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


But God said, I require mercy, and not sacrifice: and the acknowledgment of God, and not whole burnt offerings.

What is meant by mercy? and what by sacrifice? By mercy then is signified, Justification and grace in Christ: even that which is by faith. For we have been justified, not by the works of the law that we have done, but by His great mercy. And sacrifice means the law of Moses.

Ver. 6 And He was teaching: and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.

But His teaching was ever of things too high for reason, and such as made plain to His hearers the pathway of salvation opened through Him: and immediately after His teaching He displayed His godlike power, having first by words smoothed, as it were, the road to belief. For the miracle sometimes converts unto faith those who had disbelieved the word. But the Pharisees watched Him, to see if He would heal on the sabbath: for such is the nature of an envious man, that he makes the praises of others food for his own disease, and wickedly is maddened by their reputation. And what once more said He to this, Who knoweth all things, Who searcheth the hearts, and understandeth whatever is therein? “For with Him is the light,” as Scripture declares. “He spake to him that had the withered hand, Stand forth into the midst.” And why did He do this? It might perhaps be to move the cruel and unpitying Pharisee to compassion: the man’s malady perhaps might shame them, and persuade them to allay the flames of envy.

Ver. 9 I will ask you something: Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil?

Most wise in very deed is this question, and a statement most suitable to meet their folly. For if it be lawful to do good on the sabbath, and nothing prevents the sick being pitied by God, cease thus picking up opportunities for fault-finding against Christ, and bringing down on thy own head the sentence which the Father has decreed against those who dishonour the Son: for thou hast heard Him where He says of Him by the voice of David, “And I will cut off His enemies from before His face, and put to flight those that hate Him.” But if it be not lawful to do good on the sabbath, and the law forbids the saving of life, thou hast made thyself an accuser of the law, thou hast slandered the commandment, for which the ministry of Moses is regarded with admiration. No, he replies, the God of all did not enact the law of the sabbath for Himself, but for us rather, whose neck is bowed to it. Thou sayest well; I assent to thy words; therefore that which is divine is free from the compulsion of the law. Why, then, dost thou blame Christ for wishing also to shew mercy on the sabbath, and benefit a living soul? And were it our wish to examine closely the law enacted for the sabbath, we should find it ordained by God for purposes of mercy. For He commanded to do no work on the sabbath, and entirely to abstain from labour, and even to give rest at the same time to the irrational animals. For He said, that its purpose was, “that thy manservant may rest, and thy maidservant, thy ox, and thy beast of burden, and all thy cattle.” But He Who has mercy on the ox and other animals, how would not He pity on the sabbath day a man who was attacked by a severe and irremediable malady?

Ver. 11 And they were filled with madness.

Is not the miracle enough to produce faith? Thou seest Him working with godlike dignity, and with supreme power healing the sick, and travaillest thou with murder, bred of envy and malice?

Ver. 12 He went out into the mountain to pray.

All that Christ did was for our edification, and for the benefit of those who believe in Him; and by proposing to us His own conduct as a sort of pattern of the spiritual mode of life, He would make us true worshippers. Let us see, therefore, in the pattern and example provided for us by Christ’s acts, the manner in which we ought to make our supplications unto God. We must pray secretly and in concealment, and with no one seeing us: for this is the signification of Jesus going into the mountain alone, and praying, as it were, leisurely. And this He has Himself taught us, saying; “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet.” For we ought to pray, not seeking after glory, but “lifting up holy hands,” while the soul, as it were, mounts aloft to the contemplation of God, withdrawing from all tumult, and quitting worldly anxiety. And this we must do not with fickleness, nor with a listless feebleness; but, on the contrary, with earnestness and zeal, and a patience worthy of admiration: for thou hast heard that Jesus did not merely pray, but that He also passed the night in this duty.

But possibly the enemy of the truth will not endure us when thus speaking: for he says, ‘He prays and requests from the Father what He hath not: how then do ye still say, that He is both consubstantial and equal to Him in all things, and in no way whatsoever unlike Him? “For without all controversy the less is blessed of the greater:” and decidedly he who gives is greater than he who makes request to receive something.’ Let then those who pervert the right faith teach us first of all, of what they imagine the Son to be in need? And what did He seek to obtain as not as yet possessing it? He is the true light; He is in His own nature life, and the cause of life; He is the Lord also of powers; He is wisdom and righteousness; the Creator and framer of the universe; superior to every thing that has been brought into being; is the King of the universe; the dispenser of heaven and earth; the giver, with God the Father, of every blessing. And this thou wilt learn by what the blessed Paul has somewhere written; “Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” He is conspicuous on the throne far above, and is glorified by the whole rational creation. Accordingly He is by substance the heir of all the divine dignities of God the Father: and therefore spake He unto Him, that all that is Mine is Thine; and Thine Mine: and I am glorified in them.” But He Who has every thing that belongs to God the Father as His very own, of what is He still in need? But if, in fine, He is in need of any thing, and they affirm that this is true, there is nothing to prevent our saying, that there are certain things of which the Father Himself is in need. For if all that the Son has is the Father’s, but there is something of which the Son is in need, therefore must the Father too be similarly circumstanced: for all that the Son hath is the Father’s. But the Father is all perfect, and is deficient of no good whatsoever that is suitable to Deity: therefore is the Son all perfect, as having all that the Father hath, and being His image and the impress of His substance: but in the impress there is displayed entirely the original form, and in the original form there exists entirely the impress. And thus much then as respects them.

