SERMON: The Testing Of The Apostles by Origen

The Testing Of The Apostles by Origen

The Lord going into the boat his disciples follow him. They were not weak men, but strong and steady in faith, kind, good, and unworldly: nor were they two-faced, but simple of heart. They followed him, not alone in his footsteps, but also walking with him in holiness of life, striving after justice.

And behold a great tempest arose upon the sea. For since the Lord had wrought great and wondrous signs upon the land, he now crosses over the sea that here also he may show yet greater wonders, that he might make plain to all that he was master both of the sea and of the land. Entering therefore into the little boat he caused a storm to arise upon the sea, and caused the winds to blow and the waves to swell up. Why did he do this? That he might awaken fear in the hearts of his disciples, that they be compelled to seek his help, and to make manifest his power to those that sought it. For this storm arose not of its own accord, but in obedience to his power: Who bringeth forth winds out of his stores (Psalm 135:7); Who set time and a bound for the sea (Jeremiah 5:22); and said: Hitherto thou shalt come, and shall go no further, and here thou shalt break thy swelling waves (Job 38:11).

By his command, therefore and precept the tempest has risen in the sea, for the reasons we have already said. There was then a great tempest raging, not a little one, that he might put forth a great wonder, not a little one; and the greater the battering of the waves against the little boat, the more the fear of the disciples mounted, and the more they desired to be delivered by the wonders of the Savior.

But the Lord was asleep. O great and wondrous thing! Does he who never sleeps now sleep? Does he now sleep that rules both Heaven and Earth? Is it he who never wearies, or falls asleep, that here is said to fall asleep? Yes, in his human body he sleeps, but in his Godhead he keeps watch. He sleeps in this body of flesh, yet he causes the storm to arise on the sea, and the waves to mount up, and fear to come upon the disciples, so that he may reveal to them his power. He sleeps in this body, as at the well by the wayside he sat tired and weary; showing that he bore a body that was truly human: that he had clothed himself with what was perishable.

In this body he slept; in his Godhead he troubled the sea, and again restored it to tranquility. He thus slept in his body that he might awaken his disciples, and make them keep vigil; and we likewise, so that we too sleep not in our souls, nor in our understanding, nor in wisdom; but that at all times we keep watch, and give praise to the Lord, and eagerly seek from him our salvation. For he who now sleeps in the body has spoken these holy words: I sleep, and my heart watcheth (Song of Solomon 5:2).

And they came to him, and awakened him, saying: Lord, save us we perish. So fearful were they, and almost out of their minds, that they rushed to him, and roused him, not modestly and gently, but violently awakening him, they cried: Lord save us, we perish. O blessed and truthful disciples of the Lord! You have with you the Lord our Savior, and you are in fear of danger? With you is Life, and you are fearful of death? Fearful of the tumult of the sea, you thus waken its Creator, who is beside you, as if, while sleeping in his body, he could not calm the waves or hush them to rest?

But what answer do they give, these beloved disciples? We are, they say, but as children, still weak, nor yet grown to our strength. And so we fear, so we tremble. Nor have we yet beheld the Cross, nor has the Passion of Christ yet strengthened us, nor has his resurrection, nor his ascent into Heaven, nor the sending and the coming of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. For this reason we waver in our weakness; for this reason have we heard from the Lord the oft repeated chiding of our littleness of faith. But we bear up, we readily endure, we eagerly look forward. Hence says the Lord: Why are ye fearful. O ye of little faith? Why have ye not courage? Why have you no confidence, no trust, among you? And though death should threaten you, ought you not courageously to stand your ground? For against that which you shall meet courage is necessary. We must cling steadfastly to courage of soul in the face of every danger, or suffering, even to the giving up of life, and likewise against Earthly delights, riches, honors, so that, O man, you be not blown up, or raised above yourself in pride: so that you despise not your enemy: nor look down upon the lowly: nor be unmindful of the Lord: nor forget thy Creator: nor become an unprofitable servant. If then fortitude is necessary in trial and in danger so as to bear up manfully against whatever may assail you, how much more is it needful, as I have said, against allurements, against luxuries, lest you be caught in the devil’s mousetrap?

Why therefore are ye troubled, O ye of little faith? If you have known me to have power on the land, why do you not believe that I have power also upon the sea? If you believe me to be God, the Creator of all things, why do you not also believe that the things which I have made are subject to my power? Why do ye doubt, O ye of little faith? He that is of little faith is reproved, he that believeth not will be condemned; the weak in faith will be gathered in, those wholly estranged from the faith will be punished. Such were the Jews and the Pagans, and in their evils they have vanished. Such are the heretics, and so in the Day of Judgment will they be condemned.

