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A Commentary Upon The Gospel According To Saint Luke -St. Cyril

CHAPTER 1

Ver. 2 Who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.

IN saying that the Apostles were eyewitnesses of the substantial and living Word, the Evangelist agrees with John, who says, that “the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled in us, and His glory was seen, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father.” For the Word became capable of being seen by reason of the flesh, which is visible and tangible and solid: whereas in Himself He is invisible. And John again in his Epistle says, “That which was from the beginning, That which we have heard, That which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled around the Word of Life, and the Life became manifest.” Hearest thou not that he speaks of the Life as capable of being handled? This he does that thou mayest understand that the Son became man, and was visible in respect of the flesh, but invisible as regards His divinity.

V. 51 He hath shewed strength with His arm: He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart.

The arm enigmatically signifies the Word that was born of her: and by the proud, Mary means the wicked demons who with their prince fell through pride: and the Greek sages, who refused to receive the folly, as it seemed, of what was preached: and the Jews who would not believe, and were scattered for their unworthy imaginations about the Word of God. And by the mighty she means the Scribes and Pharisees, who sought the chief seats. It is nearer the sense, however, to refer it to the wicked demons: for these, when openly claiming mastery over the world, the Lord by His coming scattered, and transferred those whom they had made captive unto His own dominion. For these things all came to pass according to her prophecy that

V. 52 He hath put down rulers from their thrones, and exalted the humble.

Great used to be the haughtiness of these demons whom He scattered, and of the devil, and of the Greek sages, as I said, and of the Pharisees and Scribes. But He put them down, and exalted those who had humbled themselves under their mighty hand, “having given them authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy:” and made the plots against us of these haughty-minded beings of none effect. The Jews, moreover, once gloried in their empire, but were stripped of it for their unbelief; whereas the Gentiles who were obscure and of no note, were for their faith’s sake exalted.

V. 53 He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich. He hath sent empty away.

By the hungry, she means the human race: for, excepting the Jews only, they were pining with famine. The Jews, however, were enriched by the giving of the law, and by the teaching of the holy prophets. For “to them belonged the giving of the law, the adoption of sons, the worship, the promises.” But they became wanton with high feeding, and too elate at their dignity; and having refused to draw near humbly to the Incarnate One, they were sent empty away, carrying nothing with them, neither faith nor knowledge, nor the hope of blessings. For verily they became both outcasts from the earthly Jerusalem, and aliens from the glorious life that is to be revealed, because they received not the Prince of Life, but even crucified the Lord of Glory, and abandoned the fountain of living water, and set at nought the bread that came down from heaven. And for this reason there came upon them a famine severer than any other, and a thirst more bitter than every thirst: for it was not a famine of the material bread, nor a thirst of water, “but a famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.” But the heathen, who were hungering and athirst, and with their soul wasted away with misery, were filled with spiritual blessings, because they received the Lord. For the privileges of the Jews passed over unto them.

V. 54 He hath taken hold of Israel His child to remember mercy.

He hath taken hold of Israel,—not of the Israel according to the flesh, and who prides himself on the bare name, but of him who is so after the Spirit, and according to the true meaning of the appellation;—even such as look unto God, and believe in Him, and obtain through the Son the adoption of sons, according to the Word that was spoken, and the promise made to the prophets and patriarchs of old. It has, however, a true application also to the carnal Israel; for many thousands and ten thousands of them believed. “But He has remembered His mercy as He promised to Abraham:” and has accomplished what He spake unto him, that “in thy seed shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed.” For this promise was now in the act of fulfilment by the impending birth of our common Saviour Christ, Who is that seed of Abraham, in Whom the Gentiles are blessed. “For He took on Him the seed of Abraham,” according to the Apostle’s words: and so fulfilled the promise made unto the fathers.

V. 69 He hath raised up a horn of salvation for us.

The word horn is used not only for power, but also for royalty. But Christ, Who is the Saviour that hath risen for us from the family and race of David, is both: for He is the King of kings, and the invincible power of the Father.

V. 72 To perform mercy.

Christ is mercy and justice: for we have obtained mercy through Him, and been justified, having washed away the stains of wickedness through faith that is in Him.

Ver. 73 The oath which He sware to our father Abraham.

