Origens Commentary On The Gospel Of Matthew by Origen
26. The Little Ones and Their Angels.
|See that ye despise not one of these little ones.| It seems to me that as among the bodies of men there are differences in point of size, -- so that some are little, and others great, and others of middle height, and, again, there are differences among the little, as they are more or less little, and the same holds of the great, and of those of middle height, -- so also among the souls of men, there are some things which give them the stamp of littleness, and other things the stamp of greatness, so to speak, and generally, after the analogy of things bodily, other things the stamp of mediocrity. But in the case of bodies, it is not due to the action of men but to the spermatic principles, that one is short and little, another great, and another of middle height; but in the case of souls, it is our free-will, and actions of such a kind, and habits of such a kind, that furnish the reason why one is great, or little, or of middle height; and it is of our free-will either by advancing in stature to increase our size, or not advancing to be short. And so indeed I understand the words about Jesus having assumed a human soul, |Jesus advanced;| for as from the free-will there was an advance of His soul in wisdom and grace, so also in stature. And the Apostle says, |Until we all attain unto a full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;| for we must think that he attains unto a man, and that full-grown, according to the inner man, who has gone through the things of the child, and has reached the stage of the man, and has put away the things of the child, and generally, has perfected the things of the man. And so we must suppose that there is a certain measure of spiritual stature unto which the most perfect soul can attain by magnifying the Lord, and become great. Thus, then, these became great, of whom this is written, Isaac, and Moses, and John, and the Saviour Himself above all; for also about Him Gabriel said, |He shall be great;| but the little ones are |the newborn babes which long for the reasonable milk which is without guile,| such as stand in need of nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, spoken of in Isaiah when he says, about the calling from the Gentiles, |And they shall bring the sons in the bosom, and take their daughters on the shoulders, and kings shall be thy nursing-fathers and their princesses thy nursing-mothers.| For these reasons you will, then, attend to the word, |Do not despise one of these little ones,| and consider whether it is their angels who bring them in their bosom, since they have become sons, and also take on their shoulders what are called daughters, and whether from them are the nursing-fathers who are called kings, and the nursing-mothers who are called princesses. And since the little ones, pointed out by our Saviour, are under the stewardship as of nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers, on this account I think that Moses, who believed that he had been already assigned a place among the ranks of the great, said, with regard to the promise, |My angel shall go before you,| |If thou thyself do not go along with me, carry me not up hence.| For though the little one even be an heir, yet as being a child he differs nothing from a servant when he is a child, and to the extent to which he is little |has the spirit of bondage to fear;| but he who is not at all any longer such has no longer the spirit of bondage, but already the spirit of adoption, when |perfect love casteth out fear;| it will be plain to thee, how that according to these things |the angel of the Lord| is said |to encamp round about them that fear Him, and to save them.| But you will consider, according to these things also, whether these are indeed angels of the little ones |who are led by the spirit of bondage to fear,| |when the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear Him and delivereth them;| but of the great, whether it is the Lord who is greater than the angels, who might say about each of them, |I am with him in affliction;| and, so long as we are imperfect, and need one to assist us that we may be delivered from evils, we stand in need of an angel of whom Jacob said, |The angel who delivered me from all the evils;| but, when we have become perfected, and have passed through the stage of being subject to nursing-fathers and nursing-mothers and guardians and stewards, we are meet to be governed by the Lord Himself.