Then rising up he commanded the winds and the sea, and there came a great calm. It was written: and the Lord was awakened as one out of sleep, and he smote his enemies on the hinder parts (Psalm 78:66); and now rising up he commands, and there comes a great calm. He commands the winds and the sea as their Lord, and, for the first time, in the presence of the disciples, so that hearing him command them they would be confirmed in their faith. And he here commands by the veiled power of the Godhead; and he commanded as it was also written: thou rulest the power of the sea: and appeasest the motion of the waves thereof (Psalm 89:9). Upon a sea tossed about and swollen by a great wind, and a great tempest, there comes a great calm. It was befitting that he that is mighty should do great things. And so, girt with mighty power, he shakes the sea to its depths: and again, showing the splendor of his might, He commands that there shall arise a great calm, so that the apostles, who had feared exceedingly, being now delivered might rejoice.

By means of all these happenings the Lord gave us a figure and image of his teaching, so that we might be patient in the face of every storm and persecution; that we may be steadfast; that we betray not our faith. And if all this world should boil up as the sea, and rise in fury against us: though on every side there should rage the winds and the whirlpools of the demons: though, as we have said, every menace of the sea, that is, every principality and power of this world, be roused against us, foaming with the swelling of their wrath, so as to torment the sanctified: and though like to the sea they whip up wickedness and treacheries to the very skies, stirring up against you the murmuring of the evil-minded: yet, be not afraid; be not troubled: do not tremble: do not yield.

For as many as are in the little ship of faith are sailing with the Lord; as many as are in the Bark of Holy Church will voyage with the Lord across this wave – tossed life; though the Lord himself may sleep in holy quiet, he is but watching your patience and endurance: looking forward to the repentance, and to the conversion, of those who have sinned.

Come then to him eagerly, instant in prayer, saying with the prophet: Arise, why sleepest thou, O Lord? Arise, and cast us not off to the end; and again: Arise, O Lord, help us and redeem us for thy name’s sake (Psalm 44:23, 26). And he rising up commanded the winds, that is, the spirits among the demons that dwell in the air. For they stir up the tempests of the sea, that is, they provoke the evil swollen waves who are the rulers of this world, to wage persecutions against the sanctified; to inflict torments on the faithful in Christ. But the Lord commands all things, rebukes all things, lays upon each what they must do, tempers all things; and then brings a great calm around soul and body, gives back peace to the church, restores serenity to the world.

For how often have the counsels of the wicked, sometimes from among the pagans, sometimes from the heretics, plotted against the faithful, steadfast church? As the waves of the sea have risen, so have the rulers of this world, to threaten and terrify, and thinking in this way to exterminate the children of the church. But the Lord has reproved the rising winds, which are the demons, and scattered these impudent adversaries, and given a great peace to the church.

But the men that were in the boat wondered. Which men? Those who were the owners of the boat, or those who were only sailing in it? Do not believe that it is the apostles that are here referred to. For nowhere do we find the Apostles referred to without due respect; always they are spoken of either as the apostles, or as the disciples. Those men therefore wondered who were sailing the ship with him; they to whom it belonged, and others who were also crossing over in the same ship: these it was who wondered. And it was truly a cause of wonder; to quieten a sea that was shaken to its depths, calm the stormy waves, and check the fury of the winds. They wondered therefore, saying: What manner of man is this? They say this: what manner of man is he, not as questioning but as affirming that he is such that the sea and the winds obey him. What manner of man is this? As much as to say: how great, how strong, how wonderful? What manner of man is this? Greater than Moses, mightier than Elias. For of these two, one by the instrument of the rod stretched forth above the sea crossed over on dry ground (Exodus 14:16), the other needed with his mantle to strike the waters so as to cross the bed of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8); while he with a word speaks to those that are without words, and they obey him, to those that hear hot, and they hearken to him: to the things that are without sense or understanding, and they bow to him that commands them: to them that have neither speech nor words, and they obey his voice. But in their substance, in their nature, they are set in motion and obey his command; to the confusion of men, to the condemnation of our disobedience.

He commands the sea, and it disobeys not; he speaks to the winds, and to the storm, and Lo! they are still; he commands every creature, and they move not beyond what he commands. Only the race of men, which alone is honored in being made in his likeness, to whom speech and understanding has been given, only these, only men, resist. They alone obey him not; they alone despise him. And for this cause they alone will be condemned at the judgment, and punished by his justice; in this being lower than the dumb beasts, or than the things of the world that are without sense or without feeling.

They wonder at him because he restrained the sea, and quietened the winds. Let us wonder at him too, when he shows kindness and generosity towards us; when he comes down to deliver us from dangers; when he delivers us from manifold trials and pains; when he rescues us from the snares of our enemies. Let us wonder, and wondering give thanks. Let us be responsive to his grace, and, being obedient, let us also fear him; and fearing him, let us love him, so that we become inheritors of eternal love.

They wondered, saying: what manner of man is this? He appears as man, but as God he shows forth his power. For while we see that he is of our flesh, he manifests signs and wonders that are above the power of all flesh. As man he sleeps, as God he commands the winds and the seas. He rests in the little ship, yet where he wills all creatures bow down before his majesty, Jesus Christ Our Lord, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth world without end.  Amen.

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