Author Topic: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f  (Read 166 times)

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Offline Porter ODoran

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Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« on: November 21, 2017, 01:51:04 PM »
Here is the scripture in question:

"Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Many of the smaller low-church sects cling to this verse as a justification for their small success, and also put a doomful twist on it, as in this excerpt of a letter from my mother: "Hell will be packed full and boiling over!" I've also had the text put to me from various quarters as a refutation of Orthodoxy, since Orthodoxy seems to seek the salvation of all and is not ashamed to have millions of members.

St. Luke also reports this doctrine of our Lord (13.23ff), but with some additional context:

"Then said one unto him, 'Lord, are there few that be saved?' -- And he said unto them, 'Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, "Lord, Lord, open unto us"; and he shall answer and say unto you, "I know you not whence ye are": Then shall ye begin to say, "We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets." But he shall say, "I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity." There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.' "
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Offline rakovsky

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Re: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« Reply #1 on: November 21, 2017, 02:06:35 PM »
For Orthodox commentaries, I like http://bible.optina.ru/ for ease of use, although it's in Russian. In English, there is the Golden Chain commentary:
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/e-catena/matthew7.html

Tertullian Against Marcion Book II, writes:
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    But who, when so many incentives to evil were assailing him, would desire that good, which he could despise with impunity? Who, again, would take care of what he could lose without danger? You read bow broad is the road to evil,

The verse doesn't appear to disprove Orthodoxy, since Orthodox writers cite it as authority.
The ocean, infinite to men, and the worlds beyond it, are directed by the same ordinances of the Lord. ~ I Clement 20

Offline Iconodule

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Re: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« Reply #2 on: November 21, 2017, 02:10:59 PM »
A homily by Chysostom that addresses this passage: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200123.htm

I have St Theophylact's commentary at home; he relies heavily on Chrysostom, but I'll mention if he says anything different.
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« Reply #3 on: November 21, 2017, 02:12:46 PM »
A homily by Chysostom that addresses this passage: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/200123.htm

I have St Theophylact's commentary at home; he relies heavily on Chrysostom, but I'll mention if he says anything different.

Wow this is powerful. Thank you friend.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

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Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy

Offline Asteriktos

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Re: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2017, 09:44:43 AM »
A few more...

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But that this may be properly observed and guarded, the integrity of the catholic Faith must first of all be preserved, and, because in all cases 'narrow' and steep 'is the way that leadeth unto life,' there must be no deviation from its track, either to the right hand or to the left.

-- St. Leo the Great - Letter 85


But because 'all men have not faith' (2 Thes. 3:2) and the crafty Tempter never delights so much in wounding the hearts of men as when he can poison their unwary minds with errors that are opposed to Gospel Truth, we must strive by the mighty teaching of the Holy Ghost to prevent Christian knowledge from being perverted by the devil’s falsehoods.  And against this danger it behoves the rulers of the churches especially to guard and to avert from the minds of simple folk lies which are coloured by a certain show of truth. 'For narrow and steep is the way which leads to life' (Matt. 7:14).  And they seek to entrap men not so much by watching their actions as by nice distinctions of meaning, corrupting the force of sentences by some very slight addition or alteration, whereby sometimes a statement, which made for salvation, by a subtle change is turned to destruction.  But since the Apostle says, 'there must be heresies, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you' (1 Cor. 11:19), it tends to the progress of the whole Church, that, whenever wickedness reveals itself in setting forth wrong opinions, the things which are harmful be not concealed, and that what will inevitably end in ruin may not injure the innocence of others.

-- St. Leo the Great, Letter 129


For who, that is set in the uncertainty of this life, can be found either exempt from temptation, or free from fault?  Who is there who would not wish for additions to his virtue, or removal of his vice? seeing that adversity does us harm, and prosperity spoils us, and it is equally dangerous not to have what we want at all, and to have it in the fullest measure.  There is a trap in the fulness of riches, a trap in the straits of poverty.  The one lifts us up in pride, the other incites us to complaint.  Health tries us, sickness tries us, so long as the one fosters carelessness and the other sadness.  There is a snare in security, a snare in fear; and it matters not whether the mind which is given over to earthly thoughts, is taken up with pleasures or with cares; for it is equally unhealthy to languish under empty delights, or to labour under racking anxiety.

And thus is perfectly fulfilled that assurance of the Truth, by which we learn that 'narrow and steep is the way that leads to life' (Matt. 7:14); and whilst the breadth of the way that leads to death is crowded with a large company, the steps are few of those that tread the path of safety.  And wherefore is the left road more thronged than the right, save that the multitude is prone to worldly joys and carnal goods?  And although that which it desires is short-lived and uncertain, yet men endure toil more willingly for the lust of pleasure than for love of virtue.  Thus while those who crave things visible are unnumbered, those who prefer the eternal to the temporal are hardly to be found.

