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

And there was also a strife among them, Which of them seems to be the great one. And He said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles are their lords: and they who rule over them are called benefactors. But with you it is not so; but he who is great among you, let him be as the youngest: and let him who governeth be as he that doth serve. For which is the chief, he that reclineth at table, or he that serveth? Is not he that reclineth? But I am in the midst of you as he that serveth. But ye are they who have remained with Me in My temptations: and I will make a covenant with you, as My Father hath appointed for Me a kingdom, that ye shall eat and drink at My table in My kingdom: and ye shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“AWAKE ye, and watch,” is the summons to us of one of the holy apostles: for every where the net of sin is spread, and Satan maketh us his prey in divers ways, seizing hold of us by many passions, and so leading us on to a reprobate mind. Those therefore must be awake who would not willingly be subject to his power: for thereby they will gain the victory by Christ’s help, Who careth for our souls, and delivereth them from every passion, that so with sound and vigorous mind they may run along the praiseworthy and gainful pathway of that mode of life which is pleasing to Him. For how great His mercy is towards us, the purport of the lessons set before us once again declares. For the disciples had given way to a human infirmity, and were contending with one another, who of them is the chief, and superior to the rest; for those perchance who held the second rank among them were not willing to give way to those who held the first. But even this arose, and was recorded for our benefit, that that which happened to the holy apostles may prove a reason for humility in us. For Christ immediately rebukes the malady, and like a vigorous physician cut away, by an earnest and deep-reaching commandment, the passion which had sprung up among them.

Now it was from an unprofitable love of glory, the root of which is pride, that this vain and senseless ambition had, so to speak, shot up. For the very fact of wishing at all to be set over others, and to strive for this end, renders a man liable to be justly blamed: though, on the other hand, it is not absolutely destitute of that which may fitly be praised. For to be exalted in virtue is worthy of all estimation: but those who would attain to it must be of modest mind, and possess such humbleness of feeling as to abandon out of love to the brethren all idea of preeminence. And such the blessed Paul would also have us be, thus writing, “Consider as regards your companions, that in honour they are better than you.” For so to feel is highly worthy of the saints, and renders them glorious, and makes our piety unto God more worthy of honour: it tears the net of the devil’s malice, and breaks his manifold snares, and rescues us from the pitfalls of depravity: and finally, it perfects us in the likeness of Christ the Saviour of us all. For listen how He sets Himself before us as the pattern of a humble mind, and of a will not set on vainglory: for “Learn, He says, of Me, Who am meek and lowly in heart.”

Here, however, in the passage which has just been read He says, “For which is the chief, he that reclineth at table, or he that serveth? Is not he that reclineth? But I am in the midst of you as he that serveth.” And when Christ thus speaks, who can be so obdurate and unyielding as not to cast away all vaingloriousness, and banish from his mind the love of empty honour? For He Who is ministered unto by the whole creation of rational and holy beings; Who is lauded by the seraphim; Who is tended by the services of the universe; He Who is the equal of God the Father in His throne and kingdom; taking a servant’s place, washed the holy apostles’ feet. And in another way moreover He holds the post of servitude, by reason of the dispensation in the flesh. And of this the blessed Paul bears witness, where he writes; “For I say that Christ was a minister of the circumcision to fulfil the promises of the fathers; and the Gentiles shall praise God for mercy.” He therefore Who is ministered unto became a minister; and the Lord of glory made Himself poor, “leaving us an example,” as it is written.

Let us therefore avoid the love of vainglory, and deliver ourselves from the blame attached to the desire of chieftainship. For so to act makes us like unto Him, who submitted to empty Himself for our sakes: while superciliousness and haughtiness of mind make us plainly resemble the princes of the Gentiles, to whom an arrogant bearing is ever, so to speak, dear, or even perhaps fitting. “For they are called, He says, benefactors,” that is, are flattered as such by their inferiors. Be it so then, that they, as not being within the pale of the sacred laws, nor obedient to the Lord’s will, are the victims of these maladies: but let it not be so with us; rather let our exaltation consist in humility, and our glorying in not loving glory; and let our desire be set upon those things which are well-pleasing to God, while we bear in mind what the wise man says unto us, “The greater thou art, humble thyself the more, and thou shalt find grace before the Lord.” For He rejecteth the proud, and counteth the boastful as His enemies, but crowneth with honours the meek and lowly in mind.

The Saviour therefore drives away from the holy apostles the malady of vaingloriousness: but they perchance might think among themselves, and even say, ‘What therefore will be the reward of fidelity? or what advantage shall they receive, who have laboured in attendance upon Him, when temptations from time to time befal?’ In order therefore that being confirmed by the hope of the blessings that are in store, they may cast away from their minds all slothfulness in virtuous pursuits, and choose rather with earnest mind to follow Him, and take pleasure in labours for His sake, and count the doing so a cause of gain, and the pathway of joy, and the means of eternal glory, He necessarily says, “Ye are they who have remained with Me in My temptations: and I will make a covenant with you, as My Father hath appointed for Me a kingdom, that ye shall eat and drink at My table in My kingdom: and ye shall also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Observe, I pray, that He does not yet quit the limits of humanity, but for the present confines Himself within them, because He had not as yet endured the precious cross; for He speaks as one of us: but after the resurrection from the dead He revealed His glory, the season calling Him thereto: for He said, “All power hath been given Me in heaven and in earth.” He speaks therefore, as I said, in human fashion, as not having yet mounted above the measure of His humiliation. For this reason He says, that “as My Father hath made with Me a covenant of a kingdom, so I also will make a covenant with you, that ye shall eat and drink constantly at My table in My kingdom.” Is it the case then, that even after the resurrection from the dead, when the time has come in which we shall be with Christ, and He will endow us with the likeness of His glorified body; even after we have thus put on incorruption, is it, I say, the case, that we shall again be in need of food and of tables? Or is it not then utterly foolish to say or wish to imagine anything; of the sort? For when we have put off corruption, of what bodily refreshment shall we henceforth be in need? And if so, what is the meaning of the expression, “Ye shall eat at My table in My kingdom?” I answer, that once again from the ordinary matters of life He declares to us things spiritual. For those who enjoy the foremost honours with earthly kings banquet with them, and eat in their company: and this is counted by them the summit of glory. And there are too others, esteemed worthy of honour by those in power, who nevertheless are not permitted to draw near to the same table with them. To shew then that they will enjoy the highest honours with Him, He uses an example taken from ordinary life, and says, “I will make a covenant with you, that ye shall eat and drink at My table in My kingdom: and ye shall sit also upon twelve thrones judging Israel.”

How or in what manner? It means that the disciples being of Israelitish race, obtained the foremost honours with Christ, the Saviour of all, because by faith and constancy they seized upon the gift: whom may we also endeavour to imitate, for so will He Who is the Saviour and Lord of all receive us into His kingdom: 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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