Wednesday, August 12, 2009

John Chrysostom: Dreadful Excuses for Failure to Come to Church

This is the very reason that we, too, are taking up the matter in their regard with you, so that you may go off and correct them. After all, who would put up with such a slight? We gather here only once a week, and they cannot manage to set aside their worldly concerns even on that day. If you offer a reproof, they at once pretend neediness, daily necessities, pressing occupations, thus proposing an excuse worse than any accusation: what could be more damning than this accusation, that something seems more urgent and pressing to you than God's affairs? Particularly, then, is it the case that, even if this were true, the excuse would be an accusation, as I said; but for you to learn that it is a pretext and pretense and cover for indifference, the day after tomorrow will convict them all of putting up such an excuse, without my saying a word, when the whole city decamps to the racecourse, and homes and markets are left empty for the sake of this lawless spectacle. Here in the church you can see that not even the front seats are taken, whereas there not only the racecourse but also upstairs, private homes, roofs, crannies and countless other places are taken over. Not even neediness, work, bodily infirmity, sore feet or anything else of the kind inhibits this irrepressible frenzy; the elderly betake themselves off there with greater eagerness than the young and healthy, bringing their grey hairs into disrepute, making a mockery of their age and turning their seniority into a laughing stock. Whereas when they attend here they think they are suffering even to the point of choking, and faint when they listen to the divine sayings, claiming cramped conditions and stifling heat and the like, there on the contrary they even endure the sun with head bared, trodden on, pushed, tightly packed together and subjected to countless other inconveniences, and yet feel as though lolling about in a meadow.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Homilies on Hannah, Homily 4, in St. John Chrysostom, Old Testament Homilies, Volume 1, pp. 108-09 (2003), Robert C. Hill translator.