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

FIT TO BE READ AT A TIME OF PERSECUTION.

And He said to them all, Whosoever will come, after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross every day, and come after Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall save it. For what is a man profited, who hath gained the whole world, but hath lost himself, or fallen short? For whosoever shall be ashamed of Me, and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in His glory, and in His Father’s, and of His holy angels.

MIGHTY generals encourage their trained warriors to deeds of courage, not only by promising them the honours of victory, but even by telling them that the very fact of suffering brings them glory, and gains for them all praise. For it is impossible for those who would win fame in battle not sometimes to have to endure wounds also from their opponents. But their suffering is not without its reward, for they are praised as those who bravely assaulted the enemy; and the very wound bears witness to the courage and valour of their mind. And much the same arguments we see our Lord Jesus Christ also using in a discourse, the occasion of which was as follows; He had just shewn the disciples that it was altogether necessary for Him to endure the wicked enterprizes of the Jews, and be mocked by them, and spit upon in the face, and put to death, and the third day rise again. To prevent them, therefore, from imagining that He indeed for the life of the world would suffer the scorn of those murderers, and the other cruelties which they inflicted upon Him; but that they would be permitted to live quietly, and might without blame avoid the suffering readily for their piety’s sake, and the endurance even of death itself in the flesh, should it so befal, and by so doing would incur no disgrace, He of necessity, so to speak, testifies that those who would be thought worthy of the glory He bestows, must attain to it by proportionate acts of bravery, saying, “He that will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross every day, and come after Me.”

Here, too, we must wonder at the love of Christ the Saviour of us all towards the world; for He not only consented Himself to suffer and bear so great ignominy, humbling Himself even to the cross and death for our sakes, but also rouses His chosen followers to the same excellent desire: even those who were to be the instructors of men every where, and hold the post of commanders-in-chief over the people committed to their care. For those who were appointed to so great a ministry must in very deed be thoroughly brave and valiant, armed with an unshaken mind and invincible courage, so as to dread no difficulties, and even if death befal, to deride its terrors, and set at nought every fear. He who thus acts denies himself, since, so to speak, he resigns this temporal life, and deems its concerns worthy of no regard, inasmuch as his choice is to suffer for the blessedness and love that is in Christ. So does a man follow Christ. For the company of the holy Apostles is, as it were, set before us by the Psalmist’s harp, as crying out unto Christ the Saviour of all: “For Thy sake we are killed every day; we have been counted as sheep for the slaughter.” For in this also they are like unto the Emmanuel, “Who for the joy that He had, endured the cross, having despised the shame.”

He would have those, therefore, who were to be the teachers of all beneath the sun superior to timidity and the base love of the world, laying it down as their duty to suffer for love of Him. And He has Himself taught us what is the character of those of His apostles who love Him, where he said to the blessed Peter, “Simeon, son of Jonah, lovest thou Me? Feed My lambs; feed My sheep.” “He was the good Shepherd; He laid down His life for the sheep.” For He was not a hireling; rather, those that were saved were His own: He saw the wolf coming; He made no attempt to flee; He despised not the flock; but, on the contrary, yielded Himself to be torn by it, that He might deliver and save us: “For by His bruises we have been healed,” “and He was afflicted for our sins.” Those, therefore, who would follow Him, and earnestly desire to be like Him, and are set over His intelligent flocks, must undergo similar labours. For numerous savage beasts encircle them, violent, and implacable, and that slay cruelly, and hurry souls to the pit of destruction. For the more learned and skilful of the heathen possess great eloquence, and adorn their false doctrine with beautiful language: and thus they pervert some simple-minded men, making them often wish to share their malady, and depart from the God Who is over all, to worship others in His stead which are no gods. These heaped upon the holy Apostles unendurable persecutions, and exposed them again and again to dangers. For the blessed Paul commemorates the things he had been seen to suffer at Iconium and Lystra, and at Ephesus and Damascus. For at one time he says, “In Damascus the chief captain of Aretas the king watched the city of the Damascenes wishing to seize me, and from a window they let me down from the wall in a basket, and I was delivered from his hands.” And again at another time, “Alexander the smith caused me much evil.” What then is the testimony of this mighty Evangelist, this courageous and valiant champion, who everywhere despised the utmost dangers? “For to me,” he says, “that I live is Christ; and that I die is gain.” And again, “I am crucified with Christ; but henceforth I no more live, but Christ liveth in me: and that which I live here in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me, and yielded up Himself for my sake.”

