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

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 ye 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 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, thou receivedst thy good things in thy life: and Lazarus his evil things.” Thou wast enamoured, He says, of these temporal things; thou wast clad in fine linen and purple; thou wast boastful and haughty; all thy time was spent in luxury; thou offeredst up thy wealth to thy appetite and to flatterers; but thou never once calledst to mind the sick and sorrowful: thou hadst no compassion on Lazarus when thou sawest him thrown down at thy portals. Thou beheldest the man suffering incurable misery, and a prey to intolerable griefs: for two maladies at once possessed him, 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 thou wast more hard-hearted than the beasts. “Thou hast received therefore, He says, thy good things in thy life, and Lazarus his evil: and now here he is comforted, and thou art tormented;” and, as the sacred Scripture saith, “they shall have judgment without mercy who have wrought no mercy.” Thou wouldst have been a partner with Lazarus, and a portion of his consolation would have been given thee by God, if thou hadst admitted him to be a partner of thy wealth. But this thou didst not do, and therefore thou alone art 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, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundations of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave Me to eat; and thirsty also, and ye gave Me to drink: I was naked, and ye clothed Me; in prison, and ye 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 ye gave Me not to eat; and thirsty, and ye gave Me not to drink: for inasmuch as ye did it not, He says, to one of these little ones, ye 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 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 ye merciful, as your Father also in heaven is merciful.” He who is quick to shew 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 loveth not the incense of the legal worship, but requireth rather the pleasantness of the sweet spiritual savour. But the sweet spiritual savour unto God is to shew pity unto men, and to maintain love towards them. This also Paul adviseth us, saying, “Owe no man anything, but that ye love one another:” and the daughter of love is pity for poverty.

Come therefore, ye 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. * * * * * * * * * * * *








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