Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on Luke (1859) Sermons 110-123 (Luke 16:14-18:27) pp. 517-572
16:14-17. And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said unto them, You are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts: for that which is high among men, is an abomination before God. The law and the prophets until John: thenceforth the kingdom of God is preached, and every one takes it by force. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one point of the law to fall.
THE love of money, my brethren, is a most wicked passion, and not easy to abandon. For when Satan has planted this malady in a man's soul, he next proceeds to blind him, nor does he permit him to listen to the words of exhortation, lest there be found for us a way of healing, able to save from misery those who are ensnared thereby. And observe again, I pray, how true my words upon this subject are from the instance even of the Pharisees. For they were lovers of riches, and enamoured of gain, and regarded a bare sufficiency with contempt. For even, so to speak, throughout the whole of the divinely inspired Scripture, one may see them blamed on this very account. For it is said by the voice of Isaiah to the mother of the Jews, I mean, Jerusalem, "Your princes are rebellious, the partners of thieves: loving bribes, pursuing after reward: they judge not the fatherless, neither do they regard the widow's suit." And the prophet Habbakuk also said, "How long, O Lord, shall I cry unto you, and You wilt not hear? and shout unto You, being oppressed, and You will not deliver? Judgment is before me, and the judge has taken a bribe: therefore is the law of none avail, and judgment comes not forth unto completion: for the wicked prevails over the righteous, therefore does judgment come forth perverted." For as being lovers, as I said, of lucre, they repeatedly gave judgment on the matters before them, |518 not according to what was agreeable to the laws of God, but, on the contrary, iniquitously, and in opposition to God's will.
Moreover, the Saviour Himself rebuked them, thus saying, "Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: who tithe anise, and mint, and cummin; and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith." For as the law had set apart for them the right of receiving tithes of every one, they extended the exactness of the search after them down to the most insignificant vegetables, while they made but slight account of the weightier matters of the law, that is, of those commandments which were of necessary obligation and for men's good.
"Because therefore the Pharisees, it says, were lovers of money, they derided Jesus," for directing them by His salutary doctrines to a praiseworthy course of conduct, and rendering them desirous of saintly glories. For it was their duty, He tells them, to sell their possessions, and make distribution to the poor; so would they possess in heaven a treasure that could not be plundered, and purses that could not be harmed, and wealth that would not have to be abandoned. And why then did they deride Him? For certainly the doctrine was salutary, a pathway of hope in things to come, and a door leading unto the life incorruptible: for they were being taught by Him the manners of true prosperity, and learning how they must seize the crown of the heavenly calling; how too they might become partakers with the saints, and children of the city that is above, the Jerusalem which is in heaven, and which is truly free, and the mother of the free. For as the blessed Paul writes, "Jerusalem, which is our mother and is above, is free." And why then did they mock Him?
Let us see the cause of their wickedness. The passion of avarice had possession of their heart, and their mind being tyrannized over by it was in subjection even against its will; humbled under the power of wickedness, and bound as it were by inevitable bonds. For so the writer of Proverbs somewhere says, "that every man is bound by the cords of his sins." For as the more virulent diseases of the body do not admit of the remedies of medicine, and flee away as it were from healing; and if any one apply that which is naturally adapted to do good, are irritated the more, and grow angry, however |519 gently treated by the art: so also those passions to which the souls of men are liable, are sometimes obdurate, and refuse to listen to admonition, and will not hear a single word that summons them to depart from evil, and directs them into a better course. And as horses that are hard-mouthed and unmanageable, and excessively spirited will not obey the reins; so also the mind of man when under the influence of passion, and thoroughly inclined to turn aside unto evil, is disobedient and intractable, and rejects with hatred the being healed.
When therefore the Saviour of all had expended upon them many words, but saw that they would not change from their crafty purposes and passions, but preferred rather to abide in their innate folly, He betakes Himself at length to sterner reproofs, the very occasion calling them thereto. He shows therefore that they are hypocrites, and liers in wait among the altars, and eager after the glory due to righteous and good men, without being such in reality: not being in earnest in meriting the approval of God, but hunting on the contrary eagerly after the honours which come from men. He said therefore, "You are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knows your hearts: for that which is high among men, is an abomination before God." This He is found also in another place saying unto them; "How can you believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that comes from the one God." For the God of all crowns with praises unto righteousness those who are truly good: but those who love not virtue, but are hypocrites, steal perchance by their own votes solely the reputation of being honourable. But no one, O worthy sirs, some perchance may say, crowns himself; and the man is justly ridiculed, who devises praises for himself: for it is written, "Let your neighbour praise you, and not your own mouth: a stranger, and not your own lips." But though hypocrites may be able possibly to remain undetected, and seize the honours which men bestow, "yet God, He says, |520 knows your hearts." The Judge cannot be deceived; He sees the depth of our mind; He knows who is the true combatant, and who steals by fraud the honour which another truly deserves: and while He honours him who is truly just, He "scatters the bones of the men-pleasers," according to the Psalmist's expression. For the desire of pleasing men is constantly, so to speak, the nurse, and head, and root of that accursed pride which is hated alike by God and men. For he who is the victim of this passion lusts after honour and praise: and this is hateful unto God: for He hates the proud, but accepts and shows mercy to him who loves not glory, and is lowly in mind.
And when Christ had crushed them with these reproofs He added thereto yet something more; even that which they were about to suffer by reason of their disobedience and wickedness; "For the law, He says, and the prophets were until John: thenceforth the kingdom of God is preached, and every one takes it by force. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one point of the law to fall." Again does He conceal in obscurity that which would give them pain, and veils, so to speak, the prediction of those things that were about to happen to all who would not obey Him. For Moses, He says, and with him the company of the holy prophets, before announced the import of My mystery to the inhabitants of earth: both the law declaring by shadows and types that to save the world I should even endure the death of the flesh, and abolish corruption by rising from the dead; and the prophets also speaking words of the same import as the writings of Moses. It is nothing strange therefore, He says, or that was not known before, that you spurn My words, and despise everything that would avail for your good. For the word of prophecy concerning Me, and you, extends until the holy Baptist John: but ''from the days of John, the kingdom of heaven is preached, and every one takes it by force." And by the kingdom of heaven He here means justification by faith, the washing away of sin by holy baptism, sanctification by the Spirit, worshipping in the Spirit, the service that is superior to shadows and types, the honour of the adoption of sons, and the hope of the glory about to be given to the saints.
The kingdom of heaven therefore, He says, is preached, for |521 the Baptist has stood forth in the midst saying, "Prepare you the way of the Lord:" and has shown, that lo! He is already near, and as it were within the doors, even the true Lamb of God, Who bears the sin of the world. Whosoever therefore is a hearer and lover of the sacred message takes it by force: by which is meant, that he uses all his earnestness and all his strength in his desire to enter within the hope. For, as He says in another place, "The kingdom of heaven is taken by violence and the violent seize upon it."
"And it is easier, He says, for heaven and earth to pass away, before the day that God commands this to be, than for one point of the law to fall." Now sometimes by the word law He signifies collectively the whole divinely inspired Scripture, the writings, that is, of Moses and the prophets. What then did it foretell, which must also necessarily reach its accomplishment? It foretold, that by reason of their excessive unbelief and immorality, Israel would fall from being of God's family, even though he be the eldest son: and that Jerusalem would be thrust away from His indulgence and His love. For so He spoke concerning it by the voice of Jeremiah, "Behold! I will hedge up her way with stakes, and block up her ways, and she shall not find her path." For the way of those who fear God is straight, nor is there any steep part therein, but all is level and well beaten. But the path of the mother of the Jews is hedged up with stakes, in that the way of piety has been rendered impassable for them.
And that they were darkened in mind, and did not accept the light of the glory of Christ,----for they knew Him not;----He before proclaimed saying unto the multitude of the Jews; "I have likened your mother unto the night. My people is like unto one that has no knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, therefore will I reject you from being My priest. And you have forgotten the law of your God, and I will forget your children." You hear that the multitude of the disobedient are very justly compared unto darkness and the night: for the intellectual day star, and the Sun of |522 righteousness arises and shines in the mind and heart of those who believe: but the mind of those who treat with contumely a grace so splendid and worthy of our possessing, is blackened in darkness, and intellectual gloom. And thus much then concerning those things which the company of the holy prophets before announced respecting Israel.
But unto those who have acknowledged the revelation of the glory of Christ the Saviour of all, God the Father promised by one of the holy prophets, thus saying; "And I will strengthen them in the Lord their God, and in the name of their God they shall be established." And in accordance with this the Psalmist also says in the Spirit unto our Lord Jesus Christ: "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance: and in Your Name shall they rejoice all the day. For you are the glory of their strength, and in Your righteousness shall our horn be exalted." For we glory in Christ, and as being justified by Him are exalted, having cast off the abasement of sin, and living in the excellence of every virtue, we have been enriched also with the exact and unadulterated knowledge of the doctrines of truth. For this God promised us where He says by the voice of Isaiah, "And I will lead the blind by a way that they know not: and in paths which they have not known I will make them walk. I will make their darkness to be light, and all their steep places to be smooth." For we, who were once blind, have been enlightened, and travel in an unwonted pathway of righteousness; while those who boasted of the law as their schoolmaster, have become darkened. For as Christ Himself said; "Darkness has blinded their eyes: and blindness in part has happened unto Israel, that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not hear." For they sinned against the holy prophets; and even ventured to lift their hands against Him Who was calling them to salvation and life. Even though therefore, He says, you be disobedient, and though you foolishly deride My words, which would guide you in the attainment of that which is useful and becoming, yet this conduct, He says, was not |523 unforeknown, but already had been declared by the law and the prophets. And it is a thing impossible for the words of God to fail of their accomplishment: for He declared that which He knew must altogether and necessarily happen.
Unbelief therefore brings upon men destruction, as also does the stretching out of the haughty neck of the mind from excessive pride against Christ the Saviour of us all; by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |524
16:19-31. But there was a certain rich, man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, feasting sumptuously every day. And a certain poor man whose name was Lazarus had been laid at his gate, full of sores; and desiring to satisfy himself with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the poor man died, and the angels carried him to Abraham's bosom. And the rich man also died, and was buried. And in Hades, having lifted up his eyes, being in torment, he saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for behold! I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you received your good things in your life time; and Lazarus in like manner his evil things: but now he is comforted here, and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you a great gulf is placed, so that those who would pass from hence to you cannot; nor can those pass who would come from thence unto us. And he said, I pray you, father, to send him to my father's house: I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come unto this place of torment. But Abraham said unto him, They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them. But he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one go unto them from the dead they will repent. But he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they would not be persuaded even though one rose from the dead.
