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

EXPLANATION OF WHAT FOLLOWS.

“Which of you that has a hundred sheep, and has lost one of them, will not leave the ninety-nine in the mountain, and go and seek that which has gone astray? And if he chance to find it, verily I say unto you, that he rejoices more in it, than in the ninety-nine which went not astray.” For the multitude of rational created beings which form Christ’s flock in heaven and on earth is innumerable, and so great as even to mount up unto a perfect number. For this is what is signified to us by the term “one hundred.” The companies then of the holy angels are the ninety-nine; for, as I said, they are many: but the flock on earth is one, but yet useful to complete the number, and sought for also by Christ. Did He then seek it as that which was lost, or as that which had not yet suffered this? But it is plain that that which is lost is sought for. In what manner then had it been lost? By being brought down into sin: by wandering from the divine will, and going for astray from the universal Shepherd.

But none of these things moved the Pharisees: on the contrary, they find fault with them to the disciples; for listen,

Ver. 30 And their scribes and pharisees murmured, saying unto His disciples:

There are however some who endeavour to deprive those entangled in sin of the divine gentleness: for they do not admit of repentance, but as it were rebuke the Saviour for seeking His own, and gathering from every quarter that which was scattered: and to these we say, The pharisees set you the example of murmuring, when they saw Levi called, and a crowd of publicans gathered together, and feasting with Christ the Saviour of us all. And going up to the holy apostles, they vented their blame, saying, “Why do ye eat and drink with the publicans?” But they had for answer, “They that are whole need not a physician.” For the Saviour of all, as being the physician of spirits, does not withdraw from those in need of Him, but as being able to cleanse them, purposely conversed with those not as yet purified of their sins. But let us see, O pharisee, the overweening pride of thy disposition: for let us take Christ Himself, to Whom all things are known, as the expounder of the great blame that thou broughtest upon thyself by thy overbearing treatment of sinners. For speaking of a Pharisee who vaunted himself when praying, and of a certain publican who accused himself, He said, “Verily I say unto you, that he went down justified to his house rather than that Pharisee.” The publican therefore, who confessed his sin, is justified rather than the haughty Pharisee. But for what reason do the Pharisees blame the Saviour for eating with sinners? Because it was the law to put a distinction between the holy and the profane: that is, that whatever was hallowed was not to be brought into contact with things profane. They made the accusation therefore as vindicating the law forsooth: but really it was envy against the Lord, and readiness to find fault. But He shews them that He is present now, not as a judge, but as a physician; and performs the proper duty of the physician’s office, in being in the company of those in need of healing. But no sooner had they received an explanation of their first accusation, than they bring forward another, finding fault because His disciples did not fast, wishing to obtain hereby an opportunity against Himself.

But observe their perseverance in malice: for no sooner have they received an explanation of their first accusation, than they change from one thing to another, in the hope of finding an opportunity of convicting the holy disciples, and Jesus Himself, of disregard of the law. But they are told in reply, now is the bride-chamber, the time of calling, the time of instruction: the children are being nursed up; those who are called are being fed with milk: fasting is not yet seasonable. For yes! say they, you feast with publicans and sinners, although the law commands that the pure should not hold intercourse with the impure: and your pretext for transgressing the law is your love for mankind. But why fast ye not according to the custom of the just, and those who wish to live according to the law? But in answer to such objections one may say, Do you understand at all yourself, O Jew, the proper method of fasting? For as the prophet Isaiah says, “On the days of your fasts ye find your own wills, and goad all who are subject unto you. If ye fast for lawsuits and contentions, and strike the lowly with fists, why fast ye for Me? This is not the fast I have chosen, saith the Lord.” And dost thou then, when thou thyself knowest not how to fast, blame the holy apostles for not fasting after thy fashion?

And to view it in another light, those who are made wise by the new covenant in Christ, fast rationally; that is, by humbling themselves in the eyes of God, and imposing upon themselves as it were a voluntary sentence of labour and abstinence, that they may obtain forgiveness of their offences, or win some fresh spiritual gift, or even to mortify the law of sin that is in their fleshly members. But this mode of fasting thou art ignorant of, O Pharisee! For thou hast refused to receive the heavenly Bridegroom, Who is the planter and teacher of every virtue, even Christ. Moreover, the saints indeed fast that they may quell the passions of the body by exhausting it: but Christ needed not to fast for the perfecting of virtue, because, as being God, He was free from all passion; nor did His companions, because they received of His grace, and were made strong, and wrought virtue even without fasting. And even though He fasted for the forty days, it was not to mortify any passions in Himself, but to set an example for men in His own conduct of the law of abstinence. With good reason therefore He defends Himself by the words which the Evangelist goes on to record.

Ver. 34 But He said unto them, Can ye make the sons of the bride-chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them?

Observe, I pray again, the manner in which Christ shews that they have no share in the feast, but are altogether strangers to the joy felt on His account, and without part in the world’s great festival. For the revelation of our Saviour to the world was nothing else than a general festival, at which He spiritually united to Himself the nature of man, to be as it were His bride: that she who had been long barren might be fruitful, and blessed with a numerous offspring. All therefore are the children of the bridechamber who are called by Him through the new message of the Gospel: but not the scribes and Pharisees, who attached themselves solely to the shadow of the law. But as He had once granted permission to the children of the bridechamber not to afflict themselves, as a a concession suitable to the season, inasmuch as they were keeping a spiritual feast, that fasting might not be entirety rejected by us, He adds most suitably,

Ver. 35 But the days will come, when also the bridegroom shall be taken away from them; then shall they fast in those days.

For all things are good in their season. But what is the meaning of the bridegroom being taken away from them? It is His being taken up into heaven.

Ver. 36 And He spake also a parable unto them.

But that the institutions of Christ cannot be received by those who live according to the law, nor admitted into the hearts of such as have not as yet received the renewing by the Holy Ghost, the Lord shews by saying, that “a tattered patch cannot be put upon a new garment, nor can old skins hold new wine.” For the first covenant has grown old, nor was it free from fault. Those therefore who adhere to it, and keep at heart the antiquated commandment, have no share in the new order of things in Christ: “For in Him all things are become new:” but their mind being decayed, they have no concord nor point of mutual agreement with the ministers of the new covenant. The God of all accordingly somewhere said of them by one of the holy prophets, that “a new heart and a new spirit will I put into them.” And David also sings, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” And we have been commanded also “to put off the old man, and to put on the new man, renewed after the image of Him that created it.” And Paul also gives counsel, saying, “Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” Those therefore who have not as yet received the renewing of the spirit, are also unable to prove the good and acceptable, and perfect will of God.








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