St. Cyprian of Carthage: On Jealousy and Envy (Part 1)

Hieromartyr Cyprian of Carthage (200-258) was the leading Bishop of the Church of Africa during the mid-third century. He lived at a time when to be a Christian would mean persecution and to be a leader often carried a death sentence. He was both imprisoned and executed for refusing to worship the false gods of his day. He is a voice well worth hearing on any subject. He was martyred by being beheaded during the persecution of Emperor Valerian. His Feast Day is August 31st.

St. Cyprian of Carthage

  1. To be jealous of what you see to be good, and to be envious of those who are better than yourself, seems, beloved brethren, in the eyes of some people to be a slight and petty wrong; and, being thought trifling and of small account, it is not feared; not being feared, it is treated with contempt; being treated with contempt, it is not easily shunned: and it thus becomes a dark and hidden mischief, which, as it is not perceived so as to be guarded against by the prudent, secretly distresses incautious minds. But, moreover, the Lord bade us be prudent, and charged us to watch with careful solicitude, lest the adversary, who is always on the watch and always lying in wait, should creep stealthily into our breast, and blow up a flame from the sparks, magnifying small things into the greatest; and so, while soothing the unguarded and careless with a milder air and a softer breeze, should stir up storms and whirlwinds, and bring about the destruction of faith and the shipwreck of salvation and of life. Therefore, beloved brethren, we must be on our guard, and strive with all our powers to repel, with solicitous and full watch-fullness, the enemy, raging and aiming his darts against every part of our body in which we can be stricken and wounded, in accordance with what the Apostle Peter, in his epistle, forewarns and teaches, saying, Be sober, and watch; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking anyone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
  2. He goes about every one of us; and even as an enemy besieging those who are shut up (in a city), he examines the walls, and tries whether there is any part of the walls less firm and less trustworthy, by entrance through which he may penetrate to the inside. He presents to the eyes seductive forms and easy pleasures, that he may destroy chastity by the sight. He tempts the ears with harmonious music, that by the hearing of sweet sounds he may relax and enervate Christian vigor. He provokes the tongue by reproaches; he instigates the hand by exasperating wrongs to the recklessness of murder; to make the cheat, he presents dishonest gains; to take captive the soul by money, he heaps together mischievous hoards; he promises earthly honors, that he may deprive of heavenly ones; he makes a show of false things, that he may steal away the true; and when he cannot secretly deceive, he threatens plainly and openly, holding forth the fear of turbulent persecution to vanquish God’s servants— always restless, and always hostile, crafty in peace, and fierce in persecution.
  1. Wherefore, beloved brethren, against all the devil’s deceiving snares or open threats, the mind ought to stand ready and armed to repel as the foe is ever ready to attack. And since those darts of his which creep on us in concealment are more frequent, and his more hidden and secret hurling of them is the more severely and frequently effectual to our wounding, in proportion as it is the less perceived, let us also be watchful to understand and repel these, among which is the evil of jealousy and envy. And if anyone closely looks into this, he will find that nothing should be more guarded against by the Christian, nothing more carefully watched, than being taken captive by envy and malice, that none, entangled in the blind snares of a deceitful enemy, in that the brother is turned by envy to hatred of his brother, should himself be unwittingly destroyed by his own sword. That we may be able more fully to collect and more plainly to perceive this, let us recur to its fount and origin. Let us consider whence jealousy arises, and when and how it begins. This type of mischievous evil can be shunned by us when both the source and the magnitude of that evil are understood by us.
  2. From this source, even at the very beginnings of the world, the devil was the first who both perished (himself) and destroyed (others). He who was sustained in angelic majesty, he who was accepted and beloved of God, when he beheld man made in the image of God, broke forth into jealousy with malevolent envy— not hurling down another by the instinct of his jealousy before he himself was first hurled down by jealousy, captive before he takes captive, ruined before he ruins others. While, at the instigation of jealousy, he robs man of the grace of immortality conferred, he himself has lost that which he had previously been. How great an evil is that, beloved brethren, whereby an angel fell, whereby that lofty and illustrious grandeur could be defrauded and overthrown, whereby he who deceived was himself deceived! Thenceforth envy rages on the earth, in that he who is about to perish by jealousy obeys the author of his ruin, imitating the devil in his jealousy; as it is written, But through envy of the devil death entered into the world. Therefore they who are on his side imitate him.
  3. Hence, in fine, began the primal hatreds of the new brotherhood, hence the abominable fratricides, in that the unrighteous Cain is jealous of the righteous Abel, in that the wicked persecutes the good with envy and jealousy. The rage of envy prevailed so that that even the love of his brother, the immensity of the crime, the fear of God, or the penalty of the sin, were considered. He was without any righteousness struck down who had been the first to show righteousness; he endured hatred who had not known how to hate; he was impiously slain, who, dying, did not resist. Esau was hostile to his brother Jacob because of jealousy also. Jacob had received his father’s blessing and Esau was inflamed to hatred by the brands of jealousy. Joseph was sold by his brethren and the reason of their selling him proceeded from envy. When in simplicity, and as a brother to brethren, he set forth to them the prosperity which had been shown to him in visions, their malevolent disposition broke forth into envy. Moreover, that Saul the king hated David, so as to seek by often repeated persecutions to kill him— innocent, merciful, gentle, patient in meekness— what else was the provocation save the spur of jealousy? Because, when Goliath was slain, and by the aid and condescension of God so great an enemy was routed, the wondering people burst forth with the suffrage of acclamation into praises of David, Saul through jealousy conceived the rage of enmity and persecution.
  1. Considering which things, beloved brethren, let us fortify our hearts with vigilance and courage dedicated to God against such a destructiveness of evil. Let the death of others avail for our safety; let the punishment of the unwise confer health upon the prudent. Moreover, there is no ground for anyone to suppose that evil of that kind is confined in one form, or restrained within brief limits in a narrow boundary. The mischief of jealousy, manifold and fruitful, extends widely. It is the root of all evils, the fountain of disasters, the nursery of crimes, and the material of transgressions. Thence arises hatred, thence precedes animosity. Jealousy inflames avarice, in that one cannot be content with what is his own, while he sees another wealthier. Jealousy stirs up ambition, when one sees another more exalted in honors. When jealousy darkens our perceptions, and reduces the secret agencies of the mind under its command, the fear of God is despised, the teaching of Christ is neglected, and the Day of Judgment is not anticipated. Pride inflates, cruelty embitters, faithlessness prevaricates, impatience agitates, discord rages, anger heats-up; nor can he who has become the subject of a foreign authority any longer restrain or govern himself. By this the bond of the Lord’s peace is broken; by this is violated brotherly charity; by this truth is adulterated, unity is divided; men plunge into heresies and schisms when priests are disparaged, when bishops are envied, when a man complains that he himself was not rather ordained, or disdains to suffer that another should be put over him. Hence the man who is haughty through jealousy, and perverse through envy, kicks, hence he revolts, in anger and malice the opponent, not of the man, but of the honor.
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THE SPIRIT OF ANGER, Part 2 (From St.John Cassian)

