Translation From the Holy Gospel According to Matthew
At that time, Jesus said to His disciples: When you shall see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (he that reads, let him understand:) then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains and he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take anything out of his house and he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child and that give suck, in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter, or on the sabbath: for there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been found from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be: and unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved; but for the sake of the elect, those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say to you: Lo, here is Christ, or there; do not believe him: for there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you beforehand. If therefore they shall say to you: Behold, he is in the desert, go ye not out. Behold He is in the closets, believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be: Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together. And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from the heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved and then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. And He shall send His angels with a trumpet and a loud voice, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them. And from the fig tree learn a parable: when the branch thereof is now tender, and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that ìt is nigh at the doors. Amen I say to you that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.
A Message From St. John Chrysostom’s Homilies on Matthew: No. 76.
Woe is me for that fearful day! For though we ought to rejoice when we hear these things, we feel pain, and are dejected, and our countenance is sad. Or is it I only that feel thus, and do ye rejoice at hearing of these things? For upon me at least there comes a kind of shudder when these things are said, and I lament bitterly, and groan from the very depth of my heart. For I have no part in these things, but in those that are spoken afterwards, that are said unto the virgins, unto him that buried the talents he had received, unto the wicked servant. For this cause I weep, to think from what glory we are to be cast out, from what hope of blessings, and this perpetually, and forever, to spare ourselves a little labor. For if indeed this were a great toil, and a grievous law, we ought even so to do all things; nevertheless many of the remiss would seem to have at least some pretext, a poor pretext indeed, yet would they seem to have some, that the toil was great, and the time endless, and the burden intolerable; but now we can put forward no such objection; which circumstance most of all will gnaw us no less than hell at that time, when for want of a slight endeavor, and a little toil, we shall have lost Heaven, and the unspeakable blessings. For both the time is short, and the labor small, and yet we faint and are supine. Thou strivest on earth, and the crown is in Heaven; thou art punished of men, and art honored of God; the race is for two days, and the reward for endless ages; the struggle is a corruptible body, and the rewards in an incorruptible.
And apart from these things, we should consider another point also, that even if we do not choose to suffer any of the things that are painful for Christ’s sake, we must in other ways most assuredly endure them. For neither, though thou shouldest not have died for Christ, wilt thou be immortal; neither though thou shouldest not have cast away thy riches for Christ, wilt thou go away hence with them. These things He requires of thee, which although He should not require them, thou wilt have to give up, because thou art mortal; He willeth thee to do these by thy choice, which thou must do by necessity. So much only He requires to be added, that it be done for His sake; since that these things befall men and pass away, cometh to pass of natural necessity. Seest thou how easy the conflict? What it is altogether necessary for thee to suffer, that choose to suffer for my sake; let this only be added, and I have sufficient obedience. The gold which thou intendest to lend to another, this lend to me, both at more profit, and in greater security. Thy body, wherewith thou art going to warfare for another, make it to war for me, for indeed I surpass thy toils with recompenses in the most abundant excess. Yet thou in all other matters preferrest him that giveth thee more as well in loans, as in marketing and in warfare; but Christ alone, when giving more, and infinitely more than all, thou dost not receive. And what is this so great hostility? What is this so great enmity? Where will there be any excuse or defense left for thee, when the reasons for which thou preferrest man to man avail not to induce thee to prefer God to man?
Why dost thou commit thy treasure to the earth? “Give it into my hand,” He saith. Doth not the earth’s Lord seem to thee more worthy of trust than the earth? This indeed restoreth that which thou laidest in it, though oftentimes not even this, but He gives thee also recompense for His keeping of it? For indeed He doth exceedingly love us. Therefore if thou shouldest wish to lend, He stands ready; or to sow, He receives it; or if thou shouldest wish to build, He draws thee unto Himself, saying, Build in my regions. Why runnest thou unto poor, unto beggarly men, who also for little gains occasion thee great trouble? Nevertheless, not even on hearing these things, do we make up our minds to it, but where are fightings and wars, and wild struggles,24 and trials and suits of law, and false accusations, thither do we hasten.
