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True Treasure

My friend, Brian Daley, S.J., who teaches theology at Notre Dame, is one of the world's pre-eminent scholars in the field of Patristics. He was recently awarded the Ratzinger Prize for outstanding contributions to theology.

Daley has just published a book, Light on the Mountain, a translation with introduction and notes of a number of homilies by the Greek fathers on the Transfiguration of the Lord (St. Vladimir's Press). Here is an excerpt from a homily of Saint John Chrysostom whose feast we celebrate today:

This is the reason you have money: that you may put an end to poverty, not that you may turn poverty into a business! Instead, under the guise of offering others help, you make their misfortune greater, and sell human kindness for money. Sell your wares and I won't prevent you: but trade in the kingdom of heaven! Don't accept the fat compensation of a one-percent monthly interest for such a virtuous act, but rather the reward of life without end. Why are you so poor, so cheap and petty in your thinking, that you sell great things for a trifle – for money that perishes – when you ought to be selling it for the Kingdom that always lasts? Why do you cast God away to gain human profit?

In his "Introduction" Daley says: "Although the connection of usury to the Gospel story of the Transfiguration is tenuous, the sermon as a whole reveals Chrysostom's relentless moral seriousness, and his concern to have the liturgy and the public preaching of the Gospel make a perceptible difference in how the faithful live."

Daley notes that the Emperor Constantine had fixed the legal interest rate on a loan at twelve-percent a year (hence the reference in the homily to one-percent monthly interest). In a laconic aside he observes that credit card interest today is in the neighborhood of eighteen-percent.


About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.



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Saint John Chrysostom does not seem to have understood compound interest. An interest rate of 1% monthly is 12.7% yearly. An interest rate of 12% yearly is 0.95% monthly.



thank you for the correction. I suspect the fault may not be John's, but Brian's. Chalk it up to the Greek and Latin oriented curriculum of Fordham in the fifties.

Thanks to my friend Fr Imbelli for this post. If people are interested in Fr Daley's work, they may want to read a post I did about a year ago on him.

 …not that you may turn poverty into a business! Instead, under the guise of offering others help, you make their misfortune greater…

Words as true today as they were then…

Not to get too technical about it, but 1% a month is equivalent to 12% a year, if compounded annually (though nowadays we generally compound monthly).

Fr I, I was joking. With those numbers it's roughly the same.


That is, it doesn't matter if the exact value is .95% rather than 1%. It's a completely ancillary detail.


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