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

FIT TO BE READ WHEN ANY ONE RECEIVES THE TONSURE.

And another also said, I will follow Thee, Lord; but first let me bid farewell to the members of my house. But Jesus said to him, No man who putteth his hand to the plough, and looketh back, is fit for the kingdom of God.

OF zeal in virtuous pursuits we say, that it is worthy of all praise. But those who have attained to this state of mind must be strong in purpose, and not feebly disposed towards the mark that is set before them. Rather they must plainly possess an unwavering and inflexible mind: for so, starting impetuously as from the barriers of the race-course, they will reach the goal, and gain the victory, and twine around their hair the conqueror’s crown. And to this heartiness of purpose the Saviour of all encouraged us, as being a quality worth the gaining, where He says, “Who of you wishing to build a tower, sitteth not down first and counteth whether he have sufficient to finish it; lest, saith He, having laid the foundation, and not being able to finish it, the passers by say, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” One who so acts becomes an object merely of ridicule: for upon every honourable and virtuous undertaking a fitting conclusion ought to follow. And to teach this truth the law of Moses commanded those who were building a house to erect upon it also a battlement. For he who is not perfect in good, is not free from blame. Just then as discredit was of course attached to a house that had no battlements, so the passage just read to us from the Gospel teaches us a similar lesson.

“For one drew near saying, I will follow thee, Lord; but first let me go and bid farewell to those in my house.” The promise then that he makes is worthy of emulation, and full of all praise: but the fact of his wishing to bid farewell to those at home shews him, so to speak, divided, and that he had not as yet entered upon the course with unshackled mind. For look how, like some colt eager for the race, there holds him back as with a bridle, the stream of worldly things, and his wish in part still to take interest in this world’s occupations. For no one hinders him from hastening, if he will, to the wished for mark, according to the free inclinations of his mind. But the very wish to consult first with his relatives, and to make those his counsellors who were not likely to entertain sentiments similar to his own, nor to share at all in his resolution, sufficiently proves him infirm and halting, and not as yet fully inclined to act upon his desire of following Christ.

But He, as it were by gentle reproofs, corrected him, and taught him to practise a more determined zeal, saying, “No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” For just as the husbandman, who has begun to break up his land by the plough, if he grow weary, and leave his labour half done, sees not his field thick set with ears, nor his threshing-floor full of sheaves, and suffers of course the loss which is the natural result of idleness; the absence, I mean, of produce, and the consequent penury, and incurs also the ridicule of those that see him: so he who wishes to cleave unto Christ, but does not bid farewell to the things of the world, and abandon all love of the flesh, and even deny his earthly relatives; for by so doing he attains to a resolute courage in all praiseworthy pursuits; is not fit for the kingdom of God. One who cannot attain to this resolution, because his mind is fettered with indolence, is not acceptable unto Christ, nor fit for His company, and necessarily is refused permission to be with Him.

Such were those of whom Christ spake, when forming that similitude in the Gospels. For He said, “A rich man made a banquet for his son; and sent therefore his servants to call them that were bidden, saying, My oxen and my fatlings are killed, and every thing is ready: come to the banquet. But they, it says, would not come: but one said, I have bought a field, and I cannot come. And another, I have bought a yoke of oxen: and another, I have taken a wife, hold me excused.” Thou seest that they were called, and while it was in their power to partake of the feast, they excused themselves, and gave themselves up without restraint to those temporal and earthly matters, which rapidly fade, and the possession of which must quickly be abandoned. And yet surely it was their duty rather to have understood, that a wife and lands, and those other possessions, are but finite pleasures, short in duration, and fleeting like the shadows, and, as it were, a bitterness mingled with honey. But to be members of the church of God, from which they, I know not how, foolishly fled, would have procured for them an eternal and unchanging joy. Whoever would follow Christ, let him be thoroughly constant, and intent solely upon this end; let him not be divided; let him not be possessed by timidity and slothfulness; let him be free from all carnal lust, and prefer nothing to his love unto Him. But if he be not so disposed, nor so affected in his will, even if he do draw near, he will not be accepted.

Something of this sort the law of Moses also has taught us indirectly in figure. For whenever, as emergencies arose, the children of Israel went out to battle against their enemies, before they engaged in the combat, the herald of the host made proclamation, “Whosoever hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her, let him return to his house, that he die not in battle, and another man take her. Whosoever hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it, let him return to his house, that he die not in battle, and another dedicate it. Whosoever is frightened in his heart, let him return to his house, that he make not the heart of his brother frightened as his own.” Thou seest that the man who loves the world, or wealth, and whosoever is full of excuses, is not every where in his place: but we shall find the holy apostles very different from such as these. For when they heard Christ saying, “Follow Me, and I will make you to become fishers of men: they, it says, at once left the ship and their father, and followed Him.” And the wise Paul also writes, “But when God willed to reveal unto me His Son, immediately I counselled not with flesh and blood.” Thou seest the valiant mind, and the brave and hearty purpose, not subject to the bonds of indolence, but superior to all cowardice and fleshly lust. Such must they be who would follow Christ: not looking behind them, not walking, that is, so to speak, backwards, and turning their faces from that manly virtue which becometh saints, and excusing themselves from the duty of labouring: not loving things temporal, not of a double mind, but hastening onwards with perfect zeal to that which is well pleasing to 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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