John Cassian, 4th Century

St John Cassian 3

— How could the Lord wish to be held onto for even a moment when in fact he does not even allow the spiritual sacrifices of our prayers to be offered if we know that someone else is angry with us? As he says: “If, then, you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). How, then, are we permitted to be annoyed with our brother even until sundown — not to mention for several days — when, if he has something against us, we are not allowed to offer our prayers to God? We are commanded by the Apostle: “Pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). And: “In every place lifting up pure hands without anger and dissension” (I Timothy 2:8). It follows, therefore, that either we keep this kind of poison in our hearts and never pray, thus disobeying the apostolic and gospel precept by which we are commanded to pray ceaselessly and everywhere, or, if we deceive ourselves and dare to make prayer, contrary to his prohibition, we realize that it is not prayer that we are offering to the Lord but a stubborn and rebellious spirit. 

— But why do we tarry for so long over gospel precepts and those of the Apostle when even the old law, which seems to be somewhat less demanding, warns of the very same thing? As it says: “you shall not hate your brother in your heart” (Leviticus 19:17). And again: “you shall not be mindful of the offense of your fellow citizens” (Leviticus 19:18). And again: “The ways of those who preserve the memory of a misdeed lead to death” (Proverbs 12:28). There as well you see that wickedness is checked not only in deed but even in secret thoughts, when not only hatred and vengefulness but even the recollection of an offense are commanded to be uprooted and cast out of the heart.

— Sometimes, when we have been overcome by pride or impatience and are unwilling to correct our unseemly and undisciplined behavior, we complain that we are in need of solitude, as if we would find the virtue of patience in a place where no one would bother us, and we excuse our negligence and the causes of our agitation by saying that they stem not from our own impatience but from our brothers’ faults. But, as long as we attribute our own wrongdoing to other people, we shall never be able to get near to patience and perfection.

