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

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 thou receivedst thy good things in thy life time; and Lazarus in like manner his evil things: but now he is comforted here, and thou art 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 thee, 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 abideth by Thy 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 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 shewing 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 which altogether becometh the saints, He said, “Sell your possessions, and give alms: make you purses that grow not old; a treasure that faileth not 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 neverending 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 eternal tabernacles.” And this then is the advice of One providing them with something which they can do. For if, He says, ye cannot be 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 of 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 ye 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 spake; “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 shews 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,” He does not say so, but simply calls him a rich man: while He 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 fain, to satisfy his hunger, have gathered the worthless morsels that fell from the rich man’s table. He was tormented moreover by a severe and incurable malady; “Yea, 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 Ghost, for ever and ever, Amen.








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