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

And forgive us our sins: for we also forgive every one that is indebted unto us.

THE blessed prophet Isaiah, when revealing the way of salvation by the preaching of the Gospel, thus somewhere speaks: “There shall be there a level way, and it shall be called the holy way.” For it leads those who walk thereon unto holiness by a spiritual service, and a righteousness superior to the law. We remember also Christ, Who says to those who love Him; “Verily I say unto you, that unless your righteousness be more than that of the scribes and pharisees, ye shall not enter the kingdom of God.” And I say that it is the duty of those who have been called by faith to the acknowledgment of the glory of our universal Saviour Christ, and have Him for their head, to delight in imitating His actions, and be in earnest in letting their light shine by holy conduct, such as was unknown to them of old time. “For all things are become new in Christ.” He requires therefore His disciples to be gentle, and slow unto anger, that so they may be able to say blamelessly in their prayers, “Forgive us our sins: for we also forgive every one that is indebted unto us.” Oh! what great and admirable skill! what sagacious thought! or rather, oh! the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! He first commands them to ask forgiveness of the sins they commit, and then to confess that they also entirely forgive others: and if I may so say, they ask God to imitate the long suffering which they practise: and that same gentleness which they shew to their fellow servants, they pray that they may receive in equal measure from God, Who giveth justly, and knoweth how to shew mercy unto every man.

Come, therefore, and let us endeavour to perceive more clearly the meaning of the prayer, by entering upon a more extended and exact consideration of the passage before us. As I said, therefore, He has commanded us when we draw near to say: “Forgive us our sins.” And we will examine, if you please, what the benefit is which we receive from this. Those then who thus speak are not supercilious: they do not think great things of themselves: do not vaunt themselves over the weak: but, as Scripture saith, “they know themselves.” For they are not like that ignorant and haughty Pharisee, who even made the Lord his witness, according to the parable which says: “Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee and the other a publican: and the Pharisee stood and said thus: God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of mankind, extortioners, unjust, adulterers; or as this publican. I fast twice in the week; and tithe every thing I possess. But the publican stood afar off, smiting upon his breast, and saying; God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say unto you, that this one went down to his house justified rather than the other.” Observe therefore how ruinous it is to vaunt oneself over those who are weak, imagining that our conduct is in no respect whatsoever worthy of blame. We ought rather to consider and reflect, that “in many things we all of us are guilty,” and, so to speak, are always in sins, sometimes even involuntarily: for it is written; “Who can understand his offences?” We find also the blessed Psalmist very anxious in making his supplications to God, and plainly saying: “Both cleanse me from my secret doings: and from the deeds of others spare Thy servant, lest they overpower me: then shall I be blameless, and purified from great sin.” And further also, the very patient Job offered sacrifices for the unknown, or rather undiscovered sins of his sons, considering and saying; “It may be my sons have spoken evil in their heart against God.” We remember also the very wise Paul, who, when he had written, “For I am not conscious of any fault in myself:” thoughtfully added, “but I am not hereby justified: but He That judgeth me is the Lord.”

It is therefore greatly to our profit constantly to fall down before God, Who loveth what is good, and say, Forgive us our sins. For He said by one of the holy prophets, “Declare thou first thy unlawfulnesses, that thou mayest be justified.” And inasmuch as this was not unknown to the blessed David, he thus sings; “I said that I will confess of myself my iniquity unto the Lord; and Thou forgavest the wickedness of my heart.” For God readily accepts, and has mercy on those who do not forget their offences, but fall down before Him, and ask of Him forgiveness: but He is severe, and very justly so, upon the obdurate and the proud, and on him who in his great ignorance acquits himself of blame. For He said unto one thus disposed, “Behold, I have a suit against thee, because thou sayest. I have not sinned.” For who can boast that he has a pure heart? or who can have confidence that he is undefiled by sins? The road then to salvation, and which delivers those who earnestly walk thereon from the wrath of God, is the confession of offences, and to say in our prayers to Him Who purifieth the wicked, Forgive us our sins.

