Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians
A Bible Study Based upon the Homilies of St John Chrysostom (SJC)
Study Guide – September 26, 2023 – 1st Corinthians 11.17-27 Session 28 – Homily 27
Prayer before reading of the Holy Scriptures: Shine within our hearts, loving Master, the pure light of Your divine knowledge, and open the eyes of our minds that we may comprehend the message of Your Gospel. Instill in us also reverence for Your blessed commandments so that, having conquered sinful desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, thinking and doing all those things which are pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give glory, together with Your Father who is without beginning and Your all holy, good and life giving Spirit, always now and forever and to the ages of ages.
- The Church used to gather for fellowship before and sometimes after Divine Liturgy – SJC As in the case of the three thousand who believed in the beginning, all had eaten their meals in common and had all things common; such also was the practice at the time when the Apostle wrote this.
- The ancient fellowship was for the rich or poor to share with each other, but the system was broken – SJC And because of course some were poor, but others rich, they laid not down all their goods in the midst, but made the tables open on stated days, as it should seem; and when the solemn service was completed, after the communion of the Mysteries, they all went to a common entertainment, the rich bringing their provisions with them, and the poor and destitute being invited by them, and all feasting in common. But afterward this custom also became corrupt.
- Saint Paul is chastising them because they took a good thing and abused it – SJC And why do you not praise? Because ye come together, says he, not for the better but for the worse; i.e., because ye do not go forward unto virtue. For it were meet that your liberality should increase and become manifold, but you have taken rather from the custom which already prevailed, and have so taken from it as even to need warning from me, in order that you may return to the former order.
- The divisions were not doctrinal but social so Saint Paul speaks more gently. Their life was not reflecting their faith – SJC By factions, here he means those which concern not the doctrines, but these present divisions….Now that he said these things of these factions relating to the tables, and that contention and division, he made manifest also from what follows. For having said, I hear that there are divisions among you, he stopped not here, but signifying what divisions he means he goes on to say, each one takes before other his own supper; and again, What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? Or despise ye the Church of God?
- Those who are united and acting in love are the ones who are honored – SJC What he intends to say is this, that those who are unchangeable and firm are so far from being at all injured hereby, but even shows them the more, and that it makes them more glorious.
- Just because the Church preaches correction doesn’t mean everyone is bad. Some were/are doing the right thing – SJC Nor does he here seem to me to be comforting the poor only, but those also who were not violating the custom. For it was likely that there were among them also those that observed it.
- Their fellowship gatherings no longer resembled the Church – SJC Do you see how effectually appealing to their shame, even already by way of narrative he contrives to give them his counsel? For the appearance of your assembly, says he, is different. It is one of love and brotherly affection. At least one place receives you all, and you are together in one flock. But the Banquet, when you come to that, bears no resemblance to the Assembly of worshippers.
- It is wrong to take what should be common and make it private – SJC Do you perceive how he intimates that they were disgracing themselves rather? For that which is the Lord’s, they make a private matter: so that themselves are the first to suffer indignity, depriving their own table of its greatest prerogative. How and in what manner? Because the Lord’s Supper, i.e. the Master’s, ought to be common.
- It is a greater sin to ignore the poor when you are rich – SJC Now each of these, even by itself, is worthy of censure: for it is a fault to be drunken even without despising the poor; and to despise the poor without being drunken, is an accusation. When both then are joined together at the same time, consider how exceeding great is the transgression.
- The purpose of the Church building is to come and be united – SJC For it was made a Church, not that we who come together might be divided, but that they who are divided might be joined: and this act of assembling shows.
- The correction/penance must match the sin – SJC Being a most excellent physician, he adapts the incision to the wounds, neither cutting superficially those parts which require a deep stroke.
- Saint Paul invokes the memory of The Passion to bring our hearts to repentance – SJC And wherefore does he remind us of the time, and of that evening, and of the betrayal? Not indifferently nor without some reason, but that he might exceedingly fill them with compunction, were it but from consideration of the time.