-- St. Leo the Great, Sermon 49


And lest we should be led by despair into sheer inaction, He promises that the Divine power shall make those things possible which are to man impossible from his own lack of power:  “for narrow and strait is the way which leadeth unto life” (Matt. 7:14) and no one could set foot on it, no one could advance one step, unless Christ by making Himself the Way unbarred the difficulties of approach:  and thus the Ordainer of the journey becomes the Means whereby we are able to accomplish it, because not only does He impose the labour, but also brings us to the haven of rest.  In Him therefore we find our Model of patience, in Whom we have our Hope of life eternal; for “if we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Tim. 2:12) since, as the Apostle says, “he that saith he abideth in Christ ought himself also to walk as He walked" (1 John 2:6).  Otherwise we make a vain presence and show, if we follow not His steps, Whose name we glory in, and assuredly they would not be irksome to us, but would free us from all dangers, if we loved nothing but what He commanded us to love.

-- St. Leo the Great, Sermon 90

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For the subtle serpent is ever “watching our heel,” that is, is lying in wait for the close, and endeavouring to trip us up right to the end of our life. And therefore it will not be of any use to have made a good beginning and to have eagerly taken the first step towards renouncing the world with all fervour, if a corresponding end does not likewise set it off and conclude it, and if the humility and poverty of Christ, of which you have now made profession in His sight, are not preserved by you even to the close of your life, as they were first secured. And that you may succeed in doing this, do you ever “watch his head,” i.e. the first rise of thoughts, by bringing them at once to your superior. For thus you will learn to “bruise” his dangerous beginnings, if you are not ashamed to disclose any of them to your superior.

Wherefore, as Scripture says, “when you go forth to serve the Lord stand in the fear of the Lord, and prepare your mind” (Sir. 2:1) not for repose or carelessness or delights, but for temptations and troubles. For “through much tribulation we must enter into the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22) For “strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be which find it." (Matt. 7:14) Consider therefore that you belong to the few and elect; and do not grow cold after the examples of the lukewarmness of many: but live as the few, that with the few you may be worthy of a place in the kingdom of God: for “many are called, but few chosen,” (Matt. 20:16) and it is a “little flock to which it is the Father’s good pleasure to give” an inheritance (Luke 12:32). You should therefore realize that it is no light sin for one who has made profession of perfection to follow after what is imperfect. And to this state of perfection you may attain by the following steps and in the following way.

-- St. John Cassian, Institutes, 4.37-38

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Would that I might mortify my members that are upon the earth, would that I might spend my all upon the spirit, walking in the way that is narrow and trodden by few, not that which is broad and easy. For glorious and great are its consequences, and our hope is greater than our desert.  What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? What is this new mystery which concerns me?  I am small and great, lowly and exalted, mortal and immortal, earthly and heavenly.  I share one condition with the lower world, the other with God; one with the flesh, the other with the spirit.  I must be buried with Christ, arise with Christ, be joint heir with Christ, become the son of God, yea, God Himself.  See whither our argument has carried us in its progress.  I almost own myself indebted to the disaster which has inspired me with such thoughts, and made me more enamoured of my departure hence.  This is the purpose of the great mystery for us.  This is the purpose for us of God, Who for us was made man and became poor, to raise our flesh, and recover His image, and remodel man, that we might all be made one in Christ, who was perfectly made in all of us all that He Himself is, that we might no longer be male and female, barbarian, Scythian, bond or free (which are badges of the flesh), but might bear in ourselves only the stamp of God, by Whom and for Whom we were made, and have so far received our form and model from Him, that we are recognized by it alone.

-- St. Gregory the Theologian, Oration 7.23

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And further, when the word is sown it does not yield a uniform produce of fruit in this human life, but one various and rich; for it bringeth forth, some an hundred, and some sixty, and some thirty, as the Saviour teaches—that Sower of grace, and Bestower of the Spirit. And this is no doubtful matter, nor one that admits no confirmation; but it is in our power to behold the field which is sown by Him; for in the Church the word is manifold and the produce rich. Not with virgins alone is such a field adorned; nor with monks alone, but also with honourable matrimony and the chastity of each one. For in sowing, He did not compel the will beyond the power. Nor is mercy confined to the perfect, but it is sent down also among those who occupy the middle and the third ranks, so that He might rescue all men generally to salvation. To this intent He hath prepared many mansions with the Father, so that although the dwelling-place is various in proportion to the advance in moral attainment, yet all of us are within the wall, and all of us enter within the same fence, the adversary being cast out, and all his host expelled thence. For apart from light there is darkness, and apart from blessing there is a curse, the devil also is apart from the saints, and sin far from virtue. Therefore the Gospel rebukes Satan, saying, ‘Get thee behind Me, Satan.' But us it calls to itself, saying, ‘Enter ye in at the strait gate.’ And again, ‘Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom which is prepared for you.' So also the Spirit cried aforetime in the Psalms, saying, ‘Enter into His gates with psalms.'

