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

And there came to Him His mother, and His brethren, and were not able to speak with Him because of the multitude. But it was told Him. Thy mother, and Thy brethren stand without, wishing to see Thee. But He answered and said unto them, My mother and My brethren are these who hear the word of God and do it.

ONCE again let the words of praise in the book of Psalms be quoted by us; “What shall I render unto the Lord for all He hath rendered unto me?” For what can we offer Him that is equal to His love towards us? Shall we choose for our guidance the commands of the law, and honour Him with sacrifices of blood? Does He feel pleasure in the slaughter of bullocks and goats? No certainly: for they are an abomination unto Him. For by one of His holy prophets He even plainly declared to those who were rendering Him the legal service. “I hate, I abominate your feast days: nor will I smell at your festivals: because though ye bring Me whole burnt offerings and sacrifices, I will not accept them; nor regard your displays for salvation.” What therefore ought to be the spiritual sacrifice which we offer Him, the wise Psalmist again teaches us saying, “I said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord; because my good things Thou needest not.” When thus we approach Him, He will accept us: if this be the offering we make Him it will be dear and agreeable: this is the spiritual sacrifice, according as it is written, “Hath the Lord delight in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in our hearkening to His voice? Behold! to hearken is better than sacrifices; and to listen than the fat of rams.” For that obedience and the hearkening unto God, is the cause of every blessing, the present lesson teaches us. For some entered and told Christ respecting His holy mother and His brethren. And He, it says, answered in these words, “My mother and My brethren are they who hear the word of God and do it.”

Now let not any one imagine that Christ spurned the honour due to His mother, or contemptuously disregarded the love owed to His brethren: for He it was Who spake the law by Moses, and clearly said, “Honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee.” And how I pray could He have rejected the love due to brethren, Who even commanded us to love not merely our brethren, but those who stand in the relation to us of foes? For He says, “Love your enemies.” What therefore does Christ wish to teach? His object then is highly to exalt His love towards those who are willing to bow the neck to His commands: and in what way I will explain. The greatest honours, and the most complete affection is that which we all owe to our mothers and brethren. If therefore He says that they who hear His word and do it are His mother and brethren, is it not plain to every one, that He bestows on those who follow Him a love thorough and worthy of their acceptance? For so He would make them readily embrace the desire of yielding themselves to His words, and of submitting their mind to His yoke, by means of a complete obedience.

But that God greatly rejoices in those whose minds are thus disposed, He assures us by one of the holy prophets, thus saying, “And on whom shall I look, except upon the humble and meek, and that trembleth at My words?” For just as our fathers after the flesh feel pleasure in those sons whose choice it is to perform the things that are good and agreeable to them, and who wish to accord with them in mind, so also the God of all loves the obedient, and deigns His mercy to him who thoroughly hearkens to Him. And the converse also is true: that he rejects him who is disobedient and untractable. For He also blamed the Jews who fell into this wickedness, saving, “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: if I then am a father, where is My honour? and if I am a master, where is My fear? saith the Lord Almighty.” For either we ought to fear the Lord of all as a master, or to honour Him at least as a father,—a thing which is far greater and better than the former: for love casteth out fear.

For that there is no obedience without reward, and on the other hand, no disobedience without penalty, is made plain by what God spake by His holy prophet to those who disregarded Him: “Behold, they who serve Me shall eat, but ye shall suffer hunger: behold, they who serve Me shall drink, but ye shall suffer thirst: behold, they who obey Me shall rejoice, but ye shall lament: behold, they who serve Me shall exult in happiness, but ye shall groan, and wail from contrition of your heart.” For let us see, if you will, even from the writings of Moses, the grief to which disobedience has brought us. We have been driven from a paradise of delights, and have also fallen under the condemnation of death; and while intended for incorruption:—for so God created the universe:—we yet have become accursed, and subject to the yoke of sin. And how then have we escaped from that which betel us, or Who is He that aided us, when we had sunk into this great misery? It was the Only-begotten Word of God, by submitting Himself to our estate, and being found in fashion as a man, and becoming obedient unto the Father even unto death. Thus has the guilt of the disobedience that is by Adam been remitted: thus has the power of the curse ceased, and the dominion of death been brought to decay. And this too Paul teaches, saying, “For as by the disobedience of the one man, the many became sinners, so by the obedience of the One, the many became righteous.” For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ. For He became for us the second commencement of our race after that primary one; and therefore all things in Him have become new. And Paul assures of this, writing, “Therefore every man who is in Christ is a new creation; and the former things have passed away: behold, they have become new.”

