Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume XII/Homilies on First Corinthians/Homily XXX
1 Cor. xii. 12
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of the body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.
After soothing them from the considerations that the thing given was of free favor; that they received all from “one and the self-same Spirit;” that it was given “to profit withal,” that even by the lesser gifts a manifestation was made; and withal having also stopped their mouth from the duty of yielding to the authority of the Spirit: (“for all these,” saith he, “worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will;” wherefore it is not right to be over-curious:) he proceeds now to soothe them in like manner from another common example, and betakes himself to nature itself, as was his use to do.
For when he was discoursing about the hair of men and women, after all the rest he drew matter thence also to correct them, saying, “Doth not even nature itself teach you that if a man have long hair, it is a dishonor to him? but if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her?” (1 Cor. xi. 14, 15.) And when he spake concerning the idol-sacrifices, forbidding to touch them, he drew an argument from the examples also of them that are without, both making mention of the Olympic games, where he saith, “they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize:” (1 Cor. ix. 24.) and confirming these views from shepherds and soldiers and husbandmen. Wherefore he brings forward here also a common example by which he presses on and fights hard to prove that no one was really put in a worse condition: a thing which was marvellous and surprising to be able to show, and calculated to refresh the weaker sort, I mean, the example of the body. For nothing so consoles the person of small spirit and inferior gifts, or so persuades him not to grieve, as the being convinced that he is not left with less than his share. Wherefore also Paul making out this point, thus expresses himself: “for as the body is one and hath many members.”
Seest thou his exact consideration? He is pointing out the same thing to be both one and many. Wherefore also he adds, pressing the point more vigorously, “and all the members of the one body, being many, are one body.” He said not, “being many, are of one body,” but “the one body itself is many:” and those many members are this one thing. If therefore the one is many, and the many are one, where is the difference? where the superiority? where the disadvantage? For all, saith he, are one: and not simply one, but being strictly considered in respect of that even which is principal, i.e., their being a body, they are found all to be one: but when considered as to their particular natures, then the difference comes out, and the difference is in all alike. For none of them by itself can make a body, but each is alike deficient in the making a body, and there is need of a coming together since when the many become one, then and not till then is there one body. Wherefore also covertly intimating this very thing, he said, “And all the members of the one body, being many, are one body.” And he said not, “the superior and the inferior,” but “being many,” which is common to all.
And how is it possible that they should be one? When throwing out the difference of the members, thou considerest the body. For the same thing which the eye is, this also is the foot in regard of its being a member and constituting a body. For there is no difference in this respect. Nor canst thou say that one of the members makes a body of itself, but another does not. For they are all equal in this, for the very reason that they are all one body.
But having said this and having shown it clearly from the common judgment of all, he added, “so also is Christ.” And when he should have said, “so also is the Church,” for this was the natural consequent he doth not say it but instead of it places the name of Christ, carrying the discourse up on high and appealing more and more to the hearer’s reverence. But his meaning is this: “So also is the body of Christ, which is the Church.” For as the body and the head are one man, so he said that the Church and Christ are one. Wherefore also he placed Christ instead of the Church, giving that name to His body. “As then,” saith he, “our body is one thing though it be composed of many: so also in the Church we all are one thing. For though the Church be composed of many members, yet these many form one body.”
[2.] Thus having, you see, recovered and raised up by this common example him who thought himself depreciated, again he leaves the topic of common experience, and comes to another, a spiritual one, bringing greater consolation and indicative of great equality of honor. What then is this?
Ver. 13. “For in one Spirit, saith he, were we all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free.”
Now his meaning is this: that which established us to become one body and regenerated us, is one Spirit: for not in one Spirit was one baptized, and another another. And not only is that which hath baptized us one, but also that unto which He baptized us, i.e., for which He baptized us, is one. For we were baptized not that so many several bodies might be formed, but that we might all preserve one with another the perfect nature of one body: i.e., that we might all be one body, into the same were we baptized.