WHEN Solomon was offering up prayers in behalf of his kingdom, he somewhere said unto God, "Give me wisdom, even that which abides by Your throne." And God praised him for earnestly desiring such blessings as these; for there is nothing better for men than sacred gifts: of which one worthy of our acceptance, and that perfects in blessedness those who have been counted worthy of it, is the wisdom which |525 God bestows. For it is the sight of the mind and heart, and the knowledge of every good and profitable thing.
And it is our duty also to be enamoured of such gifts as these: that being counted worthy thereof we may rightly and without error approach the Saviour's words. For this is useful for us unto spiritual improvement, and leads unto a praiseworthy and blameless life. Come therefore, that being made partakers of the wisdom which is from above, we may examine the meaning of the parable now set before us.
It is necessary however, I think, in the first place to mention, what was the occasion which led to His speaking of these things; or what Christ intended to illustrate in so excellently sketching and describing the parable set before us. The Saviour therefore was perfecting us in the art of well-doing, and commanding us to walk uprightly in every good work, and to be in earnest in adorning ourselves with the glories which arise from virtuous conduct. For He would have us be lovers one of another, and ready to communicate: prompt to give, and merciful, and careful of showing love to the poor, and manfully persisting in the diligent discharge of this duty. And He especially admonished the rich in this world to be careful in so doing, and to guide them into the way winch altogether becomes the saints, He said, "Sell your possessions, and give alms: make you purses that grow not old; a treasure that does not fail for ever in heaven." Now the commandment indeed is beautiful, and good, and salutary: but it did not escape His knowledge, that it is impossible for the majority to practise it. For the mind of man has ever been, so to speak, infirm in the discharge of those duties which are arduous and difficult: and to abandon wealth and possessions and the enjoyment which they give, is not a thing very acceptable to any, inasmuch as the mind is early clothed and entangled, as it were, in indissoluble cords, which bind it to the desire of pleasure.
As being therefore good and loving unto men, He has provided for them a special kind of help, lest eternal and never-ending poverty should follow upon wealth here, and everlasting torment succeed to the pleasures of the present time. "For make for yourselves friends, He says, of the unrighteous mammon: that when it has failed, they may receive you into |526 eternal tabernacles.'" And this then is the advice of One providing them with something which they can do. For if, He says, you cannot he persuaded to give up this pleasure-loving wealth, and to sell your possessions, and make distribution to those who are in need, at least be diligent in the practice of inferior virtues." "Make for yourselves friends with the unrighteous mammon:" that is, do not consider your riches as belonging to yourselves alone; open wide your hand to those who are in need: assist those in poverty and pain: comfort those who have fallen into extreme distress: condole with those who are in sorrow, or oppressed with bodily maladies, and the want of necessaries: and comfort also the saints who embrace a voluntary poverty that they may serve God without distraction. Nor shall your so doing be unrewarded. For when your earthly wealth abandons you, as you reach the end of your life, then shall they make you partakers of their hope, and of the consolation given them by God. For He being good and kind to man, will lovingly and bountifully refresh those who have laboured in this world: and more especially such as have wisely and humbly and soberly borne the heavy burden of poverty. And somewhat similar advice the wise Paul also gives to those who live in wealth and abundance respecting those in misery: "Your abundance shall be to supply their falling short: in order that also their abundance may supply your falling short." But this is the advice of one who enjoins that simply which Christ spoke; "Make to yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon:" so that the commandment is well worthy of our admiration.
And that our refusal so to act will cause our ruin, and bring us down to the inextinguishable flame, and to an unavailing remorse, He plainly shows by weaving for us the present parable. "For there was a certain rich man, He says, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, feasting sumptuously every day. And a certain poor man whose name was Lazarus had been cast down at his gate, full of sores."
Here observe, I pray, and mark accurately the Saviour's words. For while it was easy to have said, "That there was such and such a rich man whoever it might be 1," He does not say so, but simply calls him a rich man: while He |527 mentions the poor man by name. What conclusion therefore must we draw? That the rich man as being uncompassionate was nameless in God's presence: for He has somewhere said by the voice of the Psalmist, concerning those who do not fear Him, "I will not make mention of their names with My lips:" while, as I said, the poor man is mentioned by name by the tongue of God.
But let us look at the pride of the rich man puffed up for things of no real importance; "he was clothed, it says, in purple and fine linen," that is, his study was to deck himself in beautiful attire, so that his raiment was of great price, and he lived in never-ceasing banquetings; for such is the meaning of his feasting every day: besides which it adds that he feasted sumptuously, that is, prodigally. All the luxury therefore of that rich man consisted in things of this sort: in clothing clean, delicate, and embroidered with linen, and dyed with purple, so as to gratify the eyes of beholders. And what is the result? Differing but little from the figures in statuary and painting, the rich man is indeed admired by those who are destitute of sense, but his heart is full of pride and haughtiness: he has high thoughts of himself and is boastful, and while there is nothing of excellence in his mind, he makes variously coloured hues a reason for his empty pride. His delight is in expensive banquets; in music and revellings; he has numerous cooks, who labour to provoke gluttony by carefully prepared meats: his cupbearers are beautifully attired; he has singing men and singing women, and the voices of flatterers. Such were the things in which the rich man lived; for the disciple of Christ certifies us. saying, "that all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of the world."
Meanwhile Lazarus, bound fast by sickness and poverty, was cast down, He says, at his gate. For the rich man dwelt in lofty halls, and spacious mansions nobly built: whereas the poor man was not so much laid as cast down, thrown there in neglect, and not deemed worthy of any account. Cut off from compassion and care, he would have liked, to satisfy his hunger, have gathered the worthless morsels that fell from the rich man's table 2. He was tormented moreover by a severe and |528 incurable malady; "Yes, even the dogs, it says, licked his sores," and that, as it seems, not to injure him, but rather, so to speak, as sympathizing with him, and tending him: for with their tongues they allay their own sufferings, removing with them that which pains them, and gently soothing the sore.
But the rich man was more cruel than the beasts; for he felt neither sympathy for him nor compassion; but was full of all mercilessness. And what the result was, the outline of the parable teaches us in what follows: but it is too long to tell it now. For lest my discourse should prove more than sufficient for my hearers, and a fatigue beyond due measure to him who speaks, stopping now from a due regard for the good both of myself and you, I will speak to you again upon these things at our next meeting, if Christ our common Saviour grant me the ability so to do: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen 3. |529
The same subject continued.
THE blessed prophet Isaiah has somewhere introduced those who by faith in Christ have been won unto life, as calling out eagerly, so to speak, unto one another, and saying; "Come, let us go up unto the mountain of the Lord, and unto the house of the God of Jacob, and they shall teach us His way, and we will walk in it." Now by the mountain here we affirm to be meant not any earthly mountain; for to imagine this would be foolish: but rather the church which Christ has rescued for Himself. For it is high and conspicuous to people everywhere, and, so to say, exalted, because there is nothing in it which brings men down to earth. For those who dwell within it care nothing for the things of earth, but rather desire those things that are above: and, as the Psalmist says, "They are exalted far above the earth;" as being altogether brave and courageous, and practising uninterrupted endeavours after all things whatsoever which please God.
And such we believe you to be; and your earnest desire after instruction is a plain proof thereof. For you have come of course to seek the fulfilment of the promise given unto you: but neither have we forgotten what we promised, but pay our debt, adding on to what has been already said that which is still wanting to the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.
"For it came to pass, He says, that Lazarus died, and was carried by angels to Abraham's bosom: and the rich man also died, and was buried." Observe carefully the Saviour's words. For of the poor man, He says, that he was carried by angels to Abraham's bosom: but of the rich man there is nothing of the sort, but only that he died and was buried. For those who have hope towards God find in their departure from the world a deliverance from anguish and pain. And something like this Solomon also has taught us, saying, "In the sight of men they seemed to die, and their departure was considered an injury and their going from among us a breaking to pieces: but they are at peace, and their hope is full of |530 immortality." For there is given unto them a measure of consolation commensurate with their labours: or even perhaps one which surpasses and exceeds their toils: for Christ has somewhere said, that "good measure, pressed down, and heaped up, and running over shall they give into your bosom." For like as ships that sail upon the sea stand the shock of savage waves, and struggle with the violence of mighty winds, but afterwards arriving at tranquil havens fit for their rest, cease there from tossing; so in like manner I think that the souls of men, when they emerge from the turbulence of earthly things, enter the mansions that are above, as into a haven of salvation.
"Lazarus then, He says, was carried by the holy angels unto Abraham's bosom: but the rich man died and was buried." For to that rich man who had shewn himself harsh and unmerciful the separation from the body was death. For he was going from pleasure to torment: from glory to shame: from light to darkness. Such were the things that the rich man must suffer, who had been voluptuous, and close-handed, and unready for mercy. And to torment him the more now that he dwells in Hades, he beheld, it says, Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham: and made supplication that he might be sent to drop a little water upon his tongue: for he was tormented, it says, as in a fierce flame. And what reply does the patriarch Abraham make? "Son, you received your good things in your life: and Lazarus his evil things." You were enamoured, He says, of these temporal things; you were clad in fine linen and purple IMPORTANT: NOTE4; you were boastful and haughty; all your time was spent in luxury; you offered up your wealth to your appetite and to flatterers; but you never once called to mind the sick and sorrowful: you had no compassion on Lazarus when you saw him thrown down at your portals. You beheld the man suffering incurable misery, and a prey to intolerable griefs: for two maladies at once possessed him, |531 each worse than the other, the cruel pain of his ulcers, and the want of the necessaries of life. The very beasts soothed Lazarus, because he was in pain; "the dogs licked his sores," but you were more hard-hearted than the beasts. "You have received therefore, He says, your good things in your life, and Lazarus his evil: and now here he is comforted, and you are tormented;" and, as the sacred Scripture says, "they shall have judgment without mercy who have wrought no mercy." You would have been a partner with Lazarus, and a portion of his consolation would have been given you by God, if you had admitted him to be a partner of your wealth. But this you did not do, and therefore you alone are tormented: for such is the fitting punishment of the unmerciful, and of those whose mind feels no sympathy for the sick.
