“Even with all these gifts I am nothing without Christ”

All believers are familiar with the story of the wedding of the king’s son and the banquet that followed it, and of how the Lord’s table was thrown open to all comers. When everyone was seated “the master of the house came in to see his guests, and among them he noticed one without a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘My friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?'” Now what precisely does this mean? Let us try to find out what it is that some believers have, but which the wicked lack, for that will be what the wedding garment is.

Can it be one of the sacraments? Hardly, for these, as we know, are common to good and bad alike. Take baptism for example. It is true that no one comes to God except through baptism, but not every baptized person comes to him. We cannot take this sacrament as the wedding garment, then, for it is a robe worn not only by good people but also by wicked people. Perhaps, then, it is our altar that is meant, or at least what we receive from it. But we know that many who approach the altar eat and drink to their own damnation.

Well, then, maybe it is fasting? The wicked can fast too.

What about going to church? Some bad people also go to church.

There is your wedding garment. It is not love of just any kind. Many people of bad conscience appear to love one another, but you will not find in them “the love that springs from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith.” Only that kind of love is the wedding garment. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,” says the Apostle, “but have no love, I am nothing but a booming gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, if I have all knowledge and understand all mysteries, if I have faith strong enough to move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing.” In other words, even with all these gifts I am nothing without Christ. Does that mean that prophecy has no value and that knowledge of mysteries is worthless? No, they are not worthless but I am, if I possess them but have no love. But can the lack of one good thing rob so many others of their value? Yes, without love my confession of the name of Christ even by shedding my blood or offering my body to be burnt will avail me nothing, for I may do this out of a desire for glory. That such things can be endured for the sake of empty show without any real love for God the Apostle also declares. Listen to him: “If I give away all I have to the poor, if I hand over my body to be burnt, but have no love, it will avail me nothing.” So this is what the wedding garment is.

Examine yourselves to see whether you possess it. If you do, your place at the Lord’s table is secure.

St Augustine of Hippo

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6 Responses to “Even with all these gifts I am nothing without Christ”

  1. Fr Aidan Kimel says:

    What I want to know is, what’s with the white hats? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The triangular hats are clearly Birthday hats, although you cannot see the elastic bands that hold them on. I believe the others may be an early form of construction hats, but I will accept correction from a more informed person. Art least they aren’t black hats.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jonathan says:

    You always post very fine images, Fr. Aidan. . . and sometimes very mysterious. This one is remarkable, headdress notwithstanding. But what is it and what is its provenance? Am I being totally clueless here? It’s not an image of the parable in question, is it? I feel like the hats are important, but not because some are unpainted, though that is curious.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Jonathan, I don’t know the provenance of the image, though I’ve searched. It’s popularly given the title “Parable of the Wedding Feast.” There’s another icon around that seems to be passed upon it.

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  4. mary says:

    Thank you – a marvelous quote from St. Augustine. This is not an easy parable to understand. The image of someone being thrown out because they don’t have the right clothing (or the correct hat?) seems so harsh. After all, the fellow hadn’t been invited but was pulled in off the street when the invitees turned out to be such a bad bunch. Perhaps he couldn’t afford the wedding garment – or hadn’t had time to get one…

    But Augustine gives an excellent perspective. With our faith (as with weddings), there are certain expectations that are firm and not to be denied. The free invitation is not so free that we don’t have to do anything but come in and have a seat.

    The good news is that what is expected is something that we are all capable of giving – love. Yet Augustine wisely tells us that we need to examine ourselves to see whether we have love – as it is too easy to tell ourselves that we have given everything for God and neighbor when actually we are seeking glory for ourselves.

    Our own love is, unfortunately, contaminated by sin and thus not an adequate wedding garment. Interestingly, I was just reading how, in ancient Jewish tradition, people who did not have festive wedding garments of their own were supplied with them by the steward at the door. So it seems that even if our own ability to love is limited, we will be given the proper garment to wear (Christ’s love) if only we will accept it.

    It reminds me of the words from the Bridegroom service: “Make radiant the garment of my soul…” So generous is our God!

    (Sorry to ramble on so. Your post inspired me.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Iain Lovejoy says:

      If wedding garments are supplied by the steward at the door, then he who was cast out was a gatecrasher, who had entered the wedding via another door, and the question “how did you get in?” a literal one.
      This bit of the parable seems then to indicate that however wide the invitation, if invited we must still enter by the proper door, be equipped with our wedding garment (of love according to Augustine) and rendered fitted to attend. Trying to get in in any other way will see us cast out.

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