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

And there entered a thought among them, which of them is the greatest. And Jesus, knowing the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by Him, and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in My name, receiveth Me: and whosoever receiveth Me, receiveth Him Who sent Me. For he that is least among you all, shall be the chief.

YE who are zealous after spiritual skilfulness, and thirst for the communication of the sacred doctrines, receive once again the things ye love. And it is no earthly teacher Who leads you to the gainful booty, nor one like unto us Whom ye obtain as your guide, but the Word of God, Who came down from above, even from heaven, and is the true light of heaven and earth. For the whole rational creation is illuminated by His means, inasmuch as He is the giver of all wisdom and understanding. From Him we receive all knowledge of virtue, and the perfect ability to perform good works such as become saints. For, as Scripture saith, “we are taught of God.” And the passage just laid before us bears witness also to what I have said. “For there entered,” it says, “a thought among them:”—that is, among the holy Apostles,—“which of them is chief.”

And now let him who thinks that Jesus was a mere man learn that he is in error, and far gone from the truth. For let him know, that though God the Word became flesh, yet that it was not possible for Him to cease to be that which He was, and that He continued to be God. For to be able to search the hearts and reins, and know their secrets, is the attribute of the supreme God alone, and besides Him of no other being whatsoever. But behold, Christ searcheth the thoughts of the holy Apostles, and fixeth the eye of Godhead upon their hidden feelings. Therefore He too is God, as being adorned with honours thus glorious and divine.

But let us just now investigate this question, whether all the blessed disciples in common were seized with this malady? whether this thought entered all at once? But it is, in my opinion, altogether incredible to suppose that all of them at the same moment became the common prey of one malady: but when, as I imagine, it happened to one, the wise Evangelist, that he might not be found framing an accusation against an individual among his fellow disciples, expresses himself indefinitely, saying, “There entered a thought among them, who of them is chief.” By this, however, we are permitted to see how very wily Satan is in doing evil. For most versatile and full of contrivance is this snake for mischief, plotting in a diversity of ways against those whose love is fixed upon an honourable life, and who earnestly seek after more excellent virtues: and if by fleshly pleasures he can prevail over any one’s mind, he savagely makes the assault, and sharpens the goad of voluptuousness, and by the very audacity of his attacks, humbles to base lusts even a well-confirmed mind. But if any one be manly, and escape from these snares, he then uses other artifices, contriving baits to tempt him unto mental maladies. For he sows some seed or other displeasing to God: and in those in whom there is something noble, and the praise of an excellent life, he excites the passion of vainglory, exciting them by little and little to an abominable haughtiness. For just as those who in warlike guise are equipped to do battle with invaders, use many contrivances against them; either drawing bows, which discharge arrows, or hurling stones from slings, or manfully charging them with drawn swords: so also Satan uses every artifice in carrying on war against the saints by means of manifold sins.

The passion, therefore, and lust of vainglory attacked some one of the holy Apostles; for the mere disputing who of them is the chief, is the mark of an ambitious person, eager to stand at the head of the rest. But He slept not Who knoweth how to deliver, even Christ; He saw in the disciple’s mind this thought, springing up, in the words of Scripture, like some bitter plant: He saw the tare, the work of the wicked sower: and before it grew up high; before it struck its root down deep; before it grew strong, and took possession of the heart; He, so to speak, tears up the evil by the very root. He saw the barbarian’s arrow that had found entrance: and before it prevailed, and pierced through the mind, He contrives a medicine. For when passions are but beginning in us, and, so to speak, as yet in their infancy, and not full grown, nor firmly rooted, they are easily overcome. But when they have increased, and grown strong, they are hard to put off, and bear themselves with no little audacity. For this reason one of the wise said: “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place: for yielding heals many sins.”

In what way, then, does the Physician of souls amputate the passion of vainglory? How does He deliver the beloved disciple from being the prey of the enemy, and from a thing hateful to God and man? “He took a child, it says, and set it by Him;” and made the event a means of benefiting both the holy Apostles themselves, and us their successors: for this malady as a general rule preys upon all those who are in any respect superior to other men.

