On the dangers of rejoicing over the perdition of another and of Judaism

From the Holy Hieromartyr Probius (Mar. 11)

The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints

The saints were taken to the city councillors, who were surrounded by a vast throng of pagans and an even larger number of Jews. Onlookers pressed through the doorways and hung out of the windows. As the saints were presented to the council, Polemonus commanded, “Pionius, obey the imperial decree, as have others. Offer oblations to the gods, and avoid brutal torture.”

His face radiant, Pionius addressed the crowd, “Hearken, 0 Smyrnaeans, and give heed, 0 Jews! I am told that a number of Christians have sacrificed, and that you find this amusing. You heathen take pride in the fact that your teacher Homer lived in this beautiful city. Be guided by his words, for he says that no one should rejoice over the perdition of another. And remember, 0 Jews, what Moses commands: If thou see thine enemy’s ass fallen under its burden, thou shalt not pass by it, but shalt help to raise it with him. You should follow the advice of Solomon, who says, If thine enemy should fall, rejoice not over him, neither be elated at his sorrow. As for me, I shall do as my Master bids. It is better to die than disobey Him. With all my might I strive to fulfill His statutes, which I learned long ago and since then have taught to others. Why, 0 Jews, do you laugh at the fallen Christians? Even if, as you maintain, we are enemies, we are still all men. You allege that we insult you when we speak the truth. Wherein is the offense? Whom have we driven into exile? Whom have we forced to worship idols? Do you think that those who out of fear broke God’s commandment and worshipped idols are greater sinners than you? No one compelled you to become initiates of Baal-phegor and to eat the sacrifice to the dead. No one forced you to couple with women of foreign tribes, to sacrifice your sons and daughters to demons, to murmur against God, to curse Moses, or to clamor for Egypt. Time fails me to list all your crimes, yet you pretend that no one can lead you astray! Have you never read your own Scriptures: Exodus, Judges, the books of Kings, and the others? All these condemn you. A few Christians under threat of death offer oblations to idols, and on their account you ridicule all of us. But consider, 0 Jews: the world is like a threshing-floor, on which there is a large stack of wheat and chaff. When the laborer comes with his fan to purge the floor, the chaff is carried away and the wheat remains. Likewise, a net lowered into the water catches fish of all kinds, but the good are separated from the bad. It is the same with life itself. Shall we, in your opinion, suffer deservedly, or undeservedly? If deservedly, then you too shall suffer, for your iniquitous deeds accuse you as malefactors. But if we are righteous and shall suffer undeservedly, then what hope for salvation have you wrongdoers? If the righteous scarcesly shall be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?”

The world shall be judged; of this the signs are evident. I have traveled through the land of the Hebrews on both sides of the Jordan and seen how the country bears the marks of God’s wrath against its wicked inhabitants, who are notorious for robbing and murdering travelers. Columns of smoke rose from its dry, barren fields and orchards. I saw the Dead Sea, in which fish cannot survive. Its waters, blighted by the Lord , are undrinkable and no one can long remain in them. So buoyant are they that whatever is thrown into them immediately rises to the surface. Closer by, Decapolis in Lydia was devastated by fire because of the sins of its evil citizens, as you know very well. To this day it remains a ruin. Consider Mount Etna in Sicily and the nearby springs that gush hot water. Whence do they derive their heat, if not from the fire within the earth prepared for transgressor? They prove that God will judge sinners and punish them in flames, as said His incarnate Word, our Lord Jesus Christ. Knowing this, we will never serve the Greek gods or worship golden idols.”

I hear that the Jews have invited some of you to their synagogues. Take heed, lest you fall into an even deadlier trap and commit the unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Beware, lest you be numbered with the princes of Sodom or the citizens of Gomorrah, like the Jews, whose hands are stained with blood. It is not we who slew the prophets or betrayed Christ or put Him to death. What more need I say?

Remember what I constantly repeat to you. As you know well, the Jews allege Christ to have been a mere man and his death no different than that of any mortal. Let them say what they wish. If He was a mere mortal, how is the whole world filled with His disciples? How are so many willing to undergo grievous sufferings for Him? How are demons expelled by His name? The all powerful name of Christ works miracles of every kind in the Church of the faithful. The depraved Jews fail to understand that Christ our Lord suffered voluntarily, died for our sake, and rose on the third day in glory.

Those evildoers maintain that Christ was a warlock and rose from the dead by means of sorcery. Let them show us where their Scriptures or ours teach this about Christ, or prove that any righteous man of the past taught it. Slander! And those who spread it are depraved scoundrels. Why believe such persons, rather than the just?

The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints

This offering of the famous Russian collection of Lives of the Saints by Saint Demetrius of Rostov (1651-1709) marks the first time any of these national collections have been published in their entirety in the English language.