or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles
Chrysostom on Ephesians iii.1 ff Epiphany Home
O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we, who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source of collect: Bishop Gregory of Rome [600 AD]. Cranmer in 1549 changed the prayer from the original Latin to read, "who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead;. "Epiphany means "manifestation" and so this collect reinforced the first manifestation to the Gentiles by sight. We who only know our Master by faith, shall one day see him as a result of our faith. [Barbee & Zahl]
This feast was well established by the 4th Century. It included the Nativity until it was established on the 25th. The Magi, Baptism, and Wedding at Cana remained as themes of this feast day and the joyous season with the theological theme of Manifestation. In the East, the feast began to concentrate on the Baptism and the Wedding, and the Visit of the Magi was observed on Christmas. This season originally extended until the beginning of Lent, but in about 700 the season of Pre-Lent was implemented.
the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel
Ephesians iii. 1 & Matthew ii. 1“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles.”
Homily of Chrysostom on Ephesians iii. 1ff
The Epistle.Ephesians iii. 1.
FOR this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
The Gospel. St. Matthew ii. 1.
WHEN Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
Extract of Homily VI
` He has mentioned Christ’s great and affectionate care; he now passes on to his own, insignificant indeed as it is, and a very nothing in comparison with that, and yet this is enough to engage them to himself. For this cause, saith he, am I also bound. For if my Lord was crucified for your sakes, much more am I bound. He not only was bound Himself, but allows His servants to be bound also,—“for you Gentiles.” It is full of emphasis; not only do we no longer loathe you, but we are even bound, saith he, for your sakes and of this exceeding grace am I partaker.
Ver. 2. “If so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God, which was given me to you-ward.”
He alludes to the prediction addressed to Ananias concerning him at Damascus, when the Lord said, “Go thy way, for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles and Kings.” (Acts ix. 15.)
By “dispensation of grace,” he means the revelation made to him. As much as to say, “I learned it not from man. (Gal. i. 12.) He vouchsafed to reveal it even to me, though but an individual for your sakes. For Himself said unto me, saith he, “Depart, for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles.” (Acts xxii. 21.) “If so be that ye have heard” for a dispensation it was, a mighty one; to call one, uninfluenced from any other quarter, immediately from above, and to say, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” and to strike him blind with that ineffable light! “if so be that ye have heard,” saith he, “of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward.”
Ver. 3. “How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words.”
Perhaps he had informed them of it by some persons, or had not long before been writing to them. Here he is pointing out that the whole is of God, that we have contributed nothing. For what? I ask, was not Paul himself, the wonderful, he that was so versed in the law, he that was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel according to the most perfect manner, was not he saved by grace? With good reason too does he call this a mystery, for a mystery it is, to raise the Gentiles in a moment to a higher rank than the Jews. “As I wrote afore,” saith he, “in few words,” i.e., briefly,
Ver. 4. “Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive.”
Amazing! So then he wrote not the whole, nor so much as he should have written. But here the nature of the subject prevented it. Elsewhere, as in the case of the Hebrews (Heb. v. 11.) and the Corinthians, (1 Cor. iii. 2.) the incapacity of the hearers. “Whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive,” saith he, “my understanding in the mystery of Christ,” i.e., how I knew, how I understood either such things as God hath spoken, or else, that Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and then too the dignity, in that God “hath not dealt so with any nation.” (Ps. cxlvii. 20.) And then to explain what nation this is with whom God hath thus dealt, he adds,
Ver. 5. “Which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit.”
What then, tell me, did not the Prophets know it? How then doth Christ say, that Moses and the Prophets wrote “these things concerning Me?” And again, “If ye believed Moses, ye would believe Me.” (John v. 46.) And again, “Ye search the Scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life, and these are they which bear witness of me.” (John v. 39.) His meaning is this, either that it was not revealed unto all men, for he adds, “which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed;” or else, that it was not thus made known by the very facts and realities themselves, “as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and Prophets in the Spirit.” For reflect. Peter, had he not been instructed by the Spirit, never would have gone to the Gentiles. For hear what he says, “Then hath God given unto them the Holy Ghost, as well as unto us.” (Acts x. 47.) That it was by the Spirit that God chose that they should receive the grace. The Prophets then spoke, yet they knew it not thus perfectly; so far from it, that not even did the Apostles, after they had heard it. So far did it surpass all human calculation, and the common expectation.
Ver. 6. “That the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body and fellow partakers.”
What is this; “fellow-heirs, and fellow-partakers of the promise, and fellow-members of the body?” This last is the great thing, that they should be one body; this exceeding closeness of relation to Him. For that they were to be called indeed, that they knew, but that it was so great, as yet they knew not. This therefore he calls the mystery. “Of the promise.” The Israelites were partakers, and the Gentiles also were fellow-partakers of the promise of God.
