Thought for the Day – 5 November – Excerpt from St John Chrysostom’s ((347-407) Homiletic Commentary on Matthew 23:1-12
“And where shall we find this humility? Will ye that we go again to the city of virtue, the tents of the holy men, the mountains. I mean and the groves? For there too shall we see this height of humility.
For men, some illustrious from their rank in the world, some from their wealth, in every way put themselves down, by their vesture, by their dwelling, by those to whom they minister; and, as in written characters, they throughout all things inscribe humility.
And the things that are incentives of arrogance, as to dress well and to build houses splendidly and to have many servants, things which often drive men even against their will to arrogance; these are all taken away. For they themselves light their fire, they themselves cleave the logs, themselves cook, themselves minister to those that come there.
No one can be heard insulting there, nor seen insulted, nor commanded, nor giving commands; but all are devoted to those that are waited on and every one washes the strangers’ feet, and there is much contention about this. And he doeth it, not inquiring who it is, neither if he be a slave, nor if he be free; but in the case of every one fulfills this service. No man there is great nor mean. What then? Is there confusion? Far from it but the highest order. For if any one be mean, he that is great seeth not this but hath accounted himself again to be inferior even to him and so becomes great.
There is one table for all, both for them that are served and for them that serve; the same food, the same clothes, the same dwellings, the same manner of life. He is great there, who eagerly seizes the mean task. There is not mine and thine but this expression is exterminated, that is a cause of countless wars.
4. And why dost thou marvel, if there be one manner of life and table and dress for all, since indeed there is even one soul to all, not in substance only (for this is with all men also) but in love? How then should it ever be lifted up itself against itself? There is no wealth and poverty there, honour and dishonour; how then should haughtiness and arrogance find an entrance? For they are indeed little and great in respect of their virtue; but, as I have said, no one seeth this. He that is little, feels not pain, as despised; for neither is there any one to despise him; and should any one spurn him, this above all are they taught, to be despised, to be spurned, to be set at nought, in word and in deed. And with the poor and maimed do they associate and their tables are full of these guests; so that for this are they worthy of the heavens. And one tends the wounds of the mutilated, another leads the blind by the hand, a third bears him that is lamed of his leg.
There is no multitude of flatterers or parasites there; or rather they know not even what flattery is; whence then could they be lifted up at any time? For there is great equality amongst them, wherefore also there is much facility for virtue.
For by these are they of an inferior sort better instructed, than if they were compelled to give up the first place to them.
For like as the impetuous man derives instruction from him that is smitten and submits to it; so the ambitious from him that claims not glory but despises it. This they do there abundantly and as the strife is great with us to obtain the first place, so great is it with them not to obtain it but utterly to refuse it and great is their earnest desire who shall have the advantage in honouring, not in being honoured.