Let us therefore make for ourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon: let us listen to Moses and the prophets calling us unto mutual love and brotherly affection: let us not wait for any of those now in Hades to return hither to tell us the torments there: the sacred Scripture is necessarily true: we have heard, that "Christ shall sit upon the throne of His glory to judge the world in righteousness, and that He shall set the sheep indeed on His right hand, but the goats on His left. And to those on His right hand He shall say, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundations of the world: for I was hungry, and you gave Me to eat; and thirsty also, and you gave Me to drink: I was naked, and you clothed Me; in prison, and you came unto Me." But upon those upon the left hand He shall lay a heavy condemnation, saying, "Go to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." And the charge against them is, that they have done the very opposite of that for which the saints were praised. "For I was hungry, and you gave Me not to eat; and thirsty, and you gave Me not to drink: for inasmuch as you did it not, He says, to one of these little ones, you did it not to Me."
But to this perhaps some one will object, that there are many kinds of well living; for virtue is diversified, so to speak, and manifold: why therefore, having omitted those other kinds, does He make mention only of love to the poor? To this we reply, that the act is better than any other kind of |532 well doing: for it works in our souls a certain divine likeness which moulds us, so to speak, after God's image. For Christ also has said, "Be you merciful, as your Father also in heaven is merciful," He who is quick to show mercy, and compassionate and kind, is ranked with the true worshippers; for it is written, that "a pure and unpolluted sacrifice to God the Father is this, to visit orphans and widows in their poverty, and that a man keep himself unspotted from the world." And the wise Paul also has somewhere written, "But alms and communication forget not: for with such sacrifices God is content." For He loves not the incense of the legal worship, but requires rather the pleasantness of the sweet spiritual savour. But the sweet spiritual savour unto God is to show pity unto men, and to maintain love towards them. This also Paul advises us, saying, "Owe no man anything, but that you love one another:" and the daughter of love is pity for poverty.
Come therefore, you rich, cease from transitory pleasure: be earnest after the hope that is set before you: clothe yourselves with mercy and kindness: hold out the hand to them that are in need: comfort those who are in necessity: count as your own the sorrows of those who are in extreme distress.
* * * * [the remainder is lost] * * * * * * |533
SERMONS CXIII-CXVI. (fragments)
17:1. It is impossible but that offences come.
WHAT are the offences which Christ mentions as being in every way certain to happen? Offences then are of two kinds: for some are against the glory of the Supreme Being, and assail That Substance Which transcends all, as far at least as regards the purpose of the contrivers of them: while other offences happen from time to time against ourselves, and proceed no further than to the injury of some of the brethren, who are our partners in the faith. For whatever heresies have been invented, and every argument which opposes itself to the truth, resist really the glory of the supreme Godhead, by drawing away those who are caught therein from the uprightness and exactness of the sacred doctrines. And such wore the offences concerning which the Saviour Himself again somewhere said, "Woe to the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come: but woe to that man by whom the offence comes." For offences of this kind, caused I mean by unholy heretics, are not levelled against some single individual, but are aimed rather against the world, that is, against the inhabitants of the whole earth. And the inventors of such offences the blessed Paul rebukes, saying, "But in thus sinning against the brethren, and wounding their weak conscience, you sin against Christ." And that such offences might not prevail over the faithful, God somewhere spoke unto those who are the ambassadors of the upright word of truth, and skilful in teaching it, saying, "Go through My gates, and make a pathway for My people, and cast away the stones out of the way." And the Saviour has attached a bitter penalty against those who lay such stumbling-blocks in men's road.
Perhaps, however, these are not the offences here referred to, but those rather, which very frequently from human infirmity happen between friends and brethren: and the accompanying discourse which immediately follows these opening |534 remarks, and which speaks of our pardoning the brethren in ease they ever sin against us, leads us to the idea that these were the offences meant. And what then are these offences? Mean and annoying actions, I suppose; fits of anger, whether on good grounds or without justification; insults; slanders very frequently; and other stumbling-blocks akin and similar to these. Such, He says, must needs come. Is this then because God, Who governs all, obliges men to their commission? Away with the thought: for from Him comes nothing that is evil, yes! rather He is the fountain of all virtue. Why then must they happen? Plainly because of our infirmity: "for in many things we all of us stumble," as it is written. Nevertheless there will be woe, He says, to the man who lays the stumblingblocks in the way: for He does not leave indifference in these things without rebuke, but restrains it rather by fear of punishment. Nevertheless He commands us to bear with patience those who occasion them.
17:4. If seven times in the day he sin against you.
For if, He says, he who sins against you repent and acknowledge his fault, you shall forgive him: and that not once only, but very many times. For we must not show ourselves deficient in mutual love, and neglect forbearance, because any one is weak, and again and again offends; but must rather imitate those whose business it is to heal our bodily maladies, and who do not tend a sick man once only or twice, but just as often as he chances to fall ill. For let us remember that we also are liable to infirmities, and overpowered by our passions: and such being the case, we pray that those whose duty it is to rebuke us, and who possess the authority to punish us, may show themselves kind to us and forgiving. It is our duty therefore, having a common feeling for our mutual infirmities, "to bear one another's burdens; for so we shall fulfil the law of Christ." And observe also, that in the Gospel according to Matthew, Peter makes the inquiry, "How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive Him?" And thereupon the Lord tells the Apostles, 'that though he sin seven times in the day; that is, frequently, and shall as often acknowledge his fault, you shall forgive him.' |535
17:5. The Apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.
That which necessarily gives joy to the soul of the saints is not the possession of transitory and earthly goods; for they are corruptible, and easily lost; but of such rather as render those that receive them reverend and blessed, even the spiritual graces which are God's gift. And of these one of special value is faith, by which I mean the having been brought unto a belief in Christ, the Saviour of us all: which also Paul recognised as being the chief of all our blessings; for he said, that "without faith it was impossible ever to have pleased (God): for by it the elders obtained their testimony." Observe therefore the holy apostles emulating the conduct of the saints of old time. For what do they ask of Christ? "Increase our faith," They do not ask faith simply, lest you should imagine them to be without faith; but they rather ask of Christ an addition to their faith, and to be strengthened therein. For faith partly depends upon ourselves, and partly is the gift of the divine grace: for the commencement of it depends upon ourselves, and to maintain confidence and faith in God with all our power; but the confirmation and strength necessary for this comes from the divine grace: for which reason, because all things are possible with God, the Lord says, that "all things are possible to him that believes." For the power which comes unto us through faith is of God. And knowing this, the blessed Paul also says in the first Epistle to the Corinthians: "For to one is given through the Spirit the word of wisdom: and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit: and to another faith in the same Spirit." You see that he has placed faith also in the catalogue of spiritual graces. And this the disciples requested they might receive of the Saviour, contributing also that which was of themselves: and He |536 granted it unto them after the fulfilment of the dispensation, by the descent upon them of the Holy Spirit: for before the resurrection their faith was so feeble, that they were liable even to the charge of littleness of faith.
For the Saviour of all was sailing once, for instance, with the holy apostles upon the lake or sea of Tiberias, and purposely permitted Himself to fall asleep: and when a violent storm agitated the surge, and raised a mighty wave against the vessel, they were greatly troubled, so that they even roused the Lord from sleep, saying, "Master, save us, we perish." And He, it says, arose, and rebuked the waves, and changed the savageness of the tempest into a calm. But He greatly blamed the holy apostles, saying, "Where is your faith?" For they ought not to have been troubled in any respect whatsoever, when the Sovereign of the universe was present with them, at Whom all His works tremble and shake. And if we must add a further and similar example, I will mention one. He commanded the holy apostles to go on board the vessel, and precede Him unto the opposite side of the lake: and they of course did so. And when they had rowed, it says, about thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and were greatly terrified, imagining that they saw a spectre. But when He called out unto them, saying, "It is I: be not afraid;" Peter said, "If it is You, bid me come unto You on the water: and He said, Come," And having leaped down from the ship, he began to walk unto Him. But when, it says, he saw the wind and the wave, he was terrified: and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, help me:" and He saved him in his danger, but again rebuked him, saying, "O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?" And that at the season of the passion, when the band of soldiers, and wicked officers, came to seize Jesus, they all forsook Him and fled, and Peter also denied Him, being terrified at a maidservant, is well known.
You have seen the disciples while still possessed of but little faith: now wonder at them when they had obtained an increase |537 of their faith from Christ, the Saviour of us all. He commanded them "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Father's promise," until they should be clothed with power from on high. But when the power from on high had descended upon them in the shape of fiery tongues, even the grace which is through the Holy Spirit, then indeed they became bold and manly and fervent in the Spirit, so as even to despise death, and to count as nothing the dangers with which they were threatened from unbelievers; yes, and then too they became able to work miracles.
But that to be confirmed in the faith is a great and special grace, the Lord shows by saying, "If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, hot, that is, and fervent, you might have said to the sycamine tree, Be you uprooted in the sea, and it would have obeyed you." For he who confides in Christ trusts not to his own strength, but rather assigns to Him the power of performing all things. From Him then confessedly comes the accomplishment of all good things in men's souls: but they nevertheless must prepare themselves to receive this great grace. For if the power of faith remove that which is fixed and rooted in the ground, one may say absolutely that there is nothing so immovable as that faith cannot shake it, if its removal be required. The earth accordingly was shaken when the apostles were praying, as the Acts of the Apostles record: and so, on the other hand, faith stays those things which are in motion, as the rapid course of a running river, and the ceaseless way of the lights which move in heaven. This, however, we must carefully notice, that God does not excite an empty astonishment or vain wondering, but that such things are far from the divine Substance, Which is free from pride and boasting, and altogether true, for the solo good and safety of mankind. And this I say, that no one may expect from sacred faith and the divine power useless changes, for instance, of the elements, or the removal of mountains and plants; nor give way to impiety, as though the word were not true, if these things come not so to pass: nor again count faith weak, if it cannot accomplish such things. Let the thing be but useful for some real benefit, and the power will not be wanting. |538
17:7. But which of you having a servant ploughing or feeding cattle.
