restricted access Homily 37
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HOMILY 37 "The Lord said to Abram: 'I am the God who has brought you out of the land of the Chaldeans to give you this land for your inheritance.' But Abram replied: 'My lord and master, how shall I know that I am to inherit it?"'I ONDERFUL IS [341] THE POWER of Sacred Scripture, and immense the wealth of ideas concealed in its expressions. Hence it behooves us to attend precisely and give ourselves to close study so as to reap the lavish benefits it offers. You see, the reason Christ himself gave this command, "Search the Scriptures,"2 was that, far from idly listening to the mere reading, we should rather descend to its very depths and be in a position to grasp the true sense of Scripture. This, after all, is the way with Scripture: in a few words it is often possible to find a great number of ideas. Its teachings, you see, are divine, not human, and consequently you can see it all composed in a manner opposite to human wisdom. What way that is, I will tell you: in the latter caseI mean human wisdom-people's whole interest is concentrated on the sequence of the words, whereas in this case it is completely different. No study of Scripture is about words, their beauty or sequence: it has of itself divine grace resplendent upon it and its sayings have their own beauty. With that other writing you can grasp the sense only after a great amount of unspeakable [342] nit-picking, whereas in this case, as you know, often a short phrase suffices for us to piece out the complete message. 1. Cen 15.7-8. Chrysostom follows the LXX in avoiding reference to Ur as the home of the patriarchs after Haran had earlier been given that designation , though mention of the Chaldeans is still an anachronism. 2. John 5.39. 340 HOMILY 37 341 (2) Consequently, then, yesterday also we proposed the reading to you and picked up the thread of our theme, but since we found such wealth of ideas we weren't able to press ahead further without swamping your recollection with the multitude of ideas and distorting it with the words already spoken.3 Hence I want to pick up that very thread and link together what was said yesterday with what follows so that we may be able to make a complete commentary on the reading and then send you home from here. But pay precise attention , I beseech you, to what is said: if the labor is ours, the gain is yours, or rather it belongs to us both. But why do I say labor? Not at all; instead, it is the gift of God's grace. Accordingly, let us in our turn receive with attention what is granted us by God so that we may gain something for our soul's salvation and thus go off from here. You see, the reason that we layout for you each day this spiritual table is that by the frequency of the exhortation and by constant attention to the holy Scriptures we may fend off all the evil demon's wiles. After all, when he sees us displaying much zeal for spiritual things, far from attacking us he doesn't even dare to cast a glance in our direction, knowing as he does that he will be making efforts in vain and bringing trouble on his own head. (3) So, come now, let us pick up the thread of yesterday's remarks and comment on what remains. Well, what was it you were told yesterday? We gave an account of the promise made to Abram, where he directed him to look up at the sky and see the multitude of stars. "'Count the number of the stars,''' he said, remember, "'if in fact you can number them.' He said, That will be the number of your descendants.' "4 Then, to show us the patriarch's godfearing attitude and the fact that he had faith in God's words through having regard for the one who made the promise and considering the power of the one who gave the guarantee, Sacred Scripture added, "Abram had faith in God, and this was reckoned as righ3 . As we remarked at that point, Chrysostom spent much of Homily 36 rehearsing the matter of the previous few homilies-and now finds an excuse in the richness of Scripture. 4· Gen 15·5· 342...