— The sum total of our improvement and tranquility, then, must not be made to depend on someone else’s willing, which will never be subject to our sway; it comes, rather, under our own power. And so our not getting angry must derive not from someone else’s perfection but from our own virtue, which is achieved not by another person’s patience but by our own forbearance.

— A person may seem patient and humble to himself as long as he has nothing to do with anyone else, but he will soon revert to his former nature should some disturbing event occur. Indeed, vices that have lain hidden emerge at once there, and like unbridled horses nourished by a long period of quiescence they eagerly break out of their restraints, all the more violently and savagely endangering their charioteer. For when contact with other human beings ceases, along with the discipline that that provides, the vices grow wilder in us if they have not previously been purged, and through slothful security we lose even the pretense of patience that we gave the appearance of possessing at least for the sake of our brothers’ respect and our own good reputation when we lived among them.

— It should be known, however, that in those manuscripts where it reads: “Whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to judgment,” the phrase “without cause” is superfluous and was added by persons who did not think that anger needed to be cut off for a just cause, since in fact no one, however irrationally upset he was, would say that he had no cause for anger. It appear, therefore, that this was added by those who did not understand the intention of Scripture, which seeks to cut off completely the growth of anger and to maintain no occasion for indignation whatsoever lest, in ordering us to get angry with cause, an occasion for getting angry without cause also be offered us. For patience does not achieve its goal in righteous anger; it consists, rather, in not getting angry at all. I know, though, that the phrase “without cause” is interpreted in such a way as to mean that he is angered without cause who, when he is angry, is not allowed to seek revenge. Yet it is better to take it as it is found to be written both in many new manuscripts and in all the old ones.

— Hence it behooves the athlete of Christ, who is contending lawfully, to root out the movements of wrath. The perfect medicine for this disease is that we realize, first, that in no way are we permitted to get angry, whether for an unjust or a just cause, knowing that we shall at once lose the light of discretion and firm and correct counsel, as well as goodness itself and the restraints of righteousness, if the guiding principle of our heart is obscured by darkness; and then, that the purity of our mind will soon be driven out and that it can never become a temple of the Holy Spirit as long as the spirit of wrath dwells in us. Lastly, we should understand that we are never allowed to pray or to make petition to God when we are angry. Above all, we should keep before our eyes the uncertain state of our human condition, daily realizing that we shall depart from our bodies and that our chaste abstinence, the renunciation of all our property, the contempt of wealth, and the toil of fasting and keeping vigil will confer nothing on us if eternal punishment is being readied for us by the Judge of all on account of wrath and hatred alone.

James 1:19-22

1 John 3:11-15

Matthew 5:21-26

 

THE SPIRIT OF ANGER, Part 1 (From St. John Cassian)

John Cassian, 4th Century

St John Cassian 2

John was born in the Danube Delta in what is now Dobrogea, Romania, in about 360. In 382 he moved to Bethlehem and after several years there he, along with his friend Germanus,  journeyed to Egypt to meet with some of the greatest Christians of that time. They remained in Egypt until 399. Upon leaving Egypt they went to Constantinople, where they met John Chrysostom, who ordained John Cassian as a deacon.  He had to leave Constantinople in 403 when Chrysostom was exiled, eventually settling close to Marseilles, where he was ordained priest.   John’s most famous works are the Institutes and the Conferences, which provide details of conversations between John, Germanus and the Christians they met in Egypt.  John died peacefully in 435.

— We have heard that some people try to excuse this most destructive disease of the soul by attempting to extenuate it by a rather detestable interpretation of Scripture. They say that it is not harmful if we are angry with wrongdoing brothers, because God Himself is said to be enraged and angered with those who do not want to know Him or who, knowing Him, disdain Him. For example: “The Lord was angry and enraged against His people” (Psalms 106:40). And when the prophet prays and says: “Lord, do not rebuke me in your fury, nor in your anger correct me” (Psalms 6:1). They do not understand that, in their eagerness to concede human beings the opportunity for pernicious vice, they are mixing the injustice of fleshly passion into the divine limitlessness and the source of all purity.      

— And so the Christian who is on the way to perfection and who wishes to engage lawfully in the spiritual struggle must in every respect be free of the vice of anger and wrath. He should listen to what the vessel of election (Acts 9:15) commands of him: “All anger and indignation and uproar and blasphemy should be removed from you, as well as all malice” (Ephesians 4:31). When he says: “All anger should be removed from you,” he makes no exception at all for us as to necessity and utility. He should strive to cure a wrongdoing brother, if need be, in such a way that, while bringing relief to one who is perhaps laboring under a rather slight fever, he does not get angry and bring upon himself the more baleful malady of blindness, so that as he sees the speck in his brother’s eye he does not see the beam in his own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). For it behooves the one who wishes to heal someone else’s wound to be healthy and untouched by any disease or illness, lest the gospel saying be applied to him: “Physician, heal yourself first” (Luke 4:23). And how will a person see to remove the speck from his brother’s eye if he carries about a beam of wrath in his own eye? 