But let no one accustom himself to swear from hearing that God sware unto Abraham. For just as anger, when spoken of God, is not anger, nor implies passion, but signifies power exercised in punishment, or some similar motion; so neither is an oath an act of swearing. For God does not swear, but indicates the certainty of the event,—that that which He says will necessarily come to pass. For God’s oath is His own word, fully persuading those that hear, and giving each one the conviction that what He has promised and said will certainly come to pass.

Ver. 76 And thou, child, shalt be called Prophet of the Highest.

Observe, I pray, this also, that Christ is the Highest, Whose forerunner John was both in his birth, and in his preaching. What remains, then, for those to say, who lessen His divinity? And why will they not understand, that when Zacharias said, “And thou shalt be called Prophet of the Highest,” he meant thereby “of God,” of Whom also were the rest of the prophets.

V. 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness, and the shadow of death.

For those under the law, and dwelling in Judea, the Baptist was, as it were, a lamp, preceding Christ: and God so spake before of him; “I have prepared a lamp for My Christ.” And the law also typified him in the lamp, which in the first tabernacle it commanded should be ever kept alight. But the Jews, after being for a short time pleased with him, flocking to his baptism, and admiring his mode of life, quickly made him sleep in death, doing their best to quench the ever-burning lamp. For this reason the Saviour also spake concerning him; “He was a burning and shining lamp, and ye were willing a little to rejoice for a season in his light.”

V. 79 To guide our feet into the way of peace.

For the world, indeed, was wandering in error, serving the creation in the place of the Creator, and was darkened over by the blackness of ignorance, and a night, as it were, that had fallen upon the minds of all, permitted them not to see Him, Who both by nature and truly is God. But the Lord of all rose for the Israelites, like a light and a sun.

CHAPTER 2

“From S. Cyril’s Commentary upon the Gospel of St. Luke, Sermon the First.”

And it came to pass in those days, &c.

CHRIST therefore was born in Bethlehem at the time when Augustus Cæsar gave orders that the first enrolment should be made. But what necessity was there, some one may perhaps say, for the very wise Evangelist to make special mention of this? Yes, I answer: it was both useful and necessary for him to mark the period when our Saviour was born: for it was said by the voice of the Patriarch: “The head shall not depart from Judah, nor a governor from his thighs until He come, for Whom it is laid up: and He is the expectation of the Gentiles.” That we therefore might learn that the Israelites had then no king of the tribe of David, and that their own native governors had failed, with good reason he makes mention of the decrees of Cæsar, as now having beneath his sceptre Judæa as well as the rest of the nations: for it was as their ruler that he commanded the census to be made.

V. 4 Because he was of the house and lineage of David.

The book of the sacred Gospels referring the genealogy to Joseph, who was descended from David’s house, has proved through him that the Virgin also was of the same tribe as David, inasmuch as the Divine law commanded that marriages should be confined to those of the same tribe: and the interpreter of the heavenly doctrines, the great apostle Paul, clearly declares the truth, bearing witness that the Lord arose out of Juda. The natures, however, which combined unto this real union were different, but from the two together is one God the Son, without the diversity of the natures being destroyed by the union. For a union of two natures was made, and therefore we confess One Christ, One Son, One Lord. And it is with reference to this notion of a union without confusion that we proclaim the holy Virgin to be the mother of God, because God the Word was made flesh and became man, and by the act of conception united to Himself the temple that He received from her. For we perceive that two natures, by an inseparable union, met together in Him without confusion, and indivisibly. For the flesh is flesh, and not deity, even though it became the flesh of God: and in like manner also the Word is God, and not flesh, though for the dispensation’s sake He made the flesh His own. But although the natures which concurred in forming the union are both different and unequal to one another, yet He Who is formed from them both is only One: nor may we separate the One Lord Jesus Christ into man severally and God severally, but we affirm that Christ Jesus is One and the Same, acknowledging the distinction of the natures, and preserving them free from confusion with one another.

V. 5 With Mary, his betrothed wife, being great with child.

The sacred Evangelist says that Mary was betrothed to Joseph, to shew that the conception had taken place upon her betrothal solely, and that the birth of the Emanuel was miraculous, and not in accordance with the laws of nature. For the holy Virgin did not bear from the immission of man’s seed. And what was the reason of this? Christ, Who is the first-fruits of all, the second Adam according to the Scriptures, was born of the Spirit, that he might transmit the grace (of the spiritual birth) to us also: for we too were intended, no longer to bear the name of sons of men, but of God rather, having obtained the new birth of the Spirit in Christ first, that he might be “foremost among all,” as the most wise Paul declares.