In order then that Christ may win us all unto obedience, He promises us surpassing honours, and deigns us the highest love, saying, “My mother and My brethren are those who hear the word of God and do it.” For who among men is so obdurate and ungentle, as to refuse to honour, and accord the most complete love to his mother and brethren? For the all-powerful law of nature, even without our will, obliges us to this. When therefore, bowing our neck to the Saviour’s commands, we become His followers, and so are in the relation of a mother and brethren to Him, how does He regard us before God’s judgment seat? Is it not with gentleness and love? What doubt can there be of this? And what is comparable to this honour and goodness? What is there worthy of being matched with a gift thus splendid and desirable? For He takes us unto Him, that where He is, there we also may be with Him. For this He even deigned to promise us, saying, “I will go, and make ready a place for you: and return again and take you with Me, that where I am, there ye also may be with Me.”

Servitude, therefore, is a thing worth our gaining, and the pledge of noble honours. And this, we say, is fulfilled not by our merely hearing the words of God, but by our endeavouring to perform what is commanded. This thou learnest from what one of the holy Apostles declares: But become doers of the “law, and not hearers only. If any be a hearer of the law, and not a doer, he is like a man regarding his natural face in a mirror. For he has regarded himself, and gone away: and at once forgotten what manner of person he was. But he who hath looked into the perfect law of liberty, and wrought: not being a forgetful hearer, but an active doer, he shall be blessed in his doing.”

Now though the argument already brought forward is sufficient for the persuasion of right-thinking men, yet I will add for their advantage that also which is correctly said in the words of the blessed Paul: “For the land that hath drunk in the rain that hath come oft upon it, and bringeth forth the root serviceable for them for whose sake it is tilled, receiveth a blessing from God. But if it bring forth thorns and thistles, it is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing: and its end is to be burnt.” For like rain, the Saviour sendeth down upon the hearts of those who hear, the word of spiritual consolation; even the sacred doctrine of salvation. If then a man be possessed of understanding, he will bring forth the fruits of an abundant intellectual harvest: but if he be careless and negligent, he of course has no claim to the praises of virtue, and instead of grapes will bring forth thorns. And what his end will be, we learn from the words of Isaiah. For he says: “For the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the man of Judah: a plant new and well-beloved: and I looked that it would bring forth grapes, but it brought forth iniquity, and not righteousness, but a cry.” And that Israel was thus punished for its neglect of that fruitfulness which was both fitting for itself and well pleasing to God; having neither obeyed His commands, nor consented to perform them; we learn again from His words, where He says: “But now I will shew you what I will do to My vineyard. I will take away its fence, and it shall be wasted: and I will rend its wall, and it shall be trampled under foot. And I will abandon My vineyard: and it shall not be pruned, nor tilled: and thorns shall grow up in it as on waste ground; and I will command the clouds to rain no rain upon it.” It is plain, therefore, to every man, that God hath no respect for the wicked soul that beareth thorns. For it is left unprotected, and without a wall, and exposed to the depredations of whoever will; a place for thieves and wild animals; and sharing in no spiritual consolation. For this I consider, and this only, is the meaning of there falling upon it no rain. When Israel suffered these things, the Psalmist so to speak wailed over him, and said to the God of all: “The vine that Thou broughtest out of Egypt, Thou castedst out the nations and plantedst it.” And again thus proceeds: “Its shade covered the mountains; and its boughs were as the cedars of God: it sent forth its branches to the sea, and its foliage to the river.” He made too supplications for what they had suffered, saying; “Why hast Thou broken down her hedges, and all the wayfarers pluck her? The boar out of the wood destroyeth her: and the ass of the desert feedeth upon her.” For the soul that is undefended, and deemed unworthy of protection from on high, becomes a pasture ground for evil beasts. For it is plundered by Satan and his angels.

In order, therefore, that we may not fall into such severe tribulations, let us bow the neck of our mind to Christ the Saviour of all. Let us receive the Word of God and do it: for if our choice be so to act, He will crown us with lofty honours; for He is the distributor of the crowns; 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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