The Second Sunday in Lent
ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
1 Kings viii. 37 Psalm 86 1 Thessalonians iv. 1. & St. Matthew xv. 21
And her daughter was made whole from that very hour
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St. John Chrysostom [ca. 400] (published on OC site 2005)
An extract from his Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew
MATT. XV. 21, 22. "And Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto Him,saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil."
BUT Mark saith, that "He could not behid,"though He had entered into the house. And why did He go at all into these parts? When He had set them free from the observance of meats, then to the Gentiles also He goes on to open a door, proceeding in due course; even as Peter, having been first directed to annul this law, is sent to Cornelius.
But if any one should say, "How then, while saying to His disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles,"doth He Himself admit her?" first, this would be our reply, that what He enjoined upon His disciples, He was not Himself also tied to; secondly, that not in order to preach did He depart; which indeed Mark likewise intimating said, He even hid Himself, yet was not concealed.
For as His not hastening to them first was a part of the regular course of His proceedings, so to drive them away when coming to Him was unworthy of His love to man. For if the flying ought to be pursued, much more ought the pursuing not to be avoided.
See at any rate how worthy this woman is of every benefit. For she durst not even come to Jerusalem, fearing, and accounting herself unworthy. For were it not for this, she would have come there, as is evident both from her present earnestness, and from her coming out of her own coasts.
And some also taking it as an allegory say, that when Christ came out of Judea, then the church ventured to approach Him, coming out herself also from her own coasts. For it is said, "Forget thine own people and thy father's house."For both Christ went out of His borders, and the woman out of her borders, and so it became possible for them to fall in with each other: thus He saith, "Behold a woman of Canaan coming out of her own coasts."
The evangelist speaks against the woman, that he may show forth her marvellous act, and celebrate her praise the more. For when thou hearest of a Canaanitish woman, thou shouldest call to mind those wicked nations, who overset from their foundations the very laws of nature. And being reminded of these, consider also the power of Christ's advent. For they who were cast out, that they might not pervert any Jews, these appeared so much better disposed than the Jews, as even to come out of their coasts, and approach Christ; while those were driving Him away, even on His coming unto them.
2. Having then come unto Him, she saith nothing else, but "Have mercy on me," and by her cry brings about them many spectators. For indeed it was a pitiful spectacle to see a woman crying aloud in so great affliction, and that woman a mother, and entreating for a daughter, and for a daughter in such evil case: she not even venturing to bring into the Master's sight her that was possessed, but leaving her to lie at home, and herself making the entreaty.
And she tells her affliction only, and adds nothing more; neither doth she drag the physician to her house, like that nobleman, saying, "Come and lay thy hand upon her," and, "Come down ere my child die."
But having described both her calamity, and the intensity of the disease, she pleads the Lord's mercy, and cries aloud; and she saith not, "Have mercy on my daughter," but, "Have mercy on me." For she indeed is insensible of her disease, but it is I that suffer her innumerable woes; my disease is with consciousness, my madness with perception of itself.
2. "But He answered her not a word."
What is this new and strange thing? the Jews in their perverseness He leads on, and blaspheming He entreats them, and tempting Him He dismisses them not; but to her, running unto Him, and entreating, and beseeching Him, to her who had been educated neither in the law, nor in the prophets, and was exhibiting so great reverence; to her He doth not vouchsafe so much as an answer.
Whom would not this have offended, seeing the facts so opposite to the report? For whereas they had heard, that He went about the villages healing, her, when she had come to Him, He utterly repels. And who would not have been moved by her affliction, and by the supplication she made for her daughter in such evil case? For not as one worthy, nor as demanding a due, not so did she approach Him, but she entreated that she might find mercy, and merely gave a lamentable account of her own affliction; yet is she not counted worthy of so much as an answer.
Perhaps many of the hearers were offended, but she was not offended. And why say I, of the hearers? For I suppose that even the very disciples must have been in some degree affected at the woman's affliction, and have been greatly troubled, and out of heart.
Nevertheless not even in this trouble did they venture to say, "Grant her this favor," but, "His disciples came and besought Him, saying, Send her away, for she crieth after us." For we too, when we wish to persuade any one, oftentimes say the contrary.
But Christ saith, "I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
What then did the woman, after she heard this? Was she silent, and did she desist? or did she relax her earnestness? By no means, but she was the more instant. But it is not so with us; rather, when we fail to obtain, we desist; whereas it ought to make us the more urgent.
