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

And when He had called the twelve Apostles, He gave them power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. And He said unto them, Take nothing for the way: no staff: no scrip: neither bread nor money: nor shall ye have two coats. And into whatsoever house ye enter, there abide, and thence depart. And whosoever will not receive you, when ye depart from that city, shake off the dust from your feet for their testimony.

IT is a true saving, that the fruit of good deeds is honourable. For those who wish to lead lives pure and undefiled as far as is possible for men, Christ will adorn with His gifts, and grant them an abundant recompense for all their saintly deeds, and make them partakers of His glory. For it is impossible that He should ever lie who says: “As I live, saith the Lord, those who honour Me, I will honour.”

As a plain and clear proof of this, I take the glorious and noble company of the holy Apostles. Behold them highly distinguished, and crowned with more than human glory, by this fresh gift bestowed by Christ. “For He gave them, it says, power and authority over all the devils, and to heal sicknesses.” Observe again, I pray, that the Incarnate Word of God exceeds the measure of humanity, and is radiant with the dignities of the Godhead. For it transcends the limits of human nature, to give authority over unclean spirits to whomsoever He will: as does also the enabling them to deliver from sicknesses such as were afflicted with them. For God, indeed, bestows on whom He will powers of this kind; and on His decree alone it depends that any are able, according to His good pleasure, to work divine miracles, and act as ministers of the grace that is from above: but to impart to others the gift bestowed on them, is altogether an impossibility. For the majesty and glory of the supreme nature is found existing essentially in nothing that has being, except in Itself, and It only. Be it, therefore, angel or archangel, that any one mentions, or thrones and dominions, or the seraphim, which again are higher in dignity, let him wisely understand this: that they indeed possess pre-eminent authority by the powers given them from above, such as language cannot describe, nor nature bestow: but reason altogether forbids the supposition of their imparting these powers to others. But Christ bestows them, as being God therefore, and as out of His own fulness: for He is Himself the Lord of glory and of powers.

The grace then bestowed upon the holy Apostles is worthy of all admiration; but the bountifulness of the Giver surpasses all praise and admiration: for He gives them, as I said, His own glory. Man receives authority over the evil spirits, and reduces unto nothingness the pride that was so high exalted, and arrogant, even that of the devil: his wickedness he renders ineffectual, and, by the might and efficacy of the Holy Ghost, burning him as with fire, he makes him come forth with groans and weeping from those whom he had possessed. And yet in old time ho had said: “I will hold the whole world in my hand as a nest, and will take it as eggs that are left: and there is no one that shall escape from me, or speak against me.” He missed, then, the truth, and fell from his hope, proud and audacious though he was, and vaunting himself over the infirmity of mankind. For the Lord of powers marshalled against him the ministers of the sacred proclamations. And this verily had been foretold by one of the holy prophets when speaking of Satan and the holy teachers: “That suddenly they shall arise that bite thee: and they shall awake that afflict thee, and thou shalt be their prey.” For, so to speak, they bit Satan by attacking his glory, and making his goods a spoil, and bringing them unto Christ by means of faith in Him: for so they attacked Satan himself. Great therefore was the power given unto the holy Apostles by the decree and will of Christ, the Saviour of us all. “For He gave them power and authority over the unclean spirits.”

We will, in the next place, also inquire, if it seem good, whence a grace, thus illustrious and famous, descended upon mankind. The Only-begotten Word therefore of God crowned human nature with this great honour by becoming flesh, and taking upon Him our likeness. And thus, without in one single particular departing from the glories of His majesty;—for He wrought deeds worthy of God, even though He became, as I said, like unto us, and was of flesh and blood;—He broke the power of Satan by His almighty word. And by His rebuking the evil spirits, the inhabitants of earth became able to rebuke them also.

