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

And this word concerning Him went forth in all Judœa, and in all the region round about. And his disciples told John of all these things: and John called certain two of his disciples, and sent them unto Jesus, saying, Art Thou He that cometh, or look we for another? When the men came to Him, they said, John the Baptist sent us to Thee, saying, Art Thou He that cometh, or look we for another? But in that same hour he healed many of sicknesses and scourges, and of evil spirits: and unto many that were blind He gave sight. And He answered and said to them, Go tell John what things ye have seen and heard: that the blind see; and the lame walk; and the lepers are cleansed; and the deaf hear; the dead arise, and the poor are preached unto; and blessed is he who is not offended in Me.

ON the present occasion also the Word about to be addressed to you, and the investigation of the sacred doctrines cannot but be most certainly for your benefit. Come then, that together with the holy angels we may praise the universal Saviour: for He is worshipped, as in heaven so also in earth; and to Him every knee shall bow, as it is written. Be it therefore known to people everywhere, that the Lord is God, and even though He appeared in fashion like unto us, yet has He given us the indications of a godlike power and majesty on many occasions, and in a multitude of ways: by driving away diseases; by rebuking unclean spirits; by bestowing on the blind their sight; and finally, even by expelling death itself from the bodies of men; which cruelly and mercilessly had tyrannized from Adam even unto Moses according to the expression of the divine Paul. That widow’s son then at Nain arose unexpectedly and wonderfully, and the miracle remained unknown to no one throughout the whole of Judæa, but was noised abroad as a divine sign, and admiration was upon every tongue. And some of his intimate friends, that is, his disciples, tell it also to the blessed Baptist: and he chose out and selected two persons from the rest, and sends them to Jesus to ask Him, if it is He Who cometh, or whether they must wait for another. What hast thou done, O excellent Baptist! Dost thou not know Him Whom thou preachedst, being thyself the precursor of this rising, as the morning star proclaims the coming sun? Thou wentest before Him like a torch. Thou pointedst Him out to the holy apostles, saying very plainly, “Behold the Lamb of God, Who taketh away the sin of the world!” Elsewhere also we heard Thee saying to the multitudes of the Jews, that “after me cometh the man who was before me, because He is before me. And I knew Him not: but He Who sent me to baptize in water, He said unto me, On Whom thou seest the Holy Ghost descend from heaven, and remain upon Him, He it is Who baptizeth in the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bore witness, that This is the Son of God.” How then dost thou ask, if it is He that cometh? For thou saidst, “I saw and bore witness, that He is the Son of God.” But the blessed Baptist did not fail to recognise the Word of God Who had become man. Do not imagine so. Well and very clearly was he persuaded that He was He that cometh: but what He did was something wise and well-contrived, and fit in no slight degree to benefit his disciples. For they indeed, because they did not yet know Christ, inasmuch as His glory and all-excelling majesty was concealed from them, were even silently stung at His working miracles, and surpassing the Baptist in the greatness of the deeds wrought by Him. For on one occasion they even drew near to him, pining with envy and vexation, and with their heart still requiring to set free from Jewish maladies, and said to the blessed Baptist concerning Christ the universal Saviour, “Rabbi, He Who was with thee on the other side of Jordan, to Whom thou bearest witness, He baptizeth, and every man cometh to Him.” For they did not wish any one else to baptize at all, and exalt himself against the honour of John. They learnt however from him the superiority of Christ’s glory, and the incomparable greatness of His splendour: for they heard him say in answer, “Ye are yourselves my witnesses that I said, that I am not the Christ, but that I have been sent before Him. He who hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the bridegroom’s friend, who standeth and heareth his voice, joyfully rejoiceth because of the bridegroom’s voice: this therefore, which is my joy, is complete. He must grow great, but I must be made small.” We do not however say that the blessed Baptist in any respect whatsoever decreased in dignity, himself of himself, during the time that Christ’s glory was constantly receiving addition from those that believed on Him: but inasmuch as the blessed John continued in the measure of human nature:—for it was not possible for him ever to advance to any thing beyond:—but the incarnate Word, being in His nature God, and ineffably begotten of God the Father, advancing continually to His proper glory, was admired of all men; for this reason it was he said, “He must grow great, but I must be made small.” For he who remains in exactly the same state seems to grow small, in comparison with one who is continually advancing. But that it was right that as being by nature God, He should surpass in might and glory human things, he explained to them saying: “He Who cometh from above is above all: and he who is of the earth, belongeth to the earth, and speaketh of the earth.” Who then is He Who cometh from above, and is above all as being God? Plainly the only-begotten Word of the Father, Who was in His likeness, and on an equality with Him: but for the love He had unto the world, humbled Himself to our estate. As being such therefore, He must necessarily surpass one who was of the earth: one, that is to say, numbered among the things of earth, and their like in nature, such as was the Baptist. For he was indeed praiseworthy in virtue, and incomparable in piety, and had attained to the perfection of all righteousness, and was honourable and worthy of admiration: for the Lord bore him witness saying, “There hath not risen among; the sons of women one greater than John the Baptist.” But he was not from above; not of the Substance, I mean, that is set above all: rather he was from below, a son of earth, and one of us. Therefore, to return from this digression, as their heart was not free from Jewish maladies, they tell the blessed Baptist of the Saviour’s divine signs: and he, as thoroughly knowing Who it was That wrought the miracles, exulted indeed in himself, in seeing the Saviour’s glory spread abroad: but to produce a firm and steadfast faith in Him, in those, who as yet were halting, nor thus far convinced that He is the Christ, he puts on the appearance of ignorance, and so sends to Him certain to ask Him, saying, “Art Thou He That cometh, or do we wait for another?” Cometh whither perhaps some will say: for there are men who think that we ought to understand something of this sort:—that as the Baptist was about before the precious cross to undergo death by the wickedness of Herod, and, so to speak, anticipate Christ’s departure, and as His forerunner, precede His arrival in Hades, he asks whether He will come there also, to redeem those in darkness and the shadow of death, and entangled in inevitable bonds. But such an opinion is utterly to be rejected: for nowhere do we find that the Scripture inspired of God has declared that the divine Baptist preached beforehand to the spirits in Hades the coming of the Saviour. And this also we may truly say, that inasmuch as once for all he knew the whole effect of the dispensation in the flesh of the Only-begotten, he of course knew, in addition to the other particulars, that He will redeem those in Hades, and shine forth even upon them, as “by the grace of God tasting death for every man,” that as Paul says, “He may be Lord both of the dead and of the living.”

