evident. For perhaps it may be today; perhaps tomorrow, perhaps after twenty or thirty days, perhaps after fewer, perhaps after more. Thus has God also made uncertain the day of our death. Nor has He allowed it be clear to us, whether it shall befall us today, or tomorrow, or after a whole year, or after many years; that through the uncertainty of the expectation we may through all time keep ourselves firm in virtue. And that we shall indeed depart, He has said — but when, He has not yet said. Thus too I have said that I shall question you, but I have not added when, wishing you always to be thoughtful.
And let no man say, I heard these things four or five weeks ago, or more, and I cannot retain them. For I wish the hearer so to retain them as to have his recollection perpetual and not apt to fade, nor yet that he should disown what is spoken. For I wish you to retain them, not, in order to tell them to me, but that you may have profit; and this is of most serious interest to me. Let no one then say this.
2. However, I must now begin with what follows in the epistle. What then is set before us to speak on today?
For not to angels, he says,
did He put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. Is he then discoursing concerning some other world? No, but concerning this. Therefore he added
whereof we speak, that he might not allow the mind to wander away in search of some other. How then does he call it
the world to come? Exactly as he also says in another place,
Who is the figure of him that was to come, Romans 5:14, when he is speaking about Adam and Christ in the Epistle to the Romans; calling Christ according to the flesh
Him that was to come in respect of the times of Adam, (for [then] He was to come). So now also, since he had said,
but when he brings in the First-Begotten into the world: that you might not suppose that he is speaking of another world, it is made certain from many considerations and from his saying
to come. For the world was to come, but the Son of God always was. This world then which was about to come, He put in subjection not to Angels but to Christ. For that this is spoken with reference to the Son (he says) is evident: for surely no one would assert the other alternative, that it had reference to Angels.
Then he brings forward another testimony also and says,
but one in a certain place testified, saying. Wherefore did he not mention the name of the prophet, but hid it? Yea, and in other testimonies also he does this: as when he says,
but when He brings in again the First-Begotten into the world, He says, And let all the Angels of God worship Him. And again, I will be to Him a Father. And of the Angels He says, Who makes His angels spirits. And, You, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundations of the earth c. i. 6, 5, 7, 10:— so also here he says,
but one in a certain place testified, saying. And this very thing (I conceive) is the act of one that conceals himself, and shows that they were well skilled in the Scriptures; his not setting down him who uttered the testimony, but introducing it as familiar and obvious.
What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that Thou visitest him? You made him a little lower than the angels: You crowned him with glory and honor. Hebrews 2:8
You have put all things in subjection under his feet.
Now although these things were spoken of human nature generally, they would nevertheless apply more properly to Christ according to the flesh. For this,
You have put all things in subjection under his feet, belongs to Him rather than to us. For the Son of God visited us when we were nothing: and after having assumed our [nature], and united it to Himself, He became higher than all.
For, he says,
in that He has put all things in subjection under Him, He left nothing not put under Him: but now we see not yet all things put under Him. What he means is this:— since he had said,
Until I make Your enemies Your footstool Hebrews 1:13 — and it was likely that they would still be grieved — then having inserted a few things after this parenthetically, he added this testimony in confirmation of the former. For that they might not say, How is it that He has put His enemies under His feet, when we have suffered so much? He sufficiently hinted at it in the former place indeed (for the word
until showed, not what should take place immediately, but in course of time) but here he follows it up. For do not suppose (he says) that because they have not yet been made subject, they are not to be made subject: for that they must be made subject, is evident; for, on this account was the prophecy spoken.
For, he says,
in that He has put all things under Him, He left nothing not put under Him. How then is it that all things have not been put under Him? Because they are hereafter to be put under Him.
If then all things must be made subject to Him, but have not yet been made subject, do not grieve, nor trouble yourself. If indeed when the end had come, and all things were made subject, thou were still suffering these things, with reason would you repine:
But now we see not yet all things put under Him. The King has not yet clearly conquered. Why then are you troubled when suffering affliction? The preaching [of the Gospel] has not yet prevailed over all; it is not yet time that they should be altogether made subject.