So that both He who formed it is one, and that into which He formed it is one. And he said not, “that we might all come to be of the same body;” but, “that we might all be one body.” For he ever strives to use the more expressive phrases. And well said he, “we all,” adding also himself. “For not even I, the Apostle, have any more than thou in this respect,” saith he. “For thou art the body even as I, and I even as thou, and we have all the same Head and have passed through the same birth-pains. Wherefore we are also the same body.” “And why speak I,” saith he, “of the Jews? since even the Gentiles who were so far off from us, He hath brought into the entireness of one body.” Wherefore having said, “we all,” he stopped not here, but added, “whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free.” Now if, having before been so far off, we were united and have become one, much more after that we have become one, we can have no right to grieve and be dejected. Yea, the difference, in fact, hath no place. For if to Greeks and Jews, to bond and free, He hath vouchsafed the same blessings, how can it be that after so vouchsafing He divides them, now that He hath bestowed a greater perfection of unity by the supply of His gifts?
“And were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
Ver. 14. “For the body is not one member, but many.”
i.e., We are come to the same initiation, we enjoy the same Table. And why said he not, “we are nourished by the same body and drink the same blood?” Because by saying “Spirit,” he declared them both, as well the flesh as the blood. For through both are we “made to drink of the Spirit.”
But to me he appears now to speak of that visitation of the Spirit which takes place in us after Baptism and before the Mysteries. And he said, “We were made to drink,” because this metaphorical speech suited him extremely well for his proposed subject: as if he had said respecting plants and a garden, that by the same fountain all the trees are watered, or by the same water; so also here, “we all drank the same Spirit, we enjoyed the same grace,” saith he.
If now one Spirit both formed us and gathered us all together into one body; for this is the meaning of, “we were baptized into one body:” and vouchsafed us one table, and gave us all the same watering, (for this is the meaning of, “we were made to drink into one Spirit,”) and united persons so widely separated; and if many things then become a body when they are made one: why, I pray, art thou continually tossing to and from their difference? But if thou sayest, “Because there are many members and diverse,” know that this very thing is the wonder and the peculiar excellency of the body, when the things which are many and diverse make one. But if they were not many, it were not so wonderful and incredible that they should be one body; nay, rather they would not be a body at all.
[3.] This however he states last; but for the present he goes to the members themselves, saying thus:
Ver. 15. “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”
Ver. 16. “And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?”
For if the one being made inferior and the other superior, doth not allow their being of the body, the whole is done away. Do not say therefore, “I am not the body, because I am inferior.” For the foot also hath the inferior post, yet is it of the body: for the being or not being part of the body, is not from the one lying in this place and the other in that; (which is what constitutes difference of place;) but from the being conjoined or separated. For the being or not being a body, arises from the having been made one or not. But do thou, I pray, mark his considerate way, how he applies their words to our members. For as he said above, “These things have I in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos,” (1 Cor. iv. 6.) just so likewise here, to make his argument free from invidiousness and acceptable, he introduces the members speaking: that when they shall hear nature answering them, being thus convicted by experience herself and by the general voice, they may have nothing further to oppose. “For say, if you will,” saith he, “this very thing, murmur as you please, you cannot be out of the body. For as the law of nature, so much more doth the power of grace guard all things and preserve them entire.” And see how he kept to the rule of having nothing superfluous; not working out his argument on all the members, but on two only and these the extremes; having specified both the most honorable of all, the eye, and the meanest of all, the feet. And he doth not make the foot to discourse with the eye, but with the hand which is mounted a little above it; and the ear with the eyes. For because we are wont to envy not those who are very far above us, but those who are a little higher, therefore he also conducts his comparison thus.
Ver. 17. “If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?”
Thus, because, having fallen upon the difference of the members, and having mentioned feet, and hands, and eyes, and ears, he led them to the consideration of their own inferiority and superiority: see how again he consoles them, intimating that so it was expedient: and that their being many and diverse, this especially causeth them to be a body. But if they all were some one, they would not be a body. Wherefore, he saith, “If they were all one member, where were the body?” This however, he mentions not till afterwards; but here he points out also something more; that besides the impossibility of any one being a body, it even takes away the being of the rest.