 — For any reason whatsoever the movement of wrath may boil over and blind the eyes of the heart, obstructing the vision with the deadly beam of a more vehement illness and not allowing the sun of righteousness to be seen. It is irrelevant whether a layer of gold or one of lead or of some other metal is placed over the eyes; the preciousness of the metal does not change the fact of blindness.

— Yet we have a function for anger placed quite appropriately within us, and for this purpose alone it is useful and beneficial for us to take it up — when we wax indignant against the wanton movements of our own heart and are angered at things that we are ashamed to do or to say in the sight of human beings but that have found their way into the recesses of our heart, as we tremble with utter horror before the presence of the angels and of God Himself, whose eye penetrates everywhere and everything and from whom our consciences can hide no secrets at all.

— And so we are commanded to get angry in a healthy way, at ourselves and at the evil suggestions that make an appearance, and not to sin by letting them have a harmful effect. The following verse opens itself to this same understanding in clearer fashion: “Be struck with compunction on your beds for what you say in your hearts” (Psalms 4:5). That is, whatever you think in your hearts when unexpected and deceitful suggestions rush in upon you, amend and correct with the most salutary compunction, removing all the noise and disturbance of wrath by means of moderate counsel, as if you were peacefully in bed.

When the blessed Apostle made use of the text of this verse and said: “Be angry, and do not sin,” he added: “The sun should not go down on your anger, and you should not give room to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26). If it is dangerous to let the sun of righteousness go down on our anger, and if we immediately give room to the devil in our heart when we are angry, why did he previously command us to get angry, when he said: “Be angry, and do not sin”? Does he not clearly mean that you should be angry at your vices and your rage lest you grow dark on account of your wrath and Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, begin to go down in your dusky minds and, once He departs, you offer room in your hearts to the devil?

— But what is to be said of those persons (and this I am unable to mention without shame) on whose implacability even sundown itself places no limits and who draw it out for days on end? They maintain a rancorous spirit against those with whom they are upset and, although they deny orally that they are angry, they manifest the deepest anger by their actions. They neither approach them with an appropriate word nor speak to them with ordinary civility, and in this regard they do not consider themselves in the wrong because they do not demand vengeance for their annoyance. Yet, because they do not dare to or at any rate cannot bring it out into the open, they turn the poison of their wrath back to their own destruction, brooding over it in their hearts and in glum silence digesting it within themselves. They do not at once and with strength of mind cast out their bitter sadness; instead they mull it over, and eventually as time goes on they deal with it equably.

Matthew 5:21-26

James 1:19-22

Part 2 – The Benefits and Importance of Scripture Reading – St. John Chrysostom

Select Quotes From St. John Chrysostom (347-407)

Chrysostom

To those who say that there is no harm in worldly pursuits while neglecting the spiritual life. “Now I say this for there are some, much less responsive than this audience here, who do not become ashamed at my words, but even speak at length in defense of their behavior. And if you ask, ‘Who is Amos or what is the number of the Prophets or of the Apostles?’ they cannot even open their mouth. But with regard to horses and charioteers, they can compose a discourse more cleverly than philosophers or poets. Furthermore, after all this they say: “What harm, now?” and “What loss?” Indeed, it is for this reason that I am groaning, namely because you do not know that the thing is harmful, and have no perception of the evil. God has given you a limited period of life to serve Him, and if you squander it vainly and fruitlessly, and to no purpose, do you still seek to learn what the loss is? If you completely squander your days entirely on Satan’s pomps, do you consider that you are not doing anything wrong? Though you ought to spend your entire life in prayers and supplications, while actually you waste your life, fruitlessly and for your damnation, in shouting and tumult and base words and quarreling and unlawful pleasure and deeds of sorcery – even after all this do you ask ‘What loss is there?’ You are not aware that time must be expended more sparingly than anything else, If you spend gold, you will be able to replenish your supply, but if you lose time you will repair the loss with great difficulty for a small amount has been dispensed to us in the present life. Therefore, if we do not use it as we ought, what shall we say when we depart to the next life?” (Hom. 58 On John)