What then does he wish to understand by asking, “Art Thou He that cometh, or do we wait for another?” I said then, that he puts on the appearance of ignorance purposely, not so much that he might himself learn:—for as being the forerunner he knew the mystery:—but that his disciples might be convinced, how great is the Saviour’s superiority, and that, as the word of the inspired Scripture had announced before, He is God, and the Lord That was to come. All the rest then were servants, sent before a master, preceding Him Who is beyond all, and preparing the way of the Lord, as it is written. By the holy prophets therefore the Saviour and Lord of all is called, “He that cometh.” For the prophet David in a psalm declares: “Blessed be He That cometh in the Name of the Lord.” And what means that expression “in the Name of the Lord?” It means in godlike glory, and lordship, and all transcending majesty. And this again he has signified in what follows: “The Lord is God, and hath shone forth upon us.” For Moses indeed came, and appeared in his season, and by his instrumentality the law was spoken to the Israelites: and then after him Jesus the son of Nun commanded the host, and then in order the blessed prophets. And they were indeed holy men, honourable beyond comparison, and endowed with a spiritual and all-excelling splendour: but no one of them shone forth upon the inhabitants of earth in the name of the Lord, in the glory that is of Godhead and dominion. But the only-begotten Word of God shone forth upon us as being in His nature and verily God and Lord. So God the Father named Him by the prophet Habakuk, thus saying; “Yet a little He That cometh will come, and will not tarry.” And again also by another prophet the only-begotten Word of God thus speaketh: “Rejoice, and be glad, O daughter of Zion: for behold! I come, and will lodge in the midst of thee. saith the Lord. And many nations shall find refuge in the Lord on that day; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people.” And that this has come to pass, one may see by actual facts: for a multitude of nations has been caught in the net, and Christ is their God, and they are His people.