In the verses which precede a long and important discourse has been addressed to us by the Lord, to show unto us the paths which lead unto honour, and to manifest the glories of the blameless life, that making progress therein, and advancing zealously unto whatsoever is admirable we may attain unto "the prize of our high calling." But since it is the nature of the mind of man ever to be carried away unto vaingloriousness, and to be afflicted most readily with a tendency thereto; and since a pretext for this fault is often given by the being distinguished before God for some of the noblest virtues; and since it is a sin grievous and hateful unto God:----for the serpent, the author of evil, leads men sometimes into such a state of mind, as for them to imagine perhaps that God even owes them the highest honours, when their life is glorious and distinguished: ----to draw us away from such passions, He sets before us the purport of the lessons which have just been read, teaching us thereby, under the form of an example, that the might of sovereign authority demands everywhere of its slaves subjection as a debt. For the lord, He says, will not acknowledge any gratitude to the slave, even if all that is due be done by him, according to what becomes the condition of a slave.
Here observe, I pray, that the disciples, yes, all who are subject to the sceptre of Christ the Saviour of us all, are encouraged unto industry, but that, not as though they rendered unto Him their service as a favour, but as discharging the debt of obedience incumbent upon slaves. And hereby the accursed malady of vainglory is done away. For if you do that which is your due, why do you pride yourself? Do you not see that if you don't discharge your debt, there is danger: and that if you do discharge it, no gratitude is owed you? Which truth that admirable servant Paul having well learnt and understood, says, "If I preach the gospel, I have no cause of boasting; for a necessity is laid upon me: but woe unto me if I preach not the gospel." And again, "I am a debtor, he says, of the preaching of the doctrine, both to Greeks and barbarians, both to wise and foolish." If therefore you have done well, and have kept the divine commands, and have obeyed |539 your Lord, ask not honour of God as your due, but rather draw near, supplicating for the gifts of His bounty. Bear in mind that also among us, masters acknowledge no gratitude when any of their slaves perform their appointed service, though often by their bounty they gain the goodwill of their faithful servants, and so beget in them a more ready alacrity. Similarly God demands of us the service of slaves, using the right of His sovereign authority: but as being good and bountiful. He promises also rewards to those who labour. And the greatness of His bounty far surpasses the labours of His subjects, as Paul shall prove unto you, writing, "The sufferings of the present season are not worthy to the glory about to be revealed upon us." Yes! though we are slaves, He calls us sons, and crowns us with the honour which becomes children. And observe that each one, having first attended to his own flesh, so must take charge of the good of others: for he "who cannot govern his own house well, how shall he take care of the church?"
17:12. Ten lepers met him.
Again the Saviour manifests unto us His glory, and by working godlike miracles, endeavours to win senseless Israel unto faith, obdurate though he was, and unbelieving. What argument then will avail him at the day of judgment for refusing to accept salvation through Christ? Especially when they themselves heard His words, and were eyewitnesses of His ineffable miracles? For which reason He said Himself of them, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin." And again, "If I had not done among them the works which no other man did, they had not had sin, but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father." The cleansing of the lepers, as I said just above, was a plain demonstration (of His miraculous power): for by the law of Moses they were shut out of the cities and villages, as being impure.
This then will suffice, I suppose, for introductory remarks. The lepers then having met the Saviour, earnestly besought Him to free them from their misery, and called Him Master, that is, Teacher.
No one pitied them when suffering this malady: but He Who |540 had appeared on earth for this very reason, and had become man that He might show pity unto all, He was moved with compassion for them, and had mercy upon them.
17:14. He said unto them, Go and show yourselves unto the priests.
And why did He not rather say, "I will, be you cleansed;" as he did in the case of another leper: but commanded them rather to show themselves unto the priests? It was because the law gave directions to this effect to those who were delivered from leprosy: for it commanded them to show themselves to the priests, and to offer a sacrifice for their cleansing. He commanded them therefore to go, as being already healed, and, that they might, so to speak, bear witness to the priests, as the rulers of the Jews, and ever envious of His glory, that wonderfully, and beyond their hope, they had been delivered from their misfortune by Christ's willing that they should be healed. He did not heal them first, but sent them to the priests, because the priests knew the marks of leprosy, and of its being healed. He sent them to the priests, and with them He sent also the healing. What however was the law of leprosy, and what the rules for its purification, and what the meaning of each of the particulars commanded by the law, we have more fully described at the commencement of our Saviour's miracles as recorded by Luke, and referring thither such as are anxious for learning, let us now proceed to what follows. The nine then, as being Jews, falling into a thankless forgetfulness, did not return to give glory to God: by which He shows that Israel was hard of heart, and utterly unthankful: but the stranger,----for as being a Samaritan he was of foreign race, having been brought thither from Assyria: for the phrase is not without meaning, "in the middle of Samaria and Galilee:" ----returned with a loud voice to glorify God. It shows therefore that the Samaritans were grateful, but that the Jews, even when benefited, were ungrateful. |541
17:20-30. And having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God comes, He answered and said unto them, The kingdom of God comes not by watchings; neither shall they say, Lo! here, or Lo! there: for behold! the kingdom of God is within you. And He said unto the disciples, The days will come, when you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and shall not see it. And if they shall say unto you, Lo! here, or Lo! there, go you not, neither run thither. For as the lightning that lightens from under heaven gives light to that which is under heaven, so shall the Son of man be in His day. But first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it also be in the days of the Son of man. They were eating, and drinking, and were taking wives, and being made the wives of men, until the day that Noah entered into the ark; and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot: they were eating and drinking; they were buying and selling; they were planting, were building: but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom, there rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. So shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.
AGAIN is the Pharisee fighting against God, nor feels that he is kicking against the pricks: for while assuming the appearance of being anxious to learn, he makes a mock at divine mysteries so holy, that "the angels desire to look into them," according to the word of the blessed Peter. For this reason "blindness in part has happened unto Israel," and darkness has blinded their eyes. For that they were dark and blind, so as even often to make the mystery of Christ an occasion of ridicule, any one may learn from what has now been read to us. For they drew near asking Him, and saying, "When will the kingdom of God come?" Moderate your pride, O foolish Pharisee: desist from a mockery that exposes you to |542 heavy and inevitable guilt. "For he, it says, that does not believe the Son, is condemned already, because he has not believed in the Name of the Son of God." For the divine Moses showed before by type and shadow that the Word is the world's way and door of salvation, in that though He is God, He appeared in human form, and endured the death of the flesh for the sake of the whole earth. And the declarations also of the holy prophets agree with what was said by Moses. For they foretold that He would come in due time in form like unto us. And this also came to pass: for He was manifested to those upon earth, having assumed the form of a slave; but even so He retained His natural lordship, and power, and glory such as befits God, as is proved by the splendour of the works He wrought. But you did not believe in Him: you did not accept justification by His means, in that you were obdurate and proud. And after this you ask, "When the kingdom of God shall come?"
As I said therefore, he mocks at a mystery thus truly holy and worthy of admiration. For because the Saviour of all in His public discourses spoke from time to time of the kingdom of God, therefore these miserable men, in contempt of Him,----or perhaps even having it in their mind that being entrapped by their malice, He will have to endure the death upon the cross,----ask in mockery, "When the kingdom of God will come;" as much as to say, that before this kingdom which You talk about, the cross and death will seize You. What therefore does Christ reply? Again He displays His long-suffering and incomparable love unto man: for "being reviled, He does not revile back: suffering, He does not threaten." He does not therefore harshly chide them, nor yet because of their wickedness does He deign to give them an answer to their question, but says that only which is for the benefit of all men, that "the kingdom of God comes not by watchings: for behold! the kingdom of God is within you." For ask not, He says, about the times in which the season of the kingdom of heaven shall again arise and come: but rather be in earnest, that you may be found worthy of it, for "it is within you," that is, it depends upon your own wills, and is in your own power, whether or not you receive it. For every man who has attained to justification by means of faith in Christ, and is |543 adorned by all virtue, is counted worthy of the kingdom of heaven s.
Having therefore made this plain to all men, He now transfers His words to the holy disciples, to whom as His true companions He says, "The days will come when you shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and shall not see it." Is the Lord then in so speaking working cowardice in His disciples? Does He enervate them beforehand, and make them without heart for the endurance of those persecutions and temptations which they would have to bear? This is not His meaning, but the contrary: for He would have them prepared for all that can grieve men, and ready to endure patiently, that so being approved, they may enter the kingdom of God. He forewarns them therefore that before His advent from heaven, at the consummation of the world, tribulation and persecution will precede Him, so that they will wish to see one of the days of the Son of man; that is, one such as those when they were still going about with Christ, and conversing with Him. And yet the Jews even then were guilty of no little violence against Him. They stoned Him with stones: they persecuted Him not once only, but oftentimes: they led Him to the brow of the hill, that they might throw Him down from the precipice: they vexed Him with reproaches and calumnies, and there was no form of wickedness which the Jews did not practise against Him. How then did He say that the disciples would desire to sec one of His days? It was because, by comparison with the greater evils, the less are, so to speak, desirable.
But that He will descend from heaven in the latter times of the world, not obscurely nor secretly, but with godlike glory, and as "dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto," He declared, saying, that His coming shall he as the lightning. He was born indeed in the flesh of a woman, to |544 fulfil the dispensation for our sakes, and for this reason He emptied Himself, and made Himself poor, and no longer showed Himself in the glory of the Godhead: for the season itself, and the necessity of the dispensation, summoned Him to this humiliation. But after the resurrection from the dead, having ascended to heaven, and sat down with God the Father, He shall descend again, not with His glory withdrawn, nor in the meanness of human nature, but in the majesty of the Father, with the companies of the angels guarding Him, and standing; before Him as God and Lord of all. He shall come therefore as the lightning, and not secretly.
Nor must we believe any one saying, "Lo! Christ is here, or lo! He is there. But first He must suffer many things, and be rejected by this generation," He cuts away another expectation from the heart of the disciples: for they supposed, that when He had gone round about Judaea, and afterwards been in Jerusalem, that He would immediately manifest the kingdom of God. They even drew near to Him and said, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" Yes, even the mother of Zebedee's sons, expecting that this would be the case, drew near and said, "Lord, say that my two sons shall sit, the one on Your right hand, and the other on Your left, in Your kingdom." That they might know therefore that He was about first to undergo His saving passion, and to abolish death by the death of His flesh, and put away the sin of the world, and bring to nought the ruler of this world, and so to ascend unto the Father, and in due time to appear to "judge the world in righteousness," He says, that "He must first suffer many things."