On the importance of instructing children in the Holy Scriptures. “Do you wish your son to be obedient? From the very first, “Bring him up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.” Never deem it an unnecessary thing that he should be a diligent hearer of the divine Scriptures. For there the first thing he hears will be this: ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’. So then, this is for you. Never say, ‘This is the business of monks’. Am I making a monk of him? No, there is no need he should become a monk. Why be so afraid of a thing so replete with so much advantage? Make him a Christian. For it is of all things necessary for laymen to be acquainted with the lessons derived from this source, but especially for children. For theirs is an age full of folly and to this folly are added the bad examples derived from the heathen tales, where they are made acquainted with those heroes so admired amongst them¼A child requires therefore the remedies against these things. How is it not absurd to send children out to trades and to school, and to do all you can for these objectives, and yet, not to “Bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord?” And for this reason truly we are the first to reap the fruits, because we bring up our children to be insolent and profligate, disobedient and mere vulgar fellows. Let us not then do this; no, let us listen to this blessed Apostle’s admonitions “Let us bring them up in the chastening and admonition of the Lord”. Let us give them a pattern. Let us make them from the earliest age apply themselves to the reading of the Scriptures¼..Study not to make him an orator, but train him up to be a Christian philosopher. In the want of the one there will be no harm whatever; in the absence of the other, all the rhetoric in the world will be of no advantage. Tempers are wanted, not talking; character, not cleverness; deeds not word. These gain a man the kingdom. These confer what are benefits indeed. Whet not his tongue but cleanse his soul. I do not say this to prevent you teaching him these things, but to prevent your attending to them exclusively. Do not imagine that the monk alone stands in need of these lessons from Scripture. Of all others, the children just about to enter into the world especially need them.” (Hom. XXI Ephesians)

Christians who are ignorant of their faith are responsible for the unbelievers’ unbelief and the blasphemies which they say about Christ. “It is ridiculous if he who professes to be a Christian is unable to utter a word in defense of his own faith¼It is this that prevents the unbelievers from quickly realizing the absurdity of their error. Inasmuch as, relying on falsehood, they make every effort to obscure the baseness of their teachings, while we who are the guardians of truth cannot even open our mouth, what will prevent them from despising the great weakness of our doctrine? Will they not get the idea that our teaching is deceitful and foolish? Will they not blaspheme Christ as a dissembler and deceiver who makes use of the stupidity of the majority to advance his deceit? And we are responsible for this blasphemy if we are not willing to be on the alert to speak in defense of righteousness, but rate such matters as superfluous, and concern ourselves about the things of earth. To be sure, an admirer of a dancer or of a charioteer or of a contender against wild beasts runs every risk and makes every effort so as not to come off worsted in disputes concerning his favorite. Moreover, these men string together long commendations, building up a defense against those who find fault with them, casting countless jibes at their opponents. But, when arguments are proposed about Christianity they all bow their heads, and rub them and yawn, and when laughed at, withdraw. Now are you not deserving of unmitigated anger if Christ appears less honored among you than a dancer? For while, you have thought up countless defenses of their deeds – even though all of these are somewhat base – you do not even exert yourself to give any thought and care to the wondrous deeds of Christ.” (Hom 17 on John)

On the importance of attentiveness when listening to the readings. “If a man should come here with earnestness – even though he does not read the Scriptures at home – and if he pays attention to what is said here, within the space of even one year he will be able to obtain a considerable acquaintance with them… However, in spite of this, many have such an apathetic attitude that after such reading they do not even know the names of the books. And they are not ashamed, nor do they shudder with dread, because they have come so carelessly to the hearing of the word of God. On the other hand, if a musician, or a dancer, or anyone else connected with the theater should summon them to the city, they all hurry eagerly, and thank the one who invited them, and spend an entire half-day with their attention fixed on the performer exclusively. Yet when God addresses us through the prophets and apostles, we yawn, we are bored, we become drowsy. (Hom. 58 On John)

The Benefits and Importance of Scripture Reading (Quotes from St. John Chrysostom)

Select Quotes From St. John Chrysostom (347-407)

St John Chrysostom

“Let them hear, as many of us as neglect the reading of the Scriptures, to what harm we are subjecting ourselves, to what poverty.” (Hom. XLVII On Matthew)

The Bible helps us to obtain our salvation. “Now if we are willing to examine the Scriptures in this way, carefully and systematically, we shall be able to obtain our salvation. If we unceasingly are preoccupied with them, we shall learn both correctness of doctrine and an upright way of life.” (Hom 53 On John)

