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HOMILY 38 "Now, Sarah, Abram's wift, had borne him no children. She had, however, an Egyptian maidservant, whose name was Hagar. "I ODAY'S [350] READING AS WELL BIDS our tongue follow the theme of the patriarch. Don't be surprised if after giving an exposition of this story on so many days we haven't yet been able to bring it to a close. You see, there is great richness in the just man's virtue, and the extent of his good deeds taxes every human tongue. What human being, after all, could worthily commend the man whom God rewarded and eulogized from on high? Still, even if we fall far short of doing him justice, at least we have dealt with him to the level of our ability and would like to encourage you to imitation and emulation of his virtue. The man's sound commonsense , remember, was sufficient to instruct the whole human race and to draw those willing to heed him to follow the way of virtue. Pay attention, however, I beseech you, to what is said so that we may come to learn the just man's commonsense from what was read just now. This passage, in fact, is capable of instructing both men and women to give evidence of harmony in relating to each other and to preserve inviolate the bond of marriage, to teach the husband not to contend against his wife but to make great allowance for her as being the frailer vessel,2 and the wife not to disagree with her hus1 . Gen 16.1. Unless Migne's text is faulty, Chrysostom is inconsistent throughout this chapter in aspiration in citing Hagar's name; we shall stay with "Hagar." 2. De Montfaucon defends Chrysostom's use of this term of women by commenting: "In the Rule ofPachomius, too, women are called 'frailer vessels'. But in Livy and other historians they are called impedimenta, 'baggage'." See Introduction (14) in FOTC 74. Cf. 1 Pet 3.7. 355 356 ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM band, but to rival each other in carrying the other's burdens and to prize domestic peace [351] ahead of everything. (2) It is necessary, however, to listen to the words themselves so that the teaching may become clearer to you. "Now, Sarah, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had, however, an Egyptian maidservant, whose name was Hagar." Consider in this passage, I ask you, dearly beloved, God's unspeakable longsuffering and the extraordinary degree of the just man's faith and gratitude of which he gave evidence with regard to the promises made to him. You see, though God had so often promised that he would give the land to his descendants, and that they would grow into such a great multitude as to be compared with the multitude of the stars, Abram saw that none of the promises had taken effect and that on the contrary the fulfillment of the promises was still at the level of words. Far from being disturbed in mind or shaken in his resolve he remained firm in his faith in the power of the one making the promises. Hence Sacred Scripture suggests as much in this passage too when it says, "Now, Sarah, Abram's wife, had borne him no children," as if to indicate to us that despite all these disappointments, despite the covenant made with him, despite the promise of an unnumbered multitude descending from him, he was not distressed, he held no doubts to see that none of the words had taken effect but quite the reverse. Hence it says despite all that, "Now, Sarah his wife had borne him no children," for you to learn that nothing further had happened to him despite the wonderful promises, and in fact Sarah's sterility and the infertility of her womb should have been enough to instill into him a deep sense of perplexity. The patriarch, however, far from regarding any longer the obstacles on the side of nature, realized instead the inventiveness of the Lord and the fact that, being creator of nature, he is able to find ways even where there are none, and so, like an obedient servant, he did not concern himself with the manner of fulfillment but left it to his inscrutable providence and had faith in his words. (3) Hence it says, "Now, Sarah," despite such wonderful promises, "had borne him no children. She had, however, an HOMILY 38 357 Egyptian maidservant...


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