3. Then again there is another consolation if indeed He who is hereafter to have all put in subjection under Him, has Himself also died and submitted to sufferings innumerable. Hebrews 2:9
But, he says,
we see Him who was made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, for the suffering of death — then the good things again —
a little, would rather suit Him, who was only three days in Hades, but not ourselves who are for a long time in corruption. Likewise also the [expression]
Again, he reminds them of the Cross, thereby effecting two things; both showing His care [for them] and persuading them to bear all things nobly, looking to the Master. For (he would say) if He who is worshipped of Angels, for your sake endured to have a little less than the Angels, much more ought thou who art inferior to the Angels, to bear all things for His sake. Then he shows that the Cross is
That the Son of Man might be glorified John 11:5; and,
the Son of Man is glorified. John 12:23 If then He calls the [sufferings] for His servants' sake
Do you see the fruit of the Cross, how great it is? fear not the matter: for it seems to you indeed to be dismal, but it brings forth good things innumerable. From these considerations he shows the benefit of trial. Then he says,
That He by the grace of God should taste death for every man.
grace of God towards us suffered these things.
He who spared not His Own Son, he says,
but delivered Him up for us all. Romans 8:32 Why? He did not owe us this, but has done it of grace. And again in the Epistle to the Romans he says,
Much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace which is by one man Jesus Christ, has abounded unto many. Romans 5:15
That by the grace of God He should taste death for every man, not for the faithful only, but even for the whole world: for He indeed died for all; But what if all have not believed? He has fulfilled His own [part].
Moreover he said rightly
taste death for every man, he did not say
die. For as if He really was tasting it, when He had spent a little time therein, He immediately arose.
By saying then
for the suffering of death, he signified real death, and by saying
superior to angels, he declared the resurrection. For as a physician though not needing to taste the food prepared for the sick man, yet in his care for him tastes first himself, that he may persuade the sick man with confidence to venture on the food, so since all men were afraid of death, in persuading them to take courage against death, He tasted it also Himself though He needed not.
For, He says,
the prince of this world comes and finds nothing in Me. John 14:30 So both the words
by grace and
should taste death for every man, establish this.
For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. He speaks here of the Father. Do you see how again he applies the [expression]
by whom to Him? Which he would not have done, had it been [an expression] of inferiority, and only applicable to the Son. And what he says is this:— He has done what is worthy of His love towards mankind, in showing His First-born to be more glorious than all, and in setting Him forth as an example to the others, like some noble wrestler that surpasses the rest.
The Captain of their salvation, that is, the Cause of their salvation. Do you see how great is the space between? Both He is a Son, and we are sons; but He saves, we are saved. Do you see how He both brings us together and then separates us;
bringing, he says,
many sons unto glory: here he brings us together —
the Captain of their salvation, again he separates.
To make perfect through sufferings. Then sufferings are a perfecting, and a cause of salvation. Do you see that to suffer affliction is not the portion of those who are utterly forsaken; if indeed it was by this that God first honored His Son, by leading Him through sufferings? And truly His taking flesh to suffer what He did suffer, is a far greater thing than making the world, and bringing it out of things that are not. This indeed also is [a token] of His loving-kindness, but the other far more. And [the Apostle] himself also pointing out this very thing, says,
That in the ages to come He might show forth the exceeding riches of His goodness, He both raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:7
For it became Him for whom are all things and by whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For (he means) it became Him who takes tender care, and brought all things into being, to give up the Son for the salvation of the rest, the One for the many. However he did not express himself thus, but,
to make perfect through sufferings, showing the suffering for any one, not merely profits
him, but he himself also becomes more glorious and more perfect. And this too he says in reference to the faithful, comforting them by the way: for Christ was glorified then when He suffered. But when I say, He was glorified, do not suppose that there was an accession of glory to Him: for that which is of nature He always had, and received nothing in addition.
For, he says,
both He that sanctifies, and they who are sanctified, are all of one, for which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Behold again how he brings [them] together, honoring and comforting them, and making them brethren of Christ, in this respect that they are
of one. Then again guarding himself and showing that he is speaking of that which is according to the flesh, he introduces,
For He who sanctifies, [i.e.] Christ,
and they who are sanctified, ourselves. Do you see how great is the difference? He sanctifies, we are sanctified. And above he said, 1 Corinthians 8:6
For which cause He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Do you see how again he shows the superiority? For by saying,
He is not ashamed, he shows that the whole comes not of the nature of the thing, but of the loving affection of Him who was
not ashamed of anything, [yea] of His great humility. For though we be
of one, yet He sanctifies and we are sanctified: and great is the difference. Moreover
He is of the Father, as a true Son, that is, of His substance;
we, as created, that is, brought out of things that are not, so that the difference is great. Wherefore he says,
He is not ashamed to call them brethren Hebrews 2:12,
saying, I will declare Your name unto My brethren. Psalm 22:22 For when He clothed Himself with flesh, He clothed Himself also with the brotherhood, and at the same time came in the brotherhood.
