he proposed to them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that
sowed good seeds in his field. But while men were asleep, his enemy came
and oversowed cockle among the wheat and went his way.
And when the blade was sprung up, and had brought forth fruit, then appeared
also the cockle. And the servants of the goodman of the house coming said
to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath
it cockle? And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servants
said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up? And he said: No, lest
perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with
it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest
I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles
to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.
By St. John Chryostom
What is the difference
between this, and the parable before it? There He speaks of them that have
not at all holden with Him, but have started aside, and have thrown away
the seed; but here He means the societies of the heretics. For in order that
not even this might disturb His disciples, He foretells it also, after having
taught them why He speaks in parables. The former parable then means their
not receiving Him; this, their receiving corrupters. For indeed this also
is a part of the devil's craft, by the side of the truth always to bring
in error, painting thereon many resemblances, so as easily to cheat the
deceivable. Therefore He calls it not any other seed, but tares; which in
appearance are somewhat like wheat.
Then He mentions also the manner of his device. For "while men slept," saith
He. It is no small danger, which He hereby suspends over our rulers, to whom
especially is entrusted the keeping of the field; and not the rulers only,
but the subjects too.
And He signifies also that the error comes after the truth, which the actual
event testifies. For so after the prophets, were the false prophets; and
after the apostles, the false apostles; and after Christ, Antichrist For
unless the devil see what to imitate, or against whom to plot, he neither
attempts, nor knows how. Now then also, having seen that "one brought forth
a hundred, another sixty, another thirty," he proceeds after that another
way. That is, not having been able to carry away what had taken root, nor
to choke, nor to scorch it up, he conspires against it by another craft,
privily casting in his own inventions.
And what difference is there, one may say, between them that sleep, and them
that resemble the wayside? That in the latter case he immediately caught
it away; yea, he suffered it not even to take root; but here more of his
craft was needed.
And these things Christ saith, instructing us to be always wakeful. For,
saith He, though thou quite escape those harms, there is yet another harm.
For as in those instances "the wayside," and "the rock," and "the thorns,"
so here again sleep occasions our ruin; so that there is need of continual
watchfulness. Wherefore He also said, "He that endureth to the end, the same
shall be saved."
Something like this took place even at the beginning. Many of the prelates,
I mean, bringing into the churches wicked men, disguised heresiarchs, gave
great facility to the laying that kind of snare. For the devil needs not
even to take any trouble, when he hath once planted them among us.
And how is it possible not to sleep? one may say. Indeed, as to natural sleep,
it is not possible; but as to that of our moral faculty, it is possible.
Wherefore Paul also said, "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith."
After this He points out the thing to be superfluous too, not hurtful only;
in that, after the land hath been tilled, and these is no need of anything,
then this enemy sows again; as the heretics also do, who for no other cause
than vainglory inject their proper venom.
And not by this only, but by what follows likewise, He depicts exactly all
their acting. For, "When the blade was sprung up, saith He, "and brought
forth fruit, then appeared the tares also;" which kind of thing these men
also do. For at the beginning they disguise themselves; but when they have
gained much confidence, and some one imparts to them the teaching of the
word, then they pour out their poison.
But wherefore doth He bring in the servants, telling what hath been done?
That He may pronounce it wrong to slay them.
And He calls him "an enemy," because of his harm done to men. For although
the despite is against us, in its origin it sprang from his enmity, not to
us, but to God. Whence it is manifest, that God loves us more than we love
And see from another thing also, the malicious craft of the devil. For he
did not sow before this, because he had nothing to destroy, but when all
had been fulfilled, that he might defeat the diligence of the Husbandman;
in such enmity against Him did he constantly act.
And mark also the affection of the servants. I mean, what haste they are
in at once to root up the tares, even though they do it indiscreetly; which
shows their anxiety for the crop, and that they are looking to one thing
only, not to the punishment of that enemy, but to the preservation of the
seed sown. For of course this other is not the urgent consideration.
Wherefore how they may for the present extirpate the mischief, this is their
object. And not even this do they seek absolutely, for they trust not themselves
with it, but await the Master's decision, saying, "Wilt Thou?"
What then doth the Master? He forbids them, saying, "Lest haply ye root up
the wheat with them." And this He said, to hinder wars from arising, and
blood and slaughter. For it is not right to put a heretic to death, since
an implacable war would be brought into the world. By these two reasons then
He restrains them; one, that the wheat be not hurt; another, that punishment
will surely overtake them, if incurably diseased. Wherefore, if thou wouldest
have them punished, yet without harm to the wheat, I bid thee wait for the
proper season. But what means, "Lest ye root up the wheat with them?" Either
He means this, If ye are to take up arms, and to kill the heretics, many
of the saints also must needs be overthrown with them; or that of the very
tares it is likely that many may change and become wheat. If therefore ye
root them up beforehand, ye injure that which is to become wheat, slaying
some, in whom there is yet room for change and improvement. He doth not therefore
forbid our checking heretics, and stopping their mouths, and taking away
their freedom of speech, and breaking up their assemblies and confederacies,
but our killing and slaying them.
But mark thou His gentleness, how He not only gives sentence and forbids,
but sets down reasons.
What then, if the tares should remain until the end? "Then I will say to
the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles
to burn them."He again reminds them of John's words,introducing Him as judge;
and He saith, So long as they stand by the wheat, we must spare them, for
it is possible for them even to become wheat but when they have departed,
having profiled nothing, then of necessity the inexorable punishment will
overtake them. "For I will say to the reapers," saith He, "Gather ye together
first the tares." Why, "first?" That these may not be alarmed, as though
the wheat were carried off with them. "And bind them in bundles to burn them,
but gather the wheat into my barn."
"Cockle," in addition to referring to a type of mollusk, refers to a type
of weed. My dictionary says: "any of several weedy plants of the pink family;
especially : CORN COCKLE."
And for "Corn Cockle," it reads: "Corn Cockle: an annual hairy weed
(Agrostemma githago) of the pink family with purplish red flowers
that is found in grainfields."
"Cockle" is also translated "tare" in some versions (such as the King James
Version, for ex., in which verse 25 reads, "But while men slept, his enemy
came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way."). "Tare" refers
to a weed known as "darnel." Anyway, hence the phrase "the tares among the
Below is a picture of the plant Our Lord had in mind assuming He was referring
to the Corn Cockle:
And if He were
referring to "darnel" (or "tare"), then this is what He would have had in