Explanation of Scripture read by Orthodox Christians on the 11 Tuesday after Pentecost - 2 Cor 2:14-17,3:1-3 Matthew 23:23-28

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We send up a "sweet savour" unto God, by living in Christ, with true belief and holy works. A way of life which believes the truth firmly and without equivocation, and lives righteously in this truth,. is pleasing to God. It leads those who are of the same mind to life, but to those who are opposed to Christ, it is a bitter smell.

"Whether, saith he, one be saved or be lost, the Gospel continues to have its proper virtue: and as the light, although it blindeth the weakly, is still light, though causing blindness; and as honey, though it be bitter to those who are diseased, is in its nature sweet; so also is the Gospel of sweet savor, even though some should be lost who believe it not." (St John Chrysostom)


We are to live our lives as a sacrifice, pleasing to God. We are to give up our will for evil things and passions to God, and replace it with holy works and thoughts. We are to consider our brother's needs as being more important than our own. Our living in this way sends up a sweet savour to God.

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. {2} And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. {3} For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." (Rom 12:1-3)

"The expression also, "sweet savor of Christ," appears to me to admit of a double interpretation: for he means either that in dying they offered themselves a sacrifice: or that they were a sweet savor of the death of Christ, as if one should say, this incense is a sweet savor of this victim. The expression then, sweet savor, either signifieth this, or, as I first said, that they are daily sacrificed for Christ's sake." (St John Chrysostom)


We must understand that there are those in the world who will hate us because we are Christians. This is because our "savour" is a stench to those who are opposed to Christ, and our light is blinding and hurts the eyes of those who do not wish to be in the light. We should expect harsh responses, and be offended when those outside of Christ, and even weak Christians are offended by our savour, but we must take care to cultivate this sweet savour, so that we offend only by our obedience to God, and not by our own fetid passions.

We must also understand that good things help the good, and destroy the wicked - their effect is twofold:

"For this sweet savor some so receive that they are saved, others so that they perish. So that should any one be lost, the fault is from hismelf: for both ointment is said to suffocate swine, and light (as I before observed,)to blind the weak. And such is the nature of good things; they not only correct what is akin to them, but also destroy the opposite: and in this way is their power most displayed. For so both fire, not only when it giveth light and when it purifieth gold, but even when it consumeth thorns, doth very greatly display its proper power, and so show itself to be fire: and Christ too herein also doth discover His own majesty when He "shall consume" Antichrist "with the breath of His mouth, and bring him to nought with the manifestation of His coming." (2 Thessalonians 2:18)" (St John Chrysostom)


St Paul had just laid out the great dignity and responsibility of the Christian - we are to be a "sweet savour". The task is so great, and we are so weak - how can not exclaim in awe: "And who is sufficient for these things?".

"Seeing he had uttered great things, that `we are a sacrifice of Christ and a sweet savor, and are every where made to triumph,' he again useth moderation, referring all to God. Whence also he saith, "and who is sufficient for these things?" `for all,' saith he, `is Christ's, nothing our own.' Seest thou how opposite his language to the false Apostles'? For they indeed glory, as contributing somewhat from themselves unto the message: he, on the contrary, saith, he therefore glorieth, because he saith that nothing is his own. "For our glorying is this, the testimony of our conscience, that not in fleshly wisdom, but in the grace of God, we behaved ourselves in the world." And that which they considered it a glory to acquire, I mean the wisdom from without, he makes it his to take away. Whence also he here saith, "And who is sufficient for these things?" But if none are sufficient, that which is done is of grace." St John Chrysostom)

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