This indeed he brings forward naturally. But this
I will put my trust in Him 2 Samuel 22:3, what does it mean? For what follows this is also [introduced] naturally.
Behold, I and the children which God has given Me. 385 8:18 For as here He shows Himself a Father, so before, a Brother.
I will declare Your name unto My brethren, He says.
And again he indicates the superiority and the great interval [between us], by what follows Hebrews 2:14:
Since then the children, he says,
are partakers of flesh and blood you see where he says the likeness is? In reference to the flesh),
in like manner He also Himself took part of the same. Let all the Heretics be ashamed, let those hide their faces who say that He came in appearance and not in reality. For he did not say,
He took part of these only, and then say no more; although had he said thus, it would have been sufficient, but he asserted something more, adding
in like manner, not in appearance, he means, or by an image (since in that case
in like manner is not preserved) but in reality; showing the brotherhood.
Here he points out the wonder, that by what the devil prevailed, by that was he overcome, and the very thing which was his strong weapon against the world, [namely], Death, by this Christ smote him. In this he exhibits the greatness of the conqueror's power. Do you see how great good death has wrought?
And should deliver them, he says,
who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Why (he means) do ye shudder? Why do you fear him that has been brought to nought? He is no longer terrible, but has been trodden under foot, has been utterly despised; he is vile and of no account. 2 Timothy 1:10
But what is
through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage? He either means this, that he who fears death is a slave, and submits to all things rather than die; or this, that all men were slaves of death and were held under his power, because he had not yet been done away; or that men lived in continual fear, ever expecting that they should die, and being afraid of death, could have no sense of pleasure, while this fear was present with them. For this he hinted at in saying,
All their life-time. He here shows that the afflicted, the harassed, the persecuted, those that are deprived of country and of substance and of all other things, spend their lives more sweetly and more freely than they of old time who were in luxury, who suffered no such afflictions, who were in continual prosperity, if indeed these
all their life-time were under this fear and were slaves; while the others have been made free and laugh at that which they shudder at. For this is now as if, when one was being led away to a captivity leading to death, and in continual expectation of it, one should feed him up with abundant dainties (something such as this was Death of old); but now, as if some one taking away that fear together with the dainties, were to promise a contest, and propose a combat that should lead no longer to death, but to a kingdom. Of which number would you have wished to be — those who are fed up in the prison-house, while every day looking for their sentence, or those who contend much and labor willingly, that they may crown themselves with the diadem of the kingdom? Do you see how he has raised up their soul, and made them elated? He shows too, that not death alone has been put an end to, but that thereby he also who is ever showing that war without truce against us, I mean the devil, has been brought to nought; since he that fears not death is out of reach of the devil's tyranny. For if
skin for skin, yea all things a man would give for his life Job 2:4— when any one has determined to disregard even this, of what henceforward will he be the slave? He fears no one, he is in terror of no one, he is higher than all, and more free than all. For he that disregards his own life, much more [does he disregard] all other things. And when the devil finds a soul such as this, he can accomplish in it none of his works. For what? Tell me, shall he threaten the loss of property, and degradation, and banishment from one's country? But these are small matters to him who
counts not even his life dear Acts 20:24 unto him, according to the blessed Paul. You see that in casting out the tyranny of death, he also overthrew the strength of the devil. For he who has learned to study innumerable [truths] concerning the resurrection, how should he fear death? How should he shudder any more?
7. Therefore be ye not grieved, saying, why do we suffer such and such things? For so the victory becomes more glorious. And it would not have been glorious, unless by death He had destroyed death; but the most wonderful thing is that He conquered him by the very means by which he was strong, showing in every point the abundance of His means, and the excellence of His contrivances. Let us not then prove false to the gift bestowed on us.
For we, he says, Romans 8:15; 2 Timothy 1:7 Let us stand then nobly, laughing death to scorn.
But [I pause] for it comes over me to groan bitterly [at the thought of] whither Christ has raised us up, and whither we have brought ourselves down. For when I see the wailings in the public places, the groanings over those departing life, the howlings, the other unseemly behavior, believe me, I am ashamed before those heathen, and Jews, and heretics who see it, and before all who for this cause openly laugh us to scorn. For whatever I may afterwards say, I shall talk to no purpose, when philosophizing concerning the resurrection. Why? Because the heathen do not attend to what is said by me, but to what is done by you. For they will say at once, 'when will any of these [fellows] be able to despise death, when he is not able to see another dead?'