And to show that He will appear unexpectedly, and with no man knowing it, and the end of the world come, He says, that the end shall be "as it was in the days of Noah and Lot. For they were eating, He says, and drinking: and were taking wives, and being made the wives of men: they were selling and buying, and building; but the coming of the waters destroyed the one, while the others were the prey and food of brimstone and fire." What therefore is signified by this? That He requires us to be always watchful, and ready to make our defence before the tribunal of God. For as Paul says, "We are all about to be revealed before the judgment-seat of |545 Christ, that every man may receive a retribution for the things that are by the body, according to that he has done, whether good or bad." "Then shall He set the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left: and He shall say unto the sheep, Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world." But upon the goats He will utter a terrible sentence; for He will send them to the flame that shall never be appeased.
If therefore, O Pharisee, you desire to be accounted worthy of the kingdom of God, become one of the sheep. Offer unto Christ the fruit of faith in Him, and the praise of holy conduct, even that which is by the Gospel. But if you continue to be a goat, that is, one unfruitful, and destitute both of faith and good works, why do you enquire when the kingdom of God will come? For it does not concern you. Fear rather because of the torment which is decreed against the unbelieving, and the unappeasable flame appointed for those who sin against Christ: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |546
17:31-37. In that day, he who is upon the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to carry them away: and he who is in the field, let him in like manner not return back. Remember Lot's wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it, shall save it alive. 1 tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed: the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at a mill together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answer and say unto Him, Where, Lord? And He said unto them, Where the body is, there will also the eagles be gathered.
THE sacred Scripture has some where said, "Prepare your works for your departure, and make yourself ready for the field." Now by our departure I imagine is meant our going from this world, and removal hence. For this time must of course overtake every one: for, as the Psalmist says, "What man is there that shall live and not see death, and that can save his soul from the hand of hell?" For the nature of man was condemned in Adam, and fell away unto corruption, because he foolishly transgressed the commandment given him. But those who are careless and contemptuous, lead a shameful and pleasure-loving life, not even perhaps admitting into their mind the thought of the world to come, and the hope prepared for the saints, nor feeling moreover any alarm at the torment that is appointed for those who love sin. But those who embrace a virtuous life rejoice in labours for probity's sake, bidding, so to speak, farewell to the desire after earthly things, and paying but slight attention to the vain turmoil of the world.
To a purpose thus excellent, and a proportionate earnestness the Saviour bids us hold fast, thus saying; "In that day he who is upon the housetop, and his goods in the house, let him not go down to carry them away: and he who is in the field, let him in like manner not return back." He was speaking of the last day, that is, of the end of this world; |547 for as it was, He said, in the days of Noah and Lot: they were eating, and drinking, and were taking wives, and being made the wives of men, until the flood came; and upon Sodom fire descended, and destroyed them all: so shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." Strengthening them therefore for the remembrance of the last day, and the final time, He commands them to disregard all earthly and temporal matters, and look only unto one end, the duty namely of every one saving his soul. "He therefore, He says, that is upon the housetop, let him not go down to the house to carry away his goods." And in these words He apparently means the man who is at ease, living in wealth and worldly glory: for always those that stand upon the housetops are conspicuous in the eyes of them who are round about the house. If therefore, He says, there be any one in this condition, let him at that time make no account of the goods stored up in his house. For vain henceforth are such things, and unavailing to his advantage. For, as it is written, "Treasures profit not the wicked: but righteousness delivers from death."
But even "if any one be, He says, in the field, in like manner let him not return back." That is, if any one be found devoted to industry, and occupied in labours, earnestly desirous of spiritual fruitfulness, and gathering the wages of virtuous toil, let him hold firmly to this diligence: "let him not return back:" for, as Christ Himself again has somewhere said, "No man that puts his hand to the plough, and turns back, is fit also for the kingdom of heaven." For it is our duty to maintain our religious exertions without wavering, and to persevere in them with undaunted wills, lest we suffer some such fate as befell the woman at Sodom, taking whom as an example, He says, "Remember Lot's wife," For when she had been rescued from Sodom, but would afterwards have returned, she became a pillar of salt, became, that is, foolish and stone-like.
On that day therefore, He says, and at that time, both those who are accustomed to live in luxury must entirely abstain from such pride, and readily labour, in order that they may save themselves: and in like manner those who are industrious, and honour useful exertion, must bravely hold to the mark that has been set before them. "For whosoever shall seek to save |548 his life shall lose it: and whosoever shall lose it, shall save it alive."
But the way in which a man loses his life that he may save it, and how he who imagines that he is saving loses it, Paul clearly shows, where he says of the saints, "They that are Jesus Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts." For those who have really become true [followers] of Christ our common Saviour, crucify their flesh, and put it to death, by being constantly engaged in labours and struggles unto piety, and by mortifying its natural desire. For it is written, "Mortify your members that are upon earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil lust, and covetousness." But those who love a voluptuous course of life, imagine probably that they are gaining their soul by living in pleasure and effeminacy: whereas certainly they lose it. "For he that sows, it says, to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption."
But on the other hand, whosoever loses his life shall of a certainty save it. This the blessed martyrs did, enduring conflicts even unto blood and life, and placing on their heads as their crown their true love unto Christ. But those who, from weakness of resolution and mind, denied the faith, and fled from the present death of the flesh, became their own murderers: for they will go down into hell to suffer the penalties of their wicked cowardice. For the Judge shall descend from heaven: and those who with all their heart have loved Him, and earnestly practised entire virtuousness of life, He will call, saying, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundations of the world." But those who have led careless and dissolute lives, nor maintained the glory of faith in Him, on them will He pass a severe and overwhelming sentence, saying unto them, "Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire."
This He teaches us by saying, "In that night there shall be two men in one bed: one shall be taken, and one shall be left. Two women shall be grinding at a mill together, the one shall be taken, and the other left." Now by the two who are in one bed, He seems to hint at those who live in rest and plenty, and are equal to one another, as far as regards their being possessed of worldly affluence: for the bed is the |549 symbol of rest. "But one of them, He says, shall be taken, and one shall be left." How, or in what manner? It is because not all those who are possessed of wealth and ease in this world are wicked and merciless. For what if a man be rich, but be gentle and merciful, and not destitute of the praise of compassion upon the poor; if he be ready to share his wealth with others, and affable of address; thoroughly liberal and sober-minded; upright in the faith, and of an urgent zeal for piety; if too, according to the Saviour's expression, he have made for himself friends by his use of the unrighteous mammon, this man is taken: but the other, who was not thus minded, shall be left.
"Two women, He says, shall be grinding at a mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left." And by these again He seems to mean such as live in poverty and labour: but even in these, He says, there is a certain vast difference. For some have borne the burden of poverty manfully, honouring a sober and virtuous course of life: while others have been of a different character, crafty for every wicked practice, and the contrivers of all baseness. There will be therefore even in their case a full and exact investigation of their manners, and he that is good will be taken, and he that is not so will be left.
As Christ however, our common Saviour, had used the expression "shall be taken," the disciples usefully and necessarily ask, "Whither, Lord? And He said unto them, Where the body is, there will also the eagles be gathered." And what does this mean? By the use of a common and very plain fact, He hints at a great and profound mystery. And what is this? That He shall descend from heaven "to judge the world in righteousness." But, as He Himself says, "He will send His angels, and they shall choose the righteous and the holy from among the sinners, and bring them near unto Him:" but those others they will leave on earth, as doomed to torment and condemned to the punishment which is by fire.
Something to this effect the very wise Paul also declares, where he writes, "For I say unto you, that we who are left alive shall not arrive before those who have slept. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump. For it shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise incorruptible: and we who are left alive shall be caught up together with them |550 in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Just therefore, He says, as when a dead corpse is exposed, carnivorous birds assemble unto it; so when the Son of man shall appeal', then certainly shall the eagles, even those who fly aloft, and rise superior to earthly and worldly things, hasten to Him.
And He calls the time of judgment night, because, as I imagine, of His advent being unknown and unexpected. For we remember also one of the holy prophets crying out to them who love sin, and saying, "Woe unto them that desire the day of the Lord! What will the day of the Lord be unto you? and it is darkness and not light; and thick darkness that has no brightness in it." And again, Christ Himself has somewhere said to the holy apostles: " I must work the works of Him That sent Me while it is day: the night comes, when no man can work." And one also of the holy apostles wrote, "The day of the Lord comes as a thief," that is, without being foreknown.
In order therefore that we may be taken by Christ, let us abandon all earthly anxieties, and devote ourselves to every kind of good work. For so will He accept us, and make us His own, and crown us with honours from on high: by Whom and with Whom to God the Father be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |551
18:1-8. And He spoke a parable to them, to the intent that men ought always to pray, and must not grow weary; saying, There was in a certain city a judge, who feared not God, neither felt shame at man. And there was a widow in that city, and she came to him and said, Avenge me of my adversary. And he would not for a time: but afterwards he said within himself Though I fear not God, and have no reverence for man, yet because this widow wearies me, I will avenge her, lest finally she annoy me by her coming. And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge says. And shall not God avenge His elect, who cry unto Him day and night, and He is longsuffering towards them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, shall He find faith upon the earth?
THE fountain of every blessing is Christ; "Who of God was also made unto us wisdom:" for in Him we are made wise, and filled with spiritual gifts. Now any one who is right-minded will affirm that the knowledge of those things by means of which we may prosper in every method of saintly excellence of life, and advance in virtue, is God's gift, and one well worthy of our winning. And we find one who asked it of God, saying, "Show me Your ways, O Lord: and teach me Your paths." Now the paths which lead those onward to an uncorrupt life, who eagerly advance therein, are indeed numerous; but one, which especially benefits those who practise it, is prayer: and the Saviour was Himself careful to teach us by the parable now set before us, that we must make diligent use of it. "For He spoke, it says, a parable unto them, to the intent that men ought always to pray, and must not grow weary."
