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

THE SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.

I PERCEIVE you assembled here with great earnestness and zeal; and, as I suppose, ye 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 laboureth 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 callest thou Me good? None 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 shewed both that by nature and verily the Son is good as also He is Who begat Him; and that the answer, “Why callest thou Me good? None 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 hath a devil, and is mad: why hear ye Him?” For 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 thou hast 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, “Thou knowest the commandments.” And lest he should say, that He referred to His own commandments, He enumerates those contained in the law, and says; “Thou shalt not kill: thou shalt not commit adultery: neither shalt thou 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 saith, “The prey falleth 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, “thou bearest witness of thyself; thy 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 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 thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt 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 which Christ spake; “No man putteth 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 gladdeneth 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 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 shewed 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 wellpleasing to God. Not unrewarded, nor unprofitable shall we find carefulness in this respect; for “mercy boasteth 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 Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.








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