“For if the whole were hearing, where were the smelling,” saith he.
[4.] Then because after all they were yet disturbed: that which he had done above, the same he doth also now. For as there he first alleged the expediency to comfort them and afterwards stopped their mouths, vehemently saying, “But all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one man severally even as He will:” so also here having stated reasons for which he showed that it was profitable that all should so be, he refers the whole again to the counsel of God, saying,
Ver. 18. “But now God hath set the members each one of them in the body, even as it pleased Him.”
Even as he said of the Spirit, “as He will,” so also here, “as it pleased Him.” Now do not thou seek further into the cause, why it is thus and why not thus. For though we have ten thousand reasons to give, we shall not be so able to show them that it is well done, as when we say, that as the best Artificer pleased, so it came to pass. For as it is expedient, so He wills it. Now if in this body of ours we do not curiously enquire about the members, much more in the Church. And see his thoughtfulness in that he doth not state the difference which arises from their nature nor that from their operation, but that from their local situation. For “now,” saith he, “God hath set the members each one of them in the body even as it pleased Him.” And he said well, “each one,” pointing out that the use extends to all. For thou canst not say, “This He hath Himself placed but not that: but every one according to His will, so it is situated.” So that to the foot also it is profitable that it should be so stationed, and not to the head only: and if it should invert the order and leaving its own place, should go to another, though it might seem to have bettered its condition, it would be the undoing and ruin of the whole. For it both falls from its own, and reaches not the other station.
[5.] Ver. 19. “And if they were all one member, where were the body?” Ver. 20. “But now are they many members, but one body.”
Thus having silenced them sufficiently by God’s own arrangement, again he states reasons. And he neither doth this always nor that, but alternates and varies his discourse. Since on the one hand, he who merely silences, confounds the hearer, and he, on the contrary, who accustoms him to demand reasons for all things, injures him in the matter of faith; for this cause then Paul is continually practising both the one and the other, that they may both believe and may not be confounded; and after silencing them, he again gives a reason likewise. And mark his earnestness in the combat and the completeness of his victory. For from what things they supposed themselves unequal in honor because in them there was great diversity, even from these things he shows that for this very reason they are equal in honor. How, I will tell you.
“If all were one member,” saith he, “where were the body?”
Now what he means is, If there were not among you great diversity, ye could not be a body; and not being a body, ye could not be one; and not being one, ye could not be equal in honor. Whence it follows again that if ye were all equal in honor, ye were not a body; and not being a body, ye were not one; and not being one, how could ye be equal in honor? As it is, however, because ye are not all endowed with some one gift, therefore are ye a body; and being a body, ye are all one, and differ nothing from one another in this that ye are a body. So that this very difference is that which chiefly causeth your equality in honor. And accordingly he adds, “But now they are many members, yet one body.”
[6.] These things then let us also consider and cast out all envy, and neither grudge against them that have greater gifts nor despise them that possess the lesser. For thus had God willed: let us then not oppose ourselves. But if thou art still disturbed, consider that thy work is oft-times such as thy brother is unable to perform. So that even if thou art inferior, yet in this thou hast the advantage: and though he be greater, he is worse off in this respect; and so equality takes place. For in the body even the little members seem to contribute no little, but the great ones themselves are often injured by them, I mean by their removal. Thus what in the body is more insignificant than the hair? Yet if thou shouldest remove this, insignificant as it is, from the eyebrows and the eyelids, thou hast destroyed all the grace of the countenance, and the eye will no longer appear equally beautiful. And yet the loss is of a trifle; but notwithstanding even thus all the comeliness is destroyed. And not the comeliness only, but much also of the use of the eyes. The reason is that every one of our members hath both a working of its own and one which is common; and likewise there is in us a beauty which is peculiar and another which is common. And these kinds of beauty appear indeed to be divided, but they are perfectly bound together, and when one is destroyed, the other perishes also along with it. To explain myself: let there be bright eyes, and a smiling cheek, and a red lip, and straight nose, and open brow; nevertheless, if thou mar but the slightest of these, thou hast marred the common beauty of all; all is full of dejection; all will appear foul to look on, which before was so beautiful: thus if thou shouldest crush only the tip of the nose thou hast brought great deformity upon all: and yet it is the maiming of but a single member. And likewise in the hand, if thou shouldest take away the nail from one finger, thou wouldest see the same result. If now thou wouldest see the same taking place in respect of their function also, take away one finger, and thou wilt see the rest less active and no longer performing their part equally.
