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

And as He looked He saw the rich casting their gifts into the treasury: and He saw also a certain poor widow who cast in thither two farthings: and He said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all. For they all of their superabundance have cast in unto the offerings; but she of her want hath cast in all the substance that she had.

TO-DAY opens to us the sight of a spectacle of piety, with Christ as the exhibitor of the games, Who by just decree distributes the honours to those who are called unto the course. And the men whom these games bring forward and offer to our admiration, are neither trillers of harps, nor skilful wrestlers, nor again such as are accustomed to gain glory by the tuneful sounds of pipes; but such rather as the Saviour of all deigns to regard because He loves virtue: and of these the most honoured class, preferred before all others, are those who are kind and merciful, and of whom the Saviour Himself bears witness, saying, “Blessed are the merciful: for upon them shall be shewn mercy.”

These Christ watches as they cast their offerings into the treasury: for so we have heard the holy evangelist here declaring unto us. But what mouth will suffice for those who would praise God over all! “The praise of the Lord, as Scripture saith, concealeth the word.” For it is impossible worthily to praise His surpassing gentleness, and the greatness of His incomparable love to mankind. He counts as offerings, and takes unto Himself, what we do for the brethren who are grieved by poverty. For He has said, “Verily I say unto you, that whatsoever ye have done to one of these little ones, ye have done it to Me.” And it is written, that “he that is charitable unto the poor lendeth unto the Lord.” At this one of the saints very beautifully expressed his admiration, thus saying somewhere unto us, or rather unto all the sons of men; “For in that thou art righteous, what wilt thou give Him? Or what will He receive at thy hand? Thy wickedness is unto the man that is thy equal: and thy righteousness unto the son of man.” Our deeds then are indeed done, as I said, unto those who are our fellows and brethren, but God takes it unto Himself, because He is loving unto man, and counts it as spiritual fruitfulness, in order that He may have an occasion of shewing mercy upon those who habitually thus act, and may free them from all sin. For it is written, that “mercy glorieth against judgment.”

Let us then watch, if you please, the contest of the merciful, and see what is its nature, and to whom the Saviour chiefly assigns His praises by His holy and godlike decree. Some of the rich then drew near, bringing the appointed gifts, and casting their offerings into the treasury: and as being possessed of great wealth, and ample riches, the gifts that each one offered were, as is likely, in themselves large: and yet, on the other hand, small, and not in proportion to the offerers’ means. And so after them there came in a woman oppressed by hard and unendurable poverty, and whose whole hope of sustenance lay in the kindness of the compassionate, and who by scraps scarcely and laboriously gathered a scant and miserable provision, barely sufficient for the day. And finally, she offered two farthings: for it was not possible for her to bestow more, but rather, so to speak, she had stripped herself of all that she had, and was leaving the sacred courts with empty hands. Wonderful deed! She who constantly asked alms of others, lends unto God, making even poverty itself fruitful to His honour. She therefore vanquishes the rest, and by a just sentence is crowned by God.

But this perchance may vex some among the rich: and therefore we will address a few remarks unto them. Thou delightest, O rich man, in the abundance of thy possessions: thy portion is fertile beyond what thy necessities require. Thou reapest fields and districts: thou hast numerous and broad vineyards, and orchards laden with flavourless delicacies: winepresses, and granaries, and an excessive abundance of cattle: a house beautifully built at great expense, and plentiful stores therein; garments woven in divers colours: and finally thou offerest, not so much in proportion to thy means, as merely that which when thou givest, thou wilt never miss:—out of great abundance, a little. The woman offered two farthings: but she possessed nothing more than what she offered: she had nothing left: with empty hand, but a hand bountiful of the little she possessed, she went away from the treasury. Did she not therefore justly carry off the crown? Did not the decree of superiority befal her by a holy judgment? Did she not surpass thy bountifulness, in regard at least of her readiness?

Something of this sort the wise Paul also writes; “For if the will be ready, a man is accepted according to that he hath, and not according to that he hath not.” Not only may the rich man obtain favour with God by offering fruit unto the brethren:—for the Saviour of all will accept his sacrifice:—but even he who possesses but very little may also obtain favour by offering his little; nor will he suffer any loss on this account. For the Omniscient will praise his readiness, and accept his intention, and make him equal with the rich: or rather, will crown him with more distinguished honour.

And this further deserves both our regard and admiration: that multitudes were going up to the temple, some of whom were offering fatted oxen; and some sheep; and frankincense, and other things besides, indispensable for the due performance of the sacrifices commanded by the law: but the Saviour’s look was not fixed upon these so much as upon those who were making their offerings to the treasury: on those, that is, who were kind and charitable. For He accepts the sweet savour of the spiritual service, but turns away His eyes from what is done in types and shadows. For He knew that types profit not, and that the shadow is weak. He therefore honours charity to the poor; and knowing this, one of the holy apostles wrote; “that a pure and undefiled sacrifice before God the Father is this; to visit the fatherless and widows in their afflictions, and that a man should keep himself unspotted from the world.”

And we find also that the commandment given by Moses urges us unto love for the poor, and arouses us unto charity. For it was not one God Who of old appointed the commandment by Moses, and another Who set before us the pathway of Gospel conduct; but rather it was One and the Same, inasmuch as He changeth not. For by one of the holy prophets He has said, “I that speak unto thee am near.” He therefore thus spake by Moses; “But if there be among you a poor man of thy brethren in one of thy cities in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not turn away thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy brother that is in need. Thou shalt open thy hands wide unto him; lend him readily whatsoever he needeth, and according to that which he lacketh.” Thou hearest him call their almsgiving a loan; for it is God that receiveth, and requiteth it, not with equal, but rather with overflowing measure. “For good measure, He says, pressed down, and running over, shall they pour into your bosom.” And as the very wise Paul says, “God loveth a cheerful giver.” And that it is right to be compassionate unto the brethren, not niggardly, nor as a matter of necessity, but of love rather without respect of persons, and blameless mutual affection, even the law of old made clear by saying, “And thou shalt not be grieved in thy heart when thou givest unto him: for therefore the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, in whatsoever thou puttest thereto thy hand.” As therefore Paul saith, “He that giveth, (let him do so) with bountifulness: he that holdeth preeminence with earnestness: he that hath compassion, with cheerfulness.” For love shewn unto poverty is not unfruitful, but is a debt that will be largely repaid.

We ought therefore to be diligent in fulfilling this duty, as being well assured, that if we distribute with bountiful hand, we shall benefit ourselves: for so the blessed Paul again teaches us, saying, “But this,—he that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly: and he that soweth with blessings shall also reap in blessings: every man as he is prepared in his heart.” And, as if to cut away the slothfulness of our good exertions, immediately he adds these words; “And God is able to make all grace abound in you, that in every thing always possessing every sufficiency ye may abound in every good work. As it is written, He hath dispersed and given to the poor: his righteousness abideth for ever.” For he who sheweth mercy unto the poor, shall never be forsaken, but shall be counted worthy rather of indulgence from 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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