And yet, who would not have been driven to perplexity by the word which was then spoken? Why His silence were enough to drive her to despair, but His answer did so very much more. For together with herself, to see them also in utter perplexity that were pleading with her, and to hear that the thing is even impossible to be done, was enough to cast her into unspeakable perplexity.
Yet nevertheless the woman was not perplexed, but on seeing her advocates prevail nothing, she made herself shameless with a goodly shamelessness.
For whereas before this she had not ventured so much as to come in sight (for "she crieth," it is said, "after us"), when one might expect that she should rather depart further off in utter despair, at that very time she comes nearer, and worships, saying, "Lord, help me."
What is this, O woman? Hast thou then greater confidence than the apostles? more abundant strength? "Confidence and strength," saith she, "by no means; nay, I am even full of shame. Yet nevertheless my very shamelessness do I put forward for entreaty; He will respect my confidence." And what is this? Heardest thou not Him saying, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel? "I heard," saith she, "but He Himself is Lord." Wherefore neither did she say, "Entreat and beseech," but, "Help me."
3. What then saith Christ? Not even with all this was He satisfied, but He makes her perplexity yet more intense again, saying,
"It is not meet to take the children's bread and to cast it to the dogs."
And when He vouchsafed her a word, then He smote her more sharply than by His silence. And no longer doth He refer the cause to another, nor say, "I am not sent," but the more urgent she makes her entreaty, so much the more doth He also urge His denial. And He calls them no longer "sheep," but "children," and her "a dog."
What then saith the woman? Out of His own very words she frames her plea. "Why, though I be a dog," said she, "I am not an alien."
Justly did Christ say, "For judgment am I come."The woman practises high self-command, and shows forth all endurance and faith, and this, receiving insult; but they, courted and honored, requite it with the contrary.
For, "that food is necessary for the children," saith she, "I also know; yet neither am I forbidden, being a dog. For were it unlawful to receive, neither would it be lawful to partake of the crumbs; but if, though in scanty measure, they ought to be partakers, neither am I forbidden, though I be a dog; nay, rather on this ground am I most surely a partaker, if I am a dog."
With this intent did Christ put her off, for He knew she would say this; for this did He deny the grant, that He might exhibit her high self-command.
For if He had not meant to give, neither would He have given afterwards, nor would He have stopped her mouth again. But as He doth in the case of the centurion, saying, "I will come and heal him,"that we might learn the godly fear of that man, and might hear him say, "I am not worthy that Thou shouldest come under my roof;"and as He doth in the case of her that had the issue of blood, saying, "I perceive that virtue hath gone out of me,"that He might make her faith manifest; and as in the case of the Samaritan woman, that He might show how not even upon reproof she desists:so also here, He would not that so great virtue in the woman should be hid. Not in insult then were His words spoken, but calling her forth, and revealing the treasure laid up in her.
But do thou, I pray thee, together with her faith see also her humility. For He had called the Jews "children," but she was not satisfied with this, but even called them "masters;" so far was she from grieving at the praises of others.
"Why, the dogs also,"saith she, "eat of the crumbs that fall from their master's table."
Seest thou the woman's wisdom, how she did not venture so much as to say a word against it, nor was stung by other men's praises, nor was indignant at the reproach? Seest thou her constancy? He said, "It is not meet," and she said, "Truth, Lord;" He called them "children," but she "masters;" He used the name of a dog, but she added also the dog's act. Seest thou this woman's humility?
Hear the proud language of the Jews. "We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man;"and, "We be born of God." But not so this woman, rather she calls herself a dog, and them masters; so for this she became a child. What then saith Christ? "O woman, great is thy faith."
Yea, therefore did He put her off, that He might proclaim aloud this saying, that He might crown the woman.
"Be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Now what He saith is like this: "Thy faith indeed is able to effect even greater things than these; nevertheless, Be it unto thee even as thou wilt."
This was akin to that voice that said, "Let the Heaven be, and it was."
"And her daughter was made whole from that very hour."
Seest thou how this woman too contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For to this purpose neither did Christ say, "Let thy little daughter be made whole," but, "Great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt;" to teach thee that the words were not used at random, nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith.
The certain test, however, and demonstration thereof, He left to the issue of events. Her daughter accordingly was straightway healed.
But mark thou, I pray thee, how when the apostles had failed, and had not succeeded, this woman had success. So great a thing is assiduity in prayer. Yea, He had even rather be solicited by us, guilty as we are, for those who belong to us, than by others in our behalf. And yet they had more liberty to speak; but she exhibited much endurance.
1 Thessalonians iv. 1.
WE beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: that every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour; not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: that no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have fore-warned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.
St. Matthew xv. 21.
JESUS went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.