The wise men teach us

As I make my way through the sermons of St John Chrysostom, I am reminded of many things that I wish to share with my parish. This makes for very slow reading!

St John ALWAYS emphasizes the MORAL aspects of the scripture. Everything in the scripture is about morality, that is, following God’s law, because it is the way of life. Every story, every character, good or bad, every event, every dogma expressed must remind of of how to live the moral way of life.

I have many times told you that we must read the scriptures in such a way that they apply to us personally. We must assume that each word is meant for us, and attempt to glean the most benefit possible from it. To do this takes a little creativity at times.

Below is an example from St John’s sermons. He had just finished a wonderful exposition of the visit of the wise men to the Christ child, and as is his wont, immediately applies this to the morality or lack thereof of his audience.

He deftly teaches us to use the story of the wise men as a sort of mnemonic device, a spur for our memory, when we are tempted to be lazy and indifferent. Read and learn how a holy man uses the scripture to teach himself to be holy. It is invigorating to read St John’s holy admonitions! He is so fervent, and creative, and frightening. Sometimes it seems as if he can see into our very souls.

And let us cast everything out of our hands when we are to worship; though it be gold that we have, let us offer it unto him and not bury it. For if those barbarians [the wise men, (priest seraphim)] then offered it for honor, what will become of thee, not giving even to Him that hath need?
If those men journeyed so far to see Him newly born, what sort of excuse wilt thou have, not going out of thy way one alley’s length, that thou mayest visit Him sick or in bonds?
And yet when they are sick or in bonds, even our enemies have our pity; thine is denied even to thy Benefactor and Lord.
And they offered gold, thou hardly givest bread.
They saw the star and were glad, thou, seeing Christ Himself a stranger and naked, art not moved.
For which of you, for Christ’s sake, hath made so long a pilgrimage, you that have received countless benefits, as these barbarians, or rather, these wiser than the wisest philosophers?

And why say I, so long a journey? Nay, many of our women are so delicate, that they go not over so much as one crossing of the streets to behold Him on the spiritual manger, Or, “Spiritual Table.” [He is talking about coming to the services here (priest seraphim)] unless they can have mules to draw them. And others being able to walk, yet prefer to their attendance here, some a crowd of worldly business, some the theatres.

Whereas the barbarians accomplished so great a journey for His sake, before seeing Him; thou not even after thou hast seen Him dost emulate them, but forsakest Him after seeing Him, and runnest to see the stage player. … And seeing Christ lying in the manger, thou leavest Him, that thou mayest see women on the stage.

NPNF1-10. St. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew. Homily VII. Matt. II. 4, 5:

(I WOULD APPRECIATE IT IS SOMEONE SENT THE LINK TO THIS SERMON IN RUSSIAN TEXT. I ASSUME IT IS ONLINE SOMEWHERE. As I have said before, I must at this time write in English, and most of what I write will be untranslated, but I wish that everything on this blog is accessible to as many people as possible)


St John continues to rail against the immorality of his time. I have only included a portion of his admonition (and he was only just getting warmed up!) I cannot see any difference in the events he later describes and watching half naked dancers try to win some stupid prize on TV, or indulging in the trash that passes for entertainment these days.

It would be good for you to read it. Here is the link: The text I have cited is near the end of the sermon. He who has ears to hear and eyes which see things that should not be seen, let him hear.

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