Having therefore taken from the inspired Scripture the name of “He That cometh,” the divine Baptist sent certain of his friends to ask, “if He were He that cometh.” And what follows? Inasmuch as Christ by nature and in truth is God, the purpose of John did not escape Him, but as well knowing the cause of his disciples’ coming, He especially at that particular time began accomplishing divine miracles many times more numerous than those which He had hitherto wrought. For so the wise Evangelist has told us, saying, “In that same hour He healed many of sicknessess and of scourges, and of evil spirits: and gave sight to many that were blind.” Having then been made spectators and eyewitnesses of His greatness, and gathered into them a great admiration of His power and ability, they bring forward the question, and beg in John’s name to be informed, whether He is He Who cometh. Here see I pray the beautiful art of the Saviour’s management. For He does not simply say, I am; though had He so spoken, it would have been true: but He rather leads them to the proof given by the works themselves, in order that having accepted faith in Him on good grounds, and being furnished with knowledge from what had been done, they might so return to him who sent them. “For go, He says, tell John the things that ye have seen and heard.” For ye have heard indeed, He says, that I have raised the dead by the all-powerful word, and by the touch of the hand: ye have seen also, while ye yourselves stood by, that those things that were spoken of old time by the holy prophets are accomplished: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the dumb hear, and the dead arise, and the poor are preached unto. All these things the blessed prophets had before announced, as about in due time to be wrought by My hands. If then I bring to pass those things that were prophecied long before, and ye are yourselves spectators of them, return and tell those things which ye have seen with your own eyes accomplished by My might and ability, and which at various times the blessed prophets foretold. And then He added necessarily to these things; “And blessed is he who is not offended in Me!” For the Jews indeed were offended, either as not knowing the depth of the mystery, or because they did not seek to know. For though the inspired Scripture announced beforehand, in every part of it, that the Word of God would humble Himself to emptiness, and be seen upon earth, plainly referring to when He was such as we are, and would justify by faith every thing under heaven, yet they stumbled against Him, and struck against the rock of offence, and fell, and were ground to powder. For though they plainly saw Him invested with ineffable dignity and surpassing glory, by means of the wondrous deeds He wrought, they threw stones at Him and said: “Why dost Thou, being a man, make thyself God?” In answer to these things, Christ reproved the immeasurable infirmity of their intellect, and said; “If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not: but if I do, then though ye believe not Me, believe My works.” Blessed therefore is he, who doth not stumble against Christ; that is, who believeth in Him.

And what the advantage is that is derived from this, and in what way we are benefitted by attaining to faith in Him, every one knows: nothing however forbids our enumerating a few particulars. For first indeed we obtain the light of the true knowledge of God: and next, when by the aid of holy baptism we have washed away the stains of sin, being purified that we may serve Him purely, we are also made partakers of His divine nature, and gain Him to dwell within us by having the communion of the Holy Ghost. And we are made also sons of God, and win for ourselves brotherhood with Him Who by nature and verily is the Son. Moreover, in addition to these things, we are exalted to the inheritance of the saints, and dwell in bliss in the enjoyment of those blessings which are bestowed on those who love Him, and which the divine Paul declares surpass understanding and description: “for eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and into the heart of man have not entered the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him.” Of those may we also be thought worthy by the grace and love of Him Who giveth to every one bountifully all good things, even of Christ, 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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