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

EXPLANATION OF WHAT IS BELOW.

Ver. 24 Woe unto you rich; For ye have received your consolation.

This too we must discuss among ourselves: For is it the case, that every one who is rich, and possesses abundant wealth, is determinately cut off from the expectation of God’s grace? Is he entirely shut out from the hope of the saints? Has he neither inheritance nor part with them that are crowned? Not so, we say, but rather on the contrary, that the rich man might have shewn mercy on Lazarus, and so have been made partaker of his consolation. For the Saviour pointed out a way of salvation to those who possess earthly wealth, saying, “Make unto yourselves friends of the unrighteous mammon, that when ye depart this life they may receive you into their tents.”

Ver. 27 Love your enemies

The blessed Paul speaks the truth where he says, that “if any one be in Christ, he is a new creation:” for all things have become new, both in Him and by Him, both covenant, and law, and mode of life. But look closely and see how thoroughly the mode of life here described becomes those holy teachers, who wore about to proclaim the message of salvation to every quarter of the world: and yet from this very fact they must expect that their persecutors would be beyond numbering, and that they would plot against them in many different ways. If then the result had been that the disciples had become indignant at these vexations, and wished for vengeance on those that annoyed them, they would have kept silence and passed them by, no longer offering them the divine message, nor calling them to the knowledge of the truth. It was necessary therefore to restrain the mind of the holy teachers by so solemn a sense of the duty of patience, as to make them bear with fortitude whatever might befal, even though men insulted them, yea and plotted against them impiously. And such was the conduct of Christ Himself above all others for our example: for while still hanging upon the precious cross, with the Jewish populace making Him their sport, He put up unto God the Father prayers in their behalf, saying, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Yea, and the blessed Stephen too, while the stones were smiting him, knelt down, and prayed, saying, “Lord, lay not this sin upon them.” And the blessed Paul also says, “being reproached we bless, being reviled we entreat.”

The exhortation of our Lord therefore was necessary for the holy apostles, and most useful for us also, to oblige us to live rightly and admirably: for it is full of all philosophy. But our mistaken preconceived ideas, and the fierce tyranny of our passions, render it a thing difficult for our minds to accomplish: and therefore knowing that the natural man does not admit of these things, regarding as folly and mere impossibilities the oracles of the Spirit, He separates such from those able to hear, and says, “I speak unto you that hear and are prepared readily to perform My words.” For the gloriousness of spiritual fortitude is displayed in temptations and labours. Imitate therefore in these things Christ, “Who when He was reviled, reviled not again, suffering He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” But perhaps thou wilt object, saying within thyself, ‘Christ was God, but I a frail man, having but a feeble mind, and one unable to resist the attack of covetousness and pain.’ Thou speakest rightly: for the mind of man easily slides into wrong doing. Nevertheless, I say, The Lord has not left thee destitute of His compassion and love: thou hast Him by thee, yea within thee, by the Holy Ghost: for we are His abode, and He lodgeth in the souls of them that love Him. He gives thee strength to bear nobly whatever befals, and to resist manfully the attacks of temptations. “Be not overcome therefore by the evil, but overcome the evil in the good.”

Ver. 29 To him that striketh thee on the cheek, offer also the other.

That Christ is the end of the law and the prophets, is declared by the most wise Paul: for the law served as a schoolmaster to guide men unto His mystery. “But now that faith has come, as the blessed Paul has again himself said, we are no longer under a guide: for no longer are we children in mind, but, on the contrary, have grown up to the perfect man, to the measure of the mature age of the fulness of Christ.” We do not therefore require milk, but rather, food of a more solid nature, such as Christ bestows upon us, by setting before us the pathway of that righteousness which surpasses the power of the law. For He said Himself to the holy apostles, “Verily I say unto yon, except your righteousness be over and above, more than of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This then it is necessary to discuss, what, namely, is meant by the “over and above” in the righteousness in accordance with the saving message of the Gospel.

The law spoken by Moses to them of old time enacted like for like: and while it forbade the doing a wrong, it by no means commanded those who had already been injured to bear patiently, as the Gospel law requires. For it says, “Thou shalt not kill: thou shalt not steal: thou shalt not forswear thyself.” But to this is added, “Eye for eye, hand for hand, foot for foot, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” Such an enactment required a man not to injure others; and supposing him to have sustained an injury, that his anger at the wrong doer must not go beyond an equal retribution. But the general bearing of the legal mode of life was by no means pleasing to God; it was even given to those of old time as a schoolmaster, accustoming them by little and little to a fitting righteousness, and leading them on gently to the possession of the perfect good. For it is written, “To do what is just is the beginning of the good way:” but finally, all perfection is in Christ, and His precepts. “For to him that striketh thee, He saith, on the cheek, offer also the other.” In this there is pointed out to us the pathway to the highest degree of patience. But He wills besides, that we pay no regard to riches; so that even if a man have but one outer garment, he must not count it a thing unendurable to put off with it also his undergarment, if it so befal. But this is a virtue possible only for a mind entirely turned away from covetousness: for “do not, He says, ask back whatever any one taketh away that is thine: but even give to every one that asketh of thee:” a proof indeed of love and willingness to be poor; and the compassionate man must necessarily also be ready to forgive, so as to shew friendly acts even to his enemies.