But of what did He make the child He had taken a type and representation? Of an innocent and unambitious life. For the mind of a child is void of fraud, and his heart sincere; his thoughts are simple; he covets not rank, and knows not what is meant by one man being higher in station than another: he has even no unwillingness to be regarded as the least, nor sets himself above any other person whatsoever: and though he be of good family by birth, he does not quarrel about dignity even with a slave: nor though he have rich parents, is he aware of any difference between himself and poor children. On the contrary, he likes being with them, and talks and laughs with them without distinction. In his mind and heart there is great frankness arising from simplicity and innocence. For even the Saviour once said to the holy Apostles, or rather to all those who love Him: “Verily I say unto you, that unless ye be converted, and become like these children, ye cannot enter the kingdom of God.” And at another time again, when the women were bringing to Him their infants, and the disciples prevented them, He said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me; for of such as they is the kingdom of heaven.” And again the most wise Paul desires that those who believe in Christ should be “grown men in understanding, but in malice babes.” And another of the holy Apostles said: “As babes just born, love the rational and pure milk, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation, if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is kind.”

As I said then, Christ brought forward the child as a pattern of simplicity and innocence, and set him also by Him;” shewing by him, as in a figure, that He accepts and loves those who are such, and deems them worthy, so to speak, of standing at His side, as being like-minded with Him, and anxious to tread in His steps. For He said, “Learn of Me: for I am meek, and lowly in heart.” And if He Who transcends all, and is crowned with such surpassing glories, is lowly in heart, how must it not bring upon such as we are, yea, even upon our very selves, the blame of utter madness, if we do not bear ourselves humbly towards the poor, and learn what our nature is, but love to vaunt ourselves ambitiously above our measure!

And He further says: “He that receiveth this child in My name receiveth Me: and he that receiveth Me rcceiveth Him that sent Me.” Since, therefore, the reward of those that honour the saints is one and the same, whether he who is honoured be, if it so chance, of modest rank, or of exalted station and dignity;—for he receiveth Christ, and by Him and in Him the Father;—how was it not utterly foolish for them to quarrel among themselves, and aim at pre-eminence, and be unwilling to be thought inferior to others, when they were to be accepted on equal terms!

But He makes the purport of this declaration even still more plain by saying: “For he that is least among you all, the same is chief.” And how is he the chief, who is regarded as the least? Is the comparison in point of virtue? But how can this be? The foremost place is not assigned to him who is chief in virtue above him who is otherwise. In what way, then, is he chief who is least? Probably, then, He calls him least whom lowly things please, and who, from modesty, does not think highly of himself. Such a one pleases Christ: for it is written, “that every one that exalteth himself shall be abased: and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” And Christ Himself somewhere says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their’s is the kingdom of heaven.” The ornament, therefore, of a soul that is sanctified is a poor and humble mind: but the wish to think highly of oneself, and to be at strife with the brethren for the sake of honour and dignity, and foolishly to quarrel with them, is in like manner a disgrace. Such conduct separates friends, and makes even those perhaps great enemies whose dispositions are similar. It overpowers the law of nature, and subverts that innate affection which we owe our brethren. It divides lovers, and sometimes makes even those enemies of one another, who are united by being born from one womb. It fights against and resists the blessings of peace. Miserable is it, and a malady invented by the wickedness of the devil. For what is there more delusive than vainglory? Like smoke it is dispersed; like a cloud it passeth away, and like the vision of a dream changeth into nothingness. It scarcely equalleth the herbage in endurance, and withereth like grass. For it is written, that “all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass.” It is a weakness, therefore, despised even among us, and numbered among the greatest evils. For who docs not reckon a vainglorious man, inflated with empty airs, an annoyance? Who does not regard with contempt, and give the name of “boaster,” to one who refuses to be on an equality with others, and thrusts himself forward as if claiming to be accounted their superior? Let, then, the malady of vaingloriousness be far from those who love Christ: and let us rather consider our companions as better than we are, and be anxious to adorn ourselves with that humility of mind, which is well-pleasing to God. For being thus simpleminded, as becometh saints, we shall be with Christ, Who honoureth simplicity: 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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