And that what I say is true, I will endeavour to make quite certain. For the Saviour, as I said, was rebuking the unclean spirits: but the Pharisees, opening their mouth to deride His glory, had the effrontery to say, “This man casteth not out devils, but by Beelzebub, prince of the devils.” But the Saviour rebuked them for so speaking, as men prone to mockery, and ill-disposed, and utterly without understanding, thus saying; “If I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore shall they be your judges.” For the blessed disciples, who were sons of the Jews by their descent according to the flesh, were the terror of Satan and his angels: for they broke their power in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. And our Lord further said: “But if I by the Spirit of God cast out devils, then the kingdom of God is come upon you.” For He, as the Only-begotten Son of the Father, and the Word, both was and is omnipotent, and there is nothing that is not easy to Him: but inasmuch as He rebuked evil spirits while He was man, human nature was triumphant in Him, and crowned with godlike glory; for it was capable of rebuking even the evil spirits with power. By Christ’s casting out devils, therefore, the kingdom of God came unto us: for one may affirm that it is the perfection of godlike majesty to be able to beat down Satan in spite of his resistance.

He glorified therefore His disciples by giving them authority and power over the evil spirits, and over sicknesses. Did He then thus honour them without reason, and make them illustrious without any cogent cause? But how can this be true? For it was necessary, most necessary, that having been publicly appointed ministers of the sacred proclamations, they should be able to work miracles, and by means of what they wrought convince men of their being the ministers of God, and mediators of all beneath the heaven, inviting them all to reconciliation and justification by faith, and pointing out the way of salvation and of life that is thereby. For the devout and intelligent need generally only reasoning to make them understand the truth: but those who have wandered without restraint into rebellion, and are not prepared to receive the sound speech of him who would win them for their true profit;—such require miracles, and the working of signs: and scarcely even so are they brought to thorough persuasion.

For we often find that the discourse of the holy Apostles prospered in this way. For, for example, Peter and John delivered from his malady that lame man who lay at the beautiful gate. And upon his entering the temple, they had his aid, as it were, in testimony of the great deed that had been wrought, and spake with great boldness concerning Christ, the Saviour of us all; even though they saw that those whose lot it was to be rulers of the synagogue of the Jews, were still travailling with bitter ill-will against Him. For they said: “Ye men of Israel, why wonder ye at this, or why gaze ye at us, as though by our own might or righteousness we made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus, Whom ye delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he would have let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One, and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted you. And Him the Prince of Life ye killed; Whom God raised from the dead. And of Him we are witnesses: and His Name, through faith in His Name, hath made this man strong whom ye see and know: and faith in Him hath given him this soundness in the presence of you all.” But although many of the Jews were embittered at a loftiness of speech such as this, yet against their will they put, so to speak, a bridle upon their wrath, being ashamed because of the greatness of the miracle.

And there is another point we must not omit. For having first invested the holy Apostles with powers thus splendid, He then bids them depart with speed, and commence their office of proclaiming His mystery to the inhabitants of the whole earth. For just as able generals, having equipped their bravest soldiers with weapons of war, send them against the phalanxes of the enemy; so too does Christ, our common Saviour and Lord, send the holy teachers of His mysteries, clad as it were in the grace that He bestows, and fully equipped in spiritual armour, against Satan and his angels; that so they may be unconquerable and hardy combatants. For they were about to do battle with those who in old time held mastery over the inhabitants of earth; even against the wicked and opposing powers, who had divided among them all under heaven, and had made those their worshippers who had been created in the image of God. These, then, the divine disciples were about to vex, by summoning to the knowledge of the truth those that were in error, and giving light to them that were in darkness: while those who in old time worshipped them, they rendered earnest followers of such pursuits as become saints.

For this reason very fitly He bade them take nothing with them, wishing them both to be free from all worldly care, and so entirely exempt from the labours that worldly things occasion, as even to pay no regard to their necessary and indispensable food. But manifestly One Who bids them abstain even from things such as these, entirely cuts away the love of riches and the desire of gain. For their glory, He said, and, so to speak, their crown, is to possess nothing. And He withdraws them even from such things as are necessary for their use, by the command to carry nothing whatsoever, neither staff, nor scrip, nor bread, nor money, nor two coats. Observe, therefore, as I said, that He withdraws them from vain distractions, and anxiety about the body, and bids them have no cares about food, repeating to them, as it were, that passage in the Psalm: “Cast thy care upon the Lord, and He shall feed thee.” For true also is that which Christ said: “Ye are not able to serve God and Mammon.” And again: “For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.”