For it is, I affirm, the duty of those who set apart their lives for His service, not to be sluggish in their prayers, nor again to consider it as a hard and laborious duty: but rather to rejoice, because of the freedom of access granted them by God; for He would have us converse with Him as sons with a |552 father. Is not this then a privilege worthy of being valued by us most highly? For suppose that some one of those possessed of great earthly power were easy of access to us, and were to permit us to converse with him with full license, should we not consider it as a reason for extraordinary rejoicing? What possible doubt can there be of this? When therefore God permits us each one to offer our addresses unto Him for whatever we wish, and has set before those who fear Him an honour so truly great and worthy of their gaining, let all slothfulness cease that would lead men to an injurious silence therein; and rather let us draw near with praises, and rejoicing that we have been commanded to converse with the Lord and God of all, having Christ as our Mediator, who with God the Father grants us the accomplishment of our supplications. For the blessed Paul somewhere writes, "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ." And He somewhere Himself said to the holy apostles, "Hitherto you have asked nothing in My Name: ask, and it shall be given unto you." For He is our Mediator, our Propitiation, our Comforter, and the Bestower of every request, it is our duty therefore to "pray without ceasing," according to the words of the blessed Paul, as well knowing, and being thoroughly assured, that He Whom we supplicate is able to accomplish all things. "For let a man, it says, ask in faith, in nothing divided: for he who is divided is like a wave of the sea, troubled and blown about by the wind. For let not, it says, that man think that he will receive anything of the Lord." For he that is divided is really guilty of mockery: for if you do not believe that He will incline unto you, and gladden you, and fulfil your request, do not draw near to Him at all, lest you be found an accuser of the Almighty, in that you foolishly art divided. We must avoid therefore so base a malady.
But that God will incline His ear to those who offer Him their prayers, not carelessly nor negligently, but with earnestness and constancy, the present parable assures us. For if the constant coining of the oppressed widow prevailed upon the unjust judge, who feared not God, neither had any shame at men, so that even against his will he granted her redress, how shall not He Who loves mercy, and hates iniquity, and Who |553 ever gives His helping hand to them that love Him, accept those who draw near to Him day and night, and avenge them as being His elect?
But come now, and let us examine who it is that offend against them: for the examination of this question will beget much that is of profit to all who are well taught. For very many, and those of various classes, offend against the saints. For the holy ministers and teachers, who rightly divide the word of truth, are assailed by all who are the truth's enemies; men ignorant of the sacred doctrines, and estranged from all uprightness, who walk in the crooked path, remote from the straight and royal road. Such are the impure and polluted gangs of heretics, whom one may justly call the gates of destruction, the snares of hell, the pitfalls of the devil, the slough of destruction. These bring persecutions and distresses upon such as walk uprightly in the faith; and just as men drunk with wine, and unable to stand, take hold often of those near them, that they may not fall to the earth alone, so also those, as being lame and halt, often bring to ruin with them those who are not steadfast. Against such men must all who are known of God make supplications, imitating the holy apostles, who, calling out against the wickedness of the Jews, said, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings, and grant unto Your servants that with freedom of speech they may declare Your word."
But perchance some one will say, 'But lo! Christ somewhere said to the holy apostles, "Love your enemies: pray for them who use you despitefully:" how then can we cry out against them, without despising the divine command?' To this we answer, Shall we then pray that boldness and power may be given them by God, that they may more strenuously attack those who praise His doings, not permitting them to teach, and resisting the glory of Him to Whom we address the supplication? But how would not this be thorough folly? Whenever therefore offences are committed by any against us personally, let us immediately even count it our glory to be forgiving towards them, and full of mutual love; and imitating the holy fathers, even though they smite and scorn us, yes, even though they inflict violence upon us of every kind, let us free them from all blame, and be superior both to wrath |554 and vexation. Such glorying becomes the saints, and is pleasing to God.
But when any sin against the glory of God, heaping up wars and distresses against those who are the ministers of the divine message, then indeed let us at once draw near unto God, beseeching His aid, and crying out against those who resist His glory: just as also the mighty Moses did; for he said, "Arise, O Lord, and let Your enemies be scattered, and let all those who hate Your Name flee away." And the prayer also uttered by the holy apostles shows, that it is not without advantage for the success of the divine message for the hand, so to speak, of the persecutors to be weakened. "For behold, they say, their threatenings," that is, prove their opposition to be in vain, and grant unto "Your servants, that with freedom of speech they may speak Your word."
But that men would make merchandize of the word of uprightness, and prevail on many to abandon a sound faith, involving them in the inventions of devilish error, and "belching forth, as Scripture says, things out of their own hearts, and not out of the mouth of the Lord," He foretold, saying, "When the Son of man comes, shall He find faith upon the earth?" It escaped not His knowledge: how could it, seeing that He is God Who knows all things? He tells us then, to use his own words, that "the love of many will grow cold," and that "in the latter times some shall depart from a correct and blameless faith, going after seducing spirits, and giving heed to the false words of men who are seared in mind." Against whom we draw near unto God as faithful servants, praying Him that their wickedness, and their attempts against His glory, may be brought to no effect.
And others also there are who wrong the servants of God, and whom we may without sin attack in prayer. And who again are these? They are the evil and opposing powers, and Satan the adversary of us all, who fiercely resists those who would live well; who casts into the pitfalls of wickedness whoever slumbers; who plants in us the seeds of every sin. For with his satellites he presses upon us furiously. And on this account the Psalmist called out against them, saying, "How long set you yourselves against man? and you slay all of you, as it were a leaning wall, and a bowing fence." For just as a |555 wall that already leans on one side, and a fence that bows over as having been loosened, readily fall when any one pushes against them, so also the mind of man, by reason of its own great inclination of itself to the love of worldly pleasures, readily falls into them whenever any one draws and entices it thereto. And this is Satan's business: and therefore we say in our prayers to Him Who is able to save, and to drive away from us that wicked being, "Avenge me of my adversary." And this the Only-begotten Word of God has indeed done by having become Man: for He has ejected from his tyranny over us the ruler of this world, and has delivered and saved us, and put us under the yoke of His kingdom.
Excellent therefore is it to make request by constant prayer; for Christ will receive our supplications, and fulfil our petitions: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |556
18:9-14. And He spoke also this parable unto certain who trust in themselves that they are righteous, and despise others. Two men went up unto the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. And the Pharisee stood and prayed thus to himself: God, I thank You that 1 am not like the rest of mankind, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or as this publican. I fast twice in the week: I pay tithe of all that I gain. But the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up even his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful unto me the sinner. I tell you that this man went down to his house justified rather than the other. For every one that exalts himself shall be abased, and he that abases himself shall be exalted.
You who love instruction, and are eager to listen, receive once again the sacred words: delight yourselves in the honey of wisdom; for so it is written, "Good words are honeycombs, and their sweetness is the healing of the soul." For the labour of the bees is very sweet, and benefits in many ways the soul of man: but the divine and saving (honey) makes those in whom it dwells skilful in every good work, and teaches them the ways of (spiritual) improvement. Let us therefore, as I said, receive again in mind and heart the Saviour's words. For He teaches us in what manner we ought to make our requests unto Him, in order that the act may not prove unrewarded to them who practise it; and that no one may anger God, the bestower of gifts from on high, by means of those very things by which he imagines that he shall gain some benefit. For it is written. "There is a righteous man, who perishes in his righteousness."
For see, I pray, an instance of this clearly painted, so to speak, in the parable set before us. One who prayed is condemned because he did not offer his prayer wisely. "For two men, it says, went up unto the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican." And here we must |557 admire the wise arrangement of Christ our common Saviour, in all things whatsoever He does and says. For by the parable previously read to us, He called us to diligence, and to the duty of offering prayer constantly: for the Evangelist said, "And He spoke unto them also a parable, to the intent that men ought always to pray, and must not grow weary." Having then urged them to diligence in constant prayer, yet, as I said, lest by doing so sedulously but without discretion, we should enrage Him Whom we supplicate, He very excellently shows us in what way we ought to be diligent in prayer. "Two men then, He says, went up unto the temple to pray." Observe here, I pray, the impartiality and entire fairness of the unerring Nature: for He calls those who were praying men, since He looks not so much at wealth or power; but regarding their natural equality, He considers all those who dwell upon earth as men, and as in no respect different from one another.
And what then was the manner of their prayer? "The Pharisee, it says, prayed thus to himself. God, I thank You that I am not like the rest of mankind, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or as this publican." Many at once are the faults of the Pharisee: for first of all he is boastful, and without sense; for he praises himself, although the sacred Scripture cries aloud, "Let a neighbour praise you, and not your own mouth: a stranger and not your own lips." But, O excellent sir, one may well say to him, Behold, those who live in the practice of good and holy actions, as any one may see, are not very ready to listen to the words of flatterers: yes, and even if men extol them, they often are covered with shame, and drop their eyes to the ground, and beg silence of those that praise them. But this shameless Pharisee praises and extols himself because he is better than extortioners, and the unjust, and adulterers. But how did it escape your notice, that a man's being better than the bad does not necessarily and of course prove him to be worthy of admiration: but that to vie with those who habitually excel, is a noble and honourable thing, and admits a man into the number of those who are justly praised.
Our virtue therefore must not be contaminated with fault, but must be single-minded and blameless, and free from all that can bring reproach. For what profit is there in fasting |558 twice in the week, if your so doing serve only as a pretext for ignorance and vanity, and make you supercilious and haughty, and selfish? You tithe your possessions, and make a boast thereof: but you in another way provoke God's anger, by condemning men generally on this account, and accusing others; and you are yourself puffed up, though not crowned by the divine decree for righteousness, but heap, on the contrary, praises upon yourself. "For I am not, he says, as the rest of mankind." Moderate yourself, O Pharisee: "put a door to your tongue, and a lock." You speak to God Who knows all things. Await the decree of the Judge. None of those skilled in the practice of wrestling ever crowns himself: nor does any man receive the crown of himself, but awaits the summons of the arbiter. Lower your pride: for arrogance is both accursed and hated by God. Although therefore you fast with puffed up mind, your so doing will not avail you: your labour will be unrewarded; for you have mingled dung with your perfume. Even according to the law of Moses a sacrifice that had a blemish was not capable of being offered to God: for it was said unto him, "Of sheep, and ox, that is offered for sacrifice, there must be no blemish therein." Since therefore your fasting is accompanied by pride, you must expect to hear God saying, "This is not the fast that I have chosen, says the Lord." You offer tithes: but you wrong in another way Him Who is honoured by you, in that you condemn men generally. This is an act foreign to the mind that fears God: for Christ even said, "Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned." And one also of His disciples said, "There is one Lawgiver, and Judge: why then do you judge your neighbour?" No man because he is in health ridicules one who is sick for being laid up and bedridden: rather he is afraid, lest perchance he become himself the victim of similar sufferings. Nor does any man in battle, because another has fallen, praise himself for having escaped from misfortune. For the infirmity of others is not a fit subject for praise for those who are in health: nay, even if any one be found of more than usually vigorous health, even then scarcely does he gain glory thereby. Such then was the state of the self-loving Pharisee. |559
But what of the publican? He stood, it says, "afar off," not even venturing, so to speak, to raise up his eyes on high. You see him abstaining from all boldness of speech, as having no right thereto, and smitten by the reproaches of conscience: for he was afraid of being even seen by God, as one who had been careless of His laws, and had led an unchaste and dissolute life. You see also that by his external manner, he accuses his own depravity. For the foolish Pharisee stood there bold and broad, lifting up his eyes without scruple, bearing witness of himself, and boastful. But the other feels shame at his conduct: he is afraid of his Judge, he smites upon his breast, he confesses his offences, he shows his malady as to the Physician, he prays that he may have mercy. And what is the result? Let us hear what the Judge says, "This man, He says, went down to his house justified rather than the other."
