There, common (to the whole congregation) stands the deacon crying aloud, and saying,
Let us attend to the reading.It is the common voice of the whole Church, the voice which he utters, and yet none does attend. After him begins the Reader,
The Prophecy of Esaias,and still none attends, although Prophecy has nothing of man in it. Then after this, he says,
Thus says the Lord,and still none attends. Then after this punishments and vengeances, and still even then none attends. But what is the common excuse?
It is always the same things over again.
This it is most of all, that ruins you. Suppose you knew the things, even so you certainly ought not to turn away: since in the theatres also, is it not always the same things acted over again, and still you take no disgust? How dare you talk about
the same things,you who know not so much as the names of the Prophets? Are you not ashamed to say, that this is why you do not listen, because it is
the same things over again,while you do not know the names of those who are read, and this, though always hearing the same things? You have yourself confessed that the same things are said.
Were I to say this as a reason for finding fault with you, you would need to have recourse to quite a different excuse, instead of this which is the very thing you find fault with.— Do not you exhort your son? Now if he should say,
Always the same things!would not you count it an insult? It would be time enough to talk of
the same things,when we both knew the things, and exhibited them in our practice. Or rather, even then, the reading of them would not be superfluous. What equal to Timothy? Tell me that: and yet to him says Paul, Give attention to reading, to exhortation.
For it is not possible, I say not possible, ever to exhaust the mind of the Scriptures. It is a well which has no bottom.
I said,says the Preacher,
I have become wise: and then it departed from me.Shall I show you that the things are not
the same?How many persons, do you suppose, have spoken upon the Gospels? And yet all have spoken in a way which was new and fresh. For the more one dwells on them, the more insight does he get, the more does he behold the pure light. Look, what a number of things I am going to speak of:— say, what is narrative? What is prophecy? What is parable? What is type? What is allegory? What is symbol? What are Gospels?
Again, tell me, how do the Gospels differ from the Prophets? Why are not the Prophecies also called Gospels, good tidings? For they tell the same things: for instance,
The lame shall leap as an hart.
The Lord shall give the word to them that preach the Gospel: and,
A new heaven and a new earth.Why are not those also called Gospels? But if, while you do not so much as know what
Gospelsmean, you so despise the reading of the Scriptures, what shall I say to you?— Let me speak of something else. Why four Gospels? Why not, ten? Why not twenty? If
many have taken in hand to set forth a narrative, why not one person? Why they that were disciples [i.e. Apostles]? Why they that were not disciples?
But why any Scriptures at all? And yet, on the contrary, the Old Testament says,
I will give you a New Testament.Where are they that say,
Always the same things?If you knew these, that, though a man should live thousands of years, they are not
the same things,ye would not say this. Believe me, I will not tell you the answers to any of these questions; not in private, not in public: only, if any find them out, I will nod assent. For this is the way we have made you good-for-nothing, by always telling you the things ready to your hands, and not refusing when we ought. Look, you have questions enough: consider them, tell me the reasons.
(From Chrysostom's Homily 19 on the Acts of the Apostles.)