Thursday, July 20, 2023

On “Spiritual Childhood” by St John Chrysostom

From the Holy Gospel according to Matthew

At that time, there were brought unto Jesus little children that He should put His Hands on them, and pray… and Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belong the kingdom of heaven…’ ” Matt 19:13-21 

“Wherefore did the disciples rebuke them that brought them From an idea of His dignity. What therefore did He To teach them to be lowly, and to be above the niceness of the world, He took the little children, and embraced them in His Arms, and declared that of such is the kingdom of heaven as also He had said above, xviii. 3, 4. And we also, if we would fain be heirs of the kingdom of heaven, let us seek with great earnestness this virtue. For this is the highest peak of philosophy, to be simple and wise this is the life of an Angel. The mind of a little child is free from all the diseases of the mind a little child keepeth no remembrance of injuries, but goeth unto such as have inflicted them, as if unto friends, and as if nothing had happened. Although his mother give him stripes, yet a little child ever seeketh her, and putteth her before all.

“If thou wert to show him a Queen adorned with her crown, he would not prefer her before his own mother, in raiment how faded soever, and he would rather see her, albeit unkempt, than the Queen in all her glorious apparel. For his use is to account of things whether they be his own, or of others, not by the standard of poverty and riches, but by that of love only. He seeketh no more than he needeth. When he is satisfied with milk, he leaveth the pap. The things that press upon us, such as the loss of money, and the like, do not press upon him, nor do the same transitory things that please us, please him, neither doth he gaze with admiration at loveliness of shape. Therefore Christ said: Of such is the kingdom of heaven, to make us do by force of will what little children do by nature.

“The Pharisees' usual springs of action were spite and vanity; therefore doth the Lord everywhere command His disciples to be simple, and in teaching the one, pointeth silently at the other class. Nothing breedeth pride so much as princedom and precedence. Since, then, His disciples were to receive much honour throughout all the world, He warneth their minds beforehand, and letteth them not stumble into the snare of men, nor go seeking for honours from the mob, nor put themselves forward before others. It is true, these may seem little things, but they give occasion for very great evils. It was when they were placed in these positions, that the Pharisees fell into their direst misfortunes from looking for salutations, and foremost or good places, they got into a keen desire of distinction, and from that into ungodliness.”

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