The Fifth Sunday in Lent, commonly called
John Chrysostom on the Epistle to the Hebrews
Passion Sunday Home
WE beseech thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon thy people; that by thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore, both in body and soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source: Sacramentary of Gregory, Bishop of Rome [600 AD]. The "people" in this translation is familia in Latin. "Passion" had its roots in Medieval times
ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Isaiah i. 10, Psalm 42, 43 | 119:145–176 , Hebrews ix. 11, St. John viii. 46.
Homily of Chrysostom on Hebrews
"He is the mediator of the new testament"
Isaiah i. 10
HEAR the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
Psalm 42, 43 | 119:145–176
Hebrews ix. 11.
CHRIST being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
St. John viii. 46. JESUS said, Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil? Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. And I seek not mine own glory: there is one that seeketh and judgeth. Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God: yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you; but I know him, and keep his saying. Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple
Other Passion Sunday Homilies
Extract of Homily XV
“Christ being come an High Priest of good things that are come by a greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands.” Here he means the flesh. And well did he say, “greater and more perfect,” since God The Word and all the power of The Spirit dwells therein; “For God giveth not the Spirit by measure [unto Him].” ( John iii. 34 .) And “more perfect,” as being both unblamable, and setting right greater things.
“That is, not of this creation.” See how [it was] “greater.” For it would not have been “of the Spirit” ( Matt. i. 20 ), if man had constructed it. Nor yet is it “of this creation”; that is, not of these created things, but spiritual, of the Holy Ghost.
Seest thou how he calls the body tabernacle and veil and heaven. “By a greater and more perfect tabernacle. Through the veil, that is, His flesh.” ( Heb. x. 20 .) And again, “into that within the veil.” ( Heb. vi. 19 .) And again, “entering into the Holy of Holies, to appear before the face of God.” ( Heb. ix. 24 .) Why then doth he this? According as one thing or a different one is signified. I mean for instance, the Heaven is a veil, for as a veil it walls off the Holy of Holies; the flesh [is a veil] hiding the Godhead; and the tabernacle likewise holding the Godhead. Again, Heaven [is] a tabernacle: for the Priest is there within.
“But Christ” (he says) “being come an High Priest ”: he did not say, “become,” but “being come,” that is, having come for this very purpose, not having been successor to another. He did not come first and then become [High Priest], but came and became at the same time. And he did not say “being come an High Priest” of things which are sacrificed, but “of good things that are come,” as if his discourse had not power to put the whole before us.
Ver. 12 . “Neither by the blood,” he says, “of goats and calves” (All things are changed) “but by His own Blood” (he says) “He entered in once for all into the Holy Place.” See thus he called Heaven. “Once for all” (he says) “He entered into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption.” And this [expression] “having obtained,” was [expressive] of things very difficult, and that are beyond expectation, how by one entering in, He “obtained everlasting redemption.”
[5.] Next [comes] that which is calculated to persuade.
Ver. 13, 14 . “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the Blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God.”
For (he says) if “the blood of bulls” is able to purify the flesh, much rather shall the Blood of Christ wipe away the defilement of the soul. For that thou mayest not suppose when thou hearest [the word] “sanctifieth,” that it is some great thing, he marks out and shows the difference between each of these purifyings, and how the one of them is high and the other low. And says it is [so] with good reason, since that is “the blood of bulls,” and this “the Blood of Christ.”
Nor was he content with the name, but he sets forth also the manner of the offering. “Who” (he says) “through the Holy Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,” that is, the victim was without blemish, pure from sins. For this is [the meaning of] “through the Holy Spirit,” not through fire, nor through any other things.
“Shall purge your conscience” (he says) “from dead works.” And well said he “from dead works”; if any man touched a dead body, he was polluted; and here, if any man touch a “dead work,” he is defiled through his conscience. “To serve” (he says) “the Living and true God.” Here he declares that it is not [possible] while one has “dead works to serve the Living and true God,” for they are both dead and false; and with good reason [he says this].
[6.] Let no man then enter in here with “dead works.” For if it was not fit that one should enter in who had touched a dead body, much more one that hath “dead works”: for this is the most grievous pollution. And “dead works” are, all which have not life, which breathe forth an ill odor. For as a dead body is useful to none of the senses, but is even annoying to those who come near it, so sin also at once strikes the reasoning faculty, and does not allow the understanding itself to be calm, but disturbs and troubles it.
