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

And they took Him, and led Him away, and brought Him into the high priest’s house: and Peter followed afar off. And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the court, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them: and a certain maid beholding him as he sat at the light, looked earnestly at him and said, This man also was with Him. But he denied Him, saying, Woman, I know Him not. And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou also art one of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not. And about the space of an hour after, another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this man also was with Him: for he is a Galilæan. But Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately while he was yet speaking the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter: and Peter remembered the word of the Lord that He had said unto him, To-day before the cock crow thou shalt deny Me thrice. And he went out and wept bitterly.

OUR Lord Jesus Christ, to make us careful in whatever holy occupations we undertake, commanded us to offer up our supplications continually, and to make it a portion of our prayer to say, “Lead us not into temptation.” For the violence of temptations is often sufficient to shake even a thoroughly steadfast mind, and to humble unto wavering, and expose to extreme terrors even a courageous and strong-hearted man. And this it was the lot of the chosen disciple to experience, by whom I mean the sacred Peter. For he proved weak, and denied Christ the Saviour of all. And this denial he made not once only, but thrice, and with oaths. For Matthew has said, that “he began to curse and to swear, I know not the Man.” Now there are some who would have us believe that what the disciple swore was, that he did not know that Jesus was a man: but their argument fails them, though their object was to give the disciple loving help. For if he swore, as they say, that he did not know that Jesus was a man, what else did he than deny Him in thus overturning the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh? For he knew that the Only-begotten Word of God was made like unto us. that is, a man: for this he openly confessed, saying, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now he did not intend in saying this to affirm, that as being one merely such as we are He is the Son of God, but that though he saw Him standing there in the limits of human nature,—Him Who is the Word Which transcends everything that is made, and Who sprung forth from the Substance of God the Father,—even so, I say, he did not shrink from acknowledging and confessing that He is the Son of the living God. It is therefore a thing very absurb to suppose, that though he knew the mystery of the dispensation in the flesh, he yet said that he did not know that Jesus was a man. What therefore is the fact? He was really infirm: for it was not possible for Jesus to speak falsely, Who forewarned him, that “before the cock crow thou shalt deny Me three times.”

Nor verily do we say, that the denial took place in order that Christ’s words might come true, but rather that His object was to forewarn the disciple, inasmuch as what was about to happen did not escape His knowledge. The misfortune therefore befel the disciple from the cowardice of human nature. For as Christ had not yet risen from the dead, nor death as yet been abolished, and corruption wiped away, the fear of undergoing death was a thing past men’s endurance. For that this miserable act arose, as I said, from the malady of human cowardice, and that the disciple was condemned by his own conscience, is proved both by his lamentation immediately afterwards, and by his tears upon his repentance, which fell from his eyes as for a grievous sin. “For having gone out, it says, he wept bitterly,” after Christ had looked upon him, and recalled to his remembrance what He had said unto him.

But next, it is worth our while observing, in what way his sin was forgiven, and how he put away his fault; for the event may prove of no slight benefit to us also ourselves. He did not then defer his repentance, nor was he careless about it: for as rapid as was his descent into sin, so quick were his tears because of it; nor did he merely weep, but wept bitterly; and as one that had fallen, so bravely did he spring up again. For he knew that the merciful God somewhere says by one of the prophets, “Shall not he that falleth arise? and he that backslideth, shall he not return?” In returning therefore he missed not the mark: for he continued to be what he had been before, a true disciple. For when he was warned that he should thrice deny before the cock crow, even then he won also the hope of forgiveness: for Christ’s words unto him were, “And do thou also, in time to come, when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Words such as these belong to One Who again appoints and restores him to apostolic powers: for He entrusts him again with the office of strengthening the brethren; a thing which also he did.

And this too we say; that though we are taught the falls of the saints in the sacred Scriptures, it is not that we may be caught in similar snares from disregarding the duty of steadfastness, but that if it do chance that we prove weak in aught that is necessary for salvation, we may not despair of being able once again to mount up unto fortitude, and, so to speak, recover our health after an unexpected illness. For the merciful God has provided for the inhabitants of earth repentance as the medicine of salvation: and this I know not how men endeavour to dispense with, saying of themselves that they are clean, and in their great madness not understanding, that to entertain such an idea of themselves is full of all impurity. For “no man is free from defilement,” as it is written. And besides this we say, that it makes God angry for us to imagine that we are free from all impurity: for He is even found saying unto one of those who led polluted lives, “Behold I have a suit with thee because thou sayest I have not sinned, in that thou hast acted very contemptuously in repeating thy ways.” For the repetition of the way unto sin is for us, when we are overtaken by offences, to refuse to believe that we are guilty of the defilement which arises from them.

‘But yes, verily! they say, the God of all pardons the sins of those who are not as yet baptized, but not so of those who have been already admitted to His grace.’ And what do we say to this? That if they lay down laws according to their own fancy, their words do not much concern us. But if they cleave to the divinely-inspired Scriptures, when was the God of all unmerciful? Let them hear Him when He cries aloud, “Tell thou thy former iniquities, that thou mayest be justified.” Let them also call to mind the blessed David, who says in the Psalms, “Shall God forget to be merciful: or shall He gather up His mercies in His wrath?” And again, “I said, I will acknowledge against myself my iniquity unto the Lord: and Thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.” And besides this, they ought not to forget that before Christ was seized, or Peter denied Him, he had been a partaker of the body of Christ, and of His precious blood. “For He took bread and blessed, and gave to them, saying, This is My body. And in like manner also of the cup, saying, Drink ye all of it: for this is My blood of the new covenant.” Behold then, manifestly, that after having been a partaker of the mystical eucharist, he fell into sin, and received forgiveness upon his repentance. Let them then not find fault with the gentleness of God: let them not think scorn of His love to mankind, but call to mind Him Who plainly says, “The wickedness of the wicked shall not hurt him in the day wherein he turneth away from his iniquity.” And when God thus offers us conversion on whatever day a man be willing to practise it, why do they not rather crown with grateful praises Him Who aids them, instead of foolishly, and, so to say, contumaciously opposing Him? for by so doing they bring condemnation upon their own heads, and call down upon themselves inevitable wrath. For the merciful God ceaseth not so to be; since, according to the voice of the prophet, “He willeth mercy.”

Let us therefore strive with all our might, lest we fall into sin, and let a steadfast love unto Christ be fixed unchangeably in us while we say in the words of the blessed Paul, “Who shall a separate me from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” But if temptation assail us, and so it chance that we prove but weak, let us weep bitterly; let us ask forgiveness of God: for He healeth those that are contrite; He raiseth up the fallen; He stretcheth out His saving hand to those who have gone astray: for He is the Saviour of 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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