And the occasion of the census most opportunely caused the holy Virgin to go to Bethlehem, that we might see another prophecy fulfilled. For it is written, as we have already mentioned, “And thou Bethlehem, house of Ephratah, art very small to be among the thousands of Judah: from thee shall come forth for Me to be Ruler in Israel!”

But in answer to those who argue that, if He were brought forth in the flesh, the Virgin was corrupted: and if she were not corrupted, that He was brought forth only in appearance, we say; the prophet declares, “the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in and gone out, and the gate remaineth closed.” If, moreover, the Word was made flesh without sexual intercourse, being conceived altogether without seed, then was He born without injury to her virginity.

Ver. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son.

In what sense then her firstborn? By firstborn she here means, not the first among several brethren, but one who was both her first and only son: for some such sense as this exists among the significations of “firstborn.” For sometimes also the Scripture calls that the first which is the only one; as “I am God, the First, and with Me there is no other.” To shew then that the Virgin did not bring forth a mere man, there is added the word firstborn; for as she continued to be a virgin, she had no other son but Him Who is of the Father: concerning Whom God the Father also proclaims by the voice of David, “And I will set Him Firstborn high among the kings of the earth.” Of Him also the all-wise Paul makes mention, saying, “But when He brought the First-begotten into the world, He saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him.” How then did He enter into the world? For He is separate from it, not so much in respect of place as of nature; for it is in nature that He differs from the inhabitants of the world: but He entered into it by being made man, and becoming a portion of it by the incarnation. For though He is the Only-begotten as regards His divinity, yet as having become our brother, He has also the name of Firstborn; that, being made the first-fruits as it were of the adoption of men, He might make us also the sons of God.

Consider therefore that He is called the Firstborn in respect of the economy: for with respect to His divinity He is the Only-begotten. Again, He is the Only-begotten in respect of His being the Word of the Father, having no brethren by nature, nor being co-ordinate with any other being: for the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father, is One and Alone: but He becomes the Firstborn by descending to the level of created things. When therefore He is called the Only-begotten, He is so with no cause assigned by reason of which He is the Only-begotten, being “the Only-begotten God into the bosom of the Father:” but when the divine Scriptures call Him Firstborn, they immediately also add of whom He is the firstborn, and assign the cause of His bearing this title: for they say, “Firstborn among many brethren:” and “Firstborn from the dead:” the one, because He was made like unto us in all things except sin; and the other, because He first raised up His own flesh unto incorruption. Moreover, He has ever been the Only-begotten by nature, as being the Sole begotten of the Father, God of God, and Sole of Sole, having shone forth God of God, and Light of Light: but He is the Firstborn for our sakes, that by His being called the Firstborn of things created, whatever resembles Him may be saved through Him: for if He must of necessity be the Firstborn, assuredly those must also continue to exist of whom He is the Firstborn. But if, as Eunomius argues, He is called God’s Firstborn, as born the first of many; and He is also the Virgin’s Firstborn; then as regards her also, He must be the first as preceding another child: but if He is called Mary’s Firstborn, as her only child, and not as preceding others, then is He also God’s Firstborn, not as the first of many, but as the Only One born.

Moreover if the first are confessedly the cause of the second, but God and the Son of God are first, then is the Son the cause of those who have the name of sons, inasmuch as it is through Him that they have obtained the appellation. He therefore who is the cause of the second sons may justly be called the Firstborn, not as being the first of them, but as the first cause of their receiving the title of sonship. And just as the Father being called the first—“for I, He saith, am the first, and I am after these things” y will not compel us to regard Him as similar in nature to those that are after Him; so also though the Son be called the first of creation, or the Firstborn before all creation, it by no means follows that He is one of the things made: but just as the Father said “I am the first,” to shew that He is the origin of all things, in the same sense the Son also is called the first of creation. “For all things were made by Him,” and He is the beginning of all created things, as being the Creator and Maker of the world.

Ver. 7 And she laid him in the manger.

He found man reduced to the level of the beasts: therefore is He placed like fodder in a manger, that we, having left off our bestial life, might mount up to that degree of intelligence which befits man’s nature; and whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, even His own table, we find no longer fodder, but the bread from heaven, which is the body of life.








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