And it is said too that a plague at its very commencement corrupts the living bodies; such also is sin. It differs in nothing from a plague, not [indeed] corrupting the air first, and then the bodies, but darting at once into the soul. Seest thou not how persons affected with the plague, are inflamed: how they writhe about, how they are full of an ill scent, how disfigured are their countenances: how wholly unclean they are? Such are they also that sin, though they see it not. For, tell me, is not he who is possessed by the desire of riches or carnal lust, worse than any one that is in a fever? Is he not more unclean than all these, when he does and submits to all shameless things?
[7.] For what is baser than a man who is in love with money? Whatever things women that are harlots or on the stage refuse not to do neither does he [refuse]. Rather it is likely that they would refuse [to do] a thing, rather than he. He even submits to do things fit for slaves, flattering those whom he ought not; again he is overbearing where he ought not to be, being inconsistent in every respect. He will sit by flattering wicked people, and oftentimes depraved old men, that are of much poorer and meaner condition than himself; and will be insolent and overbearing to others that are good and in all respects virtuous. Thou seest in both respects the baseness, the shamelessness: he is both humble beyond measure, and boastful.
Harlots however stand in front of their house, and the charge against them is that they sell their body for money: yet, one may say, poverty and hunger compel them (although at the most this is no sufficient excuse: for they might gain a livelihood by work). But the covetous man stands, not before his house, but before the midst of the city, making over to the devil not his body but his soul; so that he [the devil] is in his company, and goes in unto him, as verily to a harlot: and having satisfied all his lusts departs; and all the city sees it, not two or three persons only.
And this again is the peculiarity of harlots, that they are his who gives the gold. Even if he be a slave or a gladiator, or any person whatever, yet if he offers their hire, they receive him. But the free, even should they be more noble than all, they do not accept without the money. These men also do the same. They turn away right thoughts when they bring no money; but they associate with the abominable, and actually with those that fight with wild beasts, for the sake of the gold, and associate with them shamelessly and destroy the beauty of the soul. For as those women are naturally of odious appearance and black, and awkward and gross, and formless and ill-shaped, and in all respects disgusting, such do the souls of these men become, not able to conceal their deformity by their outward paintings. For when the ill look is extreme, whatever they may devise, they cannot succeed in their feigning.
For that shamelessness makes harlots, hear the prophet saying, “Thou wert shameless towards all; thou hadst a harlot’s countenance.” ( Jer. iii. 3 .) This may be said to the covetous also: “Thou wert shameless towards all,” not towards these or those, but “towards all.” How? Such an one respects neither father, nor son, nor wife, nor friend, nor brother, nor benefactor, nor absolutely any one. And why do I say friend, and brother, and father? He respects not God Himself, but all [we believe] seems to him a fable; and he laughs, intoxicated by his great lust, and not even admitting into his ears any of the things which might profit him.
But O! their absurdity! and then what things they say! “Woe to thee, O Mammon, and to him that has thee not.” At this I am torn to pieces with indignation: for woe to those who say these things, though they say them in jest. For tell me, has not God uttered such a threat as this, saying, “Ye cannot serve two masters”? ( Matt. vi. 24 .) And dost thou set at nought the threat? Does not Paul say that it is Idolatry, and does he not call “the covetous man an Idolater”? ( Eph. v. 5 .)
[8.] And thou standest laughing, raising a laugh after the manner of women of the world who are on the stage. This has overthrown, this has cast down everything. Our affairs, both our business and our politeness, are turned into laughing; there is nothing steady, nothing grave. I say not these things to men of the world only; but I know those whom I am hinting at. For the Church has been filled with laughter. Whatever clever thing one may say, immediately there is laughter among those present: and the marvelous thing is that many do not leave off laughing even during the very time of the prayer.