- God dined with His betrayer and we dare to ignore our fellow believer? – SJC Therefore he leads us to the remembrance of all those things, by His time, and His table, and His betrayal, putting us to shame and saying, Your Master gave up even Himself for you: and thou dost not even share a little meat with your brother for your own sake.
- When we come for Holy Communion we must prepare ourselves – SJC If therefore you come for a sacrifice of thanksgiving, do thou on your part nothing unworthy of that sacrifice: by no means either dishonor your brother, or neglect him in his hunger; be not drunken, insult not the Church.
- Holy Communion is modeled after the Old Testament sacrifice – SJC But what is it which He says, This cup is the New Covenant? Because there was also a cup of the Old Covenant; the libations and the blood of the brute creatures. For after sacrificing, they used to receive the blood in a chalice and bowl and so pour it out. Since then instead of the blood of beasts He brought in His own Blood; lest any should be troubled on hearing this, He reminds them of that ancient sacrifice.
- Receiving Holy Communion unworthily is the same as the soldier who pierced Christ – SJC Because he poured it out, and makes the thing appear a slaughter and no longer a sacrifice. Much therefore as they who then pierced Him, pierced Him not that they might drink but that they might shed His blood: so likewise does he that comes for it unworthily and reaps no profit thereby. Do you see how fearful he makes his discourse, and inveighs against them very exceedingly, signifying that if they are thus to drink, they partake unworthily of the elements ? For how can it be other than unworthily when it is he who neglects the hungry? Who besides overlooking him puts him to shame?
- SJC compares receiving Holy Communion unworthily to the man who was forgiven much but demanded 100 denari (see Matthew 18) – SJC Have you not heard how much he suffered who demanded the hundred pence? How he made void the gift vouchsafed to him ? Does it not come into your mind what thou were and what you have become?
LIFE APPLICATION: The Behavior of the Corinthians is not new
- We act just like the Corinthians when we ignore others – SJC These words let us also listen to, all of us, as many as in this place approach with the poor to this holy Table, but when we go out, do not seem even to have seen them, but are both drunken and pass heedlessly by the hungry; the very things whereof the Corinthians were accused.
- We must avoid excess after Holy Communion – SJC And yet surely it is not the same to fast before this and after it. Since although it is our duty to be temperate at both times, yet most particularly after we have received the Bridegroom. Before, that you may become worthy of receiving: after, that you may not be found unworthy of what you have received. What then? Ought we to fast after receiving? I say not this, neither do I use any compulsion. This indeed were well: however, I do not enforce this, but I exhort you not to feast to excess.
- Luxury brings evil – SJC Do you not know how great evils are brought in by luxury? Unseasonable laughter, disorderly expressions, buffoonery fraught with perdition, unprofitable trifling, all the other things, which it is not seemly even to name. And these things you do when you have enjoyed the Table of Christ, on that day on which you have been counted worthy to touch His flesh with your tongue.
- The Church keeps teaching hoping that at least someone listens – SJC I know, indeed, that I say these things in vain, yet will I not cease to say them. For if you do not all obey, yet surely ye will not all disobey; or rather, even though ye should all be disobedient, my reward will be greater, though yours will be more condemnation. However, that it may not be more, to this end I will not cease to speak. For perchance, perchance, by my perseverance I shall be able to reach you.
- Real enjoyment is in Christ – SJC But do you love enjoyment? Then, on this very account cease being drunken. For I, too, would have you enjoy yourself, but with the real enjoyment, that which never fades. What then is the real enjoyment, ever blooming? Invite Christ to sup Revelation 2:20 with you; give Him to partake of yours, or rather of His own. This brings pleasure without limit, and in its prime everlastingly.
SEND OFF! Live always in moderation
That these things be therefore not so, let us follow after moderation. For thus we shall both be in a good state of body, and we shall possess our souls in security, and shall be delivered from evils both present and future: from which may we all be delivered, and attain unto the kingdom.