Then came to him
the disciples of John, saying: Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but
thy disciples do not fast? And Jesus said to them: Can the children of the
bridegroom mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will
come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then they shall
fast. And nobody putteth a piece of raw cloth unto an old garment. For it
taketh away the fullness thereof from the garment, and there is made a greater
rent. Neither do they put new wine into old bottles. Otherwise the bottles
break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish. But new wine they
put into new bottles: and both are preserved.
And the disiples
of John and the Pharisees used to fast; and they come and say to him: Why
do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast; but thy disciples do
not fast? And Jesus saith to them: Can the children of the marriage fast,
as long as the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom
with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom shall
be taken away from them; and then they shall fast in those days. No man seweth
a piece of raw cloth to an old garment: otherwise the new piecing taketh
away from the old, and there is made a greater rent. And no man putteth new
wine into old bottles: otherwise the wine will burst the bottles, and both
the wine will be spilled, and the bottles will be lost. But new wine must
be put into new bottles.
And they said to
him: Why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and the disciples
of the Pharisees in like manner; but thine eat and drink? To whom he said:
Can you make the children of the bridegroom fast, whilst the bridegroom is
with them? But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away
from them, then shall they fast in those days. And he spoke also a similitude
to them: That no man putteth a piece from a new garment upon an old garment;
otherwise he both rendeth the new, and the piece taken from the new agreeth
not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottle: otherwise
the new wine will break the bottles, and it will be spilled, and the bottles
will be lost. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
And no man drinking old, hath presently a mind to new: for he saith, The
old is better.
By St. John Chryostom
Now what say they?
"Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not?"
This is the disease, which Christ long before was eradicating, in the words,
"When thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;"foreknowing the evils
that spring therefrom. But yet He doth not rebuke even these, nor say, "O
ye vainglorious and over-busy;" but He discourses to them with all gentleness,
saying, "The children of the bride-chamber cannot fast, as long as the bridegroom
is with them."Thus, when others were to be spoken for, the publicans I mean,
to soothe their wounded soul, He was more severe in His reproof of their
revilers; but when they were deriding Himself and His disciples, He makes
His reply with all gentleness.
Now their meaning is like this; "Granted," say they, "Thou doest this as
a physician; why do Thy disciples also leave fasting, and cleave to such
tables?" Then, to make the accusation heavier, they put themselves first,
and then the Pharisees; wishing by the comparison to aggravate the charge.
For indeed "both we," it is said, "and the Pharisees, fast oft." And in truth
they did fast, the one having learnt it from John, the other from the law;
even as also the Pharisee said, "I fast twice in the week."
What then saith Jesus? "Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while
the bridegroom is with them." Before, He called Himself a physician, but
here a bridegroom; by these names revealing His unspeakable mysteries. Yet
of course He might have told them, more sharply, "These things depend not
on you, that you should make such laws. For of what use is fasting, when
the mind is full of wickedness; when ye blame others, when ye condemn them,
bearing about beams in your eyes, and do all for display? Nay, before all
this ye ought to have cast out vainglory, to be proficients in all the other
duties, in charity, meekness, brotherly love." However, nothing of this kind
doth He say, but with all gentleness, "The children of the bridechamber cannot
fast, so long as the bridegroom is with them;" recalling to their mind John's
words, when he said, "He that hath the bride, is the bridegroom, but the
friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly
because of the bridegroom's voice."
Now His meaning is like this: The present time is of joy and gladness, therefore
do not bring in the things which are melancholy. For fasting is a melancholy
thing, not in its own nature, but to them that are yet in rather a feeble
state; for to those at least that are willing to practise self-command, the
observance is exceedingly pleasant and desirable. For as when the body is
in health, the spirits are high,so when the soul is well conditioned, the
pleasure is greater. But according to their previous impression He saith
this. So also Isaiah,discoursing of it, calls it "an affliction of the soul;"
and Moses too in like manner.
Not however by this only doth He stop their mouths, but by another topic
also, saying, "Days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them,
and then shall they fast."
For hereby He signifies, that what they did was not of gluttony, but pertained
to some marvellous dispensation. And at the same time He lays beforehand
the foundation of what He was to say touching His passion, in His controversies
with others instructing His disciples, and training them now to be versed
in the things which are deemed sorrowful. Because for themselves already
to have this said to them, would have been grievous and galling, since we
know that afterwards, being uttered, it troubled them; but spoken to others,
it would become rather less intolerable to them.
It being also natural for them to pride themselves on John's calamity, He
from this topic represses likewise such their elation: the doctrine however
of His resurrection He adds not yet, it not being yet time. For so much indeed
was natural, that one supposed to be a man should die, but that other was
5. Then what He had done before, this He doth here again. I mean, that as
He, when they were attempting to prove Him blameable for eating with sinners,
proved to them on the contrary, that His proceeding was not only no blame,
but an absolute praise to Him: so here too, when they wanted to show of Him,
that He knows not how to manage His disciples, He signifies that such language
was the part of men not knowing how to manage their inferences,but finding
fault at random.
"For no man," saith He, putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment."
He is again establishing His argument by illustrations from common life.
And what He saith is like this, "The disciples have not yet become strong,
but still need much condescension. They have not yet been renewed by the
Spirit, and on persons in that state one ought not to lay any burden of
And these things He said, setting laws and rules for His own disciples, that
when they should have to receive as disciples those of all sorts that should
come from the whole world, they might deal with them very gently.
"Neither do men put new wine into old bottles."
Seest thou His illustrations, how like the Old Testament? the garment? the
wine skins? For Jeremiah too calls the people "a girdle," and makes mention
again of "bottles" and of "wine." Thus, the discourse being about gluttony
and a table, He takes His illustrations from the same.
But Luke adds something more, that the new also is rent, if thou put it upon
the old. Seest thou that so far from any advantage taking place, rather the
mischief is increased? And while He speaks of the present, He foretells also
the future; as that they shall hereafter be new but until that come to pass,
nothing austere and grievous ought to be imposed on them. For he, saith Christ,
that seeks to instill the high doctrines before the proper time, thenceforth
not even when the time calls will he find them to his purpose, having once
for all made them unprofitable. And this comes to pass not by any fault of
the wine, nor of the deceivers, but from the unseasonable act of them that
put it in.
Hereby He hath taught us also the cause of those Lowly expressions, which
He was continually using in discourse with them. That is, by reason of their
infirmity He said many things very short of His proper dignity: which John
also pointing out, relates Him to have said, "I have many things to say unto
you, but ye cannot bear them now."Here, that they might not suppose those
things only to be which He had spoken, but might imagine to themselves others
also, and far greater; He set before them their own infirmity, with a promise
that when they should have become strong, He would tell them also the rest;
which thing He saith here too, "Days will come, when the bridegroom shall
be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
6. Therefore neither let us require all things of all men in the beginning,
but so much as is possible; and soon shall we have made our way to the rest.
But if thou art urgent and in haste, for this very cause I bid thee urge
not, because thou art in haste. And if the saying seem to thee a riddle,
learn it from the very nature of the things, and then wilt thou see the whole
And let none move thee of those who find fault unseasonably; since here too
the censurers were Pharisees, and the reproached, disciples; nevertheless,
none of these things persuaded Christ to reverse His judgment, neither did
He say, "it is a shame for these to fast, and for those not to fast." But
as the perfect pilot heeds not the troubled waves, but his own art; so at
that time did Christ. For in truth it was a shame, not that they should forbear
fasting, but that on account of the fast they should be wounded in vital
points, and be cut off, and broken away.