Everywhere the devil leads the dance, he has entered into all, is master of all. Christ is dishonored, is thrust aside; the Church is made no account of. Do ye not hear Paul saying, Let “filthiness and foolish talking and jesting” ( Eph. v. 4 ) be put away from you? He places “jesting” along with “filthiness,” and dost thou laugh? What is “foolish talking”? that which has nothing profitable. And dost thou, a solitary, laugh at all and relax thy countenance? thou that art crucified? thou that art a mourner? tell me, dost thou laugh? Where dost thou hear of Christ doing this? Nowhere: but that He was sad indeed oftentimes. For even when He looked on Jerusalem, He wept; and when He thought on the Traitor He was troubled; and when He was about to raise Lazarus, He wept; and dost thou laugh? If he who grieves not over the sins of others deserves to be accused, of what consideration will he be worthy, who is without sorrow for his own sins, yea laughs at them? This is the season of grief and tribulation, of bruising and bringing matter [the body], of conflicts and sweatings, and dost thou laugh? Dost not thou see how Sarah was rebuked? dost thou not hear Christ saying, “Woe to them that laugh, for they shall weep”? ( Luke vi. 25 .) Thou chantest these things every day, for, tell me, what dost thou say? “I have laughed?” By no means; but what? “I labored in my groaning.” ( Ps. vi. 6 .)
But perchance there are some persons so dissolute and silly as even during this very rebuke to laugh, because forsooth we thus discourse about laughter. For indeed such is their derangement, such their madness, that it does not feel the rebuke.
The Priest of God is Standing, offering up the prayer of all: and art thou laughing, having no fears? And while he is offering up the prayers in trembling for thee, dost thou despise all? Hearest thou not the Scripture saying, “Woe, ye despisers!” (cf. Acts xiii. 41 from Hab. i. 5 ); dost thou not shudder? dost thou not humble thyself? Even when thou enterest a royal palace, thou orderest thyself in dress, and look, and gait, and all other respects: and here where there is the true Palace, and things like those of heaven, dost thou laugh? Thou indeed, I know, seest [them] not, but hear thou that there are angels present everywhere, and in the house of God especially they stand by the King, and all is filled by those incorporeal Powers.
This my discourse is addressed to women also, who in the presence of their husbands indeed do not dare readily to do this, and even if they do it, it is not at all times, but during a season of relaxation, but here they do it always. Tell me, O woman, dost thou cover thine head and laugh, sitting in the Church? Didst thou come in here to make confession of sins, to fall down before God, to entreat and to supplicate for the transgressions thou hast wretchedly committed, and dost thou do this with laughter? How then wilt thou be able to propitiate Him?
[9.] But (one says) what harm is there in laughter? There is no harm in laughter; the harm is when it is beyond measure, and out of season. Laughter has been implanted in us, that when we see our friends after a long time, we may laugh; that when we see any persons downcast and fearful, we may relieve them by our smile; not that we should burst out violently and be always laughing. Laughter has been implanted in our soul, that the soul may sometimes be refreshed, not that it may be quite relaxed. For carnal desire also is implanted in us, and yet it is not by any means necessary that because it is implanted in us, therefore we should use it, or use it immoderately: but we should hold it in subjection, and not say, Because it is implanted in us, let us use it.
Serve God with tears, that thou mayest be able to wash away your sins. I know that many mock us, saying, “Tears directly.” Therefore it is a time for tears. I know also that they are disgusted, who say, “Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die.” ( 1 Cor. xv. 32 .) “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” ( Eccles. i. 2 .) It is not I that say it, but he who had had the experience of all things saith thus: “I builded for me houses, I planted vineyards, I made me pools of water, [I had] men servants and women servants.” ( Eccles. ii. 4, 6, 7 .) And what then after all these things? “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” ( Eccles. xii. 8 .)
Let us mourn therefore, beloved, let us mourn in order that we may laugh indeed, that we may rejoice indeed in the time of unmixed joy. For with this joy [here] grief is altogether mingled: and never is it possible to find it pure. But that is simple and undeceiving joy: it has nothing treacherous, nor any admixture. In that joy let us delight ourselves; that let us pursue after. And it is not possible to obtain this in any other way, than by choosing here not what is pleasant, but what is profitable, and being willing to be afflicted a little, and bearing all things with thanksgiving. For thus we shall be able to attain even to the Kingdom of Heaven, of which may we all be counted worthy, in Christ Jesus our Lord, with whom to the Father be glory, together with the Holy Ghost, now and for ever and world without end. Amen.