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

UPON THE SAME SUBJECT.

ONCE again I am come to pay you what I promised, and to add a fitting conclusion to my discourse concerning Christ. For on all occasions it is dangerous to be guilty of untruth; but when any thing of the kind is committed in those things which are important for our edification, well may we then fear lest we bring down upon us condemnation from on high, and also become an object of general ridicule.

We said therefore at our last meeting, that Christ the Saviour of all was with the holy disciples upon the mount of Olives, while that many-headed serpent, even Satan, was preparing for Him the snare of death; and the chiefs of the Jewish synagogue and the disciple that betrayed Him were, so to speak, leaving nothing undone to gain possession of His person, and had already gathered those who were to seize Him, and who consisted of a band of the soldiers of Pilate, and a multitude of wicked officers. Just therefore as the attempt was about to be made, He was sorrowful, and admonished the disciples to act in like manner suitably to the season, saying, “Watch and pray, that ye fall not into temptation.” And that He might not benefit them by words only, but be Himself an example of what they should do, “having gone apart a little, about a stone’s throw, He knelt down, it says, and prayed, saying, Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me.” Now some one perhaps may ask, ‘Why did He not pray with the holy disciples, but having gone apart from the rest, prayed by Himself?’ It was that we might learn the pattern of that mode of prayer which is well pleasing to God. For it is not right when we pray that we should expose ourselves to the public gaze, nor seek to be beheld of many, lest perchance, sinking ourselves in the mire of endeavours after pleasing men, we make the labour of our prayers altogether unprofitable. Of this fault the scribes and Pharisees were guilty; for our Lord even once rebuked them for loving to pray in the corners of the streets, and for the long supplications which they offered in the synagogues, that they might be seen of men. But for those whose purpose it is to live uprightly, and who are anxious to hold fast by their love unto Him, He lays down the law of prayers in these words: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter thy chamber, and close thy door, and pray to thy Father Who is in secret, and thy Father Who seeth in secret shall reward thee.” Every where therefore we find Him praying alone, that thou also mayest learn that we ought to hold converse with God over all with a quiet mind, and a heart calm and free from all disturbance. For the wise Paul writes, “I will therefore that men pray, lifting up pious hands, without wrath and doubtings.”

He was praying therefore, when already those who were to seize Him were at the door. And let no man of understanding say, that He offered these supplications as being in need of strength or help from another:—for He is Himself the Father’s almighty strength and power:—but it was that we might hereby learn, ever to put away from us carelessness when temptation harasses, and persecution presses upon us, and perfidy contrives for us its snare, and makes ready the net of death. For it is the very means of our salvation to watch and fall upon our knees, and make constant supplications, and ask for the aid that cometh from above, lest perchance it be our lot to grow weak, and suffer a most terrible shipwreck.

For spiritual bravery is indeed a thing right worthy of the saints: but those who would resist the violence of temptations must, I tell you, have a determined and, so to speak, an unflinching mind: for it is the act of utter ignorance to be over confident in conflicts, nor is a man free from the charge of boastfulness, who is thus disposed: we must therefore, I repeat, unite courage and patience with humbleness of mind; and should any temptation then befal, our mind will be prepared bravely to resist it. Yet let us ask of God the ability to endure manfully: for we are commanded in our prayers to say, “Lead us not into temptation: but deliver us from evil.”

Behold then, yea, see, the pattern for thy conduct depicted for thee in Christ the Saviour of us all: and let us also observe the manner of His prayer. “Father, He says, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me.” Seest thou that Christ made His prayer against temptation with a reverence befitting man? “For if Thou be willing, He says, remove it.” And here too remember what the blessed Paul wrote concerning Him; “He Who in the days of His flesh offered up prayers and supplications to Him Who was able to save Him from death, with strong crying and tears, and was heard because of His reverence, even though He was a Son, yet learned obedience by what He suffered, and being made perfect became the cause of eternal life unto all them that obey Him.” For as though one of us, He assigns to His Father’s will the carrying out of whatever was about to be done. And if therefore it happen that we also at any time fall into unexpected troubles, and have to endure any mental conflict, let us beseech God not so much that it may end according to our will, but rather let us ask that whatever He knows to be fit and expedient for the benefit of our souls may be brought to pass. “For we know not what to pray for as we ought:” but He is a treasure house of every thing, and to those who love Him He gives whatever is suitable for them.

Now what I have said is, I trust, useful for the benefit of you all; but if we must further contrive some other explanation for the prayer, we may also say, that it rebukes the wickedness of the Jews: and in what way let us now explain. Thou hast heard Christ say, “Father, if Thou wilt, remove this cup from Me.” Was then His passion an involuntary act? and was the necessity for Him to suffer, or rather the violence of those who plotted against Him, stronger than His own will? Not so, we say. For His passion was not an involuntary act, though yet in another respect it was grievous, because it implied the rejection and destruction of the synagogue of the Jews. For it was not His will that Israel should be the murderer of its Lord, because by so doing it would be exposed to utter condemnation, and become reprobate, and rejected from having part in His gifts, and in the hope prepared for the saints, whereas once it had been His people, and His only one, and His elect, and adopted heir. For Moses said unto them, “Behold, the heavens and the earth are the Lord’s thy God: and thee hath the Lord chosen out of all nations to be His people.” It was right therefore that we should clearly know, that through pity for Israel He would have put from Him the necessity to suffer: but as it was not possible for Him not to endure the passion, He submitted to it also, because God the Father so willed it with Him.

But come and let us examine further this also. ‘Did the decree of God the Father, and the will of the Son Himself, call Him as of necessity to His passion? And if so, and what I have said be true, was it not a matter of necessity for some one to be the traitor, and for the Israelites to proceed to such a pitch of daring as to reject Christ, and put Him to shame in manifold ways, and contrive for Him also the death upon the cross?’ But if this were so, how would He be found saying, “Woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed: good had it been for him if he had not been born?” And what just cause would there have been for Israel to perish, and be condemned to the miseries of war? For how could it oppose God’s decree, and His irresistible purposes? God is not unjust, but weighs what we do with holy judgment. How therefore can He treat as voluntary that which was involuntary? For God the Father had pity upon the dwellers upon earth, who were in misery, caught in the snares of sin, and liable to death and corruption; bowed also beneath a tyrant’s hand, and enslaved to herds of devils. He sent from heaven His Son to be a Saviour and Deliverer: Who also was made in form like unto us. But even though He foreknew what He would suffer, and the shame of His passion was not the fruit of His own will, yet He consented to undergo it that He might save the earth, God the Father so willing it with Him, from His great kindness and love unto mankind. “For He so loved the world, that He gave even His Only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” As regards therefore the ignominy of His passion, He willed not to suffer: but as it was not possible for Him not to suffer, because of the cruelty of the Jews, and their disobedience, and unbridled violence, “He endured the cross, despising the shame,” “and was obedient unto the Father, even unto death, and that the death of the cross. But God, it says, hath greatly exalted Him, and given Him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus Christ every knee should bow of things in heaven, and things in earth, and of things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Amen.








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