That we must be renewed for what is ahead through endurance of the trials that fall upon us, both visible and invisible. [On the 5th Sunday.]
Brethren and fathers, because winter has passed and spring has arrived, we see creation flourishing again; the plants are flowering, the earth is growing green, the birds are singing and everything else is being renewed; and we take pleasure in all this and we glorify God the master craftsman who transforms and changes creation year by year, and it is reasonable to do so. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made [Rom. 1:20]. It is our duty not just to stay where we are, but to advance further and to examine carefully for ourselves the logic of creation.
How? Because this renewal has winter as its cause. It would not have reached its prime had it not first undergone snows and rains and winds. And so it is with the soul; unless it is first snowed on by afflictions, troubles and difficulties, it will not flower, it will not fruit; but by enduring, it bears fruit and partakes in a blessing from God, as it is written: Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, partakes in a blessing from God [Heb. 6:7]. Therefore, brethren, let us also endure every affliction, every trouble, every trial which assails us both visibly and invisibly, the fast we are drawing out as we hunger and thirst and are otherwise made wretched, so that we may bear fruit and partake of God’s blessing; and not only that, but that we may nourish and welcome Jesus as our guest. For just as we enjoy the sight of creation, so he too enjoys the ripe beauty [The Greek has literally ‘the hour of our souls’, but the word can also connote ‘beauty‘, ‘ripeness’, ‘the bloom of youth’, ‘spring-time’.
Hence, for example, the derivatives ‘beautiful’ and ‘ripe’.] of our souls. What are the fruits? Love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-mastery [Gal. 5:22]. By these he is nourished, by these he is entertained. And blest the one who nourishes him, because he will be nourished by him with eternal good things; and blest the one who receives him as his guest, because he will be received by him as his guest in the kingdom of heaven! Indeed! So if someone is to receive a king as his house guest [The word that I have translated ‘house guest’ does not appear in the lexica, either ancient or modern, though the meaning is clear.], he rejoices and is extremely glad; hoe much more then someone who receives the King of kings and Lord of lords as his house guest. That he is received is clear from what he himself has said: I and my Father will come and make our abode with him [John 14:23].
And again: One who has my commandments and keeps them, is the one who loves me; the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and manifest myself to him [John 14:21]. Therefore, since such are the promises, let us not only bear, but let us endure with joy all things, both those that are present, those that are whispered about and those that are expected, as we listen to the Apostle when he says: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the Church [Col. 1:24]. And again Saint James who says: My brethren, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing [James 1:2-4]. Do you see then that in trials there is joy, and in tribulations gladness? For these are the things that are exchanged where God is concerned; and this is how the saints led their lives; this too how we, by doing violence to ourselves and yet greater violence, and by living our life in their footsteps, shall inherit the kingdom of heaven, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the ages of ages. Amen.
That those who have passed through life in afflictions and miseries enjoy a pleasure which is without sorrow and ineffable. In PG the title adds ‘In memory of the godly Platon’.
[It was given on Wednesday of the 5th week of Lent.]
Brethren and Fathers, everyone who is starting something, whether it be word or action, at the beginning has affliction and difficulty, but at the conclusion of the struggle joy and happiness. So a farmer sows with tears, as we sing, but reaps with gladness [Cf. Ps. 125:5]. The soldier as he sets out to war is depressed, but as he returns from war he is filled with joy. So we too now that we have come near the end of our abstinence, no longer remember the mortification of our former struggles, but we rejoice at our present ones and glorify the Master. Would that you may excel in noble struggles for the time ahead. For I testify to you that you have come through the time of the fast in the right spirit, without conflict, without disturbance, obediently, in good order, each one fulfilling his service properly.
And thanks be to the powerful God who has empowered you to achieve this completion. Let us then take this example, brethren, and at the completion of life here, whenever each of us rests from his works, When Christ our life appears [Col. 3:4.], When he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, as it is written, when he has abolished every rule and every authority and power [1 Cor. 15:24]; because then the saints will have no sensation of their sufferings and struggles for the sake of virtue, but will enjoy a pleasure without sorrow and ineffable. And who are they? The glorious fathers and prophets before the Law and under the Law, those like Abraham, those like Moses; in the time of grace, the blessed Apostles, the victorious Martyrs, the whole choir of the Saints. Among them and before them the great Forerunner, whose imitator our venerable father Platon, whose memory we are celebrating today, was counted worthy to become by denouncing the adulterous Emperor [St Platon was St Theodore’s spiritual father. He denounced the illicit marriages of Constantine VI. This resulted in the banishment of the two saints in 809.
