Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book VIII/Chapter 3
Chapter III.—That God and the Angels Rejoice More on the Return of One Sinner Than of Many Just Persons.
6. Good God, what passed in man to make him rejoice more at the salvation of a soul despaired of, and delivered from greater danger, than if there had always been hope of him, or the danger had been less? For so Thou also, O merciful Father, dost “joy over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons that need no repentance.” And with much joyfulness do we hear, whenever we hear, how the lost sheep is brought home again on the Shepherd’s shoulders, while the angels rejoice, and the drachma is restored to Thy treasury, the neighhours rejoicing with the woman who found it; and the joy of the solemn service of Thy house constraineth to tears, when in Thy house it is read of Thy younger son that he “was dead, and is alive again, and was lost, and is found.” For Thou rejoicest both in us and in Thy angels, holy through holy charity. For Thou art ever the same; for all things which abide neither the same nor for ever, Thou ever knowest after the same manner.
7. What, then, passes in the soul when it more delights at finding or having restored to it the thing it loves than if it had always possessed them? Yea, and other things bear witness hereunto; and all things are full of witnesses, crying out, “So it is.” The victorious commander triumpheth; yet he would not have conquered had he not fought, and the greater the peril of the battle, the more the rejoicing of the triumph. The storm tosses the voyagers, threatens shipwreck, and every one waxes pale at the approach of death; but sky and sea grow calm, and they rejoice much, as they feared much. A loved one is sick, and his pulse indicates danger; all who desire his safety are at once sick at heart: he recovers, though not able as yet to walk with his former strength, and there is such joy as was not before when he walked sound and strong. Yea, the very pleasures of human life—not those only which rush upon us unexpectedly, and against our wills, but those that are voluntary and designed—do men obtain by difficulties. There is no pleasure at all in eating and drinking unless the pains of hunger and thirst go before. And drunkards eat certain salt meats with the view of creating a troublesome heat, which the drink allaying causes pleasure. It is also the custom that the affianced bride should not immediately be given up, that the husband may not less esteem her whom, as betrothed, he longed not for.
8. This law obtains in base and accursed joy; in that joy also which is permitted and lawful; in the sincerity of honest friendship; and in Him who was dead, and lived again, had been lost, and was found. The greater joy is everywhere preceded by the greater pain. What meaneth this, O Lord my God, when Thou art, an everlasting joy unto Thine own self, and some things about Thee are ever rejoicing in Thee? What meaneth this, that this portion of things thus ebbs and flows, alternately offended and reconciled? Is this the fashion of them, and is this all Thou hast allotted to them, whereas from the highest heaven to the lowest earth, from the beginning of the world to its end, from the angel to the worm, from the first movement unto the last, Thou settedst each in its right place, and appointedst each its proper seasons, everything good after its kind? Woe is me! How high art Thou in the highest, and how deep in the deepest! Thou withdrawest no whither, and scarcely do we return to Thee.
- Luke xv. 4–10.
- Luke xv. 32.
- See ix. sec 19, note.
- Luke xv. 32.
- See xii. sec. 12, and xiii. sec. 11, below.