That they may lead, therefore, a consistent and simple life, and, being free from vain and superfluous anxiety, may devote themselves entirely to the duty of proclaiming His mystery, and labour without ceasing in publishing to men everywhere the tidings of salvation, He commands them to be indifferent both as regards clothing and food. And to the same effect the Saviour elsewhere spake: “For let your loins, He says, be girt, and your lights burning.” But by their loins being girt, He means the readiness of the mind for every good work: and by their lights burning, that their heart be filled with divine light. And in like manner the law also of Moses plainly commands those who ate of the lamb: “Thus shall ye eat it: your loins shall be girt: and your staves in your hands: and your sandals on your feet.” Observe, therefore, that those in whom Christ, the true Lamb, dwells, must be like men girt for a journey: for they must “shoe their feet with the readiness of the Gospel of peace,” as blessed Paul wrote unto us; and be clad as becometh wayfarers. For it is not fitting for those charged with the divine message, if they would prosper in their office, to remain stationary; but, as it were, they must constantly be moving forward, and run, not for an uncertainty, but to win a glorious hope. For even those who once had fallen under the hand of the enemy, if by faith they fight for Christ, the Saviour of us all, will inherit an incorruptible crown.

But I can imagine some one saying, O Lord, Thou hast commanded thy ministers to carry with them no supply whatsoever of necessaries for food and raiment: whence, then, will they obtain what is essential and indispensable for their use? This too He at once points out, saying; “Into whatsoever house ye enter, there abide, and thence depart.” The fruit, He says, which you will obtain from those you instruct, shall be sufficient. For those who receive from you things spiritual, and gain the divine seed for their souls, shall take care of your bodily needs. And this no one can blame: for the wise Paul also sent word as follows: “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your bodily things? So the Lord also commanded, that those who preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel.” And that this same truth is signified by the command of Moses, he clearly shews, saying, “It is written, Thou shalt not muzzle the trampling ox.” And what the intention of the law is he again showed, saying, “Doth God care for oxen? or sayeth He it altogether on our account, because it is fit that he who plougheth should plough in hope: and he who trampleth the corn as having hope to share in it?” For the teachers, therefore, to receive from those taught these trifling and easily procurable matters is in no respect injurious.

But He commanded them both to abide in one house, and from it to take their departure. For it was right, both that those who had once received them should not be defrauded of the gift: and that the holy Apostles themselves should not place any impediment in the way of their own zeal and earnestness in preaching God’s message, by letting themselves be carried off to various houses by those whose object was, not to learn of them some necessary lesson, but to set before them a luxurious table, beyond what was moderate and necessary.

And that it is by no means without its reward to honour the saints, we learn from our Saviour’s words. For He said unto them; “Whosoever receiveth you receiveth Me, and whosoever receiveth Me receiveth Him That sent Me.”, For He purposely makes His own, and takes unto Himself, the honours paid to the saints, in order that on every side they may have security. For what is there better, or what is comparable unto the honour and love due unto God? But this is rendered by giving honour to the saints. And if he who receiveth them is right blessed, and of glorious hope, how must not also the converse be entirely and absolutely true! For he must be full of utter misery, who is indifferent to the duty of honouring the saints. For this reason He said, “that when ye go out from that house, shake off the very dust from your feet for their testimony.”

And next, we must see what this signifies. And it is this: That from those who would not receive them, nor set store by the charge confided to them, nor obey the sacred message, nor receive the faith;—from such they should refuse to receive any thing whatsoever. For it is unlikely that those who despise the master of the house, will shew themselves generous to the servants: and that those who impiously disregard the heavenly summons, will ask a blessing of its preachers, by offering them things of no value, and such as the disciples could without trouble obtain from their own people. For it is written, “Let not the oil of the wicked anoint my head.” And besides they ought to feel that their love was due to those only who love and praise Christ; and avoid all others of a different character: for it is written: “Have I not hated, O Lord, them that hate Thee: and been hot exceedingly at Thy enemies? I have hated them with a perfect hatred: they have become my enemies.” So is the love proved of earthy soldiers: for it is not possible for them to love foreigners, while paying a due regard to their king’s interests. We learn this too by what Christ says: “that he who is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me altogether scattereth.”

Whatsoever, therefore, Christ commanded his holy Apostles was exactly fitted for their use and benefit: 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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