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

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“And why, saith He, beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” Having previously shewn us that the judging others is utterly wicked and dangerous, and the cause of final condemnation:—for “Judge not, He said, and ye shall not be judged: and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned.” He now by conclusive arguments persuades us to avoid the very wish of judging others: and rather to examine our own hearts, and try to free them from the passions that dwell within them, and their frailties, by asking it of God: for He it is Who healeth the broken in heart, and freeth us from the maladies of the soul. For if thou, He says, art thyself sick with maladies more dangerous and severe than those of others, why, neglecting thy own, dost thou find fault with them, and whilst thou hast a beam in thine own eye, commencest a hot accusation against those who have a mote? Tell me by what boldness doest thou this? Deliver thyself first from thy great crimes, and thy rebellious passions, and then thou mayest set him right who is guilty of but trifling faults.

Wouldst thou see the matter clearly and plainly, and that it is a very hateful thing for men to give way to this feeling? Our Lord was once walking on the sabbath day among the cornfields, and the blessed disciples plucked some ears, and rubbing them in their hands, ate the grains. But some Pharisees drew near, and say, “Behold, Thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do on sabbath days!” And yet they themselves in manifold ways were guilty of disregarding the law altogether. For even the prophet Isaiah cried out against them, saying, “How has the faithful city Zion become a harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it:—but now murderers. Your silver is reprobate; thy merchants mix the wine with water; thy princes are contentious, the partners of thieves, loving bribes, pursuing after recompense; they judge not the orphans, and to the widow’s suit they have no regard.” Yet these very men, themselves liable to these most severe reproaches, accused the disciples of breaking the sabbath!

But they met with just rebuke from Christ, Who said unto them; “Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! who tithe mint and cummin, and have neglected the weighty matters of the law, judgment, and mercy, and faith.” And again, “Ye are they who strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel.” For while their teaching was of mere trifles, and they condemned the people under them for the most contemptible matters, they had the hardihood, as I said, to treat as of no consequence those weighty crimes. For this reason the Saviour called them “whitened sepulchres, which outside appear indeed to men to be beautiful, but inside are full of the bones of the dead, and of all uncleanness.” such is every hypocrite: and whenever they would cast an imputation upon others, who have yielded to infirmity in any particular, deservedly will they have it said to them, “First cast out the beam from thine own eye, and then thou wilt see to cast out the mote from thy brother’s eye.”

The commandment, therefore, is indispensable for every one who would live piously: but, above all, for those who have been intrusted with the instruction of others. For if they are good and sober-minded, and enamoured of the elect life, and not merely acquainted with, but also practisers of virtuous arts, and setting in their own conduct the pattern of a holy life, they can with open countenance rebuke those who will not do the same, for not having imitated their example, nor imprinted their virtuous manners on themselves: but if they are careless, and quickly snared by pleasures to do evil, how can they blame others when similarly affected? Wisely, therefore, did the blessed disciples write, saying; “Let there not be many teachers among you, my brethren: for ye know that we shall receive greater condemnation.” For as Christ, Who is the Distributor of the crowns, and the Punisher of those who do wrong, Himself says; “He who shall do and teach, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven: but he who hath not done, but hath taught, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”

But I can imagine some one saying, How are we to distinguish the man who has a beam in his eye, but finds fault with those who have a mote, and are infirm only in part? But there is nothing difficult in this, He says; for any one who will, may see it easily: “for it is not a good tree that brings forth evil fruit: nor a good tree that brings forth good fruit: for every true is known by its fruit.” Each man’s actual life, therefore, is that which decides what are his morals: for it is not by mere outside adornments, and fictitious virtues that the beauty of the truly honourable life is delineated, but by the deeds a man does: for they are the fruits of a mind that for the love of piety chooses a blameless life. It is by deeds, therefore, and not by outside shew, that we must see who is the man truly approved, and who is not so. Again, Christ somewhere says, “Beware of those who come to you in the likeness of sheep, but within are ravenous wolves.” See again, Christ commands that those who come unto us must be distinguished not by their clothing, but by what they really are. “For by its fruit, He says, the tree is known:” and just as it is ignorance and folly for us to expect to find the choicer kinds of fruits on thorns, grapes for instance, and figs; so it is ridiculous for us to imagine that we can find in hypocrites and the profane ought that is admirable, the nobleness, I mean, of virtue.

Wouldst thou see the truth of this again? Wouldst thou see who the wolves are that clothe themselves in the sheep’s skin? Examine the writings of the holy Apostles: hear what they say of certain men: “For they who are 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.” These one may well call thorns and briars: in such there is no particle of sweetness, but every thing that is bitter and of an evil nature: for the fig grows not on thorns; nor will one find any thing pleasant in them, for grapes are not produced on briars. We must decide, then, the character of the teacher, not by appearances, but by the acts of each one’s life.

This is also made clear by another declaration of our Lord: “for the good man, He says, as out of a good treasure, poureth forth from the heart good things:” but he who is differently disposed, and whose mind is the prey of fraud and wickedness, necessarily brings forth what is concealed deep within. For the things that are in the mind and heart boil over, and are vomited forth by the outflowing stream of speech. The virtuous man, therefore, speaks such things as become his character, while he who is worthless and wicked vomits forth his secret impurity.

Every thing, therefore, that is to our benefit, Christ teaches us, and requires His disciples to be on their guard against deceit, and vigilant and careful. For this reason He shews them the straight way, and discloses the snares that lead down to wickedness, that thus escaping from offences, and being steadfast in mind beyond risk of sin, they may quickly reach the mansions that are above by Christ’s blessing: 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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