Beautiful things were spoken by Paul, beautiful and worthy of Heaven, and of the love of God to man. For what does he say?
And He shall deliver them who through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage. But ye do not allow these things to be believed, fighting against them by your deeds. And yet many things exist for this very end, God building a stronghold against it, that He might destroy this same evil custom. For tell me, what mean the bright torches? Do we not send them before as athletes? And what [mean] the hymns? Do we not glorify God, and give thanks that at last He has crowned the departed one, that He has freed him from his labors, that taking away uncertainty, He has him with Himself? Are not the Hymns for this? Is not Psalmody for this? All these are the acts of those rejoicing.
For, it is said,
is any merry? Let him sing psalms. James 5:13 But to these things the heathen give no heed. For (one will say) do not tell me of him who is philosophical when out of the affliction, for this is nothing great or surprising — show me a man who in the very affliction itself is philosophical, and then I will believe the resurrection,
And indeed, that women engaged in the affairs of this life should act thus is no way surprising. And yet indeed this even is dreadful; for from them also is the same philosophy required. Wherefore also Paul says,
But concerning them which are asleep, I would not have you ignorant, that you sorrow not even as the rest who have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13 He wrote not this to solitaries, nor to perpetual virgins, but to women and men in the world. But however this is not so dreadful. But when any man or woman, professing to be crucified to the world, he tears his hair, and she shrieks violently — what can be more unseemly than this? Believe me when I say if things were done as they ought, such persons should be excluded for a long time from the thresholds of the Church. For those who are indeed worthy of being grieved for, are these who still fear and shudder at death, who have no faith in the resurrection.
'But I do not disbelieve the resurrection' (one says) 'but I long after his society.' Why then, tell me, when he goes from home, and that for a long absence, dost not thou do the same? 'Yea, but I do weep then also' (she says) 'and mourn as I long after him.' But that is the conduct of those that really long after their associates, this that of her who despairs of his return.
Think, what you sing on that occasion,
Return unto your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116:7 And again, Psalm 23:4 And again,
You are my refuge from the affliction which encompasses me. Psalm 32:7 Think what these Psalms mean. But thou dost not give heed, but art drunk from grief.
Consider carefully the funeral lamentations of others that you may have a remedy in your own case.
Return, O my soul, to your rest, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Tell me, do you say that the Lord has dealt bountifully with you, and weepest? Is not this mere acting, is it not hypocrisy? For if indeed thou really believest the things you say, your sorrow is superfluous: but if you are in sport and acting a part, and thinkest these things fables, why do you sing psalms? Why do you even endure the attendants? Why do you not drive away the singers? But this would be the act of madmen. And yet far more the other.
For the present, then, I advise you: but as time goes on, I shall treat the matter more seriously: for indeed I am greatly afraid that by this practice some grievous disease may make its way into the Church. The case of the wailings then we will hereafter correct. And meanwhile I charge and testify, both to rich and poor, both to women and men.
May God indeed grant that you all depart out of life unwailed, and according to the fitting rule fathers now grown old may be attended to their graves by sons, and mothers by daughters, and grand-children, and great grand-children, in a green old age, and that untimely death may in no case occur. May this then be, and this I pray, and I exhort the prelates and all of you to beseech God for each other, and to make this prayer in common. But if (which God forbid, and may it never happen) any bitter death should occur, bitter, I mean, not in its nature (for henceforth there is no bitter death, for it differs not at all from sleep), but bitter in regard of your disposition, if it should happen, and any should hire these mourning women, believe me when I say (I speak not without meaning but as I have resolved, let him who will, be angry), that person we will exclude from the Church for a long time, as we do the idolater. For if Paul calls
the covetous man an idolater Ephesians 5:5, much more him who brings in the practices of the idolaters over a believer.
For, tell me, for what cause do you invite presbyters, and the singers? Is it not to afford consolation? Is it not to honor the departed? Why then do you insult him? And why do you make him a public show? And why do you make game as on a stage? We come, discoursing of the things concerning the resurrection, instructing all, even those who have not yet been smitten, by the honor shown to him, to bear it nobly if any such thing should happen and do you bring those who overthrow our [teachings] as much as in them lies? What can be worse than this ridicule and mockery? What more grievous than this inconsistency?
