SHEPHERDING AND REFORM In this chapter the apostle opens his heart up to the Corinthians to let them know how much he loves them (1-4). He presents to them here one of the reasons for delaying his visit, namely, that he felt their grief because of the person who fell into adultery. In his love, he did not intend to visit them in this sad atmosphere. But now, as the man concerned has repented, all would rejoice in him, and the apostle would come to partake of their rejoicing in his repentance. The apostle seeks from the church to show the repentant every love, in order to let him realize that their grief was not out of revenge nor hatred, but of love for his own salvation (5-11). Now the apostle is coming as well, to give them the good news of the amazing works of God with him; having opened before him a wide door of preaching; and that through him, and his coworkers, the sweet fragrance of Christ for the salvation of many will be diffused (12-17). 1- “My joy is the joy of you all” 1 - 4 2- His intercession for the repentant fallen man 5 - 11 3- A door was opened to me by the Lord1 2 - 17 1- “My joy is the joy of you all” (3) The apostle preferred not to come to visit them during their grief, as their grief is his as well, and their joy is his joy, What dwell upon him of joy or of grief would also dwell upon them all. He caused them grief when he rebuked them for their slothfulness toward the leader fallen in adultery; But having responded well to his demand, now he intends to come to them to partake of their joy in the man’s repentance, and of the work of God in him; as the church has become an icon of heaven, exulting for the return of the sinner. In his fatherhood, he proclaims that he is unable to come to them; saying: 43 “But I determined this within myself, that I would not come again to you in sorrow” (1) The apostle reveals here his feelings of love; as, in his first epistle to them, he was so firm, that he might have caused some of them to grieve, and some to be even offended. Now he reveals his fatherly compassion, and that he could not endure to see them in sorrow. Paul feared that by rebuking a few, he probably caused grief to many; as all the members of the body suffer with the suffering of a single member1. (Ambrosiaster) “For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad, but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2) He chose not to visit them before the repentance of the fallen man, lest he would then have to use his apostolic authority to chastise, which could cause a collective grief; while he wish for the spirit of consolation and joy to prevail over the church. Forsake your prayer and go to rebuke him (a sinner); You would reform him, and you, as well would have benefit. In such a way we help all to be saved and to reach the kingdom of heaven, by the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ2. A wrong care for pleasing others, is a betrayal against the salvation of the shepherd, as well as of theirs3. I would rather be in your eyes an arrogant man, difficult to get along with, than to let you do what would displease the Lord4. I am committed to instruct you; and in particular to rebuke you. The way fire would dissolve wax; the fear of punishment would soften the hearts of sinners5. (St. John Chrysostom) 1 CSEL 81: 205. 2 In Acts, homily 24. 3 In Joan. PG 59: 115. 4 In Hebrews. PG 62: 46. . 5 الحب الرعوي، 616 44 It is so shameful to see how the physically ill would readily put great trust in their physicians, even if it comes to cut, burn, or cause severe pain, or to be given bitter medications; and how they consider these things as good deeds on his part; While, we do not adopt the same tendency toward our spiritual physicians when they work on our salvation through firm chastisement. In this concern, the apostle says: “For if I make you sorrowful, then who is he who makes me glad but the one who is made sorrowful by me?” (2)…. Therefore, it is befitting of us to take into consideration the ultimate result, and count him who causes us pain according to the Lord, as a good doer1. (St. Basil the Great) The apostle previously proclaimed in his first epistle that the church should grieve for the sinners; and persist on grieving, together with her Head, our Lord Jesus, until the sinners return and submit to the Father. Commenting on the words of the Lord: “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26: 29), the scholar Origen says: [Because wine in the Holy Book symbolizes the spiritual joy, and God promised His people to bless their wine, namely, He will grant them an abundance of spiritual joy; that is why the priests are forbidden to drink wine before entering the temple; intending for them to be sad, when they offer the sacrifices for the sake of sinners. Then once the sinners are reconciled with the Father, their joy would become consummated. Origen believes that, as Christ Himself, together with His saints anticipate the repentance of the sinners; their joy is therefore not yet Complete]. It is befitting of us not to assume that while Paul grieves for the sake of the sinners, and weeps on their transgressions, Christ would cease to weep when he approaches the Father, stands at the altar to offer the sacrifice of atonement for our sake. Not 1 The Long Rules, 52. 