Since then the loss of a member is a common deformity, and its safety beauty to all, let us not be lifted up nor trample on our neighbors. For through that small member even the great one is fair and beautiful, and by the eyelids, slight as they are, is the eye adorned. So that he who wars with his brother wars with himself: for the injury done reaches not only unto that one, but himself also shall undergo no small loss.
[7.] That this then may not be, let us care for our neighbors as for ourselves, and let us transfer this image of the body now also to the Church, and be careful for all as for our own members. For in the Church there are members many and diverse: and some are more honorable and some more deficient. For example, there are choirs of virgins, there are assemblies of widows, there are fraternities of those who shine in holy wedlock; in short, many are the degrees of virtue. And in almsgiving again in like manner. For some empty themselves of all their goods: others care for a competency alone and seek nothing more than necessaries; others give of their superfluity: nevertheless, all these adorn one another; and if the greater should set at nought the less, he would in the greatest degree injure himself. Thus, suppose a virgin to deal scornfully with a married woman, she hath cut off no small part of her reward; and he again that emptied himself of all should he upbraid him that hath not done so, hath emptied himself of much of the fruit of his labors. And why speak I of virgins, and widows, and men without possessions? What is meaner than those who beg? and yet even these fulfill a most important office in the Church, clinging to the doors of the sanctuary and supplying one of its greatest ornaments: and without these there could be no perfecting the fulness of the Church. Which thing, as it seems, the Apostles also observing made a law from the beginning, as in regard to all other things, so also that there should be widows: and so great care did they use about the matter as also to set over them seven deacons. For as bishops and presbyters and deacons and virgins and continent persons, enter into my enumeration, where I am reckoning up the members of the Church, so also do widows. Yea, and it is no mean office which they fill. For thou indeed comest here when thou wilt: but these both day and night sing psalms and attend: not for alms only doing this; since if that were their object, they might walk in the market place and beg in the alleys: but there is in them piety also in no small degree. At least, behold in what a furnace of poverty they are; yet never shalt thou hear a blasphemous word from them nor an impatient one, after the manner of many rich men’s wives. Yet some of them often lie down to their rest in hunger, and others continue constantly frozen by the cold; nevertheless, they pass their time in thanksgiving and giving glory. Though you give but a penny, they give thanks and implore ten thousand blessings on the giver; and if thou give nothing they do not complain, but even so they bless, and think themselves happy to enjoy their daily food.
“Yes,” it is replied, “since whether they will or no, they must bear it.” Why, tell me? Wherefore hast thou uttered this bitter expression? Are there not shameful arts which bring gain to the aged, both men and women? Had they not power to support themselves by those means in great abundance, provided they had chosen to cast off all care of upright living? Seest thou not how many persons of that age, by becoming pimps and panders and by other such ministrations, both live, and live in luxury? Not so these, but they choose rather to perish of hunger than to dishonor their own life and betray their salvation; and they sit throughout the whole day, preparing a medicine of salvation for thee.
For no physician stretching out the hand to apply the knife, works so effectually to cut out the corruption from our wounds, as doth a poor man stretching out his right hand and receiving alms, to take away the scars which the wounds have left. And what is truly wonderful, they perform this excellent chirurgery without pain and anguish: and we who are set over the people and give you so much wholesome advice, do not more truly discourse than he doth, who sits before the doors of the church, by his silence and his countenance. For we too sound these things in your ears every day, saying, “Be not high-minded, O man; human nature is a thing that soon declines and is ready to fall away; our youth hastens on to old age, our beauty to deformity, our strength to weakness, our honor to contempt, our health falls away to sickness, our glory to meanness, our riches to poverty; our concerns are like a violent current that never will stand still, but keeps hastening down the steep.”
