My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
Those labourers who tend earthly flower gardens will gather up as many fair and fragrant flowers as they find, and they diligently present them in season to their guests, who receive them with joy and thank the labourers, event though all that the guests derive from the flowers is the brief enjoyment of the sight of them.
Those who are spiritual labourers and teachers, those who must care for the fruits taken from the ever-blooming garden of the holy Gospel, do not offer our good and beloved guests spring flowers which bloom at one season of the year and easily wither, but rather we present in every season beneficial and beautiful words of spiritual teaching and direction, which we have gathered, as from a field, from the ever-living and ever-blossoming paradise of the holy Gospel, unto the perfuming and salvation of souls.
Let us, then joyfully receive this instruction, and by the sweet fragrance of the grace of God let us dispel from our souls the noxious evil of sin. Let us flee the great and spiritually destructive evil of vainglory, the very sickness which afflicted that lawyer about whom the Gospel today testifies, when it says:
At that time: There came unto Jesus a doctor of the law, asking Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.
The lawyer, the doctor of the law, comes to tempt our Lord Jesus Christ out of his envy. The Pharisees saw that the Lord had confounded the Sadducees, and that He was being praised for His wisdom, and so they came and tempted Him, to see whether He would add anything to the first commandment by way of correcting the Law, so that they, who were experts in the Law, might find an accusation against Him.
The Lord, however, exposes the lawyer’s wickedness, for the lawyer today did not come to learn, but rather he came as one seeking to entrap; therefore, the Lord shows him that love is the first of all the commandments, and teaches that it behooves us not to love God partially, but to give ourselves entirely to God, in heart, and in soul, and in mind.
In heart, in soul, and mind. With love, with being and acting, and in thinking.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart – that is, that the beauty of God is to be loved above all other beauty. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul – with the very animating, life-giving principle of the body, in all that we are and all that we do, that all is done in love of God. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy mind – this is the rational and intellectual part of man, in all that we think, in all our imaginations and in our reasoning, let it all be done in the love of God.
And thus, when it is said that we are to love God with our whole soul, it means that we are to cling to Him with all the parts and powers of the soul; this is the first commandment, which teaches true piety.
The second is like unto it; it teaches us to treat all people with justice and with charity. There are two things which lead to perdition: an incorrect faith resulting from false teachings, and a corrupt way of life. Therefore, in order not to fall into false teachings, we must love God with all our souls, and in order to avoid a life that is corrupt and wicked, we must love our neighbour.
One who loves his fellow man fulfills all the commandments; one who fulfills the commandments loves God; hence, these two commandments stand together and are joined to each other, and they hold and contain within themselves all the other commandments. What man is there who loves God and his neighbour, and can still steal, or think evil, or commit adultery or fornication or murder? Moreover, although the lawyer had come out of envy to tempt Christ, when he heard His words, he believed and received praise from our Lord Jesus Christ, as the Evangelist Saint Mark recounts in his Gospel.
And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ? Whose Son is He? They say to Him: David’s.
See after how many miracles, after how many signs, after how many questions, after how great a demonstration of His oneness with the Father, both in Words and in deeds, and after praising the man who said that there is One God, The Lord asks this question, that those questioning Him would not be able to say that, though He worked miracles, He was an enemy of the Law and a foe of God.
With the disciples, the Lord asked first what others were saying concerning Him, and then He asked what they themselves thought, but not so with the Pharisees; for they would surely have said that He was a deceiver and a man of evil. Instead, He seemingly simply seeks their opinion concerning Christ, leaving it to them to understand of Whom it was they were speaking. And so it is that after so many demonstrations of divinity that the Lord interrogates the Pharisees, leading them in a somewhat hidden manner to confess Him to be God the Son.
Since He was soon to go to His Passion, He cites a prophecy that clearly proclaims Him as Lord. This He did, not by chance or from ulterior motives, but for a reasonable cause. He had asked them before, but they had not answered with the truth about Him, for they said that He was a mere man; therefore, to alter their erroneous opinion, He introduces King David as a witness to His Divinity.
Whereas they supposed Him to be a mere man, and thus replied, “The son of David,” the Lord sets them straight, producing the prophet’s testimony to His Lordship, the genuineness of His Sonship and His oneness with the Father. “The Lord said to my Lord.”
See how meekly the Lord introduces the thought and the judgment about Himself into the minds of the Pharisees and to all who were come to Him. First He said, “What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?” so as to lead them to an answer by a question.
Then, when they said, “The son of David,” He did not say, “And yet David said these things…” but once again asked a question, “How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord?” so as not to controvert their words.
In a similar fashion, the Lord did not say, “What think ye of Me?” but “What think ye of Christ?” Thus our Lord introduces doctrine after the manner of a question, saying:
He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on My right hand, until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?
We see that the Lord did not stop merely at King David’s attestation of the Lordship of Christ, but then, as if to strike holy fear into the Pharisees, He added what followed, saying, “Sit Thou on My right hand, till I make Thine enemies Thy footstool;” that at least in this way He might begin to lift up their minds.
And that they may not reply that these words were spoken in the Psalm as a flattery, or as a mere human opinion, see what the Lord then says. He says: “How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord?” For the Lord here appeals to the inquiring minds of the Pharisees. He does not beat them down with the truth of His own divinity, but induces them to reason it themselves in their minds; their minds – with which He has assured us we must love God.
Now the Lord in His question does not take away the fact that He, Christ, is in fact the Son of David; let no one think otherwise. When He says, “How is He his Son?” His meaning is that He is his Son, but not in the way asserted by the Pharisees. For they say that He is a Son only according to the flesh, and not the Lord God. And so, after citing David’s testimony, the Lord pauses and adds, “If David then call Him Lord, how is He his Son?”
Nevertheless, even after hearing these things, the Pharisees did not respond, nor did they wish to learn any of the things that were needful, as we read in the Gospel:
And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.
Now this obviously is of no benefit whatsoever to the Pharisees, that they no longer wish to learn, they wish not to ask any questions. But it does become a benefit for the greater multitude; for henceforth our Lord directs His words to them, having left the Pharisee behind and having repelled their treacherous attacks.
Those men gained nothing, because they were captives of vainglory and had fallen into this wicked vice. And a terrible, terrible vice it is, vainglory. On account of it some covet power, others will cover possessions, still others strength. To be vainglorious about power or possessions is not at all surprising, but the beast of vainglory has many insidious forms. Among the righteous, vainglory will cause one to be prideful concerning almsgiving, or fasting, or prayer, or teaching. To be vainglorious about fasting and prayer and the rest of these good things is deadly to the soul. Vainglory truly is evil everywhere and under any circumstance, but it is most especially deadly when one becomes vainglorious about that which should be holy.
Let us, my friends, flee from the evil disease of vainglory, lest for being caught up in its wickedness we be handed over ourselves to bitter torment. A real calamity, this strange passion! Where moth cannot corrupt and where thieves cannot break through, there vainglory nevertheless can lay waste. Vainglory is the moth of otherworldly treasures; it is the thief of heavenly riches; everywhere it harms and it corrupts. Let us refrain from the vice of vainglory, as from every evil, from every injustice, and from ever sin; and let us, as our Lord says, glorify God with all our heart, soul, and mind.
Let us follow the apostles and disciples of Christ the Saviour, obeying their commands and teachings in all things. Let us be zealous for the good and right path, the way of life of our holy fathers and teachers, that we may attain fellowship with the saints and the just, and may taste the sweetness of ineffable and incorruptible good things, through the grace of our true God and Saviour Jesus Christ.