There is also another way in which it benefits us. For those verily who own that they have sinned, and wish to obtain pardon from God, necessarily fear Him, as One Who is about to be the Judge: they are not forgetful of God’s terrible judgment-seat. For, as the very wise Paul writes; “We shall all be manifested before the judgment seat of Christ, that every man may be requited for the things done by the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be-good, or whether it be bad.” Those in whose mind the conviction is present, that they must stand before Him, and make their defence; and if they are accused of wicked conduct, will suffer bitter punishment; but will be praised, if they have well and wisely lead the life that is in the flesh on earth; thirst, on the one hand, for the forgiveness of the sins they have already committed, that they may escape the unending torment and eternal punishment: and, on the other, they hasten to live uprightly and blamelessly, that they may receive the crown that becometh the excellence of their lives. For so will the Judge be gentle towards them, nor remember evil: “for the iniquity, He saith,: of the wicked shall not harm him in the day that he shall repent of his iniquity.”

And let not any one imagine that it is lawful for men without distinction to say, “Forgive us our iniquities.” For it is not fitting for those who still continue in wickedness, and wish to do so to the last, to say, Forgive us our sins: but for those rather, who have abandoned their former wicked deeds, and now earnestly desire to live as becometh saints. Were it not so, nothing would prevent men who are still wicked, smiters of their fathers, and matricides, and adulterers, and sorcerers, and whoever are guilty of these most abominable crimes, to continue in the practice of them, and cherish their evil propensities unchanged, and be polluted by the pursuit of every thing that is base; and nevertheless to draw near, and presumptuously say, “Forgive us our sins.” For with good reason the Saviour of all and Lord did not conclude this clause of the prayer at this point, but commanded us to add, “For we also ourselves have forgiven every one who is indebted to us.” But this is fitting only for those to say, who have chosen a virtuous life, and are practising without remissness that will of God, which, as Scripture saith, is “good and acceptable and perfect.” These honour a long-suffering temper, and acquit of all blame those who have wronged them: and even though any one afflict them, they think nothing of the matter. To be slow then unto anger, is a virtue altogether excellent, and the fruit of that love which the wise Paul even declares to be “the fulfilling of the law.”

And consider, I pray, the exceeding beauty of this virtue, even from the deformity of the vice opposed to it. For irascibility is in truth a serious malady, and whoever is subject to it in mind becomes irritable and morose, harsh and obdurate, the abode and habitation of wrath and vexation; and this long continued, and that cannot be charmed away. Ever doth he behold with evil eyes whoever has wronged him: he watches him sternly; seeks for time and place in which to injure him: and that generally not in equal measure, but many times greater than the wrong: he is secret and plotting. Is not such a one full of all deformity, hateful to God, and rejected by Him, and therefore in utter misery? “For the ways of the angry,” as it is written, “are to death.” But he who is simple, and not irascible, is full of forbearance, and that not so much the forbearance which men practise, as that which cometh from above, and from God. His heart is not subject to the fester of vexation: it masters its anger, and repels the bitter feelings which spring therefrom. He is forgiving, kind to his companions, gentle and affable, and humbles himself to the infirmity of his neighbour. Such was the character of the disciples of the Saviour: for the blessed Paul wrote; “Being reviled, we bless: being persecuted, we bear patiently: being defamed, we entreat.” For they have grown like their Lord, “Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again: and when He suffered, threatened not; but committed His cause to Him that judgeth righteously.”

We must ask, therefore, of God the forgiveness of the sins we have committed, when we have ourselves first forgiven whoever have offended in ought, provided that their sin is against us, and not against the glory of the supreme God. For over such actions we are not lords, but only over those which have been committed against ourselves. And by thus forgiving the brethren what they do unto us, we shall then certainly find Christ, the Saviour of all, gentle and ready to shew us mercy: 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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