The same advice do they also give and more than this, by their appearance and by their experience itself too, which is a yet plainer kind of advice. How many, for instance, of those who now sit without, were in the bloom of youth and did great things? How many of these loathsome looking persons surpassed many, both in vigor of body and in beauty of countenance? Nay, disbelieve it not nor deride. For surely, life is full of ten thousand such examples. For if from mean and humble persons many have oftentimes become kings, what marvel is it if from being great and glorious, some have been made humble and mean? Since the former is much the more extraordinary: but the latter, of perpetual occurrence. So that one ought not to be incredulous that any of them ever flourished in arts, and arms, and abundance of wealth, but rather to pity them with great compassion and to fear for ourselves, lest we too should sometime suffer the same things. For we too are men and are subject to this speedy change.
[8.] But perchance some one of the thoughtless, and of those who are accustomed to scoff, will object to what hath been said, and will altogether deride us, saying, “How long wilt thou not cease continually introducing poor men and beggars in thy discourses, and prophesying to us of misfortunes, and denouncing poverty to come, and desiring to make us beggars?” Not from a desire to make beggars of you, O man, do I say these things, but hastening to open unto you the riches of heaven. Since he too, who to the healthy man makes mention of the sick and relates their anguish, saith it not to make him diseased, but to preserve him in health, by the fear of their calamities cutting off his remissness. Poverty seems to you to be a fearful thing and to be dreaded, even to the mere name of it. Yea, and therefore are we poor, because we are afraid of poverty; though we have ten thousand talents. For not he who hath nothing is poor, but he who shudders at poverty. Since in men’s calamities also it is not those who suffer great evils whom we lament and account wretched, but those who know not how to bear them, even though they be small. Whereas he that knows how to bear them is, as all know, worthy of praises and crowns. And to prove that this is so, whom do we applaud in the games? Those who are much beaten and do not vex themselves, but hold their head on high; or those who fly after the first strokes? Are not those even crowned by us as manly and noble; while we laugh at these as unmanly and cowards? So then let us do in the affairs of life. Him that bears all easily let us crown, as we do that noble champion; but weep over him that shrinks and trembles at his dangers, and who before he receives the blow is dead with fear. For so in the games; if any before he raised his hands, at the mere sight of his adversary extending his right hand, should fly, though he receive no wound, he will be laughed to scorn as feeble and effeminate and unversed in such struggles. Now this is like what happens to these who fear poverty, and cannot so much as endure the expectation of it.
Evidently then it is not we that make you wretched, but ye yourselves. For how can it be that the devil should not hence-forth make sport of thee, seeing thee even before the stroke afraid and trembling at the menace? Or rather, when thou dost but esteem this a threat, he will have no need so much as to strike thee any more, but leaving thee to keep thy wealth, by the expectation of its being taken away he will render thee softer than any wax. And because it is our nature (so to speak,) not to consider the objects of our dread so fearful after suffering, as before and while yet untried: therefore to prevent thee from acquiring even this virtue, he detains thee in the very height of fear; by the fear of poverty, before all experience of it, melting thee down as wax in the fire. Yea, and such a man is softer than any wax and lives a life more wretched than Cain himself. For the things which he hath in excess, he is in fear: for those which he hath not, in grief; and again, concerning what he hath he trembles, keeping his wealth within as a wilful runaway slave, and beset by I know not what various and unaccountable passions. For unaccountable desire, and manifold fear and anxiety, and trembling on every side, agitate them. And they are like a vessel driven by contrary winds from every quarter, and enduring many heavy seas. And how much better for such a man to depart than to be enduring a continual storm? Since for Cain also it were more tolerable to have died than to be for ever trembling.