45 drinking the wine of joy “when he ascends to the altar”, is because he still carries the bitterness of our sins; That is why he does not wish to drink the wine alone in the kingdom of His Father, but awaits us, saying: “to drink it together with you” We are therefore, delaying his joy by being slothful in our life1. (The scholar Origen) “And I wrote this very thing to you, lest, when I come, I should have sorrow over those from whom I ought to have joy, having confidence in you all that my joy is the joy of you all” (3) It is as though he says: [I know for sure that you seek my pleasure, which would be realized by your sanctity; When my soul exults in you, you would be exulted as well, as my joy is the joy of you all. I can not keep silent before sin and disobedience; and, at the same time, I am committed to come with the spirit of meekness, and be compassionate toward all the repentant]. He wishes, as much as he possibly could, to be a fountain of joy for all. Saying that he would be pleased by their sorrow, may sound a kind of arrogance and hardness of heart; So, to appease the shock probably caused by his words, he adds that he knows that “his joy is the joy of them all”, and when he is sorrowful, they will all be sorrowful as well … He means to say: I did not come to you, not because I hate you, but rather because I feel great love toward you2. Paul reveals here that he is not less sorrowful than those who did wrong, but rather more. He almost cannot endure the pain that the Corinthians have caused him3. (St. John Chrysostom) “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you” (4) 1 Homilies on Leviticus, 7: 2. 2 In 2 Cor. Hom. 4: 2. 3 In 2 Cor. Hom. 4: 3. 46 These words reveal how far the opponents of the apostle Paul have completely distorted his image, claiming that he is a tyrant and a violent person, who, wounding others, and bringing them bitterness, would make his heart glad. To justify himself of such accusation, the apostle confirms the high price he paid while writing that firm first epistle; namely the abundant tears, the intense grief, and the anguish of the heart! But his role as an apostle committed him to write it, although with inner sighs of his heart, and bitterness of his soul. Who writes down in the hearts? It is God who writes with His finger on all consciences, the natural law He gave to mankind; in which we start to receive the seeds of truth, to get them into the depth. These seeds, if we care to plant, will bring forth in us good fruition by Jesus Christ1. (The scholar Origen) Let us then become sorrowful in our minds, not for the sake of those pleasurable things for which the kings grieve; but for the sake of those godly things of benefit for us; as “For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted” (2 Corinthians 7: 10). Let us become sorrowful for such things; let us for their sake have our hearts pierced with grief. So Paul grieved for the sake of sinners, and so he wept “Out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you” (2) When he finds no reason to feel sorrow for himself, he does it to the account of others; or rather he counts their things as concerning him, at least until the sorrow comes to an end. When others stumbled, he got burnt; … When others became weak, he became weak as well. … Such kind of sorrow is good, and surpasses any worldly joy. I prefer him who feels such sorrow over all mankind; And God Himself proclaims that those who mourn are blessed (Matthew 5: 4); those who commiserate with others. 1 In Nym. Hom. 10: 2. 47 I am so amazed! Amid the dangers confronting the blessed apostle on a daily basis, he still had the soul full of compassion, of love, sought by Christ Himself, a fatherly and a brotherly love. It is befitting of us to have such a kind of sorrow, to mourn, and to shed tears; as such a kind of love embodies a great rejoice; it is the foundation of joy1. (St. John Chrysostom) 2- HIS INTERCESSION FOR THE REPENTANT FALLEN MAN: The apostle dealt with the issue of that repentant fallen man in a live evangelic way. He started by saying that, although he felt great sorrow for him because of his fall, the whole congregation, as well, felt sorrowful for him. His sorrow is just a part of that of the whole church; As one of them he partakes of their sorrow for a fallen member. … As far as he is concerned he does not want to be more severe, after they have so moved as a congregation in sorrow over him. It is now high time for them to rejoice in his repentance, and to live no more in bitterness. “But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me but all of you to some extent – not to put it too severely” (5) Ambrosiaster believes that by saying “all”, he means the saints among the Corinthians, who feel sorrowful for anyone who commits a sin; The church, shepherds and congregation, would not feel comfortable when even a single member sins. Having the whole world put in his hands, he did not only care for the Gentiles as a whole, but for every single individual. He wrote a letter to the account of Encimus; and another for the sake of the adulterer Corinthian … looking at both of them as human beings appreciated in the eyes of God, for whom the Father did not spare His Only Begotten Son. Do not ever say: this man is an escapee slave; that is a thief or a murderer; that is someone heavily burdened with sins, or that 1In Philip., hom. 15. 