“In Christ Jesus through the Gospel.”
That is, by His being sent unto them also, and by their believing; for it is not said they are fellow-heirs simply, but “through the Gospel.” However, this indeed, is nothing so great, it is in fact a small thing, and it discloses to us another and greater thing, that not only men knew not this, but that neither Angels nor Archangels, nor any other created power, knew it. For it was a mystery, and was not revealed. “That ye can perceive,” he saith, “my understanding.” This alludes, perhaps, to what he said to them in the Acts, that he had some knowledge that the Gentiles also were called. This, he says, is his own knowledge, “the knowledge of the mystery,” which he had mentioned, viz., “that Christ will in Himself make of the twain one new man.” For by revelation he was instructed, both he and Peter, that they must not spurn the Gentiles; and this he states in his defence.
Ver. 7. “Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of His power.”
He had said, “I am a prisoner;” but now again he says, that all is of God, as he says, “according to the gift of His grace;” for according to the power of the gift is the dignity of this privilege. But the gift would not have been enough, had it not also implanted in him power.
Moral. For a work indeed it was of power, of mighty power, and such as no human diligence was equal to. For he brought three qualifications to the preaching of the word, a zeal fervent and venturous, a soul ready to undergo any possible hardship, and knowledge and wisdom combined. For his love of enterprise, his blamelessness of life, had availed nothing, had he not also received the power of the Spirit. And look at it as seen first in himself, or rather hear his own words. “That our ministration be not blamed.” (2 Cor. vi. 3.) And again, “For our exhortation, is not of error, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile, nor a cloke of covetousness.” (1 Thes. ii. 3, 5.) Thus thou hast seen his blamelessness. And again, “For we take thought for things honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (2 Cor. viii. 21.) Then again, besides these; “I protest by that glorying in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Cor. xv. 31.) And again; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution?” (Rom. viii. 35.) And again; “In much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in watchings.” (2 Cor. vi. 4, 5.) Then again, his prudence and management; “To the Jews I became as a Jew, to them that are without law as without law, to them that are under the law as under the law.” (1 Cor. ix. 20.) He shaves his head also, (Acts. xxi. 24–26.) and does numberless things of the sort. But the crown of all is in the power of the Holy Ghost. “For I will not dare to speak,” saith he, “of any things save those which Christ wrought through me.” (Rom. xv. 18.) And again, “For what is there wherein you were made inferior to the rest of the Churches?” (2 Cor. xii. 13.) And again, “For in nothing was I behind the very chiefest Apostles though I am nothing.” (2 Cor. xii. 11.) Without these things, the work had been impossible.
It was not then by his miracles that men were made believers; no, it was not the miracles that did this, nor was it upon the ground of these that he claimed his high pretension, but upon those other grounds. For a man must be alike irreproachable in conduct, prudent and discreet in his dealings with others, regardless of danger, and apt to teach. It was by these qualifications that the greater part of his success was achieved. Where there were these, there was no need of miracles. At least we see he was successful in numberless such cases, quite antecedently to the use of miracles. But, now-a-days, we without any of these would fain command all things. Yet if one of them be separated from the other, it henceforth becomes useless. What is the advantage of a man’s being ever so regardless of danger, if his life be open to censure. “For if the light that is in thee be darkness,” saith Christ, “how great is that darkness?” (Mat. vi. 23.) Again, what the advantage of a man’s being of an irreproachable life, if he is sluggish and indolent? “For, he that doth not take his cross, and follow after Me,” saith He, “is not worthy of Me;” (Mat. x. 38.) and so, “The good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep.” (John x. 11.) Again, what is the advantage of being both these, unless a man is at the same time prudent and discreet in “knowing how he ought to answer each one?” (Col. iv. 6.) Even if miracles be not in our power, yet both these qualities are in our power. Still however, notwithstanding Paul contributed so much from himself, yet did he attribute all to grace. This is the act of a grateful servant. And we should never so much as have heard of his good deeds, had he not been brought to a necessity of declaring them.
