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On greed

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Author: Saint Zeno of Verona

How easy it is to expose greed in front of everyone! Oh, if only they couldn’t dislike her so easily! She is a cunning and sweet evil and always a misfortune to all people. Indeed, for those who do not have wealth, it brings a thirst for possession, and for those who have it, it takes away satiety. And so she throws everyone into a frenzy with a single whirlwind, so you don’t know where it’s the biggest. It is like a fire that ravages dry pastures and will not stop until they run out. Because of it, the average person indulges in deception, the rich in intemperance, judges inappropriate condescension, scholars of treachery and double language, kings of arrogance, traders of speculation, poor in empty oaths, worshipers of God in incitement to hatred, all generations and all nations to sword. He rages all over the world, furious, blazing for new and varied arts, never calming down, neither day nor night, neither in war nor in peace, never satiated, becomes even more impoverished by the vastness of prey.

For those who have no wealth, greed instills a thirst for possessions, and for those who have it, it takes away satiety.

This is a kind of new disaster, because it is only growing, but it does not know how to grow old. Neither reverence for parents, nor sweet affection for children, nor conjugal love, nor dear brotherhood, nor the right to friendship, nor childlike tenderness, nor severe widowhood, nor miserable poverty, nor contemplation of God will break it. All this, as much as she can, she perverts and corrupts, for to steal what they have. And whom he spares, he triumphs over him, as over indecent and shameful prey.

Well, poor thing, are you tormented by an empty thirst for metal, gold or silver? Why do you collect great streams of talent [1]? Why do you keep inviolable what will remain here, awake, burdened with worries, without giving yourself any indulgence? And yet you complain of poverty, you who do not know what you have. Whatever you do, you will not take any of it with you to hell. What belongs to nature can be carried from one place to another, but it is impossible to drag it with you. After all, gold and silver, which are very difficult to kill from the bowels of the earth, are then again entrusted to the earth’s surface. In the end, the truth is that the mansion is a false joy, and its publication is a real danger.

Whatever you do, you will not take any of it with you to hell

But it is not worth going into detail when one’s universal evil is known by example. The prophet says, “The idols of the Gentiles are silver and gold” (Ps. 113: 4). From this it is clear that he who loves gold and silver not only worships the gods, but also imitates their morals and deeds, because the approval of such a deed is easy. Think about us.

Oh, Christian, to be honest, you curse gold and silver only in idols, not in the depths of your treasures. After all, there, as you know, like them (ie idols) in countless gold and silver, as well as in some temples, there are faces and signs of kings carved on coins. And the only difference is that they are smaller in your house and bigger in the temple. Because if you ask for them, they are money, but if you keep them, they are idols. Servant of Christ, you spit on a false idol, but, believe me, you honor in yourself the one whose ornament, whose image you do not reject. You go to the church of God, gilding your whole body with various ornaments and loading it with a cursed metal, once exquisite, under the weight of necklaces. Therefore, in prayer, you will not grieve much for this idolatry, you will not stretch out your hands, you will despise bowing to the ground with breasts swollen with necklaces. Of course, you bend your neck, but not out of piety, but out of burden. When you make a confession, don’t you care more about beauty than salvation? How do you believe you can ask God for forgiveness when you ask Him for something He is angry about? Open the eyes of your heart and you will see that you are offending Him, not praying. Therefore, brethren, she cannot be afraid of her husband, who is not afraid of Christ.

If you ask for coins, then they are money, but if you save, then they are idols.

Therefore, it happens that the spouses, after rejecting the most sacred marital yoke, fight for each other because of excessive love for themselves and one steals the inheritance from the other and therefore parents hate children and children hate parents and this is why friendship it plays on the face rather than on the hearts, therefore the whole human race is amused by its death and its misfortunes, having a soul cheaper than a coin. Therefore, justice, honor, piety, faith, the truth perish, that every second God Himself suffers insults whose commandments are despised, to whom the service of the world and love for it are preferred, as they voluntarily allow sacrifices, atrocities, disgrace. , wickedness, whose hearts are filled with relentless greed with destructive fire.

But these words are not for you, brethren, whose generosity is known to all the provinces, whose pious seed is scattered throughout the world. You have redeemed many freed from cruel orders, many freed from harsh conditions, bring you gratitude. Your houses are open to all strangers: alive or dead, you have not seen naked for a long time. Our poor should not beg for food. Our widows and the poor make wills. I could say a lot about praising your blessing if it wasn’t mine. I cannot keep one thing in mind: in order to feed the poor, you present all the wealth taken from greed, without stinginess for your overview. What could be richer than a man whose debtor is God Himself, blessed forever!


For the first time a sermon translated by St. Zeno of Verona (end of the 3rd century – 370) “On Greed” is offered to the readers’ attention. Unfortunately, few testimonies have been preserved about St. Zinon, mainly from later sources. We know that he fought against Arianism during the reigns of the emperors Constantius, Valentinian I and Valens. St. Petronius of Bono reports that St. Zeno became famous for his virtues and many miracles performed both during his lifetime and at the tomb of this “blessed prophet” and “most holy confessor.” The poem “Poems about Verona” tells of St. Zeno that he broke idols, converted the citizens of Verona to Christianity and baptized them; expelled an unclean spirit from the daughter of Emperor Gallienus (260-268); returned the bulls taken from the Ates River with the chariot driver; save Verona from the invasion of enemies; resurrected the dead who drowned in the river. Many miracles and healings took place from the relics of St. Zeno in the 5th-6th centuries. St. Gregory the Great in the third book of his famous Dialogues tells how the Verona church of St. Zeno was not damaged during a severe flood, but the water became like a wall that stood next to the temple.

From St. Zeno come 92 wonderful sermons, many of which are devoted to current social issues, one of which is greed (Latin “accident”).

Greed and the accompanying corruption became a real scourge of late Rome. It is worth recalling at least one episode: in 376, the Visigothic tribes, who moved with the sanction of Emperor Valens to the Roman Empire, revolted only because they were ruthlessly robbed by Roman officials who sold their livelihoods at a monstrously high price. . prices, and finally forced them to be willing to sell their children into slavery for a piece of bread. The consequence of this uprising was the terrible defeat of the imperial army and the death of Emperor Valens in 378, and in the long run the conquest of Rome by the Visigoths.

Greed is seen by St. Zeno as a universal evil that disfigures all human relationships:

That is why it happens that the spouses, after rejecting the most sacred marital yoke, fight for each other because of excessive love for themselves and one steals the inheritance from the other and therefore the parents hate the children and the children hate the parents, and this why friendship plays on the face rather than on the heart, so the whole human race is amused by its death and its misfortunes, having a soul cheaper than a coin.

Greed brings sin, chaos and death to humanity:

“Because of it, the common people succumb to deception, the rich in intemperance, judge for inappropriate condescension, scholars in salesmanship and double language, kings in arrogance, merchants in speculation, the poor in an empty oath, worshipers of God in incitement to hatred, all families and all nations are a sword. “

Wanting to soften the bitterness of the rebuke, St. Zeno praised his flock for their active help to the poor. Yet his sermon is a terrible warning to humanity at all times, including our time, steeped in gain, greed and corruption.

Translated from Latin to Russian by Archdeacon Vladimir Vasilik according to the publication: Zenonis Veronensis Tractatus. Corpus Christianorum. Latina series. T.22. Ed. B. Lofstedt, B. Turnhout, 1971.

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