Lest we then for our part suffer these things, let us laugh to scorn the device of the devil, let us burst his cords asunder, let us sever the point of his terrible spear and fortify every approach. For if thou laugh at money, he hath not where to strike, he hath not where he may lay hold. Then hast thou rooted up the root of evils; and when the root is no more, neither will any evil fruit grow.
[9.] Well: these things we are always saying and never leave off saying them: but whether our sayings do any good, the day will declare, even that day which is revealed by fire, which trieth every man’s work, (1 Cor. iii. 13.) which showeth what lamps are bright and what are not so. Then shall he who hath oil, and he who hath it not, be manifest. But may none then be found destitute of the comfort; rather may all, bringing in with them abundance of mercy, and having their lamps bright, enter in together with the Bridegroom.
Since nothing is more fearful and full of anguish than that voice which they who departed without abundant almsgiving shall then hear the Bridegroom, “I know you not.” (S. Matt. xxv. 12.) But may we never hear this voice, but rather that most pleasant and desirable one, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (S. Matt. xxv. 34.) For thus shall we live the happy life, and enjoy all the good things which even pass man’s understanding: unto which may we all attain, through the grace and mercy, &c.
- [The author seems here to imply that the Apostle speaks of Christ simply as the head of the church, the same view which Meyer advocates. It is better to consider the expression as denoting the analogy of the body to Christ, since it is one body yet has many members. Christ is the personal subject, the “Ego” whose body is the church. “Christus non localiter, sed mystice et virtualiter, sive operative et per efficentiam, est corpus, hypostasis, anima et spiritus totius Ecclesiæ.” (Cor. a Lap.) Principal Edwards says that the Apostle’s meaning if expressed in modern phrase would run thus: “As the Person is one while the members of his body are many, so also Christ is one but the members of his mystical body, the church, are many.” C.]
- εἰς ὃ—ἐφ̓ ᾧ.
- εἰς ὃ—ἐφ̓ ᾧ.
- [The phrase here “drink into one Spirit” differs from that used in the citation above, where we read “drink of one Spirit.” The difference exists in the Greek original. Chrysostom quotes what is now considered to be the correct text, omitting the preposition, but writes afterward, inserting it. There is unusual obscurity in his treatment of the passage. He expressly excludes any reference to the sacraments, saying it is “after baptism and before the mysteries,” (i.e. the Lord’s Supper), and then speaks of it as if it meant a watering of plants, which however is not natural. Most interpreters refer it baptism. C.]
- ἐπὶ ἐνεργείας.
- See Bingham, vii. 2. 6; and as quoted by him, S. Athanas, ad Dracont, t. i. p. 263; S. Augustin. de Hæres. c. 40; in support of the opinion, that “there was an order of monks which lived in a married state, and enjoyed their own property and possessions as the primitive ascetics were used to do.” If the opinion is correct, (the places quoted seem hardly to prove it,) this place of St. Chrysostom may perhaps refer to that order.
- Bingham, iv. 4. 1. “At the entrance of the interior Narthex,” or Choir, “the Poor of the Church placed themselves, both before and after Divine Service, to ask alms of such as came from the Altar.” S. Chrys. on 1 Thess. Hom. xi. near the end, “In the Churches, and in the Chapels of the Martyrs, the poor sit in front of the vestibules…When we enter into earthly palaces, there is no such thing to be seen, but grave, splendid, rich, wise men are hastening about on all sides. But at our entrance into the true palaces, the Church, and the houses of prayer of the Martyrs, there are possessed persons, maimed, poor, old, blind, distorted in their limbs.” “They are an admirable sort of watch-dogs, keeping guard in the Courts of the Palace. Feed them therefore, for the honor redounds to their king…That human things are nought, thou art excellently instructed by the very Porch of the Church: that God delights not in wealth, thou art taught by those who sit before Him.” For the custom of the Church of Rome, see the account of St. Lawrence’s martyrdom in Prudentius, as quoted by Hooker, E. P. V. lxxix. 14.
- τρέφονται καὶ τρυφῶσεν.
- Gen. iv. 12; vid. supr. Hom. vii. 9.