But the violence of the Jews broke forth frequently against the other apostles also: they persecuted them; they summoned them before their synagogues; they scourged them wickedly, commanding them to keep silence, and desist from their sacred preachings: for they said, “Did we not strictly command you not to speak to any man in this Name?—even the Name of Christ, the Saviour of us all;—and behold! ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine.” But after the disciples had borne their violent accusation for the firm love they had to Christ, they went out “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name.” But had they been timid, and abject, and frightened at words, and overpowered by the terrors of death, how would they have been proved? or how have offered as fruits to God those who were called by their means? For, also, the wise Paul whom no difficulty whatsoever could overpower, when on his way to Jerusalem the prophet Agabus loosed his girdle, and bound his own feet, and said, “So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind that man to whom this girdle belongs,” answered and said, “What do ye, that ye weep and break my heart? for I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Excellently, therefore, did He command them manfully to prevail over every persecution, and boldly to undergo trials, as being well assured that if thus they will be zealous in His cause, they will become His friends, and share His glory. If, therefore, a man be ready to endure and despise the terrors of death, has he lost himself and departed, and is there nothing more in store for him? By no means: for in that he loses his life, he especially finds it; while to find it is to bring upon himself destruction. What fear, therefore, can the saints now feel, if that which seemed to be hard proves rather joyous to them that bear it; while that which is dear to men, as being exempt from pain, leads them especially downwards to destruction and the snare of hell, according to the Scripture.

But that it is incomparably better, far above the splendour and pleasure of the world, to excel in the love of Christ, He shews us by saying, “For what is a man profited who hath gained the whole world, but hath lost himself, or fallen short?” For when a man looks chiefly to that which is pleasant and profitable for the moment, and therefore avoids suffering, and desires to live joyously, even though he have wealth and abundance of possessions, yet what profit hath he therefrom when he has lost himself? “Treasures profit not the wicked,” but “the fashion of this world passeth away:” and “like clouds those pleasures recede,” and riches flies away from those that possess it: “but righteousness delivereth from death.”

And further, to set plainly before us the reward of our being willing to labour, He says: “For whosoever shall be ashamed at Me and at My words, at Him shall the Son of man be ashamed when He shall come in His glory, and of His Father, and of His holy angels.” Much that is both useful and necessary does He effect by these words. For in the first place He shews that entirely and altogether it follows that those who are ashamed at Him and at His words will meet with the reward they merit. And what could so give us joy as this? For if there are some in whose presence the Judge feels shame, as owing them the reward of obedience, and the dignities and crown due to their love and affection for Him, and the honours won by their bravery, how may we not without fear of contradiction say that they most certainly will henceforth live in never-ending honours and praises who have attained to such splendid blessings?

But, next, He also begets in them fear as well, in that he says that He shall descend from heaven, not in His former lowliness and humiliation, like unto us, but in the glory of His Father; even in godlike and transcendent glory, with the holy angels keeping guard around Him. Most miserable, therefore, and ruinous would it be to be condemned of cowardice and indolence when the Judge has descended from above, and the angelic ranks stand at His side. But great and most blessed, and a foretaste of final blessedness is it to be able to rejoice in labours already accomplished, and await the recompense of past toils. For such as these shall be praised, Christ Himself saying unto them: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” May we also be deemed worthy of these rewards by the grace and lovingkindness of Christ the Saviour of us all: 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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