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

And the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they derided Him. And He said unto them, Ye are they who justify yourselves before men, but God knoweth 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 taketh 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, “Thy 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 thee, and Thou wilt not hear? and shout unto Thee, being oppressed, and Thou wilt not deliver? Judgment is before me, and the judge hath taken a bribe: therefore is the law of none avail, and judgment cometh not forth unto completion: for the wicked prevaileth over the righteous, therefore doth judgment come forth perverted.” For as being lovers, as I said, of lucre, they repeatedly gave judgment on the matters before them, 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 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 leugth to sterner reproofs, the very occasion calling them thereto. He shews 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, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth 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 ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh 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 thy neighbour praise thee, and not thy own mouth: a stranger, and not thy own lips.” But though hypocrites may be able possibly to remain undetected, and seize the honours which men bestow, “yet God, He says, knoweth your hearts.” The Judge cannot be deceived; He seeth the depth of our mind; He knoweth who is the true combatant, and who steals by fraud the honour which another truly deserves: and while He honoureth him who is truly just, He “scattereth 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 lusteth after honour and praise: and this is hateful unto God: for He hateth the proud, but accepteth and sheweth mercy to him who loveth 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 until John: thenceforth the kingdom of God is preached, and every one taketh 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 ye 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 taketh 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 the Baptist has stood forth in the midst saying, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord:” and has shewn, that lo! He is already near, and as it were within the doors, even the true Lamb of God, Who beareth the sin of the world. Whosoever therefore is a hearer and lover of the sacred message taketh 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 saith 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 commandeth 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 spake 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 thy mother unto the night. My people is like unto one that hath no knowledge. Because thou hast rejected knowledge, therefore will I reject thee from being My priest. And thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, and I will forget thy children.” Thou hearest that the multitude of the disobedient are very justly compared unto darkness and the night: for the intellectual day star, and the Sun of 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 Thy countenance: and in Thy Name shall they rejoice all the day. For thou art the glory of their strength, and in Thy 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 unadulterate 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 hath blinded their eyes: and blindness in part hath 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, ye be disobedient, and though ye 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 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 Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.

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