Ver. 31 As ye wish that men should do unto you, even so do ye unto them.

It was probable however that the holy apostles would perchance think these things difficult to put into practice: He therefore Who knoweth all things takes the natural law of self-love as the arbiter of what any one would wish to obtain from another. Shew thyself, He says, to others such as thou wishest them to be towards thee. If thou wouldest have them harsh and unfeeling, fierce and wrathful, revengeful and ill-disposed, shew thyself also such: but if on the contrary thou wouldst have them kind and forgiving, do not think it a thing intolerable to be thyself so. And in the case of those so disposed, the law is perchance unnecessary, because God writes upon our hearts the knowledge of His will: “for in those days, saith the Lord, I will surely give My laws into their mind, and will write them on their heart.”

Ver. 36 Be ye therefore merciful.

Great is the glory of compassion, and so verily it is written, that “man is a great thing, and the merciful man an honourable thing.” For virtue restores us to the form of God, and imprints on our souls certain characters as it were of the supreme nature.

Ver. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.

He cuts away from our minds a very unmanageable passion, the commencement and begetter of pride. For while it is men’s duty to examine themselves, and to order their conduct according to God’s will, they leave this alone to busy themselves with the affairs of others: and if they see any infirm, forgetting as it seems their own frailties, they make it an excuse for faultfinding, and a handle for calumny. For they condemn them, not knowing that being equally afflicted with the same infirmities as those whom they censure, they condemn themselves. For so also the most wise Paul writes, “for wherein thou judgest the other, thou condemnest thyself: for thou that judgest doest the same things.” And yet it were rather our duty to have compassion on the infirm, as those who have been overcome by the assaults of the passions, and entangled without hope of escape in the meshes of sin, and to pray in their behalf, and exhort them, and rouse them up unto soberness, and endeavour ourselves not to fall into similar faults. “For he that judgeth the brother, as the disciple of Christ saith, speaketh against the law, and judgeth the law.” For the lawgiver and judge is One: for the judge of the sinning soul must be higher than that soul: but since thou art not so, the sinner will object to thee as judge, “why judgest thou thy neighbour?” But if thou venture to condemn him, having no authority thereto, it is thyself rather that will be condemned, inasmuch as the law permits thee not to judge others.

Whoever therefore is guided by good sense, does not look at the sins of others, nor busies himself about the faults of his neighbour, but closely scans his own misdoings. Such was the blessed Psalmist, falling down before God, and saying on account of his own offences, “If Thou, O Lord, O Lord, closely regardest iniquities, who can endure?” And once again, putting forward the infirmity of human nature as an excuse, he supplicates for a not unreasonable pardon, saying, “Remember that we are earth.”

Ver. 39 And he spake a parable unto them.

This parable He added as a most necessary appendage to what had been said. The blessed disciples were about to be the initiators and teachers of the world: it was necessary for them therefore to prove themselves possessed of every thing requisite for piety: they must know the pathway of the evangelic mode of life, and be workmen ready for every good work, and able to bestow upon well-instructed hearers such correct and saving teaching as exactly represents the truth. This they must do, as having already first received their sight, and a mind illuminated with the divine light, lest they should be blind leaders of the blind. For it is not possible for men enveloped in the darkness of ignorance, to guide those who are afflicted in the same way into the knowledge of the truth: for should they attempt it, they will both roll into the ditch of licentiousness.

Next, overthrowing the vaunting passion of boastfulness, to which most men give way, that they may not emulously strive to surpass their teachers in honour, He added; “The disciple is not above his teacher;” and even if some make such progress, as to attain to a virtue that rivals that of their teachers, they will range themselves no higher than their level, and be their imitators. And Paul shall again be our warrant, saying, “Be ye imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.” Since therefore the Teacher as yet judgeth not, why judgeth thou? For He came not to judge the world, but to shew pity. And according to the foregoing explanation, if I, He says, judge not, neither must you the disciple. But if thou art guilty of worse crimes than those for which thou judgest another, how canst thou keep thyself from shame when thou art convicted of it? And this the Lord made plain by another parable.








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