-- St. Athanasius of Alexandria, Festal Letter 10

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Let us, therefore, not despond, nor give ourselves up by reason of our distress; but let us wait, expecting a favourable issue; and let us give heed to the things that are now about to be spoken. For it is my purpose to discourse to you again to day respecting contempt for death. I said to you, yesterday, that we are afraid of death, not because he is really formidable; but because the love of the kingdom hath not kindled us, nor the fear of hell laid hold of us; and because besides this we have not a good conscience. Are you desirous that I should speak of a fourth reason for this unseasonable distress, one which is not less, and truer than the rest? We do not live with the austerity that becometh Christians.

On the contrary, we love to follow this voluptuous and dissolute and indolent life; therefore also it is but natural that we cleave to present things; since if we spent this life in fastings, vigils, and poverty of diet, cutting off all our extravagant desires; setting a restraint upon our pleasures; undergoing the toils of virtue; keeping the body under like Paul, and bringing it into subjection; not “making provision for the lusts of the flesh;” and pursuing the strait and narrow way, we should soon be earnestly desirous of future things, and eager to be delivered from our present labours.

And to prove that what I say is not untrue, ascend to the tops of the mountains, and observe the monks who are there; some in sackcloth; some in bonds; some in fastings; some shut up in darkness. Thou wilt then perceive, that all these are earnestly desiring death, and calling it rest. For even as the pugilist is eager to leave the stadium, in order that he may be freed from wounds; and the wrestler longs for the theatre to break up, that he may be released from his toils; so also he who by the aid of virtue leads a life of austerity, and mortification, earnestly longs for death in order that he may be freed from his present labours, and may be able to have full assurance in regard to the crowns laid up in store, by arriving in the still harbour, and migrating to the place where there is no further apprehension of shipwreck.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Statues, 6.7


For what leadeth unto a kingdom, riches or poverty? Let us hear the Lord Himself of the heavens saying of those, that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” but of the poor the contrary, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor; and come, follow Me; and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.” But if ye will, let us see what is said on either side. “Narrow and straitened is the way,” He saith, “that leadeth unto life.” Who then treadeth the narrow way, he that is in luxury, or that is in poverty; that is independent, or that carrieth ten thousand burdens; the lax and dissolute, or the thoughtful and anxious? But what need of these arguments, when it is best to betake one’s self to the persons themselves. Lazarus was poor, yea very poor; and he that passed him by as he lay at his gateway was rich. Which then entered into the kingdom, and was in delights in Abraham’s bosom? and which of them was scorched, with not even a drop at his command? But, saith one, ‘both many poor will be lost, and [many] rich will enjoy those unspeakable goods.’ Nay rather, one may see the contrary, few rich saved, but of the poor far more.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 13 on Second Corinthians


For affliction is an unbroken bond, the increase of love, the occasion of compunction and piety. Hear the words of David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn Thy statutes.”  And again another prophet, who saith, “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth.”  And again, “Blessed is the man whom Thou chastenest, O Lord.” And another who saith, “Despise not the chastening of the Lord.” And “if thou come near to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation.”  And Christ also said to His disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.” And again, “Ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice.”  And again, “Narrow and straitened is the way.” Dost thou see how tribulation is everywhere lauded, everywhere assumed as needful for us? For if in the contests of the world, no one without this receiveth the crown, unless he fortify himself by toil, by abstinence from delicacies, by living according to rule, by watchings, and innumerable other things, much more so here.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 15 on Philippians


Let us not then slumber. Let us not say, on this side there is nothing, on that side nothing; we are often plundered from a quarter whence we did not expect it. So it is with vice; we perish from a quarter whence we did not expect it. Let us look carefully round upon all things, let us not be drunken, and we shall not sleep. Let us not be luxurious, and we shall not slumber. Let us not be mad for external things, and we shall continue in sobriety. Let us discipline ourselves on every side. And as men who walk upon a tight rope cannot be off their guard ever so little, for that little causes great mischief: for the man losing his balance is at once precipitated down and perishes; so neither is it possible for us to be off our guard. We walk upon a narrow road intercepted by precipices on either side, not admitting of two feet at the same time. Seest thou not how much carefulness is necessary?

