Fuel to Love

From Homilies on 2 Corinthians (ca. 397)

“For the rest, brethren, rejoice, be perfected, be comforted, be of the same mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” What does it mean, “for the rest, brethren, rejoice”? You have pained, terrified, thrown them into an agony, made them to tremble and fear, and how do you bid them rejoice?  He says, “why, for this very reason I bid them rejoice. For,” he says, “if what is your part follows upon mine, there will be nothing to prevent that joy. For all my part has been done. I have suffered long. I have delayed. I have refrained from cutting off. I have sought; I have advised; I have alarmed. I have threatened so as by every means to gather you in to the fruit of repentance. And now it is it time for your part to be done, and so your joy will be unfading.”

“Be perfected.” What is, “be perfected”? It means, “be complete, fill up what is deficient.” He says, “be comforted.” For, since their trials were numerous, and their perils great, he says, “be comforted,” both by one another, and by us, and by your change unto the better. For if you should have joy of conscience and become complete, nothing is wanting for your cheerfulness and comfort. For nothing does so produce comfort as a pure conscience, yes, though innumerable trials surround.

“Be of the same mind, live in peace.” The request he made in an earlier epistle also, at the opening. For it is possible to be of one mind, and yet not to live in peace, , when people agree in doctrine, but in their dealings with each other are at variance. But Paul requires both.

“And the God of love and peace shall be with you.” For truly he not only recommends and advises, but also prays. For either he prays for this, or else foretells what shall happen; or rather, both. “For if you do these things,” he says, “for instance, if you be of one mind and live in peace, God also will be with you, for he is the God of love and of peace, and in these things God delights, God rejoices.” …

Then to lead them on unto it, he says, “greet one another with a holy kiss.” What is “holy”? Not hollow, not treacherous, like the kiss which Judas gave to Christ. For therefore is the kiss given, that it may be fuel to love, that it may kindle the disposition, that we may so love each other, as brothers, as children parents, as parents children, yes, rather even far more. For those things are a disposition implanted by nature, but these by spiritual grace. Thus our souls bound unto each other.

And therefore, when we return after an absence we kiss each other, our souls hastening unto mutual intercourse. For this is that member which most of all declares to us the workings of the soul. But about this holy kiss somewhat else may yet be said. To what effect? We are the temple of Christ; we kiss then the porch and entrance of the temple when we kiss each other. See ye not how many kiss even the porch of this temple, some stooping down, others grasping it with their hand, and putting their hand to their mouth. And through these gates and doors Christ both had entered into us, and does enter, whenever we communicate.

You who partake of the mysteries understand what I say. For it is in no common manner that our lips are honored, when they receive the Lord’s Body. It is for this reason chiefly that we here kiss. Let them give ear who speak filthy things, who utter railing, and let them shudder to think what that mouth is they dishonor; let those give ear who kiss obscenely. Hear what things God has proclaimed by your mouth, and keep it undefiled. He has discoursed of the life to come, of the resurrection, of immortality, that death is not death, of those other innumerable mysteries. For he that is about to be initiated comes to the priest’s mouth as it were an oracle, to hear things full of awe.

St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was Archbishop of Constantinople, and one of the greatest preachers of his era. He is traditionally counted among the Four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church.  The Homilies on II Corinthians date from his ministry in his native Antioch, and were preached in the 380s and 390s. His feast day is September 13.


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