St Platon’s feast is on the 4th April]. And since the disciples of a good teacher should themselves be, as the tree is known by its fruit, I beg and implore you, by the same rule, that we too may follow in the same tracks that he and the rest of our fathers and brethren followed, not abandoning our ascetic discipline nor the confession which lies before us. For you have certainly all heard what the wretched Alexander has done; he has denied his obedience and his confession. And what caused him to suffer this but that fact that he had been on his own ? how do I blame those who are on their own [The Greek word used here, is common in the sense of ‘solitary’, but here it means a monk who is isolated, without other brothers. The community was scattered at this time in semi-exile and St Theodore clearly had problems with monks who wanted to live on their own with all the attendant dangers.] ? and had become a lover of money like Judas. Both of them betrayed the Lord of glory, the one to the Jews, the other to those who think like the Jews, the Iconoclasts. Rightly the Apostle cries out: The love of money is a root of all evils, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains [1 Tim. 6:10].
I want next to rebuke some of you not unreasonably. Why so? Because, since he was a lover of power and a lover of rank, the poor fool, you connived with him, as a joke in fact, by voting for him as priest; and he, maimed by the devil, turned the game into reality. Oh how the poor wretch has suffered! He has suffered shipwreck in the faith [Cf. 1 Tim. 1:19. One of those mentioned by St Paul was also called Alexander.], he has lost the merchandise of virtue, he has grieved us too lowly as we are, he has caused as much scandal as he can to the Church of God. But may our good God, who brings from the deep of destruction the soul that has been submerged, call him back finally from his fall when he has at last repented; may he pardon you for your rashness and idle speech, and may he save us all for his heavenly kingdom, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.
That we should endure every torment in imitation of Christ and the saints.
Given on the Friday of the 5th week of Lent.
Brethren and Fathers, the previous instruction [Unless the renegade Alexander was more dangerous than St Theodore says this does not seem to have been Catechesis 69. Moreover according to some MSS there was one for Thursday of this week, number 33 of the Large Catechesis. The latter speaks of no such threats.] no doubt pained you which indicated the trials that are being meditated against us. But because of what I have said to you, says the Lord, grief has filled your hearts; but I speak the truth to you [John 16:6-7]. And again the Apostle: It is not troublesome for me to speak, while for you it is a safeguard [Phil. 3:1]. May we be safeguarded, then, with every spiritual safeguard, and if what is being said passes into act, we will meet it, with God’s help, nobly; but if not, it will not be without advantage for us as our good God accepts such preparation and without toils and blows crowns those who thus choose. Already Lent draws to its end and the time introduces the fair crown, that is the remembrance of the life-giving sufferings of the Saviour, in which we find the greatest consolation. For if our Lord and God was arrested for our sins, is it a great matter if we unprofitable servants should also be arrested for his sake?
And if he was bound and led away and put in prison, is it so strange should we suffer the same treatment as the Master? Rather it would be exceedingly grievous not to encounter such things. But if we must be scourged, let us bear the scourges; and if we must be beaten, let us bear the beatings; and we have to be spat on, let us bear the spittings; and finally if we must be put to death, let us bear that revered death. And good it is if anyone were to be found worthy to become a partaker in Christ’s sufferings. This is blessedness, this is immortality. Do we not hear what the Apostle says? From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of the Lord Jesus branded on my body [Gal. 6:17]. As though he were saying: Let no one despise me, for I bear the adornments of Christ the universal King in my flesh. Such also was Saint Ignatios who called himself God-bearer by his bearing in himself the Lord’s sufferings. Such was St Efstratios who cried out in the midst of torments and said, ‘Now I know that Christ lives in me’. O blessed voices and thrice-blessed souls!
Whose memorials then do we celebrate? Whose nativities do we feast? To whom do we erect sacred churches, whose relics do we venerate? Is it not those of the Martyrs? Those of the Confessors? Those of the Ascetics? And if here they have been found worthy of so great glory, how much and how great the splendour they would enjoy in the age to come? Ineffable and unimaginable the reckoning! This is the fair business, this the blessed exchange: by small struggles and toils to purchase goods that are eternal and without end. Let us too then imitate them, brethren; let us mingle our blood with the holy blood, for this is possible; for its nature is not dissimilar nor has he changed who says: See, see that I am and I have not changed [Cf. Dt. 32:39 and Mal. 3:6]. He loves all equally, he died on behalf of all, he sets before all inexhaustible delight, he is passionate for the salvation of all, and this to him is riches, for he says he is richly generous to all who call upon him [Rom. 10:12]. Therefore let us call upon him in what befalls us and he will give power and might [Ps. 67:36] to our souls. Let us embrace him and he will bring our enemies to naught [Ps. 107:14] both seen and invisible. Let us await him and he will crown us for the day of resurrection of the dead, for the day of his appearing; for which may we too be found worthy to attain without condemnation and to stand uncondemned at his judgement seat, giving a good defence, in Christ our Lord, to whom be glory and might, with the Father and the holy Spirit, now and for ever, and to the ages of ages. Amen.