Scripture reading sanctifies us. “The Devil will never seize upon the soul which contains such thoughts as these, and no evil spirit will approach it, nor will the nature of sin come near. Well, then, sanctify your soul, sanctify your body by having these thoughts always in your heart and on your tongue. For if foul language is defiling and evokes evil spirits, it is evident that spiritual reading sanctifies the reader and attracts the grace of the Spirit.” (Hom. 32 On John)

The Scriptures are a treasure and neglect of it causes harm. “It is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom.” (Hom. XIX On Acts)

Knowledge of the Bible protects us and ignorance of it results in a multitude of evils. “This is the cause of all evils, the not knowing the Scriptures. We go into battle without arms, and how are we to come off safe?” (Hom. IX On Colossians)

The Bible is a medicine chest with remedies for grief and all troubles. “Listen, I entreat you, all that are careful for this life, and procure books that will be medicines for the soul¼get at least the New Testament, the Apostolic Epistles, the Acts, the Gospels, for your constant teachers. If grief befalls you, dive into them as into a chest of medicines; take from there comfort for your trouble, be it loss, or death, or bereavement of relations; or rather do not merely dive into them but take them wholly to yourself, keeping them in your mind.” (Hom. IX On Colossians)

The Bible is a treasury with remedies for every ailment. “Great is the profit to be derived from the sacred Scriptures and their assistance is sufficient for every need. Paul was pointing this out when he said, ‘Whatever things have been written have been written for our instruction, upon whom the final age of the world has come, that through the patience and the consolation afforded by the Scriptures we may have hope.’ (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11) The divine words, indeed, are a treasury containing every sort of remedy, so that, whether one needs to put down senseless pride, or to quench the fire of concupiscence or to trample on the love of riches, or to despise pain, or to cultivate cheerfulness and acquire patience – in them one may find in abundance the means to do so.” (Hom. 37 On John.)

Knowledge of the Scriptures allows us to bear difficulties. “For as the rich in money can bear fines and damages, so he that is rich in the doctrines of Christianity will bear not poverty only, but all calamities also easily, more easily than that rich one.” (Hom. IX On Colossians.)

Ignorance of the Scriptures by Christians is a disgrace. “Is it not strange that those who sit in the marketplace tell the names, and races, and cities and talents of charioteers and dancers, even accurately state the good and bad qualities of horses, while those who assemble in this place [the church] understand nothing of what is taking place here and even are ignorant of the number of the [sacred] Books?” (Hom. 32 On John)

Children must be instructed in the Scriptures, beginning with the learning of psalms and hymns. “But now your children will utter songs and dances of Satan, like cooks, and caterers, and musicians; no one knows any psalm but it seems a thing to be ashamed of even, a mockery and a joke. There is the treasury house of all these evils. For whatsoever soil the plant stands in, such is the fruit it bears; if in a sandy and salty soil, of like nature is its fruit; if in a sweet and rich one, it is again similar. So the matter of instruction is a sort of fountain. Teach him to sing those psalms which are so full of the love of wisdom. When in these you have led him on from childhood, by little and little you will lead him forward even to the higher things” (Hom. IX On Colossians)

On the lack of attention paid when listening to the reading of Scriptures in church, when in fact it is not the clergy but God who addresses them. “They think that when they enter in the church, that they enter into the presence of the clergy, they think that they hear from us. They do not lay to heart, they do not consider that they are entering the presence of God, that it is He who addresses them. For when the Reader standing up says “Thus says the Lord”, and the Deacon stands and imposes silence on all, he does not say this as doing honor to the Reader but to honor Him who speaks to all through him [the Reader]. If they knew that it was God who through His prophet speaks these things, they would cast away all their pride. For if rulers are addressing them, they do not allow their minds to wander, much else would they when God is speaking. We are ministers, beloved. We speak not our own things, but the things of God. Letters coming from heaven are read every day.¼ These letters are sent from God; therefore let us enter with becoming reverence into the churches and let us hearken with fear to the things here said.” (Hom. IX On Thessalonians.)

The Scriptures were written for a purpose and it is a great evil to be ignorant of them. “From this it is that countless evils have arisen – from ignorance of the Scriptures; from this it is that the plague of heresies has broken out; from this it is that there are negligent lives; from this there are labors without advantage. For as men deprived of this daylight would not walk aright, so they that look not to the gleaming of the Holy Scriptures must be frequently and constantly sinning, in that they are walking in the worst darkness.” (Intro. Hom. On Romans)