48 is a lowly beggar …; but contemplating in how Christ died for his sake, will be enough to give him some of your interest1. Notice that Paul no longer refers to the crime committed by that man; as the time has come for forgiveness2. (St. John Chrysostom) “The punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man” (6) The congregation responded to Paul’s command, and chastised the fallen man, who is already humiliated and presented a repentance. This is enough for him and for them. In his compassionate fatherhood, the apostle presented an intercession and a supplication for the sake of that repentant fallen man before the church of Corinth. Paul refers to the zeal of the Corinthians, having so faithfully responded to his demand, and all turned against that man3. (Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus) The collective life presents more blessings, than to be completely and easily proclaimed. It is of more benefit than the life of solitude, for keeping the good things granted to us by God, and for the sake of the reward for confronting the outside attacks of the enemy. Concerning a sinner, his withdrawal from sin would be much easier if he fears the disgrace of being rebuked by the multitude among whom he lives; according to the words: “The punishment which was afflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man” (6). As for a pious man, he, as well, will find great and perfect satisfaction in the appreciation and the justification of the congregation for his behavior4. (St. Basil the Great) . 1 الحب الرعوي، ص 678 2 In 2 Cor. Hom. 4: 4. 3 PG 82: 387. 4 The Long Rules, 7. 49 “So that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow” (7) Commenting on the expression: “(graciously) forgive and comfort him”, St. John Chrysostom says: [What Paul says is not because that man is worthy of being forgiven, nor because he presented sufficient repentance, but because he is weak; to spare him from despair1]. Because what he has got is sufficient, because the chastisement has reached its goal, and because the situation has become very serious; If the repentant will not find the compassionate bosom of the church, he will be overcome by despair, and his soul will be destroyed. As they were committed to chastise him by separation from the church, they are equally committed to reaffirm and renew their love to him, to let his soul exult with salvation. Anyway, put in mind that if you happen to become slothful and not caring, sin will eventually take hold of you. That is why you should pay attention, if not for the sake of your brother, let it be for your own sake. Paul talks about these things, and more; Having commanded the Christians of Corinth to deliver such an adulterer to the devil, he came back to say: [That man has already changed his ways]; he became better; and punishment from the majority is sufficient for him, … Now, “Reaffirm your love for him”. Although it was Paul who made him a public enemy, caused him to be separated from the congregation, and to be cut off from the body; Look now how he cares to rebind him anew, and to reconnects him to the church! … He does not just say: “Love him”, but “Reaffirm your love for him”. In other words, Proclaim to him that your friendship is true, abiding, full of zeal, enflamed, and fiery.. .Present your love with the same strength by which you have previously proclaimed your hatred for sin. … What happened, O blessed Paul? … Tell me…. Have you not delivered him to the 1 PG 61: 459. 50 devil?! … He would answer you: Yes, I so did, but not to stay in his hands, but to get rid soon from his overwhelming authority. Notice how Paul, fearing that despair would give the devil a stronger weapon against the man, he says: “Reaffirm your love for him”; then he adds the reason: “Lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow” (7) 1. I believe that that man who fell in such a serious crime in Corinth, is worthy of mercy; As once he was rebuked, and was even expelled from the church, he, instead of hating his accusers, he received their criticism with perseverance, and endured it with abidance. … I believe that, on account of the fact that that man ended up having a stronger love for Paul and for those who responded to his command, to rebuke and chastise him, Paul retracted his accusation, and asked for receiving him back in the church2. (The scholar Origen) Paul, in that situation, was not commanding but asking, not as a teacher, but as one equal to them, putting the Corinthians on the bench of judgment, and himself taking in the position of a defender, asking them to “reaffirm their love for him”3. Paul not only asks the Corinthians to stop rebuking that man, but even to give him back his former position; for punishment without treatment means nothing. Notice also how Paul keeps that man’s soul in humility, lest he would probably become in a worse condition when forgiven; He clearly confirms to him that he has got the forgiveness, not because of his repentance, as much as it is through a free gift from God4. Great discreetness is recommended in such a critical situation, lest what is of benefit would turn to be the cause for greater loss. Whatever faults that man has committed, and for which he deserved to be cut off, As a clever physician who uses his 1 On Repentance and Almsgiving 1: 3: 22. 