September 30 Epistle Reading

Philippians 1:20-27

20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again. 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel,

St. John Chrysostom in his Homily 3 on Philippians wrote:

“…as long as Christ is with me, even though death overtake me, still I live… I live not, he says, the common life. How do you live then, O blessed Paul? Do you not see the sun, do you not breathe the common air? Are you not nourished with the same food as others? Do you not tread the earth as we? Do you not need sleep, nor clothing, nor shoes? What do you mean by, ‘I live not’? How do you not live?… The word ‘life’ is much significant, beloved, as also the word ‘death.’ There is this life of the body, there is the life of sin, as he himself elsewhere says, ‘But if we died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?’ (Rom.6:2)… he busied himself about nought of the things here. How then lived he? Just as we are accustomed to say, in common matters, such a one is not with me, when he does nothing that pertains to me… Because I shall more clearly be present with Him; so that my death is rather a coming to life; they who kill me will work on me no dreadful thing, they will only send me onward to my proper life, and free me from that which is not mine…”

“See the affection of this blessed one; in this way too he comforts them, when they see that he is a master of his own choice, and that this is done not by man’s sin, but by the dispensation of God. Why mourn ye, says he, at my death? It had been far better to have passed away long since. ‘For to depart,’ he says, ‘and to be with Christ, is very far better.’…”

“Let us then not simply grieve for the dead, nor joy for the living simply…let us grieve for sinners, not only when dying, but also while living. Let us joy for the just, not only while living, but also when dead…let us not make wailings for the dead simply, but for those who have died in sins. They deserve wailing; they deserve beating of the breast and tears.”

And Chrysostom continues on in Homily 4 on Philippians:

(referring to v.27)…do you see, how all that he has said, tends to turn them to this one thing, advancement in virtue? ‘Only let your manner of life be worthy of the Gospel of Christ.’ What means this word ‘only,’ but that this, and nought else, is the only thing we should seek? If we have this, nothing grievous will befall us. ‘That whether I come and see you, or be absent, I may hear of your state.’ This he says not as if he had changed his purpose, and no longer meant to visit them. But if this come to pass, he says, even though absent, I am able to rejoice. ‘If,’ that is, ‘I hear that you stand fast in one spirit, with one soul.’ This is what above all things unites believers, and maintains love unbroken, ‘that they may be one.’ (Jn.17:11) For a ‘kingdom divided against itself shall not stand.’ (Mk.3:24) That is, do not look with expectation toward me, and therefore slumber, as waiting for my coming, and then when you see me not coming faint. For even from report I can receive pleasure likewise.”

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