St.-Gregory-NazianzenThe fortunes of this world are uncertain and transient; they are tossed from hand to hand, as in a game with pebbles, and are always changing.

Not one of this world’s blessings belongs to its owner securely enough to prevent time destroying it, or envy transferring it elsewhere.

But the rewards of heaven are fixed and abiding; they neither disappear nor change, and can never deceive the hopes of those who trust in them.

Now in my opinion there is a very good reason why people can find nothing reliable or lasting in the good things of this world.

The Word, who is the architect of our destiny in this as in all things, and the Wisdom that transcends all mortal thought, have together well contrived it that we should be misled by everything we see in the constantly shifting world around us, where in the midst of this whirling to and fro we are always in pursuit of something that is forever flying from our grasp.

Once we have observed the restless­ness and disorder of this mortal life, we shall hasten to change our course toward the life to come.

Indeed what should we have done if our prosperity here had been secure, when even in all its uncer­tainty we are so bound to this world, and its pleasures and allure­ments have so enslaved us, that we cannot imagine anything better or higher that our present life?

And this, despite the fact that we are told and believe that we are created in the image of God, that image which is above and draws us to itself.

Who is wise enough to understand these things? Who will aban­don the things that pass away, and devote himself to those that last? Who will think of the present as something that is always moving away?

Happy indeed is he who has such powers of discernment, and who uses the keen edge of the Word to separate the better from the worse.

His heart is set on the journey upward,as holy David was inspired to say in one of the psalms; and so he flies with all speed from this valley of weeping, and seeks the realms above.

Crucified to the world with Christ, he takes his stand beside Christ and ascends in the company of Christ, an heir to a life that henceforth is neither changing nor deceptive, and where he will no longer find a serpent waiting on the road to bite his heel, while he watches out for its head.

Therefore without delay let us follow the Word, seek our rest in the world beyond, and throw away the riches of this world.

Let us profit by them in the only good way we can, that is, let us gain possession of our souls by giving alms, and share our earthly goods with the poor so as to enrich ourselves with the wealth of heaven.

Gregory Nazianzen (c.330-390): Oration 14, 20-22, from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Saturday of the 27th Week in Ordinary Time, Year 2.

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