Doth He not justly turn away from us, and punish us, when He is giving up Himself unto us for all things, and we are resisting Him? It is surely plain to all. For whether thou art desirous to adorn thyself, “Let it, He saith, be with my ornaments;” or to arm thyself, “with my arms,” or to clothe thyself, “with my raiment;” or to feed thyself, “at my table;” or to journey, “on my way;” or to inherit, “my inheritance;” or to enter into a country, “the city of which I am builder and maker;” or to build a house, “amongst my tabernacles.” “For I, so far from asking thee for a recompense of the things that I give thee, to even make myself owe thee a recompense for this very thing, if thou be willing to use all I have.” What can be equal to this munificence, “I am Father, I am brother, I am bridegroom, I am dwelling place, I am food, I am raiment, I am root, I am foundation, all whatsoever thou wiliest, I am.” “Be thou in need of nothing, I will be even a servant, for I came to minister, not to be ministered unto; I am friend, and member, and head, and brother, and sister, and mother; I am all; only cling thou closely to me. I was poor for thee, and a wanderer for thee, on the cross for thee, in the tomb for thee, above I intercede for thee to the Father; on earth I am come for thy sake am ambassador from my Father. Thou art all things to me, brother, and joint heir, and friend, and member.” What wouldest thou more? Why dost thou turn away from Him, who loveth thee? Why dost thou labor for the world? Why dost thou draw water into a broken cistern? For it is this to labor for the present life. Why dost thou comb wool into the fire? Why dost thou “beat the air?” Why dost thou “run in vain?”
Hath not every art an end? It is surely plain to every one. Do thou also show the end of thy worldly eagerness. But thou canst not; for, “vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Let us go to the tombs; show me thy father; show me thy wife. Where is he that was clad in raiment of gold? he that rode in the chariot? he that had armies, that had the girdle, that had the heralds? he that was slaying these, and casting those into prison? he that put to death whom he would, and set free whom he was minded? I see nothing but bones, and a worm, and a spider’s web; all those things are earth, all those a fable, all a dream, and a shadow, and a bare relation, and a picture, or rather not so much as a picture. For the picture we see at least in a likeness, but here not so much as a likeness.
And would that the evils stop with this. For now the honor, and the luxury, and the distinction, end with a shadow, with words; but the consequences of them, are no longer limited to a shadow and to words, but continue, and will pass over with us elsewhere, and will be manifest to all, the rapine, the covetousness, the fornications, the adulteries, the dreadful things beyond number; these not in similitude, neither in ashes, but written above, both words and deeds.
With what eyes then shall we behold Christ? For if any one could not bear to see his father, when conscious to himself that he had sinned against him, upon Him who infinitely exceeds a father in forbearance how shall we then look? how shall we bear it? For indeed we shall stand at Christ’s judgment-seat, and there will be a strict inquiry into all things.
But if any man disbelieve the judgments to come, let him look at the things here, at those in the prisons, those in the mines, those on the dunghills, the possessed, the frantic, them that are struggling with incurable diseases, those that are fighting against continual poverty, them that live in famine, them that are pierced with irremediable woes, those in captivity. For these persons would not suffer these things here, unless vengeance and punishments were to await all the others also that have committed such sins. And if the rest have undergone nothing here, you ought to regard this very fact as a sign that there is surely something to follow after our departure here. For the self-same God of all would not take vengeance on some, and leave others unpunished, who have committed the same or more grievous offenses, unless He designed to bring some punishments upon them there.
By these arguments then and these examples let us also humble ourselves; and let them who are obstinate unbelievers of the judgment believe it henceforth, and become better men; that having lived here in a manner worthy of the kingdom, we may attain unto the good things to come, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.