Let us therefore "pray without ceasing," according to the expression of the blessed Paul: but let us be careful to do so aright. The love of self is displeasing to God, and He rejects empty haughtiness and a proud look, puffed up often on account of that which is by no means excellent. And even if a man be good and sober, let him not on this account suffer himself to fall away into shameful pride: but rather let him remember Christ, Who says to the holy apostles, "When you have done all those things, those namely which have been commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants, we have done that which was our duty to do.'' For we owe unto God over all, as from the yoke of necessity, the service of slaves, and ready obedience in all things. Yes, though you lead an excellent and elect life, don't exact wages from the Lord; but rather ask of Him a gift. As being good, He will promise it you: as a loving Father, He will aid you. Restrain not yourself then from saying, "God be merciful to me the sinner." Remember Him Who says by the voice of Isaiah, "Declare you your sins first, that you may be justified:" remember too that He rebukes those who will not do so, and says, "Behold, I have a judgment against you, because you say |560 'I have not sinned'." Examine the words of the saints: for one says, "The righteous is the accuser of himself in the beginning of his words." And another again, "I said, I will confess against myself my transgression unto the Lord: and you forgave the iniquity of my heart."
What answer then will those make to this, who embrace the new tenets of Novatus, and say of themselves that they are pure? Whose prayer do they praise? That of the Pharisee, who acquitted himself, or that of the Publican, who accused himself? If they say that of the Pharisee, they resist the divine sentence; for he was condemned as being boastful: but if that of the Publican, why do they refuse to acknowledge their own impurity? Certainly God justifies those who know well their transgressions, and are willing to confess them: but these men will have the portion of the Pharisee.
We then say, that in many things we "all of us offend," and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |561
18:15-17. And they brought also unto Him infants, that He should touch them: but when the disciples saw them, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them and said, Suffer little children to come unto Me, and hinder them not; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein.
EVERY manner of benefit does Christ weave for us, and opens wide the pathways of salvation. For His purpose is to save the dwellers upon earth, and produce in them a knowledge of the pursuits of piety, and make them skilful in all virtue, that they may be acceptable, being filled with spiritual fruitfulness. Let us see therefore what benefit He begets in us by what has just been read. For you have heard the holy Evangelist saying, "That they brought unto Him infants that He should touch them: and when the disciples prevented them, He took them and said, Suffer them to come unto Me, and hinder them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." It was their mothers who brought the babes, desiring His blessing, and begging for their infants the touch of His holy hand. But the blessed disciples rebuked them for so doing, not because they envied the babes, but rather as paying to Him as their teacher a due respect, and preventing, so to speak, unnecessary fatigues, and as setting much value upon order.
And infants even to the present time are brought near and blessed by Christ by means of consecrated hands: and the pattern of the act continues even until this day, and descends unto us from the custom of Christ as its fountain. Only the bringing near of infants takes not place now in an unbecoming or disorderly manner, but with proper order, and sobriety and fear. |562
Since then Christ has said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and hinder them not; for of such is the kingdom of God," come then, yes come, and let us carefully examine, what sort of persons those must be, who desire eternal life, and are enamoured of the kingdom of heaven. For some one forsooth may say, 'What is there in babes that is worthy of emulation? Is it their want of firmness and intelligence? And how then is it not incredible, to affirm or imagine anything of the kind?' Christ however does not wish us to be without understanding, but would have us perfectly know every thing that is useful and necessary for our salvation. For wisdom even promises that she will give "to them that are simple, craftiness, and to the young the beginning of sense and understanding." And she is found also in the book of Proverbs like one that raises her voice on high and says, "You, O men, do I beseech, and utter my voice unto the sons of men: understand, O you simple ones craftiness, and you fools, put a heart within you." It follows therefore, that the fool has no heart, and is deficient in craftiness; not in that which is blamable, how could that be? but in that which is praiseworthy. But how a man may at once be both simple and crafty, the Saviour Himself elsewhere explains to us, saying, "Be you crafty as serpents, and simple as doves." And similarly the blessed Paul also writes, "My brethren, be you not children in your minds: but in wickedness be you babes, and in your minds grown men."
It is necessary however to examine, what is the meaning of being babes in wickedness, and how a man becomes so, but in mind a grown man. A babe then, as knowing either very little, or nothing at all, is justly acquitted of the charge of depravity and wickedness: and so it is also our duty to endeavour to be like them in the very same way, by putting entirely away from us habits of wickedness, that we too may be regarded as men who do not even know the pathway which leads unto guile, but who, unconscious of malice and fraud, live in a simple and innocent manner, practising gentleness, and a priceless humility, and readily forbearing from wrath and |563 spitefulness. For such we affirm are the qualities found in those who are still babes.
But while such is our character in simplicity and innocence, we must be perfect in mind; having our understanding firmly established in the clear knowledge of Him Who by nature and in truth is the Creator of the Universe, and God and Lord: acknowledging along with Him no other God whatsoever, new, and falsely so named: and avoiding as that which would bring upon us perdition, the being seduced into the abandonment of Him by the adoption of the customs of the heathen. Our mind then must be firmly fixed, so to speak, and safe, and unwavering in holding unto the living and true God: and we must further also flee far away from other pitfalls, and withdraw from the stumbling-blocks of the devil; for such those men are, who corrupt the orthodox doctrine respecting God, and falsify the truth, and lift up their horn on high, and speak wickedly against God. For they belch forth things out of their own heart, and lead astray the souls of the simple, warring against the glory of the Only-begotten Son of God, and saying that He is to be numbered among things created, whereas it was by Him that they all were brought into existence. And bringing down severe and inevitable condemnation upon their own heady, they fear not to say the very same things also against the Holy Spirit. Whosoever then says of them that they are the gates of hell, errs not from the mark. And the wise Paul also protests unto us, that we must turn away our faces from such, men: "For if, he says, any one preach unto you other than that you have received, let him be accursed."
The chief perfection therefore of the mind is to be established in the faith, and for our understanding to be uncorrupted therein: and the second, which neighbours upon this chief perfection, and is akin to it, and its constant companion, is the clear knowledge of that way of conduct which pleases God, and is taught us in the Gospel, and is perfect and blameless. Those who travel thereon lead a life of simplicity |564 and innocence, while nevertheless they know what opinions they ought to hold, and what acts are right for them to do. These enter in by the narrow gate, refusing neither those labours which piety unto God requires, nor such as are necessary for leading a glorious life. And so they duly advance into the broadness of the abundance which is in God, and rejoice in His gifts, and win for themselves the kingdom of heaven by Christ; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |565
18:18-27. And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why do you call Me good? No-one is good, but one, God. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear witness falsely; honour your father and your mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth. And when Jesus heard these things, He said unto him; You still lack one thing: sell all that you have, and distribute to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And Jesus seeing it said, How hardly shall they that have gold enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to enter in through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. And they that heard it said, And who can live? And He said, The things which are impossible with men, are possible with God.
THOSE who believe that the Word, Who shone forth from the very substance of God the Father, is by nature and truly God, draw near to Him as unto an omniscient God, Who, as the Psalmist says, "tries the hearts and reins;" and sees all that passes in us: "for all things are naked, and spread out before His eyes," according to the expression of the blessed Paul. But we do not find the Jewish multitudes thus disposed: for they with their princes and teachers were in error, and saw not with the eyes of their mind the glory of Christ. Rather they looked upon Him as one like unto us: as a mere man, I mean; and not as God rather, Who had become man. They approached Him therefore to make trial of Him, and lay for Him the nets of their craftiness.
And this you may learn by what has now been read. For a ruler, it says, asked Him, saying, "Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said unto him, |566 "Why do you call Me good? None is good but one, God." Now he, who is here called a Ruler, and who fancied himself to be learned in the law, and supposed that he had been accurately taught therein, imagined that he could convict Christ of dishonouring the commandment spoken by the most wise Moses, and of introducing laws of His own. For it was the object of the Jews to prove that Christ opposed and resisted the former commandments, to establish, as I said, new laws, of His own authority, in opposition to those previously existing, that their wicked conduct towards Him might have a specious pretext, he draws near therefore, and makes pretence of speaking kindly: for he calls Him Teacher, and styles Him Good, and professes himself desirous of being a disciple. For "what, he says, shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Observe therefore how he mixes up flattery with fraud and deceit, like one who mingles wormwood with honey: for he supposed that he could in this way deceive Him. Of such men one of the holy prophets said, "Their tongue is a piercing lance: the words of their mouth are deceitful. To his neighbour he speaks peacefully: but there is enmity in his soul." And again the wise Psalmist also thus speaks of them: "Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." And again, "Their words are smoother than oil: and yet are they spears."
He therefore flatters Jesus, and attempts to deceive Him, making pretence of being well-disposed to Him. And what does the Omniscient reply, "Who, as it is written, takes the wise in their craftiness?" "Why do you call Me good? None is good but one, God," You see how He proved at once that he was neither wise nor learned, though the ruler of a synagogue of the Jews. For if, He says, you did not believe that I am God, and the clothing of the flesh has led you astray, why did you apply to Me epithets suitable to the supreme nature alone, while still you supposed Me to be a mere man like unto yourself, and not superior to the limits of human nature? In the nature that transcends all, even in God only, is found the attribute of being by nature, and unchangeably good: but the angels, and we upon earth, are good by resembling Him, or rather by participation of Him. For as He is what He is, and this is His Name, and His everlasting memorial for all generations; but we exist and |567 come into being by being made partakers of Him Who really exists: so He indeed is good, or the good absolutely, but angels and men are good, only by being made, as I said, partakers of the good God. Let therefore the being good be set apart as the special property of God over all alone, essentially attached to His nature, and His peculiar attribute. If, however, He says, I do not seem to you to be truly God, then you have ignorantly and foolishly applied to Me the properties and virtues of the divine nature, at the very time when you imagine me to be a mere man, one that is who never is invested with goodness, the property of the unchangeable nature, but only gains it by the assent of the divine will. And such then was the purport of what Christ spoke.
