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

And He began to speak unto the people this parable: A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and went on a journey for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant unto the husbandmen, that they might give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent to them another servant, but they beat him also, and shamefully entreated him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. And the lord of the vineyard said, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: perhaps they will reverence him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. And they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy those husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard unto others. And when they heard it, they said, Heaven forbid. But He looked upon them, and said, What is this then that is written, That the stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner? Every one that falleth upon this stone shall be broken: but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will winnow him.

CHRIST has somewhere said, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field.” And there is nothing more certain than that those who love lucre, and seek for treasures, most certainly do not find them ready for them, nor placed above ground, but hidden rather and buried out of sight; and only by digging laboriously do they find them, and that with difficulty. Come therefore, and let us seek after the knowledge of the lessons of the Gospel as for some treasure; let us search deep into the thoughts therein contained: for so shall we find what we seek by Christ revealing this also unto us: “for in Him are all the treasures of wisdom, and the hidden things of knowledge;” and He is the Giver of wisdom and understanding to the whole rational creation.

What therefore does He say to the chiefs of the Jews, when setting forth unto them those things which are useful for salvation? “A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and went on a journey for a long time.” Now if any one will examine with the penetrating eyes of the mind the purport of what is hero said, he will find the whole history of the children of Israel briefly summed up in these words. For who the man is who planted the vineyard, and what, in fact, is to be understood by the vineyard which was planted, the Psalmist makes clear, where he says unto Christ, the Saviour of all, respecting the Israelites: “Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt; Thou removedst the nations, and plantedst it: Thou madest a way before it, and plantedst its roots, and it filled the land.” And further, the blessed prophet Isaiah also, declaring this very thing, says, “My beloved had a vineyard on a hill, in a fertile place.” And afterwards he adds thereto, making more evident the force of what had been spoken enigmatically, “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the man of Judah, a plant new and beloved.” He therefore Who planted the vineyard is God; Who also went abroad for a long time. And yet God fills every thing, and in no way whatsoever is absent from any thing that exists; how therefore did the Lord of the vineyard go abroad for a long time? It means, that after He had been seen by them in the shape of fire at His descent upon Mount Sinai with Moses, who spake unto them the law as the mediator, He did not again grant them His presence in a visible manner, but, to use a metaphor taken from human affairs, His relation unto them was, so to speak, like that of one who had made a long journey abroad.

As I said, then, He went abroad: but plainly He had care for His farm, and kept it in His mind. For He sent faithful servants to them at three different times to receive produce, or fruit, from the tillers of the vineyard. For there was no period in the interval, during which there were not sent by God prophets and righteous men to admonish Israel, and urge it to bring forth as fruits the glories of a life in accordance with the law. But they were wicked, and disobedient, and obdurate, and their heart was hardened against admonition, so that they would in no way listen to the word that would have profited them. For even the prophet Isaiah, as one who was, so to speak, fainting under labours and fatigues without avail, says: “Lord, who hath believed our report?” By disregarding therefore those who had been sent unto them, “they drove them away empty,” as having, that is, nothing good to say of them unto God Who sent them. For the prophet Jeremiah also blamed the Jewish multitudes with their rulers because of their excessive arrogance, saying, “To whom shall I speak, and testify, and he will hear? Behold, their ears are uncircumcised, and they cannot hear; behold the Word of the Lord has become to them a derision: they will not hear it.” And in another place He thus spake of Jerusalem: “We healed Babel, and she was not healed: let us leave her, and depart every one to his land, because her judgment has reached unto the heaven.” And as I said then, he calls Jerusalem Babel, because it differed not from Persia in its disobedience and apostasy, and because it would not submit itself to the sacred laws: or even perhaps because it was reckoned as having no knowledge of God, for having chosen to worship the creature instead of the Creator, and the works of its own hands. For Israel was guilty of the charge both of apostasy and of idol-worship. And this then was the way in which they shamefully cast out those who were sent unto them.

