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HOMILY 35 "Now, it happened that in the region of Amarphath king of Sennaar, Arioch king of Alasar, Chodologomor king of Elam, and Tharthak king of the nations made war with the king of the Sodomites. "I HE READING [321] OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, dearly beloved, is a great blessing. This it is that arouses the soul to an appreciation of wisdom, this directs the mind to heaven, this brings the man to a thankful attitude, this prevents our getting excited over any earthly reality, this brings our thinking to rest in the world beyond and ourselves to do everything with a view to reward from the Lord and to deal with the trials of virtue with great readiness. From this source, you see, you can gain a precise understanding of the providence of God's prompt retribution, the fortitude of good people, the Lord's goodness and the greatness of his rewards. From this source you can be stirred to ardent imitation of noble men's good sense in not fainting under the struggles of virtue but rather maintaining hope in God's promises before their realization. (2) Hence, I beseech you, let us practice the reading of the holy Scriptures with great zeal. This, after all, is the way to fortify our knowledge, too, if we are assiduous in applying ourselves to their contents. I mean, it is not possible for the person who is in touch with the divine message in a spirit of zeal and fervent desire ever to suffer neglect; rather, even should a human teacher not come our way, the Lord himself I. Cen 14.1-2. Commentators generally highlight the unique character of ch. 14 for its digression into world history and its amount of puzzling annalistic detail. Chrysostom has little antiquarian interest, and moves rapidly to Abraham and Melchizedek, so that-unusually-he deals with the whole chapter in one homily. Like his modern counterparts, however, he does feel the need to account for the atypical material. 304 HOMILY 35 305 would come from on high to enlighten our minds, shed light on our thinking, bring to our attention what had slipped our notice, and act as our instructor in what we have no knowledge of-provided we are prepared to contribute what lies in our power. Scripture says, remember, "Do not call anyone on earth your teacher."2 When therefore we take an inspired book in our hands, let us concentrate, collect our thoughts and dispel every worldly thought, and let us in this manner do our reading with great devotion, with great [322] attention so that we may be able to be led by the Holy Spirit towards the understanding of the writings and may gain great benefit from them. (3) Even that pagan eunuch of the queen of Ethiopia,3 remember , despite being in all his glory and riding along in his chariot, did not neglect that opportunity for reading; instead, with the inspired author in his hand he put much effort into reading, even without understanding the contents. Nevertheless , because he brought to bear all that lay within him-his enthusiasm, his earnestness, his attention-he chanced upon a guide. Consider, I ask you, what a great effort it was not to neglect reading even while on a journey, and especially while seated in a chariot. Let this be heeded by those people who don't even deign to do it at home but rather think reading the Scriptures is a waste of time: claiming as an excuse their living with a wife, conscription in military service, caring for children, attending to domestics, and looking after other concerns , they don't think it necessary for them to show any interest in reading the holy Scriptures. I mean, look at the case of the eunuch, a pagan to boot, both facts sufficient to induce indifference in him, and as well as that his public image and abundance of wealth, plus the fact that he was on a journey and traveling in a chariot (after all, it's not easy to pay attention to reading when you're traveling like that-quite the contrary , it's extremely difficult). Yet his desire and great enthusiasm made light of all these problems, and so he gave himself 2. Chrysostom's textual variant of Matt 23.8. 3. Cf. Acts 8.26-40' 306 ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM to reading without muttering the words many people mutter these days: I don't understand the...


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