2 In Psalmum 37 Homilia 1: 1 PG 12: 1370. 3 In 2 Cor. Hom. 4: 4. 4 In 2 Cor, Hom. 4: 4. 51 scalpel in treating his patient, he should partake with him of the consequences1. (St. John Chrysostom) He who is swallowed up with too much sorrow, would probably get back to commit more sins in despair. On the other hand, the true repentant would get away from sin, and confirm that he regrets what he has done2. (Ambrosiaster) Paul asked them to reunite the member to the body, and the lamb to the flock, and to show him complete love and faithful compassion3. (Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus) By such a way, the words of Paul chastens the man who defiled his father’s marital bed, in case he is not aware of the seriousness of his sin. But once the corrective measures have proved their activity, he started to give him comfort, as though he became blessed by his sorrow; saying: “lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow”. … We, as well, should put in mind that, as the human nature is somehow connected to sin, the treatment should be through the sorrow of repentance4. (St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa) “Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him” (8) Although the apostle does not doubt their love for the sinner, Yet because the situation was so delicate, that repentant was in need to be shown an abundance of love, and a confirmation to himself, that the church has truly forgiven his fault, and returned him to his formerposition, Paul himself, who caused him to be expelled from among the congregation, like a pestilence; he, who closed all the doors 1 On Priesthood, book 3: 17. 2 CSEL 81: 207. 3 Pg 82: 387. 4 The Beatitudes, sermon 3, (ACW). 52 before his face, and delivered him to the devil; Once he saw how that poor fellow was drowned in sorrow, regretting his sin, and changing his behavior, he gave the Corinthians instructions contradictory to his previous ones. Now you may see together with me that by having too much sorrow, we work to the account of the devil, whose tricks we well know, that he intends to push us forth to extremism, and to turn the medication which is supposed to cure us into a deadly poison. Extremism would Cast us into the hands of the devil1. Like a sinner who grieves over his sins, Paul wept for that man who committed adultery, and asked the congregation to “reaffirm their love for him” (8). Even when he previously condemned him, he did that out of much affliction and with many tears, saying: “For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you” (4).; And also: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9: 20-22). And somewhere else he says: “that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus”2. (St. John Chrysostom) “For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things” (9) Having presented an intercession for the sinner; intending to exhort them to prompt action by love, he counted that command as a kind of test to know by it the extent of their obedience to him. Some believe that it is easier for man (or for the church), to 1 To Olympias, 8. . 2 في مدیح القدیس بولس، عظة 3 53 chastise, than to bring back the sinner to his former position inside the heart and within the church. Paul needs to know whether the Corinthians are equally obedient to restore the sinner, as they were to punish him. As punishment may bear some kind of envy and hatred; while by working on restoring him with love, they show their obedience to be pure. That is the test of the true disciples, whether their obedience is when they are commanded to do something, but also to consummate it on their own1. (St. John Chrysostom) “Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. What I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sakes in the presence of Christ” (10) What he bears of forgiving love, by which to forget what that repentant has done, is only realized through the love of the apostle for the church as a whole; whom he intends to see as a pure bride. The forgetfulness he practices, is for the sake of Christ in whose presence he is. It is as though that repentant is very dear to the church and to Christ her Groom, and not just to Paul alone. What the apostle does, and the feelings he bears, are not against the church in Corinth, nor against the thought of Christ, but are all in harmony with the thought of the church, that bears the thought of Christ. Paul practiced what he preaches. He had the right to command, yet he could not refrain from doing what he himself demands from others to do. In his first epistle he condemned the crime committed by that man, with the hope that everyone would be as disgusted by such a crime (1 Corinthians 5: 1-13). But now, he seeks from them to retract their position, and to stop showing anger toward him. There is no doubt that the Corinthians did not have the wisdom of the apostle, to realize that this is what they should promptly do2. (Ambrosiaster) 1 In 2 Cor, Hom., 4: 5. 