But the lord of the vineyard considers with himself, saying, “What shall I do?” And we must carefully examine in what sense he says this. Does then the householder use these words because he had no more servants? Certainly not: for there were not wanting to Him other ministers of His holy will. But just as if a physician were to say of a sick man, What shall I do? we should understand him to mean, that every resource of medical skill had been tried, but without avail: so we affirm that the lord also of the vineyard, having practised all gentleness and care with his farm, but without in any respect benefiting it, says, What shall I do? And what is the result? He advances to still greater purposes; for “I will send, He says, My Son, the beloved one. Perhaps they will reverence Him.” Observe in this, that after the servants the Son is sent, as One not numbered among the servants, but as a true Son, and therefore the Lord. For even though He put on the form of a servant for the dispensation’s sake, yet even so He was God, and very Son of God the Father, and possessed of natural dominion. Did they then honour Him Who was sent as Son and Lord, and as One Who possesses by inheritance whatsoever belongs to God the Father? By no means. For they slew Him outside the vineyard, having plotted among themselves a purpose foolish and ignorant and full of all wickedness. For they say, “Let us kill Him, that the inheritance may be ours.” But tell me, How didst thou imagine this? For art thou also son of God the Father? Does the inheritance descend by right of nature to thee? If thou removest the heir out of the way, how wilt thou become lord of what thou covetest? But further, How is not thy supposition ridiculous? For the Lord indeed, as being Son, and Heir by right of His substance of the authority of God the Father, having become man, called those who believed in Him unto communion and participation of His kingdom: but these men wanted to take possession of the kingdom solely for themselves, without admitting even Him to any participation at all therein, usurping for themselves alone the lordly inheritance. But this was a purpose impossible, and full of ignorance: and therefore the blessed David says of them in the Psalms, “He that dwelleth in the heaven shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall deride them.”

The chiefs therefore of the synagogue of the Jews were cast out for resisting the Lord’s will by rendering the vineyard which had been entrusted to them unfruitful. For God has somewhere said, “Many shepherds have destroyed My vineyard: they have profaned My portion: they have made My desirable inheritance into a pathless wilderness: it has become a desolation of destruction.” And it is also said by the voice of Isaiah, “But the Lord will immediately arise in judgment: the Lord Himself shall come for judgment with the elders and princes of the people. But ye, why have ye burnt My vineyard?” As those therefore who had rendered the land sterile, being evil, they perished evilly. For it was just, most just, that as being slothful, and murderers of the Lord, they should be the prey of extreme miseries.

“And the farm was given unto other husbandmen.” And who are they? I answer, the company of the holy apostles, the preachers of the evangelic commandments, the ministers of the new covenant; who were the teachers of a spiritual service, and knew how to instruct men correctly and blamelessly, and to lead them most excellently unto every thing whatsoever that is well-pleasing to God. And this thou learnest by what God says by the voice of Isaiah to the mother of the Jews, that is, the synagogue: “And I will turn My hand upon thee, and search thee to purify thee: and those who obey not I will destroy, and I will take out of thee all wicked doers, and will humble all that boast: and I will establish thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as in the beginning.” And by these, as I said, are signified the preachers of the new covenant, unto whom God somewhere said by the voice of Isaiah; “But ye shall be called the priests of the Lord, and the ministers of God.” But that the farm was given to other husbandmen, and not solely to the holy apostles, but to those also who come after them, even though not of Israelitish blood, the God of all plainly reveals, where He says by the voice of Isaiah unto the church of the Gentiles, and to the remnant of Israel; “And aliens in race shall come; they shall feed thy flocks: and aliens in tribe shall be ploughmen and vinedressers.” For many indeed of the Gentiles were called, and holy men of their number became teachers and instructors; and even unto this day men of Gentile race hold high place in the churches, sowing the seeds of piety unto Christ in the hearts of believers, and rendering the nations entrusted to their charge like beautiful vineyards in the sight of God.

What therefore did the scribes and pharisees say when they heard the parable? “Heaven forbid,” were their words. And by this one may see, that having understood its profounder signification, they put away from them the impending suffering, and were afraid of the coming danger. But they did not escape, because they could not be restrained from disobedience, nor would they submit to believe in Christ.

“But He, it proceeds, looked upon them, and said, What is this then that is written, That the stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner? Every one that falleth upon this stone shall be broken: but upon whomsoever it shall fall, it will winnow him.” For the Saviour, although He was a chosen stone, was rejected by those whose duty it was to build up the synagogue of the Jews in every thing that was edifying: and yet He became the head of the corner. Now the sacred Scripture compares to a corner the gathering together, or joining of the two people, Israel I mean, and the Gentiles, in sameness of sentiment and faith. “For the Saviour has built the two people into one new man, by making peace and reconciling the two in one body unto the Father.” And the so doing resembles a corner, which unites two walls, and, so to speak, binds them together. And this very corner, or gathering together of the two people into one and the same, the blessed David wondered at, and said; “The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. This—that is the corner—has been done of the Lord, and is marvellous in our eyes.” For Christ, as I said, has girded together the two people in the bonds of love, and in sameness as well of sentiment as of faith.

The stone therefore is the safety of the corner which is formed by it: but breaking and destruction to those who have remained apart from this rational and spiritual union. “For he that falleth, He says, upon this stone shall be broken: but upon whomsoever it shall fall it will winnow him.” For when the multitudes of the Jews stumbled at Christ, and fell against Him, they were broken: for they would not hearken to the voice of Isaiah, where he says, “Sanctify the Lord Himself, and He shall be thy fear: and ye shall not strike against Him as upon a stone of stumbling, nor as a rock of falling.” Those therefore who did not believe were broken: but Christ hath blessed us who have believed in Him: 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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