Thankful for the Past

From Commentary on Philippians (390-397)

Paul writes, “Let your forbearance be known unto all.” He said previously, “Whose god is the belly, and whose glory is in their shame, and that they mind earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). It was probable that they would be at enmity with the wicked; he therefore exhorted them to have nothing in common with them, but to use them with all forbearance, and that not only their brethren, but also their enemies and opposers. The Lord is at hand, in nothing be anxious. For why, tell me? Do they ever rise in opposition? And if you see them living in luxury, why are you in affliction? Already the judgment is near; shortly will they give account of their actions. Are you in affliction, and they in luxury? But these things shall shortly receive their end. Do they plot against you, and threaten you? Be anxious in nothing. The judgment is already at hand, when these things shall be reversed. Be anxious in nothing. If you are tender and warm toward those who prepare evil against you, yet it shall not at last turn out to their profit. Already the recompense is at hand, if poverty, if death, if anything else that is terrible be upon you. “But in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” There is this for one consolation, “the Lord is at hand.” And again, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20).

Behold another consolation, a medicine which heals grief and distress and all that is painful. And what is this? Prayer, thanksgiving in all things. And so God wills that our prayers should not simply be requests, but thanksgivings too for what we have. For how should he ask for future things, who is not thankful for the past? “But in everything by prayer and supplication.” Wherefore we ought to give thanks for all things, even for those which seem to be grievous, for this is the part of the truly thankful man. In the other case the nature of the things demands it; but this springs from a grateful soul, and one earnestly affected toward God. God acknowledges these prayers, but others God does not acknowledge. Offer up such prayers as may be acknowledged…

“And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” What does this means? The peace of God which he has wrought toward us, surpasses all understanding. For who could have expected, who could have hoped, that such good things would have come? They exceed all man’s understanding, not his speech alone. For God’s enemies, for those who hated God, for those who determined to turn themselves away, for these God did not refuse to deliver up his only begotten Son, that he might make peace with us. This peace then, that is, the reconciliation, the love of God, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts… If the peace surpasses all understanding, much more does God himself, who gives peace, pass all understanding, not ours only, but also that of angels and the powers above. And what does “in Christ Jesus” mean? It is that we shall be guarded in Christ, so that you may remain firm, and not fall from Christ’s faith.

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 Philippians date from his ministry in his native Antioch. His feast day is September 13.


Online Archives