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

And He came out and went, as He was wont, to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. And when He was at the place, He said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation. And He went apart from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou wilt, put away this cup from Me: but not My will, but Thine be done. And He rose up from prayer, and went unto the disciples, and found them asleep from sorrow. And He said unto them, Why sleep ye? Arise, pray that ye enter not into temptation.

OUR Lord Jesus Christ requires those who love Him to be accurate investigators of whatsoever is written concerning Him: for He has said, “that the kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field.” For the mystery of Christ is deposited, so to speak, at a great depth, nor is it plain to the many: but he who uncovers it by means of an accurate knowledge, finds the riches which are therein, and resembles that wise woman, even Mary, of whom Christ said, that “she had chosen the good part, that should not be taken away from her.” For these earthly and temporal things fade away with the flesh: but those which are divine and intellectual, and that benefit the life of the soul, are firmly established, and their possession cannot be shaken. Let us look therefore into the meaning of the lessons set before us. “By day then the Saviour abode in Jerusalem,” instructing evidently the Israelites, and revealing to them the way of the kingdom of heaven; but when the evening came, He continued with the holy disciples on the Mount of Olives at a spot called Gethsemane: for so the wise Evangelist Matthew tells us. When therefore Christ came thither, as the same Matthew again somewhere says, “He took Peter and James and John, and began to be grieved and sore distressed; and to say unto them, My soul is sorrowful even unto death. And again, having gone a little forward, He kneeled and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou wilt, put away from Me this cup; but not My will, but Thine be done.” Behold here, I pray, the profoundness of the dispensation in the flesh, and the height of that wisdom which no words can tell: fix upon it the penetrating eye of the mind: and if thou canst see the beautiful art of the mystery, thou also wilt say, “O! the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! His judgments are unsearchable, and His ways past finding out.” “He began, it says, to be grieved, and sore distressed.” For what reason, O Lord? Wast Thou also terrified at death? Didst Thou beings seized with fear draw back from suffering? And yet didst not Thou teach the holy apostles to make no account of the terrors of death, saying, “Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul.” And if too any one were to say that the grace of spiritual fortitude is Thy gift to the elect, he would not err from the truth: for all strength is from Thee, and all confidence and heartiness of mind in every more excellent encounter. Thou art by nature Life, and the cause of life. Thee we look for as a Saviour and Deliverer, and the Destroyer of corruption. From Thee all receive their life and being. Thou hast made every thing that breathes. The angels are for Thee, and from Thee, and by Thee, and so is the whole rational creation. Unto Thee the blessed David spake concerning us, “Thou sendest Thy Spirit, and they are created: and Thou renewest the face of the ground.” How therefore art Thou grieved, and sore distressed, and sorrowful, even unto death? For plainly Thou knewest, in that Thou art God by nature, and knowest whatsoever is about to happen, that by enduring death in the flesh Thou wouldst free from death the inhabitants of all the earth, and bring Satan unto shame:—that Thou wouldst set up a trophy of victory over every evil and opposing power: that Thou wouldst be known by every one, and worshipped as the God and Creator of all. Thou knewest that Thou wouldst spoil hell:—that Thou wouldst deliver those that are therein, from bonds that had endured for many ages: that Thou wouldst turn unto Thee all that is under heaven. These things Thou didst Thyself announce to us of old by the holy prophets. We have heard Thee clearly saying, when Thou wast like unto us, “Now is the judgment of this world: now will the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, shall draw all men unto Me.” “Verily I say unto you, that if a grain of wheat fall not into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” For what reason therefore art Thou grieved and sore distressed? Yes, He says, not unbefittingly am I found thus in anguish. For I know indeed that by consenting to suffer the passion upon the cross, I shall deliver all beneath the heaven from every evil, and be the cause of unending blessings to the inhabitants of the whole earth. I am not unaware of the unloosing of death, and the abolition of corporeal corruption, and the overthrow of the tyranny of the devil, and the remission of sin. But withal it grieveth Me for Israel the firstborn, that henceforth He is not even among the servants. The portion of the Lord, and the cord of My inheritance, will be “the portion of foxes,” as it is written. He Who was the beloved one is greatly hated: he who had the promises is utterly stripped of My gifts: the pleasant vineyard with its rich grapes henceforth will be a desert land, a place dried up, and without water. “For I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.” “I will break through its hedge, and it shall be a spoil: and I will beat down its wall, and it shall be trampled under foot.” And tell me then, what husbandman, when his vineyard is desert and waste, will feel no anguish for it? What shepherd would be so harsh and stern as, when his flock was perishing, to suffer nothing on its account? These are the causes of My grief: for these things I am sorrowful. For I am God, gentle, and that loveth to spare. “I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn from his evil way and live.” Right therefore is it, most right, that as being good and merciful, I should not only be glad at what is joyful, but also should feel sorrow at whatsoever is grievous.

But that He pitied Jerusalem, as being well aware of what was about to happen, and that it would have to endure all misery because of its crimes against Him, thou mayest learn even from this. For He went up from Judæa to Jerusalem, and, as the Evangelist says, “When He beheld the city, He wept over it, and said, Would that thou, even thou, hadst known the things of thy peace; but now they are hid from thine eyes.” For as He wept over Lazarus, in pity for the whole race of mankind, which had become the prey of corruption and of death; so we say that He was grieved at seeing Jerusalem all but involved in extreme miseries, and in calamities for which there was no cure.

And that we might learn what was His wish concerning Israel, He told the disciples, that He is in grief and anguish. For it would have been impossible for them to have learnt what was hidden within Him, if He had not revealed by words what His feelings were.

And this too I think it necessary to add to what has been said: that the passion of grief, or malady, as we may call it, of sore distress, cannot have reference to the divine and impassive nature of the Word; for that is impossible, inasmuch as It transcends all passion: but we say that the Incarnate Word willed also to submit Himself to the measure of human nature, by being supposed to suffer what belongs to it. As therefore He is said to have hungered, although He is Life and the cause of life, and the living bread; and was weary also from a long journey, although He is the Lord of powers; so also it is said that He was grieved, and seemed to be capable of anguish. For it would not have been fitting for Him Who submitted Himself to emptiness, and stood in the measure of human nature, to have seemed unwilling to endure human things. The Word therefore of God the Father is altogether free from all passion: but wisely and for the dispensation’s sake He submitted Himself to the infirmities of mankind, in order that He might not seem to refuse that which the dispensation required: yea, He even yielded obedience to human customs and laws, only, as I said, He did not bear ought of this in His own nature.

There is however much, yea, very much, to be added to what has been said; but for the present we hold in our narration, and reserve what is wanting for another meeting, should Christ our common Saviour gather us here once again: 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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