8. Be ashamed and show reverence: but if you will not, we cannot endure the bringing in upon the Church of practices so destructive. For, it is said,
them that sin rebuke before all. 1 Timothy 5:20 And as to those miserable and wretched women, we through you forbid them ever to introduce themselves into the funerals of the faithful, lest we should oblige them in good earnest to wail over their own evils, and teach them not to do these things in the ills of others, but rather to weep for their own misfortunes. For an affectionate father too, when he has a disorderly son, not only advises him not to draw near to the wicked, but puts them in fear also. Behold then, I advise you, and those women through you, that you do not invite such persons, and that they do not attend. And may God grant that my words may produce some effect, and that my threat may avail. But if (which God forbid) we should be disregarded, we have no choice henceforward but to put our threat into execution, chastising you by the laws of the Church, and those women as befits them.
Now if any man is obstinate and contemptuous, let him hear Christ saying even now,
If any one trespass against you, go, tell him his fault between you and him alone; but if he will not be persuaded,
take with you one or two. But if even so he contradict,
tell it to the Church, but if he shall also refuse to hear the Church, let him be unto you as a heathen man and a publican. Matthew 18:15-17 Now if when a man trespasses against me, and will not be persuaded, [the Lord] commands me thus to turn away from him, judge ye in what light I ought to hold him who trespasses against himself, and against God. For do not you yourselves condemn us when we come down so gently upon you?
If however any man disregard the bonds which we inflict, again let Christ instruct him, saying,
Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 For though we ourselves be miserable and good for nothing and worthy to be despised, as indeed we are; yet are we not avenging ourselves nor warding off anger, but are caring for your salvation.
Be influenced by reverence, I beseech you, and respect. For if a man bear with a friend when he attacks him more vehemently than he ought, ascertaining his object, and that he does it with kind intention, and not out of insolence; much more [should he bear with] a teacher when rebuking him, and a teacher who does not himself say these things as of authority, nor as one in the position of a ruler, but in that of a kindly guardian. For we do not say these things as wishing to exhibit our authority, (for how could we, praying that we may never come to the trial of them?) but grieving and lamenting for you.
Forgive me then, and let no man disregard the bonds of the Church. For it is not man who binds, but Christ who has given unto us this authority, and makes men lords of this so great dignity. For we indeed wish to use this power for loosing; or rather, we wish to have no need even of that, for we wish that there should not be any bound among us — we are not so miserable and wretched [as that] even though some of us are extreme good-for-nothings. If however we be compelled [so to act], forgive us. For it is not of our own accord, nor wishing it, but rather out of sorrow for you that are bound that we put the chains around you. But if any man despise these chains, the time of judgment will come, which shall teach him. And what comes after I do not wish to speak of, lest I should wound your minds. For in the first place indeed we do not wish to be brought into this necessity; but if we are so brought, we fulfill our own part, we cast around the chains. And if any man burst through them, I have done my part, and am henceforth free from blame, and you will have to give account to Him who commanded me to bind.
For neither, when a king is sitting in public, if any of the guard who stand beside him be commanded to bind one of the attendants, and to put the chains around [him], and he should not only thrust this man away, but also break the bonds in pieces, is it the guard who suffers the insult, and not much more the King who gave the order. For if He claim as His own, the things which are done to the faithful, much more will He feel as if Himself insulted when he is insulted who has been appointed to teach.
But God grant that none of those who are over this Church should be driven to the necessity of [inflicting] these bonds. For as it is a good thing not to sin, so is it profitable to endure reproof. Let us then endure the rebuke, and earnestly endeavor not to sin; and if we should sin let us bear the rebuke. For as it is an excellent thing not to be wounded, but, if this should happen, to apply the remedy to the wound, so also in this case.
But God forbid that any man should need such remedies as these.
But we are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation, though we thus speak. Hebrews 6:9 But we have discoursed more vehemently for the sake of greater security. For it is better that I should be suspected by you of being a harsh, and severe, and self-willed person, than that you should do things not approved of God. But we trust in God, that this reproof will not be unserviceable to you, but that you will be so changed, that these discourses may be devoted to encomiums on you and to praises: that we may all be counted worthy to attain to those good things, which God has promised to them that love Him in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father together with the Holy Ghost be glory, might, honor, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.
Source. Translated by Frederic Gardiner. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 14. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/240204.htm>.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is feedback732 at newadvent.org. (To help fight spam, this address might change occasionally.) Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.