Editor’s Note: This was preached by St. John Chrysostom just before he was sent into exile.
Numerous are the waves, and great the tossing of the sea, but we have no fear of going down, for we stand upon the rock. Let the ocean rage as it will, it is powerless to break the rock. Let the waves roll, they cannot sink the bark of Jesus. Tell me, what should we fear? Death? To me to live is Christ and to die gain. Is it exile perchance? The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness of it. Is it confiscation of property? We brought nothing with us into the world, and it is clear that we can take no thing away with us. I despise what the world fears, and hold its good things in derision. I do not fear poverty, nor do I desire riches. I am not afraid of death; I do not pray to live, if it be not for your good. This is why I speak of what is now taking place, and exhort your charity to be of good cheer.
For no man shall be able to separate us. No man can part that which God has joined together. If, speaking of man and wife, He says : On this account a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh; for that which God has joined together man shall not separate; if you cannot dissolve marriage, how much less shall you be able to break up the Church of God. You may fight her, you will not be able to harm the object of your attack. But whilst you make me more illustrious, you are undermining your own strength by fighting against me. It is hard for you to kick against a sharp goad. You do not take the edge off it, but you make your own feet bloody; and the waves do not break through the rock, but are dissolved in foam.
There is nothing more powerful than the Church, man; give up fighting her, lest she overpower your strength. Wage not war against heaven. If you fight a man, you conquer or are conquered. But if you fight the Church, you cannot conquer. For God is stronger than all. Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He? Who will venture to subvert the order which God has established? You know not His power. He looks down upon the earth and causes it to tremble. He commands, and that which was shaken becomes firm. If He can establish in peace a city torn by factions, how much more is He able to establish the Church! The Church is stronger than heaven. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away. What words? Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
If you distrust words, believe in facts. How many tyrants have wished to get the better of the Church! How many frying-pans, and furnaces, and fangs of wild animals, and sharp swords have there not been! Yet they have not succeeded. Where are the oppressors? Silence and oblivion have passed over them. But where is the Church? It is more dazzling than the sun. Their deeds are no more, hers are immortal. Now, if being few they were not conquered, how will you get the better of them, now that the world is filled with the service of God? Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word shall not pass; and with good reason. The Church is more pleasing to God than heaven; He did not take a body from heaven, but He did take flesh of the Church. Heaven is made for the Church, not the Church for heaven.
Be not disturbed by anything which has taken place. Gain me the grace of an immutable faith. See you not Peter walking upon the waters, beginning to doubt and being on the point of drowning, not through the surging waves, but through the weakness of his faith? Did we come here by vote of man? Did a man bring us in, that a man might displace us? I say this, not out of pride, nor to boast -God forbid!- but wishing to give courage to what is faint in you.
Since the city has become quiet, the devil aimed at disturbing the Church. Wretched and most wicked demon, you could not master walls, and do you think to shake the Church? Is the Church made up of walls? The Church is in the multitude of the faithful. What an array of immutable pillars, not clasped by iron, but bound by faith! I say not that so vast a multitude is more ardent than fire, but if it consisted of one, you would not overcome that one. You know what wounds the martyrs inflicted on you. Many a time a tender maiden has been brought into court; she was softer than wax, and she became harder than a rock. You tore her sides, yet you took not her faith. The flesh languished whilst the strength of faith was not weakened : the body was being spent, the spirit was renewed : the physical frame was perishing, yet piety endured. You have not conquered a single woman, and do you hope to conquer so numerous a people? Do you not hear the Lord saying, Wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them. Where is not this people whom charity binds?
I have a proof of it. Am I in good heart by my own strength? I hold His written word. This is my staff, this is my courage, this is to me a calm harbour. Even if the world be troubled, I hold that written word; I look up to those words, they are a wall of strength to me. What are they? I am with you always until the consummation of the world. Christ is with me, what shall I fear? If waves are raging against me, and the fountains of the deep and the passions of princes, all these things are more insignificant than a cobweb. And if it were not for your charity, I would not refuse to depart to-morrow, for I always say, Lord, may Thy will be done; not what this man or that man wishes, but as Thou wilt. This is my tower of defence, this is my immutable rock, this is my sure staff. If this be God’s will, so be it. If He wish me to remain here, I am grateful to Him. Wherever it may be, I give Him thanks.