2 CSEL 81: 207-8. 54 By giving the leadership to the Corinthians, and by telling them that he is going to follow up their reaction, he did his best to appease the rebellious souls of those who love controversy. Lest they would be slothful and refrain to forgive the man, he applied the pressure of telling them that he himself has already forgiven him1. The devil can destroy under the pretence of piety; He, not only destroys by leading someone to adultery, but even, on the contrary, to let him have too much sorrow, that despair would follow repentance…. To catch us by sin is his normal task; But to catch us in our repentance, using our own weapon to fight us, is a disgrace for us2. (St. John Chrysostom) The problem is not only to recognize Satan’s devices, but to play with them. Paul was aware of their dynamics, not to be preoccupied with them, but to keep himself from falling in their traps3. (St. Dedymus, the blind) “Lest Satan should take advantage of us, for we are not ignorant of his devices” (11) Here the apostle Paul presents another cause beside the harmony of his thought with that of the church and of Christ; which is not to give Satan the chance to destroy the man with the spirit of despair. As according to St. Philoxinus, when man falls into despair, all demons enter into him. Do not ever fall into despair. You have been created in the image of God; And He, who created you as such, has himself become man. The blood of the Only begotten Son was shed for your sake4. (St. Augustine) 1 In 2 Cor. Hom. In Cor. Hom. 4: 5. 2 In 2 Cor. Hom. 4: 5. 3 Pauline Commentary from the Greece Church. 4 55 3- A DOOR WAS OPENED TO ME BY THE LORD: After dealing with the issue of postponing his visit to them, and his intercession for the fallen repentant, he talked them about God’s work through him, having opened a door for preaching and ministry. By that he intended to create an atmosphere of joy for such good news; and to reveal to them his strong friendship with them, to talk to them about his personal affairs that do not directly concern the church in Corinth. And he told them as well, his personal feelings toward his beloved disciple Titus. On the one hand, he does not cease to work in many countries, and the hand of God was giving him success; And on another hand, his continuous preoccupation with ministry, and his labor, could not take away from him his feelings and emotions toward his beloved. “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened to me by the Lord, …” (12) After he wrote his first epistle amid his abundant tears, great sorrow, and anguish of heart, God did not intend to forsake him in such a bitterness, but brought joy to his heart by opening to him a new door for ministry and preaching. “I had no rest in my spirit because I did not find Titus my brother, but taking my leave of them, I departed for Macedonia” (13) Impatiently anticipating the coming of Titus to tell him their news, he had to leave to Macedonia, hoping to find him there, And there he was, To tell him the joyful news (6-7). In the book of Acts (16: 9), it is said that a man from Macedonia appeared to Paul in a vision and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us”. Yet the apostle did not refer to that event in his epistle, as it was obviously not the time to talk about such things about himself1. (St. Dedymus the blind) 1 Pauline Commentary from the Greece Church. 56 By referring to Titus here, who was the carrier of his epistle to Corinth, the apostle aimed to exhort the church there to receive him well and to appreciate his worthiness1. (Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus) It is as though Paul was bare of flesh and blood, no more than a soul without a body, and a heart devoid of any lust. In such peace of angelic spirits he lived on earth a heavenly life; as though in the company of the cherubim, partaking of their secret melodies. He endured all persecutions, as though his body was not his own; he was not affected by, nor harbored any fear of the prison, the shackles, the exile, the threats, the beating, the stoning, or even the death, He endured all that, but being separated from his beloved friend and fellow worker was enough to disturb him, and to have no rest in his spirit, to the extent that he could not stay long in a city where he came to preach the gospel, and hastened to depart from it (12-13) 2. (St. John Chrysostom) “Now, thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place” (14) It is as though he says that the coming of Titus has taken away his fears, satisfied his depths, and turned his life into a sacrifice of thanksgiving to God, the source of every goodness, who granted him and them to join the procession of his triumph under his leadership. It has been the custom of the Romans and the Greeks, a leader victorious in a battle, would enter his capital in an awesome procession, with the whole people participating in giving honor to the triumphant army. The leader used to be clothed with a crimson gold-adorned robe, with a golden crown over his head, and the rod of authority in his hand; and to ride ride a magnificent chariot of 1 PG 82: 390 2 To Olympias, 8. 