But those perchance will not assent to the correctness of this explanation, whose minds are perverted by sharing in the wickedness of Arius. For they make the Son inferior to the supremacy and glory of God the Father: or rather, they contend that He is not the Son; for they both eject Him from being by nature and truly God, and thrust Him away from having really been born, lest men should believe that He is also equal in substance to Him Who begat Him. For they assert, as though they had obtained a reason for their blasphemy from the passage now before us, 'Behold, He has clearly and expressly denied that He is good, and set it apart as something appropriate to God the Father only: but truly had He been equal to Him in substance, and sprung from Him by nature, how would not He also be good as being God?'
Let this then be our reply to our opponents. Since all correct and exact reasoning acknowledges a son to be consubstantial with the father, how is He not good, as being God? For He cannot but be God, if He be consubstantial with Him Who is by nature God. For surely they will not affirm, however extreme may be the audacity into which they have fallen, that from a good father a son has sprung who is not good. For to this we have the Saviour's own testimony, Who thus speaks; "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruits." How from a good root has there shot forth an evil sprout? Or how from a sweet fountain can there How a bitter river? Was there ever a time when there was no Father, seeing that He is the Father eternally? But He is the Father, because He has begotten, and |568 this is the reason why He bears this name, and not as being one who borrows the title by resemblance to some other person. For from Him all paternity in heaven and earth is named. We conclude therefore that the fruit of the good God is the good Son.
And in another way: as most wise Paul, says, "He is the image of the invisible God:" and the image, because He displays in His own nature the beauty of Him Who fathered Him. How therefore can we see in the Son, Who is not good, the Father, Who is by nature and truly good? "He is the brightness and likeness of His person:" but if He be not good, as the senseless heretic asserts, but the Father is by nature good, it is a brightness different in nature, and that possesses not the splendour of Him Who bade it shine. And the likeness too is counterfeit, or rather is now no likeness at all: for it represents not Him Whose likeness it is, if, as all must allow, that which is not good is the contrary of that which is good.
And much more might one say in opposition to them upon this point: but that our discourse may not extend to an unreasonable length, and be burdensome to any, we will say no more at present, and hold in as with a bridle our earnestness in this matter; but at our next meeting we will continue our explanation of the meaning of this passage from the Gospel, should Christ once again assemble us here: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever, Amen. |569
THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
I PERCEIVE you assembled here with great earnestness and zeal; and, as I suppose, you have come to exact a debt. I then, for my part, acknowledge that I promised at our last meeting to complete what was wanting to my discourse: and I have come to pay it as unto children, praying Christ, our common Saviour, to impart to my mind His divine light, and give utterance to my tongue, that I may benefit both you and myself. For Paul has somewhere written, "The husbandman who labours must first eat of the fruits."
Let me then bring back to your remembrance first of all what has already been considered, and then we will proceed to what remains.
The blessed Evangelist therefore said, "And a certain ruler asked Him, saying, Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And He said unto him, Why do you call Me good? No-one is good, but one, God:" and so on with the rest of the lesson. Now we have already explained what is the meaning of this passage in the Gospel, and enough has been said to you upon that point: for we showed both that by nature and truly the Son is good as also He is Who begat Him; and that the answer, "Why do you call Me good? No-one is good, but one, God," was spoken relatively to the questioner. Let us therefore direct our inquiry to the Scriptures which follow.
What then says this chief of the synagogue of the Jews? "What shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He does not ask with a view to learn; for then his question would have been worthy of all praise: but his object was to prove, that Christ did not permit them to retain the Mosaic commandments, but led rather His disciples and followers unto new laws enacted by Himself. For on this pretext they rebuked the people under their charge, saying of Christ, our common Saviour, "He has a devil, and is mad: why hear you Him?" For |570 they said that He had a devil, and was mad, on the supposition that He had set up his own laws against those which had been given from above, from God. True rather would it be to affirm of them that they had a devil, and were utterly mad, for resisting the Lord of the law, Who had come not so much to destroy the commandment which had been given of old, and of which Moses was the minister, as to fulfil it, according to His own words: for He transformed the shadow into the truth.
The chief of the synagogue therefore expected to hear Christ say, Cease, O man, from the writings of Moses; abandon the shadow; they were but types, and nothing more; draw near therefore rather to My commandments, which you have in the Gospel: but He did not so answer, because He discerned by His godlike knowledge the object of him who tempted Him. As though then He had no other commandments, but those only given by Moses, He sends the man unto them, and says, "You know the commandments." And lest he should say, that He referred to His own commandments, He enumerates those contained in the law, and says; "You shall not kill: you shall not commit adultery: neither shall you bear false witness." And what reply does this cunning schemer in wickedness make, or rather this very ignorant and senseless person? For he thought that even though He Whom he asked was God, yet nevertheless he could easily cajole Him into answering whatever he chose. But as the sacred Scripture says, "The prey falls not to the lot of the crafty."
For though he had shot wide of his mark, and missed his prey, he yet ventures to bait for Him another snare: for he said, "All these have I kept from my youth." He might therefore well hear from us in answer, O foolish Pharisee, "you bear witness of yourself; your witness is not true." But omitting now this argument, let us see in what way Christ repelled His bitter and malignant foe. For while He might have said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom |571 of heaven: blessed are the meek: blessed are the pure in heart:" He tells him nothing of this kind, but because he was fond of lucre and very rich, He proceeds at once to that which would grieve him, and says, "Sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me," This was torture to the heart of that covetous man, who so prided himself upon his keeping of the law. It proved him at once both frail and weak, and altogether unfit for the reception of the new message of the gospel. And we too learn how true that is wdiich Christ spoke; "No man puts new wine into old wine-skins; else the skins burst, and the wine is spilt: but new wine is put into new wine-skins." For the chief of the synagogue of the Jews proves to be but an old wine-skin, that cannot hold the new wine, but bursts and becomes useless. For he was saddened, although he had received a lesson that would have won for him eternal life.
But those who have received in them by faith Him Who makes all things new, even Christ, are not rent asunder by receiving from Him the new wine. For when they have but newly received from Him the word of the gospel message, which gladdens the heart of man, they become superior to wealth and the love of lucre: their mind is established in courage: they set no value on temporal things, but thirst rather after things eternal: they honour a voluntary poverty, and are earnest in love to the brethren. For, as it is written in the Acts of the holy Apostles, "As many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet; and distribution was made unto every one according to his need,"
As the ruler therefore was too infirm of purpose, and could not be prevailed upon even to listen to the advice of selling his possessions, although it would have been good for him, and full of reward, our Lord lays bare the malady which has its lair in the rich, thus saying, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And I say unto you, that it is easier for a camel to enter in through the eye of a needle, than a rich man into the kingdom of God." Now by a camel He means not the animal of that name, but a thick cable |572 rather: for it is the custom of those well versed in navigation to call the thicker cables "camels."
Observe however, that He does not altogether cut away the hope of the rich, but reserves for them a place and way of salvation. For He did not say that it is impossible for a rich man to enter in, but that he does so with difficulty.
When the blessed disciples heard these words, they objected, saying, "And who can live?" And their plea was for those who had wealth and possessions. For we know, they say, that no one will ever be persuaded to abandon his wealth and riches: "Who then can be saved?" But what does the Lord reply? "The things that are impossible with men, are possible with God." He has reserved therefore for those who possess wealth the possibility of being counted worthy, if they will, of the kingdom of God: for even though they refuse entirely to abandon what they have, yet it is possible for them in another way to attain unto honour. And the Saviour has Himself showed us how and in what way this can happen, saying, "Make to yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon: that when it has failed, they may receive you into eternal tabernacles." For there is nothing to prevent the rich, if they will, from making the poor partakers and sharers of the abundance which they possess. What hinders him who has plentiful possessions from being affable of address, and ready to communicate to others, easily prevailed upon to give, and compassionate, and full of that generous pity which is well-pleasing to God. Not unrewarded, nor unprofitable shall we find carefulness in this respect; for "mercy boasts over judgment," as it is written.
By every argument therefore, and in every way does our common Saviour and Lord benefit us: by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
1. a The Catenist adds, "as was done in the case of Job."
2. b The following passage is found in MS. 14,725, but is acknowledged neither by the principal MS. nor the Greek; besides the late date of the MS., which is on paper of the thirteenth century, I have little doubt of its spuriousness, from, first, its extremely rhetorical style; secondly, the strangeness of several of its words: and thirdly, the difficulties in its grammar. It is however as follows;
"He desired truly to satisfy himself with the morsels which remained over from the rich man's table, and no one gave unto him. O the meanness of life! For the rich man was set in manifold enjoyments, and the poor man had nothing, and was withering in the woe of poverty: and from the excessiveness of his want his person was exposed to the hailstones. He had no lands nor cornfields to bring him increase: he had no vineyards nor trees to bear him fruits, but was cast down, exposed to the sun, and day and night his couch was the dunghill. Poor Lazarus was cast down at the rich man's door: he was not cast down at a distance, but close by, lest, were he removed far away, some excuse might be found for the rich man's cruelty."
3. c Of the extracts gathered by Mai, the first is the only one not recognised by the Syriac. It starts the question, whether this parable, expressly mentioning Lazarus by name, and thereby giving some colour to the tradition, that he was an actual person, may be taken as a proof, that the retribution of men's good or evil deeds takes place immediately after death. This Cyril answers in the negative, showing from Scripture that the judgment does not take place till after the resurrection. This Mai says requires "a somewhat more accurate explanation on account of the fatal error of the Greeks, that the reward of human actions is delayed until after the resurrection." But his explanation is in fact an attempt at a refutation of S. Cyril's doctrine: for the extract really is S. Cyril's, being the sixteenth chapter against the Anthropomorphitae.
4. d The rest of the translation is from the Cod. 14,725, referred to above. It is a volume of miscellaneous sermons, containing of S. Cyril's only the two upon this parable, made up into one, and ending with the latter portion of Sermon XCI, beginning with the words, "Withdraw your attention from these temporal things." Cf. p. 421. In the main MS. the rest of this sermon, and the whole of the four following, have perished.
This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2008. All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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