And those too who have been caught by the empty declamations of Nestorius, say that it is entirely unbefitting the Son considered as God by nature, to pray: and rather belongs to the man, coupled with Him by way of connexion, to him, that is, of the seed of David. He it was therefore who offered up the prayer. What reply, then, shall we make to this? That ye are utterly ignorant of the mystery of the incarnation of the Only-begotten. Remember the blessed Evangelist John, who says; “And the Word was made flesh.” And of this the all-wise Paul has given us a plain proof by saying concerning Him: “For He taketh not hold at all of the angels, but taketh hold of the seed of Abraham: whence it became Him to be made like unto His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining unto God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” On what account therefore does Nestorius eject from the measure of human nature Him Who, though divinely begotten as the Word by God the Father, yet humbled Himself unto emptying, even to becoming our brother, by being made like unto us, and similar in all things to the inhabitants of the earth, sin only excepted? For having become like unto us from His exceeding gentleness and love to mankind, He disdains not human things: but sets before us His conduct as a type of goodness unto the end, that as I said we may be earnest in following His footsteps.

Ver. 13 And when it was day, He called His disciples, and of them having chosen twelve.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, having spent the night in prayer, and having conversed with His Father and God in heaven in a way ineffable and beyond our powers of understanding, and such as is known solely to Himself,—even therein making Himself an example unto us of that which is necessary for salvation; for He taught us in what way we too may rightly and blamelessly offer our prayers:—comes down from the mountain, and appoints those who were to be the world’s teachers, according to the words He spake, “Ye are the light of the world.” And of this appointment of the holy Apostles, the blessed David also makes mention, addressing himself, as it were, to Christ: “Thou shalt make them rulers over all the earth; they shall make mention of Thy name in every successive generation.” For verily, while they were in the body, they made mention of the glory of Christ, telling His mystery both in cities and villages: and now that they have been called to the mansions that are above, none the less do they still even thus converse with us about Him, by the most wise history which they have written concerning Him. And those, indeed, who were appointed priests according to the law of Moses, even Aaron and his company, were made beautiful to the senses by vestments suitable to their priestly dignity; but the divine disciples, being adorned with spiritual gifts, had entrusted to them the ministry of the Gospel oracles. For it was said unto them, “Heal the sick: cast out dæmons: cleanse lepers: raise the dead.” And being thus invested with Christ’s power, they have filled the whole world with astonishment. But mark the extreme moderation of the Evangelist: for he does not simply say that the holy Apostles were appointed, but rather, by introducing the record of these chief ones each by name, takes care that no one should venture to enrol himself in the company of those that were chosen. For as Paul saith, “No man taketh this honour upon himself, but he that is called by God.” And though the holy Apostles were called by name to this great and splendid dignity, yet from time to time some men have gone to such a pitch of madness and audacity, as even to name themselves Apostles of Christ, and to usurp an honour not granted unto them. Of these the divine disciples have made mention; for they say, “Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into angels of righteousness. And no wonder: for Satan even transforms himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing, therefore, if his ministers also transform themselves into angels of righteousness.” But we neither acknowledge nor will receive any one, except those only so named in the Evangelic writings, and him who was appointed after them, the most wise Paul: to whom also the Saviour Himself bore witness, saying, that “he is a vessel of election for Me, to carry My name before all the heathen.”

The law indeed pointed them out before in type, and the prophets also proclaimed them. As, for instance, it is written in the Mosaic record, “And ye shall take fine flour, and make it into twelve loaves: and he shall put them in two rows upon the pure table before the Lord. And ye shall put upon the row frankincense and salt: and they shall be for loaves, set before the Lord for a memorial.” For the bread that came down from heaven, and giveth life to the world, Who else can it be but Christ the Saviour of the universe? And in imitation too of Him, the blessed disciples also are named loaves: for having been made partakers of Him Who nourishes us unto life eternal, they also nourish by their own writings those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. And as the Saviour Who is the true light called the disciples also light:—“for ye are the light of the world:”—so also being Himself the bread of life, He has bestowed upon His disciples to be ranked as loaves. And observe, I pray, the marvellous art of the law: “for ye shall put, it says, upon the loaves frank-incense and salt.” Now the frankincense is the symbol of a sweet odour; and the salt that of understanding and good sense: both of which existed in the highest degree in the holy Apostles. For their life was one of a sweet savour, as they also said, that “we are a sweet savour of Christ unto God:” and they were moreover also full of understanding, so that I hear the prophet David even singing of them in the Psalms: “There is Benjamin in enhancement: the princes of Judah are their leaders: the princes of Zebulon, the princes of Nephthalim.” For the blessed disciples were chosen out of almost every tribe of Israel, and were the bearers of light to the world, “holding up the word of life.” And the wonder indeed is this, that the sages of the Greeks possess a splendid copiousness of speech, and an admirable beauty of language: but the disciples of our Saviour were mere artificers, and boatmen, and fishers, having no boast of words, no fluency of picked phrases, and in expression indeed were simple men, but rich in knowledge: yet is the literature of the Greeks, with its sonorous phrases, silent; while the power of the Evangelic preaching has possession of the world. God also makes mention of them by the voice of Jeremiah, saying of the enemy of all, even Satan; “Woe to him, who multiplieth for himself that which is not his, and maketh his collar thick and heavy: for suddenly shall they arise that shall bite him, and thy adversaries shall wake up, and thou shalt be their prey.” For Satan had gathered unto him all the inhabitants of the earth, though they were not his, and had caused them to be his worshippers, making his collar heavy: but those who were to plunder his goods woke up: for the net of the apostolic teaching caught all those that were in error, and brought back unto God the whole world.

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