57 ebony covered with golden plates, drawn by white horses – sometimes by elephants, as it happened with Pompey when he conquered Africa; or even by lions as it happened with Markus Aurelius; or by leopards, as it happened with Helisgabalus; his sons sitting at his feet, or riding horses around his chariot; And a slave standing behind him to keep reminding him that he is only a human being, so that he would not be puffed up beyond reason. The procession was usually preceded by a musical marching band, playing tunes of triumph, followed by a group of young men leading animal sacrifices to be offered to gods, with their heads adorned with beautiful crowns and colored ribbons. After them come carts carrying the spoil taken from the enemy, and horsemen, kings, princes and leaders captives, shackled with chains. Then comes the triumphant leader in his chariot, on whom the cheering people throw roses, and cry out slogans of victory; followed by the elites exulted by the victory of their army and king. The procession ends with the priests of the temple leading a white ox to be offered as the greatest sacrifice to the gods. The people of Corinth knew all that, but two centuries ago, the province of Achaia fell, and Corinth was destroyed on the hands of the Roman Consul Lucius Mummius. A great difference between the triumphant procession longed for by a Roman leader, and that lived by the apostle Paul, when Satan falls captive; when the apostle, together with his coworkers, and all the people are glorified, and sweet heavenly fragrance diffuses, that of Christ. The true believer, hiding in the cross, would perpetually feel his triumph in Jesus Christ, under His leadership over all the hosts of darkness; over the evil lusts, sins of the body, and the seductions of the evil world. And as St. Augustine says: [The whole world, is overcome, brethren, not by military might, but by the (foolishness) of the cross; … His body was raised on the cross, and to Him the spirits submitted]. God knows your good will, anticipates your strife, supports your weakness, and will ultimately crown your triumph1. 1 Robert Llewelyn, Joy of the Saints, Spiritual Readings throughout the Year, Springfield, Illinois, 1989, p. 56. 58 (St. Augustine) The heavenly Lord Jesus Christ, descended to us to become the leader of our triumph, and to bring us over to heaven; As he is alone able to carry us inside Him, and to open the gates of heaven before us. Do not marvel that the whole world would be saved; because He is not a mere man, but the Only begotten Son of God who died for the sake of the world. Yes indeed, by the sin of one -- Adam, death reigned over the world; And by the righteousness of One, life will rather reign. If they were expelled from paradise because of eating from the tree; Would it not be easier for the believers to re-enter into it, because of the tree of Christ?! If the first man found on earth has brought death over the world; Would it not rather be, that his Creator would bring about the eternal life; being Himself the Life?! If Phinehas with his zeal, has turned back God’s wrath by killing the evil doers (Numbers 25: 6-12); How much more would Jesus who killed no one, but “delivered Himself a ransom”, would take away God’s wrath from man1?! (St. Cyril of Jerusalem) Just meditate in such amazing development! He sends His angels to lead men to the heavenlies! Behold. Heaven is set on earth, for heaven to be committed to receive the earthlies2. (St. John Chrysostom) “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” (15) Why, O woman, do you pour so much perfume on such a body defiled on the inside? Why do you waste so much on dirt; You are as though pouring poison on bricks! There is – if you will – precious oil and perfume by which you can anoint yourself; not imported from Arabia, nor from Ethiopia, nor from Persia, but 1 Catechetical Lectures, 13: 2. 2 Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, vol, 1, p. 113. 59 from heaven itself; not purchased by silver or gold, but by virtuous will, and unfeigned faith. Purchase such an oil, whose fragrance could fill the world; which was smelled by the apostles “For we are to God the fragrance of Christ …; To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life” (15-16). That spiritual oil comes out, not only from the bodies of the apostles, but even from their clothes; Paul’s clothes were so saturated with it to drive out demons. (St. John Chrysostom) As there is a relationship between the very costly oil of “Nardine” (spikenard) of the gospel (John 12: 3) and that of the bride of the song, smelled by the groom. (Songs 4: 10)? In the gospel it came that the sweet fragrance of the perfume poured on the head of our Lord filled the whole house where the banquet was held; as though the woman who poured it has prophesied the death of the Lord who testified to her deed, saying: “ She did it for My burial” (Matthew 26: 12). The house filled with that fragrance represents the whole universe and the whole world “Wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial of her” (Matthew 26: 13). Like the ‘Nardine’ in the Song of Songs that sends its scent from the bride to the groom (Song 1: 12), the sweet fragrance of Christ that filled the whole house, will become like oil that anoints the body of the church in the whole universe and whole world1. When the bride of the song says to the daughters of Jerusalem: “My nardine (spikenard) sends forth its fragrance” (Song 1: 12); the (soul) takes from every flower in the garden of virtues; and the life of man would become as fragrant as his good behavior; and thus becomes perfect to a certain extent. Such a man does not have to look steadfastly at the word of God as he would at the sun, but would rather see it inside himself as though in a mirror; for the rays of this chaste and holy virtue reflects on his pure life in abundance. and turns what is not seen, 1 Commentary on Song of Songs, Homily 3. 