And are we worthy then so much as even to mention the name of Paul? He, who had moreover grace to aid him, yet was not satisfied, but contributed to the work ten thousand perils; whilst we, who are destitute of that source of confidence, whence, tell me, do we expect either to preserve those who are committed to our charge, or to gain those who are not come to the fold;—men, as we are, who have been making a study of self-indulgence, who are searching the world over for ease, and who are unable, or rather who are unwilling, to endure even the very shadow of danger, and are as far distant from his wisdom as heaven is from earth? Hence it is too that they who are under us are at so great a distance behind the men of those days; because the disciples of those days were better than the teachers of these, isolated as they were in the midst of the populace, and of tyrants, and having all men on all sides their enemies, and yet not in the slightest degree dragged down or yielding. Hear at least what he saith to the Philippians, (Philip. i. 29.) “Because to you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer in his behalf.” And again to the Thessalonians, (1 Thes. ii. 14.) “For ye, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judæa.” And again in writing to the Hebrews (Heb. x. 34.) he said, “And ye took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions.” And to the Colossians (Col. iii. 3.) he testifies, saying, “For ye died, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” And indeed to these very Ephesians he bears witness of many perils and dangers. And again in writing to the Galatians, (Gal. iii. 4.) he says, “Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain.” And you see them too, all employed in doing good. Hence it was that both grace wrought effectually in those days, hence also that they lived in good works. Hear, moreover, what he writes to the Corinthians, against whom he brings charges out of number; yet does he not bear even them record, where he says, “Yea, what zeal it wrought in you, yea, what longing!” (1 Cor. vii. 11.) And again, in how many points does he bear them record on this subject? These things one shall not see now-a-days, even in teachers. They are all gone and perished. And the cause is, that love hath waxed cold, that sinners go unpunished; (for hear what he says writing to Timothy, (1 Tim. v. 20.) “Them that sin, reprove in the sight of all;”) it is that the rulers are in a sickly state; for if the head be not sound, how can the rest of the body maintain its vigor? But mark how great is the present disorder. They, who were living virtuously, and who under any circumstance might have confidence, have taken possession of the tops of the mountains, and have escaped out of the world, separating themselves as from an enemy and an alien and not from a body to which they belonged.
Plagues too, teeming with untold mischiefs, have lighted upon the Churches. The chief offices have become saleable. Hence numberless evils are springing, and there is no one to redress, no one to reprove them. Nay, the disorder has assumed a sort of method and consistency. Has a man done wrong, and been arraigned for it? His effort is not to prove himself guiltless, but to find if possible accomplices in his crimes. What is to become of us? since hell is our threatened portion. Believe me, had not God stored up punishment for us there, ye would see every day tragedies deeper than the disasters of the Jews. What then? however let no one take offence, for I mention no names; suppose some one were to come into this church to present you that are here at this moment, those that are now with me, and to make inquisition of them; or rather not now, but suppose on Easter day any one, endued with such a spirit, as to have a thorough knowledge of the things they had been doing, should narrowly examine all that came to Communion, and were being washed [in Baptism] after they had attended the mysteries; many things would be discovered more shocking than the Jewish horrors. He would find persons who practise augury, who make use of charms, and omens and incantations, and who have committed fornication, adulterers, drunkards, and revilers,—covetous, I am unwilling to add, lest I should hurt the feelings of any of those who are standing here. What more? Suppose any one should make scrutiny into all the communicants in the world, what kind of transgression is there which he would not detect? and what if he examined those in authority? Would he not find them eagerly bent upon gain? making traffic of high places? envious, malignant, vainglorious, gluttonous, and slaves to money?
Where then there is such impiety as this going on, what dreadful calamity must we not expect? And to be assured how sore vengeance they incur who are guilty of such sins as these, consider the examples of old. One single man, a common soldier, stole the sacred property, and all were smitten. Ye know, doubtless, the history I mean? I am speaking of Acham the son of Carmi, the man who stole the consecrated spoil. (Joshua vii. 1–26.) The time too when the Prophet spoke, was a time when their country was full of soothsayers, like that of the Philistines. (Isa. ii. 6.) Whereas now there are evils out of number at the full, and not one fears. Oh, henceforth let us take the alarm. God is accustomed to punish the righteous also with the wicked; such was the case with Daniel, and with the three holy Children, such has been the case with ten thousand others, such is the case in the wars that are taking place even at the present day. For the one indeed, whatever burden of sins they have upon them, by this means lay aside even that; but not so the other.
On account of all these things, let us take heed to ourselves. Do ye not see these wars? Do ye not hear of these disasters? Do ye learn no lesson from these things? Nations and whole cities are swallowed up and destroyed, and myriads as many again are enslaved to the barbarians.
If hell bring us not to our senses, yet let these things. What, are these too mere threats, are they not facts that have already taken place? Great is the punishment they have suffered, yet a greater still shall we suffer, who are not brought to our senses even by their fate. Is this discourse wearing? I am aware it is myself, but if we attend to it, it has its advantage; because this it has not, the quality of an address to please,—nay more, nor ever shall have, but ever those topics which may avail to humble and to chasten the soul. For these will be to us the ground-work of those blessings to come hereafter, to which God grant that we may all attain, in Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom to the Father, together with the Holy Ghost be glory and might and honor, now and henceforth, and forever and ever. Amen.