Seest thou not how those who travel on such roads guard not only their feet, but their eyes also? For if he should choose to gaze on one side, though his foot stand firm, his eye becoming dizzy from the depth, plunges the whole body down. But he must take heed to himself and to his steps; wherefore he says, “neither to the right hand, nor to the left.” Great is the depth of vice, high the precipices, much darkness below. Let us take heed to the narrow way, let us walk with fear and trembling. No one, who is traveling such a road, is dissolved in laughter nor heavy with drunkenness, but travels such a road with sobriety and fasting. No one traveling such a road carries with him any superfluities; for he would be contented even lightly equipped to be able to escape. No one entangles his own feet, but leaves them disengaged, and free to move.

But we, chaining ourselves down with numberless cares, and carrying with us the numberless burdens of this life, staring about, and loosely rambling, how do we expect to travel in that narrow road? He has not merely said that “narrow is the way,” but with wonder, “how narrow is the way,” that is, exceedingly narrow. And this we also do in things that are quite objects of wonder. And “straitened,” he says, “is the way which leadeth unto life.” And he has well said it. For when we are bound to give an account of our thoughts, and words, and actions, and all things, truly it is narrow. But we ourselves make it more narrow, spreading out and widening ourselves, and shuffling out our feet. For the narrow way is difficult to every one, but especially to him who is incumbered with fat, as he who makes himself lean will not perceive its narrowness. So that he who has practiced himself in being pinched, will not be discouraged at its pressure.

Let not any one therefore expect that he shall see heaven with ease. For it cannot be. Let no one hope to travel the narrow road with luxury, for it is impossible. Let no one traveling in the broad way hope for life. When therefore thou seest such and such an one luxuriating in baths, in a sumptuous table, or in other matters having troops of attendants; think not thyself unhappy, as not partaking of these things, but lament for him, that he is traveling the way to destruction. For what is the advantage of this way, when it ends in tribulation? And what is the injury of that straitness, when it leads to rest? Tell me, if any one invited to a palace should walk through narrow ways painful and precipitous, and another led to death should be dragged through the midst of the market-place, which shall we call happy? which shall we commiserate? Him, shall we not, who walks through the broad road? So also now, let us think happy, not those who are luxurious, but those who are not luxurious. These are hastening to heaven, those to hell.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 9 on First Thessalonians


There is need not only of profession, but of patience also to persevere in that profession, and of vehement contention, and of numberless toils, that you be not overthrown. For many are the stumbling-blocks, and impediments, therefore the way is “strait and narrow.” It is necessary therefore to be self-collected, and well girt on every side. All around appear pleasures attracting the eyes of the soul. Those of beauty, of wealth, of luxury, of indolence, of glory, of revenge, of power, of dominion, and these are all fair and lovely in appearance, and able to captivate those who are unsteady, and who do not love the truth.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 17 on First Timothy


“Faint not” (he says) “when thou art rebuked of Him.” It follows that these things are of God. For this too is no small matter of consolation, when we learn that it is God’s work that such things have power, He allowing [them]; even as also Paul says; “He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” He it is who allows [them]. “For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” Thou canst not say that any righteous man is without affliction: even if he appear to be so, yet we know not his other afflictions. So that of necessity every righteous man must pass through affliction. For it is a declaration of Christ, that the wide and broad way leads to destruction, but the strait and narrow one to life.  If then it is possible to enter into life by that means, and is not by any other, then all have entered in by the narrow [way], as many as have departed unto life.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 29 on Hebrews


Affliction is a great good. “Narrow is the way," so that affliction thrusts us into the narrow [way]. He who is not pressed by affliction cannot enter. For he who afflicts himself in the narrow [way], is he who also enjoys ease; but he that spreads himself out, does not enter in, and suffers from being so to say wedged in. See how Paul enters into this narrow way. He “keeps under” his “body” ( 1 Cor. 9:27 ), so as to be able to enter. Therefore, in all his afflictions, he continued giving thanks unto God.

-- St. John Chrysostom, Homily 33 on Hebrews

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Re: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2017, 10:12:27 AM »
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Offline Porter ODoran

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Re: Orthodox commentary on Mat 7.13f
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2017, 12:23:37 PM »
Thank you very much, Asteriktos.

A couple of the Fathers seem to have fastened on the same idea, that the straitness indicates chastening and discipline, but the call is to all and possible for all. I myself noticed that Christ did not answer directly the question "Are few saved?" but made the matter personal, viz., "Enter ye in ...," which is fairly characteristic of his approach throughout the Gospels.
"Love ... is an abyss of illumination, a mountain of fire ... . It is the condition of angels, the progress of eternity" (Climacus).

Quote from: Seekingtrue
Yes we who are far from sainthood we can recognize a living saint and I'm talking from personal experience.Yes they are gentle soo gentle it can not be described it is like gentleness and humility in one and also they have this light this energy it's beyond words...and when you are near them you feel ecstatic and very happy