60 to be clearly seen by us, and what is not realized, to be realized by us, by imaging the sun in the mirror of our souls. When we understand the text, we shall find no difference between talking about the rays of the sun and the pouring of virtue, or the coming forth of the fragrance of perfumes. Whatever the expression we chose, there is one idea common to all; namely, we gain the knowledge of goodness from the virtue; that goodness that surpasses every understanding; the same way we realize the beauty of any model from his image, So Paul, with the fragrance of his virtue likened that unapproachable beauty; the fruition of the Spirit: love, peace, etc. and was worthy to become “the sweet fragrance of Christ” (2 Corinthians 2: 15). Paul smelled that incomprehensible grace that surpasses every grace, and gave himself to others as a sweet fragrance, to take from it according to their capacity. The apostle Paul became an aroma, either of death or of life, according to the nature of him who smell it1. (St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa) Living in an uninterrupted series of triumphant processions, God the Father smells in Paul and in the whole church the sweet fragrance of Christ; when He sees in them the realization of His divine will. “To the one we are the aroma of death to death, and to the other the aroma of life to life. And who is sufficient for those things?” (16) The triumphant processions included two categories of people: One category feeling the climax of joy and exultation; led by the victorious Leader and his hosts; And a category suffering the climax of misery and bitterness, the captivated kings, their sons, and leaders, In the continuous triumphant procession, the victorious believers exult, carrying the fragrance of life; while the nonbelievers who persist on rebellion and the disobedience of non-faith will collapse. 1 Commentary on Song of Songs, Homily 3. 61 Christ, the Sun of Righteousness grants life and growth to the trees planted in His vineyard, watered by the water of the Spirit; And He dries up those, cut off, cast on the ground, and do not enjoy the fountains of living water. By saying: “And who is sufficient for those things?”; he means: [Who is worthy of doing such a great task with such exalted result: life or death? It is an exalted divine task, impossible for man to realize, and for the false apostles to oppose; which has been realized by the prophet Isaiah, who said: “I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord; and my God shall be my strength” (Isaiah 49: 5). So the believer willenjoy the glory, not only in the eyes of men and angels, but in the eyes of God Himself; and will bear inside himself, the lord his God, his strength. For whom then will it be “an aroma of death to death”, but for those who do not believe, and do not submit to the Word (Logos) of God? … And again, who are they who are saved and will get the inheritance, but those who believe in God, and continue loving Him; as did Caleb the son Jephuneh, Joshua the son of Nun (Numbers 14: 30), and the innocent children of Nineveh (Jonah 4: 11), who lacked the feeling of evil. But who are they who are saved now, and will enjoy the eternal life, but those who love God, believe in His promises, and are “babes in malice” (1 Corinthians 14: 20) 1? (St. Erinaos) Put an altar of incense in the depths of your heart. Be the sweet fragrance of Christ2. (The scholar Origen) The fragrance of the knowledge of God diffuses from and by Christ. Paul says “aroma”; on account of that some things are known by their smell, even though they may be unseen. God the Unseen wishes to be realized by Christ. Preaching Christ reaches our hearing, the way the smell reaches our noses, to bring forth God and His Only begotten Son to the depths of His 1 Adv. Haer. 4: 28: 3. 2 In Exod. Hom. 9. 62 creation. He who utters the truth about Christ will become a mere fragrance diffused from God; will be worthy of commendation by those who believe in him. Whereas he who presents faulty proclamations about Christ, would have a repulsive smell for the both the believers and non-believers1. (Ambrosiaster) “Who is sufficient for those things?” Realizing that he has just uttered such great things, Paul got back to refer humbly to that everything is from God, from Christ, and nothing is from him … So, if no one is sufficient for those things, they have to be according to “Grace” 2. “As from God” (17); meaning that we do not claim to give you something on our own, but from God who gives all. We are not glorified in anything as though we do it on our own, but we refer everything to