Coming in three volumes and one of his many major works, St.John Chrysostoms homilies on the Gospel of Matthew make for an incredible read. I can think of no better way to study the Gospel of Matthew or scripture for that matter, than through the eyes of the Early Church fathers and the most noble of them all, St.John Chrysostom.
His feast was only a over a week ago, yet even on the Feast of the Apostle Matthew, St.John again warrants a worthy mention. The only difficulty one will have when reading the homilies, is having to wrestle with the old English, depending upon what translation you currently are in possession of.
I am using the forgotten books classic reprint series, but there are several translations out there worthy of consideration also.
A lot of people tend to make premature judgments about reading the Church fathers that somehow they’re out of date, and their homolies no longer relevant to the culture of today. People who approach the fathers like this have no idea how wrong they are and what it is they’re missing.
Whenever I read St.John Chrysostom, he’s preaching to the culture of his time, which is not much different than our own today. He talks about the amphitheatre’s, people who are rich and take great pleasure in their homes over and above the care for their souls. He often reprimands his congregation for saying they’ve no time for educating their kids in the faith or coming to Church, yet they’ve plenty of money to watch the horse races or go to the theatre.
Does all of this not sound like someone you know? How many of us like to pay the cinema a visit, watch boxing matches and bet on the local horses and lament we’ve no money or time to offer the poor and the Church? Reading St.John Chrysostom will not reveal to us something that is out of date, but a timeless piece of advice. These homilies will give us greater insight into the story of who we are and how, while language and techology is forever changing, the manner in which we entertain ourselves and behave in the public domain, never gets old. We are the same today as we were 2000 years ago….a great big spiritual mess.
when we see any beating and tearing one another: we are apt to stand by, finding pleasure in the disgrace of others, and forming a devilish amphitheatre around: than which what can be more cruel? You see men reviled, tearing each other to pieces, rending their clothes, smiting each other’s faces, and do you endure to stand by quietly?St.John Chrysostom, Homily XV, 14, Gospel of Matthew, 4th Century A.D
What! Is it a bear that is fighting? A wild beast? A serpent? It is a man, one who has in every respect fellowship with you: a brother, a member. Ephesians 4:25 Look not on, but separate them. Take no pleasure, but amend the evil. Stir not up others to the shameful sight, but rather drive off and separate those who are assembled. It is for shameless persons, and born slaves, to take pleasure in such calamities; for those that are mere refuse, for asses without reason.
You see a man behaving himself unseemly, and do you not account the unseemliness your own? Do you not interpose, and scatter the devil’s troop, and put an end to men’s miseries?
”That I may receive blows myself,”
says one; is this also your bidding?
You will not have to suffer even this; but if you should, the thing would be to you a sort of martyrdom; for you suffered on God’s behalf. And if you are slow to receive blows, consider that your Lord was not slow to endure the cross for you.
You can see from the excerpt provided that nothing much has changed in human behaviour. Today we can expect to see videos being uploaded of youths standing around watching boys tear each other apart and do not intervene for fear we ourselves may receive a blow and come to harm. We provide the same excuse today for not breaking up the fight as they did in the 4th century.
We live in a culture today that believes it really is progressing, and that somehow the’ve emerged from the dark ages. On the contrary when we read these homilies of St.John, we soon discover that all that which society holds dear was practiced back then. Abortion, contraception, homoexuality and it’s legalization and acceptance were all something that even pre-dated the dark ages. Truth be told, every single culture and age has always viewed itself as ”progressive”. ”What is next?” people say, ”what could possibly be invented and where do we go from here?” Such are the sayings of everyone from the time of Moses, the Jews, the Romans and up to the present time. We are always singing of our progress yet a little reading of historical homilies like this reveal that the real progression is to rebel against the world and become a Christian, to become crucified as St.Matthew did, to all the rubbish the world has on offer.
St.Matthew, on your glorious feast, please pray for those of us who have yet to see that to be modern and present in this world, there is an urgent need to become Christian.