God3. (St. John Chrysostom) The apostle Paul calls the knowledge of God “fragrance”, to smell more than to see. Whether man is saved or perish, the gospel remains on its strength. The light even if it blinds someone, is still light; and the honey even if it tastes bitter in the mouth of the sick, is still sweet. So is the gospel, it has its sweet fragrance for all, even though those who do not believe in it would perish4. In case someone is lost, he should only blame himself. The bright light may blind the weak sighted. According to the nature of the good things, they not only reform those who attach to them, but also destroy those who oppose them5. (St. John Chrysostom) Now the law is called (the ministry of death) to the Jews for whom It was inscribed on stone, in reference to the hardness of 1 CSEL 81: 210. 2 PG 61: 468. 3 In 2 Cor. Hom. 5, PG 61: 469. 4 In 2 Cor. Hom. 5: 2. 5 In 2 Cor. Hom. In 2Cor. Hom. 5: 3. 63 their hearts; Yet this does not apply to those who keep it with love; for love consummates the law1. Every tribulation is either for punishing the wicked, or for testing the righteous…. So are peace and tranquility at the time of controversies, could be of benefit for the good, or for the corruption of the wicked2. (St. Augustine) So Paul walked in the virtues of the divine Groom; took the eternal beauty as a model for his life, and gained for himself the fragrance of the ‘nardine’ from among the group of virtues practiced by the mind: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control” (Galatians 5: 22), to be able to say that he is the “fragrance of Christ” (15). He smells the fragrance of Him who is incomprehensible; takes the exalted grace, and presents himself to others as the fragrance of incense; becoming for some an aroma of life, and for others an aroma of death, according to the seeking of either for salvation3. The Holy Spirit is He who fills our life with the fragrance of holiness; and the incense is the diverse virtues smelled by the divine Groom as the fragrance of perfume that surpasses any other4. Do not let any carnal or lustful person, from whom emerges the repulsive aroma of the ancient man (2 Corinthians 2: 16), do not let him belittle the importance of the holy thoughts and words, and replace them with other carnal and covetous thoughts; But let everyone rather gets out from the ‘ego’, separate himself from the material world, to ascend to paradise, having become like God by purity. Then we should say: Let us enter into the 1 To Simplinian-On Vaarious Questions, 1: 17. 2 Eighty Three Different Questions, 27. . 3 من مجدٍ إلى مجدٍ فصل 4 :3 . 4 من مجدٍ إلى مجدٍ فصل 31 :3 64 Holy of Holies of the thoughts proclaimed in this book (the Song of Songs) 1. (St. Gregory, Bishop of Nyssa) Preaching the gospel for non-believers, is the aroma of death; Whenever they hear the word of God, they receive it as though a pestilence through which death knocks on the door. For the others, on the other hand, it is the aroma of life. For the believers, the word of God is a message of the eternal life, that works in them according to their faith2. (Ambrosiaster) “for we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God ; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ” (17). As his conscience testifies to his faithfulness and simplicity, the apostle Paul does not mix the concepts and teachings of Christ with his own concepts and teachings. Although he, himself, is not qualified enough for this task, Yet through his faithfulness, God works by him, to consummate the mission of reconciliation in Jesus Christ. He will never hear that divine saying directed to the false apostles and prophets: “Your silver has become dross; your wine mixed with water (Isaiah 1: 22); As the false prophets and the wicked priests used to corrupt the word of God by their own evil thoughts. The apostle confirms that he is sent by God, and that he utters what He directly says to him as His ambassador; and that he speaks before Him and in His presence. He seeks the realization of the message of Christ: “Be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5: 20). Paul talks in Christ, not by his own wisdom, but by the power given to him by God3. (St. John Chrysostom) 1 Commentary on Song of Songs, Homily 1. 2 CSEL 81: 211. 3 In 2 Cor. Hom. In 2 Cor. Hom. 5: 3. 65 AN INSPIRATION FROM 2 CORINTHIANS 2 REJOICE OUR HEARTS TOGETHER IN YOU You have descended to us, O Source of joy and true blessing. You have partaken of our sufferings; that we become worthy of partaking of Your unique joy. You moan with our moans; and exult by our joys Grant us this fellowship together. Let me rejoice when all rejoice in You. And let the gladness of my salvation be gladness for all those around me. To sing together with the blessed Paul: “My joy is the joy of you all” You hauled me up from my fall; You granted me the resurrection from the dead How could I then not rejoice for the standing of the fallen? How could I not have a wide heart for the repentant? When You do not any more remember my sins; How could I remember the sins of my brethren? I do not talk about specific persons; Open for me a door to testify to Your work of salvation before many. When shall I see all humanity enjoy the joy of your salvation?